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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Tropical Storm Beryl; Syrian Massacre kills 108; Pope's Butler Arrested; Get Real; Memorial Day Reflections; Troop Drawdown In Afghanistan; Etan Patz Murder Investigation; Lady Gaga Cancels Indonesia Concert; Nuns Gone Wild?; Hands Free Homer; Traffic Jam On Mt. Everest; Companies Pledge To Hire Veterans

Aired May 28, 2012 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you ladies; our STARTING POINT this morning. A three-day weekend washout, tropical storm Beryl making landfall while you slept, dumping heavy rain and with enough dangerous surf in the southeast.

Unthinkable carnage in Syria, dozens of women and children slaughtered, a weekend massacre triggering shock around the world. Will that shock lead to military action from the U.S.?

Plus paying tribute to the nation's fallen warriors Memorial Day, as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey joins me live.

And the Vatican in chaos, the Catholic Church trying to solve Vati-leaks, did the Pope's butler really do it? It's Memorial Day Monday, May 28th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

Good morning our STARTING POINT today, tropical storm Beryl washing away holiday plans in parts of Florida and Georgia this morning. The storm made landfall overnight in Florida near Jacksonville Beach with drenching rain and driving winds. Those hurricane winds near hurricane force at the time have now died down a bit but the Beryl is going to be a super soaker as they call it.

Rob Marciano is tracking the storm from the Severe Weather Center in Atlanta -- good morning Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning Christine, Unusual to have not one but two tropical storms into the month of May we're not even into the beginning of hurricane season yet and this one made landfall. we haven't seen that in decades.

All right, last -- at one point last night at 70-mile-an-hour wind this close to being a hurricane. And certainly it's having that sort of impact; right now 50 mile an hour winds. There is your satellite picture, the radar picture is showing you the center, a very distinctly about 50 to the west of Jacksonville, Florida and all the rain and thunderstorms rotating in off the ocean there.

So this will be slow to weaken and it will see more and weakening as far as the winds are concerned but the rainfall will become the bigger player as we go through time.

Now, they could use the rain but they just don't want it all at one point. This is certainly a drought-stricken area. But look at some of the winds last night, 73-mile-an-hour gusts at Buck Island, Kings Bay Base, 65-mile-an-hour gusts. So this is a very, very strong tropical storm, we have wind gusts almost at hurricane strength. We've got power out in lots of areas, southeast Georgia and northern -- northeastern parts of Florida because of that.

Here's your forecast track, we bring it in and we weaken it of course and then we curve it back out to sea eventually. But it's going to take its sweet time doing that eventually getting it to the outer banks and then out of the open Atlantic potentially re- strengthening by then.

But the bigger story I think with the way, the wind and the waves now certainly not a beach day from Savannah or Charleston all the way down to -- to Daytona Beach but then the rainfall as well.

And even though this area is in extreme drought, when you get all this rain coming at one time and potentially four to eight inches of it, over a very, very dry hard-packed ground you will see a lot of that runoff so Christine we've got threat for seeing some flash flooding in this area today. So be careful what you wish -- wish for that these folks are getting some relief in the drought but it's causing some problems as well.

ROMANS: Right. All right Mother Nature at her finest, thanks.

MARCIANO: Exactly.

ROMANS: Rob Marciano.

We're also following a developing story overseas, the Syrian regime insisting this morning that al Qaeda-linked terrorists are behind a bloody massacre in village of Houla. Critics say that the government is telling just more lies.

This video which CNN of course cannot independently authenticate believed to show a mass burial of some of the 108 people killed on Friday. That death toll includes 34 women and 49 children under the age of 10. As outrage Syrians pour into the streets the U.N. -- well, the U.N. Security Council held a rare closed door session.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOFIG MUSAYEV, PRESIDENT, SECURITY COUNCIL: The members of the Security Council reiterated that all violence in all its forms by all parties must cease. Those responsible for acts of violence must be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: But Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his spokesman insist they should not be held accountable. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASHAR JAAFIR, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR THE U.S.: I would like here to condemn also on behalf of my government the tsunami of lies that were said a few minutes ago by some members of the Council who try to mislead you by saying that their way of leveling accusations against my government is based on what they said evidences. They are wrong, and they are misleading you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Steven Cook is a Middle Eastern Studies Senior Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. Welcome to the program.

Just a horrific, a horrific weekend in Syria; there's a cease- fire in effect. Does this -- does this show us the ceasefire and the six-point-peace plan have been completely derailed?

STEVEN COOK, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, there's been a ceasefire in effect since April 12th but that has not stopped the Syrian government from attacking protesters, people who are demanding to live in a more open and Democratic society.

It is essentially a dead letter. The international condemnations and international sanctions clearly have not worked. There is some hope that as a result of this as you said horrific incident it will start to turn the international community in particular the Russians and the Chinese who have if not in the Chinese case not openly supported the Damascus regime then certainly the Russians who have, from active support to pressure on Assad to stand down, if not leave office.

ROMANS: I want to -- you mention the Russians and the Chinese. I want to tell you what Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov -- Lavrov just spoke about the conflict, let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA (through translator): We do not support the Syrian government. We are supporting the Kofi Annan plan that addresses both the Syrian government and the armed opposition.

You know, it takes two to dance. It takes two to tango. Even though in the current situation in Syria, what we have is not the real tango, we see the having a disco party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Ok what -- metaphors and analogies aside, are the -- are the Russians moving more in the U.S. direction on this, in the international community's direction on the issue with Syria?

COOK: Well certainly Lavrov's statement that Moscow doesn't support the Syrian government is a -- is a new formulation. However, he's still insisting that it takes two to tango whereas I think the entire international community and objective observers understand that the predominant -- that the violence has been committed by the Syrian government for the most part against unarmed Syrian civilians.

To be sure there is this free Syrian army but it hardly has the same kind of capacity as the Syrian armed forces.

ROMANS: What's so shocking about this weekend's events, Friday's events, I mean, the gunshots, the U.N. observers -- U.N. observers are saying some of these children were killed by -- by gunshot wounds also mortars as well. I mean, this looks like a chaotic house-to-house kind of situation. This went on for 12 hours.

How can the international community not respond forcefully? How can Russia not respond forcefully to something like this?

COOK: Well, this could potentially put pressure on the Russians and the international community at large. There is an ongoing debate here in the United States. There are some who oppose military reaction, who believe that a more robust international response will make matters worse if that is at all possible and there are those who believe that the United States and the international community have a moral and strategic interest in bringing the Assad regime down and bringing this civil war to a close sooner rather than later.

Doing nothing might prolong this whereas intervening might end it. Of course, nobody has been able to make a credible argument either way, and the Obama administration is left with a country that does not really have a stomach for --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Right.

COOK: -- another international intervention. And international parties who don't want to intervene and they're left with diplomacy.

ROMANS: Senator John McCain has called for military action in Syria. Yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" he talked about the Obama administration's response and he criticized them. I want to listen to that sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Horrible things are happening in Syria. This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons American leadership. I know, because I visit with these people, that they are ready to help these people and they are already helping them some, but it cries out for American leadership. American leadership is not there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The focus now on forceful diplomacy with the Chinese, with the Russians in particular. At any point does the U.S. -- can the U.S. get involved militarily? Is that even possible? COOK: Well it's certainly possible for the United States to get involved militarily but the Obama administration is determined to see the diplomacy through. It has a number of steps in mind that it would like to take before it has to take military action.

It is not an easy prospect to engage in the military operation in Syria. There are a number of obstacles. There is no one central opposition leadership, there are -- there is a Syrian military that is likely to fight back.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: And even if (inaudible) a no fly zone it would be -- would be very difficult, right? You've these urban areas, you've got air defenses in neighborhoods, you've got all of this neighbors Israel, Iran, Turkey, around the -- I mean, it's every kind of military option even the most limited including no fly zone is -- is fraught with peril.

COOK: Of course, there's a risk to everything but indeed, unlike Libya, there is more of a risk of escalation of instability spilling out across borders and more difficult for U.S. and allied air crews to get after and destroy Syrian air defenses.

ROMANS: Really interesting. All right. Steven Cook, Middle Eastern Studies Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; nice to see you. Thank you.

COOK: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's get to Zoraida Sambolin right now for the rest of the day's "Top Stories". Good morning Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair getting grilled this morning in the U.K.'s phone hacking scandal; Blair testified about his ties to News Corporation founder, Rupert Murdoch saying it is quote, "Inevitable and essential for politicians to have relationships with journalists." But he admitted those relationships could be unhealthy; Murdoch's paper's famously switched support to Blair's political party right before he was elected.

Murdoch's former tabloid "News of the World" is accused of hacking the phones of several high-profile people.

An international murder mystery is unfolding right now in Japan. Two American men are being held by Tokyo police in connection with the strangling of an Irish exchange student. Police say the suspects met the female victim at a Nicki Menage concert in Tokyo last week. She is identified as 21-year-old Nicola Furlong. Police say she was found unconscious in a hotel room early Thursday morning. There's no word on how the two American men may be involved there.

President Obama will be laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery -- that's happening this morning. And this is a live picture right now. From here he kicks off a 13-year project to honor veterans of the Vietnam War today.

The president will peek at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall and will announce plans to honor those who served starting now and going through 2025, the 50-year anniversary of the last U.S. troops pulling out of Saigon.

And reports of $5 a gallon gasoline by Memorial Day proves to be greatly exaggerated. AAA reports that price of a gallon of gas sell another four times of a cent, this was overnight, the 12 straight days. We've seen a decline. The National Average $3.64 a gallon, that's about 30 cents a gallon less than this time last year. Good news for an estimated one -- or 31 million Americans driving more than 50 miles this Memorial Day weekend.

And Will Smith now taking down superheroes, "Men in Black 3" knocked "The Avengers" off the top spot at the box office this holiday weekend earning $55 million in its debut. "The Avengers" now fell to second place.

And a couple in Portland, Oregon, raising the bar for marriage proposals. In a video that has gone viral Isaac Lamb enlisted more than 60 family and friends to help him propose to Amy Franco. You can see everyone lip-synching and dancing to the music of Bruno Mars "Marry You" while Franco is driven down the street wearing headphones listening to the song.

Franco said she never imagined it was a proposal, as of this morning, the video has gotten more than three million views. She said yes. Wouldn't you?

ROMANS: That is awesome. That takes it to the next level.

Oh there are -- there are men around the country are now going oh, he ruined it for me, now I got to up my game. Thanks Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT. Intrigue at the Vatican; hundreds of the Pope's personal letters leaked to the media. Did the butler really do it?

And in today's "Get Real" a 17-year-old honors student working two jobs to support her siblings thrown in jail and a panel is heading in to talk about all of that and much more, Ryan Lizza, John Fugelsang and Will Cain, hey guys nice to see you.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Will Cain's playlist of (inaudible) and the Monsters. It's all right.

RYAN LIZZA: Yes it's not bad.

ROMANS: You're watching the STARTING POINT. Good morning to you guys.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The butler did it, taken on new meaning at the Vatican this morning. The Catholic Church is trying to find out who leaked confidential documents belonging to Pope Benedict. The (inaudible) scandal could grow even larger. Police have arrested the pontiff's butler, Paolo Gabriele on suspicion of leaking the material to an Italian journalist. Documents including hundreds of the Pope's personal letters reveal an internal power struggle within the Vatican.

Barbie Nadeau is Rome's bureau chief for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast" -- welcome. Explain to me the drama here, the internal struggle that these documents show?

BARBIE NADEAU, ROME BUREAU CHIEF, "NEWSWEEK" & "THE DAILY BEAST": There's so many documents here. They run the gamut from petty gossip among the prelates to actually serious allegations of money laundering, corruption, where one cardinal perhaps is accusing another of hiding finances, of embezzlement, and all sorts of very, very serious allegations. And you know, for the first time ever we see a fracture in this secret city state.

And that's -- who knows, maybe these sorts of struggles have been going on for a long time but the fact that we actually see -- are seeing the documents is a very revealing bit of information.

ROMANS: And it looks like these are legitimate documents.

NADEAU: Exactly. The Vatican has not denied the authenticity of the documents. They say the publication of them in a book last week was criminal and it was a breach of privacy, of the Pope's privacy and the privacy of his sovereign nation. But the journalist is Italian and the Vatican does not have jurisdiction outside of its simple city state so that's why they have jurisdiction over the butler but not over the journalist certainly at this point, anyway.

ROMANS: And let's talk about that butler. He is part of an inner circle of seven laypeople who have, who work in the Pope's apartments, maybe they're not all laypeople but seven people who are very close to the Pope at all times, 26 years. What do we know about him and his motives?

NADEAU: He's a 46-year-old man; he's got a wife and three children. He is one of the few non-clerical members of the Vatican staff who live inside the Vatican City state. He also has Vatican citizenship. He has Italian and Vatican passports.

He's one of a very small number of people The Pope has around him at all times from the moment he wakes up in the morning to the moment he goes to bed. The other people are two secretaries -- two clerical secretaries, two ordained priests, four nuns and the butler. They have the most access to this man.

What we don't know though is if the butler acted alone, if he acted at all and we don't know what would have been his motivation. The journalist who published these documents says he didn't pay anyone for any information, didn't pay any of his sources so certainly if that's true, money couldn't have been a motivation.

ROMANS: Right.

NADEAU: Whether or not there was a high-ranking cardinal or someone in the background that's really the direction that the case is taking right now.

ROMANS: And that's so interesting. Whether you just have a plain whistle-blower who saw things that he didn't like and wanted to shed some light on what was happening at the Vatican. Or is it conspiracy behind a conspiracy? There's speculation that he couldn't have acted alone and it was part of a bigger conspiracy.

A Vatican historian, one of them, said the place has always been a nest of vipers. Another called it a quote, "strategy of tension, an orgy of vendettas and pre-emptive vendettas that has now spun out of control of those who thought they could orchestrate it." Oh my goodness -- palace intrigue.

NADEAU: That's certainly right. And I think there's a reason you probably see this sort of movement within the Vatican right now. As The Pope gets older and you know, his health fails him a little bit you see people sort of, you know, vying for power positions with an eye to who will be the next pope and that's probably what's going on behind the scenes right now.

ROMANS: Certainly this book is a runaway bestseller, I'm sure, in Italy as people are sort of peering -- there's always intrigue but to have it so public is what is so rare.

NADEAU: That's right, this book is number one in all of the Italian booksellers right now and it is not negative against The Pope. It's got a lot of background information that we've never seen. There's a lot of gossip. There's talk about how a white truffle worth 100,000 euros ended up in a soup kitchen in Rome. You have notes from celebrities, Italian celebrities giving a major donation to the church and then putting a PS "What about that private audience".

You've got a lot of that kind of gossip especially in Rome. That sort of thing is interesting to people here. And the allegations of money crimes and things like that are especially troubling. One aspect has been noted in the Italian press, and that is that the veteran doesn't pay property tax on its possessions of property within the Italian state. Italy is in an economic crisis right now. A lot of people are wondering what's, you know, going on behind the scenes here.

There's also evidence of private meetings between the president of Italy and The Pope and what was going on. Really shows you just really how much of a player the Vatican is in Italian politics and, of course, that translates to European politics as well in this context.

ROMANS: All right. Barbie Nadeau, the Rome bureau chief of "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast". Thanks so much. It's really interesting the timing be you have The Pope who's in the Vatican trying to get control of their renegade feminist nuns in the United States. I'm exaggerating of course but when you look at how the Vatican is trying to be a moral authority for the rest of the world. When you see this lack of cohesion there how hard is it to tell someone else what to do?

LIZZA: Still one of the most impenetrable institutions from a journalistic point of view. I mean you know, every secretive institution seems to have been penetrated in some way but not the Catholic Church.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: And as the child of an ex- nun and ex-Franciscan brother, I could talk about this all day. It's very fascinating because yes, we hear in the states here about how they're cracking down on nuns for not talking about abortion or gay marriage enough, two things Jesus never mentioned.

But what's really fascinating about this is that all about a power struggle and a lot of people, a lot of Vatican insiders believe that this man the butler is a complete fall guy, that this is all about who the next pope is going to be. There's no man this would be, his own confessor says he loves the Vatican. As you mentioned he's one of the few families allowed to lives within the walls of the Vatican.

And I know it may sound shocking but the Vatican -- were trying to sweep the scandal under a rug and blaming the wrong guy but that is in the minds of many exactly what we're seeing here. This guy is completely devoted to the Pope and this is all about who the next pope is going to be.

ROMANS: Well, we'll talk about it more with John Allen who is an expert on these things, too, in the next hour. So we'll continue to talk about this.

Ahead an honors high school student who works two jobs on top of going to school, thrown in jail. Don't miss our "Get Real" next.

And a human traffic jam on Mt. Everest being blamed for increased deaths and more dangerous conditions there; hear from a man who just climbed the world's tallest mountain, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Now it's time to "Get Real". She's an 11th grade honors student at Willis High School in Willis, Texas taking AP and college level courses. But since Diane Tran's parents divorced and left her and her two siblings she's been the sole bread winner.

So on top of the school work, she works a full time job. She works a part-time job. She's also trying to support a brother at college at Texas A&M and little sister who lives with relatives. As a result, she's missed some school. Sometimes she's late, sometimes she's missed entire days. She's on honors roll, by the way.

Local authorities decided to use her case to crack down on truancy. Texas law says students can have no more than 10 absences in six months or three in one month. So after a warning last month, to stop missing her classes, the local judge Landy Moriarty ordered Tran her to pay a $100 fine and spend 24 hours in jail as a lesson. Wow.

Ok so this poor kid first of all her parents have failed her -- period, right? This girl works in two drug stores, at a dry cleaners, lives with one of her employers' families. It's really incredible how hard this kid is working and sometimes the alarm goes off in the morning she says and she just can't get up, she's worked all night long.

FUGELSANG: Did the parents abandon the family together or they --

ROMANS: Separately.

FUGELSANG: So separately abandoned the family.

ROMANS: That's what she said. That's what --

FUGELSANG: And she's going to jail.

LIZZA: What's the judge's defense here? Did he know the whole back story to this poor girl?

ROMANS: I'm not sure. Now, the judge told KHOU that he didn't know her situation at sentencing and he may consider erasing the arrest from her record but he doesn't want to appear soft. He also says --

LIZZA: Only in Texas.

ROMANS: -- quote, "A little stay in the jail for one night is not a death sentence."

FUGELSANG: Well, you're from Texas, can she get the chair for this? Can they put her on death row for this?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, John. No, no. There's a good gray area there between those two sentences although this one is obviously unfairly harsh. Come on, the girl is doing all she can to get by for herself and her family and I think as we've made clear she's not the one failing.

ROMANS: I think she should figure out how to get a GED. This kid -- I mean, and get herself into college as quickly as possible because she's smart and she's determined and I'm sure there's going to be great things that happen for her. But it's just really sad that someone has to work so hard so young.

FUGELSAN: And why aren't the parents held in front of court? A deadbeat dad and mom?

ROMANS: I know. I want to see KHOU do a nice follow up on where in the world the deadbeat parents went.

Ok. Ahead on STARTING POINT a human traffic jam on the world's highest mountain. Why climbers continue to feel Mt. Everest lure despite four recent deaths, amid dangerous conditions. Hear from a man who just reached the summit.

And paying tribute to the nation's fallen warriors on this Memorial Day, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey joins us next.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: President Obama is headed to Arlington National Cemetery in a few hours to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns. This is a live look from just outside.

The commander in chief will thank and honor all the men and women who have given their lives to service this country. More than 6,400 service members killed in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan alone in the past 11 years.

Joining me now is General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Good morning, sir. Thank you for being here.

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Good morning.

ROMANS: What would you like to say today to all of the families who have lost someone serving this country?

DEMPSEY: Thankfully very few families in America have had the experience of being handed a folded flag because of a loss of a loved one in combat and I want to make sure that we remind ourselves that today is about them.

This is a day where we memorialize our dead. I drive to work every day past Arlington Cemetery and there's 260,000 small American flags planted at each of these grave sites today. So I just want to make sure they know that we will never forget.

ROMANS: You know, look at Afghanistan, almost 2,000 U.S. troops have died in this war in particular. How do you define success there?

DEMPSEY: Well, success in Afghanistan will be when the Afghan Security Forces are capable of maintaining stability inside of their own country and that the central government of Afghanistan is able to provide governance. That's always been the definition of success both in Iraq and Afghanistan.

ROMANS: How close are we?

DEMPSEY: Well, Lisbon 2010, NATO took a decision, established objectives to be delivered by December of '14, and I think we're moving positively toward those objectives. ROMANS: General John Allen, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan told CNN last week that 23,000 of 88,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan will be home by the end of this September. Do you know when the remaining 65,000 are going to leave?

DEMPSEY: We don't know yet and John Allen will be given the opportunity following this year's fighting season, which roughly runs between now and the early fall. He'll have to determine what the security situation is at that time before making his recommendation.

ROMANS: Senator John McCain was asked yesterday about the negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban over the release of that captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl. McCain says he believes the withdrawal scheduled poses a threat. I want you to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that the negotiations that have gone on have failed to a large degree because the Taliban believe that the United States is leaving anyway. And so if they just hang on, then they will be able to prevail, so they have not seriously negotiated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Do you think those fears are valid, sir?

DEMPSEY: Well, I think they're somewhat valid because I think there are multiple faces of the Taliban. I think there are Taliban who are reconcilable. I think there are probably Taliban who will never reconcile.

I will say that a strategic partnership agreement that we entered into with Afghanistan should give pause to the Taliban that they just can't simply wait us out.

ROMANS: You know, the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke yesterday to ABC News about the current state of the Taliban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We still have a fight on our hands. We're still dealing with the Taliban although they've been weakened. They are resilient.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Still resilient. How prepared are Afghan Security Forces right now to deal with the threat of the Taliban?

DEMPSEY: Well, they are performing well. You know, we talk about our losses, but they're losing approximately 100 to 125 Afghan soldiers a month. So their losses actually exceed ours so they're out in the fight. They've got capability gaps, notably, air defense forces, logistics, some communications, but we think we can close most if not all of the gaps between now and the end of '14.

ROMANS: I want to ask you about Syria. There were 108 killed in a massacre in Syria on Friday. About half of them, sir, were under the age of 10.

Senator John McCain is also pushing the U.S. to take military action. We went into Libya. Is military action something we should consider for Syria?

DEMPSEY: Well, I think as you know my job is to provide the commander in chief with options and I think the military option should be considered.

And I think that, but my preference of course always as the senior military leader would be that the international community can find ways of increasing the pressure on Assad to do the right thing and step aside

But of course, we always have to provide military options and they should be considered.

ROMANS: You know, a range of diplomatic forceful diplomacy until you get to those range of options military options, but when you see 108 people massacred like that.

And just such a deteriorating situation there, the U.S. has a moral authority doesn't it to help se this gets resolved?

DEMPSEY: Well, I'll let others speak for the moral authority. My moral authority is to ensure that my forces remain ready, postured, and provide the options I described.

ROMANS: General Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman. Thank you so much and thank you for being here this Memorial Day.

DEMPSEY: Thank you.

ROMANS: Let's go to Zoraida Sambolin for the rest of the day's headlines. Good morning, Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you.

The family of Pedro Hernandez, the man charged with killing Etan Patz trying to come to grips with the horrific crime police say he confessed to. A New Jersey church pastor says Hernandez's wife was absolutely shell-shocked by the news.