AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on March 28, 2014 at 4:30 AM

Australia says planes now searching in new area for signs of Malaysian airliner

PERTH, Australia (AP) — The search area for the lost Malaysian jetliner moved 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) to the northeast on Friday, as Australian officials said a new analysis of radar data suggests the plane had flown faster and therefore ran out of fuel more quickly than previously estimated.

That means searchers have concluded that hundreds of floating objects detected over the last week by satellite, previously considered possible wreckage, weren't from the plane after all. But there are advantages to the new search area: It's closer to land and has calmer weather than the old one.

Nine planes were to fly over the new search area Friday and six ships were headed there, said John Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety Authority emergency response division. "We have moved on" from the previous search area, he said.

AMSA said the change in search areas came from new information based on continuing analysis of the radar data received soon after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 lost communications and veered from its scheduled path March 8. The Beijing-bound flight carrying 239 people turned around soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, flew west toward the Malacca Strait and disappeared from radar.

The search area has changed several times since the plane vanished as experts analyzed a frustratingly small amount of data from the aircraft, including the radar signals and "pings" that a satellite picked up for several hours after radar contact was lost.

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Latest information on search in southern Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines jet

Australia announced Friday that the search area for the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared March 8 has shifted to a new Indian Ocean region, 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) to the northeast of where planes and ships had been trying to find any sign of it.

WHY THE SHIFT?

Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, says a new credible lead has come to light based on continuing analysis of radar data of the aircraft's movement between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before it disappeared. It indicates the plane was traveling faster than was previously thought, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance it traveled south.

Two sets of data were compared: the "pinging" from a satellite to the aircraft, which gives the approximate location of the plane within the "arc" stretching from Malaysia to the southern Indian Oean, and the various projections of aircraft performance, in particular speed and fuel consumption. That resulted in the "best assessment of the area where it entered the water," Dolan said.

Dolan said that he previous analysis had a range of possible assumptions about aircraft speed, and those assumptions have now been refined. Dolan could not say exactly how much faster the plane is believed to have been traveling, compared to earlier estimates.

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To investigators who probed exam cheating at Air Force nuke base, 4 'librarians' were at core

WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators dubbed them "the librarians," four Air Force nuclear missile launch officers at the center of a still-unfolding scandal over cheating on proficiency tests.

"They tended to be at the hub" of illicit exchanges of test information, says Adam Lowther, one of seven investigators who dug into details of cheating that has embarrassed the Air Force and on Thursday brought down virtually the entire operational command of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

At least 82 missile launch officers face disciplinary action, but it was the four "librarians" who allegedly facilitated the cheating, in part by transmitting test answers via text message. One text included a photo of a classified test answer, according to Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, who announced the probe's findings Thursday.

Wilson said the four junior officers were at "the crux of it," and that three of the four also are accused of illegal drug activity. The rest of the accused either participated in cheating or were aware of it but failed to blow the whistle, Wilson said.

In response, the Air Force fired nine midlevel commanders at Malmstrom and announced it will pursue a range of disciplinary action against the accused 82, possibly to include courts-martial. A 10th commander, the senior officer at the base, resigned and will retire from the Air Force.

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Poll: Obama's health care fails to gain support; Americans expect fixes, not repeal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Public support for President Barack Obama's health care law is languishing at its lowest level since passage of the landmark legislation four years ago, according to a new poll.

The Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 26 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act. Yet even fewer — 13 percent — think it will be completely repealed. A narrow majority expects the law to be further implemented with minor changes, or as passed.

"To get something repealed that has been passed is pretty impossible," said Gwen Sliger of Dallas. "At this point, I don't see that happening."

Sliger illustrates the prevailing national mood. Although a Democrat, she's strongly opposed to Obama's signature legislation. But she thinks "Obamacare" is here to stay.

"I like the idea that if you have a pre-existing condition you can't be turned down, but I don't like the idea that if you don't have health insurance you'll be fined," said Sliger.

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Search for mudslide missing comes down to shovels with other checks exhausted

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — There is only one way searchers are narrowing the list of 90 people still missing seven days after a landslide obliterated the mountain community of Oso: by digging.

There are no more phone calls being made out of the Snohomish County Emergency Operations Center to determine whether some on the list were away and just haven't checked in since Saturday morning's slide. No house checks in nearby neighborhoods to see if someone may have been missed.

That left authorities to prepare the public for an announcement Friday morning that the official death toll was set to rise from 17. They previously acknowledged at least another nine bodies had been located but not yet recovered.

Family members have reported additional fatalities but authorities were carefully coordinating with the National Guard and the county medical examiner's office to process the bodies that have been recovered.

"We understand there has been confusion over the reported number of fatalities," Snohomish County District 21 Fire Chief Travis Hots said Thursday night in a statement. "This has been a challenging process for all of us."

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Critics vow to keep fighting after US appeals court upholds Texas' abortion restrictions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Dr. Lester Minto knows he won't be able to reopen his clinic after a federal appeals court upheld tough new abortion restrictions in Texas. But he insists he won't be silenced.

Minto has been providing abortions for three decades, but he closed his clinic near the Mexico border earlier this month because of a law that imposes some of the nation's strictest limitations on the procedure. The law, which was overwhelmingly approved last summer by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, has helped force numerous clinics to close.

"I'm not down and out," Minto said Thursday, shortly after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. "I just can't fight in the open."

A lower court judge initially ruled that parts of the law were unconstitutional and served no medical purpose, but the 5th Circuit allowed some regulations to remain in effect while it mulled the appeal. On Thursday, the appeals court ruled that the law "on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman."

The case, however, will likely end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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In Vermont's largest city, strike by bus drivers takes a toll on renowned social safety net

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — In this lakefront city once nicknamed the People's Republic of Burlington for its liberal politics and social services, a long bus strike is testing the community's ability to care for its neediest and youngest.

New immigrants have waited for transportation that never came, food shelves are overwhelmed by demands for delivery and cab companies are backed up by calls from people trying to reach their low-wage jobs.

Perhaps most impactful, the majority of the city's schoolchildren rely on public buses because the district doesn't operate its own fleet. During one of the coldest Marches on record, students are walking or getting rides and showing up late in large numbers.

"The community is suffering from this," said Gracie Rebecca Cade, 19, a receptionist at a South Burlington car dealership who is almost 7 months pregnant and has doled out more than $150 for taxis to get to work. "I am just worried about being able to get to my appointments and getting to work."

Burlington, on a hill along Lake Champlain with about 42,000 residents, holds the distinction of being the smallest U.S. city to be a state's largest. It anchors a metro area with a population of about 165,000, mostly within Chittenden County. About 9,500 people a day use the bus system.

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AP PHOTOS: Afghanistan's 69 women legislators reflect changing times, fight for rights

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, women rarely left their home.

When they did venture beyond their four walls, they wafted through crowded markets covered from head to toe in the all-encompassing burqa. While most women in conservative Afghanistan may still wear the burqa, today's Afghan woman has choices she didn't have during the Taliban rule that lasted from the mid-1990s to 2001 — like running for parliament.

In the last elections in 2010, 69 women won seats in Afghanistan's 249-seat parliament. The next parliamentary vote will be held in 2015, but first are the April 5 presidential and provincial council elections.

Under Afghan law, 20 percent of council member seats are reserved for women, who are also figuring prominently in presidential campaigns. Three presidential hopefuls have taken the bold step of choosing a woman as a running mate, including one of the front-runners.

Habiba Danish, a legislator from northern Takhar province, said she was the top vote getter in her province in the last parliamentary polls. Throughout the country, including in the south and the east where the hard-line Taliban are waging a stubborn insurgency, women have been elected to parliament.

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Armenians dismayed as Syrian rebels seize historic area, prompting residents to flee

BADROUSIEH, Syria (AP) — When hundreds of residents of the postcard-pretty coastal Syrian village of Kassab fled this week, it bore historic weight: it was the third time since 1900 that ethnic Armenians there felt compelled to run for their lives.

They left once at the hands of vengeful Turkish neighbors, and later because of Ottoman forces. This time it was Syrian rebels storming into town. It was a heavy blow for the minority community that sees the town as key to preserving the Armenians' identity in Syria.

Kassab "is a symbol of Armenian history, language and continuity. It's very symbolic," said Ohannes Geukjian, a political science professor who writes on contemporary Armenian history and politics. "And so the fall of Kassab, I consider it the defeat of Armenian identity in that area."

Rebels seized control of Kassab on Sunday after launching an attack two days earlier in the coastal Syrian province of Latakia. The fighters were from an array of conservative and Islamic groups, including the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front.

The province has an ancient Armenian presence, but is better known as a bastion of support for President Bashar Assad. It is his ancestral home and that of followers of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, that he belongs to.

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Person with knowledge of the deal to AP: Tigers to pay Cabrera $292 million over 10 years

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers are doubling down on Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

The team has agreed to pay Cabrera a baseball-record $292 million over the next 10 years, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

The person, who said the contract is subject to a physical, spoke Thursday night to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been announced.

Cabrera is due $44 million over the final two years of his $152.3 million, eight-year contract that runs through 2015, and the person says the slugger will make $248 million over eight seasons in the new deal.

Depending on whether Cabrera's deal is structured as one 10-year contract or an eight-year deal starting in 2016, it will either surpass Alex Rodriguez's $275 million, 10-year agreement with the New York Yankees for the richest contract, or Clayton Kershaw's record for average annual value of $30,714,286 in the $215 million, seven-year deal he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in January.

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