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Prescription Drug Overdoses; Stocks Down a Bit over Fiscal Cliff Worries; Fiscal Cliff is Self-Inflicted; Eva Longoria Gives Back; NASA Prepares Shuttle's New Home.

Aired December 28, 2012 - 11:30   ET



ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Every 19 minutes someone dies of a drug overdose. Most are not from illicit drugs but ones that are perfectly legal, FDA-approved drugs, prescribed to millions of Americans.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, explains.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I rode along with Lieutenant Craig Amin (ph). He's been on the job for 30 years. He will tell you when he takes an overdose call, the usual suspect is a painkiller.

(on camera): What sort of impact have you seen here in Seattle?

CRAIG AMIN (ph), EMT: If you pull a group of people together from this community, someone in that group is going to have had a friend, a loved one that's either had difficulty with a prescription drug or potentially died from that.

GUPTA (voice-over): Amin (ph)'s unit responds to 45 calls a month for overdoses involving these types of medications.

AMIN (ph): The guy has a history of --

GUPTA: And this is important. It can be difficult to tell if it's a painkiller or heroin because they come from the same ingredient and do the same sort of thing to your body.

(on camera): Aside from needle tracks in the arms, someone who has had an overdose of pain medication like that or heroin, they could look very much the same.

AMIN (ph): Absolutely. They could be unconscious from a medication that they think is relatively safe for them because instead of getting it on the street, they get it from a pharmacist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 36 code red (ph).

AMIN (ph): A possible drug overdose.

These people are suffering from chronic pain. They know that a little bit of pain medication helps. So maybe a lot would help a lot more.

GUPTA: When we arrive, another medic is on the scene.

(on camera): Somewhere in that parking garage there was a call of someone having an overdose.

(voice-over): The victim came to and walked away.

But while we're there, another call. It's been just a few minutes.


CHO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta's medical investigation revealed startling truths about how easy it is to take that deadly dose. That, and much more on "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D.," Saturday afternoon at 4:30 Eastern and Sunday morning at 7:30 right here on CNN.


CHO: We have this news just into CNN. In the ongoing dispute over our nation's ports and a possible strike, we have just learned that both sides have resolved the royalties question, and they have agreed to another 30 days of negotiation for other issues. What that means, bottom line, is there will be no strike at more than a dozen east ports for a month.

Amid-the fallout that a plunge off the fiscal cliff would bring, there is this. A tax break that has saved struggling homeowners from paying thousands of dollars to the IRS, that's set to expire.

Our Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange to explain this. Alison, so what is this all about?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Alina, this would affect anyone who foreclosures on their home or who sells their home as what's known as a short sale. That's when you sell your home at a loss but avoid foreclosure. This could involve up to a million people.

What this is about a law put in place in 2007 called the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. Let's say you sell your house for $100,000 but your mortgage is $150,000, you normally have to pay taxes on the remaining $50,000. This law excuses homeowners from paying that tax. This law is expiring in a few days as part of the fiscal cliff. If Congress does nothing, homeowners selling at a loss will have a big tax bill to deal with. It could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. It comes at a time when they can least afford it -- Alina?

CHO: How are the markets doing today with all the news about the fiscal cliff and going over it being a possibility?

KOSIK: Markets are selling off just a bit. The Dow is down 75 points. With rumors of Congress coming back into session over the weekend, we did see the markets turn around a bit yesterday. But now the selloff continues. There's just not a lot of confidence that a deal can get done, the reason you're seeing the Dow down 76 points -- Alina?

CHO: All right, Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange. Great to see you as always. Thanks, Alison.

Chicago reached a dubious milestone overnight. A shooting victim on the west side became the city's 500th homicide of the year. Police say the 40-year-old man was shot in the head outside a convenience store. No arrests were made. Chicago has been struggling for decades to overcome an epidemic of gun violence. This year's homicide figures are 17 percent higher than last year. But it's still just half the murder rate of 20 years ago. According to Chicago police statistics, 943 homicides were recorded in 1992.

In suburban St. Louis, let's just say an alleged shoplifter picked the wrong store on the wrong day. It happened shortly before Christmas. The man was trying to leave with stolen liquor and got into a scuffle with a female worker. Just at that point, professional kick boxer and martial artist, Jesse Finney, walked into the store and saw the commotion and took action.


JESSE FINNEY, PROFESSIONAL KICK BOXER & MARTIAL ARTIST: I'm still trying to fight me and saying choice words. It wasn't going to let him up, he was going to that. He wasn't getting up, I can promise you that.


I was like, just chill out, relax, I'm not going to hurt you. The police are on their way. You're going to get arrested.


CHO: Finney owns a martial arts facility in the area and had gone to the store to run an errand.

Here in New York, authorities today plan to haul a 60-foot whale carcass up into the dunes for burial. That fin-back whale washed ashore at Breezy Point in Queens just two days ago. Despite efforts to save the animal, it didn't make it. It was just too weak and too thin. Marine biologists have not yet determined why it died.


CHO: You may have heard of the fiscal cliff described as a self- inflicted wound, a manufactured crisis. That just means it didn't come out of the blue. The bottom line is this. Whatever happens, we have done it to ourselves.

CNN's Ali Velshi shows us how we got here.


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

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It starts more than a decade ago when then-President 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 10 year's time.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Both houses of Congress have passed tax relief that will protect the middle class.

VELSHI: When it came time for the cuts to expire, the U.S. was just emerging from 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 are 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.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: 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 on government to be as small as possible.

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

Things come to ahead in the summer of 2011. Republicans demand they reduce deficit as a condition for raising the debt ceiling. Without a deal, the U.S. would lose its ability to borrow money. Both Republicans and Democrats deploy scorched-earth tactics that nearly shutdown the government and ultimately cost America its AAA 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. 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 get drowned out by endless and continuous elections in America. This time, there may be a serious price to pay for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHO: Keep it here today. At the White House, President Obama will meet with Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress. That's at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It's their first face-to face fiscal cliff discussions since before Thanksgiving. Hopes are not high for a deal, but either way, you'll hear the news first here on CNN.


CHO: There's no doubt about it, Eva Longoria is one of Hollywood's leading ladies, a big star with a big heart for charitable giving, focusing on one very close to her heart.


EVA LONGORIA, ACTRESS: I'm being pulled in a million different directions with supporting AIDS in Africa or sex trafficking in Thailand or dolphins in Japan, and you can't do everything. So in thinking what do I really want to do?

CHO (voice-over): To answer that question, you could say Eva Longoria looked in the mirror.

LONGORIA: I knew I wanted it to be with women and in the Latina community.

CHO: Best known for playing the vixen on "Desperate Housewives" --



LONGORIA: The best you ever had.


CHO: -- Longoria had humble beginnings, the youngest of four daughters born to Mexican-American parents.

LONGORIA: I wasn't the first to go to college. It was expected.

CHO (on camera): But let's be honest. I mean, when you went to college, it wasn't a walk in the park. You had to work.

LONGORIA: I was flipping burgers. I was an assistant to a dentist. I worked in a car shop, changing oil. I was definitely a work study.

CHO: 17 percent of Latinas drop out of high school. Fewer than half of adult Latinas hold college degrees. So in 2010 she started a foundation focusing on helping Latinas get a college education.

LONGORIA: So I just have to schmooze with them.

CHO: On the day we meet up with her at this high school in Los Angeles, she's the keynote speaker at a graduation for parents.

LONGORIA: Everyone here is taking a stand for their child. CHO: The program is called PK. Longoria's foundation is helping to fund it.

LONGORIA: It's a nine-week program parents can take in order to help them navigate the institution of schools. It's not easy. I've sat with a lot of these parents before the program and they didn't know what a transcript looked like. They didn't know what a GPA was. They didn't know what SAT meant.

CHO: children of parents who graduate are guaranteed admission to one of several schools in the Cal State University System, provided they meet the basic requirements, like Wanda Martinez.

WANDA MARTINEZ, ATTENDED PROGRAM: I only went to the limited school.

CHO: She graduated so her daughter, Alejandra (ph), could have a better future.

LONGORIA: Very good. Make your mother proud.

I don't want the Latino community to just be a large community. We need to be an educated community. Because this is going to be our future workforce.


CHO: Something Longoria has talked about a lot on the campaign trail, and now as a co-chair of President Obama's inaugural committee.

(on camera): Are you nervous?

LONGORIA: I'm very nervous.

CHO: What will you wear?


LONGORIA: Who knows? I don't know.

CHO (voice-over): Politics and philanthropy, making a difference in both.

LONGORIA: I'm funding these programs because I believe in them. I think it's important that you yourself, as a role model, as a philanthropist, as an activist, that you yourself give out of your back pocket. I would give my shirt off, before I would ask you to give yours.



CHO: The space shuttle "Atlantis" has flown millions of miles over several decades, helping NASA reach new heights. And it will make headlines again, but this time, just 25 feet off the ground. "Atlantis's" last flight was in July of 2011. It was also the last of NASA's historic shuttle program, end of an era. The next time the public sees the spacecraft, it will be housed in a special museum at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A grand opening is set for this summer.

And who else would be there but our own John Zarrella to bring us up to date on the project.

Whoa, do you look good. Now, let me get this straight, John. This is a 180-foot-tall shuttle. It weighs more than 152,000 pounds. And it's shrink-wrapped in plastic right now?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is. And you know, for the viewers out there, if you don't recognize what's there behind me, that's Atlantis, in 16,000 feet of shrink wrap in order to protect it.

You know, I've got the hard hat on. We're right here inside. There's guys working, building, the museum around the shuttle "Atlantis" as we speak, working nearly 24/7 to get ready for that grand opening. And you see the angle, Alina, of how it is displayed here, supported on giant supports. That's a 43.5-degree angle. It is the angle that the shuttle would fly in space.

And Tim Macy is joining us here today. And Tim is director of the project development for this exhibit here.

And, Tim, I know you left one of the doors open in order to get Atlantis in when you rolled it over here in early November. That had to be some feat getting it inside here.

TIM MACY, DIRECTOR OF ATLANTIS PROJECT: Well, the wall, the whole back wall is about 82.5 feet wide. The wingspan here is a little over 80. So it was touch and go. You came around the big turn, pulled in, backed it up a little bit, then came right where it was supposed to be. There's a pretty funny story. There's about 50 of us left, when it finally came in and hit the spot at the end of the day. It got very quiet. All the machines turned off. And I heard this one guy yell out, "I told you it would fit."

ZARRELLA: That was you.


MACY: That was me. But it was kind of funny.


But very tight space, but it's really going to be a great way to present this to the public.

ZARRELLA: I know a lot of viewers are wondering, OK, can I touch the shuttle? Can I go inside the shuttle?

MACY: No, very few people besides those that have worked on it and flown it and maybe an occasional -- occasional anchor have been on the inside. It's a priceless artifact. We can't let you touch it. We'll get you really, really close. And we've actually taken out pieces of the shuttle itself like the toilet and the living quarters and that will be on display. You can get a hands-on feel for that. We're going to actually let you see what it's like to go to bathroom in space.

ZARRELLA: Oh, joy.

Thanks, Tim.


We appreciate you taking time to be with us.

And, Alina, so you can see, July, this will be the grand opening here. And it's a $100 million facility --

CHO: Wow.

ZARRELLA: 90,000 square feet that they are building all around the shuttle. And I tell you what. I mean, it's really strange looking at it in shrink wrap. I've seen boats going down the highway -- I'm sure you have and a lot of viewers have -- wrapped in this kind of material. But the first time I've ever seen a space shuttle in shrink wrap -- Alina?

CHO: Yes. It's incredible. I know you've seen many of them. I've actually been to Cape Canaveral to see a shuttle launch at night. The skylights up, for people who don't know, like it's the middle of the day.

ZARRELLA: Exactly.

CHO: It's incredible.


CHO: And it's great that people will be able to see that come July.

John, thank you.


CHO: "Atlantis," we should mention, lifted off on its first mission back on October 3rd, 1985. Ultimately, it flew 33 times to space. And it joins the other two shuttles on permanent display at the Smithsonian in D.C. and the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Also another story we want to bring you out of Florida. Just check this out. Unwelcome visitor at a picnic area in the Everglades. Look at that. Family on vacation from Arkansas took this video after a 17- foot Burmese python was shot and killed by park rangers. The giant snakes, many of them former pets, have become a big, big, big nuisance in south Florida. Next month, Florida game officials will hold a hunting contest offering a $15,000 prize to the person who kills the most pythons.

All right, let's turn from snakes to flakes. The massive storm that's been causing huge problems since Christmas day is finally over. Maine was the last to deal with it. Some places got a foot of fresh snow, but it's not over yet.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center with a look at that. So Chad, you know, I thought when this storm came through, all right, fine. It wasn't so great. Lots of snow.


CHO: But it's over, not over yet.

MYERS: No, not over yet. And another one coming on its heels. And I thought you were going to say, let's go from snakes to Chad. So I'm glad you went from snakes to flakes.


That kind of padded it just a little bit. Thank you.

CHO: I would have never said something like that.

MYERS: 65 percent of the U.S. right now covered in snow. All of last year, the best we could do was 48 percent in February of it covered with snow. So that storm you talked about has really covered up the east coast and the central part of the plains with good snow. Good snow that we're going to use later on either to melt, get some water in the Mississippi River, because it's at record low levels at this point in time. It's raining now here. New Orleans to your west, we are seeing some weather, and that's going to be with you for the next couple hours.

It's windy across parts of the northeast but not that bad. The next story, I believe, is going to be a four-inch snowfall for New York City on Saturday. Now, how does it get from Memphis essentially up to New York City? Well, it's going to take some time. It's going to drive right up and down this Ohio Valley with rain showers to the south and significant snows. Two to four inches all the way along the border here. I would say parts of Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Evansville, Cincinnati, Columbus, back into Pennsylvania. We'll get to that in the next hour -- Alina?

CHO: That's a lot of places, Chad Myers.


All right, Chad, thanks so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

CHO: I'm Alina Cho. Thanks so much for watching. Have a great weekend and a great new year's.

CNN NEWSROOM with my friend, Suzanne Malveaux, starts right now.