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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Officials Conflict Over AirAsia Crash Evidence; At Least 35 Killed in New Year's Eve Stampede; Law Enforcement on High Alert in Times Square

Aired December 31, 2014 - 19:00   ET

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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight:

More heartbreak for families. After being told the plane had been found, AirAsia CEO says no, no sonar, nothing. My guest tonight, Captain Sully Sullenberger.

Plus, breaking news, a massive stampede during a New Year celebration in China. Dozens killed. We'll have the latest live from Shanghai.

And New York police here on high alert, as more than a million people crowd into the Times Square, a security nightmare to ring in the New Year.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

(MUSIC)

SCIUTTO: And good evening. Happy New Year. I'm Jim Sciutto, in again tonight for Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight: conflicting signals after one Indonesian government official reported that the main fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 had been located, not only located but it was lying upside down on the Java Sea floor and that official has since dialed back his assessment.

And then today, the airline CEO emphatically declared it is still missing. Search teams have not found it on sonar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY FERNANDES, AIRASIA CEO: They are narrowing the search and they are feeling comfortable -- more comfortable that they are beginning to know where it is, but there is no confirmation of them, no sonar, nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Devastated family members face emotional whiplash, informed first the plane had been located, providing some small measure of relief and then told the opposite. The plane still missing and the relief quickly fading. And so, as day breaks that hour, the search resumes once again, but search teams facing big waves, high winds and heavy rains, grounding all aerial operations.

Searchers have recovered so far just seven bodies. An earlier intriguing report that one body was found wearing a life vest turned out to be fault.

Gary Tuchman is OUTFRONT tonight in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Gary, overnight, the chief of local Indonesia search and rescue raising hopes with word the main part of the wreckage might have been found on the ocean floor using sonar, and then you have the AirAsia CEO dialing that all back. How are the families responding to what must be very difficult and emotional conflicting reports?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, first of all, to put this respectfully, there are a lot of chefs in the kitchen. There is the government, military, police and the airline. They are saying different things.

But perhaps the most important thing I can tell you is that family members who gathered at this crisis center here at the police department in Surabaya are telling us that during one of their information sessions yesterday, they were indeed informed that sonar found what is believe to be the plane, and that is what these family members because that's what they say they were told.

They were not told it was upside down. They were not told if it was whole or in parts, but they were told that it was found. So, do we know it was found for sure? We don't. We are presenting you the information and we're telling you, that's what the families have heard.

But we should tell you, Jim, the families have been moved to this new crisis center, the police station, because this police station next to the hospital where the bodies are being brought. And that is the most important goal for these family members now. Most of them accepting the fact that their loved ones are no longer with us and their bodies are found and they brought to the hospital and they can leave this crisis center where they can be given counsel and food and religious help, and they can go next door and identify the bodies of their loved ones.

SCIUTTO: And at some point, they hope have a chance to bury the bodies.

I wonder today what are the latest on the search efforts? We hear of the bad weather again at the search flights. No planes flying but they do still have ships out there searching? Is that right?

TUCHMAN: Right. The sun came up here on New Year's Day in Indonesia an hour ago, the ships resumed. The ships are out there.

This is the first time we've seen blue sky since we've been here but the search site is 200 miles north of us and the Java Sea conditions are not good. You know, ships and planes are wonderful to have out there, but

perhaps the most important thing during the search effort would be divers because the bottom of the Java Sea where it is believed the plane is only about 100 to 150 feet deep. You can actually scuba down there.

And it is believed by people here in charge of the search that it's very likely that most of these passengers may still be strapped to their seats in the bottom of the sea. You will need divers to go down there and look. The conditions are not good be enough for the drivers to do that.

SCIUTTO: Well, Gary Tuchman, thank you for following the latest for us live in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Well, the U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Sampson, is now deployed in the Java Sea, is part of that search and recovery operations, searching for Flight 8501. On the phone now, we have Lieutenant Lauren Cole. She's public affairs officer with the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

Lauren, thank you for joining us.

If I can ask you on this operation, the U.S. Navy part of a very large international effort led by the Indonesian government. We have the USS Sampson participating and spotting some wreckage we understand from an update yesterday. Were you caught off guard by the announcement last night from Indonesia search and rescue that the plane or majority of the wreckage had been found?

LT. LAUREN COLE, U.S. 7TH FLEET (via telephone): No, the Sampson is out on station and they very much on a supporting role to provide whatever capabilities and tasking the Indonesian government request. So they are continuing to conduct their services for the Indonesian government and we're there to provide support we can.

SCIUTTO: We also understand that you have the USS Fort Worth. This is a literal combat ship based in Singapore. It has specific capabilities that could be employed in the search, a dive team, side scan sonar, essential to the wreckage on the ocean floor.

It's prepared to deploy. Do we have any sense when it might deploy?

COLE: So, we have a variety of capabilities available in Seventh Fleet, and they range from ships and aircraft to specialized navy divers to advanced sonars that can help paint a picture of the ocean floor and we are working at the request of the Indonesian government for all of this to make sure that those capabilities are available and ready to go whenever the Indonesian government requests.

So, those deployments will depend on what the Indonesian government requests and we are there to support them.

SCIUTTO: You are definitely there to support. Is there any frustration at all from the U.S. Navy side? You know, like a coiled spring ready to go but haven't been called to go yet?

COLE: Sampson is performing admirably and obviously, all of our units out here at Seventh Fleet are ready to go whenever they are requested. But right now, Sampson is doing a truly tremendous job out there and they are holding very, very well and their sailors are working around the clock.

SCIUTTO: Severe weather in the area, how is that affecting the search and USS Sampson's participation of the search?

COLE: The weather the Sampson has been experienced is 2-4 foot waves, about 15 to 20 knots of wind and scattered thunderstorms. It has not prevented the helicopters from going up and conducting searches and it has not prevented the sailors from conducting around the clock, 24-hour searches on board the ship.

SCIUTTO: Lieutenant Lauren Cole, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

COLE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who safely and famously landed an Airbus A320, the same aircraft as flight 8501, on New York's Hudson River in 2009.

Captain Sullenberger, great to have you here on this holiday.

CAPT. CHESLEY "SULLY" SULLENBERGER, FORMER U.S. AIRWAYS CAPTAIN: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I want to start by asking, and it is clearly far too early in the investigation, but we do have indicators about what happened to this flight. We know there was bad weather. We know the pilot made a request to climb to a higher altitude and, of course, we know, sadly, the plane ended up in the water. As you look at this as a pilot, particularly a pilot who has flown this particular type of plane what, piece of information has stood out to you most revealing about what could have brought this plane down?

SULLENBERGER: You know, here we have another apparently qualified crew that was unable to resolve whatever challenges they've faced. We've seen with Air France 447 and other recent incidents with Asiana, being the ability to have a safe path all the way to the completion of the flight.

So, that is a growing concern globally I think in terms of pilot experience and training. Are we providing for them a robust enough safety system in which they can operate or there is a culture of excellence and best standards being applied on every flight? And we absolutely have global aviation industry now. So, we need to look at this problem systemically.

SCIUTTO: Some other former pilots have made the point to me that while both Boeings and Airbuses today are fly-by-wire, as you say, did the Airbus cockpit takes a few more things out of pilot's hands? Did they were even describing to me how the throttle doesn't have many speeds. It's sort of just stop and go, and I know that is oversimplifying there. But do you find that there is anything in the Airbus, particularly in A320, that takes away some of the pilot's possibility to respond to crises from the cockpit?

SULLENBERGER: One of the things that pilots, when they first begin to fly, they learn to do is they make good use of all of the peripheral cues that we can see, hear and feel when we fly an airplane. We can hear the slight change in the airspeed noise or if speed increases or decreases. We can feel the pressure on a stick when we are speeding up or slowing down.

And the Airbus -- when you have side stick controller that is not mechanically connected to the controls, and it only moves when you make an input to change the flight path, you don't get some of the that feedback, the tactile feedback, another feedback that you would normally have. The sticks are not mechanically interconnected. So, if one pilot makes an input the other pilot's stick doesn't move. You have to instead look at the instrumentation to see what changes were made.

SCIUTTO: And that seems to speak to an issue that I know you've been very outspoken on, and that is the disconnect -- the increasing disconnect between pilots and actually flying the planes, and the technology has gotten so good, perhaps too good, that pilots become too dependent on them?

SULLENBERGER: You know, we must always fly an airplane. At its heart, an airplane is still an airplane and it must be flown and flown well. What you have to decide is, how many levels of technology do you want to place between your brain and the flight control services. And the answer should be, you should use the most appropriate level of automation.

And automation can sometimes increase workload when workload is already high, and it can sometimes decrease workload when workload is low, for example, during a long range cruise portion of a flight. So, it's important that we really work hard to mentally fly the airplane, even more using the technology to help maneuver it.

Having said that, I think it is important that we design our cockpit in such a way that we use the human part of the system to its advantage. And one of the things that humans are inherently not good at is monitoring other systems, doing things over many long hours, days, weeks and months. We are much better doers and not monitors. Theoretically, it would be better have us fly the airplanes and have the computers monitor us. But that's not how it's worked out.

SCIUTTO: I'm just thinking going back to MH-370 there was a lot of talk about streaming constant information from the plane on location, even the battery life of a pinger, from the black box, from 30 days and 90 days. Are international agencies, safety agencies communicating and requiring those changes quickly enough when airlines confront a safety problem?

SULLENBERGER: There are two problems. First of all, the international agencies can't mandate these things. They can make recommendations. They can have international standards.

But it is up to each individual state, each individual country to choose to mandate that their countries airlines and that airlines fly within their airspace follow these new increased safety standards. And it also takes a long time to get over 100 countries in the world to agree what the standards should be. So, for both these reasons, it takes years and sometimes decades for these improved safety standards to be implemented and it's something that takes too long, quite frankly.

SCIUTTO: Yes. So, certainly not fast enough. And I fly a lot as well.

Captain Sullenberger, I wish you were my pilot, well, I'm up in the air. It's great to have you on.

SULLENBERGER: Good to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And OUTFRONT next, is the high tech that's found in an Air France flight two years after it went missing. Ahead, will side scan sonar find Flight 8501?

And, we're following breaking news. People celebrating the New Year's crushed in the stampede in the city of Shanghai, in China. At least 35 people killed there.

Plus, New York police here ramping up security as more than a million people descend on Times Square. We're there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

At this hour, we're still piecing together what happened to AirAsia Flight 8501. Many details remaining illusive with Indonesian and search officials providing conflicting information about whether any parts of the plane have been identified. One official reported sonar may have detected significant pieces of wreckage on the ocean floor, but the airline CEO today said sonar imaging has yet to detect anything. Despite challenging monsoon weather conditions, teams of investigators are hoping that sonar equipment will direct them to the plane's wreckage at the bottom of the Java Sea.

Correspondent Rosa Flores is OUTFRONT tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This probe is the latest technology that could be used to find AirAsia Flight 8501. It is equipped with side scan sonar which can be used to find things that don't belong.

(on camera): What is side scan sonar?

(on camera): What is side scan sonar? BOB ANDERSON, PRESIDENT, OCEANSERVER: Well, side scan sonar is

an acoustic technology. It's based on reflections of sound rather than reflections of light.

FLORES (voice over): The autonomous underwater vehicle, an AUV, is gathering information to create a map of the sea floor. This is the bottom of a Massachusetts reservoir. Out on the Java Sea, boats are using side scan sonar to search for debris for the AirAsia flight.

ANDERSON: The side scan consists of an electronics package, which is inside the vehicle. It's basically a computer that processes the data to make the pulse and to bring back the pulse and configure it into an image.

FLORES: It moves back and forth along the surface, but has the ability to dive deep into the ocean. Side scan sonar helped find Air France Flight 447 in 201, nearly two years after it went missing, locating debris at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Here in Massachusetts, sonar helps identify and find debris like this submerged car.

JEFF DEARRUDA, OCEANSERVER: Once we identify the target, we did this cross pattern, and we zoom in here, so we pulled in that sonar file, went to that location and then got a better high def image of that -- the car.

FLORES: To get a real time close-up image, this remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, uses the map to visit the location.

Once it's there, it uses a camera and claws to pick up debris. Bringing critical evidence and hopefully answers to the surface.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Fall River, Massachusetts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Joining me now, CNN aviation Les Abend, who is also a contributing editor to "Flying" magazine, a pilot himself, and CNN safety analyst David Soucie, he's a former FAA safety inspector and has written a new book about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared, of course, more than nine months ago.

David, I wonder if I could begin with you. We had this very conflicting evening last night where the Indonesian officials seemed to say sonar had detected significant piece of wreckage and now, you have them backing off.

I mean, it sounds to me like they jumped the gun based on the information they have.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, there are echoes of MH370 here. You know, we had talked a few days ago about how well they had researched their information and that they were doing a good job of this and then six miles to 100 miles, that is a little bit wrong. And then to say that you've found the aircraft in the next day and then say sonar didn't show us anything.

SCIUTTO: Right. And one of the issues, Les, is that there is a lot of stuff on the ocean floor, containers, you know, certainly rock formations and a lot of garbage sadly, and you could see on sonar images I would imagine a lot of things that would look like the size of a plane but you need a lot more information than that?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. I mean, there is a lot of -- my understanding is there is old airplanes down there too from days gone by. It is a little disappointing. I think they were probably attempting to give hope to the families, you know?

SCIUTTO: I wonder if our expectations are unrealistically high. When we look at this technology, there is a lot of whiz bang technology. You look at what side scan sonar can do, et cetera. But -- I mean, when you look at Air France Flight 447, it took 18 missions with side scan sonar and they knew the general area there. So, really, it's detective work, right, because you are gathering clues and you kind of compare those. It's not like you are suddenly -- until you have video and the divers down in the water, you're not going to suddenly have a eureka moment very quickly, or at least that's unlikely.

SOUCIE: Right. And I think the CEO has done a good job of saying, hold off. We don't need to rush the information out. Let's wait until we see it, touch it and feel it.

And I think that's wise. I think that is what he's doing, saying let's not rely on the technology. Technology is tools to help us find what is going on. But once it is there, don't say yes, we have it until you have it.

SCIUTTO: Let's if we can, Les, and, I ask you both to jump in on this, based on the few clues we have, others have made the point, for instance, you've only found seven bodies, which might be an indicator but it could also be just that they drifted far away from the main crash site, but it might be an indicator that the plane is in one piece and a lot of the bodies are still confined in the fuselage. Is that right? Is that a reasonable reading of it?

ABEND: Yes. I mean, anything is game at this point in the investigation. But what concerns me more than anything else is the fact there was one last transmission and then all of a sudden, there was nothing. So if they, indeed, that they were under a situation where a 20,000-hour captain with a lot of experience is trying to control the airplane, maybe in severe turbulence, that at some point on the way down, let's say the engine was flamed out -- that's a possibility, of course -- both of them flamed out, the airplane has the capability of flying without engines, OK, and it can still transmit a communication to air traffic control and say, hey, I'm in trouble it.

It doesn't mean he wasn't focused on his job at hand, but what it says to me is that something tumultuous may have been occurring, it could have been mechanical issue related to 447 -- analogous to 447, but something might have been happening that occupied their time that they weren't able to do what they were doing.

SCIUTTO: To communicate.

ABEND: To communicate, yes.

SCIUTTO: If we could go back for a moment, because this is something that came up in my conversation with Captain Sullenberger. He made the point that the international airline industry and regulators are too slow to require and implement safety changes after you have a safety crisis. He gave an example which I thought was fantastic and I didn't know this, that the pilots, for instance, they get weather information before they start the flight.

But they haven't -- for instance, there are better methods where they could have an iPad in there and get constant or up to the minute as opposed to something that was relevant 30 minutes ago or two hours ago.

SOUCIE: And filtered through someone else.

SCIUTTO: Exactly, exactly, why is that? Why is that? You would think today, my gosh, I can lift up my phone, I get current data for anywhere in the world today?

SOUCIE: The International Civil Aviation Organization, which is the body that does that, and IATA, the other organization that working hand in hand, they set standard and practices. Now to be part of that club, you are saying I'm going to adhere to these standards and practices, but it doesn't say I'm going to adhere to all of them.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SOUCIE: It says, I'm going to adhere to the ones I choose to. The good example is the fact that MH-370 is still, according to most states, not an accident. It's just not. According to ICAO, it is, because ICAO says that a missing aircraft that may not be recovered isn't considered an accident.

Everybody else says no. We don't like that. We want to do it a different way.

ABEND: Here is an interesting concept at a seminar that I attended with one of the weather services that my airline uses. It's bandwidth issue, because they want their customers, their premium customers, to be able to use the Internet and that's how we would obtain the real-time weather other than, of course, airborne radar. And they say, if we take up that bandwidth, it's going to take it away from --

SOUCIE: I would happily give you that bandwidth. I'll pay the $5 for your --

ABEND: That is one of the considerations. And quite honestly, the weather radar is a more updated, if you are dealing with convective weather, because once we see what -- you know, where the highs and the lows and the cold fronts and the warm fronts are, it won't move a tremendous amount, especially in this particular situation, a two-hour flight.

SCIUTTO: It's priorities, right? I mean, you would think safety would be the ultimate priority.

ABEND: Of course.

SCIUTTO: Les Abend and David Soucie, always great to have you on. We appreciate it.

OUTFRONT next, breaking news out of Shanghai, China, where state media is reporting that 35 people have been killed, dozens more injured in a massive stampede during a New Year's celebration. We're going to have the latest.

And you are looking at live pictures now of Times Square here in New York. Police on alert as more than a million people get together for that midnight countdown. We're going to take you there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

And breaking news tonight: at least 35 people have been killed in a stampede at a New Year's Eve celebration in Shanghai, China, according to state media there. The chaos unfolded after massive crowds packed into the city's river front area to ring in the New Year.

Steven Jiang, CNN producer, joining me now.

Steven, do we know what caused the stampede? And looking at the pictures there, I mean, just the density of the crowds was really incredible?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): That's right, Jim. We still don't know what caused the fatal accident. Officials say they are investigating and promise a very prompt and thorough investigation. As the city's top leaders visited various local hospitals where the injured have been taken to.

In addition to the 35 killed in this stampede, 43 others have been injured. And most of them are suffering fractures and contusions and many of them, as you can imagine, are also very much traumatized. We have seen pictures on social media of family members both angry and frustrated, waiting outside of the emergency rooms and sometimes having scuffles and clashing with police officers for patients in those hospitals.

But earlier, we have seen reports as well as images on social media of what happened before and after this incident. Before, you can see really huge swarms of crowds lining on the streets, filling in the seven-lane street for literally miles, and afterwards a scene of total chaos. You have shoes and other personal belongings littered on the ground, people -- those injured people lying on the ground, appearing lifeless, being treated by emergency medical workers or carried into ambulances. So, really, a very unexpected turn of events in China's largest

city on New Year's Eve -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Just so our viewers know, this is in Shanghai. It's at the water front there, the most popular place to go certainly in that city arguably in China as a whole, sort of kind of like a Time Square. And really a sad event there tonight on New Year's Eve.

Very good to have you on. Our Steven Jiang, joining us from Beijing.

Well, here in the United States, law enforcement is on high alert in New York City's Times Square. The New York City Police Department said they have received increase threats against police officers on social media. Counterterrorism teams, bomb-sniffing dogs, as well as hundreds of cameras are monitoring the area where some one million people are expected to ring in the New Year, tonight, just a few hours.

And our Michaela Pereira is OUTFRONT" live from Times Square.

Michaela, great to have you on tonight. How is law enforcement stepping up security on what is really one of the toughest nights for them of the year?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is one of the toughest nights of the year for them. But as you know, the focus of Times Square is security and safety. It's one of those events that families come down, young people come, people from all over the world come. So, the presence of police here is intense.

We knew there would be 3,500 police officers here normally but we've been told that they bolstered that force by about 200. We also know they have hardened the perimeter here and widened it, where you would normally have a certain block blocked off in the past years, you're going to see that spread out a little bit more.

As you mentioned, bomb-sniffing dogs. There are resources in the air. We know there are plain-clothed police officers among the crowds monitoring to watch for trouble.

Arguably, people are saying it is probably one of the safest places to be because of all of the extra measures.

SCIUTTO: It occurs to me, Michaela, that they have two threats tonight, the terrorist threat that is always there sadly, but also, you have this increased tension with police in light of racial tension and so on.

Does that make it particularly tough for them tonight?

PEREIRA: Well, I imagine it is. You know, it's interesting because I think when it come to it, our men and women in blue, they put on their uniforms and they do their job they are assigned to do. We know they are here and in force. We came through coming north down Broadway, a street that many people from around the country know, Broadway shut down to traffic -- and there were several layers of police officers. Their presence is known here.

I haven't gotten a sense of any sort of hard feelings, any grumblings of any sort. People are here to do what they came to do in Times Square. Ring in the New Year. The police and security that are here are here to do the job to keep everyone safe.

SCIUTTO: And they have measures developed over more than a decade. They know how to do it well.

Michaela Pereira, great to have you there. I'm a little envious, in fact. But enjoy tonight. Happy New Year.

PEREIRA: You can come and join me. Come on down.

SCIUTTO: I might be. Give me like 27 minutes. Have a good night.

PEREIRA: Happy New Year, Jim. You, too.

SCIUTTO: Well, quitting smoking is, of course, one of the most popular New Year's resolution, but it's also one of the most easily broken as well. The American Lung Association said six out of ten smokers need multiple tries to kick the habit. Some are turning to battery powered cigarettes or e-cigarettes as they're known to quit.

But here's an alarming trend. While teen cigarette smoking is down, teen e-cigarette use is on the rise. The battery powered cigarettes come in a variety of flavors like cherry crush and vanilla, and with e-cigs, users inhale nicotine directly, in vapor form instead of smoke.

Poppy Harlow is OUTFRONT tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are marketed with flashy ads across television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The flavor is good.

HARLOW (on camera): What kind do you smoke?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strawberry or mango usually.

HARLOW: You like the nicotine?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do.

HARLOW: You like the way it makes you feel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

HARLOW: At 15 years old, Bea Fuggi is one of at least 2 million teens who tried or are using e-cigarettes. According to a recent study, e-cigarettes have surpassed traditional cigarette use among teens.

(on camera): Is this really the Wild West?

MICHAEL ZELLER, DIRECTOR, FDA CENTER FOR TOBACCO PRODUCTS: Absolutely. They are currently unregulated. Companies are free to put any product on the market.

HARLOW (voice-over): The 2 1/2 billion dollar industry has been lauded by some as a cure for smoking, but inside the battery-powered plastic device is liquid containing nicotine masked by a rainbow of flavors attractive to younger customers.

ZELLER: Nicotine is not a benign compound. Nicotine can be harmful to the still developing brain of the adolescent and nicotine is addictive.

HARLOW: It's been a free for all.

ZELLER: It took us way too long to get the proposed rule out.

HARLOW: The proposed FDA rules would ban sales to minors, mandate warning labels and require ingredient lists but they don't address flavors or marketing tactics.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: You sell your products in cherry crush and vanilla flavors. Cherry crush, how can you sit here and say you're not marketing to children?

JASON HEALY, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, BLU ECIGS: Senator, it's a good question. And flavors I --

BOXER: What's the answer?

HEALY: The answer is the average age of a cherry smokers in the high 40s.

HARLOW: That's the head of Blu eCigarettes.

BOXER: Are you marketing to children?

HEALY: No, I am not.

HARLOW: But the parent company of Blu, Lorillard, has a Web site saying kids may be vulnerable to trying flavors like cherry, vanilla and pina colado.

(on camera): Increasingly, big tobacco is manufacturing these e- cigarettes, tapping into the booming market. According to watchdog site Open Secrets, among the biggest players, Lorillard, Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, and Reynolds American, together, have spent nearly $22 million in the last year and a half lobbying Congress.

(voice-over): The flavors and ads like this -- have critics calling foul, saying the industry that fooled Americans once about the effects of smoking is trying to hook kids on nicotine again. (on camera): Can you defend as a lobbyist for the industry,

cotton candy, gummy bear flavors?

JOHN SCOFIELD, TOBACCO INDUSTRY LOBBYIST: I wouldn't go into a member of Congress office and say you need to protect candy-like flavors.

HARLOW: Should those be pulled?

SCOFIELD: That's something the FDA is going to have to decide.

HARLOW: Does this risk creating a new generation of nicotine addicts?

ZELLER: It does if e-cigarettes are going to be use by those who otherwise would never have started to use any nicotine containing product and then turn to cigarettes.

HARLOW (voice-over): The FDA is walking a fine line between safety and stifling technology that could save lives.

(on camera): The big question now is how restrictive will the FDA regulation be. They have to walk a fine line because if they do anything that the industry deems as over-reaching, they risk being sued and having the regulations fully overturned by a court and that has happened in the past.

So, they have to weigh all of that as they write the rules for e- cigarettes -- Jim.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Poppy Harlow, thanks very much.

OUTFRONT next, when Sony was hacked during Thanksgiving week, everything was compromised except for the dusty old BlackBerry. How did they save the day?

Plus, how do you decide the biggest story of the year? If you are Google, by the number of searches, of course. Ahead, the surprising results.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back and happy New Year. I'm Jim Sciutto, in New York.

Sony announced its controversial movie the interview is available starting today in more than 55 million homes for rent. We're also learning more about how Sony responded to the hack that derailed the release of "The Interview".

According to "The New York Times", some Sony Pictures employees turned on computers to find images of CEO Michael Lynton's severed head on their computer screens. Shortly after, Sony shut down their computer systems, forcing the company to go old school. Executives set up a phone tree to communicate with each other, employees used personal cell phones and paychecks were cut manually, and BlackBerrys were dug out of storage.

Joining me now is Mark Rasch. He's a computer forensic analyst. He's also former Justice Department prosecutor for cyber crimes.

Mark, thanks for joining us.

Why BlackBerrys? I know that the president famously uses one. What makes them more secure?

MARK RASCH, FORMER DOJ PROSEUCTOR FOR CYBER CRIMES: Well, BlackBerry are more secure because of the way they communicate with each other. So, if you are sending a message to a BlackBerry, at least half of that communication will be more secure. But the other thing was, quite frankly, they shut down their phone network, they shut down their email services. So, they were only able to communicate through BlackBerrys because they were using a different communication channel.

SCIUTTO: So, today, a lot of people have their personal work sent to their personal devices, myself included, often iPhones, android devices, et cetera, just in a world where we are being told to expect hacks, frankly, is that safe practice?

RASCH: Well, a good practice, irrespective of whether it is a BlackBerry or not, your phones have vulnerabilities. There are lots of hackers who attacked mobile devices, whether it's BlackBerry, Android or iPhone or Windows' based machine. The good plan is to have a back-up plan if something happens. And Sony had sort of an ad hoc, make it up as you go along back-up plan.

You really want to have a back-up plan that includes alternate mobile communications, alternate ways to reach people, even just old- fashioned telephones, land lines.

SCIUTTO: Yes, imagine that, old-fashioned telephones.

Let me ask you about bigger picture here, because as you are aware, there is another cyber security company, private firm which says it wasn't North Korea behind this attack. It was insiders, inside of the Sony Company, disgruntled employees who did it. But the FBI and the White House still standing by at assessment it was North Korea.

Based on your expertise and what you have been ale to watch here, do you believe it's North Korea that was behind this? Do you have any doubt that it was North Korea?

RASCH: I definitely have doubt. And by then, I'm not saying that it could not have been North Korea. And, you know, the FBI said we have secret information, some secret intelligence that nobody else has that leads us to conclude that it is North Korea.

But there are so many things about this attack that don't make sense if it was North Korea. If North Korea really wanted to go to Sony and say, if you release this movie, we'll destroy you, then the North Korean government would have done exactly that. There is no reason to come in as the Guardians of Peace or the GOP and conceal your motive, say what you're going to do. So, a lot of it doesn't make sense if it was North Korea.

SCIUTTO: But to be fair, the U.S. government and U.S. intelligence community, we're talking about the NSA here, et cetera, who are directly involved in this investigation, they've got pretty impressive assets at hand?

RASCH: Well, the problem isn't the forensics and it isn't the credentials. The problem is how you interpret the data, and what you do is come in with a certain bias. So, if you are looking to prove that it was North Korea, you can look at evidence and say, ah, that proves its North Korea. If you are looking to disprove it, you look at the same evident and come to the opposite conclusion.

SCIUTTO: Still very tough questions. Mark Rasch, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

RASCH: Thank you. And happy New Year.

SCIUTTO: And happy New Year, too, as well.

OUTFRONT next, Google's look back at 2014 through the lens of trillions of online searches.

And a chilly Times Square is heating up for tonight's big party, a place that Anderson Cooper says is scarier than a war zone. At least when he shares it with Kathy Griffin. We'll show you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: We are just hours away from ringing in the New Year here on the East Coast. As we look ahead to 2015, we thought we take a moment to reflect on 2014 in most 21st century way -- by what you search for on Google through the year.

Tom Foreman has been looking into it.

So, Tom, what were you Googling in 2014?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim. You could call this the geography of Google, because they're looking at searches all over the world. Of course, big news was way up on the list. People want to know all about Ebola and Crimea and the latest clash in Gaza.

But the details were sometimes the most interesting. When people look at information, for example, about the missing Malaysia jet, they more often use the word "found" than the word lost.

People were fascinated by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, when unarmed teenager was shot by a police officer. But here's the interesting twist, the searches jumped 700 times when rioting broke out there. The world of sports had a lot of big news happening, the world

cup and the Sochi Olympics heavily searched. Here's the cork there, the most searched athlete at the Olympics was Shaun White, the U.S. snowboarder who did not win a single medal.

In the world of celebrities, the name that had the greatest increase in the number of searches related to it was Robin Williams after he committed suicide. At the same time, there was a spike in searches about mental illness and depression.

The most searched television character out there was Dr. Sheldon Cooper, the best scientist and the worst roommate from "The Big Bang Theory."

The most searched celebrity wedding was Kim-ye and the most searched celebrity animal was Grumpy Cat, which is strange because he clearly did what a lot of other people did. He searched where to get a hat like the singer Pharrell Williams wears.

The world of science had a lot of big news coming out of it. People were fascinated by the Rosetta spacecraft, which traveled 300 million miles to intersect with a comet.

At the same time, by the way, we had the biggest spike ever in people asking, how do you become an astronaut?

People searched up information about new phones and drones and wearable computers, but they simultaneously also searched up information about time machines and flying cars and teleporters.

The single biggest question asked all yearlong was, what is love all about? And people also wanted to know, how do you kiss? Whether it's related or not, we can't say, but I can also tell you this -- a lot of guys, not a lot of girls, but a lot of guys searched how do you take a better selfie? Is that related to all the romance? Who knows or maybe as you can see, Jim, some of us could use the help.

SCIUTTO: I could use the help as well.

So, we were curious what the number one search is on New Year's Day. Thanks to "The Washington Post" tweet, we got the answer. Surprise, surprise, number one tweet, on New Year's Day is for -- hangover cure. Surprise, surprise. Necessary information.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Tom Foreman will look back at 2014, all the thrills and spills. Don't miss "All the Best and All the Worst".

Also on CNN tonight, New Year's Eve's odd couple Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper reunite, ringing in their eighth New Year in a row from Times Square. Anderson says he's given up on asking Kathy to watch what happens on the air. Tonight, he's just hoping for the best.

Despite being CNN's odd couple, the two have managed to make fireworks for the last several years. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I am here with, of course, Kathy Griffin.

KATHY GRIFFIN: I'm here with not Ryan Seacrest.

Let's throw down at the Jonas brothers. You're frauds.

COOPER: You can't do that. You just threw something --

GRIFFIN: Yes, I did.

COOPER: Well, I almost worse this -- I was this close to wearing this.

GRIFFIN: Not awkward at all.

Sorry. Hi, everybody. Take your hands off me. Honestly.

COOPER: Kathy was saying it was like the prom she never had.

GRIFFIN: That's true.

COOPER: Someone on Twitter, there will be a drink every time I giggle nervously.

GRIFFIN: That is going to be so out of that one and just did.

People actually asked if I was going to lick you tonight. Miley Cyrus, that was like a genuine question. I know the hurt little boy who lives inside the model body and let me tell you, he's 5 years old, mommy's missing. She's at Studio 54. His soup is cold. And all he wants is love.

COOPER: Hey, hello.

GRIFFIN: Hi.

COOPER: How's it going?

GRIFFIN: Turn around. Say hi to the camera. .

COOPER: Who was that?

GRIFFIN: That was MC Hammer.

COOPER: No.

Really?

GRIFFIN: Yes.

He's just a model. He's an underwear model that became a news man by mistake.

COOPER: No swearing, no stripping and most important to me, no touching, and no simulations, if you know what I mean. Simulations.

GRIFFIN: I'm not going to simulate. I'm going to do it.

COOPER: Are you kidding to me?

I'm literally talking to you guys and I turn around.

GRIFFIN: Why can't we do a block me in my underwear?

COOPER: Where's the sign? Look at the sign. Jesus.

GRIFFIN: You know what, buddy? You suck too. I love the New York band.

Shut up! You know what? Screw you. I'm working.

I handcuff myself to Anderson Cooper. You guys, I did it. I don't have the key at all.

COOPER: This is truly my worst nightmare.

GRIFFIN: We're together forever. If I can't have you, no one can.

COOPER: I will gnaw off my hand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: I can't wait. Stay tuned for New Year's Eve live with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. That begins at 9:00 Eastern.

And OUTFRONT next, you're looking at New York's Times Square. Most of the crowd already in place there waiting for the famous ball to drop at midnight.

Ahead, look at New Year's celebrations elsewhere around the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: So, while we wait for the ball to drop tonight in Times Square, much of the world has already welcomed in the New Year. London celebrated just this past hour, and for the first time, a limited number of tickets were sold to the fireworks and more than half a million people had to be turned away.

Sydney, Australia, is one of the first of the world's major cities to celebrate. This year's spectacular display was photographed by a drone.

St. Basil's in the Kremlin on Moscow's Red Square lit by New Year's fireworks as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin used this year's occasion to cheer the annexation of Crimea and Ukraine.

Finally tonight, a special note, we want to salute our troops serving their country, many of them very far from home, some of them certainly in harm's way, brave men and women here in the United States, and stationed in more than 150 countries around the world. Happy New Year to all of them and to their families who miss them very much here at home.

And happy New Year's to you. Thanks very much for joining us. It's been great to be on.

"All the Very Best, All the Worse" coming up next here on CNN.