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Midwest Faces Pre-Holiday Blizzard; Reading the Mayan Calendar; Arming Teachers to Protect Kids

Aired December 20, 2012 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me. Checking our top stories at 30 minutes past the hour. Clearly mistakes were made that's how Senator John Kerry widely considered to be the likely successor to Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State opened the first of two hearings about the Benghazi attack this morning.

Secretary of State Clinton said the State Department is taking all of the recommendations of the report and implementing changes immediately.

Initial jobless claims are up 17,000 people this week to a level of 361,000. The rate measures those who filed for unemployment for the first time while the rise was slightly larger than expected. The level is consistent with the weeks before Superstorm Sandy, which of course, many have filed for temporary unemployment benefits.

As you know, there is this massive winter weather system hitting the heart of the country right now. Looking at live pictures from West Bend, Wisconsin, you see the wind is very strong, blizzard-like conditions possible there. Wisconsin, man, schools have been canceled in Wisconsin, also Nebraska. Some areas could get up to 12 inches of snow.

Alexandra Steele is here to tell us more and I guess Wisconsin is going to be the worst hit in the country. Is that fair to say?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, probably fair to say. Wisconsin and Iowa, Des Moines, 12 inches, 30, 40, 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts, but Wisconsin most likely, I mean, this is really the quadrant of concern. It's moved out of Omaha, toward Des Moines and really areas of Wisconsin, some places, Milwaukee, 12, 13, 14 inches of snow.

And some of these places like Chicago haven't seen snow yet this winter, believe it or not. So it is their first time Chicago and boy it will be quite a storm. Not only in terms of the snow, but in terms of the really powerful winds.

So big picture, classic storm, there it is, there is of course, the cold side with the storm and then, of course, along it, showers and thunderstorms and tornado warnings. So blizzard warnings in Wisconsin and Iowa, tornado warnings in Mississippi and Alabama. Here's a look at where that thread is. This is the blizzard warning.

Meaning, of course, nine to 12 inches of snow, visibilities less than quarter of a mile. So it's tough, we're going to watch the storm move out. But even in Omaha where the snow has gone, well stopped falling, anyway. The very strong winds are blowing it around making perilous travel conditions.

Farther south we go, here's what we've seen, Mobile, tornado most likely when you see the pictures you're looking at and they assessing it now of most likely an EF-1, damage there, you can see cars flipped over, potent storms, southern side, if it's a severe threat. This pink delineation, tornado warnings meaning that some of these storms have seen rotation.

And when you look at them, but the good news is, the back end is already there already in Mississippi and it's moving through. So here's a look, as we head toward this morning into tonight, Chicago at about seven, changes over from rain to snow, gets the first snow of the season. But it's also the snow that will be the biggest factor, they already have delays. The worst for Chicago and the upper Midwest is yet to come.

Tonight, really incredibly tough conditions, 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts. It all moves eastward tomorrow, tomorrow morning, right along the Eastern Sea Board, Carol. But that will be a rainmaker for tomorrow, New York and Washington and Philadelphia and then it all pushes out to sea tomorrow night.

COSTELLO: And good riddance, right?

STEELE: Goodbye.

COSTELLO: Goodbye.

STEELE: Right.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Alexandra.

Whether it's a zombie invasion or an epic earthquake, some people believe and they really do that the world will end in just a few hours. So what do you do if there is a doomsday disaster? Oh, my. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: It seems like just yesterday we were prepping for Y2K, now it's called the end of days. Well because of this, it's an unfinished portion of the Mayan calendar, some believe it spells the end of the world is tomorrow. And as the National Geographic Channel found, if you're prepping for doomsday, people will watch. Nischelle Turner is in Los Angeles watching it for us. The "Doomsday Preppers" -- it has quite a following.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It does. It's this really popular show on the National Geographic Channel Carol. It's brought in some of the best ratings ever for the channel and it's about people prepping for disaster. So if the world ends tomorrow and someone survives it, they're probably going to be a prepper.

So let's take a look now at one person who is preparing for a smallpox outbreak. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The terrorist organization wanted to use a biological weapon, smallpox would be number one on their list. My family has biological suits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what I'm going to look like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife and I have worked really hard on our food storage. We have a huge amount of food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes I think he just goes a little overboard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have devised a plan with friends in the neighborhood.

I got you some new radios.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought the guy had a few screws loose, but he's got a plan in place.


TURNER: It's the background music, though. That's what gets me. But you know some people -- some people may paint these folks as sort of, I don't know, maybe out there. But you know, Carol --

COSTELLO: Delusional.

TURNER: -- one of the recent -- well, listen though, one of the recent episodes featured a prepper planning to flee Manhattan if a major storm hit and flooded the city. So it doesn't seem so crazy now after Sandy, right? I'm just saying.

COSTELLO: OK well that's -- that's different than being afraid of chemical weapons and smallpox.

TURNER: That is true. That is true.

But you know I know you're not too worked up over this, but the Mayans do say the world is ending tomorrow. And like you said before, some people say the calendar was mistakenly translated and actually the day could be the 23rd. So we could prolong this for a couple more days, Carol.

COSTELLO: Oh, man, I'm glad, because I really want to celebrate Christmas.

TURNER: Yes the odds of doing that are pretty good. I just thought you were going to give me a little theme music coming in, a little, "it's the end of the world as we know we know it." COSTELLO: I know that song.

TURNER: I thought you're going to give to me.

COSTELLO: OK Nischelle Turner, thanks.

TURNER: Exactly.

COSTELLO: We're going to talk more about this because joining us now from New York is Aton Edwards he's an expert in disaster preparedness and was featured as a consultant on "Doomsday Preppers". Welcome.

ATON Edwards, co-founder, international preparedness NETWORK: Hi thanks for having me. I appreciate being here.

COSTELLO: And we're glad you're here. I don't mean to poke fun at the show, but I do wonder why do you think that so many people are watching it?

EDWARDS: I mean because of people's fears. There are -- there are so many things that surround people today that kind of speak towards the fragility of our society. I mean, we just had Hurricane Sandy here in New York. I mean, we had the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in Japan last year.

So, I mean, people kind of read the handwriting on the wall so they're doing what they can to try to prepare for these -- these disasters that seem to be eventualities I mean, they're happening like in rapid succession, one after the other. So I mean, prepping is kind of like a natural by product of, you know, what people think they need to do.

I mean, the government preps, the government has wartime relocation centers or continuity of government locations like Mount Weather and such. So it's not like it's something that, you know, is crazy or strange. It's something that is based on common sense. I mean some people take it overboard, but you know that's to each their own.

COSTELLO: Well all of the people in these shows, most of them do take it overboard. And isn't that sort of reinforcing the fear that all of us have inside of us?

EDWARDS: No, no, no. I'm going to tell you something, it is better to have and not need than to need and not have. So even if you tend to go a little bit to the extreme, when something happens, when something occurs, then you're going to be covered. It's the people around you that aren't. So at the end of the day, you know, it's better to err on the side of caution, and what preppers are doing really is erring on the side of caution.

So I mean, of course, doing things that don't, you know, that just a little bit too much. I mean, obviously, that can look strange. But at the end of the day, when something actually occurs and you have an excess of something and everybody else around you doesn't, then, you know, I can tell you that people aren't going to think you're too strange when that happens. COSTELLO: OK well, let me ask you this, like I have no desire to have a bomb shelter in the back of my home stocked with canned goods in the case of an apocalyptic disaster because I want to live without fear, frankly. So --



COSTELLO: -- just as a -- as a person who really does live her life without fear, how -- what should I actually prep?

EDWARDS: But -- but it's not -- it's not about living with fear. It's about being insured. I mean, you have car insurance, you have all sorts of insurance. You have insurance for your home. And what prepping is, it's just insurance against disasters. That's all it is. It's not about fear, it's like you have the fire axe behind glass. You've seen those before you just break glass when there's a fire.

And what prepping is all about is that fire act behind the glass when there's a fire you break the glass. When there's a disaster, you reach the bug out bag, you run out, you have all of the things that you need to survive outside of your home if you needed to go. If you have a disaster, the lights go out, you have power, you have lights, all of these things are insurance.

That's all it is. It's not about living in fear. None of us who do this live in fear. In fact, we live without fear because we're prepared for the emergencies. It;s other people who react to people who prep that feel fearful because they really -- their anxieties come from the fact they are unprepared.

And Americans, I think Americans need to practice this because it makes us a stronger as a people, it helps our communities, and it also helps the nation. Because when disaster strikes and when you're prepared for the disasters, you're able to respond yourself, you don't have to tax out the system respond doesn't have to come to you and that helps the community recover quicker.

COSTELLO: Yes and I certainly agree. Because big weather events, you're right. We should be prepared. Aton Edwards thank you so much.

EDWARDS: Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: Despite tomorrow's apocalypse "Doomsday Preppers" airs Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on the National Geographic Channel in case you want to catch it. We'll be back.


COSTELLO: Should teachers be armed in the classroom? It's fueling a passionate conversation all across the country. Just yesterday, the Ohio attorney general's office unveiled a plan to allow teachers to undergo safety training and along with that possibly letting teachers carry guns. Ohio is now the tenth state to consider such a plan. Of course, there are groups that think allowing teachers to carry weapons is a really bad idea.

Last hour, I talked to Cinda Klickna , a former teacher, a long time former teacher and president of the Illinois Education Association. She does not think teachers should be armed. But there are some who think arming teachers is the right thing to do.


RUSSELL MCELHANEY: One of those teachers, one of them, a faculty member, janitor, had a gun, bam, he would've killed an eighth, nothing compared to what he was capable of doing. You have to allow us to protect ourselves.

CNN contributor L.Z. Granderson wrote an op-ed on called "Teachers with Guns is a Crazy Idea". Hi.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Carol, how are you?

COSTELLO: I'm good. You know, I posed this question on my Facebook page and I got thousands and thousands of responses. People were pretty much split down the middle. They're not sure what would work. But they do want something to protect kids in schools from crazy people coming in with semiautomatic weapons.

GRANDERSON: Absolutely, and that's something, I think, starts with our conversation about gun access. To me, this moves the red line, if you will, right? Like, I thought the red line was we're not going to allow violence to be a part of the education process. And now we've moved the red line because of outside forces to we want teachers to be directly engaged with violence, through not just training, but having them armed and ready for battle in the schools. I think that's just counterintuitive to the way in which we want to approach education in this country.

I think it's asking too much of our teachers and principals to carry student loans, to stay on top of all the extra training they need to be in order to be good teachers and oh, by the way, on the weekends, go make sure that you can shoot. I mean I think that's asking a lot.

I'm not against having police around the school. I'm not against having a conversation of having security in the school, but arming teachers and principals, I think, is just too much.

COSTELLO: It's interesting because the National Education Association -- the big teachers' union -- is going to do a press conference later today. They sent out a statement and they said if you arm teachers, you're sending a message to kids, you know, that teachers are walking around with guns. And, you know, they're not so sure that children should see that because that's not going to make them feel safer, it's going to make them feel less safe.

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. I mean I'm having a very difficult time finding too many educators, too many teachers who think this is a great idea. You know, as I wrote in the piece, you know, with the exception of Mr. Bill Bennett, Reagan's Education Secretary as well as a superintendent that was in Texas, which currently allows for concealed weapons in the school district, I've had a very difficult time finding too many educators on the record saying we want guns.

I think we need to start listening to these teachers in terms of finding solutions as opposed to just saying we know best as people who happen to be working in government.

COSTELLO: L.Z. Granderson, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts because like I said, it's generated a lot of conversation on my Facebook page and your opinion piece can be found on right now.

GRANDERSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: There it is. All right. L.Z., thanks so much.

"Talk Back" question for you to day: "How should Nancy Lanza be remembered?" Your responses next.


COSTELLO: NFL stars are reaching out to comfort the relatives of those who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. You might remember, the Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson wrote the names of the victims on his shoes before the Monday night football game with the Jets. Johnson set a franchise record with a 94-yard touchdown run. The Tennessean newspaper reports a friend of Grace McDonnell's family contacted the Titans. Johnson then called McDonnell's family and spoke to grace's 11-year-old brother Jack.

He says when I talked to Jack, we mostly talked about the game. He told me he liked my run. I think his dad was a Jets fan before but they are now new Tennessee Titans fans. It was a nice conversation.

Also New York Giants' receiver Victor Cruz was the favorite player of Newtown shooting victim Jack Pinto. Cruz expressed his condolences to Pinto's family in his a Saturday night phone call and then wrote "My hero" and "Rest in Peace, Jack Pinto" on his cleats and gloves for Sunday game. Cruz visited the Pinto family this week and talked with reporters about it.


VICTOR CRUZ, NFL PLAYER: When you visit a family that's going through so much and facing so much, so much turmoil in their lives, you know, and you meet their family and see what kind of things they're going through, it just helps you look at life through a different lens like I said. And it really changes your view of, you know, the way you used to look at things, changed your view a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hug your kid a little bit more that night?

CRUZ: Yes, most definitely I mean every since I've kind of been, you know, just spending more time with her. Just cherishing the little moments the little times you get with her because it's, you know, you never know when that can be taken from you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Victor, what was it like being there with the family?

CRUZ: It was just, you know, an emotional time. I spent a little bit of time with them. We got to smile a little bit, which was good for them and it was -- it was a time where I just wanted to be a positive voice, a positive light in a time where it could be really negative.

It was a good time. They're a great family, and they're really united right now at this time. And it was good to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were other kids in the neighborhood there, as well?

CRUZ: Yes, there were some kids, the local football team. The local -- kids for both team, one of the teams came by and spent some time with them and played a little Madden with them, as well. So it was some good times, spent some time with those kids. It was good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the ride up there like for you? Did you have any expectations as to how things were going to go? Were you nervous?

CRUZ: I had no expectations. It was -- I was a little nervous, I just didn't know how I was going to be received. You never know just when they're going through something like that, you just never know how it's going to go down. So once I got there and I saw the kids there with my jersey on, the family and, you know, the family was outside, and they were still pretty emotional crying and stuff like that. So I saw how affected they were by just my presence alone.

So I got out, gave them the cleats and the gloves and they appreciated it and the older brother he was still pretty emotional, stuff like that, so I gave the cleats and stuff to him. And we, you know, I proceeded to sign stuff for the kids and go inside and spend quality time with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about little Jack being buried in your jersey?

CRUZ: That was -- that was different. I mean you don't know whether to say thank you, you know, whether to say, you know, you appreciate it, it's just -- it leaves you kind of blank. But I'm definitely honored by it. I'm definitely humbled by it. And it's definitely, you know, unfortunate, but humbling experience for me.


COSTELLO: Wow. What a great guy. Giants coach Tom Coughlin, he spoke about Cruz's visit, saying the fact he went and did that speaks volumes about what he has inside.

Back in Newtown, a tiny piece of normal, that's how Newtown High School principal described yesterday's girls' basketball game against Masak High School. We got the pictures from "The News Times" of Danbury, Connecticut. It's the first sports even for the high school since Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook. The Newtown girls won the game by 20 points. 26 balloons in green and white, Sandy Hook's colors were placed off court. More than $2,200 raised in memory of the victims.

Now your responses to our "Talk Back" question of the day, and it was a tough one. How should Nancy Lanza be remembered?

This from Sandra: "Nancy Lanza is responsible for what happened at Sandy Hook. Why would she have so many guns available to her son? She should've had them locked up."

This from Nick: "A mom who got killed by her own son which I think is a most tragic way to die."

From Joseph: "As a caring and loving mother, a victim too, but most importantly as a mother who made a fatal mistake in letting a son of unsound mind lay is hands on assault weapons to unleash its theory of anguish on a community."

This from Mary: "It's tragic that anyone's death should go unmourned."

Please keep the conversation going, I know it's a difficult one. Thank you for your comments over the last three days it's been unbelievable. And thank you for joining me today.

CNN NEWSROOM with Ashleigh Banfield continues after a quick break.