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Severe Weather Warning; MH370 Cockpit Recordings Released; Families Waiting For Flight 370 Report; L.A. Clippers Owner Could Face Sanctions

Aired April 29, 2014 - 06:30   ET




We're following breaking news. It's been a horrifying night in the Southeast. The threat is not over. Dozens of tornadoes tearing through the region since Sunday. Eight deaths reported in Mississippi. The tiny town of Tupelo decimated a how it was described.

And Alabama is under a state of emergency with three fatalities reported. Tens of thousands of people are without power this morning.

Joining us by phone to get an update on where things stand from Birmingham, is Horace Walker, Jefferson County Emergency Management officer.

Mr. Walker, thank you so much for joining on the phone.


BOLDUAN: So, tell me. It's been a horrible night in a lot of places in your state and other states. What kind of damage have you been seeing?

WALKER: Well, we had three areas in our community that received some extensive damage.

BOLDUAN: Can you describe that extensive damage for us? We're looking at some video from various places in Alabama. Can you describe it?

WALKER: We had a fire station that took a direct hit that took responders out who could have been responding to help out citizens. Church was damaged where there were people trapped there, and just homes that were damaged.

BOLDUAN: You said there was a church where people were trapped?

WALKER: Yes, ma'am.

BOLDUAN: What's the status on them this morning? WALKER: Well, they are, as far as I know, have been removed with minor injuries. Nothing major. No fatalities or anything like that within our county.

BOLDUAN: Have you had any -- are there any fatalities that have been reported in your county yet? I had seen that there had not. I just want to make sure that's not changed.

WALKER: That's true. We've not had any reports of fatalities.

BOLDUAN: What do you expect you're going to be up against and what does it look like when the sun comes up this morning?

WALKER: I don't know. We're going to be sending folks out and hopefully it's not as bad as it was last year -- well, a couple years ago on April 27th, 2011.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Almost to the day a few years ago.

The threat continues today. More storms in the area. More tornadoes that could be coming. What's your message to everyone in your community?

WALKER: Have a plan and just be prepared. We went through this particular past day, so pay attention to the weather and get weather alerts and have a plan in case something happens in your neighborhood.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Walker, what does that mean for the folks who have suffered a lot of damage to their homes or to that fire station or to that church? What do people do? They've already had one punch. There's another one coming.

WALKER: Well, hopefully, they can manage during this time frame. There are shelters that are going to be open to help them, and hopefully they have a place to go until then. After that, we will work with them and try to help them recover from this incident.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Got a lot of work ahead to help recover from this incident. Just a few short years after another bad hit that came to hit your area.

Horace Walker with the Jefferson County Emergency Management -- thanks so much for jumping on the phone. We appreciate it. Good luck today.


WALKER: Thank you.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: My thoughts are certainly with the folks in the path and in the wag of those tornadoes.

Let's look at more of your headlines right now. For the first time we're hearing the cockpit recordings from Flight 370. And families of passengers families are finally getting answers as they hear the last conversation for the themselves. In the meantime, an Australian marine exploration company is claiming that it may have found the wreckage of Flight 370 in the Bay of Bengal. Now, that's about 3,000 miles away from the current search zone in the Indian Ocean.

The European Union is adding sanctions against Russia for actions in Ukraine. Fifteen people including top allies of Vladimir Putin are targeted with economic and travel restrictions. Russia is firing back with those sanctions as well as sanctions lobbied by the U.S., vowing a painful response. The U.S. imposed sanctions on seven officials and restricted exports that could help Russia's military.

Secretary of State John Kerry said if he could rewind the tape, he wouldn't use the word apartheid in a statement about Israel. Kerry is now apologizing for his remark last week, that the lack of a two-state solution in the Middle East could lead to Israel becoming a, quote, "apartheid state." He is stressing his record as strong supporter of Israel.

Those are your headlines at half past the hour here on NEW DAY.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Some hot water for the secretary.

PEREIRA: Some hot water.

CUOMO: Let's take a little quick break here on NEW DAY.

When we come back, haunting audio played in Malaysia. We have the final recording of Flight 370. What is on the tape and when was it said? Was the plane already miles off course when the pilots were so calmly saying good night?

We'll talk with a family member of an American passenger on board.

BOLDUAN: And NBA owner Donald Sterling may learn his fate later today. Will the L.A. Clippers owner be banned from the league? What can the league do? We're going to talk about the options of the former star, Malik Rose, coming up.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

For the very first time, we're hear that last radio communication between the cockpit and the control tower. Overnight, Malaysian officials played those recordings for several of the missing passenger family members in Beijing. I want you to take a listen.


TOWER: MAS370, morning, level two five zero Malaysian 370.

PLANE: MAS370, morning, level two five zero, Malaysian 370

TOWER: Malaysian 370 climb flight level three five zero.

PLANE: Flight level three five zero, Malaysian 370.

PLANE: Malaysian 370 maintaining level three five zero.

TOWER: Malaysian 370.

Malaysian 370 contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal 9, go.

PLANE: Good night Malaysian 370.


PEREIRA: Again, a little difficult to make out because it was being played over a loud speaker in that room. And again, it was just some of the information officials revealed during that briefing.

Sarah Bajc joins us live from Beijing. Of course, she is partner of Philip Wood, an American that was on board Flight 370.

Sarah, thanks so much for joining us.

So many people, and I know you among them, the family members have been desperately waiting for any sort of information to be released from the Malaysian authorities, concrete evidence like these audio recordings. Now, I know you weren't able to be at that meeting but you've had a chance to catch up with some of the family members.

I'm curious what your take is, Sarah?

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PHILIP WOOD: Well, we are very, very pleased that the Malaysian government and Malaysian Airlines has come forward with some new information to share. We've been, I think, both sides of the conversation escalated to a little bit too much heat up through last week and everybody has had a chance to take a big deep breath.

And, you know, we're trying to start over in a little more cooperative way. So, this was a great first step.

PEREIRA: You know, I think people understand the emotions running high, certainly on the part of the family members. I don't think anybody faults you for that for wanting answers. Does this -- the release of these recordings give you any new insight, Sarah?

BAJC: It really doesn't. The bulk of the recording is the same content as was contained in the transcript that we've already seen. There were two new clips that we haven't seen transcripts for. One was the airplane to the airport and one was to the radar tower.

So we haven't had the chance to get that in any transcript format and it wasn't understandable from the audio clip in person, either. So, we'll have to wait and see when we get that in transcript form.

PEREIRA: I want to play the words that were originally debate so, so much. You will recall that. The last voice contact between the pilots and Malaysian air traffic control. Let's play that one more time here.


PLANE: Good night Malaysian 370.


PEREIRA: You know, it's interesting, Sarah. You mentioned that it was a good first step. Did you get a sense from talking to the other family members that the release of this audio, while not necessarily reveal aggregate deal of new information at all, do you think it increased the confidence in the Malaysians or the confidence in the investigation?

BAJC: Well, it increased the confidence that they're listening to us. The Malaysian Airlines group has brought in some new leadership recently to be part of connecting to the family members. And I think that that's part of it.

You know, we've had a chance to sit down and have conversations with that gentleman one-on-one and that really opens up the lines in a different way than when we're sitting on opposite sides of the table. In the end, transcripts or recordings don't really help us find the airplane. They might help us to understand what happened at an early stage but we are trying to stay focused on the look forward to actually find where the airplane is.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. You know that prime minister of Malaysia announced that he's going to release this preliminary report on the plane's disappearance, the government report. Are you confident he's going to follow through on those words? Are you looking forward to it? What are you expecting to hear from it?

BAJC: I have no idea. I would like to think that there is going to be actual factual data in the report. But if it's just more of the same analysis then we will continue to push for raw data. I think we have a lack of confidence in the investigation team having analyzed the data in front of them properly and there are enough independent experts out in the industry who have looked at their calculation models and raised questions as to their validity. So we don't trust the analysis. We want the data still.

PEREIRA: Well, one thing I know you are hanging on to and it speaks to you're looking forward in the search for the wreckage. There's an Australian search firm who said they have a strong credible lead in the Bay of Bengal, some 2,000 miles north of the current search area. They say they are reason to believe that could be wreckage from MH370. You had a chance to speak to the director. What did he tell you and what do you believe from this information you've been able to hear?

BAJC: Well, I wanted to hear in a human voice what we had seen on the news release that had come out through Channel 7 earlier today. And I have a fairly sensitive bs meter at this point and this gentleman sounded credible to me. His company is in the business of isolating digital signatures, if you will, for metal, so they do metal detection for a number of different industries. So they're not in the business of looking for airplanes, but they are in the business for identifying metal signature and that they felt fairly confident as of four weeks ago that they had seen something.

They released that data. It was ignored. After two weeks they released another set of reportings, and that was ignored, too. So they went to the media. So I do believe it's worth sending a boat out with proper sonar capabilities. The water is only 1,000 meters deep in that area and they have GPS coordinates of where to go. So we would like to see the government follow-up on this. It seems valid.

PEREIRA: We're told that the Malaysian government has that information and they are looking into it. And hopefully you can keep some pressure on them to go to that area because, again, saying they found something in the Bay of Bengal that could very well be, in their estimation, the wreckage of Flight 370. Hopefully, we'll hear some more information about this in the coming days and weeks. Sarah, thanks so much again for joining us. We appreciate it.

BAJC: You're welcome.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, players want punishment for Donald Sterling, but how far can the NBA go in disciplining the Clippers' owner for alleged racist comments? We will find out today. Former NBA star, Malik Rose is here with his take on the controversy.


BOLDUAN: It's money time. Chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is back and here with the very latest. Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Listen, get ready for new fees if you fly with Frontier. The airline has a new pricing model similar to its competitor, Spirit. Think lower base fares, but fees for everything else. Using the overhead bin, it's going to cost you 25 bucks. Choosing your own seat, $15.

Bad math at Bank of America, the bank says it made an incorrect adjustment when calculating the balance sheet. It has less cash than they thought, sounds familiar? The bank is cancelling plans to give money back to investors.

Big data companies know you're broke and they're selling your financial information to everyone from lenders to telemarketers. They say they're trying to help people get access to financial products. Lawmakers want customers to be able to opt out. Chris, don't assume you have anonymity in your finances anymore.

CUOMO: I assume nothing. Thank you very much, Christine. All right, so today we could learn the fate of L.A. Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. You know now that he was allegedly caught on tape making racist statements about African-Americans. The NBA commissioner will hold a news conference about the controversy today and he could hand down a punishment.

Let's bring in Malik Rose, two-time NBA champion, and game analyst for Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia covering the 76ers, of course. Great to have you here, Malik. So, first, they have to make sure they're right, right? The commissioner has been doing his due diligence making sure that this is the right voice and figuring out his options. Is that your understanding?

MALIK ROSE, ANALYST, COMCAST SPORTSNET PHILADELPHIA: Yes. That's what we're being told just to sit tight and wait for Commissioner Silver and rest of his staff to do their investigation and report their findings.

CUOMO: All right, so there's a lot of critical mass getting around this for different reasons that we'll talk about. But there's an expectation of severe action. Doing a little homework, what can they do? Well, they can suspend him from operations. I don't know what that really means to an owner. They could fine him, a million dollars. I don't know what that really means to a billionaire. But the commissioner could, I believe, call on the owners to have a vote to oust Sterling from membership, force him to sell. Do you think there's an option of that?

ROSE: I think that's possible. Right now, you know, from a players' side and the union side, we're dealing with unchartered territory. I don't remember a time where an owner has messed up to this ebbs tent. Right now we don't know what the sanctions are, what the process is for correcting an owner when he makes a mistake like this. So it's really going to be interesting come 2:00 today to hear what Commissioner Silver has after his investigation.

CUOMO: Owners have been coming forward, but do you think it's right to put the pressure on them instead of the players, this talk of should Chris Paul lead his team to boycott, should the fans boycott. Do you think that's where the focus should be or you think it should be on the owners to do the right thing?

ROSE: Absolutely not, Chris. This is not a player problem. So often in the media we see where players make mistakes and they have to be corrected or whatever. In this instance, this is an owner making the mistake. So in my opinion, the players don't need to do anything. They need to sit back and see what the owners and Commissioner Silver do in response to these terrible accusations.

And if the owners drop the ball with their report today, only a hand tap or he's not really reprimanded, then I think it will be time for the players to ratchet it up and do something on their side. But as of right now, I believe the players need to sit tight and let the league do what they need to do.

CUOMO: Aspect of this seems to be bigger than the game as well. Do you think it's true or your time in the league, did you ever hear that Sterling was a racist?

ROSE: You heard a lot of things. I know I did. During my playing days, the Clippers were never really a championship contender so they were --

CUOMO: That's being generous. ROSE: They were kind of like an afterthought for most of my career and even before then. Most of the stuff that came out of L.A. as far as the Clippers were concerned was disregarded, but you did hear things. You heard stuff with Baylor and Mike Dunleavy, guys who had the sued to get their money or sued to get a fair shake. All of these guys had things that they were chirpings throughout my time in the league, but none of it was ever taken seriously obviously.

CUOMO: I was reading on Yahoo! that Sterling, there were stories about him that he believed he wouldn't pay top dollar. Now, listen to this -- for white players because he believed that, well, if I'm going to pay top dollar, it's got to be a black guy, it got to be a long, strong, athletic black guy. I'm not paying that for a white guy. Had you ever heard of that?

ROSE: I've never heard anything like that. With JJ Reddick and Bledsoe, this is recent. This isn't like it was 40, 50 years ago. It wouldn't have been acceptable then, but it just shows you how crazy things are and the Clipper land out in L.A. It's shocking. To me, someone that's been in the NBA to hear more and more things start to come to light, and I'm actually kind of embarrassed that it let it slip past me. I never thought about it.

CUOMO: But it would make sense that players are focused on the game and there's that tension between management players anyway, in any business, let alone in the league. If the owners knew and they sat by and let the guy exist because he wasn't a threat, does that deserve scrutiny as well?

ROSE: Absolutely. That's one of the reasons Mayor Kevin Johnson is helping the union through this process. This is one of the five things that the union needed to know, all the past accusations and any type of report or incident brought up between the Los Angeles Clippers and Mr. Donald Sterling in regards to unhealthy workplace or racism, anything like that. The union is asking for full disclosure of his history.

CUOMO: Well, look, the one good thing that's coming out of this, we're discussing it, we're condemning it, maybe it's not the worst stuff we've ever heard, it deserves to be condemned equally. We'll see what happens today with the commissioner. Malik, a pleasure. Thank you for giving us your perspective.

ROSE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Good luck to your 76ers.

All right, so there's a lot of news going on today. We're tracking severe storms and dangerous tornadoes. Plus, never before heard audio from the cockpit of Flight 370. A lot of tell you. Let's get to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tornado ripping through the city of Tupelo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is all sorts of stuff falling out of the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are cars tossed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The damage is very devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They played for the very first time. Radio chatter believed to be between missing Flight 370 and ground control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a man in a powerful position should be embracing minorities, not discriminating against them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The players feel very strongly that he is not fit to be an owner and a part of this NBA family.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. We begin with breaking news. Devastation across the south with more dangerous storms and tornadoes on the way. Well over 50 twisters in the last 24 hours ripping apart the region. Mississippi, Alabama, sustaining enormous damage, multiple fatalities. In Alabama, three confirmed deaths in that state. Mississippi, eight people confirmed killed. Remember, numbers are early.

At least 12 different tornadoes roared through the state, destroying everything in their paths. We have reporters in the hardest hit areas and we have meteorologists, Indra Petersons, looking at what we can expect today. Still 75 million people in harm's way.

Let's start with Chad Myers on the ground in Tupelo, Mississippi -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is a Shell station, Chris, it was, what's left of it. It was a car getting fuel. I'm thinking right about here 130 to 145 miles per hour. The town of Lewisville, south of here, got hit unbelievably hard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is all sorts of stuff falling out of the sky. The road is getting lit. There are cars that have been tossed.