EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 24, 2014

New data show possible Malaysian jet debris in southern Indian Ocean


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — PERTH, Australia — France provided new satellite data Sunday showing possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as searchers combing a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean tried without success to locate a wooden pallet that could yield clues to one of the world’s most baffling aviation mysteries.

The new data consists of “radar echoes” in the same part of the ocean where satellite images previously released by Australia and China showed what might be debris from the plane, French authorities said.

Flight 370 vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search that has turned up no confirmed pieces and nothing conclusive on what happened to the jet.

The latest satellite data came to light as Australian authorities coordinating the search, conducted about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, sent planes and a ship to try to “re-find” a wooden pallet that appeared to be surrounded by straps of different lengths and colors.

The pallet was spotted on Saturday from a search plane, but the spotters were unable to take photos of it, and a PC Orion military plane dispatched to locate it could not find it.

Jet disappearance stirs concern about pilots’ mental health

DALLAS — Reinforced doors with keypad entries. Body scanners and pat-downs. Elaborate crew maneuvers when a pilot has to use the restroom. All those tactics are designed to keep dangerous people out of the cockpit. But what if the pilot is the problem?

With no answers yet in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; investigators have said they’re considering many options: hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or catastrophic equipment failure. Nobody knows if the pilots are heroes who tried to save a crippled airliner or if one collaborated with hijackers or was on a suicide mission.

Whatever the outcome, the mystery has raised concerns about whether airlines and governments do enough to make sure that pilots are mentally fit to fly.

“One of the most dangerous things that can happen is the rogue captain,” said John Gadzinski, a Boeing 737 captain and aviation-safety consultant. “If you get somebody who — for whatever reason — turns cancerous and starts going on their own agenda, it can be a really bad situation.”

Malaysia Airlines said this week that its pilots take psychological tests during the hiring process.

Many people won’t be enrolling by health care deadline

WASHINGTON — Alan Thacker wants health coverage, but he can’t get help in his home state of Georgia. Mary Moscarello Gutierrez no longer can afford insurance in New Jersey. Justin Thompson of Utah refuses to be forced into the president’s health law.

Millions of people in the United States will remain uninsured despite this week’s final, frenzied push to sign them up under the health law. Their reasons are all over the map.

Across the country, many of the uninsured just don’t know much about the health overhaul and its March 31 deadline for enrolling in plans that can yield big discounts, researchers say.

An Associated Press-GfK poll found that only one-fourth of the uninsured had tried to sign up through the state or federal insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges, by late January. If they don’t enroll in time, many will face a fine and be locked out of the subsidized plans until next year.

President Barack Obama and a phalanx of advocacy groups, insurance companies and volunteers are scrambling to spread the word about HealthCare.gov as the deadline dangles.

Court considers objections to birth control coverage

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration and its opponents are renewing the Supreme Court battle over President Barack Obama’s health care law in a case that pits the religious rights of employers against the rights of women to the birth control of their choice.

Two years after the entire law survived the justices’ review by a single vote, the court is hearing arguments Tuesday in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans as part of the law’s preventive care requirement.

Health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge, including all forms of birth control for women that have been approved by federal regulators.

Some of the nearly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives object to paying for all forms of birth control. But the companies involved in the high court case are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.

The largest company among them, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the Green family that owns it, say their “religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception.”

-Associated Press

Air force commander held after base in Crimea stormed

KIEV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian air force commander is being held after his base in Crimea was stormed by pro-Russian forces, and the acting president called for his release Sunday.

Col. Yuliy Mamchur is the commander of the Belbek Air Force base near Sevastopol, which was taken over Saturday by forces who sent armored personnel carriers smashing through the base’s walls and fired shots and stun grenades. One Ukrainian serviceman was reported wounded in the clash.

It was unclear if the forces, who didn’t bear insignia, were Russian military or local pro-Russia militia.

Ukraine President Oleksandr Turchynov, in a statement, said Mamchur was “abducted” by the forces. He didn’t specify where Mamchur is believed to be held.

However, prominent politician Vitali Klitschko said Sunday that Mamchur is being held by the Russian military in a jail in Sevastopol, the Crimean city that is the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.