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Massive Storm Causing Travel Delays; High Winds Threaten To Ground Balloons; Police: Sisters Held Captive In Filthy Conditions; Teen Assassin Free in Texas; Police Detain 14 Suspected Radical Islamists; Brazil Stadium Collapses; Another Delay Plagues Obamacare's Rollout

Aired November 27, 2013 - 19:00   ET




Teenage assassins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In all, how many people did you kill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MAE: No idea? You lost track?


BURNETT: One of the teens who beheaded at least four children, free in Texas tonight.

Plus, a deadly storm wreaks havoc on holiday plans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just missed my connection to Albany and I'm hyperventilating.

BURNETT: And tempers flare heading into Black Friday.


BURNETT: An OUTFRONT special report tonight -- let's go OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, snow, sleet, rain, and wind adding up to serious delays for millions of Americans trying to get home for Thanksgiving. I want to show you a live picture at Denver International, what you're looking at on the left, the airport, and New York's Penn Station, the main train station here in the northeast, on the right and there have been major delays there after a train broke down on top of the weather.

Now, today is historically the day in the United States, the biggest travel day of the year. Forty three million people are expected to travel, whether it be on the highway or in the air. A massive winter storm that stretches from the mid-Atlantic to the northeast is continuing to create chaos and frustration and massive delays.

Now, the rain has been soaking much of the east coast throughout the entire day, from the Carolinas all the way to southern New England. Snow and ice is the biggest problem in Western Pennsylvania and New York, and the storm is not over yet. We begin our coverage with Margaret Conley, OUTFRONT.


MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the busiest travel day of the year, millions of Americans across the country race to stay ahead of a winter storm, threatening to disrupt their holiday plans. Delays were short, but not unavoidable at LaGuardia, New York City, and Newark Airport in New Jersey.

And at Reagan Airport, near Washington, D.C., many of the problems involved passengers missing connections due to weather. On the roads, heavy snow creating dangerous driving conditions. This was the scene in Michigan, heavy, lake-effect snow covering roads and causing headaches for drivers.

And conditions aren't expected to improve until tomorrow morning. And with temperatures tumbling into the teens across much to the heartland tonight, officials are warning that those snow-covered roads could turn icy, making travel even tougher for folks getting a late start on their holiday travel plans.

Plows and salt trucks have also been out in Ohio. Crews working hard to keep up with the snow and ice, which is so far been blamed for scores of accidents. Perhaps the biggest surprise was in the south, in the Carolinas. It's not snow, but a steady, chilly rain turning some roads into shallow rivers.


CONLEY: Now, the key here is to follow the weather. Try to stay out ahead of it. Check your flight status if you're flying. That's what we keep hearing from all of the authorities. Check with the airlines before you get to the airport. Now, conditions are changing. We're feeling temperatures drop significantly in New York. The winds are picking up. Stay on top of the weather, locally, in your neighborhood and do that now and throughout this holiday -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Margaret, thanks very much to you. And now I want to bring in our meteorologist, Chad Myers, with the latest from the Severe Weather Center and some of those images we just saw in Margaret's piece, I mean, pretty incredible when you just look at the sheer scale of the storm, right, Chad? It keeps hanging around and it's causing problems. Where is the worst of it?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, considering this thing started and killed the first person in San Francisco seven days ago, and now it's finally up here in the northeast, and the worst of it really is still New York City, Boston, and all through the Catskills, the Poconos and so on.

But think about where we are now is almost thinking about where you are, anyway. Where the eye of a hurricane isn't very windy, that's where you are now. You're in the center of the low, but as that low goes by you, those winds are going to pick up tonight, probably almost 40 miles per hour.

Erin, 5,800 planes are still in the sky right now. This is -- they're just there. Most of them are delayed. Even though most of them, now the delays are 35 minutes. The delays did drop off in Philadelphia. The flight board, delayed, delayed, scheduled, delayed, delayed, and I can go down and down and down.

So just because the FAA doesn't say there are delays going on, trust me, they're still there and the roads are getting slick as well. Because we are now beginning to see temperatures fall below 32, the wet roadways are freezing up. If there's a puddle, the puddle splashes, the puddle splashes on to a bridge and that's the first thing that going to freeze up tonight.

If you have to drive this evening, you need to be very careful, because you can't see those pieces of black ice now that are forming on the roadways as the snow coming in now, changing over from rain to snow, not a lot, but enough to just keep those roadways to be freezing and that's where the worst of it is right now. Our wind gusts in New York City, 36 miles per hour.

BURNETT: And those wind gusts, let me ask you about that. Not only are you saying, you know, in terms of life and death, that black ice, obviously, can be very, very severe, when do you expect the storm to blow over? What's it going to be like tomorrow, especially when you look at things like high winds that are so important for planes?

MYERS: You know, I think we probably get the wind speeds, the gusts below 20 miles per hour, after 1:00 tomorrow and it goes down rather rapidly. Because this storm, the low itself, just spreads itself into Newfoundland. So it's gone by tomorrow afternoon. But for tomorrow morning, when we're going to have a parade out there, the winds are still forecast to be gusting to 27.

Now, that's different from yesterday. If you remember, yesterday in the forecast was 34, which was right on the edge of balloons or no balloons, 27 is below that threshold so far, so good.

BURNETT: All right, we'll see, so far, so good. Thanks very much to you, Chad. So, obviously, still a lot to be concerned about, especially for those traveling, but Chad talked about the parade. It happens to be here in New York, but obviously it's a parade that the whole country watches and it's for the whole country.

And as you heard, obviously, through that entire parade tomorrow, the wind is going to be high, but just how high? New York City, of course, is still dealing with whether those balloons are going to be cancelled from flying. Some of them are just truly mammoth. They're enormous when you see that Snoopy going over your head.

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT tonight with the balloons.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the balloons are ready, that's for sure. Take a look, with you can see Sonic the Hedgehog here. Down the way, you have Hello Kitty. The crowds are here also trying to get a lack at these balloons before they hopefully take off tomorrow morning.

And I say hopefully because there's still a question whether or not these balloons will be grounded. But I spoke to the incident commander from the New York City Police Department. This is the man, Erin, who will ultimately be making the decision as to whether or not balloons like this one will end up flying.

He says that he has been checking the weather forecasts. They're also going to be checking wind gauges along the parade route. And according to what he's saying, he believes the balloons going to, in fact, fly tomorrow, but that ultimate decision going to not be made until just before the parade starts. That's going to be at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. A lot of fingers are crossed - Erin/

BURNETT: Jason, thanks to you. A lot of fingers are crossed. Maybe you watch it on T, I hope you do, because it's really worth it, but when you see it in person, those balloons are just incredible. When you think the feet, how huge they are, and they're moving down between trees and buildings and they maneuver and it would be really great if they could fly tomorrow.

Still to come, another house of horrors, three teen girls held captive for two years in an Arizona home, they are free tonight and we have the story.

Plus, a teen assassin living in the United States, a cartel hit man who beheaded four young boys in Texas or should I call him a hit boy?

And more stores than ever asking employees to work on Thanksgiving. Here's the question. Is that practice unfair or is it absolutely and utterly appropriate?

And consumers fired up over Black Friday. Will the biggest shopping day turn violent? We do have a special report.


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, three sisters held captive for months. This is another house of horrors. This time it's in Tucson, Arizona. And according to police, three girls, they were aged 12, 13, and 17 were kept locked in their bedrooms by their mother and stepfather.

These children were forced to live in filthy conditions for two years. Both parents were arrested yesterday after two of the sisters escaped and ran to a neighbor who then called police. Paul Vercammen is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER (voice-over): Tucson's chief of police describes a house of horrors for three girls being held in a prison of sorts by their stepfather, Fernando Richter, and mother, Sophia. Police say the home was set up to keep the girls captive. Alarms, 24-hour surveillance, towels stuffed under doors, music blaring.

CHIEF ROBERTO VILLASENOR, TUCSON, ARIZONA: They were imprisoned. Their movements were controlled. There was evidence found in the bedroom, which supports their story, particularly issues about when and how and where they went to the bathroom, how they were fed, what they were fed.

VERCAMMEN: The girls were reportedly found unkempt and filthy, telling officers they ate just once a day and hadn't bathed in four to six months. The alleged abuse came to an end on Tuesday after the 12 and 13-year-old sisters escaped from the house and ran to a neighbor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said that their stepfather had a knife and that they just escaped from their bedroom and ran over here and they didn't have any shoes on and they looked like they just had gotten out of bed. And so we brought them inside, and that's when we called 911.

VERCAMMEN: When police responded to this house, they found the girl's 17-year-old sister still locked in her bedroom. Both parents were arrested and investigators say they're gathering evidence, which includes a journal the oldest daughter had kept, for at least a year and a half.


VERCAMMEN: Now, these parents face a total of 19 charges, ten against the father, nine against the mother for abuse and kidnapping. The additional charge against the father is for sex abuse. And authorities are almost promising, Erin, that there will be more charges filed.

BURNETT: Paul, you just mentioned sex abuse, obviously, a question a lot of people would have had. It's horrific, and in your report, you said the girls weren't able to shower for months and only table to eat once a day, 12, 13, and 17 years old. How are they doing now?

VERCAMMEN: Well, we understand from a medical examiner that their growth is not abnormal, so that's somewhat a silver lining. Also, they seem to all be happy that they are together again. Even though they were in adjoining rooms, it's clear that they didn't see each other for a long time -- Erin.

BURNETT: I mean, it's unbelievable. You hear about this, and hear about this happening in Arizona and it makes you think about Ohio. Paul Vercammen, thank you. At least those girls are safe tonight and their horrible, horrible situation is now ending.

Our third story OUTFRONT is a teen assassin free in Texas tonight. This is an unbelievable story because a 17-year-old spent three years in jail and spent the time in jail for beheading four boys in Mexico. But no now, apparently, he's living in San Antonio. And tonight there are growing concerns about whether he may strike again. Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in a country ravaged by years of drug cartel-fuelled violence, it was a shocking scene in Mexico three years ago. A baby-faced American teenager accused of working as an assassin for the South Pacific drug cartel was paraded in front of reporters.

Edgar Jiminez Lugo was just 14 years old when this video was filmed. Jiminez Lugo is name by the nickname, "El Punches." He laid out gruesome details of his life in organized crime. Jiminez Lugo said he was 11 years old when he started killing and slit the throats of four victims himself.

He also said drug cartel leaders picked him off the street and forced him into carrying out the assassinations and that he was high on drugs when he killed cartel rivals.

El Ponchis was convicted as a juvenile and sentenced to three years in prison. Now he's 17 and was released from prison Tuesday in Mexico. News cameras captured the release. He was quickly deported back to the United States, flown to San Antonio, Texas, where he disappeared back into American society.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they helped facilitate his return, but say privacy laws prohibit the agency from releasing more details.

El Ponchis was born in San Diego. He's a U.S. citizen. He served his prison sentence and does not face any criminal charges in the United States, so he's free to move around like anyone else.

El Ponchis isn't the only American teenager lured into this violent world. CNN told the notorious stories of two American drug cartel assassins in exclusive jailhouse interviews a few months ago.

(On camera): In all, how many people did you kill?


LAVANDERA: No idea? You lost track?

CARDONA: I guess so.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Gabriel Cardona is serving a life sentence in Texas. He and a childhood buddy, Rosalio Reta, worked as assassins for the infamous Zetas Drug Cartel as teenagers. Their stories highlighted the frightening trend of cartel leaders luring young kids with the promise of money and power to carry out the cartel's dirty work.

ROSALIO RETA, CARTEL HIT MAN: The first day I had to take somebody's life, that's a day I'll never going to be able to forget. Because after that, I had no life.

LAVANDERA: Reta and Cardona are locked away for life. But the kid known as El Ponchis is getting a second chance.


LAVANDERA: When the young man known as El Ponchis landed here in San Antonio, we're told that he was turned over to an aunt and that he'll spend time in a rehabilitation center, but it's not exactly clear where that will be. State Child Protective Services here in Texas say they are not handling his case and many people will be watching closely to see if this young man returns to a world of violent crime -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Ed, thank you very much. An unbelievable story.

Well, still to come, a construction accident in a sports stadium. We're going to go to the scene for the latest. Unbelievable pictures.

And a food goddess accused of abusing drugs on a daily address. What effect is this going to have on her empire?

Plus, the latest big blow to Obamacare striking right before the holiday.


BURNETT: We are back with tonight's "Outer Circle." And tonight we begin in Moscow where authorities detained 14 suspected radical Islamists in an overnight raid.

Phil Black is OUTFRONT.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Police say they became aware of this group because they were carrying out various crimes, including theft and selling drugs, and they now believe the purpose of those crimes was to fund terrorist activity. Security Services raided an apartment in eastern Moscow, arresting 14 people.

There they say they found three homemade explosive devices with detonators and one of them, they say, was designed to be worn as a belt. They said they also found handguns, ammunition, bomb components and grenades. A 15th person was arrested at another location later on.

Those arrested were a mix of nationalities from across central Asia and parts of Russia, including the north caucuses. The north caucuses is where there are Islamist insurgents fighting Russian security services because they want to set up their own independent Islamic state.

Militants from that region are believed to have been behind the bombing of a bus in Volgograd just last month which killed six people. And militants from that region have sworn to do all they can to disrupt the Sochi Winter Olympics this February.

Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.


BURNETT: Obviously, those Olympics are a crucial question.

Speaking of these big sporting events around the world, I want to go to Brazil now. A construction accident at one of the 2014 World Cup stadiums caused a collapse. Brazil has been struggling massively to get ready and people lost their lives today in this collapse.

I asked Shasta Darlington about it.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, at least two workers were killed at the construction site for the World Cup Stadium right here in Sao Paulo when a crane fell over and a huge chunk of roofing came crashing down on the site.

Now this is obviously a tragedy for the workers and their families, but it also is a serious huge blow to Brazil as it gears up for this enormous sporting event in June. In fact, it's going to build or refurbish a total of 12 stadiums across the country, and this, obviously, raises questions about the quality of that work.

This accident will also slow down the construction itself here in Sao Paulo where the World Cup is supposed to kick off with its first game.

It isn't clear yet how long the construction will be suspended, but we're looking at least at a few days and this is a stadium that's supposed to be done at the end of December -- Erin.

BURNETT: A lot of problems there in Brazil.

Well, still to come, a popular food goddess accused of having a huge drug habit. Will it mean the end of her empire?

Plus, Republicans say President Obama has broken another major Obamacare promise and chosen to break it the night before Thanksgiving when he thought you might not be watching. Do their claims add up?

And Black Friday chaos. All right, we have a little bit of time left, but things are already turning ugly and we have one heck of a report. We'll be back.

And the shout-out tonight is five seconds. It only took five seconds for engineers to implode a one-kilometer stretch of an overpass. This overpass in Rio de Janeiro. Look at that. You've got to imagine if you were the person who did that, you're thinking, that is the most amazing thing ever, and it is, but you're the lucky one. 2,645 pounds of explosives to do it and you're the genius and you get this great image. Right? Well, the cleanup people, not so lucky. Three months to clean up the residue from this explosion.

The demolition, part of a plan to revitalize the city's port area ahead of the 2016 Olympics. Another city struggling to deal with all of these big sporting events. The shout-out goes to the citizens of Rio who are going to have to put up with this stuff over the next three years as they get ready for those summer games.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

Plane, train, or automobile. If you're one of the 43 million Americans traveling in the bad weather, just trying to get to Thanksgiving, this is your dilemma, how to choose. So we tried to have a little fun with this today. It is the holiday at CNN to figure it out.

We sent three of our correspondents, very unlucky three, on a race. Traveling from New York to Washington. Nic Robertson flew, Lisa Desjardins took the train and Brian Todd braved the New Jersey turnpike in an SUV.

That's how I would have gone. I don't know. Something about, you know, you get to have your music and zoom along in the fast lane.

Anyway, who win? Got to "THE SITUATION ROOM" first?


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Nic tweeted and e-mailed that he made his flight, I said, this race is over.


I'm around Newark, you know, so forget it.


BURNETT: And a good sport, Brian Todd. Anyway, Nic arrived in Washington more than two hours sooner than Brian. Brian made it to D.C., though, for a lot less, $100 for his tank of gas and tolls, compared to Nic's $500 outlay.

And that was why I was wondering why he was so out of breath when he got in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'm like, couldn't -- you know, what is up with that? He sounds like a nine-month pregnant woman like me. No, man, upstairs.

Anyway, how will you get home, let us know.

Well, shocking allegations that celebrity chef Nigella Lawson abused drugs. At a hearing today an e-mail from her husband Charles Saatchi was read in the courtroom. In it he complains Lawson was using cocaine and marijuana daily. Saatchi also reportedly called his ex- wife High-gella in reference to her constant drug use.

Now that e-mail I want to know was released in court as part of a case against the couple's former personal assistant for embezzlement. The couple divorced this summer after Saatchi was pictured with his hands around his wife's neck at a cafe. CNN has reached out to Lawson's representatives, but they have so far refused to comment.

Well, in classic Dubai fashion, fireworks lit up the world's largest tower. She's a beautiful girl. She really is. The Burj Khalifa is her name and those fireworks were to celebrate the city's winning bid for the 2020 World Expo.

Dubai should be excited. This is a very big deal.

Over the years, the six-month expedition of the World Expo, which some of you may have thought is back to the worlds fair and stuff -- no, this is huge money. Introducing the world's life-changing innovation and, the telephone and the escalator over history, and still a huge economic boost to the city that wins it. Shanghai hosted it in 2010, the expo pumped as much as $58 billion into the local economy. Dubai says they'll get more than $20 billion, 270,000 jobs, and expect 25 million visitors during the event.

Our fourth story OUTFRONT is a major blow to President Obama. Of course, we're talking about Obamacare. The Obama administration today deciding that they're going to delay a key portion of the health care Website that would have allowed small businesses to enroll online.

Now, Republicans, of course, jumped at the news with great excitement. House Speaker John Boehner calling, quote, "another broken promise, and more proof this administration's assurances have no credibility."

OUTFRONT tonight, senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, to begin our coverage.

So, Jim, how is the White House defending this latest delay?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying that insurers will still be able to provide coverage to small businesses, but that small businesses will have to obtain that coverage offline. They're not going to be able to do it on the Web site.

But no doubt about it, this is another mishap and the administration revealed it, Erin, just as the administration was about to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey at the White House. So Republicans pounce, accused the White House of dumping bad news right before the holiday.

But just to give you a sense as to what they're talking about, officials at HHS earlier today announced they were delaying the online enrollment feature on for small businesses for one year. What that means is those companies would have to buy their coverage for their employees offline through insurers or through insurance agents.

Now, officials had hoped to get this portion of working this month. As a matter of fact, officials here at the White House and at HHS thought that was going to happen. They said it was going to happen, but it's now not going to happen. Officials caution, though, that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees aren't required by law to purchase insurance under Obamacare. The law just makes that enrollment available. And as you said, House Speaker John Boehner seized on this news and said the president should use this opportunity to delay the implementation of Obamacare altogether until the bugs are worked out.

And, Erin, the Democratic Party put out an e-mail to Democrats across the country today, you know, e-mailing out talking points to Democrats to use around the dinner table on Thanksgiving, when they're sitting around the table with their conservative relatives --

BURNETT: Oh, great.

ACOSTA: -- on how to talk about Obamacare, this was not in there. This mishap was not in there, Erin.

BURNETT: I have to say, you know, it just would be -- I hope people aren't talking about Obamacare. I understand it's important. I understand that politics come up, but seriously, I hope we can all do better than that.

All right. But, Jim, seriously, despite this latest failure, White House officials have obviously said this weekend that that Web site,, is going to be 80 percent "effective", quote/unquote, right?

ACOSTA: Right.

BURNETT: Going to happen? What is 80 percent, anyway?

ACOSTA: Well, they're talking about 80 percent of the users who would be on at any time. And so, you know, there are some folks who are not going to be able to use the Web site as well as the administration would like.

But what they are saying is that they believe that the Web site will be working for what they call the vast majority of users. This weekend, they say they are going to meet this target date of November 30th, which is only three days away.

But, Erin, keep in mind, as the country is focused on traffic and the highways this holiday weekend, the Obama administration is worried about the flow of people on to this Web site. Earlier this week, a senior White House official confirmed to CNN that the administration met with allied groups, groups that are friendly to this White House, to urge them not to drive traffic to the site for a week.

Officials at the White House and at HHS, they want to see what the demand is going to be like and they're urging consumers to avoid this site altogether at peak hours, right around 2:00 in the afternoon, and instead use in the mornings and in the evenings and weekends.

And, Erin, it sounds like those warnings that you get from transportation officials to avoid highways at certain times of the day. That is essentially what the administration is saying right now about They are just not out of the woods yet.

BURNETT: They're hoping people are battling it out on Black Friday instead of going to the Web site.

All right. Jim Acosta, thank you.

And OUTFRONT tonight, "The National Review's" Reihan Salam, Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis joins us as well.

So, Chris, you just heard Jim's report there. And I want to add something Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that actually reminded me of something I kind of forgotten, maybe some of our viewers have as well. Cantor said, quote, "Once again, President Obama has unilaterally delayed another major portion of Obamacare. And once again, he has tried to bury bad news around the holiday, hoping nobody will notice. These are hardly the actions of a transparent administration."

Of course, Chris, he is referring to the delay of the employer mandate. That was huge news and it announced right before July 4th.

You've got to admit. I mean, come on, at this point, why do it right around a holiday every time? Just own up to it.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, to be honest, I'm not sure they're trying to hide from the fact that there have been some problems with the rollout. I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that there are.

I think the bigger question is, you know, what are we going to do about it? And clearly the problems are significant enough, but they're getting addressed. What I find kind of amusing when I hear some of my, you know, Republican friends, and members of Congress, talk about Obamacare, is I can't believe that they're this interested in health care.

I mean, for years, I couldn't figure out what their ideas were, what the proposals were, how they were going to address the fact there were 47 million people without healthcare coverage. Yet, now, in spite, you know, in life all these Web site woes, you know, they are very fashion passionate about the concerns about health care, except one big problem, they don't have any solutions or any ideas what should be done to fix it or address the bigger problem. That's where I think their outrage kind of falls on deaf ears with a lot of the American people.

BURNETT: And there is a point -- obviously, we have the talking points, we talked about it with Reince Priebus, Reihan, the head of the Republican committee, and they had all these things to shoot down Obamacare. They didn't have new ideas in there.

But this is something that might be troubling to the GOP. According to our newest CNN poll, 54 percent of Americans believe the current problems of Obamacare can be solved. They do think it's fixable. So, the GOP that's hoping people going to think this is an utter train wreck are now going to vote for Republican, they might be counting their turkey eggs before they hatch.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the fundamental problem is, even if the website is working, even if it's up and running, Obamacare was based on a bunch of carrots and bunch of sticks. Those carrots were offering people subsidies for buying coverage. There were things like --

BURNETT: Going on your parent's coverage, right? Those are the freebies.

SALAM: And things like the small business exchange.


SALAM: But the thing is, a lot of those carrots aren't quite as appealing as they wanted to a lot of these young invincibles, young, healthy people. And also, now, this carrot for small business. We're going to make it easy for your employees to buy coverage. That's not working either.

So, then, you've got the sticks. Then, you've got the individual mandate penalties, and all of the other things --

BURNETT: And the taxes.

SALAM: And the taxes. These are the things that are designed to get people to buy into the system.

So, the thing is, if the carrots aren't working, if they're not proving terribly attractive to people, even when you have the exchanges up and running as you do in some states like Kentucky and Washington state, then what's going to happen when those penalties come down the pike as well?

I think it's not just about the Web site.

BURNETT: Chris, what about this? So, the ultimate carrot to me was people being table to stay on their parent's health care plan, right? That's popular. People like and it's important.

And that happened before people had to pay for it. But now you have this problem where those people who are 26 and under are a crucial part of the cadre of people that must sign up for these exchanges for them to function.

But if you get it for free on their parent's health care plan, they're not going to go pay for it on the exchange. So, hasn't the administration created its own Hobbesian dilemma?

KOFINIS: Well, you know, first, bonus points for using Hobbesian dilemma today. I didn't expect that answer, or that question.

Nonetheless, I mean, let's put something into context. You know, conservatives want to sit there and talk about carrots and sticks. This -- the whole idea of the individual mandate was a conservative idea. It was based on a Republican idea. We saw it roll out in Massachusetts under Governor Romney.

So, this notion that somehow this is a liberal agenda is fantasy. Putting that aside for a second, when you look at the kind of mechanics of it, every bit policy when you roll out is going to have implementation issues. This one unfortunately is more severe and more dramatic because it's around a Web site.

That aside, the reality is, you're going to have -- I think, you're going to see more significant signups as you get closer to the deadline. You know, are there going to be people who are going to be holding off because they're going to be rather pay the fine or somehow stay on their parent's coverage? Yes.

But if you're looking at some of the good news that's coming out, people with pre-existing conditions now can get health care coverage. Families can now cover their young adults. You've got families who can get preventative health care. The cost curve is being bended down.

There are positives that are being outweighed, unfortunately, by the negatives of this rollout.

BURNETT: All right. Final word to you, Reihan.

SALAM: Actually, the CMS finds that it looks like the cost curve is bending up. You've seen health care growth slow down since 2004.

KOFINIS: That's not true.

SALAM: But actually, it looks as though there are a variety of things, including a weak macroeconomic environment that seem to be slowing down health care cost growth. But, actually, Obamacare, it looks like it's just as likely to be increasing costs as opposed to decreasing, despite the spin we're getting from the White House.

KOFINIS: That's not accurate.

SALAM: If you try to blame this on Republicans, but this is a real problem that's causing real people --


KOFINIS: It was Republican idea, right? Can you at least admit that --

SALAM: It was the Heritage Foundation's idea that was resisted by Republicans --

KOFINIS: So it was a Republican idea?

SALAM: Way back -- that's not -- that's actually not right. In 1993 and '94, you had most Republicans opposing the individual mandate then. You'd have a handful that backed it then in a different context without over-regulating plans.

This is very silly. We should all be trying to fix this, just like the 39 Democrats in the House who tried to pass the Upton bill.

KOFINIS: That's great, then fix it.


SALAM: -- running away from Obamacare --


KOFINIS: -- a single idea --

SALAM: Democrats like Mark Begich and others who are trying to fix this.

BURNETT: All right. I'm going to hit pause there. Thank you very much.

I know a lot of you all feel as passionately as Reihan and Chris do. Please tweet us your thoughts on their comments now.

Still to come, more and more employers are forcing workers to work tomorrow, Thanksgiving. Is that some sort of a sacred American day? Secular, but sacred. You get my point. Or not?

Plus, Black Friday turns ugly. Customers threaten violence at America's stores already. We have a special can't-miss report.

We'll be back.


BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT is the business and the madness of Black Friday. It is here again.

Americans expected to spend over $600 billion during this holiday shopping season. And even though Black Friday is still two days away, as we're all aware, it's already begun.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT with tonight's money and power.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The shoving. The screaming.


LAH: The swearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push one of my kids and I will stab one of you mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!

LAH: Let the fists fly.

Retailers call it the Super Bowl of shopping or Black Friday. But scenes like these that flood the Internet give the bargain battle a black eye.

This ugly clash at a Los Angeles Walmart two years ago was captured by Juan Castro.

JUAN CASTRO, BLACK FRIDAY VICTIM: All the people just went in there and they just started destroying the boxes.

LAH: All this for mark downed Xbox Games.

CASTRO: People were fighting, trying to get those deals, and that's when some lady brought out pepper spray and just started going at it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My eyes are burning! My eyes! My eyes!

LAH (on camera): Was that moment a turning point for Walmart?

RACHEL WALL, WALMART SPOKESWOMAN: Certainly, I think we could do a better job at managing crowds and helping customers get into the store, find the item they're looking for and get out. So, I think we learned a lot.

LAH (voice-over): Walmart says this time, it's a calmer Black Friday, orderly lines through the store. Shoppers will get wristbands and rain check tickets to ship items that run out. But what won't change are surprise deals through the store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty seconds and all the people go crazy.

LAH: So predictably wild, that this dad brought his kids to Walmart to witness the mayhem first hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's something about Black Friday, your integrity --

LAH: These Chicago area cousins don't care about the mayhem. In fact, they thrive on it every year, using shopping apps and meticulous planning to save on toys for their young kids.

MEGAN HAMPTON, BLACK FRIDAY BELIEVERS: What, eight hours of shopping?

KATIE KWASHANIAK, BLACK FRIDAY BELIEVERS: Yes, it was like yes, eight hours or so.

LAH: Seriously, all night.

KATIE KWASHANIAK: It was worth it.

LAH: Kwashaniak spent $960, half of her budget, saving $1,000 on gifts, enough to make her want to dance.

KWASHANIAK: So, yes, the jig had to happen, and I would do it again if I got a deal like that.

LAH: Not a laughing matter to Victoria Caruso, who's seen enough video of the fighting.


LAH: And doesn't want any of it, even if it's literally a pillow fight.

VICTORIA CARUSO: I think they're crazy. To them, it's a sport. Lacrosse is a sport. Black Friday is not a sport.

LAH: She shops all online. Sure, she gives up on some of the deals, but savors her serenity.

CARUSO: The savings aren't worth the bail money.

LAH: After capturing the Walmart wildness, Juan Castro avoids the retailer on Black Friday, but still can't resist a short outing.

CASTRO: I should get a bulletproof vest and make sure -- maybe some football gear.

LAH: That may be good advice, because for shoppers like these, it's game on.


BURNETT: That's kind of incredible, Kyung. And I can't believe it's already happening before Friday, right? This is the stuff I'm like, we should see you at 5:00 a.m. on Friday morning.

But where you are, people have been getting ready for Black Friday for more than a week. I mean, what are you seeing? Parking in a chair, not showering? What's going on?

LAH: Yes, all of that.

Take a look at this. What you're seeing over here, to get this position, first in line at the Best Buy, these two tents, they've been here since Friday. And yes, those are children's chairs. There are kids, as we take a walk here in those tents. The mom was very quick to point out that school is out for the week here in Burbank.

But all of these tents here, these people have been here since Friday. And they have to do that, they say, in order to get those flat screen TVs, the tablets that they want. You know, you can hear the hype in Black Friday on television, but it's certainly alive.

I mean, you see this line keeps going and going. And what's going to happen is that this line is going to continue to grow, Erin, through Thursday when these doors open here at Best Buy.

BURNETT: That's amazing. And that orange and gray tent is huge. It's like a family of gypsies in there. Got a lot of people.

LAH: This is bigger than a New York apartment right here! Come on, right?

BURNETT: I've got to say, they're doing it in style. They're doing it with class. If you're going to go camp out for five days, you do it right. You do it with the tent. I agree with that.

Absolutely. All right. Thank you very much.

LAH: No open fires, though. No open fires.

BURNETT: Now, all right, we do this a little bit tongue and cheek, but the point is, is this is a serious issue. Those people are waiting for Black Friday, but they might not have to wait that long because stores are open tomorrow.

Our sixth story OUTFRONT is desert or door buster? That's the question many of you maybe contemplating tomorrow, now that more stores than ever are opening their doors on Thanksgiving.

As you can imagine, not everyone is happy about having to work the pre-Black Friday holiday blitz. Many people have been called in say that Thanksgiving should be a day for family and friends, sort of a sacred secular American holiday, is how I think of it.

OUTFRONT, "Mediaite's" Joe Concha, and our contributor, Dean Obeidallah.

All right. This is a pretty interesting issue, Dean. Let me start with you. Shopping on Thanksgiving has become a tradition, I mean, fast. It used to be the day everything was closed and you had to hang out with your family. Then, people got a break from that.

The National Retail Federation, 35 million people went shopping last year on Thanksgiving Day, up 58 percent from 2010. I mean, that's an immediate -- there is clearly demand to go shopping.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: There might be demand but doesn't make it right. When I say that, I don't say that in some kind of holier than thou attitude. There were employees complaining to the media in stores from California to New Jersey across the country. Tomorrow while everyone is sitting around having Thanksgiving, Joe, while you have your second desert --

BURNETT: That was an unnecessary blow. I'm not taking a side.

OBEIDALLAH: Good line.

But my point is this, tomorrow while we're enjoying our Thanksgiving, 1 million Americans will leave their Thanksgiving celebration to go to work. And it's not -- it's a growing thing, this is newer. There are stores this year that have never been open before. Walmart open two hours early, Kmart open, the Gap is open all day in case you need the khakis desperately on Thanksgiving Day. And I think it's unfair to employees who work there.

I want to read one quick quote from a Costco vice president, and Costco is closed. And he said, "Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season and they simply deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families", and that's what I believe as well.

BURNETT: All right. What about, though, a lot of other industries that require people to work on holidays, let's just say like the one you're partaking in right now. We have a whole staff here tomorrow.

OBEIDALLAH: If it was up to me, they could close up, show a turkey rotisserie on TV. No --

BURNETT: Show that to Jeff Zucker. Jeff, put some fire crackling noise and turkey --

OBEIDALLAH: Move on, move on --



JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE: You make it nice, right? So, you know, gas stations are open tomorrow because you have to get the Thanksgiving dinner right? There are physical labor types of jobs open tomorrow. You have the Packers and Lions and Cowboys and Raiders and Steelers and Ravens --

BURNETT: Anybody running public transportation to get you to see your family.

CONCHA: Exactly, hospitals because there might be a heart attack or two because of the healthy food that we'll be eating. But most of all, the NRA and we all know what the NRA stands for, the National Restaurant Association, says that 14 million will dine out tomorrow, 16 million are going to order in. That's 30 million people.

Gee, how is that food going to be cooked? How's that going to be delivered?

You got to work in certain industries during certain holidays, unfortunately.

OBEIDALLAH: But this is new. I mean, this is -- in those industries, every one you mentioned, it's been generations, frankly, of people getting used to working Thanksgiving. Today, this is new. That's why employees are speaking up today. There is a petition by Target and Walmart, no one cares. The only thing is people don't go tomorrow --


BURNETT: -- provide more choice because Macy's first time in 155 years will be open tomorrow, to your point. Because once you start, Costco has to follow, but they get over time pay for working and for these people it's low wages --


CONCHA: Macy's employees, 85,000 seasonal employees, OK? Walmart, 55,000. Toys "R" Us, 45,000. Seven hundred and fifty --

BURNETT: These are people only working for these six weeks.

CONCHA: Correct, 750,000 people, primarily by retailers, are employed during the holiday season, that get paid time and a half during these particular shifts. Some of these folks can't afford to put a Thanksgiving meal on the table without working this kind of hours, all right? So, the ability to earn, the ability to have that opportunity, and particularly in this environment and this economy, you know what? Let them get that opportunity. Let them work if they want to, they can earn more money.

OBEIDALLAH: Yes, but it's the ones complaining that's the problem I have.

BURNETT: So, you're saying give them a choice, so in a sense, maybe you agree, maybe.


CONCHA: The two desserts thing --


CONCHA: I have three desserts, all right?

BURNETT: Thanks to both of you.

And please, let us know your thoughts on this, because obviously, this is going to be a trend that's going to grow. Costco can't stay closed forever.

OUTFRONT next: fat, plump, and ready. I'm not talking about myself. I'm talking about an execution. President announced a presidential pardon today. The truth behind the pardon is not so nice. That's next.


BURNETT: It's time for the OUTFRONT "Outtake".

Today, we got to witness the president participate in the annual tradition, which is the presidential turkey pardon. President Barack Obama officially saved a turkey from the White House table, allowing Popcorn to live out his life.

This year's American people got to decide whether Popcorn or his fat friend Caramel would be saved. However, when the online voting ended, even though it looked like the Obama administration would take a stand and Caramel was going to get executed, the White House tweeted in fact, no, no, no, they are both going to live.

It turns out the vote and the presidential pardon didn't mean anything, and it wasn't just this year. For 60 plus years, we've watched president after president go through the motions of sparing a bird and, sadly, the truth is this is a charade, because the turkeys brought to the White House were raised to be eaten, steroid injected, morbidly obese and far from healthy and they usually only live about two years after their pardons, seven less than the average turkey.

And on top of this farcical pardon ceremonies, all of the presidents who seem so compassionate on pardon day, have regularly been spotted cooking, serving and eating other turkeys.

Yes, even though some turkeys have enough scratch to buy themselves a presidential pardon because aren't pardons all about money anyway?

It doesn't mean the president actually holds back on eating a bird, no. There is one interesting side note.

There's one interesting side not here. This is very important. We found one president truly honest about this tradition, a great president who didn't pretend he was a turkey savior when he was really salivating at the thought of eating one. That brave president was Gerald Ford, because even though he also went to the charade of a pardon, he never let the American people forget what he really believed.

"AC360" starts now.


I'm John Berman, filling in for Anderson tonight.

And we begin with the holiday travel mess along the East Coast. We'll check in with Chad Myers in the weather center in just a moment to find out the latest on the pre-Thanksgiving storm that snarled traffic and made air travel a challenge for so many. Thankfully, the scenes at the nation's airports not quite as bad as it could have been but there are still some extreme weather conditions to tell you about.

Take a look.


BERMAN (voice-over): Punishing winds lashed parts of the East Coast today as the massive winter storm trudged north.