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Mohamed Morsi Takes Power from Courts; Egyptians State Protests; Black Friday's Early Start; Walmart Strike Details; Vi9olence Along Gaza-Israel Border, But in General, Cease Fire Holds

Aired November 23, 2012 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone, I'm John Berman in for Ashleigh Banfield. It's 11:00 on the East Coast, 8:00 in the West.

The man praised around the world for playing a central role in negotiating the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is right now the target of massive protests.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators are in Tahrir Square and other cities denouncing President Mohamed Morsi as a dictator and the new pharaoh.

The protests erupted after Morsi granted himself broad new powers, essentially allowing him to run the country unchecked.

At the same time, the Israeli-Hamas truce is facing its first serious test. Hamas says a Palestinian farmer and 19 others wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire near the border with Gaza.

We're going to have a live report from Israel in just a moment, but first, I want to go to Cairo and CNN's Reza Sayah who's following all the developments for us, live there.

And, Reza, just a few moments ago, Morsi spoke to a huge crowd. What did he say?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he tried to calm things down. He defended his position. He defended the controversial decrees that he announced last night, telling his opponents that he's part of the revolution, one of the people.

Certainly at this hour, he's got a lot of opponents and critics who do not agree with him and are outraged and they're expressing their outrage in the streets of Cairo and other cities, including Alexandria and Port Said.

Dramatic scenes in Cairo, very reminiscent of the scenes we saw during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Of course, back then, the outrage was aimed at former President Hosni Mubarak. Now, the fury aimed at Mr. Morsi.

There were some clashes during the protests in Tahrir Square that are ongoing. The clashes, witnesses say, were caused by protesters that threw rocks at security forces. The security forces responded by firing tear gas. And back and forth went this cat-and-mouse game that has been emblematic of these protests in Cairo.

John, the outrage comes after these decrees last night that many of Mr. Morsi's critics are describing as an undemocratic power grab. One of the decrees bans anyone, even the judiciary, from putting into question, overturning any of his decisions since he came into power in June.

He says these moves are to move along the democratic process and to protect the revolution. Obviously at this hour, he has many opponents who disagree with them and they're expressing their outrage right now.


BERMAN: And, as you said, the protests aren't just in Cairo, but in other cities as well, including Alexandria.

Reza, do you have any idea who these people are? Who are these protesters? Are these former loyalists to the old regime?

SAYAH: No, they are not. They are certainly not loyalists to the old regime.

These are many of the factions that actually spearheaded the 2011 Egyptian revolution. They are youth groups, women's rights groups, Christian groups, moderates.

These are all political factions who are protesting that they've been sidelined by the Islamist factions, the Muslim Brotherhood party, the party of President Mohamed Morsi.

In another one of his decrees that he announced last night, he said that the constitutional assembly that has been charged with drafting this all-important, new constitution for Egypt cannot be disbanded.

There's a lot of these representatives of the factions that we described to you that have quit this panel in protest, saying that they're not being represented adequately.

Well, with this particular decree, Mr. Morsi says this particular panel is going to move forward.

Again, his critics are saying it's a power grab. It's his way to push forth a panel right now that's dominated by Islamist representatives.


BERMAN: So interesting, these steps you're laying out here, Reza.

Another one of the first things that the president, Mohamed Morsi, is going to do is apparently call for a retrial of the former president, Hosni Mubarak.

Why did he make this move? What kinds of politics is at play here?

SAYAH: Well, his position is he wants to clean all the remnants of the old regime, including the former prosecutor that he sacked last night with one of his decrees, a prosecutor that's been in place for 10 years.

In this decree he says that all senior police officials, all politicians that were accused of injuring, cracking down on protesters, sometimes killing protesters during the 2011 revolution will be put on trial again, will be investigated again.

Of course, there were a number of senior police officials under the Mubarak regime who were put on trial a first time and were acquitted. That sparked widespread outrage.

Mr. Morsi saying those individuals going to be tried again.

BERMAN: All right. Reza Sayah, quite an interesting scene in Egypt. Thanks very much.


BERMAN: An exciting moment just moments ago at the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You're looking at right there.

That is the new White House Christmas tree. Actually, that's the first lady and daughters, Sasha and Malia, walking out to greet the new White House Christmas tree.

You're about to see it right here on the back of a horse-drawn carriage as it were. It is a 19-foot Fraser Fir grown in Ash County, North Carolina. Nineteen-feet, it was chopped down -- or "harvested," as they say in the business -- the p.c.-term is "harvested" -- in October and it will go on display in the Blue Room, this beautiful 19 foot Fraser Fir.

There's Bo, the White House dog, checking out the tree. I hope this is as close a look as he gets to it. You know how dogs get in your trees sometimes.

You know, the Fraser Firs which are grown in North Carolina are apparently popular trees for the White House. There was one that sat in the Blue Room in 2008. Another Fraser Fir from Ash County, a 20- footer, was the White House Christmas tree in 2008.

This one, again, you're looking at it right now, arriving now. The 19-foot Fraser Fir will be the White House Christmas tree, a tradition.

Meanwhile, another tradition, Thursday is the new Friday. Big retailers getting a head start on Black Friday sales, opening their doors earlier than ever.

The turkey hadn't even settled before some hit the stores last night. Walmart, Toys 'R Us, Sears, all opened at 8:00 p.m., if you can believe it. One-hundred-and-forty-seven million people are expected to brave the crowds this weekend.

That's few than last year, but they're expected to shell out more cash. $21 billion in sales expected, that is up just a bit from last year. And today, we are in full swing covering the holiday shopping season. We are staked out around the country, keeping tabs on just how crazy it is out there.

George Howell has been in a Best Buy in Atlanta since, like, dawn, pre-dawn. What's it looking like there now, George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, look, so, you know, what we're seeing right now, according to the people who work here, we're seeing those customers who show up who want to buy the higher- priced items.

What we saw hours ago, midnight when this store opened, John, those were the people that were looking for the deals.

We have this video to show you, some 600 people who were lined around this building waiting to get inside to get those special offers, these things laptops, televisions that were marked down hundreds of dollars, in many cases.

And you're finding that people are pretty satisfied with what they're seeing.

As you mentioned, fewer people will be shopping this year but they are shelling out more money and these stores are definitely counting on that, John.

And I just want to pan around and show you what's happening here. I mean, when you look at it, it's definitely picked up since we've last been here.

And you talk about the things that are the hot items here, John. You know, you've got the laptops. You've got the televisions. You've got several of these cameras that are marked down.

It's especially important for Best Buy because Best Buy had disappointing third-quarter earnings. They're doing everything they can to get people into the store to look at things like this.

I mean, take a look here. Here we are, looking at ourselves. William (ph), photojournalist here, stepped out of the camera to leave me in. We were going to get him in, too.

But, you know, there's a lot of stuff that this store wants to make that sure that its customers know about to help them get through the rest of the year, John.

BERMAN: You look great on the TV on the TV. Kind of a meta thing going on there.

You're at Best Buy, George, of course. We're hearing some problems at some K-Marts around the country. What can you tell us about that?

HOWELL: OK, K-Marts. Let's talk about Indianapolis. We know that fights broke out at two different K-Marts because of Black Friday shopping. And we also know in Sacramento, that's a situation where we've learned that a customer threatened to stab other customers if he was pushed when trying to get into the store.

Also in Michigan, we know there were fights that broke out at a store, a JC Penney's in Kentwood, Michigan. Apparently, at least two people were taken away in handcuffs. Police there had had to use pepper spray.

So, things did get kind of rowdy in some places, John, with Black Friday, but overall when you look at this store, for instance, you know they had a controlled entry, 600 people outside, but they let 50 people in at a time.

So, that seemed to work here dealing with the crowds. And, right now. it continues to be a busy day here for this particular store.

BERMAN: All right, George Howell live at Best Buy. Sorry to hear about the activity, the aggressiveness all around the country. It's shopping, guys. Relax a little bit. Thanks, George.

Fed-up workers on strike today complicating matters at Walmart stores across the country. Wages and benefits are among things they're not at all happy about and they say what better day than Black Friday to get their message across.

CNN's Kyung Lah joins us now live from Los Angeles. And, Kyung, Walmart says the protestors make up just a fraction of its workforce, but how big are these demonstrations today?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you look at the video from all the different demonstrations from across the country, you see a couple hundred people at a store, maybe a few hundred outside various stores.

And look at the locations of these various places -- Dallas, Texas; you have a store in Maryland; you have stores here in California that we're expecting later in the day.

So, there are a number of stores across the country where we are seeing more of these protests.

But Walmart says you have to look beyond just the bodies that you see there. When they look at who has shown up and walked off the job, Walmart is saying, officially, only about 50 employees did not show up as they were scheduled.

They're saying they have the same number of employees who didn't show up for work last year as they had this year, so what Walmart is saying is that this, they believe, and they keep pushing this message, is that this is a union-backed effort that, as far as the Walmart employees, they believe this is very limited.

But talk to some of these people on the picket lines today and they will tell you that this is a very important movement for them, that they as a loosely organized worker movement, they're hoping to make a message on a potent shopping day, John.

BERMAN: Kyung, do you getting any sense that the protest or the picket lines are keeping any shoppers away?

LAH: Not at all. When actually we talked to some of the employees who were working overnight here at this particular Walmart, the employees told me that they had a robust Black Friday, that there were a lot of shoppers in the stores.

But the point of this from them is not to impact Walmart itself. They're trying to talk directly to management.

We also did reach out to Walmart and Walmart does say that they are posting their best Black Friday in the early hours of this big important shopping event. They're going to say it's going to be the best ever for them, John.

BERMAN: All right, Kyung Lah in a very foggy -- or smoggy, I should say -- California. Thanks for being here. Thanks, Kyung.


BERMAN: We want to go back to the Middle East now. As we mentioned, an almost two-day-old cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding, but barely.

Hamas says the bloodshed continues. The group says a young Palestinian was shot to death today, 19 other wounded by Israeli forces in a buffer zone.

Israel is not confirming casualties, but says Palestinian rioters were trying to breach the border.

This much we know -- eight days of conflict divided the two sides even more than they were, but in certain amazing ways, it also brought them together.

CNN's Sarah Sidner found proof in a Tel Aviv hospital.


SARA SIDNER: Four-year-old Yosef (ph) is listening to an age-old bedtime, but he's not at home, safe in his bed. He's in the hospital, a victim of an age-old conflict that has shattered his family life.

He and his parents were staying inside this apartment building in Southern Israel when a rocket from Gaza slammed into it.

The blast sheered off several of Yosef's tiny fingers, badly injured his father and took his mother's life. She was among the first to die on the Israel side of the border.

He was saying, my mother is not here. She's with God. He knows it will be a hard time, his grandmother says.

Hard is putting it mildly. He has just been through a second surgery. Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer Hospital reattached four of his fingers, but in the end, they had to re- amputate two of them.

He lives in the south and there are rockets all the time in that area. Hamas doesn't think about where the rockets are going, she says.

While Yosef (ph) is being treated in this hospital room, just one room away there's another child with the same kind of war injuries. Except she's from the other side of the conflict. She's from Gaza.

Eight-year-old Bisan al-Agram (ph) lost three fingers when the war came to her home.

I heard the sound of a missile that hit. I didn't even have time to ask what happened, and then the second one hit, she says.

When the dust cleared, she could see the bones of her child's fingers in small pieces on the floor. She was taken to al Sheba Hospital in Gaza, but it was too crowded and they couldn't give her the best care, so the family asked Israel for permission to cross the border.

Initially her mother was terrified, terrified at the prospect of people considered an enemy in their country putting their hands on her wounded daughter.

It's a strange situation and it's my first time entering Israel. I was afraid, but they treated me and my daughter in a very nice way. And I understand that medicine has nothing to do with politics, she says.

PROFESSOR ZEEV ROTHSTEIN, CEO, SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER: All the tension blocked outside the hospital. Here, there is an island of sanity in this (INAUDIBLE) water of the Middle East.

Here we treat people. We don't actually look from where they are and what they do and what they did before coming here and what they're going to do after leaving us.

SIDNER: Dr. Batia Yaffe is treating both children.

DR. BATIA YAFFE, DIRECTOR OF HAND SURGERY: They'll never be normal. It will affect her life from now on and his life from now on, in choice of profession, in choice of hobbies, in choice of a future partner for life, everything.

SIDNER: She has worked in this Tel Aviv hospital her entire career, treating everyone from soldiers to suicide bombers and the civilians in between.

YAFFE: What is it in this piece of land that everybody is fighting about it all the time? This is what comes to my mind. Whether this is our lot for eternity from now on. Always have injured on both sides? Always fighting? What's the point?

SIDNER: If there is a point, it is lost on a four-year-old boy and eight-year-old girl from either side of the Israel-Gaza border who just want to be children, but now share a similar fate, their innocence interrupted by a war they had nothing to do with.


BERMAN: That executive called it an "island of sanity." Sara Sidner joins me now, live.

Sara, such a nice story. First of all, thank you for that.

I understand Bisan is not the only Gazan being treated there right now in Tel Aviv.

SIDNER: That's correct. And this is normal thing this hospital does. This is not unusual.

What is a bit unusual about this case is that both of these children came to the hospital within a day of each other and they had almost the exact same injuries to their hands.

And so doctors hadn't seen that before, but they have certainly treated many children from Gaza and from other areas who come over the border who don't have the kind of care they need at the hospital that's there in Gaza and who are accepted into their arms with no questions asked.

You heard the doctors talking there. She said, you know, look, we look at them as human beings first. That's all we're concerned about. They are patients and we want to heal them.


BERMAN: I have to take you out of this island of sanity for a moment, Sara, to talk about the border clash, the shooting near the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

Has this had any effect on the cease-fire as of now?

SIDNER: Well, neither Hamas nor Israel has said anything about breaking the cease-fire, but we are hearing from the Palestinian Authority that's saying this is a violation of the cease-fire.

So, a lot of people hoping that it doesn't actually break the cease- fire apart. We do know 25 people injured, according to the health ministry there in Gaza, and one person killed.

Israeli military, though, is saying that they do not have any confirmation of those numbers at this point in time. They're still investigating and they say that this group of people came up to the border fence, were protesting trying to cross over into Israel.

A warning shot was fired and then they were -- continued to do what they continue doing, coming close to the border fence and so the military shot at their legs, John.

BERMAN: All right. Sara Sidner in Jerusalem this evening. This evening, your time; this morning, our time. Thanks so much for being here. The air strikes and rocket fire, we should remind you, they wounded hundreds on both sides of the border. Six Israelis and more than 160 Palestinians were killed.


BERMAN: All right, this is a huge weekend for sports, but here's a story you won't see anywhere else about determined athletes winning the toughest battle of their lives against addiction.

And they're doing it with the help of this week's CNN Hero.


SCOTT STRODE, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: To get on my bike and go ride up in the mountains, it really just brings peace and, in my drug and alcohol use, it was the opposite.

I got into it pretty young. By the time I was 15, I was using pretty serious drugs.

And when I got sober and I lost my group of friends because they were still out drinking and using, I got into boxing, triathlon, climbing. I had this new group of friends.

I had completely redefined myself, so I thought, how can we give this to other people?

I'm Scott Strode and I want to help people find a better life being sober.

Welcome to Friday night climbing. It's good to see all of you here.

Phoenix Multisport offers about 50 events a week. All the programs are free to anyone who has 48-hours sober.

You see that you're capable what you put your mind to.

We have this common connection, so it's easy to make new friends.

We do bike rides, hiking triathlon training, strength training. It really is just a new community of folks to hang out with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an example of hitting rock bottom. I had a heroin overdose. They had to jumpstart me with the paddles.

STRODE: Roll it over. Drill it in there. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going out biking and boxing, hitting the bag really fills the void. Phoenix is the best support crew I could imagine having.

STRODE: We're having fun and we're proud of being sober, so come out and go climbing with us.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: Scott is just one of our top ten honorees, one of whom will become CNN Hero of the Year and receive $250,000.

Who will it be? You decide. You do. Go to online or on your mobile device to vote up to 10 times a day every day for the most inspirational hero.

And share your vote on Facebook and Twitter. Do it all.

All ten will be honored live at "CNN Heroes -- An All-Star Tribute" hosted by our own Anderson Cooper. That's on Sunday, December 2nd.