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Tornado Caught on Camera at Walgreens; Utah Teachers Learning To Handle Guns; House Democrat Speaks Soon on Fiscal Cliff; Obama Not Sending "Cliff" Legislation; House of Representatives Missing in Action; Taxes to Rise January 1st; McConaughey Helps Kids Get Healthy

Aired December 27, 2012 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Suzanne Malveaux. I'm Don Lemon. Brooke is off today.

First off, a winter storm hammering the northeast with snow, sleet, and high winds that's after it bashed the south and Midwest spawning tornados and more misery. And you got to see this, one of those tornados caught on camera.

This is a Walgreens store in Mobile, Alabama, a tornado just churned through and Assistant Manager Josh Holman was there when it happened. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never have been in a war zone, but I'm sure this is what it looks like, all the stuff that is lifted off the buildings here. There were totes and things left in the trees. I was thankful I was alive.


LEMON: Take you to MacArthur Airport on Long Island, New York, a Southwest Airlines plane bound for Tampa with 134 passengers skidded off the runway and luckily no one was hurt though.

As the snow piles up, thousands of travelers are stranded as flights are canceled, but the kids who were out in the snow seem to be enjoying all of this. We want to go to our Chad Myers now for a look at how people are coping and what else is in store -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wind, wind for the big cities, Don. Really it is going to be just one of the days where the planes can't get out of the way of each other. We will have airport delays at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark, just like we already have now, an hour and probably getting even longer at some points.

The snow though for the city is done. The snow will be up into Vermont and New Hampshire and Maine. That's the story. But the snow is going to pile up here and places up here around Maine, there is the Bay of Fundy right there.

One of my I-Reporters is right there, that whole black area is 20 inches of snow or more still to come like you already have enough. Buffalo and New York have about a foot. Rochester a little bit more than that. Fulton is the winner and loser depending on your point of view at 16 inches.

Here are the airport delays, Lauderdale is construction, but JFK and LaGuardia, Newark and even Montreal is slowing down because of the snow and wind. You have so many planes trying to get in one place. You have to separate them when the wind is coming in.

And also the airlines don't like to worry and the airplanes don't like to get close to each other because of the snow and the wind. There you go. It will be a slow day today. People trying to get home, pack something to read I'm afraid -- Don.

LEMON: I know. It's a cliche. Pack your patience. It's true. Thank you, Chad Myers. Appreciate it.

Hard to believe it has been almost two weeks. The outpouring for a grieving community hasn't stopped since a gunman killed 20 children and seven adults on December 14th. But now the Connecticut town is asking people to stop giving.

A town official says the overflow has been heartwarming, but they are overwhelmed by the volume of gifts coming in. They are now asking people to express their sympathy by donating items to those in need in other communities.

About 200 teachers in Utah are in class today. They are learning how to handle firearms. In the wake of the Newtown massacre, it's part of a plan to have teachers defend themselves and protect children on school grounds.

Utah is one of the few states that allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools. I want to go now to Clark Aposhian, the top gun lobby. He is teaching the class and spoke with our Alino Cho. Take a listen.


CLARK APOSHIAN, CHAIR, UTAH SHOOTING SPORTS COUNCIL (via telephone): The actual first responders at Sandy Hook and in Columbine were the teachers themselves. They put their lives in front of these bullets and in front of the shooters.

Let's not disarm these folks. We are certainly not training them to roam the hall ways looking for the shooter. We want to institute this conceal carry option in line with the 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 pointed at the shooter that is to ten feet away and press the trigger, alleviating that option of jumping in front of the kids to soak up the bullet.


LEMON: And our Carol Costello talked with NRA President David Keene about the move to arm teachers. Here's what he had to say.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: There are 23,000 schools today that have armed guards, private schools and public schools. Cops in the school program was initiated in the 1990s by Bill Clinton. Whether an individual school wants that protection or doesn't want that protection is really up to the individual school.

And when we made that statement, whether Wayne Lapierre spoke a week ago, he suggested that what has to happen and what should happen is in every school district, administrators, teachers and parents should sit down and ask what's needed to protect the students in that school.

Some of them would want police officers there. Others of them will want private security guards. There may be some places where they want volunteers to do it. We are willing to work with everybody on those questions.


LEMON: How do educators in Utah feel about giving teachers firearms training? Well, let's bring in now Bob Henke. He is a principal at Mountain Crest High School. Thanks for joining us. How do you feel about this?

BOB HENKE, PRINCIPAL, MOUNTAIN CREST HIGH (via telephone): Well, I think the teachers have that right and so I feel like it's OK, but I have some things I'm very concerned about. I personally wouldn't carry a gun or get a concealed weapon myself.

The concerns I have is the concealed weapons, I have a friend who just received his a couple of years ago and through the training, they never used a gun and had a gun actually in the class.

I worry about the training that they have to actually fire the firearm and to use it without endangering others as well. So there are some things that I'm concerned about, having a concealed weapon on campus, of course, is -- we have strict policies that relate to that to ensure everyone is safe.

And if a teacher in our school or our district if they violated that policy would immediately lose their job because we don't want to put others at risk either.

LEMON: So what about having the weapon in school and just having a kid possibly have access to it. I mean, that opens the door for accidents.

HENKE: Well, absolutely. That's one of the concerns. So our policy is that it has to be concealed and has to be out of sight. You have to have a permit. Still a teacher can be overwhelmed by a student and they were carrying a gun.

There is definitely -- the safest place is note to have a gun obviously. I can understand on the teacher's side as well that -- and husbands and spouses and teachers who are concerned about the spouse going to school and teachers concerned about themselves and their students. I can understand that. It makes me nervous though.

LEMON: Mr. Henke, as we look at the video as you are talking, this is of Newtown. You see the police rushing into the building on December 14th. You said teachers should have the right to defend themselves. Personally you would not like it. What's the compromise? How do we fix this?

HENKE: Well, you know, we have a deputy and we have a full time security officer deputy on our campus. We talked the day of Newtown when we started hearing the news of the situation and discussing what we could do to ensure our school is safer.

And his comment was that he carries a pistol with him at all times, but he doesn't feel like that he can compete with some of these people like that guy in Newtown. So we bought him a safe that is bolted to the ground in his locked office and he's the only one with the combination.

And he now has a high-powered automatic rifle in there. He's concerned that with the pistol and he's trained on a regular basis with that, they couldn't compete. So, you know, I'm concerned about carrying a gun.

If a police officer is concerned about having a pistol and not being able to compete with some intruders in the school then I certainly don't feel like I would be prepared to do so.

LEMON: Bob Henke, thank you.

HENKE: You're welcome.

LEMON: Next up, new developments in the financial crisis that affects all of us. We are talking about the tax increases and spending cuts that make up the fiscal cliff.


LEMON: That says warning, fiscal cliff. It's the podium, right, but that podium means a lot. It can tell us exactly where we are, how close we are to heading off the cliff. The reason you are seeing that is because the House Democratic Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer is going to step up to those microphones at any moment and update us on the fiscal cliff situation.

They should all be working on this right now, but not everybody is. A live picture of that press conference. We're going to bring that to you when it happens. Also a live picture of the capitol because five days away, the big tax hikes could kick in.

We are now receiving word that the president, President Obama will not send legislation to Congress today that might avert the so-called fiscal cliff. As you probably know by now, the president pulled the plug on his holiday trip to Hawaii. He arrived back in Washington shortly after 11:00 this morning in hopes of prodding Congress to lock in taxes as they are right now for all but the wealthiest 2 percent.

So a Republican source had told us he would be sending legislation to Capitol Hill, but now the White House is telling us, no, that is not the case. You have the president there at the White House. You have the Senate in session, but members of the House are still scattered throughout the country.

They are on vacation and taxes are going up on January 1st. If members don't return to Washington and quickly make some changes. So let's listen to Harry Reid. He is not happy about the House being away. He is the top Senate Democrat. Here he is.


SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: We are here in Washington working. While the members of the House of Representatives are out watching movies and watching their kids play soccer and basketball and doing all kinds of things. They should be here.


LEMON: All right, so here's a reality. Reid said it's beginning to look to him as though we will plunge over the cliff come Tuesday. They are keeping an eye on Washington to see what develops.

Since it looks right now as though we are headed for higher taxes, I want to bring in Terry Savage. She is a personal finance expert and the financial columnist for the "Chicago Sun Times."

So Terry, let's walk through this, shall we? These higher taxes, we have heard middle class families are likely to lose an average of $2,000 a year. You break it down this way. This is for single earners making $85,000 a year if their take home pay is now $2,500 every two weeks.

When the higher taxes kick in, they will see their two-week pay go down $120. That's not a little. We are taking a major hit, aren't we?

TERRY SAVAGE, FINANCIAL COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": This is big money, you know, almost $400 a month when you add up a couple of biweekly paychecks. I have numbers from the tax people that might even be a little more depending on the deductions.

What do you give up when you have a few hundred dollars less in your pocket? Do you give up driving to work, you can't do that or eating. A lot of families are going to be hit.

If you have a family of four with a wife or a husband earn 125,000 and one earning 100,000, that's middle income America and their paychecks could have a bigger bite taken out. This is real money to American people.

LEMON: Absolutely, I mean, $120 is $120 to anyone for most of us. Here's another example you gave us. A married couple, two kids, combined annual income of $250,000 a year, $250,000 a year. When the tax hike hits, their two-week take home shrinks by $600. They will have to make some changes.

SAVAGE: That's $1200 a month. That's the mortgage payment.

LEMON: Terry, hang on. Let's get to Steny Hoyer, we'll get back to you. Sorry about that.

REPRESENTATIVE STENY HOYER (D), MINORITY WHIP: -- Secretary Geithner sent a letter to me and others yesterday and it was reported in the paper today that America will reach the debt limit on December 31st. That needs to be dealt with so that we can maintain the credit worthiness of this nation to give competence to our economy.

In addition that, there is much other business to do, over the past several weeks, they said that the House would do the work necessary to finish the items we need to get done by the end of the year.

Now I talked to Mr. Cantor today and urged him to have us come back. They are having a discussion on that at 2:30 on the call. I hope they conclude as we have concluded and I speak for Leader Pelosi, myself and all the Democratic leadership that we must come back as soon as possible we have to be sure to address the legislation that is pending in this Congress. A Congress which I believe has been the least --

LEMON: Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer speaking and saying, they have to come back as soon as possible and resolve the fiscal cliff. Also talking about the debt limit as well, America will reach the debt limit by December 31st. We will keep an eye on that press conference for you and if it makes news, we will bring it to you.

I want to get back down to Terry Savage. So Terry, the example I was talking about that you gave us, a married couple and two kids, combined annual income of $250,000 a year. When the tax hike hits, their two-week take home shrinks by $600. Many of them will have to make major changes, $600 is a lot of dough.

SAVAGE: They are expecting two paychecks that that's $1,200 out of their check. It's most obvious to people who see their paychecks shrink. They advised corporations and said the 2013 IRS withholding are not up because they don't know what to withhold.

So you can go ahead and use last year's withholding or if you want to be safe, you can go back to the year 2000. It's not with holding federal income taxes, but the FICA tax cut and now Fica will go back up to 6.2 percent withholding.

Don, there is a laundry list of things. They can't agree on whether they should come back. There is a list so long, the child care tax credit and the alternative minimum, the state tax and the capital gains tax and all the unemployment benefits that will expire in days.

They are not worried about getting a smaller check, but no benefits into the New Year. I can't believe with all American, we are wondering they can't agree to come back to work and work on it?

LEMON: You are working today and I'm working today and most of the people I know are working today because we have to. We have to pay for these extra taxes that come in. A lot of people add a little bit extra to their principal and mortgage.

Some will be using that money that would ease their lives when it comes to retirement and now they have to use it. We assume we hit the fiscal cliff come January 1st. When would employers begin to adjust withholdings to reflect this new reality? When would you and I and Americans feel it?

SAVAGE: Some corporations are going to start on the first paycheck withholding back at the 2000 levels, taking more money out and the deduction will take 6 percent out. Some will see it in the first paycheck and other corporations are waiting and hoping. This is causing a giant mess. Believe me for your boss as well as everybody who gets a paycheck. It's ridiculous.

LEMON: Yes, it is. Terry, thank you. Appreciate it.

SAVAGE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Next, celebrities who are putting a spotlight on giving. See how actor, Matthew Mconaughey is giving back by pushing fitness.


LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. This week we are profiling celebrities that are more than their day jobs. Singing and dancing. We call it big stars and big giving. Today, actor, Matthew McConaughey shows us how he is giving back.

He started a foundation to help kids live healthier lives. CNN's Alina Cho caught up with him to find out more about that as well as dramatic weight loss for a movie role.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: I want something philanthropic or charitable. I want it on my desk every Monday morning. I need to follow it and build and track.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matthew McConaughey, movie star -- started to think about how he could give back.

MCCONAUGHEY: I said I want to find a place where I can help out and it's prevention before you need a cure. That led me to kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's 30 more seconds to warm up.

CHO: It led him to high schoolers and kids at a cross roads.

MCCONAUGHEY: Freshman year in high school, a little odd because you came from being the big dog.

CHO: It led him and his wife to start the JK Living Foundation.

MCCONAUGHEY: Just keep live in. Now go on the end because life is a verb. CHO: JK Living doesn't just provide support to existing programs, but create and funds its own after school curriculum. In 14 schools with high poverty rates nationwide.

MCCONAUGHEY: Break a sweat. Learn to eat healthy and say thank you. That's sort of the three monikers.

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

ESPERANZA ORTEGA, STUDENT: We have our monthly goals. I'd say I'm going to lose five pounds, when I lost five pounds, I felt great.

CHO: And Jeffrey Jin.

JEFFREY JIN, STUDENT: Working out, it's a great stress reliever. It takes off the pain and takes your mind off of a lot of things that happen.

MCCONAUGHEY: If you can get them there and start good habits that maybe they didn't have or maintain good habits they already had, they have a better chance of carrying them over.

CHO: Then there the gratitude circle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am thankful for my best friends that I had.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The opportunity to pursue a college education.

CHO (on camera): Besides the obvious, what's the really value in doing that?

MCCONAUGHEY: Reciprocity. The things that we show gratitude for, it creates more things to be thankful for.

CHO (voice-over): Like McConaughey success as an actor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I see a lot of lawbreakers in this house.

CHO: That leads us to that dramatic weight loss.

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

CHO (on camera): Let's talk about that, 38 pounds.

(voice-over): The new film, "Dallas Buyer's Club." He 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 have nots. We are giving the fishing rod instead of a fish to a lot of these kids and thankfully they are taking it and coming back and customizing it in their life. That feels good.


LEMON: For more on Matthew McConaughey, JK Livin, no g, Foundation and how you can help, go to

Former President George H.W. Bush is in intensive care at a hospital in Houston this afternoon, ahead, the latest on his condition.