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Search for Flight 370: New Stage Begins; Crisis in Ukraine; Deadly Jewish Center Shootings; Pistorius on Trial

Aired April 14, 2014 - 05:00   ET




ROMANS: Breaking news this morning: a new stage -- a new stage in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Right now, an unmanned sub right now going into the water, where it will look for the vanished jetliner. This as a possible new clue is discovered.

We are live with all the latest developments this morning.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Also happening right now, Ukraine in crisis, on the brink of civil war, possibly, threatening to deploy troops to squash pro-Russian protests. The deadline to disarm passing hours ago. We're bringing you live, team coverage on the very latest.

ROMANS: And here at home, a suspected white supremacist behind bars this morning, accused of killing three people outside two Kansas Jewish centers. New information we've learned overnight about the suspect and the victims.

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

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's Monday, April 14th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we're beginning this morning with the breaking news in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It has now been 38 days since the Boeing 777 disappeared, and this morning, officials are shifting their strategy. Right now, they're launching an unmanned submarine to look for wreckage on the ocean floor after admitting they have not heard any sound that could be from the black box pingers in a week.

Now, the sub's movements will be a slow, painstaking process, covering just a few miles a day. As the search zone this morning has widened again. And the head of the search revealed overnight that they have found an oil slick in the ocean that could be connected to the crash.

Michael Holmes is live in Perth, Australia, with the latest on the search.

Michael, catch us up on all the latest developments during the day. MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was a briefing here earlier, about four or five hours ago now, and some headlines coming out of that. As you mentioned there, they had those four pings that they were able to confirm. That helped them narrow down the search using that U.S. Navy towed ping locator.

Well, they haven't had any pings since Tuesday of last week, and it seems they just decided that they're not going to get any more. Those batteries have gone down.

So, they move on to this new phase, and they're going to put the submersible, the Bluefin, down into the water this hour. We were told it would go in at the top of the hour, so it's probably happening as we speak. And that starts this new phase. It's going to go down, we're talking 4,500 meters down, you know, over 14,000 feet down below the surface, and it will go at walking pace, mapping the surface, the ground of the ocean, the ocean floor, using side sonar. It's a real 3d image of what's down there. They're hoping, of course, to find any sign of the Malaysian jet down there.

It's going to take them perhaps weeks or even a couple of months to cover the entire search area, so this is a laborious process. You mentioned the oil slick, Victor -- that was found in the general search area where that Australian ship, the Ocean Shield has been towing the ping locator. They've taken a 2-liter sample of that, brought it back here to Perth in western Australia. It will take a couple of days to analyze it. They're not sure whether it's related or not.

And finally, the other headline out of that briefing was that they're probably going to be scaling down the sea and air search for debris, which was taking place several hundred miles further west of this main search site. They just haven't found anything. They now don't think they will -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: The search continues now. Instead of listening, now looking, and that could take weeks more. Michael, thank you.

ROMANS: As for the investigation into what happened on that jet, Malaysian officials keeping quiet, saying there's little more they can say until they get more information from those black boxes.

Nic Robertson is live in Kuala Lumpur.

Nic, why have we not heard much in recent days from investigators?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does seem that they really want to keep all their information close to their chest. They do seem to believe that the black box is going to provide vital clues and that anything they say now may prejudice what they may later find out. We do know at the moment there is a debate going on about who will extract the data from the black box.

Malaysian officials have said that they're not technically capable. We were told over the weekend that the Malaysian attorney general was in London discussing that with international officials. They were looking at international law, local law, before it would be decided who would do that most important task of extracting the data.

But we heard from the acting transport minister over the weekend, essentially overruling what we had earlier heard from the head of police here. The head of police had ruled out all 229 passengers on board the aircraft from the investigation. He said, no. The acting transport minister said, no, that is not possible, you can't do that until we get the black box. There may be relevant information inside there.

So, it does seem to be a case of officials here really don't want to say too much until they can get their hands on that vital information. They are watching and waiting, perhaps even as much, if you will, as the families here. We have talked to some of the families who have people missing on that aircraft.

This period is very frustrating for them, they say, frustrating and painful. But again, they continue to wait for concrete evidence of the plane being there. They hold out hope that miracle against miracle, their loved ones may have survived, Christine.

ROMANS: And with no, just no new developments in terms of finding any debris, that's still the same situation for them there. Thanks so much, Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Ukraine now and the growing crisis there. New developments overnight after Ukraine sent some forces into the eastern part of Ukraine to go after pro-Russian militants. They're armed. You see them here.

They have taken over government buildings, demanding the region break away and join Russia. At least one Ukrainian officer was killed as commandos and militants fought. Now, a deadline passed just a short time ago for the militants to lay down their arms, and right now, it looks like nothing has changed.

Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is live in Donetsk.

And I'll put this question to you, nick, have we seen a change in the level of violence that we saw over the weekend? Are we starting the week with what we saw on Saturday and Sunday?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there do seem to be pockets of these protesters aggressively moving still against government buildings around the region here. We're still kind of work out exactly whether that's continuing quite so fervently this morning.

But what's key and what we're not seeing are signs certainly here in Donetsk, where just behind me, the regional administration building that's been occupied by protesters for nearly a week now, we're not seeing beefed-up security measures. We're hearing the local governor saying that the anti-terror operation is now under way, because at 9:00 this morning here, just a few hours ago, the deadline passed, set by the interim president, Alexander Turchinov, saying that listen, give up your weapons, leave those buildings and you'll be amnestied, otherwise, in comes the army. No sign of that yet.

We have heard from Russian state media and other medias that Alexander Turchinov, that same interim president is, in fact, floating the idea, potentially, of some sort of referendum here in the east of Ukraine or elsewhere, on perhaps the same day as the presidential election is due to be held in Ukraine on May 25th. Now, if that were the case, that would be an enormous concession to protesters here. Of course, I'm sure Kiev believes they would get resounding results saying that Ukraine should retain its territorial integrity, but it's also a complex question to ask voters on one day to vote for a president and then also vote what that president is going to be president of.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister commenting just a few moments ago that if such an idea were the case, its success would depend on what kinds of questions were being offered. But increasingly, we're seeing concessions, I think, from the government in Kiev. Yet another deadline passing without an obvious change in the positioning of the Ukrainian military in this area here.

And that question persisting in eastern Ukraine -- where is the Ukrainian government? Where's its army? Where's its police force in all of this? Victor?


All right. Nick Paton Walsh there for us in Donetsk -- Nick, thank you.

All right. Ukraine's decision to send forces to the eastern part of the country leading to an angry rebuke from Russia, of course, demanding a rare late Sunday night Security Council meeting at the United Nations and telling Ukraine to back down.

Diana Magnay live in Moscow with the latest.

And now we're hearing from the Ukrainian acting leader, we're hearing from Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. Moscow is insisting it isn't behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but Ukraine and the West don't believe them. A lot of new details this morning. Sort through it for us.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sergey Lavrov has just been making various statements, accusing the west of hypocrisy in this, saying that Russia does not want to destabilize Ukraine, that it's not in its interests to see the situation there unravel further, and really, that the question should be handed over to the Ukrainian people about how they want to devise their future. Russia's saying that the West really needs to take responsibility for any calls to use force against their own people.

Now, Russia considers the government in Kiev to be illegitimate. They characterize them as neo-Nazis and fascists, and that kind of language hasn't changed. But you know, what we've seen from Russia over the last few weeks is a shift, really, from what they were saying, which was that they could intervene militarily, should the interests of Russian-speaking citizens and Russians in that part of Ukraine be under threat.

Now, they're talking much more about this being a moment for a national dialogue and letting the people of Ukraine choose their own future, devise their own constitution. In Russia's mind, that constitution would be best if it was a federal constitution, whereby each region would have much more autonomy.

So, as Nick was saying, Sergey Lavrov arguing that, sure, a referendum on the 25th of May is all well and good, but it really depends what questions are going to be asked then of the people of Ukraine. But certainly, Russia wiping its hands of the whole thing, saying we're very worried about the situation, but we're not interfering. And frankly, show us the evidence of Russian agents being on the ground.

Sergey Lavrov also said, why are we hearing reports that the CIA chief, John Brennan, went to Kiev just a few days ago. Now, the CIA says we don't comment on his movements, but certainly, any argument that he was involved in helping Kiev create tactics to get at these militants is completely false.

So, this war of words just continues, Christine.

ROMANS: It certainly does.

All right. Diana Magnay for us -- thank you, Diana.

BLACKWELL: This morning, we're finding out new information about the man police say opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement community. This is near Kansas City, leaving three people dead on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Law enforcement officials have now identified the alleged shooter as 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn cross. And they tell CNN he has ties to white supremacist groups.

CNN affiliate KNBC captured that video of someone in the back of a police car after the shooting, and they said that possibly is the suspect.

Also, the Southern Poverty Law Center says Miller has a long history of anti-Semitic activity. He was once a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, spent time in prison on weapons charges. And back in 2010, he ran as a write-in candidate for the Senate. He tried to buy radio ads blasting Jews and African-Americans and the federal government. Well, the FCC said that stations didn't need to carry the ads.

ROMANS: The victims included Dr. William Lewis Corporon and that doctor's 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood. Dr. Corporon practiced family medicine for nearly 40 years. His grandson was a high school freshman, an Eagle Scout and aspiring performer. Both of them were Christians. The two were at the community center so the grandson could audition for a singing competition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the nicest, kindest, most supportive families that we have here. They're really a community treasure that have been supportive of so many different charities here, great people, and this really just has left us all breathless.


ROMANS: A third victim thought to be a woman at a retirement community nearby has not yet been identified. The suspect is due in court later this morning.

BLACKWELL: And the doctor's daughter and Reat's mother stood up and said that she was there before the ambulance, before the police. Can you imagine what it takes to do that?

ROMANS: And she says she was with her father and her son and she knew they were in heaven. And that they were in heaven.

BLACKWELL: Happening right now, an Olympic hero back on the witness stand, trying to explain why he shot and killed his girlfriend. Can he convince the judge it was all an accident? We're live with what he's saying this morning. That's next.


ROMANS: Happening right now in South Africa, Oscar Pistorius back on the witness stand at his murder trial. He's getting hammered, hammered for a sixth day now by this prosecutor, trying to paint the Olympic sprinter as a self-obsessed man who intentionally killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The prosecutor going over again and again what Pistorius said the night of the shooting.


OSCAR PISTORIUS, OLYMPIC RUNNER: I told her to get down and to phone the police, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: In what way did you say it?

PISTORIUS: In a low tone, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: In a low tone. Definitely did not --

PISTORIUS: I remember saying it in a low tone, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: Mr. Pistorius, listen to my question. I know what you want to say. Every time you do that, Mr. Pistorius, it affects your credibility. Please, did you whisper?

PISTORIUS: I didn't whisper, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: Somebody would say that you whispered, that person would be lying, am I right?

PISTORIUS: That's right, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: You know who that person is? Because somebody said it.

PISTORIUS: No, my lady.


ROMANS: CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps live for us this morning at the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, this prosecutor really hammering Oscar Pistorius. Has he been effective so far, do you think, in poking holes in Oscar Pistorius' defense, that this was all along an accident?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he's certainly been effective in terms of pointing out some key inconsistencies in his version of events and also omissions in terms of pieces of information, for example, that the LED light was blue, that he hasn't mentioned the bail that he's now mentioned in cross examination.

But, of course, one has to remember that the burden of proof that the prosecutor has to meet in terms of what he's trying to achieve with these inconsistencies is very high indeed, and that's why he is spending so much time and so many days, in fact, on cross examining Pistorius in this manner, because he will be keenly aware that just a few inconsistencies is not going to meet the bar for the judge of beyond a reasonable doubt, because Pistorius doesn't have to prove his version of events. The state has to prove it. And all Pistorius' version has to do is simply put some reasonable doubt.

So, we expect that Gerrie Nel will continue in this very grueling and detailed manner of cross examination, pinpointing all these small idiosyncratic details.

ROMANS: Among them, for example, the jeans, jeans that were photographed in his room. Oscar Pistorius noting that they were inside-out. It wasn't likely that Reeva Steenkamp was getting up to put her jeans on to leave because they were having some kind of a fight.

How important are these jeans in all of this?

PHELPS: Well, they're peripherally important in the sense that Oscar Pistorius did raise them in terms of his testimony. He mentioned that it was the jeans he could see in the glow of the LED lights and that he had picked them up to cover the light, suggesting that that was, perhaps, what was disturbing his sleep. So, we know that they've become a central part of his story. And the prosecutors are now trying to use them, essentially, wrest them back from Pistorius' story and use them to support their own story.

I think that was probably one of the smaller points that they raised today, because as Pistorius himself said, the fact that the jeans were inside-out probably does make it a bit improbable that she was busy putting them on.

ROMANS: All right, Kelly Phelps. Thank you so much, Kelly. Sixth day of his grilling, really, by that prosecutor. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Breaking news overnight -- tornadoes and thunderstorms, hail tearing through parts of the country.

ROMANS: Hello, spring.

BLACKWELL: Indra Petersons is tracking the storm for us after the break.


ROMANS: All right, happening right now, severe thunderstorms moving east, leaving behind tornadoes, hail, flooding. The risk today stretches from the Northeast all the way down to the South.

Indra Petersons is tracking the forecast for us. Oh, and it is spring.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have quickly changed seasons, right, from winter to spring, now severe weather, but snow's not even out of the forecast.

First, let's talk about what we already saw. Even five reports of tornadoes from the squall line that continues to push off to the east, and this morning that threat is still there. Today, from Birmingham back through about New Orleans, we're still looking at that threat for severe weather, especially as we go through the afternoon. You get that sunlight as kind of that extra energy out there.

But even this morning at these early hours, we're still looking at the red, the tornado watch boxes and severe thunderstorm watch boxes currently are out there. What are we going to be watching for? Well, that front, of course, will be sliding farther off to the east, producing heavy storms into the Southeast today -- overnight into tomorrow, really spreading into the north.

Look at the back side of it. See that white? That is snow, guys. Winter is not over with just yet. High pressure in place, cold air funneled down from Canada, and once again, the chill is back.

First, let's talk about the heavy rain. Flooding concerns as that rain pushes through today into tomorrow, maybe about an inch or so in through the Northeast, but then the back side, the snow. We're talking about a trace today in through Chicago and maybe an inch or so, especially about four inches in through upstate New York by tomorrow.

Unbelievable. Here's the negative side. It is the temperatures. Look at this. It is so nice as we get upper 70s, almost near 80 today out near D.C., 12 degrees above normal.

Look on the back side of the front, 18 degrees below normal. So, of course, as the front makes its way through, we drop by Wednesday. The Northeast is going about a good 30 degrees cooler than where you are already today.


PETERSONS: Am I making friends? Not so much.

ROMANS: I will enjoy today. Indra, I will enjoy today. Thank you. European stocks lower right now. Tensions between Ukraine and Russia spooking investors. The price of oil also up on that news. The price of gold is up, a sign that investors are nervous. They're looking for a safe place to hide.

In the U.S., futures pointing to a lower open again today after last week's big sell-off. It has been a wild year for your 401(k), folks. The Dow has moved 1 percent or more on 14 days this year. Compare that to just four days last year. And that could be bad news for your portfolio.

Historically, big swings in stocks don't lead to market increases. For example, 2000 and 2008 were both very volatile years. We're still far from those levels right now, but it's a measure to watch.

So, futures looking lower this morning after a very tough week last week for your 401(k).

BLACKWELL: I feel like I have to take advantage of every commercial break and get investment advice from you. Every, like, few minutes I have free.

ROMANS: We were talking about college savings during the break before.

BLACKWELL: So, I will get those answers.

We've got breaking news overnight, this new stage in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, where they're looking right now and the new possible clues in this investigation. We'll have those, next.