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NFL Strikes Deal with Players; D.C. Law Could Force Retailers to Pay "Living Wage"; Syria Warning Reminiscent of Iraq WMD; Kerry: Obama Will Take Action Against Syria.

Aired August 30, 2013 - 13:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Just days before the new season is about to begin, the NFL has struck a deal with thousands of former players. The deal is to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by the players who accused the league of not doing enough to warn players about the risk of head injuries.

Here are basics of the deal. The league pays out $765 million in total to settle the suit filed by former players and their families. Some of that money gets paid out right away because there's a fund for medical examines and players who suffered brain injuries. The rest goes into a fund for injured players and the families of the players who have died.

4,500 players and families filed suit against the league saying it knew the risk and did not warn the players. And it has to be approved by a judge.

The deal means that the NFL doesn't have to admit any wrong doing. The league won't have to reveal its records or go through what could have been a long and difficult discovery process in the courts.

Jamal Anderson played for the Falcons pro-ball selection before an injury ended his career.

Jamal, I know who you are. I'm sorry. I know your name.


MALVEAUX: All right.

ANDERSON: I thought you were going somewhere else.


MALVEAUX: You were one of the plaintiffs in this.


MALVEAUX: So what do you get out of this deal?

ANDERSON: I don't know that. I don't know that specifically. I know what the interest that I was trying to put forth when I joined the concussion lawsuit, for not just my health but the health of over 4,000 veterans that played this game. It's going to be interesting. The settlement provides for a claims process where there will be independent doctors and court-appointed administrators. They will each decide which players get what. It's going to be based on the severity of their injuries and years they played in the NFL and the players' age.

I heard yesterday that people think there's going to be some big checks that are going to all these players. That's not going to be the case. That's going to depend on your medical condition.

MALVEAUX: Why did you feel the NFL was responsible?

ANDERSON: I think there were certain things that we were never now really discover this. But I believe that the practices that have been in place now, like many other players, I think they could be in place several years ago. There's never been a situation -- I hear people say, you knew football was dangerous. That's not the point. The things to make the game as safe as we can while understanding it's still football and there are aspects of the game that we continue to love because of its physicality and what guys are able to do on the field. For me and for several other players, could we have had procedures in place that could have staved off the severity of injury we see from thousands of players?

MALVEAUX: This doesn't affect current players. Do you think it needs to be a broader scope of people who will benefit from this?

ANDERSON: I think the new CBA with the current players now has put in place certain assurances for NFL owners. They will be protected. This will not just cover the litigants but all retired players and, in fact, any player that chooses to file against this. This will be over a 20-year period. There's going be a long and arduous process by which this money will be dispensed.

MALVEAUX: If you had known early on the kind of injuries that you would sustain, including head injuries, would you have started? Would you have still played?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. I love the game of football. My thing is -- my 8-year-old son plays. And I know the things that I know now and the things we can put into place if something should transpire with him or anybody else on the field, I think they're of critical importance. I think they help a lot. Can they keep anybody 100 percent safe? Absolutely not. This is still football. We're talking about making the game that we enjoy as safe as we can with the research at hand. For me and many other players that was the biggest thing with this case.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jamal, thanks. Good to see you.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.

Here is also what we're working on for this hour. Will they stay or will they go? In D.C., Wal-Mart waits on a decision about a controversial living-wage bill.


MALVEAUX: In one of the most controversial bills in Washington right now, Washington, D.C., is trying to force big retailers to pay what they call a "living wage." It's not been signed into law yet, but Wal-Mart is warning it could have consequences for the city.

Christine Romans explains how.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, D.C. wants these big-box retailers to pay more to their workers. But what if the retailers walk and there's no new jobs. That's the crux of the issue.

There's been a seven-week delay of signing this bill that would force Wal-Mart and the other big-box retailers to pay more. D.C. lawmakers want stores bigger than 75,000 feet or with parent companies with sales of a billion dollars or more to pay workers $12.25. The current rate is $8.25.

What's happening in the D.C. is what we saw yesterday, in fact, with franchises across the country. This could be the beginning of a movement to align wages with the corporate profits of big business. Now, in D.C., supporters say you can't live on $8.25 an hour. That's the minimum wage. Mayor Gray (ph) said recently in the living-wage battle that's being waged there in D.C., he sees many unanswered questions about the bill's potential impact on the economy in that area -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Christine.

Just ahead, as the call for military intervention in Syria gets louder, some feel it's reminiscent of the Cold War in Iraq. Our next guest tells us why she believes it's a completely different scenario.


MALVEAUX: An American president says a Middle Eastern country has weapons of mass destruction. He builds a "coalition of the willing" for a military strike against that said country. Sound familiar? Some say it sounds like a decade ago when he heard George W. Bush make his case for war in Iraq. The similarities are just a few. Take a listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iraqi regime is a serious and growing threat to peace. On the commands of a dictator, the regime is armed with biological and chemical weapons. It possesses ballistic missiles and promotes international terror and seeks nuclear weapons.


MALVEAUX: My next guest says there are far more differences between President Bush's action in Iraq 10 years ago and President Obama's desire to act in Syria.

Jay Newton-Small is "Time" magazine's congressional correspondent and she has written an article for "Time" called "Six Ways Syria 2013 Is Not Iraq 2003.

Jay, good to see you as always. We should let our audience know setting up those similarities, that's the first line, setting up those similarities, that is from your article. Tell us why you think they're not similar.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, first of all, the object of the action and that regime change. About 10 years ago George W. Bush really wanted to topple Saddam Hussein. This time around it is the opposite. Barack Obama does not want to topple Assad because they're very worried, if they do, there will be a vacuum of power in Syria and it will become a failed state and al Qaeda could take over. In this case, they're really not trying to get Assad out.


MALVEAUX: Sure. Tell us about the point you make about limited engagement. We heard that before. We heard it from President Bush, who said it would be limited in scope. Turned out to be a 10-year war. We're hearing it where we expect the president will say this is a very limited situation.

NEWTON-SMALL: Remember back at that time that George W. Bush mustered 130,000 troops on the border of Iraq by the time he made that speech to the American public justifying going into war. In this case, you've got maybe five ships from the United States Navy off the coast of Syria. You will have no boots on the ground. And it really is an operation that experts expect will last two or three days, maybe four days at the most. And they want it to they want it to be done by the time the president leaves for Europe and Russia next week. This is truly a limited engagement.

That said, there's always the risk that if Bashar Assad uses his chemical weapons again, crosses that red line again, we're going to find ourselves right back where we are now, trying to prevent him from killing his own people.

MALVEAUX: Jay, we've heard this many, many times, talking about the "coalition of the willing" here, really trying to drum up as much support as he could to hit Saddam Hussein in Iraq. How is that different from what we're hearing today?

NEWTON-SMALL: This is very similar. We have no international institutions backing this action against Syria. The United Nations couldn't come to an agreement because Russia was blocking a resolution. The Arab League is divided over this. So is the European Union. Britain voted against any action. There's no major international institutions that are backing this. At the same time, you have the "coalition of willing" that is very similar to what Bush felt. We are talking about 120 countries in (INAUDIBLE) signing on but we are talking about, as John Kerry said earlier, France, Australia, Turkey. These are countries that are important to give legitimacy to what we're doing.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jay Newton-Small, really appreciate your time.

Of course, a lot of people are suspicious, of course, because of the intelligence. That's one of the reasons they are making those parallels. But you bring up a good point that these are very different scenarios.

We'll have more analysis on a potential military strike in Syria after the break.


MALVEAUX: We are following breaking news. Secretary of State John Kerry making an announcement just in the last hour or so that the Obama administration certainly is considering some kind of action regarding Syria for the chemical weapons strike that Syria actually did against its own civilians, its own people.

Let's listen in to some of the highlights the secretary was talking about just 30 minutes ago.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year and has used them on a smaller scale, but still it has used them against its own people.

It matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies. It matters because a lot of other countries, whose policies challenge these international norms, are watching. They are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say.


MALVEAUX: I want to go to Elise Labbott at the State Department to break this down.

We heard from him earlier and he said that the stated goal is not regime change. They've been talking to their allies and friends. They've lost the support, at least the military support of Great Britain when it comes to a possible military strike. What does he hope to accomplish by doing this?

ELISE LABBOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that's the largest question. When we talk about how the administration is briefing Congress and is going to address members of the American public, that's the question. What are the goals here, Suzanne? Is it attached to larger policy goals for Syria and the region? What I've heard from my sources is that the goal is three-fold. First of all it's to answer this chemical weapons attack. Show President Assad and the regime that there is a cost for using it, degrade his ability to use it again, and weaken him just enough so that he's weakened against the opposition to give them an edge but not topple him entirely. Because as you have been talking about, Jay Newton-Small saying, the administration very concerned that if Assad were to go right now, what would happen next? Would there be Islamists that would fill that vacuum?

So right now, I don't want to say it's a slap on the wrist. But it's definitely, as the administration has been making clear, a very clear- cut response to this attack.

MALVEAUX: Elise, why is it that the Obama administration made the decision it would go it alone? They had turned to its greatest ally, here, Britain, and did not get the support. They have now withdrawn their support. Why do they think this is something they feel so strongly about that they will do by themselves?

LABBOTT: I want to be clear. I don't think the U.S. is alone, so to speak. Obviously, Britain is a very close ally and we have a lot of military cooperation between the U.S. and the British militaries. But that's a very symbolic type of cooperation that they would be offering because the U.S. can go it alone. I think the U.S. also has France, that has said that they would support something. The president Hollande of France has said. And you also have Turkey, a neighbor of Syria, who has said that it would be in. So it won't necessarily be alone, although, Britain's participation or absence of it is noticeable.

I think, Suzanne, what the president wants to do, as he said, as Secretary Kerry said, restore U.S. credibility. President Assad crossed that red line, first time. The administration didn't really come up with a strong response to that. Wants to say, as Secretary Kerry said, U.S. means what it says.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in Fred Pleitgen, who is in Beirut, Lebanon, neighboring Lebanon.

Fred, you were one of the few Western television journalists to be on the ground inside Syria this whole week. How are they reacting to this real possibility now that we've gotten announcements from the secretary of state that there will be some sort of military strike in Syria?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Suzanne, because the reaction is coming a lot faster than you would think out of that place. Usually, it takes quite a while for the Syrian government to respond to things. But now they have some urgent banners up on Syrian state TV. I just want to read them to you. Basically, they are sort of the Syrian take on the Kerry speech. I'll start with the first quote, which is, "Kerry says any acts that the Obama administration will carry out in the Middle East has first and last objective, and that is guaranteeing Israel's security." So they're putting the whole Israel aspect of his speech. He obviously did mention Israel as one of the places that the U.S. has a security interest and relationship with. Of course, all of it was a lot broader. That's how its being brought to the forefront here in all of this. There's a second quote, says, "Kerry openly expressed the true objective of the U.S. action against Syria, that the strike will serve the best interests of their allies in the region and Israel." So it's basically pointing it out and saying -- putting Israel in the forefront instead of putting out the broad speech that was out there -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: You've said, throughout the week, how the Syrians themselves are preparing for a potential strike. I imagine that continues as well.


MALVEAUX: Fred, we appreciate it.

Of course, we're going to be following reaction throughout the world as well as the country. The real potential now, the Obama administration military strike inside of Syria.

Brooke Baldwin is going to take it from here after a quick break.