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New Stress About Holiday Travel; Afghanistan Decision; President Obama's State Dinner; Mumbai's Terror Attacks One Year Later
Aired November 25, 2009 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, guys. Thanks so much. And good morning to you, everybody. Here's what we're working on in this CNN NEWSROOM this morning.
Airports packed, roads filled. We are following one of the busiest travel days of the year.
And pomp and circumstance. The highlights from President Obama's first state dinner.
Plus, the lines are longer than before. One man's turkey giveaway is a sign of the tough times. Live pictures for you.
Good morning, everybody, I'm Heidi Collins. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Travel for you and for U.S. troops. We're tracking on both this morning. In fact, our Jeanne Meserve is reporting this morning from Washington's Reagan National Airport, telling us about something that travelers are worrying about this year they didn't worry about last year.
And if you are worried how the weather is going to be affecting your holiday plans, Rob Marciano that story. We'll get to him in a moment. And also, more U.S. troops heading to Afghanistan. Our Elaine Quijano is at the Pentagon with the very latest on that.
On your mark, get set, go. Thanksgiving weekend travel begins today as I'm sure you are well aware. AAA says 38 million people will be on the go, that's up just a little from last year.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve is joining us now live from Washington's Reagan National Airport.
All right, Jeanne, it's early. But how does it look?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, it's absolutely amazing. Now I can tell you about one terminal at one airport in one city.
MESERVE: But here it's not congested at all. There aren't lines at the counter, there aren't lines at security. Really pretty amazing. But flights are pretty crowded this year and when people get together, germs get together and that includes the H1N1 virus.
MESERVE (voice-over): As if anyone needs another reason to stress about holiday travel, now H1N1 anxiety is part of the mix.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was this lady that was sitting like across the aisle from me like blowing her nose and I was like all right, I'm glad we have that kind of distance. You know? Because I don't want the get sick. And there's no way you can really get away from it when you're on a plane.
MESERVE: This animation from Purdue University shows how a sneeze propels germs around an airplane. Government health officials have a few simple words of advice for travelers. Wash your hands often, don't touch your eyes or nose, cover your cough, and for Pete's sake, don't travel if you're sick.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Don't get on a crowded plane and spread the wealth. It's time to stay home.
MESERVE: Airlines have briefed crews about H1N1. Airtran even enlisted a former head of the Centers for Disease Control to answer employee questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I contract swine flu from loading bags?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maurice, the bags will not transmit the flu.
MESERVE: But flight crew vigilance has inconvenienced a small number of passengers. Mitra Mostoufi had an upset stomach and was taken off a United flight.
MITRA MOSTOUFI, UNITED AIRLINES PASSENGER: The crew does not feel good about you flying because you might be sick. I didn't know they were all physicians.
MESERVE: It turned out Mostoufi did not have H1N1 but United says it removed her as a precaution, to protect the health of other passengers. Despite the specter of H1N1 infection many Thanksgiving travelers are undeterred and unconcerned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something you got to live with and just have to make some adjustments. And yes, you can't let it stop your life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. And there's no reason to get, you know, so uptight about it.
MESERVE: If you get on an airplane and the person sitting next to you is obviously sick, you can ask to have your seat changed. But, flights are expected to be so crowded this week that there might not be another seat on your flight or the next one or maybe even the flight after that, so you could end up in a totally different predicament -- Heidi.
COLLINS: And really quickly, we were talking yesterday, Jeanne, about the fact that you can get a hold of a doctor's note if you go to some airlines and say here's my doctor's note, I need to revise my travel plans. They'll do that for you but the point that you make is such a good one because when's the next flight that you're going to be able to take to where you're trying to go?
MESERVE: That's exactly right. But you're correct about that. We talked to a couple of airlines at least yesterday who said they need some kind of documentation, doctor's note, and if you have that, they are happy to rebook you. But again, when? That's the question.
COLLINS: Yes, exactly. All right, Jeanne. Well, good luck out there. We'll continue to check in with you throughout the day. Jeanne Meserve at Reagan National Airport, Washington, D.C.
So what's the weather going to be like for your holiday travel? You can follow our weather holiday travel advisory. You can see it streaming along the bottom of our screen. My best Vanna White impression there.
Our Rob Marciano is in the weather also with a more detailed look at things. All right, so I'm already hearing the northeast is not so great. I'm sure you've got a comprehensive view, however. Whoa.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I do.
COLLINS: All of the planes in the sky.
MARCIANO: And you know, this is more for that reaction than anything else. Obviously, planes aren't this big so they're not bumping into each other. But nonetheless, they're taking off and they're landing in the northeast where we have seen some delays at LaGuardia, at Newark, Philly as well, and D.C.
You see also we have some radar overlaid in here, stretching across parts of the Great Lakes. And that will be an issue. But of greater concern, really, is what's going on around part of south Florida. We've got a ground stop there at both FLL and Miami International until at least -- until 10:30.
They may lift that, but right now thunderstorms look hefty. Philly, as mentioned, LaGuardia, Newark and D.C. are in trouble as far as seeing a little bit of delays right now.
The ground stop in Atlanta has been lifted. The fog and low clouds beginning to dissipate there. But look at the thunderstorms developing here across parts of Miami up to Ft. Lauderdale heading to West Palm Beach. So this will be a good hour, maybe two, before it begins to lift.
That is some rough and tumble weather. So that's why the ground stop is in place. So if you're traveling to and from south Florida, give it a little bit. They're going to see problems I think ongoing throughout the day. (WEATHER REPORT)
MARCIANO: We'll keep an eye on things throughout the morning, Heidi, as this big travel day gets under way.
COLLINS: Yes, yes. 1:00 out of Hartsfield, if you can get that all cleared for me.
MARCIANO: Another special request.
COLLINS: Personally that would be terrific.
COLLINS: Rob, thanks. We'll check back later on.
Now to Afghanistan. And the Pentagon is planning ahead of President Obama's announcement on a possible influx of troops.
CNN's Elaine Quijano is joining us now live from the Pentagon with more on this. So Elaine, what exactly is the Pentagon looking at here if they don't have the details quite yet, like the rest of the country, about this possible influx of troops?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, according to a defense official we spoke with, this is someone with direct knowledge of operation. The Pentagon planners are expecting orders for roughly 34,000 additional troops for Afghanistan.
Now this official really emphasized, Heidi, that there's been no final word just yet. This is just a number, the approximate number that they are looking at here at the Pentagon. The planning calls for Army and Marine brigades, as well as some support troops. And here now with is a look at how those numbers break down.
About 15,000 soldiers, roughly 8,000 Marines, 7,000 headquarters troops and about 4,000 to 5,000 support troops. Now the question is, where would all of these troops go?
QUIJANO: Well, they would be divided, Heidi, in various locations throughout Afghanistan but focusing mainly on the south and southeast parts of the country. Heidi, that's where you know a lot of the fighting is really taking place. And continuing to do so -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. And a couple of questions, too, about where the troops are going to come from. I know you have a little bit of information on that as well as how long it's going to take to really get those troops in theater. I mean it takes a while. This is not a snap of a finger.
QUIJANO: That's exactly right. In fact, top military officials have really emphasized that it could take months to do this. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, talked about this just last week saying look, you know, there's not really the infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Think about the terrain there, the really difficult terrain. There's not a lot of roads, not a lot of infrastructure. And one thing that they also don't have that they did have in Iraq, for instance, is a base nearby. There's no Kuwait nearby...
QUIJANO: ... for them to stage their operation, so for all of those reasons it's going to take a while.
Now you ask where might these troops come from? A couple of likely spots, Ft. Drum in New York, as well as Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, both are places where they certainly have some troops available that could be deployed.
COLLINS: All right. We'll be watching all of it as it develops certainly early next week is what we're hearing on this. Elaine Quijano, at the Pentagon this morning. Thank you, Elaine.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be open to a new tax in order to pay for the war in Afghanistan. Now some House Democrats are proposing what they call a share-the-sacrifice surtax. All taxpayers would be forced to chip in. A war tax was talked about two years ago to pay for Iraq but Pelosi refused to support it. The lead sponsor of the tax says the war in Afghanistan could cost $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
It was thought to be an anti-government attack in rural Kentucky. New information on the killing of a census worker -- it might surprise you.
Plus, the president's first state dinner. Symbolism and substance on the menu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the future that beckons all of us. Let us answer its call and let our two great nations realize all of the triumphs and achievements that await us. Cheers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: President Obama toasts Washington's deepening ties with India. It was the first state dinner by the Obama White House, and amid pageantry, messages of substance and symbolism.
CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty takes us up close. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first lady dazzled in her strapless champagne gown, the creation of an Indian-born designer. On her arm, traditional Indian bracelets. The menu eco-friendly and diverse, a potato and eggplant salad made with White House grown arugula. Potato dumplings with chick peas and okra for vegetarians like the honored guest. Caramelized salsify and smoked collard greens for the more epicurious (ph).
Another environmentally conscious touch, the Obamas hiring a new florist for the occasion, the tented dining room adorned with sustainably harvest magnolia branches and ivy.
JENNIFER HUDSON, SINGER/ACTRESS: A place for us.
DOUGHERTY: The entertainment -- can't miss headliner Jennifer Hudson, though the White House wouldn't let her performance be photographed. Among the 300-plus guests, Hollywood A-list heavyweights like Steven Spielberg. Big names from network news like Brian Williams, Katie Couric and a brain surgeon we're proud to call our own, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
And the Washington crowd included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and a slightly bewildered energy secretary.
OBAMA: To the future that beckons all of us...
DOUGHERTY: Even the toasts were short and sweet.
OBAMA: Let our two great nations realize all of the triumphs and achievements that await us. Cheers.
COLLINS: Jill Dougherty is joining us now from Washington with more on this.
So, Jill, there's a lot of preparation, of course, that goes into planning one of these. It's not like, you know, thawing of a TV dinner or anything. What does the White House actually get out of something like this?
DOUGHERTY: Well, number one, it sends a message to the country that it's honoring, that they are important, and that's one thing the president wanted to do. It also -- you know, look at the guest list. There were a lot of very important Indian Americans at that dinner so that's a nod to their growing political and economic influence.
You also have to say it's a payback to some donors and supporters of the president during the campaign. And then finally, it kind of defines the style of the presidency. And this is a fashion forward, very open to other cultures type of administration, and I think you're seeing that.
And by the way, Heidi. I just wanted to add a little bit of news here from the White House.
DOUGHERTY: A minute ago we were talking to an administration official who is confirming that President Obama will be going to the Copenhagen Climate Change conference. That's an important sign that the administration supports climate change legislation, et cetera, even though we know not much is going to be coming out of that.
He will be attending that. That is in December, not sure exactly of the dates. But it's right around the time that he will be in Oslo getting the Nobel Peace Prize.
COLLINS: Yes. Some interesting news, too, coming out on climate change. We'll continue to follow all of that. Jill Dougherty in front of the White House for us this morning. Thank you, Jill.
It was one year ago the day before Thanksgiving Americans watched as a four-day siege of terror began to unfold halfway around the world t. The terrorists would eventually kill 160 people in Mumbai in an attack so ruthless it became known as India's 9/11.
Today seven suspects in the attack have been charged with terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted. An attorney for one of the men says they have pleaded not guilty.
Just like the September 11th terror attacks in the United States, tales of heroism would come out of that chaos in Mumbai. Among them a train announcer who guided people to safety and made himself a target of the gunmen.
CNN's Sara Sidner has that story.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a tiny room in a Mumbai slum, Gangu Sitaram Sakhre does her chores filled with regret. She can't stop thinking about the day her family decided to do something they had never done before.
"We were going on a trip," she says, "we had a reservation done. We had never ever traveled by train before."
At 9:10 p.m. on November 26, 2008, 12 members of the Sakhre family showed up a at Mumbai's main train station. As usual it was busy. Their train was scheduled to leave in a few minutes.
"We were about to leave," son Ganesh Sakhre says. "Then we heard a sound. It was the sound of gun shots." At that moment, two men, shown here on a Closed Circuit TV, started randomly shooting into the crowds.
From a bird's-eye view, Vishnu Zende saw it all happening. "They were screaming, shouting and running out," he says. "That is when we realized there were terrorists here." Zende was on duty as the station announcer when the Mumbai attacks happened. That night, terror was unfolding all over the city, from the train station to five-star hotels.
(on camera): Unlike the hotels where there are hundreds of guests a day, here at the main train station in Mumbai tens of thousands of people stream through every day and it's the announcer's job to try and guide them.
(voice-over): Zende stayed through 20 minutes of grenade and gun blasts, using the microphone to try and save lives.
"The gunmen could also hear the announcement," he says, "that is exactly why they came and started firing where the staff inside the train station sit. They were trying to figure out where the announcement was coming from."
They never did. Zende's announcements succeeded in getting thousands of people to safety but it was too late for Gangu's husband. He was already bleeding on the station floor beside her.
"Since my husband died, I am completely shattered. Sometimes I feel that I have nobody in this world to call my own." So she does the only thing she can to get by. Pray to the Hindu gods for some relief.
COLLINS: Sara Sidner joining us now.
Sara, I know the five-star hotels have seriously beefed up security. But what kind of security is at the train station now just one year later?
SIDNER: Yes, you know, you heard just there, there are tens of thousands of people who come in and go out of that train station every day. And I can tell you from being there several times that people are going around, for example, the metal detectors, some of them are not working.
There are, though -- there is a visible presence of security. You have several different kinds of security forces that are inside holding their rifles. On the outside you have men who are in sort of a barricade with their guns at the ready pointing out toward the crowds in case anything like this might happen again.
But certainly if somebody wanted to sneak something in, there's certainly a chance because they're not really checking any bags. They certainly didn't check any of ours -- Heidi?
COLLINS: Wow. All right, Sara Sidner, appreciate that. One year later this Mumbai attacks.
Time to look now at some of the other top stories we are watching this morning. More than 100 firefighters are trying to get ahead of a wild fire in Anaheim Hills in Southern California. No homes are being threatened right now but, as always, if winds push the fire over a nearby highway, those homes may have to be evacuated. So far 40 acres have burned.
Remember the census worker found naked, bound and hanging from a tree in rural Kentucky? Police now say he killed himself. It was first thought the man may have been killed by anti-government extremists. The word "fed" was written on his chest. Police believed he set it up to look like he's been killed because his accidental death insurance would not pay in the case of suicide.
Your tax dollars at work. Uncle Sam bought most of a failing insurance giant. And how do you feel about your top employee getting paid millions of dollars?
COLLINS: All right. Throughout the morning we are going to continue to look at all of the holiday travel. And right below me you can see some of the weather conditions across the country.
This is a live look right now at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. We are watching that because that is the busiest airport in the country. A lot of people there. One good thing I'm already noticing since I'm headed there a little later is that the lines are not streaming out the door like they were last year.
That is very nerve-racking to say the least. We'll continue to look at pictures like this. I also recall, I believe earlier Rob Marciano was telling me that earlier this morning there had already been a ground stop put in place in Atlanta. That has since been lifted, weather clearing a little bit there.
So, if you're traveling through, that's a good sign. I guess we're resting at about 30-minute delays right now.
Also want to take a look, if we could, at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. We want to find out what's going on there. And Jae Miller, of affiliate WGN is there for us right now.
So this is a very, very busy place, obviously, as well. Right in the middle of the country, can really mess up people's travel if they are crisscrossing the U.S.
JAE MILLER, WGN REPORTER: That's right, Heidi. It is smooth sailing I'm happy to report here at O'Hare this morning. You know, holiday travel is actually down this year compared to previous years when the economy was stronger but you really wouldn't be able to tell that, judging by the crowd here this morning.
It's really impressive. People were lined up actually at 4:00 this morning. More than 2.4 million travelers are expected between today and Monday here at O'Hare and midway. Today is actually the second busiest travel day of the season. The Monday after Thanksgiving is the busiest here with roughly 200,000 passengers expected. Travelers we talked to this morning say dealing with the long lines and crowds is all in the attitude, making sure you remain positive and patient. So again, no major problems to report here at O'Hare this morning.
As I take a look up at the boards, there are no cancellations, no delays. But that could change, of course.
It is early. One thing I do want to mention, Travelocity is doing something really cool this year. They're actually offering something called Thanksgiving Task Force at 12 airports across the country. Basically they'll have somebody there to answer any question you may have about your travel arrangements, parking, check-in, anything you may need to know, they're going to be on site to handle it. So make sure you check that out at your airport.
That is the latest live here at O'Hare, I'm Jae Miller. Heidi, back to you.
COLLINS: Hey, quickly, Jae, how's the weather looking there? As you look outside those windows.
MILLER: It is so dreary. It is dreary, it's gray. But you know what, you got to be thankful. You got to be thankful. It's not raining. That's...
COLLINS: That's a good sign. Yes, very good. All right, Jae, we sure do appreciate it, coming to us from Chicago's O'Hare Airport today.
Well, your tax dollars bailed out an insurance giant. But how do you feel about the top guy at this government-owned company making millions of dollars?
ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.
COLLINS: Wall Street has a mountain of economic reports to sift through today as we look at the opening bell that rang just a couple of minutes ago. So, we want to go to New York and bring in Susan Lisovicz in order to break down all that data and see how traders may react to today.
Hi there, Susan.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.
The reports are mostly upbeat so we're expecting, yes, a slightly higher open. New jobless claims, finally fell below the half a million mark. 466,000 people joined the unemployment lines last week. That's the smallest number in over a year. Continuing claims fell as well. There's also some upbeat news for retailers just ahead of Black Friday. Consumer spending picked up in October, rising 0.7 percent fueled by slightly higher incomes. Another road block for General Motors. A deal to sell its Saab brand fell through after another Swedish brand backed out. Koenigsegg cold feet leave Saab close to extinction, Heidi, unless another icon of Swedish extraction based in Atlanta decides to come through for her countrymen, Heidi.
COLLINS: I'm so proud of you on your pronunciation by the way of that company.
Carry on. Right.
LISOVICZ: And, yes. And I'm actually familiar -- I'm familiar with the automaker as I'm sure you are. We saw something, however, similar happen a few months ago when a deal to sell Saturn fell through. GM was unable to find another buyer and was forced to shut Saturn down.
Rival Toyota having trouble as well. The Japanese automaker says it will replace gas pedals on nearly four million recalled vehicles. Toyota recalled the cars in September because the pedal became stuck and the car could unexpectedly accelerate. Toyota had initially blamed the problem on floor mats.
Checking the early number, yup, we are seeing a little bit of a gain. Maybe not. Maybe the folks are just tired.
COLLINS: Yes, yes.
COLLINS: I think that's right.
LISOVICZ: We have -- we're just a minute, just a minute into the trading. But the markets will be closed tomorrow, of course, Heidi, for Thanksgiving and open a half session on Friday.
COLLINS: All right. Very good.
LISOVICZ: I'll see you in a few minutes.
COLLINS: Last chance to go trade a bunch of stock.
All right, very good. Susan, thanks. We'll check in later on.
Insurance giant, AIG, the American tax payer now owns most of it. So what do you think about paying your top employee $7 million.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is in New York with more details on this.
Hi, there, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi.
Yes, he basically has a chance, though, to make $10.5 million here. We're talking about Robert Benmosche. He's the CEO of AIG. He took that position in August. Well, he's gone ahead and signed this non-compete agreement. And the non-compete basically means that when he leaves AIG, he can't go on to another insurer. That's why he can't take all his little trade secrets and carry them on to another company.
So what we're looking at here, this total compensation, a potential of $10.5 million. $3 million in cash, and then he'll get $4 million in AIG stock. And then the bonus could reach up to $3.5 million there for him.
Now it's been interesting because he's reportedly threatened to quit several times from this job, basically because he has a problem with how much control the government has over the money that is being spent. What they're paying their executives at a company like AIG, but he then put out a statement saying he is totally committed to the job of CEO, and helping to get AIG back on its feet.
And AIG is one of the seven companies that the pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, Obama's pay czar, is in charge of taking a look at what they are paying all their executives. And so because of that they do have to answer back to the government.
Keep in mind, Heidi, not that anyone probably will forget this, but $182 billion was handed over to AIG in bailout funds last fall. So because of that, the government owns 80 percent of the company. So people do care exactly what's going on at AIG. And some saying it was overall a healthy company with this really one sick part of the company. We saw overall that there's value there, and this company could come back and get strong and get back on its feet.
COLLINS: Yes. If you are an investor in it, whether you want to be or not, you better hope it does well, you know.
ELAM: Right. Exactly. You are an investor. American taxpayer. So therefore, do wish this company, you know, good tidings as they head on into hopefully greener pastures, getting back on their feet.
COLLINS: Yes. Yes. Everyone will be watching closely. Thank you, Stephanie Elam.
ELAM: Happy Thanksgiving.
COLLINS: You, too.
All right. So getting there for Thanksgiving, of course, the first issue. Here's what we know about the holiday weekend travel. AAA says about 38 million people are expected to travel in the United States. 33 million will go by car. Overall travel is up just a bit from last year, but way down from 2005. 58 million people will made Thanksgiving trips then when the economy was obviously stronger.
Travelers are taking something with them they didn't have last Thanksgiving. That is a bit of concern over swine flu. Whether you're going by air, rail or bus, health experts have a few tips for you. Wash your hands often. Don't touch your eyes or nose. Cover your cough. And don't travel if you're sick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was this lady that was sitting like across the aisle from me like blowing her nose. And I was like all right, I'm glad we have that kind of distance, you know, because I don't want to get sick. And there is no way you can get away from it when you're on a plane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something you had to live with and just make some adjustments. And, yes, you can't let it stop your life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. And there's no reason to get, you know, so up tight about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, here's the scoop. If you can document you have H1N1, like with the doctor's note, the airlines say at least some of them, that they will rebook your travel without a penalty.
The question, of course -- Hi, Rob Marciano -- is what flight are you going to get on after you cancel the first one? Because people want to get there.
COLLINS: And you're the man to tell them how to do that at least weather-wise.
MARCIANO: You know, amazingly, yesterday, I got to meet one of the people that do just that, which is a fascinating thing. They scramble, trust me. If your flight gets canceled, equipment breaks down.
COLLINS: Right. Remind, everybody. You were down in the basement of the operational center for Delta Airlines.
MARCIANO: Yes. Not quite the basement, but it's the bowels if you will.
COLLINS: I was trying to avoid that word.
MARCIANO: It's the expanded operation of Delta's operations control center now with Northwest combing. It's pretty big. And it was very impressive. And they are probably busier today than they were yesterday. Couple of reasons, couple of weather issues to deal with.
COLLINS: Time to start decorating for Christmas and all those things.
MARCIANO: Oh, yes. That will get you in the mood.
COLLINS: Yes, definitely.
All right, Rob, thank you. We'll check back later on, obviously.
And I want to remind everybody, too. At the bottom of the screen, you can see a lot of information about the holiday forecast for you in case you are traveling today.
Meanwhile, also, guys like that are pretty popular right now. Later on this morning -- is that real sound or are we adding that in? We're adding that. That's not real.
President Obama is going to be taking part in a White House tradition, you know, pardoning the turkey. This year's lucky turkey is appropriately named Courage. He comes from a farm in Princeton, North Carolina. His owners have been playing audio recordings from previous Thanksgiving pardoning so that Courage will be ready for this morning's ceremony.
I don't know what that means. I don't think he has a speaking part, but an alternate turkey will be on standby in case Courage is unable to perform his duties. After the pardon, Courage will fly to Disneyland -- I can't believe how long this story is -- where she'll serve as grand marshall of the Thanksgiving parade. And then Black Friday will be spent settling into a new home in Frontierland.
Now you know everything you need to know about the turkey pardoning. So get your paper and pen, and slide a little bit closer to the TV, because we have a sneak peek of Black Friday deals just for you.
COLLINS: Checking our top stories now.
The man who brought large screens to arenas and helped revitalize part of downtown Washington is dead. Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin died yesterday because his team won a one-point gain. Wizards forward Antoine Jamison said after wins knowing he won't hear that boy saying, "Good job, men," it's going to be tough. Pollin build two arenas, the Capital Center and Verizon Center with his own money. Capital Center was the first major sports venue with luxury boxes and a big replay screen. And Verizon Center was built in an area torched during riots in 1968. Pollin also stood out as an owner who tried to run his team as a family business.
Several of my family members worked for him, in fact.
Now check out these incredible pictures of the Shuttle Atlantis circling the earth. We don't normally get to see pictures like this. Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station earlier today. The crews stocked the station with supplies and did repairs that should keep it going for another five to ten years. The shuttle is scheduled to land Friday in Florida.
Police are calling him the doom and gloom bandit. Authorities say a bank robbery suspect gave the teller a note demanding money and a story that he had cancer. The suspect also said he was once an employee of the bank. He left with an undisclosed amount of cash. And the teller said he was crying as he walked out. Police have not found him just yet.
For a lot of people Thanksgiving is a day they fuel up and rest up before Black Friday. If you're one of those people, we want to help you make the most of the day. So we brought in our shopping guru, personal finance editor Gerri Willis for some last minute advice.
And, Gerri, you've been giving us some great tips all along here. Where are the biggest deals going to be on Friday? I guess it might depend on what time you get up, right?
WILLIS: Well, that has a lot to do with that, Heidi. You're right. You know, we all know about the door busters, right. The $3 appliances at Target, the washer drier for 580 bucks at Sears. The HDTV for $600 at Wal-Mart.
COLLINS: So we brought in our shopping guru, personal finance editor Gerri Willis for some last minute advice.
And Gerri, you're been giving us some great tips all along here. Where are the biggest deals going to be on Friday? I guess it might depend on what time you get up, right?
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That has a lot to do with that, Heidi, you're right. You know, we all know about the door busters, right, the $3 appliances at Target, the washer dryer for $580 bucks at Sears, the HD TV for $600 at Wal-Mart. But the truth is that many of these door busters have limited quantities, sometimes as little as two or three items per store.
So, we hunted around for deals that will stick around this Black Friday. You can save about $100 bucks on 32-inch LCD flat screen TVs. On Black Friday it's going for $380 at most major retailers, the average retail price is $500 bucks. You can save about $40 on average this Black Friday on GPS devices. Digital photo frames are discounted too at about $50 and digital cameras are going for about $100 on Black Friday a savings of about $30 on average.
Now, this year more retailers are luring consumers by concentrating on the dollar price point. Like $3 toasters instead of saying something as 85 percent off. So you're really going to have to pay attention to the prices that you see in the store -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes very good is there any way to keep track of all of the deals out there, you know, to know that you should go to this store and then this store and then maybe this one?
WILLIS: Well, one short cut is...
COLLINS: Let's try not to name any stores there.
WILLIS: I know, I know it's tricky. But the good news is that you can use social networking sites to give you the heads up on deals. Many sales and ad leaks are already being tweeted, so why not follow them on Twitter.
One advantage to using Twitter is having up-to-the-minute tweets sent right to your cell phone. Just type in Twitter.com/Black Friday or type Black Friday into the search field so you can follow the deals.
If tweeting is not your thing, I know a lot of people out there are not big Tweet fans, you can also track Black Friday deals through Facebook, if you have an iPhone there's a bar code scanner out. This way, when you're at the store, you can scan the bar code and see if you can get it anywhere else for less money.
So save some money this Black Friday. If you have to go into the stores, that's the way to do it.
COLLINS: Yes, save your energy, too. For sure. All right. Gerri Willis, thank you.
For 20 years a South Florida man has provided food for those in need. People are lining up again today for his Thanksgiving turkey hand-outs but something is a little different this year.
COLLINS: Millions of Muslims traveling to the Holy City of Mecca. The annual pilgrimage known as the Hajj begins today. In Islam it's a duty to make a journey at least once. Muslims believe their sins are forgiven by completing rituals in and around Mecca.
We are learning of more lives lost in a massacre in the Philippines. The death toll now 57 according to state run media. Authorities found more bodies in a makeshift grave near the massacre site after discovering dozens yesterday. Officials believe the killings were politically motivated. The dead include relatives of a candidate for governor and journalists who were traveling with them.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is wrapping up his Latin America tour in Venezuela. He's meeting with President Hugo Chavez today. Iran has had a hand in building up Venezuela's industrial complex. Earlier Mr. Ahmadinejad stopped in Brazil and Bolivia. Both Bolivia and Venezuela are critical of international efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program.
It's hard to believe but it's been ten years since Elian Gonzalez first came to the United States. On November 25th 1999, a fisherman pulled the then six-year-old boy out of the water. He was at the center of a high profile custody case that further strained U.S./Cuba relations. Today the teenager is a member of Cuba's Young Communist Union.
Tomorrow night a special CNN presentation to help instill that holiday mood. "CNN HEROES: EVERYDAY PEOPLE CHANGING THE WORLD." On our Web site you can learn more about the amazing things these heroes are doing and how you can help.
Here to explain how, our own Josh Levs, a hero in his own right. But I'm not going to bring up the story unless you want to Mr. Deliver Your Own Baby in Your House.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh my goodness, that was really well done. So not a hero, but that is what happened. And it was not planned. We'll talk about that at the end.
COLLINS: Good, ok.
LEVS: But let's get to the real heroes first. All right?
COLLINS: Ok, yes, yes.
LEVS: All right, these people are the real heroes around. They're inspirational. You should check this out at this site. To see what's they're doing.
Let's zoom in right here. This is the Top Ten Heroes for this year. And what they've done are some amazing things in sometimes under some really incredibly tough conditions.
And this is the site here, CNN.com/heroes. We show you those top ten. Here is one example.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETTY MAKONI, FOUNDER, GIRL CHILD NETWORK: After my mother died from domestic violence, I told myself that no girl or woman would suffer the same I did.
I started to provide a safe place for girls to heal from abuse. When a girl gets to the villages, she's provided with emergency medication, reinstatement in school as well as counseling. This gives them the confidence to transform from victims to leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVS: That's Betty Makoni there; she's in Zimbabwe, a leader in the fight to protect girls from sexual abuse. And you can learn more about her organization "Girl Child Network" has rescued tens of thousands. And in fact zoom back to the screen with me here.
This is how you can help, once you're at CNN.com/heroes, you just click on the part that says how to help. And boom. We'll hook you up with the organization right there. You can make a contribution. You can get involved if you would like.
Let's look at another one of the top ten heroes. This one is Jorge Munoz. He's a bus driver who cooks meals for the hungry every night. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORGE MUNOZ, TOP TEN CNN HEROES: In the beginning it was eight guys. Two weeks later it was like 24, 110, 120, sometimes 140. But thanks God have enough food for everybody.
I love my daughters, I have my family, my sister, I have a home. I have stable job. Whatever I have wanted, I have. They are alone. They have nothing. They don't even have a place to stay. They don't have a place to sleep.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVS: Jorge got some food, he cooks some food literally every night of his life, every single night. Beautiful stories all at CNN.com/heroes.
Let's show up on the graphics, where we've got this links posted for you. You can weigh in too on your heroes and some of our blogs at CNN.com/Josh also Facebook and Twitter, JoshLevsCNN.
Heidi, these are real heroes. It's really inspirational to see their stories. And I'm psyched about the show tomorrow.
COLLINS: Yes, yes, we already know who won.
LEVS: We do.
COLLINS: But what can you tell us?
LEVS: Well, this is him right here. And we do announce that one in advance.
This is him right here, Efren Penaflorida who does something really fascinating as well. He gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through this education program that he has created. More on him right there at the side -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes, this is the school on wheels, right?
LEVZ: Yes it's pretty amazing what he does.
LEVS: I mean, he reaches out to kids who would likely be inside gangs...
LEVS: ... and brings them inside this educational program preventing them from even being available to the gangs who are up recruiting basically on the streets.
COLLINS: Yes-- hey are you coming back next hour? Because we are going to hear your story.
LEVS: We'll figure something out.
COLLINS: All right. We'll figure it out. Josh, thank you.
LEVS: Thanks Heidi.
COLLINS: We do have an awful lot going on this morning as always. Our CNN crews are in place to bring you the details. I want to check in with our correspondents now beginning with the weather guy because Rob Marciano, everybody wants to know what's the deal for their holiday travel?
MARCIANO: We do have some delays this morning because of a couple of weather systems that are traversing across the country. We'll speak about that. Plus some unusually cold weather for this time of year. If you have some outdoor plans after Thanksgiving on the Eastern Coastline, you may want to pack warmly or at least dress warmly. Talk about that at the top of the hour.
LISOVICZ: I'm Susan Lisovicz in New York where we have some upbeat readings on the economy. Unemployment lines are shrinking, consumers are spending and we're expecting new home sales to rise. Heidi, I hope to have a trifecta of positive reports in the next hour.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Elaine Quijano live at the Pentagon. With President Obama preparing to announce his Afghanistan decision soon, planning here at the Pentagon is already well under way. I'll have details coming up.
COLLINS: All right. Very good. Thanks so much, guys.
We'll also hear from an economist who wants you to release your inner Scrooge this holiday season.