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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Australian Company Says It's Found Signs of Plane Wreckage in Bay of Bengal; Flight 370 Passengers' Families Hear Final Words From Cockpit; NBA Press Conference at 2:00 P.M. Eastern; Storms Rage Across Eastern U.S.

Aired April 29, 2014 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Could the wreckage of Flight 370 have been found? An Australian company says it has discovered what they think could be the commercial airliner wreckage in the Bay of Bengal. For the first time families of the passengers hear the final words from the cockpit. We're going to play them for you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: And in just a few hours, the moment of truth for Donald Sterling. The NBA holds a high stakes news conference to announce what it will do about the allegedly racist comments that shocked the world. This is a decision that could change the future of the league.

PEREIRA: 75 million Americans under threat of severe weather as powerful storms cut a deadly path. The Deep South now in the bull's eye.

BERMAN: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West.

Those stories and much more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: So is this the big breakthrough in the search for Flight 370, or is it really just another wild goose chase?

An Australian marine exploration company says its team of scientists discovered signs of what they believe could be the wreckage of a commercial airliner. The thing is, it's in the Bay of Bengal about 100 miles off the coast of Bangladesh. This is a different part of the world than the focus of the search off the coast of Australia.

"NEW DAY'S" Kate Bolduan spoke with the head of the company on the phone a little earlier. David Pope says they discovered signs of what they believed to be wreckage a month ago, but they were ignored until going public with that information today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID POPE, DIRECTOR, GEORESONANCE (via telephone): We didn't want to go public at all. We are a large group of scientists, and we were being ignored, and we thought we had a moral obligation to get our findings out to the authorities.

They weren't answering e-mails or phone calls. And we feel so deeply for the relatives of the passengers and the crew onboard MH-370.

We've never declared that we have said that it is that aircraft. What we have found is wreckage of an aircraft. We believe to be an aircraft. We're very confident that it is. And that our lead should be followed up and dismissed or proven.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: Moral obligation, that's really interesting to hear from David Pope.

Will Ripley joins us from Kuala Lumpur. Good to have you with us, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Michaela, the Malaysian acting transport minister said that they're going to work with their international partners to figure out the credibility of this information.

That's a more optimistic response than the command chief down in Australia whose office told us they believe MH-370 is in the southern Indian Ocean in the zone where they're currently searching.

So if you listen to what the Australian searchers are saying, they're pretty much dismissing this information right now, whereas here in Malaysia they are a bit more open to it.

But it is interesting to think about the way that they search. They look for aluminum first. They found a lot of aluminum, then they found a lot of the other metals that you find in Boeing 777 in this area, 3,100 miles north of the zone that's being searched right now.

BERMAN: All right, Will, there's another big development in this story today.

For the first time, the families of passengers for the first time are hearing the final words from the cockpit, the recordings of conversations they had with the control tower.

What do you know about that?

RIPLEY: Yeah, John, this is something they've been asking for for weeks now. They wanted to hear it for themselves, these voices that we have been talking about since covering this story in the initial days.

And so, listen, this is what they were played today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP) RIPLEY: "Good night Malaysian 370," that's some that we've talked about so much, but this is the first time they got to actually hear it, and it's the transparency the families have been seeking out, guys.

PEREIRA: All right, Will Ripley. Again, the families hearing the recordings, the last known conversation between air traffic control and the cockpit. Really interesting for them to finally get a chance --

BERMAN: I think the key word there is finally. They've been asking for this for weeks and weeks and weeks. Seems innocuous. Why are they only hearing it now?

PEREIRA: Especially now when we've heard it, there really isn't much to report there.

Sarah Bajc, whose partner Philip Wood, was a passenger on board Flight 370, says that she spoke with a company that believes it found plane wreckage, the company we spoke about. GeoResonance is the name of the firm.

I had a chance to speak with Sarah on "NEW DAY" this morning. She says she really hopes the Malaysian authorities will investigate these claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF FLIGHT 370 PASSENGER: They felt fairly confident as of four weeks ago that they had seen something. They released that data. It was ignored.

After two weeks they released another set of recordings and that was ignored, too, so they went to the media.

So I believe it's worth sending a boat out with proper sonar capabilities. The water is only 1,000-meters deep in that area, and they have got GPS coordinates of where to go.

So we would like to see the government follow up on this. It seems valid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: Some making the suggestion, just sending it from Bangladesh instead of rerouting some of those resources that are in the Indian Ocean.

We're going to delve into this conversation about the company's discovery in a few minutes. Jeff Wise, our CNN aviation analyst, will join us again.

BERMAN: There's another big story we're following this morning. In about three hours, L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling will find out the cost of those racist comments that are attributed to him.

This is a sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

V. STIVIANO, DONALD STERLING'S GIRLFRIEND: People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram and it bothers you.

DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: Yes, it bothers me a lot. If you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: In that recorded conversation with his then girlfriend, we allegedly also then hear him say, among many mother comments, that African-Americans aren't welcome at his games, Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, in particular, after she posted this picture with him on Instagram.

BERMAN: Players, fans, civil rights leaders, even the president of the United States joined the chorus of voices vilifying these comments, and everyone has been pushing for an investigation by the NBA.

And in just a few hours, we'll learn the results of that investigation when the new commissioner of the NBA gives a news conference at 2:00 p.m. Eastern today.

Our Dan Simon is in Los Angeles where the Clippers are due to play tonight. Dan, what's the sense of what's going to happen?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be interesting what happens here at Staples Arena.

Are the fans going to show up? Some have said that the fans should stay home and protest. If I were a Clippers fan, I would come here tonight because, after all, people come to watch the players. They don't come to see the owner.

But I think you'll see people here holding signs. The anger is still bubbling here in Los Angeles. People want to see this commissioner make swift action and see this owner be suspended indefinitely.

Ultimately, they want to see him be stripped away as an owner, but that's not something that Adam Silver can do. He can't just snap his fingers and say, suddenly, you're not an owner.

But what he can do is he can suspend him for a lengthy period of time and he can also levy a serious fine.

John and Michaela?

PEREIRA: Dan, I lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade, and I've been to many of those games. And I know how ardent those Clipper fans are.

I'm really curious though. A lot of them have distaste for this owner for a long time. And there's a lot of people that aren't sports fans that have distaste for this man because of some of the comments that he's made about people that he rented apartments to.

Let me ask you. Are you getting a sense that folks are going to go to the game? Season ticket holders, people on the street, are you seeing a lot of people wearing Clippers jerseys around town?

SIMON: Not yet. I mean, it's still early here in Los Angeles today. But I think the general feeling is, especially after hearing from Coach Doc Rivers, that he says he wants to see Staples filled tonight.

And I think people generally feel sympathy for these players for having to endure this owner, so my sense is that it will be a full house tonight, but we'll have to wait and see.

BERMAN: They want to support the fans, but it's money in the pocket of Donald Sterling, so there is a conundrum here.

We're going to continue to look at this. Our thanks to Dan Simon. We will look at all the issues surrounding this scandal in a little bit.

PEREIRA: There are many.

BERMAN: And there's this 2:00 p.m. news conference, so stay tuned to CNN for this and much, much more on that story, coming up.

PEREIRA: A warning right now for the eastern third of the country, some 75 million Americans are in the danger zone as storms rage from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and from the Midwest to the East Coast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this stuff falling from the sky. You can see it rain, debris. This is large, violent tornado.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The storms is have already killed 29 people in six states, 13 confirmed dead after tornadoes ripped through Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee overnight. That's on top of 16 killed a day earlier in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa.

The greatest risk right now, again, in the Deep South. Our Chad Myers joins us at this moment from Tupelo, Mississippi. Chad, give us a sense of what you're seeing.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We had a tornado move through yesterday as we were moving from Little Rock into Memphis and then down here, and the tornado touched down in Tupelo and then got a lot stronger.

By the time it got here, up toward (inaudible) then about (inaudible), this is what it did to this gas station. You can see the pump. You can see the car. There's a car under all that debris. There's nothing going to be left of this gas station. They're going to have to completely take it and tear it down.

Now, they are removing a lot of stuff here. trying to get valuables out of the place before they do, but what they had to do earlier is take that little backhoe, take its arm and push the roof back up so it's a little bit secure. I'm glad some of these guys at least have hard hats on because things could be falling.

But we have sun now. And you think, oh, that's great. It's a sunny day. No, in fact, that's not a good thing, because the sun is heating the atmosphere, heating the ground. That air wants to rise like a hot air balloon.

Rising air makes rising clouds. Rising clouds makes thunderstorms. We have this twist in this atmosphere right now, so when one cloud goes up, it will spin and we'll have more tornadoes like we did yesterday.

Think of it, guys, like a 500-mile rake, and every 50 miles is a tine. Yesterday, those tines just ripped across Mississippi and Alabama, and this is one of those tines, here, a lot of damage, people picking up.

Now, if you have loved ones you can't get hold of in Tupelo, let me tell you this is about five percent of the town. The rest is perfect. But this is where the focus is. And this is what towns in Alabama may look like later on today, because more weather is coming, even for Georgia and on up the East Coast, as well.

PEREIRA: And that's the thing about these twisters is you don't know exactly where they're going to set down. One house could be fine, the next one completely ruined.

I sent a text to somebody I know who has family in Alabama in Huntsville. Their family is OK. But everybody is worried about it.

I'm wondering how folks are holding up? Are they managing OK in the communities where you've been? Are they feeling somewhat confident that they're going to be able to rebuild and support one another?

MYERS: What I really love about this place and any time you go to a tornado damaged area is that the people that didn't get damage go help the people that did

And it's neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends and people you don't even know helping you.

And that's what these guys have seen all night. There's been a great volunteer effort here in Tupelo.

PEREIRA: Beautiful thing in spite of all that devastation and sadness.

Chad Myers, thanks for explaining all of that and showing us what you're seeing on the ground there.

OK, a situation that we've been watching northwest of Atlanta, six people wounded and a suspected gunman is dead. There was a shooting at a FedEx facility, happened just hours ago in Kennesaw, Georgia, as I mentioned, just outside of Atlanta.

Police say all of the victims are being treated at a nearby hospital. The suspect is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. BERMAN: Russia, being hit with new sanctions in the ongoing international pressure Moscow to stop its military adventure to keep from further military intervention in Ukraine.

The European Union people today named another 15 people who will face travel bans and asset freezes. They include Russia's deputy prime minister and its military chief.

This comes a day after the U.S. announced new sanctions targeting seven Russians and 17 companies which Washington says are linked to President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

PEREIRA: An investigation is under way right now to determine why a plane caught on fire just minutes after takeoff in Perth, Australia. A passenger reported the scary moments. Check this out.

The pilot shut off the engine and returned to the airport. The plane was able to land safely. It's not clear yet, though, what sparked that fire.

BERMAN: As we mentioned, all eyes now on the NBA, a news conference scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Eastern, what will they do about Donald Sterling?

A suspension? Will they toss him from the league altogether for his alleged racial comments?

Coming up, we will delve into this debate. There are a lot of issues at stake here. And, as we said, the league could be changed forever.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STERLING: Don't come to my games. Don't bring black people and don't come.

STIVIANO: Do you know that you have a whole team that's black that plays for you?

STERLING: Do I know? I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them? does someone else give it to them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Those outrageous words are the words being attributed to L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and now we are waiting to find out what the NBA is going to do about it. There's a 2:00 p.m. news conference scheduled for today.

PEREIRA: That's happening today. The commissioner could fine Sterling for the racially charged comments that are being attributed to him. He also could suspend him. There's even talk of his ownership with L.A. Clippers being in jeopardy. Sterling is already losing sponsors and there's a threatened boycott of the playoffs. BERMAN: We have a very special guest with us. Former NBA player and current broadcaster for the Utah Jazz as well as vice chairman of the NBA retired players association, Thurl Bailey is with us right now. The seat lowered a full foot below mine. I will never be able to look you in the eye again.

PEREIRA: I'll tweet a picture of the two of them standing side by side don't worry.

BERMAN: What I want to know is this, anything short of either a suspension, separating Donald Sterling from the game. Anything short of a separation, it just doesn't seem to me the players will stand for this at this point.

THURL BAILEY, VICE CHARMAN OF NBA RETIRED PLAYERS ASSOCIATE: I think you're right. You know, we have full confidence in Adam Silver to hand that down and we'll find out obviously pretty soon. I think some of it is a slippery slope because you have a man who owns a team and it's not going to be -- you talk about suspending him. That word doesn't seem like it will do enough. Banishment may but can you legally do that? So I think everybody is in a waiting pattern right now until the press conference to see exactly what it is. You know, we'll see. I think that it has to be harsh. I don't think taking money from --

BERMAN: A billionaire does much.

PEREIRA: Also the idea of just suspending him from ever going to a game. I understand the Clippers fans and people of Los Angeles are not going to want to see him sitting in his usual seat at Staples Center. I believe that people are going to want more than that, and the players. I was thinking about this actually. Have you had players contact you and ask for advice about what you would suggest they do?

BAILEY: I haven't.

PEREIRA: What would you tell them?

BAILEY: I haven't been in that position. I played for a great organization with the Utah Jazz for a long time and then the Minnesota Timberwolves. If any of those thoughts were there, we never knew about them. Never surfaced. I don't believe that they were there because of how everyone was treated. The problem here is that was a private conversation. And I think allegedly we all understand the proof has to be there, but for me that was his voice.

PEREIRA: For many people.

BERMAN: You can't put this back this discussion back in the bottle here.

BAILEY: No, you cannot. There are so many things that you deal with in this country where you have freedom of speech and so you have to consider all of those things but something -- whether it's the fact that now we're aware of this -- this discussion is a good thing. What happens to him will remain to be seen. BERMAN: Can I ask a question. Some people have been talking about this, including LZ Granderson, Marc Lemont Hill, professor who were on here before. They were saying the players, the players on the Clippers and the players around the league have spoken out against the words of Donald Sterling and turned their shirts inside out, they really need to do more here or they should be doing more. They should refuse to play, they should stage a sit in and stand up and do something that would get in the way of the game.

BAILEY: I think there's a certain order. I think right now it's not really a rush to judgment on Donald Sterling. It really is whose hands is it in right now? It really is in the camp of the ownership, because Adam Silver works for them. So the first comments, the first reactions, ought to come from him. We're kind of on standby waiting to see. The NBA retired players association and NBA and current players are great partners. But I think there is an order of things.

PEREIRA: Let's say it doesn't go as far as people want? What then Thurl? What then?

BAILEY: That's a good question. I think this is bigger than just inside the arena of basketball so to speak. This has ramifications way outside of those boundaries. I don't know what the answer is honestly. I don't know how you punish a guy when he has a freedom of speech to say what he wants but at the same time what he does affects so many lives.

BERMAN: I was talking to someone notice commission's office. They full well know this a momentous time and momentous decision for this new, young commissioner. So I am sure he will make it wisely.

PEREIRA: Thurl, we are going to ask you to return at this hour tomorrow. We would like to talk to you about what is said at that press conference and also what happens tonight. All eyes are certainly on Los Angeles and on the Clippers. We are going to continue to look at this scandal that is surrounding the owner of the Clippers as we wait to hear how the NBA plans to handle this situation. One more time we'll remind you that press conference is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Eastern and you can catch it right here on CNN.

BERMAN: Another big story we're following right now. Good night Malaysian flight 370. Those, of course, the final words heard from flight 370. Today the victims' families heard them - heard the recording for the very first time. This all coming as an Australian company claims to have found signs of plane wreckage. Coming up at this hour, the very latest - the very latest mystery on this missing flight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So could this be it? The head of an Australian exploration company says he believes that they have now found signs of plane wreckage most likely from a Boeing plane.

PEREIRA: But it's thousands of miles away from the area they are currently searching in, in the ongoing flight for 370. David Pope, the head of the company GeoResonance, says the wreckage that they believe is Flight 370 is in the Bay of Bengal, about a 100 miles off the coats of Bangladesh. They spotted it using all sorts of technology that picks up lots metals, aluminum, titanium, etc. on the ocean floor. Pope says he hopes Malaysian authorities will follow-up but he turned over a report to them a month ago and didn't get action until he went public with the information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF DAVID POPE, DIRECTOR, GEORESONANCE: Well we would like Malaysians to organize, perhaps the Indians or, perhaps the Bangladeshi navy to send a boat out and have a look at the exact coordinate that we've given them. Cause it's not guesswork. We have actually given them a precise coordinate. And have a look down there with the sonar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, our aviation analyst Jeff Wise joins us now. So Jeff this area is in the Bay of Bengal which is north of the area where they are looking now. You have been a so-called northern arc guy all along. This is not there, is it?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This does not lie on the northern arc. It's in the direction of the northern arc. If it wound up on the bottom of the Bay of Bengal it never got to the north arc. If we believe the MR SAT data, which I'm not willing to give up on, I think that is the best data we have got so far, this would not fit with that. This doesn't fit any of the MR SAT data.

PEREIRA: They say that their technology, some 20 different tools they use to pick up titanium, steel alloys, all of these metal materials specifically that are in a Boeing 777. They don't really have a horse in this race. They felt a moral obligation to come forward with this information. You are raising your eyebrows.

WISE: Well listen I have got -- it's interesting this is happening right now. The Australian underwater search has basically come to a dead end. Now we are getting -- it's like open season on everyone who has been looking at the satellite pictures and images. On my blog and on twitter I am getting all kinds of messages from people saying look at this I have got this other theory. It seems anything is possible. Now the world's attention will be focused if you come up and say that I have the idea. I know where it is. Believe me there are all sorts of things like this.

PEREIRA: Why not send a boat from Bangladesh. The Bangladesh army could send on of their resource out to check it out. It is only 100 miles off their coast. Take a look at it. Not reroute resources from the South Indian Ocean.

WISE: That may happen. But listen, there are a lot of people with a lot of theories. I have been e-mailing people and calling people and no one is calling me back. You know, this one time send a boat but this happens hundreds of times. BERMAN: You think we are talking about Al Capone's vault here. You think that as we go forward we'll see theory after theory after theory. They'll discover something and it may not turn out to be anything.

WISE: Exactly. The absence of information. You'll see all kinds of ideas sprout.

PEREIRA: Especially now that air search has, pretty much, all been called off for what? Fifty-three days into this. There's not a lot of there to go there for, right?

WISE: Yeah there is literally no information at this point.

BERMAN: Can I ask you one question about the recording the families heard for the first time today. You heard it for the first time today, we all did. Anything there that should have prevented the Malaysian officials from releasing that sound weeks and weeks and weeks ago?

WISE: Not really. They have a habit of keeping things under tight lock and key. It wasn't just that. Apparently they showed a chart of the route of the plane. A chart of the ping distance data which a lot of us have been calling for, for a long time. It is very interesting they released this. This is the kind of thing we hoped to find in the interim report. Maybe this indicates that they won't release the interim report because they satisfied the families' curiosity.

PEREIRA: The Malaysian Prime Minister saying that that report is due out this week, I believe.

WISE: Yes. He promised Richard Quest he would release it. Will he?

BERMAN: You don't renege on Richard Quest. If there is one thing I know you don't do that. Jeff Wise, great to have you here, really Appreciate it.

As we were saying, today is the day. In just a few hours, the NBA will reveal the details of its investigation into the Clippers owner. The racist comments that he allegedly made. This has sponsor after sponsor jumping ship. What will the NBA do and will it be enough? We'll talk about it just ahead.