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U.S. Prepares Possible Strike on Syria; Interview with Senator Tim Kaine; Heat Wave Hits Midwest; Fast Food Workers Prepare to Strike; Sleep Aid Use is on the Rise; Interview with Dr. Jennifer Caudle

Aired August 29, 2013 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just have to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like picking up an old jug.

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August 29th. It's 7:00 in the east.

Coming up this hour, President Obama has not decided what to do about Syria yet, but he is convinced they have used chemical weapons and says there must be a response. We are going to talk to Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. He's a Democrat, but he's also among those demanding that Congress have a say before any action is taken.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're also talking about a late summer heat wave baking the Midwest. How hot is it? Too hot for some schools at least, believe it or not. When will they get relief from the near record-breaking temperatures and head back to the classroom?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We have a profile in courage for you today. Actress Valerie Harper, tremendous lady, just months after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer the 74-year-old is taking on a brand new and huge challenge. She's going to join the cast of "Dancing with the Stars." We'll have much more on her inspiring story later this hour.

CUOMO: But we begin with the U.S. inching closer to a possible strike against Syria. President Obama now says it's clear that the government there carried out chemical weapons attacks on their own people and that the international community must respond. But he president does say no decision has been made yet about what that response should be. The White House is set to brief key members of Congress in a conference call later today.

Meanwhile, the U.K. plans to disclose some of its intelligence it's gathered against the Assad regime. We are covering all the angles on this. Let's start with CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Good morning, Barbara. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. The U.K. and U.S. as ells plan to release what information it has that links Bashar al Assad and the Syrian regime to that chemical weapons attack.


STARR: President Obama says he hasn't decided what to do but is determined to hold Syria accountable.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 in standards of decency, but you're also creating situation where U.S. national interests are affected, and that needs to stop.

STARR: In an interview with the PBS News Hour, the president left no doubt who he believes ordered the chemical weapons attacks.

OBAMA: We've concluded the Syrian government in fact carried these out.

STARR: Among the evidence intercepts of Syrian commanders discussing the movement of chemical weapons to the area of the attack, provided by Israeli intelligence. The potential next step, cruise missile strikes has put the U.S. at direct odds with Russia

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We do not believe that the Syrian regime should be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action on Syria at the U.N.

STARR: But behind the scenes officials are signaling the U.S. may not wait for the United Nations to act. The U.S. military is strengthening its position in the eastern Mediterranean with the addition of two more submarines, and the Syrian regime is also getting ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a state of war preparing ourselves for the worst scenario.


STARR: So at this hour, here's where we stand. The president says the Syrian regime did it. But he real question perhaps on the table, with the U.S. intelligence community link Assad to it directly? Do they have the evidence he himself ordered it? U.S. officials are saying no matter what, they are going to hold him and the regime responsible. Chris?

BOLDUAN: I'll take it, Barbara. Sounds like it could be a critical day ahead, Barbara star at the Pentagon.

So Syria's government sending an open letter to the British parliament with a clear message, don't attack us. Let's get straight to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He just left Syria, joining us from Beirut. So what is the latest from your side, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, in this open letter apparently they said if America bombs Syria, it would only lead to nor destabilization in the Middle East. One thing that seems to be going on in Damascus is apparently the Syrian military is also preparing for a possible bombing campaign. We're hearing the air force and the army headquarters are all but abandoned, many of the high-ranking officers leaving. And also Syria appears to be moving some of its military hardware to different locations, obviously in anticipation of possible air strikes, trying to get those, that hardware into safety. Whether or not that will work is something that obviously remains to be seen.

Meanwhile the U.N. weapons inspectors are continuing their mission on the ground. They're in a suburb of eastern Damascus called Al Huta where they are on the ground once again. We managed to get video exclusively out of that suburb, and it shows just absolute devastation. There's a mass grave. There are dead bodies that still have not been claimed even several days after all of this happened because people simply can't identify them and therefore are not able to bury them.

People have told us that many died in their sleep as that chemical agent was unleashed. But there were also some tales of miraculous escape with one man showing us a makeshift gas mask that he made for himself out of a paper cup, some cotton, and some coal simply to try and hold up that gas as best as he could. The mood in Damascus is one where people are starting to get very nervous, wondering what sort of impact possible military strikes could have on their lives. Chris?

CUOMO: Fred, thank you very much for the reporting this morning. Many lawmakers are telling the president they want a say in this drumbeat to military action. One of them is Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, joins us now. Welcome to NEW DAY, thank you for joining us.

SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA: Thank you, Chris, you bet. Glad to be with you.

CUOMO: Let me ask you, do you believe the president can go it alone and make the decision unilaterally, or do you believe this decision triggers the constitutional procession of having a Congressional vote?

KAINE: Chris, the framers of the constitution created an ambiguity, and they understood what they were doing. Congress has the power to declare war. The president is the commander in chief. Those framers during the debates as early as 1787 understood there could be emergency circumstances where the president would need to act prior to Congressional action but that Congress then would have to come in and ratify and approve what the president had done.

So there are some circumstances to help with the president's defending the nation and to avoid a catastrophe can act prior to Congressional approval. But getting Congressional approval is, in my view, constitutionally required. The president has been very prudent about this thus far. As you know, there has been urgings of the president to intervene militarily more directly in Syria before now. He has been very prudent about it. I think he should continue to be prudent, and that would involve in- depth consultation with Congress, answering some of the questions that have been asked. Speaker Boehner addressed a series of questions to the president today, and I hope that dialogue continues, because when you get Congress on board you have the best chance of getting the American public's support, and you also send those Americans and Virginians who are asking to fight wars, you send them in with the knowledge that the public and the political leadership of the country is fully behind them.

CUOMO: We saw the president then senator standing up and saying President Bush, criticizing him, saying you should have put this to Congress for a vote dealing with Iran and came up with Iraq. Do you believe that Congress should come back early, that there needs to be a vote, that the president should not move forward without that authorization from Congress?

KAINE: Chris, I definitely believe that there needs to be a vote. Whether or not Congress needs to come back early, the inspectors are still on the ground in Syria. They're not scheduled to complete their report until over the weekend and then they'll issue the report. We are scheduled to come back in session a week from Monday. I think there's ample work that the president can do in consultation with the Congressional leadership about this until we're back.

But I do think we are going to be back soon, and it would be completely consistent with the president's prudence up to this point for him to continue to have that dialogue. I mean, again, I'm struck by this as a Virginian. We are the most connected to the military of any of the states in terms of our veteran population, the soldiers and sailors and airmen and women and marines who are here. Ships from Virginia are already deployed potentially to take action.

We shouldn't ask people to fight war unless they know they have the full weight of the political leadership behind them and the American public supports their decision. And that presidential consultation with Congress over the next few days I think could be critical in reaching that consensus that will support whatever action needs to be taken.

CUOMO: Obviously the issue of consultation versus a contingency, meaning that you have to have Congressional approval, is something you have to figure out for ourselves. But let's talk about what the basis of it would be.

There's been quick movement. Since last Thursday when we spoke to the president he was unsure about leaking chemical attacks of the regime. Now it seems like that is a certainty to the U.S. administration. But then comes word just within the last few minutes that there is certain within the intelligence community that the intelligence showing that the regime was responsible for these chemical attacks is not a slam dunk. "Slam dunk" is a little bit a turn of art from George Tenet about WMDs in Iraq. It's a scary phrase. What does that mean to you that the intelligence may not be a slam dunk, that we cannot show in the U.S. that the Assad regime, Assad himself responsible for what was done?

KAINE: Well, Chris, that's why it really is important to let the U.N. inspectors continue and complete their work. We have our own intelligence, the British do and others do as well, but let's let the U.N. inspectors complete their work, because you're right, Congress does I believe need to ultimately weigh in and approve.

But the real issue is, what is the mission? Use of chemical weapons violates a clear international norm that's been in place since the Geneva Convention adopted an anti-chemical weapons position after World war I. It is completely over the line for a government or any entity to use chemical weapons, and there has to be a consequence for it. So we need to determine --

CUOMO: Let me ask you, senator, because we have to be careful about the language. If the AP reporting is right and the intelligence community hasn't connected the call to use chemical weapons to Assad himself, that maybe it was a rogue operation by a member of the regime, does it matter to you? If that's true, does it matter?

KAINE: Those are important factors. The question of whether it's a rogue element that ordered it or whether it was done in the chain of command, I don't think you had to have Assad's signature on the order to hold him accountable for it. Again, the use of chemical weapons is a violation of clear international law. There has to be a consequence for it. If there's no consequence we're sending the signal that international alarm doesn't need to be respected and we and humanity will reap the whirlwind if we don't have a consequence for this.

But determining the consequence, the mixture of diplomatic, economic, and military strategies is important, and those strategies should be very focused, designed to deter and degrade the ability to use chemical weapons in the future.

CUOMO: Senator, help me with this. If the U.S. does what's being bandied about right now and there's some type of punishing action done to the regime, not to topple the regime, the rebels fighting against the regime include Al Qaeda elements right now. That's the understanding from the intelligence community.

KAINE: Yes, they do.

CUOMO: Wouldn't that then put the United States on the side of Al Qaeda in this conflict?

KAINE: Well, Chris, that's why the president has been very prudent over the course of the last couple of years despite calls for intervention. It is the case the opposition is militarily dominated by elements connected with Al Qaeda. And that's why it's smart to be prudent.

But the use of chemical weapons, there has to be a consequence for that. There is some possibility chemical weapons could be used by the opposition. There's been some suggestion they may have been in the past. I don't think the intelligence is good on that. But we want to make sure if the opposition gains control of chemical weapons they don't use them either. So the strategy and the consequence and what we have to do in tandem with our international partners is to deter the use of chemical weapons and to degrade the ability of any party in Syria to use those weapons in violation of international law.

CUOMO: But you believe that you and other members of Congress, Congressional leadership are aware that you may be giving advantage to Al Qaeda elements if you go in and damage the regime?

KAINE: You know, Chris, what I've said, I'll say it again, what we need to do is take a limited action designed to deter the use of chemical weapons either by the Assad regime or any the opponents, and to degrade the ability of the weapons to be used by any party. This is what is the changed fact on the ground. If that international norm has been violated, a norm that has been in place for 90 years, and chemical weapons have been used, to have there be no consequence for that would be intolerable.

CUOMO: Senator, thank you very much for the discussion. Please come back to us here on NEW DAY once you get the information from the president so we can keep the dialogue going for the American people.

KAINE: Will do. Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you, senator. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris.

Now to another big story we're following this morning the heat melting the Midwest. It's so oppressive in Minneapolis it's keeping some kids out of school. Let's get straight to Indra Petersons with more on this. Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Kate, you talk about heat. The concern is not just how high the record-breaking numbers are but how long you're dealing with this heat. Many places in the Midwest have been seeing temperatures in the 90s that feel like 100, even 110 degrees since Sunday.


PETERSONS: It's been three days of near record-breaking temperatures and parts of Minnesota, the temperature reaching a burning 92 degrees yesterday but feeling like it's past the 100 degree mark. Now some schools across Minneapolis are being closed for the rest of the week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Friday is canceled, too?

PETERSONS: It's just too hot and these schools don't have any air conditioning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now with our situation we feel like the best thing to do and the safest thing to do is to stop school for two days. We have more people that are feeling tired and sluggish.

PETERSONS: And these temperatures aren't just affecting Minnesota. A giant heat dome has been perched over the Midwest since Sunday, lingering there and keeping that hot air locked in.


PETERSONS: Just take a look at some of the temperatures still today, Des Moines, 98 degrees, that's 15 above normal. We've been seeing anywhere from 15 to even 20 degrees above normal for days after days.

We'll show you what is expected as we go forward in time and notice we're still dealing with Des Moines, the record is 99. Tomorrow they're expected to even warm, looking for 101 degrees and break that record so we're looking for the change, when are we going to finally see this relief?

We have a system making its way through today. We are going to see severe weather in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but more importantly behind that, we'll start to see the relief. It's going to take some time. Look at Saturday's temperatures. Still well up there into these mid and upper 90's. But now quickly you notice between Saturday and Sunday, finally, that's where we see the big change and we'll see the 70's back in Minneapolis, which will feel so much better. Imagine a week of temperatures of like 110. We barely got through a few days a couple weeks ago.

BOLDUAN: We were about to run out.

CUOMO: A little bit settling down in temperatures there but out west people still struggling with the Yosemite fire. Let's get to Michaela for the latest.

PEREIRA: Yeah, let's bring you up to date on the rim fire. It's at 30 percent containment right now. It has burned through more than 193,000 acres in northern California, including parts of Yosemite National Park. Now in its 13th day, the rim fire is the sixth largest wildfire in California history. So far the state has spent $39 million battling those flames.

Brace yourself for a nationwide strike of fast food workers today. Employees in as many as 50 cities planning to take to the picket lines. They want chains like McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Wendy's to raise what they call starvation pay. The average worker makes about $9 an hour, just over $18,000 a year. Well below the poverty line for a family of four. The restaurants for their part say their rates are fair.

An oil rig burning all night long in Texas after an explosion and a huge fire. Firefighters letting it burn overnight as they waited for extra help to arrive. This morning they'll try to get it under control. No reports so far of fatalities, and it is unclear what set off that blast.

Michael Jackson's history with propofol front and center of the wrongful death trial in Los Angeles. The doctor testifying she turned down his request for propofol to treat insomnia. This was back in 2000. Jurors also heard from a nurse practitioner who says Jackson asked her for a powerful sedative shortly before he died. The Jackson family is suing concert promoter AEG Live claiming they're responsible for his overdose death.

Miley Cyrus has been taking all sorts of heat over this racy performance at the VMAs at -- the other night on Sunday. But she's still a hit at lease with one U.S. Marine, Sergeant Jay Owings wants to take Miley to the Marine Corps Ball, which is coming up November 7th. He has started a campaign on Youtube to get Cyrus to be he date. He contends Miley is, quote, "awesome, despite what anyone else says." Sergeant Owings is due to be discharged from the Marines on November 15th after seven years of service. There you go. That's a new thing they put these Youtube videos out asking for a date.

CUOMO: I can't remember the first celebrity this started. I cannot remember now.

PEREIRA: Hard to remember now.


CUOMO: There was definitely one.

BOLDUAN: There was one, and then it was like oh it worked. Tell us because I clearly can't remember. Thanks again.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, can't sleep? Well, there is a pill for that. Surprising number of people do take those pills, but what does that mean for our health?

CUOMO: And have you heard about this? a teacher given a month in jail for rape, a shocking case out of Montana. But wait until you hear what the judge said. We'll speak with the mother of a victim coming up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A new study says something you might know already, Americans popping sleeping pills at an eye-opening, eye- popping rate. That's according to the first ever Federal Health Report to focus on actual use of prescription pills. At least 8.6 million Americans take prescription sleep aids, between 50 to 70 million suffer from disrupted sleep. Why is a good night's sleep getting harder to find? We're joined by Dr. Jennifer Caudle to help us try to find some answers. If we had a perfect pill for it we wouldn't be talking about it.


BOLDUAN: The numbers are pretty amazing, that I've just said -- 8.6 million people are using sleep medication every month.


BOLDUAN: What do you make of the results? CAUDLE: I'll tell you what I think about this. The word -- the phrase 8.6 million seems like a lot of people but as a family practitioner, honestly, every single day I see people who are on these medications or who are coming in asking for them. So quite honestly I believe that number. I believe there are millions of people out there that not only have problems sleeping but are on these medications as well.

BOLDUAN: In part of the study it was pretty extensive, I was looking through. The study found the number of people taking the medication kind of kicked up in and around their 50s and also it was much higher among women. So are we talking about more people are having trouble sleeping, or more people are now becoming more comfortable taking a sleep medication?

CAUDLE: My personal opinion, I honestly think it's probably both. Let's talk about why someone might have problems sleeping. First of all, let's look at our 24 hour a day, seven day a week world we live in. Right, the stress of everyday life. We got cell phones and computers that never shut off. I think that's really having a toll on our environment and our community. But sometimes people work shift work, they might work at night, sometimes at day, and sometimes people have conditions like sleep apnea or restless leg and don't forget things like anxiety, depression, life stressors, if you lost a family member or if you lost a job, these are things that really do impact a person's sleep so there's many reasons why we're seeing this but I think it's a combination of that and probably yes, people are more comfortable saying hey, doc, what can we do about this?

BOLDUAN: And this isn't just -- we're not just talk about being tired at work. Extended sleep deprivation has a real impact on your health.

CAUDLE: Oh yeah, it's not a joke. Insomnia and being tired really is not a joke. And what I mean by that is we know that car crashes, motor vehicle accidents, fatalities from people who are driving, who are sleepy, that's one example. It's astronomical. It's dangerous, downright dangerous. So it's definitely really important that look if you're not sleeping at night, don't forget there are other things, too. You're going to work being tired means you're probably not concentrating as well as you might be able to normally, just being a little bit distracted, not performing optimally. It's not just the car crash which in and of itself is bad but it's a whole world effect.

BOLDUAN: I also feel that when I've gone a long time with very little sleep I feel like my immune system is compromised, you'll get sick easier. What is the best advice that you give to your patients when they come in? What is the best way to get sleep without a sleep medication and do you also, are you fine with recommending a sleep medication?

CAUDLE: To answer that question first, as a family doctor, yes. Sleep medications are appropriate for many people. It's got to be the right person, the right patient, the right situation, but for some people this is the right thing to do. But let's talk about thinks you can do at home, ok. So the first thing I recommend is when people come to me, I want them to tell me about what's going on at home. Keep a sleep diary. One to two weeks, write down when you're going to sleep, when you're waking up, what's happening around you.

BOLDUAN: So you don't think that's stilly. I've heard that and --

CAUDLE: No not silly.

BOLDUAN: -- some people say oh that is just so silly.

CAUDLE: Are you kidding? Doctors love it. Bring it in to me. Show me the piece of paper, because it's tangible information about what's going on in your life.

But so let's talk about what we call "sleep hygiene." Sleep hygiene is basically the do's and the don'ts of getting good sleep. Ok, so first thing is avoid the alcohol and the caffeine, especially around bedtime. You're really not going to sleep well. Avoid really heavy meals. This is not the time to eat that huge meal at 11:00 at night. Make sure that your room is really dark and kind of cool. So, if you need those darkening sheers, the drapes and stuff, I have those in my own bedroom, otherwise I can't sleep.

BOLDUAN: All good advice.

CAUDLE: Do it, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: All right, on that note I'm going to go back to bed. Dr. Jennifer Caudle, thank you, good advice we all need to listen to. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate. When we come back on NEW DAY a troubling story, a rape victim dead, a judge under fire, and the rapist a teacher facing just 30 days in jail. Controversial sentence, many now want the judge off the bench. We'll explain.

PEREIRA: And she could be the future of tennis, Victoria or Vicky Duval wowing fans both on and off the court, she's just 17 years old. Before her next match we had the opportunity to catch up with her to hear her tremendous story. That's ahead.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to New Day. it is Thursday, August 29th. Coming up in the show, the suspects involved in that now infamous Florida school bus beating are back in court today.