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THE SITUATION ROOM

Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

Aired December 29, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Americans get ready for the New Year's Eve ball to drop as President Obama and Republicans stare down the fiscal cliff deadline.

Plus, a new worry for hundreds of American families who want to adopt. We'll tell you what is behind the controversial move by Russian lawmakers.

And a new exposes what it calls the gun next door. Is it a way to protect communities against gun violence?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Washington is a deadline-oriented city, and this coming week brings one that is a real dozy, billions in tax increases and across- the-board spending cuts take effect when the New Year starts. They call is the fiscal cliff and the nearness of the deadlines forcing members of Congress and President Obama to spend the last few days of 2012 on the job.

We want to bring in CNN chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

We all know they would rather celebrate New Year's Eve elsewhere in this coming week. But., how did they get here?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is such a good question. Candy, you know, this grid lock and in fighting in Washington create a collective national eye-rolling.

But, the fundamental discussion over the fiscal cliff goes to the essential differences between the two parties about the role of government, should it be bigger or smaller? About whether we want lower taxes or more of a social safety net. So, while we have seen the principles, the president, speaker Boehner, and now senator McConnell and senator Reid getting involved in trying to reach some sort of a deal and varied stages over the last few weeks, it has always broken down because they fundamentally disagree about the big ideas at the core of this debate. They're fighting over the difference between the two parties. And you know, this could get resolved in a matter of days or in a matter of weeks. But the biggest difference, the biggest issues could really take months to work out.

CROWLEY: Can it be resolved in the matter of few enough days that they meet that January 31st deadline?

YELLIN: Anything is possible. I always think of Congress as like getting the term paper in, you know. You should have wait for the deadline to wake the very night before it is due. And that gives them the motivational push, as you well know from covering them for so long. So, you know, we think oh, 24 hours to go, it is over. They think we still have 24 hours, it is a lifetime. So could they get it done, you know? Yes, but it sure seems a heavy lift at this point in time.

CROWLEY: It does. And I think the markets would have loved it if they could have done it with days to spare.

YELLIN: Right.

CROWLEY: Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, thank you.

YELLIN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: If we go of the fiscal cliff, will you notice an immediate change to your wallet? We want to get reality check from Stephen Moore. He is a member of the "Wall Street Journal's" editorial board and the author of "Who is the fairest of them all?, the truth about opportunity, taxes, and wealth in America."

Stephen, thanks for being here. So, we have spent six months talking to lawmakers, Republican and Democrats. This can't happen. We can't go off the fiscal cliff. We have got to meet this deny. Now what we're hearing, it is not that bad. We are not going to feel the impact. We have time. Which is it?

STEPHEN MOORE, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD: Well, I love what Jessica said about the teenager to his get his term paper done in time. Because you know what happens if you don't get your term paper on time? You get an F. And I think a lot of American voters are going to say an "F" to all the politicians if they don't get it done.

Look, I don't think it would be the end of the world if we go off the fiscal cliff. And I do think it would probably get resolved in the weeks ahead. But this is kind of a black eye, I think, for our whole political system if we - think about this. Here we are, two or three days away from the start of the year without any American business or investor or worker, knowing what the hero taxes maybe, what the income taxes may be, the investment actually, I mean, this just is not a very good way to run a country and it is almost like Banana Republic politics.

CROWLEY: My dad used to say, no way to run a railroad, nor no way to run a government.

Let's talk first about a couple of things. This whole idea that tax rates on everyone will go up. Does the IRS, does the treasury department have the ability to sort of say look, here is some guidance? Keep withholding where it is? MOORE: Well, the IRS is in turmoil right now. They don't know what to do. They're putting out kind of mixed signals about whether they can get the tax forms done. Whether they can advise businesses what to do.

Now I do think, the people that are really worried, the middle class people worried about their taxes going up. I do think if we get it solved in the last day, and I think actually there is a decent chance we make a resolution on this on December 31st. But if we don't, I think sometime in January, I do think there will be some resolution. And I think what Republicans said, I think even the president will go along with this, is whatever we decide to do let's make the tax cuts retroactive so the first of the year. So, people aren't face those giant tax cuts.

CROWLEY: But, what does the first paycheck look like two weeks into January?

MOORE: You could have the additional money withheld from your paycheck, because the law changes, the tax law changes so that everyone's tax rates, this is assuming we do go over the cliff. Everyone is facing a higher tax increase. Not just Bill Gates, not just Warren Buffet, but anyone with an income over $25,000. And don't forget, by the way, the payroll tax goes up, too. Remember, we did that payroll tax reduction?

CROWLEY: Right. So, taking out for Social Security tax which doesn't -- no one is talking about it. So, that says to me, those are going back up anyway. That is about a thousand dollars cost for an average family.

So, let me ask you. There is the actual what will happen on January first? And it doesn't sound like people will have to worry about, you know, their taxes, most people. But what about the psychological impact? Haven't we already seen it in Christmas buying? Haven't we already seen it in hiring? Wouldn't we continue to see it -- you know, won't consumer confidence take a hit? Won't businesses still say I don't know, I don't know what is happening.

MOORE: Already has, Candy, you have seen it in this year's Christmas shopping season was lackluster, at best. You mentioned businesses. I talked to businessmen and women all the time. they say we are hiring right now. We're just canceling a lot of the plans to make new expenditures which you need to do if you want a buy from an economy. And of course, you know this Candy well, we are really seeing the impact from the stock market in the last couple of weeks.

So yes, this is not a good way to run a railroad. And the economy has already taken a hit because of all of this turmoil in Washington. And as I said, I think you know look, I'm a Republican. But I think both parties take a black eye here, because nobody comes out of this looking very good.

CROWLEY: Yes, I mean, out polling all shows that Republicans will take the biggest hit. But if you're going to take a political hit do it at the end of an election season, rather than at the middle, so - you know, who knows -

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: You know, there are a lot of economists who believe. I guess I would put myself in this camp, if we don't get this resolved for several months. And you know, sometimes these political fights go on and on. Because Jessica is right, this is at the core of what this two parties believe in. I do think that these tax increases could possibly cause a dreaded double-dip recession. And that would really hurt families.

CROWLEY: So when -- if we don't have to push the panic button on New Year's Day, when does it become harmful when you're sitting at home looking at this thinking what is going on? When does that person in Peoria or Boise feel the effects?

MOORE: I think starting at the end of the month, next month. And if these guys can't get it together we're going to have to totally change the family finances because we don't know how much taxes we are going to pay. For the average middle class family, Candy, we're talking about through the year, 2,000 to $2,500 increase on their tax bill.

CROWLEY: That is plenty. Stephen Moore who by the way, thinks they can get a deal.

MOORE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: The last remaining optimistic person.

Thanks for joining us, Stephen. Appreciate it.

MOORE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Politics played a big role in the summer of 2012's top business stories. CNN's Ali Velshi and Christine Romans put together this look at the top ten.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Number ten, Apple, the first year without Steve Jobs, and a company that is trying to prove under a new CEO that it can still invent things we didn't even know we needed that we would buy, faster than anything has been sold, in personal technology before.

Number nine, the U.S. stock market, despite all of those worries about the fiscal cliff and maybe slower growth in U.S. economy, the stock market has had a great year. Too bad you missed out. The smart money has been in the market. The rest of us have been worried about the fiscal cliff.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Number eight, facebook's IPO, hundreds of millions of people like facebook, but investors did not on its first day as a public company. Trading glitches at the Nasdaq and questions about the company's ability to make money on mobile users, pummeled the stock, which is on its way back to the IPO price.

ROMANS: Number seven, mother Myer. The new CEO of Yahoo! Who announced she was just going to take a two-week maternity leave as she try to turn this company around. 37-year-old looks like a mother's touch is just exactly what Yahoo! needed.

VELSHI: Number six, mother nature, an intense drought in the Midwest that scorched the corn and soy crop sending prices sky high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ocean is just beyond.

VELSHI: And who can forget super storm Sandy? Neighborhoods along the northeast swept away millions without power and damages as high as $50 million, raising lots of questions about U.S. infrastructure and whether we should be spending some money to fix it.

ROMANS: Number five, China. Is China slowing or leading the world? We do know that China will be the biggest economy in the world by 2020, for sure, by 2030. China also getting more than a few mentions during the presidential campaigns, probably because it is pretty clear, China is both a competitor and a partner.

VELSHI: Number four, Europe. The European union was fractured by debt and the plans to fix it. That saga is far from over.

Number three, the housing market. Finally, finally bottomed out. The combination of home prices and continued mortgage rates set off a building and buying spree. Well -heeled investors began to buy entire neighborhoods. But first time buyers were also able to get a home of their own for the first time in years, as long as they have a hefty down payment.

ROMANS: Number two.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANCHOR: CNN projects that Barack Obama will be reelected president of the United States.

ROMANS: The election, more than just about Obama and Romney, it is about socialism and capitalism, about spending and cutting about what kind of role government should have in your life.

VELSHI: Number one is the fiscal cliff. Lawmakers saw it coming, but didn't bother to pay any attention to it until after the election. Had they put politics aside and dealt with it earlier, who knows how strong the U.S. economy would be right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Up next, children in need of a home are caught in the middle of a dispute over human rights.

And we'll meet one man reaching into his own pocket to help America ease its enormous debt. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Starting Tuesday, American families are banned from adopting Russian children. President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial measure into law this week.

Lisa Sylvester has been looking to that for us.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Candy, you know, Russia actually ranks third of all the countries for U.S. adoptions, just behind China and Ethiopia. But President Putin, he has made it official, banning the adoptions of Russian children by Americans. And it is all over a diplomatic issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Lee Allen and his wife had planned to adopt only one baby in Russia, but they couldn't bear to leave behind a second baby that shared the same crib.

LEE ALLEN, FATHER: The boys had already made a home in my heart. And all I wanted to do was go across the ocean, go over to Russia, scoop them up and bring them home. And I counted the days, I counted the hours until I could do that.

SYLVESTER: Today, the two boys, Jason and John Christian are 13- years-old, and this is how they describe their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe I'm here with the family. It's lovely being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love the family.

SYLVESTER: But their adoptions almost didn't happen. About the time Lee Allen was going to adopt them in 1999, a newly appointed president Vladimir Putin imposed a ban on adoptions, but that was lifted six months later.

Once again, Russia has placed a ban on adoptions by Americans. The issue has not gone unnoticed by the state department.

PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: Americans families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into American homes in the past 20 years. Just last month, we implemented bilateral adoptions agreement with Russia to improve the safeguards for adopted children and their families.

SYLVESTER: That agreement comes after 2010 incident that sparked global outrage when a Tennessee woman, who put her adopted son back on a plane to Russia, claiming the boy who was seven at the time had violent episodes. But Russia still remains a popular choice for couples looking to adopt. These are photos of children and their new American families. The Christian services adoption agency says if the ban is implemented, hospitals in Russia will be overwhelmed with orphan children. GALINA SIGAYEVA, CHRISTIAN SERVICES ADOPTION AGENCY (through translator): I think it is very sad. It is no secret that most children are adopted by people in the United States. Children who otherwise remain here, I can't imagine who would take them. I think it would lead to systemic crisis.

SYLVESTER: But politics aside, it is hard to capture the emotions for hundreds of U.S. families seeking adoptions and the children who have already met their prospective parents.

ALLEN: They start to dream. They dream of a family. They dream of a home. They dream of a mom and a dad, a brother and sister, and -- and then, I can't even imagine -- I can't even imagine telling a child that they need to stop that dream. You know? They need to wake up from that dream because it may not happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Russia has more than 650,000 children in orphanages. And for the American parents who are in the middle of this adoption process well this is creating a lot of angst. This is creating a lot of heartbreak. Everything is in limbo right now.

CROWLEY: Is this a sense that it is limbo, and not permanent, but every day is agony for these families and these children?

SYLVESTER: Well, right now, actually as of Tuesday, this ban is going to be in place. What does it mean? Is it possible they will lift it six months from now, as they did in 1999, I mean, anything is possible. But you know, keep in mind, Candy, a lot of these children who are actually - they have started the process, they have met their American families. And the American families, they have rooms, bedrooms waiting for them, you know. And so, everything is essentially on hold. I mean, the lives of the children here. The lives of the people here.

CROWLEY: Touched on the kids who have been dreaming about this. Thanks so much.

SYLVESTER: Absolutely, Candy.

CROWLEY: Lisa Sylvester, appreciate it.

Unforgettable headlines from Hollywood and beyond. The closer look at the top ten showbiz stories of 2012 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: 2012 has been a year of surprises, some good and some not in the world of showbiz.

CNN entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner has a run down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NISCHELLE TURNER, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT CORRESPONDENT: Catchy dance tunes, celebrity break-ups, and the tragic death of a singing icon, just a few of the topics that had people talking in the world of show business. Here is a look at top 10 entertainment top stories from 2012.

The song was almost inescapable. Carly Ray Jepsen's viral sensation, "call me maybe." It earned the young singer two Grammy nominations and countless re-enactments on line, like this video posted by the U.S. Olympic swim team.

The force is now strong with Disney. In a move that caught many by surprise, the star wars franchise's fiercely independent creator, George Lucas, sold his company, Lucas film to the entertainment empire for more than $4 billion. What is more? Disney announced the plans for three more star wars films.

It is the superstar relationship that has people asking are they or aren't they? Chris Brown who beat his then girlfriend Rihanna in 2009 said in October that he is renewed his friendship with the singer. But is it more than just friends? Song collaborations and baked tweets from Rihanna suggested otherwise.

JEN GARCIA, SENIOR WRITER, PEOPLE: They want to keep everyone guessing and they don't want to explain what is going on with the relationship to anyone in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: The Jackson, the family drama turning in one big reality show.

TURNER: More turmoil for the Jackson family last summer as Michael Jackson's teenager daughter, Paris, announced on twitter that her grandmother and guardian, Katherine Jackson, was missing, forcing a judge to suspend her guardianship of Michael's three kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Katherine Jackson, she is back home. She says she was not kidnapped.

TURNER: Michael's siblings disputed the claim, saying the mother was resting in Arizona under doctor's orders. A judge later restored Katherine as permanent guardian of Michael's children.

Whether it was a pleasure or a guilty pleasure, audiences couldn't turn away from TLC's hit reality show, "here comes honey boo boo," about a child, beauty pageant contestant and her family.

Rapper Psy was from a relatively unknown performer to a worldwide phenomenon after his catchy dance tune "Gangnam style" hit the web. The music video featuring the South Korean star song and trademark dance shattered records on line, becoming the number one watched video on you tube, with more than 970 million views.

But Psy's new found fame was not without controversy. His difficult anti--American remarks he made during a performance in 2004 resurfaced on line. He apologized saying his lyrics were emotionally charged and resulted from events in the war with Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: New sexual misconduct accusations against the former voice of Elmo.

TURNER: In one of the most surprising stories of the year, Elmo puppeteer, Kevin Clash, was forced to resign from Sesame Street, after being accused of engaging in sexual relationships with minors. His lawyers say the cases are without merit. But Clash still opted to leave Sesame Street after 28 years.

Twilight stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson had been one of the hottest celebrity couple, until the highly publicized fling between the actress and the man who directed her in "Snow White and the Huntsman" rocked Hollywood.

GARCIA: Kristen Stewart moved out of the home they shared together. She released a very public statement asking Robert for forgiveness.

TURNER: Pattinson apparently did forgive, just in time for the premier of the "Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn part II" in November.

CROWLEY: Celebrity splits sending shockwaves to the entertainment world.

TURNER: After nearly six years of marriage, Katie Holmes filed for divorce from tom cruise in June, blindsiding Hollywood's biggest movie star.

GARCIA: What was so incredible was how Katie Holmes had everything to so well prepared.

TURNER: Although Holmes asked for full custody of their daughter, Suri, the couple eventually settled amicably on the divorce, just two weeks later ending one of the most high profile celebrity marriages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN, breaking news of Whitney Houston's death.

TURNER: It was a tragic end to an iconic singer's successful, but often troubled career. Whitney Houston who battled with drugs and alcohol for decades, died February 11 at a hotel bathtub at the age of 48, the night before the Grammy awards. Houston's death was an accidental drowning with cocaine and heart disease as contributing factors.

Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Don't miss our top ten of 2012 special. CNN revisits the big stories of the year in prime, politics, money and scandals.

That is CNN Monday night, 8:00 eastern.

America's debt is enormous and growing, but one man thinks he can make it dense by crushing cans, his story ahead.

And Mitt Romney may have lost the election, but he was at the center of some of the top political stories of the year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Many Americans, well make that most Americans are fed up with watching politicians fight while the U.S. gets closer to the fiscal cliff, and federal debt keeps rising.

Some people, very few, are taking matters into their own hands by reaching into their own pockets.

CNN's Kyung Lah talks to one man trying to make a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

ATANACIO GARCIA, CAN COLLECTOR: A little bit over $3,000.

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

ATANACIO GARCIA: We're paying absolutely too much interest. Too much interest.

LAH: It really bothers you?

ATANACIO GARCIA: It bothers me because it makes no sense.

LAH: Sense is something Garcia's wife of 59 years thinks her husband could use. Do you think he is crazy?

Call him crazy. But there is an entire federal office, the bureau of public debt that collects money from hundreds of Mr. Garcia's. This office in Parkersburg, West Virginia, was set up by President Kennedy so citizens could pay down the national debt. This year alone, it has collected $7.7 million in gifts, about 90 million since it was established.

But $90 million is not that much, especially when you consider the federal deficit is $16 trillion and climbing. To retire the debt, every single American would have to pay $50,000. But Garcia says you got to start somewhere. Especially when Washington won't.

The partisan bickering has bothered him since 1992, that's when Garcia first wrote his congressman, suggesting a formula to eliminate the debt. The depression-era kid and army vet says he wants to give back to a country that has given him so much, a sense of duty that is I infectious.

His daughter is now collecting cans at work. His grandson drives Garcia to friends' houses just to collect more cans. Garcia knows that his monthly money orders wouldn't avert the fiscal cliff. But as the priest said, that is not the message Garcia is sending to congress.

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

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

Kyung Lah, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: You have to love that story. And a lot of us lived this one, the wild ride to Election Day, 2012.

CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta has a top 10 campaign stories of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The year started off with a surprise in a sweater vest. Counting down the top campaign stories of the year at number ten, the primaries. Rick Santorum's stunning performance in the Iowa caucuses.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Game on.

ACOSTA: Kicked off a battle for the Republican nomination that few in Washington had expected. The GOP's odds on favorite, Mitt Romney, stumbled in some of the early contests.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.

ACOSTA: He refused to release his tax returns, allowing another rival, Newt Gingrich, to take South Carolina.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We proved here in South Carolina, that people power with the right ideas beats big money.

ACOSTA: But that big money eventually cleared the field. And Romney set his sights on the president.

ROMNEY: It is still about the economy. And we are not stupid.

ACOSTA: At number nine, Bain. Not that one. That one. Almost as soon as Romney had locked up the nomination, his former private investment firm, Bain capital, was savage by Democratic super PACs, and the Obama campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sucked the life out of us.

ACOSTA: The attack ads put Romney on the defense for months.

ROMNEY: There is nothing wrong with being associated with Bain capital, of course.

ACOSTA: The president also got a lift from the Supreme Court which at number eight, upheld as a battled healthcare law. So, Romney vowed to strike it down himself.

ROMNEY: I am that one that is going to get rid of Obama care.

ACOSTA: At number seven, gas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Governor Romney, do you feel the gas over shadowed the foreign trip?

ACOSTA: The candidate's verbal missteps often dominated the news cycle.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The private sector is doing fine.

ACOSTA: Or in Romney's case, the entire foreign trip, where a campaign aide lashed out at reporters, a gap that went global.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a holy site.

ACOSTA: Then at number six, the conventions were remembered less for the nominees and their running mates, and more for.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him that. He can't do that to himself.

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA: The warm up acts that stole the show.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe that we're all in this together, is a far better philosophy than you are on your own.

ACOSTA: At number five, the September 11th attack in Benghazi injected foreign policy into the race.

OBAMA: Justice will be done.

ACOSTA: But a week later, the campaign shifted again to a hidden camera video of Romney's comment on the 47 percent, an instant Obama attack ad. And number four among the year's biggest moments.

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him.

ACOSTA: The GOP contender need a breakout moment and got one at number three.

ROMNEY: Yes, I love big bird, I actually like you, too.

ACOSTA: The debates and President Obama's lackluster performance in the first face-off put Romney back in the hunt. The president would have to redeem himself, and polls show he did. OBAMA: I said if I got Osama bin Laden in our sights, I would take that shot.

ACOSTA: But at number two came the mother of October surprises, Sandy. The devastating super storm sandy put much of the nation's focus on the president's handling of the crisis, and the high marks he received from a top Romney surrogate, New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

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

ACOSTA: Polls showed the race moving to the president, who won handily.

ROMNEY: This election is over but our principles endure.

ACOSTA: The size blindsided the Romney campaign.

OBAMA: The tasks of protecting our union moves forward.

ACOSTA: Making election night no surprise, the biggest campaign story of the year.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The actor, Matt Damon is opening up about his legacy, a campaign to quench the thirst of children around the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: The holiday season is known as a time of giving, so it is a good time to focus on people who are giving back to their communities. That includes some a-list celebrities who are dedicated to charitable work throughout the year.

CNN's Alina Cho talked to actor Matt Damon about his campaign to provide clean water for people around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT DAMON, ACTOR: It is very hard for us to understand, you wake up in the morning. If you're thirsty, there is a faucet right there. There is one in the bathroom, there is one in the kitchen, and clean water comes out of all of them.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But for nearly a billion people around the world, a billion, there is no affordable access to clean water. More than double that number lack proper sanitation.

DAMON: Every 20 seconds, a kid under the age of five is dying, losing their life because they don't have access to clean water. And it just doesn't have to be that way.

CHO: So in 2009, Damon and world renowned water expert, Gary White, founded water.ord.

GARY WHITE, CO-FOUNDER, WATER.ORG: We're approaching it differently than other organizations.

CHO: Their mantra, wells are great, but charity can't help everyone. So they pioneered a concept.

WHITE: So, we knew that women in India were going and paying 125 percent interest to loan sharks so they can build a toilet. So we said let's micro-finance and lay it in here and give people access to affordable loans to buy the toilet so they can get that water connection.

CHO: Depending on where you are, that could mean a faucet in your own home, or a toilet with clean running water. Water credit is working. White says loans are being repaid at a rate of 98 percent in places like Haiti.

DAMON: And that was my first grass runway.

CHO: What Damon and White are trying to eliminate is walking to get water, taking time away from work or school. The water is there?

DAMON: Yes, all that time that you are wasting going and standing in the line, you now have to go to your job. It is the difference between hope and looking forward to a better day. And an existence that just basically is about -- you know, scavenging for water.

CHO: But how do you get people in the western world where water is plentiful, to care?

DAMON: You know, we have talked about different ways to do that, maybe involving humor.

CHO: Take Ben Stiller, he gets attention for his foundation, stiller strong, by producing hilarious videos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matt Damon, he claimed water. How you got water?

CHO: Consider this, Damon talks about water on you tube? 4,000 hits. This video with Sarah Silverman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is that knocking at my door?

CHO: Viral, Damon said his strong suit is getting people to care.

DAMON: Because there is a lot of low hanging fruit, so to speak. There are so many people we can help.

CHO: Do you see a solution in your lifetime? DAMON: Yes, we do. In fact, that is why we're here.

CHO: Water.org has helped a million people so far. But as Damon said, there is still another 80 million people to go. Nonetheless, he says it is a start and a good one. He believes that this whole idea of water credit, meaning giving people affordable loans in places where getting water is a challenge is really working. And he believes it has the potential to reach up to 100 million people by 2020.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: For more on Matt Damon's efforts to provide clean water to people around the world and how you can help, go to CNN.com/impact.

And a small town newspaper sparked anger regarding publishing addresses of handgun owners, and it is perfectly legal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: The nationwide debate over gun violence and gun rights took a new urgency after the school massacres in Newtown, Connecticut and a Christmas eve of firefighters in upstate New York. But the debate turned to outrage for thousands of hand gun permit owners north of New York City when a newspaper published their names and addresses for an article called "the gun owner next door."

CNN's Brian Todd is here with more details. Really interesting story.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really interesting, Candy. And it was really the interactive map which accompanied that article has drawn such controversy here. With just a couple of clicks, you can see who in two large counties may have guns in their homes. And you can figure out when may not.

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TODD (voice-over): It is a local suburban newspaper outside New York City with a large circulation. Its editor says the Newtown, Connecticut shooting and the issue of gun control are foremost in the minds of this readers. So, the journal news did something extraordinary publishing, on interactive map, information on where all handgun permit owners in the New York counties of Westchester and Rockland live.

On the journal news Web site, all you have to do is zoom into a neighborhood and the locations of any gun permit holders will show up with red dots. Tap one of those dots, and the name and the address of the permit holder pop up.

The newspaper got the data by filing freedom of information requests with clerks of those counties. The exact types of handguns in those homes, is not on the map. The maps don't indicate whether the residents actually own the guns just that they are legally able to. And homes are shot guns and rifles are not included because in those counties those can be bought without permits. But the move has brought serious backlash against the journal news.

Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America, voiced the same complaint was made by some readers.

LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: I think it was an irresponsible thing for them the to do. They were telling burglars, go to the house next door. They are not like to have a gun because they don't have a permit which is required to buy a handgun in New York state.

TODD: Or, he says, thieves who want to steal the guns will know where to get them. At this gun store in Virginia which the manager didn't want to be identified, I spoke to a gun owner.

Would you be less likely to buy a handgun or any kind of weapon knowing your name and address could be published?

MARK PULVER, GUN OWNER: No.

TODD: Why not?

PULVER: If it's a matter of public record, anybody can find out anyway.

TODD: The newspaper also has considerable support for the maps. In a tweet to CNN, a resident of Westchester county said parents have a right to know. And another tweet, please thank them for me, this could be a turning point. I do not want my daughter playing in a house with guns.

Privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg said this.

MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: Well, for the news organization, I think it's a very clever use of public information. Certainly provides something that people are interested in knowing. But for gun owners of course, it's a concern, because information they thought would be kept private has now been made public.

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TODD: The editors and the publisher of the journal news declined our repeated request for an o-camera interview. But, in two separate statements it was said quote "our readers are understandably and keenly interested to know about who owns guns in their neighborhoods. We felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the after math of the Newtown shootings."

CROWLEY: But in some ways this has sort of flipped on the newspaper.

TODD: It has, part of the brush back on this is that an attorney has posted on his blog, information that includes the home addresses, the phone numbers and in some cases, Google zoom maps and some cases pictures of the home of the editor of the newspaper, the reporter who wrote that article and the visual editor of that newspaper, now their home information is out there for all to see. So they are getting considerable blow back as well.

CROWLEY: Isn't the concern, I mean, it is not that you and I can go out and finds a gun owner here. But the bad guys could go on say, there's a gun here we can steal or hey, this home next door doesn't have a gun.

TODD: That is right. It gives them every piece of information they would want to know about who has guns that they could steal, who doesn't, who they can rob, that is what Larry Pratt of the Gun Owner's Association is concerned about here. You know, we have to monitor this closely to see if there's a crime wave in that area that takes place as a result of this.

CROWLEY: The information is public. They can get it anyway. Seems like wow, it's made easy.

TODD: Easier and faster.

CROWLEY: Yes, as I say, so many issues in this. Freedom of the press and gun ownership and all of that. Thank you so much, Brian.

TODD: Sure.

CROWLEY: I appreciate it.

If you are a fan of the group Queen or maybe you like to watch bizarre video, stick around.

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CROWLEY: Police dash cams usually catch memorable moments, the next one is no different, here is one of the most popular Jeanne Moos reports of 2012.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What would we do without police dash cams showing us half naked speeders and even a bank robber eating the evidence, the give me the money note.

But this royal Canadian mounted police dash cam recorded something special.

A guy in Alberto was pulled over in a pick-up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not see when he gapped me and I have is -- but it doesn't even matter.

MOOS: Maybe he could not speak so well, but he sang all of the bohemian rhapsody by Queen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mama just killed a man. Put a gun against his head pulled my trigger and now he is dead.

MOOS: He sang the lyrics flawlessly for six minutes even after arriving at the station house the Mounty let him to finish the song. The mounty only admonished him once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calm down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't.

MOOS: A lot of people can't stop singing the song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see a little silhouette of the man very, very, very frightening --

MOOS: Parts of the dash cam solo were frightening.

You have to give the guy credit, even Beyonce messed up the lyrics and she was stoned cold sober at a concert.

Actually, put a gun his head, not a bullet.

Authorities have charged Robert Wilkinson with drunk driving. He is an unemployed home brewer. Wilkinson told the smoking gun that he is the one that let the dash cam go on you tube.

Our police cruiser did improvised just once at the very end of the song. Ad he did it in witty way. Instead of singing nothing really matters. He sang --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing really matters even the RCMP.

MOOS: With that, he put on his glasses and awaited his removal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have to cuff me? Physical violence is the least of my priorities.

MOOS: His priority is rhapsodizing like a bohemian.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley in the SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.