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Super Bowl of Shopping; Violence in Gaza; Palestinian Authority Largely Sidelined; Black Friday Daze

Aired November 23, 2012 - 06:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-one billion, that's how much Americans are expected to spend this Black Friday. So, gird your loins, grab your credit cards and put on your walking shoes. But, mostly, gird your loins.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, breaking news. New violence at the Gaza/Israel border, this time during an anti-Israel protest involving some 700 people.

BERMAN: And hundreds of millions of dollars up for grabs right now in the Powerball lottery. Someone is about to have one heck of a holiday season.

CHO: Did you just say gird your loins, though?

BERMAN: I said it twice, actually. Let the record show, I said it twice.

CHO: Good morning, everybody. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alina Cho.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Zoraida Sambolin has the day off, God bless her. It is 30 minutes after the hour.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

CHO: And we do begin with that breaking news in the Gaza/Israel conflict. New reports of violence this morning. It happened in Gaza near the Israel border.

According to Hamas security forces, about 700 people were participating in an anti-Israel protest that approached the border. Hamas claims Israeli forces fired at the protests killing at least one Palestinian man, and wounding 19 others.

BERMAN: We'll be watching that, of course, as the day goes on.

Meanwhile, our other big story, with Thanksgiving now in the books, we turn to that post turkey day tradition, Black Friday. Big retailers from coast to coast opened their doors even earlier this year on Thanksgiving night and holiday shoppers are off and running.

We are all over this story. We're live in the front lines this morning. George Howell at a Best Buy store in Atlanta, Stacey Cohan is at a mall in Arlington, Virginia. And, George, let's start with you. When I last spoke to you, you found some incredible deals for all sorts of things. They're all still in place I take it.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, John, you mentioned that TV. I'll try to save that for you.


HOWELL: There are a lot of deals out here. But let's talk about the hot items, you know? When people come in for Black Friday, you start to get a sense of what people want. And, obviously, this is definitely in demand.

You know, the iPad -- people looking at this. And you know, obviously good time to get it here on Black Friday. The tablets are in big demand, as well.

And this is what the stores are doing. They're trying to get as many people in as possible, especially Best Buy. Now at this Best Buy -- excuse me, this Best Buy when you look at what happened this morning, some 600 people wrapped around the store waiting to get inside as it opened at midnight. A lot of people excited about the deals they could get here.

Important for Best Buy, keep in mind, this is a company that had disappointing third quarter earnings, so they're determined to make sure they get as many people in as possible. You know, to help them get through the rest of this year, John.

BERMAN: All right. George, I'm sorry for infecting you with my vocal issues. I didn't realize they could go, you know, all the way down to Atlanta.

I was asking before, you know, this store you're in right now looks pretty organized, pretty calm. But have there been any problems you've been hearing about?

HOWELL: Yes. No problems here. And when you keep in mind the number of people that came in, pretty smooth operation. But we do know in Indianapolis, there were fights that broke out at a Kmart, people getting in to that store.

And then also in Sacramento, John, we know that one customer threatened to stab other customers if he was pushed. So, it's always surprising, you know, what you see on Black Friday. Nothing happened in that situation.


HOWELL: No one was stabbed. Everything worked out smoothly, as smoothly as possible. But, you know, a lot of people trying to get to those deals and you see the frenzy every year.

BERMAN: All right. George Howell, outside of Atlanta -- I hate hearing stories like that. But great to see you this morning. Thanks, George.

CHO: Stacey Cohan now at the Pentagon Mall in Arlington, Virginia.

Stacey, good morning. What's it look like where you are?

STACEY COHAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alina, I still haven't gotten a chance to shop. So, I'm leaving to everyone else here. I have Jennifer White (ph), check this out. She's only been at the mall, what, an hour or so? And you've done very well.

So why come out this early? That's the question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, for me, it was actually a little late because the mall opened at merchandise night. So coming in 4:30, 5:00, I'm in and out and able to get everything really quickly. And then also, a lot of clothes, clothes shopping.

COHAN: You said because some of the stores opened at midnight you think that helped ease the crowds at 5:00 a.m.?


COHAN: How have the lines been?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awesome. I have not had to wait in one line.

COHAN: Are you done? Are you really done with your Christmas shopping?


COHAN: Really? So it's worth -- you have little kids. So you don't get sleep anyways --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. Only had to get up an hour earlier than I usually do.

COHAN: There you go. So, we've got a bunch of shopping bags here. She's saying there's good deals on clothes, lines haven't been too long here at Pentagon City. This is a four-level mall. They have almost 200 stores here in Pentagon City, and so there are a lot of deals to be had.

So if you come on out now, I think that's great. I think nationwide, what you're seeing is maybe the openings on Thursday took some of the pressure off Black Friday.

But, hey, a good day to shop, right? Any day is a good day to shop. So, why not just come out? Alina?

CHO: All right. This woman's almost done with her Christmas shopping. That is a sad, sad thing for me to hear.

All right. Stacey Cohan, thank you so much.

BERMAN: Of course, Thanksgiving fell just about three weeks after superstorm Sandy and many people are still coping with its aftermath. The city of New York and volunteers gave them something to be thankful for. Like free turkey dinners supplies and warm clothes. Some places had so many volunteers show up that the volunteers had to be turned away.

CHO: The troops getting a Thanksgiving feast away from home. But they had to eat it quick. Soldiers at Fort Jackson in South Carolina were provided a holiday meal with all the fixins, including 2,200 pounds of turkey. But the soldiers are on the clock, so they only get 10 minutes to eat.

BERMAN: Give them an extra minute or two on Thanksgiving.

CHO: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: All right, $325 million. Let me say that again -- $325 million. That is the current Powerball jackpot. It's enough to make my voice crack.

What would you do with that money? Think about it, when pay some of our own bill.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

CHO: Breaking news this morning. Violence erupted in Gaza near the Israeli border. Israeli troops reportedly firing on protesters as they approached the border, killing one Palestinian man, and wounding 19 others. That's according to a Hamas spokesman. The incident shattering the calm that's been in place since the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which took hold on Wednesday.

CNN's Sara Sidner following this developing story live for us from Jerusalem.

Sara, good morning to you. First, what can you tell us about this latest incident?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, we know the numbers have gone up. The number of injured, according to the health department in Gaza, there are now 25 people who have been injured over the past 24 hours. One person killed.

Now, the Hamas government says that these were farmers that were working near the border, and that they were shot at. But according to the Israeli military, who has a different story about this, saying there were several groups of men who were coming up to the border fence trying to go over into Israel, that the soldiers fired a shot in the air first, as a warning, and then fired at their legs. The Israeli military not confirming whether there is a death or juries, but still investigating the incident but did say that these men were protesting and trying to come over to the Israel side of the border. Hamas saying they were simply farmers.

So the story very different there and we'll have to get to the bottom of it as the day goes along. But this is coming at a very difficult point, because as you know, we are in a cease-fire, but a fragile one. It's not lasted yet for 48 hours. It's just gone over some 30 hours.

And so, it's one of those situations that you have to wait and see as to whether this is going to break this agreement between Hamas and Israel, whether we'll see some escalation, for example, any rockets coming over here. If that happens, that could break this fragile cease-fire. Nobody really wants to see that at this point, Alina.

CHO: That's right. As the White House has been saying, it's a tenuous cease-fire agreement.

Having said that, Sara, as you know, this is the second full day that the cease-fire has taken hold, relative calm other than this one incident. But having said that, the border crossings of the 24 hour mark into Gaza were supposed to open. At that point, further talks were supposed to happen. But it hasn't happened.

So give us a status report. What's the very latest on that front?

SIDNER: Well, I think what you heard from the Israeli government is that when there's this 24-hour period of calm, and the cease-fire goes into place, that they would talk about opening up the borders more, something that Hamas had been demanding. The Hamas also demanding the end to the blockade. But these were things that were going to be discussed.

But as long as the cease-fire held, Egypt being the keeper of the cease-fire.

And a senior Israeli diplomat told me that they were very glad to see that Egypt was filling that role again, Mubarak's regime filled the role when he was in power, and they were worried that President Morsi was not going to be able to do that because he's more aligned with Hamas, because he's aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. So they're quite happy to se that at least Egypt is sort of there, supposed to be the keeper of the peace for the time being.

But it is worrying that we're seeing an incident so quickly after the cease-fire was put in place. And a lot of concerns that if this sort of thing starts happening again, there's always incidents along that Israel/Gaza border that the cease-fire will mean nothing in the next few days -- Alina.

CHO: All right. Sara Sidner live for us in Jerusalem -- Sara, as always, thank you.

BERMAN: I want to bring in Stuart Holliday. He's the former U.S. ambassador for special political affairs to the United Nations. He's currently the president and CEO of the Meridian International Center, which is a public diplomacy organization.

And, Ambassador, let me start with the news of the shooting along the border between Gaza and Israel. How troubling is an incident like this? And how perilous is it, really, for this fragile, fragile cease-fire? STUART HOLLIDAY, PRESIDENT & CEO, MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Well, good morning.

At the local level, it's obviously very troubling, and there are, you know, lives at stake, and there's this delicate balance on the cease- fire.

But in the bigger picture, this is -- there's a lot invested in this cease-fire, at the political level. And it appears to be at this point more of the typical border incident category kind of problem rather than a directed violation from either side of the cease-fire. I think that's what we're going to have to watch for is what happens next.

BERMAN: A lot of critics are looking at this agreement as a short- term fix, a band-aid, that will last as long as, say, Hamas manages to rearm and then perhaps start shooting rockets again. Is it naive to talk about a long-term deal, A? And should the U.S. -- what should the U.S. be doing right now?

HOLLIDAY: Well, the United States, of course, President Obama dispatched Secretary Clinton and she was there when the peace -- when the cease-fire deal was reached. And signals, I think, a renewed engagement, even though we have the so-called pivot to Asia, the Middle East obviously still is a vital security interest for the United States.

So I think you're going to se a little bit more activity in Israel. You have election coming up in January. The Palestinian, both factions -- Hamas and Fatah -- are talking about some sort of coalition. So I think you're going to see some movement.

Obviously, at any point, the extremists, particularly those that are actually to the more radical than Hamas could seek to destabilize the situation.

BERMAN: You brought up Fatah, and they've been called powerless, impotent, a lot during the conflict over the last 10 days or so, and criticized in some cases by members of Hamas in some Islamists in the region.

On CNN yesterday, there was a quote from a member of Hamas talking about the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. Let's listen.


GHAZI HAMMAD, SENIOR HAMAS OFFICIAL: I think people feel now that the only way to push Israel to give concessions is the resistance, because President Abbas spent about 20 years in negotiation, but they get nothing from this.


BERMAN: Does the Palestinian Authority have any power any more to negotiate? Are they just an empty suit? HOLLIDAY: No, they do have -- they do have power, but again they don't have, you know, the popular support in Gaza that's necessary to enforce or bring any large-scale deal along. So it's really a bifurcated government. But if we're going to be negotiated with Palestinians, you can bet that Abbas is going to be the key interlocutor. And what Hamas is doing now, of course, is, you know, a draw for them or a ceasefire is being portrayed to their people as a -- as a victory.

Now I think if you look at the -- you know, the damage inflicted on Gaza it would be hard to call that a victory. But they're trying to make hay and try to get political support.

BERMAN: And of course they lost their key defense chief also.

There was another major player over the last few days here and that's been Egypt and the new leader there, Mohamed Morsi. He's largely credited by the U.S. for helping the ceasefire deal happen. But he did something extraordinary overnight, which he gave himself some new administrative powers, which actually makes all of these rulings over the last five months and going forward immune from any kind of legal challenges.

Some people are saying this is just the next step in becoming more of a dictator here. Was he taking advantage of the situation?

HOLLIDAY: Well, we'll have to watch this closely. It appears, you know, the timing is curious. He's gotten the support and this bump, particularly for this role in mediating the ceasefire from the United States and from others. He's really seen as emerging stronger from this. But this is an issue that goes back to whether the judiciary in Egypt was really appointed by Mubarak and a check on the executive branch. And what he said is this is a temporary, until they have a constitution, a temporary step. So we'll have to see if anything looks like it's being put into place permanent could be a big problem for democracy in Egypt.

BERMAN: All right, as you said, curious, to say the least. Thank you so much, Stuart Holliday, former U.S. ambassador for special political affairs in the United Nations.

HOLLIDAY: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Great to see you this morning.

CHO: A video you must see. A Thanksgiving surprise for one Las Vegas military family. Watch.

You know we see this from time to time but I never get sick of seeing it. (INAUDIBLE) Morris was in the middle of dance class when her dad, Sergeant Major Ronald Morris, walked into the room. He wasn't supposed to be home yet from his 14-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. So his kids, as you can see there, certainly were not expecting him for Thanksgiving. But guess what? It happened. The family says they are thankful to be together. And safe.

What a great story.

BERMAN: I'm with you. We see that from time to time but I cannot see enough of it. It is amazing.

CHO: It's just great. Great.

BERMAN: Forty-seven minutes after the hour right now. But if you need some extra cash, how about, say, $325 million? That is where the Powerball jackpot stands. The next drawing is tomorrow night. We want to know what you would do with $325 million.

CHO: I could think of a few things.

BERMAN: I've got to get 325 million things. Tweet us, please, do it now, @earlystartCNN. It's easy to do. Kids are using the Internet these days. I recommend it.


CHO: Everybody's on it, this Internet thing.

Get ready to hear this noise about a bazillion times today.

BERMAN: Oh. Make it stop.

CHO: Berman hates it.

BERMAN: Make it stop.

CHO: It's Black Friday, folks. We're covering it like none other. You're going to see what I'm talking about after this quick break. We're back after this.


CHO: Fifty-two minutes after the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving.

Cue the music from John Berman.

Traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season today. New tradition seems to be shopping on Thanksgiving, however. With big box stores from coast to coast offering up those doorbuster deals. Even before the turkey dinner goes down.

CNN's George Howell live at a Best Buy store in Atlanta with some pretty good deals.

George, right? Good morning. Including what, a laptop for under 200 bucks?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alina, definitely a lot of big deals here at this Best Buy. And they're definitely focusing on making sure that shoppers know that. Best Buy, it's really important for them, in this particular store brand to make sure they get as many customers as possible, the best bang for their buck today. But you know, we know that fewer people are shopping this year, 147 million people compared to 152 million from last year. That's according to the National Retail Federation.

Still when you talk to customers you get a sense that they are prepared to spend more this year, and you know -- I want to bring in Mary Smith.

And, Mary, we were talking about this earlier. You feel more confident about spending money this go-around. Tell me about that.

MARY SMITH, BEST BUY SHOPPER: I do. I just feel the economy is getting stronger. And you know, it's just easier than it was last year.

HOWELL: So, you know, I saw you looking around. What are the items that stand out to you? What are you looking to buy?

SMITH: Well, today, I'm getting an iTouch.

HOWELL: Very cool. And you know the other thing is, I did the same story last year, and you talk with these people. You talk to families. This seems to be tradition. You know, after Thanksgiving you come out, you shop for Black Friday and you were telling me the same for you?

SMITH: That's correct. It's been a tradition since as long as I can remember that my mother and I would always come shopping the day after Thanksgiving, just a kickoff to the holidays.

HOWELL: Wow. Wow. And a lot of people seem to be doing that. You know, fewer people in the store right now than we saw earlier. But you know the store opened at midnight. We saw some 600 people file into this particular store. A lot of people shopping for deals today. You'll see it, you know, today through Sunday. These stores are doing everything they can to get as many people in the doors as possible.

CHO: That's right. It's the thrill of the chase, right, George Howell? I can relate to that.

Live for us in Atlanta. George, thank you.

BERMAN: All right, everyone. Here are some tips from Dealnews about what not to buy today, that could save you some money. Number one, toys. You'll find better prices on toys in the two weeks before Christmas. So wait. Number two, brand-name HDTVs. You can find deals on third tier manufacturers, but the brand-name ones are best bought in January or February.

Number three, jewelry -- sorry, honey -- And watches. Dealnews says to avoid --

CHO: You talking about me?


BERMAN: Yes, I beg you. Totally. Dealnews says avoid buying any piece of jewelry or watch over the entire holiday season. Number four, winter apparel. You can find cheap clothes but for winter clothes like coats and gloves, they're much cheaper in January, and number five, Christmas decorations. Hold off until we get closer to Christmas if you can. They'll be cheaper then. And of course they're cheapest right after the holidays.

CHO: Right. The day after Christmas, 50 percent off.

BERMAN: One last thing. Dealnews says you can get 70 percent of in- store sales online, so if you're in a store right now, I don't know, maybe you're wasting your time. It's like (INAUDIBLE) Dealnews is like what is good to buy now? Like a tank top or like --


CHO: Maybe. Maybe. A bikini? You know? I mean, I don't know. I mean, listen, you know, you do have to wonder, you know, online shopping is up, and everybody does it these days but it is that thrill of the chase. I don't quite get it. I'm not a Black Friday shopper myself. You know, I like to shop but I'm not a Black Friday shopper. Having said that, you know, those stores are pretty busy. So somebody's doing it.


Anyway, STARTING POINT begins after this quick break. We're back after this.