Monday July 8, 2013

Official: Asiana flight
tried to abort landing, make another try seconds before it crashed

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal safety official said Sunday the cockpit voice recorder from Asiana Flight 214 showed the jetliner received a warning that it could stall and tried to increase its speed before it crashed.

National Transportation Safety Board chief Deborah Hersman said at a news conference Sunday the recorder showed the crew called to abort the landing about 1.5 seconds before the crash.

The recorder also showed there was a call to increase airspeed roughly 7 seconds before impact.

Before that, she said, there was no indication in the recordings that the aircraft was having any problems before it crashed Saturday, killing two passengers and injuring scores of others.

Investigators took the flight data recorder to Washington, D.C., overnight to begin examining its contents for clues to the last moments of the flight, officials said. They also plan to interview the pilots, the crew and passengers.

The Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed while landing after a likely 10-hour-plus flight from Seoul, South Korea. The flight originated in Shanghai and stopped in Seoul before the long trek to San Francisco.

There were 307 people aboard -- 291 passengers and 16 crew members. Two people aboard the plane died. Of the 182 injured people taken to hospitals, 19 remained hospitalized on Sunday, six of them in critical condition.


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The remaining 133 had minor to moderate injuries, while many of the other passengers or crew members had more minor injuries that didn’t require extra treatment. Thirty of the passengers were children.

South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that the plane’s passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 61 Americans, three Canadians, three from India, one Japanese, one Vietnamese and one from France, while the nationalities of the remaining three haven’t been confirmed. Chinese state media identified the dead as two 16-year-old girls who were middle school students in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. China Central Television cited a fax from Asiana Airlines to the Jiangshan city government in identifying them as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia.

Overthrow of Egypt’s Brotherhood sends Islamists across the
Mideast scrambling

CAIRO (AP) -- The military’s overthrow of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s fall from power in Egypt have sent Islamist parties around the region scrambling to preserve gains made in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The stunning reversal has instilled caution among some Islamists against pushing their agenda too hard, but it has also strengthened hard-liners long opposed to democracy.

The Arab Spring uprisings boosted Islamist political parties from Morocco to Syria, and nowhere was their victory more complete than the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s domination of parliamentary and presidential elections, which made its repudiation by the people and then the army all the more striking.

Brotherhood offshoots in Tunisia and Syria are struggling to distance themselves from their parent outfit in Egypt, while the secular forces they are struggling against have been emboldened.

"What happens in Egypt has a major impact on the ‘children’ or branches," said Middle East analyst Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics. "I am not talking about the loss of power, but the setback to the moral argument that the Islamists somehow stand above the fray, are more competent. In fact, one of the lessons we learned is that they are as incompetent, if not more so, than the old authoritarian regimes."

Liberal economist emerges as possible compromise for Egypt’s prime minister

CAIRO (AP) -- Secular and liberal factions in Egypt’s new leadership worked Sunday to reach a compromise with ultraconservative Islamists on a new prime minister, with a liberal economist emerging as a leading candidate for the post to run the country after the military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.

As the negotiations continued over the post, the shows of strength over the removal of Egypt’s first freely elected president were far from ending, with hundreds of thousands in the streets Sunday from each side. The military deployed troops at key locations in Cairo and other cities amid fears of renewed violence.

The Muslim Brotherhood pushed ahead with its campaign of protests aimed at forcing Morsi’s reinstatement, bringing out large crowds in new rallies. Its officials vowed the group would not be "terrorized" by arrests of their leaders and the shutdown of their media outlets.

The Brotherhood’s opponents, in turn, called out large rallies in Tahrir Square and other squares in Cairo and several cities to defend against an Islamist counter-push. The rallies took on a sharply nationalist tone -- with effusive praise of the military and strong anti-American sentiment over perceived U.S. support for Morsi and his Brotherhood.

Military warplanes swooped over the crowd filling Tahrir, drawing a heart shape and an Egyptian flag in the sky with colored smoke. In the square, large banners read "Obama, hands off, a message to the USA. Obama supports the terrorists of 911" with a picture of Obama with an Islamists’ beard.

At the heart of anti-fracking movement is network of women devoted to stopping drilling

VESTAL, N.Y. (AP) -- Big energy companies have been trying for five years to tap the riches of the Marcellus Shale in southern New York, promising thousands of new jobs, economic salvation for a depressed region, and a cheap, abundant, clean-burning source of fuel close to power-hungry cities. But for all its political clout and financial prowess, the industry hasn’t been able to get its foot in the door.

One reason: Folks like Sue Rapp and Vera Scroggins are standing in the way.

Rapp, a family counselor in the Broome County town of Vestal, in the prime shale gas region near the Pennsylvania border, is intense and unrelenting in pressing her petitions. Scroggins -- a retiree and grandmother who lives across the border in hilly northeastern Pennsylvania, where intensive gas development has been going on for five years -- is gleefully confrontational. She happily posts videos of her skirmishes.

The anti-fracking movement has inspired a legion of people like Rapp and Scroggins-- idiosyncratic true believers, many of them middle-aged women, who have made it the central mission of their lives to stop gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus region that underlies southern New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

They are not necessarily popular; they have been shunned by former friends who support drilling and the economic benefits it brings. Their opponents accuse them of distorting the truth about fracking’s impacts by insisting that their communities and surrounding countryside will be transformed into a polluted industrial wasteland if natural gas interests have their way.

Internal report calls MIA accounting work ‘acutely dysfunctional,’ could fail

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon’s effort to account for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars is so inept, mismanaged and wasteful that it risks descending from "dysfunction to total failure," according to an internal study suppressed by military officials.

Largely beyond the public spotlight, the decades-old pursuit of bones and other MIA evidence is sluggish, often duplicative and subjected to too little scientific rigor, the report says.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the internal study after Freedom of Information Act requests for it by others were denied.

The report paints a picture of a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, a military-run group known as JPAC and headed by a two-star general, as woefully inept and even corrupt. The command is digging up too few clues on former battlefields, relying on inaccurate databases and engaging in expensive "boondoggles" in Europe, the study concludes.

In North Korea, the JPAC was snookered into digging up remains between 1996 and 2000 that the North Koreans apparently had taken out of storage and planted in former American fighting positions, the report said. Washington paid the North Koreans hundreds of thousands of dollars to "support" these excavations.

Social media infiltrates Zimmerman’s trial, inside and outside the courtroom

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- Trayvon Martin’s fatal shooting garnered worldwide attention when the man who fatally shot him wasn’t arrested for weeks -- a backlash fueled largely by social media. Now, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have permeated George Zimmerman’s trial both inside and outside the courtroom.

A witness who testified via Skype was inundated with calls from other users on the Internet-based phone service, and a defense attorney was tripped up by a photo his daughter posted on Instagram. Jurors and witnesses have been grilled about their postings and whom they follow.

Social media has become inextricably tied to daily life, a fact reflected by its presence in Zimmerman’s murder trial. The trial is a top trend almost daily, with thousands of people tweeting their thoughts with the hashtag (hash)ZimmermanTrial. Witnesses have tweeted about their testimony, including Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, who after tense questioning became the brunt of spoof accounts poking fun at her candid statements and dialect.

It’s not the first time social media has become the backbone of a high-profile criminal case: Casey Anthony’s trial on charges she murdered her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, was closely watched, too. Photos posted on social media accounts showing Anthony’s partying in the days after her daughter’s disappearance became a key point in the case.

Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin in self-defense during a scuffle in the townhome complex where he lived and Martin was visiting his father.