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Obama in Cambodia for Regional talks; Marco Rubio Makes His Iowa Debut; Republicans Criticize Romney Blaming Loss to Obama "Gifts"; Plasma Flairs on Sun's Surface; No Let Up in Israel/Hamas Violence; Shoppers Line Up Early for Black Friday Deals; Churches on Front Lines of Sandy Relief; Day 6 of Israeli/Gaza Conflict.
Aired November 19, 2012 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no government on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And he put the onus on Hamas to make peace possible.
OBAMA: It starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel's territory.
YELLIN: But that's not the focus of this trip. Less than two weeks after his re-election, he jetted halfway around the world to Southeast Asia.
President Obama says --
OBAMA: This is no accident.
YELLIN: The trip is meant to strengthen trade and security alliances and counter balance China's growing influence.
The dramatic highlight? A visit to Myanmar, a country long under military rule, now undergoing a Democratic transition.
In a speech encouraging the nation's reforms, he used his own identity as proof it takes time for full democracy to take hold.
OBAMA: I stand before you today as president of the most powerful nation on earth, but recognizing that once the color of my skin would have denied me the right to vote. And so that should give you some sense that, if our country can transcend its differences, then yours can, too.
YELLIN: And the president made a symbolic visit to the home of former political prisoner and democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi.
AUNG SAN SUU KYI, FORMER POLITICAL PRISONER & PRO DEMOCRACY ADVOCATE: I would like to say how happy I am to receive President Obama in my country and in my house. YELLIN: With him, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He said this is their last official trip together as she plans to leave the State Department.
OBAMA: I could not be more grateful, not only for your service, Hillary, but also for the powerful message that you and Aung San Suu Kyi send.
YELLIN: The president spending the balance of his day Monday in Cambodia, there for two summits with the focus on trade in the region.
(on camera): During the trip, the president, the White House advises, is being regularly updated on the situation in Israel and Gaza by his national security adviser and Secretary of State Clinton, who, we are told, are in touch with their counterparts in France, Egypt, the U.N., and Qatar, as well as Turkey, all nations that have influence in the area and could help to deescalate tensions.
Jessica Yellin, CNN, traveling with the president.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are keeping watch in the Middle East, of course, with the rockets still flying out of Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Israeli missiles, jets, and bombs flying into it. Within the past couple hours, Israeli forces hit a media complex in Gaza City for the second time in two days. Over six days of a conflict, all too reminiscent of the ground war of 2008. At least 100 Palestinians now -- that number has gone up recently -- and three Israelis, have been killed.
We have barely let the dust settle from the recent election but it seems like it's already beginning again with the buzz surrounding Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He made a trip to the caucus state of Iowa over the weekend, which fueled a lot of speculation over his plans in 2016. Yes, folks, we're talking about it already.
CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, joins me from Washington.
First of all, is this not nuts that we're talking about this? Aren't you supposed to be on vacation with everyone else?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, I really do need a vacation. But you're right. Natalie, it never really ends. With nun election ending, the next one begins.
Rubio is definitely a rising star. He's well-loved by fiscal conservatives, Tea Party types as well. He's getting a lot of attention because of, also, his push on immigration reform, getting a lot of attention. I'd say, Natalie, he's one of a dozen Republicans who may be think being running for president in 2016. But of all those, he's the only one so far since the election actually gone to Iowa. This was a dinner for Iowa's Republican governor and a fund- raiser as well. As for 2016, here is what Rubio said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Look, let's just address right up front the elephant in the room because anytime anyone makes a trip to Iowa people start speculating about what you're going to do in the future and all that. So let me just be blunt. I am not now, nor will I ever be a candidate for offensive coordinator for Iowa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: Rubio's people tell me he agreed to this well before the election when he was campaigning for Mitt Romney.
Iowa, of course, holds the first contest in caucus in the primary calendar. That's why there's so much attention but, Natalie, we have three years and two months until the next Iowa caucus.
ALLEN: We'll start the countdown now.
ALLEN: Speaking of the Republican Party, Mitt Romney still catching a lot of flack for his recent comments that he lost the election because President Obama offered gifts to African-American and Hispanic voters. A lot of that criticism coming from his own party. Who is weighing in now?
STEINHAUSER: Yes. The latest to weigh in now is Newt Gingrich. Of course, the former House speaker ran against Mitt Romney for the nomination and became a backer of Romney's in the general election.
Take a listen to what he said on the Sunday talk shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think it's nuts.
I mean, first of all, it's insulting. This would be like Wal-Mart having a bad week and going, the customers have really been unruly.
I mean, the job of a political leader, in part, is to understand the people. If we can't offer a better future that is believable to more people, we're not going to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STEINHAUSER: Gingrich's name is added to a long list of Republicans now, including some who may want to run in 2016, who have been critical of Romney's comments. I guess, Natalie, the key for Mitt Romney is when will he come out and talk about the comments and I guess, you know, tell his story of what happened in the election -- Natalie?
ALLEN: Right. It would be nice to hear from him.
Paul Steinhauser. Thanks, as always, Paul.
Well, it may have escaped your notice, but we're in a pretty active period in the solar weather cycle, and we have pictures to prove it.
We also have CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, to tell us what's going on here and what it means.
Chad, I learned a new term. It is solar prominence.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. I'm not going to split hairs with hairs on this. Everybody knows these things as solar flares. That's what we've called them for 75 years. All of a sudden now, we know there are coronal mass ejections, solar prominences, all kind of different x-ray, plasma, helium, hydrogen -- they've been separated. We used to call it an offensive play. Now it's a sweep, a trap, some time of a wishbone offense. It's still the same thing. The sun is still active. We're in a big period of an 11-year cycle. There was an amazing shot out of the sun Friday night and into Saturday morning and another one four hours later. All of this hydrogen, plasma, and stuff flying out of the sun.
ALLEN: The pictures are really cool.
MYERS: They are.
ALLEN: But they didn't interfere with us back here on earth.
MYERS: When you see the pictures like this, that's a good thing, because it's shooting out the side, or we wouldn't see it in that direction. So it's shooting somewhere out into space. Space being a 3-D model. You have to see it like a bubble coming at you. If you see the sun, then you see this solar prominence coming out as a big bubble from the sun, you know it's coming directly at the earth. This was going out the side. It was a beautiful thing to look at. And somebody out there, Mars, Pluto, somebody, got a bunch of solar plasma.
MYERS: We're OK.
ALLEN: Speaking of NASA, a couple unsung heroes from the space program are getting some attention. I've been down there and seen the world's slowest crawlers. Tell us about it. MYERS: And my son is 8. He could have any car, any Hot Wheels car that you can get. What does he want? He wants a crawler.
ALLEN: He should get one of those. Come on, Dad.
MYERS: It's the coolest thing. They now have bigger engines, can carry these space launch rockets and the Orion rockets. They weren't large enough to move these things. That's how fast this thing can go. That's like full throttle moving along the ground from the assembly blog over to the launch pads. And now there are two and now they have much bigger engines and they can move 900,000 tons or whatever the number is, 9,000 tons. It's big enough to do everything we need it to do.
ALLEN: Hans and Franz are their names, if anyone didn't know.
MYERS: Yes. They have gas guzzler tax, too.
ALLEN: Yes, yes, they do. We'll talk about that.
NASA estimates, in half a century of service, those massive crawlers have crawled more than 3,000 miles. And while they have set lots of records, fuel economy isn't one of them. Each gets 42 feet to a gallon of diesel.
Chad is going to get his son one for the holidays.
ALLEN: More now on our top story, the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Both sides are ignoring international calls for a cease-fire as the death toll mounts. So far, 100 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed since this latest fighting erupted last Wednesday.
For the civilians on both sides now caught in the cross fire, daily life is terrifying. Here are two views on what it's like, one from an Israeli father, the other from a Palestinian emergency official.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EFFIE MORADIAN, ISRAELI RESIDENT: It's a safe room. It has thicker walls and it's more or less blast resistant. It's got metal windows and metal door. And this is where the children are going to be sleeping tonight.
AYMAN AL SAHABANI, AL SHIFA EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR & PALESTINE RESIDENT: As a human, I am crying. I can't do anything for him because I know he's died now, you know? And you can't imagine if it's yours baby, how do you feel? Why?
(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: With no sign of a letup in the fighting, Israel continues to warn it may order troops into Gaza if Hamas does not stop its rocket attacks.
ALLEN: It's that time of year, millions of shoppers gearing up for Black Friday. Some are a bit more anxious than others. In El Cajon, some shoppers have been in line since Wednesday at a Best Buy to score big bargains. Smartphones and laptops can also help you find the holiday deals.
Mirabel Aber joins us from New York to tell us more about it. Hi, Mirabel.
MIRABEL ABER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just days away. According to the National Retail Federation, as many as 147 million people will shop online or visit stores this weekend looking for holiday deals.
Question out there, how can you get the most for your money? We spoke with Steve Kresner, the CEO of pricewraper.com, and he suggests looking to social media for savings, like your favorite stores on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You could be rewarded with special coupons and some updates. And there's another tip, arm your phone. Check out these apps. They're free to download and they can help you compare prices, track down sales, and stick to your budget. That way you can save some money.
And he also suggests clipping coupons and clipping coupons the modern way. The SnipSnap app or dealcoupon.com or visit specific retailer web sites to look for coupons.
Finally, Natalie, if the perfect gift doesn't have the perfect price tag, set up a price alert online. You will get an e-mail notification when the item drops into your price range -- Natalie?
ALLEN: Sounds good. I just want the app to do all the shopping for me and wrap everything.
Mirabel Aber. Thanks, Mirabel.
ALLEN: It has been three weeks since Sandy ripped through the northeast, and today, more signs of normalcy in New York, we're happy to say. For the first time in three weeks, cars, not water, are flowing through the Brooklyn Battery tunnel, which is a critical access point between lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. This was both tubes just a few weeks ago, before crews pumped out nearly a mile of floodwater.
But while life gets back to normal for some, for others the recovery is slow and painful, and that is where community pastors are stepping in.
Sarah Hoye gives us an in-depth look at their efforts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HOYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's thanks and giving for Pastor Connie Hulla.
PASTOR CONNIE HULLA, PASTOR, CONEY ISLAND GOSPEL ASSEMBLY: Hey, how are you?
HOYE: More than two weeks after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast, residents still need the goodwill of others.
HULLA: As fast as it comes in, we give it out.
HOYE: On the front lines are relief efforts are churches most affected by the storm. Truckloads of donations are arriving at places of worship, like Pastor Connie's Coney Island Gospel Assembly where residents are flocking to get their hands on much need supplies.
HULLA: We've got plenty. We've got it. We've got everything inside.
HOYE: the outpouring of support along side the constant flow of people overwhelms Pastor Connie.
HULLA: It's hard to see the people suffering. It's hard to see the children cold. It's hard to see people who had what they need have to stand on the line and we try to do everything with dignity because that could have been me.
HOYE: In the days after Sandy slammed New York City, two pastors serving the neighborhood near the transformer explosion at a Con-Ed plant in lower Manhattan quickly mobilized using social media to help with hurricane relief.
With their neighborhood back on its feet, the pastors continue to mobilize volunteers and donations that keep coming to serve the city's hardest hit areas.
RICK DEL RIO, PASTOR, ABOUNDING GRACE MINISTRIES: So what you're doing today, you are the hands of God.
HOYE: Harley-riding pastor, Rick del Rio, who works with at-risk communities, says he is touched by all of the help.
DEL RIO: What we saw was that the good of people responded. It was one of those times like after 9/11 where everybody came together to help one another.
HOYE: For the areas where the storm never ends and where frustration is high, Pastor Guy Wasko, from Trinity Church, in the East Village, says to keep the faith.
GUY WASKO, PASTOR, TRINITY GRACE CHURCH: He would try to see -- that's part of the reason why it's so important to me to do my job and to steward these resources it other people because there's still people stuck in the 23rd floor of high-rise buildings and no one is coming to them.
HOYE: Pastor Sharon "Sharo" Ramkhelawan, at Hope NYC Church in South Ozone Park, Queens, is busy overseeing her warehouse brimming with donations sent her way by Pastors Del Rio and Wasko. She says the faith community's response to Sandy has played a major role helping residents pick up the pieces.
SHARON "SHARO" RAMKHELAWAN, HOPE NYC CHURCH: I can't stress enough the impact that the church has had. You know, we've been able to serve every community because in every community there is a church, and there's a church that knows the need of the people. They're not just there for today or for two weeks. They have been there for years. They will be there for years even after everybody else -- when the government has pulled out, the church will still be there.
HOYE: Sarah Hoye, CNN, Queens.
ALLEN: And to find out more and help those affected by Sandy, go to Impact your World at CNN.com/impact.
Well, CNN's Wolf Blitzer spent part of this day in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, which is also very near Gaza and a popular Hamas target, covering this conflict in the Middle East. At the moment, he is in Jerusalem. He joins us now live.
And, Wolf, I know that you have spoken with envoy, Tony Blair. What are his thoughts about how a truce can be achieved overseeing escalation in this conflict?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": He thinks there's a chance that there can be a truce, an initial truce, but it has to be followed up by serious efforts to really resolve the Israeli- Palestinian process. He has been working on this as the representative of what they call the quartet for a long time. He is under no illusion it's going to be easy. One thing he was intrigued by was a recommendation from John McCain, something I have been pitching myself about for a while, that President Obama named former President Bill Clinton as a special Middle East envoy, given his history with the Israelis and Palestinians. Tony Blair thought that was a pretty good idea if the president of the United States was inclined to do it. But let's see if anything gets off the ground as far as a cease-fire is concerned to begin with -- Natalie?
ALLEN: It will be interesting to see if Bill Clinton got in the mix there. Does Israel fear recriminations, Wolf, of a ground assault, which it saw in 2008?
BLITZER: Israel is very worried about what would happen, not only to its own troops, but what would happen in Gaza. Because you go into a densely populated are like Gaza with armored personnel carriers, it's going to be ugly. There's no doubt about that. They want to avoid it, at the same time they want to end these rockets and missiles coming into Israel. It's not an easy decision for them. And I suspect there's a limited amount of time before the prime minister makes up his mind together with his cabinet what he is going to do.
ALLEN: All right. Wolf Blitzer for us live from Jerusalem.
We'll hear more from you, Wolf, on "The Situation Room," coming up at 4:00.
Thank you so much, Wolf Blitzer.
And to our team of correspondents that we have there in the Middle East throughout the border in Gaza City and, Wolf there in Jerusalem, along with Christian Amanpour, we'll continue to follow developments.
We have learned in this hour the casualties have gone up in Gaza City. Now some 100 are dead. 800 people are injured in Gaza City. Three Israelis are dead, as well, as the fighting continues. We'll have much more as we continue here on CNN.
We also saw one of our correspondents, Fred Pleitgen, there on the border between Israel and Gaza having to hit the ground. That gave us an indication he was live when that happened. That certainly gave us an indication that this is ongoing. And, of course, evening is approaching there in Israel, and that's when so often there seems to be even more of an escalation in the rocket fire on both side.
We thank you for watching. NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL starts right now.