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Striking Wal-Mart Workers Walk Out; Clashes in Tahrir Square; Thanksgiving Trouble; Fragile Middle East Truce Tested; Breaking Away from Big Box Stores

Aired November 23, 2012 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, happy Black Friday, our brand new holiday. Thanks so much. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM.

Black Friday madness under way and on edge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push one of my kids down, I will stab one of you mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


COSTELLO: That boy, retail rage. If you're going shopping, be warned, it's not just big crowds that will test your patience, all that pressure to buy, buy, buy could also take a financial toll on anyone. We'll share some tips to help you avoid making costly mistakes.

Fired over Facebook. A woman posted a photo on her Facebook page and after an avalanche of protests loses her job. Did Internet justice go too far?

And another controversy surrounding the Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Did he purposely kick an opponent in the groin?

NEWSROOM starts now.

And good morning to you. Happy Friday. I'm Carol Costello. It is Black Friday. And some 147 million Americans are hitting the stores on this weekend after Thanksgiving. Lines are long. Tempers short.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Push one of my kids I will stab one of you mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


COSTELLO: Police in South Sacramento responded to the store where that happened and they were able to calm things down, but as you can see, long lines may not be the only thing waiting for you at the stores this morning. Many Wal-Mart workers are now walking off the job in stores across the country. This is a live -- actually, these are -- are these taped images from WJLA? These are live pictures from WJLA, our Washington affiliate. This is -- these are pictures from Landover, Maryland. As you can see these are striking organized Wal-Mart workers. They initially organized in a parking lot two blocks from a Wal-Mart store and now they're on their way over to that store.

We don't know exactly what they're going to do once they get there. Will they block shoppers on their way in, will they protest across the street? We'll just have to wait and see.

CNN's Rene Marsh is in Landover Hills, Maryland, where those workers are headed.

What does it look like from your vantage point, Renee?

RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Carol, I can tell you Black Friday, you know, big shopping day. Retailer like Wal- Mart wants people to be talking about those doorbuster sales. But instead, we have a situation like this. Take a look. You have the state troopers all lined up here in the event that there is a situation once this protest does get under way.

Here is what I can tell you about what we're expecting to happen here at this Wal-Mart here in Maryland. I'm told that some four buses filled with people, an estimated 300 people will be making their way here to this Wal-Mart.

I'm also told that those people will consist of union members, community members, all people who support the workers here at Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart's really throughout the country. They say that they will be walking this perimeter. If you take a look, it's quite a bit of walking that they plan on doing. But they will walk the entire perimeter around Wal-Mart. At some point they tell me they will cross over and go on to Wal-Mart's property.

They do expect at that very moment that police will arrive. They also expect that they will come face-to-face with management. I'm also told that at that very point when they walk on to Wal-Mart's property they will read some sort of letter on behalf of the workers here at this particular Wal-Mart.

Pretty much, Carol, the reason for this protest, a few things. Wages. They say that wages are extremely low. They also say that Wal-Mart retaliates against workers who speak out about low pay. They also want to see better benefits for the workers here at Wal-Mart. And they also want to see, you know, better schedules, to be -- to be honest.

It's really far. You cannot see. But I can see out the corner of my eye that we are beginning to see those protesters make that he way their way here. We don't have an official headcount at this point, Carol, but we will be watching and waiting to see how all of this develops. But I did speak to one person who is part of this protest and he says we're not trying to shut down Wal-Mart today on Black Friday. We just want to raise the awareness of what is happening and what they really feel is just unfair practices for the workers here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Rene, I can't help but notice the parking lot behind you. It doesn't look full. I mean, are there many shoppers in Wal-Mart this morning?

MARSH: You know, that was our initial impression when we got here as well. We thought, wow, where are all the shoppers here? You're right. The parking lot does not look full here. I did ask, do they plan on approaching these shoppers. They say most likely they will not. They will be talking directly to the management who comes out as soon as they cross on to Wal-Mart's property.

Again, they're focusing on not trying to stop business today. They're not trying to disrupt business. What they want to do is get better wages for the workers here.

I did ask as to whether any of the workers at this particular Wal-Mart planned on walking out. We don't know at this point. But if any of the workers at this Wal-Mart walks out, of course, we will get ahold of them and talk to them quite a bit because of course, the worry is you know what happens next when you walk out. Do you lose your job? And of course, we're talking about the holiday season here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. Rene, you stick around. We're watching a picture right next to you of those people making their way towards you. So we're going to get back to you once they get there.

Earlier this week I talked to a Wal-Mart spokesman about the walkout. He downplayed its impact and dismissed the workers' complaints.


DAVID TOVAR, V.P., COMMUNICATIONS, WAL-MART, U.S.: The majority of our workers are full time, not part-time, and that's, very usual in the retail industry. You know, in fact we've got some of the best jobs in the retail industry, you know, and our associates appreciate that.

Two hundred and 50,000 associates have worked for us for more than 10 years. Our turnover rate is lower than the retail industry average. Three-quarters of our store management teams started as hourly workers. Last year we promoted 165,000 people last year. And get this, 20 percent of the people we hired this year are rehires. Meaning they worked for the company. They left and they came back because they realized they weren't getting a better deal.


COSTELLO: Many business experts are keeping a close eye on the protests and whether workers can muster any leverage. They says, with Wal-Mart being the largest -- the nation's largest private employer it has a huge influence on the entire industry nationwide.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. COSTELLO: All right. We turn now to breaking news out of Cairo, Egypt. Protesters are outraged at Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's power grab. Thousands have gathered calling it the birth of a new pharaoh. This morning protesters attacked the headquarters of Morsi's political party in Alexandria and set it on fire. That's according to Egyptian TV.

CNN's Reza Sayah joins us on the phone from Tahrir Square. Set the scene for us.

Reza, are you there?


COSTELLO: Reza, can you hear me?

SAYAH: Carol, I apologize. It is very loud here. I'm going to have a terribly difficult time hearing you. But we're at Tahrir Square where thousands of people have come to protest against Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and there appears to be clashes between security forces and protesters in Tahrir Square.

We just saw hundreds of people running away from security forces. We can report that tear gas has been shot in the air, we're assuming, by security forces.

What remarkable here, Carol, is we're hearing what we heard two years ago during revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak the chant that people want to topple the regime. You're hearing it again, this time, the anger and the furry aimed at the current Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

All of the outrage was triggered by the announcement last night of a series of decrees that gives the president sweeping powers. The opponents, those critics are describing this as an unprecedented power grab. One of the decrees essentially says that all his declarations after June when he took over office, cannot be overturned by anyone other than the judiciary -- excuse me, even by the judiciary. He's describing these decrees as an effort to keep the democratic process going, to salvage the revolution. Obviously his opponents disagree. That's where we are today.

And tensions are escalating. And again, it looks like there are some clashes. We're going to stay here to see how things unfold. But more and more protesters coming into Tahrir Square, that it's become a symbol of the (INAUDIBLE) -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And just a question, I know it's loud, Mohamed Morsi, is he speaking there?

SAYAH: Carol, if we're still on air, I cannot hear you.

COSTELLO: I just wondered who this man -- what this man was saying who is speaking to the crowd.

SAYAH: Carol, I apologize. COSTELLO: That's OK. I'm going to let Reza Sayah go. He's going to gather more information for us and of course we'll pass it along to you. But as you can see, things are a bit chaotic in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. We'll take you back there as soon as we have more information.

OK. Let's talk a little sports now. Call it the touchdown that was, but should not have been. It's a play the Detroit Lions will not soon forget. In the third quarter of the Thanksgiving Lions/Texans game, Houston's Justin Forsett, it looks like he should be down, he's obviously down after a short run. But the whistle never blows and ends up with an 81-yard touchdown.

It's a scoring play which should have been automatically reviewed but the Lions head coach Jim Schwartz throws the challenge flag. Instead Schwartz is given un-sportsman like conduct penalty for delaying the game. And by NFL rules the touchdown stands. This rule will probably be reviewed. Yes, Gunther Cunningham ain't so happy. The Lions go on to lose in overtime, 34-31.

Let's talk about Ndamukong Suh. Suh Thanksgiving tradition might be his controversial plays. This time, Suh's foot somehow ends up in the groin of the Texan quarterback Matt Schaub. This happened in the first quarter. Schaub kept playing. He would not discuss it after the game and Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, he sidestepped the issue.


JIM SCHWARTZ, LIONS HEAD COACH: I can't comment on it. I didn't see it. I mean we all see stuff like that. I would be very surprised if it was anything other than just a natural course of the game.


COSTELLO: This is what Hall of Fame quarterback Boomer Esiason -- Boomer Esiason said at half time about that play. Quote, "This is supposed to be a brotherhood. You're supposed to have respect for one another. Bruce Smith, I could always shake his hand. Reggie White, I could always shake his hand after a game. I would never shake this guy's hand because once again, he's crossed over the line and it's obvious that it was on purpose."

Shannon Sharpe pile d on. He's a Hall of Fame tight end as you know. He had a similar response on Twitter. He wrote, "Suh needs to get suspended for kicking Schaub in the groin. That was a deliberate act."

Eric Vincent is the Detroit Lions' feature columnist for Eric now joins me by phone.

Wow. So do you agree with Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason?


ERIC VINCENT, FEATURE REPORTER, BLEACHERREPORT.COM: You know what, I think everybody just needs to relax, especially Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason. That was -- it was just a natural reaction. You can see Suh's body, he is -- he's falling towards the ground and his foot just kicks out just like that. It's not like last year where he -- you know, deliberately kind of, you know, pushing a guy's head down.

This was -- this is a little bit different. This wasn't as bad as people are making it out to be and they kind of just relax. Suh is not a dirty player. It's just unfortunate what happened.

COSTELLO: Oh, come on. How could -- I mean, I'm a Lions fan and I think he's a great player, but he's been voted time and time again as the dirtiest player by NFL players.

VINCENT: And I think that's -- and that's what this is. I think it's more of his reputation of keeping him in trouble. If this was anybody else, I guarantee you this would not be in the news. But if it's the dirtiest player voted by the league then it's going to make headline news. But it's not as bad as people are making it out to be. I can't see it that way.


COSTELLO: Yes, but the NFL is going to look into it, isn't it?

VINCENT: Yes, they're going to look into it and honestly I don't think Suh will win this debacle. But it is -- it's unfortunate. I don't think he's as guilty as people are making it out to be. He's a good player. He is a bit dirty at times. But I think this is getting blown out of proportion a little bit.

COSTELLO: So you think because of his reputation -- he even went through anger management, you know, classes. So you think because of his reputation he may pay for an infraction that wasn't?

VINCENT: You know, this is more so of his reputation than it is him trying to be dirty. It looks -- it might look a certain way but think about it. It's just a natural reaction. He's being dragged down to the ground. You can only do so much with -- you know, when you've got pads on, you're being thrown by a 300-pound man. You know his foot just extended out. I don't think it's as bad as people are making it out to be.

COSTELLO: OK, Eric. I hope you're right, Eric, because, as I said, as a Lions fan, it hurts me. It hurts me.

Eric Vincent from Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

It was a road warrior Thanksgiving in the NFL. Houston won at Detroit. In Dallas, the Washington Redskins quarterback RG3, he threw for four touchdowns as they hung on. They beat the Cowboys 38-31. I guess the Cowboys came back at some point. It was a feast, though, for the New England Patriots as they devoured the New York Jets 49-19. Ouch.

Look at all the mangled, twisted metal in this deadly highway pile-up. More than 100 people hurt. Now we're learning what may have caused these wrecks.


COSTELLO: Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Checking our top stories now:

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi gives himself sweeping new powers until a new constitution is written, which could take six months. Morsi issued an order, preventing courts from overturning his decisions and later said he has dedicated himself to democracy and freedom. But protesters stormed his political parties' headquarters and set it on fire today. That's according to local media.

Protesters are also calling this the birth of a new pharaoh. And they are demanding an end to Morsi's regime.

French authorities have decided not to formally investigate former President Nicolas Sarkozy, but he may have to testify to allegations that France's richest woman, the heiress to L'Oreal cosmetics, illegally donated to his 2007 presidential campaign. Sarkozy also still faces the possibility of criminal charges.

Thick fog may have caused several deadly pile-ups on a Texas highway Thanksgiving Day morning. Two people died. As many as 120 others sent to the hospital. About 100 cars were mangled wrecks. Many of those cars -- I don't think they're drivable ever again.

To Gaza now, where a truce between Israel and Hamas is facing a test this morning amid reports of a deadly shooting. It happened in the border town of Khan Younis, where Hamas claims Israeli troops opened fire, killing one Palestinian and wounding others.

Sara Sidner is in Jerusalem.

What can you tell us about this, Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we're hearing from the health ministry in Gaza, who's saying the 25 people were injured, one person killed in the past 24 hours. They're saying that it was farmers who were in the area of east of Khan Younis in Gaza, this is border area.

Now, we also heard, though, from the Israeli military who has a very different story, saying that there were several groups of men who had come up to the border, come up to the fence, tried to go over on to the Israeli side, they were protesting Israel, that the soldiers fired in the air as a warning shot and then fired at their legs. The Israeli military not commenting and not confirming yet because they're investigating whether or not someone was killed or whether there are any injuries. But at this point the health department is saying that, indeed, there were several injuries.

This is coming at a very intense time. As you know, it's not even been 48 hours since the cease-fire was put in place after eight days of intense fighting between Gaza and Israel. And one of the conditions was there was no aggression between either side. And now we're seeing this incident.

This incident is not that unusual in some ways. There are a lot of things that happen along that border fence and near that area of Khan Younis. But it's coming at a very difficult time that could derail something. Although we haven't heard from either of the governments, nor Hamas, not the Israeli government, as to whether this is going to mean anything to the cease-fire.

But certainly, people are holding their breath, hoping the cease-fire still holds -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Sara Sidner reporting live for us from Jerusalem this morning.

Back here at home, many people are focused on shopping. But with the threats, shoving and splurging, we think some people are taking it too far. The question is why?


COSTELLO: All right. We want to check back in with -- these are live shots from Landover Hills, Maryland. That's in suburban Washington, sort of where the Washington Redskins play ball. Their stadium located here.

These are community members, union leaders, maybe a few Wal-Mart workers. We don't know. Early this morning, they have gathered in a parking lot very near the Wal-Mart store in Landover Hills, Maryland.

According to our own Rene Marsh, these protesters will circle the perimeter of the store. Go into the parking lot. We just don't know. Rene is waiting for them to reach her. When they get to that Wal- Mart, we'll take you back live to Landover Hills, Maryland.

Of course, today is the big sales day for big-box stores. But tomorrow is a day to think small. It's the third annual Small Business Saturday, that encourages people to shop at locally owned businesses.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange to tell us about Small Business Saturday maybe?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. That's what they're calling it. That's what it's been called a couple of years, because, you know, the small businesses feel like they're being kind of left behind and saying, hey, we're here, too. Don't just go shop at the Wal-Marts and Kmarts and everything.

And there's usually a pretty sizeable turnout. Industry groups said last year, more than 100 million people came out to shop at these independently owned small businesses. So, this is really a big push to shop local. American Express started this whole movement.

And now, you know, the government's Small Business Administration, it's now on board. Plus, a number of industry groups are pushing this as well. Now, if you are watching football last night, you may have noticed ads promoting Small Business Saturday. But the funny thing is, that's one of the big obstacles that these small businesses face, getting the word out. These big-box retailers, they've got these big ad networks, plenty of money to spend on circulars and newspapers and TV ads.

So, Carol, what you'll see these small businesses are turning to places like Facebook and Twitter to let shoppers know, hey, don't forget us. Come shop at our places, too -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I hope not. They're an important part of our economy, right?

KOSIK: And that's a good point. Small businesses, they are creating the lion's share of jobs in this country. ADP reports that small businesses added 50,000 employees in October.

You look at the October jobs report. The government said private employers added 184,000 jobs. Yes, that's a sizeable number. We're seeing that momentum pick up over the past year.

And, you know, and besides the jobs factor, there's also a human element out there. Not only are you keeping local communities afloat by shopping at these local stores, there's kind of a camaraderie when you walk into a locally owned family business and everybody knows your name and they want to help you. You're not just going in, sliding your credit card and walking out and feeling like just a number.

You know, you feel like you're actually welcomed into the store and you're helped personally.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. That is a good part of being a small business person and relating to your customers in a warmer, more intimate way.

Alison Kosik live at the New York Stock Exchange -- thank you.

There's a new twist on a very old story. Pope Benedict, his latest book is causing us to take a fresh look at the birth of Jesus like where was he born? Well, the Pope has a new story perhaps. We'll share it with you, next.