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Brutal Weather on Thanksgiving; Ukraine Being Torn in Opposite Directions

Aired November 25, 2004 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: On Thanksgiving, millions just thankful to be off the roads as brutal weather makes for a long ride home.
In Iraq, celebrating with his buddies and sending I love yous home. We're going to hear from the troops this morning.

Ukraine being torn in opposite directions, with international superpowers on either side of that fight.

And for Thanksgiving, how to roll up your sleeves and join the feast without all the remorse -- eating smart, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

Welcome, everybody.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Nice to have you.


O'BRIEN: Nice to have you filling in for Bill, who's got the day off today.

SANCHEZ: It's nice to be here.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

In just a few minutes, we're going to get you back to Jason Carroll. He is, of course, along the parade route right here in New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It starts in just about an hour. There could be big problems on the way, though, especially if you come out for the balloons. The wind could be a factor there. We'll have a look at that ahead.

SANCHEZ: Also, do you have Democrats and Republicans who are going to be mixing around the Thanksgiving table this year? It could be time for a good fight, right? Well, we're going to help you get through this. It's survival tips not only on how to make sure you can unfreeze your turkey, but also politically how to get through a day like this. We'll talk about it.

O'BRIEN: Thanksgiving is no fun when people are sitting around arguing over the table.

SANCHEZ: It's a divided country, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We will solve that this morning.

Also this morning, we've got the dean of Butterball University, Sherleen Clauson. She's taking your e-mail questions on how you can cook the perfect turkey, or maybe if you have any last minute panicky questions. That's at

But first, let's take a look at the headlines.

Carol Costello in for us this morning.

Nice to see you -- good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to see you, as well.

And I do have the latest headlines. So let's get right them now.

Iran has apparently suspended nearly all of its uranium enrichment program. But the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says it still has up to 20 centrifuges it wants to keep for non-nuclear related research. The request comes as the U.N. agency is meeting to decide whether to recommend further actions to keep Iran from developing its nuclear program.

There is word this morning that Halliburton, the company once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, could be losing millions of dollars. According to the "New York Times," a Pentagon auditor is recommending the military withheld payments to the company until a probe into its spending in Iraq is resolved.

And in Iraq, a different type of military planning going on this morning. The U.S. military preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for thousands of soldiers. The troops are now sitting down to turkey and all the fixings.

And President Bush is giving thanks on this holiday to all American troops overseas. In his Thanksgiving message, the president saying all Americans at home should be grateful for those who are helping to advance the cause of freedom. The president is celebrating the holiday with his family at the ranch in Crawford, Texas.

SANCHEZ: Last year he was in Iraq, remember?

O'BRIEN: That's right.

SANCHEZ: From this very day.

COSTELLO: That stirred up a bit of controversy, remember, with the stage shot with -- yes.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we were talking about that for a long time. We won't re -- we're going to move on to this Thanksgiving.


O'BRIEN: And I'm sure the White House will be glad about that.

Carol, thanks.

Well, for the thousands across the South, Thanksgiving is going to be spent picking through what's left of their homes. Severe storms tore from Texas to Georgia yesterday. In Louisiana, hundreds of homes were damaged by fierce winds. A tornado touched down just north of Slidell, knocking down trees, leaving thousands without power. And in Georgia, thunderstorms soaked highways and sent massive trees tumbling onto homes. Many houses and businesses were damaged by high winds.

In Alabama, a line of tornadoes flattened dozens of homes there. Eight tornado warnings were confirmed by the National Weather Service. One woman was killed and dozens of other people were hurt.

Chad Myers is taking a look at all of this for us this morning at the CNN Center with the very latest.

Hey -- Chad, good morning.


The same cold front that made all the severe weather down South now pushing through the East, with a strong line of weather moving through Binghamton, almost now up to about Wilkes-Burry/Scranton.

And if you think that the pilots have the day off, look at flight tracker behind me. Here's Pennsylvania. Here's New Jersey. You can hardly see it. All of the planes still in the sky today. Folks still trying to get to grandma's house or back home or whatever today. So, yes, the airlines and the airports are still busy today.


SANCHEZ: You know, a lot of American families are going to be missing somebody very special at the table this year, the second year now military men and women are going to be spending the holiday in Iraq. The 162nd Infantry, 2nd Battalion of the Oregon Army National Guard, for example, is in Baghdad.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is there live with the troops.

He sets the scene for us -- good morning, Karl.


It's 4:00 here now in Baghdad at the base where we are with this Oregon National Guard unit. For about the last hour now, soldiers have been filing in and getting their turkey dinner. Now, what's on the menu? They've actually drawn up a little menu here. Old-fashioned corn and potato soup. We've got the savory roasted turkey breast, Beef Wellington. There's even some New England seafood chowder here. It makes a vast difference from what's often on the normal menu, which are the MREs, the meals ready to eat.

And with us today, we've got Sergeant First Class Bruce Cutshall.

He hasn't had his dinner yet. I'm holding him back.

Who would you normally be spending your turkey dinner with, Bruce?

SGT. BRUCE CUTSHALL, OREGON ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: Oh, I'd definitely be with my wife, Ladona (ph), and my sons Jim and Jeremiah. And we'd probably get in the car and head straight to grandmother's house, over the river and through the woods. Or my father's place. Every place we'd go, it would be filled with love. And we would just eat, of course, until we're uncomfortable.

PENHAUL: And you've got a picture of your wife Ladona here, haven't you?

CUTSHALL: Yes, sir. Yes, sir, I do.

PENHAUL: Show us that, because Bruce earlier on, when asked about his wife, pulled out this photograph. Now, there's only half of it there.

Why is there only half a photo there, Bruce?

CUTSHALL: Yes, sir, the last night we were together at a pizza parlor, someone took this picture of us and had it developed immediately. And she cut it in half and I got the good half and she's keeping the other half in her wallet. And when we get back together again, we will tape it together, frame it and that'll be our moment.

PENHAUL: Now, the other thing Bruce was telling me, there's a real technique in the Army to having turkey dinner.

Just tell us about that briefly, Bruce.

CUTSHALL: Yes, sir, well, I'd have to offer it as my personal technique, because everyone has their own specialty. The trick is to get more food than you actually need, sir, and big mounds of it, and to kind of get the plate to tilt a little bit so all the juices sort of run together. And that way you get the flavors of all of them in every single bite. And that's just the best it can be.

PENHAUL: I think we're going to let Bruce go now, then, Rick, so he can get on with that technique and start tilting those juices.

SANCHEZ: We appreciate it.

Karl Penhaul there with Bruce.

We appreciate the information.

We do apologize for a little bit of the audio problem we had on that, but it is, as you understand, I'm sure, very far away -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, as we do every Thursday, an update now on events in the global war on terror. We're going on "Terror's Trail" to Belgium, where the European Union is taking steps to tackle terrorist activities and financing that's crossing its borders.

We're joined this morning by Gijs De Vries.

He is the E.U.'s counter-terror coordinator.

Nice to see you, sir.

Thanks for your time.


O'BRIEN: There's been a wave of attacks on mosques and churches and religious schools in the wake of the filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh.

What do you think is the most effective way to try to stem that?

DE VRIES: I think it's quite important that moderate Muslims and non-Muslims living in Europe should join forces against terrorism. That means that moderate Muslims must clearly speak out against the radical and murderous elements in their midst. But it also means that we must help them to integrate into European society so that they can find jobs and be a full part, as they should be, of Western societies.

O'BRIEN: You have said that Europe is both the target and a base for terror.

What's the best strategy, don't you think, to stem the flow of those who are being trained in Europe, as well?

DE VRIES: Well, I think we need to do a number of things simultaneously. There is not one silver bullet with which you can extinguish terrorism. But we in Europe feel that because terrorists need money, we must tackle the financing of terrorism, and that's what we're doing.

Terrorists need to travel. That's why we're making it harder for them to travel by protecting our passports better against fraud. Terrorists need to be brought to justice. That's why we have made it easier for them to be extended from one E.U. country to another, and we are working increasingly with developing countries to aid them to strengthen their counter-terrorism defenses, because we know we're living in a world where terrorism is a global phenomenon and either we have a global approach to fight it, or we will not be able to do so effectively.

O'BRIEN: Your post was created in the wake of the Madrid terror attacks. What have you accomplished over the last eight months that you think is the most important thing? And what do you think is the most important thing that's yet to do?

DE VRIES: Well, we have embarked on more than 100 measures that the member states, the 25 countries of the Union, are taking together. Within those 100, there are four main priorities. Financing is clearly among them. Our foreign affairs are very important to fight against terrorism. We're looking also at protecting our population better. We are increasing the cooperation among our security services.

But one of the most important things that remains to be done is to make sure that the decisions that are taken in Brussels are implemented quickly by our national governments. The speed of that implementation has to go up, because it's not enough to decide things in Brussels for 25 countries. We must also implement them on the ground. And I think we can do better in that respect.

O'BRIEN: Turkey, of course, trying to be a member of the E.U.

Do you think membership would help or hurt all your efforts?

DE VRIES: Well, regardless of whether Turkey, in a number of year's time, may qualify for membership, we have to increase cooperation with moderate countries around the world now, with Turkey, but also with countries like Indonesia, where the world's biggest Muslim population lives and which is, like Turkey, a functioning democracy, which shows quite clearly to Muslims and non-Muslims that Islam and democracy are not incompatible.

We have to build an alliance with moderate Muslims in the world. And that also means, of course, that we must work together to bring peace in the Middle East. And I very much hope, as does the European Union, that with the new U.S. administration, important strides can now be made to bring peace to that troubled part of the world, because that, too, will help in the fight against terrorism.

O'BRIEN: Gijs De Vries is the E.U.'s counter-terror coordinator.

Nice to see you, sir.

Thank you for your time, joining us from Brussels this morning -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: We have been seeing people walking behind us all morning long in preparations for the 78th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. If the weather holds up, the parade is set to start in about an hour. And right now things look pretty good out there. As far as the wind is concerned, though, that's a little different. It's a matter of degree. Anything above 34 miles per hour could spell problems.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live.

He's at the parade route and he's joining us now to let us know what's going on out there.

Set the scene -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nice to see you, too, Rick.

And things are looking really good out here right now. The winds have died down. The parade goers tell me it is a go. So we will be seeing the balloons. They are all blown up. The bands are in place.

I want you to take a look right now up Central Park West. You can see Tom the Turkey. He's already in place. He's ready to go. But we're still, as you said, just about an hour away from the start of the parade.

Even so, we've got a lot of kids out here along the parade route who are begging to be put on their parents' shoulders, who I'm sure by this point are getting a little tired.

I want to go right now to the Locke (ph) family. They came in from Cincinnati, Ohio.

We were talking about the balloons and the bands, but you were also saying this is really about building memories for you and your family, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and that's one of the main reasons we come out to the parade. It's not only for my kids, but my nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters. And it's a family tradition that we've started that we, I think we'll continue yearly.

CARROLL: Let's bring in one of your nieces here.

Alison (ph), how are you doing?


CARROLL: I know this isn't your first time out here.

What are you looking forward to?

ALISON: I'm looking forward to the balloons and the bands.

CARROLL: Any balloon in particular? ALISON: I just like all of them, because they're just so big.

CARROLL: Yes, they are big.

How about anyone else back here? Anyone have any balloon favorites they're looking for? How about you guys?


CARROLL: SpongeBob?




CARROLL: SpongeBob? Absolutely. It's sort of a contest between SpongeBob and Elmo. SpongeBob debuting at the parade this year. A little -- what did you say?


CARROLL: Who in the heck is Little Bill?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a Bill Cosby character.

CARROLL: Oh, I'm sorry. OK. All right, I'm learning. This is my first parade so I'm trying to get it down. All right, I know, I'm trying to get it down, folks.

All right, so they're looking forward to SpongeBob. There is also eight new floats that are debuting during this parade, as well, including the Barbie float. I heard some people talking about that.


CARROLL: Yes, Barbie. Barbie.

So we're going to be out here with all the highlights. We're going to be bringing it to you as it comes right by us.

Rick -- back to you.

SANCHEZ: Gee, you've just got to, you've got to know this stuff, Jason. I mean you've really got to work on it.

CARROLL: I know. I've got to get it down.

SANCHEZ: Hey, let me ask you, the balloon issue, we're OK? They said at 8:00 they were going to make a decision whether or not they'd fly them or not?


SANCHEZ: I just saw one behind you, so we're OK?

CARROLL: Yes. They've made a decision and so far it's a go. The balloons are blown up, they're ready to go, as I said. You know, the winds have died down at this point and the weather reports indicate if there are going to be strong winds, they're expecting those strong winds to come in later, possibly after the parade is over. And I know a lot of people out here are hoping that that's certainly the case and everything goes off without a hitch.

SANCHEZ: Jason Carroll there following it for us.

We thank you, Jason.

Have a wonderful time, my friend. CARROLL: All right.

SANCHEZ: So there you go. SpongeBob will be airborne.

O'BRIEN: Yes, clearly a huge favorite, obviously, for the crowd behind him.

Still to come this morning, keeping strong for their comrades. Injured soldiers here at home send their holiday wishes to Iraq.

SANCHEZ: Here's one for you. Can Republicans and Democrats get along at the Thanksgiving dinner table today or will they argue about our president? A holiday debate ahead.

O'BRIEN: And keep sending us your last minute turkey questions. The dean of Butterball University joining us all morning to answer them. You can e-mail us at

Stay with us.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: For U.S. soldiers on the battlefields of Iraq, spending the holiday halfway around the world cannot be easy. Nobody knows that better than injured soldiers who've come home and are still recovering at military hospitals.

Some took the time to send Thanksgiving wishes to their buddies still in Iraq.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr talked to a few at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This holiday season at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, long hours of therapy. But even now, these young warriors, all recently wounded, pause to send their Thanksgiving greetings back to their buddies still at the front.

SPC. JEFF COLE, 458TH COMBAT ENGINEER BATTALION: My name is Specialist Cole from the 458 Combat Engineer Battalion out of Camp Victory.

I want to say hello to my unit back there and say have a happy holidays while I'm still here at Walter Reed.

PFC JEFF SANDERS, 1ST BATTALION, 2ND MARINE REGIMENT: This is PFC Jeff Sanders, U.S. Marine Corps, 1-2 Bravo Company, out of Camp Lejeune. I'd like to let the guys know over there that I'm also feeling much better, I'm looking forward to getting out of here, getting a prosthesis, walking again and hopefully I'll be standing on two legs when you guys get back from Iraq. SPC. RAMON GUITARD, 659TH MAINTENANCE COMPANY: Hello. I'm Specialist Guitard, Ramon, from 659th Maintenance Company out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

I'd like to wish all of you guys a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, all right?

STARR: Their concern is for comrades still in harm's way.

SPC. JOEY BANEGAS, HHC 2ND BOTTOM LINE, 5TH INFANTRY: Hi, this is Joey Banegas with HHC 2-5 Infantry Division -- 25th Infantry Division. You guys take care and keep your heads up and watch out for yourselves out there. I'm feeling great and, you know, don't worry about me.

SGT. CARLA BEST, 659TH MAINTENANCE COMPANY: Sergeant Carla D. Best with the 659th Maintenance Company.

I'd like to say to all my soldiers out there in Iraq, Camp Victory sites annex, happy holidays, while here at Walter Reed, I'm starting my recovery. And I started physical therapy so I'm doing a lot better. And hopefully I'll be out by Christmastime.

STARR: There is humor.

CPL. ELI COOK, 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION: This is Corporal Eli Cook from 235 Infantry, the 25th Infantry Division.

I want to say happy holidays to all the soldiers back in Afghanistan. I want to say hi to Gustav (ph), Brown, Hanks, Sarmvee (ph), Sergeant Heywood (ph), Captain Charney (ph) and all you guys. I'm doing much better. I appreciate all the cards and phone calls and I want you to mail me my wallet.

STAFF SGT. JUANITA WILSON, 411TH ENGINEER COMBAT BATTALION: Staff Sergeant Wilson, Alpha Company 411th Engineer Combat Battalion.

I know mommy has been away from home for most of this year and part of last year, but I love you guys and thank you for sticking by me and hopefully we're a family again soon.

STARR: A holiday season of thoughts, thousands of miles away.

HM3, JOSE RAMOS, NAVY HOSPITAL CORPSMAN: My name is Jose Ramos, or HM3 Ramos. My platoon calls me Doc Ramos.

I know Wojick's (ph) back, but I want to say, you know, to Mardan (ph), Beefcake (ph) and Dinky (ph), make sure you guys are taking care of each other, as well as to Shepherdson, Caine (ph), and, you know, the rest of the guys in my platoon. I miss you guys every day and I wish I was still out there with you.

STARR: And a painful remembrance of a buddy not coming home for the holidays.

SPC. PHIL SORENSON, 141ST ENGINEER COMBAT BATTALION: This is Specialist Philip Sorenson, part of the Alpha Company, 141 Engineers, FOB O'Ryan (ph) in Iraq.

I'm really sorry about Cody (ph), guys. I think about him all the time. And his parents came down to visit me and it was awesome. I'm so glad I saw them. Hey, guys, I forgot to say happy holidays, Happy Thanksgiving.


O'BRIEN: An incredible piece by CNN's Barbara Starr at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

And we'll be right back.


CAPT. LARRY FIELDS: Hi, I'm Captain Larry Fields (ph). I'd like to say hi to my wife, Pam; my kids, Caleb (ph), Shenoah (ph) and Skyler (ph). I love you all. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and we'll see you soon.



SPC. ROBERT TRY: Hi. I'm Specialist Robert Try from Fort Lewis, Washington. I'd just like to say Happy Thanksgiving to my wife, Julie, and my two sons, Evan and Tyler. And I'll see you soon.



O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it might be still hours before that turkey goes into the oven and already you're sweating it. I know I am, because I'm cooking this year, the first time ever.


O'BRIEN: A 25 pound turkey, 15 people.

SANCHEZ: Is it still frozen, though?

O'BRIEN: No. My mother called me, though, to tell me to take it out of the freezer. Otherwise, yes, it would still be frozen.

SANCHEZ: Well, no need to get all preheated.

Our turkey expert is on call this morning.

Sherleen Clauson is her name and she's the dean at Butterball University, what else?

She's joining us again from Downer's Grove, Illinois. That's the home, by the way, of Butterball's turkey hotline.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's get to our first question, Sherleen. SHERLEEN CLAUSON, DEAN, BUTTERBALL UNIVERSITY: OK.

O'BRIEN: This one is from Marshall in Gualala, California: "Any tips when you're barbecuing a turkey?"

I didn't know you could barbecue a turkey.

SANCHEZ: That's new.

CLAUSON: Oh, you know, cooking a turkey on an outdoor grill is simply wonderful. And, of course, being in California, the weather probably isn't as bad as what it might be elsewhere in the country, so that will work fine. The real key is is to know your equipment. And if you're using a gas grill, it's going to be a little bit like doing it in the oven. And if you're using a charcoal grill, you want to make sure that you're using indirect heat for cooking the turkey.

So, the key is is to have the turkey completely thawed and do not put any stuffing in the turkey. And then make sure that you use a meat thermometer to make sure that the turkey is done.

On a grill, oftentimes the breast will take a little longer to get done, as opposed to the thigh.

SANCHEZ: All right, this one comes from Ron. Are you ready? Here's what he asks.


SANCHEZ: He just sent us this. He's dying to know. "I have a turkey that has been fully cooked. It's been in the refrigerator for two days. Do I need to put the turkey in the oven?"

I'm not sure where he's going with this. What's he saying, serve it cold?

O'BRIEN: If you want a warm dinner, yes.


What is the process, though, if you've had it in the refrigerator, you did it a couple of days ago because you didn't want to fool with it on this day? You wanted to make sure it was right. Now what do you do?

CLAUSON: Well, you know, some people are certainly enjoying the convenience of fully cooked turkeys. So the question might be is is it a fully cooked baked turkey or is it a fully cooked smoked turkey, because there are both kinds available?

With the baked turkey, you want to put it in a pan much like I have here and then you will just put it in a 325 oven and then put a small piece of foil over it when it's about half done.

If you have a smoked turkey, the goal is is just to warm it slightly. Smoked turkeys are really wonderful just warmed up a little bit and not too hot. So with a smoked turkey, again, put it in an open pan and then completely cover it with foil. And I like to recommend a temperature in the oven of 325 degrees. And depending on the size, you know, it might take one and a half to two hours.

O'BRIEN: All right, this one's from Bob in Blue Ridge, Virginia. He says this: "I've heard that if you cook a turkey in the pan with the turkey lying breast down, it actually makes the breast meat juicier."

Is that true? Is that a good idea?

CLAUSON: You know, a lot of people do like to cook the turkey that way. We find that it can be a problem in that the turkey is unstable in the pan and it can roll or tip to one side. And then if it's very large, you're trying to turn it over.

So we here at the Butterball turkey talk line like to recommend cooking the turkey breast side up. But then the real key to keeping it nice and tender and getting that tender juicy turkey is to remember to put the foil over the breast when it's about a half to two thirds done. And, again, you know, use the oven temperature at 325 degrees so that it doesn't be in too hot of an oven.

O'BRIEN: Sherleen...

CLAUSON: And then you should end up -- and, again, too, remember to use the meat thermometer. And that should be your assurance for a good, juicy turkey.

O'BRIEN: All right, Sherleen Clauson of Butterball University.

Sherleen, thank you.

We're going to continue to check in with you for some more advice. I've got some questions I've go to ask her, too.

CLAUSON: Very good.

SANCHEZ: Yes, like when do you cut it? How long does it have to sit out after you -- you probably know the answer to that, right?

O'BRIEN: I have no idea. I've never made a turkey. And, also, I need to know how long do I need to cook my 25 pound turkey for? But that's coming up. We'll get to that and Sherleen in just a little bit.

Still to come this morning, crisis in the Ukraine, where the streets are crowded once again as opposition grows to that disputed presidential election. That story is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


SANCHEZ: Wow! Look at that! All those people! Although there's still a little bit of room in the bleachers, right? That's Columbus Circle, just a couple of blocks from here. O'BRIEN: Right. Right on the edge of the park right there. Doesn't that look like an overcast, crummy day? But it looks like the floats are going to go, the balloons are going to go. That'll be nice.

SANCHEZ: Because it's not too windy. And that is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that those folks are going to be watching, just in case you don't know.

O'BRIEN: How would that be possible? But anyway, good morning.

Welcome back, everybody.

It's just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Everyone getting in on the turkey cooking this morning, even Dr. Gupta. He's got some tips to make sure that your cooking doesn't make anybody sick. I'd better take notes on that segment.

Sanjay has also brought in a turducken.

SANCHEZ: A turducken.

O'BRIEN: Turducken.

SANCHEZ: Turkey and duck and chicken.

O'BRIEN: Hmm, that sounds so tasty. So we're going to talk to Sanjay about that, just ahead.

SANCHEZ: You're so phony.

Also, mixing political parties with Thanksgiving Day parties. We're going to talk about keeping the peace when relatives from red states and blue states get together.

O'BRIEN: But first, let's go right to the headlines.

Carol Costello is in for us this morning -- Happy Thanksgiving Day.

You want some turducken? We've got some.

COSTELLO: Sure, I'm going to run right down.

SANCHEZ: She doesn't really like it, by the way.

O'BRIEN: Mmmm.

COSTELLO: Happy Thanksgiving right back at you. And to you, as well.

Stormy weather disrupting holiday travel for some across the United States. An early snowstorm hit Chicago yesterday, knocking out power and causing hundreds to be stranded at the airport. Snowy weather is expected to clear out later this morning. Chad tells us what's happening in other parts of the country. That's coming up momentarily.

U.S.-led forces in Iraq have made some more arrests south of Baghdad. Military officials say some 81 suspected insurgents are being held. It's the third day of Operation Plymouth Rock, the new major offensive in Iraq.

Congress is going after deadbeat diplomats. It seems foreign officials in New York have been ignoring their parking tickets. Hoping to get the diplomats to pay up, Congress has voted to cut aid to countries next year by 110 percent of the amount owed. New York stands to recover almost $200 million.

And let's head live to the parade route now. Grover and the Muppet gang and a bunch of other balloons are all pumped up. And as you can see, they are ready to go. Oh, that looks so awesome. Cops and spectators were out before sunrise to get a spot for the Macy's 78th Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's all set to start in Manhattan in just about one half hour -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Hey, thanks so much.

We appreciate it.

Boy, this is good. You ready? Because the country is so politically divided, we know that you're going to deal with something like this. So we're here to help. Millions of Americans are going to gather around the table today not only to eat, but to argue, as well. You know it. And they're joining us here now to talk about this very heated political climate that we live in.

From the left, Democratic strategist Karen Finney. And from the right, Republican strategist Joe Watkins.

Thanks, guys, for being here.


SANCHEZ: Joe, let me begin with you.

Anybody in your family who thinks you're as full of it as the turkey is?

WATKINS: Well, fortunately not in my immediate family. My wife, Stephanie, our kids, my son-in-law all Republicans. All supported President Bush, which is wonderful.

In the larger family, though, the in-laws and everyone else...

SANCHEZ: Those are the folks you're going to be with today, by the way.

WATKINS: Just, well, you want to make sure that if you're a Republican like I am, and there are Republicans and Democrats around the table, make sure a Republican is carving the turkey, so you can get the pieces that you want.

SANCHEZ: And so the right guy has the knife, right?

WATKINS: That's exactly right.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And the Democrats, we wait for the Republican to finish carving the turkey, and then we pass the stuffing. And we just keep going.

SANCHEZ: How about you, Karen? Anybody in your family who you're probably going to see some time today who you're going to completely disagree with?

FINNEY: Well, I hate -- of course I hate to admit it, but it's true, there are a few Republicans in my family and I'm sure they'll get a few digs in. But the good news is, thanks to the Republicans on the Hill, I've got some other issues that I can deflect to, so we don't have to talk about the election and the Democrats. We can talk about the disarray in the Republican Party.

SANCHEZ: Let me ask you this. Who should be more accommodating this year, the guys who won or the guys who are still licking their chops? That would be you, Karen.

FINNEY: Again, we deflect. We can, you know, look to what's going on on the Hill and sort of see the showdown that's going on between the conservatives and the moderates and, you know, just take a step back and enjoy the meal.

SANCHEZ: But are you going to be like that, like the turkey with the breast walking around, you know, I won, look at me? Are you going to brag this year?

WATKINS: Absolutely not.

SANCHEZ: Yes, right!

WATKINS: Humility, humility, humility.


WATKINS: It's so important. So important.

SANCHEZ: Is it probably a good thing this year, because this is going to happen, you know.


SANCHEZ: There are people who probably will argue.

WATKINS: Oh, I know. Oh, yes.

SANCHEZ: And then will not talk to each other and will not accept their phone calls for a while.

WATKINS: Yes, that's right. That's right.

SANCHEZ: There's that uncle from wherever, you know? WATKINS: Well, I just think, the most important thing, I think, is for us to realize, especially on a day like today, what it is we have in common and what we share together as Americans, not just as Republicans and Democrats. But we all share the fact that we live in the greatest country in the world. We're so blessed to live here. We're so blessed to have each other.

SANCHEZ: And it's OK to have different ideas about living in the best country in the world, right?

WATKINS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

FINNEY: Absolutely.


FINNEY: And also...

SANCHEZ: So do we have to accommodate? Do we have to -- you know, what? You may be right here, but she may be right there. It's not like Republicans have all the right answers or Democrats have all the right answers --


FINNEY: Sure. And I think...

SANCHEZ: ... or wrong answers or...

FINNEY: ... our opportunity today, as we come together around these tables, in all seriousness, is to talk about the things that we share.


FINNEY: And, what, you know, our gratitude, for example, for our troops. You know, they're out there protecting us.

SANCHEZ: But why is it so hard, in our country right now for people to say, you know, maybe the Republicans aren't so right about this fiscal thing. After all, the deficit's up to, you know, who knows what? And maybe socially the Democrats have made some mistakes.

Why can't we find that common ground? Why is it so important...

FINNEY: Well, we...

WATKINS: Well, we do. The great thing about our system is that it encourages dialogue. It encourages us to talk to each other and to dialogue.


WATKINS: And, you know, we have a system of government that has checks and balances, the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch. That's a great thing. It's great that we have this kind of dialogue.

We have challenges facing us, of course we do, as a country, as people. But the wonderful thing is that we're talking about it and we're trying to figure it out.

SANCHEZ: You're right. You're right, the key is to talk.


SANCHEZ: And too often you...

FINNEY: And you...

SANCHEZ: And there's nothing wrong with a good argument, right?

WATKINS: That's right.

FINNEY: And you've got all day to talk with your family about it now and start to work some of these issues out.

SANCHEZ: Rejoice in it.

FINNEY: Excellent.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, guys.

We certainly appreciate it.

Great stuff.

WATKINS: Thanks for having us.

SANCHEZ: Soledad -- back over to you.

O'BRIEN: All right, thanks, Rick.

The run-up in the Ukrainian presidential election will take his case to the country's supreme court. This morning, Russia's Interfax News Agency reports that Viktor Yushchenko wants the results overturned on the grounds of fraud. Yushchenko is calling for a nationwide strike. He disputes the win by Moscow-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovich.

Meanwhile, thousands of opposition supporters spent a fourth night protesting in frigid temperatures in Kiev. They are angrily denouncing the victory claimed by Yanukovich.

Time to check back in on the weather now.

Chad Myers once again at the CNN Center with the latest for us -- hello, Chad.

What are you looking at?

MYERS: The cold air coming right in time for Thanksgiving, making those tailgaters in Detroit, probably, for today's football game, feel right at home.


O'BRIEN: All right, Rick, thanks.



O'BRIEN: Chad, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Rick. Bill.

O'BRIEN: You're Rick.


O'BRIEN: You know what? I answered everything. It's like you, hey, whatever.

SANCHEZ: She's been cooking for days. She can think of nothing else.

O'BRIEN: I'm focusing on my turkey, Chad. I can't focus on everything. All right, Chad, thanks.

MYERS: You're welcome.

SANCHEZ: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, so you can't decide between a turkey, a duck or a chicken, right? Look at this. You know what that is, folks? That is a turducken.

O'BRIEN: All of the above. Isn't that handy?


O'BRIEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta's got a look at that.

Plus, don't panic. The dean of Butterball University joins us, answering your questions about your turkey. That's up next on AMERICAN MORNING.



DAVID CRUZ: Hi. I'm Specialist David Cruz (ph) from Fresno, California.

I just want to wish my family a Happy Thanksgiving. I would like to say, tell my wife I love her and my kids, Natalie and Mitchell, I love you, too. Hope to see you soon.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PVT. PAUL ST. GERMAINE: Hello. I'm Private Paul St. Germaine (ph) from Somerset, Massachusetts.

I want to say hello to my family and friends back home. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. I'll see you soon.


O'BRIEN: Nice to hear from the troops this time of year.

We are "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning about a little triple threat for Thanksgiving. Not turkey, not duck, not chicken, but all of the above.

Sanjay also has some healthy advice on how you can eat a turducken.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that's a triple treat. I'm not sure about the rest.

SANCHEZ: How did they get this to breed? I mean how do you get three, you know...

O'BRIEN: Right. Is it the cross breeding...


GUPTA: Let's back up one second. This is a turducken, turducken. What you do is you take a chicken...


GUPTA: You put it inside the duck and then you put that all inside the turkey. These are three distinct animals, let's just get that straight.

O'BRIEN: I thought they crossbred like a turkey and a chicken.

SANCHEZ: Oh, so did I.

GUPTA: All right, good, well, we all learned something on that.

O'BRIEN: I'm glad you did, too, because...

SANCHEZ: The crew's falling down laughing in back of us here but we're...

O'BRIEN: Oh, I feel so much better about it. OK.

SANCHEZ: So really it's just the stuffing that's...

GUPTA: Does it look more appetizing now?


SANCHEZ: Right. Right. O'BRIEN: It does.

GUPTA: All the bones are removed from the two birds, the chicken and the duck. And then you put the chicken inside the duck inside the turkey. This has been around for some time now. We've talked to several chefs about this around the country. There's a guy, Paul Prudhomme. He's down in Louisiana. He says down in the 1960s they were doing this. The process is called engastration. That's not a very appetizing term for Thanksgiving, but an important one because basically what that means is that you're actually stuffing one animal inside the other. And that process actually probably dates back to the Middle Ages.

A 15 pounder the most common size sold, about $65 plus shipping and handling.

O'BRIEN: Wow, that's expensive.

GUPTA: Yes, it is expensive. The one we have here is actually 23 pounds altogether, all three foul together.

O'BRIEN: I'm taking that home today.

GUPTA: Now you suddenly like it.

O'BRIEN: In case my turkey doesn't work out. I'm going to have the turducken.

GUPTA: It serves about 42 people.


SANCHEZ: Got you covered.

GUPTA: And Rick.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and me, right. Yes, but I'm first.

GUPTA: That's right.

O'BRIEN: But how do you cook that? I mean because I've got to imagine the chicken only needs to cook for 90 minutes, right? The duck is sort of the same. The turkey, a lot more.

GUPTA: Yes, it comes with instructions, luckily, because we had to look at those, as well. But basically the whole thing is already put together for you. And you have to cook it very similar to the way that you actually cook a turkey.

SANCHEZ: That's what it looks like.

GUPTA: Take a look at the inside there, Soledad. See, one inside -- what it is, is you put the chicken and then you put some stuffing, then the duck, then some more stuffing, and then the turkey. It's actually quite good. I've never tried it, but that's what people have told me. And there is a healthy way to eat this, as well. We've got to get this in here, even though it's Thanksgiving. You've got to think about the healthy way to eat these sorts of foods.

If you're going to get a turducken, for example, eight ounce turducken, nine grams of fat, 380 calories, the duck, by far, the worst part of this thing.

O'BRIEN: Oh, man, like that.

GUPTA: Ten times more fat than turkey, 10 times.


GUPTA: So if you can avoid that altogether, go easy on the stuffing, as well. White meat with no skin tonight. That would be the message.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I know.

O'BRIEN: Yum, white meat with no skin, no gravy, no stuffing, mmmmm.

SANCHEZ: You did say gastration? Is that what it's called?

GUPTA: Engastration.

SANCHEZ: Engastration.

GUPTA: That's what the term is.

SANCHEZ: As opposed to encastration. That would be a completely different thing.

GUPTA: Even less appetizing.

O'BRIEN: Oh, OK. Stop, the two of you. No. Stop. Stop right there.

SANCHEZ: Enough of that.

GUPTA: All right, we're on live television.

O'BRIEN: We're moving on.

Do you have a question about...

GUPTA: We're going to keep the turducken around. It will serve 42 people so all of the people here could possibly have a little of this later on.

O'BRIEN: I really would like to know if it's yummy or not, because when I thought it was crossbred, it didn't look -- seem so appetizing. But now maybe it's good.

GUPTA: You guys really thought that?

O'BRIEN: I did.

SANCHEZ: Turducken.

O'BRIEN: It's why I'm not a doctor today, or a biologist.

GUPTA: They're gaining in popularity today.

O'BRIEN: I read off a prompter and that's the way we like it.

All right, if you've got a question about how to get your Thanksgiving bird just right, you can send us an e-mail or, hey, your turducken. Why not? Sanjay is an expert now. You can e-mail us at

SANCHEZ: Have we got the person for you. Sherleen Clauson, she's the dean of Butterball University. She's going to be joining us.

Sherleen, we want to share something with you first, though, since you take questions from people who are confused on days like this, like the rest of us. Last nigh David Letterman did his Top Ten List.

Did you ever watch David Letterman? Do you know how he does that Top Ten thing?

CLAUSON: Oh, I have. I have.

SANCHEZ: His Top Ten thing last night was about what questions you would ask the Butterball turkey hot line, in fact.

Here's a sampling.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: So here we go, number 10. If I put my phone in the turkey, can you tell me if it's done? Number nine, how can I be sure it's dead? Number eight, transfer me to the gravy department. Number seven, given the current market, am I better off renting a turkey? Number six, can I buy an extended warranty for my turkey? Number five, I have never cooked a turkey before. Is it like cooking a raccoon? Number four, when will the 2005 models be released? Number three, did you know your telephone number is one off from the gutter ball bowling hot line? Number two, what's the best kind of stuffing to shoot from a cannon? And the number one question received by the Butterball turkey hotline, Martha here, how big a turkey should I get for 1,500 hungry female cons?


O'BRIEN: You knew he was going to work Martha into that. That was funny.

SANCHEZ: What do you think, Sherleen? Pretty good, huh?

CLAUSON: Yes, it was.

SANCHEZ: All right, we've got some questions for you now.

O'BRIEN: OK, here's a question for you.


O'BRIEN: This is from Howard: "I cooked my turkey yesterday to avoid having to slice it when it's hot. How do you best slice it and warm it for serving today?"

CLAUSON: Well, OK. You know, the very best, when you cook the turkey ahead of time is is to let it cool an hour, slice it so it cools quickly the day before. We just hope that when he cooked it yesterday that he quickly got it cooled down. So now, how to carve the turkey. He's going to want to cut the skin between the leg and the body and then that will free the leg and the thigh from the turkey. And then you will make a long, horizontal cut just above the wing. And then as you slice the breast, the slices of the breast will fall free. And then he wants to just overlap those breast slices in a shallow roasting pan. He can take the meat off of the drumstick and the thigh, if he would like. And then just sprinkle it with a little chicken broth, cover it with foil and put it in a 350 degree oven.

It will probably take around 35 minutes for it to heat. And, again, it would be good to use a meat thermometer to make sure that it's up to 150, 160 degrees.

SANCHEZ: Here's a question from Tommy. And I guess this one has to do as much about health as culinary expertise. He says: "After my turkey is baked, how long can it sit at room temperature before refrigeration?"

CLAUSON: Well, that's a very good question, because we do answer a lot of food safety questions. The key to remember is always two hours. A turkey, whether it's raw, whether it's cooked, should always be out no more than two hours. So, after the turkey is cooked, you want to let it stand and then hopefully everyone's going to eat it and enjoy it. And then those leftovers take the meat off of the bone, cool them quickly, within -- and get them back in the refrigerator within two hours.

SANCHEZ: Well, thank you, Sherleen.

We certainly appreciate the information.

O'BRIEN: Great advice.

Yes, all right, Sherleen, we'll continue to check in with you throughout the morning.

CLAUSON: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

Appreciate it.

Still to come this morning, like all that tension and backstabbing with that holiday feast? Well, a little helping of the Toure' experience is exactly what you need. That's coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Toure's' up.


O'BRIEN: You know, it is. It's like we're finally rocking out.

TOURE': I know.

O'BRIEN: Almost two hours into the broadcast.

TOURE': I know.

SANCHEZ: Only when Toure' shows up, though, right?

O'BRIEN: You know Jack is not going to be working today, because that man has more holidays than anybody.

TOURE': But he's here.

O'BRIEN: But Toure' has got the "Toure' Experience."


TOURE': I do.

How are you?

O'BRIEN: Never better.

TOURE': Happy Thanksgiving to you.

O'BRIEN: And likewise.

TOURE': What's happy about it? Some say the holidays are a fun time to bond with family. But I don't know who those freaks are. For many of us, spending time with family means tension, backstabbing, fighting, lying, and, of course, putting up with people you don't like. But I've got a few tips to help you have a happier Thanksgiving.

Number one, talk politics. Always a good conservative sparker.

Number two, no one likes to be wrong, so if you are, just don't admit it.

Number three, holidays are for sharing. This is always a good time to ask for money or, better, to ask for money back. Number four, there are no mind readers. If someone has upset you this year, now is the time to get it off your chest. Holding it in and letting it fester, bad for everybody.

Number five, today's the first day of the rest of your life. So what your uncle always sits at the head of the table? Tradition smanition. This year it's your turn. Insist on it.

Number six, don't worry about what others think of you. Who knows the aunt who gets off in your Kool-Aid about why you're not married yet, why you haven't had children yet, why you're getting divorced. Tell her politely what you think of me is none of my business.

Number seven, you're either part of the problem or part of the solution. In other words, if you don't talk, you can't fight. Don't be afraid to give everybody the silent treatment if need be.

And number eight, if or when an argument does break out, keep this in mind. You can either win the fight or have a happy Thanksgiving. Of course, it always feels better to win.

O'BRIEN: Toure' is putting the fun in dysfunctional this morning.

OK, I feel prepared to take on my family now. Thanks, Toure', I think.

TOURE': My god, and your huge brood, it's going to be a madhouse this year.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we'll (UNINTELLIGIBLE). No, 15 people.

TOURE': Fifteen! My god.

O'BRIEN: But you know what? We follow all those rules -- don't hold it in.

TOURE': Don't hold it in.

O'BRIEN: We're Cuban. Don't hold it in. You just go ahead and get that off your chest.

TOURE': Let it fly.

SANCHEZ: What is a discussion if it's not political? What are you talking about?

TOURE': Exactly.

O'BRIEN: And even if it happened 23 years ago, it's still right to bring it up.


TOURE': Exactly. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

Still ahead this morning, weather is causing lots of chaos for countless holiday travels. We're going to check in on the forecast ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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