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CNN Saturday Morning News

Some Good News For Airline Travelers Stuck In Denver; 911 operator Takes Emergency Call From Son; D.C. Fights For Representation in Congress; Defense Secretary Gates Meeting With Bush At Camp David Today; PATH Train System More Vulnerable Than Believed

Aired December 23, 2006 - 07:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Talk about a Christmas crunch -- thousands still stuck in Denver waiting for word on a flight home for the holidays.
We go live to the airport for the latest. That is straight ahead.

Plus this...


DIANNE LAMB: If he dies, I want to talk to him before he dies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bruce, talk to momma.

D. LAMB: Put him on the phone.

BRUCE: Hello.

D. LAMB: Bruce?


D. LAMB: Baby, I love you. Now, listen, OK, Jesus is going to take of you, OK? You'll be saved. You just need to calm down.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: She may have saved her son's life. A woman working as a 911 dispatcher gets the emergency call of her life. We have the full story. That is in just a few moments.

Well, good morning, everybody and welcome, from the CNN Center here in Atlanta.

It is December 23rd.


NGUYEN: Just a couple days away.

HOLMES: Crunch time.

NGUYEN: It is crunch time. Folks hoping to get home in time.


NGUYEN: We'll see about that weather in just a minute.

Good morning, everybody.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes.

Thank you so much for starting your day right here with us.

NGUYEN: Let's just give you a little word of explanation here. You see the screen as it is. We've moved things back a little bit, added a few extra things that -- bits of information, shall we call them?

We call them toys around here. The travel holiday weather there, telling you in Philadelphia, airport delays, in all the different cities.

And at the bottom of the screen, T.J. there is the weather, as people are headed out. And a lot of people, unfortunately, stuck at airports around the nation.

HOLMES: And this is going to be up to the minute stuff you can see on travel delays. And, of course, as you know, there are plenty. Weather conditions all across the country, you see those there, as well.

Phoenix, man, you all look like you're doing pretty well there. But we do have -- we're going to have this for you today. It's going to be a good deal for you. We're going to keep this information up on the screen throughout the day, so please use it.

NGUYEN: Let's talk about the weather for a minute.

Home for the holidays -- well, that's what it's all about. But some folks are not getting there, at least not quickly. For airline travelers stuck in Denver, we do have some good news. The weather is looking better. And a couple of runways are open now. But that still doesn't mean everyone is going to get where they want to before Christmas.

Pattie Logan is live at the Denver International Airport and she joins us live -- good morning to you.


Well, what we're seeing primarily this morning is a steady stream of cars. A lot of people are arriving for flights today. They're being told not to come to the airport unless they are confirmed on a seat on a plane that's leaving today. So they have cleared a lot of people out of the terminal that were stranded. Now, what we're seeing is people are arriving who are actually on flights that are intended to go out today.

The parking lot is relatively empty at the very far end, which is where we are, but it's quite full close up. So people are getting into the short-term parking here, people who are optimistic that they'll be getting out today.

Inside the terminal, there are still very long lines. Primarily the lines today are for check-in. So we -- people were absolutely shocked at how long the lines were, thinking things were getting back to normal here quickly, but the -- more quickly than they thought. But things are taking a very long time to unwind here.

They had red-eye flights that went out overnight. We haven't seen much going out yet this morning. Most of the flights will be getting going here shortly. The security lines inside are pretty light. They were a couple of hours yesterday.

So just as they get the flights going, those will be getting longer, as well.

People still in cots. People spread out, sprawled all over the place, still waiting things out. The people that are arriving here are told to come three or four hours ahead of time. So the airport does have a lot of people that are very bleary-eyed and very hopeful that they will get out today.

And some people are actually finally getting what they want.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I flew in here two days ago from Rapid City. We were on one of the last flights to land before they let -- they diverted. And here am I trying to continue my flight to Houston, if, in fact, there's a plane that will let me on.


LOGAN: The cargo flights are also coming in and out. They've got the cargo runway open, so packages coming into Denver. Mail service is up and running, working 12 hour shifts. They're going to work on Sunday. So, the Christmas packages, hopefully, will start to arrive, as well.

NGUYEN: Between the people and the packages, boy, there's time a ticking and a lot of people really trying to pack some patience today. We'll see how it goes throughout the morning.

Thank you, Patty.

HOLMES: Well, you know, things, of course, have been crazy there at the Denver airport. Check out this little adventure that 9-year- old Cole Churchill went on. He was one of about 20 unaccompanied children stranded at the airport. He was headed from Spokane, Washington to Nebraska, but when his flight got canceled, he got off the plane and he wandered around the airport by himself for a few hours before the airline workers found him. NGUYEN: He was bored.

What do you do, right?

HOLMES: What do you do?

You know, the airline has apologized and may issue a full refund.




HOLMES: Cole, meanwhile, made it to Nebraska. He's just finally happy to be reunited with his family.


COLE CHURCHILL, WAS STUCK IN DENVER: Now I don't have to worry about being in a dumb airport because I have my daddy and my step mom and my little sister.


HOLMES: Well, I'm really wondering what he did.

What did he do for a couple of hours?

NGUYEN: Only Cole knows.

HOLMES: Only Cole knows.

NGUYEN: And he's probably -- hey, what happens at the airport stays at the airport, right?

HOLMES: Good thing he wasn't in Vegas stuck, I guess.

NGUYEN: That is true.

Reynolds Wolf joins us now with a look at the weather outside -- and, Reynolds, a lot of pressure on you today, buddy.


HOLMES: Look at some other stories in the news.

Fog is lifting in London, providing some relief for travelers there. That fog forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights over the last two days. But things now getting back to normal, although travel in and put -- and out, rather -- of Paris and Brussels will have to wait until tomorrow.

Also, in about an hour, the new defense secretary, Robert Gates, sits down with President Bush at Camp David. He will give a progress report on Iraq following his visit there this week. President Bush is working on his new Iraq strategy, which he plans to reveal after the first of the year.

NGUYEN: Now just in from Afghanistan this morning. Check this out. A top Taliban leader said to be close to Osama bin Laden is dead. According to the U.S. military, he was killed in an air strike this week near the Afghan border with Pakistan. But wire services are reporting tonight that he was not killed.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani was one of the most wanted Taliban leaders.

HOLMES: Discovery is home. The space shuttle finally touchdown Friday evening thanks to a break in the weather. The first attempt at ending the 13-day mission was scrubbed because of bad weather. Mission highlights included four spacewalks and the delivery of a new astronaut to the International Space Station.

NGUYEN: Sending a message to Tehran -- we are watching the U.N. today. The Security Council is expected to vote on sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

CNN's Richard Roth is at the U.N. today.

He is watching for any developments on this story and, of course, we are going to bring that to you, especially the vote, just as soon as it happens.

HOLMES: A horrifying irony -- a South Carolina woman working as a 911 operator takes an emergency call.

The victim on the other end?

Her own son.

Mandy Gaither with CNN affiliate WCSC has the story.


MANDY GAITHER, WCSC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Charleston County Emergency Services, Operator 29.

The location of your emergency?

CAITLIN: Dianne?

D. LAMB: Yes.

CAITLIN: This is Caitlin.

D. LAMB: Yes?

CAITLIN: Bruce just got shot. Bruce is...

D. LAMB: Are you serious? Where?

CAITLIN: Yes, I'm serious. Bruce just got shot.

D. LAMB: Where?

CAITLIN: In the side.

GAITHER: On any other day, a 911 call about a shooting is nothing unusual for dispatchers in Charleston County. But on December 6th, Dianne Lamb's (ph) job turned personal.

CAITLIN: Hey, your mom is the operator. Your mom is the operator.

D. LAMB: Don't hang up.

GAITHER: Her son Bruce, seen here, had been shot.

D. LAMB: This is Charleston County EMS.


D. LAMB: I need you to send an ambulance to my house at 130 (AUDIO GAP) Street.

GAITHER: After getting medics on the way, she let himself be a mother for just a moment.

D. LAMB: If he dies, I want to talk to him before he dies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bruce, talk to momma.

D. LAMB: Put him on the phone.

BRUCE: Hello.

D. LAMB: Bruce?


D. LAMB: Baby, I love you.

Now, listen. OK. Jesus is going to take care of you, OK? You'll be safe. You just need to calm down and just focus on that, OK?

GAITHER: Somehow, Dianne was able to stay calm and tell her son's friends how to control the bleeding.

D. LAMB: Press down on that wound, OK? OK, honey, take a breath. Take a breath, OK? You can do this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was all three of us.

D. LAMB: You can do this, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's puking, momma. He's puking.

D. LAMB: Roll him on his side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roll on your side.

D. LAMB: Roll him on his side and clean it out.

GAITHER: After a terrifying 12-minute call, Dianne talked to her son one more time before he was rushed to the hospital.

D. LAMB: Bruce?


D. LAMB: I love you, baby.

BRUCE: I love you.

D. LAMB: Listen to me. Talk to Jesus.

BRUCE: Mom...

D. LAMB: Talk to Jesus.

BRUCE: I am.

D. LAMB: Ask him to save you and do it...

BRUCE: I am.

D. LAMB: ... and just believe it, OK?

BRUCE: All right.

D. LAMB: Do you hear me?

BRUCE: Mom, I love you.

GAITHER: Eight inches of Bruce's small intestine were removed, along with his appendix. While the bullet is still lodged close to his vertebrae, Dianne believes it was a miracle she got the call that saved her son's life.



NGUYEN: Goodness. I mean she was so calm throughout it all.

HOLMES: And turned into a mom for a minute there.

NGUYEN: I mean what can you do?

HOLMES: Oh, wow!

NGUYEN: A good thing he's OK.

Well, remember this -- "no taxation without representation?"

Is the time right to add a representative from the District of Columbia -- that's the question -- with voting rights to the U.S. House?

You want to stay tuned for our report.

That's in just a few minutes.

HOLMES: Plus, she's just 10 weeks old but already has quite a story to tell, well, if she could do more than meow. The adventures of a kitten saved after a cross country trip. We'll tell you about a cheerful meow. That's five minutes away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's, that one, two, three, four, five -- actually, there are some more -- six.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god! My god!


NGUYEN: Yes, that doesn't happen every day. After giving so much to so many, this year's Christmas takes a different turn for the man known as the secret Santa in Missouri. We have his story. That's ahead in 30 minutes right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta will help you beat the stress of the season. You have to stay tuned for "HOUSE CALL," though. It's called "A Very Healthy Holiday" and find out how to deal with difficult family members. We all have them. De-stress the shopping experience and prepare a tasty and healthy Christmas meal.

That's "HOUSE CALL," this morning, 8:30 Eastern.

We're back in 90 seconds.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I got out on May 1, every day has been like Christmas to me.


NGUYEN: For good reason. In our News Across America, a Pennsylvania man will spend his first Christmas at home after almost two decades behind bars. He was convicted of murdering a fast food restaurant manager back in 1998 -- or '88, I should say -- and then he was sentenced to life in prison.

But thanks to DNA and The Innocence Project, he was released after tests proved that he was not the killer. A veteran tiger handler at the San Francisco-Zoo is in the hospital this morning after being attacked by one of the animals. Meanwhile, the 350-pound Siberian tiger that attacked her could be back on display today. It happened during a daily feeding with about 50 people standing by in the Lion House exhibit.

Well, a strange but curious tale of a little kitty named Tana (ph). She traveled cross country from Oregon to Florida after somehow getting mixed up in a shipment of Christmas trees. Yes, I don't know.

She ended up at a Home Depot and one of the workers heard meowing from inside the box. Tana took two more trips, one to the vet and then one home with her new family.

HOLMES: Voting rights activists going to bat for the District of Columbia. As it stands, the residents of the District can vote for presidential candidates, but they don't have voting representation in Congress.

CNN's Gary Nurenberg reports.


GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The City of Washington has been sending residents to the country's wars for as long as there has been a country.

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Every war since the republic was created.

NURENBERG: And the battle cry of the American Revolution, "no taxation without representation" inspires the motto on Washington, D.C. license plates.

Two hundred thirty years after the Revolution, D.C. residents pay federal taxes, but have no voting members of Congress.

Eleanor Holmes Norton is the city's non-voting member of the House.

NORTON: Even when we're fighting a war and trying to carry democracy to the rest of the world, we're not setting the example at home.

NURENBERG: As with its Democratic predecessors, the outgoing Republican Congress did not pass legislation giving D.C. voting rights in Congress.

D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams blames politics.

MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We're now a predominantly Democratic city and I think that's played a role. And then, finally, I think there's a racial component to it, in that we're a majority African-American city.


NORTON: I'm black.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST: I take your word for it.


NURENBERG: Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert found humor in D.C.'s unique status.


NORTON: Civics lesson number three, we are a part of...

COLBERT: Does that mean you have to vote?

NORTON: It does.

COLBERT: You should go vote. Oh, that's right. You can stay.


NURENBERG: Norton is sponsoring a bill that would give very Democratic D.C. a voting member of the House in exchange for an additional Congressional seat and electoral vote for the very Republican Utah.

(on camera): The bill has some opponents in the city. They want full statehood for Washington, with two voting senators and say the Utah deal is one-sided.

SAMUEL JORDAN, D.C. STATEHOOD PROPONENT: Now, at a time when the Republicans are concerned about contested elections and maybe even a close election in the presidential sweepstakes in 2008, an additional vote for Utah, the reddest and the whitest state in the Union, might prove very important.

NURENBERG: Scholars like John Fortier say the constitution only allows Congress to give voting representation to states.

JOHN FORTIER, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think it would be challenged in the courts and I think the Supreme Court would ultimately rule that Congress does not have that power.

NURENBERG: Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a co-sponsor. Norton expects action shortly after Congress returns next month.

NORTON: It will pass. Watch this, it will pass.

NURENBERG: No word on what would happen to the license plates.


HOLMES: And, again, that was our Gary Nurenberg reporting.

NGUYEN: Well, Christmas united or Christmas divided...


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Americans are divided over many religious issues. But Christmas is not one of them.


NGUYEN: Yes, there you have it.

Bill Schneider has the latest in ultimate Christmas polls, like does the Christmas tree really divide America?

We have an answer on this one and many, many, others in about 26 minutes.

HOLMES: Also ahead, the fallout from the all-out basket brawl, or maybe just a shoving match and slap-a-thon or whatever...

NGUYEN: No, that was a brawl.

HOLMES: Come on.

NGUYEN: It was a brawl.

HOLMES: What's this exactly costing...

NGUYEN: It was a right hook.

HOLMES: ... the NBA and superstar Carmelo Anthony, who threw that right hook she speaks of?

We'll talk to our sports guru in just a moment.

And speaking of sportsmanship, a trivia question for you. I know you love this, Betty.

NGUYEN: Um-hmm.

HOLMES: All right, what sport can you win the Lady Bing Memorial Trophy for good sportsmanship?


HOLMES: Is it cricket, rugby, hockey or is it women's basketball?

NGUYEN: That's a tough one.

HOLMES: We're going to be back in a moment with that answer.


HOLMES: Hey, oh, look at this. It's a fog nightlight. It's tough out there. Bad behavior is nothing really new in sports. But from Little League to the pros, this has been a big year of misbehavior.

From this latest incident, that basket brawl, as it's called, to a superstar spitting incident in the NFL, what will all this mean to the business of sports in 2007?

We're joined now by the author of "When the Game Is On the Line," Rick Horrow -- good morning to you, sir.

And you're in a new location this morning, is that right?

Where are you?


No, no, no. I'm in West Palm Beach.


HORROW: I'm just -- I'm ready for Christmas two days from now...


HORROW: And in case anybody wants to know, I need a new set of golf clubs. You've got 48 hours. Act fast on it.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. We -- a lot of us, we care to know, Rick.

Thank you.

HORROW: Yes, now you know whether you care to or not, OK?

HOLMES: All right.

HORROW: National advertising.

HOLMES: Well, good morning, sir.

Good to see you.

Has it been that bad? Are we all just so accustomed to this and resigned to the fact that this stuff is going to happen that it's not even a big outcry anymore when we see these guys -- or women sometimes -- behaving badly?

HORROW: Well, first of all, it's holiday spirit time. So let's hope that's not the case. And for years we've all been trying to figure out in the industry the line separating normal aggressive part of the game behavior from excessive physical force, where an athlete steps out of his role of sportsman and into a role of violator, even criminal, in some cases.

And, of course, the NBA is the classic case. Two years ago, Ron Artest suspended 70 games for the basket brawl that November. It's made national news for a couple of years.

But remember, in 1997, we had Latrell Sprewell suspended 68 games...


HORROW: ... for choking his coach, P.J. Carlesimo.

This deal with Carmelo Anthony -- and, by the way, 10 other players and seven suspended -- the NBA came down hard and said we're going to fine you and suspend you 49 games. But we're going to fine the teams, as well, a half million apiece.

HOLMES: And is there -- I have to ask this to you, as well -- is there a racial component or a different standard with the NBA?

Because you have hockey sometimes and people complain there's not enough fighting in hockey sometimes. You have bench clearing brawls in baseball, it seems like often, even.

Is there a different standard for the NBA?

HORROW: Well, it may be a superstar standard versus not one. I'll buy that, not the racial component. I think David Stern has come down hard. But I think the other commissioners understand there's political pressure to come down hard, whether they want to or not.

And so, you know, it's affected Carmelo Anthony, as well. Northwest Airlines pulled his picture off the cover of an in-flight magazine pretty quick and he lost $640,000 for his 15-game suspension.

So now that Allen Iverson is in Denver with him, he gets a 15-day head start to wrack up some scoring numbers.

So I'm not sure it's racial. I think it's, bottom line, motivated by trying to clean up the games for the sake of the fans.

HOLMES: Just trying to clean up the game. Well, that's good to hear. I was looking at some video of Iverson, his debut last night. They didn't win the game. He had a pretty good game, but not the debut he wanted, of course.

But let's move on and talk about another incident we saw that was pretty ugly, Terrell Owens, the spitting in the face incident of a guy he was pretty much having his way with at a football game.

How bad was this one?

Do we just expect some kind of outrageous things from T.O. these days?

HORROW: Yes, but you shouldn't allow that to excuse his behavior, quite clearly, my friend. And the $35,000 that Roger Goddell imposed, some say, was even too light.

So, we're not sure of all of that. And the NFL has some image issues, also. There was a article coming out two weeks before talking about 35 players we have had criminal indictments over the last year.

Now, the standard line is that's pretty much the ratio of that number versus normal NFL players in society.


HORROW: But that's not good enough because these guys, as we know, are under a microscope, so we have some pretty significant issues there.

HOLMES: All right.

A last one quick question here before we get to the trivia question.

Just give us -- what's the status of sportsmanship these days, from top to bottom, from peewee all the way up to the pros? Is there an emphasis on it anymore? How are we on sportsmanship these days in this country?

HORROW: Hey, but two days before Christmas, we'd better figure out how to clean it up. A bench clearing brawl a couple of weeks ago. Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach, my neck of the woods, a girls' basketball game, suspending 16 players. There was a game in Dallas where a SWAT team had to clean out the arena.

The bottom line is it is a terrible situation. It's getting a little worse. Not as bad when you put in perspective that in Iraq, by the way, the cycling coach, the wrestling coach...


HORROW: ... one of the top soccer coaches have been killed in sectarian violence in the last six months.

So, it gives you some perspective. But it's not as bad as it is -- was a few years ago. So it's being cleaned up.

By the way, hockey, a 41 percent decrease in fighting. You talked about that in your earlier question. So some things in sports are looking up a little bit.

HOLMES: And you said girls' basketball, 16 girls?

HORROW: Sixteen girls...

HOLMES: What were they doing?

HORROW: ... they're talking about how are they going to field the team because they're all suspended. But, you know, my take is that's their problem. They should have thought about that before.

HOLMES: All right, Rick, well, we've got to get to the trivia question now.

And you can help us with this one.

We asked in what sport can you win the Lady Bing Memorial Trophy for good sportsmanship? There are the possibilities -- cricket, rugby, hockey, women's basketball.

Do tell us.

HORROW: Didn't I just give you the answer with hockey?


HORROW: I'm kind of leading into the questions. It's Christmas. We don't have to think too much. Lady Bing is the sportsmanship award, the fewest penalty minutes in hockey. And that's been there for a number of years. It sets the right standard.

Hey, Merry Christmas to you.

Merry Christmas to Betty, Lemay (ph), everybody there at CNN. We're all thinking about Christmas over the next few days.

HOLMES: Thank you.

HORROW: Happy Holidays.

HOLMES: Thank you so much, Rick.

Enjoy your Christmas.

We're going to work on those golf clubs. We're taking up a collection. You should see the crew. They're taking up the collection now.

Thank you, sir.

HORROW: We're going to put the phone number down. Everybody needs to send it to me.

Thank you.

HOLMES: All right, thanks, Rick -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, I may have 50 cents. I mean, I don't know. I can't contribute too much to that.

HOLMES: It all helps.

NGUYEN: Yes, I think I'll just get along, you know?

Hey, he gained fame as a secret Santa.

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a day filled with snow and anticipation, this Kansas City businessman is about to make dreams come true. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you.


NGUYEN: After doing so much good for so many, this year the secret Santa needs rest and he needs your prayers. His story in 15 minutes.


NGUYEN: "Now in the News," clearing the way in Denver. A couple of runways have reopened, good news there at the airport. But it still could take a couple of days to clear the backlog of cancelled flights. What a mess. But Denver wasn't alone. Weather woes across the country the last couple of days have caused about 2,000 flight delays.

In less than an hour new Defense Secretary Robert Gates sits down with President Bush at Camp David. He's going to give a progress report on Iraq following his visit to Iraq this week. President Bush is working on his new Iraq strategy, which he plans to reveal after the first of the year.

HOLMES: News just in from Afghanistan this morning, a top Taliban leader, said to be close to Osama bin Laden, is dead according to the U.S. military. He was killed in an air strike this week near the Afghan border with Pakistan. But wire services are reporting that a Taliban spokesperson says he was not killed. Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani is considered one of the most wanted Taliban leaders.

A plan for post-Castro Cuba. White House advisers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met to map out a refugee plan. They're expecting an influx of Cubans heading to the U.S. if and when Fidel Castro dies. An administration report released earlier this year outlined plans to promote democracy in Cuba after Castro.

And at least one flight made it home for the holidays, the space shuttle finally touched down Friday evening thanks to a break in the weather. The first attempt at ending the 13-day mission was scrubbed because of bad weather. Mission highlights included four spacewalks and the delivery of a new astronaut to the International Space Station.

And good morning to you all and welcome back. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes, good morning. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us.

HOLMES: And we just want to clear something up here with what you're seeing on the screen there. It doesn't normally look like that. We're taking a live picture here of Chicago. I'll call those holiday lights even though it's just lights along the highways and the streets there I do believe.

NGUYEN: They look pretty festive. HOLMES: So yes, we'll call them festive.

NGUYEN: Except the ground delay in Philadelphia, not so festive. But as you see, on the screen we do have what we call a squeeze-back (ph) so that you can see the different weather across the nation as well as the airport delays at many of the airports across the country. So stay tuned for all of this throughout the show.


HOLMES: Well, of course this week's blizzard made things tough for travelers. But it wasn't all bad. Maybe you could say that if you were at home just enjoying seeing that snow. We get a look at what you saw in this I-Report wrap-up from, Veronica de la Cruz.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is that time of year to go over the river and through the woods to grandma's house. But what if your real destination is covered in snow? At, we asked you to share your stories and your photos of all the wintry weather, starting with this in Denver. Denver gets decked.

Take a look at this video taken by Gordon Feliciano (ph) of his children, Kylie (ph) and Jacob (ph), playing in the snow. Their dog seems to like it, too. Gordon also sent this storm footage of heavy snow and howling wind that blanketed most of Colorado with two feet of snow.

Chris Kinian (ph) says the herd of alpacas at her Montrose, Colorado, ranch actually enjoys all the snow. And check out this snow dog. Bree Corrico's (ph) dog Chloe (ph) is enjoying her first romp in snow near Denver, Colorado.

And we'd like to see what winter looks like in your area. So send us your pictures and videos. Just log on to For the dot-com desk, I'm Veronica de la Cruz.

HOLMES: And please don't miss our CNN special "I-Report for CNN: The Year as You Saw It," from wicked weather to wildfires, it's the news as you saw it online and on air. That's Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Meanwhile, he's given more than a million dollars during the years to help people he doesn't even know. And now he's getting back letters, e-mails and phone calls from a lot of people who want to say thank you. Secret Santa this Christmas on the receiving end. That full story just a few minutes away.

NGUYEN: Plus, does Christmas have the power to unify across religious lines because it's just so pretty? Well, our Bill Schneider has the latest Christmas polls for you. That's in seven minutes.


HOLMES: Very nice. Well, are you giving or are you getting? What's your Christmas M.O.? If any story ever served as inspiration to give, this is it. It's the story of a secret Santa whose giving changes lives. Now he's also on the receiving end. Here's Bev Chapman of our affiliate KNBC.


BEV CHAPMAN, KNBC REPORTER (voice-over): On a day filled with snow and anticipation, this Kansas City businessman is about to make dreams come true.

LARRY STEWART, SECRET SANTA: Why, thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you.

CHAPMAN: For 10 years, we've followed his giving in Kansas City and to disaster areas across the country. But this year, Santa's path took an unexpected turn.

STEWART: There's people praying for me that -- I don't even know them.

CHAPMAN: This man...

STEWART: What is that? One, two, three, four, five, let's see, there's some more, six.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh! Thank you, thank you!

CHAPMAN: ... who gives so much has spent the last eight months fighting for his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found a growth in your esophagus and I think it's malignant.

CHAPMAN: He was diagnosed in April, arrived here at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in May.

STEWART: I got down here and they said that I had four weeks to live without treatment.

CHAPMAN: Last month he completed his 12th round of chemotherapy.

STEWART: I'm not glad that I got cancer, I'm not happy about it. But I will tell you it has been a true blessing to me. It's been a blessing because it's allowed me to get some things right that needed to be done. It's allowed me the opportunity to make a connection with my children that I've always longed for. It's strengthened my faith far beyond what it's ever been before.

CHAPMAN: A little boy who was raised by poor, elderly grandparents in rural Mississippi...

STEWART: Praise the lord. Thank you very kindly.

CHAPMAN: His generosity goes back to a tough time in a young man's life.

(on camera): This is where it all started. It's a barbershop now, but 30 years ago, this place was known as the Dixie Diner. The sign is still up there. And the man we know of as Secret Santa in Kansas City hadn't eaten for a day and a half when he came here. And he had no way of paying for his meal. That's when somebody said, here, I think you dropped this.


CHAPMAN (voice-over): To date he has given...

STEWART: Not counting this year, about $1.3 million.

CHAPMAN: He says illness will not mean the end of all this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know who he is, nothing. Hell a nice guy, though.

CHAPMAN: He's training other secret Santas to step up and help out.

STEWART: It is a tremendous rush. It's addictive. Giving is -- it is addictive. It just -- it makes you feel so good inside. It's healing.

CHAPMAN: Cancer, he insists, is only a detour in this remarkable life.

STEWART: Downstairs, there's a bell. When you get your cancer in remission, you get to ring the bell. I'm going to ring that bell.


NGUYEN: What an inspirational man there. We do wish him the best. And now let's get to our poll, shall we? Because there is one for everything. You know there is. Everyone has an opinion. So why not Christmas? CNN's Bill Schneider has the goods on trees, cars and, well, just about everything Christmas.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Americans are divided over many religious issues, but Christmas is not one of them. In a CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, 94 percent of Americans say they celebrate Christmas. Nearly three quarters send Christmas cards and have a Christmas tree in their home.

Oh, well, people do that for the kids. Nope. More than 70 percent of Americans who have no children at home put up a Christmas tree. Religious people, right? Nope. Even Americans who rarely go to church put up a Christmas tree. But what kind of tree? That's where things are changing. Ten years ago, a third of Americans put up a real tree.

Now that number is down to 22 percent. Today, most Americans use artificial trees, maybe because it's cheaper than buying a new tree every year, maybe because it's safer, maybe because people are more environmentally conscious, or maybe it's just easier. Putting up Christmas lights is not easy. But nearly six in 10 Americans do it, including this woman in Los Angeles, who happens to be Jewish.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think Santa Claus and talking snowmen and flying reindeer and candy cane trees have any religious significance at all.

SCHNEIDER: She happens to live in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Are her neighbors offended? Some are. Others are not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an Orthodox Jew and I think it's unusual that Mary puts this on, but it's OK. It doesn't faze me. I think it's pretty.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Christmas is less and less likely to divide church-goers and non--church-goers, people with and without kids, even Christians and non-Christians. They can all agree on one thing. It's pretty.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.


NGUYEN: Well, we do have a holiday theme for our e-mail question as well this morning. Here's what we want to know. What's your favorite Christmas song? Is it this one? Maybe another one? Or is there just a holiday hit that you cannot stand? We'll go to the other end of this, just one that you just can't stand. E-mail us Who knows, maybe we can find it and put it on the air as well, especially the ones that you don't like.

And coming up a little later throughout the morning, we're going to talk about the most annoying Christmas songs. But in the meantime we want to hear from you. It's

Yes, it's been a bad couple of weeks for Americans who climbed the world's tallest mountains. Hopes have faded on Oregon's Mt. Hood. And this morning, a search intensifies for two American climbers in China. This is an exclusive from CNN on the world's most remote mountain regions near Tibet. And for that, we go to CNN's John Vause, who joins us via broadband.

Hi, John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Betty. Both Christine Valstoff (ph) and Charlie Fowler were both last seen in this town of Latang (ph) in southwest China. They had a meal here. They sent an e-mail from here. But that was a long time ago, six weeks. And their friend and colleagues have spent the last week or so trying to work out what happened between then and now.

And basically all the evidence they've gathered, all the clues, today they narrowed their search down from a few thousand square miles to a few hundred square miles. They've decided to concentrate on an area called the Genyan Peaks (ph), it is about a half a day's drive west of here. There are just 14 people involved in this search on the ground. It's very rugged terrain, it is very slow-going. What they're hoping for, though, is that a reward, which was offered earlier this week, $4,000, a small fortune in this part of China, will lead to that one piece of information that will then give them that much-needed breakthrough.


TED CALLAHAN, FRIEND OF LOST CLIMBERS: The holy grail we're looking for is for a driver to call in and say, I dropped them off at such and such a place and such and such a day. Failing that, then we might go out into the peaks again. We'll maybe try some areas -- we might do a more thorough sweep with more people, might try some other areas. But if we don't get more information, there is just not enough people to flood these areas to just keep walking around and looking for them.


VAUSE: Now, the searchers admit that really, they're up against the odds here. This is very difficult terrain, some of the most mountainous terrain in all of China, it is very high altitude where we are right now, 15,000 feet, a little higher where the search teams are looking. And the temperatures are dropping by the day.

But what they're holding on to is what they call the best-case scenario, that both Christine and Charlie are injured and that they've taken shelter, they're being helped by a local herdsmen, which is why these search teams have been going door to door. They say this next stage of the search will last for the next five days. After that, they will reassess -- Betty.

NGUYEN: John, let me ask you this, if they aren't hurt and they're just stuck up on the mountain, what are the chances of survival at this point? What are you hearing about that?

VAUSE: The chances of survival are extremely slim. Both of these mountain climbers are extremely experienced outdoors people, but it is very, very cold here. It is very, very difficult, rugged terrain. It would be extremely difficult for even the best outdoorsman to survive in these conditions. Still, they say there is hope that they could be surviving up there in the mountains even for this period of time, although, as days go by, that hope fades just a little with each passing day -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, hopefully it is a best-case scenario situation. John Vause, joining us via broadband from China today. Thank you for that, John.

HOLMES: And don't go away. We've got some pretty good stuff still ahead you will want to check out.

NGUYEN: Oh yes, good stuff. This man may not be familiar to most Americans, but he is huge in South Korea. And when we say guitar god, that is with a capital "G."

HOLMES: That story, and also need to tell you about a virgin birth. Yes. That's coming up next in "The WaterCooler."

NGUYEN: All right.


HOLMES: It is time for "The WaterCooler," your chance to get caught up on some of the day's other stories, if you will.

NGUYEN: Emphasis on other.


NGUYEN: These are items that don't qualify as big stories but are just too good to pass up. So let's get right to it. Extremely rare video, may be a first. Check it out. That orange thing right there, yes, it's a live giant squid. It was reeled in the other day off the coast of Japan.

HOLMES: Well, the thing here is the giant squids usually are only found dead. I didn't know this but this one measured 24 feet. They grow to be more than twice this size, actually.

NGUYEN: Now the Chester Zoo in England is expecting an event some might consider a Christmas miracle, really. A clutch of eggs laid by this Komodo dragon are due to hatch any day.

HOLMES: See, the thing is, this is unusual because Flora has never been with a male.



NGUYEN: How did she do that?


HOLMES: Scientists didn't know the giant lizards could reproduce without a mate.

NGUYEN: Ah, men not needed, I see.

HOLMES: Right.


NGUYEN: Yes. This is not a science fiction film. Check this guy out. He may look like an aging monk, but Shin Joong-Hyun is a bona fide rock star. Yes, this South Korean musician, who is now 68, started playing 50 years ago.

HOLMES: And it was back in the early 1960s that Shin founded what could be called the Korean Beatles. They were called Add 4. This is video of Shin's farewell concert performed recently in Seoul.

NGUYEN: Minus three. HOLMES: I've got to go pick up his CD.

NGUYEN: I can tell. You know what, don't worry, I'll get you it in a couple of days.

HOLMES: Appreciates (ph) you (ph).

NGUYEN: Well, if you're headed home for the holiday weekend, you want to stay with CNN because we're going to help you get where you need to go.

HOLMES: Yes, another travel update coming up at the top of the hour. Here now another live look from Denver where travelers are still struggling to get out of town by planes, trains, and automobiles.

NGUYEN: Speaking of roads, we have what we are calling "car karma." Would you believe the astrological sign that you're born under may determine what kind of driver you really are? So what's your sign?

HOLMES: Oh, Betty...

NGUYEN: Mine's not a good one.

HOLMES: Yes, it is not good. And what is your favorite Christmas song? Is there a holiday hit you just can't stand? Let us know what you're liking these days around the CD player. E-mail us

NGUYEN: The Christmas tree or...

HOLMES: We'll read some of those responses in our next hour. Stick around.


HOLMES: "Now in the News," word that a top Taliban leader, who is said to be close to Osama bin Laden, is dead. According to the U.S. military, he was killed in an air strike this week near the Afghan border with Pakistan. However, wire services reporting that a Taliban spokesman says Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani was not killed.

NGUYEN: Things clearing up a bit in Denver today. A couple of runways now open, which could mean thousands of people may be on their way. But airline officials admit it could take several days to fix the travel mess, and it is truly mess, that this blizzard has created. We have a live report that is straight ahead.

Also this, the fog is lifting in London, providing some relief for travelers there. That fog forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights over the last two days. But things are getting back to normal now. Although travel in and out of Paris and Brussels, well, that is going to have to wait until tomorrow.

HOLMES: Sending a message to Tehran, we're watching the U.N. today. The Security Council is expected to vote on sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

NGUYEN: No second chance for Miss Nevada, oh, no. Katie Rees is stripped of her sash after racy pictures of her surfaced of her in various poses and stages of undress.

No, Donald Trump isn't coming to the rescue of this one. Rees will discuss her dismissal this morning at 11 a.m. during a news conference.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were not designed to withstand the kinds of issues that we are facing today.

NGUYEN: A new report raises new questions about the safety of some of New York's commuter trains systems in the event of an attack.


HOLMES: From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is December 23. But you already know that because you are rushing out to get some shopping done, still.


HOLMES: It's 8 a.m. here in Atlanta, 6 a.m. in Denver, where they're finally taking off. Good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Some may not be doing too much shopping because they're still stuck at the airport today. Good morning everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for being with us.

HOLMES: And do want to explain to you there, what you are seeing, with our screen here. We're looking at a live picture, actually, of that Denver airport we've been talking about. But the picture on your screen it's pushed back this morning. We're going to show you constant updates on what you need know as you travel this holiday weekend.

NGUYEN: That's right, up-to-the-minute details on travel delays and weather conditions as all across the country. We want to keep the information up on the screen throughout the day.

HOLMES: Spending the holidays with a couple of thousand complete strangers that has been the story in Denver this week. Hundreds of flights canceled because of really bad weather, but now a bit of relief at least. And hope for many that they will be home for the holidays. Pattie Logan live at Denver International Airport for us.

Are these folks going to get home, Pattie?

LOGAN: Well, there is very good news right now, T.J. The sound -- I hope you guys can hear me -- I have a pretty loud jet going over me, and that is sound that people here want to be hearing. They are getting flights out this morning. We have started to hear more and more taking off. People are driving in, a steady stream of traffic. And, of course, a lot of these people are people that have already booked for today, maybe weeks or months ago.

So the people that were stranded, they are trying to squeeze onto those flights. So the people who have been here for several days, very slowly, trying to get on the planes wherever they can. And they're having to be creative, because some people are just trying to get out of here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if I can get to Georgia or somewhere close, can rent a car and take the rest of the way by myself.


LOGAN: The lines are very long inside, the check-in lines. People are arriving three or four hours ahead of their flight to make sure they get on. And some people didn't get out here early enough yesterday. Came out a couple of hours thinking that was enough time, but the lines were so long they may have -- some of them missed their flights. So people are getting here early today.

They have cleared the parking lots. There are mounds and mounds of snow, as you can see as my cameraman, Gene, pans off here. So the parking lots are starting to fill up. The plows we can see the plows are all out on the runways. They've got three open, hoping to have a fourth open soon.

They had the cargo runway open so that packages are coming in and out of Denver, as well for the Christmas rush here, the very last minute rush. And the mail is being delivered today. Mail carriers slogging through two feet of snow deliver the mail hoping to get it there by Christmas. They will be working on Sunday to do that. So things are slowly getting back to normal here in Denver.

HOLMES: Well, Pattie, that is a bit of good news at least. Pattie Logan for us at Denver International Airport. Thank you so much, Pattie.

NGUYEN: Thousands of people stranded at the airport, but what about those who can't really fend for themselves? Well, that was the case in Denver where nine-year-old Cole Churchill got stuck. Yep, his flight to Nebraska cancelled and his unaccompanied minor badge out of view. He was literally lost for several hours before the United Airlines attendant finally scooped him up.

The bad weather still kept him there for a couple of days, stuck at the airport with other unaccompanied minors. Sounds like a movie, doesn't it? Well, the good news is that Cole is finally back on the flight, and actually he is now home for the holidays.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHURCHILL: Now, I don't have to worry about being in a dumb airport, because I have my daddy and my step mom, and my little sister.


NGUYEN: Well, the kid got lost in the airport.

HOLMES: I get lost in the airport, so that had to be scary for him.

NGUYEN: But you're not a minor, although sometimes we do wonder -- no, I'm kidding.

HOLMES: See, I think this is what you were meaning about the --

NGUYEN: It's the holiday spirit around here.

HOLMES: The verbal hugs, Reynolds, you were saying.



HOLMES: From Afghanistan now, conflicting stories on the death of a top Taliban leader. The U.S. military says that one of the most wanted Taliban leaders has been killed in an air strike, but Taliban sources, quoted by some wire services, say that the Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Osmani is alive.

According to U.S. military sources, Osmani was the Taliban's chief military commander in southern Afghanistan, playing a key role in suicide attacks, roadside bombs, and kidnappings. Osmani was one of the most wanted Taliban leaders with close ties to al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden. A coalition spokesman say they are certain he's dead.


CMD. TOM COLLINS, COALITION FORCES: This happened down in southern Helmand Province, just north of the border with Pakistan. We had been tracking him for some time, following his locations. When we got the opportunity, when he was away from any Afghan populous, we chose that time to strike him, hit the vehicle. Two other people, who are unidentified, were also killed in the attack.


NGUYEN: Well, a threat exposed of attacks in other cities have highlighted the need for extra security in train tunnels right here in the U.S., but now, a leaked report is raising new concerns about this issue, and CNN's Mary Snow has the report.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The PATH train commuter line beneath the Hudson River, linking New Jersey and New York has been named in the past as a terror target. Most recently, in July.

Now, a report leaked to the "New York Times" concludes that the PATH trains system is more vulnerable than believed. That, quote, "a relatively small amount of high explosives could cause significant flooding of the rail system within hours."

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security calls the release of the document unfortunate, saying that disclosing sensitive information can compromise public safety. The DHS declined to confirm the specifics of the report. The Port Authority, which oversees the rail line also declined to discuss it.

ERNESTO BUTCHER, PORT AUTHORITY OF NY & NJ: If we knew of any imminent danger, we would certainly take action to prevent that.

SNOW: Since the subway bombings in London and the Madrid train bombings security officials say that a number of reports have been commissioned to outside contractors to assess the risk of bomb attacks.

In the United States, authorities say they disrupted a plot in July by terrorists overseas to set off explosives in backpacks as the trains passed through the four PATH tubes. "The Times" says the report was leaked by an official who was concerned that the latest findings questioning the vulnerabilities of the PATH Trains, were not being shared.

CNN's Security Analyst Pat D'Amuro:

PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: What's concerning is that original estimates seemed to be miscalculated. In that, now it is believed that smaller amounts of explosives material could cause damage to the PATH train.

SNOW: The Port Authority says that in recent weeks bag searches have been stepped up. And an additional $180 million was allocated this month to improve security. Ernesto Butcher of the Port Authority says the vulnerability of all train systems a matter of concern.

BUTCHER: They were not designed to withstand the kinds of issues that we are facing today.

SNOW (on camera): Officials say they don't want to divulge exactly how they are increasing security, but they say they are trying to strengthen the structure of the tunnels and increase surveillance. One thing is certain, PATH system is a source of concern. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: You want to stay tuned to CNN both day and night for the most reliable news about your security.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People get rundown. People start to drink more. People start to eat poorly.


NGUYEN: Yes. They do.

HOLMES: Ooh, but this was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Coming up at the bottom of the hour, "House Call" shows you how to stop stress from stealing that holiday spirit.

NGUYEN: At this hour, the nation's newest Defense secretary is meeting with the president about the future of the Iraq war. We will have a report from the White House, that is in five minutes.

HOLMES: And what happens when a 911 dispatcher receives the emergency phone call that her son has been shot? We will show you next.


D. LAMB: Talk to Jesus.

BRUCE: I've been shot, Mom.

D. LAMB: Talk to Jesus.

BRUCE: I am.

D. LAMB: Ask him to save you, and do it, and just believe it, OK?

BRUCE: All right.

D. LAMB: Do you hear me?

BRUCE: All right. I love you.




JOSEPH CHESHIRE, DAVID EVANS' ATTORNEY: Mr. Nifong filed a dismissal of the rape charges against these three young men, leaving in place the first degree force able sex offense charges and the kidnapping charges.


NGUYEN: So the most serious charge has now been dropped in the Duke lacrosse case, but the three former players could still face 20 years each, in jail. Court papers filed by the D.A. say there is a lack of evidence to try them for rape. And that is because the accuser in the case now says she is not sure what object was used in alleged sexual assault, at a lacrosse party near the Duke campus last march. HOLMES: Horrifying irony, a South Carolina woman working as a 911 operator takes an emergency call, the victim? Her own son.


D. LAMB: If he dies, I want to talk to him before he dies.

BRUCE: Bruce, talk to Mamma.

D. LAMB: Put him on the phone.



D. LAMB: I love you. Hey, listen, OK. Jesus is going to take care of you, OK? You will be saved. You just need to calm down and just focus on that, OK?

Press down on that wound, OK. Honey, take a breath. Take a breath. You can do this. You can do this, OK.

BRUCE: He's puking. Momma, he is puking.

D. LAMB: Roll him on his side. Roll him on the side and clean it out.


HOLMES: Whew, the lady was able to stay calm and play both the role of a mom and a 911 operator. Good news, that her son did survive that shooting.

NGUYEN: Well, Discovery is home. The space shuttle finally touched down Friday evening. Thanks to a break in the weather. Mission highlights included four spacewalks and the delivery of a new astronaut to the International Space Station.

HOLMES: The residents blame U.S. troops for a rocket attack on a neighborhood in Baquba, Iraq. Six people are dead. Local officials say it's not clear who launched the assault. The town is a hot spot of insurgent strongholds. The U.S. military says it is now investigating.

An insurgent leader offers the U.S. a deal, a one month truce. Time to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and turn over all military bases and weapons to, quote, "the mujahadeen's of the Islamic state". The other showed up on an audiotape posted on a Islamic web site. The speaker on the tape is identified as the leader of an umbrella organization for insurgents, including al Qaeda in Iraq.

NGUYEN: Just back from Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is at Camp David, brainstorming a new course of action in Iraq. And right about now, he is briefing President Bush and other top administration officials. Still, though, most Americans lack confidence in the president's ability to move the country in the right direction, a full 59 percent, according to Opinion Research Corporation survey. And White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano joins us now.

This meeting pretty important as they set the course, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Betty. And a senior Bush aid says that this meeting, between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush will be the first time the two have talked since Secretary Gates visited Iraq, earlier this week.

Now during his trip there, Gates heard from a variety of people, troops, themselves, as well as commanders, about what should be done next, and whether or not they believe more U.S. forces would help or hurt the situation in Iraq.

Now, one of the options, of course, that President Bush is considering is a temporary short-term surge of U.S. forces to help stabilize Baghdad. Now the president, who is spending the holiday weekend at Camp David, is being briefed by Gates this morning, as you noted.

And also attending that meeting, other top Bush aides, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and as well the president's National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. They are huddling away from the cameras, in the privacy of the presidential retreat at Camp David.

Yesterday, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, President Bush carried out what has become an emotional holiday tradition for him, visiting injured troops. The president and the first lady met with about 38 service members. And President Bush gave out 16 Purple Hearts. Afterwards the president expressed gratitude for the sacrifices of those men and women, and their families.

Now, as for his Iraq deliberations, a senior Bush administration official says that no decisions have been made yet. And that next week, on Thursday, when the president is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, that's where he'll be after the Christmas holiday, the National Security Council is going to be meeting.

A senior Bush aide, though, says this is not going to be a meeting in which any kind of decisions are made, Betty, but rather part of the consultative process. The president, of course, as you know, is expected to make a major policy speech on Iraq early next year -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House with all the good information. Thank you, Elaine.

Well, it has been a very big year on the warfront, in Iraq and Afghanistan. So to help look back and make sense of what happened, and why, tune in to CNN at 5:00 Eastern, this evening, John Roberts hosts "This Year At War".

HOLMES: Could your family's holiday party land you in the hospital?

NGUYEN: Hope not.

HOLMES: May happen to some bad family Christmases.

NGUYEN: Well, the food is not that great, but, OK?

HOLMES: Well, "House Call" lays out to dangers of the holiday heart syndrome coming up in about 10 minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people wind up going from their celebrations to the emergency room, and often being admitted to the hospital with a very rapid and irregular heart beat.


NGUYEN: All right. Check this out. Looking at the Denver airport, this is a good sign, especially for travelers, unless they are all asleep on cots that we can't see.

HOLMES: Or they are hiding. Where is everybody?

NGUYEN: But this thing was jam packed of people waiting in lines, lots of frustration, because flights are just not able to get out due to the bad weather. But a few of them have left this morning and that can make for a nice day. Check with Chicago.

HOLMES: Chicago, beautiful Chicago. That is a good shot this morning. Not sure what is happening with the weather, temperature wise, and what not, but still a good-looking shot.

NGUYEN: Let me tell you this, it's probably cold. I will take that guess.

HOLMES: It's probably cold. That happens in Chicago from time to time.

NGUYEN: Yes, it does. And take a look at Atlanta. And some call it "Hotlanta" It is not that hot, but it sure isn't anything like Denver today. And it doesn't seem like there are going to be too many delays, flight-wise. So, hopefully, if you are headed home, you will get there before Christmas.

HOLMES: And just how into Christmas is the average American? A CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, found this out for us. That 94 percent of the respondents say -- yes, they do celebrate the holidays.

NGUYEN: Yes, and when it comes up to putting up that annual tree, well, it appears, T.J., that America is going artificial.

HOLMES: Ah, no!

NGUYEN: I have an artificial tree and T.J. really slams me for it, but hey, 53 percent of the respondents said they put up a fake tree. So, I'm with the majority. That is up from 39 percent 10 years ago.

HOLMES: My home smells so delicious now, with the real tree.

NGUYEN: With the real deal?

HOLMES: Yes. And we are also taking our own unscientific poll with you. We want to know, what is your favorite Christmas song, and is there any one that you just can't stand? E-mail us at But we found some stuff out from you already.

NGUYEN: Yes. Lots of different favorites, including, "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby, and the "Charlie Brown Christmas Theme", as well, not doing too bad in the polls.

HOLMES: We have "Feliz Navidad".

NGUYEN: "Feliz Navidad", hmm, hmm, yes.

HOLMES: By all means, continue.


HOLMES: A lot of people love that song.

NGUYEN: I like that song.

HOLMES: But a lot of people are saying they can't stand it, either.

NGUYEN: Really? All right. Well, here's one that they really can't stand, remember this one? "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"? Yes, I never liked it either. So, I am with you on that.

But keep them coming, would you? We want to hear what you think about the best and possibly even the worst Christmas songs. And coming up at 11:00 Eastern, we will hear about the worst holiday songs.

This is a great segment, because we will talk to the host of the annoying music show. How do you get that job? Hey, we are going to ask him. His name is Jim Nayder, and that is coming up. And we will truly annoy you, if you aren't already.

HOLMES: Oh, man. I hope not too bad.

NGUYEN: Keep it here, though, even if you are.

HOLMES: Well, from holiday songs to holiday desserts.

NGUYEN: Today's "Bod Squad" we show you how to enjoy, but not indulge, in all of that fabulous food.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eat, eat, eat! We have all heard those words during the holidays. A wonderful time of year to celebrate, family, friends and lots of tempting food, but sometimes there is tremendous pressure to overindulge.

(on camera): My Italian grandmother, I mean, a compliment to her would be to eat as much food as you possibly can.

ELLIE KRIEGER, REGISTERED DIETICIAN: Right. And I have worked with a lot of clients that do have trouble with their families, kind of forcing food on them, and this is part of how their families show love.

COSTELLO (voice-over): If your family tries to load you down with extra helpings, Ellie suggests telling them you'll have a little taste, because you are trying to be healthier.

KRIEGER: Scan the buffet, see what is your, you know, prime holiday food that you would miss out on if you didn't have any. Fill up on the fruits, vegetables and the lean proteins, and have a couple of those little specialty items.

COSTELLO: And Ellie's best holiday advice is to savor every bite and eat intuitively.

KRIEGER: Just slow down and listen to our bodies, we will wind up eating less and enjoying our food more.

COSTELLO: Carol Costello, CNN.


NGUYEN: Eat less? Yes, I have to work on that, especially during the holidays.

HOLMES: Good luck, with that, Betty.

NGUYEN: I don't think I'll have much luck with that.

HOLMES: You don't eat less -- normally.

NGUYEN: Stop it! OK, we're moving towards --


NGUYEN: From travel to shopping -- you are in so much trouble -- to annoying loved ones -- or co-anchors -- is your holiday stress building minute-by-minute? "House Call" has the cure next.

HOLMES: And you can find our how to lose your waistline, and not just your money, in the new year. We'll show you what to look for in a personal trainer. That's coming your way at 9 Eastern.

NGUYEN: And the next time someone complains about your driving, just blame your birthday. We will explain, don't worry, coming up at 10:30 Eastern. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: "Now in the News": A top Taliban leader said to be close to Osama bin Laden is dead. According to the U.S. military he was killed in an air strike, this week, near the Afghan border with Pakistan. But, wire services are reporting that a Taliban spokesman says Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani was not killed.

Clearing the way in Denver, a couple of runways have reopened at the airport there. But it still could take a couple of days to clear the backlog of all those canceled flights. We have a live report from the airport in Denver. That is coming up at the top of the hour.

Let's get you over to Reynolds Wolf for a quick check of the weather out there.