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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Lead U.N. Inspector Arrives in New York; Pentagon Prepares for Possible Strike; Obama Lays Out Stance on Syria; Turkey Pushes for Regime Change; Navy Destroyers Deployed; Putin Slams U.S. on Syria; Labor Day Weekend Travel

Aired August 31, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


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

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. 7:00 here at CNN World Headquarters. This is "NEW DAY SATURDAY"

KEILAR: We begin this hour with breaking news on the crisis in Syria. We've gotten word that the United Nations weapons inspectors are now out of Syria. They arrived in Beirut just a few hours ago. And they're carrying with them evidence perhaps of the chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21st.

So why is it critical that these inspectors have left Syria? Well, with the U.N. team out, the window is open now for a possible U.S. military strike.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN exclusive video.

The chief inspector Angela Kane, she flew straight to New York to brief U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today. And the sources are telling CNN that results -- that the full report from the chemical weapons test may not be available for about a week. Sources also tell CNN that President Obama will lay out his plans for a strike for Republican senators today.

The administration is now going into overdrive to sell a pretty skeptical American public on a military response.

KEILAR: Now, let's check in now with our CNN correspondents who are all across the globe here on this Syria story, keeping you up to the minute on this.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is at the United Nations.

BLACKWELL: We have Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Jill Dougherty is at the White House. And our international correspondent Ivan Watson is in Turkey.

KEILAR: So, with the lead U.N. weapons inspector back in New York from Syria, let's start at the United Nations.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, what we do we expect to happen today there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you saw those pictures of Angela Kane, who led the inspection delegation to Damascus, returning to JFK airport 11:00 last night. She will, at some point, come into this building where I am today and meet with Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, and update him on the progress of that mission.

Now, there are suggestions, of course, that she will relay part of the initial results of what they found on the ground. Then, it has gotten a lot murkier in the past 24 hours. We've been told by Ban Ki-moon that he would, once he heard these initial results, tell the Security Council what they were. Now, it was very important when the U.K. was saying it was waiting to hear those results before it would vote on authorizing military intervention. That's now not going to happen. The U.K. is not involved and the secretary general isn't going to make that briefing, we understand, for Western diplomats.

So, today, this important meeting will occur. That will begin potential days, if not weeks-long process of samples being sent to laboratories across Europe from the alleged site of chemical weapons use inside Syria. Then, those result also come back and then the U.N. will put together its report.

That could be weeks away. It's less relevant now as a timeline for the U.S. because you saw that intense choreography happening yesterday, John Kerry, Barack Obama clearly paving the way now for what looks like U.S. military action, making their own case and frankly saying that the U.N. is incapacitated to actually assist in what they see as an urgent need to retaliate the chemical weapons use, Brianna.

KEILAR: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: And with those U.N. staff gone, the window now could be open for a strike. And if the order comes from the White House, the Pentagon will be ready.

KEILAR: Some analysts believe the first strike could come with tomahawk missiles.

And CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us now from the Pentagon.

Barbara, what kind of damage are we talking about that the pentagon would want to do to the Syrian military? And can they do that now that the Syrian military has been given essentially a heads up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you start with is the president of the United States. What is his goal? What is his strategy? What is he ordering the military to do?

By the president's own words, his plan is to do something to deter future use of chemical weapons. So, the target list that the Pentagon is going to work off of will try to meet that objective. By all accounts, that means they will go after specific things that they believe were associated with this attack or associated with the chemical weapons structure. So, look for command and control facilities, weapons delivery facilities, not maybe the chemical weapons themselves. Those are very hard to strike, because you can cause a catastrophe. Those kinds of targets. And it will be done by these five Navy war ships in the eastern Mediterranean with the tomahawk cruise missiles because those missiles are guided to their target by satellite coordinates essentially, very precise, 1,000-pound warheads. So, they're very destructive.

But the key here is precision, because, of course, one of the big issues is they want to minimize every possibility of civilian casualties on the ground. Brianna, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So, we heard from Secretary Kerry yesterday that we talked about war fatigue, the president talked about being where weary. Tell us what you're hearing from the rank and file of the State Department, those career workers? Is that view of war fatigue shared by the people there?

STARR: Well, you know, for the military people, sure. I mean, I think military families are always concerned when they see their loved ones on deployment possibly going in harm's way. In this case, these Navy war ships will stay far out at sea, out of range of the Syrian weapons, but it always causes families concerns, of course. And so many military families have had their loved ones on deployment for so long now.

So, that's always an issue. The president, at least for now, is insisting this will be a very limited, very narrow, very short -- perhaps just a couple of days military operation. He is insisting that he has no intention, boots on the ground, troops on the ground or any type of long extended military campaign.

BLACKWELL: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us -- thank you.

KEILAR: Now, as the world waits to see what the U.S. decides to do next, the Obama administration is expected to reach out to Senate Republicans today to brief them on Syria.

BLACKWELL: The president made it clear that Syria's alleged actions demand a response. But he says the U.S. military will not be sending in troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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, that would involve a long-term campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: CNN's Jill Dougherty is at the White House.

What can we expect from the president today? JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has, Victor, cleared his schedule. There's nothing on the public schedule. But, of course, behind the scenes there is a lot going on. In addition, the White House -- not the president, but the White House officials will be briefing the GOP on Syria, on the intel, on the options, et cetera.

In all of this, there is that caveat that the president is, which is no boots, limited action, et cetera. But, really, his argument is, if you don't do something, inaction is also a danger. Here's how he puts it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Part of the challenge that we end up here is that a lot of people think something needs to be done, but nobody wants to do it. And that's not an unusual situation and that's part of what allows, over time, the erosion of these international prohibitions unless somebody says, no. When the world says we're not going to use chemical weapons, we mean it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: And so the president will be here. He will, of course, be talking with his own people. Meanwhile, there have been a lot of calls internationally, Secretary Kerry from the State Department yesterday evening, talking with a number of people throughout the day in other capitals and we're also getting now, Victor and Bri, some reaction from President Putin of Russia, that's quite interesting.

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. And we'll be certainly paying a lot of attention to what Putin says as well.

Jill Dougherty, thank you very much.

So, Russia hates the idea of U.S. intervention, that's the reaction we're getting. But Turkey, for instance, says that U.S. plans don't go far enough.

BLACKWELL: Yes, its prime minister wants Bashar al Assad out and thinks that now is the time for a regime change.

CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now from Turkish border with Syria.

Ivan, the refugee crisis there -- I mean, we've heard the numbers of how many people were killed. But 1.4 million or more of refugees, getting worse by the day. How big a factor is that in Turkish support for an attack on Syria?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly contributes, Victor. I mean, more than 200,000 refugees from Syria living in camps in Turkey, and many more that aren't in camps.

I'm coming to you right now, this is the border between Turkey -- one of the border gates between Turkey and rebel-controlled Syria. And as you can see there, there's a lot of just day-to-day traffic back and forth. Now, some of these families we talked to are fleeing the war in Syria. Some saying they want to get out of the country before any possible U.S. military attack. There's also traffic going in. There's not a huge exodus right now.

We've seen trucks loaded with new cars and cement going in if you can believe it or not, into an active warzone. So, there is trade strangely along this border.

We've talked to a lot of fighters. There are a lot of Syrian rebels who move back and forth across this border. They have their families leaving in Turkey while they go fight the Syrian government inside and many of them have told us they want the U.S. to bomb the Syrian government. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WASSIM ZAKOUR, OPPOSITION FIGHTER: I Obama fight al Assad and his government, good. Thank you very much. But if he wants to fight us all, you know, this is --

WATSON: No good?

ZAKOUR: This is red line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Now, another important voice here is the Turkish government. The prime minister last night, Victor and Brianna, telling journalists in Turkey that one to two-day American military attack with would not be good enough. He wants a Kosovo style intervention, the type of operation that drove the Serbs out of Kosovo in the 1990s. He's basically calling for regime change, and that's because Turkey has been one of the most vocal enemies and critics of the regime inside Syria - Brianna and Victor.

KEILAR: And President Obama has made it clear they're not looking for regime change. Ivan Watson, thank you for your report.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY: the Justice Department now says it will not meddle with states laws where marijuana use is legal. So, what does this mean for the long running war on drugs?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: New York police say that a Brooklyn woman ordered a hit on her husband and they say she proposed paying for the kill not in cash but in stamps. New York police say a wife in Brooklyn offered an undercover investigator $60,000 in rare stamps plus jewelry to run over the man. She's been charged with criminal solicitation and conspiracy.

BLACKWELL: Some marijuana users can light up without worry of 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 marijuana for recreational use. KEILAR: So, instead, officials say, they're going to be focusing what they consider bigger things, trafficking -- keeping drugs away from kids, and CNN's Nick Valencia joining us now to talk about this.

So, Nick, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. So, states really just have to take feds by their word here.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. They're going to have to take them at face value. And what they're saying now is that they're not going to preempt these states that have passed recreational marijuana usage laws. They say there's new priorities and they lay that out in a new memo to federal prosecutors, saying things like what you just said. They're going to go after traffickers. They're going to go after cartels. They're going to go after drug driving, and also trying to keep those minors from getting their hands on marijuana.

But we've heard similar promises like this before from the Obama administration very early on. Attorney General Eric Holder said they wouldn't go after pot dispensaries, medical marijuana dispensaries. What happened? They ended up doing that anyway, and they cracked down. and a lot of dispensaries including in Los Angeles in my hometown. There's a big growth of medical marijuana dispensaries overnight. Government thought they were too sizeable, too profitable and shut them down.

BLACKWELL: So, there's a new survey out study out in Washington that says that marijuana is the most popular illegal drug used worldwide. It has U.S., Britain, Australia, Russia, the greatest drug problem. We've been talking about a war on drugs for 40 years now.

VALENCIA: Right.

BLACKWELL: A trillion dollars.

VALENCIA: A lot of money.

BLACKWELL: And there are many people who believe that's just a flat- out failure.

VALENCIA: Well, it depends on who you asked, right? If the government taken its stance, they're going to say absolutely not. In fact, I spoke to a source at the DEA yesterday and this is what she told me.

She says, "We don't even like to use the phrase war on drugs. That implies a beginning and an end. What we can tell you is that cocaine use is at an all-time low, touting their achievements there" -- touting their achievements there. But they said. "Marijuana use is higher than it's been in a very long time, but we know that hallucinogenic use is down as well."

She went on to add, saying, "It's very difficult to say if the war on drugs has been a failure because it's an ongoing thing."

If you ask recreational drug users, I'm sure they'll say it's a big failure, a lot of waste of money.

KEILAR: And there's something else kind of I think to consider in here if you're a business and you're trying to figure out where the law is. Banks, for instance, if they lend money to or are holding cash for a pot shop, could the government go after them for aiding a crime? Because right now, it's pretty much cash only business.

VALENCIA: Right. That's part of the problem, right? That's why some people say it's so violent, because it's a cash only business.

You go in these dispensaries. You know they're going to have money on hand. You know, you're buying something from your drug dealer. You know it's not going to be a debit card transaction, right? It's going to be a cash-only transaction.

This new edict from the federal government, it opens up and gives some leeway to the banks so they can loan money to distributors and producers. Whether or not they want to do that, that's up to them. Those federal money laundering rules are still very much in place and going back to the sizeable portion of the profitability of these dispensaries. Let's say a bank gets wrapped up in a dispensary that's very profitable, very sizeable. It could very well be shut town and they could be caught up in the middle of this.

KEILAR: Interesting. Nick Valencia, thank you.

VALENCIA: You got it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Time to say good-bye to vanilla. Really?

KEILAR: Yes, Volvo.

BLACKWELL: Volvo just released a glimpse of its newest sports car. We'll take a closer look at the slick new concept coupe.

KEILAR: And one person says, Miley desecrated an icon, and we're not talking about Robin Thicke.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: You hear that sound in it is money time on NEW DAY. And your money could be affected by what's happening in Syria.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that may be especially true when you're paying for fuel. Here is CNN's Christine Romans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just the threat of U.S. strikes in Syria is already affecting your money. The worst day for the Dow since June, as investors rushed out of stocks and into the perceived safety of gold and government bonds. Oil prices already up 15 percent over the past three months, thanks to instability in Egypt, surging to an 18-month high.

Now, Syria isn't a major oil producer and international sanctions have already reduced that country's oil exports. But traders worry that the violence could spread, disrupting supply. Syria has political, economic and military links to Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

Now, the threat of an unintended chain reaction resulting in wider regional stability could push your gas prices higher. Just a 1 cent increase at the pump takes $4 million out of the pockets of American consumers every day.

MOHAMED A. EL-ERIAN, CEO, PIMCO: So the last thing the global economy needs today is another headwind that would slow what is already a very sluggish recovery.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: The last day of the month, and what a great month it's been for new car dealerships. J.D. Power says with new sales expected to hit 1.2 million units, it will be the best month since the onset of the great recession. On top of that, consumer spending on new cars this month be close to $38 billion. That's the highest level on record.

KEILAR: And Walmart will offer health insurance benefits to same-sex couples and domestic partners. The nation's largest retailer says domestic partners of its U.S. employees will be eligible, and that will start on January 1st.

Well, yes, it is almost a week later. And we are still talking about Miley.

BLACKWELL: Oh, my.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

KEILAR: Miley, Miley, Miley. You're a child (ph).

Did you see that foam finger she used during her performance at the VMA? You couldn't miss it.

The creator of the foam finger -- he's not happy.

BLACKWELL: Come on.

KEILAR: No.

Steve Chmelar, hope I'm saying that correctly, told FOX Sports she took an honorable icon that is seen in sporting venues everywhere and degraded it. Now, fortunately, the foam finger has been around long enough that it will survive this incident. That's what he said.

BLACKWELL: Is that the photo we choose of Miley Cyrus? I mean, she's going through enough right now.

KEILAR: OK. But this is -- she's doing this all the time. It's like she thinks she's Gene Simmons. It's grossing me out. I mean, I feel like that's what she's always doing whenever I see her. So, I think it's an accurate photo to put up right now.

BLACKWELL: Again, I don't want to be on Miley's side here. I try not to use the T-word. You know which T-word I'm using. What she was doing, especially with the foam finger, is part of Robin Thicke's new video for his next single.

I think she was invited to do specifically that. She didn't just come up with a foam finger. It had nothing to do with the bears. Just saying.

KEILAR: It was a choice. She made a choice.

BLACKWELL: Volvo is looking to shed its vanilla image.

KEILAR: Sort of different than how Miley is.

BLACKWELL: Yes, she's going a different direction. She's going all rocky road.

KEILAR: OK. So, this is -- you like this, Victor? This is the concept coupe, the first of three concept cars the company is introducing.

BLACKWELL: I like the music.

KEILAR: It's great.

BLACKWELL: Described by Volvo as a gentleman's or gentlewoman's sports car. Listen, I like the 90-degree angles of the old Volvo. I mean, my great aunt, my Aunt Maggie, has had a Volvo her whole life, I think. She got her first car, it was a Volvo. And it just seems like home to me.

KEILAR: I know. But I will say, kudos to them to maintaining some of that boxiness, even in the sports car. It still says Volvo to me, which I think is cool.

OK. So, fast food wars are heating up. McDonald's announced the Mighty Wings.

BLACKWELL: Oh, mighty.

KEILAR: This is going to come in three, five and 10 pieces. They're introducing it this month. It comes down to the sauce. I mean, this is a sauce delivery vehicle, right? So, you got chipotle barbecue, sweet chili, spicy buffalo, the list goes on and on. That's the thing.

BLACKWELL: Yes. However, not to be outdone, Burger King announced the French fry burger, which I think people have been doing anyway. Now you're just going to charge me an extra 49 cents to do it for me.

KEILAR: This is the burger for really lazy people, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes, please, just put it on the sandwich.

KEILAR: Don't make me do it myself.

BLACKWELL: Regular king burger was bout four French fries.

KEILAR: So, the thing is here is that it costs a buck and that's key because they're trying to compete with McDonald's dollar menu.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the dollar menu. You know, those wings --

KEILAR: Which one do you want? Which one are you going to nosh on?

BLACKWELL: Can I say neither? I'm going to chipotle.

KEILAR: OK.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I'm going to chipotle, and I'm going to stick to that.

KEILAR: All right. Victor Blackwell --

BLACKWELL: How about you? No, no, you're not out on this, which one?

KEILAR: I think that those mighty wings would go really nice with the really lazy fry burger.

BLACKWELL: Both?

KEILAR: They both look delicious. Just saying.

BLACKWELL: OK. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Mortgage ended the week mixed. Check it out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Bottom of the hour now. 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 have left Syria. They spent most of the week investigating claims the Syrian regime used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 people. Now, Russia's president calls the claim, quote, "a provocation." Vladimir Putin says any evidence of an attack should be presented to the U.N.

KEILAR: And number two, South African officials say Nelson Mandela. But, of course, that contradicts what two sources tell CNN, that the 95-year-old anti-apartheid icon has gone home. President's office also says Mandela remains in critical but stable condition in the hospital. Mandela was hospitalized June 8th for a lung infection.

BLACKWELL: In Georgia, an 18-year-old man is found guilty of shooting a baby to death in broad daylight. You remember this story, this baby in the stroller. De'Marquise Elkins could go to prison for life. He was spared the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the crime.

KEILAR: And number four, a rather soggy start to the Labor Day weekend in Florida. A waterspout sparked by heavy storms destroyed part of its marina in St. Petersburg. Tore off the road, damage some of the boats there. Witnesses say they saw sheet metal just flying through the air and also more rough weather is expected there this weekend.

Number five, if you have been sweltering -- well, relief may be in sight. Earlier this week, record-breaking temperatures forced some schools in the Midwest to close or cancel sports. But now, a cold front is marching across the country. How is this affect your holiday weekend?

BLACKWELL: Nice. Hopefully.

KEILAR: Hopefully, you know, can it kind of average things out, Karen? I don't know, that would be nice.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to meteorologist Karen Maginnis for the official word. We're just guessing.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we've got a frontal system that's going to sweep across in northern tier states. So, it's kind of an isolated area where those temperatures are going to be dropping down from upper 90s to triple digits, into the 70s and 80s. So, that's pretty nice.

But we still have a heat advisory out all the way from Dallas and Ft. Worth, where those temperatures will soar into the triple digits. That's not going away any time soon. If you are going along the Gulf Coast, water temperatures in the low to mid 80s.

And if you are headed towards Tampa, temperatures will be in the 80s. Along the mid-Atlantic and the Gulf Coast region where those temperatures remain in the 90s, but nice water temperature there -- Brianna, Victor.

KEILAR: Karen, thank you so much.

(MUSIC)

KEILAR: If or when a strike against Syria takes place, you probably want to know, what is this going to look like? What are the U.S. military assets that are available to President Obama?

The U.S. has, at this point, six war ships positioned in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Each of them carries about 36 cruise missiles capable of striking targets all around Syria. U.S. submarines in the region are also capable of launching cruise missiles.

So, let's take a closer look at the key military bases in the region as well. You've got two U.S. air force bases in Turkey. Incirlik Air Base, and Ismir Air Station, as well as Sigonella naval air station in Sicily. There's also a major NATO air base in Aviano, Italy.

And while Great Britain has opted out of the missions, the U.S. could use a royal air force base in Cyprus. All of these are within striking distance of Syria.

And with that background, let's go ahead and bring in our CNN military analyst, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.

So, General, first off, we spelled out some of the U.S. assets in the region. What kind of targets will they be looking to hit in Syria? And I ask this, because when you talk to Americans, a lot of them say, are they going to take out the chemical weapons? But, certainly, I don't think that's the expectation.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think what the president intends to do -- and clearly, this is coming -- this is a very coordinated effort within the administration and there will be no ambiguity, is he wants to eliminate Assad's ability to strike with chemical weapons again. It's a very narrowly defined, very tactical mission. The challenge, of course, what does it look like?

So, back to the tactics, the U.S. forces will go after command and control capabilities, integrated air defense capabilities and the delivery means for those chemical munitions, which are rockets on to which munitions are loaded and then they're launched.

The intelligence is quite emphatic in this. And anyone drawing a parallel between what's happening in Syria and what happened in Iraq -- I have a very up close and personal experience in Iraq, is a bit faulty. This is a case that really should not be compared. We have evidence that chemical weapons were used.

We have evidence that the regime launched and used those chemical weapons and then whether Assad directed it or some rogue commander -- it's quite clear that Assad directed it. Nothing happens in Syria unless Assad has directed it.

So, those are the kinds of targets they'll go after. And it is fair to assume that the stockpiles, two things, may not be struck because of what's called the downwind hazard, collateral damage that can occur. And the second reason is it would be very difficult and it would require some additional capabilities to go after those chemical munitions.

That's also important to note that they might even have been dispersed, that those munition stockpiles now are in a whole bunch of different locations.

BLACKWELL: So, to make this point, Major General, how long do you think this action will take? Is it going to be the two days that we've heard mentioned or do you think it will take longer?

MARKS: Well, it depends upon how you define success. I'm not privy to those classified cables that get into what the desired end state looks like and how they want to measure success. So, I think the political realities are going to drive this, as they always do. President certainly gets on a plane early next week, heads off and meets with the G-20 leaders.

So, I think what we're going to see is about a 48-hour campaign, if you will, where missiles will be launched, targets will be hit. Assessments will be done to measure the success of the degradation of Assad's capabilities. Restrikes will be ordered to ensure further degradation or if degradation has not been achieved.

And then, the thing that I think might happen is the chemical -- if we can confirm where the chemical stockpiles are, the United States has in its arsenal the ability to strike those stockpiles with minimizing, not eliminating, collateral damage. But that cannot be done with cruise missiles.

There are other capabilities that can be used.

BLACKWELL: All right. Major General James "Spider" Marks, we'll continue this conversation a little later this morning. Thank you.

KEILAR: Russian President Vladimir Putin is slamming the United States for its position on Syria.

BLACKWELL: The Russian state news agency reports Putin called President Obama's assertion that Syria's president, Bashar Al-Assad, used chemical weapons, quote, "provocation".

But the president, President Obama says, he is confident in U.S. intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you've seen we have released our unclassified assessment detailing with high confidence that the Syria regime carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed well over a thousand people, including hundreds of children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: But Putin says the U.S. is making these accusations without any proof, and all of this -- this is the very dramatic, fascinating part of this -- all of this happening just days before President Obama heads to Russia for a big conference there, the G-20 summit.

BLACKWELL: Yes. CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is at the White House.

Jill, should we expect to hear from the president before he leaves for Stockholm and then on to Russia? Are we expecting to hear from him today at least?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we aren't, at least officially. There's no indication that he's going to be making any type of public comments. In fact, his schedule today is pretty much publicly blank, and that means, of course, that he is still working behind the scene here and meeting and speaking with his top officials. Just because he doesn't have something on the schedule doesn't indicate that nothing is being done.

When he goes to the G-8 -- and we expect that will be -- to the G-20, that would be on Tuesday. If that meeting, which is devoted to economics, already was going to be overshadowed by Syria. And now, President Putin is saying -- well, everyone is there. We might as well take advantage of it, and talk about Syria.

But you can bet that either way, if there is some type of military action by the United States or if there is not, there is still going to be just over shadowing completely by Syria. And I just want to say, Bri and Victor, those comments by President Putin when he calls them a provocation, I looked more closely.

What he's saying is a provocation by the opposition. And this kind of fits with Putin's message all the time that the opposition are really kind of trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the United States, that the U.S. is blindly accepting what they say. And yet he says, look, the United States, if you have that intel, if you have that data, give it to the U.N. Security Council. Otherwise, as you put it, it means you don't have it.

KEILAR: Foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty, thank you. Also, the former Moscow bureau chief for CNN. So, this is definitely Jill's area of expertise.

Well, you know, if you are road tripping, taking a turn here --

BLACKWELL: Yes.

KEILAR: Some people are. Labor Day weekend.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

KEILAR: Busy news weekend. But it is also Labor Day weekend, and this is what a lot of people are doing out there. You've got lots of company on the road. More people than last year expected to travel this holiday. But will you blow your budget at the pump?

Holiday gas prices after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Welcome back to NEW DAY. We are in the E-block, and that means time for some entertainment news.

KEILAR: We begin this morning with some very good news about Valerie Harper. This is a great story.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

KEILAR: The 74-year-old actress told NBC this week that she is beating her terminal brain cancer, calling it close to remission.

BLACKWELL: Perhaps that's why she's rumored to be taking on a huge new challenge, joining the cast of dancing with the star.

KEILAR: And joining us to discuss this, Ebony Steele, the co-host of Rickey Smiley morning show in Dish Nation.

Ebony, thank you so much for being here.

EBONY STEELE, CO-HOST, "THE RICKEY SMILEY MORNING SHOW": My pleasure.

KEILAR: I mean, Valerie Harper was initially in march given, what did she say, three to six months to live?

STEELE: Absolutely. And it's even more I'm a six-year breast cancer survivor. So, I know how sometimes --

KEILAR: Congratulations.

STEELE: Thank you very much.

You hear the statistics and the numbers. She's a true testament of someone who has her family, her husband around her. When you're offered things like dancing with the stars, that gives y/you even something else to look forward to. She's saying this isn't going to be it. I'm going to be here past Christmas.

So, we already know that this woman has the heart, tenacity to keep this thing going.

BLACKWELL: This is a big haul to take on "Dancing with the Stars."

STEELE: Sure.

BLACKWELL: We've heard others rumored to be joining the stage.

STEELE: Snooki.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Got to bring it down a notch, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: -- Snooki and do this.

KEILAR: Yes.

BLACKWELL: We've also got Leah Remini from -- what is it?

STEELE: She's a hot chick.

BLACKWELL: She's on "King of Queens."

KEILAR: "King of Queens."

BLACKWELL: Who would you like to see on "Dancing with the Stars"?

STEELE: You know who I would like to see? You would be great on "Dancing with the Stars."

BLACKWELL: No, ma'am. No, I wouldn't. Not every day. No.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: White, shiny. That's not you?

KEILAR: It really is.

BLACKWELL: What's up with this photo issue with Alec Baldwin? It's back in the news for reportedly manhandling a photographer in New York this week. Look at this picture.

STEELE: You think about Alec Baldwin, look, he turned this guy pretty much into a hood ornament. He's making a citizen's arrest. They said that Hilaria, his wife, she ducked off into a coffee shop. This isn't his first run-in with the paparazzi, it won't be his last.

You know, he confronts them, gets in your face and sometimes you wonder, you think this guy is crazy because Alec does so many things and you see him in the news for this. A lot of times, I do feel that celebrities, when their privacy is invaded so much -- they just had a baby a few days ago.

KEILAR: But Alec -- we know that Alec has a temper. We will finish by saying that. And let's get to our last topic this morning. This one matters to me because --

BLACKWELL: It breaks her heart.

KEILAR: It does.

STEELE: Brianna.

KEILAR: I like Lamar Odom. I do. I like him a lot.

So, Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom, you know, the reports are that their marriage is in real trouble. But now, news that the CHP, the California Highway Patrol arrested him early for a DUI charge. This is serious.

STEELE: It is very, very serious. Now, he posted bail. He would not take any of the those, and he posted his bail and he was gone.

Then you just wonder, you know, is this what it's like when you're married to a Kardashian? Does it drive you to these kinds of things? I think I know what the problem is from the beginning.

KEILAR: What is it?

BLACKWELL: What is it?

STEELE: She did not marry someone whose name began with a K.

(LAUGHTER) STEELE: Kim knew what she was doing. She married Kanye, before that, it was Kris. Whether it lasted or not, L almost, but everything with them is just so public and you wonder, and I think sometimes it's hard for people to be compassionate for them. They feel like they want the media attention anyway.

BLACKWELL: We'll see how this develops.

STEELE: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Of course, we wish him the best.

BLACKWELL: When you think selfie -- thank you, Ebony.

KEILAR: Ebony Steele, thank you.

BLACKWELL: When you're thinking selfie, you probably don't think of the pope.

KEILAR: No. You're thinking like 20-somethings like teen girls turning that phone around, taking pictures of themselves. But he is joining in on the fun.

BLACKWELL: Look at this -- photo of the pontiff posing with young Italian pilgrims has gone viral. It may be the first papal selfie. Very cool.

KEILAR: Yes, very neat.

And if you plan to get away for Labor Day weekend, you are not alone.

BLACKWELL: Yes, more than 34 million people are expected to travel this holiday. But how much should you budget for gas? We'll talk about if that breaks a bank, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This week on "THE NEXT LIST", we talk to two remarkable innovators, Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of quirky.com. Kaufman's passion by giving would-be investors a way to get your products to market.

BEN KAUFMAN, QUIRKY.COM: It's human nature to invent. What stop people is to actually do that and execute on all those ideas, it's really freaking hard.

GUPTA: And he's using the talents of half a million online members to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are now a quirky inventor.

GUPTA: And Saul Griffith, he's an inventor, scientist, and winner of the coveted MacArthur Genius Award.

SAUL GRIFFITH, INVENTOR: Oh, no, I've had the idea, now I have to do it. GUPTA: Griffith and his team are revolutionary robotics, creating a whole new field of soft machines.

GRIFFITH: When fully pressurized, can lift a human at arm's length.

GUPTA: This Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Eastern, on "THE NEXT LIST".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Eight minutes before the top of the hour.

More than 34 million people plan to get away this weekend, and if you are planning a road trip, here is good news. Gas is actually cheaper now than a year ago, but you better fill up fast, because experts say oil and gas prices are set to rise.

CNN national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is in Ridgefield, New Jersey.

Susan, good morning. Give us an idea of what people can expect to pay at the pump.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Victor.

We do have some good news for people who are traveling not only here at the Service Plaza, along the New Jersey turnpike, but everywhere in the country, prices have gone down compared to Labor Day weekend last year.

Let's look at the chart right now. Last year, this weekend, the national average for gas, $3.83. This year it's down to $3.69, and that's a 14-cent drop. Why is that? Well, in part you might remember that last year hurricane Isaac was churning around in the gulf and production was down, and also there is a drop in demand.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM KLOZA, CHIEF OIL ANALYST, GASBUDDY.COM: Because of low interest rates, we have really seen a surge in vehicle sales this year, and the average vehicle gets about 25 miles to the gallon. You know, despite the ads you see for the big trucks and whatever, that's a good average these days compared to what it was four or five years ago, so that's helping us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Well, listen, everyone wants to save money, right? So, there are all kinds of apps out there, and one is operated by Gas Buddy. There are many others where you can punch in your location on the smart phone and it will tell you where the closest gas station is that you can get the best deal.

Victor, back to you.]

BLACKWELL: Cheaper gas is always a good thing.

National correspondent Susan Candiotti, thank you.

More of your NEW DAY, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: It is time for the good stuff.

In this morning's edition, proof that integrity is really about what you do when no one is looking.

KEILAR: That's right. For instance, what happened at Buddy's Small Lots in New Jersey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCI LEDERMAN, BUDDY'S SMALL LOTS: We got a phone call from the police department saying that there had been a break in at the store.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: However, when they checked out buddy's there was nothing out of place, so curious, right. OK, there was something added, though. Money on the counter. So they watched the security video here.

BLACKWELL: And it revealed these shoppers, and it turns out the mall closed at 7:00. But Buddy's closes an hour earlier.

Even so, all of the lights were on in the store, so these guys thought Buddy's was open. They called for a cashier. Of course, but there was none, and they did quick math and left just about the right amount of money on the counter before they took those items.

See that? They're waving their money. Hey, I paid, it's right here.

KEILAR: Yes. So, who are these guys? Who are these mysterious shoppers? It turns out they are four football players from William Paterson University.

BLACKWELL: They say they are shocked by all the media attention their actions have received.

KEILAR: Just paying for their stuff, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes.

KEILAR: Well, the store actually offered a shopping spree for the players, for their honesty. So, they got backups, pillows, speakers for their iPhones, not bad. Some more stuff. Plus, they earned praise from their coach for making him and their families proud.

BLACKWELL: You know, we hear so much about the things that three or four football players will do. It's good to see they get as much recognition when they do something good.

KEILAR: Yes, it's cool story.

BLACKWELL: And thanks for starting your morning with us.

KEILAR: And the next hour of your NEW DAY starts right now.