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American Morning

Bracing for "Black Monday"; Race Tightening in Iowa; No Holiday Cheer At The Box Office; Iraqi Ministry Hit By Suicide Car Bomber; Man Who Tackled 'Underwear Bomber' Sues; Opposition in Syria Reports Continued Bloody Crackdown; Businesses Expect Big Shopping Crowds in London; President Begins Vacation in Hawaii; Do Teen Sleepovers Prevent Pregnancy?

Aired December 26, 2011 - 08:00   ET


ALINA CHO:, CNN NACHOR Holiday shopping in overtime and overdrive. I'm Alina Cho. People mobbing the stores again today with gifts they don't want and gift cards they want to unload.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Ali Velshi. With the Iowa caucuses now just eight days away there's a new front-runner in the Hawkeye state, leaving many wondering why Iowans can't seem to make up their minds, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: Good morning. It's Monday, Boxing Day, December 26. I'm Alina Cho, along with Ali Velshi on this AMERICAN MORNING.

We're so glad you're with us. Hope you're waking up. Maybe you're still in bed, having a little coffee.

VELSHI: Maybe you just have shopping to do, whether it's here in the United States or overseas, where it's Boxing Day in Canada, in the U.K., in many other countries, a lot of people hoping this is going to be Black Monday. Millions of people heading to the stores this morning.

Analysts say the Monday after Christmas may end up being the third biggest shopping day of the year.

Alison Kosik is live outside of Macy's Herald's Square in New York City.

About an hour ago, people were just streaming by you getting into the store. How is it looking now?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They were. They were. And they continue to stream in. Can you see this? They are still walking in.

What time is it now?

VELSHI: Eight.

KOSIK: It's 8:00 in the morning here Eastern Time. And they have been coming in -- they've been coming in since 7:00. That's when this Macy's opened its doors. And would you believe that people were also waiting in line at other stores in and around New York City here? I don't know if we have the video. But you can see that people were waiting here. It was pitch dark out, but waiting in line to get into these stores.

Now, what I'm noticing, Ali, is that although this is the Monday after Christmas, it's usually the day people come in and return their gifts, I'm finding that a lot of people are actually walking into the stores empty-handed and walking out with stuff.

I talked with a few shoppers. They say because it's all about the discounts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They advertise. So we realized that that would be a good discount after the Christmas. So that's why we decided to come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're going to start lowering prices down because they want to get rid of all of the other stuff. They want to get rid of the stuff in the store now so they can restock.


KOSIK: They want to get -- they want to get rid of it, Ali. So what they are doing is offering some really deep discounts. So the discounts that you maybe saw before Christmas, they are probably going to be even deeper now, because what these retailers essentially want to do, Ali, is move this merchandise out and get ready for the spring stuff to come in -- Ali.

VELSHI: Yes, we started off with what looked like a very robust Black Friday, which we thought would lead through. But things seemed to taper off a little bit.

KOSIK: Exactly.

VELSHI: So, it's really the consumer's to lose at this point. They can get the deals they have been looking for.


CHO: Meanwhile, we're hearing --

KOSIK: It's a shopper's paradise is what I like to call it.

CHO: Well, that's great. Meanwhile, we are hearing that you have actually discovered who was to blame for all of those crummy gifts that people are returning today, Alison.

KOSIK: Are you surprised? It's the in laws, of course -- if you get those yucky gifts. You know, "Consumer Reports" says you're most likely getting the awful gifts from your in-laws, which if you get that ugly necklace or that awful sweater, and they wonder why you haven't worn it. It's almost like they plan on giving you something awful, so then they ask you a couple of weeks later, hey, why aren't you wearing it? It makes you wonder, huh?


CHO: Just an excuse to blame the in-laws, don't you think?

KOSIK: It's all strategy.

CHO: All right. Alison, thank you very much.

KOSIK: The national retail federation predicts that shoppers will bring back more than $46 billion in stuff they just don't want this holiday season.

So, how can you turn that into a win today? Here to teach us how to handle those returns like a pro is Annamaria Andriotis, reporter for

Good morning. Nice to see you.


CHO: So, you're the expert on this. It's interesting because people are getting in a lot of cases those hot electronics, whether it's the iPad or whatever it is, a flat screen TV. For those people who don't want those, and want to return them -- I mean, can they return them? I would imagine it's pretty tough.

ANDRIOTIS: They can return them. But the return policies on these products are among the strictest out there.

CHO: Right.

ANDRIOTIS: They only have a very limited amount of days to actually return these products to get a full refund.

CHO: And each store has its own policy. I mean, it's really difficult to navigate.

ANDRIOTIS: It does vary. So, for example, with best buy, they are giving consumers up to January 24th to return. That sounds generous. But in fact, it's not all that generous. Most stores give up to about 90 days to return holiday purchases.

CHO: Interesting.

ANDRIOTIS: Amazon gives about 30 days after the product has been delivered. So it sounds generous, but when you compare it to other products at other stores, it's not really all that much time.

CHO: It's probably too late for some people. But one of your big tips is, if you open that package and you see that it's a -- whatever it is, an electronic item, leave it inside the box, right? ANDRIOTIS: If you know you don't want it, and you're going to return it, you should just leave it in the package, because a lot of stores have what's called restocking fees. You're getting charged for opening something up, taking it out of the package and returning it.

CHO: And it's not just a couple of dollars.

ANDRIOTIS: It can be up to 25 percent of the purchase price of the item.

CHO: Unbelievable. I had no idea.


CHO: Also, you know, in some cases, people do get excited. They take the tags off. They lose the receipt, the gift receipt, you know? Is there recourse if that happens?

ANDRIOTIS: In many cases, there is. The best thing is that some stores are becoming more flexible. If you don't have a receipt, you take off the tag and go to return it, more retailers are willing to work with you to give you some sort of store credit. But in many cases, you won't be that fortunate.

CHO: Right. But if you don't have that gift receipt and the item goes on sale between the time they bought it and the time that you return it, you get the sale price, right?

ANDRIOTIS: You get the discounted price. And, in fact, that's what's happening at Macy's, for example, if they can't figure out how much was paid for that product when it was purchased. You're looking at getting that discounted price it's currently selling for.

CHO: Right. So save those gift receipts. Meanwhile, I found this interesting. A lot of people obviously, they don't know what to buy for their loved ones or their friends or their co-workers. They get a gift card. You can't return a gift card, can you?

ANDRIOTIS: No. You cannot return a gift card. But the good thing is that since last year, the rules impacting gift cards have really changed.

And it used to be that, you know, you only had a year to use it. Now, retailers are required to have these gift cards in effect for at least five years. So if you get it now, you have at least five years to use that gift card. So that gives you more time.

CHO: Well, if can you find it. Sometimes you lost -- I mean, I have lost them before, you know?

ANDRIOTIS: And that's a problem. Hold on to those.

CHO: Keep it in your wallet.

Annamaria Andriotis, reporter for -- thanks so much for those tips. ANDRIOTIS: Thank you.

CHO: All right. Good to see you.

VELSHI: All right. Turning now to politics. All eyes are on Iowa.

According to the latest polls, Iowa is up for grabs just eight days to go until the caucuses. And one former candidate says the caucuses there could actually be determined by the weather.

CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Des Moines, Iowa, this morning.

Paul, this is an interesting concept. Why would the weather have an effect?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Here's why, Ali. Let's say there's a lot of snow and it gets very cold on caucus day. That could prevent a lot of people from getting to the caucus sites, and -- well, maybe some supporters are more enthusiastic than others.

Take a listen, this is Mike Huckabee. He knows something about these Iowa caucuses.

You want them four years ago, the former Arkansas governor. Take a listen to what he said on the Sunday talk shows.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: If the weather is good, Mitt Romney is in better shape. If the weather is bad, and it's real tough to get out, Ron Paul will win.


STEINHAUSER: And the reason, because Ron Paul supporters, his backers here in Iowa, they are very devoted. They are very energetic and enthusiastic. They may brave those tough temperatures.

But, Ali, there is no snow here right now. It's actually kind of mild. It's going to be in the mid-40s today and all week. So, we'll see what happens next week.

But take a look at this as well -- you alluded to this. Here is the latest polling right here in the Hawkeye State. And it's a traffic jam at the top of the pack there.

Ron Paul at the very top. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, just one point behind. And one point behind him, the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich.

You can see everybody else there in single digits. This ARG poll, American Research Group poll, came out on Friday. It's the most recent we had here of people likely to take part in those caucuses.

Two other takeaways from this poll and all the others, still about one in 10 Republicans out here say, you know, we haven't decided yet. And a sizeable amount say, "We still may change our minds," Ali.

CHO: You know, Paul, it's Alina. Over the weekend, the news broke that both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry failed to qualify for the primary ballot in Virginia, 49 delegates at stake there, part of Super Tuesday.

I mean, this is a very big deal. I know the Gingrich campaign was saying they wanted to mount a write-in campaign, but that's against Virginia law.

So, is there any recourse there? And how did this -- how in the world did this happen?

STEINHAUSER: Virginia's got a high threshold -- 10,000 signatures is what you need. In fact, the only two candidates to get on the March 6 ballot now are going to be Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Everybody else either didn't try or as the case of -- in the case of Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry, they didn't make it.

Remember, Gingrich spent two days in Virginia last week. The deadline was on Thursday. He was there Wednesday night and Thursday, but didn't get over the top.

I guess it's another example of, listen, Gingrich's poll numbers soared over the last month or two, but his organization has not caught up yet. And here is an example of Gingrich's organization not able to get him on the ballot -- Alina, Ali.

CHO: All right, Paul Steinhauser, live in Des Moines, Iowa, for us. Paul, thank you.

VELSHI: And he is not getting out of there anytime soon.

Tuesday night, January 3rd, the country's first real votes -- the candidates' first real test. It takes place in Iowa. It's the caucuses.

Watch it all unfold live with "The Best Political Team on Television." America's Choice 2012, coverage of the Iowa caucuses begins Tuesday night, January 3rd, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

CHO: Other stories we're following today, a grisly Christmas morning northwest of Dallas. Seven people found shot to death inside an apartment in Grapevine, Texas, in an apparent murder-suicide. Police say it appears that all of the victims, four women and three men, were related.

VELSHI: And a Christmas morning tragedy in Stamford, Connecticut. Three young children and the parents of well-known advertising executive Madonna Badger killed in a house fire. Badger and a friend were able to get out alive. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

CHO: Arson is blamed for a Christmas fire that burned a post office in Nevada. Investigators found anti-government graffiti and bullet holes in the building. The blaze began outside, but firefighters sprayed the water into the mailboxes, and that of course soaked the mail inside.

Officials are now working to dry out the wet mail, and they are hoping to get it to customers.

VELSHI: Hackers target a global security think tank based in the United States. The company Stratfor is under attack by activists hacking group Anti-Sec. Anti-Sec says it crashed Stratfor's Web site, stole confidential client lists and published the credit card information of some 4,000 subscribers.

Now, the breach appears to be revenge for the arrest of soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of giving confidential information to WikiLeaks.

CHO: The makers of Enfamil say its product is safe and bacteria free, following a massive recall of their premium newborn formula. The company conducted a second round of testing on the same batch of formula that was consumed by an infant in Missouri who later died from a bacterial infection.

VELSHI: And still ahead, what a gift for sports fans. Hoops finally here. The NBA season finally tipping off on Christmas Day after the long lockout. LeBron James getting some long awaited revenge.

CHO: And while it was mild in much of the country, there was a rare white Christmas in one of the last places you'd expect. We'll tell you where that is.

VELSHI: And allowing your children's boyfriend or girlfriend to spend the night under your roof to prevent teen pregnancy? We're going to speak to an author who says that's the solution, and that many Americans have it all backwards.

It's 11 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Good morning, Dallas, Texas -- where it is cloudy and 44 degrees. Rain a little bit later in the day, with a high of 49.

VELSHI: Rob Marciano is in the extreme weather center for us right now.

Rob, what's it looking like out there in the rest of the country?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Goodness. You guys, I was having an elaborate conversation with none other than -- well, I won't call her out, but discussing what you showed before the break, which was this amazing video, snow video, which has been hard-pressed to come by, for Christmas, compared to last year.

This is out of El Paso, Texas, West Texas, one of many storms that came through the past couple of weeks, and they got a White Christmas on the Mexican border there. Enough snow on the ground to call it white. And actually, ther are still some snow on the ground in parts of West Texas right now. How about New England? 5.0 inches of snow in Bradley, Maine, Cambridge, Vermont, seeing four inches, and three inches of fresh powder in Stowe, Vermont. So, there were some spots that, at least, in upstate New York and Northern England that saw a little bit of white Christmas compared last year.

Remember, it was last year at this time, the Boxing Day storm of 2010, where the northeast corridor was just paralyzed by a blinding snowstorm. You'll get a little bit of wind but no snow or maybe a flurry. That's about it today in New York, D.C., and the metros. Boston, Philadelphia, some wind.

Got cool front coming through, and there are maybe some flurries in upstate New York, but generally speaking, just slightly cooler air coming in behind this system. There it is. It'll eventually get sunny. We're watching a couple of systems. Some cold air coming down from Canada.

Several systems lining up in the pacific, and a storm system that brought some, yes, that snow across West Texas, some rain across Central Texas, which they need, and the rain now moving into parts of Mississippi and the mid south. This will combine with a little cool front coming across Chicago.

And parts of western P.A., upstate New York, and Northern New England again will see a little bit of snow from this, but generally speaking, the mild weather pattern continues, and we'll see temperatures that will be well above average over the next several days. Temps 45 in New York to 48 degrees in Chicago.

Take a cue, the pacific northwest, just south of Seattle, this is storm damage from winds that came through Western Washington over the weekend. A lot of trees downed. Some power lines down. Even one fatality from a big tree limb that fell on a car. At one point, almost 20,000 people without power there.

So, not only a non-white Christmas, but a dark Christmas for our friends just south of Seattle. High temperature today in Seattle, 43, 41 degrees in Portland, and 70 in Los Angeles. And light winds as compared to what they saw last week

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: It must be nice.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to talk to you, Rob. Thank you, my friend.


VELSHI: All right. Green Bay Packers improving to 14-1 on the season, with a 35-21 win over the archrival Bears on Sunday night.


VELSHI (voice-over): The win, the Packers -- with this win, the Packers clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and the Bears are now eliminated from playoff contention. Aaron Rodgers had a career-high five touchdown passes for the Packers.

CHO (voice-over): Meanwhile, the NBA is back in action after a months-long lockout. Remember that? LeBron James and the Miami Heat taking on the defending champion, Dallas Mavericks, in a rematch of last season's finals. And it was a different story this time around. The King making a statement, scoring 37 points, to lead Miami to a 105-94 victory.

He's one of Santa's helpers, but he is about the size of 457 elves. Shaq O'Claus paid a visit to kids on TNT seg yesterday on NBA opening day. Shaquille O'Neal now retired and spreading the Christmas cheer. Definitely bigger than these elves.

CHO: I was working yesterday, and I actually watched a little bit of the program. For some reason, they started talking about weight. He said he's 400 to 500 pounds.

VELSHI: He's that big?

CHO: Yes. Unbelievable.

VELSHI: Wow! Really? I would never have guessed, but I guess, he's a big guy.


CHO (on-camera): He's Shaq.

Feed America's hungry and their pets. Anne King (ph), the founder of an Atlanta-based nonprofit called Save Our Pets is making that plea. The group provides pet food and medicine to pet owners who are no longer able to afford it. She was inspired by stories of some Americans who said they would rather live in their cars than give up their beloved pets.

VELSHI: And coming up next, are you due for a bigger paycheck in the New Year? We're going to show you where minimum wage is about to go up.

CHO: Plus, list about interns. Which industry's talent search is just going younger? We'll tell you. It's 19 minutes after the hour.


VELSHI: Twenty-two minutes after the hour. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Markets in the Europe and the U.S. are closed for the Christmas holiday. They will be open tomorrow. Right now, the S&P is in positive territory just a little bit for 2011. The Dow, however, is up six percent on the year.

Interns are a hot commodity in Silicon Valley according to the "Wall Street Journal." Bay area tech companies are in fierce fight to find and recruit summer interns. The file sharing company, Dropbox, actually dispatched its entire engineering department to recruit interns and more than a dozen colleges.

Eight states are raising the minimum wage in 2012. The nation's lowest paid workers will see their hourly rate go up between 28 and 37 cents in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Washington now offers the highest minimum wage at $9.04 an hour.

Many of you will be hitting those big after Christmas sales today, but you may want to wait on a few big ticket items until after the New Year. According to retail analysts, you're better off waiting to buy fitness equipment to take advantage of New Year's resolution promotions. Also, electronics like HD TVs, with the Super Bowl coming up, will be cheaper next year.

Snow blower prices expected to drop 30 percent to 40 percent between January and March for (Inaudible) need snow blower in March.

You'll see a drop in car prices at the beginning of the month as dealers try to get rid of the 2011 models to get the 2012 ones in to their show rooms.

Shoppers are expected to bring back a record-setting $46 billion worth of unwanted presents this season. That's according to Shop for Track (ph). No receipt, no problem. Some big chained stores like Wal-Mart no longer require receipts to get a full refund, but, you could end up receiving the current selling price of the item, which might be lower than what was paid for it.

Mission accomplished. The latest "Mission Impossible" sequel won the box office weekend, but movie sales overall not looking so hot this holiday season. studio Execs hoped that 2011 would finish with a bang, but with just a week left, ticket sales are running $500 million behind last year.

Well, still ahead, look fast. It's not just a high-speed train, it's a super high-speed train going over 300 miles an hour. We'll show you where this baby is being tested.

Plus, new developments out of Syria this morning. Cities under siege by their own army. AMERICAN MORNING is back right after this break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They executed little children because they shout against the Assad.

CHO (voice-over): Stories of carnage in Syria. A government crackdown only getting more intense as the Arab world tries to step in on this AMERICAN MORNING.


VELSHI: Good morning. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It is 29 minutes after the hour. Your top stories now. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI (voice-over): There are more worries about Iraq's future this morning after yet another deadly car bombing. Police say a suicide car bomber struck a security checkpoint right outside Iraq's interior ministry compound, killing at least two people. Dozens have died in bombings since the last U.S. troops left Iraq only a week ago.

CHO: Hackers target a global security think tank based right here in the U.S. The group is called Anti-sek and is loosely affiliated with Anonymous. They bragged online about viewing confidential information from the company, Stratfor.

Hackers listed confidential client lists, e-mail, home addresses, and released credit card information for some 4,000 subscribers. Among Stratfor's listed clients, Bank of America, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. defense department.

VELSHI: A prominent Egyptian activist and blogger who became a symbol of the struggle there is now out of jail and calling the nation's new military rulers criminals who are no better than Hosni Mubarak. Allah Abdel Fatah (ph) was released from military detention yesterday nearly two months after his arrest. He still faces charges related to anti- government demonstrations earlier this year.

CHO: The man who tackled the so-called underwear bomber on a plane on a Christmas Day two years ago is now suing two airlines for $10 million for letting him get onboard. He claims that he suffered physical and psychological injuries during the incident, including permanent numbness in his hands.

Delta Airlines and Air France are named in the suit. Both have declined to comment. The underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty for trying to blow up the plane.

VELSHI: One activist said snipers are shooting at anything and everything. The slaughter continues in Syria this morning as Arab League observers arrive to try and end the bloodshed. The opposition says at least 18 more people were killed yesterday, and the situation is dire in the city where the uprising started.

Mohammed Jamjoom is watching live from Cairo this morning. Mohammed, give us a sense of what is going on, what the Arab League is hoping to achieve by going into Syria.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ali, first, let me tell you, even more disturbing news to report. We are getting reports from opposition activists inside the city of Homs. They're telling us that at least 21 have been killed today, hundreds injured. This on a day that Arab League observers are set to start arriving to try to help end the violence there.

While it's hard to authenticate videos, there are more videos emerging on sites like YouTube purporting to show scenes of the aftermath of violence. We're seeing what purports to show injured people in homes and hospitals, victims of the shelling that people are saying they are sustaining there.

We keep hearing words like "Carnage" and "Bloodbath" being used by activists there, and this on a day when Arab League observers are set to arrive. And it's making people question just how effective this Arab league observer mission can actually be.

You know, a few days ago, a protocol was signed with the Syrian government between the Arab League and the Syrian government on December 20 to allow these observers in. The same day we got reports of a massacre happening where hundreds of people were killed. So right now, a big question as to what the Arab league will be able to accomplish. Will they be given free rein to the affected areas? One Arab League member telling us by phone today that they will travel to homes tomorrow. But again, a question as to whether they will actually be able to go to the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit. Ali?

CHO: All right, Mohammed, you touched on this a little bit. But will the Arab League -- I mean, do people believe they will actually be able to go into those areas most heavily affected at this home?

JAMJOOM: It's a big question, Alina. You know, there are those in the opposition in Syria that are glad the Arab League is coming and they think they need to get to a city like hums right away because they say if the Arab League observers don't get there, these opposition activists say they are afraid that the bloodbath will continue, and they're afraid that the brutal crackdown will only increase in the days to come.

Then there are those opposition activists in Syria that say that the Arab League is completely ineffective, and even though they are there, it will somehow be used as the regime as a stalling tactic. Even if they are given access to neighborhoods, they won't be the most affected and cracked down upon. So the Arab League do believe they will be able to put an end to the violence there, but we just don't know. And the brutal crackdown seems only to be escalating and continuing these last several days. Alina?

CHO: All right, Mohammed Jamjoom live for us in Cairo for us, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, in places like Canada and U.K., this is their black Friday. Canadian Ali Velshi, you know that very well. They're getting ready for a hectic boxing day in London. The underground is shut down. It's known as the tube is shut down, expected to be at a standstill with workers going on strike today. Our Erin McLaughlin is live in London with a look at that. Erin, good morning. So people are still out there shopping, aren't they?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are, Alina. Retailers here say they are well on their way to making their shopping targets, that target of $78 million in sales today.

Take a look at a scene from Selfridge's, a luxury retail store. Let's look at what happened when they opened their doors earlier this morning. As you can see, it was an absolute frenzy, as those shoppers from around the world really rushed through the doors to get those luxury good bargains. We spoke to some of those shoppers. This is what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, we were quite lucky. We came around the side entrance, avoided most of the queuing. So that was quite handy. But I did see quite a bit of a crush going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last year, we came here. We thought it was worth our while getting up early this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of them are better than half price.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been doing it since the '70s. So it's a family tradition more or less coming to the sale, and especially the handbags. Very good value.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bargain shopping for us in South Africa, because with the exchange rate it makes it very affordable for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything is out of stock, so we came here to find some pieces I can't find in our country. And the sales are huge.


MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Alina, you mentioned that tube strike today. That is a strike on London's underground subway system that many Londoners rely on to get around the city. That doesn't seem to have affected shoppers all that much, many making their way on the 200 some-odd extra buses on the streets of London. Some even walking in to get some of the bargains, Alina.

CHO: A subway strike isn't going to keep me from shopping.


VELSHI: I was going to say, wouldn't slow you down.

Erin, we are well into the shopping day now. Any sense of how the sales have been going?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Ali, I have Jace Tyrrell here. He is a representative from the shopping district. He is representing the 600 some-odd stores just in the Oxford Regency and Bond Street areas with me. And let's just ask him. How is shopping going so far?

JACE TYRRELL, SHOPPING ANALYST: Well, it's mega-Monday here in the west end, an absolute surge of shoppers coming through. You're right, the tube strike hasn't deterred them. We are well on target to go to $50 million pounds today here. Luxury items, a diamond necklace from $18,000 pounds down to $8,000 pounds, and that sold in the first hour at Selfridge's. But a lot of shoppers out, and a lot of international shoppers here, and certainly robust figures coming through, up 10 percent to 15 percent from previous Boxing Days.

MCLAUGHLIN: And I understand that Christmas sales came later this year. What can you tell us about that?

TYRRELL: Certainly. I think there was a last-minute rush here. Shoppers seeing what kind of discounts they could do. Christmas eve, millions of shoppers came through. Obviously, today, boxing day, they are out in force. And across the U.K., another public holiday tomorrow. So we expect a large amount of shoppers to come through tomorrow also.

MCLAUGHLIN: How does this compare to previous years? The U.K. economy is hurting at the moment.

TYRRELL: It has been a tough year for retailers in Britain. There's been a rush, and here in the west end we will end up about three percent up. We need some high spending items to go through the tills, and hopefully they'll be in the best position to start 2012.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, thank you, Jace.

There you go, Ali. It looks like strong Boxing Day sales here, at least in this part of London.

VELSHI: Enjoy the day out there. Fun day to be out. Lots of people even with that tube strike. Erin, thank you.

It looks like a bullet, and it may seem like one when it whizzes by. China has launched a super high speed train capable of traveling more than 300 miles an hour on the ground. Wow. The front of it is meant to resemble an ancient Chinese sword, by the way. This is only a test run. China already has the world's longest and fastest high speed rail service.

CHO: Incredible

VELSHI: Yes. I'm a big train guy. Of course America is not the best place for trains. We're not that big on them here.

CHO: But it's a great way to travel. I mean, we do it a lot for work, going to D.C. and New York. And I have to say, center of city to center of city, not a bad way to go.

VELSHI: Easy, comfortable. Walk around.

CHO: Anyway, lest we sound like a commercial for Amtrak, still to come this morning, the president on vacation in Hawaii. How the commander in chief is mixing business with pleasure this holiday season.

VELSHI: And would you allow your teenager's boyfriend or girlfriend to spend the night in your home? And I'm not talking about like separate bedrooms and all that. I'm talking about, you know, whatever. It sounds crazy, but parents in other countries do allow it, and some studies say it might be preventing teen pregnancies. Talk about counterintuitive. We are live with a researcher who will explain. This is an interesting one. Stay tuned for it. It's 39 minutes after the hour.


VELSHI: We're doing this all "Over the Rainbow" stuff because it's Hawaii, the president is in Hawaii, it's 44 degrees in Washington, where he's not. It's a lot warmer in Hawaii. But our camera is in Washington. It's partly cloudy. Later on today, it will be up to 47. It's fairly mild.

CHO: We're very close.

VELSHI: Pardon me, Alina. It's good to be back with you.


CHO: Welcome back, everybody.

VELSHI: I've only been doing this for several months to know where I'm supposed to be sitting.

CHO: President Obama is celebrating the Christmas holiday in Hawaii with the first family after winning that bruising battle in Washington over the payroll tax cut extension. CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is traveling with the president.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aloha to you, Ali and Alina. President Obama left Washington on Friday shortly after signing that payroll tax cut extension into law. And because this is the biggest part of his jobs plan, he came here to Hawaii with a political victory very much under his belt, and now is expected to spend his time here resting and relaxing not far from where he grew up.

On Christmas Eve he did something he frequently does, loves to do, he played a round of golf. Then he made phone calls to servicemen and women serving overseas and had dinner with his family. Then on Christmas the first family went to church on a Marine base not far from the house they're staying at. All of the Obama women donning sleeveless dresses because the weather here is just beautiful. And then the first family also greeted military men and women there at that marine base later on Christmas.

Now at this point there's no public events on the president's schedule. We're expecting him to do a number of other kind of typical Hawaiian vacation activities with his family, maybe some more golf. But he will, of course, be receiving his daily national security briefing, as he always does, because this is always a working vacation for President Obama. Ali and Alina?


CHO: That is one tough assignment for Brianna Keilar, I have to say, Honolulu for like two weeks.

After taking an earful for house leaders for weeks, President Obama just got a mouthful from a little kid. Take a look at that photo there shot yesterday while the president was greeting service members and their families in Hawaii, of course. CNN has not yet been able to determine whether that little guy there is a Republican or a Democrat.

VELSHI: This was a picture released by the White House, I believe.

All right, that picture was good, but how about this crazy piece of video?




VELSHI: How does he do that?

CHO: I could watch it all day long.

VELSHI: Stewart the salsa dancing dog is a YouTube sensation. By the way, he's not the dancing salsa. I'm told that is actually a meringue.

CHO: We're going to go ahead and believe our writers on that one -- 1.3 million views.


CHO: Going viral.

Your top stories are next, including new developments out of North Korea. Kim Jong-Il's son strengthening his hold on power with a new post. We're going to tell you about that.

VELSHI: Ok, I've been waiting for this all show. This is a remarkable study. Would you let your teenager's boyfriend or girlfriend spend the night in your home, on their own, unsupervised? Teen sleepover dates are normal in some other countries, and a researcher here says that may be a good thing. She's going to explain next.

Its 45 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Forty-seven minutes after the hour. Here are your "Morning Headlines".

Another deadly car bombing in Iraq: police say a suicide car bomber struck a security checkpoint right outside Iraq's interior ministry compound, killing at least two people.

Syria accused of intensifying a bloody government crackdown, even as Arab League observers head to the country today. The opposition now says at least 21 more people have died, hundreds more injured. One activist in the city of Homs says attacks by government forces have continued nonstop for more than three days. Kim Jong Il's son gaining more power in North Korea; A North Korean paper identified Kim Jong Un as head of a ruling worker's party committee today; that's a major sign he is on track to take full control of the communist nation.

Markets in the United States and Europe are closed for the holidays today. Trading resumes tomorrow and the final four sessions could determine whether some of the major indexes end 2011 up or down; the DOW is up six percent on the year.

A strike in the London underground: The Tube threatening to cause chaos on Boxing Day, the biggest shopping day of the year there.

Today is expected to be the third busiest shopping day of the year in the US as people mob the stores with holiday returns and gift cards to unload and retailers slashing prices before the New Year.

And the ghosts come alive at the box office. "Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol" cruises to number one this holiday weekend. The Tom Cruise sequel raked in $26.5 million, beating out another sequel, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

Someone in Maryland is sitting on a Powerball ticket worth -- get this -- $125 million. Lottery officials say they still haven't heard from the winner just yet. The lucky ticket was apparently was sold at a liquor store in Elkton. The owner says the winner did call to verify the numbers and promised to stop by in the next couple of days.

That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


VELSHI: That is the beautiful Capitol Building in Des Moines, Iowa, where it is a sunny 25 degrees. It's going up don't worry, Iowans, it's going to get warmer, it's going to get up to 47 today and partly cloudy. We're going to be paying a lot of attention to Iowa over the next week. The caucuses are next Tuesday.

After all of this talk about politics, people are actually going to finally cast a ballot. And from the looks of it, we'll -- we'll have a lot to talk about in the next week.

Welcome back. You are not going to believe this. A shocking approach to preventing teen pregnancy by allowing to have sleepover dates with their boyfriends or girlfriends. Sociologist Amy Schalet is talking about it in her new book, "Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, the Culture of Sex", just out from the University of Chicago Press and get this she says that the sleepover strategy is already working in other countries. Here to explain is author and professor, Amy Schalet.

Welcome, thank you for being with us.

AMY SCHALET, AUTHOR, "NOT UNDER MY ROOF": Thank you for having me.

VELSHI: This is a little bit counterintuitive. SCHALET: It is.

VELSHI: I was reading something about Netherlands, where this is a lot more permitted. That girlfriends and boyfriends in their teens sleep over at each other's house in a non-platonic way.

SCHALET: Often true, yes. But let me clarify. It's not a situation where everything goes.

VELSHI: Exactly, ok.

SCHALET: So it's definitely older teenage couples who established a relationship.

VELSHI: I got it.

SCHALET: And parents have talked about contraception.

VELSHI: Ok. So it's a whole -- it's this holistic approach to a different way of looking at sex.

SCHALET: Absolutely.

VELSHI: Of different way of looking at sex. Is that -- is it counter to the idea that sex under my roof is just so not permissible that with teenaged kids that -- that we don't talk about it and then kids go do their own thing?

SCHALET: Exactly. In fact, a lot of the Dutch parents say we want to know what's going on because that way we can have more influence, and that way we can have an open conversation. And that's what's counter intuitive about it. Rather than think of -- thinking of it as permissive, it's really one where parents stay more connected to their teenagers.

VELSHI: But that's an entire difference in a European or Northern European view of sex and sexuality than we have here in the United States.

SCHALET: Well, and that's why I say, you know, the take away of this study for American parents isn't necessarily you must permit sleepovers, because many parents are going to say not under my roof.

VELSHI: Right.

SCHALET: That's the title of my book. The take away is you can have more open conversations. You should probably have more open conversations about what's a good relationship, sex and contraception should go together. What does it mean to be ready? How to get rid of some of these damaging stereotypes, gender stereotypes. Those are all things that are going to promote teenage health and better relationships between parents and kids.

VELSHI: There are some numbers here I want to show from a demographic year book that shows teen birth rates per thousand, girls 15 to 19: in the United States, it's 41.5 per thousand this was in 2008; in the Netherlands, 5.2 per thousand. Now, what's that got to do with? Why is that the case?

SCHALET: Well, there are many factors that contribute to that. I have to say, one is higher poverty rates in the U.S. Better services in the Netherlands. Contraception, sex education. So forth. There are many factors.

But the approach that parents take does matter. So if parents make it possible for a young woman for instance who is considering becoming sexually active, to ask the mother can I go on the pill.

VELSHI: Right.

SCHALET: And the mother says no way, versus well, are you sure, shall we go to the doctor, that's going to make a big difference as to whether or not.

VELSHI: In the U.S., we have other influences.


VELSHI: Some of them political, social, religious influence. For instance this issue of Gardasil, this issue of vaccinating young girls with Gardasil. There are some people who don't want the vaccination because they say that alone suggests promiscuity, or that alone suggests permissiveness.

So how do you -- how do you deal with these challenges where there are some people who would like their kids to abstain from sex they'd like them to be virgins until they are married? How do you bridge that gap? Because people are having sex clearly, kids are having sex.

SCHALET: Right, absolutely. All over the Western World in the late teens, most young people do have sex.

I think what you emphasize is that above all, the conversation is important. And that the conversation itself does not make teens have sex, which is one of the things that I think parents sometimes think.

And that even a conversation about Gardasil can be about, this is promoting health. You know, this is something that may eventually become part of your life, sexuality, at a point that you think is healthy, at a point that we hope for you. But we want you to be protected.

VELSHI: So a parent who does not want their teenaged child who is living in their home to be sexually active should still engage in that conversation?

SCHALET: Absolutely. Absolutely -- and I'm not alone in that. I mean the American Academy for Pediatrics recommends those kinds of conversations. Many experts agree that having conversations about sex and not just sex but relationships, which is --

VELSHI: And health, as you said. These things are all hand in hand --

SCHALET: Yes. And making choices so that it's not something that just happens to you or you have to be drunk to do it.

VELSHI: Where is the best place to go for this conversation, if for whatever reason you're the teenager and can't get that conversation at home? Because some parents are just not going to have it.

SCHALET: Ideally, the schools would be providing it. And some schools do a good job. But as you know, it's a very politicized issue.

VELSHI: Right.

SCHALET: So, a lot of times teachers have a hard time as well. They have many constraints. There are a lot of clinicians out there and studies show that teenagers want to talk to their doctors, their health care providers. So I think health care providers can really help out.

Ideally the clergy actually, I think they play an important role. And young people would like to be able to have more open conversations that are again as you mentioned holistic, not just sex pure, you know.

VELSHI: Right. Right. So the issue is separating it from, you know, separating sex the act from sexuality, health, and relationships.

SCHALET: Absolutely.

VELSHI: Making the whole thing one.

What a great conversation, Amy. Thanks very much for coming in and talking to us about it.

SCHALET: Thanks for having me.

VELSHI: Amy Schalet is the author of "Not Under My Roof" and a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts.

All right. It is 57 minutes after the hour. We're taking a break. We'll be right back.


VELSHI: All right, New York. It's 9:00. Even if you're not working today, you have to get up, because you're just lazy if you're still in bed.

CHO: Right.

VELSHI: 41 degrees, going up to 45 and sunny.

All right. Now that we have Christmas out of the way, New Year's Eve is almost here.

Have you got any plans? Why not grab a bottle of champagne, pull up a chair, because the big party kicks off this Saturday night here on CNN. Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin once again hosting CNN's New Year's Eve celebration. You never know what you're going to get. CHO: That's right. That's right.

VELSHI: It's always worth tuning in on CNN. Other places you can watch, you kind of know what you're going to get. But you never know on CNN.

CHO: Generally makes the blooper reel the following year.

VELSHI: The party starts 11:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

CHO: Thanks so much for joining us on AMERICAN MORNING --

VELSHI: That's it? Done?

CHO: -- we are done for the day. Three hours and we're done. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Hala Gorani starts right now while Ali and I will head to the mall -- Hala. Good morning.