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

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Associated Press

Posted on March 29, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Chinese plane spots 3 new floating objects but none recovered yet in search for missing jet

PERTH, Australia (AP) — No debris spotted in an area off the west coast of Australia has been recovered, a Malaysian minister involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said Saturday, adding he hoped for some news soon.

The first plane back from the search Saturday, a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, spotted three floating objects, China's official Xinhua News Agency said, a day after several planes and ships combing the newly targeted area closer to mainland Australia saw several other objects, including two rectangular items that were blue and gray.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters near Kuala Lumpur after meeting several families of passengers on the plane that there was no new information on the objects, which could just be regular debris, or could be from the missing plane.

"I've got to wait to get the reports on whether they have retrieved those objects. ... Those will give us some indication," said Hishammuddin, who was accompanied by his wife and children as he visited the relatives at a hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said that objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from Flight 370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships. "It is not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily there. At least one distinctive fishing object has been identified," it said.

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Latest information on search in southern Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines jet

Planes and ships scoured the new search zone for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on Saturday, hoping to recover and analyze any of the several objects spotted from the air.

NEW OBJECTS, BUT NONE RECOVERED:

A Chinese plane flying over the search zone in the southern Indian Ocean 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) west of Perth, Australia, reported seeing three suspicious objects white, red and orange in color. On Friday, planes also spotted several objects, including two rectangular items that were blue and gray. Six ships are in the area trying to recover and inspect them, but without success.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said it was not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily floating in the ocean. "At least one distinctive fishing object has been identified," it said.

Malaysia's Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters near Kuala Lumpur after meeting several families of passengers on the plane that he's hoping for some news soon.

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10 Things to Know: This Week's Takeaways 1110

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

1. WASHINGTON STATE COMMUNITY ANGUISHES OVER MUDSLIDE

Rescue workers spent the week digging through an immense pile of mud and debris in a fruitless search for survivors of the March 22 mudslide in the North Cascades community of Oso, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle. So far, 17 bodies have been recovered, with 90 people confirmed missing and feared dead.

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Police say militants open fire on Afghan election headquarters in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban militants attacked the main Afghan election commission's headquarters Saturday in Kabul, opening fire on the compound with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns from a house outside its perimeter wall, according to police.

It's the latest in a series of high-profile attacks that come as the Islamic militant movement steps up a campaign of violence to disrupt presidential elections, which are due to be held in a week.

A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said security already had been increased around the compound because an attack had been widely expected, and no casualties have been reported.

Explosions were heard when the attack started, according to the spokesman Noor Mohammed Noor, but he did not know what caused them.

Kabul police chief Mohammad Zahir Zahir said three or four attackers were holed up in a neighboring house that had been empty when they occupied it. He said the house is about 800 meters (yards) away from the headquarters, which is inside a walled off compound guarded by a series of watch towers and checkpoints.

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Ruling that college athletes could unionize focuses attention on federal labor relations board

WASHINGTON (AP) — The five-member regulatory board that will ultimately decide if Northwestern University football players can unionize has itself been in the middle of a firestorm.

The very makeup of the National Labor Relations Board has been challenged in a case now before the Supreme Court. And Republicans contend the agency has being overly friendly to organized labor.

Northwestern said Friday that it would appeal to the full NLRB a regional director's ruling that full scholarship players can be considered employees and thus have the right to form a union.

"Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns these students are raising," Alan K. Cubbage, vice president for university relations, said in a statement. "The life of a student athlete is extremely demanding, but the academic side and the athletic side are inextricably linked."

The appeal is due April 9, with the response from the players April 16. There's no deadline for the full board to respond.

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USGS says magnitude-5.1 earthquake shakes Los Angeles area

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered near Los Angeles caused no major damage but jittered nerves throughout the region as dozens of aftershocks struck into the night.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at about 9:09 p.m. Friday and was centered near Brea in Orange County — about 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles — at a depth of about 5 miles. It was felt as far south as San Diego and as far north as Ventura County, according to citizen responses collected online by the USGS.

Broken glass, gas leaks, water main breaks and a rockslide were reported near the epicenter, according to Twitter updates from local authorities.

Eyewitness photos and videos show bottles and packages strewn on store floors. Southern California Edison reported power outages to about 2,000 customers following the quake.

More than two dozen aftershocks ranging from magnitudes 2 to 3.6 were recorded, according to the USGS. Earlier in the evening, two foreshocks registering at magnitude-3.6 and magnitude-2.1 hit nearby in the city of La Habra.

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Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect hope records will show his brother as mastermind

BOSTON (AP) — Defense lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are looking for ways to show his deceased older brother was mostly responsible for the tragedy — a move that, if successful, could save their client's life.

The lawyers asked a judge on Friday to order federal prosecutors to turn over any FBI evidence related to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, hoping the defense can use it to build the case that he was the main instigator behind the deadly attack.

They say in court filings that if Dzhokhar is convicted, jurors could decide whether to give him life in prison or the death penalty based on how they perceive "the brothers' relative responsibility for conceiving and carrying out the attacks." The lawyers believe the jury's decision could rest on "the extent to which it views Tamerlan Tsarnaev as having induced or coerced his younger brother to help commit them."

"For this reason," the defense argued, "any evidence tending to show that Tamerlan supplied the motivation, planning, and ideology behind the Boston Marathon attack, and that his younger brother acted under his domination is material ... and is also subject to disclosure."

The lawyers want records of all FBI contact with Tamerlan, based on information from the Tsarnaev family and unidentified other sources that the FBI asked Tamerlan to be an informant on the Chechen and Muslim communities.

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Obama trip at an end, he heads home to deal with health care deadline, Russia aggression

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A week of international prodding, outreach and reassurance behind him, U.S. President Barack Obama is returning to Washington amid looming domestic and foreign challenges, from a fast-approaching deadline for health care enrollment to renewed worries about Russia's intentions in Eastern Europe.

Obama is set to leave Saudi Arabia on Saturday, a day after meeting with the country's aging monarch, King Abdullah. But tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which dominated his visit earlier in the week to the Netherlands and Belgium, continue to dog him, and his health care apparatus is dealing with an influx of last-minute sign-ups.

Before leaving Riyadh, Obama met with the Saudi winner of a State Department Women of Courage award, presented for her role in combating domestic violence and winning landmark legislation on protecting women. The winner is Maha Al Muneef, the executive director of the National Family Safety Program, which she founded in 2005 to combat domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia.

Obama, in remarks during the award at his hotel in Riyadh, praised her for not only being able to "set up services here in the kingdom, but also more importantly in some ways, being able to pass laws providing protections for women and children for domestic abuse and to provide a safe space and shelter for those who are suffering from domestic abuse.

"To see that kind of progress that's been made, her ability to work with the kingdom to persuade many that this is an issue that is going to be important to society over the long term, I think makes this award fully justified."

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Washington official warns arduous task of finding slide victims will take time

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Finding and identifying victims from one of the most lethal landslides in the nation's history could stretch on for a very long time, officials warned in describing the arduous work of extracting and trying to identify the human remains.

"It's a very, very slow process. It was miserable to begin with, and as you all know, it has rained heavily in the last few days, it's made the quicksand even worse," Snohomish County Executive Director Gary Haakenson said at a Friday evening briefing. "I cannot possibly tell you how long this will last, or when, or if they will find more bodies. We hope that we do, but right now there's no telling."

Crews may be finding more remains amid the destruction in the community of Oso northeast of Seattle, but Haakenson said the official death toll will remain at 17 until medical examiners can further complete their work.

Authorities have located at least eight other bodies in addition to the 17, and they previously said they expect the number of fatalities from the March 22 mudslide to rise substantially.

Ninety people were listed as missing, but hope for them began fading by midweek when they had not checked in with friends or relatives, and no one had emerged from the pile alive.

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A hot list from international climate scientist: 8 'reasons for concern' about global warming

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — If you have already read "12 Pieces of Practical Advice from Housecats," now you can move on to "8 Reasons to Worry about Global Warming."

A United Nations panel of scientists is joining the list craze with what they call eight "key risks" that are part of broader "reasons for concern" about climate change.

It's part of a massive report on how global warming is affecting humans and the planet and how the future will be worse unless something is done about it. The report is being finalized at a meeting this weekend by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

They assembled the list to "make it understandable and to illustrate the issues that have the greatest potential to cause real harm," the report's chief author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California, said in an interview.

But a draft of the list — called by the acronym RFCs — includes science-heavy language, caveats and uses lowercase Roman numerals, for example using iv instead of 4.

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