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Countdown To Iowa Caucuses; In Syria, Gunfire And Violence Flare; Arab League Monitors Visit Syria; Churches Bombed In Nigeria; Seven Dead In Christmas Day Shooting; Post Office Torched, Shot Up; Winning $125 Million Powerball Ticket Sold; Iowa's Potential Kingmaker; Weather's Impact On Iowa Caucuses; Shoppers Return To The Stores; Bombers Strikes Iraq Checkpoint; Bodies Wash Ashore In Philippines; Report: Errors In Fukushima Response; Anonymous" Hackers Strike Again; No Gingrich, No Perry In Virginia

Aired December 26, 2011 - 10:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Another hour of NEWSROOM. The holidays are winding down and the presidential campaign is once again heating up. One week from tomorrow, Tuesday, the Iowa caucuses will mark the first formal votes in the 2012 presidential race.

Right now, it is too close to call. You can see it there in the graphic. According from a poll from the American Research Group, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are locked in a three way statistical tie.

The other candidates are in single digits in lag far behind though you have 12 percent undecided. CNN's political editor, Paul Steinhauser is in Des Moines with more on these results a little more than a week away from the caucuses. Hi, Paul.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Eight days away now from the caucuses. Of course, they kick off the primary caucus calendar, and Hala, I've got to say the weather is pretty mild out here. There's no snow. It's going to be in the mid 40s.

This is not late December weather in Iowa. I've been out here for a bunch of caucuses. Usually a lot colder, a lot more snow. That poll you mentioned, it also indicates about one in ten likely Iowa caucus goers are still undecided.

And a bunch say, you know what, I'm backing this candidate one or that one but I could change my mind. Check this out though, I guess the story has got to be Ron Paul. This is the "Des Moines Register." Here's their front page today. Could Ron Paul win?

Listen, we've seen his poll numbers. They have been rising over the last couple of months here in Iowa and nationally. He ran four years ago. It's a different story this time around.

It seems like when it comes to some of the positions he was on four years ago, he was on the fringe maybe. Now his positions are starting to be front and center of the Republican Party -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, let's talk about the ads because candidates often pledge that they won't go negative, but we have been seeing some pretty negative ads in Iowa, haven't we?

STEINHAUSER: We've seen some interesting stuff here. Remember, it was just a couple weeks ago that Newt Gingrich was the frontrunner here in Iowa. But some of the ads have been a little tough on Gingrich. Take a look at some of the ads on Iowa TV.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you really want to know how a person will operate, look at how they've lived their life. I think that's why it's so important to understand the character of the person. To me that makes a huge difference. Maybe some voters it doesn't, but for me it makes a huge difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Anita Perry. When Rick served tour of duty as a captain in the Air Force ended he returned home to farm with his dad and asked me to marry him. We grew up in small towns raised with Christian values. Values we still believed in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what makes Barack Obama happy, Newt Gingrich's baggage. He has more baggage than the airlines.


STEINHAUSER: Isn't that interesting? We're starting to see the candidates' wives in the ads. That was Ann Romney and Anita Perry, the wives of Mitt Romney and of course, Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Both of them touting their husband's family values and their -- it's interesting. Maybe they're trying to compare to Newt Gingrich. The other one was an independent ad really going after Newt Gingrich. He is coming under attack a lot now, Hala, out here in Iowa.

GORANI: OK, we'll see what impact that all has. We'll check in with you a little bit. Paul Steinhauser is in Des Moines.

Still ahead, viewing the Iowa caucuses from the inside. Approving king maker discusses who he likes, who he does not like, and who will see their future take shape in the coming days so join us for that.

And this reminder, tune in a week from tomorrow for the country's first real votes and the first true tests for the candidates. Live America's Choice 2012 coverage of the Iowa caucuses begins Tuesday night, January 3rd, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

A team of outside observers heads to Syria today in the midst of a bloody crackdown. Activists say there are more bloodshed, more violence and scenes like this, tanks, opening fire in the streets.

Well, we can't verify the video, the Syrian government is not allowing us back in to Syria, but it's all part of renewed government brutality that has reportedly left 13 people dead so far today according to activists.

Mohammed Jamjoom is tracking the latest developments.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the Syrian government crackdown intensifies, the first of a small group of outside observers is beginning to arrive in Damascus. We have no idea if the Arab League observers will be able to get close to the scenes of violence that continue to pour out of Syria.

Here a tank rolls down a street, a neighborhood in the flashpoint city of Homs. Activists say thousands of Syrian troops have recently surrounded it and are shelling it almost daily.

CNN can't verify many of the videos posted from Syria, but one Homs resident describes the carnage he's witness explaining how everyone has become a target.

ABU OMAR, HOMS RESIDENT (via telephone): I'm now near the field hospital. In the last two days, there is a lot of injury. More than 200 injuries in the last three days. They executed little children because they shout against the Assad. They bombing one house, a civilian house.

JAMJOOM: In the past week, the Syrian government's bombardment has escalated. The same day a protocol was signed allowing those Arab League observers into Syria. Activists say the Syrian army stormed a town (inaudible) a part of Idlib province.

This video purports to show family members mourning of loved ones who have died in what's being called a massacre. Residents of Idlib have become accustomed to the violence. Many even fear to bury their dead in public cemeteries.

In this video taken in November, some buried their loved ones near a deserted road. At a hospital, one injured demonstrator lays in his bed and tells of the horrors he's seen. I've seen wounded people taken by security forces with their oxygen masks still on, he says.

Another man described a crackdown he experienced. I was injured by gunfire in a protest, he says. Security forces fired on us and injured many youth, and one was killed. I went to a hospital and was treated.

With many Syrian neighborhoods deserted and besieged, many people are now questioning how effective the Arab League Observers Mission will be.


GORANI: Mohammed Jamjoom joins me live from Cairo right now. The situation right now, Mohammed, we're hearing of up to 21 people killed in Homs alone. This is as the Arab League monitors are in the country according to activists.

JAMJOOM: That's right. It's very disturbing news out of Homs today according to the activists that we've been speaking with. They say at least 21 killed. Hundreds injured on the same day that these Arab League observers are set to arrive in Syria. Many people wondering how effective these Arab League observers can be.

We're also seeing scenes purporting to show more violence there today. These are clips that have been posted to YouTube. One shows an alley way where there are houses that purportedly are under attack.

People screaming, God is great, from inside the houses. There's another video that's posted showing a tank roaming through the street of what appears to Homs according to activists shooting.

This is some of the video posted, very disturbing videos. The more and more we talk to activists and opposition groups inside of Homs and inside of Syria, they use words like carnage and bloodbath.

They say that this crackdown by the Syrian government that they allege is going on has been absolutely unrelenting and they need help right away -- Hala.

GORANI: Yes, I know many people here in the United States, Mohammed, were looking at the situation in Syria and are saying, look, what can be done?

They're hoping that this Arab League delegation at the very least will come back and report on some of the carnage taking place that activists are telling us about, but will this delegation, as criticized as it's been, be allowed into places like Homs?

JAMJOOM: Well, Hala, that's the key question. We've spoken to members of the Arab League today. They say that members of this observer's mission, that they will travel to Homs tomorrow. We're also hearing that they may go to cities like Idlib where crackdowns and massacres have reportedly happened.

But, again, what are the parameters of their mission? We still don't know. Even if they get to these cities, will they be able to go to the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the crackdowns?

Will their mission be an (inaudible) one? Will the Syrian government allow them free rein? What exactly will they be able to do? You know, Members of the Syrian National Committee and members of opposition groups have said repeatedly that they want the Arab League to go to these towns to stop a genocide from possibly happening -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, and I've been speaking with sources who recently left Syria saying the economic situation is starting to become more and more disastrous without the oil to power generators, food prices going up. So this is something we're going to keep a close eye on as well as the U.S. approach to the unfolding crisis. Mohammed, thanks very much.

Well, let's talk about Nigeria. The U.N. is condemning a Christmas Day bombing there. A string of blasts targeted churches in five cities and it left dozens of people dead or wounded.

There were similar attacks on churches last year's Christmas season. Zain Verjee is in London for more. Zain, tell us about these attacks, specifically about churches on a very holy day for Christians, of course.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Hala. This is the second time in two years this has happened. Now it's widely being reported that the group Boco Haram is claiming responsibility. That's translated loosely into western education is sinful.

This is a group that western that police and security forces as well as western agencies have really kept their eye on. They have increased in sophistication in their attacks. They're also better coordinated.

Essentially they have loosely founded themselves on the Taliban in Afghanistan and their goal is to impose Sharia Law across all of Nigeria. Now one of their biggest concerns is that they're going to be able to continue attacks like this and fuel sectarian violence in the country.

In fact, a lot of people are saying is one of the ways they've been able to fund themselves is by robbing banks recently. There has been a whole spate of that that's been going on in the last few months.

They've also been flashing much more with police and security forces in Nigeria. Abouga is on alert. People say that they are really scared and in fact, Boco Haram is sending out texts to people saying, be careful, more attacks are coming -- Hala.

GORANI: OK, Zain Verjee, thanks very much.

A group of hackers is bragging about stealing confidential information from a global security group. Credit card information, other sensitive info could be in their hands right now. They hacked Stratfor. We'll have a live report coming up.

And a working vacation for the president and first lady. We'll tell you about their Christmas Day visit with the troops. Stay with us.


GORANI: A look at news from across the country now. Police in Grapevine, Texas, say three men and four women, seven people total shot to death on Christmas Day.

Police say they may have been opening gifts when they were killed. It was an apparent murder/suicide. It happened in an apartment outside of Dallas. Officials believe the victims were all related.

In Nevada, officials expect arson in a blaze that heavily damaged a post office on Sunday. About 800 people get their mail there. Investigators also found bullet holes and some antigovernment graffiti on the walls. Federal agents are joining the investigation into the arson there.

In Maryland, there's a new multi-millionaire. Lottery officials say the winning ticket for Saturday's $125 million Power Ball jackpot was sold at Wesley's Restaurant and Lounge.


JOHN WESLEY, WESLEY'S DISCOUNT LIQUORS: One of my employees talked to him. He said they got the ticket here and they said -- he said in about two days I'll see you. Want everything to settle down a little bit.

TERRI WILFONG, CUSTOMER: I hope it's somebody that really needs the money. You know, it's a lot of money. It's going to change their lives, for the better, I hope, but a great Christmas present.


GORANI: Well, let's count down to the caucuses, everyone. Just eight more days until Iowa hosts the first formal vote of the presidential season. For candidates it's a critical test.

Momentum can be seized or squandered. Our next guest can tip the scale. Steve Deace is host of a syndicated talk radio show. He endorsed Mike Huckabee in 2008.

Steve Deace, a lot of people believe that helped Huckabee win the Iowa caucuses. He joins me now live from Des Moines. Hi there, Steve Deace, who are you endorsing this time around?

STEVE DEACE, SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know what? I'll tell you when I figure it out. I'm just as undecided as a lot of the voters are. I think I'm ready to endorse Hewt Bachporum (ph).

Maybe I could take a little bit from each of the candidates that I like, come up with the perfect alternative for Barack Obama and we can call it a day.

But I think a lot of people, myself included. They see things they like in almost all of the candidates, which makes the decision-making process more difficult.

GORANI: OK, but you must be leaning towards one of the candidates, no?

DEACE: I would say I would be leaning towards a few candidates. You know, there's things I like about Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

I really haven't had a chance to get to know Rick Perry very much. I think maybe his campaign has done him really a disservice in Iowa. He got off to a bad start.

But his television ads that he's running now are a big hit with people. I do think they've helped him rehabilitate his image after a month and a half of serious debate gaffes.

GORANI: So you just mentioned Rick Perry. Now tomorrow you're hosting a pro-life, this is going to be, I understand, on the radio and on TV, it's called "A Pro-Life Town Hall Meeting." Now, who is attending this? Who will take part in this? DEACE: Michele Bachmann will be there along with Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. So we will have four of the Republican candidates taking questions from pro-life activists and voters around the country on my show.

GORANI: And how important will it be, do you think? I mean, I imagine you're going to tell me it's going to be important since it's your program. But historically it has been, who you decide to endorse has had an impact. So will this have a big impact?

DEACE: I think it will have an impact on my decision-making process, like it will most to Iowans. Keep in mind that the prolife vote in Iowa is the most loyal voting block in the Iowa caucuses.

So they are definitely going to come out en masse. But what we don't know is if they will come out en masse for one candidate like they did Mike Huckabee four years ago or whether or not we will see them splintered amongst several candidates as the polls currently show.

GORANI: OK, you don't like Mitt Romney much, do you? You told the "Des Moines Register," I would need to hear the audible voice of God telling me to vote for Mitt Romney to go in that direction.

What don't you like about Mitt Romney and why would God have to enter the picture and tell you who to vote for at this stage?

DEACE: Well, to me, I think elections ought to be about candidates who have differences with one another. As Donald Wildman of the American Family Association put it on my show just last week, if Mitt Romney is the nominee, it's Obama versus Obama light.

I mean, he beat Obama. It's government enforced health care, $50 taxpayer-funded abortions, he did stand up to the Massachusetts court when they destroyed marriage in that state.

And his record of opposing Reagan-Bush, the Bush tax cuts, he was for amnesty, he was for gun control. I mean, do you have an hour? I mean, we can continue.


DEACE: I mean, this guy really is the quintessential Rockefeller Republican.

GORANI: All right, let me ask -- so is he invited to this pro-life town hall or is he not invited then?

DEACE: The folks that are sponsoring this, Personhood, USA, they invited all of the presidential candidates and the four that I mentioned earlier, Gingrich, Bachmann, Santorum, Perry, those are the four that RSVP.

GORANI: Steve Deace, thanks very much. Joining us live from Des Moines, Iowa eight days from the caucuses.

The race won't just be decided by power brokers and political ads. Mother nature could have a big vote. In fact, the 2008 Iowa caucus winner, Mike Huckabee, predicts that next Tuesday's outcome could be decided by the weather.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the weather is good, Mitt Romney is in better shape. If the weather is bad, and it's tough to get out, Ron Paul will win.


GORANI: Rob Marciano can answer that question. You're a meteorologist and you can possibly predict the winner of the Iowa caucuses based on what's the weather will be like in Des Moines.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we'll see if those two variables come together, Hala. Well, right now it's mild. There's no snow in Iowa, which is fairly rare. Temperatures have been well above average.

The reason being is the jet stream has pretty much kept most of the rain and the cold air, at least the cold air, bottled up in Canada. If we get the jet stream to dip a little further south, that will unleash some of that cold air, which Iowa is so known for.

All right, this is today's weather now, but let's go into the future now. January 3rd, Tuesday, that's over a week away and to forecast that far in advantages, you'll obviously look at patterns. You look at computer models and some going further up are pretty good.

Outside of three or five days, you have to take it with a grain of salt. So here we go, Iowa caucus forecast. We have December 31st. That's New Year's Eve at 12:00 p.m. The white is indicated by clouds and the colors indicate precipitation.

So we'll run the clock and we'll stop it at 9:00 on New Year's Day and notice that we've got a little something that's coming along the mid section of the country. This is a cold front. How strong it is and the timing of it, you've got to give or take basically 24, 48 hours.

But there's something come through the Iowa area January 1st or so. That will be of interest. But the question again is how strong will it be? The odds are it's not going to be that strong even if it does come through, Hala.

Temperatures typically in the morning are at 16 degrees. The forecast for January 3rd in the 20s. Forecast high expected to be above the freezing mark, which will be eight or nine degrees above average at this time.

So odds are it's going to be on the mild side, which at least the long-range forecast would bode well for Mitt Romney.

GORANI: I have to say it's very mild here as well from what I gathered at 5:00 a.m. in the morning, but so much warmer than I thought it would be. Thanks very much, Rob. We'll catch up with you a little bit later for more.

So it's like Christmas part two, the post-holiday blitz for sales and returns. Retailers hope it'll be a Black Monday today.

And the hackers who call themselves "Anonymous" are getting a lot of attention again. Their latest target, this web site. We'll tell you what they're after.


GORANI: Well, between the returns and the sales, some analysts say today could be the third biggest shopping day of the year, and stores really hope that it will be.

Alison Kosik is live outside Macy's in New York City. So, Alison, is it as busy as shops and stores are hoping that it will be today?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's not as busy as Black Friday was per se, but you know what, it still feels like Christmas here. The music playing, the Salvation Army bell is going off. People are shopping still like it's still the holiday.

So yes, retailers are probably reveling in the fact that people are still pouring in and shopping. What people are really going for are those discounts.

Case in point, Jasmine who I ran into, she is definitely on a mission armed with her coupons as she walked into Macy's. Jasmine, why shop after Christmas?

JASMINE TANGCAY, VISITING FROM LONDON: Because you end up saving loads of money, like these coupons have $10 off.

KOSIK: You're not shopping for everybody else. That's sort of a factor in it, isn't it?

TANGCAY: Yes, you spend -- you're shopping for your friends. After Christmas it's all about you and saving money.

KOSIK: You're from London. How important is it to get a good deal here today?

TANGCAY: Really important. Yes.

KOSIK: And are you finding that you're finding deals this week? I know you've been here this week.

TANGCAY: Yes, I found a great deal today. I went up to get some material girl jeans by Madonna and they were $36 cut down to $19. With the coupon I got them for $13.

KOSIK: And that's a real find. She said that the Madonna jeans you can't find in London. So there you go, you can find stuff like that. Enjoy your shopping, Jasmine. Thank you.

That's what a lot of these retailers, Hala, are banking on, that a lot of these consumers will go for the deeper discounts. Because the fact is, these retailers, they want to push out the merchandise that's still on the shelf.

Because guess what, spring is just around the corner even though it doesn't feel like it today -- Hala.

GORANI: No, it sure doesn't. Thanks very much, Alison.

Newt Gingrich's campaign says it may have experienced a Pearl Harbor moment. Why Newt Gingrich did not qualify for the Virginia primary.

Our "Political Buzz" panel sounds off about what this means for Newt Gingrich 2012 right after this.


GORANI: Checking top stories now. At least five people are dead, another 39 hurt after a suicide car bomber struck a security check point right by Iraq's Interior Ministry compound. Dozens of people have died in bombing since the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq just over a week ago.

Also among the stories we're following, this just deadly devastating situation in the Philippines. More bodies are washing ashore there after brutal tropical storm. The number of dead now tops 1,200.

The Japanese government was not ready for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, neither was the power company. That's according to a new interim government report slamming the response to the tsunami in March saying workers weren't properly trained and that the government hesitated too much when it came to people's safety.

"Political Buzz" is your rapid fire look at the best political topics of the day. Three questions and 30 seconds on the clock. Playing with us today, political analyst and culture critic, Goldie Taylor, Sirius XM political talk show host, Pete Dominick and CNN contributor, Will Cain.

First question, Mike Huckabee is not a weather man, but he is making some weather predictions about the Iowa caucuses now just eight day away. He says he thinks Romney will win but bad weather could turn the outcome in favor of Ron Paul.

So what does Romney need to do to turn his fair weather fans into actual votes? All right. Let's start with Will.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know what, I think Mike Huckabee's actually exactly right on this. Ron Paul fans we know are extremely intense, extremely passionate. They're like the post service. They're going to come out in hail, sleet, snow, wind, straw polls, Internet chat board. They're there for him.

While Mitt Romney's the default candidate. And as a default candidate you look outside, it's cloudy, to hell with it, I'm not going out. I think that Mitt Romney can't change his strategy. All he can do is be there for them when they reject their front-runner of the moment. He -- it has worked for him so far he just has to stick with it.

GORANI: All right Goldie, your thoughts.

GOLDIE TAYLOR, POLITICAL ANALYST AND CULTURE CRITIC: Well, I think Huckabee should probably get a job with the Psychic Friends Network because he's probably right on the money with this. Ron Paul supporters, as you say, they are extraordinarily loyal, extraordinarily passionate. They're going to come out no matter what the weather is.

However, the Romney supporters, yes, they are a bit soft. And it's just going to be tough for him to win in a place like Iowa when you've got somebody like Ron Paul doing the job. You know Iowans just don't trust -- you know conservative Iowans just don't trust Mitt Romney.


PETE DOMINICK, SIRIUS XM TALK SHOW HOST: Well, what can Mitt Romney do to win in Iowa? He should listen to Huckabee because he won there in 2007. I don't know maybe -- maybe Romney could wager $10,000 with Iowa primary voters. That might -- maybe could buy them all umbrellas to brave the weather. Maybe he could be less Mormony and more Evangelical if you asked me they're all the same magic.

But listen Huckabee won there I think mainly because he's Evangelical. And Romney, that's going to hurt him there. But Ron Paul does have those really, really excited voters. So I think it's going to be tough. Romney's just not exciting. We'll see.

GORANI: Less Mormony.

DOMINICK: It's a new word.

GORANI: Ok question number two. And by the way -- all right, it's a new world. By the way our meteorologist Rob Marciano is forecasting mild weather. So if -- if what Huckabee said holds, then, we might have some insight into who might win it.

Virginia primary voters won't see Newt Gingrich on their ballots. He missed the deadline to get the 10,000 signatures to secure his spot. Now his campaign director is comparing the flub to Pearl Harbor, the attack that drew the United States into the war, the Second World War in 1941.

So the question is, is Newt Gingrich organized enough to be commander-in-chief in your opinion, Goldie?

TAYLOR: No. Never has been.

GORANI: Ok. Next, so no.

TAYLOR: This is like a book tour gone awry. I mean, at the end of the day he bombed his own harbor. How do you not organize your own state? I mean, that's a real problem for Newt Gingrich and it's going to be a problem for him in Iowa, a problem for him in Florida. Heck, it's going to be a problem for him in every state he faces. You have to organize.

GORANI: All right. Will, interesting to compare your campaign and any setback to World War II and the ally's fight against Nazi Germany. What do you think?

CAIN: I don't think that's a very historical, the appropriate analysis for the historian. Let's just -- again it's not like Pearl Harbor. I do think Virginia rules are somewhat odd. We're going to have a situation where five of the seven Republican candidates are going to be on the ballot. It's going to be Mitt Romney versus Ron Paul, that's it on the Virginia ballot?

But that being said, the rules are the rules and they're not knew. And everybody knew them. And so if Newt Gingrich can't organize enough to get on the ballot, well, you can't sit there and complain to the rest, Newt? That's the deal, you didn't organize enough to get in it. And it makes us wonder how are you going to be organized enough if you has to be commander-in-chief.

GORANI: Pete Dominick, organized enough or not?

DOMINICK: No, well he's organized at selling books. And I think he already sold as many as he can in Virginia so he doesn't really care about that. This Pearl Harbor analogy, I'll use a Newt word, is profoundly disrespectful to the families and victims. Even though it was 70 years ago, it's still terrible.

Listen, the reason why people in Virginia, he didn't get on the ballot there, because people in Virginia know him and he's from there. And people who know Newt Gingrich don't like Newt Gingrich. And I'm talking about Republicans like Tom Coburn. People who know him don't like him. He's going to have, the fact that he didn't get on the ballot in a state that he lives in, he lives there, means he's sold enough books there.

GORANI: Your "Buzzer Beater", everyone; 20 seconds each. Donald Trump is ditching the GOP switching his party to unaffiliated. Are we going to see a Donald or an Eva Donald 2012 ballot on the ballot? Will, let's start with you.

CAIN: This is no big shocker, right? I mean, so he's unaffiliated now with the Republican Party. He's affiliated solely with himself. That's a big shocker. That should really set us all back.

No, we're not going to see a Donald 2012. I don't know there's enough money in that for him or enough -- enough of any benefit for him where he's not going to run. That's been the safe bet all along, Hala. It doesn't matter if we're talking about Republican nominee or whatever. The safe bet with Donald is he's not going to run.

GORANI: All right, Goldie?

TAYLOR: Three words, federal financial disclosure. He's not going to do that. There is no way on this God's green earth that Donald Trump is going to tell Americans how much money he really does not have. So no, he's not running.

GORANI: And Pete?

DOMINICK: Oh this is always funny. Maybe he should change his legal name to The Donald, Hala.


GORANI: First name "The", last name "Donald?"

DOMINICK: Exactly.


DOMINICK: Yes but I'd like to see his birth certificate. But the truth is -- the truth is those are all good points by Goldie and Will. The truth is you could never win the nomination if you have been married three times before and Donald has.

GORANI: All right.

DOMINICK: Wait. There was one other. I forget his name.

GORANI: All right, yes I forget it as well. Pete, Will, Goldie, thanks to all three of you.

This reminder, tune in a week from tomorrow for the country's first real votes and the first true test there for the Republican presidential race.

Ok. Let us take a short break. When we come back, the hackers who call themselves "Anonymous" are getting a lot of attention. Once again, their latest target is this Web site. We'll tell you what they claim to have stolen.

And you played a major role in documenting history. "The Best of iReport in 2011". That is coming up later. Some amazing images after the break.


GORANI: Well, there's a hacking group known as "Anonymous". And apparently it's at it again. It claims to have hacked a global intelligence company's Web site and released the names of clients along with information linked to thousands of credit cards.

Now this is StratFor, Strategic Forecasting, Inc.; Bank of America, Lock Heed Martin, and the Defense Department are a few of its clients. And it says that it can provide security analysis and projections in conflict zones, among other things.

Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr joins us to explain the possible fallout.

And first off, how does a company that provides this type of analysis to its clients about security allow itself to be hacked? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is going to be the question, isn't it? I suppose their company cyber experts are going to have to take a look inside their own company to see what's going on. The question will be whether that information was encrypted, of course.

You know, we see this kind of thing all the time, don't we now, about credit card data being stolen. That's a concern, but in corporate security for our own personal financial security.

This company though, it's pretty interesting. Information on 4,000 credit cards. They have both government clients and private sector, corporate clients, companies that do business in the international business community that want to know about threats and situations around the world. That's the kind of information Stratfor provides. They couldn't somehow protect their own data from "Anonymous", this hacking group. The concern, of course, now is that "Anonymous" appears to be threatening to do more this week during the holiday week -- more cyber attacks. That's put the cyber community, including the government, on a bit of edge -- Hala.

GORANI: So what are the hackers saying? What is their motive in doing this? Because I understand that some of the credit card information that was allegedly stolen was used to then make donations to NGOs and charitable organizations. I mean is this a political message they're trying to send?

STARR: you know, who knows because we haven't really been able to get to "Anonymous". But it does appear to be, doesn't it? They are making these types of donations by all accounts. They are making political statements about this.

Cyber crime, cyber attacks, they either appear these days to fall into this political basket of motivations or pure criminal activity, which a cyber attack is. That, of course, is the bottom line, the stealing of financial data. "Anonymous" may be making these statements about making these donations, but as they wreak havoc in the cyber world, the question is this is a crime and what else are they going to do with the data that by all accounts, by their accounts, they appear to now have their hands on -- Hala.

GORANI: Ok. Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

A Christmas tragedy in Connecticut. Fire ripped through this home. A woman loses her children and her parents.

Also, you, the viewer, played a major role in documenting history. The best iReports of 2011 coming up.


GORANI: Here's a quick look at news from across the country.

In Connecticut, fire tore through an advertising executive's home killing her three children and both of her parents on Christmas morning. She made it out alive, as did a contractor renovating the home.

In Lebanon, Missouri, the mystery surrounding a newborn boy's death is deepening. The makers of Enfamil say tests found no presence of the bacteria blamed for the baby's death. The FDA and the CDC are testing their own samples.

The Seattle area recovering from a powerful wind storm. You see the aftermath there. Gusts topped 50 miles-an-hour in some spots. Our affiliate KOMO is reporting a nine-year-old girl died when the tree hit the SUV she was riding in.

Well, this year you, the viewers, made a huge difference in helping us report the news that made history. I remember relying so much on some of your images from the Arab Spring, but also other stories, including the Occupy Movement. Here's the year that was through the eyes of our CNN iReports.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're so excited. I'm so proud to be an Arab today. For the people of Egypt who want to have a better life.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. Holy crap. Oh, my god, the building's going to fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole ground was shaking so much. It was unreal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something that you would not wish upon your worst enemy.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're currently being escorted by local authorities down to the media area to get as close to Buckingham Palace as possible.



WOMEN: Congratulations, William and Catherine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now we will fight for jobs. We will fight for (INAUDIBLE).



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's over. The tyrant is gone.


GORANI: And we are very grateful to you because so many of these stories are told with your help and grateful, especially to the people in these conflict zones in Syria, in Libya and other places where it's extremely dangerous to gather this information. But where your images have made it essential, have made it easier for us to understand the full story.

2001 (SIC) has been a year filled with headlines. We want your input on picking the biggest stories. Go to to cast your vote for the top ten stories of 2011. We'll tally the votes and have the list for you Friday at 9:00 a.m. right here on CNN.

Well, the service men and women are out of Iraq. They're enjoying the holidays with their families. We'll take you to one happy homecoming after this.


GORANI: President Obama spent a very quiet Christmas with family and friends in Hawaii. Earlier in the day the First Family attended church services at a marine corps base. And the President and first lady greeted hundreds of service members as well as their families. They signed a few autographs and posed for photos as well.

Well, here's proof that Christmas magic is not just for the young. Here is Army Sergeant Brenda Beaton stepping down from Santa's sleigh and delivering quite a shock to her 78-year-old mother. Sgt. Beaton made sure her mom would attend the annual Christmas parade in the Boston suburb of Lynn. She hopped a ride aboard a parade float and made sure the procession came to a halt in front of her mom.


SGT. BRENDA BEATON, U.S. ARMY: I just got back from Iraq two weeks ago. I told my brother I was I'm going to come home and not tell mom. It was big. It was a big surprise.

EILEEN BEATON, SOLDIER'S HOME: Like I almost died. I could have fallen through the ground.


GORANI: Well, Beaton's elderly mom said she didn't want to celebrate Christmas without her daughter. We're told they had quite the family celebration on Sunday.

CNN photo journalist Mike Green and Barry Schlabel captured the sites and sounds of more homecomings from Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back. Welcome home Air Force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck to you, brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The families are really the power behind the war effort. Thank you very much because it's your sacrifice and service that makes it all worthwhile and makes it all possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for bringing him home safely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The families need to hear that we appreciate as senior leaders their sacrifice and service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an honor to serve with you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the 8.5 years of combat and training the Iraqi forces after combat. But it's really the end of 21 years of involvement in Iraq. Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Northern Watch, Southern Watch, provide cover. Desert Fox, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn. That's the real message to America is this is not just the end of 8.5 years, it's 21 years of involvement in that country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the last guy. What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to be back in the good old U.S. of A.


GORANI: All right. Well, the race in Iowa may be tight, but what about New Hampshire? Well, it's not as tight. How far ahead is Mitt Romney? We have results of a new poll coming up in our political ticker.


GORANI: It looks like Newt Gingrich won't be on the primary ballot in his home state of Virginia. Both Gingrich and Rick Perry failed to collect the 10,000 signatures needed to qualify.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser joins us live from Des Moines, Iowa this morning. Now Paul, Virginia is an important super Tuesday state. It's where Newt Gingrich actually lives, ok, so what is the impact going to be on his campaign?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, let's say it's a two-person or three-person contest by early March on super Tuesday. Every delegate matters, of course, if it's a close contest. So yes, it could hurt since Gingrich will not be on the ballot in Virginia. Who is on the ballot? Ron Paul, the Congressman from Texas and Mitt Romney the former Massachusetts governor. They're the only two candidates who were able to get on.

Virginia, Hala, has a high threshold. You need 10,000 signatures. Gingrich was in Virginia last week. He had two events on Wednesday night and again on Thursday. Thursday was the deadline to get on the ballot there. He came close. Didn't make it. Neither did Texas Governor Rick Perry or any of the other candidates other than Paul and Romney.

Gingrich this morning asked about it outside his house this morning in Virginia. Listen, we made a mistake. Not going to happen in Virginia.

Hala, it's kind of a sign that Newt Gingrich over the last month has jumped, has soared in the polls here in Iowa and nationally. But his campaign structure hasn't followed suit and matched.

Ok. Let's talk about -- ok. So we've discussed over the last several hours, Paul, that it's a statistical dead heat in Iowa. Looking ahead to the New Hampshire primary which is still 15 days away, there's a new poll out there. What does it tell us?

STEINHAUSER: it shows the same old story. We've seen it for two years now. Take a look at this. Boston Globe came out on Christmas morning. Look at Mitt Romney right at the top there. Way ahead of everybody else at 39 percent.

Romney has been the front-runner for a long time in New Hampshire. Why? Remember, he was governor of neighboring Massachusetts. He owns a home in New Hampshire. He spent a lot of time campaigning and helping other Republicans in New Hampshire. He's very, very well known there.

And if Romney doesn't do well here in Iowa, a lot of people say New Hampshire needs to be his fire wall. There's Gingrich and Ron Paul both at 17 percent. Look at John Huntsman at 11 percent; remember Huntsman has placed all of his chips, I guess, you could say in New Hampshire.

Take that poll and maybe throw it away because whatever happens right here in Iowa on January 3rd could greatly impact what happens in New Hampshire seven days later. We're here in Iowa. We have the election express bus. The whole team will be here. And within a couple of days, we're ready for this caucus -- Hala.

GORANI: When the bus is in town CNN means business, right? Ok. Paul Steinhauser.

STEINHAUSER: Yes. You've got it.

GORANI: Among our team of reporters covering the first important test in Iowa and we'll have our next political update in an hour. A reminder for all the latest political news. You can always go to the Web site at any time,

That's going to do it for me. Drew Griffin picks it up from the CNN center.

Hi - Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN HOST: Hi Hala, thanks a lot.