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Thanksgiving's Busiest Travel Day; Egypt Clashes; At Least 117 Dead, 200 Injured in Bangladesh Factory Fire; Cyber Monday Sales; Anti-Cholesterol Drug Lipitor Recalled; Fiscal Cliff Looms; Real Life Assassins

Aired November 25, 2012 - 17:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN: Hello again everyone, you're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right. Now that your turkey and pumpkin pie have settled in your stomachs it's time to repack that suitcase and head back to the airport. At least that's the story for 2.4 million of you.

Today is the busiest day for Thanksgiving air travel. Tomorrow will be quite hectic as well. That is according to the trade group Airlines for America. So how are the airports looking this Thanksgiving Sunday?

Susan Candiotti is at New York's LaGuardia airport. Almost always it's a very busy airport. How about today?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. It's been remarkably smooth throughout the day today. We have been here since the early morning and now, and things never really picked up. Not bad, considering the fact that this is the busiest travel holiday weekend of the year.

Now, we can tell you that there are a few handful of delays nationwide. But generally due to good weather. That's probably a key reason why aren't any problems despite the higher volume. One Web site called flight explorer estimates there are 6,900, 7,000 planes in the air right now. Normally around 5,000 on a normal weekend day. But we have seen no lines at check-in, no lines if you can see over my shoulder at this point going through security.

Joining me now is Joanne Leopold. You just flew back to New York from Chicago O'Hare. What were you expecting today?

JOANNE LEOPOLD, ARRIVAL FROM CHICAGO: We were expecting delays, we got there early, there was absolutely nothing. No lines, everything could not have been easier.

CANDIOTTI: How do you figure that?

LEOPOLD: I have no idea. I don't know if people weren't traveling or we hit it at the right time. But both ways, back and forth, nothing.

CANDIOTTI: You really lucked out.

LEOPOLD: Yes, we did. CANDIOTTI: Traveling with kids too. Do you plan to do it again end of the year?

LEOPOLD: I think we will. I think we will.

CANDIOTTI: Thank you very much for joining.

LEOPOLD: Thank you.

CANDIOTTI: I appreciate it.

So Fred, also, you know also, I think TSA is reminding people anyway, you still should come early because you just never know when a snag might happen. Always a good rule of thumb to come at least an hour and a half ahead of time.

WHITFIELD: Of course. Well, I wonder if this is a prelude to the Christmas travel expectations.

CANDIOTTI: It may very well be. Of course, as we all know, it's always busy around this time of year and probably will be just as busy during the Christmas holiday period as well. But I think that is certainly because it's been so smooth this go-around, that's always good news for airlines. Always trying to sell tickets. And of course, keeping their own costs down. If there had been bad weather, if there had been breakdowns or weather delays, that can cost them. Apparently it didn't this weekend.

WHITFIELD: Good news all the way around. All right, thanks so much, Susan Candiotti at LaGuardia airport, New York.

Your chance at $425 million still on the table. Power lottery officials say there was no winner last night's drawing, pushing this Wednesday's jackpot to its largest ever for the game.

As for holiday shoppers, they didn't have to win millions to spend big bucks this Black Friday weekend. Sales broke records both online and in stores. A total of 247 million people shopped, that's a nine percent increase over last year's numbers. Each shopper spent, on average, $423. Total spending over the four-day weekend hit a record $59.1 billion.

And a popular anti-cholesterol drug is being recalled by its manufacturer because it may be contaminated. India-based drug maker Ranbaxy says a total of 41 lots of its generic version of the drug Lipitor may contain tiny glass particles. The company said recall is voluntary with the knowledge of the FDA. This is the same company that came under fire from the FDA back in 2006 and 2008 because of poor conditions of two of its plants in India.

In Bangladesh they're trying to figure out what caused that deadly fire at a crowded clothing factory.

Last night the fire ripped through this nine-story building with 2,000 people inside. At least 117 people were killed and 200 injured. Many jumped for their lives. CNN international anchor Jonathan Mann is here with more on this. This is not the first time a fire has happened of this magnitude at a plant or factory in that region?

JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: In that region, in that industry. Bangladesh has thousands of factories making, sad to say, making the clothing a lot of people are buying this weekend. They export a lot of clothing to us. It's a massive earner for the country. But they have lost hundreds of workers in just the last ten years because of fires like this. Crowded garment factories, too many people, not enough exits, and terrible things ensue.

WHITFIELD: So, it really does speak to the conditions, the working conditions?

MANN: The working conditions are terrible. Bangladesh is a very poor country and people are desperate for jobs. And the garment industry can make its clothes anywhere. Used to make them in China, China got to be too expensive. So, they're shifting jobs to even cheaper countries like Bangladesh, crowding people in, working them long hours under terrible conditions. I'm not speaking about this factory in particular. But we know apparently from what first reports there weren't enough exits. People had to jump out of the windows to get away. Obviously not a lot of fire escapes. The firefighters were at the scene, apparently had trouble getting there because conditions were so crowded. And when they got there, this is what they found. A lot of fabric. And a lot of remains that they're still trying to count. It was an inferno.

WHITFIELD: And when we talk about 2,000 people in this one factory. This is a pretty sizable factory. I wonder how that compares with most of the factories there. Are they mostly --

MANN: They're all sizes.

WHITFIELD: -- that large?

MANN: This is the worst factory fire Bangladesh has ever seen. More than 115, 170, we don't know exactly, how many killed. But, they have a lot of them and always, we hear about 20, 30, 40, there was one fire in 2010 that involved a factory, 29 people were killed. They were sewing garments that were going to end up in Tommy Hilfiger stores.

Now, Tommy Hilfiger came forward and donated million dollars to try and improve factory safety. But, we are talking about one of the poorest countries in the world, factories. They don't have sprinkler systems, a lot don't have fire extinguishers. They just have too many people working in a very, very crowded conditions. And often, the things is and it will be interesting to see in this case. They're using sewing machines, wired any way they can, and so a lot of these start as electrical fires.

WHITFIELD: And we don't know what the cause of the fire is here, but --

MANN: We do not know. We just know that that's a fairly typical thing, a lot of casualties, of fatalities. A lot of people hurt. What's even sadder, and this is what we are going to find out, is a lot of these factories, the doors are locked closed. Not only aren't there fire exits, but the doors are locked closed to keep the workers from sneaking out, in theory, during work hours. People find they are locked in by the exits that are available. We do not believe that's the case here but it will take a few days to find out what went wrong.

WHITFIELD: How sad. OK. Thanks so much for the details on that.

Appreciate it, John Mann, always good to see you.

All right, shoppers gear up for Cyber Monday. And just how good are those deals? We will explain.

And two key lawmakers change their minds about how to back away from the fiscal cliff.


WHITFIELD: All right, Taking a look at international stories happening right now, at least one person is dead and 800 properties flooded after four days of heavy rain in parts of England and Wales. Prime minister David Cameron called the floods quote "shocking." More rain is predicted through tomorrow.

In the Middle East, negotiations between Israel and Hamas are set to resume tomorrow in Cairo. The Egyptians have been mediating ceasefire talks following this month's deadly eight-day conflict over Gaza. A Hamas spokesman said topics will include opening border crossings and easing Israel's economic blockade of Gaza.

And in Bangladesh, at least 117 people, most of them women, are dead and 200 others hurt after fire rips through a clothing factory. Some 2,000 people were working inside the nine-story building when the blaze broke out. The casualty count is expected to rise.

The Muslim Brotherhood says one of its members, a 15-year-old boy, was killed today. And another 60 people injured in an attack on the group's headquarters in the Egyptian town of Damanhur. Leaders say the boy was killed by thugs in quote "the total absence of police forces," end quote. The violence is part of clashes that erupted across Egypt last week after president Mohamed Morsi issued a sweeping decree that significantly expands his own powers.

Let's go to Cairo now where CNN's Reza Sayah is following the story.

And so, Reza, what more do we know about this attack?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, we've seen a lot of intense clashes over the past three days, Fredricka. We've reported hundreds of injuries. We hadn't seen a fatality until tonight. According to a spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood, the victim was a 15-year-old boy by the name of Islam Masoud. He's being described as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood youth group. This brotherhood official telling us he was killed when anti-Morsi protesters tried to attack the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in the northern city of Damanhur. These protesters apparently were carrying clubs, and knives, ad swords. The official said one of the protesters struck Islam Masoud in the head with the club. He was rushed to the hospital, but sadly before he arrived to the hospital, he was pronounced dead.

At this point it doesn't look like the Muslim Brotherhood is using this fatality to stir up supporters. We're going to have to wait and see what the coming hours bring, Fredricka. But, when you have a fatality like, this one of two things can happen. The violence and the ugliness can escalate where all these factions that have locked horns can come together, put their heads together, try to come to a resolution. But no sign of that, unfortunately, that that's going to happen at this point -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So, one has to wonder at this point, Reza, how this as a backdrop will in any way impact things that are planned this week from that million man march and gathering that's planned to also more talks between Hamas and Israel in Cairo.

SAYAH: Yes, we're going to find out in the coming hours and the coming days. There are all sorts of signs that this face-off is intensifying. And you have to consider what the two sides are going to do. When you look at the opposing factions. The question is, can they keep united with a single message? These are factions that are usually divided but they've managed to come together, what kind of stage, how long are they willing to stay behind me in Tahrir square.

You look at Mr. Morsi, the president, the Muslim Brotherhood, how is he going to defuse the situation? Is he going to make any concessions? If he does make concessions, will that be a sign of weakness? Will there be protests from within the Muslim Brotherhood? A lot of questions remain unanswered. Hopefully we'll get some answers in the coming days.

WHITFIELD: All right. Reza Sayah, thanks so much from still a very active, busy, noisy Cairo, Egypt.

In Uganda and Nigeria, politicians are trying to introduce new anti- homosexuality legislation that could single out gay Africans for persecution and violent attacks.

CNN's David McKenzie explains.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) It's become a rallying cry for the gay community in Africa. The brutal slaying last year of Ugandan activist David Cato, bludgeoned to death at his home. The state blamed a robbery. His friends said it was this. Cato's front- page photograph in a tabloid calling for gays to be hanged. I met Cato just months before his death. He was afraid.

Is there space in Uganda to be a man and openly gay right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Public space, we don't have that. By the way, the problem here is identity. I can be with you and my friends when you do not have a gay. it's fine, we can eat and drink together. But, the moment I identify that I'm gay, the problem comes.

MCKENZIE: Now, it could get even worse. Despite international condemnation, both Uganda and Nigeria's parliaments are set to vote through harsh anti-gay laws. Uganda's maximum penalty would be life in prison.

NOEL KUTUTWA, SOUTH AFRICAN DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: We are outrage because this goes beyond the principle of nondiscrimination. It goes against the principle of privacy, of individuals, and sexual orientation is really a question of the right of an individual to choose how they want to live their lives.

MCKENZIE: David Kuria, a prominent Kenyan activist, says it goes further. He says gays are often denied the right to health care and legal help. Their only option is to hide.

Being open about your sexuality has caused people to be killed.

DAVID KURIA, KENYAN ACTIVIST: Exactly. And in many cases it's not even an option. It's either that or death.

MCKENZIE: But, on the streets of (INAUDIBLE), there are supporters of the bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our culture, our traditional culture, has no room for gays. And besides that, when we add on the Christian values which have been attained by the nation, then certainly there's no room for gays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, Man to woman. Not man to man. It's bad. So I don't know where they get the idea from. It's a bad idea. We don't like it in Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a law against gays in the constitution. They don't have a place.

MCKENZIE: Many countries in Africa have laws against homosexuality on the books, even here in Kenya. But, often they are holdovers from the colonial period and rarely enforced. The problem comes, say activists, when new laws are pushed by politicians. Then it becomes very dangerous for openly gay Africans.

KURIA: In this day and age, if we really believe in human rights, we shouldn't be sitting back and looking at our country and gain in that, for whatever reason.

MCKENZIE: Ugandan politicians could vote on the anti-gay law in a matter of days. If passed the gay community in Uganda could live even more in the shadows.

David McKenzie, CNN. Nairobi, Kenya.


WHITFIELD: In this country, Cyber Monday, that's tomorrow. We'll tell you if the online sales really live up to the hype. And the clock keeps ticking toward the fiscal cliff. Hear what lawmakers are doing to avoid falling off the edge.

And if you have to go out today, just a reminder, we can still be with you. You can continue watching CNN from your mobile phone. You can also watch CNN Live from your laptop, just go to


WHITFIELD: All Right, if you missed out on Black Friday, it's not too late to get great deals because tomorrow is Cyber Monday, Extravaganza of online sale items.

Joining us from New York, consumer and retail expert Marshall Cohen.

All right, Marshall. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So, we already know that according to a report today, record-breaking online sales this Black Friday weekend. So now you have to wonder, what does this mean for Cyber Monday?

COHEN: Well, just like retailers have front-loaded the holiday with all these door-busters and extra hours, so has the online world. Cyber Monday is actually going to be diluted a little bit by having these deals that started as early as Wednesday and have gone all the way through the weekend. So don't expect Cyber Monday to be quite as important as it was last year.

WHITFIELD: Oh, you're saying that even the Black Friday, kind of they stole a little bit of the thunder of Cyber Monday because people thought they were taking advantage of Black Friday deals but really they were taking advantage of Cyber Monday deals early?

COHEN: Doing both, actually. The reason that retailers got into this whole Thanksgiving day opening in the first place was because online had an unchallenged day of selling which was Thanksgiving day. So retailers moved their hours earlier.

Now what's happening is the online community said, wait a minute, we need to do something too. So they're going to be great deals and plenty of people that are going to be shopping on Monday online. So, you know, right now there are 32 percent of consumers in the NPD anatomy of Black Friday study reported back to us telling us that they're still ready to shop for Monday. And that's still a lot of consumers left to shop.

WHITFIELD: OK. So clearly there will be deals being offered. But, if you try to compare the Black Friday numbers or what you thought were Black Friday numbers and Cyber Monday numbers when you're shopping online, are you going to see deeper cuts and discounts on Cyber Monday or is it about equivalent?

COHEN: It's going to be some very good deals and some good deals. The reason why I say it that way is retail right now is doing pretty well this year and has momentum. So, the need to discount as deep at we've seen in the last few years prior is not there. Retailers have managed inventory better and the consumer has been responding.

Also, the consumer, a lot of the items that you're going to find good deals on are the electronic items and the toy items and these are the things that consumers are willing to spend early and they don't need as dramatic a discount as we've seen in prior years.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Here's some of the numbers, according to some of the material that came out today. Both online and in-store, record of $59 billion that was spent. That's a 13 percent increase over last year's numbers. You know, one has to wonder, is this the kind of momentum that will be carried out right up until I guess Christmas eve, last Christmas eve shopping?

COHEN: You're asking the absolute right question. And the answer is, Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a good indication of the consumer psyche but it's not the tell-all answer of how holiday is going to end up.

What's happening this year is we're seeing more consumers participate in the Black Friday and door-buster deals. Sixty eight percent of consumers who went into stores took advantage of door-buster specials, that's a huge number.


COHEN: So, when you think about that, that means the consumer definitely was going out and shopping, either online or in-store. And when they did it, they didn't want to go home empty-handed, so they took advantage of that. That tends to front-loads the number. We now have a lot of consumers who are tapped out, they spent their budget for the moment, they have to collect either another paycheck or pay down the balance on their credit card. So that means the early start which we saw a great start so far to the holiday season means we're going to have an even deeper lull in the next two weeks. But then those last-minute shoppers will come back in abundance and you'll see growth this year. But the biggest challenge is the consumer is still scratching their head, trying to figure out what's that new and great and exciting item that they have to have? There aren't many new items out there.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. All right. Well, it seems like we're really experiencing a revolution in shopping, that's for sure. It's going to be I guess what happens this season, seems like it's setting the pace of how we're going to be spending our money over the course of the next few months or even year.

Marshall Cohen, thanks so much, good to see you.

COHEN: Pleasure to be here.

WHITFIELD: All right, straight ahead, we've got news about a drug recall involving the generic version of one of the most popular anti- cholesterol drugs around. What you need to know.

And two top Republicans loosen their grip on that no tax pledge as the nation nears the fiscal cliff.


WHITFIELD: All right, there's a recall out for a popular anti- cholesterol drug. Drug maker Ranbaxy says a total of 41 lots of the generic version of the drug Lipitor may be contaminated by glass particles. The company said the recall was is voluntary and with the knowledge of the FDA.

In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood says one of its fence, a 15-year-old boy, was killed and another 60 injured in an attack its headquarters there in Cairo. Across the country, the group is defending the decision by president Mohamed Morsi, its former leader, to significantly expand his own power.

In the meantime, Egypt will also make headlines tomorrow as it hosts more talks in Cairo between Israelis and Egyptians. They're trying to finalize details of a cease-fire with Hamas. Israeli troops have retreated from the border and Hamas leaders say a delegation from Gaza has arrived in Cairo.

And here's what's trending online. No winner last night's Power Ball lottery. So this Wednesday's jackpot rises to a whopping $425 million.

And pop singer Bjork says she's hitting her notes after surgery on her vocal chords. "Rolling Stone" says she vows to tour again next year after being forced to cancel earlier dates.

This video of a runaway camel galloping down on busy California street, it's gone viral. Ramos Brothers circus says it ran away because it wasn't comfortable with its new trainer. Circus handlers were able to catch up with it and lead it back.

All right, it's called the fiscal cliff. How will you be impacted if we're to fall over it? It's your money and you'll want to take some notes.

And this is not a clip from the new 007 movie. It's real. And we've got the exclusive pictures of an assassin's secret spy weapons.


WHITFIELD: Falling off the edge of the fiscal cliff. It could happen in just 37 days if Congress and the White House fail to reach a budget deal and stop more than $500 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax hikes from taking effect.

A potentially big sticking point in those talks, the no new tax pledge that more than 250 Republican lawmakers have signed.

Athena Jones joining us live from the White House.

So, Athena, two more Republicans today who signed the pledge say they'd be open to tax hikes if they get other concessions. ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. You know, what they're talking about is this tax pledge from Grover Norquist's group, he is the anti-tax crusader, and his group Americans for tax reform have asked Republicans over the years to promise to oppose any effort to raise taxes in any way.

Now, just this past week, we heard from Georgia senator Republican Saxby Chambliss saying, for the love of his country he'd be willing this oppose this years-old pledge because if you stick to it, it will make it much more difficult to reach agreement alone with deficit today on the debt. Today we heart from senator Lindsey Graham and Peter King, congressman out of New York, also jumping on the bandwagon with that. Let's listen to that.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: When you're $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece. And Republicans should put revenue on the table. I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.

REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss. A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed the declaration of war against Japan. I'm not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed.


JONES: It's interesting to hear that from those two Republicans today, one in the house, one in the Senate. But I should mention one thing. And that is, in the weeks and days immediately following the election, house speaker John Boehner himself came out and said, you know, we are willing to consider revenues as long as it's not done by raising rates.

And so in some ways, the Republicans have kind of made clear over the last several weeks that they're willing to move away from this pledge, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And so, so does that help make some lawmakers and the administration feel rather optimistic that they will indeed be able to reach a deal in the next few weeks?

JONES: Well, certainly everyone's saying that they're optimistic. You'll remember that meeting that congressional leadership had with the president the Friday before Thanksgiving, leaders from both parties and both chambers met with the president. Coming out of that meeting they said lots of positive things, said it was constructive. Everyone knows where each side stands. I know we all know there's been work that's being done behind the scenes. The real question is what's going to happen in the immediate future? And also, when is congressional leadership going to meet with the president again? Those are the things we're looking out for. WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones, thanks so much, from the White House.

JONES: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. So, let's look closer at this fiscal cliff. Peter Morici is a professor of international business at University of Maryland, and he was also the director of economics at the U.S. international trade commission during the Clinton administration.

And Peter, good to see you this holiday weekend.


WHITFIELD: So, what is the real world deadline for this fiscal cliff? What are the real consequences of not getting a deal done?

MORICI: Well, there are a couple of deadlines. The deadline for the expiration of the Bush fair tax cuts, the Obama tax cuts that help the economy, and the deficit. Raising the ceiling on the debt. My feeling is they probably can go past January one but not far past it. And still not fall off the cliff. Around January 15th.

So now, if there are to be some real groundwork, you know, laud this week by Congress as they return after the holiday weekend. What really needs to get done, if we look at over the next six weeks, even though you say we've got past January one, what should they try to accomplish this week?

MORICI: Well, I think they need to start to spell out spending cuts. I mean, the president has made clear what he wanted in the way of additional revenue and there are a couple of different ways of getting there. But now, the president has to talk about the spending cuts that he is willing to accept. He needs to give Republicans cover to come on board. Right now, the list of Republicans that are willing to come on board is very short. And he's just not going to get there with that list. So, he needs to talk specifically about how he's going to deal with entitlements.

WHITFIELD: And then what happens to the average American family? If we were to go over the cliff, not make any of those -- any number of the three deadlines that you just proposed, how will people notice?

MORICI: Well, immediately their take-home pay goes down because the withholding taxes go up on Social Security, but also their income taxes. And as a consequence they'll have less money to spend and the economy will take a tumble. We will start to see more layoffs.

WHITFIELD: Oh, boy. OK. Certainly not a rosy picture.

MORICI: No, not something we want to happen.

WHITFIELD: All right, Peter Morici, thanks so much. But are you optimistic?

MORICI: I think they'll make a deal. Yes I think we'll get there.

WHITFIELD: OK, all right. That's a good way of ending it. Because for a second I got depressed. Peter Morici, thanks so the much, good to see you.

MORICI: Nice to see you.

WHITFIELD: All right, it is something never seen before. A North Korean spy's tools of the trade. Weapons that you would never guess would kill you in an instant. We've got the exclusive pictures.

A rhinestone cowboy rides off into the sunset. But not before one last concert.


WHITFIELD: The latest James Bond movie has many thinking about spy gadgets, what's real, what's reserved just for the big screen. As our Paula Hancocks found out in this exclusive report, the spy game is very real and so are the weapons.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An assassination attempt foiled. A North Korean spy is arrested on the streets of Seoul. This was a year ago. And this is the first time south Korean intelligence officials are showcasing the weapons, exclusively to CNN.

So, how does this work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): this poison needle was made to look like a ballpoint pen. There is a tube inside here. In order to activate it, we have to twist it towards the right three to four times and then press the top part like this.

HANCOCKS: So, if you're shot by this pen, what happens to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It would cause muscle paralysis very quickly which would lead to suffocation and death.

HANCOCKS: The second pen shoots a poison-filled bullet which penetrates the skin. The powdered poison is then released. These pens look like they belong in a James bond movie. Is it new technology? Or is this quite old, quite basic technology?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): These pen weapons are not new. North Korean spies have had this technology for about 10 years. But this flashlight is new. Never seen this weapon before. If you look at the front, there are three holes. There was a bullet in each hole and here is the trigger. This is currently loaded and dangerous. Two bullets remain.

HANCOCKS: Forensic experts fired one bullet to test the gun disguised as a flashlight. It was accurate and deadly. And almost impossible to identify as a weapon. When police arrested the would-be assassin, he was carrying all three weapons. None had been fired.

This man was his target. Defector and anti-Pyongyang activist Park Sang-Hak, renowned for sending anti-regime leaflets across the border in balloons. He was due to meet the would-be assassin, who claimed he wanted to fund his activism. South Korean intelligence agents stopped him at the last minute.

PARK SANG-HAK, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR AND ACTIVIST (through translator): I didn't believe they would try to kill me on the crowded streets of Seoul. I thought the national intelligence service was overreacting.

HANCOCKS: We showed park the weapons intended to kill him. He hadn't seen them before in such detail and seemed shocked.

SANG-HAK (through translator): You would notice a gun but these weapons are so innocuous, you could easily kill someone. I would have been killed instantly.

HANCOCKS: Park knows he's at the top of North Korea's hit list and has round the clock police protection. Having seen the weapons intended to kill him, he says he knows there will be more assassination attempts but he will not stop his activism.

Paula Hancocks, CNN. Seoul.


WHITFIELD: And after a long break for the elections and Thanksgiving, a U.S. Congress returns to Washington this weekend with the Specter of the fiscal cliff.

And we will tell you about a Sudanese hip-hop artist and the important message that he is spreading.


WHITFIELD: A fire burned an 80-foot yacht off Miami beach Saturday morning sending a thick plume of black smoke into the sky as you see there. U.S. coast guard says they were about to inspect the boat when that fire broke out. Three people on board jumped off and were rescued. No word yet on exactly what caused that fire.

In Sacramento, utility workers struck gold, literally. They found 12 baby food jars filled with specks of gold worth $300,000. They discovered it while installing a heating and air conditioning unit. They gave it to the homeowners. How the gold got there, still a mystery.

WHITFIELD: Melissa Stockwell couldn't give up on life after a roadside bomb took her leg in Iraq, but she realized life doesn't stop because of a disability. Now she's a triathlete who is making history, inspiring other disabled people to live out their lives without limits. Her amazing journey in this week's "welcome home."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD (voice-over): April 13th, 2004, is a date Melissa Stockwell will never forget.

MELISSA STOCKWELL, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: It was the last day I ever stood on my own two legs. I was part of the U.S. army. And it was a routine convoy through central Baghdad. About ten minutes into the ride, we went under a bridge and this big boom, this big explosion goes off. The woman in front yelled, IED, IED. We have hit an IED. And I looked down and where my leg should have been, I saw blood. There's a few moments of let why me, why this happen to me, but it is other soldiers that are missing, you know, two limbs, three limbs, sometimes four limbs. And I looked at myself and I just really thought I'm one of the lucky ones. And I kind of made a decision then that I was going to live my life for those who didn't make it back at all.

WHITFIELD: A year after her injury, Stockwell went back to school for a new career in prosthetic.

STOCKWELL: Basically fit amputees with artificial limbs. I didn't know the (INAUDIBLE) until I needed a leg. And then, I thought, that was pretty cool.

WHITFIELD: She was also inspired to fight on a new battlefield.

STOCKWELL: There was a presentation all about the Paralympics and how you could go and represent your country. I dreamed of going to the Olympics as a gymnast when I was younger. And now, it almost a like had a second chance. So, I decided to try in the sports of swimming. Though, it is easy for me to swim. I didn't have to wear not have to wear parts of the foot.

WHITFIELD: In 2008, Stockwell became the first Iraq war veteran to be chosen for the U.S. Paralympics team.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to introduce our 2008 Beijing Paralympics team. Melissa Stockwell.

STOCKWELL: The feeling of just everything was supposed to happen, how it did. The whole journey from the streets of Baghdad and now is going to be in the pools of Beijing, just made me feel so alive.

WHITFIELD: Stockwell now hopes to run dare to try, a triathlon club that provides adaptive equipment and coaches for athletes with disabilities in the Chicago area.

STOCKWELL: Being an athlete and knowing what it's like to sit there and wonder if you'll walk again, run again, and to actually have someone not only tell you that you can but show you that you can and actually provide the resources for you to be able do it. You gain so much. That confidence is really takeover into all aspects of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's hear it for Chris!

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: And dare to try is almost two years old now. The triathlon clubs allows young people, adults, and intern service members to compete in cycling remain and running.

Also, an inspiration, international hip hop artist, Emmanuel Jal is getting global attention for his message of peace and his amazing personal story. I recently spoke with Jal when he was in Atlanta on tour.


WHITFIELD: Emmanuel Jal's mother died when he was just 7-years-old, and then, at eight, he was forced to become a child soldier, sent from his home country of Sudan to fight in Ethiopia. But now the former child soldier is an international humanitarian and hip-hop artist sending the world a message of peace.

This is his international hit called "we want peace." It features appearances by well-known figures like Alicia Keys, George Clooney, Ringo Starr, Kofi Annan and so many more.

It so great to see you.

EMMANUEL JAL, MUSICIAN AND FORMER CHILD SOLDIER: Thank you for getting me on the show.

WHITFIELD: The music is so uplifting, but the message is so powerful. You bring these two together, why and how?

JAL: Well, for this album, it was more about celebration but at the same time not forgetting the history but that's what I focused on. So I wanted to be some of the songs I had, some love songs also on the album. And that's what I was focusing.

WHITFIELD: And your history is heartbreaking, but you're very open about sharing it in the spoken word and your music becoming a child soldier and feeling real conflicted later on. At the time you really felt like you wanted revenge, revenge of all Muslims and Arabs who killed your family members in Sudan when you were a child. How long were you a child soldier before some intervention, something happened and it changed your thinking and your ways?

JAL: Well, I was trained when I was 8. So, 1992. I think four years. Four years. Living being a child soldier but now cutting it with you in your head politics another more years.

WHITFIELD: And something happened. You met someone, was it a British aid worker who kind of intervened that you decided, I don't want to be a child soldier? It's just not that easy to break away. How did you do it?

JAL: A British aid worker I met where we just survived like hundreds of kids mixed with adults and few people survived on that journey. And when I met her in a place called WAT, that's where she smuggled me to Kenya. And so, it became a turning point.

WHITFIELD: At what point did you find that it was music, writing music, writing poetry that was your therapy?

JAL: Well, I came to realize something about music because music is the only thing that speak to your mind, your heart, your soul system and influence you without you even knowing. If going back to war when we lost a battle, if there are no musicians singing, the morale go down. So the dimension of the music and music became the place where I was able to see heaven again. This is the place I was able to become a child when I'm performing. But writing the lyrics, the good thing about the music, putting my story in the lyrics wasn't causing me harmony. So, my night players begin to reduce. It's different than me talking and telling my story than when telling it is the reason.

WHITFIELD: We also know that your newest release, "I am Kush." And that's about ancient Sudan. What does that mean exactly.

JAL: Well, basically, the war has crushed us, the history has crushed us. So, there's nothing we can hold to. So everything just shows that we're subhuman species, we are nothing. And so, when I came to read about history and going tall way to China and realize that even China the language is slightly similar. I was excited about how the kingdom of Kush was big and it is from Sudan. And the people of South Sudan in the (INAUDIBLE) mountain and the people of Darfur going all the way to India is part of the kingdom of Kush.

WHITFIELD: Beautiful. Emmanuel Jal. What a pleasure. All the best in your continued efforts to help the people of Sudan and really all around the world through your music, through your spoken word and your incredible life story.

JAL: Thank you, thank you very much.


WHITFIELD: It's fantastic music. Emmanuel Jal. If you want to learn more about Jal's effort to bring peace and schools to his homeland, you can go to his Web site.

All right, some important stories to watch for this week. U.S. Congress is back and the fiscal cliff tops the agenda, plus the rhinestone cowboy takes his final bow. We've got a sneak peek of the week ahead.


WHITFIELD: Human error is to blame for a mass explosion at a strip club in Massachusetts Friday night. A utility worker accidentally punctured a hole in the high pressure gas line in the foundation of this building. It happened when he responded to a report of a gas odor inside, 21 people were hurt.

And before we leave you this hour, here's what to expect this week.

Tomorrow, Congress returns to work tackling the fiscal cliff. Also Monday, the body of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed eight years after his death. New questions now about how he may have died.

And Thursday the gross domestic product report is released. It measures the output of U.S.-based products and services.

And Friday, the rhinestone cowboy, Glen Campbell, plays his final concert in Napa, California, after being diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer's.

A lot coming your way this week. That's going to do it for me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Much more of the NEWSROOM straight ahead with Martin Savidge, in for Don Lemon.

Good to see you. What's happening with what's left of Thanksgiving weekend?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. Good to see you.