Search resumes for missing Malaysian jetliner as probe launched into fake passports
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Planes and ships from across Asia resumed the hunt Sunday for a Malaysian jetliner missing with 239 people on board for more than 24 hours, while Malaysian aviation authorities investigated how two passengers were apparently able to get on the aircraft using stolen passports.
There was still no confirmed sighting of wreckage from the Boeing 777 in the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam where it vanished from screens early Saturday morning en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The weather was fine, the plane was already cruising and the pilots had no time to send a distress signal -- unusual circumstances for a modern jetliner to crash.
Li Jiaxiang, administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said some debris had been spotted, but it was unclear whether it came from the plane. Vietnamese authorities said they had seen nothing close to two large oil slicks they saw Saturday and said might be from the missing plane.
Malaysia's civil aviation chief Azaharuddin Abdul Rahman said his country had expanded its area of operation to the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, on the other side of the country from where the plane disappeared. "This is standard procedure. If we can't find it here, we go to other places," he said.
Finding traces of an aircraft that crashes over sea can take days or longer, even with a sustained search effort. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, wreckage can be scattered over many square kilometers (miles). If the plane enters the water before breaking up, there can be relatively little debris.
It's too early to say why a Malaysia Airlines plane vanished but here are some probable causes
NEW YORK (AP) -- The most dangerous parts of a flight are takeoff and landing. Rarely do incidents happen when a plane is cruising seven miles above the earth.
So the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jet well into its flight Saturday morning over the South China Sea has led aviation experts to assume that whatever happened was quick and left the pilots no time to place a distress call.
It could take investigators months, if not years, to determine what happened to the Boeing 777 flying from Malaysia's largest city of Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"At this early stage, we're focusing on the facts that we don't know," said Todd Curtis, a former safety engineer with Boeing who worked on its 777 wide-body jets and is now director of the Airsafe.com Foundation.
If there was a minor mechanical failure -- or even something more serious like the shutdown of both of the plane's engines -- the pilots likely would have had time to radio for help. The lack of a call "suggests something very sudden and very violent happened," said William Waldock, who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
Russia reinforces military presence in Crimea; Moscow denounces Ukrainian authorities
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- Dozens of military trucks transporting heavily armed soldiers rumbled over Crimea's rutted roads Saturday as Russia reinforced its armed presence on the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea. Moscow's foreign minister ruled out any dialogue with Ukraine's new authorities, whom he dismissed as the puppets of extremists.
The Russians have denied their armed forces are active in Crimea, but an Associated Press reporter trailed one military convoy Saturday afternoon from 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Feodosia to a military airfield at Gvardeiskoe north of Simferopol, over which a Russian flag flew.
Some of the army green vehicles had Russian license plates and numbers indicating that they were from the Moscow region. Some towed mobile kitchens and what appeared to be mobile medical equipment.
The strategic peninsula in southern Ukraine has become the flashpoint in the battle for Ukraine, where three months of protests sparked by President Victor Yanukovych's decision to ditch a significant treaty with the 28-nation European Union after strong pressure from Russia led to his downfall. A majority of people in Crimea identify with Russia, and Moscow's Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol, as is Ukraine's.
Vladislav Seleznyov, a Crimean-based spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, told AP that witnesses had reported seeing amphibious military ships unloading around 200 military vehicles in eastern Crimea on Friday night after apparently having crossed the Straits of Kerch, which separates Crimea from Russian territory.
Crimea's new leader, a man with a murky past now working to tie his region to Russia
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- Two weeks ago, Sergey Aksyonov was a small-time Crimean politician, the leader of a tiny pro-Russia political party that could barely summon 4 percent of the votes in the last regional election. He was a little-known businessman with a murky past and a nickname -- "Goblin" -- left over from the days when criminal gangs flourished here after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Times have changed.
Today, Aksyonov is the prime minister of Crimea's regional parliament and the public face of Russia's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula. He is, by all appearances, a man placed in power by Moscow who is now working hard to make Crimea a part of Russia.
He also leads a brand-new army, 30 men carrying AK-47s who are still learning to march in formation. "Commander!" they greeted him Saturday, when they were sworn into service in a Simferopol park.
Speaking at the ceremony, the former semi-professional boxer said that while Crimea's March 16 referendum would make the peninsula a part of Russia, he holds no grudge against Ukraine.
AP Exclusive: Record second felony convictions by counties undermine California prison goals
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California counties are confounding the state's court-ordered efforts to sharply reduce its inmate population by sending state prisons far more convicts than anticipated, including a record number of people with second felony convictions.
The surge in offenders requiring state prison sentences is undermining a nearly 3-year-old law pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The legislation restructured California's criminal justice system to keep lower-level felons in county jails while reserving state prison cells for serious, violent and sexual offenders.
The law initially reduced the state prison population by 25,000 inmates and brought it close to the level demanded by a special panel of three federal judges who ruled that a reduction in crowding was the best way to improve treatment of inmates.
But the inmate population is rising again, led by a record increase in the number of second felony convictions for those who already had a prior conviction for a serious crime.
Counties, where prosecutors have discretion in filing such charges, sent nearly 5,500 people with second felony convictions to state prisons during the 2013-14 fiscal year, a 33 percent increase over the previous year and the most since California enacted the nation's first three-strikes law in 1994 that required life sentences for offenders convicted of three felonies.
GOP targets Clinton, Rand Paul wins CPAC straw poll
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- She was not on the speaking program, but Hillary Rodham Clinton had presence at the nation's largest annual gathering of conservative activists on Saturday, as high-profile Republicans launched a dual effort to attack the prospective Democratic presidential candidate and improve the GOP's longstanding struggle with women voters.
It was the closing act of a Republican summit that highlighted acute challenges for a party that hasn't won a presidential election in a decade.
The GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, offered a message to all women, a group that has backed Democrats in every presidential election since 1988: "Women, don't let them use you -- unless you choose to be their political pawn, just their piece of accessory on their arm."
The Republican firebrand was among just a handful of women featured on the main stage during the Conservative Political Action Conference, which offers an early audition for GOP officials weighing a 2016 presidential run and a platform for leading conservatives to put their stamp on the evolving Republican Party. Thousands of conservative activists, opinion leaders and Republican officials flocked to a hotel just across the Potomac River near Washington.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the conference's presidential preference straw poll, a symbolic victory that reflects his popularity among conservatives who typically hold outsized influence in the GOP's presidential selection process.
Half a century later, landmark Supreme Court case on free speech still relevant in digital age
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Singer Courtney Love hadn't been born and tweeting was reserved for birds when The New York Times won a landmark libel case at the Supreme Court in 1964.
But when a California jury decided recently that Love shouldn't have to pay $8 million over a troublesome tweet about her former lawyer, she became just the latest person to lean on New York Times v. Sullivan, a case decided 50 years ago Sunday, and the cases that followed and expanded it.
The Sullivan case, as it is known among lawyers, stemmed from Alabama officials' efforts to hamper the newspaper's coverage of civil rights protests in the South. The decision made it hard for public officials to win lawsuits and hefty money awards over published false statements that damaged their reputations.
In the decades since, the justices have extended the decision, making it tough for celebrities, politicians and other public figures to win libel suits.
Newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations were the primary means of publishing when the Sullivan case was decided. Today, the case applies equally to new media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Because of the ease of publishing online, more people may claim the protections granted by the decision and others that followed.
Domestic violence cases that saw Lebanese women killed spark protests, call for stricter laws
BEIRUT (AP) -- Nada Sabbagh received a brief, chilling telephone call from her son-in-law last month telling her: "Come to your daughter. I am going to kill her."
Sabbagh said by the time she arrived to her daughter's home in Beirut, her husband had kicked, punched and beaten her with a pressure cooker, leaving her mortally wounded and bleeding on the floor.
"I walked in and started jumping in shock then begged him to let me take her out," Sabbagh later recounted. She said he responded by saying: "I will not let her out. I want her to die in front of you."
Manal Assi's husband, Mohammed Nuheili, was detained shortly afterward and is still being questioned by authorities. It remains unclear if he has a lawyer and he could not be reached for comment.
The killing of Sabbagh's daughter is one of three domestic violence slayings in Lebanon in recent months, drawing new attention to women's rights in this country of 4 million people. Although Lebanon appears very progressive on women rights compared to other countries in the Middle East, domestic violence remains an unspoken problem and the nation's parliament has yet to vote on a bill protecting women's rights nearly three years after it was approved by the Cabinet.
Guided by ancient Greeks, old lawyer for Nelson Mandela resists retirement
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- One of Nelson Mandela's closest confidants is still challenging the powers that be, with plenty of guidance from his ancestors, the ancient Greeks.
"Power, even in advanced democracies, is abused. It's part of life," said George Bizos, a Greek-born lawyer who defended Mandela at the 1960s trial in which the anti-apartheid leader was sentenced to life in prison.
After the end of white minority rule, many activists in South Africa branched into other fields or eventually retired. But 85-year-old Bizos, now an executor of Mandela's will, resists retiring from human rights work.
The advocate, who doesn't carry a mobile telephone and wears a big suit jacket that hangs loose on his shoulders, works for the Legal Resources Centre, a South African human rights group. He has hammered at police witnesses during an inquiry into the shooting deaths of several dozen protesters by police during a mine strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in 2012.
The legal warhorse has tousled white hair, a soft, sometimes quavering voice, describes himself as "computer-illiterate" and sprinkles remarks with references to ancient Greeks credited with building the foundations of democracy.
Daylight saving time arrives early Sunday; set clocks forward 1 hour before heading to bed
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Spring is closer than you think, and here's a sure sign: Daylight saving time arrives this weekend.
Most Americans will set their clocks 60 minutes forward before heading to bed Saturday night. Daylight saving time officially starts Sunday at 2 a.m. local time.
You may lose an hour of sleep, but daylight saving time promises an extra hour of evening light for many months ahead.
It's also a good time to put new batteries in warning devices such as smoke detectors and hazard warning radios.
The time change is not observed by Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.