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The Iowa Caucus; 'Anonymous' Cyber Attack; Deadly Christmas Fire; Iran and Iraq

Aired December 26, 2011 - 19:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A vigil for Ali Ana Lemon (ph) taking place in Fort Wayne, Indiana tonight; the 9- year-old girl vanished on Friday. Her grandfather comes OUTFRONT tonight.

Authorities are investigating the cause of a deadly Christmas Day fire that killed five people in Stamford, Connecticut.

And the "Bottom Line" on the Iowa caucus; we're just eight days away and the latest poll, former front-runner Newt Gingrich is in a virtual dead heat with both Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Ali Velshi sitting in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the Iowa caucuses just eight days away. Republican presidential candidates have just over a week left to prove to Iowans that they're the best choice to win the first in the nation contest, which is held on January the 3rd. Now polls show the race there is still very much up for grabs, but there was only one candidate out today with an official campaign event and it wasn't one of those top three.

It was Rick Santorum and he went hunting with an important guest. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us now with more. Dana, who is this special guest that got Rick Santorum out on a campaign event today?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is Congressman Steve King, a very prominent Republican from the state of Iowa whose endorsement is coveted big time. Now he didn't endorse Santorum today and in fact I spoke with him by phone as he was driving in the car, Ali, to this hunting event with Rick Santorum.

He told me that he had planned to endorse months ago. He really wanted to back one of these candidates to try to have a big impact in the Iowa caucuses and he still to this day, eight days away, he says that he can't do it because just like many other Republican voters in Iowa, he can't make up his mind. So it was certainly helpful to Rick Santorum to have this picture that we're showing right now, but he did not get an actual endorsement from Steve King and it's really fascinating that he is just perplexed that he can't make up his mind.

VELSHI: Yes. Santorum is the one candidate who has claimed to go through -- to all 99 counties in Iowa. I think Michele Bachmann is either has achieved that or is about to achieve that. He has really, really worked hard in Iowa. And is it helping him? I mean the latest poll has him at four percent.

BASH: No. I mean if you look at the polls, it's not helping him at all, but the thing about Iowa and the thing about the caucuses and the way they work is, you know, you never know where the activists are going to come from and where they're going end up and if, this is a big if, he could get the help of somebody like Steve King who can you know kind of fire up his activists, that certainly could help Rick Santorum, but look, for somebody like Rick Santorum, it was certainly a smart move for him to get out on a day where nobody else is out today and this is -- it's make or break, the state of Iowa is make or break.

VELSHI: He of course has kept to the idea that he wants voters to think he's the most conservative or reliably conservative in the group. Mitt Romney has released an ad called "conservative agenda". Let's listen to that.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going do something to government. I'm going to make it simpler and smaller and smarter, getting rid of programs, turning programs back to states and finally making government itself more efficient.


VELSHI: It's a different conservative than the one Rick Santorum champions. This one is a fiscal conservative, probably more appealing to a lot of the conservatives with money to donate right now. Rick Perry also has an ad out there taking a completely different approach. He slams Congress. He's actually talking about making Congress part- time. Listen to his ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Washington's the problem, why trust a congressman to fix it. Among them they've spent 63 years in Congress leaving us with debt, earmarks and bailouts.


VELSHI: So Dana, two very different approaches for conservatives in Iowa. One, that fiscal conservative message not touching on any of those social conservative issues that Santorum and Bachmann play to and then Perry's ad talking about being the outsider and how Congress is a problem. Which one plays better in Iowa?

BASH: You know they both are playing the best cards they've got, Ali. When it comes to Mitt Romney, of course, he's going to play up at least as part of his closing argument, the idea that he's a fiscal conservative. I was with Mitt Romney a lot four years ago in Iowa. He spent millions of dollars. He had an incredible organization and he got pummeled -- he got pummeled there because people don't buy him as a social conservative because he has changed his stance on some of the issues that social conservatives care so much about.

When it comes to Rick Perry, look, when you've got two sitting members of Congress, two former members of Congress also running with you, of course, and you're a Texas governor, of course, that's what you're going say and as a senior congressional correspondent, part- time Congress, maybe not such a bad idea.

VELSHI: Give you a little more time off, Dana, great to see you as always.

BASH: You too.

VELSHI: Thanks so much. Dana Bash joining us from Washington. Let's bring in Robert Zimmerman. He's a Democratic strategist and Jack Burkman, Republican strategist. Gentlemen thank you for joining us.

Listen. Let's just think about this for a second. Mike Huckabee makes a point. We're not expecting terrible weather particularly for Iowans next Tuesday, but he says the weather is going to influence the caucus.

If it's nice, those people who like Romney will come out and vote. If it's not nice, they might say it's kind of cloudy outside. I'm hanging out inside, but the Ron Paul supporters will climb over three or four mountains to cast their ballot for him. Jack, what's your thought on this?

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I love Mike, as you know, Ali, but I couldn't disagree more. The reason is that in Iowa you have some of the most extreme Republicans in the country. This is the extreme social right. These people would come out in a tornado. When they make up their mind and they have their candidate, this is the smallest sliver of people who will participate in any primary or caucus anywhere in the nation and believe me, when they make up their mind they will be out to vote regardless of weather.

VELSHI: Jack, you know -- Robert, you know Christine Romans, my colleague, she's from Iowa and she says this is the first time that it's so late in the season and you haven't seen people's lawn signs. You do see Ron Paul lawn signs because those folks were committed from the beginning and remain committed, but we're getting to this place where these Iowans like Dana just talked about still not making their mind up about who they're voting for.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, that's also part of their history and part of the culture there. In 2008, 40 percent of the Iowan voters in the Republican caucus decided within the last week and we still see a very significant number that are undecided or publicly saying they're going to switch positions. They're leaning one way, but they're certainly open to switching in other positions. The problem they've got in Iowa is the right hand doesn't know what the extreme right hand is doing.

VELSHI: Right. ZIMMERMAN: And that's really the challenge there in that to see them consolidate and that's why if you look at the field as it now lays out, certainly the issue is not who wins. The issue is who comes out of Iowa with momentum. And for Mitt Romney, Ron Paul's victory or Ron Paul finishing second is a tremendous victory for Mitt Romney because --


ZIMMERMAN: -- potentially blocks Newt Gingrich from consolidating the anti-Romney constituency.


BURKMAN: One important point to remember here, Ron Paul is very much in this race. The advantage he has is he has a base that goes with him. He has got that 13, 14, 15 percent. He doesn't have to go out and earn his dinner every night. Romney for all his money, Gingrich, for every thing these people have in terms of attention, they don't have what Ron Paul has right now and that's a solid base. I think Paul is in this. I really think -- I don't think he'll win, but I think he can be a -- he can play a big role in these primaries.

ZIMMERMAN: But Jack -- but, Jack, Ron Paul has shown to have a very niche constituency or a boutique constituency. He gets that 20, 22 percent, but he doesn't show any potential for growth. The real issue is --

BURKMAN: You're right, but --

ZIMMERMAN: -- the candidate emerge in Iowa who's got potential to consolidate the anti-Romney votes and that's what we have to keep an eye on.

VELSHI: Yes, that's a good point. Let me ask you about something else. (INAUDIBLE) consolidating anti-Romney votes, Newt Gingrich has been of the group the most successful at the moment, but they have got this big problem in Virginia. They were talking about how they were going to be on the ballot in Virginia and now we find out five of those candidates didn't make it on to the ballot including Newt Gingrich.

He wanted to have a write-in ballot. The rules in the state don't allow that. He has even referred to this -- his campaign manager referred to this as their Pearl Harbor moment. Is this serious, Jack?

BURKMAN: I don't think so. I actually think, Ali, this will be decided before March 4th. I think -- now Gingrich -- if I were Gingrich I'd be doing the same thing. You'd want to turn this into a big media win. You want to pretend you're the underdog. You want to do all of those things.

I think this will be over long before that. The real issue here when you look at all of this stuff is whether Romney can get through the south. If Romney -- my prediction is he can't and when you come out that other side there's just not enough oxygen. My prediction is that only a conservative can really win this.

ZIMMERMAN: It's important to remember and you look at the layout of the primary and caucus season. February is a relatively quiet time.

VELSHI: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: And because of a proportional representation, it's not a winner take-all process. So Super Tuesday I think it's March 6th will be very defining (INAUDIBLE) how this goes. Romney has shown he's got the national organization to go the distance. Newt Gingrich, for all his bravado has shown not just that he's an underdog, but that he's incompetent and for -- and it's a very clear message to the donor and political community when you can't even get on the key ballot states. The other problem he's got is how he explains it comparing this to Pearl Harbor. It's like -- the way he explained his infidelities by saying he did this out of love of country or comparing Democrats to Nazis. At one point, just lose credibility in the process.

VELSHI: All right, guys, we'll pick this up.


VELSHI: We've got lots of time to continue this discussion. Jack, always good to see you. Thanks very much for joining us. Jack Burkman and Robert Zimmerman --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ali, thank you.

VELSHI: -- great to see you as always.

And a reminder, live coverage of course of the Iowa caucus begins next Tuesday here on CNN, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Still OUTFRONT reports today that Iran is strengthening its military ties with its longtime foe, Iraq. Now is this real or is this posturing? We'll look into it.

And authorities are investigating the cause of a fire that killed five people in Stamford, Connecticut on Christmas Day. We'll be right back.


VELSHI: The hacker group "Anonymous" is now claiming responsibility for a cyber attack on a U.S.-based security company. The company called STRATFOR worked with the Pentagon among other clients.

If you go to their Web site now it says quote, "The site is currently undergoing maintenance." Barbara Starr has been digging into the story, joins us now from the Pentagon with the latest. Barbara, what exactly is "Anonymous" or this group associated with "Anonymous" claiming responsibility for doing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Ali, they are a well-known hacker group and they are now saying that they are the ones that hacked STRATFOR over the weekend. They are saying that they released subscriber data and information on some 4,000 credit cards as well as the company's private client list.

All of the people that subscribe to STRATFOR and these are everything from corporate clients to government agencies that look for the kind of intelligence information on threats and risks around the world that STRATFOR publishes. That's all very big business these days.

And so when all of this came to be, one of the things that got everyone's attention -- I want you to look at this tweet that appeared from "Anonymous" in the Twitter verse, if you will, very much saying they were responsible, criticizing STRATFOR which is a security company for putting the company's most critical information on the Internet apparently with no encryption or at least posting it, keeping it on their Web site with no encryption. So we'll see where this all goes, but it's getting a lot of attention. "Anonymous" saying that they have taken some of the credit card data and used it to make charitable donations using people's credit card information.


STARR: It's a little bit of cyber attack, cyber war, if you will.

VELSHI: All right. What's the company STRATFOR and the Pentagon, what are they saying about this?

STARR: Well so far the Pentagon says there is no impact on the military users, the military clients which purchased STRATFOR's information. As far as the company, they are posting a number of messages on their Facebook page because their Web site is down, so they've turned to Facebook to communicate with their clients, acknowledging that this information has been disclosed and telling people to be very cautious and perhaps go to some of these credit reporting agencies that we know about like Equifax and others so that they can keep track of their credit card charges. The thing that's so mysterious here that no one is really answering yet is whether STRATFOR encrypted the credit card data of its client base.

VELSHI: Right.

STARR: Could they possibly have just overlooked that and not even done it -- Ali.

VELSHI: All right. Barbara thanks very much for that, Barbara Starr joining us from Washington.

All right, Christmas is certainly over for a 7-year-old Walmart greeter in upstate New York. She sustained fractures to the side of her face after being hit by a customer. She was punched on Christmas Eve after asking 26-year-old Jacquetta Simmons to show her the receipt for her purchases. Simmons was detained by employees and customers after she ran out of the store. She's been charged with two counts of assault. OUTFRONT next baggage handlers in Argentina make a startling discovery inside a man's suitcase -- this was no movie -- and then reports that Iran may be cozying up to Iraq. Now is this true or is it just military posturing.

And a fire at a home in Stamford, Connecticut claims five on Christmas Day, what authorities think might have caused it when we come back.


VELSHI: Investigators are looking into the cause of a deadly Christmas Day house fire in Stamford, Connecticut, that took the lives of five family members. Three children a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins and their grandparents died. Firefighters tried to rescue them from the second story of a home, but were turned back by the heat and flames. The children's mother, Madonna Badger survived the fire and was taken to a nearby hospital and then released. Her father had just finished his dream job of playing Santa Claus at Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store in Manhattan.

Joining us with the latest on this tragic story is Chase Wright, staff writer for the local Stamford paper "The Hour." Chase thanks very much for joining us. Tell us what you know about this fire. It seemed to be -- it seemed to get out of control pretty fast.

CHASE WRIGHT, STAFF WRITER, THE HOUR (via phone): Yes. That's what it appears to be. We don't really know too much as to the cause of the fire at this point. What we do know is that a fire broke out at about 4:52 a.m. is when the first calls were reported and as you said there's -- when the firefighters arrived on the scene there was nothing really they could do to rescue the occupants inside. Ms. Badger and her acquaintance, Michael Borcino, were already outside and the firefighters did what they could, but there was really not much they could do at that point --

VELSHI: She's been released from the hospital right now. They've already excavated the house. What do they -- why have they done that so soon? Is there something they're looking for?

WRIGHT: Well, fire marshals have already conducted their evidence gathering, part of the investigation and the city's fire -- or the city's building inspector, rather, had arrived at the scene and deemed the structure unsafe, and it was ruled that it needed to be torn down and so that's exactly what they did. Part of the structure had already collapsed the day before, the top floor, too weak to be held up there, so all that remained were the first two floors, charred and two chimneys at the top of the -- the top of the structure.

VELSHI: We're looking at it now. It's a big -- was a big house. The -- Madonna Badger and her friend escaped, got to the hospital. We know she's been released. What are they up to now, do you know?

WRIGHT: We don't know at this point. Their whereabouts as far as I can tell by all media accounts are unknown at this point. She was released. Mr. Borcino is still in the hospital in stable condition at this point. As to where she is with her ex-husband Matthew, we don't know as of this point.

VELSHI: All right, Chase Wright thanks very much for joining with us that update. Chase Wright is with "The Hour" in Stamford.

Reports that Iran plans to strengthen ties with Iraq. Now is this a clear and present danger or is this Iran continuing to posture?

And the FBI joins the search for a missing 9-year-old Fort Wayne, Indiana, girl. Her grandfather comes OUTFRONT next.


VELSHI: A suicide car bomber managed to get through six security checkpoints before setting off an explosion in central Baghdad. The bombing occurred at Iraq's interior ministry compound. Police say five people died and at least 39 were injured.

Now this follows a string of attacks that occurred last week resulting in nearly 70 deaths and injuring more than 200 people. Meanwhile, Iran's armed forces chief congratulated his Iraqi counterpart on the exit of U.S. troops in the country adding that Iran is ready to boost its military ties with Iraq.

Iran's navy also warned of a foreign -- warned off a foreign helicopter that flew near the Strait of Hormuz where the country was conducting naval maneuvers. The Strait of Hormuz is where a lot of the world's oil goes through. It's a choke point, really, where a lot of the oil from the Middle East goes to other parts of the world.

So do Americans need to worry about Iran or is this just military posturing? Trita Parsi is the president of the National Iranian- American Council, joins us now. Trita thanks very much for being with us.


VELSHI: I've sort of -- sort of informally talked to some people who know about this and they feel that this isn't just posturing. It's very real. That these -- so these countries that were mortal enemies in the past have far less reason to be mortal enemies today. It's quite likely that there will be some detente between Iraq and Iran.

PARSI: In the short term, yes. The relationship between the current Iranian government and the current Iraqi government is pretty strong. However, it is still based on a rather precarious foundation, so it remains to be seen if it is durable or not. There's much that indicates that it's going to be very difficult for the Iranians and the Iraqis to retain this level of relationship for much longer. At the end of the day these are two countries that for about 3,000 years have been pretty hostile rivals in the region and there are few reasons to believe that that will suddenly change this quickly.

VELSHI: Well what's the biggest reason to believe it will change? The fact that Iran does have -- Iraq does have a Shia majority that is now in a lot more control than they ever were under Saddam Hussein.

PARSI: Certainly, but at the same time you have the rest of the Iraqi population that are not necessarily on such good footing with the Iranians. You also have a situation in which there is a lot of sentiments inside of Iraq that the Iranians are trying to dominate Iraq. And in the long run, Iraq is simply too powerful and too strong to be dominated by the Iranians.

If the Iranians, however, are clever and pursue a much more even relationship between the two, then there is some hope for these two countries to have a strong relationship going forward, but this is also taking place in the context of a region that is in turmoil, that is in geopolitical shake-up right now and within that there is a lot of risk for other types of conflicts taking place in the region including between the United States and Iran.

VELSHI: Right.

PARSI: And that will, of course, have an impact on Iran's relationship with Iraq as well.

VELSHI: And of course, we've got this issue with the Strait of Hormuz, a choke point really where a lot of the oil that is welled and refined in the Middle East goes out toward the rest of the world. This is not oil that is consumed in the United States, but it kind of doesn't matter because when oil becomes in demand it costs everybody. Is this a serious issue? The Strait of Hormuz a lot of people say is the flash point at which tension between America and Iraq is most likely to -- Iran is most likely to manifest itself.

PARSI: It is indeed very worrisome because we are currently in a situation in which there is essentially almost no communication between the U.S. government and the Iranian government. Admiral Mike Mullen just weeks before he left his post as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned about this, fearing there that could be some form of accident in the Persian Gulf.

VELSHI: Right.

PARSI: In the Strait of Hormuz that could spark a wider war precisely because there's no communication, no diplomacy and no de- escalatory (ph) mechanisms between the United States and Iran.

VELSHI: All right, Trita Parsi thanks very much for joining us. We'll talk to you again.

PARSI: Thank you for having me.

VELSHI: The Department of Homeland Security is third largest agency in the U.S. government. It's got a budget of about $57 billion. It includes the U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA, the TSA and the Secret Service.

OUTFRONT host Erin Burnett spent a day with Secretary Janet Napolitano.


ERIN BURNETT, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" HOST (voice-over): Fortunately, this was only a training exercise, but it's a scenario the U.S. Secret Service must be prepared for everyday.

This sprawling 493-acre campus, about 30 minutes outside of Washington, D.C., is where U.S. Secret Service agents train.

There is everything from a mock town to a replica of Air Force One. It was all part of the tour we took with the secretary of homeland security.


BURNETT (on camera): Third biggest department in the United States didn't even exist 10 years ago. Does it need to exist?

NAPOLITANO: Yes. And I can say that as someone who worked as a U.S. attorney in the '90s. So, I saw the pre-9/11 iterations of a lot of these agencies and departments. To leverage resources so that we're not duplicating things all through the federal government makes a lot of sense.

BURNETT: Do you think it's become bloated just because you're so young and it's grown so quickly?

NAPOLITANO: We are always looking at what we are doing and reassessing. And we have actually stopped some major projects on the theory that we shouldn't throw good money after bad. Things really have to be value-added where safety and security are concerned.

BURNETT (voice-over): The Secret Service has 3,200 agents doing a lot more than just looking for counterfeiters and protecting the president.

(on camera): If someone is willing to kill themselves, they're going to find a way to do it, right? I mean, there's no way you can become foolproof.

NAPOLITANO: Look, this is the Department of Homeland Security, not the department of guarantees. There are no guarantees here. What we are about is making sure that we spread across the country kind of a safety net of capacity where security is concerned.

BURNETT (voice-over): The safety net includes the Transportation Security Administration. That's the TSA, where 52,000 officers screen an estimated 1.8 million passengers at airports every day.

(on camera): The TSA is a lightning rod.


BURNETT: Yes, it is. All right, $57 billion in 10 years. These are just numbers I have, $8.2 billion what you wanted this year -- second biggest cost for you at the Department of Homeland Security. Is it worth it? NAPOLITANO: I think so. I think so for a number of reasons.

I begin with the threat. Aviation remains a goal. It worked before 10 years ago, but it worked before. There have been continual attempts since then, including Christmas Day of 2009 passenger plane, and October of 2010, a cargo plane, which could have been -- that cargo could have gone on a passenger plane.

BURNETT: Could the underwear bomber happen again?

NAPOLITANO: No, for a whole host of reasons. One of which of course are the new types of screening machines, but also because we have really repaired the intelligence holes that he was able to exploit before he even got on to that plane in Amsterdam.

BURNETT (voice-over): The new advanced imaging technology is controversial and costly. Secretary Napolitano says the screening machines are here to stay.

NAPOLITANO: This checkpoint is actually one of only many layers that we use to protect airline passengers. It begins even before you get to the airport when you purchase your ticket. There is explosive trace detention. There are canines in the airport environment.

So, by the time you get to this checkpoint and the men and women here, they're really our last line of defense.

BURNETT: In the last year, the TSA has discovered more than 125,000 prohibited items. And it's not just drugs and guns.

(on camera): They screen every single bag, not every checked bag?


BURNETT: Every single one?


How big of a concern to you is rogue dirty bombs, parts for those bombs, coming into the U.S.?

NAPOLITANO: It's a key concern. We are constantly making sure that we can detect and find dirty bombs and we do it in multiple layers. Our system of protecting the country begins with good intelligence and analysis. Every step along the way, we're looking at what we need to do to make sure that we maximize our ability to minimize risk that something like that could get into the United States.


VELSHI: Speaking of airport security, baggage handlers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, made a startling discovery when they noticed organic substances moving inside a check nationals bag as it passed through an X-ray machine. So, inside the bag they found more than 240 reptiles -- this is a dramatization, obviously -- including South American pit vipers and young boas. Many of them are extremely rare. They're protected by the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species.

Karel Abelovsky is charged with attempted smuggling and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Of course, you don't have always have to go to the airport to find white wildlife. Sometimes, it comes to you. KSL in Salt Lake City sent us this video today of a five-foot buck that crashed through the window of a family's home and ended up in their bedroom. He seems to be quite at home there.

The family used a cell phone to shoot the video. Wildlife services eventually helped to get the animal out.

Let's check in with Tom Foreman who is filling in this week for Anderson Cooper.

Good evening, my friend.

Tom, what do you have coming up?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Ali. We're keeping them honest ahead on "360." In Syria, a city under siege -- tanks rolling to the streets in the city of Homs, leveling buildings, gunshots echoing through the streets of a neighborhood. That is life in Homs, Syria, weeks, weeks after Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad promised to end the crackdown.

These videos look like the violence is ended? You will hear from an opposition leader ahead inside the violence, keeping them honest.

Also tonight in "Crime and Punishment," what on earth happened to Ayla Reynolds? Her father says he put the 20-month-old into her crib and the next morning, she was gone. Authorities are still searching for clues. And tonight they're offering a $30,000 reward to end this mystery.

Those stories and our continued countdown of the best of the ridiculous at the top of the hour, Ali. Stay with us.

VELSHI: We look forward to it, Tim. Tom Foreman for "A.C. 360" tonight.

Still OUTFRONT, the largest protest in Russia in almost two decades. CNN's Phil Black looks at the Soviet generation gap.

A 9-year-old girl vanishes in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her grandfather joins us shortly OUTFRONT.

And California police find a man accused of shooting a U.S. soldier at a homecoming party in his honor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VELSHI: New details now in the Christmas Day deaths of seven family members in Grapevine, Texas. Police say the man they believe opened fire on his relatives before turning the gun on himself was dressed as Santa at the time. They also say a divorce could have played a role in the shootings, but they're still investigating. The victims had just opened Christmas presents. They ranged in age from 15 to about 59 years old.

A man accused of shooting and paralyzing a U.S. soldier at his homecoming party turned himself in to police today in San Bernardino, California. Suspect Ruben Ray Jurado allegedly shot 22-year-old Christopher Sullivan twice after a physical confrontation broke out between the two men. Sullivan is a Purple Heart recipient and was celebrating his return from Kentucky where he'd been recovering from injures sustained during a 2010 suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan. His mother is devastated.


SUSAN SULLIVAN, MOTHER OF SOLDIER SHOT AT HOMECOMING PARTY: I'm mad. I'm really mad, because he's a good boy. He's an excellent boy.


VELSHI: The FBI is now involved in the search for a missing 9- year-old girl. Aliahna Lemmon was last seen Friday morning at a neighbor's home in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The young girl who has vision, hearing and emotional problems had been staying there with her sisters because their mother was sick. Aliahna's grandfather David Story and her cousin Elizabeth Sepponen now on the phone with us.

Thanks for joining us.

David, let me start with you. What do you know? What's the latest thou know about the search for Aliahna?

DAVID STORY, MISSING GIRL'S GRANDFATHER (via telephone): The search is continuing even as we speak. Volunteers in the neighborhood are probably 50 to 75 of them are in the woods even tonight with flashlights searching. The police are still conducting searches with bloodhounds and different things through the area where she was reported missing from.

They have had some possible developments in the case. They're not going into any real detail with us yet. We don't -- we know she hasn't been found -- we're still just waiting to see what's next and go from there.

VELSHI: Elizabeth, can you tell us more about the last time she was seen on Friday morning?

ELIZABETH SEPPONEN, MISSING GIRL'S COUSIN (via telephone): Yes. He -- I'm sorry, she was over at my Mike's house, a family friend. Tara, her mother, had been ill for quite a few days. And so, he was just kind of watching the girls and taking care of them and he thought she had gone home to her mother's house. VELSHI: Right.

SEPPONEN: And Tara still thought she was there. And so, from about 10:30 on, they just were starting to realize there was a problem. There was a real communication error, and so nobody reported it until around 8:40.

VELSHI: All right. Tell us, David, about Aliahna. Tell us about this little girl. What does she confront that makes this difficult? I heard that maybe she sleep-walks?

STORY: She does sleep walk. I don't know at this point if she walked out of the house and was taken. They have a scent trail that they brought up that went from the five doors to the bus stop, but there was no school on Friday and that's where the trail ended as far as the scent trail went. We just don't know at this point where to go from there.

They are still -- like I said, they're still conducting searches every day with the bloodhounds and they have used the airplanes in the area, so we really don't have a clue where to go from this point.

VELSHI: Elizabeth, does she know the area well?

SEPPONEN: Well, you know, honestly, I'm not really sure. I know that they lived out east --

VELSHI: Right.

SEPPONEN: -- for quite a while and they just moved back because Tara's father passed away and they arrived prior to him passing away, so I think not incredibly well, but they've been here long enough that she should know, you know, where's home and where's the gas station and stuff like that.

VELSHI: And if somebody comes across her, she'll be able to communicate with them enough to get her back to somewhere?

SEPPONEN: Yes. I believe so.


SEPPONEN: As long as she can -- obviously, she has sight disability and a hearing disability, so I think that she can pick somebody out well enough to say, hey, I need help.

VELSHI: Right. All right, well, if anybody sees a 9-year-old girl and you're looking at her picture there. You know to get her help and that's what we should be doing. We're going to keep our thoughts with you, Elizabeth and David. Thanks very much for being here and let's hope this ends very soon in the way we all hope it does. Thanks for joining us.

All right. Up next, OUTFRONT next, we're going to be talking about the leader of Yemen. He has been -- he's asked to come to the United States. He is now being allowed to come to the United States for medical treatment.

This has got some people in the world a little frustrated. We'll tell you about that when we come back next on OUTFRONT.


VELSHI: This just in. According to "The New York Times," the embattled leader of Yemen will be allowed to enter the United States for medical treatment. "The Times" is reporting that after great internal debate, the Obama administration will let Ali Abdullah Saleh travel to New York City to be treated for medical problems that arose as a result of a near fatal bomb attack at his presidential complex in June.

The decision is controversial. Many Yemenis want to see Saleh prosecuted for the deaths of anti-government demonstrators, and the U.S.'s concern that treating him here will be seen as harboring someone who might have been responsible for those deaths.

The death toll from tropical storm Washi continues to rise in the Philippines. Twelve hundred and forty-nine people are confirmed dead after Washi's heavy rains caused landslides and flash floods to wipe away entire villages. Local fishermen have been enlisted to help search the waters for bodies that may have washed out to sea. At least 1,000 people are still believed to be missing.

High waves forcing evacuations in southern Thailand. Roughly 1,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes and leaving a few dozen tourists stranded. These kinds of heavy storms are uncommon this time of year. The rough weather is expected to last through Wednesday.

Let's turn to Russia now, just days after what's being called the largest protest in the past two decades over rigged elections, restoring Vladimir Putin to power.

CNN's Phil Black looks at two generations of one Russian family, one that recalls the stability of the Soviet Union and the other their 21-year-old son, who has no memory of communism at all.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alex Kashin (ph) is a courier who dreams of being a photographer or film director. But as his own photos show, Alex is also a dedicated political activist. This young man has been defying Russia's security forces long before huge crowds of protesters began screaming on Moscow's streets.

But Alex is thrilled to se so many people openly opposing Russia's government. He tells me, "Freedom of speech exists only on the Internet in Russia."

I ask him why he protests.

"I hope our country will change for the better," he says. "Fair elections, no corruption, military conscription or political prisoners.

This 21-year-old was born just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He never knew communism. When I ask him to compare the fight for political freedom then and now, he stopped. "I have no idea about it," he says.

Alex's mom, Vassilisa (ph), was only slightly younger than her son when the USSR broke up. She and her husband Eduardo were once card-carrying members of the communist party, but grew to despise it. They don't like today's Russia either.

"We thought if communism fell, we would be free," Eduardo tells me. "We were naive. We didn't think capitalism with a Russian face would be so ugly."

Vassilisa says, "We don't have democracy. Even though we badly wanted changes back then, much of the system is still the same."

When you talk to people attending recent political protests, many say their lives are comfortable but they believe they've given away political freedoms in return for prosperity. This is the new cry of Russia's unhappy middle class. You won't hear it in this small apartment in one of Moscow's outer suburbs.

Eduardo says almost all the money he makes as a writer goes toward the rent. He feels life is hopeless and he has no chance of leaving a better one to his children. His memories of the USSR are not all that bad.

"We don't have the positive things from the Soviet Union like money, stability. We feel lied to," he says.

These two generations grew up in very different countries. Just like the many diverse faces that have joined street protests over the last month, they all shared the belief Russia's government and political system have let them down.

Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.


VELSHI: All right. Service on London's underground subway system -- you'll know it as the Tube -- was disrupted after conductors staged a one day strike, demanding extra pay and a holiday comp day. Several lines have been suspended with only limited service available.

Now, the strike comes on the day after Christmas or Boxing Day, which is one of London's busiest shopping days of the year. Extra buses were added to ease the service disruption. The strike didn't deter bargain hunters, many of whom had been lined up since midnight to take advantage of holiday sales.

Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip continues to recover from emergency surgery to repair a blocked coronary artery. The Duke of Edinburg who begun complaining of chest pains on Friday received a stent to ease the blood flow around his heart, causing him to miss the traditional palace Christmas and Boxing Day festivities. But the family carried on with its royal duties.

Rounding out quite the year, CNN's Max Foster takes a look back.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESONDENT: Everyone loves a fairytale and this is where the fairytale came true for Kate Middleton, her story turned into one of the biggest major events in history.

(voice-over): It was all about the dress, the guests, but also the little sister, bridesmaid Pippa Middleton stole the show for many onlookers.

Whilst London played host to the millions watching, Kate confirms her place in the royal family as the new duchess of Cambridge. It was an impeccable performance by the world's most famous newlyweds.

After the wedding, the queen headed off to Ireland on an official visit with her husband, Philip, who was about to turn 90. It's a country that shares a fractious history with the monarchy. It was declared triumphant and historic by Irish and royal commentators alike.

William and Catherine now had even more to live up to on their first official overseas tour to Canada and the United States. But as soon as they landed, they both showed human touch reminiscent of William's mother, Diana, and the crowds loved it. This was a new generation of royals -- hands on, and unafraid of showing their competitive sides.

By the time they reached Los Angeles, William and Catherine had transformed into the biggest stars in the world, Hollywood A-listers jostled to rub shoulders with the future king and queen.

The British Prime Minister David Cameron, aware that a royal pregnancy may be on the cards, rushed to update outdated and sexist royal succession laws that kept first-born daughters from becoming sovereign if they had a younger brother.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Put simply, if the duke and duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen.

FOSTER: On a trip to Copenhagen later, the duchess fueled rumors that she was expecting, when she refused the opportunity to try peanut paste -- peanuts still regarded by some mothers as a health hazard.

William continued his full time role with the military search rescue and helicopter team, and airlifted several people to safety. He's been posted to the Falkland in early 2012.

His younger brother, Harry, who is allowed closer to the front lines, went to the U.S. for training on the deadly Apache helicopter. He's due to qualify soon for deployment, most likely to Afghanistan.

(on camera): 2012 is going to be another big year for the royals, the queen celebrating 60 years on the throne with her diamond jubilee. Expect full pomp and pageantry over a long weekend the beginning of June and all senior royals are going to be traveling the globe to mark the diamond jubilee. The duke and duchess of Cambridge are headed to Asia.


VELSHI: Well, it's going to be a busy 2012 for them. Won't top 2011 with the wedding we all remember from mid-year.

Well, an end of the year poll shows that only 17 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction that the country is going in, and that is the second lowest annual average ever. And while we've heard all from angry sorts in 2011, few complaints were as adorable in this one.

In the latest viral video, a little girl from Newburgh, New York, named Riley takes less than a minute to clearly and concisely explain exactly what she thinks is really wrong with big business, unethical marketing practice and gender roles. And whether or not you agree with her, you got to respect her passion.


RILEY, LITTLE GIRL: It's not fair for all of the girls to buy princesses and all the boys to buy superheroes. Girls want superheroes and the boys want superheroes. The companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff that boys want to buy, right? Yes, so why do all the girls have to buy princesses?

Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses. Some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses.


RILEY: Why do all girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to boy colored stuff?


VELSHI: She said it! Don't trick the girls into buying pink stuff, and princesses. Some girls like princesses and some girls like superheroes. Some girls like pink stuff and some girls don't.

Ahh, if all of our complaints about the way society is going could be as succinct and articulate as this little girl's.

Good on you, kid. I hope you follow it up with some rants about politics, too. All right, that does it for me.

All right. That does it for me. I'm going to be back in for Erin tomorrow night.

Stay tuned to Tom Foreman. He is in for Anderson Cooper tonight.

"A.C. 360" starts right now.