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Nepal Bridge Collapse; Baghdad Christmas; Iraq Suicide Attack; California Power Outage; Boston Highway Tunnel Collapse Settlement; Utah Family Adopts Five; Massachusetts Grinch; Oscar Peterson Dies; Healthy Holiday Eating; Rockettes 75th Year

Aired December 25, 2007 - 09:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hello everyone. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon, in today for Tony Harris. Merry Christmas.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Yes, merry Christmas to you, as well. And good morning, all, I'm Brianna Keilar. Heidi Collins is off.

Watch events come in to the NEWSROOM, live on this Tuesday, December 25. Here's what's on the rundown. Christmas in Baghdad where U.S. troops give their families a virtual hug, and Santa packs a pistol.

LEMON: And Christmas in court. The man accused of ramming his van into a TV station faces justice. We'll hear from the anchor, he's shocked.

KEILAR: And Christmas food without fear, tweaking your menu to prevent a calorie catastrophe, in the NEWSROOM.

A tragic story developing in Nepal at this hour. Hundreds of people are missing and 13 are known dead after an overcrowded footbridge collapsed over a raging river. Police say the victims were attending a religious festival in remote region of Nepal, southwest of Katmandu. Authorities say 400 to 500 people are missing and there were as many as 1,000 people on the 500 yard-long bridge. Hours after the collapse, police say only 13 bodies had been recovered.

Joining us now by phone from Nepal is journalist Manesh Shrestha, he - Manesh, can you hear me?


KEILAR: Can you -- I know that you are not there on scene, but I know that you have -- you are in Nepal, you have some sources there. What are they telling you about what the scene looked like?

SHRESTHA: There are - the (INAUDIBLE) is absolutely happening at two places across the river on both sides of the river. So a lot of people were walking to and fro on the bridge. And because it's a frail bridge, a footbridge, it could not hold those many people. There were 700 to 1,000 people on the bridge when it collapsed and it just gave way and the people fell 30 meters down and those who could swim, swum to safety. Others, mostly children and women are still missing. And there are 400 to 500 still missing. And now it is dark out here. So, it's already night and the rescue is being hampered by that.

What is the sense among rescuers that 400 to 500 people are missing? Is there a sense that some of these people could be covered downstream or a sense that the reality may be these people have perished?

KEILAR: What is the sense there among rescuers, that 400 to 500 people are missing? Is there a sense that maybe some of these people can be recovered downstream, or is there a sense that the reality maybe these people have perished?

SHRESTHA: Four-hundred meters after where the, after where the bridge collapsed, there is a lake off, so if people could go up to the lake, it'll be easier for swimming. But the fear is that the (INAUDIBLE) of rescue is very slight and slim because most of these are missing still children and women. And it Nepal fairs it is usually children and women who go a lot to these religious fair.

KEILAR: All right, Manesh Shrestha, thank you very much for all the details. We are still working on this story, trying to get more pictures and more details. But again, 400 to 500 people missing in Nepal after falling, as we just heard about, 30 meters from a bridge, quite a long fall. No doubt this will be a developing story. Stay with us throughout the morning for more details.

LEMON: Christmas, a celebration of faith and family, a time of hope and prayer. Vatican City, Pope Benedict delivers his Christmas day message and urges world leaders to edge the bloodshed in the world's warzones.


POPE BENEDICT, XVI: POPE BENEDICT: There's a verse in the Prince of Peace reminds the world that true happiness lies and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy for the savior has been born for us.


LEMON: Now to the heavens, 220 miles above the earth, Christmas is celebrated on the International Space Station. The two Americans and one Russian will feast on smoked turkey with cornbread dressing and candied yams in pre-sealed pouches. Tomorrow a Russian module will arrive with gifts for the crew, including fresh tomatoes and onions. Sounds really good.

Christmas in a warzone, lofty hopes, harsh realties. Alphonso van Marsh is embedded with the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne and he joins us now from Camp Stryker in Iraq.

Merry Christmas to you, Alphonso.

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Merry Christmas to you as well as our viewers. As you can see, the wave of U.S. service members have started to come on in. I am at the "DIFAC," the dining facility here at Camp Stryker. You can start to see some cooks coming in, some cheering, some bands are playing some festive tunes. It's all about giving a moral boost to the U.S. service members serving here in Iraq at this very difficult time for many of these service members away from their family and friends. Something to make them feel good while they're so far away from home.


(voice over): This isn't Bethlehem, it's Baghdad where these carolers are active duty soldiers separated from their loved ones at Christmas.

Crime scene investigator, Jim Yingland (ph) is using a webcam to see what his daughter and family are up to at home.

JIM YINGLAND, U.S. ARMY: She was telling me she was eating Chex mix and that mom was making pumpkin loaves.

VAN MARSH: Army Specialist Justin Valliers (ph) shows me pictures of his new daughter e-mailed from his wife.

SPECIALIST JUSTIN VALLIERS, U.S. ARMY: Just some of her first moments when she was born, in the hospital, laying there.

VAN MARSH: Amaya (ph) is just two weeks old. She's never met her father, but Valliers is beholden, not bitter.

VALLIERS: It's probably my best gift that I get for Christmas is just the anticipation, waiting, knowing that she was born and I can't see her. I mean, the picture, it's just hard to explain.

SANTA: Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas.

VAN MARSH: Meanwhile, Santa is doing his part to spread the Christmas cheer, visiting soldiers at bases around Baghdad.

SANTA: Just want to see the troops, hand out candy canes and make them smile.

VAN MARSH: Santa, who really is an Army major with Rocison (ph) 3rd Brigade, has the beard and the stuffed belly, but he's also carrying a pistol. This is Christmas in the warzone. Here, Santa travels by Blackhawk helicopter instead of reindeer and sleigh.


VAN MARSH: Now, while Santa is making his way in Blackhawk helicopter, you can see behind me, many of these U.S. service members are cuing up, getting in line for a hot Christmas meal. Right there is one of the some of the 10,000 portions of turkeys being served this afternoon, 10,000 portions of ham, 8,000 portions of roast beef. By the time Christmas day is done, some 24,000 meals will be served. Some service members sitting here, upwards of 1,800 of them at a time in this large dining facility. Again, it's all part of the move to help these troop members feel good. A nice hot meal, a Christmas day meal while they're spending time away from home, here in the warzone. Back to you -- Don. LEMON: All right, Alphonso van Marsh at Camp Stryker in Iraq. Thank you for that report, Alphonso.

KEILAR: Meantime, the reality of war on this Christmas. A massive blast in northern Iraq, this morning. At least 23 people were killed in this suicide bomb attack. Look at the crater left behind by the blast. What happened here, the driver rammed into a truck surrounded by people who were picking up cooking gas cylinders, many of those cylinders also exploded. The attack came at a checkpoint manned by Iraqi soldiers, it was near a local government complex. Some 80 people were wounded in the explosion.

LEMON: Thousands in California can end up celebrating Christmas without the traditional dinner at home. Strong Santa Ana winds downed power lines and blew several transformers in the Los Angeles area leaving almost 10,000 homes and businesses in the dark. The gusty winds fueled a fire at Holiday Church. No one was inside and officials are investigating the cause.

Los Angeles and Ventura Counties have issued a warning that conditions are right for wildfires. The wind is expected to pick up during the day. CNN's Bonnie Schneider in the Severe Weather Center to tell us about this Santa, not exactly welcome, right? We're talking about Santa Ana Winds, right?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're right, Brianna and Don. We are looking at the winds picking up even as we speak Check out current winds in Malibu coming from the northwest, the classic Santa Ana pattern coming in at 23 miles-per-hour. In Oxnard, not much left in terms of intensity, but we're seeing a little bit lighter winds as we head further to the south.

I want to take a closer look at some of the peak wind gusts we've seen overnight and early this morning. Look at this, Whittaker Peak, 90 mile-per-hour winds. They just come racing down the mountain as that air heads and compresses, it really does gain strength.

Looking at this Santa Ana pattern, we are at risk for critical danger and fire danger today. Here's high pressure over the Great Basin as the winds come down the mountain, the air heats and compresses and that's why we're forecasting critical danger for today.

Now, Los Angeles did see some rain last week and that's why it's not extremely critical, but a dangerous situation, nonetheless.


KEILAR: Well, $6 million, that's the settlement reached by the family of a women killed in the big dig highway tunnel collapse in Boston. You may remember that this was a Boston woman who was killed when the ceiling of the tunnel collapsed on to her car in 2006. Investigators determined that workers secured the ceiling with a fast- drying epoxies adhesive that wasn't safe to use for overhead loads. The company that supplies adhesive will pay the woman's family.

LEMON: A Christmas court date today for a man accused of running his van into a TV studio in Chicago. Witnesses say Gerald Richardson warned them to get out of way before hitting the studio's outside glass wall. That crash came during the live 10:00 news at our affiliate WLS, it happened on Sunday night.

Anchorman Ravi Baichwal was live on the air when it happened. I got a chance to talk with him about the incident and what happened right after.


RAVI BAICHWAL, WLS REPORTER: I'll tell you, the glass that we have used for the studio did its job. It actually stopped that van in its tracks and it's a special tempered glass and the other thing to worry about was now that the van crashed through the lower part, when was that upper pane of glass, which essentially has pinned the van, when was that then going to fall and what kind of hazard was that?

Meanwhile, there's a police situation unfolding literally right in front of us. There are people jumping around all in front of us and we're still live on the air, so we've got to carry on with our newscast. I have to give...

LEMON: You know, Ravi, that's what I want to ask you. You were live on the air. And so when you -- did you continue to toss to the reporter or did you start reporting on this at the time?

BAICHWAL: We were in the middle of the toss and Michelle Gallardo, God love her, she took the toss and stayed with it and I guess our producers decided to stay with that while we just kind of gathered our wits about us to make sure that nobody was hurt, because like I said, that was the first thing. And then we came back approximately 90 seconds later, so after her package and then we were really into it trying to explain what was it that just happened, because not only my expression, but the sound of it was just phenomenal. It was so loud, the concussive feel to us at the studios, by my colleague Phil Schwarz on the weather desk, he and I both felt kind of a pressure on our chest...


LEMON: Joe (SIC) Richardson faces reckless driving and felony property damage charges.

KEILAR: Packages torn open, piles of shredded gift wrapping strun all about. Now what? The Tennessee newspaper has some suggestions on how to trudge through this Christmas afternoon. No. 1, go to the movies. No. 2, play touch football, which I know Don is planning on doing later today, right Don?

LEMON: Yeah, with my mom. Touch football in the park.

KEILAR: Yeah, with your mom. Three, well maybe this will be better - three, play board games or cards. Choice No. 4, take a walk or a drive and rounding the out the list at the five spot, tell family stories. So, of course, we want to know how will you spend your Christmas afternoon? Send us an e-mail at and let us know.

LEMON: Yeah, are you going to play touch football today.

KEILAR: I think probably not.


KEILAR: No. I don't actually know if I'm doing any -- I may go for a walk.

LEMON: Yeah, and you are here today with your...

KEILAR: With my Christmas presents.

LEMON: Your fiance. Is that your Christmas present?

KEILAR: Yeah, well, no, no, early Christmas, I guess.

LEMON: Congratulations. Do you have a wedding date yet? I know I'm embarrassing you on live TV.

KEILAR: No, we are kind of procrastinators, maybe after the holidays. There's a lot of things figure it out.

LEMON: Don't cover it up. Come on, show the bling. How long have you been engaged, now?

KEILAR: A month, a month and a half.

LEMON: And where did it happen?

KEILAR: In Peru.

LEMON: Yeah, I know all this stuff, so I just - congratulations. Congratulations. That's a wonderful Christmas present.

KEILAR: Thank you.

LEMON: And she's going to be spending it with her fiance. I'm going to be spending it with my mom. And of course, you can always stay tuned to CNN for a couple of terrific programs today. They didn't ask for the recognition, but they certainly deserved it. It's CNN's all-star absolute to ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It's called CNN HEROES. You can see that at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in between the little Iraqi boy who stole the hearts of millions, RESCUING YOUSSIF, it's a CNN IMPACT YOUR WORLD special. It comes your way at 4:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN. Congratulations to Brianna, again.

KEILAR: Thank you, very much.

All right, turning a corner now, Christians in Iraq, a small minority celebrating Christmas with hopes for a happier New Year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: Welcome back and merry Christmas. I'm Brianna Keilar and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM. The first votes are now just days away, so which candidates are being visited by Santa and which will see Grinch?



SPEC MELODY AGEE, U.S. ARMY: Hi I'm Specialist Melody Agee (ph).

SGT JUSTIN AGEE, U.S. ARMY: And I'm Sergeant Justin Agee (ph) stationed in Baghdad, Iraq.

M AGEE: We'd like to say happy holidays to all of our family in Thomasville, Georgia and happy first birthday to our son, J.J.


LEMON: Merry Christmas everyone. Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

A minority in Iraq, the small Christianity community is celebrating Christmas today, a chance to forget their fears, but only for one day. CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Christmas Eve at a Coldain (ph) Christian church in Baghdad. The congregation worships in Aramaic, the language spoken at the time of Jesus' birth. It is a far cry from just a year ago when many churches stood silent and empty because of the fear of attacks by Islamic extremists.

ANISTAR FARAJ, IRAQI CHRISTIAN: Thank God, this year is much safer and the situation is better and God willing, the peace will be achieved, soon.

WHITBECK: While attacks in general are down, things are still far from easy for Iraq's tiny Christian community. Bombings of Christian-owned businesses such as this at a liquor store in Baghdad still occur and there are still reports of kidnappings and murders of Christians.

(on camera): There was a time when Christmas could be celebrated with less fear in Iraq. But now, Christians are afraid to express their beliefs in public.

(voice over): The living room in this Hetmad (ph) family's dimly lit apartment in Baghdad is nearly empty this Christmas Eve. They still remember past Christmases when houses were filled with visiting friends and tables groaned (ph) with food. Now, few venture from their homes.

ILHAM, IRAQI CHRISTIAN: We really do not go out very often. My children go to school and that is about it. WHITBECK: The Hetmad's are practically the only ones left of their families in Iraq, all others fled to Germany. Dolat (ph) Hetmad has only one Christmas wish this year. He says he'd like to go to Germany, too, to at least see his mother before she dies.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Baghdad.


KEILAR: They can't be with the ones they love for the holidays so they send a video greeting from prison.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm coming home, OK? I love you all so much. Merry Christmas and happy New Year and don't let these tears think -- for you guys to think that I'm not doing good. Mommy's doing good.


KEILAR: Messages from moms behind bars.


KEILAR: Being away from your family during the holidays is tough, and even tougher when you are in prison. CNN photojournalist, Chris Turner, profiles one woman who is bringing families together.


CAROLYN LECROY, PROGRAM ORGANIZER: And most of our institutions are in rural areas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-seven charges in four counties in two states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Distribution of cocaine and possession of...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This time I got two and a half years.

LECROY: This institution is Virginia Correctional Center for women. You can be in a room full of people while you are in the institutions, and you're lonely in an average day, we do between 50 and 70.

This is a project where we come into the institution and film messages from the moms and the dad's to send home to their children at Christmastime. And you have 15 minutes to talk from your heart.

We're going to take the first lady in. I'll be back in a minute, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Merry Christmas, Jordan. It's mom. I thought I was going to visit you since you haven't been able to come and visit me for Christmas.

LECROY: For many it will the first time they've apologized to their family or acknowledged the fact that they've hurt the family as well as themselves. And their family is doing time right along with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The third year that I've been out, that I haven't been home. This is kind of hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm coming home, OK? I love you all so much. Merry Christmas and happy New Year and don't let these tears think -- for you guys to think that I'm not doing good. Mommy's doing good. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, so I can be there for you guys. OK? I love you.

LECROY: It time of year, the holiday season, it can be especially hard for many, home is where the heart is at Christmas. And Christmas or the holidays are really special time, so it can be really depressing, it can be lonely. You think of the past, you think of the present and you sure think about the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stephanie and Mike and here's a big hug for you. Merry Christmas.

LECROY: This is not about the inmates. This is about the children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is really hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know in your heart that you're with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love each other and give each other lots of hugs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And remember that your family is all you have.

LECROY: The child needs to know that they're loved. That just because mom or dad's behind bars or in a state prison, doesn't mean they're loved less. And these messages that we send home to the children from the parent shows them that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you so much. I thank God for you...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey mommy, don't cry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't cry. We love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't cry, we love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that they love me. You know, a lot of women here they have misused and abused their family, they don't have that. And I thank God I do. I can look back and I'm like, man, I had that support, so that helps a whole lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, what the hardest part was when you visit her? Like you would go there and sit down and spend time with her. But then, you had to leave, like, an hour. And then, you, then, you go home and glad you saw her, but you wanted to be right next to you -- to stay with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Merry Christmas, happy New Year. Y'all eat some chitlins and potato salad for me, please.



LECROY: This is the first time in years that they've ever been able to give something to their children. And it is a gift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love and miss you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you guys, very, very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't worry about me, I'm going to be OK.

LECROY: It's a reassuring, loving gift that the mom can give the child.


LEMON: A boy collects present for homeless children, but the mayor stops delivery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That makes the city look like scrooge, which is it isn't, because we're doing the best to protect, you know, anybody that may receive a toy.


LEMON: The gift giver was able it tear off the red tape.


LEMON: Wow, it is Christmas. I think people are probably opening their present, maybe they're watching us, we hope they're watching us, right?

KEILAR: Maybe they're already finished opening present. I know that when I was younger, certainly it was finished by about 7:30 a.m.

LEMON: By 5:00 a.m. I know, I could not sleep. KEILAR: Nope, me neither.

LEMON: Hello everyone, I'm Don Lemon in today for Tony Harris. Merry Christmas, everyone.

KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar in for Heidi Collins.

LEMON: Yeah, it's good to have you here in the CNN NEWSROOM. We're going to start, though, this half-hour with a very tragic story, it's developing in Nepal at this hour. Hundreds of people are missing there and 13 are known dead after an overcrowded footbridge collapsed over a raging river. Police say the victims were attending a religious festival in a remote region on Nepal southwest of Katmandu.

Authorities say 400 to 500 people are missing and there were as many as 1,000 people on the bridge. We're still with working this story for you and we're trying to get you pictures and more details about it. Make sure you stay with us throughout the morning for new developments.

KEILAR: Christmas is a celebration of faith and family, a time of hope and prayer. Vatican City, Pope Benedict delivers his Christmas day message and urges world leaders to end the bloodshed in the world's warzones.


POPE BENEDICT: There's a verse in the Prince of Peace reminds the world that true happiness lies and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy for the savior has been born for us.


KEILAR: Now to the heavens, 220 miles above the earth, Christmas is celebrated on the International Space Station. The two Americans and one Russian will feast on smoked turkey with cornbread dressing and candid yams, in pre-sealed pouches, unfortunately. Tomorrow a Russian module will arrive with gifts for the crew and that includes fresh tomatoes and onions. A treat, no doubt.

LEMON: Santa's in a Russian module, can you believe that?

KEILAR: It's amazing, it's magical and he's everywhere.

LEMON: Bringing presents to everyone. All right, a full house this holiday season for one Utah couple. They opened their home and their hearts to keep four brothers and sisters together. More from Amanda Butterfield of affiliate KSL.


AMANDA BUTTERFIELD, KSL REPORTER (voice over): Meet Gage and Grayson (ph). This is Jada (ph) and Deveon (ph).

MARIAH: A Barbie.

BUTTERFIELD: Is what Mariah wants for Christmas. Isaac wants...

ISAAC: A Batman toy.

BUTTERFIELD: Gunner can be a bit shy. And Gavin just had a birthday.

GAGE KEVERN, OLDEST BROTHER: Good thing is you are never really bored. And -- but the bad things is, it's never really quiet, either.

BUTTERFIELD: There's lots of laughing, playing and timeouts in the Kevern household.

JAMIE KEVERN, MOTHER: You guys, stop, please.

BUTTERFIELD: It didn't always used to be this crowded. The story begins with Grayson. Jamie and Jason have three children of their own when they adopted him from a young single mother in Chicago, last January.

JAMIE KEVERN: And then She fell on some extra hard times and so, she sent the kids to be with us when he was about nine weeks old and she was planning to come for them later.

BUTTERFIELD: But she couldn't and the Kevern's learned the four remaing kids were headed for a foster home.

JASON KEVERN, FATHER: We cannot split these kids apart and if there's any way, if there's even an inkling of keeping these kids together, we have to try, because we won't be able to live with ourselves if we don't at least try.

BUTTERFIELD: So they adopted them all. It was just finalized on the 12th.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can play with all these people and got new brothers.


JAMIE KEVERN: It's our first, like, real Christmas.

BUTTERFIELD: Last year at this time, the adopted kids were living in a car with their mother who had to sell their Christmas present for money. This year, the kids will get presents, good food, and they'll all be together.

JASON KEVERN: It's just going to be really, really special.

BUTTERFIELD: You'd think with eight kids, the family was done growing, but could more kids be on the way?

JASON KEVERN: If you ask me that question, it's simple, the answer is no.

JAMIE KEVERN: If you ask me...

JASON KEVERN: If you ask Jamie, she would like to have one more.

BUTTERFIELD: Perhaps child No. 9 will be here next year.

(IN UNISON) Merry Christmas.

BUTTERFIELD: Amanda Butterfield, Eyewitness News.


KEILAR: This Christmas is turning out to be a merry one after all for some Massachusetts kids burned out of their homes. A 10-year- old boy collected toys for them, but he almost couldn't with give them away because of, well, let's call it a legal Grinch. More from Victoria Warren of our affiliate WHDH.


VICTORIA WARREN, WHDA REPORTER (voice over): Eight-year-old twins, Thomas and Terrell, eyes wide, arms loaded with toys, a far cry from the night of the Everett fire when their family lost everything.

GRACE REDWOOD, FIRE VICTIM: This is really helping heal the wounds and the loss that everybody went through.

WARREN: But, these boys, along with the other children from the fire almost didn't receive the toys, the city of Everett turned the donation down after a 10-year-old boy in Wellesley started a toy drive to collect them.

Everett officials afraid the toys may have been recalled or contaminated with lead paint.

JOHN ZRYZUVIC, EVERTT CITY SOLICITOR: That makes the city look like Scrooge, which it isn't, because we're doing the best to protect, you know, anybody that may receive a toy.

PETER ANTHONY HEREU, COLLECTED TOYS: I was worried at first, but...

WARREN: Ten-year-old Peter-Anthony Hereu, started the toy drive and he didn't know what to do when told he was told he couldn't deliver the toys in time for Christmas.

HEREU: It was like time was running out, I couldn't do anything, but we made a few phone calls and got them in.

WARREN: It was thanks to the Malden Salvation Army, willing to inspect each toy before handing it out.

CAPT FRED CLARKE, MALDEN SALVATION ARMY: The young man who did this, this is a great thing. We need more kids like this in the world.

WARREN: A lesson learned for Peter, that even with a little holiday red tape.

HEREU: One person can make a difference.

WARREN: And for Grace Redwood and her boys, that certainly rings true.

REDWOOD: I want to thank you, Peter, so much. Thank you. Made a big difference in our family.

WARREN (on camera): Believe it or not, Grace Redwood says this went from being the worse Christmas ever to the best and she says it's all thanks to the generosity ever strangers.

In Malden, Victoria Warren, 7-News Night Team.


LEMON: Sadly, a passing to report this Christmas morning. Oscar Peterson, a giant in jazz music. His abilities to improvise on the piano made him a legend. Decades on the world stage made him an icon. Oscar Peterson died of kidney failure at home in suburban Toronto at the age of 82.

LEMON: Let's take a look at the weather, now. I know we've got some issues in California. There's snow across the U.S. Let's go to Bonnie Schneider in the CNN Weather Center.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, we are monitoring both of those issues. We're going to start off with California, pretty palm trees, but unfortunately fierce winds in Los Angeles. Last night and early this morning, we have power outages now because of the fierce winds. You can see some of the crew kind of working on those power outages, at times.

Santa Ana winds in full force this morning. We are getting very strong sustained winds and also some very strong wind gusts. Take a look at this graphic and you'll see the winds in Malibu coming in about 20 miles-per-hour. The gusts are strong as well, just recently we saw at 72 miles-per-hour. Currently, they're a little bit lighter then that as we go through the later part of the morning the winds tend to relax a little bit, but they may pick up again.

Here's a look at some the strongest winds we've clocked since last night: 90 miles-per-hour, a wind gusts blowing through Whittaker Peak and strong winds all the way up and down the areas across much of southern California.

What's happening is high pressure is building across the Great Basin and that's producing these fierce winds that blow down the mountain as the air heats and compresses, we are watching out for critical fire danger. The only thing beneficial has been the rain from last week and that's helping a little bit in terms of keeping the area less dry than it has been.


LEMON: So we get a rainy Christmas, not a white Christmas, what's up for that? Come on. SCHNEIDER: But we wanted it. We wanted the rain, that's what everybody wanted for Christmas in Georgia.

LEMON: Absolutely and you know what, it was soaking the last couple of days, last couple of rains we have gotten have been like longer rains, which really helps out, I think.

SCHNEIDER: Definitely.

KEILAR: Thank you, Bonnie.

LEMON: Thank you, Bonnie.

KEILAR: The hold chow-down, how to feast without completely blowing your diet.



SGT 1ST CLASS TERRENCE SERGEANT, U.S. ARMY: I'm Sergeant 1st Class Terrence Sergeant, here at LSA Anaconda, Iraq. I'd like to say hello to my beautiful son, Alex, and my daughter, Terra, in (INAUDIBLE) Maryland. Happy holidays. I love you.


LEMON: And the holidays usually mean a big feast. Let's get some tips on how to eat as healthy as possible.

Elizabeth Cohen, come on, is that possible during the holidays? Seriously.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it is. It is possible to eat healthier. Now, you can just take the stance, and some dieticians will support you and say it's Christmas, I'm going to eat up, I'm not going to care so much, let's just go to town, it's just one day and you can do that and some people will say that's fine.

LEMON: But it's really fattening.

COHEN: But, you can be aware of what you are eating and so that you could figure, information is empowerment, right? Think of it that way.


COHEN: Think of it as an empowered Christmas. For example, we're going to tell you, right now, how many calories and how many grams of fat. Oh, oh, you're eating our props.

LEMON: I'm sorry.

COHEN: But, we're going to tell you how many calories and how many grams of fat are in a Christmas dinner. OK.

LEMON: I haven't eaten anything already.

COHEN: You must be starving.

The pecan pie is next.

COHEN: Here, mashed potatoes, just go like this. There you go. OK, but if you start with three slices of ham, that's 345 calories and 21 grams of fat. All right, and then you move over to the sweet potato casserole, 276 celeries and six grams of fat because for the casserole you've added stuff.

Now, the green bean casserole is 143 calories and eight grams of fat. The cranberry sauce, this one's good, 209 calories and no fat. Now, the cornbread stuffing - you're just laughing at me.

LEMON: Because I'm starving and I'm sitting here...

COHEN: Well here go ahead. Well, you know what, I'm going to hold this for you can just eat. So, the cornbread stuffing, this was a big surprise to me, this is 363 calories and 18 grams of fat. That is a lot, 18 grams of fat, that's about a third of the amount of fat you're supposed to have in a whole day, you're having in a serving of cornbread stuffing.

LEMON: Yeah, but you know what? It's Christmas. I mean, it's the holiday season, can't you say, you know what, I just -- one time a year I'm going to do it, especially when it comes to eggnog. By the way, is there any alcohol in that?

COHEN: There isn't, but it smells kind of good though, doesn't it?

LEMON: It does smell good.

COHEN: Well before I answer that question, I'm going to give you...

LEMON: Virgin eggnog.

COHEN: Yes, virgin eggnog.

I'm going to give you a grand total for what a Christmas meal is. OK? The whole thing, the whole shebang. The whole shebang is about 1,700 calories and 68 grams of fat. That's all that put together. And we're not counting the appetizers, we're not counting going back for seconds or thirds, we're not the, you know, Aunt Mini's cookies that are so good that you have to be three, or the nuts that Don is scarfing down. We're not counting any of those things, so that is a lot of calories and fat.

And you asked me, can't you just go crazy, it's Christmas?

LEMON: Yeah, why not?

COHEN: The answer is, yes you can, but you can also make a couple of small changes. Small changes and it's going to save you a lot of calories and fat. For example, turkey instead of ham. We've got some turkey, here. Turkey instead of ham, that is going to save you about 100 calories and about 15 grams of fat. And if you choose plain veggies over a casserole, you're also going to save quite a few calories and quite a bit of fat. So those are two little things that you can do.

LEMON: One-hundred calories?

COHEN: Hundred calories and about 15 grams of fat, that's a lot of fat.

LEMON: Really?

COHEN: Yeah, turkey over ham, that is big fat difference.

LEMON: OK. So then, I think I know what the big zingers are because you have not touched them. And I want to touch them. Is it this? What is a big zinger?

COHEN: The big zinger, the big calories, where if you avoid them you're doing yourself a big flavor, and all you've done is avoid two things -- eggnog.

LEMON: Are you serious?

COHEN: Eggnog, even virgin eggnog. Eggnog has 342 calories, 19 grams of fat in one glass. You are getting a third of the day's fat in a glass, a liquid. You're not even getting the fun of eating.

LEMON: And that's without alcohol. More sugar, there's more.

COHEN: Right, there's even more if there's alcohol in it.

LEMON: But at least you feel so good after the alcohol and you don't care.

COHEN: You're so happy, you don't care. And the pumpkin pie is also quite bad, it's about 456 calories, 21 grams of fat.

LEMON: So, the alternate is tea is that what you're saying?

COHEN: Tea or a glass of wine if you want to drink alcohol, only adds 80 calories, but you know what, I'm going to give you a hint that you can use right now, and people at home.

LEMON: What is it?

COHEN: Which, that hint is, eat now. Eat now because if you wait and say oh, I'm going to save up calories for the big meal at 2:00 or whatever? You're going to go crazy. You've going to be ravenous. So eat a little bit so that you approach that meal with sort of sort of a half full stomach.

LEMON: And isn't it better -- I don't know this is true or not, to eat like the carbs in the morning? Like if you're going to do pies or anything that has lots of carbs, so at least you burn them off during the day or is that a myth?

COHEN: I think a lot of dieticians will tell you that's a myth. That when you eat is not so, so crucial, it's what you eat. It all comes down to calories.

LEMON: I think you've just depressed everyone. I'm getting out of here. Because we want to eat whatever we want.

COHEN: And you know what? You can and you can choose to do that, but you can also say, you know what, I'm going have turkey instead of ham and save myself 100 calories and 15 grams of fat. What's so wrong with making that choice?

LEMON: I appreciate what you've told us.

COHEN: Oh well...

LEMON: My advice is...

COHEN: Just eat.

LEMON: Yeah, it's Christmas, celebrate. Merry Christmas.

COHEN: Merry Christmas to you. Marry Christmas to you.

LEMON: Brianna.

KEILAR: A win in Iowa or New Hampshire would be a great present for any of the presidential hopefuls, but who is likely to get a lump of coal instead? Here's CNN's political analyst, Bill Schneider.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): What do you think Santa has been doing all year at the North Pole? Polls, of course. North Polls for nice little candidates, South Polls for the naught candidates.

Let's take a look at Santa's poll of polls to see who has been naughty and nice. Here's the national poll for the Democrats, an average of four national polls taken the last two weeks. Nationally, Hillary Clinton has a healthy 19-point lead over Barack Obama with John Edwards running third.

But democratic race looks very different in the early states. Four Iowa caucus polls average out to a very close three-way race. Clinton 29, Obama 28, Edwards 23. Any of them could win.

The four latest New Hampshire polls show Clinton narrowly ahead of Obama. Two polls show Clinton leading, one shows Obama slightly ahead, one shows a tie in New Hampshire. Again, anything could happen.

And South Carolina, another close one. In two South Carolina polls, Clinton averages a narrow three-point lead over Obama. Just one poll in Nevada, where Clinton leads Obama by eight. Clinton's frontrunner status looks shaky in those early voting states.

Rudy Giuliani is ahead if you average the four latest national Republican polls. For other candidates, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson are all bunched together behind Giuliani. But in the early states, a different story entirely.

In Iowa, Huckabee is ahead with Romney running second. Giuliani is a weak third. In New Hampshire, Romney is ahead with McCain breathing down his neck, Giuliani's third and Huckabee, a weak fourth in the Granite State.

But Huckabee is leading again in South Carolina, the first southern primary. Thompson needs a win badly in South Carolina, but he is died for third with Giuliani. Nevada is the only early voting state where Giuliani is ahead and not by much.

(on camera): So, are Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani the frontrunners? Only in national polls, but there's no national primaries. Voters in those early stats have seen the candidates up close, just like Santa Claus. So, who do they think has been naughty or nice? They can't seem to make up their minds.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.


LEMON: High kicking for Christmas. The Radio City Rockettes on stage celebrating 75 years in the holiday spotlight.


KEILAR: The Radio City Rockettes have been thrilling Christmas audiences for 75 years. Now, they're thrilling our very own Richard Quest.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A magnificent art deco hall, the largest indoor theater in the world, Radio City Music Hall. Its doors first opened to the public on December the 27th, 1932. On the bill that night was a high kicking dance troop that would make their stage their home and never leave. Originally called the Missouri Rockets, they would become the Rockettes. one of America's most cherished institutions.

Year after year, the arrival of the long-limbed ladies of the Rockettes has signaled the start of the festive season in New York.

(on camera): It's not just a high kicks that are staggering. Between the beginning of November and the end of the year, the Rockettes will perform more than 200 times and over a million people will come to see them.

I'm a bit intimidated. You're a Rockette.

KRISTA SAAB, RADIO CITY ROCKETTE: I am. QUEST: You're a Rockette. Rockettes are famous.

SAAB: I auditioned five years ago when I moved to New York City. Up to 500, 600 women audition to be Rockettes every year and I was lucky enough to make it through.

QUEST: Did you always want to be a Rockette?

SAAB: You know, truthfully, when I was a little kid my favorite movie was Annie and when she goes to Radio City Music Hall, the let's go to the movies part was my favorite scene because the Rockettes did the number before the movie. So, when I was old enough to come to New York City we took a tour of Radio City Music Hall and I got on stage and that's when I knew I really wanted to do this.

QUEST: And what was it like the first time you danced on stage as a Rockette?

SAAB: It was, I mean, I can get emotional just thinking about it. You look out and you see 6,000 people in the audience and just the view from the stage to the theater is amazing. And I definitely have a tear and more than once. This year opening night, another tear. You know it's such an amazing time...

QUEST (voice over): this season is no ordinary season, because the Rockettes and the Radio City Music Hall have been married for 75 years. And to celebrate this landmark, there's a show guaranteed to bring festive cheer.

SAAB: It lifts the spirits of everybody in the audience. New York is such an amazing place this time of year and Radio City Music Hall really brings it all together.

QUEST: Putting together the Radio City Christmas Extravaganza is a careful balancing act. From the old, there's the toy soldiers, the animals on stage. And from the new, a flying Santa Claus and a double ducker bus. Three-hundred high kicks per show, 1,200 pacers of shoes, 110 glance gallons of soap and water to make snow, 3,000 crystals on just one costume. And it all runs seven days a week, sometimes five times a day.

Together, it's is a festive feast if ever I saw one.

Richard Quest, CNN, New York.


LEMON: That is so unlike Richard, I expected some high kicks.

KEILAR: I know, the whole routine, maybe.

LEMON: The whole routine. I wonder if he's getting mellow in his old age. He's going to get me for that.

KEILAR: That's a very fun story. We asked our viewers earlier in the hour how are you going to spend your Christmas afternoon. And it's so cool, because they actually took the time, on this Christmas, to e-mail us some of their answers.

LEMON: I'm going to spend mine working.

KEILAR: Working, eating, I'm volunteering today.

LEMON: Oh yea, at that shelter. Good for you.


LEMON: Good for you. OK, so let's talk about the first one with Jackson who is from Houston, Texas. Here's what he says, "This is the third year that we have had a Christmas open house. Last year over 75 friends came for cookies, eggnog and other cups of Christmas cheer," What does that mean? "to celebrate the season (and perhaps escape their families!)

KEILAR: Christmas cheer, I think that's a PC way of saying eggnog with a little something-something.

LEMON: Something-something in there.

KEILAR: All right, Alex from Greensboro, North Carolina says, "My family plays UNO. It's fun and a healthy way of taking out the frustrations we have towards on another."

LEMON: Yeah, and this one is from Tony - do you think it's Tony Harris? Just says "Tony," doesn't say where he's from. "I think it should be a time to stay with the family, play with the kids and thank God for the great opportunity."

KEILAR: Paul from Arkansas ranks the five things he's going to be doing: No. 1 Watch CNN. Thank you, Paul. Two eat, three drink, four smoke, five, be merry.

LEMON: Smoke?

KEILAR: Which one would Elizabeth Cohen tell you, you shouldn't do?

LEMON: Well, unless he's talking about smoking a turkey. Maybe that's it.

KEILAR: I'm sure that's what he meant.

LEMON: I'm sure that's what he means. Right? Very peaceful Christmas.

All right, a Christmas one family has been praying for seven years, now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son means so much to me. That I would have took my own life just to have him home. And that's how I feel.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Wrongly imprisoned, a son comes home for good.