Obama presses Malaysian government on human rights, defends refusal to meet opposition figure
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Sunday pressed the Malaysian government to improve its human rights record and appealed to Southeast Asia's teeming youth population to stand up for the rights of minorities and the rule of law.
Yet Obama skipped a golden chance to promote that human rights agenda, declining to meet with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Instead, he directed national security adviser Susan Rice to see Anwar on Monday.
Obama said his decision was "not indicative of our lack of concern" about the former deputy prime minister who recently was convicted for the second time on sodomy charges, which the U.S. and international human rights groups contend are politically motivated.
Obama said he had raised his concerns about Malaysia's restrictions on political freedoms during meetings with Prime Minister Najib Razak.
"Those values are at the core of who the U.S. is, but also I think are a pretty good gauge of whether a society is going to be successful in the 21st century or not," Obama said during a news conference with Najib.
Military observers held by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine speak under armed guard
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Pro-Russian militants in camouflage fatigues and black balaclavas paraded captive European military observers before the media on Sunday, hours after three captured Ukrainian security guards were shown bloodied, blindfolded and stripped of their trousers and shoes, their arms bound with packing tape.
The provocative displays came as the increasingly ruthless pro-Russian insurgency in the east turns to kidnapping as an ominous new tactic.
Dozens of people are being held hostage, including journalists and pro-Ukraine activists, in makeshift jails in Slovyansk, the heart of the separatists' territory, as the pro-Russian insurgents strengthen their control in defiance of the interim government in Kiev and its Western supporters.
Speaking in deliberate and clipped phrases, Col. Axel Schneider of Germany, speaking on behalf of the observers, insisted they were not NATO spies, as claimed by the insurgents, but a military observation mission operating under the auspices of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.
"We are not fighters, we are diplomats in uniform," he said, noting that his unarmed team included an officer from Sweden, which is not a NATO member.
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. PRO-RUSSIAN MILITANTS IN UKRAINE TURN TO NEW TACTIC
The increasingly ruthless pro-Moscow insurgency in the east has begun taking hostages, including reporters and pro-Ukraine activists.
Tornadoes strike central and southern US, killing 2, causing widespread damage
MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) -- A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning a massive tornado that carved path of destruction through the northern Little Rock suburbs and another twister that killed two people in Oklahoma and injured others in Kansas.
The Arkansas tornado touched down about 10 miles west of Little Rock at around 7 p.m. and moved northeastward for at least 30 miles, the National Weather Service reported. The tornado missed the state capital, but it passed through or near several of its northern suburbs, including the town of Mayflower, where it destroyed several homes and businesses. Authorities issued tornado emergencies for the nearby communities of Maumelle, Morgan, Saltillo and Vilonia.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the Arkansas tornado, but it reportedly grew to be a half-mile wide and caused extensive property damage. Television footage showed buildings that had been turned to rubble and trees that had been stripped bare of their leaves and smaller branches.
That twister was one of several that touched down Sunday as a large storm system moved through a large swath of the Plains, Midwest and South.
Less than two hours before the Arkansas tornado struck, a twister hit the small northeastern Oklahoma community of Quapaw, killing two people, Ottawa County sheriff's dispatcher Colleen Thompson said.
Pope Francis declares John XXIII, John Paul II saints as Benedict looks on in day of 4 popes
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Two 20th-century popes who changed the course of the Catholic Church became saints Sunday as Pope Francis honored John XXIII and John Paul II in a delicate balancing act aimed at bringing together the conservative and progressive wings of the church.
As if to drive the message of unity home, Francis invited retired Pope Benedict XVI to join him on the altar of St. Peter's Square, the first time a reigning and retired pope have celebrated Mass together in public in the 2,000-year history of the church.
An estimated 800,000 people -- many of them from John Paul's native Poland -- filled St. Peter's, the streets around it and bridges over the Tiber River, a huge turnout but only half the size of the crowd that came out for John Paul's 2011 beatification.
John reigned from 1958-1963 and is a hero to liberal Catholics for having convened the Second Vatican Council. The meetings brought the church into the modern era by allowing Mass to be celebrated in local languages rather than Latin and encouraged greater dialogue with people of other faiths, particularly Jews.
During his globe-trotting, quarter-century papacy, John Paul II helped topple communism and invigorated a new generation of Catholics, while his defense of core church teaching on abortion, marriage and other hot-button issues heartened conservatives after the turbulent 1960s.
Key tool for crime or our new virtual home? Supreme Court confronts role of cellphone in US
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two Supreme Court cases about police searches of cellphones without warrants present vastly different views of the ubiquitous device.
Is it a critical tool for a criminal or is it an American's virtual home?
How the justices answer that question could determine the outcome of the cases being argued Tuesday. A drug dealer and a gang member want the court to rule that the searches of their cellphones after their arrest violated their right to privacy in the digital age.
The Obama administration and California, defending the searches, say cellphones are no different from anything else a person may be carrying when arrested. Police may search those items without a warrant under a line of high court cases reaching back 40 years.
What's more, said Donald Verrilli Jr., the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, "Cellphones are now critical tools in the commission of crimes."
Pilot missing after 2 small planes collide over northern end of San Francisco Bay
RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) -- The Coast Guard searched for a pilot in the northern part of San Francisco Bay on Sunday after two small planes collided over the water and only one of the aircraft landed safely, authorities said.
Debris was spotted in San Pablo Bay after the 4:05 p.m. collision near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Petty Officer Loumania Stewart said.
The collision involved a single-engine Cessna 210 and a single-engine Hawker Sea Fury TMK 20, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. Each aircraft had one person on board.
The Cessna crashed into the water and the pilot of the Hawker was able to land safely at Eagle's Nest Airport in the small Northern California city of Ione, Gregor said. The pilot was reportedly uninjured.
Gregor said both planes took off from Half Moon Bay Airport, roughly 20 miles south of San Francisco.
Abbas, in rare acknowledgment, calls Holocaust 'most heinous crime' of modern history
JERUSALEM (AP) -- The Palestinian president on Sunday called the Holocaust "the most heinous crime" of modern history, voicing a rare acknowledgment of Jewish suffering shortly before Israel held its annual memorial for victims of the Nazi genocide.
President Mahmoud Abbas' announcement appeared to be aimed at reaching out to Israeli public opinion at a time of deep crisis in U.S.-backed peace efforts. Israelis frequently claim the Palestinians are not sincere about wanting peace.
While Israel's national Holocaust memorial said Abbas' comments may be a step in the right direction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed them aside.
He said the Abbas' renewed attempts to reconcile with the Islamic militant movement Hamas raised doubts about the Palestinian leader's intentions. Hamas, a movement sworn to Israel's destruction, has questioned the Holocaust and blocked the subject from being taught in schools in the Gaza Strip.
"President Abbas can't have it both ways. He can't say the Holocaust was terrible, but at the same time embrace those who deny the Holocaust and seek to perpetrate another destruction of the Jewish people," Netanyahu told CNN.
Bad weather hinders divers search for more than 100 missing from sunken South Korean ferry
JINDO, South Korea (AP) -- Divers on Monday renewed their search for more than 100 bodies still trapped in a sunken ferry after weekend efforts were hindered by bad weather, strong currents and floating debris clogging the ship's rooms. Officials said they have narrowed down the likely locations in the ship of most of the remaining missing passengers.
Divers found only one body Sunday after a week that saw an increasing number of corpses pulled from the ship as divers made their way through its labyrinth of cabins, lounges and halls. The number of dead from the April 16 sinking is 188, with 114 people believed missing, though a government emergency task force has said the ship's passengers list could be inaccurate. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.
Senior coast guard officer Kim Su-hyeon said that most of the remaining missing passengers are believed to be in 64 of the ship's 111 rooms. Divers have entered 36 of those 64 rooms, coast guard officers said, but may need to go back into some because floating debris made it difficult for divers to be sure that there are no more dead bodies.
Ko Myung-seok, an official with the emergency task force, said Monday that 92 divers would search the ferry. He also said that the government was making plans to salvage the ferry once search efforts end but that details wouldn't be available until officials talk with families of the victims.
On Sunday, South Korea's prime minister resigned over the government's handling of the sinking, blaming "deep-rooted evils" in society for the tragedy.
New York could become 1st state to stop police from using condoms as evidence of prostitution
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York City spends more than a million dollars every year to distribute free condoms to combat unintended pregnancies and diseases such as AIDS. Yet city police are allowed to confiscate those very condoms as evidence of prostitution.
That conflict is behind the latest legislative proposal to make New York the first state to prohibit condoms -- specifically the existence of multiple condoms -- from being used as evidence in prostitution cases, a widespread practice that advocates say undermines decades of public health goals.
"There may be no actual evidence, and the condom is their only way to trying to prove it," said Hawk Kinkaid, a former male escort who now advocates on their behalf in New York City. "The fear that this will be used against you -- it prevents people from being able to protect themselves."
The practice has come under criticism across the country, with prosecutors in San Francisco, Brooklyn and Nassau County in suburban New York City announcing last year they will no longer use condoms as evidence in prostitution cases.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said she decided the benefits of condoms as evidence don't outweigh the public health impact. Most prostitution cases don't go to trial, and trafficking cases typically require much greater evidence.