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American Morning

Shake Up In Iowa; Santorum Surging In Iowa; Iran Threatens To Stop Oil Shipments; Memorial For Kim Jong-Il; Report: Criminal Charges Considered In BP Spill; Build-A-Bear Recalls Nearly 300,000 Teddy Bears; Clock Is Ticking For $10.75 Million Winner; Part Marine, Part Terminator; Ron Paul Rising; Arab Monitors Fan Out Across Syria; U.S. Warns Iran: Don't Choke Off Oil; Violence Greets Observers In Syria

Aired December 29, 2011 - 06:00   ET


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Upheaval in Iowa. Newt Gingrich fading. Rick Santorum surging. With five days to go before the caucuses, it is suddenly a brand new ball game.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Could gas prices be rising? How tensions with Iran could impact money in your pocket as the Iranian government threatens to choke off a third of the world's oil supplies.

FEYERICK: Sneaking into a city under siege to get the real story. Snipers picking off people at will on the streets. A freelance journalist gets a look at the violence Syria doesn't want you to see.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is amazing to me how this guy has been shot this many times. I mean, he's superman. I have been shot three times. My fingers have bullet holes.


CHO: Did you hear that? Part man, part terminator. Shot three times in a robbery. A marine pulls out the bullets with his own hands. And now he's talking about it from his hospital bed on this AMERICAN MORNING.

FEYERICK: Good morning, everyone. It is Thursday, December 29. This is AMERICAN MORNING. A lot going on today, let's get right to it.

CHO: That's right. Good morning, everybody. Glad you are with us. I'm Alina Cho along with Deb Feyerick.

Up first, a dramatic shift in the political landscape with just five days to go before the Iowa caucuses. Just look at this brand-new CNN/"Time"/ORC poll shaking everything up.

Mitt Romney on top in Iowa now followed closely by Ron Paul. Newt Gingrich plunging and Rick Santorum suddenly rolling right to the top three.

Gingrich now 11 points behind Romney. He's dropped 19 points in less than a month. After Gingrich called on Romney, again, to debate one-on-one the following Massachusetts governor told our Wolf Blitzer he is in no hurry to accept.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, this is a campaign about the things we believe in. As for a one-on-one with Newt Gingrich, if he and I end up being the two finalists, we will have that opportunity.

But right now, we've -- I don't know debated maybe 10 times. We'll do more debates in January. But until he and I -- there are other people that still deserve to be on the stage.

Ron Paul I think is leading here in Iowa as of today. So the idea that this is all about newt or all about Mitt is just not right.

We have a field of candidates out. I will debate all of them. When it comes down to finalists, I hope I'm one of them, if I am I will debate who the other finalist is.


CHO: And remember this, Romney likening Gingrich's campaign to Lucy at the Chocolate Factory. Well, Gingrich seemed to appreciate the humor, but he is still not dropping his challenge to Romney for a face-to-face showdown.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney had a cute line yesterday about my team resembling Lucy and the Chocolate Factory. I want to say here I am in the Chocolate Factory.

And now that I have the courage to come to the chocolate factory, I hope Governor Romney will have the courage to debate me one-on-one.


CHO: You had to know that was going to happen, right? Now, all of a sudden Rick Santorum's star is rising, too. Just yesterday the former Pennsylvania senator was talking about packing it in if he finished last in Iowa.

It doesn't seem like that problem now. CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser live in Des Moines this morning with more on that part of the story.

Paul, good morning. You know, I have to say when I heard the new poll numbers and saw them I was most surprised by Santorum's rise in the polls. What happened?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. He was one happy person this morning here in Iowa. No doubt about that, Alina and what happened?

Well, we always talk, Alina, about social conservative voters out here and how influential they are. You know, because of the stances on abortion, gay marriage and other issues like that, he's very popular Santorum with social conservatives and now he's making the call.

Take a look at this. We break down that poll you just showed from CNN/"Time"/ORC. All right, this is people who describe themselves as Born-Again Christians and look who is on the top when you break those numbers down.

Rick Santorum and 22 percent Ron Paul, 16 percent Romney and so on. Yes, this is one of the reasons why social conservative voters very influential out here in Iowa when it comes to the Republican side, Rick Santorum is atop the list.

Alina, the other reason, hard work. The guy has been here a long time. He has been in all 99 counties. Take a listen to what he told our Wolf Blitzer yesterday in "THE SITUATION ROOM."


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Like any small business person, Wolf. If the money is not coming in, you just got to work harder. That's what we are doing.

We're continuing to work hard. We're going, you know, up in the morning and doing radio shows at 6:00 in the morning here and going until, you know, 9:00, 10:00 at night.

And town meeting after town meeting, 357 town hall meetings I have done in the state of Iowa. You know, hard work pays off.


STEINHAUSER: I guess you could say that Rick Santorum is climbing the polls at just the right time -- Alina.

CHO: That's right. I mean, you know, just goes to show that hard work does pay off, can pay off. You know, there are some people, a small number who you think that he could pull off a Huckabee in 2012 in Iowa.

We'll have to see what happens with that. Meanwhile, the other big surprise in this poll was that Newt Gingrich really slipped. What happened to him?

STEINHAUSER: Well, the Gingrich campaign says it's that negative advertising we have been seeing. A barrage of it out here on Iowa TV directed mostly at Newt Gingrich. Here's what his campaign Communications Director, Joe Desantis told our Candy Crowley last night on "JK USA."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE DESANTIS, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR NEWT GINGRICH: Well, $9 million in negative advertising. You know, I was a very small media market. You can basically blanket the airwaves. You have enough money.

And I don't care what candidate is in the race, if they have $9 million in negative advertising against them they will drop in the polls.


STEINHAUSER: But you know what, with five days to go, Alina, people could still change their minds. Look at this among likely caucus goers who we polled, look at that, 43 percent say I still may change my mind -- Alina.

CHO: It is extraordinary that nearly half of voters in Iowa still haven't settled on a candidate.

Meanwhile, the other news that we want to get in here is that Michele Bachmann's Iowa state chair jumped ship yesterday and now decided to support Ron Paul. What does that mean, big picture here for the Bachmann's campaign?

STEINHAUSER: Probably not good news. This was a shocker last night. This really was. The guy's name is State Senator Ken Sorensen, her state chair. You see him all the time with her on campaign events here in Iowa, who's with her earlier yesterday in a couple of events.

Last night, he shows up at a Ron Paul event. Guess what, he endorses Ron Paul, but it got crazier, Alina. Later last night, Bachmann's campaign says, he was paid off to jump ship. The Paul campaign and Sorensen say, no, that is not the case -- Alina.

CHO: And we should mention that Michele Bachmann herself maintains she will stay in the race. So Paul Steinhauser, CNN political editor, we thank you for joining us live from Des Moines.

Later this afternoon, Jon Huntsman will be in "THE SITUATION ROOM" live from Manchester, New Hampshire. Michele Bachmann will also be a guest live from Nevada. "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer airs right here on CNN beginning at 4:00 Eastern time.

FEYERICK: Iran is threatening to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital Gulf route, if new sanctions are imposed on its crude exports.

The sanctions are meant to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program. A third of the world's oil supply travels through the strait and something that could send gas prices soaring to historic levels.

The U.S. Navy is already warning that the move will not be tolerated. Jill Dougherty has a look at what's at stake.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just 34 miles wide, the Strait of Hormuz is one of the world's most strategically important choke points. One-third of all oil carried by sea is shipped through it.

Now Iran is threatening that not one drop of oil will pass through if the U.S. follows through on tough new sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear program. But the U.S. is warning Iran any disruption will not be tolerated.

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict and that would be -- that would be a tragedy for the region and the world.

DOUGHERTY: World oil prices are spiking. Upping the tension Iranian naval vessels lurk nearby in the North Iranian sea holding a ten-day military exercise.

MATTHEW KROENIG, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Having the strait close would be disastrous for the global economy. I don't think any U.S. president could let that stand.

DOUGHERTY: Matthew Kroenig served as special adviser on Iran at the Pentagon. He says that any attempt by Tehran to close the Strait of Hormuz could mean war.

KROENIG: I think the United States would be compelled to open the straits, something we could do. Our military is obviously much stronger than Iran's, but it would mean attacking Iranian Navy and attacking Iranian ballistic missiles and rocket sites so that is war.

DOUGHERTY: Kroenig thinks it is likely Iran is bluffing, trying to stop President Obama from carrying out the new sanctions. The State Department, too, is downplaying Iran's threat calling it an attempt to distract the world's attention from the nuclear program.

But Iran has been increasingly belligerent and unpredictable including allegedly hatching a plot to kill a Saudi diplomat on U.S. soil. But just their threat alone to shut the Strait of Hormuz is making Washington and the world nervous.


DOUGHERTY: So far, however, the Pentagon says that there have been no hostile moves by Iran. A U.S. aircraft carrier and also a guided missile cruiser got through the strait without incident. Jill Dougherty, CNN, the State Department.

CHO: Also new this morning, a national memorial service for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il today. Thousands gathered in Pyongyang, the capital, mourning the dictator who died earlier this month. Officials using artillery fire and horns to honor Kim Jong-Il and the regime declaring his son, Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader. This is the second and final day of ceremonies. FEYERICK: BP may soon be hit with criminal charges for the Gulf oil spill last April. According to the "Wall Street Journal," prosecutors are considering charging several BP employees for allegedly providing false information to regulators about drilling risks.

Felony charges could be announced in the coming months. The oil spill is considered the worst in U.S. history. Eleven workers died. No comment from BP or the Department of Justice.

CHO: The parents of teenage bullying victim driven to suicide received nearly a quarter million dollars in a settlement with their town. The town of South Hadley, Massachusetts has paid $225,000 to the parents of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince in order to avoid a lawsuit. Prince committed suicide back in November of 2010.

FEYERICK: Choking dangers for a popular children's toy. The Build-A-Bear Workshop Company is recalling nearly 300,000 Colorful Hearts, teddy bears.

The U.S. Consumer products Safety Commission says that the bears' eyes can loosen and fall out and becoming a choking hazard for kids. So far no injuries have been reported. The Chinese made toys were sold in the U.S. and Canada.

CHO: And check your tickets. The clock is ticking on an unclaimed $10.75 million Iowa lottery jackpot. The winner has until 4:00 p.m. local time today to present the ticket.

It was purchased exactly one year ago at a quick trip convenient store in Des Moines. The winning numbers, 3, 12, 16, 26, 33, and the hot ball number is 11. Earlier this week, a $77 million Powerball jackpot went unclaimed.

FEYERICK: They are focusing too much on politics. They're not looking at the lottery tickets.

Well, still ahead, an incredible story that proved yet again Marines are just a new breed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times and I-haven't been shot or blown up. I'm here at home and here I am in an ambulance with two gunshot wounds.


FEYERICK: Well, a man home from two wars shot on the streets of South Florida. Not only did he live to tell about it, he actually plugged the bullet holes with his own fingers.

CHO: Incredible story, also this, a Disney overload. We are going to tell you how many visitors it takes to force Disneyland to shut its gates. FEYERICK: And fire fighters saved the life of a dog trapped in ice. The rescue captured on camera. We're going to show you that story after the break. It is 13 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Welcome back. It's 16 minutes after the hour.

New this morning, more than one million people had visited the new 9/11 Memorial since it opened 16 weeks ago. A museum on the site is still being built and should be ready to open next year on September 11.

FEYERICK: And a close call for eight people who walked away from a crash landing in Ft. Lauderdale's Executive Airport. The Cessna 650 took off yesterday morning, but an unspecified problem forced the pilot to make an emergency landing, the jet crashing through a fence after coming down hot. The passengers, well, were quite terrified.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had my -- my husband in the -- in the next seat and he was the one that hold my hand and told me we were going down. Just grab your seat because we're going down.


FEYERICK: Well, the FAA is investigating the cause of the accident.

CHO: He's part man and part terminator. A Marine is recovering this morning in South Florida after he was robbed and shot three times by men who responded to a Craigslist ad about his fiancee's gold chain.

Police say Lieutenant Colonel Karl Trenker was chasing down the thieves when one opened fire and hit him several times in the chest. Listen to this. He pulled out the bullets with his own hands and then he even called home. Here's the story in their own words.


LT. COL. KARL TRENKER, U.S. MARINE SHOT SEVERAL TIMES IN ROBBERY: I go to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times and I haven't been shot or blown up. And I'm here at home in Florida and here I am riding away in an ambulance (INAUDIBLE).

He hit me five times. I got three good punchers (ph). I was pointing out the -- the carat marks on the necklace to him and then he kind of picked it up, put it in his hands and, yes, that feels real and then he just took off running. I also dialed my phone and talked to my fiancee. And I said, "Listen. I've been shot I think three times.

TANYA SAIZ, FIANCEE: I mean, it's amazing to me how this guy has been shot this many time. I mean, he's superman, you know? And he -- he's talking to me just as calmly as I'm sitting here talking to you now. "I've been shot three times. My fingers are in the bullet holes. The police are going to take care of the kids."


CHO: Superman is right. And she's -- I think the shock masks her happiness.


FEYERICK: -- probably that he's still alive.

CHO: That he's doing OK and we're very happy to report that Col. Karl Trenker will join us tomorrow from the hospital with more of his incredible story.

FEYERICK: And firefighters saved the life of a dog trapped in the frozen waters of Fargo, North Dakota. The entire rescue caught on camera. Emergency crews strapped on water rescue gear and helmet cam. They jumped on the ice, Red River, to save a stranded black Labrador. The Lab stuck on the ice shown clinging for his life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked like he had jumped in the river like most black Labs love to do and play in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was really tired. You could tell -- I don't know how long it was there but it was -- I'm sure it struggled for quite a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had both paws up on the ice and -- and begging for mercy.


FEYERICK: And firefighters say Jake, the 11-year-old black Lab, lost his way home. He's now safe with his family.

CHO: And imagine one calendar, one time zone, for the entire world. That's right. A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University is proposing a new standardized calendar system.

Take a look at your screen there. Each day would fall on the same day of the week every year, Christmas always on a Sunday and New Year's Eve always on a Saturday. And instead of 365 days, the year would have 364. Plus, an extra week every few years and no more leap years, most months would have 30 days and every third month would have 31.

Scientists say the new system would have -- would save time and make scheduling easier. But I don't know. It sounds more confusing to me. Meanwhile --

FEYERICK: But it takes the randomness out of it. It takes the excitement of knowing what -- what days you're going to be getting off around the holiday time.

CHO: Or what day of the week your birthday is? That's right.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right. Who would need the same day (ph)?

CHO: Rob Marciano -- Rob Marciano off today. Reynolds Wolf in the Extreme Weather Center with the look on the forecast. Hey, Reynolds. Good morning.


Big mistake I think they're making. I think you need to have Christmas every day on -- every year it needs to be on a Thursday, on a Thursday guaranteed at least a four-day workday.

FEYERICK: He's exactly right. Or even Wednesday. That's right. It can be a (ph) longer week, Reynolds. I like your thinking.

WOLF: But isn't obviously for people like us in television doesn't really apply to us, but for everyone else, hey, I mean, how could you possibly lose?

Hey, you're going to be losing it looks like in a few of the airports around the country today. A few backups here and there, especially in places like -- well, take a look. Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco and Denver, you've got wind that can give you delay just under an hour.

So, Chicago, it's going to be the rain. But in New York and Boston, the big issue is going to be the wind. The wind is going to play a huge factor in your day today. It's going to make those cool temperatures feel even cooler. Especially to our friends up in Montpelier, Vermont. Take a look, 7 below is what it feels like right now with that wind roaring in from the Northwest, and Syracuse, it feels like 7; Albany, 3; Portland, 8; only 10 in Providence, Boston; and New York about 18 degrees.

But what we're going to see out to the west, at least at Western Great Lakes, it is something a little different. We've got the cold air in place, but also a little bit of rain in Chicago. Some -- some light snow falling, even some sleet in places like, say, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and just east of Minneapolis.

Farther out to the west and parts of Seattle, and even into our friends in Vancouver and Seattle and Portland, we're going to be seeing the cloud cover and with it high elevation, a combination of rain in the valleys but up above the snow. And it's going to be very heavy.

Some places getting well over a foot of snowfall. That coupled with some strong winds, some wind gusts in parts of Big Sky Country and into the Northern Rockies, approaching and actually surpassing tropical storm force. So it's going to be very breezy up there to say the very least. Southern half of the country, to wrap things up, pretty nice. Plenty of sunshine for the Four Corners. Nice and warm for Texas with high temperatures in places like Dallas and back into Houston in the 60s and 70s; 55 in Billings; 38 in Minneapolis; 37 in New York; and 58 in Atlanta.

That's your forecast. Let's send it back to you guys.

CHO: It's chilly in New York. All right, Reynolds --

WOLF: Very much so.

CHO: Thank you very much.

WOLF: You bet.

CHO: Still ahead, a look inside Syria you wouldn't see anywhere else. A freelance journalist sneaks into the City of Homes under sniper fire and finds people living in terror, too afraid even to cross the street.

FEYERICK: And Ron Paul on the rise in Iowa. Could the Texas congressman actually win Tuesday's caucuses?

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It is 22 minutes past the hour.


FEYERICK: We're "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Two more trading sessions to go in 2011. So far, the Dow is up five percent for the year, but it's been a sluggish week. A late fell off on low volume, leading the Dow down 138 points yesterday.

And all things considered, it has been a banner year for the auto industry. According to, close to 13 million cars, trucks and SUVs were sold in 2011. That's the best performance since 2008 and analysts say next year is looking even better.

Well, a late surge in holiday shopping has retailers celebrating. According to ShopperTrak, online sales in the final week before Christmas were up 16 percent over last year. And mall spending in that same week went up nearly 15 percent. Overall, retail sales up 4.5 percent to the year.

And the first big oil contract awarded (ph) by Afghanistan has gone to China. The deal is believed to be worth $7 billion to the Afghan government with China National Petroleum given the right to develop a small field in Northern Afghanistan that is believed to hold 80 million barrels of oil.

A million apologies from "The New York Times." That's how many people received an e-mail sent by mistake informing them they would no longer be receiving home delivery of the newspaper. Readers were concerned the paper had been hacked and their personal information had been compromised. "The Times" says it was just an employee error.

And the Google Plus social network has topped 60 million users. Some analysts say that number is going to go up. Four hundred million by the end of 2012. Right now, Facebook has 800 million active users.

AMERICAN MORNING will be right back after the break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We totally sold out of almost all of the 9 millimeter Glocks. All the standard and most popular models were totally sold out.


CHO: The hottest gift this year, guns. Americans buying a record number of guns during the festive holiday season. What the sudden boom in gun sales could say about the 2012 election -- on this AMERICAN MORNING.


FEYERICK: And welcome back. Glad you could join us this morning. It is 6:30, time for this morning's top stories.

Upheaval in Iowa. Newt Gingrich fading, Rick Santorum rising in the latest CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, well, they're the front-runners, with Santorum now just nine points back in third. And Gingrich slipping to fourth -- the former House speaker plunging 19 points since earlier this month.

CHO: Violence erupting in another Syrian city with peace monitors set to arrive. An opposition group says rebel forces ambushed a Syrian military convoy, killing four soldiers and wounding a dozen more in the city of Daraa.

FEYERICK: And the U.S. Navy warning Iran not to make good on the threat of block the Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil shipping artery in the world. Iran said it would shut down the strait if the U.S. imposes sanctions on Iranian oil exports over Iran's nuclear program. Experts say a blockade could double the price of oil overnight.

CHO: One of Michele Bachmann's biggest backers in Iowa is suddenly a Ron Paul supporter. Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson has been one of Bachmann's high-profile advisers. But he surprised Ron Paul supporters yesterday when he announced he was bailing on the Minnesota congresswoman and getting behind the Texas congressman.


ST. SEN. KENT SORENSON (R), IOWA: Tonight has been tough for me. I have been serving as Michele Bachmann's state chair over the last year. And while Michelle has fought tremendously for my conservative values, I believe we are a turning point in this campaign with the Republican establishment is going to be coming against him over the next few days I thought it was my duty to come to his aid.


CHO: Ron Paul is on a roll. You can always tell that a candidate has real chance of winning Iowa because his rivals step up attacks. And the media, it's also turning up the heat.

Here's Joe Johns.


RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It does look like there are more cameras than there used to be.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the big time, Ron Paul. A candidate who until recently has spent much of the race for the nomination running slightly under the radar. Paul climbed out of an SUV at the Iowa speedway in Newton, and was suddenly getting treated like a top tier candidate -- stone silent, though, when I asked him to respond to attacks from Newt Gingrich just last night in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

(on camera): Mr. Paul, Newt Gingrich is very tough on you. He said you had no idea what you were making money on in our newsletter, that it was racist, that it was anti-Semitic. What do you say to that?

(voice-over): The Texas congressman's rise to the top tier in the polls here in Iowa has made him a target. Check out Gingrich's ferocious attack in "THE SITUATION ROOM," starting with Paul's questionable claims that he did not write and never read racially charged newsletters printed under Paul's name in the 1980s and 1990s.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As people get to know more about Ron Paul, who disowns 10 years of his own newsletter, says he didn't really realize what was in it, had no idea what he was making money on, had no idea that it was racist, anti-Semitic, called for the destruction of Israel, talked about a race war, all of this is a sudden shock to Ron Paul? There will come a morning people won't take him as a serious person.

JOHNS: Mitt Romney joined in on the Ron Paul attacks also, slamming him for his foreign policy, specifically his previously state position on Iran, though Romney never actually mentioned Paul's name.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The greatest threat that Israel faces and frankly the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran. And I -- we have different views on this. Some of the people -- actually one of the people running for president thinks it's OK for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don't.

JOHNS: At his racetrack event in Iowa, Paul took a number of questions from the audience, but none about the attacks from Romney and Gingrich.

PAUL: How long do we have to stay in Korea? I mean, we've been there since I was in high school. We've been in Japan since World War II. We've been in Germany subsidizing their defense since World War II.

JOHNS: What the campaign did do is release a new ad, criticizing the politicians of the so-called Washington machine, including pictures of both Gingrich and Romney.

NARRATOR: The Washington machine is strangling our economy, politicians who supported bailouts and mandates, serial hypocrites and flip-floppers.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


FEYERICK: Well, the city of Homs has been a center of the resistance in Syria. The government is tightening its chokehold on the people there. Tanks firing at protesters, snipers, randomly shooting civilians on the streets. Syria's behind -- is being accused of hiding the real slaughter from peace monitors.

One freelance journalist and filmmaker who we won't name for his own security but his life on the line and slipped into the city to get the real story. He is sharing what he found in this CNN exclusive.


UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: The snipers are basically on every main street. They have check points on both sides.

Snipers will shoot everybody who is basically crossing this street between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 in the morning. And this is an unofficial curfew.

After this, they told me I have to meet this woman. This is the mother of a victim who got shot when she was pregnant in the seventh month. It was during the morning when she wants to go out for shopping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Her brother tried for half an hour to go over the walls and roofs to get to her. But he didn't manage to reach her. Finally, they managed to pull her away. But it took another half an hour to get her to my house.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: You arrived a situation, you arrived a seen where a half hour ago somebody got shot. And 30 minutes later, people are crossing very normally the street. Me crossing this street, I have been feeling basically, literally I've been feeling that somebody is aiming, the snipers are aiming at me. It is up to them if he's going to pull the trigger or not.

I came to this junction and I realized that somebody wanted to cross the street with a huge pack of cigarettes. So -- I could hear the snipers shooting. He wasn't able to cross the street and the bag of cigarettes was in the middle of the street. So, it was one of very impressive scenes where people have been very happily and almost like sport challenge to get the cigarette bags out of the sniper range. They were quite happy when they could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We need to cross the street to buy bread and other food, but the snipers surrounded this area. It's a huge danger.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: And they started to throw the bread because they were not able to cross. So, everything they need on the other side, they throw it over the streets.

The point of no return is already crossed. The people now are -- there are no options. They started to uprise and so many blocks -- so many people got killed already. And when they stopped to go out to the streets, the regime has to come back and they got to get killed anyway.


FEYERICK: Violence is now flaring up in another Syrian city as Arab League fact finders head there.

Mohammed Jamjoom monitoring developments for us from Cairo.

And, Mohammed, it is just stunning to watch this scene, the military targeting its own people.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Deb. And the more we speak to rights activists, opposition group members, and residents in Syria, especially in cities like Homs where that report was, the more we hear these tales of horror, people telling us that massacres continue to occur and that everybody and anybody there is target.

One thing that's happening, too, is even though this Arab League monitoring team is there, is there in the city of Homs now, we keep hearing reports of violence. And that's making a lot of people inside and outside Syria question the credibility of this monitoring scene.

Even before they got there, we heard reports of dozens of people killed, hundreds of people wounded. Now they are in the town. We are hearing reports that crackdowns are still ensuing on people that are gathered, that security forces are still shooting at people with live bullets, with tear gas.

And we are seeing a lot of videos, purporting to show even as members of this team walk around neighborhoods Bab Amr, shooting is still being heard in the distance as the monitors take pictures of the surrounding area for their investigation. So, it is really causing a lot of concern.

We spoke today to a member of the Arab Doctors Association. This is somebody who'd been invited to join this team. He pulled out of the Arab League fact finding mission after being selected. He told us he disagreed with the mission's methods. He said, all I see now is the head of the mission barely announcing any information while dozens have died in the first two days of the mission.

And even though the Arab League continues to say they will be transparent and they will make all the reports available to the Arab League, we are just not hearing from those monitors on the ground. That's causing great concern for the people of Syria who are really questioning if this team is as affected as it should be -- Deb.

FEYERICK: All right. Mohammed Jamjoom for us there, reporting on Syria. We are going to be checking back with you. Lots more questions, lots more information. You are going to bring us on later on. Thanks so much.

CHO: Also new this morning, the father of the missing Maine toddler Ayla Reynolds. He's asking whoever has his little girl to, quote, "do the right thing and return her safely." Justin DiPeitro is also claiming his innocence in her disappearance. Ayla was last seen December 16th when her father said he put her to bed. Police say they received 370 leads.

Meantime, the grandfather of the missing 20-month-old told HLN's Nancy Grace that his daughter has reached out to DiPeitro, but he's not been in touch with the family.

FEYERICK: And priests break out into a broomstick brawl where Christian tradition holds Jesus was born. More than 50 clergy from the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Church came together to clean the church of nativity, well, they started hurling insults. And then it came to blows. Then they broke out the brooms. Palestinian police stormed in to break it up.

CHO: Disneyland at its max. Tens of thousands of holiday travelers flooded the California theme park yesterday and, in fact, it became so crowded that the park had to stop selling tickets. Can you imagine? This is becoming almost an annual tradition.

Just last year, the park had to shut down because of overcrowding. And many visitors, not surprisingly, were annoyed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a little frustrating to pay, you know $300 for three people to go into the park and only get to ride three rides, $100 per ride almost. You know? So, I would say it wasn't worth it definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is worth it for us living in Sacramento and coming over here. This is our third day. So, it's worth it. It's long but it's worth the wait.


CHO: All right. What's the max capacity for Disneyland? Well, park officials won't say exactly, but sources estimate it's about 85,000 people. It's the holidays but imagine packing up your family, going out there to Disneyland and not being able to get in.

FEYERICK: You know, but they do warn you, if you are going to go, you have to go early, especially during the peak times because you will be shut out. So, which is why my kids think I'm insane because they get them out there at 7:30 in the morning. Hurry up. We won't be able to ride these more than once.

Anyway, still ahead: it was the hottest Christmas gift this year. No, not iPad. Not a video game but guns -- real guns.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are concerned about what Obama is going to do if he is re-elected. So, they are trying to get stuff while they can.


FEYERICK: Are people afraid the government will take their weapons away in 2012? Or is it just a matter of personal protection. Barbara Starr takes a look.

CHO: Also this, investing money in American businesses or buying a green card. We'll take a closer look at a federal program aimed at immigrant investors.

Forty-four minutes after the hour. We're back after this.


FEYERICK: And welcome back. It's build as a way to create American jobs. Wealthy immigrants investing money in exchange for a green card. It is perfectly legal, in fact, it is encouraged by the U.S. government. I went to a ski resort in a small Vermont town able to expand because of foreign investments. Take a look.


FEYERICK (voice-over): It's that time of year. Everyone at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont is gearing up for the ski season. But for co- owner, Bill Stenger, the snow is not enough to make a business. He's hard at work transforming the winter resort into a year-round facility, building a golf course, a water park, and an indoor ice rink.

BILL STENGER, CO-OWNER, JAY PEAK RESORT: Without sustained year- round operations, you can't survive. You must be 12-month-a-year operations.

FEYERICK: He needed about $250 million to expand. The banks wanted 30 percent down. Money he did not have.

STENGER: If you don't have capital, you can't make things happen.

FEYERICK: Instead, using a federal program, Stenger got the money from rich immigrants willing to invest $500,000 each in exchange for a green card for them and their families.

STENGER: We have over 500 investors from 56 countries.

FEYERICK: Among them, Birinder Bhullar and his wife, Rosemie (ph). These are the permanent green cards.

BIRINDER BHULLAR, IMMIGRANT INVESTOR: These are the permanent green cards.

FEYERICK: Bhullar is an Indian engineer who often travels on business to the United States. He decided to switch countries and careers and became a mystic teaching enlightenment.

BHULLAR: I make up my mind, I come here and the only option available at that time was the investor root.

FEYERICK: The 20-year-old program known as EV-5 has brought in about $2 billion in investment and has been aggressively promoted by the Obama administration as a way to create jobs, especially in rural areas with high unemployment. Critics like David North who supports strict limits on immigration says this amounts to selling green cards on the cheap.

DAVID NORTH, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: If we are going to be selling visas for money, I think we should sell them for a lot more and put the money in the treasury rather than scattering it around for these developers who figured out how to get money from the aliens.

FEYERICK: Tell that to Bill Stenger.

STENGER: We have retail shops.

FEYERICK: Eager to show us around and boasted the impact on the local economy.

STENGER: Hundreds and hundreds of new full-time jobs being created as a result of these facilities.

FEYERICK: Locals also are happy for the foreign investment. Brad Quintin has been able to stay put and raise his family here.

BRAD QUINTIN, CONSTRUCTION WORKER: Before this started, I was traveling two, three, four hours to work in Connecticut, to New Hampshire.

FEYERICK: And now, year round employee, Alex Noftz says the pros outweigh the cons.

ALEX NOFTZ, JAY PEAK CONCIERGE: Working at a few thousand people coming in and creating a whole bunch of jobs for those of us that need them quite badly.


FEYERICK (on-camera): Now, the rules are that investors must show and created at least ten jobs and can only pull their money out after four years, but if a business does fold, those investors lose their money and getting a green card is no guarantee of getting citizenship. There are 10,000 of the special visas up for grabs every year, but far fewer applicants.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: What a great idea. So, it creates jobs and sort of a pathway to citizenship.

FEYERICK: Exactly.

CHO: And it gives him a 12-month a year business versus a seasonal business.

FEYERICK: Exactly right.

CHO: Great story, Deb.

Still ahead, one of the hottest items this holiday season, guns. Men and many women arming themselves before the New Year. So, what's going on? Why the sudden spike in sales? We'll talk about it. It's 50 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Fifty-two minutes after the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.


CHO (voice-over): Newt Gingrich fading. Rick Santorum rising in the latest CNN/"Time"/ORC poll in Iowa. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are the frontrunners with Santorum now just nine points back in third place. Gingrich falling to fourth.

U.S. navy warning Iran not to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil shipping artery in the word. Iran said it would shut down the strait if the U.S. imposes sanctions on Iranian oil exports over Iran's nuclear program. Experts say a blockade could double the price of oil overnight.

Violence erupting in another Syrian city this morning as peace monitors arrived. Syrian forces reportedly firing on protesters in the city of Duma. Critics now questioning the credibility of Arab league teams on the ground there because of the recent surge in violence.

North Korea mourning its late leader Kim Jong-Il. It's the second day and final day of memorial ceremonies in Pyongyang. The regime used artillery fire and horns (ph) to honor the dictator. Kim Jong-Il died nearly two weeks ago from an apparent heart attack.

The Iowa lottery is looking for the winner of a $16.5 million jackpot. They have until 4:00 p.m. today to claim their prize. So, look at your tickets. Ticket was purchased a year ago at a quick trip store in Des Moines.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHO (on-camera): That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


CHO: Good morning, New York City. What a beautiful shot of the sunrise there. 6:55, time to wake up. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Ralphi from "a Christmas Story" wasn't the only one asking for a gun this Christmas. Gun shops say real guns were selling at a record clip (ph).

FEYERICK: So, what's behind the sudden boom in sales? Our Barbara Starr takes a look.


ANDREW RAYMOND, GUN SHOP OWNER: These are like $3,300 rifles. We sold three of these over the weekend.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this holiday season of peace on earth and goodwill to man, gun sales are on the rise.

RAYMOND: It's our busiest December ever.

STARR: Maryland gun shop owner, Andy Raymond, says people are buying everything from assault rifles to handguns.

RAYMOND: We're totally sold out of almost all of our nine millimeter glocks, all our standard most popular models were totally sold out.

STARR (on-camera): It's a nationwide trend. The FBI is reporting a million and a halfback ground checks in the month of December alone. That is an all-time record.

(voice-over) Raymond says many customers already own guns and are buying more.

RAYMOND: There's also the political aspect of it, because we have an upcoming election. So, a lot of people are, once again, concerned about that. They're concerned about what Obama is going to do if he is re-elected. So, they're trying to get stuff while they can.

STARR: Criminal test experts aren't surprised at the chatter.

JACK MCDEVITT, CRIMINOLOGIST, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: There is a set of groups out there that every time there's a Democrat going to be elected or Democrat going to be re-elected say you should go out and get guns because they're going to ban guns.

STARR: There is no indication of a new ban, but Republicans, again, are making sure that the photo-ops show them as pro-gun ownership.

GOV RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm actually for gun control. Use both hands.


MCDEVITT: It's the largest increase you've ever seen the largest month of sales. It's something that has to -- we have the look into as public safety officials and say why is this happening.

STARR (on-camera): Some of the people we talked to out there buying guns say the reason they want to buy, they want to hunt or have personal protection. And many say they are buying guns to give as gifts.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.


CHO: Incredible.

Still to come this morning, a new CNN poll shaking things up in Iowa in a big way. We're just five days to go before the caucuses. Rick Santorum on the rise, Gingrich is falling. We're going to let you know how the political landscape has suddenly changed.

FEYERICK: And Iran is playing the most valuable card it has, the oil card. How high could gas prices go as the nation threatens to shut down the most important oil shipping route in the world? It is 58 minutes after the hour.