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EARLY START

Search for Flight 370; Flight 370 Search Zone Narrows; Pistorius on Trial; Crisis in Ukraine

Aired April 11, 2014 - 05:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. New confidence, and the intensity in the search for Flight 370. Investigators narrowing in on an area where they believe the vanished jetliner may have crashed. And overnight, the Australian prime minister revealing that he is confident that search crews have been hearing the plane's black boxes.

We're live with the latest developments this morning.

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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour this Friday morning. Let's get straight to the latest from Australia, as the search zone narrows again in the hunt for Flight 370, a day after CNN learned some remarkable new information about the flight's path and its altitude.

Australia's new prime minister now says he is confident that the signals being heard under water in the Indian Ocean, those signals are from the plane's black boxes. And they could be very close to finding them. There's only days likely left before the batteries run out.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance live for us in Perth this morning with the latest on this search.

And what do we know is happening today, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the search is continuing, of course, Christine. It's been narrowed down, the search, significantly, to about 18,000 square miles. That compares very favorably with the 80,000 or so square miles that originally they were looking in that patch of the Indian Ocean. It's still a big patch of sea, though. But yes, so a lot of progress has been made in that sense.

There have been a number of pings that have been monitored at the weekend, some on Tuesday as well. That continues to be the main focus of this search with ships and about a dozen aircraft as well flying in the skies around the region, trying to pinpoint with some more accuracy exactly where the missing Malaysian airliner might be.

However, in the course of the past 24 hours, the man who's coordinating the international search effort, Angus Houston, said there's been no major breakthrough. That is intentioned to those comments coming from China, where the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, who is on official visit. He was kind of speaking about the general mood of the search teams and of the briefings, presumably, he's been getting on the progress of the search.

Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We're now getting to the stage where the signal from what have, we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade, and we are hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal finally expires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: Well, Prime Minister Abbott was talking earlier as well about how he felt confident that the signals being monitored were from the black boxes of the missing Malaysian airliner. He also spoke about how he believes that the search field has been narrowed down to within just a -- just a few kilometers, to paraphrase what he said. And so that elevated hopes briefly until it was kind of played down a little bit by Angus Houston with those remarks that there have been no major breakthrough -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance for us in Perth this morning. Thank you, Matthew.

BERMAN: That's the search. We want to talk now about the investigation and the new information that CNN has learned about what may have happened or been happening in the cockpit of that Boeing 777. Malaysian officials now telling CNN that they believe the plane did drop in altitude after crossing over the Malaysian Peninsula. They think this because the flight disappeared from radar during that time, they say.

This is a story broken by senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. He's live in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

Nic, what does this mean now for the investigation?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been told that they believe that the aircraft dropped to this level to avoid what is a busy civilian passenger jet route going from Asia to India on to Europe. So, it appears, they're saying, as if the pilot intentionally dropped to avoid those aircraft.

The implication, therefore, being that he was aware that the transmitting equipment, the ACARS satellite transponder on the aircraft was not working, which would imply that it wasn't a mechanical misfunction, that because he knew that that transponder wasn't working, he knew that the other aircraft couldn't see him and he'd have to take evasive action. So it fits in with what officials have been telling us, that they believe that somebody who knew what they were doing, was skilled in flying this aircraft was at the controls. It appears to indicate they knew that this transponder was off, that they were taking evasive action. And again, as well, the fact that the aircraft went through this maneuver from 35,000 feet to about 5,000 or 4,000 feet and back up again, further indication that the aircraft wasn't suffering any severe mechanical malfunction. And again, it fits the profile of somebody taking that aircraft and intentionally steering it away on to a completely alternate route -- John.

BERMAN: Again, from the Malaysian officials, from their perspective, it seems to put the focus back on a deliberate action in that cockpit, which is what they seem to have been saying for weeks now.

Nic Robertson, terrific reporting from Kuala Lumpur. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: As we mentioned, Australia's prime minister is in China this morning meeting in Beijing with President Xi Jinping, and set to talk about the search for the plane that has more than 150 Chinese passengers on its manifest.

Their families are reacting to all of these new developments. Pauline Chiou is live in Beijing where she's been with the families for weeks now.

Pauline, the families are almost doing their own investigation at this point. They have so many questions. They want to cross the T's and dot the I's themselves.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They really have been like detectives for the past 35 days. It's been quite impressive watching them ask their questions so methodically to the technical team from Malaysia, from the Malaysian government's air force to the Malaysia Airline officials and to a senior Boeing 777 pilot. So they've really done their homework, and they keep asking for questions.

And they will be looking out to see if there's any new information out of this meeting between Tony Abbott, the prime minister of Australia, as well as China's president, Xi Jinping.

Now earlier today, the prime minister of Australia talked about the bond that China and Australia has in this ordeal with both countries feeling that it's so personal, China having 154 citizens on board and Australia having six citizens on MH-370, two of whom live here in Beijing.

Also, there were three Americans on board, one of which is an American man out of Texas, and his fiancee has been so outspoken over the past couple of weeks, and today she talked to us about why she and many other relatives need to believe there are still survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PHILIP WOOD: Hope is the only thing that we have, and the minute we give that up, we have to fall into a grieving cycle, and we can't do that until we have evidence. So, you know, I think a lot of outsiders think the families are just being irrational, but we're not. We're protecting our emotional health, and we want answers and we want to keep pressure on the government agencies involved to find those answers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHIOU: And that's exactly what the Chinese families are doing today, as they're meeting once again with Malaysian officials.

And, Christine, you had talked about how the families are sort of conducting their own investigation. Well, they're going so far as to saying, we're not satisfied with the answers. We want representatives from Boeing, Inmarsat and Rolls Royce to come here to Beijing to talk to us and to answer our questions.

ROMANS: Wow, fascinating. Pauline Chiou. Thank you so much, Pauline.

BERMAN: The weather has been such a key part of this investigation all along. Right now let's get a sense of what it looks like right now.

Indra Petersons in the search zone.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, finally, take a look. Again, the last several days have been really beautiful. And you can actually see the search area completely clear and conditions only expected to stay this way. So the news is really great. You can actually see high pressure building in, which means continued clear skies. That's the good news.

Yes, there is a chance for just a hint of rain, but when you talk about what we've seen over the last several weeks, I mean, this is pretty much nothing, very insignificant. Just a light cloud kind of moving through here and there. Maybe some winds could pick up. We're talking maybe about that 20-mile-per-hour range, but generally speaking, really, all the conditions so clear. There's really not much to speak of, and that's the best news of yet.

ROMANS: All right, Indra.

BERMAN: Ups for the search.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: Happening right now, Oscar Pistorius getting grilled by prosecutors. A contentious, dramatic morning on the stand. He is trying to suggest he didn't mean to kill his girlfriend. Why, then, did he shoot that gun? These are the questions being asked on the stand right now. We're live in South Africa right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, happening right now, court in session at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The Olympic sprinter getting awfully emotional on the stand while detailing what happened the night that he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He talked about hearing a noise and getting up from his bed to look into it. He says he whispered to Steenkamp to get down.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERRI NEL, PROSECUTOR: You never waited for a response.

OSCAR PISTORIUS, DEFENDANT: That's correct, my lady.

NEL: You never checked up if she's OK and if she's panicking.

PISTORIUS: I never did, my lady.

NEL: You never said, Reeva, listen, and make contact with her and tell her what to do. That you didn't do.

PISTORIUS: I did tell her what to do, my lady.

NEL: You whispered at her, but you never looked at her and said, Reeva, go down.

PISTORIUS: I didn't whisper to her, my lady. I said it in a soft manner. I said get down and phone the police. I was sure that there was somebody in my house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Ah, this is crucial. CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps at the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, this is getting right to the heart of the situation right now. So many people saying that common sense would dictate, if you believe Oscar Pistorius, he says he thought there was an intruder. He says that he whispered or spoke in a low voice to his girlfriend to get away, but it defies common sense, a lot of people say, that he didn't wait to hear if there was a response, didn't check more closely to see if she was OK. This seems to be some of the crucial part of the testimony right now.

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it's absolutely crucial. And of course, the judge doesn't have the liberty to just rely on common sense. She can only base her decision of the official evidence and testimony that's entered as a matter of the court record, and that's why Nel is spending a lot of time trying to get Pistorius to speak around these crucial moments so that he can place on that record testimony that he can then argue in his closing argument, suggest that the only reasonable inference is that it is so improbable that he, therefore, must be lying and must be guilty.

And that's why we can see both Pistorius and Nel sort of digging their heels in the sand and very confidently asserting their various stances on that, because they both know just how much is at stake revolving around this part of cross examination. BERMAN: Wasn't suggesting that the judge will make the decision based on common sense, but this argument from the prosecutor as you say is clearly intended to make Pistorius seem like he is simply not believable, that his explanation for what happened is implausible.

What's the best-case scenario, I suppose, for the prosecutor at this point, assuming that Pistorius doesn't change his story or dramatically falter on the stand? And I don't think he's shown that he will.

What's the best-case scenario for the prosecutor when this line of questioning is done?

I think we seem to have lost Kelly Phelps for us in Pretoria right now. She can't hear my questions. But again, what's happening now in the courtroom, and this testimony is going on right now, is finally, at last, after circling around Pistorius for several days, dealing with the issues on the side, the prosecutor getting to the heart of the issue -- what was Pistorius thinking and what did he do in those key moments before he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp?

We will update you all morning as to how this discussion unfolds.

ROMANS: Meantime, let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Kate Bolduan joins us this Friday morning.

Good morning, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning, guys. Happy Friday. We're going to be following of course the latest developments in the search for Flight 370. Overnight, Australia's prime minister said he's confident -- he not only said that, he said he's very confident that signals have been detected in the ocean are from the plane's black box.

Are investigators really that close to finding the plane, or is this more false hope? Maybe he's a little more confident than some of the investigators on the ground are? We're going to talk about it.

There's so much to talk about, breaking it down with our aviation experts, and even Bill Nye, the science guy, joining us. The former Boeing engineer, he's got a lot to say about this. He knows a lot about black box technology.

Plus, we're going to talk with the partner of one of the missing American passengers, guys, and get her reaction to the search's progress and all of the news back and forth. It seems to be good news and not good news on the same day, so we're going to be talking to her about that.

BERMAN: Got to make sense of that, and get the lights on in the "NEW DAY" studio all at the same time.

BOLDUAN: It's a challenge.

BERMAN: Kate Bolduan, looking forward to seeing you. ROMANS: We're trying to save until right before 6:00.

All right, happening right now, Ukraine warning pro-Russian protesters to stand down, or else Russian troops gathering at the border. Is an invasion imminent? We are live with what is happening right now, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: In eastern Ukraine this morning, protesters showing no sign of backing down days after barricading themselves inside government offices and demanding their right to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. That as Russian troops mass along the border. NATO says there are some 40,000 Russian soldiers there now with no indication they might pull back.

Phil Black live in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on the border, he joins us on the phone.

Phil, what is the situation on the ground there?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Christine, it's difficult to assess. I've spent a lot of time exploring southwestern Russia, it is vast, it is remote, more than a thousand miles, but little obvious sign of a big Russian military presence.

As you say, NATO says there's more than 40,000 soldiers ready to move across the border. They've released satellite images, they say, backs that up, showing a wide range of capabilities and hardware from air assets, with special forces, infantry, artillery and tanks.

We visited a couple of the sites that NATO has featured, and we've seen military, but not on the scale or the capabilities that NATO claims these photographs show. But we couldn't see everything. Just because we couldn't see it doesn't mean they're not there. That said, these photos that NATO has now released, the ones at these particular sites already more than two weeks old.

So it's still not entirely clear. Russia says that what's going on here on the ground are just military exercises. Some of the troops have already gone home. NATO says it's an invading force. Even if that isn't true, NATO will tell you that extra forces this close to the border, near Ukraine, are putting pressure on the governments in Kiev, and that risks destabilizing a country that is already trying to overcome political crisis -- Christine.

ROMANS: A tense situation. I think that we can say that assessment continues. Thanks so much, Phil Black.

Meantime, a drastic drop on Wall Street, stocks falling, marking the worst day in years for some sectors of the market. We're tracking what happened overnight and what you can expect in your 401(k) today. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: All right, watch your 401(k) today, folks. Global stocks selling off today following a major decline on Wall Street yesterday. The Nasdaq dropped 3.1 percent. That's the biggest one-day drop since 2011. Futures right now are flat. Two banks reporting earnings this morning, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo. That could set the tone for trading today.

New information out this morning on the massive Internet bug Heartbleed. We've got the names of companies that have fixed the bug, meaning it's time for you to change your password. Google, Facebook, Yahoo! OkCupid, and Wikipedia. They are fixed. Don't change your password yet on other sites because they may not have fixed the bug yet and your new password could be compromised as well.

Look that up, CNNmoney.com. You can see that story really important information about changing your passwords.

"NEW DAY" starts right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH-370.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Within miles, Australia's prime minister overnight proclaiming he's very confident the signals detected are from 370's black box, and they know within miles where it's lying. We're live with the latest.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking, a horrific scene on a California highway as a FedEx truck collides with a bus carrying high school students, teenagers are among the 10 killed. We're going to be live with the latest.

CUOMO: Shake up. Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is out. Is she a casualty of Obamacare's rollout? And who will replace her?

Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, April 11th, 6:00 in the East. New this morning. Just a few miles, OK, those are the words of the Australian prime minister for how far away searchers from the wreckage of Flight 370. They are now said to be very confident. Those are quoted words.