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Vietnam says it may have found missing jet's door; troubling questions about stolen passports
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Vietnamese aircraft spotted what they suspected was one of the doors of a missing Boeing 777 on Sunday, while troubling questions emerged about how two passengers managed to board the ill-fated aircraft using stolen passports.
Interpol confirmed it knew about the stolen passports but said no authorities checked its vast databases on stolen documents before the Boeing jetliner departed Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Warning "only a handful of countries" routinely make such checks, Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble chided authorities for "waiting for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates."
More than a day and half after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, no confirmed debris from the jetliner had been found and the final minutes before its disappearance remained a mystery. The plane lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam.
However, searchers in a low-flying plane spotted an object that appeared to be one of the plane's doors, the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said, citing the deputy chief of staff of Vietnam's army, Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan.
China Communist Party abuses officials into confessions as part of anti-corruption efforts
LILING, China (AP) — The local Chinese official remembers the panic he felt in Room 109. He had refused to confess to bribery he says he didn't commit, and his Communist Party interrogators were forcing his legs apart.
Zhou Wangyan heard his left thigh bone snap, with a loud "ka-cha." The sound nearly drowned out his howls of pain.
"My leg is broken," Zhou told the interrogators. According to Zhou, they ignored his pleas.
China's government is under strong pressure to fight rampant corruption in its ranks, faced with the anger of an increasingly prosperous, well-educated and Internet-savvy public. However, the party's methods for extracting confessions expose its 85 million members and their families to the risk of abuse. Experts estimate at least several thousand people are secretly detained every year for weeks or months under an internal system that is separate from state justice.
In a rare display of public defiance, Zhou and three other party members in Hunan described to The Associated Press the months of abuse they endured less than two years ago, in separate cases, while in detention. Zhou, land bureau director for the city of Liling, said he was deprived of sleep and food, nearly drowned, whipped with wires and forced to eat excrement. The others reported being turned into human punching bags, strung up by the wrists from high windows, or dragged along the floor, face down, by their feet.
Putin defends Crimean separatist drive; Ukrainian leader vows not to cede a centimeter of land
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday defended the separatist drive in the disputed Crimean Peninsula as in keeping with international law, but Ukraine's prime minister vowed not to relinquish "a single centimeter" of his country's territory.
Over the weekend, the Kremlin beefed up its military presence in Crimea, a part of Ukraine since 1954, and pro-Russia forces keep pushing for a vote in favor of reunification with Moscow in a referendum the local parliament has scheduled for next Sunday.
President Barack Obama has warned that the March 16 vote would violate international law. But in Moscow, Putin made it clear that he supports the referendum in phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Minister David Cameron.
"The steps taken by the legitimate leadership of Crimea are based on the norms of international law and aim to ensure the legal interests of the population of the peninsula," said Putin, according to the Kremlin.
Following an extraordinary Sunday meeting of the Ukrainian government, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced that he will meet with Obama in Washington on Wednesday on a "resolution of the situation in Ukraine," the Interfax news agency reported. The White House confirmed the meeting.
Oscar Pistorius trial: Jaw-dropping testimony evidence or character assassination?
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The testimony in the first week of Oscar Pistorius' murder trial was jaw dropping at times, and more riveting evidence is expected as the prosecution seeks to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the double-amputee athlete intentionally shot dead his girlfriend.
Pistorius' once-inspiring life story unraveled as witnesses testified about his history of anger, infidelity and recklessness with guns, and his suspicious behavior on the night prosecutors allege the Olympian murdered his girlfriend and tried to cover it up.
Pistorius' murder trial — which is being shown on live television across the world — also shed more light on the events in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day last year, when he shot dead Reeva Steenkamp in a bathroom in his home. Pistorius claims it was an accident, but prosecutors have charged him with premeditated murder for the killing of the 29-year-old model.
In a Pretoria court, the first witness said she heard a woman's "blood-curdling" screams coming from Pistorius' house on the night he killed Steenkamp. Michelle Burger, a neighbor of Pistorius, sobbed in court after recalling that she was haunted by what she heard.
Another neighbor, who is a doctor, described in detail the grisly scene he was confronted with when he entered Pistorius' home and found a fatally wounded Steenkamp lying on the floor and Pistorius kneeling next to her, weeping, praying and apparently trying to help his dying or dead girlfriend breathe even though she had a terrible gunshot wound in the head and the doctor knew there was little hope.
GOP hopes to contain political fallout if Congress fails to enact broad immigration overhaul
AURORA, Colo. (AP) — If the apparent slow death of immigration legislation has any political repercussions this year, they probably will be felt in the subdivisions, shopping centers and ethnic eateries wrapped around Denver's southern end.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman represents this fast-changing district.
He's among a few vulnerable Republican members in line to be targeted by immigrant rights advocates if the House doesn't pass an immigration bill before the November election that would offer legal status to millions of people who entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas.
The issue is no easy solution for Democrats needing to gain 17 seats to win back the House majority. Democratic campaign officials are focusing on about two dozen GOP-held seats where immigration could be a factor, but they rank only nine in the top tier of possible pickups.
Immigration advocates acknowledge their impact on House races this year is limited. Most Republicans hold safe seats in districts with relatively low numbers of immigrants. Coffman is one of the most vulnerable incumbents, but the three-term lawmaker's shift on the issue illustrates the difficulties Democrats may have.
Woman who says US general sexually assaulted her was an ambitious soldier too
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — The Army captain who has accused Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair of sexually assaulting her during their three-year relationship was an ambitious soldier with plans to make the military her career, much like the boss she loved and admired.
Stirred by the 9/11 attacks to leave college and join the military, she signed up with the Army, learned the in-demand language of Arabic and showed a laser focus in trying to carve out a reputation as a soldier who could be counted on in the toughest of situations.
Her stunning allegations that Sinclair, a rising star revered by both his superiors as well as those he commanded on the battlefield, has put both of them — and the three-year affair they both admit to — under the microscope at a time when Congress and the Pentagon grapple with how to best deal with cases of sexual impropriety within the military ranks.
Her credibility is central to the case. Is she a woman whose affair with a charismatic and approachable superior ended with him forcing her to perform oral sex and threatening to kill her and her family? Or is she, as Sinclair's lawyers have portrayed, a jilted lover who fabricated allegations of sexual assault when Sinclair refused to leave his wife?
She testified Friday as Sinclair's court-martial began. She is expected to return to the stand Monday, where Sinclair's attorneys will likely ask tough, pointed questions and dissect the relationship in extremely graphic detail.
For India's leprosy affected, stigma hinders efforts to fight the disease
TAHIRPUR, India (AP) — At first, Ashok Yadav ignored the patches of pink skin on his arm. But when pale sores erupted on his body and he lost sensation in his fingertips, a doctor issued the devastating diagnosis: Yadav had leprosy.
"What followed was like a nightmare," said Yadav, who has lived in Kasturba Gram, a leper colony outside New Delhi, since his diagnosis 30 years ago. "I lost my job. My parents felt I would spoil my sisters' chances of getting married. My family felt it would be better if I left home."
The stigma of leprosy endures in India, even though the country has made great strides against the disease, which is neither highly contagious nor fatal. Now the number of new annual cases has risen slightly after years of steady decline, and medical experts say the enormous fear surrounding leprosy is hindering efforts to finally eliminate it.
People continue to hide their diagnoses from families and loved ones out of fear they will be ostracized. Employers regularly turn away people who have had the disease, even if they've been treated and cured. Many struggle to get driver's licenses and other routine documents. Even the disease-free children of leprosy patients are shunned.
"We face a thousand indignities every day," said Neelawati Devi, a longtime resident of Kasturba Gram. Some 10,000 people live there, including the children of leprosy patients.
2 dozen injured as stage collapses at Southern California high school
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Investigators combed through a collapsed theater stage at a Southern California high school Sunday, trying to determine why it buckled during a performance that sent 25 students to the hospital with mainly minor injuries.
Police, firefighters and medics responded to a call Saturday night after the wooden stage gave way at Servite High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Anaheim.
About 250 students from nearby Rosary High School, an all-girls sister school, were singing and dancing on the platform when they fell five feet, Anaheim police Lt. Tim Schmidt said.
Injuries included broken bones, bruises and scrapes.
The likely cause appeared to be too many students on stage and too much weight on the platform, Schmidt said. "It was a weight issue," he said.
'Band of Brothers' WWII veteran William 'Wild Bill' Guarnere dies at 90
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — William "Wild Bill" Guarnere (gahr-NAYR), one of the World War II veterans whose exploits were dramatized in the TV miniseries "Band of Brothers," has died at the age of 90.
Guarnere's son, William Guarnere Jr., confirmed Sunday that his father died at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Guarnere was rushed to the hospital early Saturday and died of a ruptured aneurysm early Saturday night.
The HBO miniseries was based on a book by Stephen Ambrose and followed the members of Easy Company from training in Georgia in 1942 through the war's end in 1945. Guarnere's combat exploits earned him the nickname Wild Bill and he lost a leg trying to help a wounded solider.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
AP Interview: Jihadi leader in Gaza says groups gaining strength with thousands of fighters
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A leader of one of Gaza's secretive jihadi groups says the al-Qaida-inspired movement now has several thousand armed fighters in the seaside strip, posing a formidable threat to both Israel and the area's Hamas rulers.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Abu Bakir al-Ansari described a movement that is larger and better organized than is generally believed, with dozens of fighters now in Syria, and claimed his group killed an Italian activist three years ago. He said Gaza's Salafis have agreed with Hamas to observe a truce with Israel for the time being, but that they are ready to fight at any time.
"We have a deal with Hamas to abide by the truce as long as Israel abides," Abu Bakir said. "But once it violates the truce, we fire our rockets without any consultation with Hamas."
The interview gave a rare glimpse at the inner workings of Gaza's Salafis, radical and ultraconservative Islamic groups that dream of turning Gaza into an Islamic caliphate.
The groups have created a headache for Hamas in recent years, accusing the Islamic militant group of being too soft on Israel and failing to adequately impose religious law on Gaza.
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