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Fiscal Cliff: 35 Days and Counting; Holiday Cheer for Retailers; Cyber Monday Starts Earlier, Lasts Longer; Morgan Freeman Lends Voice to Marriage Equality Ad

Aired November 26, 2012 - 06:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, we're just 35 days away from the fiscal cliff. What it means for your money, and the country's money, straight ahead.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Confetti filled with Social Security numbers. That's a drop from the sky during a major Thanksgiving Day parade.

BERMAN: Crazy.

And remember this picture of a woman caught riding on the back of a manatee? Well, we've now learned she's been arrested.

Welcome back, everyone, to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us this morning. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

And just 35 days left until we reach the fiscal cliff, and a lame duck Congress heads back to Capitol Hill beginning this afternoon. We're actually seeing a hint of compromise in the air. Several key Republican senators signaling that they are willing to consider breaking their no tax vows to get a budget plan passed.

And according to a new CNN/ORC poll, that's exactly what you want to hear. Sixty-seven percent say a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts is the best way to avoid a fiscal cliff crisis.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser, he is live in Washington for us this morning.

Nice to see you, Paul.

So, falling off the fiscal cliff means severe spending cuts and tax hikes automatically kick in. So how worried are most Americans? I understand you have some numbers for us.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: I do have more numbers from that new CNN/ORC national poll. Look at this -- Americans are concerned about how it will affect them directly.

Almost four in 10 said if the country falls off the fiscal cliff, they will be impacted a great deal, or somewhat. Look at this. Another four in 10 say somewhat. Only, Zoraida, only about one in five say, you know what, if the country falls offer the fiscal cliff, I'm not going to be impacted that much or not at all.

Our poll also indicates, as you mention, Americans want compromise but they don't think they're going to get it from politicians. Here's why. Look at this next number -- two-thirds say that politicians here in Washington, D.C. are going to act like spoiled children when we get down to these negotiations. Only about one in three said that the politicians act like responsible adults.

And the blame game. Zoraida, if there is no deal by the end of the year, who gets the blame? Well, it seems more than likely Republicans in Congress rather than the President. Here's why. About 45 percent say President Obama is doing enough to cooperate with the other side. That goes down to about only 24 percent when it comes to the Republicans in Congress, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I'm still shocked by that spoiled children there. Crazy.

All right. So more Republicans are actually saying that they may cave and violate Grover Norquist's no tax pledge. Tell us about that.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, and that no tax pledge is about 25 years old. And those who signed a pledge not to raise taxes, but they also pledge that they would be against reducing or eliminating tax deductions or credits. As you mentioned two senators in the last week, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans, both up in 2014 for re-election, they came out and said they would break the pledge if needed to get a deal done.

Congressman Peter King, a Republican in New York, feels the same way. Take a listen to him from the Sunday talk shows.


REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: I think everything should be on the table. I myself am opposed to tax increases. The fact is the speaker and majority leader and the President are going to be in a room trying to find the best package. I'm not going to prejudge it. I'm just saying we should not be taking ironclad positions.


STEINHAUSER: You know, King says while the pledge may have worked in the past, now is the time to be flexible -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Paul Steinhauser live in Washington, D.C. for us -- thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Thirty-three minutes after the hour right now.

And just lots of buying this weekend, lots of shopping. A record 247 million shoppers hit stores and Web sites after Thanksgiving. The National Retail Federation says they also spent more money compared to last year. But -- will shoppers still be in a spending mood today? Which, of course, is named Cyber Monday. Christine Romans is here with us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And who named it Cyber Monday? Hmm. The industry did!

Because once they saw that you would open up your wallet for Black Friday, then they were stretching into Monday so you could do online shopping, and then they moved it into Thursday. So, now, you've got this big chunk of time around Thanksgiving where you're spending money for the holidays.

How much did you spend? $59.1 billion. That's up 13 percent from last year. These are preliminary numbers, Thursday to Sunday. Sunday is a real forecast because they don't have those numbers in even preliminary in just yet.

Up 13 percent from last year, guys. That compares with 16 percent the year before. So, it was record spending but the growth wasn't as robust as the prior year.

The average shopper spent about $423. That is up a little bit from the prior year, $398.

What did people buy? They bought clothes. More than half of you out there were buying clothes, toys. That is the perennial favorite, of course.

Books, C.D.s, DVDs, electronics were very big on the shopping list. Jewelry, 15 percent of you bought jewelry and 32 percent bought gift cards.

Online shopping was up on Friday, for the first time you've broken a billion dollars in sales online. Today is Cyber Monday, which is -- you know, used to be you come to work, you had high speed Internet access. You do all the shopping you didn't do over the weekend. Now you've been shopping online since early last week and you'll likely be shopping right up until the end of the shipping deadlines.

BERMAN: Or beyond.

ROMANS: Or beyond, or beyond. So, you know, be careful out there spending the money. It was a good -- it was a good weekend, it looks like for the retailers. But, of course, we're concerned about whether it was a good weekend for you.

SAMBOLIN: That's right.

ROMANS: So careful of the impulse shopping. And the question also for the retailers is, have they cannibalized on the rest of the holiday season by all of this promotion over the last week or so. Maybe a lot of you are done now. Maybe that $423 is what you were going to spend for the season. So, we'll see how that works out.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to find out eventually. Thank you, Christine. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-five minutes past the hour.

In Egypt today, President Mohamed Morsi meets with judges to explain his controversial edict that they cannot overturn his decisions or any law that he imposes. Morsi claimed this move is only temporary until a parliament is formed. But thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets, accusing Morsi of an all-out power grab and demanding that he rescind his edict.

BERMAN: Some signs the Republicans stance against Susan Rice might be softening, at least a little. Last week, Arizona Senator John McCain vowed to do everything in his power to block Rice's potential nomination to be Secretary of State, blasting her for telling Americans the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was spontaneous and caused by an anti-Islam video.

Now, McCain seems to be dialing back a bit.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. I'll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her.


BERMAN: Rice insists everything she said in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack was based on information that was provided by U.S. intelligence agencies.

SAMBOLIN: The NBA and its fans grieving this morning for Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale. The hall of famer's 23-year-old daughter, Alexandra, died Saturday. A report in the "Houston Chronicle" says she was suffering from lupus, that's an autoimmune disease. McHale left the team earlier this month and there is no timetable for his return.

BERMAN: He was one of my favorite players growing up.

SAMBOLIN: My goodness, how awful.

BERMAN: He's great. Really sad, really nice guy. So, it's sad to hear that.

Here in New York, police officials would like to know how police documents containing confidential personal information ended up as confetti at last week's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This really happened. Strips of paper containing Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, even the names of undercover detectives ---

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

BERMAN: -- rained down on parade spectators. An investigation is under way. Yes.

SAMBOLIN: I think that would be a good idea to recycle, right? But not in there.

All right. A woman from St. Petersburg, Florida, can face up to six months in jail. There's her picture there. She was photographed two months ago riding a manatee. We showed it to you back then.

Fifty-three-year-old Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant on Saturday. Florida's Manatee Sanctuary Act protects these endangered sea mammals. Gutierrez says she was new to the area at the time and did not know about that law.

BERMAN: Too bad for her. She's going to learn about it now.

The Northeast about to get a major smackdown -- a smackdown in the form of snow. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is standing by with the details. We'll talk to her in a moment.


BERMAN: All right. Everyone, welcome back.

Soledad O'Brien is here to take a look at "STARTING POINT", coming up.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. Lots happening this morning.

Thirty-five days until we reach the fiscal cliff with more Republicans thinking they're going to move away from that pledge not to raise taxes. We'll get reaction this morning from the man behind the pledge, Grover Norquist, with Americans for Tax Reform. Also be talking to New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell from the House Budget Committee.

We're following the growing unrest in Egypt this morning after President Morsi has a decree that now gives him extraordinary new powers. We'll get some insight from Jamie Rubin, President Clinton's former assistant Secretary of State.

And he's the talk of the sports world. Grenell College sophomore Jack Taylor joins us to talk about his record breaking 138-point basketball game.

BERMAN: It was insane.

O'BRIEN: It was insane. The next game after that, though, not so much. We'll talk about that, too.

And he's a living legend who really needs no introduction at all. Tony Bennett will talk about his new album, his new memoir, his new documentary, and his hobby which is painting.

BERMAN: As if he had to be any cooler. Now, he's taken up painting, too?

O'BRIEN: No, he actually started his career as a painter. Never thought the music thing would work out. It was a high school teacher told him he should go into music. SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow.

BERMAN: I didn't know that.

O'BRIEN: He's a fabulous painter.

All that and much more when we see you right at the top of the hour, 7:00.

SAMBOLIN: Very nice. Thanks, Soledad. We'll be tuning in.

Forty-two minutes past the hour. It looks like snow might be in the forecast for the Middle East. I know Berman is freaking out about this.

Let's get right to Karen Maginnis for the very latest.

He says it ain't so. He's stressed.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it could be a rain/snow mix. You still without power?

SAMBOLIN: No, he has power. But he has to do a little cleanup before the snow. And so, he freaks.

MAGINNIS: I know. Oh, John, I've been there. I have had a flooded home, and it's very unpleasant, very unpleasant for an extended period of time.

Temperatures in the 30s all across the Northeast and New England. And it looks like temperatures today fairly mild, going to be in the 40s. But as we go into Tuesday, that's when we're looking at the snow chances going up.

Now, how much snowfall? Not a whole lot. It could be a rain/snow mix. But, generally, speaking along that Interstate 90 corridor to the north of that, that's where we're looking at the bulk of the snowfall right now.

It looks like a little bit more towards the south. Lake-effect snows, it's really kind of the machine has been turned off, but still picking up the winds coming right off the lake here with sustained winds, 15 to around 20 miles per hour. Not going to produce much in the way of snowfall anymore interior sections of the Northeast, John, just to be clear.

But a frontal system is going to squeak through. As it does, on the back side of the area of low pressure, we'll start to see a little bit of snowfall. It's going to be light. Most areas, barely anything to talk about, John.

But a chance of severe weather right along the Gulf Coast. I'm tailoring the forecast for you, John.

BERMAN: I know. It's like my personalized weather forecast. I really do appreciate it. I have a flight tomorrow. I'm just hoping the plane gets out. I had to get (INAUDIBLE), but thank you.


SAMBOLIN: If you would like your own personalized forecast --

BERMAN: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: -- just send us an e-mail.

BERMAN: It's 44 minutes after the hour right now. We want to get you up to speed on all the headlines this morning.

The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is holding up today. It's day six of that cease-fire. Delegations from both sides are in Cairo to meet separately with the Egyptians who helped broker the cease-fire. The goal today: to try to advance the talks further.

SAMBOLIN: A fire that broke out at a garment factory in Bangladesh this morning is now under control. It happened just two days after another fire there killed at least 120 workers. Authorities still don't know what caused the eight-storey blaze Saturday night.

The company that owns the factory manufactures clothing for Wal-Mart and other U.S. and European brands.

BERMAN: A popular cholesterol reducing medication is now under recall because 41 batches may contain small particles of glass. Manufacture, Ranbaxy, says the recall affects bottles containing 10, 20, and 40 milligram tablets of atorvastatin calcium. It's better known by the generic name of Lipitor. Sorry, it is the generic version of Lipitor, I should say.

SAMBOLIN: So, you feeling lucky? Are you? With no grand prize winner Saturday night the jackpot for Wednesday's Powerball drawing is now up to a record $425 million. That number you know is going to go even higher depending on ticket sales over the next couple of days. The previous high from Powerball was $365 million. That ticket was sold in 2006.

BERMAN: Going to be you this year. I can feel it.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, that would be great.

BERMAN: All right. Speaking of money, $1 billion? That's how much was spent by consumers on Black Friday alone. Today is Cyber Monday, of course. And with that upon us, how good are those deals online? We're going to dig into the numbers for you this morning. Stay with us.


BERMAN: You're looking at a beautiful shot of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Kind of like a holiday festive look there. Of course, the holiday season is upon us right now. Thirty-seven degrees in Washington at this moment. Later, it will be up at 54 degrees. As we said, the holiday shopping season off to a record start. 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the holiday weekend. That's according to the National Retail Federation, which has invested interested in this. That's up 9.2 percent from a year ago. Total spending they say was up also, 59.1 billion, up nearly 13 percent. It was 52.4 billion last year.

And while today is Cyber Monday, the day online retailers typically offer deals after the four-day weekend. Online deals actually started almost a week ago. Also, Black Friday retail sales online topped one billion for the first time ever. That's up 26 percent from sales of almost 816 million last year. That's according to

Cyber Monday deals are no longer just for Cyber Monday, though. Joining us now is Peter Shankman. He's a branding strategist and author of "Can We Do That." He's going to talk to us about Cyber Monday and how much longer this will really exist, especially if these deals are available days in advance.

PETER SHANKMAN, BRANDING STRATEGIST: I mean, Cyber Monday really started because seven or eight years ago, very few of us had broadband. And so, we'd go into work on Monday morning with much faster connections, wouldn't do any work and do all our shopping then. But now, we're doing it, you know, Thursday night, in between the turkey and the dessert.

You know, (INAUDIBLE) and Amazon has. And all the deals have really started earlier this week. They started earlier last week, probably Tuesday and Wednesday, you could get super beginner deals. And then on Thursday, everyone was online anyway, because no one was working. So, we're all home.

And then, at midnight when the people who did go out and shop, they went out and they shop but they also had all their Smartphones. And their Smartphones were scanning the bar code and seeing if they could get it cheaper online as well.

BERMAN: So, Cyber Monday is now likes a six-day affair.

SHANKMAN: It really is. It's a Cyber Week pretty much. But again, it's one of those things that served a purpose about seven or eight years ago, and now, we just calling it --

BERMAN: But Black Friday, too. The single-day holiday events are no longer just single-day events and they may be cannibalizing themselves in a way.

SHANKMAN: Well, keep in mind also that it was -- you couldn't --10 years ago, you couldn't shop online. Fifteen years ago, they didn't exist. So, you know, people had the day off on Friday and so they went to the stores. And then they started doing it at midnight. You can get doorbuster sales and things like that.

You know, now, you can go online as you're walking down the street and go to the Amazon app or the Wal-Mart app or whatever is and buy whatever you want, whenever you want it. So, the timing has changed. It's sort of we're DVRing holiday shopping.

BERMAN: It's a great way to put it. We all like to mock the idea of Cyber Monday and all these named days, but are there any deals that are actually really available?

SHANKMAN: There are. I mean, you always look for free shipping. You know, just the free shipping alone can save you on gas, on tolls, on parking, things like that, on getting big TVs into your car that normally wouldn't fit. There are some websites out there. Dealtaker is a great site that gives you not only the latest Cyber Monday deals but also any coupons that are collected by crowd source.

So, there are over quarter million coupons that you can use. You're also go to Google, type in the name of the store you want, the online store, and then click -- type coupon and it will pretty much show you any coupons that exist online, the codes you can use.

And also keep in mind, a lot of the smaller sites, the smaller companies that have websites, they're also doing deals today that they might not have done over the weekend. So, small business. Great day to shop for small business.

BERMAN: And I think free shipping is such a great point here. That's actual real, free money if you can get your act --

SHANKMAN: Yes. You're looking anywhere from depending on the size, the product $8 to $50 to get something in a week that you, otherwise, have to drag home. That's real money.

BERMAN: All right. What sectors are we seeing the most online shopping?

SHANKMAN: We're seeing a lot of electronics. You know, you'll never get a deal at Apple. Apple basically says, we know you want our products, so we're not giving it to you on sale. But you will see deals Wal-Mart, Amazon, the big stores will definitely have deals on electronics. Clothing. Things like that. Outer wear.

There's a website, the ScottEvest is doing 30 percent off everything they have in their store today only. So, there are a lot of deals again for smaller sites. We're seeing clothing, we're seeing electronics, jewelry, accessories, things like that.

BERMAN: So, you're an expert on this. Presumably, you know all the tricks, yet, you still succumbed.

SHANKMAN: Oh, I did. I did. My family was driving me a little crazy Thursday, so I went into my dad's bedroom -- my dad's office in his apartment, found a 70-inch Vizio on Amazon. My wife's finding this out, too, so, bought it. Sorry, honey. And that should be delivered in five days.

BERMAN: Seventy inches, by the way, is really big.

SHANKMAN: Yes. I didn't realize exactly how big 70 inches, in fact, was. BERMAN: Well, congratulations to you and your family on the arrival of that TV soon. Hope you have a big house for it. Peter Shankman, great to see you.

SHANKMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, imagine delivering that big package. Thank you, gentlemen. Acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman lends his voice to the fight for same-sex marriage in this country. We'll hear from him right after this quick break.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Mr. John Berman, taking a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning.

Actor Morgan Freeman is known for his distinctive voice. Now, he's lending that voice to the fight to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States. Freeman narrates a new 30-second ad produced by the human rights campaign.


VOICE OF MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Freedom, justice and human dignity have always guided our journey toward a more perfect union. Now, across our country, we are standing together for the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry the person they love. And --


BERMAN: That voice can narrate anything.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.


BERMAN: All right. meanwhile, a different voice here. Lindsay Lohan making her acting comeback as the late, great, Elizabeth Taylor in "Liz & Dick." And as expected, the movie was full of melodrama, like of this clip when the lifetime version of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton meet on the set of "Cleopatra."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. In case you haven't guessed I'm --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Richard Burton? Oh, I'd shake your hand, but my nails --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, likewise. Has anyone ever told you you're a very pretty girl?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: The clip kind of says it all right there, because the reviews -- it's choking me up --


BERMAN: Not so kind. The reviews have been awful. The "New Jersey Star Ledger" and the "San Francisco Chronicle" said they were hoping for so bad it's good, but both just said "Liz & Dick" was just plain bad.

SAMBOLIN: Look, I read a review in "People" magazine that was not so bad. Not so bad.

BERMAN: I hope you enjoyed it.


SAMBOLIN: All right. That's it for us.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.