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Mystery of Flight 370; Flight Crew Anger; Families Hold Vigil; Crisis in Ukraine; Pistorius Details Fights

Aired April 8, 2014 - 05:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. The search for missing Malaysia Flight 370 intensifying, one day after investigators detected signals possibly coming from the vanished jetliner's black boxes. The waters have now gone silent.

Did the batteries on the black boxes die? Has time run out to find the wreckage?

We have live, team coverage on the very latest this morning.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour. This is being called the best chance of finding missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but overnight, word comes from Australia, there have been no new sounds heard under water that could possibly be from the plane's data recorders.

Just yesterday, officials said they were optimistic. Two noises picked up by U.S. equipment on a ship called the Ocean Shield might help point them to the jet. But 32 days after it went missing, time may be running out. Crews today are narrowing their search with more than a dozen planes, 14 ships scouring an area roughly the size of South Carolina.

Nic Robertson is live in -- for us in Perth, but right now let's go to Erin McLaughlin. She is there for us. She's in Perth with the latest. And Nic is in Kuala Lumpur. He's got the latest there. But let's start in Perth with Erin.

Erin, let me ask you this. They've asked the ship to sort of give the Ocean Shield a wide berth. There's a lot of ships out there, there's a lot of noise, there's a lot of interference. They want to listen very, very closely for these pingers.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. They haven't so far today found any signs of the missing plane, nor have they reacquired that signal. The Australian Defense minister earlier today giving a press conference, outlining the day's operation. Take a listen to what he had to say.


DAVID JOHNSTON, AUSTRALIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: We have a positive lead. Today we have 14 ships and 14 aircraft over those sites, flat-out trying to enhance that lead and to deliver up something more tangible. But again, of course, as you've heard me say in the past, this is an herculean task. It's over a very, very wide area. The water is extremely deep. This is day 32.


MCLAUGHLIN: All eyes on the Ocean Shield out there combing the waters in a ladder-like formation, trying to reacquire that signal. It's absolutely crucial, they say, that they're able to do that in order to narrow down a potential search field. Given the data they have so far from the two earlier acoustic events, these search area's simply too large.

Houston, Angus Houston, the man responsible for today's search efforts, briefing reporters as well, saying that if they had deployed that underwater autonomous vehicle today, it would take many, many, many days to try and find any wreckage down there -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, Erin McLaughlin for us in Perth.

BERMAN: Let's go now to Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysia Airlines is stepping up security on its jets, even though there's no sign of terrorism at this point being behind the disappearance of Flight 370. That's has crew members upset, the security does, insisting they did nothing wrong.

Nic Robertson is live in Kuala Lumpur.

Nic, what are these employees saying?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they're frustrated about, John, even angry, is that they're being asked to do what they consider security measures on board the aircraft. For example, when one of the pilots leaves the cockpit, somebody from the cabin crew has to go into the cockpit, and if you will, sort of monitor what's happening there, what the pilot is doing, if you will.

Also, they're being asked to block the galley way when one of the pilots leaves the cockpit to go to the bathroom or leave for whatever reason. What these crew members are saying is, look, we're trained for emergency procedures, we're not trained for security duties. They think they're being sort of put in the front line of security, and they say that they haven't even been consulted, that Malaysian Airlines hasn't even explained to them why it's putting in place these new measures.

They've, of course, all come after this situation aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, and many crew members, they feel they're all part of a -- essentially a family. They know people aboard, know crew members aboard the missing plane. And of course, the whole situation is very disturbing to them. This new pressure on them to do what they feel is a security duty they're not trained to do, is just adding to that stress on them at the moment -- John. BERMAN: I can understand if they are under stress. This does not seem like a huge burden, though, that they're under right now, Nic. But again, understand why they're upset, given the circumstances.

Nic Robertson for us in Kuala Lumpur. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: So stress for the flight crews and for the families. The optimism of the last few days tempered by today's reality. The jet that held their loved ones still missing and has now been missing for more than a month. So many gathered in Beijing overnight for a somber vigil to mark this one-month date.

Pauline Chiou is in Beijing this morning.

Good morning, Pauline.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. You know, we journalists, the public, the searchers, we all use the words optimistic, encouraging, best chance, when we're talking about these ping signals as a lead, but those words really don't exist in the vocabulary of these relatives, because whatever comes out as a final result, it will most likely be tinged with pain.

And it's been such a difficult month, and the relatives did mark that one month earlier today at 12:41 a.m. They held a candlelight vigil in the Lido Hotel. They lit candles one by one in the shape of a heart, and inside, you'll also see "MH-370" written, as well as the shape of a plane. And they held this candlelight vigil for the length of time that they believe their loved ones were on this flight, all the way until 8:11 this morning. That was symbolic of -- 8:19, rather -- of the last moment that the last partial ping was detected by satellite.

But, Christine, it's been just excruciating. And most of the relatives, I would say most of them, the majority of them are coming to grips with the reality that whatever news comes out will not be the news they want to hear. There is that small handful, as I mentioned in the last half hour, of relatives who believe that perhaps the plane is somewhere else, because they're holding out hope because no debris has been found yet.

ROMANS: Oh my. Hundreds of relatives are still there. Their lives on hold. Officials say the search could take months, even years. How long will they stay and wait?

CHIOU: That's a very good question, and I've asked many of them that question, because these relatives are not all from Beijing. They're from all over China. And they have families, they have elderly parents to take care of. They may have a child at home. And many of them have stayed. They have stayed and taken leave from their jobs, and it's been difficult.

I talked to one woman, Christine, who said that she has two children. Her sister-in-law had to quit her job in order to take care of her two children so this mother could be here in Beijing to go to these briefings and to try to get answers. And she also said, I can't go back home, I can't face my children when they ask me where their father is and I don't have an answer. I need an answer.

So that's the general sentiment amongst most of these relatives. About 200 of them are still here. They are willing to stick around, and they've formed a community. They want to be together and they want to get some sort of answer -- Christine.

ROMANS: Answers are still few and far between. Thanks, Pauline Chiou, in Beijing for us with the families this morning.

BERMAN: Of course, the weather has been such a big part of this search effort for investigators so far. Let's get a sense of how the weather will be there today. Indra Petersons is tracking that for us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, for a long time, we were talking about how inclement this part of the world was, but that was really when we're talking about that search area being farther to the south by the furious 40, you heard the furious 50s, I should say. That was when we had those strong winds and those very high waves.

Now that we've moved it farther to the north, the biggest concern in this region farther to the north was more about tropical cyclones. And you can see recently we do have some remnants in Ivanhoe, that had moved through the area. But very easy to see. That has completely cleared the region, so definitely much better conditions in this area.

Once again you can see, here comes the inclement weather, but staying south of the search area. Yes, sometimes you can see maybe a wave or two, but generally speaking, look at the winds. Here you go again. Here's the higher winds staying farther south of the region, maybe some 10, 15-mile-per-hour winds, but even those do start to dissipate, so conditions do look better.

The one thing I keep mentioning, though, is historically, now that we know that we've moved farther north, there was a large cyclone that did make its way very close to the region. In fact, it was a category 5 that we know of as the cyclone, so the strongest one there was. So we do have to keep in mind, that could have dissipated, really moved any debris that could have potentially been out there.

Very large area, you can see the size there from the satellite picture. So at one point here since the disappearance of the plane, they did have those 15-foot waves out there, so keep in mind that's something we have to consider. We weren't looking at that earlier, because again that search area was farther to the south.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Indra.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: Other news we're following this morning, very important news, perhaps dire news. Crisis in Ukraine. Pro-Russian demonstrators taking over government buildings in the eastern part of that country. They say they want their independence. Ukraine says no. We're live with the latest next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: This morning protesters in eastern Ukraine say they want their independence, overtaking buildings, demanding their region be allowed to leave Ukraine for Russia, just as happened in Crimea. The Ukrainian president says Moscow is behind all this. And overnight, Ukrainian Special Forces moved in to force some of those protesters out of those government buildings, but now Russia is warning the Ukrainian government should tread very carefully here or risk sparking a civil war.

Phil Black is just across the border in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, this morning.

Phil, what is the latest? This sounds like a tinder box.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, potentially, Christine. Russia is advising the Ukrainian government not to use force against these protest groups because, as you mentioned, the potential for civil war. But so far, it does not look like the Ukrainian authorities are listening to Russia.

In one of the flashpoints, the city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian government says that it's conducted what it describes an anti-terror operation, arresting 17 people with the intention of clearing out one of these occupied government buildings. It appears that that operation has been successful.

There is another situation in the city of Donetsk, where another building is still being occupied, where a large crowd of protesters there say they've declared independence for the region from Ukraine. They want to hold a referendum to join the Russian federation. That sounds familiar, just like Crimea, and they've already asked the Russian government to send in peacekeepers to help them, to protect them.

The Ukrainian view is that Russia is behind all of this. It is coordinating, sparking these uprisings to create instability, to divide the country, potentially to serve as a pretext for further Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

Russia is saying, stop blaming us for your problems, advising against the use of force. They are claiming that American mercenaries, 150 of them, are on the ground in Donetsk, assisting Ukrainian authorities there. They've provided no evidence to back that up so far, but from the United States, there is very clearly a very strong suspicion that there is a Russian hand in all of this, and the message to Russia, to its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, from the secretary of state, John Kerry, is stop trying to destabilize Ukraine now.

And it is worth pointing out, there are still believed to be tens of thousands of Russian soldiers very close to the Ukrainian border at a high state of readiness.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: And the big question is, is Russia receiving those messages from the West and acting on them? And so far, the answer is no. Phil Black, thanks so much, Phil.

BERMAN: Yes, just one of the big stories unfolding this morning over the course of the morning. "NEW DAY" will be covering all that. Let's take a look. Chris Cuomo joins us right now.

ROMANS: Hey, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Hey, John, hey, Christine. Obviously, we're going to be taking up the search for Flight 370. They haven't reconnected with these pingers. What does that mean? Does it mean they're in the wrong area? Does it mean the batteries have died? Could it mean both?

We're going to be watching that. We actually have an interesting guest this morning, the man who led the search for the Air France Flight 447. He's going to take us through, even once they reconnect with the pinger, even once they cut down the search range for where the plane could be, what is entailed from there on?

There is actually a lot more that has to happen. We'll take you through that.

We're also monitoring the Pistorius trial. This testimony is really an interesting narrative. They started yesterday with building up his childhood fears and trying to put in the mind of the judge and these two special jurors that he had a reasonable fear that someone was going to try to hurt him. That was in his head.

Today has been even more dramatic about what was in his head about his girlfriend and his feelings about protecting her. We'll take you through all of that stuff and give you all the top news this morning as well, my friends.

ROMANS: All right, thanks.

As Chris mentioned, Pistorius on the stand right now, really dramatic testimony. Reading from text messages from his girlfriend, detailing how scared she was of him, at least in one fight. We're live with that dramatic testimony. More on that right after the break.


BERMAN: Dramatic testimony this morning. Oscar Pistorius admitting that he and Reeva Steenkamp had a sometimes difficult relationship. What he's doing, he's reading from text messages that she sent him that go into real depth about some of the fights they had, some of the jealousy between them and how she felt about him. Take a listen.


OSCAR PISTORIOUS, FORMER OLYMPIAN: Did everything to make you happy and to not say anything to rock the boat with you. You do everything to throw tantrums in front of people. You have been upset but I have been upset by you for two days now. I'm so upset, I left the party early, so upset. I can't get that day back. I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will react to me.


BERMAN: CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is live outside the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, let me tell you the words that I heard there. Scared, tantrum. You know, those are not good words for the defense, are they?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, but this isn't the first time we've heard those words. That was him repeating a text message that the state had relied on in their case. And essentially, what his defense team spent a lot of time doing today was putting on the record for the first time the over 1,700 messages that the state did not put on the record that were all loving, and placed those four negative messages in the context, essentially, of the normal ups and downs of any relationship.

They also put messages immediately after those initial argumentative messages had been sent that essentially showed that those fights had been resolved, that they had moved past them. So the defense put very important evidence on the record today, essentially placing those fights in a context of a much broader loving and healthy relationship.

BERMAN: If the prosecution will put it in their own context when they cross examine.

You know, Kelly, one of the things that's hard for an American audience to understand here, we have juries. We know how juries react to emotion in a courtroom. Oscar Pistorius has been very emotional on the stand, but there's no jury there. It's just a judge. So how does emotion tend to impact judges in South Africa?

PHELPS: Well, the emotional aspects of this trial will impact the judge, but to a much lesser extent than it would in a jury system. So where it does impact in a judge-led system with assessors is that it can help lend credibility and sincerity to the evidence being tendered. But that being said, it will certainly not be the decisive factor in her decision-making process when deciding what version of the facts supports the legal outcome.

And she has spent her whole career, as judges do, training herself to be well-equipped to separate her emotional response from her legal reasoning. So while it might lend some credibility to his testimony, it's unlikely to be a pivotal, decisive factor.

BERMAN: It really is interesting. The emotions may be compelling, but it doesn't necessarily mean the facts are.

All right, Kelly, appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much.

ROMANS: We'll be right back. More headlines right after the break.


ROMANS: Welcome back. It's up to the House now to decide whether it will take up a measure to restore unemployment benefits to millions of Americans, now that the Senate has approved a $9 billion bill to get the checks in the mail again.

Six Republicans joined with 53 Democrats to vote in favor of the measure, which would restore benefits through the end of May for more than two million unemployed workers. House Speaker John Boehner has not scheduled the measure for a vote.

BERMAN: The pay gap between men and women on the agenda at the White House today, where President Obama is set to sign two executive orders. The administration says it will address the issue of pay secrecy.

The orders set new rules for federal contractors. One requires them to file data with the government showing how they pay their employees. The other says contractors cannot retaliate against employees who discuss their salaries with each other.

ROMANS: Let's look at Tuesday morning in stocks around the world. Global stocks mixed. In Hong Kong, a tech rebound sent the Hang Seng higher, Japan. And in Wall Street a tech slump has helped drive stocks down. All three major U.S. market averages now down for the year, Berman.

More problems today for GM. Repairs are underway to fix that faulty ignition switch but some retailers contact by CNN Money tell us they still don't have the new part that they need to fix the cars.

GM isn't the only automaker, by the way, with recall issues. Ford announced two recalls yesterday tied to the Escape and several other models. Total number of recalls this year, 11 million. That's the tally by the "L.A. Times," it's already half of the 22 million we saw last year. It's only April.

Look where the record was in 2004, more than 30 million recalls then.

BERMAN: That is a lot of recalls.

On the market, just because you say my name when you say the markets or something, does not make it my fault.

ROMANS: It's not your fault, but I know you're interested.


BERMAN: Very interested. It is interesting, though, we're in a different place than we've been the last few years. We're used to increases, increases, increases.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: And now --

ROMANS: And now you've got people selling growth stocks, going to the safety of, like, dividend payers, more boring names. So that's the kind of the new texture of the market this week. BERMAN: Different place to be.

All right. Great to see you. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


DAVID JOHNSTON, AUSTRALIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: We have at least several days of intense action ahead of us.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, radio silence. The search for Flight 370 goes quiet. Ships unable to hear that pinger at all. New fears this morning, has the pinger battery died?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Oscar Pistorius takes the stand, offering surprising details about his relationship with the woman he shot and killed. His dramatic testimony ahead.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking overnight. Boiling over. A brawl breaking out in Ukraine's parliament as Russians warns of civil war if Ukrainian forces try to stop pro-Russian demonstrators from taking over government buildings.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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