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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Calling In The Closers; Senate Stuck On Cliff; Clinton Doctors Discover Blood Clot; Another Cliff: Milk Prices Could Rise; Countdown To 2013; "Fish Oil Helped Save Our Son"; Top 2012 Google Searches

Aired December 31, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Millions of Americans counting down to a brand new year of stifling tax hikes and spending cuts this morning. In less than 17 hours, the U.S. free falls off the fiscal cliff and that could put us on a painful road, possibly -- not entirely likely -- but possibly toward a recession.

Yesterday, Democrats and Republicans turned to their so-called closers, here you go, Vice President John Biden and the Senate Minority Leader, the leading Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell to get a back room deal done.

Well, no word on any break through, but the Kentucky Republican, McConnell isn't waving the white flag yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I'm interested in getting a result here. We're willing to work with whoever can help. There is no single issue that remains an impossible sticking point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Now, according to the White House, there has always been and still is one big sticking point. That is raising taxes on the middle class. The president is already planning his next move if the two sides cannot carve out a compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pressure is on Congress to produce, if they don't, what I've said is that in the Senate we should go ahead and introduce legislation to make sure middle class taxes stay where they are and there should be an up-or- down vote. Everyone should have the right to vote on that. If Republicans don't like it, they should vote no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins us live from Washington. The House and the Senate reconvene, Brianna, in a few hours. Just for our viewers who don't know what this -- because this is kind of procedural.

There are two options here, one is that the Senate, McConnell and Reid, working with Biden, come up with a deal and they vote on it, and then maybe the House of Representatives gets that.

Or option B, which is what the president is talking about, you don't come to you a deal, you take the proposal the president had, and everybody gets to vote on it.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Everybody gets an up- or-down vote because in the Senate, the threshold for a vote is generally 60 at least for the, you know, procedural vote going into it, that was his point, an up-or-down vote.

As of right now, we're not hearing that, and it seems -- that would require the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to say, OK, well, let's it go for simple majority. It seems like that is sort of like rolling over and allowing the Senate Democrats to do whatever they want to do.

So as of right now, we're not hearing that. There are still discussions going on. We're hearing all kinds of different things, Ali, about whether or not we're going over the cliff. That there may be a deal by tonight. There may be a vote by tonight, or we're going over the cliff.

I think also some of the things that I'm hearing is that the deadline as some see it, may not actually be midnight tonight, that there is obviously room to kind of fudge this. It's not like the debt ceiling where the U.S. defaults.

This is something where if you go over the cliff, it builds even more pressure for Congress to do something. But of course, that is really not a whole lot of confidence for folks who feel like Congress just can't get their act together and pass something.

VELSHI: All right, we're going to stay on top of this with you, Brianna. Thanks very much. Joining us now is one of the people who will vote on that deal as it comes to Capitol Hill. Congressman Jason Chaffetz is a Republican from Utah and a member of the Oversight Committee.

Congressman, good to see you. Thank you very much for being with us. What do you think is happening today?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Good morning, happy New Year. Well, let's make sure we use your morning voices because we wouldn't want the Senate to get up too early. They are going to reconvene at 11:00. So let's be careful here.

The ball is in the Senate's court. I mean, the House of Representatives did its job. We passed a bill on August 1st. It extended out every one of the rates and if the president and Senate don't like it, it is their responsibility to make an amendment, make the change, have a vote and send it back over to us, but we have done our jobs. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think you are going to be voting on a bill today? And, reports this morning, Democrats are willing to raise the threshold for raising marginal tax rates to $450,000. McConnell holding out for $550,000 or higher. If you vote on a bill, would you vote on either one of those levels?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I don't know what's going on. I've clipped on my tie this morning. I'm reading to go to work. Let's get after it. I have no idea what the Senate is going to come up with. But they should be voting, they should have been voting back over the summer.

We had the excuse of the election, and there is no excuse to waiting until December 31st to do this. I'll consider anything they want to put out there. But I want actually to solve the problem, and that's what a lot of us are concerned about.

ROMANS: House Republicans want to solve the problem? A lot of folks would say it's House Republicans who would not agree to raising taxes on the very richest Americans in exchange for spending cuts. That's what caused the problem.

CHAFFETZ: Absolutely not. We passed out a bill to extent every single one of the rates. I was very supportive of Speaker Boehner's so-called Plan B. Now what happens under the current law is 100 percent of Americans get a tax increase.

I want to make sure we minimize that for as many possible Americans as we can. But remember, there is another part of this component, which is spending. If we don't get spending under control then you never ever solve this problem.

VELSHI: So here is the thing and we follow this very closely, obviously as you do. But some of our viewers don't and they are worried about what's going to go on and we're speaking to the entire world right now, going out to everybody in the world that gets CNN at the moment.

Here is what they don't understand. You said you were supportive of John Boehner's Plan B a week ago, which would have raised taxes on people earning above $1 million, only on that amount that was above $1 million. But there are a whole bunch of your own colleagues that wouldn't let that pass, 50 Republicans wouldn't vote for that. So how is that somebody else's problem?

CHAFFETZ: Well, remember the Democrats can't have it both ways. One of the reasons many of my colleagues and I was frustrated as well, but many of my colleagues didn't want to vote on it is the moment that was brought up, Harry Reid said he wouldn't bring it up for consideration.

And the president said he would veto it. So the Democrats can't have it both ways. You can't criticize the speaker for not passing the bill at the same time saying the president would veto it.

So if you give us no wiggle room over here, it's probably not going to pass. But the reality is we did pass the bill. That bill passed on August 1st. It was done in a bipartisan way. I was done plenty of time in advance.

And now it is up for the Senate to actually act. That's the way it works. Remember that? I'm just a bill on Capitol Hill? We pass a bill over here, it goes to the Senate. They have to do their job. They went golfing last week, went on vacation and now they are not convening until 11:00.

ROMANS: I am not hearing anything new. Here is what's so maddening. I'm not hearing anything new. I'm hearing us fighting about the same --

VELSHI: A lot of it seems procedural at this point which seems annoying.

CHAFFETZ: Can't we be united? My guess is when Chris Van Hollen comes on next and myself. We are bipartisan over here in the House in saying the Senate has actually got to do their job. I have only been in Congress four years, OK? I voted against the things that created this mess.

I didn't create this mess, but the United States Senate has not passed a budget in four years. They have not even brought a single thing up for vote on this particular vote. Come on, the Senate has got to do their job. That's how it works around here.

VELSHI: All right, Congressman, good to see you. Thanks very much for joining us.

CHAFFETZ: Happy New Year.

VELSHI: We wish happy deliberations today and we are pleased to see you as well up good and early. You're right. The Senate is not getting together until 11:00, strikes me as a little bit late.

ROMANS: And the congressman says he wears a clip on tie. I get it. It's nice to see you.

VELSHI: I don't think he said he had a clip on tie. He put a clip on his tie.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, let's check some other stories now. Top stories, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in a New York City hospital being treated for a blood clot. Doctors discovered this during a follow-up exam for a concussion.

The State Department says Clinton suffered that concussion earlier this month. She had just been cleared to return to work when this happened. Clinton is going to spend New Year's in the hospital while doctors there assess her condition.

Also don't forget the dairy cliff. The price of milk could shoot up to $7 a gallon in the New Year. You heard that right, $7 that's because while lawmakers haven't acted on the agriculture bill, which includes a dairy subsidy for farmers that keeps the price at around the national average of about $3.65. That subsidy expires tomorrow. Hundreds of thousands of travelers are going to brave the bitter, subfreezing cold weather tonight to ring in the New Year in Times Square. Alina Cho is already there as preparations for the party and the security as well to kick into high gear.

Alina, good morning. What's it like around you there?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sanjay, as you know, we last talked about an hour ago. Since then, the sun has come up as you can see behind me, and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, that the weather has not improved one bit. It is still 30 degrees outside.

Feels like it's 25 so the number one tip if you are coming to Times Square tonight is dress warmly. If you take a look at my shoulder behind me, my left shoulder, you can see people already lining up. They are in for a long day and a long night. It will be frigidly cold tonight.

Let's talk a little bit about the security. To say that security will be tight is a big understatement. Some of it you will see, some of it you won't. But here is what I can tell you, according to the NYPD, thousands more police officers on the streets.

There will be sharpshooters on rooftops. There will be radiological scanners, explosive teams, firearms and tactics seams and of course, there will be surveillance cameras everywhere.

If you plan to come here tonight, Sanjay, know this. Do not carry a large bag, a backpack or alcohol. You will not be allowed inside the perimeter. Get here early. They start to close the streets around 1:00 p.m. Eastern. One million people are expected.

I think it's safe to say Times Square will be packed. It will be freezing cold and hopefully with all the securities, it will be safe.

GUPTA: I can't believe people are already lined up out there. That's the entire day. It's unbelievable. Alina, thank you. Stay warm yourself out there. I will be running tonight. I will do the Central Park run, yes, at midnight.

There's a run through Central Park at midnight. You should just be done talking about the fiscal cliff.

VELSHI: You don't have to be naked or in your underwear. I am not running in Central Park naked.

ROMANS: That will wipe the fiscal cliff out of your mind.

VELSHI: Wake up, America. That even grossed me out.

GUPTA: It's calm out there now, but it could be another wild night moving ahead. See it all right here on "CNN NEW YEAR'S EVE LIVE," with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. You never know what's going to happen.

ROMANS: Ali could be running in the background. GUPTA: Give Kathy a run for her money.

VELSHI: She's not the only one that can strip on New Year's Eve.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, a common food that many use to help heart problems, fish oil. It may have health benefits that can reverse brain damage too, two incredible stories on that next.

VELSHI: And here is a New Year's resolution from you for Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My New Year's message to Washington is that this entire fiscal cliff problem isn't an isolated incident. It's representative of how partisanship and polarization have taken over Congress. I'm 18 and I go to college in D.C. I used to be excited for the future, but I don't want to live in a country that doesn't have a successful working legislature. Congress, remember your purpose and get back to doing your job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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GUPTA: I'll tell you about an incredible use for fish oil. The extent to which even surprised me. You know, every year, about 1.7 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries. I see it every day in my line of work.

In severe cases, I can tell you there is no drug. There is no pill. There is really no intervention that can truly help once that damage has set in. What are you about to see, though, is two dramatic cases of crippling brain damage that may have, in fact, been reversed by Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil.

The first case, Bobby Gacimia, a 17-year-old who is in a horrible car accident when his car was overturned, he was discovered almost dead. We pick up the story at the hospital, right after that accident.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): This was the scene when his parents finally arrived to Bobby's bedside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You realize that he could be going any time.

GUPTA: There had been so much bleeding within the brain. His skull could not contain the swelling. Every part of his brain was affected, but Peter and Marjon Gacini shrugged off the horror of their situation to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the whole time that he was in a coma, you fight your way and you come back to us.

GUPTA: Little did they know that that fight would link them to the sole survivor of an infamous mining disaster.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Tonight, 13 coal miners trapped nearly 2 miles inside a West Virginia mine.

GUPTA: A few years before Bobby's car barrelled off that road, 13 miners huddled together after explosion, as deadly carbon monoxide crept into the space around them. Forty one hours later --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only confirmed survivor is Randall L. McCloy Jr.

GUPTA: Dr. Julian Bailes was Randy McCloy's neurosurgeon.

DR. JULIAN BAILES, CO-DIRECTOR, NORTHSHORE NEUROLOGICAL INSTITUTE: He had a massive heart attack from carbon monoxide and methane poisoning. He was in liver failure, kidney failure, had a collapsed lung.

GUPTA: McCloy's body somehow recovered. The question was, could his brain do the same?

(on camera): Could you quantify that someone like Randal McCloy would recover and have a meaningful neurological recovery?

BAILES: We felt and I think everything since then supports the fact that it was truly a long shot.

GUPTA (voice-over): But Bailes was concocting an unorthodox plan to try and save Randy McCloy's brain, high doses of Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil.

BAILES: So the concept was then trying to rebuild his brain with what it was made from when he was in his mother's womb.

GUPTA (on camera): Rebuild his brain.

BAILES: Yes, we gave him a very high unprecedented dose to make sure we saturated then got high levels in the brain.

GUPTA: Had that ever been done before to your knowledge?

BAILES: No, it did not.

GUPTA (voice-over): Bailes was going out on a limb, but he had a hunch. In other studies, Omega 3 seemed to restore balance in the brain, helping some with patients with depression or suicidal thoughts. Could an injured brain be similarly restored and if so, how?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have a brick wall and it gets damaged, wouldn't you want to use bricks to repair the wall? And Omega 3 fatty acids are literally the bricks of the cell wall in the brain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Wow. That's fascinating. So giving them the building blocks, the fatty acids, may be -- after an injury, replacing something that's missing.

GUPTA: You know, that's exactly right. What's surprising I think is that very few substances can do that. You are talking about something that can get into the brain. It's hard to get across the blood/brain barrier.

Two is that those building blocks and it's also a very potent anti- inflammatory, this thing -- inflammation can be a big problem after these brain injuries. I mean, those are striking stories. Those people were not expected to recover.

VELSHI: Sounds like a miracle. How widely is this used and why is it not used more widely?

GUPTA: You are hearing about it at the nascent stages. That 17-year- old walked at graduation. His parents thought he was dead. He walked to graduation a few months later. It's remarkable.

ROMANS: It sounds so simple, fish oil.

GUPTA: That sometimes gets in the way because things that are simple, people think it can't be that easy, but it possibly could be. More studies are needed.

ROMANS: Really interesting.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, what were the top Internet searches and videos of 2012? You might be surprised by Google's top five. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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GUPTA: Here's a question for you. What did you Google this past year? Probably a lot, Google is revealing its top trends of 2012, analyzing 1.2 trillion searches in 146 languages. Two top events of the year, the election and Superstorm Sandy, they're in the top five.

But some others may be less predictable to you. And we've also got the most watched videos of the year, including the first ever video to pass the 1 billion mark. Kevin Allocca is the trends manager at YouTube, where he tracks popular video phenomena and gets to watch a lot of YouTube videos for a living. Thanks for joining us.

KEVIN ALLOCCA, TRENDS MANAGER, YOUTUBE: Thanks for having me.

GUPTA: Some of these are a little surprising to people. First of all, with regard to Google searches, those are U.S.-based searches.

ALLOCCA: Right. We analyzed 1 trillion searches from all over the world, and we made 800 different lists of interesting things. The ones we're going to talk about today are the ones from the United States.

GUPTA: So let's talk about them. This is what you do for a living. What are some of the things that may have surprised you?

ALLOCCA: Well, I think when we're talking about searches. Whitney Houston was number one for us in the United States.

GUPTA: We have a list of all of them.

ALLOCCA: When you look across all of them, people is such an important thing for us. We're very curious about all these interesting stories of all these people of the Whitney Houston story. So many people had such a connection to her, that one took the top for that reason.

Also on the list of searches, Jeremy Lin was number five for us. The Linsanity, you'll remember that from earlier in the year. He was the biggest athlete search of the year.

And the two big events for Google searches, we had the election. That was a big thing. People are looking for information about the candidates and you also had Superstorm Sandy, people looking for information about the storm and the aftermath.

GUPTA: In those cases, a little bit of a public service, at least with the storm. That's interesting. Imagine something like what happened with Whitney Houston, a very intense search for a period of time, and then it tapers off. Are there certain categories of search that are just more popular overall?

ALLOCCA: I definitely think people and celebrities are always very, very popular searches, sports and athletes. There are other searches that are sort of consistent throughout the year, but the ones that spike like this are these very compelling stories.

GUPTA: Let's talk about some of the videos. It's interesting because I do this all the time now as well. And I have young children, so they're doing it more and more. A couple of them -- I think a couple of people saw themselves. We're going to talk about ones that passed the 1 billion mark, but "Call Me Maybe." What do you attribute that phenom to?

ALLOCCA: That was really interesting to watch it play out. It was the song of the spring, the summer, the fall. What kicked is of is you have this video where Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez made their homemade video for the song. It kicked off hundreds of thousands of homemade music videos. Athletes making them, random fans making them, and it created an entire cultural phenomenon around it.

GUPTA: You've got a video that passed the billion mark --

ALLOCCA: That's right.

GUPTA: We're talking about "Gangnam Style." Again, I've seen it several times. What does that mean for YouTube overall? When you start to talk about these sorts of numbers, talk about the presence in terms of YouTube's overall history and trajectory.

ALLOCCA: I mean, so we've never had a video cross the 1 billion mark, and it's interesting this video did it. One of the things that people don't realize about YouTube is it's a global platform. People are watching YouTube videos all over the world, 70 percent of our views come from outside the United States.

And this was a song that was literally a global phenomenon. It came to us from Korea, spread through Europe, the United States, and South America. I've seen videos from people all over the world doing the dance and things like that.

It really created something that was at a global scale. I think that is one of the things that is happening on YouTube. We're seeing that more and more over time.

GUPTA: Again, we're talking about international. How's the fiscal cliff doing in terms of Internet searches?

ALLOCCA: There are not as many compelling videos about the fiscal cliff.

GUPTA: All right, Kevin Allocca, happy New Year.

ALLOCCA: Thank you. Happy New Year to you.

VELSHI: That's how we become famous. We make a compelling fiscal cliff video, Gangnam style.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, a health scare for Hillary Clinton. The Secretary of State is in the hospital this morning. She is being treated for a blood clot, the latest on her condition in a moment.

VELSHI: And 16 hours and counting until the fiscal cliff free fall, can our elected officials possibly get something done? We're going to ask Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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