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National Security Threat; Building A Coalition; Iran Warns West Not to Attack Syria; Will U.S. Action in Syria Affect Oil?; Rim Fire Seventh Largest in California History; Fukushima Threat Level Rises; Walmart Offers Benefit to Same-Sex Partners; 50 Years After March on Washington; Washington D.C. to Make Olympic Bid

Aired August 28, 2013 - 06:00   ET



JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Syrian regime.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Ready to go. The U.S. military now set to strike Syria. But big questions remain about how and why. We're the only network live from inside Syria as their foreign minister says they'll retaliate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The fallout. "The New York Times" website hacked, crashed for hours. A group supporting Syria claiming responsibility, while financial markets take a dive and the price of gas could spike. We're tracking it all this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Celebrating the dream. Fifty years since the historic march on Washington, thousands of people set to gather, including three presidents, to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and his unending mission.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, August 28th, 6:00 in the East.

A strike on Syria looking more likely. A move that could come with serious fallout. Just word of the plan caused a sell-off on Wall Street. Now, gas prices may spike and there is fear of retaliation. Iran and the terrorist group, Hezbollah, warning of dangerous consequences. We're going to have all this covered for you this morning as only CNN can.

BOLDUAN: We're also going to have the latest on the extreme weather across the nation. That wildfire in Yosemite still nowhere near contained, and it may now have a direct line towards some of the park's most famous sights. And in the Midwest, that brutal heat wave is not yet over. It has already forced schools to cancel. So, when will the relief come? We'll follow that.

PEREIRA: Also, we're going to show you a dramatic car chase that was caught on tape. Alleged criminals in Georgia had no interest in surrendering, recklessly speeding through traffic. We have the daring moment police were finally able to stop them, ahead.

CUOMO: But first, the White House seems ready for possible military action against Syria. What a difference a few days can make. Less than a week ago, the president told us chemical weapon use was a question mark and that the U.S. needed to be cautious. Now, Vice President Biden saying there's no doubt chemical weapons were used and defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, says U.S. forces in the region are ready to go if needed with armed U.S. warships already in the region.

Iran now warning of a disaster if the U.S. intervenes in Syria. We're covering all the angles of the story including the only western network reporter on the ground inside Syria. Let's begin this morning with Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon. Chris, what's the latest?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. Military officials say once they get the order they could be ready to go within hours, but while Obama administration officials continue to verbally hammer Bashar Al-Assad we're still waiting to get the hard evidence that he's responsible.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): The latest warning to Syria comes directly from the White House.

BIDEN: Those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children, should and must be held accountable.

LAWRENCE: Another sign to expect action, U.S. officials all but telling U.N. inspectors, get out of the way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's clear the security situation isn't safe for the team in Syria.

LAWRENCE: The defense secretary told the BBC, U.S. ships are positioned, preparations complete.


LAWRENCE: And a defense official tells CNN if the president chooses the most limited option, it could be over in two to three days. Cruise missiles could target Syria's weapons launchers and command and control facilities but that's it.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The options we are considering are not about regime change.

LAWRENCE: And that some say could backfire on the White House. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It may give Bashar Al Assad a propaganda advantage by saying he was able to resist the United States' attacks.

LAWRENCE: The administration continues to accuse Bashar Al Assad of gassing his own people.

BIDEN: There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons.

LAWRENCE: But so far, they've offered no hard evidence.

CARNEY: The intelligence community is working on an assessment.


LAWRENCE: U.S. officials tell CNN that assessment includes forensic evidence that chemical weapons were used, satellite images of activity at chemical weapons depots and intercepted communications of Syrian forces.

The U.S. official I spoke with said that could have been released as early as last night, but now the White House is saying probably sometime this week although administration officials downplay its significance saying it's not necessary with the memory of the lead-up to the war in Iraq, I don't think it will be enough for the American people just to say trust us, he did it -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Something many people want to see before actions taken though. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon, thanks, Chris. We'll talk to you in a bit.

Let's take you inside Syria now where the foreign minister says Syria will defend itself if attacked. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is the only network reporter on the ground in Syria. He is joining us live from Damascus. So Fred, what are you hearing from the ground?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I actually was traveling around Damascus earlier today, Kate, and I talked to people and they say they are concerned about the current situation of how possible U.S. air strikes, most of them saying they'll put their fate in the hands of God. At the same time the Syrian government is continuing to say it had not used chemical weapons on the ground.

They say U.N. weapons inspector should be given more time to investigate, but they are also saying as you just mentioned that Syria will retaliate. It's unclear however that it will have the means to do that. Most of its air forces from the 1980s and 1970s, its air defenses are a little bit better, but still no match for U.S. air power and clearly the Syrians know that.

Finally, Kate, I was here a couple months ago when the Israelis hit a massive ammo depot outside of Damascus that set a whole mountain on fire and even then there was no retaliation by the Syrian military. They say things they're going to do. However, clearly in the past there has not been any sort of action. Of course, this army is also involved in a fierce civil war and therefore has other things to do than start another front against the U.S. -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Fred Pleitgen on the ground in Syria. Now for all this talk about what the U.S. is going to do, President Obama is trying to build a coalition of support in any military strike against Syria, both Britain and France are said to be on board. CNN's Matthew Chance is live in London. Matthew, what is the latest from there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've learned just recently the British have proposed a resolution of the United Nations Security Council to condemn Syria for this alleged chemical weapons attacks. Make no mistake, the British and the French as well are in lock step with the United States on this issue.

The British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken about the responsibility, the duty of the allies to respond to that alleged chemical weapons attack. The armed forces in both Britain and France are making contingency plans that are well advanced to help display a supporting role sure to be in U.S.-led military strikes on Syria, speaking with one voice with the United States on this issue -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Matthew, thank you so much. Now if the U.S. does get involved in Syria there could be fallout across the region, Iran warning of consequences if the west attacks Syria and Israel firing back that it won't hesitate to defend itself. Let's go to CNN's Arwa Damon in Beirut who is covering this angle of the developing story. Good morning, Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. The Iranians issuing yet another warning this morning saying that the region is a tender box that the repercussions from a potential U.S. air strike would be utterly unpredictable. Let's not forget that Iran has a number of proxies in the region that it could activate, the fiercest of which is the Shia militant group Hezbollah. That being said it must be noted Hezbollah has been trying to keep the war in Syria from spilling over into neighboring Lebanon.

Either way, both Lebanon and Syria border Israel, a nation that the U.S. most certainly does want to protect and the bottom line in all of this is that with or without a U.S. military strike, the situation in Syria is going to get much worse. It is going to spill over even more than it has into the various neighboring countries. That is going to impact Israel. That is going to impact the United States. So at the end of the day whatever plan is put into place has to be a smart, long-term, strategic plan to deal with the ripple line effect of all of these recent developments -- Chris.

CUOMO: You certainly have geographical, political and cultural overlap. Arwa Damon, thank you very much.

Now as the U.S. considers fallout from any potential attack we may be already seeing the result of a threat. A group claiming to be supporters of the Assad regime are believed to be behind a major cyber attack on the "New York Times" web site and the fear of U.S. involvement is hitting the stock markets very hard. So let's bring in Christine Romans who is taking us through this part -- Christine. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Let's begin with that cyber attack. The "New York Times" web site was down yesterday for many hours, about ten hours. Here's what it looked like a group called the SEC or the Syrian Electronic Army took credit, a pro-Assad group that often targets U.S. media and has even hacked CNN's web site earlier this month.

Now concerns about an international conflict, U.S. strikes in Syria hammering global stocks. The worst day for stocks since June, the Dow down more than 170 points, that's 1.4 percent. Investors rushed out of stocks and into the perceived safety of government bonds and gold and oil prices also jumped.

Syria is not a major oil producer, but international sanctions have slowed the flow of oil out of this country. But Syria's location is critical here for oil transport, the region critical as the conflict gets worse t makes people concerned what it means for oil prices, 18- month highs up 3 percent. They're up again this morning. We'll watch it closely. It will mean if these oil prices stay like this and keep moving higher, it will mean higher gas prices for you down the road.

CUOMO: Obviously, Christine is pointing out a lot of tangential angles and that's why the U.S. is being deliberate as they move forward. We're going to have more analysis from Christine and we'll bring on Christiane Amanpour to talk about what may happen if the U.S. takes action inside Syria.

BOLDUAN: So much at stake right now, but let's get back to the other big story here at home this morning, an enormous wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park and threatening San Francisco's water supply. The rim fire is California's seventh largest fire, it scorched more than 184,000 acres, that's larger than the size of San Francisco itself, and the fire is still growing. CNN's Casey Wian is in Groveland, California, with the latest. Good morning, Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Firefighters say they are making actually some substantial progress in terms of slowing the spread of the rim fire. It is growing to 184,000 acres. Yesterday, we were able to get very close to the fire lines and see some of the hot spots that they're still struggling with and it is a very difficult, difficult situation.

The biggest problem, firefighters are facing right now what they call snags, trees that have been damaged by fire and have not fallen yet. They can present a serious, serious problem for firefighters. We experience this firsthand, having trees fall near us, four or five within about 20 minutes so that is hampering the firefighting efforts.

They've closed an additional road into the Yosemite area to allow for more fire protection efforts to continue and they're also going to burn some areas today some backfires to stop the fire from spreading. I will say Yosemite National Park remains open to visitors, there are two roads into Yosemite and the park for the most part is safe -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Casey, thank you very much. Be careful out there covering that fire. We have some major story this morning, but there's a lot of news on the agenda so let's look to Michaela for the latest.

PEREIRA: All right, let's bring in the headlines. Good morning, everyone. Making news, Army Major Nidal Hasan will have one last chance to address the jury at his Fort Hood court-martial. Closing arguments in the sentencing phase get under way in a short amount of time. Hasan as you know is representing himself at trial. Interesting, he said nothing during the penalty phase except "the defense rest." Jurors will decide whether he gets the death penalty for killing 13 people and wounding dozens more in the Fort Hood massacre.

"Boston" magazine publishing even more photos of the takedown of suspected Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Forty eight additional photos all taken by Massachusetts State police photographer, Sergeant Sean Murphy. Among them, several new images of a bloodied Tsarnaev slumping over the edge of the boat, falling off and being treated for a gunshot wound to the face. Murphy is facing disciplinary action for giving the pictures to the magazine earlier this year.

A toxic water leak at Japan's tsunami damaged Fukushima Nuclear Plant now considered a serious incident. The radiation threat level at the crippled power plant now at three because of radioactive water leakage. The plant reached the peak level a seven after suffering multiple meltdowns in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Wal-Mart is planning on offering health care to employees including same-sex partners. The enrolment window opens in October, closing November 1st. The company says it's creating one policy to cover all 50 states. Wal-Mart is the biggest private employer in the country with more than 1 million people drawing a paycheck.

Some London police officers not only kept the peace at the Knotting Hill carnival. They also made quite a party. The biggest festival in Europe they got challenged to a dance off, not only were they challenged, but boy did they deliver, showed off some individual moves before they got together for the big closer, rowing the boat. I don't want to you get any ideas here, crew.

BOLDUAN: You can get some ideas.

PEREIRA: They twerked.

BOLDUAN: Slow Friday, there's nothing better. They're all blushing and that's difficult to do.

CUOMO: You keep thinking.

BOLDUAN: Boom, boom, boom.

CUOMO: Can't get away from this one fast enough. Thankfully Indra Petersons is here to bail me out.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're still doing the huge heat wave across the Midwest. With the heat indices this is not just a dry heat. All the moisture in there feels like 105 degrees, huge portions of Iowa into Minnesota. The big question is how long is this going to blast? When you have the big blocking ridge, it blocks out all of that cold air so it's going to stay hot not just for today but we brought this out a couple days into the future and temperatures even get warmer by Friday.

Friday should be the hottest day we haven't seen yet. We talk about temperatures over 20 degrees above normal. Average in Des Moines 82, expecting about 100 degrees on Friday and that's without the heat indices combined in that. Into the northeast and Atlantic we're talking about short waves, a little bit of energy. What does that mean?

Scattered showers, nothing major but with you are going to see a little bit of rain throughout the day. The big picture as we go forward in time will be all this monsoonal moisture coming into the southwest. We saw over the weekend, beginning of the week the flash flooding that occurred. You have the remnants of Tropical Storm Fernand making its way toward the west this weekend. We're talking about heavy rain across the area. Vegas saw a half inch of rain and huge flash floods came through the area. It doesn't take much. More is on the way.

BOLDUAN: It's unpredictable.

PETERSONS: It's crazy.

BOLDUAN: All right, Indra, thanks so much for that update. A lot of weather going on.

Also big news in Washington, today marks the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, a major celebration is planned bringing together former presidents, politicians and dozens of stars but the event is more than just a tribute to the progress made by the civil rights movement, it's a reminder of the work that remains. CNN's Don Lemon has much more on this.


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifty years ago today about a quarter million people marched on the National Wall on Washington to demand change. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sharing his dream for America from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, his indelible words a watershed moment in the civil rights movement. Today thousand also gather to commemorate the famous words that forever changed our country.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Fifty years ago there was so much fear, people were afraid to be afraid. The fear is gone. Our country is better and we are a better people. We still have a distance to go.

LEMON: That distance front and center today as the nation's first black president will add his vision as the marquee speaker at the anniversary celebration. President Obama acknowledges that, while a lot of progress has been made, King would not be satisfied. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have not made as much progress as the civil and social progress that we've made, and that it's not enough just to have a black president.

LEMON: There are renewed calls for addressing socioeconomic and racial disparities. The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman and the shooting death of Trayvon Martin drew many to the streets across the country with protests. The president reacting with personal candor.

OBAMA: There are very few African-American in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed in a shopping store. That includes me.

LEMON: This from a president criticized by some in the black community for not being more outspoken about race.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I like to see him be more passionate about race questions.

LEMON: Last week in New York, Mr. Obama may have given a glimpse into his address today honoring the civil rights leader.

OBAMA: Each generation seems wiser in terms of wanting to treat people fairly and do the right thing and not discriminate and that's a great victory that we should all be very proud of.

LEMON: Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will be there as well, so will actor Jamie Foxx and media mogul Oprah Winfrey who credits King for much of her success.

OPRAH WINFREY, MEDIA MOGUL: It is because of Dr. King and all those who worked with him that I stand and because of them I have a voice that can be heard.

LEMON: Don Lemon, CNN, Washington.


BOLDUAN: This big anniversary, every anniversary -- it's just an important opportunity to take a look back and also look forward at the progressing that still needs to be made.

PEREIRA: I went the other day with my better half and we saw the movie "The Butler" and some shocking imagery that a lot of people have either put behind them or some young people haven't seen of that time and they did it very vividly and very beautifully I thought in the movie, and it was painful to watch but it's important to especially on an anniversary because I think sometimes we forget how far we've come and also forget how far we still have to go.

And like you said, Kate, it's an occasion like this, the 50th anniversary, that we have a chance to pause and think about that.

CUOMO: I was lucky to grow up around Harry Belafonte, who was obviously very instrumental during the movement. You know, he also says that there needs to be more and he loves seeing people come around these events, to keep the wattage there because he says that Dr. King's message was not about law, it was about life.


CUOMO: He takes the line that someday kids there be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. It has nothing to do with law, but has to do with how we treat each other on a day-to-day basis. It's a good reminder for that.

PEREIRA: It needs to be a daily reminder, sadly, you know.

CUOMO: Right. This is -- you know, it's also bittersweet, because every time we mark something about Dr. King, we also have to remember how his life ended for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, we hope all of you are thinking about what it means to you and the rest of the country.

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, interesting question, could the Olympics be coming back to America? I know we seem to talk about this only to be disappointed.

But this time, it could be different. A major U.S. city is throwing its hat in the ring. But it will cost millions just to take a bid. Is it worth it, even if you're a long shot? What do you think?

BOLDUAN: Plus, also ahead, Apple's next big thing has iPhone owners buzzing. The company launching a new program just in time for the release of its newest iPhone.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

You know, could be that coffee mug of yours right now may say "D.C. 2024" some time, could be an Olympic mug. Why? Well, the city plans to throw its hat into the ring, to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

But win or lose, an Olympic bid will be costly. That's where we pick up the story with CNN's Athena Jones live in Washington with that. Good morning, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. You're right, it will be an expensive race to the top of this list but if there's one thing we know about Washington, it's that this city knows a thing or two about campaigning.


JONES (voice-over): It's the hottest race in Washington, but it has nothing to do with politics. The city plans to launch a campaign to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

ANNOUCNER: It's a perfect backdrop to host the world's largest sporting event.

JONES: The nation's capital has a long way to go to fulfill its Olympic dreams. This is almost the equivalent of a primary election. Of the 35 U.S. cities invited to be considered, D.C. is one of the few still in the running. The U.S. Olympic committee will decide which one will be its main candidate for 2024.

BOB SWEENEY, PRESIDENT, DC 2012: Washington, D.C., is the only global capital that has never hosted the Olympic Games yet and it's our turn.

JONES: D.C. would face some tough competition worldwide -- Rome, Paris, and Doha in Qatar are all vying for the games. The D.C. 2024 campaign is touting venues already in place to host events like the convention center and a baseball stadium, both added after a failed effort to get the 2012 games and its large public transportation system and security network.

SWEENEY: Washington is one of the most secure cities in the world already. We are protected every day.

JONES: Going for Olympic gold doesn't come cheap. New York and Chicago each spent approximately $10 million for their failed bids and costs would skyrocket for D.C. if chosen to host the 2024 Games. The total cost estimated be between $3 billion and $5 billion.


JONES: But costly or not, anyone who has been to D.C. in recent years can see the town is changing with construction cranes everywhere and in some areas new developments every block. Winning the Olympics would be a feather in the cap for a city many say is booming.

Back to you, Chris, Kate.

CUOMO: Good point, Athena. You know, you do have a cost of entry and the cost of winning it but the prestige -- the prestige value.

BOLDUAN: And the amount of money that comes to the city and the area the Olympics are held. But anybody who lives in Washington are shaking their heads, like I can only imagine the traffic. If you've ever been there during an inauguration you're like oh God.

CUOMO: The Olympics, though, there are very few things like it, even in a city that sees big events.

BOLDUAN: Having it anywhere in the U.S. would be great.

CUOMO: It has a long way away, we have a lot of time to talk about it.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Let's keep talking about it.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, dolphins have been dying off in staggering numbers, washing up along the East Coast. We've been talking about this story. Well, now, scientists believe they know what has been killing them. We'll talk about it.

CUOMO: All right. How about this? Big announcement from Apple. They're launching a trade-in program. How does it work? We will tell you. Promise.