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Fighting Food Insecurity This Holiday Season; Airlines Cancel Hundreds of Flights Due to COVID Surge; Pope Francis Calls For Dialogue During COVID Pandemic; Economic Fallout Of Pandemic Driving Up Food Insecurity; Biggest Media Stories Of The Year; More Restrictions Across Europe As Omicron Spreads; Kentucky Deputy Killed Saving Seven Inmates As Tornado Hit Factory; The Biggest Climate Stories Of The Year. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 25, 2021 - 07:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas everyone and welcome to this special holiday edition of NEW DAY. I'm Amara Walker in for Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and Merry Christmas, Amara, great to be with you. I'm Boris Sanchez. Coming up, this time of year can be really difficult not only for those living with food insecurity, but also the organizations that are tasked with feeding the hungry. The President and CEO of Feeding America joins us in a few minutes.

WALKER: And climate was a major focus across the globe this year as nearly 200 nations met to hammer out an agreement to address the climate crisis. We've got to look at the year and climate coming up.

SANCHEZ: But first, let's get a check of your news headlines.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you and Merry Christmas. I'm Jessica Dean. The Omicron surge means getting home for Christmas is a challenge for many travelers today. Both Delta and United flight cancellations are in the triple digits for the second straight day. Delta canceling 268 flights while United had 196 cancellations. JetBlue has canceled 120 flights. The airline's blamed staffing shortages stemming from the Omicron variant. CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean has details.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Jessica airlines say that as these Omicron cases went up and caused their staffing levels to go down, leading them to cancel some flights. In fact, most of the flights according to FlightAware cancellations on Friday were at United Airlines and Delta Airlines but also Allegiant and JetBlue. We obtained a United Airlines memo to its staff in which it said these Omicron cases are primarily impacting its flight crews and its operations folks, those behind the scenes. Now the airline industry says there is a fix for all of this. They

want the isolation period required for somebody who gets a breakthrough coronavirus case slashed in half; right now, it is at 10 days. The airline industry is pleading with the CDC to set that at five days even though some airline worker unions oppose that. Even still, the number of travelers is very high. 2.19 million people screened at airports across the country on Thursday.

That was expected to be one of the busiest days for travel. Although still many more busy days ahead. The TSA anticipates another 20 million people will travel between now and January 3. That's when they expect everybody to come home all at once. Jessica.


DEAN: All right, Pete Muntean for us. Thanks so much. Pope Francis is calling for dialogue as the world copes with the COVID pandemic. In his Christmas message from the Vatican, the Pope warned against the tendency to withdraw during a crisis. He says in social relationships and on the international level dialogue is essential. CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen is joining us now. John, great to be with you this morning. This is the second Christmas under the COVID pandemic for Pope Francis. What is his message for people who are losing hope?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, hi there, Jessica, and a very Merry Christmas to you from the Eternal City. Yes, this was very much a COVID-scared Pope Francis, I think we heard from this morning. Of course, the pope celebrates his big public mass for Christmas the night before on Christmas Eve, he participated in a private mass this morning. Then at noon today, Rome time delivered his annual Orbi et Orbi message to the city in the world. And in it, he very much stressed his repeated calls for justice and global access to the vaccines but beyond that, express deep alarm over the social impact of, of everything that's going on.

So, women trapped at home who were suffering additional abuse children who were building being bullied, elderly people who were isolated, alone and afraid. And in response to all of that he called for a culture of dialogue and encounter that is reaching out to meet people and then engaging them in dialogue, finding out what's on their hearts and minds and trying to be present to them. So, all in all a very pastoral but also, Jessica, a very topical message from the pope during this unfortunately COVID encumbered Christmas.

DEAN: Right, it certainly seems like for everyone COVID Of course is playing such a pivotal role in all of our Christmas celebrations. All right, John Allen for us in the Vatican. Thanks so much and have a Merry Christmas.

NASA will attempt to launch what's being called the world's most advanced telescope this hour but weather could force yet another delay. The James Webb Telescope will take one months to complete its orbit around the sun it's just under 1 million miles away and because it's going to be so far away it will not be able to be serviced or repaired if anything goes wrong, the $10 billion telescope will be able to observe the atmosphere of planets outside of our solar system as never before potentially finding ones that might sustain life.


Newly released video providing an in depth look at the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol from a different vantage point. CNN's Jessica Schneider walks us through the pictures.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a three-hour long video that CNN actually had to sue to obtain from the Justice Department. And it is the most in depth look so far that we've seen from this location on the Lower West terrorist at the Capitol. So, taking a look at this you can see the battle begin to unfold between the rioters and Capitol Police this first clip, it shows the crowd making their way toward the tunnel and police beginning to block the tunnel. And what's key here is that Capitol police actually succeeded in holding that line until the building was cleared hours later, no writers made it inside the Capitol from this entry point.

And we've heard from some officers in the past year they said they didn't even know that the Capitol had already been breached in other spots. They were so busy trying to keep this these riders from getting in but soon in another clip. You can see the crowd turn on police one man at this point even hung hangs from the top of the tunnel kicking his legs out at police and then it turns even more confrontational and violent rioters they start spraying cops who stood guard with pepper spray they started pointing strobe flashlights at them even striking them with batons, you can see flag poles and then more than an hour in police push back again.

You can even see at one point the helmet getting knocked off one of the officers' head there's also video of cracked glass and a lot of fighting. This is a three-hour long video. It's all taken from Capitol police surveillance video, and that's why there's no sound. But this is video that is just been presented by prosecutors in court media outlets had to sue to make it public. And they've been using this video for the more than 700 people who have now been charged dozens of them appearing in court at one time. Jess, back to you.

DEAN: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much. Still ahead this morning, millions do not have enough to eat this holiday season. It's a problem made worse by the pandemic. And coming up, we're going to talk to the CEO of Feeding America about what they're doing to help those in need and how you can help.



SAN: If you've been doing some holiday shopping at the grocery store lately, you've no doubt notice the rising cost of food. Those rising costs and the ongoing supply chain disruptions are taking a toll not only on families, but also on the organizations that feed those experiencing food insecurity. WAL: Joining us now is Katie Fitzgerald, she is the President and CEO of Feeding America a network of more than 200 food banks across the country. Katie, a pleasure to have you on, on this Christmas Day. If we could just start first of all, speaking about what Feeding America does, especially for those who are not familiar.

KATIE FITZGERALD, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FEEDING AMERICA: Sure. Well, first of all, let me wish you both a very Merry Christmas. And to all the viewers out there. It's so wonderful to be with you today. The Feeding America network of food banks essentially serves every county and parish throughout the United States to make sure that people who may be facing food insecurity or hunger can access nutritious food right there in their communities. So, they work we work with about 200 food banks who work with 60,000 partner agencies, including your local churches, community organizations and the like.

Again, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. And there's tremendous inflation, the cost of food is rising. Walk us through how difficult it's been for food banks across the country to meet demand.

Yes, so since the beginning of the pandemic, we have talked frequently about the impact on food insecurity as a perfect storm. We've seen tremendous increases in demand, though they are down from when businesses were closed early in the pandemic, we're still at elevated levels over pre pandemic levels. As you mentioned, we've seen tremendous pressures in the supply chain. And then right now the major challenge that food banks are facing is the increased cost of food. So as you and I see those prices go up in the grocery store, food banks were able to get through to serve almost 6.6 billion meals last year, in part by purchasing food. So they're experiencing those pressures as well on their budgets and their ability to meet the need right now.

WAL: So, for those who are watching, who want to help, but say, Look, I don't have that much extra to spare. What can they do?

FITZGERALD: Well, the great news to share this morning is that hunger in America is a solvable problem. And again, we showed through our network and through the incredible generosity of Americans all over this nation, that when our neighbors are in need, we can stand in and help so folks can donate if they have the ability to do so to their local food bank. And they can go to feeding and find that local food bank right in their community.

And again, donations are great right now, because we're really having to purchase food in order to meet this increased demand. In addition to all the food that we get donated to food banks, they can also volunteer food banks all across this nation are open for business and are actively serving the needs of their community and need volunteers to help sort and distribute food and there's really safe opportunities out there to do so. And then finally, advocate, there are really important actions Congress can still take to increase investments in the emergency food assistance program right now.

And that's vital because we do anticipate about a 30 percent decline right now in the availability of commodity food through the USDA. And so, an increase in the Emergency Food Assistance Program is a vital action Congress can take and all of us can call our elected officials and let them know that that's important for us and for our neighbors.

SANCHEZ: And Katie, when it comes to specifics, what would you say is the most urgent need what would be most helpful?

FITZGERALD: Well, food -- food is the most urgent need and so again, if anyone out there has the ability to donate food, if folks work in the food industry, and you want to explore how your company can help donate to feeding America's network of food banks, and then of course giving financial donations. This is a time not only are we facing You know as everyone knows some ongoing challenges with the pandemic and supply chain the increased price of food is really making it hard for food banks so anything folks can do would be greatly appreciated.


WALKER: Thank you so much for all that you do, Katie Fitzgerald. We wish you the best and a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for joining us.

FITZGERALD: Thank you. Thank you so much.

WALKER: So, in a year, that has been difficult in many ways, there are still reasons to celebrate even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Here's CNN's Al Goodman.


AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the end of another hard year, the festive lights in New York City are a soothing sight, the gift many of us wanted a return to our normal lives and the vanquishing of COVID-19 is still elusive. And even though it may be a struggle for some to see, there is something to celebrate this year, our resilience. Traditions may be altered, but in many places go on, like taking the children to see Santa Claus in this winter wonderland in Finland, there is no sitting on Santa's lap and no whispering in his ear. Mom and dad will just have to be in on that little secret, but Santa has a wish too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been hearing worrying news around the globe, about well-being and coping of children and young people. Now, it's time to turn these worries into plenty of goodwill.

GOODMAN: People around the world are finding ways to make the season a little brighter, like this Santa's in Peru, visiting children infected with COVID 19. Wearing a mask. Santa didn't come down the chimney, but delivered presents instead through open windows with the help of a fire truck.

Migrant children strike a pinata at a shelter in Tijuana, a little holiday cheer as families gathered together for a religious festival to commemorate Mary and Joseph search for shelter before the birth of Jesus. A quest close to the heart of many people here who have been stuck in this border town for months. While they wait for permits to enter the U.S.

A volcano blotted out the livelihoods of many residents of Spain's La Palma Island. thousands were forced to evacuate as rivers of lava incinerated houses, buildings and farms. One Church says it will rise above those ashes and has even incorporated them into its nativity scene.

RUBEN LOPEZ, VOLCANOLOGIST: To the church. closest to the to the volcano. We wanted to make them. Smile.

GOODMAN: People in Kentucky are still trying to come to terms with the devastation caused by tornadoes that obliterated entire neighborhoods and killed dozens. One woman says she may have lost her house, but will keep a promise made to her daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tell our baby, we're going to have Santa Claus wherever we're at, you know, he's coming to visit, and we'll do the best we can.

GOODMAN: Doing the best we can when things seem to be at their worst. Maybe that's the true spirit of the season. How Goodman CNN.

SANCHEZ: Thanks to Al Goodman for that report. Still ahead. A President kicked off social media and major bombshells from the now former Royals are counting down the top 10 media stories after a quick break. Stay with us.



WALKER: There have been royal family bombshells and streaming wars and the never-ending debate over canceled culture.

SANCHEZ: Yes, there's been no shortage of major media moments this year. CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter has a look at the top 10.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: 2021, the year the media and the world tried to get back to normal. The pandemic is now a subject of scripted dramas and movies helping us process it, but it's not over yet and some things have changed forever. So, here are our top 10 media stories of the year.

Number 10. De-platforming Donald Trump. Twitter permanently banning the President just days after the Capitol insurrection, while Facebook gave him a timeout.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our breaking news this hour. Facebook says former President Donald Trump will not be allowed back on its platforms until at least January 7th, 2023.

STELTER: While Trump cries censorship. Social media CEOs are just trying to figure out where to draw the line.

Number nine. TV news turnover. Chris Cuomo out at CNN after text messages showed how he helped his gov brother fight sexual harassment allegations. Now both Cuomos are out of jobs. Soon the 9:00 p.m. timeslot and MSNBC is in for a change to with Rachel Maddow renewing her contract but expanding into documentaries and preparing to leave her daily our. MSNBC also needs to replace Brian Williams, who signed off in December with a warning.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: For the first time in my 62 years, my biggest worry is for my country.

STELTER: And over at Fox a very different departure. Lou Dobbs ousted without explanation, but it happened 24 hours after he was named in a defamation lawsuit. At the end of the year, Chris Wallace announced he was leaving Fox on his own terms. He's joining CNN and its forthcoming streaming service.

Number eight. Oprah's bombshell interview with Prince Harry and Megan Markel. The revelations shook the royal family, with the Duchess of Sussex citing the family's "concerns" about baby Archie skin color. She said she felt so alone, she contemplated suicide.

MEGHAN MARKE, DUTCHES OF SUSSEX: I just didn't want to be alive anymore.

STELTER: Fallout from the interview rippled across the media. And when a co-anchor called out Piers Morgan for his anti-Meghan rants, he stormed off the set of his British morning show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You continue to trash her.

PIERS MORGAN, TV SHOW HOST: OK, I'm done with this.


MORGAN: Sorry. Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what, that's pretty -- I'm being.

MORGAN: Sorry, can't do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is absolutely, diabolical behavior.

STELTER: He then left the network. As for Harry and Meghan, they are now making podcasts and TV shows, which leads me to --

Number seven. The streaming wars. Hollywood giants are trying to get even bigger, investing more and more in streaming series. To keep you subscribe. Streaming is the focus of AT&T is deal to spin off Warner media including CNN and combine it with Discovery if OK-ed by regulators the new standalone company will take shape in mid-2022 going head-to-head with Netflix and Disney. In 2021 shows like "Squid Game" and "Ted Lasso" want attention and award and studios kept experimenting by putting movies like Black Widow both on streaming and in theaters at the same time. When Disney did that, Scarlett Johansson shocked Hollywood by suing for breach of contract, showing that the rules are being rewritten every day.

Number six. Daring reporting from Afghanistan. As the Taliban encroached on Kabul and the U.S. withdrawal turned chaotic. Reporters became the eyes and ears of the world.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've just told me to stand to the side because I'm a woman.

STELTER: CNNs Clarissa Ward documented the Taliban's takeover. Despite all the uncertainty and earned praise from fellow journalists. Behind the Scenes, ward == and hundreds of others worked to evacuate in danger reporters, assistants, drivers and other Afghans who worked with Western media. The local reporters who remain there face a hostile climate. Which brings me to --

Number five, the continuing crackdown on global press freedom. In Hong Kong, police raided a pro-democracy newspaper in June arresting top editors a month before that this incident shocked the world, a dissident Belarusi and journalist arrested after his commercial flight was forced down in essentially a state sponsored hijacking.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Have we seen anything like this before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No is the short answer.

STELTER: Countries around the world are rolling back the rights of reporters in sometimes brazen ways. The committee to protect journalists says a record high number of reporters are behind bars now. With China being the worst jailer.

Number four. The woke wars. It's an awakening over racial and social injustice has some but an overreaction to others? Is it canceled culture or consequence culture and whatever it's called has it gone too far? These debates raged across media all year,

it will eventually get to straight white men are not allowed to talk.

This is called a purge. It's a mentality that belongs in Stalin's Russia,

canceling Dr. Seuss isn't stupid. It's intentional. Of course,

Dr. Seuss wasn't cancelled. His legacy company simply decided to stop publishing a few titles that had racist imagery. But free speech issues are real, and alternatives are emerging for people who want to bypass traditional book publishers, newspapers and other gatekeepers. Writers are flocking to substack and multi newsletters, a new model that brings fresh debates over free speech.

Number three. January 6th denialism. The Big Lie about Trump winning the election, led to the big deny desperate attempts to erase the violent reality of the riots.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: You see people walking around and taking pictures they don't look like terrorists, they look like tourists.

STELTER: That's foxes highest rated star trying to rewrite history. While commentators stoke conspiracy theories. Right wing media barely covers the real news about the insurrection's aftermath or the new efforts to subvert democracy at the state level. What we are losing in America is a sense of shared reality. But the big lie may cost its crusaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking just a short time ago Fox facing a $1.6 billion lawsuit accused of spreading election lies.

STELTER: And that was just the beginning to voting tech companies have filed multiple defamation suits against Fox News and other networks. And a series of blockbuster books continue to reveal what really happened during Trump's final days in the White House.

Number two, the Facebook reckoning. A whistleblower was heard around the world first through the Facebook files, a series of Wall Street Journal stories based on leaks from inside Facebook, then the source Francis Haugen stepped forward.

FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy. The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram saver but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.

STELTER: Haugen alleged that the company's own research showed its platforms can be toxic for children and society writ large. But the company failed to take action. CEO Mark Zuckerberg pushed back saying many of her claims didn't make sense. But Haugen gave new momentum to governments that want to rein in social media? Anti-social media was the through line for the entire year, bringing us to the number one media story of 2021.

The vaccine disinformation divide. Reliable info about COVID-19 vaccines helped people get vaccine and protected but anti-vax lies, and distortions went viral. From Facebook to Fox in ways that worsened the pandemics terrible toll. The right-wing media machine took conspiracy theories from the fringes and move them to the mainstream.

PEARSON SHARP, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, ONE AMERICA NEWS NETWORK: Radical left-wing fanatics who are bent on forcing each and every American to get themselves into duct tape with experimental unproven drug.

STELTER: Fox News demonized Dr. Anthony Fauci

LARA LOGAN, HOST, FOX NATION: This is what people say to me that he doesn't represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele.


STELTER (on camera): And the anti-science rhetoric cost lives.

(voice-over): Several right-wing radio hosts who resisted vaccines died of COVID. T.V. stars who claimed to respect their audience actually put them at risk. Big tech platforms said they tried to clean up the garbage.

(on camera): But the vaccine divide is a sad reflection of a choose your own news culture. It's incumbent on everyone to choose carefully.

Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

WALKER: we have a check of your top stories.

Just ahead, plus, 2021 saw historic agreement among nations in an effort to combat the climate crisis. We have a look at the top climate stories of the year, coming up.


SANCHEZ: Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and welcome back to this special edition of NEW DAY Weekend. I'm Boris Sanchez.

WALKER: And I'm Amara Walker. Coming up this half-hour, nearly 200 countries came together in an effort to fight the climate crisis.

An important step in years that brought drought, dire news about the state of the planet. We are counting down the top 10 climate stories of the year.

SANCHEZ: And we'll introduce you to the man being hailed as a hero after saving seven jail inmates before sadly losing his own life, when an E.F.-4 tornado swept through the town of Mayfield, Kentucky.

WALKER: But first let's get a check of your top stories this morning.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks so much, Boris and Amara. Good morning and Merry Christmas. I'm Jessica Dean in Washington. And we begin this morning with a major moment for NASA.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have engine start?



(INAUDIBLE) lift off from a tropical rainforest to the edge of time itself

James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the universe.


DEAN: There it goes. The $10 billion James Webb Telescope lifted off from the European Space Agency's launch site just moments ago. The telescope, which has been called the most powerful ever will take one month to complete its orbit around the Sun, which is just under a million miles away, and because it will be so far away, the telescope won't be able to be serviced or repaired if anything goes wrong.

The $10 billion telescope will be able to observe the atmosphere of planets outside of our solar system as never before, potentially finding which planets might sustain life. The Omicron COVID surge is making a holiday travel a headache for a lot of people today. Both Delta and United flight cancellations are in the triple digits for the second straight day.

Delta canceled 268 flights, while United canceled 196 flights. JetBlue canceled 120 of its flights. The airlines blamed staffing shortages, stemming from the Omicron variant.

They want the CDC to cut the isolation period in half for employees who develop breakthrough cases from 10 days down to five.

DEAN: And countries across Europe are tightening restrictions in response to that COVID surge. The U.K. has set a new daily case record now for the third day in a row.

CNN producer Nada Bashir, joining us now from London. Nada, good morning and Merry Christmas. Give us an update on the COVID surge and how governments are responding.

NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): Good morning, Jessica. Yes, that's right. The situation does seem to be deteriorating now in the U.K.

More than 120,000 cases recorded on Friday. And now, one in 20 households in London expected to have a coronavirus. So, there are serious concerns mounting.

And while Boris Johnson hasn't implemented any new restrictions at this stage, we could be seeing tougher measures coming into force ahead of the New Year.


BORIS JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF STATE, BRITISH FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS: People can go ahead with their Christmas plans, but the situation remains finely balanced, and I would urge everyone to exercise caution.

BASHIR (voice-over): Boris Johnson giving the British public some rare positive news that this year, Christmas isn't canceled. But the joy is short-lived. As this week, the U.K. reached all-time highs in the number of new daily cases of coronavirus, putting pressure on the government to curb the spread of Omicron.

JOHNSON: I've got to say to the British public and I say to everybody, we will not exclude going further if we have to do things to protect the public.

BASHIR: But as Johnson urges the public to get boosted as quickly as possible, his reputation has been mired in recent scandals.

JOHNSON: All guidance was followed completely during number 10.

BASHIR: With allegations he violated his own lockdown rules last year. Johnson insists no rules were broken. But the public's willingness to observe strict measures is waning. Neighboring Scotland, Wales, and some European countries have already announced measures to try to curb the spread of the virus during the festive period.

Last week, France tightened its travel restrictions, banning British tourists from entering the country. Greece and Italy have now introduced outdoor mask mandates as the virus continues to spread.

Portugal is also ordering schools, bars, and nightclubs to close for more than two weeks after Christmas to deal with a surge in infection sweeping the country. On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stopped short of a lockdown, banning large gatherings of more than 10 people, putting a stop to many New Year's Eve parties.

OLAF SCHOLZ, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): I can understand everyone and each of you who doesn't want to hear any more about corona, about mutations, and new virus variants. But we cannot and must not close our eyes to this next wave that is beginning to loom over us.

BASHIR: And was this Netherlands high street is usually bursting with Christmas shoppers over the festive period, since Sunday, it's been empty. The shops left deserted and no cheer in sight, as the Omicron surge forced the Dutch Prime Minister to put the country under lockdown, casting an early chill on the Christmas spirit.

For now, England may have spared Christmas gatherings. But as Omicron continues to surge at an alarming rate, plans for the New Year are as elusive as Santa himself.


BASHIR (on camera): And what early evidence suggests that these rising cases might not necessarily translate to rising hospitalizations that Omicron variant is expected to become the dominant variant across the continent in just a matter of weeks, really stoking concerns that more restrictions need to be brought into force. Jessica?

DEAN: All right. Nada Bashir for us in London. Thanks so much to you. And let's get a check of the Christmas morning forecast now with meteorologist Tyler Mauldin who is joining us from the CNN Weather Center.

Good morning, Tyler?


TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, Jessica. It's not going to feel very much like Christmas across the southern tier of the country today.

Temperatures during the afternoon hours should be in the 50s. But today, we'll only -- we'll get up to the 70s and 80s. Roughly 20 to 30 degrees above average. From the southern plains, the Mid Atlantic, records are possible. Not only today, but also Sunday and Monday and Tuesday as well. A little bit of a different story though across the Northeast where we have a winter weather advisory in effect. This is because of a -- an approaching system that's going to bring a cold rain and then a wintry mix.

It is possible over this weekend that we could see up to a quarter inch of ice in that region.

Now, up here across northern plains, going into the Great Lakes, little clipper systems pushing over, that could leave behind about a foot of snow in that area. And we'll be measuring the snow and feet.

And we'll continue to measure the snow of feet across the mountains out west, where we could see more than four feet of snow across the Sierra Nevada. Lower elevations, a lot in the way of rainfall and you add in some wind here and it's going to cause some very treacherous driving conditions.

So, that's why about 30 million people, Jessica, are under winter weather alerts at this time.

DEAN: All right, Tyler Mauldin for us on this Christmas morning. Thanks so much. And I'll see you back here at the top of the hour. For now, let's send it back to Boris and Amara.

SANCHEZ: This one's devastating tornadoes took at least 77 lives in Kentucky alone. One of them was Robert Daniel pictured here. He was a deputy jailer who is supervising inmates on a work-release program at a candle factory when the tornado hit the town of Mayfield.

WALKER: The entire building collapsed, and Daniel died inside. But not before leading all seven of the inmates he was responsible for to safety. And for that, he is being hailed as a selfless hero.

I had the opportunity to speak with Daniel's family. Here is our conversation.


WALKER: How would you like everyone to remember your brother?

ALONZO DANIEL, BROTHER OF ROBERT DANIE: Just as a hero, he did exactly what he was supposed to do in that -- In that time, you know. So, myself, his children, and the rest of my family were, you know, were -- we just want him to be remembered for what -- for what he done, for what he -- who he was as a person. And, you know, that's all we can ask for at this time.

WALKER: Can you tell us a little bit more about, you know, what happened when the tornado hit and how your brother reacted?

DANIEL: From what we was told --


DANIEL: And what Mr. Workman was told by the inmates when they heard, was it the siren, or the Lord the (INAUDIBLE), he was trying to get everybody to a wall, I guess, a safety wall that they were all supposed to be to. And he was making sure that all seven of the inmates got in there. And I think when he got the last inmate in, he wouldn't be able to make it in, and you know -- and then, it led to his death.

WALKER: Oh, George, if you will, do tell us more. I mean, that really is selfless. You got everyone to safety except for himself.

GEORGE WORKMAN, GRAVES COUNTY JAILER: Yes, ma'am, he did. He did exactly how he was trained, and he did the one thing that, as I've said many times before, that all of us in law enforcement think about, you know, if we have to pay that ultimate price, there's only been one person that I know of that's ever given their life for me. And that was Jesus Christ.

And here we have this selfless individual, who was a stand-up individual, all the way around. He went down it for seven people that he barely even knew.

WALKER: You know, I have to go back to that picture of Robert Daniel, Alonzo, your brother. That smile, waving at the camera. He just seemed like such a happy, good-hearted soul.

Could you tell us a little bit more about him as a person? I know that he had seven children. Is that correct?

DANIEL: Yes, ma'am. He was a father of seven, a grandfather of seven. He just enjoyed life, in general. He loves to be around his family. He loves doing family events. You know, that's just who he was. He was always, you know, we probably just didn't, you know, appreciate it, how giving of a person he was when he was here with us, but you know, we're going to make sure that, you know, from here on out, that is known how giving of a person he was.

WALKER: And George, I understand that you had moved him to supervise the seven inmates and he was quite excited about it. How many days had he had been at this candle factory working, supervising these inmates in this work release program? And I understand he was quite excited about this new position.


WORKMAN: Yes, he was very excited about it. And he had only been there for -- this was his fourth night. The picture that you have of him smiling was because he was on his wait for orientation now at the candle factory.

And the deputy that took the pictures was kidding with him and said something along the lines of, you're on your way to your first day at school and he, he kind of -- he always had this thing where he'd smile, and he wave at you, like get out of here. And that's, that's kind of what he was doing. There. He was, he was very excited about it.

WALKER: You know, Alonzo, we covered the story, you know, the moment that it happened. And, you know, we saw the images in real-time and, you know, was learning in real-time what all that huge pile of debris was that indeed, it was a candle factory.

WALKER: (voice-over): We learned in real-time that there had been 110 people or so, according to the governor, who had been trapped in there. Sadly, your brother was one of them.

When you look at the devastation this tornado has caused and looking forward to the future, what would you like for all of us at home to understand and what can we do to support your community and your family?

DANIEL: Well, just as a community in our -- you know, this is a very strong community. We will build back up. That's -- there is no doubt about that. You know, like, as you said, this, this is going to devastate us for a while, but, you know, we may be down but we're going to get back up. We're going to keep fighting, and we're going to keep doing what is needed to get this community back where it needs to be. Probably even better than ever.

And I'm going to ensure, you know, that Robert's legacy is involved in that. He wouldn't want it any other way. So, we're going to make sure that happens.


WALKER: And CNN has compiled a list of ways you can help the victims of those devastating tornadoes, just go to



SANCHEZ: So, this year, the world collectively turned its attention to the threat posed by climate change. Nearly 200 nations came together to hammer out a historic agreement to address the climate crisis. And according to experts, the need for action is right now.

CNN's Bill Weir has a look at the top 10 Climate stories of the year.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The signs were everywhere in 21, starting at the top of the world, where Greenland's highest peak was so freakishly warm, that it rained for several hours.


WEIR (on camera): Oh, my goodness. Will you look at this? Behold, Yacub Shavin (ph), the biggest glacier and the biggest island in the world. Actually, you can't really see the glacier from here anymore. It used to end right about here 8,000 years ago. But the Calving faces retreated dozens of miles up this fjord. A lot of those miles in recent years at a scary rate.

(voice-over): A new study predicts that the Arctic will see more rain than snow as soon as 2060. And in the meantime, the ice sheets, so vital to a planet in balance is melting at a staggering rate.

At number nine, that ice surprised in Texas, which illustrated how the climate crisis can run hot and cold. With windshields below zero on the Rio Grande, nearly 10 million lost power. The February blast became America's costliest winter storm events ever.

At number eight, flash floods on three continents. In Germany and Belgium, modern-day warning systems failed as a month of rain fell in one day.

In China, commuters clung to the ceiling of a subway as 1,000-year flood hit Henan province.

And back in the U.S., the deadliest flood in Tennessee history came like a tidal wave.

At number seven, the U.S. rejoins the Paris Climate Accord hours after Joe Biden became president.

But, pledging to slash planet cooking pollution by half this decade is one thing. Convincing Congress to take bold action is another.

At number six, a code red for humanity, as scientists around the world issue their most dire warning to date. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it is unequivocal that human activity has cranked up the global thermostat by over two degrees Fahrenheit and that we are careening dangerously close to a point of no return.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We meet with the eyes of history upon us.

WEIR: And those warnings made number five all the more urgent. Cop 26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

WEIR (on camera): Of the four main themes laid out by Cop 26 host Boris Johnson, coal, cars, cash, and trees. Probably it's going to be cash that provides the biggest challenge.

WEIR: For the first time in 26 meetings, the world's delegates agreed that fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis. But not a single country committed to stopping oil or coal production anytime soon.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A monster named Ida, a hurricane is intensifying quickly and drawing chilling comparisons to Katrina.

WEIR: Hurricane Ida comes in at number four. As 150-mile per hour winds screamed ashore in Louisiana in early September. But that was just the beginning. Ida's aftermath dropped a rain bomb on New York sudden enough to drown families in their basement apartments. And all told, the single storm cost over $60 billion.

SANCHEZ: We are following breaking news this morning. A dangerous and deadly night across the central United States. A powerful line of storms unleashing at least 24 tornadoes across five states.

WEIR: At number three, tornadoes in winter.

December usually brings the fewest twisters of any month. But record warmth and a Heartland spun up funnel clouds from Arkansas to Ohio. And weeks later, the damage is still being tallied.


WEIR: At number two, the Pacific Northwest heat dome, which pushed the mercury in famously mild Portland well over 100 degrees for days, creating a mass casualty event of creatures great and small. Over a billion shellfish baked to death on the shores of British Columbia.

And the little town of Lytton broke the Canadian heat record three times in a week before most of it burned to the ground.

And at number one, America's mega drought. Pure water can come from rivers, reservoirs, or from wells, all of which have been impacted by a 20-year megadrought fueled by the climate crisis, with 90 percent of the West starving for rain.

The feds declared the first-ever shortage of the Colorado River, which is a source of life for over 40 million Americans.

Meantime, smoke from Western wildfires reached the east coast this year, from one to 10. It is all connected and without dramatic changes on a global scale, scientists warn us the worst is yet to come.

Bill Weir, CNN, New York.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Bill Weir for that sobering report. Still ahead this morning on NEW DAY, fears over the Omicron variant prompting a new wave of restrictions around the world. And there are concerns about what that could mean for the already battered global economy. We'll be right back.