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Rockets Hit U.S. Embassy; Pope Francis Celebrates Christmas; More Troops to South Sudan; Holiday Trends and Traditions; Holiday Eating

Aired December 25, 2013 - 06:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR (voiceover): Joy to the world. Christmas morning is here. Come celebrate this special holy day with us.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR (voiceover): We have all the day's news, plus everything you need to start Christmas off right: great music, useful tips, and lot of holiday cheer.

CUOMO: A very merry NEW DAY starts right now.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's December 25th, 6:00 in the east. A warm welcome to all of you on this Christmas morning. In the spirit of the season we're joined by the wonderful Young People's Chorus of New York City. They'll be singing carols as you just heard. Hope you get in the holiday mood. Stay with us for some more beautiful songs from them throughout the morning.

PEREIRA: They sound amazing.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to be great.

Also what does today really mean to billions around the world you ask? It's not just about presents or family, friends and food, even though that's a great part of it, it's a matter of faith. We're going to talk about that with our own group of wise men and women.

PEREIRA: Kate, you talked about the food. We all have our holiday favorites, somebody's pie, sweet potato pie, corn bread. Stuffing yourself at the table isn't the best idea on any day.

CUOMO: What?

PEREIRA: I'm the bearer of bad news. It's especially hard to void it today. What can we do to keep our Christmas cheerful not only for the family but for your body? We'll talk about that coming up.

CUOMO: Top advice, take care of it tomorrow. First here this morning, we'll get a check of the headlines, what's making news this morning. Let's head over to the newsdesk.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I'm Miguel Marquez. A Christmas day rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, embassy officials say two rockets struck the embassy compound just before dawn. Diplomats and workers had to scramble into bunkers in the aftermath. No reports of death or injuries at the embassy. Officials are calling this strike indirect fire in assessing the damage. The Taliban is claiming responsibility.

Live pictures now from the Vatican where Pope Francis is marking the holy day, delivering his first Christmas orbi speech, that means the city in the world, traditionally a change to reiterate the pope's major themes for the year. Earlier, Francis celebrated his first Christmas midnight where he preached about acceptance and humility saying if you let your brothers and sisters you walk in the light. If your heart is closed, darkness falls.

Now to South Sudan where a civil war is growing more violent, there's growing evidence of atrocities there and more international forces are now arriving, including U.S. Marines. Arwa Damon has the latest from nearby Uganda.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Miguel, the U.S. stationed 50 Marines here in Uganda, just down the road from where we are right now as a precautionary measure should the situation in South Sudan deteriorate even further. The U.N. voting unanimously to send in an additional 5,500 troops to try to protect the civilian population.

There have been various reports of killings along ethnic lines, mass graves being reported as well, amidst widespread fear that if the violence is not brought under control, we could be seeing killings on the scale of the Rwanda genocide -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Thanks to Arwa Damon. If you weren't able to sign up for Obamacare by Tuesday's deadline, you may still get a chance. The Obama administration has agreed give people more time to complete their applications if they can show they were delayed because of the problems with the web site. It's not clear how many people would be affected or how they go about proving the website was to blame for their missing deadline. The web site says it saw heavy traffic the last few days and people rushed to beat the deadline for health coverage to take effect January 1st.

Gay marriages will continue in Utah. A federal appeals court declined to step in and halt the nuptials. That after a judge ruled last week that the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The state is appealing his decision and the Attorney General's Office is now planning to go to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay.

Licenses are now on their way to some 350 prospective marijuana operations in Colorado. Many are for stores that will legally sell pots, but some will go to facilities that will grow marijuana, make pot-related products or test the drug. The businesses will have to get local approval from their towns or cities before they can actually open.

First came the hack, now comes the scams. Target is warning customers be on lookout for suspicious e-mails claiming to be about the theft of millions of credit and debit card accounts. Target says it will post official news on its web site so you can verify what you received in your inbox.

Your Christmas morning forecast looks pretty nice for most of the country. A few flurries in the Great Lakes, showers in parts of Texas and Florida, but for the most part, the country should see sunny skies, partly sunny and cloudy, whatever way you want to call it. Temperatures will also be cool, not out of the ordinary for January. I'm Miguel Marquez. Those are your headlines. Merry Christmas.

CUOMO: The tree, the presents, the food, so many traditions mark Christmas, right? For many of us the day centers on faith. Our own group of wise people are here with their take of the spiritual side of the holiday. Please help me introduce CNN faith and religion commentator, Father Edward Beck, Pastor Michael Faulkner of Harlem's New Horizon Church of New York and Christine Lee, the assistant rector for All Angels Church. Merry Christmas to all of you.

So help me good holy people, help me with this. We have a young family, we left the struggle that all of you hear about all the time. My kids with the gifts, how do I keep Christ in Christmas? How do I make it spiritual when everything seems to be pulling me away from that? What do I do?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN FAITH AND RELIGION COMMENTATOR: You can start by telling the story to the children. What is it really about? It's about a homeless, pregnant teenager and that God chooses to be born in that simple experience, that's the basic truth of Christmas. I have a friend, who's really a cousin, but we call him friend because we are the same age. He has two kids, ten toys each. That's all they get, the ten toys.

When they get a new one, they have to decide which one they give away. They know now, what one am I going to give away and to whom am I going to give it? He's trained them this way, that's what it about. You can't have too much when other people have nothing. I think it's an important value. Christmas is a time and you can remind people of that value.

CUOMO: Christine, the giving was more important than the receiving. We say it but hard to practice in such an inquisitive society. It's all about the quest for more. How do we reconcile?

CHRISTINE LEE, ASSISTANT RECTOR, ALL ANGELS CHURCH: Well I think sometimes it's also a matter of recognizing our desire for more is this never-ending well. We always just want more. And that idea of being able to be thankful for what you have, I remember -- I was listening to an interview with Renee Brown, the sociologist. She was talking about when a loved one dies, for example, it's not the big things that you remember. It's those everyday small things that matter the most.

Either you miss hearing your kids fighting in the background. You miss the way that your spouse snored, in the middle of the night, keeping you awake. I think there's something about when you're able to remember those simple little things that that desire for like I need this to be happy or that to be happy becomes less important.

CUOMO; You are pressing me to want to remember things, notably, the kids screaming and the spouse snoring that I cannot imagine being nostalgic about. I'll take your word for it. But Michael, the central component is the commercialization of Christmas, right, the gifts dominate, the tradition, who brings what food, who puts the best spread out at the table. You can't just reject it. It's about making a bigger tapestry here, isn't it?

MICHEL J. FAULKNER, PASTOR, HARLEM'S NEW HORIZON CHURCH OF NEW YORK: Well, in some ways it is. You really truly can't take Christ out of Christmas. It's in the name. It's in the meaning of the holiday. It's in the expressions and for those people who choose to go to the commercialization, who only want to look at the certain aspects of it, they miss out. They don't get the message.

As father beck said earlier, it really is about God choosing to be born in a stable which was actually a carved out like a rock, a cave, you know? And to be laid in a manger, a feeding trough for the domesticated farm animals because there was no room for him in the inn. There was no room for Jesus in the inn, in the commercialization we edge Jesus out of our lives, of our daily lives. We've got to get back to the basics of what it really means.

CUOMO: So getting back to the basics, fair supposition, do you feel you are losing ground on Christmas? Where do you think we are in the culture wars, father? Do you think we're keeping the Christ in Christmas or do you think we're getting pushed more and more, secularization all the time?

BECK: I think we are losing it, but maybe it's Pope Francis reinvigorating the church, I've seen it with him, when he can critique global capitalism the way he did and he took a lot of heat as you remember for critiquing it, but his point is you cannot have a world where so many people have so much and so many have so little. It's not about stuff.

We have gifts we think are important, they are power, prestige and possessions. Christmas says none of those are important. It's not about power, prestige or possessions. It's about simple love and how it's given away. You say a manger. How is he in that manger? The baby is like this. It's giving the love away in the manger. That's why he's come. I think if we can keep reminding ourselves and others about that message, that's what matters about Christmas.

FAULKNER: I don't think so much we're losing ground as we become who we really are and we forget that God came to save us from who we really are and so we need to understand. We get back to it. I love this time of year. Though it's stressful in ministry, it's the most stressful time of year. Pastors need a vacation in January, you know? But it really is -- I love telling the story over and over and over again, because it reminds me of what I'm doing and why I'm doing what I'm doing.

CUOMO: In truth, the themes are largely secular anyway. If you take the story of Christ out of it, the ideas about what you're supposed to be fuelled by this season are good regardless whether you belong to a specific religion. Let me ask you one question. The pope, technically you don't work for him.

LEE: We love him.

CUOMO: He's a passionist under the pope. What does the pope mean to the two of you as people who are trying to help people with the spiritual, has he helped, Christine?

LEE: Yes, I think he has helped, a lot. I think a lot of times when you talk to the average person on the street and you ask them what do you think of when you think of church or Christians, they say things like hypocritical, judgmental, homophobic. The pope is saying I'm one of you. I struggle just like one of you, pray for me. That puts an entirely different face on what it means to be a Christian and a follower of Jesus.

FAULKNER: Yes, he is the most visible Christian leader in the world and rightfully so. And so his messages do resonate around the world. I love them. I think he is a humble servant of God that is doing an amazing job of reminding people of what God has said and the kind of lives that we ought to live. I'm very, very proud to be able to celebrate the things that he's doing and saying.

BECK: Don't you think the message that he's preaching really is the message of Christmas? He's saying that our hearts are only going to be filled by something deeper. You mentioned the manger as the feeding trough. Do we remember that's a symbol of Christmas, this baby is placed in a feeding trough? We are going to remember, he feeds our hungry hearts. It's a feeding trough, we're hungry. This child is going to feed us if we get the message.

CUOMO: Just one of the few French words I know. Manger, doesn't it come from a French word.

BECK: To eat, exactly.

CUOMO: Very sophisticated.

BECK: I'm glad you remember that.

CUOMO: I pretend not to listen to what you say, but I am. It's the journalist in me. I want to thank each of you. Thank you so much for sharing the message of Christmas, I appreciate it.

FAULKNE: You're very welcome.

CUOMO: Of course, it makes sense, but it's great to hear on any day.

FAULKNER: Can I say Merry Christmas to my mother?

CUOMO: Please.

FAULKNER: Merry Christmas, mom. I love you.

BECK: Big points for that. FAULKNER: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: Not to be outdone. Mom, you know who loves you. I love you. Merry Christmas. Kate, Indra, I love you, too.

BOLDUAN: All right, we're going to take a break here on NEW DAY, but coming up next, are you enjoying those holiday treats? I hope so. Well, there are ways to do it without packing on the pounds, maybe not. But we'll try to find a way. We'll tell you how to make your happy holiday a healthy one.

PEREIRA: The three of us sitting here look like we should be a musical group. Those are the real deal, a real holiday treat for you. All your carol favorites from the Young People's Chorus of New York City, they'll take us to break.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to this very special edition of NEW DAY, cookies, cocktails, cakes, our favorite treats, cookies, exactly. Three seas of Christmas. For so many of us it's nearly impossible to make it through the season without packing on extra pounds.

One of our favorite doctors is here to help us try to beat the bulge this year. Dr. Jennifer Caudle, very tough assignment. Because when I'm looking at this segment, I'm thinking holiday and nutrition, these are two things that do not go together.



BOLDUAN: What are the things we should be watching out for as we begin our holiday feasting?

CAUDLE: I have four tips for people. The first thing is don't go hungry to the holiday party. OK?

BOLDUAN: Great tip.

CAUDLE: It's like going hungry to the grocery store.

BOLDUAN: Bad idea.

CAUDLE: It's always a bad idea. Never go hungry to the holiday party. Eat a healthy snack before you head out so you don't eat everything on the buffet line. Second rule is spend your calories wisely. Right? Eat things you know --

BOLDUAN: Wisely? It's a party!


CAUDLE: Eat things you know you really love. Don't nibble on the stuff you don't care about because that's just going to waste your calories. So just spend them wisely. The third thing is make healthy choices. That really means this is not the time to just eat cakes and cookies all day, still eat your proteins, your fruits and veggies and portion control.

And the final thing is keep up the healthy habits. You have to still exercise. You can't sit on the couch and eat bonbons all day. I'm sorry to say it. You can't do that.


CUOMO: Let's get information to motivate your tips. I think part of the problem, only part, I don't really think it is a problem but I'll play along, is that we don't know what's in the food we're eating around the holidays. Give us a list of what we like to take in and what we are actually taking in.

BOLDUAN: Or not.


CAUDLE: There are things that I found out recently that really surprised me. Now I love eggnog actually, love eggnog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that feels like it might be high in calories.

CAUDLE: One cup of eggnog can run over 300 calories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just not the eggnog.

CAUDLE: (INAUDIBLE) many, many cups of eggnog. You can actually pack on lots of calories that way.

Fruit cake, one slice can have 410 calories in it. Don't forget things like the candied yams, the cranberry sauce, we're talking 400 calories per serving potentially.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Really? How much cranberry sauce are you putting on your plate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And candied yams.

BOLDUAN: And candied yams, they're deceiving because you think you'll be getting some of the good stuff.

CAUDLE: It's a yam and it must be healthy.

PEREIRA: Let's just get down to brass tacks here for a second. You were talking about the eggnog, the problem is the rum, the brandy.


CUOMO: When you add alcohol, the eggnog becomes more, not less?

PEREIRA: (INAUDIBLE) drinking responsibly and safely, of course. But people are going to have a cocktail or two or three. Depending on how stressful your family gathering is.

CAUDLE: A lot of people like to enjoy a festive cocktail. And that's perfectly OK, too. You did mention something I have to say is alcohol only in moderation and never drink and drive. But don't forget the amount of calories that can come with alcoholic drinks we have. Those fruity, fun, festive martinis that we like to drink can have hundreds of calories in them. So you really want to watch that, absolutely.

PEREIRA: Go a little vodka, a little wine? What do you think?

CAUDLE: Well, so wine certainly has less calories and sometimes things like vodka as well, it's when we start mixing things and we get the fruity and the sweet and the sugar.

CUOMO: If you drink vodka and wine you're already in trouble. Doesn't matter what the calories are.


BOLDUAN: So your best advice as we finish this up.

CAUDLE: My best advice --

BOLDUAN: Because people want to have fun.

CAUDLE: They do, they do, and, look, this is the holidays. We're talking family, friends, festivities and food. So what do I think? I think it's OK to indulge. I really do. You want to take things slowly. You want to moderate portion control and moderate your portion size.

Still exercise, eat the healthy stuff you normally eat.

But as a doctor -- and, Michaela, I see your face. Hold on one second. As a physician, I have to say that those of you out there that have salt restrictions or things like that, you still got to follow doctor's orders.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

CAUDLE: But I think a little bit of holiday is OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your stance on Brussels sprouts?

CUOMO: Depends on what you do with them.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So enjoy the holidays.


BOLDUAN: You heard the doctor, she said have some fun, take care, but just not too much. Dr. Jennifer Caudle, always great to see you. Thank you so much.

We're going to take another break here. But coming up next on NEW DAY, the year in politics, both naughty and nice. Who's the big winners in the nation's Capitol? And who's going to get a lump of coal in their stocking this year? It's our political gut check, coming up next.

CUOMO: Tell us, how are you spending your Christmas? Family, friends, maybe trading gifts? Things are different overseas. We'll take a look, coming up.




CUOMO: Wow, thank you so much. Because they stopped so fast.

BOLDUAN: I know. I feel like we should clap every time we could.

CUOMO: But it doesn't go with the news.

Welcome back to this special edition of NEW DAY. Merry Christmas to you. We want to get back over to the news desk for a check of the headlines that are all making news this morning.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a very good morning to you and a Merry Christmas to you and yours. I'm Miguel Marquez, developing news this morning from Kabul, Afghanistan, where the U.S. embassy has been hit by Taliban rocket fire.

A pair of rockets struck part of the compound just before dawn. Embassy officials say the rockets caused no deaths or injuries there, but three policemen were hurt by rockets that fell elsewhere in the city.

A judge says the California girl who had complications following tonsil surgery is legally brain dead. The 13-year-old Jahi McMath will remain on life support until at least Monday. Her attorney for her family says they haven't decided whether to appeal the decision. They've been pushing for more time to see signs of recovery.

Eliot Spitzer and his wife are divorcing. The former New York governor and his wife putting out a statement saying their marriage has come to an end after 26 years. Spitzer and his wife had been living in separate apartments for months. He had to resign the governorship in disgrace five years ago in a prostitution scandal. The couple have three daughters.

Two Americans are safely back aboard the International Space Station after more than a seven-hour spacewalk. Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins were finishing repairs to the cooling system which malfunctioned two weeks ago. There was a minor problem when a fluid line got tangled with some ammonia flakes. They leaked out but NASA says it is not a big issue.

Those are your headlines for now. A very Merry Christmas to you and yours. I'm Miguel Marquez.