Sub hunting for source of ‘pings’ in plane search

Sub hunting for source of ‘pings’

PERTH, Australia — Search crews were for the first time sending a sub deep into the Indian Ocean to try and determine whether faint sounds detected by equipment on board an Australian ship are from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane’s black boxes, Australia’s acting prime minister said today.

Warren Truss, Australia’s acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas, said the crew on board the Ocean Shield will launch the underwater vehicle, the Bluefin 21 autonomous sub, today. The sub can create a sonar map of the area to chart any debris on the sea floor. If it maps out a debris field, the crew will replace the sonar system with a camera unit to photograph any wreckage.

Angus Houston, who is heading the search, said Monday that the Ocean Shield, which is towing sophisticated U.S. Navy listening equipment, detected late Saturday and early Sunday two distinct, long-lasting sounds underwater that are consistent with the pings from an aircraft’s “black boxes” — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

Crews have been trying to re-locate the sounds since then to determine whether they are from Flight 370, but so far had no luck, Truss said.

“Today is another critical day as we try and reconnect with the signals that perhaps have been emanating from the black box flight recorder of the MH370,” he said. “The connections two days ago were obviously a time of great hope that there had been a significant breakthrough and it was disappointing that we were unable to repeat that experience yesterday.”

— Associated Press

Senate backs bill for jobless benefits

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 59-38 Monday to resurrect federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, and a small band of Republican supporters swiftly appealed to a reluctant Speaker John Boehner to permit election-year action in the House as well.

Steps are needed “to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans,” seven House Republicans wrote Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. They released their letter as the Senate was bestowing its widely expected approval on the legislation.

Despite the appeal, the bill’s prospects are cloudy at best, given widespread opposition among conservative lawmakers and outside groups and Boehner’s unwillingness to allow it to the floor without changes that Republicans say would enhance job creation.

The Senate vote itself, seven months before congressional elections, capped a bruising three-month struggle.

Fifty-one Democrats, two independents and six Republicans voted for approval.

— Associated Press

Sharpton linked To spying on Mafia

NEW YORK — The Rev. Al Sharpton was an FBI informant who had extensive dealings with Mafia figures in New York in the 1980s and secretly recorded their conversations using a briefcase that agency technicians had modified with hidden electronic equipment, a report said Monday.

The report, on the website The Smoking Gun, said Sharpton had worked with a joint task force overseen by the FBI and the Police Department. The Smoking Gun posted dozens of pages of documents that appeared to provide details of Sharpton’s dealings with mob figures.

In what The Smoking Gun described as secret affidavits that were posted on the site, he was referred to as CI-7, short for Confidential Informant No. 7.

Sharpton played down his involvement with Mafia figures, although it had long been known that he worked with the FBI in the 1980s in an investigation of boxing promoter Don King. “The claim is I helped get the mob, not that I was in the mob,” he said in a telephone interview Monday. “I was never told I was an informant.”

He took issue with the documents The Smoking Gun had posted, which it said included court documents and FBI memos released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. The report said, for example, that one FBI affidavit seeking court permission for several wiretaps was rewritten. The original version, the report said, was so detailed that Sharpton could have been identified and his life endangered.

“Most of what I’ve looked through does not remind me of anything I was involved in,” he said in the telephone interview.

— New York Times News Service

Slow start for NY birth control plan

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. — Heavy snow and red tape resulted in a disappointingly slow start for a pioneering program in a New York suburb to use birth control as a no-kill way to thin the numbers of deer.

Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Peter Swiderski said that out of 120 deer, only eight doe were tranquilized, tagged and injected with birth control over the monthlong program in March, seven in the final week alone. That was far short of the goal of injecting 40 to 50 does in the first two years.

“It was certainly a humbling experience but we were encouraged in that it was such a strong finish,” the mayor said, adding that officials were committed to the program and trying again next year.

Deer have overrun this 2-square mile village of 7,900 people about 16 miles north of Manhattan, scouring foliage in the park, munching gardens and causing more than a dozen car crashes a year.

But residents have resisted lethal methods of culling the herd.

— Associated Press

Army: Fort Hood suspect sought leave

FORT HOOD, Texas — The Fort Hood soldier suspected of killing three people and wounding 16 others last week began his eight-minute rampage on the sprawling Texas Army post after an argument related to taking leave, military investigators said Monday.

Army spokesman Chris Grey didn’t indicate during a brief news conference whether Spc. Ivan Lopez was granted the leave or the circumstances behind the request. The shooting spree Wednesday ended when Lopez killed himself with his .45-caliber pistol after confronting a female military police officer, who Grey said fired once at Lopez but didn’t strike him.

A spokesman for Lopez’s family said last week that Lopez was upset he was granted only a 24-hour leave to attend his mother’s funeral in November. That leave was then extended to two days.

Providing the most detail yet about the second mass shooting at Fort Hood in five years, Grey mapped out how Lopez opened fire in the building where the argument began before leaving and driving away, shooting at times from his car. The three who died were gunned down in separate locations.

— Associated Press

NY rail crash engineer had sleep woes

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — An engineer driving a speeding commuter train that derailed last year, killing four people, had a sleep disorder that interrupted his rest dozens of times each night and said he felt strangely “dazed” right before the crash, according to federal documents released Monday.

Asked if he was clearheaded enough to realize he was entering a curve just before the Dec. 1 derailment in the Bronx, engineer William Rockefeller told investigators “apparently not.”

The Metro-North Railroad train hit the curve, which has a 30 mph speed limit, at 82 mph. More than 70 people were injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board released medical reports, interview transcripts and other documents but said its analysis of the information and any determination of the cause would come later.

Rockefeller’s medical exam after the accident uncovered “severe obstructive sleep apnea,” apparently undiagnosed, the NTSB said. It said a sleep study had been ordered because Rockefeller “did not exactly recall events leading up to the accident.”

— Associated Press

Liberal Party wins Quebec elections

MONTREAL — The Liberal Party won Quebec’s legislative elections Monday, in a crushing defeat for the main separatist party and major setback for the cause of independence in the French-speaking province.

Official results Monday showed the Liberals, staunch supporters of Canadian unity, won or were leading the race in about 75 of the of National Assembly’s 125 seats, outstripping the separatist Parti Quebecois. Those results will allow the Liberals to form a majority government, less than 18 months after voters had booted the party from power for the first time in nine years. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, who led a minority government, called the snap elections last month in the hopes of securing a majority for her PQ party.

— Associated Press

But the campaign stirred up speculation that a PQ majority would ultimately lead to another referendum on independence from Canada, an idea that has lacked support in recent years.

Fears of a referendum galvanized supporters of the Liberals.

Marois had tried to mute talk of another referendum on independence. She had hoped instead to make the election about the PQ’s proposed “charter of values,” a controversial but popular law that would ban public employees from wearing Muslim headscarves and other overt religious symbols.

But the strategy backfired early in the campaign when one PQ candidate, multi-millionaire media baron Pierre Karl Peladeau, burst onto the scene with a fist-pumping declaration of his commitment to “make Quebec a country.”

Peladeau congratulated Liberal leader and new premier Philippe Couillard.

“We have mixed feelings. The result throughout Quebec is not the one we would have wished,” said Peladeau, who won his district.



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