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President Obama Injured in Basketball Game; War With North Korea?

Aired November 26, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: President Obama gets 12 stitches after getting an elbow in the face during a basketball game. How rough are the president's pickup games? I'm going to ask a politician who once knocked him to the floor.

And they were lost at sea, presumed dead. Their families even held funerals. But after 50 days, three teens have been found alive. We have got their extraordinary survival story.

And North Korea warns the U.S. and South Korea that weekend military maneuvers could push it to the brink of war. I'm going to take you to the island already devastated by North Korean artillery.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines are straight ahead. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Well, President Obama, he was trying to work off some Thanksgiving calories today by playing basketball. And the president obviously takes his hoops pretty seriously. Those pickup games are usually a bit rough-and-tumble, but this time, President Obama took an elbow to the face, and wound up with a dozen stitches.

I want to go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

Ed, we are calling it elbow-gate. What happened?


ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you are right. The president was playing defense. He had -- an offending player was playing a little offense, went up for a shot.

His elbow caught the president in the mouth, 12 stitches, as you have been noting. He can't catch a break right now, roughed up in the midterm election, now roughed up on the basketball court. Robert Gibbs says that when the president came back here to the White House, White House doctors took a look at him in the White House basement. They gave him a local anesthetic, gave him the 12 stitches.

Interesting. A couple hours after that, one of our photojournalists, Tony Umrani, noticed while we were at a White House Christmas Tree arrival ceremony with the first lady that the president was looking down from a second-floor window in the residence and still had some sort of gauze or ice pack on his lip hours later, so obviously, still in a little bit of discomfort.

There was a lot of sort of a guessing game going around Washington who had the offending elbow in elbow-gate, as you called it. It turns out -- we have just gotten the name -- it is Rey Decerega. He is a staffer with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, fesses up in a statement, and good-naturedly says: "Look, I learned the president is a both a tough competitor and a good sport. I'm sure he will be back out on the court again soon."

Rey Decerega saying he enjoyed playing with the president today, though I'm not sure he's enjoying some of the attention he is getting now -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And I wonder if Rey is going to be invited back to play another game. We will see, or the Secret Service going to cart him away, but obviously he put out a statement.

I want you to hear this. This is something that you may recall. This is comedian Wanda Sykes. She had something to say when she spoke about the president's passion for playing basketball. This is from the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. This was just a couple of months after the inauguration. Here's what she said.


WANDA SYKES, COMEDIAN: And I must say, Mr. President, I thought that when you got into office that you would put a swift end to your basketball pickup plan, you know, pickup basketball plan. I mean, come on. First black president playing basketball, that is one step forward, two steps back.


SYKES: And -- and, really, can -- are you any good? I -- I bet you think your game is really nice right now, don't you?


SYKES: Yes, you really think you got good moves, huh? I mean, come on, nobody's going to give the president a hard foul with the Secret Service standing there.



MALVEAUX: Well, Ed, I guess -- obviously, I guess the Secret Service don't get in the way too much of the game, huh, when it gets a little rough.

HENRY: You're right. And I don't think Wanda Sykes met, as funny as she is, Rey Decerega, because he apparently is not afraid.

In this case, it was an offensive foul, I suppose, not a defensive foul. Maybe he was guilty of charging. But I think, at the end of the day, you know, we have a picture of Rey from Facebook. There he is. And like I said, he is probably mortified now. You get this coveted invitation. People like to be invited to play golf with the president, play basketball with the president.

It's a chance to maybe have a little bit of fun, maybe do a little business on the side. In this case, he has got to be mortified by the attention, but I bet the president s him back to show he is a good sport.

MALVEAUX: Yes. There will be some sort of summit around it, I'm sure.



HENRY: A basketball summit.


MALVEAUX: All right, thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Well, we are going to learn a little bit more about those presidential pickup games.

Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is a friend of the president who once played basketball professionally. A couple of years ago, he knocked Barack Obama down to the floor.

Well, he is joining us by phone now.

And I understand you played basketball with the president for years now. Tell us what it's like. How rough does it get on the court?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS (D), ILLINOIS STATE TREASURER: Well, Suzanne, he is a competitor. He plays pretty tough. He is stronger than he looks.

And, you know, people care that he is president, but he doesn't change his game at all. So, I'm glad he is OK. I'm not surprised that he got knocked down, though. He is a tough player.

MALVEAUX: All right. Mr. Giannoulias, tell us about that time when you guys had a little skirmish of your own, I recall.

GIANNOULIAS: Well, it was not a skirmish. We were playing during the presidential campaign in Indiana.

And I accidentally bumped into him. And most people don't know that he ran the rest of the campaign for president with bruised ribs, never complained about it, although that was a scary moment, because, you know, he was down. But the Secret Service was pretty nice to me. So...


MALVEAUX: They were pretty nice to you. What did they say to you?

GIANNOULIAS: They said, don't do that again.


MALVEAUX: I understand David Axelrod said you just bruised potentially the next president of the United States, something to that effect.

GIANNOULIAS: That's right. Like I said, it was a scary time and I felt bad, but he is tougher than he looks. And, you know, Axelrod has played with us a number of times. And he kind of gave me a look to make sure I didn't do that again either. So I am sure that Rey is feeling a little guilty right now. But he is -- you know, he is a competitor.

MALVEAUX: What kind of game does the president have?

GIANNOULIAS: Well, you know, he's actually a really good player. He knows how to play. He plays hard. He's in phenomenal shape. And he just loves the game. And, you know, I think he is a great player.

MALVEAUX: There's a lot of trash talking on the court?

GIANNOULIAS: You know what? He's known to say a few words when he hits some shots. So, he doesn't trash talk, but he does not let anybody trash talk him either. Put it that way.

MALVEAUX: Is there any circumstance, any time when like the Secret Service thinks that things are getting a little too rough and they will actually interfere in the game or something?

GIANNOULIAS: I have never seen it. And again, he likes the contact. He plays hard. He bumps into people. He does not mind when people hit him. So I am glad he is OK. He just needs to remember he is the president of the United States, though.

MALVEAUX: All right. Alexi Giannoulias, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Well, a split lip is something well known to many of us. One plastic surgeon tells CNN it is the most common injury call that he gets from emergency rooms. And it usually happens when a tooth punctures the lip. And the stitches could be left in from say five to 14 days. Stitches in the muscle layer of the lip would typically dissolve.

Well, the president can expect some swelling and bruising for a couple of weeks and he, like others with a severe lip laceration, may be told to stay on a liquid diet or avoid crunchy foods. Now on to an incredible story of survival. They were lost at sea and presumed dead, but after drifting on a small boat for more than a month-and-a-half, three teenagers have been rescued from the South Pacific.

Our Brian Todd has s extraordinary story.

And, Brian, I mean, it really is amazing when you see these pictures.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is an incredible story, Suzanne, just that they survived that long. And we're getting new details now. We have spoken with experts on what it takes to survive long periods at sea when you are just drifting. And we do have new details of how these young men got through this ordeal.


TODD (voice-over): It was supposed to be a short paddle between a couple of atolls in the Tokelau Islands of the South Pacific, but after pushing off in their small boat, these three cousins, all teenagers, lost sight of land and started drifting -- 50 days, more than 800 miles later, they have been found, famished, dehydrated, and, almost inexplicably, alive.

The first mate of the tuna boat that rescued them says it was dumb luck that they came across the boys.

TAI FREDERICSEN, FIRST MATE OF FISHING VESSEL: We do not generally take this route, as we usually unload in the American territory American Samoa. But as we had obligations in New Zealand, we were running the fastest route towards New Zealand.

TODD: The boys were found naked. Their clothes had disintegrated. They had brought coconuts on their small boat, but ran out after just a couple of days. They survived on rainwater, fish, and were able to capture one seabird two weeks before their rescue.

Crew members say they were so weakened that, after being picked up, they could only take in tiny drops of fluid at first, then, after a couple of hours, small pieces of bread. Their odyssey extraordinary, but not unprecedented.

(on camera): I'm on Skype with Jim Nalepka. He's the co-author of a book called "Capsized" about his own experience drifting for 119 days in the South Pacific after his boat turned upside-down.

Jim, you told me you had done just enough things to survive. What were those things that you did?

JIM NALEPKA, CO-AUTHOR, "CAPSIZED": Well, basically, we maintained enough of our equipment from the boat before it got sucked out after it turned upside-down. We had a little bit of water. We had a little bit of food. And, basically, as the weeks and months went on, we managed to get along with each other. And we managed to, when the water ran out, collect our own water and catch enough fish to survive on.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say surviving mentally is a different challenge.

I got insight on that from Ruthanne McCunn, author of the book "Sole Survivor." It's about a man named Lim Poon. He was aboard a British merchant ship that was torpedoed in the South Atlantic during World War II. Seen here in a reenactment, he may hold the record, surviving 133 days at sea before being rescued.

RUTHANNE MCCUNN, AUTHOR, "SOLE SURVIVOR": By focusing on the survival, it really took all of his energy, all of his time. And it didn't leave him much time to ruminate on how he was by himself in the middle of the ocean.


TODD: Like Mr. Lim and others who have been lost at sea, those three young men from the Tokelau Islands were given up for dead. Their loved ones had held a memorial service for them two weeks before they were rescued. Now their families are planning a huge celebration back in their village -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: That's so amazing a story.

TODD: It is.

MALVEAUX: And there are so many different examples of times and things that they had happened where they just potentially were not going to make it.

TODD: And it came very close at the end. Apparently, according to one of the crew members who rescued them, they said that they had started to take in, started to drink salt water just a couple of days before their rescue. Well, if you drink down excessive amounts of saltwater, it shuts down your kidneys. That can be fatal.

So these young men may have been picked up just in the nick of time.


TODD: Very close.

MALVEAUX: All right. Well, we celebrate with their families.

TODD: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: It is an amazing survival story. Thank you, Brian.

A remarkable find inside a suburban home.


TERRI PEREZ, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: This is the largest quantity of this type of explosives, these homemade explosives, found in one location in the history of the United States here on U.S. soil.


MALVEAUX: Who made this massive pile of explosives and why? Details of what investigators are finding out.

Also, North Korea says that it is on the brink of war with the South, where tens of thousands of American troops are based. We are tracking the escalating tension.

Plus, his religion is orthodox, but little else about this rapper is. We will get his story, his music and his message.



MALVEAUX: A deadly exchange of artillery fire, and now North Korea is warning it is on the brink of war with the South. And there is real fear right now that the crisis will boil over.


MALVEAUX: In a neighborhood outside San Diego, authorities have discovered a record stash of high explosives, including a type favored by al Qaeda bombmakers.

Our CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has been digging into it.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tucked away in a nondescript house in a quiet suburb of San Diego, investigators make a shocking discovery, a huge cache of homemade explosives, so much that authorities describe the house as a bombmaking factory.

TERRI PEREZ, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: This is the largest quantity of this type of explosives, these homemade explosives, found in one location in the history of the United States here on U.S. soil.

GUTIERREZ: At the center of the investigation, 54-year-old George Jakubec, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Serbia. He was arrested outside his Escondido home last week.

MARINA IVANOVA, WIFE OF JAKUBEC: He's a good man. And I love him.

GUTIERREZ: Jakubec's wife, Marina Ivanova, says she is stunned her husband, a former computer software engineer, is being accused of 28 felonies, including making explosives and committing two bank robberies. Jakubec has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

IVANOVA: He is crazy. I think he lost his mind.

GUTIERREZ: Investigators are not talking about a motive yet, but they have seized a computer and other items from the home. A hazmat team also recovered large quantities of chemicals used to make bombs.

JAN CALDWELL, SAN DIEGO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: It is very sensitive, very powerful and very dangerous.

GUTIERREZ: Bomb technicians discovered nine to 12 pounds of the highly explosive compound HMTD and PETN. That is the same explosive material that was used in both the underwear bomb attempt to bring down the plane last Christmas and the recent toner bomb. They also found blasting caps and other equipment.

PEREZ: Nine completed detonators, 13 homemade grenades, and there was additional shrapnel attached to these grenades.

GUTIERREZ: The property rented by the Jakubecs is described as a hoarder's house. It's so cluttered, the bomb squad had not figured out how to safely remove the explosives inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to move very carefully. It is pretty much a witches' brew inside here.

GUTIERREZ: Authorities were tipped off after Jakubec's gardener, Mario Garcia, accidentally stepped on the explosive material. He sustained injuries to his eye and his side when it detonated.

MARIO GARCIA, JAKUBEC'S GARDENER: What was his purpose of doing all this to the background, you know, because there's kids all around the neighborhood?

GUTIERREZ: As teams of investigators secured the property and cordoned off the neighborhood, bomb technicians rolled in a robot.

They rang a siren to warn neighbors they were exploding the materials found outside the house, perhaps more to come, sure to rattle this serene community.


GUTIERREZ: While hazmat teams and bomb technicians were in the home, they shot a bit of video to help them come up with a safe plan to remove the highly explosive material.

Now, they are also planning on returning some time next week. And authorities say they also want to reassure neighbors that despite the fact there are still dangerous explosives in the house, the community is not in any immediate danger -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Thelma.

After shelling a South Korean village, the North tells the U.S. and South Korea they are pushing it to the brink of war.

And he was a hard-core rap star who was a protege of Sean Combs. After a decade in prison, the rapper known as Shyne is finding inspiration in ultra-orthodox Judaism.

Plus, Prince William and his fiance avoiding the spotlight, at least for now, on what is being dubbed their island of love.


MALVEAUX: North Korea warns that this weekend's military exercise by the U.S. and South Korea could push it to the brink of war. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its strike group have been sent to take part in the exercise.

It follows North Korea's suddenly artillery attack on a South Korean island, which killed four people and led to the evacuation of some 1,300 others. The shelling also led to the resignation of South Korea's defense minister. And that country remains on high alert.

Our CNN's Stan Grant takes us to the island, now a scene of destruction.


STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our first look up close at Yeonpyeong Island. We caught a ride with South Korea's coast guard. Off the shore, navy gunships in clear view, where, just days ago, North and South Korea traded fire, bringing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of all-out war.

On the streets, a once-bustling little fishing village is deserted. Around 1,500 people lived here -- no more. Those who have stayed recall the moment when North Korea rained shells on them.

"I was up near the lighthouse when my daughter called," she says, "and said some kind of war had broken out."

This is its aftermath. Houses lie in ruins. Where families once called home now is just destruction. It is the small things that tell the most, the books tattered and burned. This is what remains of a piano, here a kitchen, charred pots and pans, broken crockery, what was once a child's cup broken, the possessions gone. So are the people. Those who remain fear an uncertain future.

"This is a fishing village. What am I going to do if I leave? People have got to come back."

"There's got to be some kind of resolution to this. North Korea might do something again. It is scary. And my children need to go to school."

Much of this island was destroyed so suddenly, the attacks shattering an armistice of more than 50 years. For more than an hour, a war that has never really ended flared again.

(on camera): Here's an up-close look at what may have happened when the attack took place. Here is what looks like a shell hole as it busted through that cement and brick wall. And just over here, here is shrapnel, shrapnel marks where it would have hit the roof of this building and detonating and just destroying everything around it.

(voice-over): Yeonpyeong Island is a battle-scarred and lonely place. Dogs, once family pets, are now strays, scavenging for food. The old people who will not leave cling to their possessions and try as much as they can to rebuild a shattered peace.

Stan Grant, CNN, Yeonpyeong Island.


MALVEAUX: Joining me now, Jim Walsh. He is an expert on international security at MIT.

Jim, thank you so much for joining us here.

First and foremost, North Korea is now calling these joint military exercises a reckless plan by trigger-happy elements. Are these military exercises helpful or hurtful when it comes to de- escalating the tension and the rhetoric?

WALSH: Well, they have been going on since last spring, Suzanne, after the North Korean sunk that South Korean ship, the Cheonan.

Essentially, these exercises and, in particular, this set coming up with the U.S. aircraft carrier, there are three audiences. One audience is South Korea. The U.S. is communicating to South Korea and its people, "Hey, we've got your back. We're protecting you."

The other is North Koreans, and the message there is "You better not attack again or you might hit a U.S. ship, and then you're going to be in a whole world of trouble."

And then the third audience here is China. The U.S. is trying to send a strong message to China that, "If you don't want U.S. warships continually in waters near China, then maybe you should do something about North Korea."

Now, you know, there are always risks associated with carrying on these war games, and you know, so I hope that the parties will be cautious and prudent, but they're not going to go away any time soon. We're going to continue to have them for a while.

MALVEAUX: What type of risk are you talking about when you say that?

WALSH: Well, remember, it just takes someone to make a mistake, an errant mistake, and some -- and there can be an exchange of fire, and then people can then misinterpret that. Or there can be bad information, or there could be a political need to respond, which then escalates the crisis.

And I mean, frankly, the last thing that we just had with the shelling of the island, that came in a context of live fire exercises. South Korea is in disputed territory. I mean, North Korea, there's no justification for what North Korea did, but you know, we have to be honest that that territorial line is in dispute. And South Korea was using live fire. They were using shells aimed away at North Korea, but used shells nonetheless, and these things can happen. MALVEAUX: And Jim, in light of that, in light of what we're seeing there, how seriously should we take the threat of war that we could see North and South Korea at war?

WALSH: I think it's unlikely that we'll see a war. Certainly, no one wants a war. It would not be by design or intention. North Korea doesn't want a war, because they'll lose, and they'll lose badly, and that's going to be the end of the regime.

South Korea doesn't want a war, because they're going to suffer all the consequences as that goes down: the refugees, the economic problems. The same for China. And certainly the U.S. with troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, doesn't want a third headache right now.

So no one wants war. The question is, despite those intentions, can crises escalate so that people lose control of what they're doing, you know, and feel like they have to respond to the other side? Then the other side feels like they have to respond, and up it goes. That's the danger; not an intentional deliberate act that's supposed to cause a war.

MALVEAUX: And we -- we know that there was an unveiling of a nuclear site in North Korea just this past week. How does that play into this situation? How does it complicate matters when we know that North Korea is even stronger?

WALSH: Yes, I think it's part of the -- it may be part of this overall bargaining approach that North Korea has. It's hard to tell. We don't know what North Koreans are thinking here, and we have to guess here. It seems as if it's all connected, but we can't be sure. It may be that the most recent stuff is tied more to the military than to the nuclear issue.

But Suzanne, I would hasten to add here: North Korea is no more of a nuclear threat this week than it was last week. It is building that facility, but it already has a nuclear material. It already has a small number of nuclear weapons, not that it can really shoot them anywhere, but it has them. So I don't think the -- the revelation this week really materially changes anything. It just shows that North Korea continues down that path.

MALVEAUX: And Jim, you brought up a very important point, and that is the role of China. We know that President Obama reached out to the leader of South Korea, that he will do the same with the Chinese leader. How important is it that they get involved and send a very serious message to North Korea? I know they're very strong trading partners, and North Korea depends on China to help even feed its own people.

WALSH: It's true. China plays a critical role. But to be honest, China also has a balancing act that's a difficult one. On the one hand, they obviously don't want things to get out of control. They'll suffer consequences.

And they have a very good relationship with South Korea. They trade more with South Korea than they do with North Korea. So they don't want bad things to happen. But if they -- they feel if they pressure North Korea too much, then they're going to lose leverage, so somehow, they have to continue to talk to North Korea to try to get them to change their behavior but not leave them fearing, not leaving North Korea fearing as if it has no friends whatsoever, because if North Korea thinks it has no friends, and the six-party talks are five against one, then we're not going to make any progress there either. So, they have to walk a tight rope when it comes to North Korea.

MALVEAUX: And last question, Jim, real quick here. I covered President Bush for eight years. He dealt with North Korea. Obviously, the six-party talks, he felt that that was important, and now we see sanctions. We see punishment. It does not seem like North Korea is changing its behavior either way. What does the Obama administration need to do?

WALSH: Well, I'd like to see talks or some form of communication. Now, I know you don't want to reward bad behavior, and it's very difficult politically to go into some sort of discussions with North Korea, given what just happened.

But Suzanne, the big picture here is not the shelling and it's not the nuclear facility. It's that North Korea is undergoing a political change. Kim Jung-Il is dying. There's going to be a new head of North Korea. And this has only happened twice in North Korean history. It is a delicate and dangerous time, and I worry that, if there's no communication, none whatsoever, then that's where you get the risk of miscalculation, mistake and escalation.

So I think it's important that we talk to them. We don't have to like them, but we have to talk to them so that we avoid some of these other risky outcomes.

MALVEAUX: All right. Jim Walsh, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. Happy holidays.

WALSH: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: He's orthodox, but his story and his music are not. You'll meet a rapper unlike any other.

Plus, we'll show you the island where Prince William and Kate Middleton are living far from the world's spotlight and the growing mania around their wedding.





MALVEAUX: He was a hard-core rap star who found himself in a lot of trouble one night when he was out with P. Diddy and Jennifer Lopez. He has now found inspiration from ultra-orthodox Judaism. CNN's Kevin Flower has the story from Jerusalem.


KEVIN FLOWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least once a week, Moses Levy makes a spiritual visit, one of the thousands who comes everyday to the holiest site in Judaism, seeking a deeper connection to God at Jerusalem's Western Wall. But in both appearance and beliefs, Levy is not your standard ultra-orthodox adherent to the Jewish faith.

SHYNE, RAP ARTIST: I don't think there's such a thing as average Jewish. I think it's not even growing up as Jewish; it's just growing up, I knew what was right. And it just so happens that what was right comes from the Torah.

FLOWER: He was born Jamal Barrow; changed his name to Levy but is better known as the rapper called Shyne, the hip-hop recording artist known for his hard-core rhymes chronicling life on the streets of Flatbush in Brooklyn, where he came of age.

It was at the height of his career in 1999 that Shyne was involved in a New York club shooting along with rap impresario Sean Combs and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. Three people were injured, and in a high-profile trial, Shyne was sentenced to 10 years and ended up serving nine.

SHYNE: So me going to prison was an unfortunate situation, very tragic, but I was just defending myself.

FLOWER: But it was the start of a more formal exploration of Judaism, a process he says he had begun years before.

SHYNE: Going to prison just freed my schedule to continue to do what I was ready to do. You know, so unfortunately, some people think that, you know, going to prison was when the light switch went off in my head and I had an epiphany, but that wasn't the case at all.

FLOWER: Since his release last year, Shyne has taken up residence in Jerusalem, where he studies at a number of ultra-orthodox yeshivas and has embraced the strict religious discipline.

SHYNE: I'm never a guy that does something just to do it. I have to believe wholeheartedly in what I'm doing. So I have to really understand the dynamics of being kosher: why the food you eat is so important; why observing the Sabbath is so important. I have to understand these things and believe these things in order to be that.

FLOWER: While getting closer to God, Shyne is busy plotting his musical comeback. He's releasing multiple albums over the next year and getting ready for a world tour.

The lyrics are cleaner than in the past, but Shyne is not shying away from politics.

SHYNE: It's really just a change in direction. The anger is still there. You see, the outrage is still there at the profanity and the obscenity of poverty. I'm still angry that people are suffering in Palestine, the people that aren't terrorists. I'm angry that, you know, Gilad Shalit is captive right now, the way I was in captivity. You know? But it's just a different way to channel that anger.

FLOWERS: Shyne hopes his music will inspire a new generation of listeners to fight injustice and that his new kosher image will help spread his message in and outside of the holy land.

Kevin Flowers, CNN, Jerusalem.


MALVEAUX: For the first time since the mid-term election, Michelle Obama is talking about the Democrats' dismal showing.

And Prince William and his fiancee can escape the spotlight for just a little longer. We're going to show you what's been dubbed the royal couple's "love island."



MALVEAUX: First lady Michelle Obama is speaking out for the first time about the Democrats' heavy losses in the midterm elections. Listen to what she told ABC's Barbara Walters.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: Your husband has said that you are his chief adviser, so what did you say to him the night of November 2, when he was, as he put it, shellacked?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I said, "Let's get to work." There's a lot to do. I think for us, it's always the focus on what we need to get done, the work ahead.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Keep in mind that election night, I think that she went to sleep. So...

WALTERS: Did you really?

M. OBAMA: Well...

B. OBAMA: She goes to sleep early.

M. OBAMA: I went to bed early. I can't stay awake for the returns. I've got to get up and workout.

WALTERS: So you didn't care whether the Democrats took over the House?

M. OBAMA: I absolutely cared.

WALTERS: You would hear about it the next day? M. OBAMA: It was going to be whatever it was going to be the next day, so I did -- I did go to sleep.

WALTERS: This man, who was considered such a great communicator, what did he do wrong?

M. OBAMA: It's a tough time. You know, my understanding is that, No. 1, every president in history has lost Congress at the midterms. Maybe that's overstating it, but it's happened for every president in my lifetime.

B. OBAMA: It's the norm.

M. OBAMA: It's the norm. But unemployment is high; folks are hurting. There's nothing that I would look at in this year. I wouldn't look at not giving this country health care. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't want to take back any of the investments that we've made in education. So, I think from a policy perspective, he's done an outstanding job.

B. OBAMA: She's a little biased.

M. OBAMA: You know, what?

B. OBAMA: Just a tad.

M. OBAMA: I'm here watching him.


MALVEAUX: Wildlife officials say it's the kind of thing that they rarely see: an otter attack on humans. One attack was actually caught on tape. We'll show you what happened.

Plus, it's as close as we can come to peeking inside a royal love nest. Yes, we're going to take you to the island where Prince William and Kate Middleton are living a quiet life, away from the spotlight.


MALVEAUX: Another search for debris after a plane crash. Brian Todd is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Brian, what do we know about this?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was that mysterious crash last year on that plane from Rio to Paris, Suzanne. French officials now say they'll try for a fourth time to find important pieces of debris from that Air France plane crash that crashed in the Atlantic last year, killing all 228 people on board.

Flight 447 bound from Rio De Janeiro -- De Janeiro, excuse me -- to Paris mysteriously crashed in June 2009. Large parts of the plane, including both flight recorders, have never been found. The new search will begin in February. Saudi Arabia is announcing dozens of terror arrests. A spokesman for the interior ministry says 149 people from 19 active terror cells have been taken into custody over the last eight months. The suspects are accused of plotting to kill Saudi government officials, security forces, and people working in the media.

Four hundred thousand children are killed each year by secondhand smoke. That's just one of the stunning statistics in a new report on smoking. The World Health Organization says one out of every 100 people around the world die from secondhand smoke each year, and there's a tobacco-related death every six seconds. It calls smoking one of the biggest health threats the world has ever faced.

Animal control officials in Palm Beach County, Florida, are warning people to stay away from otters after three people were bitten in separate incidents. One of them was caught on tape. Take a look.





TODD: Officials say it is unusual for otters to attack people unless it's a mother is protecting her pups or if the animal has rabies. Hard to tell in that video, Suzanne, if it was one or the other. I didn't -- I looked at the video a little bit before this; couldn't tell whether that was -- whether there were young animals anywhere near that otter and whether...


TODD: ... that otter was protecting pups or whether it might have been rabid. But it went after that kid just like that.

MALVEAUX: Really scared, yes.

TODD: He was terrified.

MALVEAUX: Glad he's OK. All right, thanks, Brian.

It's a royal retreat far from the spotlight where Prince William and Kate Middleton are living as close to a normal life as possible. We're going to take you there.

Plus, how their wedding could make TV history. Details of what British networks are thinking about doing.


MALVEAUX: Some day they'll likely live in opulence in Buckingham Palace as king and queen. But right now, Britain's Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, are living quietly in very different circumstances. Our CNN senior international correspondent, Dan Rivers, takes us there.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This green, luminous island, framed by white mountains, is about as far as Prince William can get from the glare of publicity that's surrounded some of his life. Until now, Anglesey has been a very quiet corner of the UK, a small island off the north coast of Wales where solitude is in great supply.

Two months ago, Prince William qualified to fly a search and rescue helicopter here at Royal Air Force Base Valley. For his colleagues, and in fact most people we spoke to, he's treated simply as an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary job, and the local press seems happy to give him and Kate space.

FFION WILLIAMS, JOURNALIST: They are very much protected. I don't know of any agreement, you know, which stands, you know, telling us that we're not allowed to publish his whereabouts, but I do think that people do respect his privacy, as well.

RIVERS: It's a far cry from the goldfish bowl of London. Prince William may be used to this, but Kate Middleton must have found this level of scrutiny uncomfortable. Rather than the opulent rooms of a palace, the couple has actually spent a lot of time in much more modest accommodation on Anglesey, in a cottage near here.

(on camera) If Prince William wanted to buy here, what would be the options?

DAFFYD HARDY, REAL ESTATE AGENT: It would be something like this, I would think, a sort of traditional type cottage with stone elevations, hard wood windows, double glass.

RIVERS (voice-over) Local estate agent Daffyd Hardy shows me the kind of place the couple could buy if they want to put down more permanent roots. He thinks the new royal connection can only boost a flagging housing market.

HARDY: I think it's obviously going to have a very positive effect on property prices. I was talking to someone the other day, and we were discussing it, and we were saying it could have sort of ten percent maybe on the top end of the market.

RIVERS: Most locals have stories of William and Kate doing their shopping, going to local restaurants and pubs, with little fuss and zero intrusion.

And the anonymity extends to William's job. He's regularly involved in rescues, helping the local lifeboat crew, who are never sure if the pilot above them is the second in-line to the throne.

RON PACE, ROYAL NATIONAL LIFEBOAT INSTITUTE: We could be operating with him quite regularly and not know that he's -- he's actually driving the helicopter. RIVERS (on camera): Most people here think that, for the next few years, Prince William and Kate Middleton will have the chance to live a relatively normal life on this beautiful but isolated island. It's an opportunity they may never have again, and everyone here is hoping they make the most of it.

Dan Rivers, CNN, on Anglesey, North Wales.


MALVEAUX: And the upcoming royal wedding could make history as the first ever broadcast in 3-D. That's right. "London's Daily Mail" reports that three British television networks are considering a 3-D broadcast live from Westminster Abbey.

The wedding is scheduled for April 29.

Well, it was a SITUATION ROOM first, rapper Doug E. Fresh teaching Wolf Blitzer and THE SITUATION ROOM staff how to do the Dougie. It all started when Wolf met Doug at the taping of the Soul Train Awards, and you can see that show this Sunday night at 9 Eastern on both Centric and BET. You're not going to want to miss it.

Remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM and over at the White House. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Also, visit our White House blog at

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"TIME FRAMES" with John King starts right now.