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Outrage in Odessa; Expanding the Search for Flight 370; Pistorius Trial Resumes; Big Block for Brooklyn

Aired May 5, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Outrage in Odessa. Protesters storm a police building, setting prisoners free as Ukraine's violence spreads, spreads from the east to a major port 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 covering a wider part of the ocean floor, but first, a whole lot of preparation. Australia, Malaysia and China planning what comes next, promising that the jet will be found, even if it takes years. We are live with the latest on the search, coming up.

ROMANS: On trial again. Oscar Pistorius returns to court in South Africa, nearly two weeks after this 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's 5:00 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 -- they stormed the police station on Sunday, freeing dozens of their own. Nearly 50 people now dead after three days of violence. The bloodshed in Odessa tipping Ukraine closer, really, to all-out civil war.

We want to get the latest now from Arwa Damon live in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.

And, Arwa, what's going on this morning?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, those events in Odessa most certainly are throwing fuel on the fires here, especially in the eastern part of the country, where we're seeing the pro-Russian camp gaining even more territory, taking over even more buildings, despite the fact that the Ukrainian government has launched this so-called antiterrorism operation and does have its own military perched outside of some various key cities. But within these different cities, the pro-Russian camp very much in control, very much asserting its own authority. People are blaming a lot of what is taking place, especially the violence that happened in Odessa, on the government in Kiev, and you have this blame, counter-blame, fiery rhetoric coming from all sides but no concrete steps being made towards any sort of political reconciliation. This part of the country is still planning on going ahead with that referendum on May 11th. They have absolutely no regard for the central government in Kiev, and they continue to believe that if it comes down to it, Russia will come to their assistance.

That, of course, of great concern not just for some people here in Ukraine but a lot of countries in the region who have their own Russian-speaking populations, fearing that if Russia can get away with it again here, they also could be next.

BERMAN: Arwa, the violence in Odessa, the level of bloodshed unlike anything we've seen in months in Ukraine. I think there was a lot of concern that that could set off something much worse, could spiral out of control, particularly with, you know, 40,000 Russian troops very close to the border in Ukraine. Any sign of things taking a dramatic turn for the worse?

DAMON: You know, it's been oddly calm this morning with a lot of people speculating that it could, perhaps, be the calm before the storm. What we are seeing is more and more control actually slipping from the central government in Kiev and this rising anger towards the government in Kiev that is being blamed by many for the violence in Odessa.

And up until those clashes and then the fire broke out, Odessa was considered to be a relatively calm place. It's in the southern part of the country, pretty far away from eastern Ukraine where we are, where much of this violence has and had been concentrated, where the pro-Russian camp has firmly entrenched itself. One really gets the sense in speaking to people that they do feel as if the slightest actions could prompt greater warfare. People are already finding themselves on the front lines of this ongoing struggle for control because a lot of the locations that the pro-Russian camp has taken over are in civilian neighborhoods, are in the very center of these cities.

So, there's a lot of fears, a lot of worries that the violence is going to continue and that, yes, the Russians will possibly invade, because Russia continues to maintain that it reserves the right to protect its interests and to protect the Russian-speaking population.

BERMAN: An eerie calm this morning described by Arwa Damon. Our thanks to you.

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, the images you're about to see are graphic.

This cell phone video shows what happened at Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey's performance when an apparatus holding these acrobats by their hair failed, sending them crashing to the ground. Eleven people, including all nine 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: The circus says it takes the health of its performers seriously. It carefully inspects all of its equipment and is working with the city of Providence to try to figure out what happened.

BERMAN: Now, breaking news overnight. Six people hurt on a U.S. 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. Listen to one 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: At least she can smile after all that. Four passengers and two flight attendants were injured. Not clear at this point the nature of the injuries, but one passenger said a woman hit her head on the ceiling. Most of the passengers did continue on to Orlando.

ROMANS: 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 insisting they still believe they're looking for the plane in the right place.

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

So, a new focus, an expansion, a new phase, really, of this investigation. Bring us up to speed.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, if I could sum it all up in a few words, I would say this, the Bluefin needs backup at this point. Think about it. It's had 18 dives so far. It's covered about 154 square miles. But this new underwater search area, this newly expanded search area, 23,000 square miles is what they need to cover.

So, clearly, the Bluefin needs backup. It needs more resources. It needs more technology in this area.

But before they dispatch that technology, experts are going to be meeting in just a couple of days. They're going to be going over all of the data that they have so far, the data that brought them to this particular point in the southern Indian Ocean. They're going to be looking at the satellite data, analyzing those underwater pings that they detected, physics, mathematical calculations, aircraft simulations. All of the best brains will be meeting in Canberra, Australia, going over these numbers and making sure this is still their best educated guess where the plane is located.

Listen to the deputy prime minister speak more about the process that will then follow the underwater search.


WARREN TRUSS, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: We are optimistic that we can do most of this in the space of one to two months, and so, we'll actually have more hardware actually in the water, different hardware in the water within a couple of months. But in the interim, we will still have the Bluefin-21 working, and it will be sustained by equipment. We'll be going to work on the ocean, graphic work that needs to be done. So, there will be no long interruptions in this search.


RIPLEY: Hopefully, the weather over the southern Indian Ocean will be more cooperative than the weather here in Kuala Lumpur, where we have seen pretty intense thunderstorms rolling in in the afternoon, as you're hearing and seeing behind me here.

But, Christine, the bottom line here is that things are moving forward. This next phase of the search is moving forward, but there are still questions about making sure that they handle this most effectively and they still, you know, even with all of the additional equipment that they want to bring in, it's going to be a time- consuming, expensive process, up to 12 months, $60 million.

ROMANS: Wow. All right, Will Ripley for us in Kuala Lumpur this morning, a stormy Kuala Lumpur. Thank you.

BERMAN: Stay dry. Stay safe.

ROMANS: You can hear those cracks of thunder.

BERMAN: That thunder is raging.

Divers in South Korea are closer this morning to recovering all the bodies from a 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 on board were high school students. The investigation has 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 Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which opposes Western education, especially for girls. Protests have erupted in cities around the globe, denouncing Nigeria's slow response to the crisis. The campaign "bring back our girls" now going viral. President Goodluck Jonathan admitted Sunday he doesn't know where these girls are, but he criticized their parents for not cooperating fully with police.

BERMAN: A rescue effort to dig out more than 2,000 people buried in a huge 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 American support. That landslide is believed to have buried some 300 homes, claiming up to a third of that village.

ROMANS: 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 4 miles long and about a mile wide. 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 this morning to move their herds away from the blaze. State officials are calling for extra help now to try to put this thing out.

BERMAN: All right, let's talk more about the conditions there and the conditions for the rest of us in the country. Indra Petersons joins us right now.

ROMANS: Hi, Indra.


What's really scary is this fire started off as a controlled burn, and unfortunately, got completely out of hand. We're talking about temperatures in the region yesterday soaring to 98 degrees. The humidity went down to single digits.

And, of course, we're talking about winds gusting there 30, 35 miles per hour. Today's still an elevated fire risk, even critical fire risk right around Vegas and Flagstaff. So, yes, temperatures are expected to soar.

What we're going to be watching over the next several days, the jet stream lifting way up, so unbelievable heat expected into the South and also just two little pockets of cool air. That's what we're going to be watching, especially this one in the Pacific Northwest, as these two temperature areas kind of clash by the middle of the week. It could bring the potential for severe weather by about Wednesday.

Let's start with this heat. I mean, look at this. We're talking about departures well above normal here. Dallas about 12 degrees above normal.

But watch as the jet stream lifts, especially notice Chicago right now just into the 60s. Look at the difference, Wichita going to 100 degrees. That's 26 degrees above normal, guys.

Then by Wednesday, notice that you're seeing that heat spread all the way into the Midwest. And by the middle of the week, that's going to be the concern as that system kind of cruises across and clashes with that air mass. Otherwise, out into the Northeast, we're looking at maybe, maybe a stationary front, some light showers out there. We're talking about possibly an inch Virginia, West Virginia, maybe into D.C. tonight.

But big concerns really with that heat continuing to rise.

BERMAN: Yes, 100 degrees in Wichita, whoo!

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

Back to court today for former Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius. A long break is now over as the defense argues why Pistorius is not guilty of murder. We are live with the very latest in Pretoria, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

After a two-week hiatus, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial back in session. The former Olympian's defense team trying to make the case that their client shot and killed his girlfriend on Valentine's Day 2013 by mistake.

CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps in Pretoria, South Africa.

Kelly, you know, two weeks ago, it was Pistorius on the stand. High drama. What's happening in court today?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, today the defense has certainly started this week with quite some momentum. We've seen on the stand Johan Stander, who was the complex manager at the time and was the first person on the scene in the immediate aftermath, along with his daughter. It is now his daughter who has subsequently married and is now taking the stand.

The examination and cross examination of Johan Stander has finished, and both of the Standers had given testimony that substantially contributes to and supports Pistorius' version of events. And so far, at least with Mr. Stander, he remained relatively unshaken in cross examination with Gerrie Nel.

BERMAN: Interesting. So, how much longer does the defense plan to make its case and what are the key elements they hope to lay out there?

PHELPS: Well, we expect that the defense should take the next two- week period to conclude its case. We know that they're calling in total between 15 to 17 witnesses, and this is witness number five. I expect that they will focus on critical parts of the state's case, because all they need to do is raise reasonable doubt. They don't need to prove their case.

So, we expect to see more neighbors who will contradict the state's evidence of the witnesses claiming to have heard a woman screaming. We also expect to hear from a psychologist who will try to place evidence on the stand that, considering Pistorius' disability, his conduct should be viewed as reasonable. These are all critical parts of the state's case, and the defense will certainly spend most of their case focusing on them.

BERMAN: Kelly Phelps in Pretoria following this case for us. A lot to cover over the next two weeks. Appreciate it, Kelly.

ROMANS: All right, the wife of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, she is making it clear, it's time someone else should run that team, but Shelly Sterling is insisting she's 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.

Her husband has been banned from the league for racist remarks. The league is trying to force him to sell that team. The team plays tonight, by the way, in the first game of its second-round playoff series against Oklahoma City.

BERMAN: Yes, it's unclear exactly what she's up to there. She seems to be saying she still wants to keep a piece of the team, although cede control to a new CEO. So stay tuned. This could get very, very interesting.

New details to tell you about in the stampede that injured dozens after a Floyd Mayweather fight in Las Vegas. They say a loud noise was mistaken for a gunshot by spectators. Twenty-four people were hospitalized after being trampled in the melee, most of the injuries minor. The noise was likely caused by the collapse of a temporary wall.

ROMANS: All right. European stocks lower right now. London closed for a bank holiday this morning. Futures point to a lower open on Wall Street, to start the week, Berman.

This follows the best U.S. jobs report in two years on Friday. That report wasn't enough to rally the Dow. U.S. stocks closed lower across the board. The Dow is down just a tiny bit for the year, despite hitting that record high last week.

Meantime, if you're looking to retire, you may want to stop thinking about warm climates. According to a new study from Bankrate, the best states to retire are not Florida or California, but Midwest and Mountain States. South Dakota topped the list, followed by Colorado and Utah. Bankrate showed that those states had the lowest cost of living, low crime rates, quality health care was a really important part, and they did factor in weather. They did factor in weather, and still, these states came out ahead. Iowa was number nine. BERMAN: You have the Badlands. You have Mt. Rushmore, right?

ROMANS: You have South Dakotans, who are very nice people.

BERMAN: The early day special at the Badlands? I don't know, go for it.

ROMANS: After this winter, I have to be honest, after this winter, I have a hard time imagining retirement in some of those states. I know that, you know, low cost of living, very good health care, good education systems, although you don't need the education system anymore, I guess, when you're retiring.

BERMAN: Retirement just a year or two ahead.

So, what if he can't seem to land in the basket? Paul Pierce saved the day for the Nets. A big block in Brooklyn, on its way to the next round. Andy Scholes explains the confusion that I just laid out there and also talks about the huge games in the NBA.

That's in the "Bleacher Report," next.


BERMAN: The first round of the NBA playoffs is in the books, and what a first round it was. I didn't think I was going to make it. There was just so much excitement, a record five game sevens, five played over the weekend.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes joins us now with more in the morning's "Bleacher Report."


You know, if the rest of the NBA playoffs are like the first round, then we should be in for one awesome month of basketball here in the month of May.

The Nets and Raptors coming down to the wire yesterday. Toronto down one, under two seconds to go. Nets inbounding the ball. Terrence Ross, the steal, then the heads-up play, throwing it off Paul Pierce.

So, the Raptors get one last shot at this, but Kyle Lowry, great defense by the Nets here. His last-second attempt is blocked by Pierce. Nets get the win 104-103. They will now play the Heat in the second round.

Trending on this morning, the top-seed Spurs, they needed seven games to take down the Mavs, but they definitely proved they were the better team. San Antonio winning the series clincher by 23 points. The Spurs now move on to play the Blazers.

The second round will tip off tonight with two games, Wizards and Pacers get things going at 7:00 Eastern. That game is followed by the Clippers and the Thunder. Both games can be seen on TNT. We've got to show you the Talladega NASCAR race this weekend. Hope he wore plenty sunscreen and hopefully, some underwear. Lots of crashes in the race, including on the final restart. Denny Hamlin, he was the man out front when the yellow flag waved. It's Hamlin's first win of the season.

All right, you've got a headache this morning? Well, I guarantee you it's not as bad as Yasiel Puig. Marlins/Dodgers, bottom of the ninth, the Cuban missile trying to make a game-saving play, and he slams into the wall. If you watch this closely again, the ball's going to bounce off the wall right into Puig's face. Marlins win the game.

Puig passes a concussion test and is considered day to day, but, guys, ouch! Not only does he slam into the wall, he gets the ball right in the face.

ROMANS: That is more painful to watch than the guy with the tire around his waist.

SCHOLES: I don't know about that.

ROMANS: When you wear the barrel with the suspenders, do you have to wear underwear?

BERMAN: The problem with the tire is the chafing. With the barrel, you don't have that issue. Just laying that out there. Andy Scholes, great to see you this morning. Appreciate it.

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

BERMAN: And new developments to tell you about this morning in the hunt for Flight 370. Australia, Malaysia and China meet to make a new plan for the next phase. We'll have the latest, next.