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Black and Blue Friday: Stores use Deep Discounts to Lure Shoppers; World Markets Tumble; A Look at the Travel Perks for Politicians; Global Warming Debate Heats Up; Risky Runways

Aired November 27, 2009 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans sitting in for Kiran Chetry.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Joe Johns sitting in for John Roberts. Deck the halls and wreck the malls.


Black Friday.

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving, plus one.

JOHNS: You bet. Here are the top stories we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

The day after Thanksgiving, you expect two things -- leftovers and long lines this morning. The holiday shopping rush is on. Retailers are hoping huge discounts and extended hours will set cash registers ringing after a tough year. We are braving the crowds.

ROMANS: We're finding out more also about the Virginia couple that crashed Tuesday night's state dinner at the White House. They've been very busy in court lately, named in 16 separate civil suits. And on the night they slipped past security to rub elbows with Washington's elite, they were being filmed, it turns out, by a reality TV crew.

JOHNS: And something we've been watching for a while, are folks in Washington really flying the friendly skies while we get hit with one pesky fee after another? Are lawmakers charged with regulating the airline industry, are enjoying some very nice perks when they take to the skies? We'll tell you what the goodies are and what both sides are saying.

ROMANS: But first, door busters, super sales, midnight madness, they can only mean one thing. It's Black Friday. From coast to coast, the door buster deals have been going on all night now. Retailers are really counting on today to ease the pain of the recession. Our Adriana Hauser is live at Macy's in New York City where the crowd is a little lighter than it was last year. And our Sean Callebs is live at a Wal-Mart in Marietta, Georgia.

And, Sean, it's pretty busy there, isn't it this morning at Wal- Mart? SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has been busy throughout the evening. We talked to a gentleman who is in line to get a laptop. He got here at 10:00 p.m. last night. By the time we spoke with him, he was so punch drunk from being awake more than 24 hours. He had to point at what he wanted. He couldn't' even get it out.

But this is what we're running into. You know, they lure people with good sales while supplies last. This was where a popular GPS device was. You can see it's gone. But we've got Steve Sutter (ph), our photographer to walk down this aisle. You can see down the electronics where they have TVs, they have the PlayStations, things of that nature. It is still chaotic here.

But to avoid a huge crush, Christine, what they did, they had about 20 different lines. People could get in for big screen TVs. They could get in for the PlayStations, whatever they wanted. But once they were gone, they were gone. So what they hope to do is as they get folks to come down this aisle and check out, look at these prices here, unbeatable, $20, $38, whatever. They want people to toss these items in their cart as well. And they really have been.

I mean, when we got here a couple of hours ago, it was a mad house. It has thinned out significantly. I think they braved the first wave but it's going to get -- more and more people are going to come in here because there are some great deals out here. That's what we're hearing from folks.

We know that Blue Rays are going for like 98 bucks, so people -- like this, this was a popular item today. These comforter sets are going for pretty inexpensive, so people have been waiting. This is the second load of those to come through. But it's just been nuts out here, Christine, and it's going to be like this I guess throughout Black Friday. So if you're a Wal-Mart shopper, today is the day to get out and do what you can.

ROMANS: You're telling that's the real trick in all this. The trick is, OK, so the GPS is gone but they're really hoping once they got you there, you'll pick up a few other things. It's really the way retail is trying, you know, hack into your brain to get you to keep buying, even if they don't have any more of what you need.

All right, Sean, we'll check in with you again. Thanks, Sean.

JOHNS: And let's head north to Marietta -- from Marietta, Georgia, to New York City. That's where our Adriana Hauser is live at the Macy's in midtown. And we're hearing it's looking a little bit different there, huh, Adriana?

ADRIANA HAUSER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely crowded, Joe, but it's not crazy. It's not mad. We were here early. People were lining up since midnight. Some of the people we talked to were here since midnight, some of them 3:00 a.m. Everyone waiting to come in. Everyone waiting to spend.

I would say the entrances that we could see had about 300 people since the door opened at 5:00 a.m. There's been a steady flow of people. The store is very large. You don't see specific crowds in any of the registers, but you do see, like I said, a steady flow of shoppers. Everyone willing to spend. A lot of women looking for bags and shoes, and that's what we're seeing here. The main -- the biggest deals, the hottest deals apparently take place in the first part of the morning. And then as the deals progress, then they will become more of the typical holiday deal.

It is an important Black Friday considering that we're seeing mixed economic indicators. The National Retail Federation expects a decline of one percent. However, Joe, they're expecting about 16 percent more people hitting the stores today this Black Friday -- Joe.

JOHNS: All right. Thanks so much, Adriana Hauser. And we'll checking back in with you later.

ROMANS: Also happening right now, new details on your money. World markets are tumbling as we speak. The down arrows stretch from Europe to Asia. The drop fueled in part by a debt crisis in Dubai.

Our Stephanie Elam joins us now. Just when we thought we were talking about a fragile recovery in the financial system, a reminder of how interconnected and also how -- just how fragile and what a debt boon we had around the world.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it shows you, too, that the world is much smaller now. Right?

ROMANS: Right.

ELAM: When you see something like this happening, obviously, a lot of us were not paying attention because we were talking about turkey yesterday. Meanwhile, overseas things were going a little bit squirrelly.

I thought I was going to be talking about Black Friday with you as well. And coming in this morning, there are a lot of people who were coming out of the clubs and going shopping. It's a very weird day already in New York City. Very bizarre.

But let's tell you what's going on. We take a look at the Middle East and why we care so much about this story.

Overnight, Asia markets really took it on the chin hard core. Take a look at this.

You've got the Nikkei in Japan off 3.2 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong off nearly five percent. Same story with South Korea's Kopsi. And what does this really have to do with a company out of Dubai? World -- Dubai World is the state's main investment firm. And what they basically ask is hey, for six months, can we not pay our debt? So basically they're saying we don't want to pay on this debt of almost $60 billion. That's a huge amount of money. Dubai World is part of the state. It is not like its own separate company. It's part of the Dubai government. This freaked investors out wanting to know how many banks had exposure to this that sent people into safe havens like the yen. And that really tanked the U.S. dollar this morning. But here's something that I can break down for you.

European markets are down but the FTSE, for example, not really that bad, off this fraction (ph) right now. So it's coming back as you see it coming closer and closer to the trading markets here. This is also part of the reason why the U.S. markets can't be closed four days in a row. So we'll have a truncated trading session here in New York today so that this can kind of get worked out through the system.

What we need to see is how many American banks have exposure to Dubai World. And if it's not that much, it could be more of a Dubai centric thing but it just goes to show you that when something like this happens and when people are still skittish about the safety of the markets, it makes people freak out a bit. So we'll have to see how things go but things are looking better as the wave comes closer to the United States.

ROMANS: And a reminder, you might remember Dubai World, it owns Dubai Ports World which tried to buy the operations of American Ports.

ELAM: Right.

JOHNS: Right.

ROMANS: And there was a big political outcry over that just a few years ago. And this is that same company.

ELAM: Yes.

ROMANS: They moved the ports' operation separately because they want to kind of keep that safe in all of this, whatever happens next for Dubai World.

ELAM: Yes.

ROMANS: Very interesting.


ELAM: We will be watching this one. Obviously, more information to come. It's also exasperated because of the Eid holiday in the Middle East, so we're not getting information. We'll probably get more of that and then also, Thanksgiving here. So, a nice confluence of lots of things at the same time.

ROMANS: All right.

JOHNS: A little bit of turmoil in the markets right now for Black Friday, huh?

ELAM: A little bit, which you don't really expect when you're thinking about, you know, go get your shopping on.

JOHNS: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Thanks, Stephanie.

ELAM: Sure.

JOHNS: All right. Thanks so much.

New this morning, the sequel to cash for clunkers. Call it the home edition. The federal government is putting the final touches on a plan to offer Americans rebates next year if they turn in not old cars but old appliances, and buy new energy-efficient models. Individual states will administer that cash for appliances program using federal stimulus money. Heard of this before? It's expected to get under way by February.

ROMANS: The number of Americans with diabetes is expected to double in the next 25 years. And the cost of treating them will triple. That's according to a study by the University of Chicago. If current trends continue, researchers say 44 million Americans will be living with diabetes by the year 2034, and the annual cost of treating them will be $336 billion.

JOHNS: And it's looking like there's potential danger to anyone who flies in and out of Newark International Airport. Federal investigators say they're very concerned about runway procedures at that airport and the number of near misses since last year.

In the next half hour, our Allan Chernoff breaks down the problems at Newark and explains why one in every 700 landings at that airport has to be aborted.

ROMANS: Wow. We're beginning to learn more also about the couple from Virginia that crashed Tuesday night's White House state dinner. When they're not slipping past security to rub elbows with the Washington elite, they're spending a lot of time in court.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi were named in at least 16 lawsuits. Some as defendants, some as plaintiffs. And they filed for chapter seven bankruptcy back in February. A spokesman for the couple says they'll be taking their story public on the media junket next week.

JOHNS: And in the hours leading up to the state dinner they crashed, the Salahis were being followed around by a Washington reality TV crew. The Bravo Network confirming Michaele Salahi is being considered for a role in their upcoming "Real Housewives of D.C." show. A spokeswoman for Bravo says the couple informed the show's producers that they were invited guests at the White House and there was no reason not to believe them. The story just gets better and better.

ROMANS: Between the balloon boy, the person who pretended to be the chamber of commerce in the National Press Club and this story, it's almost like, what will someone do for 15 minutes of fame.

JOHNS: Sure. That's right. And everybody is talking about it. You just can't enough of that. How do you get in the White House like that?

ROMANS: I don't know. I don't know. I just -- I just -- it just keeps -- it's just astonishing. And they were announced.


ROMANS: And they were announced.

All right. Coming up, we have an incredible story about flying the friendly skies.

JOHNS: That's right.

ROMANS: Your friendly neighborhood Congress person, for example.

JOHNS: Absolutely. A number of members of Congress who actually get the opportunity to fly on planes with a few perks from the very airline industry they're supposed to be regulating. Stay with us.


ROMANS: Straight ahead on the "Most News in the Morning," a new dustup between climate scientists and skeptics. E-mails allegedly hacked from a university computer have some wondering if experts studying global warming are cooking the books to prove their case -- Joe.

JOHNS: If you had to fly for the holidays, you've done the math and felt the pain. Thirty bucks a day to park at the airport. Fees for just making a reservation. More charges for checking bags. It all adds up unless you have to be a member of Congress.


JOHNS (voice-over): This holiday season as you sit packed into economy class paying those extra fees, enduring canceled flights, getting bumped from your seat, consider this. The people you send to Washington who regulate the airlines are receiving travel perks from the industry, and it's perfectly legal. Kate Hanni is with a consumer advocacy group.

KATE HANNI, FLYERSRIGHTS.ORG: There is an absolute conflict of interest between members of Congress, who should be writing laws to protect airline passengers, and then taking perks from the airlines.

JOHNS: Case in point, while most of us have to pay for reservations when we make them, some airlines allow members of Congress to double book seats on multiple flights. But unlike the average Joe traveler, members of Congress only pay for the flights they take, even as airlines often overbook flights.

HANNI: There's almost no seats available on planes right now because the airlines keep cutting back the number of seats that are actually available for you to sit in so they can make money on their flights. So when they double book a seat, they're actually taking up one available seat that the flying public could have.

JOHNS: Another perk, free parking members of Congress get, including here at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

PETE SEPP, TAXPAYERS UNION: They pay absolutely nothing for the privilege of parking here. In fact, the revenues could easily amount to a million dollars or more.

JOHNS (on camera): And even though taxpayers are paying the freight, members of the House can use their frequent flier miles for personal travel, which irks some watchdog groups, because if they use the miles only for business travel, they could save the taxpayers' money.

LESLIE PAIGE, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: You've only earned those miles because we paid you to fly back and forth as part of your job. I think they should be -- they shouldn't be allowed to keep them. I think the overall problem with perks is that so much of them are decided by the congressmen themselves.

JOHNS (voice-over): Defenders say lawmakers are reasonably entitled to these perks.

(on camera): And why do members of Congress need so much special treatment from the air travel industry? Some will tell you it's because their jobs are so demanding and unpredictable, that they need special treatment in order to cope with congressional schedules. Votes can occur late at night, early in the morning, even on weekends.

But it's also true that members of Congress have some of the most important customers the airlines serve because they are among the people who make the rules for the industry.

(voice-over): Which is why some are upset.

HANNI: There's no separation between Congress and the airlines when the airlines are allowed to offer our good senators and congressmen perks whenever they fly. They are never going to legislate a meaningful airline passenger bill of rights in the face of losing those perks.

JOHNS: And while a passenger bill of rights has been put together by the Senate, it hasn't yet been passed. Several airlines we contacted said offering such perks is legal and cited the difficult schedules of members of congress as the main reason why they do it, though it may be little consolation the next time you're struggling to get through America's air travel gauntlet.


JOHNS: And in case you were wondering, the average hour - average salary for a member of congress is $174,000. That includes a $5,000 raise at the beginning of 2009.

So they're not completely broke, if you look at their salaries.

ROMANS: Well, but they're clearly not feeling how where all (ph) the nickels and dimes with the $10, $25, $50 bag fees. I mean...

JOHNS: Yes, and it's very frustrating, too. You know, it very frustrating when you look at it. These are people who we hire to - to do our work.

ROMANS: Regulate - and to regulate this industry.

JOHNS: With our money.

ROMANS: Yes. Lots of our money. Actually, it's money we have to borrow, but let's not get into that.

Let's talk about a climate control controversy. Brooke Baldwin is going to be here after the break. Is this just something taken out of context or is this proof that climate change scientists were trying to maybe heat up their case for global warming? We'll have that right after the break.


ROMANS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Conspiracy or taken out of context? That's what many are wondering after hackers made public some sensitive e-mails that say - that they say show scientists cooked the books to make their case for climate change.

Here's Brooke Baldwin.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The consensus that the climate is changing, that the burning of fossil fuels is a significant factor goes way beyond the pop culture sensation of Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" and his appearance on last week's episode of "30 Rock" on NBC.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kenneth, encourage your lawmakers to take action and recycle everything, including jokes.

JACK MCBRAYER: I'm sorry, sir. What?

GORE: Quiet. A whale is in trouble. I have to go.

BALDWIN: So when a reputable climate research institute has its computer server hacked and hundreds of its private e-mails made public, the news gets around fast, especially from groups that don't believe the global warming consensus.

One e-mail attributed to the research center's director had this cryptic excerpt referring to the, quote, "trick of adding in the real temps to each series to hide the decline in temperature." Because there's very little context in that e-mail and the others, it's hard to know what they'll all add up to. The climate research unit in question here posted a message calling this e-mail hack job "mischievous" and saying it is helping the police investigate.

Senator James Inhofe has for many years portrayed this data showing the warming trend as a hoax and seize the e-mails as evidence.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: I'm pleased by the vast and growing number of scientists, politicians, reporters all over the world who are publicly rejecting climate alarmism. Alarmism. This is those who want to scare people into some kind of action. You know, the water is going to rise up, the world is coming to an end...

BALDWIN: But the White House energy czar points to the 2,500 climate scientists all around the world who agree the climate is warming and that these e-mails aren't changing that.

As for the American public, according to a "Washington Post/ABC News" poll out this week the number of Americans who believe global warming is happening is down from 80 to 72 percent from last year. Down, but still a large majority.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really do have a global warming. The polar bears are getting in trouble and the - the glaciers are melting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think that we tend to blow things a little bit out of proportion, but I do think we need to be concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is - it is over hyped. I think some of it is attributed to - to man, but not all of it.

BALDWIN: That same "Washington Post/ABC News" poll shows since 2006, the increase in climate skepticism is driven largely by a shift within the Republican Party and Independents. There was also a dip among Democrats, but small.

Still, a majority of respondents support a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

Brooke Baldwin, CNN, Atlanta.


ROMANS: The plot thickens.

JOHNS: That is amazing.

Coming up, we're going to have a report on safety concerns at one of the nation's largest airports.

ROMANS: That's right, Newark. One in every 700 - takeoffs or landings? I can't remember.

JOHNS: I think it's takeoffs.

ROMANS: Aborted. We're going to tell you why. That's with Allan Chernoff right after the break.


ROMANS: Someone you know is shopping right now, making a mad early morning dash to score some holiday deals. But the Black Friday shopping frenzy can be dangerous, even deadly. A security guard in a suburban New York Wal-Mart got killed in the crush last year.

In a moment, Susan Candiotti has some safety tips. We're going to look at how these stores are dealing with the chaos - Joe.

JOHNS: And as millions of Americans are getting ready to fly home after Thanksgiving, CNN has a little bit of disturbing news about safety at one of the nation's busiest airports.

Allan Chernoff joins us here with this "AM Original" and what we're talking about here is close calls on the Newark Airport runway.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joe. This involves runways that intersect at Newark and they're often used at the same time.

Federal investigators have concluded that the landing procedures at Newark sometimes have allowed planes to come much too close to each other.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): A potential danger to the flying public. That's how federal investigators are describing the simultaneous use of intersecting runways at Newark Liberty International airport, one of the busiest in the nation.

Newark air traffic controller Ray Adams raised the issue after witnessing too many close calls from the control tower. On January 16th of last year, he saw two continental planes miss each other by only 600 feet.

RAY ADAMS, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: That was very scary. I was there for that one personally in the control tower, and it scared the - the heck out of everybody up there.

CHERNOFF: Potential danger arises when approaching planes need to abort their landings, which happens about every 700 flights, according to an FAA analysis.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Any plane aborting a landing along runway 11, which runs west to east here at Newark, has to make a sharp right turn, taking it into the path of two intersecting runways.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): In what the FAA calls go-arounds, the diverted plane has to avoid planes landing and taking off from the intersecting runway. There is little margin for error.

Four times last year and another four times this year, Newark air traffic control allowed planes to come too close together. ADAMS: There was a distinct possibility that we could have had a - a collision with these operations the way they were run previously.

CHERNOFF: Adams raised the safety issue to the FAA, but it went nowhere. He says his managers maintained there was no problem. Yet Adams persisted, taking his complaint to Congress. In response, he says, he was punished, put on paid leave for 11 months, then leave without pay for a month.

The FAA says the disciplinary actions had nothing to do with Adams' safety concerns.

Adams filed a whistleblower complaint with the US Office of Special Counsel, which led Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel to investigate. He found merit in Adams' concerns, concluding two months ago, "Questions about the safety of the runway 22L-11 approach configuration at Newark persists."

ADAMS: I've been vindicated at least on the safety concerns, and I'd like to see some accountability on the part of the FAA.

CHERNOFF: In response, the FAA promised to utilize a computer program that helps air traffic controllers stagger aircraft to ensure proper spacing.

On November 5th, the Department of Transportation, which oversees FAA, told the Office of Special Counsel the computer system had been put to use. FAA implemented converging runway display aid technology at Newark on October 26th.

The very next day, the US Office of Special Counsel learned that, in fact, the technology was no longer in use at Newark.

REP. DONALD PAYNE (D), NEW JERSEY: I am outraged. When you put the jeopardy of human lives at risk, it can't get any more serious than that.

CHERNOFF: FAA says, "There was no intent to deceive anyone about what we were doing. FAA safety officers wanted to make absolutely sure employees were fully trained on the equipment."

Last week, the Office of Special Counsel raised the matter with President Obama, writing, "We found a substantial likelihood that FAA officials were engaging in conduct that constitutes gross mismanagement and a substantial and specific danger to public safety."


CHERNOFF: The FAA says it does plan to have the computer-assist system fully in place at Newark by mid-December.

Meanwhile, after a year out of the control tower, Ray Adams returned to his regular job on Wednesday.

JOHNS: This is fantastic reporting. Thank you for it. The - the thing that really troubles me - and you see it again and again in the government - is when somebody comes forward with information that directly relates to public safety, they get this kind of response from the people inside the government. It's a bit shocking, isn't it?

CHERNOFF: It is - it is very, very scary. I mean, we all know that the FAA is - is committed to our safety. That is their task. But sometimes...

JOHNS: It's the bureaucracy.

CHERNOFF: Exactly.

ROMANS: Did the FAA outright lie to the office of -- what's it Called, special counsel -- about the use of that computer system? I mean, they explained later why they weren't using it. But did they lie to them about saying they were using it and they weren't?

CHERNOFF: You get that impression here. But the fact is the system was actually in place, the FAA says, on October 26. It was used a few days later. And then it was put out of commission. They say that they want to make sure there's coordination, proper coordination between the Newark air tower and the New York region.

ROMANS: Why weren't they doing this already? I mean, I don't understand why you wouldn't be using this software, because it's available to assist the aircraft controllers in the first place.

CHERNOFF: Very good question.

JOHNS: And the other thing is why use the intersecting runways? I mean, that seems just like a natural no-brainer, don't do it.

CHERNOFF: Well, they intersect at the very end of each other, not right in the middle. The reason that they sometimes do this simultaneous use is they want to be able to have more traffic in Newark, to be able to serve the airlines there, get planes in and out.

ROMANS: Great stuff. Allan Chernoff, thank you so much. Incredible reporting on the aviation industry again from Allan. Thanks.

JOHNS: That's right. And you can read more about Allan's story on our blog

ROMANS: All right. It's 31 minutes past the hour. Here are some of the morning's top stories. The president of Afghanistan is calling on the Taliban to lay down its weapons and become part Of rebuilding the war-torn nation. Hamid Karzai's appeal comes two days after a Taliban leader ruled out negotiations with him, calling his administration a, quote, "stooge government."

JOHNS: And Toyota's attempt to repair 3.8 million cars and trucks doesn't go far enough. That's according to safety Advocates. Toyota tells owners of seven different models to bring their Cars to dealers to have part of the accelerator pedal cut away after two big recalls involving Toyota earlier this week. It's supposed to fix a problem with floor mats jamming those pedals, making the cars hard to stop. Many safety advocates claim the entire pedal has to be fixed.

ROMANS: And as we kick off the holiday shopping season, the dollar is dropping to a new lows and gold is going through the roof. The dollar slipped to a 14-year low against the Japanese yen yesterday. If that trend continues, a lot of analysts believe Japan's economic recovery could be in trouble.

And gold scored another record high. This is what an ounce of gold will cost you, folks. $1,195 an ounce.

JOHNS: And with the dollar buying less these days, Black Friday can be a beautiful thing, an opportunity to get some bang for your buck. You're looking at a live picture of the Wal-Mart store in Marietta, Georgia, right now. The bargain hunters are out bright and early, but they need to be alert because one year ago at a Wal-Mart in New York, Black Friday turned deadly. And as Susan Candiotti reports, that tragedy has the big box store stressing safety with the savings.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mad dash for bargains can be funny to watch, but last Thanksgiving weekend in New York, it was horrific. A Long Island Wal-Mart security guard was trampled to death in a stampede on Black Friday, arguably the biggest shopping day of the year.

EMMANUEL MOULTRIE, BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPER: People screaming, people coming in the store, passing out, falling out. It was a horrible site.

CANDIOTTI: Emmanuel Moultrie took us back to that Wal-Mart. He says when the doors opened at 5:00 a.m., an hour later than expected, the crowd surged forward, glass shattered and guard Jimmy Demoura was caught in a human steamroller.

MOULTRIE: I mean, you had at least seven to eight people on top of each other. You didn't even see him. And it was on top of him, and they were stuck because they were squished, compacted in there.

CANDIOTTI: Moultrie says he felt like he was swept up in a tidal wave, trapped against a vending machine.

MOULTRIE: I said I will not hit that ground. If I hit that ground, it would have been, I couldn't even get my arms from my side.

CANDIOTTI: Wal-Mart avoided criminal prosecution by agreeing, among other things, to improve crowd control at all New York stores. The giant retailer says it's also voluntarily instituting changes nationwide this week. Wal-Mart declined a CNN interview. Instead, the company provided a pre-taped statement that said sports and entertainment crowd control experts gave them help.

DAPHNE MOORE, SPOKESPERSON, WAL-MART: We're committed to looking for ways to make our stores even safer for our customers and our associates this holiday season.

CANDIOTTI: Changes may include snaking lines outside and inside stores -- similar to airport checkpoints -- and scattering sales items. Some stores will remain open 24 hours starting Thanksgiving Day through the weekend, so when Black Friday sales start at 5:00 a.m., shoppers can already be inside, possibly avoiding chaos. For shoppers up before dawn for door-buster deals at any retailer, this safety advice from police:

JOHN TIMONEY, CHIEF, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT: If you see pushing and shoving, arguing for no valid reason, you know you have a potential problem right there. And if that's the case, I walk to the end of the line, let them all go in.

CANDIOTTI: Emmanuel Moultrie, who received a settlement from Wal-Mart, says he won't be burned again.

MOULTRIE: If you reach to a store and you see that's not, that that behavior's not being demonstrated, you need to leave, fast. Leave fast.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): As part of this agreement with prosecutors, Wal-Mart paid nearly $2 million to a victim's fund and a community grant. OSHA cited the retailer for exposing its employees to danger when it should have known better. Wal-Mart says in a statement safety is always a top priority.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: One thing, Joe, struck me about that report that Wal- Mart said that it had consulted sports and entertainment crowd management, people to help them.

JOHNS: Amazing.

ROMANS: Think of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving in America as a sport or an entertainment. I mean, it just kind of shows you what has happened in this country that we're kind of, you know, obsessed with the consumerism even still after a recession.

JOHNS: It is. It's pretty amazing at this day and age.

ROMANS: Right.

JOHNS: Well, it's now all going back, though. You know, people are saying we're going back to the old ways.

ROMANS: Maybe, maybe. We'll find out. Maybe today we'll know for sure.

OK, he's still a young man, but this young man is already making an extraordinary difference for kids half his age. Efren Penaflorida was named CNN's 2009 Hero of the Year. He created a classroom on wheels to give kids at risk in the Philippines an alternative to gangs. Recently I had the privilege to speak with Efren and ask him how it felt to win the award.


EFREN PENAFLORIDA, CNN'S 2009 HERO OF THE YEAR: It's overwhelming. And it's unbelievable. So I could not believe that this thing is happening to us.

ROMANS: Could you ever imagine international recognition for your program? Did you ever think that so many people would know and would say, look, you're our hero?

PENAFLORIDA: No. We never expected to be in this situation. It's really God's blessing to us.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the push cart classrooms. You saw a need in your country. You saw a need for children to have the opportunity to learn. Tell me a little bit about your program, and what you bring and provide to those children.

PENAFLORIDA: Yes. A lot of kids are -- can't go to -- don't have an opportunity to go to a formal school, so what we do is we bring the school to them. So we use a push cart. The push cart has a built-in blackboard shelf. We bring books and learning materials. And we have also play center where children can play for a certain period of time. We also have clinic where we bring medicine for first aid kit, where we teach -- where we treat their wounds and some hygiene programs as well. So that's what we do the whole day.

ROMANS: Some of these children who you used to tutor are former gang members, drug addicts, who are now working alongside you. How does that feel to see that you are making this difference in these kids' lives and giving them a chance to escape the grip Of poverty and crime?

PENAFLORIDA: It's really fulfilling. Just to see these kids learning how to read and write, and these kids joining us instead of joining gangs and being productive. It's really fulfilling on our part.

ROMANS: It must be amazing to see, you know, every child, no matter where they live or what their circumstances, Efren, every child has it in them to learn and to take their young life and have a chance to grow it and do something with it. And you've given them that little bit of a help, that little bit of a thing. How do they respond?

PENAFLORIDA: Before -- at first, some of them are interested because instead of joining us, they want to scavenge and to play in streets and to beg. But actually -- our mentor told us, advised us to bring food. So that's the main motivation. Then if you're not going to give something to them, they will not listen to you. So what we did, we bring bags of food. And then before we give the food to them, we first teach them. So now a lot of children are interested. They are very excited. They are motivated aside from the food that they are getting. It's -- it's the love for learning we were able to develop in their hearts. ROMANS: All right, Efren Penaflorida, CNN Hero of the Year. Thank you so much, sir. And congratulations.

PENAFLORIDA: Thank you very much.


ROMANS: Really brilliant. Bringing a little bit of food first, get the kids to sit down in front of the blackboard, teach them a little bit. You know, you saw that blackboard on the push cart. And kids who never would have had any access to learning at all and who are scavenging for food get fed in two ways by him. And then they keep coming back.

JOHNS: Right. Such a powerful story. And when he got the award, watching the show last night. Just amazing. He was almost overcome just trying to hold it all together. It's really quite a moment.

ROMANS: I know. He said he can't imagine what he's going to be able to do when -- you know, he had a monetary award, too. He'll be able to take that back and what he'll be able to do his program.


ROMANS: And the number of -- literally the number of lives and brains that he'll be able to save and nurture because of that award and that money is really pretty emotional. Great stuff.

JOHNS: All right, lots more to come. It is 40 minutes past the hour.


ROMANS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can start working on the next one.

To millions he goes just by one name, Santa.

JOHNS: And he is a very familiar face, especially this time of year. And this morning, our Ted Rowlands introduces us to five big bearded friends making a difference this holiday.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are five Santas with some incredible stories. Bob Gerardi is a realtor. Bob Beals is a retired deputy sheriff. Elloyd Ray is a retired train conductor who now drives this Santa convertible. Dave Strom is retired from the phone company, now a gun smith and Art Brown is a politician. They each had thousands of kids sit on their laps.

BOB BEALS, SANTA/RET. SHERRIF'S DEPUTY: Most of us have gotten a beard full of whatever the child is eating at the moment. Here, Santa, have a bite.

ROWLANDS: They also have stories about children with nothing asking for things for their parents and heartbreaking requests from kid asking Santa for a miracle like bringing loved ones back from the dead.

DAVE STROM, SANTA/FMR. PHONE LINESMAN: I've been asked to have mom or dad come back. I've been asked for a liver transplant or a kidney transplant for one of the parents.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Those are tough.

STROM: They're very difficult.

ART BROWN, SANTA/MAYOR PRO TEM. BUENA PARK: I had one mother -- one kid says, all I want is a new diaper bag for my new baby for my mother. They don't have anything but they think of other people.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Sometimes the Santas can help, like Dave's story on getting a family's power turned on.

STROM: Having worked for a utility company, I had a little insight on how we can do that, and we got their power turned back on.

ROWLANDS: As a rule, the Santas never promise anything, though kids definitely ask.

ELLOYD RAY, RETIRED TRAIN CONDUCTOR: As their face they can tell me what they want. I can see the parents in the background ...

ROWLANDS (on camera): Yes. How do you handle that?

RAY: I tell them, I'm sure that you're going to love what Santa will bring you.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): These Santas are members of the fraternal order of real bearded Santas. Bob and Elloyd did get their beards colored. The group gets together throughout the year for Santa pool parties and dinners. They recently went to see the movie "A Christmas Carol."

BOB GERARDI, SANTA/REALTOR: I've never seen the movie "Bad Santa," by the way. I refused to see it.

ROWLANDS: They say they're recognized all year by children and are always ready to answer questions like, are you the real Santa?

GERARDI: We have the best way of getting around that. Santa has lots of helpers, but there's only one Santa. It's up for you to decide which one is the real Santa.

ROWLANDS: The pay isn't great. In fact, a lot of Santa work is volunteer. The smiles they get is enough, they say, like the one Bob says he got from a disabled girl he saw who had pneumonia.

GERARDI: This little girl had a smile on her face from ear to ear that wouldn't stop and broke my heart, and you know, I just sitting there looking -- she was obviously just overjoyed to be there.

ROWLANDS: The next time you see a smiling child on Santa's lap, know that the man behind the beard is probably smiling, too.

Ted ROWLANDS, CNN, Los Angeles.


JOHNS: That's just amazing. You know, obviously, you see these Santas with all these kids on their laps. You never think about what's going on in those little conversations.

ROMANS: And how they have to keep such a straight face. I love that. I'm sure you'll love what Santa brings you. That's such a great answer.

JOHNS: All right. Coming up, we're going to talk to Jacqui Jeras about the travel this holiday weekend. Stay with us. It's 46 minutes after the hour.


ROMANS: Good morning, Charlotte, where right now it's clear and 39 degrees. Sunny and 53 later today when you heat up the mashed potatoes and gravy and have leftover turkey. Nice day outside.

JOHNS: Oh yes. I spent a couple of Thanksgivings in that town, and Jacqui Jeras is out there right now. We were looking here at least in New York at a wonderful day here out for the parade, and now I walked out the door a little while ago. It's a bit cooler, at least in our part of the world.


ROMANS: All right. Jacqui Jeras. Thanks, Jacqui.

This morning's top stories are just minutes away, including we're learning more about that brazen pair that crashed the White House state dinner. It turns out the two have spent quite a bit of time in court. We'll explain.

JOHNS: And the Republican party's ten new commandments; a purity test of ten resolutions that candidates pledge to fulfill, but would Ronald Reagan make the grade?

ROMANS: And an eye-opening study on diabetes. New research predicts the number of cases will double and the cost to treat them will triple. We're going to break it all down at the top of the hour.


ROMANS: All right. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

First, it was "The Sopranos". Many Italian-Americans a little uneasy with the stereotyping that comes along with the character named Tony Soprano.

JOHNS: Now, there's a new reality show called "Jersey Shore" and before the first episode is even aired, Italian-Americans are up in arms again. They feel they're being portrayed as bimbos and buffoons. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just what New Jersey need, another slap.

But what's creating waves is the way Italians come across in this reality series.

The "G" word really greats on Andre DiMinos' nerves. He is president of UNICO, an Italian-American organization that would love "Jersey Shore" to be canceled; even though, it hasn't yet aired.

ANDRE DIMINO, UNICO PRESIDENT: They're going to the lowest common denominator. It's just a bunch of pumped up young bimbos and buffoons acting on the beach with their spiked up hair.

MOOS (on camera): You have nice hair.

A. DIMINO: Thank you. Thank you.

MOOS: But it's not spiked up.

A. DIMINO: No, it's not.

MOOS: It's up, though.

A. DIMINO: That's right.

MOOS (voice-over): The reality show gets hairy. It's about a group of 20-somethings who share a summer rental in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

UNKNOWN MALE: Hi. I'm good looking and well groomed Italian. It was very, very good with the ladies.

A. DIMINO: They show them being arrested, fighting, you know, hitting a girl, a girl kissing a girl. It's just trash.

MOOS (on camera): But isn't this normal reality show fare?

A. DIMINO: What's the insult on injury here is that they connected it so closely to being Italian-American.

MOOS (voice-over): The last show UNICO protested was the Sopranos . The cast of "Jersey Shore" makes Tony Soprano see modest.

UNKNOWN MALE: You can hate on me all you want to, but what can you possibly say about somebody who looks like Rambo pretty much with the shirt off. MOOS: MTV released a statement saying -- the show continues MTV's history of documenting various sub-cultures and the ways they self-identify, but Dimino is not buying the edaphological explanation, but MTV says ...

A. DIMINO: The MT stands for empty. It's really an empty network now.

MOOS: His wife, Jenny, agrees.

JENNY DIMINO, WIFE OF ANDRE DIMINO: It looks like girls gone wilder. That show girls gone wild.

A. DIMINO: They call the girl, the Guidettes.

J. DIMINO: I don't think I'm a Guidette.

MOOS: And what's their hair?

Jeanne Moos...

J. DIMINO: Has he ever had gel on his hair?

MOOS: ... CNN, New York.


ROMANS: All right. I've been to the Jersey Shore. It was a few years ago. It was never like that.

JOHNS: Yes. They always sort of...

ROMANS: Entertainment, I think, but...

JOHNS: Yes. It emphasizes certain points and de-emphasizes certain others.

ROMANS: Look, I'm sorry, New Jersey. New Jersey is the garden state, you know. It's this nice place where you grow tomatoes. It's all just an entertainment.

JOHNS: No problem with it. Yes, right. Okay.

Top stories coming up in about 90 seconds. It's 58 minutes after the hour.