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Thanksgiving Shopping a Reluctant New Tradition; Macy's Day Parade; Troops Mark Holiday in Afghanistan; Nigella Lawson Accused of Illegal Drug Use; Iran Invites U.N. Inspectors to Arak; Japan Defies Chinese Air Space Restrictions; Comet ISON Shoots Toward Sun

Aired November 28, 2013 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company this Thanksgiving Day.

HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Now let's start with what might be turning into a new Thanksgiving tradition, and that is shopping. More and more stores are open today, blurring the line between Turkey Day and Black Friday and hoping to get a jump-start on the shopping season.

HOLMES: Macy's broke a 155 years of tradition by staying closed on the holiday. But shopping might have a new Thanksgiving ritual. But most Americans don't want any part of it.

GORANI: Here's the polling numbers. A recent University of Connecticut poll shows a whopping 93 percent of respondents don't care who's open. They say they will not be out there today looking for deals.

And Nick Valencia is at the Kmart outside Atlanta, which is obviously open. What's going on? It doesn't look too bad behind you now.

HOLMES: I hope you didn't break in. It is open, isn't it?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Happy Thanksgiving, Hala and Michael. It's not too bad right now. But when we got here at 5:00 this morning, it was frigid outside, there was already about 30 people lined up, it felt like about 17 degrees. That didn't stop the crowds from forming.

The doorbusters, so-called doorbusters, one guy was here at about 11:00 p.m. last night. I asked, why are you putting yourself through this? He said he's here for the deals.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday. Kmart, one of a handful of retailers, open for business on Thanksgiving.

VALENCIA: You guys ready for it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so, yes. Yes, we're excited about it.

VALENCIA (voice-over): For those who think it's something new, Kmart has been doing this for over 20 years. More retailers have followed suit, and that's no coincidence, according to the National Retail Federation.

KATHY GRANNIS, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: Shoppers still want to shop on Black Friday and get those amazing deals. So we don't expect Black Friday to ever lose its luster. But there is a new player in town. And Thanksgiving is certainly giving Black Friday a run for its money.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Of the nearly 140 million people expected to shop this holiday weekend, nearly a quarter will hit the stores Thanksgiving Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm out here to get some great deals, man.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Outside a Best Buy in Florida, tents were in place more than a week in advance of the sales. Just how serious are they? This man brought a generator to run his many electronics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do it every year, and every year I say the exact same thing, it's just crazy.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Crazy is one word for it. Angry is another. On, more than 100,000 people petitioned Target to stay closed for the holiday, writing, quote, "Family should be more important than corporate greed or materialism, and because it's the right thing to do."

Back at Kmart in Mableton, Georgia, store manager Bill Bonsor says working on Thanksgiving is no bother. For him, it's about meeting the customer demand.

BILL BONSOR, KMART MANAGER: One thing, understand this year, is that we have one less week for shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas that we do -- than we did last year.

VALENCIA: And people take this stuff seriously. So does Kmart. They've been doing this for a while. It's the 22nd year that Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving. This year they're doing something a little bit different. They're not shutting down. They're going to be open for 41 hours straight. So if you guys get bored, you can come out here in Mableton and join me.

HOLMES: We need more opportunities to shop, yes. I'm sure you've loaded up the crew car out in the car park there.

GORANI: OK. I won't see you later, Nick. Thanks very much.

By the way, you know, for our viewers in Rhode island, I was looking this up, Maine and Massachusetts, it's illegal to open for big stores on Thanksgiving.

HOLMES: What you think?

GORANI: I think -- well, you know, I -- I've stopped enjoying shopping full stop whether it's Thanksgiving or not. So quite frankly, I'm happy that a store's closed. It's good to take a breath, it's good to spend time with loved ones.

HOLMES: For the family, yes.

GORANI: Right. And so but you have this economy, the U.S. economy, very reliant on consumer spending.

HOLMES: I will not go near a mall on a normal day.


GORANI: I've kind of joined that club, too. So there you have it.

HOLMES: Too much.

Hopefully you've been able to visit with family today, with as little hassle as possible. Though winter weather preview that sort of blasted across the country this week, certainly slowed travel down a bit. But thank goodness did not bring it to a grinding halt.

GORANI: Looked like people managed to get where they needed to go, in most cases. Snow in some places like Michigan, western New York and Pennsylvania, there was rain in Atlanta and windy conditions along the East Coast. They did contribute to the traffic mess. And it's the coldest it's been in 100 years here in Atlanta on Thanksgiving.

HOLMES: It was colder in Atlanta than in Iceland. It was. It's a true story.

The storm has blown itself out to sea. And as we've have been seeing in New York and elsewhere, pretty sunny in a lot of the country now.

GORANI: Now but the weather did threaten to deflate that beloved Thanksgiving tradition, the giant balloons at annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

HOLMES: Yes. But fear not, as you can see there, Snoopy, SpongeBob, all their mates managed to fly high and proud. Well, actually, not as high as they used to, that's for sure, because they were worried a little bit about the wind. It was a game-day decision. Parade officials were a bit worried the wind would force them to ground the stars of the show.

GORANI: Right. Let's go to Jason Carroll, he's along the parade route with more on what's going on there.

Hi, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Hala, how are you? Hala, both you and Michael are right, the balloons were out flying a little lower than normal but at least they were flying. And everyone that we spoke to who came out, who came out to see this parade, really had a good time watching.

You know, it was touch and go, whether or not these giant helium balloons, such as Snoopy and Woodstock, you also had Hello Kitty, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the character from there. You also had the purple dinosaur, all of -- 16 in all giant helium balloons made it into the parade. A lot of excitement about it about simply because, once again, there was some thoughts that maybe because of the wind, because of the weather, the balloons were not going to make it. But that did not end up being the case.

So the parade's made it past where we are out here, on Central Park West. The parade should now be down in Herald Square, which is way down in Midtown at this point. But he 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade went off without a hitch -- Michael, Hala.

HOLMES: Great stuff. Jason, must have popped into one of those sales because you've picked up some styling clothing there out on the streets of New York.

He's looking sharp, isn't he?

GORANI: He always looks sharp.

Thanks very much, Jason.

CARROLL: Thank you.

GORANI: Now for thousands of U.S. troops, this Thanksgiving marks another holiday spent in Afghanistan, of course before the big pullout and whatever deal ends up being signed with Afghanistan as to how many might stay.

HOLMES: Yes. They all got a Thanksgiving meal today. I actually had one of those in Afghanistan once. But the future of their presence, as Hala was saying, it's up in the air, the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, still refusing to sign that new security deal until certain conditions are met.

GORANI: Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the latest on that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy Thanksgiving!

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) It's the 12th Thanksgiving in Afghanistan for U.S. troops.

1ST SGT. BRIAN SHENK, U.S. ARMY: This is 1st Sgt. Brian Shenk with the 58th Signal Company at 101st Airborne Division, stationed in JCOP (INAUDIBLE) (ph) in Northern Afghanistan. I would like to give a shout out to my beautiful wife, Amy (ph), and our three awesome children, Deanna (ph), Clayton (ph) and Ethan (ph).

STARR (voice-over): Once more, thinking about home.

SPECIALIST KALEB CHARRON, U.S. ARMY: I'm Specialist Kaleb Charron, stationed here in Masla Sharif (ph), Afghanistan. I just want to wish all my family back in Missouri happy holidays.

STARR (voice-over): This holiday season, commanders were looking forward to a new agreement with Afghan president Hamid Karzai that would have kept just a few thousand U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

But after a meeting with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Karzai is now refusing to sign the very deal he helped negotiate. In an Afghan news channel interview, Rice made clear U.S. patience may be at a breaking point.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: If the agreement isn't signed properly, what I said to the president is we would have no choice. We would be compelled by necessity, not by our preference, to have to begin to plan for the prospect that we will not be able to keep our troops here.

STARR (voice-over): After 12 years of war with Afghan corruption still rampant, billions of dollars in U.S. aid, more than 2,000 troops killed and more than 19,000 wounded, why shouldn't all the American troops just come home?

VALI NASR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Americans are very right to be frustrated with Karzai, but frustration is not national security policy. Frustration is not foreign policy.

STARR (voice-over): Some in the administration believe without a U.S. presence, Al Qaida will return. Iran's influence may grow and Afghanistan will become a radical haven.

NASR: If things fall apart in Afghanistan then much of what we've gained can unravel. We may find ourselves having to go back in again.

STARR (voice-over): For now, however, U.S. troops are thinking about coming home.

SGT. TYLER BAXTER, U.S. MILITARY: Hi. I'm Sergeant Tyler Baxter and this is my father.

MSGT. RICHARD BAXTER U.S. MILITARY: Chief Master Sgt. Richard Baxter.

TYLER BAXTER: Coming from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Just wanted to wish our family at Ft. Leavenworth, Missouri, a happy holidays.


GORANI: Well, Barbara Starr joins us live now.

So I mean, what's going to happen now? We're getting down to the wire with the U.S. starting to pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan if the security agreement isn't signed soon. And there's a big timeline issue here. The U.S. wants it signed sooner and Karzai wants to wait until elections next year.

STARR: Yes, you know, how do you resolve this? The U.S., look, could wait a while but it's putting a full court pressure on Karzai because it's so uncertain what he's really up to, officials say, and what his thinking really is at this point. So they want to get it settled. And they want to get it settled by the end of this year. The idea is if an agreement is signed, as many as perhaps 12,000 U.S. and NATO troops could stay in Afghanistan. But even the troops at this point, after 12 years, they want to know what their future is, are they staying or are they going? A real question for them at this holiday season.

HOLMES: What's interesting here, too, is the big Loya Jirga that we saw take place, they want this agreement signed now. He seems to be the only one who's holding out but it's a dangerous game, isn't it? They have a military in Afghanistan that cannot survive without U.S. help and certainly billions of dollars to keep it running.

STARR: Well, that's right. Absolutely right. And of course, what he's doing is laying a very uncertain groundwork for the next president of Afghanistan that will be elected in April of next year.

We talked to several analysts about this, what is Karzai's intention at this point? A lot of people think that he's playing that dangerous game, perhaps trying to position himself as not being in the pocket of the U.S., which many people feel he is, trying to send a message to Iran, perhaps, you know, I'm not in the pocket of the U.S., what are you willing to offer me?

This is a guy who's, you know, very smart. You may think he's kind of wacky in his public statements and his public persona. Don't count on it. Karzai's a very sharp person and usually he's got a motive behind what he's doing.

HOLMES: Oh, he's a very calculated man, there's no doubt about that.

Barbara, thanks so much, and meanwhile, of course a patient Taliban waiting in the wings.

GORANI: Right.

Coming up, cocaine and marijuana; that's what celebrity chef Nigella Lawson's ex-husband says she did on a daily basis. Ahead, how her alleged drug use could impact the trial of two assistants accused of embezzlement.

HOLMES: And then they turn corners, they park, they even speed a little. We're talking about a driverless car of the future. How you could see them on the streets in not too many years.

GORANI: Plus, a comet that's been around for more than a million years. Could meet a violent death or it could provide an amazing Thanksgiving sky show. We'll tell you where you could possibly see this holiday comet.

SGT. JACK STORY (PH), U.S. MILITARY: Hi, I'm Sgt. Jack Story (ph) with Delta Company 18 Cav. I'd like to say Happy Thanksgiving to my wife and my family. Love you guys.



HOLMES: Well, she is the -- one of the world's most famous chefs. Her name is Nigella Lawson, and she's now also the target of allegations that she abused drugs daily.

GORANI: You may remember her from that tabloid image of her husband, at the time, Charles Saatchi, grabbing her by the throat. This is one of the richest art collectors, by the way, in Europe. And this is not a trial related to their divorce proceedings, but the trial of two former personal assistants accused of embezzling money from the couple.

HOLMES: Exactly.

CNN's Max Foster following developments from London. Particularly in the U.K., but also around the world, this is a very well-known couple. Charles Saatchi was a big advertising guru and art collector, as Hala said.

What's been happening in court?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are just learning so much about this extraordinary household, this extraordinary relationship.

Today, Charles Saatchi did turn up to the courthouse, but he wasn't allowed in to appear because the previous witness was still testifying, the previous witness actually, his solicitor, who described how he became suspicious of these two P.A.s, and at one point they were spending more than a hundred thousand dollars a month.

But he didn't alert Charles Saatchi because he didn't want to distract him with what he described as "trivial matters." I mean, extraordinary amounts of money involved here, and it really is revealing so much about this couple and it's getting huge headlines here, of course.


FOSTER: The bitter battle between chef Nigella Lawson and her multimillionaire ex-husband Charles Saatchi now taking a shocking turn with new accusations of illegal drug use. In an e-mail read out in court, Saatchi accuses Lawson of using cocaine and marijuana on a daily basis, allowing two former personal assistants to walk away with more than $1 million over four years.

BRIAN BALTHAZAR, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: You don't know what the truth is, but what it does do is pretty much damage Nigella Lawson's reputation.

Whether or not it's true or not, we don't know, but now we have this story of alleged drug use from Nigella, and this could affect jobs that she has coming to her right now.

FOSTER: The former assistants, sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, are now facing criminal charges, accused of committing fraud, using a company credit card. They deny the charges. But Saatchi claims Lawson's drug habits allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked. A spokesman for Lawson declined to comment, but the celebrity chef did tweet out a recipe and thanked supporters using the hash tag, #TeamNigella.

The couple divorced this year after photos from the restaurant of Saatchi grabbing Lawson's throat during an argument made front-page headline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Saatchi, do you have any comment this morning?

FOSTER: Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault. According to defense attorneys for the Grillo sisters, that's when Saatchi learned of Lawson's alleged drug use.

BALTHAZAR: We have three different parties, basically all at each other's throats, and we really don't know the truth. Even if Nigella were to take a drug test tomorrow and positive for drugs, we still wouldn't know whether or not she was authorizing all this money to be spent.

FOSTER: The defense claims e-mail show both Saatchi and Lawson had attempted a manipulation of the court and that the case should be thrown out.

The judge has ruled the case against the personal assistants will continue.


FOSTER: So tomorrow might well be an extraordinary day, Michael and Hala, because Charles Saatchi will come back to appear, and he's been saying some extraordinary things about his ex-wife and he won't be accused of libel if he says these things in court. That's one of the things the defense keeps pointing out. Perhaps it's inappropriate to use the court for this sort of argument.

But also, the defense team today have actually requested that Nigella Lawson also app appear tomorrow. And we would love to hear what she has to say, because so far, she's been quiet. She hasn't defended herself in any way, and we do need to hear here side of the story.

HOLMES: Can't imagine the media scrum for that one.

GORANI: I was going to say, yes, we're hearing one side here. This is an acrimonious divorce and an ex-husband. We have to hear in this case, as well, from the other party, so hopefully, we will.

HOLMES: Yeah. Max Foster there, thanks so much, Max.

All right, Iran taking its first big step towards getting the world's trust back. Under that new cooperation agreement that was hammered out in Geneva, it has invited U.N. inspectors to visit the Arak heavy water production plant.

GORANI: This facility is linked to a reactor that, if completed, could produce enough plutonium for two atomic weapons a year. Iran agreed to stop, quote, "activities" at the reactor as part of last weekend's Geneva nuclear deal.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog group is keeping a close eye on a reactor in North Korea.

HOLMES: It is. Activity at that site indicates that North Korea might be trying to restart what is really an aging reactor. But U.N. officials say they have no access to that site and can't say for certain one way or the other whether the reactor has been restarted.

GORANI: Nuclear experts say the site is capable of producing weapons- grade plutonium, so that, another spot there in the world where the nuclear issues are making headlines.

As for Japan now, this is one big crisis in that part of the world, everyone. It is taking a very defiant stand in a tense dispute with China. Japan is defying China's attempt to impose new restrictions on airspace over the East China Sea.

HOLMES: Yeah, now, this includes the skies, not coincidentally, by the way, over islands claimed by both China and Japan. Now, Japanese aircraft flew through the disputed space without telling China, which China was demanding happen.

Earlier this week, we also saw two unarmed B-52 bomber fly through this area.

GORANI: The State Department says it was part of a planned military exercise, but in this environment, everybody's feeling a bit testy.

HOLMES: This is one of those stories where you just hope there is not a misunderstanding or miscommunication, because that could be ugly.

GORANI: And not any kind of mistake -

HOLMES: Exactly.

GORANI: -- whatsoever. A very tense environment there, we'll continue to follow that.

But still to come, while families cook their Thanksgiving turkeys, a comet is set to endure its own roasting.

HOLMES: Get it? Get it?

You're going to see, next up, how you may see this Thanksgiving spectacular in the sky.


GORANI: Just in, in space news, a comet is shooting towards the sun, and next hour, not too far from now, it's going to come very close to the sun.

HOLMES: Instead of "AROUND THE WORLD", we're calling this "around the sun."

This is Comet ISON, and it is expected to swing around the sun, if it doesn't break apart.

GORANI: Right. And NASA captured these images of the comet on Wednesday. ISON is already past Earth as you see in the time lapse. If it survives that close encounter next hour, it could put on a spectacular light show and we might even be able to catch a glimpse of it.

HOLMES: Yeah, depends what part of the world -- there it is. See? I was waiting for it to come into frame. In fact, we're covering it up at the bottom the screen. Yeah. Yeah, it's just below there. There! See? Told you. The director's disagreeing with me. I told him it was below there.

Anyway, let's bring in Tariq Malik. He is the managing editor at That's a heck of a URL.

Joining us on the line now, Tariq, this comet approaching the sun, it's a once in a lifetime event. Tell people why.

TARIQ MALIK, MANAGING EDITOR, SPACE.COM (via telephone): This comet is coming in from the depths of space. There's this huge halo around our solar system called the Oort Cloud, and it's made up of basically the remnants of our solar system, 4.5 billion-year-old stuff, that the Earth, the sun, everything is made out of.

It's out there. And this comet started coming in at the dawn of man. It's making one trip around, and if it ever comes back, it will be in millions and millions of years. So this is pretty much it for this comet and sky watchers on Earth.

GORANI: So, Tariq, we have to hope that it survives, right? And then, if it does, will we be able to see it here on Earth? And if so, how?

MALIK (via telephone): Well, the big question about it, if it's going to survive, is one people has been one people have been asking since its discovery last year. We have been able to see it with the unaided eye in the really early morning sky, just like an hour before dawn on the way in.

If it survives its path today, then starting like around the first, second week of December all the way through the month, you might be able to go outside just an hour after sunset and an hour before sunrise, and see this in the sky.

Big question, though, if it's going to survive.

HOLMES: Yeah. If you want to move to the North Pole, you'll be able to see it 24 hours, I think.

Just before we let you go, how big is this thing, because as I understand it, it is huge?

MALIK (via telephone): It's actually smaller than what we hoped for. We had initially thought it was a little bit larger than a mile across. Now they've downgraded it to less than a mile, but it does have a lot of ice on it. Two billion tons of ice is what NASA scientists told me just the other day, and it's losing that at a fantastic rate. We've seen pictures today. The tail is just billowing out of the comet. It's being warped and bended by the solar winds.

There is some worry that it's starting to be on the way out, although the scientists aren't giving up ghost yet.

HOLMES: Fingers crossed then. Tariq Malik with, thanks so much.

I think it's a 40 percent chance, I saw earlier, that it's going to get all the way around the sun.

GORANI: All right. Let's hope. And also let's hope we're able to sort of catch a glimpse of it in the sky.

Now, Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday or Brown Thursday, whatever you call it. Some big retail stores are open today.

HOLMES: Yeah. That's not sitting well with everyone, though.

Next up, how the decision to stay open is causing one retail store some backlash.

"AROUND THE WORLD" will be right back.