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Mechanical or Human Failure?; Biden Warns Asian Leaders; Massive 8-Alarm Fire in Boston; White House Launching Obamacare Campaign; Health Scare At 30,000 Feet; Fast & Furious Crash

Aired December 3, 2013 - 08:00   ET


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deepening the mystery, the NTSB says the train inexplicably went from 60 to 82 miles per hour in two minutes before hitting the curve and jumping the tracks.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: For a train to be going 82 miles an hour around that curve is just a frightening thought.

MARSH: Mechanical problem or human error? It's still too early to tell. Investigators say the train made nine stops before jumping the tracks and there were no reports of brake problems. According to a law enforcement official, Rockefeller said he tried to brake but the train didn't stop.

The 20-year railroad veteran appeared coherent, another official said. Results of drug and alcohol tests are not yet known. The NTSB will also look at whether fatigue was a factor.

EARL WEENER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: We will be developing what we call a 72-hour timeline so we have a good understanding of what sort of activities preceded this accident.

MARSH: Sources tell CNN, Rockefeller's phone records have been subpoenaed, but based on a preliminary review, it's not believed the engineer was on his phone at the time of the derailment that killed four.

Among them, Jim Lovell, who was commuting to work on Sunday morning.

FINN LOVELL, FATHER KILLED FROM CRASH: My dad was not a victim. He was a loving father, great dad, best friend, uncle. I am so proud and blessed that I was able to call him my father.


MARSH: All right. Not only was this train going too fast, but power to the engine wasn't cut and brakes weren't applied until seconds before the train came to a stop far too late, and the NTSB says there's no indication that the brakes were tampered with.

Now, in addition to Rockefeller, the rest of the train crew will be interviewed and we now know this morning the Bronx D.A.'s office is now involved in the investigation. So, if any criminal charges are brought it will likely be done by the Bronx D.A. Back to you, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks for the reporting this morning. We appreciate it.

We're going to go to Tokyo now where Vice President Biden is trying to ease tensions between Japan and China. He's visiting both countries this week after China unilaterally air space over disputed group of islands. Now, officials say if the situation goes too far, the U.S. is bound by treaty to defend Japan.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. What's the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Chris. Biden is in Tokyo. You know, the whole trip to Asia was really supposed to focus on trade and the economy. Now the focus? The Chinese military.


STARR (voice-over): Vice President Joe Biden with one eye toward a possible 2016 bid is getting the chance to flex his international muscle power in Asia.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has an interest in the lowering of tensions in this vital region, as I believe all the countries in Northeast Asia share that same interest with us.

STARR: Biden in crisis manager mode arrived in Tokyo as the region confronts a power grab by Beijing. China declared it now controls a vast portion of the air space over the East China Sea and remote islands that both China and Japan claim. Biden will bluntly ask the Chinese leaders their military intentions when he stops in China next. U.S. officials worry China's ultimate aim is a confrontation with Japan.

BIDEN: We, the United States, are deeply concerned by the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in East China Sea. This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation.

STARR: China is demanding aircraft flying through the zone file flight plans and maintain radio contact. While some U.S. commercial liners are complying, U.S. military aircraft will not. And the Obama administration is making clear it rejects China's declaration of the air defense identification zone.

JEN PSAKI, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This in no way indicates U.S. government's acceptance of China's requirements.

STARR: The U.S. insists it will continue flying military aircraft through the Chinese zone and has begun a long plan deployment of advanced of P-8 reconnaissance aircraft to Japan that can carry torpedoes, missiles, bombs and mines. (END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, Biden arrives in Beijing tomorrow. The U.S. clearly wants this restriction zone rolled back. They're not saying that openly but that's what they want. They also want to make sure that China doesn't establish more air space restrictions in areas, especially that the U.S. considers international air space -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Barbara, we'll keep an eye on that with you. Thank you so much for that.

Let's take a look now at the other headlines. We're starting with breaking news that we have been following, local media reporting firefighters have a huge eight-alarm fire in Boston under control. The fast-moving fire engulfing a five-story brick building in south Boston. A local station crews were able to get it under control in about an hour. That building was under renovation. Everyone inside was able to escape safely.

A public health alert this morning. Hong Kong reporting its first human case of the H7N9 strain of bird flu. Made the move from bird to humans earlier this year in China and left more than 40 people dead. Hong Kong patient reportedly visited China last month and had contact with poultry there. She is in hospital in critical condition. Hong Kong has suspended imports of live poultry from three Chinese farms.

911 calls made as the Sandy Hook massacre unfolded will be released tomorrow. Police in Newtown, Connecticut, said calls lasting 25 minutes will be made public. State officials deciding not to appeal a court ruling last week to release the calls. As you'll recall, 20 children and six educators were shot and killed in that rampage almost one year ago.

An American sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison makes a direct appeal to President Obama. Today, marking four years since Alan Gross was arrested for bringing banned communications equipment into China as part of a State Department program to increase internet access.

Now, in a letter to the president, Gross says he feels as though the government abandoned him and he believes only President Obama's intervention can get him home.

All right, Kate, fascinating research. Indra, pay attention. For the first time shows how different men and women's brains are. It's science, people. Scientists scanned the brains of more than 900 young men and women and confirmed something that many of us ladies have suspected. Our brains are hardwired to multitask.

Now, gentlemen, we love you. Your brains are better at focusing on single, complex tasks. Researchers say women --

CUOMO: By fixing what women multitask on.

PEREIRA: -- left and right brains are much better connected. I'll say it again. Left and right brains in women are much better connected. Men have more intense activity in individual sections of the brain. I could make a -- I won't actually. I'll just leave that because --

BOLDUAN: Leave it.

PEREIRA: I have a bit of a naughty thought there.

CUOMO: The brain doing too much at once?



PEREIRA: That's exactly what it was.

PETERSONS: Single simple tasks for men. I don't know where the complex -- that was a nice add.

CUOMO: Protect the classes.


CUOMO: Say one thing about you guys, it's like forget it. It's a three-week apology.

PEREIRA: I love this Kate. She's like, zip it.

BOLDUAN: Someone's got to.

PEREIRA: All right. Let's talk about the weather, guys. Once again, we're going to be talking about -- notice the temperatures and the temperature change. This is today. Check out, Dallas, maybe New Orleans, St. Louis, Denver. Dallas look at these 70s especially as we drop into Saturday.

That is what we call a temperature drop thanks to arctic air. This arctic air will be diving down into the south for a reason. Look at this huge system. We're talking about all these advisories today. Minneapolis, really all the way through Reno, back through California.

We are talking about snow advisories today. Winter storms out there thanks to the low, spreading farther down to the south and the system continuing to make its way east. So, as that happens, more cold air comes in behind it and, of course, more snow falls.

This is the upside to it. Now, look at that, one to two feet of snow in Denver. Great skiing in a lot of resorts now. Already out there early season, which is great. But the backside of it, of course, is that cold air. You're really dipping down, making a huge change for the second half of our workweek.

Now, notice, we're going to start to see the rain into the Southeast. Notice anywhere really from, it looks like -- yes, New York all the way through Texas and freezing rain looks like Illinois back through Dallas. That's the concern. That's the problem we saw last week, when we talk about freezing rain and travel conditions kind of being hampered.

So, that's the big concern. But overall, it's just a chill. Adjusted to 55 and it's nice but then it drops again quickly. So, not really.

PEREIRA: It's thickening a little bit, maybe?

PETERSONS: You know, I don't know. We'll find out, right?

BOLDUAN: It's thicker skin working on this show. That's what it is.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

PETERSONS: No comment.

CUOMO: Thicker skin, as they all attack me about the size of my brain.

Coming up on "NEW DAY", though, maybe it must be male brains at work at the White House --

BOLDUAN: Oh, my goodness.

CUOMO: -- focused on a single complex topic, Obamacare. The big fix? A major PR push is planned for Obamacare that will show how the law helps fixed a truly troubled health care system. Is a PR campaign the right fix at the right time? We'll discuss it.

BOLDUAN: Also, we're going to get you an update on a frightening health scare for passengers on a flight, on a plane to Phoenix. This morning, they're asking how a man who may have tuberculosis was ever allowed to get on the flight. We'll have the latest for you in that investigation.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY".

They've refreshed the Web site. Now, they're refocusing the message. The Obama administration is starting a three-week campaign -- I guess you could call it today -- to push the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. An official telling CNN that the president will kick off the big PR push this afternoon at the White House.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is there, as always, with the details. So what is the White House saying, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the president wants to focus on the Affordable Care Act instead of the website. But, of course, there is still attention on the website, especially because one of the expectations that the administration put out for the 50,000 people could be using it at any given time isn't actually where the website is. It was supposed to be 50,000 yesterday. We understand that in between about 30,000 and 40,000, that's actually when the website started pushing some people out of the queue, I guess you could say, making the Web site unavailable to them.

So, it's still a bit of a work in progress, something that the White House is acknowledging.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that we're not done with the work that needs to be done on that Web site. But we have, I think, passed an important milestone when it comes to making it work effectively for the vast majority of users.


KEILAR: And it is working, no doubt, but insurers are saying they're still having a number of issues and so they're worried that they think people who think they are enrolled in insurance ultimately aren't.

And, Chris and Kate, this is really an important time. This was an anticipated heavy period for the Web site because a lot of folks are going to be trying to sign up. They want insurance or they need insurance to be effective as of January 1st. So, this is a big month for that as the president pushes, beginning this afternoon, to try to create awareness around this program now that the website is working a little better.

CUOMO: All right. Appreciate the reporting this morning. We'll be watching the numbers, just like everybody else.

You heard about this one, the scare in the air? You leave a plane -- what you usually hear from this crew is bye-bye. But now, imagine, if instead you hear them say, hey, a fellow passenger had TB and you should get tested right away. Well, that's exactly what happened aboard a US Airways flight from Austin, Phoenix. CNN's Casey Wian is in Phoenix covering this for us. Casey, what was the main cause of this?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the main cause of this, Chris, is the fact that by the time this passenger's doctor notified health authorities that he possibly had contracted tuberculosis and by the time those health authorities notified the TSA, that passenger was already on an airplane. Needless to say, other passengers at this point are very worried.


WIAN (voice-over): For Dean Davidson, a routine flight from Austin, Texas, to Phoenix Saturday is now a waiting game after potentially being exposed to tuberculosis on the plane. Once his US Airways flight landed, the pilot announced there was a health emergency on board and the airline was preparing a gate to accommodate a sick passenger.

DEAN DAVIDSON, PASSENGER: While this was occurring, a flight attendant approached us with a mask in her hands -- you cover your nose with. And she approached a man. He was about mid cabin, I would say, to my left, a window seat, a very slightly built man and told him to put the mask on.

WIAN: As emergency personnel waited at the gate, the passenger was escorted off the plane.

DAVIDSON: Immediately, a fireman came aboard and he said that a person on a no-fly list had somehow managed to get aboard. This person had tuberculosis, that we had been exposed during the entire course of the flight, that we needed to consult with our physicians immediately and be tested in three months.

WIAN: The Centers for Disease Control and county officials in Arizona and Texas say the man was put on the no-fly list while his flight was in the air after his doctor notified authorities that he was suspected of having TB. They're still waiting for definitive test results and say even if the passenger has TB, there's little risk to other passengers, because the flight was short, and reportedly, he was not coughing.

Still, Davidson says he's frustrated and worried by what he calls a lack of information from health officials and US Airways. The Maricopa County Health Department says at this point they're not recommending that anybody needs to get tested.


WIAN: Does that surprise you?

DAVIDSON: It really surprises me. This is the first I've heard of this.

WIAN: If all this sounds familiar, you may remember the case of Atlantan, Andrew Speaker who in 2007 caused an international uproar when he flew to Europe then Canada despite the fact that he'd been diagnosed with an even more dangerous drug resistant strain of TB.


WIAN (on-camera): Now, in this case, health officials here in phoenix say they're actually more worried that someone on that flight may have contracted the flu as compared to the relatively small chance that anyone caught TB on that flight -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Casey, thank you very much.

Coming up next on "NEW DAY", new video this morning showing the moments the car carrying actor, Paul Walker, crashed. Police say they were not drag racing. So what, then, caused the fatal accident?

CUOMO: And forget about the waiter. Talk to the tablet. One popular restaurant chain has a plan that could change your dining experience forever, but it could cost a lot of people big. We'll tell you about it.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". It's Tuesday, November 3rd. November 3rd. I wish. December 3rd.

Coming up, are you the same as a chimpanzee? Should chimpanzees have the same rights as humans? It is not a joke. It's what one animal rights group is saying, filing an unusual lawsuit that could, I guess, change the way we live with less primates. We will tell you all about it.

BOLDUAN: Yes, we will. And was the idea that being obese and healthy, an idea we've talked quite a lot about it was made quite a stir, is that idea a myth? A new study may have debunked it. We'll be talking about it.

PEREIRA: But right now, it is time for the five things you need to know for your "NEW DAY".


PEREIRA (voice-over): Starting at number one, the train that derailed in the Bronx was going 82 miles an hour at the time of the accident. Officials are lurking into whether the failure to slow down in time was mechanical or human failure.

Vice President Joe Biden in Tokyo, urging calm between China and Japan. They're in the middle of a seething dispute over airspace. VP Biden will meet with leaders in both nations.

The first human case of a new type of bird flu has been reported in Hong Kong. The particular strain already has killed dozens of people in China.

A federal judge expected to rule on whether to allow the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. The city of Detroit is facing an estimated $18 billion in debt.

And at number five, the capital Christmas tree will be lit in Washington, D.C. tonight. That tree will feature approximately 5,000 hand-crafted ornaments. It is an 88-foot spruce and will be lit each night through January 1st.


PEREIRA (on-camera): We always update those five things to know. So, go to for the very latest.

Now, Indra is here with five things you should know about your weather forecast, or at least, five days or something like that.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Something like that. I'm going to try and figure out -- I's better be quick on this. I don't know if I'm that quick. All right. We're taking a look at the southeast right now. You can actually see a little wave of energy kicking through. Not a big deal. We're talking about some extra clouds, a little bit of light rain, similar to what you saw yesterday. As the big deal is way again out in the Pacific Northwest, that big storm. We're going to get to that, but first, let's start with where it's actually so nice. Again, we talked about the south. Look at these temperatures, today 62 in Atlanta, tomorrow actually gets better. Yes. 70s will be out there, but notice the difference. Chicago gets warmer by Wednesday and then it dips down a good 20 degrees.

So let's talk about that story and we know where we have to go to do that, out west where we have that big system again, that huge snow maker, one to two feet of snow is going to be out there in Minnesota today, getting some good snow, and even farther down to the south. So in Colorado starting to get some of that heavier stuff or heavier snow farther south.

So, again, let's talk about the system where it's going, yes, dipping farther to the south and moving east. But here is the key. As it does so, so does the cold air. It dives down right with it. We are calling this an arctic blast, because it literally has that frigid factor.

I mean, it is so chilly, these temperatures, that we're going to start to see not only snow but also keep in mind the dangerous side of this, we're looking at the chances for that wintry mix and even some freezing rain potential will be out there. That's Illinois again kind of back through Texas right around Dallas. We had that similar threat just a week ago.

Also in the southeast for now, it looks like we will be seeing just rain in that region. For the snow, kind of going anywhere from it looks like New York also back through that panhandle of Texas. That's kind of the big story. For the rest of us, just enjoy the temperatures now. Always love to show you this, because they're stylus (ph).

Check out New Orleans. Look at those 70s. Even check out Denver, yes, not 70s but 49 degrees there, and then look at the drop, good 30- degree if not 40-degree drop for so many of you in that three or 40 degrees below normal, Michaela and that is just an ouch factor.

PEREIRA: It is, but we're going to keep you warm in here. I promise.

PETERSONS: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Indra Petersons, thanks so much.

To a story that we've been watching very closely. Newly released surveillance video shows the very moment "Fast & Furious" star, Paul Walker's Porsche land into a tree and burst into flames. That video was taken from a building across a parking lot from the crashed site. Walker and his friend, Roger Rodas, were killed Monday.

Police said they were not involved in an illegal street race when they crashed. So, what exactly happened in those final moments? Let's bring in editor of "Drag Racing Online" magazine, Mr. Jeff Burk. Thank you so much for joining us today, Mr. Burk. We appreciate you being here on CNN.

JEFF BURK, EDITOR, DRAG RACING ONLINE MAGAZINE: Thank you, Michaela. Glad to be here.

PEREIRA: We just mentioned, county officials ruled out the presence of a second car and drag racing. What has not been ruled out is speed. Can you give us any indications of what you might think may have happened in those final moments?

BURK: You know, without being there, that's a real stretch. But obviously, something went wrong and my guess would be that something mechanical went wrong. I mean, we're talking about two very experienced drivers in a very well prepared race car. So, something must have happened mechanically. But that's a guess on my part.

PEREIRA: Well, let's talk about the car and the mechanics of it. We know that this car -- we're told that the Porsche Carrera GT is a notoriously hard car to handle. Tell us about some of the other characteristics of the car that make it different from the regular car that you and I may drive as our daily driver.

BURK: Well, for one thing, it's got a really high horsepower engine. It has, you know, probably a six-speed transmission, 14, 16-inch wide tires. It's not designed to drive on the street. It's designed to drive at speed in a controlled climate on a racetrack. So, you know, it would just be a handful for anybody to drive on the street.

PEREIRA: Another thing is the gas tank is in the front. Do you think that may have played into the explosion here?

BURK: I would have to say that's probably true, if the gas tank is in the front. You impact a tree at a high rate of speed, bad things are going to happen.

PEREIRA: You're a racer yourself.

BURK: Uh-huh.

PEREIRA: You are a fan and supporter of, you know, closed circuit racing, drag racing in a closed circuit, not out on the open road where it's illegal.

BURK: Correct.

PEREIRA: Tell us what your gut is, because I know you got a gut feeling about what went on here.

BURK: As I said, I really believe that those guys were probably out testing that car after they had done some work on it. From what I have read and listened to, the guy's shop was right there. So, they probably just took it out to, you know -- to test something they had worked on that day. And something bad happened. But understand, race cars inherently are dangerous.

I mean, that is just a fact of life. So -- and it's not anything that you could do that's predictable. And so, those guys just -- you know, it was probably -- to use an old saw, that was probably the perfect storm. Something happened. Something broke. I mean, you really can't ask me to give you an idea and that because I simply wasn't there.

PEREIRA: No, I understand that and I appreciate that.

BURK: But anyway, you know, it's obvious, something went really wrong. And you guys have a lot of video of it happening now so you could probably know more than I do on that. But, the thing about it that I think people need to understand is that, you know, drag racing, per se, is something that's done at a sanctioning body like NHRA, IHRA or DADRL, American Drag Racing League, and it's done at tracks like gateway international out here on St. Louis.

On a Wednesday night, they have a program that for $10, anybody can bring their street car off the street and do what they want to do. And the issue we have now is that so many young people, the "Fast & Furious" movies are about street racing. So, they see that. They emulate that. So, these two guys (INAUDIBLE) to that category, but that's what the program was. They took a race car, designed to be on a race track, onto a city street. That's not good.

PEREIRA: And Jeff Burk, we want to actually say that this is a great opportunity to remind folks that if they've got a little lead in their foot to take it to one of those circuits. There are those places where you can race those cars legally. Drag racing organizations like the ones you're involved in and talk about in your magazine.

I want to say a big thank you to Jeff Burk for giving us a little insight into that vehicle that was involved in the crash. Thanks so much for your time.

BURK: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it very much.