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Firm Says it Detected Plane Wreckage; Sponsors Quit Clippers; 75 Million in Path of Storms, Tornadoes; NBA Commissioner to Hold Press Conference

Aired April 29, 2014 - 12:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's moving to the right.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Be prepared to take cover. Severe weather is threatening a third of the country for a third straight day. Twenty-nine people are dead across six different states. And the storm system isn't done yet.

Also this hour, has Flight 370 been found? A private high-tech search firm says it's found evidence of an airliner in the Bay of Bengal, thousands of miles from the current search site. So why aren't the ships and the planes on the way?

And also, we're about to find out what the NBA plans to do about that man, Donald Sterling. How far can and will the league go to punish the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers?

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, April 29th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Fifty-three days into the mystery of Flight 370, the search may once again be turning on its head. A private Australian firm that specializes in sensing underground metals says that it has detected telltale signs of an airplane. And not just any airplane, a Boeing 777. But it's not in the so-called southern arc where everyone's been looking for more than a month. No, it's been southwest of that. It's southwest -- or rather it's northwest of Flight 370's last radar contact way up in the Bay of Bengal. Way up near Bangladesh. CNN's Will Ripley has these tantalizing details from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And I'm also joined by CNN aviation analyst, former Royal Air Force pilot, Colonel Michael Kay.

So, Will, to you first. More about this discovery. It's somewhat perplexing to say the least, especially where it was. Who made the discovery? How'd they made the discovery? How serious is this?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well this is certainly an interesting development, Ashleigh, although we need (INAUDIBLE) considering all the false leads that we've had in this investigation, in this mystery that's going on nearly eight weeks now. But this Australian private company, GeoResonance, they were using satellite imagery and imagery taken from aircraft to look for aluminum first, because a Boeing 777 is about 70 percent aluminum. And then they started looking for other metals that you'd find in a 777, other traces of materials that you'd find in an aircraft. And that's how they zeroed into this area, 3,100 miles north of the current search zone.

I want you to hear what the company spokesman says as he describes this process.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The southern area doesn't seem logical to us at all. The pings coming from the satellite is basically a 50/50 chance that it was heading on the northern corridor or the southern corridor. As it turned out, we found out afterwards, but we still say that we could be right (ph). We're not saying we have actually found MH-370. We have found what we think is a lead that should be investigated.

We didn't want to go public at all. We were -- we're a large group of scientists. And we were being ignored. And we thought we had a moral obligation to get our findings out into - or to the authorities. And they weren't answering e-mails or phone calls. And we feel so deeply for the relatives of the passengers and the crew on board MH-370 that we've never declared that we had said it is that aircraft, but what we have found is the wreckage of an aircraft. We believe to be an aircraft. We're very confident it is. And that our lead should be followed up and dismissed or proven.

We have double-checked all their findings and we had a total of 23 scientists looking at the -- looking at the project. So we're very, very positive that we've found something. And it may be down south, but we've definitely found something up north.


RIPLEY: Here in Malaysia, the acting transport minister says that they're going to be working with their international partners to verify the credibility of this new information. The searchers down in Australia are outright dismissing it, Ashleigh, saying that based on their satellite data, the mathematics, the physics that they've been counting on as they've conducted their search, they're confidence that MH-370 is sitting in the southern Indian Ocean, the zone that they're searching right now, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So, Will, this timing, there's something to it. As I recall reading, this was actually information they had April 15th. We're talking about two weeks ago. Is that correct? And why this long period of time and now this announcement from this company?

RIPLEY: The final report came out on April 15th, Ashleigh, but actually they first started alerting search crews about this in late March and early April. They said, hey, we think we have something here, you know, in the Bay of Bengal. This was several -- a couple weeks at least before the batteries of those black boxes would have run out and nobody went there and searched.

BANFIELD: All right, Will Ripley, stand by for a moment.

Colonel Kay, you and I have had lengthy conversations about Inmarsat technologies and the mathematicians and the scientists and the myriad of different experts from all around the world who have weighed in, analyzed, permutated, combined and done everything with this data and along comes David Pope (ph) from GeoResonance with something entirely different and he says it doesn't sound logical at all.

MICHAEL KAY, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, look, Ashleigh, like with most theories that we've seen in the 54 - some 54 days, there's enough evidence on the table to have a look at it. There's not enough to take it off the table. This is certainly something that needs looking at. However, a word of caution. Let's just have a look at some of the considerations of why it might be and why it might not be.

Why it might be. Well, the - as Will rightly pointed to, this company looks at chemical elements and materials below the surface with airborne technologies and it's found materials commensurate with a 777 that were there (ph) on March the 5th (ph).

BANFIELD: Can I give you that list? It's titanium, aluminum, copper and steel.

KAY: Yes.

BANFIELD: All these alloys (INAUDIBLE).

KAY: And they - and they all make up the constituents of a 777. And they were there on March the 5th. So that's quite compelling. Right. Let's have a look at some of the holes in the argument. Let's have a look at, there are some big brains involved in this investigation from the NTSB, from the AAIB, from the ATSB. They must have a look at this evidence to corroborate it. They must be confident that it's at least worth deploying some sort of asset up there. That's the first thing that we must do. This GeoResonance data must be shared with all of the countries involved in the investigation.

The next bit is the six and a half handshakes. We kind of know that the jet was working for about six and a half hours. Now, does that northern arc, does it relate to the possible endurance (ph) that the aircraft would have had to have been airborne for in order for it to be in the Bengal?

BANFIELD: Does it?

KAY: I think it comes short a little.

BANFIELD: Does it?

KAY: But I need - but I need to look a little bit harder at that evidence. And the last bit for me, obviously, Ashleigh, is what I always look at, where's the radar data? What did India see? What did Bangladesh see? What did Thailand see? Because it's close enough to land where primary radar would have picked this up. So I would like to corroborate what we've got, look at the exact location, and look at all the evidence that might support potentially sending some assets up there. Because at the moment, we've got no unequivocal (ph) evidence down south have (ph) we (ph).

BANFIELD: Well, and as the investigators have said, look, this is all based on testable physics in mathematics. I'd really like to see GeoResonance tests and perhaps that will be forthcoming in the days to come.

KAY: Yes.

BANFIELD: Colonel Kay, thank you. Will Ripley, as always, thank you for your reporting out there as well.

And we are covering other major stories as well. The NBA expected to announce its plan for Clippers owner Donald Sterling. That's a little less than two hours from now. So, have you wondered what teeth the NBA has when it comes to this situation? What are those powers within that secret charter, its constitution? We've got the articles, the actual facts, the things that man can face and the things the NBA can compel him to do. No choice, compel. That's coming up.


BANFIELD: One after the other, the L.A. Clipper sponsors and advertisers are out of there. They're jumping ship in response to owner Donald Sterling's alleged racist remarks. And if you want to see the list, I got that for you. At least 12, 12 major companies. Just take a peek at your screen. You recognize a lot of those logos. They're all saying they are dropping or they are suspending their sponsorship, or their relationships, with the Clippers. CarMax, Virgin America Airline, State Farm, Red Bull, Sprint, Amtrak, Corona, Kia, Aqua Hydrate, LoanMart, Yokohama, and the Chumash Casino Resort. So that's just two day. Who knows what day three, four, five and beyond will bring. Perhaps CNN's business correspondent Christine Romans is the person to ask for this.

This is a - I want to say partial list right now -


BANFIELD: Because people have a lot work to do before they make very big decisions. But work with me on just these 12. What does this mean? Show me the money. Hate to say it, but show me the money.

ROMANS: They don't want the brand association with the owner of the Clippers. And it's so interesting, Ashleigh, because many of these companies have said they support the Clippers. They support the players. They don't support the words of the owner. So it's pressure on the owner.

And I've covered -

BANFIELD: How much money is this though?

ROMANS: You know these are sponsor -- a lot of these are sponsorships and it's money already paid, by the way. These are sponsorships for things like having your car at a game, for having banners, for having your logo on t-shirts and the like. So these are sponsorships. The big money, the big money is in the TV broadcast though (ph).

BANFIELD: I want to get there in a second -


BANFIELD: But let me ask you this. All of those -- that may be very noble, what they've done. They may have to pony up anyway. These people signed contracts, right?

ROMANS: Yes. Yes. But they're trying to say - and many of them have said they are suspending their relationship. Because, look, if he were to sell the team, if he were to step down, if he were to somehow maybe divest ownership and pass the ownership on to his children or to somebody else, maybe then these sponsors want to be affiliated with the Clippers, with -

BANFIELD: Sure, later on.

ROMANS: This has been a fantastic season for this team.

BANFIELD: But, you know, I think in the (INAUDIBLE) world, a lot of people are looking at this list and say, take that, Donald Sterling. All those people are going to stop pay you. Not necessarily.

ROMANS: No, no, no, these -

BANFIELD: It's a lot of these people who may lose out all the - all these brand recognized, you know -

ROMANS: But they do not want -

BANFIELD: For the money that they've already had to pay.

ROMANS: They don't want to have their brand aligned with his brand.

BANFIELD: Of course.

ROMANS: And that is a question that happens all the time. You go -- people keep trying to compare it with, say, Paula Deen or the "Duck Dynasty" issue. The difference here is very clear to me because this is -- the product is the team. The brand is not Donald Sterling. The brand is this team.

BANFIELD: It's the Clippers.

ROMANS: So it would have a really -

BANFIELD: Yes, but you know what -

ROMANS: How do you -

BANFIELD: It's the whole montro (ph) -

ROMANS: How do you, as a sponsor, punish one without punishing the other.

BANFIELD: It all trickles down, right? It all trickles down. People say that.

Really quickly, you mentioned TV. I should let you go but TV is where the big money's at. Where does that stand? Isn't that with (ph) Fox contracts?

ROMANS: So here's -- here's the big issue. I mean this is, I think, the 13th most valuable team, but the eighth or ninth most valuable in terms of market. I mean its TV ratings are 55 percent. I mean this has been the best year since Donald Sterling's had this team. This has been pretty much the best year. That's a story that is really told after 2:00 p.m. this afternoon when the NBA decides what it's going to do because then you're going to have some very big decisions with some very big money attached.

BANFIELD: I like to call this the man with the weight on his shoulders, the commissioner, Adam Sterling (ph), at 2:00 p.m.

ROMANS: Donald Sterling is not a very remarkable billionaire except for this. He's number 972 on the Forbes list, right? I mean he's self- made --

BANFIELD: Yes, but all eyes are on, money or not, he's about to make some serious decisions.

ROMANS: Right. If he did not - if he did not own that team, we would not know who he is.

BANFIELD: So, 2:00, I think everyone's going to know who he is because right here on CNN we're going to go live to that press conference, the NBA. Hopefully some answers about their direction. We're going to talk about the legal direction as well. Just what that man can do with that weight on his shoulders. It turns out there's a very significant constitution. A secret. They don't let you see it. But we have a peek at some of the articles. And you know, they're super specific. So when you find out about that, you may have a peek into what's going to happen at 2:00.

Christine Romans, thank you for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Also, we're going to take you to Tupelo, in Mississippi, where the governor is going to be speaking there live as well. The destruction, the devastation tearing through the southeast. And, you know what, it's not over yet. I said this yesterday and I have to say it again today, there is more dangerous weather threatening you potentially and your loved ones. Keep your televisions on. Listen carefully. And if the warnings come, please take them seriously.

We're going to take you out to the storms next.


BANFIELD: Right now, 75 million people in America are in the risk in the area of a severe storm and possible tornadoes, and that is the third straight day we've had to say that. The first two days claimed 29 lives in six different states, eight of them in Mississippi.

The tornado there, a powerful force, even storm chasers did not want to reckon with this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. No, no, no. No, no, no.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop. Everyone listen. Everyone listen.


BANFIELD: Hard to hear the freight train but this is exactly what it sounds like. This is the terrifying scene in Louisville about 90 miles northeast of Jackson.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, get east. Turn around, turn around. Back up, turn around. Back up, turn around.


BANFIELD: So they did turn around. And they -- you know how the storm chasers say it? They got the hell out of there.

About an hour and a half north in Tupelo, buildings were clearly wiped away.

And as things got ugly, the chief meteorologist at the TV station, WTVA, just ordered his entire team live on the air to take cover as he bolted right in the middle of his report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tornado ripping through the city of Tupelo as we speak. And this could be deadly. Let's go tower cam.

Basement, now. Let's go! Now.


BANFIELD: Folks, that is not drama. If you've ever lived or worked anywhere in Tornado Alley, as I have, it is serious, and people die every year.

The storm that rocked Tupelo and hit a major hospital there is also on the move, as well.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is watching the system carefully, actually tracking it. I'm catching you live in the car as you head up from Tupelo, from the scene of the destruction, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where things could get dangerous as well.

Tell me what we're expecting there.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have a lot of sunshine and, Ashleigh, that sounds like a good thing. It's a clear day. That's great. But, in fact, that's the exact opposite we want.

The sunshine is heating the ground. The ground now is warming up the atmosphere, and atmosphere is going to bubble. Those bubbles turn into clouds.

Eventually, those storms can rotate, especially a day like today. Rotating thunderstorms produce tornadoes. There will be tornadoes on the ground today, a lot like yesterday, although yesterday was really an unbelievable day in my mind, where we take tornadoes, almost a 500- mile wide swath from north to south.

Think of it like a rake, al the tines of the rake. And Mother Nature just drug that rake across Alabama, a half-mile wide tine. That's the damage we saw here, into Louisville, into Meridian, big-time damage there.

We could see it today, a little further to the south, where the warm air hasn't moved. The cold air has moved to the east. The warm and the cold, that's the clash we're going to now.

BANFIELD: I'm looking at your image. Every so often, the camera shot pushes to the forward view you're seeing.

I recall so many times, Chad, driving and seeing that, you know, moderately cloudy or sunny sky change to a sky that has a very edged black line.

And there it is there, that image to the right of the screen right now.

When you start to see that and you're on the road, I never know what to do because the advice changes all the time. Find an overpass. Don't find an overpass. Get in an alley, in a gully. Don't get in a gully.

What do people do to find shelter?

MYERS: Yes. Well, the very best thing you can do to protect yourself right now is to get a smartphone. Probably everybody that's watching or at least most have a smartphone. The smartphone knows where you are. It's GPS-locating you, if you allow it.

Not because Big Brother wants to know where you are, it's because the computer program that issues the warnings on these small little apps knows where you are, and they'll alert you the road you're on is about to drive into a tornado warning area and don't go there.

That's the best thing, the safest thing you can do, is get one of those road-bound apps. There are many of them out there. I'm not going to say one thing is better out there, but there's actually the National Weather Service that does the same thing and an alarm goes off. That's something you can do.

If you're driving, if it's a big tornado, and the tornado -- you're going to get into it no matter what, honestly. I've seen so many cars that don't have places for people in them when they get done. There's just no room left.

When the tornado has smashed that vehicle, you have to get out. If it's an F-0 or 1 and the wind's 80-miles-per-hour, the glass may break a little bit, but you will still be safer in here, the Weather Service says, by hunkering down, make sure you have your seat belt on and getting down below the level the car, if you can. Stop the car on the side of the road, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: But that overpass business that was the advice for so long, is that gone now, just quickly?

Oh, I don't think Chad can hear that question. The --

MYERS: Lost the cell phone, Ashleigh, if you're still listening to me, because we just drove through the damage area, and many times --

BANFIELD: He couldn't hear my question, but you know what? Google this, because there's a lot of competing wisdom on whether you should crouch into one of those overpasses or not.

Some says it's very good protection. Others say it's death warrant.

I want to show you something. When I come into work in the morning, it's very, very early. We all have big discussions on what the news is going to be, and I keep asking, what does the NBA charter say about a guy like Mr. Sterling? What kind of rulings are out there?

It turns out, they're kind of secret. So this big messed-up, marked- up, highlighted piece of paper, don't look now, I'm going to tell you all about it.

There are actual provisions that pertain exactly to the issue that everyone's been talking about for two days, articles, rules, things that compel Mr. Sterling to take a seat next to those who matter, like the commissioner, and answer the questions truthfully.

And the implications can be career ending. We're going to explain them to you, next.


BANFIELD: Welcome back. We're just a couple hours away from learning the fate of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for allegedly making racist comments.

The NBA commissioner Adam Silver is set to hold a news conference at 2:00 p.m. Eastern about the racial rant and any kind of punishment that might be expected. But will anything that he can do be enough? Depends on who you ask. Some people want that man's head, literally.

Joining me here is CNN commentator Mel Robbins, and also joining me by Skype to talk about the NBA's range of legal possibilities and punishments for Sterling is Michael McCann. He's a legal analyst for "Sports Illustrated."

Michael, I want to begin with you. First thing's first, we keep talking about this as all allegations, because Mr. Sterling has not confirmed nor denied that that's him on the tape making those repulsive comments.

But the NBA can make him do that, can't they?

MICHAEL MCCANN, LEGAL ANALYST/WRITER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" AND SI.COM: They can. That's right, Ashleigh. The NBA has the ability to require an owner or an employee of a team to cooperate with the league investigation.