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Protests Planned at Walmarts; Millions Expected to Shop Today; Nigella Lawson's Divorce Battle; Bieber Sprays Graffiti; Comet ISON Survived; Tensions Rise in East China Sea; Black Friday Shopping Starts Holiday Season

Aired November 29, 2013 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Twelve hours into the official start of the holiday shopping season. Well, at least it used to be the official start.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Well, many stores, of course, as we've been reporting, actually opened on Thanksgiving Day. You'd think that might have stolen some of Black Friday's thunder, but apparently not. So far the madness of this big shopping day seems to be intact, at least according to some of this amateur video. That's the floor at the a Walmart in North Carolina.

HOLMES: Shoppers behaving badly. We've seen at least one arrest, as well.


HOLMES: Looks like Black Friday might be alive and well after all in some guise or other. We're going to check in with CNN's Zain Asher at Macy's famous flagship store in Manhattan, also Kyung Lah braving the crowds at a Walmart in Los Angeles.

Kyung, let's go to your first, some drama there to tell us about?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What the drama is, is actually something that's a bit preplanned, Michael. What is happening today at Walmart stores, about 1,500 locations, are a number of activities being held by protesters. We're not going to call all of them protests because some of them are quite small scale. There are about eight of them across the United States that are going to be quite large, 100 to 500 people. We've seen them roll out throughout the morning in the East Coast.

And we saw one just a short distance from where I am, east of Los Angeles, in Ontario, California. There are about 100 people at this particular Walmart. They were walking with signs. They were protesting because it is Black Friday and they wanted to talking about wages. As people are arriving to spend money, trying to get deals, they wanted to talk about how the wages of the people who are helping them buy their stuff, their cheap stuff, they're not being paid appropriately.

The reason why these employees -- some of them are employees; most of them non-employees who are union members, want to talk about this is because it's a large platform. Walmart hires about 1 percent of all of the U.S. labor force, about 1.5 million people. They say it is appropriate to do this, to talk about it today. They also staged some peaceful, civil disobedience. A small number of them, about 10 of them, were arrested trying to make that point.


HOLMES: That's amazing.

GORANI: The biggest employer there, and there you have it, protests outside the Walmart stores in some cases. Kyung Lah is reporting from a Walmart in Los Angeles.

Let's go to Zain Asher. She's at Macy's in New York.

So, Zain, Macy's broke its old tradition and was open yesterday. So, a, were the sales good yesterday, and, b, did it put a damper on the mad dash today?


Well, you know, you're always going to see the thickest crowds right when the stores open. The items, of course, with the best discounts, the best deals, are usually in limited supply. So, of course, it is a competition. Yesterday, when Macy's opened, 8:00 Thanksgiving evening, you did see 15,000 people gathered outside. They were rushing into the stores. A lot of crowds. A lot of mayhem.

Right now, it is a little bit calmer. I've been talking to shoppers. I've been asking them -- shoppers who have been shopping all night, I've been asking them, you know, what is your advice for Black Friday shopper who are just getting started. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have an idea in mind what you want. I was pretty kind of sure what I wanted to come out and get. So if you do that, then you kind of know where you're going and then you'll be fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a couple cups of coffee and be relaxed and just enjoy yourself. It's not anything you can rush around and get items purchased fast because there's long lines and it takes lots of patience.


ASHER: You know, I've been shopping and I've been looking at deals myself. The best deal I actually saw was a cashmere sweater originally priced at $139.99, reduced to $39.99. So that is what you call a deal.

But in terms of tips for shoppers, make sure you do your research before you leave your house. There's nothing worse than rushing out and getting an item, only to find that the item becomes even more deeply discounted the closer you get to Christmas.

I've also been asking people, you know, is it really better to come to the store and, you know, engage in the rush and the mayhem on Black Friday, or is it better to just stay at home and shop online. People are saying to me, listen, you can't sort of try on the item obviously if you shop online, which I agree with, of course. But they're also saying that, listen, there is so much hype surrounding Black Friday, they just want to be a part of it.

Hala and Michael.

GORANI: All right, Zain Asher is at a Macy's in New York, Kyung Lah in Los Angeles. Thanks to both of you. And Zain was talking about the deeply discounted sweater.


GORANI: But we've read reports about how retailers from the very beginning never intended to sell the item at the full retail price and that the discount was built into the sale price they'd always anticipated.

HOLMES: We're going to talk about that a little later actually.

GORANI: Right.

HOLMES: Yes, Christine Romans has been talking about that. There's an article in "The Wall Street Journal" about it, showing how it's a little artificial. Maybe they're not the deals they appear to be.

All right, now Black Friday might be uniquely an American phenomenon. That doesn't mean the rest of the world isn't getting in on the deal, as well.

GORANI: Check out these pictures from Bristol in England. Apparently a man lost it when he was told he couldn't buy two big TVs at a popular discount chain store that Walmart owns. Security guards ended up wrestling him to the ground.

HOLMES: See, they misbehave there as well. The chain is called Asda, advertising Black Friday sales. Also a department store called John Lewis, you might be familiar with if you've been over there, pretty upscale place. Overall, though, Black Friday isn't nearly the big deal it is in the United States. We asked people in London if they even know what it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's something to do with the actual sort of stores competing against each other in sort of like two days or something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Black Friday is (INAUDIBLE) sales. Normally it's an American thing, but they started doing it here quite a bit and, you know, I got myself some stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Have you noticed a lot of shops bring on discounts? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, yes, mostly - I mean Apple's done it. So despite the like John Lewis price match there and there's loads of - many supermarketers are seeing (ph) it and it's really a big thing online at the moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a discount, isn't it, in America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew it came from America and it was to do with the day after Thanksgiving, about the sales beginning, and, yes, so I actually thought I'd come down today and grab something.


HOLMES: You saw -- you thought you saw Judy Dench there, didn't you?

GORANI: A younger version of her.

You know what's interesting, Black Friday is an American phenomenon. Twenty years ago, nobody cared about Halloween, Valentine's Day, all these typically American events.

HOLMES: Being exported.

GORANI: Globalization -


GORANI: Has changed all that. You have Valentine's Day displays in stores in the Middle - in the Middle East now.

HOLMES: In the Middle East. Halloween is in Australia these days, which is just extraordinary. It really wasn't when I was growing up, unfortunately. I never got that candy.

GORANI: It is -- those practices and those traditions that are American are spreading abroad, that's for sure.

HOLMES: Uh-huh.

GORANI: And most newspaper ads today in Britain seem to be focused more on Christmas shopping in general, however, more than Black Friday.

HOLMES: Oh, goody. Let's go do that now.

GORANI: We're only four weeks away.

HOLMES: Oh, quick, let's rush out and do Christmas shopping.

Well, Black Friday madness isn't the only proof that the holiday season is here. About 18 more feet of proof arrived a short time ago in Washington.

GORANI: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the official White House Christmas tree. The Douglas fir came from Pennsylvania. The family who grew it from a sapling made the big presentation. The tree is leaded for the Blue Room at the White House.

HOLMES: The first dog was there as well.

All right, coming up, the bitter battle between celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her billionaire ex-husband Charles Saatchi rumbles on.

GORANI: How he's dragging Lawson's name through the mud at the trial of two former employees accused of embezzlement.

Then, Justin Bieber gets too artistic for one Australian hotel's tastes.

HOLMES: The pop star - he's often always in the news, isn't he -- accused of vandalizing the hotel, but Bieber says the hotel said he could.

GORANI: And hold the obituary. It looks like the Thanksgiving comet survived its sun bath.

You're watching "AROUND THE WORLD". We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

And now to the court case that is gripping Great Britain.


NIGELLA LAWSON, COOKBOOK AUTHOR: There is, for me, just no bad way to eat bread. That's why, thank goodness, you can get this by the quarter loaf.


GORANI: Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, accused of being, quote, "so off her head on drugs that she allowed staff to spend whatever they like."

HOLMES: The allegations were revealed in a private e-mail sent to Lawson by her now ex-husband Charles Saatchi. It was read as part of legal arguments ahead of the trial of their assistants. Two sisters accused of defrauding the couple. CNN's Max Foster following developments from London.

All right, Max, tell us the details of this e-mail, how they were raised in a court of law and why. I mean everything just seems to be focusing more on the marriage than the case at the moment.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well that it is a fraud case, but these two sisters deny the fraud because they say Nigella Lawson knew that they were spending the money on these cards (ph), which added up to more than a million dollars. Obviously, prosecutions follow from that extraordinary amount of money, but they say it wasn't a fraud. They don't necessarily deny that they were putting money on these cards, but they say that Nigella Lawson was aware of it and also they weren't spending it all on themselves to fund this lavish lifestyle that has been alleged.

But there's this fundamental piece of evidence which refers to drugs. And it is an e-mail that comes from Charles Saatchi and it was sent last month to Nigella Lawson. It was a personal e-mail. He says he was bereft that it ever became public, but it came through Nigella's side and he was having to deal with it.

But in this e-mail he writes to her, "of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you were so off your head on drugs that you allows the sisters to spend whatever they liked and, yes, I believe every word that the Grillos have said, who, after all, only stole money." And they're alleging that she had a drug habit, Nigella Lawson, which went back for the whole 10 years of a marriage and they hid it, she hid it, from Charles Saatchi.

HOLMES: All right. And, so, Max, you know, what about the trial itself? Are we now likely to hear from Nigella?

FOSTER: We are expecting to hear from her during this trial, probably next week. We can't confirm exact details on that because it's -- we'll wait to see what happens on that. But certainly lots of people want to hear her point of view, not just the people involved in the court case but around the world because obviously her reputation is this very wholesome figure, a home making figure is being questioned here and put into doubt. And she's got a big career which rests on this and her brand. So a lot of people want to hear from her.

You'll remember, though, there was a photograph in the summer that was published in British newspapers and went around the world and it showed Charles Saatchi holding his hand to Nigella's neck. It was a shocking picture.

And he talked about that picture today. He said he wasn't -- this was around the time that he found out about allegations of drug abuse and he says he wasn't trying to strangle or throttle her, he was holding her neck trying to make her listen and focus on what he was saying. So he did address that. And he also said that while he did believe that she took drugs and had an ongoing drug habit, he never actually saw any evidence of her taking drugs.

GORANI: Right. And that's pretty key, I think, today. Thanks very much, Max Foster.

All these allegations were made. He admits himself he never saw her take any drugs.

HOLMES: And he doesn't know because - and we haven't heard from her, as Max was saying.

GORANI: And -- right. We hope to be able to hear her side, as well.

Coming up, the unfriendly skies. How tension continues to rise between China and the U.S. and Japan. Their escalating dispute over air space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Well, he just can't keep out of trouble, Justin Bieber in hot water again, this time in Australia. That is Bieber you see there, spraying graffiti on the wall of a hotel. Now, he insists he got permission from the hotel, but the mayor of the city wants him to return and get rid of the graffiti tweeting this, "Glad you had a great time in Australia's Gold Coast.

"Hope to see you soon to clean up your mess. Make me a 'Belieber.'"

And despite early fears, it looks like the so-called "comet of the century" survived its encounter with the sun. Scientists had thought the Comet ISON disintegrated when it passed by the sun yesterday, but after further review, they now believe a chunk of the nucleus did survive. They say it's throwing off dust and probably gas, but its future is still uncertain. We'll keep an eye on its condition.


HOLMES: Thank goodness it made it.

Let's talk now about the tensions in Asia over air space, China and Japan still squabbling about an area above the East China Sea, South Korea also upset. And now we understand the U.S. has made another flight through that air space.

Let's bring in Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. As we've been saying, this is not a situation where you want a misunderstanding, and, yet, we've got South Korea, Japan, the U.S., testing the waters, or the air space, so to speak.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Michael. A bit of a kerfuffle, if you will, out in this region, a U.S. military official does now confirm that the U.S. did conduct another military flight through this restriction zone.

He won't give the details of how many aircraft, what kind of aircraft. Also saying that Japan flew a number of planes through the zone. For their part, the Chinese are saying that they tracked two U.S. surveillance aircraft and nearly a dozen Japanese planes.

What U.S. officials are telling us is that they want everybody to take a deep breath, that this is routine surveillance that the U.S. military conducts through this international air space all the time, if not every day, that there's nothing unusual here.

It's status quo; it's normal, that they're not trying to poke the Chinese in the eye, but the reality is that the Chinese are very sensitive, of course, about all of this right now, issuing a number of statements that they are tracking these planes coming through their declared space, and that they might take some sort of action against them at some point.

I think it's really what you're talking about, Michael. No one's talking about a military confrontation, but with so much activity in the region, a lot of concern about misunderstanding, miscalculation, and the possibility for some type of accident that could lead to a confrontation.


HOLMES: Yeah, that would be a disaster. One Chinese official today trying to walk it back and say, hey, we're not going to shoot anyone down. Everyone calm down.

But, you know, we've got the vice president, Joe Biden. He's going to Japan, South Korea, China, prearranged trip. He was hoping to talk economics. That's probably not going to be top of the agenda now.

STARR: I think realistically not. This is front-and-center right now, Vice president Biden expected to sit down with leaders in Beijing and very bluntly say, what are your intentions? What are you up to? What are you planning to do here? That's the word that we're getting.

And just like the Chinese, the U.S. is not looking, very much not looking, we are told, for any confrontation with the Chinese.

But for the U.S. military, what they are saying is, look, this is international air space. We're going to keep flying through it. We're going to keep flying through and we're not going to report our movements to Beijing. So it remains to be seen after the Biden visit what happens next.


HOLMES: Always good to have you on the program, Barbara, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.


GORANI: As we mentioned, it's Black Friday, but with all the crowds, long lines and traffic, is shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving really worth it?

We'll take a look. You might be surprised by some of the results that we're going to bring you, next.


HOLMES: Well, that mad, and sometimes we mean mad, dash to bag the best holiday deals well under way nationwide, Black Friday, yep, this is it. We've seen it year after year, the shoppers, walking into stores, not always politely, in search of the latest fashion, household must-haves, electronics, whatever, sometimes a lot of junk.

GORANI: You may be in a Walmart or Kmart watching us right now, or wisely, you may be sitting on your couch, digesting yesterday's meal. This year, many stores didn't wait for Black Friday before opening their doors and many shoppers say they were pleasantly surprised, actually. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a bit unexpected. I thought there were going to be a lot more people.

Like, I was expecting to see people getting trampled and rushing through, but I didn't see too many people. So I thought it was just like a regular shopping day.


GORANI: Let's go live to New York and our Alison Kosik.

And, Alison, the markets close in 30 minutes. It's a shortened trading day on Black Friday. How is trading? Because we're seeing new records within our sights, once again.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. So the bull's holiday keep on running. We are seeing stocks push be higher into record territory. This is the last trading day of November.

All the major indices are on track to end the month with gains of anywhere from 3 to 4 percent. If the Dow closes higher today, which it is on track to do so, it would be it the 45th record high of the year. Pretty darn stunning.


HOLMES: Forty-fifth record high, that is extraordinary.

We're talking about Black Friday, and Hala and I have been talking about this, whether the deals are really deals. And there's a lot of information out there.

Is it worth it? I mean, you'll never get me into a mall anyway, but is it worth it?

KOSIK: You want the harsh truth? Even people, Michael, who hit the stores early, they may not have gotten the best deals, sorry. That means even if you waited in line.

You know, a big enticement are those so-called door-busters. Those are those limited offers for the first shoppers who get into the stores. And those are usually for things, electronics, like TVs and laptops, that usually go for a 50 percent discount or more.

But there is such a limited supply with these items that few shoppers actually get those deals. More so, what's the rub here? Some places are actually offering similar deals on line, so it means you don't have to wait outside in the cold.

Let me give you an example. Amazon is offering prices on big screen TVs similar to what you'd, say, buy at Walmart or Best Buy.

One more point here I want to make. A lot of these items are going to be on sale at the same discount later on, and some may offer bigger deeper discounts as we get closer to Christmas, meaning deeper discounts on toys, on clothing, probably electronics. So if you ask me, it's better to wait it out for those items until stores are trying to clear their shelves. Plus, you can't forget you've got those deals this weekend with Small Business Saturday and then Cyber Monday, next week. So unless a product is going to be sold out, you think, I'd say go ahead and play the eight waiting game and avoid the crowds.

HOLMES: Exactly.

KOSIK: Michael and Hala?

HOLMES: It's all about the hype, isn't it?

GORANI: It is. But it's also about this being a gauge. Black Friday is a gauge. It's the beginning of the shopping season. It tells the market whether or not retailers are going to do OK this holiday season in terms of sale. This economy depends so much on consumer spending.