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International Attention Focused on Kidnapping of over 200 Girls by Terrorist Group in Nigeria; Spy Plane Causes Delays at LAX; Woman Found Alive After Being Trapped Six Days in her Car; Interview with Nik Wallenda, High-Wire Artist, on Safety; Deadly Clashes in Ukraine

Aired May 6, 2014 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now to discuss, from London, Christiane Amanpour, host of CNN International's "AMANPOUR" and our chief international correspondent.

Christiane, it's always great to see you. I have to get your take on all of this. You have a group of 200 plus young girls ages 15 to 18 years old. They have been gone, they have been kidnapped and they have been gone for three weeks. Why have they not been found?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost, it's really difficult because nobody quite knows where they have bone. They have gone to some forested area maybe. But we really don't know. Will they really be sold on the open market? Probably unlikely given the immense publicity around it. But they certainly won't all be dealt with at the same time. In other words suddenly 276 girls are not going to appear being sold somewhere so someone can rescue them.

The big fear is they are going to be broken up into small groups and either married off within Boko Haram or indeed kept for a ransom if they can now that see the world is incredibly interested in this, maybe they can parlay this into a ransom.

But the terrible thing is that Nigerians have zero confidence in their government and don't believe that the government will actually do anything about it. In fact, it took immense pressure from the families, from protesters, it took more than three weeks for President Johnson to actually come out publicly and say in about it, which he did over the last few days. So this is really what's upsetting the Nigerian people.

BOLDUAN: Christiane, what is the reality, though, of that? It has been three weeks, which is unimaginable for these families. But as you said, this is a very difficult area. Boko Haram has been a brutal Al Qaeda affiliate that has been terrorizing that country now since 2009, I believe. Do you think there's fault on the government or are they up against something that they cannot manage on their own?

AMANPOUR: I think a couple things. Firstly, there is fault on the government, because, as you were saying this has been going on since 2009. We have been covering it for at least that long periodically. Suddenly now it is atrocious that this number of girls for the first time have been taken in one fell swoop. But these girls have been abducted and other people are being abducted and people are being killed sporadically and in smaller numbers for a great long period of time. It is an insurgency in that part of the country, and the government has had very, very bad luck and a bad record fighting them. The big complaint is when the government launches some kind of operation against them, it does so in a manner that is so overwhelming, that is so indiscriminant, that ends up burning houses, killing civilians, and generally turning the area against the government, and that is one of the big, big problems.

Now, in addition, people who are experts in Boko Haram have said that the kidnapping of girls did not start until the government as a tactic against Boko Haram started to kidnap, attack, kill female members of the Boko Haram group. And that is something that we haven't heard until recently. Experts have been talking about it now that this has become so much in the public eye. You have President Obama talking about. You've got the secretary of state, the British foreign secretary, the United Nations all of a sudden. This has been going on for a long time without this amount of help and this amount of attention, very similar to what Joseph Kony did in Uganda. Different reasons, but also abducting girls.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned some of the help that is coming in from the outside. We hear from U.S. sources that the United States is providing intelligence support to the government of Nigeria to try to help them out. Is there more that you believe the United States or other nations could do?

AMANPOUR: Well, for sure intelligence help is going to be much required, even if you can get some kind of surveillance there to see, unlikely, but whether there is a big group of girls being held somewhere. Again, the danger is that they have been separated and being dealt with in smaller groups. We don't know that for sure, but that's some of the speculation.

There is a lot that the west, other allies of Nigeria could do, including helping them in the kind of tactics against Boko Haram that might actually work without exacerbating an already bad situation. Also, the government has shown an incredibly cavalier attitude towards it until it became so much a cause for outrage both in Nigeria and around the world. You have the U.N. weighing in, you have all sorts of people weighing many. And they have behaved rather offhandedly. President Johnson basically was seen, and this is a big criticism from people, the day that this was announced, President Johnson was seen dancing at a political rally. He has not addressed the people for a long, long time about what they plan to do not just about this case, but about the general Boko Haram insurgency, which is not just kidnapping girls, but it's also putting bombs in capitals and other parts of the country.

So it is a very dangerous situation that the people don't feel the government is up to in trying to, you know, try to provide some assistance and experience and advice to the government I'm sure would be welcome.

BOLDUAN: At the same time, you have the spotlight of the world on Nigeria for this reason, but also this week, the spotlight was going to be on Nigeria for a different region. It's set to host the World Economic Forum. How does this all play into it together?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy. It's a massively important country in that regard. It's a huge oil producer. It has massive resources and reserves. And I have interviewed the president several times. I have interviewed the finance minister several times. They also have a massive problem of un-governability and corruption.

Yes, Nigeria has recently over the last several years become democratic. It used to be a military dictatorship. It's become Democratic. That's a good thing. But it is also incredibly ungovernable. The level of corruption is just staggering even by, I'm sorry to say, standards in Africa, which are overwhelmingly more heavily corrupt than for instance in Asia and other parts of the world. It's just a fact and that has to be combatted.

So much of their oil just gets stolen at the source. Barrels that are trying to be exported get siphoned off. I mean, massive, billions of dollars are being stolen under the nose of the government. That's a problem for the economy, but it's also a problem in terms of having an army that can actually cope with the kind of authority it needs to impose on the country, the kind of tactics that would actually bare some results instead of, as I said, these indiscriminate attacks against Boko Haram, which are exacerbating the issue. It's become a tit-for-tat situation right now, and that is a big danger.

BOLDUAN: You make such an excellent point. They have been dealing with this from 2009. A horrible threat that they are up against, but they have been dealing with it since 2009, and just now the world is paying attention to it as these 200 girls are caught in the middle of it. Christiane Amanpour, thanks, Christiane. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, new this morning, pay attention to Ukraine. Deadly clashes are breaking out as Ukrainian troops finally attempt to clean out Russian-backed rebels and restore order in the east. The violence is forcing the closure of a major airport among other huge problems on the ground. So can the west, including the U.S., avoid getting involved on the ground? A new CNN/ORC poll shows war weary Americans are in favor of offering help, but not of the military variety.

With that as the backdrop politically, Arwa Damon has the latest live from Ukraine this morning on the ground. Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. We are just outside of that Donetsk international airport that was shut down this morning. Just a handful of flights leaving domestically from here back to Kiev and it will be shut down indefinitely. Exactly why, we don't know. We are not being given an official explanation from the authorities. But this is certainly contributing to the ongoing atmosphere of chaos and instability.

A lot of the fighting so far between the Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian militants centering around the city of Slavyansk. That's around two hours from where we are right now. As Ukrainian forces try to push into the city yesterday, they clashed with the pro- Russian militants, casualties on both sides, but also civilians being caught in the crossfire. This as global powers continue to blame one other. The Russians blaming the west, the west blaming the Russians for the unrest that is happening here. The pro-Russian camp despite the Ukrainian government's efforts so far does seem to remain firmly in control of key strategic cities and key strategic locations within those cities. Chris?

CUOMO: If it keeps going this way, Arwa, as we all know, there's going to have to be more action. It can't be just about sanctions anymore. So we'll keep track of it. Be safe on the ground. Arwa Damon, thank you for the reporting.

Here at home, the Federal Aviation Administration says it has discovered what led to delays and cancellations of flights across the country last week. Here is what the culprit was, you're looking at it, a cold war era spy plane that was flying through Los Angeles airspace. What? CNN's Rene Marsh is live in our Washington bureau with details. I don't get it. I said it and I don't get it.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said, "what?" Yes, a spy plane, a cold war era spy plane was in the skies over California, and, as you said, it's to blame for the FAA computer glitch that temporarily paralyzed air traffic in southern California last week.

You remember flights were grounded, delayed, and diverted. At LAX alone, the third busiest airport in the United States, more than 100 flights delayed. And officials were trying to fix this glitch for about an hour. Now the FAA computer system is important. It projects the flight path, it anticipates problems, essentially it helps controllers keep planes safely spaced apart.

So the question is, how did this spy plane fry the FAA's computer system? We do know that the U2, that's what this spy plane is called, it fooled the system, making it think that it was much lower in a much more crowded airspace. But the spy plane actually flies very high, 70,000 to 90,000 feet in the air, well above commercial air traffic.

But the problem was its numerous altitude changes and fixed points it was scheduled to hit during its flight path, it just simply overwhelmed the system. Further complicating things, there was a communications outage. So a nightmare for people last week. Now we know what caused it, Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The cause of it, I'm sure there's still questions a bit why the spy plane was in the area to begin with. Maybe we'll hear more about that in coming days. Rene Marsh, thanks so much for that, we appreciate it.

Let's get a look more of your headlines now, beginning with the visibility upgrade for Syria's opposition on U.S. soil. The opposition's liaison offices in Washington and New York are being granted foreign mission status. The head of the coalition leader is meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday. The State Department also said it will provide $27 million in additional nonlethal assistance.

New developments in the investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack that killed four Americans at the U.S. mission in Benghazi. House Speaker John Boehner has selected South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy to head up a House select committee that will look into a possible White House cover-up. Democrats say they received no details about the formation of a committee and they oppose having one.

For the first time ever polio is now officially an international public health emergency. A new warning from the World Health Organization says the virus could spread in the coming months potentially reversing the 30-year effort that nearly eradicated it. The agency cited outbreaks in 10 countries and identified Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon for new travel restrictions, including vaccination requirements.

I want to take you to Colorado where there's a stunning story of survival. A single mother of four missing for five days was found alive in her car that had crashed and was upside down in a steep embankment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: A miraculous discovery, a Colorado woman found alive in this wrecked car nearly a week after she vanished. After spotting the car at the bottom of a ravine, a motorist called for help. Firefighters were shocked by what they found at the scene.

LT. JIM CRAVENER: As he was attempting to strike the window, the patient put her hand against it.

PEREIRA: Kristin Hopkins, a 43-year-old single mother of four, was reported missing on April 29th. She was found days later in a heavily wooded, steep area inside her overturned car. According to a firefighter who treated Hopkins at the scene, she managed to write "please help," "doors won't open," and "six days, no food, no water, please help" among other message on an umbrella and tried to use it to signal for help.

DEAN ENRIGHT, COLORADO STATE TROOPER: It's surprised she survived the crash at all, and then to be down there for that amount of days without food and water.

PEREIRA: Hopkins was trapped inside her mangled vehicle that had hit several trees and rolled multiple times before landing on its roof. Rescuers air lifted Hopkins to a local hospital where she is in critical but stable condition. According to a family spokesperson, her feet had to be amputated due to the severity of her injuries.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: So this man apparently was in the area taking pictures. He saw the car, went to a sheriff's station, reported it, and then disappeared. When firefighters got on scene, they expected to find a body and were surprised they found her alive.

BOLDUAN: Five days.

PEREIRA: She's going to need help. A single mom of four, she's going to need help.

CUOMO: She will get the help too. People usually do the right thing in these situations. As she recovers and she's ready to tell her story, we will get her name out there and people will pitch in any way they can. It always happens. We see people at the worst, we see people at the best.

Coming up on NEW DAY, we now know what caused the eight acrobats to crash to the floor. It turns out it was a tiny metal part that had huge consequences. So the issue is was this just a freak accident or a sign of a continuing safety risk? Acrobat Nik Wallenda will give us his insight.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, a new climate change report coming out of the White House offering some alarming warnings about rising sea levels and changing temperatures. But what real impact will it have on policy? That's on INSIDE POLITICS coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back. The video is hard to watch. Now investigators are revealing what led a human chandelier of circus aerialists to crash to the ground at a performance this past weekend. Apparently a single clamp, one single clamp, meant to secure the rig holding the aerialists by their hair failed, injuring nine members of the group as they fell to the ground. What caused it to fail? Why did this happen?

Joining us now to discuss, Nik Wallenda, high wire acrobat, daredevil, he's completed that famous tight rope walk across the Grand Canyon essentially last summer with no safety harness. Nik, it's great to see you again. Unfortunately, having to talk about this.

NIK WALLENDA, HIGH-WIRE ACROBAT: Yes, you know, it's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking any time you see any accident and especially when it hits so close to home. We're practically family members.

BOLDUAN: Well, it does for you. That's absolutely right. And it does for you.

Many people know your story. Your family has been struck with a tragedy. Your great grandfather, I believe, was killed by a failed rig during a stunt himself.

WALLENDA: That's correct. My great grandfather was walking between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1978 and the initial cause for him to go down to the wire was actually the fact that the rigging was put up incorrectly.

And I think it's important that we, as a group, as an industry, the circus industry as a whole, needs to group together and work in concordance with the government alongside of us to come up with safety standards to follow. This particular incident, I don't know the exact details. We do know a part failed and that sometimes is out of our control.

But I think it's important that the government realizes as well that those performers had no control over what happened. Often the government will come in and say you need to wear safety or you need to use a net. Well, I have an uncle that fell into a net and bounced out and was killed. So just because you have a safety mechanism doesn't mean you're necessarily safe. I would say the large, the vast majority of the accidents in our industry are not related to the performer itself, it's the rigging that actually causes the accident.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you more about safety standards because that might be a bit controversial amongst some of your friends. I even heard you say that some of your friends are going to be mad pr you suggesting that there should be more regulation. Why?

WALLENDA: Absolutely. And I think because their thoughts are, right away, well, the government is going to come in and make our lives so much harder, so much more difficult and they're make us wear tethers and safeties. That's why we have to step up as an industry and we have take the lead and work with the government so that it's done in the proper way.

Again, I can tell you when I walked across Niagara Falls, it was mandated by network partner that I wear a safety. And they hired a company to come in and oversee that. And the company had no clue what they were doing when it came to what I did. And, if anything, I was scared of that walk because of that tether that they put on me and the way they put it on me. If they were willing to work with me, and we could come together, there would have been better ways to make that happen. But when outside resources come in and tell you how to do something you have done for 200 years, it makes it very difficult often.

BOLDUAN: I will tell you, and I remember when I came down to Sarasota and we met, that was one thing that you talked a lot about. You are I would even say borderline manic about your rigging and your safety and the people who you even allowed to touch your rigs, because it is so important to you and you care so much about the safety.

Let me ask you, just taking a step back, when you saw this video and you heard it was this clamp, this carabiner that failed, how does it fail, Nik?

WALLENDA: You know, it's hard to say. There's been accidents in the past in our industry that related to crystallization where that part will actually get thrown into a box and by it being thrown, it can crystallize. It can have a hairline fracture that's not seen by the eye. And because of that, it can actually fail later on without anyone knowing why.

It's under investigation, from what I understand. It's in a lab. They're going to research it; they're going to find out what happened. That could be the cause. That's complete speculation. That's kind of all we can do right now.

I can tell you, I have headlined with Ringling Brothers for several years and they care immensely about their performers and their safety. I have done stuff with Cirque du Soleil. Again, safety is paramoutn to them. But I think there are standards and I think there are certain procedures that can be put in place to make everything more safe.

BOLDUAN: Is there a way to sum that up for people --

WALLENDA: I think it's more about educating people.

BOLDUAN: And that's actually my question. When you talk about safety standards, is there one thing that you could think would, if I said this would have prevented this accident from happening again, is there one thing?

WALLENDA: Absolutely. Even touring with different shows, I've went up to riggers and said, "Hey, guys, you can't throw that like that. You can't throw that in the box. When two pieces of steel hit each other, they can fracture and you won't see it."

It's about educating the people that are doing the rigging, the people that are setting it up, often the performers themselves and really educating them on how to do that. What are the proper procedures? There's no such thing as a safety standard in our industyr.

You know, I work with a minimal of 5:1, often 10:1 safety standard. Meaning, if my cable is ready to break at 5 pounds, I will never put more than 1 pound of pressure on it. There are certain standards like that that just need to be set in place. And really, again, it's about educating the riggers and educating those performers so they know what to do, how to do it and what to look for. And it's really more about that than the government coming in and saying, you know what, you're going to have to wear a safety, you're going to have to use a net, you're going to have to wear a helmet. Because, if anything, that makes everything more impeding and much more dangerous.

BOLDUAN: I have seen your work and I see how crazy you are, in the good sense, about your safety. And now you see, unfortunately, why when you see accidents like this happen when it had nothing to do with the aerialists in the air. It had to do with the rig holding them. There was nothing that they could do about it.

Nik Wallenda, it is always great to see you, Nik. Hopefully we'll be talking next time about your next big -- your next big daredevil event. Nik's going to be taking on a Chicago skyscraper in November for a special with Discovery Channel. We look forward to that. Great to e see you, Nik.

WALLENDA: Awesome, thanks. Good to see you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Chris?

CUOMO: I don't know what drives that guy. I can't figure it out.

PEREIRA: Passion and genius.

BOLDUAN: He's fun. CUOMO: He's got something the rest of us don't. Coming up on NEW DAY, we have all been told a low dose of aspirin every day keeps the heart attack away. Right? Well, maybe not. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to clear it up for us.

And, he was a runner up on "American Idol" but can Clay Aiken pull out a win in North Carolina of the political variety? We'll take a look on "Inside Politics".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us. Here on NEW DAY, it's half past the hour. Let's take a look at your headlines.

"I will sell them." Chilling words from the leader of the al Qaeda affiliate, Boko Haram. He is vowing to sell more than 200 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls. In a new video he claims Allah says he should do it and refers to the children as slaves. The Obama administration is offering to help Nigerian authorities find those girls. And if you'd like to find out how you can help girls all over the world overcome barriers to education, go to CNN.com/impact.

More deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine as the crisis escalates. Ukrainian troops are lining up to protect key areas from pro-Russian separatists and remove them from areas they've occupied. The violence forced a major airport in eastern Ukraine to shut down among other problems. Russia says Kiev is waging war on its own people. CNN has now learned that American war planes are slated to head to the Baltic Sea next month.

Investigators are trying to figure out what caused this, a fiery plane crash in Colorado. The single-engine plane slammed into the roof of a two-story house. What's amazing is the pilot managed to escape with minor injuries and even tried to put out the fire with a garden hose. Also fortunately, no one was inside that home. Firefighters quickly contained the blaze, but unfortunately both the home and plane were severely damaged.

BOLDUAN: Just look at that.

PEREIRA: It looks like there would be massive loss of life there, but there wasn't.

CUOMO: Huge swing in emotion. Find out your home is destroyed by an airplane, you're in shock and you're totally angry but then you realize we're all alive. Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: All right, how about a little politics this is morning? Let's get to "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY with Mr. John King. JK, my man.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Chris, Kate, Michaela, good morning to you. A lot to cover "Inside Politics". Let's get right to it.