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

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Associated Press

Posted on March 14, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 2:45 PM

India expands search for missing jet as hunt shifts west to Indian Ocean

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The international search for the missing Malaysian jetliner expanded westward Friday toward the Indian Ocean amid signs the aircraft may have flown on for hours after its last contact with air-traffic control nearly a week ago.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the Malaysia Airlines plane sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing early last Saturday, raising the possibility the jet carrying 239 people could have flown far from the current search areas. It also increased speculation that whatever happened to the plane was a deliberate act.

If the plane had disintegrated during flight or had suffered some other catastrophic failure, all signals — the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder — would be expected to stop at the same time. Experts say a pilot or passengers with technical expertise may have switched off the transponder in the hope of flying undetected.

No theory, however, has been ruled out in one of aviation history's most puzzling mysteries.

The Beijing-bound aircraft last communicated with air traffic base stations east of Malaysia in the South China Sea, which for several days has the main focus of the search. Planes and ships also have been searching the Strait of Malacca west of Malaysia because of a blip on military radar suggested the plane might have turned in that direction after the last confirmed contact.

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AP Exclusive: FBI won't conduct marijuana-license background checks for Washington state

SEATTLE (AP) — The FBI is refusing to run nationwide background checks on people applying to run legal marijuana businesses in Washington state, even though it has conducted similar checks in Colorado — a discrepancy that illustrates the quandary the Justice Department faces as it allows the states to experiment with regulating a drug that's long been illegal under federal law.

Washington state has been asking for nearly a year if the FBI would conduct background checks on its applicants, to no avail. The bureau's refusal raises the possibility that people with troublesome criminal histories could wind up with pot licenses in the state — undermining the department's own priorities in ensuring that states keep a tight rein on the nascent industry.

It's a strange jam for the feds, who announced last summer that they wouldn't sue to prevent Washington and Colorado from regulating marijuana after 75 years of prohibition.

The Obama administration has said it wants the states to make sure pot revenue doesn't go to organized crime and that state marijuana industries don't become a cover for the trafficking of other illegal drugs. At the same time, it might be tough for the FBI to stomach conducting such background checks — essentially helping the states violate federal law.

The Justice Department declined to explain why it isn't conducting the checks in Washington when it has in Colorado. Stephen Fischer, a spokesman for the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, referred an Associated Press inquiry to DOJ headquarters, which would only issue a written statement.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. WHAT SUGGESTS PLANE FLEW ON AFTER IT WENT MISSING

The Malaysia Airlines jet sent signals to a satellite for four hours after ground contact was lost, a U.S. official says.

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Yielding to immigration advocates, Obama says US will look to make deportations more humane

WASHINGTON (AP) — With prospects for real immigration reform fading, President Barack Obama is yielding to pressure from some of his staunchest allies and looking for ways to act without Congress to ease the suffering caused by deportation.

An Oval Office meeting with three Latino lawmakers brought about a late-night announcement from the White House on Thursday: Obama is directing his homeland security chief, Jeh Johnson, to review America's deportation program, with an eye toward finding more humane ways to enforce the law without contravening it.

It was unexpected, coming from a president who said as recently as last week that when it came to deportations, he's already stretched his presidential powers to the max.

Preferring a lasting legislative solution for one of Obama's top priorities, the White House had wanted to avoid this course, knowing that any steps Obama takes that are perceive as overreaching will only give Republicans excuses to avoid dealing with immigration. After all, the GOP has already cast Obama as a president gone wild, citing endless changes to his health care law and his move to allow children brought to the U.S. illegally to stay here.

But what started as ordinary griping from a constituency that's been among Obama's most loyal has spiraled, with prominent Latino leaders denouncing Obama as the "deporter in chief." Advocates that had long given Obama the benefit of the doubt determined that his persistent efforts to push lawmakers to act were not enough — they were done waiting for Congress.

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Hope dwindles in stopping vote to split Ukraine; West prepares sanctions against Russia

LONDON (AP) — With little hope of halting a vote to separate a strategic Ukraine peninsula from the rest of the country, the West is readying to impose harsh sanctions on Russia for what U.S. officials described as Moscow's insistence in undermining the new upstart government in Kiev, and fueling tensions among those who oppose it.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to London on Friday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a last-minute bid to stave off a new chapter in the East-West crisis over Ukraine. On Sunday, Ukraine's pro-Russian Crimea region will vote whether to secede, and perhaps join Russia, in anger over new leaders in Kiev who seek to forge stronger economic ties with Europe.

A small group of Ukrainian protesters with posters reading "NATO Save Ukraine" awaited Kerry as he arrived at Downing Street for a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague ahead of his talks with Lavrov.

Cameron underlined the threat of sanctions when he sat down with Kerry, telling him that "we want to see progress as much as you do."

"We want to see Ukrainians and the Russians talking to each other. And if they don't then there are going to have to be consequences," he added.

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Russian troops on war games near Ukraine as Putin faces tough Western warnings

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Russia conducted new military maneuvers near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, and President Vladimir Putin said the world shouldn't blame his country for what he called Ukraine's "internal crisis."

In Crimea, where the public will vote on Sunday whether to break away from Ukraine and become part of Russia, jittery residents lined up at their banks to withdraw cash from their accounts amid uncertainty over the future of the peninsula, which Russian troops now control. Violence engulfed the eastern Donetsk region, where violent clashes between pro-Russia demonstrators and supporters of the Ukrainian government left at least one person dead.

"These people are afraid their bank will collapse and no one wants to lose their money," said resident Tatiana Sivukhina. "Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plan to meet in London on Friday in a last-ditch bid to end the international standoff over the Crimean referendum, which Ukraine and the West have rejected as illegitimate.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply criticized Russia, saying the territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be compromised.

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Working 'with hope,' rescuers continue searching rubble from NYC explosion; at least 8 dead

NEW YORK (AP) — Using sound devices to probe for voices and telescopic cameras to peer into small spaces, workers searching a pile of rubble from a gas explosion in New York City continued to treat it as a rescue operation, holding onto the possibility of finding survivors from a blast that brought down two apartment buildings and killed at least eight people.

"We have to think of survivors and work in that way, with hope," said Fire Department of New York Chief Edward Kilduff.

The search work was slow going, with 40 percent to 50 percent of the debris removed by Thursday evening. Kilduff said a fire was still burning, and the force of the explosion collapsed and pancaked layers of floors. A back wall was still freestanding and posed a collapse hazard.

Workers planned a full day removing debris at the site on Friday, and hoped to make it down to the first floor by Saturday then move on to the basement.

It's meticulous work. About a dozen firefighters picked through charred wood and bits of metal early Friday, seeking human remains or anything that could help the investigation. Smoke was still rising from the debris, the smell apparent even a block away.

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Extent of failings by nuclear missile launch crews masked by strong showing from cooks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Failings last spring by nuclear missile operators at an Air Force base in North Dakota were worse than first reported, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Airmen responsible for missile operations at Minot Air Force Base would have failed their portion of a major inspection in March 2013 but managed a "marginal" rating because their poor marks were blended with the better performance of support staff — like cooks and facilities managers — and they got a boost from the base's highly rated training program. The "marginal" rating, the equivalent of a "D'' in school, was reported previously. Now, details of the low performance by the launch officers, or missileers, entrusted with the keys to missiles have been revealed.

"Missileer technical proficiency substandard," one Air Force briefing slide says. "Remainder (of missile operations team) raised grade to marginal."

The documents also hint at an exam-cheating problem in the making among launch crews at Minot, almost a full year before allegations of widespread cheating erupted this January at a companion nuclear base in Montana.

An official inquiry into the troubled inspection of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot in March 2013 concluded that one root cause was poor use of routine testing and other means of measuring the proficiency of launch crews in their assigned tasks. For example, commanders at Minot did not ensure that monthly written tests were supervised. The analysis also said Minot senior leaders failed to foster a "culture of accountability" and that mid-level leadership posts were left unfilled.

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CIA-Senate dispute raises murky legal, policy issues; no guarantee of criminal prosecution

WASHINGTON (AP) — A fight between the Senate and the CIA over whether crimes were committed in the handling of sensitive classified material appears unlikely to be resolved in the courts, legal experts say.

The simmering dispute erupted in public this week when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., accused the CIA of improperly searching and removing documents from a computer network used by Senate investigators to compile a report on the George W. Bush-era interrogation program for suspected terrorists. CIA Director John Brennan has denied that the CIA hacked into the computers but says an audit was necessary to determine whether Senate staffers had improperly obtained sensitive CIA documents.

The matter has landed in the lap of the Justice Department, which has been asked to investigate whether laws were broken.

But legal experts say prosecutors will likely be hesitant to wade into a separation-of-powers dispute between two branches of government that involves a muddled area of the law and raises as many policy questions as it does legal ones. The Justice Department receives far more requests to open criminal probes than it chooses to pursue. Federal courts, too, are reluctant to referee power disputes between the two other branches of government.

"There's an ongoing debate about what the proper role of each of these branches of government is," said Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. "Who's watching the watchers? Is Congress watching the CIA or is the CIA watching Congress? And who's in control here?"

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Iraqis angered by draft law proposed by Shiite-led government to legalize child marriage

BAGHDAD (AP) — A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could open the door to girls as young as nine getting married and would require wives to submit to sex on their husband's whim, provoking outrage from rights activists and many Iraqis who see it as a step backward for women's rights.

The measure, aimed at creating different laws for Iraq's majority Shiite population, could further fray the country's divisions amid some of the worst bloodshed since the sectarian fighting that nearly ripped the country apart after the U.S.-led invasion. It also comes as more and more children under 18 get married in the country.

"That law represents a crime against humanity and childhood," prominent Iraqi human rights activist Hana Adwar told The Associated Press. "Married underage girls are subjected to physical and psychological suffering.

Iraqi law now sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval. Girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian's approval.

The proposed new measure, known as the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of a Shiite school of religious law founded by Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shiite imam. Iraq's Justice Ministry late last year introduced the draft measure to the Cabinet, which approved it last month despite strong opposition by rights groups and activists.

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