Return to Transcripts main page


Truce Holding Between Israel, Hamas; Still Reeling From Hurricane Sandy; Interview with Palestinian National Authority Spokeswoman Nour Odeh; Thanksgiving in Afghanistan; NYC's Thanksgiving Day Parade; Black Friday in America

Aired November 22, 2012 - 08:00   ET


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. It's 8:00 straight up in the East. Happy Thanksgiving. I'm Alina Cho.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Soledad has the day off.

Our STARTING POINT this morning: The fragile cease-fire in the Middle East. Celebrations amid the relative calm this morning. But really the big question here: how long will the calm last?

CHO: Also, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice speaking out and defending herself over statements she made after the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi.

BALDWIN: Plus, a turkey day tradition, the Macy's Day parade, stepping off in just about an hour from now in New York City. We are live on the streets amid all the holiday excitement.

CHO: You can feel it building, even right here in the studios.

November 22nd, Thanksgiving Day. A special edition of STARTING POINT begins right now.


CHO: And our STARTING POINT: 18 hours and counting, the cease-fire in Israel and Gaza still intact this morning. Israel now beginning to pull back some of its troops from the Gaza border. The two sides said to begin more negotiations later today if that cease-fire holds.

Meanwhile, in Gaza City, where so much blood spilled over the last eight days, Palestinians are celebrating in the streets.

BALDWIN: The cease-fire deal was largely brokered over the phone. President Obama and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi reportedly making a real connection to stop the bloodshed.

We want to begin our coverage this morning here with Arwa Damon. She's live in Gaza City.

And, Arwa, what can you tell me about this phone call between the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and one of the leaders of Hamas? ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it most certainly is something of a warming of relations between the two specific details at this point not entirely clear. But we do know that there just seems to be this effort to try to unify the various Palestinian political bodies, given how they divided they have been in the past. Many saying that the very least at this point in time, they do need to be presenting more of a united front moving forward, because Palestinians have been through this cycle of violence, be it in Gaza or in the West Bank or in other places with Israel in the past.

What people really want to try to find is some sort of long-term solution. We do right now have this short-term solution, this cease- fire that so far has been holding up until now. But many people do realize that unless there is a viable long-term agreement between these two entities, they're only going to have to relive the cycle of violence once again.

For the first time since all of this began, we are seeing people out in the streets of Gaza. Twenty-four hours ago, the roads below us were completely deserted, people were staying indoors, fearful, not entirely sure of where the next Israeli strike would land. They're out and about.

Hamas declaring this a victory saying they withstood Israeli aggression. People out celebrating the fact that on the one hand -- yes, it was a victory, yes, they do feel as if they did come out on top at the end of the day, despite all the bloodshed but also out simply because they can go out, having spent so much time since this all began, cooped up indoors.

BALDWIN: Arwa Damon, thank you.

We're watching those negotiations as they kick off in a matter of hours, another round here for Middle East peace.

CHO: Senior political leader of Hamas is crediting the unity of Arab and Muslim leaders for that cease-fire in Gaza. Ismael Haniyeh says that's what's forced the Israelis to agree to that truce.

I want to bring in now, Naftali Bennett. He is the former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the current chairman of the Jewish Home Israeli Political Party. He joins us this morning from Tel Aviv.

Mr. Bennett, good morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

I want to get straight to this news that just came into our newsroom, which is this. That Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a phone call this morning to the Hamas premier, congratulated him on what he calls his victory and offered condolences for the martyrs.

I'm just wondering what your response is to that.

NAFTALI BENNETT, LEADER, JEWISH HOME PARTY: Well, you know, at Israel south, we have a terror state. The Gaza Strip is an independent Palestinian state but a terror state. From the very day we handed over 100 percent of Gaza to the Palestinians, 10 days later, they began shooting missiles at us.

At the end of the day, we're going to have to dismantle this terror state. Imagine you had a small al Qaeda state right next to the United States, shooting missiles at you. You can't talk to them. You have to defeat terror. After we defeat terror, I certainly would engage in long-term peace talks.

But there first has to be a step of dismantling this terror state that's right next to us.

CHO: That doesn't sound very hopeful. You know, I have to say, many of the smart minds we've spoken to have said that they believe that this cease-fire will hold. Of course, the big question is, will a broader peace agreement take hold?

And so, I ask you this. What is it going to take? Egypt was critical, as you know, in brokering this deal. Is Egypt going to have to remain a permanent mediator as talks continue?

BENNETT: Well, I think Egypt has an Islamic regime also, but obviously they were mediators here in this case. But we have to define the situation. We're not talking about a state that is looking for long- term peace. We're talking to a state that has decided deliberately to wipe us out.

Now, yes, I'm not always the bearer of good news. I want peace more than anyone. I'm a major in reserves that will have to fight in a war if, God forbid, we have to fight it.

But, you know, the United States was determined to wipe out al Qaeda and eliminate Osama bin Laden. This is the exact same situation. We're facing a terrorist organization, not a peaceful nation.

We have to dismantle terror. Only then can we be able to talk to the Palestinians. I'm actually very optimistic about it. Unfortunately, it didn't happen in this round. It will happen probably in the next round.

CHO: But Palestinians who spoke to our Wolf Blitzer, who is in the region right now, say they feel as though they're in a prison. At the 24-hour mark when the borders into Gaza reopen, they believe it's not a real reopening, that it will open just a sliver.

I guess I'm curious to know, you know, from your side, you have to give a little in order to get what some want, which is a two-state solution. So what is Israel willing to give?

BENNETT: I don't know why there's something to be given. I don't recall that on September 12th the United States said we have to give something to al Qaeda to appease them.

No. There's right and wrong. There's one side is shooting missile over 1,200 missiles on Israel's cities and without any provocation. Again, I'll be very clear. We gave 100 percent of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. All borders were open. They could have turned it into the Singapore of the Middle East.

They chose to turn it into a Taliban-type state. There's no women's rights, no gays right, nothing. It's a dictatorship of the most radical nature.

But worse than that, they decided to begin shooting missiles at us. Why do I have to give them something? The only thing I have to give them is eradicate terror from within. Once that happens -- I'm not saying it's going to be easy but good news of this week is the Israeli nation showed that it's got strong resiliency, vis-a-vis this terror.

We're willing to defend ourselves. So, make no mistake -- I know they're celebrating in Gaza but they're making a big mistake. We've been here thousands of years. We've seen Romans, and Greeks, British, Turks. Now, we see Hamas.

We're here to stay. We want peace with our neighbors, make no mistake, but we cannot engage in discussions with people who are shooting own my kids day in, day out. It's two steps solution. First, eradicate terror. And then, second, talk to our neighbors.

CHO: Tough words from Naftali Bennett, you're former chief of staff to Benjamin Netanyahu -- Mr. Bennett, we thank you for joining us.

BALDWIN: Eight minutes past the hour here.

Susan Rice is speaking out, explaining the comments that she made in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. You know, she initially suggested the attacks were sparked by protests over that anti-Muslim film. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. insisting she was relying solely on information provided by U.S. intelligence agencies and that she made it clear at the time she was -- the information was preliminary.

And she had this to say to one of her loudest critics.


SUSAN RICE, U.N. AMBASSADOR: I have great respect for Senator McCain and his service to our country. I always have. And I always will. I do think that some of the statements he made about me have been unfounded, but I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him.


BALDWIN: Rice went on to say she believes everyone, especially intelligence officials, was working in good faith to provide the American people the best possible assessment of the events of Benghazi.

CHO: He never campaigned but still won re-election for a 10th term in a landslide. And now, just weeks later, Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is resigning, citing concerns for his health. Jackson is being treated for bipolar disorder. He's also the target of FBI and ethics committee investigations over possible misuse of campaign funds.

BALDWIN: This morning, President Obama delivering his annual Thanksgiving address and really giving thanks for the blessings really we all share as Americans.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanksgiving is a chance to put it all in perspective, to remember that despite our differences, we are and always will be Americans first and foremost. Today, we give thanks for blessings that are all too rare in this world -- the ability to spend time with the ones we love, to say what we want, to worship as we please, to know that there are brave men and women defending our freedom around the globe. And to look our children in the eye and to tell them here in America, no dream is too big if they're willing to work for it.


BALDWIN: The president also expressing his gratitude to FEMA, the first responders and all the volunteers who have come to the aid of the victims of superstorm Sandy.

CHO: It's 11 minutes after the hour.

I want to get to Thanksgiving Day forecast. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider with a look at that.

It's looking pretty good out there, isn't it, Bonnie?


We are looking at some weather. The only troubled spots I want to highlight across the plains states so really even into the Midwest, we're looking at windy weather from Bismarck, all the way to Minneapolis.

And also, if you're driving, be careful this morning in Memphis, or Paducah, Kentucky. You are facing low clouds. That holds true for Houston, Beaumont area into Texas.

Now all these regions will impact your air travel. We have no delays right now. But due to the fog and the strong winds and even low clouds in Seattle, we may see some delays.

Here is where we're not going to have any trouble. Look at this -- New York City looking terrific for the parade this morning, 44 degrees. Now, temperatures will warm up into the 50s. But really looking nice -- bright sunshine, clear skies, looking fantastic.

If you're extending your holiday across the Northeast, temperatures will get cooler by Sunday. But overall, this is going to be a very mild Thanksgiving with temperatures above normal in so much of the country. This whole region, certainly, Kansas City even into Dallas, temperatures are 10 to 20 degrees above normal.

So a nice, warm Thanksgiving. Before you know it, it will be December. We'll be talking about much different weather. So, enjoy it while you can.

BALDWIN: Christmas trees abound, I've noticed, in Atlanta. It's time. This year has flown by. But that's another story.

Bonnie, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: Still ahead here this morning on STARTING POINT: the lines, they are already forming.

CHO: Oh, boy.

BALDWIN: Oh, boy, oh, boy. But is it really the day for the best, best deals? Black Friday, fact or fiction? We'll take a close.

CHO: I think it's more like (INAUDIBLE).

Also New York City helping some victims of Sandy give thanks. We're going to go live to Staten Island where more relief is on the way.

You're watching STARTING POINT.


BALDWIN: Hey, guess what. Black Friday, not just on Friday anymore. A lot of stores are opening their doors at eight o'clock tonight. Some are even open right now. Some have been open for hours already. And really, it should come as no surprise that many shoppers have been camping out for days.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here 24/7, basically, and then, he goes to work and I'm stuck here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody comes up here and says what are you guys doing?





BALDWIN: -- shoppers are proud of what they do, sitting outside these stores. And you know, some of these serious bargain hunters are there. I want to bring in Marshal Cohen. He keeps a close eye on the retail industry. He's the chief industry analyst for the NPD Group. Marshall, good morning.


BALDWIN: You've been up for hours. You were at K-Mart at 5:00 this morning.

COHEN: If the stores are open, I'm there when the consumers are waiting in line to get in.

BALDWIN: So, the economy is improving, albeit slowly. How much are we going to hear the cha-ching this weekend?

COHEN: This year, it's really about front loading. So, you're going to hear that this was a really good Black Friday because they extended the hours. They've got new consumers who are shopping, because not everybody is a sporting shopper who gets up at 3:00 or 4:00 am.

BALDWIN: Sporting shopper.

COHEN: Sporting shopper. That's a nice way of saying those fanatics who go out. Those crazy people who go out those crazy hours. But it's really about recognizing that they've been able to expand that to a whole new crop of shoppers who are going to be shopping later today.

BALDWIN: So, they're expanding it than compare this year's spending to last year.

COHEN: Well, it doesn't necessarily mean, do you have more relatives just because the stores open more hours? Do you have more money in your pocket just because there are more hours? What's going to happen is consumers are going to take advantage of some of the really good deals upfront, and then, we're going to go into that two-week low right after the Black Friday weekend.

And, you know, that low is going to be even bigger. So, it's going to be higher early and a lower low, and then, we're going to go back to that craziness that happens at the last minute.

BALDWIN: So, you mentioned the big deals, right, that get you in the door, the door buster deals, I guess, is they're called, but I want to read something for you, Marshal, that the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting, quote, "An analysis of this year's most touted Black Friday deals by "The Wall Street Journal" and Price Data Firm Decide Inc found that many of the bargains advertises door busters were available at lower price, at other times of the year, sometimes, even at the same retailer."

So, is this just basically a ploy to get people out of the door?

COHEN: Well, what they say is true. You can get better deals later on. However, there is a caveat.


COHEN: You have to be willing to be flexible.

BALDWIN: How do you mean?

COHEN: If you go in early now, at this time of the year, you'll have a full choice of sizes, sizes, models. So, if you have something specific that you have in mind, you want to buy it a little bit early. You may get a better deal later, but you're going to have to be flexible.

BALDWIN: So then, what are the items I should, you know, -- whether I'm going to be a sporting shopper or just go this weekend, what should I be buying this weekend versus some other time?

COHEN: This weekend, fashion items are the ones that you really want to get your hands on, because those are the ones that will run out of colors and key sizes.

BALDWIN: Like what, clothes, shoes?

COHEN: It could be some out to wear (ph) items. It could be sweaters and certain luxury items. It could be fashion accessories. And the other big one that nobody talks about at holiday time for the last two or three years has been footwear. So, one of the most often items now added to the list, made it to the top ten desired gifts to get.

So, you know, if one of your children or you want some footwear, think about it. They're going to run out of sizes right away. So, athletic shoes, running shoes, and even boots are the big ones.

BALDWIN: Sixty seconds. Why shouldn't I just do all this online?

COHEN: Well, you can do it online, but the stores want to drive you into the stores, because it's all part of the fever pitch. So, a lot of times they'll offer even better deals, better incentives, and they'll do these flash sales that are going on in the stores. So, you can actually get better deals.

But, if you miss out, fear not. You know, there's plenty of other opportunities to get really good deals throughout the rest of the month.

BALDWIN: And the mood inside K-Mart three hours ago was --

COHEN: Optimistic. Consumers are pretty excited about taking advantage of the deals.

BALDWIN: Marshal Cohen, author of "Buy Me!" Marshal, thank you.

COHEN: Pleasure.

BALDWIN: Happy shopping. Happy shopping.

Still ahead this morning here on STARTING POINT, Alina, to you.

CHO: All right. thank you.

After the storm, New Yorkers helping victims of Sandy celebrate Thanksgiving. We will take you live to one of the hard-hit areas getting some much-needed holiday cheer. That's next.


CHO: Markets are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. The Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 all closing higher yesterday. Stocks hitting a two-week high on the strength of that ceasefire in announcement in Gaza and Israel.

BALDWIN: Well, it looks like the Hostess-Twinkie era is over. The company and its workers' union just couldn't make a deal. Now, Hostess can sell off its bakeries, its brands and recipes. About 15,000 people, though, could soon lose their jobs in the company. As far as the snacks like your Twinkies and your Ho-Hos, you will probably see them again just under a different brand name.

CHO: I still have hope.

The National Transportation Safety Board is kicking its Blackberries to the curb. Employees, get this, will now use the Apple iPhone 5 with Verizon instead. Agency had some choice parting words for Blackberry saying they've, quote, "been failing both at inopportune times and an unacceptable rate," end quote. Company that makes Blackberry had no comment.

BALDWIN: And while most of us enjoy family and, perhaps, a little football and great food on this Thanksgiving Day, it is so important to remember the thousands of Americans who are still reeling from superstorm Sandy. In New York, in fact, Staten Islanders who lost their homes and have no place to go are getting a special delivery today.

The feast is coming to them by the truckload. Deborah Feyerick is live for us this morning in Staten Island. Deb, tell me about this turkey burger block party.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really is. It's sort of this big, moveable feast. And they're going to have it on all different blocks here throughout Staten Island. These are some of the volunteers that have come out this morning, and you can see right now they're getting their marching orders.

They're going to be told where they're going, the areas that they're going to be talking to, what they can expect. Over here, if you see, Brooke, all these of trucks. They've got 20 of them. And all 20 of those trucks, they are packed with supplies. And it's not just food.

There are turkey burgers, there are buns, there are pies, and water and chips, cookies. Everything that you would need for a particular party. But also, there are supplies. There are supplies like shovels and wheelbarrows. Tim Lucas, Pastor Tim Lucas is head of The Liquid Church. You were the ones who organized this whole thing. Tell me, what is -- this is to put compassion into action. Talk to me about that.

TIM LUCAS, PASTOR, THE LIQUID CHURCH: Absolutely. We wanted to put our faith in action on Thanksgiving and give our neighbors here in Staten Island -- we're from New Jersey, but we're partnering with local Staten Island churches, New Hope, Oasis, Salem, We Cares (ph) from Maryland. And together, we're here to serve the people and feed them, hopefully.

FEYERICK: Which is amazing, because, Brooke, so many people did not even think about Thanksgiving, not in this particular area. They had no idea how they were going to get there. And so, you decided that instead of having them go some place, you decided to bring it to them?

LUCAS: Yes. We're taking the party to the people. So, we're going mobile. We've got 22 vans that we're sending out to host block parties. So, there (ph) are two things. We're going to clean out people's homes. We've got vans full of shovels and crowbars. We're going to be ripping out drywall, ripping up carpet, mucking out homes. But then once we empty their homes, we're going to hopefully -- going to fill their bellies. We've got pies, we've got pumpkin pies, we have grills, and we're going to be mashing up turkey burgers and sausages. So, we're going to have these grills --

FEYERICK: And this is -- yes, and I want to talk about these grills, because these grills were donated, but they're going to be grilling them, but then, they're going to leave the grills in the neighborhood so that people, for example, who are living in home, homes that don't have electricity, they can actually keep the grills and they then become the focal point.

And this is Tara Leahy, and I do want to introduce you, because you decided to take your girls out here, just as Pastor Tim did with his daughter, to volunteer on this day. Why didn't you stay home?

TARA LEAHY, VOLUNTEER ORGANIZER: You know, we did a similar thing last year with Irene down in Manville. And just the experience of serving together as a family was so amazing, to see the girls just rally around these people and just want to do anything that they could.

So, we just thought, you know what, Thanksgiving, it's a day of Thanksgiving. What better way to be thankful than to give back for all we've been given? We just feel so bad for these people. We just want to do anything we can.

FEYERICK: All right. Tara Leahy, Pastor Tim Lucas, and so, you see, they really are putting sort of their words into action, just trying to help people who've lost so much and bring a little bit of warmth and a little bit of maybe rebuilding on this day of thanks -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: And some delicious food and mighty delicious pumpkin pie. Deb, thank you so much. What a great effort there in Staten Island.

CHO: Great way to spend your Thanksgiving, too.


CHO: Ahead on STARTING POINT, could there be a lasting deal between Israel and Gaza? We will speak with the spokeswoman for the Palestinian national authority, next. Then later, better grab a seat now. Crowds are gathering. We are live from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It starts in about half an hour. You're watching STARTING POINT.


BALDWIN: That looks delicious.


CHO: You've had a little cake. I've had a little stuffing. It's 8:30 in the morning on the east coast. Welcome back to a special Thanksgiving Day edition of STARTING POINT. We're so glad you're with us, everybody. I'm Alina Cho.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Good to be with you.

A fragile cease fire is holding at this hour between Israel and Hamas.

CHO: Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group, controls Gaza. Remember, Palestinian national authority, the much more moderate group favored by the U.S. controls the West Bank. But the Palestinian authority was largely sidelined in this conflict and Hamas appears to have strengthened its in negotiations.

Right now I want to bring in Nour Odeh. She's the spokeswoman for the Palestinian National Authority. Miss Odeh, thank you for joining us. The cease fire has been in place about 18-and-a-half hours. In a few hours at the 24-hour mark, the border crossings into Gaza will reopen and the negotiations will continue. I'm curious from your standpoint, what are you looking for as we look ahead?

NOUR ODEH, SPOKESWOMAN, PALESTINIAN NATIONAL AUTHORITY: First of all, thank you for having me. The number one priority for the Palestinian government and the Palestinian leadership is that the assault has stopped. The killing has stopped and whoa don't have to mourn the loss of any more of our children. Over 30 of them have been killed over the past eight years of -- eight days, sorry, of Israeli assault.

The priority now for Palestinians, all of them regardless of what faction they belong to, is to consecrate national unity. There have been many phone calls and dialogue between the leaders of the various factions to make sure that the spirit of unity is consolidated and national reconciliation agreement is entrenched and translated into actions really so that we don't have to face another crisis like this ever again while we're not united.

CHO: You talk about unity, and yet the Palestinian Authority, as you know, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas largely on the fringe of these negotiations. It really took Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make Abbas visible in this process. What does that say about your negotiation power looking ahead?

ODEH: Well, I mean, that's one way of putting it, if you are going to consider from the media coverage perspective. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was in touch with the Egyptian president who was brokering these negotiations and in close leaders with Hamas and Islamic jihad. He was in direct contact and being consulted on the details of this agreement, which we have to remember effects 1.6 million Palestinians that the president is still responsible for.

The idea of competition right now is really not on the national agenda. What is on the national agenda is celebrating that calm has been restored, planning ahead on how to reconstruct, how to entrench this reconciliation and move forward to open a new chapter of a united Palestinian front that can lobby much better and much stronger for the long overdue Palestinian freedom on the 29th of November. The Palestinian president will lead those efforts at the United Nations to elevate it, to upgrade Palestine. We look forward to making sure that it is done successfully with the widest possible international support. And that we expect. And then we move on to unity, to peace talks, and to renewed hope, really, that the two-state solution can be saved from this entrenched Israeli occupation, from continued settlement activity and that we can make sure that violence doesn't flare up again and Gaza doesn't have to go through this again.

CHO: We talk about the two-state solution, it's something we have talked about for years. It still has not happened. I think it's admirable that you still hold out hope. Having said that, in the past half hour or so, we spoke with the former chief of staff to Benjamin Netanyahu and asked him what Israel was willing to give up. Have a listen and we'll talk on the other side.


MARK REGEV, ISRAELI SPOKESMAN: We want to have peace with our neighbors, make no mistake. But we cannot engage in discussions with people who are shooting my own kids day in, day out. It's a two-step solution. First, eradicate terror, and then, second, talk to our neighbors.


CHO: He says eradicating terror is a precondition to restarting talks. What are the Palestinians willing to put on the table?

ODEH: Well, I think his perspective is a little bit skewed and disingenuous. At the end of the day Gaza is not an isolated island. It's part and parcel, integral part of the occupied territory that Israel has occupied over 45 years. At the end of the day Israel legally is still responsible, has legal obligations toward the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem as well as in Gaza.

The Palestinians have been very clear. They've had a very clear, very consistent peace agenda for over 20 years. They've given up claim to almost 80 percent of historic Palestine in order to have that two- state solution. The address for negotiations with the Palestinian side is also very clear, and that's the Palestine Liberation Organization, the point of consensus amongst all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The PLO has that power to reach durable peace with Israel if Israel decides to adopt a peace agenda, to make that is very brave decision, very important decision to end its occupation and withdraw to the pre-67 borders.

CHO: In the short term there is relative calm in Gaza and Israel, and that's something we are all thankful for that, particularly when we look at the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday we're celebrating today.

Nour Odeh, the Palestinian National Authority spokeswoman, we thank you for joining us.

BALDWIN: It's 37 minutes past the hour on this Thanksgiving. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, turkey day in a war zone, how brave men and women in the military are spending this holiday. Undersecretary of the U.S. army, Dr. Joseph Westfall, will join me next live from Afghanistan. You're watching STARTING POINT.


CHO: Welcome back. It's 41 minutes past the hour. Mr. Food made good cooking look easy for more than 30 years.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy. Oh, it's so good.


CHO: He died yesterday of cancer at the age of 81. Mr. Food's real name, by the way, was Art Ginsburg. Nearly 130 TV stations across the nation air his 90-second cooking segments. He also published dozens of cookbooks.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in court today, answering questions about illegal campaign donations he allegedly received in 2007 from L'Oreal Cosmetics Heiress Lillian Betancourt. Sarkozy no longer has diplomatic immunity since losing his reelection bid back in May.

CHO: It's 42 minutes after the hour.


CHO: If you haven't gotten there by now, good luck. Hello Kitty coming down the parade route. We will go live to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, where people are lined up, ready to go. The parade starts in about 15 minutes. You're watching STARTING POINT.


BALDWIN: Forty-seven minutes here past the hour.

And let's talk about our troops -- 68,000 U.S. troops, bases all across Afghanistan will be chowing down on a traditional Thanksgiving meal today. I'm talking turkey and ham, sweet potatoes and pie, of course, while celebrating memories of home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Afghanistan --

PEOPLE: Happy Thanksgiving. Go Jets.


BALDWIN: Yes the holidays, of course, can be particularly tough for some of these soldiers separated from their families. And that is why the Undersecretary of the U.S. Army, Dr. Joseph Westphal, is taking time to visit with the troops today to thank them for their service and of course, bring words of encouragement. And we're told, he has a special guest along his side, who is Sergeant Jose Ortiz, joining me this morning from Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Gentlemen good morning and Dr. Westphal, let me just begin with you. You sure traveled a heck of a long way to eat turkey. Why are you there? What's your message?

JOSEPH WESTPHAL, UNDER SECRETARY OF THE U.S. ARMY: Thank you. Thank you, Brooke. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the listeners.

We are at Forward Operating Base Fasab (ph) which is West of Kandahar province. And we've been touring the battlefield all through this area. And here to do two things, one is to thank our soldiers and through them, thank their families for the sacrifice that they -- they make every day to be so far away.

And secondly, to determine how well we're doing here. How our forces are able to transition to the Afghan forces. And for that reason I thought you might also want to listen to Sergeant Ortiz.


BALDWIN: Absolutely.

WESTPHAL: Because he's had multiple deployments and could answer that -- some of those questions himself.

BALDWIN: Yes Sergeant Ortiz, let me jump in and say thank you for your service and the service of so many men and women in this part of the world right now. Let me just jump in. And give me a little bit about your background. How many times have you been over there? And if you want to say a quick hello to your family back here at home, please feel free.

SGT. JOSE ORTIZ, U.S. ARMY: First, thank you very much for having me. Actually, I've been in the Army for about 11 years. And this is my third deployment. First time to Afghanistan and it's great. I'm having a great time out here.

BALDWIN: How -- I mean, we've been over there. The U.S. has been there for 11 years now and counting. How -- how is morale?

ORTIZ: Morale is actually high. We sit down and we talk to the soldiers all the time, we communicate. We're brothers and sisters. So sometimes morale goes up and morale goes down. But for the most part morale is always up here. We have a great command team, we have great NCO's and great officers and we make sure that 100 percent we take care of each other. So we're family. So morale is actually really good right now.

BALDWIN: That's great to hear. And 11 years, wow that is quite a long time to be there. Do you have family back home? Is there anyone, maybe your mom, who would like to hear a quick hello?

ORTIZ: Actually, yes. I would like to say hi to my mom and my brothers and sisters but also to my -- my wife. She's remarkable. She's great. We're married ten years, she's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. But I'd like to say especially hi to her and I love her a lot and I'll be home soon.

BALDWIN: Ok. Dr. Westphal and Sergeant Jose Ortiz, I'm sure your wife liked hearing that as well. Thanks gentlemen so much for coming to us all the way from Kandahar in Afghanistan. We appreciate it.

CHO: Great segment.

You know it's a beautiful day for a parade right here in New York City. Low 40s rather, going up to the 50s. People have been lining up for hours over night for the best possible view of the giant balloons that will soon be floating by. The parade is going to start in just about ten minutes.

Just minutes away from the start of that 86th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and our Jason Carroll also a fixture along the parade. I think you've been covering this for I don't know, I don't even want to know how many years, Jason Carroll. And good morning. What's it like out there?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It feels great out here. It feels great out here Alina. The weather is fantastic. Very little wind, take a look right up here up Central Park. You can see the parade is just about to get under way, the Hello Kitty balloon making her debut in her -- in her plane at this year's parade. Things just now are getting under way.

As you were talking about so many crowds coming out. In part because of the weather, people coming from all over from South Carolina, New Jersey, California we've got back here. A lot of families coming out and this is a very special day for a number of families

I don't know if you understand me, and you probably do some 5,000 invitations went out to families who were victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Very special family joining me right now. The Albom family they are from Brooklyn lost their home during Hurricane Sandy. You guys decided to come out here today. This is really a chance for you just, just to really escape, yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, to get a change of frame of mind. It's difficult. It's like nobody else had seen before. We've been staying at our friends' house for the last 21 days. We can't live in our house. So this really puts us in a good mode and a good -- it's something that we would never have been able to do before. So we really are grateful to be out here and to get something different for our kids and for my family right now. Because we can't go into our house we have no kitchen, no living room, no dining room, nothing -- nothing at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we're so grateful for everyone in the community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The community really pulled together I have to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the school and the friends and family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Friends we were staying at, two friends was going between back and forth we don't drive them nuts, we don't drive ourselves nuts. It's a really great help.

CARROLL: You know what's so amazing to me is your attitude. I mean, given all that has happened you just seem to be so positive about everything. You're out here and you're smiling today. You've got the kids here as well. I mean, this has really got to be an opportunity for you guys just to be together as a family, enjoy these moments being here at this parade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's nice to forget.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For a little while.

CARROLL: For a little while.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For a little while until we have to go back.

CARROLL: Now that we've got you here, any plans of when you'll be able to go home? What are you going to do? You can't stay with friends forever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been there since it happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to prepare programs, it's usually working out really well. We'll see on Monday whether they're come in and get us fixed up. Their plan is to get us into -- into our houses, into a shelter before the cold weather really comes about. And we're looking forward to that.

CARROLL: Well you know I know a lot of people watching this. Their hearts are going out to you guys and to the others like you, who suffered through Hurricane Sandy. I can't tell you how -- how pleased and how grateful we are to have you with us here today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, thanks for having us over here. Garretson Beach has been great, you know they've been a real community and all of New York as we're here together and we really have seen the resilience of New Yorkers and pulling together. We're grateful for that and we really appreciate everything that the city is providing. Especially Garretson Beach that's been giving to us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The community, the school -- the public school has been so great.


CARROLL: Very good. Thank you very much -- the Albom family joining us here. Happy Thanksgiving to you and to you as well Alina.

The parade gets off now in just about ten minutes from now.

CHO: All right. What a great story, Jason and a great family. We wish them the best and wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Thanks so much.

BALDWIN: You know you hear the gratitude out there. But there's a lot of gratitude here in the studio as well on a day where many people don't have to work. We just want to send a thanks to the people here in the CNN studio. Some special guests -- they have been waiting patiently for this moment. Hey kids, Happy Thanksgiving.

CHO: Happy Thanksgiving.

BALDWIN: These are little ones from some of our CNN employees who are graciously dropping by the studio before they head out to the parade this morning.

CHO: That's right.

Baldwin: "STARTING POINT" is back in a moment. They're so cute.


BALDWIN: Welcome back to "STARTING POINT." So just how far will people go for those Thanksgiving door buster deals? CNN's Kyung Lah now with a closer looks at shoppers gone wild.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The stampedes, the gate crushing, the pushing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't push me. It's a TV for God's sakes.

LAH: Even tasing. Shoppers consumed with the deal turning on one another. At this Wal-Mart last year --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My eyes are burning.

LAH: One used pepper spray to fight suffocation in the crowd. This is Black Friday in America and Connecticut shopper John Daggett (ph) loves it.

JOHN DAGGETT, SHOPPER: I've been standing in line for 36 hours.

LAH: This father of an 18-month-old has been camping out for years. One year he snapped photos as this crowd fought over $5 headphones.

DAGGETT: The shoppers just went berserk. I've never seen anything like it. People start lunging and grabbing and you just see the arms all just go at once just, you know, forward like a team of super heroes.

AMY DROLAY, CONSUMER PSYCHOLOGIST: What is relatively new are shoppers turning on other shoppers.

LAH: Amy Drolay (ph) is a consumer psychologist. She says competitive shopping has gotten worse. So accept it on Black Friday that it's here to stay.

DROLAY: This piling on stores being desperate for consumers to come and shop so they're offering a lot of deals and making the promotional environment something that predisposes people to not behave.

LAH: Bad behavior has led to serious injuries, even death from crushed workers and shoppers to shootings at stores. That's why Best Buy has been running drills this year on crowd control. They're so serious at this store, check out the plan on the Black Friday war board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We prep a lot for this. We make sure the line is being monitored. We let in little groups at a time. So that way our employees aren't getting overwhelmed and neither are the customers.

LAH: The tents, the lines, the mayhem. Some say the only way that they can handle Black Friday is by declaring a shopping blackout.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People go crazy for a good deal but it's not worth it to me. It's not worth it to my family.

LAH: The crowds are just part of obtaining rare Black Friday deals say Daggett.

DAGGETT: They also may try to, you know, swing at you or anything. It's funny to me because everybody always gets mad when you're the one with the items that they want.

LAH: Consumers driven by competition, no matter the cost.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHO: Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

BALDWIN: "CNN NEWSROOM" continues with Carol Costello.

Carol, good morning.