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Day 15 of Egypt's Protests; The Contenders for 2012; Two Brothers Arrested in iPhone Counterfeit Scheme; Adult Store Gives Sex Toys for Guns; Arizona's Battle Over Birthright Citizenship; The Similarities of Dieting and Investing

Aired February 8, 2011 - 09:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's 9:00 a.m. on the East Coast, 6:00 a.m. out West. And here's some of the stories that have us talking this morning.

We're going to tell you what a 10-month investigation reveals about what caused Toyota cars and trucks to suddenly accelerate, forcing the recall of millions of vehicles.

Donald Rumsfeld's new book on store shelves. Don't expect any apologies about invading Iraq. He says everyone in the Bush administration believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

And a pregnant woman picks up her antibiotics but is actually given the abortion pill. When she becomes nauseous, she discovers the pharmacy's mistake and rushes to the hospital. What you need to know when you pick up a new prescription.

We begin live in Cairo. Right now, crowds are growing in Tahrir Square. Our teams on the ground say that this is the largest gathering that they have seen in days and activists say there's no compromise. They will not leave Liberation Square until President Hosni Mubarak is removed from power.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in Cairo.

Fred, why is today's crowd so much larger than yesterday?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are several reasons that we see as possible reasons, Kyra. One of them is that there has been another call for one of these million-man marches for a lot of people to come here to the square. It does appear as though many people are heeding that call.

I can tell you, behind me, thousands are actually still flocking into the square which already, as you can see, is very full with many, many people. As you said, one of the largest crowds that we've seen at all.

One of the other reasons, Kyra, might be the release of a Google Middle Eastern executive which happened last night. And he then went on TV later in the evening and gave an absolutely emotional interview about the time that he spent in detention. He was in detention for 11 to 12 days, says he was blindfolded the entire time. And he then called the people on here on -- on Tahrir Square, he called them heroes and he broke out in tears many times.

And certainly that seems to be something as really mesmerizing a lot of people and galvanizing the protests it seems because as you say, we've seen massive numbers of people come here to the square.

And also it appears as though one little group of protesters for the first time is breaking away from the square and has made its way to the Egyptian parliament building and is chanting in front of that building as well. So seems as though, at this point in time, the protests are actually growing -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK. We will follow it, that's for sure. Fred Pleitgen is there in Cairo for us. Thanks, Fred.

And one expert on the Middle East warns that the danger to protesters may be taking another form. He says if President Mubarak is allowed to remain in office until September, his regime could begin targeting activists.


PROF. FOUAD AJAMI, MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: The protesters have now entered the most dangerous phase of this conflict. They are known to the -- to the security services. They have bet it all and if, indeed, this regime survived, if this regime truly in a way deludes us that it has changed, it has reformed, it has amended its ways, most of these protesters, the leaders of these protesters are in great, great dangers. I have been talking to several Egyptian intellectuals. This is now the most dangerous phase.


PHILLIPS: Mubarak's new vice president has been holding talks with some opposition groups. Others are refusing to take part. The U.S. says the talks are not, quote, "broad-based enough."

Now back in the United States. Attention already turning to the next presidential election in 2012. The Republicans are unified in their goal to capture the White House but the divisions are deep over who represents their best hope.

Over the next two days, we're taking a closer look at the race for 2012, "The Contenders."

CNN's senior White House correspondent Ed Henry kicks off our coverage.

Ed, so President Obama just passed the two-year mark in office. Is he likely to face a liberal primary challenge?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a big question for this president. And the new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll suggests he's highly unlikely to face a primary challenge. That would be good news, obviously, for this White House. Look at these numbers. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats now saying that their choice for the Democratic nomination in 2012 is President Obama. Only 20 percent saying they want another Democrat.

Now why is that important? Since 1968, there have been four incumbent presidents who faced a primary challenge. All four either stepped aside, retired, didn't run again, or just lost -- outright lost in the general election. So this is a big deal. If he does not have a primary challenge, it makes him a lot stronger in 2012 -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK. So the Republicans, seems like a wide open field of candidates. Have they come anywhere close to unifying behind just one?

HENRY: No. They are nowhere close to being unified behind a candidate but what is interesting from our new poll, they are united behind a cause and that's beating President Obama.

Look at these numbers. Among Republicans, would you prefer a nominee who can beat Barack Obama? Sixty-eight percent. In terms of a nominee who agrees with you on issues, only 29 percent of Republicans say that's the most important issue for them.

So basically, they're picking winning over etiology. And then when you look at the top contenders on the Republican side, maybe a little surprising Mike Huckabee at the top, 21 percent, Palin 19, Romney 18, Gingrich 10, and Rand Paul 7.

What's significant about that? It's mostly a year-out, all-about-name idea. Remember, 2007 at this time, Rudy Giuliani was leading a lot of these kind of national polls because of his name ID, especially after 9/11. He obviously came nowhere close to winning the nomination.

Another interesting facet of this, a lot of people now -- the conventional wisdom is, this divided field will hurt the Republicans. They won't be united but we've -- spoke to some senior Republicans who tell me that there's another take on this, that it might actually help the GOP, and we're going to get into that tomorrow when we continue part two of "The Contender" series and take a very close look at what are President Obama's real re-election chances, Kyra. We'll do that tomorrow.

PHILLIPS: All right. Sounds good. We'll look forward to it. Thanks, Ed.

And coming up later this hour, we're going to take a closer look at the four top Republican contenders for the White House.

A cool drink of water never tastes so good in El Paso, Texas. The city lifted mandatory water restrictions late last night. Restrictions had been in place Saturday after water levels dropped significantly. Freezing temperatures caused water pipes across that city to burst.

And a blast of Arctic chill could be headed into part of that region again. Let's check in once again with our Rob Marciano who's watching all the bitter cold weather for us.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And you know the folks in deep Texas, south Texas and Mexico, deep into Mexico, was cold enough for not only the pipes to freeze, but for snow for our friends south of the border, unbelievable stretch the last couple of weeks, really last of couple of months. And we're still there.


MARCIANO: You got your iPad out. What are you playing with?

PHILLIPS: Actually, let's make this very clear. It's not my iPad.

MARCIANO: You're borrowed it. OK.

PHILLIPS: Yes. I borrowed this iPad and we're going to let Dennis kind of work his way around the camera here and get over here. This is the new app for sinners. Have you heard about this?

MARCIANO: What are you implying? Why are you dragging me into this?

PHILLIPS: Can you remember your last sin?

MARCIANO: Yes. Just a few minutes ago.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Exactly. You can remember it. Anything that you can confess to me right now?

MARCIANO: You know, you're not a man of the cloth although I gave them a break a long time ago.

PHILLIPS: I'm a woman of the cloth, OK? All right. Here's the deal. For $1.99 you can now get this app, all right? And it's for sinners. And I'm not -- and the Catholic Church is actually saying -- endorsing this. So you don't have to go to church. You don't have to go see the priest. All you do is you go on to this app, OK, you log in.

All right, Dennis, let's see if we can bring it up here. And you -- so OK. You log on to it, right? And then you press the confession button and now the confession begins, Rob.

In the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit, father, it has been -- how many days since my last confession? And you've got to fill that in, OK? So I don't know. When do you think you made your last confession?

MARCIANO: Ten thousand days ago? Maybe --

PHILLIPS: Ten thousand days. OK, so then you type in 10,000 days. All right. Then you continue.

MARCIANO: Isn't it, "Bless me father for I have sinned, it's been," OK. All right.

PHILLIPS: Do you think they got it wrong? Let me go back.

MARCIANO: No. I -- it's fine.

PHILLIPS: OK. All right.


PHILLIPS: Come on. It's a confession app. They're not going to mess this up.


PHILLIPS: All right. So then you go in and you write in your sins. OK? So, you know, give me something.


PHILLIPS: Just a little something.

MARCIANO: I spilled my coffee on the computer again.

PHILLIPS: Oh, my gosh. That's so lame. I forgive you for that.


PHILLIPS: You type in your sin, all right? Go to the next part, then comes the "Act of Contrition." And you say the prayer here. My God, I'm sorry for my sins with all my heart in choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Amen. OK? You say the prayer. Move on to the next part and here you go.

You receive absolution and you respond "Amen," then the priest says, and I guess, I don't know, maybe you just read this, maybe you can act as the priest. Give thanks to the Lord and he is good. Answer? For his mercy endures forever. So I don't know. You can someone there to play priest. OK. You're done it. You're finished.

MARCIANO: How many "Hail Mary's" do I have to say?

PHILLIPS: You could -- well --

MARCIANO: Does it get to that point?



PHILLIPS: It doesn't get to the "Hail Mary." Maybe it depends on how bad the sin it.

MARCIANO: Yes, I think that's --

PHILLIPS: But here's the best part. When you finish up you get some sort of great advice from either a saint or the Pope. Right now Pope St. Gregory the Great comes up with a little word of advice for you and biggity boom, you're done. You're forgiven for your sins. You've done everything on the app, don't have to go to church.

MARCIANO: How about that.

PHILLIPS: $1.99, brother. There you go.

MARCIANO: And saving the Catholic Church a lot of man-hours. You know? The priesthood is in demand. Supply is down. And guys like me, you know, having them line up around the corner because I'm keeping them in there for hours at a time. That is fantastic.

PHILLIPS: Isn't that terrific?


PHILLIPS: I'll keep you posted. All right.

MARCIANO: You've sinned.

PHILLIPS: It's all here for you.

MARCIANO: All right. We'll see you next time.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Rob.

Well, a fierce battle is brewing in Arizona. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman wants to be a president when he grows up. This young girl wants to be a judge. This is the face of Arizona. This is the future of Arizona.


PHILLIPS: The question? Whether citizenship should be automatic for children of illegal immigrants if they are born in the U.S. We're taking you live to Arizona.

Plus the British prime minister admits releasing the Lockerbie bomber was wrong. We'll ask a U.S. senator whether anything can be done to fix this error.


PHILLIPS: Police guarding the Port of Los Angeles say they have confiscated a bunch of bad Apple products, and that tops our look at stories Cross Country this morning. Two brothers have been arrested in a bust of stolen or counterfeit products, such as iPhones and iPods. The take is said to be worth more than $2 million.

Huntsville, Alabama, the owner of an adult toy store has a Valentine's Day deal for you. Trade in your gun for a sex toy. Sherri Williams' goal is to take 300 guns off the street by next week. Guns used in crimes will be turned over to police. The remaining will be auctioned with all of the proceeds going to a local charity helping victims of violent crime.

And in Baltimore, exclusive video of a high school rivalry basketball game that turned into a bleacher-clearing brawl. Cops rushed in with pepper spray to clear the crowd. Luckily, no reports of injuries. The school district is not making comment.

And it's been part of the US Constitution since 1968 (sic), but lawmakers in 40 states fed up with immigration problems are looking at changing citizenship standards for anyone born to illegal immigrants.

The Constitution's 14th amendment says that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

Well, take a look at this map. The group State Legislators for Legal Immigration says lawmakers in the yellow states, quoting here, "want to correct the monumental misapplication to the 14th amendment," end quote.

Our Casey Wian is in Phoenix. So, Casey, Arizona lawmakers talking about legislation to change birthright citizenship. How would that happen?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the sponsor of the legislation here in Arizona, at least on the Senate side, said that he's been hearing from his constituents complaining about illegal immigrants who have children in the United States, jumping to the front of the line and getting automatic citizenship, and then, beginning a process of what they call chain migration.

So he has introduced these two bills that, in Arizona, would create a separate class of citizens for children of illegal immigrants who were not -- whose parents were not born in the United States, but the children born here would have a second tier, a lower class, if you will, of citizenship.

This is, obviously, brought up a bunch of complicated legal arguments. Witnesses and lawmakers spent hours yesterday in a hearing discussing the complicated legal theories behind the 14th amendment of the Constitution. At one point, they were even discussing the definitions of words from the dictionary in 1828. They were going back to legal theories that predated the Declaration of Independence.

Now, you mentioned four key words, "under the jurisdiction thereof." Now, supporters of this effort to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants say those words only apply to US citizens and people who are living in the United States legally.

The opponents of this effort here in Arizona say they apply to anyone who is born in the United States on US soil. Now, while those legal arguments remain unresolved, so do the emotional and moral arguments.


RON GOULD (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATE: You know, you have people all across the world that would like to become American citizens, and they're waiting patiently in line to do that. But these folks have -- are, essentially, gaming our system to put themselves at the head of the line.

STEVE GALLARDO (D), ARIZONA STATE SENATE: This young gentleman wants to be a president when he grows up. This young gentleman wants to be a judge. This young gentleman wants to be an astronaut, a firefighter, a scientist, a ballerina.

This is the face of Arizona. This is the future of Arizona, and we have people in the building right behind us that are wanting to deny these kids that opportunity. The opportunity to be what they want in this country.


WIAN: Now, after hearing all of those arguments, the sponsor of the bill actually decided not to put this legislation forward for a vote. He realized that he did not have the votes to carry it to the full legislature. Several Republicans who he originally thought were going to sponsor -- help support this legislation withdrew their support during this hearing yesterday.

So, for now, the bill on the Senate side has been put on hold. That doesn't mean it's gone away. It could be reintroduced. There's also similar legislation in the House here in Arizona that has yet to be introduced. So we have not heard the last of this issue, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, we'll definitely follow it with you, Casey. Thanks so much.

Britain says it was a bad decision to let the Lockerbie Bomber free. You know, the terrorist who was supposed to be dead more than a year ago. Well, a new report on his release is infuriating a senator who's been a champion for the families of the Lockerbie victims. We're talking to him next.


PHILLIPS: So, you help snuff out 270 lives. Blow a bunch of college kids right out of the sky, spend a few years in prison, then you live like a hero in Libya. You get a big hug from Omar Gadhafi.

Such is the life of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie Bomber. Remember? He was supposed to be long dead by now. Scotland let him out of prison in 2009, sent him to Libya to die, thinking he only weeks to left. An act of compassion the government said. An act he sure didn't show in 1988 when he committed mass murder.

Well, Megrahi is still breathing, and you can imagine how the loved ones of victims in the US and UK feel about it. The results of British prime minister David Cameron's investigation of Megrahi's release are now in. He called it a "flawed decision."

However, he denies that the release was a deal in disguise to win points with Gadhafi and help BP score an oil contract with Libya. That's been a huge question in all of this. Did the UK sell out justice for 270 people? Here's what Cameron told Parliament yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Those who think there was some sort of conspiracy cooked up between BP, the British government, and the Scots to release Megrahi, that's not right. It was a Scottish decision by the Scottish government. In my view, mistaken.


PHILLIPS: But the report did say that the Brits gave the Libyans advice on how to get Megrahi out of prison, how to soften up the Scots. And there's no denying that BP had eyes for Libya.

So, this report may not be a smoking gun, but it could be the tip of the iceberg. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, he's been not only a champion for the families of the victims, but he has believed all along that deals were cut to set a terrorist free. So Senator, what does this investigation tell you now?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Well, Kyra, this investigation, which is only a review of documents, not an investigation of bringing witnesses forth and questioning them, basically, clearly says that the British government had a clear interest in not having al-Megrahi die in British prisons and -- because it would affect their relationships with Libya. And those relationships, we know from BP's own admissions, that they lobbied the British government because they had a major oil exploration deal.

And also, based on the "Vanity Fair" article that said that the Scottish government released al-Megrahi as part of a quid pro quo arrangement with the British government in return for the release of al-Megrahi, the British parliament changed a statute of limitations for thousands of prisoner abuse lawsuits that the Scottish government was facing. and that saved the Scottish government 50 million pounds. And for the Brits, it saved the BP-Libya deal and other commercial interests.

So, I just cannot accept, when you put all the facts together, that this was just a bad decision. This was a horrendous decision. It eliminated justice for all of those families who lost a loved one on that fateful day. And after being told that for three months, al- Megrahi would die after three months, 17 months later, he's still alive and in the lap of luxury in Tripoli.

PHILLIPS: And you talk about justice being traded for commercial interests, here. So now, is there any chance with these new revelations, the prime minister coming forward saying it was definitely a flawed decision, any chance that al-Megrahi could be taken out of Libya and put back in jail?

MENENDEZ: Well, we're going to continue the drum beat. You know, we had denials all along about any interests in releasing al-Megrahi. Now, as the facts continue to be known, the pressure continues to rise. And we believe that pressure can rise even more if the prime minister does what he asked for when he was the opposition leader, before he became the prime minister. He said there was a full investigation that was needed. That means an investigation with witnesses.

And if that leads to the facts, I think, as we know them, then the drum beat goes on Libya to say, you want to join the family of nations? Well, you can't be having a convicted terrorist in the lap of luxury. You've got to return him to prison. It will be hard, but we're not giving up on that opportunity.

PHILLIPS: I know you won't. Senator Bob Menendez, thanks for calling in.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: You bet.

And next hour, we're going to talk with a woman who lost a loved one to Megrahi's act of terror. We want to get her take on what's going on in this case.


PHILLIPS: Day 15 of the uprising in Egypt. Huge crowds gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square. In fact, CNN crews there say it's the largest crowd they've seen in days.

So far, the rallies have been peaceful, but army soldiers are on hand to prevent a resurgence of the violence that we saw last week. Activists are refusing to leave the square until President Hosni Mubarak is removed from power.

Meanwhile, Egypt's government says it's already inching toward reform. Earlier this morning, it agreed to demands by opposition groups and created a committee to oversee new constitutional rights. The government concessions include freedom of speech and the pledge that critic will not be arrested for speaking their mind.

And some Egyptians say they joined the protest today only after seeing an emotional interview with a Google executive. Wael Ghonim says that he spent nearly two weeks locked up after being snatched off a Cairo street. He had been taking part in street protests but gained most attention for rallying the opposition.


WAEL GHONIM, FREED GOOGLE EXECUTIVE (through translator): I was going to get a taxi so I went one way and I was walking down a straight road and I found all of a sudden, four people surrounding me. They were kidnapping me and I yelled, "Help me!" But, of course, I knew these were security forces. The thing that tortured me the most when I was in detention was that people would find out that I was the admin of the page that was calling for a protest. I didn't want people to find out that I was the admin because I am not the hero. I was writing with a keyboard on the internet and my life was never exposed to any danger.


PHILLIPS: Now, the interviewer showed him photos of those killed in the uprising. He broke down in tears and ended the interview.

It's about 9:30 in the east, a little less than an hour before the sun comes up in Seattle. Right now, we're watching Toyota. We learned why its cars and trucks had that acceleration problem more than a year ago today. The company says its net profits nearly quadrupled between April and December, compared to the previous year.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange back in court fighting extradition to Sweden. He faces two allegations of sexual misconduct. His attorneys claim he could be executed or end up at Gitmo if Sweden sends him to the U.S. Lawyers are due to wrap up the case today.

Reports say Keith Olbermann, the former MSNBC anchor, will tell us today about his new gig. That may include a role with public affairs channel Current TV.

Well, dieting. You've probably done it at least once. But, could counting your calories count to counting your budget? Financial expert Susan Hirschman says yes. In fact, she even wrote the book on it.

She joins us live from New York.

So, Susan, you say the rules of successful dieting are the same rules that apply to successful money management.

SUSAN HIRSCHMAN, AUTHOR, "DOES THIS MAKE MY ASSETS LOOK FAT": Exactly. Balance, moderation, variety. And the constant struggle between balancing your long-term goals and your short-term goals.

PHILLIPS: And you've got five points for us? Quickly.

HIRSCHMAN: Yes. And the parallels between the two, between dieting and investing are amazing.

And the five points are: One, , you look at the process of dieting. Same thing as the process of investigating.

The second, parts. Dieting ask made up of food groups. Investigating is made of asset classes.

Dieting made up of a multiple of those food groups, investing is made up of asset allocation, combining those food groups.

Packaging. The right food comes in different ways. You buy it for different attributes. The same thing, stocks, bonds, cash, alternatives all come in different formats, but you but the buy the package, right, for different reasons.

And then finally, partnership. Dieting we all know success is greater when you have a buddy. And the same thing with investing. If you use an advisor, you tend to have a better rate of success.

PHILLIPS: All right. I love it. You lose weight, you get rich. All right. So, what can people do --


PHILLIPS: How do you get people, though, to stick to this?

HIRSCHMAN: Yes. I mean, it's the same issue with dieting, because the people always say to me that diets don't work. I'm like, diets work. It's the people that don't work.

It's hard work, right? And you have to be emotionally committed to it and understand why you're doing it. And the best way I can say it is that the only person that's responsible for you is you.

PHILLIPS: That's right. You got to make the decision.

Susan Hirschman, thanks so much.

HIRSCHMAN: Exactly. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, Republicans rallying behind one cause: to get President Obama out of office. Who do they think can go up against him in 2012? I'll show you the front-runners.

Plus, a terrifying crash on a California highway. A truck speeding down the wrong side of the interstate and it's all caught on tape.


PHILLIPS: Caught on tape. A Chicago homeowner gets revenge on a shovel thief. A woman swipes a shovel to dig out her car after last week's snowstorm. What he she didn't know was that the homeowner had security cameras and a snow blower. So what did he do? He came out with a snow blower and buried her car.


DAVID WELLES, HOMEOWNER: It felt real good. I'm not going to lie. It felt really good.


PHILLIPS: I'm sorry. I just had to laugh. So did everybody else here on the floor.

All right. Cell phone video. One vehicle catches another motorist going the wrong way on I-5 in California. Well, the car actually wound up in a four-vehicle accident. There were no major injuries, thank goodness. That driver of the wrong way car, 83-years-old.

Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich. You know all their names. We look at the chances one of those being individuals being the top of the GOP ticket in 2012. And someone claiming responsibility for last month's deadly suicide bombing of Russia's largest airport that killed 36 people. So who he is and what took so long? We got that story.



PHILLIPS: So who's the contender for the White House among Republicans? We are less than a year away from the Iowa caucuses and our latest poll shows four names you know with double digit numbers.

CNN's Jessica Yellin breaks it down for us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I get a picture, please.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will she or won't she? If Sarah Palin is planning to run for president in 2012, she isn't saying.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: It's our right to vigorously, yet respectfully, debate ideas and intentions in this country. I'm going to continue down that path and if that leads to being a candidate for a high office, then I will announce that at the appropriate time.

YELLIN: Any candidate would envy her advantages. With her TV appearances and mamma grizzly candidate endorsements, she's built a fundraising machine, political capital, and intense support within her base. Her biggest weakness? Controversial remarks like this one after the Tucson shooting.

PALIN: No one should be deterred from speaking out and speaking up in peaceful dissent.

YELLIN: CNN's polling shows Palin's support among Republicans, eroding over the last year. Now a majority of GOP voters tell CNN they would not back her for the party's nomination.

The polling looks best for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has strong support among Christian conservatives. He told his current employer FOX News he won't announce his intentions before summer.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: I think people get sick of us if we're out there for too long, for too long a period of time. There's nothing new. You're the stale loaf of bread on the shelf and it's very difficult to make your message fresh.

YELLIN: Huckabee's challenges? Showing he can appeal beyond the Republican base and demonstrating foreign policy credentials. He made a recent trip to Israel, but few visits to key early voting states. And political insiders question whether he really wants to make the run. Like the others, Mitt Romney hasn't announced, but that just seems like a formality. Among insiders, it's an open secret the former Massachusetts governor plans to get in the race. He's been raising money, forming alliances and building a political impressive political operation. The former CEO has an unrivaled war chest, raising $6.3 million and contributing nearly $1.2 million to other candidates last election.

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: I'm doing the things like other folks are doing to keep the option open and moving forward in the event that I make a positive decision. But there are matters of health, of support, of the kind of network you'd like to have of individuals behind you. Those are things you've got to assess before you make a final decision.

YELLIN: Romney's greatest hurdle? Explaining away comparisons between the Massachusetts health care plan he championed as governor and the Obama plan so unpopular among GOP primary voters. He told ABC News:

ROMNEY: I'm not apologizing for it. I'm indicating we went in one direction and there are other possible directions. I'd like to see states pursue their own ideas, see which ideas work best.

YELLIN: Then there's the former House speaker Newt Gingrich who says he's considering a run, quote, "very seriously."

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: By the end of February, we'll make a decision whether or not to have an exploratory committee. I think the country has enormous problems. I think it requires a totally different kind of approach.

YELLIN: He's punched his card in the key early voting states. He has broad name recognition and a gift for getting press and generating ideas.

But some Republican insiders fret he lacks the discipline for a presidential campaign. Others warn his past personal indiscretions and three marriages could cost him support among the values-driven Republican base.


PHILLIPS: So Jessica Yellin, why is the process late this year than four years ago?

YELLIN: Well, you know, it's fascinating. All of the Republican candidates this time last cycle had already announced and again none of them has this time. It's a couple of reasons. One, there's going to be such huge fund-raising demands. The later they get in, the less they have to fund-raise.

But also, you know, the longer you wait you can wait to see who else flames out maybe and the game this time, one consultant puts it this way, it's to see who can be the last to get in.

PHILLIPS: All right, so what's the major issues here as the contenders come forward and you know, want to make a run?

YELLIN: You know, obviously, it's going to be jobs, the economy, health care, foreign policy with what's happening in Egypt and seeing how that evolves. But in terms of a big frame, when you talk to the Republicans, these candidates, what they'll say is they are going to run against a different vision of what government's role in our lives should be.

And they are framing, most Republicans you talk to these days, frame the upcoming race in terms of a Democratic vision of government's role versus a Republican vision and that will be the ground this race is run on.

PHILLIPS: Jessica Yellin -- all right, thanks.

We're going to have your next political update in just about an hour. For all the latest political news you can always go to our Web site too, 24/7,

Newt Gingrich warns that -- warns rather that if the Muslim Brotherhood becomes part of the democratic process in Egypt it could have dire consequences for Americans. Gingrich talked about the opposition Islamic group on CNN's "JOHN KING'S USA" last night.


GINGRICH: I am very concerned. We want to help the people of Egypt achieve democracy and I'm very concerned that that State Secretary Clinton apparently said that we want to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood.

I think this is absolute total misleading of history. The Muslim Brotherhood is a mortal enemy of our civilization. They say so openly, their slogan says so openly. Their way is jihad. Their method is death.

For us to -- to encourage in any way the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood is fundamentally wrong.


PHILLIPS: Well, Jordan's Queen Noor responded to Gingrich's comments on CNN's "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT".


QUEEN NOOR OF JORDAN, CHAIR, KING HUSSEIN FOUNDATION: That is -- this -- this very polarizing approach to -- to what is taking place in the Middle East that has dominated for a very long time that assumes that anyone who is -- where -- that any religious group is somehow dangerous and extreme.

Whereas, in fact, most Arabs -- religion is important to most Arabs and most Arabs actually are moderate, peaceful centrists.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIPS: You can watch CNN's newest prime time show, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Well, blame it on Rio. The city's annual carnival celebration may be a bit more Spartan this year because of the fire and smoke you're seeing right here.

But first, "Flashback": guess who turns 101 years old today? Here is a hint. It's a real badge of distinction that definitely merits our attention. Scout's honor, I wouldn't lie. On this date, 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated. Talk about paying it forward.


PHILLIPS: Live pictures now from our affiliate out of Los Angeles, KTLA. This is what we can tell you. This is it in Lamert Park. The LAPD is investigating a suspicious package that was discovered inside this Cadillac here in this neighborhood. It's a white Cadillac. This is a residential area, by the way, near Vernon and Ninth Avenue.

If you know it, they have called the bomb squad in. And while they are trying to investigate to see if indeed this is a threat, MTA buses have actually been brought in to evacuate everybody from the neighborhood.

So we're watching that for you and following it live with our affiliate KTLA there from the helicopter.

All right. North and South Korea nudging closer to negotiations; this tops our "Morning Passport" this morning. For the first time since artillery erupted over a disputed island, both sides sat down for bilateral talks this morning at the DMZ border. That's where the Korean War truce talks were held back in the 1950s.

South Korea wants the north to take responsibility for the November shelling of the Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of a South Korean warship back in March. North Korea denies firing on that ship. 46 South Korean Sailors died in that attack.

To Russia, where there's a new yet somewhat belated claim of responsibility for last month's suicide bombing at the Moscow airport that killed 36 people. In this video message, a Chechen rebel leader announced that the January 24th bombing was carried out on his order. He's promising similar attacks in the future for Russia's so-called occupation of Chechnya.

And check out the smoke from the building fire in Rio de Janeiro's Samba city yesterday. It could threaten next month's carnival festivities we're told. The fire broke out where the celebration's floats and decorations are created. Six of which were destroyed. The city's annual party is set to begin March 5th.

And this may seem like a "Monty Python" skit but the crazy crime busting apparently took place in North Hampton England. Watch closely, jewelry store robbers are driven off by a hand handbag- wielding heroine. The red-coated elderly woman whacks the bad guys with her bag, driving them off. A couple fell from their scooters before making their get-away.

All right. We're following lots of developments in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

Let's check in first with senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, looking ahead at the field of potential presidential candidates for 2012 -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kyra. We are kicking off our new series "The Contenders", getting an early look at 2012 just about a year out from when the caucuses and primaries start for the Republicans.

What about the democratic side? Will President Obama face a democratic primary challenge? We'll have the answer coming up.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Two storms plus more cold air from Canada. Shocking, I know but this could be the coldest of the season for some. We'll talk about the warm-up after for some as well in the next hour.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ed Lavandera. I'll have the story of five sets of brothers about to deploy into the war in Afghanistan. You often hear soldiers and marines talk about how they're a family going into battle. Well, literally these guys are family. I'll have that story coming up.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks guys.

And for more than two weeks, Egyptians have protested in the streets calling for their leader to step down. If and when Hosni Mubarak does leave, he won't likely be searching for a job to make ends meet. And expert from Princeton University will tell you why. That's coming up at the top of the hour.


PHILLIPS: Check this out. This is so Green Bay. They'll be celebrating for weeks -- not days, weeks.

JEFF FISCHEL, HLN SPORTS: Isn't the relationship between this team and this city just fantastic?

PHILLIPS: It's pretty awesome. I feel so lucky to have worked in that city for two years and cover the Packers for a short period of time. They totally immerse themselves in the community. It's great. You see them at restaurants, at bars, hanging out.

FISCHEL: And you know, the city owns the team.

PHILLIPS: Right. Everyone's got a piece of the pie.

FISCHEL: Absolutely. It's unlike any other organization of football and the fans love it. Packer backers head to Lambeau Field in Green Bay later today for the team's return to title town celebration. Yesterday the team did get back to Green Bay after the Super Bowl win down in Texas.

Look at the welcome. The fans are just going nuts. Of course, when it's Green Bay winning the title, the kids are let out of school early, right.

PHILLIPS: Yes. No, it's true. Everything shuts down and it's all about being at the airport to welcome the team.

FISCHEL: And again today, with the celebration kids will be allowed to get out of school early again today, which is just fantastic. And by the way, the game itself, the most watched television program in U.S. History; 111 million people watched the Packers beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Well, Michael Vick, he was given the key to a city. You are wondering which city would do that? Vick was in Dallas over the weekend for the game, and a Dallas city council member honored him with a key to the city.

It didn't take long for people to complain, of course, and the council member apologized yesterday. He said he didn't mean to offend anyone. He just wanted to recognize Vick for the way he turned his life around.

The Cavs are the biggest losers. They lost again. They went down to the Mavericks last night. I could find some polite way to say it but it just wouldn't be right. The Cleveland Cavaliers are bad; no really bad. No, historically bad. They have no fear. The loss extends their NBA record losing streak to 25 in a row.

The only thing you can compare them to is the early days of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they just started playing; they lost 26 in a row. So, there you go. One more for the Cavs, and they tie the all-time record in professional sports and there's no telling how long this thing goes on. Poor team without LeBron.

PHILLIPS: What a way to go down.


PHILLIPS: Yes. The team's not good. Jeff, thanks.