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Adding Up the Cost of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"; Tips on Lowering Your Mortgage Interest Rate; Continuing Violence in Syria; Most Intriguing People of 2012; Wounded Veterans' Thoughts Are on Comrades Still Deployed Overseas

Aired December 24, 2012 - 13:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Well, like Charlie Brown's scrawny little Christmas tree and Ralphie's longing for a BB gun, the song about the 12 days of Christmas just part of the holiday tradition. But if you actually set out to buy those things in those song catalogs, sticker shock. Here's Richard Quest.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: So you've decided to be very traditional in your Christmas presents this year. And you're going to buy the 12 days of Christmas. You know, all the items that are in the song.

Well PNC Bank has worked out how much it will cost and it's 5 percent more expensive this year than last year. And this is why.

Let's start with the partridge in a pear tree, up 11 percent. The cost of feed, housing, storage, pear trees, it's all raised the cost. And then you have those five gold rings. You know the price of gold has been very high. As a result, it's up 16.3 percent. Those gold rings are pretty pricey.

So on to the living things, the six geese a-laying, up nearly 30 percent because of storage and feed stock, the seven swans a-swimming up 11.1 percent.

But what about those humans? What about, for example, the maids a- milking? Unchanged. They're manual labor, unskilled.

Once you get to the drummers drumming, it's up 5.5 percent. How much does it all cost? If you buy the whole the lot for 12 days of Christmas, $25,431, a rise of just about 5 percent.

Now, as for the true cost, because remember some of them you have to buy again and again, look at that, $107,000. That's a whooping rise. And don't forget, if you buy it online on the Internet, it's even more expensive because of shipping and handling.

Finally, the cost of buying Christmas every year, just look at the way it just keeps getting more and more expensive. Agh! Overall when you put the 12 days together, the 12 days of Christmas, you can see it's not a cheap business. You'll keep buying again and again and again -- Richard Quest, CNN, London. MALVEAUX: Wounded veterans working through Christmas as they recover from their injuries. Their thoughts, though, are with the friends overseas who could not make it home for the holidays.

But first, if you're a homeowner, you could be saving hundreds on your mortgage; getting a discount is as simple as getting your credit checked. Christine Romans explains.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Same condo, same owner, three different interest rates in just three years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: November 2009, 5.125 percent; November 2010, refinanced and it was 4.25 percent. Now 3.6 percent.

ROMANS (voice-over): Sinking mortgage rates save him $750 a month.

Rates have fallen from almost 4 percent to around 3.3 percent this year alone. Just a couple years ago 6 percent was considered super low and once-in-a-lifetime.

ROMANS: If you're sitting on a mortgage right now that is 5.25 percent or 6 percent, what should you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should be calling your loan officer.

ROMANS: You shouldn't have a (inaudible) 30-year fixed at 5.5 percent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should not be above 4.5 percent right now.

ROMANS (voice-over): But lenders aren't passing the cheap money around like they were at the peak of the housing bubble.

ROMANS: Who should be refinancing then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone who has equity in the house, who is working, can show a good credit score and has money in the bank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can save -- I mean, if you can save even $100 to $150 a month, it seems worth it.

ROMANS (voice-over): For "Smart is the New Rich", I'm Christine Romans.



MALVEAUX: Now to a pair of startling and devastating attacks in Syria. Just a few hours ago nine people, six of them children, were killed on a raid on a bakery. That is according to an opposition group and that attack comes a day after more than 100 folks died at another bakery. That's when planes dropped bombs as they waited in line for bread. Our Mohammed Jamjoom, he has the story. We want to warn you that some of the pictures are pretty graphic.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A voice filled with horror, a scene full of carnage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Arabic).

JAMJOOM: "A massacre in Halfaya," screams the man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Arabic).

JAMJOOM (voice-over): They targeted the bakery, a bakery where hungry civilians have been standing in line to get bread. One eyewitness reached via Skype described the grisly aftermath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): From 200 meters away I could see corpses as I walked towards the bakery. The people cannot be described, bodies piled on top of each other. It was an impossible scene. There is no word to describe it.

JAMJOOM (voice-over): Enaraja (ph), who says he was one of the first on the scene, filmed this video. The wounded are carries away as rebels and civilians dig up mangled corpses from the rubble. Shock and grief quickly turn to anger.

"Where are you, world?" asks this man pointing to the destruction. "Come see the bodies. They were waiting for bread." Activists tell CNN this town in Hama province is full of anti-regime sentiment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Halfaya was liberated a week ago, but the regime surrounded it completely, cutting us off from the world. Nothing was allowed in or out. Even water and bread were cut off. Today we are able to reach an aid organization and we were able to obtain dough.

JAMJOOM: He says they were able it to open one of the town's bakeries around 1:00 pm, and that the rockets struck just hours later. As nearby hospitals quickly filled up, activists began pleading for help.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in Mohammed Jamjoom from Beirut.

Mohammed, you know, it's hard to watch this, it's hard to see and it's even harder to understand that this is taking place over there. It seems absolutely crazy. Who is responsible, first of all, for bombing, for hitting a bakery?

JAMJOOM: Well, Suzanne, the activists that we've been speaking with and the eyewitnesses to that attack that were in Halfaya yesterday that we spoke with, they tell us that it's the government that's responsible. They say that they were targeted deliberately because that town had been liberated, because there is a contingent of rebel Free Syrian Army brigades in that town, that there's a lot of strong, anti- government sentiment there.

But the Syrian government, in fact, says today that what happened there yesterday was the work of armed terrorist groups. That is the terminology that we hear again and again from the Syrian government when they're describing the opposition rebel fighters there.

The Syrian government went on to say, in fact, that the residents of the town called for the Syrian military to intervene, to rid the area of terrorists, that the army went in there and caught and captured and killed many of the terrorists that were there and that now it's been secured.

But that's a very different narrative from what we're hearing from the rebels and from opposition activists who say that that town is still under attack, that province is still under attack and that they fear that more attacks will come in the days ahead.

And we must also add, as you mentioned just a moment ago, that there's been another attack on a bakery, according to activists today, this one in Telvise (ph), where they say at least 15 people were killed. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Does anybody believe that -- what the Syrian government is saying, that that's actually a reaction to terrorist organizations? I mean, I would imagine independent groups are really looking for the truth on the ground.

JAMJOOM: You know, we've heard more and more the last few months of attacks taking place around bakeries. Human Rights Watch did a report in August, documenting at least 10 separate attacks on bakery sites in Aleppo.

And they that this was -- that this seemed totally random. They said that this was a systemic targeting by the Syrian regime of bakeries there because there were people lined up outside. Some of the activists we speak say that they believe that the Syrian government, because there are hundreds of people lining up outside, they see these gatherings as a threat. That's why they target them.

Fewer and fewer people that we speak with, rights groups, activists, rebels say that they believe what the Syrian government is saying, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Mohammed Jamjoom, thank you very much. We're going to take a quick break.



(MUSIC PLAYING, "GANGNAM STYLE") MALVEAUX (voice-over): That's South Korean rapper PSY and his viral hit, "Gangnam Style." He just danced his way into the record books, 1 billion -- with a B -- hits on YouTube.


MALVEAUX: But did he make the list of the most intriguing people of 2012 as chosen by you? Here's Brooke Baldwin.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Number 10, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The United States Supreme Court in major decision, a 5-4 decision upholds the president's health care reform law.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Few could have imagined the deciding vote was cast by the chief justice himself: conservatives, stunned; liberals perplexed but thrilled, forging ahead the Roberts court takes on same- sex marriage.

Number nine: Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, at 37, head of a major tech company, a CEO in a male-dominated field, pregnant. It's the baby part that became problematic, shall we say, when Mayer decided to take just a couple weeks for maternity leave. The mommy blogosphere went nuts.

Sure, she could be woman in charge, but what message was she sending by not staying home longer with her baby?

Number eight, South Korean rapper PSY.


BALDWIN (voice-over): Say what you want, his lasso-inspired dance style first discovered on YouTube had everyone going Gangnam, and we mean everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lasso again and then the horseback.

BALDWIN (voice-over): PSY was riding high in 2012, star performer in the most watched YouTube video of all time.

Number seven, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: This election is over, but our principles endure.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Romney ran on his impressive business credentials, but it was his multiple gaffes during the campaign that analysts say helped seal his fate. Remember the 47 percent comments?

ROMNEY: All right. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on (inaudible). BALDWIN: Ow.

And this one.

ROMNEY: Whole binders full of women.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Number six, ex-CIA director, General David Petraeus.

We have breaking news now coming in, regarding the chief of the CIA, General David Petraeus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Petraeus, can you talk with us please?

BALDWIN (voice-over): The news was unexpected; the reason shocking. Petraeus, a retired four-star general, had quit his CIA post and admitted he had cheated on his wife. Petraeus's mistress was also his biographer, Paula Broadwell -- an embarrassing exit from the public stage by one of the most respected public servants of his time.


MALVEAUX: Impressive list? Well, that is just half of them. The most intriguing people of 2012. The top five are revealed after our break.


MALVEAUX: Today continues the countdown of those you voted for as the most intriguing people of 2012. Here's the top five.


BALDWIN (voice-over): Number five, super jumper Felix Baumgartner.

Let's face it, he did what no human has ever done, diving 24 miles from the edge of space, breaking the sound barrier along the way.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER, SUPER JUMPER: I'm still the same guy. But as soon as you start traveling, people do recognize my face.

I was scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were scared?

BAUMGARTNER: I was a little bit scared.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Number four, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: The shore and the boardwalk in Seaside Heights of my childhood no longer exists.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, Governor. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for everything.

BALDWIN (voice-over): The rough-and-tumble governor took charge when a superstorm named Sandy ravaged his state, days before the presidential election. A Romney backer, suddenly Christie was standing arm-in-arm with the president, praising Mr. Obama's leadership as they toured Sandy's wrath.

CHRISTIE: When you know you have responsibility for those folks, you could give a damn about the politics of things. I could care less today.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Number three, Olympian Gabby Douglas.


BALDWIN (voice-over): One of the fab five at the London games, she captured our hearts, becoming the first African-American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics.

GABBY DOUGLAS, OLYMPIC GOLD WINNER: I wanted to inspire a nation and the whole part about this is inspire a generation. And I love that.

BALDWIN (voice-over): She did just that.

Number two, school-age activist Malala Yousafzai. Malala rose to fame blogging about the brutality of her life in Pakistan under Taliban rule. Not yet a teenager, she dared to suggest girls not only deserve but have a right to an education.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI, EDUCATION ACTIVIST: I will get my education if it is in home, school or any place.

BALDWIN (voice-over): The Taliban retaliated, hunting her down, shooting her in the neck and back. The attack outraged even hardened Pakistanis, and all around the world Malala quickly became an international symbol of good against evil. Today, she is recovering in England.

Number one, President Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.

BALDWIN (voice-over): After a long -- and we mean long and bitter -- campaign, President Obama won re-election. In 2012, the president also won the Supreme Court stamp of approval for his health care reform program, and made history with this statement.

OBAMA: I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.


BALDWIN (voice-over): As 2012 comes to a close, the president joined in grief with a community shocked by senseless violence. OBAMA: These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Brooke Baldwin, CNN, Atlanta.




1ST SGT. STACI HARRISON, U.S. ARMY: Hi, I'm 1st Sgt. Staci Harrison from Hanover, Maryland, serving with the Task Force Med A in Bagram, Afghanistan. And I would like to say Merry Christmas to my family; my husband, Cornelius (ph); my daughters Janae (ph) and Javonne (ph). I love you. Merry Christmas.


MALVEAUX: Their greatest gift this holiday season is simply that they are still here: wounded veterans working through Christmas as they recover from terrible injuries. Their thoughts, though, are with the friends overseas who are not home for the holidays. Here's our Barbara Starr.


S-SGT. TRAVIS MILLS, 82ND AIRBORNE: Well, I push forward and it opens, right? So my elbow unlocks it, then I throw it back and that's how I maneuver.

BARBARA STARR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Wounded troops in rehab at the holiday time, all Christmas miracles. Meet Travis Mills, one of the troops I visited with, asking them to send holiday wishes to their buddies.

MILLS: Hi, everybody. I'm Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne Division, 4th Brigade Combat Team. I just want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all military forces overseas and home, and especially a shoutout to my guys in 1st Platoon Force Squad, the gun show, miss you guys, love you. Have a Merry Christmas.

STARR (voice-over): Eight months ago he stepped on an IED.

MILLS: We thought it was clear, but it wasn't. And it took all four limbs but it didn't take my life. And I'm thankful for that.

STARR (voice-over): It can be a struggle just to walk again.

I'm Bo Reichenbach. I'm with the U.S. Navy. I just want to give a shoutout to all my friends and family, have good holidays and stay safe.

STARR (voice-over): Army Specialist Tyler Jeffries lost also his legs. SPEC. TYLER JEFFRIES, U.S. ARMY: I just want to give a shoutout to my friends and brothers back in Afghanistan, say Happy Holidays. And I wouldn't be here without you guys.

STARR (voice-over): Tyler is already getting ready for next Christmas.

JEFFRIES: I want to start walking as fast as I can because I'm in that wheelchair for, you know, hours upon hours all day. And like I just want to be able to get up in my own house and get a cup out of the cupboard.

LANCE CORPORAL JOSHUA LANGSTON-WHITE, USMC: I'm Lance Corporal Langston-White. I just say Happy Holidays to my family and I got a bunch of guys getting -- from my unit are getting their Purple Hearts today. And I say that I'm thinking about you guys today. And I got a special place for you guys in my hearts.

STARR (voice-over): Joshua says it's a good holiday season because of his buddies.

LANGSTON-WHITE: It is. It definitely -- they're there, they're alive and they're breathing. So that's good -- it is good in my eye.

SGT. ADAM KEYES, U.S. ARMY: I'm Sgt. Adam Keyes; I'm combat engineer, 27th Engineering Brigade, Airborne out of Ft. Bragg. I just want to give a shout to the guys in the 27th that are still overseas.

STARR: A triple amputee, there's one thing that Adam didn't lose, his Airborne Wings tattoo.

KEYES: Yes, you could take this one off.

STARR: Yes, that -- I didn't even -- yes.

KEYES: The wings are still there too, the Airborne Wings. So that's good.

STARR: And that's good.

KEYES: Yes, of course.

STARR: So that's actually pretty cool, the Airborne Wings.

KEYES. Yes, they made it.

MILLS: So like, I mean, as a quadruple amputee eight months ago, laying in a bed, hooked up to hoses, I can walk now. Fist pump and then lean a little here. So fist pump again. Bam. And jellyfish, jellyfish, jellyfish, jellyfish, jellyfish.

STARR (voice-over): Barbara Starr, CNN, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.


MALVEAUX: We thank those guys for their service, they're amazing. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Hala Gorani.