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Syrian Democratic Forces Eager to Retake Last ISIS-stronghold Territory; Prime Minister Theresa May Faces Another Defeat; No Basis to Ground Boeing 737 Max 8; From Cardinal to a Convicted Felon; Heaviest Bombardment Yet On Last ISIS Holdout; ISIS On Verge Of Losing Last Syrian Stronghold; U.K. Parliament Reject Prime Minister's Latest Brexit Deal; Growing Safety Concerns Over Boeing 737 Max 8; Accused Of Cheating The System; A Unique Candle Technique. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Plumes of smoke rising into the skies as our CNN team reports live from the intensifying fight against ISIS militants. Our exclusive look at offensive inside eastern Syria is next.

Plus, another stinging defeat for Theresa May as parliament rejects her Brexit deal once again, making a clean break from the E.U. even tougher for the U.K.

And the horrific crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight is raising new questions over the Boeing 737 MAX 8. We will look at why only two nations are not grounding that plane.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN Newsroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

CHURCH: And we begin with this breaking news out of eastern Syria after 15 hours of intense shelling, ISIS is on the verge of losing the last town under its control. Three thousand Jihadi fighters have surrendered to U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

CNN's international correspondent Ben Wedeman joins us now from eastern Syria with the latest on this battle. Ben, tell us what has been happening.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Basically, from Sunday, I mean sundown last night, until after sunrise this morning, what we saw were intense airstrikes, mortar barrage is and artillery barrage is as well as a lot of small arms fire going into this encampment behind me.

It's no longer a town. It's really just a junk yard of old cars and tattered tents. Now you mentioned that statement from the SDF, that 3000 Jihadi's terrorist had surrendered overnight, that probably -- that number probably includes women and children, family members of the Jihadis as well.

But it does appear that after multiple evacuations, that may well have been the last one from this town. Those who are from this encampment, those who were going to stay inside are probably at this point going to die inside.

We've heard a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces saying that the end of the terrorists in eastern Syria is coming soon. We've seen this is the third time the SDF has attempted to retake this territory and end ISIS as a territorial or physical caliphate. It does appear that this time they want to finally finish it off and declare victory. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And Ben, at this point we don't really know how many fighters are in there. But we know that this battle will come to a close. We don't know a timeline either, but at the same time ISIS still lives on, doesn't it? As a terror organization. So, talk to us about what happens beyond this battle as far as ISIS goes.

WEDEMAN: It's fairly apparent, Rosemary, that ISIS is transforming back to what it was before which was a terrorist insurgency in Iraq going back several years. What we've seen is in this part of Syria in the last 40 days that we've been here, is a series of attacks by Jihadis, using suicide car bombers, using suicide bombers themselves, and ambushes as well, there is still a problem. There is still a problem in Iraq.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the so-called caliph of the so-called Islamic state is apparently still on the loose. Officials do not believe he is in this encampment behind me. So, it remains a threat.

It remains a threat well inside areas controlled by the Iraqi government or by the Syrian Democratic Forces or by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The other part of this problem is that as a result of the thousands of Jihadi's who have surrendered, more than 5,000 in the last month, including 1,000 foreign fighters, is that they are now in prisons and their wives and children are in internment camps.

[03:05:05] But, apparently, the women in the internment camps have reestablished a social caliphate there in Al-Hol camp outside Hasakah, a few hours' drive north of here. They are imposing the social mores of the Islamic state there.

So, you -- this -- their problem of ISIS is changing but it's not over. Rosemary?

CHURCH: No, it is not. Many thanks to our Ben Wedeman reporting there from eastern Syria along with producer Kareem Khadder, and photojournalist, Scott McWhinnie and team member Adam Toby (ph) to take care, please, all of you.

Well, it has been nearly three years since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. And with just over two weeks to go until the deadline, there is no plan.

On Tuesday, lawmakers handed Prime Minister Theresa May yet another crashing defeat, rejecting her revised Brexit deal. Struggling to speak with a sore throat, Mrs. May said she still believes an agreement is possible. But the opposition leader says her time is up.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I profoundly regret the decision that this House is taken tonight.

I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in an orderly fashion with a deal. And that the deal we've negotiated is the best and indeed, the only deal available.

JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY: The government has been defeated again by an enormous majority. And they must now except their deal, their proposal. The one that prime ministers put is clearly dead and does not have the support of this house.

The prime minister has rundown the clock and the clock has been run out on her. Maybe it's time instead that we had a general election and that the people could -- the people could choose who their government should be.


CHURCH: So, now parliament will vote again in the coming hours to decide if it wants to leave the E.U. without any deal at all. If that vote fails there will be another one Thursday on whether to extend the deadline and if that gets rejected, it's unclear what will happen next.

So, let's get the latest from CNN's Hadas Gold who is live outside 10 Downing Street in London. She joins us now. So Hadas, lawmakers again rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's so-called new and improved Brexit deal. How did that all play out?

And of course, we mentioned that the next vote is the no deal Brexit for. So, what's expected to come out of that?

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Rosemary, that vote yesterday came after Theresa May made a last-minute dashed to Strasbourg where she managed to get a few extra what she called legally binding assurances out of the European Union specifically when it came to what's called the backstop. This is sort of the insurance policy to ensure there will be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

But despite those legally binding assurances with a lot of optimism on Monday evening, by Tuesday evening that optimism had all been completely flattened. Partly because Theresa May's own attorney general came out, and said in short that the legally binding assurance that she got did not necessarily guarantee that the U.K. will not still somehow be stuck with the E.U. and the customs union. And it didn't fix the backstop problem that every -- a lot of MPs still have with Theresa May's deal. And so, she lost by 149 votes, 75 of her own conservative party

members voted against their prime minister against this deal. Now that is an improvement from the last time Theresa May put this Brexit deal forward to parliament, where she lost by more than 200 votes.

But it is still a huge loss nonetheless. In typical times the prime minister would normally resign after such a loss but we are not in typical times. As you noted, tonight there will be another vote. This vote will be on whether members of parliament want to take the possibility of no deal Brexit off the table.

Now some of the hard-right Brexiteers this is what they want. They want a no deal. They think that's best. But the majority of parliament we think will vote in favor of not crushing out without a deal. But what does that mean? We have Brexit deadline coming up on March 29th, that in two weeks. That means they'll likely have to go to the European Union and ask for an extension on article 50, ask for an extension on that deadline.

That vote on the extension will likely come Thursday. But as you noted, we don't know what happens after that. OK. Once they get the extension, if they get it, what then? Will Theresa May somehow try to get a new deal? How can she get a new deal when it's not clear what members of parliament want?

That's the issue where then people are saying that the parliament will try to take control of the process and hold what are called indicative votes. These are votes to try to determine what does the parliament actually want, and what they can agree on.

But I have to say, Rosemary, that the chances of crashing out with a no deal, the chances of a general election here, and the chances of a new prime minister. All of those, the possibility for all those have somehow all gone up in the last 24 hours.

[03:10:00] CHURCH: Yes. And at the same time, they don't stay seem to know what they want. And of course, the E.U. wants a solution to come from London. That doesn't look likely. They seem incapable of doing that.

And now Prime Minister May says she won't instruct her own party's lawmakers on how to vote as would normally happens, what does that signal to you?

GOLD: Yes, that's a really unusual move for a prime minister to not direct her party and how they should vote. It's called a free vote. And there are some who are saying this is clear that this shows that the prime minister is just a prime minister in name only, and that she does not have control of her party.

It is a rather interesting move. And Theresa May herself said she struggled with that decision. But you're right. That the European Union is looking at the U.K. and say you guys need to fix this.

There are some in the European Union, the leadership there, who feel as though the U.K. has been looking too much towards the E.U. to solve their problems who have been looking too much towards the E.U. to fix the withdraw agreement.

And they say, and probably rightly so, you have to get your own act together. It doesn't seem as though the government here got a consensus from parliament before they negotiate with the E.U. to come back with a deal that they knew could pass.

But we are just in completely untested times now. We don't know what's going to happen. And nobody even in government in the building behind me at 10 Downing Street knows either what will happen in the next 24 hours in the next few days. We could have a Brexit. We could have a crash out with a no deal. We could have article 50 extension, and then this process just continues and continues for more and more time.

CHURCH: If they want to leave the E.U. they have to figure this out and come up with a plan that seems obvious, right? Hadas Gold from 10 Downing Street, thanks so much for bringing us the very latest on that.

GOLD: Thanks.

CHURCH: Well, of course, the biggest sticking point as we just covered in Brexit talks has been the so-called backstop. What happens to the border between Northern Island and the Republic of Ireland?

CNN's Bianca Nobilo explains why it's at the heart of this debate.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the Republic of Ireland, and this is Northern Ireland, part of the U.K. The 499-kilometer border that separates the two countries is the sticking point that could derail plans for a so-called orderly Brexit.

After Brexit day this line will effectively become a border between the European Union and the U.K. To avoid jeopardizing trade and the peace process both sides say they don't want a hard border here. That's a border where people and goods are stopped, and inspected.

The agreement that was reached between the U.K. and Europe in November includes a controversial emergency measure called the backstop to prevent the return of that hard border.

Here's how and when it would work.

Under the terms of the agreement, the whole of the U.K. would stay the European customs territory during a transition period. This would run from Brexit day until the end of 2020. During that time a new trade deal would be negotiated and people and goods could cross the border as they do now.

If a trade deal that avoids the need for a hard border hasn't been reached by the end of the transition period the backstop would then kick in, that means from January 2021 the U.K. would automatically remain in the European customs territory and would have to comply with existing single market regulations.

Now, comes the controversial part. The U.K. attorney general says once the backstop is activated the U.K. could only leave this arrangement with permission from Brussels. The U.K. could therefore be force to abide by E.U. regulations indefinitely without having any say in shaping them.

U.K. and E.U. leaders have said that the backstop is a measure of last resort that neither side has any intention of activating.

But for some U.K. lawmakers regardless of their party, the risk of being beholden to Brussels with no way out is a Brexit that they refused to back.

Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.

CHURCH: And now to the world of aviation where U.S. and Canadian officials say there is no basis to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft even though many countries around the world are doing so as a precautionary measure.

This aircraft is under scrutiny since it has been involved in two deadly plane crashes in the past five months including Sunday's crash in Ethiopian. Boeing meantime, says safety is Boeing's number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the MAX. We understand the regulatory agency and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets.

And while investigators try to figure out what caused Sunday's crash, CNN spoke to one family in Kenya trying to come to terms with the devastating loss of their loved one aboard that flight.

[03:15:03] Our Farai Sevenzo reports.

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After their death, there are prayers. This family in Nairobi's Kibera neighborhood is mourning a loved one lost too soon.

Abdullahi Ibrahim Mohammed was the victim of the ill-fated Ethiopia 302 flight. But without Abdullahi's body special prayer is required.


YUSUF ABUHAMZA, UNCLE OF CRASH VICTIM: This one was done specially for this guest. It's not every day that we are face with such circumstances. But this is a very special circumstance that's called for a very special prayer that is only done for somebody who is absent.


SEVENZO: Abdullahi, 34, worked as a lab technician in Saudi Arabia. He had decided to pay his family a surprise visit. His father told CNN. He called them the day before to say he was coming home. It was a life of distance and separation from him family home in Kibera, but for him it was worth it, his mother says as he wanted to change his family's fortunes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He had many plans, he said when he comes back he would by us some land and build us a palatial home as long as we continue to pray for him to stay alive. If he's alive, he will do it for us. But God cut short his life.


SEVENZO: Abdullahi became one of 157 people whose life was cut short on a Boeing 737 Sunday. Missing from this family scene is Abdullahi's young wife and his elderly father both now in Ethiopia to find his body and bring him home. And this matters to his mom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If it's ashes, I want them to bring them. If it's bones, I want them to bring them. As long as we see him, that is the only way we can move on.


SEVENZO: Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi.

CHURCH: Heartbreak for all of those families, and in the wake of the tragic Ethiopian plane crash, U.S. President Trump is now offering his opinion on airplane technology.

Our Jim Acosta reports.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With countries around the world except for the U.S. grounding the use of Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane over the weekend. President Trump weighed in, even though the investigation into what happened is barely underway.

Tweeting, "Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly, pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientist from MIT. I see it all the time in many products, always seeking to go one necessary step further when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cause, yet very little gain. I don't know about you, but I don't want Albert Einstein to be my pilot."

That tweet prompted a phone call from Boeing CEO to the president about his remarks. The White House later express caution about the cause of the crash.


SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, this is very early in the process. I think the first place we have to start is by offering our condolences.


ACOSTA: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive was asked whether the company's planes are safe. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: These situations as you well know are very serious, and let's let the FAA and others take command of the situation and trust that part of the process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, do you think the flight should be grounded right now, sir? The airplanes.

SHANAHAN: Thank you very much. OK, good to see you, everybody.



ACOSTA: The White House is also back on its heels in response to the new book "Kushner Inc." which alleges the president wanted Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump out of the White House.

The New York Times, quote, "As the president in the book saying, get rid of my kids. Get them back to New York." Ivanka Trump is quoted as defending her father's response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. Saying, quote, "My dad not a racist, and he didn't mean any of it." The president's handling of Charlottesville is clearly a sore subject at the White House.


ACOSTA: The president --


SANDERS: Sorry, Jim. April, go ahead.

ACOSTA: -- after Charlottesville saying that there are very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville, essentially suggesting that there are very fine people in the Nazis.

SANDERS: That's not all at what the president was saying, not then and not in any point.


ACOSTA: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said about the new book, it's sad but not surprising the media would spend time promoting a book based on shady, anonymous sources and false information. The White House is also doing damage control after former Vice President Dick Cheney blasted President Trump for his past comments criticizing the NATO alliance.

The Washington Post reported it happened over the weekend at a private retreat during a discussion between Cheney and Vice President Pence. Cheney told pence "we're getting into a situation when our friends and allies around the world that we depend upon are going to lack confidence in us." The spokesman for Pence says he defended president saying, quote, "The

vice president reaffirmed the U.S.'s unwavering commitment to the alliance and also offered an apologetic defense for requiring our allies to live up to the commitments they made for our collective security."

[03:20:01] But in a strange twist, the White House is standing by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who reveal she's not in favor of impeaching the president without overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing.


SANDERS: I think Nancy Pelosi is clearly are already starting to lose control of her party. I'm glad that she sees what the rest of us see and that there's no reason or cause for impeachment.


ACOSTA: And there may be other legal trouble brewing for the president as the New York attorney general has issued subpoenas for bank records detailing how Mr. Trump secure large loans in recent years. The subpoenas come after the president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen accused Mr. trump of inflating his assets in order to obtain loans from Deutsch Bank.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And we'll take a short break. Still to come, California's governor makes a bold move and puts the state on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform. The details when we return.

Plus, convicted of sexually abusing two boys, a Vatican official learns his fate, the sentence for Australian Cardinal George Pell next on CNN Newsroom.


CHURCH: California Governor Gavin Newsome is set to sign an executive order halting the state's death penalty. The moratorium will serve as immediate reprieve for the 737 people sentenced to death in California, which has the largest death row population in the United States.

And one of America's biggest criminal justice reform advocate says to lend her support. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian tweeted, "Racial bias an unfairness run deep throughout the justice system, but especially when it comes to the death penalty."

A judge in Melbourne, Australia have sentenced disgrace Cardinal George Pell to six years in prison for child sexual abuse. He could be eligible for parole in less than four years. The 77-year-old former Vatican treasurer was convicted in December of abusing two 13-year-old choir boys back in the late 1990s.

Well, CNN's Anna Coren is following developments for us from Hong Kong. She joins us now live. So, Anna, how did all play out in the court when Pell sentence was read out?

[03:24:56] ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Cardinal George Pell sat there emotionless and expressionless. That was the reporting from our producer there in the courtroom.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd read out the sentence. It took him over an hour to read out his remarks and they were televised live. The whole time Pell just sitting there staring straight ahead, but once he read out that sentence six years non-parole, three years and eight months.

It would seem that the enormity the gravity hit Pell. Apparently, he lowered his head and looked down at his fate.

But this is an incredible fall from grace, Rosemary. George Pell, the boy from Ballarat in country Victoria who made his way out to be number three at the Vatican, a close advisor to the pope now a convicted pedophile.

Now the judge in his remarks described the offense as appalling, as brazen, and sexually graphic. He said that Cardinal Pell acted with impunity and breathtaking arrogance.

Now the sentence of six years the judge said that he factored in his age, and also his deteriorating health. Cardinal Pell has heart conditions, he's also got hypertension. He mentioned that perhaps, you know, in the next three years, eight months, Cardinal Pell could potentially die in prison.

So this is something that is a reality, something that the judge has taken into account in handing down that sentence, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Anna, what has been the overall reaction to Pell's six- year sentence, what's being said about that.

COREN: Yes. Look, it's absolutely being quite mixed. There are people who are celebrating who believe that justice is done, that you know, at least he's doing jail time. Obviously, there are cardinals in the past, bishops in the past, priest in past who got off on suspended sentences, so no jail time whatsoever.

But there is also a feeling that George Pell should have done more time, that the sentence is just far too lenient. The father of the deceased choir boy, there are two choir boys in the attack that took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral back in 1996. One of those choirboys he died in 2014 from a heroin overdose.

And his father was there at court. We can't show his identity for legal reasons. He needs to remain anonymous, but this is what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son is dead. That's a life sentence. He didn't get a life sentence for what he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COREN: The father of that deceased choirboy saying that George Pell should have received up to 20 years. Remembering too, Rosemary, that cardinal was found guilty on all five counts of child sexual abuse. Each of those counts holds a maximum sentence of 10 years.

So, this was certainly the lenient side of sentencing. Now the surviving choirboy his testimony brought down Cardinal Pell. He wasn't in the court. He has asked to remain anonymous. He doesn't want his identity revealed. He's trying to get on with his life and he issued a statement through his lawyer, saying that he was pleased that the court had recognize what had happened to him when he was a child but that the battle still is ahead, because of course, George Pell is appealing the sentence.

He maintains his innocence and has lodged an appeal, that appeal, Rosemary, will be held -- be heard, I should say, on the 5th of June.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Anna Coren bringing us the very latest on that incredible story. I appreciate it.

And of course, be sure to tune in this Saturday for a CNN special report Sins of the Cardinal and his church, 5.30 a.m. in London, 1.30 p.m. in Hong Kong only here on CNN.

And coming up next, a question many travelers wants answered. Is it safe to fly on Boeing 737 MAX 8 after the crash in Ethiopia? We will ask a transportation expert to weigh in on that very question. Back in a moment.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back everyone to CNN Newsroom, I'm Rosemary Church. I want to check the headlines for this hour. It appears the end of maybe closing in on ISIS in Syria after 24 hours of intense shelling, ISIS is on the verge of losing Baghouz, their last town under its control. Three thousand Jihadi fighters have surrendered to U.S. back Syrian Democratic Forces there.

British lawmakers have handed another defeat to Prime Minister Theresa May and the Brexit deal. On Tuesday, they've gone down the latest agreement, 391 to 242. In the coming hours we'll see another vote on whether to pursue a no deal Brexit. The deadline for leaving the E.U. is still March 29th.

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to news of the following plane crash in Ethiopia by tweeting that in his view, airplanes are becoming too complex to fly. Later, sources say the president spoke by phone when Boeing's CEO reiterated that the company's Max aircraft is safe to fly.

Well, in the meantime, countries around the world are grounding the Max 8 plane, despite the assurances from Boeing. So, why is the U.S. still flying them? CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Facing serious safety questions and

brutal political headwinds, the Boeing 737 Max 8 is being grounded around the globe. In the United Kingdom, European Union, much of Asia, Australia and more. In some cases even other variants of the Max line are being part as many airlines say they won't use the plane until they have additional information about the fatal crash in Africa on Sunday and the one last fall in Indonesia.

Grounded almost everywhere except in the United States. Word is still flying tonight, all of which creating enough roar in the U.S. we're growing list of lawmakers is urging caution. If not by federal agencies, then by the airlines.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D), CONNECTICUT: Every one of these planes should be grounded right away. They are accidents waiting to happen. I had to advise my family members to switch airlines.

FOREMAN: Still, the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. airlines that used the Max 8 or standing by it. The Southwest Pilot Association extremely confident in the plane. Despite concerns from other aviation professionals such as the Flight Attendants Unions. A software update is in the works for the aircraft that Boeing says even now we have full confidence in the safety of the Max.

But in Africa, as searchers scour the crash site, Ethiopian Airlines is reporting initial details from the pilot of the doomed plane that seem eerily suggestive of a software problem which some analyst believe can make these planes uncontrollable.

TEWOLDE GEBREMARIAM, ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, CEO: So would handling difficulties with the flight control of the airplane so he asked him to return back to base and clearance was given to him.

FOREMAN: He never made it. And that is clearly on the minds of some U.S. travelers who have found themselves somewhat alone in the world aboard Boeing Max 8 planes.

[03:35:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I carve a little bit more than usual I think, like I (inaudible) my hands, so I had to make it on the plane.

FOREMAN: The odds of you winding up on one of these planes is actually very low. There are only a few dozen of them flying in the United States, compared to 70 80,000 flights a day, something like that. But proponents say that's all the more reason to ground them. That won't really have much impact on airflow, but if you let them keep flying and one of them goes into this midair convulsions were the pilot and the plane are fighting each other, the potential for dire consequences on the air and on the ground really go up. Tome Foreman, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about all this is CNN transportation analyst and a former Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Mary Schiavo. Always great to have you on the show.


CHURCH: Now, of course, the big question we'll want answers is just how safe is the Boeing 737 Max in the wake of these two crashes within five months of each other and now a number of countries across the globe have grounded their fleets in an abundance of caution until they know what happened except the United States and Canada. He has worked to Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal had to say about that.


BLUMENTHAL: Every one of these planes should be grounded right away. They are accidents waiting to happen. I had to advice my family members to switch airlines, because these planes are unsafe at any speed right now.


CHURCH: Is he right? Should they be grounded in the United States until we learn more about why these two planes crash?

SCHIAVO: Yes, absolutely, because this situation is really unprecedented for Boeing and others and the FAA to insist that they are still safe when two have gone down in six months. In the second one, their saying they don't know why. To say a plane as safe after it had two unprecedented crashes of brand new planes. One is still a mystery, is completely ludicrous.

And the reason is, of course, the FAA defers mildly to Boeing, not just in this and all things and certifying planes and repairs in Texas, because Boeing basically outguns the FAA. They have far more expertise in the FAA is has become pretty much a toothless tiger.

CHURCH: Interesting, I do want to read out the statement from the acting FAA administrator, Daniel K. Elwell. He says this, our review shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft in the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified. The FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.

So the FAA says this there's no basis to order the grounding of this aircraft. Does that make sense to you get what we know so far? Does it also much comfort in what a lot of American passengers be going, why is that all this other countries are being so careful and cautious for their passengers, but that's not happening here in the United States?

SCHIAVO: Well, I think the FAA statement was laughable. But, you know, the administrators have to say what, you know, what they think is the thing that their constituents wants to hear and in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration considers its clients or its customers to be the airlines and they had been vehemently opposed to the grounding as has Boeing. But the statement is so ludicrous, because they've already said, they

don't know why the second one went down, and yet they're pronouncing it safe. So, you know, this is simply (inaudible), I mean you can't say, oh this plane went down and killed a lot of people. We don't know why it went down, but fate, because nothing's has been proven yet. It's just completely backwards.

CHURCH: So, let's get back to these two crashes that involve the Boeing 737 Max 8. There were many similarities in those two accidents and some differences, of course. With your extensive aviation knowledge, what do you think went wrong? Now, we were not learning a lot extra, but as you say this is a problem when you're looking at the same -- the same plane being involved in an accident like this.

SCHIAVO: Right. Well, of course the first one is already known. The instruments weren't agreeing in the plane interpreted that as being a situation in which this nose lowering capability should kick in and the pilots haven't seen it before and didn't know how to turn it off. How basically didn't know what was happening.

Well, in the second one, there's conflicting reports about what happened, but we know it's the same space of flight as the Lion Air crash, the Ethiopian crash on take-off.

[03:40:00] Air Traffic Control has reported that they reported flight control problem which right away goes to the instruments in the cockpit and the control, the computer control mechanism. So we know that similarity was going the same speed. It was approximately in the same phase of the flight and like the other one fell from the sky.

There is a difference though, this one seems to have come down in a very precipitous, a very sharp angle, the crater is very dramatic, but contained. So, you know it came down pretty close to vertically. So there's a bit of difference there and also the first plane did a lot of (inaudible) thing. In other words, the nose -- nose up, nose down, nose up, nose down as the pilot spot it, this one had only one nose up, nose down incident.

CHURCH: So how can this be fix? Is it something that needs to be done to the plane, the software, or is this the training of the pilots, or a combination of the two?

SCHIAVO: No, the training of pilots was supposedly all accomplished after Lion Air, so the two days after the second crash and then the FAA issued additional orders to Boeing and said, Boeing you have to make changes to this computer programming, and you have to do it by April. So, already we know the Federal Aviation Administration has said the pilot training fix did not work and it's not acceptable.

But they've also said that the computer changes on this flight computer are going to be to limit this nose down responsive the plane is going to take, it's not going to eliminate it, but it's going to put some stop on it, so the plane can't put its nose down and fly into the ground. That's still not a fix, that's an improvement.

CHURCH: Right. All right Mary Schiavo, very unnerving hopefully this can all be figured out and we'll see what happens in terms of the possible grounding of those planes in the United States and Canada, we'll watch, thank you so much.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, a refugee footballers who fled Bahrain in 2014 has a new home in Australia. Hakeem Arabi (ph) met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Melbourne on Tuesday after he became a citizen.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAM PRIME MINISTER: I have a little badge, I was going to give you (inaudible), but I want to give you mine. Which you can wear very proudly. And you're an Australian. Someone with Australian value have always been deep in his heart.



CHURCH: A very happy man right there. Arabi left his homeland five years ago where he was wanted for alleged crimes committed during the Arab spring uprising. He was going to refugee status in Australia, but was arrested in November when he traveled to Thailand for his honeymoon. Arabi plays for a semiprofessional team in Melbourne that team tweeted out there, congratulations to their new countrymen. Well done, congrats for must too.

Well, dozens are charged in a massive college admission scheme and two actresses are among them. The stunning and illegal steps they were accused of taking to get their kids into top colleges.


CHURCH: Now parents want to give their children the best education available, but U.S. prosecutors say some wealthy parents crossed the line into fraud in a massive college admissions scheme, 50 people, including two actresses, CEO's and college coaches are facing charges. Nick Watt, has the details.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what, one day I won't be able to help you because I won't be here and then maybe you'll understand --

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Felicity Huffman, a desperate housewife and Oscar nominated actress now charged with a felony. Her spouse also appeared in court papers, but never named as William H. Macy. No charges for him, but he was in court in L.A. this afternoon with his wife.

Huffman allegedly paid this man, Andrew William Rick Singer, $15,000 to have someone alter her daughter's SAT test so she could get in to a good college. Her score rose by 400.

ANDREW LELLIG, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR MASSACHUSETTS: Between roughly 2011 and 2018 wealthy parents paid Singer about $25 million. WATT: This afternoon, Larry Loughlin of Full House flew home to L.A.

to turn herself into authorities. Fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli was arrested this morning. Both also now charged with felonies for allegedly paying half 1 million bucks to Singer and an athletic director at USC to get their two girls into the elite school as athletes. (Inaudible) on the crew program though neither had ever been involved in the sport.

Singer pled guilty in federal court this morning to racketeering and other charges. He's cooperating. Apparently, he used his contacts at college sports programs across the country employed a smart guy to take or correct SAT and ACT tests and allegedly also had two exam administrators in his pocket.

LELLIG: Today, we have charged three people who organize these scams to SAT or ACT exam administrators. One exam proctor, one college administrator, nine coaches at elite schools and 33 parents.

WATT: The sailing coach from Yale pled guilty. Today the water polo coach from USC was arrested.

LELLIG: This parents are catalog of wealth and privilege.

WATT: Among them, Martin Fox, president of a private tennis academy, who have heard FBI agents knock on his door early this morning.

JOSEPH BONAVOLONTA, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, BOSTON FIELD OFFICE: Some spend anywhere from 200,000 to $6.5 million for guaranteed admission. Their actions were without a doubt, insidious, selfish and shameful.

WATT: One father reportedly paid $1.2 million to Singer to get a daughter into Yale as a soccer player, they lied that she co-captain the prestigious club team, $400,000 went to the coach. Another mother got her son into USC is a track and field athlete, he wasn't using Photoshop pictures of him pole vaulting, this say authorities is not a victimless crime.

LELLIG: For every student admitted through fraud and honest genuinely talented student was rejected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The over-all today, sort of, you can just graduate from a big school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just disgusted. I'm appalled.

WATT: A mother from Beverly Hills allegedly paid $50,000 for a proxy to take the SAT for her son in a Houston hotel room, scoring an impressive 35 out of 36. Meanwhile, she ask for a dummy test that her son could take at home, so he wouldn't know of the scam. But this is an investigation that began almost by accident.

LELLIG: Our first lead in this case came during interviews with a target of an entirely separate investigation, who gave us a tip that this activity might be going on. [03:50:00] WATT: The IRS got involved, because a lot of this money

was allegedly paid to a charity run by Singer to payments were mass as donations and we they are also a tax write-off. College administration at the schools hit George Stein, Stanford, UCLA, UCSD, USC, the University of Texas, Wake Forest and Yale, allegedly did not know of this scam and they are all now investigated.

WATT: Felicity Huffman is now out on a $250,000 bond. The Oscar- nominee will be back in the Federal Court House at the end of this month. But listen, this could just be the beginning, one line in the court papers, really caught my eye was the alleged transcript of a phone conversation between Singer, the alleged mastermind and a prospective client in which Singer boast that he has orchestrated this side door entries as he calls them 761 times. So, there could be more people to be charged. Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHURCH: And in complete contrast to that story, CNN is partnering with young people worldwide for student led (inaudible) action against modern-day slavery on March 14, in advance of My Freedom Day, we are asking people around the globe. What makes you feel free? Here's what Nigerian actress, writer and talk radio host Alex Okoroji had to say.


ALEX OKOROJI, NIGERIAN ACTRESS, WRITER, TALK RADIO HOST: What makes me feel free is knowing that I have the privilege and the right to think what I think, to feel how I feel, to speak and say what's in my heart, it is knowing that I am allowed to be who I really am without any fear or prejudice or judgement. It is also knowing that I have the power to show up at the highest expression of my truth, my talent and my personal greatness.

Now that is exactly what makes me feel free. But I also understand that a lot of people are as privileged as I am to be able to live in that freedom to experience what real freedom feels like, living boundaries and barriers and (inaudible). And that's why I'm so excited to be part of this, right. So, will you join us for my freedom day or let us know exactly what makes you feel free?


CHURCH: We'll see it, and tell the world what makes you feel free, share your story using the #myfreedomday. Well, time for a short break, when we comeback U.S. Senator Mitt Romney celebrate his birthday with a unique technique for blowing out his candles. Up in a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, there is a new viral internet trend making the rounds, but unlike silly or dangerous, a viral challenges of the past. This trend is having a positive effect on the environment and it's called the trash, tag, challenge. The goal to clean up the environment. How does it work? Well, first you take a full picture of an area with lots of trash like a beach or park, or perhaps a highway, and then you take another photo after you've cleaned up the area. It's a feel-good trend and of lessening the impact that waste has on the environment. And it seems to be catching on worldwide. I like the sound of that, let's hope it does.

Well, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney lit up the internet with his unique birthday celebration. He turned 72 on Tuesday and it's a good thing his cake did not have a candle for every year. Jeanne Moos has our report.


[03:55:10] JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Mitt Romney tweeted out a video of his staff presenting him on his 72nd birthday with a cake made out of his favorites snack, Twinkies. You think that Twinkies would be the story.


MOOS: But nope, what everyone else was saying holy cow about was this.


MOOS: He picked up each individual candle and blew it out. The daily show called him an incredibly life like Mitt bot.


MOOS: Someone tweeted, you don't get a wish for each one, buddy. Oh? Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't burn yourself.

ROMNEY: These are all wishes I'm getting.

MOOS: True, most big time politicians try to blow out their candles all at once. Till the Queen of Denmark, foil George W. Bush with too many candles. And Hillary Clinton needed help from Bill, the icing on the cake was the head caress? But Mitt does things differently. After all, this is a guy who tried to iron old steam his shirt while wearing it.


MOOS: Life isn't fair, it's your birthday. You post a nice little video moment to your social media. And you get burned by your own candles. But Senator Romney takes the cake for consideration, he told TMZ, I have a bit of a cold, and I didn't want to spray my germs all over the Twinkies for everybody else to eat. At least one study had shown, blowing out candles can increase cake bacteria by 1400 percent.

So to the charge, that Mitt Romney blows out birthday candles like a serial killer. We say, Mitt didn't blow it, its flu season and blowing out candles is basically sneezing on a cake. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy cow

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --


MOOS: -- New York.


CHURCH: He's just being thoughtful, thanks for your company this hour, I'm Rosemary Church, remember to connect with me any time on Twitter, @rosemaryCNN, We've love to hear from you and more news next with Isa Soares in London, right outside parliament as we continue our special Brexit coverage. You're watching CNN, have a great day.