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Wall Street's Record Year; New Year's Celebrations; Syria Missing Chemical Weapons Deadline; Wait, That's Illegal Now?

Aired December 31, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Goodbye to 2013, the year you will still write on checks accidentally until March, if you still write checks.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The money lead. On Wall Street, they are partying like it's 1997. Stocks are finishing 2013 with the best numbers in more than 15 years. Will the party last into 2014 or are we in for one mother of a hangover?

The world lead. What a way to begin the new year. It's already 2014 in that sea of ice where 74 people are marooned on a ship. We will ask one of them live whether his resolution involves staying on dry land.

Also in world news, in Dubai, nothing succeeds like excess. The best place to watch the New Year's fireworks there is anywhere, the city going for a record with an almost absurd amount of pyrotechnics.

Good afternoon, everyone. And happy new year. We will begin with the money lead on THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper.

The final closing bell of 2013 at the New York Stock Exchange just moments ago, the Dow squeezing in yet another record high before the ball drops. This year, unlike many in recent memory, is one that Wall Street may be reluctant to let go because of headlines like this.


TAPPER: Traders are having one heck of a happy hour after the Dow closed at a new all-time high.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been awhile since we have hit a new milestone like this.

TAPPER: Another banner day for your portfolio on Wall Street.

They're surging into record territory for a second day.

The Dow rose above the 16000 mark for the first time ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We haven't seen levels like that for 13 years.


TAPPER: The market kept setting and then breaking records throughout the year. In all, the Dow closed at a new high I think 52 times in 2013.

Our own Alison Kosik is standing by at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, this will be a year to remember on Wall Street.


How fitting a champagne company rang the closing bell today. It will be remembered this year for the sheer number of records that the Dow hit. Count them, 52 just this year. That includes today, so, yes, the Dow wrapping up the year at the highest level for the average. A year ago today, just think of it, we were on the verge of falling off the fiscal cliff. Who could have seen this rally coming?

The Dow's up 26 percent for the year. The Nasdaq's up 38 percent. Been a great year for tech stocks. The S&P 500, which is what most of our retirement and mutual funds track, that's up 29 percent. In a typical year, just for some perspective, you're looking at a gain closer to 8 percent. It's pretty safe to say that your 401(k) is looking pretty darned good at this point, even, Jake, even if this isn't what we would see in a -- quote -- "normal year" -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alison Kosik, thank you. And happy new year.

KOSIK: Happy new year.

TAPPER: After a year when the market kept topping itself week after week, will the momentum carry through into 2014 or could it take years before we see these kinds of gains again?

I want to bring in Roben Farzad, contributing editor of "Bloomberg Businessweek."

Roben, good to see you.

What factors in your mind combined to make this such an astounding year, such a record-breaker?


The Federal Reserve for five years now has kept interest rates at zero and Ben Bernanke, got to tip your champagne glass to him tonight, he's followed that on with $3.5 trillion of conjuring up money out of thin air to buy bonds, to buy mortgage securities, and, of course, that's going to trickle down to the stock market.

TAPPER: Nearly 11 million people are still unemployed. That doesn't even count those who are underemployed, searching for work, who have given up looking. How come this isn't resulting in the millions of new jobs that one would have thought, perhaps?

FARZAD: Yes, you compare this to the Clinton bull market of the late '90s, where, actually, Bill Clinton and Al Gore and Robert Rubin and his other -- the treasury secretaries would come out and run victory laps about this because you had an investor class that was truly participating in the roaring bull market of the 1990s, and unemployment was at or around 5 percent, the natural level of unemployment.

How long has it been since we heard that term? But right now, it's very much a tale of two worlds. Wall Street is loving life. Corporations can borrow for next to nothing. And yet unemployment remains stubbornly high and it doesn't even fully account for the tons of people, the underemployed people, all of the 20-somethings living at home with mom and dad, all of the 40-, 50-somethings who are working under their means just to have a foot in the door, just to be able to say that they are nominally employed.

So it will be curious to see in 2014 if some of the enthusiasm from corporate America spills over into the payroll situations.

TAPPER: Roben, are you worried at all about a bubble? Where do you think this is going to go in 2014?

FARZAD: Well, we are handing over the Federal Reserve from Ben Bernanke now to Janet Yellen, and we have had instances in the past where the Fed has had to go back on its word.

If you look at 1994, and they had to come in and hike rates coming out of that -- the Gulf War recession of the early 1990s. If something like that happens again, I think everybody is now so complacent about money costing nothing and interest rates costing -- interest rates being at near zero and mortgages being so cheap that if the Fed comes out and says, actually, guys, wait a minute, we have to slam the brakes a tad, that could cause a crash-type situation.

But for the first time in 13 years, a ton of money is actually sluicing into the markets. And we haven't seen that for most of the five years of this bull market.

TAPPER: All right, Roben Farzad, thank you so much.

FARZAD: Happy new year.


TAPPER: To you as well.

Turning to the national lead, fewer than eight hours left in 2013 here on the East Coast, where the crowd at Times Square is already gathering with their party hats and hidden flasks to stake out spots for the ball drop.

But when it comes to spectacle, truly, nobody does overkill like Dubai. When the new year dawned there an hour ago, Dubai went for a new world record for biggest fireworks display, more than 400,000 fireworks set off across 59 miles. Kuwait held the record last year with a now meager sounding 77,000 fireworks.

But, big deal, Dubai. Only in America will you see Miley Cyrus opening up for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who will push the button to drop the ball tonight in Times Square. There is some kind of master's thesis on feminism to be written right there. Get on it, Jezebel.

Our own Margaret Conley is standing live in Times Square.

Margaret, the crowd has been gathering there all day. How cold is it out there?

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it is freezing here. There were snow flurries earlier.

There is also a very strong security presence. You can see a lot of NYPD here. They have been here all morning. They have started to close down the blocks to Times Square. And you have to check the subway access to see what still might be open if you're still going to try to make your way down here.

They are checking for large bags. They do not want large bags or packages in Times Square. You can see the police searching everyone as they come in, in certain entryways, and, also, no -- alcohol is prohibited.

But there are still lots of people here. A lot of people have been here since very early this morning.

We have Grace right here from Connecticut. She got here on the late side. She got here around noon.

But, Grace, what are you here to see today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miley Cyrus, of course. She's the big one we came to see. But it will be interesting to see her performance and everything.

CONLEY: How about New Year's resolutions? Do you have any?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. Work out, I guess, normal as everyone else, but...

CONLEY: How about New Year's resolutions for Miley Cyrus? You have any for her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It will be interesting to see what she does next year, because it was an interesting year this year. But I don't know. Just keep it going, I guess for her, but, yes.


Jake, as you said, Sonia Sotomayor, she will be the first Supreme Court justice to press that button to have the ball drop. We will be following this until the countdown. TAPPER: All right, Margaret Conley in Times Square, thank you so much.

And don't forget, not like you could, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, well, they are back and things will likely get very awkward. You can watch it all on CNN's New Year's Eve live starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up on THE LEAD: After two rescue missions have failed, will the passengers stuck aboard that Russian expedition vessel in Antarctica finally be freed? We will talk to one of the stranded live from the ship next.

And, later, if you're 50 or over, 2014 could be your year. We will explain why on our buried lead.

And throughout the show today, we are remembering the big news we covered in 2013.

We begin with one story that I will never forget.


TAPPER: There were two suspects that have been apprehended in Watertown, Massachusetts, about four miles from the scene of the crime of the terrorist attacks here in Boston, Massachusetts.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The world lead now. They had been hoping for a good icebreaker for their New Year's Eve party , but now they will just settle for a helicopter ride; 74 people have been stranded since Christmas aboard a research ship that's stuck in 10 foot-thick-ice at the bottom of the world. Two icebreaker ships have suspended efforts to reach the boat. Now the passengers are anxiously awaiting rescue by chopper, if the weather allows it.

But the situation hasn't completely chilled their spirits. Check out these Vines of expedition leader Chris Turney and science correspondent for "The Guardian" Alok Jha, who are among those stuck on board trying to make the best of things.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the ice, but are all well. Happy Christmas from the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still here, stuck. Any passing ships, do pay us a visit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That ice is definitely cracking. Is it enough to get us out?



TAPPER: Alok Jha joins me now by phone from the ship.

Thank you so much.

How soon do you think it will be before you're rescued, sir?

ALOK JHA, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, they're hoping in the next few days, really.

The weather, I don't know if you can hear around me, is very windy. (INAUDIBLE) the ship and it's flapping about like crazy. The helicopter can't land anywhere near us, unfortunately, until the visibility and the clouds lift. So, we're all packed. We have been told that we may need to move at about a couple hours' notice. We're just waiting for that call over the P.A. and, well, fingers crossed, before the weekend.

TAPPER: Fingers crossed, indeed. Based on the Vines, you seem to be in high spirits despite your situation, but I imagine people are getting a little bit of cabin fever, maybe even getting a little anxious. How are you doing? How's morale?

JHA: Morale is very high.

It's one of these things where we're not in control of what's happening outside our ship. We have had some amazing assistance from the Australian and Chinese authorities. They have been trying very, very hard to get to us, and we're all very grateful for that.

They have not succeeded. And the chopper is now then our next option. But the things we can control are our mood and (INAUDIBLE) for each other. We have -- cabin fever hasn't quite set in. We have been allowed out on the ice regularly, so we can get outside and take a walk and see the ice floes up close, take pictures of penguins, build snowmen, all of that.

Every time we have heard the news that the icebreaker hasn't been able to get through, it's been slightly deflating, but the people on this ship are -- they have chosen to be here, so they know that things don't always work out. (INAUDIBLE) mood is (INAUDIBLE) make sure that darkness doesn't descend.

TAPPER: We have also heard some people there are doing yoga, practicing Spanish. How are you passing the time?

JHA: That's right.

Well, I'm mainly writing articles for "The Guardian." So, if my bosses are hearing this, I'm not doing any yoga or learning Spanish, although I would like to do both those things.


JHA: But, yes, there are many people on board this ship who have many, many different skills, and so they have been sharing all those things.

We have had (INAUDIBLE) lessons. We have had language classes. We have had film marathons (INAUDIBLE) tournaments. I have joined in where I can. Mainly, I have been writing and making videos with my colleague Laurence, who is also here from "The Guardian."

TAPPER: The researchers were there to measure the effects of climate change on Antarctica, the effects of icing. I guess there is some irony that you ended up stuck in the ice.

JHA: Well, yes, there's been some confusion (AUDIO GAP) this out there.

We're not stuck in ice that has just formed. It's not new sea ice. It's not because the temperature around here is cold. It's actually a little bit warmer than normal. It's raining outside, which is very rare for Antarctica.

What happened was that some -- there's a lot of old, old ice stuck to the land near where we were, near the Mertz Glacier. And because of a weather event, a storm, it blew off into the sea, and the only place it could go, because of the -- the wind system was towards the coast of Antarctica.

We happen to be between the old ice which is like 10 years old or more and the coast, and were penned in.

This is why the ice breakers can't get through. If it was sea ice, we could have got through ourselves. It's kind of an unfortunate confluence of events actually and it has nothing to do with the fact it's colder here. It's not proof that climate change doesn't exist. I mean, this is a very strange and unfortunate event, which actually the glaciologists onboard are studying quite intriguing because it's providing new data for their research.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I have to say, Alok, it seems a little scary. Any message for the folks back home before I let you go?

JHA: Well, the message back home, just that we're all very safe here. We're -- there's no imminent (INAUDIBLE). Seeing the videos (INAUDIBLE) and we sent a message out to the world saying happy New Year. Yes, our message to everyone would be to have a happy New Year. We had ours first. 2014's great. Come join us.

TAPPER: Alok Jha, thank you. Happy New Year. We hope you get home soon.

JHA: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Also in world news: Syria has avoided U.S. intervention in the war raging inside its borders by agreeing to a number of deadlines for disposing of chemical weapons. But today, it's missing one of those benchmarks. Syria was supposed to hand over a significant portion of its stockpile by today. That will not happen for a number of reasons, including bad weather, according to the organization overseeing the disarmament.

Meanwhile, weapons of the nonchemical variety continue to claim lives in Syria. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad fired a rocket in the rebel-held area of Aleppo, hitting a bus and killing at least 25 people.

And joining me now is David Kay, former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq. He's now a member of the State Department's International Security Advisory Board.

David, good to see you. Happy New Year.

The State Department recently said this about the missed deadline.


MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We continue to make progress, which has been the important part here. There are milestones for a reason. It was always an ambitious time line but we are still operating on the June 30th timeline for the complete destruction.


TAPPER: David, do you share the State Department's belief that Syria can still meet this June 30th deadline?

DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR IN IRAQ: It's a very aggressive deadline and there are a number of moving parts which as you introduce errands (ph), delays, will make it harder and harder. It's certainly in the realm of possibility, whereas the December 31st deadline, that is today, was never realistic.

TAPPER: Syria is, of course, missing today's deadline. Shouldn't there be some consequences for that? Don't you think the U.S. is giving Syria a free pass here?

KAY: Well, look, Jake, this deal involves giving Syria a free pass on a number of things. It's not unusual in diplomacy you have a number of goals are in competition. In this case, the decision was made. The primary objective was to get those weapons out of Syria. We have ignored a lot of Syrian attacks, military operations, since then.

In fact, just during the last three weeks, Syria has carried out military operations which they have justified by saying they're clearing the highway that these chemical weapons have to move down to the port of (INAUDIBLE). Yes, there's a pass here.

TAPPER: Yes, let's talk about that, because just since December 15th, Syrian forces have killed more than 500 people, mostly by dropping these explosive-filled barrels on rebels, in areas where rebels live. Scores of civilians killed.

Remind us why the U.S. isn't interfering with that kind of weapons use, what many call genocide, but is getting involved for chemical weapons.

KAY: Well, the reason you got involved with chemical weapons was a combination of politics and morals, I guess. Politics was the president had said there was a red line. Cross that red line and dire consequences are going to occur.

Most of those dire consequences looked as bad for us as they did for the Syrians, so the secretary of state negotiated this deal, which involves destroying those chemical weapons. We became a partner with Assad in order to get those weapons out. And so the previous priority, that is to stop the killing and to remove Assad, took a very secondary role, at least until those weapons are out.

TAPPER: David, this is a tough question, but in a way, is the United States government now complicit in the death and destruction being wreaked on these neighborhoods, these rebel neighborhoods, by being in this partnership with Assad and really not doing anything when it comes to killing people with these nonchemical weapons?

KAY: Well, I think that's probably too strong of an assessment. I think it was inevitable when this deal was reached that there are some things Assad can do that you will simply have to ignore until those weapons are removed. Like I say, diplomacy and international relations, this is not unheard of. It's very unpleasant to do it and it does compromise certain values.

It's not just the U.S. that's been largely silent. Other states have been silent and the U.N. itself has toned down its criticism on humanitarian grounds of the Assad regime. Without his cooperation, there is no hope of getting these weapons out. If you still think it's important to get those weapons out, you're going to have to swallow hard, hold your nose and to a large extent, close your eyes until that's accomplished.

TAPPER: Very uncomfortable.

David Kay, thank you so much.

KAY: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: New Year, new rules. As of tomorrow, you may be able to blaze up in Colorado, but there's a surprising list of things you now cannot do. We'll tell you what might make you a criminal come January 1st.

And later, they left their mark and in some cases, their music. We remember when we come back.


TAPPER: President Jacob Zuma announcing the death of former South African president and much more than that, the man who fought for freedom in South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who died at 95.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

I'm Jake Tapper. In more national news, it may have been the least productive year for Congress in history, at least in terms of passing laws -- fewer than 60 of which made it through the House and the Senate and were signed by President Obama.

But across the country, state lawmakers were busy, getting more than 40,000 bills passed, ones that tackle everything from drones to food stamp benefits.

In Illinois, for example, teenagers will no longer get to use tanning beds without a doctor's note.

If you live in Delaware, you might want to hit up the shark fin buffet while you can. A new law will make it illegal to own, sale or distribute the controversial delicacy.

In California, new laws take effect that lets students take part in school sports or use bathrooms based on their gender identity regardless of what their birth certificates say.

Joining us to talk about some of the other fascinating new laws of 2014 is legendary attorney and Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz. We are catching him in Miami.

He's also author of the new book, "Taking the Stand."

Professor Dershowitz, thanks for joining us.

It's clear we're in a whole new world when laws about drones are making it into the books.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, "TAKING THE STAND": Well, that's absolutely right. The law is desperately trying to stay ahead of technology. In my book "Taking the Stand", I predict that science will triumph over law, that technology will always prevail over law, that the law will always be playing catch-up.

This time, the law is trying to stay ahead, but they're not going to succeed, because the state laws regulating airline travel, regulating the air, is going to be preempted by federal law. The federal government has control over what flies in the sky, and I don't think state laws regulating drones will be upheld as constitutional.

TAPPER: Even though it's not state legislation, do you think Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is still the most controversial new law?

DERSHOWITZ: Not only the most controversial, the most influential. It's going to really save lives. You can complain all you want about how the Web site went up and how much it's going to cost, and whether people who don't sign up and have to pay the penalty are going to be regarded as criminals for not doing it. All of that is debatable.

But the end result, the bottom line, is people who couldn't get health care are going to get it now, lives are going to be saved, children will grow up more healthy.

This is a great experiment, and give it a chance to succeed. Finally, the United States is coming into the 21st century, joining the rest of the world with affordable medical care.

TAPPER: You say some of these new laws in the state level butt heads with federal laws. Give me an example.

DERSHOWITZ: Yes. Oh, the marijuana legalization which is happening all over the country now. First, it starts out with the pretext of medical marijuana which has always been a phony. Anybody can get a medical excuse for using marijuana.

Finally, most states or many states are now moving toward just decriminalization like Massachusetts, my -- where I used to live -- did. It made no difference. Nobody notices because nothing changes. The same number of people use marijuana as before, but it's still illegal.

Every time you -- every time you light up a joint in Massachusetts, you're committing a federal crime. We have to reconcile federal prohibitions against marijuana with state laws making it legal. You can't live in a netherworld where you're safe to do something under state law but you're a federal criminal if the government wants to come after you.

TAPPER: It is an odd disconnect.

Some of the laws, we see the states often take the lead and not the federal government and some of these state laws reflect signs of the times, especially focusing on social media and technology. Which ones stand out for you?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, this new law that a number of states have passed prohibiting universities and prohibiting employers from making you open up your Twitter account or your Facebook account and, you know, that really is protecting young kids from their own foolishness because a lot of these kids are putting really, really stupid stuff on their accounts and if a college ever saw what they put on or an employer, they would say we don't want anything to do with them.

So, the government is protecting foolish kids from their own foolishness but I think it's probably a wise thing to do.

You know, again, in my book, I predicted we are going to see an increase in state legislation over the next years and a decrease in federal legislation because Congress is completely tied up. It can't get anything done. And we're seeing an increasingly strong presidency, a weakening Supreme Court, a weakening federal Congress and strengthening of state legislatures. It's a trend that will continue for years to come, I think.

TAPPER: I don't know how you feel but thank God is all I can say, that there was no Facebook when I was applying to college. Thank you so much. We appreciate your time. Have a very happy New Year.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

People outside Fargo, North Dakota, might need to spend the rest of 2013 indoors, because they do not know if the air outside is safe to breathe. Two trains crashed and burned yesterday, sparking a massive fireball. One train was hauling crude oil.

Emergency crews are testing the air to see if the thick black smoke created any toxic fumes. Nobody was hurt in the crash but firefighters had to let the fire burn itself out. The fire was so intense, they could not get close enough to fight it. The sheriff says more than half the people in the area left their homes just to be safe.