Return to Transcripts main page


New Rules to Prevent Pilot Fatigue; Tax Fight Could Hurt Economy; Women Rise Up in Egypt; White House On Tax Cut Extension; Newt Gingrich Loses Lead In Polls

Aired December 21, 2011 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

I want to get you up to speed.

House members are on their holiday break today, leaving the question of whether you'll pay more taxes up in the air. House Republicans refused to go along with a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut approved by Republican colleagues in the Senate. So, if there is no deal, your taxes go up January 1st.

House Speaker John Boehner stood firm today in his call for more negotiations.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Let's extend the payroll tax credit for a year. And all we're asking for is to get the Senate members over here to work with us to resolve our differences so we can do what everybody wants to do.


MALVEAUX: Less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Republican Ron Paul now the leader of the pack. In a new poll, 28 percent say Paul is their man, compared to 25 percent who back Newt Gingrich.

Ron Paul is holding a town hall meeting in Iowa at this hour. More on his surge later in our "Political Ticker."

Rod Blagojevich isn't going down without a fight. The former Illinois governor is now appealing a 14-year sentence for corruption. Now, Blagojevich is scheduled to report to prison on March 15th. The sentence stemmed from his attempts to sell President Obama's former Senate seat back in 2008.

Turkish police detain dozens of people in an alleged terror plot, many of them journalists. Journalists held this demonstration in Istanbul just hours after the police roundup. They say free press is under attack, but the government says those detained were suspected members of the press and propaganda wing of a banned separatist group.

Syria's main opposition group is accusing the government of horrific massacres this week. This amateur video you're seeing here, it is said to show a gun battle on the streets of Damascus. The opposition says almost 250 people were killed over a 48-hour period. The group is calling on the Arab League and the U.N. Security Council to step in and stop the deadly crackdown.

An Iranian-American man who is being held on spying charges in Iran has been told he has got to face trial there. Amir Hemadi (ph), he's an ex-Marine. He was arrested in August while visiting relatives, and his family says he was forced to confess in a televised video. The State Department says he is being falsely accused.

The FAA just announced new sweeping changes to prevent pilots from flying fatigued. The intent, obviously to keep all of us safe in the air. But does it go far enough?

The rules, they're being issued almost three years after the horrific crash of a Colgan Air flight near Buffalo, New York. Fifty people were killed. Federal transportation investigators did not cite fatigue as a direct cause of the crash, but said neither pilot appeared to have slept in a bed the night before.

Here's why the rule changes are important.

There are tens of thousands of flights every day around the world. I want you to take a look at the map showing all the flights in air right now.

Leading up to the holidays, there is also a prospective 43.3 million people who are going to fly on U.S. carriers both domestically, as well as internationally. So, under the old rules, which were unchanged since the 1960s, pilots potentially worked overnight shifts of up to 16 hours. The eight hours could include eating, showering, going to hotel. Carriers could extend the workday if a pilot flew an empty plane.

Well, under the new rules, flight duty times would range from nine to 14 hours, which start when reporting for duty and end when parking the plane. So, flight time limits of eight or nine hours, depending on the start time; minimum rest periods of 10 hours so that pilots have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Pilot and aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, he is joining us from New York.

So, Miles, great to see you.


MALVEAUX: What do we make of these rules, these new rules? Are they going to make a difference?

O'BRIEN: Well, it's a step in the right direction. You know, those rules that you referred to, the old rules, really date back to the 1960s. And they really didn't know a lot in those days about our circadian rhythms and how trying to work at night, no matter how rested you try to be, you're never going to be as alert, you're always going to be a little more fatigued. And so this rule recognizes that, giving pilots who fly predominantly at night a little less work and a little more rest, and those that fly during the day, actually, their duty will increase ever so slightly. The big loophole, the big exemption in all of this, and the big concern expressed by the families of Flight 3407 and the pilots unions are the cargo carriers which got an exemption carved out on this.

They fly primarily at night. We're talking about UPS and FedEx and the light. And they do not have to abide by these new work and rest rules. And there is a big question. As one pilots union said, that's like exempting truckers from drunken driving laws.

MALVEAUX: And Miles, being a pilot yourself, what kind of rest, what kind of sleep do pilots need to really make sure that they are prepared and that they are able to fly these planes safely?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, every individual has their own requirements for sleep. And also a part of this rule is each pilot, as they sign in, will have to attest and sign a statement saying they are, in fact, ready to work. And if not, they should in fact be sent home. But certainly eight hours is a good place to start.

And when you had an eight-hour time frame between when they parked the plane to when they had to sign in the next morning, just do the math on getting to the hotel and having dinner and so forth, and you realize they weren't sleeping enough. And in the case of 3407, there is no proof that either of those pilots -- as a matter of fact, we know both of those pilots did not get a proper night's sleep in a bed the night before.

Now, it's not an official cause of that accident, but you and I know in our heart of hearts, because you can listen to that flight data recorder, they were yawning the whole way into the ground.

MALVEAUX: And Miles, why did it take so long to get these rules changed?

O'BRIEN: Well, this is a big frustration among the families. Here we are, three years later. The FAA has given the airlines two more years just to implement this rule change.

The wheels of bureaucracy and government move awfully slowly. And you have to wonder what that means for all of our safety. There are still a lot of tired pilots out there flying all of us around this holiday season.

MALVEAUX: All right.

Former colleague, good friend, Miles O'Brien.

So nice to see you. Have a great holiday.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Here's a rundown of some of the stories ahead.

First, our economic future if Congress doesn't get it together soon on a payroll tax deal.

Then, protests have been the story of 2011. A look back at the year when a world of frustrated people decided to speak up.

And a CNN exclusive. Iran's nuclear ambitions -- a concern about a renewed arms race.

Plus, a disabled veteran facing foreclosure makes a call to Occupy Atlanta.

And how's this for number-crunching?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was very lucky to be born in 1905. I was just in time for a lot of the new technologies -- radio, television.


MALVEAUX: Trade secrets from a 106-year-old broker still operating on Wall Street.


MALVEAUX: All right. So remember this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.


MALVEAUX: We all remember the Schoolhouse Rock path of how a bill becomes a law in this country. It seemed like a pretty simple, straightforward process. But right now there is a bitter standoff gripping Congress, a much more complicated game of political combat that is going on, preventing any work from getting done.

Here's the catch. If this bill sitting on Capitol Hill, a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, does not become law by midnight this New Year's Eve, your family could very well see a two percent cut out of your paycheck. That is about $40 per paycheck for the average American household. That is not a small chunk of change in the state of this economy, especially not after the week after Christmas.

Of course neither side of the aisle wants to see it happen, but the problem here is broken government, plain and simple. Understandably, a lot of folks are starting to think that their politicians no longer have their best interests in mind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the way the economy is and stuff, and now we're going to have to start paying more money --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if the Congress doesn't agree on this right here, I just don't know how we're going to make it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress isn't really considering the people of America and the struggles that we're going through.


MALVEAUX: So what can we, the people, do to make Congress act? contributor Dean Obeidallah, he's got an idea: lock the politicians in on Capitol Hill until they get something done.

I spoke with him this morning about his unique proposal.


DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: I'm actually not kidding when I say let's take a page from the NBA owners and lock Congress out until they start getting something done for the American people. Honestly, this is like the movie "Groundhog Day," but it's not funny. There's no Bill Murray in it.

It's the same thing over and over every few months, there's some issue. And I'm going to be honest with you, it's Congress overall, but it's getting more and more focused, as John McCain said and "The Wall Street Journal" said, on the Tea Party members on the House of Representatives preventing a deal on certain issues which are good for the middle class. They're good for all of us.

So I think my frustration is echoed by the vast majority of Americans that are frustrated with our Congress.

MALVEAUX: And Dean, this idea is actually getting some traction, this Occupy Congress that is gathering momentum online. What can people really do besides vote the bums out of office the next election?

OBEIDALLAH: Well, I'm going to be honest, voting the bums out sounds so easy. People say that all the time. But even in 2010, Congress's approval ratings were at 20 percent. Still, almost 90 percent of the members of the House and Senate running for re-election were actually re-elected. So it's not that easy to vote them out.

I think one thing practically, frankly, call your congressional office. Send an e-mail to your congressman or congresswoman. Tell them this is not working, we want you to work for us.

It's not longer -- it should not be have a Tea Party agenda or a liberal agenda, it's an American agenda we need to help the middle class. It's 99 percent -- 100 percent of us can benefit from certain things now. Making a deal on the payroll tax cut helps all of us not just the holidays, for the whole year. We need the money.


MALVEAUX: If there's no deal on the tax cut extension, it directly affects your paycheck. The average person will pay about $1,000 more in taxes starting January 1st. It's a broad range. If you make $35,000 a year, you're going to pay $700 more. If you make up to $110,000, say, your taxes are going to go up by more than $2,300. But it could also affect the overall economy.

Felicia Taylor, she's joining us from the New York Stock Exchange.

And explain to us how this might actually affect economic growth in the coming year.

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, some economists, to be fair, say that GDP won't be affected. But CNN Money surveyed a group of economists, and they say not extending this payroll tax holiday could shave about .4 of one percent from GDP.

That's a fairly sizeable reduction. It doesn't sound like it, but if you take a look at it, it really is.

The issue naturally comes down to spending. By not extending the payroll tax holiday, that means obviously less money in our pockets to use and less money to spend and put back into the economy. The same is true for extending unemployment benefits, which is also part of the same bill. So it really does have this sort of drag-on effect on the overall economy.

MALVEAUX: Could this even tip the U.S. back into a recession?

TAYLOR: Yes. Well, the most worried economists say that, definitely, it could. And that's because nationally, this is just bad timing. We're not out of the crisis yet.

Take a look at this chart. It shows GDP growth since the beginning of last year.

Growth slowed down dramatically in 2011, compared to 2010, especially in that first quarter, if you take a look at that number right there. The good news is that it's picking up, but overall GDP averaged just one percent in 2011. One percent, compared to what we had, 3.9 percent, in 2010.

The economy needs at least three percent or more to be considered growing at a healthy rate. The fear is that growth could slow down again if this payroll tax holiday isn't extended. So it puts that dreaded uncertainty back into the marketplace and naturally back into economy.

It just basically means that our economy has sort of less margin for error. If we get more bad headlines coming out of Europe's debt crisis, that could take a bigger toll, because we just don't really have any room for more mistakes to happen.

MALVEAUX: All right.

TAYLOR: So that's the concern.

MALVEAUX: Yes, they have got to get this done. Felicia, thank you so much.

So, we want to hear from you about the payroll tax debate. How can you get involved? Is it as simple as tweeting your congressperson? Does it have something bigger have to happen here?

Our "Talk Back" question today: What can we do as everyday citizens to fix this broken Congress?

You can post your responses on my Facebook page at We're going to air some of your thoughts later in the hour.

Well, outrage, violence, people taking to the streets. We'll take a look back at a year of protests around the globe.


MALVEAUX: A horrific massacre in Syria. That is how the country's main opposition group is describing the government's crackdown this week.

This amateur video you are seeing is said to show a gun battle on the streets of Damascus. The opposition says almost 250 people were killed over a 48-hour period. The group is calling on the Arab League and the U.N. Security Council to step in and stop the killing of civilians.

This has also been a very bloody time for protesters in Egypt, particularly women. They turned out by the thousands yesterday to protest recent attacks on female demonstrators by military police.

Our Mohammed Jamjoom, he joins us live from Cairo.

Mohammed, you have actually been to see one of the women who was attacked. What did she say about what is taking place there?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we had scheduled an interview today with a woman named Azza Suleiman, a 48-year-old Egyptian female protester who was beaten and whose beating was caught on videotape last week. She was beaten at the hands of the security forces.

When we got to the hospital though today, it was a very disturbing scene. We were granted access by her family, but when we went into the room, the woman was screaming in pain, heavily bandaged on her head with a skull fracture.

She had visible gashes on her face. Heavily bruised. Wouldn't stop screaming, was saying that she thought she was going to die, that she needed help.

We were not able to speak to her. She didn't understand the questions that we were asking her.

Again, a very disturbing scene.

And if I could just take you back to the video that caught our attention at first of this woman, this happened this past Saturday. You see her in a red coat in Tahrir Square trying to help another injured female protester, when the riot police converged upon her and a companion.

She trips over the woman. It's very disturbing video.

They start beating her. They start clubbing her repeatedly to the head. It's hard to imagine how somebody can sustain this kind of a beating and still survive. When we were at the hospital today, doctors were saying she might have to be taken to the ICU.

This is just one case of many that we have heard about these past few days here in Egypt that has caused so much outrage, one of the reasons these thousands of women were out in the street yesterday marching, saying that the armed forces here, the military council, should step aside, and that a civilian government should be put in place, and that this kind of systematic abuse as they're claiming is happening towards protesters needs to stop as soon as possible -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Can you explain to us -- I mean, this is so disturbing. And to see that woman just crying and screaming in bed like that, I mean, who is taking care of her? I mean, is she getting painkillers? You said her family is there.

Who is there? Who is actually helping her? Is there someone who is there to help her?

JAMJOOM: Suzanne, her family has been there, her brother, her brother's wife. They have been trying to help her.

At this point, they just don't know what more she is going to need. She sustained severe attacks, multiple blows to the head.

When we were there it looked like she might be taken to the ICU. We have not been able to reach her family since we left the hospital today.

There had been interest in trying to speak with her. Our producer, Mohammed Fami (ph), got in touch with her last night. He went to her. At that point, she was lucid.

She said she wanted to get her story out. She wanted people to see what happened to her and be outraged, but she wasn't able to speak to us today.

And it begs the question, what's going to happen to her? How is she going to be taken care of?

And the other demonstrators and female demonstrators that have been faced with so much brutality in this crackdown that was going on the past few days, what's going to happen to them? Really a big question mark right now. We can only continue to check in on them and try to continue to report their stories in the days to come -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you. Please do, Mohammed. We really appreciate that, and following through what happens to her and many of those other women who have been attacked.

Responding to the attacks on female protesters, Egypt's military council posted a statement on its official Facebook page saying, "The Supreme Council expresses its great regret to the great women of Egypt for the violations that took place during the recent events in the demonstrations that took place at the parliament of the minister's council, and reassure its respect and appreciation for Egyptian women and their right in protesting, and their active, positive participation in political life."

And that is the end of their statement.

As 2011 draws close to a close, the year might best be remembered for those protests around the world, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement here in the United States.

Zain Verjee takes a look back on the moments that have captured our attention. We want to warn you, some of the images are graphic.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the year of people power, of revolution.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Something I have never seen before, a phalanx of men on horseback and on camels.

VERJEE: And bloodshed that doomed dictators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one is going home. No one is going to go home. We're in this until the end, even if it means we're going to die.

VERJEE: It started with one man in one country, Tunisia, who set himself on fire when the police confiscated his fruit cart, leaving him with no way to make money. That set off a movement that kicked out longtime president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The region was gripped with freedom fever. Fueled by social media, protests erupt in Algeria, then Yemen. Its leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, seriously injured when his palace was shelled, left the country for treatment, left, returned, and later gave up power.

Protests in Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan. Egyptians filled Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo, protesting (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These protests have gone on all day long. It's now almost 5:00 in the afternoon. It's two hours after curfew has begun. But still, the square is packed with people and these protests will likely go well into the night.

VERJEE: Their demand? Longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak has to go. By February, he was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever imagine that this would be happening in Egypt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never. One month ago, I would never imagine it. And for me, I'm a young man and I always believed that my generation would never make any history. VERJEE: The Arab Spring then hit Libya. The opposition galvanized to get rid of Moammar Gahdafi. NATO launches air support. The country becomes a war zone. Tripoli eventually falls.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is an important day, especially for the rebels who Gadhafi said would never be able to take his spirit, would never be able to take the city.

VERJEE: Eight bloody months later, the tyrant was dead.

The world's attention now focused on Syria. Will it be the next domino to fall? Even with the brutal crackdown of the regime, demonstrators are on the streets. According to the U.N., at least 5,000 have been killed since March.

As some fight for their freedom, others protest for bread and butter.

In Europe, thousands demonstrate, angry at tough economic conditions. Furious protesters in Greece battled with riot police for weeks against pay cuts and layoffs.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was called a suicide vote though earlier on by the Bank of Greece governor. He said, "If we don't pass this, the country's gone."

VERJEE: In England, peaceful protests turned ugly. Discontented youth fought with police and looted and destroyed parts of the city.

In September, the Occupy Wall Street movement started in New York and soon gripped major capitals around the world, condemning the wealthiest one percent for leaving the other 99 percent out in the cold.

And by December, a glimpse of people power in Russia. Thousands marched rejecting election results by Vladimir Putin's party, frustrated, too, with corruption and economic stagnation.

2011 shattered and rattled the political orders of the world --

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This will send shock waves throughout the region.

VERJEE: -- setting in motion a wave of discontent that promises to wash into the years to come.

Zain Verjee, CNN, London.


MALVEAUX: An Army sergeant wounded in Iraq had bigger problems when she got home to Atlanta. She couldn't pay the mortgage anymore, and then the Occupy movement stepped in. We're going to hear her story.


MALVEUAX: Here is a rundown of some of the stories we are working on. Next, how Occupy Atlanta helped save a Georgia woman's home from foreclosure.

Then, after a surge in the polls, Newt Gingrich no longer in the lead.

Later, you know the saying age nothing but a number? Well a 106-year- old stockbroker definitely proving that.

This Iraq war veteran wounded by mortar rounds was forced to retire from the Army because of her injuries. Brigitte Walker lost half of her income when that happened, and after 22 years in the Army she could no longer afford the payments on her Atlanta home. So, she asked her bank, Chase, to lower the monthly payments and was rejected. Her home was going to be auctioned off on January 3.

So Walker reached out for help. Occupy Atlanta got involved. Along with civil rights activist Joseph Laurie. Just a couple days ago, her bank lowered her payments by more than half. We reached out to Chase and they told us, quote, "We're very pleased we could help a military veteran who has sacrificed for our country."

Well, before Walker's loan was modified, she was among 2 million homeowners being foreclosed on right now here in this country. Another six million homeowners are 30 or more days delinquent on their payments.

I want to bring in Brigitte Walker, who joins us now. And first of all, it's such a pleasure to meet you. Congratulations. I know that it was a pretty tough situation for you. What does it mean for you now on the holiday that you're not going to be kicked out of your home, which was just weeks away?

BRIGITTE WALKER, AVOIDED FORECLOSURE: It's a blessing. I'm happy. I'm overjoyed, excited. Instead of trying to plan to move, now we can actually plan for Christmas.

MALVEUAX: That's nice. How did this come about? I mean you lost your -- half of your income. You went to the bank. What was the response?

WALKER: They were telling me that -- to submit certain type of documentation. It was a continuous cycle of submitting documents and denials stating that I needed to have more income because my expenses were too great or my income was not enough. And it was just a continuous cycle get some help so I could breathe.

MALVEUAX: I understand - I understand in trying to breathe, you have had to sell a lot of stuff. You had to give up a lot of stuff. What did you do to try to make those payments?

WALKER: I had three vehicles. I scaled down to one. I was very tight on every dollar that I spent. I had a little savings before I was medically retired, so that kind of carried me a little bit. But from making good money in the military and then going down to below half, my income was half, but my expenses and bills were still of making good money from being on active duty. MALVEAUX: At what point did you feel desperate enough to seek out help outside of what you were doing?

WALKER: Well, actually, I was watching TV and saw the story of the 103-year-old lady. And I pulled the article up online and found Senator Ford's (ph) contact information. Sent him an e-mail detailing the hardship, what I was going through. And within two hours of that, he called me.

MALVEAUX: Wow. So they got involved. Do you know if there was anything that they did that changed the bank's mind here that you were not able to do? Do you know how it actually came about that they were able to get this renegotiated for you?

WALKER: Yes. They got everyday common people like us involved. They got the story out because a lot of people are going through the same thing that I'm going through but you wouldn't know. So that, and doing what they do as Occupy Atlanta, everything came together. And it was a win for everybody.

MALVEAUX: What would you -- what kind of advice would you give people who might be watching. You say you watched the story about the 103-year-old lady. People are watching now, they are watching you and they are watching what happened with you. What do people need to know to do if they are in a desperate situation where they're going to lose their home?

WALKER: Don't be afraid to let someone know your struggles. Before anyone can help you, you have to voice your struggles and let them know what's going on. A lot of us have that fear of people having these bad thoughts about us or we shouldn't get this because we can't afford it or so on and so forth. But that's not the case.

As a human being, we face daily hardships and some of those hardships can cause us to lose our homes. This is something we don't want to lose, and it's affecting a lot of families across America. So, voice -- just let somebody know what you're going through, and it will spread like wildfire. People will be willing to help you out.

MALVEUAX: We appreciate you for letting us know what's going on in your life, and again, so glad that it all worked out for you as well.

WALKER: Thank you. And I want to thank everybody, and I just appreciate all the support. And this is not only a win for me but this is a win for everybody who is in my situation.

MALVEAUX: All right. Brigitte, thank you. Brigitte Walker.

WALKER: Thank you for having me.

MALVEAUX: We did some research and found out what you can do if you are not able to get your loan modified and are about to lose your home. We want to go to this Web site here. It is the Institute for Foreclosure and Legal Assistance. That is He has been following the action on Wall Street now for 80 years.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was very lucky. I was born in 1905. I was just in time for a lot of the new technologies. Radio, television.


MALVEUAX: Amazing. We will hear from a 106-year-old stockbroker about the changes that he has seen.


MALVEUAX: He's been following the wild swings in the stock market since before the Great Depression. And he's still at it today! Poppy Harlow sat down to talk shop with a 106-year-old stockbroker.


POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM (voice-over): Wall Street 80 years ago, who was there? Irving Kahn.

When were you born?


HARLOW: He rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on his 100 birthday. That was six years ago.

(on-camera) How has Wall Street changed during your life?

IRVING KAHN: Well when I got to the street in 28, it was much more a rich man's game. Not that I was rich, but I mean, it was designed for banks, for insurance companies or railroads, public utilities. It's no longer a rich man's business. It's a business for everybody.

HARLOW: Do you still watch the stock market very closely every day?

IRVING KAHN: Well, I have the Bloomberg, which is right here. I don't watch it, because I'm not a trader.

HARLOW: You're a value investor?

IRVING KAHN: Right, and I stick to the 29 stocks that I hold.

HARLOW: Who is your idol, Irving?

IRVING KAHN: Van Graham.

HARLOW: Van Graham. That's Warren Buffett's idol, too.

IRVING KAHN: I know. A lot of other people. I wish they could do what he did. TOM KAHN, SON OF IRVING KAHN: He works every day.

HARLOW: What do you think is the thing (ph) for your father's longevity?

TOM KAHN: Oh, I would say that the fact that he has an office to go to, and a job, and responsibilities is extremely important.

HARLOW: Do you think that you will live to be as old as your father has so far?

TOM KAHN: Well, let me ask -- am I going to live --

HARLOW: Did you want to?


HARLOW: You didn't always have Bloomberg terminals right?

IRVING KAHN: Oh, no. I was very lucky being born in 1905. I was just in time for a lot of the new technologies, radio, television.

HARLOW: Do you have a cell phone now?

IRVING KAHN: Yes, I do. I don't use it much, except t to -- to remind myself what my number is.


HARLOW: I see.

(voice-over) But Irv doesn't think technology necessarily makes things easier when he looks at the gadgets his grandson, Andrew, uses.

IRVING KAHN: He also has to know how to work except whatchamacallit, the iBook.

You have to interrupt me. Otherwise I talk too much


MALVEAUX: Poppy Harlow, she joins us live from New York. Poppy, I love that story! I love it. I understand Mr. Kahn's birthday he turned 106, what, two days ago? Monday? Really? that was his birthday?

HARLOW: It was his birthday, December 19. 106.

MALVEAUX: What did he do to celebrate? Did he work? Was he at the office working?

HARLOW: Here is how sweet he is. He invited us to his 106th birthday. We couldn't make it. We were stuck here at work. But I know he ate a lot of coconut pie because that is his favorite thing.

And you know what's interesting, Suzanne. We asked his son, Tom, who by the way his son is 69 years old. All right, does your dad really work when he comes in the office? And he everyone asks that question, and he absolutely does. He takes meetings with some of our biggest clients. People that have $10 million, for example, with the firm, and he makes smart investment choices.

But it was fascinating to see - just even this downturn, these past three years through his eyes, let alone going through the Great Depression, what it has been like in -- in this position seeing really history just go by decade after decade after decade. I was shocked at how healthy he is. He gets around without a wheelchair.

And he loves Thai food. Maybe that's what keeps him young. He was eating Thai food for lunch when we went there. So, maybe that's the secret. Who knows?

MALVEAUX: Did he ever say he wanted to retire? Or is retirement out of the picture? There is no question about retirement.

HARLOW: Totally out of the picture! I think going to work is part of what keeps him kicking. And you know what his son said that was so funny, Suzanne? His son said, it's tough for me to take a vacation because my father never takes a day off. So, not only is he not retiring. He doesn't go on vacation, either.

MALVEAUX: All right, Poppy. Thank you. Great story. Makes us all want to work just a little bit harder. Thanks, Poppy.

I want to go straight to the White House briefing where Jay Carney is speaking, answering questions about the state of the economy and the stalemate that is taking place over the tax cut extension. Let's listen in.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Unfortunately, thus far the House leadership has refused to allow the House of Representatives to vote on the measure which has overwhelmingly-- overwhelming bipartisan support. We urge the House leadership, Speaker Boehner, to reconsider that position to allow the Senate bill to come up, to allow the House of Representatives to vote on it because we are confident (AUDIO GAP) with both Democratic and Republican support.

I know you all are aware because many of you have been reporting on it, on the growing chorus of Republicans who are calling on Speaker Boehner and the House leadership to do the right thing and to pass this bipartisan compromise so that Americans don't have their taxes go up in 10 hours - 10 days and 11 hours.

That's the result of failing to act. Taxes go up. The bipartisan compromise exists. It was worked out by the Senate Democratic leader and the Senate Republican leader in a process that was agreed upon with the speaker of the House that produced a result that the speaker of the House told his own membership that he supported and that he recommended they should support.

They should just get it done. And then we can all -- the Senate, the House, the administration, work on extending the payroll tax cut the entire year. A commitment this president has made from the beginning when he was the first to put on the table for the American Jobs Act a payroll tax extension for 2012.

But we have to get this two-month extension done or else taxes will go up on the American people. And it really -- it really is -- not that difficult. The House has the ability to call up the Senate legislation, pass it, and move on. And taxes will not go up. The average American family will not have to worry about how to make ends meet with $1,000 less next year. So we urge them to do that. That's what the president urged the speaker to do just moments ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the White House and congressional Democrats be willing to give some sort of iron-clad commitment to pass a full year's tax extension by a certain date early in 2012 in, you know, in exchange for passing this two-month extension?

CARNEY: The president is committed to a one-year tax cut. That's what he's been pushing both here in Washington and around the country since September as part of the American Jobs Act. And then when it was separated out from the American Jobs Act.

Senate Democrats, House Democrats are all committed to doing that. Republican leaders of both houses say they are committed to doing that. It can be done. So it would require finishing the work that Senators McConnell and Reid started as they tried to reach a year-long agreement.

They made good progress, but worked needed to be done, which is why they then moved to the two month extension to insure that Americans didn't have their taxes go up. That is the sensible thing to do, pass the two-month extension, return to work on the yearlong extension, or else explain to the American people, 160 million of them, why Congress would not listen to them, would not listen -- why the House Republicans would not listen to their Senate colleagues, would not listen to Republican elder statesmen and stateswomen all around the country and the city telling them to do the right thing here.

It's bad for the country and it's bad for the economy and its bad for the American people not to pass this bill. So we, you know, we feel very strongly about it, as you can tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president expect to hear back from Speaker Boehner on whether this might be an option?

CARNEY: Look, I think it's pretty clear, again, not because I say it but many others are also saying it, that the ball is in the House's court. There is a compromise available. An avenue out of this blind alley, if you will, that they've driven themselves into. And it is the Senate bill. Vote on it, pass it, and we can move on to discussing and figuring out a solution for the year long extension.

Senator Corker, Republican from Tennessee, I know what's going to happen and I agree with the editorial this morning in "The Wall Street Journal." Probably the best thing to do at this point is just get this behind us and move on, urging the House Republican leadership to change course and endorse a compromise reached in the Senate that got the support of 90 percent of those members. Democrats and senators alike. Senator McCain, it is harming the Republican Party. It is harming the view, if it's possible anymore, of the American people about Congress. So do the right thing. Pass the payroll tax cut. Make sure Americans don't have their taxes go up on January 1st.

Yes, Alex (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Just staying with this theme. So, specifically, what is the president offering the speaker in return for sort of reversing himself on this (ph)?

CARNEY: You misunderstand here. There is not -- this is not a game of poker, high stakes poker, as one Republican congressman deemed it. We're talking about 160 million Americans and their paychecks. There's no political quid pro quo here. There was a bipartisan compromise reached with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats in the Senate at the direction of the Republican leader in the House that initially garnered the support of the Republican leader in the House.

And let's review some history here. The president and Democrats initially supported, put forward the American Jobs Act, which was paid for entirely, including the payroll tax cut extension and expansion, and the paid for is in that bill were what the president very firmly believed that he could have his way entirely was the way it should be done. When Republicans blocked that, and the Senate Democrats crafted a separate payroll tax cut extension with UI extension and some other measures, and tried to move it and have it paid for -- paid for by asking the 300,000 wealthiest Americans, millionaires and billions, to pay a little extra, Republicans blocked that.

So we compromised. The president and the Senate compromised and the deal that was passed, the compromise that was passed by the Senate by a vote of 89-10 did not have the pay fors that the Democrats wanted, did not have the pay fors that the president originally (ph) submitted, but they had a compromised set of provisions that paid for it that won the agreement of 89 senators, including 39 Republicans. That is the essence of compromise. The bill even included an extraneous political victory that Republicans insisted on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And let me try (ph) something else, the (ph) same thing. The CR (ph) runs out on Friday. When will the president sign the (INAUDIBLE)?

CARNEY: When he gets here.


CARNEY: It will get here. I'm sure -- I'm not sure if it's physically here yet. But when it arrives, there's a process in the -- in that (INAUDIBLE) -- the institution that takes time in terms of producing the bill for him to sign, but he will sign it when he gets here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And also, what additional steps to pressure the Assad regime mean? What are you talking about specifically? CARNEY: The fact is -- of the matter is, is that we have, throughout this process, worked both unilaterally and collectively to increase pressure and isolation on the Assad regime. What you've seen is a continuation of horrific acts of violence, needles violence, against the --

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening in on the White House briefing there, Jay Carney, and, of course, talking about what a lot of people are talking about, and that is whether or not Congress is going to be able to get through this gridlock and whether or not that means there will be a tax cut extension for the new year, whether or not taxes will go up for all working Americans.

We put that question to you. What do you think Congress should be doing? And how do they get through this impasse? We're going to have more of that after the break.


MALVEAUX: $40 each paycheck. That is how much the gridlock in Washington could cost your family starting New Year's Day if Congress doesn't do something fast. The clock ticking. It may feel like there's little you can do to convince lawmakers to stop the fighting. So today's "Talk Back" question, what can we do as everyday citizens to fix this broken Congress?

Beverly says, "takes these issues out of the hands of these politicians, do a massive poll, and let the people decide. Our government system is broken and the corruption runs too deep."

Marie says, "create the people's term limits. Next election, vote out every incumbent no matter which party."

Daniel says, "I believe they should take money out of their paychecks, let them see how the other 99 percent feels, then they might work."

You can see more responses on my FaceBook page at Keep the conversation going.

We're going to be coming right back after a quick break.


MALVEAUX: Doing whatever it takes to make life easier for people dying. Just even having someone there could make a world of difference. It's our "Giving In Focus" for today, strangers, caring for the dying.



If I do more in-patient care where you go into people's homes and usually give the caregiver a break.

It's too early for your pills. With each patient, it's different. You just have to find out what they're comfortable with.

What do you want to do today? How about your nails?

With Joyce, it's that she's not alone in this journey that she's on.

All right, give me your hand. Which one should we start on?

People are there for her and care about her and want to make her life easier.


I'm looking for volunteers who don't look for fame, who don't look for being important, who don't look for being -- wanting to be loved. We're looking for somebody who is truly wanting to give back and understand that the person they meet will die.


BENEDICT: You need oxygen. OK.

WIESE: For many patients, it's the last friend they make in their life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's people like Bonnie that will bend over backwards to do things for me.

BENEDICT: I know look at death differently as being a part of the whole life process. And I don't think I understood that until I started doing hospice work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's been a wonderful relationship.

BENEDICT: Life is a journey and death is the end of that journey. What we're doing is trying to, as we say in hospice, gentle the journey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would not have made it this far without their tender loving care.


MALVEAUX: CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Randi Kaye.

Hey, Randi.