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

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Associated Press

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 11 at 5:30 AM

Police say man with stolen passport on missing Malaysian jetliner was Iranian asylum seeker

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A man traveling with a stolen passport on a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner was an Iranian teenager trying to migrate to Germany, and is not believed to have any terrorist links, police said Tuesday.

The announcement is likely to dampen, at least for now, speculation that the disappearance of the Boeing 777 was linked to terrorism. Police said a second passenger also traveling with a stolen passport has not been identified. Both bought their tickets in Thailand and entered Malaysia together.

No debris from the plane has been found. On Tuesday, baffled authorities expanded their search to the opposite side of Malaysia from where it disappeared more than three days ago with 239 people on board.

The airline says the pilots did not send any distress signals, suggesting a sudden and possibly catastrophic incident. Speculation has ranged widely about possible causes, including pilot error, plane malfunction, hijacking and terrorism.

News that two of the passengers were traveling with stolen passports immediately fueled speculation of foul play. However, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference Tuesday that investigators had determined one was a 19-year-old Iranian, Pouria Nourmohammadi Mehrdad, who was planning to enter Germany to seek asylum.

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Ukraine seeks to create national guard, bolster armed forces with reserves, volunteers

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's acting president has called for the formation of a national guard and for the mobilization of reserves and volunteers into the country's armed forces in order to counter Russian military aggression.

Oleksandr Turchynov on Tuesday asked the national parliament to approve a decision to turn the country's Interior Ministry troops into a National Guard whose aim "is to defend the country and citizens against any criminals, against external and internal aggression."

Turchynov said that the mobilization will cover those who have previously served in the army as well as volunteers.

Russian forces have strengthened their control over Ukraine's Crimea region in the run-up to a contentious referendum set for Sunday on whether to split off and become part of Russia.

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Japan marks 3rd anniversary of tsunami disaster, prime minister vows to boost reconstruction

TOKYO (AP) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to boost rebuilding efforts as the country marked the third anniversary Tuesday of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 19,000 people dead, destroyed coastal communities and triggered a nuclear crisis.

Japan has struggled to rebuild towns and villages and to clean up radiation from the meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Reconstruction plans are finally taking shape, but shortages of skilled workers and materials are delaying the work.

The triple disasters known in Japan as 3-11 killed 15,884 people and left 2,636 unaccounted for on its northeastern coast. The country has earmarked 25 trillion yen ($250 billion) for reconstruction through March 2016.

Three years later, nearly 270,000 people remain displaced from their homes, including many from Fukushima prefecture who may never be able to return home due to radioactive contamination.

During a ceremony in Tokyo, officials and representatives of the survivors offered a minute of silence to mark the moment, at 2:46 p.m., when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the Tohoku coast. It was the strongest quake recorded in Japan's history.

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Utah, other states seek balance to restrict drone use while courting thriving new industry

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) — Law enforcement, government agencies and others are itching to use drones for everything from finding lost hikers to tracking shifting wildfires. But privacy watchdogs are urging state legislatures to step in and head off any potential privacy violations.

That tension is on display as more than 35 states consider drone legislation this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The bills include ways to attract an industry that could generate billions and restrictions on drone use and data collection.

"It's in its nascent form now, but it's growing and will be growing in the future," Steve Erickson, who leads a privacy watchdog group called Citizens Education Project, told Utah lawmakers recently.

The proposed legislation comes as states are awaiting clear federal guidance on drones. Many states have taken additional steps to lure the unmanned aircraft industry, such as trying to become a federal testing site, with hopes it will be a financial boon.

The balancing act is playing out in stark relief in Utah, where there's a long history of suspicion at government intrusion and where drones are ideally suited to help authorities patrol largely rural, unforgiving terrain.

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Senators rally for changes in military justice system to curb sexual assaults

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators rallied behind significant changes in military law to curb rape and sexual assault within the ranks, approving steps to protect the victims and barring the "good soldier defense" to ensure evidence alone determines a defendant's fate.

With the women of the Senate leading the fight, lawmakers voted 97-0 Monday for legislation that would force a half-dozen major changes on a military struggling with a pervasive problem that Pentagon leaders concede could cost the services the trust and respect of the public and make it harder to attract men and women to serve in the all-volunteer force.

The measure, which now heads to the House, comes on top of more than 30 changes that Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed into law as part of a defense policy bill just four months ago.

"Unanimous agreement in the U.S. Senate is pretty rare — but rarer still is the kind of sweeping, historic change we've achieved over the past year in the military justice system," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who joined with two Republican women — Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska — in writing the legislation.

Still, that unanimous support was in sharp contrast to last week, when military leaders vigorously opposed a measure by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would have stripped commanders of their authority to prosecute cases and given that power to military lawyers outside the chain of command. The Senate voted 55-45 for that farther-reaching bill, but that was five votes short of the necessary 60.

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Once America's most dangerous dog, pit bulls benefit from softening attitudes, advocacy groups

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — For much of the past three decades, pit bulls have been widely regarded as America's most dangerous dog — the favorite breed of thugs, drug dealers and dog-fighting rings, with a fearsome reputation for unprovoked, sometimes deadly attacks.

Hostility toward "pits" grew so intense that some cities began treating them as the canine equivalent of assault rifles and prohibited residents from owning them.

But attitudes have softened considerably since then as animal activists and even television shows cast the dogs in a more positive light. The image makeover has prompted many states to pass new laws that forbid communities from banning specific breeds. And it illustrates the power and persistence of dog-advocacy groups that have worked to fend off pit bull restrictions with much the same zeal as gun-rights groups have defeated gun-control measures.

"Lawmakers are realizing that targeting dogs based on their breed or what they look like is not a solution to dealing with dangerous dogs," said Lisa Peters, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club.

Eighteen states now have laws that prohibit communities from adopting breed-specific bans. Lawmakers in six more states are considering similar measures, and some cities are reviewing local policies that classify pit bulls as dangerous animals.

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Oscar Pistorius trial: Friend allegedly involved in previous gunplay testifies

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The friend of Oscar Pistorius who was identified by witnesses as being with the athlete on two occasions when a gun was shot in public is testifying at Pistorius' murder trial on Tuesday.

Darren Fresco was asked by Pistorius to take the blame, a previous witness testified, when a gun the Olympic runner was handling fired under a table in a restaurant in early 2013, about a month before Pistorius shot dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Fresco was also present, another witness said, when Pistorius shot his gun out the sunroof of a car after an altercation with traffic police in 2012.

Pistorius is on trial charged with murder for the shooting death of Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. He also faces firearm charges for those two gun incidents.

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Joe McGinniss, news-making author of 'Fatal Vision,' 'Selling of the President,' dies at 71

NEW YORK (AP) — Joe McGinniss wasn't one to let a story tell itself.

Whether insisting on the guilt of a murder suspect after seemingly befriending him or moving next door to Sarah Palin's house for a most unauthorized biography, McGinniss was unique in his determination to get the most inside information, in how publicly he burned bridges with his subjects and how memorably he placed himself in the narrative.

McGinniss, the adventurous and news-making author and reporter who skewered the marketing of Richard Nixon in "The Selling of the President 1968" and tracked his personal journey from sympathizer to scourge of convicted killer Jeffrey MacDonald in the blockbuster "Fatal Vision," died Monday at age 71.

McGinniss, who announced last year that he had been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer, died from complications related to his disease. His attorney and longtime friend Dennis Holahan said he died at a hospital in Worcester, Mass. Optimistic almost to the end, he had for months posted regular updates on Facebook and Twitter, commenting on everything from foreign policy to his health.

The tall, talkative McGinniss had early dreams of becoming a sports reporter and wrote books about soccer, horse racing and travel. But he was best known for two works that became touchstones in their respective genres — campaign books ("The Selling of the President") and true crime ("Fatal Vision"). In both cases, he had become fascinated by the difference between public image and private reality.

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AP PHOTOS: Afghan women boxers eye 2016 Olympics, training with little support

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A few yellow lamps light up the cavernous, sparsely furnished room in Kabul Stadium where Afghanistan's young female boxers train, hoping to become good enough to compete in the 2016 Olympics.

The women, some as young as 18, don't have much more than determination to fuel their drive.

Previously, non-governmental organizations supported them. At one time, there were 25 young women on the team who received a salary the equivalent of $100 per month and transportation to and from training at the stadium.

But aid organizations have dropped out. Afghanistan's National Olympic Committee took over, but it has little money for the women. The budget was slashed and the women lost their salaries. Now their numbers are down to a dozen. They get a place to train, their boxing gloves and, occasionally, transportation costs.

Still, the sportswomen share a camaraderie, laughing and teasing each other until the serious business of training begins.

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Peverley's heart episode leads to collapse, postponement of Stars' game against Blue Jackets

DALLAS (AP) — Rich Peverley underwent a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat six months ago after a physical revealed the condition at the start of training camp.

The Dallas Stars' forward missed a game last week with a recurrence of the problem.

His biggest scare came Monday night when he collapsed on the bench early in a game against Columbus and was rushed through a tunnel and stabilized.

The 31-year-old Peverley ended up in good condition at a Dallas hospital, but the episode shook his teammates and led to the game's postponement with the Blue Jackets leading 1-0 in the first period.

"When he dropped, it was red alert," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Don't worry about the game. It was about getting the doctors. The players don't want to play, and I don't want to coach the team right now."

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