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Crisis in Syria; Teens Plead Guilty in Florida Bus Beating; Justice Department Won't Pursue State Pot; Argentine Protests; Study Says Americans Pop Pills to Sleep; Soldier Returns Home to Surprise Daughter; Americans Don't Have Family Disaster Plan

Aired August 29, 2013 - 15:30   ET


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And there's much the sense among some in diplomatic circles that you can't let them just take the field and say we'll dictate terms. The U.S. has to say, no, we have standards as well. We will enforce those, especially if we think they're in keeping with international standards.

Here's one that's really tricky, Syrian stability. In a simple sense, right now the government does not want the Assad regime to fall at this point, the U.S. government doesn't, because there's so many actors out here, so many groups, like Hezbollah and al Qaeda, that they don't want to take over if the government collapses there.

In a strange way, it could be argued by some that this would be a punitive measure to say to the Assad regime, keep it under control, don't do wild things even as you're struggling for your survival because that could create chaos that could be bad for everybody.

There's also a question of Iran. The U.S. has been at odds were quite some time with Iran over this idea of developing nuclear weapons. Iran says it's not. It's all about energy. But nonetheless, this has gone on and on and on.

Iran is a big supporter, a big sponsor of Syria, so by stepping on Syria over this chemical weapons attack, by saying we will not tolerate that, that's a way of sending a very strong message to Iran that the United States will not tolerate further nuclear developments as well.

And maybe one of the biggest reasons out there has to do with this idea of credibility. The president of the United States made it clear that he did not want to tolerate an attack like this in violation of international norms.

If he now backs away from that statement, if it appears that he's unwilling to follow up on what was, in a sense, a threat, there are many countries in the world that would see that as weakness.

Whether that's fair or not or political or not, let's push that all aside. We'll just say that's the reality of how it might be perceived.

Is that a justification for an attack like this? Well, that's for the diplomats and the politicians to sort out. But nonetheless, it's one of the reasons being cited. You have to be very careful about making very, very big threats if you're not going to follow through.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So those are a couple of reasons why the U.S. may feel obligated to intervene.

Tom Foreman, thank you.

I want to just show our viewers pictures from Damascus today because here he is, right side of your screen, the leader here, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad appearing on state-run television, smiling, gesturing, directing this meeting here. And he vowed that Syria will defend itself against any and all aggression.

So with me now, Hala Gorani, CNN International. You know this part of the world better than most people here at CNN, so let me just come out and ask you this.

From the perspective of the Arab world, could they perceive Bashar al- Assad as the guy who stood up to President Obama?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think it depends basically what side of this conflict you're on.

The sides are too entrenched. It's become so polarized and so much of a proxy war inside Syria, that no matter what the U.S. does at this point, it will either reinforce your point of view that they are fighting for rebels aligned with al Qaeda or reinforce your point of view that they are aligning themselves regionally with the allies they have in the Middle East already.

So I don't think that's going to turn him into some sort of hero among people who already dislike him intensely, and that's putting it mildly.

I think that people, even those opposed to the regime, are a little bit uneasy about this potential strike because they think, what is it going to achieve?

Is this all about safeguarding America's credibility after having uttered those famous words, the red line in the sand, et cetera, or is this truly strategic?

I think people, including in the West, and we heard in the parliamentary debate in London today, Brooke --

BALDWIN: Right. Fiery.

GORANI: You heard -- very fiery. You have to admit that nobody does a parliamentary debate like the British, right?

Well, you heard opponents of David Cameron, and Ed Miliband, for instance --

BALDWIN: Live pictures, it continues.

GORANI: It's continuing, absolutely. It's actually great viewing.

Saying you cannot go and launch a military strike based on the high likelihood that the regime is responsible for a chemical attack. At the very least you need to wait for results to come in.

BALDWIN: I want to read you something that John McCain said. This was yesterday.

"Those who say we should stay out of Syria do not understand that this is now a regional conflict." In other words, this is not merely contained now to Syria.

Is he right?

GORANI: He's absolutely right. This is not just a Syrian conflict. This is a conflict that involves practically all of its neighbors. Every single Arab country with the exception of only a few has taken a stand for or against the regime.

And it's not just Arab countries. It's also Iran-aligned with Assad. Turkey aligned with the rebels. It's the U.S. aligned perhaps with the forces against Assad. And it's Russia aligned with the regime.

So you see this has become inside of Syria very much a proxy war. And never forgetting that those who are suffering most are the civilians.

I keep repeating, we keep using the 100,000 dead figure, but it's a country of 22 million people. Imagine that on the scale of the United States. More than a million dead in two-and-a-half years. That's the tragedy of what's going on in that country.

And it will engulf the rest of the region at some point, as it already has in countries like Lebanon, for instance.

BALDWIN: Hala Gorani, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Coming up, moments ago, the teens accused of savagely beating a classmate on a bus, remember this? They have now appeared in court.

But one of the suspects' dads has a message for the victim. We're live outside that courthouse for you, next.


BALDWIN: Just a short time ago in a Florida juvenile court, three teenage boys pleaded guilty to charges involving the beating of a younger boy on a school bus. The incident last month was caught on surveillance cam.

Prosecutors said the older teens were seeking revenge after the boy told teachers that they tried to sell him drugs.

The bus driver was too afraid to break up the fight, but he did call for help. He also retired after this whole thing happened.

I want to bring in Pamela Brown, who is there for us in Florida. Pamela, just tell me what happened in the court. I mean, I understand that one of the suspects' dads had a message for the victim?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, actually, all the parents spoke here today, Brooke. They all said that they were sorry, that their hearts go out to this young victim, only 13-years-old.

In fact, one of the mothers of the victim started crying as she was apologizing, saying she never expected this kind of behavior from her son. So it was very emotional.

Of course, when the video was shown of that brutal beating, and the 30-plus seconds of the actual attack, you couldn't hear a pin drop in that courtroom. And it was especially impactful because this is the first time many of us have seen the video without the faces blurred.

So we watched about -- we watched several minutes of the video, and we saw what led up to the actual attack. We saw the taunting go on between these three teens and the 13-year-old victim, and we saw as they prepared to attack the victim.

As the judge said, it was like a volcano about to erupt that then erupted. In fact, Brooke, after the video was shown, after we saw that brutal attack, the prosecutor got choked up. He could not even talk, he was so emotional, the judge calling it absolutely disgusting.

Let's take a listen to what happened in that moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As, again, I stated earlier, the actual attack, if you count the seconds off, is 33 seconds, Judge, of a completely defenseless young man who did nothing but what he was asked to do.

Excuse me.

As far as sentencing goes, Judge, the state is not standing here asking for a commitment at this point, but if any case should be considered for commitment, it would be this one.

Excuse me.


BROWN: So you see there, Brooke, very emotional. You have to think how many times this prosecutor has seen that video, and yet it still touches him in that way. For the judge, he said it was the first time he saw the video.

Like I said, he said it was just a disgusting display, shocking and just horrible.

BALDWIN: Not often you see a prosecutor like that getting emotional in the courtroom.

As you mentioned, Pamela, these boys accepted the guilty pleas. What were the specific charges? BROWN: Well, all three of them will face aggravated -- or, you know, pleaded guilty to aggravated battery charges, and then there is -- one of the defendants is facing an additional robbery charge for stealing five dollars from that 13-year-old victim.

So his punishment is a little more severe. He has to do a little bit more community service as a result.

But they've all been placed on a supervised probation by the Department of Juvenile Justice. So they have to go through anger management counseling. They have to be -- they have to have ankle monitors for, I think, up to 60 days. After that there's a strict curfew in place.

Some people are saying, you know, that this punishment isn't severe enough. But as we heard the state say today and the Department of Juvenile Justice, they're trying to rehabilitate these three teens, and they worry that if it is more severe, that it could actually -- the outcome could be worse.

They are first-time offenders, so that is a big reason why they were placed on probation.

BALDWIN: Pamela Brown, thank you very much in Clearwater, Florida.

Coming up next, a huge decision by the federal government on marijuana. Will the Department of Justice try to block states from legalizing its recreational use? That's next.


BALDWIN: Big news from the Justice Department today because it is changing its tune when it comes to marijuana enforcement.

So for now, you know the deal, the feds coming out saying they will not overturn these new recreational marijuana laws that came into effect both in Colorado and in Washington state.

Remember? Voters went to the polls 10 months ago and approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use.

John Berman is in once again for Jake Tapper on "THE LEAD" today. Mr. Berman, nice to see you and talk to you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Great to see you, Brooke.

They're popping bags of Doritos in Washington and Colorado. It's been a gray area since last November. Now the Department of Justice has weighed in, saying we're not going to block those laws.

They issued these guidelines suggesting what they want the feds to do is focus on things like teen drug use or driving under the influence. That's where they want the enforcement to be, not blocking the laws for recreational use in those states like Washington and Colorado.

BALDWIN: It's interesting, though, hearing, apparently, DEA agents are saying this is actually going to make their job tougher.

I know you're going into this on the show today. We'll be watching you at the top of the hour.

Go ahead.

BERMAN: There are a lot of issues with that, just one of the things we'll be talking about along with all the developments in Syria and the big news with the NFL and concussions as well, Brooke.

BALDWIN: John Berman, we will be tuned in. We will see you in 15 minutes here hosting "THE LEAD." Thank you very much.

Meantime, are you having a tough time sleeping? You're not alone. A new government study reveals surprising new information when it comes to Americans and their sleep solutions. That is next.

Plus, these videos, I can't get enough of them. Of a reunion that will give you chills.


BALDWIN: Some of the hottest stories in a flash, "Rapid Fire, roll it.

First up, possible deal with the American company sets off protesters and police in Argentina. Take a look.

Reuters reports about 5,000 demonstrators took to the streets against a proposed agreement with Chevron and the country's nationalized energy company, YFP.

According to the "Financial Times," they're reporting that Chevron wants to develop shale oil fields in a western province there.

Officers reportedly -- you see the smoke -- used tear gas and rubber bullets when demonstrators started to tear down barricades around the legislature.

And a new study says Americans are popping sleeping pills at an eye- opening rate. This is according to the first ever federal health report to focus on actual use of sleep aids.

At least 8.6 million Americans take prescription sleep aids like Ambien or Lunesta. Between 50 to 70 million suffer from disrupted sleep.

And now to a moment we never get sick of seeing.

Oh, my goodness, I should have told you to grab the Kleenex before we rolled this. How awesome is this?

Military dad, coming home, seeing his daughter for the first time in months. Taylor Kerrigan, she thought she was getting an award for patriotism at a high school dance in New Orleans. Her dad, Sergeant Kelly Kerrigan, was able to return home after he was injured.

We thank him, of course, and all those for their service.

Coming up, is your family prepared? This new ad campaign wants to get that conversation rolling, taking a pretty unique approach.

We'll talk to Kelly Wallace about that next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's difficult to talk about, so I'm not telling you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How will we know what to do?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so glad I don't have to remember anything.




BALDWIN: Question for you, do you -- does your family have a disaster plan? No? Well, did you know that most Americans do not.

There's this new viral ad that uses humor to encourage you to make a disaster plan.

Here's part of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I've come up with a family emergency plan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's difficult to talk about it, so I'm not telling you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How will we know what to do?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so glad I won't have to remember anything.



BALDWIN: So this is just part of the ad. You know, they're trying to use humor, but the message is actually quite serious. Do not leave your family unprepared when it comes to a disaster. I'm talking hurricanes, example, Hurricane Katrina brought to New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, eight years ago today, so many other examples here.

Let me talk to Kelly Wallace. She's our CNN digital correspondent, editor-at-large, talks all things kids, families.

So great to you have on. And let's just begin with what really is the point of this ad?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, you talk about the humor. Part of it is taking a lighthearted approach to get people to pay attention, Brooke, because so many of us do not have disaster plans.

The Ad Council did a survey. Six out of ten Americans say they don't have an emergency disaster plan. Only about 20 percent said that they were very prepared for a disaster.

So the hope is that using humor, we're talking about it, people will pay attention and they might also see themselves in that family, Brooke, and say, wait a second; we might want to do something different than what we just saw that family do in that ad.

BALDWIN: I'll play another clip, but when you say, have a plan, be specific. What do you mean?

WALLACE: There are three things that FEMA and the Ad Council say. Who to call, where to go, what to pack.

Pretty simple, but every family should have those three things answered, and have it communicated, also.

That ad pretty much illustrated you need to communicate that to your children so that they can help you carry out that plan. They know who to call, they know what to do, they know what to pack in the event of a disaster or an emergency.

BALDWIN: Let me play one more clip. Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, so who is going to do what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll pack the dead batteries.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll only put what I don't need into a duffel bag.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perfect. That's totally unhelpful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meanwhile, I will try to comfort everyone by speaking in a calm voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'll try to get the generator going without any gas.


BALDWIN: And so this is one other example.

And I know that even you, Kelly Wallace, and your two little ones, I watched the whole piece on and you're like, let me be honest. I didn't have a plan. You, yourself, didn't have one.

WALLACE: I know, and I was embarrassed really to sort of say that, but look, it's true. We don't have a plan.

And I was talking to my mother-in-law as I was preparing to do the piece. And she said, you know what? We talk about everything, right, but we've never really talked about what we need to do.

Why? I don't know. Part it have is we think it's not going to happen to us. But, hello, we've had Sandy, we've had Katrina, we had the September 11th attacks. We clearly know it can happen and we need to do something about it.

BALDWIN: Be prepared. Kelly Wallace, thank you very much.

Read Kelly's piece,

And before we go, I just want to show you and tell you about this massive firefighting effort, obviously continuing. This is around Yosemite National Park. It may take a few more weeks here. This is the word that we've gotten here from a National Forest official.

Look at this. This is actually the wilderness side of the historic park. And many of you have probably taken family vacations here, right? Some 200,000 acres have already burned.

But the side of the park, where most of you, most tourists venture, is still open. Firefighters are trying to keep it that way. The fire is now reported at least 30 percent contained.

And just always a quick reminder, whenever you watch the show, if you miss things, obviously I'm tweeting and some of you are saying, I missed this, this is what you have to do.

Go to the Brooke Blog. Go to and check it out there.

Thank you so much for joining me here. I will be back at this time tomorrow.

In the meantime, I say goodbye, and we're going to go to Washington.

John Berman is sitting in for Jake Tapper today. "THE LEAD" starts right now.