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THE SITUATION ROOM

Fiscal Cliff Nears; Russia Bans Adoptions by Americans; Teen Alleges Rape, Kills Herself; White House Fiscal Cliff Meeting is Over; New York Subway Horror; 2013 Milk Prices Could Double; Former President Bush Out Of Hospital Soon?; FCC Wants to Cut High Prison Phone Rates; Stocks Down on Fiscal Cliff Fears; Shuttle Atlantis Under Wraps

Aired December 28, 2012 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: new details of the meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders for what could be a last-ditch effort to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Families in the making ripped apart -- Russia officially bans adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

And for the second time in a month, a man pushed to his death from a New York City subway platform into the path of an oncoming train.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All eyes on that White House this hour and the meeting that may be the last best chance to keep the country from going over the fiscal cliff. Right now, the leaders of the House and Senate are sitting down with President Obama in a search for an 11th-hour deal to prevent severe tax hikes and spending cuts from automatically kicking in with the new year.

CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is getting new details.

Jessica, what are you hearing about that meeting?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy.

A source tells me that in the meeting, the president is going to explain or reiterate the position he took on Friday, that he would like a plan that extends tax rates for people who make $250,000 and below, but raises them for those who make more than that, that extends unemployment benefits for Americans.

And if -- the president, I'm told will say if he does not get an agreement to that plan, he will ask the other leaders what they can agree to, what they would like instead. If they cannot come up with a proposal that will pass the House and the Senate, he will ask for a vote on his measure. But that meeting, Candy, is still going on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN (voice-over): Congressional leaders arrived at the White House for a last-ditch meeting just days before a New Year's deadline. Back on the Hill, pressure to break the stalemate.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: We have got to demonstrate we have some capacity left to make decisions in Washington on these very significant issues for the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't have a deal within the next 24 hours, the question is, where do you buy a parachute?

YELLIN: They met inside the Oval Office in search of a deal to avoid plunging over the fiscal cliff. If they agree to a plan, each of these players has a role.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly move the measure to a vote. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell assure that no Republicans block the bill. House Speaker John Boehner agree to bring the bill to a vote on the House floor. And Leader Nancy Pelosi produce the huge number of Democratic votes needed to pass it.

Vice President Biden, a Capitol Hill veteran, working to bring it all together.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What folks are looking for -- and I think all of us agree on this -- is action. They want to see that we are focused on them, not focused on our politics here in Washington.

YELLIN: That was the last time this group met, more than a month ago. With time running out to forge a scaled-down compromise, can they agree on even the most basic elements, extending some income tax cuts, preventing pay cuts to Medicare providers, fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax?

Among the options to gain votes, extending unemployment benefits to win Democrats, averting an estate tax hike to woo Republicans. There's still time, but no room for error. If Congress doesn't act...

STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMIC WRITER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": The impact psychologically and financially on Americans of another plunge in the negative territory for the economy would be extremely harmful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And, Candy, as I said, those leaders are still meeting with the president. We will see if any of them come out and speak to us. After that meeting breaks up as soon, as we have any word on whether there is an agreement, we will bring it to you.

CROWLEY: Jessica, it's interesting to me the president's idea, like, if we can't get an agreement, let's just have a straight up-or-down vote in both houses on my plan.

And here's what I can't figure out, whether that's a trap for Republicans, because then they can be accused of not even allowing it to come up for a vote and that's a great political talking point, or is it a way out, saying, look, we felt that if the situation was dire that we should just put these things up there and see how the vote went. Which is it?

YELLIN: Well, I'm going to take the easy answer and say it's a little bit of both.

I will tell you they are confident here that it has the votes if they would bring it to the floor.

CROWLEY: Sure.

YELLIN: So if they could get it to a vote, that's what they would want. And if they can't, then they can always have the talking point that they tried and it was blocked. So either way, that would be a win for the White House, wouldn't it?

CROWLEY: It would indeed. Thanks so much, Jessica Yellin, at the White House for us.

We want to get more with CNN contributor Ryan Lizza. He's Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker."

Let's, first of all, just take a listen to what we just heard, which is that the president says, here's my plan. It's kind of the same plan that they all said, no, that's not a plan. The Republicans said that's not a plan. OK, fine, then just take a vote. It would mean that he believes that he could get enough Republicans to get it through the House for sure.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Look, because of the filibuster in the Senate and because John Boehner wants a majority of his Republicans in the House to pass anything, the president is stymied. There is a majority in the Senate for a deal. There is a majority if you have a few Democrats plus a few Republicans in the House, and yet we can't get a deal to pass either chamber.

So I think the White House, which now realizes that the negotiations with Boehner failed, they are not going to get an actual negotiated settlement and they are not going to get a negotiated settlement with McConnell in the Senate, has basically thrown up its arms. I think this meeting today is for a little bit of show, frankly, because in fact...

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: ... five of these leaders in one room never hash out a plan.

CROWLEY: Right.

LIZZA: The whole deal had to be hashed out between Obama and Boehner and that failed last week. So this is a bit of show. And Obama's now going to put the onus back on the House and the Senate and remind people that there is a majority for a plan. It's just not one that most Republicans would support.

CROWLEY: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Well, they just won't even let us vote on it.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: But the thing is, I actually don't think that Boehner has -- now has a requirement the majority of his caucus should vote for it.

LIZZA: Well, I don't think we know. It's unclear what his requirement is, right? If he would allow a vote on this plan and you would get almost all the Democrats presumably and a handful of Republicans, if Boehner would allow that for a vote, I think it would break the deadlock, right?

CROWLEY: Yes.

LIZZA: So, this is a little bit of Obama throwing it back in Congress' court and saying, there should be a majority for this. Pass it. But Republicans are not going to respond. They are going to be very, very cool to this today.

CROWLEY: Right. Let me ask you about the politics of this post January 1. Let's say nothing happens, they can't get a deal. It's now January 3. Who wakes up in the more powerful political position to get what they want in a fiscal cliff deal?

LIZZA: It's kind of a strange situation, because most conservatives in the House want to go over the cliff because they want to vote to lower taxes and they will have the ability to do that once taxes all go up after January 1.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: That just sounds better. I voted to lower taxes...

LIZZA: Exactly.

CROWLEY: ... rather than I let your taxes go up.

LIZZA: Exactly.

I think, politically, though, all the policy moves in the direction of the Democrats, right? Tax rates go up. Big spending cuts at the Pentagon. And all the polls show that the Republicans are going to be blamed for all of this.

So Obama is the one guy in this town that wants a deal more than anyone. On the other hand, he's probably the guy that just to be purely political benefits the most after January 3 and is in a stronger negotiating position.

He will also have, remember, more Democrats in the House with a new Congress and a few more Democrats in the Senate. So the White House will be strengthened after this happens. But a lot of people in the White House and Treasury Department don't want that to happen because they think the markets may freak out. Already, the markets are reacting to the news within the last hour.

Yesterday, the markets dipped a little bit on Reid's comments in the Senate. So they are worried about the economy. I think purely politically, Obama will be strengthened once we go over.

CROWLEY: Ryan Lizza, thank very much. It's going to be an interesting couple of days.

LIZZA: Yes, it sure is.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Ryan.

Weapons of war on the streets of Los Angeles, details of a shocking find in a gun buyback program.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: They are deadly weapons of war no one expects to see on the streets of an American city, so you can imagine the shock when a gun buyback program in Los Angeles yielded rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Los Angeles with details.

What are you finding out about this story?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, what police are saying is, look, it's certainly stunning, but they are not surprised. This is something that they deal with every day, weapons on the streets of Los Angeles, certainly very rare that they come across something like this, but they are hoping that by showing it to give Americans some pause and perspective.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): A rocket launcher, not just one but two handed over to police in this week's gun buyback day. Shocking? Not to police who have seen it before among the roughly 10,000 guns turned into police by the citizens of Los Angeles since 2009.

LEE BACA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF: We look like we're in a Third World war nation when you seize all these weapons from individuals. And the question you have to ask is, why?

LAH: These rocket launchers were U.S.-made, owned privately, though legal, and turned over to police under the no-questions-asked buyback.

They thankfully had no rockets in them. Police also collected 75 assault rifles that people traded in this week for gift cards.

AARON COHEN, SECURITY EXPERT: I don't think anyone should be surprised two rocket launchers were turned in. This is L.A.

LAH: L.A. and much of America, says Aaron Cohen. He's a security expert advising clients around the world. This should be a reality check, he says, and a sign of how military-style weaponry can so easily end up in the wrong hands, like they did in the Newtown massacre.

COHEN: There's way too many weapons that are out there on the streets. The type of weapons that were brought in, the 75 assault rifles the other day, not to mention the two RPG rocket launchers, it's just ridiculous.

LAH (on camera): Do you think it's gotten out of hand?

COHEN: I think that the system of issuing them has gotten out of hand and I think we have -- again, have to look at the entire safety system involved with giving handguns out.

LAH: Gun shows and easy background checks, Cohen says that adds up to an overly armed America. The people who turned in guns, most of them legal, came from all walks of life.

KAREN VISSER, GUN OWNER: I have grandchildren. And no matter how secure you think your gun is, you have seen what has happened. So I decided to turn it in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Many of the weapons that were handed over to police in the gun buyback were antiques. Some of them were not functional. But police say it's just a window into a look of how many guns are in Los Angeles in the city. Candy, they are estimating millions of guns exist in Los Angeles.

CROWLEY: I don't know if you know the answer to this question, but I'm pretty sure you can't buy a rocket-propelled gun launcher in a gun store, can you?

LAH: No, you cannot buy one on eBay. It is very difficult to obtain.

CROWLEY: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: These must have come from overseas or someone bringing one in, or do they have a theory?

LAH: This is U.S.-made rocket launcher.

CROWLEY: Right.

LAH: They don't ask the individual where it came from. That's part of the reason why people turn it in, because there's no retribution against them when they turn over these weapons. Police say that's critical to making this gun buyback process work.

But they stress it is U.S.-made. It was produced here. They just don't know how it made its way meandering through eventually into the hands of the LAPD. CROWLEY: Yes. Amazing. Amazing.

Thanks so much, Kyung Lah. Good to see you.

Anger and outrage and a family's crushing grief. A teenager's claims of rape go unanswered and end with her taking her own life -- why investigators are taking some of the blame.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Another brutal rape case in India is drawing outrage. A 17- year-old girl committed suicide after alleging she was gang raped a month and a half ago.

As Ram Ramgopal explains, inaction on the part of local police may have played a part in this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAM RAMGOPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Family and friends of the 17-year-old victim were grief-stricken at her funeral on Thursday. The girl's mother, overcome with emotion, cutting a picture of her daughter tightly to her chest. The teenager died Wednesday after taking poison. Her death comes a month and a half after she says she was brutally raped.

In a November interview with our sister network, CNN-IBN, the victim described her alleged attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was raped by two boys. It's been two days since I've filed a complaint. They threatened me by saying my family and I will be killed. I demand justice.

RAMGOPAL: According to police reports, the incident in northern state of Punjab happened on November 13th during the festival of Diwali, when three suspects abducted the girl, raped her several times and then dumped her on the road. The girl's family say they tried to report the case for two weeks but say police pressured them to withdraw the complaint.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My daughter was extremely sad and took her own life.

RAMGOPAL: The girl took her own life accusing two men and a woman in the attack, blaming them for her death. The girl also says in a note that when police finally did look into the case, they humiliated her by asking obscene questions about the attack.

After her death, police quickly arrested the three named in the note, claiming they had been investigating all along.

GUCHARAN SINGH, PATIALA POLICE (through translator): We have been probing the case and we have now arrested the men after they got their names. We will take necessary action on the suicide.

RAMGOPAL: But the district's police chief says that local police officers were negligent in their handling of the case.

PARAMJIT SINGL GILL, PATIALA POLICE CHIEF (through translator): For almost 14 days no action was taken, no case was registered, nor any arrests made. Attempts were also made to keep the case quiet, but nothing happened.

RAMGOPAL: Two police officers have now been fired, another suspended over the incident but that's little consolation to the young victim's family.

Ram Ramgopal, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: In a separate case, doctors treating a 23-year-old Indian woman who was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi say she has taken a turn for the worse. She has been treated in Singapore where doctors say she is showing signs of severe organ failure. The brutal assault triggered days of mass protests across India.

There are signs that Russia may be finally changing its position on Syria.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM today.

What have you got?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this could be a significant development, Candy.

Now, Syria's civil war rages on and the death toll rises.

Russia has officially invited the head of Syria's opposition for talks. The invitation comes despite Russia's criticism of the U.S. and other nations that recognize the Syrian national coalition as the country's legitimate representative over President Bashar al Assad.

And an historic drought in America's Midwest is now threatening navigation and commerce of the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer says sharply lower water levels and ice that's slowing water flow could disrupt critical barge traffic. Government contractors are working to remove rock formations in an effort to maintain a deep channel.

And America's population growth is slowing down. The government says it's due to lower birth rates during the economic recession and lower immigration numbers. As we start the New Year, there will be 315 million people in the United States. The population, though, has grown less than 0.75 percent since the last census snapshot back in 2010.

So, a slower rate of growth. But still, 315 million people still quite a few people.

CROWLEY: Seems like enough people in some places I've been, that's for sure.

Thanks, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Hopes have been crushed and families in the making ripped apart. A new law bans Americans from adopting Russian children.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: From what we surmise, this meeting at the White House between the president and congressional leaders is broken up -- at least so far as Nancy Pelosi is concerned. You see her right there on this tape that we turned around from just minutes ago. She obviously has left the meeting. John Boehner, the speaker of the House, has also been seen leaving.

So what we want to do is try to figure out kind of exactly what's going on here. Obviously, we have our Jessica Yellin there and we will talk to her a little later about what she has learned.

Now, the fiscal cliff and these last-ditch talks aimed at stopping spending cuts and tax hike is the only game in town.

Joining me for today's strategy session are CNN political analyst Roland Martin and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com.

Roland, we are seeing a lot of Democrats pushed back on the parameters of this deal, saying, hey, wait a second, we don't have to compromise. We have the upper hand. We've got more people in Congress coming in that are Democrats. The president does not have to give on that $250,000 top.

Where do you stand on this? Do you think that the president does or should compromise up to -- particularly on the tax issue?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You can't be a Democrat and ask Republicans to compromise if you don't want to give up something. I think the president clearly understood that. So when he laid the $250,000 out, he gave himself some room because, again, you saw Speaker Boehner's proposal, it dealt with $1 million. And so, look, you have to compromise.

And so, Democrats can't simply say, well, hey, we've got more folks coming in because the fact of the matter is, Republicans still control the majority in the House. You've got to give to get. It's as simple as that.

CROWLEY: So at the moment, that's a no for you for Democrats giving something up until they see signs from Republicans who, I should point out, Roland --

MARTIN: Of course.

CROWLEY: -- have said, you know, we will raise taxes on some folks, the upper echelons. That's movement from them, is it not?

MARTIN: Well, it's movement from them but remember, Speaker Boehner had to pull the deal off the table when it came to taxes of folks above a million dollars. And so, it's not like they are saying we are going to give up a lot. If that bill had passed, now you have a marker. The bill didn't even go up for a vote. There's no marker from the GOP.

CROWLEY: Hey, Erick, I want to bring you in on something that you wrote today. I think this the quote, "The leaders on both sides are incapable of negotiating their way out of a burning paper bag," which is a great turn of phrase. The problem here is that paper bag is burning sort of across American voters here.

So what do they do now? Just say we can't get this and give it up? They have to keep negotiating.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they have to keep negotiating or do what they were doing with hurricane Sandy, where they couldn't get the hurricane Sandy legislation out of the Senate either until Harry Reid agreed to just put it on the floor and open it and let everybody amended it. Most the amendments are going down in flames with the Democrats but Republicans are feeling like they're having a chance to least make some additions.

You've got a lot of members on both sides of the aisle who really feel frustrated that they've got ideas, they've got coalitions together, but they can't get in on it because you've got the leaders doing all the negotiating behind closed doors.

CROWLEY: What about this idea that we're hearing that the president was saying, if you can't agree to my $250,000 and extension of long- term unemployment benefits and some other things in there, no changes in estate taxes, just put it on the floor for a straight up or down vote? That OK with you, Erick?

ERICKSON: No, I don't think so. I don't think the Republicans need to give the Republicans the talking point that they killed this plan without the president doing something. Look, Plan B would have passed. Republicans would have supported it. I would have supported it even though I didn't like it if the Democrats have been willing to concede some on spending that they weren't willing to concede there.

CROWLEY: Roland, where does this go from here?

MARTIN: Where it goes from here? Heck if I know. I say kneel down and pray because, frankly, you have people locked in on the sides.

Look, both sides are frankly playing chicken. And that is Republicans are hoping Democrats blink. They are thinking, look, President Obama, he's blinked before. We'd just simply wait him out. He doesn't want to see the markets crash. He doesn't want to see people angry.

Democrats are saying, look, Republicans, if you want us to blink, you blink, because you're going to get blamed for all of this. At the end of the day, who gets screwed? Who gets screwed? Americans -- the people who don't have unemployment benefits, the folks out there -- our Barbara Starr talked to one, a guy making $23,000 at McDonald's whose going to see his money go up. Not some rich person frankly who can afford any kind of increase.

It's the American people, the average people -- they are the ones who are going to get screwed by Congress not being able to do their job.

CROWLEY: Erick, I want to play something that Charles Krauthammer said last night and got the reaction from you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He's been using this -- and I must say with great skill and ruthless skill and success -- to fracture and basically shatter the Republican opposition. And his objective at the beginning was to break the will of the Republicans in the House and to create an internal civil war and he's done that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Do you think the president is responsible for creating a civil war in the Republican Party? Sorry, Erick.

ERICKSON: I think to a degree he is, although I think John Boehner has got a little more on that, having cut the deal to raise a million dollars -- taxes on a million dollars or more. The Republicans have had to hold this line because if they broke that line without getting spending cuts in return, then they would have opened them up to bigger fractures.

So, yes, I think Charles Krauthammer to a degree is right.

MARTIN: Candy, the president created the civil war by winning. I mean, let's just be honest. He won in November. That's what's started this whole thing. Republicans went, oh, my God, what the heck happened?

That's what happened. He won.

CROWLEY: That does tend to happen after you lose a presidential election. That's for sure.

MARTIN: Yes. Yes.

CROWLEY: Let me get you both to this. It's the last time I'm probably going to talk to you between now and 2013. So, I need you to -- you cannot say the president or Mitt Romney in the answer to this question.

Name your political winner and loser of 2012. Roland?

MARTIN: Winner, Latinos, prejudice is going to push forward when it comes to immigration reform and folks from the west indies and Caribbean and other parts of the country. My loser, crazy Republican males who don't know how to talk about the issue of rape, don't touch it or you're going to get burned. That's the biggest loser of 2012.

CROWLEY: OK, Erick, I know he doesn't include new that crazy white thing that he's talking about. What are your winners and losers?

ERICKSON: He just doesn't like the way I dress -- Bill Burton and the super pac. Losers on the left, unions are huge. On the right, winners, (inaudible) and Harry Jackson for America, turned it into a big force. And losers, John Cornyn and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, horrible recruitment two years in a row and this time they didn't have Jim DeMint to blame.

MARTIN: Don't blame that Texan on me.

CROWLEY: OK, take it up with him after the show. Erick Erickson, Roland Martin, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Happy New Year, you guys.

Hopes have been crushed and families in the making have been ripped apart. A new law bans Americans from adopting Russian children.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial bill barring Americans from adopting Russian children. The new law is heartbreaking for hundreds of families in the adoption process now. Foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is at the State Department. Elise, what are you hearing there?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Candy, well, you know, between the U.S. and Russia it's always a lot of tense words and tough exchanges, but today I spoke to a lot of State Department officials who are just sad, who say that the Russians are really playing politics and denying children in Russia a better life.

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

And, Candy, there are about 46 children who are still in the pipeline right now. Russian officials are saying that these children could be put back in the Russian Registry for Adoption in country, but there's no guarantee that they will be.

Because there are about 120,000 children in Russia waiting to be adopted right now and the State Department, the U.S. administration really in a debate right now how far to push this because, as you know, a lot of other issues at stake in the relationship with Russia, such as Syria, crisis with Iran, a lot going on.

CROWLEY: Sure. But this certainly is one of those emotional issues. America always prides itself we've seen what happens in Connecticut. We talk so much about protecting our children and for some of these families they were already their children although they were still living in Russia. Is there anything that the U.S. government could do? What would be a response that might evoke a response from Russia?

LABOTT: Well, right now, the State Department is asking the parent of these children to sit tight. They are working on negotiating these 46 cases, making sure at least those children who have already bonded with those parents already in the pipeline waiting to be taken back to the United States could be, if you grandfathered in, if you will, and then they are trying to work with the Russians on lifting the entire ban.

There is already an adoption agreement between the U.S. and Russia that they've been negotiating for about two years. It was just signed in November. This ban that was signed by President Putin doesn't repeal that treaty and the U.S. is encouraged by statements by Russian lawmakers and other cabinet ministers that say that maybe this ban could be lifted.

Because it's certainly as it has touched here in the United States, it's touched a nerve in Russia about whether it's best for the Russian children and best for the Russian relationship with the U.S. -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Elise Labott, thank you so much for that update. This ban is drawing some sharp reaction from U.S. lawmakers. Senator John McCain says, quote, "I often wonder how much lower the Russian government under President Putin can stoop but to punish babies and children over a political disagreement between our governments is a new low, even for Putin's Russia."

Lee Allen adopted two boys from Russia in 1999 when a similar ban was enacted but later dropped. He joins me now. This must bring back horrible heartbreaking memories for you having been through something similar. You knew your boys?

LEE ALLEN, ADOPTIVE FATHER: I did. I did. And like Elise said, this is a very sad day. It takes me back to 12 years ago when President Putin put a severe similar moratorium on adoptions when I was in the middle of it.

CROWLEY: And so I know that you still advocate and are involved in the community of American parents who adopt Russian children. Have you talked to current families who have some children that --

ALLEN: I stay in close contact with the National Council for Adoption and I know they are working very, very hard on behalf of these kids, but my heart really goes out to these families.

At this time of year especially, I can't believe we're standing here talking about this yet again. When we talk about the families, it's so important to remember that these are kids we're talking about. These are not political pawns. These are little children.

CROWLEY: These are little children in institutions at this point.

ALLEN: Babies, right.

CROWLEY: So you have your two boys here and they are beautiful. We have them in the studio here. Have you talked to them about this? What are they saying?

ALLEN: Well, my guys have grown up here in America. They are very proud of their heritage being Russian, but they are also thriving in America. They are athletes. They are getting a great education.

They are -- you know, they are just wonderful young men, absolutely wonderful. And I just can't help but think of what would happen to them had they stayed in an orphanage in Russia. The very best orphanage in Russia can't compare to a home, to a family.

CROWLEY: Anywhere and a family that wants them.

ALLEN: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: And you had met your sons.

ALLEN: Well, I had met them on a video.

CROWLEY: -- on video.

ALLEN: I had gotten a video and they had become mine. They were in my heart already and I just wanted to scoop them up. And when the ban came, when the moratorium came, we didn't know it was temporary and it was devastating. It was absolutely devastating and I can't imagine these kids who have met their families.

CROWLEY: The families have been over there in many cases.

ALLEN: Absolutely. And they are dreaming about their homes. They are dreaming about an American mom, dad, brother, sister. And now unfortunately they are going to have to wake up from these dreams and look around and realize they are still in the nightmare of a Russian orphanage.

CROWLEY: And is there something that can be done that you see is an easy fix here? Here is a child that you already consider your child and they are caught up in something so far above your pay scale and there's nothing you can do.

ALLEN: Governments and politics are so big and the families are so small and the children are so tiny. That it is. It is a very helpless feeling. But there are very, very dedicated people in the government and in nongovernment organizations that are working to make this -- this to make to make this go away. We are optimistic that President Putin somehow will become a hero to these kids.

CROWLEY: And what do you say to supporters of this law who say, look, these children need to be taken care of in Russia.

ALLEN: Absolutely. I agree with that. It would be wonderful if Russians were adopting, but they don't, you know. And international adoption is not about finding children for parents. It's about finding homes for these kids that so desperately need homes. I would love for every child to be adopted in Russia by Russians, but it's not happening and there are people here lined up waiting. CROWLEY: And U.S. adoption of Russian children we saw has been on the decline. First of all, I know the process takes a couple years, really?

ALLEN: It's up to two years and takes up to three trips to Russia. We should be working on making this easier, not harder or now it seems impossible.

CROWLEY: I imagine just seeing your emotion and how you feel about this and these two little boys that -- is there something you'd like to see? Does it meet the presidential test to you?

ALLEN: President Obama is a family man. He's got his two beautiful daughters. I have my two beautiful sons. There are so many families that want beautiful kids and that need families. I think, you know, President Obama would be my hero. Would be my hero if he would do what a dad needs to do.

CROWLEY: Lee Allen, thank you for coming in and sharing some of your story. We wish all of those families waiting out there anxiously. We hope it somehow gets worked out.

ALLEN: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Boys, thank you for coming in.

Police are now searching for a woman who witnesses say pushed a man into the path of an oncoming subway train. It's the second such killing in a month.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A horrifying death that may give chills to anyone who rides the subway. And for New Yorkers, it's a gruesome repeat of a crime that shocked it city. CNN's Poppy Harlow has the latest -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. Well, twice this month someone is pushed from a New York City subway platform in front of an oncoming train and killed. It happened right on this platform late Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was horrible. Fell to the bottom and I never want to hear something like that again.

HARLOW (voice-over): This man says he heard the final scream of the victim. James Callanam's train was halted because of the incident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said this is the last stop, debris fell on the tracks. That's all they were telling people.

HARLOW: Witnesses say the victim was standing on the edge of this subway platform in Queens when a woman who was pacing and talking to herself pushed him on to the tracks. Surveillance footage captured this woman running from the station. Police are searching for the woman they describe as heavyset, in her 20s, wearing a ski jacket and sneakers.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: We do live in a world where subway platforms are open and that's not going to change.

HARLOW: At a news conference on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly were inundated with questions about the subway death.

(on camera): Mayor Bloomberg, a second subway pushing death in this city in less than a month, I'm wondering what your reaction is to that, how can it be prevented?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know if there is ways to prevent. There is always going to be a deranged person.

HARLOW (voice-over): Just this month, a 58-year-old man was killed when a homeless man shoved him onto the tracks in Times Square.

(on camera): Commissioner, would you consider putting more police on the platform in the wake of what has happened this month?

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: No, we think that we are properly deployed in the transit system.

HARLOW: So not something you would consider at this point?

BLOOMBERG: You show me anyplace in this world where you have five and a half million people get together where there is virtually zero crime rate that we do.

HARLOW (voice-over): The MTA which runs New York City subways would not talk to us on camera, but said people should stay away from the platform edges and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Bill Henderson advises the MTA.

(on camera): What can be done to prevent things like this?

BILL HENDERSON, NYC TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL: Well, I mean, not -- you can't eliminate the possibility, but this is a very rare occurrence.

HARLOW: Why not put some sort of barrier here?

HENDERSON: Well, you have different car types running on the tracks in New York City subways and they have doors placed at different points along their length. If you ran a different kind of car, you'd have to move the openings.

HARLOW: Just not practical?

HENDERSON: Just not practical.

HARLOW: Very expensive?

HENDERSON: Very expensive.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARLOW: Keep in mind, subway deaths like this are very rare here in New York City. Years go by without them happening. The same is true in other major cities like Washington, D.C. and Boston -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Milk lovers could be in for some sticker shock. Would you believe $7 per gallon?

A side effect of fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington is lack of action on a lot of other legislative matters. One of the cases in point, the farm bill, it expired last summer with no measure from Congress to replace it, one of the protections for farmers that goes away January 1st is the dairy subsidy.

That means the price of milk could skyrocket. I brought that up with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who says milk prices are just the beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: In the short term it seems to be, why does anybody care that there's not a farm bill on January 1st? What will happen to me or my family sitting here in Washington, D.C.?

TOM VILSACK, SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Well, if you like anything made with milk, you're going to be impacted by the fact that there's no farm bill. Because if there is not an extension of the existing bill or a new bill, basically on January 1st or shortly thereafter.

Permanent agricultural law goes back in place, 1949 law, which basically means that the government, the federal government will go back into the business of strongly supporting and I mean strongly supporting the dairy industry by raising the price for dairy products for 38 dollars to underweight.

That's almost double the price that dairy is today. That's going to ultimately ramp up so when consumers go into the grocery store instead of seeing $3.60 a gallon for milk they are going to see $7 a gallon for milk. So it impacts consumers.

It impacts those of us concerned about the energy and security of this country because the farm bill contains ways to promote alternate energy sources, ways to create a biofuel industry that is robust and creates consumer choice.

For those concerned about exports connected to the agricultural exports, we lose the ability to market exports without a farm bill. If you're concerned about the ability to add adequate nutrition and supporter of farmer's markets and want to see an expansion of that, can't do it because there is no farm bill.

If you like the idea of fields expanding habitat opportunities or you like to hunt and you like to fish, your hobby, your vocation, if you will, in that area will also be affected by no farm bill because a lot of the programs are not extended.

If you're a farm family, you're going to be impacted. So across the board and virtually every aspect of our economy and the society there is an impact and an effect by not having a farm bill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Congress has three options before the end of the year to prevent the price spike and everything that comes with it. They could either extend the current bill, pass a new bill, or some kind of provision to keep the 1949 farm bill from taking effect.

Secretary Vilsack, also the former governor of Iowa, told me he thinks rural America is losing people, power and influence as more of America lives in cities and suburbs. My interview with Secretary Vilsack this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

So just back to give you a quick update to the White House meeting and that was between the president and four top leaders on Capitol Hill, the meeting is over and according to our senior congressional producer, Deidra Wall, she says that Nancy Pelosi returning to the capitol said that the White House meeting was constructive and candid, which means argumentative.

Ex-speaker Pelosi said the president led the meeting that the leaders agreed to see what Senator Reid and Senator McConnell, the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate could work out between the two of them.

Pelosi also said that John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House said that he would only bring up something for a vote in the House if the Senate passed it first. So that's what we know about what went on in the meeting.

Of course, all of our reporters are checking into that and we will have more news for you on that meeting and the possible outcome as soon as we get them back up there checking it out.

Now, an iconic piece of human history wrapped up. We'll show you what it is and why it's being shielded when we come back.

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CROWLEY: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In Spain, festival goers celebrate an annual tradition of throwing flower on one another. In Pakistan, a vendor arranges apples on his donkey cart.

In Germany, participants work at their laptops at an annual computer hackers' congress. In Albania, a boy looks over the turkeys that he's selling. "Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

Former President George H.W. Bush could soon be released from a Houston hospital. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. Good news on that front. A spokesman says the former president is singing, yes, singing with the hospital doctors and nurses. The family is confident he will soon be able to leave. The 41st president is in the intensive care unit being treated for an elevated fever. He was admitted back on November 29th for complications due to bronchitis.

And a move to lower phone bills for prison inmates. The Federal Communications Commission wants to break up what it calls a monopoly on phone services and sky high rates. A typical 15-minute state-to- state call can cost $16 because most prisons charge huge commissions to providers. Officials say they want to rein in costs because contact with family helps inmates succeed after prison.

And Wall Street closed lower for the fifth straight Friday and ended the week down almost 2 percent as fear about the fiscal cliff continues. Selling gained steam in the last minutes of trading today when no progress was reported in the meetings between President Obama and congressional leaders. The Dow was down 150 point today. The Nasdaq fell 25 points and the S&P 500 was down 15 -- Candy.

CROWLEY: No a way to end a year or start a new one, is it?

SYLVESTER: I know. But it's not entirely unexpected considering we get closer and closer to the fiscal cliff. Investors get spooked and that's what we're seeing, Candy.

CROWLEY: And it's the stock market. What goes up goes back down. Thanks, Lisa.>

Visit the Kennedy Space Center and you will see something very impressive but still under wraps. The space shuttle "Atlantis" flew many missions in its day and now it's the new centerpiece of a new exhibit that will be unveiled next summer.

CNN's John Zarrella is at the Kennedy Space Center with a preview and maybe a history lesson. Hi, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. How are you? Well, you know, we are here and we have the hard hat on because we are in a working area construction site. This is the massive building that will house and actually already does house the space shuttle "Atlantis," which came over here in early November.

Now for the viewers out there, if you can't recognize it because it doesn't quite look right, that's "Atlantis" wrapped in 16,000 feet of shrink wrap. It kind of looks like a caterpillar in a cocoon, but don't worry come March, it will spread its wings when they take the wrapping off of it.

The shuttle is actually at about 43 1/2-degree angle here because that's the angle that it would be when it's flying in space and suspended off the ground here and people will be able to walk around here, walk by it, walk around it.

And I have Tim Macy with me who is the director of project development. Tim, I know you left that whole wall off in order to get the shuttle in here from over on November 2nd from over at the NASA site. That had to be one heck of a job getting it in here. TIM MACY, DIRECTOR, PROJECT DEVELOPMENT: It was close. On paper it looked pretty easy, but when it came down to it, moved it around just a little bit. The wall itself was about 85 feet wide and the wing span, as you know, is about 82 feet. We didn't have a whole lot of room to move it around.

ZARRELLA: But never a concern that you would get it in here?

MACY: Never, ever a concern. We always knew it would get in.

ZARRELLA: People are going to ask, can I go in it, can I touch it?

MACY: It's a priceless artifact. As much as we'd like people to be able to do that, it's not going to happen. You'll be able to get really close and touch some of the things that were actually inside the shuttle itself back when it was flying. We've broken that out into some exhibits that are available below it.

ZARRELLA: Thanks, Tim, very much. Candy, we have a couple of artist renderings that show what the building is going to look like when they have the grand opening in July and not only the shuttle, which is the centerpiece of all of this, but there will be a telescope replica suspended here in this exhibit area.

There will be about 60 interactive games and such for people to see and use and play with and get an idea of what it's like again, it last flew in July 2011. That was the final shuttle flight of the shuttle program in history and Atlantis, of course, the last of the shuttle fleet to fly. The others of course on display -- Endeavour will be out in California. Discovery is at the Smithsonian and Enterprise is up in New York -- Candy.

CROWLEY: John Zarrella, thanks so much. Looks like fun. I will be there next summer.

ZARRELLA: Sure.