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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Year's Celebrations; Photo Bombshell; A New Year of Worry for Middle Income America; Russia Vows Tough Olympic Security After Blasts; New Year's Fireworks Display Sets Record
Aired December 31, 2013 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, new year's eve security. We're watching crowds gather in Times Square along with the police, who are tracking any potential threats on this night of celebration.
Plus, robots screeners. Airports are testing facial scanners and other high-tech security systems. Are they better than old-fashioned human security checks?
And photo bombshell. On-air chatter about Mitt Romney's family Christmas card ignites controversy involving race and a cable TV network.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Dana Bash. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And you are looking at live pictures of fireworks in Berlin, Germany, as the new year, 2014, is ringing in there with absolutely beautiful fireworks. And just six hours to go before huge crowds ring in the new year here on the East Coast.
CNN is covering all of it, the celebrations across America and the tight security that is always required for a massive outdoor event like this.
And we have CNN's Margaret Conley back with us, joining us from Times Square.
Margaret, let us know about security there. Obviously, it looks pretty crowded already. What kind of police presence are you already seeing on the ground there?
MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, there is a lot of security here.
Rehearsals, as you can hear behind me, have started. But there's a lot of NYPD here, a lot of officers in other uniforms and also plainclothes officers in the crowd. Also, before people even got here, a lot of things were cleared out at Times Square. The newspaper stands were taken out, the trash bins were taken away, and the street vendors were also cleared.
As you can see behind me, that German shepherd there, that is Seamus. That is an explosive detection dog. And they have been all over this area as well, so very, very tight security, Dana. BASH: A guest there who is going to be part of the ball drop celebration, tell us who that is.
CONLEY: If people are trying to blend in, head down, they better get here right now, Dana. The crowds are extremely -- it's extremely packed right here in Times Square.
The subway lines have been blocked. Some of the streets have been closed. You have got to check and see what is open before you head down here. Also, there are going to be no big packages allowed in Times Square. When you come through the entry points, the police are doing searches to make sure you don't have any big items with you, and also no alcohol is allowed.
But all of that aside, Dana, everyone here is out to have a good time. There's a lot of energy and excitement. We have been hearing all the performers rehearsing, and it's going to be a great show.
BASH: Well, it's so loud there, I know you couldn't hear my question. I ask who is going to be there. And I will give our viewers the answer. It is actually going to be Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who of course is a New York native. She is going to be there with the ball drop with the outgoing New York mayor, Mayor Bloomberg.
Thank you very much, Margaret. We will check back with you later.
Now, thousands of new state rules and regulations will go into effect across the country when the clock strikes midnight tonight.
CNN's Rosa Flores joins us with some of the new laws.
And some of them are interesting, Rosa, and some of them are just plain strange.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. And the note for our viewers is, even though these laws are strange, they're still the law.
So you have to follow them. So what are we talking about here? From what you can do in your car to the bathroom, that your child can go to at school, you're going to want to listen to this.
FLORES (voice-over): From flash mob crackdowns -- to pet lemon laws, 2014 will ring in nearly 40,000 new state rules.
Here are the highs and the lows:
Smoking a reefer in Colorado is legal.
Oh, but don't toss the butt of a cigarette in a public street in Illinois. It's considered littering. You could pay in cash or jail time.
Don't even think about lighting one in a car with a child in Oregon. The Beaver State won't allow it.
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: First we said, can you smoke in this part of the restaurant? Then, we said, well, can you smoke outside? Then, we said, can you smoke down the street? Then, we said can you move to another state?
I mean, we do not like regular smokers. Meanwhile, when it comes to marijuana, marijuana is fast becoming a legal substance in the United States.
FLORES: But new moms in Oregon can get away with this, taking their placentas home from the hospital. If you're wondering why do that in the first place? Some experts think eating it has positive health benefits.
JOY GETMAN, OREGON MOTHER: As long as they're not giving it to other people to eat, I suppose it's OK.
FLORES: And talking about health, no more tanning beds for some teens in Illinois and Oregon. You'll have to be 18 to tan in a salon in those places.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a happy girl.
FLORES: But you don't have to keep your new pet if it's sick. Illinois's new pet lemon law allows people to return a pet if an illness was not disclosed by the seller.
In California, gender will no longer determine what's school bathroom children can use. It's gender identity that matters.
CEVALLOS: The student who identifies as a different gender may feel comfortable in that bathroom. What about all the other students? I think that's going to be a problem and I think you're going to see parents really revolting against this law.
FLORES: Serious moves can have serious consequences in Illinois. The maximum penalty doubled to six years prison time for organizing a violent flash mob using social media.
FLORES: And here is one more for you. Drivers in Illinois, don't even think about passing a school bus if that school bus is stopped. You see, school districts can now slap cameras to those buses. And if you get busted, Dana, you're going to have to pay the fine. And that money now goes to the school district or the city.
BASH: Now, that's a new law I think every parent out there can say, now, attaboy.
BASH: Rosa, thank you very much for that report.
Now, many Americans are getting ready to shiver their way into the new year. There's no letup to the bitter cold. If you haven't been socked with cold temperatures or snow yet, you may want to brace yourself.
BASH: And still ahead, deadline in Syria. Are international inspectors getting what they want as part of a historic weapons deal?
And automated security -- can robots do a better job than human screenings for would-be terrorists?
BASH: Carnage in Syria. The opposition says, at least 25 people, including children, were burned beyond recognition when a rocket hit a bus in Aleppo.
The Syrian regime is engaged in a new deadly offensive in the country's civil war, even as it vows to give up its chemical weapons stockpile.
That historic deal hit a roadblock today when Syria failed to meet a key deadline.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us. And he's done extensive reporting for us in Syria -- Frederik.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dana.
And of course the Syrian government under this programs has to eliminate its entire chemical weapons program. So that is the chemical weapons and also all the facilities by the middle of 2014. But the deadline was for them to get all of their most dangerous chemical weapons, their most dangerous chemicals out of the country by tonight.
And that is something they have failed to do. Let's have a look.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): ... in August changed the equation in Syria. After U.S. pressure, the Assad regime agreed to dismantle its chemical weapons program. Now it's clear Syria will not meet an important deadline in the process, getting its most dangerous chemicals out of the country by the end of the year.
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: It's the Assad regime's responsibility to transport the chemicals to the port safely to facilitate their removal. And we expect them to meet that obligation.
PLEITGEN: Syria has to haul the chemical agents by land through the war-torn country to the coast. Danish and Norwegian ships that sailed to Syria from Cyprus were supposed to pick up the chemicals at the port of Latakia, but the vessels have turned around and returned to their port in Cyprus because the nerve agents weren't ready for pickup. It's not clear when the transport will happen. The U.N. oversees the program to dismantle Assad's chemical weapons, more than 1,000 tons of V.X., sarin and mustard gas. They say bad weather and the security situation in the civil war-torn country are to blame for the delay.
In an interview in November, the head of the U.N.'s mission said security was always going to be a problem.
SIGRID KAAG, ORGANIZATION FOR THE PROHIBITION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS: It's a very big concern, but I think it's a concern we all share. So, from staff safety and security, we put all mitigating measures in place. We also hope that the Syrian population with time has appreciated, understands that this is a mission for them.
PLEITGEN: Russia has given the Syria military armored trucks to move the chemicals to the port of Latakia. The U.S. is keeping up the pressure on the Assad regime with the specter of military action should Damascus hold up the destruction of the weapons and their infrastructure.
But the State Department says even with the delays, the mission still seems to be on track.
HARF: We continue to make progress, which has been the important part here. They're milestones for a reason. It was always an ambitious timeline, but we are still operating on the June 30 timeline for the complete destruction.
PLEITGEN: The U.S. warns, the Assad regime must continue the destruction of its chemical weapons to make sure deadly gases are taken out of the equation in a civil war where controversial weapons cause more deaths every day.
PLEITGEN: And, Dana, when the State Department and the U.N. talk about some of the progress that's already been made, they talk, for instance, about the fact that Syria has actually already destroyed all the munitions that are used to deliver chemical weapons.
Even if there were chemical weapons that would get into the wrong hands at this point, there wouldn't be any weapons to actually deliver them. However, this delay is somewhat significant. And they do say Syria does need to get going, or otherwise face consequences in the not-too-distant future -- Dana.
BASH: Frederik Pleitgen, thank you very much and happy new year.
Now, looking at the airport, everybody goes to the airport and experiences long lines and doesn't like it. Well, what if you could check in, go to boarding, but only deal with robots?
CNN's Brian Todd is looking at some of the incredible new technology coming out.
Brian, what are you finding? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, robots or machines could enable us to get on planes without boarding passes. That's already been tested out. The big question now, could scanning systems like facial recognition eventually replace human security screeners?
TODD (voice-over): Scanning your iris to clear security or board your plane, facial recognition, fingerprinting at the boarding gate, it seems like science fiction, but many call it smart security.
RAFI RON, CEO, NEW AGE SECURITY SOLUTIONS: I think that the biometric identification technology is extremely important as part of the security landscape nowadays.
TODD: Biometrics, an important word to remember for those of us who have grown tired of endless airport lines. Biometrics are now being tested at major airports in Europe.
At London's Gatwick Airport, officials tested a program where they scanned passengers' irises, instead of using boarding passes. In the future, automated boarding gates could scan your ticket and passport. Unmanned exit lanes are also in the works. They use sensors and locks to make sure no one sneaks into a secure area through an exit.
Baggage screening might be done automatically. And at international arrival terminals, like this one near Washington, there's the global entry program. For those who sign up, machines scan fingerprints and passports for customs and immigration.
BRYAN MCCANN, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: The best thing about this program for an officer is it takes low-risk travelers and it gets them through our process that much quicker, which would give me more time with high-risk travelers.
TODD: For passengers, global entry allows them to avoid those tedious lines at customs. Ed Blum just flew in with his family from Panama.
ED BLUM, TRAVELER: I travel frequently for business out of the country. I used to stand in line for an hour, hour-and-a-half waiting to get through security. Now it takes about a minute, two minutes.
TODD: But how much can safely be automated? Experts like former top Israeli airport security official Rafi Ron say there's no substitute for an alert human screener looking for suspicious body language.
RON: There is a lot that is involved in identifying suspicious behavior. Some of it is uncontrolled behavior as a result of the stress that terrorists are under while they're on a mission. That is something that machines have a great difficulty to detect.
TODD: Rafi Ron also points out a machine is not going to detect a terrorist who has no previous criminal record and is unknown to the security system, terrorists like many of the 9/11 hijackers. People like those could go through these biometric systems and not register a blip.
Robots may not eventually replace human screeners. They may simply change the way they do their jobs -- Dana.
BASH: Brian, and that fingerprint scanning program for passengers to get through customs, how widespread is that here in the U.S.?
TODD: Dana, you have got that global entry system in 34 U.S. airports. More than two million people have signed up for this.
And the U.S. and U.S. officials are negotiating with leaders from countries like Saudi Arabia for reciprocal agreements to put those global entry systems in their airports. This is a growing program here in the United States and it's going to continue to grow abroad. This biometrics phenomenon is certainly going to spread.
BASH: It sure will. Brian, thank you very much.
And up ahead, MSNBC takes a ton of flak for a segment making fun of Mitt Romney's family. We will show you what they did coming up.
And a lot of crazy things can happen on live TV, trust me. But it's all about how you handle it. Stick around and see some awesome reporting and the way that reporter there handled fainting.
BASH: An MSNBC host is apologizing for a segment that mocked Mitt Romney's family Christmas card. The discussion focused on Romney's adopted grandson, who is black. And that set off a firestorm.
CNN's Capitol Hill reporter, Lisa Desjardins, joins us now. My laryngitis is catchup with me.
Lisa, tell us what's going on.
LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's amazing, huh?
Think about it. This story actually keeps developing. If you went on Twitter at this moment, you would probably get new information on this. An MSNBC anchor apologizing today to the Romney family. This is a story that touched on race, politics, and family.
But it was all started by this. Look how small this is, just a simple family photo.
DESJARDINS (voice-over): "Merry Christmas. Happy holiday season."
That's the pretty normal greeting inside this Romney family card, but not so normal, the national spotlight that's been placed on one of the smallest faces.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC: Everybody loves a baby picture.
DESJARDINS: But this was no baby talk. Listen as MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and actress Pia Glenn walk onto racial lines.
PERRY: And of course there on Governor Romney's knee is his adopted grandson, who is an African-American, adopted African-American child, Kieran Romney.
Any captions for this one?
PIA GLENN, ACTRESS: One of these things is...
GLENN: One of these things just isn't the same.
And that little baby front and center would be the one.
PERRY: And isn't he the most gorgeous? My goal is that in 2040 the biggest thing of the year will be the wedding between Kieran Romney and North West. Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in- laws?
DESJARDINS: The entire segment lasted just a minute, but that's plenty to spark a Twitter explosion.
Just one example, "Leave babies alone. Very wrong" wrote a user named Skybits (ph), who wants Harris-Perry fired.
Republicans, accused of a lack of diversity, were particularly outraged. Former Senator Scott Brown called it "wildly inappropriate."
Now, not to directly compare, but this follows other MSNBC pitfalls.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC: America's resident dunce, Sarah Palin.
DESJARDINS: In the fall, former anchor Martin Bashir suggested that Palin do something so foul that we will not replay it. He was fired.
So back to the latest verbal crash and host Melissa Harris-Perry. MSNBC has not commented, but today the host herself wrote: "Without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family."
MEGAN LINDSEY, NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION: I think it was important to apologize. I think it went in a direction it didn't need to go in.
DESJARDINS: Megan Lindsey does not work in politics. Try the National Council for Adoption.
LINDSEY: They intended to make jokes about politics. And instead They made jokes that would offend adoptive families.
(END VIDEOTAPE) DESJARDINS: Now, the Romney family, we're told, is on vacation, no comment from them.
Part of this of course is the idea that kids usually in most recent years have been kept out of politics. But there is a bigger point about this, too, Dana. Adoption and families are changing in this country. You know, the National Adoption Service says 40 percent of kids adopted in the U.S. are in interracial families.
So I think this is a recognition that even if politics is still divided about race, families and the adoption community, they're uniting over it, yes.
BASH: Very good report. Thank you, Lisa. Thank you. Happy new year.
Let's talk more about this controversy with CNN commentator L.Z. Granderson and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro.
And I will start with you. What's your reaction to the story?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I thought it was terribly inappropriate. I thought it was mean. I thought it was in very poor taste, what that segment did.
I think adoption is something we should celebrate, particularly in this time of year, when we should be focusing on love. A child is a child. Families that adopt children that may be of other races, they love those children just as much as any other child. I am glad. I really am glad that she went, looked at the transcripts, look at the video and realized that it was wildly inappropriate, to quote Scott Brown. And she apologized.
I think it's OK to apologize, instead of double down, as we often do in politics when something is ridiculously wrong. She apologized, and I think we need to accept her apology as is. But I also think this needs to be a lesson to all of us on TV that we frankly need to be more civil and should watch what we say and that ,definitely, kids are off limits, particularly kids that age.
BASH: Well, L.Z., Bill de Blasio, the mayor-elect in New York, his family that is mixed race. They were celebrated for that back in November. Is there a double standard here when you're talking about somebody who's a mixed race family who is the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party?
L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think you can avoid the fact that de Blasio is a Democrat and obviously Romney is a Republican and that MSNBC leans towards the left, and so they were more prone to make fun of Romney more so than de Blasio.
For me, my biggest disappointment is that here was an opportunity to celebrate, as Ana was saying, love and family, and I watched the show. I'm a fan of Melissa Harris-Perry. I think she's one of the smartest voices we have in television today. I'm just amazed that that segment made it through the smell test in terms of the newsroom and production meetings that happened before it actually airs. In other words, when the idea was brought up, no one in that production room, no one in that newsroom said, hey, you know, this doesn't sound like a good idea? They all went along with it.
I'm not sure what happened, why there wasn't a failsafe about this. And it's very disappointing, because I saw the photo. And I disagree with a lot of Mitt Romney's politics, a lot. But when I saw the photo, I smiled, because I saw a big, beautiful family. And I just can't believe that they saw that and opted to let that direction be the one they take in regards to that photo.
BASH: And talk about double standards. I'm going to go there, Ana. What if this happened on FOX? Is MSNBC getting off a little bit easier?
NAVARRO: Well, I think that if it had happened on FOX, I think that if it had been somebody like Rush Limbaugh to say it, it would have been a huge scandal.
I think there have been big protests probably by the African-American community and the adoption community. But we are where we are, Dana, and, frankly I think we should see the silver lining and make lemonade out of these lemons and use this as a way to promote adoption, to tell people that racial lines should not be what is considered when adopting, that it's about making a family, giving children a better home and a chance for a better life.
And I celebrate Mitt Romney's family. Like L.Z., even though I'm Republican, I don't agree with all of his politics and politicians. But I think this is not political. This was his family Christmas card. The man is out of politics. And there was absolutely no reason to focus such attention on this little grandchild.
God bless the Romneys for their very big family, their 22 grandchildren. If all those 22 grandchildren had been white, this would not have been a segment in MSNBC.
BASH: L.Z., you get the final word. Do you agree? Is this a teachable moment?
GRANDERSON: I do agree it's a teachable moment.
I don't agree with the FOX comparison, in a sense that FOX has a long history of just being a network that broadcasts a lot of racists comments. And so I think that the knee-jerk reaction to MSNBC vs. FOX is somewhat tainted because of the fact that FOX has an established history of being a network that had published a lot of racists comments.
But at the end of the day, I think this is about the beauty of adoption. I think this is about the celebration of family, and all families, no matter what they look like.
And I'm just really disappointed that, you know, Melissa Harris-Perry -- who I'm happy has apologized, as well as the producers at MSNBC, look at that photo and that's what their hearts took especially this time of year. I would have preferred their hearts sticking in place of love as opposed to antagonism in politics. But here we are.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Here we are indeed.
I want you both to stick around because coming up, we're going to talk about how the closing of red lobster could hurt middle income families. Well, L.Z. thinks it could potentially hurt a lot. He's got a new article on CNN.com that we'll discuss next.
And we're just a few weeks away from the Winter Olympics. But will the games be safe? A massive antiterrorism operation is going on in Russia right now. We'll get the latest.
BASH: You are looking at a live picture from New York's Time Square where the revelry is already beginning. People are gathered to welcome in 2014. But many Americans are still feeling gloomy about 2013 and the economy and their own futures.
And we're back with CNN commentators L.Z. Granderson and Ana Navarro.
And, L.Z., I want to talk about the economy improving. But the average American, you make a point in today's column on CNN.com today, the average American is not doing well at all. And I want to quote from your piece.
You said, "For black households, like the one I grew up in, income fell by nearly 11 percent, more than twice the rate of Latino homes and three times that of whites. Red Lobster remains a favorite place for black families to dine after church. I imagine it's hard to do with over a 10th of the income gone."
Now, you have to look back five years. We've had Barack Obama in the White House. Is he doing enough to help families like the one you grew up?
GRANDERSON: You know, it's important to note that the struggles of African-American families in this country stretches far beyond President Obama.
This has been an issue in the black community for decades. We've always had twice as much unemployment in terms of the unemployment rate. We've always trailed in terms of education. We've always trailed in terms of health. We've always trailed in terms of income, and wealth.
So, this is a long-standing issue that is an American problem, not just a black problem, but an American problem. As for President Obama, when I'm looking at his policies, I know that a lot of African- American leaders have criticized him for not having any policies that seem to directly be applying to the African-American family.
To those critics, I would say, I have a very hard time looking at his policies and seeing how they don't help African-American families. You don't need a policy to say for black people in order for something to help black people. And so, I tend to defend on that issue, while also noting that our problem in my community is one that's been going on essentially since the end of slavery.
BASH: And to be fair, Ana, income barely grew under George W. Bush.
In fact, income was down 6.6 percent for people -- at least in families making over $4,000. Tell me what the Republican solutions are. I don't expect you to give mow a wonky policy dissertation here, but do you feel comfortable that your party, the Republican Party also has some ideas to help the working people in this country?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Dana, I think the Republican Party tends to focus on growth and job creation and corporate America, and see that as wait to make more jobs. I think Republicans need though talk more and act more in defense of the poor. And in the same way, I think Democrats have to also learn how to think about corporate America and learn how to think about folks that are trying to create businesses. I think part of the problems that we have been having their congress is that the different parties look at just one constituency or the other. And that creates problems, as we are seeing in Obamacare.
And I agree with L.Z. I think this is not just about income. I think it's -- it's a holistic approach that needs to be taken, that includes things like addressing education and the disparities in education. Without education, the problem you end up having is that people go into minimum wage jobs and end up having them for life.
Minimum wage jobs used to be starter jobs for teenagers. Now you find people who have been having them for the last 20 and 30 years. And that's a real problem in America today.
BASH: And I'm glad you brought that up, because that's going to be at the top of the Democrats' agenda in the Senate when they come back next week. And Hillary Clinton just tweeted today this. She tweeted, "Ten years ago, I was proud to begin working on bipartisan efforts to save unemployment insurance. Let's do it again quickly this year."
L.Z., is this realistic? Is this Hillary Clinton trying to make sure that she's waving the populist flag as some of the liberals are looking at her going ah, or all of the above?
GRANDERSON: You know, I -- it's so disappointing to me that the idea of making sure that people are able to eat and take care of their families is either a Democratic effort or a Republican one. It's very disappointing to me that the idea was making sure that corporations pay their employees the wage which they can actually live off of is being deemed a liberal one.
It seems to me as if this is an American issue, and when you look at the economic charts of buying power versus inflation, when you look at the amount of money that has funneled its way up, versus what's down to lower 20 percent, to 30 percent, or 40 percent of the population, this isn't, this should not be a politicized issue. It should just be a common sense issue.
And what Hillary Clinton's tweet says to me is that she at least recognizes and believes that the rest of Congress recognizes that you can't kick people when they're down. Government is there to help people get back up on their feet, not keep them on their feet, but help them get on their feet. The fact that this is politicized, when we have hungry children in this country is so disappointing to me.
But there's just one thing I'd like to say and that is in regards to, you know, Ana's comment about Republicans building jobs. When you look at the numbers, and I hate to politicize this. But when you look at the numbers, you can go right to Reaganomics being a key point from when the economy took a drastic turn from dollars being in the hands of the middle class and poor people and on its way up. We told that trickle down economics was supposed to help everyone. What we've found, if you don't make the money come back down, it's not going to come back down, not on its own. It has to be regulated.
We've given the earnest try of letting people do the right thing and making sure employees are properly paid, obviously, they're not doing it on their own and they need government to come in and help, and part of the help is increasing the minimum wage.
BASH: Ana, we're about to hit 2014. But you want to turn back the clock three decades and respond to that?
NAVARRO: No, I don't. I want to talk about 2014 and 2013. I --
BASH: She just gave you a pass, L.Z.
NAVARRO: What you're seeing through -- you know, LZ. likes to get historical, I like to look ahead. And what I'm seeing with Hillary Clinton is that she's recognizing she's got a left flank problem that she needs to beef up if she's going to be the nominee.
But, you know, on this issue of minimum wage -- tomorrow, there's going to be 13 states that on a state level are increasing minimum wage. And I think that's important to know that states are taking matters into their own hands. It's more expensive to live in a place like New York than it is to live in a place like Alabama. And they're trying to make things more even in the different states.
But we saw this week where it was revealed that the minimum wage issue is going to be used as a political wedge issue. That's what Democrats are preparing to do. When that happens I get worried because oftentimes when you want to use an issue for political purposes, what is best for political purposes is not to pass anything, not to have a solution so that then you have an a an issue to hit the other party over the head with.
And I think I would tell my Democrat friends, be very careful you don't overplay your hand because people are watching and people are going to know whether what you're trying to do is realistic or it's just, you know, blatantly political.
BASH: I think that can be said for both parties, Ana. Happy New Year. Thank you for spending your New Year's Eve with us.
GRANDERSON: Happy New Year.
BASH: Happy New Year.
A massive antiterrorism operation is going on in Russia right now after a pair of deadly bomb attacks. Dozens of people have been detained, but that's doing little to ease fears the terrorists may strike the Winter Olympics in Russia in just a matter of weeks.
Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is here.
And, Jill, Russia is promising a tough response to make sure security is tight.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You know, they definitely are. In fact, President Putin has said they want to make sure it's secure. Russian police, as you mentioned, are carrying out this massive operation in Volgograd, where those attacks took place. They've got 5,000 officers. And they've already questioned 1,000 people.
But, will that prevent other future possible attacks in other locations?
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): A suicide bomber detonates himself at a Russian train station, a security camera capturing the seconds before the explosion.
Russia is reeling, after two terrorist attacks in Volgograd killed 32 people and injured 72.
President Vladimir Putin in his New Year's address rallying his fellow Russians.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): We will fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation.
DOUGHERTY: And with his $50 billion Olympics in Sochi, southern Russia, a little over a month away, he pledged to hold the games at a very high level.
But this man, Dokka Umarov, whom some called Russia's Osama bin Laden, plans to destroy those Olympics, calling them "satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors."
Some athletes like American speed skater Jilleanne Rookard are worried. She told "The Associated Press", "I don't know if I necessarily trust their -- the Russian -- security forces. But they don't want a national embarrassment, either." The terrorist leader Umarov is based in the Russian republic of Dagestan, now the epicenter of terrorism in Russia, just 300 miles east of the site of the games in Sochi, the same region where the men implicated in the Boston marathon bombing Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, lived before moving to the United States.
The Russian government is responsible for overall security at the games. The State Department, as it does with all large events, will send diplomatic security agents to liaise with Russian security and law enforcement officials.
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Our diplomatic security personnel have been working with the Russians for many months. They obviously work with our team, with high level officials. Also, we provide U.S. citizen services to folks that will be traveling there. So, we're ready to support anyway we can to help with the security situation.
DOUGHERTY: The Sochi Olympics are one of Vladimir Putin's highest priorities right now. Russia's chance to shine on the international stage, but a high stakes gamble, if you can't keep the games in Russia secure.
DOUGHERTY: And protecting Russia may be difficult challenge. Mr. Putin is promising the Sochi Olympics will be safe, and the security forces have moved to basically lockdown that site. But protecting the rest of Russia, all of its nine time zones, is an overwhelming job -- Dana.
BASH: It sure is. And he certainly has staked his reputation, the legacy of Russia, everything on this.
BASH: Obviously, we're all hoping that it is safe. Thank you. Thank you very much.
BASH: And let's get to some other top stories coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor has responded to papers filed today to prevent same-sex marriages in Utah. She asked for more information from the lawyers representing the gay couples in the suit.
A district court judge struck down the ban on unions on December 20th, allowing gay couples to wed legally in the state for the first time, a decision anti-gay marriage groups targeted almost immediately.
And more news now from the nation's high court. A group of Catholic organizations is asking for an emergency delay to a part of Obamacare that requires religious affiliated groups to provide contraception and abortion inducing drug coverage to their workers. And being a reporter is tough. Believe me, I know. In live television, anything can happen.
But so does reporter Brooke Graham with our Utah affiliate KUTV. Watch what happened during one of her recent live shots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE GRAHAM, KUTV: Hi, you guys. So, I'm here with Richard and Kathy from Nordic Alliance of Utah.
And you guys are teaching me how to cross country ski. So give us some base -- OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all right?
GRAHAM: Yes. Now I'm going to toss it back to you guys. I just tripped and fell. So, we'll have more, but tell people the basics of coming up here and paying $7.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: She wrote in her blog that she's totally fine. She faints a lot in high altitudes. That's understandable.
Either way, I've got to say, we're all humans, and, Brooke, you handled it like a pro (ph).
And it was one of the highlights of 2013. The royal baby's public debut, but not every picture you've seen of Prince George this year is the real thing. Jeanne Moos is next.
Plus, a fireworks display goes down in the Guinness Book of World Records. You're going to see the amazing show just ahead.
BASH: One of the highlights of 2013 was the new royal baby. Prince George made a picture perfect debut this year but not every picture you see is the real thing.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For once, handsome Prince Harry kissing his grandmother, the queen, was just the opening act for the new star. Three-month-old Prince George was carried into the royal chapel by his dad, and there was a whole lot of jiggling going on as Prince William displayed his son. Even the royal guard seemed to be jiggling.
But after the baptism being carried out by his mom, Prince George seemed sedate. A lot more sedate than this Prince George, who kept spitting up as he posed for pictures, even pictures of the queen taking his picture. And Prince William changing his diaper, and Kate, William, and George playing rub-a-dub-dub in the tub.
Wait a minute. The palace would never release these!
ALISON JACKSON, FILMMAKER, PHOTOGRAPHER: And I have about five or six different Prince Georges.
MOOS: Alison Jackson is known for her celebrity lookalike photos, and she's been having a field day with the royals.
JACKSON: This Prince William I've got, there is only one of him, and he is fantastic, he really is.
JACKSON: I have about five Kate lookalikes.
MOOS: Alison uses an 82-year-old ball of energy to play the queen.
MOOS: The photographer says these photos aren't about the royals, they're about us and how we feel about the famous.
JACKSON: All this obsession, world gone crazy with celebrity.
MOOS: We should have known something was amiss when we saw Prince William and Catherine pose half naked. There's something intimate about these fake photos. Dirt on the sole of the prince's foot dangling out of the tub.
Of course, the actual royals don't comment on things like this.
JACKSON: Well, I hope they find it amusing.
MOOS: She's been doing this for a decade, posing lookalikes ranging from David Beckham to Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and their baby Northwest. Alison's currently out West in LA, shopping for more lookalikes.
JACKSON: And if anybody looks like Miley Cyrus, that would be fantastic.
MOOS: She sells the queen diapering the royal baby on a tote bag, the prince doing diaper duty on a t-shirt, and then there is this.
MOOS (on camera): And what are we calling that thing?
JACKSON: Well. A milk man-boob.
MOOS (voice-over): Fit for a prince. And you be the judge of how alike this little lookalike looks.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BASH: It's the New Year's fireworks display for the record books. Just a short while ago, Dubai landed itself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records with an incredible show.
CNN's Sara Sidner was there as they were trying to break that record.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dana, this is supposed to be a record breaking night here in Dubai. I am on The Palm, that's (INAUDIBLE) Palm. And you can hear what is going on.
Check this out. This is supposed to be 400,000 fireworks going off over a six-minute span. It is pandemonium here. The skies are absolutely lit up.
Check around me. Not just here but over here. Check it out.
All of Dubai is lit up with fireworks. They are going for the Guinness Book of World Records. So you are seeing what might be a history making day -- Dana.
BASH: And Dubai wasn't the only place to ring in the new year with a bang. It is 2014 in much of the world.
Here are some of the best displays we've seen so far. Plus, we end the year by showing the name of people who work so hard to make THE SITUATION ROOM happen every day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Four, three, two, one --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Check that out. That is Big Ben on the right. Big Ben just about to strike midnight 2014 in London. And also -- there you go. Times Square. That is where everybody is looking and focused where our coverage will be tonight with Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper.
And for us, that is it for us here. From all of us at CNN, a very happy New Year to you.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.