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Anti-War Protesters Across U.S.; Jobs Report Out Friday; Washington's Living Wage Fight; Labor Day Box Office Battle; Serena Gets Revenge against Sloane

Aired September 2, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in NEWSROOM crisis in Syria. Breaking this morning, Obama lobbies Congress and America speaks out. Ahead, both sides and both voices will be heard.

Plus, Wal-Mart and Washington. A paycheck battle pinning part-time workers against the living wage. D.C. ground zero for the fight. Ahead a city councilman joins us.

And Georgia versus Clemson. A touchdown and a -- well, shall we say a rather awkward chest bump.

NEWSROOM -- there it is. NEWSROOM continues now.

Good morning, thanks so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello.

With just a week until Congress returns to Washington, the Obama administration is ramping up its efforts to get support on a possible Syria strike. The president meeting today with two top Senate Republicans after saying he'll seek congressional approval on initiating any military action. President noting that many in Congress, quote, "want their voices to be heard."

Now that people who elected them are speaking out and hopes their opinions will also influence the debate.



PROTESTERS: Hands off Syria.


PROTESTERS: Hand off Syria.


PROTESTERS: Hands off Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to let the American president to know that we want peace. We don't want war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If that's all violence is going to accomplish, more violence than death, then that's not the way to handle the situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about billions of people who are against us on this issue. And so we need to go through our congressional powers, our balance of powers to get approval to declare war if we're going to go to war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think the whole American people support this and it's not fair for the Syria people to -- right after everything that happened we go there and still bomb them.


COSTELLO: Joining me now from Washington is Syrian activist and dissident, Ahed al Hendi.

Good morning.


COSTELLO: Which side do you stand on? Should America strike Syria militarily?

AL HENDI: Of course. I mean, we have been witnessing the brutality of Assad regime since two and a half years and no one is stopping this brutal dictator from killing his own people and now recently the users of chemical weapon and this is for the 13th time he used it and nobody stopped him.

And now, if Assad regime, if Assad would be let -- I mean, without any accountability using the chemical weapons we are letting others to use the chemical weapons against their own people, maybe a non-state actors to use it even against democracy, against other country. Assad should be accountable and, of course, for an American strike to at least punish Assad from -- and stop him from repeating the scenario again.

COSTELLO: Ahed, you were imprisoned and tortured by Syrian authorities. What can you tell us about? You know, tell us your personal story about the brutality of this regime.

AL HENDI: OK. I came to the U.S. five years ago. I mean, before -- and seven years ago I was in jail in Syria for just forming a secular youth group in Damascus University. Back then where young people we oppose Assad policy and supporting groups like Hamas, Heszbollah and for like human rights court inside the country. And then I was jailed, arrested, tortured.

And inside the prison I witnessed a lot of torture that happened even to kids just because their family members were against the regime. So it's a brutal regime. I mean, since 1970 the Syrian are suffering from Assad the father and after 2000 Syrians thought that Assad the son going to be better of his father.

But I mean, he's doing the same. Even worse. Assad the father did Hama in 1982 and killed more than 40,000 people and now more the son had more than 100,000 people inside the country and the world is still watching and, of course, this is why we are all asking for an American strike to put an end for this regime.

COSTELLO: But here's the concern. I mean, there's a lot of concern about who these rebels are. Who they're affiliated with. Syria's deputy foreign minister told the BBC any attack against Syria is support for al Qaeda and its affiliates. So do you know who these rebels are and how many of these rebels are affiliated with al Qaeda?

AL HENDI: Well, it's funny to hear it coming from the Syrian government. A government that used to recruit on the daylight jihadist to go and fight in Iraq and kill American troops in Iraq. And I know, I mean, there is some concern. There are some al Qaeda that they seized the opportunity and they came inside Syria and I know that the Free Syrian Army in Syria, they had some battles against al Qaeda inside the country.

But I mean, let's say the truth, I mean, the al Qaeda now, they're getting a lot of support inside the country. The people that don't want them and why the Free Syrian Army they have gotten new support from anyone. Everything have gotten -- the only thing they've gotten is non-lethal assistance. I mean, like I was in Turkey a few days ago and I saw some of the American assistant to the Free Syrian Army. It was only like MRI, like protein bars and other stuff.

I don't think that -- and these people, they really want to fight al Qaeda and a lot of their commanders were assassinated by al Qaeda. So I don't know how they can't even also counter al Qaeda if they get new support. And no, I don't see that al Qaeda is all over the country.


AL HENDI: I mean, I -- since --


COSTELLO: But you can understand -- you can understand why some Americans are concerned about it and why --

AL HENDI: Of course.

COSTELLO: -- some Americans are afraid that, you know, if we do attack Syria militarily that this will pull us into yet another war, another long-term war.

AL HENDI: I think if the American strike would happen, it was going to end the war in Syria. We are anti-war, too, but we want this to happen to end the war in Syria. I came from a Syrian Christian family. I have a concern also about al Qaeda existing inside the country and if it happened we are also asking the American to not only strike on Assad, also to strike on some of al Qaeda base inside the country. Because this is what we want. This is what the majority of the Syrian people want.

COSTELLO: Ahed al Hendi, Syrian activist. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

AL HENDI: Thank you. COSTELLO: Checking other top stories at 36 minutes past the hour.

Incredible pictures out of southern Nevada. Hit hard over the weekend by heavy rain and flooding. A woman and her baby and another woman became trapped in their SUV by flash floods. They had to be pulled from the car by rescue teams. The area could see more rain later today.

Nelson Mandela now recovering at home. That's according to the South African's president's office which says Mandela's condition remains critical and at times unstable. The 95-year-old former leader was discharged from a hospital over the weekend. He had been hospitalized since June for a lung infection.

On Wall Street, the markets are closed this Labor Day, but a big jobs report is due out Friday and you can bet the Federal Reserve will be watching.

CNN's Alison Kosik joins us live from New York.

So we hope it's a good one.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we certainly do hope it's a good one. And this could be the report that tips the scale for the Federal Reserve. These job numbers for August out on Friday are really going to be closely watched because many people on Wall Street, Carol, they feel that a strong report showing sustained job growth will wind up giving the Fed the signal to begin scaling back on its massive stimulus program that's been in action.

That could happen within the next few weeks when it has its meeting this month. Now if the report misses, the Fed may wait to scale back.

The expectation, though, is that this August jobs report will show that 177,000 jobs were added, that the unemployment held steady at 7.4 percent. And it's interesting how the uncertainty of what the Fed is going to do has really played play out in how the markets performed for August.

August was really, really rough. The Dow lost more than 600 points throughout the month, but look at the year. The Dow and the S&P, they're holding their own. Dow is up 13 percent for the year, the S&P 500 is up 15 percent. That spells well for your 401(k) because the 401(k) usually mirrors what the S&P does.

COSTELLO: All right. Alison Kosik reporting live from New York this morning.

A bit of breaking news to pass along to you. Our Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr just found this out. She says that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will testify on Tuesday at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria. He's expected, of course, to be asked about the president's military strategy.

This is according to a U.S. official. Hagel will testify on military strategy and justification for the use of force. This supposedly will happen Tuesday. Of course, President Obama and members of his Cabinet are trying to convince Congress that military action is needed in Syria. We'll keep you posted.

Still to come in NEWSROOM Washington's battle over a living wage is now in the hands of the D.C. mayor. But could Wal-Mart and other big named stores flee the -- flee the city if the mayor approves the bill?

Let's talk about that with one of the measure's biggest supporters, next.


COSTELLO: The fight for a living wage in the nation's capital has reached the mayor's desk. The bill targets large retailers like Wal- Mart with at least $1 billion in sales and would boost hourly wages by more than $4 to $12.50 an hour.

Now that has Wal-Mart fighting back threatening to scrap plans to build three stores in the District of Columbia.

Vincent Orange is an at-large city council member in Washington and one of the original co-sponsors of this living wage bill.

Good morning, Councilman.


COSTELLO: Thanks for being with us this morning. So the bill is now on the mayor's desk. The mayor fought to bring in Wal-Mart. Is there a full-court press to convince the mayor to sign this bill into law?

ORANGE: Absolutely. We still think that this is a necessary bill at this point in time. $12.50 per hour minus benefits would create a living wage in the District of Columbia of only $26,000 on an annual basis and, really, that's not enough, but it's a big step in the right direction for the workers here in the nation's capital.

And we're hopeful that the mayor after participating in the 50th anniversary of March on Washington for jobs and freedom that he will see the light.

Back in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King was calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $2. In today's time, that would be $15.27. So what we're saying to the mayor is surely we can get $12.50 per hour, which will probably spark a movement across this nation as others are now up in arms over low wages being paid to workers in the United States.

COSTELLO: Yes, we've -- we've seen strikes by fast food workers, but you understand the mayor is in a tough spot because if Wal-Mart pulls out because he signs this bill into law, there goes 1800 jobs that people don't have right now.

ORANGE: Well, right now the economy in the District of Columbia is doing extremely well. Without Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart will certainly enhance it, especially if it was to pay $12.50 per hour. But right now we're sitting on $1.5 billion on our rainy day fund, we're coming off $800 million in surpluses over the last four fiscal years. Our CFO has projected $600 million in surpluses over the next four fiscal years. We have a plan to create 50,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

COSTELLO: But still it would be nice to have such an -- it would be nice to have such an employer in the Washington area to create all of these jobs. And just take a look at the bigger picture. If Washington, D.C., controls the amount of money that private companies pay their employees, you know, big picture here, might it keep other companies out?

ORANGE: Well, the big picture here is that Wal-Mart provides poverty wages. And folks cannot live off of poverty wages. That those poverty wages causes employees to seek government assistance. The use of food stamps program, the school and breakfast lunch programs, the section 8 housing programs. So at the end of the day, the citizens, the taxpayers wind up subsidizing Wal-Mart. And we're doing extremely well without Wal-Mart and we don't want to have the huge burden faced on the citizens of the District of Columbia.


ORANGE: What we're saying to Wal-Mart is simply share a little bit of prosperity. Paying $12.50 per hour is not going to break the Wal-Mart Empire. Wal-Mart paying is living wages in other places and in Canada it pays $10.25 per hour. In New Mexico I believe it was paying $10.50 per hour. So why do you want to come to Washington, D.C., and pay a minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. It's unacceptable.

And we're doing quite well without Wal-Mart. We would love to have Wal-Mart in the nation's capital if they are a going to be good corporate citizen like Costco or like Trader Joe's. They are paying living wages in the District of Columbia and Wal-Mart can do the same.

COSTELLO: Washington City Councilman Vincent Orange -- thanks so much for joining me this morning.

ORANGE: Thank you so much.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

Here's what's all new in the next hour of NEWSROOM. The President plan to launch strikes on Syria is illegal under international law. Why President Obama disagrees and what's next as ships move into the region?

Also a leak in a crippled Japanese nuclear plant. Radiation levels 18 times than what was previously thought.

Plus, massive landslides thundering across a busy road.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After Pat finishes an interview, bam.


COSTELLO: Ouch. Putting the brakes on this NASCAR interview when one driver is smacked across the face.

Those stories and much more coming up in the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: It's "The Butler" versus "One Direction" trying to win the hearts and minds of movie goers this Labor Day. "The Butler" has been on top for two weeks hoping to make it three. Oh but now "One Direction" is also vying for the crown. CNN entertainment correspondent, Nischelle Turner -- no surprise from your quarters, huh?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Battle of epic proportions Carol. You know, there was a clear choice for people this weekend. And I don't think there were a lot of people debating should I go see "Lee Daniel's The Butler" or should go see the One Direction movie "This is Us".

But you know there were the two biggest movies at the box office on this holiday weekend -- One Direction taking in $17 million from Friday to Sunday. It's a good showing for the concert documentary that was directed by Morgan Spurlock. It's gotten some really positive reviews from critics and fans.

While "The Butler" finished second over the weekend bringing in $14.7 million from Friday to Sunday, holiday weekend isn't over just yet. And Carol some projections have "The Butler" maybe doing enough business today to beat One Direction when all is said and done. If "The Butler" can pull this out it will be the first movie of the year to finish number three -- or number one excuse me three weekends in a row. But even if it doesn't to do that "The Butler" is doing really well at the box-office. It's made almost $80 million to date and it only cost $30 million to make.

But I have to say you know One Direction is up by $2 million on them now. And I don't want to boast. I don't want to brag. But I think that $2 million could have something to do with a certain entertainment correspondent from CNN's voice being all over the One Direction movie ok, maybe $1,999,000.

COSTELLO: What is your line in the movie? What do you say?

TURNER: Oh it beat me I'm just doing some voice over. It's a package that I voiced about One Direction. And they -- Morgan Spurlock took it. And apparently one of the producers said, hey, where is our cut from the movie? And he said to take it up with Ted Turner.

COSTELLO: Ted Turner?

TURNER: Yes. COSTELLO: Nischelle. Ok I'm going to go to the movie just to see you. Thank you Nischelle.

TURNER: Me and 1D. Hey.


Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the top woman in tennis beats the next big thing. Serena Williams gets revenge and moves on at the U.S. Open.


COSTELLO: The Georgia Bulldogs came up short in their showdown with Clemson over the weekend. But the game was not all that was lost. Georgia star wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell suffered a season ending knee injury. And you won't believe how he did it.

Andy Scholes of "Bleacher Report" now, good morning, Andy.


Well there is nothing quite like celebrating that first touchdown of the new season. But you never expect something like this to happen. Todd Gurley got Georgia on the board Saturday night with a 75-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs star wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell he runs after him to celebrate. He's number 26. Watch right here. He jumps up, comes down awkwardly after the chest bump. You can see him limp right afterwards it turns out he had a torn ACL and he'll now miss the rest of the season -- definitely a tough break for Georgia.

On the lineup section of the today you check out Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel's season debut. In less than a half Johnny Football threw three touchdowns on only six passes. He also got into it with a few owls. Manziel appears to be telling this right lineman I'm not signing any autographs for you. Later he points to the scoreboard at this defender and he received a taunting penalty for that and was benched for the remainder of the game.

And many are piling on Johnny Football for his antics but not reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. He said of Manziel "He's quickly becoming my favorite player in college football."

Well, the beef between is Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens came to a head yesterday as the two squared off in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. The 20-year-old Stephens beat Serena at the Australian Open earlier this year. After that match Stephens said Serena was very cold to her and unfollowed her on Twitter. Stephens may be the future of the sport but for now is he re that reigns supreme. She cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 win. Serena moves on to the quarter finals.

Drama, drama, drama this weekend at Nascar's truck series race. While battling for third, Max Papis and Mike Skein run into each other and crash. Once they get back on the track, they continue to trade barbs. When they came to a stop, a member of Skein's team goes after Papis but it doesn't even stop there. Skein's girlfriend confronts Papis and what did the five fingers say to the face -- Slap. Papis said afterwards that his jaw was actually dislocated. Carol, he might even consider taking legal action.

COSTELLO: Oh, my gosh. You're kidding.

SCHOLES: They take these braces pretty seriously out there on the truck series circuit.

COSTELLO: He showed great restraint. That's all I can say.

SCHOLES: He did. He just stood there.

COSTELLO: He just stood there -- a gentleman. Andy Scholes, thanks so much.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.