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Alleged Abuse at Army Day Care; Fiscal Cliff Meeting; 65 Percent of U.S. Covered in Snow; Newtown Charity Scam; Russia Bans Adoptions by U.S. Families; New App Connects People to Rides; CNN's New Year's Eve Live

Aired December 28, 2012 - 14:30   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Horrified parents are watching as a scandal unfolds at their child's day care facility in suburban Washington. Kids being mistreated by their caregivers. Two people arrested over that abuse.

Then another shocking discovery. Another one. Thirty of those child care workers had questionable backgrounds, including drug abuse and previous sexual assault. They have been dismissed.

This all happened at a child care facility on the Ft. Myer military base in Virginia. The president himself taking the unprecedented step of calling the secretary of the Army to make sure action was being taken. CNN's Barbara Starr spoke to the mother of one of the children who was allegedly mistreated. And Barbara joins me now from the Pentagon.

Barbara, what did she tell you?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this really is a heart breaking case. And, you know, I just have to put it in perspective. A military installation. A child care facility. A stone's throw from where I am standing at the Pentagon. It would take me just a few minutes to walk across the road to this child care operation.

A mother, who has now learned that her young toddler was one of the victims of this alleged child abuse, decided to speak out about it. She wanted her face shielded. She wants her children's privacy protected. She still worries about retaliation against her husband by the military. But she tells us a chilling tale.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All along this first week when we were being sort of given piecemeal information, denied access to the videotapes, we were also being asked if we wanted to seek medical care for our child so --

STARR: Medical care for what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For what, obviously. We wanted to understand and see with our own eyes since that evidence was available.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Barbara, it took a long time for the information to come out. Why? And what steps is the department taking, the Defense Department, taking now over this?

STARR: Well, it took this couple actually weeks to get access to the videotapes that they then saw showing their young child being abused by the day care workers bad enough. The Army said they had to wait because there was a criminal case pending.

But, look, these parents wanted the -- all the parents wanted the full information about what had happened to their children. I have now spoken to at least half a dozen parents who had children at this day care facility. You hear the same thing from them.

That the Army initially just simply didn't react fast enough, didn't tell them the full information about what was going on. It took several weeks. Now the Army does have a full investigation under way and as you pointed out, it has all led to President Obama picking up the phone, calling the Pentagon and saying, what on earth is going on -- Don.

LEMON: Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

And you can watch Barbara's entire report tonight on Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Eyes of the world right now focusing on the White House, within the next hour, congressional leaders will arrive for what is likely to be a very tense meeting with the president of the United States. This is perhaps the final effort to avert the New Year's tax increase that is expected to cost the average family several thousand dollars a year.

Four days remain to reach an agreement, get it passed by the House and Senate, and signed into law by the president. As we said, we're talking a long shot here. As we await the arrival at the White House of the top four members of Congress, they're schedule e scheduled to meet with the president at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And as we talk about the fiscal cliff, we talk mostly about the tax increase, but it is more than just that. Tom Foreman explains now.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As these negotiations go on, everybody says here comes the cliff, here comes the cliff. It is not a sudden effect because it doesn't all happen at once. But it does happen and some people will feel it absolutely more than others.

Remember there are automatic mandatory cuts that will kick in, in the circumstance and hit many different departments. So for example, if you are unemployed now, benefits will stop for 2.1 million unemployed Americans if we go over the cliff and just as a point of reference here.

If, in fact, they wanted to extend the benefits, that would cost $30 billion, which is not a whole lot in the federal budget, but nonetheless, a group that would feel the cliff and feel it fast.

What about people who are traveling out there, the Transportation Department, $1 billion in cuts to mandatory spending in the Transportation Department? What will that mean? Slower air travel and higher fares. I'll tell you why.

Because there will be fewer air traffic controllers, customs officers, security officers out there, that means fewer people to process you through the airport, your luggage and everything else to get you where you're going, and as that happens, they're going to have to have more overtime from the people who are there.

That's what is going to run the cost up. That could have an impact. Here is the one that could touch virtually everyone in the country. Go to the Treasury Department here, 100 million taxpayers would be unable to file until late March because they would not have as many people as they would normally have to process your tax returns.

You know what is coming next? That also means a delay in tax refunds. The Treasury Department normally sends out about $72 million in tax refunds in January and February. That would not happen if the fiscal cliff comes. They wouldn't be able to keep up with the work load.

And there would be unexpected higher taxes for most Americans because, remember, that's another part of the equation. So many different groups could be hit in many different ways at many times, but the bottom line is if these negotiations continue to stall and don't come through, and the cliff comes, people will indeed feel it all over this country.


LEMON: All right, Tom Foreman, that was CNN's Tom Foreman in Washington. As we await this 3:00 p.m. meeting at the White House, an attempt to reach an agreement before we hit the fiscal cliff on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

One-two weather punch, a massive storm causing huge problems since Christmas day finally over, but another is on the way. Our Chad Myers is tracking this latest storm for us.

Plus heart break for dozens of American families in the process of adopting children from Russia as Russia's president signs an adoption ban.


LEMON: Nasty, nasty, nasty winter storm has eased, but it left a lot of the U.S. covered with snow. Maine was the last to feel the brunt of the snowstorm, which hammered the Midwest and south just this week.

Some areas of Maine saw up to ten inches of snow overnight, forcing state offices to close. The bad weather not over yet, northeast bracing for more snow this weekend. Chad Myers, the question is when will it end? CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: April. We have one storm after another, Don. I'm not kidding. Over the next 15 days, there are five separate storms that will run across the U.S. putting down snow. Now, down here, down to the south, putting down rain.

But farther north, north of the Mason Dixon line, it is all snow. And it will continue to snow. And sometimes we say snow makes snow because if the ground is covered in snow, the air above it stays cooler. If the air is cooler, you have a chance of rain or snow, what's it going to be?

It's going to snow again because the air is cooler. So you have this ripple effect, one thing after another effect and so more snow heading even into New York City for tomorrow night. Now, there is rain now moving into New Orleans here, Baton Rouge seeing very heavy rain, could get a little flooding here, some quick flooding, it will go away quickly.

Here across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, even into Atlanta, rain coming in, and then along that line, right where the snow is now. Don, would you believe, 65 percent of the U.S. right now is covered with some type of snow, inch or more, 65 percent.

The most we could get at all last year was 45 percent in February, about 48 percent. We're better than that and really, you know, it is just starting. This is winter, just starting. The snow does move across the north anywhere from north of Memphis right through Evansville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio, into Pennsylvania.

That's the center of the heaviest snow, 50 miles one way or the other you'll get snow. Cincinnati, south Lexington, you could get ice as well mixing in. Snow comes in for tomorrow morning, into tomorrow afternoon. There is a bowl game going on at Yankee Stadium tomorrow. It will be snowing for sure there.

And pulling to the east by Sunday night and into Monday, but if that is not good enough for you, there is another one for Tuesday, another one for Friday, and another one for next Tuesday as well, spreading snow and maybe cheer, I don't know, or Bronx cheers because it is Yankees Stadium, throughout the northeast.

LEMON: Are you rubbing it? All I heard you say is snow, snow, snow, snow, snow. You're like Charlie Brown's mom.

MYERS: I said rain for New Orleans.

LEMON: Yes, all right, thank you, Chad. We'll check back with you.

A woman accused of posing as a relative of a murdered schoolchild out of Newtown, Connecticut, she was allegedly soliciting money for a fake fund. That's next.


LEMON: OK, look at that, do you see who that is? That is House Speaker John Boehner. Let's keep our fingers crossed something will get done. He's arriving at the capital, headed over to meet with the president in a few minutes.

They'll meet in the oval office. It will be John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, and, of course, the president. And they're trying to get it all done within just a couple of days. That was John Boehner arriving at the capital. If we get the other folks, we'll get them on the TV for you as well.

So it doesn't get much more heartless than this. A 37-year-old Bronx woman, Noelle Alba, allegedly made a Facebook page claiming to be the aunt of 6-year-old Noah Pozner. One of the children, Noah was one of the children killed in the Connecticut mass shooting.

Generous people wanting to help the family out began donating money to her Paypal account. But the alleged ruse came undone when Noah's uncle contacted CNN saying he had no idea who this woman was. Alba claimed she was hacked.

Last week, CNN's David Fitzpatrick approached her for an explanation and she let us record her voice, but not on camera. Here's what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not my Paypal account. I mean, I have a Paypal account like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is that your e-mail?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says right there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that's one of my Gmails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's your Gmail account.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, my personal account. But I never set up any funds for anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should know that the Pozner family tells us they're very upset by all this and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I never did anything to hurt them.


LEMON: The FBI agents have arrested Alba over the charity scam and for lying to federal officers. Matthew Campbell from CNN affiliate WFSB tracked her down just today.


MATTHEW CAMPBELL, WFSB REPORTER (on camera): We just want to get her side of the story here.

(voice-over): The 37-year-old Nouel Alba had no comment for us, but the man she was with did his best to fight off the questions about the heartless scam Alba is accused of pulling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here.

CAMPBELL: The Department of Justice says just hours after the shooting, the Bronx resident went to Facebook, claiming to be the aunt of one of the victims, and asked for donations through Paypal and her bank account, writing, quote, "We set up a funeral fund for my brother and families. Anyone willing to make a donation can make one."

Agents say she took the lie even further trying to elicit sympathy by detailing the grief she was in, going through the agony of I.D.'ing body and weeping with the president when he visited Sandy Hook. Writing, quote, "He met with us, hugged with us, even cried with us."

CHRISTOPHER YARMOLOVICH, ATTENDED CHURCH WITH VICTIM'S FAMILY: The person goes out of their way to scam people, that is more evil.

CAMPBELL: Christopher Yarmolovich attends the Glory Chapel in Hartford with relatives of Anna Marquez Green's family. She was a student killed in Sandy Hook.

YARMOLOVICH: It hurts them more.

CAMPBELL: Alba was caught days later and voluntarily talked with FBI agents where she allegedly continued to lie saying, she never made a Facebook post about Newtown and insisted she was hacked.

A thorough search of computer records and those statements didn't add up. She also maintained all donations to her Paypal were immediately refunded, but the feds say it took days before donors were paid back.

YARMOLOVICH: I'll do anything I can to help the victims mourn with that and to help them, not to destroy their lives.


LEMON: If convicted, Nouel Alba faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine.

For the second time this month, a man has been shoved to his death at a subway station in New York City. Witnesses say a woman was pacing on the platform as a train approached before pushing the man to his death last night. The body was pinned under the train. His identity has not been released.

Police describe the suspect as a heavy set woman in her 20s. Security video shows her running from the scene. Earlier this month, a 58- year-old man was shoved to his death at a Times Square station and a homeless man was charged in the case.

Just ahead here on CNN, the fallout from dozens of American families in the process of adopting children from Russia as Russia's president imposes an adoption ban.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Is this pay back? That's what many are thinking after Russia imposes a ban on adoptions by U.S. families. The ban was signed into law today by President Vladimir Putin. More than 50 children were in the final stages of the adoption process when the bill was signed. Russia's child rights commissioner says the children will now stay in Russia.

Joining me now from the State Department is Elise Labott. Elise, so sad when you think about these kids that were going to go to loving homes, is this pay back for the U.S. -- for the decision to ban entry to this country by Russians allegedly involved in human rights abuses and what is the U.S. saying about it?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Don, that's exactly what the state department is saying. They're saying the Russians are playing politics with the lives of poor orphans in Russia who don't have any place to go.

Let me read you a little bit of a statement from the State Department today saying the Russian government's politically motivated decision will reduce adoption possibilities for children who are now under institutional care. We are further concerned about statements that adoptions already under way may be stopped.

And hope that the Russian government would allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parents to finish the necessary legal procedures so that they can join your families.

Don, there are 46 families that have already met their perspective adoptive children and the children are bonded with the parents. And what State Department officials are telling me is that they hope at least they can resolve these cases already in the pipeline before trying to negotiate with the Russians on lifting the ban entirely.

LEMON: Elise, how is this decision being spun by Russia's leaders?

LABOTT: Well, they're saying it is about the welfare of the children. You might remember there have been some cases of abuse and even deaths in the case of Russian children who have been adopted in the United States. But the U.S. and the Russians have spent the last almost two years negotiating an adoption agreement that was signed in November.

And so the U.S. is saying this really -- these types of concerns are not at play, this is total politics, payback for the so-called -- that the U.S. imposed for Russian officials that are involved in human rights abuses. And they're saying that this is not fair to take it out on the children.

LEMON: The reaction from Russian citizens to this ban?

LABOTT: Well, the Russians are split about this. We have seen a lot of Russian adoption agencies and NGOs very upset about it obviously. And even some lawmakers and cabinet members, usually it is not very common to speak against a Kremlin move such as this. But there does seem to be a divide in Russian society about whether this, A, is best for the children, and, B, best for the relationship with the U.S. and Russia.

LEMON: What happens, Elise, to the Russian kids who were -- just about to be adopted?

LABOTT: Well, right now it is just statements coming from Russia, but all the parents can do is wait for what is going to happen next. These children are in the pipeline. The State Department is saying this is the real priority to get these out, but right now the children are in the orphanages, waiting.

The parents are waiting here at the United States and the big fear is that they'll be -- these Russian children will be put back into the adoption registry where there is no guarantee that they'll be adopted.

LEMON: Elise Labott, thank you very much.

A preview of CNN's New Year's Eve coverage, Brooke Baldwin talks with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. It is not long before their conversation turns to pole dancing.



FOREMAN (voice-over): For 13 years in D.C. traffic, Robert Harrison has made a sometimes difficult living as a limousine driver. But a surge of new riders now has him for the first time heading into the holidays with real optimism about his job.

ROBERT HARRISON, CAPITAL STYLE LIMOUSINE AND TOURS: They have saved the day for us as independent limo drivers.

FOREMAN (on camera): That's the impact?

HARRISON: That's the impact absolutely.

FOREMAN (voice-over): He says he owes it to Uber, a relatively new service that allows limo drivers to connect electronically with people nearby who need a car right now.

(on camera): So your smartphone knows where you are. You put in a request for a car and in a matter of moments --


FOREMAN (voice-over): That allows drivers who often have hours to kill between prearranged rides to turn the waiting time into money- making time. Uber gets 20 percent of each fare, the driver gets the rest. The idea was born five years ago and has spread to a dozen cities here and abroad.

TRAVIS KALANICK, UBER FOUNDER/CEO: If you can fill that time out for those guys, help them get business during their dead time, they can do a far better job making ends, meet making a living wage.

FOREMAN: Uber's rapid rise is not without controversy. In a number of cities, taxi operators and local officials have questioned whether Uber and other similar ventures are dodging laws that controls taxi rates and protect consumers.

To be sure an Uber car is more expensive than a taxi, but the service is proving so popular with customers who like the comfort and convenience some cities are already pushing aside the reservations and Harrison says that's great news.

HARRISON: No Uber driver will tell you they are not making any money. If they are, they are trying to discourage other drivers.

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


LEMON: Don't have plans for New Year's Eve yet? Make sure you join Anderson Cooper, comedian Kathy Griffin and our Brooke Baldwin as they ring in 2013 starting at 10:00 Eastern. They promise to be on their best behavior, but we wouldn't count on that.


KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: Anderson, please, break it down for Brooke who our big performers are.

BROOKE BALDWIN, HOST, CNN'S "NEWSROOM": Let's go there. I understand, Anderson Cooper, we do not have musical acts anymore because this one, this one, you know, won't stop talking and there was a time when you had a little thing with a Lil Wayne, roll it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special shoutout to Mr. Anderson Cooper and Miss Kathy Griffin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wasn't Kathy Griffin on the pole. That was a backup dancer.

BALDWIN: Kathy Griffin Lee. Have we corrected this?

COOPER: Also --

GRIFFIN: I did talk to Lil Wayne.


GRIFFIN: See, see --

BALDWIN: What? You're about to talk about the pole?

COOPER: There was a woman upside down grinding on a pole behind him that we had to blur out part of the pole, the whole thing was ridiculous. We decided --

GRIFFIN: It turns out I'm really the angel one on CNN. I'm really the one you can count on to be classy.

COOPER: That's right, yes, you keep it classy. BALDWIN: I think if this is an indication of how this 2012 nears it will be an interesting one. Ringing in 2013 with you two, I can't wait. I'll be in New Orleans. I'll see you two there and everyone else. See you guys on New Year's Eve.

COOPER: Thanks, Brooke.

GRIFFIN: All right, we'll see you there.


LEMON: Anderson and Kathy will be live from New York and Brooke will be live in New Orleans, for the countdown to 2013 starting 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.