UN panel: Despite emissions growth, cost of fighting climate change still ‘modest’

BERLIN (AP) -- The cost of keeping global warming in check is "relatively modest," but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the head of the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change said Sunday.

Such gases, mainly CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, rose on average by 2.2 percent a year in 2000-2010, driven by the use of coal in the power sector, officials said as they launched the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report on measures to fight global warming.

Without additional measures to contain emissions, global temperatures will rise about 3 degrees to 4 degrees Celsius (5 degrees to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 compared to current levels, the panel said.

"The longer we delay the higher would be the cost," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told The Associated Press after the panel’s weeklong session in Berlin. "But despite that, the point I’m making is that even now, the cost is not something that’s going to bring about a major disruption of economic systems. It’s well within our reach."

The IPCC, an international body assessing climate science, projected that shifting the energy system from fossil fuels to zero- or low-carbon sources including wind and solar power would reduce consumption growth by about 0.06 percentage points per year, adding that that didn’t take into account the economic benefits of reduced climate change. "The loss in consumption is relatively modest," Pachauri said.

Ukraine’s interim president pledges to deploy troops in ‘large-scale’ anti-terror operation

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine is deploying troops in a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" to resist attacks by armed pro-Russian forces, Ukraine’s President Oleksandr Turchynov said on Sunday in a televised address.

The previous president, who fled to Russia after being ousted earlier this year, accused the CIA of being behind the decision.

Turchynov said the Ukrainian Security Council decided to use the army because "we’re not going to allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east." He pledged amnesty to anyone who lays down arms by Monday morning.

Speaking hours later on Russian state television, Viktor Yanukovych claimed that CIA director John Brennan had met with Ukraine’s new leadership and "in fact sanctioned the use of weapons and provoked bloodshed."

The CIA flatly denied the accusation that Brennan was pulling the strings in Ukraine. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that while the agency doesn’t comment on Brennan’s travel itinerary, the "claim that director Brennan encouraged Ukrainian authorities to conduct tactical operations inside Ukraine is completely false."

Authorities: 3 shot, killed in suburban Kansas City; 15-year-old injured

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) -- Three people died Sunday after shootings at a Jewish community center campus and retirement community in suburban Kansas City, and a 15-year-old boy is in critical condition.

Overland Park city spokesman Sean Reilly said two people died at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City campus in Overland Park and one was killed at Village Shalom, which is a retirement community that is several blocks away from the center.

A 15-year-old boy who was brought from the scene is in critical condition, Overland Park Medical Center spokeswoman Christine Hamele said.

One person of interest is in custody, Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes said.

Authorities didn’t immediately release further details about the shootings, including whether the center and retirement community were targeted because of religion.

Complaints from prisoner, and Senate report shine spotlight on Guantanamo camp

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- Attorney James Connell has visited his client inside the secret Guantanamo prison complex known as Camp 7 only once, taken in a van with covered windows on a circuitous trek to disguise the route on the scrub brush-and-cactus covered military base.

Connell is allowed to say virtually nothing about what he saw in the secret camp where the most notorious terror suspects in U.S. custody are held except that it is unlike any detention facility he’s encountered.

"It’s much more isolating than any other facility that I have known," the lawyer says. "I’ve done cases from the Virginia death row and Texas death row and these pretrial conditions are much more isolating."

The Camp 7 prison unit is so shrouded in secrecy that its location on the U.S. base in Cuba is classified and officials refuse to discuss it. Now, two separate but related events are forcing it into the limelight.

In Washington, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted on April 3 to declassify a portion of a review of the U.S. detention and interrogation program in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attack. The report, the release of which is opposed by the CIA, is expected to be sharply critical of the treatment of prisoners, including some now held in Camp 7.

U.S. official: reports of Syria toxic gas attack unsubstantiated, but being examined

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Sunday that reports of a poison gas attack in a rural village north of Damascus were so far "unsubstantiated," adding that the United States was trying to establish what really happened before it considers a response.

Both sides in Syria’s civil war blamed each other for the alleged attack that reportedly injured scores of people Friday amid an ongoing international effort to rid the country of chemical weapons.

The details of what happened in Kfar Zeita, an opposition-held village in Hama province some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus, remain murky. Online videos posted by rebel activists showed pale-faced men, women and children gasping for breath at what appeared to be a field hospital. They suggested an affliction by some kind of poison -- and yet another clouded incident where both sides blame each other in a conflict that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people with no end in sight.

"We are trying to run this down," said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, during an appearance Sunday on ABC’s "This Week."

"So far it’s unsubstantiated, but we’ve shown, I think, in the past that we will do everything in our power to establish what has happened and then consider possible steps in response," she said.

Black box batteries may be dead, making efforts to find missing plane much harder

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- Following four strong underwater signals in the past week, all has gone quiet in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, meaning the batteries in the plane’s all-important black boxes may finally have died.

Despite having no new transmissions from the black boxes’ locator beacons to go on, air and sea crews were continuing their search in the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday for debris and any sounds that may still be emanating. They are desperately trying to pinpoint where the Boeing 777 could be amid an enormous patch of deep ocean.

No new electronic pings have been detected since Tuesday by an Australian ship dragging a U.S. Navy device that listens for flight recorder signals. Once officials are confident that no more sounds will be heard, a robotic submersible will be sent down to slowly scour for wreckage.

"We’re now into Day 37 of this tragedy," said aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas. "The battery life on the beacons is supposed to last 30 days. We’re hoping it might last 40 days. However, it’s been four or five days since the last strong pings. What they’re hoping for is to get one more, maybe two more pings so they can do a triangulation of the sounds and try and narrow the (search) area."

Recovering the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders is essential for investigators to try to figure out what happened to Flight 370, which vanished March 8. It was carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

No evidence found that truck was on fire before deadly California bus crash

RED BLUFF, Calif. (AP) -- Federal investigators said Sunday that they haven’t found physical evidence confirming a witness’ claim that a FedEx truck was on fire before it slammed into a bus carrying high school students, killing 10 people in Northern California.

National Transportation Safety Board member Mark Rosekind said investigators are not ruling out a pre-impact fire, but a fire expert did not find evidence of flames as the truck crossed a median, sideswiped a Nissan Altima and crashed into the bus.

"This is all preliminary and factual information," Rosekind said at a news conference. "We are not ruling anything out."

The bus was carrying 44 Southern California high school students to a free campus tour of Humboldt State University. Many were hoping to become the first in their families to attend college. Five students, three adult chaperones and both drivers died and dozens were injured in Thursday’s collision in Orland, a small city about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

Bonnie Duran, who drove the Altima and survived with minor injuries, told investigators and reporters Saturday that she had seen flames emerging from the lower rear of the truck’s cab as it approached her car. The bus was gutted and the truck was a mangled mess after an explosion sent flames towering and black smoke billowing, making it difficult for investigators to track the source of the fire.

Chile’s historic Valparaiso in flames; 11 dead, 1,000 homes destroyed, thousands evacuated

VALPARAISO, Chile (AP) -- A raging fire leaped from hilltop to hilltop in this colorful port city throughout the night and day on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and destroying at least 1,000 homes. More than 10,000 people were evacuated, including more than 200 female inmates at a prison.

And with hot dry winds stoking the embers, the fires were still burning out of control as a second night approached.

The blaze began Saturday afternoon in a forested area above ramshackle housing on one of the city’s 42 hilltops, and spread quickly as hot ash rained down over wooden houses and narrow streets. Electricity failed as the fire grew, with towering, sparking flames turning the night sky orange over a darkening, destroyed horizon.

Eventually, neighborhoods on six hilltops were reduced to ashes, including one hill just several blocks from Chile’s parliament building. And flames broke out again on at least two of those hills, burning out of control and threatening to consume other neighborhoods.

"It’s a tremendous tragedy. This could be the worst fire in the city’s history," President Michelle Bachelet said as firefighters contained most of the blazes, mobilizing 20 helicopters and planes to drop water on hotspots Sunday.

With partial results, Afghan presidential vote looks like tight race between Abdullah, Ghani

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Two clear front-runners emerged in Afghanistan’s presidential election as partial results released Sunday showed a tight race that increasingly appears destined for a runoff vote.

Both candidates promise a fresh start with the West, vowing to sign a security pact with the United States that has been rejected by President Hamid Karzai, but their fierce rivalry has raised the possibility of divisive campaigning in what so far has been a relatively peaceful vote.

With 10 percent of the ballots counted, Abdullah Abdullah, who was Karzai’s main rival in his fraud-marred re-election in 2009, had 41.9 percent of the vote. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, followed with 37.6 percent. Zalmai Rassoul, another former foreign minister widely considered as Karzai’s pick, was a distant third with 9.8 percent.

Karzai himself was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Officials cautioned the vote count could change as full preliminary results won’t be due until April 24, but the early numbers suggest none of the eight candidates likely will get the outright majority needed to avoid a runoff.