Return to Transcripts main page


Rodman in North Korea; Former Defense Secretary Book; Air Force Helicopter Crashes Off England's Coast; Gabby Giffords Writes Op-Ed; Polar Weather Retreating; Former Miss Venezuela Murdered Outside Caracas; Navy Helicopter Crashes Off Virginia

Aired January 8, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Winnipeg Free Press for giving us this awesome video and telling us what it's really like to live up there in the cold arctic temperatures. That was minus 33 Celsius, minus 27 Fahrenheit.

Thanks for watching, everybody. Stay warm. AROUND THE WORLD starts right now.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Basketball and a birthday song. Dennis Rodman pays tribute to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, while many wonder why he is literally bowing to a dictator.

Plus, harsh words for President Obama by his former secretary of defense. But it doesn't even stop there. Robert Gates slammed Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well. So what impact will it have potentially on the 2016 election?

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Well, bowing to the dictator after blasting CNN. This hour, new pictures of Dennis Rodman in North Korea. His team of former NBA players, they actually lost the exhibition basketball game today against the Koreans. The game is all a part of a birthday celebration, as you know, for the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, who Rodman fiercely defended in an exclusive CNN interview heard around the world. Now, Rodman shocked many people by implying that the American man, Kenneth Bae, who's been in prison without explanation in North Korea, deserved his fate.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: If you understand what Kenneth Bae did -


RODMAN: Do you understand what he did in this country -

CUOMO: What did he do? You tell me. You tell me, what did he do?

RODMAN: In - no, no, no, no, you tell me. You tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country? Why? CUOMO: They haven't released any charges. They haven't released - they haven't released any reason.

RODMAN: I would - I would -


RODMAN: I - no, let me do this. I would love to speak on this.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

RODMAN: You know. You've got - you've got 10 guys here - 10 guys here that have left their families, left their damn families to help this country as -- in the sports venture (ph). You've got 10 guys -- all these guys here. Do anyone understand that?


MALVEAUX: Well, we've got reaction to Rodman's rant just hours ago from Kenneth Bae's sister, who also spoke to our own Chris Cuomo.


TERRI CHUNG, SISTER OF KENNETH BAE: I was shocked by his words, and I think -- I don't think Dennis Rodman -- I'm not sure where he's getting his information. And I'm not sure how much credence I would give to his outburst. I don't think -- he's certainly not a diplomat and not an authority on this case at all. And I don't think he has any -- in any kind of position to remark on his case, especially after making -- making it clear he has no intention to help.

We do know for certainty that Kenneth Bae had never any hostile intentions against the DPRK. I am sorry that his intentions to help were interpreted unkindly, and, you know, as deemed as hostile against the state. But I can say with certainty that he never had any intentions to overthrow their government.


MALVEAUX: Kenneth Bae's family, they has been pleading with officials in Washington to help secure his freedom. Seems as if Dennis Rodman, however, is the only westerner who has any sort of relationship with the North Korean leader. He even got a happy birthday serenade today from Rodman himself. Here's how it went.


RODMAN (singing): Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday -


MALVEAUX: All right, I want to bring in Paula Hancocks, who's on the phone. She is covering this controversial birthday celebrations from neighboring South Korea. And, Paula, first of all, who actually got a chance to see this game? Was it for the North Koreans? Was it simply for the leader? How widespread was this actually seen around the world?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Suzanne, as far as we know, this wasn't actually televised live on North Korean television, but certainly we do expect to be seeing it in the next couple of days. The people who were allowed there were, of course, the elite from the north -

MALVEAUX: Oh, looks like - looks like we don't have Paula Hancocks. We're going to try to bring her back and get back to that story with more details there.

We're also following this. Dennis Rodman certainly not the first celebrity to perform for a dictator. You had rapper Kanye West was in Kazakhstan, this was just four months ago, singing at a wedding reception for the grandson of the long-time president who's accused of human rights abuses. Then you had last January, Jennifer Lopez sang "Happy Birthday" to the president of Turkmenistan. His regime described as one of the world's most repressive.

And then there was Beyonce. She donated money that she received for a performance in Saint Bart's in 2009 at a party hosted by family members of then Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi. And a year earlier, Maria Carey also performed for the Gadhafi family. She later said she felt horrible about it. She said she was naive and unaware of who they were and donated the money to charity. But not so much for the British musician, Sting. He performed for the daughter of Uzbekistan's president, despite reportedly knowing about the president's poor human rights record.

This is making news. One of President Obama's former closest advisers now hammering him in hindsight, this is Robert Gates, was the president's first secretary of defense. He stayed on from the previous administration and for two years Gates stood by the president. It was a picture of solidarity and partnership. Well, Gates now says that that was not the case. His book, "Duty" by Robert Gates, it's his memoir, and there is some praise for President Obama, but he doesn't have much good to say about the handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Gates says he was convinced that President Obama, "doesn't believe in his own strategy, doesn't consider the war to be his. For him, it's all about getting out." He also pulls no punches about the vice president, saying Joe Biden has been "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." Wow.

Let's bring in Jim Sciutto from Washington.

And, Jim, covered both the Bush administration and the Obama administration. And Robert Gates really was the figure of somebody who was passing the torch. It was some consistency in foreign policy, whether it was Republican or Democrat. So this makes a difference here that he is speaking out and speaking out so clearly, criticizing President Obama, saying, look, he didn't even own the war. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne. I mean here's someone who bridged those two administrations and he was the quiet man in both those administrations. You know, a man of duty, as said there in the title of his book. So this is an interesting one.

I've been speaking to a lot of U.S. officials about this. And while, you know, everyone in Washington is used to political tell-always when officials leave office, this one particularly critical, but also contradictory. You mentioned the quotes, the critical quotes about the president's Afghanistan policy there. But he also says some very flattering things about the president.

For instance -- and we just, Suzanne, now have a copy of the book, as well. So it's made for some very interesting reading as we've been going through it. But he says, as well, this about the president, "I always thought Obama was presidential. He treated the office of the presidency with respect. He was a man of personal integrity. He was an excellent role model."

You have comments like that, that earlier he had said that the decision to carry out the bin Laden raid was, in Gates' words, "the most courageous decision" that he had witnessed in the White House. So you have this kind of contradiction there, really, you know, in terms of these descriptions. Some very harsh criticism, but also some very real praise.

MALVEAUX: And, Jim, what I find fascinate is what is happening this afternoon, how the White House is really in damage control mode. You've got the president and the vice president normally meeting behind closed doors for lunch. Well, they're allowing the cameras to come in. Clearly they want to address all of this. They want to make a statement. They want to show some solidarity here. How damaging do you think this is?

SCIUTTO: Well, the line about Vice President Biden was particularly biting, you know, saying that he didn't get a single national security or foreign policy decision right in the last four decades. You know, that surprised a lot of people that I've been speaking to about this. So, yes, the White House, last night, pushing back, saying that Biden is a very trusted adviser. And now, as you say, they've got the photographers in there when Obama and Biden meet.

But it is interesting, looking at the book, that Gates is at least bipartisan in his criticism. Of course, he served George W. Bush, and he says that Bush squandered gains in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He also had another line that caught our attention this morning where he said that when he was going into his interview with Bush 43, quote, "I had one thing going for me: most people had low expectations about what could be done to turn around the war in Iraq and change the climate in Washington." So even under the Bush administration, he's talking about how Bush was not confident about -- that he could turn around Iraq.

So this is a very rich book, very rich reading, Suzanne. And, you know, you have both parties taking it here, all levels of the administration taking it. But also, you know, Gates sprinkling in some praise, as well.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. It will be really interesting to see some of the comments that come out of the White House today. It is going to be really clear that they're going to want to address some of this, at least in the briefing later this afternoon. Jim, thank you. We'll be watching.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Want to bring Paula Hancocks back, she is live from South Korea, to talk about the birthday celebrations that took place in North Korea for Kim Jong-un.

And we were talking about it before you got cut off there. You say this was something that eventually the North Koreas are going to see. What was this set up for? I mean how widespread - what do you think is the influence or the reverberations of what we're going to see from this ceremony?

HANCOCKS: Well, according to AP, there was about 14,000 people there. And the sort of people that made the cuts were certainly the North Korean elite. You had Kim Jong-un and also his wife. You had some of the military officials and their wives. You had also some foreign diplomats, those within the country itself would have been expected to come to this kind of an event, those from embassies, as well. And also some students and, according to state-run media, people from all walks of life, is how they put it, and sports fans.

It was certainly interesting. As one tour guide from Korea told us (ph) did say that basically it did appear to be quite spontaneous, the fact that Dennis Rodman suddenly launched into a rendition of "Happy Birthday" and some of the crowd started clapping, some joined in. And this is very unusual for North Korea. Spontaneity is not exactly celebrated in this country. It's a highly choreographed country. And something as spontaneous as this would be very unexpected.

And they also said, according to state-run media, that Kim Jong-un was greeted warmly by Rodman. And Kim Jong-un said the visit was a good opportunity for people from both countries to understand each other. So certainly state-run media saying that this was a very good thing that's happened. We're seeing outside of Pyongyang, outside of North Korea, there aren't many people that necessarily agree with that.


MALVEAUX: And, Paula, I have to ask you this, because, I mean, obviously, this is a regime and a country where things are very, very secretive. The people who live there, I mean, is there any benefit for them from this exchange here? Do they have any idea that this is taking place, and any idea of the controversy surrounding this basketball game and what this means?

HANCOCKS: The vast majority of the people in North Korea wouldn't even know that this had happened and they definitely wouldn't have known about the controversy. They don't get to see outside television. They don't get Internet in the vast majority of places. Pyongyang is a very elite city. Some people there would be able to have limited access to the Internet. But, of course, this is simply the elite. This is not the everyday man on the street.

So it is entertainment for those that were allowed to go. It will be entertainment if this is televised, which we would expect it to be and shown on state-run television in the future. But it's a propaganda coup. This is propaganda for the North Korean leader. This is the way it will be played within the country itself. And most people have no idea what's happening outside.

MALVEAUX: All right, Paula Hancocks, thank you. Appreciate it.

Here's more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD.

A former Ms. Venezuela wanted to show her five-year-old daughter her native country. But instead, she was attacked and murdered by armed robbers on a highway.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to spend Christmas and New Year in Venezuela, to travel around Venezuela, to let her little daughter know her country.


MALVEAUX: Plus, warmer weather starting to make a comeback, thank goodness. But it's still pretty cold out there. We're going to take a live look at the weather up ahead.

And now that Lindsey Vonn is out, who's going to become the face of the U.S. team at the Winter Olympics? We're going to show you some possibilities among those headed to Sochi.


MALVEAUX: British authorities say it could take another day to recover the bodies of four American service members.

Now, they were killed last night when their Air Force helicopter crashed during a training mission on England's east coast. The chopper left its British base, and was flying low when it went down in a nature preserve. Right now, it is not clear why it crashed.

And three years ago today, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was gravely wounded in a mass shooting. Today, she wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times," comparing her slow recovery from being shot in the head to her efforts to get new gun laws passed.

Giffords says it is a slow process that takes daily grit and determination. She says it's like learning how to talk again and walk again, and, she admitted, congressional inaction on gun control has left her disappointed.

But she also says she is optimistic. This is what she says. "Our fight is a lot more like my rehab. Every day we must wake up resolved and determined. We'll pay attention to the details, and look for opportunities for progress. Even when the pace is slow."

Today, Giffords plans to skydive to mark the shooting anniversary and all of the progress she has made. In her op-ed she reported, new movement in her right arm. Good for her.

And who knew that a wind chill above zero would be considered a warming trend? That is the case. It's been so cold, we have actually had to redefine what warm means. But, finally, this polar weather, that's held much of the U.S. hostage is getting blown back into Canada, temperatures now climbing into the double digits.

CNN's George Howell is in Chicago. George, you have been braving this all week.

You know, it was funny. You started with the beard and the mustache, I thought maybe to warm up a little.

You shaved it off. It's getting warmer. How are you doing?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I missed the beard yesterday, because --

MALVEAUX: I miss it.

HOWELL: Negative-10 degrees. Hey, you know, it really helped. When you feel that wind coming on your face, very, very cold.

And then, Suzanne, the day before that, I believe it was Sunday, to be in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at negative-40 degrees. That's like a new religion, negative-40.

It's something I've never experienced as a Texas guy, and living in Atlanta for some time, this is very new, so, fair to say, I'm getting, you know -- getting used to Chicago in that sense.

But look at the Chicago river back here. You get a sense of what this means to be so cold. Right now, it's nine degrees.

Suzanne, it feels toasty here. I'm not wearing a hat. And it's more bearable. But this has been an intense weather system.

And keep in mind, we know that there have been at least 24 deaths, and still counting, because of the system that has really plunged several cities in the Midwest and the East Coast into record lows.

MALVEAUX: And George, I'm glad it's warming up there. It is beautiful out there.

Please be safe. Be warm. I used to live out there, and so I know what you're going through. But it is a killer there. Never seen those temperatures in many, many years. George, take good care of yourself. Thank you.

Sad news, a beauty queen gunned down, killed in one of the world's most violent countries, we're going to talk about what she was doing there.

It is a place where some people say life doesn't matter. That's next.


MALVEAUX: An absolute tragedy, a woman who once competed for the title, Miss Universe, has been killed in Venezuela.

Monica Spear was 29-years-old, shot dead along with her ex-husband this week on a roadside west of Caracas.

Police believe it was a crime of opportunity in a place where one study says people are murdered at a rate of three an hour.

Here's our own Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Monica Spear was Miss Venezuela 2004 and represented her country in the Miss Universe pageant the following year in Thailand.

Her popularity opened the doors to leading roles in soap operas that eventually made her an international star, working in Colombia.

Her close friend says the 29-year-old was taking a break in her native country, when tragedy struck.

MARIA ALEJANDRA REQUENA, CNN ANCHOR, CNN EN ESPANOL: They went there because she wanted to spend Christmas and new year in Venezuela, to travel around Venezuela, to let her little daughter know her country.

But she paid a really high price for that.

ROMO: Venezuelan authorities say spear, her estranged husband, Thomas Henry Berry, and their 5-year-old daughter were attacked by armed robbers on a rural highway. Only the girl survived the shooting.

REQUENA: Her little daughter, Maya, who is just 5-years-old, was shot in the -- in her leg, but thank God she is out of danger.

But she will have a scar forever, not only in her leg, but in her heart.

ROMO: A top Venezuelan government official sent condolences to the family and friends of Monica Spear through Twitter.

Condemnation for the attack against Spear and her family has also been widespread on social media, with movie stars, fellow soap opera actors, sports figures and government officials, expressing sorrow and concern.

In recent years, Venezuela has become one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America, with the murder rate soaring to nearly 80 deaths per 100,000 people, according to an NGO, though government statistics put the figure significantly lower. REQUENA: I'm sad, and I'm angry, and I don't know. I'm trying to look for some explanation for what it's going on, and it's getting worse every day.

So I'm going to miss Monica a lot.

ROMO: In one of her last tweets, Spear described herself as someone who likes to travel light, like a passing cloud, like running water, like blowing wind, words that now seem to describe a life that was cut too short.


MALVEAUX: Rafael is here to join us. Such a sad, sad story, I mean, she was just visiting. She wanted her 5-year-old to see her home country, her native country.

Where is the little girl now?

ROMO: The little girl is still in Venezuela, Caracas. Her grandparents went to Venezuela to make funeral arrangements, and what they said before leaving, they're trying to bring her back, because now she has no one in the world.

She lost both her mother and father, and tragically, a witness to it all. It was very, very sad.

ROMO: It's just hard to understand, imagine what the little girl is going through.

This is -- the community in which they live is in Miami, is that right? That's where people -- that's where she lives?

ROMO: She was living in Miami, because she was working for the Telemundo TV network.

Her family moved to the Orlando area in Florida in the year 2000. She attended Seminole Community College there and also went to the University of Central Florida.

So, she was very much friends and product not only of Venezuela but also Florida. She still has many friends and family there.

ROMO: Yes. I imagine a lot of people are mourning the loss.

Thank you so much, Rafael. Appreciate that.

And Dennis Rodman's return to North Korea, his praise for the dictator has got a lot of people talking about what is going on there.

We're going to tell you about the alleged unspeakable atrocities that are under way in North Korea, why it's considered one of the worst places in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: This just in. We're getting word here now, a U.S. Navy helicopter is down. This is off the coast, the Virginia coast. This is what the Navy said.

And we know that at least five people were on board. That is all we know at this time. U.S. Navy helicopter down, this is off the coast of Virginia.

As soon as we have more details, we're going to get back to you, and let you know the condition of those folks aboard.