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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Chicago Commuter Train Slams Into Cars; Thanksgiving Travelers Face Busy Airports, Crowded Highways; Organizers Prepare For Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Aired November 23, 2005 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to get to that situation in Chicago in just a moment.
In the meanwhile, hi, everybody. Thanks for joining us. Paula is off tonight.

Tonight, the terminals are packed and it is stop-and-go on the interstates, as an entire nation makes the trek home for the holidays.

Planes, trains and automobiles, the headlong rush to relax -- and the worst may be yet to come.

Up in flames -- the spectacular danger that could sneak up on you when you fry your Thanksgiving turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The flames are 20 feet high. There's black smoke in the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't believe it is safe enough for people to use.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Common mistakes, scorching results -- what you need to know to keep your family safe.

And feeling their pain -- a comic book that is trying to turn kids against their parents. Are millions of fishermen cold-blooded killers? Are these intelligent feeling creatures? Tonight, the surprising argument over cruelty to fish.

Fasten your seat belts, everybody. We're down to a mere four hours before Thanksgiving. And millions of travelers need more time to get there. So, how do we know this?

Just look. In our control room, we have got our eyes on traffic cameras and Web sites, tracking planes, trains and the nation's interstates. We have also got boots on the ground, Allan Chernoff at New York's La Guardia Airport. Gusty winds there are causing flight delays at airports all across the nation.

Gary Nurenberg is at Washington, D.C.'s Union Train Station.

And Ted Rowlands is on the road, California's 101 Freeway, to be exact. That's north of L.A.

Sean Callebs is near Chicago, though. That is the scene of this hour's developing story. A commuter train has run into about a dozen cars there.

And, Sean, we want to know right away if everybody is OK.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, we can tell you that 13 people have been injured.

All of the injured were in vehicles when that commuter train slammed into that intersection, the train going somewhere between 55 and 60 miles an hour at the time of that horrific accident. Three of those injured are known to be in critical condition. That could change as the night goes on. We will continue to update you.

What we do know, this was an express train leaving Chicago's Union Station at 4:25 Central time. So, it was moving at -- at rapid speed when it went through an intersection in Elmwood Park. That's an area just about 13 miles outside of the city. Normally, this is a train packed with commuters at this hour, somewhere between 400 and 500.

And if you just look at the devastation, the chaos on the ground and the number of onlookers at this hour, it is almost amazing that only 13 people are known to be hurt at this hour. And, of course, this comes on the busiest travel day of the year. AAA tells us some 37 million people are going to travel at least 50 miles over the next couple of days to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones.

And how are they affected on the roads? Well, an overwhelming percentage, about 80 percent of that 37 million, 31 million, will be traveling on the interstates, the roads. And what kind of gas prices will they be paying? Well, we will take a look at that. The average is $2.27 a gallon. That is up 30 cents from last year.

However, $2.27 sounds like a bargain, compared to what we paid over the summer. So, certainly, a lot of travelers are not going to be affected by the gas prices. AAA says a record number of people are expected to be out on the roads.

And just what are the roads like? Well, we are going to check in with Ted Rowlands out on the 101 to tell us that part of the story.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sean, we are driving on the 101. As you can see, we are not alone in Southern California. They estimate about three million people will be traveling this holiday weekend.

And about 80 percent of those will be on the road, as you mentioned. And, as you can see, Highway 101 is jampacked and has been for most of the afternoon here. It's 5:00 in the West, meaning that you have a mix of holiday travelers and commuters. And it has made for a complete mess, not only on Highway 101, but on all of the other freeways in Southern California. The number-one destination for Southern Californians this holiday season is Las Vegas, and then also the Bay Area of San Francisco. Highway 101 is one of the arteries that takes you up to Northern California. And a lot these folks are most likely on their way to some holiday destination.

We did talk to some folks that were over on Highway Five a few hours ago. And they say their commute to this point has been a complete nightmare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife is trying to keep them busy and play with the kids. They are trying to watch a DVD. But they're just -- they want to get out of the car and have some fun. So, it's been -- it's been quite a challenge today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One kid has barfed. The other kid is crying.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, that's how it's been.

ROWLANDS: What's it been like out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell. I will never travel again the day before Thanksgiving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

ROWLANDS: A lot of people, of course, don't have the option whether or not they are going to travel on the day before Thanksgiving.

But if you are planning on hitting the roads, pack the DVD player for the kids and a lot of patience, because, no matter where you are in the country, tonight, you are most likely going to see a lot of this, a lot of people joining you, as you try to get to your holiday destination -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Lots -- lots of candy and treats for the kids in the car, too. That always revs them up really nicely.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: Ted Rowlands and Sean Callebs as well, thanks, you guys.

Now, if you are about to head to the airport, even out West, where it's nice, you may face delays there, too. Windy weather in Atlanta, Chicago and the New York area is delaying departures at airports all around the country.

Senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is at New York's La Guardia Airport now.

Hey, Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi.

You have got to see this to believe it, Thanksgiving evening at La Guardia Airport. And have a look. This is the ticket counter area for American Airlines, virtually empty, even though there are nearly a dozen flights left today. What seems to have happened is that people have been taking our advice, been taking the advice of the airlines.

They have been arriving very early here. And, right now, there's hardly anyone even going through the security check right down over there, folks arriving several hours before their flights.

And, also, the simple fact is, we were busier yesterday, at least in this terminal right here. So, lots of people got out of town yesterday. Also, early this morning, a JetBlue flight, at 5:40 in the morning, was 94 percent full, flying from La Guardia in New York all the way down to Fort Lauderdale -- so, people clearing out of town early.

The airlines told La Guardia officials they expected a third more passengers today than on a typical Wednesday. But the general manager of the airport told me he finds it hard to believe that there in fact were more than one-third passengers than a typical Wednesday -- the only real indication on the departure and the arrival boards. We do see delays, as you mentioned -- the worst delay for the moment for departure, Cleveland, one hour.

Earlier today, we had delays of two-and-a-half-hours going out to Cleveland. Of course, as you know, there had been storms there earlier in the day. In terms of arrivals, well, we do have delays at -- coming from Atlanta, a half-hour. And we also hear a similar situation at Atlanta Hartsfield, that arrivals there also delayed by approximately a half-hour.

And, also, Chicago -- the delays coming in here from Chicago, a half-hour to an hour, and, in Chicago itself, they are experiencing delays, on average, 40 minutes arriving in Chicago -- Heidi.

COLLINS: I got to tell you, it's pretty shocking to see the lack of people running around behind you there at La Guardia, of all places.

Allan Chernoff, thank you.

In the Northeast, train travel is a daily necessity for getting to work. And this year, especially, a lot of people are taking their holiday trips by rail.

So, let's check in with Gary Nurenberg. He's at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Hi, Gary.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello there.

Amtrak says trains are -- quote -- "generally running on time" and says there are only minor delays, Heidi. The system says this is the busiest day of the year. And, at Union Station in Washington tonight, it looks like it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NURENBERG (voice-over): They are going north.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm headed to Metropark, New Jersey, to go home.

NURENBERG: They are going south.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm leaving Union Station, headed to Richmond.

NURENBERG: They are doing what train passengers do the night before Thanksgiving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandma lives in Ohio, and I want to go see her and visit her.

NURENBERG: But this isn't as cheap as it used to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I paid about $160 for this -- for this ticket from Washington to New Jersey, and I can do the same thing on a bus for $40.

NURENBERG: Amtrak has added about 60 trains in the Northeast alone to deal with the crush.

CLIFF BLACK, AMTRAK SPOKESMAN: We expect to carry more than 600,000 passengers this Thanksgiving week, which is about 30 percent more than we would carry in a normal week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NURENBERG: There is another big change this year.

It used to be you could just show up and get on a train. Now the majority of Amtrak trains need advance reservations. And bring your photo I.D., because you are going to need them on Amtrak, too. That's a lesson that Heidi Ford (ph) learned in New York just a few minutes ago.

You show up for your train in New York and what happens?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told me that I needed an I.D., a governmental-issued I.D. And all I had was a picture I.D. and a birth certificate. So, I had to talk to a few people before they let me on the process.

NURENBERG: How long a process was that? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was probably about 20 minutes long, and I almost missed my train because of it, but, luckily, I made it in time.

NURENBERG: OK. You could fly. You could drive. You could hitchhike. Why take a train?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a lot cheaper than flying. And even though it's longer, it's usually more on time. There's not a lot of delays, such that I have found. So, it works out well.

NURENBERG: And, some time next week, you get a driver's license?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hopefully.

(LAUGHTER)

NURENBERG: OK. Thanks very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

NURENBERG: Until she gets her driver's license, more trains for Heidi (ph) -- back to you.

COLLINS: We want to -- wait. Well, we want to know the story on why there's no driver's license. Did she fail?

No. No. It's not part of the story.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: All right, Gary Nurenberg, thank you.

NURENBERG: We will find out.

COLLINS: Thank you so much.

NURENBERG: OK.

COLLINS: No matter where you are going, the weather will certainly play a big part in your holiday and your trip home. We are going to talk more about that when we come back.

Stick around, everybody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We have been talking travel, and what a perfect day to do it, the day before Thanksgiving, as you all hopefully go and enjoy the time with your family. And, of course, the weather will play a part in that, no matter how you are doing it.

We want to get a -- a quick check on that, the very latest from the forecast center, CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano.

Hey, Rob. ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Heidi.

And, in some cases, the weather actually puts people in the mood for the holidays. So, we will have a little bit of that going on as well. But the problem spots today have been across the Northeast, as they were yesterday. That's where a little bit of action has been on the radar -- not as much wind and rain as there was yesterday at this time across New York, but, certainly, some snow and some rain piling up in the Appalachian Mountains -- some rain across North Carolina, up I-95, through Raleigh and -- and heading up towards D.C.

It turns to a rain-snow mix right around Richmond tonight. And then up towards around Washington, D.C., is where we are seeing some snow at this hour. Don't expect a whole lot of accumulation out of this band, a very fast moving weather system, which means it doesn't have a whole lot of time to stick around, so it shouldn't pile up all that much snow, at least tonight.

From Pittsburgh, up through -- through Cleveland, Ohio, these areas, though, tomorrow, once the winds change and come off the lakes, will get some lake-effect snow. And that's a whole 'nother ball game. That's when the snow is really going to start to pile up. So, Cleveland, along I-80 from Cleveland, over toward Chicago, is going to be an issue.

Tonight, we're seeing some snow in Detroit. Might see a little bit tomorrow. Right now, not seeing a whole lot from Grand Rapids to Chicago. But, again, when those winds turn off the Great Lakes, that's when the lake-effect snow machine will kick in.

So, these are the interstates tomorrow that will be an issue, if you are driving to grandma's house -- Milwaukee to Chicago to Detroit, Interstate 94, Interstate 90, mostly in Upstate New York, Albany to Buffalo, but also cruising through northern Ohio towards Chicago -- towards Chicago, through Cleveland and Toledo.

Also, some snowy spots as far south as I-80, from Indiana on and off, right on through west Jersey, and some wet snow possible tomorrow from Boston up through Maine. This system, as mentioned, a quick mover, so, we don't expect to see a whole lot of snow. But it may be just cold enough, Providence to Boston, to see some snow.

It will be cold enough for snow, but the moisture will be gone Thursday -- or Thursday night, Friday, into Saturday. That's going to be the big weather story, really, from Chicago down to D.C., really, as far south as Lexington. It's going to be brutally cold on -- on Friday for folks who are going to be heading out to do whatever they do Friday, touch football or maybe do your shopping.

High pressure in control for Thursday, though. You go west of the Mississippi and we're looking at some good-looking Thanksgiving Day weather -- Thanksgiving night, maybe some rain in Seattle, 64 degrees expected in San Francisco, 27 in Chicago, and 19 degrees for a high tomorrow in Minneapolis, Heidi. And that doesn't include the wind. So, it will feel more like winter than Thanksgiving -- or...

COLLINS: Yes.

MARCIANO: ... or Christmas, rather, than Thanksgiving.

COLLINS: And we love our windchill in Minneapolis.

MARCIANO: Yes, you do.

COLLINS: It's about time to get out the snowmobile suit, I think.

MARCIANO: Almost.

COLLINS: Yes.

MARCIANO: You would look good in one.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: All right.

MARCIANO: See you later.

COLLINS: Rob Marciano, thank you.

MARCIANO: You bet.

COLLINS: Live scenes from the streets along Central Park in New York City, where the fabled balloons of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade are already blown up, ready to strut their stuff tomorrow before millions of people at home in front of their TV sets and millions more on the street.

The parade is not just a biggie for the thousands of balloon handlers who make sure no one is getting hurt along the parade route. In the post-9/11 world, it's also a giant security event.

Here's Deborah Feyerick.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to tradition, it doesn't get much better than this, all those colors, all that wonder, and, yes, nowadays, the police security to go with it.

(on camera): Police Commissioner, what are the challenges of security at a parade like this?

RAYMOND KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: Well, of course, any major event in our post-9/11 world means that we have to pay special attention to it. We have what we call a counterterrorism overlay of additional resources. We have rooftop posts.

FEYERICK (voice-over): It's been a tough year, attacks in London and Jordan, and threats against Baltimore and New York City.

(on camera): Are there some additional concerns, any chatter, anything that people should be worried about?

KELLY: No. I -- I -- we have no information that would indicate any increased concerns, other than the general threat of, you know, a possible terrorist event. That affects all of our lives post-9/11.

FEYERICK: And that's always there.

KELLY: It's always there.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The threat of terror is not the only thing police are worried about. Balloon safety is a more immediate problem. The reason, eight years ago, high winds sent the Cat in the Hat careening out of control. A young mother was left brain-damaged after a piece of metal lamppost toppled into the crowd. Changes were made.

JEAN MCFADDEN, MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE DIRECTOR: What used to be 40 to 50 people per balloon is now 50 to 60 people per balloon.

FEYERICK: Yet, not all handlers are trained. There's a mix of those who have done this before and those who have not. Training is mandatory for only about 300 team leaders. Giant balloons, some of them six stories high, can be a handful, which is why they will each be accompanied by a police sergeant.

(on camera): So, the ranking police officer that accompanies each balloon, they are the ones who are really the gatekeepers. They make the call, is it too windy for these balloons to go?

KELLY: Yes, that's correct. We're going to make a determination, a collective determination, you might say, as to whether or not they are going to fly at all before the parade begins.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Winds of 23 miles an hour or gusts of 34 miles an hour will immediately ground the large balloons, a call that can be made even after the parade begins.

John Piper, one of the Macy organizers, is confident in the team leaders and says all 2,000 balloon handlers will know what to do when the bands begin to play.

JOHN PIPER, VICE PRESIDENT, MACY'S PARADE STUDIO: The training is stronger, better, and greater.

FEYERICK: Certainly better than when Commissioner Kelly walked the parade route, himself a balloon volunteer back in high school.

(on camera): What's the toughest thing?

KELLY: Yes. It's really not that difficult for the handlers. You have to hold on and, you know, hold on tight.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Two-and-a-half million people are expected to brave the weather and cheer the bands and balloons -- police preparing for the worst, but ready for a happy, carefree day. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: And (AUDIO GAP) but, tomorrow, a different story, with the rain and the snow expected, and that dangerous 23-mile-per-hour wind could hit the city. So, you can bet that police and parade organizers are going to be watching this minute by minute to see what the weather is doing.

But, tonight, look at these crowds. They came out to enjoy the balloons.

(CHEERING)

FEYERICK: Everybody having a grand old time. At least they are not going to be snowed on tomorrow. There's going to be no rain, at least not right now.

And, if you take a look, just, Heidi, on a personal note, I just never realized how big Scooby Doo's feet actually are. Or does he have paws? Whatever.

And, over here, you can see Big Bird, Big Bird just resting before the big day.

A lot of excitement here -- a lot of people just out for a good night -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, Big Bird looks kind of tired. I hope he perks up a bit before the big day tomorrow.

Thank you. We appreciate it.

FEYERICK: One hit of helium, he should be fine.

COLLINS: All right, sounds good. Deb Feyerick, thanks.

So, have you heard that the animal rights group PETA, which already wants us to forsake fur coats, leather jackets and even eating turkey for thanks Thanksgiving, has a new target? In a little while, we will debate weather fishing is too cruel to the fish.

Right now, though, time for Sophia Choi at Headline News to update the hour's top stories.

Hi, Sophia.

SOPHIA CHOI, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT; Hi there, Heidi.

Well, on this night before Thanksgiving, there are reports of another American soldier killed in Iraq. There are also signals that a plan might be in the works to scale back the number of American troops there next year. The Pentagon is not confirming a reduction plan, but it has said there are positive developments regarding the training of Iraqi forces.

President Bush is in Crawford, Texas, again, and so, too, are anti-war demonstrators. At least a dozen were arrested today under stricter rules that were passed after the protests this summer.

Anti-terror police in Spain arrested 10 suspected Islamic terrorists. Police say there is no evidence they were actually planning an attack, but were wanted for financing radical groups.

And New Orleans is still hurting, but Mardi Gras lives on. The city has plans for a smaller version of its rowdy Carnival parade this February. The city says it plans to ask corporate donors to help fund the parade, an idea that has been taboo in the past.

Yes, Heidi, a lot of people don't want the commercialization, but, after Hurricane Katrina, the city really needs the money.

COLLINS: Yes, boy, who thought we would see something like that this soon?

CHOI: I know.

COLLINS: All right, Sophia, thank you.

Coming up, a vivid reminder of why you need to do more than just glance at those instructions that come with a turkey fryer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you fry one here at your house again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at my house, no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Stay with us for some advice that can keep your Thanksgiving turkey and your home from going up in smoke.

And, later, something to think about before you say grace around the table tomorrow -- when does defending your own faith become an attack on someone else's religion?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A live shot now coming to us from our affiliate KTLA. You are looking at L.A. It looks like quite a few people on the roads. I believe I-5 and 110, we're looking at here. And it looks busy. But, hey, it's Thanksgiving, right?

Take a look at this videotape now, though. This is what's left of a house in Eugene, Oregon, after some people tried to fry an early Thanksgiving turkey in a garage yesterday. The oil got too hot, caught fire, and you see the result. In fact, there have been dozens of fires like this since turkey fryers caught on a couple of years ago.

Just watch what our consumer correspondent Greg Hunter has learned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At an apartment complex in Tucson, Arizona, Christmas Eve 2002, ended with this fire investigators say was caused by a turkey fryer.

K.D. PREBLE, HOMEOWNER: My dad and two sisters ran out the door, and I had to jump out my bedroom window.

HUNTER: Incidents of fires or burns have happened at least 112 times in the last seven years, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, attributed to people around the country improperly using turkey fryers.

One industry group estimates there are 10 million propane fryers in use today. People who cook with them say they work fast and the turkey is delicious -- most of the time.

Thanksgiving Day, 2003, at the Moon home in Aloha, Oregon, described by a couple of terrified neighbors.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a house on fire.

OPERATOR: Where?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. Sarala, up 170th.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's -- the flames are 20 feet high. There's black smoke in the air. It's the whole backside of it. It started at the -- on the deck.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HUNTER: Dr. Stephen Moon says he had been cooking the family feast with a turkey fryer.

DR. STEPHEN MOON, HOMEOWNER: And I thought, well, you know, if something happens, I have got a fire extinguisher. That will take care of it. And it was like spitting in the wind. It was nothing compared to this fire that was going on.

HUNTER: The fire raged on. And, eventually, the fire department had to come put it out, but not before it caused more than $100,000 in damages.

Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook, Illinois, a world- recognized product testing organization, says frying a turkey can be hazardous. Spokesman John Drengenberg says that's why U.L. will not put its sealed approval on any turkey fryer.

JOHN DRENGENBERG, MANAGER OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS, UNDERWRITERS LABORATORIES: There have been safety improvements on turkey fryers. But it's still not at the point where U.L. will authorize the use of its mark. HUNTER (on camera): It's not safe?

DRENGENBERG: Because we don't believe it's safe enough for people to use.

HUNTER (voice-over): U.L. has been testing turkey fryers for the past three years. In this company video, they show easily fires can get out of control when typical consumer mistakes are made, like dropping a partially frozen bird into a pot of overheated oil.

The industry says, over the last few years, they have corrected many problems. In 2002, the Canadian Standards Association, a U.L. consumer testing competitor, began certifying some turkey fryers as safe. The stands are sturdier and the tanks are better marked, so consumers won't overfill.

Manufacturers have also decreased the intensity of the flame, so the oil won't overheat as quickly. And fryers come with pages of explicit cautions. One booklet contains at least 15 specific warnings on the dangers of frying a turkey.

Industry group the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association suggested we talk to Don and John McLemore, who owner Masterbuilt, one of the biggest makers of turkey fryers.

JOHN MCLEMORE, CO-OWNER, MASTERBUILT: If you don't drive your car attentive and like you should, automobiles can be dangerous. So, turkey frying is the same way. If you use it, follow the instructions and -- and do what we say in our instructions, no, it's a perfectly safe product to use.

HUNTER (on camera): The industry has warnings on its products. Isn't it the consumer's fault that they don't listen to the warnings?

DRENGENBERG: Well, the industry has added a lot of warnings to these turkey fryers. But the fact is, the construction has to be improved to the level of safety that U.L. would demand for such a product.

HUNTER: U.L. says it wants a device that will automatically limit the temperature of the oil in a gas turkey fryer, because it's not practical to expect consumers to watch a turkey fryer every minute, especially around the holidays.

The McLemore brothers point out, they already make an electric fryer with a control to keep the oil at the correct temperature. But it will take time to develop one for their gas fryer that is safe.

DON MCLEMORE, CO-OWNER, MASTERBUILT: It's got to be done right. It can't be just done overnight and thrown in the marketplace. That could be a worse mistake than not having one at all.

HUNTER: Until a thermostat is developed, overheating oil is Underwriters Laboratories' main concern. U.L. set up a demonstration for CNN. (on camera): One thing you need to be careful of when using a turkey fryer is something called the oil flash point. That's where, if you leave this unattended too long, and the oil gets too hot it can ignite without even touching a flame. Watch.

As you can see, even putting the lid on doesn't stop the fire and within seconds, flames are leaping four feet over the fryer. Within two and a half minutes, the demonstration wall catches fire.

This shows how quickly one of these fires can get out of control. When U.L.'s firefighters take the lid off to extinguish the fire, watch what happened. They spray foam on the fire, but even in this controlled situation, it's not easy to put out.

To see how it works in the real world, we went to this house, awaiting demolition near Chicago. With the help of Frankfort, Illinois, firefighters, we set up a turkey fryer with the kind of mistakes the Assistant Chief Larry Rauk (ph) says he sees all the time.

This looks like a dangerous setup, it's by the back door. You've got the leaves around there, it might be a little bit about the fill line. Is that how some people would treat this?

LARRY RAUK, ASSISTANT CHIEF: Yes, yes.

HUNTER: Not surprising?

RAUK: Not surprising at all.

HUNTER: Homeowners often make mistakes when using a turkey fryer. For example, this one is way too close to the house, it's too full of oil and too hot. On top of that, we're going to put a semi frozen bird right into the fryer to show you what can happen.

We had firefighters standing by to make sure this didn't get out of control. Because as Dr. Steven Moon (ph) will tell you, turkey fryer fires can get out of control in a hurry.

Would you fry one here at your house again?

DR. STEVEN MOON, FRIED A TURKEY: Not at my house, no.

HUNTER: For those who will, follow the instructions carefully or risk a holiday dinner tragedy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER (on camera): The National Fire Protection Association and the American Burn Association both say turkey fryers are a dangerous and discourage people from using them, no matter how many precautions they may take or how many safety features are built into them. It can all be summed up as, simply, a pot of scalding oil and an open flame, and that combination is inherently risky.

COLLINS: Well sure, and I think they've been on the market since like 1995. There are about 10 million of them, I think that you said in your report, out there. What should people do then to use them safely. You probably can't tell them, don't use them.

HUNTER: That's right, because people are going to. Here is some of what you can do to cook safely, according to Underwriters Laboratories.

No. 1, use turkey fryers outdoors, and that means away from buildings, cars, and trees, not in your garage. Do not overfill. You saw what happened in our story. Not only can you have a fire, but hot oil can splatter everywhere and it did when we went to Underwriters Laboratories.

And never leave that turkey fryer unattended. That means that you should not only watch it, but you should have a good thermometer so you can manually control the temperature and not let that oil get too hot. Now leaving a turkey fryer unattended is the most common way these fires happen.

COLLINS: I bet it is. All right, Greg, thank you and Happy Thanksgiving. Safe Thanksgiving.

HUNTER: Maybe it will save somebody's life.

COLLINS: That's right. Well, the newspapers are full of ads for Thanksgiving sales, too. But one particular ad today really caught their eyes. It has nothing to do with Christmas presents and everything to with Christianity.

Next, the director of the Anti-Defamation League defends his allegation that the evangelical right is trying to christianize America .

Later, a guy who is hooked on fishing and an animal rights activist, whose group is handing out comic books, that tell kids their dads are killers if they fish.

We're also keeping our eyes on potential trouble spots on the nation's highways. Who's going to get in late? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A full-page ad in today's New York Times is bringing a growing national debate right into the Thanksgiving holidays. It's about religion, or as some believe, too much of it.

The ad comes from the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti- semitism. In it, the organization celebrates freedom of religion, but it warns that we all need to work to ensure that freedom. That comes after a much more urgent warning earlier this month, from the ADL's director, Abe Foxman, in a speech to ADL leaders.

He said, "evangelical groups, including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council are not just trying to promote Christian values, but instead are trying to unite their version of Christianity with state power." In other words, quote, "Christianize America," end quote.

Abe Foxman joins me now. Is that true? You think the Christian right is trying to take over America?

ABE FOXMAN, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: I think some of them are.

COLLINS: So who exactly is behind this effort?

FOXMAN: Well, there are evangelical groups, there are religious right groups, people who believe that this country needs to be brought back to Christianity and to Christ.

COLLINS: So specifically, what is it that the Christian right is doing that is so hurtful?

FOXMAN: Until recently, this country talked about Judao- Christian values. This country talked about belief in God, in religion, in tradition. What has changed in recent years is that there is talk about a Christian country.

Not religious values, but Christian values. Not about God, but Christ. And there is an effort, a concerted effort to influence and impact on Christianity. One specific truth of faith in our schools, in our libraries, in halls of Congress, in halls of government.

COLLINS: Well, teachers are not taking out the Bible and teaching the Bible in public schools, are they?

FOXMAN: No, not yet. We are concerned. We hope it will continue. But these groups want to tell us or legislate what kind of science we're being taught, what kind of books should be in public libraries, what operations hospitals should or should not engage in.

And even more recently, to tell pharmacists what kind of prescriptions they should fulfill or not fulfill, because Christianity or their version of Christianity, or their version of the truth would prohibit it.

COLLINS: Who suffers from this? Are you suffering from it, personally?

FOXMAN: Well no, not at this point. I think all America would suffer if we undermine our ability to respect each other's faith, to respect each other's way of worshiping or not worshiping.

COLLINS: Let's talk about American attitudes toward religion, for a moment. The Anti-Defamation League commissioned a survey on American attitudes toward religion, and one of the questions was this. Is Christianity under attack in the United States? The answer, 57 percent said yes. Now, that percentage goes up even higher to 70 percent when you ask people who go to church once a week. Does that scare you?

FOXMAN: Yes, it scares me, which is why I made the speech that I made, which is why I'm calling on the Jewish community and the rest of American society to assess it, to see whether we're correct, to what extent we're correct.

COLLINS: I just talked with Reverend Jerry Falwell of Falwell Ministries, who told me, "you know, it's really not what this is about. What it's about is making sure that everyone is represented, especially when we come to a holiday season."

FOXMAN: Nobody is at war with Christmas. Nobody is at war with Christianity. This country is the most free, the most open, the most respectful.

COLLINS: But you have said in public before that this could be the most hurtful to the Jewish faith.

FOXMAN: It can hurt all of us because if we replace our basic traditional values of freedom and respect for other faiths, by a position that government will select a certain truth, a certain way of practice, and will favor it. All of us will suffer.

COLLINS: Abe Foxman, thank you for your time.

FOXMAN: Thank you.

COLLINS: In a few minutes we've got an argument that's non- denominational, unless, of course, fishing is your religion. Are all those hooks, nets and knives just too cruel? A bass master takes on an animal rights activist, next.

And later, where are the bottlenecks? We'll get another high- tech update on holiday travel and some more good music, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: It's almost as much of a ritual as shopping till you drop, on the day after Thanksgiving. We're talking about animal rights activists standing outside stores protesting against fur.

But this year, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has another target in its crosshairs. And just who is this new animal cruelty bad guy? People who like to fish. PETA's "Bait & Tackle," a comic book for children, you're looking at it now, telling kids to ask their daddy why he's quote, "hooked on killing."

Going too far? Well, joining me now to debate that, Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of farmed animals campaign and in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Kevin Vandam, a fisherman and bassmaster classic champion.

Gentlemen, thanks for being here. Bruce, I want to start with you. I'm looking at this leaflet that we briefly showed on the air that activists are actually distributing to kids. It's pretty gruesome.

Let me read from it, if I could. "Until your daddy learns that it's not fun to kill, keep your doggies and kitties away from him. He is so hooked on killing defenseless animals, that they could be next." Is this a little graphic for kids? BRUCE FRIEDRICH, ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, no, I think kids get it. Kids like hyperbole, kids like things that are over the top. If you watch MTV or you watch the movies or go to the Internet sites that kids like, this is the sort of thing that appeals to them. But, it does raise a very serious issue. That is that fish feel pain and they feel pain in the same way as dogs and cats.

COLLINS: I've got to stop you right there, Bruce, because I'm a mommy and I think a more serious issue is someone coming up on the street to me and handing my child a leaflet like that. I can control if he's watching MTV or not, but where are these being distributed, and how much control does a parent have to keep it away from their child?

FRIEDRICH: Well, we're distributing it at tackle shops. We're also distributing it on fishing piers. And I think the point is critical. Kids want to know and they deserve to know that fish feel pain in the same way as dogs and cats.

If you wouldn't hook a dog through the mouth and drag the dog behind your car, you should no more hook a fish in the mouth and drag it behind your boat. From the perspective of the animal, the suffering is the same. So, fishing is cruelty to animals. Kids want to know that, they like to know that. They love the leaflet, we focus grouped it. They think it's funny, they think it's interesting and they pay attention to it.

COLLINS: I would love to know more about the focus group, but I want to get to Kevin, who obviously has told us -- this is your livelihood, it's a sport that you love. How angry were you and what did you think when you first saw this leaflet?

KEVIN VANDAM, BASSMASTER CLASSIC CHAMPION: Well, I was shocked because Bruce is sadly misinformed about that. I can tell you, as a professional angler, I've had many times where I'm out there fishing, and I hook a bass and I reel him almost all the way to the boat and he gets off and he comes right back and bites my lure again.

If he was feeling so much pain, he wouldn't do that. You don't come back to something like that. So, it's a known fact and there's many a biologist and scientist that have proved it, that fish don't have the receptors in their brain or in their mouth, the nerve endings, to feel pain like a dog or a cat. I mean, that's totally ridiculous to compare the two.

COLLINS: Isn't it also true that you must release during these fishing competitions?

VANDAM: Yes. All of our tournaments are cash and release. And, you know, so we're not killing them. But a lot of people do catch fish and eat them.

FRIEDRICH: You know, Heidi, biologically and physiologically, there aren't any scientists, not even one, anywhere in the country, who would agree with what Kevin is saying. Biologically and physiologically, fish feel pain. They feel pain in the same way and they feel pain to the same degree as any dog or a cat.

That's why fish are protected by the same cruelty to animals laws that protect other animals. You trick an animal. The animal is used to eating. You trick the animal you say, "this is food." Of course, the animal is hungry, the animal is going to go for the food. They don't know that it's a lure.

VANDAM: Bruce deals in opinions, not facts. This is opinion, and that's fine.

COLLINS: Kevin, go ahead.

VANDAM: That's not a fact, that's an opinion. That's what they deal with a lot.

FRIEDRICH: I can understand how Kevin wouldn't be able to be disinterested in this, he's made $2 million on paling animals on hooks. But the reality is, scientifically, physiologically, everybody agrees that fish feel pain, they feel pain in the same way and to the same degree as dogs and cats.

COLLINS: Bruce, let me quickly ask you.

VANDAM: I don't know where you are getting your facts from, Bruce, but they are wrong.

COLLINS: I would love to know more about exactly where the facts come from, too. Mostly Bruce, what I'd like know -- go ahead, tell me where they come from?

FRIEDRICH: Well, they come from the USDA and they come from every scientific commission that's out there.

COLLINS: Like which one?

FRIEDRICH: Donald Broom. There's a professor who is an adviser to the British government, by the name of Donald Broom. And he says, there isn't any contentiousness on this issue. Biologically and physiologically, the pain response in fish is the same as the pain response in mammals and birds. That's how come if you look at the animal testing protocols that cover mammals and birds, they also cover fish because nobody disputes the fact, scientifically, biologically, nobody disputes the fact that fish feel pain in the same way as dogs and cats.

COLLINS: Kevin, I'm going to let you have the last word. Kevin?

VANDAM: Yes, you know, there's plenty of biologists and plenty of scientists that have said exactly the opposite. So that's his opinion and he's welcome to it. That's why we live in this country.

But 44 million fishermen that I am one of, really enjoy this sport. It's a great family sport. It's a great way for fathers to get special time with their sons, with their daughters. And that they can't get when they are playing video games or home watching TV. It's a great family sport and -- FRIEDRICH: Let me just talk --

COLLINS: I can't do it I'm sorry to the both of you. That's the end of the time. I appreciate your time very much tonight.

Bruce Freidrich and Kevin Vandam from Michigan tonight.

(BUSINESS BREAK)

COLLINS: And a lot of people had to work today, as you probably know, before starting their holiday travels. So what are conditions like right now? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Let's get one more check of the developing story tonight. That collision involving a commuter train and a number of cars in Elmwood Park, near Chicago. Sean Callebs is on his way to the scene. As we speak, he's joiningg us by phone. What do we know?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just pulled up to this area, Elmwood Park, about 15 miles west of Chicago. Still a very chaotic scene. Investigators still here. Conflicting reports on what happened.

Apparently this commuter train was an express, was going through somewhere between 55 and 60 miles an hour through an intersection. Now, this being the busiest travel day of the year, there were either so many cars in traffic that some cars got trapped on the rail lines or some people simply ignored the fact the gate went down and then went around the gate and were trapped on that rail when the train came through.

At least five cars were hit, which spawned a chain reaction and in all, 13 cars were hit. Thirteen people we know are injured. That number could go up, according to Metra, the commuter train here in Chicago. Three of those people, Heidi, are critically injured.

So certainly a very, very tragic beginning to the holiday week here in the Chicago area. Heidi?

COLLINS: Sean, we know you'll keep your eye on it for us. We'll check in with you later throughout the night.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: That is it for us tonight. In the meantime, Larry King Live starts right now.

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