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Official: Lost Jet "May Have Turned Back"; Reuters: Ukraine P.M. to U.S. This Week; Weed: Risks and Rewards

Aired March 9, 2014 - 08:00   ET


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Great to have you along with us on this Sunday morning. I'm Pamela Brown.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Joe Johns. Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell are off today.

It's 8:00. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

We begin with breaking news overnight on the Malaysia Airlines mystery at sea. Rescuers have expanded their search for the jet carrying 239 people including three Americans. And now, evidence suggests Flight 370 may have turned back before vanishing off the southern coast of Vietnam.

BROWN: Forty ships and 22 planes are now combing through those waters where miles long oil slicks have been spotted. Meantime, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to Asia as we speak and the FBI has offered to help.

JOHNS: We also know that two people who boarded the flight using stolen passports appear to have bought their tickets together and other names on the passenger manifest are raising questions about who was really on the plane.

BROWN: Now, while stolen passports are a stock in trade for human smugglers, officials are telling us that they have not ruled out terrorism at this point.

JOHNS: So, let's start with the new information about the plane's possible path that prompted investigators to expand their search off the waters of Vietnam and Malaysia.

BROWN: Jim Clancy joins us now by the phone from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

First off, Jim, we have been talking about this strange yellow object that searchers had spotted. What's the latest on that?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, we had heard reports that it had been examined and it was determined that it was not from the wreckage of Flight 370. However, we are waiting to hear confirmation of that from Malaysian officials. I'm at a press briefing right now that should start at any minute where we've got probably 200 journalists in the room and 40 or more cameras, all trained here as not only the people of Malaysia and the region but around the world keep their eyes focused on this story.

The plane was thought to have turned around at some point, according to the radar records. This is another thing that they have to investigate more closely to try to determine just what it was exactly that might have brought the aircraft down -- Pamela, Joe.

BROWN: And, of course, that also begs the question if the plane turned around, why didn't they send out a mayday call?

JOHNS: Absolutely.

We know at least two passengers boarded this flight using fake passports. What is the airport security like over there, and how possible is that?

CLANCY: Well, there's been some concern about how. There is an Interpol database that advises all airlines whether or not someone is trying to travel on a stolen passport. And at least one of these two individuals had their name in that database and yet that passport was used.

When asked about it, the airline official, the air safety official in Malaysia declined to give a yes or no. He dismissed the question questioning where it came from in fact. But that has raised some questions.

However, unless terrorism -- unless that individual was involved in terrorism, that still doesn't answer our questions. Our questions have to relate to why this aircraft went down, where it went down, and still there are no answers to those questions.

All options are open and as we heard earlier from one official here in Malaysia, don't anyone jump the gun. They're not dismissing terrorism. But they are he's not making that the sole focus of their investigation -- Joe, Pamela.


JOHNS: Yes, absolutely.

BROWN: Jim Clancy, we know you need you need to get to that press conference. We hope to learn more there. Thank you so much for your reporting.

JOHNS: Now, a little bit more. The U.S. Navy has joined the search for the missing aircraft.

Take a look, this is a P3C Orion taking off from U.S. base in Okinawa, Japan. It has specialized radar equipment with long-range search capabilities. The USS Pinckney, a U.S. destroyer, has also joining the hunt. It was training nearby in the South China Sea when the Malaysia Airlines flight first disappeared.

BROWN: And just last hour, a former inspector general with the U.S. Department of Transportation talk about what that new data about the plane changing course might suggest about what was happening on- board. Take a listen.


MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DOT: Well, news -- or speculation at least that it may have turned back may indicate some sort of a mechanical or catastrophic problem with the plane. You know, turning back, if you had experienced what we had had talked about yesterday, a catastrophic explosion or a catastrophic event, there wouldn't be time to turn back.

So, this does point to maybe something where at least the pilots had time to think about a strategy or a plan. But then again, once again we come back to had this plane. This is a 777. It is a very advanced plane and the plane itself sends out messages.

So again, we would look to hear from Malaysian Air, from Malaysia Air, to see if they had received any of these messages from the plane. Of course the pilots can also send out computer messages but the plane itself would have done it.

So -- and without the debris field, it's starting to be very mysterious.


JOHNS: There are also new developments this morning in the crisis in Ukraine. "Reuters" is reporting Ukraine's prime minister is going to head to the United States this week to discuss a diplomatic solution.

BROWN: This just one day after President Obama called European leaders to rally for support against Russia.

"STATE OF THE UNION" host Candy Crowley joins us now from Washington.

Good morning to you, Candy.

How critical is these latest developments?

CANDY CROWLEY, "STATE OF THE UNION" HOST: Well, obviously the president needs to know what the new government of Ukraine will go for and won't go for vis-a-vis Russia's concerns throughout the Ukraine, but in particular in Crimea. But the key here actually at this point is Moscow. I mean, the new Ukrainian government heavily supported -- or about to be -- by the U.S. and by Western nations clearly, you know, is probably more amenable to having negotiations, direct negotiations, with the Russians.

But at this point, Putin is not. I mean, he's sitting in Crimea. Not literal, of course, but his troops are. And they are -- Russia's clearly in control of that area of the Ukraine.

So, what the president really needs obviously is President Putin's agreement to meet in negotiations with the Ukrainian government. So, obviously, any time you can move the ball forward and I'm sure there are good reasons it's more practical for the acting president of the Ukraine to come here than for President Obama to go there.

But again, the real sticking point right now is that Putin is refusing to talk to the Ukrainian government which he doesn't consider legitimate.

BROWN: All right.

JOHNS: All right.

BROWN: Candy Crowley, thank you so much.

You can catch "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy just under an hour from now, right here on CNN.

JOHNS: Families around the world are waiting for word on what's happened to their loved ones on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

BROWN: They include the family of this man right here, American Phil Wood.

JOHNS: And the mystery deepens as investigators try to determine why two passengers on the plane with stolen passports were traveling together.


JOHNS: A Texas company says 20 of its employees were on the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared. The company Freescale Semiconductor says 12 of those employees were from Malaysia. Eight are from China. The company has set up counselors to be available for family members of those employees.

BROWN: And three Americans were aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, including Phil Wood. Wood's family says the 50-year- old father of two was, quote, "a man of God, a man of honor and integrity." Wood had been working for IBM in Asia. A long-time friend who knew Wood for more than 30 years says he was a wonderful person who had loved to travel since he was a teenager.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His job with IBM took him multiple places around the world. He was in the process of being transferred from Beijing to Malaysia. He loved the world. He loved everyone.


BROWN: He also said that it felt like a gut punch when he heard his long-time friend was on that missing plane.

JOHNS: No doubt, a gut punch that a lot of family members of people on that plane are feeling right now. BROWN: Yes, just an agonizing wait for them.

JOHNS: This morning, U.S. and Chinese and Malaysian authorities are trying to figure out how two passengers with stolen passports apparently managed to get on board Flight 370.

BROWN: Yes, they apparently bought their tickets at the same time and were also hearing that authorities are looking into the identities of a number of other passengers that have raised suspicions.

CNN's David McKenzie is following this for us in Beijing.

Hi, David.

First of all, tell us more about this mystery regarding the stolen passport and these tickets.


Yes, this is definitely disturbing development. These two individuals who were clearly impersonating an Italian and an Austrian national were able to buy tickets. It appears that they bought them together off a Chinese airline that was co-shared with this Malaysian Airlines flight. They were due to go to Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, on to Europe, then split up to two separate destinations.

At this stage, unclear, of course, what their intent was. But just moments ago, Malaysian authorities say they've seen security footage of these two individuals that they suspect of impersonating people who were not on the flight, of course, and they say they can't give any more details because they are in active discussions with counterterrorism officials.

The Malaysian authorities telling reporters there that they cannot rule anything out at this stage.

JOHNS: The video that they have that has helped them to determine that these tickets were bought at the same time?

MCKENZIE: No. The reason we know they were bought at the same time is we were able to dig in to the official Chinese e-ticketing system and it details that these tickets were issued together, paid for in Thai baht, the currency from Thailand, and also that they were in fact routed together at least for the first two legs of that plane.

Again, we don't know what this means for this investigation, but certainly the authorities are saying the main thing now is that search and rescue, potentially recovery effort of this multinational group of vessels and planes scouring the South China Sea for any signs. Another bit of new information is that they are taking tests of an oil slick that they detected on the water there to see if it can provide any clues -- Joe and Pamela.

BROWN: And also, we're hearing that authorities are investigating the identities of some of the other passengers on-board aside from the two we just talk about, David. What do you know about that?

MCKENZIE: Well, what we do know, it's not entirely unusual for there to be discrepancies in the manifest. So, certainly, the authorities in Malaysia and FBI and others who are going to be involved in this investigation would be carefully going over all the names in that manifest and trying to figure out who was on the plane, who wasn't and where there might be some question marks.

Again, sometimes it takes weeks, if not months to figure out what happens to a plane when it all goes wrong. Other developments today is that authorities say that the plane turned around before it vanished from radar, which also would pose some unusual questions because that is an extremely rarity, to vanish while in cruising altitude.

BROWN: Absolutely.

JOHNS: A long investigation, in all probability. A lot of facts still to be uncovered.

BROWN: Everything on the table. Thank you so much.

JOHNS: David McKenzie, thanks.

BROWN: And also, you think about the passports, these stolen passports -- it doesn't necessarily lead to the fact there was a criminal act. There could be any number of reasons.

JOHNS: Sure. Somebody just trying to get from one place to another --

BROWN: Right.

JOHNS: -- and switching their identification in order to do that. So, we'll see.

BROWN: Absolutely. So, still a lot to learn.

Still to come right here on NEW DAY, we're talking about weed.

JOHNS: Dr. Sanjay Gupta doubling down this week in support of the controversial drug. But where do addiction experts stand on medical marijuana? We'll ask one right after this.


BROWN: Welcome pack. It has been eight months since CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta first made headlines coming out in support of medical marijuana.

JOHNS: And now, he's doubling down for part two, bringing us more scientific proof on the controversial drug in a new documentary "Weeds 2: Cannabis Madness."

But the debate on weed is far from settled. Joining us now for more, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of the advocacy group, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, and the chief medical officer of Phoenix House, a non-profit addiction treatment organization.

You believe weed is not a gateway drug? Why do you say that?

DR. ANDREW KOLODNY, PHYSICIANS FOR RESPONSIBLE OPIOID PRESCRIBING: Well, we don't have evidence that use of marijuana necessarily leads to use of harder drugs like heroin or cocaine. In fact, there's some evidence from communities that have been using marijuana heavily for over the past 20 years that we haven't really seen a progression to harder drug use.

That said, I think there are still some real risks with marijuana. Drug itself can cause addiction in some people. Some people who use marijuana will use the drug so heavily that it begins to have negative effects on them. That's especially a problem in young adults and teenagers.

BROWN: In the U.S., marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 substance define as the most dangerous drug with no currently accepted medical use. Is weed really as bad as drugs like heroin and LSD?

KOLODNY: No. Well, weed is definitely not as dangerous as heroin and is not as dangerous as drugs that are right now schedule 2 or schedule 3 drugs. The Controlled Substances Act was written about 40 years ago, and over the past 40 years we've learned a lot more about the potential risks and benefits of many of the medications that have been scheduled.

For example, we have Vicodin which was put into schedule 3 which is a highly addictive drug and that's a mistake that's going to hopefully be corrected, shortly. We've got an epidemic of people addicted to drugs like Vicodin. I think it is possible that cannabis would be more appropriately placed on schedule 2.

JOHNS: So, why is it so controversial? Why is there such a stigma to it? Dr. Gupta noted when he's making that new documentary, many doctors and scientists were, he said, quote, "worried about being ostracized even for discussing the potential of marijuana."

Why is that?

KOLODNY: Unfortunately, science is not leading this discussion and this debate. I think we really need rational scientifically based discussions and we need to be making policy based on science, not on emotion.

Just last week, we heard that a new opioid painkiller Zohydro is going to be hitting the market. This is a drug that's basically heroin in a capsule that the FDA just approved over complaints of an advisory committee. So again, if we were making scientifically based decisions, we probably wouldn't have marijuana in schedule 1.

JOHNS: Fascinating.

BROWN: The ongoing debate.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, thank you. JOHNS: It's been going on for years and years, you know. All the way back to "just say no," marijuana was lumped in there. Now you start finding some benefits. It's hard it to change people's minds.

BROWN: Where they stand on medical marijuana, recreational marijuana.

So, we appreciate your insight, doctor. Thank you so much.

And don't miss the premier of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "Weed 2: Cannabis Madness", right here on CNN, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, on Tuesday.

JOHNS: Still coming up here on NEW DAY: frightening moments in the sky caught on camera.

BROWN: As a small plane collides with a sky diver. Unbelievable. The full story just ahead.


JOHNS: Police have busted what could be one of the largest known counterfeit schemes in the United States.

BROWN: Authorities say these two brothers from New York made millions by selling knockoffs of products like ChapStick, Johnson's Baby Oil and Vaseline up and down the East Coast.

JOHNS: On Thursday, police seized four tractor-trailer full of counterfeit products, including over the counter medications.

BROWN: Both brothers expected to appear in court on Tuesday and are being held on $100,000 bond.

JOHNS: And George Zimmerman, you know that name, all smiles this weekend at a Florida gun show, autographing photos, greeting the small crowd that came out to see the controversial guest of honor.

According to reports, the gun show was forced to move out of its original larger venue because of public backlash. It's been just over two years since the former neighborhood watch captain shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

BROWN: A terrifying plane collision caught on camera. You're going to want to take a look at this.

JOHNS: Check this out. Still images showing a small Cessna aircraft slamming into a skydiver and throwing him almost 75 feet to the ground. Spectacular.

BROWN: Thankfully, neither the skydiver nor the pilot were seriously injured. You think when you jump out of a plane, the worst would happen before --

(CROSSTALK) JOHNS: That's unbelievable. And the plane is no worse -- well, looks like the plane -- I take it back. The plane's front is totally destroyed.

All right. So -- anyway, President Obama has been getting blamed for not being tough enough when it comes to Russia.

BROWN: Take, for instance, this statement from Sarah Palin.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Lookit: people are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.


JOHNS: So, last night, "Saturday Night Live" decided to give President Obama a makeover, make him a little tougher.

BROWN: Here's what they came up with.


JOHNS: Oh, man!

BROWN: That look on his face, priceless.

Thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

JOHNS: John King starts now.