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Behind the Scenes with Ramp Services Crew; Sandy's Impact on Tourism; Staying Young

Aired November 23, 2012 - 13:30   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Pope Benedict XVI is challenging whether there were cattle or singing angels in the manger when Jesus was born, and in his new book "Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives," the pope also challenges Jesus' actual birth date. The book is being published in several languages just in time for Christmas. I spoke earlier with Eric Marrapodi, co-editor of CNN's Belief Blog.


ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG: So what the pope is doing is he is going through the gospel narratives of how Jesus was born, and where, and he is doing what's called a textual criticism, where he is looking at the actual words, what's there implicitly and what's there explicitly.

I want to take a look at what he is talking about with the cattle. This is going to make a lot of kids upset who are set to be the oxen and the sheep in their Christmas pageants at church this Christmas, but let's take a look at this passage from Luke. In the Gospel of Luke, when we're talking about the narrative of the Jesus infancy story, it says and she, that she is referring to Mary, gave birth to her first son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.

Now, the manger was where the animals ate in a stable. So they're essentially putting Jesus in a bowl that the animals ate out of. So there you have this implicit reference to animals, but not an explicit reference to animals, and the pope is saying, yes, in our tradition we have all this history of oxen and sheep, but it doesn't necessarily say that in the text. And so he says that we should probably set aside.

WHITFIELD: OK. What about the angels in the story? There are so many, you know, carols and hymns about the singing angels.

MARRAPODI: I know. The pope is not calling for people to rip these carols out of the hymnal just yet. Again, it's another textual criticism. What he is saying is, when you look at how Luke, the author, in this case writes that, it says the angels said to the shepherds, not the angels sang to the shepherds. And so he makes that very clear distinction that the text says one thing, and the tradition says something else.

Of course, what the angels said to the shepherds has become part of our Christmas singing tradition, and he is saying, look, they didn't actually sing it. They probably just said it. But that doesn't change the message of what they said. It's a theme he comes back to again and again as he is sort of debunking and taking apart the text.

WHITFIELD: And so you have to wonder whether this is going to kind of alter the way in which people celebrate Christmas.

MARRAPODI: You know, the one thing that is interesting about the pope's book as I was reading it this morning is this theme again and again that he comes back to, that if these traditions are taken out, if angels just say this instead of singing it, if there are no animals but they're still in a stable, it doesn't change what he thinks is the main theme of the story, this notion of God coming down to earth as a little baby and being the savior of mankind.

That theme doesn't change. And I really don't think traditions are going to change all that much. I don't see a lot of Christmas pageant directors ripping up the script today and rewriting it in time for the Christmas pageant.

WHITFIELD: Eric Marrapodi. And Christmas is just 31 days away. A jewelry store in Tokyo is now selling the ultimate decoration. A $4.2 million Christmas tree. Yes, $4.2 million Christmas tree. That's made up of 88 pounds of pure gold. The tree is almost eight feet tall, and it spins. It's covered in Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. Ten designers hand-made them over a two-month period. There are also smaller versions of the tree going for a mere $243,000.

Checked luggage, in-flight meals, and safety checks. An exclusive look at the race to take off at an airplane through the eyes of a pit crew. And type A's don't stop being type A's when they retire. A look at how baby boomers stay active in the age against the machine.


WHITFIELD: Thanksgiving might be over, but the travel crush is still under way. 43 million Americans are either driving or flying this weekend, and if you are flying, your trip can be ruined if your plane is delayed or your bags get lost. But there are thousands of people who are working at a dizzying pace to make sure that it doesn't happen. Sandra Endo goes behind the scenes with the pit crews.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the gate, the action starts when these wands stop the plane. We got an exclusive up-close look at United Airlines' highly choreographed ramp services crew at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. First, unloading a flight from Amsterdam. These metal containers are filled with luggage.

ANTWON WARDEN, RAMP SERVICES AGENT: People don't realize there's a lot of processes that go through getting the bag from one destination to another, but we do it proficiently.

ENDO: Timing is everything when you turn a plane as these guys unload the cargo off the plane. You can see up there, catering is restocking the plane with food.

There's refueling, filling the water tanks, and replacing pillows and blankets. BB Chavez watches it all from a control center at the airport.

BB CHAVEZ: I want to think of myself more as an orchestra conductor. It's a very complex operation. Everybody has a responsibility. Everybody has a critical part of the mission.

ENDO: You have cleaning crews and maintenance checking to make sure everything inside the plane is ready to go for the next flight.

The pilots arrive while as many as 35 employees continue to ready the aircraft for departure.

Workers can see just how long they have to complete their task by the countdown clock over there, and typically it ranges, depending on the size of the plane, from 40 minutes to about an hour and a half.

I got to climb inside a cargo hold being filled with bags for the flight back to Amsterdam.

SIMI KALASA, RAMP SERVICES AGENT: You stay ahead of the game and get yourself in order and organize everything, and you'll be all right.

ENDO: But it's heavy lifting.

KALASA: Yes, it is. But when you do it so long, you'll get used to it.

ENDO: Efficiency is key. The head of operations says it's not only good for passengers, but for company profits.

STEPHANIE BUCANAN, UNITED VP, HOUSTON OPERATIONS: The faster we can turn an airplane, the sooner we can get it back in the air flying and earning revenue for us.

ENDO: And a little over an hour since it landed, this plane is, again, filled with passengers and ready to go. After a push away from the gate, the ramp crew is done. All that's left is a taxi to the runway and takeoff.

Each ramp services team turns around six planes a day per shift, and while speed is certainly a factor, the airline says safety is their No. 1 priority.

Reporting from Houston, I'm Sandra Endo.


WHITFIELD: Shopping, seeing a Broadway show and eating out. All things tourists are doing less of this holiday season in New York City. How superstorm Sandy took a bite out of the Big Apple.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: This just into CNN. Another worker has died from injuries after last Friday's -- excuse me -- oil platform fire. That platform exploded about 20 miles off the south-central Louisiana coast. One man was found dead afterwards. At least 11 others were hurt. Some of them badly burned. And we've learned now that one more worker has died of his injuries. One man remains missing. The offshore rig is owned by Black Elk Energy in Houston, and produces both oil and natural gas. Still no official word on what caused that explosion.

And it is an odd sight, but it could turn out to be a good thing of superstorm Sandy. Knocked this roller coaster in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, off the pier and partially submerged it in the ocean. And instead of tearing it down, the mayor there is now considering leaving the roller coaster as a tourist attraction. Mayor Bill Akers said, quote, "it depends on the impact. We need to consider the environment, the structure, and how it might break down over time, and also see if we could secure it. It looks like it moved a little bit. Having said all those things, I wouldn't have an issue with it being there." End quote, that from the mayor.

But it isn't all up to the mayor. The private owners of the pier say they are waiting on their insurance company to tell them what they can and cannot do.

All right. New York City can be idyllic during the holiday season, but as Alison Kosik shows us, this year, the fantasy has been disrupted by nasty reality in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In 2011, over 50 million visitors to New York spent $32 billion attending shows like the Christmas Spectacular, shopping on Fifth Avenue, and riding around the island on the circle line. Superstorm Sandy has pretty much guaranteed that record won't be topped. In hard-hit lower Manhattan, the world's biggest financial companies reopened quickly, but that's not the case for many small shops and restaurants in the area and tourist attractions like the nearby Statue of Liberty.

ELIZABETH BERGER, PRESIDENT, ALLIANCE FOR DOWNTOWN NEW YORK: I don't think that the impact on tourism will be felt only in lower Manhattan. We have some museums and attractions that are not yet open, and some that are partially open, so I think we'll have to see. We had almost 10 million last year, as you know, and I'm hoping they will still come to see what is here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We knew that the Statue of Liberty will be closed, but that obviously didn't deter us from coming out here.

KOSIK: Down the Jersey shore, they're worried about the summer.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: The boardwalk we walked on together this summer, greeting residents, talking to those business owners, it's gone.

KOSIK: Tourism is a $38 billion a year industry in New Jersey, and more than half of that comes from the shore. The New Jersey tourism board says it's too early to estimate Sandy's impact on the coming season, but Atlantic City's casinos, like Bally's and the Borgata, have already taken a hit. Total casino revenues were down 20 percent in October.

CHRISTIE: My sense is that in the short-term, maybe as you look at revenue numbers that may come in for October, November, you might see some diminishing in our projection. But on the flip side, come December through next June and beyond, you may see it be much brisker than we thought it would be, because of the circumstances that have been forced upon our state.


KOSIK: Getting into New York and New Jersey is no longer a problem. Amtrak estimates a busy Thanksgiving day. While its trains and lines are fully operational, storm damage and loss of revenue has cost the company tens of millions of dollars.

MTA and New Jersey Transit are still repairing the damage, but service has been restored to most lines. Those agencies say it's too early to know how much Sandy will cost them. The same can be said for New York and New Jersey, where the long-term cost of superstorm Sandy will be felt for years.

Alison Kosik, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: And if you want to help storm victims in the northeast, it's pretty easy to do. Just log on to, and you'll find all kinds of information on how to contribute to the relief effort.

All right. They are booming with talent. Hollywood baby boomers breaking the mold, proving age is just a number.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel younger and better now I think than I did in my 20s, believe it or not. You know, I feel more in touch, more present, more involved in life.


WHITFIELD: Age against the machine. Next.


WHITFIELD: If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you are one of the more than 80 million Americans who can officially call themselves baby boomers. All this week, we're telling stories that affect this generation. Today, we're talking about something that has a huge impact on baby boomers' lives, mentally and physically -- their desire to look and feel young. Boomers know it's possible because every time they turn on the television set, they're inundated with images of gorgeous older celebrities, and Nischelle Turner has more on that.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just try counting the stars born between 1946 and 1964. That's Hollywood, baby. Booming with entertainers who decades after they debuted are still delivering the goods to the 80 million Americans aged 48 to 66 who first made them famous.

LESLEY JANE SEYMOUR, EDITOR IN CHIEF, MORE: The baby boomers did change everything. They created the me generation, the youth generation, but guess what, when you hold on to that power economically and in the press, you don't let go just because you're 60. You keep it going.

TURNER: Witness, the Rolling Stones. The Brits' first rocked bobby socks off kids when the hit the State in the mid-60s. Now those kids are in their mid-60s, the band members are pushing their 70s. And when they announced their new tour last month, they sold out American arenas in minutes.

KEITH RICHARDS, ROLLING STONES GUITARIST: Who will call it quits will be the public, not us. When they said we have had enough of you, we'll disappear gracefully.


WHITFIELD: All right, so let's talk more on this, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, setting a high bar for the rest of the baby boomer generation. Psychologist Wendy Walsh joining us live from Los Angeles. Good to see you, Wendy. So should we --


WHITFIELD: -- be inspired or discouraged by this?

WALSH: Well, of course, we can be inspired, but the problem is we can't have what those celebrities have, which is the rounds of doctors and personal trainers and the plastic surgeons and all the things that baby boomer celebrities have as role models to us. It's prohibitive--

WHITFIELD: So you do think it boils down to that, the kind of resources. It is not just a universal thing among baby boomers that they are mostly kind of type A personalities, and they want to keep it going anyway that they can?

WALSH: Well, the magic question, of course, is are they increasing their health or are they chasing youth? And that's really the psychological piece. Anybody who exercises, for instance, more than three times a week for 30 minutes is doing it for something other than their health. But there is a lot of pressure to stay young as you get older, because we live in such a highly sexualized culture. People are expected to change partners, have active sex lives well into their 50s and 60s, when back a few generations ago, grandma was happy to bake pies and grandpa was happy to smoke his pipe. WHITFIELD: So you don't think it is just kind of contagious that a lot of baby boomers are saying we're just getting better with age? It is not just a celebrity thing. But even if you're not a celebrity, you're getting better because you're more seasoned, and that's something to celebrate?

WALSH: Well, yes, you can celebrate being seasoned, but have you noticed that we don't have a lot of elder statesman role models in retiree? We have people working until they die. We have people trying to stay young instead of embracing the wisdom that comes with old age and nurturing our culture. Now, some people are definitely doing that, Fredricka, but a whole bunch of other ones are thinking that they're still 35. And that's not taking on the role of wise guardian of our social order, is it?

WHITFIELD: So you're seeing a real downside to kind of the approach of many of these baby boomers who want to keep it going, and what is that to you?

WALSH: The downside is by not embracing a stage of life, and denying it, you're denying yourself the very important role and identity that you can achieve and your accomplishments. Instead, you start competing with another generation and it is a losing proposition. I think particularly with women, in the strive to look young and beautiful, because of what our culture does, it can be very debilitating, and they can have more anxiety, more depression because they'll never keep up with the 35-year-old.

WHITFIELD: So are you saying just let it go? Just let it all hang out?

WALSH: Absolutely not. I'm saying be healthy. Be healthy within reason, but ask yourself what's important here? And what am I doing this for?

WHITFIELD: All right, find your own personal limits.

WALSH: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: All right, Wendy Walsh, thanks so much, appreciate it.

Nice to see you.

WHITFIELD: All right. It has been nearly 50 years since the Beatles recorded an audition tape for Decca Records. And believe it or not, Decca actually turned them down, didn't see the talent. Pretty bad decision, right? Well, Decca's move became known as the biggest mistake in music history. On Tuesday, the Beatles demo tape actually goes up for auction, and bids will open at $48,000.

Unions and Hostess failed to make a deal, and now thousands of people will be out of work. The Hostess sell-off.


WHITFIELD: An out of this world Thanksgiving meal, turkey and all the fixings, served to the crew aboard the International Space Station. NASA says the dinner included such space worthy foods as irradiated smoked turkey and thermostabilized yams. Yummy. The astronauts also enjoyed Russian mashed potatoes and cornbread dressing.

And pediatricians here on earth are concerned now that more boys are bulking up and they are using muscle enhancing products in order to do it. That's according to a study in the journal "Pediatrics." Two- thirds of boys reported changing their diet to increase muscle tone or size. 35 percent reported using protein powders, and 6 percent had used steroids. Doctors say most kids don't need protein supplements, and they're concerned about excessive use. They say the emphasis on building muscle can also lead to the use of illegal substances.

It is the beginning of the end for Hostess Brands. On Wednesday, a bankruptcy judge cleared the way for the maker of Twinkies to liquidate the company. Now Hostess will start selling off its assets, including its bakeries, brands and recipes. Also as a result, the company's 18,500 employees will lose their jobs. Some immediately, others in the coming weeks. The company will be back in court on Thursday when a judge will decide whether or not to approve more than $1 million in bonuses for executives who are overseeing the liquidation.

All right, so is this the end of Hostess? We'll get answers from Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn, he'll be joining us live at this time on Monday.

And if your family is making you crazy this holiday season, we'll have some tips on how to stay sane, and, you know, keep the harmony in the household. That's tomorrow on CNN starting at noon. Please join me for that.

Thanks so much for joining me this hour. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The NEWSROOM continues right now with Victor Blackwell.