Sunday, March 30, 2014

Published:

US, Russia remain deeply at odds over Ukraine crisis after Kerry-Lavrov talks in Paris

PARIS (AP) -- The United States and Russia agreed Sunday that the crisis in Ukraine requires a diplomatic resolution, but four hours of talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov failed to break a tense East-West deadlock over how to proceed.

Sitting face-to-face but not seeing eye-to-eye on any of the most critical issues, Kerry and Lavrov advanced far- different proposals on how to calm tensions and de-escalate the situation, particularly as Russia continues to mass troops along its border with the former Soviet republic. As he called for Moscow to begin an immediate pullback of the troops, Kerry also ruled out discussion of Russia's demand for Ukraine to become a loose federation until-and-unless Ukrainians are at the table.

"The Russian troop buildup is creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine," Kerry told reporters at the home of the U.S. ambassador to France after the meeting, which was held at the Russian ambassador's residence and included a working dinner. "It certainly does not create the climate that we need for dialogue."

The U.S. believes the massing of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, ostensibly for military exercises, along the border is at once an attempt to intimidate Ukraine's new leaders after Russia's annexation of the strategic Crimean peninsula and to use as a bargaining chip with the United States and the European Union, which have condemned Crimea's absorption into Russia and imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials.

Kerry noted that even if the troops remain on Russian soil and do not enter Ukraine, they create a negative atmosphere.

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Australian leader vows search for Malaysian Flight 370 will go on as long as needed

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- The weekslong search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is "an extraordinarily difficult exercise" but it will go on as long as possible, Australia's prime minister said Monday.

Tony Abbott told reporters in Perth, the base for the search, that although no debris has been found in the southern Indian Ocean that can be linked to the plane, searchers are "well, well short" of any point where they would scale the hunt back.

The Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard, and after experts shifted through radar and satellite data, they gradually moved the hunt from seas off of Vietnam, to areas west of Malaysia and Indonesia, and then to several areas west of Australia.

"This is an extraordinarily difficult exercise .... we are searching a vast area of ocean and we are working on quite limited information," Abbott said, adding that the best brains in the world and all the technological mastery is being applied to the task.

"If this mystery is solvable, we will solve it," he said.

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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. KERRY: LET UKRAINE CHOOSE ITS FUTURE

After meeting with the Russian foreign minister, the U.S. secretary of state also says a Russian troop buildup is creating a climate of fear on the Ukrainian border.

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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 beneath the sea surface 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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Washington authorities: Mudslide death toll rises from 18 to 21; search dogs take break

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) -- Many of the dogs essential in the search for victims of the deadly mudslide that buried a mountainside community will take a two-day break, rescue crews said Sunday, as the official death toll rose and more bodies were recovered.

The dogs can lose their sensing ability if overworked in the cold and rain.

"The conditions on the slide field are difficult, so this is just a time to take care of the dogs," said Kris Rietmann, a spokeswoman for the team working on the eastern portion of the slide, which hit March 22 about 55 miles northeast of Seattle and is one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

Dogs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that arrived more recently will continue working.

On Sunday evening, the number of people who have been confirmed dead increased from 18 to 21, said Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

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Deadly Washington state mudslide highlights lack of national landslide tracking, maps

SEATTLE (AP) -- People living in the path of a deadly Washington state landslide had virtually no warning before a wall of mud, trees and other debris thundered down the mountain. Some of the homeowners didn't even know the hillside could give way at any time.

Unlike the warning systems and elaborate maps that help residents and officials prepare for natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes, there's no national system to monitor slide activity and no effort underway to produce detailed nationwide landslide hazard maps.

The U.S. Geological Survey doesn't track or inventory slide areas on a national scale, despite an ambitious plan to do so more than a decade ago when Congress directed it to come up with a national strategy to reduce landslide losses.

That's left states and communities to put together a patchwork of maps showing landslide hazards. In some cases, they are discovering that more buildings than previously thought are sitting on unstable ground. Even then, that information may not make its way to property owners.

Building a nationwide system is now possible with new technology, experts say, but would require spending tens of millions of dollars annually and could take more than a decade to complete with the help of states and cities. So far, however, there has been little public outcry for faster, concerted action.

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UN report dials up humanity's global warming risks; scientist says 'We're all sitting ducks'

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) -- Global warming is driving humanity toward a whole new level of many risks, a United Nations scientific panel reports, warning that the wild climate ride has only just begun.

"Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change," Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chairman Rajendra Pachauri said in a Monday news conference.

Twenty-first century disasters such as killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in the United States, droughts in Australia and deadly flooding in Mozambique, Thailand and Pakistan highlight how vulnerable humanity is to extreme weather, says a massive new report from a Nobel Prize-winning group of scientists released early Monday. The dangers are going to worsen as the climate changes even more, the report's authors said.

"We're all sitting ducks," Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, one of the main authors of the 32-volume report, said in an interview.

After several days of late-night wrangling, more than 100 governments unanimously approved the scientist-written 49-page summary -- which is aimed at world political leaders. The summary mentions the word "risk" an average of about 5 1/2 times per page.

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Congress: GM twice failed to fix defect that led to recall of 2.6 million small cars

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors discussed two separate fixes for an ignition switch defect in 2005 but canceled both of them without taking action, according to a memo released Sunday by the House subcommittee investigating GM's handling of the defect and a subsequent recall.

GM last month recalled 2.6 million small cars because their ignition switches can move from the "run" to the "accessory" or "off" position, which causes the car to stall and disables the air bags and power steering. GM says the recall is linked to 13 deaths. The recall includes the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky from the 2003-2011 model years.

Congress is investigating why GM didn't recall the cars sooner, because it first found problems with the ignition switches in 2001. It's also questioning federal regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who didn't investigate the cars despite evidence of a problem.

GM CEO Mary Barra and NHTSA Administrator David Friedman are scheduled to appear Tuesday before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. A separate Senate hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The House memo provides new details about GM's consideration -- but ultimate rejection -- of potential solutions.

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Blood test helps rule out heart attack in people who go to the ER with chest pain, study finds

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A simple test appears very good at ruling out heart attacks in people who go to emergency rooms with chest pain, a big public health issue and a huge worry for patients.

A large study in Sweden found that the blood test plus the usual electrocardiogram of the heartbeat were 99 percent accurate at showing which patients could safely be sent home rather than be admitted for observation and more diagnostics.

Of nearly 9,000 patients judged low risk by the blood test and with normal electrocardiograms, only 15 went on to suffer a heart attack in the next month, and not a single one died.

"We believe that with this strategy, 20 to 25 percent of admissions to hospitals for chest pain may be avoided," said Dr. Nadia Bandstein of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm.

She helped lead the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and presented Sunday at the cardiology college's annual conference in Washington.

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Fearsome foursome: Final Four filled with power programs with something to prove

The road to redemption goes through North Texas for a fearsome Final Four of power programs with something to prove.

Florida, the top overall seed, returns to the Final Four for the first time since winning consecutive titles in 2006-07, this time without all those first-round NBA picks.

Waiting for the Gators at Jerry Jones' billion-dollar stadium on Saturday will be Connecticut, back near the top of the bracket under Kevin Ollie after being barred a year ago for academic problems.

Wisconsin and coach Bo Ryan will be there, too, finally in the Final Four after so many near-misses. Bo knows the Final Four -- even if his father won't be there to join him this time.

Facing the Badgers in the other national semifinal will be all those Kentucky kids, once written off as too young and inexperienced to play for a title before they head off to the NBA.