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Romney Ramping Up Iowa Effort; Gingrich Falls In Iowa Polls; Bachmann Campaign Controversy; North Korea Lashes Out At South Korea; Mass Rallies Planned In Syria; Source: Al Qaeda Recruiting In Libya; Money Dispute Stalls 9/11 Museum; President Obama Pays Pearl Harbor Tribute; China Planning Mission To The Moon; "Santa Claus" Gunman 911 Tapes; The Biggest Celebration In The World; Romney Making Final Push In Iowa; N. Korea: Expect No Change; Lady Gaga To Ring In The New Year; Economy Woes Rain on the Rose Parade; Egypt Raids NGO Offices
Aired December 30, 2011 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Mitt Romney hitting the home stretch in Iowa four days to go before caucus day and with Ron Paul close, Rick Santorum surging, the race for the hawk eye state is still wide open.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: With Kim Jong-Il gone, hopes were high for peace between North and South Korea, but those hopes are fading fast this morning after a chilly announcement from Pyongyang.
CHO: They're checking the lights and testing the confetti. Times Square bracing for one million visitors tomorrow night, and we're taking you behind the scenes of the biggest New Year's Eve bash in the world on this AMERICAN MORNING.
FEYERICK: Good morning, everyone. So glad you could join us. It is Friday, December 30th. I'm Deb Feyerick along with Alina Cho on this AMERICAN MORNING.
CHO: Thanks for joining us, everybody. Up first this morning, Mitt Romney trying to steal the deal in Iowa. The former Massachusetts governor is the frontrunner right now, a few points ahead of Ron Paul.
With four days to go before the caucuses, Romney is tweaking his schedule, planning to spend a lot more time in Iowa over the next 96 hours telling voters this election is about saving the soul of America and he is the man for the job.
CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser live from Des Moines, Iowa this morning. Paul, good morning to you. So Romney is enlisting high-profile help on the trail today, isn't he?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Sure is. The guy thinking lot of here in Iowa and across the country now, I'm talking about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Remember earlier this year, a lot of Republicans wanted Christie himself to run for the White House. In October, he finally said no for the last time and endorsed Romney. Going to be with him, just a couple of miles from here this morning, at the first campaign event of the day for Romney.
Alina, it seems maybe quietly behind the scenes of the Romney campaign a little more happy where they stand in Iowa and maybe a little bit more confident. We learned that he is going to be right here in Des Moines on caucus night.
He's not going to go back in New Hampshire. He's going to stay here and he's going to be here the next morning before heading to New Hampshire, the state that votes second. That's what they're saying quietly and behind the scenes. I think they're more confident. But publicly still a very more modest Mitt Romney. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure I want to win Iowa. Everybody wants to win Iowa. I'm not going to predict who's going to win. It's too difficult to know who's going to show up at the caucuses, but I want to get the support of the people of Iowa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: Remember four years ago, Mitt Romney spent a lot of time and money here in Iowa. He didn't come in first though. He got upset by Mike Huckabee. He went to New Hampshire. He lost there as well. That's bad memories from four years ago. They're being careful-- Alina.
CHO: Well, amazing, what a poll can do, right, when you're at the top. Paul, I also want to talk about Newt Gingrich who's been falling in the polls.
In our last CNN poll, he's now fourth with 14 percent of the vote. He's still confident. He's Newt Gingrich, after all, but he's lowering expectations now, isn't he?
STEINHAUSER: Yes, he seems to be. Started last week and it continued on the campaign trail yesterday here in Iowa. Maybe now fourth place is good enough for him to continue. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you come in fourth, will you stay in the race?
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure. That wouldn't bother me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there are more than three tickets out of Iowa?
GINGRICH: Sure. Depends on what happens. Depends what the margins are. Considering I'm 20 points ahead in other states, it would be fairly foolish not to stay in the race. It is a long way from here to picking the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STEINHAUSER: And those states he's talking about are South Carolina, which votes third and Florida, which votes fourth. But we haven't seen some polls there in a while, Alina. I tell you let's keep our eyes on Newt Gingrich. See how he does here in Iowa. That could really determine what happens next for him -- Alina.
CHO: That's right and he's heading into 2012 in debt so that's something to think about as well. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann another high profile defection, two in two days. What's that all about, Paul?
STEINHAUSER: This is the last thing she needs, Alina, right? She's in the single digits in our poll. She needs a strong finish here to continue on. So she's really been taken off message.
Remember yesterday morning, we were talking about her state chairman here, a state senator, who jumped ship and now is backing Ron Paul. Well, her political director here in Iowa, now he has been let go as well, maybe fired after he took sides with that state senator, over that state senator was paid off by Ron Paul or not.
Alina, this is taking Michele Bachmann off message. She needs to get back to her message immediately if she can do well here in Iowa -- Alina.
CHO: Polling at about 9 percent. All right, Paul Steinhauser, thank you so much live from Des Moines.
And in the next hour, we're going to be talking about Romney's Iowa strategy as well as Rick Santorum's sudden surge in the poll. Is it real one?
His chances of pulling off an upset on caucus state? Could he be the next Mike Huckabee? We'll be speaking with CNN contributors, Will Cain and Maria Cardona.
And this Tuesday night, don't forget the country's first real votes and the candidates' first true test. Special live, America's Choice 2012 coverage of the Iowa caucuses begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Right here on CNN.
FEYERICK: North Korea warning of violent revenge against South Korea. The nation says it insulted that more South Koreans did not attend the funeral of the late leader Kim Jong-Il.
South Korea did allow some citizens to attend and did not send an official delegation. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live from Seoul, South Korea. Paula, boy, there was hope the South had expressed condolences, but what is going on now?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alina, it's literally one day since the official mourning for Kim Jong-Il ended, and already these confrontational statements from North Korea have started once again.
There was this hope that the new boy, Kim Jong-Un, he is young, he has been educated abroad, maybe he'll have a different outlook and maybe he'll change things within North Korea. But the initial impression is it will be exactly the same.
His statement from the National Defense Commission, we solemnly declare with confidence that the South Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change from the DPRK, from North Korea.
So it really couldn't be any clearer. Criticizing the fact that the South Koreans wouldn't give a blanket approval to people from South Korea to go to Pyongyang and pay their respects to Kim Jong-Il, but it was an about-turn for the South Korean government.
President Lee Myung-Bak had been hard-lined government towards the North Koreans before he softened his stance. It clearly wasn't enough for North Korea. There should be a little bit of context here.
This is the kind of language we do expect from North Korea. It's the kind of rhetoric that we have seen and heard a lot of in the past. Very fiery rhetoric, but obviously it is coming very quickly after this official mourning period is over -- Alina.
FEYERICK: So, and -- Paula, it's Deb now. We're also hearing that the U.S. plans to send one of its top diplomats to talk there in the region. Do you think that that might help soften things? Do you think that can help build a bridge, or right now is North Korea just digging in and saying, sorry, things are going to go on as usual?
HANCOCKS: Well, certainly from what we've heard today, it sounds as though they're digging in their heels and they will be saying business as usual. Sunday will be interesting. They always give an editorial on the first of January, every single year.
It's published in the newspaper, but it's effectively indirectly from Kim Jong-Il, it will be from Kim Jong-Un. We'll be able to see exactly what he thinks for the year, but we do have Curt Campbell, the U.S. assistant for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs coming to Seoul, coming to Tokyo, coming to Beijing.
And there really is a flurry of diplomatic activity around the region, which just shows the fear of the unknown at this point. All of the regional powers and the U.S. are working very closely to try and figure out what the repercussions are from Kim Jong-Un taking over and Kim Jong-Il dying. Now, of course, this is a statement today does not give much hope, but it is a statement we have heard before.
FEYERICK: All right, Paula Hancocks for us there in Korea. Thank you so much again. I think as you put it, it is indeed a fear of the unknown. We appreciate it. Thanks so much.
CHO: Massive anti-government rallies planned this morning all across Syria. The opposition calling on people to camp out in public squares until President Bashar Al-Assad's regime is gone.
Rebels say Syrian security forces killed more than 30 people during demonstrations last night. The protests were energized by the arrival of Arab League peace monitors earlier in the week.
FEYERICK: Also new this morning, al Qaeda building an army in Libya. A source tells CNN the terrorist organization has recruited some 200 Jihadists in the country.
And al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri personally sent one of his experienced fighters and ex-British detainee to head recruiting efforts in Libya, but the source says western intelligence agencies are aware of his presence there.
CHO: A fight over money is holding things up again at ground zero. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg now saying there is no chance the September 11th Museum will open as planned 11 years to the day of the attacks.
This is all over a dispute between the Port Authority and the Museum Foundation, whose chairman, by the way, is Bloomberg, over who should pay $300 million in cost overruns.
FEYERICK: President Obama paid his respects at Pearl Harbor last night. He and the first lady laid a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial to honor the thousands of Americans killed there 70 years ago this month.
CHO: Again, China is officially on a mission to send a man to the moon. The plan includes the development of new satellites, spacecraft and even a space station.
No human has set foot on the moon since 1972 when American astronauts landed as part of the Apollo 17 mission. The Chinese successfully docked two unmanned spacecraft in orbit just last month.
And they're hoping to have construction of a space lab completed by 2016. But any moon landing is not expected for another decade or so, 2020.
FEYERICK: And still ahead, chilling 911 audio, whispers of a suspected killer who was dressed as Santa as he opened fire on his family on Christmas Day.
CHO: The economy raining on the Rose Parade. Float organizers are dropping out and "Occupy" protesters are moving in. What's that all about? We'll tell you, just ahead.
FEYERICK: Final touches. Yes, the countdown for the New Year's Eve ball as New York prepare for the party of the year. A live report and we'll have it all for you from Times Square, next.
CHO: Welcome back. It's 13 minutes after the hour.
Disturbing discovery in that deadly Christmas Day shooting outside Dallas. Police have enhanced the audio of a 911 call and they say the voice they've uncovered is the presumed killer.
A man who shot and killed six family members while he was dressed as Santa Claus and then he shot himself to death. His words are chilling. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: Hello, Grapevine 911.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Help. Help.
UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: You need help?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I'm shooting people.
UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: Are you sick?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I'm shooting people.
UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: What was that? Do you need an ambulance or police? Hello?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: The victims included the suspected gunman, his estranged wife and his two children, his 19-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son.
FEYERICK: New this morning, a massive sinkhole threatening to push a historic cemetery underground. Officials in Allentown, Pennsylvania are scrambling to exhume any graves that's stand in danger.
The cemetery holds 20,000 graves some dating back at far as the 1800s. The sinkhole spans some 50 feet and is not just threatening the dead. Twenty five people in the area have also been evacuated from their homes.
CHO: In Colorado, police have arrested a driver who they say intentionally rammed his SUV into five cars including that one there. A security camera captured all of it. Police say the driver also tried to run over several people. No word on why.
FEYERICK: And we were holding our breath and just in time as $16.5 million dollar winning lottery ticket was turned in yesterday, only two hours before it was set to expire. Iowa lottery officials tried for months to get the winner to come forward. No word yet on who won the hot lotto, or why they waited so long to claim their prize. Good things are, they did. The odds of winning, nearly 1 in 11 million.
CHO: It's billed as the biggest New Year's Eve celebration in the world. We're talking of course about the famed ball drop in Times Square. More than one million people are expected to crowd the area tomorrow. Lots of preparations underway now. Workers are putting the final touches on the ball, testing the lights and the confetti machines. I want to go straight to Susan Candiotti, who is live in Times Square. Susan, good morning. Boy, what a difference a year makes. A year ago, you were standing on a snow drift. Today, relatively balmy.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you believe it? Indeed. We were in the -- it was right after the blizzard following Christmas, standing on snow piles. Not like that at all today. Temperatures should be in the mid-40s on New Year's Eve.
And look, action already under way, even at this early hour. They've moved all these barricades just a few seconds ago over to the side. But soon they will be covering half of the street here, where part of the one million people will be crowded for a 10-block stretch here at Times Square and then heading up north from here.
And you see the crane is up. They're still working on the lights. They're working on speaker systems. And at the top of the one Times Square building, look -- they're going to have -- that's where that ball is going to be dropping towering 300 feet above Times Square. Not to mention the ton of confetti that's going to be showering Times Square at the stroke of midnight.
Of course, a lot of preparations underway over there, the stage where CNN's Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin will also be broadcasting our coverage, starting at 10:00 on New Year's Eve tomorrow night.
We talked to the people who are putting all of this together, and they said, it's cooperation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM TOMPKINS, PRESIDENT, TIMES SQUARE ALLIANCE: What you see behind me is that this is really like organizing the Super Bowl Halftime Show, except you've got a half a million people every day in a city alive all around you. It's so different from setting up in some empty stadium until the crowd comes in.
The crowd is already here. The crowd is in your way. It's great, but it makes it a lot more complicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: And, of course, added to the complications of all of these people being here, security. NYPD has been hard at work making all kinds of preparations. They will have security officers manning land, sea and air posts including even helicopters with infrared capabilities. They will have 16 checkpoints, with metal detectors. No alcohol is allowed in the streets here, no backpacks. And once you're in the pens, you can't get out.
But, of course, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says they always have to be worried about terrorist threats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: We know the lone wolf threat is certainly alive and well. We know that there are al Qaeda affiliates in places like Somalia and Yemen that are certainly plotting or have a desire to strike us here in -- in the homeland.
So our operating assumption is that the threat has really not diminished. We have no reason to think it's -- it's diminished, and the lone wolf threat is something that, I think, you know, certainly all of -- all of law enforcement, all of the federal agencies involved in this sort of work are very much concerned about.
Very difficult to identify these people. It's a big haystack and, you know, trying to pick out a couple of needles is exceedingly difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: But, of course, Ray Kelly says despite all that, this is going to be a fun night. They're ready for it. They don't expect any problems at all, and I'm ready for it, too, Alina. Oh, yes. Got to have --
CANDIOTTI: Got to the have the -- the glasses and, woo-hoo, here's my own confetti. Nice and early for you.
CHO: Intrepid reporter, I should have expected Susan Candiotti that you would have gotten the glasses early and the confetti. Good for you.
CANDIOTTI: That's right.
CHO: All right. In the spirit.
CANDIOTTI: My favorite color of green.
CHO: OK. Good.
CANDIOTTI: OK. Bye-bye.
CHO: Thanks, Susan.
Susan mentioned Ray Kelly. A little later on in the program, we will be speaking to New York's top cop, Ray Kelly. He'll stop by AMERICAN MORNING, our studio's right here, to talk about safety at tomorrow's celebration in Times Square. That's at 7:50 A.M. Eastern Time.
FEYERICK: Well, Rob Marciano is off today. But there's going to be a lot of weather, as people make their way tomorrow evening.
Reynolds Wolf in the Extreme Weather Center. Hey there, Reynolds.
REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, guys. You know, last year when you had the experience out at Times Square, the conditions were very rough. We had snow all over the ground. It was very, very chilly.
This year, we're expecting a little bit of a change. It's going to be a bit more comfortable out there. In fact, as we expand a bit and show you the forecast, in, well, midnight hour, we can expect 43 degrees, winds out of the west at seven. Certainly not warm, but the same token, not quite as cold as it was last year's. That's certainly the good news.
We do anticipate that conditions are going to be much better than what, say, we could find in perhaps Detroit or back over in Chicago, where for the time being in Chicago, you do have some scattered rain showers, a little bit of snow falling south of the Twin Cities and back over towards Madison.
Meanwhile, in New York, we're seeing a little bit of snowfall now north of Syracuse, but back along parts of Buffalo, along, say, Rochester, along I-90, it's been (INAUDIBLE). You have a little bit of that warm front that's coming through. And that's going to be the big difference. We don't have that cool air right at the surface, that freezing layer. So flake effect, snowfall, not going to happen for today for you. So that's certainly some good news.
What we're going to see a bit farther out towards the west, it's going to be another onslaught. Again, plenty of that moisture moving into the Pacific Northwest. Rain and even some snowfall in the high altitudes; 49 degrees you're high in Seattle; 59 in San Francisco; 72 in Los Angeles; 54 in Kansas City; 68 in Dallas; 74 in New York -- or rather 50 in New York.
And as we take a look, as we wrap things up with your delays, in Chicago and Detroit, again, major delays up to an hour due to rain, Minneapolis backup, also Atlanta, Houston, Denver and even San Francisco due to the fog and the low clouds.
That's a look at your snapshot of the holiday weekend. We have more coming up.
FEYERICK: Thanks, Reynolds.
WOLF: You bet.
CHO: Still to come, Verizon Wireless about to spring a new fee on customers. They're calling it a convenience charge. We're going to tell you how much it is, when it's coming and what you may be able to do to stop it.
FEYERICK: And what's this house, the new rules meant to make it easier for people to buy and sell homes for a profit.
It is now 22 minutes past the hour.
FEYERICK: And welcome back. "Minding Your Business" this morning.
The final trading session of 2011 ready to begin in about three hours. Encouraging news on home sales and improving prospects for job growth sent stocks higher yesterday, but the Dow gaining 138 points and the S&P 500 advancing back into the black for the year.
Real estate flippers who buy cheap homes fix them up and try to quickly resell them for a fast profit, well they just got a reprieve from the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA is extending a waiver for its anti-flipping regulations through 2012. That means buyers can still gel mortgage insurance even if they flip a home within 90 days of purchasing it. The hope is that this will help unload some of those foreclosed homes that are flooding low-income areas.
And Verizon Wireless confirms it will start charging a $2 convenience fee on January 15th to customers making one-time bill payments online or by a telephone using a debit or credit card. The company says it will offer several options to customers who want to avoid paying those $2. The announcement comes one days after Verizon's 4G network suffered its third nationwide outage this month.
Hollywood lowering the curtain on a brutal year in the Box Office. The movie industry sold just under 1.3 billion tickets in North America in 2011. Believe it or not, that's the lowest number in 16 years. But revenues from ticket sales down 3.5 percent from 2010.
And Amazon.com, the world's largest online retailer, says its Kindle eReaders and tablets were their top three selling items in December. Customers bought more than a million Kindles per week during the holiday shopping season with the new $199 Kindle Fire tablet the top selling item on Amazon's website.
AMERICAN MORNING will be right back after the break. See you then.
CHO: A rose by any other name. Budweiser and other longtime sponsors bailing on the Rose Bowl Parade as the economy forces changes in the way they do business -- on this AMERICAN MORNING.
FEYERICK: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Deb Feyerick with Alina Cho.
It is 6:30 right now. Time for the morning's top stories:
Mitt Romney's hunkering down in Iowa with four days to go before the caucuses. The former Massachusetts governor now plans to spend most of the next 96 hours in the state. His staff confirms that he will be spending New Year's Eve in Des Moines, as well as caucus night and the morning after.
CHO: North Korea is threatening revenge against South Korea. The North says it is insulted that more South Koreans did not attend the funeral of its late leader Kim Jong Il. South Korea did allow some citizens to travel to the funeral but did not send an official delegation. North Korea says it wants no dealings with the South.
FEYERICK: Al Qaeda building an army in Libya. A source tells CNN the terrorist organization has recruited some 200 jihadists in the country, and al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri personally sent one of his experienced fighters, an ex-British detainee, to head recruiting efforts in Libya. But the source says western intelligence agencies are aware of his presence there.
CHO: Occupy activists plan to rain on the Rose Parade. Demonstrators from all over the nation are apparently organizing a so- called human float right behind the last Rose Parade float.
FEYERICK: The economy has already impacted Monday's festivities. Some big time sponsors have had to drop out.
Casey Wian has that story.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perennial award winner Rain Bird Sprinkler, Budweiser's famous Clydesdale, and the city of Long Beach, California, all have withdrawn from the 2012 Rose Parade because of economic concerns. West Covina, California, first entered a float in 1999, and wowed the crowd with 2010's memorable entry featuring the Tuskegee airman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it does, it brings the community together.
WIAN: Like many cities, West Covina stopped funding its float in 2004, turning it over a private foundation, which pulled out of the parade this year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did our very, very best to raise the funds to pay for the float. The economics, the businesses are hurting. They wanted to go ahead and if they had additional available dollars to use it for other purposes.
WIAN (on camera): The picturesque backdrop of the Rose Parade route traditionally has been viewed by cities as a valuable promotion's tool to attract people and businesses to the region. But with so many municipal budgets in trouble, cities are now facing a difficult choice: pay for a float in the rose parade or pay the salary of a police officer or librarian.
RICHARD JACKSON, PASADENA TOURNAMENT OF ROSES: Certainly city where is there are major financial issues going on, putting a float in the parade, you know, seems like not necessarily the best use of resources.
WIAN (voice-over): The smallest of the four companies that build floats for $75,000 to $200,000 or more each has shut its doors.
KATIE RODRIGUEZ, CHARISMA FLOATS: We started off January 1st well, with a good parade and two happy clients, and we're finishing the year out of business.
MATTHEW RODRIGUEZ, CHARISMA FLOATS: People just aren't spending money like they used to. Everybody's holding on to it.
WIAN: Tim Estes runs Fiesta Floats those he's lost long time client Rain Bird, others have taken its place.
TIM ESTES, FIESTA FLOATS: Yes, there's been an impact. There's been cost of increases with raw material, flowers, steel, labor insurance costs. You know, I'm just fortunate.
WIAN: Float builders and parade organizers even with the slow economy say the Rose Parade remain as big draw for many advertisers.
JACKSON: We seem to have weathered all the economic storms for the last 123 years and still are in existence comfortably.
WIAN: Things may be uncomfortable after the upcoming parade. Protesters from the Occupy movement plan to voice their economic concerns by staging a demonstration behind the final float of 2012.
Casey Wian, CNN, Pasadena, California.
CHO: That's sad, 121-year tradition, but the economy hitting sort of every facet of this nation.
All right. Well, new this morning, donations pouring into the Philippines. This after a devastating storm slammed the country nearly two weeks ago. Foreign aid has topped more than $12.5 million. The biggest donors were the U.S., China and Australia. More than 1,200 people died during tropical storm Washi and 40,000 homes were destroyed.
CHO: A fire breaks out on a nuclear submarine in Russia, 100 emergency responders at the scene. Local officials say they shut down the sub's two nuclear reactors. Crews eventually put out the flames that started on the scaffolding on the dock. The military research Web site says the sub is armed with 16 missiles. But officials say none of the equipment was damaged and there's no threat of radiation. There's been no injuries reported.
FEYERICK: The U.S. has agreed to sell $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. The deal calls for production of up to 84 new jets and the modernization of 70 existing F-15s. With Iran causing tension in the Middle East, State Department officials are calling the contract a demonstration of America's commitment to a strong Saudi defense.
Egyptian authorities storming the offices of 17 nongovernmental organizations, including three U.S.-based groups. The full-blown raids happened yesterday. Apparently, computers and files were seized. Now, this is already adding to the already tense ties between Egypt and Washington. Egyptian officials say it was all part of an investigation into alleged illegal funding.
We want to go straight to Mohammed Jamjoom. He's been watching the situation for some time now, live in Cairo.
Mohammed, good morning to you.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. These raids yesterday came as a complete shock and I'm here today with Julie Hughes. She's the country director in Egypt for NDI.
Julie, thanks for being here.
I wanted to ask you first, what exactly was taken from the offices? And how many of your offices were raided?
JULIE HUGHES, EGYPT COUNTRY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE: We have three offices simultaneously raided. Our office in Cairo, our office in Alexandria and our office in this Assiut. They took computers, other electronic equipment, videoconferencing equipment, cash. As well as, in Cairo, at least, about 20 boxes of financial and programmatic records, training materials, used flip chart paper.
It was pretty extensive.
JAMJOOM: Did you have any indication this kind of thing was going to happen? And if not, why do you think that this occurred?
HUGHES: I am not certain I understand exactly why. There have been a lot of media reports about a ministry of justice investigation into what is referred to as the illegal foreign funding, Egyptian NGOs.
And NDI is an American organization that applied for registration in Egypt in 2005 and has been working here since then. We're a training institute. So, the issue of funding really shouldn't affect us. We are a little mystified.
JAMJOOM: Thanks for being with us. We're going to continue to follow this story, try to speak to Egyptian activists here today, who are completely outraged that this happened yesterday and saying these are tactics that couldn't even have been employed by the previous Mubarak regime -- Alina.
CHO: Mohammed Jamjoom, live in Cairo for us -- Mohammed, thank you very much.
FEYERICK: And still ahead, so last year, the list of words that will forever banished from the English language in 2012. Sorry, guys, your man cave, about to become a shed again, or in some cases, just a couch.
CHO: Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin host tomorrow's New Year's Eve celebration on CNN for the fifth year. Griffin says She's going to try pants (ph) this year. She says Anderson should duct-tape his pants to his body. So, will he? I'm going to tell you about that, coming up.
Thirty-eight minutes after the hour.
CHO: Welcome back. Forty-two minutes after the hour.
Are you ready to ring in the New Year? Well, New Year's Eve is tomorrow, and that can only mean one thing here at CNN, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. It will be Anderson and Kathy's fifth year hosting New Year's Eve together, and Anderson's tenth for CNN.
I asked him if this is his way of avoiding having to hit the town on New Year's Eve? Watch.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: It is. I started doing this because I never have fun on New Year's Eve. I think it's impossible -- in New York, there's no cabs, it's freezing cold. So I volunteered, I guess 10 years ago -- God, I didn't know it was that long. But started volunteering.
And found out I really loved it. It's great being actually in Times Square and --
CHO: Yes, talk about that a little bit. I mean, give us sort of a behind-the-scenes look where you are. Where is the set? Here's the crowd --
COOPER: We're on this giant sort of podium of bleachers that all media is on and everybody has like two or three feet of space that they're allowed, and you're basically above the TKTS, around like 46th Street.
COOPER: And, you know, there's just a great atmosphere there. I mean, it's nice -- I don't think I could do it as a civilian, because you're hemmed into pens with thousands of other people and you can't go to the bathroom. That seems very unpleasant to me.
CHO: Talk about Kathy Griffin a little bit. By her own estimation, she's been fired three times from this. Why do you keep inviting her back?
COOPER: It's not me. We've become friends over the years. And, you know --
CHO: And she's like this with your mom.
COOPER: She and my mom are very good friends as well, which is surreal. In fact, they see each other more than I see either of them. And they talk about all sorts of stuff that I don't want to know about and -- yes.
CHO: Well, last year, she tried to talk her clothes off. I want to play this clip. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What the --
KATHY GRIFFIN: I met someone. What? It's New Year's.
COOPER: You're supposed to do that at stroke of midnight. We're still, like -- four minutes away. And we're going to be live all the way through -- all the way through the New Year. Playing -- all the traditional stuff that we love. New York, New York.
The playing of -- what is going on?
GRIFFIN: I'm taking your clothes off.
COOPER: No. All right.
GRIFFIN: It's for America. I love America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know, it's weird because you never actually see the program when you're doing something like this, and you go back and see it. So, it's weird to actually watch it.
CHO: You know what she said she'll try to do this year, right?
CHO: She kind of pants you.
COOPER: You know, she's -- I don't know. I don't know --
CHO: She says you should probably, just to be safe, duct tape your pants to your body.
COOPER: Really? Is that what she said?
CHO: Is that something you're willing to do?
COOPER: Well, that's interesting. Maybe I'll try suspenders or something. She always comes up with some hair-brained idea and we have to talk her down. Last year --
CHO: Yet she still tries.
COOPER: Yes, last year she wanted to throw money into the crowd. And I was like, you now, you can't throw money --
CHO: I mean, in all seriousness, though, do you have a favorite moment or two over the years? I mean, it has -- this will be your fifth year with Kathy.
COOPER: That's crazy.
CHO: It is crazy.
COOPER: Wow. Favorite moment? I -- favorite moment, actually, no. It's actually just -- there really hasn't -- honestly, I try to blank it out as soon as it's done, and I just -- I pray that I wake up the next day and it's not on the headline of the Drudge Report.
That's basically -- oh, there was actually, the year she threw stuff at Jonas Brothers. That was fun. They were performing and she was literally throwing things at them.
We actually had Gaga on the New Year show years ago before she was huge. She was playing, and we went to her concert and that was fun. So, I really feel we're responsible. Our little New Year's show is responsible for her success.
CHO: I think you are. I think you are. Anderson, thanks.
CHO: I'll be watching.
COOPER: All right.
CHO: Always fun to talk to Anderson to celebrate the New Year with us. Again, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin will be hosting the big event from New York City's Times Square. CNN correspondents will give reports of celebrations across the country and around the world
The party, by the way, starts on Saturday at 11:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN, but you should get to Times Square much earlier if you want to see it from there.
FEYERICK: Anderson's going to need own security from Kathy.
CHO: That's right.
FEYERICK: Forget the crowds. Forget the crowds. Anyway, great piece.
Get them out of your system while you still can. Lake Superior State University, as it does every year at this time, released its list of words and phrases that should be banned from the English language. They include the overused occupy. Sorry about that, 99 percent. And it also includes man cave.
It's really just a basement with a TV, recliner from eBay, mini fridge and old air Jordan posters. So, really, get over it. Get over it. OK? And get a new couch. Also, blowback, ginormous, and baby bump. So, if you have a ginormous baby bump, well, chances are you've been in your man cave too long or you're just really pregnant.
CHO: People are going to be continuing to use those words, especially occupy, but anyway, fun to do.
Coming up, don't book your next vacation just yet. Our expert will reveal the latest travel trends for 2012 in just a couple of minutes. Stay with us.
CHO: Forty-eight minutes after the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.
CHO (voice-over): Four days to go until the Iowa caucuses and Mitt Romney trying to seal the deal. He'll be spending New Year's Eve in Des Moines, campaigning today with New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. Romney also plans to be there next week on caucus night and the morning after the voting.
North Korea saying expect no change in that it will not deal with the South Korean government. The north insulted that more South Koreans did not attend the funeral of Kim Jong-Il. South Korea did allow some citizens to travel to the funeral but did not send an official delegation.
President Obama visited the Pearl Harbor memorial last night. He and the first lady laid a wreath at the "USS Arizona" in honor of the more than 2,400 Americans killed there 70 years ago this month.
And Lady Gaga will be New York City mayor's Michael Bloomberg's special guest in Times Square at tomorrow's New Year's Eve party. She's expected to perform, and she'll push the button that begins the ball drop and the countdown to 2012. She calls it the ultimate honor for a New Yorker.
CHO: That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.
FEYERICK: The New Year is almost here. Maybe you're away. Maybe you stayed put, but what can travelers expect in 2012? Airport screening, that's going to be a lot quicker. More travelers. They're going to book trips through social media sites. These are just some of the new travel trends for the year ahead.
Here to help us better prepare for the future tricks, Sarah Spagnolo, digital projects editor for "Travel & Leisure." Thanks so much for being here, Sarah. You know, I was stunned when I read that airlines tried to raise fares 22 times last year. Does that mean that there are -- we're going to see higher fares in the coming year as well?
SARAH SPAGNOLO, DIGITAL PROJECTS EDITOR, TRAVEL & LEISURE: We are going to see slightly higher fares. They're expected to rise somewhere between two percent to five percent for short haul economy flights in the U.S. and a bit more when you're looking at growing economies in Latin America and Asia-Pacific, but that's not so much when you're considering what was attempted last year.
FEYERICK: Which is crazy, because you have now fewer airlines since they're all merging or going out of business?
SPAGNOLO: Yes. Unfortunately, seats are, you know, high capacity. You're going to see fuller planes, and those seats are in demand.
FEYERICK: OK. Let's talk about delays at airports on planes. Now, the industry sort of is now slapped with a huge sum of money, something like $27,000 per passenger if a plane is late by three hours. Are planes going to take off more on time or are we just going to see more cancellations?
SPAGNOLO: We're going to see a little bit of both. Planes are attempting to takeoff on time more frequently than ever before, thanks to that new DOT law that was put into place in April 2010, but you will see, you know, an increased amount of cancellations as well.
But when you're looking at the grand scheme of all travel, those cancellations are a very small percentage, less than two percent of all flights. So, not something to be concerned about on a grand scale.
FEYERICK: OK. I always feel so bad because there's always that one snowstorm which strands a whole plane of people somewhere, like, 15 feet from the gate, but let's talk about, also, the positive, because screening is supposed to get a little bit easier, right?
SPAGNOLO: Yes. Thanks to a new TSA pilot program called pre-check. A select group of frequent fliers will be able to go through security even quicker. So, that will help everybody out, of course. They'll be able to go through security while still wearing your belts, their shoes, keeping their liquids and their computers in their carry-on bag.
That will be a four airports in the U.S. including Atlanta. And then, great news for everybody. By 2015, the TSA is saying that we'll all be able to go through security wearing our shoes, thanks to new shoe screening mats.
FEYERICK: OK. Good. So, that means a little bit extra layer of screening but a little less time having to get dressed.
SPAGNOLO: Exactly. No need to take off your shoes.
FEYERICK: Exactly. Let's talk about the airports themselves, because I travel a lot through LaGuardia Airport here in New York, and I see that they're making a very big change when it comes to the kind of foods they're offering. They're almost stepping up their game. It's not just that sort of little newsstand anymore.
SPAGNOLO: Exactly. What you're seeing at LaGuardia, it's something that you're going to be seeing at airports across the country. Instead of fast-food chains at airports, you'll be seeing a lot of local restaurants by local chefs, for example. LaGuardia is a perfect example.
Andrew Carmellini will be opening a new restaurant called "Minnow," a seafood inspired restaurant. Of course, he's a well-known chef here in New York. At LAX, there will be a food truck parked out of Terminal 4. They'll be serving local-inspired -- excuse me -- Korean-Style kalbi short-rib tacos. So, something unexpected in the airport for sure but absolutely delicious.
FEYERICK: For people who don't know about the food courts in California, they're hugely, hugely popular.
FEYERICK: What about hotels? What can we expect? I mean, it is a recession, but yet, people are traveling. Are prices coming down or where are they going to hover?
SPAGNOLO: Unfortunately not some great news there either. Prices are gong to increase about five percent according to Smith's Travel Research, but a great idea, a great tip would be to lock in a fare with, you know, Trip Adviser or Expedia Travel or to join a flash sale site. Travel major actually operates our own called vacationist, so that's a great way to lock in a great way.
FEYERICK: OK. But you have to do that now? You have to do that -- or you have to do as soon as possible --
FEYERICK: See, I can too, because I never know when I'm going to be able to travel. So, all right. That's my --
SPAGNOLO: Some pre-planning.
FEYERICK: That's my text (ph). Pre-planning is not necessarily in my vocabulary when it comes to vacations. OK. Now, also, websites. A lot of people rely on Expedia, Travelocity, and oftentimes, when you're reading through the descriptions of hotels, I always wonder, is this a friend of the hotel? SPAGNOLO: Yes.
FEYERICK: Are there new options coming out?
SPAGNOLO: There are new options. There are social media sites. Of course, everybody's now familiar with seeing what they're friends have done on Facebook, but there are new social media apps such as Gogobot, which actually, you know, incorporate your friends and people in your network travel review so that you can see reviews from people that you know and trust.
FEYERICK: OK. Which is good. Which is good. You want to get that sort of lump sum. Finally, quickly, cruises, because I have to say, I was not a big fan of cruises until I took one, and now, I am -- I'm actually -- only been on one, but I'm converted, because it's a really good way to get somewhere without leaving where you are which I kind of like. So, what about cruises?
SPAGNOLO: So, cruises is actually a bright spot when you're looking at the travel landscape for 2012. We're seeing discounts and great rates if you book somewhat in advance, but not that much, actually. Five months in advance if you book for a Windstar cruise. They're offering a 15 percent discount.
For Oceana cruises, for the Caribbean, and Panama, if you book five months in advance, they're throwing in free airfare. So, those are all sorts of perks that travelers are really excited about.
FEYERICK: All right. An option. Sarah Spagnola, thank you so much. Now, you give me some ideas.
SPAGNOLO: Thank you.
FEYERICK: Maybe, I will pre-plan.
SPAGNOLO: Thank you so much.
FEYERICK: It is a New Year. It is a New Year. Thanks so much for joining us.
AMERICAN MORNING is going to be right back with all the morning's top stories. See you soon.