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AMERICAN MORNING

Iran Claims It Shot Down U.S. Drone; Courting Cain; Crowd Storms Field; USPS: Say Goodbye To Next-Day Delivery; Jerry Sandusky Gives Another Interview; Jury To Decide if Joshua Komisarjevsky Will Get Death Penalty; More U.S. Troops Return from Iraq; Home for the Holidays; Can the Euro be Saved?; 'Tis the Season for Shoplifting

Aired December 5, 2011 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Alina Cho.

A highly classified U.S. spy drone may be in the hands of the Iranians. They say they shot it down, and they are promising an aggressive response against America this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans.

At least 10 people hurt when fans stormed the field at the end of a college football game. A big celebration turning into a very big scare -- on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(MUSIC)

ROMANS: And good morning. It's Monday, December 5th.

You have Newt Gingrich on top of the polls in Iowa, and the political field all shifting up.

CHO: And a possible endorsement coming from Herman Cain.

ROMANS: And a lot of news from overseas this morning, too.

CHO: That's right. But first, a U.S. stealth drone filled with classified top secret information may now be in the hands of Iran. Iranian officials are claiming that they shot down the drone after it invaded its air space.

ROMANS: Barbara has the reaction from the Pentagon. Nic Robertson is in London on the implications of losing such a drone.

We begin with Barbara Starr.

Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Well, the Pentagon not saying a whole lot about all of this. Iran saying it shot down a drone over the border with Afghanistan, and they are issuing a lot of statements about all of this.

What kind of drone is it? This is something called an RQ-170. That's what the Iranians say they have in their hands, the wreckage.

This is a stealth drone. It was developed for the Air Force. It conducts intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance missions to provide information for hitting targets.

But do they really have it? So far, the U.S. military through the command in Afghanistan is only issuing a statement saying this, and I quote, "The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week. The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status."

So where are we? The Iranians say they shot it down. The U.S. says, yes, they lost flight control of a UAV late last week. They do not know where it went. But clearly, they suspect now that this is the wreckage the Iranians are talking about.

The U.S. not saying it was shot down, only that it was lost. Not saying that it was an RQ-170, because, of course, it is one of the most classified, highly important intelligence assets that the U.S. has. And if the Iranians have the wreckage, the U.S. knows it's not getting it back -- Christine, Alina.

ROMANS: Barbara, is it likely that the U.S. is flying missions with that drone over Iran and not just along the border?

STARR: I think it's very unlikely. According to sources we have spoken to, that they would risk flying anything into Iranian air space because of this very issue. Certainly no manned aircraft, with no pilots. Unmanned, these are very sophisticated intelligence platforms, if you will. They don't want to risk a mechanical failure like they might have had here and have anything go down in Iranian air space.

They were probably flying it over Afghanistan close to the border, looking for convoys of illegal weapons coming in perhaps. That's a major intelligence issue out on that border. And they can still fly in Afghanistan and use their sensors to see into Iran. They don't even need to be over Iranian air space.

So, no. I think it's very unlikely they were flying over Iran directly.

ROMANS: Thanks, Barbara.

Let's bring in Nic Robertson right now. He's live in London.

CHO: That's right. Nic, good morning to you.

Of course, the big question is, just in the larger scheme of things, how big of a deal is this, and what exactly could Iran do with this type of technology from a classified drone?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, potentially, it's a very big deal not just for the United States but for its allies as well. The attractive nature of drones is that they are cheap to operate, cheap to build. They are a less sort of political consequences associated with losing them. You're not going to lose a pilot over enemy territory.

But the big concern is: what happens if one falls into the hands of a nation that is known to be a state sponsor of terror?

And Iran does fall into that category. If you look back in 2006 when Hezbollah, a client of Iran, fought a war against Israel, Hezbollah were using drones in 2006 over Israel. And the analysis is they were probably getting help with that from Iran.

Iran has a very advanced drone technology program. So, Iran would be looking to gather whatever intelligence, whatever help it can get, in developing this technology.

So, if it does have this aircraft, it will be looking at what kind of optical sensors does it have, how many cameras, how strong were those lenses? What other senses? Did this aircraft have an ability to sniff nuclear particles in the air?

This is the sort of thing Iran will be looking at. And if Iran isn't able to use this technology itself, there's a fear that it might sell it to somebody like China. And this would be the second incident of significance this year with sort of stealth technology.

We all remember the helicopter that crashed in Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. The assessment there is that Pakistan likely sold that very sensitive technology to China. So these are the bigger issues that are coming out of this right now.

ROMANS: So, Nic, we know how sensitive this technology is, and Barbara Starr has reported that handlers of this drone knew that there was a problem before it actually went down. So, is there a self- destruct button, something that can make sure that if it does crash, that there isn't a lot of technology that can be stolen and sold on the black market?

ROBERTSON: When that helicopter, the stealth helicopter, went down in bin Laden's compound, it was destroyed afterwards, because a lot of the components in there we didn't want to fall into anyone else's hands. There's been a lot of discussion about these types of stealth aircraft. Do they have that technology aboard?

We don't know. There is only really one photograph that we're aware of that exists that was taken at Kandahar airfield sort of on a long lens. It's very grainy and hard to make out. There are very few details we know publicly about this.

But the loss could prove to be very, very expensive. And you would hope and expect there would be a self-destruct mechanism.

There's a period here -- and we don't know the details of how this went down. Was it shot down? There's a period when these drone aircraft are coming in to land, they switch from satellite control, probably being controlled from somewhere in the United States, to local control from the ground.

Did the Iranians manage to break into that signaling technology? That would be a huge worry as well.

There are so many unanswered questions. We just don't have many details at the moment.

CHO: Interesting. All right, Nic Robertson live for us in London. Nic, thank you very much.

Back in this country, another high wind warning is in effect for southern California. Gusts may reach hurricane force. Officials there are warning that more power outages and damage could be on the way.

Meantime, some states like New Mexico and Colorado could see about 10 inches of snow.

ROMANS: And snow is something Rob Marciano loves to talk about.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Who doesn't love it? A lot of people don't like it.

ROMANS: Hey, Rob.

MARCIANO: Good morning, guys.

Yes. And it's all driven by a really intense cold air mass that's bringing some serious temperatures well below zero in some sports of the northern Midwest. This guy moving to the south, and this is one of the ingredients of a separate system last week that created that wind across parts of southern California and Utah and New Mexico and parts of Nevada.

This one will sick down in the South as well. We'll get that offshore breeze going and we've got Santa Anas that will kick up 60, 65 mile an hour wind gusts not out of the question. Of course, there are some trees that were damaged from the last go.

These winds won't be as intense as they were last week, but again enough trees that were potentially damaged and a lot of debris on the ground that may cause some problems. Not only today, but tomorrow we've got critical fire danger as well. And near blizzard conditions across parts of New Mexico. We could see, in some cases, 10 to 20 inches of snow.

Some of that snow is getting in to western parts of Dallas, parts of southern Oklahoma as well. Some of it accumulating, mostly on grassy surfaces. Not necessarily on the roadways. And a subtropical train of moisture getting into the western Great Lakes.

And this is not moving very quickly to the east, and because of that we have the threat for flooding today, especially across parts of the mid-South. Memphis is the bull's-eye, two to four inches of rainfall, maybe more than that. And then heading up towards Cincinnati and Cleveland, some rainfall as well.

Fog, the other issue across parts of the Northeast with the mugginess and the warm temperatures. We have ground stops at some of the airports. Philadelphia, Teterboro and JFK reporting delays. Just be aware of that if you are traveling, Christine, for your trip down here later on.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Everything so far is OK, by the way.

CHO: How did you sleep this weekend, Rob? Are you getting any more sleep these days.

MARCIANO: Saturday was good. Sunday not so much, you know? And full disclosure. My mother-in-law came in last week for a few days. And we want you back, please.

(LAUGHTER)

MARCIANO: That would help.

ROMANS: You never love your in-laws and your own parents more than when you have a brand-new baby.

MARCIANO: Big help.

CHO: Rob Marciano, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Newt Gingrich now surging to the top of the GOP field in Iowa. He is opening up some breathing room on the rest of the candidates, too.

Take a look at this new NBC/Marist poll. The former House speaker leading in Iowa with 26 percent, Mitt Romney in second with 18 percent, Ron Paul in third with 17 percent.

Now to the courting of Herman Cain. The candidate suspended his presidential campaign on Saturday. You would have to live under a rock if you didn't know that.

CHO: That's right. He was unable to overcome allegations of sexual harassment and a 13-year extramarital affair. Now, his former rivals are scrambling for a potentially game-changing endorsement.

CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser is live in Washington for us.

So, Paul, the big question is, how important is a Cain endorsement, and who might he endorse and when could it come?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It could come as early as this week. You know, Cain said he would endorse, he would do it before the Iowa caucuses. That's what he said on Saturday when he suspended his campaign.

Will it help? Yes, it could help. And Cain still has support in Iowa, the first state to vote, and that's just over four weeks away. Some speculation maybe it's Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich on Saturday after Cain suspended his campaign -- Gingrich went in front of cameras and said some very nice things about his fellow Georgia resident. And there's some speculation that maybe it could be today. Gingrich did add a news conference today in New York City.

But we are getting some pushback against that. No idea what that news conference is about, whether (ph) it has anything to do with Herman Cain.

Regardless, we kept our eyes on Cain last week to see when or if he would drop out. This week, we're keeping an eye out to see when and who we will endorse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am suspending my presidential campaign.

STEINHAUSER (voice-over): The ride is over for the Cain train, but Herman Cain promises he'll still make an impact in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

CAIN: I will be making an endorsement in the near future.

STEINHAUSER: New front-runner Newt Gingrich was quick to compliment Cain.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I think he deserves a great deal of credit for having had the courage to run, for having the courage of big ideas and for having had the clarity to say them in a way that many millions of Americans found them very, very positive.

STEINHAUSER: Many Tea Party activists liked Cain and two candidates with support from the grassroots conservative movement hope Cain voters come their way.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're going to go somewhere in the next week or so. That's going to happen. So I'm optimistic that we'll pick up some votes from there.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Herman Cain supporters have been calling our office and they've been coming over to our side. I think part of that is because people see that I'm the Tea Party candidate in the race. They saw Herman Cain as an outsider. And I think they see that my voice will be the one that will be most reflective of his.

STEINHAUSER: Cain was slipping in the polls. He went from 23 percent support in late October to just 8 percent in a new "Des Moines Register" survey of likely caucus-goers in Iowa, the first state to vote in the race for the GOP nomination. His remaining supporters may go to a bunch of candidates, but the one who may benefit the most is Gingrich, the former House speaker who is surging at the right time.

Without Cain in the race, Gingrich now stands at 28 percent in a new NBC/Marist poll in Iowa, with the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Ron Paul of Texas each at 19 percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEINHAUSER: And before Gingrich holds that 1:45 news conference in New York City, guess what? He meets with Donald Trump at Trump Tower earlier today in New York City. He becomes the fifth Republican presidential candidate to meet with Trump. And, of course, remember, earlier this year, Trump himself was flirting with a White House bid.

And just one note to Rob Marciano: I've got an 11-month-old. And it does get better. She is sleeping through the night now -- Christine, Alina.

ROMANS: Paul, you can't tell people that. It makes them not like you as much. Still say, you have to get up every three hours, crying like a baby.

All right. Thanks, Paul.

CHO: Thank you.

Still to come, fans stampede the field at a college football game. At least 10 people were hurt. Some of them with broken bones. Why the celebration was short lived. We'll tell you what happened.

CHO: And U.S. soldiers finally out of Iraq and into the arms of loving family. The happy homecoming ahead.

Fifteen minutes after the hour.

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CHO: Welcome back. It's 18 minutes after the hour. It was a scary scene. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Hundreds of fans, possibly thousands, storming the field at the end of Saturday's Oklahoma-Oklahoma State college football game. At least 10 people were injured, and school officials say there was little anyone could do to control the crowd.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHO: Paul Wertheimer is the founder and president of Crowd Management Strategy. That's an international crowd safety consulting firm. He joins us live from Los Angeles this morning. Paul, good morning to you. When you take a look at that video, I mean, how do you think it got so out of control?

PAUL WERTHEIMER, FOUNDER & PRES., CROWD MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES: Well, I think it got out of control because Ohio -- excuse me -- Oklahoma State University did not have a plan to try to mitigate this situation from developing, something that's known to occur at high profiled events.

CHO: But there were, you know, some 58,000 people in the stands. Oklahoma State did release a statement saying that they made an announcement over the P.A. system. Now, students laughed about that, but they did say that they did all that they could and given the crowds that there was little anyone can do.

I mean, when you look at that, I have to say, you know, thousands of people storming the field. What can you do?

WERTHEIMER: Well, when you start at the moment of distress, there's not a lot you can do. Having a policy is good, but policies have to be enforced. And there have to be penalties.

CHO: What should they have done?

WERTHEIMER: Well, they should have started earlier in the year. You know, they ran promotions at the university saying fans need to be rowdy this 2011 football season. There was a lot of hype. They need to educate fans before games. They need to have policies and procedures in place that take into consideration the possibility that fans will want to rush the field. And the fans need to be told what may occur.

You know, it's not just the people who were anti-social and broke the rules and rushed the field, it's also the people in the stands who were injured by those who broke the rule. And the university needs to protect, as all universities do, those people as well.

CHO: So, what about the people who were injured? At least 10 people injured, two people air lifted, at least two with ankle fractures. I mean, do they have any recourse here? Could the university be held responsible?

WERTHEIMER: I'm not a lawyer. I don't know, but I assume some of those injured will pursue that avenue.

CHO: You know, you just look at these pictures, and they really are extraordinary. You know, I've read somewhere that some experts say that there should be one security person for every 250 spectators. To me, that doesn't seem like enough.

When you look at that there, and what happened, I mean, do you think there was enough security there in the stands to handle this or is this a situation of just too little, too late? WERTHEIMER: Well, you're right. One security person for every 250 is not enough for this type of event. Oklahoma State University adheres to the National Fire Protection Association standard that says that's the minimum per person and at a regular kind of event, but there should have been more security.

Eyewitnesses tell the media that there was hardly any security on the field. This was a time for police officers to be on the field. They are much better -- a very persuasive symbol for people who want to break the law, makes them think twice.

CHO: Right. Paul Wertheimer, founder and president of Crowd Management Strategies, thank you so much for joining us.

WERTHEIMER: You're welcome, Alina. Thank you.

CHO: Christine.

Still to come, the post office is cutting costs. What it means for your holiday shipments and your wallet. We'll have that story next.

And Christine will be back as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's 25 minutes after the hour. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

U.S. stock futures trading sharply higher this morning after a stellar week. Last week, U.S. markets were up more than seven percent. Whether that continues depends on whether the Euro Zone leaders there can get vigorously to get the region's debt crisis under control. Stock futures now all higher.

Pushing European markets up overnight. The unveiling of new austerity measures over the weekend by Italy's new Prime Minister, Mario Monti. Italian borrowing costs are falling this morning. That's a good sign that investors are confident the country is moving in the right direction to balance its budget.

The cash scrapped. United States Postal Service will announce a new cost-cutting plan this morning. Under the proposal, next stage delivery for first class mail would be scrapped and the new standard delivery time would be two to five days instead of one to three. No word yet on when the plan could take effect.

Another good weekend to the box office for the latest "Twilight" movie, "Breaking Down part one." After topping sales for the third weekend in a row, the vampire movie now has brought in more than $247 million, so far, in the U.S.

Up next, why this freeway crash in Japan has car lovers everywhere cringing. We're back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING for a Monday. It's 30 minutes past the hour. I'm Alina Cho. Christine Romans is off to catch a flight to Atlanta.

Time for this morning's top stories.

A highly classified U.S. stealth drone may be in the hands of Iran. Iranian officials say they shot down a drone after it invaded its airspace along the board wear Afghanistan. American military officials only confirming one of its drones is missing, but maintain they do not fly over Iranian air space. Iran is now vowing an aggressive response.

Herman Cain suspending his presidential campaign, but he says he's not a quitter, insisting he had to get out of a GOP race because of all the pain it was causing his family. The former candidate says he'll be endorsing one of his former rivals soon.

Another high wind warning is in effect for southern California. Gusts may reach hurricane force. Officials warn that more power outages and damage could be on the way. Meanwhile, some states, like New Mexico and Colorado, could see 10 inches of snow.

A new interview with disgraced Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. The former coach slapped with 40 counts of raping and molesting young boys, the investigation still ongoing. Sandusky spoke on camera with "The New York Times." CNN's Susan Candiotti has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In an interview videotaped by "The New York Times," Jerry Sandusky not only repeats his denials of wrongdoing, he tells the paper youngsters in his Second Mile program, quote, "might say I was a father figure," a father figure who stands accused of 40 counts of raping and molesting young boys. A few weeks ago, NBC's Bob Costas asked Sandusky whether he is sexually attracted to young boys.

JERRY SANDUSKY, FORMER PENN STATE COACH: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys? Sexually attracted? You know, I enjoy young people.

CANDIOTTI: The former coach tells "The New York Times" at first he wondered what to make of the question. Then, in an intriguing exchange, and apparently an uncomfortable Sandusky tries to explain his answer. Off camera, you'll hear the voice of Sandusky's lawyer prompting his client.

SANDUSKY: If I say no, I'm not attracted to boys, that's not the truth because I am attracted to young people, boys, girls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but not sexually. You're attracted because you enjoy spending time.

SANDUSKY: Yes. That's what I was trying to say. I enjoy spending time with young people. I enjoy spending time with people. My two favorite groups are the elderly and the young.

CANDIOTTI: An attorney who represents victim number six, named in the grand jury report, the boy whose mother came forward in 1998 saying Sandusky had showered with her son and hugged him naked from behind, says the accused coach's latest explanations are hard to watch.

HOWARD JANET, ATTORNEY FOR VICTIM NUMBER FIVE: His answer was really no different, frankly, than the answer that he gave before. And the sad part from his perspective, if you want to look at it from that perspective, that his lawyer had to intervene and give him some advice as to how to answer that question. He won't have that luxury in a courtroom.

CANDIOTTI: Sandusky admits that after he was banned from taking young people onto Penn State's main campus following a 2002 allegation that he raped a boy in a locker room, he still had access. Sandusky told the paper then athletic director Tim Curly never took away his keys. Quote, "I still have my keys," Sandusky said, "and I still went in there and worked out."

MARCI HAMILTON, VICTIM'S ATTORNEY: Any argument that these men now are making any of this up is really weak. And if that is all that he has in terms of his defense, he is going to have really rough going in the courts.

CANDIOTTI: Sandusky again denies that then head coach Joe Paterno ever mentioned anything to him about the 2002 shower allegation. Sandusky faces a preliminary hearing in a couple of weeks. Among the expected witnesses, at least one of his accusers.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Now to that gruesome Connecticut home invasion that shocked the nation back in 2007. When jurors return to a courtroom in Connecticut today, they will begin deciding whether a triple murder will live or die. That same jury found Joshua Komisarjevsky guilty of all 17 charges in the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughter Michaela and Hayley. Our Deb Feyerick is live for us in New Haven this morning. Deb, good morning.

DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. This jury really has its work cut out for it. You have to think about this. The 12 men and women will have to say yes a total of 600 times for Joshua Komisarjevsky to actually receive the death penalty.

Over the last six weeks they heard a lot of testimony from people in support of Komisarjevsky, the defense trying to portray him as a loving father to a nine-year-old daughter, somebody who sought custody and actually supported her financially that. They describe him as having a support system. Although he didn't have a happy childhood, at least his mom, dad, and sister all have been backing him. They also tried to make the point that he suffers from mental problems, mood disorders. And the key factor, they tried to show that in fact he was not the one who was ultimately responsible for the deaths of some of those in the house.

And that is going to be key. That's one of the things that the jurors will have to weigh. The prosecutors really put it on the table. They said, look, what Joshua Komisarjevsky did, holding this family hostage and then setting fire to the home, a blaze that killed the two daughters and burned the mother to death, well, they said, this is a cruel -- it's a heinous crime, and there is no other sentence besides death. Prosecution closing by saying this was seven hours of horror that ended in a hellish inferno.

So a lot before the jury. It's likely to take several days before they come back. But then again, you never know. It could be quick. They could say it's a lock. Alina?

CHO: All right Deb Feyerick live in New Haven for us this morning. Deb, thank you.

Also new this morning, only hours ago WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won his chance to appeal against his extradition from the U.K. to Sweden. He'll make his case to Britain's Supreme Court. Assange is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes in Sweden. He is accused of sexually assaulting two women in 2010.

An 85-year-old grandmother from long island says she's considering filing a lawsuit against the TSA after allegedly being strip searched at JFK airport. Her name is Lenore Zimmerman. She was getting ready to fly from New York to Fort Lauderdale last Tuesday when she says she was traumatized by two female agents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LENORE ZIMMERMAN, CLAIMS SHE WAS STRIP-SEARCHED BY TSA: I have a defibrillator, so I don't go through the machines. I ask them to pat me down. They took my pants down and then they took my underwear down. Don't I look like a terrorist? I'm going to be 85-years-old and I weigh 103 pounds, and they strip searched me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Lenore says she also suffered a cut on her leg during the search. The TSA denies she was strip searched but have apologized to her for the, quote, "unpleasant screening experience."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will unveil a payroll tax cut compromise plan today. It's a compromise between the dueling plans rejected by the Senate last week. No word yet on specifics, but Democrats say it includes a, quote, "serious way to pay the more than $200 billion price tag."

A new leak of radioactive water at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, some 12,000 gallons of contaminated water found gushing from a purification facility. The plant's operator says some of the tainted water may have leaked into the Pacific Ocean.

Get a load of this. In southwestern Japan, they may have just witnessed the costliest car crash in history. Listen to this -- eight Ferraris, three Mercedes, and a Lamborghini were all involved in a highway pileup in Yamaguchi. They were all part of a luxury sports car even. That's why they were all there. Total damage, $3.8 million.

And call it "panda diplomacy." Two giant panda bears arrived in Scotland yesterday. China is loaning the bears to the Edinburgh zoo for 10 years as an act of goodwill. Their names are Sweetie and Sunshine and will become Britain's first breeding pandas in 17 years, and what an attraction.

Still to come this morning, home for the holidays, American heroes finally in the arms of their loved ones. CNN goes in depth on the final hours of the Iraq war.

We're back after this. It's 39 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Take a look outside of our studios in New York where it's 48 and cloudy. It's going up to a high of 69 degrees today. It's the early part of December, hard to believe.

Welcome back, everybody. Good morning to you. All this week, CNN goes in depth examining the final hours of the Iraq war. Thousands of U.S. soldiers have already come home to spend the holidays with their loved ones, arriving at military bases here in the United States like Ft. Hood in Texas. Our Chris Lawrence was there for some tearful reunions. He joins us live from the Pentagon this morning. Hey Chris, Good morning.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alina, this one was extra special because in the past it was always a matter of when, not if a lot of these troops will be going back to Iraq. This time they know there is no going back. And as one wife and mother told me, you know, after nearly a year of being the taxi shuttle for the kids, of being good cop and bad cop, it sure is going to be nice to have her husband home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dismissed.

(APPLAUSE)

LAWRENCE: At the first glimpse of her father in nearly a year, Alexandria Frey showed us just how fast a 14-year-old can move. She started high school while her dad was gone. Her mom had to do everything alone.

MICHELLE FREY, HUSBAND BACK FROM IRAQ: It has been a very long 10 months. Glad it's over.

LAWRENCE (on camera): Is there any way to describe how it feels to have your dad back after so long?

ALEXANDRIA FREY, DAD BACK FROM IRAQ: No. It's good.

LAWRENCE: What did you miss most about him?

ALEXANDRIA FREY: He was like my best friend. So, yes.

LAWRENCE: Now you have your best friend back?

ALEXANDRIA FREY: Yes. I have more of a bond with him than anything. So yes.

LAWRENCE: Enjoy your time.

(voice-over) The last few hours of waiting were the toughest. Then, the plane full of soldiers finally landed, and the troops got a welcome home fit for rock stars. Christmas wishes were answered, the fight in Iraq finished. For Sergeant Major Eric Frey, it's bitter-sweet.

SGT. MAJ. ERIK FREY, JUST BACK FROM IRAQ: In one sense I feel happy that it's over with and we're getting all of our service members out. But then you look back at the sacrifices that our soldiers have made and our family members have made.

LAWRENCE: Both in blood and money. At one point the U.S. was spending $5,000 per second in Iraq. The war took nearly 4,500 American lives, and 32,000 troops came home wounded. But these are some of the last Americans to leave Iraq, and they won't be going back.

MAJ. MIKE IANNUCCILLI, U.S. ARMY: This is my third deployment. First one with both of these guys. And it was a lot harder. But it just makes it that much sweeter coming home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Yes, there's a little over 10,000 American troops still left in Iraq, but that number is literally changing by the hour. Once they get back, the troops will go through a couple of days of reintegration, learning how to be home again, how to interact with their families. And then they are going to get about 30 days leave to just kick back, relax with their families, and let it all sink in that they're done with Iraq.

CHO: Just 30 days? That's it?

(LAUGHTER)

LAWRENCE: Yes.

CHO: After all of that?

Chris, you know, I find it interesting last how are you were talking about how there's a mixture of troops who will either stay in the military or leave the service. But some are staying in because of the economy. Right?

LAWRENCE: That's right. I mean, really, when you talk to some of these troops, it really runs the gamut. I mean there are a lot of guys who are going to miss combat. That's the reason they went into the military. They joined during the wars, and they really want to go and fight.

A couple of people I talked to over the weekend said, even though Iraq is done, they were hoping to get an Afghanistan deployment before that war and that conflict wraps up. Others were looking to leave but because the economy in the civilian sector is so bad right now, they are thinking maybe it's better to just re-up for another four years, wait it out, and then, see how things play out and see if the civilian economy is even better four years from now.

CHO: Yes right.

Christine made a point that all of these troops are coming home, and there aren't any jobs for them at home. And so it makes sense that -- that they would stay in for another four.

All right, Chris Lawrence. Thank you so much for bringing us those heart-warming reunions.

LAWRENCE: You're welcome.

CHO: It is the season for shopping and for shoplifting. One in every 11 people who walks into a store will steal at least one item. We're going to take a look at what these thieves are taking, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Forty-seven minutes after the hour. Here are you "Morning Headlines."

U.S. markets open in about 45 minutes from now and they are poised to open higher this morning following a stellar week last week when U.S. markets were up more than seven percent.

Herman Cain suspending his campaign, insisting he had to get out of the GOP race because of all the pain it was causing his family. He says he'll be endorsing one of his former rivals soon.

Another blast of wintry weather is expected in parts of the west through tomorrow night. And a high wind warning is in effect for southern California. Gusts could reach hurricane force. Officials warn more power outages and damage could be on the way.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be allowed to appeal against his extradition from the U.K. to Sweden. He'll make his case to Britain's Supreme Court. Assange is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes in Sweden.

According to preliminary election results in Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party is winning, but barely hanging on to its majority. His party stands to lose many of the 300 seats it currently holds in Parliament.

In Italy, working to end its budget crisis, new Prime Minister Mario Monti presenting a huge proposal before Parliament today a whopping 30 billion Euros or $41 billion U.S. in spending cuts and new taxes.

Democrats will propose a compromise plan to extend the payroll tax cut today. The Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee says it includes a, quote, "serious way" to pay the more than $200 billion price tag.

A cash-strapped United States Postal Service will announce a new cost-cutting plan this morning. Under the plan, first class mail would no longer be delivered the next day. The agency wants to change its national standard to 2-5 days from 1-3.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. Its 52 minutes after the hour.

U.S. investors have their eyes on Europe this week. The European Union is working to overcome its debt crisis. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting in Paris this morning to talk about the possibility of a new EU treaty, and it couldn't come at a more important time.

CNN's Nina Dos Santos is live in Paris for us. So Nina, of course the big question is, could we be seeing French francs again, or can the Euro be saved?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh that's a big question, isn't it, Alina? Probably a $1 trillion question at this point. The reality is a lot of the economists have been saying that the Euro will still be around for a number of years to come.

It's just completely inconceivable seeing that 15 countries that share the single currency having to reprint their own money. It would be fraught with difficulties and bear all sorts of costs. They'd have to set up their own central banks. It would be a total disaster.

And for the moment, it seems as though that would be jumping the gun a little bit. But what they are trying to do of course is to avert a disaster before the end of the year. We know that some very senior people in Brussels, Europe, France have been saying that realistically at this point we only have about five days left to try and hammer out legislation to shore up confidence in the single currency and also the European Union as a whole.

Now Angela Merkel of Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy of France being the heads of the two biggest economies in the Euro Zone are trying to hammer out a preliminary framework at the start of this week that they are going to be putting forward towards other heads of state of the other 27 countries inside the European Union, or 27 in total so 25 if you will take away France and Germany.

And they're hoping that they're going to be able to get them to agree to balance the budget once and for all, to try and shore up confidence in the region. And perhaps, Alina, even then we could see the European Central Bank having the confidence to try and buy more bonds, to bring down the borrowing costs for the troubled countries like for France and Italy, Greece, Spain, et cetera.

CHO: All right. We know you'll be watching it all for us. Nina Dos Santos live for us in Paris. Please send my regards to all my friends in the Paris theatre, Nina. Thank you so much.

It's the season for giving, and apparently stealing. Up next, we have the top three lists of stolen goods, and you won't believe what made the cut. Wait for it. We'll be back with it after this.

It's 54 minutes after the hour.

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CHO: Good morning, Washington D.C., where it's 45 and mostly cloudy, going up to a high and sunny 63. And there's a look at our newsroom on this Bangles "Manic Monday". Good morning, everybody.

New this morning, it's the first win for Tiger Woods in two years. Call it vintage Tiger. Woods rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole yesterday for a one-stroke victory over Zach Johnson in the Chevron World Challenge in California. It's the fifth time he's won the event, which he happens to host. Afterwards, when he was asked how it felt to win a tournament again, Tiger said "Awesome".

The Green Bay Packers still undefeated, barely. The New York Giants came close to handing the Super Bowl champs their first loss of the season yesterday, when Eli Manning tossed a late touchdown pass to Hakim Nicks. And D.J. Ware ran in the two-point conversion to the score at 35-35. But the Packers marched down the field in the final minute and Mason Crosby, take a look at that, hit a 30-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the Packers their 18th straight win dating back to last season.

Final score: Packers 38, Giants 35. Close one.

And it's official. The NFL says Madonna will be the featured performer at this year's Super Bowl halftime show. She'll collaborate with Cirque du Soleil for the big gig. Super Bowl XLVI is February 5th in Indianapolis two days after Madonna's movie release.

It's the season for gift giving and apparently gift stealing. Get this. One in every 11 people who walks into a store this holiday season will steal at least one item. You won't believe what the top three items are.

According to a recent survey by Ad Week, the number one item is meat -- not kidding here. Officials say thieves target fillet mignon and other choice cuts. Number two, pricey liquors like Jameson Irish Whiskey. And number three, electric tools like toothbrushes and power tools. Go figure.

That will do it for me. I'm Alina Cho. I'll be right back here tomorrow with Carole Costello on AMERICAN MORNING 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Right now, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Kyra Phillips starts right now.

So what did you think of Tiger's win? You're a golfer, Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Oh, Scottie and I, my director, we were just talking about that. Well, I won't tell you what we were saying behind the scenes, but all right, good for him. It's the quality of the tournament, Alina. All right. Good to see you.