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Malaysian Airline Plane Still Missing; Gas Explosion in New York City Apartment Building Leads to Fatalities; Crisis in Ukraine Continues; Reign of Jeopardy! Champ Arthur Chu's Ends; Missing Malaysian Flight May Have Flown Four Hours

Aired March 13, 2014 - 07:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, officials in Malaysia are disputing this report this morning that their missing airliner was in the air four hours after its final communication. This is what we have from the "Wall Street Journal" this morning. They're reporting that the information comes from engine data by way of unnamed American sources, specifically, U.S. investigators.

If that is the case, it means the plane could be anywhere in a radius of about 2,500 miles. You see all these possibilities on the screen from its last known spot? So, that stretches all the way from Northwest India to mainland Australia.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, while the search continues, another dead end for that missing Malaysia flight 370. A Vietnamese search team found no debris, no sign of debris from the satellite images provided by the Chinese when they say they spotted something in the water Sunday. The search was between Malaysia and southern Vietnam near where the plane lost contact with the ground. Officials also say the satellite images, that they were released by mistake.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so what do we know? We know it's been almost a week since the plane went missing and we know there are more questions than answers as we still try to figure it out. You're looking at the satellite image here. Do we have Jim Clancy or we don't have Jim Clancy, right? All right, so, we don't have Jim Clancy right now, Kuala Lumpur. We'll get him when the shot's back up. So let's bring in David Soucie, former FAA inspector and author of "Why Planes Crash," and that's certainly the question at the moment. It's good to have you on the show. Let's deal with the competing ideas, because we don't want to advance theories that we don't understand or aren't fact-driven.


CUOMO: Now we have, let's call them the Chinese and the Malaysian models. Chinese say they have satellite pictures, questions of timing, why they bring it out now, questions of whether or not that debris would be sustained in the air for an unreasonable amount of time. And then you have the Malaysian example, which is more exotic, for lack of a term of art. It assumes a lot more facts. When you look at the two, which stands out to you? SOUCIE: Well, you know, there's so many theories and so many different options. It's hard to put it down into two different theories. What I like to do as an investigator is stick to only the facts that I know and not try to speculate, or until it's verified fact, it really doesn't mean much to you, unless you're looking at expanding that model.

CUOMO: So, how far can you go based on what we know?

SOUCIE: Basically what I would say at this point is if the intent was to mask that aircraft, which it appears to me that there is -- some intent had been made to mask the aircraft, to turn off the transponders. I don't think it's likely there was a failure on board the aircraft that would cause those transponders to go out.

CUOMO: Because Mary Schiavo thinks that it's more likely that it was an event as opposed to intentional thing, a decompression event, because there was a warning maybe about like the stress cracks around the antenna. She doesn't think it's more likely it's intentional, but you could go either way, you're saying.

SOUCIE: Yes, you could, you could. But the reason I go the direction that I do is because if there was something intent-ful, if there was not something intent-ful, then a massive failure would have had to take out three redundant systems in that aircraft. You have three different buses, those are powered by three different generators. If those go out, you have a fourth generator that you can deploy, driven by wind to add power back to the radios and communication equipment.

BALDWIN: So, when you say intent, are you referring specifically to the transponder being flipped off --


BALDWIN: And therefore, when we're hearing, again, conflicting information, Malaysia versus "Wall Street Journal" news, two unnamed U.S. investigators, they're saying this plane was indeed in the air four hours after that transponder flipped off.

SOUCIE: Right. Well, I've been waiting to hear what Rolls Royce had to say about this, because I know that data is streaming back to Rolls Royce, so they're talking about the engines --

BALDWIN: They make the engine, for people who don't understand the collection.

SOUCIE: Right. So, when that data's being transmitted every 30 minutes, it goes anywhere that aircraft is, and that's for maintenance reasons, so that you can compare one flight to another and for efficiency reasons as well.

PEREIRA: Forgive the ignorance. How sophisticated does a user have to be or somebody that would intentionally go in there to shut off those systems? How well trained would they have to be to know how to do that? SOUCIE: Very much so. Very much so. And again, the independence on that aircraft is something that's made it as reliable as it has been over the years. So, the fact that -- or the thought that all of those systems, all that redundancy would have been somehow, one single event would have taken all that out, there's design engineers a lot smarter than me that are trying to figure out how to make sure that that doesn't happen. So, I think there's some intelligence behind being able to turn all that off.

CUOMO: So, what do you make of this engine report? Rolls Royce, we know they have the capabilities, we know they make the engines. They say they got the information -- who's "they"? We're not exactly sure because the "Wall Street Journal's" reporting it and they say they have two unnamed sources.

BALDWIN: They're saying investigators in aviation national security.

CUOMO: And obviously, they're a fairly credible source, right? I'm putting it lightly. And then the Malaysians kick it back, even though it does seem to fuel their theory about this ghost ship going, you know, tangentially where it was supposed to go, winding up in the Strait of Malacca. What do you make of it?

SOUCIE: Well, in an investigation, everything is so confusing, especially if you don't have a lot of experience in this, and Malaysia isn't a place where they do these kinds of investigations very often. So during the investigation, you want to keep things as tight as you can, and again, you don't want to follow a theory that's not proven. So, the last thing you want to do is give false hope to the folks who are waiting to hear about their family members or give it some kind of wild theory about it.

So during the investigation, I fight a lot with how much do you tell the public, how much do you not? It's not because you're trying to hide anything. It's just because you don't want to give false hope to someone and let them think something else is happening that isn't.

BALDWIN: Here's something else we learned from the Malaysian government. Just yesterday, they were saying, oh, yes, our military saw some blips on a radar later on Saturday, could have been a plane, who knows what it was, in the general area of where this plane took off. We didn't say anything because we just didn't know that it could be anything.

SOUCIE: Right.

BALDWIN: Now they're coming forward and saying that we don't know if it was the plane. If it had been the plane, you and I may not be sitting here talking about where the plane is.

SOUCIE: Yes, that's right, that's right. Something to understand about radar is that those were two different radar systems. The radar system which is primary is the one that says Marco. And the secondary says Polo. So, if you don't have the Polo, which they didn't on these other pings, you really don't know much about it. You don't even know what the altitude of that ping is. It's just telling you there's something coming at you. It's about this size and coming at this rate, at this speed. So, that's why those two reports really don't jive that much --


SOUCIE: -- to me. And I never really gave a lot of credibility to those other pings unless I saw that they started at the same point that they lost contact and followed it around to that direction. So, I think that's why that wasn't that credible in the first place.

BALDWIN: OK. Bottom line, Rolls Royce's information. Whatever it is, they've got the information.

SOUCIE: We've got to find out what it is. Absolutely. Absolutely.

BALDWIN: OK. David Soucie, thank you for joining us.

SOUCIE: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Let's move along, because the death toll is rising overnight from a suspected natural gas explosion that leveled two New York City apartment buildings. Authorities now say at least six people died in that blast and several others remain missing this morning. CNN's Poppy Harlow is live for us in Harlem where firefighters are still battling a new fire on the scene, that the building's still smoking this early Thursday. Poppy, good morning, and tell me what you know now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brooke. You can smell the smoke from blocks away. Let's zoom in so you can see what firefighters are doing, almost 24 hours after this initial blast. There are still pockets that are burning in this building. The winds are making fighting that fire more complicated. Dozens and dozens of first responders still digging through the rubble, looking for any survivors they can find.

As you said, we know six, at least six people have died. We just found out this morning one of those was a 21-year-old young woman. Nine people still unaccounted for at this hour. This is a search-and- rescue mission, an extended operation. You've got hundreds of crews here, and they're hoping that they can find some or all, hopefully, of those nine that are still unaccounted for, but that is a big question at this hour, as the hours go by.

This has just shaken this entire community. It is the heart of the Puerto Rican community in New York City and east Harlem, and they are devastated from this shocking, tragic building collapse that is still, still burning in pockets of these buildings, Brooke.

PEREIRA: I'll take it here, Poppy. Devastating, indeed, and further complicating their efforts, the temperatures dipping down to freezing overnight, really a struggle there.

Now, overseas to the diplomatic struggle to keep Crimea from falling into Russian hands. President Obama and Ukraine's interim prime minister will meet Wednesday at the White House -- or met Wednesday, pardon me, at the White House. Both leaders insisting there will be a severe cost if a referendum scheduled for Sunday results in Crimea's annexation. Let's bring in White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski. Good morning.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could lead to an announcement of maybe an advancement in strategy in dealing with this situation, but President Obama again emphasized support for the new Ukrainian government, warned Russia that there needs to be a diplomatic way forward and denounced this referendum coming up in Crimea on Sunday as to whether that region would rejoin Russia.

Both the U.S. and other western nations have called on Russia repeatedly to do a number of things -- pull back troops, let in international monitors, sit down and talk to Ukraine. But so far, none of that has happened. What is continuing, though, is discussion between the U.S. and Russia. Secretary of state John Kerry will meet again with the Russian foreign minister, but so far, they have not found common ground. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Michelle, thank you for that this morning.

We also have new, stunning developments in that massive GM recall. A document filed with federal safety regulators shows GM received reports of an ignition defect way back in 2001, three years earlier than the carmaker said. That defect has been linked to 12 deaths and at least 31 crashes over the past decade. What's this all mean? Let's bring in chief business correspondent Christine Romans. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It means big questions for GM, you guys. What we know this morning is that in 2001, General Motors discovered an issue with the Saturn Ion ignition switch during preproduction development. The federal filing says a 2001 internal GM report states an ignition switch design change was made that solved that problem.

Now, the issue behind the recall of 1.4 million cars in North America has led to some 13 deaths, involves ignition switches that can be bumped out of the run position into the off or accessory position. That can cause power braking, steering, and airbags to stop working. GM now says it is conducting a more in-depth analysis of the information. There are now criminal and a congressional investigation into this recall, you guys.

BALDWIN: Christine, thank you.

Also, President Obama refusing to comment on Senator Dianne Feinstein's accusations that the CIA illegally searched the computers of the Senate intelligence committee. The president insisting it would not be appropriate for him to wade in now that authorities are thick in that investigation. The president also says he is committed to declassifying a Senate report on Bush-era interrogation tactics that were used on terror suspects once it's completed.

PEREIRA: You'll likely recall the Indian diplomat whose New York arrest and strip search sparked an international scandal. She's now been cleared for now. A federal judge dismissed Devyani Khobragade's case Wednesday, saying she has diplomatic immunity. She was indicted in January for lying on a visa application about just how much she paid her housekeeper. Prosecutors suggested they may seek a new indictment against her.

CUOMO: Israel launching air strikes on three areas in Gaza after more than 40 rockets were fired into Israel. Five of the rockets landed in populated areas in the south. Officials say it's the most substantial attack in two years. Israel also closed a main crossing from Gaza in response but kept another one open for humanitarian purposes.

BALDWIN: Violence is once again flaring in Venezuela. Three more people killed in clashes with government forces in Carabobo, about two hours southwest of Caracas. That makes 23 fatalities, more than 200 injuries since protests broke out just about a month ago. Student demonstrators also flooding the streets of Caracas. Look at these crowds demanding President Nicolas Maduro step down.

CUOMO: Two Oklahoma teenagers, Chancey Luna and Michael Jones, will stand trial in the shooting death of an Australian baseball player. You'll remember this story. Now prosecutors allege the two targeted the victim, 22-year-old Christopher Lane, last summer because they were bored. They're charged with first-degree murder. A third suspect is expected to testify against them.

PEREIRA: All right, 12 minutes after the hour. Let's take a look at what is in the papers. We start with the "Wall Street Journal." some bad news for your pocket. Sorry. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying health insurance premiums will likely go up in 2015. Testifying before Congress, Sebelius suggested that the sweeping new health care law will not end premium increases, at least for now. She did say premiums are likely to rise at a slower pace than in recent years.

In "The New York Times," Attorney General Eric Holder endorsing a plan to shorten sentences in cases of nonviolent drug offenders and reduce the federal prison population. This would affect prison terms in about 70 percent of federal drug trafficking cases, reducing sentences on average by almost a year. Holder's expected to announce his support today for the changes recommended by the U.S. sentencing commission.

And from the "Washington Post," Google announcing that it is now routinely encrypting web searches globally. That will make it more challenging for countries like China to sensor user searches and track what citizens are viewing. Governments can still choose to block Google services altogether. Google CEO Eric Schmidt says encryption can effectively end government censorship within a decade, a pretty bold move.

CUOMO: Intriguing.

Graphic, bloody images shown in court during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, this time accidentally. The pictures were part of a slide show and lawyers are trying to get different images in there and they accidentally flashed a picture of Pistorius's girlfriend's body right in front of him and the rest of the people in court. This made Pistorius violently wretch, we are told. Now, earlier, a former police commander on the scene was grilled about missing splinters from the door Pistorius shot through. Court is on break right now.

BALDWIN: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer will not seek another term in office. She made that announcement just yesterday. Brewer faced a term limit and another run would have required a court challenge. Her decision clears the way for other Republican candidates to run for the seat during the 2014 midterms without complications. Brewer was appointed to fill Janet Napolitano's term when she left to become homeland security secretary in 2009.

CUOMO: A former top aide to Chris Christie wants state officials to hand over e-mails they say link him to bridge-gate. The state investigators reportedly have e-mails showing Bill Stepien organized the political payback. But Stepien's attorney says they haven't seen those e-mails and want them released within five days.

BALDWIN: Comedienne Roseanne Barr now the target of a lawsuit by the parents of George Zimmerman. In the suit, the Zimmermans claim Roseanne Barr forced them to go into hiding because she tweeted out the family's Florida address. They accuse her of trying to, quote, "incite a lynch mob" to descend on their home following George Zimmerman's acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

PEREIRA: The "Jeopardy!" reign ends for the champ the people love to hate. Arthur Chu's -- its' true. Arthur Chu's all-over-the-board strategy and style angered some of the fans of the long-running game show. Well, you can let it go now, folks, because Chu lost Wednesday, capping an 11-game winning streak and racked up $297,200. He tweeted that he'll be doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything session tonight, so you can ask him some of your pressing questions. And guess what? He'll be right here on NEW DAY tomorrow.

BALDWIN: You know he really wants to be a voiceover artist.

PEREIRA: I know.

BALDWIN: Let's hear him say, "This is CNN."

PEREIRA: Ooh, he can try my name.

BALDWIN: Ooh, tomorrow.

CUOMO: That is setting him up for failure, putting him up against James Earl Jones. Come on now. The only voice we have that can even compete --

BALDWIN: This one!

CUOMO: Indra Petersons. But of course, everything you have to say today, it's going to be a little bit of a mixed message.

PETERSONS: Not so great really. Yeah, well, unfortunately, we have had a big storm out there. Let's talk about the snow totals we've already seen out there. I mean, Toledo saw seven and a half inches or so. That caused a huge pileup on the Ohio turnpike yesterday. Unfortunately, very devastating in the region.

The good news is, at this point, this system's already starting to make its way out of the area. We already saw blizzard conditions, even out towards Buffalo, where they saw over a foot of snow. So, what is going on right now? You can see it is starting to exit. Of course, some of the higher elevations still seeing snow and several inches are still possible through New Hampshire, Vermont and even Maine today.

But again, the bulk of the system is out of here. I think the big thing we're all going to be talking about is this huge temperature change. We're talking about now almost near 70 degrees yesterday out towards D.C.

Look at all this cold air that made its way in. Almost 40 degrees cooler today, just in the 30s. New York City, your highs today just expected into the 20s.

So take a look. These are the temperatures right now. Looks like D.C. about 25. I mean, what a difference! They were almost near 70 yesterday, but we haven't even factored in the worst part of the day.

If you are in the northeast, you know what it felt like. The winds are gusting out there, 30, 40 miles per hour, means windchills this morning feeling like subzero. The most important thing you need to know, it is not going to last.

By the weekend, temperatures right back up where they want to be, so I'm not the bearer of bad news completely, right?

CUOMO: Take it.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm. OK. A little bit.

CUOMO: Take progress where you find it.

BALDWIN: Sure. We'll take it. Indra, thank you.

Quick reminder to all of you, make sure you tune in tonight to CNN's new original series. It's called "CHICAGOLAND," 10:00 eastern/9:00 central here on CNN.

CUOMO: Have a sip, brush the teeth, get the kids going. When we come back on NEW DAY, Malaysian officials are denying reports that missing this jet could have flown for four hours after they lost contact with it. That's one theory. But what does it mean for the search? How true can it be? We'll vet it.

BALDWIN: Also ahead, things could get ugly fast? Sounds like a Clint Eastwood movie line, something maybe you would never expect to hear from this guy, the U.S. secretary of State, John Kerry, talking about possible Russian sanctions. Ahead, John king goes inside politics with the very latest from Washington.


BALDWIN: And welcome back to NEW DAY.

Breaking this morning, Malaysian officials are disputing these new reports that we're reading this morning out of "The Wall Street Journal" that this missing plane could have flown for four hours after that transponder stopped communicating with the ground. Now, this comes as search for possible debris shown in Chinese satellite pictures turned up empty.

So let's dig deeper into this with two gentlemen, former director of the Office of Aviation Safety, Tom Haueter. He was a former NTSB investigator, as well. And Jim Sciutto, joining us, chief national security correspondent.

So gentlemen, first, just good morning to both of you. And, Tom, let me begin with you. This has to be so incredibly frustrating for these investigators, because you guys function on fact, hard evidence.

And here we are this morning with this new development, Malaysian government officials saying one thing, that they're getting from Boeing and Rolls Royce. Then we're reading in "The Wall Street Journal" that they're getting different information from their unnamed sources about the fact this plane may have been in the air for hours. How frustrating is that?

TOM HAUETER, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF AVIATION SAFETY: Well, I think it's very frustrating for everyone, especially for the victims' families, what's going on. I believe what the Malaysian investigators are telling us, that they have the best access to the information, they're working with the NTSB, they're working with Boeing, they're working with Rolls Royce, so they have access to all the facts, and I can't see why they withhold this type of information.

BALDWIN: Jim, I'm coming to you in just a minute because I know you spent a lot of time in China. We're gonna get to that satellite imagery in just a second. But Tom, staying with you, what is the biggest, most significant known fact thus far?

HAUETER: The biggest significant known fact is the last transponder hit on the aircraft. After the transponder quits, now we're with primary data, and it's a lot more difficult to find an airplane with just a blip on a radar screen because there's so many. It could be birds or anything else. It takes a lot of time to put all of this data together. The NTSB team's been on site for two and half, three days. There's a lot of data to work with, and it's going to take time to go through it all.

BALDWIN: So, conflicting information as far as whether or not this plane was in the air for four hours or not after that transponder was flipped off. Jim Sciutto, then you have the news, you know, people were jumping on initially yesterday, Chinese officials showing this satellite imagery. Could it be the plane? Could it not? Now they're saying releasing it was a mistake. Your reaction to that.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think all these things have fit a pattern here where you have some new information released and then it's denied by some, one government or the other that released it, and then we're left throwing our hands up in the air. That happened with that radar data that showed an alternate path of the plane, you know, turning left and heading south out towards the Indian Ocean. It happened with the satellite images. And now it's happening with this "Wall Street Journal" report.

And I think what that says to me is that they are -- they still don't know, right, Brooke? They don't know and they're exploring every possibility. You know, each new bit of data is a clue. It does not mean that that new theory is the theory. It's a clue.

And they're exploring every one. I think John Brennan, the CIA director, had it right when he said a couple days ago we're not ruling anything out. But when they say that, that doesn't mean that they have hard evidence, for instance, that it's a terror attack. But they can't rule it out because they just don't know, and they haven't even found where the plane is. And that's going to be one of the most important pieces of evidence, right, to indicate that it was a terror attack or a catastrophic failure or something along those lines.

BALDWIN: Right. Tom, what kind of experience, really and truly, do Malaysian officials have, Malaysian Airlines, in investigating something like this? I mean, from all the experts I've talked to, this really is sort of becoming unprecedented in terms of the number of days this has really gone missing. I know they have now enlisted current NTSB employees to come help and go through the data, but what do you make of just how Malaysia has been handling this?

HAUETER: I think it's very difficult because the lack of data. Now, there have been other accidents that have occurred. I can think of a South African 747 that disappeared in the Indian Ocean for quite a while. It's happened before.

The problem is, you have a lack of data, you're trying to work with everything you have. You have all this information coming in. Malaysia is not a large organization like we have in the U.S. with the FAA and the NTSB. They don't have all the experience the NTSB has.

However, they've got a lot of great people helping them. They've got NTSB, Boeing, FAA. They have their own staff. It's just going to take time because there's a lot of different parts and pieces coming in. They're going to take a lot of people looking at over a period of time to sort out.

BALDWIN: And then you have almost sort of, Jim, politics at play. I mean, I know diplomatic feuds, nothing new when it comes to searches like this, but Beijing very angry with Malaysia right now. We know the Vietnamese, they've pulled out of searching. They're frustrated with Malaysia. This has happened before.

SCUITTO: No question. I'm really glad you made that point, because there is a lot of political tension here. First of all, there's the political tension over the delay in getting any hard answers. Certainly, the Chinese government, like the Chinese public, frustrated with the Malaysians. They have more than 150 Chinese on board that plane, and they have no hard answers. And it's their impression that the Malaysians have information that they haven't been sharing in a timely manner on the radar data, which, apparently, the Malaysian air force had for a number of days before they released that. So, you have that kind of tension.

And then in the background, you have an existing political tension in this part of the world. There are land and sea disputes between China, Malaysia, these southeast Asian countries which create these other sensitivities about military capabilities in that area.


SCUITTO: When those satellite images came out yesterday, you know, for China to release satellite photos, even though now it appears that they weren't showing wreckage of that site, that shows military capabilities of China in that area, an area that's watching very closely. Same with the radar data from the Malaysian air force. That shows their ability to track, or frankly, to not track a plane, right?

I mean, it's embarrassing for the Malaysian air force to not know exactly what this plane was shooting across their air space, you know, in an area where there's a lot of political tension.

So you have that backdrop as well. It makes for a really, you know, a witch's brew of political tension.

BALDWIN: Which can only be worsened over time. I was reading what the Egyptian -- Egypt airliner 767 from a number of years ago, and because of the NTSB report, you know, that even worsened ties between Cairo and Washington.

So gentlemen, Tom Haeuter and Jim Sciutto, thank you so much as we continue scratching our heads over this whole thing.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: Got to follow the facts, follow the facts. Thanks, Brooke.

We're gonna take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says your insurance premiums are likely to go up just at a time when Democrats are nervous about selling Obamacare. Good thing the law isn't controversial, right? John King is up next going inside politics.