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Severe Weather Threatens Parts of U.S.; Possible Bids Arise for L.A. Clippers after Sterling Controversy; Malaysia Airlines to Shut Down Family Assistance Centers; Awaiting Malaysia's Report on MH370

Aired May 1, 2014 - 07:00   ET


INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Keep in mind this is not limited to the New York area. We're hearing this all across the northeast and even the southeast this morning.


PETERSONS: Breaking overnight, day four of catastrophic storm system in the southeast now barreling up the eastern seaboard threatening millions more. Officials issuing flood warnings from Florida to New York with seven inches of rain predicted in the northeast before it's all said and done. In Maryland several thousand gallons of water rushed into a town 20 miles south of Baltimore after a breach in a dam forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate.

In Baltimore, the deluge so heavy it caused a massive landslide on one roadway sending half dozen cars tumbling into a ravine. Rain also triggering a mud slide in upstate New York collapsing this retaining wall. The torrential rain will continue battering parts of the northeast for hours to come.


PETERSONS: So this is the concern again this morning. We still have so many areas under flood warnings this morning and even flood watches of the entire tri-state area. But again, from the northeast down to the southeast many areas are already flooded just like this. Many of these streets completely impassable, and the concern is more rain is on the way, which will only mean conditions like this are expected to worsen, guys.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching it here in New York. Let's head down south where the storms have left a trail of devastation there. Historic flooding levels in Pensacola, Florida, washing away portions of homes, forcing some people to navigate streets by boat. And overnight also a deadly gas explosion caused a partial building collapse at an area jail. CNN's Ed Lavandera is at the jail with the very latest. Ed, we spoke to the mayor of Pensacola a short time ago. He said he grew up in Pensacola and has never seen anything like this.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, that's really saying something considering the number of hurricanes and powerful hurricanes this region of the Gulf Coast has seen. I spoke with many people who yesterday said the flood levels and the flood t waters they saw here rivaled any kind of hurricane they have seen, nearby 20 inches of rain in 24 hours.

This is a situation the emergency officials are dealing with here in Pensacola this morning, that is the county jail, an explosion late last night killing two inmates, having to force the evacuation of this building. ATF and the state fire marshal are investigating. You can see the power of that explosion and the ripple effect that it had through that building. So a lot of structural damage there that they're dealing with.

It was those flood waters and for the most part have finally receded throughout the region here from Mobile, Alabama, all of the way into Pensacola. The waters have receded and people are getting a good chance today to continue the clean-up efforts Kate, in what we saw throughout the area was powerful and some homes had taken up to three feet of water. Other neighborhoods were swallowed up by five feet of water into their homes. So a lot of clean-up left for these folks to do.

And everywhere we went yesterday people telling us they had never seen anything like this or dealt with rain with this intensity and this magnitude for a long period of time. Kate?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I'll take it Ed. Thank you for the reporting from out there.

We also want to tell you today the ball is in the NBA owners' court. Will they force Clipper's head Donald Sterling to sell his team? A committee of NBA owners will meet on this today after Sterling was banned for life from the league for making racist comments. CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles. The big question is, how will Donald Sterling face his fellow owners?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the question, Chris. And there's a lot of rich people already looking at ways to put their money together to potentially get a bid together. But the first thing that has to happen is they've got to get Donald Sterling out.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: I am banning Mr. Sterling for life.

ELAM: Now that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has ousted Donald Sterling from the league, the question is, will the clippers owner put up a fight to keep the team?

CEDRIC MAXWELL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Donald Sterling to me is not going down without a fight.

ELAM: Sterling, disgraced after his racist rant went public, told FOX Sports that the team is not for sale. But according to the NBA's constitution, if three-quarters of the owners agree that he has to go, Sterling could be forced to sell. Silver, pledging to do everything in his power to ensure that happens, saying he expects to get the backing he needs. More than 20 teams stating they support Silver's harsh punishment but it's not yet clear if those public positions would translate into votes. And Sterling does have the right to try to convince the other NBA owners to side with him.

RICK BARRY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Any owner who decides to side with Donald Sterling in this is a fool. In the court of public opinion, he will be just as guilty as Sterling.

ELAM: And all-star trio of would be buyers already waiting in the wings is ready to pay big bucks for a contender in the league. A spokesperson for Oprah Winfrey says she's talking to entertainment mogul David Geffen and software billionaire Larry Ellison about a possible joint bid. Peaked interest from Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya. And what about Sterling's family. His wife was at Tuesday's game as the Clippers beat Golden State, but only after asking for and getting the green light from head coach Doc Rivers.

SILVER: This ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling and Donald Sterling's conduct only.

ELAM: The NBA says no decisions have been made but the Players Association telling Yahoo! Sports it won't accept any Sterling as an owner.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The NBA, once they get the three-quarters votes, they are in charge of this franchise and they decide who gets to buy and who doesn't. I have zero doubt that the NBA is going to prevent anyone from the Sterling family from controlling this franchise.


ELAM: And Commissioner Silver said that he wanted swift action and that he was going to stay on it. To that end, the owners are supposed to have their first meeting about this topic today. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, one step in a long process. Stephanie, thank you very much.

Also new this morning, Toronto's controversial Mayor Rob Ford announces he's taking a leave of absence to get treatment for what he calls a struggle with alcohol. This comes after reports of a new video showing Ford smoking what is allegedly crack cocaine from a pipe. CNN's Paula Newton has more.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Calling it one of the most difficult times in his life, embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he is taking a break from his reelection campaign. This comes after the "Toronto Globe and Mail" reporting to have seen a new video allegedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine from a copper-colored pipe. The publication saying the video was shot this past Saturday in Ford's sister's apartment, and that they can't verify the substance was, in fact, crack. In May of last year cellphone video was released appearing to show Ford smoking crack cocaine which he at the time denied, and later conceded.

ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. NEWTON: This morning his opponents outraged.

JOHN TORY: For the good of the city I call Mayor Ford to resign from his office as mayor.

NEWTON: Mayor Ford released a statement saying in part, "I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help, and I am now 100 percent committed to getting myself right." His attorney told CNN Ford is taking a leave immediately for substance abuse problems. Also in comments to "The Globe" he questioned the authenticity of the video and the motivation behind it.

In March Ford was recorded stumbling and swearing outside Toronto city hall, and back in January Ford admitted to, a quote, "minor setback" after this rant surfaced. He insisted he had a small amount to drink but had not taken any drugs.


NEWTON: Now, Rob Ford's lawyer declined to tell us exactly where he's going for this kind of help, what exactly -- what kind of help he would be getting. And he won't say, Rob Ford himself, how long he will actually be out. He has not called off his reelection campaign, merely saying he's taking a break to deal with some serious problems.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Paula Newton with the latest on the embattled mayor in or Toronto. Thanks so much for that.

Let's take a look at more of your headlines, and we'll start with Ukraine, it's acting president is making a stunning acknowledgement saying security forces are helpless to stop pro-Russia militants in eastern Ukraine. But he put his military on full combat readiness anyway Wednesday. Pro-Russian gunmen have taken control of key buildings in dozens of towns and cities in the region. Ukraine has now ordered expulsion of a Russian diplomat that it accuses of spying.

Syria is not handing over what remains of chemical arsenal as agreed according to the "Washington Post." U.S. officials say Syria is holding on to 27 tons of sarin as leverage in a dispute over the future of storage facilities. Sunday was the deadline to turn it over to international observers who want tunnels and buildings used to store the weapons destroyed.

This morning safety experts calling for tighter regulations after yet another crude oil train derailment. A freight train jumped the track Wednesday in Lynchburg, Virginia, erupting into flames and spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the James River. Some 50,000 gallons are unaccounted for as clean-up crews fight to contain the spill. Federal safety investigators are trying to figure out just what went wrong. Fortunately no injuries were reported in that crash. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Michaela, thank you very much. We're awaiting the release of the first report of the disappearance of flight 370 from the Malaysian government. Meanwhile, Malaysian Airlines has just issued a press release. We are reading it as we're listening to the headlines. They're saying that they are going to close down family assistance centers around the world by May 7th. They will maintain a presence in Beijing.

Let's bring in David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash," CNN safety analyst, to discuss this. David, I'm looking at it right now. In line with this adjustment, they say, the adjustment meaning the new phase in the search and investigation, they're going to be closing all of its family assistance centers around the world by May 7th, 2014. They will keep in close touch with the families, new updates, telephone calls. We then hear word they may keep something open in Beijing. That's not what this says. What do you make of this?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, I think they're probably consolidating resources. The issue with having everybody together in one place is mostly for the purpose of being there when things are discovered. The family assistance centers, I think, are probably not very useful at this point, to be honest with you. The families are frustrated and they're trying to get some information but they're just not getting it anyway.

CUOMO: But don't they matter the most? You have so many different --

SOUCIE: It should.

CUOMO: -- so many different silos of resources. This is the one group of people that actually deserves information. Just to clarify, it says while it's closing those family centers, it says with the support of the Malaysian government the airline's family support centers will be established in Kuala Lumpur and in Beijing. So they're closing these worldwide ones, whatever that number is, and they're going to open these two new ones. So they will keep some presence. That's good because, again, the families deserve it.

Now, another point as we're waiting for this report -- why are we waiting for this report? Forget about the Malaysian authorities and their teaming. Couldn't we have gotten this from ICAO?

SOUCIE: Yes, that's exactly right, Chris. That's the part that I don't understand at all, is when the report goes to ICAO, ICAO is under no obligation to try to protect anything that's in that report other than the personal and secret kind of things. In other words, you want to protect privacy. You want to protect anything to do with the criminal investigation. And ICAO can't release that kind of information if it's on there, which I doubt it is. But ICAO has the authority to do this. I just don't understand why that's not being pushed. We've heard very little from the ICAO authority, from the organization itself, from any of the ambassadors from any of the countries.

Remember, countries that are part of ICAO and the United Nations, remember, ICAO is part of the United Nations, each one of those ambassadors assigned to ICAO is part of it. They're part of the organization. They're part of the leadership. And I've seen very little leadership out of ICAO. Where are the ambassadors? They're waiting for Malaysia. I don't understand that. CUOMO: This body ICAO is in transition, right? The person who is the head is out. The new head is pending approval from the Obama administration. They submitted but they're waiting on it. Could it be that they're caught flatfooted in this situation?

SOUCIE: There's a lot of people at the table and United States is not one of them. United States under Duane Woerth's leadership, he used to be the president of the Airlines Pilot Association, he's been actively involved in airlines, and he was fantastic at his job. He retired in December. There was a nomination made, Michael Lawson, from Los Angeles, and Michael Lawson has had some ridicule actually. He's not got the kind of depth of experience that Duane Woerth did, and yet Congress has drug its feet on trying to nominate someone else or they just basically said we're not going to put this guy, we're not going to confirm him so, therefore, it's a done deal. Where is the new nomination? This is the worst time in history to not have some representation on ICAO. They're going to set some rules. The United States have to follow them, and we're going to be stuck flatfooted, as you said, trying to figure out how it is that we're going to respond to those ICAO rules.

CUOMO: You rightly point out the United States isn't driving the entire thing but you do want some representation there to be sure. So this report is going to come out. We expect it to be a basic cursory analysis, but the reason that we're interested is because it will be a window into how Malaysia has been thinking about this all along and where the points of focus have been because legitimate questions about the investigative process here. So we'll be waiting on the report and when we get it we'll come right to you, David, and get your take on it. Thank you for helping us with these other factors.

SOUCIE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, much more on flight 370. The company that claims they had identified plane wreckage suggesting it could be the missing plane, they are not addressing their skeptics. We're going to talk with one of those critics coming up next.

And coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, it's the Clintons versus the media. Hillary Clinton recently said the media scrutiny is one reason not to run for president. Now Bill Clinton has joined in. Find out what he says the media totally missed about his presidency.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. As we wait for the Malaysian government to release its long-awaited preliminary report on what they know about the disappearance of Flight 370 so far, we want to dig deeper into one of the latest developments in the search for the missing plane. A new response this morning from the Australian exploration company that claims it found possible wreckage from what could be an aircraft in the Bay of Bengal, thousands of miles from the current search area.

Joining us to discuss, Miles O'Brien, CNN aviation analyst and PBS science correspondent. Good morning, Miles.


BOLDUAN: I want to read -- and I don't know if we actually have a graphic for this yet, but I want to read, I think, probably the most interesting part of, we call it a response. I think we call it a defense of what they've done from GeoResonance this morning. And I want to get your take on it, Miles.

They say in part, "It's surprising that some media commentators whom have not heard of the technology or do not have an understanding of quantum physics dismiss the technology outright. GeoResonance is not attempting to educate the world on technological capabilities. The GeoResonance goal was to offer its findings to government search authorities."

They seem to be -- they're defending what their -- they're defending their actions to this point. Do they have a point, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Well, they're defending their actions without providing a shred of evidence that they have technology that works. You know, it seems to me they saying they have trade secrets. I get that. But why not show previous verifiable examples of this technology working? They haven't done that. You don't have to reveal trade secrets to say, here's what we've done in the past and here's how it works. None of that has occurred.

What also bothers me about this press release is it's kind of an exit stage right press release. We've identified this site in the Bay of Bengal. We did it for moral reasons. And now good-bye, everybody. Thank you very much for coming. And that to me is just pretty much case in point that this is about publicity as much as anything else.

BOLDUAN: Now, the company says that it did provide all of their technical background to the Malaysian government in a briefing that they held. They said they spoke for about an hour. They said they don't want -- feel the need to release that to the public.

And now, Bangladesh has announced that they're sending two ships to that area to figure this out. So is this back and forth, do you think, in the end all for not because it's essentially we may find out one way or the other if what they're claiming is true?

O'BRIEN: Well, yeah. But, I mean, but remember, they briefed the Malaysian officials, the real experts for an hour, and they dismissed the whole thing. Don't forget that.

Number two, the Malaysian navy, if it wants to go out and check this out because there's so much public pressure, that's fine. But if this company, which claims a moral altruistic goal is really all about that, why don't they keep helping with the search? Why don't they train their technology on the southern site? Why don't they prove somehow that they can identify a verifiable piece of wreckage deep beneath the sea?

None of these things are happening. They've identified this apparent wreckage or whatever it is in the Bay of Bengal and now they're saying they're done. So, you know, I think we should all be done with it.

BOLDUAN: You make a very good point, not only do you always make a good point, but on the fact that if you think your technology has worked here, why not apply it to the area where everyone is focusing the search? I haven't heard that that question has been posed to the company yet. Have you heard any response on that?

O'BRIEN: I've been posing it for a day, but nobody seems to be listening to me at GeoResonance. They, I think, if they truly had a verifiable technology that could locate an aircraft on the bottom of the ocean floor, aim the satellite at the search site in the southern ocean, help out the search in that way, that's --that's the moral obligation.

BOLDUAN: What could be provided that would give you -- give you more interest in this claim rather than saying that they need -- is it just more evidence? Is it their methodology? Is there some more bit of information that they could provide that could make it, I don't want to say more valid, but at this point, more people are skeptical than they are finding this promising.

O'BRIEN: Again, you know, I just think that, you know, I agree. I'm sure there are secret things that they -- any company needs to hold close. But there's a whole body of knowledge and general information, which they aren't sharing with anybody, just the basics of how this works.

But, you know, basically some verifiable examples would go a long way. Here's how we did it in the past. Here's a piece of wreckage. Here's a shipwreck, whatever the case may be. And here's how we did it.

If you go to their website, they made claims of finding, for example, a shipwreck in the Black Sea. But as it turns out, that ship has not really been located. So I think that there's an absence of examples. You know, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And there is no extraordinary evidence here.

BOLDUAN: You know, the thing that also is at play here is you talk about an absence of evidence and absence of examples, there's also an absence of any real evidence in the other part of the search effort, in the southern Indian Ocean. I think that is why some of the family members are feeling a little bit of "why not" at this point.

O'BRIEN: No, no, I -- and I do. You know, if the Bangladesh Navy wants to go out and check this out, fine. I -- I -- I was concerned yesterday that somehow there would be pressure to move resources that are on the search site --


O'BRIEN: -- where we've had the pings, where we've had the Inmarsat arcs, you know, where we might have had, who knows, Australian defense radar verifying things. We'll never -- you know, that won't be released publicly.

Whatever the case may be, if you moved resources off that, that would be bad. For the Bangladesh navy to steam out there, call it a training mission and see if they can find some wreckage there, why not? I see no problem with that.

BOLDUAN: And real quick, Miles. I want to get your take along the vein of looking for real hard and true evidence that are facts. What -- as we're waiting and anticipating this report to come out from the Malaysian government, this initial report, what are you going to be looking for because I know you've read many of these reports in the past?

O'BRIEN: Prepare yourself to be underwhelmed, Kate. I've seen the form you're supposed to fill out for ICAO. And it's just very, very basic information, all stuff we already know.

And then it has room for a narrative. And the narrative has to be 200 words or less. So I suspect if they follow the letter of the ICAO procedures for preliminary report, we're going to be sadly disappointed by all this. I mean, 200 words, that's practically a tweet.

BOLDUAN: At this point, a tweet plus a little bit of something. All right.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, exactly.

BOLDUAN: Let's hope that nothing, when it comes to an explanation of evidence when it comes to this, the missing flight and everything that's gone on and the little that we know after some seven weeks can be summed up in a tweet, that's for sure.

Miles, great to see you. Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome.

CUOMO: All right, coming up, the Malaysian authorities report that we were just talking about on Flight 370, as soon as it is released, we're going to be bringing it to you. It should be any moment.

Also, we have Inside Politics this morning. We're gonna go inside the White House, find out about President Obama's favorite new stress reliever. We're going to tell you how he blows off steam and makes key decisions at the same time.


PEREIRA: And welcome back to NEW DAY. Here's a look at your headlines at half past the hour.

Malaysian officials are expected to release this first report on the disappearance of Flight 370 any moment now. We'll bring it to you live. Family members have been demanding to see those documents -- that document for a while, for weeks, in fact.

This just in. Malaysian Airlines announcing it will close the support center where the families of Flight 370 have been gathering at a hotel in Beijing by tomorrow. They're also going to close some of their other family support centers. We're told that they will keep family support center open in Kuala Lumpur and in Beijing.

Huge parts of the East coast are under water this morning after massive storms. Hundreds of people have been evacuated in Laurel, Maryland, after a dam opened up. Several thousands of gallons of water was released. The dam has since been stabilized.

Pensacola saw rainfall of epic proportions. We know that one woman was killed. The weather could also be responsible for a gas explosion at a jail that collapsed part of the roof injuring some 100 inmates and killing two.

A major concession by Ukraine's acting president admitting security forces are essentially helpless to stop pro-Russian militants. Even so, he put his military on full combat readiness Wednesday. Pro- Russian gunmen have taken control of symbolic buildings in more than a dozen cities and towns, taking over much of the eastern portion of Ukraine.

An NBA ownership committee meets today to discuss Donald Sterling's future as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Commissioner Adam Silver wants them to use their power -- bless you -- to force Sterling out after his life-time ban from the league for racist remarks.