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AMERICAN MORNING

Muqtada al-Sadr forcing Nouri al-Maliki to Choose Sides; Spy Death Mystery; Black Friday

Aired November 24, 2006 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hundreds of people are dead, hundreds more are wounded. And now a threat from a powerful anti- American cleric. What can be done to save Iraq?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Cheney traveling to the Middle East, heading to Saudi Arabia as the violence in Iraq increases.

S. O'BRIEN: And there are bargains to be had today. It's Black Friday. We'll tell you what's in store.

Those stories and much more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: That looks like fun.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes -- not!

Good morning. Welcome, everybody, Friday, November 24th.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien.

We're glad you're with us this morning.

We begin in Iraq and the hard choice the prime minister now faces as his government crumbles amid unprecedented violence. Shiite powerbroker and American nemesis Muqtada al-Sadr insisting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki bow out of a planned summit with President Bush next week. If the meeting goes on, al-Sadr says he will pull his faction out of the Iraqi government.

The streets of Baghdad quiet today. A tough curfew still in place. The Baghdad airport shut down.

Here's the grim toll. More than 200 dead, more than 250 wounded after a series of coordinated bombings in Shiite-dominated Sadr City. It is the single worst attack since the U.S. invaded more than three and a half years ago.

Back now to Nouri al-Maliki's deadly predicament. Muqtada al- Sadr forcing him to choose sides. Will it be him and his militia, or President Bush and the U.S. military?

CNN's Arwa Damon joining us from Baghdad with more -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, good morning.

And that threat was delivered on national television. A spokesman for the group saying that if Iraqi prime minister Nouri al- Maliki goes ahead with this planned meeting set to happen next week with U.S. president George Bush, the group will suspend its activities in the Iraqi government. They do hold about 30 seats in parliament.

Now, on one hand, the prime minister is faced with this threat. And on one hand, he largely owes his prime ministership to Sadr's bloc. They threw their weight behind him.

Add to that the fact that the bloc has its armed group as well, the very deadly Mehdi militia, which is believed to be responsible for much of the sectarian violence here. And on the other side, the prime minister cannot afford to isolate the United States right now. A very difficult position that he is in.

And that death toll continues to rise from that deadly attack in Sadr City. Latest figures we have now are that at least 200 people are dead, another 250 wounded. And still, the violence continues, despite calls from all political parties here for calm, for restraint in the northern city of Tal Afar .

A suicide bomber killed at least 26 people, wounded another 22. He drove his vehicle up to a car lot, exited the vehicle, then detonated the vehicle, and then detonated his own explosives -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Arwa, where are the Iraqi security forces amid all this? Are they at all a factor?

DAMON: Well, Miles, look, I mean, the Iraqi security forces are out there. They are in the streets of Baghdad. You do drive around the capital, you do see Iraqi police, you do see the Iraqi army.

The question really is, how effective are they in stopping the violence? And if we look at the numbers, if we look at the increasing violence that we have seen over the last few months, if we look at the reality that last month was one of the deadliest months since the U.S. invasion in March of 2003, that speaks in and of itself.

They still need a vast amount of training, they still need military discipline, and they still need heavy weapons to be able to fight the type of insurgency and the militias that are out there. Add to that the reality that especially the Iraqi police are believed to be -- in fact, are infiltrated by the militias, for the most part they're out there. How effective are they? Well, that speaks in and of itself -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon in Baghdad.

Thank you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: The White House is monitoring the situation in Iraq just as the president prepares to meet with the Iraqi prime minister.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is at the White House. Suzanne, good morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Well, certainly the White House hopes that Maliki doesn't back out of his talks. And there is no plan for the president to back out of those discussions. It's planned for Wednesday, when he goes to Jordan to meet with the Iraqi prime minister face to face.

What you're seeing from the Bush administration now is really an all-out diplomatic offensive here. You've got Vice President Cheney today heading to Saudi Arabia to talk with King Abdullah about the latest developments. You have the president going to Jordan on Wednesday.

And publicly, the Bush administration has expressed confidence in Maliki. But privately, there's been a lot of frustration whether or not he has the political heft and the will to bring his government together.

So, of course he does have a decision to make here when it comes to those loyalties, competing loyalties with Sadr and the Bush administration. But the strategy from the White House is to try to bolster his government, not only from within by that meeting on Wednesday, but also outside of the government.

That's why you see that meeting with the friendly neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Jordan. They'll also be, of course, in discussions with Turkey and Kuwait, really trying to get those players directly invested, directly involved.

And at the same time, Soledad, as you know, you have Iran and Syria, two regimes the Bush administration does not want to directly talk with, has been hesitant to do so. But again, those other players can get involved with Iran, with Syria, to try to bolster Maliki's government from the outside and not only just from within -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, if the goal, Suzanne, is to bolster his government from the outside, then you have this very dire warning from Muqtada al-Sadr. How is the White House -- or is the White House saying anything this morning about how they're going to balance that?

I mean, that's a very serious threat. And the White House clearly wants to bolster Nouri al-Maliki, not destroy his government, clearly. So what are they going to do?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly, I mean, it's a difficult situation. On the one hand, they're working directly with the allies around -- surrounding Iraq. But the other hand, what you're going to see in the next couple of weeks, is this bipartisan commission, this internal review. The Pentagon, all of them looking at ways to actually help the Iraqi government from within, and that is trying to get those Iraqi forces trained as quickly as possible to try to figure out a way to reconcile the various warring factions inside of Iraq to help them deal with things like oil, with how you settle not a partitioning, but how you settle different areas with different groups.

Those are the things that they're going to be looking at the next couple of weeks.

S. O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House for us this morning.

Thanks, Suzanne -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It is now a murder investigation. Authorities in London trying to find out who and what killed a former Russian spy who became a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin. Alexander Litvinenko died at a London hospital three weeks after some meetings with shadowy characters and an apparent poisoning, but doctors cannot say for certain what killed him.

Jim Boulden is live now from University College Hospital in London where Litvinenko died -- Jim.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It gets stranger and stranger, Miles, I have to tell you. The police were calling this a poisoning a few days ago, now they're calling it an unexplained death. The doctors have told us they don't know what caused the death of this former KGB agent.

His family is very clear, though. They blame the Kremlin. They blame President Putin. They say because Alexander Litvinenko was a fierce critic of the way Russia is going, that he was a target.

And you can see in the newspaper here, Miles, this is "The Times" this morning. It gave us a comment he made a few days ago to a friend, and Mr. Litvinenko said, "The bastards got me, they won't get us all."

The "us" is the other critics, many who live here in London now, many former KGB agents and others who have come to find London as a sanctuary. One of those is Alex Goldfarb, a friend of the family. And he told me a few moments ago what he thought caused the death of his friend, Alexander Litvinenko.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX GOLDFARB, FRIEND OF EX-RUSSIAN SPY: My opinion is that -- is that Russian special services, spies were involved here beyond any reasonable doubts, purely on the basis of sophistication of the poison itself, which is clearly a special agent, which even the British doctors cannot still determine what it was. And from the record of the killings and assassinations and murders of political opponents in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOULDEN: Miles, the British police here say they are investigating this unexplained death. But of course at this moment, they really will not comment any further. As of now, we don't know what caused it, but we could learn more from a post-mortem -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Jim Boulden in London.

Thank you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning, a Thanksgiving Day gathering turned deadly in Oakland, California. Witnesses say a gunman burst into a dinner party and began firing.

Apparently, it was all part of an ongoing family dispute. Three people were killed, one guest has a broken back now. He got it while trying he was trying to escape out of a third story window.

Two suspects ran from the scene. They're under arrest though now.

A frantic search in frigid weather for two northern Minnesota boys who have been missing since Wednesday. Volunteers and police are combing the Red Lakes Indian Reservation where the 2-year-old and 4- year-old brothers were last seen playing in their yard. The FBI is also on the case.

A 23-hour-long standoff in Chicago ended in the very early morning hours today. The gunman fatally shot the woman he was holding hostage and then killed himself. Investigators are still trying to piece together why it happened.

North of Boston, in Danvers, the embers have finally cooled enough for investigators to begin their work trying to find out why a chemical plant exploded. The blast and the fire that followed damaged 90 homes. Some of those homes were blown right off their foundations.

A dozen people were treated for injuries and released from hospitals. Amazingly, nobody was killed.

In California, eBay bids for copies of O.J. Simpson's canceled book, well, they're heading downward now. Earlier bids were topping a million dollars, and that was obviously very upsetting to the family of Nicole Brown Simpson.

That family accuses eBay of not acting quickly enough to pull the auctions of the book. eBay says it's taking the books off the site -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, first the turkey and stuffing, now this morning the stuff. It's all part of the tradition. Retailers call it Black Friday, hoping it will be the color of ink on their balance sheets, and also for the stress they will endure just to get through this day.

Take a look at the Toys "R" Us. Times Square in Manhattan, that's the Ferris wheel there. And already plenty of shoppers there.

Let's move along, 34th Street, Macy's department store, a little after 8:00 in the morning local time. Obviously a busy place there.

And let's show you one other location. This is the -- what is this? This is Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island. Or mall, as they say there. And very crowded there as the shoppers out to get their bargains bright and early.

And finally, let's go to Illinois, Skokie, Illinois, and a Best Buy. They're jammed there. They were camped out overnight.

Jonathan Freed is there.

Jonathan, you weren't camped out all night, were you?

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was not. I'd like to say, yes, I was camped out overnight, but I wasn't. I can't steal the thunder from that family that was here since 3:00 yesterday afternoon.

But here's a guy that's been here since around 2:00 this morning, Aaron Luettinger, the manager of this store.

Thanks for joining us.

AARON LUETTINGER, GENERAL MANAGER, BEST BUY: You bet. Good morning.

FREED: So how much of a zoo has this been for you today? Has it been -- on a scale of one to 10, has it been an 11, as they say?

LUETTINGER: Eleven or 12, but controllable, absolutely. Very busy this holiday season. Lines are wrapped around the side of the complex. So it's been a great day.

FREED: Come on over here. Let's give people a sense of how busy the store is. What -- what has been -- what are the hot sellers so far this year?

LUETTINGER: Plasma TVs, LCD TVs, desktops, laptop computers, iPods, as usual. Those have been the big-ticket items.

FREED: Right. Now, how about -- we were talking about some strategy before, Miles, because as you often know, cell phones don't always work in a store like this. So you've got some survival tips, right?

LUETTINGER: Absolutely. So one of the best things to do is, when people come into the stores, bring two-way radios so people can communicate amongst each other in the stores. (INAUDIBLE) lines, but communication between people in the store seems to help tremendously.

FREED: Do you see a lot of people with two-way radios?

LUETTINGER: Yes, absolutely. A lot of either Nextels back and forth, but two-way radios, a lot of that.

FREED: You have to love that, Miles. It's survival techniques in order to get your stuff in time for the holidays.

We'll throw it back to you. M. O'BRIEN: Don't leave home without those walkie-talkies, you know? Rawhide, later. I got the laptop over here at quadrant 20 -- over. You know, that kind of stuff. It's good. It's good stuff.

FREED: Exactly.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Jonathan. Be good out there. Be safe. Wear your pads there.

If you're at a loss about what to get, we have a solution for you. Log on to our Web site, cnn.com/holidayshopping, and you can put in there all the criteria you want for a gift, who it is, what kind of thing they like, and it will give you some suggestions.

S. O'BRIEN: I did it for you.

M. O'BRIEN: And it came out with cookies.

S. O'BRIEN: No. I did it for you, a lot of different price ranges.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. And...

S. O'BRIEN: Cookies was the low end.

M. O'BRIEN: OK.

S. O'BRIEN: And then I did it for you in...

M. O'BRIEN: Cabbage Patch doll? No.

S. O'BRIEN: No, and -- and fine pens and writing utensils.

M. O'BRIEN: Something to lose, that's good. That's good.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. And, you know, all kinds of stuff.

M. O'BRIEN: Excellent, excellent.

Well, check it out.

S. O'BRIEN: Ten dollars and under.

M. O'BRIEN: I feel guilty now. It's a little early for me in the season.

S. O'BRIEN: Good.

Ahead this morning, we're going to get back to that ominous morning coming from the hard-line Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and take a look at how that might affect President Bush's planned meeting with Iraq's prime minister.

That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) S. O'BRIEN: Some of the top stories we're following for you this morning.

Vice President Dick Cheney is heading to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. He's going to be meeting with the Saudi Arabian king, Abdullah, hoping to encourage moderate elements to rise up and help take control of the government.

And President Bush is meeting with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, at Camp David. It's happening before his trip to Jordan. He's going to meet with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki.

Meanwhile, though, a powerful anti-American cleric in Iraq says that if that presidential meeting takes place, he's going to pull out of the Iraqi government. Between the violence and the threats, Iraq is truly in chaos.

Let's get the latest from Michael Ware, who is live for us in Baghdad.

Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Yes, what we've heard is, as you say, the very powerful political faction loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has today threatened to suspend its cooperation or involvement with the government, to boycott the government, as it says, without any detail on what that means if the prime minister meets with President Bush next week as planned. Now, this is a nightmarish position for the Iraqi prime minister. He owes his place to two competing interests.

He's borrowed political capital from both the Americans and from Muqtada. So he answers to two very different and, indeed, competing and opposing interests. And this is where we see it come to a head.

This is a fault line. He's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't, quite frankly. This is the most precarious position that the prime minister could be in.

S. O'BRIEN: We just heard, Michael, from Suzanne Malveaux, who said no word from the White House on that front yet.

Let me ask you a question about the latest round of attacks. Outside of the sheer number of dead, more than 200, and the sheer number of wounded, more than 250, was there a sense that there was something different about that attack?

WARE: Well, in a sense, this is just part of a much broader continuum. We have been seeing these kind of mass attacks launched against the Shia population, even way back starting in the summer of 2003, August 29, the assassination of one man with a car bomb that took out more than 90 people around him in a holy shrine in Najaf.

What we have seen is al Qaeda, led by the now-deceased leader, Zarqawi, taken over by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, striking at the Shia population time and time again, provoking them, wanting them to retaliate. And we've seen that happen, particularly since February and the destruction of the holy Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra.

So this is part of a much broader picture. It's not distinguishable from a broader campaign. It's just so devastating that it just overwhelms you.

S. O'BRIEN: You have all this talk about diplomacy. We know that -- we were just reporting Dick Cheney heading to Saudi Arabia. You've got this -- which might be up in the air now -- Bush and al- Maliki meeting in Jordan. And then there was talk of a meeting between the Iranians, the Iraqis and maybe the Syrians as well.

What can be accomplished with all of these various meetings, do you think, Michael?

WARE: Well, all sorts of things could emerge from this. I mean, essentially, there's a number of very powerful regional-level power blocs that are all at play here in Iraq.

This -- this war here, the many wars of Iraq, as you could put it, the insurgent war, the terrorist war with al Qaeda, the civil war, and this great rivalry, this competition between the U.S. and Iran for influence in interest, not just in Iraq, but in the region. So you cannot see these wars being fought or conducted in a vacuum.

So what we're seeing is everyone has their pieces in play right now. And this is a critical time. Everyone is trying to capitalize on and fathom this period of American strategic crisis as we see this upheaval politically following the midterm elections. Everyone is looking to capitalize. This is a moment where everything is being repositioned, and that's the nature of this diplomacy.

S. O'BRIEN: Michael Ware is in Baghdad for us this morning.

Thanks, Michael -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It's about 20 minutes past the hour. Let's get a quick check of the weather.

Rob Marciano with that.

Hello, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Miles.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Rob.

Coming up, we're "Minding Your Business." We'll tell you how you can find great gifts for your friends and family while helping out a good cause.

Plus, the best presents for the tech heads in your life. An electronic wonderland, my favorite segment, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: They say it's better to give than receive, and this holiday season you can give and give back at the same time.

Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business." He's live for us this morning at the Roosevelt Field Mall in -- is he on the treadmill? All right.

Ali, hello. Pan up so we can see you. There we go.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm off to a running start. That was supposed to be funny than apparently it was.

Here's the thing. You know, the thing is, if you're going to get up early on this Black Friday, you should do something good for yourself. Work off the turkey dinner from last night, which is what I'm doing.

But if you're really into doing something good, you're about to enter the guiltiest month of your life, really. This is where you're spending all your money. There are other things you can do than exercising to do something virtuous.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI (voice over): If holiday shopping has you feeling a little blue about all the green you're going to shell out, thinking pink might make you feel a little better. If someone on your list needs a kitchen appliance, well, you can solve their problem and help fight cancer at the same time.

Cause-related marketing works. The Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, through corporate partnerships and campaigns, like Cook for the Cure with KitchenAid, says it raised more than $35 million last year.

For charities, it's a win, win, win. Customers get what they want, and they get to feel good about doing good, rather than feeling guilty for spending money. The dollar amount or percentage donated varies, but philanthropy consultant Tom Watson says at some level the money isn't the main issue.

TOM WATSON, CHANGING OUR WORLD, INC.: The best cause marketing campaigns are not just about raising money, they're about raising consciousness. So the really good ones get people excited about the cause.

VELSHI: And very few things get people excited as a shiny new AIDS-fighting iPod.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know a lot of people buy it because of helping AIDS and because it's really cute.

VELSHI: Red iPods sell for the same price as regular iPods, but Apple donates ten bucks to Bono's fight against AIDS in Africa for each one it sells.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's quite important that they give money to it. So, yes, I'd be more keen to buy that one rather than any other one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You kind of want one more.

VELSHI: At the Gap if you buy red, 50 percent of the purchase goes to fight AIDS.

WATSON: You can proudly tell the recipient of that gift that, hey, this is a wonderful item, but some of this goes to help somebody else.

VELSHI: And that will work just fine for this music lover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think pretty highly of whoever gave it to me. I think that's a nice thing for me and, you know, for them to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Can you hear me? Hey, Ali?

His lips are moving, but we can't hear him at all. Let's see if we can fix those audio problems.

Did you guys notice that he was totally sucking wind on that treadmill?

M. O'BRIEN: I did notice that. And I have a hunch he started...

S. O'BRIEN: We love you, man.

M. O'BRIEN: ... he started running about two seconds before he went live. So...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. So he did a total of about 15 seconds...

M. O'BRIEN: So get back on the treadmill, Ali. And on the mic, too.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a good resolution for the new year.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll see if we can fix his audio issue straight ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: We are headed for the weekend, but the news never stops here. T.J. Holmes now joining us with a look at what's ahead on CNN this weekend.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. You guys can hear me, right?

M. O'BRIEN: It's all good. HOLMES: Yes.

Well, guys, I've been watching you this morning. You all seem kind of tense at times. And that can happen to people around the holiday season.

I hope the stress isn't really getting to you. But, of course, the stress, the holidays go hand in hand sometimes. But this weekend, never fear. We have got some tips for you to stay calm, cool and collected.

So, Saturday morning, please, join us. We'll tell you how to welcome and even enjoy the extended family and maybe some of those in- laws as well when they come to visit.

We've got that, plus this. Hey, if all else fails, maybe some ballroom dancing can bring down your blood pressure. But you better be packing some cash. The high price of the Chinese Cha-Cha, that's in our "WaterCooler."

Then Sunday, CNN is your holiday travel headquarters. We'll have up-to-the-minute details on flight delays and weather conditions. You'll see them like you're seeing there on your screen right there.

We've got all that, plus, of course, the day's top stories starting tomorrow on "CNN SATURDAY MORNING."

Guys, enjoy your leftovers this weekend.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. You've got a busy weekend in store.

HOLMES: Yes, sir.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, T.J.

Coming up on the program, we go shopping for the hottest electronic gifts this holiday season. We'll look at the high-tech toys high on my wish list, at least.

And don't overdo it. If you can't pay the bills, a bad credit score can be used against you in all kinds of ways. Employers now are starting to use them to decide whom to hire.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: A day of incredible violence leads to a stark threat from one of Iraq's most powerful anti-American clerics.

A search is on in the freezing cold to find two little boys who disappeared while playing in their family's front yard.

S. O'BRIEN: And it's ready, set, shop. It's black Friday and there are bargains to be had. Plus, avoiding any Thanksgiving turkeys at the box office. We'll have a look at the holiday weekend movies, straight ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning, Friday, November 24th. I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm Soledad O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

We begin with what is happening this morning, chaos in Iraq. More than 200 people are dead, more than 250 people wounded after a series of coordinated bombings in Shiite dominated Sadr City. Two Sunni neighborhoods took mortar fire in retaliation. And now there's a threat from anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr. He and his supports say they will pull out of the government if Iraq's prime minister goes ahead with next weeks meeting with President Bush.

Vice President Dick Cheney is leaving for Saudi Arabia, for talks with King Abdullah. The U.S. wants Saudi Arabia to help diffuse tensions in the Middle East and also encourage moderate factions in Iraq and in Lebanon. The president is still planning to head to Jordan, and that meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Maliki. The president is right now at Camp David. He spent Thanksgiving with his family and a guest, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rices. Before he arrives in Jordan, the president will stop in Latvia for a NATO summit.

Frantic search in frigid temperatures is going on for two little boys in northern Minnesota. They have been missing since Wednesday. Volunteers and police are combing the Red Lakes Indian Reservation, where the two-year-old and four-year-old brothers were last seen playing in their yard. The FBI is also on the case today. Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know what they say, the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. And we have more proof of that this morning. Paul Reynolds is the electronics editor of Consumer Reports. He has brought some gadgets. Paul, always one of my favorite segments this time of year. Good to see you.

PAUL REYNOLDS, CONSUMER REPORTS: Great to be here.

M. O'BRIEN: And you have the enviable job of going through all these gadgets and trying to decide what's good and what's not so good. Let's start in the MP3 category, hot area this year. We have a couple examples here. Here's the Microsoft answer to the iPod, or attempt to answer, the Zune. This is the iPod Shuffle, which has become kind of a fashion statement. And here's the every-popular Nano, which is small and has an awful lot of memory capability. Consumer Reports, what do you like there the most?

REYNOLDS: Well, the Zune is an interesting entry into, as you say, Microsoft trying to take on Apple, with an integrated system, where you have a seamless relationship with an online music management and music store. It's got some interesting things about it. One of the most interesting unique features is you can wirelessly share songs with other people that have Zunes. Problem is, the other people can only play them three times.

M. O'BRIEN: They self-destruct. It's like the old Mission Impossible.

REYNOLDS: They kind of wait there and you need to buy them. So that kind of takes a little bit of the fun out of it. They're also a little bulkier. As you can see -- well, this is a Nano, of course, but even compared to the hard drive, the new hard drive iPods, they're a little heavier. We think they're an interesting start. We're not sure that they're quite ready for prime time. A lot of people, of course, are going to be going for iPods. They're very dominant in the market. This is the new Shuffle.

M. O'BRIEN: Two hundred and fifty songs, right?

REYNOLDS: Two hundred fifty songs or so. It's very small, you can see. You can clip it to your lapel or whatever. Obviously, limitations, no display, like the old shuffle, so it's not good if you like to move around and select songs as you go. It's limited, but it's very small, and it's the cheapest iPod yet, 80 bucks.

M. O'BRIEN: Eighty bucks, all right, let's now -- one of the things that a lot of people are interested in doing -- I just got one for Sandy, early Christmas present, a docking station for her iPod, so you can listen to the songs more easily, without having to do the sharing. What do you like in that category?

REYNOLDS: Well, this is a Klipsch model iGroove. It's about 250 bucks. It's got good sound. It also accommodates any generation of iPod. As you know, several generations have come along. They are a little different in size. Some of these players require you to put an adapter in. This one doesn't. So, it will play from any iPod. And it's a great solution if you want something to play your music in a room with an iPod and take it off of the head phones.

M. O'BRIEN: I can't get it to play, right now, but any way --

REYNOLDS: Anyway, it sounds good. It's got nice sound It's amazing the sound they can get out of a small enclosure.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, there it goes. All right, man. OK, now I won't be able to stop it, of course. All right, I better just take that thing out there.

REYNOLDS: There you go.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, so now let's go to digital cameras. That's a hot category, of course, as well. Let's get a close up of this one. This is one you like; is it a Casio?

REYNOLDS: This is an example of the Casio. This is an example of how a lot of features are coming down into what's known as sub- compact cameras. It's a very hot category, small enough to put in your pocket. This one has hide. This one has manual controls, eight megapixels, and they're beginning to add a lot of bells and whistles to distinguish the many models in this area. This one happens to have an eBay setting. If you're an eBay seller, it maximizes, it optimizes your settings, so that you can take photos for eBay.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, really? An eBay setting. And the size is good.

REYNOLDS: But it's very good. It's a good performer, great battery life and basically you're not having to make -- you're having to make fewer compromises now to get a really small camera.

M. O'BRIEN: And plenty of megapixels in a small package. OK, electronic picture frames. I have a Civa (ph), actually several Civas that I've given to family members. This is a little different concept. Civas actually dial up and you can share pictures on the web. This just is kind of a stand-alone unit.

REYNOLDS: There are a bunch of newer ones out there now that allow you to either have inboard memory and load images from you camera in to it, or from a computer, or use a memory card. Basically, what you can do is run either a still image or a slide show. It's great to have on your desk, so that you can have a continuing slide show of different photos running. It's a great gift for somebody who maybe doesn't have a computer or wants to have something on their desk to see pictures of their family.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, all right, with all those electronic pictures, that's a great way to display them. Paul Reynolds with Consumer Reports, thanks for this sampling of gadgets. I've already got some good ideas for my list.

REYNOLDS: Great, thanks for having me.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: And hopefully some gift ideas for me.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh yes, what would you like? The Zune, you want the Zune, don't you?

S. O'BRIEN: You know I love the Zune. Can't have too many of those.

Ahead this morning, something for all the folks who are trying to avoid crowded malls this weekend. We've got a holiday movie guide for you straight ahead.

And a word of warning for folks with credit problems. Bad credit won't just keep you from getting a loan, it could also keep you from getting a job. That story's ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: It's the start of the shopping season, officially, formally, whatever you want to say. And the typical shopper's mantra is charge it. But be warned, the bank isn't the only one checking your credit these days. Gerri Willis is here to explain how credit scores can really come to bite you in the you know where, in the wallet, so to speak. GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And there, too. You've been talking all morning about Black Friday, what a big day that is. December, actually, is the biggest spending month for consumers on the calendar. So if you're tempted to overspend, you're going to want to think about your credit score and your credit history. If you don't, it could come back and bite you, not just in the wallet, but could also cost you your job.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS (voice-over): Your credit history is your financial DNA. And like DNA, when your financial history is damaged, bad things can happen.

LISA BAILEY, FEELS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST: I was crushed. I was crushed bigtime.

WILLIS: For Lisa, who has a hearing disability, moving up meant trading in temp work for a full-time position at Harvard.

PIPER HOFFMAN, ATTY., OUTTEN & GOLDEN LLP: Lisa was working as a temp for five months in the alumni office doing a lot of the same responsibilities that were involved in the permanent position she applied for. She was handling very large checks from alumni, but Harvard didn't find it necessary to check her credit before she started doing that work as a temp.

WILLIS: But when Lisa applied for the job full time...

HOFFMAN: All of a sudden it mattered.

WILLIS: Lisa didn't get the job. To find good workers, more and more employers, like many lenders and insurers, are prescreening candidates using their financial history.

EDWARD SCHENKER, STERLING TESTING SYSTEMS: Fundamentally the credit report gives you some indications of the person's future behavior based on their past behavior. And really what you want to mitigate is giving them access to company financials.

WILLIS: But consumer activists argue the system is unfair to many, especially those with little credit experience or tarnished records.

Lisa's attorney has filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

HOFFMAN: We believe that is racial discrimination, because racial minorities are more likely to have credit problems than whites. So by using credit history as a hiring criteria, employees are having a disparate impact on minorities.

WILLIS: Harvard, for its part, told CNN, "Privacy considerations prevent us from commenting on specific cases, but in general, creditor history reviews are conducted with the consent of an applicant only for positions with access to sensitive financial information or involvement in significant financial transactions."

WILLIS: The EEOC continues to investigate the case. As for Lisa, she's back to doing temp work and working to repair her credit history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS: We'll tell you more about credit scores, and why what you carry in your wallet says a lot about how you handle money. That's going to be 9:30 a.m. Saturday, right here on CNN. Join us for "OPEN HOUSE" -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, what about this wallet thing?

WILLIS: I'm telling you, there's -- it's almost like a record of how you spend and what you do with your money. Let's see yours.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, we went through this, I don't want to give away the numbers, but I've got three American Express cards, personal, corporate and then I've got, you know, a couple of income properties, so I've that, driver's license, debit card and the MTA card.

WILLIS: Any department store cards?

M. O'BRIEN: No, I don't do that, no.

WILLIS: They carry a high rate of interest. They're dangerous.

M. O'BRIEN: They're bad.

S. O'BRIEN: Why do you fold your dollars like that?

M. O'BRIEN: So I can put my receipts on the other side. I've got $140 bucks there.

So am I OK?

WILLIS: Social Security number is in there?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it is in there. It's probably not a good idea.

WILLIS; Yes, you need to get rid of that.

Oh, boy, look at all those goodies.

M. O'BRIEN: I've got all health cards, you know, Turner, all that stuff. I've got to get rid of that stuff, huh?

S. O'BRIEN: You're very organized is what it tells me.

WILLIS: I love that you have the MX, because you have to pay that off each and every month.

M. O'BRIEN: That's why I do that, it forces you to do it. Thank you for one nice thing. Thank you. WILLIS: You seem to be very organized.

S. O'BRIEN: Another plus.

WILLIS: You get an A-plus, Miles. Thank you, Ger.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you so much.

S. O'BRIEN: CNN NEWSROOM is just a couple of minutes away. Heidi Collins has a look at what's ahead this morning.

Hey, Heidi, good morning.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

Here's what we're working on in the NEWSROOM this morning. The day after Thanksgiving, large crowds and large wallets there that we saw with Miles, pushing and shoving. Is it really a shopper's delight? We'll hit the stores to find out.

And missing in Minnesota: Two young brothers vanish without a trace. We'll have that story.

Plus, naming names, a former Russian spy dies, but not before pointing a finger at who he says did it. Join Tony Harris and me in the NEWSROOM. We get started at the top of the hour, right here on CNN -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Heidi, thank you very much. We'll be there.

Coming up, if you've had enough turkey talk, how about some penguin talk? Our holiday weekend movie guide is up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Planning on catching a movie this holiday weekend? Bradley Jacobs from US Weekly has a look at all the weekend blockbusters, including a blonder Bond.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRADLEY JACOBS, US WEEKLY: If you haven't seen it yet, this is the weekend to do it. Daniel Craig is now a certifiable star in the U.S.. He's the blonde Bond. This movie, of course, tells the original story of Bond. It's sort of a prequal. It shows you exactly how this young man became a secret agent in the first place. He goes racing around Madagascar, chasing a banker, who's funding terrorists.

S. O'BRIEN: Great special effects.

JACOBS: Great special effects. Everyone is talking about the special effects.

S. O'BRIEN: He's kind of cute. JACOBS: Yes, totally works, plus there's romance. He romances Vesper, who is the Bond girl, played by the newcomer Eva Green. This is one of the biggest success stories of the year, movie-wise. And it just won't be the same if you don't see it by the time this weekend is over.

S. O'BRIEN: How about happy feet? That did well. It knocked James Bond right out of the top spot.

JACOBS: Right, this kind of came out of nowhere. People were expecting it to do well. It's an animated movie. It has voices -- an amazing cast, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, and Robin Williams plays two different parts. It's about a world of penguins in which they sing to meet their soul mates. But then there's one penguin born who can't sing at all but who can tap dance. And, you know, kids, of course, and their parents really took to this film and I'm expecting it to have another big weekend.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I think it sounds so cute. It really does. Bobby recently opened as well. It's about the day that Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel.

JACOBS: Right, this movie follows 22 different people throughout the day that he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel. It was written and directed by Amelio Estevez, the actor and it has an amazing cast. There's a little something for everyone. There's Sharon Stone as a an aging Beautician, Anthony Hopkins as a retiring door man and for young people there's Lindsey Lohan as a young woman who is planning to marry her boyfriend to keep him from going to Vietnam. Plus, the standout Demi Moore as an alcoholic singer. She only has three or four scenes, but she was the scenery through all of them, I thought. It was very enjoyable watching her.

S. O'BRIEN: Denzel Washington has got a new movie called Deja Vu. What's that about?

JACOBS: This is an action thriller from Jerry Bruckheimer, in which Denzel plays a New Orleans law enforcement agent, who somehow manages to go back in time to prevent an act of terrorism during Mardi Gras. It's not the greatest movie, but Denzel is so good in everything he does, he manages to finesse some of the more ludicrous plot points and I'm expecting this movie to have an amazing weekend as well.

S. O'BRIEN: Jack Black, for fans of his, has got a new movie out. It's called Tenacious D: In the Pick of Destiny.

JACOBS: Yes, now this is great. This movie is great for fans of the rock band Tenacious D, which, of course, features Jack Black, everyone knows him from School of Rock, and Kyle Gass. For people who aren't so in to Tenacious D, it's sort of just a mildly goofy comedy that we gave two and a half stars in US Weekly. Basically, the two guys wrote the script, which tells the story of how they met in California, formed this band and then went on a journey to find a magical guitar pick that will enable them to become the self- proclaimed greatest band in the world. S. O'BRIEN: All right, and lastly Deck the Halls, Danny Devito, Matthew Broderick. It's the classic kind of wacky Christmas story.

JACOBS: Wacky is right. This is a holiday time movie, where Matthew Broderick plays a sweater-wearing New England family man, who just loves all the traditions of Christmas. Then one day a car salesman, played by Danny Devito, moves in next door, covers his house in garish lights, so much that you can see it from outer space, and, of course, war erupts between these two.

S. O'BRIEN: -- ensue, as we like to say. Bradley Jacobs from US Weekly, always nice to see you, thanks so much.

JACOBS: Thank you, Soledad.

M. O'BRIEN: Much more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEN ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs co- founded Apple Computer three decades ago, revolutionizing the computer industry and becoming very rich along the way.

STEVE WAZNIAK, FOUNDER, APPLE COMPUTER: Yes, it was way too much.

ROGERS: As his bank account grew, so did his desire to do something else.

WAZNIAK: I had way, way more than you could ever use in life and I wanted to go out early and just start doing some good things that make me feel good about myself.

ROGERS: Wazniak left his full time job at Apple in the 1980s and went back to college. He produced music festivals, funded a children's museum and even underwrote the local ballet. He eventually focused his philanthropy on education, providing computers to schools.

Soon he started teaching and found giving his time more rewarding than giving money.

WAZNIAK: I like to do things hands on. I didn't want to write classes and publish a book for 100,000 people. What I wanted to do was touch 30 kids.

ROGERS: His philosophy in teaching, as well as life, is to have fun. This attitude on display at a recent book signing for his new book iWoz, at 92nd Street Y has won him a loyal following.

WAZNIAK: To John and Phyllis.

ROGERS: He continues to give to charities, but says his resources aren't what they used to be. WAZNIAK: What I have left gets smaller and smaller because I give -- I wanted it to be smaller ranges.

ROGERS: Wozniak says he never wanted to be defined by wealth, which may be why he's had so much fun giving it away.

Jen Rogers, CNN, NEW YORK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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