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THE SITUATION ROOM
More Troops to Afghanistan; Obama's Green Agenda; Bishop to Kennedy: No Communion; Held Prisoner by Iran; Outrage Over Cancer Guidelines
Aired November 28, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, HOST: President Obama vows to finish the job in Afghanistan. He'll reveal his new strategy to the nation at West Point as the Pentagon plans to send thousands of re-enforcements to the war zone. But can those troops make a difference?
The president will attend a climate change summit in Denmark. Can he and other world leaders reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases? James Carville and Ben Stein weighing in.
And the president hosted his first state dinner this week. Entertainer Jennifer Hudson sang for the guests -- after singing for us. My interview with the Oscar and Grammy-winner.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama is about to reveal a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. He'll travel to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, where he's going to brief the nation on his plans to send more troops to the war zone. This week, he signaled that determination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After eight years, some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done, it is my intention to finish the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Tens of thousands of troops are assumed likely to get marching orders. But will more troops actually make a difference? Well, I put that question to CNN's veteran war correspondent, Michael Ware.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends on what the president hopes to achieve. If the president wants to put pressure on the Taliban war machine, then yes, he needs to send more troops, because right now, with all of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban machinery is virtually untouched. Indeed, American operations are feeding into it, giving it more recruits. Indeed, as Nic's package shows from the drones, from other sorts of attacks.
So, America doesn't have enough forces on the ground to actually hurt the Taliban. The idea would be to put pressure on them, to turn the screw and to bring them to the negotiating table -- which we see the Afghan government trying to do. More importantly, and perhaps poignantly, we have the Indian leader in the country today meeting with the president.
And what Americans need to understand -- and this is a bit difficult -- American soldiers are dying, more because of India's rivalry with Pakistan, using Afghanistan as a battlefield than it has anything to do with jihad or holy war or the Taliban, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, obviously, Michael, that's something that the president talked about with the prime minister of India today. But I know there's been a split. I've spoken with senior administration officials over months on end here about this top down versus bottom up approach -- that you either build up the Afghan army and police or try to work with these war lords, these little small militia groups to try take on the Taliban themselves. How do you think more U.S. troops is going to -- is going to affect the balance there?
WARE: Well, it's going to help you meet in the middle between those two notions. The U.S. mission desperately needs to do both of those things. It needs to build an Afghan army and an Afghan police service that can at least vaguely do the job, at least in an Afghan way. But at the end of the day -- I mean, I lived in Afghanistan, I lived in Kandahar, the homeland, the heartland, the birth place of the Taliban. I know that place.
And then, there's no such thing as a central government. There's no federal tax or services. It's about valley by valley by valley and village by village by village. That's where power rests.
If you have a dispute with your neighbor -- you don't go to the police, you go to the local war lord. And he answers to a war lord above him. They're the ones who control it.
So, if you can bring them on board, some of them are on the fence, some of them are now with the Taliban, simply because that's in their interests right now. Then if one of these war lords says, "There will be no Taliban in my district," there will be no Taliban in his district, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: What do -- Michael, what do the Afghan people think about this? What do -- do they want us there?
WARE: Well, certainly at first -- certainly at first rooting the Taliban. Although, let's not forget, the Taliban were welcomed when they first arrived because the chaos after the Serbian invasion, and America turned its back. That's something the Afghan people have yet to forget. That that left them in this anarchy, raping, pillaging, it's unimaginable the anarchy that went on, Suzanne, and America left them to that fight.
The Taliban rise up and in the religious cloak at war said we'll bring you law and order. And they did. Now, when that went too far, sure, the Americans removed them. There was some celebration. But at the end of the day, ordinary Afghans are fiercely nationalists, and they see any foreigner as a foreigner. They see the Americans as foreign occupiers.
MALVEAUX: So they don't trust us? Do they trust us?
WARE: No. No, they don't at all. So many promises made. Where is the delivery? Where's the roads? Where's electricity? Where's the schools? Where's the security?
You have your tanks roll through my village in a day, you pass out lots of lovely leaflets, you talk to our elders, but who rules at night? And where will you be tomorrow when I'm attacked? No, they don't trust you at all.
MALVEAUX: What would you do if you had a chance to talk to the president? What would you say to him about what needs to be happening next when you see the situation on then ground?
WARE: All right, several things. We could talk for a long time about this, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Only a few minutes, Michael.
WARE: First, send in the troops. Apply the pressure at the joints and ligatures of the Taliban. You can't cover the whole place, so try to find places where you can hit them with U.S. troops where it hurts. Bring in the Afghan forces as best they are and as quick as you can build them when you can.
But turn to the tribal leaders and the old war lords. Pay them off, put it in their interest, outbid the Taliban. That will give you a success similar to what you saw in Iraq. It won't be pretty. It will be messy. But at least it will hold itself together.
MALVEAUX: All right.
WARE: And finally, you've got to start banging India and Pakistan's heads together because they're the ones who are fueling this war.
MALVEAUX: China belches out more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world. What if China could reduce its carbon intensity by almost half? How might that impact you?
The son of late Senator Ted Kennedy says he was ordered to stop receiving communion. At issue: Kennedy's stance on abortion. I'll ask Rhode Island Catholic Bishops Thomas Tobin to explain.
And she sang for a president and prime minister, but before Jennifer Hudson went to the state dinner, she came here and previewed one of her songs.
MALVEAUX: When President Obama travels next month to Copenhagen for a summit on climate change, senior administration officials say that he'll try to build momentum on some kind of international agreement to lowering greenhouse gases. But how much can Mr. Obama really do?
MALVEAUX: Joining me for today's strategy session are Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, James Carville, and Ben Stein, "Fortune" magazine columnist and former speechwriter for President Richard Nixon.
Thanks for joining us.
I want to start off first of all here -- he's going to be stopping off in Copenhagen. He's going to be pushing for legislation on climate control. Things have happened over the last month that have changed the equation. He's talked to the leaders of India and China as well -- major polluters along with the United States. He wants to build momentum here.
But, obviously, this is a political issue. This is up to Congress. What can the president do on this issue? James?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, unfortunately, I hope I'm wrong, but not very much. And I hope that talk radio and the pollution lobby are right that global warming is not a problem and 940 peer-reviewed scientific articles are wrong. That's about all we can hope for because, right now, I have to tell you, that the pollution lobby and talk radio is winning this battle, and the will in the United States to do something about this is not what where think it should be. But that's the reality of the situation as I see it right now.
MALVEAUX: Ben, is James right, does the president have any power to move the ball forward here if he goes to this summit?
BEN SMITH, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Well, calling the people who want to keep Americans free to use the kind of energy they want to use the "pollution lobby" is a wild smear and I'm very surprised to hear someone as good-natured and kindly as James say it. But it's not the pollution lobby, it's a lobby for the truth.
The truth is that the global temperature peaked around 1998. It's not gotten any hotter. Instead, it's gotten cooler.
The truth is that there have been periods in the past, 1,000 years ago, 2,500 years ago when it was warmer than it is now when there was no manmade burning of carbon. The truth is that we don't know the exact interaction between all those events and effects and what they do to the weather. The truth is we cannot predict the weather three days from now. To say we could predict it in 2030 or 2080 boggles (ph) the imagination. It's just unbelievable.
The truth is, we've now got a lot of data coming out that the scientific community who are on the side of anthropogenic global warming were cooking the data and were suppressing data to those requesting the data.
So, I think the whole thing is -- the whole thing of fighting global warming may be based on a false premise. Maybe it isn't, but the fact is we just don't know at this point.
MALVEAUX: Well, the truth is, too, is that Americans are divided politically over this issue. If you look at the poll, "Washington Post"/ABC News here, among Republicans, 54 percent believe that global warming is really happening, but Democrats, 86 percent believe it is really -- it is taking place here.
CARVILLE: Look, again, I hope that talk radio and the pollution lobby is right. Because I -- but I'm afraid that 950-something peer- reviewed scientific articles and almost the entirety of the non-paid- for by polluters that people had studied this think that this is -- this climate change is real. I hope they're wrong for the sake of my children. And it seems as though that they spent a lot of money and have been very successful here.
MALVEAUX: Well, what do you make of that, Ben? Do you think it's just a lobbying effort?
SMITH: There are huge -- no, there are huge -- there are huge numbers of scientists who are questioning that. When you say 950 peer-reviewed articles, we now learned that the peers are in a kind of cabal and not all of them -- some of them are in a kind of a cabal to suppress any information that challenges the consensus on global warming and the manmade effects on the climate.
We -- there are many, many scientists not paid for by the energy companies. In fact, the energy companies have pretty much have backed off and washed their hands of this. They find they just don't want to question the conventional wisdom on this.
This is being done -- this questioning about the effects of manmade activity on the climate is being done by brave, independent souls, and it's not just proved.
MALVEAUX: We could debate -- we could debate whether or not this is real or not, but I covered Bush for eight years. And he said that global warming did not exist, that science didn't back it up. But here is a poll that shows that a lot more people are actually agreeing with the former president.
Three and a half years ago, 76 percent of Republicans believed it was happening. Well, now, it's down to 54 percent.
Take a look at the independents: 86 percent thought it was happening. Now, it's down to 71 percent.
Democrats, 92 percent. Now, it is down to 86 percent.
Is that not going make it even harder for the president to convince the rest of the world that we need some sort of global initiative here for climate change?
MALVEAUX: Climate change?
CARVILLE: The answer is yes.
MALVEAUX: What does he do?
CARVILLE: Yes, the pollution -- the pollution lobby is winning. They've spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and they're winning.
MALVEAUX: So, what does he do? What does the president do?
MALVEAUX: If you could give him some sort of advice, could you advise the president? What does he need to do if he's going to change this and he's going to turn this around? Or is it hopeless?
CARVILLE: Well, I don't know if it's hopeless. Still, you got a majority of the people believe in that. And in the end, scientific truth is going to win out. But right now, you got to say -- ExxonMobil was paying tens of thousands of dollars for any, quote, "scientists," unquote, that would dispute these facts. In over a period of time, this is building up, and they're winning.
I don't know why you're not happy about it, Ben.
SMITH: But, you know, James, with all due respect, I hate to say this, because I respect you very much and I always love it when I'm on with you, but you just made that up about ExxonMobil. They're not paying tens of thousands of dollars to any scientists...
CARVILLE: Sure they did. They did.
SMITH: ... who will dispute global warming. There's a cabal of global warming -- anthropogenic warming global scientists who are suppressing anyone questioning them.
It's not the pollution lobby versus the clean air lobby. It's the truth lobby versus those who want to suppress the truth lobby.
Look, I don't like pollution either. I don't like these little micro-particles that go up in the air and get in my lungs and they cause cancer. But whether or not -- and I'm all for cleansing the air of as much as possible -- but whether or not manmade activity is changing the climate of the earth, that is very much in dispute, and whether or not we should have giant global policies based on suppressing something that may be a hoax, that's very much up in the air.
CARVILLE: It's very much not up in the air by the -- by the scientific community. But again, nobody is suppressing you. You're right here saying this, and you all are winning.
The scientific community and the evidence is losing, and that happens, you know? That happens.
SMITH: James, I'm not trying to get something published in a peer review journal.
CARVILLE: I know.
SMITH: If I were trying to get it published in a peer review journal, they wouldn't let me.
MALVEAUX: But we -- we do know that the president is...
CARVILLE: They got...
MALVEAUX: But we do know the president is going to Copenhagen. It's going to be at the beginning of the summit. He's already received some criticism that he's not going to be able to get a lot done because he's going to be there on day one of the summit as opposed to the end. But, clearly, speaking with senior administration officials today, they say at least we're going to try to get some momentum with this debate and perhaps this move forward.
So, that's -- that's where we're going to leave it right there.
MALVEAUX: The world's largest country is also the world's largest polluter. But what if China was able to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions?
Our CNN's Emily Chang reports from Beijing.
EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A thick hazardous haze hangs over Beijing. This view, an almost daily reminder than China remains the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. But China claims it will do its part to change, announcing a plan to reduce carbon intensity, that is the amount of carbon released per unit of GDP by 40 percent to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
"We do not want China's development to follow western countries' traditional high emissions," says this Chinese official. "The measures we are taking indicate we won't follow the old path. We're choosing another one."
(on camera): The new target means emissions will be directly tied to GDP. Experts say if China maintains an 8 percent growth rate, total emissions will still increase dramatically. While it's a significant step in the right direction, some argue China could be doing much more.
YANG AILUN, GREENPEACE CHINA: China could definitely do more in improving energy efficiency, developing renewable energies, and moving away from coal.
CHANG (voice-over): It's a disappointment for countries like the United States, that pushed China to commit to an absolute emissions cap.
The U.S. recently outlined a plan to reduce emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. But to get that plan passed by the U.S. Congress may require a bigger commitment from China.
The Chinese government insists capping emissions in a developing country will limit economic growth and the standard of living. Hundreds of millions of Chinese still depend on coal for energy, so making the transition to a more energy efficient economy will be arduous, costly, and only realistic over the very long-term -- though some say it's possible.
BJORN STIGSON, WORLD BUSINESS COUNCIL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: If you look up to the next 40 years up to 2050, you will see a lot of different structure of Chinese industry compared to today. The share of primary industries, heavy manufacturing, will go down substantially.
CHANG: But will it be soon enough? That will be one of many urgent questions in Copenhagen.
Emily Chang, CNN, Beijing.
MALVEAUX: A communion battle pitting the son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy against his bishop. That congressman is now barred from receiving communion.
Plus, new developments in the case of those American hikers being held in Iran. I'll talk with the recently released journalist who says he was imprisoned right next to one of them.
MALVEUAX: The son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy is now locked in a high-profile battle with his bishop. Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island says that the head of the Providence Roman Catholic diocese has barred him from taking communion because of Kennedy's support for abortion rights.
Well, Bishop Thomas Tobin, he is standing by, joining us live in just a moment. But first, I want to bring in our own Mary Snow. She's got some details about the story and what this controversy is about.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne.
Well, Bishop Tobin says Congressman Kennedy's comments are misleading. He's now speaking out. But this rift between politics and prayer is also exposing a much larger divide among Catholics.
SNOW (voice-over): An extremely personal religious ritual has now become the focus of an intensely political clash, one that pitches Congressman Patrick Kennedy against Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, over Kennedy's support of abortion rights.
The bishop is speaking out after he was quoted in "The Providence Journal" saying, "The bishop instructed me not to take communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me communion."
MOST REV. THOMAS TOBIN, BISHOP PROVIDENCE: The fact that I had instructed all of our pastors not give him Holy Communion, which, of course, is patently false, I have no idea where he came up with that, that piece of fiction.
SNOW: Bishop Tobin says he did write to Kennedy in February of 2007, saying, "I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so." But he says he did not order priests to deny Kennedy communion, saying, "I am writing to you personally and confidentially as a pastor addressing a member of his flock."
Requests for a comment from Congressman Kennedy went unanswered, but Kennedy has been outspoken about the threat by Catholic bishops to oppose health care reform if it includes federal money to fund abortions. Last month, he told the Cybercast News Service that bishops were fanning the flames of dissent and discord.
REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: Right now, we have 50 million people who are uninsured. You mean to tell me Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life-saving health care? I thought they were pro-life.
SNOW: Whether a Catholic politician's view should influence his right to communion, say theologians, is heavily debated inside the church.
REV. THOMAS REESE, S.J., GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: The simple fact is that most bishops don't want to deny communion to politicians, and we know for a fact that Pope John Paul II gave communion to pro-choice Italian politicians. So, the question is, is Bishop Tobin more Catholic than the Pope on this?
SNOW: CNN's Vatican analyst points out that just a few months ago, Congressman Kennedy's father, Senator Ted Kennedy, who also supported abortion rights, was exalted in the Catholic Church when he died. JOHN ALLEN, CNN SR. VATICAN ANALYST: That may seem contradictory to some people, but the plain reality is that the Catholic Church and the Catholic bishops of America are divided, not so much on the abortion issue, they're uniformly pro-life, but on the question of how do you police fidelity to the pro-life position inside the church?
SNOW: Bishop Tobin and Congressman Kennedy were supposed to meet earlier this month to discuss their differences. That meeting never happened -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Mary.
MALVEAUX: And for more on this controversy, we're actually joined by Thomas Tobin, the bishop of Providence.
Thank you so much, Bishop, for being here. You should know that we also...
TOBIN: Suzanne, thank you very much.
MALVEAUX: Sure -- invited Congressman Patrick Kennedy to join us, at least respond to the story through his office, and personally, he declined. He did not.
So, we want to move forward here. Are you singling out Representative Kennedy here? Is this typical? Do you normally take parishioners who perhaps go against some of the Catholic doctrine and quietly, secretly tell 'em, "Do not go to communion"?
TOBIN: Right. And, yes, there is a difference between someone who is the average Catholic in the pew. They, too, have to be prepared to receive Holy Communion, and someone like the congressman who is in a very high-profile position who is in a position to affect legislation that enables or facilitates abortion. Then, very quickly, we get into the question of scandal and division and confusion in the Catholic community.
So, in a sense, people in public positions are held to a higher standard because of their responsibility, because of their authority.
MALVEAUX: Well, do you think this is a scandal? The position that he's taken regarding health care and having people be able to have access to abortion -- do you consider that a scandalous issue?
TOBIN: Absolutely. Not so much his position on health care because he supports health care reform, as the bishops do, but because of his longstanding support of abortion, that is a scandal. I think it's a source of great confusion for a lot of Catholics, lots of Catholics.
How can you claim to be a Catholic but also support abortion? As I've said on other occasions, that's really false advertising. You can't support abortion and be a dedicated, involved Catholic.
MALVEAUX: Both of you seem to agree at least earlier you were going to keep this thing quiet. The congressman has gone public. Do you think he's trying to politicize this?
TOBIN: I don't know. I don't know how to read his intentions or his motives. I'm very disappointed. The letter I sent to him almost three years ago, the subject of debate now, was intended to be personal, confidential, and private. But he revealed the content of that over the weekend. I'm very disappointed by that, and I don't know what his reasons are.
MALVEAUX: Bishop, I'm sorry, we've run out of time. So, we're going to have to leave it there. But thank you so much for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM.
TOBIN: You're very, very welcome. Thank you.
MALVEAUX: As relatives of Americans hikers jailed by Iran voice new concern for their fate, a journalist recently freed by Iran says he may have heard one of the Americans being interrogated in a neighboring cell.
And will the holiday season give a boost to the flu season? As millions of Americans travel to friends and family, could the H1n1 virus hitch a ride? I'll ask TV's Dr. Oz.
MALVEAUX: As the families of three young American hikers charged with spying by Iran step up efforts to gain their release, "Newsweek" reporter Maziar Bahari knows what the hikers may be going through. Freed in October after being four months in Iranian captivity, he believes that he heard Americans being interrogated in a neighboring cell.
Bahari recalls some of his own darkest moments in an Iranian prison.
MALVEAUX: What was that like, the morning of June 21st, that horrific morning when you were first taken into custody?
MAZIAR BAHARI, "NEWSWEEK" REPORTER: I mean, as soon as I knew that I was going to Evin Prison, the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, I remember all the interviews I had done with former prisoners of Evin and the horrific stories that they have told me. Especially I remember one specific interview with former communist activist who was imprisoned before the revolution for 24 years and after the revolution for 10 years, and he told me that one day in the Islamic prison equaled 10 years in the Shah's prison. So, I was really worried.
MALVEAUX: When you first got there and you saw the wall, they took off the blindfold, what did you see?
BAHARI: I saw three sentences. "Help me God." "My God, I repent." And, "God have mercy on me." It was not a very welcoming sign.
MALVEAUX: And these were from former prisoners who had been in that same solitary confinement?
BAHARI: Exactly. All of the walls were covered in scribblings and there were lots of markings on the wall, you know, different prisoners had marked how many days they had spent in prison. And I looked at one of them, and it was 49 days, and I thought to myself, "My God, 49 days. I cannot be here for 49 days," because that's supposed to be a temporary situation, but I happened to be there for 118 days.
MALVEAUX: When you were in solitary confinement, tell me about your lowest points. I understand there were times that you thought yourself that you were considering really thinking about taking your life.
BAHARI: Yes. I contemplated committing suicide twice. I looked at the very same glasses, and I thought that, you know, I could just break the lens and slit my wrist with it. And I thought about how long does it take to bleed to death. But then, it was very short. I just thought about it maybe for a few seconds.
Because it was -- I didn't know what was happening outside. I did not know about the international campaign. I thought that there was a campaign, but my interrogator kept on telling me than no one cares about you. And also, he was threatening me with execution for almost three months.
So, being lonely and being threatened with execution almost during every interrogation session, it made me really depressed. But when I thought about my family, my wife, my child, my mother, then, you know, I said that I should not do their jobs for them. If they want...
MALVEAUX: Were you tortured?
BAHARI: Yes, I mean, they thought that they did not torture me. I was not tortured in the classical sense of the meaning. I was not waterboarded or I was not -- they didn't pull my nails.
But there was a lot of psychological torture, of course, but also physical torture. They beat -- I mean, my interrogator beat me a lot. He slapped me, he punched me, he kicked me, he hit me with a belt, he squeezed my ear, and -- but the worst part was the psychological torture because they are really the masters of psychological torture. They know how to put pressure on people psychologically.
MALVEAUX: At what point did you find out that there was an international campaign for your release?
BAHARI: Well, you know, the best day in my imprisonment was one day, I think it was sometime in September, one of the prison guards called me "Mr. Hillary Clinton," and when I asked him, "Why you're calling me Mr. Hillary Clinton," he said, "Because Hillary Clinton talked about you last night on television." And there and then, I knew that there was an international campaign going on, otherwise Hillary Clinton would not have talked about me because I'm not an American. So it was the best day of my imprisonment.
MALVEAUX: Outrage over a new cancer screening guidelines. Everything that we've been told for decades is now changing. Dr. Oz is son call for us with information you need to know.
Plus, Jennifer Hudson singing at the White House and in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER HUDSON, SINGER, ACTRESS (singing): There's a place for us, somewhere a place for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Word of new guidelines for breast cancer screenings by a government review panel is setting off a firestorm of controversy. The recommendations to start mammograms at age 50 and have them less often were followed with similar guidelines for cervical cancer screening. I spoke with Dr. Oz, host of the popular and aptly-named syndicated show, "The Dr. Oz Show.
MALVEAUX: Thank you so much for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM.
DR. MEHMET OZ, "THE DR. OZ SHOW": It's a great honor.
MALVEAUX: I want to start off first, obviously, these screening recommendations caused quite a stir and a lot of confusion to young women, such as myself, and older who are wondering what should we do? Were these smart recommendations? Do you agree with these recommendations?
OZ: Well, I don't agree with the recommendations, but I agree with the process. It is very healthy for American medicine not to get comfortable in the status quo. You want government-appointed panels to say, "Hey, you know what? We looked at the data again and we don't think we're doing it right." It forces a conversation to have like we're having right now, that gets all Americans involved in reassessing whether what we're doing makes sense.
So, mammograms, let's take that as an example. By the way, and we busted our schedule on the show in order to cover mammography this week to make this come alive, and we brought world experts together. And here's what sort of fell out on this discussion. First off, Americans are overconfident in mammograms. It's not as good a test as we had initially hoped, especially in women who are between 40 and 50, because their breasts are thicker.
The mammograms don't go through the breast effectively. We have a lot more false positives for that reason. Nevertheless, it's the best test we have. And my grandmother taught me when I was a little boy, you never throw away your old toothbrush before you get a new one. And so, it's a test that we know saves lives.
The panel argued -- and this is where the challenging part of the recommendations occur -- that it wasn't enough of an effective test, which is difficult to say because how many lives do you have to save for it to be worthwhile?
So, I would say: America, we need to divide ourselves in two camps. One group are going to say, "You know what, we're peace of mind women. We buy travel insurance. We like to know everything about our health. And we know there may be some false positives, but we want to know anyway." They should get mammography at age 40.
Other women are going to say, "You know what, power to me. I know what these date looks like. I'm not going to take all these false positives. I know some of the things I can do to prevent the ailment, realizing that detection and prevention are not the same. I'll wait until 50."
MALVEAUX: What about the same for the cervical cancer screenings?
OZ: Very different story, because cervical cancer screening was slowed down. And specifically, we're not going to do it until 21 years of age and women in their second -- you know, 20 -- between 20 and 30 won't get it except every other year and women older than 30 would get every third year.
But the recommendations were specifically made because the cancer grows slowly in the cervix. So, we're not saving more lives by doing more testing. It makes sense.
That didn't anger women. What angered women about the mammography testing is that the panel said, "Yes, we save lives but not enough." That's where the rubber hits the road.
MALVEAUX: So, you disagree with the recommendations of the mammograms but you think the ones dealing with the Pap smear, the cervical screenings are OK.
OZ: It makes sense. And the biggest problem with the mammography screening wasn't the age. Because I think that's a personal decision that women have to make on their own with their doctor's support, but it was the recommendation that doctors not teach women how to examine their breasts anymore.
This is really important, and if you take nothing away from this discussion, please remember this: women finds half of all the cancers in their breasts. It's the most important tool we have. So examine those beautiful organs in the front of your body, learn them, understand where the lumps and bumps are, because you're going to find your tumor before anybody else does.
MALVEAUX: OK. If we could switch over to the flu season, H1N1, obviously, we have heard recently that perhaps it's peaked here in the United States, but that there could be a danger when we're all on the planes and we're going, driving, and we're seeing our relatives and little kids and all that stuff during the holiday season that we're going to expose ourselves to potentially getting it because we're in such close contact and we're traveling so much.
Is that true? And what can you do about it in the next of couple of days to protect yourself?
OZ: It's very -- it's very true. It's the subject of tomorrow's show, by the way. And what we're going to focus on is toxic travel.
So, I'll give you an example. When you sit in an airplane, if someone else in the plane is sick, let's say they have the swine flu or another viral illness, we estimate there's about a 20 percent chance -- 20 percent -- that you'll get it, too. Now, why is that? The laminar flow within the plane, and 4 million of us will fly this weekend for Thanksgiving holiday, the laminar flow forces the air through the plane and through all the chambers in the cabin. So, what you want to do is turn that air vent above your head on, take your fist like I'm showing you, put it on your chest and aim the air vent at your fist. Why? It circulates the air around your face and prevents air from other parts of the cabin from coming close to your nostrils where you might inhale the viral pathogen.
It's not the person next to you who makes you sick, it's someone in the front of the cabin or off to either side. That's why these kinds of toxic issues come up so frequently when we travel.
Same goes when you go to a hotel room. The bedspread does not get washed. The remote control does not get cleaned. And God forbid, you use the glass. Because remember, the glass in the bathroom doesn't get washed in the dishwasher, it gets wiped down with a towel.
MALVEAUX: So, should you avoid the glass all together and what do you do about the bed sheets?
OZ: Bed sheets, take them off, put them in the corner of the room, don't touch them again. The remote control, either wrap in a bag or clean it with a handy wipe, that you ought to have anyway because the plane that you came out off also has platters in front you and the bathroom handles. So, you're going to use those wipes there.
And finally, with the glass, you ought to request a plastic glass. They can bring that up easily. Do not trust that the customer in front of you is as healthy as you are.
MALVEAUX: I want to bring up this poll here, a CNN poll, very interestingly here. Recently, we polled Americans on the H1N1 vaccine said that more than 50 percent said they don't want to get the vaccine here, 7 percent received it. There are 14 percent wanted it and tried to get it, 21 percent said they want it but have not tried. But 55 percent, Dr. Oz, said they don't even want to deal with this vaccine.
How dangerous is that? Is that a problem?
OZ: Well, it sounds terrible when you see the data like that, but remember that in an average year, only about a third of people get the seasonal flu shots. So, as opposed to the norm, you're closer to 50 percent. It's a huge increase for any public policy.
Here's the deal, don't think that the government is pushing -- you know, forcing this on you. Think of this as the government saying, "Hey, you know what? There's a category three storm coming at your city." Not a category five storm, a lower grade storm and it might hit you, it might not. You can take whatever precautions you desire.
I personally think the vaccine makes sense. I have been vaccinated. I think health care workers and I still practice medicine here at New York Presbyterian. So, I -- you know, I got my shot like most of the doctors have already gotten their shots. But if you're a gentleman or a woman over the age of 50, probably as not as big a deal for you, but if you're pregnant or you've got kids...
OZ: ... who have chronic illnesses, you want to get vaccinated.
MALVEAUX: All right. Dr. Oz, thank you so much for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM. Good luck with your show. Thanks so much.
OZ: Stay well.
MALVEAUX: The White House pulls out all the stops with a state dinner for more than 300 guests. We have the president's toast and the evening's headline performer, Jennifer Hudson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the future that beckons all of us, let us answer its call and let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us. Cheers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: President Obama making a toast at his first state dinner of his administration, in honor of India's prime minister. The star entertainer that night -- well, it was Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson. I sat down with Hudson just a few hours before her big performance to talk about it, the Obamas and much, much more.
MALVEAUX: Did you ever imagine that you would be performing at the White House before the president?
JENNIFER HUDSON, ACTRESS, SINGER: No, I didn't. I mean, it's such an honor, you know, to be able to go to the White House and sing for the president. So, I'm just honored. I'm just excited.
MALVEAUX: Now, that's amazing that you're excited because you've done "American Idol," you did the Super Bowl, you performed at Michael Jackson's funeral. And now, this is another opportunity.
Do you actually get nervous?
HUDSON: Yes. I mean, I'm more excited than nervous, because -- I mean, it's not every day you get to sing at the White House or get invited to the White House. So, you know, it's exciting. But I'll -- the nerves haven't really kicked in yet. Maybe later, I'll be nervous.
MALVEAUX: What do you think of the Obama family?
HUDSON: I think they are amazing. I'm extremely proud of them and -- I mean, yes. I'm very proud of them.
MALVEAUX: Does it bother you at all if you hear the president get criticized at any time?
HUDSON: Yes. But that's like a huge part of, you know, this field, just being in that position, especially his position. But I think he's handling it extremely well and he's the right person in the right position. That's how I feel about it.
MALVEAUX: What have you done to prepare for tonight?
HUDSON: I've rehearsed my songs over and over again. I think I picked the perfect gown.
MALVEAUX: Tell me about it. What does the gown look like?
HUDSON: Oh, it's beautiful. I mean, it has the longest train I've ever worn, ever. It's like is my favorite color, purple and black. I think it's very formal and very fitting for the occasion.
MALVEAUX: And what about the song? What are you performing?
HUDSON: I'm going to sing standards. This is my first time singing standards. So, I'm going to sing "The Very thought of You," "What a Difference a Day Makes" and "Somewhere."
MALVEAUX: Give me a few bars. For those of us who don't have tickets and can't go to the dinner, you have to sing.
HUDSON: Well, we have to call -- call the president and tell them to get them in there so you guys can hear me sing. If you sing with me, I'll sing it.
MALVEAUX: Go ahead. You start.
HUDSON: Are you serious?
MALVEAUX: Sure, go ahead.
HUDSON: Oh, Lord.
(singing): There's a place for us, somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air, wait for us somewhere.
I think that's enough.
MALVEAUX: That's beautiful.
HUDSON: Thank you. Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely beautiful.
And you've been performing? And you've been practicing for this?
HUDSON: I have. You know, there's been a lot -- a lot of other things going on at the same time, but I'm, like, hold on, I'm going to the White House. I have to be prepared.
MALVEAUX: Now, tell me a little bit about the Obamas have used their own personal story to inspire others. You have been through triumphs. You've been through difficult times. What do you hope to inspire when you perform?
HUDSON: Wow. Well, I think in a way the song says it all. That's part of the reason why I chose the song like "Somewhere" because it's like no matter what you're going through, where you're going through it, there is a place of peace and quiet. And we are all on a mission to get somewhere and somewhere better. And, you know, so I guess that's my message.
MALVEAUX: Is there anyone special that you'll be thinking of tonight?
HUDSON: No. I think I will be focused on what's before me. I mean, I'm in the mind of -- a very focused state of mind at the moment because, like I said, once again, it's not every day you get to sing at the White House.
MALVEAUX: Tell me a little bit about your family. You have a new little boy.
HUDSON: I do.
MALVEAUX: And there's a lot going on in your life. HUDSON: Yes.
MALVEAUX: Can you tell me? It must be very full.
HUDSON: We're -- we're getting ready for the holidays. I'm going to cook my first Thanksgiving meal. I'm going to start...
MALVEAUX: Can you cook?
HUDSON: No, I can't.
HUDSON: That is going to be challenging.
MALVEAUX: Good luck.
HUDSON: This is my first. So, I'm actually -- it's crazy because I'm actually more nervous about fixing my first Thanksgiving meal than I am about singing at the White House.
What does it mean to you? I know that Michelle Obama, she mentors a lot of young women, young girls. What does it mean to you to have this kind of opportunity to be at the White House, to be chosen for the first state dinner?
HUDSON: Oh, my goodness. It means a lot and it's an honor. I just hope that I can help out with that and become a support system for other young women and also be -- if I'm going to be a role model, be a good role model and influence, you know, for others.
MALVEAUX: You've been very busy, obviously.
MALVEAUX: What's it like to be doing so much all at once?
You have a new role that's coming. You're going to be Winnie Mandela, correct?
HUDSON: I am.
MALVEAUX: In "The Biopic"?
HUDSON: I'll be Winnie Mandela and -- so that's another thing I'm preparing for. And it's just matter of just balancing everything out and taking one day at a time step by step. So that's what I try to do.
MALVEAUX: Do you know the Obamas well? They invited you to the DNC to perform. HUDSON: We've met on different occasions. And from time to time, I have been invited to sing for different events. So, this is the first White House one, though. But I'm sure I'll see them tonight.
MALVEAUX: Muslim pilgrims dodge rain drops during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, just one of our "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.
MALVEAUX: Here's a look at some of this week's "Hot Shots" from our friends at "The Associated Press."
In India, a boy glanced up and watched others offer prayers.
In Saudi Arabia, pilgrims of the Hajj try to brave the elements as rain fell and the streets took on water.
In Berlin, this man dressed as Santa Claus rappelled in front of a TV tower.
And in Washington, President Obama watched a high school student demonstrate a robotic device known as the "cougar cannon."
"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on CNN, and at this time every weekend on CNN International.
The news continues next on CNN.