---- — KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Murky satellite images that a Chinese science and defense agency said may show debris from the missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner provided a fresh clue Thursday in the search for the plane, pointing searchers to a location nearer to the plane’s original flight path south of Vietnam.
The revelation could provide searchers with a focus that has eluded them since the plane disappeared with 239 people aboard just hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. Since then, the search has covered 35,800 square miles (92,600 square kilometers), first east and then west of Malaysia and even expanded toward India on Wednesday.
The Chinese sighting, if confirmed, would be closer to where the frantic hunt started.
The Xinhua report said the images from around 11 a.m. on Sunday appear to show “three suspected floating objects” of varying sizes in a 20-kilometer radius, the largest about 24-by-22 meters (79-by-72 feet).
The images originally were posted on the website of China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. That site reports coordinates of a location in the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam and east of Malaysia.
Obama holds out hope for ‘rethinking’ on Crimea vote
WASHINGTON (AP) — Counting down to a high-stakes Crimean referendum, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that the U.S. would “completely reject” a vote opening the door for the strategic Ukrainian peninsula to join Russia if the election goes ahead on Sunday. Adding pressure on Russia, the Senate advanced a package of potentially tough economic sanctions against Moscow.
Obama made a point of welcoming Ukraine’s new leader to the White House, declaring as they sat side-by-side that he hoped there would be a “rethinking” by Russian President Vladimir Putin of the referendum. Obama derided the vote as a “slap-dash referendum” and warned that if it occurs, the international community “will be forced to apply a cost to Russia’s violation of international law.”
Secretary of State John Kerry also was talking tough, telling Congress, “It can get ugly fast if the wrong choices are made, and it can get ugly in multiple directions.” Kerry will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday in London in a last-ditch effort to halt the referendum.
Amid the maneuvering, Obama met in the Oval Office with new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, praising him and the Ukrainian people as the two sat for TV coverage. The meeting was aimed at showcasing the United States’ commitment to Ukraine, the former Soviet republic at the center of rising tensions between East and West.
“There’s another path available and we hope President Putin is willing to seize that path,” Obama said. “But if he does not, I’m very confident that the international community will stand firmly behind the Ukrainian government.”
Feds charge trucker accused of keeping sex slaves in trailer
A Utah truck driver kept sex slaves in his semitrailer for months at a time while he traveled the country, filing down their teeth, forcing them to alter their appearance and beating them until they nearly passed out, authorities said.
Timothy Jay Vafeades, 54, made an initial appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Fargo, N.D., and will now be transferred to Utah for further proceedings.
The charges against him include kidnapping, transportation for illegal sexual activity, and possession of child pornography, and could bring a life sentence if he is convicted. His public defender, Richard Henderson, could not be reached for comment.
An arrest warrant filed Tuesday in Salt Lake City claims Vafeades kidnapped a 19-year-old female relative who had come from Florida in May 2013 to work with him on his truck, the “Twilight Express.”
After a week, the teen told Vafeades she wanted to go home, but she later told authorities that he strangled her until she blacked out and used threats and violence to keep her with him for the next six months while they traveled to Washington state, Nevada, Texas, Tennessee and other states.
Low-wage work becoming a dead-end for more employees
WASHINGTON (AP) — For years, many Americans followed a simple career path: Land an entry-level job. Accept a modest wage. Gain skills. Leave eventually for a better-paying job.
The workers benefited, and so did lower-wage retailers such as Wal-Mart: When its staffers left for better-paying jobs, they could spend more at its stores. And the U.S. economy gained, too, because more consumer spending fueled growth.
Not so much anymore. Since the Great Recession began in late 2007, that path has narrowed because many of the next-tier jobs no longer exist. That means more lower-wage workers have to stay put. The resulting bottleneck is helping widen a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.
“Some people took those jobs because they were the only ones available and haven’t been able to figure out how to move out of that,” Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart U.S., acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press.
If Wal-Mart employees “can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they’ll be better,” Simon explained. “It’ll be better for the economy. It’ll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they’ll continue to advance in their economic life.”
3 dead after pileups on Ohio Turnpike
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Pileups on the Ohio Turnpike involving at least 50 vehicles killed three people and seriously injured a state trooper on Wednesday as a late-winter storm swept through the Midwest and the Northeast, ending a fleeting spring-like thaw.
Emergency workers on the busy toll road struggled to reach accidents and stuck vehicles because of snowy conditions and traffic backups. Pileups stretched across a 2-mile section in the eastbound lanes of the turnpike between Toledo and Cleveland. Another series of pileups about 10 miles to the east shut down the turnpike’s westbound lanes near Sandusky.
Drivers sat for hours, a few braving the cold to stretch their legs, said Mike Ramella, a salesman from the Cleveland suburb of Westlake.
“I’m just sending emails, still working,” said Ramella, who was in the middle of a 7-mile backup.
A trooper responding to an accident was pinned between vehicles, said the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which confirmed the deaths of the three other people but didn’t immediately have further details. One vehicle lane opened about four hours after the first accident.
Girl who sued parents for financial support returns home
ROSELAND, N.J. (AP) — The New Jersey honor student who sued to get her parents to support her after she moved out of their home has reunited with them, and the family is now asking for privacy.
Rachel Canning moved back in with her parents after speaking with her mother Tuesday, but without any promises of financial support or other consideration, according to lawyers for the teen and her parents.
A state judge Wednesday denied a request from Canning’s attorney asking for a court-appointed guardian for the 18-year-old to be paid for by her parents. The denied application for immediate relief also requested that the courtroom be closed for future hearings, the records sealed and all parties prohibited from speaking to the media.
“It is critical that if Rachel does dismiss this matter that she does so of her own free will and not due to the extreme pressure of her parents and the media,” her attorney, Tanya N. Helfand, wrote in the court filing.
Phone and email messages to Helfand were not immediately returned.