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Case against Syria; Russia Opposes Military Action; Edward Snowden of Latin America; Families Look for Lost Loved Ones in Egypt; Building Collapses in Brazil; Starbucks Expands in Columbia; Airline Offers Kid-Free Zone Fares; Olympic Skater Suspended for Tampering

Aired August 27, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. is quote, "ready to go if President Obama orders attacks on Syria." That's according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. We'll look at the military options straight ahead.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, political scandal in Brazil forces the foreign minister to resign. We'll tell you why it's Latin America's version of Edward Snowden.

MALVEAUX: Would you pay extra to make sure that no kids were sitting next to you on a plane? Well, another airline giving you that option.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

QUEST: I'm Richard Quest, in for Michael Holmes.

MALVEAUX: Preparing for a possible military strike in Syria. The U.S. military is now waiting for the go ahead from the president, President Obama. It could happen at any moment. What we are not seeing, however, today is inspections of the areas where hundreds of Syrians were allegedly gassed to death. U.N. experts, they were prepared to visit a second neighborhood.

QUEST: That was until the U.N. disarmament chief and the head of the inspection's team were seen leaving their hotel in Damascus earlier today. They were not wearing their protective gear and were not joined by other members of the team. We later learned Syria's government cancelled today's inspections because of what it says are security concerns.

Now, remember, the teams on the scene yesterday, even after their convoy was fired upon by snipers. The experts worry chemical evidence may already have dissipated since last week's alleged attacks.

MALVEAUX: Now, Syria is denying that it's objecting the work of these U.N. investigators, while Washington and its allies deciding how to best respond to this. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says that U.S. forces are now ready to go.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, as I've said, and I think Prime Minister Cameron has said, I think President Hollande has said, our allies, our partners, leaders all over the world have said, let's get the facts. Let's get the intelligence. And then a decision will be made on whether action should be taken, if action should be taken, what action or no action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if the order comes, you're ready to go like that?

HAGEL: We are ready to go like that.


QUEST: What are the options for President Obama if he's ready to go, and what will be the goal of the mission? CNN's Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence reports.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within days, President Obama's national security team will present him with its final detailed options, and the administration is already making the case for taking action against Syria.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people.

LAWRENCE: Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Assad regime of gassing its own people and called it --

KERRY: A moral obscenity.

LAWRENCE: If the president gives the order, a senior defense official says, four Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea could execute a mission within hours. U.S. and British submarines are also likely nearby, all armed with cruise missiles.

The extremely accurate tomahawks can be fired from 500 miles away, with an ability to change course in midflight. The potential targets include the delivery systems that can be used to launch weapons, militia training camps being run by Bashar al Assad, and, most importantly, the Syrian government's command and control centers. The options are not designed to overthrow Assad's government, but send a message and deter any further use of chemical weapons -- President Obama's red line.

RICHARD HAASS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: And any time you throw down a diplomatic gauntlet, your words have repercussions.


QUEST: So, let's look closer at those options. And Chris is with me now.

Chris, you mentioned that missile strikes is one of those things on the agenda. Sanction are already in place. Boots on the ground have been - they've already been ruled out by the president, and a no-fly zone is not under consideration at the moment. So, Chris, factor this in. Are we really talking now, as you suggest, about missile strikes as being the number one that's being considered at the moment?

LAWRENCE: We are. But there are a few other options, although not as likely. One, Richard, would be to do nothing, to simply pass on having any sort of military intervention in Syria and try to work a more diplomatic process. Other military options could include perhaps flying a stealth bomber from Missouri to - you know, here in the United States to Syria, or using a combination of British Royal Air Force aircraft and U.S. aircraft, fighter jets flying just outside Syrian air space, but that is a bit more risky and, again, not as likely as the cruise missile option.

QUEST: And if we take all these options, including those that have been ruled out for the time being or at least seemingly ruled out, what's the intelligence now telling the Pentagon and the administration?

LAWRENCE: Well, it's going to be very important for the administration to release some sort of intelligence estimate in the wake of the memory of the lead up to the war in Iraq. It's not going to be good enough to just simply say, we know Syria did this, trust us. They have chemical weapons. They used them. There's going to be - there's going to have to be some level of proof given. And that should come from some form from that intelligence estimate showing perhaps forensic evidence that a chemical attack took place and tying it in some way, perhaps through intercepted communications, that it was actually the Syrian regime that was behind it. That will go a long way, especially if the U.S. and its allies are going to take action without having a mandate from the U.N. Security Council.

QUEST: But finally briefly, Chris, the worry will be these two options, boots on the ground and the no-fly zone. Particularly, boots on the ground. That will be the mission creep (ph) that people will fear is ultimately going to happen.

LAWRENCE: That's right, or even the no-fly zone. I mean the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here in the U.S., General Martin Dempsey, has been quite outspoken in talking about the cost -- you know, a billion dollars a month was floated at one point -- and the -- what it would cost the U.S. to get involved in even a no-fly zone. Even taking boots off the ground off the table right now, they are very, very reluctant to get too deep into the Syrian conflict.

QUEST: Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon, thank you.


MALVEAUX: As U.S. officials turn up the volume and a military response, a NATO spokesman says that the military alliance is closely monitoring those developments. Now, Britain's prime minister recalled lawmakers from their summer vacation to vote on his country's response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria. That vote expected to happen tomorrow. And the president of France says his administration is ready to punish those who made the decision to gas those innocent people. Those are his words.

And Syria's staunch ally, Russia, well, it has been strongly objecting to any military action in Syria. And this is what happened on Tuesday. The Russian foreign ministry posted another statement saying here, "attempts to bypass the U.N. Security Council and once again create artificial groundless excuses for military intervention in the region are fraught with fresh suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other counties of the Middle East and North Africa."

I want to bring in Phil Black from Moscow.

And, Phil, essentially tell us, Russia clearly objects. What can they do? What kind of recourse do they have?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they don't have much of one at the moment other than to continue releasing these very strong messages like the one that you just quoted there because throughout the Syrian crisis, the most effective resource at Russia's disposal has been its veto in the United Nation Security Council. That is how it has sought to protect the Syrian regime from any sort of outside or international pressure, including the possibility of international military intervention. And it's done so rather effectively. But now, in response to this alleged chemical weapons incident, as the United States and its allies are considering a potential military response to that incident, they are not talking about going to the U.N. to get the U.N.'s permission or mandate to do so. So that means that Russia's ability to really influence what is going on, on the ground here is really diminishing by the day.


MALVEAUX: And, Phil, so that's off the table now. we know that they're going to go around the U.N. for this particular strike, potential strike. What about the fact that you had this meeting with Russian officials about Syria, a diplomatic effort, a conference that was going to go under way at the Hague with U.S. officials. Well, now the U.S. government, the American government, has decided to cancel that, essentially ruling out those talks for now. Is there anything else that they can do?

BLACK: Well, that -- those talks that you mentioned, they were all part of the Syrian plan before this chemical weapons incident. These officials from the U.S. and Russia were getting together to try and organize, thrash out the details of a big international conference that would hopefully work out the Syrian conflict diplomatically, because that's what Russia says is the only real alternative, to bring all these sides to the table to talk it through. But we're dealing with a very different situation now and the United States has postponed these talks because it is considering a military option or just how to respond to this chemical weapons incident. Russia says that's a bad idea because it believes these sorts of coordinated, diplomatic efforts are increasingly important as the situation in Syria gets more tense, Suzanne. MALVEAUX: All right, Phil, thank you. It looks like the time for talking is over.

I want you guys to join us tomorrow on AROUND THE WORLD. We're having a special on Syria. We're actually going to have our top players and people around the world weighing in on all of this. So we're going to bring in Christian Amanpour, Peter Bergan, as well as retired General James "Spider" Marks, CNN anchors, reporters, people in the region, contributors, to all discuss this possible U.S. military action in Syria and how it's going to impact countries around the world. Please join us. That is 12:00 Eastern tomorrow.

And now heading south. Time to meet a man that some are actually calling the Edward Snowden of Latin America. Interesting. He was living in the Brazilian embassy in Bolivia for more than a year seeking asylum.

QUEST: And a Brazilian official just used his diplomatic immunity to drive him across the border into Brazil. Brazil's foreign minister has resigned over the whole affair. Our Shasta Darlington is with us from Sao Paulo in Brazil.

This is a complicated event, a complicated affair. So give us the nutshell of what happened.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Richard. This has more twists and turns than a spy novel. But as far as Brazil is concerned, it started last year when this man, this Bolivian senator and opposition leader Roger Pinto (ph), showed up at the Brazilian embassy in La Paz saying that he was being persecuted by the government of Bolivian President Evo Morales because he was trying to show links between officials in the government and drug traffickers.

Now, the embassy let him come in and, actually, after 10 days. they granted him political asylum, even though he was being, himself, charged with corruption by the government. The problem is, then he just sat there for over a year because the Bolivian government wouldn't give him permission to leave the country. And that's when all of these epithets churned (ph) up. People started calling him the Edward Snowden of Bolivia, the cocaine whistleblower. And, finally, a Brazilian diplomat said he'd just had enough. He was worried that this guy was getting suicidal. He put him in a car with an embassy escort and drove him across the border. Really a pretty crazy story, Richard and Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Shasta, so what is next for this guy and does he mind being referred to as the Edward Snowden of Latin America? How does he see his role in all this?

DARLINGTON: Well, I wouldn't be surprised if he liked it very much, Suzanne. He wants to be, obviously distance as much as possibly from the corruption accusations that he's facing. So he'd rather be seen as some kind of a whistleblower. But basically the hope is on the Brazilian side, you know, they've made a very big sacrifice. The foreign minister, Antonio Patriota, has resigned over this. So they're hoping they can lower tensions, that this whole diplomatic row (ph) will sort of be taken behind closed doors now and maybe Bolivia will not seek extradition. That's what they're hoping so that they can just sort of deal with this very quietly and even keep this man, himself, quiet. He was supposed to give a press conference this afternoon and that was already cancelled. So there is a sign that things are being toned down at this point.


MALVEAUX: All right, Shasta Darlington, thank you so much. It's a hot mess over there, that whole - that whole affair.

QUEST: Complicated.

MALVEAUX: The whole story.

QUEST: Complicated. I've yet to see one of these things that's not complicated where I don't get lost somewhere in the middle of the story.

MALVEAUX: Yes, a little confusing there.

Here's more of what we're working for AROUND THE WORLD.

Japan's government fed up with radioactive water that's leaking from a nuclear power plant. It says the operator of the plant is playing a game of "Whack a Mole." So what do we do now? Well, how are they going to stop the toxic water from leaking?

QUEST: Also, an Olympic speed skater has been banned from the sport for two years after tampering with a rival's skates.

MALVEAUX: And a no-kid zone on planes. Would you pay extra for it? Another airline giving you that option for traveler who don't want to sit next to kids.


MALVEAUX: Here are stories making news AROUND THE WORLD right now.

This is in Egypt. There are family who are scouring the prisons, the morgues. They are searching for missing loved ones, victims of Egypt's political turmoil. Some disappeared early 2011 amid protests that brought down president Mubarak. Others vanished more recently.

Activists blame security forces who have operated without oversight for decades. A volunteer with campaign called We Will Find Them says those lost must be found one way or another.


MAHMOUD SALMANI, VOLUNTEER, WE WILL FIND THEM (via translator): You waiver between desperation and fear that you'll never find them, but the truth does matter even if they're dead. Dead or alive, you can bring closure to their families.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: There are no accurate figures on just how many Egyptians have disappeared. Now estimates range from several hundred to several thousand.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CO-ANCHOR: To Brazil now, where at least six people have died and 20 injured after a building collapsed in Sao Paolo.

According to Brazilian TV, rescuers say there are more survivors trapped inside. One survivor said there were about 35 people working on the construction of the building when it collapsed.

MALVEAUX: All right, for all you coffee drinkers, Columbia, well known for exporting its coffee around the world, well now Starbucks says it wants to bring it back home. The company is planning to expand into Columbia by opening a string of stores between now and 2018.

CEO Howard Schultz says Starbucks is ready to get going.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, STARBUCKS CEO: I think we're buying close to 90 million pounds of coffee today. I would be disappointed if, after five years, we didn't have at least 50 stores.


MALVEAUX: Ambitious. Starbucks already does big business in Latin America. It runs more than 650 stores from Mexico down to Argentina. Its biggest competition in Columbia will be the Juan Valdez chain of coffee shops.

We're big coffee drinkers here, Richard.

QUEST: We are. And I guess just because they grow the coffee there does not mean that there are decent places to buy the coffee there.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, but they'll keep buying. And we'll keep buying, Starbucks, huge.

And this your favorite story, Richard. I know it is.

QUEST: Join me. Join me. I feel the campaign about to begin.

MALVEAUX: There's a campaign under way. If you take a flight would you be willing to pay a little bit extra if you were guaranteed that there were no little kids anywhere around you? Well, that's what's happening. Singapore-based Scoot Airlines, doing just that, it's called Scoot in Silence. For 15 bucks, it's going to let you upgrade to a kids-free zone.

QUEST: Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.

Now, Scoot is run by Singapore Airlines. Is it -- and there are other airlines that are offering similar sort of kids-free zones. Air Asia's got something similar. Malaysia has got something similar. So this is very much for business-class passengers on the agenda.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it is. I mean, come on, Richard. You sound like you're the kind of guy who doesn't want to sit next to a screaming infant who then looks at you and throws up on you and then screams in your ear. Am I right about that?

MALVEAUX: You're so right about that. What did you call --

QUEST: I have started my own campaign. I'm the president, secretary and general manager of BBIB, Ban Babies In Business.

KOSIK: Aren't you nice?

MALVEAUX: Just have a drink.

All right, Alison?

KOSIK: As you said, this is Scoot Airlines, and what it's proposing here is you have to be at least 12-years-old and pay extra to sit in this new kid-free zone. You also get leg room. That's a bonus. Scoot's CEO is saying, listen, no offense to our young guests or those traveling with them. You still have the rest of the aircraft.

So you know what? If you don't want to pay the extra money, Richard, keep in mind, if you want peace and quiet, we went ahead and looked online. You can find a pair of ear plugs for, what, four bucks. You don't have to pay extra for a seat.

QUEST: No, no, no, I'm not having this. I know I'm not popular on this one. I know I'm in a minority of me. @RichardQuest is the Twitter address where I know I'm going to be able to wrangle --

KOSIK: I'm already going to start doing that. I'll start tweeting you.

MALVEAUX: All right, Alison, I've got to ask you this because, I mean, OK, so if the kid is in the back and they're crying, the baby's crying, you're still going to hear it up front in this little section here. So I imagine it might be waste of money here. Could this potentially backfire for the airline?

KOSIK: You know what's interesting is you could wind up seeing lawsuits for discrimination or, if the public backlash led by Richard there is strong enough, it could actually prompt a change.

QUEST: What? What discrimination? Sorry. Sorry. Time out. What discrimination? By simply saying children should not be allowed in a part of the aircraft?

KOSIK: I guarantee if this happened at an American airline, the ACLU would be stepping in with plenty of lawsuits about discrimination.

MALVEAUX: I think Richard is on the losing end of this one. But, Alison, thank you. Appreciate it.

KOSIK: You're welcome. MALVEAUX: Ear plugs, buddy, and a cocktail, that's just what I'm saying. That's just me, all right? You can deal with it.

Listen to this. This is an American speed skater. He's told he actually can't compete in the Winter Olympics after he confessed to cheating. We're going to hear about what he actually did.


MALVEAUX: We're months away from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but one American skater is going to miss the games altogether. We're talking about Simon Cho has been suspended for tampering with the skates of a rival. And they're calling it the "Ice Wars."

QUEST: It's happening as we near the 20th anniversary of another famous ice war. The figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by people on the team of her rival, Tonya Harding.

Our Rachel Nichols is on the story.


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: The Olympic sport of speed skating is not exactly the place you'd expect to hear tales of scandal, but American Simon Cho was suspended this week for tampering with the skates of a Canadian rival.

The decision by the International Skating Union means Cho will not be able to compete in the Olympics in Sochi in February, a huge hit to the U.S. team that had been counting on Cho as one of its best and brightest.

Cho won a bronze medal in Vancouver in 2010. He was also crowned a World Champion in 2011, although he has since confessed that at that competition he secretly bent Canadian Olivier Jean's skate blade while alone in the locker room the Americans and the Canadians shared.

Cho says he didn't want to commit the crime. He only did it after being badgered by a former coach. The coach, Jae Su Chun, has denied the account, although he too was suspended.

The whole incident coincides with the approaching 20th anniversary of another Olympic skating sabotage scandal, the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan by associates of her rival, Tonya Harding.

And while bending a blade is hardly on the level of taking a metal club to someone's knee, Cho's suspension has reminded those in the Olympic community the ice rink might just be a more treacherous place than it looks.


MALVEAUX: Can you believe that? He tampered with, bent the guy's skate. Unbelievable. Thanks to our Rachel Nichols.

Simon Cho -- QUEST: I'm speechless.

MALVEAUX: You're speechless. Richard is speechless.

Simon Cho is suspended for two years, so what happened here, 1994, right? We're talking about Tonya Harding. She got home from the Winter Games, was convicted of conspiracy, fined, banned from U.S. figure skating for life.

QUEST: Now Cho has fessed up to what he did in tampering with his opponent's skate. I'm not sure it makes a huge difference that he confessed that he'd done it. I mean, he still did it.

Anyway, he talked about it on "NEW DAY." Have a listen.


SIMON CHO, SUSPENDED OLYMPIC SKATER: It definitely wasn't sportsmanlike of me. And, you know, I do regret my actions. And this is something I have to live with for the rest of my life.

But, you know, I'm not the same naive 19-year-old when I went ahead and did the tampering.

So you know, I'm here today, hopefully, you know, any fan or young boy looking up to me can learn from this experience.

And if they are able to do that then I've made the best of this situation, even though I do regret my actions.


QUEST: I'm just not sure which bit of this I'm missing, the outrage. The man tampered with somebody else's skates. He's being banned now from skating and --

MALVEAUX: But he wants to compete. He says he's learned his lesson. He wants to compete.

But he cheated, yeah. He cheated, first go around.

QUEST: More than cheating, he scuppered.

MALVEAUX: Sabotage.

QUEST: Sabotage, never mind cheating, right.

Fifty years ago tomorrow, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., gave the famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

MALVEAUX: Tomorrow, President Obama will give his own speech.

And next, I'll speak with former King aid and U.N. ambassador, Andrew Young, about the future of the civil rights movement. We're also waiting for the White House briefing. We're expecting to hear about U.S. options in Syria. We're going to bring that to you as soon as it starts.