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Wintry Weather Across U.S.; Senators Get Back To Work Today; Top Five Celebrity Scandals Of 2012

Aired December 27, 2012 - 05:30   ET



DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, look at that, winter storm warnings. A big swath of the northeast getting socked with high wind driven snow and soaking rain.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Five days from the fiscal cliff. There's serious doubt this morning that our leaders in Washington can strike a deal in time.

GRIFFIN: No easy job. The Commander in Chief talks about the hardest part of being president.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Drew Griffin. Good to have you with us.

CHO: Glad you're with us. I'm Alina Cho. John and Zoraida have the day off. It's 30 minutes past the hour. And whether you're driving or flying, chances are your holiday travel plans are in turmoil today. I want to show you the culprit, a devastating winter storm that is now smothering the northeast.

Look at all of that white. More than 1,700 flights had to be canceled just yesterday. Hundreds more are already off the boards this morning and that number will almost certainly climb. Bet it will. Storm has already battered the south and the Midwest. Folks in six states from Pennsylvania to Maine could see up to two feet of snow today.

Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is tracking the extreme weather from the CNN center in Atlanta. But first, we want to go live to Ines Ferre in a very snowy Syracuse, New York. Ines, good morning.

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. Yes, it's still snowing here in Syracuse. And I just want to show you the road conditions here. Obviously, visibility, ice, are some of the concerns, but you can see that plows have been coming in and out of these roads here in downtown Syracuse, but you can still see that the snow is still accumulating.

We saw the last plow just a few minutes ago here. And right here on the side, you see the accumulation. And this is snow from this snowfall which is expected to be nine to 13 inches in this area, plus, some snow from some previous snowfalls in the last couple of days. They've gotten some 13 inches of snow here in Syracuse. Now, city officials say that Syracuse is actually used to getting a lot of snow. Of course, a big challenge is this amount of snow in such a short period of time. Now, one of the good things about the snow is that it's coming during a holiday week. That means that school's out. That means that a lot of people are on vacation. That's just one less headache to deal with, Alina.

CHO: All right. Ines Ferre in a snowy, still snowing Syracuse, New York. Ines, thank you.

GRIFFIN: And if you are traveling by air or by car, you need to be careful and informed. Conditions are just so bad in parts of the Midwest, the NBA's Indiana Pacers were forced to postpone last night's home game against the Chicago Bulls. That hardly ever happens. Getting around the country today and the rest of the week will be a challenge.

Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider tracking this storm. And I mean eventually this thing is going to push out into the ocean, right? The question is when.


BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not even tomorrow. We'll still be talking about it then. Yes, because it's such a wide area of impact that millions of Americans affected by this storm even as early as we talked about it on Christmas Eve. So, now, we're looking at heavy snow in places like upstate New York.

We want to show you some video outside of Buffalo in Hamburg where the snowplows -- you know, they're used to snow there, of course, but look at this. It's tough to get traction when the snow comes in so fast on any roadways. So, many people are out and about because of the big, white, fluffy flakes. It may continue to fall in Buffalo.

I want to show you the wind speeds, because they're likely to pick up, especially along the coastal areas in Boston. And that's one of the reasons that we're looking at windy conditions, stretching as far to the south as the mountains of Virginia and certainly up into New England. Rain and wind combined will impact air travel today in New York City, all major airports, even Newark, New Jersey, and then Philadelphia certainly Washington, Boston.

You're looking at rain and very windy conditions. Delays should be over an hour. These heavy thunderstorms are sweeping across Warwick, Rhode Island, all the way up into Boston. And then into northwestern mass, you're seeing some early heavy snow as well as a mixture of sleet and freezing rain now into Kingston.

Looking ahead as terms of totals, we'll see up to a foot in Northern New England and then less as you head further south. This is a very intense storm, and the wind is going to batter regions that were already battered by hurricane Sandy not too long ago. So, this is not good news for coastal New England.

GRIFFIN: All right. Bonnie, what's behind it? Is it going to be colder?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, yes, much colder. The colder air is definitely in place, and we're seeing that here in the south with temperatures right now only in the 30s. So, that cold air is coming in for sure.

GRIFFIN: All right. Thanks, Bonnie.

CHO: Well, the winter storm is targeting the northeast right now left behind a path of destruction in the south and Midwest as well. Tornadoes tore up parts of Mississippi in Pearl River County. An EF-3 force twister destroyed or damaged some two dozen homes. Tornadoes also doing considerable damage to downtown Mobile, Alabama.

An EF-2 twister, 5.7 miles long, 200 yards wide with peak winds reaching 135 miles per hour, simply no match for the local high school.


PATRICIA HUNTER, VICE PRINCIPAL, MURPHY HIGH SCHOOL: It's a wonderful school. I just don't know what we're going to do with the kids when it's time to come back. This is a dangerous situation with all the roofs off and the windows blown out. This is just devastating.


CHO: Six deaths, so far, being blamed on the storm, including two small children, killed in a car accident in Arkansas where some towns were hit by nearly a foot of snow.

GRIFFIN: Well, the headline today in Washington, back to work. The president and Senate returning from Christmas break today with all Americans hoping some real work might get done on fixing the fiscal cliff before we all fall off. Sources tell us senator Harry Reid is trying to cram through a scaled back version of the Obama cliff plan from last week.

The House is still out after the GOP went into recess last week after the GOP didn't have enough support to pass its own Plan B. Congress has very little time, though, five days to be exact to come up with some kind of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. It may already be too late with the way things work on Capitol Hill.

Let's bring in Jonathan Allen. He is the senior Washington correspondent for "Politico". Jonathan, you know, let's just get to that. I think if everything lines up, they could possibly get a deal signed before the fiscal cliff, but when does that ever happen?

JONATHAN ALLEN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes, I think the problem, Drew, is that there really isn't that much time when Congress has a consensus. They can move very quickly, but there's no indication of that right now. All of the players seem pretty locked into their strategies.

For folks familiar with economic game theory, this is a Nash equilibrium. They all believe that given what the other folks are doing, their pursuing their optimal path and that optimal path seems to be leading us an execrably toward that fiscal cliff. I think most folks now in Washington expect that that will happen rather than some sort of fix here in the last couple days.

GRIFFIN: So, the senators and the congressmen from both parties have basically done the analysis and feel in their own hearts that they will not be too terribly harmed politically if we go over the cliff? Is that basically the politics of what you're hearing here?

ALLEN: Well, I can't see directly into the hearts of any of these members of Congress.

GRIFFIN: If they have a heart, right?

ALLEN: But I can gauge from what their public posturing is. And, we're not seeing any movement. We haven't seen any movement for many days now. The House Republican leaders had a conference call with each other yesterday. Afterward, they got off and announced to everyone that they were in the exact same position they were before.

They believe the Senate must act, then the Senate responded and said, look, we're in the exact same position. We believe the house ought to act on what we've done previously. The president is coming back from Hawaii earlier than expected, but that may be just to make sure that he's not in Hawaii when everyone goes off the cliff.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And just real quickly, not to get too much into the weeds, but this is now pretty much in Harry Reid's court. He's got to come up with some kind of a deal that the president will be willing to sign and that the House will somehow pass before he brings it to the table. Is that right?

ALLEN: Well, I think Senator Reid and the White House are in close consultation. He's been a tremendous ally of President Obama's in the Senate, for better or worse. Each side has its own view of that. So, right now, I think you're likely to see Senator Reid move a version of the bill that is acceptable to President Obama or attempt to.

It's not clear whether Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell or other Senators in the Republican Party will allow that to move forward. If something passes in the Senate, I think it's likely that the House will follow suit. I think that takes the pressure off John Boehner a little bit in terms of bringing something to the floor that his minions don't love.

GRIFFIN: All right. Jonathan, it should be an interesting day for a guy like you down at D.C. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

ALLEN: Take care, Drew.

CHO: Other stories we're following.

Doctors say two firefighters shot and wounded on Christmas Eve are improving and now starting physical therapy. Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino were ambushed as they responded to a fire call outside Rochester, New York. We are now also hearing the frantic radio calls that came in just after the shooting started.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple firemen down. Multiple firemen shot. I am shot. I think it was an assault rifle. We have multiple firemen down with a working fire.


CHO: Two colleagues were killed. Their funerals are next week. Volunteers from other areas have stepped in to help the small Webster fire department.


ASST. CHIEF MIKE LADUE, BROCKPORT, N.Y. FIRE DEPT.: We're all family, yes, brothers and sisters. It's going to be a long time before this department gets over this. I understand, and you know, if they need us to come back and help out, we'll be here.


CHO: Police say William Spengler set the fire to lure firefighters into a trap. The fire destroyed seven homes. Spengler, eventually, killed himself. His sister was also found dead.

How does a small community deal with something like this? Well, the Webster, New York, fire Marshall will join us in the next hour, 6:30 a.m. eastern time. We will find out how the community is supporting the firefighters who were hurt and mourning the ones who died.

GRIFFIN: The day after Christmas returns looked a little different out in Los Angeles. The mayor moved L.A.'s annual gun buyback event from Mother's Day to yesterday. He did that because of the Connecticut school shootings. People could exchange their pistols, shotguns, rifles, for grocery store gift cards worth about $100. Assault riffles fetch double that amount. City officials say this year's hall was bigger than last.

CHO: D.C. prosecutors won't say if they'll prosecute NBC's David Gregory for showing a high capacity ammunition magazine on "Meet the Press." Gregory used it a prop during an interview with the head of the NRA, but they're illegal in Washington even if they're not attached to a weapon. D.C. police says NBC actually asked if they could use the magazine on the show and their answer was no.

Coming up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on "CNN NEWSROOM," our Victor Blackwell will talk with NRA president, David Keene, about gun rights in the wake of the Newtown massacre.

GRIFFIN: And coming up, how Facebook's privacy policy may have come back to haunt its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Plus --

CHO: Plus, the biggest celebrity scandals of 2012. Where do our paths (INAUDIBLE) on the list? We'll tell you.


CHO: Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-five minutes after the hour. Well, for celebrities, 2012 was a scandalous year, which included custody disputes, drunk driving, rehab, cheating, and divorce. Many of these scandals are featured in the 2012 "Us Weekly Celebrity Yearbook" issue.

And Bradley Jacobs is the senior editor of "Buzz Weekly." He's here to give us the scoop on the biggest celebrity scandals of the year. Good morning.


CHO: Great to see you.

JACOBS: Good morning. Thank you.

CHO: So, let's start with Demi Moore. Now, her husband, Ashton Kutcher, recently filed for divorce even though they've been separated for some time and that surprised her?

JACOBS: Yes. It was about -- it was a year since they split. And you know, it's been a very rocky year for Demi Moore. She turned 50. Sources say she's really unhappy about aging and you can see that Ashton wasn't the only young guy in her life. She's chased after Vito Schnabel this year who's 26 and Harry Morton who's 31.

And most disturbingly, her relationship -- here she is at bazzled (ph) just a few weeks ago, 1:30 a.m. in the morning in Miami partying away with Stacy Keibler who's 33.

CHO: I think she's running around with a little cat or something --


JACOBS: I don't know. That was Kim Kardashian maybe. But, Demi, the saddest part is that she's really become estranged from her three daughters, especially her middle daughter, Scout. She really has a very tough relationship with those girls right now. She even sat apart from them at the oldest -- youngest one's graduation earlier this year. So, Demi's having a very hard time.

CHO: Well, let's hope that she gets it together in 2013. Meanwhile, let's talk a little bit about what you're calling the "Twilight" cheating scandal?

JACOBS: Well, it wasn't just me calling it but "Us Weekly" did break that story. It was the biggest story of the year. We ran photos in the magazine of Kristen Stewart having -- kissing and making out with her "Snow White" director, Rupert Sanders. Of course, she's involved with Rob Pattinson, everyone knows. So, that led to --

CHO: He moved out very quickly after that.

JACOBS: Yes, he moved out very quickly.

CHO: They broke up.

JACOBS: Right. They broke up. But then, they had to promote the final "Twilight" movie "Breaking Dawn Part Two" all over the world for a month. So, you know, they did get back together. They were seen dancing, et cetera. And now that the movie's come and gone, it's a little bit of a question mark about their relationship. Are they really together, are they not? We're watching them carefully.

CHO: Lindsay Lohan, everyone's favorite train wreck.


JACOBS: That's exactly what I say. This year, Lindsay tried so hard to get a comeback. You know, she got this role, "Liz and Dick."

CHO: I watched it.

JACOBS: I couldn't take my eyes off it.

CHO: I couldn't either.

JACOBS: Right.

CHO: I actually thought it was great in a campy way.

JACOBS: It was extremely campy. But you know, she really just can't get out of her own way. She made this movie. She thought it was high art. She didn't understand that the reviews were terrible. She didn't see it as campy, and she's just -- she's had a really rough time. She continues the downward spiral, even her co-stars, I edited a story about how her co-stars were sort of making fun of her at the premiere.

CHO: It's really too bad, because you know, early on in her career, she was seen as such a talent, you know?

JACOBS: I know. But it was so long ago now we can't even remember talented Lindsay. I mean, she just -- she gets in trouble. She refuses to stay in. She refuses to really clean up her act.

CHO: I also feel like it was the year of mug shots of Amanda Bynes.

JACOBS: Yes. Well, Amanda Bynes, she had a lot of run-ins with the law. Two DUIs -- I'm sorry, two hit and runs, a DUI. Look at these. It's just a litany of mug shots for this girl.

CHO: Well, I mean, that's just unfortunate hair as well.


JACOBS: But you know, Amanda Bynes, she quit acting a couple of years ago. She quit the business. She told "Us Weekly" she was retired multimillionaire --

CHO: Quit the business? How old is she? JACOBS: She's 26, but she quit the business. But you know what, now, she has nothing to do. She wanders around a lot. We have firsthand reports at "Us" of her -- in beauty stores, hair places at 2:30 in the morning. She locked herself a boutique's dressing room for two hours and told people, go away when they came knocking on the door. She did the same thing a month prior.

CHO: It's that classic story of, you know, having too much success too early.



JACOBS: She doesn't talk with her parents anymore. She doesn't talk with her old team. So, yet another meltdown.

CHO: So, Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez and her ex, Gabriel Aubrey, big problems.

JACOBS: Yes. This wasn't really a meltdown. This was just a really ugly incident happening on one of the happiest days of the year, Thanksgiving, a family holiday. Meanwhile, the family was tearing itself apart. The fight is, of course, over Nahla, her four-year-old daughter with her ex, Gabriel. They've had this protracted custody battle.

She wanted to get full custody and go live in France. That was denied. So, there's just a lot of friction there, and it came to a head when Gabriel came over on Thanksgiving Day and got into a fight with Olivier Martinez, her current fiance.

CHO: I mean, it wasn't just a fight. It was a brawl.

JACOBS: Yes. Grown men fighting over Halle Berry and this --

CHO: There it is.

JACOBS: Look, there is Gabriel Aubrey. Can you believe that?

CHO: Honestly, when they released that photo and I pulled it up on my BlackBerry, I think I audibly gasped. I couldn't believe it.

JACOBS: Yes. That's like a classic movie-making black eye. That's -- but Olivier Martinez, you know, he's small but he packs a punch. He's a boxer.


JACOBS: And Gabriel I don't think knew what he was getting into with this fight. So, anyway, things have kind of calmed down with them. They haven't disclosed the new arrangement, but things are quieter. Halle's in Paris right now for the holidays. So, we'll see what happens.

CHO: With Olivier? JACOBS: Yes.

CHO: Never a dull moment in your world.


JACOBS: 2013, we'll see what happens.

CHO: I'm sure there will be plenty more scandals. Bradley Jacobs, senior editor of "Us Weekly," thanks for joining us. Happy Holidays.

JACOBS: Thank you.

CHO: Drew.

GRIFFIN: Interesting stuff, guys.

Coming up, new revelations about Occupy Wall Street and what the FBI was doing to keep tabs on the movement.


CHO: Every rose has its thorn, even for the president. He and Mrs. Obama sat down with Barbara Walters. Here's what he described as the toughest part of his job on "Nightline."


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The thorn is always knowing that as Commander in Chief, I've put, you know, men and women of our armed services in harm's way, and some of them get killed and some of them get injured. And that always weighs on me. That is as raw and as fresh now as it was the first month I took office.


CHO: This was billed as their first sit-down interview since winning re-election. It was taped days before the Newtown massacre.

GRIFFIN: Newly released FBI documents showing the bureau considered the Occupy Wall Street movement a potential threat and they had counterterrorism agents across the country keeping watch. Agents were in touch with police, businesses, and universities nationwide even before demonstrators set up in New York's Zuccotti Park last year.

A packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including new recordings from a scene where a gunman set a trap for firefighters by burning down his own house. What a wounded firefighter said to a paramedic as this terror unfolded? And we are talking to the fire marshal. They're live this morning.

CHO: Also, holiday travelers stuck on a plane for five hours that never even left the gate. Passengers fuming. Why weren't they let off? Why the pilot is now apologizing?

GRIFFIN: And Usain Bolt made Olympic history, remember? LeBron got his right, but which sports moment defines 2012? That more, coming up.

CHO: But first, how Mark Zuckerberg, himself, may have gotten burned by Facebook's privacy settings. We'll explain.


GRIFFIN: Welcome back. Fifty-eight minutes after the hour. Drew Griffin along with Alina Cho, taking a look at top CNN trends on the web this morning.

CHO: Well, call him a bad quarterback but do not call him a bad teammate. Tim Tebow firing back after a report that said he asked out of some offensive plays Sunday after he was snubbed for the Jets starting quarterback job. ESPN said Tebow was so upset with that perception that he quit on the team that had dampened his Christmas. As for Tebow, he's likely out of New York next year.

GRIFFIN: This is a funny story. Looks like someone might be confused by the privacy settings. Mark Zuckerberg's sister is upset after a private family photo that she posted on Facebook went public.

Randi Zuckerberg is the former marketing director of Facebook. She posted a photo of her family that included the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Well, someone who wasn't supposed to see it saw it probably because she was friends with someone else who was tagged in it, and it was re-tweeted.


All this followed by an angry response from Randi Zuckerberg that included this line, "It's not about privacy settings. It's about human decency." Well, welcome to the club.


CHO: EARLY START continues right now.