Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Black Friday II?; Tough Times for Japan; Coal Ash Spill

Aired December 26, 2008 - 11:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you all. T.J. Holmes here, sitting in for my good friend Tony Harris.
And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, they're trying to make them go to Macy's, but the shoppers are saying no, no, no. Americans heading back to the stores today, but not necessarily to buy anything. Some of them are armed with returns. Others are, of course, scouting out those deep discounts. But preliminary numbers show this may turn out to be among the worst holiday shopping seasons on record.

Spending Pulse unit of MasterCard says holiday spending plunged 5 to 8 percent between Halloween and Christmas Eve. That's much worse than experts predicted. Now, not surprisingly, luxury goods took the biggest hit here, falling some 34 percent. Electronics and appliances, particularly items that cost $1,000 or more, tumbled 26 percent over the last year.

Well, those lackluster sales mean the week after Christmas all the more important. It starts today. Retailers crossing their fingers for Black Friday part two.

Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff out with shoppers in Garden City, New York.

Allan, I guess this is kind of a new thing here. We have Black Friday that's after Thanksgiving, but they're hoping for a Black Friday II. So the people you're seeing out there, they're armed with their credit cards, or they're more armed with receipts and returns right now?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I heard that "no, no, no" that you said before, and I can tell you, the people who are here, at least shopping right now to get the bargains, they're saying yes, yes, yes, because they're saying yes to discounts of 60 percent in some cases. In some cases even better.

The deals are all over the place. Fifty percent over here for a bath collection. You come with me over here, door busters. By the way, only two more hours for those door busters.

Pocketbooks 40 percent off. I mean, the deals are simply everywhere.

I have walked through the entire mall here, and there is not a store that is not on sale. Why is that? Well, of course, it has been a very, very lousy holiday shopping season. In fact, according to Spending Pulse, sales were down as much as 8 percent across the board. That's pretty bad.

And as a result, the retailers now have got to clear out the winter merchandise. Of course, normally after the holidays they usually have good deals, but this year especially. So that's the bright side of this very gloomy retail holiday season. If you've got the cash, you've got the deals here -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Well, there is a bright side. We'll see what happens here. It's good, of course, for the consumers. But still, everybody is still kind of pulling for those retailers who have been going through it just like everybody else this year.

Allan, we appreciate you. We'll be seeing you again soon.

And of course with the weak holiday sales, a lot of retailers resorting to a lot of creative ways to attract shoppers. A jewelry store, this one in Lansing, Michigan, offered the chance for some free bling to bring in the customers. The owner calls it the "Let it Snow" promotion.


BECKY BEAUCHINE KULKA, JEWELRY STORE OWNER: If it snows four inches or more on January 15th between 3:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., everyone's purchase between the day after Thanksgiving and through Christmas Eve is completely free.


HOLMES: OK. Did we hear that right, between 3:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on a specific day? Well, the odds may be in the company's favor there, but the promotion is working. After slow sales the first week of December, business has picked up. The store reported record sales on Wednesday.

Well, you may be able to get an even better deal out there if you earn the art of haggling. We've got a few smart moves to show you from Hong Kong. That's coming your way in about 20 minutes.

Well, from retail sales in the U.S. to the global financial crisis now, new numbers out today show just how badly Japan's economy is getting hammered.

CNN's Kyung Lah reports now from Tokyo.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Japan's government reported some very grim numbers ending out the business year. Japan's government said for the month of November, as compared to the month before, industrial output fell some 8.1 percent.

Now, to put that into perspective, that percentage fall is the single largest drop since Japan started keeping records in industrial output in 1953. The second highest fall, the second biggest drop that Japan can report was in January of 2001, and that fall was 4.3 percent, about half of what the government just recently reported. So that really puts into perspective exactly how badly this export driven-economy is getting hammered in the global financial crisis.

If you speak to analysts, they say that this report is just the latest in a series of dominoes as we see this economy fall deeper into recession. First we saw the global financial crunch. The crunch originating in the United States. We saw demand fall for Japan's electronics and automobiles. Then we are seeing the industrial output figures begin to slide.

So, certainly, we are also seeing some impact on the unemployment figures. The government today also reported that unemployment did tick up slightly for the month of November, going at about 3.9 percent. This is certainly showing that not only are the companies affected, this is starting to also impact the jobs, more and more here within Tokyo.

Today is known as the final business day of 2008. Many business owners and many employees are certainly hoping that 2009 will start off better.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


HOLMES: Well, we turn to Tennessee now.

It's been five days since a power plant dike burst there, sending more than 500 million gallons of coal/ash waste into the surrounding neighborhood. Initial tests by the utility indicate no threat right now to drinking water, although video shows dead fish on the riverbanks.

Monday's breach happened at the coal-fired Kingston Power Plant, about 50 miles west of Knoxville. The Tennessee Valley Authority estimates hundreds of acres may be covered in this nasty stuff, this muck, this sludge. And in some places it's six feet deep.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's a disaster. It's an absolute disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sludge, ash, whatever they want to call it, it's pretty much everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the worst part is the stuff that we can't see, the houses that are washed away that we can just see pictures of from the helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it blew, it rushed way down one valley and then backflowed back out and then came down here and took everything else with it.


HOLMES: Yes. Just whatever you want to call it, it's nasty stuff. The TVA says clearing the railroad tracks is the priority because that's how they get the coal into the plant.


RONALD HALL, KINGSTON PLANT MANAGER: Our focus point right now is to get Swamp Pond (ph) Road cleared, get the railway cleared. We're trying to remove some water in some areas to keep it from getting in some of the houses.


HOLMES: Well, after working through Christmas, the TVA says it will take four to six weeks to clean up the area. Environmentalists say it could take a whole lot longer.

Well, earlier, I spoke to one woman who lived near that plant who said she no longer has a home.


HOLMES: How badly is your home being affected by this?

HOLLY SCHEAN, SLUDGE VICTIM: I don't have a home anymore. It was moved 40 feet into the road. Everything in my home was destroyed. It's gone -- all of my clothing, but son's stuff. Three and a half years of renovations that my father has done on this house is completely gone. There's nothing left.

HOLMES: Ms. Schean, that is horrible to hear, certainly right now around the holiday time.

How did you get warning? I guess this is not really some rushing stuff, not so much fast moving that you can't get a warning and get out of there. But I guess, how did it go that you knew something was up and that you needed to get out of there?

SCHEAN: Well, I actually wasn't in the home. My father was the only one home at the time.

I received a call a few minutes after the dike broke from my son's football team mom asking me if we were OK. I had no idea what was going on. It's been -- she informed me that there was one man trapped in a house. She didn't know the address. I then called dispatch, and that's when they informed me that it was my father that was trapped.

HOLMES: Well, what is the status now of your father?



SCHEAN: He was able to walk away. HOLMES: OK.

SCHEAN: With the exception of the emotional damage, he is physically OK.

HOLMES: Ma'am, tell me -- I mean, you live in this area. Certainly, you all are aware of it. And I believe we're seeing pictures now that you sent into us from around your home, just amazing stuff we're looking at here.

You said your home was actually moved several feet. You live around this plant. You know it's there. There have been some minor leaks before.

I guess, what have given you confidence before? Do you always have in the back of your mind that possibly something like this could happen?

SCHEAN: I actually wasn't informed of the past faults of this dam, the dike.


HOLMES: Well, on the phone with us now from Kingston, Tennessee, the Roane County executive, Mike Farmer.

Mr. Farmer, thank you for spending some time with us here. Something that's a big issue right now for people, the drinking water. People are worried about the sludge, how nasty it was, how toxic it was.

Do you have confidence and can you give the surrounding community good confidence that the drinking water supply has not been contaminated?

MIKE FARMER, COUNTY EXECUTIVE: It is our belief that the drinking water has not been contaminated. The EPA has completed samples of the water from Kingston -- from the Kingston water source. Everything -- there's -- from their evaluation and testing, they have found no anomalies outside of the limits.

They are in the process now of completing a more comprehensive water sampling. They are running that by the CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health that Roane County is working with, with the EPA and TDEC and other agencies, to ensure that we are keeping the water monitored. The immediate problem that we did have, we had a gravity water line from Kingston that was breached during the -- at the point when the incident happened, and that is -- that was shut off, and that was where the primary issues related to water quality.

HOLMES: OK. Give us an update, also, on how many people were -- of course, the whole area is going to be affected in some way, but directly affected. What are the numbers of people affected and the number of homes, people who can't be in their homes? And how many homes that we know of have either been damaged or maybe even destroyed by this? FARMER: We have three homes that are impacted. One, the Schean family that you were talking to earlier...

HOLMES: Yes, sir.

FARMER: ... their home is destroyed. We have two other homes that we have been unable to totally do an assessment.

We did a preliminary assessment on Monday. The conditions did not allow us to get into the home, because in order for us to determine the structural integrity of the house, we must get under it. And we have been unable to do that.

The building official is on site today doing a final evaluation to determine on those two homes. Those are the only three properties that are damaged.

HOLMES: And so we understand that the Tennessee Valley Authority, the group -- the organization in charge of this particular coal plant and that retention wall that gave way. Do you see it as there was nothing that could have been done to prevent something like this, or have there been warning signs along the way?

There have been smaller breaches over the years. Were those not paid enough attention to? Was there really nothing that could have been done about this, or did we miss some warning signs?

FARMER: You know, I have asked early on -- Monday morning, in fact -- about the inspection reports. I have asked for independent verifications.

I understand that there have been a couple of instances in the last five years where there were some small leaks from the -- from this pond. But, you know, now -- then, like I said, I have asked for an independent verification of the rest of the dikes that are there.

HOLMES: All right. Again, Mike Farmer, the Roane County executive. The investigation in the cleanup continue right now.

But we appreciate you taking the time, out over the phone here, to give us an update. Thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

And good luck to you and all you folks down there in Tennessee who are having a tough time right now. Thank you so much.

FARMER: Thank you.


HOLMES: Well, a bitter divorce, could that have led to a deadly attack on Christmas Eve? We take you to California for some new details in this case of a Santa who busted into a home and shot folks at a Christmas Eve party. At least eight dead that we know of. That story next.


HOLMES: A man literally crashes a children's party in Long Island. Fourteen people, including six children, were injured when a car came barreling into a building where Orthodox Jewish families were holding a Hanukkah celebration for the kids.

About 150 people were inside at the time. Police say an elderly driver lost control of the car and plowed through the building's plate glass windows. No charges have been filed against that man.

An 8-year-old girl was shot in the face when she ran to answer the door at a Christmas Eve party. Knocking on that door was a man dressed as Santa. Police say that Santa went on to kill eight people in that home, set the home on fire, then left a pipe bomb at the scene of his suicide.

Chris Lawrence live for us in Covina, California.

Chris, this story would be horrific on any day of the year, but just something about the Santa suit and the Christmas Eve. And this is just a horrific holiday story.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Children, families gathered together just hours before Christmas Day, T.J. This home burned down so completely, that the coroner is having to use dental records and other methods to try to identify some of the victims involved. The search team is back here on the scene trying to go through what is left of that home.

Again, Christmas Eve night, the family gathered, maybe 25, 30 people. A man comes to the door dressed as Santa Claus, he knocks on the door.

The little girl runs to the door, opens it up, and he immediately shoots her in the face. The man then steps inside the home and starts to shoot anyone that he sees.

There are kids inside. The family is screaming. People are jumping literally out of second floor windows to try to get away.

At that point, the man then sets fire to the home with what police say was a homemade flamethrower. He then leaves the home, gets out of his Santa suit, and police say drives...

HOLMES: All right. We lost our Chris Lawrence there. He was telling us that story there.

But to follow up on what he was saying, police do understand that that man -- they believe the man who did this did drive to his brother's home.

And Chris, I believe -- I was about to pick it up there, but I believe we have you back now. So continue there.

Where we lost you, you were talking about the suspect, police believe they're are talking about here, what he did after he left that home. We lost you. As you said, he was driving. Where was he headed?

LAWRENCE: Yes. The big question, T.J., was why? You know, why? Why on Christmas Eve? Why this home?

Police say and some of the friends of the family say he was upset about a very recent divorce that had just become final about a week ago. They say his name was Bruce Pardo. And police say that they believe he got upset, that this was the home of his ex-wife's parents, that he knew the family was going to be there on Christmas Eve celebrating. But again, the people who knew him are still just shocked by what happened.


CINDY KEENAN, SUSPECT'S NEIGHBOR: My kids used to play up and down the street here. And he's very nice, very sociable -- "Hi. How you doing?" You know? And very different into the different Halloween and Christmas, you know, decorating.

PATRICK GUZMAN, SUSPECT'S NEIGHBOR: He seemed normal, nothing unusual. Nothing. And like I said, he said, "Merry Christmas" to me and just kept walking down this way. And that was it.


LAWRENCE: The thing is, a holiday tradition may have played a part in why the little girl opened that door in the first place. Every year that the family has this party, a neighbor would dress up as Santa Claus and come over to try to get the kids in the holiday spirit. She may have thought that was Santa Claus coming to the door -- T.J.


Chris Lawrence for us out there in Covina, California.

Thank you so much.

And we want to note as well, that 8-year-old girl, even though she was the first victim, if you will, police say, in fact, she was shot in the face, but she survived. She certainly has severe injuries, has a long road ahead of her. But she actually did survive the attack after being shot in the face.

We will turn to some finances, some -- a lot of talk about the economy right now this year. And certainly people will be talking about it next year as well.

How do you get your finances in order for the new year? Our Personal finance Editor Gerri Willis has her top tips. That's next.


HOLMES: All right. The new year only days away. This is a good time to take a new look at your maybe old finances.

Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis says getting rid of your debt is crucial.

Gerri, hello.


HOLMES: Still with the Christmas theme, a nice shirt there. Tell us, first of all...

WILLIS: It's not new. I did not run up any debt buying it. OK? I want you to know.

HOLMES: OK. That's good to here. That's why you're the finance editor.

Tell us, though, a lot of people, they're building up a lot of debt right now over the holidays, first of all.

WILLIS: That's right.

HOLMES: But where do you even get started? It can just be an overwhelming task trying to get your finances under control.

WILLIS: Well, T.J., so many folks don't even know how much they owe. Right? You've got to get a handle on your debt by determining whether your debt problem is simply run of the mill or out of control. And one signal that you have too much debt is that you borrow from one credit card to pay off another credit card.

Look, if you only make minimum payments on your credit card, you could be in trouble. If you don't know how much your total debt is, you could be in trouble. So there are signals out there that people can watch to make sure they don't have way too much debt -- T.J.

HOLMES: OK. And as we know, a lot of people out there have commitment issues. And that can mean different things.

WILLIS: I didn't even bring that up. And you do. Amazing. Yes, it can. And in this context...

HOLMES: In this context you have to really -- you can't just say, I want to pay my stuff down, you have got to commit to doing it.

WILLIS: That's right. You know, paying it down, you've got to make it a priority.

You have to cancel any spending that's really not essential and put it towards paying down your credit card debt. Practice some tough love here.

You have special channels beyond basic. If you're in trouble, get rid of that stuff. Turn off electric equipment when it's not in use. If you have a big flat panel TV, you can't let that thing go all the time. It drives up your monthly electric bill.

Reevaluate your memberships. If you only hit the gym once a year, it's time to get out of that contract. You can always run outside. There are other ways to exercise and not pay that big fee.

HOLMES: That's a good point. Those are some things -- ways you can cut spending. You know, you don't have to buy another DVD player, some stuff like that. But what are other ways where people might not even realize that they're just shelling out cash?

WILLIS: Well, you know, it's fees. You want to stop hemorrhaging money.

Do you feel like your pocketbook is something that just leaks all the time? Get rid of paying courtesy overdraft fees. For example, these can be as much as $20 to $35. Get rid of those by linking your savings account to your checking account.

Better yet, don't write a check for more than your balance. Right?

And those out-of-network ATM fees, those are brutal these days. They can be three bucks. It's just ridiculous paying that money to get access to your own cash. Use a bank with a large network.

Watch out for the fees. Check your bills. See what those fees are running. You'll be shocked and surprised how much money is just leaking out of your pocketbook.

HOLMES: And we know that debt directors are out there.

WILLIS: Right.

HOLMES: And the way that some people deal with debt collectors is just by looking at the caller I.D. and not answering the phone. But that's not the best way to handle it.

WILLIS: No, no, no. Look, there are rules, there are laws about how debt collectors are supposed to do their business, and they have to follow them.

Look, if you're being asked to pay a debt you don't think you owe, write a letter stating the facts. That forces the collector to investigate and clarify that debt.

Remember there's a statute of limitations on debt of 7-10 years. It depends on where you live. You've got to check with your state Attorney General's Office to see what the rules are where you live.

If you pay even a dime on that debt and it's not yours, the remainder of that bill will be due and owing. Just check out that FTC Web site,, Federal Trade Commission. They're the folks who are in charge of that, of looking into bill collectors.

I know a lot of people struggle with this. You can get help.

HOLMES: You can get help. And the new year, the new year's resolution, is a good time to get on top of your money situation.

WILLIS: That's right. HOLMES: Gerri Willis, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

WILLIS: Great to see you. Have a great holiday.

HOLMES: Thank you. You enjoy the rest of yours as well.

WILLIS: Absolutely.

HOLMES: And has advice and answers. You can check out our special report, "America's Money Crisis." Again, that's at

Well, billions of bailout bucks to shore up America's economy. It's a lot of money. Who is going to pay for this thing ultimately?


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Do any of you believe that the debt that has been accumulated in this country right now, that the responsibility for that debt is going to fall on your shoulders?


HARRIS: All of you?


HOLMES: They didn't have to pause or have to think about answering that question. That's my man, Tony Harris, right there. He's posing the question to the next generation and gets some pretty interesting answers.

Stay tuned for class in session.


HOLMES: The early figures on the holiday shopping season, not so good. Spending Pulse reports retail sales down 5 to 8 percent in November and December. Analysts had predicted a decline of 1 or 2 percent. Sales of luxury items, electronics and appliances fell sharply. Retailers hope after-Christmas sales turn things around. Now keep in mind this is a preliminary report. The official numbers won't come out until January.

From sea to shining sea, all the places in between, states having a tough time dealing with the economy. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange with the details.

And these aren't usually good details. States are hurting and they're asking for a lot of help.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really are. And we're seeing this all across the country, T.J.

As the economy continues to falter, the poor are asking more of state governments. But with those governments facing a money crunch of their own, the response has often been more cuts rather than more help.

Families USA, that is a group which advocates more health care coverage, says 19 states have made cuts to Medicaid. Medicaid is the government health insurance program for the poor. It says states are cutting payments to hospitals and nursing homes, and in more drastic cases forcing people off of the Medicaid roles. That may put more pressure on the federal government to pick up the slack -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. And you talked about health care there, you talked about Medicaid, but that's not the only area. Other areas are being cut, and some might come as a bit of surprise given the tough economic times.

KOSIK: Very true. But this one may really come as a bit of a surprise. lotteries are usually considered to be recession-proof. In fact, lotteries often do better in tough economic times. But this time it's different.

The "Wall Street Journal" says lotteries in California have seen ticket sales plunge 10 percent. In Texas, ticket sales are down 4 percent. Quoting La Fleur now, that's a lottery business magazine, "lottery sales fell more than $200 million in the third quarter." Many state lotteries are used to fund education programs. Critics say lotteries are a self-tax on the poor. And it seems this time around, people aren't willing to put their money at risk.

All right. Turning to Wall Street now. The first reports on the holiday shopping season are dismal, as you said, down 2 to 4 percent, excluding gas purchases, according to spending polls. But investors had expected lousy numbers anyway.

Let's go ahead and look at the numbers right now. The Dow is up 34. The Nasdaq down 4. We will see if we can end in the green today -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Alison Kosik at the stock exchange for us today.

Thank you so much.

KOSIK: Sure.

HOLMES: Well, as we know, just about everybody is affected by the economic crisis. But it's young people who will inherit it. So my man, Tony Harris, headed to class to hear what teens are saying about our economy and their future.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Is there anyone surprised by the financial news right now? To find out that we're in the situation that we're in now?

MICHAEL, 10TH GRADE: You can't really grasp the concept of it. Like, you take a country like America and a society such as ours in that kind of trouble. So I think it's caught everybody by surprise.

MICHAEL, 12TH GRADE: There are fundamental issues with the economy right now. We have to give the banks a $700 billion bailout so that they can keep spending. The way that the financial sector is functioning right now and the way our entire government is functioning is with such high levels of debt and such high levels of risk, it's so unsustainable. And I think that in the long term we will suffer the consequences of this.

HARRIS: Do any of you believe that the debt that has been accumulated in this country right now -- that the responsibility for that debt is going to fall on your shoulders?




AKURE, 11TH GRADE: To be honest, I don't think my generation really grasps the fact that this may fall on our shoulders. Because even for me, even though people are -- you're saying that that may happen, I'm like, that's not going to happen. This problem is going to get taken care of.

CAROLINE, 11TH GRADE: Our generation, and America in the future, is going to have to have a decreased standard of living. We're going to have to spend more carefully, not spend as much. But I think that that's just the natural cycle of things.


MICHAEL, 12TH GRADE: I feel like it's going to fall on us. And I feel like the previous generations of this country, especially the babyboomers, have really left us with a nasty pile of something to deal with.

HARRIS: Are you --



MICHAEL, 10TH GRADE: People look at the new administration, President-elect Obama, as -- like he instills that idea of hope in people that he will be able to lead us out of this economic crisis. But when you face reality, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

HARRIS: You believe that?


HARRIS: All of you?

CAROLINE: I think that we've weathered things like this before. And to say that the sky is falling and that -- I mean -- the streets are going to be filled with people rioting is a little dramatic. We've faced booms --

HARRIS: 1.2 million jobs.

CAROLINE: I know. I know. I don't think the sky is falling.

HARRIS: 53,000 jobs to be cut in the coming months by Citigroup.

CAROLINE: Over the past -- what -- 250 years this country has been in existence, I think we've gone through lots of hard times. I think that with the amount of people we have, the size of our economy today, it's a different situation. It's on a lot larger scale.

TAYLOR, 12TH GRADE: People say it's not dire, but last week I listened to my aunt talk about how she invested $20,000 in the stock market and watched it -- she lost it. She could have paid the last payment on her mortgage with that $20,000.

HARRIS: D.J., is it?

DEMARIUS, 12TH GRADE: That is my name.

HARRIS: All right.

DEMARIUS: Great job.

HARRIS: Well thank you, sir. I do this for a living.

DEMARIUS: I was talking with my little brother the other day. We were talking about how every weekend we used to go out with our father and we would go out to dinner and we'd spend a whole day, every weekend, having fun, doing things, and kind of gradually how that has changed. And gradually how -- there's less family time because parents have to work more. And there's less money to actually do things. So I mean it's more of a real thing now.

HARRIS: How old are you?

MICHAEL, 10TH GRADE: Me? I just turned 16 Sunday.

HARRIS: So you're going to get that SUV?

MICHAEL, 10TH GRADE: Probably not.

HARRIS: All right. What are you going to get?

MICHAEL, 10TH GRADE: A skateboard.



HOLMES: Again, that's our Tony Harris there reporting. A few laughs there. But when it comes to paying for college, that's not exactly a laughing matter for the kids. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: I'm sorry. I've wanted to go to an ivy league school since I was like seven. And I'm not -- I know that times are different, but that doesn't change my aspirations.


HOLMES: Well coming up next hour, Tony Harris talking tuition with those students when class is back in session.

Chad Myers is back with us now talking severe weather. All kinds of travel issues for folks, went really from the northwest to the Midwest to the northeast.

What's the problem area now?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We're back in the Midwest again. We're back looking at Chicago. Midway has a plane on the airport grounds stuck in the snow. So now, no other planes can land there. They're a ground stop. In fact, there are still 19 planes in the air trying to get to Midway. They haven't landed anything now for about an hour.

Here are all the planes that are out there just kind of doing big loops out here in northern Indiana. I just saw Northwest Flight 9928 fly over Midway and land in O'Hare. That thing was supposed to land two hours ago at Midway. Now all of the sudden you're at the wrong airport, and you're three hours delayed. Try to get that connection because they'll have to bus you back down into the Midway Airport. So it is a mess out there for Midway.

Atlanta is also a mess, too. There is a tower cam from Atlanta. When I was driving in, you can't even see the tops of the buildings. This is kind of -- maybe 15 or 20-story high building looking down. And you're seeing kind of just maybe the top of the building. Yes, that's it. That's about -- look at that visibility. That's a quarter mile or less.

Let's go to some video out of Chicago. And this is what Chicago dealt with overnight, and waking up to this ice on the ground in the morning. And this happens, this -- it's been very cold. It tried to rain into some very cold air. And it happens when warm air aloft tries to come down and rains onto something below 32. And you need to -- well -- you need slow down obviously. But sometimes you can't do anything at all about that.

So and then the big story -- the big story is actually all the snow out West where places in Colorado and Utah have picked up now 20- 30 inches of snowfall. And that was extremely ugly overnight trying to get through some of those passes. I-80 was closed for a while yesterday. I haven't checked on it today. But I want to get Caltrans on that if you're going to be trying to travel. Make sure you have chains in the car. This is just a pretty serious -- when you talk about passes getting 20, 30 inches of snow, there's no way to get that clear. Here is where all that icing came from in Chicago overnight. There may even have been a little bit through (INAUDIBLE) and Flint and into Detroit as well. I'm getting one other thing here going on here.

This is Southwest Flight -- tell me more about this?


MYERS: Oh, this was the flight stuck in the snow. Very good, good job, Brandon (ph).

Southwest Flight 688 was on the way from Midway to LAX. And so it's the plane stuck in the snow. It was a 737. And that is causing this clog where no other airplanes can get on the ground because of it. Planes are still taking off, but no planes are landing at Midway at all, and haven't been for a while, T.J.

HOLMES: Midway --

MYERS: Midway.

HOLMES: They were going to LAX. They just knew better weather was coming. But then now they're trying to get out of the snow.

MYERS: Well I don't know if -- I'm sure the people are off the plane by now. But I can't confirm that. We have our Chicago affiliates checking it out right now.

HOLMES: All right. Chad Myers for us.

We appreciate you being on top of things weather wise.

Well how is the weather in Honolulu right now? President-elect Barack Obama spending some time there with American troops during his Hawaiian holiday. We will go live to Honolulu when we get back.


HOLMES: This is Christmas at the Wilson house. The Wilson house includes 13 kids. CNN i-Reporter Nora Wilson (ph) says her and her husband adopted all their nieces and nephews. They did this to prevent the kids from having to be taken by children's services.

Well, how do you have a merry Christmas with 13 kids? Well they got a lot of generous donations from people in that town. And all 13 kids had a really good day yesterday.

Well, President Bush and the first lady -- they are actually headed to Texas. They left from Andrews Air Force Base After about two hours ago after spending a final Christmas at Camp David. The President and Mrs. Bush will bring in the new year at their ranch in Crawford, Texas. They'll return to the White House with just three weeks left until they go to get out of there because there's another family moving in -- the Obamas. The future first family, they are spending the holidays in Hawaii. President-elect Barack Obama took time out from Christmas celebrations to visit U.S. troops. Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, joins us live.

Ed, it just doesn't sound right and it just irks us all when we have to say Ed Henry reporting live from Honolulu. So, I'm sorry, just let me get that out of the way right now. I'm not really feeling you right now.

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I love it. Could you say it a couple more times?

HOLMES: Yes, yes.


HENRY: The water, you can hear it lapping in the background. The sun is just rising out here, T.J. And you can see why, frankly, in all seriousness, why the president-elect chose to come here to recharge his batteries one last time before he is sworn into office. This is his native Hawaii, on the island of Oahu.

He had a very quiet, private Christmas yesterday at the oceanside home that he's renting with friends and family. Of course, they had a traditional family dinner, ham and turkey, which is what they have every year we're told, and also, of course, opened presents. But Obama aides are being very tight-lipped and saying their lips are sealed about what was given, what was received, especially for those two young daughters, of course, that everyone talks about so much.

But in the serious part of the day, President-elect Obama, in his only public appearance on Christmas, decided to head to a Marine base here on the island of Oahu, met with some Marine and Navy personnel to thank them for their service. And I think it points out the fact that obviously while we've spoken a lot about financial security in recent weeks and months, that national security could still dominate his presidency.

He has two wars going on. They're heading in opposite directions right now. Of course, security improving in Iraq, deteriorating in Afghanistan right now. How he handles those challenges plus, as we saw with the Mumbai terrorist attacks right around Thanksgiving, any other potential national security challenges that could pop up at any moment, that could define his presidency, of course, as much as we talk about the economy.

But he obviously does not inherit these challenges officially at least until January 20th. So for now, the Hawaiian holiday continues, T.J.

HOLMES: Yes, it does continue. And nice glow you have to you there, Ed.

Good to see you. Enjoy the rest of your assignment.

HENRY: Thanks, T.J. Happy Holidays.

HOLMES Enjoy the rest of your assignment.

All right. Happy Holidays to you, buddy (ph).

HENRY: Yes, it is an assignment. Hard work.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, yes, Ed.

Well, when the spirit is willing but the clock is ticking. Religious downloads, straight to your iPhone.


HOLMES: Well, from India to Indonesia, a day for prayers and pause. Today marks four years since the great tsunami swept away 223,000 lives. Since then, hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and businesses have been rebuilt. But despite the massive relief operation, thousands of people still living in camps.

A day of mourning in Ukraine after an apartment building blast. It happened in the Black Sea town of Yevpatoriya. Rescuers say 27 people have been found dead in the concrete and in the glass ruin. While that construction, that work and that digging goes on there -- folks there, rescuers, do stop every hour trying to listen for cries, see if they can hear anybody still stuck under there. But after two nights with temperatures below 20, they doubt anyone will be found alive. Officials believe oxygen tanks stored in the basement set off that blast.

Faith for your iPhone. A Catholic priest in Rome has developed a download that will deliver prayers and scriptures directly to that handheld device.

CNN's Alessio Vinci taking a look.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice over): 2008 has been the year of the app, the mobile phone application, whether it's rolling dice, tinkling the virtual ivories, or keeping up with comics. And now you can even address the Almighty.

Yes, the Italian priest, Father Paulo Padrini, has a knack for the faithful on a schedule.

"You can use your iPhone to pray," he says.

Concerned that in today's fast-paced world good Catholics can't find the time to step inside the church, Father Paulo, a self- described Mac fan, designed i-Breviary, the application for devotees who need to commune with the Lord while on the go.

It contains a collection of the most important prayers and readings of the Catholic Church, known among the clergy as the Breviary. It's one of thousands of applications available on iTunes at the same price as the latest from Britney and Beyonce.

"The new media are not all evil or all angels," he says. "It is good that on a Web site like this one, visited by both believers and those who don't believe, you can find rock stars and prayers together."

(on camera): Do you expect that people will one day go to church and instead of using a Breviary, using an iPhone?



VINCI (voice-over): "No, I don't think so," he laughs. "It is not meant to replace the prayer in church. It is just a tool, a convenient way to help you pray anywhere, whether on a train, in a car or on a bus."

The application is available in many languages, including Latin, English and Spanish. And Vatican officials say the modern missionary needs to conquer the digital world.

MONSIGNOR PAUL TIGHE, COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL COMMUNICATION: Traditionally, people talked about the continents that had to be evangelized. There's no doubt that the digital world is a new continent that is in need of evangelization.

VINCI: It is also a world often criticized by Pope Benedict for leading the young down the dead end street of consumerism. And to be sure, there are plenty of consumer goodies passing through ever smaller, ever smarter, ever faster handheld. But if you pray, Father Paulo says, the Lord can always forgive.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Rome.


HOLMES: Well did you happen to buy Wii, you know Nintendo console? Did you get one of those this holiday seasons? Well, you may be bowling, you may be playing that virtual tennis, but the military, hopes the game system can help get the troops ready for real-life combat.


HOLMES: Hello there, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes in the CNN NEWSROOM, sitting in today for my good friend, Tony Harris, who's off today.

Here are some of the headlines on this Friday, the day after Christmas.

A family tragedy. Could this have been spurred by a bitter divorce? A holiday party shooting spree and a house fire that killed at least eight people.

Also, the military, tapping a popular game. Wii-Bots can do dangerous jobs and save soldiers' lives. We'll talk about that.

Plus, we'll be talking about this --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every senior in the room --

HARRIS: Every senior in the room ---

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I used to want to go to Georgetown.


HOLMES: Class in session. The next generation looking ahead to college and how to pay for it during tough times.