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147,000,000 Shoppers Blitz U.S. Stores; Striking Wal-Mart Workers Walk Out; Two Dead, Scores Hurt In Highway Pileups; Survivor Recalls Texas Mass Crash; Thanksgiving Trouble; France Drops Formal Probe Of Sarkozy; Turkey, Dressing Served Up In Space; Pope's Book Corrects Christmas Details; Morsy Under Scrutiny And Protest; Deals Right From Your Smartphone; Deadly Shooting Tests Mideast Truce; Norquist's Anti-Tax Pledge

Aired November 23, 2012 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM. Power grab. Egypt's president bestows himself enormous power, a million man march as Egyptians protests. This is no democracy.

Thanksgiving Day pileup, fog and what or who caused a 100-car disaster on a Texas highway?

Black Friday madness, punches thrown, threats made, an American tradition gets underway across the country.

And the downward dog of laptops, tech toys and yoga combine for one conflicted experience. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. It is Black Friday. Retailers flinging open doors and bargain hunters rush in. In fact nearly half of all Americans are expected to shop this weekend after Thanksgiving. A staggering 147 million shoppers in all across much of the country the lines are long and yes, the tempers are short.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push one of my kids, I will stab one of you mother.


COSTELLO: Long lines may not be the only thing waiting for you at the stores this morning. Many Wal-Mart workers are walking off the job at stores across the country.

Picket lines aren't at every Wal-Mart store, but they will nonetheless create big headaches on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. CNN's Rene Marsh is in Landover Hills, Maryland.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here to support our brothers and sisters across the United States in our Wal-Mart stores, our Wal-Mart warehouses and more. We do want retaliation to stop.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now when you walked out today, did you walk out in fair that you would lose your job?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to leave that to God because I believe in our country. We have federal rights and under the federal rights, we are protected. So I hope there will be no more retaliation when I go back to our stores tomorrow because we are returning to work tomorrow.

MARSH: Ma'am, what's your situation been? You're out here today because?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm supporting my sister, Cindy, and we're working for stopping the retaliation and strike. So we're together.


COSTELLO: Earlier this week, I talked with a Wal-Mart spokesman about the strike. He downplayed its impact and dismissed the workers' complaints.


DAVID TOVAR, V.P. COMMUNICATIONS, WAL-MART U.S.: We're working hard every day to provide more opportunities for associates. Go back to some of the things I said to you earlier about how people --

COSTELLO: If a lot of them are making $15,000 a year, you can't live a strong middle class lifestyle on that. You just can't.

TOVAR: Right, but our jobs are like I said some of the best jobs in the retail industry.

COSTELLO: Even the ones that make $15,000 a year. What's an average salary for Wal-Mart employee then?

TOVAR: Our average wage is about $12.40 an hour for full-time associate.


COSTELLO: Many business experts are keeping a close eye on the protest and whether the workers can muster with any leverage. They say with Wal-Mart being the nation's largest private employer, it has a huge influence on the entire industry nationwide.

Two people are dead and as many as 120 others injured after deadly collisions along I-10 in East Texas. Thick fog on Thanksgiving morning may have caused a chain reaction pileup near Houston.

Authorities say about 100 cars were involved. Christine Dobbyn of KTRK was at the crash site.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTINE DOBBYN, KTRK (voice-over): As metal is picked up and peeled away, Devon Cash can't believe he was inside this just a few hours ago, his Ford Fusion beyond recognition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crazy, flashed right before my eyes.

DOBBYN: The college freshman was riding in his car with father, mother, sister, and roommate when a morning drive to Baton Rouge changes everything this Thanksgiving Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just a couple of seconds, chain reaction.

DOBBYN: Like many people involved in the crash, the family thought it might be best to stay in the car until others yelled for them to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we were trying to get out, a car hit us again. After that car hit us, we jumped out. And then the 18 wheeler came and hit all the cars.

DOBBYN: His door was jammed so he climbed through the back seat just before his car was reduced to this.

(on camera): When you look at your car, what are you thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad I wasn't in it, grace of God.


COSTELLO: Us too. That was Christine Dobbyn from our affiliate KTRK in Houston.

Let's talk a little sports now, shall we? Ndamukong Suh may want to stop playing on Thanksgiving because he keeps getting involved in controversial plays. It happened again for the second year in a row.

In the first quarter, Suh ends up kicking Texas quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin. Schaub stayed in the game, but he would not discuss the incident afterward.

The Lion's head coach, Jim Schwartz, he sidestepped the issue.


JIM SCHWARTZ, LIONS HEAD COACH: I can't comment. I didn't see it. I mean, you don't see stuff like that. I'd be very surprised if it was anything other than the natural course of the game.


COSTELLO: Hall of fame quarterback Boomer Esiason had some harsh words about Suh. During half time, he said, quote, "This is supposed to be a brotherhood. You're supposed to have respect for one another. Bruce smith, I could always shake his hand. Reggie White, I could shake his hand after a game. I would never shake this guy's hand because once again he's crossed over the line and it's obvious that it was on purpose," end quote.

Shannon Sharpe piled on. He is a hall of fame tide in. He had a similar response. On Twitter he wrote, "Suh needs to get suspended for kicking Schaub in the groin. That was a deliberate act."

HLN's Carlos Diaz joins me now. Not long ago I spoke with Eric Vincent from "Bleacher Report." He says everybody's making a mountain out of a mole hill on this.

CARLOS DIAZ, HLN: Really? I mean, OK, let's break down the video. This is, if you ask me, an obvious act of aggression. Look at the video as Suh is going to the ground.

OK, OK, OK, that right there. It's just the chop downward to the kick. If you look at it face, he's looking at Matt Schaub. So unintentional, unintentional, intentional right there, I mean, that's what you're talking about --

COSTELLO: But he wasn't looking at him. He was looking at the ground.

DIAZ: Wait hold on. Look one more time, look at his head right there. See his head, how it's turned to the left. I feel like we're breaking this down, but it's over and to the left.

Basically what you're talking about here, if he is not suspended then the league is obviously saying that that was an unintentional act.

But if they're saying this is intentional because they suspended him two games last year after the Thanksgiving Day game and when he basically stomped on a Packer's player's head.

This -- as any guy in America will tell you, it's much worse. You know, I mean, so that's the thing. It's like he's not getting the message.

COSTELLO: In fairness, Schaub bounced back up. He continued playing. He didn't appear hurt at all. He didn't.

DIAZ: Carol, as a man --

COSTELLO: I'm a Lions fan. Give me a break.

DIAZ: As a man, all right, you can bounce back up, but that kind of pain lasts a long time. So he bounced right back up and he seemed fine. Hopefully, he's wearing a cup. But my point is that right there is intentionally hurting a quarterback, which the league is supposed to be protecting, you know?

COSTELLO: I think it was really telling what Schaub said after the game, too, in the press conference afterwards. He says I'm not going to talk about that person. He wouldn't even say Suh's name.

DIAZ: I'm not going to talk about that play or that person. So basically Ndamukong Suh didn't talk afterwards because the Lions felt that they, you know, were robbed of a win. COSTELLO: Well, they were.

DIAZ: You being a Lions fan, of course. I think a lot of people say they don't expect a suspension. I say if the league deems it intentional, he will be suspended.

Because he's not getting the message that -- he's been voted the dirtiest player in the NFL by his peers. So basically if the league believes it's intentional, they will suspend him. If they don't, they'll have to say it wasn't intentional.

COSTELLO: Well, they got a lot of things to decide come Monday morning.

DIAZ: Yes, exactly like if I throw a red flag, don't get your feelings hurt. And flag me for another 15 yards. You know what? I'm not going to review the penalty. You threw the red flag and weren't supposed to, the dumbest rule in the NFL.

COSTELLO: I think we agree on something.

DIAZ: There we go. Thank you so much. I'll just keep your feet away from me.

COSTELLO: But now I know how to protect myself.

DIAZ: Took you this long to know that?

COSTELLO: No, not really. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: It's 11 minutes past the hour. Checking our top stories now. French authorities have decided not to formally investigate former President Nicolas Sarkozy, but he may have to provide more testimony about accusations that France's richest woman, the heiress of Loreal Cosmetics illegally aided his 2007 presidential campaign. Sarkozy also still faces possible criminal charges.

Are you still stuffed from eating all that heavy food? Well, the crew of the International Space Station probably isn't. One American and two Russians had their turkey and dressing in zero gravity. They also had their marshmallows and candied yams, but I just don't think it was the same.

Onto Christmas, few images are for more important to Christians this time of year than scene of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. But a new book by Pope Benedict disputes a few key pieces of that picture.

After studying the Bible and other records, the pope writes there were actually no animals at the manger. He also said angels did not sing at Christ's birth.

And Jesus' historical birth date is several years off. Having said that, the Holy Father is not pushing anyone to change their holiday traditions to reflect his findings. He's received international praise for his role in brokering a truce between Israel and Hamas. But now the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is facing international scrutiny for what critics say is a controversial power grab.

Reza Sayah joins us by phone from Cairo's Tahrir Square where massive protests have broken out in response to Morsy's new orders. Reza, Morsy says he is trying to promote, quote, "political and social stability." His actions seem to be having the opposite effect.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Carol, it is a very loud scene here. I'm having a difficult time hearing you, but let me set the scene for you here. It's a dramatic one. Thousands of protesters have been filing into Tahrir Square over the past several hours.

A number of clashes have broken out in several of the major arteries leading into Tahrir Square. The way these clashes start are usually with young protesters throwing rocks at security forces.

The security forces respond with shooting tear gas. Right now, we are seeing tear gas clouds in those arteries. And demonstrators are still here. There's a little bit of a calm that's taken over in the past hour.

But still the potential for clashes remain as the demonstrators are still here and security forces are still here. This scene was reminiscent of the Egyptian revolution in the scene that Tahrir Square in 2011.

In 2011 the outrage was aimed at former President Hosni Mubarak. This time the outrage aimed at current President Mohamed Morsy after the announcement of a number of decrees last night that many of his critics here describe as an undemocratic power grab.

One of those decrees bans anyone from overturning any of his declarations since he took office in June. This decree says not even the judiciary can overturn his declarations that order is to stay in place until the parliament takes over. This is Morsy undermining democratic processes and that's why they are here protesting again -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Reza Sayah, thanks so much for filling us in. We'll get back to you. Unbelievable.

Here at home in the United States, long lines may not be the only thing waiting at the stores this morning. Many Wal-Mart workers are walking off the job across the country.

The picket lines aren't at every Wal-Mart, but will create headaches on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. CNN's Rene Marsh is live in Landover Hills, Maryland where a short time ago, there were protesters and union workers, but maybe not many Wal-Mart workers protesting.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Carol. You know, they've all cleared out. But they tell me they're on their way now to two other Wal-Marts in Maryland. But you said it, you know, within this crowd, most of the people here were union members or community members who happened to support the cause of higher wages, better benefits for Wal-Mart workers.

But very few as far as I could see Wal-Mart workers actually in the crowd here and I did pose that question to the protesters. How effective are you if you're actually not getting workers to walk out on this day?

If you're not getting the Wal-Mart behind me to kind of feel it, so to speak, if everyone is in place and it's business as usual inside. They still feel that they are very effective because they believe that this is getting national attention, the issues of wages, benefits for these workers.

Retaliation, they say, is also an issue within Wal-Mart. Now Carol, if you remember earlier, we spoke to two women. They happen to be Wal-Mart workers. They walked out today. They're workers at a Laural, Maryland, Wal-Mart.

One of the women that I spoke to, Cindy Murray, she says she's been with Wal-Mart going on 13 years. She says she gets a 40-cent raise every year and says that's simply not enough. That being said, she is scheduled to be back at work tomorrow morning.

I asked her does she think she has a job to go back to after walking out and speaking out on national TV against Wal-Mart. She says she simply does not know. She did give me her number. We'll touch base with her.

She hopes she has a job when she goes back tomorrow. Here at Wal- Mart, I did speak with a rep and they tell me they do not retaliate. They have an open door policy, but the protesters don't seem to agree -- Carol.

COSTELLO: OK, we'll see what happens to Cindy tomorrow. Rene Marsh reporting live from Landover Hills, Maryland, which is Washington, D.C. suburbia. Thanks so much.

Black Friday, small business Saturday, Cyber Monday, all shoppers want is to find the very best deal. So how are retailers standing out in the age of the internet and what to do if you want to spend less.


COSTELLO: Are you sick of wondering around the store wondering where in the world those door busters are or wondering if you could be saving a boat load by getting that TV online. Well, there's an app for that quite a few, actually.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. Good morning, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. On this Black Friday where shopping has become more of a sport where you need a helmet and some elbow pads, you should also be armed with some apps. CNN Money sorted through all of them and came out with a great list of some of the most helpful.

And you know what? You don't have to be tech savvy to use them so let's go through them. A big favorite, an app called "Red Laser." This one's free and what it does is it uses your phone's camera to scan bar codes so you see all the products.

It will then tell you the prices for these products online and locally. And basically what it's doing is comparison shopping, doing all the hard work for you.

Here's a little back story, eBay bought Red Laser two years ago and since then it's really become a must-have for bargain hunters. Another one called "Snap Tell" is another great price checking app.

Amazon owns that one. Also it's kind of important to be organize during the holiday shopping season, "Slice" helps you with that because what does is it will track your packages from what you bought online.

So if you log on to this app through your e-mail, you can go ahead and track your packages. Now, if you hate receipts as I do, "Lemon" will make a digital version of them just by snapping a picture.

And finally there's an app called "Black Friday" that will get you through all the craziness today by compiling all today's deals in an easy to read format so you look smarter than all the other crazies out there today -- Carol.

COSTELLO: That's great. I'm going to -- that is really cool. I'm going to put some of those on my iPhone right after the newscast.


COSTELLO: Let me ask you this question. Wouldn't people rather just stay home and order stuff online? I mean, why go out into the stores and use your iPhone and your apps and --

KOSIK: Well, I'm more on the online shopping, sure. IBM actually found that online sales did really well on Thanksgiving Day, that they were up 17 percent from last year so clearly on that alone, the number of people making purchases on their mobile devices that also jumped from last year.

And guess what, the iPad remains shoppers' favorite device when looking for deals. And another interesting find from IBM, the big winners were sites that tailored e-mails or offers to shoppers that bought in the last year.

You're getting kind of targeted so you really feel like you want to shop even more, yes -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes is right. Alison Kosik, thanks so much.

Today's political question, more top Republicans are rejecting the conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge. So we're wondering. Is Grover over? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's 26 minutes past the hour. Good morning. Thank you for joining us. I'm Carol Costello. Time to check our top stories. The annual ritual known as Black Friday is in full swing. Shoppers sprinting to the stores and to the malls in search of the best deals this holiday season. One retail analyst expects sales to rise as much as 3 percent from last year.

Thick fog may have caused several deadly pileups on a Texas highway on Thanksgiving Day morning. Two people are dead as many as 120 others were hurt. They were sent to the hospital. One hundred cars, they're absolutely unrecognizable now. They're that mangled.

And a fragile truce between Israel and Hamas is facing a test this morning as Hamas claims Israeli troops opened fire on farmers near the Gaza-Israeli border. Killing one Palestinian and wounding 19 others.

Israel says the people were rioters trying to breach a border fence. This is the first report of a fatality since the two sides agree to that ceasefire.

Let's take you live to Cairo, Egypt right now while there are massive protests in Tahrir Square. Thousands and thousands of people are protesting because Egypt's President Mohamed Morsy, well, some might say, he took dictatorial power earlier today.

In other words, he issued a decree that nobody could overturn his declaration. He also ordered a re-trial of Hosni Mubarak. As you know, during the Arab spring, many people here in Cairo, Egypt, many people all over that country want a democracy.

And now they're protesting again. You can see it's getting rather violent in Tahrir Square right now. They're protesting again over what they call another blow to democracy in the country. I guess, Mohamed Morsi, of course, we'll keep you posted.

Is Grover over? Norquist, the powerful lobbyist and his no new taxes ever pledge may be losing grip on Republican lawmakers. Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss is the latest to jump off the "Americans for Tax Reform" anti-tax bandwagon.

Chambliss told CNN affiliate WMAZ this week, quote, "I care more about my country than I do about a 20 year old pledge. If we do it his way, Norquist's way, we'll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that."

So what does it mean for the so-called fiscal cliff? One of three topics we'd like to explore with our political panel this morning. The other, since President Obama began his second term, there has been a war between Israel and Hamas, the CIA director has resigned, and his ambassador to United Nations has remained under fire. We'll also touch on Black Friday.