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Thousands Protest in India; Placing Blame Over Cliff Failure

Aired December 23, 2012 - 08:00   ET



RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): From CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

The vote is in. Now, the world waits to see how Egypt will react to the new constitution.

Aurora, Penn State, and, of course, Newtown. We count down the top 10 biggest crimes of the year.

And remember that reindeer sweater you got from Uncle Lou or the elevator music C.D. from Aunt Sally? Dean Obeidallah shares his worst Christmas gifts ever.


KAYE: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. It's 8:00 on the East Coast, 5:00 a.m. out West. Thanks so much for starting your morning with us.

First, you want to get you to some breaking news out of India where anger is boiling over in the streets, and a young woman is fighting for her life in the hospital. There have been violent clashes and protests, with police firing water cannons and tear gas at demonstrators. The protestors are furious after the young woman was beaten and gang raped on a bus in New Delhi last weekend.

We're also learning that a journalist has been killed in a separate protest today over an alleged sexual assault on a popular actress.

CNN-IBN's Parikshit Luthra joins me now on the telephone.

First of all, what can you tell us about the journalist's death today?

PARIKSHIT LUTHRA, CNN-IBN REPORTER (via telephone): The death of this protestor is concerned, it all started from last Sunday. There was a 23-year-old victim who was gang raped on a moving bus, and there have been protests all over New Delhi after that and protests all over the country as well.

In this protest that was (INAUDIBLE) what India gave, which is right in the center of the New Delhi, which is center place. It's not far from the Indian parliament and the president's house. So it's a high security area, and the police have been giving warnings to people all day.

And, finally, in the evening they approached the crowds and they started to hit them with batons, they targeted them with water cannons asking them it to get out of the streets. So, this region, that is the central part that was taken over by the police right now.

KAYE: And that's what you're seeing now. Do you see the protesters? Are they running away or injured as they're being clubbed by authorities there?

LUTHRA: No. As far as the protestors are concerned, they're back to the location. The police aren't doing anything because they faced a lot of flax for the attack already.

Now, right now, the protests are largely peaceful. But during the day, they had got very violent. They were throwing things at the police personnel, they were throwing stones, they were throwing bottles and shoes at the place. This is a very high security zone.

So considering that tomorrow is Monday and would be very high traffic here, it is a major arterial road, so the police clearly want to get things back on track. But the way to deal to the situation, because there were a lot of women in the area, they would probably get very highly criticized in the days to come.

KAYE: Right.

What about this young woman attacked? Do you know anything about her condition?

LUTHRA: Now, as far as this woman is concerned, there are a number of women in this area, Randi, who were injured. They've been taken to nearby hospitals, but no one has been severely injured. That's what we're learning from our sources.

KAYE: I'm talking about the woman -- I'm talking about the woman who was --

LUTHRA: They're focusing on getting things back to normal up.

KAYE: I'm talking about the woman who was attacked on the bus originally. Do you know anything about her condition?

LUTHRA: The victim is still suffering. She's still critical. She's been on a ventilator for one week, but her condition is improving say doctors.

But it will take several months for her to get completely back to normal, because she suffered very severe injuries to her intestines, a portion of her intestine has been removed. And doctors say it will take several months to recover for her fully.

KAYE: I know that the protesters called this woman Damini, which means lightning is Hindi. Has she become a symbol in India? LUTHRA: Now, as far as the name of the protestor is concerned, usually, according to the Indian police and the Indian law, we usually refrain from taking the names of victims. But what has happened is that she's really -- different people who she interacted with the last one week, they associated with her at some point is what happens is every woman faces some sort of harassment in the capital on a daily basis. Crimes against women have been on the rise in the recent past, and this was a really brutal case.

In fact, if you speak to police officers here and doctors who are treating that 22-year-old girl we're talking about, they tell you that this is probably the worst case they've seen in the last seven to eight years. That's what really brought people on the streets. We've seen rapes before.

We've seen murders before, but never has -- never have people really come to important locations in the capital and protested in this manner. It was the shear brutality of this case that bought people together.

KAYE: Well, of course. It's hard to imagine a young woman being gang raped on a moving bus and nobody being able to prevent that.

What about arrests in this case? Have these men been arrested?

LUTHRA: All the accused in the case have been arrested. There were six of them. One was a bus driver and the other were their associates. They were arrested in two to three days of the case.

But really the focus wasn't the investigation because the profile of these people wasn't very great. They were ordinary vegetable vendors, they were ordinary fruit sellers, very ordinary people. The police already had a lot of information about them.

I'd like to point out a very key role was played by the victim's male friend. He was traveling with her on that bus. He tried to resist when these men indulged in this beating, and he was really beaten up badly by them. And that's when the others really took advantage of the situation.

So the male friend has really helped the police. He's been giving all the statements. He gave them the clues about the bus, the number of the bus, what was inscribed on it, the color. And it was through him that it really went ahead and reached all the accused.

Now, another good point about the victim, she gave a detailed statement about the incident to the police. That is something very brave, considering someone is so badly battered, someone who was so badly injured. She really made the effort to give a statement to the police is a really good thing.

KAYE: Yes.

LUTHRA: Doctors tell us she is walking slightly and her condition is improving.

KAYE: Parikshit Luthra, thank you so much for your reporting and for that information from Delhi there. Appreciate that.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood party says voters approved a referendum on a new constitution for the country. Official results expected later today. During two weekend rounds of voting, turnout was very lower. Supporters say the charter will increase Egypt's stability. Opponents say it tramples on minority rights and will increase Islamist power.

Adding to the uncertainty, the Egypt president resigned yesterday. In a resignation letter, the former judge said political worker doesn't jive with his profession.

Now, to a fearful ending and new beginning as well in Connecticut. Flags are raced to full staff today for the first time since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This comes just after the final three funerals for the victims of the tragedy.

Take a look at here -- left to right: Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez- Greene, and Emilie Parker, all little girls with bright futures ahead of them taken away before their time. People gathered yesterday to say their good-byes.


JILL COTTLE GARRETT, EMILIE PARKER'S AUNT: To just see the hall filled with pink flowers, glitter, it was fancy. That's what Emilie lived her life, celebrating life. Everything was special to Emilie.


KAYE: Emilie Parker was just 6. Her family is one of the few family members of the Newtown victims to speak publicly about the shooting. He wanted people to remember his daughter has a kind and caring big sister.

Let's get you to Washington. With Congress home for the holidays, a deal on the fiscal cliff looks less and less likely. And that could be mean coal in the stocking for House Speaker John Boehner. It could also mean the end to his two-year reign as Republican leader.

Boehner is facing pressure from his own party after his plan B failure. He proposed a vote on the plan to allow taxes to go up on millionaires, but Republicans had to pull it off the table after admitting they can't get it passed.

For an illustration of the pressure facing John Boehner, all you have to do is check the latest polls, and that's what we have political editor Paul Steinhauser doing.


PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Americans are worried about the tax increases and spending cuts that will kick in if the nation falls off the fiscal cliff at the end of the year. Check this out: seven of 10 questioned in our CNN/ORC national poll say there would be major problems or a crisis in the country if that happens.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of what voters were looking for is some compromise up here. That's what -- that's what folks want.

STEINHAUSER: And our poll indicates more Americans want the Republicans rather than the Democrats to compromise more to reach bipartisan solutions.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Democrat- controlled Senate and White House have no plan and have offered no plan all year to deal with these looming cuts.

STEINHAUSER: But the public doesn't seem to agree, and more people would blame Republicans in Congress rather than the president if no deal is reached. One reason why? More people see the views and policies of the GOP rather than the Democratic Party has too extreme.

That wasn't the case two years ago. If there's any good news in the poll for the Republicans, it's this -- a small majority say it's good for the country that the GOP controls the House, which suggests the public doesn't want the Democrats controlling everything here in Washington.


KAYE: Paul Steinhauser, thank you very much.

From fiscal cliff to crime and punishment, we'll show you our top 10 crime stories of the year.


KAYE: The year turned out to be one full of incredible stories. Some sparked international outrage, and as others developed the details were up almost too hard to believe. Crimes were committed and in some cases justice was handed down, but some victims are still waiting.

Here is the list of the top 10 crime stories of 2012.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A manhunt is under way for McAfee software founder John McAfee.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The computer wiz and millionaire is wanted for questioning in the murder of an American expatriate in Belize.

REPORTER: Police are pursuing multiples they say and they claim they just want to talk to McAfee as part of the investigation. But nobody seems to know where he is.

KAYE (voice-over): Yes, it was strange and only got stranger after weeks went by and no one could find him. Well, not no one. ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news right now. A fugitive software tycoon John McAfee, wanted for questioning in the murder of his neighbor in Belize, has been on the run for three weeks from authorities, but our Martin Savidge found him.

KAYE: McAfee claims he didn't kill his name.

Number nine, the day darkness fell under a crystal clear August sky in Wisconsin.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The latest information we know is seven are dead at in the point, three of them, we're told, outside of that temple.

KAYE: The gunman on a rampage at a Sikh temple, U.S. Army veteran Wade Michael Page.

After shooting one police officer multiple times -- Page was shot and killed by another officer.

Number eight, the massacre in Kandahar province.

OBAMA: The United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered.

KAYE: The accused gunman, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Military officials say Bales left his Afghanistan outpost on a night back in March and single-handedly attacked two villages, opening fire and killing 16 Afghan civilians in their homes and wounding six others.

Number seven: striking a deal in the shooting at that struck a blow to the nation.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The man who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people on a rampage in Tucson last year pleaded guilty to 19 charges.

KAYE: Jared Loughner was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms, plus 140 years. His guilty means he will avoid the death penalty.

Chicago's murder rate surged this year to levels not seen in almost a decade. By December, closed to 500 were killed in the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not the gang bangers. Right now, innocent kids and women are shot on a daily basis.

KAYE: Averaging more than a murder a day, most happened in a few specific areas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire city suffers when violence happens, and this idea of not in my backyard is not OK.

DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We start this morning with breaking news from Italy. KAYE: A massive cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, turned on its side after running aground in January. Thirty-two passengers and crew were killed. The captain says it was an accident, not a crime. But he now faces charges.

REPORTER: The chief is being investigated for manslaughter and abandoning ship.

KAYE: He claims he tripped and fell into a lifeboat.

The sentencing of Jerry Sandusky.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, Jerry Sandusky will die in jail.

KAYE: A judge sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach to at least 30 years in jail, after he was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse. Despite the mountain of evidence against him, Sandusky continues to proclaim his innocence. He's in the process of appealing his sentence.

Number three, the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son left Sanford, Florida, in a body bag, while George Zimmerman went home to go to sleep in his own bed.

KAYE: Accused gunman George Zimmerman claims self-defense in a case that sparked international outrage and ignited racial tensions. Trial is set for June.

Number two.

POLICE OFFICER: We need rescue inside the auditorium. We have multiple victims.

POLICE OFFICER: I've gone seven down in theater 9, seven down.

KAYE: July 20th, just past midnight, terror inside theater 9.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Aurora, Colorado, 9 miles east of Denver, where there's a mass shooting at a movie theater.

KAYE: Prosecutors say James Holmes donned protective gear, threw tear gas and began firing.

In the end, 12 killed, 58 others wounded. Holmes faces 152 charges. Many victims continue to recover while others will never recover the loss they suffered that night.

And number one --

BLITZER: Unimaginable horror grips the nation is one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

KAYE: Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

LEMON: This is unspeakable what happened in this town.

KAYE: Innocent children shot dead in their classrooms. The victims? Sixteen 6-year-olds, four 7-year-olds, along with six adults.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emilie's laughter was infectious and all those who had the pleasure to meet her would agree that this world is a better place because she's been in it.

KAYE: In Newtown, Connecticut, an outpouring of kindness and compassion, while a nation faced hard questions about mental health and guns -- as the president issued an emotional call for action.

OBAMA: For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.


KAYE: And a programming note. You can see more of our top ten of 2012 special, stories that captured the country's attention. It also includes the biggest stories in politics, money and even scandals. It airs Christmas night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

He beat out Olympic athletes, TV personalities and a long list of humanitarians around the globe. You may be shocked to find out which world leader won "TIME" magazine's person of the year online reader poll. We'll tell you.


KAYE: Welcome back. Twenty-three minutes past the hour. Glad you're with us.

"TIME" magazine named President Barack Obama their much anticipated Person of the Year for 2012. But it was another world leader who snagged the number one spot in "TIME's" reader poll with 12.6 million votes.

And here to tell us who is Nadia Bilchik.

Good morning. All right. So spill it. Who was if?

NADIA BILCHIK, CNN EDITORIAL PRODUCER: We're supposed to tell you "TIME" magazine will be the first to tell you this is not scientific.

KAYE: Yes, I'm sure.

BILCHIK: North Korea's supreme leader, youngest head of state currently in the world, Kim Jong-un.

KAYE: Why the fascination with him?

BILCHIK: Well, he's intriguing because he's the third in the Kim dynasty. His grandfather founded North Korea. He was appointed by his father. He's actually the third and youngest son, but his father thought he had what it took to be supreme leader.

Interestingly enough, he went to school in Switzerland. He's also an NBA and Nike fan.

KAYE: Really?

BILCHIK: And does his own buzz cuts, which have become a trend in North Korea.

KAYE: He does that hair himself?

BILCHIK: He does that hair.

KAYE: Well, that's funny.

BILCHIK: He has a fear of barbers.

KAYE: Really? I guess you never know who's going to come after you.

But "The Onion", as a joke I guess, named him sexiest man in alive in a poll. It was meant to be a joke. But the Chinese published that thinking it was real.

BILCHIK: Well, the Chinese are his greatest allies and supporters, but we know it's not real. Good about him is he showed his wife. That gives a lot of hope to the North Korean women. She's being seen in public, very different to his father. You never saw his father's wife.

He's allowed young women to ride their bicycles in urban areas in Pyongyang after a 20-year ban.

KAYE: How is he perceived? Is he liked? Is he feared?

BILCHIK: Well, amongst North Koreans he's revered because of this very successful launch, so certainly revered amongst him. Condemnation by the international community, but it remains to be seen. I mean, the man is 29 or 30. And, by the way, we're not clear on that.

KAYE: They don't release that, right?

BILCHIK: Exactly. But it remains to be seen. He seems to have similar policies to his father, Kim Jong-Il, but a very different personality, much more gregarious. So, we will be watching him with interest.

KAYE: Yes, we are fascinated with him. No doubt.

All right. Nadia, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

Well, the Pope has pardoned his former butler convicted who was leaking his private papers. So is the Pope living up to the Bible's word on forgiveness? We'll talk about and get some advice on how to forgive over the holidays. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Now for an update on mortgage rates, they're still low but slightly higher than last week. Take a look here.


KAYE: Welcome back, everyone, to CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I'm Randi Kaye. It is the bottom of the hour right now.

Here are some of the stories that we're watching:

Dramatic new pictures coming to us out of India's capital of New Delhi.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets furious after a brutal gang rape and beating of a young woman. Some broke down sobbing. Earlier, police fired tear gas and water cannons at them to try to break up the crowd.

The attack happened on a bus city last weekend, and the 23-year- old woman is now fighting for her life in a hospital. Six suspects, including the bus driver, are under arrest.

In Connecticut, flags will be raised to full staff this morning. It's the first time since the shooting in Newtown. We saw the last three funerals for the Sandy Hook victims. Three more little girls were laid to rest left to right on the screen: Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez-Greene and Emilie Parker.

When students in Marlboro, New Jersey, get back from the break, they'll notice a big change Marlboro's mayor says that every school will now have an armed guard on duty. He says he made the decision before the NRA came out suggesting it. But while the mayor says it's necessary right now, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says armed guards are not the solution.


LINDSEY GREWE, JOGGER WHO ESCAPED FROM MOUNTAIN LION: I don't think anyone heard me. I really thought he was going to attack me. I just had visions that I was going to get eaten.


KAYE: That jogger had a frightening encounter with a mountain lion as she ran through Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain Park. They're hunting for the animal after it approached the jogger and another person in two separate incidents. Rangers say they may have to kill the mountain lion to prevent it from threatening people at the park.

And check out this video from Boston where a police officer jumped into the frigid Boston harbor to save a drowning woman. A bystander recorded his heroism with a cell phone. The woman told police she fell into the harbor by accident. Fire department divers arrived to help them both to safety. What an incredible task there. For today's "Faces of Faith", we are talking about the face of forgiveness, and what it looks like during the holidays. One example is the Pope. He made a surprise visit to the Vatican jail yesterday and pardoned his former butler from his 18-month prison sentence. The butler Paolo Gabriele had been convicted of stealing private documents from the Pope's office and leaking them to the media in an effort to expose corruption within the Catholic Church.

Well, when they met yesterday, it was the first time they had seen each other since Gabriele was arrested in May.

And joining us now to talk a little bit more about this is Brent Strawn. He teaches Bible and theology at Emory University in Atlanta. He's also an ordained minister.

So, good morning to you.


KAYE: So, this is big news. We talked about this story a long time ago when it was first unfolding, but forgiveness. This is very interesting coming from the Pope.

What kind of example do you think he's trying to set?

STRAWN: Yes. Well, in Catholicism, you know, the Pope is the representative of Jesus Christ on Earth. So, what the Pope is doing in this particular event is very much acting like Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is often depicted forgiving people their sins and so on and so forth.

But, probably, the most dramatic example of that is when Jesus from the cross prays for the forgiveness for those who are killing him according to the gospel of Luke.

KAYE: Yes, you pointed out this verse to us from the gospel according to Luke. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they're doing."

That is what you're talking about there.

STRAWN: Exactly. It seems like that's a superhuman sort of thing that Jesus did from the cross, but just in, you know, a few pages over in the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christian martyr, Steven, is said to pray almost the same thing being executed. He said, "Lord, don't hold this sin against them."

So, it is possible for normal people to forgive, even in extraordinary ways.

KAYE: Yes, certainly a strong message there. How important is forgiveness? I mean, what does the Bible say about it?

STRAWN: Well, it's not only possible, according to the Bible, but it's imperative. It's even commanded. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus makes God's forgiveness contingent on whether or not we forgive each other in the Lord's Prayer. It's a striking text in Matthew Chapter 6 where Jesus says this.

KAYE: Yes. "Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those that wrong us. If you forgive other sins their sins, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins."


KAYE: So, what is the meaning there?

STRAWN: Yes. Well, it's completely dependent. Forgive us just as we forgive others. Meaning that if we don't forgive us, then evidently, God won't forgive us, according to the prayer.

KAYE: Certainly, the holidays, families coming together. It's not always easy. There are problems within families.

STRAWN: That's right.

KAYE: Some grudges are still held.

STRAWN: That's right.

KAYE: What can families do to try and forgive and, I guess, forget maybe around the holiday?

STRAWN: Yes. Well, I think the Bible is helpful in two ways in this regard. One is that the phrase "Forgive and forget," we say it a lot. It sounds great. But it is not actually found in the Bible. It's very hard to forget.

KAYE: Yes.

STRAWN: And it's very hard to forget things that are really bad. It's interesting that the Bible even suggests that some things are so bad they can't be forgotten and maybe shouldn't be forgotten. They shouldn't be forgotten because it keeps us from letting it happen again.

Also, we shouldn't forget them because it keeps us thankful we don't experience the terrible things anymore.

KAYE: Yes.

STRAWN: So that's important.

But another thing is it takes time and that forgiveness may not be marked by how we feel towards someone who's wronged you us. It may entirely be how we act towards them.

So, this great example from the Book of Genesis is these two brothers, family again, and they're at odds for years and years and years. They finally reconcile, but it seems like they don't trust each other much at all even after that. And the primary way they show their forgiveness or reconciliation is they don't try to hurt each other. So, that maybe the primary thing to take it away from that.

KAYE: Yes. Who do you think forgiveness benefits more? I mean, is it more for the person who's forgiving or is it more for the person who's receiving?

STRAWN: Yes, it's got to be both. You got to feel great to be forgiven but to also let it go.

KAYE: Right.

STRAWN: And it's got to be one of the most priceless gifts one can give at Christmastime.

KAYE: Yes, certainly.

Brent Strawn, nice to see you. Thank you and happy holidays to you as well.

STRAWN: Thank you. Yes, merry Christmas.

For more stories on faith, be sure to check out our widely popular Belief Blog. You can find it at

All right. Switching gears here a little bit, we're not talking about forgiveness. We're talking about the worst gifts ever. All right? Let's face it, we've all got a really bad gift, right? We'll share a doozy straight ahead.

And in sports, an NFL player breaks a new receiving record. The details on his history-making night, coming up.


KAYE: Welcome back. Forty minutes past the hour now.

It sounds like a contradiction -- fighting to take on a growing problem in Chicago, street violence. But some dedicated people are taking young kids and turning around their lives.

Photo journalist Derrick Davis (ph) shows us how they're doing it.


JUAN GUERRA, BOXER: I grew up watching boxing all my life. Boxing is really, really hard.

It takes a lot of discipline. Some people make it look easy, but it's really hard.

As soon as I walked in the doors, I just fell in love with boxing.

There's different things that the gym offers you and different things that the streets offer you. Most of the time, the streets will he lead to death for the choice that you make.


There's a good one or two shootings every weekend.

It keeps kids off the street, like if the kid is at home, friends come over, and let's go out. They're out in the street. If they come here, it's a real nice environment for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody get into the ring. We'll have the wrap session.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This week, I want to talk about unity. In this gym, we are a community.

NAVARRO: We not only do boxing but youth development. When you walk in the door, we're not only teaching you boxing. We're also teaching you that, you know, you have to go to school. We have three or four tutors that are trying to get these kids' grades up.

GUERRA: I used to have average like B, C's. Now I get A's and B's.

NAVARRO: I joined boxing to stay away from the streets and to get my life together. It literally saved my life boxing.

I want these kids to go to college for the next generation. It could be more powerful in life. We're more than just tough. We're also smart.

GUERRA: I want to become a champion, and I want to show people that this neighborhood is not only about violence. That there's people in here in the neighborhood that are determined to become somebody in life.

NAVARRO: If I help two, three kids a year, that's already a difference.

Just like boxing saved me, I'm trying to save others.


KAYE: Well, "Giving in Focus" specials 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Christmas Day if you want to check it out.

To sports now. The Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson gave his fans a gift, something to cheer about. Last night, Johnson broke Jerry Rice's records for the most receiving yards in a season. Rice set the record in 1995. Of course, Johnson's record was all the Lions fans had to cheer about. They got crushed by the Falcons 31-18.

There is no shortage of pressing problems in Washington, but that didn't stop lawmakers from heading home for a long holiday weekend. Guns and the looming fiscal cliff at the top of the agenda whenever Congress gets around to tackling it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Welcome back.

President Obama invited a 16-year-old boy he never met to a holiday party at the White House this year. Even though they've never met, Alex Birdie is one of Obama's youngest volunteers.

And here's CNN's Dan Lothian with his story.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It takes a lot of people to make a president -- big-time advisers, big donors and a very big rolodex bulging with volunteers, one of the youngest might well be 16-year-old Alex Berdy.

ALEX BERDY, OBAMA CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: I think politics is going to be my route.

LOTHIAN: He's not your typical teenager. Politics is in his blood. Passion is in his heart.

ALEX BERDY: One day, we were driving along listen to go to political radio. I was like, all right, we have to go in now.

LOTHIAN: So, this 11th grader from Warren, Michigan, went all in, juggling high school classes and part-time courses at a local community college while canvassing for President Obama.

ALEX BERDY: We're a middle class family. When we go out and talk to other middle class families, it's really relatable, because she's got a son that's in high school.

LOTHIAN: And training campaign volunteers old enough to be his parents.

ALEX BERDY: The first time I can se a lot of faces. I had to start screaming training over here. From a kid, no? That wouldn't be useful, would it?

LOTHIAN: One campaign official urged him to brag about his experience so adults would trust him. After all, 2012 was the first rodeo. Berdy campaigned for Obama in 2008, working the phones as an 11-year-old, hardly the voice of authority on the other end of the line.

ALEX BERDY: How would are you? What? You're not (INAUDIBLE). This is a prank call.

LOTHIAN: But he soldiered on with his home, also a volunteer.

LEAH BERDY, ALEX MOTHER: We're fired up now.

LOTHIAN: Fired up for Obama, but respectful, said Berdy, of opposing views. ALEX BERDY: I still like to have a good conversation with a Republican. It's no different. That's -- that's no difference. I mean, it's nice to really see and hear their viewpoints.

LOTHIAN: The prizes for his work, the president won and he received an invitation to a White House holiday party.

(on camera): When that came and you opened it, what did you think?

ALEX BERDY: I didn't think it was real.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): But it was. So, Berdy traveled with his family to the White House to visit the president he'd worked for during two campaigns but never met.

(on camera): What will you say for him?

ALEX BERDY: Probably say it was an honor working for you, and I'm very glad you got re-elected.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.


KAYE: The NRA has offered a provocative solution after the shooting, but armed guards in the schools.

But Congress already has one crisis thing on its plate with the fiscal cliff. That's a pretty ambitious agenda. And lawmakers have already headed home for the holidays.

"STATE OF THE UNION's" Candy Crowley joins me now with a preview of her show.

Good morning, Candy.

So, what's the reaction to the NRA's proposal at the Capitol there?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not just the Capitol, but I think pretty much nationwide. A lot of people looked at it and said, whoa. You know, more guns is not the solution to this.

Now, mind you, what the NRA is proposing and what it's trying to put into place is a program that is, you know, voluntary. They wouldn't force schools to do anything. The NRA said it could use volunteers, you know, et cetera, et cetera.

But the idea that gun control was not spoken of in the NRA's first reaction, I think, struck some people as wrong. So definitely there was a lot of blow-back about it.

But what's the NRA trying to do? Obviously, it's trying to change the conversation. They think the debate should be about safe schools as opposed to guns. And, obviously, they're the gun lobby so you can understand that.

But that's what they were doing, and I mean, they got a lot of fierce pushback by some of the folks on Capitol Hill and some in the country.

KAYE: Yes. Well, certainly a lot of response from lawmakers.

Any indication that any of them will get on board with the NRA's proposal?

CROWLEY: Well, I think school safety in general. The -- I think that what has happened this time in some ways is that people do view this as a problem that doesn't have one solution.

And certainly safe schools is one of the things. Now, as far as putting more armed people inside a school, trained as the NRA says, they'll be professionals and not teachers because they should teach, et cetera, et cetera, is not an unheard of idea. I mean, we've identified at least six states who are thinking about arming teachers.

So this is not something, you know -- first of all, it's something for local schools to kind of decide on their own, but it's not something really so out of the mainstream. There are some states looking at the idea of putting more guns in school.

KAYE: Right.

CROWLEY: I think it hit people wrong because it just -- you know, the sentence, we need more guns in schools rather than, you know --

KAYE: Fewer, yes.

CROWLEY: -- fewer just struck people really badly coming from the gun lobby.

KAYE: Let's talk about the fiscal cliff very quickly here. The GOP civil war certainly seemed to sabotage speaker John Boehner's plan B as he called it on the cliff. Can the Republicans, you think, come together in time to negotiate a deal with the president?

CROWLEY: You know, if they could negotiate a deal with the president, would they be able to get one? We're so many steps away from this --

KAYE: exactly.

CROWLEY: I think it's -- honestly, I have been little miss sunshine about they're going to get this done. They always get it done at the last minute. It will happen. It will happen.

And for the first time when the speaker's plan was turned away and he realized he didn't have enough Republican votes to get it through, it says to me if you can't pass a Republican plan with the Republicans, what can you pass?

KAYE: Yes.

CROWLEY: So, I think it's a little bleak, but they're coming back after Christmas. So, you know, there's time.

KAYE: We'll see.


KAYE: All right. Candy Crowley, nice to see you. Have a great holiday. Thank you.

CROWLEY: You, too.

KAYE: And keep it here for "STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY." It starts in eight minutes, at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time, 6:00 a.m. Pacific, right here on CNN.

All right. Here's a question for you: ever get a gift for the holidays that left you asking, why did you buy me that?

Comedian Dean Obeidallah is here. Oh, no. He has some of his worst holiday gifts along with him. We'll tell you what made his list when we come back.


KAYE: Oh, yes, the holidays, the season of giving and receiving. Getting a gift should make one happy and filled with gratitude, right? What happens when you unwrap that present that just leaves you shaking your head?

Come on, we've all been there. Admit it. Remember this class scene from "A Christmas Story"?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what this is? This is a lamp!


KAYE: A lamp. Lovely.

Comedian Dean Obeidallah has never gotten a lamp, but he has received some pretty bad gifts and he's here to share them with us.

So, you never got a leg lamp, huh?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, COMEDIAN: No yet. I hope this Christmas, maybe someone will --

KAYE: But, you know, in the spirit of the holidays, isn't it really the thought that counts, Dean?

OBEIDALLAH: Of course, it's the thought. You know, let's be honest, on some level, it does. We all appreciate it. I've given some bad gifts. Some gifts look like they didn't give any thought and closed their eyes and bought what they could get and checked out and gave it to you. So, I mean, a little more thought could be helpful. Some gifts are good, but in the context of the holidays, not good.

KAYE: You've got bad ones over the year or we won't be having this discussion.

So, what are some of your all-time worst? Oh, right there.

OBEIDALLAH: Here we go. I got the elephant made of yarn. It smells like mold because it's in the attic. I hope the person that gave me this is not watching this morning.

This is pretty bad. I'm not quite sure what this is. If you're a Republican, perhaps there's a big thing you want.

This was a fun thing I got. It's a fish, looks like a paperweight holder. It's a candle holder, look at. It's a fish --

KAYE: Oh my.

OBEIDALLAH: And, of course, you get the ridiculous sweaters and socks for the holidays.

The worst thing I got was opened cologne. I'm not kidding, it was apparently used, and some of the cologne was missing from the cologne. That ranks right up there.

KAYE: Did the person that gave it to you smell similar to what was in the bottle?

OBEIDALLAH: That's right. I'm not sure -- I cannot recall that. Now, I would have sniffed them, I think.

KAYE: Yes, I know that you brought the question to your friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter. I've done the same.

What were some of the craziest responses you got in terms of the worst gift from social media?

OBEIDALLAH: Well, we got a tweet before we went on the air. Someone said their husband gave them a vacuum cleaner for Christmas, and that was it. In the context of the holidays, crappy gift. In the context of the world, you know, it's a vacuum cleaner.

Some other good ones was one person said they've got a re-gifted stuffed animal with the original card still in the back. That's not good.

This one, Ana Navarro, who is a CNN contributor, tweeted to me. She said her worse gift was a giant framed picture of the gifter. That's like me giving you a gift of a picture of me so you can hang it up on your wall.

KAYE: Yes. OBEIDALLAH: This is truly really happening. A guy named Leslie, a friend on Facebook, said someone gave him an enema kit because the neighbor learned about the benefits of colon cleansing.

KAYE: Oh my goodness.

OBEIDALLAH: So, they were not even kidding. The person thought they were giving him a nice gift. That's kind of creepy.

KAYE: But some of these gifts are practical, right?


KAYE: I know.

Anyway, what about regifting? I've experienced it myself. So is that ever appropriate?

OBEIDALLAH: Sure. I mean, there's etiquette. Take the original card out and make sure it's wrapped.

And, you know what? Regifting is a way to keep the fruitcake going through time. I think it's an heirloom point for some people. It's going out there, everyone is getting the same fruitcake or bottle of wine year after year.

KAYE: Yes.

OBEIDALLAH: Have a little common sense and make sure it's cleaned up and not dirty.

KAYE: OK. I'm taking notes and I have to rethink the gift that I got you for this year now.

OBEIDALLAH: I'm sending you this, Randi, just so you know.

KAYE: No. All yours, really. All yours, Dean.

OBEIDALLAH: No, with the fish. You're getting both.

KAYE: Happy holidays. Nice to see you.

OBEIDALLAH: Nice seeing you.

KAYE: Everybody, thanks for watching today. You can always continue the conversation with me on Twitter @RandiKayeCNN. Have a great holiday.