The holidays often remind us what’s really important and brings out the kindness and generosity in people. In the season of giving, Alina Cho interviews one celebrity who doesn’t need the holiday reminder, actor Matt Damon. “When Matt Damon isn't busy shooting movies,” Cho says, “he's traveling the world, advocating for access to clean water.”
Things many of us take for granted, like faucets and toilets, are not so common to nearly one billion people around the world who struggle to find clean water. Damon began his quest to change this about six years ago, after a life changing trip to Africa. He met a 14-year-old girl in Zambia who made him realize that she would not have been able to go to school had someone not placed a well in her remote village. She would have been spending her days scavenging for water. "Every 20 seconds a kid under the age of five is dying, losing their life, because they do not have access to clean water,” Damon says. “And it just doesn't have to be that way."
Only six days remain now until the U.S. falls over the fiscal cliff. Even with time dwindling, President Obama and our lawmakers in Congress went off for Christmas vacation. The president will leave Hawaii very late tonight to come back to D.C. For an update on the House and Senate, “Early Start” hears from Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, a Republican from New York and a member of the Financial Services Committee.
Rep. Hayworth discusses the hopes of reaching a compromise within the Republican party with so little time left to work out a deal. "The common link that we all have is that we wanna see 23 million unemployed or under-employed Americans go back to work," she says. "And the only way to do that is to provide relief for our employers, small ones, big ones."
Rep. Hayworth says the onus is now on the Senate, which returns to work tomorrow. “We have to wait on the Senate at this point,” she says, “and that’s our challenge.”
An unwelcome visitor tore through Alabama this Christmas when a dangerous tornado hit downtown Mobile. It knocked out power for nearly 26,000 people as well as the local hospital. Several buildings, including a high school and almost two dozen homes, and a local church were also damaged by the tornado. The church is still standing, but Steve Huffman, the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department's Public Information Officer, joins “Early Start” over the phone with the latest on the reports of damage.
Huffman says public works crews and Alabama power crews have been working through the night to repair the damage and restore power, respectively, in the affected areas. Residents, meanwhile, were told to expect severe weather, including tornadoes, and were unharmed. “I think everybody was prepared for that,” Huffman says.
Just last week, a tornado came through the same area. “We rarely have tornadoes in the city itself, and to have two within a five day period is pretty unusual,” he adds. Huffman says temperatures have since cooled down and the wind is blowing hard outside, “but we can live with that.”
From finding god, to a potentially blood boiling leap from space, it was a stunning year for science. A year where daredevils met nerds and danger met discovery. On the cusp of the New Year, CNN’s John Zarrella looks back at the top scientific and technological breakthroughs of 2012. See if you can guess what made the top 10, or better yet, number 1.
It’s official. Santa wrote his list, checked it twice and made his rounds delivering gifts last night. Santa's Christmas list “Early Start” style: Who has been naughty and who has been nice? Richard Socarides is a writer for the NewYorker.com and former Senior Adviser to Bill Clinton. Ana Navarro is a CNN Contributor and Republican Strategist. Richard and Ana each give their picks.
Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie makes Richard’s 2012 nice list. “What impressed me about him,” Richard says, “was that he was willing to speak the truth and talk about cooperation and really put partisan politics aside, and I think we needed more of that this year, and we didn’t see it very often."
American Girl Dolls are on Ana’s nice list this year. “It really felt heartwarming,” she says of a recent visit to an American Girl Doll store and discovering their diverse array of dolls. “I think it is such a good idea, such a good message for little girls,” she says, “particularly with the self esteem issues we know little girls have these days, and teenagers, to have dolls that can look like each of us and that can be so individual.”
Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association, which LaPierre heads, make Richard’s naughty list this year. “They have been the number one stumbling block to sensible gun control in this country,” Richard says. “That was a breathtakingly out-of-touch announcement that he had just the other day,” regarding putting “more guns in schools.”
“Fifty Shades of Grey” Author E.L. James makes Ana’s 2012 naughty list. “She brought the term “mommy-porn” to the American lexicon. She had so many American women. She really touched a nerve,” Ana says. “I think she was naughty in her creative ways, and she laughed all the way to the bank.”
People all over the country continue to grieve for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In the wake of the tragedy, many have asked how they can offer the slightest bit of help to those affected. The United Way of Western Connecticut has created an answer by setting up a fund to provide support services for those Newtown residents affected by the tragedy. This morning, “Early Start” reports that the Sandy Hook School Support Fund has so far raised $3 million. Will Rodgers is a selectman in Newtown, CT and Kim Morgan is the CEO of the United Way of Western Connecticut. They are leading the efforts to raise money for the fund and come to the studio to talk about it today.
Morgan says their original intent for starting the fund was to “be a guardian” and lead people to a legitimate place for donations. “Our intent is then to hand over the funds to the community and really have them decide.” Currently, it’s an “undesignated fund.” “We’re trying to be as broad as possible, in terms of contemplated uses,” Rodgers explains. “People are very quick to react, and we really want to take the time to think about this thoughtfully, and ensure that we’re matching the resources to the established need,” Morgan adds. “Some of the needs may be around mental health issues. We just don’t know at this point." But control and input from the local community will help to decide where the funds will ultimately go.
While the fund has so far raised $3 million dollars, Morgan explains that donations range from $10 to $100 thousand and have come from all over the world. “It is logistically very daunting,” Rodgers says. Donations include toys and food, and while he says they appreciate everything, they aren’t really interested in receiving perishables right now. “We’re trying to encourage people to contact the particular entity they’re donating to make sure that their donation that they have in mind is needed,” Rodgers adds. “Goods require human effort to move and distribute, and we are pretty swamped right now."
While many in the country are celebrating the holiday season, our armed forces are hard at work protecting us overseas. Many wounded Veterans are also working through Christmas as they recover from terrible injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but their thoughts are with those who aren’t home for the holidays. “Sending their holiday wishes to their buddies,” Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has that touching story. “Wounded troops in rehab at the holiday time…all Christmas miracles.”
After nine years as our trusted meteorologist, Rob Marciano is moving on to Entertainment Tonight. A man of many hats, here's a few of his proudest moments and the best advice he has ever received.
American Olivia Culpo, a self-described cellist-nerd from Rhode Island won the Miss Universe contest Wednesday night in Las Vegas. She became the first American to win the pageant in 15 years. Culpo beat 88 other contestants for the crown. She was originally crowned Miss USA back in June and joins “Early Start” live from Las Vegas this morning.
Culpo says she was herself surprised that USA took home the title. “I kind of figured that USA could never win this pageant,” Culpo says. “So it was refreshing and I’m really honored.”
While beauty pageants are often criticized for being superficial, Culpo says she never considered it superficial. She entered pageantry to practice her skills for her future while studying acting and communications in school. “It just made sense.”
When Culpo was asked in the pageant if there was something that she’s done that she would never do again, she answered, picking on her siblings. She says she wasn’t nervous answering the question, but was disappointed she wasn’t asked a more difficult one. “I wish that there was a little bit more controversy in the question.”
House Speaker John Boehner's “Plan B” to avert the fiscal cliff failed to garner enough support from Republican leadership yesterday. The proposal would have extended Bush era tax cuts for Americans that make less than one million dollars. But the vote was ultimately postponed. Then the House went into recess for Christmas, and went home. Congressman Joseph Crowley is a Democrat from New York. He joins “Early Start” live from Washington this morning with the latest.