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Conditions Improving in Paris; Pope's Christmas Blessing; Critic Grades New Film Releases; White Christmas; The President's Bumpy 2010; 2010: The Year That Was

Aired December 25, 2010 - 10:59   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, well, a major winter storm threatening the east coast is causing a lot of headaches for travelers this Christmas morning. For instance, Delta Airlines has already cancelled 500 flights, 300 of those canceled flights were scheduled in and out of Atlanta.

You're looking at live pictures right now, very little activity taking place there. Some passengers are now facing delays because of the cancelled flights. Some people have connections to other places and now they can't get there either.

And then on to Paris where a winter storm stranded thousands of holiday travelers this week. Finally, a reprieve now. I talked with CNN's Niki Cook in Paris this past hour, and she confirms that things are getting better.


NIKI COOK, CNN PARIS BUREAU PRODUCTION MANAGER: It is indeed a little bit better today.



COOK: But you are correct, there were about 300 people who slept over at Charles De Gaulle Airport last night. But the weather is back up, cold temperatures but not a lot of ice. And the planes are finally taking off -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So Niki give me an idea, why did so many folks decide to stay there at the airport, not knowing when flights would be going out, especially since so much was grounded because no de-icing? They weren't going to suddenly get you know a surge of warm temperatures, what did people do? How did they manage in the airport?

COOK: Well, actually Fredricka that is a good question, but many of these people were actually in transit. So it's not like they could just hop on a bus and go back to their homes. Others, there was one -- one particular situation of a family who had been waiting for two years to make a trip to Tunisia, and decided that they were just going to stick it out at the airport. And I guess have a very strange experience of a Christmas and hopefully, the first and the last that they'll end up at an airport overnight indeed -- Fredricka. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, Niki Cook there in Paris.

So in Paris things are kind of looking up but if you're flying here and particular along the Eastern Seaboard out of the south east into the northeast, you just might be in trouble because snow is on the way.

And in some parts, snow is already coming down. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider in the Weather Center. We saw those beautiful pictures out of the nation's capital. So they've got a few flurries going.


WHITFIELD: Not unusual for Washington D.C. snow?

SCHNEIDER: No not at all. But I'll tell you some places that don't typically see snow especially on Christmas. Parts of Alabama and South Carolina and then -- get ready, get set Atlanta. It's just a matter of minutes before we start to see the white stuff falling right here.

I know Fred doesn't believe it but it's going to happen and we'll show her --



WHITFIELD: She'll be very happy. Get your snowmobiles ready.

SCHNEIDER: All right, we've got snow across the Carolinas, so this will accumulate. We're actually looking at measurable snow not just today but tomorrow in Charlotte and Raleigh.

But speaking about a white Christmas for Raleigh, for example the last time we had snow falling and snow sticking, and I'm talking about more than a trace, was 1927. Montgomery, 1919. Here at Atlanta, we had traces and flurries but we never had sticking snow that you can maybe measure. That was 1882. That's a long time.

Birmingham, Alabama and Columbia, South Carolina it never happened. Notice the asterisks; that's since weather records began around 100 years ago.

So maybe it happened 200 years ago, but nobody wrote it down. So we don't know, we can tell you the fact to 100 years.

So all right, let's take a look at the storm system, because we've got a whole lot happening. This heavy rain you see in the south is really just the first component of a storm, we also have a lot of energy to the north, all of this is setting up for a big snow storm across much of the nation. Oh the upgrade, this just happened. And now winter storm warning for northern Alabama. That was just upgraded from a watch. We're still under watch in Atlanta; Charlotte and Raleigh you were under a warning. So we're looking at five inches plus for you. And this is just the beginning.

We're looking at all this moisture coming from the south, heading to the east, and then really igniting offshore into a full-fledged nor'easter. This will happen Sunday into Monday and that's why winter storm watches are posted all the way from Philly up through Portland, Maine and certainly for Boston and Providence, you will be hit hard by this storm system.

And I want to show you some of the more recent computer models as we put this into motion, because the storm track for this particular system has changed so many times, that now it's really getting much more concentrated.

So here is the low off shore to the north. And look at the heavy snow expected. Particularly for coastal areas of Delaware, Maryland; the Jersey shore really going to get hammered with this. And then, Long Island up through, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire.

Some of these snowfall totals could be up to a foot in some areas. Now this is still going to fluctuate and we're still monitoring the track because every 25 to 50 miles, this is when it gets closer to shore or further north, they can makes a big difference in snow fall totals and how cold the air gets as well to support it.

But the one thing to note is that all indications point to a serious nor'easter affecting the Eastern Seaboard. For those of you traveling Sunday into Monday, the winds will also be fierce and that will create low visibility.

So right now, well, we don't have airport delays out there Fredricka, tonight and especially tomorrow, I am anticipating many of them. So travel while you can while the weather is looking good.

WHITFIELD: Oh gosh and be real careful if you do have to travel.

All right, thanks so much Bonnie, I appreciate that.


WHITFIELD: Christians all over the world are gathering today to mark one of the holiest days on the calendar, the birth of Christ.

In Vatican City this morning, tens of thousands of the faithful received the Pope's traditional blessing. Pope Benedict led prayers for peace from the balcony of St. Peters Basilica. And he delivered his message in 64 languages.


POPE BENEDICT XVI: Peace around the world, where true happiness lies and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy for the savior has been born for us.


WHITFIELD: In Washington, the day began with midnight mass, it was held as usual at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Concepcion. The basilica is the largest Catholic church in the western hemisphere and it's the eighth largest basilica in the world.

And thousands of pilgrims have flocked to Bethlehem, the town that Christians recognized as Jesus' birth place. The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the highest-ranking Catholic cleric in the Holy Land led midnight mass. Later, he took priests and believers to the church of the Nativity for a traditional service.

And Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is using her Christmas message to praise the benefits of organized sports. She says being part of a team can help people built communities' sense of purpose and develop social skills.


QUEEN ELIZABETH II, UNITED KINGDOM: We know that nothing is more satisfying than the feeling of belonging to a group who are dedicated to helping each other. Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them.


WHITFIELD: And here in this country, the First Family is spending the holidays in Hawaii. Before leaving the White House, President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle delivered a Christmas message to America.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Merry Christmas everybody. Michelle and I just wanted to take a moment today to send greetings from our family to yours.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: This is one of our favorite times of year. And we're so fortunate to be able to celebrate it together in this wonderful home. In this time of family and friends and good cheer let's also be sure to look out for those who are less fortunate. Who hit a run of bad luck or are hungry and alone this holiday season.

B. OBAMA: Today, we're also thinking of those who can't be home for the holidays, especially all our courageous countrymen serving overseas. So let's all remind them this holiday season that we're thinking of them. And that America will forever be here for them, just as they have been there for us.


WHITFIELD: The President will spend part of this holiday reading about one of his predecessors. He's reading Ronald Reagan's biography by Lou Cannon while he's in Hawaii.

All right, to inspire and to teach, one role model commissioned to give young girls the tools they need to become great women.


LT. COL. CHUCK RAMSAY, U.S. ARMY: Hi, I'm Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Ramsay, here at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. I just want to say hi to my dear wife Karen and my son Charles back in Boise, Idaho. I love you the most, my man.



WHITFIELD: All right, let's see what our affiliates are covering in all Christmas -- this Christmas day cross country, how about that?

A mystery man saved Christmas for a Niles, Indiana family. Mom says she couldn't afford all the gifts in her card at Wal-Mart. But WSJV Television said a complete stranger stepped up and covered everything and then gave the woman $200 on top of paying the bill. And then he disappeared before she could even get his name.

Baby Jesus is back in his manger at the home of the New Hampshire family who says it's been missing. Someone actually stole their Jesus figure last Sunday. But WMUR affiliate says the culprit brought it back, along with an apology note. And it reads quote, "I saw you on TV. I decided to return it." As simple as that.

And normally as you know, Santa prefers his sleigh right? But, he traded it in to do a little water skiing in Idaho instead. KREM was there yesterday when old Saint Nick showed off his skills and it was for a good cause, of course raising money for breast cancer awareness. Lots of fun there.

All right, role models so they can inspire and teach everyone but especially young students. One college junior in New Jersey believes mentors, specifically female mentors are so important that she started her own organization to serve young girls.

CNN contributor, Steve Perry has her story in today's "Perry's Principles."


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I am a firm believer in the power of mentoring.

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): They are leaders in politics and diplomacy.


PERRY: Top media deal makers and big time producers. Women surrounded by positive role models. Delores Sarfo-Darko a junior at Seaton Hall University in New Jersey is inspired.

DELORES SARFO-DARKO, YOUNG WOMEN CREATING CHANGE LITTLE MISSES FORUM: Being a trailblazer means a lot to me. One of the first step is trying to come up with the idea what you want to do and you have to be passionate about what you're doing but then also you have to be legit, you have to have a plan.

PERRY (on camera): Delores was one of my students and I knew her plan. It involved getting good grades and empowering young girls. In high school she co-founded the mentoring group, Young Women Creating Change.

Now in college, she's done it again. She and her classmates mentor girls in what they call The Little Misses Forum.


PERRY: Lisa Buffington a vice president at Prudential Insurance helped Delores start the forum.

BUFFINGTON: Her passion to want to get something important off the ground and it just spoke to my heart. I am involved in women's leadership groups over in the business community, so I understand the importance of women banding together to, you know, support ourselves.

PERRY: Delores's Little Misses Forum organizes one-on-one mentor sessions for the girls and holds conferences like this one in Connecticut which brought together mentors and mentees from different groups.

Can you tell me about the importance of the mentoring relationship?

SARFO-DARKO: What makes me want to be a mentor is the impact that my mentors have had on me. I feel like the woman I am is owed to my mother and the different mentors that I have had. And I see girls struggling and I see their self-esteem being dropped down to the floor. And I struggle myself too and I want to help someone just as they've helped me.

PERRY: Steve Perry, New York.


WHITFIELD: All right, once the gifts are opened and dinner is already in your belly, and it's off the plate. What is there to do on Christmas day? How about a movie? The holiday films that are worth your dime, next.


WHITFIELD: All right, our movie critic grades new movie releases for this holiday weekend. Find out what's worth your dime, in a minute. But first, a look at the top stories.

The Taliban is now claiming responsibility for a suicide blast that killed at least 43 people in northwest Pakistan. The victims were waiting to get food at a World Food Program Center. At least 90 other people were hurt.

A Taliban spokesman is denying reports that the bomber was a woman. This comes a day after security forces kill 40 militants along the Afghan border.

San Juan's airport is up and running today despite an earthquake that hit Puerto Rico last night. The 5.1 magnitude quake struck about 15 miles south of the capital. It rattled residents but so far, no reports of serious damage or injuries.

And if you have any goodies from Rolf's Patisserie in Chicago, you may want to toss them out. The bakery is recalling cake, cookies and pies and other products because some may contain staph bacteria.

And apparently a lot of people ordered these goodies from Rolf's and they're sent across the country. So, if you have of Rolf's deserts made after November 1st, they are affected and you need to throw those out. Rolf's often sells products online as well.

So first, let's talk movies now. There was "Meet the Parents", then we met the Fockers; now, it is time for an introduction to "The Little Fockers."

Jen Yamato, a film critic with joined us from San Francisco for today's movie reviews. I am always so afraid to say the title. It's just so close it makes me nervous.

All right. So let's talk about this movie first. You know, this is the third time -- third times' a charm. Let's take a quick peek and see if you like.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I just go climb that big rock wall?

STILLER: Yes. OK. Just be careful buddy.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: You think he can handle that?

STILLER: What is the big deal?

DE NIRO: I am just not sure you can instill the physical confidence for him shear (ph) a face like that.

STILLER: Jack, do me a favor. Just let go of the reigns a little, OK.

DE NIRO: I'll let go, Greg, when you show me once and for all that you have what it takes to lead.

STILLER: I am in control of my family. All right? I give him permission to climb a wall, he can climb a wall. If he says he wants to climb the Empire State Building, I say it is OK, it is OK because I am in charge. All right. I am calling the plays.

So you just have to step back and accept the fact that I have got this.



WHITFIELD: All right. De Niro, Stiller, Hoffman, Streisand -- I mean you name it; Great, great, great cast Jen. But were you laughing out loud? Is it funny?

JEN YAMATO, FILM CRITIC, MOVIES.COM: No, this is the third installment in an increasingly profitable and decreasingly worthwhile franchise.


YAMATO: And the third time around it offers up a lot of the same old stuff. For a while, the premise actually suggests that this will be different because Ben Stiller actually had a backbone. He's a little bit more mature and he's a new father. And Robert de Niro as the former spy, father-in-law is starting to lose a step and starting to feel like he needs to pass the torch on to Ben Stiller.

So for a while, they have a bit of a bromance going on. And for that little while, things are not so bad. And then comes the crass joke, which I cannot go into too much detail here, but you see in the trailer involving Robert de Niro, Ben Stiller and a Viagra-like drug and the whole thing goes downhill.


WHITFIELD: OK. So something tells me the grade is not good.

YAMATO: So, this is a lot of the same old stuff. I don't know. My grade is --


WHITFIELD: -- mean more about the kids too. I don't know. That's just me.

YAMATO: Absolutely. And it's sort of a misleading title. I think they just named it that so that people could say that word over and over again.

WHITFIELD: I know. YAMATO: And some of us --

WHITFIELD: And potentially misspeak. OK, so, c minus. Well, that's not super, super bad. That's below average but -- OK, so you weren't bowled over. You weren't thrilled.

YAMATO: Absolutely. It is not my recommendation. No, not at all.

WHITFIELD: OK. So then will you recommend "Gulliver's Travel", Jack Black, which means it ought to be funny, right? And maybe a little uncomfortable -- sometimes he is a little uncomfortably funny. Sometimes. Well, let's take a quick peek.

YAMATO: Yes. And you are right. It absolutely should be funny.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is hereby declared a property of his majesty, King Theodore. All hail King Theodore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All hail King Theodore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted a bracelet. Not a great, big hairy beast.


WHITFIELD: All right. Jen. Break it down for me.

YAMATO: Yes. Well, "Gulliver's Travels" is based I will say very loosely on Jonathan Swift's satirical novel. But it really sort of bastardizes that source material.

The premise is Jack Black plays Gulliver who's a lowly mail room clerk with no aspirations in life who lies and exaggerates his way into a professional writing gig which I will tell you film critics do not like also that. And he ends up on assignment, washed ashore on the island of Liliput, inhabited by small people and he becomes their giant/protector.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my God.

YAMATO: But only through more boastful lies. So this is movie that does employ the trademark Jack Black antics. You have the usual rock and roll rifts, the buffoonery, a couple of shirtless scenes. And unfortunately this is -- while tailor-made for Jack Black, it's really not a great movie. The script is really bland. It's not worthwhile, definitely --


WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. I'm seeing a grade, girlie, that is tough. A big old D.

YAMATO: Yes. The biggest problem for me is that the jokes were very crass, and the lessons really irresponsible. He never really learned that anything --

WHITFIELD: You are not taking your kids to this one. What's this one rated?

YAMATO: It is a children's movie, but it's not one I would recommend, unless you would like your child to leave the theater thinking that it may be funny to pee on people and then get rewarded for things like that.

So yes. The jokes are so crass and infantile, it's not a movie I would recommend at all.

WHITFIELD: Jen, how do you really feel about that one?

OK. Let's move on to -- "True Grit", real, real quick. We don't have time for the clip.

But quick synopsis, Jeff Bridges, for one. Big name, big star. You like this one, "True Grit"?

YAMATO: I loved "True Grit". It's my favorite movie of the year. It's a period western by the Coen brothers, adapted from the Charles Portis's novel, which is also adapted into a 1969 film that won John Wayne his Oscar.

This time around Jeff Bridges plays that John Wayne character, Mr. Cogburn, a gruff U.S. marshal who's enlisted by a scrappy 14-year- old girl to hunt down her father's killer. It is great performances.

Now this is one of the most profoundly nostalgic and beautiful film experiences of the year. It's great, great performances, especially the debut performance by Hailey Steinfeld, who was 13 years old when she made the movie and totally holds her own against Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper, all of whom --

WHITFIELD: Fantastic.

YAMATO: -- are very excellent.

WHITFIELD: And Jen Yamato with a very generous A or maybe I should just replace that with a very deserving A, from your point of view.

YAMATO: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: Thanks, Jen. Appreciate it.

YAMATO: Have a wonderful holiday. And I hope people go see "True Grit" and not "Gulliver's Travels".

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, now based on your recommendation, I think people are listening. All right. Jen Yamato, thanks so much. Merry Christmas.

YAMATO: Thank you. Same to you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

All right. Well, guess what? It is already snowing in some areas, turning out to be a white Christmas for some northeast, some parts of the southeast. But what does it all mean for travelers still trying to get from point A, to point B, especially if they're trying to fly? We will tell you next.

WHITFIELD: All right. Many people who planned to travel on Christmas day -- air travel in particular -- are probably a little upset and disappointed because for one, Delta Air Lines cancelled 500 Christmas Day flights as it plans for that winter storm now threatening a good part of the Eastern coast.

And then on to Paris, a winter storm stranded thousands there. Now, a reprieve. Charles de Gaulle airport is back up and running today. There are still some delays and huge backlog of travelers are there as wall, but at least some flights are taking off. De-icing was a big problem, they didn't have enough of that chemical for the planes.

So back to this country now. It is a white Christmas in many parts. Just take a look right there.

This is St. Louis. Road crews have been out, trying to clear the roads for the holiday travelers. And then take a look at this. Des Moines, Iowa Friday storm brought four inches of snow to metro Des Moines and parts of the state received nine inches of the white stuff. That is a lot. That is what you call a real white Christmas, when it is there to stay at least for a few days.

Bonnie Schneider in the weather center now. But who wants to spend Christmas day shoveling snow?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. It is better when you can just sort of look at it.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Just to look at or walk through it or find a nice hill, and sleigh.


SCHNEIDER: I know. I agree with you. But this is just the beginning of a busy Christmas holiday. Christmas day, we're looking at snow right now in Huntsville but wait until you see what is ahead for tomorrow or the day after.

But first, let's talk about travel. If you're heading to Houston, we have departure delays that are increasing right now due to low visibility. It is nice to see one delay on this map because 24 hours from now, it will look different. We are just awaiting some big storms to roll through the northeast and that's going to cause a lot of delays.

Now, if you're driving, be especially careful through Tennessee and North Georgia because we're getting a mix. A wintry mix happening right. It is snowing steadily in Chattanooga and in Huntsville, as I mentioned. A lot of that heading up to Knoxville. Pockets of snow rolling through Cape Gerardo and Paducah, as well. And a little bit of the white stuff headed towards Memphis as we get closer to the afternoon.

But this is where it gets a little treacherous on I-20, because we're going to see that change over, like here in Atlanta, from rain to snow shortly. The temperature hovering in the mid to upper 30s but the wind gusts from the north and it's pulling down that colder air.

So we have winter storm warnings. They could see several inches of snow in northern Alabama, parts of Tennessee, winter storm warning for Charlotte and Raleigh. The Carolinas are going to get hit hard by this storm, more so tonight and tomorrow than today because the storm will accelerate as it works its way up the coastline and intensify offshore into a full-fledged nor'easter.

So with that said, in advance of it, we have winter storm winter weather advisories for areas in Portland, Maine; down through Boston, Providence, Rhode Island, New York City filly, and Washington.

And if you're wondering why it's not really snowing right now, just some light snow showers, the storm has yet to come, has yet to form and come together, and that's what happens with nor'easters. And that's what makes them so tough to forecast, because they haven't actually come together yet.

But here's what I mean. Here's the energy out of Louisiana and Texas that's going to trek to the east pretty steadily, and then it will actually work its way further off shore and kind of ignite with a little more energy to the north, tap into some colder air, and that's why we're expecting such expansive snowfall. That, and the proximity of where the storm is.

Originally, models yesterday had this much further off shore. We thought maybe we'll get clipped by it, not really a big deal, and everything changed overnight into this morning, and now we're looking at substantial snow. Some of the models, they're still not 100 percent all merging together, but some of them are bringing very heavy snow to places like coastal Jersey, and into Delaware, Maryland, and certainly up through Upstate New York and even in New York City, you may be shoveling out for Christmas.

Now, the problem is the timing. This couldn't be worse timing. This is Sunday into Monday, so that's really the biggest problem is because this will be the day after Christmas, when many people will be traveling.

Just to give a mention of what's happening off to the west, we are anticipating a little bit more rain coming into areas of California. But, don't worry, this is not going to the four or five- day storm system that we saw last week. This is a typical winter system that'll zip through and maybe dump a little bit of rain, maximum an inch, but I think it'll be less than that through California, heavier amounts to the north.

It'll be raining all day today in Seattle, Portland and that storm will come, I'm sure. Very mild temperatures, though, across the area to the south and overall a good looking Christmas there, 46 in Dallas - Fred.

WHITFIELD: Very good. Thanks so much, Bonnie.


WHITFIELD: All right. President Barack Obama, well, he's spending this Christmas not in the snow in the nation's capital, but instead he's in Hawaii with his First Family - with the First Family, his only family, right?

All right. Our Ed Henry tells us the past 12 months were anything but a smooth ride.


ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The year is ending on a high note for this president, but there was a lot of bumps along the way, everywhere from the political arena to the basketball court.

HENRY (voice-over): Maybe it was a metaphor for the year. A simple basketball game the day after Thanksgiving ended with a fat lip and 12 stitches for the president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me begin by pointing out that although Washington is supposed to be a town of sharp elbows, it's getting a little carried away.

HENRY: But as he shifts his game to golf here in Hawaii, the president is reveling in a series of big wins, leaving long time friends like former Honolulu mayor Muffi Hanneman predicting comeback in 2011.

MUFFI HANNEMAN, FORMER HONOLULU MAYOR: Because I met him when he was a basketball player, in a basketball court, he definitely has that athletic ability to come back. Yes, it's been a rough year for him, but he's bounced back quite well.

HENRY: But, in 2010, nothing came easy for the president, who started the year campaigning in Massachusetts, to keep the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy in his party's hands, only to see Republican Scott Brown score a knockout of the Democrat, almost taking health care reform down too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

OBAMA: Thank you.

HENRY: In March, the president finally got his health care victory, but he couldn't savor it for long. Within weeks, he was engulfed by the biggest oil spill in American history.

OBAMA: I'm shaving and Malia knocks on my bathroom door, and she picks on her head (ph) and she says, "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?"

HENRY: It was eventually plugged, and there were other big gets, too, like Wall Street reform, that the president campaigned on from coast to coast.

But with unemployment still stubbornly high, he could not stop a Republican takeover of the House and surge in the Senate.

OBAMA: Now, I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like they - like I did last night.

HENRY: But he picked himself off the floor and shocked Republicans with wins on taxes, a treaty and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

OBAMA: One thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck, I am persistent.

HENRY: Now, aides say he will keep a low profile here, getting R and R for what may be another brutal year. While Mr. Obama hopes to work with Republicans on some issues, he's also determined to stop them from gutting health reform.

HANNEMAN: This is the best place in the world for him to come and recharge his batteries, sort of bask in the Hawaiian sunshine, Hawaiian culture, the food that he loves.

HENRY (on camera): As soon as he returns to Washington in the New Year, the president is expected to name a replacement for his Chief Economic Adviser, Larry Summers. And top aides say that his State of the Union in late January will be heavy on fixing the economy, the issue likely to decide his re-election battle which is getting closer and closer.

Ed Henry, CNN, with the president in Honolulu.


WHITFIELD: Republicans are setting partisan politics aside this holiday. Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Pitts used the weekly GOP address to spread a Christmas message. Here it is.


REP. JOE PITTS (R), PENNSYLVANIA: As another year comes to a close, the American people rise to meet the challenges of our time with resolve and determination. Before tackling the challenges that lie ahead, we join together to reflect on our blessings.

Behind the splendor of the Christmas season lies a simple and inspiring story of how a single birth spread a message of love and salvation throughout the world, one that continues to resonate across this and other lands. In this time of year, when we gather to celebrate family and fellowship, we're reminded of the fulfillment that comes from humbly serving one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Pitts also thanked members of the armed forces serving our country this Christmas.

All right. There are some pretty hot viral videos online, and our Josh Levs has been busy putting them all together.


WHITFIELD: And it's been an incredible year of viral videos, so I can't imagine how you're now trying to, like, you know, condense it all into the top few that we need to check out.

LEVS: Yes. I'll tell you what, even now, on Christmas, new ones keep coming up. In fact, we got a special one. It's us. Take a look at this.


LEVS: We got a little - little clip over here. I'm going to let you sing more of this, including Fred getting down with the guitar, coming up.

Plus, we have one of the most impressive light displays in the world ever. And, how to get your dog to dance at Christmas. All coming up at "Viral Video Rewind."


CAPT. NICK POCH, U.S. ARMY: Hi. I'm Captain Nick Poch, stationed at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. I want to wish happy holidays to Ms. Cory (INAUDIBLE) and all my friends at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Merry Christmas.



WHITFIELD: All right, the hottest videos gone viral. We're rocking the holiday after a look at the top stories.

The man at the center of the New York mosque controversy may be coming to a city near you. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is planning a speaking tour to promote his plan to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Starting next month, he's visiting about a dozen cities, but a spokeswoman says most of his engagements will actually be closed to the general public for security reasons.

Missouri police are investigating the death of a model at a beer baron's estate in suburban St. Louis. Twenty-seven-year old Adrienne Martin was found dead at the home of August Busch IV, the former CEO of the Budweiser brewing empire.

Police wouldn't comment on whether Busch was at home at the time. There are no apparent signs of trauma.

And New York police have released new video of a man they're calling a person of interest in a bizarre murder case. The man is dressed in a black coat and a knit cap there. Police want to question him about the death of 28-year-old Betty Williams. Her body was found in a suitcase. She had been strangled.

A Christmas rock song starring us. You saw a little bit of a tease. As always, a lot of fun from JibJab.

LEVS: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Josh Levs here with other viral videos.

LEVS: I was checking my mail and I got a bunch of DVDs from the good folks at JibJab. And this one, we just had to share with you.

All right. Let's get started here.

WHITFIELD: Let's look at that.

LEVS: Take a look, everybody.


LEVS: So what you've got, you've got me, you've got Fred on guitar. Our Reynolds Wolf is in there. You've got a good shot of our T.J. Holmes.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh.

LEVS: Anyone can create these online.

WHITFIELD: Almost looking like Lenny Kravitz there.

LEVS: They got the hair - we got the hair going - we're rocking.

WHITFIELD: Got the hair, got the moves.

LEVS: We're - we are rocking, huh?

WHITFIELD: Right. That's cute.

LEVS: And I talked to JibJab folks. They actually have this song recorded just for JibJab. So, check it out.

WHITFIELD: That's very fun.

LEVS: Now, here's some people who are actually getting down. A little shout out to teachers today -


LEVS: -- on - on Christmas. Just before going into holidays, there are some teachers at a school in Washington State -


LEVS: -- who have always wanted to do a flash mob. And they're starting one out there -

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh.

LEVS: -- started dancing at assembly. One teacher starts, some other teachers come along.

Let's pump it up. Listen to what happens.


So this is Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." The kids see that all the teachers are coming up. They're like, whoa, what's going on?

Now, skip to the next section of this video and watch the moves they did.

They'll all (ph) teachers. This is at -

WHITFIELD: I tell you.

LEVS: -- Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington.

Look at that. Pretty much like the whole teaching staff there, getting down for the students.

WHITFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) they get a chance to practice, you know, without the students ever seeing them?

LEVS: They did it in secret. My guess is they had a few students helping them. But very cool. And a good choice of song, too.

WHITFIELD: That's cute.

LEVS: All right. Now, one of the best Christmas light displays in the world --

WHITFIELD: Oh, let's see.

LEVS: -- is the next viral video for you.

WHITFIELD: Where? Where? Where?

LEVS: Check it out here.


LEVS: It's out at Perth, Australia.


LEVS: Sixty-five thousand lights ticked up to Christmas songs.


LEVS: Yes. I was really impressed by that. You know, every year there's some home (INAUDIBLE) I'll allow, and this one, this website, MessageOnHold, they do a lot of these. They post a bunch of these.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's cool.

LEVS: This is really impressive. OK, one -

WHITFIELD: Synchronized to the music and everything.

LEVS: And, you know, not everyone can get all high tech in the way they're celebrating this time of year.


LEVS: But we have a nice iReport I'm going to show you now.


LEVS: It's getting a lot of traffic online now. Take a look here.

This is a boy who, according to iReport, actually doesn't celebrate Christmas, Jewish boy, Anton Zellman, who decided to go volunteer at a Salvation Army, and they're in Canton, Georgia. He started inviting other kids to ring the bell in exchange for candy canes, if their parents approved.

WHITFIELD: OK, that looked like - she's like smacking her on the chin with that bell.

LEVS: Well, I don't know (INAUDIBLE).


WHITFIELD: -- after all. Ouch. That's nice.

LEVS: Apparently there's a lot of dropping and throwing, confused looking moms. But, you know, a nice way to celebrate.

WHITFIELD: That's sweet.

LEVS: Some people had another way to celebrate.

WHITFIELD: How, how, how?

LEVS: Alcohol.


LEVS: Take a look at this next video, BottomsUpBeer. Look at this. It fills from the bottom. You take a - you take an empty cup, and you put it on that thing, and it just fills with beer. Look at that.

This is their website, as you see, YouTube, and it's BottomsUpBeer. And this is from GrinOn Industries, and it - they write about how they do it. It involves a - a magnet at the bottom of the cup that they say is FDA-approved.


LEVS: So, like, the magnet - it's basically, I believe, inserted, like taken out and then put back in, and it stays put and your drink stays safe. And, you know, you can keep the magnet afterwards.

WHITFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) confused on that one.

LEVS: Well, (INAUDIBLE). I'll show you -

WHITFIELD: OK, good. Yes.

LEVS: And have time before we go to end on -

WHITFIELD: Remember, I'm the skeptic. Always a skeptic. How they do that?

LEVS: This is for you.


LEVS: A moment of relaxation.


LEVS: Every week (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: I love your voice, (INAUDIBLE) comes out.


A way to chill at the holidays, right?

WHITFIELD: Yes. All that holiday stress now gone.

LEVS: This is gone.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Just relax.

LEVS: Well, as always -

WHITFIELD: That's nice.

LEVS: -- the links to everything I just showed you are posted at my Facebook and Twitter. Let's show them my page, JoshLevsCNN. I posted all the links there.

You can send me your favorites, also your favorites of the year -


LEVS: -- because tomorrow, we will be doing some of our top videos of the entire year.

WHITFIELD: That's great, because there were a lot.

LEVS: Yes. We've got some good ones.

WHITFIELD: And I'm going to need a refresher.


WHITFIELD: Because, you know, I can barely remember yesterday.


WHITFIELD: So I know I'm going to enjoy it.

LEVS: You got it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Josh. Thanks so much.

LEVS: You got it. Yes.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate that. It was lots of fun.

OK. So, in addition to talking about some of the most riveting, dramatic images of the year, we're going to come back by counting down some of the top stories of 2010, next.


WHITFIELD: All right. As 2010 draws to an end, we're looking back on the news stories that shaped the year. Take a look.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin, with the 10 biggest stories of 2010.

(voice-over): At number 10, boisterous debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe if a mosque were built, then you guys would know what Islam was about.

BALDWIN: It was actually just a proposed Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero, but that didn't stop the outcry, especially from some 9/11 survivors and the families of victims.

TIM BROWN, FIREFIGHTER: This building is being built - built on the cemetery of our - of our loved ones. I lost 93 of my friends. What happened to the sensitivity going from the Muslim world to the families?

BALDWIN (on camera): The debate heated up on the Internet, cable TV, and landed on the doorstep of the White House.

OBAMA: This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.

BALDWIN: Developers right now are trying to secure funding for the Islamic center, which could cost more than $100 million. Project supporters say it is an effort to strengthen multi-faith understanding.

(voice-over): At number nine, a royal engagement.

KATE MIDDLETON, ENGAGED TO PRINCE WILLIAM: It was very romantic and it was very, very personal (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he get down on one knee?

BALDWIN: Prince William announced that he will marry longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton. He even gave her his mother's ring. They will exchange vows at Westminster Abbey in April. And another royal wedding 30 years after we saw Princess Diana walk down the aisle.

(on camera): The end of combat operations in Iraq is the number eight story of the year.

OBAMA: The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. Now, it's time to turn the page.

BALDWIN (voice-over): It came on August 31st. More than 4,400 American troops died during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thousands of noncombat troops will stay in place to help train and assist Iraqi forces until next year.

WikiLeaks is at number seven. Julian Assange and his website were at the center of that controversial release of hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. communications. They documented everything from U.S. actions in Afghanistan to personal comments about Kim Jong-Il's, quote, "flabbiness". Assange ended up being arrested as part of a sexual assault investigation in Sweden.

(on camera): Issue number one coming in at number six on our list of the year's biggest stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very easy to get very depressed and lie in bed and stay in your pajamas and watch TV all day.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Of course, I'm talking about the economy and the high unemployment rates.

OBAMA: There's no silver bullet. There's no quick fix to these problems.

BALDWIN (on camera): The market showed signs of life and the government passed a new legislation to overhaul the financial system. But for millions and millions of Americans, times are still very tough.



BALDWIN: The number five top story of 2010 actually began one year ago today. December 24, 2009, when the Senate passed the Health Care Reform Bill with a bitterly partisan vote of 60 yeas and 39 nays.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: Yes to health care as an inalienable right of every American citizen.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We will not do this. We will not commit generational theft on future generations of Americans.

BALDWIN (voice-over): After months of hotly contested negotiations, the House then passed the bill in March with a vote of 219 to 212.

(on camera): Thirty-four Democrats and all of the Republican members of the House voted against it. But the debate didn't stop there.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: The people who voted for this bill are going to get an earful.

SENATOR JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Hell, no, you can't!

BALDWIN: And many pundits would say that vicious debate over the health care bill in part spurred the number four story of the year, the Republican landslide at the midterm elections.

OBAMA: I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like they - like I did last night.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Fueled by Tea Party fervor, dissatisfaction with Washington and plunging poll numbers for the president, the Democrats lost their majority in the House. The Democrats will be holding on to the Senate by a razor-thin majority. And for the White House, the New Year promises a far more difficult political playing field. The changed president now confronted with what everyone in the Beltway and beyond assumes will be gridlock.

(on camera): But while it was a tough year for President Obama, it was an even tougher one for those Americans living on the Gulf Coast.

BALDWIN (voice-over): On April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 men and beginning what would come to be known as the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

For three months, oil gushed from that severed well head. And while the precise damage will never be known, it is estimated that more than 205 million gallons of oil poured into the Gulf. It was a terrible price to pay. Burn-offs and boom, underwater plumes and oil- soaked wildlife - the economic ramifications rocked the region.

TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I'd love my life back.

BALDWIN: And even after the well was finally capped in mid-July, the environmental damage still remains unknown.

(on camera): Just a few weeks after the well was capped, another tragedy, but this one would come with a happy ending.

(voice-over): You know the story. August 5th, 33 Chilean miners were plunged into dust and darkness. A mine in rural Chile collapsed, trapping the men more than 2,000 feet below the surface of the earth.

Weeks passed as frantic rescue efforts were attempted and failed, but on August 22nd, a miracle. A five and a half inch borehole reached an emergency shelter room in the mine, and when the drill bit returned to the surface there was a note attached, quote, "We are all right in the shelter, the 33 of us."

The 33 men would spend a record-breaking 69 days below the earth before the world would witness their ascent to freedom.

(on camera): Which brings us to the number one story of 2010, a story that has no happy ending, but one that shook the world and stirred an outpouring of grief far beyond the borders of the tiny island nation of Haiti.

(voice-over): The earthquake hit early Tuesday evening, the 12th of January. Seismologists measured the quake at a magnitude 7.0. But it would be far more difficult to wrap our heads around the magnitude of the human tragedy - 230,000 dead, more than a million made homeless overnight. Children orphaned, families separated and, perhaps hardest to bear, unknown thousands trapped beneath all the rubble - a humanitarian crisis that continues to this day.

(on camera): I'm Brooke Baldwin and those are the 10 biggest stories of 2010.