Friday, March 14, 2014

Published:

Theories of piracy or pilot suicide gain more credence as search for missing plane expands

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Piracy and pilot suicide are among the scenarios under study as investigators grow increasingly certain the missing Malaysia Airlines jet changed course and headed west after its last radio contact with air traffic controllers.

The latest evidence suggests the plane didn't experience a catastrophic incident over the South China Sea as was initially suspected. Some experts theorize that one of the pilots, or someone else with flying experience, hijacked the plane or committed suicide by plunging the jet into the sea.

Adding to the speculation that someone was flying the jet, The New York Times on Friday quoted sources familiar with the investigation as saying that the plane experienced significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control, and altered its course more than once.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press earlier that investigators are examining the possibility of "human intervention" in the plane's disappearance, adding it may have been "an act of piracy." The official, who wasn't authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was possible the plane may have landed somewhere. The official later said there was no solid information on who might have been involved.

While other theories are still being examined, the official said key evidence suggesting human intervention is that contact with the Boeing 777's transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system on the jet quit. Such a gap would be unlikely in the case of an in-flight catastrophe.

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Electronic trail, difficulty of hiding plane would make it hard to steal a big airliner

To steal Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 out of midair would require a pilot who knew how to elude detection by both civilian and military radar. It would take a runway at least a mile long to land the wide-body jet, possibly in the dark, and a hangar big enough to hide it. All without being seen.

Improbable but not impossible, experts say.

With the search for the missing airliner entering its eighth day, scenarios involving piracy or hijacking are increasingly being talked about as possible explanations for the disappearance of the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board.

Authorities say they're not ruling out other theories, which include a catastrophic structural failure causing the plane to break up, engine failure, or pilot suicide. But a U.S. official gave an intriguing twist to the story Friday by saying that investigators are considering whether the plane's disappearance was due to "an act of piracy" and whether the big jet might have landed somewhere without being detected.

A takeover of the plane seemed to be ruled out a few days ago, when officials discounted any link between terrorism and two passengers who were traveling on fake passports. The piracy theory, however, gained new life when it was reported that the plane's transponders had been turned off, making it more stealthy; and that signals from the plane indicated that it kept flying for several hours after the last radio contact, possibly turning west toward the Indian Ocean.

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US urges Moscow to reject Sunday's vote in Crimea to join Russia and secede from Ukraine

LONDON (AP) -- The West braced Friday for a vote by the Crimean Peninsula to secede from Ukraine -- and likely be annexed by Russia -- as the last attempt for diplomacy broke down despite threats of costly international sanctions and other imminent penalties against Moscow for forcibly challenging a pro-European government in Kiev.

Russia's top diplomat said Moscow will make no decisions about Crimea's future, including whether to embrace it as a new territory, until after a local referendum Sunday to decide whether it should remain part of Ukraine.

But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the vote's results are all but a foregone conclusion, and urged Russia's parliament against accepting any offer to claim Crimea as its own.

"We believe that a decision to move forward by Russia to ratify that vote officially within the Duma would, in fact, be a backdoor annexation of Crimea," Kerry told reporters in London after six hours of talks Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Kerry instead called on Moscow to support broad autonomy for Crimea -- still as part of Ukraine -- instead of a move by the strategic peninsula to secede. And he predicted the probability of "if the people of Crimea vote overwhelmingly, as one suspects they will, to affiliate or be associated with Russia."

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Killer who escaped from Army prison in 1977 recaptured in Fla. via face-recognition software

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- In the nearly 40 years after he escaped from the maximum-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, convicted killer James Robert Jones carved out a new life for himself in Florida, living under an assumed name, getting married and working for an air conditioning company.

It all came to an end this week when Jones -- or Bruce Walter Keith, as the former Army private was known in Florida -- was recaptured with the help of technology that was more sci-fi than reality when he broke out during the disco era: facial-recognition software.

"The first words out of his mouth were, 'I knew this would catch up with me someday,'" Barry Golden, a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service, said Friday.

Jones, 59, was one of the Army's 15 most-wanted fugitives after his 1977 escape from the Kansas prison dubbed "The Castle" for its large walls and tower keeps.

He was convicted of murder and assault in the 1974 killing of a fellow soldier at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

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Malnutrition grows among Syrian children as poverty, lack of heath care take toll

KAB ELIAS, Lebanon (AP) -- Trapped in her northern Syrian village by fighting, Mervat watched her newborn baby progressively shrink. Her daughter's dark eyes seemed to grow bigger as her face grew more skeletal. Finally, Mervat escaped to neighboring Lebanon, and a nurse told her the girl was starving.

The news devastated her. "They had to hold me when they told me. I wept," the 31-year-old mother said, speaking in the rickety, informal tent camp where she now lives with her husband in the eastern Lebanese town of Kab Elias.

Her daughter Shurouk has been undergoing treatment the past three months and remains a wispy thing. The 9-month-old weighs 7 pounds (3.2 kilos) -- though she's become more smiley and gregarious. Mervat spoke on condition she be identified only by her first name, fearing problems for her family in Syria.

Her case underscored how dramatically Syrian society has unraveled from a conflict that this weekend enters its fourth year. Such stark starvation was once rare in Syria, where President Bashar Assad's autocratic state ran a health system that provided nearly free care.

That system, along with most other state institutions, has been shattered in many parts of the country where the fighting between Assad's forces and the rebels trying to overthrow him is raging hardest. The war has killed more than 140,000 people and has driven nearly a third of the population of 23 million from their homes -- including 4.2 million who remain inside Syria and 2.5 million who have fled into neighboring countries. Nearly half those displaced by the war are children.

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Records opened: Clinton feared 1994 losses; team later gave conflicting advice on response

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sensing a Republican tidal wave, President Bill Clinton worried in the summer of 1994 that Republicans were energized heading into the midterm elections while his Democratic base was deflated. "There's no organization, there's no energy, there's no anything out there," Clinton said of his own party.

"They're organized and they're working," the president observed of conservative activists, according to an August, 1994 transcript. "And our cultural base. ... They walked off."

Clinton's concerns turned out to be justified: Republicans swept to power in the fall elections, wresting control of the House and Senate from the president's party. The transcript was among 4,000 documents released Friday by the National Archives.

They're just part of the roughly 30,000 pages expected to be released in coming weeks. The documents, which cover Clinton's two presidential terms, are much anticipated in the political world, partly because then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is considering her own bid for the presidency in 2016.

The documents shed ample light on her husband's administration, highlighting the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of aides, the stroking of allies and erstwhile opponents and the sting of the first Republican takeover of Congress in 40 years.

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Ex-librarian, mechanic convicted in NYC of kidnap-rape-killing plot they claimed was fantasy

NEW YORK (AP) -- A retired New York high school librarian and a New Jersey auto mechanic were convicted Friday of scheming to carry out gruesome fantasies of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing women and girls.

The verdicts in Christopher Asch and Michael Van Hise's conspiracy trial came a year after a conviction in a headline-grabbing case of a police officer accused of plotting abductions and cannibalism. A fourth man, a former hospital police chief, pleaded guilty in January.

Together, the cases plumbed an online underground where people share macabre fetishes, and the prosecutions hinged on the boundaries between imagining and actually intending to bring fantasies to life.

Lawyers for both said they would appeal. No sentencing date was set.

"Today, a unanimous jury found that the twisted conspiracies of Michael Van Hise and Robert Christopher Asch were not mere fantasy, but steps within very real plans to kidnap real victims," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement, using Asch's full name; he goes by Christopher.

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Chris Brown jailed without bail after R&B singer discharged for violating rehab rules

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Chris Brown was arrested Friday and will be held without bail on a warrant issued by probation officials in the latest legal entanglement for the R&B singer who has struggled to put his 2009 attack on Rihanna behind him.

The warrant was issued by the judge overseeing Brown's case after he was informed Friday morning that the singer had been discharged from rehab "for failure to comply with rules and regulations of the program." No further details were released, but more information will be presented to Superior Court Judge James R. Brandlin when Brown appears in his courtroom on Monday afternoon.

Sheriff's officials said Brown was cooperative when he was arrested at a Malibu treatment facility where he had been staying and transported to a jail facility in downtown Los Angeles.

Brown had been ordered to remain in rehab for anger management treatment. A January letter from the facility stated that the singer was also being treated for bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and past substance abuse.

An email sent to Brown's attorney Mark Geragos was not immediately returned. A probation spokeswoman declined to comment on what prompted Brown's arrest.

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Donald Trump says he's not running for New York governor, calls state GOP 'dysfunctional'

NEW YORK (AP) -- Real estate mogul Donald Trump said Friday he will not run for governor and criticized the state's Republican Party for failing to unify behind him.

"While I won't be running for Governor of New York State, a race I would have won," he posted on Twitter, "I have much bigger plans in mind- stay tuned, will happen!"

The executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump, Michael Cohen, confirmed that Trump will not run but said he could not elaborate on Trump's bigger plans.

Trump had been flirting with challenging Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a few months, but he had said he would run only if he faced no rival for the Republican nomination.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced this month that he will seek the Republican nomination for governor.

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Person familiar with negotiations tells AP: Phil Jackson to be introduced Tuesday by Knicks

Phil Jackson won NBA titles as a player and a coach. He'll now try winning as an executive.

And this quest will take him back to where his career began.

Jackson has agreed to run the New York Knicks' front office and will be formally introduced by the team at a news conference at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday morning, a person familiar with the negotiations between the 11-time champion coach and the franchise told The Associated Press on Friday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Knicks would only confirm that a "major announcement" involving team executives was scheduled. Jackson also did not make any immediate public comment, but the move had been expected for several days -- and was practically confirmed earlier this week by Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who said he had heard the Hall of Fame coach was "coming on board."

Jackson had been courted by clubs before, and fans in Los Angeles clamored for him to return to coaching not long after he left the Lakers after the 2010-11 season. He's largely shunned limelight during this three-year break from work, during which he did things such as working on his health -- arthritis pain hampered him toward the end of his coaching career -- and released a book chronicling his basketball life.