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Anonymous Child in Greece may be American; School Shooting Leaves Teacher Dead; Obamacare Website Criticized; Interview with Governor Steve BeShear, Near In-Flight Collision Avoided; Interview with Mary Schiavo

Aired October 22, 2013 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: She went missing from her Kansas City home two years ago, and her parents think it could be her, that the little girl found in guess could be their daughter. As the mystery girl known as Maria, she was discovered in a gypsy camp just last week. But it's not clear how she got there. So many questions surrounding this mystery. CNN's George Howell is following the story live in Kansas City this morning. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. We're here in fact in front of the family's home. Aside from the only light there on that missing child poster, the lights are not on in this home, the family is still asleep. But we've confirmed through their attorney that the FBI is in contact with officials in Greece to compare similarities between their missing daughter and the girl named Maria.


HOWELL: This morning, there are new questions and perhaps new possibilities. Could this young girl found in Greece actually be from Kansas City?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like she's OK.

HOWELL: The parents of Lisa Irwin, the missing Kansas City toddler who vanished from her bed after an apparent home invasion in 2011. They reached out to the FBI, who contacted Greek authorities because they believe this striking blond-haired, blue-eyed girl found in this gypsy camp could be Lisa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no such thing as a tip too small.

HOWELL: The second anniversary of Lisa's disappearance was two weeks ago and a new photo was released of what she might look like today, strikingly similar to the girl found in Greece, called Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I dream about her all the time. This is what I see in my dreams.

HOWELL: Some things don't add up. Lisa would be three years old. Medical tests indicate Maria is five or six, but all possibilities must be ruled out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clients claim is that we never abducted this child.

HOWELL: The couple claiming to be Maria's parents were arrested on suspicion of abducting a minor. DNA results confirm they are not her biological mom and dad. But Greek authorities are getting calls from around the world offering leads on the possibility identity of the mystery girl. So far they're taking about 10 of those leads seriously, including some cases from the U.S., one of them, baby Lisa.


HOWELL: And we know that this case in Greece, there are nearly a dozen families that are looking at this case for the possibility that it could be their child. But keep in mind, when it comes to this case, according to the group Smiles of a Child Maria is five or six years old. That's according to dental records. Baby Lisa, we understand, would be three years old next month.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, George. One thing is for sure, if the authorities are right, this child does belong to someone. The question is who. We will continue to follow the search.

We also want to tell you this morning about a school shooting in Nevada that sounds like a replay of our national nightmare. A student opens fire in a middle school, killing a beloved math teacher and wounding two classmates. A teacher is credited with keeping the situation contained, a hero, a marine who served several tours in Afghanistan. He lost his life trying to talk the young shooter down. CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Sparks, Nevada, covering the story for us. Good morning, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris, Kate, and Michaela. It all happened in just three minutes, and in that time a teacher was lost, a student took his own life, and two other students were wounded.


ELAM: Trying to make sense of a senseless killing. The small desert community of Sparks, Nevada, came together in prayer last night, this after chaos and tragedy at a local middle school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have one victim in the cafeteria, one in the hall.

ELAM: Students were waiting for the morning bell to ring and then shots fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People started running and screaming. So I started running and then we heard another gunshot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid started getting mad and he pulls out a gun and shoots my friend.

ELAM: The shooter, a 13-year-old student allegedly using his parents gun, wounded two fellow students, one in the shoulder, the other in the abdomen. A teacher rushed to their aid. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He walked up to a teacher and says, back up. The teacher started backing up, he pulled the trigger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The teacher was trying to make him put it down, but he took the shot right then and there.

ELAM: A shot that killed 45-year-old Michael Lansbury, a popular eighth grade teacher. He was a former marine who served several tours in Afghanistan. He's now being called a hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a very well-liked teacher by the students and other teachers. It's very unfortunate that someone like that that protected our country over there and came back alive, his life had to be taken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He loved teaching at Sparks Middle School. He loved the kids. He loved coaching them and teaching them. He was a good all-around individual.

ELAM: Students are pouring out their grief on social media. "I had the chills when I heard that Mr. Lansbury died. Having him for math was the best. It's too hard to even believe. No teacher will take his place. Nothing is going to be the same anymore. You are a hero and you will always be missed at Sparks Middle School."

As for the student suspect, police say he took his own life with that gun.

AMAYA NEWTON, STUDENT, WITNESSED SHOOTING: I knew the person with the gun. He was really a nice kid. He would make you smile when you're having a bad day. I saw him getting bullied a couple times, and I think he took out his bullying on it.

ELAM: But it's still unclear if that drove this child to resort the violence and whether or not he was targeting the students or beloved math teacher, who survived war only to die in what should have been the safe haven of an American middle school.


ELAM: And school has been canceled for the rest of the week and counseling is available to anyone who wants it as these kids and the community try to process how something like this happened where they say nothing like this ever happens. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Stephanie, thank you so much. When you think about it, it's their first day back from fall break. They're 12, 13 years old, and what they had to see happen, right on their playground, cafeteria, hallway, it's horrific.

CUOMO: Oddly, you know what they're going to take comfort in, that it keeps happening, that other schools lived through this, they have experienced the themes are becoming so common. And that's part of the tragedy in these situations. Of course, the immediate instinct is to look at this family of this teacher and say our thoughts and prayers are with you, that the legacy of this teacher that he did what he had to do to stop the violence. But why was it ever necessary. We hear bullying. We hear a kid disengaged, isolated. We hear access to a gun. How many times do you have to hear it before you make the changes necessary? That's why we cover bullying as aggressively as we do and we talk about the issues that surround these shootings.

BOLDUAN: And we'll keep covering it and talking to the police involved in this case a little later in the show. Then we'll try to get more answers for everybody.

Let's move back now to Washington this morning where there is no question that the Obamacare website has been riddled with technical failures. But what do people think of the actual law today? Well, check out this new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll. We're seeing an uptick of more people in support of the law compared to just a month ago. Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is here with the latest. Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Right now the White House is not saying who is being brought in to fix the Obamacare website glitches or how long it will take. But one thing the administration is being up front is that they have a big problem on their hands.


ACOSTA: The way administration officials describe it, the so-called tech surge to fix the Obamacare website sounds like a top secret mission with an all-star team of I.T. specialists parachuting in from across the country.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody's madder than me about the fact that the website isn't working as well as it should, which means it's going to get fixed.

ACOSTA: One question is whether warning signs were missed. "The Washington Post" reports the site crashed just days before it was launched during a simulation test involving hundreds of users. Despite a Pew research poll, finding a only a small amount of Americans say the Obamacare exchanges are working well, White House officials don't want to delay the mandate requiring Americans to have insurance.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're way still early in the process. So you're talking about a February 15th and a March 31st deadline. It is October 21st today. So let's be clear about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to the health insurance marketplace.

ACOSTA: Until the site is fixed, frustrated consumers are being urged to call a toll free number to shop for insurance. That's an option administration officials don't like because it could be a big turnoff to younger, healthier buyers who do everything online and are critical to Obamacare's success. Last week, "Consumer Reports" warned if the glitches are too much to absorb, stay away from for at least another month. The site has since posted an update saying the website's problems do not negate the law's benefits. OBAMA: To free families from --

ACOSTA: Even the president's speech aimed at reassuring Americans about Obamacare had a hiccup when a supporter standing behind him, Karmel Allison, nearly fainted.

OBAMA: I got you. No, no, you're OK. This happens when I talk too long.


ACOSTA: A diabetic nearly her entire life, Allison later told CNN's Piers Morgan she's a big Obamacare backer because it will always cover her preexisting conditions.

KARMEL ALLISON, OBAMACARE SUPPORTER: I'm extremely embarrassed that I fainted, but I'm honored still to have been there and happy that he caught me.


ACOSTA: Now, the next fireworks over Obamacare are likely to come on Thursday when some of the contractors that worked on the health care website are scheduled to testify up on Capitol Hill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was also called to testify at that hearing but she is now likely to testify next week.

And Chris, it's the contractors that may be coming under some big scrutiny this week. A former innovation fellow at the White House has a blog we just spotted this morning. It says, this innovation fellow, that the contractors who made this website were, quote, "at best sloppy and at worst unqualified." That may be where much of the attention is focused this week on this issue with the website, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Jim. It is obvious that the website isn't working and in fact the problem is becoming a metaphor for how we see Obama care overall. Now, is that fair?

Well, joining us now is the governor of Kentucky. Mr. BeShear is with us from Frankfurt, Kentucky, and his answer is no. Governor, thank you for joining us this morning. You're trying to get out in front of this issue and say don't get caught up in the glitches. You need the law. You can make it work and it's working in your state. Tell us about it.

GOV. STEVE BESHEAR, (D) KENTUCKY: Well, it's working very well here, Chris. We hit the ground running on October 1. I think everybody in the country now feels like the Kentucky health care exchange, connect, as we call it, is sort of the gold standard, because it's working. We are signing up people at roughly 1,000 a day. It's a great rate and a great success so far.

You know, it was an easy decision for me, both from a moral standpoint because we have 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians, and I want to make sure that every single Kentuckian has affordable health care. It was also the best economic decision because I had outside experts telling me that it's going to create about 17,000 new jobs over the next eight years and infuse about $15 billion into our economy. So it's a win/win for us.

Let me just give a piece of unsolicited advice to the critics and the news media. Take a deep breath. You know, this system is going to work. The only thing that really isn't working right now on the federal level is the website. I'll guarantee you that whether it's a week from now, a month from now, two months from now, they'll get it up and they'll get it working. People will be signing up.

You know, the last time we did a major transformational change in health care in America was back in 1965, I think it was, when they passed Medicare. Well, history shows us that it took two or three years to work through all of the bumps in the road and all of the kinks to get it up and running and making sure that everybody joined up. So this is going to work and everybody just needs to chill out a little bit.

CUOMO: When you say everybody, you're kind of talking to yourself in one way, right, governor, because although you're a Democrat, two of the biggest critics of Obama care are the senators from your state, right? You have Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. They say this is the death of small business. It's going to increase everybody's premiums, who doesn't deserve it. What do you think of their points?

BESHEAR: Well, they're just not paying attention to the facts, quite honestly, Chris. And that's what most critics are doing right now. They've weaved this web the misinformation that's been out there for months. Guess what, now that the exchanges are open, the people in Kentucky are getting on there and finding out for themselves. That's what I've told them. I said, look, you don't have to like the president. You don't have to like me, because this is not about the president. It's not about me. It's about you, your family. It's about your children. So just go on there and check it out and you're going to like what you find.

And that's what's happening. They are finding that they can get affordable health coverage for the first time in their lives. And I'll guarantee you, about a year from now they'll look back at these critics, including a lot of the senators and representatives and say you misled us because, hey, this works. I have affordable health care.

CUOMO: Governor, when you look at the poll numbers, you know, about 46 percent of Americans support Obamacare up from 42 percent. Let's put the poll aside. I just want to use it as a function of perception becomes reality. You're coming up against a problem many states will experience. I'd like you to speak to it before we let you go today. You have until March 31st to sign people up. And as people are being dissuaded, as people are being told the site doesn't work, you're going to run out of time for people to sign up in time to get people covered. Are you worried about not getting the time to get people covered in your state and being stuck?

BESHEAR: Number one, I'm not worried about Kentucky because our system is working. Man, people are just swarming over our website right now. We've had about 300,000 visitors to our website, about 65,000 callers on our toll free hotline. So it's working in Kentucky, and we're going to get people signed up.

I'll tell you and guarantee you that one way or another, deadlines tend to move. You know, when things don't work well, we'll move deadlines. I don't know exactly what decisions will be made because we're not there yet. But my guess is, and I feel confident that we will have time to get people in this system because, in the long term, this is going to transform history in Kentucky because of health care. And it's going to transform the United States.

CUOMO: Governor Steve BeShear, thank you very much for the perspective this morning. We'll keep up with you here on NEW DAY and let us know how it's going. Thank you for joining us this morning.

BESHEAR: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: A little bit of a heads up, one of the things that will be on the table when the parties come back together will probably be, extending the deadline. Look out for that.

A lot of other news this morning, so let's get to Mick.

PERIERA: Well, we will watch that, Chris. Thanks so much.

Here are your headlines. New this morning, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and France's foreign minister met over a report that the NSA has carried out extensive surveillance on French soil, including scooping up to 70 million digital communications in a single month. Just the latest diplomatic skirmish ignited by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. President Obama spoke with the French president about the report, Monday.

Federal prosecutors say Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, the California security guard accused of plotting to become an al Qaeda operative, had been enlisted to train fighters for a planned attack on coalition forces. The 24-year-old was arrested earlier this month, trying to leave the country. Agents say he was carrying a forged passport and a large amount of Syrian currency.

Bogus court papers considered a cottage industry in Florida. The state's police chief saying they led to the escape of convicted murderers Charles Walkers and Joseph Jenkins as well as one other jailbreak and several other attempts. Florida prison officials now have to check with judges to make sure those release orders are legitimate. Walkers and Jenkins were recaptured Saturday night.

This morning, fires continue to burn out of control in Australia. Firefighters fear the worst is yet to come. Wildfires nearly a thousand miles long have moved through the most populous state in Australia. They're saying the fire is the size of Los Angeles. With high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds, fire officials are urging residents to evacuate from the path of those fires.

This is a dream come true and an incredible story. Zach Hodskins, a star basketball player from Georgia, was born missing the lower half of his left arm. He's going to be a Florida Gator. He's made a verbal commitment to play for University of Florida as a preferred walk-on. Hodskins tells ESPN that Gators coach, Billy Donovan, said he'll be treated like every other player and will have the same chance to play if he works hard. In Zach, Gator Nation is getting a solid kid. We wish him the best. It going to be really great to watch him.

BOLDUAN: You see right there when you look at the tape.

PEREIRA: He has skills. He has got skills. He plans on hustling, too. He'll work hard.

CUOMO: Stories don't get any better than that in sports. That's what sports are about, overcoming.

BOLDUAN: Let's get straight over to Indra for another look at the forecast this morning. Still cold? Any better?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, yeah. We're talking about snow now. So we know things are changing when we talk about snow. This is actually South Dakota, Andover, South Dakota. Hard to tell, but yes, it is snowing and the reason it matters, we'll see the system spread. So even snow possible today in through Chicago. You can actually see we have an Alberta Clipper. It's the cold air from Alberta, Canada that has made its way through the region. So that's one system.

There's another system out there today, you can see the line of showers from New York down through Tennessee. A couple things going on. I think the bigger story will be the temperature drop with each one of these systems making its way through. Look at the difference in front of the cold front and behind the cold front. Charleston right now, 46 degrees, Indianapolis, right at the freezing mark at 32. In Chicago they have a freeze warning currently below freezing at 30 degrees. So as we see that cold front shift to the east, all this cold air that you're currently seeing in the Midwest will eventually make its way into the mid-Atlantic and northeast as well.

Speaking of highs, these look like lows but no, Chicago today your high 41 degrees. That is a chill. Cleveland today also about 51 degrees. So definitely below normal for them. You can see the jet stream has dipped down. Take a look at the entire country. You can see the cold pool of air.

These are today's highs. I want to take you into tomorrow. Notice Boston is about 69, Atlanta 71. Look at the drop by tomorrow. Boston drops almost 20 degrees down it their highs about 51 degrees. Whatever you want to do outside, today is the day. Enjoy it. Tomorrow, my Uggs are coming down, guys.

BOLDUAN: Whatever you want to do. Batten down the hatches.

CUOMO: It will be in the 50s.

PETERSONS: That's my point.


PEREIRA: We'll have to love her through this.

CUOMO: She'll be in an eco bubble, then in like two months. Can't wait to see that.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, boy, we've been showing you this this morning, a near collision, two jumbo jets coming dangerously close. We have to know why except the reason why is not going to make you feel much better.


CUOMO: Two jumbo jets with as many as 1,000 people on board come dangerously close to each other, a near collision over Scotland. Now, they're investigating why and the answer is even more troubling. CNN's Rene Marsh is in Washington with the latest. What do we know?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. You know the two planes were about to cross the Atlantic ocean and this morning, investigators say this near collision in the sky was due to pilot error. What they still do not know this morning is why these pilots got it so wrong.


MARSH: Midair over Scotland, two 747 jumbo jets carrying up to 1,000 passengers are on a path to collide. British investigators say it's because the pilots didn't follow the instructions from air traffic control.

STEVEN WALLACE, FORMER FAA CHIEF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: This is very hard to explain because it appears that two airplanes with two pilots in each airplane, everybody got it wrong initially.

MARSH: The problems started when one plane, jet two, asked the control tower for clearance to climb in altitude. It was cleared. But that put it at the same altitude as another plane, jet one. The two planes were now on a converging path and moving closer by the second. The controller realizing that stepped in to prevent a collision.

WALLACE: He gave instructions to the pilot on the right to go to the right and on the left to go to the left. The conclusion of the British investigators was that each pilot did what the other pilot was instructed to do and the planes turned toward each other.

MARSH: At their closest point, the two planes were about 3 miles apart horizontally and 100 feet vertically. That's under the minimum separation requirement.

WALLACE: We have several layers of protection, and we got down to some of the last ones here. One pilot saw the other airplane, and said so, and the collision avoidance system activated properly.

MARSH: The plane's automatic alarms alerted the pilots and they corrected their paths. Former FAA accident investigator Steven Wallace says it's rare four pilots get the instructions so wrong. But the safety nets kicked in and that, he says, should give comfort to airline passengers. He adds there hasn't been a collision between U.S. airliners since 1978.


MARSH: Well, investigators remain the at a loss for answers as to why four pilots, two in each plane, misheard or misinterpreted the control tower's instructions despite at least one of the crews repeating the instructions correctly. Investigators ruled out the possibility of call sign confusion, because the call signs for the two planes were so different. Another possibility investigators are looking into, whether the pilots were distracted. Chris?

BOLDUAN: All right, Rene, I'll take it. Thank you so much for that.

Let's talk more about this with Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. She's also an aviation attorney. Mary, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for taking the time.

MARY SCHIAVO, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Thank you, my pleasure.

BOLDUAN: As Rene just reported at their closest point, the planes were just 100 feet apart, feet apart vertically. A few miles apart horizontally. How close is that when you're talking about two 747 jumbo jets.

SCHIAVO: They are very close. When you read the actual report which I read overnight, at one point they were 1.6 miles just before the actual final t-cast, or collision avoidance went off on the planes. That's basically a collision without casualty. That's closer than any rules allow, no matter how congested the air space. Fortunately, the planes themselves averted the disaster at the last moment.

BOLDUAN: So you have two sets of pilots, two different planes, all appear to have misinterpreted or misheard the instructions from air traffic control. What do you think happened here with your experience?

SCHIAVO: I think in some parts, and reading the actual report, some of the transmissions were on top of each other, they were garbled. There is some criticism, I think, due for the air traffic controller. The air traffic controller saw the conflict looming but did not act immediately to separate the planes further. There was one controller on a break, a supervisor was coming on duty. There was a switch of duty times going on in the air traffic control towers. So I think also the controllers could have acted more quickly to intervene.

BOLDUAN: And Rene talked about it a little bit in her piece, but let's talk about the safety equipment on board that should help, it seems did help, to avoid a collision. How does that come into play? When is that supposed to kick in?

SCHIAVO: You get alerts from your collision avoidance system, your t- cass (ph) at various points where you're getting too close to other traffic. Now here, the legal separation would have, depending on where they were in the flight, from 2.8 up to 5 miles. But the t-cas had given them warning, and then finally when they were at the very closest point, the t-cas system on the planes did exactly what it's supposed to do, it told plane one to descend immediately and plane two to climb and the pilots are supposed to not override that. They did not. Had they overridden that and waited for further instructions there would have been a disaster. The planes themselves descended, rose, the pilots did exactly what they were supposed to do at that point.

BOLDUAN: This happened back in June. The report coming out now. Probably passengers on board, it was combined about 1,000 people that were on these flights, they probably didn't know any different of course as it was happening because they were able to avoid it. Do you think after the fact, after we see this report that there should be repercussions even though it was a near miss and they did avoid the potential of a catastrophe?

SCHIAVO: Yes, what should happen, remember, for this report, there was a series of near collisions that were in this report from the UK, from April until June. There are about two dozen of them in this one report. What should happen is remedial training for the pilots and requirements that they actually read back the full instruction. One pilot read back the turning instructions, the other pilot just read back his call sign. They didn't get a complete readback on both. And then also the air traffic controllers, they need a little retraining, too. They should have stepped in sooner and been more aggressive with their collision avoidance.

BOLDUAN: People can at least take comfort in the fact as experts point out, there has not been a collision of U.S. airliners since the late '70s but to say the least, you don't want to get this close. Mary Schiavo, it's great to see you.

SCHIAVO: Thank heavens for equipment.

BOLDUAN: Thank heaven for the safety equipment. Exactly. Thank you so much. Great to see you. All right Chris, I'll send it over to you.

CUOMO: All right, we're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. Today is a crucial day in the murder trial of a prominent Utah doctor accused of drugging and drowning his own wife. HLN's Nancy Grace is out there monitoring the trial in Provo, Utah. She will join us.

Also, a fallen soldier's request for a Sponge Bob head stone is a no go, but it was her last wish. Should the cemetery keep its end of he deal? We'll take you through it.