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Obama Arrives Back in Washington to Deal with Fiscal Cliff; Toyota Settles Car Claims; How Stocks Are Performing; Utah Teachers Get Firearms Training; Matthew McConaughey Helps Children.

Aired December 27, 2012 - 11:30   ET



ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Number four, Europe. The European Union was fractured by too much debt and the austerity plans to fix it. That saga is far from over.

Number three, the housing market finally bottomed out. The combination of low home prices and continued record low mortgage rates set off a building and buying spree. Well-heeled investors began buying entire neighborhoods but first-time buyers were also able to get a home of their own for the first time in years, as long as they had a hefty down payment.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: CNN projects that Barack Obama will be reelected president of the United States.

ROMANS: The election. More than just about Obama and Romney. It was about socialism and capitalism, about what kind of role government should have in your life.

VELSHI: Number one is the fiscal cliff. Lawmakers saw it coming but didn't bother to pay any attention to it until after the election. Had they put politics aside and dealt with it earlier, who knows how strong the U.S. economy would be right now.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: So those are the top-10 business stories. Join Don Lemon for the biggest stories of the year in crime, politics, money and the most scandalous. The "Top-10 of 2012" airs Sunday night at 8:00 eastern here on CNN.


CHO: You're looking live at President Obama just coming off the stairs of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base. Cut short his holiday vacation. He left Honolulu, Hawaii, last night after less than a week there. He had to come back, had to be in Washington in time to deal with the looming fiscal cliff just five days away.

CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, waiting for him at the White House. Jessica, great to see you.

What can the president do at this point, I guess, is the big question. And privately, are White House aides still hopeful for a deal before January 1st?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Taking your second question first, hopefully, yes. Confident, I would say that's going too far. At the White House they are frowning about what they consider recalcitrance, willing to compromise. Their ire is directed squarely at the other side of the aisle.

What can the president do? He can cajole all sides closer to some sort of agreement. From the Democrats perspective, what they think needs to be done is to get Senate Leader McConnell to agree not to filibuster any action in the Senate, and then get Speaker Boehner to agree to put a bill forward on the House floor for a vote. If those two pieces happen, then they feel like there could be something done before New Year's. So it's sort of cajoling Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Boehner to agree to those actions on those parts. If the president can get that done, we don't have much time left for the rest of the pieces to fall into place.

CHO: Jessica, I'm sure you saw Harry Reid on the floor there today really going after Speaker Boehner, which is just more and more of the blame game. Can anything get done when all they are doing is fighting and blaming each other?

YELLIN: For the longest time, we thought, this is a lot for the last few weeks of public posturing. Behind the scenes, they must have a secret deal worked out, and everybody is just fighting in public to please their base, but in the end, they will come out with a deal to get this done before New Year's. But it hasn't turned out that way, has it? So right now it's not surprising there's an enormous amount of partisanship, given each side wants to win the public relations war in the event the nation does go over the cliff.

CHO: That's right. Let's hope for the best.

Jessica Yellin at the White House.


CHO: Thank you. Great to see you. Happy holidays. Come to New York so we can go out to dinner.


All right, thanks.

Your top stories now.

Heated political differences are common, but a dispute in Albuquerque? That one nearly ended in gun violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED POLICY OFFICER: Drop the gun! Drop the gun! Drop the gun now!


CHO: One man was arrested after pulling a gun on another during an argument over an anti-Obama sticker. Both the victim and the gunman were military veterans. The victim, an older man in his 60s, took offense over a derogatory bumper sticker on the younger vet's vehicle. A verbal fight quickly escalated. And when police arrived, the older man was on his knees with the gun at the back of his head. Police got there just in time.

And it is not looking good for this 60-foot whale discovered on a New York beach. Firefighters yesterday were dousing it with water in an effort to keep it breathing. They haven't been able to get to the beach today because of a storm. Officials say the whale is emaciated and will likely die soon. The whale was first spotted by a person walking along the beach at Breezy Point, Queens, and yesterday.

Listen to this. Starbucks has two words for policymakers in Washington. Not those words. Today and tomorrow stores in D.C. are writing "Come together" on cups. They are hoping to send what CEO Howard Schultz calls a respectful but potent message in the waning days before the fiscal cliff. Will it work? Probably not, but good idea, I guess. Schultz also plans to run ads in the "New York Times" and "The Washington Post."

More than three years after stuck gas pedals put a major dent in Toyota sales and reputation, the company plans to spend more than a billion dollars to compensate owners, even if they don't own a Toyota anymore.

Alison Kosik, in New York, has more.

Alison, tell us about how this deal is going to pay out people who currently own Toyotas and those who sold them.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. There are three parts to this. This is turning out to be one of the biggest lawsuits of its kind in the auto sector.

What it does is revolve around the sticky pedal issue from a few years ago. That's where some Toyota drivers said they experienced unintended acceleration. Their gas pedals got stuck in floor mats.

Now, this settlement is going to cover about 16 million vehicles for model years ranging from 1998 to 2010 models. Once a judge approves the settlement, current owners of the cars will get a brake override system installed, as well as a customer care plan with a 10-year warranty on parts tied to the acceleration.

Another part of the payout will compensation current owners whose cars are not eligible for the system. And a third and separate fund will go to all the former Toyota owners who sold their cars but for reduced prices because of all the negative publicity surrounding these events. Now, the settlement does not cover personal injury claims, but it comes as they try to move past the recent safety crisis. They have recalled 10 million cars for various problems this year. They agreed to pay $17 million for issues related to its Lexus recall.

CHO: So how are Toyota shares responding to that news and how is the Dow performing today and stocks in general?

KOSIK: Toyota is up about 1.5 percent. The broader market, not doing as well. Stocks are trading lower across the board. The Dow is down about 72 points.

Investors interestingly enough began selling more after hearing what Harry Reid came out and said. He said, it looks like that's where we're headed, talking about the fiscal cliff, going over it, that's when you saw investors really pick up the selling.

We're only five days away until the tax hikes and spending cuts go into effect. Wall Street realizes this.

Also, there's a second part to why we're seeing more selling. You're seeing more selling, weaker than expected read on consumer confidence for December came in. That's also being dragged down about the fiscal cliff. You're seeing consumers pull back on spending and pulling back on how they feel about the economy. They are worried about whether there are going to be more jobs in the new year if we do go over the fiscal cliff -- Alina?

CHO: Yes, they are saying 9.1 percent unemployment is in the forecast by the end of next year if we don't reach a deal.


CHO: That's right.

Alison Kosik in New York, thank you as always.


CHO: Welcome back. Teachers in Utah are going to class today. Starting at noon today, 200 teachers will be at a conference near Salt Lake City learning, get this, how to use guns. It's a program initiated by gun rights activists and the Utah Shooting Sports Council even waiving the $50 fee for the training.

The chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council is Clark Aposhian. He also will be teaching the noon class today. He joins me now from Salt Lake City.

Mr. Aposhian, thank you for joining us.

I think it's fair to say that the Newtown massacre broke everyone's heart. But I think we need to remind people that during Columbine back in 1999, there was an armed guard at the school. It did nothing to stop that shooting. I'm curious, what is it about what you're doing that will be any different? CLARK APOSHIAN, CHAIRMAN, UTAH SHOOTING SPORTS COUNCIL (via telephone): There was an armed guard but there was no armed teacher. That first responder, the armed guard, was taken out early on, thereby, leaving the entire school open to the madman, to the actual two shooters.

What we're talking about, it's not arming teachers. We're simply not taking that ability of lawful self-defense in the school. You're restricted in few places to carry. A school is not one of them. This isn't anything new. We've done this for 12 years now and we've never had a problem. Nor have we had a school shooting.

CHO: Right. But the larger question then is more really about gun control. Are more guns the answer or are fewer guns the answer?

And the other thing that I want to point out is teachers, of course, are equipped to teach. They are trained to teach. Not necessarily trained and equipped to fire guns. So my question is, should it really be the teacher's responsibility to learn how to shoot a gun when that's not the main goal of why they are there at the school.

APOSHIAN: With all due respect, are teachers trained to jump in front of bullets and protect their kids too?


APOSHIAN: When we talk about more guns, are more guns the answer? Who do you think they call and why do they call the police when something like this happens? Because they know the police will show up with their guns. The only problem is the police show up a little too late. They have lots of guns and equipment and man power, but just a little too late.

The first responders at Sandy Hook and in Columbine were the teachers themselves, who put their lives in front of these shooters. Let's not disarm these folks.

We're certainly not training them to roam the hallways, looking for the shooter. We want to institute this concealed carry option in line with the existing district policies or school policies for the lockdown. When the lockdown fails, when that shooter gets into the classroom, the teacher doesn't need to do a lot of tactical training to access and engage a firearm, point it at the shooter, which is probably about 10 or 15 feet away, and press the trigger, thereby, alleviating the option of jumping in front of the kids to soak up the bullets. I'm sorry, that's just -- I teach tactical classes and it just makes sense to us over here.

CHO: If that's the case, maybe all the teachers should be armed right now. Gun rights advocates estimate only 1 percent of Utah teachers or 240 are licensed to carry concealed weapons. What exactly -- walk me through this course. How long will it be? And what exactly will you be teaching them?

APOSHIAN: The course requirement is not a specific number of hours. It's content based. But it's six hours of training today, which is a little longer than most of the concealed-carry courses. They are going to learn about firearm handling, manipulation with an emphasis on safety with that firearm, and how to carry it, how to discreetly maintain it. They are also going to learn about Utah handguns and federal laws.

CHO: Have you accounted for the possibility of the firearm potentially getting into a child's hands? And if so, are you teaching what a teacher should do in that type of situation?

APOSHIAN: We absolutely do. Whether it's in a school environment or home environment, we teach maintaining that firearm appropriately, whether it's on your person or a secured lock box.

And, again, this is not new for Utah. You just haven't heard about it before. Teachers have been carrying firearms in locked drawers for 12 years now. And my opponents will say the dire predictions were going to be that every argument between a teacher and student would result in gunfire. That hasn't happened. We haven't had accidental shootings. We haven't had guns left behind. And we also haven't had any gun shootings.

CHO: All right, Clark Aposhian, thank you for your viewpoint. Glad you were with us. Thanks.


CHO: Welcome back. When you think about charity, there are a million ways you can help. And a lot of stars do give back. But actor Matthew McConaughey said he wanted his hands in the clay, so he started his own foundation, helping kids live healthier lives.

We sat down recently in Los Angeles to talk about that, and about something everyone in Hollywood is buzzing about, his dramatic weight loss for a movie role.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: I go, I want something philanthropic or charitable. I said, I want it on my desk every Monday morning, something that I can follow, I can build, I can track.

CHO: So Matthew McConaughey, movie star --


MCCONAUGHEY: Hi. I'm Benjamin Berry (ph).



CHO: -- started to think about how he could give back.

MCCONAUGHEY: I said, I want to find a place where I can help out, where it's prevention before you need a cure. So that also led me to kids. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 30 more seconds to warm up.

CHO: It led him to high schoolers, kids at a crossroads.

MCCONAUGHEY: A freshman year in high school, a little odd because you've come from being the big dog in the middle school.

CHO: It led him and his wife to start the J.K. Livin' Foundation.

MCCONAUGHEY: Just Livin'. No "G" on living because life is a verb.

J.K. Livin' Foundation deals with 15, 18, high school kids in Title I schools.

CHO: J.K. Livin' doesn't just provide support to existing problems. It created and funds its own curriculum in 14 schools with high poverty rates nationwide.

MCCONAUGHEY: Break a sweat, learn to eat healthy, and learn to say thank you.

CHO: The kids meet twice a week, two hours a day, like 16-year-old Esperanza Ortega.

ESPERANZA ORTEGA, STUDENT: We have out monthly goal. When I lost five pounds. It felt great.

CHO: And Jeffrey Jin.

JEFFREY JIN, STUDENT: It really takes off the pain. It takes your mind off a lot of things that happened during the week.

MCCONAUGHEY: So if you can get them there, starting good habits or maintaining them, they have a better chance of carrying them over.

CHO: And then there's the gratitude circle.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I'm thankful for my best friends that I've had for five years.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: For the opportunity to pursue a college education.

CHO (on camera): Besides the obvious, what's the real value?

MCCONAUGHEY: Reciprocity. The things we show gratitude for, the things we are thankful for. It creates more things to be thankful for.

CHO (voice-over): Like McConaughey's ability as a successful actor --


MCCONAUGHEY: I think I see a bunch of lawbreakers up in this house.


CHO: -- which leads us to that dramatic weight loss.

MCCONAUGHEY: I'm the lightest I've been since, I don't know, eighth grade.

CHO (on camera): Yes, let's talk about that, 38 pounds. I think --

(voice-over): The new film, "Dallas Buyer's club." McConaughey plays an AIDS patient, a working actor with worldwide fame and a conscience.

MCCONAUGHEY: I've got things. I'm one of the haves. There are a lot of have-nots. We're giving the proverbial fishing rods to a lot of kids and thankfully they're using it and coming back and customizing it in their own life. That definitely feels good.



CHO: We have frightening new video today of a tornado hitting Mobile, Alabama, on Christmas day. Meanwhile a store surveillance video from a drugstore captured these terrifying moments. Just look at that. Customers inside the store scrambled for cover as the winds whipped merchandise off the shelves. You see it now. Unbelievable.

Meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center now with a look at the forecast and all of those flight delays.

So many people traveling today and throughout the week, Chad. What's it looking like auto there?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the wind not making it any better. Certainly, LaGuardia, Newark, at least an hour and a half. De-icing delays as well. Those are only 15, 20 minutes to get the de- icer over to the plane. It was a mess over the weekend. You don't think about severe weather in the winter time, but any time you get warm and cold that clash together, you can get severe weather. You also can get cold. We're going to get snow in New York. Rochester, Buffalo, over a foot of snow. Still snowing in most area there and it will continue to snow in Upstate New York all the way into Maine.

We have coastal flooding advisories in parts of New Jersey, into Connecticut, Massachusetts, as 18-foot waves are crashing onshore. So stay away from those waves even though it's wintertime. Almost hurricane-force winds in some places -- Alina?

CHO: Chad Myers, great to see you.

MYERS: Thanks.

CHO: Thank you. I hope you're with us again tomorrow.

MYERS: I will be. Right here.

CHO: OK, great

That's all for us today. Thanks so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alina Cho. I'll be back tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. eastern and again at 11:00 a.m. eastern.

CNN NEWSROOM with my friend, Suzanne Malveaux, starts right now.