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tv   CNN Newsroom  CNN  December 25, 2013 6:00am-8:01am PST

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♪ good morning to you, i'm carol costello, thanks so much for being with me. there's a lot of news going on, but before we get to that, merry christmas, everyone, may your day be magical. as the sun rises across the country, christians celebrate with both revelry and reverence. in maryland, symbols of the season took to the ways of the national harbor, the grinch even bounced along on a jet ski. in australia, far from the north pole, revelers celebrated on the
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surf and on the sand. santa parked the reindeer and padded around in flip-flops to deliver gifts and good cheer. china does take pride in its massive exports of toys saying without it's cheap products, america couldn't enjoy those piles of gifts under the christmas tree. pope francis has a simple message this christmas. then pride and selfishness. a call it the francis effect. >> god is peace, let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day in our life. in our families, in our cities, and nations, in the whole world. let us allow ourselves to be moved by god's goodness. >> john allen is cnn's senior
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vatican analyst, welcome. >> reporter: hey, carol, merry christmas to you. >> merry christmas to you, too, john. the pope delivered such a simple message, choose light over dark, it's what we learn all of our lives, yet coming from a man who's head of a church, it seems fresh. >> we have got a blustery roman christmas afternoon here today and just as the wind is blowing strongly in the city, a lot of people would say, a new wind is blowing in the catholic church with this pope. you're absolutely right, in a sense that he is not invented a new message, but what he is doing is lifting up elements of that message, that perhaps have not gotten the kind of attention he's devoting to them. in particular t social gospel, concern for the poor, for victims of war, for those who are in other ways at society's margins, that's something that's run through his christmas message this is year. and coupled with that, carol,
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when he talks that talk, people think he also walks the walk. this is a man of deep humility and simplicity, he much prefers to live life as an ordinary man as opposed to living in a guilded cocoon. i think that goes a long way to explaining his appeal. >> if we love god as our brothers and sisters, then we walk in the light, but if we are dominated by pride, self seeking, then darkness falls in us and around us. it's so simple, but of course he's saying so much more, that also seems to rub some people the wrong way, despite the pope's popularity, why do you think that is? >> well, i mean, look, carol u there is no doubt that francis is a change agent in many respects in the catholic church and change whether we're talking about politics or the economy or in this case religion, is always unsettling to some. i think there would be some
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conservatives in the catholic world who would think it's just too much too fast with this pope. i think there would be some liberals who feel he's not going nearly far or fast enough. but you make the point, i mean those reactions aside, what we know is that in every corner of the world in which public opinion can be scientifically measured, francis has overwhelming approval ratings, we saw that in the square, where the enthusiasm was just electric for this pope. what he has accomplished during the first nine months of his papacy is he has put this massive deposit of political capital and good will in the bank and now the draw for 2014 is how is he going to choose to spend it? >> that is the big question. talk is one thing and you know, doing charitable works and mingling with common folk is another. but actual change within the church is something else. >> reporter: well, that's right. now it should be said that he's already moved the ball on some
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critically important fronts, he's changed personnel in the vatican, he has shaken up the composition of the vatican's all important office that appoints 5,000 bishops around the world, moving away from moderates and toward hard liners, trying to clean up some of the scandals around here, he's created a commission to deal with the pedophile priest scandals. we'll also see francis trying to be an apostle of peace. he's going to continue to be engaged in the syrian conflict and on and on. one thing i will tell you that we have learned about francis over nine months, carol, this is a pope that simply does not have an off switch. >> i think you're right about that. john allen, thank you for joining us on many christmas morning, i do appreciate it. >> you bet. in other news this morning, an attack on the u.s. embassy in kabul. the taliban is claiming
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responsibility saying two missiles were fired at the embassy. a u.s. embassy spokesperson says two rounds of indirect fire hit the embassy compound, but no one was hurt. this comes as the u.s. and afghanistan work on a plan for u.s. military presence in the country after 2014. cnn's barbara starr is at the pentagon, she's following this story, tell us more, barbara. >> carol, they don't know yet whether it was rockets or mortar fire, it has happened before, but a very rough christmas morning to start for the people at the u.s. embassy in kabul. there were no injuries, everyone's accounted for, thankfully. it doesn't appear to be major damage at in point. over the years, the embassy has taken fire many u.s. bases, natunato bases in afghanistan have taken fire, it does happen. but of course we are coming into 2014, the u.s. is looking for a significant reduction in its present 47,000 troops or so now,
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going to go down to somewhere in the 10 to 12 range in nato in 2014, if, if afghan president hamid karzai signs an agreement for all of this, otherwise, this time next year, we'll be looking at the u.s. fully getting out of afghanistan if there is no new security agreement. >> let's switch gears a bit and talk about this navy s.e.a.l. injured in south sue sue dan. >> this is very good news for that navy s.e.a.l. -- their aircraft came under fire, they were all shot, three of the s.e.a.l.s were transferred to germany a few days ago, they were well enough to be transferred. this young man had to undergo very extensive additional surgery, they could not move him. now we're hearing this morning he finally is on his way to
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lanstuhl. the president and first lady paid tribute to the nation's troops as part of their annual holiday message. listen. >> many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they have been with their families on christmas. in fact, with the iraq war over and the transition in afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm's way than at any time in the last decade. >> and that's something that we all can be thankful for. >> and for the president, an early christmas gift of sorts, signups for obama care surges as americans scramble to meet those enrollment deadlines and for those who had a hard time getting coverage, there may still be help available. >> reporter: it turns out a lot of americans are last-minute shoppers even when it comes to health care. the federal exchange
6:09 am government and the state exchanges have seen a big jump in visits to their website as folks a all across the country scramble to try to sign up for coverage starting january 1. monday was a record day for with 2 million visitors to the site. tuesday also saw big numbers officials say, but not as big as monday. the administration is making its best effort to make sure that those who are making their best efforts to enroll in coverage starting january 1, but who weren't able to complete the process by last night's deadline, that they'll still be able to get that coverage starting in january with the help of a customer service representative. it's interesting because it depends on what state you're in, some states have pushed back their deadline even further than the federal government. either friday december 27, or tuesday december 31st. a and in washington state, residents there have until january 15 to sign up for coverage, retroactive to january 1 if they were having problems.
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of course this is all good news for the obama administration, especially after those early problems with, but it's important to know that they're still unlikely to meet their original target of 3.3 million enrollees by this point. for 20 years, british tv viewers could watch the queen's traditional christmas message followed by an alternate address often by someone controversial. this morning that controversial message comes from none other than edward snowden, while his full address airs later this morning a preview has been released. listen. >> a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. they'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, and unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. and that's a problem because privacy matters. privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we
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want to be. >> he's getting a lot of pub. >> that's right, carol, it's usually delivered by a newsmaker, that alternative message, snowden joins the ranks of mahmoud ahmadinejad, even alley g. and margi simpson. he's going to rally -- he says this big brother type spying and orwell's famous book 1984 is nothing compared to what's going on today. >> the conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. together we can find a better balance. end mass surveillance. and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying. for everyone out there
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listening, thank you and merry christmas. >> so carol, a very positive message from edward snowden about the world we live in today. but i think that over the years, he's obviously been a very controversial figure, and so he has gone from kind of revealing this nsa surveillance program, i think to being more of a -- >> he did tape that in russia, right? because he can't leave and russia's not exactly a place where freedom of speech flourishes and if he said anything against russia, russia probably wouldn't let him release this message and he's just a complicated guy and it's a complicated issue and i don't know how to feel about it. >> well, i think it's interesting, and there's a bit of hypocrisy going on as you say, because in russia, there's very little freedom of expression. you have seen over the last
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area, president putin cracking down even further on his opposition. and one of the conditions of edward snowden's so-called temporary asylum is that he wasn't going to do any more leaks against the united states. but you have seen, he's passed a lot of information to journalists glen greenawald and others so you have seen these selective leaks over the years and they really have no idea how much information he really has, and it could be just the tip of the iceberg, so it seems to inflict kind of maximum catastrophe, maximum damage to u.s. prestige in the world. we could see in the weeks and months even more programs. we really have no idea how much information he has or what's going to be linked by his so-called proxies. >> many thanks. still to come in the newsroom, today is black friday, well, sort of. christmas is the number one day for downloading apps. after the break, we'll take a
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look at some of the apps you might want to consider on your new iphone. hi, we're the calendar family stationed in portugal and we would like to send our happy holiday greetings out to our friends and family in the yaps area. happy holidays, everyone. [ male announcer ] this store knows how to handle a saturday crowd. ♪ [ male announcer ] the parking lot helps by letting us know who's coming. the carts keep everyone on the right track. the power tools introduce themselves. all the bits and bulbs keep themselves stocked. and the doors even handle the checkout so we can work on that thing that's stuck in the thing.
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checking our top stories at 17 minutes past the hour. utility crews are scrambling to get the power back on to hundreds of people who lost it in last week's snow and ice storms. michigan's been hit the hardest. people in vermont and new york state are also spending christmas without heat or lights. and holiday travelers got stuck after a multicar pileup on i-90 in ohio. no one was badly hurt but more than a dozen vehicles were damaged. drivers blamed whiteout conditions. same-sex marriages will go on in utah while a court moves
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forward. temporarily stay last week's ruling, striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. hundreds of licenses have been issued to same-sex couples in salt lake county since friday. your tree may be missing a few gifts if you had them ships with u.p.s. thousands of packages that should have arrived yesterday will be late. higher than normal ships demand and bad weather to blame. packages will arrive, but it will get them tomorrow. sorry. it's called the black friday of app downloads. every year christmas day is the heaviest download day for tablet and smart phone app. all you out there diving into your new smart phones and tablets spend all day filling them up with app. tell us a couple of apps you absolutely desperately need on your phone or tablet? >> well, as you said, everybody gets a new tablet, gets a new
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smart phone, last year 328 million apps were downloaded on christmas day along. that's more than double the normal amount that's downloaded there's so many devices out there, not just i paipads. if you're an app developer, this is the day when you want people to download your a prkapp. you want them to unwrap that new device. >> your top five recommended list. the first one on the list is, dots. >> dots, more games are downloaded than anything else today. and this is a great game that's free, it's connect the dots, but with touch, with your finger, similar if you played candy crush, you know kind of a similar game, it's real simple. it's a great one, it kills time, very addictive, so people are downloading a lot of games today. so that's the first one. >> the second one is drop box? >> this is a really great one, a really useful one.
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i have a 2 1/2-year-old son, so i take a lot of pictures and i want to make sure i don't ever lose those pictures. so what this can do is automatically back up every photo you take with your phone, with your tablet, as well as lets you store files, videos, documents and get them on any device on the computer. drop box free a app available on all platforms. >> amazon's kindle is an e reading device itself, but they also have an app that you can read on an ipad, i use the kipdal app because it's really easy to transfer your books, to sink them, read them when you have a minute here, a minute there. >> i have kindle on my phone, but i don't use it for some reason. but i'm going to start, since you've given it your recommendation. >> -- you go in, you say i'm interested in sports, i'm interested in business, i'm
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interested in music. and then it gives you articles and as you read through it, you do a thumbs-up or thumbs down, it gets better as time goes on and it delivers personalized reading mechanical men da reading recommendations. >> ever note. >> similar to drop box is a productivity app. it's great, it's available on all platforms, it's free, something popped into your mind, you don't want to loses it, someone might put it on a post it note, but that gets lost. you pop it into your -- you can do voice dictation, another gate one just for productivity. >> can i tell you what the most useless app is? >> i think a lot of people probably feel bad about playing games, i know i play candy crush with my 2-year-old, we're into curious george, so he gets a lot of use out of it. it's a great day to play with apps, you've got time to kill,
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hanging out, maybe the weather's not good. so i encourage people to check them out. >> you didn't want to stay candy crush is useless, it really is, but i play it all the time. >> thank you so much for coming in on christmas. we appreciate it. if you got a new smart phone or gadget this holiday season, make sure you download the c nrks nrncnnn app for your new device. the most inspirational moments of 2013, from the pope's message that everyone should be embraced by the church, to a teenaged boy just doing the right thing. we have got them all for you next. >> i'm jordan applegate stationed in turkey. and this is my lovely wife mallory. during this holiday season, we especially remember jesus who gave us life and our family who is add to our life. >> we miss you family in
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arkansas, we love you, we wish we were with you this christmas. >> i love you guys and we miss you. a ♪ ♪ licious! ♪ ♪ must be the honey! ♪ it is so honey swagalish ♪ so much crunch, can you handle this? ♪ ♪ the party in the bowl don't stop! ♪ ♪ must be the honey! ♪ ♪
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cancer patient had died
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because she said she was so inspiring, she really took the message of roar, you can fight, you can do anything, you can overcome your obstacles and that message, it went viral. and katie perry also challenged students around the country to do their own videos. i think carol so often we accuse our pop stars of doing the wrong thing, right? here's a case where i think her video and her inspiring message really struck a cord with a lot of teens around the country. >> absolutely. okay, so let's move on to jennifer lawrence, she's so popular now, because she's just so down to earth, she proved we don't all have to be graceful. remember when she fell at the -- and it was so charming. >> right on her way, she's about to accept the award, best actress, right at the academy awards, and she tripped and you
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think oh, no, she just handled it with such grace. what's great about her, women really relate. she's so relatable. she's down to earth, she's authentic, she says it like it is, and that's so refreshing, right? because too often hollywood celebrities actors and actresses you don't necessarily think the person you see on the screen is the same person you would see if you met them casually. talk about the guy who returned the money to a blind man, he worked- >> can you believe it, right? so the blind man dropped the $20 bill, the dairy queen manager sees it, someone picks it up, they tell the person to give it back, they refuse, so he gives the blind man 20 of his own money. it could have ended there, but a customer saw it, and posted it on facebook. it goes viral, everyone's talking about it. then he gets a call from warren
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buffett because buffett's company oversees a ton of things, including all the dairy queens and he's commending him and congratulating him. i think it tells you, nice guys don't always finish last. >> exactly, sometimes it does pay to do the right thing in many different ways. pope francis, some people say he's transforming the catholic church, and he's doing it by simple gestures, and in this case, he kissed a disfigured man and that too went viral, that image, that story, it was just so incredibly powerful. >> it was so powerful, carol, it blew up, really, on people were talking about it for days and days. and i think what it does is, it's such a human moment right, and i think we talk about how can we accept people with differences, from different backgrounds, with disabilities? that gesture and that embrace and that sort of acceptance, i think the response that people were saying, wow, that is so
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beautiful, it sends such a message to all of us, can't we all do a better job of embracing those who don't look exactly like we do. >> isn't that part of what christmas is all about? >> it should b yeah. still to come on the newsroom, obama care signups surge ahead of the key deadline, but will the enthusiasm last? we'll talk about that next. hey, jacksonville, charity captain -- mom, happy holidays, no tears, i'll be home soon, and dad, i can't get you the 76 mustang this year, jacksonville, keep my family safe and go jaguars.
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good morning, thank you for joining us and merry, merry
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christmas. new fears about information stolen during the target credit card hark attack. the hackers also were able to steal the personal encrypted pin numbers on those cards during the security breach. target confirms that some encrypted information was stolen, but would not say if that included pin numbers. mailing that letter is going to get more expentagonive. the postal service has -- the new rate includes a 1 cent hike for inflation. the 3-cent jump goes into effect at the end of january, but should only last two years. if you missed last night's deadline to sign up for obama care, you may still have time. the obama administration saying it will work with people who tried and failed to complete their enroll. heavy traffic on the website as people try to make that christmas eve
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cutoff. cnn political commentator ben ferguson, good morning, ben. >> good morning, merry christmas. >> merry christmas to you, few so much for being with us on christmas day, this means a lot, especially to me. let's just touch on obama care, because we have talked a lot about kaobama care in recent da. it set a record. that's good. >> the majority of people that are getting on these plans are somehow going to be involved in medicare, that's concerning the young people that they needed to sign up for these algorithms that did not work correctly, low risk patients of these insurance companies, they needed to offset those who had pre-exiexisting conditions. they're not signing up so there are going to be some major obstacles going forward in 2014,
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because if you only have those sign up that are sick or that need a lot of care, are on a lot of prescriptions, this thing is going to be a disaster, i think, waiting to happen because so many young people are just saying, these premiums, they're too high, i'm not going to pay it. i'll deal with the penalty this year i need to. i'll get it if i need it with a preexisting condition because they can't turn me away. that's going to be a biggest hurdle going forward. >> let's talk about something else if you don't mind, because it is christmas, right? >> sure. >> because we always like this think that our politicians will be kinder and gentler into the new year. a republican and a democrat reached across the aisle, they compromised, they came up with a budget that the house and the senate eventually passed. and that was a good thing, so we're hoping for that kind of thing for continue into 2014, the question is, will it? >> i mean you certainly hope that they're going to get along better. i think the president this year realized that saying i will not
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negotiate, i will not step down from this, this is what i'm going to do and i'm doing nothing else is not the way that he's got to act moving forward. i hope they get together. i think when you think this budget deal done, at least it showed that we're not going to have another government type shutdown standoff on some issues and that is a positive thing. if you look at most americans right now that are watching this morning. they really do want government to get along and they want it to move forward because that's their job. i mean everyone's cynical, whether you're a republican or a democrat on congress not doing their job. and so this next year, you know, maybe they put some of this behind them, maybe this is a good step in the right direction, i don't think it's going to be perfect by any means, but i certainly hope they can finally say, okay, us not talking to each other, unless it's yelling at each other through the media, having a press conference talking about the other side 's terrible, is not the way the government's supposed to work. and the president of the united states of america is the biggest leader in the room saying i'm
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not going to negotiate, i think he's got to change that stance next year. >> political commentator ben fe ferguson, merry christmas to you. we have got stock market predictions and the top business stories to watch in 2014. mine was earned orbiting the moon in 1971. afghanistan in 2009. on the u.s.s. saratoga in 1982. [ male announcer ] once it's earned,
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it has been an up and down year for business, the health care internet flop, the stock market broke records and the entire government shutdown just to name a few. so what will be the big business stories for 2014? earlier i spoke with like newman, a yahoo finance columnist, author of how winner pivot from set back. a and chief economist from moody's an lit ticks to talk about what's next. >> you have very different picks, so this is fascinating. let's start with your first pick for 2014, you are predicting that the stock market will
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suffer a big drop, explain? >> if you talk to wall street analysts they almost seem surprised that this hasn't happened already. we have just had a terrific bull market, up about 175% since 2009, there have been valid reasons for that, but we just began this transition from this sort of artificial stimulus from the federal reserve to something that will require the stock market to depend more on the real economy, it started off smoothly, i think there are going to be some bumps along the way, it's not at all clear how companies are going to react, how investors are going to be react, there are going to be a couple of changes, interest rates go up a bit. and one or two things happen and that's all it takes to rattle investigators. some think if the stock market did go through a correction like that, that would be a health think thing, it would get some of the froth off the top. >> that's looking at it from a glass half full. but mark, do you have an
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opposite view? am i wrong? you're predicting strong growth? >> i'm optimistic, the economy in 2013 grew about 2%, in fact that's what it's been growing since the recovery began fouror five years ago, which is just okay, but in 2014, i expect growth of 3% and in 2015, growth of closer to 4%. and those are pretty good numbers, so yeah, i'm a lot more optimistic and i actually think that will put a nice floor underpinning to stock prices, there will be ups and downs in stock prices but in general they'll move higher. >> rick, your second prediction is that bit coin will just absolutely crash? >> bit coin is going to go one way or the other, it's sort of a binary situation, it's either going to be a terrific success, worth a lot, probably a lot more than it's worth now, or it's value is going to go to zero, i think we're going to find out in 2014, there certainly is some
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validity to bit coin, ben bernanke, other people have said, yes, we think there are some uses for a digital currency, but we have seen things such as the government in china has said, nope, we're not going to allow transactions in bit coin. if regulators in only some countries come out and say, nope, we're not going to tolerate this, we're going to squash it, even if it's for the wrong reasons, i think that will put bit coin on ice, it's something that's very complicated. ordinary people don't understand it and that works against it. my guess is that we're going to see the end of bit coin by the end of 2014. >> okay, on to mark's second prediction, you say there will be no political gridlock over the budget, and, man, i hope you're right about this. >> this is key. of course we just got a budget, and that means there will be no government shutdowns over the next couple of years, so that's really very good news. but we do have to get over the treasury debt limit, that's the
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amount of money the treasury can borrow and that has to be increased early next year. i think congress and the administration will get it together. there will be some brinkmanship and some back and forth, but i don't think there's any reason why political reason why they'll fight over this, at least not to the degree they have in past showdowns. so i suspect that while it won't be painless, it will feel a lot better this go around and that washington will fade from the front pages and that's key to my optimism with regard to the economy next eye and the year after. >> rick, your third prediction is -- >> i hear you laughing. >> i'm hopeful, i am. i think they have got to get something done and work together. that would be great for 2014, right? >> rick, your third prediction is that the democrats will go well during the fall midterms, this flies in the face that obama care was such a bust, and republicans think they're going to do well in part because of that. >> let's say they'll do better
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than expected, the democrats in the fall midterms. you can have a growing economy and a stock market correction at the same time, which is kind of what i'm suggesting will happen in 2014, but let's say mark's right, we do get, you know there,'s less that washington can screw up in 2014, the economy does better next year than it did this year, this is all a good news for democrats. because, you know, they have the white house and if there are fewer things to worry about and it finally feels like ordinary people are starting to get ahead, i think that will help democrats in the midterms, i don't think that necessarily means they're going to retake the house, i think that seems like a stretch. that means the big question for democrats is obama care. and the only thing i have to say about that is, could it possibly be any worse in 2014 than it has been this year? i don't think so. i these obama care, at least image wise probably bottomed out in 2013. and it may just do a little bit
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better. so a little bit of tail wind for democrats in november. >> we'll see. okay, the only pessimistic prediction you have, mark, is that the wage gap will increase and that's a sad thing. >> yeah, you know, it doesn't mean a lot for the broader economy in any given year, but over a period of years, the next decade or two, this is going to be our biggest problem, the folks in the top part of the distribution of income and wealth are doing much, much better than those in the bottom, and this gap is as wide as it's ever been since we have been keeping data and we have data back 100 years. all the trend lines point to it getting worse, that's not something that's good for our economy longer run. so this is something we're going to have to struggle with and hopefully policymakers can start to address this in a reasonable, credible way going forward. because if we don't, this is going to be a big problem. >> thanks so much for your predictions, i appreciate it. santa's back at the
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north pole, but what if you have family members still traveling today? >> that's right, most of the country is very, very calm on this christmas day. there's only one place in the country you'll find some snow and we'll talk about where that is in just a bit. hello, this is captain lance from knb kuwait. i want to say hello to my family members, my wife tamara, my daughter my beautiful mom and dad, wayne adams, hello. i'm enjoying the season here and i hope you're enjoying the season there. i would love to see a care package, but anyway, happy holidays. d"
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hopefully you made it home safe and sound. the trip probably took longer for the drivers involved in this pileup in i-90. oh, that's ugly. that's lake-effect snow. more than 200 vehicles were damaged, several taken to the hospital, none hurt seriously, thank goodness. drivers complained of whiteout conditions, but hopefully that's all gone down. let's check in with jennifer.
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>> the country is much, much calmer. we have quiet conditions all across the south could see a couple showers in south texas, but we are dealing with some of that lake-effect snow. this is really the only area where we're seeing activity, anywhere from green bay to grand raps, seeing some snow, and continuing to fall. we could sigh a couple additions. this is an ireport. you can see the ice on the tree. we've seen some power outages. folks are still without power in areas of michigan. grand rapids could see anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of snow as we go through the rest of the day. the majority of snow will be in canada, but we could pick up a little snow? michigan. the problem is temperatures haven't gotten above freezing,
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so the ice still there. temperatures 19 in grand raps. 15 in green bay, across the rest of the country from kansas city to denver, seeing temperatures more mild in the south. 50 in new orleans on christmas day. >> oh, that sounds great. thanks so much, jennifer. merry christmas. >> same to you. about 100 residents evacuated due to a california wildfire, have been aloued to return to their homes or at least what's left of them. the 900-acre big surfire destroyed 34 homes. it was contained over the weekend. eliot spitzer and his wife are divorcing. though married for 26 years, the couple had been living in separate apartments for months. he resigned as new york governor in 2008 after admitting he paid prostitutes for sex. the couple have three grown daughters. you may not have finished
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opening your presents, but some after-christmas sales have begun, shoppers heading to the stores will find deep, deep discounts. the website predict sales will be better than expected, especially on tvs and christmas decor. still to come in a nba players shaves his head. >> chandler parsons, the haircut is a simple one. it's a very touching gesture. we'll get into that next in "the bleacher report." this is captain janette lewis, stationed in baghdad, iraq. i want to wish my mother angeline brown in columbus, jo jo, a very merry christmas and happy new year. i love you so much, mom.
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the houston rockets' chandler parsons will be sporting a brand-new hairstyle.
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it's not a fashion statement, but a shot of support for a young boy fighting cancer. joe carter is here to tell us about it. >> it's a great story. chandler parsons is a rising star with the rockets. he's recently become friends with a 10-year-old boy dying from terminal cancer. patrick hobbs declair has neuroblastoma. the boy's father said patrick is not scared of death, but more worried about the fact he doesn't look exactly like hi twin brothers. after meeting patrick, chandler parsons said he's become so inspired by his determination, he too decided to shave his head. he did it as a christmas surprise, so the boy will see it for the first time tonight when he and hits parents will watch the rockets play the spurs. weigh to go, chandler. and mattery christmas for jon john kit in a to be
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hurricanes for the cowboys. they're still not sure if tony romo will play this sunday against the eagles. kitna will be backing up kyle orton, the backup to romo. he's been retired from the nfl since 2011, actually he's been teaching at his old high school. >> he's been doing awesome things, teaching to underprivileged kids, giving back to the community. >> that's a great christmas gift, though. how many of you would love to be spending your fms there in beautiful hawaii? >> i like snow, but c'mon, i love hawaii. oregon state and boise state are both there, and, well, boise state had two very costly mistakes yet that turned into two big touchdowns for oregon state. rashard reynolds not only scooped up both fumble beens, but returned them both for touchdowns, so oregon state would go on to win 38-28. don't want to pile too much on
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boise state, because you know, it's christmas. there's no bowl games today, but four nba games at home for looking to have sports in the background when they're enjoying family and -- >> the best kind of xm. >> taking a little nap, maybe eat again. >> loving that. the next hour of "cnn newsroom" starts right now. good morning to you. i'm carol costello. thanks so much for being with me. there's a lot of news going on. before i get to that, i want to wish you a very merry christmas. as the sun rises across the country, christians celebrate with revelry and reverence, in washington the families of service members remember their loved ones both at the war memorials. u.s. troops on active duty also marked this holiday. they pause to celebrate and to reflect. in the philippines, church-goers
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remembered those lost to last month's hurricane. they relied on the candlelight, because electricity has still not been fully restored. in australia, revelers celebrated in the surf and on the sand. santa padded around in flip-flops to deliver good cheer. and in china, christmas is not so much a religious holiday as it is a wacky excuse to celebrate, kind of like st. patrick's day, about you china's government does take pride in the massive exports of toys, saying without its cheap products, americans couldn't enjoy those piles of gifts. in hawaii, president obama is celebrating the holiday with family and friends. today he and the first lady released this special message about the spirit of the season. >> so many people all across the country are helping out in soup kitchens, buying gifts for children in need, organizing food or clothing drives for their nabs. for families like ours, that service a chance to celebrate
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the birth of christ and live out what he taught us, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to feed the hungry and look after the sick, to be our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper. athena jones is traveling with the president. she joins us live from honolulu. good morning, athena. >> reporter: good morning. merry christmas. >> merry christmas. there is a bit of good news for president obama this christmas day. lots of people are signing up for obamacare, more than ever, but i don't know if that says very much. but you tell us more. >> reporter: what we have learned over the last several days is a lot of americans are last-minute shoppers, even when it comes to health care. the state exchanges and has seen a big surge in visitors as people were scrambling to try to sign up, even though the deadlines have been shifting. coverage that starts january 1st. health officials said that monday was a record day for, 2 million
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visitors to the site, 250,000 calls into the call centers. tuesday's numbers were also high. the administration says they're doing everything they can to help their folks who that he had the best efforts to sign up for health coverage, but weren't able to finish the prod by midnight last night. those folks will still be able to get help through a customer service representative, and get coverage that starts at the beginning of january. state exchanges have also seen big jumps in traffic. call you are oug colorado had a record day. connecticut saw twice the number of signups they usually see. california had a daily total of 27,000 signing up. new york has also seen a big jump. it's all good news for the administration, especially since those early problem with
7:04 am, but i should nose, it probably look like they're still not likely to meet the original goal. so good news, of course we'll have to wait for the final numbers to get the numbers for december. so still good news, but we'll see if they meet that target, carol. >> athena jones, thanks so much. the taliban claiming responsibility for a morning attack on the u.s. embassy in kabul. two rounds of indirect fire hit the u.s. embassy compound. american diplomats say no one was hurt. this attack comes as the united states and afghanistan are working on a post-2013 plan for a military presence in that country. also one of the navy s.e.a.l. s is on his way to a military hospital. nearly 400 americans have been evacuated from that country. a group of 50 marines have been deployed to uganda to be on
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standby if more evacuations are needed. fred pleitgen is in new york with more. good morning. >> hi, carol, and merry christmas. effort are ramping up. of course, the focus of all that, the centerpiece is the u.s. embassy in the capital of juba they don't want the situation similar to benghazi. they have moved marines into if the situation should wart that. what the u.s. is saying is they believe all americans by now have left sue dan, they believe. however, if there are people who have not left, they are urging them to get in touch with the u.s. embassy in the capital city, because they believe the situation there seems to continue to deteriorate.
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what we are hearing from on the ground, carol is there is increased fighting in the north of the country, in the center of the country, and sloers the situation in the capital where the u.s. embassy is located is very unstable as well. at the same time, however, carol, america's also ramping up its efforts to get the two sides, the rebels and the government to get them to the table to start talking to try to avert what they consider genocide. thank you, fred. despite become locked up in a russian prison, the newly freed band members say they will continue the fight against what they call the putin system. the women reunited, they sat down with cnn to talk about how they copied in prison and their hopes for russia in the future. >> translator: nothing special. we managed to keep our personal freedom inside even when we were
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imprisoned. we always wanted to change things around for us for the best, so now we are free. our work just continues. >> translator: it's just a different environment, prison is the place where you feel freedom the most of. freedom is inside you. >> reporter: what would the world know what it's like to be a prison irin the system here and how should they react? >> translator: i think the world needs to know there are not much changes from soviet times. if the ministry of justice released a new order, it would be an exact copy from the one from soviet times. we are going to change this. >> translator: i want to add that it's not just the two of us who are going to change this. we're going to have a team, a
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big organization. we will be have lawyers who have been helping us and working with us since we were jailed. now they will also investigate the violations that we recorded, and we're asking russian citizens to provide us with information of any violations they're aware of to help in this. >> translator: changes have begun, but you need to constantly work on them. the russian system is designed in such a way that without social control, it will die immediately. because the people in the system will try to use every possibility to escape from their obligation and responsibilities. >> reporter: this all came about as a protest against the russian president. what do you see for putin's russia and what do you see for yourself within that system? >> translator: of course we
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would like to live in the future with no putin system, where we would have a democratic transparent system, with no corruption, with no hatred in society that's all -- for example, the gays or the west. there's too much hatred in this country. we would like to help it become more humane, but i'm afraid it's impossible with putin in power. >> reporter: you know what happens to critics of the russian president. you have been through the hell of what you have just described. are you not scared of what may happen? >> translator: no way. we're not afraid of them. they're the ones who should be afraid of us. >> reporter: now two years after your performance in the cathedral, what is your message to president putin in. >> translator: we're making him go away. >> translator: we were not defeated because we had our own victories over the system. you can't make us silent. if you want us in mordovia,
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you'll have us there. but it will be the same mistake, we girnt tee. >> reporter: how do you make up for these years in the lives of your children? do you ever regrekt what you did? >> translator: i think we will have a story to tell our children. the moral choice we made is the best educational example we could give them. >> translator: we hope toss changes fob better, just small once, because our children will grow up in this country. we're not going to leave. the choice we made was made for our children also. wow. okay. i'm humbled. still to come in the newsroom, the pope delivers the first christmas message to the world. catholics and non-catholics are listening to this increasingly popular world figure. my name is staff sergeant --
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to all my friends back in florida, and my shoutout to the philadelphia eagles. nick foles, you owe me a beer.
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this morning a milestone of sorts as pope francis had a message both simp and keeping with basic values. cnn's erin mclawfuwful laughlins more. >> reporter: people from all over the world. pilgrims and atheists, men, women and children of a multitude of religions, flooding the square to hear what pope francis has to say to the world on christmas day. >> translator: got is peace. let us ask him to help us be
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peacemakers each day. >> reporter: what did you think of the pope's emergency? >> wonderful, beautiful, very touching, and i felt even like cries. he's a very humble person. >> i don't know if humanity will listen, but he is strong to say this. >> reporter: his message delivered in italian, even though not everyone hear understands exactly what he's saying, they're here to see him and experience history. >> wonderful to be in such a large crowd. we were all from many different countries. people were happy to be here and calm about it. >> it was a great moment to see him speak to all the people. it's a lovely day here in rome. a great experience.
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>> reporter: his message to the world, one of peace. he asked for prayers for the victims of conflict in places like syriaened a the south sudan, it was a message that seemed to resonate here in the square, the excitement and energy was palpable, an illustration of the power of pope francis. cnn, the vatican. back in this country, families who take their children sources santa at the baldwin hills mall don't think about a -- they feel good about seeing a familiar face. this is the report from south center los angeles. >> reporter: the heart of every mall at christmas -- elves, cameras, crying babies. >> ho ho ho. >> all to be the obligatory mall santa, but it's a rare sort of santa at the crenshaw plaza. >> we came to see the black santa. >> reporter: he draws crowds of pint-sized preschoolers and their patient parents. >> merry christmas.
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>> reporter: just like any santa in any mall in america, the pictures are characteristically christmas. at the same time they're not. when i was little there were no bleak santa in chicago in 1953. >> so it's important for them to see this. >> yes, it is. >> reporter: tun on the tv, all you see is one shade of santa. like most benevolent characters americans grow up seeing. the good guy is white. but not at this mall. others speak spanish. 77-year-old lincoln patterson has greeted the crowd, plopping toddlers on his lap, whose parents want her snapshot to mean more than just a commercial card. >> kids don't ceclor.
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i didn't ceclor when i was little. you only ceclor when you get older. >> reporter: nearly all this shoppers in this mall are latin-american or latino. there are only a handful of them in the entire country. >> hey, buddy. >> reporter: that's why santa himself has a wish this christmas. >> the malls next year will have a few ethnic santa clauss in all culture. >> dreaming of a white christmas and one in many other shades. >> hi, sweetie. >> reporter: cnn, los angeles. still to come in the newsroom, whether the so-called war on christmas really starts at home? we'll be right back. hi, i'm janis mason coming to you from cuba. i want to beneficiary my husband james mason hope holidays. and i miss him, miss him, miss
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♪ sleep train ♪ your ticket to a better night's sleep ♪ christmas is the time of year when we're supposed to come together to celebration our family and our faith and promote our new start upbusiness? >> the biggest thing is what happens next, next month he's stepping off the anchor desk, the biggest decision of his life. he's going to come work with his wife. making videos like these. >> sure they're in the christmas jammies, but are they taking advantage of the holiday? using it to make money? earlier i spoke with father beck and russell moore, about the changing meeting.
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>> we like to think, father beck, that back in the day christmas meant so much more. is it our imagination, or is that true? >> if you think way, way back, it started as a secular feast. it wasn't until 300 years after christ was dead that we started celebrating christmas. it used to be a celebration of the harvest feast and the winter solsti solstice. so when they decided, the early church they were going to celebrate christmas now, they melded with the celebration that was already happening, and said let's celebrate the birth of christ at the darkest time of year, so really we co-opted a festival that was already happening, so let's remember that bert, but yes, it has been mcmore commercial, because we have gotten away from the root, the simplicity of the homeless teenager given birth to a child in a stable, and that that's
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what it's about. that god comes to you in that kind of simplicity. we've allowed it to be become more more than that, with the gift giving, and we've lost the true spirit of what is meant to be celebrated. >> russell, i great with father beck, i think this has become more commercialized, but why has it gotten worse over the years? >> well, i'm not sure that it's gotten work, i think in just about every generation people are kim and it's too commercial and consumeristic. i think in many ways some of our concerns have to do about the whole of our lives, just the hustle and bustle of everything. one of the things that may make that more intense is our connectiveness. i was sitting here and didn't have my phone for a few minutes,
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and i felt antsy because i was dissected. as our schedules become busier and busier, we tend to see that as christmas, perhaps more than the rest of the time, and i think we have an expectation that christmas ought to be this perfect, gauzy tinsel-filled time when we're allsh and the reality of the world falls short of that. >> so how can we teach our children to celebrate christmas as, you know, we ought to? even though we don't? >> you have a cousin who has a rule. they can have ten toys total in the house. whenever they get a new one, they have to give one away. he's teaching them that some people don't have anything. tv pundits are intent on saying we have a war on christmas. i think we do have a war on christmas, carol, but it's not
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about whether we say merry christmas or happy holidays or whether you set up a nativity. it's taking christ out of the christmas and forgetting what the message was. it was for the poor. it was for the outcasts, and until we remember that and start attending to the poor, that's how you put christ back in christmas. do you think jesus cares whether we say merry christmas or happy holidays? i don't think so. i think jesus cares are we feeding the hungry? clothing the naked? this is what his message was. >> that kind of message, that could be taught by outside forces, can it? that has to be taught in the home. >> it has to be taught in the home and in our churches, and part of that i think means re-claiming what christmas actually is about, and teaching that to our children, that this is about god who came to be with us, and i think that also means that we take a bit of the holly jolly edge off of christmas and re-claim the strangeness of christmas. the christmas story is a story of a god who came into this
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world in human flesh, and there was a lot of opposition, a lot of darkness coming against him. some of our older christmas songs kept sort of that expectation, that we were longing for the coming up christ. we're groaning in a world where so many things have gone wrong, but we can be reconciled to god and through each other to the person of christ. i think be need to be teaching that in our homes, and preaching that. >> it just struck me. last night i was watching the peanuts christmas schedule. it's very religious, and really does get into the true meaning of christmas, but modern tales about christmas certainly don't go there. you have to wonder why, father beck. >> i think we have to remember, carol, we are in a multicultural pluralistic society, and i think that's okay. the point is christians should
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celebrate it, celebrate it well and get to the true meaning of christmas. i understand when people feel as though maybe christmas is shoved down their throats if you're not christians. i mean, our country is founded not on religious beliefs, but on equality and all people. i think it's important to remember that. i think the best way that christians keep christ in christmas is to act like christians. >> i'll give you the last word, russell. >> i think it's true that we need to make sure that in our own communities that we're keeping christ in christmas, and i think we need toss raising up a new generation, to say this isn't all about the whos in whosville, it's about god rest ye merry gentlemen. that jesus has come in the flesh. it's increasingly counter-cultural, but i think we do it in a joyful way, that god has done something glorious that's good news. >> father edward beck, russell moore, i really appreciate it.
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>> thank you. merry christmas. >> thank you, carol. a good conversation, wasn't it? still to come, on the run but on the air. i'll tell you why edward snowden addressed tv viewers across the ocean today. ♪ ♪ ♪ tonight i'm [ male announcer ] need help keeping your digestive balance in sync?
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. good morning, and merry christmas. for 20 years, they could listen to the queen's address, and then often from someone controversial. this morning the message came from edward snowden. the full address will air later this morning, but british tv did
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release a preview. here it is. a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. they'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves and unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. that's a problem, because privacy matters. privacy allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be. >> elise is our foreign affairs report joining us from washington. good morning. >> good morning, carol. edward snowden joining the ranks of mahmud ahmadinejad, ali gee, and even marge simpson. snowden is urge iing listeners to -- remember "1984" about big brother watching? snowden says it's nothing compared to what's going on today. take a listen.
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okay. well, i think we have an error there. but anyway, it's not a very uplifting christmas message about the world we live in today, carol. he's saying everybody needs to start a dialogue about these programs, and i think you've seen this over the last year, congress with an independent panel talking about that perhaps the nsa and all these programs that the u.s. had overreached. i think you started seeing edward snowden kind of more just leaking this information, but now he's evolved into a provocateur, speaking out, giving more interviews about the need for us to question how the government is watching us. >> i would assume, because he can't leave russia, taped it in russia -- before you answer that question, we do have the bite that you were waiting for. let's listen to more of edward
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snowden. >> the conversation occurring today will determine the amount of truth we can place both in the technology that surround us and the government that regulates it. together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government, if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying. for everyone out there listening, thank you, and merry christmas. >> you just can't escape the fact he's in russia saying these things? >> he's in russia saying these things. one of the conditions about his asylum, this temporary asylum that the russians gave him is he would not do anything more to damage the united states around the world. he's been working with greg greenwald leaking this information selectively over the year, so not necessarily sure if
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he's living up to those conditions, but clearly the russians have been criticized for cracking down on their own opposition, so it is kind of a little ironic. elise, many thanks to you. the super-typhoon that rocked the fill pints was the strongest storm to make land in recent history. we'll look back at that and the top ten weather stories of 2013. ♪ last christmas i gave you my heart ♪ ♪ but the very next day you gave it away ♪ ♪ this year ♪ i'll give it to someone special ♪ ♪ special ♪ last christmas ♪ environment, seniors, kids, and animals. that's why we created the share the love event. by the end of this year, the total donated by subaru
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could reach 35 million dollars. you get a great deal on a new subaru. we'll donate 250 dollars to a choice of charities that benefit your community. it feels good to be a helping hand. thnot at the rings.looking. i can feel them looking at my thick, flaky red skin. do i tell them it's psoriasis? do i speak up and say it's not contagious? or do i just say... have a nice day!" when your psoriasis has gone from uncomfortable to unacceptable, visit to connect with a psoriasis patient advocate from abbvie for free one-to one education and support. sign up at, and talk to your dermatologist.
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a 1,000-year flood, tie phones, mind-boggles numbers. chad myers counts down the top ten. >> 2013 was quite a year weatherwide. twin hurricanes hitting that country, one from the gulf of mexico, the other from the pacific.
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more than 100 people killed in that flooding. now to south south now to the northeast. the nor'easter, a big storm back in femme. the pressure was equal to a category 2 hurricane. lightning strike north of phoenix created this wildfire. it grew to 6,000 acres. 19 died that day, the largest loss of life. big dome of high pressure, very populated area.
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now to oklahoma. an e if you have-5 headed to moore oklahoma. moore oklahoma right here. it was coming in from the west. we knew it was moving into a populated area. we watched is it live on cnn from our local affiliates and broadcast it live to the world. that school is plaza towers. it took a direct hit. seven children were killed, but look at the damage. on to el reno. this is a 2.6-mile-wide tornado that moved to the southeast for a while. but when it goat very strong, almost 300 miles per hour, it turned to the left, caught an awful lot of storm chasers.
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sadly tim and two other chasers we realize killed in that vehicle. coal doll flash floods, this is a once in a 1,00046 year flood. 17 inches of rain in eight days, 9 inches of rain in 24 hours. when you get that kind of rain in the mountains, it will run off. the rain came down and ran down the mountains, washed away bridges and roads. we watched this just for hours as they rescued people out of some of these creeks and streams. now we go to india.
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look at what happened. the towns were eaten alive by the water. one billing after another. there were religious pilgrims in the area as well. more than 5,000 of them died. now, on to europe. this isn't a flash flood, this is a long of term rain events. it all gets down into the rivers, and the rivers there in europe went up. the dan ub, the ryhine, the elb. it as those anch the cities hit by this flood. now to number one, super-typhoon haiyan. the strongest storm to ever make landfall in recent history, 200-mile-per-hour monster super-typhoon. 20-foot storm surge, anderson
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cooper was there. 6,000 people died as a 200-mile-per-hour wind ran through tack loban. there are millions who don't have homes right now still in the philippines. all this happened in a year that the ipcc put out their climate report, the gurus for the united nations and they say we'll have more heat waves in the future, more floods, and we're also going to have more drought because of climate change. maybe what we think of right now as extreme weather might just be the new normal. okay. let's lift the mood on this christmas day. let's talk sports, my favorite thing to talk about. we'll take about a-rod and peyton manning. a about ig year for sports in 2013. after the break, we will look ahead to 2014. what will the big stories be in the wonderful year coming our
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way next? we'll be right back. [ sneezes, coughs ] i've got a big date, but my sinuses are acting up. it's time for advil cold and sinus. [ male announcer ] truth is that won't relieve all your symptoms. new alka seltzer plus-d relieves more symptoms than any other behind the counter liquid gel. oh what a relief it is.
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than any other behind the counter liquid gel. hd the new year is right around the corner. when it comes to sports news, the year was anything but quiet. peyton manning broke all sorts of records, but will he be able to lead his team to the super bold? and will it be covered in bitter cold and snow?
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earl dwri i spoke with joe carter and mike pesca from sports --. so i guess i should ask you first about your super bowl predictions, joe. >> i've got broncos/seahawks, but obviously it will be a cold weather super bowl, the first time we're going to see a super bowl hosted in a cold weather city in a outdoor stadium. i hope it snows. let it snow, baby. football is a game that's built to be played in cold weather, built to be played in the snow. the one part that i think is the wildcard. think of bruno mars and that crew having to push that equipment to set it up, have the big light spectacular. >> thing of all the half-naked dancer. >> they're all going to have lots of coats on, but the vp of events says he thinks it's roe mandic, so i say, let it snow. >> mike, i have to agree with
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joe. >> the halftime show? yes, yes, that is exactly what to worry about. if you want my picks, i agree, i think seattle is just the class of the nfl, and they have such a great home field advantage, but the broncos have shown vulnerable, so i will pick the bengals. that's no horses in the super bowl for me. >> i agree, the bengals are tough. the other big story is aroid and major league baseball, the neverending story, so mike, i'll let you go first on this one. >> i think the weird suspension to a-rod, why is it that number? my prediction would be he'll get fewer than 211 games are games, but still a significant suspension. aroid as suit against the major league baseball, i don't know that that will go anywhere. however, the big, you know,
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over-arching theme will be how will it cost the yankees? i think they want a-rod off their books so they can get the salary lower. that is not going to happen for them. i think a-rod is one of these guys who is guilty and unsympathetic, yet maybe has been punished too hard. it's possible for both those things to be true. i think that ar appeals to his vanity. >> if a-rod is able to return to the team, joe, will he play well? >> it's hard to say. he is getting older. >> last season he didn't do too badly, right? >> well, he didn't play very much. if we're predicting forward, i would have to say, like mike said, less than 211 games. i think his legal team, and there are a lot of lawyers, will take the case to federal court and will get tied up in the legal system. i think he'll be back on the baseball diamond in no time. it's not going to be major
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league baseball's call, but rodriguez' call. i think all in all when the fans look at this, there's some fatigue that's set in. i think people are really for the story to be over. i think people are just tired of it hear it. bun bug selig leaves and new management, i think it's a new start. >> not only the fans are tired, but i think the fellow players are tired. the olympics are bound to be big in 2014. i'm sure we won't be short on controversy right? >> russia has a rule against what they consider protesting, speaking out in favor of gay rights. it's just casting a pall olympics. the appointment of the delegation, the gay rights activist called it a brilliant snub. so i think we'll have a chance to see diplomacy trump hard
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power in the olympics. the big question is what athletes will be allowed to say? what protests will they be allowed to engage? would they bell wear a small lapel pin with an -- if that athlete says some pro-gay rights, will punishment be meted out? and joe, this seems to be overshadowing, you know, the sports that will be involved. right? >> that's where we fall into the love for the olympics, obviously, it's a time of year we all get patriotic and turn to our television and we watch with our families and all of that spectacle that comes along with it, but there are some pretty interesting story lines, with the money that's being spent, you know, the $51 billion. because putin is trying to put
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on a show beyond anybody else's type of show. i think there's two good stories. now we'll know if lindsey vonn, is she ski off that knee? and what will happen with lo lo jones. will she be able to win a gold medal? >> despite controversial tweets. >> she's such a polarizing figure. she attracts a lot of attention, but people say she's never really won anything in the olympics. can she win a medal in bobsledding of all sports? >> mike, wrap it up for us. >> just going to say i think lolo is a lovely person. she didn't invite this upon herself. if she were to medal, it would be a great weird, strange twist. >> mike, joe, thanks to you both.
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thank you so much for joining me, and have a wonderful christmas. merry christmas. we leave you with president obama and the first lady's message to the country. it's christmas day. hello, everybody. happy holidays. >> we know how busy this time of
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year is for everyone, so we're not going to take much of your time, but we did want to take a moment to wish you all a merry christmas from our family to yours. >> this is a season for millions of americans to be together with family, to continue with long-held holiday traditions and show our gratitude to those we love. along the way some of us may even watch some basketball or eat some christmas cookies, too. >> here tess white house over the past few weeks, we've had about 70,000 people from all across the country come visit and look at the holiday decorations. this year's theme was gather round, stories of the season. in every room of the house we tried to tell the story about who we are as americans and how we celebrate the holidays together. we made certain to highlight some of the most powerful stories we know, the stories of our outstanding troops, veterans and military families and their service and sacrifice for our country. >> our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so
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the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays. that means many of our troops are far away from home and far from family. they're spending some extra time on the phone with their loved ones back home or setting up video chats, so they can watch as the presents are opened. so today we want all our troops to know you are in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season. here's the good news. for many of ours troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they've been with their families on christmas. in fact, with the iraq war over and the transition in afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm's way than any time in the last decade. >> that's something we can all be thankful for. with more and more of our troops back home, now it's our turn to serve, our turn to step of and show our gratitude. that's why jill biden and i
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started our joining forces initiative, to rally all americans to support our military families in ways large and small. again and again, we have been overwhelmed by the response we've gotten, as folks from across the country have found new ways to give back to these families through their schools, businesses, and houses of worship. >> that's the same spirit of giving that connections all of us. so many people across of country are helping out in soup kitchens, buys gifts for children in need, organizing food or clothing drives for their neighbors. for families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of christ, live on you what he taught us u. to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to feed the hungry, look after the sick, to be our brother's keep are and our sister's keeper. for all the of us americans, regardless of our faith, those are values to drive up to be better parents and friends, better neighbors, better citizens. >> so as we look to the new
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years, let's pledge ourselves to living out those values by reaching out and lifting up those in our communities who could use a hand up. >> so merry christmas, everyone. from the two of us, as well as malia, sasha, grandma, bo. >> and sunny, the newest obama. >> we wish you all a blessed and safe holiday season. >> happy holidays, everybody, and god bless. . pope francis said may the lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts. and the holiday of very big surprises like this one right here. those serving our country i


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