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No Decision Yet on Syria; Lawmakers Want Vote on Striking Syria; Many Fast Food Workers on Strike; Manziel Suspended for Half a Game; Behind the Attack on "The New York Times"; Miley Cyrus' New Song

Aired August 29, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM crisis in Syria. President Obama steadfast --


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Syrian government, in fact, carried these out. There needs to be international consequences.

COSTELLO (voice-over): As the drums of war grow louder, consequences now meeting with caution and criticism.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I don't want to see boots on the ground or I don't want to see us mired in a conflict much deeper.

COSTELLO: Ahead a former weapons inspector joins us.

Also, fast food fiasco.

PAMELA POWELL, FAST FOOD WORKER: My name is Pamela Powell. I work at Great Wraps and I make $9 an hour.

COSTELLO: Pay in priorities. A nationwide strike happening now.

Plus, made in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This car is amazing.

COSTELLO: The best story of the day. The Ford Fusion now completely made in Detroit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out with the old, in with the Ford.

COSTELLO: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: And we're happy for Detroit. We'll talk about that in a minute.

Good morning, I'm Carol Costello. We begin, though, in Syria. As the march toward military strike now slows to a crawl, Washington and its allies are facing growing concerns at home and abroad. So today the focus shifts to building a consensus.

Here's the latest. President Obama is reportedly bending to the demands of lawmakers and will consult with Congress. Senator John Cornyn says Obama will hold a conference call today to brief them. We'll hear from the president in just a minute.

In the meantime, Britain deployed a half dozen warplanes to Cyprus just off Syria's coast and Russia moves ships into the Mediterranean. The region goes on alert and the U.K. goes on record sharing some of its intel on last week's apparent chemical weapons attacks.

In Syria today, U.N. inspections teams try to gather more evidence. And that could be crucial. The Associated Press cites U.S. intelligence sources as saying the case against the Assad regime is no slam dunk. Those inspectors, we've learned, will leave Syria by Saturday.

President Obama says he has not yet made a final decision on using military action against Syria. But he is convinced the Assad regime gassed its own people and now must pay.

Here's some of his interview on PBS' "Newshour."


OBAMA: You know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us that they are held accountable.

JUDY WOODRUFF, ANCHOR, PBS' "NEWSHOUR": But Mr. President, with all due respect, what does it accomplish? I mean, you're -- the signals the American people are getting is this would be a limited strike, a limited duration. If it's not going to do that much harm to the Assad regime, what have you accomplished? What -- what's changed?

OBAMA: Again, I have not made a decision, but I think it's important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal that, in fact, better not do it again.

And that doesn't solve all the problems inside of Syria. And, you know, it doesn't, obviously, end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria. And we hope that, in fact, ultimately, a political transition can take place inside of Syria and we're prepared to work with anybody. The Russians and others to try to bring the parties together to resolve the conflict.

But we want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people, against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you're also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected. And that needs to stop.


COSTELLO: A growing mix of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, say this is not a decision for the president to make alone. They say given the painful lesson of prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress should have to authorize any use of military force.


CORKER: I do think we'd be so much better off if the administration would come to congress, call everybody back and let Congress authorize this activity. I really do think that this is one of those cases where time allows for Congress to come back to give an authorization that I do think they've met the test -- I'm talking about the administration -- from the standpoint of what the war powers resolution says and that is that they must consult with Congress.

I believe that they are doing that, but I think we'd be on so much stronger footing with this if they would call us back in and ask for a real authorization from Congress.


COSTELLO: Jill Dougherty is our foreign affairs correspondent. She's at the White House this morning.

So is it possible that the president might call Congress back from vacation?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he could. He -- in the meantime, he is consulting, there is a flurry of phone calls. There will be one, we understand, this evening, 6:00 p.m., with the top members of Congress and the top members of the committees to brief them on what the administration says it has in terms of intelligence and, also, to, as they have been, talking about the rationale and what should be done about it.

And that's really the question, Carol. What do you do about it? You heard the president talking about these limited objectives. So that's -- that is a very important subject and it came up, also, from the United Kingdom today. Great Britain talking about its rationale possibly for military action, as well.

COSTELLO: Let's talk a little bit about the end game here because you heard Judy Woodruff ask the president, so you bombed Syria, and -- but your goal is not to take out Assad, right? So what then?

DOUGHERTY: Right. Well, I mean, number one, and you hear him repeating this over and over again so it's really important.

What they're saying is, if you use chemical weapons, which they allege the regime has, you have crossed the River Kahn, you have carried out an act that is very, very serious, according to international law, and according to just the humanitarian nature of what happened. So you have to send a message that that is not acceptable. It cannot be condoned.

And it could even affect not only Syria. He says the U.S. national interests because chemical weapons are very serious.

Number two, you prevent future attacks. And what they would try to do, piecing together what we've heard from administration officials, is hit the people who carried out the attack. These would be forces that are able to use chemical weapons, not all forces can necessarily safely. And prevent further attacks by taking out most of the hardware that will deliver them.

Then you get into, no, it's not regime change. They're not trying to get Assad and they're not trying to solve the entire deal in Syria. That is very important because it's far more complicated.

But, Carol, just briefly, the results could be there are some dangerous side effects to this. What if they hit chemical weapons? They're not totally sure where they are right now at any given moment, they are being moved around. Could they possibly hit chemical weapons and make things worse?

And then, also, what about retaliation? What does Assad do? I mean, does he take this as a lesson from the United States, you shouldn't do it or does he strike back even stronger, more strongly, and what happens to Iran? Does Iran want to take some type of action? So gets very complicated very fast.

COSTELLO: And I'm sure the president is thinking about all of that. Behind closed doors in the White House today.

Jill Dougherty reporting live for us this morning.

Fast food workers in more than 50 cities across the country plan to go on strike today. It could be their biggest walkout yet. Workers at McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and other fast food outlets already have hit the picket line this year and their protests appear to be gaining steam.

They are demanding the federal minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour. That's almost double the current rate of $7.25. And they want the right to form unions without retaliation.

Alison Kosik is live at a Wendy's now. She joins me now.

Good morning, Alison.


Well, some of those protests here in New York started this morning and other protests started across the country, as you said. Thousands of these fast food workers are expected to walk off the job today as a protest for higher wages. They are looking to get paid double. More than double the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage sitting at $7.25 right now.

Because as you're about to see in this piece, some of these fast food workers say they're barely making ends meet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SHENITA SIMON, FAST FOOD EMPLOYEE: My name is Shenita Simon. I work at KFC in Brooklyn and I make $8 an hour.

POWELL: My name is Pamela Powell. I work at Great Wraps and I make $9 an hour.

KOSIK (voice-over): Tale of two people, but one story. Pamela and Shenita are just two of the three million workers living on a fast food wage.

POWELL: Should I pay my light bill or should I pay my gas? Yes, I never can pay it all at once.

KOSIK: Pamela loves her job.

POWELL: Fries, fries, fries.

KOSIK: But says she has to prioritize.

POWELL: So right now the gas is off. You know, I've had lights to be cut off, too. But, you know, it's kind of hard to live without lights.

KOSIK (on camera): How do you make ends meet? Let's say you go to the grocery store. I mean --

SIMON: We have to sacrifice. My husband eats today and I eat tomorrow or, you know, just make sure my kids eat.

KOSIK (voice-over): Pamela and Shenita both work less than 40 hours a week, neither of them get benefits.

PAMELA: Kind of hard to build a future if you don't know what it's going to bring you next week. You don't know what's going on this week. It's kind of hard. And so this is like a big struggle for me.

KOSIK: Because of that struggle, fast food workers across the country are taking to the streets. In July there were strikes in seven cities, including Chicago, New York and St. Louis. And they're spreading.

SIMON: We don't want handouts. We don't want pity. We just want everyone to understand our reality.

KOSIK: The average fast food worker makes just under $19,000 a year. The government's poverty threshold for a family of four, $23,000.

The National Restaurant Association tells us, "These jobs teach invaluable skills and a strong work ethic that are useful for workers throughout their professional careers. We welcome a debate on fair wages but it needs to be based on facts. And the facts show that the majority of workers who earn the minimum wage in the United States are not employed in the restaurant industry."

As for Shenita and Pamela, they're hopeful.

POWELL: I want to own my own business. Fast food business. I love food. And I like dealing with people, too.

SIMON: I'm not ever going to stop dreaming for my children. They want to be ballerinas and yes, we cannot pay for it right now, but we're going to give it to them one day.


KOSIK: And critics, too, raising their pay --

COSTELLO: OK, problems with Alison's shot. But Alison Kosik will join us a little later in the show.

Thank you, Alison.

No air conditioning, no school. Twenty-seven schools in Minneapolis are closed until Tuesday. Teachers and students simply could not take the intense heat. Leading to concerns about their health and safety.


STAN ALLEN, MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOL DISTRICT SPOKESMAN: What looked like was an OK situation on Monday and Tuesday, we have more people that are feeling tired and sluggish today, and we feel like we need for our teachers and our students to have a couple of days break.


COSTELLO: Wouldn't that be nice to have a couple of days break, Indra Petersons?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No air conditioning, I mean, imagine, Carol. We worry about heat, we talk about not just record- breaking heat by the temperature alone, but also how long you have to deal with these high temperatures. In fact, we've been dealing with this heat since Sunday.

And let's talk about what they're dealing with. Look at the states in the Midwest now, talking about heat advisories. Temperatures, they're already 15, 20 degrees above normal. We've been dealing with this all week long. Expect it today in Des Moines, 98 degrees. The record was actually 99. Unfortunately as we go to tomorrow we actually expect it to be even hotter than today.

So we're expected to break that record at 101 tomorrow in Des Moines. So looking about almost 20 degrees above normal. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, we're still sticking with this heat wave. What we want to know is when are we going to see that relief.

Well, there is finally a hint of that relief. We're seeing a system make its way through the area producing some severe weather in Minnesota and Wisconsin today but even more importantly behind that. We're going to start to see the relief.

Now this is Saturday. We're still talking about these upper 90s, but I want you to notice Minneapolis 92, Des Moines 97 on Saturday. By Sunday, finally, we're going to see those 70s and even some 80s come back in the forecast. So perfect timing for that Labor Day weekend -- Carol.


COSTELLO: I like that. Indra Petersons, thanks so much.

Time to talk about what really matters now. College football. OK, so I'm exaggerating. But hey, it is exciting, and it gives everybody a chance to tailgate. That's what fans will be doing Saturday right here in Atlanta when Alabama takes on Virginia Tech. The Chic-Fil-A kickoff game has been sold out since July 16th. That means the Georgia Dome will be at full capacity, 71,000 people.

If you want a ticket, StubHub is offering 878 tickets ranging in price from 91 bucks to $1,199 apiece. Which explains in part why critics say the NCAA doled out such a lame punishment for Johnny Football. He'll be on the sidelines, but only for the first half of the Texas A&M opening game on Saturday.

The NCAA and the university have announced a half-game suspension for Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel over the signing of autographs because apparently, Andy Scholes, the signing of those autographs was accidental. He had pen in his hand and he fell on a picture of himself and somehow it wrote out his name.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: That's right, Carol. That's why they can't get him for a major suspension because there's no evidence that he got paid to sign these autographs. There's no money trail linking him to these autograph brokers saying he got paid thousands of dollars to do so.

And so that's why we're getting this mini little half-game suspension. And the half-game suspension is only because the NCAA says he should have known not to sign all these autographs for free because --


SCHOLES: Because he was -- NCAA players are not permitted to profit off their likeness or let other people profit off their likeness. So the other people part is why he's getting this mini half-game suspension.

COSTELLO: So he could never sign his name to anything? That's stupid.

SCHOLES: Well, there's a rule. They said they're going to reevaluate this rule and let the players know that, hey, you shouldn't be signing thousands of autographs, maybe just limited to one or two per person.


But now the NCAA has said that if additional evidence comes to light in this case, they would review it and then there could be further punishment if there's additional evidence.

COSTELLO: Of course, there's a lot of things in the stratosphere out there in the atmosphere and on the Web, making fun of Johnny Football this morning.

SCHOLES: Yes, there's a funny commercial coming out, but Norman, Oklahoma, that's, of course, the home of the Oklahoma Sooners. And Sooner fans still having nightmares of what Johnny Football did to it them in the Cotton Bowl last year, beat them by about 30 points.

But this Toyota dealership, Fowler Toyota, they come up with this funny commercial, take look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to make a lot of money today, Johnny Savings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love making money, partner. But I also like saving money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Fowler Toyota model year in clearance demand, you just got to live life to the fullest, Johnny Savings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's wrap it up, boys.

Who was that? Hold this.


SCHOLES: They're making fun of some of Johnny Football's sayings. He's had to live life to the fullest. That's all I'm doing, stuff like that. That's a great, great commercial.

COSTELLO: Well, I think Johnny is going to be just fine and there's got to be some change happening soon, because that's just dumb. I'm sorry to be so blunt.

But, hey, Andy Scholes, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Still to come in NEWSROOM: fire storm. Yosemite on edge and now using predator drones to battle the flames.

Also, hacked and still down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hacked against security awareness.

COSTELLO: "New York Times" Web site shuttered and suffering.

And, why won't this story go away?

Miley Cyrus -- now the Biebs wants in on the twerking action. This is getting ridiculous.

NEWSROOM back after a break.



COSTELLO: If you try to logon to "The New York Times" Web site this morning, you were out of luck, because you would see a message like that one. In fact, I just tried to get on "The New York Times" Web site. I got the message just like that. This after two days after, this is two days after the site was hacked.

A Syrian group that supports President Bashar al Assad is claiming responsibility for this cyber attack.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is following the story.

So, it's been two days now. Yes, it really has. Some people are getting it. Some people aren't.

But what this suggests is that the Internet is the new digital theater of war and everyone is vulnerable. It doesn't matter how far away the conflict may seem. These attacks are happening more and more often.


FEYERICK (voice-over): By all accounts, the attack on "The New York Times" was simple and sophisticated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is essentially a very human attack -- an attack against security awareness.

FEYERICK: Sophisticated because instead of directly compromising "The New York Times" official Web site, it appears the hacker went after the supply chain instead, targeting the company's domain name registrar, Melbourne IT.

In a statement to the media, Melbourne IT says somebody using a valid user name and password changed several accounts including and, a breach that occurred when someone fishing opened an e-mail or a trick to providing the actual credentials. Anyone who wanted to access "New York Times" was effectively blocked, an attack known in the cyber world as denial of service.

Security expert Ira Winkler.

IRAN WINKLER, PRESIDENT, SECURE MENTEM: If you're saying that they had valid logging credentials, the question becomes, how did they get valid logging credentials?

FEYERICK: The group identifying itself as the Syrian Electronic Army, known to support Syrian President Bashar al Assad claimed responsibility. The FBI is looking into the website disruption. Earlier this month, the same group targeted a search engine that directs traffic to "Washington Post" and CNN. and were never directly penetrated nor were the sites security compromised.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK: Now, the original attack happened Tuesday afternoon at 3:00. We reached out to "The New York Times". They're not commenting on the amount of time it's taken to get it back up. But Melbourne IT told us that the reason some people can now get, I just got it actually on my iPhone, but others can't, is because it takes 48 hours for changes to reach all Internet users -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Hopefully, maybe by this afternoon, everyone can logon to "The New York Times" Web site.

FEYERICK: Perhaps.

COSTELLO: Perhaps.

Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM: on the heels of her twerking fiasco, a new Miley Cyrus song leaked online. Guess what the name of the new song is? Yes, it's called "Twerked." And she's performing it with Justin Bieber.


COSTELLO: Just days after Miley Cyrus brought twerking front and center at the MTV Music Video Awards, a new song has leaked. A collaboration between Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and the rapper Lil Twist. Listen.


COSTELLO: Look at you, Nischelle Turner.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT: It's almost like they serve it up on a platter for us, Carol, and I feel kind of even bad about it, because it's just too easy.

COSTELLO: I know, I know.

TURNER: But if you're calling this a coincidence, you're probably wrong. It's probably not. Everything about Miley's performance at the VMAs was aimed at selling her music and selling her image. And she's trying to make, you know twerking her thing.

But a lot of parents are dealing with the fallout of this.

Last night on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE," he had a guest talking about just that thing. Kimberly Keller wrote an open letter to her daughter. She called it "Let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to you."

That letter has gone viral. She basically calls Miley desperate for attention in this letter. But she also explains why so many parents had a problem with Miley's performance. Listen to her.


KIMBERLY KELLER, PARENT: You know, it was fun for adults. If it's an all-adult venue with all adults watching, then, hey, bonus. You know, yes, it's fun. But this was an event, my children, my 13-year-old daughter was waiting to see One Direction and Harry Styles and Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez and it happened in a venue where children were going to see it.

That's the thing that got to me. You know, as a parent watching this, I know that kids mimic. And I don't want to chaperon any junior high dances in the next month or so because there will be kids twerking.


TURNER: Now, you know, this kind of generational thing has been going on before, you know, Elvis even shook his hips. I had to ask my mom about this. And I asked her, any songs like that when you were young that your parents said, absolutely not or performances. Remember the song "Bend Over Let Me See You Shake a Tail Feather"?

COSTELLO: Yes, I do.

TURNER: She said that had my grandmother so incensed but my mother loved it. These types of things have been going on for a very long time.

COSTELLO: Perhaps because Tina Turner could actually dance.


TURNER: Oh, shots fired, Carol.

COSTELLO: But I did it with a smile. Thank you, Nischelle Turner.


COSTELLO: We'll be right back.