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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Winter Weather Plagues Nation; UPS and FedEx Deliveries Delayed; Presidential Forecast 2016; Warren Weinstein Held by al- Qaeda; Biggest Scandals and Lies Of 2013; Common Knee Surgery May Be No Better Than A Fake Operation

Aired December 26, 2013 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: But we begin tonight with this dangerous holiday weather, deadly weather. Authorities now blaming it for at least 18 fatalities in parts of the United States and Canada tonight. Power blackouts, highway shutdowns, airport slow downs on that list, icy roads that turned driving into very tough sledding if sore many travelers, indeed.

And for the latest roundup, here is 360's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not how you want to spend the holiday, caught in a pileup stretching more than ten miles in Painesville, Ohio. It all started with a multi-vehicle accident on interstate 90 and grew from there with cars piled on top of each other. As many as 40 vehicles were involved, no major injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tried to steer my car to the wall to avoid hitting the car in front of me and it didn't work.

KAYE: Construction barriers that were supposed to have been removed gave cars less room to maneuver and avoid other vehicles. The highway was shut down for six hours.

As recently as this morning, the pileups continue, this time in Pennsylvania. About 35 different vehicles got caught up in four different accidents. Some flipped upside down. No fatalities but about 44 people were injured, 25 of them needed treatment at the hospital.

In Vermont, officials are calling it the worst storm since 1998. About 1500 people are still without power there. In Maine, more than 30,000 are in the dark, and another 86,000 in Michigan. Roads across that state are a sheet of ice, which is only delaying utility crews from restoring power.

This consumer's energy truck flipped over on a Michigan interstate on Christmas day. Luckily, the driver wasn't hurt. A dozen cars and trucks wiped out on that same patch of ice.

In upstate New York, power is also a problem. Though some are getting relief like this man who got his power turned on. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes it a lot better because at least the blower on the furnace will work now and the refrigerator, you know, so we can keep the milk and stuff.

KAYE: In Canada there are some 54,000 homes and businesses without power, down from 300,000 last weekend. There is so much snow and ice in the Toronto area, trees are splitting in two. Power companies are working over time, but even so, residents are frustrated that they are still in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The trees are still down. Like the power lines are still down. Nobody has been to our street to fix anything.

KAYE: And with the darkness comes danger. Four people are dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S. four more in Canada. This man's father was exposed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So basically, my dad used barbecue charcoal to heat up the ice and there was carbon monoxide.

KAYE: His dad turned out to be OK but residents feel if all the lights aren't back up soon, there may be more close calls ahead.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: A good reminder not to improvise when it comes to heat.

As for what brought us all that ice in the first place, what's in store for the next couple of day, let's check in with Jennifer Gray in the weather center.

Jennifer, what is happening?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey Bill.

Yes, this ice is basically left over from this past weekend's storm and what happened is temperatures haven't gotten above freezing and so the ice is still there causing a lot stress on those power lines, the trees, and that's where we see the problem. We're not seeing any more ice, but we're seeing quite a bit of lake effect snow. And you can see it in upstate New York, still seeing it there.

We're also seeing some snow pushing in northern Maine. It is steadily pushing out. And so, what we're expected to see as we go through the overnight hours, really not much more, maybe two to four inches of snow in Syracuse, in Buffalo and maybe just a trace of snow in Maine.

But temperatures are going to stay chilly. We're still in the 20s. Detroit at 25, Toronto at 21 and 26 in Burlington. The good news, Bill, is we're expected to see temperatures get above freezing, though, in the next couple days.

WEIR: And what about the northeast in coming days? A lot of travelers in these parts looking to the skies. What does it look like?

GRAY: Yes, we are going to see another storm system push through. I want to touch on the power outage numbers real quick because we're seeing still quite a bit of power outages still across the northeast, 30,000 in Maine.

We're seeing about 86,000 in Michigan, and this is the storm system. We'll stay pretty quiet through Sunday morning. But then once Sunday afternoon hits, you can see it pushing through. It looks like this is mainly going to be a rainmaker, but we could see a little of snow. The situation is still fluid. We are still monitoring it. But we could see a little snow as we go through the end of the weekend, Bill.

WEIR: OK Jennifer, thanks very much.

And out the next story, I guess weather is partially to blame for this. They -- I guess we can call it the Christmas present that didn't come.

Shipping giants UPS and FedEx now scrambling tonight with extra forbear to clear a heavy backlog caused by flight delays from those recent storms, and possibly just the sheer volume of truncated shopping and shipping season. Whatever the reason, more than a few parents had to explain how, you see, sometimes reindeer get tired, sometimes the elves has priorities.

Alina Machado is at a UPS store in Atlanta and joins us now.

Hi, any explanation --

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Bill.

Yes, a lot of explanations here, right, from parents in terms of what happened to the Christmas presents.

WEIR: And do we know how many numbers are affected by this? Are they giving that out?

MACHADO: We don't have those numbers just yet, Bill. Well, UPS has said that what happened was kind of a perfect storm of sorts. Remember that ice storm that hit Dallas a couple weeks ago? That created a backlog, and then came the shorter shopping and shipping holiday season. There were fewer days between thanksgiving and Christmas this year, that means that there was a higher volume. And then the unprecedented surge in the online shopping.

Now, UPS has released a statement on their Web site. Their latest statement reads as follows.

It says UPS experienced heavy holiday volume and is making every effort to get packages to their destination as quickly as possible. UPS has resumed normally scheduled service on December 26th, which is today, and their hope is to have all of these packages shipped by tomorrow.

Now, FedEx, they say they did have some delays, but they are calling those incidents isolated. In fact, they say that they have been delivering very high levels of service. They say about 99 percent at FedEx ground and the hope that all of this is starting to resolve.

WEIR: But everybody can relate to this, even if you did get your packages on time. That sort of dread that kicks in which you check the back porch and realize those toys aren't there. You've been talking to angry folks, I imagine.

MACHADO: I have. I have. There are some people who are very upset and the fact many people still haven't gotten those shipments isn't helping. Take a listen at what some people told us today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am very upset.

MACHADO: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because the people that I ordered it from guaranteed it, and I didn't have any qualms about it because the amount of time, which was four or five days, it would have gotten here anyway in four or five days regular without it being rushed or anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people have to be a little understanding. You know, sometimes you can't get everything you want the way you want it, and I think you have to be a little patient. I'm sure they are trying as hard as they can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: Words of wisdom.

MACHADO: Good representation -- absolutely. And that's a good representation of what we have seen online on social media in terms of the reactions to what has happened.

WEIR: Now I have to speak as someone who once worked at UPS. I used to load the trucks at 4:00 in the morning. Worst job ever. If you imagine the Lucy and Ethal scene with the conveyer belt full of chocolates, only they are 50-pound boxes that never stop. Those people are busting their tails. I know this. So, I wonder if we shouldn't be blaming retailers a little bit more. And our, you know, our procrastinating selves for waiting. But retailers are promising guaranteed Christmas delivery, even if you ordered on Monday night, which seems completely impossible given the loss of space and time.

MACHADO: Yes. It's tough to see exactly what happened. Right? Where did this go wrong? And that's something that UPS has said, they are going to be taking a look at the beginning of the year.

I think, Bill, it is interesting to know that a lot of people online, even though they are angry, they are praising those workers who been working extremely hard to get the deliveries out there.

WEIR: They are. They should be the fifth branch of the military, the UPS. Those guys busted.

Alina Machado, thank you for going out and called for us tonight.

And just ahead, a few people love the folks who work in that building. But wait until you see how much some people hate them. A new polling on Congress and the 2016 presidential race.

And who Hillary Clinton would clobber and who would might actually give her a very tough time in the couple of years.

Also, a hostage tape surfaces with a message from an American being held by al-Qaeda and the message from President Obama. Late word on that ahead on "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WEIR: As with so many people this holiday week, the office called and President Obama took a few moments out of his vacation to handle pressing business, namely funding the government.

The president today signed the two-year budget deal Congress approved earlier this month as well as the defense spending bill and five others smaller bits of legislation. So with that taking care of, he went back to the gulf and the body boarding and Washington went back to its favorite past time talking about who the next president will be.

Yes, there are only 1,042 shopping days. And so, we are picking new leader in free world. So, it's never too early for our friends in the CNN/ORC international polling units to ask Americans who they like.

And right now, it seems like they really like Hillary Clinton over most Republican contenders with one big exception. Now let's run down the list.

Governor Jeb Bush, she crushes by 21 points. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee by 15 points, she owns the Texans going over Senator Ted Cruz by 17, Governor Rick Perry there by 17 as well, and another 2012 GOP contender, former senator Rick Santorum trails Clinton 19 points.

We got a couple newcomers, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, also running behind 13 and 19 respectively and at least Paul Ryan gets into the single digits, the Wisconsin congressman, former the candidate within a respectable eight points to Clinton according to this poll.

So, who does that leave? Well, New Jersey's governor Chris Christie. And if the election were held today, which would be a huge inconvenience for everyone if it were, those poll would put him in the White House 48 to 46 percent.

Our friends asked Americans what they think of Congress and results are great for crab lice and tapeworms because both are now more popular than our legislative branch. Two-thirds say the current Congress is the worst in their lifetime, the worst, with only 28 percent disagreeing. Let us now get to the raw politics of this. Plenty to talk about with senior political analyst David Gergen, Republican strategist Kevin Madden, also Democratic strategist, former Obama campaign pollster, Cornell Belcher.

Gentlemen, thank you all for joining us, a post Christmas cheer.

David, let's start with the Christie-Hillary numbers there. Who do you think reads that poll and laughs harder longer?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a good question, but I'll tell you something. They aren't laughing at the Clinton camp because they know, while they have no predictive value at this time, they do give you a snapshot of what is going on. And what this poll reflects is that the Obamacare troubles that the president has had are now laughing up on Hillary Clinton, as well.

She's had a lead overall Republicans up until now. The fact that she's in a tie with Chris Christie in three different polls, especially this one, I think just under scores. There has been a lot of damage and it's not a walk away.

Remember this, Hillary Clinton can separate out for most issues regarding President Obama. But on health care, she's more tied to him than probably she would like to be at this point.

WEIR: Interesting.

Kevin, let's talk about Christie. If you dig any of this, he is going really well in suburban voters, this with older voters doesn't do as well with women. That is to be expected as well.

But again, we're laughingly far away from this election. But do numbers like this help shape the Republican party, help build fire walls against the tea party wing?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, what is interesting is that the contrast that you see with Christie's numbers versus those with Congress and probably many members of Congress who are Republicans. The reason Christie is doing well is for all the reasons that I think members of Congress are being judged harshly. Washington D.C. seems to be a place with no accountability. It seems like a place that is full of nonsense and partisanship.

Christie has done very well. He's built a national profile for himself because he is somebody who seems like he's no nonsense. He seems like he somebody who puts politics aside and instead is focused on how government can be more accountable to the voters.

So I think that's the reason that he's doing very well. And I think it sends a message to a lot of Republicans out there who are considering who the best candidate will be to fix the party's ills nationally is this is someone who can bring the party together and somebody who can expand the party's appeal to a lot of different voters.

WEIR: He also has a little name recognition bump because he just won e reelection and all over the place.

Cornell, if not Hillary, who? Who else do Democrats got?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think the Democrats have a fairly strong bench and I'll talk about them in a moment. But one thing I want to push back on is this ideal that Hillary is now being dragged down by Obamacare problems. I mean, she's cleaning the clock of most of the feel and she is an statistical tossup quite frankly with the most popular sort of broadly Republican we have. And I will agree that none of these polls are predict anything in the future.

I mean, in 2006 around this time, CNN's polling had McCain ahead of Obama and NBC's polling actually had him I think by five or six points. So, they are sort of meaningless, because the contours of the election have not been settled.

But for me, the real challenge for Republicans is really this. Look, if you have a candidate who comes out of your primary who cannot, you know, compete for that diverse swath that we've seen now a couple elections now that they are unable to compete in key states like Florida and Virginia and Nevada for the growing diverse electorate. If they have a candidate who can't do that, they have very little hope.

WEIR: Yes, but do you think Christi can come out of some of these primaries?

BELCHER: I would throw that to my friend Kevin. Look, I think if the tea party sort of coalition is coalesce around one candidate, I see sort of Christie having a hard time with that nomination when you have the run of the gauntlet, particularly when you have south, and you had to win south clan of Georgia, Alabama, what have you in a Republican primary.

WEIR: Well --

GERGEN: Cornell, I mean -- let me jump in, Bill, if I can, for just a second.

Cornell, you say you just have to laugh it over quality from health care. But how do you explain the big swing if the same poll has on the generic vote for Congress and for the House. There has been a 13- point swing now in favor of the Republicans. Obamacare is primary driving that. After all, just a few weeks ago, the shutdown was really hurting Republicans. We had a huge swing since. Don't you think there is a lap over there, and if so, why don't you think that would apply to Hillary?

BELCHER: Well one thing, I think the shutdown was an artificial bump. I think -- look, David, I don't think we were ever going to carry that bump over into for several months. I still sort of like where we are positioned right now better is than they are, particularly when you see millions upon millions of Americans actually begin to sort of sign up for health care and it get to the point where in reports today, Republicans are having some backtracking about what are they going to do about sort of repealing health care when millions of Americans are on it. And no perfect more firm example as just watching polls article a couple weeks back about talking about Kentucky where, guess what, thousands of rural Kentuckians who never had health care before and never been voted Democrats before, all of a sudden sort of now signing up for health care. And what is sort of Mitch McConnell going to tell them? I'm going to take that away from you? It puts them in a tough position.

MADDEN: Here is one last point, too. I think, right now, one of the reasons Hillary Clinton enjoys a pretty descent profile with many voters is that her profile is decided to be non-political. She's been protected from the very partisan debates we've seen over health care, the very partisan debates that we have seen over the things like the budget shutdown.

Once she has to get into the fray again, we are going to see these numbers shift dramatically inside the context of a campaign where it's a choice between her and a Republican candidate. It will be different then.

WEIR: I want to go back to Cornell. I guess that question -- to answer that question, who else if not her then? Just give me two names.

BELCHER: Are you poking me to say Biden? Look, I think vice president Biden did himself a great favor with the Democratic Party because he did with Ryan and that vice presidential debate, which most Democrats were hoping President Obama would have done with Romney. So I think -- so you cannot count out Biden but of course, O'Malley of Maryland is good, looking good, (INAUDIBLE) is looking good, and you know, they keep talking about Elizabeth Warren, although she says she not going to do it.

MADDEN: And Cornell, I bet you think that Biden can separate himself from Obamacare too in 2016 --

BELCHER: You know what, I hope he runs with Obamacare in 2016.

MADDEN: Hope isn't a strategy.

WEIR: We run out of time fellows.

Let me ask -- let me give the last word here to David. These congressional numbers, boy, are they loathed with a special kind of loathing, it seems like. And the people who are older who have seen the most Congress, they really hate them the most. What is this -- how does this bode for the midterms next year?

GERGEN: Well, as it turns around, I mean, I was quite surprised by this poll today and how much of a lead the Republicans have built up on this generic. I'm not sure that is going to hold. But maybe Cornell is right. As more people sign up, some of this could shift a bit. We'll see.

But right now, you know, I just don't see where there is a path to taking the House back for the Democrats right now, and that is not good news for the president, because, you know, he needs those last two years where the democratic house and Senate where he wanted to finish the agenda. And right I just don't see the path. Maybe, I don't know, Kevin would have a view on that, as well.

WEIR: We'll have to save it for another show. You're being generous with my time, David.

But thank you to you and thanks to you and Kevin and Cornell. We appreciate your ideas.

And you can always find more on this topic at CNN.com.

Just ahead, the chilling Christmas message from an American held hostage by al-Qaeda. What he said about his medical condition and what he wants President Obama to do to secure his freedom.

And later, the race to get 74 people whose polar expedition is now literally frozen in place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WEIR: The state department says it's working hard to verify the authenticity of a deeply disturbing Christmas message. It's a 13- minute video reportedly from al-Qaeda showing an American named Warren Weinstein, a contractor for U.S. EID who is pistol-whipped and abducted from his home in Lahore (ph), Pakistan more than two years ago. In it the 72-year-old says he's in poor health and has this plea for President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN WEINSTEIN, AMERICAN ABDUCTED IN PAKISTAN: Mr. Obama, you're a family man, so you understand the deep mental anxiety and anguish that I have been experiencing for these past more than two years. I'm therefore appealing to you on a humanitarian basis, if nothing else, and asking that you take the necessary actions to expedite my release and my return to my family and to my country, to our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: He says because President Obama is in now on his second term, he can make a hard decision such as negotiating with Al Qaeda without worrying about reelection.

Jill Dougherty is working her sources at the state department and throughout the administrations and joins us with the latest.

So Jill, the state department says they are trying to authenticate this tape now, but it looks like and it sounds like him, what else can they glen from this video?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, if they can find out exactly when it was made. There may be other signs. You know, he looks different. There have actually been three videotapes that have been made by Al Qaeda of him. And in each one he looks slightly different. So, there are various points of information they can glean from that. But yes, you would have to say that probably that definitely is Mr. Weinstein.

WEIR: Which must provide some bit of comfort for his wife, his daughter, his grandchildren. He talks about them in a letter he wrote as well. (INAUDIBLE), the hell they have been through for the last couple years must just be heartbreaking.

DOUGHERTY: It is and he refers to that every single minute that he's in captivity. He thinks of them.

But you know, Bill, it's a very difficult situation because what hi is saying in this video is he's urging President Obama to negotiate with al-Qaeda and that basically is not going to happen. The policy of the U.S. government is not to negotiate with Al Qaeda and that's the dilemma. I can't see really the U.S. ever giving into some of the demands that Al Qaeda is making.

WEIR: And they are not looking for money. There are plenty of kidnapping chains in that part of the world that grab an American and sell them to the highest bidder. It seems like their demands are clear cut and they are non-starters.

DOUGHERTY: Yes, there are. In fact, I actually have enlisted them. There are about eight that were made a couple years ago by Al Zawahari (ph), and they are things that the United States is not prepared and will never do.

You'd have to say, one of them is to release Sheik Omar Abdel Rakman (ph) who was the mastermind of the attack on the 1993 bombing of the world trade center. There are other things, release all prisoners from Guantanamo, shut Guantanamo, of course, that may eventually happen and there are others in bombings that the United States and its allies are carrying out in a variety of countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Gaza. So, I think he get the picture. These are really now nonnegotiable.

But even beyond that, the U.S. government does not want to and refuses to get into any type of tip for tat deal because that just could, they would say, encourage al-Qaeda to grab more Americans.

WEIR: And that leaves really only the possibilities of release or rescue. Any hope for either of those?

DOUGHERTY: Boy, that is very, very difficult to say. Obviously, they feel, al-Qaeda seems to feel that there is reason to keep holding him. They are not getting very far, but they continue to make that case. Whether he could be rescued is at very difficult, as you know, a complex question that I don't think anybody can answer at this point.

WEIR: Yes, especially, where he is at no man's land indeed. Jill Dougherty, thank you for your insight.

Just ahead, the scandals and lies that shocked in 2013. Two athletes, an out of control mayor, celebrity cook all made headlines. Anderson looks back at their audacious turns in the spotlight.

Also ahead, a new study that may make you think twice about having a very popular type of knee surgery. What researchers found when they compared it with a phony operation?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WEIR: Well, the day after Christmas seems like a good time to recap some of the least shining moments of 2013, thanks to the dependability of human nature, the last 12 months have produced a conga line of bad behaviour, this range from garden variety shameless to flat out bizarre. We've had scandals and lies and here is Anderson with a look back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The 2013 started with one of the more bizarre hoaxes in recent memory. It centered on Notre Dame star football player Manti Te'o whose girlfriend supposedly died of leukemia during the season.

MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME PLAYER: I lost my parents and my girlfriend to cancer.

COOPER: Sympathy for Te'o and his performance on the field made him a media darling until it was revealed that his girlfriend never existed. It turned out she was a hoax cooked up by an acquaintance of Te'o's who pretended to be the girlfriend online and on the phone.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I'm calling to say good night, I love you.

COOPER: Teo claims he didn't know this was a hoax.

TE'O: At that time I didn't know to be honest with you. Like, I did not know.

COOPER: According to him, he didn't deliberately lie. Unlike Lance Armstrong, the champion cyclist and cancer survivor had been under suspicion for doping for years and for more than a decade, vehemently denied the allegations.

LANCE ARMSTRONG: There are no secrets. This is a hard sporting event and hard work wins it.

COOPER: But the lie came crashing down in January when he finally began to tell the truth to Oprah Winfrey.

OPRAH WINFREY: Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your performance?

ARMSTRONG: Yes.

COOPER: Armstrong has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his partial confession.

PAULA DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: I want people to know who I am.

COOPER: So is Paula Deen. The celebrity chef known for a bubbly personality gave a tearful interview to the "Today Show" earlier this year after she was accused by a former employee of discrimination and using the "n" word. Deen's southern food empire was badly damaged after that interview.

DEEN: I tell you what, if there is anyone out there that has never said something that they wished they could take back, if you're out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me, please.

COOPER: Anthony Weiner's sexing scandal behind him launched a serious bid for New York City mayor this past May. Weiner performed well in the polls until another woman came forward in July with another story of an online relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He got controlling towards the end.

COOPER: Unlike the last scandal, Weiner didn't lie about the allegation, but he did give another public apology.

ANTHONY WEINER: There is no question what I did was wrong.

COOPER: This time with his wife at his side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love him. I have forgiven him. I believe in him.

COOPER: But the public had enough of Weiner. His campaign sank and Weiner lost.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is still holding on to his job even after his bizarre behavior was caught on tape -- and his public confession.

MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine, but no -- do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors.

COOPER: Ford was effectively stripped of all his mayoral duties, but he still holds the title of mayor and says he will not step down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: Pretty impressive list there. So how would you rank such audaciousness? Well, it depends on who ask. Here once again Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining me now is Dan Savage, author of "American Savage," Andrew Sullivan from andrewsullivan.com, a CNN panelist and founding editor also of "The Dish," also CNN commentator, Michaela Angela Davis and senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, so in terms of scandals and scoundrels, who was the top of your list? To me is Rob Ford. I can't get enough of Rob Ford.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, EDITOR, "THE DISH": This man has done enough --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about --

SULLIVAN: Every story, every quote -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But no --

SULLIVAN: Completely nailed.

COOPER: You would give one amazing press conference where he said, you know, probably in one of my drunken stupors and you think there is no way he can top it and he can top it.

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I'm from D.C. So I have the original mayor that smoked crack. But I'm thinking his wife. There are a whole lot of people behind him that this is probably been not so cute for.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Just to draw another scandal in, to me, what's awful about these scandals is when you do see the wife. Anthony Weiner embarrassed himself, but his extremely accomplished admirable wife has to stand there.

DAN SAVAGE, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN SAVAGE": I'm waiting for a wife to stand up and say I knew, I don't care, all of you can go because they are the only ones to whom that stuff should matter. Eventually there will be a sex scandal that's outed and they will stand up and say we have an open relationship.

DAVIS: I think women know when they marry a politician, it's a rare breed. Weiner's wife is so smart. You -- they are not victims, but they still have to manage their husband's mess.

TOOBIN: Certainly, if you marry Rob Ford, you know he's irresistible and people are drug to him and you have to deal with that.

DAVIS: What he said about her, he's got plenty to eat at home --

SULLIVAN: Which was so -- my God.

COOPER: I was referring to -- actually referring to specifically --

SULLIVAN: I know.

SAVAGE: One of those actual --

SULLIVAN: Yes.

SAVAGE: I did this. I didn't think there was anything wrong with it. Other people are doing it. The entire generation is saying these things to each other.

COOPER: Do you think 20 years from now when that generation is running for office and all sorts of things --

SAVAGE: It's not going to be an issue.

COOPER: Because --

SAVAGE: Pot used to destroy careers. Now Obama is like yes, I smoked pot and people will get to the same thing with sexing saying, yes, that's my penis and it's nice.

COOPER: What about Lance Armstrong? I mean, nobody has mentioned him. Do you think he can have a third act? I mean, do you think he can?

TOOBIN: I think that was a really, really bad thing. We in the United States don't take the cycling all that seriously. He was one of the most admired athletes in the country, the whole world and the scale of his lies is so enormous and the betrayal of so many people and all the people he insulted and destroyed along the way.

COOPER: To me, that's interesting. There wasn't just him doing this. He and him forcing his teammates to do it, as well. It was the -- his bullying and destruction of the lives and careers of other people.

TOOBIN: And he also has the problem of being an athlete who is now in his 40s. So what is he going to do?

COOPER: He could be doing try athletes, that's what he would like to do and it's a huge business, but he won't be able to compete in those events.

TOOBIN: And nor should he. There should be some consequence for deception on that scale. He betrayed his sport. He lied about what he did in the thing that made him famous and I think that's different.

COOPER: Was it unfair to what happened to Paula Deen.

TOOBIN: My mentor in journalism said the scandal isn't what is illegal. This is a woman who pedals this horrible fattening food becomes diabetic and uses this opportunity to promote diabetes drugs instead of healthy eating. That bothers me --

SULLIVAN: The integrity of what they are doing as opposed to a human failing that happens to anybody this any line of work and that distinction between the sin in Catholic tradition and moral sin which is really a betrayal of something important. That's an important distinction that we often lose.

DAVIS: I don't that's acquittal. You know, African-American, the culture in which she was also using to make people -- went deeper than she said the "n" word. It's also that whole -- all the other thinks about people dressing up as slaves and the way she treats her staff and black people having to go through the back. It was so layered with history and hurt and her kind of not dealing with that, I felt it wasn't a little thing to at least this community, and we talked about it. It was kind of a big deal.

COOPER: When you look back at the year, what stands out --

SAVAGE: Scandal-wise?

COOPER: Yes.

SAVAGE: My God, it's like a buffet. There is too many delicious ones. I want to be an American patriot but for me, rob ford, too. I love a goodlingest joke on the evening news.

COOPER: Who doesn't? Who among us does not? My mom once wrote a romance memoir about the men she had dated and I used that term loosely and she described one man she was currently dating, my mom was 85 at the time and she made me proofread the book. I was like mom -- I don't know much about modern dance -- exactly --

DAVIS: See, do you see what Rob Ford has done for us?

COOPER: Brought us forward in so many ways. We'll leave it there. Dan Savage, thanks very much. Andrew Sullivan, Michaela Angela Davis, Jeff Toobin, thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: Hands down best panel of the year. I haven't watched all of them, but I love that one. Just ahead, what new research reveals about a type of knee surgery, nearly three quarters of a million Americans get every year. Research that could make you rethink getting it done at all. We'll also tell you about a new security breach at one of America's busiest airports on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WEIR: Up close tonight, a new study that has stunned a lot of people because it literally adds insult to injury, knee injury, to be specific. You see every year about 700,000 people tear that a little bit of cushion in their knee called the meniscus and then have arthroscopic surgery to fix it. But this new study found that a fake operation was just as well isn't treating the knee pain as actually surgery.

That's right. They pretended to operate on some patients in this study and the results are rather staggering. To talk about them, to sort them out, Dr. David Jezivar, an orthopedic surgeon, who is, get this, he chairs the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Committee on evidence based quality and value, which is a long way of saying you're a b.s. detector for medical studies, right?

DR. DAVID JEVSEVAR, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: I hope I'm good at that.

WEIR: This happened in Finland, about 150 people, five different hospitals and some of them had like clicking in their knees, locks up, real pain, half of them they operated on gave them the prescription and therapy remedy, the other people and they weren't under general anesthetic, most people were awake so they rubbed knives on their knees and made operation sounds, gave them the same prescription and a year later, even those who still had clicking and locking said it worked for them. So as the b.s. detector, is this a good study?

JEVSEVAR: This is a very well-done study and would be hard to reproduce in the United States. It would be hard to recruit patients for a study like this. I think that the big thing about this study is it does a very good job of showing that removing that torn piece of cartilage may not be it. If you have a degenerative meniscus tear that no treatment will make it better as well. It doesn't do that.

In both groups, the patients did have surgery is just that in one group the cartilage was removed and the other group it wasn't. So there has to be more research done in the future as to what is the most important aspect of this study and why did patients get weather in both groups?

WEIR: It never occurred to me that surgical placebo would have this kind of effect. How do you chalk it up to that? How do you account for all those people who say much better, I would do it again, even though there is nothing to be done again?

JEVSEVAR: Well, I think there are two aspects. One is the patients do (inaudible) expectations of the surgeon. So there is a placebo effect for surgery. It's a different placebo effect for a pill. The second part is arthroscopy was performed on both groups of patients. So you are removing some enzymes and other proteins that can cause pain as well. So that's why I think it's really important as this moves to the future that additional research occur and we can isolate what was the most important factor.

WEIR: There is a whole host of doctors who think we over test in this country. We over prescribe and over operate. Do you think this is a symptom of that sort of thing? Are people demanding the scope because they want to go full board and get rid of that pain or are doctors guilty of doing this too much?

JEVSEVAR: Well, I think most of the orthopaedic colleagues in the United States, if a patient presented to us with a meniscus tear, we would do other things before we move to surgery there are a subgroup of patients that would like to have the badge of courage to justify the pain or validate the pain to themselves and family members and friends and co-workers so there is an aspect of that.

WEIR: Right, well, at least it's good to know if you start with a little therapy, some common sense, you can work your way up to that scope in the end. Doc, we appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for the insight.

JEVSEVAR: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

WEIR: Let's get caught up on some other stories. Susan Hendricks is here with the 360 Bulletin.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, a major security breach at North Liberty Airport. Officials say a man hopped the fence and walked onto the runway yesterday, Christmas day. He was arrested. This is the second security breach at a New York area airport in a year and a half.

And a Russian ship wedged between thick sheets of ice off the coast of Antarctica is waiting for help to arrive. Seventy four people are on board including a scientific expedition. Three ice breaking ships had been dispatched to try to free the vessel, which sent out a distress call on Christmas morning. To Los Angeles now, an incredible rescue, you got to see. A man trapped inside this burning car was pulled to safety with just moments to spare by a police officer on his way to work. An off duty firefighter who was driving by also stopped to help out, and Bill, literally, just seconds to spare there.

WEIR: Incredible. Wasn't even on the clock and did his job there. Thank you, Susan.

Good story to end on there and a quick reminder about New Year's Eve, Anderson and Kathy Griffin are together ringing in the New Year from Times Square. It starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Coming up next, you, the loyal 360 viewer, you voted online, so after the break, your choice for the number three "Ridiculist" of 2013.

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WEIR: You, the people have spoken in choosing your favorite "Ridiculist" of 2013. Here you go, your choice for number three.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist" and tonight, we offer the "Ridiculist" tips to get in shape for summer, it's of course called prancer-cise. Prancer-cise is describe as a springy rhythmic way of moving forward similar to a horse's gait and ideally --

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Anderson, Anderson, I'm sure we're all on the edge of our seats waiting to hear your take on that prancer-cise video, but I think that can wait until tomorrow. Since today is your birthday, I'm officially taking over "The Ridiculist" so you can sit back, relax, enjoy, let the viewers at home, they can see us side by side.

They can decide, by the way, who is more of a dream boat, you or me? I thought I would like to take this opportunity, Anderson, on the occasion for your birthday, to take tips on ageing gracefully as a news anchor, so a few years on you. So here is the question. Should we get started?

COOPER: You go right ahead, sir.

BLITZER: You seem to have your workout program down as anyone who has seen you in a T-shirt attest. You don't need advice from me on that. Whatever you're doing keep it up, no background check necessary on that gun show. By the way, there are a few areas I think I can be of some assistance.

COOPER: OK.

BLITZER: As you get older, Anderson, you have to stop getting in fistfights. I personally was shocked. They were shocked to see this a few weeks ago on SNL, which I assume is a news program. Watch this.

As you age, Anderson, you are going to have to learn that violence doesn't solve anything. Use your words, Anderson. There is one other area I would like to address and address it right now and that is your tendency, as you well know, to burst out laughing at certain types of words and ideas. You know what I'm talking about.

COOPER: I do.

BLITZER: Let's just remind the viewers.

COOPER: So an actual thespian. They should thank their lucky stars -- sorry. By the way, a panda is going to cost you. But if you're adventurous type or if you like to splurge on crap --

BLITZER: Anderson, Anderson, that kind of behavior may fly in your 40s, but trust me. It's not going to cut it in your 60s. You have to keep it together. You have to learn how to keep it together, meditation, maybe. Maybe find a way to center yourself, repeat it in your head. I'll give you an example. I calm myself by repeating over and over and over again, you're in the situation room.

But that may not work for you because it has the word urine in it, and I hope you'll find as you mature that you'll be able to keep a straight face when saying nearly anything. So watch how a master does it. The pussy willows blowing in the wind on the shores of Lake Titicaca are as magical Uranius.

Let me point out, you're doing just fine. Tonight, on behalf of everyone at 360, we want to thank you for the work you do every day, for your dedication, your leadership and for letting us all get the last laugh with you on "the "Ridiculist."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: So proud to be part of this team. Thanks for watching this edition of 360. "ANTHONY BOURDAIN PARTS UNKNOWN" starts right now.