Ships race to investigate signals in Malaysian jet search; official warns against false hope

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- Searchers hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet raced toward a patch of the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday to determine whether a few brief sounds picked up by underwater equipment came from the plane’s black boxes, whose battery-powered pingers are on the verge of dying out.

Ships scouring a remote stretch of water for the plane that vanished nearly a month ago detected three separate sounds over three days. A Chinese ship picked up an electronic pulsing signal on Friday and again on Saturday, and an Australian ship carrying sophisticated deep-sea acoustic equipment detected a signal in a different area on Sunday, the head of the multinational search said.

The two black boxes contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings that could solve one of the most baffling mysteries in modern aviation: who or what caused Flight 370 to veer radically off course and vanish March 8 while traveling from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board.

But there were questions about whether any of the sounds were the breakthrough that searchers are desperately seeking or just another dead end in a hunt seemingly full of them, with experts expressing doubt that the equipment aboard the Chinese ship was capable of picking up signals from the black boxes.

"This is an important and encouraging lead, but one which I urge you to treat carefully," retired Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search, told reporters in Perth.


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Afghan elections hailed as triumph of democracy over violence, though Taliban threat remains

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghans and the international community hailed its presidential election as a triumph of democracy over violence Sunday, despite complaints about ballot shortages and sporadic fraud after millions of people braved a Taliban threat to vote for a new president. But some cautioned against declaring a premature defeat of the Islamic militants.

Securing the vote was a test for Afghan government forces as they prepare to take full responsibility for their own security as the U.S. and allied forces end their combat mission at the end of this year. The consensus was that they largely passed, though there was sporadic violence.

A roadside bomb hit a pickup truck transporting ballot boxes Sunday in the northern province of Kunduz, killing three people, officials said. But the major attacks that had been feared did not materialize.

"This in itself is a victory over violence and a victory over all those who wanted to deter democracy by threats and violence," said Thijs Berman, the head of the European Union’s election assessment team in Kabul.

Electoral officials, meanwhile, urged patience, saying officials continued to log complaints and tally ballots. The ballots were coming from more than 20,000 polling stations nationwide, some in extremely remote and rural areas. They were being transported to tally centers in all 34 provinces before the results reach Kabul.

Lacking lawmakers’ support, Obama uses executive actions to test workforce ideas

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lacking congressional support to raise wages or end gender pay disparities, President Barack Obama is again imposing his policies on federal contractors, in keeping with presidents’ tradition of exerting their powers on a fraction of the economy they directly control.

Obama will sign an executive order Tuesday barring federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. The order is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. That measure is scheduled for a vote this week, but is unlikely to pass.

The president also will direct the Labor Department to adopt rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race.

He plans to sign the two executive orders during an event at the White House where he will be joined by Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on a pay discrimination law Obama signed in 2009.

The moves showcase Obama’s efforts to seek action without congressional approval and demonstrate that even without legislation, the president can drive economic policy. At the same time, they show the limits of his ambition when he doesn’t have the support of Congress for his initiatives.

From cost and coverage to finding a free bed, heroin addicts face barriers to treatment

NEW YORK (AP) -- As the ranks of heroin users rise, increasing numbers of addicts are looking for help but are failing to find it -- because there are no beds in packed facilities, treatment is hugely expensive and insurance companies won’t pay for inpatient rehab.

Some users overcome their addictions in spite of the obstacles. But many, like Salvatore Marchese, struggle and fail.

In the course of Marchese’s five-year battle with heroin, the Blackwood, N.J., man was repeatedly denied admission to treatment facilities, often because his insurance company wouldn’t cover the cost. Then one night in June 2010, a strung-out Marchese went to the emergency room seeking help. The doctors shook their heads: Heroin withdrawal is not life-threatening, they said, and we can’t admit you. They gave him an IV flush, and sent him home.

Marchese, then 26, and his sister called multiple inpatient clinics only to be told: We have no beds. Eventually, Marchese found space at a facility but was released 17 days later when his public funding ran out. Less than three months later, Marchese was found dead of an overdose in his mother’s car.

"Heroin is life-threatening," said his mother, Patty DiRenzo. "We’re losing kids every day from it."

A look at the process, and some of the obstacles to getting sober:

WITHDRAWAL: Once in withdrawal, users feel like their bones are breaking. Fluids leak from every orifice. They sweat and get the chills and shakes. The withdrawal itself doesn’t kill, but if addicts can’t persevere, they often go back to heroin, with lowered tolerance, and many overdose.

LACK OF BEDS: The number of people using heroin in the U.S. nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012 to some 669,000 people, and more people are also now seeking treatment. But of the 23.1 million Americans who needed treatment for drugs or alcohol in 2012, only 2.5 million people received aid at a specialty facility. There simply aren’t enough beds at treatment facilities to meet the demand. There are about 12,000 addiction treatment programs nationwide, according to the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia. Of those, about 10 percent are residential facilities, about 80 percent are outpatient programs and about 10 percent are methadone clinics.

INSURANCE BATTLES: While most insurance policies state that they allow coverage of up to 30 days in a residential drug treatment center, nobody actually gets those 30 days, said Tom McLellan, CEO of the Treatment Research Institute. The average duration in residential care is 11 to 14 days.

Genocide anniversary: He hacked her arm off and killed her baby; Now they’re friends

NYAMATA, Rwanda (AP) -- She lost her baby daughter and her right hand to a manic killing spree. He wielded the machete that took both.

Yet today, despite coming from opposite sides of an unspeakable shared past, Alice Mukarurinda and Emmanuel Ndayisaba are friends. She is the treasurer and he the vice president of a group that builds simple brick houses for genocide survivors. They live near each other and shop at the same market.

Their story of ethnic violence, extreme guilt and, to some degree, reconciliation is the story of Rwanda today, 20 years after its Hutu majority killed more than 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Rwandan government is still accused by human rights groups of holding an iron grip on power, stifling dissent and killing political opponents. But even critics give President Paul Kagame credit for leading the country toward a peace that seemed all but impossible two decades ago.

"Whenever I look at my arm I remember what happened," said Alice, a mother of five with a deep scar on her left temple where Emanuel sliced her with a machete. As she speaks, Emmanuel -- the man who killed her baby -- sits close enough that his left hand and her right stump sometimes touch.

On Monday, Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of 100 days of bloody mayhem. But the genocide was really in the making for decades, fueled by hate speech, discrimination, propaganda and the training of death squads. Hutus had come to resent Tutsis for their greater wealth and what they saw as oppressive rule.

Palestinian teaches Hebrew, tolerance as he builds life after 20 years in Israeli prisons

DEIR JARIR, West Bank (AP) -- Facing a classroom of Palestinian 10th graders, Hebrew teacher Esmat Mansour asks his students who is for and against learning the language. A few raise their hands in favor, others against and he asks both sides to explain.

Mansour believes such debates will help motivate young Palestinians to study Israel’s dominant language. They need to know Hebrew to be able to deal with the Israeli occupiers, but also to build bridges in the future, he says.

The 37 year old’s view of the conflict with Israel is the product of a violent past, as he at 16 helped three older teens stab to death an Israeli man in 1993. Mansour was sentenced to 22 years as an accomplice in the killing of 30-year-old Haim Mizrahi, and was granted early release last year, along with dozens of other long-held prisoners, in a deal brokered by the United States.

Now free, Mansour’s new life comes as Mideast peace talks falter. Mansour said he has no regrets, but also that he would never take another life.

"The most important thing is to ... value all human life and to learn tolerance," he said. Then, "we were very young, the political situation was different, we were very much zealots."

Navy rescues family with sick baby from disabled sailboat hundreds of miles off Mexican coast

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- U.S. sailors rescued an American family with an ill 1-year-old from a sailboat that broke down hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast -- boarding them Sunday onto a San Diego-bound Navy ship so the girl could get medical treatment.

The baby girl, Lyra, was in stable condition at 8 a.m. Sunday when sailors helped her, her 3-year-old sister, Cora, and her parents, Charlotte and Eric Kaufman leave their sailboat and brought them aboard the USS Vandegrift.

The frigate was expected to arrive in San Diego midweek, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said.

The Kaufmans were two weeks into a sailing trip around the world when Lyra developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and wasn’t responding to medications. After their 36-foot sailboat lost steering and communication abilities about 900 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, they sent a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday.

Four California Air National Guard members parachuted into the water and reached the boat Thursday night. The crew stabilized the girl and stayed by her side until the Navy frigate arrived at about 1 a.m. Sunday.