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Man Working to Fix Fiscal Cliff; Retail Chain Faces Obama-Care Fine; Top-10 Political Moments of 2012

Aired December 28, 2012 - 13:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And an unwelcome milestone in Chicago. A shooting overnight became the city's 500th homicide of the year. Police say a 40-year-old man was shot in the head outside a convenience store. No arrests were made. Now, 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 is still only about half the rate of 20 years ago. According to Chicago police statistics, 943 homicides were recorded in 1992.

For the second time this month, a man has been shoved to his death from a subway platform in New York. It happened last night in Queens. Police and witnesses say a woman who had been pacing and mumbling pushed a man in front of the train before running down two nights of stairs and into the street. Surveillance video actually caught part of that. The woman is still on the loose. And the suspect in a fatal subway shove earlier this month is in custody, charged with second- degree murder.

The music world is mourning the loss today of R&B singer, Fontella Bass, best known for her 1965 hit "Rescue Me."




MALVEAUX: Bass co-wrote the song. It became the first millionth- selling album. She died last night of complications from a heart attack. She was just 72 years old.

Fixing the country's financial problems, becoming something that lawmakers can't seem to do. President Obama and congressional leaders will meet this afternoon hoping for a last-minute agreement to avoid the sp-called fiscal cliff. One man in Texas is not waiting for Congress to act. He is doing his part to fix the country's finances and send a message as well.

Kyung Lah has the story.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his unheated garage, 85-year-old Atanacio Garcia is working to fix the fiscal cliff. One can at a time. (on camera): How much money have you sent the government?

ATANACIO GARCIA, DEBT BUSTER: A little bit over $3,000.

LAH (voice-over): $3,197.88, to be exact, all tracked on a handwritten ledger. Over the last three years, Garcia has been paying the government $50 a month of his postal service pension and money from cans he collects.

GARCIA: We're paying absolutely too much interest, too much interest.

LAH (on camera): It really bothers you.

GARCIA: It bothers me because it makes no sense.

LAH (voice-over): Sense is something Garcia's wife of 59 years thinks her husband could use.

(on camera): Do you think he's crazy?





LAH (voice-over): Call him crazy, but there's an entire federal office of Bureau of Public Debt that collects from hundreds of Mr. Garcia's. This office in Parkersburg, West Virginia, was set up by President Kennedy so citizens could pay down the national debt. This year alone, it's collected $7.7 million in gifts, about $90 million since it was established.

(on camera): But $90 million isn't that much, especially when you consider the federal deficit is $16 trillion and climbing. To retire the debt, every single American would have to pay $50,000.

But Garcia says you've got to start somewhere, especially when Washington won't.

(voice-over): The partisan bickering has bothered him since --

(on camera): 1992?

(voice-over): That's when Garcia first wrote his Congressmen, suggesting a formula to eliminate the debt. The Depression-era kid and Army veteran says he's giving back to a country that's given him so much, a sense of duty that's infectious.

His daughter is now collecting cans at work. His grandson drives Garcia to friends' houses just to collect more cans.

Garcia knows that his monthly money orders won't avert the fiscal cliff, but his priest says that's not the message Garcia is sending to Congress.

REV. MARTIN ELSNER, CATHOLIC PRIEST: In order to really solve the $16 trillion national debt, you have to sacrifice.

LAH: Politicians talk about kicking the can down the road. One American has decided that road has to end, and it might as well be here.

Kyung Lah, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.


MALVEAUX: One of the nation's biggest craft stores would rather pay $1 million a day than follow some of the rules of the Affordable Health Care law. We're going to explain.

But first, answers to your money questions, here's Poppy Harlow at the "Help Desk."


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, everyone. Today on the "Help Desk," we're talking about taxes on the money you might make abroad.

With me this hour, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox and David Novick.

Lynnette, take a listen to this question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I'm making less than $99,000 and I'm living overseas, what are the tax ramifications at home?


LYNNETTE KHALFANI-COX, FOUNDER, ASKTHEMONEYCOACH.COM: You can also qualify for a foreign earned income exclusion on your taxes. This amount gets adjusted every year for inflation. Right now for 2012, the figure is $95,100, so he's under that. He said $99,000 or less. He should be able to exclude most of that income.

He should also look, though, at something else, which helps a lot of people who are working abroad. It's the foreign housing credit or exclusion that you can get as well. So if your employer is paying for your housing or paying you money to pay for your housing, you can exclude some of those costs from your income taxes as well.

HARLOW: It's worth doing the legwork, right, David?

DAVID NOVICK, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, PROMETHEUS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: I definitely think so, but he needs to speak with a qualified tax adviser to make sure he files this properly so he avoids any issues.

HARLOW: Of course. Of course. KHALFANI-COX: Sometimes people think, oh, I'm living overseas, I don't have to worry about my taxes in the U.S.

HARLOW: You still have to file.


KHALFANI-COX: You absolutely have to file no matter where you live. You're taxed on your income worldwide if you're an American citizen.

HARLOW: Thank you.

If you have a question you want our experts to tackle, upload a 30- second video of your "Help Desk" question to



MALVEAUX: On New Year's Day, a major retail chain could be paying more than $1 million a day for rejecting Obama-care. Hobby Lobby opposes a key provision in the health care law, and it says that employers must provide workers coverage for contraceptives as the morning-after pill.

Lisa Sylvester has more.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hobby Lobby is a chain of craft stores that started as a mom-and-pop shop in Oklahoma City. It has grown to a $2 billion operation with 525 outlets across the country. But it is still privately held, with a corporate culture rooted in the family's Christian faith. The stores, all are closed on Sunday.

Now the owners are in court over their beliefs. They're fighting the new federal health care mandate staunchly opposed to providing coverage for employee use of the morning-after pill, which they say is tantamount to abortion.

KYLE DUNCAN, HOBBY LOBBY ATTORNEY: Our basic point is the government can't put a company in a position of choosing between its faith and following the law.

SYLVESTER: The case may sound familiar. Religious institutions also asked for a similar exemption from providing contraception to its workers.

ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG: During the health care legislation fight, there was a big division over who should get exempted. Churches have always been exempted from this. But other religious organizations have not. Early on, the fight went back and forth, and the administration finally said that religious colleges, universities, hospitals would be included in the exemption for religious groups to not have to provide contraceptives as part of the new health care law.

SYLVESTER: But for-profit companies, even those with strong religious ties, have not been exempted by the mandate.

Hobby Lobby's case is pending before the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the company is up against a deadline of January 1st, when its health care plan kicks in for the New Year. In less than a week, Hobby Lobby is facing incredibly stiff fines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yet, the government is about to start imposing fines of $1.3 million a day -- I'm just going to repeat that -- $1.3 million a day are the fines that Hobby Lobby is facing from the government.

SYLVESTER: The company's lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a temporary injunction to avoid those fines. On Wednesday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency appeals for the Tenth Circuit, denied the injunction request, saying the applicants failed to meet the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief.

The White House did not comment on the Hobby Lobby case. President Obama has consistently said contraception is a private issue between a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss.

(on camera): We received a statement from the lawyers for Hobby Lobby, saying they will continue their appeal in reiterating that they do not have any intention of paying for coverage for the morning-after pill, but there's really no precedent for this. And it's not clear exactly how the IRS will levy and collect these fines.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: It's still going to be in the air, but a little closer to the ground. Shuttle "Atlantis" will go on display at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We're going to give you a sneak peek at the new home.


MALVEAUX: Here it was on its final mission in July of last year.


ANNOUNCER: Two, one, zero, and liftoff. The final liftoff of "Atlantis" on the shoulders of the space shuttle. American will continue the dream.


MALVEAUX: The retired space shuttle "Atlantis" will still be in the air but not quite as high, elevated off the ground in its permanent home at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The new museum there is set to open this summer.

But we're getting a sneak preview from our John Zarrella.

John, I love the hat. Give us the tour.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Suzanne. Yes, you're absolutely right. A sneak preview, a real opportunity to come inside to the museum as it is under construction here at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex. And if you and the viewers are asking, what's that behind me there? That's "Atlantis." And it's in shrink wrap. 16,000 feet of shrink wrap to protect it from dust and debris. And it is, it's suspended off the ground. And this is the position it will be in when the museum opens in July. And the shrink wrap is going to come off in March of this year. And you'll be able to see inside the cargo bay and the different places on the shuttle. We have a couple of artists' renderings of what it's going to look like when this massive museum and facility is done. It's 90,000 square feet here, $100 million project to build all of this.

And we have Tim Macy joining us. And Tim is in charge of project development.

And, Tim, I know that you left the one sidewall off when you brought the shuttle from the ten miles away and brought it over here, towed it in. Now, it still had to be a tight squeeze.

TIM MACY, DIRECTOR, PROJECT DEVELOPMENT: It was. You know, the width of the wall back there is only about 85 feet, and the wingspan, as you know, is about 82.5 feet. When she came around the corner that night, it was a pretty tight fit. It was almost called the OTS. It had wheels that allow it had to make a turn at 30 degrees. We backed it out, put it right on the spot, easy peasey, no problem.

ZARRELLA: Never a concern to get it in the door?

MACY: Never, never. Never a concern. On paper, never a concern. But I've got to tell you, there was a lot of relief and there were a lot of people very happy to see it when it got in.

ZARRELLA: Now, there are only three shuttles that actually flew into space at different locations around the country. This is going to be huge for this complex, bringing tourists here.

MACY: Sure. We need this kind of thing here because, again, what we're trying to do is tell the story, the past, present, and into the future what manned space flight is all about. It will draw a lot of people because one of the things about this 90,000 square foot building is we are creating a theatrical display. This is not just in a shed someplace. You've seen it. It's all painted out, got great lights on it. It's going to be a real interesting display.

ZARRELLA: Tim, thanks so much for taking the time with us.

And now, one of the things, Suzanne, that Tim and I were talking about was the fact that unfortunately for the visitors here or what any of the other shuttles, you can't touch them. You can't go inside of them. There will be walkways where you can get right up close to them, but they are national treasures. So just too many hands on them all the time would not be a good thing.


ZARRELLA: You'll be able to see it up close, but you won't be able to go inside of it.

MALVEAUX: Yes. I was going to ask you that, whether or not you'll be able to take a little tour of it. Are there other things as well that you're going to be able to see?

ZARRELLA: Yes. Yes, absolutely. In fact, right behind me over here, there's a location right here where there will be a Hubble space telescope replica that will be suspended in this atrium area. You can see all that construction equipment down there. And there will be about 60 interactive exhibits for people to come and to use, you know, after they've toured the shuttle. So they'll have that as an option, too.

MALVEAUX: I guess the hard hat gives you all access, huh, today to kind of walk around? That's pretty cool, John.

ZARRELLA: All access. My all-access pass today.


MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks. Good to see you. We look forward to seeing the display.



Game changers, history makers, amazing zings -- nobody can argue that this year's presidential campaign, full of some unforgettable moments. We're counting them down. Our top-10, up next.



MALVEAUX: Here's Candy Crowley with out top political stories of 2012.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Picking the top-10 moments of an election year is like finding your favorite grain of sand on the beach. There are an impossible number of possibilities. There are the moments when catch phrases become boomerangs.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you got a business, you didn't build that. MITT ROMNEY, (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.

CROWLEY: When cast members stole the spotlight.

SANDRA FLUKE, ADVOCATE FOR CONTRACEPTION: I'm an American woman who uses contraception. So let's start there.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY ADVISOR: It's almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.

CROWLEY: A fair number of moments ranging from ridiculous to inexplicable.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: I'm not going to shut up. It's my turn.


OBAMA: I think it is called Romnesia.


ROMNEY: If I were to coin a term, it would be Obamaloney.

CROWLEY (on camera): So many moments, so much nonsense. But there were game changers too, moments that shook up the race or made history, and made our top-10 list.

(voice-over): It was seen at the time as a proxy race for November. Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker in a showdown with organized labor over budget cuts and collective bargaining power. Turns out, the end result was no bellwether for the presidential race. Walker won, the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election.

And another nod to a Republican governor --

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.

CROWLEY: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's full-on embrace of President Obama for helping Sandy-ravaged New Jersey came days before the election and had no noticeable effect on the presidential race, but some Republicans think Christie didn't have to be that effusive. They'll remember if his name pops up in 2016.

TODD AKIN, (R), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

CROWLEY: From the "say what" category of entries comes a combo team, Missouri Senate candidate, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock of Indiana.

RICHARD MOURDOCK, (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: Life is a gift from God. I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.

CROWLEY: Republican dreams to take control of the Senate in 2012 had dwindled throughout the year, but Akin and Mourdock pretty much shut that door in a couple of sentences.

Two words from Mitt Romney during the primary reverberated all the way through to November. The issue was his plan to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers.

ROMNEY: People who have come here illegally won't be able to find work and over time those people would tend to leave the country or self-deport.

CROWLEY: The concept of self-deportation was not by itself responsible for Romney's dismal showing among Hispanics, but it surely greased the skids.

Also in the category of moments for which Romney would like to have had a mulligan, there was this.


ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe they're victims.


CROWLEY: Romney called his remarks completely wrong. They also caused the deepest self-inflicted wound of the election.

On the flipside --

ROMNEY: He's going to be the next vice president of the United States.


CROWLEY: Romney's V.P. day may well have been the best moment of his campaign. The selection of Congressman Paul Ryan excited conservatives in a way Romney himself had not.

How many moments are there in an hour and a half? The president lost all of them in the first debate? The pictures tell the story of a man who phoned it in, panicking his supporters, and providing an opening for Romney.

(on camera): And finally, the top three moments of the election best described as history-making politics.

(voice-over): A Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of Obama-care. And if that doesn't strike you as political, consider what would have happened on the campaign trail if the high court had struck down the president's signature first-term achievement. OBAMA: At a certain point, I've just concluded that, for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

CROWLEY: The first president to endorse same-sex marriage was a daily-double moment, good politics aimed at an activist wing of his party base and most certainly history.

And finally, the number-one political moment of the year is easy during elections.

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

OBAMA: We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions. And we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America!


CROWLEY (on camera): For "Auld Lang Syne," cue the confetti, and then say good-bye to 2012 and all its moments, historical and hysterical.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: Taking inventory in a German zoo. We'll take you to pictures that are capturing our attention today.


MALVEAUX: Several stories caught our attention today. Photos as well. Take a look at this. In Brazil, beachgoers soaking up the sun during a heat wave sweeping the coast. Temperatures reaching 110 degrees in Rio de Janeiro.

And in New York, workers install almost 300 WaterFord crystals on the New Year's Eve ball in Times Square.

In Germany, an animal keeper holds a tomato frog in her hand. Each year the zoo in Hamburg takes an inventory of all the animals.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Don Lemon.

Hi, Don.