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EARLY START

Search for Flight 370; Blade Runner" Murder Trial Resumes; Remembering Mickey Rooney

Aired April 7, 2014 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: EARLY START continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning: new evidence that search crews may be close, may be closer to finding missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Just hours ago, investigators revealing black box detectors have received more signals consistent with those deployed by the plane's flight data recorders. Right now, search planes and ships moving in to find those black boxes before their batteries run out and they go silent forever. Live, team coverage on this search.

Plus, troubling new questions about the route the pilots may have taken before this plane vanished and how the families on board are dealing -- families of those on board are dealing with all of this new information.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday, April 7th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

And we do begin with the breaking news, what's being called the most promising lead yet in the search for Flight 370. I think this came as a surprise to a lot of people.

Overnight, it was announced that a U.S. pinger locator has detected two separate signals that could be coming from the plane's black boxes. And one of these signals, one of the detections lasted for well over two hours. So, now, a U.S. underwater drone is being brought in to help find the source of those signals.

This will not be easy, because if, in fact, these signals were coming from the plane's black boxes, they could be coming from a depth of some 2.8 miles.

Erin McLaughlin joins us live now from Perth, Australia, this morning.

Erin, as I said, this announcement coming just a few hours ago. You could tell really by the tone of the voice that everyone was using that this could be significant.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying this is an extraordinary find, not one, but two separate acoustic events detected on board the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield. The first lasting, a total of two hours and 20 minutes. The second signal lasting for 13 minutes comprising of two separate signals, signals consistent with what you would expect from a cockpit voice recorder and the in-flight data recorder. So, very promising indeed.

At the same time, officials here urging caution, saying that it will take some time to verify if these in fact came from the missing plane.

Take a listen to what Angus Houston, the man spearheading this international search effort, had to say at a press conference just some hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGUS HOUSTON, SEARCH COORDINATOR: To be honest with you, it could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH370. In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Now, at the moment, the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield, is still in that area where they made these detections, equipped with that American provided towed ping locator. And what they're doing now is trying to detect a third acoustic event. They say if they're successful at doing that, they will then be better able to triangulate and narrow search field in which they can deploy the Bluefin-21, the underwater autonomous vehicle to go underneath the ocean surface and try and find actual wreckage, only then they say well they know for sure if this is in fact coming from the missing plane -- John.

BERMAN: They're going around for another sweep right now. Erin McLaughlin live for us in Perth, Australia, with the development.

It is important to note, as Erin said, if these signals are from Flight 370's data recorders, that it will be American know-how playing a crucial role in finding them. Now, the pinger locator that detected the signals and the underwater drone that will attempt to find the plane are both manufactured by the same Maryland firm. Let's get more on that from Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's really two vehicles in question, the towed pinger locator that we've heard so much about over the past couple of days that apparently located these signals, and also the Bluefin-21, which is an autonomous underwater vehicle, both made by Phoenix International, and we got access to Phoenix's facilities here not far from D.C., near Largo, Maryland. That's their headquarters. That's where they made all of this very sophisticated equipment.

The way it works that the towed pinger locator goes down and sweeps that area first. The towed pinger locator can go down as far as 20,000 feet below the surface of the sea. It can detect the pinger from up to 2 miles away. It can detect the pinger even if the pinger's signal is fading.

So, these developments overnight and midday there in the region are very encouraging. Of course, we know it does not necessarily mean that they've found the black box signal, but it is encouraging.

Now, the next step, now that they've gotten these signals, is to send that autonomous underwater vehicle, the Bluefin-21, down to that area where the signals were picked up. The Bluefin-21 looks like a torpedo. It goes down to significant depths, and it sweeps that area looking for a debris field, looking for the black box, trying to take both audio and physical video images of whatever is down there.

It's got side-scan sonar capability. It's got picture-taking capability, not video, but still pictures. It will sweep over the area, take a series of still pictures, transmit it to the vessel on the surface, so they can kind of see what they're looking at, Don. That's the sequence. First the pinger locator finds the signal, then the Bluefin-21 goes down and sweeps the area, so that's probably what they're preparing to do right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Our thanks to Brian Todd for that.

Now, with the latest on the investigation. A senior Malaysian government source telling CNN the jetliner appears to have deliberately skirted Indonesia on its path toward the Indian Ocean, taking a route to suggest an intent to avoid radar detection by whoever is at the controls.

I want to bring in senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. He is live in Kuala Lumpur.

And this is certainly using the radar imagery from all of the neighboring countries. This certainly paints a picture of pilot involvement. Tell us what Malaysian officials or Malaysia source is telling CNN.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, what we know is that when the aircraft MH370 took that left hand turn when it was supposed to be on route to Beijing, turned back, flew across the Malaysian Peninsula, it was understood that that turn might have been brought about by the pilot or the first officer or captain reacting to some mechanical onboard the aircraft.

Now with these additional information, the picture that begins to emerge more clearly now is of someone who is control, that not having to deal with the mechanical emergency, but steering the aircraft intentionally around the north of Indonesia. Again, that takes careful calculation and planning, knowledge of the air, radar capabilities of Indonesian air space to avoid those. So, it begins to paint a psychological profile of the person who was at the wheel if you will of this aircraft, steering this aircraft and controlling it and flying it to a very remote destination.

So, by providing that insight, we know from officials, they have said that whoever was at the control knew what they were doing, was experienced in flying this type of aircraft. So, now, they're beginning to understand perhaps a little more of the psychology of the person flying that they appear to be trying to take it somewhere where no one can see them, when no one would know what was going on and potentially if they brought it down, no one would know how and where to find it -- Christine.

ROMANS: It's still a mystery, why, who is doing that, whatever kinds of theories are out there, what kind of facts to support those theories. Still just maddening. Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur, thank you, Nic.

BERMAN: Imagine with this information about the investigation, and also this new information we're covering all morning about the pings. Imagine what this sounds like to the family members of those onboard Flight 370, those looking for any kinds of answers for what happened. Many of them are still holding hope that their loved ones might still be alive.

Let's go now to Pauline Chiou live in Beijing this morning with so many of those families have been.

Pauline, what are they saying?

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they're very tentative about this new information because they're really in a dilemma. They do want concrete information, but if in fact they do get confirmation, this is debris, and that's going to dash their hopes for some of these people who really as you mentioned do believe that their relatives are alive and if there is confirmation of that, it would just be devastating to everyone.

Now, we talked to family members about these possible pings, ever since the initial reports came out on Saturday local time.

We spoke with Steve Wang, whose mother is on the plane. He says he is reaching that point, or he is accepting the reality of what probably happened to the plane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE WANG: Maybe this is a time, maybe the next couple days, the next couple months, the next couple years, we will find the ending, but there will be a time that it will end. So, to me, I don't want that it is MH370. But if it is the facts, I have to face it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHIOU: I also asked Steve what his thoughts are as he approaches the one-month mark of the missing airplane. And John, he said, listen, it doesn't matter if it's day 29, day 30, day 31, day 32. He just said every day is excruciating. Every day is painful. And we just need to find out what happened -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Pauline Chiou for us live in Beijing. Just can't imagine what the families are going through. Our thanks to Pauline.

ROMANS: All right. So, we are covering the breaking news on missing Malaysia airlines Flight 370 all morning long.

But first, the trial resuming for the Olympic hero accused of murder. The defense calls its first witness. Will the Blade Runner soon take the stand to explain why he shot and killed his model girlfriend? We are live with that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of the search for Flight 370, a lot of developments over the last few hours. Officials calling this the most promising lead yet, two separate signals consistent with black box frequencies detected overnight by a U.S. Navy pinger locator, which is being towed by an Australian ship.

Now, an American underwater drone is being called in to assist with the search. It will not be easy. The waters where these signals were detected are 2.8 miles deep.

ROMANS: All right, after a long break, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial under way again. The Blade Runner's defense beginning its case this morning by calling a forensic pathologist to the stand. Pistorius is expected to testify.

CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps live from Pretoria, south Africa, this morning.

Kelly, any indication when he might take the stand?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's a very good chance that he'll end up taking the stand today. We expect that he will be the next witness after the pathologist is finished. Harry Nell has been cross-examining the pathologist for some time already, and he really only has two or three points on which to cross examine the pathologist. He's already covered largely two of those points.

So we don't expect that it would take up the whole day for him to finish cross examination, in which case, Pistorius may be on the stand by this afternoon.

ROMANS: And so many people are really interested in what he's going to say, because it's been an emotional time for him in the courtroom. I mean, already, already today we've seen him sort of clasp his hands behind his back -- or behind the back of his head as they've talked about the injuries on Reeva Steenkamp. How important is it for his demeanor and what he says on the stand here for his defense?

PHELPS: The most important thing when he takes the stand is that he is, first of all, consistent in terms of what he is saying with all of his previous versions of events as far back as the bail hearing, and secondly, that he comes across as an authentic and sincere witness. In terms of his emotional state, sure, that might give some sympathy towards him, but because we don't have a jury trial and it's a judge- led system, it's very unlikely that that kind of sympathy would be a determining factor in the judge's mind.

So, really, the two most important things have always been and remain consistency and believability.

ROMANS: All right. Kelly Phelps live for us this morning. Of course, we will be following this trial all day and will check in as soon as events warrant. Thank you, Kelly.

BERMAN: Some other news now. The family of one of the victims of last week's shooting at Fort Hood says she was friends with the shooter, Ivan Lopez. Private Deon josephs was shot in the neck by Lopez. In all, three soldiers were killed, 16 others wounded Wednesday afternoon after Lopez opened fire before taking his own life.

ROMANS: And the president will head to Fort Hood on Wednesday to attend a memorial service for victims of that shooting. The president and first lady were already scheduled to begin a two-day trip to Texas to take part in Democratic campaign fund-raisers in Houston. The president visited Fort Hood in 2009 after the shooting rampage by an army officer that killed 13 people and injured 30 more.

BERMAN: President Obama is heading back to school today. He'll be at a high school in suburban Maryland to announce the winners of a competition to prepare students for college and jobs. This comes ahead of tomorrow's signing of an executive order requiring federal contractors to submit wage data in an effort to keep them in line with equal pay laws.

ROMANS: Today, the Senate expected to pass a bill restoring long-term unemployment benefits to nearly 3 million Americans. Six Republicans committing to join Democrats to push this measure through. After the vote, the bill faces an uncertain future in the House. It is opposed by Speaker John Boehner and Republican opponents want to attach several so-called job creation measures, like construction of the Keystone oil pipeline, before they'll pass an extension of unemployment benefits.

BERMAN: General Motors about to begin repairs on 2.6 million cars. The vehicles at the center of a controversial recall linked to 13 deaths. The automaker is accused of failing to fix faulty ignition switches they knew about 10 years ago. Owners of the six G.M. models involved can make appointments to bring their cars into dealerships for repairs starting today.

ROMANS: And if you're driving one of those cars right now, it's advised that you just use the key, don't use the heavy key chain, just key in the ignition.

All right. Global stocks down this morning after a sell-off in the U.S. on Friday, and it could be getting worse. Futures pointing to a lower open as investors brace for corporate earnings this week.

Last year, we saw record profits at U.S. companies. Take a look at this chart. It shows corporate earnings for the last decade.

Companies earned more than $1.9 trillion. Look at that, $1.9 trillion in the final quarter. Look at that when you think about your own paycheck. Ouch.

But 2014 could be a different story. Why? The weather. Companies warning that the unusual cold and storms that we saw during, remember the polar vortex drama? That all disrupted normal economic activity. Not the first time big business is blaming the weather. They were already complaining about weather during earnings calls last year, even when they were hitting those record profits.

That chart really is something. It just shows you how companies have been making money and sitting on an awful lot of cash. And here we're talking about extending unemployment benefits, raising the minimum wage, all these things to make the worker feel a little better.

BERMAN: Your contract's not for a trillion dollars?

ROMANS: No, it is not.

BERMAN: Call that agent.

ROMANS: It is not.

BERMAN: All right. Officials in Snohomish County, Washington, have now identified 29 of the 30 victims in last month's landslide that devastated the town of Oso, northeast of Seattle, 13 people still listed as missing. Some warmer, drier conditions are expected to help search crews who have been combing through the mud, excavating, looking for any sign of those lost.

ROMANS: A spring break gone wild in southern California. You will not believe this. Nearly 100 people arrested, dozens more hospitalized when this weekend beach party known as Deltopia, turned into a riot.

Police say the situation escalated after people in the crowd of about, oh, just about 15,000 people partying near the beach. They began throwing rocks and bottles. At least six police officers were injured in the melee. Police had to used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

BERMAN: A weekend at Romans.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking news overnight. This is something a lot of us saw, and we are saddened by. Mickey Rooney, legendary star of stage and screen, has died. Rooney had been in poor health for a long time. He had one of the longest show business careers really ever, first starring as a teenager in the Andy Hardy movies. In all, he appeared in more than 200 films in a career that spanned 80 years. Mickey Rooney was 93.

ROMANS: All right, severe spring storms threatening millions today. Tornadoes flooding, damaging winds all expected. Indra Petersons, she's going to tell us who will be hit the hardest. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of the search for Flight 370. Officials are now calling this their most promising lead yet -- two separate signals consistent with black box frequencies detected overnight by a U.S. navy pinger locator being towed by an Australian ship. This news developing just the past few hours.

An American underwater drone now being called in to assist with the search in waters that are 2.8 miles deep.

BERMAN: We'll get to this search in just a few minutes.

But, first, some news here at home. It looks like it might finally be spring for real.

Indra Petersons has a look at the weather.

Hey, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, good morning. Unfortunately, that also means the spring severe type of weather. We're still dealing with it, been dealing with it all weekend long.

Just take a look at some of the reports we've already seen, even just this morning, about eight reports of a tornado, most likely all stemming from the same tornado. But regardless, we're still looking at a very active situation as the system continues to push east. I mean, just look at all of this moisture funneling in out of the southeast today. So, a heavy rain is going to be one side of the equation.

You can actually see, we still even have tornado watch boxes, so a very serious situation is on hand with very unstable air and all that moisture kind of fueling into the south.

Easy to see, there's that warm, moist air, but the other side of this, of course, not just the rain that's going to be falling, but the threat for severe weather expected, especially through the afternoon again today, really kind of from Raleigh, all the way down through mobile. That's going to be the highest risk, although it's a flight risk. We still have to watch out for the threat for tornadoes, especially considering it looks like we already had one early this morning.

Heavy monsoon rains out there, one to two inches. Keep in mind, as we go into tomorrow, we are going to see the low cruise up the coastline, eventually bringing rain into the Northeast. So heavy rain for the next several days.

The other side of it is going to be the strong winds. Strong winds starting off in the Southeast, eventually kind of making their way, migrating to the Northeast as that low cruises up the shoreline. So, it's spring, but that doesn't always mean it's a good thing.

ROMANS: I know. Those aren't snow totals. All I care about is that you're not showing me snow totals anymore.

PETERSONS: For once, I am with you on this one.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

All right. Breaking news this morning. Promising, new leads revealed just hours ago in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We've got live, team coverage.

BERMAN: We have a news conference from Malaysia in just a few minutes. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)