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Making the Auto Industry Safer; President Carter Fights River Blindness; will flight 370 Change Aviation?

Aired April 1, 2014 - 08:30   ET


JOAN CLAYBROOK, FORMER PRESIDENT, PUBLIC CITIZEN: We need changes in the law. Congressman Fred Upton, who's the chairman of the committee, worked on changing the law about 15 years ago. And it needs to be updated and changed again. And I hope he will take a leadership role in doing that.

The agency is grossly under-funded. It's very secretive. We need to have much more openness at the agency so there can be oversight, not only of General Motors, but of the agency itself. And we need criminal penalties and higher civil penalties so that the auto companies are deterred from refusing to do recalls. If a corporate executive might go to jail, they're going to pay more attention to protecting the public and their lives on the highway.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Is this an example of companies using their money and lobbying prowess to get what they want from government and escaping liability that they shouldn't have been able to?

CLAYBROOK: Well, I think that where they use their money and power was keeping the law weak. And that's why we need to have the law upgraded and stronger.

And so, I think that in terms of their relationship with the NHTSA, they didn't give them information, and they ought to be penalized for that. And I think that they will be penalized for that. There's a requirement now in the law they have to notify the agency within five days if they think that there's a safety defect in their vehicle.

And Delphi, the supplier of this ignition switch, told General Motors it didn't meet General Motors specifications back in 2004. So yes, that it did use its oomph, if you would, to delay. And it didn't give the information it should have to the Department of Transportation.

CUOMO: All right, let's go to GM, specially. With this switch, I think the big issue is the serial number. If it is true that they fixed the switch but kept the serial number the same, doesn't that go past ordinary practice of how to cover up these situations and become something that could be criminal?

CLAYBROOK: Well, I don't know whether that was a mistake or whether that was intentional. We don't --

CUOMO: If it were intentional? If it were intentional. CLAYBROOK: If it were intentional, then definitely. But if it were a mistake, still, Delphi told General Motors before they put the new part in, several years before, that the part that they were using, this switch, did not meet GM specifications. And GM then, right then in 2004, should have taken action to upgrade that switch. And none of these deaths probably would have occurred.

CUOMO: And is it safe to assume that the reason GM did not take those steps is because they take a look at some tables with some people who are good at math and using computers and said, ooh, this is going to cost a lot. Let's wait and see what happens and pay down the line.

CLAYBROOK: Well, that's implied. We don't know that yet for a fact. But when General Motors said that the reason they weren't going to do a recall was because it wasn't a good business decision, that implies that they were taking a cost benefit analysis approach here and saying, well, this isn't going to benefit us that much, and it's going to cost a lot. But we don't know that for a fact yet.

CUOMO: Well, if it comes down the road that that is what was going on here -- and that's what we've seen whether it's Toyota or Fire Stone or all the way back to the Pinto with the, you know, exploding gas tanks. Isn't it time that this changes where people just don't count as much as profits for companies?

CLAYBROOK: It is time for this to change. And I hope that Chairman Fred Upton will take a leadership role in making sure that the statute is upgraded, so that we won't have this happen again. And it's going to require increased penalties, increased funding for the Department of Transportation's agency, and some more openness so that the public can oversee what the government is doing and be tuned in, so that the spotlight shines on them at all times, not just occasion like now.

CUOMO: The sanitizing light of scrutiny. Joan, let's end on this. Did you ever tell people when you were in position of power, there's some shady stuff going on with these companies? They're getting away with way too much. People are going to lose lives just because it helps companies make money. Did you tell people?

CLAYBROOK: I did. I did do that.

CUOMO: And what was the response?

CLAYBROOK: And I -- well, I had a lot of power, and I used my power. I really was the cop on the beat. And I think that that's the role the Department of Transportation has to take. It's not a popular role. But when your lives of the public are at risk -- you know, in the Pinto, we pushed forward to do that recall. They resisted like mad.

And I think that we had very minimal penalties then. So it didn't really make any difference what we penalized for it. It was only up to $800,000. So we really didn't have the power to do it.

Now, the U.S. attorney and the Justice Department have come out and fined Toyota $1.2 billion. And that really does make a difference to a company. And I hope that more power will be given to this agency in that regard, so that we will not see this kind of thing again.

CUOMO: It does. But if we've learned any lessons from the problems with the financial markets and what happened during the last recession/depression, if you don't think you're going to go to jail, if it's just about money and you're a corporate person, you'll find a way around it. There has to be more in the law; I agree with you about that. Joan Claybrook, thank you very much. Appreciate your perspective.

FEMALE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up next on NEW DAY, as the search wears on, a look at life-saving lessons coming from flight 370. What can we learn from this mystery? We're going to take a look at some of the amazing technology that we already have that could make us all safer in the future.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It has been 25 days since flight 370 disappeared. And the search carries on without a single piece of confirmed debris yet coming from that plane.

And today, we're getting the newly released transcript between the pilots and air traffic controllers before the jet vanished, revealing the final words from the cockpit were not, "all right, good night" as we long thought, as Malaysian officials had said, but instead ended in, "Good night, Malaysian 370."

Joining us now, Colleen Keller, a senior analyst at Metron Ink and a former operations research analyst for the U.S. Navy, who importantly in this regard helped with the search for Air France flight 447.

So let's talk about this search area. Because it has been refined over many days. And I think it's important for people to see how much the search area really has moved.

So you see the white area right there. That's where the search area began. And then we move over to this red zone. That's where it has ended up, where it's become. It does make you wonder -- you know, we're not experts in this -- is this common to see such a shift?

KELLER: Yeah, you will see search areas shift as they're trying to follow the latest data. The search area should be drifting with the supposed wreckage. But the big shift that we saw to the north and the east indicates that they had newer information that they think the whole drift area is now located farther to the north.

BOLDUAN: Farther to the north. And the fact that that shift came so many days into this search, does that serve as a concern to you?

KELLER: It's a little disturbing. I mean, you'd hope that they had done the thorough analysis right from the beginning. But apparently, somebody went back and looked at the radar data and decided that it -- it -- they could read something more into it. And so, they're just trying to get there before the time runs out.

BOLDUAN: As a point of comparison, let's show viewers the size of the search area for flight 370. You see it there. You see that little yellow piece in the middle? That's the size of the search area for the Air France flight. You were involved with that search. The search area for the Air France flight was some 5,000 square miles. And we're talking for this search area some 120,000 square miles. That shows just what a big problem we've got, right?

KELLER: Right, and that's the reason why we haven't gotten the towed pinger locators into the water yet because it's such a big area and they only see one to two miles to listen for that beacon. So where would you put them in that 100,000 miles? We really need to narrow the search area down before we start the undersea phase of the search.

BOLDUAN: How much more refined do you need that search area? Do you need it down, at minimum, down to 5,000 square miles like Air France was dealing with? I mean, how much more are they going to need to narrow this down?

KELLER: Well, 5,000 would be great at this point. But we were looking at an area that's even much smaller. We didn't -- the 5,000 miles was the entire circle that could contain the aircraft. But we were looking in smaller areas within smaller areas within that, so it's really not ideal to be searching even 5,000 square miles. You're going to have to do that for many years.

BOLDUAN: And from your perspective and your expertise, how do they accomplish that? They're not -- at this moment, we don't have additional data. They don't -- we don't as much data as they did with Air France flight. Is there more technology? Is there a different type of deep-sea searching app that could be brought in that could help narrow this down?

KELLER: No, the way -- the phases that a search go through is originally you take data on, you know, where the aircraft was going, its endurance, the radar that you've got. You put that all together and you come up a general area.

And then you try to narrow it down further by doing surface search to look for the debris, and then you narrow it down more by looking with beacon detectors. And then finally, you go to the cameras. It's kind of a funnel, and it funnels you down to a very tight area, so that you're not just searching everywhere with these very limited sensors.

We -- if we miss the beacons, we're going to skip that whole middle step. We're gonna have to go from wide-area search with surface scanning down to undersea submersibles, basically unmanned vehicles. And it really cuts our chances of being successful.

BOLDUAN: It sounds like it then -- then it just comes down to luck, which is not how you should be conducting such a massive search.

KELLER: Right, we don't like to use the word luck.

BOLDUAN: Obviously not. Of course, and one quick question in for you. Because we talk a lot about how the currents have played into this and how the currents could have moved debris. We're not only talking about currents, though. You importantly talk about -- we'll who you the currents. And then you also have the winds that play into this. How do these two combine? And how is that -- why is that so important to consider?

KELLER: An object drifts along in the ocean subject to two things. The currents, obviously, are carrying it, but also depending on how far out of the water it sticks, there's this concept of the winds driving it as well, like a sailboat on top of the water.

BOLDUAN: Because currents and winds are not necessarily working in the same direction?

KELLER: No, and as you can see by the graphic, they really are counter right now. So depending on how high out of the water the object is riding, it's leeway or the combined effect of those things could be very different than just the currents. And you have to consider that when you consider where you're going to find these things.

BOLDUAN: Yet another factor. I mean, they said over the days we've been trying to find this plane, these objects could have traveled hundreds of miles. And we're just talking about the currents doing that. And then you add in the factor of winds, it could go even further and in completely different directions, as we found with Air France flight is where --

KELLER: It adds more uncertainty.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Colleen, thank you very much. Very, very helpful. And it also shows what a huge challenge they still face out there. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate. A little change of topic here.

The bite from a small black fly is infecting millions with a disease that can lead to blindness. President Jimmy Carter's leading the effort to not only treat those infected, but to wipe out the disease completely. And it's possible. It's also this week's "Impact Your World." Take a look.



CUOMO (voice-over): Even at age 89, President Jimmy Carter is still campaigning. But this isn't political. It's a medical race against time to stop a disease called River Blindness.

CARTER: This is one of those diseases that the Carter Center has undertaken because not many people want to fool with it, and it affects hundreds of millions of people.

It's a disease caused by the sting of a little black fly that only breeds in very rapidly flowing water.

CUOMO: River blindness has infected millions in Latin America and Africa. It causes severe itching, skin discoloration, rashes and can eventually take the patient's sight.

CARTER: We began to administer this in (inaudible). And since then we have treated 174 million times in Latin America and all across Africa.

CUOMO: Thanks to the efforts by the Carter Center, river blindness has been almost wiped out in Latin America.

CARTER: To go into those villages and see them a afflicted in a horrible way and to know that that disease doesn't need to exist there because it's been eliminated in richer countries. And they could start a treatment program and then they go back later and say that the disease is gone and that the people have a totally transformed life. Those are some great dividends to be derived from small investment.


CUOMO: It's great to give some attention to the President for these efforts. It's certainly needed.

Let's take a break here now on NEW DAY. When we come back, why are we still looking for black boxes at the bottom of the sea? Why can't they stream their data back? Isn't that what technology is all about?

Well, guess what? The technology is in place but they're not doing it. We're going to tell you about the high-tech that the search for Flight 370 is exposing.



While search teams continue to scour the South Indian Ocean looking for Flight 370, many are asking what this disaster could do to change the aviation industry.

Let's bring in CNN aviation analyst and contributor at, Jeff Wise. Really good question -- there's things we have got to learn and things that we can look at.

Let's start with some of the innovations that could be -- and some of them maybe existing Jeff --


PEREIRA: -- that could be done to improve communications and also data -- right?

WISE: Yes.

PEREIRA: Let's talk about that. On the ground, what could be done to prevent the disaster from happening again? WISE: You know, the problem is not so much preventing the disaster at this point but just knowing what happened. What was the disaster? What was the problem? And you know, the idea of having someone on the ground monitoring what's going on in the aircraft, via remote telemetry whether it's satellite or radio broadcast, this is already happening.

PEREIRA: So it exists, this technology exists?

WISE: The technology exists. You've got Rolls Royce, for instance, the manufacturer who made the engines on the plane. They're looking all the time continuously monitoring the performance of the engines. I had pilots tell me they were flying along and they got a message incoming from their dispatcher saying we've got -- you're going to have a problem in five minutes with your engine because it's all being monitored.

So this is not just for, you know, in case someone steals the plane. But they want to know how the airplane is performing.

PEREIRA: Issues there -- I guess obviously cost, right?

WISE: Well, you know, there's different -- we've heard a lot about ACARs. There's different levels of ACARs depending on how much money you want to spend. When we lost Air France 447 they were getting minute by minute updates. Malaysian was getting it more like every 15 minutes or half hour. It's cheaper, you save money.

PEREIRA: Another idea that's been floated is this real time data streaming. Some sort of uplink satellite information, et cetera, et cetera. Again, some of this technology is being sent right now in sort of bits and bites, not continuously streaming correct?

WISE: Right, right. So it's had the problem that once you're out over the ocean, you're no longer in range of ground-based radio transmitters. Then you have to go to satellite. And, you know, It was equipped for that. Unfortunately the ACARs had been turned off or failed.


WISE: But we can imagine the situation in which this data is automatically being transmitted. In fact, there were these automatic pings we've heard about. There seems to be some indication that the engines continued to send the data. You can just increase the size of the pipe and send more data.

PEREIRA: OK. So I'm going to play devil's advocate. You've got thousands of flights around the globe -- thousands of flights uploading data to a system --

WISE: Right, right.

PEREIRA: -- isn't that going to be overwhelming, a sea of -- pardon the pun -- a sea of information to try and dig through? WISE: You know, you'd think so but this is the way that the future is going. I mean a few years ago it would have seemed ridiculous that you could stream Netflix over your home. Now, the pipes are getting bigger and bigger.


WISE: More and more information -- this is the way it's going to go.

PEREIRA: OK. Let's move on to the last one. I think perhaps this is the one that's going to get a lot of people talking -- the human factor.

WISE: Right, right.

PEREIRA: So you're saying that you remove the human factor and lean more heavily on tech. Situations like what we dealt --- what we're dealing with Flight 370 arguably, again, we don't know what happened --

WISE: Yes. Well look, again, this is the way that the technology is moving anyway. This flight might just accelerate the trend.

PEREIRA: Fair enough.

WISE: If you look at the accidents that are happening, these systems are becoming so robust, so multiply redundant that it's become a fact now that the most unreliable part of the aircraft system to day is the human beings. Look at Asiana, you look at 447, you look at this -- it's assumed to be a human -- intentional act.

PEREIRA: OK, on the flip side. Look, my laptop will go down. There's software glitches, there are bugs, there are hackers, there are vulnerabilities to technology. It's not fail-safe.

WISE: Yes, but when you look at the overall system and you think OK, where are the potential problems, where are things actually happening? You do have, you know, technology can go wrong, but human beings weren't designed to do this.

We're adaptable and we're good at taking on tasks. But if you're looking at getting down to a zero accident rate which is exactly what the FAA wants to do. They want these planes to never crash. And if you want to do that, it's hard to have, you know, essentially the highly evolved monkey sitting in the cockpit.

PEREIRA: The pilotless jet of the future -- really? You think that's in my life time?

WISE: Well, already in Iraq, you know, we saw that most --

PEREIRA: There's no people on board those.

WISE: Well, there's no people on board but there are operators on the ground at the air force space who are running them actually. So this again, this is the way technology is going. The FAA is already adapting air space to be amenable to having drones flying alongside humans.

PEREIRA: In my lifetime, I don't think so.

Jeff Wise, good to have you here. Thanks so much for that.

WISE: My pleasure.


CUOMO: All right Mick, thanks for that. Let's take a break. When we come back, if there's one place that needs "The Good Stuff", it is Washington State. I hope you've been watching what's happening out there. Mudslide rescuers are going to get an unlikely boost from a pair of kids.

You're going to want to see this. It's "The Good Stuff".


CUOMO: s time for the good stuff. If there's any place that needs it, it's Oso, Washington. Why? Well because we know the death toll is terrible because of the mudslide, now 24. 22 people are still missing creating fear that obviously that number may go up.

But here's why, we're going to tell you it's part of "The Good Stuff" today. Emergency workers there got a much needed surprise on Sunday --

PEREIRA: Look at this little faces.

CUOMO: -- in the form of seven-year-old Talan Lin (ph) and his six- year-old sister, Anya. Why? Well, they visited the scene with two very special fits.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of money and lots of change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I decided to give to the people that needs help for the mudslide.


CUOMO: They are precious and perfect in their gesture. They brought their piggy banks. It was their own idea, too. Officials say the money actually is going to go to buy boots for first responders. It was already a much bigger gift than that. Take a listen.


JEFF MCCLELLAND, DARLINGTON FIRE DEPARTMENT: We have been given so much this whole week, and to see that it's instilled in the children to give and help when people are in need, that's what's made our community great.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREIRA: How beautiful.

CUOMO: The need is tremendous out there. The situation far from over; even though it is fading from the headlines -- we'll stay on it. That's why those two kids are the good stuff.

A lot of news this morning. Let's get over to Ms. Carol Costello, human manifestation of "The Good Stuff".