Sunday, March 23, 2014

Published:

New French satellite data expand air search for possible Malaysian jet debris over large area

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- Rain was expected to hamper the hunt Monday for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as a growing number of planes focus on an expanded area of the south Indian Ocean where a French satellite detected potential debris.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority's rescue coordination center said the search area was expanded from 59,000 to 68,500 square kilometers (22,800-26,400 square miles), including a new separate area because of data provided by France on Sunday.

The U.S. Pacific command said it was sending a black box locator to the region in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator has highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located, it can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet (6,100 meters), Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.

Two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes joined the search from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10 from eight a day earlier, AMSA said.

It said the weather in the search area, about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, was expected to deteriorate with rain likely.

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Ukraine says air force commander held after base in Crimea stormed

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- A Ukrainian air force commander is being held after his base in Crimea was stormed by pro-Russian forces, and the acting president called for his release Sunday.

Col. Yuliy Mamchur is the commander of the Belbek Air Force base near Sevastopol, which was taken over Saturday by forces who sent armored personnel carriers smashing through the base's walls and fired shots and stun grenades. One Ukrainian serviceman was reported wounded in the clash.

It was unclear if the forces, who didn't bear insignia, were Russian military or local pro-Russia militia.

Ukraine President Oleksandr Turchynov, in a statement, said Mamchur was "abducted" by the forces. He didn't specify where Mamchur is believed to be held.

However, prominent politician Vitali Klitschko said Sunday that Mamchur is being held by the Russian military in a jail in Sevastopol, the Crimean city that is the base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

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10 Things to Know for Monday

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

1. HUNT FOR LOST MALAYSIA JET EXPANDS AGAIN

More search planes are focusing on a larger area of the south Indian Ocean where French radar detected potential debris from Flight 370.

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Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines jet stirs concern about screening for pilots' mental health

DALLAS (AP) -- Reinforced doors with keypad entries. Body scanners and pat-downs. Elaborate crew maneuvers when a pilot has to use the restroom. All those tactics are designed to keep dangerous people out of the cockpit. But what if the pilot is the problem?

With no answers yet in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; investigators have said they're considering many options: hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or catastrophic equipment failure. Nobody knows if the pilots are heroes who tried to save a crippled airliner or if one collaborated with hijackers or was on a suicide mission.

Whatever the outcome, the mystery has raised concerns about whether airlines and governments do enough to make sure that pilots are mentally fit to fly.

"One of the most dangerous things that can happen is the rogue captain," said John Gadzinski, a Boeing 737 captain and aviation-safety consultant. "If you get somebody who -- for whatever reason -- turns cancerous and starts going on their own agenda, it can be a really bad situation."

Malaysia Airlines said this week that its pilots take psychological tests during the hiring process.

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Many people won't be enrolling by March 31 health care deadline, for all sorts of reasons

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alan Thacker wants health coverage, but he can't get help in his home state of Georgia. Mary Moscarello Gutierrez no longer can afford insurance in New Jersey. Justin Thompson of Utah refuses to be forced into the president's health law.

Millions of people in the United States will remain uninsured despite this week's final, frenzied push to sign them up under the health law. Their reasons are all over the map.

Across the country, many of the uninsured just don't know much about the health overhaul and its March 31 deadline for enrolling in plans that can yield big discounts, researchers say.

An Associated Press-GfK poll found that only one-fourth of the uninsured had tried to sign up through the state or federal insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges, by late January. If they don't enroll in time, many will face a fine and be locked out of the subsidized plans until next year.

President Barack Obama and a phalanx of advocacy groups, insurance companies and volunteers are scrambling to spread the word about HealthCare.gov as the deadline dangles.

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Supreme Court considers corporate religious objections to health law's birth control coverage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration and its opponents are renewing the Supreme Court battle over President Barack Obama's health care law in a case that pits the religious rights of employers against the rights of women to the birth control of their choice.

Two years after the entire law survived the justices' review by a single vote, the court is hearing arguments Tuesday in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans as part of the law's preventive care requirement.

Health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge, including all forms of birth control for women that have been approved by federal regulators.

Some of the nearly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives object to paying for all forms of birth control. But the companies involved in the high court case are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.

The largest company among them, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the Green family that owns it, say their "religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception."

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Fire chief: Death toll from large landslide in Washington state increases to four; 18 missing

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) -- Searchers found another body Sunday in the tangled sludge of a massive landslide in rural Washington state, bringing the death toll to at least four from the wall of debris that swept through a small riverside neighborhood.

At least 18 people remained missing, though authorities warned that number could grow. Late Saturday, rescuers heard cries for help, and a day later, they heard nothing.

The 1-square-mile mudslide that struck Saturday morning also critically injured several people and destroyed about 30 homes.

Crews were able to get to the muddy, tree-strewn area after geologists flew over in a helicopter and determined it was safe enough for emergency responders and technical rescue personnel to search for possible survivors, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Sunday evening. They found the body buried in the mud.

"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today," he said, adding that they did not search the entire debris field, only drier areas safe to traverse.

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Oil spill cleanup blocks traffic to Texas ship channel; residue 12 miles out in Gulf of Mexico

TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) -- A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as about a fifth of its cargo into the waterway.

Coast Guard officials said that up to 168,000 gallons were dumped after one of the barge's tanks ruptured and that oil had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico as of Sunday afternoon.

"This is a significant spill," Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the Coast Guard at Houston-Galveston, said.

But he said the emptying of the barge Sunday, a process known as lightering as contents are transferred to other vessels, was an important step as it had eliminated the risk of additional oil spilling.

The channel, one of the world's busiest waterways for moving petrochemicals, was shut for a second day Sunday. As many as 60 vessels were backed up both trying to get out and get in.

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James Rebhorn, character actor who appeared in 'Homeland,' 'My Cousin Vinny,' dies at 65

NEW YORK (AP) -- James Rebhorn, the prolific character actor whose credits included "Homeland," ''Scent of a Woman" and "My Cousin Vinny," has died. He was 65.

Rebhorn's agent, Dianne Busch, said Sunday that the actor died Friday at his home in South Orange, N.J, after a long battle with skin cancer.

Busch said Rebhorn was diagnosed with melanoma in 1992 but managed to work until the last month.

In five decades of television and film work, Rebhorn amassed more than 100 credits, ranging from a shipping magnate in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" to the prosecutor in the series finale of "Seinfeld," in which he famously sent the group to jail.

The lanky but piercing Rebhorn, raised a Lutheran in Indiana, often played astringent authorities, like the headmaster in "Scent of a Woman" or the Secretary of Defense in "Independence Day."

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AP PHOTOS: 'Cats, Cardinal reach Sweet 16

In arguably the most captivating game of a thrilling first NCAA tournament weekend, No. 8 seed Kentucky made a series of clutch free throws in the final minutes to hold off top-seeded Wichita State. Kentucky will play in-state rival Louisville in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Indianapolis.

In other games, Jarnell Stokes had 17 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds, and Tennessee denied Mercer a second straight upset. And Dwight Powell had 15 points and seven rebounds and No. 10 seed Stanford wrapped up its second straight upset at the free throw line.

Here are some images from NCAA hoop action:

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Associated Press photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo