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Malaysian Air 370's Last Words; Crimea Votes To Join Russia; The Art of Robotic Movement; The Mystery of Flight 370
Aired March 17, 2014 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: I'm Monita Rajpal in Hong Kong. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.
The search widens as the mystery deepens. More than a week after it disappeared, we're still looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Celebrations in Crimea after it votes to rejoin Russia.
And this isn't Beijing, this is the pollution in Paris.
We are watching two major stories right now. The unprecedented search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues. And there are still few clues as to the whereabouts of the plane and the 239 people on board.
Meanwhile, Crimea has filed a formal application to join Russia, a move that has EU lawmakers talking sanctions.
But let's begin with the plane. It has been 10 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared apparently without a trace. And the investigation has taken some key turns. The search area has been widely expanded to cover two vast areas in central Asia and the Indian Ocean. Satellite and radar data have offered authorities more clues, but not enough to pinpoint the plane's location.
Those on board, including the pilots, are now under scrutiny. And investigators have a better idea who spoke the last words heard by air traffic controllers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AHMAD JAUHARI YAHYA, CEO, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: Initial investigation indicated it was the co-pilot who basically spoke the last time it was recorded on tape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have it recorded?
YAHYA: The recording is with air traffic control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJPAL: Well, as the search for the missing flight continues, information from satellites is being used to help pinpoint the plane's location, but gaining access to that data is no simple task. Barbara Starr tells us why.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: With the search for Malaysia Flight 370 now stretching over hundreds of thousands of square miles from central Asia to the Indian Ocean, a new call for help.
HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN ACTING MINISTER OF TRANSPORT: We are asking countries that have satellite assets, including the U.S., China and France, among others, to provide further satellite data. And we are contacting additional countries who may be able to contribute specific assets relevant to the search and rescue operation.
STARR: But even with the thousands of satellites in the sky, it may be harder than you think. Many countries in the region might be reluctant to share their highly classified satellite data. And high priority U.S. intelligence and military satellites don't routinely fly over the southern Indian Ocean. It's uninhabited and presents no threat.
On the Central Asia path, a U.S. official tells CNN that the Pentagon and the intelligence community are again looking at all of their satellite and radar data. The U.S. monitors military airfields and missile launch sites in the region, but so far has found nothing.
U.S. officials say government satellites can't just abandon their national security job and start looking for the plane. And even so, satellites can't be just sent randomly over the 11 countries that need to be searched. They must be sent on a specific path.
So could commercial satellites provide the lucky clue? Already, thousands of people around the world are on an online hunt, scouring through commercial satellite images for any sign of the aircraft. The crowdsourcing effort is run by digital globe. Its satellites orbit 400 miles above the Earth and can see a baseball home plate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we'll ask you to mark anything that looks interesting, any signs of wreckage or a life raft.
STARR: Satellite images can be very deceiving. Already, Chinese images proved to be false.
But the digital globe site has proved so popular, the website has been so busy it crashed.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
RAJPAL: Well, CNN's Atika Shubert is in Kuala Lumpur where officials are still working to unravel this mystery. She joins us now live. And Atika, just about over an hour ago, there was a news conference that was being held by Malaysian authorities, another update, but again perhaps the most revealing thing that they had was what the final words were said out of the cockpit.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, a little bit more clarification on that. It appears now that at 1:19 in the morning, there was a brief conversation between someone in the cockpit and ground control in which somebody said in closing the conversation, "all right. Good night." And as part of that initial investigation, they now believe it was the co-pilot that uttered those words.
What they're still trying to find out, however, is when exactly the airlines communication was cut. After that transmission, they did not have any more communication, but they don't know exactly at what point the communication system was cut. And that is what they're trying to figure out now.
What they do know is that after that initial -- after those last words, they weren't able to hear from the pilot or co-pilot again.
RAJPAL: And those pilots are now under intense scrutiny right now, the focus of an investigation is switching to these two men. What more are they saying about that?
SHUBERT: Well, I should point out it's not just the pilot and co- pilot that are under investigation. Everybody on that flight is now being screened as well as the ground crew that actually helped to put the plane in the air. Basically, investigators want to make sure that they look at every possible lead here.
Now they have searched the homes of both the pilot and the co-pilot. They've spoken to relatives. And in the case of the pilot, Zaharie Ahmed Shah, they actually took home a homemade flight simulator that he had built for himself. He was extremely passionate about aviation. He was -- had a lot of remote control planes, for example, built his own flight simulator. And now police have reconstructed that at police headquarters and are taking a look at it to see if there are any clues. But a senior police source has told CNN so far they have found nothing conclusive.
RAJPAL: And Atika, when it comes to the actual search operation right now, the investigation of course we've been reporting has expanded. We're talking about multiple dozens of countries now that are involved. It is a huge logistical nightmare as well. Are the Malaysians are saying that they're requesting radar and certain data information from these countries, but who is actually leading this investigation?
SHUBERT: Well, Malaysia is coordinating it. And of course they're sort of in charge of where to search for at this point. Now, they actually suspended temporarily the search yesterday, because of course that area expanded greatly. Today, that search has continued. And in the press conference, they confirmed that Australia and Indonesia have taken the lead in the southern corridor, that arc that you can see on the map. they have actually flown over the area of the Kokus Islands and Christmas Island. They have not found anything yet.
The northern corridor, which stretches from North Thailand to Kazakhstan, that is going to be a lot trickier diplomatically. We're talking about a lot more countries in a very remote area -- Myanmar, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, these are all countries that they now have to coordinate with. And remember, a very remote and mountainous region. It even passes some of the Himalayas there.
And so what Malaysia is doing is trying to coordinate a response from all of these countries and that includes not only satellite radar, but also the assets to search this difficult area.
RAJPAL: And (inaudible) brings to mind -- I guess raises the issues of these individual countries, their security as well.
All right, Atika thank you very much. Atika Shubert there live for us from Kuala Lumpur.
Now, as we've been saying there are many questions surrounding Flight 370. One of them, how did this plane seemingly evade radar detection by countries it may have flown over.
Now Malaysia said they did track the plane on military radar, but this was only discovered later, well after the plane had passed apparently without notice.
Meanwhile, a senior Indian official told Reuters that his country's radar systems in the area of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands may have been switched off at the time, because they only operate when needed, such as during training or when there is a potential threat.
A former British military officer suggests the lack of constant surveillance is down to cost. And he told Reuters, "you get what you pay for. And the world, by and large, does not pay." One possible explanation for how the plane could have passed through countries without being tracked.
Let's take a look at now what it was like inside the cockpit of the plane. Martin Savidge joins us now live from a 777 flight simulator near Toronto, Canada with that -- Marty.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Monita.
Well, what we wanted to do for this particular scenario for you now is as you were talking about the northern route, the possible way that the aircraft 777 might have flown. So we're on that northern route. We're actually flying over Pakistan at this particular time. We're at 2,500 meters. So that's roughly maybe 500 feet. We're doing 250 knots.
What I want to show you is, OK, what is it like to take you down to that 5,000 foot level. And Mitch Cosada, who is the pilot here, he is going to take us down. And let's go down in a hurry and bring it down. And the reason this has been discussed, of course, as you already mentioned is the fact that maybe this was a way for this huge airliner to try to evade radar.
But the problem with that, Monita is that you really aren't evading. Why is it, Mitchell?
MITCHELL COSADA, PILOT TRAINER: Because at 5,000 feet you're not below anyone's radar at all. You're just -- you're on everybody's radar. You have to be way, way low, 200 -- 100 feet, 200 feet, 300 feet to be below radar.
SAVIDGE: It just isn't low enough. But there are a lot of problem for an airplane getting down there. Already, we're starting to get some alarms. They begin to warn you. And the handling of the aircraft itself at 5,000 feet is very different from the way it was operating when you are up at the cruise altitude, right Mitchell?
COSADA: That's right. Yeah. Up at cruise, things are -- the airplane flies straight as a whip. It's trimmed up. Its fingertip flying. Down here, you need a lot more firm (inaudible) with the controls.
SAVIDGE: And you're flying this manually now?
COSADA: I'm flying it manually, yeah.
SAVIDGE: You're not on auto-pilot, which is the way that you would most commonly fly it. And you would hope that whoever is in control of the aircraft at this time is familiar with the terrain here, familiar with the fact that there are mountain ranges, there are a lot of things that could potentially be disastrous for this flight on this particular route.
All of that has to be taken into consideration when you get to this altitude and you're still not low enough to be below anybody's radar -- Monita.
RAJPAL: Martin, I want to ask the -- one of the things that was revealed today at this news conference were the final words -- or what they're saying was the final words that emerged from the cockpit. No one is saying if it was the co-pilot or the pilot themselves or someone else saying all right, good night.
Some people are saying, some pilots out there saying that is not standard procedure. Those words would not be uttered as standard procedure, in fact they're saying that you would have to relay back certain instructions about where you are flying past or flying over. Is that what the pilot next to you is saying as well? Would words like "all right, good night," be even uttered as one of the final words?
SAVIDGE: Right. We've talked about that a lot. Mitchell, you fly this. What do you say about those final words all right, good night?
COSADA: I would say that they're fairly normal. I would disagree with anyone who -- I mean, when you -- they say Air Canada 292 or Malaysia 292 turn contact the new center, you say, roger we're going to (inaudible) the new center. Good night. If it's night time you say good night. If it's morning you say good morning. Afternoon, you say afternoon.
It's very standard phraseology. There is nothing unusual about that.
SAVIDGE: You can again hear that the airplane is warning us that we are way too low here. It wants this plane to get up into a higher altitude. And the other thing Monita is the timing of that, when they turn the equipment off is right when they are going from Malaysian airspace to Vietnamese airspace. In other words, the Malaysians have already said good-bye, in essence, by the Vietnamese ground control hasn't picked them up yet. It seems like they perfectly chose that time to essentially disappear. They were in a kind of no-man's land.
RAJPAL: Yeah, fascinating indeed. Martin, thank you very much for that. Martin Savidge there inside a 777 simulator that's out of Toronto.
Coming up here on News Stream, Crimea votes overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and applies to join Russia. We'll take you live to Kiev and to Moscow.
Plus, a horror story from a North Korean prison camp as a damning UN report is tabled on human rights in there. Stay with us for that.
RAJPAL: Welcome back.
Following the vote to leave Ukraine for Russia, Crimean lawmakers have filed a formal application to join Russia and have moved to adopt the ruble as its official currency. While many in Crimea in celebrating, Kiev is understandably upset. Lawmakers there threatened consequences for the Crimean politicians who had called for the vote, saying they would be tried in Ukrainian and international courts.
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers have been meeting to discuss sanctions.
And on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin is to address a joint session of parliament. Moscow has proposed an international group to work with Ukraine, including a new constitution that would include Russian as an official language alongside Ukrainian.
Now remember Crimea has deep social and historical links to Russia. Out of a population of 2 million, about 60 percent speak Russian. In fact, Crimea used to belong to Russia. It was only transferred to Ukraine in 1954.
Now the Russian military also maintains a naval base in the Port City of Sevastopol, part of the Black Sea fleet.
Let's get you the latest now on the ground. And CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us now with -- well, from the capital Simferapol.
Nick, so this vote has happened. What happens now to Crimea?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have the tense choreography as well or organized and orchestrated as the celebrations we saw last night underway right now.
The real only thing, though, can stop Crimea becoming part of Russia is if Vladimir Putin when he addresses both houses of parliament tomorrow decides that actually that isn't a good idea.
That perhaps seems unlikely given the sort of speed, the juggernaut moving right now.
We are hearing a delegation from here, the parliament will go to Moscow shortly to begin talking about the practicalities. They passed laws here about phasing out the local Ukrainian currency, introducing the Russian ruble, moving to the Moscow time zone. It's very clear this is moving full speed ahead.
There are some outstanding questions on practicalities like if Ukrainian mainland, talking very tough right now, decide to cut Crimea off. Where does the water, electricity, mobile phone services necessarily come from. There an infrastructure problems that obviously Russian have to assist with on that as well.
And in the meantime, too, another question over the Ukrainian troops, few in numbers it's fair to say, but still on their bases. The Ukraine defense minister says there's been a truce arranged with the Russian military who still don't admit they're actually even here, that would allow those bases to be resupplied normally.
But I think really most soldiers we've seen on those bases feel isolated from their new government in Kiev, one saying to me he was waiting for a political decision for that fate of him and his 15 men. But still the question of what is the western response going to be.
They drew a red line of saying don't hold the referendum. That's done and dusted now. The Russian foreign ministry making nice in many ways, suggesting an international consultation group that perhaps would make constitutional reforms. And the reintroduction of Russian as an official language in Ukraine, a way out of this crisis.
But still the votes have been held. And we are hearing now, too, from European officials that five more apparently, quote, significant Russian names are being added to the list of those who might face visa bans, asset freezes, various types of sanction.
Both sides still talking pressure, but the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius heading to Moscow tomorrow and it may well be that these discussions continue on without actually concrete measures being taken by Brussels and Washington just yet. We'll have to wait and see, Monita.
RAJPAL: Yeah, how heavy-handed can the west and the others outside of this -- those who don't agree with this referendum. How heavy-handed can they be when Russia is seen as an important country when it comes to dealing with other international crises such as Syria?
WALSH: Well, it's (inaudible) to make quite how much weight Russia can punch -- it's economy is not doing great at the moment. It has substantial reserves. It has a veto on the UN security council. Yes, it's needed to help the U.S. deal with Iran and Syria, too. But obviously those problems aren't necessarily going to be solved in the midst of the crisis as pronounced and profound as what's happening in Ukraine. And I think there is potentially going to be a chill around Putin's inner circle if Russia finds itself on the international stage isolated economically, if sanctions really do bite.
Part of Putin's gift, it's fair to say to the Russian people, was giving them international respectability, economic stability as well despite the fact that without the loss of their political freedoms too.
If you see sanctions really start to bite, if you see Russia thrown out of the G8, they say they don't care about it, but it will be a loss of face for them certainly.
That could change things somewhat. But we're still waiting to see a unified, tough response. Many saying that Putin's ability to play tough in this has gone exactly as he'd expected, because he believes Washington and now Brussels are in fact weakened -- weakened before -- Monita.
RAJPAL: All right, Nick, thank you.
Nick Paton Walsh there live for us from Simferapol.
Now the Crimea vote appears to be getting momentum to break away movements in parts of eastern Ukraine. CNN's Matthew Chance reports from the city of Donetsk where pro-Russian demonstrations are growing louder.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As Ukraine starts to splinter, this is its latest flashpoint in the eastern city of Donetsk, thousands of demonstrators stormed the state prosecutor's office, replacing its Ukrainian flag with the tri-color of Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is (inaudible) revolution, because people of our country, they don't like government in Kiev. In Kiev, this is not people government.
CHANCE: Elsewhere in the city, other symbols of the interim authorities in Kiev were also attacked.
This, the headquarters of the Ukrainian security service who arrested a pro-Russian leader earlier this month. Riot police have tried and failed to hold back these angry mobs before.
You can see the pro-Russian protesters here in Donetsk have broken through the doors of the security building here in the center of the city. They're demanding the release of their leader. They want much more than that, too. They want a referendum along the lines of Crimea to decide whether to join with the Russian Federation or to become more independent, more autonomous within Ukraine.
CHANCE: The big question now is whether Moscow is contemplating a Crimea-style intervention here too. At the moment, it's holding back, but the Kremlin has reserved the right to bring these people under what it calls its protection.
In time, these calls for a Soviet-like reunion with Russia may grow even louder.
Matthew Chance, CNN, Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
RAJPAL: Coming up here on News Stream, eaten by dogs, buried alive, a former North Korean prison guard tells the UN about human rights abuses in that country.
RAJPAL: Welcome back. A damning report on North Korea has been officially tabled at the UN human rights council. The independent commission of inquiry was based on harrowing accounts of abuse in North Korea.
CNN's Paula Hancocks reports now from Seoul.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The report on North Korea's human rights abuses is now officially with the United Nations human rights council. The chair of the commission of inquiry has compared the ongoing crimes against humanity in North Korea to that of the Nazis, to South Africa's apartheid and to the Khmer Rouge.
But, as expected, North Korean condemned and categorically rejected what it called a confrontational report saying the United States and other hostile forces had fabricated the facts.
Hundreds of defectors testified to the commission over the past year. One told me of the horrors he saw inside a North Korean prison camp.
Ahn Myung-chul's (ph) experiences would horrify you. He was a guard in North Korean prison camps for eight years. He tells me of the day a pack of guard dogs broke free and attacked five children in the camp.
"We heard the screaming," he says. "By the time we got there, three were already dead, bitten in the neck. One dog was eating the stomach of a child. The other two were bitten, but still alive. They were all buried together. Two of the children were buried alive."
Ahn (ph) fled the country in 1994 after his father made a disparaging comment about the regime. His father committed suicide, the rest of his family was sent to a prison camp.
One former prisoner has drawn graphic pictures of life in the camps. Ahn (ph) says the guards were given such intense ideological training by the regime, the prisoners were no longer human to them, they were like animals. And he said that is how they were treated.
"Mass graves were common when there was an accident at one of the coal mines," he tells me. "In 1992, there was a measles outbreak. More than 400 people died, including guards. They were all thrown in mass graves. Those executed are not even buried. Their bodies are just left on the hillside."
Very few images of the prison camps have emerged. Those that have escaped have barely done so with their lives, let alone physical evidence. These images were smuggled out of the country and given to us by defector group Free NK Gulag.
Amnesty International has published satellite images, which it says show the vast infrastructure of repression. The human rights group believes hundreds of thousands of people are detained, but says it is unable to verify that.
Pyongyang denies the camps even exist.
The UN commission of inquiry is an unprecedented compilation of evidence on North Korea's human rights abuses, which found ongoing crimes against humanity in the country and unspeakable atrocities.
The commendation is to refer this case to the International Criminal Court. But in order for that to happen, it has to pass the UN security council. China, an ally of North Korea, has the power to veto. And has insinuated that it will use that power, saying it favors constructive dialogue.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
RAJPAL: Still to come, it's a mystery that has baffled aviation experts and governments. When we come back, we look at some of the most pressing questions surrounding the disappearance of Flight 370.
RAJPAL: Hello, I'm MOnita Rajpal in Hong Kong. You are watching News Stream. And these are the headlines.
A few more clues are coming to light in the search for a missing Malaysia airliner with 239 people on board. Satellite and radar data have led to an expansion of the search area, which now extends over 11 countries. The pilots are among those under scrutiny. This video uploaded to YouTube purportedly shows footage from Kuala Lumpur airport, which allegedly shows the captain and first officer going through security before the flight. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the video or the date it was taken.
In Pretoria, South Africa, the mother of Reeva Steenkamp has attended the Oscar Pistorius murder trial for the second time. The crime scene photographer has been testifying. Earlier, the court heard from a gun expert and salesman who said Pistorius knew it would be illegal and unsafe to shoot a suspected intruder through a door.
The French government is restricting driving in Paris today in hopes of cutting heavy smog there. Drivers will be able to use their vehicles only on alternate days for the first time since 1997. Warm nights and cold days have kept the pollution from blowing away.
Crimean lawmakers have formally applied to join Russia after an overwhelming referendum vote. While Kiev and the west maintain the referendum is illegal, Moscow has proposed an international group to work with Ukraine to solve the crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin is to address a joint session of parliament in Tuesday.
Well, while the European Union and the U.S. consider the Crimea referendum illegal, Moscow as we were saying has proposed this international group to deal with the crisis. But what would that actually look like?
With the latest out of Russia, let's take you to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He joins us now live from Moscow -- Fred.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well you know it's an interesting proposal that was just put forward, Monita, because it really echoes a lot of what European nations have been saying. They were calling for an international contact group, others were calling for additional OSCE observers. And that always seemed like the Russians said they were open to such ideas, but they never really latched onto them.
So now they've put together their own idea of an international support group for Ukraine. And it's really interesting, because all of it centers around this deal that was reached between the Yanukovych government when he was still in power and the opposition at that point in time on February 21.
It calls for everything in that agreement to come forward. It calls for Ukraine to adopt a new constitution that would grant special privileges to the Russian language, that would make the Russian language the official language next to Ukrainian and that would also give all regions more autonomy to vote for their own legislative bodies and also their own executives.
So clearly there is a lot that would probably comfort the Russian population there. It's a new kind of proposal. We'll see what happens with it. But it certainly doesn't seem to mirror the tough course that the Russians have been following on the Crimea issue, where of course they have basically put into effect a motion that will probably see Crimea part of Russia very, very soon. Every indication that we're getting here in Moscow is that politicians here want to move very quickly after this referendum, Monita.
RAJPAL: A sense of autonomy is one thing, sure, but is it all just -- does it all just come down to semantics, Fred? At the end of the day, as independent and as autonomous a province wants to be, the reality is they're going to have to do business, they're going to have to have certain logistical things like gas, water, trade with certain countries. And the reality is they're probably going to do that with Russia.
PLEITGEN: Well, they certainly are, but it's -- it's a little more than semantics. I mean, it's one thing for an autonomy -- for a region to be more autonomous than it is before. Basically what the Russians are trying to do is they're trying to turn Ukraine into a federal state where especially the eastern regions have a lot more autonomy than they do now to conduct their own business, to not necessarily listen to Kiev if, in fact, there are things that Kiev decides that they don't want to do.
So it is something that could actually hold very large significance in the dealings and certainly, as I said, something that would do a lot to calm a lot of the Russian population.
But right now, it seems as though from the face value of it, it seems as though this is something that Russian might be trying to do, a carrot and stick approach, to try and de-escalate the situation a little bit. I mean, there's no doubt that they're going to be taking Crimea into the Russian Federation. But this seems to be sort of a carrot that they're offering up to try and de-escalate the situation so that international pressure will be eased off them so that they can save face in their Ukraine policy while at the same time achieving something that they can present here at home -- Monita.
RAJPAL: Speaking of that pressure, EU ministers are meeting in Brussels as we speak to discuss potential sanctions against Russia. Is there a sense of concern there in Moscow about what these sanctions, and how deep they could -- how deep they can go and if that's something that the president will be addressing in the joint session of parliament there in Moscow?
PLEITGEN: Well, certainly there is a lot of concern among a lot of business people here that these sanctions could indeed be very painful, especially if the situation isn't de-escalated. I mean, the feeling here is that the first set of sanctions against specific individuals might not hurt Russia that much, but that things could escalate and that in any sort of further stages, things could get a lot worse.
But at the same time, the Russians do feel that they could shoulder those sanctions, that those sanctions would potentially hurt the countries that apply those sanctions just as much as the Russians themselves.
And from everything that we're hearing, Monita, a strategic decision has been made in the Kremlin that they are going to go through with taking in Crimea into the Russian Federation. They're going to keep using this tough stance against Ukraine even in the face of the sanctions. They have decide that to them the prize that they are potentially going to get -- or they're probably going to get in the form of the Crimean peninsula is worth it to them to start this confrontation with the west.
At this point, Russia feels that they're in a strong enough position to confront the west and to deal with these sanctions. They know that this is not a small deal. They know that they have just essentially put troops in the second largest European country and that this is not a small deal. It's a very, very big deal and it is something that potentially could sour relations with the west for a very long time, but it does appear as though they are willing to bear those costs, Monita.
RAJPAL: It's very interesting, indeed. All right, Fred, thank you so much. Frederick Pleitgen there live for us from Moscow.
Let's bring you back now to one of our other top stories that we are focusing on today, the disappearance of that Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with 239 people on board. More than a week after it vanished mid- flight, we now have a few clues, but still many more questions than answers. CNN.com has rounded up the top 10 most pressing questions. Among them, where could the plane be.
Now the search area has now ballooned to cover large spaces over central Asia and the Indian Ocean. Another key question is could the plane have flown under the radar? It's difficult, but experts say it's possible.
Questions are also swirling around those on board the flight. They are now the focus of the investigation into what went wrong.
Jim Clancy joins us now live from Kuala Lumpur with more on that.
Jim, so they were looking at the passengers on board as well as the pilots on board. What are they reviewing?
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, as we looked at this story over the past several days, one clear element has been true for the news media here. And that is that the pilots were...
RAJPAL: All right, we do apologize we have lost contact there with Jim Clancy. We'll try to get that shot back up again for you throughout the show here.
You're watching CNN News Stream, we'll be right back.
RAJPAL: We've seen major advances in the field of robotics in recent years, but will robots ever rival the human-like autonomous machines depicted in Hollywood films? CNN's Nick Glass went to a groundbreaking lab to find out.
NICK GLASS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a lab in Florida, a man-made machine prepares to rise to the occasion, to climb some steps. This machine with arms, legs and a brain of sorts is called Atlas and rather than carrying the world on his shoulders, he just finding his place in it step by tentative step.
MATT JOHNSON, FLORIDA INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN AND MACHINE COGNITION: I believe the public gets most of their information from Hollywood. You know, they picture these fully autonomous that are running around the world doing crazy things and will eventually take over. It's, you know, very far from what is actually going on.
GLASS: The simple things we do, like walking or opening doors remain serious challenges for any robot. These are tasks that require precise programming and careful attention to the critical issue of balance.
JERRY PRATT, FLORIDA INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN AND MACHINE COGNITION: Just getting a humanoid robot to walk, even on flat ground, is pretty challenging, because you know you're -- in order for a robot to be useful and human environments you need to be skinny and tall. as soon as you're skinny and tall that means you have to actively balance. You have a small footprint and you have a high center mass. So the robot is going to fall over.
So it's that challenge just being able to balance walk without falling down.
GLASS: Atlas (ph) is still very much attached to his human parent, linked to a computer that controls his every move. His eyes are four cameras backed up by a rotating sensor that emits a laser beam. When sent to the computer, this data builds up a 3D map of the immediate environment.
PRATT: The operator will in the user interface will put some footsteps on the ground, kind of click, I want to walk over to that door. And a bunch of footsteps will show up. And that's where Atlas (ph) will take its steps to once the operator says that looks good.
And then from there, Atlas (ph) takes over and the operator isn't really involved anymore.
JOHNSON: Every thing we do in robotics is sort of planned out and step by step process. And that's not really how a human beings move for the most part. Creative movement is how we get a lot of things done. If you put a kid in a jungle gym, he's going to find his way through there really easy by creative movement of his body. Those are movements that he's done before, he's just inventing it as he goes forward. You throw a robot in the same situation, he's going to have a really hard time navigating through complex things.
GLASS: But Atlas (ph) won't be required to be inventive. His value is in doing what he's told and being able to boldly go where humans fear to tread.
He may eventually be able to work in danger zones, diffusing land mines, for example, or entering contaminated nuclear plants. The idea of a robot working independently of human control is still the stuff of science fiction.
PRATT: For a robot to be truly, truly autonomous, you pretty much have to figure out cognition, you have to make the artificial brain. And once that happens, the world is -- I mean, everything in the world will change, right. So the big question is when is that going to happen, or is it going to happen?
And everybody likes to put a date on it. And most people -- you know, a lot of futurists will say its about 70 years from now. I would say about 300 to 500 years it's going to happen.
GLASS: But will we ever build a machine that can run like Usain Bolt or dance like Michael Jackson? We are slowly, but surely feeling our way, propelled by an historical human impulse. We simply like to build machines like us.
RAJPAL: Nick Glass reporting there.
And we'll be right back here on News Stream with more on missing Malaysian airlines flight 370. Stay with us.
RAJPAL: We have reconnected with our Jim Clancy live there in Kuala Lumpur. He joins us now.
Jim, we were talking earlier about focus on this investigation into the people that were onboard flight 370. There was obviously investigation into the passengers and crew, but it might now focus on the pilot as well.
CLANCY: Certainly the focus for the last three days has really been on the pilots, Monita. We saw video of them on YouTube. And while we can't verify the timeline on this video, it shows the two pilots as they were approaching, going through security. These men, it was thought, one or both of them had disabled the comm systems on the plane that automatically report their position and other elements before they said all right, good night.
Well, today we learned from the CEO of Malaysia Airlines that's not necessarily true. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YAHYA: The ACARS last ACARS transmission was 107, OK. We don't know when the ACARS was switched off after that. It's supposed to transmit 30 minutes from there another transmission, but that transmission did not come through. That was the very last transmission we have, 107.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: But that means they wouldn't have expected to hear another transmission until 1:37. So the ACARS might have been switched off or gone off any time between then. The problem here is that they said all right, good night at 1:19, which opens up the door once again to a catastrophic mechanical failure, a mechanical failure that could account for all of the things that went wrong aboard this flight.
Now the search area has widened. One of the problems with the mechanical failure, massive mechanical failure theory right now is that how could a plane that suffered such devastating damage then go on to fly for an additional six or seven hours. That's a question that people are going to have to look at anew tonight.
Back to you, Monita.
RAJPAL: So, then this then takes the investigation into yet another level that only raises more questions right now. If there are so many elements that they're saying that the last transmission was at 1:07 and then communication, then, was at 1:19 where the pilot or the co-pilot said all right, good night. And then nothing. So again it's whether it's something more sinister or catastrophic when it comes from a technical perspective.
It feels like if for some we're back to square one.
CLANCY: Well, I don't think we're back to square one, but we certainly are back to asking a lot of serious questions about the possibility of mechanical failure.
The hijack scenario maybe less likely. If there were hijackers on board among the passengers they would have had a very, very narrow window indeed to have gotten into that plane after 1:19 and before the 1:37 time or the time that the transponder appeared to go off.
But this is something they're going to have to look at all over again.
What we didn't know was that ACARS wasn't automatically switched off, that 1:07 wasn't the end of all of its transmissions, but instead nobody expected it to come back and try to talk, to report the plane's help until 1:37, 30 minutes later. So you can't really tell whether it's on or it's off. But this news is going to be greeted, I think well, by some of the family members of the pilot and the co-pilot tonight.
Back to you.
RAJPAL: Yeah, the family members have clinging on to any sign of hope for the last 10 days now. Jim, thank you so much. Jim Clancy there live for us from Kuala Lumpur.
Let's get a little bit more on this. Let's speak to Les Abend. He's a pilot and a Boeing 777 captain. He joins us now from New York.
Sir, thank you very much for being with us.
Based on what you're hearing right now about the specific clues that have been revealed, that is the ACARS transmission switched off after 1:07 local time, then there was communication around 1:19, even though it wasn't expected until half an hour after that time, what do you make about what was going on in that cockpit?
LES ABEND, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, FLYING MAGAINZE: Well, it seems to me that this was all a normal routine, that the last verbal transmission is an indication to me that everything was fine in that airplane. I like the terminology of -- of the transponder not being available to see on radar as opposed to being disabled. It just -- there's a lot of speculation that this was manually turned off.
A professional flight crew would not do that. It seems that if there was 30 minutes in between what was supposed to be the next transmission verbally, that's a normal routine. Something may have happened if this data is correct in between that period of time.
RAJPAL: Something may have happened when it -- in terms of electrical failure, or something more sinister than that?
ABEND: Yes. I've been speaking about that frequently. Is that -- if it's possible that the guts of this -- it's an electronic, highly sophisticated airplane. It's a flying laptop. And the E&E compartment, the electronics and engineering compartment down below, eight feet behind the cockpit door, below the galley requires stairs to get to, there's a lot of stuff down there that transmits, that communicates internally within the airplane. If something was happening to that, albeit a fire situation, something that was malfunctioning within the computer systems, that was affecting other communication systems within the computer, then they may have been working on that problem in between that last transmission and where -- if that data is correct that they were supposed to make that next verbal transmission.
RAJPAL: But if there was a problem, say if there was a fire, if there was an electrical failure of some sort wouldn't that kind of communication been made to either Malaysian air traffic control to at least say that they are experiencing something that is -- that is very difficult to deal with?
ABEND: Absolutely not. We are trained as early aviators to do aviate, navigate and communicate. And they were -- they may have been trying to troubleshoot the problem, go through a checklist and the last priority they had was to communicate their problem, because really the only one that can solve that problem are the guys there at the pointy end of the airplane.
So once they knew what they had and understood it, then they would communicate that they have a mayday issue, which would have been the proper phraseology to utilize. But that may never have occurred because of what potentially was occurring.
RAJPAL: Captain Abend, you've piloting a Boeing 777. What do you think happened?
ABEND: Well, like everybody, it's pure conjecture on my part. But I stick to that story that -- this is a professional flight crew that knew their business. I don't see any evidence, at least what's being released, that they had any nefarious intentions, nor do I -- somebody else from within the airplane as a passenger that had any knowledge -- I don't have the knowledge of what really goes on in that lower equipment bay. It's incredibly sophisticated airplane.
I know enough to fly it and guide it and take the airplane safely from point A to point B, but I rarely go down into that compartment. I have no reason to. There's only one checklist that I can think of offhand that would take me down to that very complicated area.
So it would really take a lot of -- a pretty nefarious plot and people very, very knowledgeable to know what to disable.
RAJPAL: What do you make of the reports that suggest that this plane may have flown below 5,000 feet? Is that possible without being detected?
ABEND: Well, not being detected, no. I really doubt that. If this is accurate information, of course. Flying the airplane at 5,000 feet is something we do entering the approach phase to land at a particular airport. So, radar is still available. As a matter of fact, radar is very accurate at that altitude.
So I'm having a little difficulty with that information if in fact it's true.
RAJPAL: All right, Captain Les Abend there, thank you so much for your thoughts, your analysis and your expertise on this. We do appreciate your time.
ABEND: My pleasure.
RAJPAL: And that is News Stream. The news continues here on CNN. I'm Monita Rajpal. World Business Today is next.