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

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Associated Press

Posted on March 30, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Updated Sunday, Mar 30 at 1:30 PM

Australia pours resources into search area for clues to wreckage of missing plane

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Australia's prime minister said Sunday that he was hopeful a clue will emerge soon to narrow the hunt for Flight 370, as more objects were pulled from the southern Indian Ocean and checked to see whether they were part of the plane that went missing more than three weeks ago.

So far, even though more ships are scouring the area off western Australia, none of the recovered items has been connected to the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed March 8 with 239 people on board.

"My understanding from this morning is that there has been no discrete debris associated with the flight," Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy told reporters Sunday.

In Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the "intensifying search effort" as positive because objects "have been recovered from the ocean."

The Australian Maritimes Safety Authority said 10 planes took part in the search Sunday, leaving in staggered times from the western city of Perth. Eight ships were on the scene, including the Australian navy supply ship HMAS Success, which is to store any wreckage found.

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Chinese relatives demand Malaysia apologize over handling of search for missing jetliner

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Several dozen Chinese relatives of passengers on Flight 370 demanded Sunday that Malaysia apologize for its handling of the search for the missing plane and for the prime minister's statement saying it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

Holding up banners that read "We want evidence, truth, dignity" in Chinese, and "Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back" in English, the group staged a protest at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur just hours after flying in from Beijing.

Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur were Chinese, and the plane's disappearance has sparked broad outrage in China, with celebrities joining in and travel agencies announcing boycotts.

Flight booking website eLong said it was suspending Malaysia Airlines flight sales until the relatives are satisfied with the government's response. Last Wednesday, Chinese touring agency CYTS said it would stop offering tours to Malaysia because of safety concerns.

Even popular actress Zhang Ziyi spoke out. "Malaysian government, you have hurt the entire world. ... You have misjudged the persistence in seeking truth by the world's people, including all the Chinese," she wrote on her microblog.

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Seabed of new jet search zone mostly flat with 1 trench, mostly good news for wreckage hunt

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Two miles under the sea where satellites and planes are looking for debris from the missing Malaysian jet, the ocean floor is cold, dark, covered in a squishy muck of dead plankton and — in a potential break for the search — mostly flat. The troubling exception is a steep, rocky drop ending in a deep trench.

The seafloor in this swath of the Indian Ocean is dominated by a substantial underwater plateau known as Broken Ridge, where the geography would probably not hinder efforts to find the main body of the jet that disappeared with 239 people on board three weeks ago, according to seabed experts who have studied the area.

Australian officials on Friday moved the search to an area 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) to the northeast of a previous zone as the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continued to confound. There is no guarantee that the jet crashed into the new search area. Planes that have searched it for two days have spotted objects of various colors and sizes, but none of the items scooped by ships has been confirmed to be related to the plane.

The zone is huge: about 319,000 square kilometers (123,000 square miles), roughly the size of Poland or New Mexico. But it is closer to land than the previous search zone, its weather is much more hospitable — and Broken Ridge sounds a lot craggier than it really is.

And the deepest part is believed to be 5,800 meters (19,000 feet), within the range of American black box ping locators on an Australian ship leaving Sunday for the area and expected to arrive in three or four days.

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Number of missing from Washington mudslide drops from 90 to 30; official death toll hits 18

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Hundreds of family photographs and albums are among the personal belongings being recovered by crews searching for victims at a massive debris site left by the deadly mudslide in Washington state.

More than a week after the slide destroyed a mountainside community north of Seattle, crews using heavy machinery and their bare hands continued their work. Late Saturday, authorities said the number of people believed missing decreased substantially, from 90 to 30.

Officials previously said they expected that figure to go down as they worked to find people safe and cross-referenced a "fluid" list that likely included partial reports and duplicates.

As the number of people unaccounted for went down, the fatality list went up.

The official death toll of victims identified by the medical examiner on Saturday increased by one, to 18, said Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

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Warmer temperatures can lead warmer tempers, worsening global security, UN report to say

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — In an authoritative report due out Monday a United Nations climate panel for the first time is connecting hotter global temperatures to hotter global tempers. Top scientists are saying that climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, strife between nations and refugees.

They're not saying it will cause violence, but will be an added factor making things even more dangerous. Fights over resources, like water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will all go into the mix to destabilize the world a bit more, says the report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The summary of the report is being finalized this weekend by the panel in Yokohama.

That's a big change from seven years ago, the last time the IPCC addressed how warming affected Earth, said report lead author Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California. The summary that political leaders read in early 2007 didn't mention security issues will, he said, because of advances in research.

"There's enough smoke there that we really need to pay attention to this," said Ohio University security and environment professor Geoff Dabelko, one of the lead authors of the report's chapter on security and climate change.

For the past seven years, research in social science has found more links between climate and conflict, study authors say, with the full report referencing hundreds of studies on climate change and conflict.

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Govs. Chris Christie, Scott Walker court donors in Las Vegas ahead of 2016 presidential race

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two of the nation's highest-profile Republican governors on Saturday called for more aggressive leadership on America's challenges abroad, emphasizing their support for Israel as they courted powerful Jewish donors.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also stoked speculation about their own presidential ambitions as they gave frustrated Republicans advice on how to reclaim the White House in 2016 after losing two straight elections.

The Republican speakers at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual spring gathering largely avoided criticizing President Barack Obama by name in remarks that were thick with rhetoric faulting Obama's foreign policy while offering few specifics.

"We cannot have a world where our friends are unsure of whether we will be with them and our enemies are unsure of whether we will be against them," Christie said. "In New Jersey, nobody has to wonder whether I'm for them or against them."

Walker declared that the nation needs a "swift and decisive" foreign policy, while insisting that the GOP must find a presidential nominee from "outside Washington."

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Pro-govt militias in Venezuela accused of beating, killing with impunity

VALENCIA, Venezuela (AP) — The masked gunmen emerged from a group of several dozen motorcycle-mounted government loyalists who were attempting to dismantle a barricade in La Isabelica, a working-class district of Valencia that has been a center of unrest since nationwide protests broke out last month.

The barricades' defenders had been hurling rocks, sticks and other objects at the attackers, who included perhaps a dozen armed men, witnesses told The Associated Press.

Lisandro Barazarte, a photographer with the local newspaper, Notitarde, caught images of several of the men shooting into the crowd while steadying their firearms on their palms.

"They were practiced shooters," Barazarte said. "More were armed, but didn't fire."

When it was over, two La Isabelica men were dead: a 22-year-old student, Jesus Enrique Acosta, and a little league baseball coach, Guillermo Sanchez. Witnesses told the AP the first was shot in the head, the second in the back. They said neither was at the barricades when he was killed.

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Report: 2 Spanish journalists freed after 6 months captivity in Syria by rogue al-Qaida group

BEIRUT (AP) — Two Spanish journalists were freed after being held captive for six months in Syria by a rogue al-Qaida group, the newspaper for which one of the men worked said Sunday.

El Mundo said reporter Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova made contact Saturday evening from Turkey, where there were in the care of the military. They were expected in Spain on Sunday.

It was not clear whether they escaped or were let go by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which abducted them near a rebel-held province in eastern Syria in September.

Syria remains the most dangerous conflict in the world for reporters, partially because of the risk of kidnapping by pro-government forces or rebels. The release of the two Spanish correspondents leaves at least another nine foreign correspondents missing in Syria as well as 10 Syrian reporters.

Activists, who do much of the on-the-ground reporting in Syria, are also at risk. The press rights group Reporters without Borders says around 20 are held by the Islamic State, while an unknown number are held by the government.

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Moderate quake forces evacuations in Southern California; more than 100 aftershocks recorded

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A moderate earthquake that rattled a swath of Southern California forced several dozen people in one community out of their homes after firefighters discovered foundation problems that made the buildings unsafe to enter, authorities said Saturday.

Fire crews red-tagged 20 apartment units in a building in the Orange County city of Fullerton after finding a major foundation crack. Structural woes, including broken chimneys and leaning, were uncovered in half a dozen single-family houses, which were also deemed unsafe to occupy until building inspectors clear the structures. The damage displaced 83 residents.

Despite the evacuations and scattered damage, Friday night's magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles mostly frayed nerves.

The quake was preceded by two smaller foreshocks. More than 100 aftershocks followed, including a magnitude-4.1 that hit Saturday afternoon, the largest in the sequence so far that was felt over a wide region. No injuries were reported.

Residents were inconvenienced and some lost valuables, but "thankfully the damage wasn't greater," said Chi-Chung Keung, a spokesman for the city of Fullerton.

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Tucson police fire pepper spray at students after University of Arizona loses basketball game

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Tucson police said Saturday night that they shot pepper spray at several hundred fans who took to the streets and threw beer bottles and firecrackers at officers after the University of Arizona basketball team's overtime loss in the NCAA tournament.

There were no reports of injuries to fans or officers, but 15 people were arrested for offenses such as resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, Tucson police Sgt. Pete Dugan said. Of those arrested, 14 were released, and one was sent to Pima County jail. He said those advancing on officers were arrested. The street was clear and the crowd was gone by late Saturday.

Dugan said crowds leaving bars and restaurants near campus after the game filled University Boulevard and wouldn't leave despite urging through a PA system and social media declaring it an unlawful assembly.

Police brought in cruisers and a unit of officers with batons, helmets and face masks to block the street when people started tossing beer bottles, cans and firecrackers, hitting police vehicles and endangering officers.

Officers fired pepper spray, pepper canisters and pepper balls, which disperse into the air when they hit, Dugan said. No tear gas was used despite some reports.

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