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

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Associated Press

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Australia says it could take long time to track down satellite's possible clues to jet mystery

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Frustration grew Saturday over the lack of progress tracking down two objects spotted by satellite that might be Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with a Malaysian official expressing worry that the search area will have to be widened if no trace of the plane is found.

Nothing has been found in the three days that search crews have been scouring the area where the satellite took images of objects, about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Australia. Two military planes from China arrived in Perth to join Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft in the search. Japanese planes will arrive Sunday and ships were in the area or on their way.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on an official visit to Papua New Guinea, said weather hampered the search earlier but conditions were improving.

"There are aircraft and vessels from other nations that are joining this particular search because tenuous though it inevitably is, this is nevertheless the first credible evidence of anything that has happened to Flight MH370," Abbott said.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters that if the search is unsuccessful, the focus will have to return to two broad arcs where pings from the aircraft, detected by another satellite, may have originated. Though direct contact with the aircraft was lost early March 8 over the Gulf of Thailand, the pings continued for several hours after that. One arc stretches into central Asia; the other deep in the Indian Ocean.

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Russian diplomats have high hopes for OSCE observer mission in crisis-torn Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's foreign ministry said on Saturday that it hopes a monitoring mission in Ukraine will help ease the tensions in Ukraine.

Ukraine was engulfed in anti-government rallies for three months before President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country and the interim government was appointed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement on Friday that Moscow hopes that the 200-strong team of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe "will help to overcome the internal Ukrainian crisis" and ensure the respect for human rights there.

Russia had raised concerns about the situation in Russian-speaking south-eastern regions including the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. Moscow on Friday formally sealed Crimea's annexation, less than a week following a referendum that overwhelmingly voted to join Russia.

Pro-Russian forces last week stopped OSCE military observers from entering Crimea. The organization on Friday did not specify whether the observers will go to Crimea. U.S. chief envoy Daniel Baer said the observers should have access to the territory because Crimea remains Ukrainian to the rest of the world.

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10 Things to Know: This Week's Takeaways

Looking back at the stories to remember from the past week:

1. PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN COMPLETES ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA INTO RUSSIA

He signed the legislation Friday that reclaimed the region from Ukraine despite sanctions imposed on the Russian leader's inner circle by the West. EU leaders also sought to pull the rest of cash-strapped Ukraine westward by signing a political association agreement with Kiev's prime minister. Besieged Ukrainian troops on the Crimean Peninsula faced a choice: leave, join the Russian military or demobilize.

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3 Palestinians killed in West Bank clash with Israeli army, deadliest incident in months

JENIN, West Bank (AP) — Israeli troops killed three Palestinians in an early morning raid that was followed by a clash with angry protesters in a West Bank town on Saturday, the military and Palestinian security officials said, in the deadliest incident in months.

The violence came amid a recent spike in clashes in the West Bank that could complicate the already troubled peace efforts as the sides near an April deadline set under U.S.-sponsored talks.

Saturday's incident started with an Israeli raid, which the military said aimed to arrest Hamza Abu el-Heija, a 22-year-old Hamas operative wanted for involvement in shooting and bombing attacks against Israelis.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner described el-Heija as a "ticking bomb" and said he was wanted for months and was allegedly in the final stages of planning a major shooting attack against Israelis.

Palestinians officials said the military ringed the house in the Jenin refugee camp overnight and ordered el-Heija outside. When he refused to come out, the soldiers stormed the building and a shootout ensued.

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Libya's out-of-control weapons spread across region, fueling conflicts

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — At the heart of the Libyan capital, the open-air Fish Market was once a place where residents went to buy everything from meat and seafood to clothes and pets. Now it's Tripoli's biggest arms market, with tables displaying pistols and assault rifles. Ask a vendor, and he can pull out bigger machine guns to sell for thousands of dollars.

Libya, where hundreds of militias hold sway and the central government is virtually powerless, is awash in millions of weapons with no control over their trafficking. The arms free-for-all fuels not only Libya's instability but also stokes conflicts around the region as guns are smuggled through the country's wide-open borders to militants fighting in insurgencies and wars stretching from Syria to West Africa.

The lack of control is at times stunning. Last month, militia fighters stole a planeload of weapons sent by Russia for Libya's military when it stopped to refuel at Tripoli International Airport on route to a base in the south. The fighters surrounded the plane on the tarmac and looted the shipment of automatic weapons and ammunition, Hashim Bishr, an official with a Tripoli security body under the Interior Ministry, told The Associated Press.

In a further indignity, the fighters belonged to a militia officially assigned by the government to protect the airport, since regular forces are too weak to do it.

Only a few weeks earlier, another militia seized a weapons' shipment that landed at Tripoli's Mitiga Airport meant for the military's 1st Battalion, Bishr said. Among the weapons were heavy anti-aircraft guns, which are a pervasive weapon among the militias and are usually mounted on the back of pickup trucks.

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Judge overturns Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, says 'equal protection must prevail'

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan's ban on gay marriage, approved by voters in a landslide in 2004, was scratched from the state constitution by a federal judge who said the ballot box is no defense to a law that tramples the rights of same-sex couples.

Clerks who handle marriage licenses in Michigan's 83 counties said they would start granting them to gays and lesbians — three as early as Saturday — although Attorney General Bill Schuette asked a higher court Friday to freeze the landmark ruling while an appeal is pursued. It was not known when a federal appeals court in Cincinnati would respond.

Schuette noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in January stepped in and suspended a similar decision that struck down Utah's gay-marriage ban.

"A stay would serve the public interest by preserving the status quo ... while preventing irreparable injury to the state and its citizens," he said.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman was historic, following a two-week trial that explored attitudes and research about homosexual marriage and households led by same-sex couples. The judge rejected the conclusions of experts hired by the state to defend the rationale behind a constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage only as between a man and a woman.

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Police stay mum about their use of tech tool aimed at intercepting phone call and texts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Police across the country may be intercepting phone calls or text messages to find suspects using a technology tool known as Stingray. But they're refusing to turn over details about its use or heavily censoring files when they do.

Police say Stingray, a suitcase-size device that pretends it's a cell tower, is useful for catching criminals, but that's about all they'll say.

For example, they won't disclose details about contracts with the device's manufacturer, Harris Corp., insisting they are protecting both police tactics and commercial secrets. The secrecy — at times imposed by nondisclosure agreements signed by police — is pitting obligations under private contracts against government transparency laws.

Even in states with strong open records laws, including Florida and Arizona, little is known about police use of Stingray and any rules governing it.

A Stingray device tricks all cellphones in an area into electronically identifying themselves and transmitting data to police rather than the nearest phone company's tower. Because documents about Stingrays are regularly censored, it's not immediately clear what information the devices could capture, such as the contents of phone conversations and text messages, what they routinely do capture based on how they're configured or how often they might be used.

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UN document promotes equality for women and reaffirms their sexual and reproductive rights

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — After two weeks of heated debate, liberal and conservative countries early Saturday approved a U.N. document to promote equality for women that reaffirms the sexual and reproductive rights of all women and endorses sex education for adolescents.

The 24-page final declaration approved by consensus early Saturday by the 45-member Commission on the Status of Women expresses deep concern that overall progress toward the U.N. goal of gender equality and empowerment of women remains "slow and uneven"

The commission said "the feminization of poverty persists" and reaffirmed that equality for women is essential for sustained economic development.

It called for equality, empowerment, and human rights for women to be a major plank in new U.N. development goals expected to be adopted next year.

For more progressive countries, there was relief that there was no back-pedaling on international recognition of women's reproductive and sexual rights and access to health services in the final document.

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AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson gives a surprise performance to Billy Joel concert audience

NEW YORK (AP) — In a rare and unusual mix of rock legends, AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson made a surprise appearance at Billy Joel's concert at Madison Square Garden and played the metal band's classic, "You Shook Me All Night Long."

Joel introduced Johnson about halfway through the show Friday night, saying Johnson was part of one of the best bands he'd ever seen live. The packed arena erupted when Joel and his band began playing the rock anthem with Johnson on lead vocals.

The show was part of a series of concerts by Joel at the Garden. He's playing there monthly as an artist-in-residence.

Friday's show included a mix of Joel standards such as "Uptown Girl" and "Big Shot" as well as less-played songs, such as "The Ballad of Billy the Kid."

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BracketRacket: Which school would win the NCAAs if the athletes really were students?

Welcome back to a mostly Mercer-packed edition of BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for your offbeat NCAA tournament needs. Today, we get to the bottom of Duke's dirty trick, take a whirlwind tour of Little Richard's hometown and try to placate the eggheads in our midst. Without further ado:

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NOW YOU KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY

Turns out tiny Mercer's takedown of mighty Duke was even better than it looked.

Never mind all the other advantages the Blue Devils brought to the game that the Bears couldn't hope to match: NBA-caliber players, a Hall of Fame coach, a bigger budget than two dozen BCS football programs, a pedigree and blue blood (whatever that's good for), not to mention a 27-minute commute from their campus in Durham to the loading dock at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

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