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Newtown Overrun with Gifts and Memorials; Fiscal Cliff Background; Russian Adoption Ban May Be Enacted Soon; Predictions for 2013

Aired December 27, 2012 - 15:30   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So if you have a gift or donation that you want to give to the grieving families in Newtown, Connecticut, just hold on to them. The Connecticut town is asking people to stop giving. A town official says the overflow has been heartwarming since the tragedy that left 20 kids and seven adults dead, but they are overwhelmed by the volume of gifts that are coming in.

Joining me now is Victor Blackwell with more on this.

So, Victor, the city, is it offering an alternative plan, where people can send these gifts?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Generally, yes, specifically, no.

But you were there, Don, and you stood in the town square and you saw the teddy bears and all of the candles and the angels. And many people sent 26 of them because of the number of people killed at Sandy Hook and it's just become too much.

So, they're asking that, instead of sending more to the town, that they donate them to organizations and the thousands of children around the country that would be comforted by a teddy bear.

They have a now warehouse -- I mean, look at this -- a warehouse full of these teddy bears and the cards and the angels and all of the trinkets being sent in. They are walking a difficult line because they don't want to appear to be ungrateful, but they want to get back to a level of normalcy.

LEMON: Because what do you do with all of this? I mean, the town, quite honestly, is not big enough to absorb that. There aren't that many people there.

And look that. We saw the memorials.


LEMON: I couldn't imagine this much stuff would be coming in, but you heard from the man in charge of the donations. What is he saying about this?

BLACKWELL: I did. His name is Chris Kelsey and, first, he has a real job. He is the town assessor, but he has been now made the intake manager because these truckloads of items coming in every day and this is what he told us about what's happening at the warehouse.


CHRIS KELSEY, NEWTOWN TOWN ASSESSOR (voice-over): We are getting truckloads and truckloads of teddy bears and toys and office supplies and a little bit of everything.

We still accept donations. We don't want to turn anything away, but we have plenty. There is no more need for teddy bears or toys or office splice. Any donations call the united way. They are doing from what I'm told 100 percent fee-free.


BLACKWELL: So, the United Way is the suggestion, but they just can't take any more. They want to make these sidewalks passable again.

And, again, they want to show the country and the world that, yes, we are grateful, but please don't send anything else.

LEMON: Not only do they need to stop, but they are converting the remaining donations into soil?

BLACKWELL: Yeah, I don't know how technically this happens. We are trying to get an answer from public works. But they are going to take all the teddy bears and all the things you see here and kind of compound them and process them into soil for a permanent memorial.

That is going to happen in the next few weeks and months and they are starting to look over designs to make that happen, but ...

LEMON: Look at that. It's just unbelievable. I would imagine that all the flowers and the things, they can turn that into soil.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, some of it's biodegradable.

LEMON: The things that are biodegradable, some of the plastic and the teddy bears, I don't see how.

BLACKWELL: Maybe into bricks to build a monument or something, but that's what they say. They'll use all of that.

LEMON: Listen, it's nice to see the outpouring from people regardless of what it is, even if it's too much.

BLACKWELL: And they appreciate it.

LEMON: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Victor Blackwell. Appreciate that.

Coming up here on CNN, how did we get to the fiscal cliff? Ali Velshi explains after this break.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: From the CNN Money Newsroom, before you ask, I have no idea whether we will get a deal or not.

I do, however, have a pretty good idea as to how we got into this gigantic pickle in the first place.


FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Now, we have passed a bold package of tax relief for America's families and businesses.


VELSHI: It starts more than a decade ago when then President George W. Bush initiated a series of tax cuts for all Americans, but it's a deal with the devil.

The cuts which are politically expedient, but costly to government, expire in ten years' time.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Both houses of Congress have now passed a package of tax relief that will protect the middle class.


VELSHI: When it came time for the cuts to expire, the U.S. is just emerging for the worst recession since the Great Depression, so President Obama agreed to extend the tax cuts for two more years in exchange for Congress extending federal emergency unemployment benefits.

Those cuts are expensive. If they're extended, by 2020, the Bush-era tax cuts will be responsible for more than half the total national debt.

Democrats insist that taxes go up for the wealthy, but stay in place permanently for those earning less than $250,000 a year.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We need to stop the job-killing tax hikes and we need to start cutting spending now.


VELSHI: Republicans refuse to play ball. They say no higher rates on the rich, no tax hikes on anyone based on an ideology that calls for government to be as small as possible.

Now, its roots are as old as American politics, but today, the philosophy's main spokesman is this man, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist's pledge, signed by almost all Republicans in Congress, forbids signatories from raising taxes ever under any circumstances.

Things come to a head in the summer of 2011. Republicans demand the government reduce its deficit as a condition for raising the nation's debt ceiling. Without a deal, the U.S. would lose its ability to borrow money.

Both Democrats and Republicans deploy scorched-earth tactics that nearly shut down the government and, ultimately, cost America its triple-A credit rating for the first time in history.

But, in a last minute compromise, both sides agree to a trillion dollars in spending cuts up front and another $1.2 trillion in cuts to be decided by a special congressional super committee.

But a poison pill was attached. If the super committee can't reach a deal, automatic across-the-board cuts known as the sequester would go into effect starting January 2013 at the exact moment when the Bush tax cuts, extended for two years, if you remember, would expire.

So the point is we could have all seen this coming and some of us did. We yelled at the top of our lungs about it, but we were drowned out by the election.

It seems common sense and good governance often gets drowned out by seemingly endless and continuous elections in America. This time there may be a serious price to pay for it.

I'll stay on top of this until the bitter end, but for now I'm out. Same time tomorrow.


LEMON: American couples trying to adopt children are anxiously waiting as it looks like Vladimir Putin bans all U.S. adoptions. President Putin plans to study the final texts of the adoption ban, but sees no reason why he wouldn't sign it. Hundreds have adoptions pending and Rafael Romo spoke with couple.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jenny and Aaron Moyer describe Natali (ph) as the sweetest four-year-old boy you could ever meet.

AARON MOYER, ADOPTIVE FATHER: He's our son. In our hearts, he's our son.

ROMO: Natali (ph) lives in an orphanage in Russia where the Moyers visited him a few months ago with the intention of adopting him.

JENNY MOYER, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: We know that there's an orphan crisis, particularly with children with special needs in that area of the world, and that is something that we are open to and the child that we are pursuing, Natali (ph) has Down's syndrome.

ROMO: But even though the adoption process is nearly complete, the Moyers who live in Georgia are facing what could be an insurmountable obstacle.

The Russian parliament has approved a bill to bar American couples from adopting Russian children. President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will sign it into law.

ADAM PERTMAN, DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE: If what they say is going to happen really happens, those families are not going to be able to adopt the kids even if all the legal processes already have been in place.

But much more important, let's focus on the children. What it means is those children will remain institutionalized.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some see the Russian bill as retaliation for a new America law that places financial restrictions on Russians accused of human rights violations. It also denies them visas for travel to the United States.

According to statistics by the United States State Department, the number of adopted by American couples has decreased significantly in the last few years. In 2004, the number was more than 5,800 compared to only 962 last year.

Over the last 20 years, Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children, more than any other country.

PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We remain committed to supporting inter-country adoptions between our two country. The welfare of children is simply too important to be linked to political aspects of our relationship.

ROMO: The bottom line, says this expert, it is ultimately the children who will suffer because there aren't enough families in Russia willing to adopt.

PERTMAN: There are by some estimates 700,000, 750,000 children in orphanages and institutions in Russia. They don't have that many families stepping up.

ROMO: The need is especially great for children with special needs like Natali (ph).

JENNY MOYER, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: We rely on our faith and our hope in Jesus Christ and that's what's going to get us through this, but, you know, it would just be devastating for those kids.

ROMO: The Moyers already have two biological children, both boys and one adopted American girl.

They say their children are just waiting for their brother to come home.


ROMO: The Moyers are not just waiting for a court date that would finalize the process and which is expected to happen within a month.

And, Don, it is not clear whether the bill as written applies to the couples who are already in the process of adopting a Russian child. LEMON: You know, when someone wants to and a family wants to adopt a child, a couple, I mean, it is heart-wrenching to get right there at the precipice and then not be able to do it. It's terrible.

ROMO: And it's like they told me. They already consider Natali (ph) their son. It's just a matter of time.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Rafael. Appreciate your reporting.

You know, as we come to the end of 2012, what are the hot trends for the new year? We will preview what you can expect in 2013, what you can expect it to bring, looking at everything from food to toys.


LEMON: We can't predict the future. Well, at least most of us can't, but we can make some very educated guesses about what to expect in 2013.

So, crystal ball reader and sorcerer, Josh Levs is ...

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He has a smile, but he's so skeptical. Don't even bother to read what's there.

LEMON: Speaking with some experts, does that mean you are a warlock? Or how do you -- what do you ...

LEVS: Here's what happened. I mean, this is actually really interesting.

One of the brilliant producers here came to me and said, what do we know about what's ahead for 2013? What are the trends?

And I said, I don't know. So, here's what I did. I reached out to our experts at, including our section editors who follow things like travel, food and money, and I said, look at the trends, look what we already know about 2013 and got some really interesting answers.

We're going to start with this. The world of business and your money, we can expect a continued rebound in housing. According to our CNN Money team, record low mortgage rates and a drop in foreclosures have led to rising prices.

Also, expect a continued rebound in the auto industry. So, more good news there. And increased oil and gas production. The U.S. could overtake Saudi Arabia in energy production in the coming years.

Now, let's move on from money. Let's talk a little bit about technology and how technology could change our lives in the coming year.

LEMON: Apple?

LEVS: This is interesting, as well. Yeah, well, every time Apple has that ... LEMON: Every time you say technology, just go, Apple.

LEVS: I know. There's actually a psychological condition for people who have to have like the newest thing, every single time it comes out. I'm sure we will see that again.

But tablets, they are expected to change the world even more in 2013. In fact, a bunch of technology experts telling me that along with more and more people having tablets, there will be an increase in how much social networks know about you.

You think they know a lot now. They're going to learn more next year.

Also, the more people use tablets, the more employers will learn where you are because more employers are getting the technology to find out where you are using tablets to check in on work, including your e- mail, that kind of thing, from the road. So, they will have more information about you, as well.

Now, this took me by surprise. I didn't see this coming. Our travel folks, based on bookings, already know what a lot of the hottest cities are to visit next year.

LEMON: That was London, right?

LEVS: That was Liverpool.

LEMON: Liverpool?

LEVS: Also, Corsica, Reykjavik ...

LEMON: Reykjavik?

LEVS: ... Istanbul ...

LEMON: Oh, nice.

LEVS: ... and Innsbruk, a city in Austria.

LEMON: Well, Istanbul is always -- come on, it's Istanbul.

LEVS: Yeah, I mean, Istanbul is really hot. A lot of people want to go there. But the bookings are up. More and more people are going there, so they can tell it's going to be more hot.

All right, now, this one I've just got to basically read you the notes because our brilliant "Eatocracy" editor, Kat Kinsman -- that's our food blog -- told me which foods are on the rise.

So, we have this funky little video for you. Take a look. She says Southern dishes with actual Southern ingredients are taking off.

LEMON: There you go. Amen. Look at that. Look at that.

LEVS: I think you'll love -- you like that one? Tater tots are taking off. More and more veggie foods, lots of grains that are interesting.

And then she says, non-alcoholic drink.

LEMON: No. No.

LEVS: Really? Tell me. So, which part of that do you like there?

LEMON: I like the Southern food.

LEVS: You like the Southern food? No tater tots?

LEMON: No, I mean, when I was a kid and -- no, the other things. No.

LEVS: No, not so much?

LEMON: Not so much.

LEVS: You might like this one, though. There's one kind of exercise that is taking off, more and more, becoming more popular, probably because of the economy.

This is according to the American College of Sports Medicine, body- weight training.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely.

LEVS: More and more people doing that because you don't have to go to a gym.

LEMON: Yeah.

LEVS: You don't have to pay for a gym and don't have to pay for a trainer.

LEMON: You don't have to leave your house.

LEVS: Right.

LEMON: That's why things like P90X and Insanity are sold because it's just -- they are self-contained. You can do it from your living room.

LEVS: Yeah. And in some of the things that you buy over the -- you know, those DVDs and stuff, you need a little bit of equipment, but body-weight training, you really don't. You can just go outside to any park. You can use your house, your stairs.

And, finally, here's the good news that a lot of people will like. Expect more toys made in America. There is a website,, that points to new technologies like 3-D printing.

Also, more and more websites are manufacturing things based on your order and a lot of those places are inside the United States, so they are very hopeful that we'll see more products made in America.

And tell us what you think, Facebook, Twitter. Send Don your notes, as well, and we'll share some of those right here. LEMON: Thank you, sir. (INAUDIBLE) your body weight, ain't easy. You should know that.

Thank you, Josh. Appreciate it.

LEVS: No problem.

LEMON: Hey, we are a few minutes away from the top of the hour and that means Candy Crowley is in "The Situation Room" today. Candy's here with a preview.



You know, usually, around this time of the year, really slow, not so much this year. It's like every day -- you know how you count down to Christmas?

Now, we're counting down to the fiscal cliff which happens to coincide with the new year, so we'll be talking a lot about that today.

And a lot of the things you've been talking about, including the health of former President George H.W. Bush.

LEMON: Candy Crowley, we'll see you at the top of the hour. Appreciate it.

You know, it's the end of one of the most popular comic book series of all time. Issue number 700, "The Amazing Spider Man," has hit the shelves, but some controversial events in the comic has Spidey fans across the country in a frenzy.


LEMON: This is some of the most incredible video that we've seen in a long time, all right? If you're not looking at the TV, I want you to look. It's new surveillance video out of China.

It is the moment an enormous shark tank just explodes. Look at that. This was a popular tourist attraction. It's in the Shanghai mall. This glass aquarium, home to three lemon sharks and a bunch of turtles, suddenly shatters.

You can see people are swept away as 33 tons of glass and water just go flying there. None of the sharks or turtles survived. Sixteen people, again, were hurt. It's incredible.

Well, you know, there is a lot of fuss, but also a lot of phrase for the 700th issue of "The Amazing Spider Man" comic book. It just hit stores and the tweets and the feedback about the comic book, well, some of the feedback, not so much, not so pretty.

And that's why we have -- we corralled her. Our entertainment correspondent extraordinaire, Kareen Wynter, to tell us what all this commotion is about. Kareen, what is going on here? KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You're not kidding. I looked at the tweets and all of the chatter online and people are furious.

But let's not get too worked up over this storyline, Don. Sure, Marvel has killed off Peter Parker, or sort of, in the just released 700th issue of "The Amazing Spider Man." One of Spider Man's arch- villains, Dr. Octopus, implants his personality into Parker's body, but instead of remaining evil, well, he decides to take up the role of Spider Man. And some fans are just outraged, Don, by this plotline.

But, you know, Marvel, in a similar move, they did the same thing last year by killing off Peter Parker, but this was in another comic book series set in a parallel world and Spidey's fans have been just as angry in the not-too-distant when a storyline undid his marriage to Mary Jane and erased more than 20 years of plotlines.

Mind boggling, right? So, nothing set in stone in the comics. It's just ink and paper, so people should just simmer down a little bit.

LEMON: Thank you, Kareen. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Hey, we need to cut this short. We need to go to Mitch McConnell. He's speaking right now on the Senate floor. Let's take a look.