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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Crunch Time in Iowa; Emotional Newt Gingrich; Last Days for Trading; Murder Charges

Aired December 30, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Candy Crowley, thank you and Happy New Year to you.

You know companies like Google and Apple, they are working on technology they say will make your life easier, but at what cost to your privacy? We're going to take a look at the future of information in tonight's "Under Surveillance".

Also after this year-long investigation two Maryland doctors have been charged with murder for performing illegal late-term abortions and count them with me, four days now until the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney is leading, Ron Paul not too far behind.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening to you. I'm Brooke Baldwin sitting in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, crunch time in Iowa, you know that clock, it is ticking away. Candidates have just four days left to pick up support for the nation's first contest in the race for the GOP nomination.

First up, Mitt Romney bringing out the big guns -- take a look at this -- the very popular Chris Christie stumping on his behalf and the New Jersey governor had what we'll call a bit of a stern warning for the voters of Iowa. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I'm in a good mood this morning. I'm feeling happy and upbeat. (INAUDIBLE) let me tell you, you people disappoint me on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)

CHRISTIE: You don't do what you're supposed to do on Tuesday for Mitt Romney I will be back Jersey style, people. I will be back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Back Jersey style, he says. Well Chris Christie might exactly get what he wants. A new poll was just released echoing closely what our own CNN poll has indicated in the "Hawkeye State". Take a look with me. Romney on top, clearly here trailed closely by Ron Paul, Rick Santorum in third with 15 percent and Newt Gingrich, you see there in fifth place. Now the former speaker of the House, he had a bit of an emotional moment today shedding a couple of tears, but not for that reason in the polls. We're going to tell you why that happened in just a minute, but first let's go right to CNN's political correspondent Jim Acosta who was there during that Chris Christie event. And Jim, I suppose if Mitt Romney can hold on to his standing that he has right now in Iowa, Governor Christie won't exactly have to make good on that New Jersey promise.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That was some New Jersey nasty to mix in with the Iowa nice out here, Brooke. You know Mitt Romney right now has the big mo going into this critical weekend before the Iowa caucuses. The question right now is whether or not he's going to break a sweat in winning on Tuesday night and there are several reasons why.

I mean, he is leading in these polls right now although statistically tied with Ron Paul, but there are a couple of other dynamics going on. One is you saw Newt Gingrich. He has cratered in these polls just this week and it shows that his support has basically eroded. He's now fourth or fifth in many of the polls here in Iowa.

That is bad news for Newt Gingrich. Meanwhile, Rick Perry, it's sort of a battle of the Ricks right now. Rick Perry is going after Rick Santorum and there's sort of this battle for third place, you know going back to the old saying there are three tickets out of Iowa. And then another revelation has come out this week from a former Bachmann campaign manager Ed Rollins.

He told me in an e-mail earlier today that Michele Bachmann has essentially held her fire on Mitt Romney throughout this entire campaign process in the hopes of being his vice presidential running mate. So you add all of this together and add that fact that -- the fact that Ron Paul is going to be going home this weekend to Texas instead of campaigning here in Iowa, add all of that up and it's pretty clear why Mitt Romney is doing well in the state and why he may win these caucuses on Tuesday night.

BALDWIN: Yes, you know he just may and obviously as you know the stakes are very high, but I want to get to Romney's image because as you know his wife has been out there in Iowa with him today while former Massachusetts governor actually went on to New Hampshire. She has been doing, Jim, a little bit more campaigning lately. Does that at all help -- I don't know -- soften his image?

ACOSTA: It does, you know, one of the big criticisms of Mitt Romney is that he's a little too robotic, and so they've gotten Ann Romney out there, she's gone out at many campaign events and told these stories about how Mitt Romney was by her side when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. That he you know is sort of this frugal family man who knows how to handle the family's budget. Never mind the fact that this family is worth a quarter of a billion dollars. So yes, she's been out on the campaign trail.

She has been probably one of his most potent weapons, but I think what is really interesting about how Mitt Romney may pull this off here in Iowa, he really you know pulled out all the stops in '08, spent millions of dollars trying to win this state. He's had a very light footprint this time around. We went by his campaign headquarters earlier today. It was in an old Blockbuster store here in Des Moines. It was barely operational --

BALDWIN: Wow.

ACOSTA: -- and yet he may win the Iowa caucuses and go on to win the New Hampshire primary. It would be stunning if he does it, but it could happen.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you so much. I want to move on here and talk to you about Newt Gingrich. As we mentioned a moment ago he cried today and it wasn't about his fifth place standing in that latest poll. It was about his mom, the former speaker of the House was asked today about his mother and how she perhaps might have influenced his policies. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And my whole emphasis on brain science comes in directly from dealing -- (INAUDIBLE) -- from dealing with, you know, the real problems of real people in my family, and so it's not a theory -- it's, in fact, you know my mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I want to bring in CNN political correspondent Joe Johns with this and Joe Johns, wow, I mean you have Newt Gingrich; he's in this coffee shop. He's surrounded by a bunch of mothers. He starts initially coughing back tears pretty quickly into his response, does he not?

JOE JOHNS, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, I was kind of stunned. I was in the room watching all of this go on and you know I covered Newt Gingrich on Capitol Hill back in the '90s, and I was just stunned to see the tough-talking speaker of the House actually basically break down in tears talking about his dearly departed mother. This was something very atypical for the speaker and you know he's got problems here in Iowa with women voters, with evangelicals, so this may be that kind of thing that sort of softens his image with them, if you will. (INAUDIBLE) you talking to Jim about Romney's image, well the former speaker has an image here of being a very tough talker and somebody who sort of shoots from the hip and not everybody is -- likes it when he uses some of his toughest words -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes and if I may, you know speaking sort of emotional moments on the trail, we thought about Hillary Clinton not too long ago, she got a little teary eyed back in 2008. Here's that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards. I don't. So -- (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Is there any comparing that moment to the moment we saw today?

JOHNS: Very different. I think you have to say that first. That was New Hampshire, this is Iowa. She's a Democratic woman. Newt Gingrich is a Republican man. That said they both had these images of very tough people and there's that possibility, as I said, that sort of softens the image. The other problem though with Newt Gingrich and I don't know that crying on camera or anything else can help him at this stage in the caucuses is a lot of the questions that surround him involve his past, the fact that he's been married three times, the admitted adultery and so on. So it's not clear at all that his emotional moment here on camera, no matter how spontaneous and genuine is going to help him with those voters who still have those questions, but we'll see. The caucuses aren't far away now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: They aren't at all, four days, four days, here we go. Joe Johns, thank you so much. Let's continue this conversation. Let me bring in Will Cain, CNN contributor and Cheri Jacobus, Republican strategist. Good to have both of you on tonight.

Will, if we can just continue the conversation. Look, Joe Johns said he's covered Newt Gingrich for years. He's this idea guy. He's the tough talking guy and here he is shocked to be in the same room with these tears streaming down his face talking about his mom.

WILL CAIN, CONTRIBUTOR, THEBLAZE.COM: Absolutely -- right.

BALDWIN: Did that surprise you?

CAIN: Absolutely. I've never seen anything like that from Newt Gingrich. Look, Brooke, as much time as we spend talking about economic policy and tax reform, and even hypocrisies of the candidate's substantive record, voters remember things like Mitt Romney's hair, Michele Bachmann's accent, it impacts them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's true.

CAIN: This image, this personality it impacts who they choose and I think this image of Newt Gingrich, it humanizes him and I think it's kind of sincere. I think it could play off well for him.

BALDWIN: It's kind of sincere, Sherry. This is what Will says. How do you feel about it?

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I spent enough time around Newt Gingrich in the mid-90s when the Republicans took the House to know that he doesn't show this kind of emotion easily. He's a very professional man, so for this to happen in this sort of setting I think it was very genuine and I think that it even caught him off guard.

The difference however between Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton is that Hillary Clinton seemed to be tearing up four years ago because she realized that she was not going to be her party's nominee and therefore not be president, and so I think that's very different than Newt Gingrich, basically tearing up about his mother and the affliction that she suffered from and his acknowledgement and understanding that so many families have loved ones who are afflicted as well and I think that shows real empathy. He sort of -- not to sound crass, but tearing up over the right things, if you will, and I think it was very genuine.

BALDWIN: It certainly did appear genuine and Cheri, let me continue with you. Let's talk about Chris "I'll be back New Jersey style" Christie. I mean Romney -- obviously he's out there for Romney. Romney is doing really well in the polls. Is Chris Christie really necessary to keep him there. Four days to go here.

JACOBUS: I'm sure he's very happy to have him, so even if it buoys the candidate a little bit, I'm sure the campaign says yes, it's necessary. You know as you've discussed a little bit, you know Mitt Romney was not supposed to put anything into Iowa. He was going to put all his trips into New Hampshire. He didn't think he'd play well in Iowa's, so he figured he'd finish low, but at least he could say well I didn't put a lot of resources into it.

That seemed to be changing a little bit, the worm (ph) started turning. Boy it shot some people out from New Hampshire and brought them to Iowa and started spending some money, so for him to win Iowa should that happen is going to be very, very good for him. It's sort of the story of the tortoise and the hare. He's the tortoise and there has been a lot of hares out there who keep coming up as the people that come close to him as the Romney alternative and he's still hanging tough, so this is very good for him.

BALDWIN: Let me turn the corner to someone who has also been doing pretty strong in Iowa and that is Texas Congressman Ron Paul and I want to point out this passage from his book -- because this has made headlines now -- from his 1987 book. He says quote, "The individual suffering from AIDS certainly is a victim, frequently a victim of his own lifestyle, but this same individual victimizes innocent citizens by forcing them to pay for his care." Will Cain, could this come back to haunt him kind of like those newsletters we've been talking about?

CAIN: Absolutely. I mean I think we're seeing it haunting him right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CAIN: And it's really a shame because libertarian philosophy -- libertarian political philosophy is one about individualism. It's principled and Ron Paul has really been one of the greatest advocates for that over the last 20 years. It's a shame that this has also been going on at the same time. Printing and publishing statements like this that will not just tarnish Ron Paul, but I'm afraid it will tarnish libertarianism and anybody that seems to advocate it from going forward will have to answer for Ron Paul and these issues.

BALDWIN: And though, finally, what do you make of it? I mean every single one of these candidates has been really nasty, hating on Ron Paul, you know the past couple of days. You know you shrug, it's sort of par for the course when you're doing well, bulls-eye on your back.

CAIN: Right. Well I think there are a couple of reasons. One, he's a front-runner, as you said bulls-eye on your back.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CAIN: He's the front-runner in Iowa. Second, some of his views are easily outside the mainstream and therefore it's easy for them to attack him. It doesn't mean they're right or wrong on all these issues. It just makes -- means it's easier for them to do it.

BALDWIN: Will Cain, Cheri Jacobus, I thank you both and Happy New Year.

CAIN: Thank you.

JACOBUS: Thank you. You, too.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

You know it's a big business day, last business day of trading in 2011 and we're going to tell you how the markets fared end of this year0 and what's in store, hopefully some optimism for 2012, right.

Also General Motors says 4,000 cars may have been shipped without one very crucial part. We've got those details OUTFRONT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Today was the final day of trading in what was quite a volatile year for the markets. Let's go to Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange and Alison, I can just hear the traders all together (INAUDIBLE) -- see you later, 2011, right?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good riddance is what they said, yes, and you know what, as far as today goes, Brooke, you know Wall Street wound up you know going out with more of a whimper than a bang. But you know after all those wild swings we saw this year, not such a bad thing to end the year on a quiet note. You look at how the Dow did for the year.

It ended in the plus column tacking on about 5.5 percent compared to 2010. The Nasdaq actually ended lower for the year, down almost two percent. The S&P 500 basically ending flat below the break-even level and it's interesting to watch the S&P 500 because how it did is probably a good indicator of how your own retirement funds and other mutual fund investments did this year.

Many of them track the S&P 500 and yes, I know, it's a cliche, but you know what? It really was a roller coaster ride for stock market investors, you know lots of ups and downs, some thrills, some nausea along the way. But you know what, we ended up kind of right where we began -- Brooke. BALDWIN: 2012, we've talked -- you and I have talked a lot about the euro zone crisis. Obviously that's still looming, how are investors, strategists feeling? Is it cautious optimism?

KOSIK: Yes. You know what, there is more optimism that it could be a better year for investors, but the thing is it's far from a sure thing. You know the economic outlook sure has improved over the past month. CNN survey, CNN Money survey of top economists is actually predicting the economies are going to grow at 3.5 percent for the current quarter and about 3.2 percent for all of next year.

That's good news because that's about double the rate of growth that we've seen so far this year and it's considered pretty healthy. But sure, it's what you said. We've got you know these big worries as we head into 2012. We've got the European debt crisis still hanging over. Jobs in this country, housing in this country, rising oil prices, but Europe, Brooke, Europe is really going to be the biggest wild card.

It's the biggest unknown with its debt problems still far from resolved. The good news is we've gotten some better-looking data here in the U.S. on jobs and housing recently. Unemployment is coming down. The economy is adding jobs. The housing market is even planting a few seeds of a recovery. So, you know at least we've got a little bit of optimism as we head into 2012 -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We'll take it, but I know we'll be talking a lot about Europe here --

KOSIK: We will.

BALDWIN: -- in the weeks and months to come. Alison Kosik, thank you.

KOSIK: Sure.

BALDWIN: Verizon sending out a new signal to customers. In a reversal today the company says it will not now go forward with that single payment fee system. You know earlier this week the wireless company said it would charge you $2 for any debit or credit card payments taken online or by the phone, but the head of Verizon Wireless said that plan was scrapped after getting all kinds of feedback on the idea from you, their customers.

And you know car recalls, they're not really anything new. It seems like we're hearing about one every week, but one from GM definitely caught our eye here at OUTFRONT. The company says that more than 4,000 of its 2012 subcompact Sonics may have been shipped without an inner or outer front brake pad. You know, the things that help stop your car. As of now, there have been no injuries, no accidents reported as a result of the missing brake pads.

The company says they'll install the new brake pads and related components, but here is the problem we had with this. Brake pads, we've all acknowledged, yes they are important. So you'd think GM would like to notify their customers as soon as possible, but alas, no, dealers are expected to start notifying customers right around January 14th. We hope they'll do it before then.

President Obama on vacation in Hawaii, he says he'll speak to his Iowa supporters via the Internet this upcoming Tuesday. We're going to talk to Brianna Keilar. She is in Hawaii with the president and what he plans to say.

And then just how safe is your personal information? We find out in "Under Surveillance" tonight. And not just one, but two Maryland doctors charged with murder for performing illegal late-term abortions. Those details OUTFRONT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Formal charges have now been filed against the man who confessed of murdering and dismembering that 9-year-old girl he was supposed to be babysitting. Thirty-nine year old Michael Plumadore was charged today with murder, abuse of a corpse and moving the body from the scene in the death of Aliahna Lemmon. Lemmon disappeared right before Christmas and just a couple days later Plumadore did confess to hitting her over the head with a brick, cutting up her body and then leaving pieces of it in the freezer. He now faces up to 71 years in prison.

And police investigating the case of missing Maine baby Ayla Reynolds have returned cars belonging to both her father Justin DiPietro (ph) and also the car of an unidentified Portland, Maine, woman. Investigators know they're not saying what they were searching for when those vehicles were seized. In recent days, the mother of this missing 20-month-old Trista Reynolds (ph) and her father has said that DiPietro (ph) has not communicated with them since that child's disappearance from his home in Waterville. She was last seen there on the night of December 16th. He, however, maintains he has no idea where little Ayla is and says he has nothing to hide.

Also murder charges have been filed against not just one, but two abortion doctors for alleged performing illegal late-term abortions. These charges are now a result of a more than a year-long investigation that began with a gruesome discovery at a clinic in Elkton (ph) Maryland. Dr. Steven Brigham was arrested in Camden County (ph), New Jersey last night and Dr. Nicola Riley was arrested in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

I want to bring in CNN's national correspondent David Mattingly with more on this. David just help us connect the dots on this very troubling story and also what more can you tell us about how an abortion at a state licensed clinic can now turn into this case of murder.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well this all came about last fall when police went in there doing an investigation and they found a freezer in there. Inside they found frozen aborted fetuses. They were able to examine those fetuses. They were also able to examine records that were at the clinic and they're now alleging that the doctors there performed abortions on aborting fetuses that were viable, that could have lived outside the womb, in cases that did not fall under the legal exceptions that the state of Maryland allows, these exceptions being the health of the mother, also the possibility that the fetus may have had some sort of severe genetic problem or abnormality.

These cases are now resulting in murder charges, five counts of first degree murder against Dr. Brigham and then one count of first degree murder against Dr. Riley. We talked to their attorneys, the attorneys for Brigham says that he has complied with all state laws in Maryland. He has broken no laws there and he's cooperated fully with this investigation. The attorney for Dr. Riley says that the charges are without merit and that she objects to her client now being held in Utah on -- without bond. So at this point, very early in the prosecution of this case, but it began with that discovery in that clinic in Elkton (ph).

BALDWIN: Yes, I read that some of these abortions allegedly happened as late as what 35, 36 weeks and it begs the question how did authorities even find out. Apparently this all started over a year ago, one of the patients ended up in a hospital, correct?

MATTINGLY: That's right. She was there having an abortion. During the abortion there were complications. The doctors there just had her driven to a local hospital in Elkton (ph) and there it was determined that her injuries, internal injuries were so severe that she had to be airlifted to Johns Hopkins. After that point she was operated on. She's OK, but at that point the doctors that were looking at this said she should never have been transported by car to the hospital and this was very serious.

They objected to the ways the doctors were treating her -- her injuries as a result of this abortion. So that started the investigation. That's what got the police started looking at this clinic. They went inside and now we're coming out with murder charges.

BALDWIN: David Mattingly, thank you.

President Obama says he will be addressing his Iowa supporters online this upcoming Tuesday. Brianna Keilar comes OUTFRONT with us tonight as to what he plans to say.

Also, Google, Apple you know there are two of the most popular and powerful companies in the world, right, but just how much do they know about you? We're going to dig deeper tonight in "Under Surveillance".

And then we're rolling in the deep with the latest viral sensation. If you haven't heard this you have to wait and see. The South Korean singer wows the judges with her voice, OUTFRONT tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC/SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Crowds in Syria defied danger and took to the streets today. Opposition groups called the rally the Call to Freedom Square.

Look at the crowds there. Activists in several cities urging people to head to public gathering places in spite of sniper attacks by security forces. The opposition says at least 35 people were killed today. Protesters have been pushing back against the regime of President Bashar al Assad since March.

And just days after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was laid to rest and his youngest son Kim Jong Un took power, the reclusive country is sending out a hostile message to the world. They released a statement. Here's part of it, quote, "We solemnly declare with confidence that the South Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change from the DPRK," end quote.

North Korea, by the way, had even harsher terms for their neighbor to the South, angry that the South Korean leader did not allow some delegates into the North to pay their respects to the late dear leader, the nuclear armed country says their sea of tears will turn into retaliatory fire and their wailing into a war of revenge.

Al Qaeda now actively recruiting in Libya. Sources tell CNN the terrorist group has managed to recruit about 200 fighters to join their cause in the North African country. The sources also tell CNN that the effort to build up forces is being led by some of al Qaeda's most experienced fighter sent personally by leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

And a fresh look tonight of behind-the-scenes of the very day Osama bin Laden was killed. The White House posting these images today. Take a look.

This is the president there in the outer oval office putting the finishes touches on a statement about bin Laden's death. Compilation from that day, who could forget, May 1st also released the president and his team in the Situation Room, going over the mission to get Osama bin Laden.

Tuesday, I don't have to tell you this. You know it's a huge day, stakes are tremendous for the Republican presidential candidates, the Iowa caucuses -- the first contest in the race to the White House.

But the man currently sitting in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he'd like to make his presence felt that day as well. We are learning that President Obama will be speaking to his Iowa supporters via the Internet on Tuesday night, just as the caucus results are coming in.

Let's go to Hawaii, shall we? Check in with Brianna Keilar who was there with the president.

And so, Brianna, a web chat. How's that going to work?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a web chat, Brooke. He'll be talking virtually to his supporters in Iowa and, of course, all eyes are on Iowa because of the GOP, but the president's reelect also focused there as well. It will be a Skype technology and -- but sort of more advanced than the typical Skype that maybe you or I would use because it will allow him to talk to supporters in various locations and, of course, he will be trying to amp up his supporters in Iowa and, talking about that campaign message that he's already made very clear that he's fighting for the middle class.

And there's something about Iowa that's obviously important to President Obama and his reelect, and that was because in 2008 the eight-point lead that gave him that early momentum, really made him a contender. And the way his campaign sees it, Brooke, Iowa, this sort of ground game they have going on in Iowa is a bit of a test run for the general election, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And, you know, as I'm listening to you there, we're looking at these images of the president. And, of course, he's on vacation, and we haven't seen too much of him and I'm going to ask you about that in a minute. But, first, last night, what, he and the first family visited Pearl Harbor.

KEILAR: They went to the Arizona memorial because December of this year 2011 is 70 years since the Pearl Harbor attack. So, some pretty beautiful photos of them going to the memorial in the afternoon, in the evening, close to sunset, where they paid their respects there.

It was really a beautiful memorial and the president and first lady dropped some flowers over the sunken wreckage of the Arizona to pay tribute, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You know, Brianna, you mentioned the Pearl Harbor visit. And what we really haven't seen on this Hawaiian vacation, video of dinners or golf specifically.

And speaking of, Mitt Romney capitalizing on the president's enthusiasm for the sport. There's this new Web site and I'm quoting this Web site that says, "It's time to have a president whose idea of being hands on doesn't mean getting a better grip on the golf club."

I imagine, Brianna Keilar, the White House press pool keeping all away from the links very much so, a calculated move.

KEILAR: Yes, the White House keeping us away, Brooke. And actually, the president has played golf three times since he's been here. He's been here about a week and as you know, playing golf is always something that is kind of a political liability for any president. It was for President Bush before 9/11.

But, yes, he's played golf. Also, he's gotten shaved ice with his daughters at the pool. A small group of reporters and photographers who keep an eye on the president at most times wasn't even allowed to get that picture -- something they've gotten in previous years.

Also, he's gone out, yes, to a couple of dinners at very nice restaurants here in Waikiki and the pool has been kept away so that we can't even get any shots of that, or the first family on the beach, for instance.

And look at what we have gotten pictures of. We've gotten pictures of the first family going church on Christmas Day, meeting with members of the military, and, of course, that Pearl Harbor visit where you actually saw the press pool taken out on a separate boat so they could have very good access, very good pictures of President Obama visiting that memorial.

I guess it's not really surprising that the White House is restricting this access in an election year where you're going to see the focus beyond the economy that's not doing so well, but it's certainly frustrating from the point of view of a journalist and we've heard a lot of grumbling from the White House press corps following the president here in Hawaii, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I'm sure. As you point out, it's not surprising as it is an election year. But at least you have that beautiful beach behind you.

Brianna Keilar for us in Hawaii -- Brianna, thank you.

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group is certainly not a shy man by any measure. Just today on his blog, he posted his pictures from the early '90s. In them, he's partying it up with members of a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew.

And one the gentlemen of these photos eventually wound up to be a Virgin pilot. And for many CEOs, showing these kinds of images would be taboo, a big, you know, P.R. no-no. But Richard Branson not exactly your standard executive, he's trying to send non-astronauts, you know, folks like you and me, regular folks, into space and explore the deepest depths of the ocean.

And earlier, he told Erin why his way of doing business works.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIR RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP: I wouldn't recommend trying to think how can I make a lot of money? What I would recommend people do is think can I -- am I frustrated by the way something is being done, and can I do it better than it's being done?

I mean, I was frustrated flying other people's airlines and felt, OK, maybe if we could get one secondhand 747, I can show people how it's done. And if people like it, I'll get a second or a third and now we got whatever it is, 250 planes, flying around the world.

So I think a lot of the best businesses are borne out of frustration where you think, you know, screw it, I can do it better than other people.

BURNETT: And you do believe that you can do good -- or actually you believe that you have to do good or do some sort of contribution to society to build a successful business. That's not just rhetoric and somebody who's very successful who has the luxury of saying that? BRANSON: No, the most important thing for a businessperson is survival when they're starting up. But once you feel that you survived, you should then, obviously create new jobs, obviously get your business going really well, but at the same time, you know, try to sort of take on some of the problems in the world and help get on top of them.

And I believe it actually is good for the business. I mean, for instance, you know, Virgin, we pledge to put all the profits we made from our dirty businesses, our airline businesses, into clean fuels. We now -- I've got companies we've invested in that have developed clean fuels for planes. And I think by 2020, most of our planes are going to be flying on clean fuels.

BURNETT: What is the most creative thing that you're working on right now?

BRANSON: Well, if we put this not-for-profits which a lot of my time is spent on that, on one side.

BURNETT: Yes.

BRANSON: And trying to explore the bottom of the ocean, going down 38,000 feet. Trying to find the 80 percent of species that we don't even know exist today. It's tremendously exciting. There's only two people who have been below 18,000 feet ever in the history of mankind.

And so, we've nearly finished completing a little submarine. I'm hoping to go down to the Puerto Rican trench, which is 28,000-foot down.

So, that's going to be, you know, a technological challenge. We've got to withstand 1,500 times the pressure on an airplane. And -- but if we can pull it off, scientists are frothing at the mouth about what they can discover down there.

BURNETT: What's harder technologically, to get Virgin Galactic up to space or?

BRANSON: I think it's harder to go to the bottom of the ocean than it is to go to space.

BURNETT: That's amazing.

BRANSON: You know, we've just finished a very important rocket test yesterday for Virgin Galactic. We've -- you know, the mother ship is finished, the spaceship is finished. The space port -- which is absolutely beautiful -- in New Mexico is finished.

So, we hope by next Christmas we'll be up, up and away with Virgin Galactic.

BURNETT: So, how does that work with the Virgin Galactic spaceship? Six passengers -- at least what I saw -- six passengers, three times a day, two hours, for a price of $200,000. Which I would imagine given all you put into it, that's still a relative bargain from your perspective.

BRANSON: Well, I mean, to go up into a Russian spaceship will cost you $60 million. So, we've managed to get the price down somewhat from that.

The initial 500 people who are going up will be the pioneers. And they will enable us over the years to come, to be able to bring the price down.

And so, I think your children and grandchildren I suspect will be able to realistically think, you know, I can become an astronaut in my lifetime. And you know, the initial flights are only three-hour round-trip flights. In time, you know, we'll do orbital flights as well, which will maybe be two weeks in space.

BURNETT: You have been -- the "Financial Times" did a story on you where they said if you succeed with Virgin Galactic and you succeed with these dreams and ambitions in space, it would be the greatest of any British person or company in history.

BRANSON: I'll accept that, that's very nice.

No, look, it's been -- it's been a dream that I had back in 1990 and I headed off around the world to see if I could find a brilliant scientist who could, you know, who could create the spaceship and came across Burt Rutan, who's the actual genius behind all this, and had the most incredible 10 years on this. And the dream is about to become a reality. So, it is enormously exciting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Erin Burnett and Richard Branson, thanks, you too.

You know, at the end of the year, there are all kinds of list of the best and the worst of the year. Certainly, 2011 is no exception.

And we wanted to join in the fun this year. And so, we have compiled our own lists of our favorite list.

First up, from U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the top 10 most ridiculous lawsuits of 2011 voted on by visitors on their Web site. The list includes the woman who sued Chuck E. Cheese for encouraging her kids to gamble. Also, the man who accidentally shot himself in the bar and then sued the bar for not frisking him when he walked in. And the kidnapper who sued his hostages after they went back on a promise to help him escape.

Surprisingly, not on the list, David Letterman who can't be too thrilled about the Chamber of Commerce using the phrase "top 10."

And next up on our list of lists is the tongue twister. So, here I go. It is the Lake Superior State University's list of the words banished from the Queen's English for misuse, overuse and general uselessness. The title almost longer than the list. The 37th annual list was compiled by the university for nominations all around the world, and includes the words and phrases that people hate like amazing and my personal favorite, ginormous, mancave and baby bump. Don't use those apparently next year.

Our next lists aren't that different. All week here on CNN, we have been recapping what we think are the biggest stories of this year. The list includes the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan, also the death of Osama bin Laden.

But what if we were to use a different gauge, you know, Twitter activity, for example? What would be the biggest stories then? The site Frugal Dad found out -- so here we go -- the top story of 2011 would be Beyonce. Remember, huge news unveiling her pregnancy at the MTV Video & Music Awards. People tweeted about this at a rate of 8,969 times per second. Wow.

Next, the death of Osama bin Laden was only tweeted about a rate of 5,106 tweets per second -- just to give you a comparison.

If we look at Facebook posts, Charlie Sheen would be the most important person of the year. He set the world record for fastest to 1 million followers. Remember that?

And if Google search set the agenda, Friday singer Rebecca Black, oh, yes, would be the world's most important person. I don't want to get this song stuck in my head, please, please. She was the fastest rising search on Google this year. That was six spots higher than Adele whose 21 was the best-selling album of this year.

And, you know, speaking of Adele, the latest viral video here coming to us from South Korea, and it's of this 15-year-old contestant named Park Ji Min. She's singing an Adele's hit song "Rolling in the Deep."

So, like "American Idol," K-Pop is this television show that features three judges critiquing amateur singers. And like past singing phenoms like Susan Boyle, she blew them away.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

BALDWIN: Pretty good, right?

Also, breaking news out of Tinseltown tonight, ending days of speculation -- here we go. Actor/comedian Russell Brand, yes, he filed for divorce from singer Katy Perry after 14 months of marriage. In a statement via his publicist, Brand said, quote, "Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage. I'll always adore her and I know we'll remain friends." The announcement comes in spite of this cozy appearance on the red carpet just four weeks ago.

Celebrity watchers fueled rumors the marriage was on the rocks after noting the couple had spent Christmas in separate cities, both spotted without their wedding rings.

Still OUTFRONT tonight -- you know you use products like items from Google and Apple each and every day. But just how much do they know about us? We're going to take a look tonight in "Under Surveillance" -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Hey, we're keeping them honest on "360," in about 12 minutes from now.

Syria under siege. Despite monitors on the ground, at least 35 people died today, including the man in this body bag, Basser al-Sayed (ph) -- a citizen journalist who documented the rebellion letting the world know what was happening on the inside. This video right here is his own death which he himself recorded apparently shot by a sniper's bullet while his camera was rolling.

We have footage tonight exclusive to CNN of the fighting in Homs. We'll also talk with an activist on the inside.

Also in the U.S., in raw politics tonight, a touching moment on the campaign trail. Newt Gingrich showing a softer side talking about his mom, and while we have the latest from Iowa and our political panel weighs in.

And a New Year's Eve preview. My co-host for the night, Kathy Griffin, is going to be here joining me for a sneak preview of what's in store tomorrow night.

Those stories and more. Plus, we'll wrap up the "Ridiculist" top 10 countdown of 2011. You voted for it. The number one "Ridiculist" of the year all ahead at the top of the hour.

More OUTFRONT in a moment.

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BALDWIN: In tonight's "Under Surveillance" segment, we're tracking your privacy. And in 2012, you might not have as much as you might like.

For instance, there is this thing called Google Wallet. Here you go. This is the company's tap to pay system on Android phones. It may make shopping easier once it's fully released next year.

But Gawker, a Web site here, is reporting that sensitive information that the software stores may not be safe.

Also, Apple is exploring technology that would let you use your iPhone to, say, open your front door. But, you know, sometimes Apple not the best track when it comes to privacy.

And by next year, those super secret spy drones that we've been talking about here at CNN that military uses, could be hovering over your hometown watching you.

Noah Shachtman covers the surveillance industry for a great magazine, "Wired" magazine. He is OUTFRONT with us tonight with a little bit more analysis.

Noah, thank you for coming on.

NOAH SHACHTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR, WIRED MAGAZINE: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Let's begin with this Facebook phone, right? So, when I think of Facebook, I think you can check in, people know your location, you have all your contacts.

So, is that essentially in a phone?

SHACHTMAN: Well, I think all these products are a little bit theoretical.

BALDWIN: OK.

SHACHTMAN: But the privacy thing, the privacy concern here is that none of these companies have a very good track record when it comes to privacy.

BALDWIN: You don't get the warm and fuzzies over Facebook privacy?

SHACHTMAN: No way. Facebook, for example, got rapped by the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year for basically misleading all its users and giving all their personal information away to advertisers. Google and Apple, same thing, they have gotten all kinds of pushback from the government for the way they use our information.

So the idea that we're entrusting more and more to them by putting more and more into products that they build and run, that's concerning.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about, you know, police. When they look for criminals, what, they use SWAT crews, dogs, state troopers. And now, we're hearing more and more about these drones being used to arrest civilians. I remember reading "The L.A. Times" a couple of weeks ago, right, the drones used in North Dakota to catch those guys who were stealing cattle.

Is this something we're going to see much more of come next year?

SHACHTMAN: If it's not next year, it's certainly going to be the year after. This is definitely a trend in policing. And look, the idea --

BALDWIN: It's cheaper.

SHACHTMAN: It's cheaper, right? Instead of having a million dollar helicopter, you can have a whole fleet of these things.

Also, I think there's actually, in a weird way, there's pressure from the end of the Iraq war and the winding down of the Afghanistan war. There's billions of dollars worth of these drones that have been built, paid for by the U.S. government -- and like what do you do for them? Maybe you bring them home.

BALDWIN: How specifically would they be used? Because I know multiple police jurisdictions are already talking about using them. SHACHTMAN: Right. They have been held up a little bit by the FAA, that doesn't necessarily wanting the robotic planes flying in the same airspace as our manned aircraft. But those restrictions, you can look to see loosed in the next couple of years.

And then, how they're going to use them? They're going to use them on stakeouts. They're going to use them on crowd control. You know, any way they use a helicopter now and maybe a couple more.

BALDWIN: What about also -- you know, in being in Times Square today, right, before the preps for New Year's Eve. And I was thinking about all the surveillance cameras, which is huge. You talk to New York police, they say this is excellent for counterterrorism measures.

You say -- you're calling B.S. on that.

SHACHTMAN: Yes. I mean, that's just not true, right? I mean, look, a couple of years ago right here in Times Square, we had a guy try to blow up a car and try to kill a lot of people. Times Square is the most heavily surveilled place in the planet and yet he did it anyway.

You look at London. London is the most heavily surveilled city on the planet and yet, you know, they've had bombings there repeatedly.

So, these things don't stop terrorists. They can be useful once an act of terrorism has happened.

BALDWIN: But I have to push back because that was one instance. If those cameras weren't there, the New York P.D. could sit here and say, think of all the other instances, we could be reporting on it. Thanks goodness we're just talking about that one instance.

SHACHTMAN: I don't think the NYPD has a single example of an act of terrorism they prevented with surveillance cameras.

BALDWIN: Are you going into the next year fearful that more instances, more pieces of technology could in fact reveal our inner personal information?

SHACHTMAN: Well, look, I mean, the more we live our lives online, the more we're going through social networks, the more we use our iPhones and our Android phones to carry out our lives, the more susceptible we are to surveillance. It's just a fact. The more we go digital, the easier it is to Hoover up what we do.

BALDWIN: OK. Noah, thank you so much.

SHACHTMAN: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: From "Wired" magazine. I appreciate it.

It is our last show here before New Year's Eve when about a million people will pack Times Square. And in fact, just today, I got an exclusive look at the preparations under way. We're going to share them with you in this behind-the-scenes video. That's up front and OUTFRONT next.

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BALDWIN: This time tomorrow night, New York's Times Square will be packed, you know, a cool million or so revelers just in time for the ball to be dropped at midnight. In that crowd, we should point out there will be 40-plus CNNers ringing in the New Year live.

So, first thing this morning, I went down in Times Square for a little look behind the scenes, before the crowds, before Gaga, before Anderson and Kathy get there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Welcome to Times Square. This is really the epicenter of the biggest New Year's Eve celebration in the world and this is the CNN riser. You won't see all of this on television, but follow me this way.

This precise spot, this is where you will see Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin.

Now, let's go. And I've got to say it's not very often I can say that in this exact spot just about 24 hours from now, I'm standing where Lady Gaga will be.

But here's a little fun behind the scenes fact. On television, this stage will look huge. Here in Times Square, it's really just about 40 feet by 20 feet. You're going to see Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Pitbull.

So here's the story behind the confetti. Yesterday, they actually conducted they call an air worthiness test to make sure that the confetti floats down to Times Square appropriately. Also, we found out there are people standing all above on the tops of buildings so just before the strike of midnight, they all do this.

So this is a massive 40-plus person CNN staff operation. Not only does CNN have you covered with cameras here on the ground at Times Square, we're going up.

And here we are 10 stories above Times Square. You have to have one of these to get anywhere near this location. And this is the spot, the coveted spot where network crews will be watching the moment millions of you around the world will be waiting for, the ball to drop. Take a look, one day until New Year's Eve. We'll see you here live on CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Don't forget CNN's live coverage with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin begins tomorrow night at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. And I will be joining them live from Nashville.

And that does it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Erin Burnett back here on Monday. Now, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.