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EARLY START

"Search For Flight 370; Crisis In Ukraine; Putin Supports Secession Vote; Oscar Pistorius Trial Continues

Aired March 10, 2014 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Where is flight 370? More than 48 hours after it disappeared, investigators with new questions this morning in the hunt for the jet with 239 people on board. Did it blow up, disintegrate in the air? And why were some passengers flying with stolen passports? We're live with the latest on the investigation.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Russia's grip on Crimea even tighter this morning despite a weekend of urgent phone calls between Vladimir Putin and world leaders. He says he supports a secession vote, one the U.S. and others say is simply illegal. We're live in Moscow with what's next for Russia's leader.

BERMAN: And was Oscar Pistorius calm and dismissive or did the latest witness at his murder trial get it all wrong? A security guard back on the stand saying the "Blade Runner" told him "everything is fine" after the sprinter shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Monday morning.

It has been more than two days now, still no sign, no sign of a Malaysia Airlines jet. Despite reports of debris sightings, Malaysian officials say they have not been able to locate any wreckage of this plane that vanished over the South China Sea. Ships, planes, and personnel from eight countries now involved in a huge search effort.

Flight 370 was headed from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. Right now, investigators are paying close attention to just who was on that plane, specifically, two passengers flying with stolen passports.

CNN's Jim Clancy live in Kuala Lumpur for us. And the significance of the stolen passports, Jim, I mean, I think there could be a lot of reasons why someone would be flying on a stolen passport. Investigators just don't know how crucial that detail is to the disappearance of this jet yet, do they?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they don't at all. And Christine, what they're doing right now, it's launching an investigation here. On one hand, they're trying to identify the two individuals who, by the way, boarded that plane and are missing along with the other 237 passengers. They're trying also to find out, were they part of some kind of human smuggling ring, were they involved in terrorism?

This has even launched a probe into a stolen passport ring in Thailand. But is it tied to all of this? Is it tied to the disappearance of this jetliner? You know, if it's terrorism, if it's foul play, there's been no claim of responsibility. This is a flight that just disappeared into thin air. The mystery deepens and so does the frustration. They haven't been able to find one single thing that can be directly linked to the missing jetliner.

Now, today, they had a belief that there might have been a life raft that was spotted, a yellow life raft, upside down in the South China Sea. But when both vessels got there and investigated, it wasn't that at all. More reports have continued to come out of things that could be linked to the jetliner, but when they investigate further, they find nothing. This is a vast area of the sea. We should understand that. But at the same time, people do want to know what happened.

Already, we've seen Chinese residents. After all, more than half of those who are missing aboard this airliner were Chinese nationals. They've been coming here to Kuala Lumpur. They're looking for answers. They're looking, really, for their loved ones. But I can tell you, Christine, there are no answers here in Kuala Lumpur, at least not yet -- Christine.

ROMANS: Just a lot of questions of how a plane with that many people, no distress signal, could just disappear. Jim Clancy. thanks, Jim. We'll be back with you soon.

BERMAN: All right. Let's talk about the crisis in Ukraine, the latest this morning. Russian troops appear to be digging in on what's become Europe's newest international border, the one separating Russia-controlled Crimea and the rest of Ukraine. Tensions in that region running high ahead of a vote on Crimea's possible secession next weekend. Vladimir Putin defended the breakaway moves by Crimean leaders in phone calls Sunday with world leaders.

CNN's Phil Black live in Moscow. Phil, the Russian president not backing down one bit.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all, john. When President Putin spoke to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the British prime minister, David Cameron, he stressed his belief that Crimea's imminent referendum on the idea of breaking away from Ukraine, joining the Russian federation, he says that's entirely in line with international law.

Putin's view is that the authorities in Crimea are legitimate, so are their concerns, and the results of the referendum will be the democratically expressed wishes of the Crimean people. Now, on the ground in Crimea where CNN's own teams report that Russian forces are consolidating their control of that region from President Putin.

There is still no public acknowledgement that those soldiers occupying Crimea are, in fact, Russian, and no comment on what their presence means for the legitimacy of the coming referendum. Russia says that Ukrainian ultra-nationalists are still threatening ethnic Russians in the east of the country, that Russian journalists are being harassed, detained, turned back when they try to enter the country, and warns the west not to consider the part of economic sanctions, because it says if the U.S., if Europe do so, it will only rebound and hurt them.

So, from Russia, only continued defiance in the face of all international pressure, and it points to the increasingly likely scenario where in less than a week, the Crimean people will vote to carve Crimea out of Ukraine and the Russian federation, the world's biggest country, looks set to get even bigger. And even if countries like the U.S. don't officially recognize that development, at the moment, it appears there is nothing they can do to stop it -- John.

BERMAN: No closer to a solution. Maybe even further away this morning. All right. Phil Black in Moscow, thanks so much.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight -- we are hearing from the father of Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, for the first time since his son killed 20 first graders and six staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School back in December 2012. In a "New Yorker" interview, Peter Lanza (ph) says, quote, "With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat if he had a chance."

Before the Sandy Hook massacre, Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy, four times. Peter Lanza believes each bullet was meant for a member of their family, including himself. He also says he wishes his son had never been born.

BERMAN: It's a remarkable article. This man still clearly mourning things.

ROMANS: I couldn't stop reading it.

BERMAN: Thirty-six minutes after the hour. The military's mishandling of sex assault cases comes up for another vote in the Senate today. Last week, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have stripped military commanders of authority in prosecuting sexual assault cases. Today, they are expected to pass a measure sponsored by Missouri senator, Claire McCaskill.

That would eliminate the so-called good soldier legal defense that takes the service record of an accused predator into account. Also, in cases of dual jurisdiction when a crime committed off of a military base, the victim would have a say in whether the case is handled (ph) by a civilian or a military court.

ROMANS: NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, getting a public forum at the south by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. He'll appear today via teleconference from Russia as part of an interactive discussion about online privacy. Snowden's living in Russia where he was granted asylum. Over the weekend, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, also spoke to the festival, appearing via Skype from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He's been there now for two years almost since Britain moved to extradite him to Sweden on sex crime charges. Assange called his time in the embassy like being in a prison.

BERMAN: Overnight, a powerful earthquake, 6.9 magnitude, just off the coast of Northern California. The quake was in the pacific about 50 miles west of Eureka. Hundreds have reported feeling the ground shake for up to a minute, but no damage has been reported as of now. No injuries reported.

ROMANS: Now that we've pushed our clocks forward, could spring be very far behind? Let's get to Indra Petersons for a look at your Monday forecast. Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. How's just like a two-day tease? Does that count?

(LAUGHTER)

PETERSONS: Can we warm up for like two days? Can I at least have credit for this?

ROMANS: Hey, it's better than what we had before. We'll take it.

PETERSONS: That is true, because this is exactly what we've had before. I mean, all winter long, the jet stream, that cold air went all the way down pretty much even into the southeast, but finally, for a couple of days, the jet stream is lifting and warm air is moving in, and you probably felt it over the weekend. It will continue with that trend today and tomorrow especially, behind a warm front, we'll see some pretty nice temperatures.

Today not bad, either. Even in through waking up, 30s. Suddenly, actually, I think 30s feel good. Probably it's 32 right now. New York City already at 38 degrees. The afternoon, pretty obvious, will feel even better. I mean, hard to believe, we are talking about 60s and even 70s. Dallas going to 77 today, but forget them, D.C. 62. That is amazing. It looks like New York City also looking for 51.

Here's the thing, though, it gets warmer tomorrow. New York City actually gets to the 60s, D.C. goes to the 70s. You really want to watch Wednesday into Thursday. Look at those highs drop. We're talking about really 60s going to 40s to 20s, guys. This is what I'm talking about, just that little tease that we have for a while, because we're not done with the cold air just yet. A couple systems making their way through.

A little clipper goes by today. This is going to be the big story. Some people could see some light showers in the morning, really kind of upstate New York, but then comes the next system that's making its way through, looks like Tuesday, Wednesday, really Wednesday into Thursday for the northeast. This guy's going to bring some snow. How much and who gets it and where it's going to be?

We're going to be watching a couple models for now. It looks like north of the major cities, but of course, we have some time to kind of monitor it and see where that system goes.

BERMAN: But two days. We'll enjoy the two days of warmth here. (LAUGHTER)

PETERSONS: Focus on the now, the present, guys.

BERMAN: That's right.

ROMANS: All right. That's your weather, how about your markets?

Disappointing news on China's exports overshadowing Friday's not-so- bad jobs report. Stocks in Asia closing sharply lower. European markets trying to shake off the news. Stocks there holding it around break-even right now. U.S. futures, Dow down two points, that's uneventful, I'd say.

Shares of Boeing down two percent in after-hours trading. Boeing made the Malaysia Airline plane that went down over the weekend, the presumed went down, disappeared over the weekend. Boeing, a Dow 30 stock, is up 58 percent over the past year. The Malaysia Airlines tragedy wasn't the only bad news for Boeing. This weekend, on Friday, the company announced that cracks were found on some Dreamliner jets in production.

Boeing says none of those Dreamliners currently flying have the problem. You know what a lot of analysts say about the Dreamliner in particular? I mean, every kind of little headline setback isn't really -- they have so many orders for this plane, especially, from the big Asian economies, a sign of sort of success is having one of these airplanes. The orders are there.

BERMAN: But a tough few days for them.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. Forty minutes after the hour. Back on the stand today at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, a security guard, one of the first people to speak with the "Blade Runner" after he shot and killed his girlfriend. What he told the court, right after the break.

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ROMANS: In South Africa, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial entering its second week.

Security guard, Peter Baba (ph), was back on the witness stand being grilled by the defense on cross-examination. Pistorius' lawyer trying to cast doubt on the guard's account of the phone call he had with the Olympic "Blade Runner" just moments after he fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The guard says Pistorius told him, quote, "everything is fine." The defense tried to emphasize that the guard's actual witness statement used the word "he," as in he is OK, and not everything.

BERMAN: Afghanistan today warning a key political power broker who many say was critical to keeping warring factions in line. Mohammad Qasim Fahim was one of the country's vice presidents, and in that role, he helped Hamid Karzai gain support from various ethnic groups and keep peace with (INAUDIBLE) warlords. Many expected him to influence the upcoming presidential election. Fahim is believe to have suffered a heart attack.

ROMANS: One of the last surviving members of easy company, the Band of Brothers, has died. William "Wild Bill" Guarnere was 90. He earned the nickname for his exploits during World War II, fighting in some of the fiercest battles of the war. Guarnere lost a leg during the battle of the bulge. He won the silver star, two bronze star, and two purple hearts.

BERMAN: And of course, he actually -- you can hear him talking a lot during "Band of Brothers" --

ROMANS: In the film.

BERMAN: At the beginning of each of the shows. Fascinating to hear what he had to say.

ROMANS: Wow!

BERMAN: A hero.

So many passing away now from that generation.

All right. Quarter to the hour right now. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us. Hey, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Hey, John. Hey, Christine. Hope you had a good weekend, and I wish I had more to tell you about the disappearance of this flight. We're going to be looking at it following up on what John and Christine are doing this morning. We do have the latest on the investigation. There are some developments about what may not be good clues, what may not matter.

So, it's not really moving in a direction we'd like about discoveries this morning, but the major theories are still whether or not this was terrorism, whether or not it disintegrated in midair, what the stolen passports could mean. We have great experts who understand investigations like this. But this is something that is highly, highly unusual.

We're also going to be following Ukraine, of course. CNN has exclusive new video of a border checkpoint in Crimea. Now, listen to this, it is, we're told, under Russian control, and there now appear to be landmines in the area.

We're also going to have on the show this morning, Senator John McCain. He's been very strong about Putin. And unfortunately, he has been right about these sequential bad events that have happened in Ukraine. So, he's going to be on here to talk about how we got here, what he thinks happens next.

And we'll talk a little Republican politics with him, because he's just back from the big CPAC, and he gave some fiery speeches there, had it out with Ted Cruz a lot. So, we'll get into the drama. BERMAN: Yes. He's demanding some apologies. That will be interesting to hear. John McCain, never restrained. Looking forward to that.

ROMANS: Thanks, Chris.

All right. Coming up, a simple blood test to detect Alzheimer's. Researchers say they've designed one that's very accurate, but it's raising all sorts of ethical worries. That's story next.

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ROMANS: We'll get more details today about safety at the upcoming Boston marathon.

Emergency officials are expected to speak about how they will screen the crowds and what spectators will be allowed to carry along the marathon route. This year's race is set for April 21st. The bombing at the finish line last year killed three and injured more than 260 people.

BERMAN: More than two dozen students recovering this morning after a stage collapse at a high school in Anaheim. Look at that. That's just terrifying. That happened this weekend during a performance at Servite High School. There were some 250 students on the stage at the time. Police are looking into whether the stage simply could not support that much weight.

ROMANS: Justin Bieber is due in court in Toronto today, facing charges he assaulted a limo driver just before New Year's. The singer and his friends were on their way to a hockey game when the driver says he was hit in the back of the head several times. His lawyer says he expects this to be treated as a summary offense, the equivalent of a misdemeanor, apparently.

BERMAN: Justin Bieber in the news for problems. It must be Monday.

All right. This is some big news here. It could be a way to detect a devastating illness before it takes its toll. Georgetown University researchers have developed a blood test that can predict, they say, with 90 percent accuracy whether a healthy adult will develop Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia. This test looks at fats in the blood that are present in lower levels among Alzheimer's patients.

The authors say much more research is needed but hope the test will someday be available in doctors' offices. A lot of people asking the question now, you know, would you take this test? Do you want to know if you are at 90 percent risk of getting Alzheimer's?

ROMANS: And the privacy implications. What if this information is out there and you couldn't get any life insurance policy?

BERMAN: That's a great point.

ROMANS: You know? I mean, that's what I worry about. You know, I worry about who else knows.

All right. It was an epic battle, but after two weeks and more than 90 rounds, a Jackson county, Missouri spelling bee finally crowned a champion. The marathon spell-off between seventh grader, Kush Sharma, and fifth grader, Sophia Hoffman, was suspended last month because, guess what, the judges run out of words.

The match resumed this weekend with Kush emerging victorious after the final 29 rounds when Sophia misspelled the word stifling. After all they went through, he says the victory was bittersweet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KUSH SHARMA, SPELLING BEE CHAMP: In the two weeks that we've had, I mean, we've just become really good friends. And you know, I sort of, you know, I was sort of, like, getting -- I was getting pretty sad when she got that word incorrect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The 13-year-old from Kansas City earned a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington.

BERMAN: I've got to tell you, they spelled so many really hard words. These things are so insidious, the spelling. Stifling, you wouldn't think, after all the words she --

ROMANS: Some of it's got to be like mental and focus and all that, too. They know all these words. These kids know all these words. They work on them for years!

BERMAN: I find the whole thing terrifying because I can't spell my name. But anyway. All right. Just a few minutes before the hour.

Coming up, the bulls, they just keep on running. We will tell you about the biggest Wall Street winners but why it's also good news on Main Street. "Money Time" in a moment is next.

ROMANS: I got good money news. Good money news.

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ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time" this Monday morning, shaking off some negative export news from China this morning, futures now mixed. Stocks in Europe mostly higher, but look at the big losses for Asian stock markets after an unexpected tumble in China exports in February. There was some fear of a slowdown in the world's second largest economy in the early going.

Malaysia Airline stock, by the way, down as much as 20 percent for obvious reasons. We start the week, though, with the S&P 500 right near highs, record highs! The Dow Jones Industrial average just one percent from an all-time high.

BERMAN: You're so excited!

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: All of these things that are going on in the world and you still have stocks. Look, a 125-point rally and you have a record for the Dow Jones Industrial average within spitting distance of that. It could happen in a couple days if you still have this trend. So, let's say happy birthday to the bull, right?

BERMAN: Happy birthday, bull.

ROMANS: It's five years old. Let's celebrate this incredible run for some of the household names. Just some happy news on a Monday. You had to hang in there for five years, but look, two of the biggest winners, online travel sites, Priceline and Expedia. Priceline, 1646 percent gain over five years. Expedia, up more than 1,000 percent. Two other big winners, Chipotle and Netflix up more than 1,000 percent.

These are just some of the biggies that our colleagues at CNNMoney.com looked at. We're going to tweet the whole thing for you. Take a look at the site for more. You might very well have one, I hope, or more of these winners in your 401(k) retirement plan.

Meantime, job training is back. According to a survey by CareerBuilder, training budgets that were slashed during the budget- cutting recession times, they are back. About half of businesses surveyed say they plan to train new hires this year. That's 10 percent more than last year. Why? Because of the skills gap, partly. Fifty-four percent of employers say they hav open positions that they can't find qualified candidates for.

More employers also telling CareerBuilder they'll pick up all or part of the cost to send current employees back to school to get advanced degrees. Do you need another degree, use some retraining, Berman?

BERMAN: I need initial training. I need some first training.

ROMANS: We should check whether our employer is one of those that is going to --

BERMAN: No. But, you know, job training helps everybody. Everybody wins in this situation. The companies do and employees do. It's a great thing --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: They've got the money in the bank. Companies spending money on employees is always a good thing.

BERMAN: And rare.

All right. "NEW DAY" starts right now.