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POSSIBLE 5TH UNDERWATER SIGNAL HEARD IN JET SEARCH

Thursday, 10 April 2014 07:26 Published in National News

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- An Australian aircraft Thursday detected what may be the fifth signal coming from a man-made device deep in the Indian Ocean, adding to hopes that searchers will soon pinpoint the object's location and send down a robotic vehicle to confirm if it is a black box from the missing Malaysian jet.

The Australian air force P-3 Orion, which has been dropping sonar buoys into the water near where four earlier sounds were heard, picked up a "possible signal" that may be from a man-made source, said Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search off Australia's west coast.

"The acoustic data will require further analysis overnight," Houston said in a statement.

If confirmed, the signal would add further narrow the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished on March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

The Australian ship Ocean Shield picked up two underwater sounds on Tuesday, and two sounds it detected Saturday were determined to be consistent with the pings emitted from a plane's flight recorders, or "black boxes."

The Australian air force has been dropping sonar buoys to better pinpoint the location of the sounds detected by the Ocean Shield in a search zone that is now the size of the city of Los Angeles.

Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy is dangling a hydrophone listening device about 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface. Each buoy transmits its data via radio back to the plane.

The underwater search zone is currently a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) patch of the ocean floor, and narrowing the area as much as possible is crucial before an unmanned submarine can be sent to create a sonar map of a potential debris field on the seabed.

The Bluefin 21 sub takes six times longer to cover the same area as the pinger locator being towed by the Ocean Shield, and it would take the vehicle about six weeks to two months to canvass the current underwater search zone. That's why the acoustic equipment is still being used to hone in on a more precise location, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said.

The search for floating debris on the ocean surface was narrowed Thursday to its smallest size yet - 57,900 square kilometers (22,300 square miles), or about one-quarter the size it was a few days ago. Fourteen planes and 13 ships were looking for floating debris, about 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of Perth.

A "large number of objects" were spotted on Wednesday, but the few that had been retrieved by search vessels were not believed to be related to the missing plane, the search coordination center said.

Crews hunting for debris on the surface have already looked in the area they were crisscrossing on Thursday, but were moving in tighter patterns, now that the search zone has been narrowed to about a quarter the size it was a few days ago, Houston said.

Houston has expressed optimism about the sounds detected earlier in the week, saying on Wednesday that he was hopeful crews would find the aircraft - or what's left of it - in the "not-too-distant future."

The locator beacons on the black boxes holding the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have a battery life of about a month, and Tuesday marked one month since Flight 370 disappeared. The plane veered off-course for an unknown reason, so the data on the black boxes are essential to finding the plane and solving the mystery. Investigators suspect it went down in the southern Indian Ocean based on a flight path calculated from its contacts with a communications satellite and analysis of its speed and when it would have run out of fuel.

An Australian government briefing document circulated among international agencies involved in the search on Thursday said it was likely that the acoustic pingers would continue to transmit at decreasing strength for up to 10 more days, depending on conditions.

Once there is no hope left of the Ocean Shield's equipment picking up any more sounds, the Bluefin sub will be deployed.

Complicating matters, however, is the depth of the seafloor in the search area. The pings detected earlier are emanating from 4,500 meters (14,763 feet) below the surface - which is the deepest the Bluefin can dive.

"It'll be pretty close to its operating limit. It's got a safety margin of error and if they think it's warranted, then they push it a little bit," said Stefan Williams, a professor of marine robotics at Sydney University.

The search coordination center said it was considering available options in case a deeper diving sub is needed. But Williams suspects if that happens, the search will be delayed while an underwater vehicle rated to 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) is dismantled and air freighted from Europe, the U.S. or Japan.

Williams said colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts had autonomous and remotely operated underwater vehicles that will dive to 11 kilometers (36,100 feet), although they might not be equipped for such a search.

Underwater vessels rated to 6,500 meters (21,300 feet) could search the seabed of more than 90 percent of the world's oceans, Williams said.

"There's not that much of it deeper than 6 1/2 kilometers," he said.

Williams said it was unlikely that the wreck had fallen into the narrow Diamantina trench, which is about 5,800 meters (19,000 feet) deep, since sounds emanating from that depth would probably not have been detected by the pinger locator.

---

Gelineau reported from Sydney. Associated Press Writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Pop Tart Gun Case Motivates Move By Missouri House

Thursday, 10 April 2014 07:06 Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri students could use food, pencils or their hands to imitate a gun without penalty under legislation endorsed by the state House.  
 
The bill advanced Wednesday would shield students from discipline of fines for "simulating a weapon while playing."  Sponsoring Republican Rep. Mike Kelley, of Lamar, says he was motivated by the Maryland case of a Baltimore second-grader suspended last year for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun.  
 
Opponents say the legislation could allow some students to encourage violence among their peers.
The measure would allow students to be disciplined for causing bodily harm, disrupting a learning environment or creating a serious threat. It needs one more vote before moving to the Senate.

Who Is The Front-Runner at the Masters?

Thursday, 10 April 2014 07:10 Published in Sports

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- If you're looking for someone not to pick at this year's Masters, go with Ryan Moore.

By winning the Par 3 tournament, he surely sealed his fate. After all, no one has ever taken the just-for-fun prelude Wednesday and gone on to collect a green jacket Sunday evening.

Then again, if there was ever a year to break with tradition, this might be it.

Tiger Woods is on the sidelines. A bunch of brash Augusta rookies are eager to fill his shoes. And the last two dozen majors have been divvied up among 21 winners.

Good luck making sense of it all with the Masters beginning Thursday.

"You never know," Moore said, savoring his two-stroke victory on the picturesque nine-hole course tucked away in a corner of Augusta National.

"Someone has got to break that (Par 3) curse at some point in time, so hopefully it's me. Who knows? I might go shoot 8 under or something, make a couple of hole-in-ones."

As unlikely as that sounds, pretty much everything else is up for grabs at this Masters. Recovering from back surgery, Woods is sitting out the opening major of the year for the first time since turning pro.

Even as his dominance waned in recent years, he was always the clear-cut favorite coming into Augusta, where he has won four times.

Now, as Moore said, who knows?

Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and former Masters champion Zach Johnson are the only players from the top 10 who have won anywhere in the world this year. Only one of the past seven winners on the PGA Tour was ranked in the top 75.

"I think if you're outside the top 50 in the world this week, you've got a great chance," U.S. Open champion Justin Rose said with a laugh.

Woods is out of golf until the summer, but the show goes on at a tournament that rarely fails to deliver plenty of drama.

"We miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world," Masters chairman Billy Payne said. "Nevertheless, this is the Masters. This is what we hope is the best tournament in the world, one of the greatest sporting events. And I think we will have a very impressive audience and have another great champion to crown this year."

That could be Phil Mickelson, who last year won the British Open at age 42 and now has a chance to join Woods and Arnold Palmer with a fourth green jacket.

It could be Adam Scott, trying to take over as the world's No. 1 player and join Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only back-to-back winners.

While Woods last won a green jacket in 2005, he had finished out of the top six only once since then.

That's what made him such a compelling figure at Augusta.

He always seemed to be there.

"It's a huge loss," Scott said. "But, as every year here, this event produces something special no matter what. It just has a way of doing it. It's not going to involve Tiger this year, but it will involve someone else and it will be a memorable event anyway."

Rose falls on the side of experience - knowing where to miss, knowing where you can't afford to miss, where the hole locations tend to be on the contoured greens and using the slope to get the ball close.

"Always you can have the unknowns," he said. "But I would say 15 guys are pretty strong favorites."

Fuzzy Zoeller was the last Augusta rookie to claim the green jacket in 1979, and the only other ones to do it were the first two: Horton Smith and Gene Sarazen.

Then again, there are 24 first-timers in the 98-player field, a record (except for the first tournament), and none of them will concede an insurmountable learning curve.

Besides, no one is dominating golf at the moment. Jimmy Walker has the most PGA Tour wins (three) this season, but this is his first Masters. Scott had a chance to go to No. 1 three weeks ago at Bay Hill, but he lost a three-shot lead in the final round to Matt Every, who had never won in his career.

"Doesn't matter if you've played here once or if you've played here 50 times," said Patrick Reed, who has won three times in the past eight months. "When it comes down to it, it's just going to be that whoever is playing the best is going to walk away with the trophy."

Who knows? Maybe it will be Moore.

He's certainly not fretting over a supposed curse.

"I'm not afraid of it," he said.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at WWW.TWITTER.COM/PNEWBERRY1963

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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