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Tornadoes Devastate Southern States; Search Continues for Missing Malaysian Plane; Sponsors Dropping LA Clippers Over Owner's Comments; NBA Commissioner to Hold Conference Today; MH370 Cockpit Recordings Released

Aired April 29, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: 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.


MYERS: You have no idea what you're going to find. Here's a "b" from somewhere. This Shell station has no "b" in it, so I have no idea where that came from. But another big day of tornadoes possible today. Back to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Chad, thanks so much.

And in Alabama, thousands were forced to take cover in shelters or huddle hallways. Tornadoes touching down throughout the state there as well. Brian Todd has the very latest from the hard hit town of Athens. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we're seeing first light here and seeing our first glimpse of the sheer devastation that hit this town. This is foundation of a home that really is not there anymore. Part of it may have been just swept over here. Walking along the foundation here you can see the wreckage of this home. It was completely pulverized. There's part of a toilet standing right there, an appliance over here. But look at this, all of it completely blown away.

And this entire neighborhood is just decimated. This was a group of houses and apartments. Some people here at first light are just now returning to pick through what's left of their homes. Not far away from here in Kimberly, Alabama, just south of here, you have incredible video just from the height of the storm when it was hitting. A church, half of it collapsed. It had its roof ripped off. We have video of that. Just almost at the height of the storm when it was raining. Also a fire station, some first responders had trouble getting out, a fire truck covered in debris as the lightning and rain pulverized that area of Kimberly, Alabama, not too far south of here.

Again, people just now returning to their homes. And we're told three people in the state of Alabama, at least three people died. Two of them not far from here in a trailer park. But again, the casualty numbers are going to be fluid as the day goes on. Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: Yes, Brian, we've got to be mindful of that and continue to monitor it. Be safe as you're walking around.

Joining us to update us is on the situation on the ground is Mayor Jason Shelton of Tupelo, Mississippi. Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us. I know you're concerned about the entire community, but is your family OK, is your home OK?

MAYOR JASON SHELTON, TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI: Thank you so much. My family is fine. My home is fine. We have had one casualty here in Tupelo and widespread devastation here in the community, and just praying for all the residential and business owners and starting the healing process.

CUOMO: We see what is bed hind you. And we heard the governor of Mississippi qualify it this way, Phil Brian, that he lived through Katrina but he's never seen anything like this. What is your experience?

SHELTON: The governor was very gracious, reached out to me, called me twice yesterday as he dealt with storms literally covering half of the state of Mississippi, a terrible storm system. He's on his way to Tupelo this morning and I plan on touring the city with him and assessing the damage. And he's going to work with us to get the best response possible for our citizens.

CUOMO: What's your best information on search and rescue there? What are you discovering about what's happened?

SHELTON: The Tupelo first responders, emergency management team led by fire chief Thomas Walker did a wonderful job. They did a house-by- house, door-to-door search last night of every affected neighborhood. They did a second search last night. It's my understanding we will do a third today just to make sure there are no casualties or no one still trapped in their home.

Is it true, Mr. Mayor, that in one scenario, an entire business was taken down to the ground except the rest room, and that's where the employees were hiding?

SHELTON: No, we're actually standing directly across the street from that business now, the Steak Escape here. That was just a miracle of god. They huddled in the bathroom facilities and the vast majority of the building was destroyed around them.

CUOMO: How did that happen? Was it just plain luck or, as you're saying, a miracle, or did that structure, that part of the structure get built up and reinforced?

SHELTON: Well, we can see it here. You know, I don't know the ins and outs of the structure itself. Certainly very fortunate to be able to seek shelter there in the strongest part of the building and survive the storm.

CUOMO: Wow. Whatever it was, thank god they did survive. Most importantly, Mr. Mayor, what do you need? What do you want people to know about the needs on the ground there in going forward?

SHELTON: Just continued support and prayers. We're going to work with the federal and state emergency management crews. Tupelo's response has been great. We've got surrounding communities that are literally waiting 15 miles away to get here to help today.

For the local people, I would continue to urge people to be weather aware and to resist the natural urge to kind of go see the situation, try to assess the damage, or even check on a friend's home or business. The emergency crews and responders need to be able to do their job. There's still a few natural gas lines that have damage that the crews are working on. And the electric lines, as they restore power, there's a very real threat of electrocution. Just ask people to continue to pray but at the same time give the first responders the space they need to do their job.

CUOMO: Mr. Mayor, as the sun comes up we hope that it isn't revealed to be even worse than it looks right now. Stay in touch. Let us know what you need. Thank you for joining us this morning. Good luck and a quick recovery.

SHELTON: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: A third of the country now is on alert today for more severe weather including even more tornadoes. Meteorologist Indra Petersons is taking a closer look at that. Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's hard to believe we're still talking about severe weather. Again today, the fact that we're talking about more people affected by the threat for severe weather is devastating.

Take a look at what we saw yesterday -- 80 reports of tornado damage. Where? Kentucky, Tennessee, especially out towards Mississippi and Alabama. Keep in mind unfortunately today that concern is going to be in the exact same region. We're going to be focusing again right into the southeast, especially again, notice out towards Birmingham just north of Mobile, and 2.5 million of you today under the threat for a moderate risk. That's an enhanced risk for severe weather.

And then 73 million of you looking for a slight risk for severe weather. Keep in mind slight risk does not mean you cannot get a strong tornado. That threat is still very much out there today, especially as we go through the afternoon. Again, so let's talk about what we're dealing with. This morning still looking at tornado watch boxes including Atlanta, Macon, even Albany. That concern will enhance as we go through the afternoon. Why? Why are you still dealing with this? Look at this system not northeast. It is packed here. It has been for days. The system behind it, producing severe weather parked in place, that cold front spinning up and fueling the thunderstorms especially in the afternoon as we get that sunlight or the daytime heating.

Again, today looking for severe weather and also unfortunately in through tomorrow, still looking for more severe weather from D.C. down through Florida. Tough thing to consider when you talk about the wooded areas, we're still very hard to see tornadoes in this region, especially when they get rain wrapped with heavy rain. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Indra, thank you so much, continue to track that story as it's developing as the sun is coming up in these areas as we talk about them right now.

But let's turn to another breaking news story this morning. In the search for flight 370, for the first time we get to hear the final cockpit recordings, the missing passengers' families getting access to this audio for very first time during a meeting with Malaysian officials. Take a listen to a bit of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MAS370, morning, level two five zero, Malaysian 370. Malaysian 370 climb flight level three five zero. Flight level three five zero, Malaysian 370. Malaysian 370 maintaining level three five zero. Malaysian 370 maintaining level three five zero. Malaysian 370 contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal nine, good night. Good night, Malaysian 370.


BOLDUAN: There was that final communication that they have waited, those families have waited so long to gain access to. Let's discuss what this means to the investigation and some other developments this morning.

Joining us now airline accident investigator Shawn Pruchnicki and CNN safety analyst and the author of "Why Planes Crash" David Soucie. Good morning once again to both of you.

Shawn, I want to it get your take once again. We hear this audio for the first time. It's been six weeks. This is something the families have been asking. Something that we have learned, I have learned as uninitiated through this process, pretty basic hearing the communications, but what do we learn from this now six weeks in?

SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, AIRLINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: Unfortunately not a whole lot. What we hear by this audio recording, which is really pretty low quality from what we've heard so far, is that this was a normal transmission. This is a normal discussion between air traffic control and the aircraft, and really nothing that tells us anything could have been amiss.

BOLDUAN: What, if the quality is better and you assume they have better quality, the reason our audio quality isn't as great is they have playing it over a loudspeaker in the room. Investigators, they will have a better quality audio. What are they looking at? What have they been investigating? What can you gain from listening to these communications?

PRUCHNICKI: There are actually several things that they can look at. Primarily they can look at -- try to detect stress patterns.

BOLDUAN: You can really try to get that from those communications?

PRUCHNICKI: Absolutely. That's been done before. They can even listen to engine sound. If they're wondering about, you know, the power settings on the engines, sometimes they can actually detect that noise in the background and determine approximate engine level settings.

But more importantly they're going to focus on just the voice patterns themselves, trying to detect stress. You have to have another recording of the same individuals to compare it to and do the analysis.

BOLDUAN: You assume, David Soucie, the investigators have previous communications from the pilot that they can try to compare it to. What do you gain -- what do you gather, anything unusual you sense from these communications that the families have waited so long to hear?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, I don't think there's anything terrible unusual, however, if you listen to it, it keeps repeating back we're at 350, we're at 350. Typically what that means is the pilot is trying to remind the tower they requested a change in altitude but you haven't responded to me yet. But that doesn't really give us a whole lot of information. That's still pretty typical.

What's more important is that the Malaysian government is releasing it and opening up communications and sharing things with the families they hadn't previously done. So I think that's a big step forward.

BOLDUAN: A big step in the transparency people have been calling for so long. I want to get your take, David Soucie, also on this, a report coming out of an Australian exploration company called GeoResonance. They are reporting that they possibly have detected debris in a very different part of the ocean. They believe that through their analysis they may have detected debris in a very different part of the ocean. They believe that through their analysis that they may have detected debris just south of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. Do you think that's possible, because so far is joint -- the joint coordinating committee out of Australia came out and essentially dismissed it already?

SOUCIE: Well, remember you would have to disregard so much other information that they've been basing everything on. Now, as far as this company, their credibility is very high and they do have information that something is there shortly after the accident that wasn't there before, including metals. They sensed metals. That's what they're there for. So they're sensing titanium and aluminum and these metals that were not in that particular spot before the accident. So as far as that, it does have credibility.

As far as the fact that they would have to ignore literally the entire investigation that they started from ground zero, they're not going to be very quick to respond to that, specifically because the Inmarsat data is very credible and accurate, and we still can't discount the pings. The pings -- we haven't found any other thing in the ocean that could make that same sound and at that same frequency. So I think that's good that they're disregarding it for now but certainly everything has to be investigated and examined.

BOLDUAN: And to be specific, from the joint committee, Shawn, they said the team is satisfied the final resting place of the missing aircraft is in the southern portion of the search arc. This would take you into the northern portion which had been discredited weeks ago.

PRUCHNICKI: Absolutely. I think David is right. We have more evidence to indicate that it's probably in that southern area. I think those pings are a really good point.

BOLDUAN: Is there any problem though dismissing it so quickly?

PRUCHNICKI: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Should they send something there?

PRUCHNICKI: I think someone needs to take to a look at this. I think we need to bring some experts in, folks other than just this company, present this data to some other individuals, some other people with the technical expertise to look at this and say does this merit bringing resources a significant distance from where those resources currently are.

BOLDUAN: Which means time and money, and if it's wrong, a distraction and a departure from where they need to be focused right now.

PRUCHNICKI: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: But there is a little bit of why not at this point.

PRUCHNICKI: Let's take a look at it and talk to some people and find out what the data really show.

BOLDUAN: Shawn, David, thank you as always. Great to see you guys this morning. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's look at more of your headlines right now. North Korea conducted live fire artillery drills overnight. They took place near Pyongyang's dispute western maritime border with South Korea. Analysts view the drills as a sign of frustration with the lack of international. Both Koreas conduct these drills but they often get tense because of the disputed boundaries. And 15 people are now facing sanctions from the European Union for their part in Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Economic and travel restrictions are on the table for the group, which includes members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle. Russia is criticizing the sanctions from the EU and U.S. which targeted seven officials. Sanctions also restrict exports that could help Russia's military.

The White House is ramping up some pressure on colleges to crack down on sexual assaults. Vice president Biden unveiling new guidelines today, urging colleges to conduct surveys about assault, adopt proven anti-assault policies, and ensure victims confidentiality. The White House also plans to launch a new website,, to provide victims with information and track enforcement.

CUOMO: People are going to be shocked when they find out that assaults on campus are actually going up. You would think in this day and age of sensitivity they would be going the other way.

BOLDUAN: And still so underreported, is one of the biggest problems.

PEREIRA: And then one of the challenges too is those DNA databases are sitting there waiting to be examined and investigated too. That's another aspect of this that takes time.

CUOMO: We have to stay on it. Let's take a little break right now though. Coming up on NEW DAY, big sponsors, they're not waiting for the NBA. They have already cut ties with the Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, because of his alleged comments. So what will the league do? We're supposed to find out today but we're going to bring in former NBA star and CNN political commentator, Mr. Greg Anthony for his take coming up.

BOLDUAN: Also coming up on "Inside Politics", Congressman Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, but yesterday he was in FBI custody. Why Grimm called federal charges against him part of a witch hunt. That's ahead.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has called a news conference for this afternoon, addressing the league's investigation into Donald Sterling's alleged comments. Silver could hand down some sort a punishment against Sterling including sanctions.

Let's bring in Greg Anthony to talk about what could be on the table. He, of course, is a CNN political commentator and turner sports NBA analyst. Good to have you Greg, thanks for showing up for us this morning. What do you think we're going to hear?

GREG ANTHONY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's going to be interesting. There is something that's in the NBA constitution that's called a nuclear option, if you will, that could compel the league or could compel an owner to have to sell. And I think in light of what's happening now, with sponsors starting to pull out now, that's all still basically local, but that could get momentum. If it were ever to get to a point to where it become national, now the league would have a monumental issue.

There's an interesting dynamic with all of this, because this is not so much to focus on Donald Sterling and his abhorrent behavior. The biggest picture, and Mark Cuban talked about this yesterday, is the precedent that it could set for the league. If you were to, in essence, be able to come up with a scenario whereby a team could be taken from a perspective owner. So this is -- has a lot of underlying dynamic to it that Adam Silver is going to have to deal with. So I, like you, will be really anxious to hear what steps are going to be taken here at 2:00.

CUOMO: He can't do it alone though, right? He would need to basically invoke the owners council to have their own vote, right? That's how it would have to work?

ANTHONY: Yes. I think you've already seen the groundwork being laid for significant action. Based on the fact that so many of the owners have come out with really strongly worded statements in condemnation, if you will, of Donald Sterling. So that is, in essence, the first step in that process. You're kind of aligning yourself -- of getting alliances from the owners before something could be done. So you would assume, and knowing the folks in the league office, there has been a tremendous amount of legwork done in terms of aligning those owners, because they do understand the significance of this. This is, again, it's not illegal to be a bigot or a racist, but it's also not good business. And they all realize that. And I think that's why you're going to see the league along with the support of the owners, and we've already seen how the players feel about this, come out strongly in their response to Donald Sterling.

CUOMO: If you look at the situation in the best light for Sterling, is there any case that can be made for mercy? He wasn't screaming the n word, he gave money to NAACP, he dates someone of color. Is there any way to mitigate what he said, and say well, he's not as bad as other people?

ANTHONY: Well, listen, there have been many people throughout the history of our society who have been racist and discriminatory. That didn't stop them from hanging out with people of color or from different ethnicity's. That's not necessarily going to fly, I don't think. I think, also, just because of, the perspective he gave in terms of why he feels the way he does about people who don't share the same ethnicity as he does, that's really compelling stuff. That speaks to the heart and to the core of who the person is. That's really hard to walk back. You know? I just don't see a scenario where that's going to be acceptable. I think this will forever stay with him and potentially with the Clippers organization, which is why it's so important that things happen and happen quickly. But within a process that will allow the league to not set the kind of precedence that could do severe damage to its infrastructure moving forward.

CUOMO: In terms of why the ownership should act as a collective, if it's true that people knew that Sterling had these kinds of views. If it's true that it was known that white plays like J.J. Redick or Bledsoe, that he would say, Well I'm not going to paying that for a white player, I'm only going to pay that for a black player because they're naturally better. If that kind of stuff is true and is known don't they have to act just to, kind of, justify the fact that they let this guy be in their membership?

ANTHONY: Well, Chris, you've got to be careful with that kind of stuff. Again, we all know people that have -- maybe or we have suspicions about how people feel about certain things. But having feelings and suspicions and ultimately being able to prove it are far different. That's why we have the kinds of laws that with slander and libel, and that's one reason why people haven't been willing to necessarily speak out until something is damning as that audio was released. So again, I think enough damage has been done by Donald Sterling to now warrant the kind of reaction and outcry we're seeing around the country that something has got to give. Something strong has to be done to send the kind of message that that type of behavior will not be tolerated. Particularly in sports. Again, a society that tends to be far more progressive and open than the rest of society.

CUOMO: Doc Rivers, the coach there in the presidents helped by the moving the onus away from the players, away even from the fans somewhat, this should be about the ownership and league. And let's be honest, it's bigger than basketball, this dialogue. Hopefully we see some action today and the conversation continues. Thank you for making the time to come on today. Always a pleasure, Greg.

ANTHONY: All right. Thank you, Chris.

BOLDUAN: All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY, an Australian exploration company says it has found what it believes could be plane wreckage, and they believe it may be from flight 370. We're going to talk to the director of that company, of that group. What makes him think it could be the missing plane? How could they be so sure. Also ahead on "Inside Politics", a secret recording of the secretary of state John Kerry forcing him to apologize. What he said about Israel and why it has sparked calls for his resignation.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Breaking overnight, for the first time we're hearing flight 370's cockpit recordings. So are missing passengers' family members who are desperate for information about what happened to their loved ones. Hours ago Malaysian officials updated them on the investigation into the missing plane.

Ivan Watson is in Beijing with more. He was at that briefing. Ivan I'm curious, after all that weight and all that time, how did the families react?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Much more positively. This is the first time in two weeks that I haven't seen the family members crying and cursing at the Malaysian officials. Instead, they listened to these audio recordings that they had requested in the past. The Malaysians had released transcripts but now we're hearing the final words to the outside world from what we believe was the crew of the missing Malaysian airlines flight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MALAYSIAN TOWER (RECORDING): Malaysian 370, contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal 9, go.

PLANE, FLIGHT 370: Good night Malaysian 370.