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Search For Flight 370; Moscow Says No to Latest Proposal; Close Race In Florida

Aired March 11, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. A midair mystery. We now know one of the people flying on a stolen passport when flight 370 disappeared, one of those people was Iranian. Will it shed any light on what happened to that jet with 239 people on board? We are live with the very latest on this developing investigation.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Moscow saying no to the latest proposal that could end the crisis in Ukraine. And with five days before Crimea could vote to join Russia, is there any chance now of a diplomatic solution?

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty-one minutes past the hour right now, and we do have breaking news this morning in that search for a Malaysian Airlines jet with 239 people on board. We now know the identity of one of the people flying on that plane who had a stolen passport. Authorities in Malaysia say it was a 19-year-old Iranian. However, he had no apparent connection to -- I shouldn't say however.

This is a 19-year-old Iranian who had no apparent connection to terrorism. He may have simply been trying to immigrate to Germany. They say his mother was waiting to meet him there. Meanwhile, the search area for flight 370 has now been expanded. Overnight, there was a report of large, solid debris spotted in Vietnamese waters, but previous debris sightings have turned up nothing, so people are being careful to hope too much here.

CNN's Saima Mohsin is in Kuala Lumpur and just got back from a flight with crews looking for any debris. Sima, what did you find?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, they are insistent, everyone on board that plane, that this is still a search-and-rescue operation, and they said to me, "We are hoping against hope. We will not lose hope as long as the people of Malaysia and everyone related to those people on board flights MH-370 are praying for us and holding out for us to find the plane and find the people on board. We will continue that search."

So, we boarded that plane early morning today here in Kuala Lumpur from Subang Air Base. It's a military plane, a C-130, that's been doing regular salty mission, search-and-rescue missions, scouring the seas. Now, let me just explain to you how much of a vast area they have to cover. 12,500 square nautical miles, John, and that's no mean feat. So far, they have 42 ships, including ships from neighboring countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore on board, and of course, the United States and Australia and New Zealand.

And just today, Brunei announced that they were joining this fleet as well. And in the skies, aircraft as well from the United States, Australia and neighboring countries joining forces, too. Thirty-two of them scouring by air, while the ships and those people from the navies scour the seas for any signs of the aircraft, of the people that were on board that plane, 239 of them, and of course, any clues. Now, you mentioned that they have found debris floating in the waters.

And John, let me tell you that the Malaysian minister for defense and transportation, who was on board that flight, the first time that he has gone out to survey the massive operation that's under way right now, he said that every debris that is found is -- they go out there, they pick it up, and they check and investigate as to whether that is linked to the missing plane, MH-370. Let's remember that they found various numbers of oil slicks around the Vietnamese border and oceans as well.

They were investigated, and just yesterday, the Departments of Chemistry and Departments of Environment here in Malaysia said that, "No, this was not from this aircraft." So, the mystery surrounding the disappearance four days ago -- let's not forget, Friday night going into Saturday, when this plane suddenly disappeared off the radar. Imagine that, John, flying out from Kuala Lumpur heading to Beijing. It was due to transfer from Malaysian air traffic control to Vietnamese air traffic control when it disappeared.

They did not manage to hand over that plane. And as you mentioned, there was some mystery surrounding the stolen passports that had been used on board that flight. We now know one of them was a young Iranian man, perhaps, an asylum-seeker, perhaps, trying to make his way to Europe. He was named earlier today as Nour Mehrdad (ph), just 19 years old. They are now saying that he is not being investigated as any kind of terrorist link to this.

And of course, that is one of these things that is adding to the mystery surrounding the disappearance, just why has this plane disappeared? What exactly happened? And that's what the people related to those on board really want to know -- John.

BERMAN: So many questions for everyone, including the families of people on board. Seima Mohsin right now coming back from the search in this vast, vast area, looking for any signs of debris. Thanks.

ROMANS: We're hearing this morning from ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia. At a news conference, Yanukovych railed against the new government in power right now in Kiev, comparing it to fascists and Nazis, claiming the government illegitimate. Yanukovych still insists he is the legitimate leader of Ukraine.

Meantime, Russia and the U.S. in a diplomatic impasse over the crisis there. Secretary of state, John Kerry, has put off a planned meeting with Russian President Putin. U.S. officials are urging Putin to end the military incursion into Crimea.

BERMAN: This morning, the NSA is holding on to phone records it had been told to destroy now that a federal judge in San Francisco has ordered the spy agency to preserve all of the metadata from its monitoring of U.S. phone traffic. On Friday, an intelligence court judge issued the exact opposite order, saying that the NSA can only hold on to records for five years and ordering the records deleted. For now, the justice department says it will abide by the order to keep the materials.

ROMANS: We know this winter was really horrible for a lot of us. It's still horrible, actually. So much snow, so much cold. In many places, it made it tough to get around. Well, now, we have just a better sense of how terrible it was. The four largest U.S. airlines now say the bad weather meant they had to cancel nearly 75,000 flights in just January and February this year.


ROMANS: Delta alone said the cancellations cost it some $90 million in lost revenue. We could see more flight cancellations in coming days as this beautiful weather comes to an end with snow and rain. Indra Petersons has that forecast.

BERMAN: Take it, Indra! How's that?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Why do you guys give such a bad forecast? That's so weird, guys. That's not very nice, right?


PETERSONS: Let me give you some good news. Here's what we're talking about that warm front continuing to bring even warmer weather today to the northeast. Just keep in mind, we know there's a cold front behind it, so things are going to be changing quickly, but let's talk about today. Look at these numbers. New York City talking about 60 degrees. You almost need a second take when you look at D.C., talking about 73.

Temperatures are good 19 degrees above normal. But you're going to start to see the change. Notice St. Louis about 79, 25 degrees above normal. Look at the drop by tomorrow, already going to 15 below normal. Tomorrow, their high, remember, 79, drops down to 39!

That is not cool. We're talking about a good 40-degree temperature drop there, and eventually, this shifts all the way even to the northeast where New York City is talking about 20s as their highs, just two days away. D.C., forget those 70s. You'll go down as your high of 35 in two days, thanks to this guy, not me, this guy.

This is a system making its way across, already looking for snow in the upper plains, the upper Midwest today, by tomorrow in the Ohio Valley, and then tomorrow night in through Thursday making its way to the northeast. Strong winds with it as well. Just keep in mind, the heaviest snow right now looks to be upstate New York in through Maine, of course, several inches kind of in through Chicago and the Ohio Valley, but not into the major metropolitan areas. See, that is how you deliver good news, guys.

BERMAN: Indra Petersons passing the buck.


BERMAN: Recusing herself from responsibility for anything that might happen this week.

PETERSONS: Obviously.


ROMANS: All right. Let's talk about stocks then struggling to recover from a bumpy ride on Monday. Asian markets closed mostly higher. Stocks in Europe, basically, flat right now. Early going shows much of the same here in the U.S. The Dow ended a two-day winning streak yesterday, closed down 34 points. You know, it could have been worse. The Dow had been down more than 100 points during the day.

The Dow is still about one percent from its record high, so one good breakout rally and you're there at records again, folks. The S&P 500 back dropped its record run yesterday as well, but, you know, still very strong gains recently.

Another number we've been following, pot sales lining the coffers in Colorado. New information this morning that the state took in about $2 million in taxes from recreational marijuana in January. In the first month, pot was legal to sell for non-medicinal purposes there. So, $2 million in taxes for Colorado coffers.

BERMAN: All right. Thirty-nine minutes after the hour right now. It's spring training in Florida not just for baseball. We're talking politics. Big election today. Both Democrats and Republicans with their eyes on this crucial race that could tell us so much about November, pouring in millions here. We'll tell you why right after the break.


ROMANS: Happening today in Florida, special election in the Clearwater area. Many say it could set the stage for this fall's midterms. Democrat, Alex Sink, facing Republican, David Jolly, to replace the late congressman, Bill Young. Both parties see the race as a test of their messages over Obamacare and the issues facing the country.

CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, here to explain, why, oh, why is this vote today so important, Paul?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Great question, because if you don't live in the area down there by St. Pete and Clearwater, why would you care about Florida 13, unless maybe like me, you get paid to cover politics? Here's why, Christine and John. There are not a lot of swing districts left, I guess, you could say, competitive districts, House districts left in the country. This truly is a swing district in a swing state of Florida.

We all know the history Florida's had lately. That's why both sides, not only the candidates in the parties, but those outside groups, those so-called Super PACs and other groups have been pouring in millions of dollars, over $11 million has been spent on this race. You also mentioned the other reason, Obamacare. Republicans are hammering the Democratic candidate here over Obamacare.

They think they have a winning message here and they think that the results will show that Obamacare is an issue voters care about. Remember, there are a lot of seniors in this district. And finally, is it truly a bellwether for the midterms? Listen, let's be honest, elections this far out from November rarely tell us what's going to happen in November.

But, the party that wins here, guys, is going to be getting all the bragging rights for the next couple months saying their message worked. That's why this race, I guess you could say, is important.

BERMAN: Look, the Democrats got the candidate they wanted. This would be a pickup for them. They want this desperately. They can taste it. Republicans equally so. Speaking of Republicans, Paul Steinhauser, my Twitter a little bit on fire last night, over the last ten hours or so, over a spat between some Republican senators who may be running for president one day. Ted Cruz/Rand Paul. What's going on there?

STEINHAUSER: Two very high-profile senators, rising stars in the party, and you're right, both of them thinking about running for the 2016 nomination. This kind of started on Sunday, John, when Ted Cruz was a little critical of Rand Paul's foreign policy saying he really didn't agree with Rand Paul's libertarian style of politics when it comes to foreign policy or his views.

Rand Paul pushed back yesterday in an op-ed, but also last night on Fox News, when he said "I'm not real excited about him" -- him being Ted Cruz -- "mischaracterizing my views, and you know, I won't let that pass." A little bit of bad blood here. Maybe this will play out, maybe it will go away, or maybe it's a foreshadowing of things to come in 2016, guys.

ROMANS: What about bad blood, Rick Santorum/Chris Christie? Rick Santorum suggesting that Chris Christie is compromising Republican values to win.

STEINHAUSER: This started at CPAC, Christine, when Chris Christie gave a pretty well-received speech and he said that, you know, winning is important, guys. We can't just stick to the mantra. We have to actually win elections. Rick Santorum, of course, a very social conservative and a very fiscal conservative, pushed back a little bit at CPAC and he pushed back again yesterday on CNN's "Crossfire" when he talked about his efforts fighting the cause, fighting for social justice, fighting for marriage, traditional marriage, and he said other candidates, other people like maybe Chris Christie talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

Again, two men who may be running in 2016, a lot of bad blood out there and very public. We're seeing it on the Democratic side, but not nearly as public as we're seeing it on the Republican side.

BERMAN: It just goes to show the race is competitive and people are jockeying for position even now.

ROMANS: Nice to see you on a Tuesday morning, Steinhauser. Talk to you again soon. Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Special guest --


BERMAN: Brooke Baldwin joins us now. Hey, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Good morning, you two. Wonderful to be here. I know you all have been all over this, so we're going to continue where you left off, the breaking news about that missing Malaysian Airlines flight. So, we are learning more this morning about those passengers who boarded with stolen passports.

Listen, there are a lot of questions about what happened when this thing took off Saturday, if this new information has anything to do with the plane's disappearance. We're digging on that one.

Also, we will show you what it's like from one of the search planes trying to find debris. We'll be talking to one of the correspondents who flew over this area and see what she saw and what other investigators are telling her.

Also ahead this morning, special guest, former special assistant to President Obama, Reggie Love, will be in studio. So, we'll talk to him about everything from Obamacare to the president's year of action, as well as -- remember just a couple weeks ago, he was introducing this new program from the White House, it's called "My Brother's Keeper." So, it's an initiative that Reggie apparently feels passionate about, really meant to help young Black and Latino men prosper in this country.

Reggie Love So, we'll talk about that. And if you didn't know, you two, he is also a Duke graduate. I did not go to Duke. I went to that other school down the road, so let's just say it's going to be interesting.

BERMAN: Yes. Well, indeed. Can't wait to see that. Great guest, great show coming up. Thanks so much, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thanks.

BERMAN: Go do (ph).

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, a family forced to hide because of a rampaging pet. You're going to hear their call for police begging for help from their pet, next.


ROMANS: Happening now, the defense in Oscar Pistorius murder trial going after a pathologist on cross-examination who delivered some potentially damaging testimony. He may have undercut the Blade Runner's timeline on the night his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was killed, and he said Reeva could have screamed when he shot her.

It follows a dramatic day in court Monday with the Blade Runner breaking down, vomiting in the dock as he listened to the pathologist describe Steenkamp's fatal wounds in very, just disturbing detail.

BERMAN: New developments in the sex assault court-martial of army brigadier general, Jeffrey Sinclair. The judge putting the trial temporarily on hold, ruling that the Pentagon may have interfered in this case after e-mails emerged suggesting that high-ranking officials bowed to political pressure in deciding to go ahead with the case.

Sinclair stands accused of threatening a female captain and forcing her to have sex with him. The judge gave General Sinclair until today to submit a plea offer for the government to consider.

We're finding out more now about the case of a pregnant woman who drove a van with her three kids inside into the Atlantic Ocean last week. Ebony Wilkerson (ph) now faces three counts of attempted murder and child abuse. And according to a newly released police report, she told investigators she was abused by her husband. A judge is now considering whether those children will remain in state custody.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, we're hearing the frightening story of an Oregon family who was forced to lock themselves in a bedroom because of their cat. This happened in Portland when the cat named Lucks apparently went berserk, attacking their seven-month-old baby. So, they retreated into the bedroom with the family dog and called 911. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's charging us. He's at our door, bedroom door.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hear him screaming? That's the cat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I hear him. Hold on. Keep the door shut, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He started hissing and just -- like really like yowls, not like a meow, but yowls, like he was really like crazy, going crazy.


ROMANS: Police arrived and wrangled the cat into a pet carrier. The family says no one was hurt. The baby is fine. Right now, they're trying to decide what to do with the cat.

BERMAN: I would not keep the cat.

ROMANS: You don't want a cat in the first place.

BERMAN: I don't want a cat in the first place, but a rampaging cat? Definitely don't want one of those. All right.

ROMANS: I wonder what the dog was thinking.

Coming up, Sprint's leader says he wants to grow and maybe launch a price war. This could be phenomenally good news for you and your cell phone bill. Christine Romans will explain that and much more in "Money Time," next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time."

The big question for your money today, whether stocks can get back on their winning streak. The Dow lost 34 points yesterday. Futures, you know, flat down 14 points right now. European stock markets pretty much the same. Stocks in Asia closed mixed.

All right. Talk of a massive price war in the U.S. wireless carrier business this morning. The CEO of Sprint's SoftBank says he wants a three-way, heavyweight fight with At&T and Verizon. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Japan's SoftBank CEO says no deal has been made, but boy, he'd like to buy T-Mobile and merge it with Sprint.

SoftBank acquired Sprint last year. Such a deal would likely face major regulatory concerns by the Federal Communications Commission, but big talk about that this morning.

BERMAN: But their fight, their heavyweight fight, while painful for them, might be good for you.

ROMANS: If it happened, yes.

BERMAN: Lower bills.

All right, thanks for watching. "NEW DAY" starts right now.