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Three Days to the Fiscal Cliff; Former CIA Director David Petraeus 2012's Most Scandalous Person

Aired December 29, 2012 - 15:00   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: It's the top of the hour. You're in the "CNN newsroom." I'm Martin Savidge. It's a pleasure to be with you.

Right now in the nation's capital, senators are working to try to keep all of us from going off that fiscal cliff. We've been talking about that for what seems like, well, forever. They've got to reach a deal by New Year's Day. Here's what's happening right now.

Senate leaders on both sides are trying to reach a budget deal. They are hoping to avert a two percent hike in everyone's paychecks early next year among other tax hikes. Plus two million unemployed people stand to lose their jobless benefits.

Jessica Yellin is our chief White House correspondent.

And Jessica, the president says he's optimistic but he sure had a firm tone after meeting with the Senate and house leaders yesterday. So, let's just give that a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So the American people are watching what we do here. Obviously, their patience is already thin. This is deja vu all over again. America wonders why it is that in this town for some reason, you can't get stuff done in an organized timetable. Why everything always has to wait till the last minute. Well, we're now at the last minute. And the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. Not right now. The economy is growing, but sustaining that trend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs.


SAVIDGE: So Jessica, are they doing their jobs? Just at the last minute here?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Congress does have an unfortunate pattern of getting everything done at the 11th hour. Martin, if they do reach some sort of deal and vote on it, before new year's eve which is still feasible, there is a window of opportunity for that now, we will say that they did what they need to do and they're doing their jobs at the last minute. But if we go over the cliff, Congress and all of Washington, frankly, will get a black eye for this. And we'll be judged very harshly, we all know that. And they'll still have a lot to clean-up in the new year because even if they cobble together this agreement that staffs are working on Capitol Hill right now, it will be far scaled down from what's needed and there will still be an enormous amount of work to do both on deficit reduction and tax reform, not to mention dealing with massive spending cuts which by most accounts are not likely to be involved in the agreement. Don't know that for sure, but that's our understanding going in, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Yes. I think it's a safe bet. Both sides have different wants. So what's holding these two sides apart when they know that so very much is on the line for everyday Americans?

YELLIN: It's a great question. I mean, what's really holding them apart are massive ideological differences. This is about government's role in your life. Democrats want more of a social safety net, Republicans prioritize lower taxes. And that's what distinguishes the Democratic and the Republican parties sop so that's what they're fundamentally fighting about. But, if you break it down to the basic deal points right now, Democrats say this smaller deal should include a 200 and tax increase for households that make $250,000 and more. An extension of unemployment benefits as you pointed out for about two million Americans, a delay of those massive spending cuts we've all talked about, and increase in the estate tax.

Republicans say in this deal what they would prefer to see is a limit in the tax increase for the highest earners and a way to avoid that estate tax increase. No delay in those spending cuts so they can argue about that as leverage in the new year and find a way to pay for those unemployment benefits because Republicans prefer if we're going to spend, find a way to pay for it, don't add to our deficit -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: So, let's just say that senators McConnell and Reid don't reach a deal on Sunday. Is there a fallback plan?

YELLIN: No, go over the cliff. I mean, the president is calling for both houses to vote on a Democratic measure to just raise taxes on people who make $250,000 and more households that do. But it's a democratic measure. It probably has the votes, but because it's a democratic proposal that's passionately opposed for philosophical reasons by Republicans, it will be blocked. And so that will go nowhere. That's not a fallback proposal. That's a political proposal. So no, as of now, it's really this whole thing is in Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid's hands.

SAVIDGE: And we will see what they will do with that.

All right, Jessica Yellin, thank you very much.

YELLIN: Thanks.

SAVIDGE: In other news, police have a woman in custody in the case of a man pushed to his death from a subway platform in New York.

David Ariosto is live in New York with this new development.

And David, let me ask you, first of all, how did they find her? I mean was that police sketch helpful?

DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what they're saying. They picked her up based on that sketch. We do know that this woman is a Hispanic woman. We know that she is in her 30s. We also know she has not yet been formally charged. So the question of whether or not this is indeed the woman who was seep on that security video, it seems to be the case. It's not yet confirmed by police but they are saying that the sketch is what led them to her.

Now, this is a case that has riled all of New York. Especially in Queens, particularly that section where I live, many people are concerned about this. They read about this in the papers and many people take the subway to work every day. 8.58 million people live in the city and many of those people take the subway. It's a sort of the life blood of the city as it were. And this is the second time now that we've seen within this month that we've seen someone being pushed to their death in the subway system. One happened earlier this month in Times Square when a man was pushed to his death. The culprit in that case has been charged with homicide. It's not clear if this woman will be charged in the death we saw occur on Thursday, but the investigation continues.

SAVIDGE: And I think it was said there were some statements she made that seemed to self-implicate her. What do we know about that?

ARIOSTO: That seems to be the lynchpin of this. When she was picked up, it was the statement she made that sort of implicated her in regard to what transpired on that subway platform in Queens on Thursday. What those statements were, what she said, and whether that actually brings police to file formal charges in regard to this man's death or whether she was somehow connected to the person who did this, not clear yet. Hopefully we'll get that information shortly.

SAVIDGE: Yes, David Ariosto, thank you very much for the update.

In international news, in India, the young woman gang raped on a New Delhi bus has died. Doctors say she died peacefully at the Singapore hospital where she was being treated. Authorities plan to add now murder charges against the six suspects arrested in that rape. The charges will be filed Thursday. Angry protesters have been demanding justice and more protection for women. And police expect more demonstrations in the days to come.


SONIA GANDHI, CHIEF OF INDIA'S RULING PARTY: Today, we pledge that she will get justice; that her fight will not have been in vain. To all of you who have stood vigil, who have expressed your anger and anguish publicly, who, have poured out in her support, I want to assure you that your voice has been heard. As a woman, and mother, I understand how you feel.


SAVIDGE: A medical team in Singapore is conducting an autopsy on the victim who has remained unidentified. Back here at home, we're keeping our eyes on a snowstorm that will affect the east coast this weekend. Take a look at D.C. earlier today. Well, sort of take a look. Snow came pouring in, and it is expected to do the same in other areas along the east coast.

Bonnie Schneider is here to tell us which areas will be hardest hit.

Hello, Bonnie.


You know, looking at the snow in D.C., it looks so menacing, but it really won't be. You're not going to get a lot of snow there. I will tell you where you are going to get a lot of snow.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island, take a look because I have updated information for you. We're monitoring the track of this area of low pressure. And because the track has moved a little bit further to the west, we're likely to see this system just bring more snowfall to the region. Another factor, of course, is it that it's bombing out offshore. That's a meteorological term. It means the pressure drops very rapidly intensifying the snowfall rates meaning, we are likely to see them coming at one to two inches per hour tonight.

Right now in New York City, you're getting snow. We have been reporting that throughout today. But take a look at the winter storm warnings. They've been expanded further to the west. They're now encompassing parts of upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania. And then, if we look kind of zoom into the region, you'll see Boston four to eight inches, maybe nine in some areas, and this is new information. We're anticipating an area, an interior section of New England region, particularly into northern sections, north eastern Connecticut and into south eastern Massachusetts where we could see and most of northern Rhode Island up to a foot of snow.

So, we're raising those snowfall rates a little bit as we go through the day. And then, you can also see heavy snow is anticipated into Maine particularly later tonight into early on Sunday. So here's the low, and as I mentioned, look how close it is to Martha's Vineyard in Nantucket. Ad because of that proximity, we're likely to see very strong winds in this region. And when I talk about snowfall rates one to two inches per hour; that happens tonight.

So, if you're in the northeast and wondering, can I get out in about and travel, really not tonight. In fact, the city of Boston issued a state of emergency for snow to limit people that wanted to go out tonight after 9:00. You can't be doing parking or anything like that because of the snowfall rates coming in so fast and furious. So limit your travel tonight. It's important to note eventually the storm will push off to the northeast. But this is going to be a big snowmaker and it's going to happen very quickly.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Real quick, New York New Year's Eve, how is it looking?

SCHNEIDER: Much colder. In fact, I wanted to show you the New Year's Eve forecast. We're dropping into the 30s and into the 20s into the overnight period. If you're heading to Times Square, you know it's always cold. This year it will be below freezing right when all that drops. So, be ready for that.

Elsewhere across the country, it is also going to be pretty cold this New Year's in many locations. I can't find too many warm spots except Miami if you're heading to south beach, lows drop into the upper 60s. I guess that's to be expected.

SAVIDGE: That's better. Bonnie, thank you very much.


SAVIDGE: Smartphone apps, some are real standouts and we will tell you which one is the best apps in 2012. Plus, the biggest scandals, there's plenty to choose from in 2012, we'll reveal the most scandalous of all the year's scandals.

And will this weekend see a fiscal cliff finale? Just three days are left before the deadline and negotiations are intensifying.



BILL OAKEY, IREPORTER: My New Year's message to Washington is this. Please put an end to the outrageous billion dollar tax shelters for Google and other big corporations. Please fix that before you push senior citizens over the cliff.

VERNON HILL, IREPORTER: My New Year's message to Washington is to grow up, act like adults, do your jobs or resign immediately. We are tired of your being useless and refusing to do your jobs.


SAVIDGE: A game of beat the clock. Right now on Capitol Hill, and you guessed it, it's fiscal cliff countdown time. Senate leaders on both sides now trying to reach a deal to prevent a huge tax hike on the middle class come the first of the year. Senators warn that is not going to be easy.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm going to do everything that I can. I'm confident senator McConnell will do the same. But everybody, this is whatever we come up with is going to be imperfect. Some people aren't going to like it, some people will like it less, but that's where we are. And I feel confident that we have an obligation to do the best we can and that was made very clear in the White House. We're going do the best we can for the caucuses that we have and the country that's waiting for us to make a decision.


SAVIDGE: Paul Brandus the bureau chief of the west wing report in Washington.

And Paul, you are a well-known veteran of all things Washington. So, what is really going on behind the scenes right now as we wait to learn if they can reach a compromise or not?

PAUL BRANDUS, BUREAU CHIEF, WEST WING REPORT: You know, the sound bite you ran at the top of this piece just I think showed the frustration that so many people have about this, and I think what we're really going to see here is kind of a the phrase small ball is back. We're not going to get any kind of a grand bargain, a term that's been tossed around lately. I think all we're going to get is simply a smaller tax deal. The big thing is things are going to work out -- they're going to work out something that will keep taxes rising for most people. The main point of disagreement, of course, remains this will kick over into the new year what to do about folks making I think probably $250,000 or more although the $400,000 figure has been kicked about, as well.

And the other thing probably that appears to be on the table extending unemployment insurance for two million Americans. That appears to be it. The other things that we're going to hear, by the way, is this well familiar sound that we're all used to hearing and that is metal on asphalt, in other words the can being kicked down the road. Everything else I think is going to be kicked over into January and all we're going to get if we get it at all in fact is simply going to be a very small deal on taxes and perhaps unemployment insurance. And that is it.

SAVIDGE: Harry Reid has promised that if he and the Republican leaders cannot reach a deal, that the Democrats will bring it to a vote. Part of the president's original plan to give a tax breaking to anyone learning less than, as you said, $250,000.

So, doesn't this really put all of the senators on the spot forcing them to take a position on this middle class tax relief?

BRANDUS: Well, I think it certainly does although I think the main pressure is going to be on the house Republicans. Keep in mind about a week ago, they shot down John Boehner's so-called plan B. That plan would have raised taxes only on folks earning a million dollars or more. Boehner couldn't even get that through. So the question now is, what on earth are they going to do to get them to vote on raising taxes at a much lower threshold, $250,000? I think what Boehner will have to do, and again, the clock is clearly ticking, he is going to have to convince not a majority of the majority, the so-called Hastert roll. He, simply going to have to do whatever it can to get enough votes, period drawing from Nancy Pelosi's Democratic caucus and his own to get this through. It is one thing Boehner's really going to have to change his tactics here or else still windup with a con is faced again. I think that is the last thing that John Boehner wants.

SAVIDGE: Yes, certainly.

How severe do you think the backlash would be against Republicans, especially say looking forward to 2014, midterm elections? BRANDUS: Well, polls seem to show that most people will blame Republicans for this if we go over the cliff. They already have this reputation of being obstructionists. And the spending cuts about by the way, I don't think they're going to do anything about that now. So I think these spending cuts are going to go into effect at least in the January. So that means I think if there's such a thing as going partially over the cliff, I think we'll probably do that. So $1.2 trillion spread out over ten years; that begin in January unless they can find a way to avert that. And of course, about half of that comes down on the military side. So you've got a lot of people in that sector and others who are very nervous about the spending cuts. And again, I don't think they're going to do anything about that at the moment.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Paul Brandus who is the bureau chief of the west wing report in Washington. Thank you for joining us today.

BRANDUS: Thank you, sir.

SAVIDGE: NRA leaders remain staunchly opposed to tougher gun laws. That's two weeks after the Newtown massacre. But one lawmaker thinks that the NRA members actually favor new laws.

And ex-CIA military director and top military man David Petraeus, now on top of the list of this year's worst scandals.


SAVIDGE: As Americans grapple with how to curb gun violence after the Newtown massacre, NRA leaders remain opposed to tougher laws. But one lawmaker thinks that the stance of the NRA leadership is out of step with its members.

Joining me now is Virginia congressman Jim Moran.

And Congressman, briefly, just before we get in to this discussion. Let me ask you first about the fiscal cliff because I have you here. You and your members will get back to work tomorrow. And I'm wondering just, is there going to be a last ditch effort to avoid this and what do you think is going to happen?

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I think the likelihood is that we go over the cliff, Martin. And, of course, that's my primary focus because my congressional district would be the hardest hit if we go over the fiscal cliff. I've got tens of thousands of federal employees and a great deal of defense spending would be at risk. So if we don't suspend the sequester and it looks like this very small deal may not even achieve that, and I'd have to be a "no" vote. So, if I had to guess right now, I don't think we're going to be able to reach a deal no matter how small it might be.

And of course, at the very best, all we would do is stumble forward for a couple more months until we hit the debt ceiling and then face another crisis which is really a crisis of confidence in the government. I just can't imagine that the American people can tolerate this much longer, but they're stuck with this Congress for the next two years. I mean, I have a lot of thoughts on this fiscal cliff but you wanted to talk about the gun measure, and --

SAVIDGE: I do indeed.

MORAN: And you know, life has to go on.

SAVIDGE: Yes. We had that provocative phrasing that it appeared the NRA may be out of step with its own membership. Do you really believe that?

MORAN: Yes, I do, Martin. Frank Luntz who is a Republican pollster polled NRA members and he found that there are at least five major provisions where at least two-thirds of the membership supports even though the leadership of the NRA and, of course, the gun manufacturers who pay their salaries don't necessarily support. But the -- they oppose them.

One would be background checks on purchasers and gun shop employees. Forty percent of guns bought today don't require a background check because of the gun show loophole and gun shop employees don't require background checks.

People that are on the terrorist watch list should not be able to buy a firearm for an explosive. The GAO found in an investigation that 1,321 people on the terrorist watch list bought firearms or explosives and in 91 percent of the cases the FBI was powerless to stop them. Likewise, the NRA members feel that if you have a gun that's lost or stolen, you ought to report it within 48 hours, 600,000 guns were lost or stolen last year that were unreported. So its things like that that we need to - yes.

SAVIDGE: I'm sorry, congressman. I don't want to run out of time because it's an important conversation. Are these the issues that you wish to deal with the legislation you're proposing now?

MORAN: Yes. Well, that's what would be included in the bill. And I know we would have the support of the vast majority of the American people and the majority of NRA members.

SAVIDGE: How do you know that?

MORAN: Well, because of this poll that has -- that can GOP pollster took and found that most NRA members are not nearly as extreme as the NRA leadership is on this. So I think there's a possibility of getting some common sense gun control measures passed.

And you know, I know it doesn't look like this Congress can do anything, but I think we need to try, and I think if we have the support of the NRA members, we have an opportunity. You know, for concealed carry permits which they want to extend to every state, there are at least ought to be some minimum standards. For example, you ought to be an adult in order to be able to get a concealed carry permit. So those are common sense measures. And I think we start with those. And we have a dialogue as senator mansion and others suggested, see if we can at least make some progress on an issue that, you know, has to be addressed. If we don't respond after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, we really are complicit in the next massacre of innocent children. And we've got to ask ourselves, is our political future really more important than the lives of these innocent children.

SAVIDGE: Congressman Jim Moran, we want to thank you very much for coming in and speaking to us about the legislation today. Thank you.

MORAN: You bet.

SAVIDGE: Down to the wire. Congressional leaders scrambling to reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff before Tuesday's deadline.

Milk, get this, milk $7 a gallon? It could happen, if Congress doesn't pass a new farm bill.

And then Smartphone apps, we will tell you the best buys of 2012.


SAVIDGE: Welcome back in CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Martin Savidge. And let's take a look at our top stories.

Lawmakers working on a rare holiday weekend and they're trying to avoid going over that fiscal cliff. If they don't reach a deal by Tuesday, nearly everybody's taxes are going to go up and 2 two people stand to lose unemployment benefits.

Using this New York City police sketch, a woman is now in custody in connection with the death of a man pushed from a subway platform. Police aren't revealing her name but they say that she made incriminating comments about the death of Sunando Sen (ph). A woman is seen on the platform and later pushing Sen in front of that train.

Four of the people charged with the rape and murder of an Indian woman on a bus were already facing rape charges. The 23-year-old woman died from injuries sustained in that brutal gang attack on a moving bus in Delhi. A medical team in Singapore is now conducting an autopsy on the unidentified woman. A total of six people have been charged. The U.S. embassy has offered its condolences and that attack has sparked a wave of protests across the nation.

More snow on the way to the east coast expected to move quickly but ease up by tomorrow, D.C. seeing some of that action today. It's already been a brutal weather week in some parts of the Midwest, south and along the east coast.

If the U.S. falls off that fiscal cliff, taxes aren't the only things that could go up in 2013. Milk prices could also skyrocket.

Here's Margot Spam with our Wisconsin affiliate WISC.


MARGOT SPAM, REPORTER, WISCONSIN AFFILIATE, WISC: The U.S. DA recommends two to three of dairy every day and Penny Hershberger (ph) wants to make sure her grandchildren are receiving that.

PENNY HERSHBERGER (ph), CONSUMER: These are the growing years for them. They got to have milk.

SPAM: But the cost of putting that on the table could go up. That concerns dairy farmers like Pat O'Brien.

PAT O'BRIEN, STONER PRAIRIE DAIRY, FITCHBURG: My fear is that we're going to see people turning away from buying my product if the price gets too high.

SPAM: Since the farm bill expired earlier this year, the milk marketing board is concerned producers like O'Brien won't know what to expect during the next four years.

JAMES ROBSON, CEO, WI MILK MARKETING BOARD: If the farm bill is not replaced or extended, it reverts back to some legislation that goes back to 1949. And that has to do with the government buying surplus dairy products. And then using those numbers to determine what the price of milk is.

O'BRIEN: If things go back to the parity level as established then, we're going to see our milk prices double, and that means that that price is going to have to be passed onto the consumer and the consumer can see seven, eight, $9 milk.

SPAM: Robson says they hope legislators will make a decision soon.

ROBSON: In discussions on the fiscal cliff, any changes or extensions or whatever to the farm bill could be included in any legislation as passed there.

O'BRIEN: I certainly hope they can resolve things here by the end of the year, but it doesn't look very favorable.


SAVIDGE: And a reminder, the Senate passed a farm bill in June. Supporters are calling on lawmakers in the house to now follow suit.

He was a horrified high school student who watched the twin towers fall from his classroom window. Now he's a young veteran and his life has come full circle back to ground zero.

Gary Tuchman will have his story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Born in New York City --

SPC. RICARDO BENEJAM, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: I'm originally from lower Manhattan, alphabet city.

TUCHMAN: At 14 years old, he witnessed the 9/11 attacks from his high school classroom.

BENEJAM: I saw cars that were littered with dust. I saw people in business suits that were littered in dust.

TUCHMAN: In 2006, he enlisted in the army.

BENEJAM: I actually swore in the day before my 19th birthday, and a couple weeks later, I shipped off to basic.

TUCHMAN: After two towers in Afghanistan, Ricardo Benejam's service ended in 2011. Coming home wasn't easy.

BENEJAM: The first week or so, I would be waking up and I'm like I'm going to be late for formation. And I'm like there's no more formation. I think what actually helped me transition a little bit better is I started school right after I got out.

TUCHMAN: He's just two semesters away from getting his bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He says his veteran status and the struggling economy stifled his job search.

BENEJAM: Some of the challenges are just getting people to actually hire us.

TUCHMAN: Ricardo Benejam found help from the wounded warrior project.

LINDA CAWLEY, WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT: Warriors to work is an employer-friendly program that allows our military professionals to transition into civilian life.

BENEJAM: Had I an onsite interview with Linda and I shared with her my resume. Within a couple weeks, I had an interview set up.

TUCHMAN: His new job is another chapter to the unique relationship he has with the city and this site. He works at the 9/11 memorial.

BENEJAM: Working down there, it's like you're continuing to serve because you're telling the story of what happened and what was there before.

TUCHMAN: Today he's answering questions about the survivor tree.

BENEJAM: It's the only tree that actually survived the initial attacks it's actually survived not only the attacks itself but two nor'easters and two hurricanes.

TUCHMAN: Benejam too, is a survivor, thriving in his life after the military.

Gary Tuchman, CNN.



SAVIDGE: As 2012 comes to an end, we are taking a look back at year that was. Two of the world's best known palaces, places I guess, Buckingham palace and then Sesame Street were rocked by controversy.

Joe Johns looks at the top ten scandals of the year.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Number ten, royalty gone wild. This year, the British royal jewels got a public viewing. In Las Vegas, Prince Harry got caught in his birthday suit playing strip billiards which didn't go over well back home. But when Duchess Katherine was photographed by paparazzi in various states of undress while on vacation with Prince William, it was the photographers who became targets of outrage.

Number nine, going out of bounds. The NFL has made it a major mission to crack down on concussions. So it was unpleasant for the league to learn in March that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty system from 2009 to 2011, paying team members for big hits that knocked opposing players out of the game. Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with harsh suspensions for the general manager and coaches. Initially, the league also suspended a handful of players but later overturned that decision.

Number eight, the wheels fly of the bike. Cycling superstar Lance Armstrong had endured the swirl of steroid rumors for years, but that all changed in August. The seven-time tour de France winner was stripped of his titles, lost his sponsorships, even left the board of his famous cancer charity live strong after the U.S. anti-doping agency found that he engaged in a long-term pattern of blood doping during his career. Armstrong still denies using performance-enhancing drugs.

Number seven, wrong side of the street. Few things are more universal for American children than Sesame Street and Elmo which makes the Elmo sex scandal all the more shocking. Kevin Clash resigned as the iconic voice of Elmo after allegations surfaced that years ago, had he sexual contact with underage males. The show says no one there knew anything about it.

Number six, Congress behaving badly. The whiff of scandal doesn't mean you can't win a race for congress. Democratic congressman Jesse Jackson junior of Illinois was re-elected even though he was absent for months due to mental health issues and under federal investigation, for misusing congressional resources. Weeks after the election, he resigned. During the campaign, allegations surfaced that pro-life Republican congressman Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee had urged his pregnant mistress to get an abortion a decade ago. He denied she was pregnant or had an abortion and he was re-elected by 12 points.

Number five, Libor pants on fire. Even if you've never heard of Libor, it probably has an impact on your finances. The interest rates on mortgages, student loans and credits cards are determined in part at the rate banks borrow from each other called Libor. In June, British bank Barclays paid nearly half a billion dollars for manipulating these important interest rates and investigations are still ongoing. The sheer scale of it is huge. It makes American financial coup Bernie Madoff who made off with billions, look like a skid row pickpocket.

Number four, big trouble in communist China. Everybody thought one of the most powerful politicians in China Chongqing communist party chief, Bo Xilai was getting rid of crime and corruption till this summer when a court convicted his wife of murdering a British business man and the government accused him of trying to hinder the investigation as well as taking bribes and abusing his power. Now he's been kicked out of the communist party. Leaders voted to expel him in November.

Number three, a service becomes not so secret. The role of protecting the president when he travels abroad has its moments of glamour and excitement. That atmosphere included hookers for some is secret service agents and military personnel visiting Cartagena in advance of the president's arrival last April. It was an embarrassing incident for the White House, but it won't have bothered Colombian authorities since prostitution is legal there. Local police only got involved because of a hotel altercation between a woman and a secret service agent over the payment.

Number two, bearing the lead. It's been called the building that never sleeps but the BBC's London headquarters says it was completely unaware of the serious allegations involving long-time presenter the late Jimmy Savile. Their show, "News Night," investigated allegations of child sex abuse but failed to air a report what it may have discovered about an alleged abuser within their midst. Six people have been arrested so far and the BBC's director general has resigned.

Number one, David Petraeus' blown cover. The career of retired four- star general and CIA director David Petraeus was brought to an end by e-mails. Here's what happened.

Last spring, his biographer Paula Broadwell wrote anonymous e-mails to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley warning her to stay away from high lank ranking military officers. Kelly complained to a friend in the FBI which led to an investigation with unexpected consequences. The FBI discovered e-mail exchanges between Broadwell and Petraeus showing that in addition to being the general's biographer, she was also his mistress. Petraeus resigned from the CIA just days after the election.

Who knows what's in store for 2013. Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


SAVIDGE: And you won't want to miss our top ten of 2012 special as CNN revisits the stories that captured the country's attention. It airs right here on CNN Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern.

Well, from sharing photos to navigating through traffic, Smartphone apps this year helped us to do a lot of great things. We will count down the top four of the year and tell you which apps to look out for in 2013.


SAVIDGE: Randy Zuckerberg, former facebook executive and sister of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, remember? Yes, well, she says there is no hard feeling after a private photo of her was posted on twitter. She said that a family photo on facebook was just meant to be seen by friends but a lot of people who don't like facebook's privacy controls may have thought that it was only fair that the Zuckerberg family experienced that over share. Zuckerberg says it's about etiquette, not privacy and that all is well.

Well, with countless apps for your cell phone or tablet, how can you figure out which ones are best?

CNN tech reporter Laurie Segall has her list of the top five apps of 2012.



Well, 2012 nearing an end so we decided to take a look at the hottest apps of the year.

The first one is Instagram. Now, the company lets you add filters to your photos and share them with friends. But here's what really made an important today. They sold for $1 billion to facebook and had only a handful of employees at the time they sold. So, Instagram, very popular, but I'll say they're no stranger to controversy. And in terms of service update, the company recently said it was going to allow users' photos to be sold to advertisers. But they soon backtracked after massive user backlash.

Path. Path is another very popular one this year. It is a limited social network. You can actually share everything from what you're listening to where you are. That might sound familiar but the company really got its start during a bit of a facebook backlash. And the idea was share what matters most with the friends and family that really matter the most to you. That's why you're only limited on the service to 150 friends. So, it was actually created by one of facebook's early employees. And it really started gaining traction this year.

Next one up, Google maps. This got a lot of attention towards the end of the year when the "iphone 5" came out with Apple maps, Apple maps weren't exactly accurate. It was only a matter of time till Google launched its Google maps app. Lots of complaints about accuracy and detail about the map, and, of course, many cries for Google maps. It had 20 million downloads in just 48 hours.

And here's one to look out for the New Year, it is called Snapchat, a photo messaging apps. Lots of photos and messages exchange here. But here's the part that's really interesting. Your photos and messages can disappear within seconds. So, users decide how long the receiver has to actually preview the photo. And it's being used in all sorts of ways as you can imagine. And since its launch, the company has shared over a billion photos. This is definitely one to look out for as we head into 2013.


SAVIDGE: Laurie Segall now joins us live from New York. And Laurie, tell us a little more about that snapshot. I mean, you say this is really going to be a huge app in 2013?

SEGALL: Sure, you know, we saw what Instagram just how popular photo sharing apps for your mobile devices are. But, the thing about Snapchat, it's a little controversial because these messages, they just completely disappear within up to ten seconds. So, I could send you a message, Martin, you can get it and you won't have it after ten seconds. That's very cool, but that is being used in all sorts of ways. A lot of teenagers are using this for sexting, sending different kind of messages. So, a little controversy, but you know you're doing something right when facebook decides to imitate you. And as just a week ago, facebook actually launched a copycat app called facebook's poke app. So, now facebook actually has an app doing exactly what Snapchat is doing. I always say you're doing something right if facebook is copying you. And I think this is the only the beginning. We're going to hear a lot about this in 2013.

SAVIDGE: Yes. You are right there. Privacy issues are there some concerning Snapchat?

SEGALL: Sure, look this whole app is built around privacy or around the fact that I could send you a message and it will completely self- destruct in up to ten second. But just recently and this actually just happened yesterday, there was a security flaw in the system and someone found a way to actually uncover some of these video messages that were supposed to disappear by accessing computer files. So, you've got to be careful. If you think about how younger folks are sending some risky messages to each other and thinking that they're completely gone forever, I think it's safe to remember that this is the internet and we've got a digital trail. And you've always kind of got to watch out and be cautious.

SAVIDGE: Yes, you do. Thanks very much and a happy New Year.

SEGALL: Thank you.

SAVIDGE: OK. Imagine turning of that cell phone or getting off that computer and leaving it all behind for a weekend. Next, our travel expert gives her picks for the best off the grid vacation spots.


SAVIDGE: If you're tired of reading all those work e-mails or keeping that cell phone charged and on your hip, well, maybe you should think about going off the grid.

Nilou Motamed from "Travel and Leisure" magazine shows the best destinations for relaxing and disconnecting from life.


NILOU MOTAMED, FEATURES DIRECTOR, TRAVEL AND LEISURE: The ultimate Tooley lodge is an off the grid experience, because you are 100 miles away from everything. This is run by the Claus family. So Mrs. Claus and Mr. Claus will be there to greet you. And they are all about giving you the kind of experience that you wouldn't be able to have anywhere else. So, this is about going flying and going beachcombing once you get to your destination or looking for mastodon ivory or climbing a mountain. This is really out-there stuff. But what I love about it, it's all about connecting with the environment, being off the grid, so there is no cell phone service here and really, really appreciating your surroundings.

The bay of fire in Australia is in the most stunning, most unspoiled area of Tasmania in the northwest coast. This is a place that really you have to be committed to going to, because part of the process of getting there is actually hiking for two days on these beautiful white sand dunes, and you hike -- it's not a lot of hiking, but you are definitely out there, and being a little bit adventurous. This is a place, again, that's off the grid. You're going to have no TVs. You're going to be pumping the water for your own showers. But, the reason you go there and the payoff, the incredible wildlife. You want to see wombats, you want to wallabies, you want to see kangaroos. This is the place to go.

Hicks Island house and geek is the brain child of an architect who was obsessed with how beautiful the surroundings were and wanted to celebrate that. And so, he built these incredible modern structures that are made of concrete, and the rooms only have three sides. That means one side is completely open to the elements. The brand-new element there that they've just built is called casa Solaris. So, talking about getting off the grid, this is entirely off the electrical grid. It is a place that is run all by solar power. So you're going to go there, you're going to get to enjoy the surroundings, the incredible natural beauty of the environment there. But also do yoga, eat well and mostly just relax.


SEGALL: I feel relaxed already. For more great travel tips and ideas visit

These stories are trending now on the web. The crisis in Syria is getting worse, according to Russia's top diplomat. The U.N. envoy to Syria (INAUDIBLE) foreign minister says fighting is becoming more sectarian and more violence, 364 people died in fighting today alone. Both men called for a transition from the Al Assad government. Russia now seems to be backing of its strong support for that regime.

Police in Los Angeles have arrested comic Katt Williams for allegedly endangering his four children, that according to TMZ. Police found guns and drugs in the house, calling them a safety hazard. The children are in protective custody. Williams posted bail and walked out of jail.

And Yoko Ono is finally having her say about the longstanding question over the Beatles' break-up. She blames Paul McCartney, period. Ono is the widow of Beatle John Lenon's says that the focus was increasing on Paul and the others just did not like it.

After the school shooting in Newtown, it seems like everyone wants to do something to help this grieving community. Now, they'll get some help from these therapy horses. Magic and Wakota are two specially trained mini horses from a Gainesville, Florida company called gentle carousel, good with kids and they will also provide healing to the families and first responders.


SALLY ANFINSEN, GENTLE CAROUSEL MINI THERAPY HORSES: It's going to be challenging for all of us, I think, just to just get through that and try to be happy, and be positive and bring miniature horses and not monsters into their school and just brighten it up.


SAVIDGE: That's magic you're looking at there. Magic is one of "Time" magazine's top ten most heroic animals. She helped kids with cancer and even helped the woman speak who had not spoken in three years.

All right. Coming up at the top of the hour, politicians, they are still scrambling to reach a deal that will stop your taxes from going up, among other things. The latest from Capitol Hill.

But take a look at the capitol earlier this morning. More of this is expected along the east coast. We'll tell you what that means for New Year's Eve.