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CNN Sunday Morning

Iran Considers Pulling Out of U.N. Nuclear Regime

Aired December 24, 2006 - 09:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: "Now in the News," a developing story. Word just in that one of Spain's top surgeons was rushed to Havana a few days ago to treat Fidel Castro. The story published today in a Spanish newspaper. The report says the intestinal specialist arrived Thursday with medical equipment not available in Cuba.
French and American intelligence sources reportedly suspect a terror plot against the Channel Tunnel this holiday. That's according to London's Observer newspaper. The paper says the alleged plot may involve Britons of Pakistani ancestry. The 31-mile underwater train tunnel connects Britain and France.

The U.N. speaks, Iran not listening. The U.N. Security Council has approved sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Now Iran is considering whether to pull out of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog group. We'll have the latest from Tehran in just moments.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: A suicide bomber targets Iraqi police and authorities say the bomber killed seven police officers, wounded 30 others in the town of Muqdadiya. We also got word today of two more U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. The military says they died in separate roadside bomb attacks south of Baghdad yesterday.

That's the sound of church bells ringing in Bethlehem as thousands of pilgrims from around the world gather in the traditional birthplace of Jesus this Christmas Eve. And in Vatican City, Pope Benedict prepares to celebrate Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, leading more than a billion Roman Catholics into a second Christmas as Pope.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hi, Santa Claus! I have been the best girl in the world! Could you please come to my house! I'll give you some cookies and some chocolates and milk!



NGUYEN: Well, that's what we all do, right? Santa gets calls all the time. But you might be dialing the wrong number.

HOLMES: Yes. We will speak to a man who gets 100 misdialed calls a day from children looking for Santa.

NGUYEN: Boy, I bet that phone is just ringing off the hook this time of year. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, it is Sunday, December 24th. A very special visitor is with us on this Christmas Eve. And who else?

HOLMES: Santa.

NGUYEN: Himself. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. Thank you so much for being with us on this Christmas Eve.

NGUYEN: Let's start off with the standoff over Iran's nuclear program. It is intensifying. The U.N. Security Council has approved sanctions against Iran, but the country vows to move full speed ahead. Now Iran's parliament is pushing for a vote on whether to drop out of the nuclear watchdog agency. Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman reports now from Tehran.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Continued defiance is one thing, but Iran is now set perhaps to dramatically ratchet up tensions after the U.N.-imposed sanctions over Iran's nuclear program. The country's parliament is over the next 48 hours urgently discussing Iran's relationship with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. Now what that means in a practical sense is that Iran could withdraw from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, could take out IAEA inspectors, and then could pursue its nuclear program in secret.

That would immediately ratchet up fears that exist in the region, especially from Israel. Ratchet up tensions as well between Iran and the West. This morning, though, Iran's president continued his defiance, saying these sanction were insignificant. And a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry said they were illegal.

MOHAMMAD ALI HOSSEINI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Because we don't believe that this resolution has undergone the right legal path, we are not bound to implement it and we will continue our peaceful nuclear activities and this resolution cannot create any problem on Iran's nuclear path.

RAMAN: The spokesman went on to say Iran would push ahead with its nuclear program, push ahead with its construction of some 3,000 centrifuges at a nuclear site in the city of Natanz as Iran moves ever closer to self-sufficiency on the nuclear front. That's really the issue. That's the undertone of this continued defiance. These sanctions limit technological assistance for Iran's nuclear program. The question is how much assistance does Iran really need at this point?

There is near uniform support on the streets for Iran's right to have peaceful civilian nuclear energy. And to get that support to fray, the sanctions would have to be ratcheted up, would have to be sanctions on commodities such as gas. That would require the U.N. to reconvene in a matter of months and revisit some of the divisions that Iran has been nearly masterful at playing against each other between China and Russia and the rest of the countries on the United Nations Security Council.

So for the moment nothing has changed on the ground. Iran pushing ahead with the nuclear program and perhaps set to reconsider its relationship with the IAEA.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Tehran.


HOLMES: And the U.S. calls the sanctions against Iran a first step. But the Bush administration says that may not be enough. White House correspondent Elaine Quijano joins us now live with the reaction to the sanctions vote.

Hello to you, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, T.J. Well, the United States certainly is applauding this resolution on Iran. At the same time it wants countries to do even more. Now in a statement over the weekend, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls on countries to implement their obligations under the resolution and said, quote: "The Iranian government, through its own actions, has further isolated itself and the Iranian people from the international community. This resolution is a strong signal to the government of Iran."

Now the statement went on to say that Iran should accept its international obligations and suspend what the secretary called its sensitive nuclear activities and accept a previous offer to come to the negotiating table. Now the United States though is hoping that this resolution will really pave the way for countries to go beyond this, to take even more steps, particularly targeting the money that is flowing into Iran. As one top State Department official put it, the U.S. isn't putting all its eggs in a U.N. basket -- T.J.

HOLMES: Elaine Quijano for us from the White House. Thank you so much, Elaine.

NGUYEN: Such ominous music. And here's why. Holiday travel, it's been quite a mess, but it's getting back on track in Denver. Airport officials there hope to open a sixth runway today which should open the way for more flights. That is the good news, but here's the bad. Many of the people stranded at the airport, well, they still don't have seats on many of those outbound flights.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, central Wisconsin having power issues.


PAT LOY, WAUSAU RESIDENT: You can't curl your hair, you can't vacuum the carpet, you can't put your Christmas tree lights on. It's...


LOY: No heat! Right. It's getting cold in the house. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Yes. No heat.

NGUYEN: Yes. I think I would have said no heat right out of the gates there.

HOLMES: But, yes, she went with curling her hair.

NGUYEN: But the curling irons, that's important to us women.

HOLMES: Can't curl the hair. Well, that powerful snowstorm knocked out the lights to about 30,000 people from Wausau to Stevens Point. But power crews have been working overtime and are half way to getting those Christmas lights back on.


NGUYEN: And let's just give you a word of explanation, shall we? As we take a live picture of Denver, Colorado, where things are improving for travelers there, you will notice that our picture is pushed back this morning. That's what we call a squeeze-back. And that is so that we can show you constant updates on what you need to know over the holiday weekend as far as it relates to travel. And many of you are heading home for the holidays.

HOLMES: Yes. So you kind of need that for those up-to-the- minute travel delays. Unfortunately there always are going to be some. And also the up-to-the-minute weather conditions across the country. You'll have that throughout this hour.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Usually people just rob banks. They don't kill people during Christmas.


NGUYEN: This is just an awful story. It feels like a mean old world in Little Rock, Arkansas, this morning, here's why. We get a story from "Across America" where police say a robber shot and killed a bank teller, took the money. And then, get this, he called out Merry Christmas as he made a break for the door. The bank is offering a $25,000 reward.

Well, in Boston, the I-90 tunnel part of what's known as the Big Dig is open this morning. The tunnel had been closed this July after parts of the ceiling fell on a car, killing the driver. Late last night federal inspectors signed off on repairs.

The Donald now suing over his massive American flag. He wants $10 million in damages from Palm Beach, Florida, because they want him to take it down. The city's main problem is actually with the 80-foot flagpole which violates town rules.

HOLMES: Dial those numbers carefully, kids. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the beginning I thought it was like a one- time thing when it dawned on me that the children were dialing 1-800- SANTA-CLAUS and making a mistake.


HOLMES: Yes, the next time your kid tries to phone Santa, he might get a businessman on the line. We'll speak to Santa's helper, that's just ahead.

NGUYEN: And speaking of Santa, the man himself is paying a special visit us to right here at the CNN Center. The chair is all set up and ready and waiting. The kiddos are here. Santa, come on by.

HOLMES: That brings us to our e-mail question. What is your favorite holiday memory? Also, we are getting some holiday pictures as well. Send those on to us. You can send them to us at We're going to read some of your responses and hopefully show some of those pictures a little later in the newscast. So please, so much to stick around for.


NGUYEN: Well, a Christmas surprise right here on CNN. Last hour we connected Army Reserve Sergeant Amanda Engen, who is serving in Iraq, with her family in Minnesota. But for Amanda, it was a true Christmas surprise, she had no idea she'd be talking to her family. Take a look.


SGT. AMANDA ENGEN, U.S. ARMY RESERVE: I would like to tell them that I am very safe, and I am in good spirits. I'd like to say hello to my family and my friends at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And I would like to tell them that I have not yet opened the Christmas presents.

NGUYEN: Well, looky here. Guess what? We have your family live today and they're really anxious to talk to you. I'm sure they're so excited to see you. So, mom and dad, let me just let you take over the mike and say whatever it is that you want to say to your little girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Amanda. Merry Christmas.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great to hear your voice. We love you and we are so proud of you, Amanda.

ENGEN: I can hear you. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We miss you.

ENGEN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nice to have a....

ENGEN: Oh, I miss you so much!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We miss you, too, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We miss you, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to be apart at Christmas, but we're really not apart, are we?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the next best thing to being there.

ENGEN: No, not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. So, you haven't opened your presents?

ENGEN: No -- well, just the one. I cheated just once.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheated only a little.

ENGEN: Cheated a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's good. I'm so proud of you, Amanda. This is so exciting for us to be here and have a chance to tell you merry Christmas in front of all of these people and to tell you how proud we are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got a lot of family and friends that are watching, so say hi, Amanda.

ENGEN: Hi, everybody. I love you, I miss you. I hope to see you in a week.

NGUYEN: This is so great. Mom and dad, let me ask you this, how does she look? I mean, she seems to be in great spirits, but I imagine you haven't seen her in a while. So how does she look to you today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, actually we can't see her. We're just on the voice.

NGUYEN: I wish you had a monitor. Doggone it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we've only got about 30 people taping this.

NGUYEN: You will see her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will see her. NGUYEN: Well, Amanda, any special traditions at mom and dad's house that you really miss this time of year?

ENGEN: Oh yes. You know, we usually open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, so I'll be missing out on that, but the thing that I miss the most is my little brother waking me up way too early on Christmas Day because Santa Claus has came, and I'm not going get that, but I think I'm going wake up early and open some presents with some friends.


NGUYEN: And I just have to tell you, Amanda was so excited. We didn't get to see it there, but when the camera was all done, the interview was over, she was turning to the people that were around her, you know, the different troops and was just bursting with joy. She was so surprised to be able to talk to her family on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, they didn't get to see each other, but they will because there are plenty of family and friends who were taping that for them.

HOLMES: Thirty was the number.


HOLMES: That are recording.

NGUYEN: I'm sure there are at 12 or half a dozen with that, too. Well, here's a question that kids ask their parents every Christmas. How does Santa get all those presents to all those kids?

HOLMES: There's actually a real science behind Santa. We're going to talk to an aerospace engineer who says there's more to it than a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, seriously.

NGUYEN: Oh yes. hello, North Pole, is Santa there? This man kind of looks like Santa, but he is fielding hundred of Christmas calls. We're going to dial him up in about 15 minutes.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Claus-ometer (ph), suddenly it just dropped down to zero. There's just no Christmas spirit anymore. The strain was too much.


NGUYEN: Well, Santa may need a high-powered sleigh like the one from the movie "Elf" to get the job done tonight. And let's just hope it doesn't break down like that one did. So far so good though. The U.S. military is tracking Santa's progress right now on their Web site, So how does Santa do it? How does he get all those presents to all those kids in one night? With just a few elves, a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer? Well, Larry Silverberg is a professor at North Carolina State University.

And you say there is plausible science behind Santa, don't you, Larry?

LARRY SILVERBERG, PROFESSOR, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY: Oh, yes. It's very technical, but at the same time very feasible.

NGUYEN: OK. Well, I'm going to need you to break this down very simply for us, if you would. First of all, let's look at the numbers because it's pretty astounding. There are 191 million children under the age of 18 in industrialized countries, break that down, the average is 2.6 children per home. So there's 75 million homes that Santa has to visit. How in the world does he get the job done?

SILVERBERG: And those 75 million homes takes 122 miles and it really is a long distance...

NGUYEN: One hundred twenty-two miles, that's all?

SILVERBERG: One hundred twenty-two million miles.

NGUYEN: Ah there we go.

SILVERBERG: And we really do think to give himself enough time to do it, that he has developed called relativity clouds.

NGUYEN: OK. How exactly does that work?

SILVERBERG: Well, we don't completely understand it, but we know from relativity that time...

NGUYEN: Some scientist you are, Larry. No, I'm kidding.

SILVERBERG: Well, what can I tell you? But time dilates, space contracts. We know about that, but remember, Santa Claus and his elves have a lot more technology than we have. We think he's a couple hundred years ahead of us.

NGUYEN: Well, let's talk about these elves. There are so many kids out there. First of all, how do they get all of these presents and all of these gifts together in time. I mean, does he have a whole army of them? Are they back there working on them right now?

SILVERBERG: Well, we think he uses nanotechnology, but if you back up a little bit before that, Santa has to know what the children want.

NGUYEN: Truly, how does that happen?

SILVERBERG: Well, we think that he has an antenna under the snow.

NGUYEN: Under the snow.

SILVERBERG: That spans miles.

NGUYEN: OK. But what about places that don't have snow?

SILVERBERG: Well, the antenna is up at the north pole.

NGUYEN: OK. I've got you.

SILVERBERG: Yes. And he basically receives electromagnetic waves and then he filters them out and finds out which ones come from which children and then filters them further to find out whether they've been good or bad or even what presents they want.

NGUYEN: Here's the thing, though, I have to admit, Santa's not a skinny guy. He's a little bit overweight, so how does he squeeze through all those chimneys? How does he get off the ground with all of these gifts and just eight tiny reindeer? And one more thing, I'm loading you up here, Larry, because you're the science guy. Not only that, but how does he get it to homes where there aren't any chimneys?

SILVERBERG: Well, that relativity cloud really is the key, because once you're inside that relativity time and space work differently and you can fit an entire sleigh, reindeer. And then you can morph to fit through the chimney or even the tiniest of openings. Not to worry, Santa Claus can get those presents under the tree.

NGUYEN: And so for the kiddos who haven't called up Santa or haven't been able to send him an e-mail just yet, is there still time?

SILVERBERG: There's time right up until later on this afternoon.

NGUYEN: Because he's got all of this nanotechnology. I mean, he can do anything.

SILVERBERG: Well, he certainly has capabilities that exceed our own and it's just wonderful how he uses all of that technology to get all those presents to the kids.

NGUYEN: You know what? I think you're working for Santa. I think he has you on the payroll, Larry.

SILVERBERG: I think that all of us here and at CNN are on the payroll, at least today.

NGUYEN: Well, I hope I get something good under the tree, then. Thank you, Larry Silverberg, the Santa scientist. We appreciate it.

SILVERBERG: OK. Take care.

HOLMES: Did you get all that?

NGUYEN: Nanotechnology, radars. Yes.

HOLMES: I just like to say it's magic. Can we just go with that?

NGUYEN: Can we just go with that already? Magic, kids. Plain and simple.

HOLMES: He'll get there.

NGUYEN: Here's another way to have some fun this holiday on the Web. You can go "elf yourself," all right? Hey, I just read it. Log on to -- seriously, and you can look just as goofy as we do.

HOLMES: Yes. That's pretty bad, that's not by best move. It is coming up. You can upload a picture of yourself.

NGUYEN: That's pretty good.

HOLMES: The robot. This is Betty's...


HOLMES: There it is! OK. But you can become the dancing elf by doing this...


NGUYEN: Doing the Macarena.

HOLMES: E-mail the video postcard to everybody on your Christmas list. They will get a kick out of it.

NGUYEN: Shake it. Shake it. All right. Do you like to open your Christmas presents in front of a roaring fire or a silly little elves like that, but you could, though, just click on to the television and get a fire going. Here's how.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's your extreme close-up. Don't singe your hair.


NGUYEN: Yes. That would be bad. Fighting fire with fire. A Christmas tradition goes high tech for some hot competition. We're going to explain.

HOLMES: Plus this. Santa Claus has come to town.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes.

HOLMES: He's stopping by our studio. He has been through makeup. He's good to go and he's here for a special visit with us. Say hello, Santa. Give us away there. There you go, sir. We're going to check in with him shortly.


HOLMES: "Now in the News," we're just getting word that one of Spain's top surgeons was rushed to Havana a few days ago to treat Fidel Castro. The story published today in a Spanish newspaper. That report says the intestinal specialist arrived Thursday with medical equipment not available in Cuba.

The vote was unanimous, but Iran remains defiant. Iran vows today to push ahead with its nuclear program in the face of sanctions approved bite U.N. Security Council. The country's parliament is pushing for a vote on whether to drop out of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency.

French and American intelligence sources reportedly suspect the terror plot against the Chunnel this holiday. That's according to the London's Observer newspaper. The paper says the alleged plot may involve Britons of Pakistani ancestry. The 31-mile underwater train tunnel, or Chunnel, connects Britain and France.

And he'll be back, but California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger down and out for just a little bit. He broke his leg skiing in Idaho yesterday. He'll stay there for Christmas, but return to Los Angeles next week for surgery on that leg.

NGUYEN: Good morning, everybody. You will notice that our picture is pushed back this morning -- so, thank, Vanna. So we could show you constant travel updates this holiday weekend. Trying to get your (INAUDIBLE), aren't' you?

We'll have those up-to-date details on any details out there and we've been watching them as well as weather conditions around the country and throughout the hour. And speaking of the hour, the man of the hour Reynolds Wolf with your Santa tie on. You're trying to do the Jerry Anderson impression, aren't you?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Actually, I don't have the guns that he has. I don't think anyone has the guns that he has.

NGUYEN: Hey, maybe Santa can hook you up this Christmas.

WOLF: Maybe so. It's about time. Yeah, just metamorphosis man (INAUDIBLE).

NGUYEN: Well, check this out. They need a lot of help in getting those planes off the ground because of all this white stuff.

WOLF: Of course, this being in Denver. We've seen a lot of planes leave this airport. But one thing that we see that's very good is we've seen a lot of planes leave this airport, at the same time you see a lot of cars on the roadway. So, things are looking good.

OK folks, let's go on over here. Come on. Come on.

NGUYEN: Come on. Come on. Come on.

WOLF: There you go. All right, let me show you what else is happening.


WOLF: Let's ease on back over to Betty.

NGUYEN: Come over here.

WOLF: It was a great moment. A Zen moment. Kind of moving all over the place.

NGUYEN: Calling all the shots. That's how it works around here. If you only knew.

WOLF: We do what we can.

NGUYEN: Appreciate that, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

NGUYEN: We'll be talking to you shortly.

And we have been telling you about this story out of British newspaper report on an alleged terror plot against the Chunnel, that is the 31-mile underwater tunnel connecting Britain and France. Well, CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh joins us now from London with the latest on all of this.

Alphonso, what have you been able to dig up?

ALPHONSO, VAN MARSH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, on this holiday weekend it's taking a lot of people by surprise. As you mentioned, the "Observer" newspaper, here, having a very small -- a very small article about this alleged threat. It's important to mention that CNN has not been able to -- excuse me, independently verify this story.

It's very intriguing. As you mentioned a possible, possible threat to the Chunnel tunnel that, as you mentioned, 391-mile stretch between Britain and France connecting London to Paris and also London to Brussels. Very, very popular with people riding the EuroStar train.

As you mentioned a little bit earlier on, unconfirmed reports in the "Observer" talking about a secret report to French intelligence services saying, as you mentioned, that possible Muslim terrorists and supposedly Muslim extremists might try to target this during the holiday season. Again, it's important to mention that the terror level threat has been high for months, here, that British security services, British police telling people to be aware, to be alert around, especially, during this holiday season.

It will be very interesting to see if the police or security services here actually come out and actually try to verify this report in the "Observer." At least it's something that's getting attention, getting headlines this weekend.

NGUYEN: All right Alphonso, thank you for that, staying on top of the story for us.

Here's another one just in to CNN, this one out of Italy. Police have arrested an Italian man who met with former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Now Rome prosecutors have been investigating Mario Scaramella for violating secrets of his office and possible arms trafficking. Litvinenko died, as you'll recall, on November 23 after being poisoned -- T.J.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, back to some holiday cheer. Santa Claus getting unexpected help from a southern California man. He's been hearing all kinds of Christmas wishes from children and it's all thanks to a misdialed telephone number.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Santa Claus. This is Destiny. I've been a good girl this year. I want, this year, for more luck in my life.


HOLMES: Well, that's just one of the hundreds of phone calls John Dickson has received this holiday season. The problem is that he set up a business phone number that's only one digit different from a Santa Claus hot line.

And joining us from southern California, John Dickson, operator of the website and 1-800-SantaBarbara and if you type out 1-800-SantaClaus, those two numbers are just a digit apart.

So, John, thanks for being here. Tell me how did you first notice that something was up and then how did you put together what was happening?

JOHN DICKSON, SANTABARBARA.COM: Well, my first question: Have you been a good boy this year, T.J.?

HOLMES: I'm gathering you got my call. I see you got my call. I messed it up, too, the first time around.

DICKSON: OK, yeah. Well, this all started about two weeks ago, and I was turning the phone number on in November, I'd never used it before and then suddenly I got a call from a little boy and he wanted a blue truck, a pony, and a spider, you know? Who knows? And then the calls...

HOLMES: Now, what did you tell him? That first call, there. I mean you got more later, but on that initial call, did it throw you off? What did you say to him?

DICKSON: Well, I played along with it and as I've done the whole time, I don't promise anything, I tell, you know, well, ask your mommy or your daddy if it's OK and if it's all right, Santa and, you know, Rudolph and I will come over and we'll try to bring a gift for you and then -- it was just fun. And it occurred to me, how did they get a hold of that number and then I thought, you know, I realized real quickly that it was 1-800-SantaClaus, or they tried to and then they ended up with my phone number. And the calls have been coming in around the clock.

HOLMES: And again, you're getting a hundred or so a day, is that correct? DICKSON: I used to. Now it's about a hundred an hour. It's really -- I can't take them all. Go ahead.

HOLMES: How are you handling this? You've got, I'm sure, other things to do and you're taken it upon yourself to take some of these calls, so, I mean, is there a point that it is getting a little frustrating or are you just happy to be playing the role?

DICKSON: No, no, no. I love this role. If you heard these kids talk and their precious little voices and it just -- I really, really love it. And it just -- the kids are so full of love and hope, it's just really wonderful. And I talk to parents, too. I talk to parents -- sometimes the parents call and they want me to upon help calm down their child. They need Santa to ask their kid to be -- to stop being naughty and be nice. And I try to help out. It's just really fun.

HOLMES: Now tell me, they're able to loaf a message, as well. So, what does your greeting say or do kids ignore it anyway, and they're just waiting to leave a message?

DICKSON: You know, it's -- part of the message talks about this is the wrong number of Santa Claus and...

HOLMES: Not working.

DICKSON: And basically, they leave a lot of messages and they ignore that. I mean, the kids are on a mission. The kids want to -- they want to talk to Santa or the voice machine and they don't care what my message says. And so they go right to it. I got a call this morning from a little girl named Shelby in Billings, Montana, who wanted a diamond ring. I'm like wow! They're starting early! And so, and then I said, "What else do you want?" And she said, "Another diamond ring." So, just cute calls.

HOLMES: That was Betty, actually who called you, man.

DICKSON: Yeah. It's been a really, really fun. And I'm just having fun with it.

HOLMES: Well sir, it's a great thing you're doing. We have a live picture in the studio here, we tried to put up next to yours of the real Santa who's sitting in our studio. So, you guys look nothing alike.

DICKSON: Yay! Hi, Santa! I know! He's my hero.

HOLMES: Well, Mr. Dickson, again, Mr. Dickson, real -- it's a wonderful thing you're doing. Good job taking those calls. I know it can't be easy. You got other things to do, but bunches (ph) of calls.

DICKSON: Thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: Keep fielding them and I'll give you a call later, all right?

DICKSON: OK. Bye-bye. HOLMES: Thanks so much.

NGUYEN: You know, T.J., to looked like the real deal, he -- like you said, he's going to have to grow that beard, but he might want to hold on to the hair. He might want to keep that. And as for your question, John, no, T.J. has not been nice this year. He's been very naughty, so you might want to speak to him before Christmas comes.

And speaking of the real deal, Santa, we have one very important visitor with us today, check him out. You've got it. That is Santa Claus himself. He is taking some last-minute gift requests right here in the studio.

SANTA CLAUS, FATHER CHRISTMAS: Because it's all about every time, like I eat cookies, sometimes the cookies -- the crumbs get in my beard, and then Mrs. Claus has to motion to me that I've got stuck in my beard. So, those are some of the things I have to sort of look out for.


NGUYEN: All right, I-report, it's where you can say to all your friends, "Hey, I report for CNN" and at the end of year Nicole Lapin is helping us get good idea of who send us some of the good stuff and became the i-Reporter of the year.

HOMES: We have an i-Report of the year? Do tell, Nicole.

NICOLE LAPIN, CNN.COM: T.J. it's not you. But you know what guys? We receive so much great material from you, our viewers. But Kerrie Robby (ph) went above and beyond. He was watching CNN when he saw us broadcast an explosion near his house in Illinois then he headed straight to the scene and even did on the spot interviews. So, here's Kerrie to tell the rest of his story.


KERRIE ROBBY (ph), I-REPORTER: The whole town just fell hush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just the loudest explosion I have ever heard.

ROBBY: It's like a bomb went off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was just so much black smoke and so much debris everywhere, you really couldn't tell which house was on fire.

ROBBY: A woman and her two children were in the home taking a shower, the gas line exploded, it killed the mother and one of the children. The other child is being searched for.

When I saw the flyover shot and I heard the anchor talk about i- Report I immediately said, well, I have a camera, I'm close by. I'm going jump in the car real quick and see if I can get some footage and get it on the air. I have a high-speed internet connection so uploading to CNN i-Report was it actually pretty easy. It was a webpage. It was all web based. I used a web browse to navigate the page, uploaded the files. I got a phone call within a half hour and verified the files were good. Pretty painless.

Hi, my name is Harry Robby and I report for CNN.


LAPIN: And, yes, he does. You can see Kerrie and other i- Reporters today at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. We have a CNN special with the best i-Reports of the year, and anchored by those two lovely people, Betty and T.J., of course. And if you say I can do that, well you still can, it's not too late. If you see something that catches your eye and you think it might catch ours, you can go ahead, grab it and send it to us, it's all there at And then you can say. "I report for CNN."

NGUYEN: Absolutely.

LAPIN: There you go.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Nicole.

HOLMES: We want to check in with Howard Kurtz to see what's ahead on CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES: coming up has Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and Charlie Gibson face off in the anchor wars, what kind of evening newscast are they putting on?

And Rosie versus the Donald, there they go again and here we go again. Plus a year of war, politics, scandal, media frenzies from O.J. to John Mark Karr. A report card on the coverage in 2006. We'll also look at the impact of you, all the bloggers, YouTube posters and people snapping pictures with cell phone cameras. Are you eating the media's lunch? It's all ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES.

HOLMES: Eating our lunch? Howard, my goodness! That's RELIABLE SOURCES at 10:00 Eastern, that's followed by Wolf Blitzer and LATE EDITION at 11:00, then THIS WEEK AT WAR coming up at 1:00, so stay tuned to CNN as we go in-depth into the stories of the day.

NGUYEN: Well, a flaming Christmas competition. Would you believe it?


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But you're the grinch who stole the Yule log.

JASON PATTON, INHD: All right, maybe I stole it, but we made it better.


HOLMES: Yeah, it's the battle of the Yule logs. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

NGUYEN: Surely.

HOLMES: A high-tech up-start is trying to extinguish the competition.

NGUYEN: But first, Santa, the man himself is here and he's got a whole lot of kids, mainly nice, maybe a few naughty. We'll see.

SANTA: OK. Well, very good. Well, how about it, everybody is going to be on camera and they're going to be taking a look and we've had a lot of conversation, and I think you had a very important one. How about coming up here again. Come on up and you wanted to tell me that there was some special wish that you had for Christmas. Why don't you tell us again what that was so everybody else...


NGUYEN: Well, this just in to CNN. There has been an arrest in the case -- in the investigation of a Russian man, a Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko who is believed to have died because of poisoning. The man arrest side an Italian named Mario Scaramella, and he is believed to have met with Litvinenko the day that he was poisoned.

So, let's go now to CNN's Matthew Chance who is in Gaza.

And Matthew, we understand you actually interviewed Scaramella a while back. Talk us to about this man, who is he and what you know.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know, first of all, there's no Gaza connection, obviously with it, it just happens to be where I'm located. But absolutely, earlier this month, we managed to get an exclusive sit down interview with Mario Scaramella, who's a very shady character, intrinsically connected with this poisoning of the former Russian agent, Alexander Litvinenko, who is, in fact, the so-called Italian contact who sat down for lunch with Mr. Litvinenko on the day of his poisoning.

Now, as I mentioned, mystery shrouds this individual. He's been connected in the past to various organizations. He's been accused of having contact with various secret services around the world. He was engaged in an Italian parliamentary inquiry into alleged KGB activities in Europe some years ago, as well. And so he has had some jobs that we managed to pin down. This latest arrest on these charges of trafficking weapons and revealing information in a sensitive document, these are new allegations as far as we're aware and he was arrested when he arrived back in Italy, having been discharged some weeks ago from a hospital in London where he was recovering from apparently slight radiation poisoning -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Matthew, do you have any idea why he may have met with Litvinenko, Any information that's surfacing about that meeting?

CHANCE: Well, I asked him that question when I met him a few weeks ago and he said very clearly and I think Mr. Litvinenko confirmed this before he died that he met with this Italian security contact, they'd been colleagues for some time, they'd worked on various projects trying to investigate various activities of former KGB operatives in Europe. He's met Mr. Litvinenko and was said to reveal to him that he'd disclosed information that he'd found some kind of hit list on which both Litvinenko and himself, Mario Scaramella, were listed.

Now, he also made the point that he didn't take necessarily this hit-list very seriously which is why he said he looked for a face-to- face meeting. He didn't think it was an urgent, an actual threat against their lives. But the point is, it was on this day, possibly at that meal or possibly earlier, where Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned and so the spotlight of suspicion inevitably is on him, as least for the few weeks -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Matthew Chance, we appreciate the information as you have interviewed Mario Scaramella, and we do want to reiterate the point that, yes, this Italian man has been arrested in this case, but on other charges. That's a very specific at this point and that's very important to note that Scaramella has been arrested on other charges although an investigation has surrounded him as well as others as to who indeed was the link in the poisoning death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Of course, as we get more information into CNN we will bring it to you. Stay tuned, there's much more coming up.

HOLMES: Yes. We certainly wanted to get that important details, information to you, but we're going to try to wrap up this hour with some positive holiday cheer. We're going to tell you about Yule Log TV. This was something that started Christmas morning back in 1966. A New York TV station aired the image of a Yule log. That was it. Well, viewers loved it and it's become a holiday tradition and now a challenger in high def.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has that.


MOOS (voice-over): Talk about fighting fire with fire, a televised Yule log for those who don't have a real fireplace. The question is which fire brings more joy to the world?

I this corner, the original, the WPIX Yule log.

JULIE O'NEIL, WPIX PROGRAM MANAGER: You got to admit it's pretty mesmerizing.

MOOS: this blazing Yule was dreamed up in 1966 by the general manager of New York City station WPIX.

O'NEIL: The world's first music video.

MOOS: it has bizarre touches like the creepy doll.

O'NEIL: I don't understand why you would hang a small child over the fireplace.

MOOS: In 1999, the fire spread to the Internet. This log has its own fan website.

O'NEIL: Really sucks you in, doesn't it?

MOOS: But now it's being sucker punched.

ANNOUNCER: On December 25th, the Yule log is back!

MOOS: Say it ain't so, Santa. This Yule log's in high definition.

PATTON: We are taking the Yule log to a new level.

MOOS: this Yule log even crackles. In all HD network called INHD, made what amounts to a designer Yule log video.

PATTON: We went to Ron Roy in California, he does mood videos.

MOOS: But it hasn't blackened the mood to the Yule loggers.

O'NEIL: No one has it right. I mean, honestly, they don't have the hand irons.

PATTON: Theirs is like 30 years old, it's been the same thing over and over.

MOOS: The original Yule log is a six and a half minute loop, the INHD version is a 45-minute loop with shots from various angles.

PATTON: Here's your extreme close-up. Don't singe your hair.

MOOS (on camera): Don't burn yourself.

PATTON: We debuted this on our network in 2003.

MOOS (voice-over): So, which log is hotter? Well, if you can find INHD, way up in the nosebleed channels, it's a 24-hour log.

ANNOUNCER: Burning all Christmas day.

O'NEIL: Personally, I think three hours is enough log.

MOOS (on camera): But you're the grinch who stole the Yule log.

PATTON: All right, maybe I stole it, but we made it better.

O'NEIL: I say thank you for trying to imitate the original.

MOOS (voice-over): The folks that WPIX feared that since INHD is geared towards men, the competition's fire is big bigger.

(on camera): Big log.

O'NEIL: And really big logs. MOOS (voice-over): So, how did the logs stack up?

(on camera): It's about 13-1/2. Yep, 23.

(voice-over): Ah, but it's the old flame you never forget.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Well, RELIABLE SOURCES is coming up next, LATE EDITION after that, THIS WEEK AT WAR after that. So, don't go anywhere.

NGUYEN: No, no, no, because we have a lot more to come, and we want to listen in to Santa because this is his big day and the kids have been waiting. So, take it away, Santa.

SANTA: OK, good. Well, hello, and what's the one thing that was most important to you this year?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't say that.

SANTA: Your mind is has turned to jelly. OK, let me get to this young lady over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I didn't say my mind is turning to jelly.

SANTA: Well, quick.


SANTA: Well with all of the millions of kids we wouldn't have a chance to get the work done. Let's go to this young lady. She's ready.

OK, come on.


SANTA: What kind of a young lady have you been this year?


SANTA: Good. Now, that was most all of the time, wasn't it? And it's because you're in kindergarten, right?


SANTA: Yeah, good. And this young man -- and you had something special they heard you said -- now, you can look at me. OK. Now, what's the one thing you want most for Christmas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most thing I want for Christmas is that the poor people have a merry Christmas. SANTA: And thank you very much. That is a good message to everybody. And, young lady, it's your turn, quick like. Good. What's...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother doesn't believe in Santa.

SANTA: Do -- who?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother doesn't believe in Santa.

SANTA: He doesn't believe in Santa? Well, after today's experience you can sell him a bill of goods for me. Good! OK. Thank you.