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Winter Storms Affect Travel in Parts of U.S.; Anger Over Newspaper's Gun Owner Map; A Six Pack Full of Charity; This Grinch is No Meanie

Aired December 27, 2012 - 08:30   ET



ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Let's get straight to Alina Cho who has a look at today's top stories.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Ali, and good morning, everybody. The outlook not so good -- Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine all under winter storm warnings. Look at that radar there, all of that white across the country, up to 18 inches of snow or more expected to fall on parts of New England today. More than 1,700 flights had to be canceled just yesterday because of the weather, and more than 200 more today have already been canceled.

Doctors say two firefighters shot on Christmas Eve are improving and now starting physical therapy. Police say a gunman set fire as a trap and then ambushed Joseph Hoffstetter and Theodore Scardino in Webster, New York near Rochester. Two of their colleagues were killed. Seven homes burned down. We spoke to the Webster fire marshal earlier this morning and he says it's hard to believe what happened.


ROBERT BOUTILLIER, FIRE MARSHAL, WEBSTER, N.Y.: After 9/11, we trained to be alert for secondary devices that were aimed at the first responders, but never, never would anybody have thought that somebody would have been waiting for the firemen as they came around the corner barely even out of their rig yet. The rig continued moving and crashed into an embankment in front of the scene. It's just something that's been very difficult to come to terms with.


CHO: The two injured firefighters put out this statement, and we want to show it to you - "We are humbled and a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of well wishes for us and our families. Like so many others, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Caczowka and those who lost their homes." Those are the two firefighters who lost their lives.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor refusing to block a contraceptives mandate in President Obama's health care law. Let me explain this. Two companies, Hobby Lobby Arts and Crafts stores and Mardell Christian themed bookstores argued requiring their group health plans to cover contraception violates their religious beliefs. Sotomayor said the companies didn't qualify for an injunction while they challenged the requirement in court. She did not also rule on the merits of the company's religious-based claims.

And the FBI considered the Occupy Wall Street movement a potential threat, so much so they had counterterrorism agents from Alaska to Florida keeping watch. Newly released documents show the Bureau was in touch with police businesses and universities even before all of those demonstrators set up in New York's Zuccotti Park last year. You had to guess maybe that was happening.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I guess there's shades about the FBI investigating groups like that, so I have a different perspective on that historically.

VELSHI: We will come back to that. Right now I want to get your perspective on this particular story that outrage is growing over this morning, over a newspaper's decision to publish a map pinpointing the addresses of people with gun permits.

Now this was published by "The Journal News" which is based in White Plains, New York, just north of New York City. It shows homes where public records indicate someone living there holds a gun permit. That was part of an article called "The Gun Owner Next Door."

The newspaper says they got the information from public records and it has readers online furious, including one blogger who decided to strike back by posting the home addresses of most of the leadership and staff of the newspapers the journal-news. That blogger is Christopher Fountain, his blog "For What It's Worth" can be found at He joins us now.

Christopher, thank you for joining us. Before we start, I want to say we reached out to the newspaper, the editors and the publisher and some of the people who you named to invite them on to the show.

They issued a statement, the publisher Janet Hassan, issued the following statement, saying, "One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database as well as the accompanying article providing context would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newton shootings."

That is from Janet Hassan, president of Journal News Media Group yesterday.

Chris, you are a gun owner.


VELSHI: What caused you to do this? Why did you publish the names of people from the newspaper?

FOUNTAIN: I've never liked bullies. I thought she was bullying gun owners by conflating New York Westchester County gun owners with a horrible incident in Newtown, Connecticut, which one has nothing to do with the other. I thought I had initially printed -- published the publisher, the reporter and the editor's home addresses.

VELSHI: You ended up publishing more people, the sports editor.

FOUNTAIN: I looked them up and felt free, yes.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I walk through your objection to them publishing it. Was an invasion of privacy?

FOUNTAIN: That and they initially defended it as for the safety of the children that you would know. Well, for heaven's sakes, 580 times more children drown in swimming pools.

BROWNSTEIN: If you felt it was invasion of privacy for them to publish the addresses, why is then the response to do the same thing yourself? Why does the end justify these means? How is it different than what they did?

FOUNTAIN: It's a logical fallacy I agree to say you did it, too. On the other hand, frankly, I'm not a big fan of the media and I felt they were using this to harass gun owners, solely to harass gun owners, so I harassed them back.

MARTIN: So you're not a big fan of the media, why sit here in the media and talk about it?

FOUNTAIN: In the hopes that I can provide my side of a gun owner's perspective.

MARTIN: So you like the media when it benefits you.

FOUNTAIN: You invited me, sir.

MARTIN: I'm asking. If you don't like something then you still do it, the same point Ron is making, if you don't like the invasion of privacy when it comes to who owns guns but you're publishing it. You're saying one thing, but doing another.

FOUNTAIN: I'm a writer. I'm a publisher. My name and photograph are right on my blog. They can contact me. My cell phone number is there.

MARTIN: What kind of reaction have you had?

FOUNTAIN: About 99 percent positive but given the readership of my blog.

BROWNSTEIN: Isn't that kind of where we are? Look at everything that's happening whether it's the reaction to the Newtown shooting, the fiscal cliff, essentially it's not surprising that 99 percent of your bloggers support. We're focusing into different Americas that are increasingly unwilling to make accommodations with each other.

What I wonder about this, it's part of the general escalation of political combat we see on every front. You don't like what they did, you go back and do it yourself. Does this lead us any closer to having some consensus on what to do about guns?

FOUNTAIN: I think the media has been harassing and exposing personal details of people for a long time so I don't believe I'm escalating. I believe I'm punching back, if you will.

VELSHI: You have had comments posted to your blog you won't approve because they suggest retribution. We saw on another Web site, a quote "They", the journalists, "should watch when they step outside if they see a red spot on their clothing. Are you worried about that sort of thing?

FOUNTAIN: The ones I took, "Why don't you publish the names of their children?" I'm not going there. I do have some limits. I just felt some of the comments were going down -- my original point in posting this was to just show those particular reporters and the publisher what it feels like.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The central question in this entire story is why? And to be honest I don't know the question why you would have published the addresses. But I certainly don't know why "The Journal- News" would have published the addresses of legal gun permit owners. I just don't know why, when they sat in the editorial meeting -- I'd love to know from Janet Hassan, whose statement does not give me an answer why they decided to publish this.

VELSHI: Chris suggested he thinks they're equating legal gun permit holders with the person who perpetrated the tragedy in Newtown. They haven't said that. They just want you to know there's somebody with a gun in your neighborhood.

FOUNTAIN: And they published it eight days after the Newtown tragedy and they hadn't thought of it before.

VELSHI: There's a larger debate about gun control going on in this country, which we're all glad for. Isn't this just part of a larger gun, like why do you think it's about specifically equating it to the person who perpetrated the tragedy as opposed to hey, here are all the guns in your neighborhood?

FOUNTAIN: OK, because if they wanted to, they could have said hey, there are 2,454 gun permit owners without publishing the names and addresses of those people. I got calls and comments from abused women who were in hiding from their husband who have now -- retired New York City police detective who said that Christmas Eve he had already received five death threats.

CAIN: Legal permit holders, the newspaper chose to publish their name and home address.

VELSHI: What do you hope to come out of this, Chris, other than the discussion we're having?

FOUNTAIN: Really, that's about it.

CHO: Did you ever think this would have gotten this much attention?

FOUNTAIN: No. I have 10,000 readers a day on a little blog about Greenwich real estate, and suddenly I have 120,000.

VELSHI: People are intrigued by the issue. Chris Fountain is a blogger from Connecticut. Thank you very much for joining us.

Coming up ahead on STARTING POINT, he's known for being shirtless all the time. Matthew McConaughey is putting those abs to good use, teaching others to get fit. Alina Cho's one-on-one conversation with him next.

I think I might skip that one. It's embarrassing.


VELSHI: And he's invading our studios. The Grinch from the new musical version joins us live. There is he. Look at that.


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Yes it's a fact a lot of people don't know but Alina and I used to share an office. That's not me and -- and Alina always tried to get me to eat better so that I could look like that but I don't so this is how she rubs it in. You've seen him shirtless all the time usually on a beach.

Matthew McConaughey is more than just a stellar pack of abs, Alina. Alina is with her series "Big Stars, Big Giving." Alina, rub it in.

CHO: I didn't look at him at all like that, it was really all about his foundation.


VELSHI: Right.

CHO: Now a very, very attractive man, but let's talk -- let's talk about that, because you know, you know if you think about it, when you think about charity, there really are a million ways you can help right? And a lot of stars do give back. But what was interesting about Matthew McConaughey is he says when it comes to philanthropy he wanted his hands in the clay.

So a couple of years ago he started his own foundation, helping kids live healthier lives. We sat down recently in Los Angeles to talk about that and also about the one thing everyone's been buzzing about lately, his dramatic weight loss.


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

CHO: So Matthew McConaughey, movie star.

MCCONAUGHEY: Hi, I'm Benjamin Barry.


CHO: Started to think 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 then obviously led to the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirty more seconds to warm up.

CHO: It led him to high schoolers. Kids at the crossroads.

MCCONAUGHEY: My freshman year in high school a little odd because you've coming from being the big dog in eighth grade in middle school.

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

MCCONAUGHEY: Just keep Livin, no "g" on the end of living because life is a verb. The JKL Foundation is dealing with kids 15 to 18, high schools in title one schools.

CHO: JK Livin doesn't just provide support to existing programs, it created and funds its own afterschool 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 say I'll lose five pounds and when I lost five pounds, I felt great.

CHO: And Jeffrey Jin.

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

MCCONAUGHEY: So if you can get them there and get on -- start some good habits that maybe they didn't have or get them to maintain the good habits they already had, they have a better chance of carrying them over.

CHO: Then there's the gratitude circle.

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

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

CHO: Besides the obvious, what is the real value in doing that, do you think?

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

CHO: Like McConaughey's success as an actor.

MCCONAUGHEY: I think I see a lot of law breakers up in this house.

CHO: Which leads us to that dramatic weight loss.

MCCONAUGHEY: I'm the lightest -- I'm the lightest I've been since I was, I don't know, eight grade or something.

CHO: Yes let's talk about that, 38 pounds. I think -- the new film "Dallas Buyers Club" McConaughey he plays an AIDS patient; a working actor with worldwide fame and a conscience.

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


CHO: And for more on Matthew McConaughey's J.K. Livin Foundation and how you can help, you can go to By the way the 38 pounds he lost --



CHO: -- he told me 90 percent diet.


CHO: Ali Velshi.

VELSHI: Thanks for rubbing that in Alina.

All right, coming up on STARTING POINT, maybe he's not so mean after all we've got the Grinch here live in the house.


VELSHI: That's part of my job from the 1966 cartoon to a brand new musical "The Grinch's Heart" has warmed over the years and he's now spreading holiday cheer and helping kids in the process teaming up with the non-profit Garden of Dreams Foundation which has helped more than 200,000 children and their families since its inception in 2006, including most recently kids hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.

We have the Grinch with us, along with 12-year-old Tyler Mejorado, you are Noelle, Myles over there, and Kennedy. Welcome to all of you. Good to see you all and Grinch, good to have you here.

DENNIS KENNEY, "THE GRINCH": Thank you, a pleasure to be here.

VELSHI: You talk like that all the time?

KENNEY: Oh, yes I do.

VELSHI: Excellent. These -- these kids are all local, they're from around the area.


VELSHI: But you're from?

KENNEY: Whoville.

VELSHI: Of course you are.


VELSHI: Tell me about this -- this foundation and what you've done with it.

KENNEY: This foundation is incredible.


KENNEY: With Madison Square Garden, the Garden of Dreams Foundation is working to create experiences and dreams for children facing obstacles in their lives, whether it be a book drive or appearances with celebrities such as yours truly, we create dreams.

VELSHI: Well we appreciate that. Noelle, you faced some obstacles in your life. Do you mind if I tell our viewers about some of them?


VELSHI: You have dealt with rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma and uvitis and Tourette's syndrome. That's -- that's a lot of stuff to deal with. How has Garden of Dreams worked with you. What -- what have you gotten out of it.

NOELLE: This has given me so many opportunities that you only you know like you only think about in your dreams, so it's such an amazing opportunity to get all of these exciting things happen in your life.

VELSHI: What are some of -- what are some of the exciting things?

NOELLE: Well recently, about a month ago, I sang at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.

VELSHI: Nice that's excellent, excellent. How about you, Tyler, what are -- what are some of the things that you, in fact I know you've been battling liver disease as well.

TYLER MEJORADO, AGE 12, GARDEN OF DREAMS KID: Yes. Actually I got my liver transplant about a year and a half ago.

VELSHI: How is that coming?

TYLER: Great.

VELSHI: Excellent and what has -- what has this done for you?

MEJORADO: Oh they're -- they've done everything for me. I performed at Madison Square Garden Theater, I've performed at Radio City; myself being a big sports fan I've been to Knicks games, I've announced P.A. at Ranger Games, sat courtside. I mean --


MEJORADO: I mean they do everything that if, you know, normal people can't do. I met the emcee I've done all this amazing stuff.

VELSHI: You have been on TV before? You obviously with those things you've done you've been on before.

MEJORADO: Yes, I mean and I love doing it because I love getting the word out there and spreading what they do.

VELSHI: That's excellent. Hey, Myles, sorry, I'm sorry I didn't mean to distract you. This is your first time on TV for sure, right.


VELSHI: You're very interested, you're very busy.


VELSHI: What do you think about being on TV, you like it?


VELSHI: It's OK? You're breaking my heart. What do you mean it's OK. I worked all my life to do this.

MARTIN: He's not getting paid.

VELSHI: But he's not getting paid for it, that's what Roland says. Roland will give you some stuff at the end of this. So what do you get out of this?

BROWN: Well I get out of this bravery, fun and also time to be famous.

VELSHI: Time to be famous there you go and Kennedy welcome to you. You look like you're having a good time. Are you enjoying it? You're a little shy? You're not shy? Tell us what you love about it.

KENNEDY PATRICK, GARDEN OF DREAMS KID: I love that I am meeting new people and --

VELSHI: You look like you're going to give him one. Great to see you all. Thank you all for being here and sharing your experiences with us. We wish you continued good luck and thank you, Grinch. You're much nicer than they say.

KENNEY: Thank you.


VELSHI: You have warmed up.

KENNEY: Absolutely, it's Christmas, I brought those gifts back.

VELSHI: I love it. All right, that is it for us. We thank you, we want to thank Will Cain by the way, Roland Martin, Ron Brownstein, Alina Cho, they will all be back with me tomorrow starting at 7:00 a.m. Eastern in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We're going to "CNN NEWSROOM" right now Carol Costello. Carol, good morning.