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Polls Show Americans Divided On Obama; Apple Unveils New Phones; France Offers U.N. Resolution on Syria; Doctors Silent on Sarin Patients

Aired September 10, 2013 - 12:30   ET




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we've seen over the last decade is, because of the heroism of our troops, because of the enormous sacrifices of them and tear families, America is safer than it was right before 9/11, but we still have troops out there.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: President Obama there in his interview with our own Wolf Blitzer on the "Crisis in Syria," trying to make the case for taking action over the chemical weapons attack there.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And tonight, he's going to address the nation at 9:00 Eastern.

As he does, there are those questioning now his leadership. Take a look at the latest. This is a CNN/ORC poll. We asked is President Obama a strong and decisive leader. This is split down the middle. Yes, 50 percent. No, 49 percent.

I want to bring in Wolf to talk about this. You sat down with the president yesterday. He was pretty cool under pressure, but clearly, he has a case to make to the American people.

Why do you suppose that the country, the people now are so split on his ability to lead? What do you think is behind that?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, the country has always been split about him. Even though he's won two presidential elections, he's only won with 51 or 52 percent of the vote, and his opponents got almost as much, but clearly not enough in the popular vote and certainly not in the electoral college.

So the country is pretty evenly divided when it comes to the president of the United States. A lot of Americans love him, and they like him a lot, and a lot of others don't like him and I think that's reflected in the polls.

Right now, this has been such a sensitive be issue whether or not the U.S. should go to war in effect with Syria, it's further divided this country and it's certainly reflected in our latest poll numbers. HOLMES: Wolf, you've got your finger on the pulse of Washington. I'm curious whether there's a sense there that the U.S. has in the world sense here on this issue lost the initiative if you like?

You've got the Russians jumping in, coming up with this idea. The French are doing the running on the resolution at the U.N. and you've got the president trying to win over a reluctant Congress who don't like his plan very much.

Is there a sense that the U.S. isn't leading this anymore in a way?

BLITZER: Remember, for the last few years, there's been this theory that came out in a "New Yorker" magazine article, the president leading from behind, if you will, and that theme has certainly carried over into this current debate right now.

Look, you did have the U.S., John Kerry, made this informal proposal. The Russians immediately grabbed it. The Syrians have now accepted it. The Chinese, as you point, have accepted it. The French are going to go to the U.N. Security Council.

Looks like the president was talking to the British and French leader today. They all seem to be on board. Let's give this initiative a chance.

Maybe it will emerge that it will work, that the Syrian chemical weapons will at least be controlled if not destroyed.

If that happens, I think President Obama will be able to make a case, look, it wouldn't have happened unless there was a credible threat of military force. I did that. So he'll try to get credit for it in the process.

But, look, there's a long way to go between now and then, and a lot can go wrong.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Wolf.

All right, the next hour, Wolf is going to be sitting down with former Ambassador Nick Burns to talk more about this analysis.

It will be interesting to get his take on who are the players. Who are ones that the U.S. really can work with? Can they work with Russia? Can they work with China on this?

HOLMES: And do they want to play if there's going to be a stick at the end of any U.N. resolution? That's the big question.

The other big question, can you even go into this country and get those weapons and destroy them safely? A lot of people don't think so.

MALVEAUX: Very tough questions.

Just in a couple of minutes, we have another he story we're following. Apple actually expected to make a big announcement. Is a cheaper and even more techie iPhone on the way? We're going to explain, up next. You're watching AROUND THE WORLD.


MALVEAUX: All right. There's a lot of anticipation over this one. In just a couple of minutes, Apple is going to unveil two new iPhones.

HOLMES: We were just playing around, comparing the Galaxy and the iPhone. Yeah, look at us. We're nerds when it comes to this.

This is going to be the 5S. It is expected to feature a faster processor, an improved camera.

Tech insiders also predict the 5S will the have a fingerprint scanner perhaps that will allow users to log in without a password.

MALVEAUX: That's pretty cool.

Apple will unveil the 5C. This is a cheaper version, actually, of the 5S.

I want to bring in Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange.

So, Alison, tell us what's behind this. It's all about competition.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know what it is? It's all about the pressure. The pressure is really on Apple, Suzanne and Michael.

One analyst says that, when this event starts in the about 20 minutes for Apple, Apple needs something more than just a standard upgrade because look at this. Apple is quite honestly losing its edge. It doesn't control as big a piece of the smartphone market as it once did.

Back in 2011 at its peak, it had a 24 percent market share, but now they're at about half that, 14 percent. Compare that to Android phones. They now have a 79 percent piece of the pie.

Plus, you look at iPhone sales, overall. They've been slowing down. In the past, iPhone sales rose, what, 100 percent, 80 percent, 60 percent. Now you're seeing less than 20 percent of growth.

Oh, yes, one more problem in this, China, iPhones are definitely losing ground there. It's a huge market, too. It's the largest one outside the U.S., so yes, I think I'm being kind in saying the pressure -- it's just pressure on Apple. There's a lot more going for Apple this morning.

HOLMES: Yeah, hence the cheaper one, as well, and the whole trade-in thing, too, that they're making it easier for people.

But those numbers are staggering, the Android ones over the iPhone. I'm an equal opportunity user here, a Galaxy here and your Blackberry there.

What about Tim Cook? He's been criticized in the past for sort of, I don't know, lacking a little innovation when it comes to the product.

KOSIK: And that factors into this, too. One analyst puts it this way, saying, at this point, Apple needs a hero product. You know what? That's pretty strong language.

Look, the reality is, iPhones are still really strong sellers. The iPhone, iPad sales, they're still up.

But here's the point here that everybody's trying to make. Apple really needs a "wow" moment. It hasn't had its "wow" moment in such a long time. It hasn't launched a new smartphone or a tablet in a year.

You look at its rivals. They put out new devices faster. And there was a time when the iPhone and iPad were the revolutionary ones. They came out first.

Guess what? Now others are taking the spotlight, and that is making everybody nervous at this point, especially investors. We're seeing the stock down a bit ahead of this launch event happening in about 20 minutes.

HOLMES: Yeah, had a rough ride on the market, haven't they, for the last year or so?

Alison, always good to see you. Alison Kosik there, we'll wait for that announcement.

MALVEAUX: They need to make the fonts bigger. Make the screens and the fonts bigger for those of us who can't see anymore.

HOLMES: Now that's us getting older. That's what that is.

MALVEAUX: All right, covering -- moving back to Syria, France at the United Nations officially now proposing a plan on how to handle Syria's chemical weapons.

HOLMES: What is that plan? Will Russia play ball?

That's AROUND THE WORLD after the break.


MALVEAUX: Russia's plan for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons to international monitors is now gaining some momentum.

President Obama is working this idea. He spoke earlier with French and British leaders to explore the viability of this Russian proposal.

HOLMES: France is going to the U.N. today, as we told you a little bit earlier. It's going to be presenting its own five-point Security Council resolution. Now, the French plan calls for the U.N. to condemn the massacre committed by the Syrian regime. Will the Russians go along with that? Also to make Syria place its weapons under international control.

MALVEAUX: As well as allow international inspections. Plus, it calls for severe consequences if Syria violates its obligations. It also demands that the perpetrators of the August 21st massacre face international justice.

I want to bring in our Jim Bittermann who joins us from Paris.

Jim, first of all, explain to us, why are there two different proposals here, the French one and the Russian one?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think it's really two different proposals, Suzanne. Basically I think what we're seeing here is the French trying to put some specificity to what were some very vague notions that Lavrov and the Syrian foreign minister talked about yesterday. So this is -- this is an attempt by the French to make it concrete, to say, OK, you want to put this into a resolution, here's what the resolution would say. Here's five points.

And now they're in the process of negotiating those five points. So they may not get all these five points in the final resolution that goes to the Security Council, but this is sort of the optimum attempt at - they're pushing the edge as far as it will go and see what will fly.

HOLMES: So it's an ambit (ph) acclaim then, Jim. They're going to throw out these things. And just reading through them like that, there's very little in there that you can see the Russians jumping up and down about and saying, yes, we'll go along with that. So they'll work backwards from this, presumably?

BITTERMANN: Well, exactly. And as a matter of fact, one of the things we've heard just in the last half hour here is that the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, had a conversation with Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and he's reported to have said to the press as he came out of a commission hearing over at the parliament, he said that the Russians weren't very keen on his suggestions. So it's possible that we'll see a Russian version of these five points come out in this negotiating session that will take place in New York.

MALVEAUX: Jim, it all sounds like diplo speak in a way, very diplomatically put there about whether or not they're keen on their proposals. But I imagine that the Russians just are not going to accept any kind of language that would condemn the Syrian regime and any responsibility for the chemical weapons attack.

BITTERMANN: Well, yesterday, nobody thought the Russians would go as far as they did with the Syrian foreign minister. So we don't know what the Russians will accept. And I don't think the French do and I don't think anybody does. So basically this is an attempt to sort of say -- see where the limits are, see where the boundaries are, see what they can come up with that will get through the Security Council.

MALVEAUX: All right.

HOLMES: Good (INAUDIBLE). Jim, thanks for that. Jim Bittermann there in Paris. And, of course, one thing that we've not really discussed in depth at the moment is, what does the Syria opposition think. There are elements of the SFA who say this is just a ploy. This is just - now, if they don't play along, how are any weapons inspectors going to get safely into Syria.

MALVEAUX: Yes. I mean you've at least got to have the Syrian opposition on board on the ground to make that happen.

HOLMES: And then you've got the more extremist elements of the Syrian opposition, al Nusra, al Qaeda. They're not going to stand by and let the U.N. wonder in and supervise weapons destruction, too. So it's a very, very difficult one to envisage, at least in the current proposal. (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: A lot to sort out. And, of course, it has been three weeks since that chemical attack that killed at least 1,400 people. This was just east of Damascus. At least 400 were children. There were, however, some survivors. And our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he went to a refugee camp in Lebanon.

HOLMES: And he's also been in contact with some of the medical worker who's treated those victims. Sanjay is standing by in our Beirut bureau. We're going to talk to him next.


MALVEAUX: This, of course, it was the horrific event that shocked the world, created this international crisis in the first place. We are talking about just three weeks ago in Damascus, Syria, this chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people, including some 400 children.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. Thousands of people actually were treated after the bombings and survived. Well, now, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta is reporting that medical worker who's cared for these patients are afraid to talking

MALVEAUX: Sanjay is joining us from Beirut, Lebanon.

And, Sanjay, first of all, explain to us why. Why are they reluctant to even talk about this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's unclear. The overall tenor is sort of one of nervousness and anxiety. You know, you hear from these doctors, they're concerned possibly of any retaliation against them. Also the hospitals, they don't want to identify some of the hospitals where they're practicing. So why exactly that is, is a little bit harder to say. I mean, as you know, you guys have been hearing it, it's a very fluid sort of situation. From a reporter's standpoint, you know, we have contact sometimes with these doctors and then the doctors will suddenly go dark. We don't hear from them. The phones that are being used are disposable phones. So one day it's one number, another day it's another number. They might be Skype phones. So all of this just makes it a bit more challenging. But exactly what they're fearful of and from whom they're fearful of, it's still a little bit uncertain.

HOLMES: Yes, risky to be treating the victims.

You know, I'm curious, Sanjay, from a medical standpoint, when you talk about the chemical weapons, and we've all seen the videos, horrible stuff, talk to us about what -- and different chemicals cause different types of suffering -- what you've seen on those videos. What sort of - what sort of symptoms did you see there?

GUPTA: You know, when you think about something like sarin, and you're right, it's pretty gruesome to watch, but you think about this neurotoxic agent that essentially turns everything on in the body. And what I mean by that is, you look at the lungs, for example, and you see the frothing at the mouth, that's because the lung secretions are just turned on. Same sort of thing happening in the sinuses. And most sort of obviously in the muscle groups. So when you see these sort of convulsions, nonstop convulsive activity, it's because the muscles are sort of turned on and that's why you're seeing that.

Ultimately what happens is the diaphragm, which is that big muscle that allows one to breathe in and out, that muscle goes into a state of convulsive activity as well, is unable to function properly and someone essentially can't breathe. It's tough to talk about, it's gruesome to watch, but that's what sarin does in a very small amount. Not just from inhaling it, but even getting it on your skin. You can absorb it across your skin. And it's odorless. It doesn't have a taste or a smell. So you oftentimes don't even know you've been exposed until you start to develop symptoms.

MALVEAUX: And, Sanjay, you've been able to see the treatment as well, the antidote. I assume that that's a large part of what you've been observing on the ground, yes?

GUPTA: There are very good antidotes, Suzanne, to sarin. The key is obviously making sure the antidotes are available and that they're administered quickly. This is an example of an antidote. It's something known as atropine. It's in just about every major hospital around the world. Usually used as a cardiac or heart medication. But this is the medication that can essentially turn off some of those on switches or interfere with that so the body can start to relax. You administer it, you see if the frothing at the mouth stops, if the pupils, for example, start to return to normal. And then if they do, you can stop. If they don't return to normal, you give a little bit more. But this is a commonly used medication. The key is to be able to use it and use it early.

HOLMES: And to get it in there to those inside the country.

Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks so much, there in Beirut, Lebanon.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Sanjay.

HOLMES: Thanks for sticking around for us tonight. Getting late there in Beirut.

GUPTA: Yes. HOLMES: All right. And if you want to help those affected by the Syrian crisis, do pop over to Impact Your World on

We're going to take a short break.

MALVEAUX: We'll take a quick break.


MALVEAUX: New Yorkers are choosing their next mayoral candidates. Voters have just about eight hours left before the polls close in the primary election in the biggest U.S. city.

HOLMES: Yes, unclear at the moment whether the front-runner, Bill de Blasio, can avoid a runoff. On his heels, the former city controller, Bill Thompson, the only black candidate in the race.

MALVEAUX: The other main challengers are City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an open lesbian who would be New York's first female mayor, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, of course, who's been getting a lot of publicity. He was an early front-runner, now a distant fourth after admitting to sending those lewd online messages. So that will go on this evening and we'll see how the vote turns out.

HOLMES: Indeed. Meanwhile, all eyes on Washington, of course. The president making his moves to convince lawmakers to still have that strike on Syria up his sleeve.

MALVEAUX: And that's happening at 9:00 Eastern tonight. You can watch his speech right here on CNN. Our primetime coverage starts at 7:00 Eastern. You're not going to want to miss that.


Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. Wolf Blitzer is up next.

MALVEAUX: All right. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama faces a crucial test of leadership at home and on the world stage. Right now, the president is on Capitol Hill. He's trying to lobby very skeptical lawmakers. He wants them to authorize U.S. military action against Syria, even as a diplomatic proposal plays out right now.

And tonight, the president faces another tough audience, the American people.

Right now, the secretary of state, John Kerry, is warning that diplomacy on Syria can't just be a process of delaying a U.S. military strike. Kerry told lawmakers, the administration is waiting for Russia's proposal but, quote, "we're not waiting for long." Those were his words. We'll have the very latest on the push to authorize U.S. military action and the search for a diplomatic solution.