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"Object of Interest" Found in MH370 Hunt; Interview with Peter King; Divers Find No Air Pockets; High-Tech tool Aids Ferry Search

Aired April 23, 2014 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

In an action the Pentagon says is more than symbolism, U.S. troops are heading to -- in fact they're already there -- U.S. troops are in Poland and three other nations along the Baltic Sea in a move the United States says is in direct response to the crisis in Ukraine.

For its part, Russia is also mobilizing its military with previously unplanned drills in the Caspian Sea. Back in Ukraine, pro-Russian forces are now a target as the government renews its call for anti- terrorism efforts as a bid to eliminate militants in four key cities in the eastern part of the country.

I want to bring in Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr to talk more about those U.S. troops in Poland. We have pictures of them now. Tell us more, Barbara.


Well it's well worth having another look at this -- these are U.S. troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade based out of Italy that this morning landed in Poland for joint training with Polish military troops, airborne paratrooper training. That is what they're going to do in Poland.

There will be similar deployments of U.S. troops from Europe to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All of this, as you see the troops there, is part of an effort by the United States, 600 troops in four countries, to have what they're calling a persistent presence in Eastern Europe. This is all about sending a message to Russia about Ukraine but also very much stepping up the training in eastern Europe to reassure nervous allies there who look across their boarder at Russia and get concerned about what the Russians may be up to next.

Hard to believe in this day in age but that's what is actually going on in Europe right now -- worries that Moscow could expand its operations and have its eye on these other countries. So stepping up the so-called rotational presence of U.S. troops in Europe -- they'll there be for about 30 days in all these locations and then other U.S. troops will rotate in. NATO will try to get an agreement to send its own troops in -- all of this about keeping presence facing Russia. Not about combat, training presence. That's what they're saying -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Training presence. But more kind of sending a message to Russia too, right?

STARR: Exactly.

COSTELLO: Exactly -- Barbara Starr reporting live from the Pentagon.

Let's bring in Congressman Peter King of New York. He joins me now. Good morning, Congressman.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Good morning, Carol. How are you?

COSTELLO: I'm good. Thank you for being here.

KING: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: First of all your reaction to these U.S. troops in Poland and those other Baltic nations?

KING: I think it's very important that the President do this. We should have them again in Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and make it clear that this is not just a temporary measure. I think one criticism I would have of the President is that he's not up until now shown we're in this for the long haul. He's talking about off ramps for Putin.

I think we have to make it clear that our troops should be there. Also I think we should consider restarting the missile defense system in Eastern Europe, which again will be a signal to the Russians. And also we have to dramatically accelerate, I believe, the production and exporting of liquefied natural gas to Europe so the allies won't be dependent on Russia. And again it will be a strong signal to Russia and investors in Russia that we are serious about this.

COSTELLO: There are 40,000 Russian troops amassed along the border with Ukraine.

KING: Right.

COSTELLO: Some have suggested that the United States should send more troops to Eastern Europe. Do you agree with that?

KING: I don't know if we have to at this stage. I think right now this is sending a first signal. But if we have to send more, we should. But again the purpose of our troops is not to counter the Russians per se, you know, man-to-man or soldier-to-soldier but to send a very strong signal that we are standing with our NATO allies and that any movement by the Russians against a NATO ally is a move against the United States.

So in many ways our troops there are a trip wire. And you know the Russians have to realize that a move against Poland, for instance is, a move against the U.S. and NATO and that means that NATO would come to the defense of one of those countries. COSTELLO: So we seem to be at the standoff now and I must say it's unsettling to see U.S. troops there even though you know there is no interest in any military action per se.

KING: Well, again, I mean you know NATO to be taken seriously we have to show that we are serious about defending these countries. We do live in a very dangerous world. And Vladimir Putin has really changed the calculus in that part of the world. We have thought from 1991 on that we could find a way to work with the Russians, that we have economic links that again there would be societal links between us and the Russians and the Russia would become more and more westernized but Putin wants to apparently rebuild a Russian empire so we have to be serious about this.

NATO just can't be there for decorations or for parades. It has to show that it is willing to stand and fight if it has to. Now nobody wants that to happen. But I think you know one way to invite aggression is that we show any sign of weakness and we show that we're not going to stand by our allies especially the Baltic States.

I mean, some of those Baltic States have 25 percent, 30 percent, 35 percent Russian population. And that would be a very good excuse for the Russians to say they have to go in to Estonia or Latvia or Lithuania to protect the Russians in those countries. We have to make it clear that we're not going to tolerate that.

COSTELLO: OK so is it safe to say then that you don't think that tougher sanctions is the answer and we shouldn't bother with them?

KING: Oh no. I think we have to do sanctions. We have to increase the sanctions. We should make -- this has to be a full-pronged comprehensive plan against the Russians. Sanctions are very important. We should go higher than we have. We should get the people closest to Putin, and we should make it clear to other countries that want to invest in Russia that this is going to be a long struggle against the Russians, an economic struggle.

It's going to be a military standoff, if you will, and we are very serious and we're going to be increasing our exporting of energy to Europe which will then weaken the Russians because they won't have the markets in Europe they had before and the European countries won't dependent on them.

Now I think this is similar to 1946 when Winston Churchill and Harry Truman realized that there's going to be a struggle with the Soviet Union. We're not looking to a military struggle but this has to be an all-out economic and diplomatic struggle with the military in reserve which is why we are having these training maneuvers going on in Poland. Training means that you are training to be ready for combat, God forbid that happens. So that's why the troops are there.

COSTELLO: I know it just seems like deja vu all over again.

KING: Yes.

COSTELLO: And Congressman -- yes Congressman Peter King, thanks so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

KING: You're very welcome, Carol. Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come -- you're welcome. Still to come in the NEWSROOM, reports of an object of interest found in the search for Flight 370. And the formation of an international investigation team -- what does that mean for the search?

CNN's Sumnima is in Kuala Lumpur.

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, as the world wonders what happened to MH370, Malaysian officials are saying they're setting up an international investigation team to make the whole process more transparent. We'll have more after the break.


COSTELLO: New development in the search for Malaysia Airline Flight 370. Australian officials say an object of interest was found on the country's West Coast. It appears to be a riveted sheet of metal. That's a common component of a plane's construction but it's not clear if this discovery is significant at all.

CNN Sumnima Udas joins me now from Kuala Lumpur with more. Good morning.

UDAS: Hi, Carol. This is still a developing discovery. So when officials here were asked about it just a few hours ago at a press conference, they said they are very much aware of this potential debris but that it hasn't been verified so they can't really comment on it at the moment. They also added that none of the debris that's been found so far has been related to MH370.

But of course we may know in the next few days once the Australian officials have a chance to actually figure out what exactly this debris is -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Just a piece of metal washed up onshore in Western Australia. Investigators are already looking at it. So hopefully we'll have some answers on that soon. We're also learning that an international investigation team is now in place. We don't know who will be on that team. Any word about that?

UDAS: That's right. No clarity at the moment on exactly who will be in that team. We know it will be compromised of international and local experts and the main purpose of this team is really to figure out what happened to MH370 so this kind of incident really doesn't happen again.

And the significance of this is really the Malaysians trying to show that they're trying to be as transparent as possible. Ss the Malaysian acting transport minister said it's very important to have a strong, competent, transparent and highly credible independent team because the whole world is watching. And Malaysia actually according to the Malaysian authorities here has nothing to hide. So this is a way of really showing that they are trying to be as transparent as possible -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Sumnima Udas thank you so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, searching for the victims of the South Korean ferry disaster -- we'll show you the high-tech underwater rover that could help rescue teams search that sunken vessel.


COSTELLO: It's a busy morning of developments in the tragedy of that crowded ferry that sank off South Korea's coast. Divers say they have found no air pockets in the submerged hull, virtually dashing any hopes of survivors. 157 people now confirmed dead, 145 remain missing.

There have been two more arrests for failures in handling the onboard crisis. The new total criminal charges have been filed against the captain and ten crew members now. Of course crews are using all available resources in their search of that sunken ferry. That includes some of the latest underwater technology. One tool is a submersible vehicle that helped guide searchers through the dark murky water, death by death, cabin by cabin.

Randi Kaye has more for you.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If you're wondering how robots might help search for passengers on board the South Korean ferry, watch this. You're looking at a mini-ROV, remotely-operated vehicle snaking its way around a sunken shrimp boat off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

When it comes to ship wrecks, this machine is a workhorse. It can stay under water for days at a time, maneuvering its way through tiny openings where human divers either don't fit or it's simply too dangerous for them to go.

RHONDA MONIZ, ROV PILOT AND DIVING EXPERT: So to go forward you're going to use forward -- it's very, very intuitive; very user friendly. To back it up, you're going to back it up this way.

KAYE (on camera): It's like a video game.

MONIZ: It is exactly.

KAYE (voice over): Rhonda Moniz is an ROV pilot and diving expert. She works for SeaBotix which builds these ROVs.

This robot is directed by an ROV pilot at the surface. It moves at about two knots per hour. Even in murky water or at night, these robots can see. They have lights and special low visibility cameras. And if that's not enough, they have sonar too, which can pick up images up to 400 feet away and feed them back in real-time.

MONIZ: OK. So you can see the stern of the vessel. You can see how that is the back of the boat is that square shape. That's what we're aiming at right now.

KAYE: A simple turn of the knob on the side of the controls and Rhonda sends the ROV for a deep dive. She rolls the knob back to return it to the surface.

(on camera): So whenever this mini ROV is used, it's lowered into the water by a rope line that you see there. Here in the water that we're on, it's only about 20 feet deep or so. But if this were going to be deployed to search inside the Sewol ferry, that wouldn't be a problem because this mini-ROV can actually work in water as deep as a thousand feet.

(voice over): Keep in mind, divers can safely go down only about 130 feet. And these robots, they can swim upward inside a ship too just as divers in South Korea are doing to reach the cafeteria and areas on the upper floors of the doomed ferry.

(on camera): If you want to get to say a higher level on a ship or ferry like the third or fourth or fifth level, could the mini ROV actually climb?

MONIZ: Yes, they would have to have a really good idea of the blueprint, if you will, of the vessel because it can be very disconcerting especially in something like that where it's flipped. So stairs where you would normally be on the bottom are going to be over your head.

KAYE (voice over): And if anyone is found, the mini ROV is equipped with a grabber strong enough to pull a human being out of a sunken ship on its own.

Randi Kaye, Gloucester, Massachusetts.


COSTELLO: Officials are still calling it a search and rescue effort but after a week in the icy waters, the hope of finding survivors is fading.

I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Checking some top stories this morning at 56 minutes past. An American climber is telling CNN how a Sherpa guide saved his life from the avalanche that swept down Mount Everest.


JON REITER, MOUNT EVEREST CLIMBER: Our Sherpa did, you know, marched down -- climbed (inaudible) immediately, you know, just pushed us behind blocks of ice. And just, you know, get down. Get down. It just the cloud of ice and snow just encompassed the entire canyon pretty quickly.

He was an amazing man. These are such selfless people. He just immediately -- I keep thinking about how he did not dive himself. He turned to me and was like, get down. Get down. And he's an amazing guy.


COSTELLO: Jon Reiter says he still wants to try to reach the summit but if his guide will not continue, he'll return home. 13 people, all of them Sherpas were killed in Friday's avalanche.

As if taxpayers don't have enough to be angry about at this time of year, an internal audit has revealed the IRS paid about $1 million in bonuses to employees that were in trouble over their own tax issues. The 1,100 workers underreported income and made late payments among other no-nos. The IRS says it will change policy so tax compliance will be considered in future bonuses.

The New York City Police Department facing backlash this morning after encouraging tweets using the hashtag MyNYPD. While some of the responses have been positive, the hashtag was filled with pictures appearing to show police brutality like the one you are about to see. Like that one, showing officers holding a man on the hood of a car. The tweet says, "Free massages from the NYPD." What does your police department offer? The NYPD says the tweets are helping to start a dialogue between police and the people.

Georgia governor Nathan Deal expected to sign a controversial gun bill into law today. The measure allows licensed owners to carry firearms into government buildings, bars and some churches. It also allows school officials to decide if they want to arm administrators and teachers. The law would go into effect on July 1st.

Also happening now, NASA astronauts are on a space walk. They're on a repair job. They have spent nearly one hour already outside. Currently the space station is flying above South America. The crew members are replacing a faulty computer on the outside of the International Space Station. That computer which failed two weeks ago was one of 45 that commands the space station's systems.

All right. We're going to end on a happy note -- something that will make you laugh. David letterman is apparently giving his blessing to CBS's choice to replace him on the late show. The veteran host welcomed his successor Stephen Colbert on last night's program. During the two-minute chat, Letterman called Colbert always entertaining, the new kid and my friend. Colbert gave the love right back to Letterman joking about how the two are one of a kind.


STEPHEN COLBERT, TALK SHOW HOST: Obviously I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled to take over for you.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I'm thrilled as well because in a situation like this, Paul and I have been doing this for a long, long time. They could have just as easily hired another boob like me. They didn't. They hire a guy --

COLBERT: They hired a boob like me.


COLBERT: Every boob is like a snowflake, Dave. We're all unique in our own way.


COSTELLO: The pair took a selfie together as the interview wrapped up. Everyone's taking selfies these days, right? The "Late Show" hand over will take place some time next year. We can't wait.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Has a piece of debris from Flight 370 finally surfaced?