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Mystery of Flight 370: Search Narrowed; Fort Hood Massacre; Storms Barrel Through Midwest; March Jobs Report

Aired April 4, 2014 - 05:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning in what could be a pivotal point in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Overnight, Australia announcing it has taken over the search for the missing jetliner. New technology helping them dramatically narrow the search and try to find that missing black box that everyone wants to find.

We have live team coverage straight ahead this hour.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Inside the mind of a killer. New information this morning on the gunman who murdered 3 soldiers and injured 16 more. The latest information on the rampage that's left Fort Hood reeling again. We are live in Killeen, Texas.

HARLOW: Also, more breaking news overnight and also this morning. Tornadoes, hail, flood, blizzard? Some snow in April? Really destroying a lot in its path. Millions of people throughout the country feeling the storm's wrath.

Our Indra Petersons is here tracking the hardest hit areas and what is still to come.

A lot of news this morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Welcome to EARLY START.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday. It's April 4th. It is 5:00 a.m. on the nose in the East.

Let's begin with breaking news on the hunt for Flight 370. And this, this morning, this Friday morning, a potential turning point -- the search moving under water now. Australian officials who have now taken the lead, by the way, say the subsurface search is under way with the U.S. Navy's pinger locator, and they've got other acoustic gear deployed. They are honing in on a 150-mile stretch of the Indian Ocean. They are trying to detect any transmission from the plane's black box.

Now, the pinger may only have a day or two of battery life left. That's why the move subsurface, they've got to do it now. Meantime, nearly two dozen ships and aircraft will again begin combing the surface of the ocean. Overnight officials said all of the leads garnered from satellite images turned out to be other things. They are still looking.

CNN's Matthew Chance, he is live for us this morning in Perth, Australia.

Walk us through these latest developments. You know, the pilots are still coming back empty-handed. They're spotting some things, but so far, nothing has turned up, and the search now has moved under sea, Matthew. Bring us up to speed.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a new phase of the search operation. It's gone subsurface, according to the search organizers here in the Australian city of Perth, and that's for two reasons. You've mentioned, you've hinted at both of them.

The first is that they've only just now managed to get the assets that they need in the search area to start an underwater search. They've got a British nuclear submarine, the HMS Tireless, they've got two surface ships, an Australian and British one as well, the Australian one carrying U.S. technology, which is designed specifically to try and track down underwater pings from black box flight recorders, such as the one that would have been carried on the Malaysian 370 -- sorry, the Malaysian airliner, rather, that's now missing.

It's moved under water, the search, but they're still emphasizing the search from the skies as well. There are still a number of aircraft, at least 14 aircraft in the skies, in fact, trying to look for some sign of the debris floating on the surface. So far, they've seen absolutely nothing, but they say this area they're looking at now, which is a vast area, some 85,000 square miles, is the area of highest probability where the aircraft went down, based on the data that they've received only recently.

Take a listen to what Angus Houston, the coordinator here at the search in Australia, had to say.


ANGUS HOUSTON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN AIR CHIEF MARSHAL: We're moving into an area we've never been before, and may I say, I think there's groundbreaking analytical work has been simply extraordinary, and it gives us, I think, some hope that we will eventually find the aircraft in the area that we're searching.


CHANCE: Angus Houston there saying that if it is in that area, they will find it. But he also drew a line of caution as well, saying that, look, the area is vast, it is remote, and after 28 days of looking intensely for any sign of the aircraft, they've still found absolutely no trace of it, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely no trace of it on this Friday, 28, 29 days in. Thank you so much, Matthew Chance, in Perth for us.

HARLOW: So, as you heard there from Angus Houston, some guarded optimism as the search for Flight 370 is refined a bit. That search area narrowed a bit. What kind of weather conditions will crews face on this day 28 of the search? They are well into that day.

Our Will Ripley joins us now, live on a boat off the coast of Western Australia.

Looking behind you, the weather looks pretty decent. Is this almost the best they can get?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's pretty close to that, Poppy, although one thing we have learned covering this story and covering the weather conditions out in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles from where we are right now, is that it's highly unpredictable and can change quickly.

But the word we are getting from the search zone is that conditions look a lot like what we're seeing out here right now. Not many white caps, which is good news. The seas are relatively calm, so it allows you to scan. Their visibility right now about six miles on either side. And without the white caps, if there is debris floating in the water, the hope is that searchers and search planes will be able to spot it.

Also, the clouds, they're about 1,000 feet above the ocean right now. That's a bit lower than we'd like to see, but these planes, especially the P-3, the P-8, the ones that have been out, the backbone of this operation, they can get down pretty low to the water, up to 300 feet over the surface, allowing them to get close enough to see what they're doing as they're doing this visual search.

HARLOW: Tell us a little bit more about the technology, Matthew Chance was just telling us about it. You've got a British sub. You've got two major, major ships out there that are bringing the TPL or towed pinger locator beneath the surface there.

But even the boat that you're on, which is basically a commercial fishing boat, has some of this sonar technology, right?

RIPLEY: Yes, that's right. And you know, for the first time now in this search, we're not necessarily at the mercy of daylight. Now, obviously, the planes that are flying and that are doing a visual search, they can only stay out over the water for a certain amount of time and they can only see for a certain amount of time because of the sunlight, but the search using the sonar technology that's listening under water, that can continue 24/7, and it will continue, we're told, for the next 10 to 12 days, until we're absolutely certain that the in-flight data recorders are no longer emitting any sort of ping.

Obviously, we'd like a more narrowed down search area, because you know, you can only hear in ideal conditions that ping up to 2 1/2 miles around. If the weather gets worse, if there is debris blocking it, then that distance gets smaller. But if we knew where possibly the wreckage might be, we'd have a lot better shot of getting close to that black box.

HARLOW: That is what is so hard, that even though they have somewhat narrowed the search data -- the search based on the most recent data, it's nowhere near small enough to, you know, it seems to get closer to this. That is what is so frustrating. And not one piece of debris 28 days in.

We appreciate the reporting. We'll get back to you later in the show. Thank you, Will.

ROMANS: Meantime, sources are telling CNN the head of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation has rejected a request from the Flight 370 families, a request to release audio transmissions between the cockpit and the control tower.

Our Jim Clancy has been tracking the flight 370 investigation for us from Kuala Lumpur.

These families want to hear that final transmission. Malaysian authorities say, no, this is an active investigation, right, Jim?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is correct. You know, the families, understandably, have wanted to be hands on. When they were unable to get the raw data records, the radar records from the Malaysians and others, they have gone out on the Internet and created their own versions of it.

In this case, they had the transcript, the written transcript, just like we did last week, and they were able to look at that and read it, but they wanted more. They want every shred of evidence they can possibly get that links them somehow back to the plane where those 239 passengers and crew disappeared on March 8th. They've tried. The government has said we've got an investigation to do.

They appreciate that. They understand that. But of course, they want to feel closer to their loved ones.

They're really grasping at straws here. I think all of the focus for the families, for the investigators here, is now down there in the southern stretches of the Indian Ocean where they might, they just might, if we hope against hope, might be able to recover some of the real data from those flight recorders. That's the evidence that everyone needs.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: Are they doubting the government? Are they doubting the government's version of that final transmission? Is that one reason why they're asking, or is it purely because they want to hear that voice?

CLANCY: I think it's because they want to hear that voice. I don't think they doubt the government as much. I think they're a little perplexed that the government knows so little and is unable to share anything with them. They are frustrated by that, just like the media's frustrated.

But I've come to a conclusion after 28 days here in Kuala Lumpur -- there isn't that much, there isn't raw evidence that you can process, that you can put your hands on, evidence that would say, yes, this is true, no, that is false.

It simply doesn't exist, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jim Clancy in Kuala Lumpur. Thanks, Jim.

HARLOW: Also, new information this morning on the soldier who went on that deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood. We are live with what could have been going through the gunman's mind on that tragic day.

Also, millions waking up this morning to devastation, tornadoes, floods, even snowstorms just paralyzing communities. Indra Petersons is tracking it all for us and what is ahead, next.


HARLOW: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Investigators are still trying to determine why, why Army Specialist Ivan Lopez went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 more before taking his own life. It is the second mass killing at that military base in five years, and we're learning more now about the shooter. The picture emerging is one of someone troubled and mentally unstable.

Our George Howell is live in Fort Hood, Texas, with us this morning. I know that there are still so many questions and not a lot of details, but we have gotten some pretty significant information, right?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. But here's the thing, though. When you hear from soldiers who knew Lopez, this all seems out of character. They describe him as a person, an extraordinary individual, a person with a lot of values.

However, we are learning more about his background. Officials telling us that he was on a variety of treatments. He suffered from anxiety and depression. He was taking antidepressants and the drug Ambien. Also, he was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, though it's important to note he was not officially diagnosed with PTSD. He was simply being evaluated, going through the process.

Now, we also heard about a possible confrontation on post that could have played factor prior to the shooting. I want you to take a listen to this.


LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: We're looking into that, trying to figure out what the trigger event was. It was mentioned yesterday there may have been a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers, and there's a strong possibility that that, in fact, immediately preceded the shooting. But we do not have that definitively at this point, but we do have strong indications of that.


HOWELL: Three people were killed in this shooting, 16 injured overall, but we've learned that three people -- of the 16, three who were in critical condition have been upgraded to serious condition. But again, a terrible situation here that played out, we saw, five years ago. Same situation.

ROMANS: Yes, that is just -- I mean, Christine and I were saying yesterday, the fact that this happening in a place where it just shouldn't have happened again and where soldiers should be protected. I had a question. When it comes to the gun, he had it legally, correct? I mean it wasn't registered on the base, but this is a gun that he purchased completely legally, passed background checks, everything?

HOWELL: Yes, he passed all the standard background checks here in the state of Texas to own that weapon. He didn't have any sort of criminal history that would have prevented him from owning a weapon.

Ironically, he bought the weapon from a store called Guns Galore here in Killeen. It's the same store where Major Nidal Hasan bought his weapon some five years ago, that shooting spree here on post where he killed 13 people. He injured dozens more.

HARLOW: You know, and authorities are saying this morning there is no indication at this time that Lopez was targeting any specific individual, so what could have triggered this?

We appreciate the reporting, George. Thank you.

ROMANS: The commanding general of Fort Hood saying very clearly that he had a medical history of unstable psychiatric and psychological conditions, and this was. That history was, in fact, the fundamental, underlying factor for what happened there on that base. The death of his mother apparently hit the army specialist hard, and he was reportedly upset that the army gave him less than two days leave to attend her funeral.

Now, but some people who know him, especially his army brethren, say they didn't see a hint of what was to come.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was one of my best soldiers in the organization, and he has the leadership. Specialist Lopez was an outstanding soldier with great initiative. He showed a great, great leadership and a very, very great military discipline.

JOHN MCHUGH, ARMY SECRETARY: He was seen just last month by a psychiatrist. He was fully examined. And as of this morning, we had no indication on the record of that examination that there was any sign of likely violence, either to himself or to others, no suicidal ideation.

REPORTER: You've said hello to him, you talked to him?


REPORTER: What did he seem like?

BRADLEY: He seemed pretty fine, happy. He didn't seem like, you know, the type that would do what he did.


HARLOW: Well, one of those killed in the Fort Hood rampage has been identified as Army Sergeant Timothy Owens. His family in Illinois talked about him to our affiliate, WICS.


MARY MUNTEAN, MOTHER OF SGT. TIMOTHY OWENS: He didn't answer the phone, so I left a message, son, call me so I know if you're OK or not. Well, never got no call from him. I thought, oh, God, please don't let it be.

WALLACE GERHARDT, UNCLE OF SGT. TIMOTHY OWENS: He was just a very honorable, you know, individual. And like I say, I don't think he knew any strangers. Everybody that he met I believe that Tim got along with them.


ROMANS: This morning, three of the 16 people wounded in that shooting remain in the hospital. Doctors say it's still too soon to determine what the long-term impact of their injuries will be. One trauma surgeon tells CNN their initial response to the deadly rampage was this.


DR. MATTHEW DAVIS, DIR. OF TRAUMA, WHITE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: I think that the first feeling whenever I found out about the potential of this, you know, when the news began to trickle in, was a little bit of disbelief, you know, how can this possibly happen again type feeling. You know, very quickly, you move to resolve and determination to make sure that you've got all your systems in places to care for these patients appropriately. And we moved to that pretty quickly. Set up our command center and got going.


ROMANS: Stay with us for more coverage of the Fort Hood shooting throughout the morning here on EARLY START and later on "NEW DAY."

HARLOW: Meantime, millions of Americans are in a path of really severe weather hitting the Midwest, the south. Tornadoes, heavy rain, even damaging hail. The National Weather Service reporting a number of those twisters touching down across several states.

ROMANS: You know, in Indiana, that storm system drenching parts of the state. Some 3 inches of rain fell on Hamilton County. It left roads flooded, a number of people in their vehicles, obviously, needed water rescue when the water rises that fast.

HARLOW: And tornadoes have been reported in several Missouri counties. The St. Louis suburb of University City cleaning up from a twister that struck nearly 24 hours ago. Big trees were no match for those strong winds. A number of homes had their roofs ripped right off, the storm knocking out power to thousands.

ROMANS: Missouri's governor declared a state of emergency as the band of severe weather moved across his state. You could see the funnel clouds forming in the sky over Kansas City, torrential rain causing some significant flooding along the Missouri/Kansas border.

HARLOW: Even in Texas. Parts of Texas getting clobbered by this severe weather. That included reports of tornadoes and baseball-size hail. The town of Denton -- that's about 40 miles from Fort Worth and Dallas -- saw two rounds of monster hail just about two hours apart.

Our Indra Petersons is tracking the storm system. This seemed to just come, wham, right in really fast, and it's not gone yet.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, unfortunately, that danger is still out there right now. Let's talk about where the current danger is. We still have severe thunderstorm watches and tornado watches. So, if you're in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, right now that squall line is making its way through your area and that threat for severe weather is out there.

Look at this threat, guys. Almost 30 million of you today still looking at a threat for severe weather. Today, we're looking at places from Charleston back through Naches and even up towards Cleveland we still have an isolated threat for a tornado today. That is the concern as the system makes its way through, and it is a dangerous system.

Look at what we just saw yesterday. Eight tornadoes reported, Texas, Illinois, even in through Missouri. Wind, strong wind damage sometimes can be even stronger than tornadoes. Strong straight-line winds and large hail as well in the forecast today. The other side of this system, heavy rain and flooding, four or five inches of rain in a short period of time, produced a lot of flooding along the upper Midwest yesterday.

Still looking for the concern today as the system progresses farther east, even making its way into the Northeast today.

Let's talk about this. We're talking about still threats for heavier rain in through Indianapolis, but it looks like you can see this tapering off by the time it makes its way into the Northeast. We're just looking at about under half of an inch, that's the good news, clearing out by the weekend.

It should be a nice weekend, but keep in mind, back by Sunday, another system progresses out of the southeast, bringing a stormy Monday with another potential for severe weather for next week.

ROMANS: All right, we'll watch that. Thanks so much, Indra.

The big jobs report released in just hours. The White House -- you know what, maybe the White House may like this one, but more importantly, maybe you will like this one, if it shows job creation's really taking hold. I'll have a preview for you next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Quick check of global stock markets this Friday morning. The world waiting for news on how strong the American job market is. Official government numbers come in exactly three hours and six minutes.

Economists expect a bit of a spring thaw in those March numbers -- 213,000 jobs added last month. That's the forecast from economists surveyed by CNN Money. That's up from 175,000 in January -- or February, rather. The jobless rate slipping to 6.6 percent. That's an improvement in the jobs picture.

Now, the big question, the asterisk, if we see a very strong number, what kind of jobs are we creating? Are they the kind of high-paying jobs that drive your personal economy? Well, the evidence so far is no. We got a look at how much money Americans are making following the great recession, a lot of data from the bureau of labor statistics.

We crunched all of that. It turns out, the majority of jobs in the country pay below $20. The majority of jobs in the country pay below $20 an hour.

Why? Many of the jobs added in the recovery have been lower paying jobs. Food services has grown steadily over the past year. Home health aides pay about $9 an hour. Also jobs that are less than $10 are steady performers. It's why the White House wants to raise the minimum wage.

HARLOW: This is the debate right now about minimum wage and what does that do to jobs? One economist I interviewed said, yes, if you raise minimum wage, you do lift a significant amount of people up, but be ready if you're one of those people who may not have their job anymore. This is constant give and take.

ROMANS: That's right, and the big question is, are we going to start creating on a higher basis higher-paid jobs?


HARLOW: All the way back to education, early stages, technology, sciences, those jobs that pay a lot.

All right, we'll be following that, waiting for jobs numbers.

Meantime, the FDA has approved a new prescription medical device that could save thousands of lives. The handheld auto injector administers a single dose of a drug that rapidly reverses the effects of heroin. This is -- kind of think of an EpiPen, something like that used to counteract severe allergic reactions.

This is called Evzio. It's injected right into the muscle and apparently needs no training. This keeps heroin or opioids from fatally slowing down someone's breathing. This could save a lot of lives.

ROMANS: Fascinating.

All right. Breaking news this morning: the search for missing Malaysian airlines flight going into high gear this morning. You've got new technology hitting the water and you have a subsurface search now for the first time and the search zone has narrowed.

We've got all that, next.