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U.S. Terror Fears Yemen; Bitter Cold Grips U.S.; Autism in Affluent Families

Aired January 4, 2010 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, for a look at other stories we're watching this morning.

American Airlines now being watched closely by the FAA after the carrier had three botched landings in December, which included a Boeing 737. It overran a runway in Kingston, Jamaica. A spokesman for American says the airline is cooperating with the investigation.

The United States formally ended a 22-year immigration ban today that stopped anyone with the HIV/AIDS virus from entering the country. The ban was imposed at the height of a global panic about the disease at the end of the 1980s.

The Census Bureau kicking off an awareness tour today; it will start right here in Atlanta. Stops are also planned in Florida and Alabama. Census workers hope to educate the public about the 2010 count through interactive exercises.

From the Midwest to the Southeast, a deep freeze has a grip on parts of the country. We're talking about bone-chilling cold but that was not enough to stop some golfers in Illinois. It's good to have a colored ball, I guess. They grabbed their gloves, their hats, their scarves, of course, for the annual Eskimo Open. Get colored balls instead of the white ones for the snow.

In Florida, temperatures way below normal for this time of year, which is not good news for farmers. They are busy trying to protect their crops, especially the oranges.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it was frozen, then we would send it to the juice plant. If it was a very small amount, then we may just dump that.


COLLINS: A lot of freeze warnings for Florida today all the way into southern Florida, in fact. I want to check in with meteorologist Rob Marciano in the Severe Weather Center. We have a lot of fun with this cool weather when it happens, but boy some of the consequences are serious.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's not only affecting the citrus farmers but they grow strawberries down there, around the Tampa Bay area and as you mentioned, the freeze warnings dropping all the way south into southern Florida along alligator alley into the Everglades. They had a freeze warning out yesterday and they'll probably get one reposted tomorrow morning.

Here are some of the current temperatures. 37 degrees in Orlando. They've rebounded. They were close to freezing in and around Disney World earlier today. 19 degrees, the current temperature in Atlanta, with winds gusting to over 20 miles an hour. That drops the wind-chill in Atlanta into the single numbers right now.

26 degrees in D.C. and 22 degrees, you'll see less wind in New York. Boy, it was blowing yesterday over 50 miles an hour at times. Nine in Chicago, minus nine in Minneapolis. And they're starting to moderate things, albeit briefly.

I want to show you this iReport. Check it out. I thought we were going to show princess, the dog.

COLLINS: Oh, we must.

MARCIANO: There's princess.


MARCIANO: My goodness. Anyway, nice iReport.


MARCIANO: I completely forgot who this was -- Diana Kalenberg, thank you for sending that in. We appreciate the pretty shot out there.

No snow in Atlanta although the forecast is for a potential of seeing a dusting of snow early Thursday morning. We have cold air as we mentioned in places and it's kind of chilly right now with that wind chill.

Frigid temperatures across the northwest or the northwestern parts of the Great Lakes. Yesterday in International Falls, it got down to minus 37. That's a record. And there's more cold air that's going to be coming down in from Canada that will reinforce the cold air that's already in place right now.

Some lake-effect snow is expected across parts of Cleveland, in through Pittsburgh. This shouldn't amount to much more than six to 10 inches maybe, and then a little dusting of snow potentially just south of Memphis as that cold air drives south into the gulf of Mexico. But it shouldn't be too bad. I don't think we'll see much of anything except for a flurry, maybe a light dusting in spots.

Thirty-two degrees, you expect the high temperature in Atlanta, 29 degrees in Memphis. And 20 degrees expected in Chicago and a reinforcing shot of chilly air that will come down Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, will bring temperatures back down into 20s. In some cases 30 degrees below seasonal averages, everywhere east it looks like, of the Rocky Mountains.

Just try to stay warm. As we mentioned earlier, it's the coldest air of the decade, Heidi. We're not kidding around. So -

COLLINS: Yes. Seriously not kidding around. Even though I thought princess, the dog, was going to maybe throw that proverbial boiling water into the air. We could watch it freeze.

MARCIANO: Princess can do some dog tricks but I don't think it's one of them.

COLLINS: No, maybe not. All right. Rob, thank you.

MARCIANO: OK. See you later.

COLLINS: At the airport in Newark, New Jersey, a man bypassed security and created six hours of travel delays. A man walked through the wrong side of the security checkpoint and disappeared into the crowd. And that temporarily grounded some flights. Authorities closed down the terminal to search for the man. They never found him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody inside there is waiting because they took everybody off the planes, everybody outside of security. They've got to go back through security. Every single person in the airport has to go back through and do a security check so we can get on our planes and get out of here.

It makes me feel like - like what the heck is going on with people nowadays. I just - I mean I don't know what to expect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had all just gone through the security checkpoint, and we saw security chasing after somebody. Everybody was yelling. The TSA people were yelling 10-9, 10-9. They told everybody to freeze. We couldn't move. They said they didn't want us to reach into our bags. We just basically stood there.


COLLINS: And check out this iReporter photo. Anthony Cemara says airport officials were herding people away from the gates and corralling them into the baggage claim area. He says people really didn't know what was going on, They were confused, and, yes, a little nervous too.

Fears over terrorism both here and abroad. The White House says Al Qaeda in Yemen is apparently planning attacks against the U.S. targets there. So for the second straight day, the U.S. embassy is shut down in Yemen's capital. The British and French embassies also closed because of the security threat.

And heightened concerns of a terror attack is obvious at the airports around the world. Beginning today international travelers bound for the U.S. will face tighter screenings in 14 countries. Yemen is looming larger on Washington's radar now as evidence mounts that it's becoming a stronghold for Al Qaeda. President Obama has addressed the rising threat and his top military leader in the region visited the country over the weekend.

CNN's Barbara Starr joining us now from the Pentagon with more on this. Barbara, what more can you tell us about General Petraeus' meeting with Yemen's president.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Heidi, he stopped in Yemen over the weekend for just a couple of hours for a very closed door meeting with President Salih of Yemen, and just a small group of officials there. Yemen now front and center for 2010. The new view on Yemen is that it is a country now that can quite - its Al Qaeda members can reach out and touch the United States.

The Detroit incident seems to prove that now. So General Petraeus went, taking messages and information, we're told, from President Obama to the leadership in Yemen. All of this now is about sharing intelligence and sharing targeting information about where Al Qaeda is hiding in Yemen and how to get to them. General Petraeus spoke very rare comments by him about Yemen over the weekend.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: It's a country that has a lot of challenges, the Hutis (ph) in the north and some southern secessionists in the south, the reduction in oil production although gas is going up thankfully. But a youth bulge. Many of the challenges of countries that are in the process of development. Rugged terrain, tribal areas, and so forth.

So very important, indeed, that Yemen has taken the actions that it has and, indeed, that not just the United States but countries in the region, its neighbors and so forth, have provided - they in particular have provided significant assistance.


STARR: But what is next for the United States, Heidi, more intelligence sharing, more targeting information for the Yemeni military, more training of their security services, and everything that the U.S. military and the U.S. government can do to press the Yemenis to go after Al Qaeda in their country and behind the scenes possibly, possibly more U.S.-led missions against Al Qaeda.

Don't look for boots on the ground. Nobody's talking about that.


STARR: But try to push the Yemenis out in front and make them go after Al Qaeda.

COLLINS: Yes. Understood. We need the cooperation there obviously. I wonder though do we know any more details, Barbara, about tomorrow's meeting with intelligence officials?

STARR: Well, the president is scheduled to meet at the White House. The phrasing we heard is "with all relevant agency head." Everyone who could possibly have something to offer about what went wrong in this Detroit situation, where the failures were in international airline security. This whole business of the watch list, searching people, scans, all of it.

You know, John Brennan yesterday saying on CNN's "State of the Union," "this wasn't a 9/11 but this was some failure of some of the bureaucracy and the president wants to hear exactly what did not happen correctly, Heidi.

COLLINS: Right. Understood. Of course, we're going to be following the story throughout the morning here. We've got more information too, Barbara, on those new TSA guidelines that went into effect for international flights today as well. We'll talk about that. Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent. Thank you.

A study finds higher rates of autism in wealthy areas. Find out what's behind the complicated link.


COLLINS: Three countries in just two days have decided Yemen is too dangerous right now to keep their embassies open. Embassies for the United States, Britain, and France have all shut their doors because of what they call ongoing terrorist attacks. In the last hour, we got word that Japan has closed the consulate section of its embassy in Yemen.

Our international security correspondent Paula Newton has a closer look now at the growing threat from Yemen.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For decades, Yemen has been a reliable outpost for Al Qaeda, and now terrorists there are stepping up their threats, vowing to kill every crusader working in western embassies. President Obama's counter terrorism adviser confirmed the threat to CNN.

JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE SR. ADVISER ON COUNTER TERRORISM: There are indications that Al Qaeda is planning to carry out an attack against a target inside of Sanaa, possibly our embassy, and what we do is to take every measure possible to ensure the safety of our diplomats and citizens abroad.

NEWTON: Both the American and British embassies were shut down in Yemen's capital Sanaa. Security officials evaluate the threat level. The Obama administration is now directly linking Al Qaeda and the Arabian peninsula to the Detroit bombing attempt involving explosives alleged hidden in the underwear of Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Both the United States and Britain are working to enhance security training already under way in Yemen, and that includes creating a Yemeni counter terrorism police unit.

BRENNAN: We are very concerned about Al Qaeda's continued growth there. But they are not just focusing on Yemen as was evidenced by Abdulmutallab's effort to try to bring down that flame, they are in fact looking to the west.

NEWTON: Both American and British officials are sensitive to claims they're opening up yet another front in the war against terrorism. But Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown concedes the pressure building Al Qaeda, Pakistan and Afghanistan has had unintended consequences.

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The weakness of Al Qaeda in Pakistan has forced people out of Pakistan and forced them into Yemen and Somalia. One lesson I think we've learned is that by taking on Al Qaeda inside Waziristan, we have diminished the strength, we have dispersed their organization.

NEWTON: But to what end? Several hundred Al Qaeda members have now regrouped in Yemen, a deeply conservative, poor, and anti-western nation where there are only limited options in fighting a war on Al Qaeda.


COLLINS: And Paula Newton is joining us now, live from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. So Paula, are the closures in response to specific threats, do we know?

NEWTON: What's interesting is speaking to one diplomatic source on the ground in Yemen, he, today, did not receive any information of specific threats. That means, Heidi, that when the Yemeni government has information that suicide bombs are on the way the way they did about 10 days ago, they try and inform the embassies.

Nothing like that, but certainly considering all the chatter from the Al Qaeda groups, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula saying every crusader needs to be really murdered in the capital, Sanaa. They're obviously take no chances. The threat continues. We're not sure when those embassies will reopen.

COLLINS: Yes, I'm curious, too, Paula, about the amount of U.S. aid going to that country. We spoke with the foreign minister a few days ago and asked the question about the $67 million that went from the United States to Yemen in 2009. I understand quite a larger sum may be going to the country now for 2010 as well?

NEWTON: Absolutely. More than doubled, we believe, and they're almost adding to it by the day. You know, on the weekend, Gordon Brown, British prime minister and President Obama agreed that they would set up a counter terrorism police unit and continue to help train those Yemeni officials.

Heidi, it has to be said, look American, British, other allied officials have been making a rapid path to the door of Yemen now for at least eight months. They are now trying to speed up a process that they had started in terms of sharing intelligence and really trying to get at the heart of the Al Qaeda cells and making sure the government is focused on those Al Qaeda cells.

You're dealing, Heidi, with a government that has, you know, basically rebel movements or separatist movements north, south, and east. It is a very complicated situation. The U.S. thinks that perhaps the intelligence sharing and that money will go a long way in making sure they concentrate on the threats from Al Qaeda itself.

COLLINS: Yes. It will be interesting to see if there's an accountability for that money in a sum like that as well. Paula Newton coming to us live from Dubai this morning. Thanks, Paula.

Well, Christmas came a little early for one family. A happy ending in the hospital.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was dead. She had no heartbeat, no breathing. She was as gray as her sweat suit, no signs of life.


COLLINS: An unbelievable story. Doctors say two miracles happened on the night before Christmas.


COLLINS: A quick check of our top stories now. The Iraqi government is going after any employees of the former Blackwater company who are still in the country. Officials there are angry that a U.S. judge threw out charges against five Blackwater security guards last week. The men were accused of killing 17 Iraqis back in 2007. Today Iraq's prime minister vowed to see those men punished. The country is planning a lawsuit in the case.

In Afghanistan, America's first combat casualties of the new year. A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in the southern region. NATO has not given any more details on the attack but elsewhere British forces had their first combat death of the year, from a blast in Afghanistan's Helman province.

And Olympic snowboarding hopeful Kevin Pierce is in critical condition this morning. He suffered a severe brain injury on Thursday while training for this week's qualifying event. The 22-year-old's spokeswoman said Pierce completed a twisting double back flip when he caught his toe and landed on his head. She said he was wearing a helmet during the accident.

Some fascinating new information to share with you this morning about parts of California that have high rates of autism. The common link between all of these areas? They're wealthy. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joining me now with more on this. Good morning, Elizabeth, tell us more about these autism clusters, if you will. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, it really is fascinating. People have been searching for why some kids get autism and some don't. It may have to do with what kind of parents they had.

In California they did a study where they found that there were pockets of high autism rates in areas where parents are more highly educated. So that was one of the common themes. They were more highly educated. The parents also tended to be white. The parents also tended to be older. We're talking about parents from areas like parts of Orange County, Beverly Gills, Pasadena, really a lot of clusters around the Los Angeles area. Heidi?

COLLINS: Yes. But then to make that link to autism, how can that be true?

COHEN: Right. It does seem kind of strange and I spoke with one of the authors, and she said, look, there are many theories but the one that seems to hold the most water at this point is that highly educated parents are probably more aware of the signs of autism. They tend to have insurance so they can get their children quickly to a doctor to get a diagnosis.

So it doesn't really have to do with anything - probably with anything genetic or anything else like that. It probably has to do with some simple facts about what these parents know and how quickly they were able to get them to the doctor.

COLLINS: Yes. We always hear how critical for a child to be diagnosed early with it, disease like autism. What are some of the signs that parents need to be looking for now to be talking with their pediatrician about?

COHEN: Well, Heidi, I'm going to show you an example of a child with autism and a child who doesn't have autism. And what you're going to notice here is that this child is playing with the toys and not really registering. Teach tries to feed him. The child really doesn't want to have anything to do with the person there. And then a typical child is going to interact. You can see he's interacting with a doll. He's interacting with the people.

So a lot of it has to do with interaction. A this is the kind of thing that you want to look for in your child. If at 12 months your child is not babbling, that is a sign that you should take them to the doctor. It doesn't mean they have autism. It means that you need to take them to the doctor. Also at 16 months, if they're not saying single words like mama or dada or truck or whatever, and at 24 months, if they're not spontaneously using two word phrases, another sign.

And Heidi, they say all children, whether or not they have signs, need to be screened for autism once at 18 months of age and then again at 24 months of age.

COLLINS: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent. Thanks, Elizabeth. Now we want to tell you about this. What some are calling a Christmas miracle that happened on Christmas eve. A mother and her baby who died during labor. The doctors tried to save them but it seemed to be over when then suddenly they both came back to life. I guess who the happiest person in the room was. Well, he spoke about his few minutes of sheer terror.


MIKE HERMANSTORFER, FATHER & HUSBAND: I sat there with my wife's hand in mine, ice cold. She was completely and totally blue. They actually got him started right in my hands. So that - that is an amazing feeling.


COLLINS: That's incredible. Both parents will tell their story to Anderson Cooper on "AC 360" tonight, 10:00 p.m., Eastern.

More than a week after the violent protests in Iran, more images are coming from that deadly day and the opposition movement is finding some solidarity in the United States.


COLLINS: Starting today, people flying into the United States have to go through more security. Any of them could be picked for new random screenings, and they have a list of 14 so-called terror-linked nations. Anyone flying from or through one of them will have to go through mandatory screenings, and the Transportation Security Administration has a list of 14 so-called terror linked nations. Anyone, flying from or through one of them will have to go through mandatory screenings. And that of course, brings us to today's blog.

We want to know what you think about these new TSA rules and if you think they will help. Do you feel safer, or do you think they really don't matter? Make sure you go to our blog at Give us your thoughts. You'll also get a little bit more about that story and what exactly those guidelines are and we'll read some of the responses coming up a little bit later on in the hour.

Meanwhile, a new year, a new decade, and now a new enemy. Jim Acosta takes a look at the latest addition to the list of countries threatening our national security.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, after all of that controversy following Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano's comment that the system worked, the Obama administration is putting out a different face in what the White House calls its war against Al Qaeda. And White House counter terrorism adviser John Brennan had plenty to say from Yemen to Vice President Dick Cheney to Osama Bin Laden.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And all those involved in the attempted attack of terrorism on Christmas must know you, too, will be held to account.

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Obama is starting 2010 confronting a cold reality. Al Qaeda has established a new stronghold in Yemen where the White House now believes terrorists plotted with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up flight 253 on Christmas day, nearly a decade after the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. The U.S. and Britain suddenly closed their embassies Sunday.

BRENNAN: Al Qaeda has several hundred members, in fact, in Yemen and they're grown in strength.

ACOSTA: The emerging threat comes as the president and his national security team plan to meet tomorrow on how to plug holes in aviation security.

BRENNAN: Clearly the system didn't work. We had a problem in terms of why Abdulmutallab got on the plane. There is no smoking gun piece of intelligence out there.

ACOSTA: But the chairman of the 9/11 Commission argues a red flag was missed. That warning from the suspect's father to U.S. officials in Nigeria.

THOMAS H. KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: That alone, given who that father was, his prestige in the community, his connections with the United States embassy, that alone should have been enough.

ACOSTA: Republicans have blasted the administration's handling of the failed attack, with Dick Cheney accusing the president of pretending the nation is not at war. White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan all but called Cheney a liar.

BRENNAN: Either the vice president is willfully mischaracterizing this president's position both in terms of the language he uses and the actions he's taken, or he's ignorant of the facts.

ACOSTA: But there are troubles new questions for the administration, such as the president's plan to close Guantanamo, a plan that includes sending some detainees back to Yemen, a place that's become a haven for former Gitmo prisoners.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: The odds are that they will end up in the fight against us planning attacks on the United States of America. So I think it would be truly irresponsible for us, America, to send prisoners of war that we hold now at Guantanamo back to Yemen.

ACOSTA: Despite the barrage of criticism, the White House insists it wants to finish the job in the war against Al Qaeda, nine years after September 11th.

BRENNAN: We're going to get bin Laden, we're going to get Zawahiri, we're going to get the others.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: John Brennan says the White House is not talking about sending troops to Yemen. Instead, the focus appears to be on al Qaeda worldwide. Consider what the director of the Counterterrorism Center is warning: Al Qaeda is refining its methods, he says, to test the nation's defenses. Heidi?

COLLINS: All right, Jim. Thanks.

And the president is talking to his top Homeland Security people, including Secretary Janet Napolitano. In a meeting tomorrow, they will discuss what exactly went wrong on Northwest flight 253 and what is being done now to fix the problem.

To Wall Street now. Investors have slammed the books on a dismal decade, and now we all want to know what the new year will hold for stocks. Will it be more of the same, or will the 2009 rebound continue? Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a preview of that.

Susan, the history here, tell us of these first few days of January, releasing to set things up for the rest of the year.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. As goes January, so goes the rest of the year. Historically that has been accurate. Something like 91 percent of the time, according to the Stock Traders' Almanac which I consult regularly in times like this.

And it actually held true last year. January last year was crummy for the S&P 500, but the first five trading days we saw modest gains. So the January effect helped.

Why is that? Why is January so important? well, a lot of times we seek new money at work. We're not talking about neuvo riche here. We're talking about pension funds, big institutional funds putting money to work in the beginning of the year.

Also, a lot of times when you see investors taking losses for tax purposes at the end of the year, well, they're reinvesting in the new year. That's what we're seeing.

Also, we're looking at a terrific rally today. Why is that? We got a nice manufacturing report with the nicest expansion in terms of level we hadn't seen in three years. So check it out. Here we go. Hopefully the January effect will hold true.

We're seeing triple-digit gains for the Dow, nice gains for the NASDAQ, tough act to follow for what we saw in 2009, but a very nice start to the new year. Heidi?

COLLINS: Yes. Are the analysts expecting the stock market to turn in big gains or what? Do we know?

LISOVICZ: I think most analysts do expect these gains to continue. First of all, why is that? We're coming out of a bear market. Historically, you'll see the stock market perform well. Look at the gains we saw in 2009. We're not talking about the decade. We're talking about the year now, where the Dow, the NASDAQ, the S&P 500 -- the NASDAQ was up 44 percent. Tough act to follow.

Here are some of the questions that will determine how well the stock market does. Can growth continue without stimulus? What happens when the Fed stops buying these mortgage-backed securities?


LISOVICZ: And what about jobs? What about...


LISOVICZ: What about jobs? What about jobs?

The next big hurdle we have is fourth-quarter earnings. Think about all those retail numbers. Optimism is pretty high right now. We'll see what the numbers actually bring us. One other thing we have to remember. We talked a lot about how awful the decade was. Historically, there had never been back-to-back losses for two decades.


LISOVICZ: Think about that.

COLLINS: That's what I'm holding on to for sure.

LISOVICZ: The optimist that you are -- that we are.

COLLINS: Yes. Very good. Susan Lisovicz. Nice to see you.


COLLINS: A new year, and new mayors. Annise Parker starts her job as the new mayor in Houston, Texas. Looking at some live pictures now of the public inauguration festivities. Houston is the largest city to elect an openly gay mayor. Parker was sworn in over the weekend in a private ceremony.

In just a little while, Kasim Reed will be sworn in as Atlanta's new mayor. He defeated Mary Norwood in a runoff election just a month ago. Reed replaces Shirley Franklin, who served two terms.

The world's tallest building set to open in Dubai today. Look at that. How big is it? We're going to show you comparisons in a moment.


COLLINS: Boy, Florida getting some weather it's really not used to. We're talking freeze warnings all the way into southern Florida. I want to get back to our meteorologist, Rob Marciano from the Severe Weather Center because -- yes. Really, really cold in places that it's not supposed to be. (WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Yes. But I think you're leaving out one of -- clearly the best games on Sunday, aren't you?

MARCIANO: Are you going to --

COLLINS: You're a Giants fan, right?

MARCIANO: Yes. So that was not a good game.

COLLINS: Oh, I thought it was a fantastic game.

MARCIANO: Giants played like guys who didn't have anything to play for.

COLLINS: Yes, well, you know. What was it? 44-7, is that right? Farve there...

MARCIANO: What's going on between you and Brett Favre? I mean -- all right. Congratulations to the Viking.

COLLINS: That's what I was waiting for.

MARCIANO: Congratulations.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Hey, we're number 2 now. This is not going to get any better for you, my friend.

MARCIANO: No. You got a first round bye.

COLLINS: Home field advantage. Love those cowboys.

MARCIANO: You weren't nearly as celebratory the last couple of years.

COLLINS: That's true. I told you from the get-go. I'm a fairweather fan.


COLLINS: All right, Rob. Thanks.

MARCIANO: OK. See you.

COLLINS: Want to take a moment to get to our Top Stories now.

Start today, people flying into the U.S. have to go through more security. Any of them could be picked for new random screenings, and the Transportation Security Administration have a list of 14 so-called terror-linked nations. Anyone flying from or through one of them will have to go through mandatory screenings.

Embassies in Yemen shutting their doors because of credible and ongoing terrorist threats. Both the United States and British embassies closed yesterday. France also closed its embassy to the public, though its staff is still working. Last hour, we got word that Japan has closed the consulate section of its embassy in Yemen.

Senator John Kerry should find out tomorrow whether he'll be granted entry into Iran. A member of Iran's parliament told reporters there the Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to discuss the issue on Tuesday. The United States and Iran ended diplomatic relations in April of 1980 following Iran's Islamic revolution.

The recent protests in Iran have people waiting and watching for any new information and pictures to come out of there. Our Reza Sayah is our Iran Desk this morning watching all of it.

So you do have some pretty interesting video that you don't often see coming out of Iran. What's the significance here?


First off, to keep information from coming out of Iran, the Iranian government has often either blocked Internet access or slowed it down to a crawl. That's why you're seeing new video from come out from last Sunday's demonstration now. We have one of them. Let's go ahead and show it to you.

This drives home how things have escalated in Iran. This clip reportedly from last Sunday shows a protester out in public climb up a light post and rip down the banner bearing the picture of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameni.

Now, it's very rare that we've been able to air interviews from protesters in Iran themselves because of the strict media restrictions, and frankly, because a lot of these people are scared. They're convinced government intelligence officials are listening in on their phone conversations.

But on Sunday night, we managed to tape record a conversation with one of the protesters. To protect his identity. We'll call him Hesam (ph). He's a 28-year-old university researcher. With all the violence, we asked him if he's afraid for his security and why he keeps going out to these protesters. Here's what he had to say.


HESAM (ph), IRANIAN PROTESTER (via telephone): I'm afraid but I don't have any chance. It's not a good way just to see it and do nothing. I want to change the condition, if I want to have the better life, I have to. Yes, maybe --

VOICE OF REZA SAYAH: Hesam, what do you and your fellow protesters want from these demonstrations?

HESAM: We need a common democracy based on our contacts. All of the main principles, freedom of speech and respect for humans' rights.


SAYAH: A call for democracy. That's why - what supporters of this opposition movement say this campaign is about. One more new piece of information, Heidi. On Monday, Iran's intelligence minister said among the more than 500 people arrested in the demonstrations last Sunday were foreigners engaged in propaganda and psychological warfare. He didn't say who they were or where they're from. We're waiting on a date of the so-called trials, Heidi.

COLLINS: Reza, we know there's been a crackdown by way of media. We haven't seen widespread protests in something like more than a week. Does this mean it's working or are they perhaps planning their next move?

SAYAH: Based on what our sources are telling us on the ground, the opposition move made is considering its next step, and a lot of the members of this opposition movement are very concerned about this campaign taking a violent term. They don't want that. They want to keep it peaceful.

But look for two dates coming up in the next month or two to be big dates for more protests. First off, the commemoration of the passing of the district cleric, that's later this month. And the big date is February 11, Heidi, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

COLLINS: Understood. Reza Sayah watching it for us. Thanks, Reza.

Troops take from the battle field and head to the football field for a bowl game of their own. Coach Barry Switzer was there. He's joining us next.


COLLINS: U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan can't get to the bowl games this year, so the U.S.O. and some pretty famous coaches and players brought a game to them. The Tostidos Salute the Troops Bowl took place this past week at a military base in the Persian Gulf.

Former Oklahoma Sooners' coach Barry Switzer came out of retirement to coach in this game. He is joining me now live from Phoenix.

So nice to see you. Look, you've got me fumbling on my words there. We appreciate what you're doing there and what you did. I imagine it was a wonderful experience for you. How did you get there first off to salute the troops.

BARRY SWITZER, FORMER COACH OF OKLAHOMA UNIVERSITY SOONERS: First of all, Heidi, Tostidos and the U.S.O. partnership to bring the bowl to the troops in the Persian Gulf. I looked forward to going. They asked me. I said you bet I'll go. We took eight or nine legendary football players to the Persian Gulf, and we teamed up with a bunch of American troops who play 8-man football over there, flag football. We had a game played basically like a bowl game.

We had cheerleaders, we had flyover, we had people in the stands. But the one thing that's a little different, we had a football field surrounded by humvees with machine guns on it.

COLLINS: Yeah, I bet you haven't seen that before.

SWITZER: It's a little different than we have here. It was a great experience. They enjoyed it tremendously. They told us so. Everywhere we went. We flew in, went to three bases, flew to Iraq and played the game there and filmed it.

And you'll get to see it on Fiesta bowl at halftime tonight. They'll show you highlights from the event. It will be a great experience for the American people, the public to see what we accomplished over there, what the Salute the Troops bowl brought to you by Tostitos and the U.S.O.

COLLINS: We're look at some of it right now. I know you can't see. We're looking at some of the highlights right now. It's fun to watch them play.

I mean, let's list really quickly -- you had Tee Martin, Tommy Frazier, Garrison Herz, Ty Detmer, Tony Cosias, Brian Bosworth, Bruce Smith, Joe Washington (ph). I mean, that's just a few.

I wonder, though, did you happen to notice as one of the greatest college coaches of all time, any particular talent from the troops that you'd like to see, you know, develop maybe after they finish up their commitment?

SWITZER: Actually, I did. We had some great wide receivers that playing extremely well. They had the speed. I promise you, they could make some American college football teams, some teams that I've seen play. They had very talented players, a lot of positions.

They played hard, and it's very important to them. They wanted to show off what they could do to our players. Our guys didn't probably lay it on the line like we'd normally do, but they had fun and it was a great experience for them.

COLLINS: Well, pretty consistent with what they're doing for the country as well when you mentioned play hard.

I know you spent a little bit of time in the United States Army yourself a while back. Did you have an opportunity to speak with these gentlemen and some of the women, I imagine, too, off the field?

SWITZER: You bet we did. We spent a lot of time with them. That's one of the reasons we went over there to interact with the men and women there in the military. Let me tell you this, we even got some great ones over there. Their morale is high, and they believe in what they're doing. And we got to spend some time with General Patraeus. We had an opportunity to visit.

COLLINS: All right.

SWITZER: And it was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

COLLINS: All right. Well, again, we appreciate you doing it. I'm sure the troops did as well. And we'll be looking for that video later on tonight, for sure, during the game.

Former coach Oklahoma Sooners Barry Switzer. Thanks so much.

SWITZER: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: We appreciate it.

There are some signs the housing market has been stabilizing a bit, but that doesn't mean the worst of the crisis is over, unfortunately. We'll break down the reasons why in a moment.


COLLINS: There are some signs the overall economy is stabilizing, but the health of the housing market, still a big question mark.'s Poppy Harlow in New York.

So, Poppy, the mortgage meltdown, the crux of the whole financial crisis and now there are fears we may not have hit the bottom yet.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes. I mean, Heidi, most analysts -- sorry to be the bearer of bad news at the beginning of 2010 -- but they're saying housing prices are heading even lower this year. So recovery may not be coming for most of the housing market.

You've got a lot of forecasts, and they vary widely on how big the declines in home values are going to be. Some are saying we're going to see another 15 percent decline in housing prices in some of those hardest-hit areas like California and Florida. We've been seeing this trend.

I want to show this chart. This shows the peak of the market in 2006 when the median home price is over $221,000. Let's go to the latest numbers, which are November of 2009. $172,000 for the median home prize. So, a decline of 22 percent over that period of time.

And what we're hearing from a lot of analysts is there's a flood of forecloses comes. You have a lot of these adjustable-rate mortgages. You out there, you might have one. They're resetting soon. That's really going to push those foreclosures forward and depress home prices further.

One bad side of that might be that people will wait as home prices fall to make purchases. I do have to say there's one bright spot we've seen in the numbers. And this is as the prices have fallen, Heidi, sales have jumped. What we saw in November of last year was that existing home sales saw the biggest jump since February of 2007, and that really makes up the bulk of home sales in this country.

So, what you see all in all, great deals for buyers out there, not great for sellers, and the worst of the pain, Heidi, could still unfortunately be in front of us.

COLLINS: Yes. I hate hearing that. The government has done a lot to try to prop up the ailing housing market as everybody knows. What happens when that ends?

HARLOW: It's a great question. They certainly have, Heidi. People are weighing in on our Facebook page talking about that. The Fed have keep it low by buying up mortgage-backed securities. But that program, that's going to end in March. So, that's going to mean probably higher mortgage rates.

You also see these two big government incentives for buyers. There's the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit and a $6,500 credit for people who already own a home. Both of those are going to be wrapping up in April. We'll watch what happens. You can see more details on this story. Something to keep an eye on if you're in the market to sell or buy a home. You can check out this story right on

COLLINS: All right. Terrific, Poppy. Thank you.

How do you feel about the new TSA security rules? They go into effect today. We've been talking about them all morning long. In fact, it was the topic of my blog at We're going to read some of those responses just three minutes away.


COLLINS: We're asking you on our blog this morning dog you think the new TSA rules will help stop terror attacks? I want to read you some of our responses.

David, he says this. "If I travel through or have passport entries from the countries on the list, I would fully expect to be questioned and subject to additional security checks. I have nothing to hide. I would be worried if I wasn't questioned."

And from Ryan. "I think the TSA is making a terrible mistake by picking some countries to search and some not to. What about radicals that are British, French or German citizens? "

Remember, we always like to hear from do you. Log on to and share your comments there.

The newest building to grace the skyline in Dubai towers above every other building in the world. Look at that. The Burj Dubai. Check it out. 160 stories of it. It even puts Big Ben and the Empire State building in the shade. Our reporters across the globe tell you how it stacks up against their skyscrapers.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kyung Lah in Tokyo. This is (INAUDIBLE), made famous in the movie "Lost in Translation." Not too many tall buildings here, and in Tokyo overall, there aren't that many skyscrapers. You put the Burj in any Japanese neighborhood it would dwarf everything.

The reason there's not that many skyscrapers? The number of earthquakes, strict city codes and Japan has just gone through two decades of slow economic growth. The skyline here, a glimpse into the economy and geology of Japan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm (INAUDIBLE) in London at one of our picture-postcard sites. The houses of Parliament and Big Ben. What would the Burj Dubai look like here? Well, to be quite honest, I can't imagine. It would dwarf the entire city. For a start, Big Ben wouldn't really be that big. The Burj would be eight-and-a-half times higher than the iconic clock face.

While London is not really known for its skyscrapers, it will soon be home to the tallest building in Europe. But at 300 meters high, the Shard London bridge will still only be less than half the height of the Burj Dubai.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Candiotti on a freezing, blustery day in New York. And this is Columbus Circle, the southern entrance to Central Park. The Big Apple's biggest green space among a cavern of high rises and skyscrapers.

It's hard to picture but if you plunked down the Burg Dubai in the middle of Central Park, it would tower over the Empire State Building. Measuring just over 440 meters, it's slightly over half as tall as the Burj Dubai. Imagine that.


COLLINS: I'm Heidi Collins.

CNN NEWSROOM continues now with Brooke Baldwin.