Thursday, March 13, 2014

Published:

Malaysia plane sent signals to satellite for hours after going missing; search extends west

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- A Malaysia Airlines plane sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing, an indication that it was still flying for hundreds of miles or more, a U.S. official briefed on the search said Thursday.

Six days after the plane with 239 people aboard disappeared, Malaysian authorities expanded their search westward toward India, saying the aircraft may have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

A string of previous clues about Flight MH370 have led nowhere.

"MH370 went completely silent over the open ocean," said Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. "This is a crisis situation. It is a very complex operation, and it is not obviously easy. We are devoting all our energies to the task at hand."

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the situation by name, said the Boeing 777-200 wasn't transmitting data to the satellite, but was instead sending out a signal to establish contact.

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Search for missing Malaysia Airlines jet is latest chapter in history of disappearing planes

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is the latest example of a very rare event in aviation: a plane that vanishes.

With radar, radio traffic and other technology, planes that crash are usually found quickly. But sometimes searches can take days or weeks if the plane disappears over open ocean or remote and rugged land areas.

Since the dawn of the jet age in 1958, here are some other notable disappearances (not all were jets):

-- Air France Flight 447: After the 2009 crash of the Airbus A330 jet, debris was found within a few days but it took two years to find the main wreckage on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The jet had flown into a fierce storm over the Atlantic after leaving Rio de Janeiro for Paris. All 228 people on board died.

-- Adam Air: A Boeing 737 operated by the Indonesian airline and carrying 102 people vanished on Jan. 1, 2007. Parts of the tail and other debris were found several days later, but it would take nearly nine months for the flight-data and cockpit recorders to be recovered. The fuselage is still on the ocean floor.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. WHAT SUGGESTS PLANE FLEW ON AFTER IT WENT MISSING

The Malaysia Airlines jet sent signals to a satellite for four hours after ground contact was lost, a U.S. official says.

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Russian troops on war games near Ukraine as Putin faces tough Western warnings

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- Russia conducted new military maneuvers near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, and President Vladimir Putin said the world shouldn't blame his country for what he called Ukraine's "internal crisis."

In Crimea, where the public will vote on Sunday whether to break away from Ukraine and become part of Russia, jittery residents lined up at their banks to withdraw cash from their accounts amid uncertainty over the future of the peninsula, which Russian troops now control. Violence engulfed the eastern Donetsk region, where violent clashes between pro-Russia demonstrators and supporters of the Ukrainian government left at least one person dead.

"These people are afraid their bank will collapse and no one wants to lose their money," said resident Tatiana Sivukhina. "Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plan to meet in London on Friday in a last-ditch bid to end the international standoff over the Crimean referendum, which Ukraine and the West have rejected as illegitimate.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply criticized Russia, saying the territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be compromised.

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Death toll in NYC explosion climbs to 8 as investigators try to pinpoint source of gas leak

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rescue workers using dogs and thermal-detection gear to search rubble for more victims of a gas explosion found an eighth body on Thursday while investigators tried to pinpoint the leak and determine whether it had anything to do with the city's aging gas and water mains, some from the 1800s.

At least five people were unaccounted for after the deafening blast Wednesday morning destroyed two five-story East Harlem apartment buildings that were served by an 1887 cast-iron gas main. More than 60 people were injured.

Fire and utility officials said that if the buildings were plagued in recent days or weeks by strong gas odors, as some tenants claimed, they have no evidence anyone reported it before Wednesday.

National Transportation Safety Board team member Robert Sumwalt said the gas main and distribution pipe under the street had been examined in a crater and were found to be intact, with no obvious punctures or ruptures. They had not been torn from the ground, he said.

However, he said NTSB investigators had been unable to conduct a fuller examination because of the rescue effort underway, and it was unclear whether the leak came from inside or outside the buildings.

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Failings of nuclear missile launch crews worse than first reported, Air Force documents show

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Failings exposed last spring at a U.S. nuclear missile base, reflecting what one officer called "rot" in the ranks, were worse than originally reported, according to Air Force documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Airmen responsible for missile operations at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., would have failed their portion of a major inspection in March 2013 but managed a "marginal" rating because their poor marks were blended with the better performance of support staff -- like cooks and facilities managers -- and they got a boost from the base's highly rated training program. The "marginal" rating, the equivalent of a "D'' in school, was reported previously. Now revealed are details of the low performance by the launch officers, or missileers, entrusted with the keys to missiles.

"Missileer technical proficiency substandard," one briefing slide says. "Remainder (of missile operations team) raised grade to marginal."

The documents also hint at an exam-cheating problem in the making among launch crews at Minot, almost a full year before allegations of widespread cheating erupted this January at a companion nuclear base in Montana.

An official inquiry into the troubled inspection of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot in March 2013 concluded that one root cause was poor use of routine testing and other means of measuring the proficiency of launch crews in their assigned tasks. For example, commanders at Minot did not ensure that monthly written tests were supervised. The analysis also said Minot senior leaders failed to foster a "culture of accountability."

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CIA-Senate dispute raises murky legal, policy issues; no guarantee of criminal prosecution

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A fight between the Senate and the CIA over whether crimes were committed in the handling of sensitive classified material appears unlikely to be resolved in the courts, legal experts say.

The simmering dispute erupted in public this week when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., accused the CIA of improperly searching and removing documents from a computer network used by Senate investigators to compile a report on the George W. Bush-era interrogation program for suspected terrorists. CIA Director John Brennan has denied that the CIA hacked into the computers but says an audit was necessary to determine whether Senate staffers had improperly obtained sensitive CIA documents.

The matter has landed in the lap of the Justice Department, which has been asked to investigate whether laws were broken.

But legal experts say prosecutors will likely be hesitant to wade into a separation-of-powers dispute between two branches of government that involves a muddled area of the law and raises as many policy questions as it does legal ones. The Justice Department receives far more requests to open criminal probes than it chooses to pursue. Federal courts, too, are reluctant to referee power disputes between the two other branches of government.

"There's an ongoing debate about what the proper role of each of these branches of government is," said Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. "Who's watching the watchers? Is Congress watching the CIA or is the CIA watching Congress? And who's in control here?"

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South By Southwest shaken, but continues after car speeds through crowd; 2 dead, 23 injured

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Fleeing police, a driver gunned a gray Honda Civic through a street barricade and into a crowd of South By Southwest festival attendees early Thursday, killing two people, injuring 23 others and casting a pall over one of the nation's hippest celebrations of music, movies and technology.

The driver struck multiple pedestrians around 12:30 a.m. on a block filled with concertgoers, then sped down the street, hitting and killing a man from the Netherlands on a bicycle and an Austin woman on a moped, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said. The driver eventually crashed into a parked van and tried to flee on foot before police used a stun gun to subdue him.

Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, will face two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle, Austin police said Thursday afternoon in a statement. Formal charges are still pending. The statement did not provide a city of residence.

Police said the incident started when an officer on a drunken-driving patrol tried to stop a vehicle. Acevedo indicated the suspect was drunk, but drunken driving was not among the charges police said Owens would face. Acevedo said investigators have obtained blood samples and were testing them.

Public records obtained by The Associated Press show that Owens had a previous conviction in Alaska for drunken driving and one in Texas for criminal trespassing.

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FBI says it believes Border Patrol agent found dead in his house responsible for kidnapping

EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- The FBI believes a Border Patrol agent found dead in his South Texas home is responsible for the kidnapping and assault of three females who were in the country illegally, the agency said Thursday.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said agents encountered an injured adult woman during their regular operations Wednesday night near McAllen, which is close to the Texas-Mexico border about 350 miles from Houston. The woman told agents that she and the two others had been attacked by a man, which prompted authorities to start a "search and recovery" operation. Border agents later found the second injured female.

Both the Border Patrol and the FBI said that the investigation led authorities early Thursday to agent's home in Mission, a suburb of McAllen. The agent was found dead inside. Law enforcement officials discovered the third female in the agent's apartment, the border patrol said. The victims are receiving medical treatment.

The Border Patrol later identified the agent as Esteban Manzanares. A Border Patrol spokesman at the Rio Grande Valley Sector, Danny Tirado, said Manzanares had been with the agency since 2008. Tirado did not elaborate on the circumstances of the kidnapping.

"We believe he is the person responsible for the kidnappings and the assault of all three of them," said Michelle Lee, an FBI spokeswoman in San Antonio. She did not elaborate on the investigation.

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Nose gear collapse causes plane emergency at Philadelphia Airport; 2 minor injuries reported

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A Florida-bound plane's nose gear collapsed during takeoff at Philadelphia International Airport Thursday, prompting an emergency evacuation of passengers from the runway.

Airline officials said US Airways Flight 1702 was heading to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when the pilot was forced to abort takeoff shortly after 6 p.m. when a tire on the plane's front landing gear blew out.

The Airbus A320 jet was carrying 149 passengers and five crew members, airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica said. All were rescheduled on departing flights Thursday night, she said.

Two passengers requested medical attention after the crash but no serious injuries were reported, she said.

A passenger on the plane, Dennis Fee, told WPVI-TV that it was "very windy and when the plane took off, the nose of the plane went back down, hitting the runway."