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George H.W. Bush in Intensive Care; Geithner Warns on Debt Limit; Overcoming Domestic Abuse; Top 10 Big Business Stories; Teen Says Goodbye Through Song

Aired December 27, 2012 - 14:30   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We want to update you on the condition of George H.W. Bush, the nation's 41st president, who remains in intensive care at a hospital this Houston this afternoon after a persistent slightly elevated fever. The Bush family released a statement on Wednesday and here's what it says.

Following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever, President Bush was admitted to the intensive care unit at Methodist Hospital on Sunday where he remains in guarded condition.

Doctors at Methodist continue to be cautiously optimistic about the current course of treatment. The president is alert and conversing with medical staff and is surrounded by family. The former president is said to be relentlessly positive and joking with doctors. And today, the family said it is confident he will be released from ICU.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us now from outside Methodist Hospital. Miguel, what's the very latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, he is 88 years old so that is reason to worry. He has been in the hospital now for a little over a month so another reason to worry. He came in with bronchitis or an bronchial infection and it turned into this fever that won't go away and they can't quite break.

A family spokesperson saying that they are treating it with Tylenol and other means, but he also said look, they put him in ICU because they wanted to keep track of everything going on with the president. He has a couple of other issues not related to this that he was in the hospital for initially.

So there is concern, but they believe the ICU thing is almost being treated as though it's an abundance of caution. They sound hopeful that he will get out soon. A family friend spoke to John King who said he is in good spirits and joking and the same old jovial George Bush that they know.

He just wants to get out and I'm sure he is frustrated being couped up in the hospital this long -- Don.

LEMON: Let's talk about doctors here. He was said to be doing a bit better. Is there optimism that he will be released from intensive care soon and are doctors also sure about that? MARQUEZ: Well, the hospital is not speaking on his behalf. They are leaving everything to the Bush family. They want to be as respectful as possible. One thing that the Bush family did want to say is that they appreciate all the concerns and the interest from people around the world.

He is doing OK and they do expect him to get out of ICU and to get back to his normal life. Probably giving his wife, Barbara, a hard time and his daughter Dorothy had come and visited him yesterday.

His son, Neal, was here and grandson was also with him over the Christmas holiday. He family around and had a lot of people here. It's not like he is on a ventilator or other things. He is pretty spry, just hoping he can get beyond this fever and back to home -- Don.

LEMON: We certainly hope so. Miguel Marquez will be watching. Thank you very much, Miguel.

Meantime, Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz is being sworn in today as the state's new U.S. senator replacing the late Daniel Inouye. He was named Wednesday by Governor Neil Abercrombie who said the appointment of the 40-year-old Schatz is in the best interest of the party, the state of Hawaii and the nation.

Inouye had recommended Congresswoman Colleen Hanabuza to succeed him. Move over fiscal cliff, just days from now, the U.S. could be hitting the debt ceiling. Up next, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sounds the alarm on what Congress should be doing right now to avoid defaulting on its debt.


LEMON: So you think you have wrapped your head around the so-called fiscal cliff. Good for you. Here comes the debt limit. Remember that? Late yesterday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner wrote Congress and said the federal government will blow right through the borrowing limit that Congress set in 2011.

Geithner warned the window to act is narrow or else the U.S. Treasury could default. Lisa Desjardins is in Washington to walk us through this. First, let's explain what exactly the debt limit is and it sounds like maxing out a credit card, but not precisely so, right?

LISA DESJARDINS, CNN RADIO: That's right. It is not like maxing out your credit card. We are going to make it as interesting as possible. It is important. The debt limit is not like maxing out your credit card. This is money we spent as a nation. This is a lot more like buying a house.

Committing to a $200,000 house and signing the papers and imposing a rule on yourself that you can only borrow $100,000. You need $200,000 and you spent the money, but you have the cap that you imposed on yourself.

That's what the debt limit is. We will look at where we are with this handy graphic. The debt limit is $16.394 trillion. Where are we now? We are at 16.337. So we are just under the limit almost reached our capacity.

LEMON: getting that far, it's our own fault and putting ourselves in this predicament, our own fault as well. Listen. The debt, we were not supposed to reach the limit until February or March and it crept up faster than we thought. We hit it on Monday, right, at least according to the treasury secretary. Now what?

DESJARDINS: Right, there is a little asterisk. We would reach the debt limit Monday except that the treasury and our treasurer, Tim Geitner have special powers. They have extraordinary measures. Ways of moving around a huge pot of money to try to keep us under the debt limit.

They are complicated and if you want to go to, I explained them. The biggest one is freezing automatic borrowing that happens especially with the federal pension plan.

It stops internal borrowing and keeps us under the debt limit, but it can't last forever. The treasury doesn't know how long the measures will allow us to keep operating maybe two months and maybe less, maybe a little more. It's unclear.

LEMON: OK, and one way or another, this ties into the fiscal cliff mess that paralyzed lawmakers, correct?

DESJARDINS: Absolutely. In fact, President Obama wanted to bundle up the fiscal cliff with this debt ceiling expanded and talk with the fiscal cliff. Republicans didn't want to do that. That was part of the big negotiations.

Now that we are talking about the small deal, I think the debt ceiling is going to be a separate issue and probably we will have to be talking about this yet again in the spring. Thankfully people who are watching right now will already know what's going on.

LEMON: Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much, Lisa. There will be another change in President Obama's cabinet heading into his second term. Lisa Jackson, the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency announced today she will be stepping down after the president's "State of the Union" speech next month.

In her announcement, Jackson cited the EPA's progress in the areas of food, water, and air quality and also energy independence. Jackson started at the agency as a scientist 25 years ago. Humans of weapons show up in Los Angeles.

Hundreds of weapons show up in Los Angeles, from hand guns to revolvers and rifles and even some assault weapons, just a sampling of guns traded for grocery gift cards.


LEMON: Some three million children suffer domestic violence every year in the United States. This week's "Human Factor," chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, introduces us to one of them. A kid from Brooklyn who became a famous baseball player and manager.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Torre is one of the most successful baseball managers in the past 40 years.

JOE TORRE, 3-TIME WORLD SERIES CHAMPION MANAGER: They are just running into each other and I can't tell you how happy I am. Never have been this happy in my life.

GUPTA: Just as he was reaching the pinnacle of his career, he began opening up about his childhood, growing up with an abusive father.

TORRE: My older sister ray came into the dining room with a knife protecting my mom and my dad was going into the drawer in the dining room to get his revolver. I did witness that. I still remember vividly going-over to my sister and grabbing the knife and putting it on the table.

GUPTA: For young Torre who grew up to be an all star player and was expected to be inducted into the hall of fame, baseball became his sanctuary.

TORRE: I had low self esteem. I was just lucky I played baseball and had an opportunity to go someplace to hide. So what are time do you have to be in class?

GUPTA: Today, he is giving back by providing a real sanctuary for other abused children.

TORRE: The perpetrator do them favor when is we don't talk about things like this. Awareness is so important in this.

GUPTA: Torre and his wife started the Safe At Home Foundation that dedicates spaces in school where kids can speak openly and get counseling about domestic violence.

ALI TORRE, WIFE OF JOE TORRE: It's serious what's happening to kids and the people that are abused don't have advocates and we are trying to be those advocates.

GUPTA: Torre names each site Margaret's Place in honor of his mother who was physically abused by his father.

TORRE: Youngsters are strong. They bounce back, but I don't think they realize that it hurts them. I get choked up when I start talking about that.

GUPTA: Now retired from managing teams, Torre is overseeing operations for major league baseball and giving his time to end violence. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


LEMON: Make sure you watch "SANJAY GUPTA M.D." on Saturday at 4:30 Eastern and Sunday at 7:30 Eastern.

The guns poured in at the buyback event in Los Angeles. We told you about this program at the Memorial Sports Arena yesterday. People lined up for blocks waiting two hours to hand over their weapons in exchange for grocery gift cards.

There were many who dropped off just one gun, but some turned in multiple weapons. Police took out 22 pistols from the trunk of one Honda. That got a driver $1,000 in gift cards according to the "Los Angeles Times."

CNN's Carol Costello asked the president of the National Rifle Association what he thinks about people turning in guns. Here's his take.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I wasn't in Los Angeles for the buy back, but if you offer me $100 for a $50 gun, I will sell it to you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: But some people said they just wanted to get rid of their guns because they just wanted them out of their house after Newtown.

KEENE: People have every right to own or not own a gun. That's what a free country is all about.


LEMON: The "Los Angeles Times" also reports while a lot of people turned in guns, some admitted they still owned weapons.

The stories that affect your bottom line from Facebook PO to the new Apple boss and the fiscal cliff, the biggest money stories of 2012, next.


LEMON: Well, 2012 was a big year for business from Apple's new world to Facebook's IPO in fears over the fiscal cliff. CNN's Ali Velshi and Christine Romans counts down the biggest business stories of the year.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Number 10, Apple, the first year without Steve Jobs and a company that's trying to prove under a new CEO that it can still invent things we didn't even know we needed that we would buy, faster than anything has ever been sold in personal technology before.

Number nine, the U.S. stock market despite all the worries about the fiscal cliff and maybe slower growth in the U.S. economy, the stock market had a great year, too bad you missed out. ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Number eight, Facebook's IPO, hundreds of millions of people like Facebook, but investors did not on its first day as a public company.

Trading glitches at the Nasdaq and questions about the company's ability to make money on mobile users unload the stock, which has yet to climb back to the IPO price.

ROMANS: Number seven, Mother Meyer. The new CEO of Yahoo who announced she would take a two-week maternity leave as she try to turn this company around, 37 years old and it looks like a mother's touch is just exactly what Yahoo needed.

VELSHI: Number six, Mother Nature, an intense drought in the Midwest that scorched the corn and soy crop sending prices sky high. Who can forget Superstorm Sandy, neighborhoods along the northeast swept away millions without power and damages as high as $50 billion brings in lots of questions about U.S. infrastructure and whether we should spend money to fix it.

ROMANS: Number five, China. Is China slowing or is China leading the world. We do know that China will be the biggest economy in the world by 2020, for sure by 2030. China is also getting more than a few mentions during the presidential campaign probably because it's clear they are both a competitor and a partner.

VELSHI: 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 of a building and buying spree.

Well healed 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.

ROMANS: Number two.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": CNN projects that Barack Obama will be re-elected president of the United States.

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

VELSHI: Number one is the fiscal cliff. Lawmakers saw it coming and 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.


LEMON: And make sure you join me for the biggest stories of the year in crime, politic, money and the most scandalous stories, the top ten of 2012, CNN, Sunday night, 8:00 Eastern.

A teen battling a terminal illness uses lyrics instead of letters to say goodbyes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of me always being there for him. Like if they keep singing that song throughout their life, it will be worth it.


LEMON: We'll show this teen's final wish, next.


LEMON: A teen battling terminal cancer, couldn't find a way to write the words to say goodbye to his friends and family. So he decided to sing them instead. Ed Lavandera traveled to Lakeland, Minnesota to meet the teen who is living out his remaining days with a song and a smile.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Zach Sobiech's soul is filled with lyrics racing against time to get out.

Three years ago, Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer that targets teenagers. Since then he had ten surgeries and endless chemotherapy and mostly bad news.

Zach's doctor told him he has only months to live. His mom suggested he start writing goodbye letters to family and friends.

ZACH SOBIECH, FIGHTING CANCER: I am awful at writing. I can't sit down and write a letter. I've tried. I decided to pick up my guitar and play.

LAVANDERA: That's how his song called "Clouds" was born. A goodbye to those he loves.

(on camera): You want to leave a melody behind.


LAVANDERA: You think that will help them cope?

SOBIECH: It's kind of me always being there for them. If they keep singing that song throughout their whole life, I will be right next to them the whole way.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Zach can't stop writing lyrics. There so many songs he wants to leave behind.

SOBIECH: You have to live life fast and put on the brakes at all. I can't wait for anything. So that's like one of the things people say hold on, we have to wait for this. I can't. Let's go. Tomorrow what do I do?

LAVANDERA: Zach is 17, a senior at Stillwater High School. He goes to class, but told his teachers he wouldn't be doing homework this year. Making it to graduation would be a gift.

(on camera): I haven't seen you stop smiling.

SOBIECH: Why not? Might as well smile.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Zach wants his song to raise awareness about childhood cancer, but for his family, the lyrics are a constant reminder that the end is near.

ROBERT SOBIECH, FATHER: It makes you cry. It's the lyrics and having him actually articulate it and say this is what it is and this is what I believe, it's a tough thing to hear from a kid.

ALLI SOBIECH, SISTER: He's leaving a legacy behind and inspiring so many people. That is more than any of us will be able to do.

LAVANDERA (on camera): When you look at your friends and you look at your family and sisters, what do you think?

SOBIECH: In all honesty, I'm sorry for them. I get to leave and I don't have to deal with any of this, but they have to keep on living and deal with it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Turning the heartache of cancer into unforgettable melodies is Zach's final wish on this long goodbye. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Lakeland, Minnesota.