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Do Satellite Images Show MH370 Debris in Indian Ocean; Families Not Giving Up Hope of MH370 Survivors; Obama Meets with Pope France at Vatican; Carl Bernstein Discusses Obama, Pope Francis Meeting.

Aired March 27, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Satellites capture more images of debris floating in the Indian Ocean, but the question remains, is it from the Malaysia Airline flight 370? Here's the latest information. Images from a Thai satellite show about 300 objects ranging in size from six feet to 50 feet. Also, Japanese officials now say a government intelligence satellite spotted 10 objects that may be related to the plane. Bad weather is once again hindering the search for the missing jetliner. Search planes had to return to base today because of rough conditions.

And the son of the plane's pilot is speaking out in an interview with a Malaysian newspaper. He's rejecting the speculation his father may have been involved in the plane's disappearance.

All of these latest satellite images are located in the same general area of the Southern Indian Ocean. So does this mean searchers may be getting closer to finding the proverbial haystack as they say? Or could this just be some random objects caught up in shifting ocean currents?

Clive Irving is a contributor to "The Daily Beast," a consulting editor for "Conde Nast Traveler." He's joining us now via Skype.

Clive, you say you're more intrigued by the 122 objects spotted by the French satellite the other day than the 300 objects captured by the Thai satellite. Tell us why.

CLIVE IRVING, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST & CONSULTING EDITOR, CONDE NAST TRAVELER: Well, because the 300 objects are said to be scattered over a much larger area. I think the number was 1600 miles altogether, which is more than halfway across the Atlantic in its equivalence. If you have that number of objects disbursed over that distance, it's not a familiar debris field cluster. That's why I would go back to the earlier number, the fewer objects in the smaller space because that's more credible.

You have to bear in mind though that we're talking about more than two weeks after the event. A key thing we need to be able to get back to, the debris is the really starting point. The finishing point must be where the major parts of the aircraft went down to the bottom of the ocean. So it's important to distinguish the kind of information you can get from one and from the other. And with the seas being as they are, these kind of fierce oceans with wave heights up to 50 feet and regular storms, and it's coming up to winter now, I don't understand how this larger field could be of any real significance because it's spread over too wide an area.

BLITZER: Interesting point. Based on what you know about the way planes break up in a situation like this, Clive, what are your thoughts on the size of the objects the satellites are actually picking up?

IRVING: Well, I would be looking for -- most importantly, I think I would be looking for two things. I would be looking for parts of the tail system, the vertical stabilizer, and the horizontal stabilizer, because they do break up, and normally they float. And I would hope to see also, because we keep talking about this 70-foot-plus piece of debris. That's come up several times. That would match the one-half of the wing, left or right wing. And that would be a very significant find.

BLITZER: As you know, crews are racing against the clock. Only a few days left if those pingers are working on the so-called black boxes, the flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder. You compared the reliance on these black boxes to using a VCR in the age of Netflix and streaming video. So what kind of video should they be using right now to track planes?

IRVING: Well, we have the technology. If it had been installed in this plane, it would have been a live-stream of data from the plane which would have given us immediately the same amount in quality of information about the nervous system of the plane, in other words, what was going on in the plane right up to the time it went into the ocean. Then we wouldn't have to mount this vast search.

By the way, Wolf, I think another factor here is the attrition, the fierce attrition of the search on equipment and on people. And so I think the planes can do very, very little in the short time they're over the ocean. I think we need to get ships into this field so that they can actually get close to it. And you can see from these satellite images that satellites themselves are rather blinded by the amount of cloud there.

BLITZER: Good point.

Clive Irving, we'll check back with you. Thank you very much for your insight.

IRVING: Thank you.

BLITZER: Exhausted, angry and unable to grieve without closure, the families of those aboard Malaysia Airline 370 are spending day after day waiting for definitive word on exactly what happened to that plane and their loved ones.

CNN's David McKenzie introduces us to the man emerging as their voice, and why the families can't bear to give up hope.



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The trauma of waiting.


MCKENZIE: For weeks, hundreds of family members of those on board flight 370 have been stuck in a hotel in Beijing, a pressure cooker of grief and emotion.


MCKENZIE: When they were told the plane went down, some via text message, it was overwhelming.


MCKENZIE: Then grief boiled over into anger.


MCKENZIE: These families have banded together, and leaders like Steve Wang have emerged. Without physical evidence, he believes his mother could still be alive. But the wait is weighing on them all.

STEVE WANG, MOTHER ON FLIGHT 370: Well, it is a hard time and all of us are exhausted, both mental and physical. So it is really hard time.

MCKENZIE: Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gordon Peters has deep experience helping families deal with trauma. He calls the situation terrible.

DR. GORDON PETERS, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SOS & RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: They have no closure. They're not able to say let's deal with this, let's discuss it. They still have confliction of is my loved one alive. Are they really dead? The sense of loss just keeps perpetuating.

MCKENZIE (on camera): Often, family members are stuck inside this conference room for hours each day. Many tell me they still believe their family members are still alive, even if logically the chances seem quite remote.

PETERS: They go to bed at night and they probably logically know it's happening, but they don't want to give up. They want to have the good moments with their life. They want to continue to hope for the best.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And in a culture where family is everything, they are refusing to give up because the consequences are just too great.

WANG: Well, my mom used to say that, where there are people, there are family. But one is lost, so. I think it is disastrous to my family.

MCKENZIE: David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.


BLITZER: And our hearts go out to those families.

We'll have more on the mystery of flight 370 coming up.

Also coming up, President Obama met today with Pope Francis. Later, we'll reveal what they discuss. Not every day a president of the United States meets with the pontiff. We're going to play for you what went on.


BLITZER: This morning in Rome, after meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with the president. Jim asked President Obama about his meeting with the pope and about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In your meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, did he register any objections with you about the contraception coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act or your efforts to advance the rights of gays and lesbians in the United States that worry so many Catholics? And what were his concerns?

And on Russia, with the reports of troops building on the Ukrainian border, by taking the military option off the table, are you sending a signal to Vladimir Putin that other parts of Ukraine are his for the taking? And why not send multinational peacekeepers to the Ukrainian border as a deterrent?

And to you, Mr. Prime Minister, the president said yesterday that the U.S. would defend any NATO ally. Are you making that same commitment when it comes to Russia?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's a lot of questions there, Jim.

Did the Italian journalists, by the way, do this, these sort of five- part questions?

Same thing.


OBAMA: No comment?



OBAMA: All right. Let me try to remember this.

In terms of the meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, we had a wide-ranging discussion. I would say that the largest bulk of the time was discussing two central concerns of his. One is the issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity and growing inequality. And, you know, those of us, as politicians, have the task of trying to come up with policies to address issues. But His Holiness has the capacity to open people's eyes and make sure they're seeing that this is an issue. And he's discussed in the past, I think, the dangers of indifference or cynicism when it comes to our ability to reach out to those less fortunate or those locked out of opportunity.

And then we spent a lot of time talking about the challenges of conflict and how illusive peace is around the world. There was some specific focus on the Middle East where His Holiness has a deep interest in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but also what's happening in Syria, Lebanon, and to the potential persecution of Christians. And I reaffirmed it is central to U.S. foreign policy that we protect the interests of religious minorities around the world. But we also touched on regions like Latin-America where there's been tremendous progress in many countries, but there's been less progress in others.

I think the theme that stitched our conversation together was a belief that, in politics and in life, the quality of empathy, the ability to stand in somebody else's shoes and to care for someone, even if they don't look like you or talk like you or share your philosophy, that that's critical. It's the lack of empathy that makes it very easy for us to plunge into wars. It's the lack of empathy that allows us to ignore the homeless on the streets. And obviously, central to my Christian faith is a belief in treating others as they -- as I'd have them treat me. And what I think has created so much love and excitement for His Holiness has been that he seems to live this and shows that joy continuously.

In terms of domestic issues, the two issues we touched on, other than the fact I invited and urged him to come visit the United States, telling him that people would be overjoyed to see him, was immigration reform. And as someone who came from Latin-America, I think he was very mindful of the plight of so many immigrants who are wonderful people, working hard, making contributions. Many of their children are U.S. citizens, and yet they still live in the shadows, in many cases, have been deported and are separated from families. You know, I described to him how I felt that there was still an opportunity for us to make this right and get a law passed.

And he actually did not touch in detail on the Affordable Care Act.

In my meeting with Secretary of State Cardinal Pentellium, we discussed briefly the issue of making sure that conscience and religious freedom was observed in the context of applying the law. And I explained to him that most religious organizations are entirely exempt. Religiously affiliated hospitals, universities or NGOs, simply have to attest that they have a religious objection, in which case they are not required to provide contraception, although employees of theirs who choose are able to obtain it through the insurance company.

And I pledge to continue dialogue with the U.S. Conference of Bishops to make sure that we can strike the right balance, making sure that not only everybody has health care but families and women, in particular, are able to enjoy the kind of health care coverage it offers but that religious freedom is still observed.

There was a third question? What was that -- OK, that's right, Russia. OK. I remember.

Yeah, I think that I've been very clear in saying that we are going to do everything we can to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. But I think that it's also important for us not to promise and then not be able to deliver. There are ways for us to hopefully influence Russian decision making. And one of the most important things we can do on that front is ensure that the Ukrainian government is stable, that it's finances are stable, and that elections go forward as currently scheduled so that we have a legitimate, strong, representative, inclusive government, with an economic program that it is implementing and carrying out. And all those things are in place, but we're going to have to put a lot of resources and a lot of effort, not just the United States, but Europe as well.

And, you know, I've been very impressed with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and his current efforts. The decision to go forward with an IMF program with a lot of resources is going to require a lot of courage. But keep in mind that part of what prompted the original protests that led to the previous president leaving was an objection about the same corrupt practices, an economy that was completely inefficient, that had led to a situation in which Poland's GDP skyrocketed and the Ukraine's had plummeted when they started off in the same place just several years ago. I think the prime minister understands that. I think the Ukrainian people understand that. It will require tough decisions. But the Prime Minister Renzi is also making tough decisions. We've had to make tough decisions. That's the nature of political leadership. And I think that's what the Ukrainian people are seeking, is a better future, even if it requires some short-term changes to business as usual.


BLITZER: The president giving a lengthy answer to our own Jim Acosta on his meeting with the pope today, an historic meeting, and also on the situation in Ukraine and relations with Russia.

The president's meeting with Pope Francis has drawn worldwide attention. Coming up, I will ask someone who knows a lot about popes and presidents. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Carl Bernstein, has written about the Vatican, and is standing by to join us live.


BLITZER: Just watched part of President Obama's news conference after his meeting with Italy's prime minister and president, also this meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. The president and the pope held a wide-ranging discussion. It was private meeting away from lights and cameras, although they did have a photo op, as you see right here, right at the top. Both men walking into the private room and closing the door and spending about an hour together. They agree on a lot, but disagree on other issues.

Let's talk about this with someone who has covered presidents and has also written an important book about Pope John Paul II -- the book is entitled, "His Holiness" -- our own political commentator, Carl Bernstein.

And, Carl, give us context here. As I have been pointing out, it's historic and not every day that the president goes to the Vatican and sits down with a pope. This is a big, big deal.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & AUTHOR: It's historic for two reasons. They share a sensibility and a view of the world problems, particularly that of poverty and those who are marginalized economically and socially. They share a world view just as Ronald Reagan and the Pope John Paul II shared a geopolitical world view. But here, we have a social world view. And we also have two leaders who are dealing with culture wars within their institutions. The pope probably much more successfully in bridging some of those culture wars than President Obama has been. I'm sure President Obama kind of envies the success of this pope in the way he has been accoladed by Catholics and non-Catholics alike in bridging the culture wars.

BLITZER: 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. So, they agree on helping poor people, on the problems of income inequality, they agree on those areas, but when it comes to same-sex marriage, birth control and abortion, they clearly disagree. How do they finesse that in a one- hour meeting?

BERNSTEIN: I don't think it's about finesse. The most important key to understanding this pope is the remarkable interview he did early in his papacy with the Jesuit magazines with Italy and the United States, in which he said, and with great nuance, the priorities of the institutional Catholic Church need to be changed to move towards prioritizing the social issues and these cutting-edge, these divisive theological questions about abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, etc. He made quite clear he thinks they need to be reduced in the intensity with which they are discussed as a priority of the church and the faithful. He is not moving away from his belief in the perennial theology of the Catholic Church, but rather an emphasis that goes back to Catholic social teaching.

Pope John Paul II also was a great exponent of Catholic social teaching, which was one of the great contributions to mankind. And Obama had great experience as a community organizer in Chicago. He had an office in a Catholic Church. He understands Catholic social teachings coming from the Gospels and particularly from the words of Jesus Christ that have to do with the poor and the impoverished, and serving them. That is the real mission I think that unites the world vision of both of these leaders.

As well as they also talked about questions of peace. And the Catholic Church is concerned about the use of drones and hurting civilians. That's an area of some disagreement. I'm going to presume that the president tried to explain his position in terms of that he believes it saves lives to use drones and avoid a larger conflict.

But I think that the areas of agreement and sensibility -- you can hear in the president's words some real appreciation. You use the word joy as the pope's message. I think this is an important meeting. And I think we are going to see more about the two of them referring to each other and their missions.

BLITZER: History in Rome at the Vatican on this important day.

Carl Bernstein, thanks very much for sharing some thoughts.

That's it for me this hour. I will be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern. Another special two-hour edition of "The Situation Room." More coming up on the mystery surrounding the Malaysia Airlines flight.

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.