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."
New satellite data show possible Malaysian jet debris
in southern Indian Ocean
PERTH, Australia (AP) -- France provided new satellite data Sunday showing possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as searchers combing a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean tried without success to locate a wooden pallet that could yield clues to one of the world’s most baffling aviation mysteries.
The new data consists of "radar echoes" in the same part of the ocean where satellite images previously released by Australia and China showed what might be debris from the plane, French authorities said.
Flight 370 vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search that has turned up no confirmed pieces and nothing conclusive on what happened to the jet.
The latest satellite data came to light as Australian authorities coordinating the search, conducted about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, sent planes and a ship to try to "re-find" a wooden pallet that appeared to be surrounded by straps of different lengths and colors.
The pallet was spotted on Saturday from a search plane, but the spotters were unable to take photos of it, and a PC Orion military plane dispatched to locate it could not find it.
Disappearance of Malaysian 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.
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.
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 a quarter of its cargo into the waterway.
Coast Guard officials said that up to 168,000 gallons were dumped and that oil from the ruptured barge 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 equally significant.
"The remaining risk of pollution, we’ve removed that," he said.
Washington governor calls mudslide a square mile of ‘total devastation’
ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) -- Eighteen people were unaccounted for a day after a terrifying wall of mud, trees and debris destroyed as many as 30 houses in rural northwestern Washington state and killed at least three people, authorities said Sunday.
Because of the quicksand-like mud, authorities said it was too dangerous to send rescuers into the stricken area. Searchers instead flew over the one-square-mile mudslide in helicopters, looking for signs of life.
Some of the missing may have been able to get out on their own, authorities said.
Authorities were also trying to determine how to get responders on the ground safely, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said.
Officials described the mudslide as "a big wall of mud and debris" that blocked about one mile of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle. It was reported about 60 feet deep in some areas. James Rebhorn, character actor who appeared in ‘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."