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Desperate Search for Missing in Ferry Tragedy; New Information on Search for Flight 370; Attackers Go After Ukrainian Base; Blade Runner on Trial

Aired April 17, 2014 - 04:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning: the desperate search for the missing after a ferry capsizes off the coast of South Korea. Hundreds of passengers believed to be trapped on board. One day later, could they still be alive? We are live with the very latest.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, new information in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Minutes ago, officials give revealing statements about where the search is going right now. We're live.

BERMAN: Bloody battles in the streets of Ukraine. Pro-Russian protesters fight back. Troops just on the ground there, chaos raining throughout the eastern part of that country. This morning, the world is pointing fingers at Russia. We are live with the latest.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour. Nice to see everybody this morning.

Hope starting to fade this morning in South Korea, where nearly 300 people, many of them high school students, are missing this morning, nearly two days after a ferry overturned in the chilly, chilly waters off the country's southern coast. Right now, at least nine people are reported dead, and rescue crews still out searching the ship for survivors.

Pauline Chiou is live in Jindo, South Korea.

Pauline, what's the latest there?

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the latest is that the search has been very difficult with these conditions here, and the families have been waiting in this rain for any word. They've been waiting near the white tents behind me along the harbor front. Some have waited all night into the day.

And we've just learned that the president of South Korea, Park Geun- hye, has met with the families, the parents of these students, in a gym about 30 minutes away, and she spoke to them, saying that she's promising to send more rescue teams as part of this search-and-rescue effort. And she also said that all of the officials that were with her there will be held responsible for this.

Now, throughout the day, parents have expressed frustration over what's happened and also the possible loss of precious time. We spoke with one father whose son is one of the high school students who was on this field trip on the way to Jeju Island and he says much more needs to be done.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The civilian team went out there, but the tides made it too dangerous, so they came back. Then the government rescuer says it's too dangerous for them, too. Shouldn't I be angry at that? If the government cares for our people, please rescue our families and our children.


CHIOU: Now, the search for today has stopped because of the conditions. It's been raining all day, and it has been windy at times, and searchers are saying it's just too dangerous, as you heard the father there saying that's something that he doesn't accept at this moment.

So, right now, the search has halted. We do know that they tried a couple of things this afternoon. They brought in some cranes to try to stabilize the vessel, and they also tried to inject oxygen into the ship to try to help the divers when they did go down, and also if there are survivors maybe trapped in some air pockets, that perhaps that oxygen could help out, Christine.

ROMANS: It's certainly very cold. The water's cold. It's been almost two days. It's very cold on that ship. I know, they're just really racing against the clock.

Pauline Chiou -- thank you, Pauline.

BERMAN: This morning there is breaking news in the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, 41 days -- 41 days after it disappeared. Malaysia's transport minister is now saying they may have to change their tactics if the current search does not pan out. Right now, authorities are preparing the Bluefin-21 unmanned sub for another mission to the bottom of the ocean.

Our Miguel Marquez is live in Perth with the latest.

Miguel, what can you tell us about the comments from the Malaysian defense minister?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPNDENT: Well, the transportation minister is echoing really what Tony Abbott, the prime minister of Australia, is now saying. He's giving it a time period, though. He's saying it to "The Wall Street Journal." In a week, if they don't come up with something from the search of Bluefin-21, they may have to reassess what they're doing.


HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: There will come a time that we may need to regroup and reconsider. But in any event, the search will always continue. It's just a matter of approach.


MARQUEZ: Now, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen immediately, though, because the Bluefin is now just literally for the first time getting down there for a full 16 hours and scanning the bottom of the ocean there. They believe that they now have it set properly, so it can get down to the full 4,600 meters. That's 16,500 feet or so. And it can do those long loops that it needs to do in order to map large sections of the ocean floor.

The place where they are now concentrating, they are most hopeful that that is where the plane is, but time will tell whether or not they have anything. It is a massive data dump that they get from the Bluefin. They are going through that now. It will then go down again for another 16 hours, and they'll keep at it, they say, until they find the plane.

Back to you guys.

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez in Perth.

Miguel is right, we could hear within a few minutes what they received during this search today from the bluefin, and the next few days will be crucial in that search. Coming up in just a few minutes, we're going to go live to Beijing with the latest on what the families are saying about all this. They are not one bit happy with the information they are getting from authorities.

Our Ivan Watson is with the families in Beijing and will have the latest for us coming up.

ROMANS: Now to Ukraine, where a shoot-out at a military base in the southeastern part of the country has left at least three dead. The government says attackers went after the base. Dozens have now been detained. This a day after Ukrainian forces had their efforts to stop pro-Russian militants thwarted. Some of those militants hijacked military vehicles.

President Obama for his part is not backing down about who he says is to blame, telling CBS the Kremlin is destabilizing the region, the Kremlin is supporting those militias. The president says the consequences for Moscow are already apparent.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you've already seen is the Russian economy weaker, capital fleeing out of Russia. You know, Mr. Putin's decisions are not just bad for Ukraine. Over the long term, they're going to be bad for Russia.


ROMANS: Arwa Damon is live in Kiev with new evidence just in to CNN that Russia may be behind what's happening in eastern Ukraine.

Arwa, what can you tell us?


Well, no doubt, in the mind of Ukrainian authorities, either about who is responsible for the unrest here. We were given exclusive access to some of the evidence that the Ukrainian government is presenting during those critical talks in Geneva.

We spoke with Bitali Neda (ph), a senior officer with Ukraine's counterintelligence services, who showed us the military IDs, Russian military IDs of individuals, he says they have in custody. One of these men, he says, was found with plastic wrap explosives in his possession along with detonators and a map that had the specific locations of various military administrative buildings marked out on it. Neda telling us that they have dozens of military, Russian military officers in their custody, and as he described them, their recruited agents.

Now, one of these individuals of particular interest, she was a young woman named Maria Calleda (ph), around 22 years old. The Ukrainian authorities are accusing her of shooting people, at demonstrators, and they're being sent here specifically dispatched by Russian intelligence to try to stir up unrest. They say that she was detained. In her possession there was a pistol that was originally intended to shoot rubber bullets, but that it had been specifically modified.

Now, we spoke to her while she was in custody. She is denying these various claims, says that she was actually here as a journalist, although when we looked into the publication that she said she worked for, it had actually last been published back in the 1920s. But Ukrainian authorities are saying that she and the others that they have behind bars are really part of this very complex network that Russia has dispatched into Ukraine to try to continue to stir up unrest, destabilize the country.

And they're hoping that by presenting this evidence in Geneva, they'll get that international reaction, that support that they need that will, in turn, put pressure on Russia to pull whatever troops it may have operating covertly inside Ukraine out of the country and really help move this crisis towards more of a political solution, rather than the seemingly military one of the path that it is on currently, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Arwa Damon, thanks.

Vladimir Putin right now at this hour, John Berman, is taking questions, or taking adoration from people who are sending in those questions and comments to him on that television show.

BERMAN: You said at this hour. It could last for several hours. It's a marathon session.

All right, coming up for us, a big win court for the suspected Boston marathon bomber, as we learn new information about the man arrested with a rice cooker in his backpack one year after the attack. We'll tell you all about it next.


ROMANS: A psychiatric evaluation now planned for a Boston art student police say was responsible for a bomb scare near the finish line of the Boston marathon.

Kevin Edson, also known as Kayvon Edson, was arrested on the anniversary of the marathon attacks. He was dressed in black, screaming and carrying a rice cooker in his backpack at the finish line. His family -- that's the police officers blowing up that backpack.

His family says Edson suffers from bipolar disorder. Prosecutors say he told police this was a performance. Edson is being held on $100,000 bond.

BERMAN: Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has won right to see autopsy photos from the attacks as he awaits trial on charges that he was responsible for the deaths of three people at the marathon and an MIT police officer during the manhunt afterwards. The federal judge ruling that Tsarnaev could see the photos as his defense team prepares for his day in court. The judge is also considering allowing Tsarnaev to meet with his sister outside the earshot of investigators.

ROMANS: The terror trial begins today in Manhattan for the so-called hook-handed terrorist. Radical Muslim cleric Sheikh Abu Hamza al- Masri. Al-Masri faces multiple charges, including plotting deadly attacks in Yemen, setting up a terror camp in Oregon. Prosecutors say his sermons influenced 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Al-Masri has vowed to testify in his own defense.

BERMAN: This morning, the death toll has risen again in the catastrophic landslide in Washington state. Thirty-nine bodies have now been recovered with six people still reported missing, nearly a month after that ground gave way, pushing a square mile of mud down on homes. Scientists say unusually high rainfall and a weak hillside contributed to the slide.

ROMANS: Take a look at this scary accident. This is near Los Angeles. More than a dozen people, including several firefighters, were hurt as two fire trucks collided at an intersection, sending one barreling into a restaurant. One person is reportedly in critical condition this morning. Fire officials say both trucks were racing to a house fire at the time.

ROMANS: This morning, we're getting a look at e-mails that shed some new light on the IRS targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny. Those e-mails obtained by the activist group Judicial Watch. They show the Justice Department contacted the IRS to talk about possible criminal prosecutions of some tax-exempt organizations, but it doesn't appear the conversations went anywhere. Just days afterwards, the IRS targeting became public knowledge in a scathing inspector general's report.

BERMAN: So, welcome to Instagram, Mr. Vice President! Joe Biden making his debut on the social media site with a very stylish photo, a pair of sunglasses. Also, this shot, his first selfie with a friend.

ROMANS: Brought you by Samsung.

BERMAN: Yes, you've got to be careful now when you take selfies with the president. Thanks, David Ortiz.

The administration is promising the vice president will post behind- the-scenes photos of his travels and work inside the White House. What could possibly go wrong?


ROMANS: Let's get an early look at your forecast this morning. Jennifer Gray's got that for us.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unseasonably cool temperatures will remain in place for today. However, much of the East will rebound nicely for the afternoon, warming up little by little every day. We'll see a lot of sunshine across the South, breezy conditions, though, remain across much of the Southeast, even some showers popping up into central portions of Texas and even the Oklahoma panhandle.

We are going to see temperatures around 63 degrees in Atlanta today, 70 in Memphis, not bad in Dallas, 69 degrees. Actually warming up to the low to mid-50s across the Northeast. Lows tonight, though, will still be chilly, running in the mid-30s in the Northeast, Chicago at 41, 36 degrees in Kansas City.

By tomorrow, showers will continue to develop across the panhandle of Florida and down through the peninsula. A lot of rain expected. Breezy conditions across much of the country. We're going to see snow possibly in extreme portions of northern Michigan.

Temperatures will be around 59 degrees tomorrow in D.C., 55 in New York, still trying to warm up a little bit in the South. Really does do a huge warm-up, mid-70s across the South.

Yesterday morning, though, we had record lows, single-digit temperatures in Michigan. We set records in Michigan, also in Kentucky, even Austin, Texas, 33 degrees, unseasonably cold. And we're also talking about the rain.

Like we mentioned, we'll see quite a bit of rain as we go through Friday, up to an inch possible in Tallahassee, Tampa, even quarter to half an inch of rain in Miami.

ROMANS: It's some sort of cruel test, a cruel test, a cruel joke after this winter, to have more snow.

BERMAN: Yes, I'm, frankly, incensed, because if this messes with my plants and my flowers, someone's going to pay for it, and it's not going to be me.

ROMANS: It's going to be you.

BERMAN: I'm coming after you. Someone.

ROMANS: Breaking news from Malaysia: the search for Flight 370 could be due for a change of tactics as anger grows from the families of those on board. Have investigators left these families in the dark? We're live with that part of the story, next.


BERMAN: It has now been 41 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, and the families of those on board say they've had enough. Anger boiled over at a briefing in Beijing. Many there called Malaysian officials liars, and families are now demanding authorities answer 26 questions, 26 questions about what happened to that jet, including just how do they know it definitely went down in the Indian ocean?

James Wood is the brother of Philip Wood, the only American adult on that flight. He says all they want is the truth.


JAMES WOOD, BROTHER OF PHILIP WOOD: There's no transparency. There's a lot of information that's provided downstream. Is the information given to them? Is it copies of information? Is it just tidbits of information? Are we getting the whole picture?

And from the families' perspective, we're getting very little bit of the picture.


ROMANS: Let's go to Beijing and senior international correspondent Ivan Watson.

You know, Ivan, what are the families there saying today? I mean, the frustration has been building, really building for weeks now.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was remarkable. Just moments ago, Christine, members of the families of these 153 Chinese nationals who were aboard that missing plane were yelling in a conference room, "Where's the ambassador?", at the daily briefing that Malaysian officials have been providing to the hundreds of Chinese relatives that have gathered here in Beijing, paid for, their accommodation, by Malaysian Airlines, as they perform this agonizing vigil.

And in fact, the Malaysian diplomats refused to even appear today at this briefing, instead asking a representative from Malaysian Airlines to read a statement from the Malaysian embassy, expressing regret that a teleconference briefing that was held yesterday here, that it failed due to technical errors, and that prompted this dramatic mass walkout by the Chinese families yesterday.

So, it's remarkable the antagonism right now between members of the Chinese families and the Malaysian officials. The Malaysian government now announced it will send a high-ranking delegation to Beijing to meet with these families next week.

Also, a Malaysian government official saying, listen, this isn't really fair. There were 14 nationalities on board that missing plane. How come there's so much attention being paid to the criticism coming from the Chinese families?

The Chinese families, though, seem to be trying to take matters into their own hands. They submitted a list of questions on Monday with highly detailed questions. They want to know, who manufactured the black box aboard MH-370. They want to know the serial number of the black box. They want to know how many emergency transmitters were on that plane and where those transmitters were located.

And that really highlights the suspicion that has built among these worried family members, the distrust that has built as well at what they claim is a lack of information and transparency in the investigation by Malaysian authorities -- Christine.

ROMANS: Almost as if they want to do their own investigation. They're so fed up with the lack of information from authorities.

WATSON: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Ivan Watson in Beijing. Thanks, Ivan.

BERMAN: Happening right now, a big day in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. A battle now over how quickly the Olympic hero shot and killed his girlfriend, this battle playing out in court right now. Will the judge believe he had no idea just whom he was shooting? We're live with the details next.


BERMAN: Testimony is under way this morning at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa, a defense expert being torn apart right now by the prosecutor, as the proceedings prepare to take a two-week break.

CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is live at the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, walk us through what's happening in the court right now. The prosecutor seems to be doing all he can to go after this defense witness.

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It's unsurprising that the prosecutor is paying so much attention to tearing into this particular witness, because the evidence that this witness is covering is really crucial to the state's case. So, for example, he's been covering and has spent a lot of time today in particular covering the entry points of the bullet wounds and what story that tells about where she would have been standing, in what position, how she would have fallen. And the importance of that to the state's case is that his evidence suggests, or rather, supports the theory that the bullets were fired in quick succession. The state have always used the argument that, in fact, the bullets were fired more slowly, that there was a pause in the firing of the bullets to support their inference of intention, that he knew who he was killing and he meant to kill her.

So, this evidence would be really critical for them to unseat in order to succeed with their case. And that's why they really are taking their time and grilling into the testimony of this witness.

BERMAN: It's the intentionality. Quickly, Kelly, a two-week break now. The judge will keep working, but there will be no more testimony? Explain this to me.

PHELPS: Well, we have a lot of public holidays coming up, so it would have been a very interrupted part of the trial. So, the judge has taken a pragmatic decision to take a break in the trial but use that time to essentially get ahead of their workload -- start reviewing what is already an exceptionally long transcript that all members of the trial team will have to be very familiar with by the time the trial continues next.

So, essentially, she's saying let's use this time better, get ahead of the process so that things can speed up when we reconvene.

BERMAN: All right. Kelly Phelps for us live in Pretoria. Thanks you much.

EARLY START continues right now.