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U.N. Inspectors Arrive in Beirut; Dwindling List of U.S. Allies; Syria's Actions Threaten Allies; Feds Won't Challenge State Pot Laws; Bleacher Report; Cold Front Moving In; What To Do About Syria?; Dow, NASDAQ Close Out August With Losses; World Reacts to Possible Syria Strike

Aired August 31, 2013 - 06:00   ET



JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: After a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: That is the sentiment of many Americans as the world awaits a possible U.S. strike on Syria. But, will President Obama bend to public pressure? And will the U.S. military have to go it alone?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: No boots on the ground. So what are the alternatives? We'll show you what a U.S. military strike on Syria might look like and the possible targets.

BLACKWELL: And a highly interesting turn by the feds over state marijuana laws. But don't get too excited, Mary Jane, there's a catch.

KEILAR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Brianna Keilar.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It is 6:00 a.m. at CNN World Headquarters. This is NEW DAY SATURDAY.

KEILAR: And we do begin this hour with breaking news on the crisis in Syria.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We've gotten word that the United Nations weapons inspectors are out of Syria. They arrived in Beirut just a few hours ago and they're carrying with them any evidence of a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb on August 21st. So why is it critical that inspectors have left Syria? Well, with the U.N. team out, the window, that's thought, is open here for a possible U.S. military strike.

BLACKWELL: Our CNN exclusive video now. The chief inspector, Angela Kane, flew straight to New York to brief U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today. The sources telling CNN, results of the chemical weapons test may not be available for a week. At least that full report from the U.N.

KEILAR: Yes, so sources are also telling CNN that President Obama will be laying out his plans for a Syria strike to Republican senators today. Now, the administration is going into overdrive. They're trying to sell a very skeptical America public on a military response.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not considering any open-ended commitment. We're not considering any boots on the ground approach.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: There is credibility in this that will impact our country and our national security for generations if we do not get it right.

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: We cannot, however, be drawn into a regional conflict, which could happen, and more lives could be taken. You know, so before any military action is conducted by the United States, we need to have a full congressional debate.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: We stand for something in the United States. We stand for democracy. We stand for human rights. We stand for not allowing innocent civilians, including children, to be gassed.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, do not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly.

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI (RET.), FMR. COMMANDER IN CHIEF, CENTCOM: What we failed to do here is gain international support for that principle ahead of time. And now we're scrambling while our ships are in place to gain that support.

KERRY: We know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility.


BLACKWELL: And as the president's team tries to convince Americans a military strike is necessary, a new poll shows the administration has a lot of work to do. A survey this week by NBC News finds just 42 percent of Americans surveyed support a military strike on Syria. Half, a full 50 percent, say they are against any U.S. military involvement in Syria.

KEILAR: Let's go overseas now to get a sense of what's happening today across the Middle East and beyond. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is in Beirut, Ivan Watson is in Turkey, Erin McLaughlin in London for us and our Jim Clancy is in Jerusalem.

BLACKWELL: First to Beirut and CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom.

Mohammed, U.N. weapons inspectors arrived from Syria a short while ago. They are now out of the country. What's their next move?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, the U.N. chemical weapons inspection team is going to be going to the Netherlands now. They are carrying precious cargo with them, witness testimonies and evidence collected from these sites of chemical weapons attacks in Syria that happened over the past few weeks. They are going to be examining this evidence so that they can report on their findings.

But, also, earlier today, we know that the lead U.N. disarmament inspector, Angela Kane, arrived in New York. We had exclusive vide of her arriving at JFK terminal there, being whisked away in a diplomatic vehicle. She is expected to brief U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today about what the possible next steps may be.

Now, I can tell you that the mood here in Beirut, which is just a little under an hour's drive away from Damascus, is very tense. Security had been tightened, not just the residents of Beirut I'm speaking with, but also residents in Syria, in Damascus, very concerned about what's going to happen, despite the fact that U.S. President Barack Obama has said he has not made a final decision on these possible strikes. Here the mood is, people believe that it will happen. They believe it will happen very soon. And they're very, very worried about if -- if the war in Syria now becomes a bigger war in this region, what that will means for neighboring countries like right here in Lebanon.


BLACKWELL: All right, Mohammed Jamjoom in Beirut for us. We'll check in again later this morning. Thank you.

KEILAR: Now, if the U.S. does hit Syria, there won't be militarily a lot of company, I guess you could say, from allies. Although yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry listed the groups who are condemning the Syrian regime.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Arab League pledged, quote, "to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime." The organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we need, quote, "to hold the Syrian government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime." Turkey said, there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, "committed this vile action."


KEILAR: Did you hear that last line about America's oldest ally, France? Well, Britain might not have liked that, but the U.S. relationship with the U.K. isn't what it used to be. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is outside 10 Downing Street.

So, Erin, when you talk about the U.K. and you talk about the U.S., and we've heard President Obama try to emphasize in recent years that this so-called special relationship is very much what it used to be, you kind of wonder if maybe this means it isn't.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what many people here are questioning, Brianna. Secretary of State John Kerrey's statement yesterday raising a lot of eyebrows here in the United Kingdom. It did not go unnoticed that Britain was not among the list of friends that he mentioned as being prepared to support the United States against action against Bashar al Assad's regime, which calls into question this special relationship this morning.

The cover of "The Sun" very telling. They went so far as to print a death notice for the special relationship, saying "died at home after a sudden illness on Thursday, August 29th." Though the government officials here quick to dismiss these kinds of reports as hyperbole. There was a phone call between the White House and Downing Street last night. U.S. President Barack Obama and the prime minister, David Cameron, discussing not only their personal friendship, but also the deep relationship that continues between the two countries.

Nevertheless, ministers here are questioning Britain's role in the world. Yesterday, the secretary of defense here in the U.K., Philip Hammond, talked about how uncomfortable it would be for British forces to watch the French take their place by the side of the United States. Take a listen to what he had to say.


PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's a difficult time for our armed forces, having prepared to go into this action, to then be stood down and have to watch while the U.S. acts alone. Or perhaps the U.S. acts with France. Well, it's certainly a reversal of the usual position and it will be an uncomfortable place for many people in the British armed forces who are used to working alongside the Americans as an everyday normal course of business situation.


MCLAUGHLIN: So, an uncomfortable place for armed force here in the U.K. Certainly an uncomfortable place for Cameron. But parliament has spoken, Brianna.

KEILAR: Erin McLaughlin, thank you so much.

Now while Britain bows out, Turkey is stepping up, with the prime minister saying not only should the U.S. hit Syria, but actually it should consider a bigger campaign, one pushing Bashar al-Assad out of power for good. Now, we're actually going to go to Jerusalem and really try to get a sense of how folks there are reacting to this news. Let's go to our Jim Clancy. He is standing by with a report.

Jim, what's going on there?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Well, the Israelis reacted very positively to what you've been hearing there from John Kerry about what happened in Syria, the timeline and why the world needs to respond. Very important from the Israeli point of view. The country is sensitive to issues of chemical arms and weapons of mass destruction. International resolve to deal with all of those issues, it seems crucial here.

Now, a poll out this week found that two out of three Israelis support a military strike on Syria to punish it for its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people. But an equal number of Israelis are nervous that when and if that strike comes, they could be the target of any retaliation by Damascus or its allies, like the Lebanese-based Iranian-backed Hezbollah. They're not taking any chances. Crowds of Israelis lining up this week to receive free gas masks from the government. The increased demand caused waits of up to five hours in some locations, in a searing heat, and that, in turn, led to frustration, even a few fist fights breaking out.

Israeli officials think the risk of Israel being targeted is relatively low because neither Syria nor Hezbollah, or both of them, I should say, know this country, Israel, would respond forcibly to any attack. And some late reports say that the Israeli officials have been told that they would be warned in advance if the U.S. does decide to take action.


KEILAR: So, Jim, is that really the concern here among certain - the Israeli public? They're worried if President Obama doesn't make good on what he's laid out clearly as a red line, if he doesn't make good on the retaliation that essentially he has alluded to, that this sends a bad message in the region to Israel's enemies?

CLANCY: Well, exactly. That - the concern is - the issue is weapons of mass destruction. Is the world going to stand up or isn't it? Now, it sees the United States as willing to stand up, even though it faces some risks. But, you know, there were attacks, there was vilification, really, of the British parliament here. Perfidious is one of the words that was used to describe the politicians who blocked any approval of military action by British forces.

So people are sensitive. They see this as really a signal of how the world might stand on a nuclear armed Iran. And that rings very close to home. Some Israelis giving the opinion here today that this is a clear sign, no matter what happens, Israel should expect to defend itself, not to depend on others.

Brianna. KEILAR: And that's why two out of three Israelis are supporting military action. So different for Americans who are so far away from the conflict there. Jim Clancy, thank you.

BLACKWELL: And we'll continue this conversation with our eight correspondents across the region because this is not just confined to Syria. Paraphrasing a man we'll have on a little later, Andrew Tabler (ph), this ain't Vegas. What happens in Syria will not stay in Syria.

KEILAR: No. The roots spread outward. Everything, there's a ripple effect, and that's obviously the concern and why so many eyes are on this crisis.

BLACKWELL: More throughout the morning.

And still to come on NEW DAY, the Justice Department now saying it will not meddle with state laws where marijuana use is legal.

KEILAR: So, is it just caving in or is it choosing to focus on bigger issues?


KEILAR: Good morning, Washington. The sun still hasn't quite peeked out there. I will tell you, though, no doubt, even though it looks like a sleepy town right now, there are a lot of people in government who are already awake and probably have been for some time. A big time in Washington amid all the Syria news. But for people who just happen to be living there, not really having to do with this crisis, it's going to be a warm, warm day for you for reals, 92 degrees and sunny.

BLACKWELL: I'm sorry was that real plural, "for reals"?

KEILAR: For reals.


KEILAR: Sorry.

BLACKWELL: We'll take that.

KEILAR: It's what I say.

BLACKWELL: This story is a new take on something serious here, guns in schools. No weapons on campus. But --

KEILAR: That's right. One school is using a rifle to its benefit. Our affiliate WNCN reports that Lucama Elementary School in North Carolina will receive proceeds from a rifle raffle. Some parents say this is inappropriate in light of Sandy Hook and other school shootings, but so far WNCN says about 300 tickets have been sold at $5 a pop.

BLACKWELL: All right, so marijuana users can light up without worrying about the feds coming after them. The Justice Department now says it will not challenge laws on the books in Colorado and Washington state that allow people to smoke pot for recreational use. KEILAR: Well, instead, officials say they will be focusing on things like trafficking and keeping drugs away from kids. And CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now to talk about this.

So, Nick, you have marijuana. It's still illegal under federal law.


KEILAR: States just have to take feds by their word here, I guess.

VALENCIA: Pretty much, right? I mean it's their - this is what they're saying and so far the states are going to have to expect that they are going to follow through on their commitment.

Right now what the government is saying is that they're not going to preempt these states that have passed these recreational marijuana usage laws. There's new priorities. And a memo was released earlier this week that lays out those priorities. And as you mentioned, it's things like going after drug trafficking, going after cartels, going after drunk driving, going after minors, students who get pot.

But what this really does is really highlights something that had been promised before. There have been similar promises by the Obama administration before. And very early on in his tenure, Attorney General Eric Holder said they wouldn't go after medical marijuana dispensaries, but they did that anyway because of the size and profitability of these medical marijuana dispensaries. There were cities like Los Angeles, who had a huge crackdown on these dispensaries. So it's really, like you said, taking them at their word here. Hopefully, if you're a medical marijuana dispensary, you know, that you hope the government keeps their promise.

BLACKWELL: So let's ask a broader question here.


BLACKWELL: Is there any chance that the government will legalize -- or maybe reclassify? Because one thing that I think people learned, starting with Dr. Sanjay Gupta's documentary "Weed" -


BLACKWELL: Was that marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug, meaning its deemed - and I've got the list here, as dangerous as heroin, LSD, ecstasy, meth. Mixed messages right now. If you're not going after these people who are smoking it for recreational use, how can it be as dangerous as heroin per say?

VALENCIA: So if you ask a recreational marijuana user, they're going to say there's no way that they're as dangerous as, what you just mentioned, LSD, ecstasy, heroin. The effects are just entirely different.

But, I talked to a DA source yesterday and they said, there's no way - and if there is a plan in progress to change this from a schedule one drug, she's not aware of it. So at least right now, on the surface, there's no plans on changing it from a schedule one drug. It's still as dangerous, according to the government, as the drugs that you just listed.

BLACKWELL: All right, Nick Valencia, stay on top of it for us. Thank you very much.

VALENCIA: You got it.

KEILAR: Thank you.

Well, still to come, we are talking about the controversial half game suspension of "Johnny Football," who made headlines for breaking NCAA autograph rules.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but was the punishment tough enough for the Texas A&M star quarterback?


BLACKWELL: Twenty-two minutes after the hour now.

College football is back, kicking off with a full slate of games today.

KEILAR: But there's a pair of high-profile quarterbacks who are making headlines off the field. And Jared Greenberg is here with more in this morning "Bleacher Report."

Tell us about this, Jared.


The eight month layoff is finally over. Sure, you know, it's the third day of the college football season, but truly Saturdays are what it's all about. And the two-time defending national champs may have a reason to be concerned. Quarterback A.J. McCarron pictured sporting a walking boot, reportedly for an ingrown toe nail. However, McCarron is expected to play tonight against Virginia Tech. The senior QB is one of the best in the country, having guided the Tide to a 25-2 record the past two years, winning back to back national titles.

All eyes on suspended Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, benched by the university for the first half of this afternoon's season opener against Rice. The school and the NCAA said last year's Heisman winner did not accept money, however, he still inadvertently committed a violation by signing certain items. Even without Manziel, in the first half, Vegas still has A&M as a 28 point favorite over Rice.

$765 million isn't enough. That's the payout the NFL owes to more than 4,500 of its former players following a concussion settlement. Now some of the players are saying the league got off easy. Not only is the money to be spread out to thousands of players over a 20-year period, the agreement almost keeps the NFL from being found guilty in a court, potentially avoiding a PR nightmare. The deal is awaiting approved by a federal judge. You know, the NFL, guys, brings in annually (INAUDIBLE) $10 billion in revenue. So the former players feel the level of accountability needs to be a lot higher than it currently is.

KEILAR: Yes, they feel like they can afford it and they feel like they're owed more and certainly -- maybe they didn't get the better end of that deal, Jared, they feel.

GREENBERG: A lot of them have a ton of medical bills to pay -


GREENBERG: And to wait that time and to spread it out over so many players, the league itself is not being hit that hard financially when you break down the numbers.

KEILAR: Yes, we'll be delving into that a little more this morning. Jared Greenberg, thank you.

GREENBERG: You got it.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, a strike on Syria could come at any moment and Damascus knows it. So, while the regime fights one enemy, it's getting ready for another.


KEILAR: Twenty-nine after the hour now. And welcome back, everyone. I'm Brianna Keilar.

BLACKWELL: And I'm Victor Blackwell.

Here are five things you need to know for your new day.

Number one, U.N. inspectors arrived in Beirut today from Syria. They spent much of the week investigating what the U.S. says was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people. Now, Syrian opposition activists say there's evidence of a new chemical attack. They say seven people were killed Monday by an incendiary device at a school in northern Syria.

KEILAR: And number two, investors are no doubt thankful September is about to start. August was this year's worst month for stocks. The Dow dropped 4 percent, S&P lost 3 percent and Nasdaq slipped 1 percent. Markets worldwide also took a hit in part because of the anxiety over the crisis in Syria.

BLACKWELL: Here's number three. Bob Filner has left the building. The San Diego mayor, accused of sexually harassing 19 women, officially stepped down yesterday. Filner denies he sexually harassed anyone, but a spokesperson for California's attorney general says a criminal investigation is still underway. City council president Todd Gloria is now serving as interim mayor.

KEILAR: And number four, if you're traveling this holiday weekend, well, you're not alone. I learned this at the airport yesterday. More than 34 million people are expected to leave home for Labor Day. And according to the website Trip Advisor, 63 percent of people plan to drive to their destinations. Only 30 percent plan to fly. I hung out with those 30 percent yesterday. And travelers say that they'll be spending time with friends and family and enjoying the outdoors.

BLACKWELL: How was it? Made some friends?

KEILAR: I did. I'm enjoying - wait, no, I'm not. I'm not enjoying the outdoors.

BLACKWELL: You're really bad.


BLACKWELL: Number five now.

KEILAR: Also, if you've been smoldering, relief may be in sight. Earlier this week, record breaking temperatures forced some schools in the Midwest to close or cancel sports. Now, though, a cold front is marching across the country. How is this going to affect your holiday weekend? Let's bring in our meteorologist, Karen Maginnis. She is in the CNN weather center.

KAREN MAGINNIS: Yeah, I was on ...

KEILAR: Come on. Cold weather this weekend?


MAGINNIS: Not a lot of cold weather ...

KEILAR: All right.

MAGINNIS: But some folks are going to be cooling off, now thanks to a frontal system sweeping across the Mississippi River Valley. It looks like a lot of precipitation all across the country. But in fact, there's going to be more sunshine, quiet weather than there will be thunderstorms. That's for today. Tomorrow, a whole different story. But here comes the frontal system passing Fargo, Pierre, North Platte. And those temperatures go from the 90s into the 70s and 80s. A little bit further to the south, you get a little drop down in temperature, but it's not going to last very long. Still, some heat advisories out in places from Kansas City. In Kansas City, you'll see close to 100 degrees. But then as you go by Labor Day, it looks like those temperatures will mostly be in the upper 80s. As I mentioned, not everybody going to see a picture perfect weekend, because along the Gulf coast, the Mid-Atlantic region and the northeast, watch out for some thunderstorms there. Hit or miss. Become more numerous as we go into the Labor Day holiday. So, watch it. And Brianna, (inaudible) tell you, you're not suffering from heat. It's dragon con this year in ..


KEILAR: Wait. What is it?

BLACKWELL: Dragon con.

KEILAR: I know, I - you explain to me what this is? It's like a very new thing to me.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, I mean it's like ...

KEILAR: What is this?

BLACKWELL: Super heroes and film characters. Imagine Comicon, but outside of the comic book. I hope I'm explaining that correctly, because I'll get 40,000 tweets if I'm not.

KEILAR: We don't know in fact.


KEILAR: Karen is into it. And she has funnily little sparkling things in her hair. Somehow that relates to it as well.

MAGINNIS: Yeah, I'm dragon con light.


KEILAR: Yeah. It's dragon con light, not dragon con heavy. OK. Karen Maginnis, thank you.

BLACKWELL: The Pentagon is preparing for a possible strike on Syria and so is Damascus, likely making preparations of its own.

KEILAR: CNN's Tom Foremen spoke with Retired Army General James Spider Marks about what steps the Syrian military might be taking to brace for an assault.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every hour, every day that the debate goes on here is more time, in which Syria can, no doubt, get ready. Just a few days ago there would have been satellite signals, and radar signals and telephone signals, all sorts of things that we could hone in or U.S. Forces could hone in on. Now you would expect something different?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.): Absolutely, Tom. Assad may be a monster, but he is very clever. He has unplugged all of his systems that emanate a signal, he's intentionally going to black right now. So, it's harder for us to find him.

FOREMAN: So, even if know where a facility is, as U.S. knows where a facility is, it's hard to know what would even be there now? For example, if you had an office that handled radar communications or commanding control, would what would be in that facility now?

MARKS: Until we open the door, we don't know. We think we know. But we have to assume at this point that all of the contents of those fixed facilities have been packaged up and distributed throughout the countryside. FOREMAN: What about things like missiles and rockets?

MARKS: If weapons systems not being used, it's in (inaudible) facility. Again, we probably would see those weapons systems disbursed to places where they wouldn't be effective like underneath overpasses.

FOREMAN: And you can't move air fields but you certainly can move aircraft.

MARKS: I would bet you right now, those aircraft, already in Iran. In fact, let me tell you something else, when we invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein buried his aircraft in the dirt.

FOREMAN: Unbelievable, some of the things that might be done out there with this much run-up time. And this is radically different than what we have seen in recent years from the Israelis who have really emphasized the element of surprise.

MARKS: Tom, the Israelis will not give up the element of surprise and they don't spend time building a coalition. For example, on September 2007, the Israelis struck a nuclear facility in eastern Syria and destroyed it. And just last month, they attacked Syrian anti-ship cruise missiles in Latakia and destroyed them as well.

FOREMAN: And when did the world find out about those attacks?

MARKS: When they were finished.

FOREMAN: That's a very different approach. And that makes a very different playing field right now as both the country of Syria and the United States wait to see what's coming next.


KEILAR: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much. And in just about an hour, Ret. Army General James "Spider" Marks who you saw right there, is going to be joining us. So you can hear what he has to say about overnight developments, pardon me now, that U.N. inspectors (inaudible) Syria.

Well, those images of the suspected chemical attack in Syria are pretty disturbing, if you'd seen them. Children crying and screaming in the streets, victims gasping for air, clutching towels to their mouths.

BLACKWELL: Experts say, Sarin gas may have been the chemical weapon of choice against the Syrian people. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen takes a look at how this invisible killer claims its victims.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, Victor - one of the most lethal things about nerve gas is that they're colorless, they are odorless, they are tasteless. So, sadly, people don't know that the nerve gas has hit them until they start having symptoms. And so, those symptoms can include pupils that go down to a pinpoint. And people have difficulty seeing, headaches, excessive sweating, convulsions and respiratory failure.

Now, some people can actually survive a nerve gas attack. That's probably because they didn't inhale a particularly high concentration and/or because they were able to run away and get to a place where there was no gas. But if you inhale a high concentration, if you can't get away, the nerve gas can be lethal within minutes.

Now, what nerve gas does to your body is that your glands and your muscles have off switches. And what the nerve gas does, is it turns off that off switch so your muscles and your glands are constantly working. That's not good. It can cause exhaustion, paralysis and eventually death. Now there is an antidote. It's an injection called atropine and it works best if taken as soon as possible. Brianna, Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

KEILAR: Well, a 15-year-old student is recovering this morning after being shot at a North Carolina school. CNN affiliate news port team, Carolina reports the suspect, also a student at the Carver High School in Winston-Salem is in custody today. It's not clear what the motive was or if the shooter and victim even knew each other. The shooting reportedly happened after a planned fire drill.

BLACKWELL: A rare bright spot on this smoke-filled horizon. Firefighters have gained a little ground on the wildfire in and around Yosemite National Park. It is now 35 percent contained. But 4,500 structures are still threatened. Officials have lifted evacuation advisories for three communities. And they now expect to have the fire fully contained by September 20th.

Well, a lot of people are looking forward to September.

KEILAR: Yeah, I am.


KEILAR: Great month.

BLACKWELL: Stock markets have just ended their worst month this year. Great month.

KEILAR: Great month. Now, not all with negative in the business rolled. However, and our Alison Kosik has the Wall Street wrap.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna and Victor. It was the real tough month for stock. The Dow and the S&P 500 closed out August with their biggest monthly losses in more than a year. Investors were concerned about Syria and when the Federal Reserve will begin pulling back on its stimulus program. That was the focus, even though there was some good news. Economic growth picked up in the second quarter, growing at a 2.5 percent annual pace. Despite the rough August on Wall Street, the beginning of the year was strong. So, don't be afraid to check out your retirement funds. A new Fidelity report released this past week shows the average 401(K) balance jumped ten percent in the second quarter. The S&P 500 is up more than 14 percent this year. Two big financial wins for same-sex couples. The Treasury Department says legally married same-sex couples can now check the married box on their federal tax return. They'll be hit with a marriage penalty but will get tax breaks for health insurance, the state and gift taxes. And over at Walmart, the retailer will offer health insurance to all of its employees who have been in the same sex relationship for at least a year. Walmart previously only offered coverage in states that it was required to do so.

And finally, if you don't want to sit next to a screaming kid on your flight, well, you don't have to. Singapore-based Scoot Airlines is offering five rows for adults only, if they pay a fee of about $15. Fliers could only sit in the new section if they are over the age of 12. Malaysia airlines also has kid-free zones on some planes. Brianna and Victor, back to you.

KEILAR: Alison Kosik, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Sounds good.



BLACKWELL: More to come, our coverage of Syria continues and the possibility of a U.S. strike.

KEILAR: We have reporters stationed across the region where people and their leaders are on high alert.


KEILAR: News of a possible strike on Syria has the globe on high alerts. Let's check in now with the reporters around the world. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is in Beirut, Lebanon, a country that borders Syria. Mohammed?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tensions are on the rise in this region over the possibility of military strikes in Syria. Many are worried about if Syria might launch retaliatory strikes or what Iran might do to support their ally. Now, while groups like the Arab League and countries like Saudi Arabia have publicly said there should be consequences for the Syrians, they have not publicly endorsed the idea of military strikes. Why is that? Because it is very sensitive, because sectarian lines have only deepened in this region as the result of the Syrian civil war. Back to you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Mohammed Jamjoom, thank you. Let's turn now to Ivan Watson. He is at the border of Turkey and Syria. Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the border gates between Turkey and rebel controlled Syria, and now there is a war ranging on the other side of the border, there is still a lot of traffic here, even brand new cars being shipped in to Syria. Now most of the Syrian fighters we've talked to say they would support a possible U.S. military attack against the Syrian regime. And that's being taken one step further by the prime minister of Turkey himself, a NATO ally. Last night he said one to two-day U.S. military strike would not be enough. He basically wants the U.S. to carry out regime change in Syria. Back to you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Thank you, Ivan. And let's go now to Cyprus. Just off the Syrian coast. CNN's Nic Robertson is there. Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On this Mediterranean island just 17 miles from the Syrian coast, the government who's already activated its contingency planning, its terror watch level is up, and it's readying to evacuate as many as 10,000 E.U. and friendly nationals from the region. Air (inaudible) sets strikes back. This air base six fighter jets flown in for this situation are on standby. U-2, the high altitude spy planes and a wax (ph) reconnaissance aircraft flying in and out daily. Their role in the coming days will be determined by what happens, Brianna.

KEILAR: Nic Robertson in Cyprus. Victor, now to you.

BLACKWELL: So, let's go to Greenland now where scientists, with help from NASA radar imaging device, have found a new grand canyon. Scientists at the University of Bristol say this mega canyon was hidden under a massive sheet of ice. Listen, this thing is 460 miles long, it's almost 200 miles longer than the Grand Canyon here in the U.S. But the mega canyon is not nearly as deep. Researchers think it's been hidden for 4 million years.

Next on "NEW DAY," Miley Cyrus' day. You know, Billy Ray, he is speaking out about her twerk out performance at the VMAs. But say, what he had to say, after this.


BLACKWELL: Yes, it is a beautiful day. Well, wait. Let's look at this shot in New York. Because you can barely see New York. But there it is. Good morning. Coming up on ten minutes before the hour. No sun to be seen there. It looks like a good day to be at the movies. High in the low 80s and some thunderstorms possible. Speaking of the movies, there's a fight this weekend between "The Butler," which has been number one for two weeks and the new one direction movie.

KEILAR: There is a fight there and there's also sort of a bombshell when it comes to an NBA veteran star. You know Lamar Odom, right? Arrested on a DUI charge. The California highway patrol says, it pulled him over Friday for swerving. Now, the 33-year-old could not perform a field sobriety test and he refused a chemical test. He is now out on bail with the court date set for September, 27th, and on to that battle with the ...

BLACKWELL: Yes. Who is more popular? Oprah or "One Direction?" Well, according to box office predictions, the British boy band's new documentary "This Is Us" produced by CNN's own Morgan Spurlock, will gross more this holiday weekend than "The Butler," which co-stars the queen of talk, Oprah Winfrey. "We're the Millers," "Planes," the "World's End" run out to top five, at least they're predicted to top five from box office

And there's a lot more going on in entertainments.

KEILAR: That's right. CNN's Nischelle Turner is counting down this week "SHOWBIZ" headlines. Nischelle?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna and Victor, so what we are doing, is bringing you the best buzzy stories of the week, the ones you were talking about all week at the water cooler and that you may want to continue to discuss this weekend over coffee. So, let's get it popping, shall we?

Our number four story this morning, what's recently old is apparently very new again. "American Idol" bringing back the dog. Box expecting to announce that Randy Jackson is officially returning to the show. Not as a judge, but as a mentor for the contestants, he'll be replacing the departing Jimmy I.V.

Our number three story, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler may be golden girls for a second time. CNN has confirmed NBC and Dick Clark productions have asked the comedy duo to host the Golden Globes again. This after 20 million people tuned in for the first time.

And number two, congratulations. Huge congratulations to Fergie and Josh Duhamel. The couple gave birth to their first child Friday at seven pounds, 10 ounces, baby boy, with a rock-inspired name. Ready for this? Wait for it. Axl Jack. But you've got to say it like that. Axl Jack. Give him a little --

And a number one story this morning, hot on the heels of the much discussed VMA performance - Miley Cyrus's father, Billy Ray is weighing in, he told Entertainment Tonight, "She's still my little girl and I'm still her dad regardless of how this circus we call show business plays out." Right now it's playing out pretty well for Ms. Miley. Her music is selling, and selling well, she's dropping a new album and foam fingers everywhere are running for cover.


TURNER: I had to get that in, guys. And back to you, Brianna.

BLACKWELL: All right.

KEILAR: Love it. Nischelle Turner, thank you. Foam fingers everywhere running for cover.

BLACKWELL: I don't want Miley to take the brunt of this. Because we learned from Ryan Smith, on our sister network HLN that Robin Thicke's next video for that single features scantily clad women with foam fingers, so she was just playing along with his marketing ploy.

KEILAR: Like a promo. BLACKWELL: Yeah.

KEILAR: For his gross video? OK.

Well, what do you do when mama isn't happy?

BLACKWELL: Oh, mama. You hold a garage sale, of course. But when you hear why this kid decided to sell everything, you'll understand why he's kind of a rock star.



JAY LENO: Get over this, the big fast food worker strike all across the country yesterday. Costing the fast food chains millions, costing millions of dollars. But the good news is since people couldn't get big macs and fries and whoppers, hundreds of lives were saved. So that ...


JIMMY FALLON: The NFL is about to get its first full-time female referee.


FALLON: It will be a little different, though, because when a player asks her what he did wrong, and she said, oh, you know what you did.



KEILAR: I love that.

It is funny. You know, this morning, we have another special for you.

BLACKWELL: It's what we call "The Good Stuff." And for that, we take you to Ferguson, Missouri. You know the music. We took a look at Devon Melton. One day he overheard his mom crying. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and the family's finances were hit hard. Devon heard his mom say that she felt like she was failing her 12- year-old son.

KEILAR: So, check this out - Devon, he goes to Craigslist, to the free section, and he asks for donations so that he can have a garage sale to help his mom.


DEVON MELTON, GARAGE SALE ORGANIZER: Seeing her go through everything, at first, creeped me out. But I kind of had to grow to the fact that this is how it's going to be. And I wanted to make sure that at least I'm helping out.


KEILAR: As you can guess, Devon's story went viral. He has gotten hundreds of emails from people, offering help.




KEILAR: Must see moment today.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, you wait for it to happen at every wedding. At some point, things slow down and a relative or two does the unexpected. And that's what certainly happened here at this wedding in Russia. These two guys cleared the dance floor and put on this show. I mean things started off smooth. Little two step, back and forth, and he asked grandma to come out. But then they kick it up a notch. Back stands, back flips.

Looks like traditional Russian dancing with a little break dancing grown in.

KEILAR: I feel like it's footloose Russia style. It kind of what it looks like here.

BLACKWELL: All that on one arm.

KEILAR: Missed the high five there.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, he missed that. I'm going to let that go, but ...

KEILAR: And also, he deserves a high five. That was some pretty good dancing.

BLACKWELL: Thanks for starting your morning with us.

KEILAR: The next hour of your "NEW DAY" starts right now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground.

KEILAR: That is the promise from President Obama, as U.N. inspectors return from Syria to present their findings. But that vow may not be enough to pacify those who think a U.S. military strike on Syria would be a grave mistake.

BLACKWELL: A highly interesting turn by the feds over state marijuana laws. But don't get too excited, Mary Jane. There's a catch.

ALEC BALDWIN: Most of the paparazzi have their foot out to trip you. They want you to fall on the ground and they want to get that shot. KEILAR: And he's at it again. Alec Baldwin losing his cool on another paparazzo. So what's the fallout this time? That's in today's eblock.