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News Wrap: Americans at home, U.S. forces abroad celebrate Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Americans at home and abroad celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday today. The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade passed through the streets of Manhattan. It defied strong winds that threatened to ground its 16 giant balloons.

Elsewhere, shoppers got an early start hunting down bargains typically reserved for Black Friday. More than a dozen major retailers kept their doors open for the holiday.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces in Afghanistan enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast with turkey and all the trimmings. Combat troops are preparing to leave the country by the end of next year.

Iran extended an invitation to the U.N. nuclear agency today to visit a facility that houses an unfinished nuclear reactor. The U.N. team will visit the heavy water plant in the central city of Arak on December 8. This invitation is not part of the nuclear deal Iran made last week to freeze its nuclear program for six months in return for a limited reprieve in economic sanctions.

Chinese warplanes are now patrolling the country’s new air defense zone in the East China Sea. China’s state news agency announced the move hours after South Korea and Japan flew planes through the disputed airspace. A spokesman for China’s defense ministry in Beijing defended the country’s new flight restrictions.

YANG YUJUN, Chinese Defense Ministry (through interpreter): According to international law and practices, a country’s aircraft are allowed to enter the air defense identification zone of another country. But, in the meantime, the country that sets up the defense identification zone has the right to identify the aircraft.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Two American B-52 bombers passed through the zone Tuesday, without any response from China’s military.

Thailand’s embattled prime minister appealed today for an end to five days of anti-government protests across Bangkok. Yingluck Shinawatra called for negotiations with the opposition. But the demonstrators rejected the idea of talks. They surrounded several ministry buildings in the capital, waving flags and blocking traffic. They also cut off electricity to the national police headquarters.

There was word in Brazil today that the stadium slated to host the first match in next year’s World Cup could delay its opening until February. A crane collapsed there Tuesday — or yesterday — killing two workers and damaging the concourse area of the stadium.

Nick Ravenscroft of Independent Television News is in Sao Paulo.

NICK RAVENSCROFT: Cracked in half, it collapsed sideways and still lies where it fell across a stand being built for the World Cup finals.

Construction is halted until next week, says the company, for up to a month, say the unions. Nobody knows, but everybody is worried, because this is the venue for the first World Cup match, and it’s meant to be finished by the end of next month.

This builder was on site yesterday when the accident happened. He knew from the deafening crash it was the crane. Were they rushing, I asked him?

MAN (through interpreter): The timing was very tight, but we’d never crossed the safety limit.

NICK RAVENSCROFT: Do you feel safe?

MAN (through interpreter): Yes. But thank God we had finished working on the building that was crushed.

NICK RAVENSCROFT: But a local M.P. who leads the construction workers union says concerns were raised about the stability of the crane just hours before the accident. But workers were told to keep going, though the developers reject this.

Today, investigators are trying to figure out exactly what brought this huge crane crashing to the ground. But looming above the scene are wider questions. Brazil has known it’s hosting the World Cup for years. Why is everything so last-minute and before the first ball is even kicked off here in June?

For the two workers who died here yesterday and their families, the accident was a personal tragedy. For Brazil’s World Cup dreams, it’s a warning.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, has said it wants all 12 World Cup stadiums ready by the end of December. But, today, it released a statement saying worker safety is the top priority.

A comet barreling toward Mars had a close encounter with the sun today, passing just 730,000 miles from its surface. As comet ISON approached, the sun’s radiation and gravitational pull melted the comet’s ice and broke its body apart. Scientists watched the breakup closely to try and learn more about the origins of the solar system.