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THE SITUATION ROOM
Report from North Korea Visit; Terrorists Targeting Food?; Accident on Broadway
Aired December 21, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Also, details of a chilling tactic considered by al Qaeda supporters: targeting the food we eat.
A horrifying on-stage accident brings the most expensive show in Broadway history to a halt, and leaves an actor critically hurt.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I'm back in New York today just back from an exclusive assignment to North Korea accompanying the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, on a private mission to try to ease tension and avert all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.
This hour, we are taking you inside those high-stakes talks and behind the scenes in one of the world's most isolated and secretive countries. The White House is also very eager to hear what Governor Richardson saw. Officials there will be debriefing him soon, but, right now, they are fairly skeptical of the North Korean promises to resume six-party talks, saying the country first needs to stop belligerent actions and live up to its obligations.
Let's get some inside information on all of this.
We are joined by Jack Pritchard of the Korea Economic Institute, and international security analyst Jim Walsh with MIT.
Guys, thanks very much.
As you know, I just came back. I covered Governor Richardson's visit there. I spent six days. The situation was a lot more tense in the early part, but after these exercises and the lack of a military response from the North Koreans, it has calmed down. But it could easily escalate once again.
Mr. Pritchard, what do you think? Are we at a turning point right now, or is this going to go back to the bad old days?
JACK PRITCHARD, PRESIDENT, KOREA ECONOMIC INSTITUTE: Well, Wolf, this is one of the things you can't really predict.
The North Koreans, as you well know, they tend to military hyperbole and a lot of times nothing comes from it. But in this particular case, as you well know, over the last year, we have seen two very deadly incidents of North Korean provocative behavior.
So you can't assume it is going to end up with the North Koreans backing up. What we don't know, as an example, is what role the Chinese played behind the scenes. We know they weren't very constructive in the U.N. Security Council discussions. The Russians were.
Perhaps the U.S. and the South Koreans chose to send some type of military signal to the North Koreans to suggest that if the North Koreans were to react to these drills, that the United States would be prepared, along with South Korea, to ratchet up the response. None of these things we know for sure, but it was a tense situation.
BLITZER: You know, Jim, I was pretty surprised. After the North Koreans said going into the live-fire exercise that the South Koreans planned, that they would respond with brutal consequences, in their words, beyond imagination.
For the military and North Korea to make that declaration and then after the exercise which lasted an hour-and-a-half, for them to say, you know, it really wasn't worth the response, how extraordinary was that, for them to back down?
JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Well, I agree with you, Wolf, that it was very scary.
You know, on any given day, war is unlikely, but the risk was rising every day during this process. Sometimes, the North Koreans, as Jack points out, will make bold statements that are not really followed through, but sometimes they do follow through on them. And no one knows in advance which it is.
But I think one of the clues here was the fact that the North Koreans did invite Governor Richardson and yourself to come to North Korea. And I think that made it less likely that they were going to do something in the middle of that visit. And, more importantly, as I understand it, Governor Richardson got some important pledges from the North Korean government, not the least of which would be to allow international atomic inspectors back into North Korea.
I would call that a tremendous achievement if that in fact happens and would point to the fact that perhaps North Korea is -- that we have a moment here, a moment that would should take advantage of to try to put things on a different path.
BLITZER: On that issue of the inspections, the resumption of IAEA monitors, Mr. Pritchard, you were just in North Korea yourself. A lot of experts are skeptical. They say, well, maybe the IAEA will go back and inspect Yongbyon, their main nuclear facility, but there may be another secret facility that we don't know about.
Do you think there is a secret facility where they're developing nuclear weapons? PRITCHARD: I am reasonably certain that there is.
The good news, as Jim points out, is a willingness to bring back the IAEA inspectors. When I was there on the 5th of November at Yongbyon, and first learned of the uranium enrichment facility, when I went back to Pyongyang that evening, met with people that you have now met with and tried to convince them that if they were serious about this being a facility for peaceful nuclear energy use, then they need to be on a path towards transparency.
I encouraged them to invite the IAEA back in or at the very least to allow Dr. Hecker, as you know, who went into the facility the following week. So, I'm encouraged that they're going to do this. I do believe this specific facility is as advertised for a fuel fabrication for a light water reactor and it is not their main facility for producing what would be enriched uranium for an atomic bomb. That is probably someplace else.
BLITZER: Jim, I woke up this morning in Pyongyang. We flew on Air China from Pyongyang to Beijing. I was with Governor Richardson.
When we go to Beijing, I had a little interview with him. And I want to play this little clip on his bottom-line assessment. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is my first time to see you after I saw you in CNN.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. Thank you for letting me come here with Governor Richardson to North Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm personally very happy to be able to meet with you, Mr. Wolf, who I presume have the same power as the American president.
BLITZER: Thank you very much for that compliment, but I don't think it is true. But it was very nice to hear from you.
BLITZER: What will be your message to the Obama administration back in Washington?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, my message will be that I will be very pleased to take their phone calls, but that I think it's important that a new effort at re-engagement take place among the six-party countries. I think this incident provides an opportunity for a dialogue for a resumption of talks.
There haven't been any talks. There has been acrimony, tension on the peninsula. I think all sides, including North Korea, need to come back to the negotiating table in a serious way. BLITZER: What is the most serious issue to discuss right now?
RICHARDSON: Right now, what needs to happen I believe is North Korea needs to abide by the 2005 declaration that says they are going to de-nuclearize, get rid of their nuclear weapons. And that needs to be a framework for new negotiations.
BLITZER: Do you think that is going to happen, Jim?
WALSH: Well, I think Bill Richardson is right. There is a real opportunity here. And it is an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted.
I was a little disappointed in Robert Gibbs' reaction to all of this today, saying, well, we just don't want to talk for the sake of talking. But it was President Obama who when he took office said we need to talk to our adversaries.
It is in our national self-interest to communicate, particularly at a time when North Korea is undergoing a political transition, where the old leader is going to be moving on and a new inexperienced leader is coming in.
There could be no more important time to talk than this. But let me conclude, quickly, Wolf, by saying I can't believe you were in Pyongyang this morning and now you're broadcasting at night.
And, by the way, when I met with in Kim Kye-Gwan in Pyongyang across a big table, the first thing he said to me when we started talking was: "Dr. Walsh, I see you on CNN all the time. I hope you come back and have a positive message."
So they are watching.
BLITZER: It is true. I discovered they knew a lot about what is going on.
Mr. Pritchard, I'm sure you discovered that when you were there. This notion that they are isolated and they're living in the Dark Ages, they really don't have a clue on what is happening in the outside world, I simply didn't discover that. In the six days I was there, they seemed to have a pretty good sense of what is going on.
And when they asked me questions about what is going on in the White House in the Obama administration, they asked some pretty good questions, as individuals who are fluent obviously in English, were watching what was going on and were curious.
Was that your impression as well?
PRITCHARD: It is, Wolf. Let me just relate one story.
When I was there, it was during the midterm elections. And when I sat down with Ambassador Li Gun, whom you also met, I believe, he is the one that said to me, he said: In the Foreign Ministry here up on the third floor, in our situation room, we are watching CNN, and we will be glad to tell you the results of the midterm election as we find them out.
PRITCHARD: So, it was amusing that I am getting U.S. election results from the North Koreans in Pyongyang.
BLITZER: You know, the thing, the other point that really struck me was the lack of electricity, the lack of power. They keep saying they need these nuclear reactors because they need nuclear power.
You go into these big buildings, there may be one room that is heated, but everything else is cold. The kids are in school wearing their overcoats. You don't see lights anyplace. You have all seen that dramatic satellite picture, South Korea at night well-lit North Korea, they got one light basically in Pyongyang.
How much is this economic condition, Jim, driving the North Koreans right now?
WALSH: Oh, I think it is central. It is very, very important.
We are just about to go into the winter months. They have traditionally had problems raising enough food to feed their population. And you were in the capital city, Wolf. If there is any city that gets resources amongst the whole country, it is the capital city.
So, when you see that there, you know there is a problem. When I was there, there was a big storm one night. And we all -- my driver was driving me out the next day. And you could see out in the street little old ladies and men in uniform out collecting sticks and bundling them as fast as they could. Why? For firewood, because electricity and lack of energy is a huge issue there.
BLITZER: And the other point that struck home at me, Mr. Pritchard -- and I don't know if you discovered this -- they took me to the university, Kim Il-sung University, the main university. They took me to an elite high school where they teach foreign languages.
The most popular language to learn in the university and in these high schools -- and the smartest kids go to them -- is English. They all want to learn English. And I was talking to these 16-year-olds. And they were -- you know, all of the sudden, they're using American slang. And they are saying, oh, that's pretty cool with an American accent.
They really want to get a sense of what is going on. They don't want to be isolated. They want to learn about the United States. And they are learning English. And they're learning it quite well, I must say. I don't know if that is what you saw when you were there.
PRITCHARD: I have -- I had an opportunity to go to their middle schools, Kim Il-sung University, and, on this trip, the Pyongyang University for Foreign Studies, where they specialize in foreign language.
And I was amazed at the quality of the instruction and the conversant capability what really would be high school students. They are really very good. And they have got their heart set on learning English, which is to our advantage.
BLITZER: Yes. I was under enormous restrictions together with a "New York Times" reporter who was there and our photographer from our Beijing bureau. We couldn't go certain place. We had to be watched at all times, and I stress at all times.
But, all in all, I must say that I emerged with a very different sense of North Korea than I went in with. And we will get into some specifics on that in the coming days. We have got a lot of video, a lot of still pictures we will show our viewers, much more coming up.
Guys, thanks very much, a very important subject at a critical time right now.
And don't forget, you can check out my blog on the entire visit, including several anecdotes about life for everyday North Koreans. You don't want to miss it. It is up right now at CNNPolitics.com.
I am writing another one, a reporter's notebook. In fact, I have just finished it, about 1,400 words, some of the insights that I had. That is going to be posted fairly soon at CNN.com as well. We will post a lot of the pictures, some of the video. We have got a lot to show you about what is going on in North Korea.
Meanwhile, we are learning more about a very disturbing terror development. U.S. officials tell CNN al Qaeda associates considered a tactic to poison salad bars and buffets at American hotels and restaurants.
Brian Todd is digging deeper for us.
Brian, what are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some alarming information on a possible method of attack on a sector of the U.S. economy that is very vulnerable.
TODD (voice-over): U.S. officials tells CNN people associated with one of al Qaeda's most dangerous branches have contemplated an unconventional, but potentially lethal attack, spreading poison on salad bars and buffets at American hotels and restaurants.
Homeland security officials tell us people connected with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula considered placing ricin and cyanide poisons into food supplies. This is the same group that launched failed attempts to bomb cargo planes this year and a Christmas Day passenger flight last year.
U.S. officials downplay this recent disclosure, saying there is no imminent threat, that discussions of that tactic came into the threat stream months ago. But it's method of attack that has been on the general radar longer than that.
(on camera): A concern that experts have always had is the openness of the American food supply in delis like this with salad bars right out in the open.
I'm joined now by Colonel Randy Larsen, a homeland security expert. He is the CEO of the WMD Center. He worked with the USDA after 9/11 to help secure the American food supply.
Colonel, just how easy is it to spray a deadly agent into something like this?
RANDY LARSEN, CEO, WMD CENTER: Well, you see how easy it is. They put up these cough shields just so you don't cough into it. So you can imagine how easy it would be to have a small spray bottle, which has been done before in certain cases.
TODD: Is it odorless, colorless, tasteless?
LARSEN: There's many different things you could use, most of them you would never know that have been sprayed on there.
TODD (voice-over): Larsen doesn't believe this would be a weapon of mass destruction, and he points out thousands of people die every year of naturally occurring food poisoning.
But U.S. officials were concerned enough about what they heard that they met through regular channels with leaders in the hotel and restaurant industries to discuss the tactic and to make sure they took steps to protect against it.
CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend says there is another potential safeguard.
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: The other thing you want to do is alert public health officials to be on the lookout for an increase, a spike in what may appear to be food poisoning, and that they ought to question and be suspicious and do further testing, so that we can get an early warning if such an attack is under way and limit the amount of damage it can do.
TODD: This story was first reported by CBS News.
In a statement to CNN on this latest information, a Homeland Security spokesman said -- quote -- "We are not going to comment on reports of specific terrorist planning. Al Qaeda has publicly stated its intention to carry out unconventional attacks for well over a decade. And AQAP" -- that's al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- "propaganda in the past year has made similar reference. We get reports about the different kinds of attacks terrorists would like to carry out that frequently are beyond their means." But, Wolf, as we said, experts say routinely that these kinds of attacks are not necessarily beyond the means of terrorist groups that know what they're doing.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much -- Brian Todd reporting.
We are combing through new numbers from the U.S. census. They could have a huge impact of President Obama's reelection campaign in 2012. Are the numbers on his side? Stand by.
Plus, the vote in Washington that could change how you use the Internet.
BLITZER: New numbers from this year's census show a growing and changing America. The Census Bureau reports more than 308 million people are now living in the United States, up almost 10 percent from a decade ago.
The South and the West saw the largest population gains, about 14 percent, while the Midwest and Northeast grew only at about 4 percent. Those numbers will have a potentially huge political impact as some states gain more House seats, while others lose House seats.
CNN's Kate Bolduan is working that part of the story for us.
All right, Kate, what are you finding?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really interesting stuff.
Those changes in population that you were just talking about, Wolf, have a real impact on the changing political landscape across the country. And let's show you what -- these changes we're talking about. What we're talking about are gains and losses in congressional seats, how many seats each state has.
And we are seeing the big gains in the South and in the Western region and these are some of the states generally speaking that are Republican-leaning states. Just take a look at this big one as a first example. Texas you see right here is gaining four congressional seats. That is a big win. They are winning the most congressional seats of all states.
And then Florida, you see, is kind of up next, winning two -- adding two congressional seats to that state. Then you see the rest of the states that are gaining congressional states because of the census information all centers in the South, as well as up in the rest.
But these states' gains have to come at the cost, the expense of other states, because, of course, there are 435 House seats, and that total number, that doesn't change. So let's show you what the losses are that we are talking about. And you see the losses here are centering in the Midwest as well as up in the North. Just take a look at the big losers, if we have to call them that. Ohio and New York, both of these states are losing two seats apiece. They lost the most of any other state. And then you see the other states, generally speaking, are traditional Democratic strongholds, like Michigan, like Pennsylvania, like Massachusetts, all centering in the Midwest, as well as in the North.
In all, this new census data affects 18 states and their congressional representation, of course. Generally speaking, it appears, as you can see, Wolf, that Republicans are winning the most advantage here, because most of the states seeing the population growth are really Republican-leaning states.
And as you very well know, Republican also made very big gains in the last election in governorships, as well as in state legislatures. And these are the people that will be charge and kind of in control of redistricting when it comes to the changing map within these states -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Huge political shift.
So, since traditionally Republican-leaning states are making the most gains, what could this mean for President Obama's reelection bid in 2012?
BOLDUAN: A very good question. And of course it is tough to say anything definitive, but let's just take a look at this.
And think about this. You need at least 270 electoral votes to become president, right? Well, of course. Hypothetically, if states vote in 2012 the exact same way they voted in 2008 election, the Republican candidate would gain -- would win six more electoral votes, and President Obama would have lost, would lose six, would lose six electoral votes.
But as a reminder, President Obama won in 2008 by 192 electoral votes, so this six-vote swing that we're talking about here, it would hardly have any real effect on the outcome. But what this really could mean, as we are all starting to look at this, Wolf, is that it could mean a tighter playing field in 2012.
BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, thank you. Thanks very much.
Britain, meanwhile, is buzzing right now over a royal wedding in the works, but not the one you might have heard about. We will tell you about the other family wedding on Queen Elizabeth's calendar.
And when Congress convened, it looked like the end for the START treaty, but what strings did the White House pull to get this treaty approved? You will find that out right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(NEWS BREAK) BLITZER: Major developments in political wrangling over a nuclear treaty between the United States and Russia. We are learning more and more about what is going on behind the scenes over at the White House.
BLITZER: It certainly looks like the START treaty cutting Russian and American arsenals will be approved by the Senate tomorrow. It passed a key procedural vote, thanks to some intense lobbying by the White House.
Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is joining us now with more on the latest -- Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, this White House has been pushing hard to get this done. And it couldn't have passed without the support of Republicans in the Senate.
By CNN's count, 11 Republican senators have said that they will support the final treaty. One of them, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, says that he is convinced that Americans are safer and more secure with the New START than without it. Again, this White House working very hard to get what now appears to be a very big win.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): The apparent START treaty victory for President Obama didn't come easily. After months of debate and reviews, enough Republicans finally said they'll come on board.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Senators have gotten the information that they needed.
LOTHIAN: There were also endorsements by foreign policy heavyweights from both political parties.
(on camera) It was less about providing more information and more about some just big names endorsing this?
GIBBS: No, no, I think this is -- I think, whenever you have somebody like Jim Baker or George Schultz or Henry Kissinger talking to senators on Capitol Hill about what they see as a benefit of the treaty, I think that helps -- that helps the treaty.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Helping, too, President Obama worked the phones, making what Gibbs characterized as a lot of phone calls to sway skeptical senators.
While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was willing to release her phone list, the White House declined to make public the names of specific senators Mr. Obama called, raising questions about possible anonymity for Republicans trying not to look like they were being strong-armed by the White House. On that point, Gibbs took a pass.
GIBBS: I -- you'd have to ask them. LOTHIAN: Even before the president has a chance to celebrate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who opposes ratifying the START treaty, took a swipe.
MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician's desire to declare a political victory and post a press conference before the first of the year.
LOTHIAN: Even though it sounds like he's talking very about the president, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell said that he's referring to Democrats in general, not the president. But nonetheless, Wolf, you know, some strong language here during this debate over the START treaty.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thanks very much.
Let's look ahead right now. We've got chief political correspondent John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING USA." That comes up at the top of the hour. And our senior political analyst Gloria Borger.
John, these successes for the president in December, does that set the stage for something new and different in January, when a new Congress comes in?
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: What a great question, Wolf. Because we call this the lame-duck session. The activity in the lame duck has been anything but lame. You know, the president will sign "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" tomorrow. Looks like he'll get a good vote on the START treaty and that will be ratified tomorrow, as well. He cut the tax compromise. He has 11 Republicans, as Dan noted. That number will grow on START. He got a handful of Republicans on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Even some Republicans broke away from Mitch McConnell on the DREAM Act, which did not pass in the Senate. That's the key question.
Remember in 2009 and 2010, Mitch McConnell, whatever you think of the politics, was the most disciplined politician in Washington. He kept all of his troops together. We see some cracks this week. Will that continue into next year? Will the president continue with his outreach? Those are big, big questions.
BLITZER: Is this good for the president to sort of compromise with the Republicans, Gloria, and distance himself from the liberal base of this party, if you will, looking ahead to 2012?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it depends upon who you ask. If you ask the liberal Democrats, they're going to tell you, no, this isn't really good, because the president has to stand for something. He didn't keep one of his central promises of the 2008 campaign, which was to repeal those tax cuts for the wealthy.
But, if you look at the polls about what has happened in the Congress, people like the tax-cut bill. People think that you ought to approve the START treaty, and a majority of the American public wanted to see the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The president looks like he's the grown-up, and that's what people want from him.
So, from Barack Obama's point of view, as he heads into his own re-election, this -- this is the best lame duck he could have had.
BLITZER: You know, John, the vice president, Joe Biden, he's playing a really important role right now. I'm fascinated by this new and much more visible behind-the-scenes role he's playing to the point, you know, where I was just in North Korea. They always ask me about President Obama. They ask me about Hillary Clinton, but they even asked me about the vice president, Joe Biden. And I thought that was significant in terms of, you know, how sensitive they are into the politics of Washington. What are we seeing now for Biden, looking ahead?
KING: Well, the vice president will be thrilled to hear that it came up in North Korea, Wolf, you can be sure of that.
Look, what we're seeing right now is what the Senate used to be. Relationships matter. Bipartisanship was not out of the realm, especially on big things, like a nuclear arms treaty. And you see the vice president, using 36 years of experience, 36 years of respect, and 36 years in most cases of friendship, and saying, "Can we work this out?"
He was a key player in the tax-cut deal negotiating with Mitch McConnell. They don't agree on much, but they know each other. They're comfortable with each other. Now they're trying, actually, to work on an amendment that might get John McCain, who has been sharply critical of the START treaty, to perhaps vote yes tomorrow if they can get his amendment passed.
So you see the vice president doing politics the old-fashioned way, spending time with people, listening to them, trying to accommodate them, and then saying on occasion, "That's where I can't accommodate you." That's how the Senate used to work. It's how Washington used to work, back in the days when Democrats and Republicans fought publicly and negotiated privately. Lord forbid if we could ever have that back.
BORGER: You know, and Wolf, this is really the reason that Barack Obama chose Joe Biden to be his running mate, which was that he could be the chief congressional liaison.
And when they were trying to cut some deals with the House during health care, of course, you had Rahm Emanuel over there at the White House. Now, there's no more Rahm over at the White House, and so you have Joe Biden meeting with House.
He was the one who went into pit there, when he had to meet with those upset Democrats, and the House Democratic caucus, and said to them, "Don't you talk about Barack Obama like that," and read them the riot act, essentially, about why they had to compromise on this -- on this tax-cut measure, so you've got to say, he's ending the year pretty well, too, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. No more talk about Joe Biden not being the vice- presidential running mate of the president in 2012.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.
If you haven't heard of Net neutrality, you're not alone, but if you care about how fast you can surf the Web, how much it will cost, you'll want to stay right here. New information coming in.
And an early Christmas miracle for someone in Toronto. One woman can thank her lucky stars.
BLITZER: The Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules today ensuring that the Internet providers give everyone equal access to the Web. The White House praised the so-called Net neutrality regulations, saying, "Today's decision will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet, while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice and defending free speech."
But many conservatives opposed the rules, claiming that the Obama administration is taking away Internet rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: The Internet is an invaluable resource. It should be left alone. As Americans become more aware of what's happening here, I suspect many will be alarmed as I am at the government's intrusion. They'll wonder, as many already do, if this is a Trojan horse for further meddling by the government. Fortunately, we'll have an opportunity in the new Congress to push back against new rules and regulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So what does this mean for you, the consumer? Poppy Harlow, CNNMoney.com, gives us a look at the impact of today's FCC decision and the impact it could have on everyday Internet users.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM (voice-over): It is a virtual fistfight. Media giants duking it out over something you've probably never even heard of, Net neutrality.
DANIEL ROTH, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Without Net neutrality, you might not be able to get to certain sites that you want to or the sites you want to get to are going to be blocked or really slow.
HARLOW: Right now, all online content is treated equally, no matter who the service provider is. But a battle is brewing between those Internet service providers and content companies that provide things like online video.
Think of the Internet as a super highway maintained by the cable and telecom companies.
(voice-over) So if I'm watching an HD show online on a site like Hulu, that's kind of like driving a semi truck, but if I'm just sending an e-mail, well, that's more like a Smart Car: less wear and tear on the road. So if I'm a gas guzzler or a data hog, should I have to pay more? And if I do, will that stifle innovation?
BARRY DILLER, CHAIRMAN & CEO, IAC: This is for the person who's in a garage, the proverbial inventor, entrepreneur in a garage.
HARLOW (voice-over): And access for the next big startup becomes challenged, could we miss out on the next Google or Facebook? Barry Diller's IAC runs more than 50 Internet companies, and he's an adamant supporter of Net neutrality.
DILLER: Twenty years ago, you didn't hear the word entrepreneur very much. Our endless use of this in the last twenty years came from essentially technology, and it came from the Internet.
HARLOW (on camera): Now it seems like you're saying, Barry, that the big media folks are pushing the inventors, the entrepreneurs of the Internet into the dust.
DILLER: We've enjoyed something in this country that's a miracle, which is you press a button, and -- on your computer or whatever, and you publish to world. And there's no interference. There's nobody in the middle of the road taking a toll.
HARLOW (voice-over): But carriers want the freedom to maintain their networks as they see fit, even if that means additional chargers.
ROTH: The days of the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the Internet now are over. You are going to have different tiers of pricing. People are going to pay to be able to get more data.
HARLOW (on camera): And like so much in Washington, there was give and there was take. The FCC's new rules will say that Internet providers can not slow down certain content like video from YouTube or speed up certain content like their own videos.
Basically, bottom line, they can't be biased towards their own content. They also can't block customers from accessing any Web site or application that is legal.
But this is not the end. Today's ruling will be likely challenged in courts, and some members of Congress are already saying, "Look, the FCC doesn't have authority to set these rules." So the issue could be taken up pretty soon in Congress -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Poppy Harlow, thanks very much. It's going to be a white Christmas on an unbelievable scale in California's Sierra Nevada. Details of the crazy amount of snow, and it's still falling.
And they call it flash mob Christmas caroling. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look.
BLITZER: We see now the rain and the mud slides in Southern California, but up north, the story is snow, snow, snow. Kate Bolduan is back with that and some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Kate, what's going on?
BOLDUAN: Hey, there, Wolf.
Much more weather to talk about. The Sierra Nevada are under a winter storm warning as snow blankets the area. As much as -- and I'm not lying here, people -- 13 feet of snow have already fallen in parts of California. The storm is a part of the so-called Pineapple Express, a system originating near Hawaii.
And a federal grand jury today indicted the man who allegedly tried to bomb a military recruiting center outside of Baltimore. Antonio Martinez is charged with trying to murder federal officers and employees and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction against federal property. The 21-year-old faces life in prison.
Here's a tough one for you. The man who wrote a how-to guide for pedophiles, of all things, says it was entrapment. Phil Greaves was arrested after police bought his book through the mail. Officials say the book talks about grooming children for sex, but legal experts say the First Amendment could make it hard to convict.
And a feel-good story, which you need after that one. A feel- good story out of Toronto. A man found a purse stuff with $3,000 in this parking lot that you're seeing right here, but rather than keeping the cash, he was good and he was a Good Samaritan. He turned it into the store, and the purse made its way back to its rightful owner.
There you go, Wolf, a nice story.
BLITZER: There are good people out there.
BOLDUAN: We don't come across them very often, but they do exist.
BLITZER: We appreciate that very much. Thanks, Kate.
A stunt goes wrong in front of a horrified audience.
Plus, an historic eclipse.
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BLITZER: Here in New York, a Broadway audience witnessed that real-life drama when a technical malfunction sent an actor plummeting as much as 30 feet, leaving him seriously injured. It happened during "Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark."
The accident is just the latest in a serious of problems plaguing the most expensive show in Broadway history. Brooke Anderson, the host of HLN's "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" has details -- Brooke.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Yes, the director of the "Spider-Man" musical describes the show as part rock 'n' roll, part drama, and part circus. Circus-like may be right, because the production has suffered a series of financial and safety setbacks along the way, and now this show-stopping accident.
ANDERSON (voice-over): The incident occurred toward the end of Monday night's performance. A stunt performer in Spider-Man costume plunged into a pit, the moment captured on video. Brothers Jonathan and Michael Dealwis, who witnessed the performance, appeared on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."
JONATHAN DEALWIS, WITNESS: The show was going fine, as you know, and Mary Jane was dangling from the bridge. Spider-Man was at the end of the bridge and then Spider-Man just sort of slipped off the end of the bridge and just fell.
ANDERSON: Michael Dealwis recorded video of the injured performer as he was wheeled out on a gurney, his neck in a brace.
This is the latest mishap for the musical version of "Spider- Man," at $65 million, the most expensive production ever mounted on Broadway. Several actors have reportedly sustained injuries, some while executing high-speed aerial maneuvers.
Julie Taymor, who previously adapted "The Lion King" to Broadway, is directing the show, which features music from Bono and the Edge. In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Taymor acknowledged the musical faced challenges.
JULIE TAYMOR, DIRECTOR: Whenever you do something that's highly technical with computers and flying, it takes you a while to figure out all the things that can go wrong. ANDERSON: The show's official opening has been postponed repeatedly, as producers struggles to overcome technical difficulties. Monday night's show was a preview.
TAYMOR: In the tradition of previews, you're supposed to be given that four, five weeks to tweak it. Not just the technical, but also the book and the lyrics.
ANDERSON: The New York State Department of Labor confirmed to CNN that it sent inspectors to check out the show's mechanical equipment after Monday night's incident.
Wednesday's matinee performance has been cancelled, but producers say the show will be back in business Wednesday night. They released a statement to CNN which said, "Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Actors Equity and the New York State Department of Labor has met with the 'Spider-Man' company today to discuss additional safety protocols. It was agreed that these measures would be enacted immediately."
Taymor told CNN earlier this month she remains optimistic about Spider-Man.
TAYMOR: I keep my focus on the prize, which is making the show good.
ANDERSON: Christopher Tierney, the actor-stunt man injured in last night's performance, is listed in serious condition in a New York hospital. Director Julie Taymor visited him there in the hospital today.
She provided a statement to CNN that said, in part, "An accident like this is obviously heartbreaking for our entire team and, of course, to me personally. I am so thankful that Chris is going to be all right, and is in great spirits" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Let's hope he's just fine. Appreciate it, Brooke.
Flash mobs are trying a new twist on Christmas caroling in the middle of a busy mall. Stand by.
BLITZER: If were you up late last night, you might have seen something remarkable. The last lunar eclipse of the year lasted about 3 1/2 hours. Only watchers across North America, Greenland and Iceland were able to see the eclipse. The last time that happened was back in 1638.
Handel's "Messiah" has been around for almost 300 years. But it's never been performed quite like you're about to see. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look and listen.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forget the halls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Hallelujah!
MOOS: Deck the malls with flash mobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Hallelujah!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hallelujah!
MOOS: This was one of best. What the "Hallelujah Chorus" sprung on a food court of unsuspecting shoppers in Welland, Ontario, is now springing up everywhere. At Nordstrom's in California.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Hallelujah!
MOOS: To a food court in Albany, New York. The trend may have peaked when a flash mob caused such overcrowding...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go home.
MOOS: ... that a mall in Roseville, California, had to be evacuated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one day I came to the mall, and they closed it.
MOOS: and that was even before the singing started.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the floor just went...
MOOS: Engineers later declared the mall structurally sound but would-be flash mobsters learned something.
(on camera) The secret to flash mob success is, secrecy. Shh.
(voice-over) Don't let too many people know whether you're going bananas dancing in a New Jersey grocery store.
(MUSIC: "JINGLE BELL ROCK")
MOOS: Or a university library in Spain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Make my wish come true.
MOOS: Or the Vancouver airport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Santa Claus is coming to town.
MOOS: The Canadian flash mob that set the standard...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hallelujah.
MOOS: ... was organized by a company called Alphabet Photography, who meant to send it out to their customers as an electronic holiday greeting. Jennifer Blakely dreamed it up.
JENNIFER BLAKELY, ALPHABET PHOTOGRAPHY: This is a vision I had in my head when I was having a shower one day, me singing in the shower. So to see it unfold, I was actually in tears almost.
MOOS: It got permission from mall management, but only security knew what was going on when a community chorus and some music students started singing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hallelujah!
MOOS: I love the guy holding up the "wet floor" sign.
BLAKELY: He was my favorite. It was like, "Which one of you wants to be the janitor?"
And he was like, "Oh, I do."
MOOS: Twenty-five million YouTube views later, they've created a monster. The "Hallelujah Chorus" has even reached the newsroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
MOOS: And over at ABC, they threw Diane Sawyer a birthday flash mob to celebrate her sixty-fifth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Forever and ever you'll stay in my heart, and I will love you.
MOOS: Is it still a flash mob when everyone is in on it? Diane summed up what a perfect flash mob should be.
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, thank you for this hallucination.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hallelujah!
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: Happy birthday, Diane, from me, as well.
Remember, you can always follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN.
You can also follow us here on Facebook. THE SITUATION ROOM has a Facebook page. Go to Facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom to become a fan. Tomorrow, much more inside North Korea. My six days there. Believe it or not, I woke up this morning in Pyongyang, flew to China, to Beijing. Now I'm in New York, heading back later tonight to Washington.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.