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INDIA ASKED TO JOIN HUNT FOR MISSING PLANE

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 06:35 Published in National News

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia asked India to join the expanding search for the missing Boeing 777 near the Andaman Sea — far to the northwest of its last reported position and a further sign Wednesday that authorities have no idea where the plane might be more than four days after it vanished.

The mystery over the plane's whereabouts has been confounded by confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian officials, adding to the anguish of relatives of the 239 people on board the flight — two thirds of them Chinese.

"There's too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing. "We will not give it up as long as there's still a shred of hope."

The mother of passenger Zou Jingsheng, who would only give her name as Zou, wept and spoke haltingly about her missing son while staying at a hotel near the Beijing airport. She expressed frustration with the airline and the Malaysian government over their handling of the case.

"I want to talk more, but all this is very stressful, and after all it is my son's life that I am concerned about. I just want to know where he is, and wish he is safe and alive," she said.

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday morning and last made contact with ground control officials about 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam before vanishing.

Dozens of planes and ships from at least eight nations are scouring waters on both sides of peninsular Malaysia but have found no trace of the jet.

Citing military radar, Malaysian authorities have said the plane may have turned back from its last known position, possibly making it as far as the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane west of the narrow nation some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the plane's last known coordinates.

How it might have done this without being clearly detected has raised questions over whether its electrical systems, including transponders allowing it to be identified by radar, were either knocked out or turned off. If it did manage to fly on, it would challenge earlier theories that the plane may have suffered a catastrophic incident, initially thought reasonable because it didn't send out any distress signals.

Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism. Both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard to say what happened.

"There is a possibility that the aircraft, the flight, has taken a turn back basing on the radar we have used to pick up the signal," Malaysia's armed forces chief, Gen. Zulkifeli Mohammad Zin told The Associated Press. "We cannot confirm it, but, basing on that, even though there is a possibility there, we have got to conduct a search (in the strait). We cannot leave it to chance."

Finding wreckage from a missing plane can sometimes take days or longer, depending on the nature of the crash, the current and how much is known about the aircraft's final movements.

India's ministry of external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Wednesday that Malaysian authorities had contacted their Indian counterparts seeking help in searching areas near the Andaman Sea.

Malaysia's air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, released a statement denying remarks attributed to him in a local media report saying that military radar had managed to track the aircraft turning back from its original course, crossing the country and making it to the Malacca strait. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official, who confirmed the remarks.

Rodzali referred to a statement he said he made March 9 in which he said the air force has "not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back" and that search and rescue efforts had been expanded to the waters around Penang Island, in the northern section of the strait.

It's possible that the radar readings are not definitive or subject to interpretation, especially if a plane is malfunctioning.

Even so, the confusion has prompted speculation that different arms of the government have different opinions over where the plane is most likely to be, or even that authorities are holding back information.

Choi Tat Sang, a 74-year-old Malaysian man, said the family is still holding out hope that the plane and all on board are safe. His daughter in law, Goh Sock Lay, 45, is the chief stewardess on the flight. Her 14-year-old daughter, an only child, has been crying every day since the plane's disappearance.

"We are heartbroken. We are continuing to pray for her safety and for everyone on the flight," he said.

Indonesia air force Col. Umar Fathur said the country had received official information from Malaysian authorities that the plane was above the South China Sea, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kota Bharu, Malaysia, when it turned back toward the strait and then disappeared. That would place its last confirmed position closer to Malaysia than has previously been publicly disclosed.

___

Associated Press journalists Jim Gomez in Kuala Lumpur, Isolda Morillo in Beijing, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Zach Galifianakis brought the ferns, and President Barack Obama opened a new avenue of presidential communication.

The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing the news media and even previous favorites like TV talk show titans Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman. Instead, he chose to be a guest on Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people ages 18 to 34.

The video reached 1 million views within three and a half hours of posting and was adding more at a pace of 1 million per hour in the middle of the day, according to Funny or Die. The website was briefly the number one source of referrals to Healthcare.gov, the Obama administration said, with some 19,000 people navigating directly from the video to the health care website in the first few hours.

"Gone are the days when your broadcasts - or yours or yours - can reach everybody that we need to reach," Obama press secretary Jay Carney said to broadcast journalists at the White House press briefing Tuesday.

With 4 million viewers, Obama exceeded in six hours the typical audience he would get by appearing on television shows hosted by Letterman, Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. That doesn't count the ancillary views - clips of the interview aired repeatedly on CNN. And the video was a topic on Howard Stern's radio show. By nighttime, the video had more than 8 million viewers.

As hip as Fallon and Kimmel may be in some circles, their audiences skew older - a median age of 52.7 for Fallon and 56.2 for Kimmel during the last week of February, the Nielsen company said.

For Web entertainment, it's a moment that rivals Emmy or Golden Globe nominations for Netflix's "House of Cards." And in presidential annals, it breaks form much like Richard Nixon did with his awkward jokes on television's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In."

In the clip, Galifianakis peppered Obama with awkward questions, including whether he'd locate his presidential library in Hawaii or Kenya.

"What's it like to be the last black president?" he asked.

"Seriously?" Obama said. "What's it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?"

Galifianakis feigned annoyance when Obama, about halfway through the 6-minute clip, began urging young people to sign up for health care, sighing heavily before muttering, "Here we go."

"I think it's fair to say I wouldn't be here today if I didn't have something to plug," Obama said. As he went on, the "Hangover" star asked: "Is this what they mean by drones?"

Funny or Die was launched by Will Ferrell and partners in 2007 and has gone beyond being a niche location. There have been about 20 "Between Two Ferns" episodes, drawing an average of 6 million viewers each, and the Obama appearance is expected to go well beyond that number. Funny or Die gets 19 million unique visitors a month and has 7.8 million followers on Twitter and 5.5 million likes on Facebook.

Television talk show appearances have since become an accepted part of the political circuit. The Obama administration hasn't ignored this: First lady Michelle Obama appeared on a skit last month in Fallon's first week at "Tonight." Vice President Joe Biden was on Meyers' first show. The president played along with Fallon's "slow jam the news" skit in talking about student loans in 2012, when he was running for re-election.

He's done interactive Web appearances with Linked In, Google and Twitter, said presidential spokesman Joshua Earnest. But it wasn't quite like Galifianakis questioning him about whether there's another presidential pardon for a turkey in order or showing him a rash on his arm.

"The video enabled the president to deliver his message very clearly but in a way that's fresh and appealing to a young audience," said Susan Etlinger, an Internet analyst for the Altimeter Group. "It's almost cynical but in a sincere way."

The White House began talking with Funny or Die last summer about ways to promote the health care plan, and the site has posted several comic videos about the topic, said Mike Farah, production president of the site and executive producer of "Between Two Ferns." The interview was taped two weeks ago.

"What I really love about the video is that it's a funny `Between Two Ferns' first," Farah said. At the end, the interview's black backdrop collapses and it's revealed the White House is where the appearance was taped - the joke being that's where Galifianakis does all his shows.

In the first few hours, 96 percent of the site's visitors judged the video funny, meaning it had reached immortal status on the site, he said.

As 2016 approaches, no doubt other politicians will be watching its impact.

Not everyone was amused, though. On Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," host Brian Kilmeade said the video was inappropriate and "pretty tragic."

Carney was asked whether some presidential dignity was compromised.

"We obviously assess opportunities that we have and, you know, look at whether they're going to be successful and wise," he said. "And I think we made the right call here."

---

Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler at the White House contributed to this report.

---

Online:

HTTP://WWW.FUNNYORDIE.COM

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Benn scores OT winner, Stars beat Blues

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 23:43 Published in Sports
 
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Jamie Benn scored 3:42 into overtime, giving the Dallas Stars a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, one night after teammate Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench.
 
Defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Roman Polak ended lengthy goal droughts for the Blues, who lost for the first time in five games with new goalie Ryan Miller.
 
Colton Sceviour, among two call-ups by the Stars with Peverley out indefinitely and teammate Alex Chiasson also hospitalized due to emotional distress after his teammate's "cardiac event," scored on a power play in the first period.
 
Miller robbed the other call-up, Chris Mueller, with a glove save from point-blank range with 2:16 to go in the third. But he couldn't corral a shot by Benn, the Stars captain, that gave Dallas its fourth win in five games.
 
The Stars' home game against Columbus was postponed Monday night after Peverley fell ill with a heart problem. Peverley remained hospitalized in stable condition on Tuesday while undergoing tests.
 
Benn has scored in three straight games and has seven points in a five-game streak.
 
The Blues are 18-0-2 against the Central Division, breaking the franchise record of 19 consecutive games with a point in divisional play set in 1968-69. During the five-game winning streak, they never allowed more than two goals.
 
Polak tied it at 2 at 5:01 of the third period with his first goal in 37 games and fourth overall. He sent a drive through traffic that got past Tim Thomas.
 
Pietrangelo, who earlier this season became the first Blues defenseman to score 40 points in his first three seasons, snapped a 20-game goal drought in the first period.
 
Pietrangelo had 11 assists since his previous goal on Jan. 10 at Vancouver.
 
Antoine Roussel scored on a breakaway earlier in the period to put the Stars ahead, sending the puck slowly trickling between Miller's pads. Roussel got free after David Backes flubbed a cross-ice pass near the blue line in the offensive zone.
 
Sceviour, among the leading scorers in the AHL for the Texas Stars, scored his fourth goal in eight games this season against a team that had killed 33 of 35 power-play chances the previous 11 games.
 
NOTES: Blues D Jay Bouwmeester played in his 700th consecutive regular-season game, the longest active streak in major sports. ... The Blues fell to 36-1-5 when scoring first. ... Roussel had one assist the previous four games. ... Polak has four goals, tying his career best for a season.

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