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Victims Escape Fire Through Third Floor Windows; New Mayor, New Era in New York City; Problems on Day One of ObamaCare Coverage?

Aired January 1, 2014 - 17:00   ET


DANA BASH, HOST: First this hour, fire consumes an apartment building in Minneapolis, raging for hours and forcing some terrified residents to escape through windows on the third floor. At least 13 were hospitalized, six in critical condition. The cause of the blaze is a mystery.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is following this developing story for us -- Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, this fire was so hot, fire officials were able to get into the building only for a few minutes, then they had to retreat. And at this hour, there are still people missing.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): The report of a fire and possible explosion came in at 8:16 a.m.. Within minutes, this three story building in Minneapolis was engulfed in flames. The first floor is a grocery store. Above are 10 apartments.

CHIEF JOHN FRUETEL, MINNEAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT: Crews initially arrived on scene and they reported flames shooting as far as 20 feet out of the windows on the second and third floor.

ROWLANDS: Officials don't know whether people jumped out, fell or were pushed out by the explosion. Some were helped out by firefighters who then quickly had to retreat.

FRUETEL: They did the best they could making entry onto the first floor. They got in as far as they could, until the conditions were so poor and it became very, very unsafe and we removed all the firefighters from the structure.

ROWLANDS: Frigid weather made the difficult job of fighting the fire even harder. Temperatures, with the wind chill, were near 20 degrees below zero.

The building is in a predominantly Somali neighborhood. Next door to the grocery store is a mosque, which prompted concerns of the possibility of a hate crime from the local Islamic Society. At this point, there is no evidence of foul play.

ABDI WARSAME, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: This whole area is very significant to the community. But our area has the mosque. It has Palmer's Bar, as well as the grocery store. But what we're worried about right now is -- are the victims.


ROWLANDS: And, Dana, the fire chief had an update about an hour ago. Still no cause. They also say it's still too dangerous for them to go into the building to try to find those unidentified people who, according to family members on the scene, they say there are three people that are still missing. This is according to community members there, telling our local affiliates, three people missing. But fire officials say they can't get in there, at least right now, it's still too dangerous.

BASH: What a horrible way to start the new year.

Ted, thank you very much for that report.

And now to New York, where a Democrat is running the city for the first time in 20 years. Mayor Bill de Blasio was formally sworn in today by former president, Bill Clinton. And the new mayor unapologetic about his progressive agenda, signaling change in New York politics, changes that could affect the entire country.

CNN national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, joins us live from New York -- hi, Susan.


Happy New Year!

BASH: You, too.

CANDIOTTI: You know, as New York City goes, so goes the country?

Maybe, maybe not. But a lot of liberals and progressive Democrats will be watching very closely, because if de Blasio's social reform policies work, it might help their party on a national level.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): New York's populist new mayor, Bill de Blasio, and his family, got to his inauguration ceremony the way millions of New Yorkers get to work every day -- on the subway. Before emerging, even running into his predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In his speech, signaling a reversal of policies that saw business boom under Bloomberg, some say at the expense of the poor and working class.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NY: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it.


CANDIOTTI: Citing liberal leaders of the past century, de Blasio promising to even the economic playing field, including taxing those who make more than a half million dollars a year to pay for universal pre-K and after school programs, telling the wealthy, don't worry.

DE BLASIO: See their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That's less than three bucks a day, about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks. We do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success, we do it to create more success stories.

CANDIOTTI: With Bloomberg at times looking grim, in apparent disagreement, other speakers attacked his administration.

Also invited on stage, a little girl named Dasani, who has become the face of one of more than 22,000 homeless children, a record in New York since the Great Depression.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE: We live in a gilded age of inequality, with decrepit homeless shelters and housing developments stand in neglected shadow of gleaming, multi-million dollar condos.


CANDIOTTI: Some light moments -- a son of the new comptroller fidgeting while daddy was being sworn in; New York's governor greeting activist actress, Susan Sarandon; and former president Bill Clinton embracing de Blasio's popular interracial family, a real-life modern family, as he called it. And his plan to change the city's economic landscape.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That we have to have a city of shared opportunities, shared prosperity, shared responsibilities.

CANDIOTTI: And with that, a synchronized kiss to the crowd from the city's first Democratic mayor in 20 years.


CANDIOTTI: A family who will live in Gracie Mansion, the city's first family to live there since the days of Rudy Giuliani -- Dana.

BASH: A lot of changes.

Thank you very much, Susan.

And let's bring in veteran New York reporter Hunter Walker. He is the national affairs reporter for "Talking Points Memo."

And also with us is senior political analyst -- CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, who is also the editorial director of the "National Journal." And I want to start with you, Hunter Walker in New York.

Obviously, this is a very, very different kind of leader that we are seeing, to put it mildly, in Bill de Blasio.

I want to play one other clip that was not in Susan's piece to give people a sense of just how different he is going to make things in New York City.


DE BLASIO: We will reform a broken stop and frisk policy, both to protect dignity and rights of young men of color, and to give our brave police officers the partnership they need to continue their success in driving down crime.


BASH: So the stopping the frisk policy, taxing the -- really blatantly saying that he wants to tax the wealthy to give to the poor, I mean this is unabashed liberal policy that he is putting forward.

How do you think that is going to go over, now that he's actually the mayor?

HUNTER WALKER, NATIONAL AFFAIRS REPORTER, "TALKING POINTS MEMO": Right. Well, you know, I went through his speech. And he used the word "progressive" six times in the copy there. And he was sworn in on a bible that was once owned by FDR.

So there's really no question that he's very much trying to brand himself as a new kind of progressive leader. And I think the implementation of this bar that he's set for himself is the big question here.

For example, his police commissioner actually formerly worked for Rudy Giuliani. And there's a distinction on his stop and frisk policy, which is, he doesn't want to end the practice completely, he wants to reform it. And I think some people might be dismayed when they realize it's not going to completely end.

And as far as his tax plan, the goal of that is to have universal pre-K. But one hitch here is it requires approval from Albany. And Andrew Cuomo has said he does not want to raise taxes. It's an election year for him next year.

So it may be tough to get that approval.

BASH: And on that point, Ron...


BASH: -- liberals all over the country are looking to Bill de Blasio as sort of their hero now, the man who is in the position to make their policies and their ideals become realities.


BASH: It's not going to be that easy...


BASH: -- for the reasons that Hunter just talked about.

BROWNSTEIN: I grew up in New York and I've watched a lot of mayors.

BASH: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: And it is a great platform, as Bill de Blasio is showing, as Michael Bloomberg showed, on issues like greenhouse gases and gun control and obesity. But it is also a nuts and bolts job. And as Hunter was saying, you ultimately have to deliver.

I find it kind of wonderfully ironic that there may be a snowstorm tomorrow in New York...

BASH: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: -- because I'm old enough to remember John Lindsey, who was a great liberal hope as a liberal Republican, who was kind of flattened and never recovered from his inability to clear the streets.

BASH: And not that long ago...

BROWNSTEIN: On this...

BASH: -- Michael Bloomberg (INAUDIBLE).

BROWNSTEIN: And so -- right.

So it's -- you know, there is -- and there are real constraints here, not only Albany, but he's got a whole range of union contracts that he has to negotiate. He has fiscal realities.

But it is still a big platform. And I think the focus on pre-K in particular is worth noting, because I -- you get the sense that is the next big crusade for the Democratic Party. And Hillary Clinton, what is the one domestic issue she's working on during this period?

Her zero to five project, which is about early childhood.

BASH: I...

BROWNSTEIN: And he may be -- he may be kind of leading the way here (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: I'm glad you brought up the Clinton word, because Bill Clinton took the stage today, of course. He was part of the swearing- in ceremony. And he also gave a little bit of a speech. He can't help himself, he's Bill Clinton.

Listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY NYC TV)

CLINTON: I strongly endorse Bill de Blasio's core campaign commitment that we have to have a city of shared opportunities, shared prosperity, shared responsibilities. We are interdependent.


BASH: Hello?


BASH: Ron Brownstein, this is the man you covered.


BASH: You know so well.


BASH: The conservative DLC Democrat, who, you know...


BASH: -- enraged liberals by bringing conservative Democrats in, by triangulating.

Now he's endorsing progressive ideas?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I mean he...

BASH: Hmmm, Hillary, 2016?

BROWNSTEIN: No, no. He -- well, he was always a complex figure in this way.

BASH: That's true.

BROWNSTEIN: I mean he did raise taxes on the top in 1993 without a single Republican vote in his initial budget. And his mantra throughout was opportunity, responsibility and community.

And that was kind of the way he brought to you -- that was, he argued, was the essence of the new Democratic ideas. But there's no question that the tone of the de Blasio campaign, the kind of the overt kind of populism was something that Clinton shied away from. And, in fact, you know, the biggest argument -- one of the biggest arguments against Hillary Clinton in 2016 might be from the left and the argument that she is not conducive enough or receptive enough to that kind of line of argument. And it's what fueled the talk about Elizabeth Warren in 2016.

BASH: Absolutely.

And, Hunter, how much do you think you understand this relationship, that this is not new? The reason Bill Clinton was there is because Bill de Blasio was such a part of Hillary Clinton's campaigns going back to her days running for Senate.

How much do you think that will factor in, this relationship, on a national stage?

WALKER: Well, you know, as you pointed out, Bill de Blasio was Hillary Clinton's campaign manager in 2000. He also worked in President Clinton's Department of Housing and Urban Development.

So this is a long-standing relationship. They campaigned for him. They hosted a fundraiser.

But, you know, I think going forward, as Ron was sort of pointing out, Bill de Blasio could be a big asset for Hillary if she's flanked on the left by a Brian Schweitzer or an Elizabeth Warren type. And so if his first term gets off to a successful start, she may be calling on him as much as he called on them in his campaign.

BASH: Absolutely.

Hunter, thank you very much.

WALKER: Happy New Year.

BASH: Thank you.

Happy New Year.

BROWNSTEIN: Happy New Year.

BASH: Happy New Year.

We'll be looking to New York a lot in the next year, for sure.

And up next, while the president is on vacation, ObamaCare hits a new rough patch. We have White House reaction to an emergency Supreme Court ruling.

And a popular TV sitcom star has died. The actor who played Uncle Phil on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." I'll talk to one of his co-stars who played the family butler.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam, I went to boarding school.



BASH: This is the first day for health coverage under ObamaCare. And after the troubled online rollout, the White House predicts there may be some more problems. The program was hit with a major setback on New Year's Eve with an emergency Supreme Court ruling delaying a mandate on birth control coverage.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta -- Jim, is it a setback or is it politically maybe something that they're happy to fight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm not sure it's a fight they want to have, but it's a fight that they have right now, Dana. One thing that we can say is the White House is standing firm behind this contraception coverage mandate in response to the legal action taken by one of President Obama's own Supreme Court picks.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Hours before Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, watched the ball drop in Times Square, she threw a curve ball at the White House. President's first pick to the high court, Sotomayor temporarily halted a mandate in Obamacare that requires religious affiliated nonprofits to provide contraception coverage for their employees.

ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN'S BELIEF BLOG: They're saying the Affordable Care Act infringes on their religious liberty by forcing them to buy birth control that conflicts with their religion. And that's where it begins and ends for a lot of these religious groups.

ACOSTA: Despite fierce opposition from Catholic and evangelical leaders, the president has defended the birth control mandate as essential to women's health.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We decided to follow judgment of the nation's leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care.

ACOSTA: In response to Sotomayor's order, a White House official said we defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance between contraceptive care and religious objections. The controversy is another distraction for the president who's on vacation just as Obamacare hits a new milestone.

Starting today, coverage kicks in for more than two million Americans who enrolled under Obamacare, and thanks to the law, insurers can no longer discriminate against consumers with pre- existing conditions. The message in this video from the president's political group.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been waiting a long time for January 1st, 2014.

ACOSTA: But, one administration official tells CNN they have no way of determining who's actually paid for coverage and the White House has yet to reveal who exactly is signing up. KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The current makeup of that 2.1 million people that have enrolled, we don't know if they're the younger folks or if they're older folks. If they're older folks, then the numbers related to how we pay for the law are going to be busted.


ACOSTA (on-camera): As for that battle over contraception, the Obama administration has until Friday morning to respond to Sotomayor's order and there are more legal fights to come over this issue as the Supreme Court is already expected to sort out the birth control mandate and Obamacare later this year, Dana.

BASH: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

ACOSTA: You're welcome.

BASH: Happy New Year.

ACOSTA: Happy New Year.

BASH: And let's talk more about the Supreme Court delay of Obamacare and the contraception ruling with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. He is on the phone. He is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archbishop Kurtz, thank you very much for joining us on this New Year's Day. You wrote this appeal to President Obama. What is the acceptable alternative in your view?

VOICE OF JOSEPH KURTZ, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Well, Dana, thank you so much and Happy New year to you. We are asking for a temporary delay. And, as you well know, the administration has, in many different cases with the Affordable Care Act, made exceptions and delays where there were burdens and hardships.

Dana, you know that the catholic hospitals, social service agencies, schools, we've been in the leadership in providing care for people most in need, especially the poor and the potential for crippling fines or for being asked to in a sense go against principles which we serve are alternatives that are going to help hurt the poor.

So, our efforts really are to ask the administration to give that relief so that we might be able to avoid crippling fines and continue to provide service.

BASH: You know that their argument is that this is a crucial part of preventative care for women's health.

KURTZ: Yes. And of course, what we're talking about is very specific area, and that is the mandates are not so much about access to services or procedures that we ourselves may think morally objectionable, rather, they're part of the requirement. They're forcing in a sense our agencies and our entities to provide for what we consider morally objectionable.

The Little Sisters of the Poor would be a great example. As you know, they were provided relief, at least until this coming Friday, and they're providing for the poorest of people, but in a way that is consistent with our catholic principles.

BASH: You know, there are taxes that the church has to pay already here in the U.S. that fund things the churches morally opposed to like war, scientific advancements. Are you picking and choosing here?

KURTZ: Well, not really, because here, we're not talking about taxes. We're talking here about being forced to provide a service, to provide a procedure. I won't call it a service because it's a procedure that we would find morally objectionable. And here, religious liberty has time honored protection for us not to go against our moral convictions as we provide care for people.

So, I don't see it the same as issues related to taxation. Here, we're talking really about the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who are doing very, very good work to the poorest of people being asked to actually trigger services that they would be giving to their own employees.

BASH: And Archbishop Kurtz, finally, this decision to hold off on penalizing religious groups, including Catholics, is temporary. Final decision is going to be up to the courts. If they do not rule in your favor, how will you handle that?

KURTZ: Well, of course, we're very optimistic. You probably followed these temporary injunctions, and while they don't necessarily tell you what the final verdict is going to be, there's usually good indication that there's merit. And so, first of all, not do anything that is morally objectionable. That's the first thing.

But secondly, following the lead of our holy father, Pope Francis, we do not want to have the people we're serving throughout the United States to suffer because, in some fashion, we have to restrict our levels of service. So, we will continue to go forward and actually we're optimistic that we will be indicated in our efforts for what I would call a reasonable and a robust religious --

BASH: Well, we will certainly see this as something that is going to change probably the next couple of days and we will stay on this story. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, thank you very much for joining us.

KURTZ: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: We appreciate it.

And coming up, the actor who played the beloved Uncle Phil in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air has passed away. We'll talk about his signature role with the man who played the family's hilarious Butler Jeffrey, actor, Joseph Marcell

And Colorado's historic day has arrived. We'll go live to a pot shot on the first day you can legally buy recreational pot.


BASH: Prohibition is over. That's the sentiment for many in Colorado today as recreational marijuana hits the shelves for the first time in our nation's history. CNN's Casey Wian is at a pot store in Denver. Casey, what are the crowds been like on day one?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've been very happy and very persistent. People have been lining up outside of this store, Dana, since two o'clock in the morning local time. New Year's Day. Can you imagine that? This business when it was a medical marijuana facility averaged about 70 customers a day. So far, 300 and the day is not over.


WIAN (voice-over): Logan and Krisy Robinson (ph) lined up outside at Evergreen Apothecary at 2:00 in the morning New Year's Day, six hours before recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado.

(on-camera) Why was it important for you guys to be here so early and be first in line?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we're pioneers.

WIAN (voice-over): Hundreds of people waited in the snow to select or their preferred strain of pot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, this is going to be across OG (ph) cush, vanilla cush, and sweet tooth.

WIAN: And the first legal deal was done. Colorado residents aged 21 and over can purchase up to one ounce of marijuana, out of staters can buy a quarter ounce.

MIKE OWENS, CUSTOMER: I'm excited. I've been dreaming about this since I started smoking.

WIAN: There are other rules. No taking marijuana out of state, no consumption in public and the main concern for law enforcement, no driving stoned.

JACK FINLAW, CHIEF COUNSEL, COLORADO GOVERNOR'S OFFICE: If someone is drinking and driving, they're driving too fast or aggressively, if you're under the influence of marijuana, you're likely to be slow. But frankly, we've had medical marijuana in Colorado for about 13 years. So, we're used to dealing with people who are driving and consuming marijuana.

WIAN: For new recreational retailers, the biggest concern is demand exceeding supply and the possibility of shortages and higher prices. Here, it's already going for $50 for eighth of an ounce. It's a nice problem to have.

TIM CULLEN, CO-OWNER, EVERGREEN APOTHECARY: This has far exceeded my expectations. What an exciting day. It's great to see all these smiling faces. WIAN: Wonder why they're smiling.


WIAN (on-camera): Dana, I learned a new word today. I'm very familiar with bar tenders. You can see these folks over here, they're called budtenders. They're the ones that are actually helping consumers decide which specific strain of marijuana best meets their needs -- Dana.

BASH: I can see we're going to have a lot of new words. Selfies is so 2013. Budtenders, 2014. I can see it already. Casey, thank you very much.

And for many business owners in Colorado, today has been a long time coming. They fought hard to get pot legalized in the state. Let's find out how it is going for the co-owner of the store where we saw just Casey Wian. Joining me now is Tim Cullen of Evergreen Apothecary, a marijuana dispensary in Denver. So, how's day one going?

CULLEN: It has been absolutely amazing. There are more people here than we ever expected. And, there are so many excited people taking part in this. I mean, we knew it was going to be a big deal, but we had no idea that there were going to be so many people out here. Absolutely amazing.

BASH: Are you sold out?

CULLEN: No, we're not going to sell out. What's going to happen is we're going to run out of time. The state law is actually midnight that we have to close, but the city of Denver asks us to close at 7:00 p.m. And so, we'll be closed at 7:00 p.m. We're not going to run out of product. We're going to run out of time today.

BASH: So, because this is so new. I have to ask you, how does one start doing this? What is the process like to start a business, the first business to sell recreational pot legally?

CULLEN: In order to be a recreational store, you had to be a medical marijuana center in good standing. So, we just started the application process on day one to be a recreational center. And for us, at the end of the day, we are really a retail marijuana center. So, there's really no change doing that, we're good at that.

We just had to comply with new packaging requirements, new verbiage that goes on the product, and just really gear up for large crowds today. So, it's business as usual. It's just a lot of business today.

BASH: And the laws seem to be still murky in many ways both on the federal level and maybe less so on the state level. How difficult is it as store owner to make sure that you are complying with this new law?

CULLEN: It's a group effort. I don't do it all on my own. We have legal counsel we work with. We source outside groups for a lot of it. It is a lot to comply with and we're happy to comply with it. We're absolutely thrilled that the federal government is allowing this experiment to happen in Colorado, and just couldn't be more pleased that we get to be a part of it.

The city of Denver has been amazing to work with. The state has hit every deadline to make the licenses happen today. And truly it is the will of the people of Colorado. They voted amendment 64 in, and to see how happy everyone is to see it implemented is just out of this world.

BASH: And I'm just curious, have you been surprised by the type of person walking through your door all day today, is it been kind of, you know, maybe, we would expect, kind of the college stoner or have there been grandma and grandpa walking in, that I don't expect you walking in here.

CULLEN: There is no stereotype about it. There are people that are 21, and I have seen people who are 75 years old come through the door today. It's a big mix from all walks of life. I really think when people get the opportunity to choose a form of recreation, a lot of people in Colorado said they would like to choose cannabis. And that's what we're seeing today.

BASH: The last question I have for you is, you know, this obviously is just a law within Colorado, Washington State will happen later this year. But, how do you deal with that? Are there people coming in across state lines and are you able to sell pot to people coming in from some of the Border States and maybe even states from further outside Colorado?

CULLEN: Absolutely. I have seen people from a dozen different states come in today. They are limited to seven grams or a quarter ounce purchase. But that's not stopping them. They're still coming in. They should not cross state lines. That is the law and that is the rule. And the states around us are not friendly to cannabis consumption, so we're strongly encouraging everyone who is from out of state to not take back home with them.

BASH: Because even though you can buy pot legally, you can't smoke it in public, right? You have to go home and smoke it in the privacy of your own home.

CULLEN: Correct. There is no public consumption. People make their purchases a lot like a liquor store and public consumption is not allowed with liquor, and consumption on site is not allowed in our establishments either. So people make their purchase and walk out the door. I have heard there are some hotels in town that are friendly to cannabis use, but don't ask me where those are, I don't know. I just heard people from out of state staying in some places.

BASH: I won't put you on the spot there.

I do actually have another question about this, because it is so new, you know, like sort of a retail pioneer. When you go in, think of buying liquor in a liquor store, there are sort of rules, but one of the rules is not generally that you're limited in the amount that you can buy. You are there. How do you as a retailer determine whether or not the person buying is buying too much or not enough? And, you know, do you say wait a minute, I think I saw you an hour ago. You're back in here buying more?

CULLEN: Certainly. Well, every person that comes in has to be carded, number one, to establish they're over 21 years of age. And the second is to establish their residency.

Colorado residents were able to purchase an ounce or 28 grams. And so, we have to make that distinction. And our point of sale system, we can make that distinction right when they come in the door. So, at the point of sale, the person serving them is Casey referred to them as bud tenders, a dog just ran by me here. The bud tenders know that they're residents or nonresidents at that time. So we're very careful to follow those rules. But that's part of the whole protocol and we just comply with the rules.

BASH: Tim Cullen, I would expect nothing less than dogs walking around, there are random things happening in a place like that.

CULLEN: That never happens, really doesn't happen. I have never seen a door here before. But our door is open because we have security here and they're checking IDs and a dog just ran in off the street. That's not typical.

BASH: OK. All right, well, thank you very much. Happy New Year! And good luck in your new endeavor.

CULLEN: Happy New Year to you, too. Thanks so much for having us on. I appreciate it.

BASH: Thanks you.

And up next, a diplomat is killed from a blast in his own home. Police believe it may have been from a safe that was rigged to explode.

Plus, a new year probably means a new set of financial concerns. We talk to a personal finance expert about how to manage your money in 2014.

The actor that played beloved Uncle Phil in "the Fresh prince of Bel-Air" has passed away. We will talk about his signature role and remember his life as the man who played the family's hilarious butler, Geoffrey, actor Joseph Marcell.


BASH: Let's get to some other stories coming up in the SITUATION ROOM.

At least one person is dead and a dozen others are injured after a double car bombing exploded outside of Somalia's capital in Mogadishu. The Jazeera palace hotel is a popular spot for diplomats. And police say several senior members of the Somali government were inside at the time of the attack. It is not yet known who is responsible.

Former first lady Barbara Bush has been hospitalized in Houston for a respiratory related issue. This, according to a spokesman for the family. The family has been visiting, including husband former president George H. W. Bush. And they say she is quote "great fear." Barbara Bush is 88-years-old.

A Palestinian diplomat is dead from explosion in his house in Prague, Czech Republic. Czech police are not treating it as a terror attack saying occurred when Jamal al-Jamal opened an old safe that apparently contained an explosive security device. His wife has taken to a hospital after inhaling smoke but their son was not hurt.

And we might be seeing a lot more of Toronto's Rob Ford in 2014. Spokesman for the embattled mayor says Ford will officially file paperwork for reelection bid tomorrow morning. Ford had colorful moments in 2013 including admitting to smoking crack and what he says was a drunken stooper.

And by any standard, 2013 was great for Wall Street. The Dow- Jones industrial average gained an incredible 25 percent. The S&P 500 was up nearly 30 percent. Overall, the stock market, its best year gains since 1995.

Joining me now is personal finance columnist, Terry Savage.

So Terry, crystal ball, is it time to get into the market for people who are not in and for people who are in time to sell?

TERRY SAVAGE, PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST: Dana, I think it is not too late. What the stock market is trying to tell us is that we've all been way too gloomy. We had good reason to be gloomy. As we sat here last year at this time, remember we were debating whether Congress would get us over the fiscal cliff. That was New Year's holiday. And then, eight weeks later, we have the sequester. And then, of course, we have the government shutdown in the fall.

So, there were a lot of reasons to look at the economy and look at the government and think it is going to be terrible. And instead, we had this great stock market gain.

I think the problem is we have all gotten used to bad economic news that we can't recognize the good news when we see it. This should be a year of continued good economic news because the economy is growing. We have seen it pick up in third quarter and obviously, in the fourth. That's what the stock market was telling you.

The fed has pulled its punches. It said we will cut back a little bit, but they are not really taking money out of the economy. They're still putting money in. And stock market has reacted with all-time highs. And I think it is reasonable to assume it will go higher in the year ahead.

BASH: OK. So, brace the good news. Got that.

SAVAGE: Absolutely. Don't be pessimistic. BASH: How about interest rates, how may they impact consumers, a good year or bad year to buy or sell a home, for example?

SAVAGE: Well, this is going to be very interesting because we're already seeing interest rates move up slightly, the ten year treasuries up a bit. And they could go, rates could go even higher, but in a kind of a contrary way that could be very good for the economy.

Number one, it will make those banks be more willing to lend because they'll see profits in their loans. I think it will have a lot of consumers go out there and think gee, I better buy my home now before mortgage rates go even higher. So, it could bring a pickup in housing. And that brings up a lot of retail spending, all of which is good for the economy.

So, you know, even if we have mortgage rates at 4.5 or five percent again and maybe even over five percent, it is not the worst thing, we lived with worse. And it will be a sign of growth. So, I am not too worried about high rate, but I think we will have them. And if you're going to get a mortgage, this would be the time to do it.

BASH: And Terry, really quickly, let's leave our viewers with some news they can use. What should they do first week in 2014, pick one thing?

SAVAGE: You know, you have a terrific moment right now to get organized. Take a look at your outstanding bills. Don't wait until they come in January. Go online. Check your credit card. Check your balances. Check your 401(k) plan at work. Maybe it is time to move more money in on a regular basis into the stock market. Grab hold of your finances. Do something very positive this year. All those that have been given up on, I can't find a job, the economy is moving. Go out, look for a job again, go out and take some courses at your community college. Expect a better year because I really think we're going to have one.

BASH: Terry Savage, that is good advice for us all. Thank you very much. Happy New Year! Thanks for the optimism.

SAVAGE: Happy New Year!

BASH: And up next, he is best known as the beloved Uncle Phil. We will talk about the life of actor James Avery with a co-star from the fresh prince, the actor who played Geoffrey, the butler, joins us live in just a moment.


BASH: A sad day for television fans. Actor James Avery, best known for his role as Uncle Phil on the hit sitcom, "the Fresh Prince of Bel Air," died of complications from heart surgery. He was 68- years-old. In the show, Avery was known for giving tough love to a young Will Smith and for trading hilarious insults with the family butler, Geoffrey. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, it is just it has been so peaceful since Will was in Philly. And boarding school is not so bad, is it, Geoffrey? Geoffrey went to boarding school. Tell her, Geoffrey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam, I went to boarding school. And then I went to therapy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who asked you, get my lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My pleasure. Man has a tape worm.


BASH: Joining me, the actor who played Geoffrey, Joseph Marcell.

Thank you very much for joining us.

First of all, I'm so sorry for your loss. But I wanted to tell you that even in the studio, just coming into the segment, everybody was singing the song from "the Fresh Prince of Bel Air." For kids growing up in the '90s, Uncle Phil was their TV dad, and even for people who were a little younger, watching Nick at night, it is the same thing.

You knew the real James Avery. What was he like?

JOSEPH MARCELL, ACTOR, THE FRESH AIR OF BEL-AIR: He was a wonderful man. The gentle giant. (INAUDIBLE), he had compassionate, a huge and massive yet gentle, a wonderful friend, a true, loyal friend. And he has touched my life so well, and I will never forget him. He ought to be celebrated. He was a wonderful man.

BASH: Now, you know, after the Cosby Show with the (INAUDIBLE), the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was kind of the next show that portrayed wealthy African-Americans on network TV. Did you have discussions with James Avery about that? And how did you and he feel about the show's impact broadly on society?

MARCELL: It was important to him that people understood that the striving of the African-American ought to have been shown on television, and this was the moment. This is the moment. And he was happy with it, and he strove to present an Uncle Phil that is lovable, that everybody wishes was their uncle, but who was very good at what he did. He was a marvelous man and a truly wonderful actor. And what he has done for television, for African-Americans on television is unsurpassable really.

BASH: Now, "the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" came to be because, in real life, Will Smith, now a mega-superstar in the movies and also a rapper, fell on hard times. He was bankrupt. He was a rapper already, and NBC, the network came to him and said, you want to have a TV show based on your life? Talk about that, and how that was a dynamic on the set with James Avery?

MARCELL: Yes, that is the story, I believe.

The idea of the poor boy making good is an idea that appeals to everybody. Everybody can empathize with it. I have traveled the world. Last year, I was in Austria, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Denmark, and people still talked about "the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." They were so pleased to see me. And most people wanted to know, you know, what I sound like as a real person.

But for us -- for us the seven of us, it was a magic, magic moment in our lives. And Will Smith was such an excellent leader, that we loved each other. We got on very, very well. And today is a day where we celebrated life of one of our special ones, yes.

BASH: Well, we certainly do, and we really appreciate you joining us from London. And look, everybody knows that you sound exactly the same in real life as you do on the TV.

MARCELL: A little grayer, but yes.

BASH: Well, thank you and thank you for honoring and remembering your friend. We appreciate it.

MARCELL: Thank you.

BASH: And coming up, Dubai's fireworks show is officially the biggest of all time. We'll meet is the American behind this record- setting spectacular.


BASH: It's now in the Guinness book of world records as the biggest fireworks display in history. Last night in Dubai, close to half a million fireworks were shot off, many from the world's tallest building. It is a dazzling display that broke the record in the first minute. So, the mark was set in the Middle East, the fireworks were an American production.

And joining me now is Phil Grucci of fireworks by Grucci.

First of all, congratulations for putting on that Record-breaking display. But you know, I have to ask you, you're a guy from Long Island. How did a guy from Long Island end up breaking the record for fireworks in Dubai?

PHIL GRUCCI, FIREWORKS BY GRUCCI: It's a pretty amazing story, isn't it? We're very proud of that.

We were invited back in 2008, actually to open the palm, Gamera (ph), and the Atlantis, the palm. So, that project was so successful back then. At that point that was the largest fireworks display that has ever produced. When they wanted to produce this program this time and break the world's record, the current world record, they invited us back. They said, they will assemble the team again, let's try it again.

BASH: Now, what kind of research goes into making sure that you're going to put on this kind of display, but also technically making sure that you're going to break the Guinness book of world records? So, be in Guinness book of world record like you went there last night?

GRUCCI: Well, it's a -- that's a good question, because it's very easy to roll that off your tongue breaking the world record, but it's a tall order to do so. So, we were asked to come up with a design concept that would support both a mega program, a program that's never been seen before, and also the size and scale to break the world record.

So when you do that, you have to do something that's realistic and obtainable, so that you can assure you're going to break the world record, but also make it something that's unique and different that is something that's never been seen before. So we produced the palm program back in 2008 with a grand opening, and it was only a natural transition to add the world.

Well, the challenge here is the world is almost twice the size of the palm. And that would then assure the fact that we could gain the world record if we were successfully able to produce both programs.

BASH: Now, the world's tallest building is in Dubai. You were even able to pull off setting off fireworks from that building. How did you do that?

GRUCCI: Well, that was in addition to the world record. We were committed to produce the pyrotechniques in British Khalifa. And that was also another honor of ours to work with them and produce that event. That had a unique set the challenges working on the world's tallest building and producing products that had to attach to the side of that building and what a marvelous structure it was. And last night was a result of many, many, many days and months of preparation, but it was beautiful. I really, really enjoyed it.

BASH: So, let me ask you. Your great-great-grandfather started in pyrotechniques back in Italy.

GRUCCI: That's correct.

BASH: If he's looking down on you and the record last there in Dubai, what do you think he's saying?

GRUCCI: I think all five generation before or four generations before me are saying the same thing on how proud they are that our family has been able to stay together. And now we're in the sixth generation with my daughter, my son, our nephews and nieces, cousins that are out there last night to produce the program. I think they're proud that we've been able to hold it together and truly work together to produce things as magnificent as what we did last night was.

BASH: Well, it is a quite a family business and absolutely beautiful.

Happy New Year and congratulations to you, Phil Grucci. Thank you. GRUCCI: Thank you, Dana. And Happy New Year to you as well.


BASH: Happening now, first freeze, as New Year's winds down, more than 70 million Americans are in the bull's-eye of a fierce winter storm.

Putin's promise, the Russian president visits victims of two deadly bombing and vows to wipe out terrorists just weeks before the winter Olympics.

And 2014 trends will dish on what's in and what's out, who's hot and who's not.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Dana Bash, you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

It's going to field like a cold, bitter New Year's hangover. Some 70 million Americans could get socked with snow and dangerously low temperatures in the coming hours, just as they're heading home or back to work after the holiday.

CNN's Alexandra Steele is in our severe weather center -- Alexandra.


Well, the cold air is coming as well as the snow. We could see a food foot for some people. So, let me talk it out. The cold there in place, no question about it.