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Holiday Shopping; Attack in Baghdad; GOP's Future

Aired November 26, 2004 - 09:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see a lot of buying over the next couple of weeks. Buy, buy, buy.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: They are jamming the aisles, they're grabbing the goods. Americans turning out in force for an after- Thanksgiving shopping spree.


SANCHEZ: Chemical agents discovered in Falluja. Does it mean chemical weapons are in Iraq?

And in Colorado, the hazards of a road come down from above. It's a rockslide that's causing a traffic meltdown.

Also this caught on video. The car, the store, and the man in the middle, all for you on AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

SANCHEZ: And good morning, everyone. Bill and Soledad are off. I'm Rick Sanchez.

COSTELLO: And I'm Carol Costello. Those pretzels looked good, didn't they? I'm going to go out and grab one.

Other stories this morning, Republicans have the presidency, the House and the Senate. Is there anything else they might want? Jeff Greenfield is here talking about the GOP, the party's plan for the future, also the dangerous for the party.

SANCHEZ: Also, we're going to meet a woman convicted of killing her husband. She shot him in the head while he slept and the judge let her go. We're going to find out why.

COSTELLO: Jack Cafferty has some time off this morning. Toure will be here with the "Question of the Day" a little later.

Let's check on the headlines now, though. Let's head live to Atlanta and Tony Harris.

Good morning, Tony. TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Carol and Rick.

"Now in the News," European envoys holding talks this morning with government and opposition leaders in Ukraine. Thousands of demonstrators are taking to the streets for a fifth day, protesting what they call voter fraud. The country's supreme court yesterday barred the publication of disputed presidential election results until next week.

Investigators in Mexico are looking into the killings of nine people near Cancun. Three undercover narcotics agents were among the victims. The bodies were discovered yesterday. Police are blaming a drug turf war for control of the area. Officials are investigating suspects in the case.

Authorities in Florida are still investigating a car theft with a surprise twist. A little boy was in the backseat when the car was stolen. James and Rose Pringle were reunited with their 6-month-old son yesterday at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Police found the car about 25 miles from where it was taken Wednesday with the baby still inside unharmed.

And SpongeBob, the mystery. We're not talking about the movie. Police in at least four states are on the lookout for missing SquarePants blow-ups, like this one in Wisconsin, in Minnesota.

Sponge knappers left a ransom note. Movie promotion SpongeBobs have also gone missing in Utah and Michigan, an APB.

COSTELLO: You know, Tony, what that reminds me of? You know, when people steal gnomes from people's yards and then they take pictures of them in different locations.

HARRIS: Yes. And then mail the pictures around the country. Absolutely.

COSTELLO: That would be a hoot if that happened with SpongeBob.

HARRIS: It probably will, and we'll follow it.

COSTELLO: OK. Thank you, Tony.

HARRIS: OK, Carol.

COSTELLO: It is Black Friday, the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Macy's department store in New York opened its stores to a mad rush of shoppers earlier this morning, and that's where we find CNN's Allan Chernoff.

Allan, are you surviving?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: No problem, Carol. In fact, the shopping day here is now three hours old.

Those doors opened at 6:00 in the morning. Hundreds of people came streaming in, hoping to beat the crowds and also grab some early morning discounts.

Fifty dollars for a microwave often, $50 for a down jacket, 65 percent off men's dress shirts. Those discounts are very helpful to many families that are dealing with higher energy prices this year.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): The road to the holiday season checkout counter passes through here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you fill it up, please?

CHERNOFF: Gasoline is 30 percent more expensive than last Thanksgiving. For families on tight budgets, that means less money to spend on holiday presents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a more difficult Christmas in every way.

CHERNOFF: A survey of consumers found nearly 30 percent predicting they'll cut holiday spending from last year, and shoppers expect to buy more than two-thirds of their gifts on sale.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to be more wise, I have to get more for my money. You know, as they say, I'm living on a budget.

CHERNOFF: Though some retailers like Sears and J.C. Penney have been offering early markdowns even before Thanksgiving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We think that the retailers have actually conditioned their consumers to buy on sale, particularly this time of year. That's a problem for retailers.

CHERNOFF: But for upscale retailers and the shoppers, it should be a season of plenty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very optimistic about how things are going, and I'm going to buy, buy, buy.

CHERNOFF: Items high on the shopping list: handbags, iPods, TiVos and digital cameras. But for the first time ever, shoppers say gift cards will be their most frequent purchase.

It may be a challenging season for discount retailers, but shopping at other outlets should more than compensate. That's why retailing experts predict holiday sales will rise four to six percent from last year.


CHERNOFF: While shoppers are planning to spend more money this year, they don't want to spend more time. Surveys indicate that they're planning to visit fewer stores than last year -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Boy, the streets are busy. I hear cashmere sweaters are a big bargain this year. Can you pick me up one? CHERNOFF: I'll have a look if I get a little time, Carol. Tell me your color.

COSTELLO: I think I'd like one in camel. Thank you, Allan.

CHERNOFF: We'll see what we can find.

COSTELLO: All right. I appreciate that.

Coming up, we'll check in with the CEO of Macy's owner -- of Macy's owner, Federated Department Stores. That's the company that owns Macy's. We'll see if the numbers are matching early expectations.

SANCHEZ: Developments in a story we've been following out of Iraq. Four members of a British security firm were killed, 15 others injured yesterday, in an attack on Baghdad's Green Zone. The deadly blast may have involved a rocket or a mortar, we understand.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is live in Baghdad. He's been following up on the story and brings us up to date now on the details.

Karl, what do you know?


A U.S. military spokesman has told us that the company was Global Risk Strategies. That's a British-based firm. But we understand that the four men dead were all of Nepalese origin.

Global Risk Strategies often employees former members of Britain's Gurkha Regiment, which is recruited from Nepal. We understand that the -- at least 12 and possibly 15 others were wound. A rocket or a mortar hit their compound inside the Green Zone around 2:00 p.m. local time.

Also yesterday, Thursday, two U.S. Marines died in the city of Falluja. They were on extensive house-clearing operations when they entered one house, we understand. An insurgent lobbed a grenade at them. Two Marines died.

There was a firefight. Three insurgents died in that attack, we understand.

And today, the Iraqi Red Crescent has been back to Falluja, taking the second aid convoy into that beleaguered city. We understand from our team on the ground there that Falluja is pretty much a ghost town, wide-scale destruction there and families are only just beginning to dare venture out and claim some much needed food supplies. A lot of them, in fact, want to get out of Falluja for good -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: I'm wondering, Karl, what that sound is behind you. And I'm sure some of our viewers are, as well.

PENHAUL: That's -- that's the call to prayers around this time. The call to prayers will go out.

It's the mosque that you see often in our live shot behind us. And this is the fifth call to prayer of the day. The fifth and final call to prayer before the sun finally goes down. And that is the call of Iraq, a very frequent sight and sound here -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Meanwhile, anything on that chemical weapons report that we had heard on -- out of Falluja, which now seems to be somewhat corroborated by U.S. officials?

PENHAUL: Well, in a sense, what we're getting is more perspective on this. Pentagon officials have said that they understand that chemicals were found in that laboratory to manufacture chemical blood agents. In layman's terms, a chemical blood agent is basically an industrial chemical that can be mixed with another industrial chemical to produce something that's highly toxic, highly poisonous or corrosive.

It seems that many of the chemicals found in this lab were mass- produced-type chemicals. We're not talking about chemical warfare agents at this stage -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right. Thanks so much. Karl Penhaul following things there in Baghdad.

Here with us now on thoughts on the chemical weapons lab and other matters related to Iraq that have been developing throughout the morning is retired General David Grange. He's a CNN military analyst, and he's good enough to join us from Chicago this morning.

General, what do you make of this chemical weapons lab that was reportedly found yesterday in Falluja?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't think it's a massive production site. But what's critical is the intent of insurgents or terrorists to try any type of weaponry they can against the Iraqi government or the U.S.-led coalition.

If they can produce any kind of a chemical or biological weapon, they will, even if it's rudimentary and employed in an improvise device. And so the intent is there. So anytime you disrupt any of that type of planning, it's very critical.

SANCHEZ: But doesn't it seem peculiar to you that they would find something like that in the middle of what was essentially a battle zone?

GRANGE: Not really, because this was the main sanctuary of the insurgent force. Over 200 weapons storage sites have already been discovered in Falluja, 11 improvised explosive device bomb factories have been found. And so to find something like this would just go hand in hand with this major sanctuary to support the insurgency.

SANCHEZ: You just mentioned the weapons that have been found in Falluja. The cache of weapons, we're told, is as big as anything they've found to date, some anti-tank devices. In fact, they actually had a truck that they were using as a mobile factory, where they would go around literally building bombs in it so they could use it in different places in the Sunni Triangle.

What's your reaction to that?

GRANGE: Well it's -- again, it was the hub, I think, of support for the insurgency. And this -- and the large cache site was, again, one of over 200. And so by -- by breaking this stronghold with the recent attack on Falluja, it has really put the insurgency in a bit of a strain.

Now, it doesn't mean that they don't have storage sites throughout other parts of Iraq, in Mosul and Babil province in the south of Baghdad and other places. But this was a severe blow.

SANCHEZ: You know, people are probably watching us have this conversation right now and they're wondering, how in the world are those weapons getting there? I mean, even as many as we seem to confiscate from them, we'll find yet another place with just as many weapons. Where do they come from?

GRANGE: Well, most of these weapons were there before the fall of the regime on April 9. Saddam was a fanatic, and his -- and his regime for building up arms cache -- cache or arms capabilities throughout the country. And so when the war started, millions of these weapons were around -- around the countryside.

Then after the regime fell, and the transition between maneuver combat to what they call stability and support operations, or the current counterinsurgency, there was a lot of movement by those that wanted to fight the coalition to confiscate, move, hide, move to and secure themselves these weapons for future use. And that's what happened.

SANCHEZ: Brigadier General David Grange. Thank you, sir, for being with us.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate it.

Carol, over to you.

COSTELLO: It took some travelers in Colorado several extra hours to reach their Thanksgiving Day destinations. A rockslide yesterday morning about 100 feet long closed a 24-mile section of I-70 in the mountains near Glenwood Springs.

Drivers were sent on a 220-mile detour while workers cleared the boulders, some as large as vans. No injuries. Crews are working to open part of the highway today.

Let's head to Atlanta and get a check on the weather.

Good morning, Chad.



SANCHEZ: All right. I'll take it from you. Thanks so much.

Well, here's a picture that we've been sharing with you that's nothing short of amazing, really. It's a camera that captures dramatic video as a car smashes right through a store (sic) front.

This guy's just coming to work in the morning when an elderly woman crashes her car through the front of the convenience store Wednesday. The surveillance camera shows the car hits the beer deliver man. There he is. He's got his back turned, doesn't know what's about to hit him.

The man, we're happy to report, suffered only minor bruises from this. Look at that. The store owner says the driver wasn't seriously hurt either. The picture certainly makes you think that there's much more to it than that.

COSTELLO: That's just crazy.

SANCHEZ: It's incredible, and he walked away.

COSTELLO: And we're glad to say he did.


COSTELLO: Still to come, a woman kills her husband while he sleeps and a judge sets her free. She shares her story with us ahead.

SANCHEZ: And Republicans keep the White House and expand control of the House and the Senate. But do dangerous lie ahead for the Grand Old Party? Jeff Greenfield is going to weigh in.

COSTELLO: And are things getting a little too personal for you at airport security? Your airport screening nightmares, that's just ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: After a successful election season, Republicans have plenty to be thankful for: the president's 3.5 million-vote margin of victory, expanded control of the House and Senate, and a chance it reshape the Supreme Court. Senior analyst Jeff Greenfield is here to talk about the GOP's power position.

But first off, Jeff, this question of the mandate. Is it really a mandate? Is it there such a thing?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes, I think it's one of those debate that's basically meaningless. I mean, as you say, the president got 3.5 million more votes than John Kerry, and there's no debate this time about whether he won. And voters don't get to indicate how they feel about every single issue that's debated this fall. They said, this is the guy we choose to run the country. Now, it's probably useful to put this victory into perspective. Yes, he got 51 percent of the votes, and Republicans point out that's the first time anybody's had a majority since the first George Bush.

But he also won the narrowest victory of any incumbent since -- drum roll -- Woodrow Wilson in 1916. And the Republican gains in the Senate were the results of four very, very close races in Florida, Kentucky, South Dakota and Alaska.

They made tiny gains in the House, all from a very controversial redistricting plan in Texas that the courts might have a look at. But none of this changes the central fact, and that who won and who lost is very clear. And the fact that as many voters now call themselves as Republicans as Democrats for the first time in decades, that suggests that the Republicans have reason to think of themselves as the semi-permanent governing party.

COSTELLO: Wow. So semi-permanent, dominant, perhaps. How do they become permanently dominant?

GREENFIELD: I think if you're a Democrat, what you're really worried about is Republicans gained among some Democratic -- one-time Democratic voters. They gained them on Hispanics, they gained them on Catholics.

I mean, think about this. Their candidate got more votes than the Catholic nominee of the Democrats.

Republicans kept their gains among men, narrowed Democratic gains among woman. And the Republicans turned out their base in the so- called exurban communities, the fast-growing new towns that have grown up beyond the narrower suburban ring.

What I think this suggests to Republicans is they need a two- prong message, the socially conservative message, which drove their base, and the entrepreneurial ownership society message which might be their best chance to win over younger voters and preserve what they won while drawing votes away from the Democratic Party which still emphasizes government programs. There's a chance there to get a -- you know, people who won't remember the new deal and the great society, younger people.

COSTELLO: Yes, who don't remember it at all, quite frankly.

GREENFIELD: Well, they don't remember where they were last week. But that's another story.

COSTELLO: You're exactly right about that.

Isn't there some danger, though, in being the dominant party?

GREENFIELD: Sure, always. Well, the first danger is events.

They're in charge now, you know, clearly. So if, for instance, Iraq turns ugly, or if the pessimists are right about the economy, that borrowers will be freaked by the deficits, which will lead to rising interest rates, renewed inflation, you can see defecting Democrats (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

And like most governing majorities, like the Democrats a generation ago, this Republican coalition is unstable. You have supply-side tax cutters facing off against deficit hawks. You have the certain (ph) internationalists who were all for the war in Iraq facing skeptics about the reach of American power. You have social moderates versus social conservatives, who are now, the conservatives, openly saying we won this election for George Bush and we want our agenda enacted.

So in some ways, the most interesting political fights ahead may be within the party. And just one party night. It's to me fascinating how a party that clearly labels itself conservative has so many relative moderates, ex-Mayor Guiliani, New York Governor Pataki, Senator McCain, Senator Hagel, all looking at a possible presidential run this time.

So they think something's up in a few years. And that just makes that story very interesting to me.

COSTELLO: So it won't be a boring four years.

GREENFIELD: Well, I can't promise that. I just think -- I just think watching the Republican Party figure out now that -- somebody pointed out, it's like the dog that catches the bus. Now you got it, what are you going to do with it?

COSTELLO: We'll see. Jeff Greenfield, thanks for coming in.

GREENFIELD: Have a good weekend.

SANCHEZ: Or as a famous admiral once said, "Who am I?"

Still to come, the British have their say on the worst of American television. And "Baywatch" is just the beginning.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


SANCHEZ: Well, here's something we think you'll enjoy: the good, the bad and the very worst of American television. What is it? Well, this is what it is in the opinion of viewers overseas.

You ready?

A British survey reported in "Broadcast Magazine," it ranked "Baywatch" as the worst-ever U.S. television import, followed by "The Anna Nicole Show," "The Dukes of Hazard," "Wild Palms," and "Manimal."

COSTELLO: "Manimal?"

SANCHEZ: What did they like? You ready? Here's the best.

"The Simpsons," "Dallas," "Mash," "24," also "The Larry Sanders Show." In that order. Those were the favorites for the viewers. And AMERICAN MORNING was coming in at number six.

COSTELLO: Well, you know what I'm wondering -- really? You know what I'm wondering? If they don't like the TV show, why are they importing them?


SANCHEZ: Because they're cheap and they can somehow find a way to make money from them. And that's basically why they do things like this.

COSTELLO: That explains it.

SANCHEZ: By the way, have you ever seen "Manimal?"

COSTELLO: No, I've never even heard of "Manimal."

SANCHEZ: Neither have I.

COSTELLO: Have you, Toure?


COSTELLO: Was it half man, half animal, and he attacked the world?


COSTELLO: "Manimal?"

TOURE: I mean, what else could it possibly be?

SANCHEZ: Well, what's amazing about this is how many of these shows that we think only we see that are very Americana end up with translations in places like China and Thailand.

TOURE: I mean, that list wasn't totally accurate. I mean, overseas they don't get Fox. So it just totally knocks it out completely, changes the math totally.

COSTELLO: Are you going to get into your "Question of the Day?"

TOURE: One day. One day.

Look, this week lots of people are complaining about the TSA's airport pat-down procedure, way more invasive than it used to be. Back in August, terrorists snuck bombs under their clothes and then boarded two Russian planes, and the explosions killed 89 people.

In September, the TSA responded with more stringent searches. And the last time I flew, I felt it. The screener got all up close and personal with me. I'm not a modest person, but he patted down my chest in a way that reminded me of a girl who doesn't know what she's doing. Airport screeners are becoming more sexually aggressive -- no, no, no, no. More protective of us. But does it make you feel safer? No, probably not. But you can't fight city hall.

So let's kvetch together. Tell us your true horror stories. "The Question of the Day," what is your airport security night air?

Kerry says, "A few weeks ago, my husband was trying to fly on business and was informed that he was on our nation's no-fly list. He was pulled out of line, asked to wait while phone calls were made. Questions were asked, numbers checked."

"When he finally was allowed to board, he asked if it all had been straightened out. 'Oh, no, man, you're on the hit list.' He was terrified."

That's a -- what is this hit list? I don't want to be on that.

Jackie from Lincoln, Nebraska, says, "I was asked to remove my shirt because it had snaps on it. I told the TSA rep all I had underneath was my undergarments and I would not disrobe for them."

I walked to the screener. No alarm, but I got pulled over for an extra security search. It seems like a joke but it's not."

Larry from Michigan, "I think everyone" -- I like this one -- "everyone who is pro good airport security, they be checked and they fly a secure aircraft. People who complain about being checked should get their wish and fly in a separate aircraft and take their chances."

But perhaps we should not have fake security, but real security. OK.

The last one's from Andy from New York, who you know, Andy Borowitz. "My last trip," he says, "through security was pure hell. In spite of all my pleading, the female screener would not strip search me."



TOURE: And actually, we were talking to Crystal (ph), who did "90-Second Pop," said that she once went through her 4-year-old boy was randomly chosen and they made him go through with it.

COSTELLO: Well, he's on the watch list, though.

TOURE: He's a bad kid sometimes. But they're like, "Spread your legs, spread your arms." He's like, "I don't want to."

SANCHEZ: Well, our 11-year-old was put through it, too. But you know what? They're just doing their jobs. And they're protecting all of us.

COSTELLO: As best they can. TOURE: And so are we.

SANCHEZ: Tell them, Carol.

COSTELLO: Still to come, it's the Friday edition of "90-Second Pop."



COSTELLO (voice-over): One of the sassy "Desperate Housewives" will be getting bumped off. Who won't survive?

And it ain't easy being an ex "American Idol." How former contestants are keeping their careers alive who's having the most success.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.



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