AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 10 at 5:30 AM

Investigators pursue 'every angle' on missing Boeing 777 as search fails to find any trace

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Dozens of ships and aircraft have failed to find any piece of the missing Boeing 777 jet that vanished more than two days ago above waters south of Vietnam as investigators pursued "every angle" to explain its disappearance, including hijacking, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said Monday.

Malaysian maritime officials found some oil slicks in the South China Sea and sent a sample to a lab to see if it came from the plane, the Department of Civil Aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, told a news conference.

Hundreds of distraught relatives were gathered in a hotel in Beijing, waiting to be flown to Malaysia. Of the 227 passengers, two-thirds were Chinese. There were also 38 passengers and 12 crew members from Malaysia, and others from elsewhere in Asia, Europe and North America, including three Americans.

"We accept God's will. Whether he is found alive or dead, we surrender to Allah," said Selamat Omar, a Malaysian whose 29-year-old son Mohamad Khairul Amri Selamat was heading to Beijing for a business trip. He said he was expecting a call from his son after the flight's scheduled arrival time at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Instead he got a call from the airline to say the plane was missing.

Vietnamese ships working throughout the night could not find a rectangular object spotted Sunday afternoon that was thought to be one of the doors of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet.

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China Communist Party abuses officials into confessions as part of anti-corruption efforts

LILING, China (AP) — The local Chinese official remembers the panic he felt in Room 109. He had refused to confess to bribery he says he didn't commit, and his Communist Party interrogators were forcing his legs apart.

Zhou Wangyan heard his left thigh bone snap, with a loud "ka-cha." The sound nearly drowned out his howls of pain.

"My leg is broken," Zhou told the interrogators. According to Zhou, they ignored his pleas.

China's government is under strong pressure to fight rampant corruption in its ranks, faced with the anger of an increasingly prosperous, well-educated and Internet-savvy public. However, the party's methods for extracting confessions expose its 85 million members and their families to the risk of abuse. Experts estimate at least several thousand people are secretly detained every year for weeks or months under an internal system that is separate from state justice.

In a rare display of public defiance, Zhou and three other party members in Hunan described to The Associated Press the months of abuse they endured less than two years ago, in separate cases, while in detention. Zhou, land bureau director for the city of Liling, said he was deprived of sleep and food, nearly drowned, whipped with wires and forced to eat excrement. The others reported being turned into human punching bags, strung up by the wrists from high windows, or dragged along the floor, face down, by their feet.

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US plans sweeping new system to constantly monitor habits of workers with secret clearances

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence officials are planning a sweeping system of electronic monitoring that would tap into government, financial and other databases to scan the behavior of many of the 5 million federal employees with secret clearances, current and former officials told The Associated Press.

The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers, and draws on a Defense Department model under development for more than a decade, according to officials and documents reviewed by the AP.

Intelligence officials have long wanted a computerized system that could continuously monitor employees, in part to prevent cases similar to former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden. His disclosures bared secretive U.S. surveillance operations.

An administration review of the government's security clearance process due this month is expected to support continuous monitoring as part of a package of comprehensive changes.

Privacy advocates and government employee union officials expressed concerns that continuous electronic monitoring could intrude into individuals' private lives, prompt flawed investigations and put sensitive personal data at greater risk. Supporters say the system would have safeguards.

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Gallup finds US uninsured rate keeps dropping toward lowest level since 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama health care law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months — or calendar quarter— of 2013.

That translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million people getting coverage.

Gallup said the share of Americans who lack coverage is on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level it measured since 2008, before Obama took office.

The survey found that almost every major demographic group made progress getting health insurance, although Hispanics lagged.

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Japan's disaster reconstruction slowed by building boom, manpower shortages as Olympics looms

TANOHATA, Japan (AP) — Tens of thousands of people on Japan's northeastern coast who were left homeless in the March 2011 tsunami are shivering their way through yet another winter in cramped temporary housing, with perhaps several more to go.

Reconstruction plans are taking shape after three years of debate and red tape, but shortages of skilled workers and materials are delaying the work. In areas such as Tanohata, a fishing town of 3,800 along a scenic stretch of craggy cliffs and forests, less than a tenth of the new housing has been built. Overall, the figure is less than 8 percent completed, and less than a quarter of projects started.

As Japan's over-stretched construction industry begins gearing up to build venues and revamp aging infrastructure for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, shortages of skilled carpenters and heavy equipment operators as well as cement and other materials, are frustrating residents and local officials.

"It's just cold, so very cold," Shio Hironai, 53, said of the hut that has served as home since the 20-meter (65-foot) wave slammed into one of the town's tiny coves. "And the roof is caving in. It has been all along."

Japan on Tuesday marks the third anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters known as 3.11 that killed 15,884 people and left 2,636 unaccounted for on its northern coast. The country has struggled to rebuild tsunami-hit towns and to clean up radiation from the nuclear crisis. It has earmarked 25 trillion yen ($250 billion) for reconstruction through to March 2016. About 50,000 people from Fukushima are still unable to return home due to concerns over radiation.

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Oscar Pistorius trial: Prosecutor says autopsy testimony is graphic, should not be broadcast

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Monday asked the judge to bar broadcasting of what he says will be the graphic testimony of the expert who conducted the autopsy on Reeva Steenkamp, who was fatally shot by her athlete boyfriend.

After an adjournment, the court heard arguments about whether to allow audio and video broadcasting of the testimony of Prof. Gert Saayman, head of the forensic medicine department at the University of Pretoria.

Saayman's testimony has an "explicitly graphic nature" and should not be shown around the world, said prosecutor Gerrie Nel, noting that he had the support of chief defense lawyer, Barry Roux.

"It's not a question of press freedom," Nel said.

Saayman said the "very personal nature" of his autopsy findings as well as graphic details about the injuries could "compromise the dignity of the deceased," as well as harm her friends and family, if they are broadcast.

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Powerful earthquake shakes Northern California; no injuries or damages

EUREKA, Calif. (AP) — A very strong earthquake rattled the Northern California coast and was widely felt across the region, but authorities said early Monday that there were no reports of any injuries or damages.

The magnitude 6.9 quake struck at 10:18 p.m. PDT Sunday and was centered 50 miles west of Eureka and about four miles beneath the Pacific seabed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was followed by about a half-dozen aftershocks, including one of magnitude 4.6.

The quake was felt widely across the region but both fire and sheriff's officials in Humboldt County, which includes most of the populated areas near the epicenter, said early Monday more than four hours after the quake hit that they had no reports of any damage or injuries.

The National Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami danger for the region.

But more than 3,000 people reported on the USGS website that they felt the quake. Some reported a long, rolling shake that woke children or knocked items off shelves. Some of those respondents live across the border in Oregon.

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Defense lawyers plan tough cross-examination of woman who accused Army general of sex assault

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Defense lawyers for an Army general facing sexual assault charges say they plan to press his primary accuser on inconsistencies in her story.

Attorneys for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair will get their chance Monday to cross-examine the female captain at the center of the closely-watched case.

The woman testified Friday that toward the end of their three year affair Sinclair twice ended arguments by unbuttoning his pants and forcing her head into his lap as she cried.

The defense says they'll show the woman is lying by presenting a trove of emails and text messages she exchanged with the general, many of them sexually explicit.

Sinclair is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever tried for sexual assault. He faces life in prison if found guilty.

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Iditarod: 5 things to know standout finishes in history of Alaska's famous sled dog race

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — In the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, there's always a heart-pounding thrill at the finish line in Nome, a rollicking frontier city on Alaska's western coast.

The city's siren blares as the winning team trots along Front Street at the edge of the Bering Sea. Spectators are heavily bundled against the bone-chilling cold as they cheer and chant the victor's name. In the winner's circle, the dogs are calm, standing nobly, like crossing almost 1,000 miles of punishing terrain was no great feat.

But some finishes have stood out among all others in the annual race that began in 1973. Here are five things to know about some of the Iditarod's most memorable finishes.

WINNING BY THE BLINK OF AN EYE

Only one second separated the winner from the runner-up in 1978, the closest race ever. The frantic dash down Front Street left Dick Mackey as the winner over Rick Swenson, who went on to become the Iditarod's only five-time champion.

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Noah scores 20, grabs 12 rebounds, Augustin adds 22 points as Bulls beat Heat 95-88 in OT

CHICAGO (AP) — Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler understand it.

The real victory for the Chicago Bulls will come when they're knocking the Miami Heat out of the playoffs, not during the regular season — no matter how charged the atmosphere is.

Even so, they'll take this.

Noah had 20 points and 12 rebounds, D.J. Augustin scored 22 and the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat 95-88 in overtime Sunday after Butler blocked LeBron James at the end of regulation.

"I want what they have — a championship," Noah said. "One day, we're going to have to get through those guys."

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