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Blowing In The Wind; Did Canada Allow U.S. To Spy?; Navy Suspends Shipping Contractor; No Pecan Pie?; Thanksgiving In Afghanistan; Troops Spend Holiday Overseas; Black Friday Deals Start Today; New Obamacare Setback

Aired November 28, 2013 - 06:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to NEW DAY this Thursday, November 28th. It is 6:00 a.m. in the east. And we want to say a very Happy Thanksgiving to you. Chris and Kate are off, but John Berman is here with me. We're here together on Thanksgiving.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's like a Thanksgiving present.

PEREIRA: You brought the pie.


PEREIRA: I have the turkey handle.

BERMAN: You'll be happy I brought no food. We're all better off without my cooking, believe me.

PEREIRA: Well, today, of course, is the big parade, and we, along with millions of Americans, are waiting to see if the real stars in the Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will take flight this morning, those giant character balloons that everyone love that soar above the parade route. Here's the deal, gusty winds here in New York this morning are threatening to, perhaps, ground the likes of Snoopy, Spongebob and Spidey.

CNNs Jason Carroll is live along the parade route. Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving to you. When I came in this morning, it wasn't too windy. How are conditions out there?

CARROLL: Yes. Yes. Actually, it's feeling pretty good out here, Michaela, so far. We've had some mild gusts, but nothing major to speak of, at least, so far. If you take a look behind me, you can see, look, you've got Snoopy, you've got the Macy's stars, you've got sandbags holding them down for now.

In terms of what's happening with the parade and whether or not (INAUDIBLE) or not (INAUDIBLE) until the parade gets underway at 9:00 a.m.


CARROLL (voice-over): Sixteen giant balloons are filled and ready for lift off, thousands showing up Wednesday night to get a look at the helium-filled stars of the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade hoping they soar high above New York City later this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the first time that we've seen them blowing up, and that's like the best part to see the beginning and then tomorrow we'll see the end result.

CARROLL: Whether it will be safe enough for Snoopy and Woodstock to take flight going to depend on the wind and this man's decision. He is New York City Police Incident Commander James Hall. He will make the final call.

(on camera): How is it looking so far for tomorrow?

CHIEF JAMES HALL, NYPD INCIDENT COMMANDER: It looks good, it looks very good and there are, you know, gust numbers and wind numbers that we have locked into our head that allows us to fly or not to fly.

CARROLL: That's a lot of pressure, is it not, to be riding on your shoulders to make the decision, fly or not fly?

HALL: I'm used to it.

CARROLL: Parade Director Amy Cole will be waiting for the incident commander's call before the balloons to get the go-ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm going to depend on him to make that decision. You know, I've been through so many of these parades where we've had really weather, increment weather on a Wednesday and Thursday, and it's been magnificent and I have a feeling it going to be just like that again.

CARROLL: Safety is key. Sustained winds could exceed 23 miles per hour or gusts at 34 miles per hour, the balloons may have to be grounded. That going to be the first time since 1971, but again, officials are optimistic and so are the fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, seeing the balloons liable going to be incredible. I'm hoping they going to be up in the air tomorrow.


CARROLL: Well, she shouldn't be too disappointed, at least not yet. You can see that they might not have the balloons up in the air tomorrow.


CARROLL: Well, she shouldn't be too disappointed, at least not yet. Tom the Turkey is in position. He did not end up on someone's dinner table this year. He's in position, and it's our hope the other balloons, once again, they are ready to go. And from what we're hearing, at least so far, it is a go. So we're just going to have to keep waiting and keep checking in each hour to see if anything changes. But for now, Michaela, it's a go.

PEREIRA: All right, I like that. We got word from the street so far, it's a go. Thank you so much for that, Jason Carroll. Let's check in with meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, she is for Indra Petersons, for a look at what to expect because this is a concern, 23 miles an hour, sustained winds is when they ground them, right?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: With gusts up to 34. Right now the forecast is gusts up to 30. Hopefully it is going to stay under that criteria. Winds are about 18 miles an hour. We are just under what is called for, for them to call off the balloons. So hopefully that it will go 32 degrees is the forecasted high, so it's going to be very cold. With the wind chill, it's going to feel like the 20s, and guys, whoever is holding those balloons, they are going to have to hold on really tight if they fly because it going to be breezy.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's a whole bunch of people for the balloons, strong, sturdy people.

PEREIRA: Thank you for gravity. Good have you with us, Jennifer.

BERMAN: All right, some rain and snow still linger from that wintry storm that complicated travel for millions and millions of Americans. We don't have the radar here, but take my word for it. It has made a mess of the roads, especially with lake-effect snow in Michigan. There were a lot of delays, some cancellations, but most people were able to make it home for the holiday.

Our Margaret Conley is joining us from New York City this morning with more. Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It could have been a lot worse. Over 40 million Americans are traveling for the holiday. I was at LaGuardia yesterday. They were prepared for rain and crowds, but overall things went better than expected.


CONLEY (voice-over): You can call it the collective sigh of relief heard up and down the east coast as millions of Americans raced through crowds, rain and snow to get to their loved ones in time for the holidays. There were some inconveniences, but no major delays across the country. Airports like LaGuardia, New York City pulled out all the stops to help keep travellers' spirits high and relieve stress.

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

CONLEY: Some people who travelled by plane were held up by the winter storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Weather caused delays and cancellations at airports along the east coast.

CONLEY: While others were more lucky.

(on camera): Here at Atlanta's Hartsfield/Jackson airport, the busiest airport in the world, the holiday commute has been going well. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For those who made the journey by car, there was heavy snow in states like Michigan and Ohio. And train travellers on the east coast were momentarily stalled right at rush hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A disabled train in a tunnel had every train running late.

CONLEY: Yes, the busiest travel day of the year drew to a close and many families may have been delayed, but they were reunited.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We expected to be delayed, so we weren't too disappointed. We have made it here on time. We're ready to go home and eat.


CONLEY: So we made it through Wednesday. People have a few days now to enjoy the holiday, Michaela, before we have to do it all over again on Sunday.

PEREIRA: Let's not think about that yet. Let's enjoy the fact that we may or may not be at our destinations, right? And then don't worry about Sunday.

BERMAN: Start stressing about it now.

MICHAELA: Margaret, thank you so much. Stay bundled up out there, it is chilly. It's true, Sunday going to be a bit of a bear.

Pamela Brown is also here with us on this Thanksgiving Day with a look at the other stories.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wonderful to be here with you on this Thanksgiving. And making news today, another accusation against the NSA about spying on world leaders, CVC news reports allowed the NSA to spy on the G-8 and G-20 Summits in Otanada allows the NSA to spy on Ontario back in 2010 signing documents by Edward Snowden. They say the operation was closely operated with Canada.

And another military contractor is in trouble. The Navy suspending a shipping services company called inch kate for what it calls questionable business integrity. It bans all federal agencies from entering into new contracts with inch kate. They are investigating a number of officers in an overbilling scheme by another maritime services contractor.

Bye-bye to the Italian prime minister who is serving a year of community service and has been banned from holding public office for two years for tax fraud. He could be vulnerable to charges and other fraud corruption and sex cases.

Illinois has now held its first same sex marriage six months before the law goes into effect. A Chicago woman with terminal cancer was granted an emergency marriage license to wed her partner on Wednesday. The 64-year-old Vernita Gray and 65-year-old Patricia York have sued to get the license in advance arguing the law discriminating them from preventing the couple to marry before Gray's death.

Well, if there's no pecan pie at your thanksgiving dinner today, blame it on China, pigs and the rain. OK, record rainfall hurt production in the south. Industry experts say it could drop by as much as 35 percent. Those heavy rains made harvesting difficult as well, and the pigs went wild on the nuts that fell from the trees. This is a true story. I'm getting weird looks over here. And this is -- don't blame it on me.

BERMAN: Monster pigs are keeping the pecan pie from our table.

BROWN: This is in China. The pigs have a love affair with pecans and it continues to grow. A third of the pecans are exported there.

PEREIRA: I feel strongly that pumpkin pie belongs on Thanksgiving so I'm OK with this story.

BERMAN: So you let loose the monster pigs to eat the falling pecans that created this problem.

PEREIRA: You're a pecan guy, aren't you? I didn't know there was a crisis, let alone started by monster pigs.

Weather is the issue we're watching closely. Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is here with our forecast. Are we thinking this storm was worse than its bite or are we are seeing residual effects from it.

GRAY: Maybe we expected it to be worse, but we definitely saw the rain. We had up to five inches of rain in some areas. We had up to a foot of snow in other areas. But it is cold. This front has moved out. The system has pushed off to the northeast, and we are left with really cold temperatures, below freezing across most of the northeast. Then you factor in the winds, New York City right now, 8-mile-per-hour winds with gusts near 23, seeing 16-mile-per-hour winds in Philly with gusts up to 22.

When you combine the temperatures and the wind, you get the wind chill. Right now, wind chill of 23 degrees. In New York City, that's what it feels like outside, feels like 20 waking up in Boston on this Thanksgiving morning. D.C., you're feeling like 21. So it is going to be cold, not only the northeast, but the south experiencing very cold temperatures.

Freeze watches and warnings across all of the gulf coast. I-10 corridor from Lake Charles all the way to Jacksonville experiencing very, very chilly temperatures and current temperatures in the south, 26 in Shreveport, 26 in Mobile, 30 degrees in Jacksonville. Guys, when the south, the I-10 corridor has freeze warnings, you know the rest of the country is cold.

BERMAN: Big problems. Jennifer, thank you so much.

PEREIRA: Next up on NEW DAY. Marking Thanksgiving far, far from home, thousands of our U.S. troops are marking the holiday in Afghanistan. There's no sign that a security deal controversy could keep them there longer is closer to be resolved. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Welcome back. More than 50,000 U.S. troops going to spend the day in Afghanistan, and many Americans going to be thinking of their family and friends to the and perhaps wondering if a security deal with the afghan government going to ever get deal. Here's CNN's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the 12th Thanksgiving in Afghanistan for U.S. troops.

FIRST SGT. BRIAN SHENK, NORTHERN AFGANISTAN: This is the first time with the 151st company and I'm stationed in Northern Afghanistan, I'm Brian Shenk. I would like to give a shout-out to my three children and my wife.

STARR: Once more thinking about home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Specialist Caleb Charron. I want to wish my family in Missouri happy holidays.

STARR: This holiday season commanders were looking forward to a new agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would have kept just a few thousand U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014. But after a meeting with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Karzai is now refusing to sign the very deal he helped negotiate.

In an Afghan news channel interview, Rice made clear U.S. patience may be at a breaking point.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: If the agreement isn't signed promptly, what I said to the president is we would have no choice, we would be compelled by necessity, not by preference, to have to begin to plan for the prospect that we will not be able to keep our troops here.

STARR: After 12 years of war with Afghan corruption still rampant, billions of dollars in U.S. aid, more than 2,000 troops killed and more than 19,000 wounded, why shouldn't all the American troops just come home?

VALI NASR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Americans are very right to be frustrated with Karzai, but frustration is not national security policy. Frustration is not foreign policy.

STARR: Some of the administration believe without a U.S. presence, al Qaeda will return, Iran's influence may grow, and Afghanistan will become a radical haven.

NASR: If things fall apart in Afghanistan, then much of what we've gained can unravel. We may find ourselves having to go back in again.

STARR: For now, however, U.S. troops are thinking about coming home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Sergeant Tyler Baxter (ph). This is my father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief Master Sergeant Richard Baxter (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. We just wanted to wish our family in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, happy holidays.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, we can't say it enough, our thanks to men and women serving overseas and back in the U.S. as well. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families.

Back here in the U.S., it does seem that the new holiday tradition is, in fact, shopping. More retailers are opening their doors this year -- that's right, more of them are -- and they say they are slashing prices a day in advance of Black Friday.

Not everyone, folks, is happy about this. CNN's Nick Valencia is in Mableton, Georgia, at a store -- wow, it's full, Nick. It's open, people are shopping. It's 6:17!

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is open. Happy Thanksgiving, John and Michaela.

It's below freezing out there. It's below 30 degrees. It feels more like 18 when you factor in the wind. But that was not enough to keep about 30 people from lining up outside a Kmart this morning.

And why are they doing it? Quite simply, it's for the deals.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday. Kmart, one of a handful of retailers, opened for business on Thanksgiving.

(on camera): Are you guys ready for it?

BILL BONSOR, KMART MANAGER: I think so. Yes. We are excited about it.

VALENCIA (voice-over): For those who think it's something new, Kmart has been doing this for over 20 years. More retailers have followed suit, and that's no coincidence, according to the National Retail Federation.

KATHY GRANNIS, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: Shoppers still want to shop on Black Friday and get those amazing deals. So, we don't expect Black Friday to ever lose its luster, but there's a new player in town, and Thanksgiving is certainly giving Black Friday a run for its money.

VALENCIA: Of the nearly 140 million people expected to shop this holiday weekend, nearly a quarter will hit the stores Thanksgiving Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm out here to get some great deals, man.

VALENCIA: Outside of Best Buy in Florida, tents were in place more than a week in advance of the sales.

Just how serious are they? This man brought a generator to run his many electronics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know they do it every year and every year I say the exact same thing. It's just crazy.

VALENCIA: Crazy is one word for it. Angry is another. On more than 100,000 people petitioned Target to stay closed for the holiday writing, quote, "Family should be more important than corporate greed or materialism, and because it's the right thing to do."

Back in Kmart in Mableton, Georgia, store manager Bill Bonsor says working on Thanksgiving is no bother. For him, it's about meeting the customer demand.

BONSOR: One thing you have to understand this year is that we have one less week for shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas than we did last year.


VALENCIA: And the mad dash here in Mableton, Georgia, was towards the electronic section. Kmart as I mentioned in that piece has been doing this for 20 years.

But this year, John and Michaela, it's going to be different. Before, they'd shut down for a couple years. This year, they are going to plow right on through.

So, it's about meeting customer demand, they say. A lot of people here are pretty happy the stores are open on a Thursday.

Happy Thanksgiving, guys. Back to you.

BERMAN: I'm surprised they are shopping on Thanksgiving but can't believe they are there at 6:20. That, to me, is astounding.

VALENCIA: I was out here at 11:00 p.m. last night, John.

BERMAN: All right.

VALENCIA: I was out here at 11:00. So cold, spent overnight hours, incredible. Yes.

BERMAN: I applaud the level of commitment. We should all be so committed to something in life.

You know, I guess I want to know what people out there think about this. Do you think it's a good idea to have the stores open on Thanksgiving? Let us know what you think. Tweet us with the #newday.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I feel like there's going to be people to tweet you from in line.

BERMAN: Go for it. Great.

PEREIRA: I think they will.

BERMAN: I hope they have CNN playing inside Kmart so they can see my dismay that they are there at 6:20 and tweet us back right now.

PEREIRA: Because we are here. This is dedication.

Next up on NEW DAY: the Obamacare rollout hitting another speed bump. Small businesses now being told they have to wait before they can sign up for coverage. The deadline for a fix is only two days away. Can the administration turn things around? We have our political gut check next.

BERMAN: And will they fly? We are live on the Macy's parade route with the very latest minute by minute coverage of whether those giant balloons will take to the sky. We will talk to the parade director in just a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Sergeant Jack Story (ph) with Delta Company. I would like to say happy Thanksgiving to my wife and my family. Love you guys.



PEREIRA: Welcome back.

It's time now for the political gut check.

Yes, another delay for Obamacare -- the administration announcing that small businesses will not be able to enroll online for another year. And with the self-imposed deadline to fix the Web site just two days away, will President Obama be able to get back on track?

CNN senior political analyst and editorial director of "The National Journal", Ron Brownstein, is here from Washington to break it all down with us.

First of all, happy Thanksgiving to you. Thank so much for joining us. Good morning to you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, THE NATIONAL JOURNAL: Happy Thanksgiving. Good morning. Yes, sure.

PEREIRA: All right. So, let's talk about this delay that was announced. The administration announcing that small business are going to have to wait for another year to enroll. How significant is this? And is it sort of indicative of just the problems that they are having with this rollout?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, look, substantively, it is not the biggest problem they have faced. Politically, it is another dent in a haul at the time when they can least afford it.

Substantively, this applies to small businesses that are not subject to the already-delayed mandate of their employer to provide coverage. It basically means these businesses are going to have to continue doing what they have already or always done, which is to rely on brokers and agents to provide their coverage for a year. This was something they were adding to the mix and now, they are not going to add it.

So, in that sense, it is not as big of a problem as some of the others they have faced. But politically, you know, this comes as they developed momentum on their fronts, particularly with some of the blue states like California, New York and Kentucky showing progress in signing people at a faster pace. And some indications that they are on track to improve the Web sites significantly.

And it is a reminder -- there are a lot of things that can go wrong, and a bunch of them probably are between now and any point in the future.

PEREIRA: Yes, they came out to say they've added software, they've added hardware, that the user experience should be entirely different than it was before. But let's talk about that deadline looming, Ron. We are less than a month away until the deadline to sign up to be insured for January 1st, that deadline is December 23rd.

What are you thinking the chances are they are either going to delay this -- well, let's talk about delay.


PEREIRA: What do you think the chances are?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, they really don't want too have to do that, but they are in a squeeze here. You know, they are saying that the indications are yesterday from the administration are that the Web site as of December 1st will be able to handle 50,000 users at a time, which was their original goal.

You know, the problem is they could face -- you know, with the deadline coming up, they could face demand that exceeds that. So even just three weeks before the deadline to sign up, they are discouraging their allies that are out there that want to kind of promote sign up from really pushing people to the Web site.

PEREIRA: It is counter intuitive, doesn't it?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, right. Exactly. It's not where you want to be.

PEREIRA: No, it's not where you want to be, interesting. We did a CNN/ORC poll that shows Americans are actually -- I found it surprisingly being patient when it comes to passing judgment on the new health care law, 53 percent are saying that they believe it's too soon to tell if the new health care law is a success or not. What do you make of that? And does it surprise you?

BROWNSTEIN: No, we've actually done polling in our congressional polling with the national journal that's been similar. I think there are a lot of doubts about the health care law, but we have not seen a majority willing to repeal.

I mean, the reality, Michaela, is the president is in a political race here. I mean, the issue is whether he can stabilize this program enough by the time he leaves office that it will be very difficult to repeal, even if a Republican is elected. It is much more vulnerable than a year ago at this time.

But the odds are still pretty high as long as he's president he's going to be able to keep it enforce. And the question is whether he can get enough people signed up to build a constituency for this program, because you've got essentially half the country resisting it to begin with, and now, more doubt is growing as the rollout has stumbled.

PEREIRA: When you talk about that, if he can make it stable enough to withstand the test of time, it's interesting, I think about that.

What do you think the Democrats are going to have to do in order to turn that narrative around for them?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, first, what you have to understand is we have never seen anything like this with the entitlement program with the degree of resistance after the fact. I mean, you look at Social Security, you look at Medicare, you look at Medicaid, even Medicaid which took years to get states in, we really haven't seen anything like this with the lawsuits, 40-plus votes in Congress to overturn. And every red state is not participating by expanding Medicaid or stabling its own exchange. And that's one reason why the exchange problems were so complex, they're dealing with a lot of more states, they're handling it for a lot more states than they expected.

Look, I think the answer to their problems, if there is an answer, is signing people up. I mean, that's ultimately what they have to do is create a constituency for this, not only in the individuals who will be in the plan, but in the doctors, the hospitals, the drug companies, others that will be benefiting from it. They need the economic constituency for this.

One of the -- one of the big problems of this troubled rollout is that it really eliminates the pressure on red states to come in. I mean, one of the things they were hoping is that places like California, New York and others signed up a lot of people that maybe Texas, Florida and Georgia have a large number of uninsured may feel like they have to join.

I think that's not happening right now. And the reality is we'll probably go through his presidency with at best a house divided, essentially half the country tying to do this and half fighting it tooth and nail. PEREIRA: Well, the fact is they're going to need that Web site to be far more robust than it currently is.

Ron Brownstein, thanks so much for making time to join us early. Now, get back to the kitchen to finish the turkey, OK?

BROWNSTEIN: Exactly. All right. Thank you.

PEREIRA: OK. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

BERMAN: Political gut check before we stuff ourselves full of turkey and stuffing.

PEREIRA: Exactly, it's appropriate, isn't it?

BERMAN: It sure does.

All right. More than 3.5 million people are expected to line the route of the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving parade which starts in a little more than two hours right here in New York City. Millions more, of course, will be watching at home on television.

And right now, everyone is hoping for calm winds so the giant balloon floats can take flight.

Our Jason Carroll is on the parade route. He is talking to someone who has all the key answers for this morning.