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Pope's Christmas Message About Hope; Celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem; Queen Delivers Taped Christmas Address; First Lady Takes Calls From Kids; Christmas With the First Family; Mandela Spends Christmas in Hospital; Families Help School Janitor; 2012's Business Hall of Shame; Holidays with Hollywood; Colts' Pagano Returns to Work

Aired December 25, 2012 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM on this Christmas day Pope Benedict tells people not to give up hope even in some of the world's most troubled regions.

The weather could ruin Christmas for many Americans. We'll tell you about winter storms, fog, and tornadoes expected across the country. A lot of people heading out to the theater today to catch a movie but many of the latest Hollywood offerings are, shall we say, not very family friendly.

And breakthroughs in 2012. We look at the major advances in science and technology. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas.

We begin this hour with Pope Benedict using his annual Christmas message to speak about the hope for peace even in the most difficult times and situations.

Just hours ago the 85-year-old pope spoke before a crowd in St. Peter's Square and to millions of others watching around the world. He says even in Syria, a nation embroiled in a nearly two-year long civil war, peace is possible.


POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): May peace bring for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict, which does not spare even the defenseless and reaps innocent victims. Once again, I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.


COSTELLO: The pope also spoke out against violence against Christians in Nigeria and wrapped up his address by delivering Christmas greetings in 65 different languages.

In Bethlehem, worshipers packed the Church of the Nativity for midnight mass. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was among those in the crowd at the 1700-year-old church.

Queen Elizabeth is reflecting on big accomplishments this year in her taped Christmas message being broadcast on British TV right now. You see her leaving the church earlier this morning. The queen is speaking about the excitement surrounding the London Olympics and her diamond jubilee.


QUEEN ELIZABETH: This past year has been one of great celebration for many. The enthusiasm, which greeted the diamond jubilee, was of course especially memorable for me and my family. It was humbling that so many chose to mark the anniversary of a duty which passed to me 60 years ago.

People of all ages took the trouble to take part in various ways and in many nations. But perhaps most striking of all was to witness the strength of fellowship and friendship among those who had gathered together on these occasions.


COSTELLO: This marked the first time the queen's message was broadcast on television in 3D.

It's not the best weather for Christmas or for traveling, snow, blizzards, fog, tornadoes all in the forecast. Earlier this morning, a two-mile stretch of I-40 shut down in Oklahoma City after freezing rain caused a massive car pileup.

That stretch of interstate has now reopened. Blizzard warnings have been issued in some parts of the United States while parts of the south could see tornadoes. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is here to tell us more. Good morning.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Carol. We have this just in, a tornado warning that's now popped up. I want to take a look at it now and show you where it's located. Let's zoom in right here to crocket in Texas.

We're seeing this tornado warning for Houston County. This is in Southeast Texas. It goes for another 30 minutes. It is just the beginning of a day that we are anticipating to see lots of severe weather in terms of a tornado threat throughout the southeast.

That is why a tornado watch has been issued for Louisiana including Baton Rouge, Thibodaux, and New Orleans. This tornado watch goes into effect until 1:00 p.m. Central Time. We are likely to see it extended and expanded as the day goes on.

What a Christmas day to see so much in the way of thunderstorms and frequent lightning strikes. You see them fire up across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Jackson getting hammered right now by severe weather.

We talked about tornadoes. Today is a big day where we may see tornadoes break out across parts of Louisiana, a moderate risk in effect meaning a 30 to 60 percent chance of a -- within a 25-mile radius of the orange area here.

Less of a risk into Atlanta, but still we may see severe weather here. We certainly saw the fog earlier today. That will likely continue throughout much of the morning hours. Behind the system it doesn't look like much, setting up for a big storm system to emerge in terms of winter weather.

You saw the accidents along here, I-40 west of Oklahoma City. Freezing rain all night long Christmas Eve, now sleet and then snow and as the storm intensifies and it will we're looking at an expansive system that will bring blizzard conditions to areas into the heartland.

This means Paducah, Kentucky, Carbondale, Illinois, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. You'll see snow in Memphis, Tennessee, but the heaviest snow right here in this region and also blizzard conditions starting even as late as tonight and into tomorrow meaning blowing and drifting snow.

Want to show you a new alert that just came in, an ice storm warning in effect for tonight into tomorrow. This is for the mountains of West Virginia. So we're looking at accumulating ice and strong winds.

Power outages are likely, Carol, when you have the ice covering those trees and power lines and this is really the beginning of a setup of a nasty day today and another one tomorrow, timing unfortunately on Christmas.

COSTELLO: Yes. I know. But everyone's been warned and hopefully everyone is already where they're going and they'll be fine. Bonnie Schneider, thanks so much.

The First Lady Michelle Obama is certainly in the Christmas spirit. The White House just released this picture of the first lady answering phone calls from children who called in to NORAD Santa tracker control center to ask about St. Nick's big trip around the globe.

Mrs. Obama watched Santa's progress along with children nationwide last night. With the Obama family home for the holidays in Hawaii we couldn't help but wish everyone a Hawaiian Merry Christmas this morning.

Brianna Keilar is in Hawaii right now traveling with the Obama family. So (inaudible), Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: (Inaudible) to you, Carol. As you know it is still very early here in Hawaii, 5:00 a.m. local time hence why it is dark behind me. So Christmas really not in full swing yet here on Oahu.

According to the president's public schedule he has no events. That said, I will tell you in the past he's frequently visited with troops. So we're wondering if he is going to do that again this year.

And also the White House chef came along for the trip who will be cooking the meal for the first family today at the house that they're renting about 45 minutes from where we are in Waikiki.

And in the meantime, President Obama, not quite festive pre-Christmas activities yesterday, playing golf, heading to the beach with the first family, maybe not as festive as the first lady, Carol, getting in touch with those kids who are watching NORAD track Santa.

COSTELLO: I'm not going to ask you about the fiscal cliff because I think we need a day off. It is Christmas after all. So I'll ask you a fun question. The first dog, Bo, is he traveling with the family?

KEILAR: He is traveling with the family. It's not really Christmas without Bo. I think that is one of the things we've learned. You go to the White House, you see the Christmas trees. They have Bo flakes on them. The cookies at the White House Christmas parties are shaped like Bo.

He is a really big part of the holiday festivities and that includes actually he plays a somewhat prominent role in a video the White House just released. This was taped earlier this month.

It is the first lady visiting kids at Children's National Medical Center in D.C. She went to read "It Was The Night Before Christmas" and she was pretty, you know, they were excited to see her but check it out. Bo really stole the show.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm the president and CEO of Children's National.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: This is exactly what he does at home. He tries to beat Malia and Sasha to my lap and Blitzen, you see, Bo, all right.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Maybe he can't see.

MICHELLE OBAMA: You see? All right, I think he sees.


KEILAR: Bo even helping turn the pages for the kids. I really like that little boy on the left. He is adorable. You know what? Bo was a huge hit with him. He was like the first lady is here? I'm paying attention to the first dog.

COSTELLO: He was really concerned that Bo couldn't see the pages of the pictures in the book, very thoughtful kid.

KEILAR: Very concerned.

COSTELLO: Brianna, try to have some fun there, too. Thank you. Brianna Keilar reporting live for us this morning.

The 2012 will go down as the year of scientific discoveries and advances in technology. Our John Zarrella looks at ten major achievements. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At number ten, a revolutionary camera called "Litro."

REN NG, CAMERA INVENTOR: It's such a powerful technology breakthrough that this will forever change how we all take inexperienced pictures.

ZARRELLA: The camera captures the entire light field allowing the picture's focus and perspective to be changed after it's been taken. Number nine, NASA's Dawn spacecraft sent back staggering data about an asteroid 325 miles in diameter called Vesta. It appears Vesta went through some stages of planetary evolution. It's one of a kind in the solar system.

CAROL RAYMOND, DAWN SCIENCE TEAM: What's clear to us is that Vesta appears to be the only intact proto planet that's left.

ZARRELLA: Number eight, you may have heard the term god particle. Scientists call it Higgsbosin. The European Nuclear Research Organization claims to have found it. Why is it a big deal? Think big bang theory.

MICHIO KAKU, PROFESSOR OF THEORETICAL PHYSICS: This particle we think was in fact a particle like this was the fuse that set of the explosion, which created the universe.

ZARRELLA: Researchers found it after analyzing data from proton collisions generated by a particle accelerator. At seven, a leap of faith, Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking jump. Baumgartner broke the free fall record and the sound barrier, jumping from 128,000 feet in a revolutionary space suit.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: I said, I know the whole world is watching now and I wish the world could see what I see.

ZARRELLA: Six, young children dying at an alarming rate in Cambodia, a medical mystery, unusually aggressive. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta was there when the mystery was solved.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They found that those organisms in conjunction with these kids getting steroids probably led to such an aggressive course.

ZARRELLA: Number five, SpaceX became the first commercial company to rendezvous and dock a spacecraft at the International Space Station. It marked a new beginning, private companies taking over for NASA sending cargo and eventually humans to the station. Number four, scientists found the Great Barrier Reef, the largest in the world, is in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared over the last 27 years. That is a momentous change.

ZARRELLA: Scientists attribute much of the loss to storm damage. At number three we go to the Pacific and the deepest part of any ocean in the world with famous film director and explorer James Cameron. First, test stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About five major failures that prevented me from going on.

ZARRELLA: Finally, Cameron went down 35,000 feet in Deep Sea Challenger. Number two, melting ice, scientists using satellite and aircraft data have found the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing three times as much ice as 20 years ago.

Giant rifts appeared in places like Antarctic's pine island glacier. Combined Antarctica and Greenland have contributed to 1/5 of all sea level rise over the past 20 years.

And our number one is called seven minutes of terror. The rover "Curiosity" survived a harrowing ride through the Martian atmosphere in a landing method never before attempted prompting an outpouring of emotion from the NASA team.

"Curiosity" is now roving the landing site hunting for signatures of past life. If it finds any "Curiosity" might well be our number one again next year. John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


COSTELLO: All right, a bit of news just in to CNN. It concerns the weather. A tornado warning has been expanded in Texas. Let's head to meteorologist Bonnie Schneider.

SCHNEIDER: Carol, we've been watching the tornado warnings into areas of Houston County in Texas. It's now been expanded. Zoom in right here and you'll see that love lady is in this tornado warning and it encompasses areas of Houston County, Trinity County, and North Central Polk County in Southeast Texas and this warning goes until 9:45 Central Time.

Now this is a Doppler Radar indicated tornado meaning that meteorologists tracking Doppler Radar have noticed indications of rotations within the clouds so a tornado can touch down at any time. If you are in this vicinity take cover now.

Keep in mind that we run the risk for tornadoes throughout the day today especially until 1:00 and this heads into Louisiana so Southeast Texas moving eastward into Louisiana.

Carol, the threat area includes much of Southern Louisiana until 1:00 including Baton Rouge, Thibodaux, and New Orleans. We're monitoring this in the CNN Weather Center and will break in if we get any more warnings.

COSTELLO: Appreciate that. Thank you, Bonnie. In the Christmas spirit of giving, we'll show you how some students brought a smile back to their favorite janitor after his battle with cancer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm Captain Amanda Felkuski from the air base in Turkey. I want to take a second to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my family in Colorado, my dad Al, my mom Deborah, my sister Liz and my dog Jackson. I love you and I miss you.



COSTELLO: It's 16 minutes past the hour. Checking our top stories, Webster, New York mourning two firefighters today after they were shot and killed while responding to a fire on Christmas Eve.

Mike Shiparini had just been named firefighter of the year and was also a police lieutenant. The other victim joined the fire department about a year ago. Two others were wounded as you could hear in this chaotic 911 call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple firemen down. Multiple firemen shot. I am shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire is on the south side of the road. He's shooting from the north side with what I believe was an assault rifle or a hunting rifle. I am struck in the lower back and lower leg. So I need EMS.


COSTELLO: The shooter William Spengler who was convicted of killing his grandmother decades ago was found dead at the scene.

Nelson Mandela is spending Christmas day in the hospital. The 94-year- old former South African president has been battling a lung infection. He also had gall stones removed. President Jacob Zuma says Mandela looks better and doctors are happy with his progress.

In money news, Instagram still feeling the sting from user outrage after the photo sharing app changed its terms of service. Instagram has been hit with a class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco Federal Court. Lawsuit filed Friday despite Instagram saying it was modifying parts of its new policy and would not sell users' photos to advertisers.

Take a look at these pictures. It would not be Christmas without a surfing Santa in Sydney, Australia. It is not every day you see Santa enjoying time on the beach with a little sand and a sleigh but after a long night of delivering presents, he certainly deserves it.

In the spirit of Christmas, we'll share this incredible story of generosity. A Missouri elementary school rallied around their faithful janitor to give a smile back to the man they know and love as Mr. Mike. Lindsay Shively of affiliate KHSB has the story.


LINDSAY SHIVELY, KHSB REPORTER (voice-over): You can see it on their faces and these kids have one guy in mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your dad, really? You say Mr. Mike it's almost a legend.



SHIVELY: For seven years, Mike Niche has kept Shaw Creek Elementary School in order as custodian. He doesn't mind the work and he loves the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen one group go from kindergarten all the way through.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Mr. Mike is one of the hardest custodians I've ever seen work.

SHIVELY: He is a friendly force, whether a helping hand at lunch or the smile that greets kids every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I try to greet as many as I can.

SHIVELY: But the last three years have been tough on Mr. Mike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I try not to think about it.

SHIVELY: Tonsil cancer didn't take his life, but it did take his teeth. Mike thought he might never get teeth at all facing a more than $4,000 bill for a complete mouth makeover. Mr. Mike's smile started fading. A prayer group of school moms wouldn't have it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wanted to bring that smile back and for him to be able to eat again.

SHIVELY: What started as a list of friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 160 families give $25 we can do this.

SHIVELY: Turned into a Facebook movement, Smiles for Mike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next morning I couldn't get out of my pajamas because people were coming to the door to give checks.

SHIVELY: The kids wanted to help too so they sold candy grams. Many of them sent to Mr. Mike himself or even notes written from tiny hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little girl here said, we thank you for working your soul out for us. And that just, you know, that gets to you.

SHIVELY: And so does this. The kids raised hundreds of dollars selling candy grams. The dentist heard and cut his bill in half. Add that to the donations that poured in from as far as Colorado.


SHIVELY: So four days ago, he got his new smile.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I think it's really happy that he gets to smile again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's your soul, I mean, your smile is the gateway to who you are. It's beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm practicing my smile, yes, trying to get it back.

SHIVELY (on camera): What does it look like now?

(voice-over): And that is something to smile about.


COSTELLO: That was Lindsay Shively from our affiliate KSHB. Talk back question today, what is your favorite Christmas memory? There has to be one that sticks out, right? But it probably isn't as memorable as this.





COSTELLO: Geez, as you know that clip went viral on YouTube, if you want to answer. What is your favorite Christmas memory? We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. The question for you this morning, what is your favorite Christmas memory? It has been an emotionally exhausting year. I won't review. There were too many painful moments.

But still, on this Christmas day, out of darkness there is hope, kindness, giving, compassion, Jesus would say love. In Newtown, Connecticut exhausted police officers received a rare gift -- time off.

Police from nearby communities are working in Newtown today to give police the holiday with their families. From around the nation and the world tens of thousands of toys have poured into Newtown.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: In this country we take care of each other and in this season of giving it's inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That's part of what makes us such a compassionate nation. This year, I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and extending your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.


COSTELLO: My favorite memory as a child wasn't the cow girl outfit I got at age 4 although it was pretty darned awesome. My favorite memory culminated in this moment. That's me right in the front at age 6 with my mom, brothers, and sisters. Yes, mother is exhausted which is understandable.

We always went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and then looked for Santa flying overhead as we left. We set out milk and cookies when we got home. On Christmas day the cookies were gone but the milk still half full. Those mornings were magic.

Not because I got Barbie's less attractive sister skipper. It was how it felt on that day. I can't even put that feeling into words so, please share. What is your favorite Christmas memory? or you can tweet me at carolCNN. I'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Russell Martin at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Just want to say happy holidays to my dad, little brother and sister, Olivia in Tucson, Arizona.



COSTELLO: Good morning. It is about 30 minutes past the hour. If you are heading toward the airport, better call ahead to make sure your flight has not been canceled or delayed, some nasty winter weather. Tornado warnings could also delay travel plans. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is here to tell us more.

SCHNEIDER: Carol, we are tracking new tornado warnings and a brand new tornado watch. First let's get to the warnings where the immediate threat is in Southeast Texas, in Trinity, Polk, and South Houston counties. This is really between Houston and Dallas. A little bit further to the east of I-45.

And if that's not enough a brand new watch box has been extended further to the west. So now we're looking at a threat into Houston, Lake Charles, Louisiana, straight over to New Orleans. This new tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. And this goes until 4:00 local time.

That's not enough, look at all the lightning across Mississippi and Texas. This is a dangerous day. I'm glad a lot of people will be indoors today because of the inclement weather going into tonight and tomorrow, a brand new threat for ice. This is in West Virginia. Watch out for a coating, measurable coating of ice on trees and power lines with strong winds.

We're looking at power outages likely. This is just to the west of Charlottesville in West Virginia. The snow is kind of spread out over parts of Oklahoma City. We had sleet and freezing rain and major pile- ups this morning along west of I-40, but looking forward over the next few hours into tonight we'll watch for snowfall as the colder air wraps in behind this system.

And then into the next day or so, we're watching for the threat of blizzard conditions developing through the heartland. This means Paducah, Kentucky, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Possibly up to a foot of snow.

This is so highly unusual to see this kind of snowfall along Christmas Day. It is so unusual that it only happens once a decade on average. And when you're talking about snow you have to shovel out well that hasn't happened in Little Rock, Arkansas since 1926. So it is unusual to see a White Christmas in this part of the country.

I remember two years ago we had a big snowstorm in the northeast, 2010 Christmas, not as unusual but down in this part of country it is going to be dangerous as we go into tonight and tomorrow -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Thank you, Bonnie.

Top Stories we're keeping an eye on in this morning. In Newtown, Connecticut the entire police force getting the day off. They've been working nonstop since this school shooting.

And officers from neighboring towns are stepping in to give them a break today. The volunteers donating their overtime pay to Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School charities.

Hundreds of NATO troops in Afghanistan celebrated the holiday early this year singing festive songs and lighting candles last night during a church service and, of course, filling up with a special Christmas dinner.

And President Obama is spending Christmas with his family in Hawaii. He even played a round of golf with his friends. It will be a short vacation though. The President expected back in Washington later this week just days before the fiscal cliff deadline.

Bad business busted. This end of the year review does not celebrate accomplishments but points out blunders. Here is Alison Kosik on some moves people wish they could take back.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Apple's map application, I don't know maybe it's too much to ask but we'd like a navigation system that actually takes us to our destination. Apple maps was so bad police at a town in Australia said the app took people 40 miles from their intended target. Apple apologized and Google map is back in the app store. Number four Facebook's botched IPO. The most anticipated IPO in years had so many problems. A long delay, technical glitches, investor confusion, and plenty of finger pointing. To top it off underwriters wildly over estimated the company's value pricing shares at $38 apiece. The stock is down almost 30 percent since.

Number three -- Yahoo's CEO pads his resume. Scott Thompson claimed to have a bachelor's degree in accounting and computer science but his degree is only in accounting. Guess who's not CEO anymore?

Number two, JP Morgan's $6 billion trading loss. CEO Jamie Dimon disclosed in May that a unit in London lost billions on one complicated trade. Dimon had to explain himself to Congress and JP Morgan though, still managed a $5 million profit that quarter.

And finally the dumbest move in business this year? You guessed it. The fiscal cliff. If we go over analysts say it will spark a recession. But yet again, Congress is taking us right to the edge and maybe beyond.

Check out the full list of "Dumbest Moments in Business" on Here's to a smarter 2013. Back to you.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Alison.

If you have finished opening presidents -- opening presidents -- I meant to say presents, you might be getting the family ready to head out to the movies today. So what's on the movie menu? We'll have a rundown on what's going on in Hollywood next.

And speaking of movies which is your favorite Christmas movie of all time? A new poll ranks some of the most popular movies. Here is a look at the top five. A Christmas Carol ranks number five. "White Christmas" is number four. Number three, "Miracle on 34th Street". And number two, "It's a Wonderful Life" and the number one Christmas movie is next.


COSTELLO: Before the break we told you about a new poll that ranks some of the most popular Christmas movies. Here is a look at the top five. "A Christmas Carol" comes in at number five. "White Christmas" number four. Number three "Miracle on 34th Street". And number two "It's a Wonderful Life". And the number one Christmas movie is oh, you guessed it. "A Christmas Story" of course.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, boy. Oh, boy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you look at that? Would you look at that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it -- it's a leg.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes well, it's a leg. You know, like a statue.






COSTELLO: No, it's a lamp. For favorite animated holiday movies "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Charlie Brown Christmas" tied for first place.

Here are a couple of holiday movies only because they're opening today. First, "Django Unchained".


LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: Heard tell about you. I heard you've been telling everybody that Mandingos are no damn good and nothing anybody is selling is worth buying. I'm curious. What makes you such a Mandingo expert?

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: I'm curious what makes you so curious.





COSTELLO: Also opening today is "Les Mis" starring Anne Hathaway --


ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS: -- deliver me from this hell I'm living --


COSTELLO: So if you even want to be more depressed this holiday season go check out those movies. Anywhere -- anyway, we want to review those movies and tell you if they're worth seeing or not. Senior editor from, Grae Drake is with me now. Good morning Grae and Merry Christmas.


COSTELLO: I'm glad you have your Santa hat on. We love that.

DRAKE: Thank you. I'm glad, anything I can do. Ho, ho, ho.

COSTELLO: Ho, ho, ho. Well, like I said, these two movies aren't exactly uplifting holiday fare. Is it unusual they're being released at Christmas time?

DRAKE: You know, the reason these movies are being released at Christmas time is because they're great. And this is the time of year where we need things to blow off steam so we go to the movies and even though you're right. They're not the most uplifting things in the world, they're fantastic. There is so much good stuff to see in the theater that anybody, whether they want to go with their family or without their family you're going to see something that's amazing in the theater.

COSTELLO: Ok. That makes me feel a little better. So Quentin Tarantino with the "Django" you know he's -- he produced "Django" he's been criticized for his portrayal of slavery in "Django Unchained". Spike Lee is even boycotting the movie. Some people are upset about it. You saw the movie. Does Spike Lee have a point?

DRAKE: Well, I mean I don't think that you haven't made an interesting movie if Spike Lee isn't boycotting it first of all. But slavery is a touchy subject; there is no getting around that. But Quentin Tarantino's last couple films have been a bit of revisionist history. Like his last movie was about killing Hitler in a movie theater.

So we're not going there for realism. But with "Django" it's such a high quality picture that I'd say the hype is totally in line with the quality of the film. Like you are going to go and enjoy it and it's all about perspective, Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, it is all about perspective.

DRAKE: Because --

COSTELLO: Oh go ahead finish your thought.

DRAKE: I just think that "Django" is a movie about a guy that really loves his job. Now it just so happens he is a bounty hunter and it just so happen that he is killing some slave owners but that's beside the point because he is doing it for love. This is kind of a love story where he's on his way to get his wife back and I don't know. I found it to be completely ridiculous and really entertaining all at once.

So Spike Lee, thumbs down to you. You're only hurting yourself by not seeing this movie.

COSTELLO: Ok let me ask you this question. Because it's incredibly violent and some of the violence is gleeful, right? So after Newtown when you saw that movie, did you watch that violence portrayed in that movie in a different way?

DRAKE: Absolutely. It's -- it's devastating to have to sit through movies and there are a couple of them this year that have gun violence in them. That's no fun for anyone because everybody is still really hurting over the horrible things that have happened. I mean everywhere, all over the country, all over the world.

And so that's not a great part of the movie for sure. I mean there are some stuff in "Jack Reacher" as well that even delayed that movie's premiere. And I would say that the only upside of this is that these movies are about justice. These movies are not about letting people get away with awful things. They're about bringing down the bad guy and that's the only thing that helped me sleep at night.

COSTELLO: Ok so let's talk about "Les Miserables" and I read one reviewer and he said this was like three hours of agony to sit through.

DRAKE: That reviewer is smoking drugs and I want some because he is wrong. Now "Les Miserables" is an adaptation of the very, very popular stage musical and it is getting a lot of heat because Tom Hooper the director decided to do something different with this musical.

Normally on a musical set when they're filming a movie the track is already recorded so the actors are just lip syncing but on this set they're actually singing as they were really filming the movie. And they used to do that a long time ago in movies and, of course, Broadway performers do that eight times a week.

But what it does for this version of "Les Miserables" is it just makes it so full of passion and it is so much fun to watch that there were several times during the movie that when a scene would end I was convinced that we had just seen that actor win the Oscar. Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne -- every performance in this movie to me was spectacular.

I'm kind of in the minority a little bit but I say those people are totally wrong. "Les Miserables" is perfect.

COSTELLO: Even Russell Crowe singing?

DRAKE: Ok. The Russell Crowe problem.

COSTELLO: You didn't mention Russell Crowe.

DRAKE: No I didn't on purpose because I think that he's weak link in the chain and personally I think that that guy should stick to throwing stones at people because Russell Crowe is not the best singer in this movie but he has a very stern gaze and that is what that character requires.

So I'm going to allow Russell Crowe to be in this film because everyone else is so good.

COSTELLO: Grae Drake from Rotten Tomatoes thank you so much for joining us on this Christmas Day.

DRAKE: Merry Christmas.

COSTELLO: Merry Christmas. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Nasty weather especially in Texas. A tornado warning has gone out or expanded. Bonnie Schneider is here to make it clear. Hi -- Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi Carol. That's right. We have new tornado warnings in parts of Texas. It's interesting to note that we now have a tornado that was confirmed by a trained weather spotter just near Crockett -- this is in Texas. But now the new tornado warning that you see here -- let's zoom in to the region -- this is for a brand new county, Northwestern Angelina County and Southeastern Cherokee County in northeast Texas.

Now the tornado warnings that were just to the south of it have just expired but remember, we do have reports of a tornado that was on the ground in this vicinity and according to the National Weather Service it is possible that a tornado may already be on the ground.

Remember these are rain-wrapped tornadoes so they're difficult to detect and difficult to see. This is a widespread area of severe weather that we're monitoring for tornadoes including some major metropolitan areas possibly today with the tornado watch now expanded further to the west including Houston, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and then all the way to Lafayette and into New Orleans.

These tornado watches extend into the afternoon and you can see the frequent lightning strikes just stretching across much of the south. It's a dangerous day today for tornadoes especially if you're driving along I-10. Make sure you have your NOAA weather radio turned on and programmed to your county or your parish if you're in Louisiana to alert you if severe weather occurs. Stay inside if you can.

It is Christmas so enjoy your gifts and just maybe stay indoors for today -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And there is nothing wrong with spending Christmas in the basement.

SCHNEIDER: As long as you're unwrapping presents.

COSTELLO: Exactly.


COSTELLO: Bonnie, thank you. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Whether you're a fan of the Indianapolis Colts you've probably been rooting for their coach Chuck Pagano. Pagano returned to work yesterday just three months after being diagnosed with leukemia and seven weeks after doctors announced it was in remission. Pagano's news conference brought both laughter and tears and a tribute of sorts to the interim head coach Bruce Arians who helped lead the colts to the playoffs.


CHUCK PAGANO, HEAD COACH, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Getting to pull up, drive in, get out of my car, the key (inaudible) still worked. I was beginning to question whether it would or not. When I asked Bruce to take over I said you got to kick some you know what and you got to do great. But, damn, Bruce, you had to go win nine games?

Tough act to follow. Tough act to follow.

There's no way you could ever get through something like this alone. And again to my wife and my family and everybody in here, I thank you, you know, from the bottom of my heart. Like I said earlier, if you're going to have to go through something, I know exactly why I'm here now. This is the place you'd want to be starting with our owner on down. It's the finest people I've ever been around in my entire life and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.


If all goes well this week Pagano will be on the sidelines for Sunday's regular season finale against Houston.

Pagano's comeback is one of the top sports stories of 2012. What about the top sports stories or news stories of the year? Here is a look back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A massive crowd has gathered here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want freedom. We want to be free people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Italian cruise ship capsized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nearly 23 percent unemployment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Viral on social media sites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outreach through social media.

SANDRA FLUKE, ACTIVIST: My name is Sandra Fluke --

OBAMA: The Affordable Care Act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Legitimate rape. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very massive play by Facebook.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The largest IPO in tech history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is she really breast feeding in the picture?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One article has the entire country talking.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The President says he now believes that same sex marriage should be legal.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: We now know the name of the suspect blamed for the movie theater shooting spree.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.

COSTELLO: Police now tell CNN people have been shot in front of the Empire State Building.



LEMON: Bath salts.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jerry Sandusky sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison.

WHITFIELD: An iconic statue honoring the late Penn state football coach Joe Paterno is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The British people are going gaga for the Diamond Jubilee.




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Someone sold photographs of Britain's Prince Harry naked during a strip billiards game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's one of the hottest novels around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What went wrong? Why now?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isaac is forcing some changes at the Republican convention.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: What do you mean "Shut up".

OBAMA: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staff -- they are dead. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will bring those to justice who committed these murders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the effects of Hurricane Sandy already.

COOPER: Sandy's carved a path of destruction across all along the Eastern Seaboard.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: We can't fully secure the crane until the wind dies down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh, we're doing another story on this? Gangnam style.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Live picture in Los Angeles from Endeavour the shuttle rolling down the streets of L.A.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Let's take a look at the man at the center of the scandal -- general David Patraeus.

BLITZER: Israel responded to fresh rocket attacks from Gaza.

WHITFIELD: The despair in Syria has gone on for 20 --

BURNETT: What are these red line mornings talk?

BLITZER: CNN projects Barack Obama will be re-elected President of the United States.

Terror at an elementary school in Connecticut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 20 children dead. Six adults are also dead.

OBAMA: So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children. May God bless the memory of the victims. And in the words of scripture, heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.


COSTELLO: Lots of tiny tots in Chicago got a real treat this Christmas from singing superstar Jennifer Hudson and her charity. The Julian D. King gift foundation. That was named after Hudson's seven-year-old nephew who was murdered in 2008. Lines stretched around the block as little kids eagerly awaited a toy for Christmas. The drive started by Hudson and her sister four years ago.


JENNIFER HUDSON, SINGER: It brought tears to my eyes. That was my Christmas wish. I was like, Jesus, just please, let there be people out there. That was the first thing I saw as I came up and tears just started for me. You know, I got my Christmas wish.


COSTELLO: Jennifer Hudson's Foundation has collected thousands of toys to give to needy families in Chicago.

Your responses to our "Talk Back" question of the day. What is your favorite Christmas memory?

This is from Paul. "A week before Christmas our home in Detroit was broken into and all the Christmas gifts were stolen. Woke up on Christmas morning and there was a new TV, new ornaments, and tons of Christmas gifts under the tree. The local Mormon Church had donated."

Melinda actually sent me a tweet saying her favorite Christmas moments were cooking for her mother because she loved her so much. I wrote her back and said, "Oh, Melinda, you are on to something." Miss my grandma's cooking on Christmas. Italian. So delicious, warm, and cozy.

And this from William, "When I was 18 and living the life of a struggling actor in New York City I decided to hitchhike to New England to visit family. A Rolls Royce Shadow gave me a lift. The driver, a wonderfully generous man, brought me to his parents' house in Connecticut for a Christmas eve dinner then drove me all the way to New Hampshire. My final destination? It was my personal Christmas movie."

Wow. Please keep the conversation going. CNN. And thank you for spending part of your Christmas day with me. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Suzanne Malveaux.