the top story onnal jazeera, syria's war. calling himself war wary but determined, president obama considering limited military strikes against syria in response to new u.s. intelligence about chemical weapons attacks. assad remains defiant. state-controlled tv showing images of the military while president assad vows to defend the country. weeks into the battle and refusing to give up, thousands of firefighters continue their work to stop the massive rim
wildfire as it gains ground. the world is waiting to see what action the u.s. and its allies will take against syria. president obama says he hasn't made a decision yet, but several u.s. destroyers are now in the eastern mediterranean. here are the latest headlines. senior u.s. officials plan to hold conference calls with senators this afternoon. russian president putin says accusations the syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people are utter nonsense. that's a quote. u.n. chemical weapons inspectors have left syria after collecting evidence from the scene of last week's attack. we have several reports. we begin with paul live in washington. so, paul, what else have you learned about this potential strike against syria?
>> reporter: well, here's what we know about u.s. capabilities in the region. as you mentioned there are a half-dozen american warships in the eastern mediterranean, five of them are guided-missile destroyers carrying tomahawk missiles, one is a marine troop carriers with several hundred marines on board. the president has emphasized no boots on the ground. this ship is kept in the region as a precautionary measure. now, france so far is the only major u.s. ally to pledge support. they have one aircraft carrier stationed in the mediterranean, and about a dozen war planes at two bases in the region. those are armed with short-range missiles that could strike targets within syria. you mentioned also there's going to be an administration briefing with the senate republicans this afternoon. the white house has confirmed that will take place this afternoon. secretary of state john kerry, defense secretary chuck hagel and national security adviser
s susan rice will participant in the briefing talking to senate republicans. we heard about this meeting last night from the press office of senate minority leader mitch mcconnell which tweeted about it. one question high on the agenda in this call is sure to be financing, and questions about financing this attack. one thing to consider, tomahawk missiles themselves cost $1 million apiece. military analysts say an attack on syria could take 200 cruise missiles. you're talking about $200 million just for the cruise missiles alone. >> at this point it seems select members of congress are getting this information, but i'm sure there are more members of congress that would like to be looped in. >> reporter: that's right. today's meeting is coming on the heels of a meeting on thursday night, a conference call, 90-minute conference call that was bipartisan between the white house and congressional leaders said to be very stern but cordial with tough questions
from both sides about any attack on syria. >> all right. paul, thank you so much. we'll be checking in with you throughout the day. now we also have a report from robert ray now, who is also in beirut. robert is now on the ground in beirut. robert, are you there? >> reporter: i am here richelle. we're in a situation of deep concern here in beirut and the surrounding areas. we have a producer on the ground of the syrian/lebanese border that says car loads of people are awaiting to come into the country. on top of the cars are their luggage. they're processed via a very tight security situation there. indeed, we're also today there are thousands of people leaving syria. as a matter of fact, we were -- the producer i just got off the line with informed me that many of the people coming back in
from lebanon into syria are saying that they have issues with what could occur. they're going back to support their country, so we did a little checking. one of our sources here made a call to her sour in the lebanese government that confirmed that, that, in fact, 3,000 vehicles and families have re-entered into syria, and that was as of midd midday. it's 6:00 p.m. in beirut. a very fluid situation, a lot going on, and a deep concern here in the region as we await to see what happens in the coming hours and perhaps days. >> also let's talk more about your sources. what are they telling you about what's going on with hezbollah? >> reporter: yeah. hezbollah, interesting. we checked with some folks inside the hezbollah group in the southern suburbs of beirut. they've received no instruction from the syrian regime as to any retaliation, if indeed there are strikes into syria by the united
states. we're also told that there is a very small amount of people within the syrian regime, perhaps the top tier that know exactly what will occur, whether there will be retaliation or not. that's what our sources are telling us. hezbollah is quiet right now and not making statements and sitting back to see what occurs. >> tell us a little bit more about the refugee situation. >> reporter: yeah, refugee situation, about 700,000 syrians have come into lebanon since the beginning of this civil war in syria. there are people all over the place trying to make a life for their families and just trying to wait and see what occurs here. like i said before, a lot of folks are headed back into the country of syria because frankly from what we're told by sources on the ground and our producer on the ground at the syrian border is they're upset, angry at the possibility of what may occur, and they feel like they need to go back with their
families and support the government. so there's a lot of different moving parts. there are a lot of different story angles to this, and we're continuing to watch it very closely from here in beirut. >> robert ray in beirut. we'll check back with you soon. u.n. weapons inspectors left syria early saturday. the u.s. made it clear it doesn't need u.n. approval for any action it may decide to take. we're at the united nations. >> reporter: here at the united nations ban ki-moon the secretary-general is meeting his head angela cain. she was there with those weapons inspectors in damascus. she'll be briefing the secretary-general. the weapons inspectors having left syria are going to europe with their laboratory samples that could take some weeks while they analyze the samples. diplomats here say it's pretty clear the u.s. is not going to wait for that analysis, that the u.s. administration has already made its mind up what that chemical analysis is going to say. they've not only decided that there was a chemical attack,
they decided the chemical attack was carried out by the assad regime. it's also clear, i think, to diplomats here that there's no way the u.s. will wait for the united nations security council. they're never going to get russian acceptance for military action. that's quite clear by the latest comments of president putin. i think there is one event coming up on the diplomatic calendar that will affect the time line for any military strike, and that's the fact that world leaders are supposed to gather thursday next week in st. petersburg in russia for the meeting of world leaders. president obama is supposed to be there. diplomats think it's likely the military strikes will take place well before thursday. otherwise, it could be a rather embarrassing and difficult meeting for the president there in russia. >> in washington, u.s. military intervention in syria continues to face skepticism on capitol hill. friday the white house released an intelligence assessment linking it to chemical attacks.
some house republicans say the report is not enough to justify intervention. a spokesperson for john boehner says this. if the president believes this information makes military response i am pair active, it's his responsibility to explain the objectives, strategy and legal basis for potential action. tara joins us this morning in new york. she's a form eer cia analyst. thank you very much for joining us. let's talk about this. the intelligence released yesterday, secretary of state kerry described it as having high confidence. he seemed to almost be speaking directly to the skeptics. can you put in context what "high confidence" means? >> sure. absolutely. after the iraq war and all of the fallout related to intelligence, a number of reforms went into place, including putting competence measures on intel assessments. what kerry did yesterday was strategically lay out for the american public the specific
piece of evidence that justifies a response from the administration in response to the use of chemical weapons. so he basically pointed out that we know that the weapons were used. we know that they came from regi regime-controlled areas and the time and precise locations where they hit. he laid out the type of intelligence we had. he talked about intercepted communications and reports on the ground to show we had a wide array of confirmed reports that show that chemical weapons were, in fact, used by the assad regime. >> when he says "high confidence," what does that mean? >> the intelligence community has been impressed to put confidence measures on their report. it means most likely there's been confirmation across multiple agencies and analysts have confirmed across different types of intel sources. not just media reports or intercepts or visual confirmations bull all the things together painted a holistic picture of chemical weapons used. i mean, i've seen the push-back
from people in russia and push-back domestically. until these people pushing back show what evidence they're refuting and why, it's difficult to undermine the administration's claim. i think the report did do a good job of showing in the unclassified realm what types of evidence they have in their hands. >> talk a little bit more about this isn't happening in a vacuum. this is happening in a world and country that is understandably skeptical because of where the country has been before. talk a little bit more about that and why that did prompt these changes in the intelligence community. >> sure. i think you saw it prompted these changes in terms of coordination among melt pell agencies, information sharing. the director of national intelligence set up, department of homeland security, all of these changes happened on the heels of 9/11 because peel do not want the intelligence community to make a mistake in terms of missing a strategic attack like 9/11 or an error in terms of wmd in iraq. both of those events drove a series of reforms across the intelligence community, and i think you saw kerry yesterday make not just a humanitarian
case, not just a strategic security case, not just an emotional case, but really a case that tried to override sort of the biases we've inherited from the problems from the iraq situation. i think the administration is hard-pressed because people are so resistant now because of those intel failures. i think that was the purpose of getting kerry out before the american public yesterday and making the case across all these dimensions. >> we will have to see what comes next. tara mailer, former cia analyst. thank you very much. appreciate it. stay with aal jazeera for continuing coverage. we'll have more including the protest in london and russia's possible response to a possible strike. forensic scientists in florida have begun unearthing graves at a former reform school known for abuse in the '40s, '50s and '60s: dozier school was a place they put kids in trouble, many poor and black. there's no criminal investigation.
only one former staffer is still alive. researchers hope to identify the remains and return them to their families. a shift in winds has carried smoke into several towns near yosemite national park. air pollution control authorities issued a health control warning for six counties. while the fire is 35% contained, officials say the effects of the fire will be felt throughout the weekend. the labor day weekend is in full swing. let's get to the forecast. >> you ready for some rain? >> yes. >> we'll have rain in the northeast this weekend. as a matter of fact, mostly cloudy overcast skies across much of pennsylvania into new york state i think later this afternoon on to this evening. we'll have some heavier rain coming down across portions of p.a. and into new york. along i-95 use precaution if you're traveling. in other weather news, it's exceptionally hot across the north central plains and into the midwest. minneapolis at 89 degrees, fargo
at 87, chicago 82. we have a cold front sagging down out of canada, and that cold front is definitely going to bring in severe weather the next 24 hours. damaging winds, hail, even the chance for a few isolated tornadoes. minneapolis needs to be on the lookout for the severe weather as we track into the afternoon and certainly into this evening along i-35. i want you to use precaution if you travel. back to you. >> thank you. the british take to the streets of london and protest the international debate continues focuses on syrian president bashar al assad. while there's a fellow religious leader to help him run the roman catholic church.
more than 5,000 firefighters have their target on their growing rim wildfire. the fire has grown to become california's fifth largest fire in history. the fire is threatening thousands of homes. eyes on syria. u.s. intelligence says president bashar al assad ordered last week's chemical attack in a suburb of damascus. john kerry it is 1400 people died in the attack. protests are taking place all around the world. al jazeera reports from london. >> reporter: like the other process around the globe, these protesters gathered in london to march to the center of town to express their comfort and concern about a possible unilateral u.s. action in the middle east. in sharp contrast to the marches in 2003 and the run-up to the iraq war, there are nowhere near the kind of numbers we saw then.
nevertheless, the message is clear. it is directed towards washington, because already david cameron has been forced to withdraw any prospect of going into a military adventure in the middle east. this message today is obviously directly straight at president obama. russia is speaking out against possible military action in syria. president vladimir putin is calling on the u.s. to think about whether a strike would stop the violence there. he's also expressing doubts that the assad regime was actually behind the attack. >> translator: common sense speaks for itself. the syrian government forces are advancing. in some regions they have circled the rebels. under these circumstances giving a winning card to those who constantly call for military intervention is utter nonsense. it does not fit any logic, especially on the day of the arrival of the u.n. inspectors. i'm convinced it's a provocation by those who want to pull other
countries into the conflict who want support from powerful international players, first of all, the united states. >> a correspondent has more on the comments by the russian president. >> this is the first time we've heard from president putin in many months discussing syria. the last time the topic was brought up at the g-8 summit in northern ireland when he met with president obama, and the talk was of a possible peace conference in geneva. that's long gone and long past. i think now president putin realizes this is possibly the last chance he's got to deliver his verdict on a possible strike. hostilities could begin tint, so he took this opportunity to appeal to president obama saying, "be careful. think twice before you commit forces to attacking syria." he said i'm speaking to the president basically as a nobel peace prize laureate and asking
obama how many civilians will killed and taken if the strike went ahead. as far as putin is concerned, as far as the kremlin is concerned, this attack, if it takes place, has nothing to do with chemical weapons. it's all be degrading the syrian military and securing victory for the rebels. breaking news right now. we believe a plane carrying the u.n. weapons inspectors doing work all week in the suburbs of damascus checking on the chemical weapons, we believe their plane has landed from syria now in the netherlands, and they have said that their work will continue and could take up to two weeks to get the results of their work. they're now out of syria and out of the suburbs of damascus now in the netherlands. we'll continue to follow the story for you. several reports that nelson mandela went home from the hospital are not true. the south african government said he's still in the hospital, and his condition actually remains critical but stable.
mandela's family hopes he'll be released to continue recuperating the ahome. he's suffers from a persistent illness since june. pope francis is shaking things up again. he named a new secretary of state, a role called the deputy pope. arch bishop parolin has been called to the position. he'll be involved from everything from finances and admissions to diplomatic relations with more than 170 countries. stronger than the storm. the jersey shore makes a massive comeback in the wake of superstorm sandy. still a ways to go, though. a wedding present never offered before. the supreme court justice shows friendship and her position on a contested civil right. ♪
friends michael kaiser and economist john roberts. it was only ten months ago that new jersey's famous shoreline was battered by hurricane sandy. statewide businesses lost $30 billion and the cleanup was $40 billion. the 130-mile storied coast is back on its feet just in time for summer's last holiday weekend. john terry reports. >> reporter: surfers riding the breakers, families on the beach and boardwalk. it's labor day weekend, and this is the way life is supposed to be on the last holiday weekend of the summer. ten months ago it was all so different. that's when hurricane sandy hit hard. a massive storm, sandy the second costliest hurricane on record came roaring ashore pounding beaches, smashing homes, uprooting trees, downing power lines, wiping out storefronts and restaurants and even sending the roller coaster of casino pier of seaside
heights into the ocean, turning it into one of the best-known images of disaster. this is where the roller coaster once stood. there are plans to replace it. for now residents are glad casino pier is back. >> there was a slow start in the rainy season. we had our water park but with the weather it was a slow start. the rides opened up the last week in july. we missed two major holidays, memorial day and fourth of july. those are the two main holidays you need. luckily we have labor day this weekend and looking for a great turnout. >> reporter: for those who make jersey towns their home any success this summer is hard-won. as we moved up the coast, many towns were damaged in the hurricane. some homes are still being repaired and others have clearly been abandoned. the beach at belmar is full but not at seabright which is used to mopping up after storms and was devastated by sandy. woody's restaurant was under 3 to 4 feet of water, but the
parking lot was a campsite for people looking for hot food and second-hand clothing to keep warm. the chef says when they re-opened after four months, people came from all over the country, and the summer has been solid. >> seeing this town what it was and as desolate, it was like walking into a desert. to what it is right now, we're rebuilding, and that's what the seabright rising is for, rebuilding. >> reporter: behind woody's restaurant, it is -- the lifeguards control the beach. with 50% to 60% of the homes empty, the income is down but they have plenty of visitors. >> people came from all over just to support us. >> reporter: why? >> because it's a great little town by the beach. there's no other place like seabright. >>. >> reporter: when the beaches close after labor day and the families go back to their lives, the people on the jersey shore are left to reflect on the first summer after the hurricane, and they hope sandy is the last
storm of her size they see for a very long time. john terry, al jazeera, at the jersey shore. thps perhaps the most beautiful weather in the whole country, comfortable temperatures seattle into portland and a little hot. nothing but beautiful sunny skies, and as we travel a little further east, that's where the heat is bottled up and definitely concentrated across the north central plains. into the midwest today minneapolis climbs to a high of 89 degrees. typical this time of year they're around 79. later on in the day we have a chance for severe storms yesterday as a matter of fact
around minneapolis and dakotas, we had over 100 reports of damaging winds and hail. these storms have a lot of energy in the atmosphere, and we want to watch out for that later on in the day. certainly heavy rainfall across southern central portions of minnesota including minneapolis. so if you're traveling out there along i-35, definitely want to use precaution. a lot of folks are on the roads going to see family and friends for the busy holiday weekend. tracking into the northeast, today it's cloudy and overcast. i think we will see a couple of showers this afternoon into this evening, and definitely into tomorrow where the heavier rain is on the way certainly across new york state into pennsylvania as well. i think we're going to have unsettled weather the next several days even on labor day with a high at 86 degrees. across the southwest, flash flood watch in effect across the ma -- majority of the southwest into phoenix where the rain can
be heavy. if you're traveling on i-40 use precautions. we have a frontal boundary across the southeast. more wet weather on the way to atlanta not just today but into sunday and monday as well. showers and thunderstorms in store, so use precaution if you're traveling along i-75. richelle, back to you. >> keep it here. up next on al jazeera, people and power, china orient express. thank you so much for your time.
(vo) china is expected to have the world's biggest economy by 2016. before then, it may also have the most billionaires. but what impact are these super rich having in china? and what do their prominence and flashy lifestyles say about the communist party's complicated attitude towards capitalism? ♪