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Families Still Struggling over MH-370; Answering View Questions on MH-370; More Rattle Earthquakes in California, Now Yellowstone; Obamacare Cut Off Today

Aired March 31, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New information @ THIS HOUR. We're learning the last words from the cockpit of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 to air traffic control were "Good night, Malaysia 370." It's according to the Malaysian Transport Ministry. It is different than what we were told before. They are still doing investigation to determine if the words were said by the pilot or co-pilot.

MICHAEL PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly, time is running out and the effort to find this missing flight. It is four weeks since the jetliner vanished without a trace, which means, by next week, the 30- day battery life will likely expire. You can hear it now. That's what the ping sounds like. However, there is doubt if it can even last that long. The pinger, the beacon that sends a signal from the voice and data recorders is going to go silent.

Right now, an Australian naval vessel is rushing to the search zone. It could take the ship three days to reach the area.

BERMAN: Today, some 11 ships, 10 planes, scoured the South Indian Ocean, about 1100 miles west of Perth, Australia. That is the most vessels, the biggest force yet, combing the potential crash area. Still, they found nothing. Australia's prime minister tells CNN the search is intensifying.


TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIA PRIME MINISTER: The effort is ramping up not winding down. We will have more aircraft in the sky tomorrow. We've got more ships in the area. So we are ramping this effort up.


BERMAN: It is the deadline to sign up for Obamacare. Anyone not covered by tomorrow could face a tax penalty. However, you will get extra time if you start by today and couldn't finish it for some technical reason. The latest technical problem happened this morning being blamed by officials on a software bug.

PEREIRA: A glitch there.

North and South Korea ships fire in disputed waters. It started with the North Korean military drill. The White House calls North Korea's actions dangerous and provocative. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been conducting joint military exercises with South Korea as you see on the screen.

BERMAN: We are hearing reports of Russian troop movements along the Ukrainian border. Some Russia troops seem to be pulling back from the border. This coming as Russia's prime minister visited Crimea. Dmitry Medvedev proposed Ukrainian state salaries and pensions should be raised to Russian levels.

PEREIRA: New documents show General Motors may have refused to fix faulty ignition switches. The report states GM rejected a proposal to repair them because of costs. The problem led to at least 13 deadly crashes.

Back to our top story, the families of passengers and crew are struggling to cope with the likelihood that they will never see their loved ones again.

BERMAN: The husbands of one of the flight attendants says he doesn't know what to tell his children. They keep asking, when is mommy coming home? This is heartbreaking.


LEE KHIM FATT, HUSBAND OF FLIGHT ATTENDANT ON MH-370: I even promised them, I'm going to bring her home. I have really no idea where she is now.


PEREIRA: Terribly painful.

Aviation attorney, Floyd Wisner, is here with us.

Good to have you back, Floyd.

We know you have represented several families from plane crashes, Air France flight 447, TWA flight 800. It is understandable that the families of the missing passengers and the crew want answers from the Malaysian government. What should their course of action be at this point?

FLOYD WISNER, AVIATION ATTORNEY: I think they are doing what is best. I understand they are forming victim's family associations and that will allow them to acts a unified front in getting more answers.

BERMAN: Floyd, I've been shocked by the specificity of the questions coming from the family members. They sound like they are aeronautics engineers all of a sudden. It is clear they are so deep into this. Is this unusual in your experience? Is it ultimately helpful to them?

WISNER: Yes, it is unusual, but this whole crash and investigation is unusual. I have to give credit for you in the news media for airing a lot of facts and a lot of technical opinions. And I think the families are getting more information from you and the news media than they are from the investigative authorities. That's why they are so knowledgeable. I think it helps them somewhat. When you start asking educated questions, you get better answers?

PEREIRA: I was thinking about the fact that aside from the family's frustration, the sort of overall situation in that part of the world, we were talking about the fact that a bulk of the passengers were from China. The Chinese have very little trust in Malaysia. There's geopolitical things that play there. Have you seen anything like this before in the course of an investigation?

WISNER: I never. This takes the cake. This is very unusual. The political considerations, the bumbling and handling of the investigations by the Malaysian authorities. It's very unique.

BERMAN: The family members of the people on board are furious about how this has all been handled, especially at the beginning. As an attorney, as someone who deals with these families, the furry is understandable. At a certain point, does it get in the way of what they are after, which is answers and which is some kind of, for lack of a better word, compensation for what they have been through here.

WISNER: You hit it right on the head. It does make it a little bit more difficult in some ways. I'm really afraid. I hate to say this. I am afraid they are not going to get what they see. Families want a few things. They want answers. They want to know what happened to their loved ones. They want to hold the parties responsible and accountable. They want to make changes so it doesn't happen again. Lastly, they want compensation. I am afraid they are not going to get those first three.

PEREIRA: You are concerned about that?

WISNER: Yes. They will get compensation. This he will get reasonable compensation. Answers, I'm starting to be pessimistic.

PEREIRA: Interesting.

Floyd Wisner, we really appreciate you joining us. Good to have you. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us on this.

BERMAN: It is really interesting. He has been through so many of these. Nothing like this.

PEREIRA: He has.

BERMAN: He has never seen anything like that.

PEREIRA: I know. Look at all of the things that are at play and the great mystery surrounding us as well.

We know you're talking about it as well. We want to hear your questions about the search and the mystery. Tweet us your questions at #370Qs. We're also on Facebook, /@thishour.

BERMAN: We're getting great questions in so keep it up.

PEREIRA: In fact, ahead @ THIS HOUR, you were asking us if flight 370 was like the Titanic of our time. Searchers hope not. We are putting more of your questions to the experts ahead.


PEREIRA: We are learning that the last words from the cockpit of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 to air traffic control were, "Good night, Malaysia 370." That's according to the Malaysian Transport Ministry. Authorities are still doing forensic investigation to determine if this was said by the pilot or co-pilot. That's new.

Let's take a look at some of the questions you have been asking about the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, day 24.

BERMAN: The first one relates to the new developments we learned about the signoff. The tweet addressed to something Dr. Bob Arnot said a short time ago. It said, "Consultants on CNN have been wanting streaming data. How does this prevent somebody from switching a circuit breaker off in mid flight"?

Let's bring back Mary Schiavo and Dr. Bob Arnot.

Bob, you heard that question right there. You raised the idea of streaming information full-time. Couldn't that be turned off as well?

DR. BOB ARNOT, FORMER PILOT & VETERAN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a really great question. The only reason we know where this aircraft may be today is there were systems on that airplane that couldn't be turned off and weren't turned off. Those were out on the engines that had engine information that could have been transmitted. These are autonomous systems. The black box is autonomous. The pilots and co-pilots can't get at it and can't turn it off. It's autonomous. The answer is, it would be autonomous real-time streaming that would allow us to look at all of these which are critical to accident prevention. If we see pilots too slow or not applying enough power on takeoff, you can take corrective actions before there is an accident.

PEREIRA: Mary, here is another question. Why don't we put it to you? Why was the Malaysian MH-370 not detected by the Diego Garcia U.S. Naval and Intelligence Basis in the U.S. and Indian Ocean?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST & FORMERLY OF U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Now that is a very good question because we know that particular facility is supposed to be watching and listening. It is understandable that air traffic control and civilian facilities are sometimes on and off or not paying attention if they are not handling traffic. That is a very good question. That question hasn't been answered as far as we know yet. We assume that they would have been scanning their air space.

BERMAN: I think Chris Cuomo sent that question in. He is obsessed with Diego Garcia.


But that's a great question a lot of people are asking. Mary, I am going to ask you a twofer here. A lot of viewers want to know why they are not searching nearby airports. If no record has been found so far, is there a possibility it could have landed somewhere nearby.

SCHIAVO: I think they are not searching them because of the location of the hand shakes. The few data points that we have from the aircraft that couldn't be turned off, as Dr. Bob Arnot said, to the satellites. Based on that satellite information and the crunching of the data by Inmarsat and other brains in the world working with them, that they had a pretty good idea it headed into the ocean. They are not looking at airports. At airports, there are lots of people. Having spent years investigating and litigating 911, the clues just flooded out. There are many people out there with eyes and ears, ready and willing to help solve a crime. There has been silence.

PEREIRA: We have heard a lot of people saying that crowd sourcing, a lot of experts that are willing to contribute to this search effort.

We want to say a big thank you to Mary Schiavo and to Dr. Bob Arnot. Thank you for sticking around and taking questions from our viewers. We really appreciate that.


BERMAN: Ahead @ THIS HOUR, big news in this country. California jilted by more earthquakes. Is this a sign of what so many people fear, a bigger one waiting to happen? We are going to speak with a seismologist when we return.


BERMAN: @ THIS HOUR, California officials assessing the damage from a pretty strong earthquake and more than 100 aftershocks. A 5.1 magnitude quake struck the Los Angeles area. And on Sunday, a quake rattled Yellowstone, the largest one there in 34 years.

Dr. Lucy Jones is a seismologist with the USGS, Geological Survey, joining us from Pasadena. What you don't know, she is a seismic rock star. This lady is the real deal.

Lucy, there has been a spread of seismic activity in the past month. People locally have been speaking to friends and family back there. They're wondering if this is the lead up to the big one.

DR. LUCY JONES, SEISMOLOGIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Well, a direct lead up to the big one, probably not. We just have never seen that sort of pattern. But we are seeing more earthquakes. And the context is that the last 17 years have been the quietest in history. We have just been very, very quiet. And now obviously one can't say 2014 is a quiet year. So maybe we're returning back to a higher level that we've seen at most times in our past.

BERMAN: All right. Two things. Let the record show, you said probably not leading up to the big one. I think a lot of people probably worry you choose to be so conditional right there. Second of all, let's talk about the fact there hasn't been one this size in so long, that there has been this lull. Just speaking of probability, does it work like this? Does it work like, because there hasn't been one for a while, they're due for more now?

JONES: Actually, no. It works the other way. When you're not having earthquakes, you're not having earthquakes. And when you are having earthquakes, you are. So if we go back to a higher rate, we're going to have a higher chance of the big one, as well.

The most constant thing in earthquakes is the relative number of large to small events. So when our rate of magnitude 3s go up, our chance of a magnitude 6 or 7 also go up by the same amount.

PEREIRA: A lot of people talk about the fact this was kind of slow and rolling, that 5.1 they felt the other day. A little different from sometimes, those shakers or the quick jolts we feel.

JONES: Well, what that's telling me is the people you talked to didn't live very close to this event. When you're right on top of an earthquake, you feel that sharp, jerky motion. When you're farther away, the sharp stuff has died off, the high frequencies go off more quickly, and you're left with the rolling motion. If you talk to somebody who had lived in Fullerton or la Habra, they wouldn't have been saying slow-rolling motion.

BERMAN: You're right about the seismic rock star, first of all. There isn't question we've asked that she didn't answer --


PEREIRA: Throw another at her.

BERMAN: So one more. The San Andreas Fault, all of us east coasters know that. That's not the one shaking this time. There are other faults running under Los Angeles.

PEREIRA: A lot of them.

JONES: Yes. Actually, the Los Angeles metropolitan area has over 100 faults that are long enough to produce at least a magnitude 6, and lots of smaller ones, as well. So around all of our big faults, we see what we call a damage zone, with a lot of little ones we don't try to name. This was in the damage zone around the Puente Hills Thrust, which is an earthquake we only discovered in the last 30 years. It does not come to the surface. We had to use various techniques to try and image the interior of the earth. It looks very much like the type of fault that produced the North Ridge earthquake.


JONES: But in North Ridge, the strong shaking was in the Santa Suzanna Mountains. When we have an earthquake, a big earthquake on the Puente Hills the strong shaking will be downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, east L.A. And we'll see a much, much higher level of damage. So the San Andreas is the big name because it's the fastest fault and the longest. That means it has the biggest earthquakes most often. But it's not in the middle of the city, and so it's not going to be the most dangerous.

PEREIRA: And that is a real concern because there is such a populous living on top of those faults.

Dr. Lucy Jones -- what did I tell you, seismic rock star, John Berman?

BERMAN: Seismic rock star.

PEREIRA: Lucy, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you.

BERMAN: Are you less nervous since you moved here?

PEREIRA: Absolutely.


PEREIRA: And then someone told me New York had -- well, D.C. had an earthquake a few years ago. I am actually less nervous.

BERMAN: There is a fault line in your neighborhood. Seriously.


Ahead @ THIS HOUR, Obamacare enrollment heading to seven million Americans on this final day to sign up. Midnight is the cutoff tonight. But is it being seen as success or failure? We'll look into it, ahead.


BERMAN: All right. Look at your watches folks. 12 more hours to start the process of signing up for Obamacare.

PEREIRA: We got a reminder of the messy rollout of the health care website this morning. With, there have been some technical glitches. mistakenly said consumers had 16 days and some hours to sign up that. That glitch appeared to be a shifting of hours and minutes into the wrong columns.

Let's bring in John Avlon.

Good to see you. Welcome to @ THIS HOUR.

JOHN AVLON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, guys. Good to be here.

PEREIRA: Glitches aside, success or failure? Almost seven million people signed up before the deadline.

BERMAN: Can be more by tomorrow.

AVLON: You're seeing the predictable rush at the end of the deadline.


PEREIRA: We're procrastinators.

AVLON: We're a nation of procrastinators. There's a reason deadlines work. As journalists, we know that.

I do think that, look, the rollout was disastrous. Politically, still a potent issue for Republicans. But at some point, perception and reality have to meet. As more people sign up and as some people get better deals, not everybody, you know, I think you are going to see this be less polarizing than it has been in the past, because people are going to experience for themselves and not have it be decided with partisans yelling at each other.

BERMAN: Is there ever a point now when the politics and pr will be removed from it? And should it be separated? The problem here is that the pr and the politics -- it seeped into the policy. It's getting in the way of the implementation of the plans.

AVLON: No question about it. I mean, that's been the whole story here. And one of the real stories of our time, the gap, the huge gap between narrative and reality, when it comes to politics. But people at the end of the day will experience this for themselves. Part of the high bar Republicans have set, this is supposed to be the end of freedom as we know it. And if people realize that maybe it's not, well, that's a credibility hit.

But this whole debate has been so infused with hyper partisanship, and hasn't been as much focused on the policy. Now is where the rubber meets the road. This is deadline day, folks. So we'll see if people like what they get.

PEREIRA: The seven million number matters in political circles, but really when you look at the number or the health of this, the number of young people that are signing up.

AVLON: That's right. And it seems to be in the upper 20s. Not quite where they want it to be.

PEREIRA: How far off?

AVLON: 27 percent was last time I saw. We'll see as that -- you know who really likes deadlines? Students. People are going to cut it right on to the end. But that's important. And state by state, we'll look at the numbers. Probably, not quite where it needs to be.

BERMAN: I have one question. Here's Senator John Barrasso over the weekend accusing the administration of cooking the books. It made me wonder, with Republicans, do you think they're better off if more people sign up or fewer? Are they calling for fewer signups or more? What do they really want?

AVLON: Republicans?


AVLON: What do they want? They would like the whole thing to fall on its face so they can declare victory. Barrasso this weekend, that was a fact-free statement that Democrats are cooking the books on this stuff. But that's just how infused this has become with that kind of partisanship. You do have people who are cheerleading for failure on this, because they want to prove an ideological point, and if some folks get hurt, an unfortunate byproduct. Reality has to be the set on this. That's what we're going to see --


PEREIRA: Does John Avalon get a parting gift?

BERMAN: Yeah, parting gift. Thank you for coming this hour. You get a blue pen.

AVLON: I appreciate that. Happy opening day.

BERMAN: Go Red Sox. Go, Red Sox.


PEREIRA: That's it for us @ THIS HOUR. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts just about now.