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Weather Related Deaths; Holiday Retail Sales; Credit Card Bills; Baghdad Christmas; Bethlehem Christmas; Caucus Countdown; Wolves Attack; Van Hits TV Station; Child Predator Arrested; Roger Clemens Responds; Baby Jesus Replaced; Child Being Sued; Glass House; Naughty Santas; Laying Wreaths

Aired December 24, 2007 - 09:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hello everybody, you're in the CNN NEWSROOM and I am, the aforementioned, T.J. Holmes. Tony Harris and Heidi Collins are off today. Lots of events coming into the NEWSROOM, live on this Monday morning. It's December the 24th, Christmas Eve. Here's what we have on the rundown for you.
Some may not be home for Christmas. The worst of the Midwest snow storm seems to be over, but dangerous driving conditions remain. Also, a famous department store going around the clock. Retailers pull out the stops for the last-minute holiday shoppers.

And breaking news at the station. An anchor ad libs after a minivan crashes just feet from the anchor desk. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Over the river, through the woods and straight into harm's way. Check this out. Weekend snow storm has wreaked havoc from the Texas panhandle to Wisconsin. At least 11 deaths blamed on this weather. The storm has loosened its stranglehold a bi, but driving remains dangerous in many states. And for many, staying home isn't exactly a great option either. Thousands of homes and businesses are without power, from the Plains to the Great Lakes. Hundreds of canceled flights are also creating long waits today for holiday travelers.

Our Bonnie Schneider has the big job right now. Of course, folks, they're trying to get home, trying to get here and there for Christmas, but they've got a lot of stuff they have to make their way through -- Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And what a weekend it's been. Yesterday we had delays, four hours in some locations. Not only due to snow, some was just plain old fog that slowed you down. But it is snowing, it is coming down heavy and hard in Rochester, New York. That city is use to snow.

And look at this live picture, courtesy of our affiliate WHAM. You can see the wind-driven snow, it's a pretty picture. But, I want to see what it looks like closer to the ground. This picture is kind of taken up from high elevation. You can see it there, there's the camera getting wet with snow right now. But, we're going to walk over here and I'm going to take you to the roads of Rochester and zoom into the area with a live traffic cam. And look at this, traffic is moving, but look at the heavy snow already accumulating on the median of the roads here. This is Bay Road, Route 104 at the Bay Road overpass in Rochester. So, heavy snow blowing snow and that's creating some problems in terms of visibility. So, you have to be extra careful on the roads if you are indeed traveling.

Temperatures, this morning are cold wherever it is you're headed, we've got the wind chill factor of quite cold. A lot of times it's in the single digits, we've seen that across a good portion of the region. And notice the blowing snow advisories, lake-effect snow warnings in upstate New York, that's where we're going to see some of the worst snow where temperatures are below freezing, but it feels much colder.

Now, so far in terms of expected delays, we are expecting them in the Northeast and areas to the west, as well, due to, once again, weather. Not as bad as what we saw yesterday, but look for more delays westward, T.J., toward Chicago. Today, we'll see some fairly strong winds and light snow flurries. That's a big difference than yesterday. Again, these delays were at three hours and four hours across much of the eastern half of the country, anywhere from Minneapolis eastward, we had lengthy delays. Hopefully, today will be much smoother since it's Christmas Eve.

HOLMES: Oh, three hours, four hours.

SCHNEIDER: A long wait. Yeah.

HOLMES: Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: But, now it's good. Now, we're OK.

HOLMES: It's all good now. Well, we'll take that. Bonnie, we appreciate you, we'll see you again here, soon.

And the weekend storm made for treacherous driving in much of the nation's mid section. Take you to Missouri here, first. This was the scene on Interstate 29. Whiteout conditions triggered a pile-up of dozens of cars and at least three semis. Several people were injured there. Also a similar nightmare on the roads in Kansas, some 30 cars entangled in a pile-up on I-70, west of Topeka. That shut down a 40- mile stretch for hours.

Also, a massive chain reaction wreck in the Texas panhandle, at least one person was killed in this melee. More than a dozen were injured, as well. This pile-up shut down Interstate 40 for some time. And please, reminder here, if news is happening where you are, you can help us out by sending in your videos, sending in your photos to us. Go to, click on "i-Report" or type in into your cell phone. We do appreciate all those pictures, all that video you can give us. But please, if you're getting that stuff, please, please stay safe.

We will turn not to some holiday shopping. And are you one of those, you know, those procrastinators? Time is certainly running out to grab those last-minute gifts, sales, so far though, mediocre for the stores. That's not good news. CNN's Jim Acosta inside Macy's in New York. It has been open round the clock. Jim, I guess you got a pretty good assignment that you could actually -- you're gong to get some work done and you could get some shopping done at the same time.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, T.J. My earpiece just cut out, so I'm just going to start talking. But yes, and as I'm talking to you right now, there are going to be shoppers walking through my live shot, that's because this Macy's department store has been open 24 hours. And as a matter of fact, we talk to a manager just a while ago, who told us that at 2:30 in the morning, believe it or not, there were shoppers in this department store with their children doing their last-minute holiday shopping.

And it is actually not a bad time to come in here, during these off hours, because we were out here over the weekend and it was a sea of humanity, a shopping mosh pit, if you will, a Santa-palooza. There were so many people inside this store, we were shoulder-to-shoulder with other shoppers all day Saturday. And essentially what is going on here is that retailers are pulling out all the stops to get those last-minute procrastinators into the stores, whether it be these round the clock hours, some stores are open until 10:00 tonight. Many shoppers are walking through my live shot as I'm talking to you right now. That is also going on.

But, essentially, retailers know that Americans are very skittish about the economy, right now. They know that people are trying to stretch their dollars because of the gas prices that are sky-high right now, the mortgage meltdown that is going on. All of these strains on the American consumer and because of that, retailers are predicting sort of a disappointing holiday shopping season. They're saying that their sales growth will be only about four percent, where as it's normally around five percent and while it will be up, it's just not as up as they would like to see.

And, but it's really going to be a few days or perhaps weeks after the holiday shopping season has ended before we really know how well this holiday season has performed. So many people, as we all know, shop online. And while that business does gangbusters every year, there's a slight decline or drop-off in sales there. Not as high as those online retailers, were expecting. And many people give gift cards. That is the big trend in holiday gift giving and so really, these retailers are going to have to see how people spend those gift cards after the holiday shopping season has ended to see just how well they've done this year -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Jim, we appreciate you. A lot going on there. Not sure if Jim can still hear us, but we are certainly hearing and seeing what's going on there, people walking through his live shot, those procrastinators getting busted on live, national TV for being procrastinators. All right, Jim, we appreciate you. We'll hook up with him a little later.

Also here, paying your credit card bills. Looks like it's getting harder for folks to keep up. And "Associated Press" announces fines for credit card account at least 30 days late jumped 26 percent in October compared to a year ago. Big lenders report accounts 90 days late are up 50 percent. Experts say it's partly due to the financial pinch from the subprime mortgage crisis.

Well, this holiday season, we remember the troops overseas and I'll have Alphonso van Marsh is reporting for us at Camp Stryker in Baghdad. He is there live for us.

Alfonso, I guess, what's Christmas like in Iraq?

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It's a busy time of year, certainly, here with the 101st Airborne, of course better know as the Screaming Eagles. We're a little bit early. We spent a little time with Santa Claus.


(voice over): At the U.S. Army's Camp Stryker in Baghdad, Santa Claus has a bag of goodies for the troops.

KRIS KRINGLE, AKA SANTA CLAUS: Just want to see the troops, hand out some candy canes and make them smile.

VAN MARSH: And a necessary extra.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of weapon is Santa carrying this morning?

KRINGLE; Santa's packing.

VAN MARSH: Carrying a pistol, his belly concealing a bullet resistant armor, this Santa is an Army major who travels by Blackhawk helicopter instead of reindeer and sleigh. This Santa's visit to U.S. troops comes just once a year, but for many soldiers, it can seem like just another day at work.

PFC DARRYELL RASH, U.S. ARMY: I think it's more difficult for my family.

VAN MARSH: This is Darryl rash's first Christmas in a war zone, first Christmas away from home. He says his adopted family, his military platoon, is helping him get through it.

DARRYELL: We act like brothers and sisters. So, it's like I am away from home, but I'm not.

VAN MARSH: Soldiers like Corporal Patrick Baird take comfort in seasons greetings sent by total strangers.

CPL PATRICK BAIRD, U.S. ARMY: Lots of chap stick is good to have here. It's just so dry here.

VAN MARSH: Baird knows only too well, this is his second Christmas in Iraq.

BAIR: This one is a lot easier, I think, than the last one. My wife misses me a lot. And everyone's very supportive, though. Everyone has been very supportive.

VAN MARSH: Troops assigned to mail room duty say they're doing their best to get holiday greetings to more soldiers faster.

(on camera): This is the final delivery of mail to some of the troops here in Baghdad before Christmas day. Whether it's cards, gifts or letters, many of these containers will be full of three times the amount of mail that would ordinarily be carried on a regular road convoy.

(voice over): It is a tough road ahead for many of these troops, with the military dispatching these men and women on 15-month deployments, many of them know there's a good chance they won't be home for Christmas next year either.

Now T.J., I got to tell you that it cannot be overemphasized how much it means from these service members to get these gifts from complete strangers. Again, chap stick making a big appearance this year. And here, a lot of letters from some church groups. Let me just tell you some of the groups here. Signed from Norman and Carol Rhodes (ph), from Gene and Sherry Helvy (ph), from Crystal Muller (ph), Beth Nethercutt (ph), all giving well wishes to the troops from the Center Presbyterian Church from Royal Center, Indiana. I can tell you from the troops here, that these greetings certainly do mean a lot. -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. It's tough they have to be away from family and friends and away from home at this time. But yes, that stuff does make it a little easier. Alphonso Van Marsh there for us at Camp Stryker in Baghdad. Alphonso, we appreciate you.

We will turn now to Christmas in Bethlehem. It's calmer, more peaceful and cheerful in the West Bank city. Now, tourists, tons of them, whole lot of them, are descending on the holy city to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Bethlehem's mayor predicts up to 65,000 tourists will come to the town. New peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians are giving many people a sense of security. We're live a little bit later from Bethlehem here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, the campaigns and Charismas. No time to take a break, as you might expect. Just over a week to go now before the Iowa caucus.


SERGEANT DEBRA GIPSON, U.S. ARMY: Hi, I'm Sergeant Gipson.

SERGEANT MCCULLOUGH, U.S. ARMY: Hi, I'm Sergeant McCullough.

(IN UNISON): Seasons greetings to all our friends and family in Cleveland, Ohio. Happy holidays!


HOLMES: Well, welcome back, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Breaking news for one TV anchor.


Michelle Gaiarto (ph), joining us now live from the scene of one fire tonight where two people were injured.

Michelle and the weather made the rescue work all that much more -- oh!


HOLMES: A minivan took a wild turn. But was this deliberate?


HOLMES: All right, as exclusives -- is that a baby over there that I hear?

Well, as exclusives go in the news world, we have pulled off an exclusive this morning like no other. It's Christmas Eve and look who we've got this morning. Santa is with us. Oh, Santa, what's wrong with the little guy there, Santa? Who's child is that? Santa, what does everybody want over there this evening?

KRINGLE: Well, we're sort of getting everybody acquainted today, here in the studio. But, these young men seem to have a pretty good idea what they want for Christmas. Oh, and a young lady, you want to sit right there? I don't know that she'll stay there, mom.


KRINGLE: No. Well, the most important thing is that with all of these youngsters is to know that love is what it's all about -- Christmas.

HOLMES: Absolutely, Santa. We appreciate that and we appreciate you being here. Like you said, I know you're all just starting to get acquainted. But, Santa, like a said, folks, we have pulled off the exclusive. We have him with us this Christmas Eve and he's going to be with us for the next few hours here in the NEWSROOM. So, we'll be - who's kid. We need to get names for these kids.

KRINGLE: All right. Very good.

HOLMES: Yes. We're going to get names for all these kids and attach them to the parents. So, watch out, folks.

All right. We are turning to "America Votes," now. Yes, caucus countdown. We're talking about Christmas a lot, but we are just 10 days away from the Iowa caucuses. Iowa voters gong to be getting their say. Well, the undecided's starting to feel a bit of pressure right now, especially around Christmastime. CNN's Dana Bash on the scene for us.


DANA BASH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Christmas lights are up, wreath is hung, the tree stands proudly in the living room with an angel above, presents below. A classic Christmas scene that could be anywhere in America, until you see all the mail from presidential hopefuls on the table. This is Iowa. (on camera): I don't even know if you can count how many are here. How many pieces are here? Probably 20 pieces, here.


(voice over): That came in just two days to the Allen household. And with Christmas approaching, it's barely read.

ALLEN: The biggest thing is, a lot of it gets ignored right now, because we are focusing on the Christmas cards on the refrigerator. You know, you put all those Christmas cards up there and then this gets shuffled, paper we usually get rid of.

BASH: It's not just the mail. It's the phone.

ALLEN: Sixty calls since December 1.

BASH (on camera): Sixty calls?

ALLEN: And that's just the campaign calls.

BASH: And it goes, "unknown name," "unknown name," "unknown name." But you know who these are.

ALLEN: Yeah. For most part, we know that this campaign is calling.

BASH (voice over): Chaz Allen isn't just any undecided Iowa voter, he's the mayor of Newton, Iowa, and Independent. He gets special calls.

CALLER: Hello Chaz, this is Terry McCall (ph), chairman of the Clinton campaign, if you could please give me a call at 703...

ALLEN: I would explain to him I've just seen Huckabee and I just talked with Edwards and Obama and things like that and...

BASH: Allen says he won't decide who to vote for until after the holidays.

ALLEN: Oh, she's not in right now. Can I take a message?

BASH: One of many Hawkeyes not thrilled that the deluge of calls, mail, and TV ads that come with their proud political tradition is colliding with the holiday tradition.

ALLEN: It's such an incredible process that we should all be a part of. Maybe the parties should think about what's going on around the times they do this.

BASH: For the next couple of days, it's family time. Mail from the candidates may be on the table, but the focus is Christmas.


HOLMES: And Dana Bash, rolling the "Election Express" bus through Des Moines, Iowa, these days.

Good morning. Good to see you, ma'am. Here we go, we got...

BASH: Morning.

HOLMES: Christmas tomorrow, but then we got to vote there in Iowa just a short time after that. That's not typical. These two are so close together, the Christmas and the caucus.

BASH: You're exactly right. There are nine days, T.J., between Christmas day and caucus day. Last time around, four years ago, there were three weeks in between and that was pretty close together. So, that is really the tension here. We've been talking so long about the accelerated presidential primary calendar. But it really is noteworthy, we realize that this time of year, when we're here, around Christmastime just what kind of an impact it has on the campaigns and on the candidates and on the voters -- T.J.

HOLMES: And also, I mean, these folks have been bombarreded. Seems like everybody's been running for president at least a year, almost, and Iowa has been the focus, they've seen these candidates a lot. Are they at least going to get a break from seeing the candidates today, Christmas Eve and tomorrow, Christmas day?

BASH: Pretty much, you are going to hear the sound of silence from the campaign trail for the next 24 hours or so. Most of the candidates, in fact, everybody except on the Democratic side, Chris Dodd, they are taking a break from campaigning both today, Christmas Eve day and tomorrow, Christmas day, but they are going to be right back on the campaign trail on December 26, and just, you know, getting out there from then until caucus day, which is going to be just a week away.

But, I can tell you, up until last night, it was like a sprint to the finish, if you will, before this 24, 36-hour lull. They don't want to give up any time at all, but they also want to understand that they basically don't want to anger voters by encroaching on their time with their family during this the Christmastime.

HOLMES: But you said Chris Dodd is the only one out there, running around, campaigning today?

BASH: That's right. You know, our Jessica Yellin spent some time with him and he's actually here. He's got his family. He moved them actually, here to Iowa. So, he's going to spend a little bit of time campaigning today and tomorrow, as well. I think he's going to have an ice skating party.

HOLMES: And ice skating party. How much fun. And we are going to talk to Jessica Yellin about Chris Dodd, later. But my goodness, can you imagine Christmas dinner and Chris Dodd rings your door bell? I don't know if that's going to earn any votes, there.

BASH: You never know.

HOLMES: Dana Bash for us. You never know. BASH: Whatever works for you.

HOLMES: Whatever works. Dana Bash, thank you very much. We'll see you again soon.

Well, got a story here, a frightening story, scary one out of Alaska when wolves attacked. A frightening scenario. A pack looking for an easy meal surrounds three joggers and their dogs. Andrea Gusty of Anchorage affiliate KTVA has the story for us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were not afraid of us. They were really close.

ANDREA GUSTY, KTVA REPORTER (voice over): It was quick. So quick, the three friends didn't know what was happening until it was too late.

ALICIA BELERGROHSLEIN, SURROUNDED BY WOLVES: And they were so quiet, they just came right up on us. They just came right up on us. They were quick.

GUSTY: A pack of at least seven wolves surrounded the three women and their dogs as they jogged on Artillery Road. The lead wolves came within feet, circling the women as they tried to get away.

CAMAS BERKEMEYER, SURROUNDED BY WOLVES: I was rainbowing my pepper spray and they fell back a little bit, but as soon as we would turn our backs to try to go, they run up on us and then we would turn around and start scream again and I would sprayed my pepper spray.

BELERGROHSLEIN: We kept going and they're so big and so many and they started howling and we thought they were circling us. And it got us really panicked, but we kept screaming.

GUSTY: Alicia, Camas and their friend were more than a mile and a half away from cars. All their dogs were leashed because they'd read about the warnings of other attacks. The trio were careful not to run and instead the women walked backwards, screaming to keep the animals away and trying to keep everyone safe.

BELERGROHSLEIN: I love my dog with all my heart, but I can't jeopardize my friends and if that's what they wanted, I didn't know whether to leave him.

GUSTY: The women held tight to the leashes and were able to keep the wolves at bay, but not before the pack attacked Camas' American bulldog, Buddy.

BERKEMEYER: My dog did get attack by the wolf, three wolves, he fought his way out as I'm pulling.

GUSTY: The women weren't physically hurt and Buddy had to have surgery to fix his gashes and bites left behind by the wolves. Camas worries the pack could attack again, this time only worse. BERKEMEYER: They were not afraid of us and I'm afraid that if I was out here by myself, they would attack me. They were not afraid.

GUSTY: Wildlife expert say wolves are smart animals and learn quickly. Which means the pack will get worse before it gets any better.

RICK SINNOT, ALASKA FISH AND GAME DEPT: They figure out that a dog is easy to kill and it's food for them, then they can just come to the conclusion that there's a lot more dogs than moose, and let's just start eating the dogs for now. And I'm not quite sure they've quite reached that point, but it sounds like they're working on that concept right now, yeah.

GUSTY: In the meantime, the only way to stop the wolf attacks is to stay away and not give the wolves an opportunity to take their attacks to the next level.

Andrea Gusty, CBS 11 News.


HOLMES: And Anchorage has had seven wolf attacks in the last month. Wildlife officials say the wolves often go after dogs in the winters with little snow fall when moose are harder to catch.

Well turning to you know, a crash that happened on live TV. That was the scene in Chicago last night. A minivan hit a local TV studio while the anchorman was on the air. This is what it looked like for folks watching on TV.


Michelle Gaiarto (ph), joining us now live from the scene of one fire tonight where two people were injured.

Michelle and the weather made the rescue work all that much more -- oh!


HOLMES: Yeah. Yeah, that's the guy you want during breaking news, right? He's cool under pressure. I'm just teasing him. Who knows how we all would have reacted, had that happened to us. But police are trying to determine what caused that crash. But witnesses say the driver may have had a plan.


TYLER CLOUTIER, WITNESS: I saw a minivan do about four or five u-turns and he pulled to the side of the road and told us to move and we didn't think much of it. But then all of a sudden we were watching the news and we heard the big crash and he was in the window.


HOLMES: Well, nobody was injured in that crash. And again, I'm just teasing the anchor man, there.

Well, away in a manger and far way from Miami. A good Samaritan offers a great gift from across the country.


HOLMES: Well, hello again, folks. Yes, the opening bell, the New York Stock Exchange. You're seeing folks helping to ring that bell today part of the home for the holidays pet adoption drive based out in San Diego. You see some little pets, there. You don't see that too often, there, on the floor of the New York stock exchange.

But, the Dow ended higher some 200 points yesterday, expected to be kind of a light day of trading, today, just a half day, there as well. A lot of people's attention, of course, on the holiday sales, stores expected to be packed, but sales not expected to be through the roof. Modest really, is how it's being described. So, a lot of people keeping an eye on the holiday sales, right now. We'll keep an eye on it here throughout the day in the NEWSROOM.

Well, screaming of a white Christmas, major storm pounds the mid section from Texas to Michigan. This is the view yesterday in Grand Rapids, 50-mile-an-hour winds knocked down trees and knocked out power across the region, tens of thousands of homes and businesses still without electricity as we speak.

Meanwhile, in the Texas panhandle, the snow didn't last. Travel nightmare, it's still a-going. At least one person died in the massive pile-up on Interstate 40 in Amarillo. The storm is blamed for at least 11 deaths. Weather also snarled air travel. You know, it's bad any time they put "snarled" in there. Hundreds of flights canceled yesterday will mean many headaches for travelers today who are desperately trying to get home.

Bonnie Schneider, oh, that picture. That map with the planes.

SCHNEIDER: We've all been through it.

HOLMES: Yes, oh that map just tells a story, doesn't it?

SCHNEIDER: It does, T.J., but I have to tell you, I'm not just trying to be on the positive side, here. Because yesterday, I was reporting delays three hours, four hours all over the country. Today, this morning, I have no delays. I have a lot of planes in the air, but no delays. In fact, the activity in the air has increased so much since early this morning. Every half hour we've seen another 400 planes go up.

So, right now we have 3,500 planes in the air over the U.S., with much of the concentration in the eastern half of the country, though it is starting to get busy early in the morning here on the west coast. But at least all the planes you see here took off on time. That's what we want to hear.

You know, if we go back, we can show you what that activity looked like. Let's go ahead and roll a time lapsed video of what it looked like since about 5:00 this morning and you can actually see the increased traffic in the air. Notice the plane number kind of building and building, especially on the eastern seaboard and that's what we've been watching closely here on our own "Flight Explorer."


In terms of expected delays later this afternoon, we're likely to see this in and around New York, once again, due to winds. And we'll be seeing that as well, as you head further west. Look for more delays, T.J., possibly in Chicago, even though there aren't any right now. Light snow in the forecast and strong winds will slow you down there and Cleveland, Ohio. So, we're not out of the woods yet, but we're looking good this morning.

HOLMES: You know what? Let's go with that. There are no delays, yet. We'll see what happens later, but there are no delays right now, we appreciate that. Thank you, Bonnie.

Well, turning to a story we've been following since the end of last week and certainly over the weekend. Police in Mission Hills, California, police believe they now have a suspected sexual predator in custody. After he apparently tried to abduct a 4-year-old girl and that was caught on surveillance camera. CNN's Kara Finnstrom has the story.


CAPT JORGE VILLEGAS, LOS ANGELES POLICE: He looks back, he actually specifically identifies and target his victim.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the videotape, police point out a man brazenly trying to kidnap a crying 4-year-old from an apartment complex while a security guard was out of sight.

VILLEGAS: He grabbed her. He's now trying to escape with her. Another child is calling out for her. He eventually puts down the child.

FINNSTROM: That boy's screams and tugs may have saved the little girl's life. The drama ends when the attacker, depicted in this police sketch, calmly walks away.

VILLEGAS: He's probably not a rookie. It wasn't a first time. He didn't appear to be afraid of his surroundings, of what was occurring. He looked like he was specifically targeting and casing that group of kids.

FINNSTROM (on camera): And police believe that about an hour earlier, just down the street, the same man grabbed and fondled a teenage girl. He's now been arrested in connection with both of those attacks as well as two earlier attacks in the same area.

VILLEGAS: This person is a danger to the community, he's certainly a danger to kids and quite possibly a sexual predator. ANGELA CARDENAS, NEIGHBOR: I thought I was safe, but no, it don't matter if you have security cameras, security, you're not safe anywhere anymore.

FINNSTROM (voice over): The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says high-profile abductions buy strangers are rare, but that statistic suggests the victims are most often girls who are abducted outdoors. Police say the response of that little boy who screamed until the attacker let the girl go is a textbook example of how children can fight back.

VILLEGAS: Somebody had a conversation about stranger danger with him, called enough of him. He recognized that what was going on was not correct, wasn't the right thing to do. So, essentially, he put a stop to it. Quite possibly could have saved her life.

FINNSTROM: Experts say teach your children anyone invading their personal space is dangerous. Tell them to run away from danger and make a scene, kicking, screaming and loudly yelling, "this person is not my parent." In this apartment complex, with locked gates, security cameras and even a patrolling security guard, what stopped the attacker ended up being a child.

Kara Finnstrom for CNN, Los Angeles.


HOLMES: Roger Clemens responds, speaking out about steroid allegations after his name popped up in that Mitchell report. CNN's Jim Acosta has the story for us.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The "Rocket" was firing on all cylinders in this brief message posted on YouTube.

ROGER CLEMENS, MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHER: I'm angry about it, to be honest with you. It's hurtful to me and my family.

ACOSTA: One of the greatest pitchers in the history of the national past time, Roger Clemens, broke his silence and flatly rejected allegations he used steroids.

CLEMENS: Het me be clear, the answer is, no, I did not use steroids, human growth hormone, and I've never done so.

ACOSTA: The denial comes less than two weeks after former senate majority leader George Mitchell released his devastating report on steroids in baseball.

GEORGE MITCHELL, BASEBALL STEROIDS INVESTIGATION: For more than a decade, there has been widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball.

ACOSTA: The Mitchell report is very specific, alleging back in 1998 that a trainer named Brian McNamee injected Clemens approximately four times in the buttocks over a several week period with needles that Clemens provided. That same trainer claims he also provided performance-enhancing drugs to Yankee's pitcher, Andy Pettitte, who later admitted to briefly using human growth hormone to recover from an injury. Still Clemens' attorney accused the Mitchell report of relying on sources with "baggage."

RUSTY HARDIN, CLEMENS' ATTY: At the end of the day, what you're going to have to decide if the Mitchell report was responsible in basing these allegations against Roger on the sources they used and on the investigation they did.

ACOSTA: Clemens predicts he will be vindicated, pointing to a correction that just appeared in the "Los Angeles Times." The paper had wrongly reported Clemens was one of several players accused of steroid abuse by former pitcher Jason Grimesley. Baseball fans we found at New York's Mickey Mantle sports bar were doubtful there will be a "Rocket" redemption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if I can believe him or not. I kind of thin the evidence shows that he might have and he should come clean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure in the sport, I'm sure that people use stuff all the time to enhance their performance. So, who knows? Who really knows? Only he knows.

ACOSTA (on camera): Clemens did not answer any questions during that appearance on YouTube. He says he will do that when he sits down with "60 Minutes" after Christmas.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Many happy returns in Miami. A baby Jesus statue snatched from a manger scene is replaced. A symbol of the season in more ways than one. Details from Reed Cowen of CNN affiliate WSVN.


REED COWEN, WSVN REPORTER (voice over): The Bal Harbour baby Jesus back where it belongs.

DINA CELLINI, OWNS STATUE: Well, about three weeks ago, somebody came and stole baby Jesus. I got a knock on the door that he was gone. Obviously, I was heartbroken.

COWEN: Heartbroken and in disbelief that someone would steal the statue in broad daylight off a busy Bal Harbour street.

CELLINI: I really was shocked, you know? I guess I thought when I originally put this up six years ago that it could happen, and that's why I decided to bolt the figures down.

COWEN: But they weren't enough to deter a thief. The manger empty, Mary and Joseph staring down at the hay when just before Christmas, somewhat of a miracle happened.

CELLINI: We got this e-mail from a Jeffrey Harris in Cincinnati.

COWEN: Jeffrey Harris, who heard about the stolen statue saying something told him to step forward and pay for a new baby Jesus figure. Here's the catch. Harris is Jewish.

JEFFREY HARRIS, REPLACED BABY JESUS: I thought it was more important that I do it. Because, I thought it was important that a Jewish person really stand behind the Christian community and in my part to really make Christmas right for everyone.

COWEN: Jewish Jeffrey Harris made it right. He paid for the statue's replacement out of his own pocket, asking for nothing in return.

CELLINI: In Yiddish they say, when somebody's just a good guy like that, they're a mensch. And that's what he is, he's a mensch.

COWEN: A mensch who made brotherly love a cinch. Crossing a Bal Harbor road to replace a great gift to the manger, to make it right for his neighbors.


HOLMES: And by the way, folks, baby Jesus statue is getting a special Christmas gift, a global positioning system to track it down if it's stolen again. Has it come to that? Jesus needs a GPS. In fact, all the statues will be equipped the same way. A Plexiglas security screen has also been fitted for the manger.

Well stay here. Queen on the cutting edge: Britain's Elizabeth II on YouTube.



PFC ELLIOTT FERGUSON, U.S. ARMY: Hi, I'm PFC Elliott Ferguson in 32 Stryker Calvary Regimen in Baghdad, Iraq. I'd like to wish happy holidays to my family back in Alton, Illinois. My mother, my father, my brothers, my sisters, especially my girlfriend, Rachel. Hope to be home soon.


HOLMES: And look at what we have here, a special guest in our studio with several other special guests. Let's listen in to what they could be talking about on Christmas Eve.

KRINGLE: Oh, I see. And what's the second thing?


KRINGLE: Oh, I see, a bike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A headset mike.

KRINGLE: A headset mike? Oh, I see. And well, that would be pretty handy for different things, wouldn't it?



And, let's see. We're losing somebody else back there? Well, who's hiding behind me?

Oh, what do you want?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jamie. That was Jamie.

KRINGLE: What do you want for Christmas? Well, come on around here a little closer so I can see you when you tell me. And why don't you sit on my knee?

HOLMES: They seem indecisive, Santa. They don't seem to know what they want for Christmas this year.

KRINGLE: OK. Now, you've been a pretty good guy this year?


KRINGLE: Not always, huh?

Well, nobody is perfect all the time.

Yes, sir?


KRINGLE: Oh I see, you need to get my attention.

HOLMES: Did yound what he said, Santa? Because I didn't get that.

KRINGLE: Well, that's a good question. I sort of got confused the way the weather was. But, I can come by plane and I can come by -- well, now in some places, I come by train.

HOLMES: All right, well, I don't know if you want to take a plane these days, Santa. We're having some flight delays, I think. All right. Santa is in here the studio with us. We've been able to get him here on Christmas Eve. He's a busy man, of course, as you can see, and he's got his hands full with those kids over there. But we're going to be checking in with him all morning. He will be with us here in throughout the NEWSROOM.

We turn from Santa to the queen, now. And the queen, keeping up. Britain's Elizabeth II launching a video site on YouTube. And CNN's Emily Chang reports for us.


EMILY CHANG, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II embraced technology, broadcasting her first Christmas message on television.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II: I very much hope that this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and direct.

CHANG: Fifty years later, the queen looks to another tube, YouTube, to send her Christmas message around the world.

ANNOUNCER: The queen gives a state banquet in honor of each opoverseas head of state...

CHANG: Her majesty has launched the Royal Channel, official channel of the British monarchy on the hugely popular site.

ANNOUNCER: Tony Blair distinctly recalls his first-ever audience.

CHANG: So far, Buckingham Palace has posted almost 20 videos, including old and new footage of the queen, her prime ministers, and other members of the Royal Family.

ANNOUNCER: The prince of Wales begins most days, working through his papers and talking to his advisers.

CHANG: There's even rarely seen film of her parents' wedding in 1923. New clips will be added regularly, sharing a glimpse of life at Buckingham Palace.

ANNOUNCER: Approximately 10,000 guests from all walks of life are invited to each garden party.

CHANG (on camera): The palace released a statement saying the queen always keeps abreast of the new ways of communicating with people. Last year, her Christmas message was podcast. This year, she wants to reach an even bigger audience.

DICKIE ARBITER, ROYAL COMMENTATOR: One of the things about the queen is that she's been around for 55 years now. She doesn't change, but she adapts. This is adapting for the 21st century...

CHANG: Just as she adapted half a century ago.

QUEEN ELIZABETH: And so I wish you all, young and old, wherever you may be, all the fun and enjoyment and the peace of a very happy Christmas.

CHANG: Emily chang, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Well, a Colorado boy is learning a lot about the law after colliding with another skier. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seems to have injured himself so badly that he needs to sue my now 8-year-old son.

Scott didn't know what the word sue meant.


HOLMES: You heard it right, 8-year-old being sued. Yes, a small fry defendant, facing a whopper of a claim.


HOLMES: All right, folks. Of course, you already know to catch Tony and Heidi weekday mornings from 9:00 am to noon Eastern, right here, but you can take them anywhere with you on your iPod. CNN NEWSROOM podcast available 24/7 on your iPod. But you actually can't take Heidi and Tony with you today, because Heidi and Tony ain't here, so you're going to have to take me, T.J. Holmes, and Brianna Keilar is going to join me here in a moment. We'll be with you, so, please, download it anyway. Sorry to disappoint.

Well, sued over a skiing accident. An 8-year-old boy and his dad may be on the hook for over $75,000 in damage. Matt Renoux of affiliate KUSA near Vail, Colorado has these details for us.


ROB SWIMM, FATHER OF SCOTT: That this isn't right.

MATT RENOUX, KUSA REPORTER (voice over): Living near Vail, Rob Swimm says his son, Scott, likes to ski and is like any other kid.

SWIMM: He's an 8-year-old boy.

RENOUX: Except at 8 years of age, Scott is being sued.

SWIMM: Scott's going to have to be in court and he's going to have to be deposed by lawyers.

RENOUX: The two were skiing together when Scott ran into 60- year-old Pennsylvania resident, David Pfahler, who's now suing Scott and his dad for $75,000 for medical expenses.

SWIMM: Seems to have injured himself so badly he needs to sue my now 8-year-old son.

RENOUX (ON CAMERA): It all started with a simple Friday trip to the Arrowhead ski area outside Beaver Creek. Scott was the uphill skier, coming down a catwalk. Mr. Pfahler was the downhill skier. Somehow their paths crossed and Scott ended up running into him.

JIM CHALET, PLAINTIFF'S ATTY: If you're driving here on Grant Street and you rear end somebody, the same rule applies. RENOUX: Pfahler's Denver-based attorney, Jim Chalet, wouldn't discuss the lawsuit, but say his law firm often deals with ski injury cases.

CHALET: And our firm probably handles more of these kind of cases than any other firm in the United States.

RENOUX: And that since Scott uphill skier, he's responsible according to the Skier's Safety Act.

CHALET: Overtaking or uphill skier had the primary duty to avoid a collision.

RENOUX: As for suing an 8-year-old, Chalet says that a minor being taken to court isn't that unusual.

CHALET: It's no different than if your 16-year-old is involved in a moderate accident.

RENOUX: Scott's dad disagrees.

SWIMM: I think it's shocking.

RENOUX: Saying, like most kids, his son knew nothing of the legal system.

SWIMM: Scott didn't know what the word sue meant.

RENOUX: But now has to learn about it firsthand.


HOLMES: Well, Scott Swimm was 7 years old at the time of the accident. And for those of you all who don't ski, the term uphill skier means Scott, as you kind of heard explained there, Scott was the guy behind the other man as they both came down that ski trail. So, there you go.

Well, a housemaid of glass, but it's maybe not what you're thinking. In Lithuania, it's a housemaid of empty bottles, roughly 20,000 empty bottles. It's taken the owner 10 years to build it. Why? Who knows. Now, it's almost finished, he's thinking about adding on. All right.

Well, a little too much pre-Christmas cheer in New Zealand. Santa's acting naughty, not nice. I thought Santa was the one supposed to be asking us if we're naughty or nice. Check out this video here. Their antics caught on tape. Now, 50 of these pseudo Santa's causing trouble at a movie theater. The manager says they ripped down posters, they chanted out naughty words. Santa, are you kidding me? Another witness said they even kicked over a Christmas tree. And before leaving these cranky Kris Kringles tripped the fire alarm as they were leaving, forcing people to get out of the theater.

People stealing baby Jesus, Santas wrecking a movie theater. What is going on? Well, Christmas in Baghdad, we'll tell you about a celebration in the mess hall.


HOLMES: Well, the holidays for many, a time to honor those no longer with us. An annual tradition at Arlington national cemetery.


HOLMES: All right, so what exactly do the holidays mean to you? Of course, for many, it's a time to remember.

KAYE: A time to remember those who are no longer with us and a time to honor their memory.

HOLMES: Yeah, that's the idea behind an annual tradition at Arlington National Cemetery, "Laying the Wreaths."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had two 18-wheelers full of boxes of wreaths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me start breaking those boxes down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It comes out in a box of eight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just uncrated them and everybody came up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have 2,000 people all wanting to grab a wreath and take it. It's a little hectic at times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a rush of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crowd wasn't quite as big back 16 years ago as it is right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I definitely wasn't expecting this many people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We gather here today to place approximately 10,000 wreaths to remember the fallen, honor those who served and teach our children the value of freedom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love this idea. This lady's name is Irene and that's my name. Oh, Irene, I'm sure she has a story.

Being in the military, it's a totally different way of life than most people realize.

My father is a retired Air Force and my brother is in the Air Force. I know what it's like not to have your dad home at Christmastime. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here Melissa, come put this one down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is very special.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here is Michigan. (INAUDIBLE), you were born in Michigan. Here's World War I. Oh my goodness, she died the year I was born.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They where there. They did it and you forget about them. You're busy trying to get to Wal-Mart to buy something, you know, for Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walter Alowishious Costello, 29th Division, World War I.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to introduce them to their grandfather. It's a moving place. That wreath right there is all the way from Maine. I would have brought one on my own, but it's better that someone else who I don't know, in a different part of the country, made this and donated it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these people have given all that they could for this country. It's our way of showing respect to our veterans.


HOLMES: And the group Wreaths Across America leads the effort at Arlington and at dozens of military cemeteries around the country. For more special holiday stories like that, when you can click on Check out our "Holiday in Focus" features.