Thai satellite spots 300 objects floating in Indian Ocean near search area for Malaysian plane
BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai satellite has detected about 300 objects floating in the Indian Ocean near the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner, officials said Thursday.
Anond Snidvongs, director of Thailand's space technology development agency, said the images showed "300 objects of various sizes" in the southern Indian Ocean about 2,700 kilometers (1,675 miles) southwest of Perth, Australia.
Some of the objects were estimated at up to 16 meters (52 feet) long, he said.
The images were taken by the Thaichote satellite on Monday, took two days to process and were relayed to Malaysian authorities on Wednesday.
Anond says the objects were about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the area where a French satellite on Sunday spotted 122 objects. It remains uncertain whether the objects are from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people aboard.
Uneasy on the eyes: Spotters hunting for missing Malaysia Airlines flight face tough task
PERTH, Australia (AP) — They stare out at a punishingly unbroken expanse of gray water that seems, at times, to blend into the clouds. Occasionally, they press their foreheads against the plane's windows so hard they leave grease marks, their eyes darting up and down, left and right, looking for something — anything — that could explain the fate of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
The hunt for Flight 370, which vanished on March 8 during a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is complicated in just about every way imaginable, from the vastness of the search area to its distance from land to the brutal weather that plagues it. But for all the fancy technology on board the planes and vessels scouring the swirling waters, the best tool searchers have are their own eyes.
Those eyes can spot things man-made equipment cannot. But they are also subject to the peculiarities of the human brain. They can play tricks. They can blink at the wrong moment. They can, and often do, grow weary.
"It is incredibly fatiguing work," says Flight Lt. Stephen Graham, tactical coordinator for the crew on board a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion that has made six sorties into the southern Indian Ocean search zone. "If it's bright and glaring obviously sunglasses help, but there's only so much you can do."
Search and rescue makes up a small part of what Graham's squadron does, and visual spotting is an even smaller subset of that. But everyone on board has had to learn how to do it — and it's not as simple as most people think. Graham learned as part of a yearlong training stint in Canada, further refined his skills during a six-month course in New Zealand and has had ongoing training since.
Obama, Pope Francis meet amid common ground on economy, church disputes over health care
VATICAN CITY (AP) — President Barack Obama is holding a historic first meeting with Pope Francis, the pontiff that the president views as a kindred spirit on issues of economic inequality and the poor.
Obama arrived at the Vatican Thursday morning amid the pomp and tradition of the Catholic Church, making his way to greet the pope after a long, slow procession. The pontiff and the president shook hands before sitting down with their translators at a wooden table for their meeting.
"Wonderful to be here," Obama said, calling it "a great honor."
As they meet, the six-year president, with his sinking poll numbers, would not be blamed for seeking some reflected glory from a pope who, one year into his pontificate, is viewed as an agent of change in the Roman Catholic Church.
Obama is the ninth president to make an official visit to the Vatican. His audience marks a change of pace for the president, who has devoted the past three days of a weeklong, four-country trip to securing European unity against Russia's aggressive posture toward Ukraine.
Union ruling comes at a bad time for NCAA in battle for control of college sports
They're battling in courtrooms, and could one day meet over a bargaining table. About the only things the two sides in the debate over big-time college athletics agree on is that things are changing.
Schools bringing in hundreds of millions in bloated television contracts. Coaches making the kind of salaries that late UCLA legend John Wooden wouldn't recognize. Athletes insisting on basic rights, if not outright cash.
And now a union for football players at Northwestern that would previously have been unthinkable in college sports.
A ruling Wednesday that the Northwestern football team can bargain with the school as employees represented by a union may not by itself change the way amateur sports operate. But it figures to put more pressure on the NCAA and the major conferences to give something back to the players to justify the billions of dollars the players bring in — and never see.
There's huge money at stake — nearly $18 billion alone just in television rights for the NCAA basketball tournament and bowl games. Already fighting a flurry of antitrust lawsuits challenging its control of college athletics, the NCAA can't afford too many more defeats.
Trying to stem economic collapse, IMF offers Ukraine up to $18 billion in loans
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The International Monetary Fund on Thursday promised to loan between $14 billion and $18 billion to Ukraine's fledgling government, which is struggling to keep the country's economy afloat amid mounting debts.
Ukraine had faced three months of anti-government protest when President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country late February. Its economy teetering on collapse, Ukraine was pushed closer to the edge with Russia's takeover of the Crimean Peninsula and Moscow's multibillion dollar bill for gas deliveries.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk told the parliament on Thursday that the country is "on the brink of the economic and financial bankruptcy" and that its economy could drop 10 percent this year unless urgent steps are taken.
But the reforms his new government agreed to in exchange for the loans will hit households hard. That could severely diminish the new government's popularity at a time when it is struggling to establish itself in Kiev and has already lost territory to Russian forces.
The IMF said on Thursday that recent economic policies have drastically slowed growth and brought foreign currency reserves to a "critically low level."
Cities and counties in Great Plains and Mountain West see growth from energy production
WASHINGTON (AP) — America's energy boom is fueling population growth west of the Mississippi River.
New 2013 census information released Thursday shows that 6 of the 10 fastest-growing metropolitan areas and 8 of the 10 fastest-growing counties in the country are located in or near the oil- and gas-rich fields of the Great Plains and Mountain West.
More and more oil and gas drilling is being done in those regions, drawing people from around the nation looking for work, the Census Bureau said.
Neighboring cities Odessa and Midland, Texas, show up as the second and third fastest-growing metro areas in the country. Sara Higgins, the Midland public information officer, has a one-word explanation: oil. "They're coming here to work," Higgins said.
Energy production is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, the Census Bureau said. The boom in the U.S. follows the use of new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, to tap oil and gas reserves.
Rescuers deal with heartbreaking work as they search for mudslide victims
DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — As firefighter Jeff McClelland uncovered a body on the moon-like surface that blankets what used to be the community of Oso, he soon realized that the search party had a close connection to the victim: The dead man's son and brother were among the volunteers scouring the debris field.
The relatives sat beside the body as it was zipped into a bag. McClelland found himself overcome with tears.
The discovery served as a touching reminder of the deeply emotional work that is playing out in this tight-knit town as rescuers like McClelland search for bodies in the muck and devastation, hoping to at least bring some closure to the relatives and friends of those who have not been found.
"I can go home and ... eat some food, hug my wife, come in and hug my friends the next morning and say, 'Let's go again. We've got something to do. We've got a job to do, so let's go do it,'" McClelland said, recalling his thoughts on Wednesday.
Scores of people once thought missing in the mudslide have turned up safe, but that provided little relief to rescuers like McClelland who are tasked with bringing closure to the relatives and friends of those who have not been found.
Charlotte, NC, mayor resigns after being charged with public corruption, taking bribes
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Mayor Patrick Cannon was getting ready to close the deal with the big-time developer, but was reluctant to take a briefcase containing $20,000 while sitting in his city office.
"I just got to be conscious about that kind of stuff here, you know," Cannon told the fictitious developer, who was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent.
Yet when the "developer" left, the briefcase, given to Cannon in exchange for his offer to pull strings with important city officials, stayed behind, according to court documents.
Cannon was arrested Wednesday and accused of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina's largest city. He resigned Wednesday evening, less than six months after taking office.
It was a stunning fall for the 47-year-old Democrat who had risen from the city's public housing projects to become a successful businessman and politician.
Long-awaited home demolitions will turn blighted Detroit neighborhoods into blank canvas
DETROIT (AP) — The families of Detroit's Brightmoor area are delighted that the day is finally approaching when bulldozers will arrive to level more of their neighborhood. After that, their community's future will be like the cleared landscape — a blank canvas.
For years, Brightmoor residents pleaded with the city to demolish vacant homes that scavengers had stripped of wiring and plumbing and anything of value. Some structures are already gone, and now officials aim to do much more, possibly tearing down as many as 450 empty houses each week across more than 20 square miles of this bankrupt city — a vast patchwork of rotting homes comparable to the size of Manhattan.
The huge demolition project holds the potential to transform large parts of Detroit into an urban-redevelopment laboratory like the nation has never seen. But community leaders here and in cities that have attempted similar transformations say Detroit's best efforts could still wither from lack of money, lack of commitment or harsh economic realities.
"What's the plan for lots to keep them from becoming a different type of blight?" asked Tom Goddeeris, executive director of Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp., a nonprofit community improvement group representing a cluster of five Detroit neighborhoods.
The ambitious demolition schedule was formally presented last month as part of the city's plans to emerge from bankruptcy.
#Stormthecourt? Security firms track fans' social media posts to measure risk of crowd chaos
As Minnesota Vikings fans were getting ready for the final game at the Metrodome last December, officials at Whelan Security noticed social media chatter suggesting some of the faithful might rush the field and try to steal a piece of history.
So the firm that provides security for the Vikings boosted the number of guards present that day to maintain calm during the team's 14-13 win against Detroit.
They checked online chatter in part because there was a precedent for chaos: When the team had its final game in Metropolitan Stadium in 1981, fans rushed the field and nabbed anything and everything that wasn't bolted down.
"It allowed us to have an idea of what was going on in the mindset of the people in the building so we could counteract that," said Jeff Spoerndle, Whelan's director of special services.
Turns out big brother is watching what fans are doing before they ever even scan a ticket to get inside a game. Security firms tasked with monitoring fan behavior to stop them from rushing the court, threatening a coach or player, or getting rowdy during a big game are increasingly turning to social media as a predictor of whether or not fans will get feisty.