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White House Says Syrian Chemical Weapons Crime Scene Too Corrupted; Back to School in Newtown; Paula Deen Lawsuit Dropped; Tiger Comes up Short at the Barclay's

Aired August 26, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for being with me. Checking our top stories at 30 minutes past the hour. The Syrian government blaming terrorists for firing on a vehicle carrying a team of U.N. inspectors this morning. No one was hurt. The team is in Syria to investigate last week's alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, The opposition says more than 1,300 people were killed. The Syrian government has denied any involvement.

Firefighters getting a better handle on the massive wildfire near Yosemite National Park. That's the word from the U.S. Forest Service. Little comfort, but still a long way to go. The fire has scored an area about the size of Chicago. It's only seven percent contained.

We're watching the opening bell on Wall Street, and weary investors are watching the Fed. Ringing the bell this morning, by the way, executives with Deutch Bank. Alison Kosik is at the New York stock exchange. Good morning, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Wall Street continuing to feel a little nervous about the new buzzword here on Wall Street -- Sep-taper, that's the combination of the word September and taper, and it has everything to do with jitters over the possibility that the Fed could begin pulling back on its massive stimulus that has been pouring into the financial system. Could be pulling back as early as next month. Expect those worries, really, to start revving up over the next few weeks until the Fed's actual meeting in the middle of September.

As for today, looking like a pretty flat start to the day. Investors are reading over a lackluster reading on manufacturing and really looking ahead to a busy week on the economic calendar, which includes a reading on gross domestic product, GDP, the best measure of economic growth here in the U.S. Carol?

COSTELLO: All right, Alison Kosik reporting live for us this morning.

U.S. forces inching every closer to possible military action against Syria. Just minutes after this United Nations team left to visit the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, sniper fire riddled one of the vehicles. No one was hurt, but the attack may add urgency to the debate over U.S. military strikes. The U.S. has already scrambled four warships to the region. CNN's Chris Lawrence is live at the Pentagon this morning. Morning, Chris. CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Carol. Well, the tone coming out of the White House certainly changed dramatically over the weekend. Now, this morning we're getting new information from sources that goes a long way to explaining how the U.S. could go from demanding those U.N. inspectors get access, to basically saying, it doesn't matter what they find.


LAWRENCE: The bombs are falling, the accusations flying. Now the pressure is on President Obama to defend his red line on chemical weapons which rebels claim killed more than 1,000 people in Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot sit still. We've got to move and we've got to move quickly.

LAWRENCE: U.S. and British officials claim Syrian forces shelled the site of Wednesday's attack so much it corrupted any evidence the U.N. might find this week. A U.S. official tells CNN behind the scenes multiple international sources have already collected evidence from that site. The official says the sources took tissue samples and other evidence shortly after the attack and it was being analyzed in secure locations.

That's why the White House tone changed so quickly from Friday's "get the inspectors in" to Sunday's "it's too late to be credible." And it's why an administration official sounded so confident in saying there is little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians.

The president's newly updated options include cruise missiles launched from one of four Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea or jets firing weapons from outside Syrian airspace.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are prepared to exercise whatever option if he decides to employ one of those options.


LAWRENCE: We're told that the White House and the president have not made a final decision yet. And sources are also telling us that these are very limited options that are being considered. They're not looking at options that would involve trying to overthrow the Assad regime or dramatically change the situation on the ground in relation to the fight with the opposition. These would be options that would be designed to try to deter any future chemical attacks.

COSTELLO: Chris Lawrence reporting live from the Pentagon this morning.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, it's a rite of passage for kids across the country heading back to school. But in Newtown, Connecticut, the annual event is bittersweet. We'll talk to a parent, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: The start of a new school year is also bringing a boost in school safety measures to many cities across the country, it is, of course, part of the response to the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which left 26 people dead, including 20 young students. For parents in this close knit town, including my next guest, this back to school season brings a mixture of emotions. Sally McDonald is on the phone with me now. Good morning, Sally.


COSTELLO: So, your kids are going to go back to school tomorrow. Did you have a special talk with them?

MACDONALD: Well, honestly, I think a lot of how children are better able to cope with events like this comes to how your parents handle it and, so, you don't say, are you nervous about it? You say are you excited about going back to school and, you know, if anything I think they are more interested in seeing their friends. What are they going to wear to that first day of school. Meeting new teachers. In many ways I think routine is going to be -- a sense of routine helps them.

COSTELLO: We always hear children are so resilient, maybe that's true.

MACDONALD: Well, you know, my children were 12 and 14 when the tragedy of 12/14 occurred. So, they're more cognizant of what happened on that day. Whereas for the younger children, they are more elastic. So, I think it's a little easier for them to have different diversions and stuff to help them cope.

COSTELLO: We're going to take Newtown out of the equation, but other towns in Connecticut. The schools in other towns in Connecticut are using everything from armed guards to buzzer system to mental health resources for students. Have you heard about specific safety measures in Newtown?

MACDONALD: There have been a few e-mails going around from our intern superintendent for the Newtown schools and there are meetings that are scheduled -- and they're being very transparent. They're going to have meetings to discuss it.

But I haven't heard anything specific and, frankly, I don't know that they would want procedures and things to be discussed on television. But I know that they are, they are definitely doing everything they can between the local officials and the schools to make sure that the schools are safe.

COSTELLO: So, school security is beefed up in parts of the country. Some gun laws have been changed in parts of the country. But do you think that we as a nation have now sort of like tried to move beyond Newtown? Is it in our past or do you think that, I don't know, people are still talking about it in an important way?

MACDONALD: I think one of the mantras and bumper stickers around town is that "We Are Newtown." And I think everywhere, if it can happen here, it can happen everywhere. We need to change our culture, our society, the way that we have, you know, just violence as part of our everyday lives. I was just thinking the other day, someone said something and I said, I really dodged a bullet with that didn't it? And, wow, every now I catch myself saying ridiculous things like that and realizing how horrible that is in light of what happened here. But those are like parts of our culture that we say things like that.

I don't think we should ever get past this. I think we need to make some serious changes in how we handle gun violence and gun responsibility and mental health issues, mostly. I think more than anything else.

COSTELLO: Sally MacDonald, thank you so much for being with me this morning.

MACDONALD: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: Still ahead in Newsroom the empire has crumbled for Paula Dean, but now her legal worries are completely over. She and her accusers actually kissed and made up, or so it seems. We'll talk about that, next.


COSTELLO: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is back in the spotlight, this time it's not for leaking U.S. intelligence secrets.




COSTELLO: Yes. The mullet surprised us, too. That's actually Assange appearing in a spoof video on YouTube to promote his Australian Senate campaign. In case you missed it, he's lip synching to Australian singer John Farnham's hit song "You're the Voice." The lyrics include lines like "We've got to make things leak so we can get much bolder" and "we're all wiretapped now, we're all being fed lies." We'll tell you if this works with the voters in Australia.

Paula Deen and the woman who accused her of using the "N" word are now in the mutual admiration society. It's true. A federal court Web site says both sides have agreed to drop the lawsuit without any award of costs or fees to any party. This is the same lawsuit that accused Deen of creating a sexist, racist environment for her employees, the same lawsuit that prompted an apology for using the "N" word.


PAUL DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: I is what I is and I'm not changing.


COSTELLO: Well, she doesn't have to now because her one-time accuser Lisa Jackson now says "The Paula Deen I have known for more than eight years is a woman of compassion and kindness and will never tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind toward anyone." And Paula Deen now says, "Lisa Jackson worked at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House for more than five years and we appreciate her service." So, I guess it's over. Of course, Deen has lost much of her empire and the question now, can she get it back or should she have ever lost it in the first place?

Joining me now to talk about this: Peter Shankman an expert in brand management and Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst. Welcome to both of you.


COSTELLO: Ok Paul, I want to start with you. Because this is -- so they -- both parties agreed to throw this lawsuit out. No money awarded anywhere and now the two are friends. That just seems odd.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes it does seem very odd. It's actually odd that the suit was filed in the first place since there was no legal basis for it. She's not an African-American and she was claiming she had been offended by discrimination against African- Americans.

But that on the side, once it was filed -- you know this settlement agreement. I was looking at it very carefully, Carol. It said that there was no payment of costs or fees ok. Now, it didn't say anything about other money that might be paid on the side. Costs and fees mean to lawyers the cost of transcripts and court appearances and filing fees and no attorneys' fees.

But did the plaintiff get money and there's a secrecy agreement. I don't know. But it makes me wonder. Ok.

COSTELLO: So, Paula Deen might have paid her off to make the lawsuit go away?

CALLAN: Well, it's been known to happen in civil litigation. You can negotiate a side deal and you can seal it and have a confidentiality order. Now, I'm not saying that that's happened here, but whenever I see somebody this warm and friendly to somebody that they have sued publicly, it makes me a little suspicious, Carol.

COSTELLO: So bizarre. Ok, so, Peter, so the lawsuit has been thrown out, Lisa Jackson comes out and says "Gosh Paula Deen is the most compassionate person I've ever known in my whole life but Paula Deen has lost a lot because of Lisa Jackson.

SHANKMAN: She has it. This is not and that's -- that's another reason why I think it's very possible that this was a side deal. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. She's come out, she admitted to saying the words that no one likes to hear. Her reputation has taken an incredible hit.

The only thing she can really do right now is go away for a while, couple of years. Do some charity work, do some volunteer work maybe the Southern Poverty Law Center or a soup kitchen or something like that. She can come back. She won't be at full strength. She's never going to get all of her advertisers back. This will dog her.

But she can come back in a couple years and start making a name for herself again barring any further cries from anyone else that we haven't heard of yet. The problem with these cases is that it really is an open invitation for anyone who's ever had a problem with you to come back out.

So if she goes away for a bit. You know but she needs to really go away. She needs to go away like Eliot Spitzer went away not like Anthony Weiner went away when he really didn't go away. She needs to go away for a while.

COSTELLO: I'm sure she would appreciate you comparing her to those two people.

But really, I mean, once people hear that this lawsuit has now gone away and Lisa Jackson is coming out and saying that she's a compassionate person. Why does Paula Deen have to go away? Why can't she just like go back on the Food Network with her sons and maybe the Food Network would give her, her show back, et cetera, et cetera.

SHANKMAN: Because in her own words she said words that we do not accept in America. Michael Richards has been apologetic for what? Six years now and he's still nowhere to be found.

So it's not -- for some reason in this country, sleep with whoever you want outside your marriage, we'll get over that a lot quicker than we will a self-defined racist.

COSTELLO: All right Peter Shankman and Paul Callan, thank so much.

CALLAN: Nice being with you Carol.

SHANKMAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Here's what's all new in the next hour of NEWSROOM -- new pressure on the President to speak out on the Oklahoma thrill kill.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would be a nice gesture for him to do that.


COSTELLO: Is Christopher Lane case as culturally explosive as Trayvon Martin?

Also, San Diego's Mayor goes down fighting.


BOB FILNER, FORMER SAN DIEGO MAYOR: I started my political career facing lynch mobs and I think we have just faced one here in San Diego.


COSTELLO: His message to the women he offended -- he was just trying to establish personal relationships.

And see you later, citronella fighting mosquitoes in Florida is not joke. The state's next weapon might be this drone.

That's all new in the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Tiger Woods gave the world quite a show at the Barclay's despite collapsing in pain at one point. He gutted it out all day and almost forced a playoff. Andy Scholes is here with "Bleacher Report". Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, "BLEACHER REPORT": And good morning Carol.

Well Tiger was battling back spasms yesterday as he tried to chase down Adam Scott in the final round at the Barclays. Tiger in bad shape on hole number 13. Right after his second shot, he's going to dropped to his knees in pain. The ball would go in the water, ends up with the bogey on the hole.

Tiger, though, would rally with birdies on 16 and 17. On 18 he needed to make this putt to force the playoff, but it's going to come up just short. Tiger finishes tied for second. He'd have to watch his former caddy, Steve Williams, celebrate with Adam Scott as Scott wins the tournament.

Well California and Japan squaring off yesterday in the championship game of the Little League World Series. California with the tying runner on first in the final inning. But Japan is going to turn a great double play right here to end the game. They win 6-4 to claim their third World Series title in the past four years.

Trending right now on, a freshman at Colorado State was selected at random to take a half-court shot to win free tuition for a year. Andrew Schneeweiss had three chances but he only needed one. The crowd goes nuts. Schneeweiss' tuition this year, get this -- is going to be paid by a group of Colorado State head coaches. Congratulations to him.

Milwaukee Bucks' center Larry Sanders got himself a couple of sweet new tattoos that he proudly posted pictures of on Instagram over the weekend. Check them out Carol. This is one of them and you got to tell me what's wrong with it.

COSTELLO: Where is it? I can't see it.

SCHOLES: Wait -- let's see. Can you pop up the picture of the tattoos? Here we go.

COSTELLO: Oh, doesn't he know "I" before "E" except after "C".

SCHOLES: You learn that early in grade school. Apparently he nor his tattoo artist realize the mistake. "Receive" obviously misspelled there -- it's going to be a costly and painful mistake.

Again, my favorite part of the whole story is he didn't realize it until all of the comments started showing up on Facebook. They're like, "Hey, Larry, that's misspelled." He's like, uh-oh.

COSTELLO: I think that's a good sign that America can still spell. Because a lot of people blame Twitter or the lack of skill in spelling and it's not true, right.

SCHOLES: Yes, he just got a new $44 million contract. He's going to be able to pay to have it redone. It's going to hurt though.

COSTELLO: Andy, thank you.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM" after a break.


COSTELLO: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, firestorm in Yosemite National Park.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was cooking. It was moving fast.


COSTELLO: An American treasure is threatened minute by minute.

Plus --


FILNER: I started my political career facing lynch mobs. And I think we have just faced one here in San Diego.


COSTELLO: San Diego's mayor in denial until the bitter end. He resigned this Friday but will that be enough for his accusers.

Goodbye GPA, hello College Exit Exam? Companies now say they want a better way to see how graduates measure up.

Plus --




COSTELLO: Miley Cyrus isn't Hannah Montana anymore.