AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on March 7, 2014 at 11:02 PM

China state media says Vietnam detects signals from missing Malaysia Airlines plane

BEIJING (AP) — China's state media say Vietnamese authorities have detected signals from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

The Xinhua News Agency, citing a local Vietnamese media report, says a Vietnamese search and rescue official reported that the signals have been detected from the plane from about 220 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of Vietnam's southernmost coastal province of Ca Mau.

Malaysia Airlines says its Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact over the South China Sea early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

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Malaysia Airlines 777 jet vanishes on flight from Kuala Lumpur to to Beijing; 239 aboard

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact over the South China Sea early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn't located the jetliner several hours later.

The plane lost communication two hours into the flight in Vietnam's airspace at 1:20 a.m. (18:20 GMT Friday), China's state news agency said. The radar signal also was lost, Xinhua reported.

Fuad Sharuji, Malaysian Airlines' vice president of operations control, told CNN that the plane was flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,670 meters) and that the pilots reported no problem with the aircraft. He said that the aircraft's last communication was over the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday (16:41 GMT Friday) and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. Saturday (22:30 GMT Friday), Malaysia Airlines said.

The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. Passengers were from at least 12 countries, including 152 from China, seven Australians and four Americans.

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Russia swept up in patriotic fervor for bringing Crimea back into its territory

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia was swept up in patriotic fervor Friday in anticipation of bringing Crimea back into its territory, with tens of thousands of people thronging Red Square chanting "Crimea is Russia!" as a parliamentary leader declared the peninsula would be welcomed as an "equal subject" of Russia.

Ignoring sanctions threats and warnings from the U.S., leaders of both houses of parliament said they would support a vote by Crimeans to split with Ukraine and join Russia — signaling for the first time that the Kremlin was prepared to annex the strategic region.

Tensions in Crimea were heightened late Friday when pro-Russian forces tried to seize a Ukrainian military base in the port city of Sevastopol, the Ukrainian branch of the Interfax news agency reported. No shots were fired, but stun grenades were thrown, according to the report, citing Ukrainian officials.

About 100 Ukrainian troops stationed at the base barricaded themselves inside one of their barracks, and their commander began negotiations, the report said. Crimea's pro-Moscow leader denied any incident at the base.

In the week since Russia seized control of Crimea, Russian troops have been neutralizing and disarming Ukrainian military bases on the Black Sea peninsula. Some Ukrainian units, however, have refused to give up. Crimea's new leader has said pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 now control all access to region and have blockaded all military bases that haven't yet surrendered.

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Russia and Ukraine give different versions of sniper tragedy that drove Yanukovych from power

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — One of the biggest mysteries hanging over the protest mayhem that drove Ukraine's president from power: Who was behind the snipers who sowed death and terror in Kiev?

That riddle has become the latest flashpoint of feuding over Ukraine — with the nation's fledgling government and the Kremlin giving starkly different interpretations of events that could either undermine or bolster the legitimacy of the new rulers.

Ukrainian authorities are investigating the Feb. 18-20 bloodbath, and they have shifted their focus from ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's government to Vladimir Putin's Russia — pursuing the theory that the Kremlin was intent on sowing mayhem as a pretext for military incursion. Russia suggests that the snipers were organized by opposition leaders trying to whip up local and international outrage against the government.

The government's new health minister — a doctor who helped oversee medical treatment for casualties during the protests — told The Associated Press that the similarity of bullet wounds suffered by opposition victims and police indicates the shooters were trying to stoke tensions on both sides and spark even greater violence, with the goal of toppling Yanukovych.

"I think it wasn't just a part of the old regime that (plotted the provocation), but it was also the work of Russian special forces who served and maintained the ideology of the (old) regime," Health Minister Oleh Musiy said.

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Revamped Newsweek gets attention — and plenty of questions — with head-turning bitcoin story

NEW YORK (AP) — A mystery man. A splashy reveal. A media frenzy. Newsweek staked its return from the dead on a story it knew would get attention. A cover story claiming it had uncovered "the face behind bitcoin," the world's most popular digital currency.

It got plenty of attention, all right.

Twenty-four hours after identifying bitcoin's creator as a 64-year-old former defense contractor employee living in Los Angeles, the controversy over whether or not Newsweek had outed the right man was so furious that Newsweek reporter Leah McGrath Goodman made the rounds on Bloomberg TV and CBS Morning News to defend her reporting against Dorian Nakamoto's denials that he is the father of bitcoin. The magazine issued a statement standing by the story and said it had to hire a security detail for Goodman because of threats made against her.

In the comments section under Newsweek's statement backing the piece many people suggested the magazine had jumped the gun by publishing the story before it was fully reported out. Newsweek said Goodman's research was conducted under the same high standards that have guided Newsweek for more than 80 years, and that it expected the story, like any major news revelation, to spark controversy. Saying he was prepared for the "shitstorm," Newsweek editor in chief Jim Impoco told digital network Mashable on Friday that he remains confident in the story as reported and didn't see a need to frame the article more skeptically.

"Go large or go home. This is Newsweek," Impoco told Mashable. "We are raising the dead here. And you know what? People are aware of it now."

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Blast of winter weather can't faze US employers; stepped-up hiring lifts hopes for more growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Brutal winter weather snarled traffic, canceled flights and cut power to homes and factories in February. Yet it didn't faze U.S. employers, who added 175,000 jobs, far more than the two previous months.

Modest but steady job growth has become a hallmark of a nearly 5-year-old economic rebound that remains sluggish yet strikingly resilient. The economy has been slowed by political gridlock, harsh weather and global crises. But those disruptions have not derailed growth.

Though the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low of 6.6 percent, it did so for an encouraging reason: More people began seeking work. The unemployment rate ticked up because most did not immediately find jobs.

Friday's report from the Labor Department suggested that a long-hoped-for acceleration in growth and hiring still has not occurred. But that might not be all bad: Households have pared debt and avoided the excessive spending and borrowing that have undercut explosive economies in the past.

Total U.S. credit card debt is still 14 percent lower than before the Great Recession began in December 2007, according to the Federal Reserve.

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Army captain testifies US general sexually assaulted her twice and threatened to kill her

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — An Army captain at the center of a sexual assault case that has scandalized the U.S. military testified Friday that a general twice forced her to perform oral sex on him during their three-year, illicit affair.

Taking the stand on the first day of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair's court-martial, the woman said the assaults took place in Afghanistan in late 2011 as she grew increasingly despondent over their adulterous relationship.

Both times, she said, they got into arguments that ended with Sinclair unbuttoning his pants and forcing her head into his lap as she cried.

Sinclair, the 51-year-old former deputy commander of the storied 82nd Airborne Division, is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever court-martialed on sexual assault charges. He could get life in prison if found guilty.

The trial is unfolding with the Pentagon under heavy pressure to confront what it has called an epidemic of rape and other sexual misconduct in the ranks. On Thursday, the Senate rejected a bill that would have stripped commanders of authority to decide whether to prosecute serious crimes.

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Kids rescued from ocean said 'Mom tried to killed us'; SC woman charged with attempted murder

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — After she drove her minivan into the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, authorities say a pregnant South Carolina woman tried to call off bystanders hustling to rescue her three screaming children from the water that was rushing in through the windows.

Ebony Wilkerson, who was charged with attempted murder Friday, said "everyone was OK" and left the van with her children inside, an affidavit said. The bystanders and beach safety officers, paying no mind to her urgings, pulled the two girls and a boy, ages 3, 9 and 10, through the windows Tuesday on Daytona Beach.

Later, Wilkerson denied trying to hurt her children, telling investigators she was driving too close to the water, "and the waves pulled her in," according to the charging affidavit.

Her children told investigators another story.

"Mom tried to kill us," they told detectives, according to the document. "Mom is crazy."

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Oscar Pistorius trial: Guard says runner told him, after shooting, that everything was fine

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — In a day of potentially damaging testimony, a former girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius said at his murder trial Friday that he once shot his gun out of a car sunroof and later cheated on her with the woman he killed last year. And a security guard recalled the athlete telling him everything was "fine" after neighbors reported gunshots coming from Pistorius' house on the night of her death.

The gripping accounts capped the first week of the televised trial of the double-amputee Olympian, whose chief defense lawyer has tried to sow doubt about the testimony of neighbors who said they heard a woman's screams before gunshots. Proceedings have also focused on past incidents involving alleged gunplay, part of an apparent prosecution effort to portray Pistorius, 27, as a hothead who sometimes thought he was above authority.

Prosecutors say he intentionally killed Reeva Steenkamp during an argument, but he insists it was a mistake, and that he fired through the locked toilet door in his bathroom believing an intruder was behind it.

The security guard, Pieter Baba, testified that he telephoned Pistorius after the reported gunshots in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013, and that the athlete assured him in their brief conversation: "Security, everything is fine."

Moments later, Baba said, Pistorius phoned him back, started crying and didn't say anything and then the line went dead. It was minutes after he shot Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model.

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Republican divide on social issues highlighted at conservative showcase

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Some of the GOP's most prominent conservatives insisted Friday that Republicans should emphasize hot-button social issues like abortion and gay marriage in this year's midterm elections, exposing an ideological divide within a party trying to capture the Senate and then the White House.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor, set the tone early in the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

"If this nation forgets our God, then God will have every right to forget us," Huckabee said to cheers. "It's time for government to scale back, not for people of faith to scale back."

The day also featured Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who, like Huckabee, have run presidential campaigns fueled in part by support from religious voters.

But Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the final speakers of the day, represents a new generation of libertarian-minded Republicans less likely to oppose gay marriage or embrace laws allowing the government to affect people's private lives.

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