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American Morning

Rick Santorum Surges in Recent Iowa Polls; Analyst Assesses the Current GOP Presidential Race; Iran Threatens Strait of Hormuz in Response to Possible Sanctions; Part Marine, Part Terminator; Semi And Vehicles Involved In I-95 Crash; Memorial For Kim Jong-Il; U.S. Warns Iran Don't Choke Off Oil; Report: Criminal Charges Considered In BP Spill; Santorum Surging In Iowa; Syrian Forces Fire On Protesters; "Snipers Would Shoot Everybody"; Build-A-Bear Recalls Nearly 300,000 Teddy Bears; Report: Third Baby Sickened By Rare Bacteria; Arizona Judge: Mexican Studies Course Illegal; Rick Santorum Surges in Recent Iowa Poll; Analyst Assesses GOP Presidential Race

Aired December 29, 2011 - 07:00   ET



ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: A significant shake-up in Iowa. Newt Gingrich fading, Rick Santorum suddenly surging. With five days to go before the caucuses, it is looking like a brand-new ball game.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: That's right could gas prices be rising? How tensions with Iran could impact money in your pocket as the Iranian government plays the oil card, threatening to choke off the third of the world's oil supply.

CHO: 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 this guy has been shot this many times. I mean, he's superman. I have been shot three times, my fingers are in bullet holes.


FEYERICK: Part man, part terminator. Shot three times in a robbery, a marine pulls out the bullets with his own hands, and he's talking about it from his hospital bed on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: Good morning. It is Thursday, December 29. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Alina Cho along with Deb Feyerick. And that man is not only part man, part terminator, he's part superman. We will get to that story in a little bit later on in the hour. But first, we have a lot of news to cover, including politics.

FEYERICK: And right now with five days to go before the Iowa caucuses, a stunning shift in the political landscape. Look at the numbers in this brand-new CNN-"TIME"-ORC poll. It's shaking things up. Mitt Romney now alone on top in Iowa followed closely by Ron Paul with Newt Gingrich fading and Rick Santorum inching up, surging into the top three. Gingrich now 11 points behind Romney. He's dropped 19 points in less than a month. And the former Massachusetts governor is in no particular hurry to accept his demands for a one-on-one debate.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know why he is so angry. 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, why, we will have that opportunity. But right now, we have -- I don't know debated maybe 10 times. We will do more debates in January. But until he and I are the two other finalists, there are other people that deserve to be on the stage. Ron Paul, I think, is leading 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. I will debate all of them. When it comes down to the finalists, I hope I'm one of them, and if I am I will debate who the other finalist is.


FEYERICK: And remember this from yesterday, Romney likening Gingrich's campaign to Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory? Gingrich seemed to appreciate the humor. You can see him there at his own chocolate factory. But he still is not dropping the 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. And I just want to say here I am in the chocolate factory.



GINGRICH: 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.


FEYERICK: Just a stunning as Gingrich's decline is Rick Santorum's sudden rise. Just yesterday the former Pennsylvania senator was saying that lee would pack it in if he finished last in Iowa. That doesn't appear to be a problem right now. CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Des Moines this morning with what's behind the Santorum surge and the Gingrich drop, and could it have anything to do with the fact Iowa is a conservative state and maybe they are realizing that they need to get their candidates a little bit higher up there?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It could be. Social conservative voters, Deb, very influential out here on the Republican side in Iowa, no doubt about it. And thanks to his stances on issues like abortion and gay marriage, Santorum is pretty popular with them. He has been making a major push for social conservative voters.

Look at this. We break down our new CNN-TIME-ORC poll, that overall number you gave. We break it down by people who are self- described born den Christians. Look who is on the top, Rick Santorum, 22 percent. Everybody else lower down. That's one reason why Santorum is rising in our polls. Another reason, old fashioned hard work. Take a listen to what he told Wolf Blitzer yesterday here in Iowa on "THE SITUATION ROOM."


RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's like any small business person, Wolf. If the money not coming in, you've just got to work harder. That's what we are doing. We're continuing to work hard and doing radio shows at 6:00 in the morning and going until 9:00, 10:00 at night and town meeting at after town meeting, 357 town hall meetings I have done in the state of Iowa. You know, hard work pays off.


STEINHAUSER: OK, so what's behind the Gingrich fall? Well, the Gingrich campaign says all that negative advertising, turn on your TV, is see a barrage of ads, critical of Gingrich.

One other thing, Deb. What is going on with Michele Bachmann? A big stunner last night right here in Iowa. A guy called Ken Sorensen, a state senator, he was her top person in Iowa, he was with her at a lot of rallies, including yesterday morning. Guess what, last night he shows up at a Ron Paul rally and says I am now supporting Ron Paul. It gets even crazier. Bachmann's campaign last night said Sorensen was paid off to go to Ron Paul. Sources of the Paul campaign say no, not true. Five days to go, Deb. It has been one wild ride here in Iowa.

FEYERICK: It certainly has. It's interesting that Romney has remained near or at the top of public opinion surveys in Iowa. He has to hold on to it for now. Paul Steinhauser, thanks so much. We will check in with you later on.

CHO: And with Newt Gingrich's numbers declining, Mitt Romney now in the front-runner position in Iowa, also in New Hampshire. Our next guest says we could be looking at a nightmare scenario for his conservative voters. CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein joins us live from Washington. Ron, good to see you. Good morning.


CHO: All right, let's talk about Newt Gingrich. In just about 20 days we have seen him fall about 20 points, 19 points to be exact in Iowa. He was leading at one point with 33 percent. Now he is in fourth place with 14 percent of the vote. As you well know he is quick to point out all those negative ads finally got to him. Isn't there more to the story here?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it is part of the story we have seen all year. I mean, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, now Newt Gingrich have all had a very similar trajectory, a rapid rise and a faster fall. It is a reflection above all of two things. First, this race is existing almost entirely on television and as a result candidates aren't building as deep a relationship with their voters as in the past. So they're more susceptible to these kinds of rapid changes based on new information.

And secondly, one of the dominant story lines is one of the bug story lines in the poll has been the inability of conservative voters or skeptical about mitt rom new, to find an alternative who checks all of their boxes and they can lastingly get behind. And Gingrich is only, as I said, the fourth one in this trajectory who has risen and fallen in that way, particularly among voters on the right.

CHO: I want to talk about Romney and his rise in the Iowa poll in just a minute. But first, you mentioned just sort of that lack of a ground game that's going on in the Gingrich campaign and some of the other campaigns. But the flipside of that is when you have a strong ground game like Rick Santorum. You see what happened in the poll yesterday. I mean, he just shot up. He's now in number three. Are you surprised by this?

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, a little bit in that he struggled all year. But not in the sense that -- those voters, those evangelical Christian voters in Iowa have to go somewhere. As I said, the big story in your Iowa poll yesterday, I think, crystallizes what has been the major story line of the Republican race all year, which is that mitt Romney is being slightly more successful at consolidating more moderate and secular parts of the party than anyone is at consolidating the more evangelical and ideologically ardent Tea Party. And so he is ahead even though he is looking at a modest overall number at 25 percent, no better than showing last time and lost the state by nine points.

CHO: Well, 60 percent of the voters in Iowa are social conservatives, you know. And the same is true later on in South Carolina. And so, you know, having said that, you call Romney's rise in the poll a nightmare scenario for conservative voters. Why?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, for the conservative activists who are most dubious about Romney, the Iowa poll you put out yesterday is a snapshot of everything they are afraid of, which is Romney never develops an overall majority in the party that wants him. As I said, he's only at 25 percent overall, no better than 2008 when he lost. But he has the possibility of winning anyway because that conservative -- bigger conservative block that is skeptical of him can't unify behind any one candidate.

He's getting around a third of voters who don't identify with the Tea Party, about a third of voters who don't identify as evangelical Christians in Iowa. Among the evangelical Christians and Tea Party supporters, nobody is getting more than about a fifth. That Rick Santorum 22 percent you just showed him leading among evangelicals in Iowa is a modest number. You have a six-car pileup, in effect, six candidates very closely divided, and that benefits Romney.

CHO: With all due respect, Ron, I mean, I want to give Romney a little more credit. Isn't this that sort of classic turtle and hare story where slow but steady wins the race. This has been his campaign all along and are we just now starting to see it pay off?

BROWNSTEIN: It could pay off in a big way. As I said, the Republican race really, as we talked about before, has proceeded almost along two parallel tracks. There has been a competition for the voters that don't identify with the Tea Party, who are not evangelical Christians, are more pragmatic, business oriented and economic oriented. And Romney is making steady progress at consolidating those voters. As I say he's up to a third of them in both categories in Iowa and higher than that in New Hampshire where is very strong.

The other half of the race has been the inability of anyone to lastingly unify that other more conservative side of the party and as dubious, and it's really that phenomenon that's so precisely captured in your new poll.

CHO: Bachmann, Michele Bachmann, like to say she has the support after Tea Party. But she's at the bottom of the poll, nine percent. Something happened yesterday. As you know, her Iowa state chair decided he wanted to jump ship and go over to Ron Paul. Big picture, what's this mean for Bachmann?

BROWNSTEIN: I think she struggled. The high point for her was winning the Ames straw poll last summer. Both her and Rick Perry as the season has gone on, even though they are probably ideologically most in tune with where the party is today, simply haven't been able to project the viability as a nominee or president, and in some way that explains the vacuum you are seeing in Iowa. Those are the candidates who are probably best positioned in their views to consolidate and unify the more conservative elements of the party.

But both Bachmann and Perry have been weakened by the campaign process, in particular the debate. And the result is what you see here today, you know, which is we are on the brink of the actual voting, and it's total fragmentation among the more conservative elements of the party. As I say, no one above 19 percent in your Iowa poll with Tea Party supporters, no one above 22 percent among evangelical Christians. And if that happens, if the conservative side of the party stays fragmented, it is an enormous advantage to Romney who is making not spectacular but steady progress unifying the other side of the party behind him.

CHO: Are you willing to make a bet? Think she will drop out after Iowa?

BROWNSTEIN: No. I actually think part of the problem the right has is because, as you mentioned, South Carolina is just as friendly to candidates who depend on evangelical votes as Iowa. I think there is every incentive if the conservatives fragment in Iowa for everybody to go on to South Carolina, Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, all hoping for last stand there. The risk is that the same thing happens in Iowa, which is that conservatives fragment, again.

Again, that is kind of the nightmare scenario for the conservatives who don't want Romney, that he never attracts an absolute affirmative majority that wants him, but it doesn't matter because no one can coalesce that group of voters skeptical about him.

CHO: Nightmare scenario for conservatives. But isn't it the best case scenario for people like you and me who get to watch this race?


BROWNSTEIN: Yes. It's certainly the best case scenario for Mitt Romney at the moment.

BROWNSTEIN: That's right. Ron Brownstein, always great to see you. Thank you so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

FEYERICK: Iran threatening to stop the know of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital Gulf route, if new sanctions are imposed on its crude exports. The sanctions meant to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program. A third of the world's oil supply travels through the strait. Experts say a blockade could double street price of oil overnight. The U.S. Navy already warning that the move will not be tolerated. Jill Dougherty is live at the State Department. Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The latest is coming in this war of words, hopefully not a real war, from a Revolutionary Guards commander who is saying "Our response to threats is threats." And what he is responding to is a very strong statement coming from the U.S. Navy which is any disruption in oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated.

The situation right now, I think if you boil it down, Deb, is this is a vital, vital area, that Strait of Hormuz coming in very narrow. You can see it on the map. It's a very narrow stretch, and it is like a choke point for oil coming from Iran out to the rest of the world. And Iran now is saying, look, we are going to shut that off because they don't want sanctions, very, very difficult sanctions, tough sanctions that the United States and perhaps Europe now are going to be leveling against the oil industry of Iran. It is a big threat to Iran, and Iran right now thinks that it can threaten back.

But it is a highly dangerous situation. There is no way that Iran could possibly stand up against the U.S. Navy. Certainly right now they are playing with fire.

FEYERICK: It's fascinating because it does look like the two sides are really almost at a standstill with each of them pushing back and a lot of saber rattling going on there. Is there the possibility of a potential U.S. strike if they do choke off that point?

DOUGHERTY: You know, if they really try to, militarily and many analysts believe that they won't really do it, but if they did, you would have to say according to the experts that we've been speaking to, the United States would be forced to do it, and the international community says that's -- that is international passageway for oil. It would -- in a very big way affect oil prices. And there would have to be some type of military response.

FEYERICK: All right.

DOUGHERTY: But at this point, again, it's -- it's really a war of words.

FEYERICK: Right. Absolutely. All right, Jill Dougherty for us at the -- at the State Department. Everybody looking at this to see what's going to happen, very serious. Thank you so much.

CHO: Still ahead, an incredible story that proves yet again the Marines are just a rare breed.


LT. COL. KARL TRENKER, U.S. MARINES, SHOT SEVERAL TIMES IN ROBBERY: I go to Iran 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 with a bunch of gunshot wounds.


CHO: A man home from two wars shot on the streets of South Florida three times. Not only did he live to tell about it, he plugged the bullet holes with his own fingers, and we're going to bring you his story.

FEYERICK: And a look inside Syria that you wouldn't see anywhere else. A freelance journalist sneaks into the City of Homes and finds people living in fear in the shadow of tanks and snipers.


FEYERICK: He is being called a superhero. A Marine is recovering this morning in South Florida after he was robbed then 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. He pulled out the bullets with his own hands, then called home. Here's the story in his own words.


TRENKER: 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 -- and here I am riding away in an ambulance with a bunch of gunshot wounds.

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 hand and said, "Yes, that feels real," and then he just took off running. I also dialed my phone and talked to my fiancee and said, "Listen, I've been shot I think three times."

TANYA SAIZ, FIANCEE: I mean, it's amazing to me how this guy had been shot this many times. I mean, he's superman, you know? And he's -- he is 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: An incredible story.

FEYERICK: But -- a totally incredible story. So calm, so cool, so collected. Well, I hope they -- they get those guys. But Colonel Karl Trenker is going to join us tomorrow from the hospital with more on his incredible story.

CHO: Can't wait for that.

Meanwhile, it's 21 minutes after the hour. Rob has the day off. Reynolds Wolf in the Extreme Weather Center. It sounds like something you would do, Rob? I mean, Reynolds.


REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I -- I answer to anything. It's all right.

Why -- why is this story surprising? The man is a Marine.

CHO: That's true.

WOLF: Marine is the best soldiers in the planet. That's the reason why they train so hard at Camp Pendleton and Parris Island. They're the very best that you can ever find.

Hey, guys. Still the best weather you can ever find is in parts of the northeast. If you don't mind the way things look, it's going to be beautiful feeling out there. It's going to be a bit colder, to say the very least.

And there would be some backups in spots, like in New York and Boston and over in Chicago, you had the rain. They may keep you grounded for just a little bit. In Detroit, you may have some backups through the snow showers. Low clouds in Seattle and San Francisco. And with Denver, easy for me to say, a little bit of wind.

Hey, we started it off with New York. Let's revisit that for a moment. In New York State as well as other parts of the northeast, the big story is going to be the cold temperatures. In fact, take a look at the highs today in spots like Montpelier, back over to Albany, we're talking about quite near -- actually right at the freezing point in many spots. Few places a little bit above. But then when you bring in that strong wind it changes the landscape altogether. It feels like five or rather -- you have five in Albany; seven below in Montpelier; only 12 for your neighbors in Toronto; 10 ten in buffalo and 10 in Providence.

Now, as you take a look at the national perspective, make your way further back towards the west, you're going to see some light snow falling in the air ahead in Minnesota, back over to parts of U.P. of Michigan and even into Wisconsin, farther south in Chicago, rain, but it's not going to last all day long.

Nice mild conditions will wrap things up for the Central Plains. Fairly nice over the Four Corners and back over into Southern California with high temperatures today of 52 degrees in Seattle; 74 in Los Angeles; 57 in Kansas City; 59 in Memphis; 58 in Atlanta; 73 in Miami; and New York with 37 degrees.

That's your forecast. Now it's your turn.

FEYERICK: Thanks so much, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

FEYERICK: Well, still to come this morning, a look at the terror inside Syria. A freelance journalist sneaks into the City of Homes and shows us what the Syrian government has gone to great lengths to hide.

CHO: And when it comes to politics, will 2012 bring more of the same partisan gridlock or not?

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's 23 minutes after the hour.


FEYERICK: "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 has been a sluggish week. A late sell-off on low volume leading the Dow down 138 points yesterday.

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

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 14.5 percent year to year.

The first big oil contract awarded by Afghanistan -- not going to the U.S. It is going to China. The deal is believed to be worth $7 billion to the Afghan government with China National Petroleum giving the rights to develop a small field in Northern Afghanistan that holds an estimated 80 million barrels of oil.

And eight 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. Well, readers were concerned that the paper had been hacked or their personal information had been compromised. Turns out that "The Times" says it was an employee error.

And Google social network has topped 60 million users. And some analysts say it could hit 400 million by the end of 2012. Right now, Facebook, well, that has 800 million active users.

Don't forget for the very latest news about your money, check out the all-new

AMERICAN MORNING is going to be right back right after the break.


CHO: We have this just in to CNN, a massive shutdown on a major highway to tell you about. You are looking live there, aerial shots, I-95 northbound in Volusia County, Florida shut down this morning.

Police say there has been a multivehicle crash involving several tractor trailers and at least one car. The "Orlando Sentinel" says one person is dead. Four others are injured. CNN is still working to confirm that report.

There have been explosions reported in the area as well as fires being ignited by burning gas. Southbound I-95, we should mention, was also closed for about two hours, but it has since been reopened.

FEYERICK: Other top stories now. North Koreans are remembering leader Kim Jong-il, the second day of mourning for the country.

Thousands were lining the streets of Pyongyang to honor the late dictator who died nearly two weeks ago. The regime used artillery fire and blaring horns to pay respect to Kim Jong-il.

CHO: The U.S. Navy warning Iran not to make good on a threat to block the Strait of Hormuz. That's 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.

FEYERICK: And we may soon see the first criminal charges against BP employees stemming from the Gulf oil disaster in 2010. This is according to "The Wall Street Journal."

Prosecutors are considering charging several BP employees for allegedly providing false information to regulators about drilling risks. No comment from BP or the Department of Justice. Eleven people died during that accident.

CHO: Rick Santorum surging five days before the Iowa caucuses. According to brand new CNN/"Time"/ORC poll, the former Pennsylvania senator has jumped to third place in the Iowa race. That's ahead of Newt Gingrich who is in fourth and within 9 points of the frontrunner Mitt Romney.

FEYERICK: Violence erupting in another Syrian city as peace monitors arrive. Now many critics questioning the credibility of the Arab League team.

Mohammed Jamjoom monitoring the developments from Cairo. Boy, just taking a look at this, it really wondering whether President Assad is, in fact, has any of this under control.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Deb. And, you know, even before these Arab League observers started showing up in Syria, people were already questioning how Syria's Al- Assad regime was about letting these people do the work they needed to do to really try to end the crackdown there.

And the violence and since they have arrived, we've only heard more reports in several cities of violence that has been going on the past few days. In fact, today, a Syrian opposition group tells us that at least 10 people across Syria have been killed due to crackdowns by security forces.

Now we have also seen a lot of different disturbing videos posting online from opposition groups. One very disturbing, we should warn viewers, purporting to show a member of the Arab League observers mission in the city of Homs being taken into a mosque to view the body of a 5-year-old boy who reportedly was killed in this crackdown that's been going on in Homs.

We have also seen videos purporting to show members of these Arab League observers. They are the ones in the video that appear to be wearing orange vests and as they are touring the neighborhood and you hear gunfire all of a sudden.

Then it looks chaotic and then you see these observers as they are looking around trying to take pictures of the scene. We have also heard yesterday that the visit by the observers to different cities in Syria like Idlib and Hama was delayed due to logistical reasons.

Now today we are told they are there. But yesterday as they were supposed to visit Daraa, we heard reports that a convoy of Syrian security forces came under attack by the Syria army. Four security forces were killed.

So right now what we are seeing, no matter the fact that about 75 observers we are told are in Syria trying on conduct this mission, you keep hearing of more violence and seems like more escalation and just making people worry.

If this mission can be effective, and how credible these observers really are and what they can do to end the violence in that country -- Deb.

CHO: All right, Mohammed Jamjoom live for us in Cairo. Mohammed, thank you very much.

FEYERICK: And as you just heard, Syria is being accused of hiding the real slaughter from peace monitors. One brave freelance journalist and filmmaker, who we're not going to name for his own security did put his life on the line and slipped into the city of Homs, the center of the resistance to get the real story. He is sharing with us and with you what he found in this CNN exclusive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snipers are basically every main street. They have checkpoints on both sides. Snipers would 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. They told me I have to meet this woman. This is a mother of the victim who got shot when she was pregnant, in her 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 MALE: You or I, a situation, you or I foreseen -- a half our ago somebody got shot. And 30 minutes later, people are crossing, very normally, the street. Me crossing the street, I have been feeling basically, literally I have been feeling that somebody is aiming.

It is up to him if he is going to pull the trigger or not. I came to this junction and I realize that somebody wanted to cross the street with a huge bag of cigarettes. So -- I could hear the sniper shooting.

He was -- was than able to cross the street. The bag of cigarettes was in the middle of the street. Again, one of the -- a very impressive scenes where people have been very happily -- almost like a sport challenge to get the cigarette bags out from the sniper range. And they were 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 is a huge danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they started to throw the bread because they are not able to cross. Everything they need is on the other side. They throw it across the street.

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


CHO: Incredible that he had that kind of access slipped in there and able to get out and brings that report.

Coming up, a Massachusetts town pays the parents of a teenage bullying victim who committed suicide. Remember the Phoebe Prince case? We are going to tell you just how much her parents got in that settlement.

And lessons about a long ignored slice of American culture or teaching hate. A ruling in Arizona that could mean the end of Mexican studies in schools. It is 40 minutes past the hour.


FEYERICK: Take a look there. A very cold day here in New York City, sunny, 25 degrees going up to 37 a little later on at Central Park. A park we call our backyard.

CHO: You heard that right 25 degrees. I had to double-check with our producers to make sure that was right, but it is right. It's a chilly morning. If you are waking up in New York City, make sure you take your coat.

New this morning, choking dangers for a popular children's toy. The Build-A-Bear workshop company recalling nearly 300,000 Colorful Hearts teddy bears.

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission says the bears' eye could loosen and fall out, becoming a choking hazard. So far there have been no injuries reported. The Chinese made toys were sold in the U.S. and in Canada.

FEYERICK: A third baby has been reportedly sickened by a rare bacteria that can come in powdered formula. The infant from Oklahoma is recovering. The bacteria also sickened an Illinois infant and killed a Missouri boy earlier this month.

He was fed Enfamil formula. But this latest case has not been linked to that formula brand. FDA inspectors had been investigating the company that makes Enfamil. Health officials are also testing environmental factors like water and surfaces used to prepare the formula.

CHO: Massachusetts town pays nearly a quarter million dollars to the parents of a teenage bullying victim that was driven to suicide. The parents of Phoebe Prince received $225,000 in the case settlement with the town of South Hadley. The 15-year-old Phoebe Prince committed suicide last year after being relentlessly bullied by her classmates.

FEYERICK: And an Arizona judge has ruled that a Mexican-American studies program in Tucson City High School is, well, illegal. The classes were challenged based on a new state law barring courses that promote racial resentment.

But critics say the people who really want the classes gone, they are the real racists. CNN's Rafael Romo is live in Atlanta with this very racially charged debate. Rafael, is this about content or is it simply about the fact that the class exists?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: It is actually both. The administration -- administrative law judge has ruled that this Mexican/American studies program was, quote, "biased, political, and emotionally charged." He has upheld the determination by other state officials in Arizona, saying that the program for the Tucson unified school district violated a state law in the past year. In that written statement, the current school superintendent from the state of Arizona said, quote, "In the end I made a decision based on the totality of the information and facts gathered through my investigation, a decision I felt was best for all students in the Tucson unified school district." The Tucson unified school district had appealed the decision to shut down the program. Board members remained deeply divided on the issue.


MIGUEL CUEVAS, BOARD MEMBER: At this point we will review the direction of the administrative law judge, and we believe that we are in compliance with this law.

DR. MARK STEGEMAN, BOARD PRESIDENT: I would like to start over with a program that serves more of the 30,000 Latino students we have in the district, the more than 30,000.


ROMO: Under the law of the state can withhold 10 percent of its funding for the school district which is about $15 million a year until the district change the course. Tucson's superintendent said that the school board's lawyers are reviewing the ruling and board members will discuss it at a meeting next week. Deb, Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Rafael Romo with that report. Rafael, thank you very much.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Morning headlines next, and what to expect in politics in 2012. We'll look into our crystal ball and get a few predictions from Maggie Haberman, senior political writer for "Politico." It is 47 minutes past the hour.


CHO: It's 48 minutes after the hour. Here are your morning headlines.

I-95 northbound in Volusia County, Florida, shut down this morning. Police say that there has been a multi-vehicle crash involving several tractor trailers and at least one car. Local reports say one person dead, four others were injured. There have been several explosions reported as well as fires caused by burning gas.

Prosecutors may be getting ready for criminal charges for BP employees following the 2010 gulf oil spill. This is according to the "Wall Street Journal." Prosecutors say some workers may have provided false information about the drilling risks. Eleven people died during that accident.

The second to the last trading session of the year gets underway in less than two hours. It has been a down week so far. But this morning the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P futures are pointing higher. We could see a bounce at the opening bell.

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

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul running neck and neck in Iowa in our latest CNN-TIME-ORC poll. Rick Santorum surprisingly surged to third place within nine points of the lead. Newt Gingrich faded into fourth, dropping 19 points since the beginning of this month.

President Obama's approval ratings may be lagging, but he has plenty of support from Latino voters. According to a new survey from the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos strongly favor the president over any Republican candidate, with the president topping Mitt Romney and Rick Perry by a margin of more than 2-1.

That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


FEYERICK: You're now looking at Washington, D.C. It is mostly cloudy, 32 degrees there the high going up to 47. Welcome back, everyone.

Well, bipartisanship, we will see -- will we see any sign of it in 2012? I'm kind of thinking yes. What is ahead on the political landscape after Iowa and New Hampshire? This morning we're looking into our 2012 political crystal ball with Maggie Haberman, who is a senior political writer for "Politico." Thank you so much for joining us.

Bipartisanship, first of all. I look at all the candidates and they see what's going on in Iowa and New Hampshire. The question is, is anyone focusing on if they're going to unite Congress or if they're going to unite Congress or what's going to happen with the Eurozone. What do you see?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO: All of the above is going to be a major focuses going forward, but this is all taking place in the prism of the general election campaign for the presidency. So you are not going to see a whole lot of Kumbaya moments in the coming months, I don't think. I think what we have seen with the house payroll tax fight and the debt increase limit ceiling, what have you, argument, I think these are all very rancorous partisan fights and you're going to see this played out going forward because neither side can give in a little bit. You're going to have two sides that are laying out their case.

But this is an election that is going to be fought towards the middle. It's going to be fought towards the independents. So you are going to have to some level of you are trying to reach out to the other side. It is going to be very, very difficult.

FEYERICK: What's fascinating about that is Mitt Romney seems to understand that a little bit because he's sort of staying right in the middle. He's OK if he's not number one. That's the most dangerous place to be in some respects simply because the second you're up to number one, everybody sort of pulls you down. So for him to position himself as a moderate, he sort of gets around the whole conservative, Tea Party, all the kind of edges. What do you think about that strategy, really?

HABERMAN: I think he has to do it for a couple reasons. Number it is one, where the general election is going to be fought. Number two, this is not someone who can afford to attack to the right. He has been accused of flip-flopping for years now. So he cannot run another race as seen as switching positions. He is seen as a moderate. He is the governor of Massachusetts. This is not exactly a purple state, right? This is a very blue state. This is not going to play very well if he was trying to attack hard right, again.

Again, he can't offend Hispanics who are very crucial in the general election. You cannot offend working class white voters who are going to be crucial in the general election. So that is the strategy for him. However, it makes it harder to survive a primary and that's what he's struggling with right now.

That having been said, Mitt Romney's chances look very, very good at the moment. It would be much better for the Democrats if the Republicans were going to have a protracted primary battle. Right now we're not seeing many signs of that.

FEYERICK: What about the other candidates, because I know obviously with evangelical conservatives in Iowa there has been some move to try to approach Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann and say move your votes over to another candidate that can perhaps win. What is their power play? Are they in the game to stay or in the game to get some larger position? What is the strategy there?

HABERMAN: That's a really good question. Social conservatives and evangelical voters have been perceived as dominating the Iowa caucuses for a very long time. And you have this very fractured field right now where the evangelicals are split, as your polls, show across the board. It's basically even. This is a problem. Rick Santorum is up a little bit, but not so much it's making a difference. They had predicted very early on social conservatives. We will rally around one candidate, we will coalesce around one candidate and come together. That has not happened. When we, the national band leave town on January 4th, the evangelical voters still want to have some say on what happens in Iowa going forward for local issues. If they look like they are split, their power is reduced locally, at the gubernatorial level and state house elections and on legislation.

FEYERICK: Looking forward, so many huge international issues. Right now Iran selling its oil to China which is in Afghanistan, the Eurozone, what will happen there. The candidates, how are they going to have to prove to the American public that they are the ones who know how to resolve and to move forward in a stronger way?

HABERMAN: With China there's difficulty. With China we have seen a huge demonizing of China from some of the candidates. Not all. Jon Huntsman, obviously former ambassador to China, has been a little different in that way. In terms of the Eurozone, it is completely unpredictable and out of everybody's hands. And so these candidates like the rest of the American economy, frankly, are to some extent very tethered to events going on that are beyond their control. So we'll see.

FEYERICK: And it seems exactly what happened to President Obama when he steps into the presidency. OK, Maggie Haberman from "Politico," thank you for joining us. Great insights.

Top stories, next.

CHO: I'll take it, and tourists beware. Thanks, Deb. Why there is big trouble at Disneyland this week.

Also ahead, listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's amazing to me how this guy had been shot this many times. I mean, he's superman. I've been shot three times, my fingers are in the bullet holes.


CHO: Superman is right -- part man, part terminator, shot three times in a robbery. A marine pulls out the bullets with his own hands. We'll bring you his incredible story, next. It's 57 minutes after the hour.