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Crises Converge for Obama; Are Passenger Planes "Sitting Ducks"?; Many Children Among the Dead in Gaza; Dozens Feared Dead in Taiwan Plane Crash

Aired July 23, 2014 - 15:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And it hasn't even been a week since Malaysia Air Flight 17 was shot down, killing all 298 people on board. And now we are hearing there is movement of Russian troops. Keep in mind, there's about 12,000 to 15,000 of them along the Russian/Ukrainian border there in the east, so there's movement just as two more jets have been shot down out of the sky over Eastern Ukraine, right around this area.

This time, they were Ukrainian military aircraft. And according to Ukrainian military officials, the missiles may have been launched from inside of Russia.

Now in the Netherlands, meantime, where MH-17, where the flight itself originated, where it took off, the story today centers on all these different hearses and inside the hearses, those 40 coffins. Thousands upon thousands of Dutch lined the roads to say goodbye. Dutch mourners clapping, but with heavy hearts for the victims whose bodies are now in a forensic lab for identification.

A convergence of crises, if you will, is putting President Obama to the test. The downing of Flight 17 and Ukraine-Russia conflict as radicals are taking over Iraq and the Syrian civil war rages on. Take a look at the map. All of the red you see here, these are the different hot spots.

These are the crises and it has the "New York Times" writing this, "Rarely has a president been confronted with so many seemingly desperate foreign policy crises all at once. The cross-currents are dizzying. Even as Mr. Obama presses Russia to stop fomenting a virtual civil war in Ukraine.

He is trying to collaborate with Moscow in a diplomatic campaign to force Iran to scale back its nuclear program. Even as he pressures Iran over its nuclear program. He finds himself on the same side as Tehran in combatting a rising Sunni insurgency in Iraq."

Let's get into all of this with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, the first article this morning I read, this confluence of crises. And I thought, I mean, is that true? You -- President Obama, is he facing so many crises in a way that few previous presidents have? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it's not uncommon for presidents to have crises in which suddenly the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And that's just the world of geopolitics. This particular president, as Peter Baker writes, has this amazing group of events at the same time. So he's trying to balance things in real- time, with different countries and what he didn't include was, of course, the European Union is in there also.

Because he's got to figure out a way to get sanctions against Russia, have our allies join us and our allies are worried about their own economies collapsing as a result. So he's got to balance those interests, as well, which, you know, is very often a situation that a president winds up in.

BALDWIN: So how is he doing? Let's take a look at the numbers and you can see for the most part, though, they're holding steady.


BALDWIN: It's 42 percent approve of what he's doing. What do you think?

BORGER: Well, look, the president's popularity is sort of in the low 40s. My theory about this is that, it is what it is. It's kind of -- he's got his base of support and the American public has known him now for six years, not going to get that much higher. Not going to get that much lower unless there's some cataclysmic event. I think that is what it is. The number that's really interesting to me, though --

BALDWIN: This was pretty cataclysmic. Wouldn't you say?

BORGER: Well, you know, but it's sort of like a 9/11 in which people rallied around George W. Bush. God forbid we wouldn't have that again.

BALDWIN: Got it.

BORGER: But the number that's really interesting to me in all of this is the question we also asked about whether the president manages effectively, 57 percent of the voters say no. That affects the way -- I mean, that shows you people regard him as a president who is less than competent in many ways as a manager.

That may come from the health care rollout, the VA scandal, the IRS issue and the way he may be looking like he's trying to juggle all of these issues, including the crisis at the border, where you have children, undocumented children coming in over the border.

So he's got all these real-time crises. There's no sense, you know, we're in control of everything. We've got that problem down and that's -- you know, that's difficult for a president.

BALDWIN: I cannot begin to imagine. Gloria Borger in Washington for us. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, all these stories, we have to talk about flying. How safe are we when flying? A new article says, quote, "Passenger planes are sitting ducks." What can be done to increase security in the wake of MH-17? We'll discuss that.

Also ahead, former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, hopped a plane, went all the way to Israel. This move comes just hours after the FAA banned U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv. Why did he do it? We'll ask him, live, on CNN.


BALDWIN: Shooting down of Flight 17 sparked a headline in "Newsweek." It reads "Passenger planes are sitting ducks." Easy targets for some kind of a small arms assault, particularly in the wake of what happened in MH-17. It's top of mind, and especially when you're talking about those moments before landing or right after takeoff.

Let's talk to CNN aviation analyst and former Transportation Department inspector general, Mary Schiavo. And Mary Schiavo, first let me focus on the headline there. Why would you be a sitting duck, to quote "Newsweek," before takeoff and landing?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, because as you're taking off, it takes you about 20 miles to get up, you know, just even up and out of the flight path. And then beyond that, it can take you, you know, literally hundreds if not 1,000 miles to get up to cruising altitude. And as you're climbing, you're in range of shoulder-fired rockets, man pads, surface-to-air missiles and they're cheaply obtained. They are easily hidden.

And, in fact, the U.S. was worried about this in the wake of September 11, 2001. There were stories that man pads has gone missing and they might be in the United States. This was a real concern then. But when it didn't materialize and nothing happened, we kind of put it off to the side and forgot about it, even though it has happened probably a couple dozen times in African countries.

BALDWIN: Bob Baer talking about those man pads missing in Libya, which is a fear if you're flying into Lagos. But as a former inspector general of transportation, do you fear that what has happened with MH-17 really has motivated terrorists?

SCHIAVO: Absolutely. And, you know, some people think that terrorists, they can't get their hands on them. It's the exact opposite. What occurs is, of course, it's always, you know, one bigger and one better. And when we litigated and went through the 9/11 cases for 11 years, we did discovery all over the world and found amazing things, including that Osama Bin Laden had bought an aircraft, among other things.

And so they have tremendous sums of money. And they're always searching for the technology and it's surprising how much they have and how much they put in it. For example, we had video of some of the 9/11 hijackers walking around New York with GPS units back in 2001 so they could plot everything carefully.

And that's what they used. So they are very technology-driven. And I firmly believe that probably the worldwide search is on to get these kinds of missiles that brought down MH-17.

BALDWIN: OK. Mary Schiavo, as always, thank you so much for your expertise. Invaluable to us here at CNN. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, a CNN exclusive, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew into Israel today to prove it is a safe destination, even as rockets are being intercepted near the airport, near Ben- Gurion in Tel Aviv. Bloomberg will join Wolf Blitzer, live, on how he did it and why he is against the United States government's travel ban. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he is making progress in trying to broker a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Today Secretary Kerry met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas followed by a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Before the meetings began, Kerry stressed the goal is not only a ceasefire, but also to lay out a plan to prevent fighting for erupting every couple of years.

And we are hearing some pretty strong criticism of Israel today. Coming from one of the U.S.'s top human rights officials. The criticism came during an emergency meeting in Geneva.


NAVI PILLAY, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: The right to life of civilians, including children, should be a foremost consideration. Not abiding by these principles amounts to war crimes, and crimes against humanity.


BALDWIN: Since this latest ground assault on Gaza got under way last Thursday, more than 600 Palestinians have been killed. Paula Hancocks reports, a large number of the dead are children and just a warning. Some of the images you're about to see are disturbing.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More children than Hamas fighters have been killed so far in Gaza according to the United Nations. Innocent victims of a conflict they were born into.

KYUNG-WHA KANG, ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: One child has been killed each hour in Gaza over the past two days. Each of these children had a name and a future and a life that was cut horribly short.

HANCOCKS: They went to the beach to play football. It cost them their lives. Four children, aged 9 to 11, killed by Israeli fire. Another father loses a son. More bodies carried through the streets of Gaza. Grief over lives barely begun yet already over. Names of young victims read at the U.N. by Palestinian observer. Children are often the biggest casualties in Gaza and surprising, as almost half the population is under the age of 14. In the midst of one of the most densely populated territories on earth, there are few places for the young to run and hide. Of more than 600 Palestinians killed, 161 are children, as of Wednesday morning.

Of 3,500 injured, a third are under the age of 18. Even those without physical scars, they're the invisible battle wounds of trauma. Losing parents or homes or simply listening to them carve a sound track of a battle fort nearby. With a large population unable to leave Gaza, no one doubts that more small graves will be dug and filled before this fighting ends. Paula Hancocks, CNN, New York.


BALDWIN: Paula Hancocks again there reporting. Israeli Defense Forces say that Hamas is to blame for hiding rockets where Palestinian civilians are certain to become collateral damage.

Coming up next, former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, flies into Israel to prove it is, in fact, safe. Even as rockets are intercepted near the airport in Tel Aviv. Mayor Bloomberg joins Wolf Blitzer live for an exclusive interview. Stay right here.


BALDWIN: And yet another air tragedy. A plane trying to land in stormy weather crashed on a small island and now as many as 47 people are feared dead. At least a dozen others are hospitalized, some with severe burns. The Tran Asia airlines twin engine plane went down the island's west coast after a typhoon slammed the area. Witnesses describe seeing fireballs and burning homes. David McKenzie is in Beijing and watching the story for us and the search for survivors.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, more than 40 are feared dead and scores injured in a passenger plane crash in Taiwan. It happened on the archipelago of Pen Ghu Island. The flight was Trans Asia Airways was leaving from Southern Taiwan and made one attempt to land in inclement weather and then made another attempt. They lost contact with the tower and crashed into a residential area.

Scores were taken, in fact, to area hospitals. The authorities aren't saying what exactly happened. They don't know at this stage and it came on the heels of a major typhoon. Typhoon Matmo which was passing through Taiwan, dumping heavy rain on the archipelago. Questions are being asked. They discovered the flight data recorders. And they're sending several teams to the island to try to help with the recovery efforts -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: David McKenzie for us in Beijing and now we turn our attention to the victims, 298 in total lives lost in the downing of MH-17 and as the remains of 40 bodies, 40 caskets made their way into the town of the Netherlands today, friends and family members continue to speak out and reflect on the impact their loved ones had.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BALDWIN (voice-over): Karlijn Keijzer, rower, chemistry student at the University of Indiana. Her former roommates and dear friends say she was a shining star to everyone she met.

CATHERINE CAMPBELL, FORMER ROOMMATE OF KARLIJN KEIJZER: She lived to love and she loved to live. She taught me so much about being a friend, compassionate, being present and loving and showing your love to her family and her friends. Every day she was Skyping with her friends and family back home in Amsterdam and she -- she brightened my world in so many ways, and I will cherish my memories with her so much.

RACHEL WEIGLER, ROOMMATE OF KARLIJN KEIJZER: She was the most genuine person you would ever meet and you know, if you were worrying about something that you shouldn't be worrying about or if you were obsessing over something that was not a big deal she was going to tell you to lighten up. Like, as -- you know, she just wanted you to love life.

BALDWIN: Fatima Decinski wanted to change the world. The 25-year-old accomplished beyond her years, an aerospace engineer, promising businesswomen, innovator and on her way to becoming an astronaut. She was flying out to see her parents who now reflect on what could have been.

ANGELA RUDHART-DYCYNSKI, DAUGHTER FATIMA DIED ON MH17: She is one of the most beautiful persons I met in my life from baby time until -- until -- until every time we have been together and just in the last three weeks we have always been on Skype whenever was the time. She was just taking the next level and she was innovative. She was creative and she always said, come on, I just don't know where I get it from. And we supported her whenever we could because we believed she is the face of the young generation of the 21st Century.

BALDWIN: Chaka and Miguel Haler were off to see their grandmother across the world in Bali. The youngest, 10-year-old, Miguel was nervous. Their uncle recalls his nephews last moments at the Amsterdam Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): It was eerie. I mean, even after going to passport control he ran back to my sister and said mom, I'm scared. I don't want to crash in the flight. If I were to die what should I answer to God if he asked me something and she said interesting don't be silly? So many times, your big brothers are there and you'll be fine and see you very soon in a few weeks. Enjoy yourself.

They were beautiful boys and hardworking students. He had just finished his first year of college. He was majoring in textile engineering and he was just full of life. He was so excited with meeting up with his grandmother. She was his favorite grandchild, her first grandchild and he was also a really good big brother.


BALDWIN: They were sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, husbands and wives, in total 298 victims, 298 lives lost on MH-17, but in contrast to the brutal crash site, I want you to look at these pictures out of the Netherlands today, absolutely beautiful. People paying tribute in full force as hearse after hearse after hearse made their way along the highways to this forensic laboratory where these victims will be identified. And in case you missed the solemn and beautiful ceremonies of the day, take a look.

Forty coffins arriving in the Netherlands, 40 victims to be identified, 74 more to arrive tomorrow, and if you'd like to read more about the victims, the lives lost from flight MH-17 go to

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for joining me here today on CNN. Let's go to Washington. Brianna Keilar sitting in for Jake Tapper today. "THE LEAD" starts right now.