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Thanksgiving Travel; Chemical Plant Blast; Lebanese Politics; Pardoned Turkey Going To Disneyland

Aired November 22, 2006 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Spend a second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning and stay informed. Here's what's on the rundown.

Grief in the Middle East. A politician assassinated. A democracy threatened. We ask our guest about Lebanon and its impact on the neighborhood.

COLLINS: Americans on the go. Millions of people head to their holiday meal at someone else's house. A look at crunch time at the airport.

HARRIS: A lame dumb eyeball to eyeball with one uptight turkey. The traditional Thanksgiving pardon is just ahead, live this Wednesday, November 22nd in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Over the river, through the woods, maybe across the country. Millions of Americans are traveling for their Thanksgiving meal. CNN Jonathan Freed is at the busiest airport in the world and it's pretty much only getting busier.

Jonathan, correct?


We are here at O'Hare where for the last couple of hours we have seen it steadily busy. But I have to tell you, it has not been as insane as some people thought it was going to be today. Very busy check-in lines. It looks like, at this hour of the morning, like it does in the middle of the day at an average busy day. But looking OK here when we look up at the skies. But let's bring in Mary Frances Fagan with American Airlines. And it's clear here, thank you for joining us, but elsewhere in the system there could be some cascading problems coming our way, right?

MARY FRANCES FAGAN, AMERICAN AIRLINES: I think by around noon you're going to see some weather changes in the LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Newark airport areas. We're expecting some visibility issues, some higher winds. So the delays will be departing flights from Chicago and other cities to get into LaGuardia and to get into Philly and Newark.

My people are telling me they anticipate maybe about an hour to hour and a half delays to LaGuardia and Philly and then perhaps 30 to 45 minutes to Newark. Now that's letter today. So right now everything's great. It's just a case of what's going to happen on the east coast because of a weather condition that's actually over the Carolinas right now, as I understand it.

FREED: So it could be a little bit of a head scratcher for people who are showing up here in the Chicago area. It's such a beautiful day and they're wondering why they're waiting around, right?

FAGAN: Well, and folks who are working today that are trying to get to New York for the holiday and are going to leave later in the afternoon/early evening, they may face the delays. The early morning travelers are fine.

FREED: OK. All right, Mary Frances Fagan, thank you very much for joining us. We're going to check back in with you a little bit later on. And at its peak here this week, Heidi, we will have a quarter of a million people passing through this airport alone in a single day. Brace yourself.

COLLINS: Yes, no kidding. One of the busiest airports in the country for sure. All right, Jonathan Freed, good luck out there. Stay strong.

HARRIS: Stay strong.

All right, let's get a check of the weather now.

Rob Marciano. You feeling strong today, Rob?


HARRIS: This just in to CNN. A chemical plant explosion rattling windows miles away. Many people around Danvers, Massachusetts, thought it was an earthquake. Let's get to Carol Lin in the newsroom who has more on the story.

Carol, good morning.


Take a look at these live pictures now coming from our affiliate of the scene near that chemical plant explosion. This happened at about 3:00 in the morning. And about 90 homes have been damaged. They still don't know what the cause is, but they're doing a flyover today to try to assess some of the damage.

It happened at a company called CAI. All right. This is about 20 miles north of Boston. And ten people were injured, Tony. And some of the eyewitness testimony out of this on the Associated Press is amazing. I mean people thought that a plane crashed, right. They had no idea what happened.

Some buildings were actually shook off their foundations. And some people were saying that they woke up and their windows were gone, their doors were gone. The vinyl siding sucked off of their houses because of the pressure from this explosion.

In fact, one person told the Associated Press that her windows actually bent inward, right, and sucked her curtains halfway out before the windows returned to their normal positions inside their frames. The force of this blast was felt and heard for about 20 miles around this plant.

HARRIS: That is something. OK, Carol, thanks for the update. Appreciate it.

Let's take you back out to California now. San Bernardino National Forest. Yucaipa, California. Gives you a perspective of the area we're talking about here. Firefighters are battling this 120- acre brush fire in the San Bernardino National Forest. Smoke mostly right now, but let's show you pictures from earlier, predawn pictures and images of the fire itself. Our affiliate, KTTV, providing those pictures.

As you can see here, a lot of flames right now. A brush fire, as we mentioned to you. A number of engines and other resources on the scene right now. But the problem is most of the work right now is being done by hand because the area is just so inaccessible.

So we will continue to follow developments here. Not sure if the flames are burning close to any businesses or homes. But we'll continue to follow it and let you know.

COLLINS: Iraq War strategy. The focus of upcoming talks between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The two met in Washington in July. They plan to meet again next week at a neutral location in Jordan. On the agenda, the progress of the three-year-old war in Iraq, the transfer of security duty to Iraqi forces and the role of the region in supporting Iraq. As you know, President Bush is under increased pressure to change U.S. strategy in the war.

A new U.N. report says that more than 3,700 civilians were killed last month. Officials say that makes October the deadliest month for Iraqi civilians since the start of the war. The report blames the glowing influence of militias, terrorists and insurgents. It says hundreds of bodies continue to turn up in Baghdad. They are handcuffed, blindfolded and show signs of torture and execution-style killing. Iraqis also continue to be victims of roadside bombs, military operations or other attacks.

HARRIS: Paying respects to an assassinated politician. Live pictures now of a memorial service underway right now in Lebanon. Crowds mourning the death of Pierre Gemayel. The industry minister was gunned down just yesterday near Beirut. And many other -- that's his father right there, Amin Gemayel. Other anti-Syrian politicians are blaming Syria for the killing. Syria denies any involvement and has condemned the incident.

The killing, another blow to a democracy already teetering on the edge. Lebanese political leaders are calling for demonstrations after the funeral. That is planned for tomorrow. Security forces are on high alert in Beirut and surrounding areas. So why should you care about the killing of a Lebanese politician? What are the implications for the region and Lebanon's still fragile democracy? Let's get some answers now. Jon Alterman is with the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Jon, good to see you. Thanks for your time.


HARRIS: Does yesterday's assassination leave Lebanon more vulnerable to a cudita (ph), a military cudita, in your view?

ALTERMAN: Well, the military isn't the strong power in Lebanon. The problem in Lebanon is you have 18 different religious sects that are all recognized. Hezbollah has a militia. You've had a long civil war in Lebanon, starting in the mid 1970s. And it seems to me that rather than somebody taking power, you're much more likely to have an armed struggle for power inside the country.

HARRIS: An armed struggle between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah militias?

ALTERMAN: More different militias. You could have the recreation of Christian militias. As things break apart, as the deal that's kept all the religious groups mostly on board frays, this could split any number of ways. You know, things were getting a little more tense before the summer. They got much worse during and after the summer. And Hezbollah simply isn't happy with the way things are going and they're threatening to turn over the apple cart. This killing makes that much, much more likely than it was even a couple of days ago.

HARRIS: So you think that there was a real possibility that this assassination might lead to kind of sectarian strife? The kind of sectarian strife that we all recall from Lebanon's civil war?

ALTERMAN: Lebanon has been an incredibly precarious state since the summer. I think while the Israeli attacks weakened Hezbollah in absolute terms, in comparative terms, it weakened all the other parties in Lebanon much more than it weakened Hezbollah. And Hezbollah was becoming increasingly aggressive inside Lebanese politics. Now, with this killing getting the back of part of the Christian community up, it seems to me that everybody is going to be much more tense and it's a much, much more dangerous situation than it was just a few days ago.

HARRIS: Does Hezbollah want to, in essence, hold veto power for any decisions being made by the Lebanese government?

ALTERMAN: It's unclear exactly what Hezbollah's game is. It's almost certainly clear that they don't want to control the government. They want control of aspects of the Shia community. They also have close ties to Syria and Syria has its own interests in Lebanon. But exactly how all this is going to play out and what the red lines are going to be and what kinds of deals might be pieced together here, I think is a very, very tense time in Lebanon.

HARRIS: OK. Jon, you've hit on it. Will you explain to me, and everyone watching, what it is Syria wants with Lebanon. What it gets.

ALTERMAN: You know, Lebanon was carved out of greater Syria to protect the Maronite community. The community of Christians from which Pierre Gemayel came. And Syria's never really recognized the split between Lebanon and Syria. Syria doesn't have an embassy in Lebanon. Lebanon doesn't have an embassy in Syria.

And the business interests, the Syrian intelligence interests, the political ties are very, very thick here. I think Syria wants Lebanon to be its lungs. Syria wants Lebanon to be its breadbasket, its money, its all sorts of things.

And other Lebanese are saying, we're about Lebanon. We're not doing anything for Syria. We're not doing anything for an authoritarian regime. They're, leave us alone. And other Lebanese are saying, we need the Syrians to be the referee. And this is really one of the issues that drives Lebanese apart.

HARRIS: Is the Siniora government too weak to fight off the various factions struggling for control?

ALTERMAN: I think the Siniora government was very much weakened by the events of the summer. They're criticized by Hezbollah and others as being sort of a creature of the west. And they haven't been able to really assert their leadership. This is a time when the Siniora government, I think, is either going to fish or cut bait. They either have to demonstrate that they can pull the country together and move forward or they're going to -- things will dissolve in terms of Lebanese politics.

HARRIS: And, Jon, one final question. What does all of this mean for Americans, for America diplomacy, the government, this administration? What can it really do if Hezbollah is trying to fight for more representation in the parliament through a democratic system?

ALTERMAN: I think this, in many ways, highlight the problem that the U.S. government is having as it pushes toward more democracy in the Middle East. On the one hand, you have guys we don't like winning elections. But it also highlights the importance of non-governmental groups and the international relations.

Hezbollah isn't a government. How do you deal with people who aren't governments? We deal with governments well, but the world of the Middle East, and I think the world of the future, is going to be a world where we have to think of tools to deal with militias and other kinds of non-governmental groups. We don't have the tools yet. It's going to be the most important challenge of the beginning of the 21st century.

HARRIS: Let's leave it there. Jon Alterman, thank you for your time. Happy Thanksgiving.

ALTERMAN: Thanks. You too. COLLINS: Hitting the road this holiday? Traffic jams aren't the only road blocks to the happy arrival. Details on that coming up in the NEWSROOM.

And four families in mourning. A school bus wreck. Now a grand jury may decide whether criminal charges will be filed. That story coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Most Americans traveling this week will reach their destination by car. CNN's Ed Lavandera has a closer look now at a police patrol that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. And he is somewhere in between, just outside Knoxville, Tennessee.

Hey there, Ed.


We are just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. And Smokey Mountains that way, the Pacific Ocean that way. Long way. But here at this gas station we've seen a steady stream of people gassing up and heading out onto the highways. The national average for gas prices is $2.23 a gallon. That's about 80 cents cheaper than the most expensive point earlier this summer. And because of that, AAA says that there are more people -- for the first time we've seen on a holiday weekend this year, an increase in the number of people hitting the roadways.

And an interesting thing going on along Interstate 40. This is a highway that lasts 2,500 miles. It goes from Barstow, California, to Wilmington, North Carolina. And there is going to be a steady stream, every 10 miles, state troopers through the eight states where Interstate 40 runs. There will be a state trooper stationed every 10 miles, keeping a close eye on what's going on be going on along this interstate for the next few days.

Last year, on the Thanksgiving holiday, there were almost 460 people died in U.S. highway accidents. So that's one of the reasons why the troopers have signed on to this program. They'd like to see that number decrease this holiday weekend.

So because of that, they say they're going to be watching closely what is happening. So if you've got a busted taillight, no seat belt, whatever it is, they're going to be looking very closely for all of that. And they say there's going to be a zero tolerance policy along Interstate 40.

So we've been joking around with folks. If you like to speed, do not go anywhere near this interstate this weekend.

COLLINS: Yes, wasn't one of the troopers too, Ed, saying, save your money for turkey, not speeding tickets?

HARRIS: There you go. LAVANDERA: Yes, exactly. And the money you're saving on gas. You know, a lot of people probably will be just forking it right over to the speeding tickets.

COLLINS: Oh, I hope no. All right. Ed Lavandera. Every 10 miles there's a trooper. Look out. I-40. Thanks a lot, Ed.

LAVANDERA: Beware. We told.


Most Americans will hit the road, though, for their Thanksgiving dinner this year. According to a CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, just 45 percent of Americans will dine in their own homes. More than half will eat at a restaurant or the home of a friend or relative. For those who travel to enjoy a holiday meal, the average distance is going to be about 85 miles.

HARRIS: A turkey tradition. President Bush preparing to pardon a pair of fortunate fowl.

Thank you. Thank you.

COLLINS: That was fake. That was not that turkey right there.

HARRIS: That ceremony live. Can we have some of our television tricks, Heidi? You have to give them all away?

COLLINS: Just trying to be truthful.

HARRIS: The tradition is on live minutes from now.

And we're already thinking ahead to the start of the holiday shopping season on Friday. And Gerri Willis is here in the house to hot leather (ph) to help us plot some strategies here.

Hey, Gerri.

COLLINS: It's not so hot, is it?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. What happened? I was hoping it would be warm here and you guys, you turned down the temperature.

HARRIS: We really did.

WILLIS: But the dream team in the flesh. I'm thrilled to be here.

HARRIS: Oh, that's what I'm talking about.

WILLIS: Absolutely. Well, we have got great stuff for you today. If you are holiday shopping on Friday, we've got the shortcuts to get you through black Friday. That's coming up on "Top Tips."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Listen in to President Bush now with the turkey pardon. Been happening almost 60 years. Let's hear what he has to say in Washington, D.C., now.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The National Turkey Federation. And I thank you for bringing along our feathery guest. We're glad you're here.

Mike, thanks for bringing your family as well.


BUSH: The name of the national thanksgiving turkey has been chosen by online voting at the White House website. By the decision of voters, this turkey is going to be called Flyer. And there's always a backup bird just in case the guest of honor can't perform his duties. And the backup bird's name is Fryer. Probably better to be called Flyer than Fryer.

These birds were hatched on a farm in Missouri and raised there by Matthew Nut (ph) and his mom and dad, Carol and Lynn, and we're glad you all are here. Thanks for coming. They did a fine job of raising these birds.

I also welcome the Girl Scouts who have joined us. Thanks for coming. Yes, I'm glad you're here. These are troops from Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C. And we thank you for being in scouting, and we thank your scoutmasters and your parents for setting such a good example for you.

We're here in the Rose Garden. This is a place where Barney likes to hang out. Barney is my dog. And he likes to chase the soccer ball here. He came out a little early, as did Flyer, and instead of chasing the soccer ball, he chased the bird. And it kind of made the turkey nervous. See, the turkey was already nervous to begin with. Nobody's told him yet about the pardon I'm about to give him.

Tomorrow is our day of Thanksgiving. It's a national observance first proclaimed by George Washington. In our journey across the centuries, from a few tiny settlements, to a prosperous and powerful nation, Americans have always been a grateful people. And we are this year as well.

We're grateful for our beautiful land. We're grateful for a harvest big enough to feed us all, plus much of the world. We're grateful for our freedom. We're grateful for our families. And we're grateful for life itself. So on Thanksgiving Day, we gather with loved ones and we lift our hearts toward heaven in humility and gratitude.

As we count our blessings, Americans also share our blessings. We're a generous country. We're filled with caring citizens who reach out to others. People who have heard the universal call to love a neighbor as we want to be loved ourself. On Thanksgiving and every day of the year, Americans live out of a spirit of compassion and care, and I thank you for that.

It's the spirit that moves men and women to be mentors to the young. To be scout leaders. To be helpers of the elderly. To be comforters of the lonely and those who are left out.

We love our country and the greatest example of that devotion is the citizen who steps forward to defend our nation from harm. The members of our military have set aside their own comfort and convenience and safety to protect the rest of us. Their courage keeps us free. Their sacrifice makes us grateful and their character makes us proud. Especially during the holidays, our whole nation keeps them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

And now to the ceremonial task of the day. Why don't we have a look at Flyer. There you go. I think Flyer heard Barney barking over there. It's a fine-looking bird, isn't it?

Flyer is probably wondering where he's going to wind up tomorrow. He's probably thinking he's going to end up on somebody's table. Well, I'm happy to report that he and Fryer both have many tomorrows ahead of them. This morning I'm grateful -- I am granting a full presidential pardon so they can live out their lives as safe as can be.

In fact, it gets even better. Later today, Flyer and Fryer will be on a plane to Disneyland where they're going to achieve further celebrity as the honorary grand marshal of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Thank you all for coming. God bless and happy Thanksgiving.

COLLINS: All right. So there you have it. This is the 59th year that they have been doing the presidential pardon. And you heard the names, right? We've been waiting all morning long.


COLLINS: Because America voted on this. It's almost like "American Idol."

HARRIS: Online.

COLLINS: But it's Flyer and Fryer. Fryer being the back-up bird. But you heard, they are both going to be getting on to turkey one and heading to Disneyland to be in that wonderful parade there. And our Suzanne Malveaux is standing by waiting in the wings outside the White House . . .

HARRIS: In the wings.

COLLINS: To tell us more about this.

Suzanne, how did it come about?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I've got all the details. All the secret details on all of this. You know, what's really special about this is that usually they're sent to this park in Virginia. This is the first time that they're going to Disneyland in California. They're going to serve as the grand marshals for the Thanksgiving Parade tomorrow. And then they get to live the rest of their lives at the Disneyland Resort, which is really . . .


MALVEAUX: I mean, you can't get much better than that. And then the question that people always ask -- why is there an alternate turkey, of course? You know you have these two turkeys. Well, we've been told that there was one year that the turkey got kind of chicken, kind of skittish there and was afraid to get on the stage, and so he just kind of went running off and so they didn't have a turkey to pardon that year.

COLLINS: They couldn't wrangle him up?

MALVEAUX: They've got a backup here. And it's interesting because we've also learned, too, that they raise these turkeys in a special way. There are about 30 others on this farm, Nutt (ph) Farm. And they actually acclimate them to deal with human beings by feeding them by hand, these kind of things, so that at least when it comes to this ceremony, those two turkeys that are chosen are going to be somewhat a little bit less nervous about the ceremony, getting the kind of attention they do this time around. But both of them -- I can imagine these turkeys are very, very happy today.

COLLINS: Yes, I'm sure they are. I wonder if they get it, but we're give them the benefit of the doubt.

Hey, Suzanne, just for fun, any idea how big the turkeys are?

MALVEAUX: I know that, too. I know that too, actually.

COLLINS: I knew you would.

MALVEAUX: It's 30 -- I do my research, let me tell you -- 30 to 35 pounds, these turkeys.

COLLINS: That's big.

MALVEAUX: And they're fed cornmeal, and fresh water and soybean meal we're told for the duration of their lives here. So they're healthy, fat, and they're going to live long. So good for them.

COLLINS: All right, Suzanne Malveaux with all of the details on everything turkey.

MALVEAUX: I'm working for you.

COLLINS: All right, I got it. We're going to check back later. See if anything else happens out there. Suzanne, thank you.

MALVEAUX: Sure. HARRIS: Having some fun with the turkey, White House turkey, but a developing story out in California now is worth paying some real attention to right now. This is Yukeipa (ph), California, the San Bernardino National Forest. We've got a brush fire that is burning and really starting to pop right now.

Carol Lin is following it for us in the newsroom.

Carol, what's the latest?

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Tony, even here there's something to be thankful for. The weather is holding, so temperatures are somewhat cool and the winds are not picking up so far. So firefighters are now saying and telling local media out there that this fire has grown to about 120 acres.

However, this is remote desert terrain, so no structures threatened right now. It's about 70 miles from downtown Los Angeles. And if the weather holds, there's a good chance that these firefighters will be able to get this under control or at least contain it so it's not spreading into more populated areas. But it is very remote. They've got trucks on the scene, Tony. It is steep terrain, so they're having to send hand crews down to fight that fire. So this is a difficult one, but the weather is holding for them.

HARRIS: So that makes it even more difficult, more treacherous, but the good news is, no structures, no homes, no businesses in the immediate vicinity. That sounds like good news.

LIN: Right. And good weather for firefighting.

HARRIS: Yes, OK, Carol. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, while many of us are look forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow, bargain hunters are look for the day after. Black Friday kicks off a weekend crammed with an estimated 137 million shoppers?

COLLINS: Here to guide you through all the chaos, CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis. I just want to know, like, buff I need to be to make my way through the crowds.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm telling you. If you're going to go the malls, you're going to have to be pretty darn buff.

HARRIS: There you go.

WILLIS: Absolutely.

You know, I was thinking about this trip, and I thought, what could I bring the dream team that they would love to have? And here's what I came up with. I was paging through the Neiman Marcus Catalog, and they have a pen -- not just a pen, but a Mont Blanc Bohen (ph).


HARRIS: What is it? WILLIS: It's a fountain pen. And It has 1,900 diamonds encrusted over the body of this thing.

COLLINS: That is so you, Tony.

HARRIS: Yes, It's got my name all over it, doesn't it?

WILLIS: But you know, the price tag, a little pricey, $160,900. OK, so I'm not getting you that, all right? I couldn't afford two. But it's the thought.

HARRIS: I understand.

WILLIS: All right. So what we need to do is save some money when it comes to shopping. So tip No. 1 here today, you've got to start with the Web. The Web is the place to go if you're going shopping on Black Friday. They're lots of places to go to get tips on who's setting what where. Start with You see it right here. These places will tell you who's offering what. And now if it's toys you're interested in, PS3, you want to know where that is?

HARRIS: Well, I don't know where you find that.

WILLIS: will tell you where you can get one of these things. TMXtracker will tell you where you can get an Elmo. So you've to got plug into the Web sites because they really give you the details on what you need to know.

HARRIS: But then, don't you have to -- I mean, at least my hesitancy when looking on the Web to do all of my shopping is the shipping costs.

WILLIS: If you are paying shipping costs this year from buying something on the Web, you're making a big mistake. They're offering it for free for the most part -- 83 percent of the Web sites, they're going to send it to you for free. So do not pay money for that.

HARRIS: What do you mean when you say, keep your guard up. What does that mean, Gerri?

WILLIS: Well, I've got to tell you, it's not all it's cracked up to be, Tony. You've got to make sure that you know what they're talking about. For example, rebates are sometimes only available on a specific day. You've got to buy the goods on a specific day to get the catch. You've got to look at the details, the small print, and know what you're getting yourself into.

COLLINS: All right, well, you have to have some type of shopping strategy, too; no more of this running in, impulse buying and being done.

WILLIS: It's crazy. You know, you get lost in the crowd, and before you know it you've got this list and you have not executed any of it. So start your money-saving efforts with the most expensive things on your list. OK, because that's where you really want the big savings. That's where the Web will come in handy. You want to do that. And I came across a great idea this year -- team shopping. If you have kids, you're all buying the same thing. A lot of kids, they all want the same thing, they're competing with each other. You go to the mall with your friends, one person goes for Elmo, another person goes, and you get it done.

HARRIS: If you survive Black Friday, OK, that's not it. That's not it. There are other big days out there, other big shopping events right on the horizon.

WILLIS: Well, Black Friday not the biggest holiday shopping day of the year. As you know, it's the Saturday before Christmas. That's a big holiday shopping day. But I'm here to tell you, if you are shopping on Black Friday, you need to keep watching the prices on the goods you buy because they could continue to come down. So many stores now will honor those lower prices that they're cutting them as the season goes on. So you can go back and, you know...

COLLINS: It seems only fair. You have to do that, right?

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

WILLIS: Well, it can, and there are lots of predictions out there that the price is going to go nowhere but down.

COLLINS: Love it.

HARRIS: I like that.

COLLINS: All right, good. Gerri Willis, so nice to have you.

WILLIS: Great to be here. I've got to come back down. Sorry about that pen.

COLLINS: All right, speaking of your flight plan, tips that could save time and trouble at the airport. Gerri, be watching. Coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.

And riding the rails to a Thanksgiving meal. Before you board, things you need to know. Train travel tips, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: So, a lot of holiday travelers will be riding the rails to their Thanksgiving destinations.

COLLINS: This is typically the busiest travel week for the year for Amtrak. CNN's Allan Chernoff is joining us now live from New York's Penn Station. How's it looking there Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually pretty busy Heidi. I mean, typically on a weekday morning, this place would be almost empty by now because the commuters would be gone. But as you can see, it's well packed and going to get even more crowded later today. Amtrak is anticipating 125,000 passengers on the rails today. That is its busiest day of the year. It's actually 80 percent more than they have on a typical weekday. We've got some passengers over here who are getting ready to get on board. John and Jack McNamara. They are headed to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Jack, looking to me like you're pretty excited to get on the train.


CHERNOFF: Have you ridden the train before?


CHERNOFF: I see you're a big Thomas fan. I would guess from what's you're wearing there, you're ready to maybe to work on the rail some day. Would you like to be an engineer?


CHERNOFF: We may be talking to a future locomotive engineer over here. John, a lot of kids love the train. Do you love it, too?

JOHN MCNAMARA, THANKSGIVING TRAVELER: Yes. It's relaxing. You know, it beats driving.

CHERNOFF: You've got a long, long trip.

JOHN MCNAMARA: About seven hours.

CHERNOFF: Seven hours on the train, sound OK, no problem, relaxing?

JOHN MCNAMARA: Sit back, relax.

CHERNOFF: John, did you know you can actually have your turkey dinner on board?

JOHN MCNAMARA: I didn't know that.

CHERNOFF: In fact, Amtrak is ready to seven 7 and one half tons of turkey this week. 22,000 servings of cranberries. So, anybody who's stuck on a train, no problem. Have your Thanksgiving dinner right on board.

COLLINS: Boy, Allan, I'm very very curious to taste that particular turkey. I wonder if that's any good, you know. All right Allan.

CHERNOFF: I'm sure it's just fine. I'm sure they do a good job. A lot of chefs hard at work.

COLLINS: All right, we'll get you to taste that for us and report back. Allan Chernoff, thanks, live at Penn Station this morning.

And for more travel tips and the travel news you need, log on before you go, Latest TSA guidelines along with a video on making your visit stress-free. HARRIS: Space stunt, tee it up. A golf ball hit around the world. That story in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: A new baby boom is on. This one among single mothers. The CDC reports almost four of ten babies were born to unwed mothers last year, 36.8 percent. The CDC says the birth rate for teen mothers is at its lowest level in 65 years. But for single women in their 30s and 40s, it's at the highest rate since the 1960s.


COLLINS: Tracking a tragedy. The investigation into a deadly bus crash. A fourth teenager dies in Alabama. New information, lingering questions here in the NEWSROOM.



HARRIS: The tragedy is not over. A fourth girl has died after that horrible bus crash in Alabama.

CNN's Rusty Dornin has more on that, and new information about the investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Life is too short to fool around.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A cracked hip and a bruised face, her marks of survival. Morgan Harkey lived to tell about a 30-foot plunge in a school bus over a freeway overpass.

MORGAN HARKEY, BUS CRASH SURVIVOR: An orange car, I guess the tire blew on it, and it lost control and it hit the bus, and I guess it popped our tire, and we went straight over the ramp.

DORNIN: The driver of the orange car that Harkey says clipped the bus was a 17-year-old student at the high school. His vehicle had flat tires when it came to rest following the crash.

DEBBIE HERSMAN, NTSB: We've heard a number of reports that there was an issue involving the Celica. The Celica driver and the passenger were interviewed. And we know that they have said that there was something wrong with their vehicle that caused them to drift into that left lane.

DORNIN: As some bus crash survivors went home, there was news that a fourth teen, 16 year Crystal McCrary, had died. Four students, all young girls with plans for the future. One, 19-year-old Nicole Ford, was the mother of a 4-year-old boy. Four years ago, she was shot in the face by her estranged boyfriend.

Investigators painstakingly walked every inch of the crash site, from above, marking where the bus first crashed into the barrier and careened down the ramp 117 feet before it plunged below. The driver was somehow ejected from the bus before it went over the side. Officials say he was found on the overpass. He remains hospitalized, along with nearly a dozen of his passengers. Finally, the bus was towed to what officials called a safe location for further investigation. Police say the case could be turned over to a grand jury to determine if any criminal charges will be filed against the driver of the orange car.

It's up to the NTSB to determine the cause of the crash, and one official said that could take as long as a year. It's likely to take a lot longer than that for this community to recover.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Huntsville, Alabama.


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Still to come, is Iran calling the shots as a breakaway group from a dangerous Iraqi militia grows by the thousands? A report from central command coming up in the NEWSROOM.