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Obama Vows Response; Danish Cartoonist Attacked; Opposition in Iran; Presidential Vacation in Hawaii

Aired January 2, 2010 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon reporting tonight from New York.

As you can see we start with a developing story, bitter cold, blustery winds and dropping temperatures developing all across the nation now. It is not one but two weather systems make a messy start to 2010 for much of the country.

An arctic blast means a mercury is plunging in Minnesota. Do you hear that? That's the sound of teeth chattering.

And sub-zero temperatures, the story is snow in Maine where the year's first big storm is packing a real punch.

And think Florida is immune from the cold? You better think again. A hard freeze warning means there -- warning there means people are trading in their swimsuits for parkas and keeping an eye on their crops as well.

And it's a gusty night in New York City. It's an old storm gets a second wind here. Look at that. Wind chills, 14 degrees.

Jacqui Jeras joins us.

Jacqui, what is going on? I know it's winter. But, man, it is cold.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I know. It's really extreme.

It is cold even by Minnesota standards. When we're talking about temperatures, below zero, 20 to 30 degrees, I mean, that is really extreme. So, to give you the big picture on the cold, you can see it's about the eastern two-thirds of the country. And these purple areas where temperatures are going to be about 20 degrees below average tomorrow morning.

So, that's freezing conditions across parts of Florida. We're concerned about the citrus crops here, strawberries, lemons, oranges, of course. And then, you know, we're talking about winds, wind chills that could really make your skin freeze in about a couple of minutes, five, 15 minutes maybe at the most.

There you can see the low temperatures tonight where you're going to be bottoming out on thermometer. Near that freezing mark in the south and well below zero across parts of the north. High pressure is gripping this part of the country and it's going to stay put for a couple of days. So, this is going to be a long duration event, unfortunately, for so many people. And there you can see some of the worst of it. Look at Winnipeg, 31 degrees below zero.

Here are some of the record lows this morning, 35 below in Grand Forks; Fargo at 33 below; 22 below in Sioux City.

Now, the other part of our weather story today is a nor'easter. Remember that system that brought all that rain to you, Don, in New York City on New Year's Eve? Well, that system is coming back for a second hoorah. We've got low pressure offshore near the Canadian Maritime. And that's bringing in moisture and heavy snow across northern New England. We could see eight to 18 inches of snow in central parts of Maine.

Now, what we're not going to see a lot of heavy snow from, say, New York to Boston. Boston, you're going to get a couple of inches. We are going to see some incredible winds.

Take a look at this live picture. This is out of Providence, Rhode Island, where the temperatures is 25 degrees. Winter weather advisory for you, looking at maybe two to four inches of snow, but winds tonight are gusting 40 to 50 miles per hour. So, that's going to catch a lot of people off guard as those winds come in in the overnight hours.

Winds and low clouds are causing a ground stop right now at Boston Logan until 7:30. That means nobody is taking off to get to Boston at that hour.

Over an hour delay at JFK in Newark. And we're expecting those delays to continue through the day tomorrow, Don, as that low gets closer to the shore and then finally starts to pull out by your Monday. So, this will be a bitter cold weekend and very snowy for a lot of folks across the eastern two-thirds of the U.S.

LEMON: It's probably apropos. It's a snowball effect when that happens, or a domino effect, because...

JERAS: Yes.

LEMON: ... they get delays today, then they got to put them on tomorrow. So, it's going to be bad news for travelers.

JERAS: Yes, it will.

LEMON: So, just be patient. All right, Jacqui...

JERAS: A lot of people are still out there for the holidays.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. We'll check back. Jacqui, thank you so much.

We want to move on now.

Words of warning today from a top U.S. counterterrorism official -- the director of the National Counterterrorism Center says the failed Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airlines jet is a reminder of al Qaeda's ultimate goals. Al Qaeda planners, he says, are testing U.S. defenses as they prepare to launch an attack on U.S. soil. U.S. officials, in his words, know with absolute certainty that would-be terrorists are working to refine their methods.

Well, those words come as President Barack Obama issued a stern warning of his own to the plotters behind the Christmas Day incident. Mr. Obama linked the Christmas Day suspect with al Qaeda forces based in Yemen.

In his weekly remarks, the president said the group al Qaeda in the Albanian (ph) Peninsula has attacked U.S. targets before. And the U.S., he vowed, is fighting back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, as president, I made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government, training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence, and working with them to strike al Qaeda terrorists. And even before Christmas Day, we had seen the results. Training camps have been struck, leaders eliminated, plots disrupted.

And all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know you, too, will be held to account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: One other note involving Yemen, a senior U.S. government source tells CNN that General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, met with the Yemen's president today in Yemen.

CNN's Ed Henry is traveling with President Barack Obama in Hawaii. Ed joins us now.

Ed, a lot to cover here. First, what's the significant of the president tying al Qaeda to this Christmas Day attack?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we've got some new information this hour which is that we now know that the president was briefed today by his aides about General Petraeus' visit to Yemen. That's significant because I think the president's message today was very clear that even before this Christmas Day terror incident, the U.S. was trying to disrupt al Qaeda in Yemen.

Now, with General Petraeus on the ground there, meeting with Yemeni officials, the president is talking tough today. It's very clear that the U.S. very quietly is reviewing their options and seeing whether or not there will be more air strikes in the days ahead against al Qaeda.

They're, obviously, not going to tip their hand just yet, not going to get into great detail. But they are very clearly trying to disrupt and dismantle al Qaeda in Yemen. It shows al Qaeda has grown in other countries, beyond just places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, now in Yemen. And the U.S. is targeting them big time, Don.

LEMON: Who is he talking to? Who is he speaking to specifically when he says he's going to hold people accountable? Who is his audience here?

HENRY: He's talking about the Central Intelligence Agency, the director of national intelligence and his staff. I mean, the bottom line is that, as the president receives these preliminary findings of what went wrong and led to this near terror incident -- near terror attack, I should say -- it was an incident but almost an attack that just fizzled out, is the fact that there were a lot of mistakes made. It was almost a pre-9/11 mentality where some intelligence officials had information suggesting that maybe this eventual suspect had ties to extremists and they didn't share it with other people. That's become clear in the early parts of this investigation.

So, Tuesday, his first full day in the White House, the president is having the head of the CIA and the director of national intelligence and others in the White House Situation Room to find out what went wrong. He wants to find out what they can learn from that to prevent future attacks. There's a lot on the line right now, Don.

LEMON: Yes. A lot on the line. You know, I asked you about this earlier about midterm elections. You're there with the president and looking back at the, you know, folks here on the main island, as we say, you think this is going to be a big possibility that this is going to play a role in the midterm elections?

HENRY: I don't think there's any doubt now that while the economy, health care -- a lot of these domestic issues will, of course, be big factors in the midterm elections. This is what's on the president's agenda, and this is what Republicans are fighting him on, national security, the fight against terror is back on the front burner. And while people vote on their pocketbook, if they don't feel personally safe, that could also be a big factor in their voting decision.

A long way before those November midterms, but the fact of the matter is, this White House is well aware, when you talk to top aides, that personal safety and security is at the top of the list and they say the president didn't get a wakeup call on Christmas Day. They insist long before that, he knew about the threat from al Qaeda and other terror groups and he's going to stay on it this year and beyond, Don.

LEMON: CNN's Ed Henry in the beautiful Hawaii there. Thank you very much for that, Ed.

There are growing U.S. concerns about political instability in Yemen and Somalia, and the terror threat emerging from both countries. This video from yesterday in Somalia shows al-Shabab fighters wrapping up military training near Mogadishu. Their leader says the fighters are prepared to battle government forces in both Somalia and in Yemen.

In response, Yemen reportedly is tightening security along its coast and searching suspicious boat and other vessels. Meantime, we're getting word about a possible link between a Christmas Day terror attack and the November massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. A U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN that would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had direct contact with Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Now, he's the same American-born imam who exchanged e-mails with the accused Fort Hood gunman, Nidal Hasan.

Earlier, I discussed the situation in Yemen and today's visit there by General David Petraeus with military intelligence analyst Ken Robinson. I asked him if the general's trip could be a precursor to wider U.S. action in Yemen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN ROBINSON, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST (via telephone): I think it is, because what we have right now is really good diplomacy going on because they're trying to establish legitimacy with the government of Yemen and with the Arab street because these bombings are going to happen and legitimacy is going to be half the battle. The other part of it is going to be proper target selections of legitimate targets that have had to do with either giving sanctuary to al Qaeda or threatening the survival of the state of Yemen. And we have to avoid collateral damage in the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Intelligence analyst Ken Robinson earlier on CNN.

The Christmas Day terror suspect had a legal visa to enter this country. How could that happen? We'll show you the ins and outs of the visa process. You don't want to miss that.

And the president carves out some fun in Hawaii. And old friends marvel at his rise to the White House.

Also, we want to know what's on your mind. We want you to be part of the process here. Go on to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or iReport.com. That's how you get on the air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Tragic story to tell you about and it's a tragic truth. When guns are fired into the air, the bullet has to fall somewhere. So, celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve proved dangerous in three cities. A 4-year-old in Decatur, Georgia, was killed by a stray bullet that pierced the roof of a church where he was attending a New Year's Eve service. The child died after being rushed to the hospital.

In Effingham, Georgia, a man was asleep in bed just before midnight when he was hit by a bullet. The slug fell through the roof on his mobile home and hit him in the leg.

In Miami, a 6-year-old boy was hit by a stray bullet while eating at an outdoor restaurant. The boy is in serious condition but is expected to recover. The city's mayor says people need to be warned about the dangers of firing weapons into the air.

The Danish cartoonist whose drawings of the Prophet Muhammad angered the Muslim world has been attacked in his home. An ax- wielding Somali man with suspected al Qaeda ties is charged with attempted murder.

And CNN's Phil Black has the details for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kurt Westergaard was looking after his 5-year-old granddaughter when Danish police say a man broke into his home in Aarhus and tried to kill him. Westergaard fled to a fortified safe room and activated a panic alarm.

The police say they responded quickly.

This officer says the man attacked police with an ax and a knife and they were forced to shoot him. The 28-year-old Somali man who lives in Denmark was later taken to court on a stretcher. He has gunshot wounds to his leg and hand. He's been charged with attempting to murder Westergaard and a police officer. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service said he was already under surveillance and he has connections to the Somali extremist group al-Shabab.

Westergaard was one of 12 cartoonists who drew caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for Danish newspaper in 2005.

(CROWD CHANTING)

BLACK: The images triggered an angry and often violent reaction in Muslim communities and countries around the world. Dozens were killed. Danish embassies were attacked. Muslims consider all depiction of the prophet offensive.

Danish police say they've disrupted other plots to kill Kurt Westergaard and they're aware of the constant threat against him. But in this case, they had no indication an attack was imminent.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Wrong place at the wrong time. You could say that's what happened to a California school board member. Bobby Salcedo and five friends were at a restaurant in a Mexican town when they were kidnapped. Their bodies were found days later shot to death. The mayor of El Monte, California, where Salcedo served on the school board spoke of his character.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ANDRE QUINTERO, EL MONTE, CALIFORNIA: Bobby was a natural born leader from a very young age. He was student body president of Mountain View High School. He went to Boise State. Wherever he went, he was leading. He took that leadership role back to this community and did so many wonderful things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The killing of those six men is just the latest example of the murder rampage taking place there. Drug-related deaths in Mexico set a record this past year, especially in Juarez across the border from El Paso. The government has not released official figures but the unofficial count shows 7,600 Mexicans lost their lives last year. More than 2,500 of those deaths happened right in Juarez.

An orphan finds happiness through a chance encounter, a new life, a new family, after a Good Samaritan intervened.

A last toast at Tavern on the Green -- I was there almost there at the time it closed. And now, take a look, we're going to go back and take a look for you. The iconic New York City restaurant shut down, maybe for good. We'll update you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A smoky smell in the cockpit forced a Delta flight to turn around and head back to Boston this morning. Delta Flight 1379 was airborne for eight minutes, bound for New York City, when the pilot decided to turn back. The odor had dissipated by the time the plane and its 34 passengers returned to the gate at Logan International Airport. Delta says its pilot was acting out of an abundance of safety.

American Airlines is under the FAA's microscope after the carrier racked up three botched landings in less than two weeks.

You're looking at video of the worst of the incidents when a jet overran a runway in Jamaica injuring 91 passengers. That came just a few days after a plane slid off the side of a North Carolina runway. And on Christmas Eve, an MD-80 struck its wing tip, its wing while landing in Texas.

American Airlines is said to be cooperating with that federal investigation.

Take a look now at the beautiful skyline of New York City where temperatures are plummeting here tonight. I believe it's 14 degrees wind chill and getting colder and colder and colder. There you go.

That's Mutual New York Building right there.

And the thermometer on top, temperatures in Fahrenheit and Celsius, 14 degrees Fahrenheit and minus-nine Celsius.

There is the GWB, the George Washington Bridge. A beautiful night here in New York City, but it is very cold.

And, you know, flags are at half-staff here. And I'm going to tell you why, because Percy Sutton -- was one of the nation's most prominent African-American political and business leaders during the Civil Rights era. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg paused to remember him during his inauguration speech just yesterday.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: As we look at our flags still flying at half-staff, let us join in honoring and thanking a true civil rights pioneer and a legendary public servant and a great New Yorker, Percy Sutton.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Sutton, a civil rights activist, a lawyer, and once the highest ranking black elected official in New York City died the day after Christmas. He was 89 years old. His memorial service is Wednesday at Riverside Church in Manhattan. The president is also releasing a statement about Percy Sutton, mourning his death as well.

New Year's Eve may have been the last hoorah for an iconic New York City restaurant. Come on, everyone has heard of Tavern on the Green. It has gone dark.

I was very saddened by that when I heard the news. Well-wishers are still gathering to toast a famous Central Park eatery. So, I stopped by to see if I could get one -- one last meal there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

LEMON (voice-over): What a party on New Year's Eve at the world famous Tavern on the Green. And just hours later...

(on camera): It's Friday, 12:30, just after noon, Tavern on the Green. Let's go and see if we can have some lunch here.

(voice-over): Not happening. The American icon just off New York's Central Park is no more.

(on camera): Not open. The end of an era.

(voice-over): Americans have been in love with Tavern since it opened in the 1930s, in large part, thanks to Hollywood.

CRAIG DRENDWATZ, VISITING FROM DALLAS, TEXAS: I know the first time I found out, "Ghostbusters."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

DRENDWATZ: Rick Moranis running around the outside, you know, right before he gets eaten by the lion.

LEMON (on camera): (INAUDIBLE) Tavern on the Green.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just go together.

LEMON (voice-over): And Tavern on the Green and weddings go together, too. Just ask Ruth Ann Warren, married here in the 1980s.

RUTH ANN WARREN, MARRIED AT TAVERN: I had a beautiful dress. It was modeled after Diana, Princess Diana, gorgeous white gown, French lace, and had a white horse and carriage here. Beautiful memories, you know?

LEMON: What does it mean to you?

WARREN: Well, it's sad for know see this. I didn't believe when I heard that it wouldn't be open anymore. It's a landmark of New York.

LEMON: Yes.

WARREN: And I can't understand how they couldn't save it. I still think that it will always be Tavern on the Green.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: It will always be Tavern on the Green. Again, it's iconic. It is a landmark. Sad to see it go.

Hopefully, it will open up again, maybe with the same name, maybe with a new one. They're trying to work that out in court. The restaurant shut early yesterday for at least six months. But the future is still very much up in the air. Tavern's new operator has yet to sign a contract with the restaurant's landlord which is the city's Department of Park and Recreation.

Before we move on, some of you had been tweeting about it. Someone said, "Yes, I have been at Tavern on the Green. I went there for my high school senior prom in 2008, beautiful, food was OK, though. Decor made it worth it."

And then someone said, "I wanted to go for my birthday but everything went wrong. Are you there now? So jealous."

I'm in New York, but not at Tavern on the Green.

So, hopefully it will open back up. And it would be great if it'd open back up with the same name. So, we wish them luck.

A bold promise from a man who has paid the price for defying the Iranian regime -- opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for what he believes in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The failed Christmas Day terror attack was a stark reminder of al Qaeda's ultimate goals. That's the word from a top government official who says al Qaeda is testing U.S. defenses as they plan to launch an attack on U.S. soil. The director of the National Counterterrorism Center says U.S. officials know with absolute certainty that would-be terrorists are working to refine their methods.

After three days of rain and mudslides, rescuers are pulling bodies from beneath huge mountains of mud and dirt in Brazil. The coastal city of Angra Dos Reis has been especially hit hard. Rescue teams are on duty around the clock, but hope -- well, it's really fading for survivors. At least 64 people have been killed in the southeastern part of that country.

The Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard whose drawings of the Prophet Muhammad angered the Muslim world attacked in his own home. The suspect: an ax-wielding Somali man with suspected ties to al Qaeda. He is charged -- he's been charged with attempted murder. Westergaard escaped to a so-called panic room in his house.

Now, efforts have been stepped up to protect him. He's been moved to an undisclosed location.

Iran's opposition is battered and bloody, but still refuses to be silenced. On Friday, the politician whose campaign for president sparked the recent protests raised against the regime's efforts to subdue protesters. The family of Mir Hossein Mousavi paid a price for his steadfast opposition when his nephew was killed last Sunday.

Our Reza Sayah on CNN's Iran desk right now, he is watching all these protests. And he is vetting the graphic video that's appearing on the Web.

Reza, we're talking about this, months ago, during the first protests. They're happening again. What's going on now?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we haven't seen any videos of protests over the past 48 hours. But that doesn't mean things are not happening behind the scenes, lots of maneuvering going on both on the side of Iran's opposition movement and Iran's hard-line leadership. This after the demonstrations on Sunday that left at least seven protesters dead.

Now, Iran's government says most of these killed were either killed by accident or they were killed by opposition groups, staged deaths in order to spark more unrest. Now, today, we have new developments about one of those killed on Monday, his name: Amir Tajmir, a young man who is the son of a well-known anchor in state-run media in Iran by the name of Shahin Mahinfar.

There you see pictures of Amir Tajmir. According to an opposition Web site, Tajmir was run over by a security vehicle on Sunday. Now, government officials, according to this web site, are pressuring his mother to say that his death was an accident. They're also saying that they're threatening his mother by losing her job if she doesn't cooperate. More threats coming from Iran's hard-line leaders.

This time Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, there you see him during Friday prayers. In his speech he blasted key opposition figures and their supporters saying that they're enemies of god, suggesting that they should be executed. If that didn't escalate things, this did. A statement by Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, his first public statement, saying he's ready to die. "I'm not afraid of being one of the post election martyrs who lost their lives in their struggle for their rightful demands. My blood is no different from that of other martyrs."

So Don, there you see both sides digging in, not backing down. Look for this face-off to continue to escalate.

LEMON: Man, oh, man. Thank you very much. We appreciate it. Stand by on our Iran desk because if video starts coming out of Iran, we'll definitely bring it to you here on CNN.

Reza Sayah at the Iran desk in Atlanta, CNN World Headquarters.

Hey I'm talking to someone here and also someone else about all of this. So let's go to them real quick. Karim Sadjadpour, associate at the Carnegie Endowment and then Hamid Dabashi is a professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Colombia University.

Good to see you all of you. Happy New Year to both of you.

I've spoken to both of you before and very knowledgeable on this subject. Real quickly, Mr. Dabashi, I'll get to you in a second, Karim, tell me, talk to me about staging deaths. About what is going on here?

PROF. HAMID DABASHI, IRANIAN STUDIES, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: That is the bizarrest (ph) thing that can come. How can you stage your own death? The fact of the matter is what we're witnessing is a revolution in journalism. The running over of demonstrators by the government held security apparatus has been caught on a tape and has been broadcast around the globe, in fact on CNN as well.

And the security apparatus as a result has been caught off guard. Because they didn't know the world would actually see this. They initially came and said that well, first of all, we don't know if this video is authentic. Then they blamed it on foreign element. And now is the third story that this is staged. How can you stage your own death is the weirdest thing everybody -

LEMON: Hang on one second. I want to go to Karim Sadjadpour. Karim, when you see this here, we spoke so extensively during the initial uprising after that contested election. I fear that this is going to get out of control or maybe as bad as during the initial election?

KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Well, Don, again, these videos really underscore for you the brutality of the Iranian government and the tremendous courage of the Iranian people. Back when we talked in June, I think there were a lot of skeptics who said well this opposition movement is really limited to the elite youth of northern Tehran and is soon going to fizzle out.

We see six months later how strong it is it maintained its momentum and how it is happening. Not only in Tehran, but throughout the country and I think the protesters really transcend age, geographic location and socioeconomic class.

LEMON: Hey, Karim, hold it there real quick. When you talk about in Tehran and also here, because there is a huge Iranian community, a huge Iranian-American community. Is it a cohesive community? Do they have as much power as Iranians in Tehran, in Iran, to affect change there? And if not, what can they do?

SADJADPOUR: You're talking about the Iranian community outside of Tehran -

LEMON: Yes, I'm talking about the Iranian community here. Because we had a discussion about the Iranian community. On the social networking sites and e-mails. I get lots of e-mails and questions from Iranian-Americans but when it comes to people here being cohesive or at least banning together, I'm not sure if that's effectual here in the states.

SADJADPOUR: What I would say, Don, there is an expression in Persian, (INAUDIBLE) we have awakened. The Iranians in the Diaspora and there is about four million outside of Iran and about one million in the United States. I would argue have been more awakened and more united and more politically informed than ever before in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic.

And every day when I encounter people, whether it's through the internet or people I meet on the streets, they're always asking about how they can help. I think that certainly within that Diaspora community there is a united end goal to see a more tolerant, democratic Iran.

LEMON: And you're shaking your head. Thank you very much for that answer, Karim. But you're shaking your head here as well. I'll let you talk about that real quickly about what Karim said and I want to ask you another question about Ahmadinejad.

DABASHI: Over the last 30 years, Don, the Islamic Republic has created its own expatriate opposition, mainly mostly the monarchists and the mujahidin. They're not players. That is the Islamic Republic is as unpopular inside Iran as irrelevant or organized opposition groups. The overwhelming majority of Iranians both inside Iran and outside Iran are for this vast democratic grassroots civil rights movement.

And the expatriate community in the U.S., North America and Europe are as much a part of this uprising as Iranians inside Iran.

LEMON: You know what - and Karim, you can jump in at any point. Because I really just want to be a conversation here. I happen to figure - this is one of the most important stories of our time and if there is a democracy if Ahmadinejad is taken out of power.

Before we go, I want to talk a little bit, do you think Ahmadinejad will be taken out of power if you believe that he's just a puppet, he's between Khomeini and then Mir Hossein Mousavi, and sort of in the middle but really has no power? DABASHI: From the beginning, as you know, he has not been a player, and particularly over the last three months, he's no longer a figure. And your concentration, the world attention on this issue is absolutely extraordinary and necessary.

Because the very unique phenomenon, Don, is a nonviolent civil rights movement in the context of a very violent context and the implication of this, given the demographic aspect of this movement, 80 percent of the Iranian population is under the age of 40. 50 percent of it is under the age of 25. The reason that it has this global resonance -

LEMON: Because they are under -

DABASHI: (INAUDIBLE)

LEMON: Yes.

DABASHI: Is precisely that you have a nonviolent civil rights uprising, mostly charged by young people.

LEMON: Young people, young educated people with the tools to go online.

DABASHI: The class - the social strata that underlies it is really widespread, it's not Tehran based. It's not upper class, none of that. It is really spreading all over the country.

LEMON: And Karim, I understand that most - most Iranian- Americans who live - I think most of their money goes home to people who are in Iran, right? But the question is, and I've heard from even Iranian-Americans who say, you know, we get online a lot. Basically, we get online and when we do, we talk a great game.

Right. We talk - we have big talk. And I believe you're right. I believe people have awakened, Karim. But I'm not sure if there is a cohesion here in the United States where it is a democracy already to affect change over there. Talk about that, Karim. Maybe it is building. Maybe it's building and it is not there yet.

SADJADPOUR: Don, I think the goodwill certainly exists, people really want to see a more tolerant democratic Iran and I really like Dr. Dabashi's idea of a civil rights movement. That's essentially what this is. And, you know, I think that people are at a loss sometimes to know what it is that they can do. They're always asking what can we do? You know, we have financial means. We have media means. But what is it that we can do specifically?

And I think what the Dr. Dabashi talks about in terms of media attention and expressing solidarity with Iranian people, to let people in Iran know that they're not alone, that eyes of the world are on their leadership and the brutality of the leadership is very, very important.

LEMON: Hey, Karim. So if you - again, we're hoping that obviously that there is change, or something is done where people don't get hurt is a better way of putting it. So if you look at this story tonight and moving forward, do you see more unrest as to - I'll ask Karim, and I'll ask Hamid, do you see more unrest to follow, to come soon here?

SADJADPOUR: I do, Don, because essentially it has become a zero sum game, the regime and in particular the supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini believes that you never compromise when you're under pressure because that projects weaknesses and going to invite even more pressure.

I don't see the regime showing any signs of compromise or conciliation. On the other hand, I don't see the opposition relenting. As we've seen over the last six months, the morale of the opposition is only increased. So I am hopeful about the prospects for change Iran, more democratic tolerant Iran. But I do fear the regime's penchant for more brutality in the months ahead.

LEMON: Thank you, Karim. Mr. Dabashi, final words on this, if you can take us into the future a little bit, just a few seconds left here.

DABASHI: This, Don, is a matter of thought. This is not going to be finished by a pulling down of a wall or a statue or anything. (INAUDIBLE) his last communication has just thrown the government a way of getting out of this en passe, whether they get it or not is hard to know.

LEMON: What does this mean for America? What does it mean for the world? What does t mean to the people in Iran?

DABASHI: Well, what it means for Americans is the rise of a civil rights movement, very similar to American civil rights movement, with which we can identify immediately. Number one -

LEMON: That's the reason why I -

DABASHI: Number two is the change of the language, of violence in the region from suicidal, homicidal violence into a civil rights movement which is constitutionally nonviolent. And as a result, for Martin Luther King to Gandhi has now become very relevant to this civil rights movement. And this is the reason that Americans should pay attention to it.

LEMON: Thank you all very much. We went four minutes long because it was such a great conversation. Karim Sadjadpour, Hamid Dabashi, thank you so much. Really glad to have you.

Happy new year to both of you.

SADJADPOUR: Happy new year, too. Thank you.

LEMON: You know, after all the warnings of the past week, it seems impossible that airlines would drop the ball again on security but it did happen and we'll tell you why.

Entering the U.S. isn't easy. But even foreigners who get a visa can cause a headache for the government and pose a threat to all of us. We're back in a moment.

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LEMON: Since a failed terror plot on Christmas day, security has been tightened across the country. That wasn't enough to prevent a lapse in the Midwest yesterday. The United Airlines express flight bound for Chicago had to do a u-turn. The airline learned after takeoff that the name of one passenger matched a name on a TSA restricted list. The mistake irritated a bunch of those passengers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there was that kind of concern after it was off the ground, somebody is dropping the ball here. And if we have these computer systems that check, you know, these people before they get on the flight, they need to make sure that, you know they stay to that standard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Go jet Airlines which was operating the flight said it realized the mistake after a computer glitch was fixed. The passenger in question wasn't actually the person on the list.

The Christmas day terror plot has put the visa process under the microscope. Permission to visit the U.S. is still a hot ticket in many countries but he process of deciding who gets a visa is far more perfect - far from perfect, I should say. Far from perfect.

Our Sandra Endo takes a closer look for us.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, with the recent attempted terror attack, the way foreign nationals enters this country is being thrust into the spotlight. There is so many different reasons and ways people can apply for a visa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO (voice-over): For an entry into the United States, how difficult is it to get an admission ticket to America? Citizens in 35 countries don't even need a visa to gain entry as part of the visa waiver program. It allows them a maximum 90-day stay.

But for those from other countries, travelers must apply for specific visas. There are temporary visas for tourists, business travelers, short-term employment, and students. Each visa type allows a person to stay in America for different lengths of time. Longer term visa applicants need to show strong ties to their country of origin as proof they'll return home. Student visas allow a person to stay for the duration of their studies and more than 600,000 foreign students attended U.S. colleges and universities last year.

Temporary worker visas like the H1B permit a three-year stay with roughly 100,000 issued per year. The most common tourist or business visas allow a six-month stay. Immigrant visas are for those looking to become a permanent U.S. resident. Those applicants need sponsors like an American relative or U.S. employer. The U.S. State Department can deny a visa to individuals with criminal records, certain diseases, or suspected terrorists.

The alleged Detroit bomber already had a visa, but some critic say the process needs to work better to keep the bad guys out. And that includes revoking or flagging a visa holder for secondary screening.

MICHAEL CUTLER, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: The chain is as strong as its weakest link. It starts with gathering intelligence. Next the dissemination of the intelligence. Next it is acting on the intelligence. Both at embassies and at ports of entry.

ENDO: The demands for visas to the U.S. continues to increase with 6.6 million nonimmigrant visas issued in fiscal year 2008. And nearly 237,000 immigrant visas granted in 2009.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO: One big problem is people overstaying their visas. The Department of Homeland Security estimates roughly 40 million people are overstaying them right now. Congress is calling on the State Department to revamp its visa regulations and close loopholes.

In light of the Christmas day plane bombing, the State Department now requires U.S. embassies abroad to find out if suspicious individuals they are tracking also have U.S. visas and the State Department may start automatically notifying airlines if a person's visa has been revoked. Don.

LEMON: Thanks, Sandra, very much.

The president has a reputation of being cool as ice. So no surprise there is an equally chilly tribute to the commander in chief in the state of Hawaii. And again we're taking your comments and your question on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or ireport.com. Please send them in. We had a great discussion on Ian and your tweets are coming in about them. I would love to get some on the air. We're back in a moment.

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LEMON: Well as far as vacations go this probably hasn't been President Obama's best. He has had to attend to a growing controversy on national security but he still found time to have hit the links in Hawaii and catch up with some friends. Ed Henry joins us again with more on the president and his past in the Aloha state. I'm so jealous of you right now, man.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, I guess I got to rub it in a little bit, Don. It is pretty sweet here.

LEMON: Is there a tan below the shirt line. I see the tan on the face but I don't know.

HENRY: I don't know if I can take my shirt off on air right now. LEMON: OK.

HENRY: For the 10:00 live shot, maybe later in the evening it will be a little better. When you talk to locals here they say once you got Hawaii in your blood stream it just keeps calling you back. And I think that's why even despite the demands of the presidency, this president decided to come back and make a little time for some old places but also some old friends.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Watermelon strawberry shake.

HENRY (voice-over): In between intelligence briefings, the president has carved out time to reconnect with his home state, indulging in local delicacies like shaved ice and other frozen treats.

OBAMA: When the ice cream melts with the syrup it makes a mess.

HENRY: It turns out Mr. Obama used to be on the other side of the counter, a part-time job in high school, scooping at this Baskin & Robbins in Honolulu. Old friends reluctantly admit the future president used to give them free stuff.

LARRY TAVARES, PRES. OBAMA HIGH SCHOOL CLASSMATE: He used to hook you up a little bit. I think the statute of limitations have passed. I got a free cone.

HENRY: Larry Tavares has fond memories of the classmate at Punahou High School who he body surfed with.

TAVARES: I didn't know his name was Barack, to tell you the truth. It was Barry to us. So when you said Barack, we got to raise our eyebrows a little bit. OK. That's cool.

HENRY: They played together on the basketball team that won the state championship in 1979. Larry was point guard, Barry, the power forward.

TAVARES: It was real physical. Not scared to mix it up. I guess, if you equate that to being the president, he is not scared to make a decision.

HENRY: Many high school acquaintances like Bart Dasilva lost touch with Barry. So they were blown away in 2004 by his stirring democratic convention speech and election night left many in tears.

BART DASILVA, PRES. OBAMA HIGH SCHOOL CLASSMATE: I got more and more excited. I couldn't believe this moment that had months and months of leading into was actually becoming a reality. And as everybody waited for the president-elect to make his speech, after being elected it just became, again I use the word surreal, but it just was a climactic moment.

HENRY: They are also fiercely protective of their friend, getting fired up by all the attacks from critics.

TAVARES: You can take so much. Let's go outside and threw all the gloves off and let's settle this outside. That is how I really feel. But, you know, that's not really going to happen. So I think people have to be patient with him. He is doing the best he can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now Larry Tavares has played basketball with the president a few times in the last couple of years. He said he is really a trash talker on the court, loves to meddle his friends. I asked Larry for an example and he refused to tell me. He said you know that stays in the gym. I think that shows these are old friends who want to stay friends. They're not going to tell any (INAUDIBLE) out of school necessarily, Don.

LEMON: I'm ignoring you, Ed, because you are there. Just kidding. What is this we are hearing about snowbama? What is that?

HENRY: Well, you know, I mentioned at the beginning they have this thing called shave ice. You drop the d on shave. You've seen in it sometimes in America, you know in mainland like a snow cone, I guess. They call it shave ice here in Hawaii. And basically they got beans and ice cream on the bottom and then they put some of the ice in there and they throw syrup in there. And so one of the president loves to go to now is the snowbama named after him. And it's got a specific flavors to it. When the president was asked what he ordered yesterday by an ABC producer John Garcia. He got pretty tough on it. Take a listen to this exchange here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Lemon, lime, cherry and passion orange. Passion guava. Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not the snowbama.

OBAMA: I got the snowbama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the snowbama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: I don't know if you caught that. The president sort of glared through his sunglasses down at John Garcia with the rest of the press corps has been teasing him because he was (INAUDIBLE) That's not the snowbama. It's different flavors from what you ordered. The president said if I ordered it, it's the snowbama. It's sort of a funny, unscripted moment that you get to see rarely around here, Don.

LEMON: That's what I was going to say. He is the snowbama. So whatever he gets, he's right, is it?

HENRY: President Bush said I'm the decider. I'm the snowbama.

LEMON: How long are you there till? HENRY: You know, probably heading home on Monday. So I'm going to soak it in for about 48 more hours. I'm going to send you some tweets. Ed Henry CNN. All kinds of great photos. The sunset, the sunrise. I'm going to rub it in, Don. I'm sorry.

LEMON: I just put you on my tweet saying, thanks, you all. So jealous of Ed Henry CNN. It is Ed Henry CNN, right?

HENRY: Ed Henry, CNN. All one word.

I saw you on new year's eve. You looked kind of cold. I felt for you, Don, because I was down here at Waikiki Beach. I felt your pain. I really did.

LEMON: I got to hang out with Poppy Harlow. So it wasn't that bad, my friend. Trust me.

HENRY: Thanks.

LEMON: Happy new year, OK.

HENRY: Happy new year.

LEMON: Hey, listen. Ed Henry and I have been talking about tweets and social networking. So we are going to take some of your comments. I'm going to read them in just a little bit. So don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. Feedback time from Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. I don't have any video I-reports here. Let's see. 5newsnow, where is that, I find it fascinating and frustrating that action needs to be taken against Iran even when many of, its people don't agree, of it's people don't agree. Shmangy says Don, thank you for the great coverage of Iran. Is there a clip in the last segment that you can post/forward? We will put it in the blog after 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll replay it for you at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. So make sure you tune in. Emmymason says where is Ed Henry? He is in Hawaii. I'm mad at him. The jerk. Anyway, just kidding. We love Ed Henry.

Hey, we're going to see you back here tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. But in the meantime, I'm going to tell you about a couple of things. Tying the knot on new year's as millions rang in 2010. New Hampshire became the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Tonight at 10:00, we are going to talk to with a newlywed couple about their new rights and the challenges of same sex marriages.

So Christiane Amanpour's documentary runs now. I'm Don Lemon. I'll see you back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. It's called Christiane Amanpour hosts "The War Within."

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