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Congress Continues to Debate Syrian Strike; Whooping Cough Outbreak in Texas; Montana Judge to Recall Rape Sentence; Humanitarian Need in Syria Growing

Aired September 6, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: But he is losing support at home. So will he take his case directly to you, the American people?

Meanwhile, let's remember for a minute that this is all about the innocents on the ground and the pain there. That's what started this dialogue. We have Dr. Sanjay Gupta live on the ground with Syrian refugees looking at the very real consequences of that civil war.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, also this morning looking at George Zimmerman in the spotlight. His wife filing for divorce just two months after he was acquitted in Trayvon Martin's murder. What drove them apart? And why does he keep on getting in trouble with the law ever since that acquittal? His lawyer Mark O'Mara, will be joining us live.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Then a great story, the quick thinking actions of a pair of young men helped save a woman's life. They saw her in the back seat of a car and noticed that she mouthed the words "help me." They called 911. Police were able to rescue her. It turned out she had been abducted at gunpoint. We will speak live with one of those young heroes coming up.

BOLDUAN: But first this hour, the White House applying the full-court press for a military strike against Syria. If President Obama ultimately decides to use force against the Assad regime we're getting a much clearer picture of what it might look like. We're also finding out about the possible repercussions of it all. Covering this story like no other network can, so let's start off with Chris Lawrence live at the Pentagon this morning. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Yes, this morning a U.S. embassy is on alert. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the U.S. has intercepted communication, Iran ordering militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and American there in Iraq. I've been at that embassy when it was shelled by mortars and attacked by other weapons. It is a fortress.

But the state department has reissued another warning to Americans who are living outside that compound. The report says this attack would be retaliation only if the U.S. conducts an airstrike on Syria. And we're learning new information there, as well. A U.S. official is telling me that basically one of the options now being considered are airstrikes involving long-range bombers. These would be American pilots, possibly flying directly from bases right here in the U.S. But we're told they would stay well out of Syrian airspace, using long-range standoff missiles similar to what the ships and submarines in the Med can already do. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Chris, thank you for the reporting this morning.

The G-20 economic summit is wrapping up this morning in St. Petersburg, Russia, the final chance for president Obama to lobby world leaders all in one place. Now, they find themselves in the awkward position potentially of having to choose sides, Obama or Putin, when it comes to Syria. Brianna Keilar is with the president in Russia.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Now, all of the world leaders here last night had a dinner last night. It lasted a very long time. Four hours and following that dinner, we heard from Australia's foreign minister who said that the world leaders really stated their position on what they thought on Syria. And he also backed up what we heard from Russia's press secretary, which was they were divided down the middle. Not necessarily on responding to Syria, Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons but whether to work through the U.N., something, Kate, that the U.S. government feels is fruitless because of Russia and China's ability to have a veto on the security council.

BOLDUAN: All right, Brianna, thanks so much for that.

Back here at home it appears Obama -- President Obama is losing support in Congress for a military strike on Syria, at least losing momentum. CNN's latest vote tally indicating if there was a vote today in the House, the president's petition for action wouldn't pass. At this point there's nearly four no votes to every yes vote among representatives in the House. That is among the blowback from constituents back home who aren't convinced. Dana Bash is live on Capitol Hill this morning with more. Good morning, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Well, we have seen an unprecedented lobbying effort by the White House. Despite that and the fact that in a bipartisan way, Congressional leaders are behind striking Syria. There are so many, as you mentioned, undecided lawmakers and the momentum that the president looked like he had earlier in the week has really stalled.

Now, talking to many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, there are lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is that the opposition they're hearing from the people who sent them here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We sent you to stop the war.

BASH: For undecided lawmakers, watching what happened to pro-Syria bombing Senator John McCain back home is a cautionary tale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what I think of congress. They are a bunch of marshmallows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you not listening to the people and staying out of Syria? It's not our fight.

BASH: Even for a town hall veteran like McCain, this was rough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot afford to turn Syria into another Iraq or Afghanistan. I beg you.

BASH: Lawmakers are hearing that kind of opposition all across the country. It's part of the reason even the president's most loyal supporters, like members of the black caucus, are very wary of authorizing a strike.

REP. GREG MEEKS, (D) NEW YORK: Of course, a large number of them say we don't want you to go to war.

BASH: A House Democratic leadership source insists to CNN the majority of lawmakers are still persuadable because they have not yet been briefed. The problem for the president is how many, especially fellow Democrats, are reluctant even after attending classified briefings intended to persuade them.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI, (D) MARYLAND: Where are our allies, and what will they do? I know 37 nations said they would support us, but what does support mean?

BASH: Democrat Tulsi Gabbard is a combat veteran of the Iraq war.

REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D) HAWAII: We've seen firsthand the extreme cost of war both overseas as well as here at home is something that is giving me a unique perspective but great pause.

BASH: She is like many who don't question whether Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons, but do question Obama officials' ability to answer key questions in public or private about military contingencies after the U.S. bombs, like what if Assad fines a way to use chemical weapons again?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: Do we strike again? Well, that's the definition of further entanglement. That's the definition of our becoming deeply involved in a war.


BASH: Now, many undecided lawmakers who I've talked to say they are doing their homework. They are attending, many of them, more than one classified briefing, seeking out information on their own from military officials and so forth. Many also say they are really hoping that a presidential prime time address, which we expect likely in the next few days, might help them and maybe more importantly their constituents who are calling and urging them in a large majority to vote no. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Dana, thank you. Let's try to get you more information about which way this seems to be going down in Congress. Let's bring in CNN chief national correspondent John King. John, reports that we're hearing about the White House potentially anticipating a larger scale attack than we've heard so far, reports that they intercepted a message from Iran to attack U.S. interests if there's an attack on Syria. What are you hearing about what this means to lawmakers?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as Dana just noted, the momentum the president had when the leadership came out, most of the leadership earlier in the week, has stalled dramatically, in part because you hear from Democrats and hear from Republicans and people more in the middle that nobody back home supports this.

And to your point about the messages from Iran, what you get there is skepticism, again, why are we going to get involved in the Middle East? When is the last time we were involved and able to do it quickly, efficiently, and effectively? So not only do lawmakers have those questions and saying even after these briefings, some of them, they're not getting answers they like, but that's what they're facing back home.

Chris, as I said earlier in the program a top Republican leadership aid trying to help the president tells me this morning, I'd be floored if it passes. To change this dynamic, the president, the president is going to have to do it, including it'll be very interesting to hear what we hear from the president in Russia, and then more importantly, when he gets back home.

CUOMO: Are you hearing any plans for a major address by the president? So many people in this country need information.

KING: Secretary Kerry said himself said during the Congressional hearings he expects the president to address the American people relatively soon. We don't have anything scheduled yet. There are some members of Congress said he should talk to a joint session. The more likely approach we are told from administration officials is an Oval Office address.

Look, they understand this. Part of the president's problem here is to help change the tide here at home if he had a big show of support on the global stage, that might help. he's not getting that either.

CUOMO: Didn't seem to go that way during the G-20. That's for sure, John. What do you hear about what happens if it doesn't pass? Any word out of the White House he would go it alone?

KING: They've been careful to not answer directly because they know that would offend many members of Congress who say why are you asking us to take this tough vote if you won't be bound by it as the British prime minister David Cameron was.

But watch what the president says when this question comes up today. I think it will be telling to see if his language changes. At his last press conference he said we must act. He said we must act. So the belief is among members of Congress and the belief is if you talk privately to administration officials is the president has made his decision. He wants Congress' support. If he backs down now, boy, the questions about here at home and around the world would accelerate dramatically. The last time the president spoke he didn't answer directly but he's on record saying "we must act" the.

CUOMO: Question is, what does the word "act" mean? John King, thank you very much. Sometimes being a leader, it's hard the decisions you have to make where you choose what not to do. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Chris, thank you.

An important health alert for you this morning. Thousands of people have become sick with whooping cough. Several states are experiencing an outbreak. In Texas two babies have died from the illness where it has now there become an epidemic. What is behind the spike? CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is at the CNN center looking into it. Good morning, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Kate, we have a perfect storm right now for whooping cough. Kids are going back to school, so once again they're in close quarters. And you have a vaccine that wanes with time.


COHEN: The awful sound of whooping cough, a brutal cough that can last for months, a potentially fatal illness, especially for babies and young children who haven't had a chance to get all their shots yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They may have spells of apnea where they stop breathing. One to two out of 100 infants actually can die from this.

COHEN: And 16 states in Washington D.C. are seeing an increase in cases compared to this time last year. More than 2,000 cases so far in Texas alone, claiming the lives of two babies. The state is on course to have its worst whooping cough outbreak in over 50 years.

Officials this week issuing a health alert warning Texans that vaccinations are vital. But the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine fades quickly. By age 11 only seven out of 10 kids are still fully protected. That's why the centers for disease control recommends a booster shot for preteens to protect themselves and any babies they could unwittingly infect.


BOLDUAN: Such scary news for parents to be hearing this morning. As you mentioned kids are all heading back to school at this moment. So what should parents be looking out for?

COHEN: You want to look out for a violent coughing fit. You won't necessarily hear that whooping sound. If they're having them and they are exhausted afterwards, that's a sign you should take them to the doctor and ask about whooping cough.

BOLDUAN: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much, important news this morning. Talk to you soon.

CUOMO: We want to get you more of what's developing. Let's get right to Michaela.

PEREIRA: Let's bring in the headlines at this hour. At least seven suspected militants dead, others injured by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. Government officials say the drone fired two missiles striking a house in the tribal region of north Waziristan. That area in the mountains near the Afghan border is home to both foreign and Pakistani militants. Today's strike the 20th deadly attack carried out by U.S. drones in Pakistan this year.

Egypt's government denying reports that it has decided to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood today. Egyptian state media quoting a ministry spokesman who says the infamous group's nongovernmental organization status is being revoked. But another government official says no decision to dissolve the group has been made. Military authorities in Egypt have been cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood since ousting Mohamed Morsi in July.

Back here at home, former New England Patriot turned murder suspect Aaron Hernandez could learn today when his trial will begin. He will be arraigned this morning on murder and weapons charges. He has been held without bail since his arrest back in June in connection with the shooting death of one-time friend Odin Lloyd. Hernandez is expected to plead not guilty to all of the charges.

Health officials in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are now monitoring 13 patients who may have been exposed to a deadly brain disease during surgery. The same equipment that was used this summer at a hospital in cape cod, Massachusetts, was used in Manchester, New Hampshire, on a patient officials believe may have died from a disease that has no treatment, no cure, and standard sterilization procedures do not eliminate all traces of that disease from medical equipment.

Alyssa Milano's sex tape is the latest video from the folks at "Funny or Die." It seems like it's going to be that way, featuring a guy in a hotel wearing next to nothing. Instead of capturing the action, the camera turns to focus on a newsman giving what amounts to a history lesson on Syria's civil war and why we should pay attention and care about the situation that is going on in that nation. Trickery, but it informs. It's like the old candy bar for vegetable with the bait and switch routine.

CUOMO: What was going on in that little mirror? See the second mirror there?


CUOMO: Did you check out the video? I like it. I like the idea of being provocative and pushing it with these things if it gets people to focus on what matters.

BOLDUAN: And if it gets another group of people who might not turn on the news turn on the news. CUOMO: And what's going on in Syria certainly matters, we all know that. What also matters is what's going to happen with the weather on your weekend. Meteorologist Indra Petersons is tracking the forecast for all of us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. I know how you know from California, you turn on the heater. You can answer us this one.


PETERSONS: I have a heater on last night. It was definitely chilly. We have frost warnings and advisories this morning, temperatures below freezing. In fact here in New York, yes, 50s, but that is 10, 15 degrees below normal. The 30s as we were waking up, Montpelier right now about 37 degrees. Where is fall? That feels like winter to at least some of us.

But if you start off cool in the morning you're going to be cool in the afternoon, as well. The temperatures today expected to feel kind of like fall, New York City, 73, Buffalo, New York, only going to be in the 60s today. So definitely a little chilly out there and of course we'll rebound a little tomorrow. By Saturday night in through Sunday, we'll see another cold front go through so, in fact, we'll have that mixed bag this weekend. A hint of rain and cool temperatures again Saturday night in through Sunday.

You ask and you shall receive. This is for you, Kate. And by the way, notice your portraits guys? You guys look good here. Nice hunting gear. I don't though where you're going but picked Cleveland for you.


PETERSONS: I couldn't find the duck hat. I really wanted a duck hat here. Either way we're talking about some showers, it looks like, late Saturday into Sunday. Most importantly, a lot of wind on Sunday. I don't know if that affects hunting. But there you go.

BOLDUAN: I'm sure my father would say when you're talented you can find them in anything.

PETERSONS: Show them some skills.


CUOMO: Where did the hat go?

BOLDUAN: I don't know who you stole that from.

CUOMO: I didn't --

PETERSONS: Liberated it.

BOLDUAN: You didn't.

PETERSONS: A duck hat is so much better.

BOLDUAN: Talk over the break. Thanks, Indra. Thanks so much for my forecast.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, a 30-day sentence for raping a teenager. A Montana judge triggered national outrage with that very sentence. Now he is out trying to fix it. So why is the state then trying to stop him?

CUOMO: Plus, George Zimmerman may have made it through his murder trial but his marriage, well, doesn't look like that's going to happen for him. We'll tell you what finally drove his wife Shellie to call it quits after standing by her man for so long.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A new hearing is scheduled today in that controversial rape sentencing in Montana. A teacher has been sentenced to just 30 days for assaulting a 14-year-old student who later killed herself. Now, the judge in that case says he made a mistake and could amend the sentence but he's running into new opposition this morning. Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.


AULIEA HAMILTON, MOTHER: He'll get justice. I hope.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Justice for her daughter, Cherice Morales. Justice that may finally begin today. Judge G. Todd Baugh set a new hearing for this afternoon that hopes to turn back the clock. Last week he sentenced teacher Stacey Rambold to just 30 days in jail for raping his 14-year-old student. At sentencing the judge said the victim, Cherice Morales, seemed older than her chronological age. She committed suicide before Rambold's case went to trial. Judge Baugh's one-month sentence sparked protest in Montana and anger across social media.

Judge Baugh won't talk to us, but at today's hearing he's indicated he will sentence Rambold to two years, not 30 days.


LAH: So he is trying to fix an error on his part?

TWITTO: Yes, that's what the order indicates to me.

LAH: But he's too late say filings from the prosecutor, the state attorney general, even the defense. They want the hearing canceled. The case has been appealed to the state supreme court through this legal fighting Cherice's mother says what's being lost, her daughter's death.

Does that pain ever fade?

HAMILTON: No. No. LAH: What will help, she says, is a fair sentence for her daughter's rapist. Kyung Lah, CNN, Billings, Montana.


BOLDUAN: Such a sad story and such a mess of a legal situation. I mean when we talked to her last -- her mother last week you could see just the pain and loss in her face and in Kyung's piece you can see that it has not faded.

CUOMO: Last thing the family needed.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely right.

CUOMO: We'll take a break. Coming up on NEW DAY, what can we learn about President Obama's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin basedo n body language? There are experts in this, and we're going to have one analyze the handshake. Who got the upper hand?

BOLDUAN: And an incredible rescue to tell you about. Thanks to the quick thinking of two young men. We'll talk with one of the heroes whose 911 call saved a woman who was abducted in her own car.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Friday, September 6th and coming up, Florida's controversial stand your ground law, under the microscope again. This time a man is using it as a defense for blowing away two of his neighbors preemptively. Obvious question, is this what the law was meant to do? We'll talk about it with CNN's newest legal analyst, a man known as Mark O'Mara. You may remember him as being George Zimmerman's attorney.

BOLDUAN: Plus, the teenage hero who helped save a kidnapped woman in Texas joining us live to tell us how it all unfolded. Lots to talk about with that story.

First let's get straight to Michaela for the top news right now.

PEREIRA: All right, Kate. Thanks so much. The U.S. is now bracing for reprisals from Iran following a possible military strike in Syria. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that U.S. intelligence has intercepted communications that indicates that Iran has ordered militants into Iraq -- in Iraq rather, to attack American targets in Baghdad should the U.S. attack Syria. Officials tell "The Wall Street Journal" the U.S. has assets ready to respond in case of such reprisals.

Despite an unprecedented lobbying effort by the president, support in Congress for a strike in Syria appears to be waning. Fellow Democrats say they doubt the use of force resolution can pass in the House and most Americans appear to be against it. President Obama meanwhile, poised to answer tough questioning about Syria. He's expected to hold a news conference in Russia later this morning. Russia's Vladimir Putin and other world leaders at the G-20 have been ratcheting up pressure on the president. Majority of them closer to Putin's stance that a military strike in Syria would be a bad idea.

A New York City teenager is dead, killed by his own radio-controlled helicopter. Nineteen-year-Old Roman Piroczak, Jr. was flying he RC helicopter at a park in Brooklyn when he was struck in the head. Initial police reports suggest that he was killed by the chopper's blade. This was no toy. These kins of helicopters have wingspans of 4 1/2 feet and can go as fast as 60 miles an hour.

Chobani recalling many of its Greek yogurt cups. Mold has been found in some of these containers. People have been getting sick after eating the yogurt. The FDA says the recall affects 91 varieties of Chobani products. The move comes one week after reports of Chobani yogurt cups bloating and expanding on store shelves.

Real special story here. A group of national guard members who served together in Afghanistan have been reunited with some of their best friends. The men found Sheba and her seven puppies while out on patrol. They fed Sheba, taking care of her puppies, even feeding them from their own MREs. A group called Guardians of Rescue made special arrangements with the dog shelter in Kabul. The dogs were quarantined for three months, then shipped to Dubai. After that, it was off to New York's JFK airport where they arrived Wednesday for a very, very happy reunion.

BOLDUAN: Not overstate the help that they offer. It's great.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Michaela.

Now to the humanitarian crisis growing on Syria's border. Every 15 seconds, if you can imagine, the civil war creates another refugee. More than 2 million people now have fled the country and the vast majority in just the last year creating a health crisis of unimaginable proportions. CNN's chief medical associate Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live at a refugee camp near the Syria/Lebanon border.

Sanjay, amazing you're there and that you can bring us this report. Tell us where you are and also, more critically, what you're seeing.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are literally just walking distance away from the border here between Syria and Lebanon and as you mentioned, many refugees about three-quarters of a million refugees have ended up in Lebanon. Many in this particular area. And the numbers have increased just over the last few weeks. People concerned, obviously, about what might happen in Damascus and people concerned here.

We're in the sort of makeshift clinic. This used to be a mosque. People who have sympathetic to the Syrian revolution have sort of taken over this mosque. The doctors, the medical staff, and all the patients over here.

Let's come in here for a second and take a look. This is how they set things up. Patient back there, obviously, covering his face. These are people who are sympathetic again to the Syrian revolution but they're trying to take care of patients in a place like this. Now, if the people come in as part of -- as a refugee, if they are sick, if they are in bad shape, the patients have had amputations here, gunshot wounds.