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George H.W. Bush Health Improves; Last-Minute Haggling over Fiscal Cliff; Russia Imposes U.S. Adoption Ban; Memorable Moments of 2012

Aired December 29, 2012 - 19:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. You're in THE CNN NEWSROOM.

Up-to-speed now on the headlines.

Lawmakers in Washington are trying to find a last minute compromise to stop us from going over the fiscal cliff. Senate aides are trading proposals back and forth, with the deadlines just three days away.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe points out how the latest crisis is a sign of bigger problem in Washington.


SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: More than anything else, what is deeply troubling is you cannot get Congress and the president to reach any accord on anything.


LEMON: We'll have the very latest on the fiscal cliff negotiations in just a few minutes here on CNN.

A 31-year-old woman has been charged with second degree murder as a hate crime in connection with this week's subway death in New York City. The Queens district attorney identified the woman as Erica Menendez of New York. This is the NYPD sketch of the suspect. She reportedly implicated herself in the death of Sunando Sen on Thursday.

The victim was a 46-year-old store owner and graphic designer.

Witnesses described a woman pacing the platform and talking to herself just before pushing the victim on the tracks as a train entered the station. Surveillance video shows a woman running from the scene.

A Russian airliner slid off a runaway and smashed into a highway outside Moscow today. Four of the eight crewmembers onboard were killed as the plane splintered into three pieces, no passengers were onboard and no one on the highway was injured. The jet operated by the Russian airline Red Wings was about as big as a 757. It was from the Czech Republic when it overshot the runway.

A lot of celebrating early this morning in Portland, Maine, the first same sex couple said I do under a new state law that took effect at midnight. Stephen Bridges and Michael Snell (ph) said it's still very surreal. Maine, Maryland and Washington state all approved same-sex marriage last month. Gay marriage was already legal in D.C. and six other states.

Heart breaking news for American families waiting to adopt a child from Russia. President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a measure that bans adoption by U.S. families, taking effect January 1st. Human rights groups are criticizing the new law, saying it is merely retaliation for a U.S. act at rights abusers. In 10 minutes, we're going to talk with an Atlanta family who are midway through the adoption process and are praying for a miracle.

Across India today, a nationwide protest took a new heartbreaking direction, people across the country are already out in angry droves calling for justice in the wake of a brutal gang rape, and then word today began to spread that a victim, a 23-year-old woman, died in the hospital.


SEEMA SIROHI, GATEWAY HOUSE: Brutal rapes have happened before, and not much has changed. A lot of change needs to take place for us to feel optimistic, I think. Firstly, we have to firstly consider how we treat women from the day they are born, how girl children are treated. It's a societal change that needs to take place, not more police or better laws or better implementation, all of it has to happen, but people also have to look at girl children as equal to boy children.


LEMON: Six men were being held on rape charges. Now, they are charged with murder.

In Upstate New York today, this woman is under arrest. Police say Dawn Nguyen is charged with providing weapons to a man who ambushed and killed two firefighters. The gunman was not legally allowed to buy a gun. Two New York firefighters died when that gunman shot them as they responded to a fire Christmas Eve. The shooter then committed suicide.

A turn for the better for former President George H.W. Bush. He is now out of intensive care, and in a regular room in a hospital in Houston.

Let's go straight to CNN's Paul Vercammen for an update.

Hey, Paul. What do you know?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, I talked to a Bush spokesman. He says this news is absolutely great and wonderful. As you pointed out, he is now out intensive care, and apparently, his spirits were lifted tremendously yesterday when he was serenaded by his long time friends the Oak Ridge Boys.

Here's what happened. Barbara Bush put out a call to the Oak Ridge Boys. They have been a part of many big Bush celebrations, the inauguration, his nomination.

Well, in this instance, the Oak Ridge Boys were all on vacation. But they rallied together, got together in their Nashville office and they serenaded to him with not one but two songs, "Elvira" and "Amazing Grace".

Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do this one for you, you will remember this one. Here we go.



VERCAMMEN: And in a moment of levity, one of the Oak Ridge Boys said, can you hear us? And the 41st president quip, "Oh, yes, quite clearly," and everyone laughed. Again, his mood being characterized very positive, and he hasn't lost his sense of humor and that he's speaking with clarity. He is out of intensive care.

But, Don, no word yet on when he may be released from a Houston hospital, back to you.

LEMON: Sense of humor always good.

Good news. Thank you very much, Paul Vercammen.

Lawmakers are staring down the deadline before we go over the fiscal cliff. On Capitol Hill, they are trying to reach a deal. There's a live picture of the Capitol right now. Beautiful night in Washington.

But recently, "compromise" has ban dirty word in Washington. So, will the politicians ever see eye to eye?

Chief White House correspondent Yellin has more on the negotiations and where they stand right now.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, in Washington, there's still hope a deal can be cut in time to avert the fiscal cliff. On Saturday, the president was at work here in the White House, but all eyes were on the Senate where negotiators were trading deal points and revenue figures to try to reach an agreement all sides can stomach.

The baseline for the president: any bipartisan bill would have to include an extension of unemployment benefits that would affect some 2 million Americans and an increase in taxes for the highest income earners.

But still to be worked out, exactly where that tax increase would hit and whether it would include a halt in the jump in the estate tax. Now, while that negotiation is continuing, the president has asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to prepare an alternative bill to have ready to put on the Senate floor as early as Sunday. That bill would raise taxes on households that earn $250,000 or more. That is a Democratic proposal and you could expect that Republicans would block it. So think of that less as a stop gap measure and more as a political move to shift the failure of responsibility to the Republicans just as the nation approaches the hour of reckoning -- Don.


LEMON: Absolutely. Thank you, Jess.

Speaking of Washington, D.C., bracing for another round of winter weather. The nation's capitol could see snow of three to five inches tonight. Washington, though, not alone. CNN iReporter Mark Ivy sent in these pictures from Farmersburg, Indiana. He says they are already seeing more snow than the blizzard that hit earlier this week.

Across the Northeast, winter watches and warnings are in effect. Some areas of eastern Massachusetts are getting blasted with more than eight inches of snow.

Heartbreak for dozens of American families in the final stages of adopting a child from Russia, a new law in the country bans adoption by Americans. Next, we're going to talk with the family praying for a miracle.


LEMON: Remarkable news on a story I told you about at 5:00, we had just been told that Theresa Nash, the mother of two missing Georgia boys, has been contacted by her sons. After our interview, the boys apparently called her and told her they were in Austin, Texas. She made her desperate plea right here on our show.


THERESA NASH, MOTHER OF BEN AND HENRY CLEARY: The children, please call mommy, you know my phone number. I have taught you how to do it. If daddy doesn't have a phone, you can ask anybody you see, everybody you see has a phone, you can ask anybody. Remember my number and call mommy's number.

You can ask people in stores. You can ask people in the gas station. You can ask people anywhere you see. You need to call mommy and, and have a phone, they will help you. Anybody will help you. Call mommy.


LEMON: Joining me now on the phone is Holly Hughes -- Holly.

HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY (via telephone): Don, this is what it's all about, my friend.


HUGHES: This is what it's all about.

LEMON: She is on the phone with them now and she said that she is going to call us whenever she gets a minute. You can certainly understand that she is taking other own sweet time with the boys.

What happened?

HUGHES: Oh, yes. Well, you know, her boys are really smart. They are intelligent. They are with a father who loves them, don, and she was very clear about that. But she misses them and it's time for them to come home.

And so either they saw the program or their dad, Daniel Cleary, saw the program and allowed them to phone home, we don't know all the intricate details. But we do know that they are alive and well. And they are talking to their sweet mother right now who has been missing them so much these last couple of days.

So once she has the opportunity to tell them merry Christmas and she loves them and happy birthday. This is a little one's eighth birthday. I mean, can you imagine a better birthday present, Don?

LEMON: Holly, you have been involved with this family, you helped the mother get on our program. And I'm sorry. I can't help it.

HUGHES: I know.

LEMON: It's so amazing. It's Christmas time, you could feel her in the studio. You were sitting here, she was in so much pain, clutching the teddy bears.

And, you know, it's so interesting, Holly, yesterday discussing whether or not to do the story --

HUGHES: Right.

LEMON: -- because we are a national news organization and we said, well, it's an AMBER alert. That's a local news story.

HUGHES: Right.

LEMON: And then we all started to discuss it and say, you know what? No, let's put the story on television.

HUGHES: Because they could be anywhere. And we know, like I said, we know that they were seen in the Wal-Mart in Tennessee, so they have gone from Georgia to Tennessee. They could be anywhere and now we are hearing they are in Texas.

And, Don, what a wonderful holiday surprise for those of us in the media who normally report on the sad end of things to be able to use our vehicle, our media, for a positive thing, to bring these little boys back to their mom -- so she can hear their voice and wish them happy birthday. I mean, you know, that has to be what we do in a very positive way. So, this is phenomenal news, phenomenal.

And I'm just thrilled to have been able to be a part of it and help get Theresa out there, and, you know, reunite her with these two little boys and hopefully, Don, will have them home soon, she can hug them on their neck and not just talking to them on the phone.

LEMON: Holly, thanks for helping us get in contact with her and thank you for sharing the story with the viewers. Appreciate it.

HUGHES: My pleasure. My pleasure. Thank you for covering it, Don.

LEMON: Keep us updated.

HUGHES: We will. Absolutely.

Those little boys are fans of yours, by the way, Don Lemon. They know who you are. When they come home, we're going to get them to meet you and get an autographed picture.

LEMON: Holly, I cannot take anymore, thank you, thank you. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Heartbreaking news for hundreds of Americans trying to adopt children form Russian orphanages. President Vladimir Putin has signed an adoption ban, putting the brakes on any current or future adoptions.

More than 50 Americans were in the final stages. And while those families are hoping their adoptions will go through, the country's child rights commission says the kids will be staying in Russia.

The ban is considered a payback of sorts for an American law passed two weeks ago. That law puts financial restrictions of Russians accused of human rights violations and bans them from traveling to the U.S. Russia is one of the most popular countries for American adoption.

Well, the State Department says there were 970 adoptions there last year. Only China and Ethiopia had more. More than 2,500 from China, and a little more than 1,700 from Ethiopia.

A big reason Americans adopt from other countries is the sheer number of available children.

I'm going to bring in now, Kurt and Ann Suhs. And they are the adoptive parents of a Russian child, and were planning to adopt a second Russian child, a child from Russia.

So, Kurt and Ann, thank you very much for joining us. A little sorry, I'm emotional right now.



LEMON: How far did you go in the adoption process?

ANN SUHS, ADOPTIVE PARENT OF RUSSIAN CHILD: Well, for this one, we have been working on it for about a year, and we were waiting for our invitation to travel over to be matched with a child.


ANN SUHS: Now, it looks like it's coming to a screeching halt?

LEMON: I said to you in the break. I said, you want your little nugget and you said, we want your second little nugget, right?


KURT SUHS: Right, right.

ANN SUHS: We already have one at home.

KURT SUHS: We had such a great experience with our first Russian adoption. We were in St. Petersburg. The process was about nine months from the start of paperwork and the paperwork, Don, is tremendous. It really is. I mean, the parents go through a lot, from the fingerprinting to the background checks, to local Russian requirements.

So, it's just a great process. And we were hopeful to do it again.

LEMON: How did you feel when you heard about this ban? I mean, obviously it was crushing.


ANN SUHS: Well, and it came out of nowhere. I mean, literally we got a warning from the agency on the 17th or 18th that there were rumors going around that this ban might be put through the Duma. But in 10 days, it passes. We had no idea it was going to fly through like that.

LEMON: So what are the Russian officials telling you, Kurt?

KURT SUHS: Well, I have been in contact with the U.S. senator and he's been in contact with state. We are seeing if there's any way that through the Russian and American adoption agreement that was ratified on November 1st, that if there's any way that the 1,500 families that are in process of adoption at present can be cleared through. Even though the Russians have put in place the ban effective January 1st, we are hoping the implementation of the law will provide us and other families the ability to go through the process.

LEMON: I want to read a statement from the U.S. State Department for you. If we can put it up on the screen. They say that the Russian's government politically motivated decision will reduce adoption possibilities for children who are now under institutional care. We are further concerned about statements that adoptions already underway may be stopped and hope that the Russian government would with allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parent to finish the necessary legal procedures so that they can join their families."

So, you are hearing from the U.S. officials but not much.

ANN SUHS: I don't know that they have gotten through with the Russian officials figuring out how they are going to implement the law yet. It's still so new still.


ANN SUHS: Maybe in the next week or two.

LEMON: I'd say who suffers here? But I mean --

ANN SUHS: Everybody.

LEMON: Everyone.

KURT SUHS: Everyone does.

ANN SUHS: Even, we may not even be included in the grace period, we don't know yet. And so, we may just have to step back and say, OK, that's -- so much for that dream. But the families who have already met their kids and held them and created bedrooms and collected toys, I don't understand how they can be put through that kind of a nightmare and our hearts go out to them.

And the children raised in institutions, it's just not the same as having a mom and dad or even just a mom or a dad. No matter how your family is built.


ANN SUHS: Having that secure, stable environment.

LEMON: What do you say to Putin?

KURT SUHS: Well, I would say we've gone through our first adoption with our son who's turned 7. We've complied with all the -- the Russian post-reporting requirements. We have been visited by social workers, we send pictures, they get to Russia. And he is a healthy, happy little boy.

We are just ordinary adoptive parents that represent 60,000 other couples that have brought home kids from Russia. So, we are hopeful that President Putin as a father realizes that, hey, anyone in process, give these people their babies.

LEMON: Will you keep us updated?

ANN SUHS: Absolutely.

KURT SUHS: We will.

LEMON: Thank you.

KURT SUHS: Thank you.

ANN SUHS: Appreciate it so much.

LEMON: Good luck. Thank you so much.

OK, coming up, many in Los Angeles were relieved to get some guns off the street during a gun buyback. But could anyone have expected this? Rocket launchers? Launchers, not one but two. That's next.


LEMON: Los Angeles police didn't know what would happen when they held a gun buyback this week. There were plenty of handguns and assault rifles, but those weren't the real eye-openers.

CNN's Kyung Lah looks at the weapons that stunned even veteran police officers.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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 illegal, 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. I mean, 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 happened. So I decided to turn it in.

LAH (on camera): Going back to the rocket launcher, where did it come from? Well, the LAPD said it doesn't know, it doesn't ask, which is why the gun buyback program is so successful. And why people are willing to turn in things like rocket launchers.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


LEMON: Just about -- not quite but half past the hour, let's look at your headlines right now.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are trying to put on the brakes before the fly over -- before we fly over the fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats and Republicans are working towards a compromise.

On Friday, President Obama said he was optimistic, but they are still no deal and the deadline is three days away. More on the negotiations right after the headlines here.

George H.W. Bush, former president, out of intensive care and in a regular room at a Houston hospital. The 88-year-old has been in the hospital for more than a month, he was admitted for bronchitis and, lately, has been battling a fever lately. His spokesman says Mr. Bush is in good spirits and singing with doctors and nurses. He also got a phone call from the Oak Ridge Boys who sang "Amazing Grace" for the former president.

In Syria today, an alarming number of people died outside the city of Homs. Opposition activists are saying more than 200 people were, quote, "executed" after Syrian forces won a battle for control there. In all, across the country, more than 380 people were reportedly killed today in fighting, bombings and air strikes.

A Russian airliner slid off of a run way and smashed into a highway outside of Moscow today. Four of the eight crew members were killed as the plane splintered into three pieces. No passengers on board and no one on the highway was injured. The jet, about as big as a 757, was run by the Russian airline Red Wings, and was landing when it overshot the run way.

We are just getting information about a small plane crash in San Diego County, California, all three people onboard the single-engine plane are believed to be dead. Police say a hiker first reported the crash and now, federal investigators are there. The area where it went down is fairly remote. The plane was a homemade one from a kit. It's white knuckle time in Washington. We could go flying over the fiscal cliff in three days. And to find a solution, lawmakers have to do the thing they seem to hate most. They have to compromise.

CNN's Lisa Desjardins is tracking negotiations for us from Capitol Hill -- Lisa.


LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, the stakes are very high, and I think leaders are paying close attention to.

That maybe why we're hearing a change in mood at the Capitol now, even the weather was different. Look at this -- a beautiful snowfall hit the Capitol this morning the. That is what the weather was like as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell came to work in trying to reach a deal.

Now, if he can't forge a deal with Democrats, here's what's at stake. Let's look first of all at what is involved in talks. At the top of the list, tax rates. If we go over the fiscal cliff, tax rates will go up 9 percent to 33 percent for most all Americans. Now, that would also mean havoc for payroll companies and the IRS that have to struggle how to handle withholding starting on January 1st.

Also in talks right now, unemployment benefits. Those actually ran out today. So, that's something that Republicans and Democrats we understand are talking about right now.

So, what else is at stake in the fiscal cliff? Let's look at some other issues, things that we're not sure will be in a deal that comes out this week. At the top of the list: government spending cuts. That's about 8 percent to 10 percent in cuts to most every federal agency. Also, a pay cut for Medicare doctors of 27 percent that would hit after January 1st.

And, finally, Don, there's a slew of other tax hikes. The alternative minimum tax is one that people talk about, the estate tax. These are all things that would affect average Americans, and which would hit on January 1st.

So, the fiscal cliff, it might be even bigger than people realize -- Don.


LEMON: Lisa, thank you very much.

A lot of us would like to tell lawmakers what we think of them. Here is your chance right now; go to our and send us a 15- second video that starts, "My New Year's message to Washington is..."

Then tell us what you want to tell them and we will play your messages to Congress on air.

It's murder charges now for a New York City woman who we are told has confessed to pushing a man onto the subway tracks to his death. These details are new and we are still gathering information. And there is CNN's David Ariosto; he is in New York for us.

And, David, what has this woman confessed?

DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She seems to have confessed to a hate crime there, Don. She has been charged with second degree murder in the case of this man who was pushed off a subway platform in Queens on Thursday.

And the Queens district attorney's office released this statement, which is essentially a quote from her allegedly.

It said that "I pushed a Muslim off the tracks" -- the train tracks -- "because I hate Hindus and Muslims. And ever since 2001, when they put down the Twin Towers I've been beating them up."

Now this sort of adds a twist to a case that has sort of riled New York, both here and in Queens where this took place. This is the second incident that has occurred at subway tracks in which somebody was killed and put to their death underneath those cars in the last month.

The past one happened in the beginning part of the month in Times Square. That individual was charged, it seems we now have a second person just in the month of December, and this time they are being charged with a hate crime there. Don?

LEMON: Yes. And you know, David, I am in New York -- live in New York off and on, between here and I am afraid to even go close to the tracks now. Most people look over to see if the train is coming. New Yorkers aren't really doing that so much these days, are they?

ARIOSTO: Well, there's a yellow line, that's right -- as you know, that is right there in front of the tracks. And you know, inevitably, when that train comes, there's the few people who do look over and see when their train is coming.

But in a city of 8 million people -- and so many of those people take the subways every day --when you have two deaths, two fatalities by someone who pushed them, it does create a real -- a sense of fear and anxiety of those people using the subway system.

That this could really occur out of nowhere and then, you know, there was really no indication of any interaction between these two individuals prior to this incident. This woman was sitting down, rushed over and pushed this man into the tracks just as the train approached and then left.

And the fact that there was no altercation, there was no incident of any fight or any disturbance, really raises questions and certainly raises anxieties of people who take the subway every day.

LEMON: Thank you, David Ariosto, appreciate it.

You know that classic holiday song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside"? Well, that's pretty much -- that pretty much describes the weather across much of the country right now and it's getting worse.

On the second official day of winter another winter mix is making its way up the East Coast. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider tells us what to look out for.


BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Don, we are watching for a big snow maker across parts of southeastern Massachusetts and into Rhode Island, today and tonight. Earlier this morning the snow came down heavy and hard briefly in Washington, D.C.

We saw big white fluffy flakes outside of the White House and in front of the Capitol and we even saw the snow move into New York City later on this morning and the early afternoon hours. So the snow made for a pretty sight on Saturday, but as we move into the evening hours of tonight, of course we are looking at the snow to even accumulate more.

And for areas in the northeast, this is going to be heavy snow and substantial. Now, the latest models are taking us up to a foot in parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. So this is going to be plowable, shovelable snow early in the morning as this low pressure center works its way up across New England.

It is actually getting closer to the coast than the original path indicated, so because of that westward track we are looking for heavier bands of snow as far north as coastal Maine. You are likely to see accumulations of up to a foot of snow by Sunday morning.

Tracking the low, one of the things it's going to do is bomb out. And what that means is as it's offshore, the low pressure center will deepen and strengthen tonight. That's only going to enhance the winds and increase the snowfall rates, easing tonight into parts of Massachusetts, you will be seeing that snow coming down 1-2 inches per hour.

That will limit visibility and really make travel treacherous into the overnight early morning hours. By the time we get to Sunday morning, the low moves quickly off the coast of Maine and into Nova Scotia. So we will see some heavy snow right on the border of Canada in the early hours of the morning. So it looks like this is going to be a short storm, but a big burst of snow.

And, indeed, as we look at our computer models, right in this region, south of Boston. It's a good idea to stay inside tonight, maybe build a fire and let the storm pass. Don?

LEMON: All right, thank you, Bonnie. Good advice.

It was a year that put Honey Boo Boo on TV and the pope on Twitter. Next a comedian's take on the most important moments of 2012.


LEMON: It started with a kiss between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Lady Gaga and ended with binders full of women. We are talking about some of the most memorable albeit unusual moments of 2012.

What better way to look back at this year's memories than by bringing in one of our favorite comedians -- not our favorite -- OK. We can (inaudible), Ben Gleib.

So a lot of topics; thank you for coming in.

BEN GLEIB, COMEDIAN: Thanks for having me (inaudible).


LEMON: That is a nice little iPad Mini, can I get that?

GLEIB: Yes. Chelsea gave it to me as a gift, Chelsea Handler, so...

LEMON: She's got a lot more money than me to give her -- the people who work with her that (inaudible).

GLEIB: This is true. You can borrow mine.


LEMON: What story stood out to you?

GLEIB: Well, it was a crazy year. First of all, starting with Gaga and Bloomberg making out, there's no wonder people thought the Mayan apocalypse was coming. That's a strange way to start a year. Then pink slime, turned out our kids' lunch meat was pink slime and filled with ammonia.

And ammonia didn't even kill all the E. coli in it. So it was just a bonus. They just threw it in there, which was very, very weird.

Lance Armstrong: not only was he cheating but it came out that he was giving his whole team blood transfusions during (inaudible) blood in hotel rooms before races. So Lance Armstrong is a vampire, and women love vampires, so that's probably how he got Sheryl Crow. Every day is a winding road. I don't know if you know that.

And -- I mean it was the weirdest year possible. Then Occupy Wall Street, people were interested in that till Honey Boo Boo came along. They're like the Boo Boo is very --

LEMON: I don't get that thing. I mean, you know, more power to her, but I don't -- like I don't get it.

GLEIB: Well, yes, she is just a train wreck. And people -- it's less issues involved, you don't have to learn things about politics to follow Boo Boo. Although she probably knows more about politics than her viewers, I would imagine.

LEMON: Hey. And you know what? She's making a lot of money for her family, and they're going to do well because of it. So --

GLEIB: Her mom is eating most of it. But -- eating most of that money away. And then politically it was the weirdest --

LEMON: Yes, there's a big political year on both sides of the aisle. There were a couple of crazy -- but not a couple, I mean, do you remember during the primaries, when all of -- we had all of the Republican candidates in there from Herman Cain to Michele Bachmann, all of them, to Rick Perry. We were like, what did they say?

GLEIB: Yes. Herman Cain just kept saying nines constantly. And he was like, "Nine-nine-nine."

"Why do you want to be president?"

"Nine. I love the number nine."

And then Perry did not remember any of his policies whatsoever, so that hurt him. Then finally got down to the two of them and Romney was the first candidate taken down by technology.


GLEIB: Hidden camera video captures him saying he does not care about the half of the country and it's not his job to be concerned about them, he was so unconcerned he did not even notice part of the 47 percent was in the room filming him. He's like, "My job's not to care about these people. They're victims. Another club soda, please."

LEMON: More entertainment, we talked about Honey Boo Boo a little bit, Honey Boo Boo and "Jersey Shore," they were at the top of the list.

GLEIB: That is true. "Jersey Shore" national obsession but "Jersey Shore" had to finally be cancelled by MTV because actual stories in politics were far sexier. CIA, sex scandal, Secret Service, prostitutes in Colombia, "Jersey Shore" is like I'm hanging it up. We cannot compete, so much so that Snooki even said, I'm done. I will try being a responsible mother.

LEMON: Snooki's a mom -- and so, when the show first started, that is a transformation that you never thought would happen.

GLEIB: No, I'm not a mother or a father -- I don't know why I said mother -- I'm not a father either. I'm a responsible adult. I'm 34 years old. Snooki was getting punched wild drunk a month before she was pregnant.

LEMON: If you were a mother, you probably would need to be coming here or doing gigs in Atlanta. You'd be a very wealthy man or a mother or a woman. Very true. Right?


LEMON: The end of the world didn't happen.



GLEIB: I was disappointed. My podcast is called "Last Week on Earth," I was gambling on the world ending. But it didn't happen. And you know, it's just a weird time and a weird year on this planet when people were kind of hoping the world was going to end.

People were like -- you talk about end of the world parties, I'm like, no, I hope it does not end. I'm trying to use "The Secret" to envision that the world does not end in a couple of days.

LEMON: It's funny because -- we were talking about Honey Boo Boo and "Jersey Shore." I haven't seen one episode of those. But I see lots of clips like on "The Soup" and also on "Chelsea Lately."


LEMON: With you guys, and you guys talking about it. That's how we know about all those things.

GLEIB: It's our fault -- and I apologize.

LEMON: It is your fault.

GLEIB: I apologize for that. But it's not like politics is even that much different this year.

Then Donald Trump tries to compete with that kind of reality show nonsense. Right before the election, he's like, I have big news. And we're like what's the big news? He's like, well, it's not news.

But I'll give the president lots of money if he shows us his college transcript, which makes no sense to anybody. What was he trying to prove? I cannot prove -- it turns out he was not born here, but you will agree that he did not do great in Chicano studies.

LEMON: Let's see the -- his hair. Can you do his hair?

GLEIB: Yes, of course. You'd have to look like -- can I get makeup to make me orange and look like a raccoon expired on top of my noggin.

LEMON: You are done. Ben Gleib.

GLEIB: Weird year.

LEMON: Thank you.

GLEIB: Thanks so much, Don.

LEMON: Good seeing you.

We'll be right back.

Happy New Year to you.

(MUSIC PLAYING) LEMON: Overseas today a group of men accused of a brutal gang rape in India and now have murder charges added. That's after the rape victim died today in the hospital. The woman's tragic story has people all over the country demanding action and justice as well. CNN's Mallika Kapur is in New Delhi.


MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Her identity is a secret but the Indian public has given her a name, Brave Heart. And thousands of people across the country are taking to the streets to mark this courageous young girl's death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are really speechless about what happened with the girl.

KAPUR (voice-over): Her brutal gang rape in Delhi on December 15th has shaken India and triggered an unprecedented outpouring of grief and anger, anger that the system protesters say (inaudible) let its women down. They say Delhi just isn't a safe place for women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Common people like us have come out, people who don't normally go to protest, because we feel strongly about this. We feel that we are not safe, you know, our relatives. Nobody is safe in the city anymore and we don't really see the government thinking of that as an issue. I mean, safety is the first thing that you would assure to a citizen, right?

KAPUR (voice-over): This is not the first time a rape case has been reported, but many more never are. But this case has become a lightening rod in India. Disillusion with the government (inaudible) the brutality of the rape. Protesters say enough is enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The brutality of this crime, and the way it has been handled, the kind of insensitive treatment that some of the statements, at some of the politicians and some of the people have made, ensure that not only me, I mean, everybody has come out to see that this is not done. And we are not OK with this.

KAPUR (voice-over): They want to see the government take concrete steps to address their concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, definitely, then you know, just foster justice systems. You need to have special courts wherein it's not open to the public. I think that is still a provision, (inaudible) more courts and (inaudible) and strong systems.

KAPUR (voice-over): It's no longer about one girl or one particular rape case. It's about India's attitude toward its women and about making sure that Brave Heart did not die in vain -- Mallika Kapur, CNN, New Delhi.


LEMON: A 26-year-old Marine is going to brave the elements, climb a mountain in what is called the home of the world's worst weather. And he will do it with one leg. He talks to me next.


LEMON: So locals call it the home of the world's worst weather -- Mount Washington, New Hampshire.


LEMON (voice-over): Twenty-six-year-old former Marine, Keith Zeier, is going to brave the elements and climb the steepest, most treacherous route. But this is no ordinary climb. Keith lost his left leg after an IED blast in Iraq. Shrapnel ripped through the muscle, nerve and bone of his left leg and he suffered a traumatic brain injury.

He needed six surgeries to be stabilized and he was told he would never walk again without a cane.

Keith Zeier is joining me now from New York.

Well, a lot of what they said about you didn't necessarily happen. Before we talk about what you're going to do, thank you for your service. We appreciate it.

KEITH ZEIER, USMC: Well, thank you very much.

LEMON: We were talking (inaudible) I've been able to befriend -- become good friends with a wounded warrior from the Wounded Warrior Project, Dan Evans. And went on a bit of a surfing trip with him in Hawaii. It was amazing. Wounded warriors don't want people to feel sorry for them.

ZEIER: No, absolutely not. You know, and the way I see it is that someone's always got it 10 times worse than me, you know? And I feel with that attitude, it makes you not feel sorry for yourself. I'm lucky and I'm grateful for having this opportunity again, you know, a second chance, so...

LEMON: Does it change your life in a way. Does it -- is it a catalyst for you to be bolder and do and try things like this?

ZEIER: Yes, I think so. That's one of the reasons why we chose Mount Washington for our first climb is, you know, there's a lot of unknown. You know, that factor is one of the ones that we never know, you know?

And I feel it has made me a lot bolder, the injury, and overcoming obstacles. And that's one of the things we hope to accomplish during this climb, as well as the main thing is to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

LEMON: Yes. Special Operations Warrior Foundation, is that -- Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Is that a dot-com? Is there a website?

ZEIER: You can donate directly to them through the website, And that's our website where you can follow the climbs and such.

LEMON: All right. So Keith, you know, I -- have you seen the weather conditions. Have you -- are you scared? Weather conditions are with a wind chill of 25 below.

ZEIER: You know, that's one of the things that makes this climb unique is that it's in our own backyard, inexpensive, but at the same point, the elements could work out for us or they could be extremely harsh.

I think that's one of the things that the military prepares you for, you know, when things get really difficult, you know, that's the time where you have to turn it on and overcome. And I think that's one of the biggest things for Mount Washington that drew us to that for our first climb.

LEMON: Why take on this challenge? Why do this?

ZEIER: Because, you know, climbing itself has given me an outlet. You know, coming out of the military, I missed it terribly and having a sense of purpose, which I think that is the biggest thing is through these climbs, I can have that sense of purpose. I can help my friends who are no longer with us.

The ones who are still injured, who are still dealing very hardly (sic) and rehabilitating themselves. Through the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, we can give back and inspire and, you know, help out the children of these fallen Special Operations personnel.

LEMON: All right. And tell people a little bit about your trek. Includes 700 feet vertical ice climbing with axes. It's not the first challenge that you've taken since you lost your leg. And I want to know what's next for you? What are you going to do next?

ZEIER: Well, through this, we're going to do a series of climbs. For me, I would like to go with this as far as I can and raise as much money, you know, as possible. But I think our next big winter climb next year will be in Ecuador.

But I know for me, I would like to do Denali in Alaska. So there's a couple of big mountains that we're looking to do. And keep inspiring and raising money for this great foundation.

LEMON: Keith Zeier, you're amazing, you're a hero, a wounded warrior. But you're also -- I mean, obviously you're a hero. Happy holidays, Happy New Year to you. Best of luck. OK?

ZEIER: Thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you.

It was certainly one of Jeanne Moos' oddest stories of 2012, the lengths one man went to to have a little bit more than a memory of his late beloved pet. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: A bizarre tribute to a beloved cat. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Liftoff for the catcopter, a remote-controlled helicopter made out of a dead cat? No wonder jaws dropped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they should let the cat rest in peace. That's crazy.

MOOS (voice-over): But the cat's owner, Dutch artist Bart Jansen, considers this a tribute.

BART JANSEN, DUTCH ARTIST: I really loved this cat and for me, this is a way to actually make him eternal.

MOOS: His name was Orville. He and his brother, Wilbur, were named after the Wright Brothers. So when Orville got hit by a car last year, Jansen turned him into art to be exhibited in a Dutch museum.

JANSEN: Since he was already named after a famous aviator, well, it became clear that he just needed to fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's probably, like, about the scariest thing I've probably ever seen in my life.

MOOS (voice-over): Jansen had Orville taxidermied and put on an ultra-lightweight casing. Half cat, half machine, Jansen calls it. The Orvillecopter.

JANSEN: There's a little flap here.

MOOS (voice-over): Where gyroscopes and a receiver are. There's a propeller attached to each paw.

What was striking during our Skype interview, when Jansen held the Orvillecopter up to the camera...

MOOS: Those eyes.

JANSEN: Those eyes are glass, by the way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sends the wrong message to children, too. It almost looks like it's being -- an animal is being tortured.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's his own damn business. The animal's dead.

MOOS (voice-over): His brother, Wilbur, doesn't seem to know what to make of this reincarnation of Orville.

Jansen says cats dream of chasing birds. Just look at Tom in the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons.

Jansen says Orville used to lie on the doormat watching pigeons. "Now he's finally flying with the birds. The greatest goal a cat could ever reach."

But to PETA, "It's a macabre way to honor a beloved family member."

MOOS: Orville is now a catcopter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an artist, so it's fine by me.

MOOS: But many of the comments online are beyond catty.

MOOS (voice-over): "That man is not an artist. He is a sadist."

"Dear 'artist,' I hope if you get run over, they make you into a man- o-copter."

JANSEN: Yes, well, that would -- wouldn't that be cool?

MOOS (on camera): The artist is willing to part with his flying pet.

JANSEN: I do think someone would want this. It is for sale.

MOOS (voice-over): A Dutch TV show was shooting the catcopter in a field...


MOOS (voice-over): ... when its pilot sent it swooping towards some cows. Moo versus meow. And meow won.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the cat probably would approve.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN...

MOOS: Meow.

MOOS (voice-over) ... New York.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon, see you back here at 10:00.