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AMERICAN MORNING

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul in Statistical Dead Heat in Iowa; Newt Gingrich Endures Criticism for Campaign Conduct; The Search for Ayla Reynolds; Hope After Dictator's Death; Thousands March, Defy Tanks In Syria; Pakistan Contradicts U.S. On Airstrikes; Yemen's Saleh May Come To U.S.; Kim Jong-Il Funeral Tomorrow; Life After Kim Jong-Il; Man In Santa Suit Kills Seven On Christmas; Bodies Linked To Online Dating Ads; Jerry Sandusky's "Boundary Issues"; Breast Implant Scandal; Prince Philip Leaves Hospital; A Saint In Sin City; Listening To History; Alexander Graham Bell's Audio Recordings Recovered, Restored; Physicist Michio Kaku Discusses Climate, Mayan Calendar

Aired December 27, 2011 - 06:59   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Seven days and counting until the Iowa caucuses. It's looking like a tight three-way race. The top Republican candidates all heading to the Hawkeye State today, and they're trying to do whatever it takes to put them over the top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please bring her home to us. I want my baby home.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ten days and still no sign of Little Ayla Reynolds. Police are stepping up their search for the missing toddler from Maine, and now, they're offering a big reward.

VELSHI: And happening right now, cries for help from a city under siege. Thousands of protesters marching in Homs, Syria as the Arab world steps in to try to end the slaughter of civilians.

CHO: And an all-out brawl at the mall. Police rushing in, shoppers scrambling out, chaos after Christmas, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Good morning. It's Tuesday, December 27th. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. We're so glad you're joining us, two days after Christmas. I'm Alina Cho along with Ali Velshi.

VELSHI: and it's the Iowa invasion, if you want to call it that. Five top Republicans plan to visit the state with seven days remaining until the Iowa caucuses begin. It's shaping up to be a tight three- way race. CNN political director Mark Preston is live in Des Moines this morning with our team. Mark, the week begins with Newt Gingrich trying once again to distance himself, not from someone else, not from someone else's comments, but from his own past.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: From his own past, yes. The story all along has been that Newt Gingrich, who has been married three times, has had some personal shortcomings. His first divorce was back in 1980 and the story surrounding that is that he had served his wife Jackie with the divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.

However, earlier this year, his daughter, their daughter, wrote a column that said, in fact, that it was her mother who had asked for the divorce. Now, CNN has been able to review the divorce proceedings in the past week or so and has seen that, in fact, according to these documents from Alan Duke, one of our reporter, that in fact it was Newt Gingrich who had asked for the divorce.

Now, the Gingrich campaign is saying in fact, they stand by their story that in fact it was Newt Gingrich who filed the paperwork, but it was his first wife Jackie who had asked for it. Why is this important? It's important because as we stand here in Iowa, the first state to kick off the Republican presidential nomination race, the state is dominated by social conservatives. Back in 2008, Ali, 60 percent of the Republican Iowa caucus-goers described themselves as evangelical Christians. So Newt Gingrich, not something he wants to deal with certainly as we are heading into January 3rd.

VELSHI: To add to the flavor. You've been spending time in Des Moines. It's not just the candidates' ground game, for everybody else, an onslaught of TV and radio ads going on?

PRESTON: There is, Ali. And just to show you, this is the paper from this morning's "Des Moines Register." Look at the headline, $10 million ad list. What we're seeing if the candidates from Rick Perry to Ron Paul to Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney, all trying to get their message out in these closing days. In fact, we're even seeing outside groups come in to try to influence the race. Last night, turn on my TV, Ali, within two minutes I saw an ad from Rick Perry. Three minutes later, I saw an ad from Newt Gingrich.

Now, I do have to put this in perspective. Back in 2008 when we had a race for the Republican presidential nomination, when we had a race for the Democratic nomination, ad spending in Iowa, $27 million. So it is certainly dialed back from what we're seeing this year, and that's due in part to the fact this has been more of a national race. We've seen all these presidential debates take place, four on CNN.

VELSHI: Right.

PRESTON: The candidate now, though, are focusing on their ground game. They're focusing on Iowa and that's where we are, Ali.

VELSHI: We'll keep a close eye on it and full coverage through next Tuesday night and beyond. Mark Preston in Des Moines, good to see you.

CHO: And if the polls are right, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich are in a statistical dead heat in the Hawkeye state. But as we've seen, a lot can change in seven days. Joining us to talk about this this morning is Democratic analyst Robert Zimmerman right her in New York with me on the couch, and Jim Geraghty of the National Review online. He's live in Washington. Good morning to both of you.

So, Jim, I want to begin with you. Rick Santorum is the one candidate who was out in on the trail yesterday in Iowa. He was joined by his friend, Iowa representative Steve King, who is largely considered to be a king maker in that state. It's interesting what King is saying. He's saying that he's having a hard time getting his head and heart together to make an endorsement. In fact, he says he's having such a hard time that he may not endorse anyone at all. I mean what does this say, Jim, about the Republican field? That an insider can't make a pick?

JIM GERAGHTY, WRITES "THE CAMPAIGN SPOT" BLOG: As you mentioned earlier, three guys right at the top of the race. And you have folks like Rick Santorum who has visited all 99 counties. Rick Santorum has probably spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate. As we saw, the day after Christmas when most folks worried about returning gifts from the day before, he was out there trying to get the last bit of support.

CHO: But Rick Santorum is polling at the bottom, I believe there.

GERAGHTY: Exactly, to be honest.

CHO: And Steve King cannot make a decision who to endorse. What does that say about the field?

GERAGHTY: It says there's three guys that can win and Steve King doesn't want to make any enemies that he doesn't need to. Rick Santorum is out the day after Christmas. If you're at eight percent now or six percent or wherever he is, I have a really hard time believing one extra day of campaigning ahead of everybody else is going to make that much of a difference.

CHO: All right, Robert, I want to ask you. Santorum's at the bottom. Ron Paul, surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, in our latest poll that we see here from the American Research Group, shows that Paul is at the top, 21 percent of the vote, Romney right behind at 20 percent and Gingrich at 19 percent. If Ron Paul, I mean, who famously has a fantastic ground game in Iowa, really hasn't stopped campaigning in five years. If he wins and pulls off a win in Iowa, what does it mean for the race?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: It's a victory for Mitt Romney. Let's cut to it, because at the end of the day, the challenge is to make sure that there's not going to be, from Mitt Romney's perspective, someone who can emerge and consolidate the anti-Romney sentiment. For example, if Newt Gingrich were to finish in second place, or Rick Perry even potentially, that might consolidate the anti-Romney sentiment. Ron Paul is a boutique candidate. He's sort of a niche market. He's not going to grow. The other candidates may have potential to grow. CHO: You see all the negative ads running in Iowa, not so subtle ads against Newt Gingrich and his in fidelity, especially the ones we've seen from Romney touting his 40-some odd marriage to his wife. Historically, in these final days, do those work?

ZIMMERMAN: The issue in Iowa, where 60 percent of your voting electorate in the Republican caucus are of the evangelical, Christian conservative community, there's no question these issues of family values matter, these issues of fidelity matter.

And let's be realistic about Newt Gingrich. It's not just the scandals in his past and the baggage. He's emerged as the Louis Vuitton of luggage, with a shout out to your fashion coverage. The point is it's not just the scandal, it's the way he explained them. For example, he cheated on his wife because of his love of country, or his references to being a historian for Freddie Mac. These kinds of ways trying to explain scandals, comparing his problems in Virginia getting on the ballot with being, you know, comparing it to Pearl Harbor.

CHO: Jim, I want to talk to you more about that, because Newt Gingrich is in the news again. CNN has found court documents that show that Gingrich divorced his first wife, you know, his first wife did not divorce him, as he had claimed earlier. I mean, are we splitting hairs here? I mean should, we care about this, and do voters care about this?

GERAGHTY: I think there's at least one demographic that does care about this. Speaking anecdotally, women tend to notice these issues a great deal men may not care so much.

I think the good news for Newt Gingrich is that right now the issue of the three marriages and whether he was less than fully honest about what happened in all of them is sort of priced in. I don't think too many Iowa caucus goers are voting for Newt Gingrich because they think he's a swell husband.

Having said that, I'm dying to see what the gender gap is at the exit polls. And I would not be surprised in the slightest to see Newt Gingrich doing significantly much worse among women than he does amongst men.

ZIMMERMAN: If you're going to hold yourselves out at a strategist, you better qualify to get on the ballots. If you're going to describe yourself as an historian, then you can't engage in references comparing Democrats to Nazis or comparing his campaign to Pearl Harbor, that kind of issue. The bottom line is, to the political community, the donor community, it's an issue of credibility. And so I think that's what's impacting his campaign enormously.

CHO: We should say the Gingrich campaign responded to our findings saying, saying, quote, "Court documents accurately show Newt Gingrich filed for a divorce from his wife Jackie but it was Jackie who requested the divorce. Gingrich, her husband, obtained legal counsel and filed the divorce papers initiating the legal proceedings." And do you mention credibility. I mean --

ZIMMERMAN: Sure.

CHO: -- this is less about a divorce.

ZIMMERMAN: It's about character. It's about whether in fact you trust this person's integrity to lead. And throughout his campaign you've seen one misstep after another where he's had to explain -- his claims that he was a historian for Freddie Mac, for example.

CHO: Right, but out polling also shows that voters look at him as being the strongest leader in the pack.

ZIMMERMAN: It's interesting. It's a very good point. There's an old argument that Republicans would rather be tough than be right -- tough and strong than weak and right. So I think he plays to that anger in the Republican field.

But at one point the voters are going to decide in this process who do they think is credible enough to be president? Who's the person you really want there in the oval office? Mitt Romney right now in the Republican process is demonstrating I think a certain stability, which I think ultimately matter.

CHO: He is still seen as the strongest general election candidate.

ZIMMERMAN: No question.

CHO: Robert Zimmerman, always great to see you. Enjoy the rest of your holiday and Jim Geraghty, to you as well. Thank you very much.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.

CHO: Ali?

VELSHI: Great conversation.

Happening right now in Syria, thousands of protesters are hitting the streets and putting their lives on the line. This is in Homs, Syria. Look at these pictures. They are chanting for international protection as Arab League monitors are heading to the scene. The opposition says 42 people were killed in Homs yesterday alone as government tanks pounded the city.

Iran wants to strengthen its ties with Iraq, offering to expand military cooperation between the countries. This just a week after U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq. Iran calling the Iraq war a, quote, "humiliating defeat for the United States."

A nine-year-old Indiana girl who vanished just two days before Christmas was found dead last night. Her neighbor now accused of murder. And 39-year-old Michael Plumadore appears in court charged with the murder of this Aliahna Lemmon. Relatives say Plumadore is a close family friend who was babysitting Aliahna and her two sisters while her mother recovered from the flu.

Police in Detroit uncover new details in the disturbing case of four dead bodies found stuffed in abandoned cars. Three of the victims are now linked to ads for adult dating services posted on Backpage.com. All of the victims black women in their 20s. Two were found Christmas Day inside a burning car. The other two discovered less than a week before in a car outside a vacant home.

And Saints quarterback Drew Brees now owns the NFL record for most passing yards in a season. He passed Dan Marino last night on Monday night football and New Orleans clobbered the Atlanta falcons 45-16. Brees now has 5,087 passing yards on the year, and there's still one more game to go.

CHO: Coming up, the mother of a missing toddler is speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is she OK? Is she laying somewhere dead? Is she safe? Is she cold? Is she being fed? Is someone watching her?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: We're learning new details about the disappearance of Ayla Reynolds. Why police are now confident it is a case of abduction and are now offering a big reward.

VELSHI: A moving brawl inside a Minnesota mall, terrified shoppers. Police called in with guns drawn. We'll tell you what happened and how it all turned out.

CHO: And more than 130 years later, scientists have actually found a way to listen to some of the earliest audio recordings in history. We'll have the details ahead. It's 13 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Fifteen minutes after the hour. Welcome back.

Police are stepping up their search for a missing toddler from Maine. A $30,000 reward, the record - a record in that state, for any information about the disappearance of 20-month-old Ayla Reynolds.

She was last seen in her bed just days before Christmas. Police are now confident that the little girl was abducted.

Deb Feyerick has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's Friday night, December 16th. Twenty-month-old Ayla Reynolds is ready for bed wearing her green polka dots pajamas with the words "Daddy's Princess" on the front. Her father, Justin DiPietro puts her to sleep. He says it's the last time he saw his daughter.

The next morning, Ayla was gone, vanished sometime during the night. DiPietro had been caring for Baby Ayla for weeks after her mother, Trista Reynolds, checked herself into a 10-day rehab program. After completing rehab, Reynolds filed court papers to regain custody of her daughter. The papers were filed the day before Ayla was last seen.

Police say both parents are fully cooperating in the case, and say they have no suspects yet, but they are certain Ayla was taken from her home on that Friday night. JOE MASSEY, WATERVILLE POLICE CHIEF: We believe that someone was involved in taking her out of the house, and that's where the focus of this investigation has turned.

FEYERICK: Two days after Ayla's disappearance, Trista Reynolds tells various media outlets including HLN's "NANCY GRACE" that she worried her daughter Ayla was not safe with her father.

The day after Ayla's mother gives these interviews, Justin DiPietro writes a letter to law enforcement. He says he has no idea what happened to his daughter, nor does he know who's responsible for her disappearance, adding, "I will not make accusations or insinuations towards anyone until police have been able to prove who's responsible for this."

Meanwhile, the search for Ayla widens. Police receive nearly 200 tips. Civilian volunteers joined state, local and federal authorities in over 80 searches of the area, including a nearby river, a pond and several hiking trails. Cadaver dogs are brought in. Still, no sign of the missing girl.

TRISTA REYNOLDS, AYLA REYNOLDS' MOTHER: Is she OK? Is she laying somewhere dead? Is she safe? Is she cold? Is she - is she being fed? Is - is someone watching her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring her home. Just bring her home to us. I want my baby home. I want her home.

FEYERICK: And on Christmas Day, prayers instead of presents for Ayla. It's been over a week since the blond haired, blue eyed toddler was last seen.

In these cases, time is the enemy, but police continue their search, hoping a new $30,000 reward will bring them closer to finding little Ayla.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: On the morning after Christmas, it was absolute mayhem at the Mall of America in Minnesota. Take a look. Police say nine people were arrested during what they call a moving melee yesterday. Dozens of teens brawling in a food court. Then they swarmed through the mall, a scary scene that sent many shoppers scrambling for the exits.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people are running. Some people are just staying. People are like confronting each other like in the middle. People just walking. And they like nobody was even around. They were just going at it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden like stores started closing down and like the gates were going up and so we just didn't really know what was going on and the cops are pushing all away from, like, Nordstrom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: I feel like I need to hold you. Cops were pushing us away from Nordstrom. I mean, can you just imagine? Like I just picture you there trying to get - I'm sorry. I just need to get into Nordstrom. And he says, "Nothing to see here. Keep moving, lady."

CHO: That 70 percent off in the shoe store.

VELSHI: I can't get into the Nordstrom. It's devastating.

CHO: All right.

VELSHI: Rob Marciano.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's entitled - the name of the place is the Mall of America.

VELSHI: Right.

MARCIANO: So you know that video is going to be shown all over the world, just propagating the stereotype.

CHO: There's lots of malls (ph) in America.

VELSHI: Crazy, nut shoppers, whose kids swarm malls.

MARCIANO: Oh, the infidels.

Good morning again, guys. We are looking at the rain moving up the Northeastern Seaboard with snow on the backside, which is just a mess across much of the eastern third of the country. This is a combination of two storms. One dropping down from Canada and one coming up from the Gulf of Mexico.

Rainfall shield now getting into parts of Virginia, eventually into D.C. and New York. This will be all rain for the bigger cities. But we're starting to see some changeover to snow, Lower Michigan, parts of Indiana, parts of Illinois and some of that snow will get as far south as the Midsouth, but very little accumulation. Maybe, you know, one to four inches in places like Northwest Ohio, back through Western New York, upstate New York. Here's the rain - the snowfall expected here over the next couple of days. Notice the I-95 Corridor stays dry as far as the snow goes, but it will be wet and the rain will be heavy at times.

And across parts of the south including the southern part of the mid-Atlantic, we'll see some rough and tumble thunderstorms this afternoon. Potentially some damaging winds and isolated tornadoes, and just straight line winds with the storm that's intensifying, 40 to 50 mile-an-hour gust potentially across parts of the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys today. A breezy day to say the least.

That may slow down some air travel. If you're traveling through Atlanta, New York, Boston, D.C. will see the rain, a little bit of wind as well. And Philadelphia, Chicago, windy on the back side of this and Minneapolis also a bit breezy. That's the only spot really, 32 degrees up there, Minneapolis; 56, mild in New York.

All right. Imagine this. You're in Salt Lake City. It's Christmas Eve and you hear the clicker clatter of hooves on the roof.

CHO: No way.

MARCIANO: Yes. That's right. It's an eight-point buck that came crushing through the window over a residential home, crushing the gifts. And eventually Wildlife Management came out and was able to scoop the deer out of the home, but, you know, that's quite a story. And maybe they were telling that, you know -

CHO: Timing for that deer, impeccable. I must say.

MARCIANO: Exactly. Maybe dad was telling the story of "The Night Before Christmas."

VELSHI: He seems OK. Like he seemed like he's not crazy panicked in there. I'd be worried the thing, the deer would be tearing the place up.

MARCIANO: Yes. He's like I'm just looking for a little, you know, sip and cool (ph) of some eggnog. You know, no big deal, I guess.

VELSHI: That's it. That's it. I've been working hard all season.

MARCIANO: Exactly.

CHO: Poor people. And scared to -

VELSHI: But the way - you see, this is the thing. It wouldn't occur to me. I'm just not of the generation where it would occur to me to put the whole thing and recorder on your phone. I'd have to figure how to do it. They recorded the entire thing. I thought that was kind of neat.

MARCIANO: Merry Christmas.

VELSHI: All right, Rob. Good to se you, buddy.

MARCIANO: See you guys.

VELSHI: Still to come this morning, airports now trying out a new strategy to court fliers. Loyalty rewards. We're going to tell you about that next.

It is 22 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: A warm welcome back to you. It is 26 minutes after the hour. We're "Minding Your Business" this morning.

U.S. markets opening just over two hours. Stock futures are pointing to a lower open right now. There are four trading days left in 2011. Right now, for the year, the Dow is up 6.2 percent. The S&P 500, which may reflect some of the mutual funds you own is up just about a half of a percent and the NASDAQ is down about 1.3 percent. That's for the whole year.

Two key economic reports are due out this morning at 9:00 A.M. Eastern. The Case Schiller Home Price Index for October is coming up. One hour later, the Consumer Confidence Numbers are released. Most analysts expect consumer confidence to hit a five-month high. They also expect home prices will have declined, but at a slower pace.

Well, if Countrywide handled your mortgage you might have some money coming to you. The Justice Department is trying to track down more than 200,000 alleged victims of Countrywide's bad practices. Last week, Bank of America agreed to a $335 million settlement, the result, charges that its Countrywide unit discriminated against Hispanic and African-American borrowers.

And new this morning, Sears says it will close as many as 120 Sears and Kmart stores. The CEO says the company is trying to reduce expenses after disappointing sales for big ticket items this year. The locations of the store closures have not been announced yet.

Loyalty programs. You see them at hotels, airlines, rent car agencies, they offer incentives to attract customers. Now airports are getting into the game. "USA Today" says more than 30 airports across the country have joined the "Thanks Again" program. It awards fliers airline miles for parking, shopping and eating at the airports.

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

AMERICAN MORNING back right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know what happened to my dad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: With Kim Jong-Il gone, a North Korean pastor is hoping his prayers will be answered after a 60-year wait on this AMERICAN MORNING.

VELSHI: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Time now for your top stories. It's 31 minutes after the hour.

Happening right now in Syria, look at this, thousands of protesters hitting the streets, defying the tanks and putting their lives on the line in Homs, Syria.

They're chanting for international protection as Arab League monitors head to the scene today. The opposition says 42 people were killed in Homs yesterday alone. Look at this as government tanks pounded the city.

CHO: Pakistan is blasting a U.S. report on a NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani troops back in November. Pakistan's government says NATO fired first. It claims NATO knew its helicopters were firing on troops, but continued shooting for more than an hour.

This contradicts the Pentagon report that claims Pakistani troops fired first at U.S. forces stationed near the border. Pakistan is calling on an apology from the Pentagon.

VELSHI: The embattled president of Yemen may be coming to New York later this week for medical treatment. The "New York Times" reports the Obama administration has agreed in principle to allow Ali Abdul Al-Saleh to enter the country if certain conditions are met.

That includes a proposed itinerary. President Saleh was badly injured in a near fatal bomb blast in June at his presidential complex.

CHO: CNN confirms the funeral for North Korean leader Kim Jong- Il will take place tomorrow with a memorial service planned for Thursday.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are expected to pay tribute to their fallen dictator. Pyongyang state media has given no other details about the event and foreign guests are barred from entering the country.

VELSHI: Korean-Americans are keeping a close eye on their homeland this week. Kim Jong-Il's death has sparked both hope and concern.

CNN's Casey Wian spoke with a North Korean-born pastor who fled the communist regime six decades ago and has been searching for answers ever since.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Retired Pastor Chang Soon Lee fled North Korea in 1950 as his homeland was ripped in half by the Korean War. At age 15, Lee's family also was torn apart.

CHANG SOON LEE, FORMER PASTOR: Because of my dad was a minister, I saw my daddy was persecuted.

WIAN: Lee eventually immigrated to the United States where he led a Methodist congregation, but he never forgot his homeland. He's returned half a dozen times on humanitarian missions bringing tons of food to orphanages and building noodle factories in North Korea, where millions of people reportedly starve to death in the 1990s.

LEE: It's kind of symbolic showing our love for them. We love you. You are all brothers and sisters.

WIAN: During his missions, North Korean authorities never allowed Lee to visit places from his childhood, which still haunts him six decades later.

(on camera): I can tell that you still have a connection or still feel a connection.

LEE: Yes.

WIAN: What is that connection?

LEE: I want to know what happened to my dad whether he lived or died, how?

WIAN (voice-over): As North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-Un mourns the death of his father, Lee hopes he will work towards opening to South Korea and western democracies.

LEE: There must be change or we don't know the change worse or better. Hopefully, the young leader wise enough.

WIAN: Now retired at 76, Lee says South Korea and the United States also have a responsibility to promote peace.

LEE: We have to give them confidence or trust that we are not -- we support you.

WIAN: And perhaps, Lee hopes that will lead to answers about his father.

LEE: I want to know what happened to him.

WIAN: Casey Wian, CNN, Roland Heights, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Later today, police are expected to release the names of seven family members found shot to death in a suburban Dallas apartment that happened on Christmas day. There are reports that gunman dressed at Santa Claus may have been related to the family by marriage. Police are investigating whether divorce may have played a part in the mass shooting.

VELSHI: Police in Detroit uncover new details in the disturbing case of four dead bodies found stuffed in abandoned cars. Three of the victims are now linked to ads for adult dating services posted on backpage.com.

All of the victims are black women in their 20s. Two were found Christmas Day inside a burning car. The other two were discovered less than a week before in a car outside a vacant home.

CHO: New developments in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Jerry Sandusky's wife, Dottie, reportedly expressed concerns about her husband's behavior long before a grand jury investigation was launched.

That's according to local state college radio host and family friend, Jeff Buyers (ph). Buyers telling CNN contributor, Sarah Ganim, that Dottie Sandusky feared her husband had, quote, "boundary issues" that could lead to accusations against him.

VELSHI: Still ahead, Britain's Prince Philip is out of hospital. We're going to take you live to London and tell you what he's up to next.

CHO: And Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, was also behind some of the earliest audio recording experiments ever. Now 130 years later, we're hearing those recordings for the very first time.

VELSHI: And a look ahead to 2012. Could solar storms sweep the globe causing widespread blackouts and $1 trillion in damage? We're going to speak to a top physicist to get his real predictions on what lies ahead in the New Year. It's 37 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: It's 39 minutes after the hour. We have a developing story we want to tell you about involving substandard breast implants sold to nearly 1,000 women in the Netherlands.

Officials say these dangerous implants were made by a now defunct French company and sold in the Netherlands under a different name. That's what fooled some people. Now health officials fearing it could actually affect 300,000 women worldwide.

The implants are apparently filled with an industrial grade silicone instead of a surgical silicone and that means those implants are more likely to rupture or leak.

VELSHI: Britain's Prince Philip is out of hospital this morning. He'll be joining his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and the rest of the royal family at Sandraham, which is where they usually spend Christmas. The duke underwent a heart operation. They put a stent in to treat a blocked artery on Friday. Let's go right to Erin McLaughlin who's live in London with the latest. Good morning, Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ali. We understand that Prince Philip waved to onlookers as he left the hospital this morning. He thanked hospital staff before he departed for the care he received.

As you mentioned, on Friday night, he was admitted to the hospital complaining of chest pains. He underwent tests later showed a blocked artery for which he underwent a minimally invasive coronary stent procedure.

The Buckingham Palace officials say was successful. Now as a precaution, he was kept under observation at the hospital for the Christmas period. He wasn't without visitors though, Ali. The queen visited him on Saturday. She flew in by helicopter.

She was joined by their children, including Prince Andrew and Prince Charles. That visit was followed up by a Christmas Day visit from his grandchildren, Prince William and Prince Harry. They drove to the hospital.

They drove some of the other grandchildren as well. We understand the duke was very eager to get back to Sandraham and is very happy to be home -- Ali.

VELSHI: He's down right cheerful. So hope they get to pick up where they left off. I know they went ahead without him and had to start celebrating. I guess they're going to repeat Christmas for him. That's what you get when you're the duke. All right, Erin, good to see you.

All right, a man finds a couple of envelopes at the Las Vegas Airport. Now what would you think would be inside envelopes at the Las Vegas Airport?

CHO: Well, I'm guessing in this case, it was a lot of cash.

VELSHI: It's $10,000. Jackpot. It turns out that Mitch Gilbert is a real saint in sin city. Gilbert tracked down the money's owner, who was all the way in Texas.

He won the money gambling, but dropped it on the way back home. He reported it missing, but never actually believed someone would return it. Gilbert says giving it back was the right thing to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to show my kids the right thing to do. If it happened to me, I sure would want that back. You think about all the bills you could pay. It felt go to be able to give it back to the guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Good for him. Now, did the guy -- I guess, I wonder how that process went --

CHO: Well, exactly --

VELSHI: Someone found an envelope --

CHO: Name on the envelope? Anyway --

VELSHI: It's always fascinating. People carry that kind of cash around. I know it's exciting when you win, have that wad of cash. Good on that guy for giving it back.

CHO: No kidding, $10,000. He's right. He'll be able to pay a lot of bills with that money.

Meanwhile, Alexander Graham Bell on the cutting edge of technology way back in the 1800s. Well, now, his audio recording experiments have been recovered and restored nearly 130 years later.

The Smithsonian Institution has the early recordings packed away in their archives and now they're being revealed. Our Brian Todd reports.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The audio clips among the earliest ever recorded have been virtually unplayable for over a century. In the past year, scientists have found a way to listen to them.

After Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, there was a rush of competition among scientists to make sound recording commercially viable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Edison and the Bells had settled on the cylinder as the format.

TODD: Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, was part of the competition. He sent several sealed tin boxes to the Smithsonian Institution with early prototypes of recordings to protect himself in case of a future patent challenge.

The recordings have been stored in the Smithsonian since the 1880s, but with no device to play them, they sat on the shelf. Enter Carl Haber of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

DR. CARL HABER, LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY: We can use this camera to take a large number of pictures of the item and create a very, very detailed digital representation of the structure of the surface.

I'm going to rotate the record now and you'll see this starting to move up and down, as if a needle was riding up and down in it. TODD: Around 18,000 optical images are taken for each rotation of the disc then the computer does its work to play back sounds from the images.

HABER: This kind of bowl is the groove that the stylist would sit in.

TODD: There's a reading from Shakespeare "Hamlet."

HABER: To be or not to be.

TODD: And "Mary Had A Little Lamb."

ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL, INVENTED TELEPHONE: Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white at snow.

HABER: At that point, the first part of the record ends. Something apparently went wrong. It's probably the first recorded example of somebody being disappointed.

TODD: The digital imaging system is ideal for archivists trying to protect the historically valuable disc because there is no physical contact needed to hear the audio recordings.

(on camera): The Smithsonian has about 200 early audio recorders from Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory. So far, they have used optical imaging technology to decipher six of those recordings. You can listen to them by logging on to Americanhistory.si.edu.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Good morning. Headlines are next. Plus, could 2012 be the year we find life out there on one of earth's twins? Ali's going to speak with a top physicist, and one of the greatest minds of our time. Wow. How about that?

VELSHI: Yes.

CHO: To hear his predictions for the New Year.

It's 46 minutes after the hour.

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CHO: 47 minutes after the hour. Here are your morning headlines.

The final week of trading for 2011 begins in less than two hours and all signs point to a lower open. The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 futures all down right now.

Thousands of protesters marching in Syria, defying tanks that have pounded the city for days. They are demanding international help as Arab League monitors head to the scene today. The opposition says 42 people were killed in Homs yesterday alone.

The funeral for North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, takes place tomorrow with a memorial service planned for Thursday. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are expected to pay tribute to the fallen dictator. Pyongyang state media has given no other details about the event.

Britain's Prince Philip released from the hospital. He spent four nights recovering from a heart operation to treat a blocked coronary artery. He joins his family now at Sandringham, where they typically spend Christmas. Prince Philip is 90 years old.

The search intensifies for a missing toddler in Maine. Police are offering $30,000 for information about the disappearance of 20- month old Ala Reynolds (ph). She was last seen in her bed more than a week ago. Police do believe she was abducted.

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CHO: Nine people arrested in Minnesota for a brawl at the Mall of America. It started with dozens of teens fighting in a food court, then swarming from store to store. Police saying, incredibly, nobody was injured.

One week to go before the Iowa caucuses, five top Republicans plan to visit the state today. Be sure to join CNN Tuesday night, January 3rdm for the country's first real votes and the candidates' first true tests in the Iowa caucuses. That's one week from today at 7:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

Just a quick programming note. Our Wolf Blitzer will interview Newt Gingrich today at 4:00 p.m. eastern in Iowa.

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

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VELSHI: We're going to be talking about weird science in a second. But for you New Yorkers, it's 41 degrees and sunny outside. Get out and enjoy it because it's going to be rainy and windy but it is going to be warm. It's getting up to 56 degrees.

Weird things are happening in the world. The climate is certainly one of them. Some people think the world could come to an end a year from now, December 21st, 2012, if the Mayan calendar is correct. But we here at CNN are not going to rely on primitive astronomy. If you want to make decisions based off what could actually happen next year, you're in the right place. You need to listen to my next guest. Michio Kaku is a child prodigy, who became one of the greatest minds of our time. I'm not exaggerating here. He's a top physicist. He has kind of picked up where Einstein left off. Kaku wrote "Physics of the Future," among many other books, talking to hundreds of other scientists to piece together what our lives will look like in the next century. And he joins us with a glimpse into 2012 and the future.

What an honor to have you here.

MICHIO KAKU, PHYSICIST: Glad to be on.

VELSHI: I tweeted out that if people watch this, you are definitely going to be the smartest person to hear from today.

Let me ask you, first of all, recently, we reported on the finding of a few planets that are sort of earth-like, but too hot. You're thinking that we may soon find an earth twin somewhere in the galaxy.

KAKU: That's right. The holy grail of planetary astronomy is to find a twin of the earth in outer space. We came very close in 2011. Planets that have the right distance from the sun but the wrong size, the right size but the wrong distance from the sun. I think in 2012, we will bag it. We will find an earth-like twin in space. And that's going to change our understanding of our role in the universe.

VELSHI: And we wondered, when we heard about these discoveries, what the implications were. And most scientists saying it's not relevant that these weren't right. It's the idea that we're better able to look for and better able to hone in on what we're looking for.

KAKU: And perhaps E.T. will phone home as a consequence.

(LAUGHTER)

Because these planets are planets that perhaps have liquid oceans.

VELSHI: Right.

KAKU: Liquid water is the universal solvent that and makes possible DNA.

VELSHI: Let's talk about the weather. Weird weather all over the place. We had these storms through America, these tornados. We have snow in different places. What do you think is happening with the weather?

KAKU: The weather has been whacky recently, in part, because the earth is heating up. We can debate how much human activity drives the global warming, but the earth is warming up, which means more energy. More energy means more swings. Droughts in one area, like Texas, and snow storms and flooding in other areas. We might have to get used to it.

VELSHI: All right, when you talk about getting warmer, let's talk about solar storms.

KAKU: That's right. Every 11 years, the sun has a temper tantrum and throws a volley radiation at the earth. So far, we've dodged the bullet. But we're very young in the space age. We're not used to having our satellites get knocked out because of a solar flare, but it could happen.

VELSHI: What are the implications of that?

KAKU: Well, the Internet -- GPS, weather satellites, all of it is on the Internet, plus telecommunications on the earth could also be disrupted. In Quebec, they had a blackout once because a solar flair hit the planet earth.

VELSHI: That was back in 1989, I think.

KAKU: That's right. Our power plants are not reinforced. We physicists have asked Congress to pay for a few hundred million dollars to reinforce our power plants and make redundant satellite systems because, at some point, it is going to happen.

VELSHI: But we think about other things in politics these days.

(LAUGHTER)

We're not necessarily thinking about grids and electricity. We probably should be.

Here is the big one. There are people who think on December 21st, 2012, the ancient Mayans predicted the world will end. Will we be here a year from now?

KAKU: First of all, don't quit your day job.

(LAUGHTER)

Don't sell the store. You'll be around on December 22nd, 2012. The Mayan calendar is cyclical. One cycle ends and the next cycle begins.

VELSHI: Right.

KAKU: There's no tenth planet out there that will come barreling down to knock the earth out of its orbit and no black hole will eat up the planet earth. And we'll be around to see January, 2013.

VELSHI: So it makes for good movies and books, but not for planning.

KAKU: It makes for best sellers, but not science.

VELSHI: What would you do? For people who are out there, who are watching and planning, saying, how do I make money or how do I prepare? What do I do best? What is the big change that you think we'll see in 2012 that you could prepare for?

KAKU: I think all you can prepare for is the fact that change accelerates.

VELSHI: Right.

KAKU: And get used to it. We will get used to the fact that computer power doubles every 18 months.

VELSHI: Wow.

KAKU: We'll have to get used to the fact that our appliances are going to bee smart, more intelligence. For example, 3-D television without glasses.

VELSHI: Right.

KAKU: Watch for it in your living room. Without those clunky glasses, you will be able to watch full-blown three-dimensions.

VELSHI: Which is what some people's big complaint is, I don't want to wear those glasses. But that's all changing.

KAKU: That's coming.

VELSHI: The computer power doubling every 18 months means more computers to buy for your kids.

KAKU: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: Michio Kaku, what a pleasure to see you. Thank you for being with us.

KAKU: My pleasure.

VELSHI: All right, your top stories are next, including a live report from Des Moines, where Republicans are making a big push for votes in the final week before the Iowa caucuses.

It is 57 minutes after the hour.

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