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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview with Richard Gere; Weather In Upper Midwest, New England Spells Trouble For Holiday Travelers; Interview with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa
Aired November 24, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, HOST: Planes, trains, and automobiles. The rush is on.
360 starts right now.
Americans on the move. The latest on weather, traffic, security, and more.
CNN's exclusive interview, Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law speaks out.
Exploding in your face? How a cell phone can turn into a dangerous bomb.
Michigan police release a photo and ask for your help. Do you know this man?
A-list actor Richard Gere on a mission. What the sexy Hollywood star is doing in India.
Domestic goddess Nigella Lawson (ph) on holiday traditions. Her tips on how to spice up your Thanksgiving Day table.
And hitting the theaters with the family this holiday weekend? We'll tell you what's hot to watch.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.
COSTELLO: And good evening to you. I'm Carol Costello. Anderson Cooper is off tonight.
Can you smell that turkey and pumpkin pie? They're, oh, so tantalizingly close, though. Not nearly as close as many would like. We know a lot of you were stuck watching us at the airport, thanks to potentially record-breaking congestion and turbulent weather.
Conditions have been bad from the Midwest to the East Coast. These are live pictures you're looking at from St. Louis, where drivers are now dealing with some very wet snow. Indianapolis, in the meantime, has been soaked by rain. Forecasters say it could get snowy there overnight. And it's pretty much the same story in Philadelphia, rain, rain, and more rain.
We'll have detailed weather for you in just a few minutes. But first, a look at those travel conditions. CNN's Deborah Feyerick is watching the skies from New York's LaGuardia Airport, and CNN's Chris Lawrence is monitoring traffic conditions from a highway near Chicago.
Let's start with Deborah Feyerick.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day began on a hopeful note.
DAVID PACK: I was amazed. I came an hour and a half early, and not one person in line.
FEYERICK: The lines moved quickly. Ticket counters busy, but not overly crowded, a surprise to the Florida-bound Barenbloom (ph) family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were no lines to check in. Our plane so far is on time.
FEYERICK: But by early afternoon, the weather started to change. Plane by plane, city by city, the delays began to snowball, getting bigger and bigger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I drove over here, I could already hear air traffic control doing ground stops at various cities because of the weather.
FEYERICK: The departure board turned ugly, the arrival board even uglier, on-times giving way to delays and cancellations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm actually traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, and not once have I flown out of LaGuardia to Nashville and had a flight that's been delayed or canceled.
FEYERICK (on camera): So it's always a problem, you're saying?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's always been a problem for me.
FEYERICK (voice-over): On the bright side, travel agents did notify some passengers of late-running planes. On the not-so-bright side, they didn't say when those planes would be leaving.
(on camera): Do you have confidence you're going to make it out tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so. I think so. But we'll see. So I wouldn't be surprised if I don't.
FEYERICK: There's a lot of frustrated passengers here at the airport, a lot of them sitting in the food court because, well, you know, if you can't fly, you might as well eat, Carol. COSTELLO: And there's such delicious food offered at the airport too.
FEYERICK: And I've sampled so much of it today.
COSTELLO: I bet you have. You've been there a long time, Deborah. Deborah Feyerick from LaGuardia Airport, thank you.
Though the skies are busy, the roads are even busier. AAA estimates 82 percent of all holiday travelers are driving to their destinations, because they're crazy. For a look at the roads across America, Chris Lawrence joins me from Interstate 294 just outside of Chicago.
And Chris, I've always wondered about this. People seem to leave all at the same time.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Carol. Out here, I can tell you, as bad as it is sitting there in that terminal, it's a lot worse out here, where the weather has quickly gone from bad to worse. We started with a really heavy rain downpour a little bit earlier, and that has completely turned to snow. And you can see, it is really starting to pile up very quickly on the roads in this part of the country.
We'll take you now to another live picture just across the way, where you can see people have been starting to buy some of their gasoline and start filling up there at the pump. And they're paying some of the highest prices of the year for any Thanksgiving ever.
Right now, the national average is about $1.97 a gallon. That's six cents lower than a few weeks ago, but it's still 47 cents higher than what we were paying last year.
Now, as we take a look at more traffic on the roads here, in a very wintry mix of weather here in the Midwest, more than 80 percent of holiday travelers will be going by car. So we can expect more than 30 million of us to make some sort of holiday trip over the next few days.
AAA says they have not seen that much traffic volume on Thanksgiving since September 11.
Now, how the roads stack up really depends on where you live. AAA expects about 9 million drivers in the Southeast, followed by the West, the Midwest, and the Great Lakes, all about equal. The Northeast will see the fewest, at least in terms of families driving more than 50 miles.
Back here now, live on the road, some of this is still rush hour traffic, but we're starting to get a mix in of people we've been speaking to, saying, Yep, they're trying to get a jump on their holiday travel. This weather not making it very easy, Carol.
COSTELLO: Oh, Chris Lawrence, I feel sorry for you. You look so cold. But thank you for that report. We appreciate it. As we've seen, the weather's been a hassle for many travelers. For a look at conditions across the country, we turn to meteorologist Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center. How cold is it in Chicago?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's cold enough for snow, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Carol. We're looking at temperatures there in the lower to mid-30s right now, and cold enough for that snow to stick, and it will stay at or below freezing, it looks like, through tonight.
Here's the radar screen. You're looking at the white here. That obviously is snow. And it's falling from Chicago down toward Springdeal (ph). Most of the heavier snow, though, is going to be just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) south of Chicago in the form of maybe four to eight inches in some of this rain band from, say, Springfield just south of Chicago all the way up towards just toward the west of Detroit.
So if you're making it a trip anywhere in this area, maybe you're traveling from Chicago to Detroit over the next 12 hours, it's going to be a snowy go, and there will be slick roads because of that.
There have also been delays at the airports. And if you're sitting there watching, be patient, but this is just a mess. What a huge storm system, from the Canadian border all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
These red watch boxes indicate tornado watches. And we've already had seven tornadoes drop out of the sky today. Yesterday we had 50. Tomorrow we'll have a lot less. This storm will weaken. It will be mostly in the form of rain as it goes across the Northeast tomorrow.
Right now, just wet roadways across I-95. Most of them will be wet tomorrow as well, and then temperatures falling. Where you'll see the white will be, again, Chicago south toward Illinois, maybe Indianapolis getting a couple of inches of snow, but the snows will become less prominent during the daytime tomorrow, Carol, and this storm will weaken through tomorrow night.
But right now, folks getting out on the roadways, it's definitely a mess.
COSTELLO: Oh, it's nasty. Thank you, Rob. At least I think so.
Now let's give you some headlines.
John Hinckley Jr.'s request for greater freedom denied. That tops our look at news cross country.
Washington, D.C., a federal judge has said no to the man who shot President Reagan back in 1980 and wanted to leave a psychiatric hospital for four-day visits to this, to his parents' home in Virginia. Instead, the judge granted Hinckley six extra overnight trips in the Washington area. New York, the preppie killer arrested, this time on drug charges. According to court documents, police found crack cocaine in Robert Chambers' car during a traffic stop. Eighteen months ago, Chambers finished serving 15 years in prison for murder. In 1988, the then- prep school student strangled Jennifer Levin in Central Park.
Nationwide, possible stamp price hikes. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting the Postal Service is expected to ask for at least a 10 percent increase in postage rates. When you do the math, that means you will need 41 cents to buy a stamp to mail a letter.
Charlotte, North Carolina, furry delivery. Somehow, four newborn kittens found their way into a box that was being shipped from Atlanta. Oh, they're so cute. This is not the delivery a construction company expected. The company is now looking for someone to adopt the kittens, and we're guessing that will not be difficult.
That's a look at stories cross-country tonight.
360 next, a CNN exclusive, Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law and former best friend. Find out why he thinks the U.S. may never capture the terror master.
Plus, police beaten, burned, and murdered by a mob on a rampage. It was all caught on tape. We have the details on how this horrible tragedy unfolded.
And a little later, basket brawl fallout. It's not over yet. Police ask for your help to find this chair-throwing fan.
But first, your picks, the most popular stories on CNN.com right now.
COSTELLO: Tonight, a CNN exclusive. He was Osama bin Laden's best friend, a brother-in-law to the world's most-wanted terrorist, and he's talking only to CNN about his relationship with bin Laden and why the mastermind behind the September 11 terror attacks remains so very elusive.
CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has more for you.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As the Afghan war against the Soviet occupation raged, he says bin Laden's military commander and others were already selecting recruits for al Qaeda's global campaign. Bin laden, he says, became a figurehead leader.
KHALIFA: He is a wealthy man. He has very good connections. Many people really love Osama.
ROBERTSON: Charismatic but disorganized, says Khalifa, so much so that while Khalifa believes bin Laden is responsible for the 9/11 attacks, he doesn't think Osama actually organized them.
KHALIFA: He cannot organize anything. I am the one who is leading. I am the one who is leading him in the prayer. I am the one who's leading if we go for outing, for picnic, for riding horses.
ROBERTSON: Exactly when and where Khalifa chose a different path from Osama bin Laden is open to question. From the Afghan jihad, Khalifa moved to the Philippines, setting up another Islamic charity, opening more religious schools, eventually triggering an investigation by Philippine authorities, who believed he was on a mission for bin Laden.
COSTELLO: Nic Robertson reporting. And you can see Nic's entire interview with Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."
Heading overseas, Ukraine may be on the brink of a revolution, or even civil war, as the country's election crisis deepens. For the third straight day, hundreds of thousands of people braved the freezing temperatures and took to the streets of Kiev, demanding the results of Sunday's presidential runoff election be declared invalid.
The opposition candidate is now threatening a nationwide strike, while his political foe is reportedly calling for talks. Ukraine's pro-Kremlin prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, was declared the winner of an election that many countries denounced as fraudulent, including the United States. The Bush administration today made its dismay very clear. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Ukraine's election results unacceptable.
CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has more from Crawford, Texas.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A jovial President Bush hosted Spain's king and queen for a turkey feast at his Crawford ranch, while his secretary of state, Colin Powell, back in Washington, publicly decried Ukraine's presidential elections as a fraud.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The central election commission has just announced official results and declared the current prime minister the winner. We cannot accept this result as legitimate.
MALVEAUX: The Bush administration says it is deeply disturbed over fraud in Ukraine's elections. It views it as a blow to democracy in that region, with Russia and the Ukrainian authorities declaring its candidate the winner, and the U.S., Europeans, and Ukrainian people supporting an alternate candidate.
The Bush administration is putting pressure on the Ukrainian government to investigate the election results and cooperate with international observers.
POWELL: If the Ukrainian government does not act immediately and responsibly, there will be consequences...
MALVEAUX: Tuesday, the White House issued a statement condemning the Ukrainian authorities for the election crisis and said the U.S. stood by the Ukrainian people. U.S. authorities are also concerned with Russia's role in the former Soviet state, which they say has exacerbated increasing tensions between the United States and Russia.
It was just last Saturday President Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Chile at the APEC summit, where senior administration officials say Mr. Bush expressed his concerns about Russia's recent retreat from democratic reforms, as well as Putin's moves to limit the free press and centralized power.
(on camera): As far as possible consequences, a Bush administration official involved in the talks in the Ukraine says it's not likely the administration will cut ties from the former Soviet state, but it may impose sanctions.
Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Crawford, Texas.
COSTELLO: Saddam Hussein gets visitors. That tops our look at global stories in the uplink.
At an undisclosed location, the International Red Cross checked in on the former Iraqi president. It won't disclose information on what his health is or what he might have told them. But a U.S. military official says Hussein is in good health. Saddam Hussein has been held by the U.S. since his capture last December.
Near Mexico City, a mob beats and burns two Mexican police officers to death. This is the chilling scene, caught on camera by TV stations. The officers were suspected of trying to abduct children. Police say the men were working on an undercover operation.
Reykjavik, Iceland, a plan to slow the thaw. At a conference, foreign ministers from eight Arctic countries have agreed to encourage, quote, "effective measures to battle Arctic warming." But they didn't make any clear promises. Just a couple of weeks ago, a report showed the Arctic region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and the North Pole could be ice-free by 2100.
And that is tonight's uplink.
360 next, Richard Gere's mission of love. Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Gere's private fight against HIV in India, part of a special series, Are You Positive?"
Also tonight, cell phones that go boom. Why a rising number of them are exploding in people's hands.
Also tonight, just in time for the holiday, domestic food goddess Nigella Lawson. She shares her best tips for a sumptuous Thanksgiving.
And in a moment, today's 360 challenge. How closely have you been following today's news?
COSTELLO: Actor Richard Gere is well known for playing many characters on the big screen, but less known for his real-life leading role in India's staggering war against AIDS.
CNN senior medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard Gere, right up (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is known around the world for his movies, but at the Nas (ph) Orphanage in India, these children know him simply as Richard, the man who provides a roof over their head, food on their table, a place to play, and who loves them when so many Indians fear them because they all have HIV.
It costs nearly $100,000 a year, and Gere foots the bill.
RICHARD GERE, THE GERE FOUNDATION: The most important message you see in a place like this is separating the person from the disease. These are our brothers and sisters who have an illness.
GUPTA: A message that most of India has yet to understand.
These kids haven't even been told they have HIV. The stigma would simply be too great.
Best estimates are that 5.1 million people are infected here, second only to South Africa. Even more frightening, by the end of the decade, that number could increase five times to 25 million.
One high-risk group, the millions of truckers who spend months away from home criss-crossing India. It's no coincidence that the cities with the biggest truck stops also have some of the largest red- light districts, and that truckers and prostitutes are among the most infected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our results show us that for truckers, it ranges from 9 percent to 13 percent, and from sex workers about 50 percent.
GUPTA: India may have a long way to go in tackling the twin evils of ignorance and prejudice, but it does have one huge advantage, a thriving drug industry. Most developing countries can't afford the powerful drug cocktails that can keep AIDS patients alive. Here, a company called Sipla (ph) is churning them out.
Brand-name versions of these drugs cost about $10,000 a year per patient, but Sipla makes generic versions for about $200. Still expensive, but finally within reach, a ray of hope that India's economic progress may help prevent a social catastrophe.
But few doubt that education and prevention ultimately hold the key.
GERE: If we do this work now, we may save those 10, 15 million lives. You know, it gives you a lot of focus. I mean, how many things in your life can you do that you might have that kind of impact on the people around you?
GUPTA: So really incredible. And Richard Gere, obviously, doing a lot of good work there.
The number of cases, 5.1 million, they think 25 million possibly. It's not just a medical problem. That's what was really stressed to me. It's a national security problem. It's a financial problem. This is a country that has the fourth-largest market cap in the world. All those things could change because of AIDS.
COSTELLO: It's a national security problem?
GUPTA: Yes. Because once the people start -- when people get AIDS, they don't have access to health care, all of a sudden you start to see a lot of increase in crime. Sometimes that crime infiltrates outside the country's borders.
COSTELLO: It's fascinating. You've been doing a series of reports on AIDS, and one of the most, I don't know, one of the most telling things is how many women now have AIDS. Has HIV become a woman's condition now?
GUPTA: In so many ways, it has. I mean, they talk about the feminization of HIV. It was a young, gay white man's disease for a long time. Two things have happened. One is, more heterosexuals have it. They're much more likely to transmit from a man to a woman than the other way around. That increases women's rates.
But socially and culturally in a lot of other places around the world, women simply can't refuse sex. They simply can't mandate safe sex. And therefore, you're starting to see some increasing rates among women. In Africa, they've overtaken men now, 58 percent women, and the rest men.
COSTELLO: That's just so sad. Our special series, Are You Positive? continues on Friday night on ANDERSON COOPER 360.
Former L.A. Lakers star Magic Johnson. That would be interesting.
GUPTA: Lot of people look to him. He has become the face of HIV. I sat down with him for an hour. Going to bring you that report on Friday as well. And the special Sunday night, Are You Positive?
COSTELLO: All right, thanks, Sanjay...
GUPTA: Thank you.
COSTELLO: ... for joining us tonight.
COSTELLO: Interesting, sad story, but interesting as well (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Exploding in your face? How a cell phone can turn into a dangerous bomb.
Domestic goddess Nigella Lawson on holiday traditions. Her tips on how to spice up your Thanksgiving Day table.
And hitting the theaters with the family this holiday weekend? We'll tell you what's hot to watch.
COSTELLO: In Baghdad, troops are marking Thanksgiving through a new mission called Operation Plymouth Rock. Troops are trying to weed out insurgents south of Baghdad, much like they did recently in Falluja and Mosul. The operation, now in its second day, comes as Iraqis prepare to take a major step towards democracy.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As new Iraqi troops join the ranks, elections in their violence-wracked country are just 10 weeks away. But top U.S. military officials say they must decide in the next several days whether to order more troops from the U.S. to go to Iraq to ensure security.
LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: Well, everyone recognizes that there will be a fight to the elections in those provinces where the insurgents are active.
STARR: In the so-called triangle of death south of Baghdad, the British black watch has joined the U.S. and Iraqi forces in "operation Plymouth rock." It involves sweeps through several towns, 5,000 troops tightening the noose around remaining insurgent elements. The entire area has been full of criminal activity for months. Convoy attacks, kidnappings and outright murders, according to experts. This operation is very different from the assault on Falluja.
CAPT. DAVID NEVERS, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER: Iraqi security forces, U.S. Marines, the British allies will conduct a multitude of operations aimed at capturing or killing those who are violently opposing Iraq's path to peace and democracy and freedom.
STARR: Unlike Falluja, where the U.S. telegraphed its punch ahead of time --
NEVERS: What we're doing here is developing intelligence patiently and persistently going after targets in a very focused way. You're going to see in the coming days a lot of precision raids, house-to-house searches. But the activity is going to experience periods of hot and cold. The insurgents are not going to know when we're coming.
STARR: No decision yet about sending more U.S. troops into Iraq. But it could be made very quickly after the Thanksgiving holidays. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR, 360: Here in the states, the Federal government has issued a warning about cell phones. Get this. There's a chance your phone might explode. I'm not kidding. Some cell phone users have suffered serious injury, even second-degree burns, because of faulty batteries. CNN's Rusty Dornin reports.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You might say it's the ultimate bad call, a cell phone that goes boom, literally. This was Pari Dulac's cell phone. It blew up in her hand while she was getting out of a cab, shocking not only her but people nearby.
PARI DULAC, CELL PHONE USER: I thought I got shot in my hand. People around me, they saw it, then suddenly the gathering become bigger and bigger and everybody was very surprised, oh cell phone, look at that cell phone explode.
DORNIN: Federal safety officials cite 83 reports where a cell phone caught fire or exploded because of a defective battery. Now the Consumer Products Safety Commission has expressed concern over potential for more serious injuries. Eric Dandy owns not one but two of the 170 million cell phones in the United States. He heard about it.
ERIC DANDY, CELL PHONE USER: It's a very statistically small percentage, but I don't want it to be me.
DORNIN: Neither does the wireless industry, which is working with the safety commission to put voluntary industry standards in place for cell phones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chances of it happening on any given day, in any given situation, are significantly remote. But the fact is that one event is one too many.
DORNIN: To blame are often defective or counterfeit batteries that overheat or overcharge. Suraj Gautan sells only brand name products but says people often just want to get a cheap deal and some don't know about counterfeiting. Is there a way people can tell if a battery is counterfeit or if it's really from, let's say, AT&T?
SURAJ GAUTAN, CELL PHONE VENDOR: Mm-hmm.
Like a brand, brandwise. Like when they buy a new phone, they have like a brand, Motorola it says Motorola on the battery. But if you go somewhere like in a cheaper place, it might say something else.
DORNIN: Bottom line say the experts -- don't go cheap. Buy accessories from the same vendor and company that sold the phone. Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.
COSTELLO: And there you have it.
Of all the participants in Friday's ugly basketball fight in Detroit, there is one man that could have caused the most harm. He was a spectator who turned a chair into a dangerous weapon. Police are looking for him. And a new videotape may lead them in the right direction. CNN's Jonathan Freed has the pictures.
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michigan authorities say it's not the flying objects that are unidentified after last Friday's courtside chaos. It's who threw a chair into the crowd that's still a mystery. Police are asking for the public's help to find this man, who investigators say can be seen reaching for a chair and then running away moments after one flew into a group of people. The incident could result in a felony charge and up to four years in prison.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody needs to come to the palace and hurry up. Also, we do have -- they are fighting, ma'am.
FREED: The fisticuffs began when a fan tossed a cup at Indiana Pacers player Ron Artest after an on-court shoving incident over a foul in the game against the Detroit Pistons. The county prosecutor identified the cup tosser as John Green, who appeared with his lawyer on CNN's "Larry King Live" Tuesday night, sidestepping questions about whether or not he did it and lashing out at Artest.
JOHN GREEN, SUSPECTED CUP THROWER: A cup hitting somebody, I don't think should be, you know -- constitute somebody going on a rampage and beating people and, you know, the guy's a thug. I mean, so he's going to pay the price.
FREED: Detroit media are reporting that Green's had trouble with the law, including a conviction for once trying to use Pistons tickets to bribe his way out of a traffic ticket.
SHAWN PATRICK SMITH, GREEN'S ATTORNEY: These are such weak charges. I don't see any reason for bringing it up other than it's a cheap shot to villainize him. FREED: Any charges for flying fists, thrown chairs, or tossed cups are weeks away, according to investigators, who say they still need to go through video of the fight as well as interview participants and witnesses. Jonathan Freed, CNN, Chicago.
COSTELLO: "360" next -- we're talking turkey. Domestic goddess Nigella Lawson gives us her tips on surviving Thanksgiving.
Also tonight, the traditional feast in a bottle. You will not believe the newest soda flavors for sale.
And a little later, Sponge Bob jumps out of the water into a theater near you. A look at the holiday movies that are making a splash.
And in a moment today's "360 challenge." how closely have you been following today's news? Find out next.
COSTELLO: Time now for today's "360 challenge." Be the first to answer all three questions correctly, and you will win a "360" T- shirt. Here are the questions. The percentage of travelers AAA estimates will drive this Thanksgiving is what? The Postal Service will reportedly ask to increase stamp prices to at least what amount? India has the second most amount of AIDS cases. What country has the most? To take the challenge, log onto cnn.com/360, then click on the answer link. Answer first and you'll get the shirt. Find out last night's challenge winner and tonight's answers. That is coming up.
COSTELLO: It is that special time of year when friends and family gather together to give thanks, and when the usually underrated turkey steals the culinary spotlight across the country. I spoke earlier to Nigella Lawson about this great American tradition. She's the author of a new book, by the way, called "Feast: Food to Celebrate Life" and host of "Nigella Bites" on the style network.
COSTELLO: Why do you think food is so important to holiday celebrations?
NIGELLA LAWSON, AUTHOR, FEAST: Well, I think for one thing is that we live in a world that's got so much novelty and everything is so different all the time, particularly with food actually, but everything, so that anything which manages to bring us a bit of ritual and something that maybe ties us in not just to our childhoods but to the meals that our parents and our grandparents ate is very very important because otherwise it's easy to isolate it. And I think we all need a sense of continuance and a sense of being linked with previous generations and also importantly that it's something we're giving to future generations, which is why people get so emotional about the food they're eating, because it really isn't just about the food. It's about something which is really essential to our emotional and real lives.
COSTELLO: I think that's a beautiful sentiment, but for many people it really is about the food and you talk about tradition. We have turkey every single year. A recent article called "Turkey, the Pamela Anderson of Poultry, Big-Breasted and Tasteless." But you're a fan, aren't you?
LAWSON: That's a very good -- I am a fan, but I also have to say that there are always certain rituals and traditions that accompany a feast and not only is it the food that goes into that feast but it's the amount of moaning done about that food. Because there isn't a family around that doesn't say, oh, no, not that turkey again. It's so dull and why can't we have something different? If, however, you were to say, fine, let's forget the turkey, I think people would feel really slightly taken aback because in a sense those are the rituals too, the moaning and I think that actually turkey is a very, very underrated meat and I think the reason why it's underrated is that people cook it so badly, and it's very, very interesting because our fears about cooking really play into a kind of national psyche because as far as I can tell, every American worries that the turkey will be undercooked and every Brit worries that it will be overcooked. I don't know what that says about us, but I notice that's exactly the --
COSTELLO: You're much more brave when it comes to salmonella poisoning. That's what it tells us about Brits.
LAWSON: We don't care. We don't care. We're used to germs over here. The thing is is that I always say to people, it's quite important to let yourself worry about the food because in reality the food is just a focus. What we all know about family gatherings is that it's very hard to have a family meal without a family row. So it's so much easier to think you're worried about doing all these lengthy preparations around the food when really the anxiety might be, you know, we've got some uncle who's going to get drunk again or something like that. So regard the food worry as a very -- as a helpful focus.
COSTELLO: OK. But we still want to make our rather bland turkey more exciting. So give us some suggestions on how to do that.
LAWSON: Yes. I don't need to suggest to you anything that you don't know about already. But I think that it's worth reminding everyone that part of the whole I suppose feeling of a feast is the nature of abundance. So of course you have lots and lots of side dishes. And turkey isn't madly exciting as a meat, but it offsets the other things. It offsets some potatoes, the sweet potatoes, which of course are very important, lots of crunchy greens. Maybe, if I may infuse a British element, some Brussels sprouts with chestnuts. So you add to -- and the cranberry sauce, of course.
COSTELLO: You know, you talk about cranberries, and I think the reason that many Americans don't like cranberries is because we buy it in a can in the grocery store and you open it and you turn it over and it comes out in the shape of a can. LAWSON: I know. I rather like that. Is that perverse of me? But I think actually it is so easy to make cranberry sauce. You know, the thing about cranberry sauce is the cranberries make the sauce. You just put cranberries and sugar and either orange juice, but because I have a taste for declasse liqueurs, I like a bit of cherry brandy, the red syrupy one, alcoholic cough syrup. But actually it's really just water, a teeny bit of water, some of the cranberries, some sugar, and maybe some orange zest and you let that bubble away until it pops, and that's your cranberry sauce. So it's a very useful thing also if you want to take something over for Thanksgiving and it looks like you've slaved away but you've done frankly nothing.
COSTELLO: I only wish you could come to my house and cook my Thanksgiving dinner. Nigella Lawson. Thank you for joining us.
LAWSON: Thank you. Happy holidays.
COSTELLO: You too. And happy holidays to you as well. For one company the Thanksgiving dinner isn't on the table, it's in a bottle. And to serve the meal all you need to do is twist open the cap. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're not up to whipping up turkey and mash, maybe you'd prefer to just chug it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, God.
MOOS: Is it good?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I don't like it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, God.
MOOS: You want more, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mashed potato soda.
MOOS: The actual taste is almost worse than what you're probably imagining and the aftertaste.
Think of it as a five-course meal in a box. Zero calories, zero carbs. Skip the green bean casserole and replace it with carbonated green bean casserole soda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We added the fried onion.
MOOS: When we tested the sodas without telling folks what they were, about half had some inkling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This tastes like -- what is that vegetable I don't like?
MOOS: A small but respected soda company, Jones Soda, makes the holiday pack. Last year they came up with their first Thanksgiving flavor. Are you a breast man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the worst one. What was that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!
MOOS: Turkey and gravy was the brain child of the company's president.
PETER VAN STOLK, PRESIDENT, JONES SODA CO.: I phoned the office, and they were like dude, you're crazy, you're on drugs.
MOOS: This Thanksgiving Jones took it a step further.
VAN STOLK: We wanted to bring out the side dishes.
MOOS: And don't forget dessert, fruitcake. But it was mashed potato soda that had folks spitting. You don't have to speak Italian to understand these tourists. What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coconut and pee -- I don't know.
MOOS: Jones Soda does this for fun and free publicity. Part of the proceeds go to charity. Speaking of which, this guy's sign says "need money for beer, drugs, and" you can finish it yourself. He nailed the mashed potato and butter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to kill that butter one. That's kind of gross.
MOOS: The $16 five-pack comes with utensils, a straw and a toothpick. Not even a vegetarian could stomach this turkey and gravy. and much as we hate to bash the mashed.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, that's the stuff that I had with the colonoscopy.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
COSTELLO: That Jeanne's crazy, isn't she? "360" next -- Oliver Stone is taking on Alexander the Great. His new big budget flick premieres tonight. Should you actually pay money to see it? Our critic gives us his movie review.
COSTELLO: Like the Thanksgiving dinner Hollywood is serving up something for just about everyone this holiday season, from Greek warrior to suburban dads to an underwater sponge. There's more than enough to choose from, maybe even a few turkeys. So let's take a look in "the current."
COSTELLO: We begin more than 2,000 years ago with "Alexander," Oliver Stone's big budget epic starring Colin Farrell as the Greek conqueror who had issues with his mom, dad, subjects, and perhaps most importantly his hair stylist.
If tyrants aren't your kind of thing, there's "Christmas with the Kranks." Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis star as a Midwestern couple who plan on skipping the usual yuletide festivities for a Caribbean cruise, but their friends won't stand for it. Don't you just love it when they meddle?
This week's big hit is "National Treasure" with Nicolas Cage as a treasure hunter who can withstand just about anything, even bad movie reviews.
A crowd pleaser the whole family will enjoy if they haven't seen it yet -- "The Incredibles." It's about suburban superheroes dealing with homework, shopping and, oh, yeah, saving the world. "The Incredibles" is one of several computer-animated films out this holiday season.
Others include "The Polar Express," about a boy who takes a train to the North Pole to see if Santa Claus really exists. And then there's this guy. Sponge Bob Square Pants starring in his own movie. Like the popular cartoon, the film follows Sponge Bob and his starfish pal through some wacky scenes under the sea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who can tell me which part of the human body can enlarge 100 times?
For adults there's "Kinsey" starring Liam Neeson as the bookish academic who helped spark America's sexual revolution.
Renee Zellweger returns as the desperately single Brit in "Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason." And if you like good music and a great performance, there's "Ray," starring Jamie Foxx as the one and only Ray Charles.
COSTELLO: So what's worth seeing? Joining me now is BJ Sigesmund, staff editor for "Us Weekly." You know, I hate trashing "Alexander" but it just looks so wrong to me.