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Mass Grave Dug near Damascus; Syria Military Options; George Zimmerman Wants to be Reimbursed; Jay-Z Sued Over "Big Pimpin'"; Upgrade Your iPhone; Controversy Grows for Miley

Aired August 27, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says U.S. military strikes are ready to go on Syria if President Obama gives the order.

George -- George Zimmerman was acquitted in killing Florida teen Trayvon Martin. And now his defense team wants the state of Florida to pay up to the tune of at least $200,000.

Upgrade your iPhone. If you are looking for a new device, don't throw away the old gadget just yet. According to reports Apple plans to unveil a new trade in program and it means you could get money back.

NEWSROOM continues now.


COSTELLO: And good morning. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello.

Video you will only see on CNN. And we want to warn you, these pictures could be disturbing. In fact they are disturbing. They are from the Syrian capital of Damascus where a mass grave has been dug in one of the city's suburbs. The area reportedly sustained the highest death toll from last week's alleged chemical gas attack.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins me now on the phone from Damascus to take us through these pictures and tell us what they mean. Hi -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi, Carol. Yes, the pictures were actually obtained by CNN from an independent journalist who is on the ground there. So these are images that were not submitted to us by the opposition but actually come from (inaudible) a ground (inaudible), if you will, of that alleged chemical weapons attack, one of them, a mass grave there that was put on a lot where they said that they buried hundreds of bodies in that place and then (inaudible) the lot over.

Another one, that's a really interesting story of a man who said that he made a makeshift homemade gas mask for himself (inaudible) to try to survive. He said it helped a little, and what the journalist saw was really horrible was that even several days after all what's happened were still bodies in the local field hospital there that have not been buried yet, because they weren't identified yet. They are still looking for people to try and identify these bodies so that they can be buried.

But again hundreds of people are killed there and there were some really interesting things. Now a lot of the building in which people died in didn't (inaudible) damage sort of structural damage of course, indicating that they might have been killed by some sort of gas. Also the bodies that could be seen also had no -- no wounds or anything so it seemed as though they died by inhaling something as well.

Certainly from what we're hearing from the people on the ground there, it seemed as though that attack happened last Wednesday, sometime around 2:00 a.m. And that many people were simply caught in their sleep and therefore were killed in their sleep, because they couldn't try to make a getaway -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Oh Frederik Pleitgen -- you'll have more for us later. Frederik Pleitgen reporting live from Damascus, Syria this morning.

The American Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the BBC American forces are ready to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack. So what might an attack look like? Here to walk us through that, retired Army General and CNN military analyst Spider Marks. Good morning, General.


COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. I want to go through a laundry list of military options and kind of get your thoughts on them. So the first one up is some people say that the United States should just target Assad and take him out?

MARKS: I don't disagree. Clearly we've defined -- excuse me -- clearly we've defined that Assad is the principal bad actor in Syria. His regime has really brought this destruction on its people. The challenge that we have is that the insurgents that are taking on Assad's regime are now populated with al Qaeda affiliates. We know that. So there are a number of really bad actors that are in Syria right now that have access to chemical weapons as we've seen and they are willing to use them.

So should Assad go? Absolutely, unequivocally he must and I think there could be very legitimate legal findings that would allow us to target him.

COSTELLO: OK so a second option would be to bomb the chemical weapons sites.

MARKS: Well the problem with that is you have what's called a downwind hazard. If you can't control the type of explosion that you're going to have at these weapons sites, you're going to have some considerable collateral damage. That means folks that live in the area will be harmed by the fallout that would occur absolutely as a result of those explosions. Now there are ways that you can mitigate that and then we've been able to do that in the past. That I think would be a mistake at this point.

COSTELLO: OK so a third option we could strike the headquarters of command in control. Like take the heart of the Assad military and destroy their headquarters and command centers.

MARKS: Carol I think that's probably the option that Secretary Hagel and the President are talking about with General Dempsey right now as the preferred option. We have the experience, having done that in the past, we've got the precision strike capability, the Tomahawk cruise missiles. The 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean is poised to do that. We have a target list and we would go after the command and control capabilities, intelligence collection capabilities and essentially the air defense and all of Assad's war-making capability that he's using right now.

COSTELLO: OK a fourth option would sort of be a Desert Fox option, sort of like what America did in Iraq. It would be a sustained bombing campaign over a period of days. Is that possible?

MARKS: It is. In fact Desert Fox December 1998, the United States achieved a real degradation of Saddam Hussein's capabilities to conduct regime efforts against his own people and to terrorize those in the region. That worked very, very well. That clearly I think is the option that we're talking about right now which is really a hybrid between a Desert Fox-like capability in going after his war -- Assad's war-making capabilities.

COSTELLO: And a fifth option and no one is suggesting that the President is for this at all, in fact he says no ground troops, but it is an option, right?

MARKS: Oh it is an option. In fact inevitably you have to be prepared to do that. If you can't get the al Qaeda affiliates separated from Assad's regime and the killing continues, the worst outcome would be al Qaeda with chemical weapons and Assad gone from the picture and no governing body in place in Damascus. I mean that's a horrible outcome.

So at some point there probably is the legitimate entry of ground forces to try to maintain sense and separation between these various multiple warring fashions.

COSTELLO: OK so last question for you the President is set to get this document that will present evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own people. How long after that do you think a decision will be made?

MARKS: Well I would hope a decision has already been made and that all that is necessary now is confirmation and at least alerting the American public that this is an inevitability. It literally could be a New York minute. Make the decision and then launch the first cruise missiles immediately. There should be no effort on the part of Assad -- we've demonstrated, or at least Assad has demonstrated an inability to be reasonable in terms of what he is doing, so our expectations should be that he's not going to alter his behavior. We need to be prepared to strike immediately.

COSTELLO: General Marks, thanks so much for making it clear for us. We really appreciate it.

MARKS: Thanks Carol.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM George Zimmerman wants his money back from the state of Florida. He was acquitted of murder. But should taxpayers foot all of his legal bills?


COSTELLO: The lawyers for George Zimmerman are preparing to ask the state of Florida to reimburse their client at least $200,000. But it could run as high as $300,000. Zimmerman's defense team says it's allowed under state law since he, since George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

CNN's Martin Savidge is here to explain more. $300,000 it like it could go up from there, though, I mean as far as legal expenses go, because Mark O'Mara put in a lot of time.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right and it should be pointed out as you said that this is a Florida statute, 939.06 if you actually want to know the number. And it does allow that when a person is acquitted of charges, that they can bill some of the costs of their defense.

Now it doesn't include legal fees. In other words Mark O'Mara can't sort of put in for everything that he is billed in his billable hours, neither can Don West. However, there are other significant costs that they can put in such as you know the expert witnesses that were brought in, travel, depositions, even that very intense 3D video put together by a Hollywood animator.

All of that could be considered a justifiable expense that they could bill back to the state and that's why they say it could be anywhere from $200,000 to maybe $300,000. They haven't formally putting that request yet they're still working on the numbers.

COSTELLO: OK so the state of Florida isn't obligated to pay Mark O'Mara's salary for working on his defense. So George Zimmerman's legal defense fund would still maybe be used for that.

SAVIDGE: There would and that was a significant fund, no doubt about it. And the exact numbers of that are still being totaled up, as we tried to find out. However, we know that even before the trial began there was about $500,000 that the defense team says they had to spend.

That money was going to things such as just housing and food for George Zimmerman and his family and of course security which was extremely expensive because of the death threats that they said were made against their client.

So that's why the money of that particular fund is not going to go anywhere near covering the entire legal cost. In fact, the entire, if you added of all the legal fees that the attorneys say they had billed, it would be between $1 million to $2 million and probably closer to $2 million.

COSTELLO: So did Mark O'Mara do this pro bono -- and I'm only asking you this, because George Zimmerman has been traveling we know that right? He's traveling across Texas, we know that, stopping along the way to get his picture taken with various people. We have seen that picture. Yes so where is he getting the money to do that? He's not working.

SAVIDGE: Well I think you know first of all, it's anticipated that there was going to be income coming from a number of potential sources -- one of them maybe being a book and any other kind of events like that. It could be a spin off.

But on top of that, you know Mark O'Mara has not been working pro bono. He hasn't been paid yet, neither is Don West as far as we know, but they do anticipate that they will be paid. Exactly what the terms of the deal are that were worked out with George Zimmerman, we don't know. That's, you know, of course confidential between the attorney and the client. But I don't think they were doing it for free.

COSTELLO: I don't either, somehow. They're lawyers after all. I don't mean that as a slam, but they put a lot of time in. I mean you know they've got to feed their families, too, right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome Carol.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM. Jay Z may still have to face the music. A lawsuit over his song "Big Pimping" -- is not settled.


COSTELLO: Checking our top stories at 46 minutes past the hour, as early as today, a military jury could begin deciding the fate of Major Nidal Hasan. The Army major faces the death penalty after being convicted in the 2009 mass murder at Fort Hood. The death penalty is a rare sentence for the U.S. military; the last execution took place in 1961.

A bunch of honest shoppers caught on camera in New Jersey leaving money on the counter when a clerk never showed up. The owner wants to thank them all in person and give them a gift certificate for their good deed.

They're the golden girls of comedy -- Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They hit it big when they co-hosted last year's Golden Globes. Now they're being asked to come back in 2014 -- no word yet on whether the former SNL pair have agreed to a second act.

For Jay-Z it's the lawsuit that just won't go away.


COSTELLO: You remember this song. Well, a case surrounds that hit song "Big Pimpin'" -- but the story goes back decades before.

Ashleigh Banfield's show "LEGAL VIEW" coming your way at the top of the hour; she's here now with a preview. Good morning, Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Great song, isn't it?


BANFIELD: It's a really great song.

You know, Carol, you have to wonder if it was made great by the sampling. I don't know if you could tell because back in 1957, when you and I were nowhere near even thoughts in our parents' eyes, there was another big song -- you have to listen to the background. You hear that Egyptian tune?

COSTELLO: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: Yes, baby.

COSTELLO: I don't know what it is though. What is it?

BANFIELD: Yes, exactly what is it. It's called "Khosara, Khosara". If the people behind "Khosara, Khosara" get their way, they're saying that's our song, and it was sampled -- and he owes us. You have no idea Carol how much litigation has been going on for decades behind this. It kind of makes you wonder, seriously?


BANFIELD: I know, right? Well, apparently, yes. Have you seen how much money that song has made?

COSTELLO: OK. I take it back.

BANFIELD: Can I tell you? 1957. We're going to take you back there.

COSTELLO: All right. Ashleigh, I look forward to it.


COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM time for a new iPhone? Want some money for your old one? Apple might be starting a program that will give you some cash back. We'll tell you about it.


COSTELLO: If you can't wait to get your hands on the new iPhone, you are not alone. And now you may have a chance to trade in your old iPhone for a newer, better version. According to reports, Apple plans to launch an iPhone trade-in program to allow users to swap their old phones for an upgraded version. How much do you get for your old phone? That's what I want to know.

CNN's Alison Kosik, live from New York to tell us.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, whatever you get I think is better than the doorstop that it really becomes, right? Yes, yes. So keep in mind what we're getting as far as the information goes, a lot of it coming from tech blogs, really par for the course. Usually how it goes before an Apple event.

Here's what the reports are saying. That what you would wind up doing is taking an older iPhone into an Apple store, they're going to assess the value of that phone and you can wind up putting that money toward a new iPhone if you're due for an upgrade. The value that you touched on, the value of that phone is really going to depend on the model and what kind of condition the phone is in.

But look at this. The convenience of this is really key because just being ability to walk in there and exchange your phone instead of mailing it off and waiting, that's a big deal. For Apple this is a big deal as well because what it could also wind up doing is help drive more traffic to stores.

Think about it. You're going in there to change your iPhone in, you go in there, you play with other stuff, you may want to buy something extra. That is the -- sort of the golden aspect of this program -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So is there any official word from Apple on this?

KOSIK: Well, we reached out to Apple, haven't heard back, pretty typical. As you know, Apple is kind of, you know, pretty big on keeping these worst-kept secrets all the time, but you often see these rumors swirl around before an event, builds that anticipation, builds excitement. It could wind up backfiring too because it puts more pressure on Apple to perform. But what we're hearing is that this program, right now, is sort of a pilot program at some Apple stores and it could really go into effect as early as next month -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Alison Kosik -- thanks so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM: shock, awe and a whole lot of skin. But it isn't just viewers who got more than they bargained for with Miley Cyrus' latest performance. Now, the singer is in the middle of a growing controversy.


COSTELLO: First the foam finger, then a firestorm -- CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look at the wide-spread backlash against Miley Cyrus.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a crotch- grabbing, butt-slapping, tongue-wagging, grinding performance -- a story with legs, even if we can't show exactly what Miley Cyrus was doing through them. Never has one of those we're Number 1 foam fingers been so man-handled.

(On camera): But now everyone's pointing the finger at Miley.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC'S MORNING JOE: The whole thing was cringe- worthy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The tongue out and -- I think it's just a little desperate.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Just this side of onstage pornography.

MOOS (voice-over): She was the target of tweets. "Just watched that Miley Cyrus teddy bear performance and I think I'm now legally required to put myself on some kind of registry."

Her look was mocked on YouTube.

(On camera): Thumbs up, thumbs down on the Miley Cyrus performance?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that foam finger. Yes, it was a little awkward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down. I think that she's trying too hard to be sexy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to be way too old and too vulgar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you sit there and watch with your granddaughter, who is 11 years old, and you've got to be embarrassed. We looked at each other and went, oh well.

MOOS (voice-over): This was as close as we found to man on the street support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thumb in the middle.

MOOS (on camera): In the middle?


MOOS: Very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bit much, but it's all right.

MOOS (voice-over): Everyone kept showing the photo of Will Smith's family aghast, reacting to Miley's performance.

LIMBAUGH: They can't believe what they're looking at.

MOOS: It turns out what they're looking at was Lady Gaga's performance, not Miley's. And the person on the right was just scratching.

Miley's latex-clad bottom was compared to a chicken's. Her look was compared to Jim Carrey's as a steroid-using female bodybuilder.

In reaction, Miley tweeted out, "My VMA performance had 306,000 tweets per minute. That's more than the blackout or Super Bowl."

She also sent out a photo gesturing with her own upraised fingers, rather than the foam one and to think that five years ago the satirical Onion News Network made this prediction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most experts now agree that at current usage levels, Miley Cyrus will be drained dry of entertainment value by 2013.

MOOS: Well, it's now 2013, but we are still getting a lot of entertainment value out of this performance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be a little more classy.

MOOS: So Miley, if you let your foam finger do the walking, try not to make it seem like street walking.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


COSTELLO: Jeanne -- geez. In case you were wonder what Miley's parents may be thinking about all of this, be sure to watch "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" tonight. That's when Billy Ray Cyrus will be Piers' special guest -- 9:00 p.m. tonight here on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.