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Latest on Missing Malaysian Air Flight; Is Crimea Already Lost to Russia; Medical Marijuana Could Revolutionize Pain Medicine.

Aired March 10, 2014 - 11:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Back to the big question @ THIS HOUR that many people are asking, how on earth could a jetliner disappear without a trace?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. Navy sending a second warship to help search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The flight vanished early Saturday morning, 239 people on board. We now know that at least two of the passengers were using stolen passports.

So let's go to Washington and bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, what are you learning about the two passengers with the stolen passports?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John, we are learning from Malaysian authorities they have been able to pinpoint those two passengers based on video taken from the airport and they've able to say that one of the passengers was black and the other was not Asia. That's the information we have right now.

We still don't know what their names are, if they were affiliated with any terrorism groups, what their intent was for boarding that plane with those stolen passports. There might not be a link at all between these two people with their stolen passports and the fact that the plane is now missing. Of course, it is quite a suspicious coincidence. But that's something authorities are looking into, who are these people and what was their intent boarding that plane?

PEREIRA: Yeah. It may not be a link. Of course, it does raise a red flag. We have certainly be hearing from a lot of smart people and a lot of officials saying, look, it is not that unusual for airline passengers to use stolen pass ports. Regular travelers like us think that is crazy and quite alarming. How common is this practice?

BROWN: I have been speaking with law enforcement officials and they are telling me that you may be surprised to learn that it is something that does happen, especially among drug, weapons, human traffickers. They will often try to use these stolen passports to board planes. Here in the U.S., authorities routinely check passports for inbound and outbound passengers on international flights and a number of databases, including Interpol's lost and stolen passport database. The numbers are really alarming here. Check this out. Out of 800 million searches of the Interpol database a year, there are 60,000 hits of lost or stolen passports. And more than one billion people fly every year worldwide without having their passports cross referenced with Interpol's database. So there is no way of actually knowing how many of those passports were lost, stolen or counterfeit.

PEREIRA: Pamela Brown in D.C. with the latest on Malaysian Air 370. We are keeping an eye on that. As soon as any information comes, we will make sure to pass it along.

BERMAN: It's crazy. I have been pulled out of so many lines in so many countries and patted down, it is amazing to think so many could travel with stolen passports.

PEREIRA: A big question is, if the security levels across the globe are uniform and strict enough. That's one thing they're looking at.

BERMAN: Clearly not.

PEREIRA: Apparently not, if you can travel with a stolen passport.

To another big story we are watching, Ukraine. We are less than a week away from a referendum over whether Crimea will remain part of Ukraine. Pro-Russian forces keep tightening their grip on the Crimea Peninsula.

BERMAN: Ukraine's defense ministry says its armed forces are at full combat readiness.

Our own correspondent on the ground in Ukraine says Russian troops are creating a new border between Crimea and the rest of the Ukraine.

The defense ministry also reports that Pro-Russian activists forced their way into a military hospital and threw out the hospital chief.

PEREIRA: Ukraine's prime minister is meeting with President Obama at the White House on Wednesday. The big conversation will be about the crisis in Crimea.

But things are moving really quickly. Some experts are saying that Crimea is already lost to Russia, something Senator John McCain told our Chris Cuomo that he reluctantly agrees with.


CHRIS CUOMO, CO-HOST, NEW DAY: What do we do? Do you think we get them out of Crimea or is it as the former Secretary Gates said, Crimea is gone, you can't get it back?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: I hate to admit it but I'm afraid that is the case. I predicted Crimea, because I predicted Putin would never give up Sevastopol. Now I don't know whether he is going to take eastern Ukraine in a defacto kind of partition with the eastern part of Ukraine or not. I think it depends on what he thinks the consequences are. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: We are joined by analyst, Vladimir Posner.

Good to have you with us, Vladimir.

Do you think that Crimea is already lost to Russia?

VLADIMIR POSNER, CNN ANALYST: I rarely agree with Senator McCain, but reluctantly, I would have to say that I'm afraid that's the case. I hope it is not. I hope over the next two days, there will be a way of negotiating some type of settlement by which Crimea would be independent but not part of the Russian Federation. I don't think it's a good idea. And I think it's a dangerous one. I know that the majority of people in Crimea, being Russian, would very much like to be part of Russia. There is no doubt about it. The referendum, legitimate or not, that will be conducted, will show that. But still, formally, Crimea does belong to Ukraine. It is a bad example in my opinion.

BERMAN: It is hard to have a fair referendum when you are under occupation, which effectively Crimea is, with the Russian or at least pro Russian troops there.

Vladimir, let me ask you this. We talk about this issue of self- determination. One of the peculiar things about this story, both sides, you have the Russians and the United States sometimes speaking out of both sides of their mouth on the issue of self-determination. Let's take Russia. Vladimir Putin and the Russia government saying that, in Crimea, they should have the right to decide if they want to be part of Ukraine or Russia. This sounds different than saying Kosovo when the Russians weren't interested at all, and the Kosovors deciding which part of the country or what country they wanted to be part of. Doesn't sound like Chechnya. Doesn't sound like a lot of these independent movements that they tend to tamp down all over the world. What do you think about that?

POSNER: I think you are absolutely right. Politicians do speak out of both sides of their mouth. That's not just Russia. It is also the United States, vis a vis, Kosovo. The states played an important role in making sure Kosovo was no longer part of Serbia. This is what politicians do. And it's all about national interest and geopolitics. Quite frankly, it is sickening as far as I am concerned. I don't like it at all.

As for Crimea being occupied, let's try to be fair about this. Let's admit that Crimea was always part of Russia. When Khrushchev "gave it," -- I put that in quotes -- to Ukraine, it didn't mean anything. A lot of people felt that Crimea was still Russia. Basically, it is, in the sense of the number of Russians that live there. And I assure you, this will be a fair referendum, unhappily perhaps, but nobody is going to force people to become part of Russia. That's what they wanted to do. Today, in Moscow, I was present at two demonstrations, one against Russia's involvement in Ukraine, where there was about 100 people, and one for bringing Crimea into the Russian fold, and there were several thousand. That pretty much reflects the view. This is the reality of it.

PEREIRA: Vladimir, it makes a person wonder, though, when you think about the fact there's been forces that are on the ground there. We hear about the border being established. We hear about the protests and rallies and the violence. One would wonder -- and you spoke of it, but I want you to extrapolate a little bit more on that -- this referendum that is six days away. It doesn't seem as though it is the atmosphere for fairness necessarily to be born.

POSNER: I can only tell you what I know. And I've been to Crimea many times. I have a feeling the vast majority of people want to be a part of Russia. Sevastopol was a big Russian city. That's where the Russian fleet was. That's what Russia fought over on several occasions.

There is a pro-Russian feeling. It doesn't mean, in my opinion, that Crimea should become part of Russia, but that the majority of people want to be a part of Russia, that's a fact. Is that enough to make it happen? I don't think so. That's my own personal opinion. Russia is worried by one or two things. One is that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. That will mean having NATO on Russia's border in the south, something Russia doesn't want. I think if some kind of agreement could be reached whereby there would be some kind of guarantee that Ukraine, at least for the future, would not become a NATO member, and also that the Russian language would be accepted as a second official language, like French in Canada or Swedish in Finland, I think that kind of proposal could possibly lead to a breakthrough. I don't know, but I'm thinking that might be true.

BERMAN: Vladimir Posner, great to have your perspective. Thank you so much for joining us @ THIS HOUR. We hope you come back.

POSNER: Thank you.

PEREIRA: A short break here. Ahead, "House of Cards," "Walking Dead," is it too much of a good thing? Is the new golden age of TV taking over your life?


PEREIRA: We'll discuss.

BERMAN: Yes, it is.


BERMAN: Time for our "Hot Flash." You can see it right here. It's the news that caught our attention that everybody seems to be talking about. We are going to start with some stunning news, stunning medical news about a disease we all know and fear.

PEREIRA: Too well. Researchers have developed a blood test that will predict if a healthy adult will develop Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia. They say the test is 90 percent accurate. No word on when it will be available at your doctor's office.

Would you do it, yea or nay?

BERMAN: I guess I would do it. That's the real question. It raises so many questions. Do you want to know for yourself? Do you want to know that it's out there? I suppose --

PEREIRA: Or for your family even.

BERMAN: Well, I, as a married man with young kids, would want to know, to take the right precautions and take care of them and everyone the way I want to.

PEREIRA: I watched it a little too personally. My grandmother on my dad's side cared for my great aunt, her sister, who was in the end stages of Alzheimer's. And I watched. It was tortuous and painful to watch my grandmother watch her sister developed it. And cruelly, my grandmother developed Alzheimer's. And she knew what was coming. I think that's almost worse.

But if you knew today, would you get out of bed tomorrow?

BERMAN: Would you tell your boss? If you are dating, would you tell your girlfriend?


PEREIRA: Good questions.

BERMAN: All right, there's a lot of news going around in the U.S., especially Austin, Texas -- South by Southwest.

PEREIRA: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: One of the big speakers over the weekend was WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Why did he appear via Skype? Because he is locked up in the Ecuadorian embassy. But today's big speaker, Edward Snowden, the famous NSA leaker. He is going to talk about privacy issues and the Internet and online stuff he knows a lot about. A lot of people watching.

PEREIRA: A lot of controversy. There will be those that vilify the organizer for giving this guy a platform. And on the other side, there are people that believe by calling them a traitor is not right. They are whistleblowers.

BERMAN: You can't argue it is interesting to hear from them.

PEREIRA: Oh, surely.

On to our next one, and probably, I would argue, the most important. Do you ever find yourself complaining that there are too many shows, too many really good shows on TV? David Carr, from "The New York Times" thinks so. He wrote about it in a great article. So many great, highly acclaimed shows lately, it is hard to keep up. "House of Cards," "Walking Dead," "Girls," "True Detectives," "Scandal." And what about binge watching "Breaking Bad" or doing a little a marathon or -- (CROSSTALK)



BERMAN: No, there is too much out there. I have friends that say to me, have you seen "The Americans."

PEREIRA: "The Americans"?

BERMAN: I say, no. I have 20 episodes of "Downtown Abbey" to watch.


BERMAN: They have to stop making such good television.

PEREIRA: No, that's exactly the problem we had a few years ago. There was nothing good to watch. I don't care for reality TV. So I'm really glad I have to pick and choose.

Let us know what you think about these stories. Send us a tweet @thishour, if you can break away from the TV long enough.

PEREIRA: On the subject of good TV, ahead @ THIS HOUR, the treatment that Dr. Sanjay Gupta says could revolutionize pain medicine, if only given the chance. He is talking about marijuana. Sanjay says it is less addictive and more effective than other drugs, so why aren't we using it? That's next.


BERMAN: We've certainly heard a lot in the news lately about the down side of taking prescription pain killers, how easily you could get addicted or possibly overdose.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta says for many patients there is another good yet controversial way to treat pain. He's talking about medical marijuana.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Marijuana can act differently in the brain than a way a lot of narcotics currently do. Narcotics, derived from poppy, the opium plant, oftentimes bind to specific receptors in the brain to kick out the pain receptors, if you will. That's how they work. Problem is, they can also work in the brainstem and slow down your breathing and cause overdose, which is the real problem.

Marijuana, it's interesting. And the science on this it has become much more clear. But it seems to not only have this anti-inflammatory effect with regard to pain, but it also seems to cause a disassociation from the pain. So you may still have the various thing that's ailing you, but you don't recognize it as much, you're not emotionally attached to it, whatever it may be. But the most important thing, it doesn't act on the brainstem. It doesn't do the same thing. So you can't overdose on it the way that people overdose on narcotics.

BERMAN: Should we look at it as saying therefore cannabis is better or just different?

GUPTA: It certainly works differently. I think it can reduce the need for narcotics. In the United States, we take 80 percent of the world's pain medications in this country.

BERMAN: 80 percent.

GUPTA: It's amazing. I don't think we have 80 percent of the world's pain, just venturing a guess. But we take 80 percent of the world's pain medications. This could dramatically reduce the need for that or, in some patients, you know, they may not need it at all.

BERMAN: What's being considered at the legal level, the government level, then, to allow cannabis, medical marijuana to be used to treat pain?

GUPTA: You know, at the federal level, it's still -- we're stymied, I think, very much so. At the state level, you're seeing many states, 20 states, 22 states now that have approved medical marijuana for certain conditions. 15 more states have it on the ballot. Starting to see states like Georgia and Florida have some momentum. Nobody thought that would happen a year ago. But if it's still scheduled as a Schedule I substance, I think it's very hard to allow it to federally be prescribed while saying it has no medicinal benefit.

BERMAN: You know, you see, of course, how prescription pain killers are abused. I'm sure there are cynics out there, skeptics, who will say if we legalize marijuana for treating pain, it will be abused just like prescription pain killers.

GUPTA: I think that's a real concern. And I think that they're valid in that. You have to try and mitigate that as much as possible. But you also have to -- the tradeoff -- these are not the first time these questions have been asked. But you have to sort of say, look, because of this concern, people are going to feign their ailments to get high, are you willing to deny legitimate patients therapy? This becomes a tradeoff, for pain, epilepsy, PTSD, Alzheimer's, M.S. You can go on and on and on. It's an important question and discussion to be having.

BERMAN: It is an important discussion.

And again, Sanjay, you are key at driving it. Thank you so much being with us.

GUPTA: Thank you, John. Appreciate it.

PEREIRA: You can learn a lot more about medical marijuana, including the signs of what it does to the body and brain in Sanjay's documentary "Weed 2: Cannabis Madness," premiers Tuesday, March 11th, 10:00 p.m. here on CNN.

BERMAN: We want to end today with a little bit of "Cable Outrage." You see right there our new graphic. It's Monday, March 10th. We are now a full day into Daylight Saving Time. You know how I know it's Daylight Saving Time?


BERMAN: Not because the clocks changed or I lost an hour of sleep or because it's brighter in the afternoon. No. I know, because about 10,000 people decided it was their duty on Twitter --


-- to point out to me and the rest of the world that it is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time. There's no "S" at the end. The mere thought of adding that s is apparently so threatening to so many people that they prophylactically took to Twitter at 2:00 a.m., the morning of, just to make sure that no one uses it.

Now, I have nothing against the proper use of English, and this is in no way meant to be anti intellectual. Two sentences ago, I used the word prophylactically in a nonsexual way to prove how smart I am.


I hate it when people say "could care less" when they mean "couldn't care less." But when it comes to the "S" in "savings," I could care less, which means I do care a little.


What does it matter if savings is plural? Save some of that daylight more than once if you want to.

And if you don't, stop bothering me about it on Twitter, it's enough to make me want to move to Arizona, where they don't really observe Daylight Saving Time. And where, thanks to Jan Brewer, I can spell it how I want and still get served at any store or restaurant.

So to all the Daylight Saving Time "S: police out there, I say take your hour, be happy about it and stop acting like a bunch of jerk.

PEREIRA: Oh, no, you did not.

BERMAN: I just did it.



PEREIRA: My goodness. Do you feel better now?

BERMAN: I feel so much better.

PEREIRA: I think this is sort of your purge.

BERMAN: It was cathartic.

PEREIRA: I'm glad.

That is all for us @ THIS HOUR. So glad you could join us.

BERMAN: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right after this.