CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

President Obama Makes Case for War; Gas Prices Rising On Syrian Strike Fears; Did Life On Earth Start On Mars?; Kate's Surprising Post-Delivery Appearance; Interview with Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Aired August 30, 2013 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: "OUTFRONT" next, the White House makes its case for war. Its official declassified intelligence report on Syria's chemical weapons attack. Is it enough to justify military action?

Plus, rising gas prices. Why you're paying more to fill up this Labor Day weekend and why prices will likely keep on rising.

And Kate Middleton makes her first public appearance since giving birth.

Let's go "OUTFRONT."

I'm Jessica Yellin in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, President Obama makes his case for war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today we released our unclassified assessment detailing with high confidence that the Syrian regime carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed well over 1,000 people including hundreds of children. This follows the horrific images that shocked us all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: CNN has obtained new images the aftermath of another alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria and we want to warn you the video is very disturbing. Seven people died and dozens were injured in the alleged attack on a school in Northern Syria. A doctor at a local hospital said, quote, "It's like they used chemicals like napalm or something." Many of the victims were covered in burns. CNN has not been able to independently confirm what happened there.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins us now with all the latest from there. Hi, Jim. I know you've been working the story furiously. Today the administration released its declassified intelligence assessment, its case for an attack, so what is the president's evidence?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, I can tell you from talking to a White House official they feel pretty pleased about the way this intelligence assessment was received. Just to walk through some of the evidence, the four-page document lays out the more than 1,400 people killed in the gas attack last week in Damascus, around Damascus, and 400 children. But throughout this document, Jessica, it's interesting to point out, they keep referring back to videos.

They talk about how they've identified 100 videos that they've attributed to the attack, many of those videos documenting some of the chemical exposure that was suffered by many of the victims in this attack. And they also talk about intercepts of communications involving a senior official that they say was intimately familiar with the offensive and confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime.

They also put out a map showing different locations around the capital of Damascus where they believe people were affected by the chemical weapons attack. They say that is evidence of a widespread indiscriminate attack not like the one that they suspect the Syrians of carrying out earlier this year -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Devastating information. I'm curious does the administration say they know what Assad's motivation may have been for a chemical weapons attack?

ACOSTA: Well, administration officials on a conference call earlier this afternoon with reporters, Jessica, said that they believe what the Syrians were essentially doing was executing a military maneuver, that they believe that the Syrians were seeing the rebels advancing toward the capital city of Damascus and that they launched the chemical weapons essentially to keep the rebels at bay.

And I talked to a White House official about that report earlier this afternoon, and that official said to me that they believe that this presentation, quote, "exceeded expectations," that the tic tac of information was compelling. And as for what happens next, Jessica, obviously the president as we know has not made a final decision.

But this White House official that I talked to said that everybody, quote, acknowledges the gravity of the situation and that, quote, "the president does not take this lightly" -- Jessica.

YELLIN: OK, Jim, thank you for that report. Jim Acosta from the White House.

OUTFRONT tonight, General Anthony Zinni joining us, he served as commander in chief of U.S. Central Command under President Bill Clinton, and Colonel Cedric Leighton who served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force. Gentlemen, thanks for being with us. I'd like to call your attention to something --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be with you.

YELLIN: -- thank you. Secretary Kerry said today that any action by the administration will, quote, "Bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Libya." And then President Obama said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow, act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: General Zinni, you oversaw Bill Clinton's attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden back in 1998. You warned against President Bush's mistakes in Iraq. I'm wondering do you think President Obama is on the verge of making a mistake in Syria?

GENERAL ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER IN CHIEF (RETIRED): I think, you know, he's made the commitment and he's put down the red line, and I think it's inevitable now that he has to follow through. If -- to not follow through would embolden Assad and tell him he could use chemical weapons. I would make one point, which is really critical here. This is not about supporting the United States or a United States move. This is about the chemical weapons convention.

The 191 countries signed on to this, including the British and others, and I think that the administration should have made a better case that this is sort of separate from involvement in long-term in this civil war. It's about enforcement of something that 191 countries signed on and only five countries have refused to do it.

YELLIN: Well, I think the president has tried to make that -- we'll get back to that in a moment. Let me ask Colonel Leighton, the White House released its de-classified intelligence assessment today. You've seen it. Was it enough?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, USAF (RETIRED), JOINT STAFF, PENTAGON: I think it's always hard, Jessica, for a government to release information that was derived from really sensitive sources, so it probably was a good start, but in this environment that we're living in right now, people are going to probably demand as much as they possibly can to see exactly what the intelligence was. Unfortunately, in the real world that doesn't really allow you to then get further intelligence, and that's going to be a difficult thing for the administration to do and a difficult piece for them to negotiate actually.

YELLIN: For example, it doesn't make the case that Assad was directly responsible. It doesn't definitively make that case.

LEIGHTON: Right. And they have a difficult time, because they may have something within classified channels that still says he actually did it or he actually gave the orders, but in many cases like this, even the most highly classified intelligence, will have a lot of caveats associated with it. And they will actually say that we believe Assad did it, but we're not quite 100 percent sure. And he may very well have given a verbal order to somebody in the room and they, then, would have executed it and there would be no intelligence trace of that. YELLIN: General Zinni, going back to the point you were making earlier, the president said U.S. national security is at stake here and he made that claim in part because the Syrians have chemical weapons. He said that, quote, "could threaten us." So, his argument is essentially that their stockpile of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of extremists could use them against the U.S. do you agree that that's a real danger and reason enough to strike?

ZINNI: Yes. You know, in fact, against U.S. interests doesn't mean attacking the homeland of the United States. It could be attacking our allies. It could be attacking our installations overseas. And when that capability falls in the hands of those who would do us harm, I think it does represent a direct threat. But, again, I would say that this is an international issue, and if the international norms are not going to be reinforced by the international community and it's all going to be left up to the United States, that sends an entirely wrong signal to people like Assad.

YELLIN: Colonel Leighton, U.S. officials are also justifying action by saying that American credibility is at stake. We know the president drew a red line at chemical weapons so the world has to see any country that defies the U.S. will suffer consequences. So, I'm wondering given U.S. budget problems, since our military is already stretched thin, is the U.S. still in a position to be the world's policeman?

LEIGHTON: Well, it's going to be a little bit tougher for the U.S. to do that. But in terms of military capability, there's no one on the block that can do it as well as the U.S. can. And the U.S. has the technical capability and the military capability in spite of two wars --

YELLIN: Can, but should?

LEIGHTON: Well, should it? That, then, becomes another issue, but I would say that we have to do something. I do agree with General Zinni that in this particular case it becomes very, very important for international norms to be upheld and there is a price that we have to pay in order to do that. Because if we don't do that, then the next time comes around there will be another person, another group, another country that has these weapons and they will try to get away with it to an even greater extent than Syria has.

YELLIN: All right, Gentlemen, thanks to both of you for being with us.

LEIGHTON: Our pleasure. Thank you.

ZINNI: Thank you.

YELLIN: And still to come, as millions of Americans hit the road for Labor Day weekend, you'll notice rising gas prices. One expert joins us to explain why prices are not done climbing.

Plus new evidence that human life may have started on Mars. Bill Nye, the science guy believes it's true and could change everything. And why you may be overdosing on painkillers and not even know it.

And how much Apple will pay you for your used iPhone as part of a new trade-in program unveiled today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Our second story, OUTFRONT, going up. If you're one of the 34.1 million Americans hitting the road this holiday weekend, you'll be paying for it when you pull into the gas station. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular is now $3.59. That's up more than 2 cents from just yesterday. Prices have been soaring recently driven by fears that a potential U.S. military strike in Syria will affect oil prices.

OUTFRONT, Larry Glazer with Mayflower Advisers. Hi, Larry, thanks for being with us.

LARRY GLAZER, MAYFLOWER ADVISORS: My pleasure.

YELLIN: Oil prices are at about an 18-month high. Are gas prices going to rise more steeply now because it's a holiday weekend and there's uncertainty in the Middle East, sort of a double whammy.

GLAZER: Absolutely, yes. Certainly the good news here is that gasoline prices are actually down year-over-year despite the fact that oil prices have increased during that same period. But bad news is consumers and drivers shouldn't get too excited because gasoline prices have been spiking recently. And if the conflict in the Middle East is not resolved expeditiously, we can expect more of the same. We can expect higher prices over the next few weeks and no one likes to see that at the pump.

YELLIN: So if this conflict in Syria gets resolved or our part in it, will we still see gas prices tick upwards?

GLAZER: We will. And certainly, you know, Syria in its own right is not a major producer of energy, but if we look at the countries surrounding Syria, if we look at the five of the top producers of the oil globally four of which are in some way involved in this conflict, whether it's Iran, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Russia, so that's the concern here.

If you have a supply disruption, all bets are off and prices could soar. Right now we have a war premium built into the price of oil, and drivers are certainly seeing that at the pump. They're seeing that every day. It's psychological. It weighs on them every time they fill up. But the Syrian safety trade has kept oil prices elevated more than they should be based on demand in the global economy.

YELLIN: So I think the prices we are paying is about $3.59 a gallon. How does that compare to other years around Labor Day?

GLAZER: Sure. Well, again, if we look back at history, it is to be expected that we see a slight uptick in the price of retail gasoline right before a heavily traveled holiday weekend like we're seeing now. The big bet is what we see after that weekend and, again, with this conflict if it drags on the way we expect it to, we would expect to see prices remain abnormally high.

The wild card here for the consumer is going to be home heating oil season. How do we see home heating oil prices? The question they're asking themselves is should I lock in my price today, should I fill up at the pump today, and the answer to both those questions is probably yes based what we're seeing in the news flow and what we're hearing from the president today.

YELLIN: OK, so everyone should go out and get gas tonight. Larry, thank you for your time.

GLAZER: My pleasure. Thank you, have a great weekend.

YELLIN: Our third story, OUTFRONT, they say men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but is it possible we're all from Mars? An internationally acclaimed geochemist caused a stir last night when he said, quote, "The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians, that life started on Mars and came to earth on a rock."

Is this science fiction or is there truth to this theory? OUTFRONT tonight, Bill Nye, the science guy, he is the executive director of the Planetary Society and here to help us sort it out. Well, this definitely sounds bizarre, but apparently you think this is a legitimate theory?

BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": Yes. It's absolutely legitimate theory. See, we find meteorites laying on the earth's surface that is clearly from Mars. There's ways to do it, you look at the impact pattern on the rock and you get the bubbles of gas from the Martian atmosphere, because we find amino acids in meteorites.

Because they survive in deep space for centuries, for millennia, people have wondered for several years or a couple of decades if it's possible that life started on Mars when Mars was very wet and ended up here on earth and we were all descendants of some Martian microbe. I'm the first to say it sounds just extraordinary and almost crazy, but it's quite reasonable.

YELLIN: If science now shows that our lives started on Mars, this would be a pretty significant development, wouldn't it?

NYE: It would utterly change the world. It would change the world the way Copernicus changed the world when we found out the earth goes around the sun, instead of the other way around, and it would change the way Galileo saw there were moons around the other planets. It changes everything.

YELLIN: If it's right, are we all Martians?

NYE: It's very reasonable. It's very reasonable. But if he's right about the chemical process, it doesn't necessarily mean that we started on Mars, but it's reasonable that maybe life started on Mars, man, if we could go somewhere near the equator on Mars on a summer Mars day and look at some slushy super salty ice and find molybdenum oxide and Martian-enabled microbes, it would change the world. There's one way to ensure you can never find that.

YELLIN: What's that?

NYE: That's not to go looking. It's so expensive, everybody. I'm telling you it's a worthy pursuit.

YELLIN: Bill Nye, the science guy, thanks so much.

Ahead, new protest over a Montana judge who sentenced a rapist to only 30 days in prison. Will the growing outrage put the convicted teacher behind bars for longer?

Plus, a surprise appearance for the first time since she showed off her baby, we're seeing Kate Middleton, the new video ahead.

And a robber picks the wrong victims.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Our fourth story, OUTFRONT, Kate is back in action and back in shape. The duchess of Cambridge made her first official appearance today since she showed off her new baby Prince George five weeks ago. Kate and Prince William turned out to mark the start of a marathon near their home in Wales. And in keeping with her stylish reputation, Kate thrilled the public with panache and her post-baby physique.

OUTFRONT tonight, Eloise Parker, royal watcher and contributor to people.com. Hi, Eloise, I've been looking forward to this segment all day. So, what struck you about Kate's post-baby appearance?

ELOISE PARKER, ROYAL WATCHER: Well, first up, didn't she look fabulous? Everybody's talking about the fact that she dropped all that baby weight, but I think what's more important is just the fact that she looks so healthy. Isn't it lovely to see a new mom out and about not looking exhausted?

YELLIN: It's true, she does look vibrant and with that big smile. It's amazing if we put up the side by sides, I think we got a two-way, one is Kate five weeks ago when she left the hospital and on the right her look today. Any idea what her daily routine is and the secret to looking fabulous like that?

PARKER: We do know she eats very healthfully and she practices a lot of yoga which she did throughout her pregnancy. She does have a weakness for gummy sweets, gummy candy, so maybe she's been laying off those for the past few weeks, but we also know she's breastfeeding and that was certainly her intention and that really helps the weight fall off as well. She's also been spotted out and about doing on beach walks and doing the grocery shopping and being very active.

YELLIN: It sounds very natural.

PARKER: That's right.

YELLIN: Well, they look well rested, more than most new parents and they claim to not have any nannies, do you have any idea what their household help looks like if it's true that they don't have nannies?

PARKER: They are living very quietly in the farmhouse. We do know they have a housekeeper, we do believe they have a housekeeper helping them with the cooking and household chores and Grandma Middleton has been stepping in for sure. She's made herself pretty much fully available to the couple over the past five weeks and Kate herself did confirm to well-wishers today that baby George was home with granny.

YELLIN: Now, are they getting out often?

PARKER: Yes. I mean, Kate has been out and about, the thing you have to remember it's not like people who live in L.A. and are photographed every day. These guys have what might be called a gentleman's agreement with the British press when they're not attending official engagements they are left alone and not photographed and able to go about their daily business. She's been spotted at the beach and the local supermarket but she has remained largely un-photographed during that time.

YELLIN: That's remarkable. She looks fantastic. Good to talk to you, thank you so much.

PARKER: Thank you.

YELLIN: Appreciate it.

And still to come -- is President Obama flip-flopping? Was he against military action before he was for it?

Plus, new protests over the 30-day sentence of a teacher who raped a 14-year-old student, the latest on a possible appeal that could put the teacher behind bars for years.

And dramatic video, gunmen opened fire on a home filled with children.

And the shout-out tonight, don't mess with these women. The video comes from the police department in the London Borough of Sutton. It shows two women getting cash from an ATM as a man approaches trying to take their money. But they pushed him away, and after the would-be robber spat at one of the women who reacted by pulling him off his bike. As the woman went to join their mother, the man actually had the audacity to yell, your kids need to learn some manners! This shout-out goes to the women for fighting back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT, North Korea has rescinded an invitation for a U.S. delegation to visit the country. The delegation was going to try to secure the release of American Kenneth Bay who has been detained there since November. Bay was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after being accused of trying to bring down the government through religious activities.

Gordon Chang author of "Nuclear Showdown North Korea Takes On The World" tells us that though many had thought North Korea had finally turned a corner, it looks like Pyongyang is back to its old way of doing things.

Bottles of extra strength Tylenol will be getting a new look. There will now be a warning on the cap that reads "contains acetaminophen, always read the label". Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen says sometimes what happens is people taking Tylenol while they are taking other products that contain acetaminophen and actually end up taking too much of that painkiller.

Well, we have some wild surveillance video out of Florida. The Broward County sheriff's office says they're searching for three men who shot at a home filled with young children. The white SUV is seen in this video dropping off suspects before they opened fire using two hand guns and an assault rifle. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Uh-oh, Spaghettios. Campbell's Soup has to recall 1,920 cans or about 1,740 pounds of Spaghettios with Meatballs -- yes, because they were actually labeled as Swanson's Chicken Broth.

We spoke to the company and they tell us that the recall is small, only about 80 cases. The mislabeled products were sold in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. That one is hard to believe.

OK. Our fifth story OUTFRONT: President Obama's contradiction. Has the president changed his tune on military engagement? Here's what he said today to justify a possible strike on Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of our obligation as a leader in the world is making sure that when you have a regime that is willing to use weapons that are prohibited by international norms on their own people, including children, that they're held to account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: OK. Compare that to what then senator and soon to be anti-war presidential candidate Barack Obama said back in 2006 while touting his opposition to the Iraq war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I said then and believe now that Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator who craved weapons of mass destruction but who posed no imminent threat to the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So, what changed the president's perspective?

OUTFRONT tonight Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Today, guys, we saw the administration build its case for a strike on Syria.

Congresswoman Lee, I want to put this to you first, is this what you expected from the president who won a Nobel Peace Prize his first year in office?

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first let me say, this is a very, very tough decision. I think the president as commander in chief has some very difficult decisions that he must make now as the president and as commander in chief.

As Secretary Kerry said, this is not Iraq, this is not Afghan Afghanistan, this is not Libya. They presented some very compelling evidence. I think everyone in our country understands that crimes against humanity as it relates to chemical attacks, against civilians and vulnerable people is just horrific and unacceptable.

Having said that, let me also say that Secretary Kerry said there's no military solution and we must seek a negotiated settlement. What I'm concerned about is should this administration move forward with military strikes, how do you get to that negotiated settlement? What in the world does that mean in terms of more violence, more regional conflict, and, in fact, the 64 members of us who signed our letter want to make sure Congress is called back in session, debate the issues, the facts, and then vote on whether or not we should engage militarily.

YELLIN: All right, Doug, let's dial it out wider. A lot of Democrats see what they want in the president. People forget, for example, that when he won the Nobel Prize, he gave a speech defending military action, not peace. He said in part, there will be times when nations acting individually or in concert will find the use of force, not only necessary but morally justified.

So, is the president actually staying true to his word if he takes military action or is he conflicted?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think he's staying true to his word for what you just said, I mean, that was in his Nobel address, what a place to deliver a war message. It was shocking at the time.

President Obama means business. We're living in a very dangerous world, a war on terror. His dissent about Iraq was about sending U.S. troops in. I do think, though, the president needs to talk to the American people soon and explain we're not intervening in a Syrian civil war where 100,000 people have died, we're not trying to remake Syria, we just cannot let people use nuclear weapons -- or chemical weapons in the world.

And you have a -- an Iran starting to perhaps have a nuclear program. Now, you have chemical weapons being used in Syria. He's given them a lot of time in Syria and it hasn't worked, so he has to take a tougher stance now.

YELLIN: Doug, a year ago the president was clear about his red line. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: A red line for us is we start saying a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Will history look at that statement as a mistake?

BRINKLEY: I don't think it's a mistake. I think it was a warning. If it is a mistake, it's that he -- we didn't act sooner in Syria, we didn't arm the rebels. General Petraeus and Hillary Clinton suggested we may have needed to have done that.

The president wisely has not wanted to get into a post-Arab Spring military situation in the Middle East. We've been trying to stay out of it.

But the images and the intelligence reports of the gassing of these people and we're dealing with a kook in Assad and with his Hitler mustache and he's on the border of Israel, he's destabilizing Jordan and Turkey. It's a problem and the president would be negligent in his duty if he just played ostrich and didn't grab this by the scruff of the neck at this point.

YELLIN: Congresswoman Lee, former President Jimmy Carter spoke out against a use of force. In a statement from the Carter Center, he said, quote, "A punitive military response without a U.N. Security Council mandate or without broad support from NATO and the Arab League would be illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of war. On the other hand, President Bush turned down the opportunity to criticize a possible strike on Syria.

Do you think President Obama is still in step with the Democratic Party?

LEE: Let me say, President Obama, first of all, I think is trying to make the most prudent decisions that he can make. But I also believe that as Secretary Kerry said earlier, there is no military solutions -- solution, excuse me.

It's very important to build international support for a negotiated settlement so we can prevent any more carnage and any more violence and any more assaults with chemical weapons and gassing of people. That's outrageous and it should not be -- be engaged in anywhere on our planet.

But I also have to say that there's no way that we should engage in any type of action militarily until Congress comes back in session and talks about it, debates it, put out the evidence and vote it up or not and that's where the president engaging in it a military strike will have or not have the support of Congress. But the American people I think demand this. They are war weary. But they also understand that we need to ensure that this never happens again. But I'm not so clear that military action is the way to go and I don't think that is.

YELLIN: Thanks to both of you for being with us. Thank you.

Our sixth story OUTFRONT: outrage grows over a 30-day sentence for rape. Protesters today are demanding a Montana judge resign after he sentenced a former teacher to only one month in prison for raping his 14-year-old student. That young woman later took her life.

But prosecutors are working on a potential appeal that could put this former teacher behind bars for at least two years.

OUTFRONT Kyung Lah who first reported the appeal last night, and criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos.

Hi, Kyung. I want to start with you. Tell us what more you're learning about this potential appeal.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we know, Jessica, is that the county attorney is in the process right now of speaking with the state attorney general. They're trying to figure out if they have any sort of legal standing for an appeal, and what they've struck on is that when the judge lowered the sentence to just one month, they believe, they have this nugget, that he may have misapplied the law.

What they're trying to figure out right now is whether that is strong enough -- strong enough legal standing -- to actually file an appeal. Jessica, we should add that the prosecutor in the county says that it is very rare for prosecutors to file this sort of appeal.

YELLIN: So, she says it's a nugget, Danny. How rare would it be for him -- for the prosecutors to be able to win this kind of an extension?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: First, this case demonstrates how complex sentencing can be, because these parties can't even agree, judge and prosecutor. But in this case, they have 20 days in which to appeal, and if the judge gave a legal sentence within his boundaries, then it's not likely it's going to be overturned.

As I read Montana code, not only was two years the minimum, which is the argument of the prosecutor, it may have been a four-year minimum. However, you have to notice, this was a suspended sentence and, in fact, he got 15 years but the judge suspended the sentence. So, in fact, the actual sentence under Montana law is going to be considered 15 years.

The only restriction on the judge suspending that sentence, in other words, allowing him to serve it outside of prison, is that in the case of this charge, sexual contact without consent, when the child -- when a person is under 16 years of age, they have to do at least 30 days. So, by my reading of the code, the judge got it right. He applied the mandatory minimum, even though the statute calls for at least two years or maybe at least four years depending on how you read it.

It's just that the issue in Montana is that the judge can suspend the sentence almost without restriction -- the only one being that mando min of 30 days.

YELLIN: That is shocking that he got it right.

Kyung, we heard the other day the judge made an apology. I'm wondering has he spoken out again about his decision to sentence the teacher to just 30 days?

LAH: What he apologized for, Jessica, was actually his use of words. He didn't apologize to the sentence, and listening to Danny there, certainly, if he has hit it right, then he's probably not going to back down from that sentence and we certainly haven't seen it, publicly he's not spoken out since he did give that videotaped statement to reporters. He has not returned a call that we made to his chambers today.

YELLIN: Wow. I'm just curious, Danny, then, given what she said, given what you said about the judge getting it right, is there anything positive that could come out of this if they're not likely to get it -- extend -- his sentence extended for more than 30 days?

CEVALLOS: Well, the only thing that if you're not happy about it in Montana, talk to your legislature. Don't talk to the judge because if the judge gave a legal sentence, it's not likely to be overturned.

And I think to all the prosecutors and defense attorneys out there, this is about what most of us already know, there are some eccentric people on the bench and they say some wacky things from time to time. Ninety percent of them are terrific jurists, but there are some offhand comments that are made and the only difference is in our job, there's a court reporter taking it all down and we can read it or hear it later.

YELLIN: So, you're saying get the law changed?

CEVALLOS: In this case, if in Montana you're not happy with a 30-day mandatory minimum for that charge, with a minor -- a person under 16 years of age, then the way to address it is deal with the sentencing guidelines. Deal with the law.

YELLIN: Kyung, Danny, thank you.

And coming up, a worker strike that turns desperate. Why some workers are nailing themselves to a crucifix to prove their point. And next, she broke barriers as Houston's first openly gay mayor. Now, she's fighting for re-election. What does her race tell us about the mood of the country?

And twin pandas beating the odds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Money and power tonight, a new way to cash in on your iPhone.

Apple is launching a new program in its U.S. retail stores that will let users bring in their old iPhones in exchange for credit toward a new one. According to "The Wall Street Journal", customers can get up to $280 in credit, however, there's a good chance you can get more for your iPhone somewhere else.

Now, to tonight's "Outer Circle", we go to Paraguay where a labor dispute has led to desperate measures. A group of workers has undergone a form of crucifixion to build support for their cause. The disturbing images are certainly drawing attention.

Rafael Romo is following the story and I asked him what this protest is all about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, a bus company is getting more than it bargained for when it fired some workers. For more than two weeks, eight bus drivers have been lying horizontally on top of wooden crosses with nails driven into their flesh between their middle and index fingers and into planks of wood. The wife of one of them joined two days ago.

This is the way of protesting after getting fired, they say because they asked for overtime pay and benefits, and they say they will continue their protests at the bus station until they get their jobs back. There are reports that five of the former bus drivers have been told they can have their jobs back, but they're vowing to continue their protest until all eight are reinstated -- Jessica.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Thank you, Rafael. Interesting story.

Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look ahead at what's ahead on "AC360."

Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Jessica. We're following the breaking news on the program tonight. The late maneuvering from the Obama administration as it makes its case to the American people and the world really -- the chemical attacks by the Syrian government on its own people must not go unanswered. A landing ship with 300 marines aboard is now in the eastern Mediterranean. We're going to go live to the Pentagon for word on that and other movements of U.S. military assets in the region. Also, our political panel with their take on what options are on the table and what should be ruled out.

Those stories, plus, Chicago's efforts to make kids safe in neighborhoods where gun violence makes getting to and from school a really issue. The city says it has a plan, but not all parents are convinced it's going to work. Those stories and tonight's "RidicuList" and a lot more at the top of the hour, Jessica.

YELLIN: All right. Great. We'll check it. Thanks, Anderson.

And our seventh story OUTFRONT: Who said don't mess with Texas?

Labor Day weekend means the kickoff of the fall campaign season, and the rise of one mayor running for re-election, shows why Democrats are getting more confident in the Lone Star State.

Could changing demographics shift the red state blue?

John King is OUTFRONT with that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, at first glance, this is red America, right? But in 2008, and again in 2012, America went blue for president despite all this red because President Obama won so big in the cities and in the suburbs. Republicans win a lot, but in the smaller, less populated rural areas.

Now, Texas Democrats say they can re-create that same formula. Texas Democrats confident eventually they'll turn their state blue. First by winning in the cities, places like El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and in the biggest one of all, fast-changing Houston.

(voice-over): Yes, big oil and other energy giants have post of the gleaming Houston skyline, and there is no shortage of traditional Texas nostalgia.

But take a closer look, today's Houston might surprise you. The nation's fourth largest city is a case study in America's changing face.

MAYOR ANNISE PARKER (D), HOUSTON: No one is the majority in Houston. And we have, really, the last 20, 30 years gone from more of a traditional, biracial Southern city into this big amazing melting pot, more of the tossed salad.

KING: Since 1980, Houston percentage of whites is cut in half, 26 percent now. The African American share is down a bit, but the Latino slice doubled and the Asian share tripled.

PARKER: When I was at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

KING: And Houston, not New York or San Francisco, is the first big American city with an openly gay mayor.

Annise Parker is now seeking a third and among the Texas Democrats the once unthinkable, turning Republican red Texas blue.

PARKER: I think Democrats in Texas and the way we approach governing our cities and working within our party, may be the way of the future for the Democratic Party.

KING: This Democratic mayor is an excellent shot and has a permit to carry a conceal firearm but come around to supporting some new gun controls.

Gun control is still a tough sale statewide here, as is another Parker passion. She'd like to marry her partner of 23 years, Kathy.

PARKER: I want to get married in my city, in my state. I'm going to get marry in Houston.

KING: When will that happen?

PARKER: It will be in my lifetime, but I don't know when.

KING: Just eight years ago, Texas voters overwhelming passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil unions. And new Texas abortion restrictions are more proof Republicans still rule statewide, but the mayor and her partner insist the clock is ticking.

PARKER: My kids and their kids will have a completely different view of the social issues that the Republicans have seemingly welded themselves to and I think at some point, they're going to sink on the basis of those social issues.

KING: The local Republican Party chairman says the mayor is wrong on marriage and the statewide trend.

JARED WOODFILL, HARRIS COUNTY GOP CHAIRMAN: Texas has spoken loudly and clearly as to what that definition looks like. They said it's between a man and a woman. That's the way the Constitution says and that's the way it's going to stay. Texas is a heavily conservative red state.

KING: But Republicans don't have a top tier candidate. This fellow Democrat Ben Hall who says he will deny Mayor Parker a third term. Hall says Parker sexual orientation is not an issue.

BEN HALL (D), HOUSTON MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Anybody that brings that issue mis-serves the city.

KING: Yes, Hall is clearly targeting more conservative, church- going African Americans and Latinos. But at a time when Houston's economy is thriving, it ranked first among cities in the rate of job growth this past year, Hall's biggest theme is Mayor Parker has been more lucky than good.

HALL: She wants to rest and take credit for something quite honestly she didn't do. The oil and gas boom is driving the economy here in Houston Texas.

KING: Mayor Parker shrugs off criticism and talks confidently of a third and final two-year term.

(on camera): And might Parker run for governor one day, well, she believes Texans would elect a gay governor, but says at the moment, despite all the progress Democrats are making here, that a gay Republican would have a better chance -- Jess.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Old school reporting. Thanks, John. Good story.

And still to come, twin pandas beaten all odds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Panda-mania, a baby panda born at the National Zoo celebrated the one-week birthday today. And in Atlanta, twin giant pandas born last month are thriving.

Alina Machado is OUTFRONT with the assignment of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are inside the panda exhibit here at the Atlanta Zoo, hanging out with Shelon (ph), one of the older brothers of the panda cubs who were born here last month.

Now, most people who come to the zoo at this point can only see these cubs through panda cam when they are with their mom. But we got an up close look.

This is panda B?

DR. KATE LEACH, ZOO ATLANTA: This is cub B. Yes.

MACHADO (voice-over): Meet the brothers causing sheer pandemonium at the Atlanta Zoo.

LEACH: They get cuter every time I see them.

MACHADO: We suited up to go inside the panda nursery.

(on camera): All right. I think I'm all set.

(voice-over): To see how the only set of twin pandas born in the U.S. is doing.

LEACH: They are on track with the other cubs we've had here.

MACHADO: Every week doctors give each cub a thorough checkup.

(on camera): What are you doing now? Checking their eyes?

LEACH: Checking eyes, looking at their gums, no teeth yet, not for awhile.

MACHADO: Each cub ways about four pounds. The progress is considerable. They were about as big as a sticker butter when they born. To get here from where they were, staff has been their mom Lun Lun cared for them. While one panda sleeps in an incubator, the other spent sometime with mom. Zoo staff swaps them out every four hours.

(on camera): It sounds exhausting.

LEACH: It's been exhausting. But with this much cuteness, you can't begrudge any of the long hours at all.

MACHADO: Keeps you going?

LEACH: Absolutely.

MACHADO: The Atlanta zoo is one of four in the U.S. with pandas.

REBECCA SNYDER, ZOO ATLANTA CURATOR OF MAMMALS: Even though they are born here, they still belong to China.

MACHADO: The zoo says they pay to have the animals on loan.

SNYDER: So, having them here raises money to conserve them in China.

MACHADO: And China is where they will be in a few years. Until then they will be in the care of doctors and staffers.

LEACH: A has a little bit thinner band over here on the saddle, compared to B -- oh my goodness.

MACHADO: Who can't get over these sweet little faces.

(on camera): It will be awhile before the cubs are out here on exhibit. By the way, they won't be named until they reach the 100-day mark. That's according to Chinese tradition. For now, they will be known as panda A and panda B.

Alina Machado, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: "AC360 starts" now.