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NEW DAY

Search For Flight 370 Intensifies; "Ocean Shield" Equipped With "Ping" Detector; Koreas Exchange Fire At Sea; Crisis in Ukraine; Obamacare Deadline Arrives

Aired March 31, 2014 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Up first for you, racing against the clock to find Flight 370. The search is now in its fourth week. That means, they are just days remaining before the 30-day battery life of the black box expires. That is it hasn't already.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New word that the search is intensifying this morning. Ten planes and ten ships scouring the Indian Ocean. We now know where those four floating orange objects found on Sunday came from.

Our coverage of the search for Flight 370 begins with Paula Newton live from Perth, Australia this morning. Paula, it doesn't sound like good news for those orange objects.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. We were all waiting for some better news here. Still Kate, since you were here last week, this search has been beefed up quite a bit. I mean, it's a completely different search, many more ships at sea, more planes in the air and still so frustrating. Still no trace of Flight 370.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON (voice-over): Today, search teams back to square one. Debris sighted this weekend apparently leading to dead ends. Four orange objects spotted by an Australian reconnaissance plane and other floating objects that ships recovered turned out to be fishing equipment and dead jelly fish.

HISHAMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION: None of the objects were related to MH-370.

NEWTON: As the search enters its fourth week now, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott tells CNN's Atika Shubert in an exclusive interview, they're not giving up.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How long can this be sustained realistically?

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The effort is ramping up, not winding down. NEWTON: Dedicated to today's search, 10 aircrafts and at least 10 ships from seven countries among those ships Australia's "Ocean Shield" prepping to depart port. I toured the ship this weekend as crews outfitted the vessel with an unmanned underwater robot and black box detector from the U.S. Navy. The latest analysis of satellite and radar data has zoned in on this search area more than a thousand miles off the coast of Perth, Australia.

ABBOTT: We've just got very general information about where this aircraft has come down, but nevertheless we are giving it the very best shot we can.

NEWTON: Prime Minister Abbott refusing to put a timeline on the search as distraught relatives of the missing passengers pray for their loved ones' return at a Buddhist temple in Kuala Lumpur.

ABBOTT: We owe it to the families of the 239 people on board and we owe it to the whole world, which has been transfixed by this mystery now after some time.

HUSSEIN: We will continue searching and we will keep investigating and we will never give up until we find out what happened to MH-370.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: You know, still the prime minister here, Tony Abbott, was at pain to really say how difficult this was. Chris, I can tell you from being on the "Ocean Shield" and speaking to Mark Matthews, the commander of -- the one who is leading the search for those black boxes, he needs the search site to be one-thousandsth of the size it is right now. It is far too large for him. It gives you a sense, Chris, of what they are dealing with here still.

CUOMO: It is hard to fathom how difficult it is. We keep trying to come up with metaphors, even needle in the haystack doesn't quite do it. Paula, thank you very much for the reporting.

Let's get some perspective on this with our experts. David Soucie, CNN safety analyst and the author of "Why Planes Crash" and Mary Schiavo, CNN aviation analyst, former inspector general for the Department of Transportation.

Good to have you both. David, this is a new chapter for your book in terms of why planes crash because this mystery is just not yielding answers. At least not at the phase that people want. So we hear that it's intensifying, ten ships, ten aircraft out there, still sounds like small numbers. Why not more assets involved?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I think there could never be too many because of the cycles and the shifts that are going on. You have daylight to worry about. You have intersections to worry about. There is a lot of data coming in. You know, the search has to be done in grids. It has to be done logically and sequentially. I'm not sure that more is better in this case. I think that they are doing all they can with that area. CUOMO: Now Mary, that's something that you point out to people that common sense doesn't rule in a situation like this. More is not always better. Why?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, because of what David said in part. You have to search in a methodical way. They literally have mapped out the ocean, have assigned different teams search areas. Frankly, in this case and given the, you know, the late date, more is probably better in this case because the pinger and while I'm always optimistic and the batteries don't just stop immediately on day 30.

So there is still hope beyond that, but right at this point, we have to trust the Australian officials and they say they have what they need. But frankly at this time and after so many weeks, I would ask for more. I'd throw everything you could get in the whole world at it.

CUOMO: Well, they say that that question was received and answered by the United States, by giving the most sophisticated pinger locator equipment that they believe is available, at least the U.S. believes it's available and that is what's on that Australian ship. So I guess, that's a good thing.

One more common sense question for you Mary, before we get to the pinger itself. Finding something that is related to an aircraft in the ocean. Even when they find objects, it's difficult for them to immediately say it might be part of an aircraft because?

SCHIAVO: Well, because, you know, from the pictures and when they pull it on board, you don't automatically know what it is, but for an aircraft, it's pretty specific. They will know when something is from an aircraft particularly the investigators when they get it back to Perth because parts on an aircraft are very specific to aircraft. This craft being made in the United States of America, the Federal Aviation Administration has to approve most of the parts on an aircraft.

The seat cushions are approved. The seats are approved. The panels and the flooring approved, the avionics. So if it came off of a plane and most of them have serial number on it, we will know whether it is from a plane. From passengers the things that float are passengers, luggage, tennis shoes, by the way, the food carts float. So they will know. They won't be a mystery when they find it, they'll know.

CUOMO: OK, so now we get to the pinger and it's not hype to say time is running out. It's a rule of thumb that you have about 30 days best case scenario that that pinger still goes off, that black box making a sound going off that can be picked up by equipment. Question to you, common sense again, David Soucie, why only 30 days?

SOUCIE: You know, that's a really good question. It's the same question that the French government asked after 447. Not only asked, but they demanded that it be changed to 90 days. That was five years ago and now the only thing that we have from that is that new boxes that are made have to have 90 days as of 2015. So do new crafts have to have those installed, but there's no regulation from the FAA that IASA or IKO saying that they have to be retro fit for 90 days.

CUOMO: Ever get an answer about how the maintenance was done on this plane and whether or not these batteries were OK?

SOUCIE: Yes. I did get an answer. Not specifically this aircraft, but I have a high level of concern about these batteries on this airplane because we have this inside source that's telling me that he did an audit and he checked the way they're stored and the manufacturer recommends a cool and dry place for storage. If they're in a heated area, there life can dramatically decrease and he did find the heated area, it was a 120-degree room with high humidity.

CUOMO: Now, David Soucie, has inside source. I have my own, Mary. My inside source says that the U.S. was happy to give these assets to the search just like they did in Air France. But they did raise the question of why are you using it when you don't know where to look? Even though, it is sophisticated equipment, you still have to be very close relatively to the sound that's going off to find it and they don't see that as a likelihood here. That's what my source says. Does that square with your understanding?

SCHIAVO: That's because of the distance, which it can pick it up. They call it mowing the ocean and they have to go back and forth, except while you're looking in one square, miles away in another area might be where it is. Without more exacting information, they're relying on a little luck. Sometimes it's better to be lucky.

So if they get lucky with towing the pinger, that's good. I can't see not using it. I understand the skepticism but, my goodness, at this point, they've just got to try. I'm going to go with the Australians on this one and get out there and try to find it.

CUOMO: And towing the pinger is another reason that you don't want too many assets in the area because the rope, the lead is long and the pinger it's like miles long so that you want as little traffic in the area as possible. That's why less assets can be better. Mary, you've made that point in the past.

Last common sense question, March 8th is when this started, OK? Still people don't understand why with all the snoopy sovereigns in the world that nobody picked up this airplane. Yes, the Thai radar picked it up a little bit, but with India right there and Thailand right there and Diego Garcia, this mythical outpost of the United States that does nothing but surveillance.

Do we have a good explanation for why nobody had better tracking information on this plane, Mary or do we think that that information is not coming up publicly?

SCHIAVO: Well, we do have information. It's probably not going to be very comforting for those of us who spend a good chunk of our lives on airplanes. You know, once the transponder stopped transmitting and you didn't have the advantage of the more advanced radar and any kind of tracking ability on this plane, you're down to basic, old fashioned primary radar, which is almost like what you see in World War II movies, it's just a blip on the screen. If nobody's watching the screen, if no one as paying attention, it's like it didn't happen. And believe on cases in the United States of America, I've had cases where an air traffic controller and in-route controllers simply weren't watching and so aircraft went unattended.

I had a case where an air traffic controller fell asleep in the tower and so everything that happened there if people aren't paying attention and after about 20 minutes they can be looking at the screen and not noticing there's such a boredom factor. So it's not that it was invisible. It's that eyes didn't see it.

CUOMO: It boggles the mind that they pick up a conversation I'm having on e-mail and send me an ad 5 minutes, but they couldn't track a plane that was flying perhaps for hours. Mary Schiavo, David Soucie, thank you very much for the perspective -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Also breaking overnight, tensions boiling over this morning between North and South Korea, the two sides exchanging live fire at sea after the north military drills spilled over the maritime border.

Let's find out more from our Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, it's happening overnight. What more are we learning this morning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Well, this is exactly what the U.S. is worried about for weeks. Is there a new round of provocation from North Korea? This took place on the western border at sea, North Korea conducting live fire exercises, some of it falling into South Korean waters and at that point, the South responded.

The Reuters news agency is reporting this got pretty brisk, the North firing about 500 artillery shells, the South Koreans firing back with about 300 shells. This has been an area of tension before back in 2011, a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean ship killing 46 sailors.

One of the big concerns right now, Kate, is this comes just one day after North Korea raised the prospect of another nuclear test. It goes back to the fundamental question is there an isolated incident or is this potentially a new round of North Korean provocations?

BOLDUAN: Very important question, Barbara. You're live at the Pentagon for us. You'll continue to track it. Thank you so much.

But let's talk more about this now with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who is here in New York with us today. Jim, this is, I mean, troubling to say the least, but what Barbara is asking a very key question. Is this an isolated incident or is this some kind of ratcheting up provocation that the U.S. needs to pay more attention to? What are you hearing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's clearly not isolated. It's one in a series of things. You had a threat last week to set off a nuclear weapon. You had a missile test a short time ago and you know, going back a few weeks ago, we were talking about this. The execution of his uncle, the second most powerful person in North Korea and if you believe his stories, his children as well.

I mean, this is -- you know, North Korea will always be provocative, but the thing is they're becoming unpredictable. I know from talking to U.S. officials, that even the Chinese, China being North Korea's main protector, main ally, are growing uneasy and they are kind of throwing their hands up in the air and that's a bad sign.

BOLDUAN: Because there's a little bit of what can you do, right?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. I mean, you know what you can do, but no one is willing to pay that price. If China wanted to truly squeeze North Korea, they would cut off economic aid because that state does not survive without tremendous in flows of money, oil, food from China. The trouble is does China and frankly does the U.S. and South Korea want to bear the cost of the collapse of the North Korea regime.

You know, China is worried about a couple of things, you know, an influx of refugees across the border, political instability. They are also worried about having U.S. troops right on China's border. North Korea is a buffer between South Korea and China. Is China willing to pay them? Is the U.S., is South Korea willing to pay them? It becomes an issue of containment. But this is a difficult country to contain and no one knows what his next move is.

BOLDUAN: That's the big question mark because there is no communication with North Korea. There is no way of knowing and you talk about the fact that it seems -- the scary thing seem to be, he -- the country, seems to be becoming more and more unpredictable. Exchanging live fire to me seems to be ratcheting it up. I mean, you hear threats of nuclear test. We hear a lot of threats, a lot of bluster and we always talk about the saber rattling, 500 artillery shells from North Korea, responding South Korea, 300 artillery shells. That sounds serious.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely because people can die, right? A couple of years ago, you had an exchange of artillery fire. Remember the North Korean shelled the South Korean island, you know, civilians died in that. How does South Korea then calibrate its response so you don't go to war? It's a real danger in that part of the world.

One thing you hear as well is that the Chinese used to be the best kind of communicator with the North Koreans. That was North Korea's sort of red line to the world. For instance, when these executions happened of Kim Jung Un's uncle, even the Chinese apparently were surprised. They got no telegraphy that this was going to happen.

So if you are in a situation like that where the North Koreans aren't preparing anybody for the kinds of moves they might make then everybody gets surprised. You don't want to be surprised.

BOLDUAN: You don't want to be surprised, especially with North Korea.

All right. Jim, thank you so much. We'll continue to follow this. You'll be with here with us with that.

PEREIRA: All right. Let's take a look at some of your headlines at this hour.

We are following this in the Washington state area, search operations set to get back underway in the state. More than a week after that catastrophic mudslide. The death toll has risen to 21, with 30 people still missing. The governor tells CNN that officials will be in an active rescue mode as long as there's any possibility of finding survivors.

Southern California keeps getting rattled. More than 100 after shocks over the weekend after a 5.1 magnitude quake hit the Los Angeles area Friday. This rash of tremors breaks a decades long dry spell of significant seismic activity. Meantime in Wyoming, a 4.8 earthquake shook Yellowstone National Park Sunday, the area's largest quake in 34 years.

When it comes to climate change, the worst is yet to come. That's the headlines of a sweeping new United Nations report that says eye caps are melting, heat waves are intensifying and rising oceans are threatening coastal communities. This report concludes climate change is having a sweeping effect on every corner of the planet and the problem will get a lot worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

Federal regulators considered looking into General Motors in 2007 and 2010 but declined. That according to a House investigation into the recall of some 2.2 million vehicles. G.M. reportedly knew of a problem with faulty ignition switches for a decade before issuing the recall. It has been linked to 13 deaths and 31 crashes.

G.M. CEO Mary Barra is set to testify before Congress tomorrow, along with a top transportation official.

College basketball's Final Four is set last night. The Kentucky Wildcats grabbing the last spot by knocking off Michigan last night, 75-72. It is a third Final Four appearance of the Wild Cats in the last five years. This year, a whole lot of freshman making up that squad, too.

Here are your match-ups for Saturday night in Dallas. The top overall seed, Florida taking on Connecticut, I didn't have that following by Kentucky battling Wisconsin.

CUOMO: How many do you get before?

PEREIRA: One.

CUOMO: How many do you have?

BOLDUAN: I think I now have one. The Michigan game was a really big blow. I mean, it was an amazing game, but it would have been much more interesting if my Wolverines --

CUOMO: Let's be honest, you were doing reasonably well in this whole bracket --

(CROSSTALK) PEREIRA: -- two people that were behind here, which was all of us.

CUOMO: It was suspicious.

BOLDUAN: And for the record, and I did it well when I was halfway around the world.

CUOMO: Yes, or someone did it.

BOLDUAN: Or my husband did it.

CUOMO: All righty then. I've been suspicious for weeks.

BOLDUAN: I can't lie to you. It's true, Michael helped me.

CUOMO: I feel better now.

BOLDUAN: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY: as you now know, there has been a setback in the search for Flight 370. Why? Well, these four orange objects, found out they were just fishing equipment. So, what happens now? What does it mean for the crews? How frustrated are they? Do they change tactics at this point?

We're going to ask royal New Zealand air force squadron leader about it and see what he says.

BOLDUAN: And it is deadline day for Obamacare enrollment. Despite the embarrassing rollout of the health care, is the White House about to meet its goals for sign-ups? We're going to take you live to the White House for the latest tally and an update.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Breaking developments in the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is in Crimea's main city at this very hour. He's the most prominent Russian official to head there since it was annexed from Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian foreign minister held talks Sunday about ways to diffuse the crisis. Up to 50,000 Russian troops are now massing near the border and that is a big part of the discussion of what to do with them, if any solutions are going to be reached.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is at a military camp near the Russian border -- Karl.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the Russian border is about ten miles that way. These tents are part of a medevac field hospital the Ukrainian troops have been setting up, and that really is a clear sign that they do take this threat of a possible Russian invasion seriously. I can't show you because of security reasons but tanks and armored personnel carriers are dug into the terrain there. They really are preparing for a possible tank battle if the Russians decide to roll over. But, of course, the military here is not the story. The civilian population aren't just sitting idly by. They, too, are dividing themselves up, dividing the entire community into self- defense committees and they say if the Russians come in, they will also fight, they break down and fight a guerrilla war in the forest and swamps around here.

In fact, in Sunday mass yesterday, we were listening to a priest talking to his flock at church, bang on the border, and his message was if the Russians come into our communities, we must stand and fight. He said if need be, I will be there fighting alongside you.

So, both the Ukrainian military and civilian population taking the threat of a Russian invasion very seriously.

Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: There's different definition to a holy war there, Karl. We'll be watching it. Thank you for reporting this morning.

Now, today is the final day for Obamacare enrollment -- unless by final day you mean the last day. If so, then the White House is giving a week-long extension for those who start enrolling today. So, the question is, could Obamacare come close to hitting its original 7 million enrollment target?

CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House.

And, Jim, I guess is -- will they meet the number? That's the question. But is it a magic number anyway?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a bit of a magic number, sort of looming out there on the horizon, something they've been shooting for. But they know since it was all those problems in the initial rollout, that it was unlikely they would hit 7 million.

But I have to tell you, Chris, have been on that week-long trip with the president, Europe and Saudi Arabia, when they put out those numbers that they hit 6 million people signing up by late last week, they were feeling pretty good about these enrollment numbers.

Consider what happened over the weekend, 2 million people went to the Web site, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, and 380,000 people went to these call centers.

And so, when we get these final enrollment numbers for the entire enrollment period in a couple of weeks from now, they could be between somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 million to 7 million people, and that is going to be considered an achievement here at this White House.

Now, we don't know exactly how many people have paid for their coverage, and we don't know what the percentage of young adults who are signing up. That's critical. They need something of a neighborhood of 30 percent to 40 percent to make this program really sustainable.

And, of course, one thing we'll be watching over the next several months is the sticker shock, are people seeing premiums going up? If so, this program could become a liability again for this president.

Now, they are still trying to get the word out over the next 24 hours, Chris. Yes, administration officials will be fanning out across the airways, including Vice President Joe Biden will be on the "Rachael Ray Show" later to talk about Obamacare.

So, they're in the home stretch but they're feeling pretty good at the White House, Chris.

CUOMO: So, you got -- are there enough people? Domino falls. Are there enough young people? Domino falls. If not, how to insure? Dominos fall. How do doctors and hospitals react? Dominos fall.

It's a real cascade they have to worry about there.

Jim, thanks for keeping us on top.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Well, one thing we know for sure is the need for health care is ever increasing because of the winter that will not end. We do not know when hats and coats get stored.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons, fresh from home trip to California, even got some yack (ph) on you there, and rightly so for what you have done to the rest of us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. I should have knocked one down, think I'm jinxed. I mean, yes, unfortunately, we're talking about, even showers in the west coast. Look at the weekend you saw here in the East Coast. I mean, the heavy rain pretty much all weekend long, several inches of it and still, some even showers left over this morning.

I'm back and I'm going to push it out of the way for you, right? I'm going to try to take credit for this. Unfortunately, we're not talking about the last system of the season just yet.

Look at this -- we're talking about blizzard conditions, about a million of you through Minnesota today as another system lurks behind one that really played the Northeast through the weekend. Yes, it's exiting to the Northeast but look at the tailing cold front behind it. This guy just means more rain in the forecast again. Of course, it's going to take its time as it moves through the Ohio Valley.

But either way, it doesn't look like we're done with this system just yet. And when I do want to point out, and especially as we go through about the middle of the week, we have that setup against for a threat for some severe weather, potentially to kind of go through Oklahoma, even through Missouri by the middle of the week. So, we're starting to see a little bit of that spring setup. Snow has at least switched to rain so it's about a hint better. I mean, a hint, you got to take something, guys.

BOLDUAN: It was wet this weekend. That's for sure.

PETERSONS: It was ugly. You can say it. That's all right.

BOLDUAN: Less do with the hair when it's raining because everyone's hair looks bad.

CUOMO: That's what I will always say.

PETERSONS: It's all about the hair, Cuomo.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra. Always is with him.

PETERSONS: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the search for Flight 370 coming up empty so far. The newest debris spotted in the Indian Ocean determined not to be from the missing jetliner. So, is it time to regroup? Is it to change tactics? So, they're looking in the right area. We're going to talk to a New Zealand air force official who's helping to head up their search efforts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)