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Worst Holiday Sales in 2 Years; Furry Over Gun License Map; Syrian Official Defection Reported; How to Get Rid of Old Gadgets.

Aired December 26, 2012 - 13:30   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It will in some ways. In many ways, though, people are walking into stores using gift cards. In fact, the National Retail Federation says 80 percent of shoppers bought a gift card. That's almost $30 billion worth. Those are counted when they're sold and not redeemed. If you're a retailer, most people wind up spending more in the store. So that's a good thing for the retailer if they spend more than that's on the gift cards. Those after-Christmas sales can help a bit to help the retailers out -- Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I bought the gift cards and received gift cards, and I also received some gift cards. So I might be going back, too. I may go back to return some things. How does that impact overall sales and how they measure all of this?

KOSIK: Returns do have a big effect on sales numbers, and they wind up eating into profit for a lot of retailers. They say almost 11 percent of holiday gifts are returned, and that amounts to billions of dollars. On the other hand, returns could end up being a good thing, too, because some people will go in and exchange for something more expensive or they could buy more stuff.

Overall, after-Christmas sales should help, but the effect may wind up being limited a bit by returns and gift cards -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: All right. We won't tell our relatives which gift we're returning and which one we're keeping, right? There's always that re- gifting that happens.


Thank you as always.

Here's other stories we're watching today.

That was a snowmaker plowing eastward. If you're in New England, Pennsylvania, all the way to South Carolina, get ready for high winds, lots of snow. Forecasters say possible tornadoes as well.

Former Major League Baseball player, Andrew Jones, is free on bond today after being arrested and charged with battery. Authorities say the former Atlanta Braves outfielder was involved in a domestic dispute with his wife. Since leaving the Braves, he has played with several teams including the New York Yankees. He signed a one-year deal with a Japanese baseball team. Turn in a gun, get a gift card for groceries. That's the deal in Los Angeles today. The city is holding the annual Gun Buy-Back Program. Usually, held in may, but the mayor decided to move it up after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed six adults and 20 children. People in L.A. can turn in their guns today, no questions asked.

A newspaper has triggered a fierce backlash by publishing an interactive map showing where people with gun licenses live.

Josh Levs is here to talk about the map as well as the fallout.

Josh, a lot of people are watching this story, because they were quite shocked in the beginning and it was surprising the reaction to it as well.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very interesting what's going on with this story from the very beginning. Let me set this up. This is not the first time they have published who gun owners and permit holders, may be in the certain area. This is the age of social media and technology when everyone has access to the information and share it. This has gone wild online.

Let me tell you what we're looking at here. The web site is It serving part of the New York area. They mapped in Westchester and Rockland Counties information on gun permit holders. It doesn't mean each home has one, but each of these circles -- I won't click them here to show you my journalistic point here. The fury is about, if you zoom in on any of these and you click on a circle, you get information who the person is and what the address is. That helps anyone who wants to know who is a gun permit holder in the area.

They have a second map people might not have seen as much. This is the blue here in another county. They say the blue represents the people who have updated their -- the permit holders that have purchased a firearm or updated their permit in the past five years in Rockland County. So they got some information from different counties.

Now, this has set off a ton of anger online. So much so, that the newspaper itself is talking about it. First, I'll show you a few quotes among the thousands on the web site itself of this newspaper. "This is crazy." "I hope you lose readers." "A valuable piece of information for criminals." "Totally out of line."

Folks, that's just us selecting four out of thousands of angry quotes right there.

Let me tell you what the newspaper is saying. First of all, they emphasize they did not publicize any secret information. They're standing by what's public information they got through the Freedom of Information Act. Take a look at a quote they put out here. They say, "We were surprised when we weren't able to obtain information on what kinds and how many weapons people in our market own. Had we been able to obtain those records, we would have published them." So, Suzanne, they wanted to publish more information. And they said, in the wake of Newtown, their readers are interested in who in their neighborhood does or does not have a gun or may have a permit for one.

So this is continuing to go wild. Big story on People weigh in there as well.

MALVEAUX: Josh, I understand they can get information on handgun licenses but not semi-automatic weapons and more heavy-duty weapons. Do we know why?

LEVS: Exactly. This is interesting. The paper said that they reached out to county clerk officials and they're looking for more information than they were given. What we know is it's pistol licenses. When you look at that red map -- I'm glad you mentioned that, the red one -- is for pistol licenses. They say they were surprised as well about what kinds of information were and were not availability. And the clerks said they don't think certainly things should be public information. Amid the debate about what the journalists should do, there's also the debate about public information.

MALVEAUX: Josh, it's interesting because some people are coming back and making the point, they're saying, we know a lot about our neighbors and we know how much they pay for homes and taxes. They fill out all kinds of information that you can learn publicly, but some of these gun owners feel like they're treated as sex offenders, that they're responsible people with licenses who have done nothing wrong, but feel stigmatized in some way.

LEVS: If you think about it, usually when I show you a map it is often because there was a crime committed in that area or because there's maybe a registered sex offender there. People see the visual of this experience, and they say that.

But since we're having that conversation, I want to add, we went searching through the comments on to see if anybody supported this at all. Someone said, "If you're a gun owner, it's a matter of public record. I have a car and house and there's no secret. I don't expect a right to privacy for these things."

Amid all the angry people, there are a few here and there who seem to support the idea.

MALVEAUX: We'll follow the story. It's fascinating, Josh.

Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

LEVS: You've got it.

MALVEAUX: Coming up next --




MALVEAUX: -- this is a sound of gunfire ringing out in Syrian neighborhoods. The country's military police chief now has reportedly defected to the other side.





MALVEAUX: In Syria, the military police chief has defected from Assad's government. This video shows a man identified as this official. I want you to watch.


MAJ. GEN. ABDUL AZIZ JASSAM AL-SHALLAL, HEAD OF SYRIAN MILITARY POLICE (through translation): I announce my defection from the regime, and I'm joining the peoples revolution because the Syrian military has strayed from its core mission in protecting the homeland to become nothing but an armed gang that kill and destroy the cities and villages, carrying out massacres against the innocent civilian population that came out demanding freedom and dignity.


MALVEAUX: This is significant. It would be one of the highest-level defections in the 21 months of fighting. The prime minister as well as a general who was close to al Assad have also left the regime in recent months.

I want to bring in our Mohammed Jamjoom who is in Beirut, Lebanon.

Mohammed, give us a sense. This is a pretty big fish for somebody to be leaving, and I imagine he has valuable information as well, being somebody part of the military police.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne. He identifies himself Abdul Aziz Jassam al-Shallal, as a major general, he's the chief of military police in Syria. We spoke earlier with Free Syrian Army spokespeople. They said, indeed, this was the man he claimed to be. The Free Syrian Army helped to shuttle him to safety, that it was a very difficult journey getting him from inside Syria into neighboring Turkey, that it took far longer than they thought it would, and they were willing to help other military officials wanted to defect for a certain amount of time longer.

But, yes, as you said, if this turns out to be true and this man is as high-ranking as he said he is, this would be a big blow to the regime. There's been more and more high level defections the last several months. The fact more and more are coming seems to suggest Bashar al- Assad is losing more of a grip of power in Syria. This is certainly not what they want out there when you have the U.N. and Arab League enjoy trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution.

If this is true and he has defected and he's as high ranking as he said he is, he could have key intelligence to give insight into the inner workings of the al-Assad regime -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Mohammed, I want to talk about the impact and what it means for the people there in that country. We're talking about the last couple of days you have 365 people who have been killed in the country. That is on top of more than 100 people who were killed in an air attack Sunday on a local bakery. You've got high-level people departing. Does this make any difference in terms of what is taking place on the ground and whether or not people are still going to be -- continue to be killed?

JAMJOOM: It's a great question, Suzanne. It certainly hasn't made any impact as of yet, but the rebels told us today that this is a coup for them. This is something that gives them a morale boost, that proves to them that more and more military officials want to defect and that morale is low on the side of the Syrian regime. They count that in their favor.

The last few days, we spoke about the death tolls staggering day after day. Well over 100 each day the last four days. Bombings of two different bakeries. Scores of women and children and families killed in different parts of country, according to the opposition activists we speak with. It only seems to be getting worse.

While this is good news for the rebels, on the ground, it hasn't changed at all and only seems to be deteriorating more by the hour -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: All right, Mohammed Jamjoom. It is a symbolic victory. There is still the fighting that continues as that civil war inside of the country tears apart of the fabric of that society.

We'll have more after a break.


MALVEAUX: If you received a shiny new device for the holidays, probably have an older device collecting dust or something like that, you can turn it into cash, however.

I want to bring in our CNN Money's tech pro, Laurie Segall, to talk about how that works.

How do you do that?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH REPORTER: Well, you know, you get an iPad mini under the Christmas tree, I'm assuming you're pretty happy. You're right, a lot of people ask themselves, how do we turn our old gadgets and how do we get the cash back? Lots of ways to do this.

Let's start with one of the most basic ways. List your items on sites like CraigsList or eBay. If you go that route, you want to know just how much you're going to list those items for. There are a lot of great sites for that. One is calmed It will show you the average price of your device over time so you can know how much to sell it for. Your device could be a couple years old or worn a little bit. You can see how much to get for it.

MALVEAUX: Yes. I mean, it seems like we've -- things happen so quickly, we have these old devices that we could get rid of. Tell us about the gift cards here. I understand that 81 percent, right, shoppers either buy a gift card for the year, if you don't want the gift card you can swap it for cash. How does that work?

SEGALL: Sure. A lot of us get gift cards, and we don't know what we want to do with them. Some of us want to use them. You know, you have this plastic cash lying around, and there's sites that will give you cash back for the money that you didn't spend. There's a site a lot of people are using called They will buy back your unwanted gift cards and send you a money transfer through PayPal. They're going to take a cut of that, so it's not completely seamless.

I should say there a lot of sites are out. There's one called gift cardsgranny. It's he a strange name that helps you scan through sites and find the best deal.

Another option, you can use the balance on your gift card examine contribute to the holiday spirit. A site called plasticjungle lets you donate it to Red Cross or Autism Speaks. You feel good about that, right, Suzanne/



SEGALL: I will say there's one more it that -- plasticjungle lets you -- they have a partnership with United Airlines so you can trade your gift cards for miles. You can check that out if you're a traveler.

MALVEAUX: That's great. I'm glad they have that flexibility. I'm not a big shopper. That would be great to give it to charity and that's nice, too.

Thank you. I appreciate that. We're going to head to the mall and do some shopping, I guess.

Thanks again.

He danced into the record books.




MALVEAUX: We all know who he is by now. South Korean rapper, Psy, viral, had one million hits on YouTube. But did he make the list of our top entertainment stories of 2012?





MALVEAUX: It is that time of year. We're counting down to our top entertainment stories of 2012.

Here's Nischelle Turner with the rundown.


TURNER: The song was almost inescapable. Carly Rae Jepsen's viral sensation "Call Me Maybe." It earned her two Grammy nominations and countless reenactments online like with the U.S. swim team.


TURNER: The force is now strong with Disney. In a move that caught many by surprise, the "Star Wars" franchise's fiercely independent creator, George Lucas, sold his company, Lucas Film, to the entertainment empire for more than $4 billion. What's more is Disney announced plans for three more "Star Wars" films.

It's the superstar relationship that has Hollywood asking, are they or aren't they? Chris Brown, who beat his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, in 2009 said, in October, he renewed his friendship with the singer. Is it more than just friends? Song collaborations and vague tweets from Rihanna have suggested otherwise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to keep everyone guessing, and they don't want to explain what's going on with their relationship to anyone in the world. BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Jacksons, the family drama turning into one big reality show.

TURNER: More turmoil for the Jackson family last summer as Paris announced on Twitter that her grandmother and guardian, Katherine Jackson, was missing, forcing a judge to suspend her guardianship of Michael's three kids.

BALDWIN: Katherine Jackson is back home, and she says she wasn't kidnapped.

TURNER: Michael's siblings disputed the claim, saying their mother was resting in Arizona under doctor's order. A judge later restored Katherine as permanent guardian of the children.


TURNER: Whether it was a pleasure or a guilty pleasure, audiences couldn't turn away from TLC's hit reality show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," about a child beauty pageant contestant and her family. (SINGING)

TURNER: Rapper Psy went from an unknown perform to her a worldwide phenomenon after his catchy dance tune, "Gangnam Style," hit the web.


TURNER: The song and trademark dance shattered records online, becoming the number one watched video on YouTube with more than 970 million views.

But Psy's newfound fame wasn't without controversy. Harsh anti- American remarks he made during a performance in 2004 resurfaced online. He apologized, saying his lyrics were emotionally charged and resulted from events in the war with Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: New sexual misconduct accusations against the former voice of Elmo.

TURNER: One of the most surprising stories of the year, Elmo puppeteer, Kevin Clash, was forced to resign after accused of engaging in sexual relationships with minors. His lawyers say the cases are without merit, but Clash still opted to leave "Sesame Street" after 28 years.

"Twilight" stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were one of the hottest celebrity couples, until a highly publicized fling between the actress and the man who directed here in "Snow White and the Huntsman" rocked Hollywood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kristen Stewart moved on. She released a very public statement asking Robert for forgiveness.

TURNER: Pattinson did forget just in time for the premier of the Twilight saga, "Breaking Dawn, Part 2" in November.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The celebrity split sending shockwaves through the entertainment world.

TURNER: After nearly six years of marriage, Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise in June, blindsiding Hollywood's biggest movie star.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was so incredible is how Katie Holmes had everything just so well-prepared.

TURNER: Although Holmes asked for full custody of their daughter, Suri, they settled amicably on the divorce just two weeks later, ending one of the most high profile celebrity marriages.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, PIERS MORGAN: You're watching CNN with breaking news of Whitney Houston's death.

TURNER: It was a tragic end to an iconic singer's successful but often troubled career. Whitney Houston, who battled with drugs and alcohol for decades, died February 11th in a hotel bathtub at the age of 48, the night before the Grammy awards. Houston's death was an accidental drowning with the effects of heart disease and cocaine use as contributing factors.


Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.



MALVEAUX: Hope you had a merry Christmas.

Want to look at how people around the world spent the holidays.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: This is exactly what he does at home.





MALVEAUX: Not bad.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Victor Blackwell. Hope you're having a good holiday.