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Race for Iowa; Violence in Syria

Aired December 29, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is 10:00 here on the East Coast.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest," with the clock ticking to the Iowa caucuses five days away, and tonight, the Republican candidates are pulling out all the stops.

The latest CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll shows Mitt Romney and Ron Paul battling it out for the lead. Romney has 25 percent, Paul 22. Rick Santorum has surged into third place, more than tripling his support since the beginning of the month. Newt Gingrich, as you will see, has dropped to 14 percent, and that's down from 33 percent early in December. Rick Perry is at 11 percent, and Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman are in the single digits.

Huntsman is not even campaigning in Iowa. He's focusing on New Hampshire. But Michele Bachmann, with just 9 percent in the latest poll, is still trying to rally support. And tonight she's doing it without the support of two high-ranking members of her team, one who defected and one who defended him.

Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman, a man state Senator Kent Sorenson, has jumped ship and gone to Ron Paul's campaign. Now, Bachmann says Sorenson is a -- quote -- "sellout" and says he was paid to go to the Paul campaign. Take a look.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had a conversation with Kent Sorenson. And in the direct conversation that I had with him, he told me that he was offered money. He was offered a lot of money by the Ron Paul campaign to go and associate with the Ron Paul campaign.

No one else knows about that conversation other than Kent Sorenson and myself. And I know what he said to me about that.


COOPER: Well, Sorenson says he went to the Paul camp simply because Ron Paul has the best change of beating Mitt Romney and President Obama in his opinion.

In a statement, Sorenson -- quote -- "As for the ridiculous allegations that Congresswoman Bachmann and her surrogates have made, I was never offered money from the Ron Paul campaign or anyone associated with them and certainly would never accept any." Here is what Sorenson himself said on FOX News today with Megyn Kelly.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Was money offered to you by anybody from the Ron Paul camp to jump ship?

KENT SORENSON, FORMER MICHELE BACHMANN IOWA CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIRMAN: Absolutely not. The fact of the matter is I did not accept any money from the Ron Paul campaign. I was never offered a nickel from the Ron Paul campaign.

KELLY: Or anybody associated with it?

SORENSON: Never offered a nickel.


COOPER: It's a he said/she said. We don't exactly know what conversation, if any, actually took place between Bachmann and Sorenson.

But tonight, there's another he said in the mix, another Bachmann campaign official who came to Sorenson's defense. Her Iowa political director, Wes Enos, said that Sorenson's decision was in no way financially motivated -- quote -- "While I personally disagree with Kent's decision and plan to stay with Michele Bachmann because I truly believe in her, I cannot in good conscience watch a good like Kent Sorenson be attacked as a sellout. That is simply not the case and it was not the basis of his decision."

Now, when he made that statement, Enos may have planned to stay with Bachmann. But as of tonight, he too is gone from her campaign. Bachmann says he quit. Ron Paul's campaign put out a press release saying said he was "recently terminated."

Enos himself told NBC News -- quote -- "It was a mutual thing. I knew when I undermined Bachmann's statement last night that I effectively was tendering my resignation."

You can decide for yourself who is most credible in this entire scenario. But Bachmann's other claim about the Paul campaign today is less debatable.


BACHMANN: We have had Kent Sorenson's former campaign manager come out and say, Kent told me flat-out that he was getting money.

We saw incredible momentum including the fact that last night, we had 150 new people call us saying they want to stand up for me in the caucuses. We literally have had thousands over the last 10 days. And that caused the Ron Paul campaign to be very nervous because they saw the momentum shifting here in Iowa to my campaign. So they came up with this plan to offer a lot of money to Kent Sorenson. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Paul has 22 percent of the vote in the latest poll. It's up 5 percent from the start of the month.

Let's get into the "Raw Politics" in Des Moines, Iowa.

Chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," in Washington, Republican strategist Rich Galen, and Cornell Belcher, a Democratic strategist for President Obama's reelection campaign, and he was also a pollster for the president's 2008 campaign.

Cornell, Bachmann says Ron Paul is losing steam in Iowa. Is he?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: I don't think he is losing steam at all in Iowa. And I, quite frankly, don't understand why Bachmann is pushing this story, because this is a story that gets in the way of everything she wants to do. We are spending all this time talking about people leaving her campaign, as opposed to her being on message.

It's sort of really bad campaigning going on. If you look at Ron Paul as well as Santorum, they have a lot of momentum going into the closing here. As any campaign professional will tell you, what you want is you want your candidate hitting his or her stride and gaining momentum at the end here. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Santorum or Ron Paul -- in fact, I think both of them have a better chance of winning than does Romney.

COOPER: Wait. You think Ron Paul or Santorum have a better chance of winning than Romney in Iowa?

BELCHER: I think they absolutely have a better chance of winning in Iowa, because here is the thing. The caucus-goers, you are talking about less than probably 11 percent are eligible voters are going to vote in the caucus.

If you look back at the history of Iowa, it's a really special electorate. On the Republican side, you have the most -- tell me which candidate is garnering the first or second choice of the most conservative voter and/or the voter who is in church the most frequently, and/or the evangelical voter. Romney is not the first of second choice of either one of those voters. And those voters have a disproportionate impact on the Iowa caucuses, just like we saw last time going in neck-in-neck with Huckabee him finishing nine or 20 points behind Huckabee.

I think you're going to see the same thing this time around.

COOPER: Candy, you're on the ground in Iowa.

Ron Paul has a lot of volunteers coming into that state to try to get people into the caucuses, right?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He does. These are the people that do the door knocking. It is such a small group of people who actually end up going to the caucuses that every door knock counts.

He can count on reliable younger people who are caught up in the campaign, whether it's the anti-war message or the legalization of certain drugs, marijuana included, whether it's his small government message. Whatever it is, he has attracted a good number of young people.

Let me just briefly say that also here on the ground in Iowa, what you hear from a lot of people is a little bit off from what Cornell just said, which is they believe and when you poll the evangelicals, while it's still very important to them, the matter of abortion, stem cell research, that kind of thing that also key and ranking higher to them in terms of importance are matters of the economy.

It's something the Mitt Romney campaign will point out to you. I don't know who has the better chance at this point. We do know that Mitt Romney is sort of barely leading in the polls. He is here and playing very big at the end.

COOPER: Rich, what is it -- what do you make of Michele Bachmann saying the Paul campaign is paying off people -- paying this member of her staff to jump ship? Does that make any sense to you?

RICH GALEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it doesn't make any sense, but neither did Sorenson's reason saying that Ron Paul is the most conservative person that could win this. I think most people would say that that would probably go to Santorum.

You get involved in these things and that kind of stuff happens. Representative Bachmann is grasping at straws. I agree with Cornell. This is certainly not the conversation you want to be having at the pizza plaza or wherever she goes in the last week of the campaign. You don't want to be on your message, not defending yourself against something else.

But going back to something else, another polling data point, in contrast to something that Cornell was just saying, is that generally speaking, even the most evangelically conservative Iowa caucus-goers may not want Romney as their first choice, but they certainly want Barack Obama as their last choice.

For a lot of these folks, going to the precinct Tuesday night, that will be in their mind. I think recognize that neither Santorum nor Paul has a great chance of beating Obama. But Romney could get them there.

BELCHER: To my good friend, this is exactly the sort of thinking that is sort of upsetting the grassroots is you have the Washington establishment sort of pushing their candidate. Listen to what the guy who jumped ship said. He said he was jumping ship to go fight for someone who was a conservative and had a chance to win.

There's a real grassroots effort or movement out there against Romney and against a Washington insider establishment candidate.


GALEN: Right. And the Obama campaign would love to run against Ron Paul or Rick Santorum.

BELCHER: We will take on any of the field.

GALEN: You're going to have to.


COOPER: Let me ask you, Cornell, there's been a lot of focus on Rick Santorum's surge in Iowa. He's still polling in third place. For a guy who's basically been living in Iowa for this past year, he's spent a huge amount of time, his whole campaign has basically been focused on Iowa. Is third place really enough to do anything? Does he have life beyond Iowa?

BELCHER: If he comes in third place, which I'm by the way, saying I think he's going to do better than what the polling is showing right now from sort of his momentum and from his makeup of the caucus. If he does third in Iowa, Santorum is done. He went all in, in Iowa, same way Huntsman is going all in, in New Hampshire.

If he finishes a distant third in Iowa, wrap it up, it's time for him to go back to Pennsylvania.

COOPER: Rich, do you agree with that?

GALEN: No, I think what he and Gingrich both will do is to sort of wave at New Hampshire by participating in the debates, but head for South Carolina, see if either one can stay alive through that.

Newt certainly can. He's got enough money. Santorum can live off the land. I think whoever beats the other in South Carolina, the loser goes home.


COOPER: I love the image here of living off the land.


COOPER: Candy, CMAG, which tracks campaign ad data, released a breakdown of what political spots aired in Iowa this month.

It's really fascinating. They found that almost half of the ads were attack ads aimed directly at Newt Gingrich. Is this clearly textbook evidence that negative ads work? His numbers have dropped significantly there.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. There's a reason people do negative ads. They work and they sink in.

That's why I think you have to be a little bit cautious about Rick Santorum's rise. He's been in all 99 counties, and he's worked very hard, and he's got precinct captains in most of these places. But the real reason a this point behind Rick Santorum's rise is, A., he's the only guy left that hasn't had his time for attention. And, B., Newt Gingrich fell.

We have seen this pattern throughout this year. Michele Bachmann goes up, and then she goes down. Rick Perry comes up and then comes Herman Cain. So is the falling the natural rhythm of this year. Newt Gingrich fell down. The limelight and the support went to Santorum. We will see how much of it sticks.


BELCHER: Really quickly, the one thing is, yes, all this keeps going up and down, but it never goes to Romney. They are looking for a candidate other than Romney to land on. Right now Santorum is at the right place at the right moment.


GALEN: The reason that gossip -- that negative campaigns work is because like it or not human beings love gossip. A 30-second negative ad is nothing more than highly distilled gossip. That's why it sinks in. That's why it sticks. People pay attention to it. Everybody wishes it were different, but it's not different.


BELCHER: Rich, do you think it was malpractice for the Gingrich folks not to sort of defend themselves immediately to that, because it boggles my mind why they would not?

GALEN: Yes. He didn't have any money. If they had any money, they would have gone up with some kind of retaliatory ads. There's no question in my mind.

But as the old saying goes, if you are a lawyer, if the facts are against you, argue the law, if the law is against you, argue the facts. If you have neither one, call the other guy names.

COOPER: We have got to leave it there.

Rich Galen, thanks. Cornell Belcher, Candy Crowley.

The Iowa caucuses now just five days away. We will obviously even covering it all. Be sure to tune in five nights from now, 7:00 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, January 3. That's when our coverage begins.

Join us on Facebook and Google+. Add us to your circles. Follow us on Twitter tonight @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting already a little bit.

Coming up, a Web site that has been linked to sex crimes in the past, prosecution and some even child prostitution is now a common thread, say authorities, in at least three murders in Detroit. The Web site is called They are not backing down. They're saying multiple Web sites were linked to some of these victims. They are not backing down about the content on its Web site. We will talk to someone from the Web site.

Later, our exclusive look inside the battle of Homs, Syria. A defector from the Syrian army holding soldiers at bay in one neighborhood in Homs, even though they're outmanned and outgunned. We will hear from the defectors themselves.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a disturbing new twist in a story we have been following for more than a year.

Tonight, police are investigating a link between escort ads placed on a Web site called and other Web sites and three murders in Detroit. Police suspect a killer may be targeting escorts who have advertised online with that Web site. reportedly takes in tens of millions of dollars each year from its online ads for adult services. Some of those ads have been linked to sex crimes, including child prostitution.

Officials of the Web site have told us they are vigilant about monitoring the content of their ads and promptly report potential abuses to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Meantime, law enforcement officials say criminals use these types of Web sites as a tool to target victims. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Four women found dead in less than a week, their bodies stuffed in the trunks of cars. Detroit police won't say if it's the work of a serial killer, but they are alarmed by another pattern they have discovered. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says three of the victims had posted escort ads on

RALPH GODBEE, DETROIT POLICE CHIEF: With the vast increase of the utilization of social media and the Internet, we must continue to be vigilant in identifying any Web site which may potentially pose a threat to individuals.

COOPER: The first two victims, Damesha Hunt and Ranisha Landers, were found in a car at this abandoned house on December 19. Two more bodies were found on Christmas morning, burned beyond recognition. says it reached out to the Detroit police when they first heard about the deaths and are fully cooperating with the authorities. In a statement, the company says -- quote -- "Backpage has now provided law enforcement authorities with computer, forensic or other evidence that shows that at least 70 different third-party ads or other postings on at least 22 Web sites appear to be or are potentially related to this investigation. We are not aware of any evidence that would indicate which of these 22 Web sites may have been used by the suspect to establish contact with his victims."

Police declined to say if they were also looking into other postings, but they did warn about dangers lurking online.

GODBEE: We felt that it was imperative to alert the public that deciding to meet unknown persons via the Internet can be extremely dangerous. We implore people to be careful.

COOPER: It's not the first time has been caught up in controversy. It's a classified ad service operated very by Village Voice Media, owner of a national chain of alternative newspapers.

Last year, after intense pressure, Craigslist stopped taking ads for adult services. As a result, those advertisers turned en masse to A firm that tracks online classifies, the AIM Group, says generated at least $2.1 million from escort and body rub listings in October alone, a record high.

Over the last year, the site earned more than $23.9 million from adult services ads, according to AIM. Critics say is profiting from illegal activity and exploitation.

AIMEE GALICIA TORRES, THE MAJESTIC DREAM FOUNDATION: We are trying to remove the adult section from, because it's a breeding ground for human trafficking.

COOPER: Earlier this month, Julian Tarver pleaded guilty to raping and extorting sex from two 15-year-old girls he met on

In October, authorities in Massachusetts indited Norman Barnes for pimping out two underage girls also on He denies any wrongdoing.

And earlier this year, CNN spoke with a 13-year-old who says she was repeatedly sold on for $300 an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I ran away, I was going to get killed. If I called the cops, I was going to get killed.

QUESTION: And the guys that call you, how old are they?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't know until they walk through the door or you walk through their door. They could sound like they were 21 and you walk in and they are old and disgusting.

QUESTION: And at this point, how many guys were you seeing a day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, like five, four.

COOPER: The National Association of Attorneys General say they know of more than 50 cases in 22 states involving trafficking of minors on

In a letter signed by 51 attorneys general, the group warned -- quote -- "As a practical matter, it is likely very difficult to accurately detect underage human trafficking on's adult services section, when to an outside observer the Web site's sole purpose seems to be to advertise prostitution."

But says what they do is perfectly legal under the Communications Decency Act and protected by the First Amendment. They say they monitor and screen their listings. They have a no-nudity policy and report suspicious listings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children -- quote -- " shares the concerns of law enforcement and the community that every effort be made to stop violent criminals from using the Internet to commit their crimes," the company said in its statement.

They go on to say, "We do our best to provide a safe and legal environment for our customers through aggressive content monitoring and sophisticated content filtration software."

Not good enough say critics. They want the adults ads done away with completely.

PHIL CENEDELLA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIM ADVOCATES: There's a section of that is utilized by sexual predators and human traffickers to sell children for sexual purposes. It has to stop. It's that simple.


COOPER: Well, the terms these ads use, back rubs, escorts, adult company are obviously familiar codes that authorities say criminals see as signposts.

Ed McNally is's law enforcement adviser, and I talked to him a short time ago.


COOPER: Mr. McNally, if you scroll through the adult services ads on, you see clearly people who are advertising prostitution. How do you justify that?

ED MCNALLY, BACKPAGE.COM: It's really not a question of justifying. It's a question of compliance with the law. People post things on your Web site that you have no control over. But we live in an extraordinary marketplace of ideas on the Internet. And lawful content is protected especially when it's posted by third parties.

COOPER: I understand, legally, under the Communications Decency Act, it's a third party posting and therefore you are not held liable for it. But one of the terms of use on your Web site prohibits "any ads for products or services use or sale of which is prohibited by any law or regulation."

You have also said that your company on the Web site to "preventing those who are intent on misusing the site for illegal purposes."

Isn't prostitution an illegal purpose?

MCNALLY: First of all, what we are really focused on more than anything is the protection of the people in our society who are most vulnerable.

Most of our filters, most of our mitigation efforts, most of our law enforcement efforts are really focused on preventing human trafficking and especially the most vulnerable, which is children.

COOPER: I guess again my question, how do you define illegal activity? It would be one thing if your site said, yes, you know what? There's illegal activity going on, on our site, so what, we are protected by it. That would be one thing. But you are saying you are not hosting illegal activity.

I guess my question again is how do you define illegal activity? Is prostitution illegal activity?

MCNALLY: If you are under the belief there's someone out there that in the government or in the business community that can define which of the classified ads running in "The Detroit Free Press" today are lawful or not lawful, I think that is an extraordinary challenge.

COOPER: I just went on your site, and there's some person whose name I won't even mention with dollar signs in her name advertising herself on your site. Again I'm asking how do you define illegal activity on your site? It's a question you seem not willing to answer. Prostitution would seem to be an illegal activity.

MCNALLY: The Village Voice has a proud tradition. It was founded here in New York by Norman Mailer maybe 50 years ago. They have always carried adult services in their ads. They have also regularly earned four Pulitzer Prizes by standing up to the big businesses and government. And they are unapologetic about that.

COOPER: Again, I'm not making a moral judgment against your company which is making more than $20 million a year off these adult services ads or tens of millions of dollars. I'm not even sure of the exact figure.

But according to figures I have seen, I have seen as much as $22 million last year, $2 million I think in one month alone. It's obviously very profitable for you. I get that. But I just don't understand. it would seem to be hypercritical if on one hand you are saying we want no illegal content on the site, we are not hosting illegal activity, yet that seems to be proliferating on your site in the adult services section.

MCNALLY: Let me cut to the chase.

When you talk to my colleague at the bar Jeffrey Toobin later, he will have his own views. But let me give you the clearest example of the problem that you're talking about. The United States Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, in complete unanimity, have three times in the last 17 years tried to ban content that would be harmful to minors on the Internet.

Each time, a very conservative, pro-family, pro-children Supreme Court told Congress we are in a First Amendment country and your law can't pass constitutional muster. This is a great challenge for every Internet service provider out there. The core issue here is what should responsible businesses do to make America's Internet safer for its communities, families and businesses?

COOPER: But you would agree that prostitution is an illegal activity?

MCNALLY: Absolutely, of course.

COOPER: If prostitution is being marketed on your site, is that something you are concerned about or is that something that just -- that's what the business is?

MCNALLY: Well, as you know very well, Anderson...

COOPER: Why not just say we are a Web site that market prostitutes? So what?

MCNALLY: and The Village Voice are unapologetic that they post adult services, as they have for 50 years.

There have been crimes and there have been predators since long before there was an Internet and long before there were newspapers. These are a factor of the landscape. Criminals will misuse cell phone services, common FedEx and other kinds of businesses and the roads of our community to commit their crimes.


COOPER: How do you monitor -- what law enforcement is particularly obviously concerned as I think most people are is any children being trafficked on your site.

MCNALLY: Absolutely.

COOPER: Attorneys general in many states have cited multiple cases of kids being trafficked on your site. How do you filter for that?

MCNALLY: Well, we believe that we are an industry leader in protecting our Web site in two significant categories. Number one, we are very proactive in working with law enforcement. In contrast to the attorney gels, the guys on the front line, the men and women who are defending our children and our communities, are very happy with the response they get from Backpage.

COOPER: I have not heard that. Because I have actually talked to a number of police officials in various states over the last 1.5 years and they cite your site as well as others as places where people are trafficked.

MCNALLY: Here is where your facts are wrong. If you look at the materials I provided to your producer, you will see that law enforcement officials all across the country single out as acting in a way that other Web sites don't.

For example, every adult act that gets posted has to pass 22,000 word tests of words, codewords, misspelled words before they even can get on the site. I think we are the only adult services poster in the country that has live 24/7 human monitoring that looks at each ad before it gets on the air.

COOPER: Ed McNally, I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

MCNALLY: Thank you, sir.


COOPER: The interview went on for a couple minutes longer. You can watch the entire interview with Ed McNally on our Web site later tonight. Go to

The law shields Web sites like and others from being accountable for any crimes that may result because of ads, even though critics say the ads are pitching illegal services thinly veiled in euphemisms.

I talked about that with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.


COOPER: Jeff, if their ads are clearly adult services, prostitution, why not just say, yes, we are profiting off prostitution and that's what our business model is?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think they are embarrassed. I think it's as simple as that. I think it's legal what they are doing.

The Communications Decency Act basically says the Internet is more like a telephone than a newspaper in the sense that a crime committed over the telephone, you can't sue the phone company. But you can sue a newspaper if they print something, even an advertisement that is defamatory or illegal in some way.

COOPER: Mr. Attorney General, what do you think about that?

ROB MCKENNA, WASHINGTON ATTORNEY GENERAL: The first Amendment was never designed to protect illegal activity.

And the congressional reliance on the telephone analogy I think is failing. I think Congress needs to come back and revisit whether or not it's like a telephone or more like a newspaper. With a growing number of lawmakers concerned about and similar Web site that, inevitably, they are going to turn their attention back to that original assumption.

COOPER: But, Attorney General, Mr. McNally is saying, look, we have lots of letters from law enforcement officers across the country who say, who will thank us for responding to a subpoena or thank us for our involvement in stopping something.

MCKENNA: I don't know anyone in law enforcement who doesn't see and similar online sites as being not quite a legal accomplice but being certainly a useful tool used by pimps and members of organized as well to promote prostitution, including the prostitution of teenagers.

COOPER: Obviously, with child prostitution, they seem much more responsive to monitoring that than adult prostitution.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. There's a big difference both as a business, moral, and legal aspect between prostitution, which is basically tolerated in big cities in America -- it's the key to the business model of Backpage. That is how they make their money.


COOPER: My question is, then, Jeff, why on this Web site then say it goes against our user rules to post any ad for products or services use or sale of which is prohibited by law? Is that just a formality?

TOOBIN: That's just false. It's just not true.

Prostitution is a separate category. They are endorsing, embracing, profiting from prostitution. However, as far as I can tell, they really are trying to avoid being involved in any way with child prostitution.

COOPER: Mr. Attorney General, you agree with that, that -- that -- do they seem to be responsive on child prostitution?

MCKENNA: We've asked for documents that will actually show us whether or not they've been as responsive as they say they have been. They promised us documents in late December, which we have yet to see. So it hasn't been documented to us. We're not satisfied that they're doing what they need to do with regard to child prostitution.

But the second and even more important point is, as long as they tolerate ads for prostitution, which they do, which they freely admitted that they tolerate when they met with my staff, in my office.

They're creating the place on the Internet that people go for adult prostitutes and child prostitutes.

But the other point is this, that you know, this isn't just about child prostitution. In human trafficking research, it's become increasingly evident that most adult prostitutes are trafficking victims. In fact, about 90 percent of prostitutes who have been reached through academic research have indicated they want out of prostitution life.

COOPER: Attorney General McKenna, though, let me just push back a little bit. There was a counter argument to this, which says, "Well, look, isn't it better to have these ads on a site that does monitor some -- to some degree"?

MCKENNA: It's not better, because the Internet has -- facilitates and has facilitated the expansion of prostitution and has directly contributed to a growing rise of -- of child prostitutes being marketed.

COOPER: Attorney General McKenna, thank you.

Jeff Toobin, thanks.

TOOBIN: Thanks.

COOPER: Interesting discussion. Let us know what you think on Twitter, @AndersonCooper. Let's talk about it on Twitter.

Still to come, the Arab League is under pressure in Syria, with one activist calling its mission a mockery. This is one example of what we're seeing, security forces following (ph) civilians. Are observers being shielded from the violence or are they just not looking? And what is going on? We'll try to find out.

Plus, after massive displays of grief, North Koreans fall silent to honor their dead leader. Scenes from a second day of national mourning. Just stunning scenes out of North Korea. We'll show them to you ahead.


COOPER: Let's get a quick look at some of the stories we're following. Isha is back -- Isha, welcome back -- with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day of mourning in North Korea after Wednesday's three-hour funeral for leader Kim Jong-Il. Thousands of people assembled in Pyongyang's national memorial service for the late dictator. Once again, the ceremony focused on Kim Jong- un, the elder Kim's son and chosen successor. The speech is calling him the supreme leader.

More than 1 million people have visited the September 11 memorial in New York less than four months after it opened. It's free to visit, but you must reserve a time on the memorial's Web site. A museum at the site is still under construction.

Investors seemed ready to end the year on a good note. Stocks rose across all indices today, spurred on by positive reports on housing, manufacturing and unemployment. The Dow was up 136 points.

And one collector will get a chance to own more than 5,000 artifacts from the "Titanic" in the coming year. The owner plans to auction them all off as a single lot. The collection is valued at more than $189 million. Anderson, what you get for that kind of money? According to reports that I've seen, fine china and ship fittings.

COOPER: Really?


COOPER: I actually had a relative who died on the Lusitania, which was sunk, and I actually bought at auction, like, one or two little items from the Lusitania. So...

SESAY: What did you buy?

COOPER: It was like a porthole -- a porthole -- I don't know, a piece of metal, basically. And also, it doesn't sound very good, but it was kind of cool. And everyone's laughing in the studio. And -- and also a postcard that was sent by somebody on the ship who also passed away. And actually, no, a passenger list that had my great uncle's name on it.

SESAY: Every time I think you can't do anything stranger, you just manage to...

COOPER: What? I thought it was kind of cool. No? I don't know. I'm so not cool. I don't -- I don't know what's cool.

SESAY: In a hole. Stop digging.

COOPER: It's sad.

All right.

SESAY: I can feel you getting warm.

COOPER: You're with us for New Year's Eve. I'm very excited.

SESAY: Yes, you can change the subject very quickly. Yes, I'm with you for New Year's Eve.

COOPER: That will be cool. OK. We'll check in with you.

SESAY: I'm embarrassed for you.

COOPER: Thank you. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Up close on Syria again tonight. An Arab League fact- finding mission has so far done really nothing to stop the bloodshed. Some activists say it's just a ploy for President Bashar al-Assad's regime to buy time.

The mission's leader is a military commander in Sudan and was head of foreign intelligence in Sudan. And the government -- a government which is now accused of genocide in Darfur. So in addition, activists say the observers are constantly guarded by Syrian security forces, and in every city the Arab League visited today, the activists reported more deaths, at least 35 people in all.

This is amateur video. Let's take a look. This amateur video shows soldiers firing at protesters, apparently in Doma (ph), a suburb of Damascus. You can hear the protestor chanting "God is great" and "Freedom from Bashar." Of course, it's impossible to verify the video or any reports on the ground, because Assad's government won't allow international journalists into the country or to travel freely if they are in country. One reporter got in. He recently snuck into the opposition's only stronghold, a single neighborhood in Homs. We're not revealing his name for his own safety, because he hopes to go back. But tonight, we have more of his exclusive video from the front lines. The defectors in his video from the Syrian military who are no longer willing to, they say, shoot and kill their own people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The gather in the neighborhood Homs. Such fighters took me into a house where their men were engaged in a shootout with snipers from the Syrian military.

These men say they are all defectors from Assad's forces. They call themselves the Free Syrian Army. One of the men managed to take a rifle with a precision scope with him when he defected. But most of the fighters from the Free Syrian Army are ill-equipped, short on guns and ammunition and with no heavy weapons. Still, they have managed to kick Assad's forces out of Homs (ph) and hold that area. It's possibly the first place in Syria beyond government control.

Checkpoints like this mark the frontline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Assad's troops are about 25 to 30 meters away from us, with soldiers in tanks. We are here to prevent them from passing and killing young and old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man introduced me to one of their leaders. Abdel Razzaq Tlas is one of the few willing to be identified. He was a lieutenant in Assad's army before defecting. His uncle is a former Syrian defense minister.

ABDEL RAZZAQ TLAS, DEFECTED FROM ASSAD'S ARMY (through translator): we got orders in the army that went against my oath as a soldier. I had sworn to protect civilians. But when I saw what the government forces were doing to the people, I defected on June 2.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People like Abdel Razzaq Tlas are heroes for the people of Baram (ph). He was cheered at an anti-government demonstration.

But Babarama (ph) is surrounded by the Syrian military and constantly shelled by tanks and artillery. AT a meeting in a safe house, Abdel Razzaq Tlas insists that, even though Assad has not used his air force against the uprising, only a no-fly zone imposed by the international community could help the rebels win.

TLAS (through translator): We are in contact with the soldiers who are in the army. They tell us that a no-fly zone is essential to prevent them from getting bombed if they defect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For now, a men of the Free Syrian Army are fighting a guerrilla war against an overpowering foe. They smuggle fighters in and out of the neighborhood they control, evading government checkpoints. At night, they search everyone entering and leaving the area to stop government death squads, the so-called Shabeeha, from getting in.

TLAS (through translator): The street you see over there is controlled by the Shabeeha. They are known to kidnap our women and children. We try to prevent this. When strangers come here, we stop and search them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of this part of Homs are not afraid to take to the streets. There are regular nighttime rallies. But after months of casualties, they have long lost their faith in non-violent protests. In Babarama (ph) many believe that real change in Syria will only come from the barrel of a gun.


COOPER: A remarkable look inside Homs.

Joining us, Fouad Ajami, senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

It is interesting. I mean, just watching that, it reminds me of the beginnings of the conflict in Beirut, almost, back -- back in the day, where you had groups controlling neighborhoods. Is this the start of civil war?

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Absolutely. This is neighborhood warfare, if you look at it. We talked yesterday about Homs. This is the center of this revolution. And this is a divided city. And when you are talking about Homs, you're talking an old Syrian neighborhood. This has been the target of the Assad regime, because this is the place where the Syrian -- the Free Syrian Army is making its stand.

It's interesting, this reporter you just listened to and watched. There is a man named Abdel Razzaq Tlas, the defector. His uncle was one of the pillars of the Assad regime. He was a -- he was a companion of old man Hafez Assad. So it tells you something about this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they lead and the fight for a new Syria.

COOPER: A group like this, though, I mean, if the regime really wanted to move in, with tanks and stuff, they could try to retake this neighborhood.

AJAMI: Well, I think that's exactly what -- look, we live in a world where nations dwell alone. And in fact, we can look at the Bosnians were saved in 1995. But they were saved after 30 months of bloodshed. They were saved after 150,000 people, possibly, were killed. The Rwandans were never saved.

And now the Syrians are really in the crossfire. And I think what they have been -- what they witnessed, what they know about their situation is the solitude of the Syrian people. If you take a look at the geography of Syria, the geography of Syria really favors the regime. Because when you -- when you think, here is a country which has Lebanon on one side, which is subordinate to Syria, which has Jordan on the other side, which is in a way very, very worried about the intervention. And then it has Israel, which is very complicated relationship. Then it has Iraq, which is very sympathetic to the Assad regime. Then it has Turkey, which has played cat and mouse with the Syrian rebellion. It hints it will come in, but then it doesn't.

So I think it's a recipe for a long, long war.

COOPER: And you think that's going to happen?

AJAMI: Absolutely. This is where we are. This is where we are. The regime can't bury this revolution. The revolution can't overthrow the regime.

And I think that, when we take a look at the powers beyond, the international community has been disgraceful. And the belief in the Arab League has been such a sham. When you look at the Sudanese general going to Homs and saying he saw nothing frightening in Homs, when, with all due respect, maybe his standards are the Darfur standards.

COOPER: Right. This is what I just cannot believe, that the guy who's head of this Arab League delegation works for a regime, the leader of which is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

AJAMI: Well, absolutely. And when you realize, for example, that this man was chosen to be the chief monitor, that he was picked by the Syrians. Because no other candidate was accessible, and no other candidate really wanted this job.

The Lebanese wouldn't do it. The Saudis would not be acceptable, and they wouldn't want to do it. The Egyptians would normally have done this kind of work really out of contention, given their own troubles. So you come to this Syrian henchman, Omar Bashir (ph) the man wanted by the international...

COOPER: That's in Syria we're looking at. Fouad, thank you for that. Appreciate it.

Still ahead tonight, the chilling 911 call made by a Texas man who allegedly killed six members of his family and then himself on Christmas day.

Also ahead tonight, caught on tape: a driver's rampage through his neighborhood. Amazing video we'll show you ahead.


SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 Bulletin."

A disturbing discovery in the deadly Christmas day shooting outside Dallas. Police have enhanced the audio of a 911 call and say the voice they've uncovered is the presumed killer, 56-year-old Aziz Yazdanpanah. His words are chilling.




YAZDANPANAH: I'm shooting people.


YAZDANPANAH: I'm shooting people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was that? Do you need an ambulance or police? Hello?


SESAY: Investigators say Yazdanpanah killed six family members, including his estranged wife and two daughters, before shooting himself dead.

"Wall Street Journal" report says several employees of oil giant BP could face criminal charges stemming from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The paper says prosecutors are looking into whether they falsified information to regulators.

And in Colorado, police have arrested a driver they say intentionally rammed his SUV into five cars, including this one. A security camera captured it. Police say the driver also tried to run over several people.

Now back to Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up tonight -- well, a change of subject, something to make you smile at the end of tonight. Your choice for No. 2 in the top ten "RidicuList" countdown for the year. Well, I won't give it to you. We'll just surprise you with it. We'll be right back.


COOPER: We've been counting down the top ten "RidicuLists" of the year, based on your votes. Tonight No. 2. It's a cautionary tale about texting at the movies from back in June. Take a look.


COOPER: Tonight, we're adding my latest source of annoyance: people who talk and text at the movies. And I want to talk about one young woman in particular, a woman who was repeatedly warned to stop texting during a movie in Austin, Texas, wouldn't stop and was promptly thrown out of the theater. Then she left an angry voice mail for the theater, which has posted it on its blog for your enjoyment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what? I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to text in your little crappy (EXPLETIVE DELETED) theater.


COOPER: All right, did I mention that the theater is called the Alamo Drafthouse and that they serve beer? Well, I'm not sure if I mentioned that, but indeed, I think our texter may have partaken a bit, a little pre-party during the previews, perhaps.

Listen to her next offense.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So excuse me for using my phone in the USA, Magnited [SIC] States of America, where you're -- are free to text in a theater.


COOPER: I love living in the Magnited [SIC] States of America, where you're -- are free to text in a theater. Now, that's a lady who knows her Constitution. What's all that freedom jazz about if some drunk girl can't constantly update her Facebook status while people are trying to concentrate on "Kung Fu Panda 2"?

Next, the text lady employs something I like to call the silent but deadly defense.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was on silent. It wasn't on loud. It wasn't bothering anybody. You guys obviously were being (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to me.


COOPER: I'm sorry, drunk girl, but texting in a dark movie theater is like lighting a road flare. People are going to see it. You might not through your beer goggles, but everyone else will.

Drunk girl didn't give up, though. She's been hitting the law books, apparently, and comes up with two more arguments for her defense: a combo of the "I didn't know" defense seasoned with just a touch of the "I do it everywhere else" defense.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was not aware that I couldn't text in your theater, all right? I've texted in all the other theaters in Austin, and no one ever gave a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about what I was doing on my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) phone, all right?


COOPER: Now, maybe she has texted her way through every other movie theater in Austin. I wouldn't be surprised. But as it turns out, this particular theater has a well-known zero-tolerance policy against talking and cell phones. It's kind of this theater's crusade. And they have all kinds of creative announcements about it. Watch.


WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Electric cattle prod. So I just -- if I hear someone talking, I'll give them not an aggressive shock but just a light shock.

EFREN RAMIREZ, ACTOR: My name is Pedro Sanchez from "Napoleon Dynamite." If you vote for me, I'll make sure that everyone is very quiet in the theater.

MICHAEL CERA, ACTOR: You're watching a movie. Turn off your cell phones and beepers, please.

DANNY DE VITO, ACTOR: You can find out who they are and then go cut their tongue out.


COOPER: So I think it's pretty clear where the Alamo Drafthouse stands on this issue. And you know what? Maybe a theater with that kind of policy just isn't for everyone.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I will never be coming back to your Alamo Drafthouse or whatever. I'd rather go to a reglear [SIC] theater where people are actually polite.


COOPER: Oh, yes. The reglear [SIC] theater are full of polite people, politely shouting at the screen, politely bringing screaming toddlers to rated "R" movies at 11 p.m. at night, politely talking and texting through the whole movie.

The CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse says he wants his theater to be different. Here's Tim Lee, great American hero.


TIM LEE, CEO, ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE: We wanted to take a hard stand and say that those people are not welcome at the Alamo Drafthouse. So we'll get rid of those people and just make it a better place for the rest of the movie-going public.


COOPER: I think that guy should win the Nobel Peace Prize.

So listen up, Magnited [SIC] States. News flash: a movie theater, it's not your living room, so don't act like it is. We're paying to see the movie, not your cell phone light, and we want to listen to the actors, not your lame comments and inane chatter.

Next time you're about to text in a film, remember the Alamo -- Drafthouse. Or you might end up on the "RidicuList."


COOPER: We're going to have what you voted for as the best "RidicuList" of 2011, the No. 1, tomorrow night.

That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.