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Crisis in Ukraine; Searching for Flight 370; Pistorius Trial Resumes

Aired May 5, 2014 - 04:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Outrage in Odessa. Protesters storm a police building, setting prisoners free as Ukraine's violence spreads from the east to a major poor city now. The government says Russia is to blame as civil war grows closer. We are live with the very latest.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Expanded. The search for Flight 370 now covers a wider part of the ocean floor. But first, a whole lot of preparation. Australia, Malaysia and China planning what comes next, promising this jet will be found, even if it takes years. We are live with the latest on the hunt, missing now for nearly two months.

ROMANS: On trial again. Oscar Pistorius returns to court in South Africa after a two-week delay in his murder case. His defense determined to show he shot his girlfriend accidentally, but prosecutors, they have other plans.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday, May 5th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And up first, Odessa under siege. The bloodshed and violence in Ukraine's third largest city escalating dramatically. Now hundreds of pro-Russian militants storming a police station Sunday, freeing dozens of their own. Nearly 50 people are now dead after three days of violence there. The bloodshed in Odessa really upping the stakes in the deepening struggle now in several parts of Ukraine.

So, let's get the latest now from Arwa Damon live in Donetsk. That is in eastern Ukraine.

Arwa, what can you tell us this morning?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that violence in Odessa most certainly has served to harden people's emotions here in eastern Ukraine, where up until those clashes broke out in Odessa, that fire breaking out in that building that killed a vast majority of those people, Odessa had been relatively calm. A lot of the violence, a lot of the standoffs that we've been seeing between the pro-Russian camp and the pro-Ukrainian camp had been centering here in eastern Ukraine, and we're still seeing that continuing, despite the fact that the Ukrainian government has launched a so-called antiterrorism campaign.

The military has been moving in on some of the key cities of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk. They have yet to make any sort of significant gains.

When it comes to the pro-Russian side, they continue to dig into the various locations that they hold, taking over even more buildings than they have in the past and even clashing with riot police with ministry of interior forces. But at the end of the day, the pro-Russian side always ends up winning.

The Ukrainian forces forced to negotiate in a number of these instances, forced to retreat, and effectively, meet the demands of the pro-Russian camp. Of great concern, of course, in all of this is the fact that Russia itself has tens of thousands of troops perched right on the border, everyone watching what they're going to be doing incredibly closely, everyone, especially NATO allies in this region, very concerned that this country could be moving towards a full-scale war.

BERMAN: Yes, no doubt, Arwa, a crucial day there after the violence we've seen of the last few days.

Arwa Damon in Donetsk -- thanks for being with us this morning.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, we're getting a closer look at a terrifying accident during a circus in Rhode Island and a warning to you this morning, this is graphic what we're about to show you.

This cell phone video shows what happened at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey performance. That's an apparatus holding these acrobats by their hair. It obviously failed, all of them crashing to the ground. Eleven people, including all 9 of those acrobats, were hurt.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First, I thought it was the act. We see them, they were doing acrobats with their hair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was worried for the people, for their welfare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We asked everybody to, you know, pray for the girls and everybody on the act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This shouldn't happen, and we'll get to the bottom of why it happened and make sure it doesn't happen going forward.


ROMANS: Now, the circus says it takes the health of its performers seriously and carefully inspects all of its equipment and it is working with the city of Providence to try to figure out exactly what happened.

BERMAN: We have breaking news overnight to tell you about. Six people hurt on a us airways jet flying from Philadelphia to Orlando. The airline says the plane was climbing after takeoff, when it hit severe turbulence and had to return to the Philadelphia airport.

I want you to listen to a passenger describe this ordeal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was a crazy experience. We were just up in the air, lifted out of our seats, seeing things flying all over the place. I got sick from it. There was people injured, (INAUDIBLE) running all over the plane. It was really scary.


BERMAN: Nice to see her smiling at least. Four passengers, two flight attendants were injured. The flight attendants were later released. It is not clear at this point the nature of the other injuries. But one passenger said a woman hit her head on the ceiling, which is kind of common in this type of turbulence. The other passengers continued on to Orlando.

ROMANS: All right. If search teams ever hope to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, they're going to need more sophisticated equipment to get a better look at the ocean floor. Officials from Malaysia, Australia and China announcing an expansion and a new direction for the mission, while they insist they still believe they are looking for the plane in the right place.

Let's go to Kuala Lumpur and bring in Will Ripley.

Good morning, Will.

Expand -- they have to expand this search, and they really have to refocus here.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. And before they can expand the search, what they're going to do -- and this is first time that we're hearing this -- is that they're going to take a second look at all of the data that has brought them to this particular spot in the southern Indian Ocean, and we're not just talking about the satellite data and those underwater pings that were detected, but everything that was recorded in the last eight-plus weeks. The Bluefin-21's underwater scans, any visual evidence which was jotted down by the planes and the ships, because if you think about it, Christine, it is really remarkable, if you think about the effort -- 4.6 million square kilometers searched, more than 300 planes, more than 3,000 hours in the air, some 29 aircraft, 14 ships, and yet, not one single piece of the plane, a point touched upon by Australia's deputy prime minister.


WARREN TRUSS, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: It is disappointing that we've had no debris that has led us to this wreckage. It's also interesting to note that the search in the area we have concentrated on began quite a number of days after the aircraft had disappeared. The likelihood that if there was debris floating, it had drifted to the bottom of the ocean before we even began our search.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RIPLEY: So, in other words, perhaps by the time they began looking in the right place, there was nothing to be seen, at least on the surface. So, that's what makes this underwater search so critical.

On Wednesday, not only will they be meeting to take another look at the data, but they'll also be talking about the different kinds of technology they're going to bring in there. It's remarkable to think there's more technology to go into space than to go down to the bottom of the ocean. The search chief, Angus Houston, said you can count on one hand the number of devices in the world that are available that can do this kind of work.

ROMANS: Wow, ships in Bangladesh, they're looking for the ship in the Bay of Bengal. Any updates on that for us this morning, Will?

RIPLEY: We learned over the weekend, there are three ships total from the Bangladeshi navy, including a survey ship, one of them had side- scan sonar. They've been looking, haven't found anything yet, Christine.

ROMANS: Will, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, divers in South Korea are closer to recovering all the bodies from that capsized ferry 20 days after it sank. The death toll is now up to 260 with 42 people still missing. South Korea's president visited with family members in Jindo on Sunday, meeting with relatives who have yet to learn the fate of their loved ones. Many of those, of course, on board were high school students.

The investigation is now focused on whether human error by the crew was to blame for this tragedy.

ROMANS: The president of Nigeria is vowing to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls abducted last month by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, which opposes Western education, especially for girls. Protests have erupted in cities across the globe, criticizing Nigeria's response to the crisis. The campaign "Bring Back Our Girls" now going viral.

President Goodluck Jonathan admitted Sunday he doesn't know where the girls are but criticized their parents for not cooperating fully with police.

BERMAN: A rescue effort to dig out more than 2,000 people buried in a landslide in Afghanistan has come to an end. Local officials in the rural northeastern province have now declared the site a mass grave. President Obama called Afghan leader Hamid Karzai Sunday to express his condolences and offer continued support. The landslide is believed to have buried some 300 homes, claiming up to a third, a third of that village.

ROMANS: All right, it is back to court today for the former Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius. A long break now over as the defense argues why Pistorius is not guilty of murder. We're live in Pretoria, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

After a two-week hiatus, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial is back in session this morning. The former Olympian's defense team trying to make the case that their client shot and killed his girlfriend last Valentine's Day by mistake.

CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is in Pretoria, in South Africa, this morning.

Kelly, there's been break. Last we saw, Oscar Pistorius was really on the stand, for the most part. So, what's the defense up to this morning?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this morning, they've called Johan Stander to give testimony. He was the estate manager at the time and very crucially was the very first person on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the killing, and he's right now giving very critical evidence for the defense pertaining not only to Pistorius' emotional state in the immediate aftermath, showing consistency with Pistorius' version as well, but also laying the foundation for a scene of disarray amongst the police on the scene and also contradicting some of the witnesses' testimony for the state with regards to what they heard and who they heard screaming.

BERMAN: What does the defense have to do? What left do they have to do at this point? How much longer do you expect their case to take?

PHELPS: Well, we know that the defense was planning on calling between 15 to 17 witnesses. This is their fourth witness, so we're really getting to the heart of the defense case now. We expect them to focus on some of the critical parts of the state's case in order to lend evidential burden to suggest doubt in the state's case. They don't have to prove their own case. They simply need to suggest doubt, and therefore, unsurprisingly, they've gone straight to the first witness since the break, some of the crucial aspects such as witnesses hearing screaming and allegations of police contamination of the crime scene, which will all be key to unseating the basis of the state's case.

BERMAN: After dealing with the emotion of Oscar Pistorius now, it seems to be the fact that they're going after the facts themselves. Kelly Phelps for us in Pretoria, great to have you this morning.

ROMANS: All right. Northern Ireland is on edge this morning after the release of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. The 64-year-old was arrested last week in the 1972 murder of suspected British informant Jean McConville. The case is reopening old wounds and many fear it could jeopardize the power-sharing arrangement established in the 1998 Good Friday Accords. Adams denies any role in that murder.


GERRY ADAMS, SINN FEIN LEADER: Let me be very clear, I am innocent of any involvement in any conspiracy to abduct, kill or bury Mrs. McConville. I've worked hard with others to have this injustice redressed and for the return of the bodies of others killed during the conflict and secretly buried by the IRA. I will continue to do so.


ROMANS: Adams is free but not yet in the clear. British prosecutors are now reviewing potential evidence in the unsolved murder.

BERMAN: In Oklahoma, it is a race to try and contain a growing wildfire. The latest on this blaze that has turned deadly, coming up next.


ROMANS: All right. Happening right now in Oklahoma, a giant, wind- driven wildfire racing through rural farmland north of Oklahoma City. This fire growing rapidly overnight. Officials estimate it's almost four miles long, about a mile wide, and it has led to one death, a man who officials say refused to evacuate. So far, the fire has burned through at least 20 homes. Ranchers are moving quickly now to move their herds away from the blaze. State officials are calling for extra help to try to put this fire out.

BERMAN: The wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is making clear that she thinks it is time for someone else to run that team, but Shelly Sterling is insisting she is a co-owner and will play an active role going forward. In a statement, she said she supports the league's efforts to find a new CEO for the organization and wants to make the Clippers the best team in the NBA.

Of course, her husband has been banned from the league for his racist remarks. The league is trying to force him to sell the team, which plays tonight, we should say, in the first game of its second-round playoff series against Oklahoma City.

ROMANS: This morning, investigators are trying to figure out what caused a fiery plane crash at a California air base. This happened Sunday, when a biplane crashed in the middle of an acrobatic maneuver, setting off a huge fireball. The pilot, a 25-year air show veteran was killed, and the rest of the show was canceled. Authorities are asking any witnesses to contact them, especially if they have video or photographs of the accident.

BERMAN: New details this morning about the stampede that injured dozens after a Floyd Mayweather fight this weekend. Witnesses now say a loud noise sparked this chaos, the spectators mistaking the sound for a gunshot. Twenty-four people were hospitalized after being trampled in this melee. Most of the injuries were minor. So, this noise was likely caused by the collapse of a temporary wall.

ROMANS: All right. It's time for Cliven Bundy supporters to go home. That's according to a Nevada congressman who wants militia members still rallying support of the rancher to pack it in. The gun-toting supporters arrived after Bundy refused to pay the government $1 million in fees for letting his cattle graze on federal land for the last 20 years. Representative Steven Horsford says he's making the request on behalf of constituents.

BERMAN: So, the weekend is over, but what will the weather week look like? Let's check in with Karen Maginnis.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we do start the morning out kind of with that pesky area of low pressure continuing to usher in some rain showers and cloudy skies into the Northeast and New England. So, right along that I-95 corridor, we'll keep the clouds and showers there, also in the Pacific Northwest. But you look pretty much everywhere else, and it's going to remain fairly quiet over the next couple of days. So quiet, in fact, those temperatures are really going to make quite the jump in the south-central U.S.

But look at the nice, warm weather we're expecting across the eastern third of the U.S. so, you may not see record-setting temperatures, but at least you're going to be a little bit more near normal. New York City expecting 67, 66, 68 by the middle of the workweek. Washington, D.C., can't rule out a shower or two, at least the start of the workweek.

But as we move into the afternoon hours for Dallas and Wichita and Kansas City, Oklahoma City, in the 90s. These are running a good 10 to 20 degrees above where they should be for this time of year. Chicago, on the other hand, still coolish at 54, San Francisco 65, Los Angeles 65 degrees, and they need some moisture. The fire threat is very high. Overnight lows mostly in the 40s to the north. We've got 60s in Texas, 40s for the Pacific Northwest, and New York around 47.

And then coming up for Tuesday, still that warmth impacting the south- central U.S. you're looking at breezy conditions, low humidity, hot temperatures. Those are the ingredients for that fire danger to really be elevated the next few days.

Back to you guys.

ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: Karen Maginnis, thanks very much.

ROMANS: Texas Governor Rick Perry may be eyeing the White House again. Perry's 2012 run didn't go as planned, as you'll recall, with a lot of gaffes on the campaign trail and the controversy over the name of a vacation spot. But Perry will soon be leaving office as governor and seemed this weekend to be teeing up another go at the White House.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I think America is a place that believes in second chances. I think that we see more character out of an individual by how do you perform after you fail and you go forward. So, I'm really focused on the next nine months of being governor of the state of Texas.


ROMANS: Plans to head to Iowa later this month to help raise money for Republican candidates, and he's been touring the country promoting his state's tax structure as a way to draw businesses to Texas. BERMAN: All right, a potential breakthrough that could lead to a new fountain of youth, a bloody fountain of youth. Researchers looked at old and young mice and found when they put blood of the younger mice into older mice, some of the effects of aging were reversed, including improvements in muscle and brain activity. So, the opposite was true when younger mice were given blood from the older subjects.

Scientists caution, there is no evidence yet that this could work on humans, but they say it is a promising development that could have implications for Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

ROMANS: So, all that tiger blood you've been tipping all these years --

BERMAN: Tiger blood.

ROMANS: No, tiger blood is not in the study.

BERMAN: I was thinking of Keith Richards. Doesn't Keith Richards get blood infusions? He's probably got the blood of a 25-year-old strapping buck. That's why he looks so good, and young.

ROMANS: That study is interesting, but pictures of mice are gross, and then mice blood is even grosser.

BERMAN: And I'm thinking young blood. That's like a Rob Lowe movie, a hockey movie from the '80s. I couldn't get beyond that.

ROMANS: Unless you're a millennial and you think we're old.



BERMAN: I'm a young man.

ROMANS: All right. Happening in Ukraine, violence spiraling out of control, spilling over into a port city, a major port city. Can the government do anything to stop it?

BERMAN: And new developments in the hunt for Flight 370. Australia, Malaysia and China meet and make new plans for the next phase. We'll have the latest next.