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Updated: 17 min 44 sec ago

Video: Inside the Air Search for MH370

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:47

Watch this elite crew of New Zealand air searchers as they survey an area nearly the width of the U.S. for any sign of missing Flight MH370.

Categories: Magazines

Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter Dies at 76

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:42

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the famous boxer who served 19 years in prison before his exoneration after being wrongfully convicted of murder, died at home Sunday at age 76.

Carter’s friend and former co-defendant John Artis confirmed the news to the Associated Press. Carter died in his sleep after a battle with prostate cancer.

Carter was twice convicted of shooting three people in a Paterson, N.J., bar in 1966, two years after losing boxing’s middleweight championship. Prosecutorial misconduct involving racial bias and withheld evidence led both verdicts to be overturned in 1985.

Carter’s quest to clear his name attracted international attention. Amnesty International called him a “prisoner of conscience,” and the case inspired Bob Dylan to write the protest song “Hurricane.” The story of Carter’s life was turned into a Hollywood film, The Hurricane, in 1999, starring Denzel Washington.

[AP]

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Watch: Pope Francis and Easter at the Vatican

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:28

Watch highlights of Pope Francis’s Easter prayers for peace in Syria and Ukraine via Vatican Radio and TV.

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Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter Dies at 76

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:15

(TORONTO) — Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, has died at 76.

His death was confirmed Sunday by John Artis, a caregiver and associate.

Carter spent 19 years in prison for three murders at a tavern in Paterson, N.J., in 1966. He was convicted alongside Artis in 1967 and again in a new trial in 1976.

Carter was freed in 1985 when his convictions were set aside after years of appeals and public advocacy. His ordeal and the alleged racial motivations behind it were publicized in Bob Dylan’s 1975 song “Hurricane,” several books and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington.

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Space Station Gets Special SpaceX Easter Delivery

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:06

While children looked for Easter eggs on planet Earth, astronauts aboard the International Space Station received a gift from the Easter Dragon on Sunday.

Dragon, the name of the SpaceX company’s space capsule, delivered two tons of food, gear, experiments and care packages to the six men aboard the station, the Associated Press reports. Dragon chased the space station for two days following its Friday launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. before astronauts captured it with a robotic arm.

“Gentlemen, the Easter Dragon is knocking at the door,” NASA’s Mission Control said as the capsule was locked into place.

The capsule will remain docked at the space station until May, when it will be sent back home full of samples from experiments the astronauts are conducting onboard.

[AP]

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Watch Clippers Star Blake Griffin Dump Water All Over a Warriors Fan

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:53

When the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin fouled out Saturday during his team’s first playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, he was, naturally, pretty unhappy. It appears he just might have taken out some of that frustration on a Warriors fans.

After watching the replay of the foul, Griffin threw his hands in the air — you know, that universal sign for “What the f–k man?” But he just so happened to be holding a cup of water, so he doused a Warriors fan standing behind him.

As Sports Illustrated points out, the man and his friend — both dressed in Warriors t-shirts — had cheered Griffin’s ejection, so he could have done this on purpose. But the fan, 22-year-old Will Meldman, suspects it was an accident.

“Honestly, I think it fell out of his hand,” Meldman told Yahoo Sports. “He fouled out and he was frustrated, so it just fell out of his hand. It just slipped out.”

But Meldman’s friend, who was seated beside him the entire game, totally thinks Griffin’s move was intentional. We’ll never know for sure, so let’s all just keep watching the clip over and over:

 

 

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Abdullah Ahead in Latest Afghanistan Election Results

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:43

Partial results from Afghanistan’s presidential elections released Sunday reveal candidate Abdullah Abdullah as the front-runner, though a runoff election still appears likely.

Abdullah, who ran against current president Hamid Karzai in the last election, has 44 percent of the votes that have been tallied so far. Abdullah’s closest competitor, former finance minister and World Bank official Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, has received 33.2 percent of the vote.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced the results, which represent close to half of the approximately 7 million votes cast in the April 5 election, the Associated Press reports. Final election results are expected on May 14.

The victor will oversee Afghanistan through a period of transition as the U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries are expected to withdraw troops from the country. Both candidates have called for a new start with Western countries and have promised to sign a U.S. security pact with which Karzai has refused to agree.

[AP]

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Pope Francis Prays for Peace on Easter Sunday

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:17

Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine during his Easter mass in Vatican City on Sunday.

“We ask [God] to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence,” Francis said in front of a crowd of more than 150,000 visitors at St. Peter’s Basilica.

This year, the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincides with Easter in the Orthodox churches, which have a sizable presence in Ukraine.

The Pontiff also prayed for peace in Syria and the Middle East at large, an end to the recent Nigerian terrorist attacks that have targeted Christians and an end to the deadly Ebola outbreak in parts of Africa, the Associated Press reports.

Pope Francis said the hopeful spirit of Easter means “leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”

[AP]

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South Korea Ferry Death Toll Rises to 58

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 09:55

The death toll in a ferry disaster off the South Korean coast officially rose to 58 Sunday after divers entered the boat and discovered several bodies, the country’s coast guard announced.

Divers have had difficulty entering the Sewol ferry, which sank Wednesday off South Korea’s southern coast, due to low visibility, inclement weather and strong currents, the Associated Press reports. Divers finally entered the vessel late Saturday and discovered 13 bodies inside along with several more floating near the boat.

Nearly 240 people — many of whom were traveling high school students — remain missing.

The Sewol’s captain and two other crew members were arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence. A transcript from the vessel’s communication system released Sunday reveals widespread confusion among passengers. Many of those aboard followed the captain’s initial orders to stay below deck, where authorities believe they have been trapped. The captain’s initial instructions for passengers to remain in the cabins have puzzled maritime experts.

It took more than half an hour since trouble was first detected for the captain to issue an evacuation order, which some survivors say they never heard.

[AP]

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4-Year-Old Half Siblings Die in Overnight N.Y.C. Fire

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 09:50

(NEW YORK) — Police say 4-year-old half siblings have died in an overnight fire at a home in New York City, and the twin of one of the children has survived.

The New York Police Department says officers responded to the home in Queens shortly before midnight Saturday.

Two 4-year-olds, a boy and a girl, were pronounced dead at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. Police have identified the boy as Jai’Launi Tinglin and the girl as Ayini Tinglin. They shared the same father.

Their 4-year-old sister is hospitalized in stable condition at St. John’s. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she was the twin of the boy or the girl who died.

A 55-year-old woman and a 63-year-old man are listed in stable condition at other hospitals.

An investigation into the fire is ongoing.

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Happy 4/20! Here Are 10 Things to Stream on Netflix While You Enjoy the Holiday

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 09:39

It’s 420, the national counterculture holiday that happens ever year on April 20th to celebrate all marijuana everything. Here’s a list of movies you might enjoy streaming today–you know, in case you live in Colorado.

The Inexplicable Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson Science is awesome even when you’re not in an altered state, so just sit back and let Neil deGrasse Tyson talk at you about the wonders of our universe.

Too Cute! This show is seriously nothing more than a bunch of cute puppies and kittens and other baby animals running around being cute. That’s it. You’re welcome.

Freaks and Geeks All of it. The whole season. Seriously, why not?

Blue Planet: Natural History of the Oceans Because isn’t the ocean just, like, so crazy when you think about it? Plus, huge bonus: this is narrated by David Attenborough, who is arguably the most pleasant-sounding human of all time.

Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive The Parks and Recreation actor’s latest stand-up special is hilarious, so prepare for some uncontrollable, pain-inducing laughter.

Good Burger Allow yourself to drift back to a simpler time: the 1990s.

The Twilight Zone Built for marathoning, this show will present you with endless questions your sober self would never take the time to ponder.

Coneheads Remember this movie? It’s about people whose heads are shaped like cones. Don’t over-think it.

Bob’s Burgers If you don’t already watch this show, now is a really great time to start. And if you already do watch it, go ahead and watch some old episodes again. You won’t regret it.

Marley Yeah, there’s a Bob Marley documentary on Netflix. When else are you actually going to watch this?

 

Categories: Magazines

Ukraine Separatists Plead for Putin’s Help After Deadly Gunfight

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 09:36

By Sunday morning, all that was left Ukraine’s Easter truce were two burned out cars at a separatist checkpoint, a few handfuls of bullet casings, and a bunch of implausible theories that the Russian media swallowed whole and spit back out across the airwaves. A few hours earlier, before dawn, two groups – one apparently made up of pro-Russians separatists, the other of pro-government loyalists – had clashed at the checkpoint near the town of Slavyansk. Reports of casualties differed, the Ukrainian government saying one person had been killed and Russian state media reporting five dead.

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In a statement to TIME, the self-proclaimed mayor of the town of Slavyansk, the separatist stronghold in eastern Ukraine, said he was imposing a citywide curfew and sending more of his militants to patrol the streets after the violence. “Last night, at a time of truce and Easter prayer, and in violation of the agreed upon ceasefire, our town was attacked,” the putative mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said in the statement transmitted through his spokeswoman on Sunday morning.

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Any hope of implementing the peace accord reached on April 17 in Geneva seemed to go out of the window in the wake of the violence. That agreement, which had been negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, had called for all militants in Ukraine to lay down their arms and leave the government buildings they have occupied. Whatever the cause of the violence that took place before dawn on Easter morning, the result was clear enough by daybreak. It gave the separatist forces of Slavyansk an excuse to ignore the peace accord, tighten their hold on the city and ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to send in a peacekeeping force.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, ours is a small, provincial town,” Ponomaryov said in a public appeal to Putin later in the day. “And fascists are trying to conquer us. They are killing our brothers, carrying out open military actions against the people. We therefore ask that you urgently consider the question of sending a peacekeeping force to protect the civilian population.”

At about 2 am on Sunday morning, Ponomaryov said, four cars pulled up to a checkpoint about 15 km from the center of the Slavyansk and began firing at the local men who were guarding it. According to the statement from Ponomaryov, the attackers were members of Right Sector, the Ukrainian ultranationalist group that has become the favorite bogeyman for Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists and their allies in Moscow.

“The attackers had the insignia of Right Sector and wore the red arm bands inscribed with their swastikas,” Ponomaryov, who calls himself the “people’s mayor” of Slavyansk, said in the statement to TIME. (Right Sector denied having anything to do with the attack on Sunday morning.) “They were found to have night-vision goggles and excellent weaponry, and in their pockets were packs of hard currency, American dollars,” he added. “Our self-defense forces managed to fight them off, using our pistols and the other weapons God has sent us.”

Although the Kremlin has not yet replied to his request for a peacekeeping force, the Russian Foreign Ministry seemed to take the separatist account at face value. “The Easter truce has been broken,” the Ministry said in a statement. “As a result of an armed attack by the fighters of the so-called Right Sector, completely innocent people died. Russia expresses concern over this militant provocation, which shows an unwillingness on the part of the authorities in Kiev to disband and disarm its nationalists and extremists.”

When TIME visited the scene of the fighting on Easter morning, many of the details in the separatists’ version of the story did not appear to add up. Even though the attackers allegedly unleashed a barrage of gunfire at the checkpoint, there were only a few bullet holes in its barricade of tires. Even though five people were reported killed in the shootout – three local separatists and two alleged attackers – the only traces of blood were on the inside of a camouflage cap left at the scene. But the most apparent inconsistencies were clear from the condition of the two burned-out cars that were riddled with bullets at the far side of the checkpoint leading to Slavyansk.

The separatist fighters, none of whom agreed to give their full names, could not even provide a consistent answer as to why the two main pieces of evidence of the attack had been torched at the scene. Some said the separatist fighters had “fallen into a rage” after the gunfight and decided to burn the cars as a form of emotional release. Another man in civilian clothing, who gave his name as Anton and his age as 27, said he had been guarding the checkpoint at the time of the attack and described a harrowing episode of bravery on the part of his comrades. When the attackers opened fire from their automatic weapons, Anton said, one of the unarmed defenders of the checkpoint ran toward the enemy cars with a lit Molotov cocktail and threw it inside, leading to the conflagration.

According to the separatists, the dead bodies of the two attackers were taken to the local state security headquarters, which is under separatist control. But the gunmen guarding that building refused to allow TIME inside to see the bodies. The only footage of an alleged attacker’s body was shown on the website of Life News, a Russian channel with long-standing ties to the Russian security services. In its footage, Life News showed what looked to be a corpse with its face and torso covered with a piece of fabric. In the courtyard of the security headquarters, Life News also showed an old German machine gun that looked like it was freshly cleaned, a dozen or so hundred dollar notes scattered on the ground, as well as the alleged business card of Dmitro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector. All of this was presented as evidence of the separatist account of the attack.

Convincing or not, the Russian state media presented this account as fact on Easter morning and gave it blanket coverage. For the separatists of Slavyansk, it was the best chance yet to convince Russia to send in its military to protect them, as they have long been asking Putin to do. But the chances of that had sharply diminished since the Geneva accords of April 17. During those talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed that all of Ukraine’s separatists must put down their arms and abandon the buildings they have occupied. In the days since then, there have been no signs of any Russian involvement in the separatist struggle in Slavyansk, and the local fighters and their supporters in Slavyansk have grown deeply anxious that no Russian help is coming.

“After Geneva, we really started to get worried,” Olga Lugavenko, whose son was guarding the checkpoint during Sunday’s violence, tells TIME at the scene. “Putin said that his soldiers had the backs of the local self-defense forces in Crimea last month, and we want them to have our backs as well. But as you can see, there are no Russians here.” The Easter attack, regardless of who orchestrated it, has given Putin a fresh excuse to put boots on the ground in Slavyansk. Now the only question is whether he will take it.

Categories: Magazines

Hamilton Wins Third Straight F1 Race at Chinese GP

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 09:17

(SHANGHAI) — Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix.

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Mercedes showed again that it’s in a different class from its rivals, with Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg taking second place — the third time in four races this season the pair have finished one-two.

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“This is a team on a roll, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said. “I’m going to be working hard, we’re going to keep working hard because obviously the others are pushing to catch us.”

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso held off fast-charging Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo to finish third and give his team its first podium finish of the year, with new team principal Marco Mattiacci watching from the garage.

Ricciardo was fourth, finishing one place ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel after the four-time defending world champion was asked by his team to allow the faster Ricciardo to pass for the second race in a row.

Hamilton’s win gave him his first career hat trick following his victories in Malaysia and Bahrain. The Briton may have even had a fourth win this season but was forced to retire in the season-opener in Australia after starting from pole position due to engine trouble.

With the win, he inched closer to his teammate’s lead in the drivers’ championship with 75 points, just four behind Rosberg.

Hamilton, who moved one ahead of Jim Clark for most poles by a British driver with the 34th of his career in Shanghai, was cruising so comfortably at the end of Sunday’s race that he wasn’t even rattled when the checkered flag was mistakenly shown a lap too soon, at the end of lap 55.

“That was very strange. I was thinking, ‘Am I seeing things?’ I looked up, I was coming across the line expecting to do another lap and, all of a sudden, I looked for a split second and I saw the flag,” he said.

According to F1 regulations, if the checkered flag is shown early, the official end of the race will be the lap before it was shown. On Sunday, that meant the end of lap 54.

The only racers this affected were Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi. Kobayashi had passed the Frenchman on their final lap for 17th place, but their places were reversed in the official results.

Hamilton was so far ahead for much of the race, his rivals were left to battle for second best.

Rosberg, expected to challenge Hamilton in Shanghai after the pair’s incredibly tight duel in Bahrain, started fourth on the grid and was forced to play catch-up after a slow start immediately dropped him back to seventh.

The German methodically tracked down the two Red Bulls and finally passed Alonso on the back straight of the 43rd lap, the Ferrari unable to match the speed of the Mercedes.

Rosberg then set his sights on Hamilton but he was by that point too far ahead, finishing nearly 19 seconds clear of the German.

“We have the best car,” Rosberg said. “But I was back there, so then catching up was nice with this fast car. It’s a good weapon.”

Vettel started third on the grid and briefly moved to second before beginning to fade as his tires wore out. After Rosberg passed him, he was asked to give way to Ricciardo on the 25th lap — a repeat of what happened two weeks ago at the Bahrain GP.

Instead of acceding, however, Vettel asked his team what tires Ricciardo was using and when told they were both on mediums, the German responded, “Tough luck.” At the start of the next lap, though, Vettel did make way and finished a distant 24 seconds behind his teammate.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained afterward that the team had different tire strategies for the drivers, planning a two-stop race for Ricciardo and a three-stop race for Vettel.

“As soon as (Vettel) understood that, he immediately let him through,” he said. “You could see he simply didn’t have the pace to hold him back there. It was pointless.”

Vettel, who has qualified behind Ricciardo three times to start the season, agreed with the decision given his struggles Sunday.

“I’m not yet where I want to be with the car, but it’s an on-going process,” he said. “Hopefully at the next few races we will make some more steps in the right direction.”

Force India had both its drivers finish in the points with Nico Hulkenberg finishing sixth and Sergio Perez taking ninth.

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was seventh, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was eighth, and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat finished in 10th, another impressive showing by the 19-year-old debutant.

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What Would Jesus Toke?

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 08:28

God told Moses to go down the mountain. He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. And, according to Bryan Davies, he made another commandment to a California couple circa 2005: “Open up a pot shop.”

Bryan and Lanette Davies run a medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif., which they say they opened on the advice of God. The couple sells marijuana to patients battling AIDS and insomnia and arthritic disorders. They also use their shop, called Canna Care, as a vehicle for spreading their Christian faith. Bibles lie on a table in the lobby, free for the taking. And every day at 6 o’clock, all the shop’s employees stop what they’re doing to hold hands and pray. Patrons are invited to join and often do.

“It has to do with taking care of the sick and ill,” Lanette says. “Jesus Christ made a statement that all people should care for one another, and this is our way of taking that to our community.”

The shop has also become embroiled in a case with the Internal Revenue Service that could set an important precedent for the medical marijuana industry. Because of a 1982 law, medical marijuana dispensaries are not allowed to deduct ordinary expenses—like rent or payroll or the cost of providing health benefits—which would normally be standard for a small business. This is because, in the eyes of the federal government and therefore the IRS, such businesses are technically trafficking illegal drugs, even if they’re operating legally according to state laws.

The Davies are refusing to pay a $875,000 tax bill that the IRS says they owe, and have taken the issue to court. They are currently waiting for a ruling on the matter, which they say they’ll appeal if necessary. “We pay our taxes. We are completely legal in this state,” says Lanette. Time will tell if the tax court agrees. Meanwhile, the couple plans to keep selling weed-infused lollipops and the message of Jesus Christ. — Katy Steinmetz

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Malaysia, Flight 370 Relatives Talk Financial Help

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 08:25

(PERTH, Australia) — A Malaysian official met Sunday with relatives of passengers who were aboard the missing jetliner and discussed ways of providing them with financial assistance, as an unmanned submarine continued to search for any signs of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

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Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainuddin met with the passengers’ relatives in Kuala Lumpur to talk about where to go next. Financial assistance was discussed and family members were urged to submit a plan for consideration. He declined to elaborate further, but said a fund could possibly be set up by the government or Malaysia Airlines.

“We realize this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board,” said Zainuddin, who heads a committee overseeing the needs of the next of kin. “No words can describe the pain they must be going through. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world.”

He added that he would soon visit Beijing to shore up bilateral relations between Malaysia and China. Two-thirds of the missing plane’s 227 passengers were Chinese, and many of their family members have been angered by Malaysia’s handling of the investigation, with some accusing the government of lying, incompetence or participating in an outright cover-up.

After nearly a week of sweeping the bottom of the ocean with sonar, the unmanned sub began its eighth mission on Sunday. The yellow device has already covered about half of its focused search area, but has yet to uncover any clues that could shed light on the mysterious disappearance of the plane more than six weeks ago.

The U.S. Navy’s Bluefin 21 has journeyed beyond its recommended depth of 4 1/2 kilometers (2.8 miles) to comb the silt-covered seabed off the coast of western Australia. Its search area forms a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius around the location of an underwater signal that was believed to have come from the aircraft’s black boxes. The search center said the sonar scan of the seafloor in that area was expected to be completed sometime next week.

On Saturday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein stressed the importance of the weekend submarine missions in the southern Indian Ocean, but stressed that even if no debris is recovered, the scope of the search may be broadened or other assets may be used.

Meanwhile on Sunday, up to 11 aircraft and 12 ships continued to scan the ocean surface for debris from the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Radar and satellite data show the jet mysteriously veered far off course for unknown reasons and would have run out of fuel in the remote section of the southern Indian Ocean where the search has been focused. Not one piece of debris has been recovered since the massive multinational hunt began.

There have been numerous leads, but all have turned out to be false. The most promising development came when four underwater signals were detected April 5 and 8. The sounds were consistent with pings that would have been emanating from the plane’s flight data and cockpit recorders’ beacons before their batteries died.

The underwater operation is being complicated by the depth of the largely unexplored silt-covered sea floor. The unmanned submarine has gone beyond its recommended depth, according to the U.S. 7th Fleet. That could risk the equipment, but it is being closely monitored.

The search coordination center has said the hunt for floating debris on the surface will continue for at least the next few days, even though the Australian head of the search effort, Angus Houston, had earlier said it was expected to end sooner.

On Sunday, the visual surface search was to cover an estimated 48,507 square kilometers (18,729 square miles) of sea.

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Militants Kill 14 Algerian Soldiers in Ambush

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 08:13

(ALGIERS, Algeria) — Islamist insurgents ambushed an Algerian military convoy in the mountainous Kabylie region, killing 14 soldiers, the state news agency reported Sunday. The attack came two days after Algeria’s presidential election.

The attack near the village of Iboudraren began at 10 p.m. Saturday night with 11 soldiers being killed immediately and another three succumbing to their wounds, the agency said.

A local official said a large group of insurgents hid on both sides of the road and opened fire with automatic weapons on the military bus as it drove by. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The area has been the site of past clashes between soldiers and militants but this attack represented the worst loss for the Algerian army in recent memory.

The soldiers were returning from securing polling stations for Thursday’s presidential election, which the government said was won by the country’s ailing, 77-year-old incumbent, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a landslide.

Algeria fought a 10-year civil war against Islamic insurgents in the 1990s after the army cancelled a parliamentary election an Islamic party had been poised to win. Now the militants are largely confined to isolated regions such as the Kabylie mountains, 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Algiers, the capital.

The Kabylie mountains are populated by Berbers, North Africa’s original inhabitants, who speak their own language and have long been disaffected from the central government. The Tizi Ouzou region near Saturday’s attack site had the lowest participation rate in the presidential election in the entire country.

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Shootout in Eastern Ukraine Leaves 1 Dead

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 07:22

Updated 9:35 AM ET

(BYLBASIVKA, Ukraine) — A shootout took place Sunday at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, which the insurgents and the Ukrainian police said left one person dead and others hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

The armed clash appeared to be the first since an international agreement was reached last week in Geneva to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russia activists have seized government buildings in at least 10 cities.

Ukraine and many in the West fear that such clashes could provide a pretext for Russia to seize more Ukrainian territory. Russia, which annexed the peninsula of Crimea last month, has tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine.

Yuri Zhadobin, who coordinates the pro-Russia unit manning the checkpoint in the village of Bylbasivka, told The Associated Press he was with about 20 men celebrating Easter when unknown men drove up in four vehicles and opened fire about 3 a.m.

“We began to shoot back from behind the barricades and we threw Molotov cocktails at them,” Zhadobin said. Two of the vehicles caught fire and the attackers fled in the other two, he said.

Some of his men were wounded and one later died in the hospital, he said.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry released a statement saying one person was killed and three wounded in the shootout, which took place near the city of Slovyansk. It said details of what happened were not yet clear.

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the clash on the Right Sector, a nationalist Ukrainian group that has supported the interim government in Kiev, the capital, but is not part of it.

A spokesman for Right Sector, Artyom Skoropatskiy, denied any involvement in Sunday’s shootout, which he called a provocation staged by Russian special services.

Russian state media have been feeding fears among Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine that their lives are in danger because of the Right Sector.

Russian state television first reported five dead Sunday in the attack: three pro-Russia activists and two attackers. Rossiya television later revised its report to one dead and two wounded on the pro-Russia side and up to seven killed or wounded among the attackers.

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Pope Francis, Huge Crowd Joyously Celebrate Easter

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 07:16

(VATICAN CITY) — Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity’s most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted so many Christians.

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More than 150,000 tourists — Romans and pilgrims, young and old — had turned out for the Mass he celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

So many came that they overflowed the huge square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Waving flags from the pope’s native Argentina as well as Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other countries, they filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber River.

Francis noted that this year the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine.

Invoking God, he said, “We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence.”

Tensions between pro-Russian supporters in Ukraine and those loyal to the interim government in Kiev have sparked bloodshed in recent days.

Francis also prayed that all sides in Syria will be moved to “boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue.”

Since March 2011, Syria has been wracked by a civil war that has cost 150,000 lives and forced millions to flee the country.

Francis makes a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel next month. On Easter, he prayed that hopes sparked by the resumption of Mideast peace negotiations be sustained.

He also recalled those suffering in Africa from an epidemic of deadly Ebola and urged a halt to “brutal terrorist attacks” in parts of Nigeria.

But Francis’ Easter message also stressed that people pay attention to the needy close to home. Reflecting the priorities of his papacy, he said the “good news” of Easter’s joy and hope means “leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”

Cheering and applauding, the crowd tried to catch a glimpse of the pontiff as he circled around in his white popemobile at the end of the ceremony before he went to the central balcony over the basilica to deliver his commentary on the violence and poverty staining the Earth.

A rainstorm had lashed Rome on Saturday night, with thunder competing with the sound of hymns when Francis led a vigil service in the basilica. Dawn brought clear skies and warm temperatures for Easter, the culmination of Holy Week, the day which marks the Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

Reflecting the worldwide reach of the Catholic church, faithful read aloud prayers and passages from the Bible in Hindi, French, Chinese, German, Korean, Spanish, Italian and English.

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Divers Pull Bodies From Sunken Ferry; Toll Tops 50

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 07:03

(MOKPO, South Korea) — The confirmed death toll from South Korea’s ferry disaster rose past 50 on Sunday as divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel, quickly discovering more than a dozen bodies in what almost certainly is just the beginning of a massive and grim recovery effort.

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About 250 people are still missing from the ship, the vast majority of them high school students who had been on a holiday trip. Anguished families, waiting on a nearby island and fearful they might be left without even their loved ones’ bodies, have vented their fury, blocking the prime minister’s car during a visit and attempting a long protest march to the presidential Blue House.

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The ferry Sewol sank Wednesday off South Korea’s southern coast, but it took days for divers to get in because of strong currents and bad visibility due to foul weather. Beginning late Saturday, when divers broke a window, and continuing into Sunday, multiple teams of divers have found various routes into the ferry, discovering bodies in different spots, coast guard official Koh Myung-seok said at a briefing. Thirteen bodies have been found in the ship, while six other bodies were found floating outside Sunday, bringing the official death toll to 52, the coast guard said.

Divers, who once pumped air into the ship in the slim hope that survivors were inside, have yet to find anyone alive there.

A 21-year-old South Korean sailor, surnamed Cho, also died from injuries he sustained Wednesday while working on a warship going to help rescue passengers in the ferry, said Cmdr. Yim Myung-soo of the South Korean navy.

The penetration by divers into the ferry follows the arrest of the captain Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

The Sewol sank during a trip from port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju with 476 people on board, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. The 16- and 17-year-old students make up only 75 of the 174 survivors, and about 225 of the missing. At least 23 of those confirmed dead are students, according to coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in.

On Jindo island near the submerged ferry, about 200 police in neon jackets blocked about 100 relatives of missing passengers who’d been walking on a main road in an effort, they said, to travel to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to voice their complaints to the president. The relatives have been staying at gymnasium on the island, waiting for word of their loved ones.

“The government is the killer,” they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.

“We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done,” said Lee Woon-geun, father of missing passenger Lee Jung-in, 17. “They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others.”

Earlier Sunday morning, relatives of the missing blocked the car of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and demanded a meeting with President Park Geun-hye, as Chung made a visit to Jindo. Chung later returned to the gymnasium, but met only with a number of representatives of the family members in a side office.

Relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition, Lee said.

“After four or five days the body starts to decay. When it’s decayed, if you try to hold a hand it might fall off,” he said. “I miss my son. I’m really afraid I might not get to find his body.”

The cause of the sinking remains under investigation, but prosecutors say the ship made a sharp turn just before it began to list. The captain, Lee Joon-seok, initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and took at least half an hour to issue an evacuation order. By that time, the ship was listing at too steep an angle for many people to escape the tight hallways and stairs inside.

Lee faces five charges, including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, and the two arrested crew members each face three related charges.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said Lee violated the law because he was not on the bridge helping his crew when the ferry passed through the tough-to-navigate area where it sank. He also said Lee abandoned people in need of help and rescue; video shows Lee among the first people to reach the shore by rescue boat.

Yang said the two crew members arrested failed to reduce speed near the islands and failed to carry out necessary measures to save lives. Prosecutors will have 10 days to decide whether to indict the captain and crew, but can request a 10-day extension from the court.

Three vessels with cranes arrived at the accident site to prepare to salvage the ferry, but they will not hoist the ship before getting approval from family members of those still believed inside because the lifting could endanger any survivors, said a coast guard officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

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Beyond Death: The Science of the Afterlife

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 00:01

This question is more than a mind-bender. For thousands of years, certain people have claimed to have actually visited the place that, Saint Paul promised, “no eye has seen … and no human mind has conceived,” and their stories very often follow the same narrative arc.

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A skeptic, a rogue or an innocent suffers hardship or injury: he is hit on the head, he suffers a stroke, he sustains damage in a car crash or on the operating table. A feeling of disconnection comes over him, a sense of being “outside” himself. Perhaps he encounters an opening: a gate, a door, a tunnel. And then, all at once, he is being guided through other worlds that look and feel to him more “real” than the world in which he once existed. These realms are both familiar and strange, containing music that doesn’t sound like music and light brighter than any light, and creatures that may or may not be angels, and the familiar faces of loved ones lost as well as figures from history and sometimes—depending on the narrator—even Jesus himself. The tourist is agape. Words fail. He leaves reluctantly to reoccupy his body and this earth. But the experience changes him forever. Convinced as he is of a wholly different reality, he is calmer, more self-assured, determined to persuade the world of heaven’s truth. He tells his story to the masses. “Heaven is real!” he proclaims.

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The Book of Enoch, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, tells a version of this story and so does the Book of Revelation, Christianity’s most foundational description of the sights and sounds of heaven. So do the medieval visionaries whose accounts were to the Middle Ages what reality TV is to the 21st century: “real” events marketed as popular entertainment (with an edifying Christian message thrown in). And despite—or perhaps because of—the increasing rationalism of our times, this narrative genre thrives today. Ninety Minutes in Heaven (2004), about a Christian pastor who ascended to God after a car wreck; Heaven Is for Real (2010), about a child who sees heaven during surgery; and Proof of Heaven, by a Duke-trained neurosurgeon who traveled to heaven in 2012, have all been bestsellers, all following the same storyline. The neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander, said in Newsweek in 2012 that his experience convinced him that his consciousness (the soul, or the self) exists somehow separate from or outside the mind and can travel to other dimensions on its own. “This world of consciousness beyond the body,” he wrote, “is the true new frontier, not just of science but of humankind itself, and it is my profound hope that what happened to me will bring the world one step closer to accepting it.”

Tales like these are thrilling in part because their tellers hold the passionate conviction of religious converts: I saw it, so it must be true. According to a Gallup poll, about 8 million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience (NDE), and many of them regard this experience as proof of an afterlife—a parallel, spiritual realm, more real, many say, than this one. Raymond Moody, who wrote Life After Life in 1975, one of the first popular books about NDEs, told CNN in 2013 that among people who have had such experiences, conviction about an afterlife transcends the particulars of religion. “A lot of people talk about encountering a being of light,” he said. “Christians call it Christ. Jewish people say it’s an angel. I’ve gone to different continents, and you can hear the same thing in China, India and Japan about meeting a being of complete love and compassion.” Moody was one of the founders of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, a group devoted to building global understanding of such experiences.

It’s an inversion, almost, of the old philosophical puzzle: If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you are certain that you saw something (or felt something or heard something), does it mean that it’s empirically proven? And if you are predisposed to want to see something, are you likelier to see it, the way Harry Potter saw his dear departed mother in Hogwarts’s magic mirror? And finally, if you see something while you are stressed or unconscious or traumatized in some way, does that circumstance delegitimize the veracity of your vision? This is the trouble with NDEs as a field of scientific study: you can’t have a control group. Most people on the brink of dying do die (and so cannot describe what that process is like), and those who survive approach the brink in such different ways—car accident, stroke, heart attack—that it’s impossible to compare their experiences empirically. But over the years, science has posited a number of theories about the connection between visions of heaven and the chemical and physical processes that occur at death.

Andrew Newberg is a neuroscientist and professor at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital and has made his reputation studying the brain scans of religious people (nuns and monks) who have ecstatic experiences as they meditate. He believes the “tunnel” and the “light” that NDE-ers so frequently describe can be easily explained. As your eyesight fades, you lose the peripheral areas first, he points out. “That’s why you’d have a tunnel sensation.” If you see a bright light, that could be the central part of the visual system shutting down last.

Newberg puts forward the following scenario, which he emphasizes is guesswork: When people die, two parts of the brain that usually work in opposition to each other act cooperatively. The sympathetic nervous system—a web of nerves and neurons that run through the spinal cord and spread to virtually every organ in the body—is responsible for arousal or excitement. It gets you ready for action. The parasympathetic system, with which the sympathetic system is entwined, calms you down and rejuvenates you. In life, the turning on of one system promotes the shutting down of the other. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in when a car cuts you off on the highway; the parasympathetic system is in charge as you’re falling asleep. But in the brains of people having mystical experiences, and perhaps in death, both systems are fully “on,” giving a person a sensation both of slowing down, being “out of body,” and of seeing things vividly, including memories of important people and past events. It is possible, Newberg asserts—though not at all certain—that visions of heaven are merely chemical and neurological events that occur during death.

Since at least the 1980s, scientists have theorized that NDEs occur as a kind of physiological defense mechanism. In order to guard against damage during trauma, the brain releases protective chemicals that also happen to trigger intense hallucinations. This theory gained traction after scientists realized that virtually all of the features of an NDE—a sense of moving through a tunnel, an out-of-body feeling, spiritual awe, visual hallucinations, intense memories—can be reproduced with a stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer frequently used as a party drug. In 2000 a psychiatrist named Karl Jansen wrote a book called Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, in which he interviewed a number of recreational users. One of them described a drug trip in a way that might be familiar to Dante, or the author of Revelation. “I came out into a golden Light. I rose into the Light and found myself having an unspoken exchange with the Light, which I believed to be God … I didn’t believe in God, which made the experience even more startling. Afterwards, I walked around the house for hours saying ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’ ”

For some scientists, however, purely scientific explanations of heavenly visions do not suffice. Emily Williams Kelly is a psychologist who works at the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, which treats the study of NDEs as legitimate science. Her résumé is impressive: she has degrees from Duke, the University of Virginia and the University of Edinburgh—not institutions one usually associates with the study of the supernatural or paranormal. Kelly has spent her career researching, as she puts it, “the interface between the brain and the mind.” Practically speaking, she interviews dying people and tries to find patterns among their similarities. Kelly believes the experiences of people who have had near-death visions demonstrate that consciousness exists even after normal brain function ceases. (She would seem to provide some corroboration for Eben Alexander’s claims.) This theory, she argues, could suggest explanations for the afterlife: “If our conscious experience totally depends on the brain, then there can’t be an afterlife—when the brain is gone, the mind is gone. But it’s not that simple. Even when the brain seems to be virtually disabled, people are still having these experiences.”

What is she saying? That upon death, people really go to another realm? And that science can prove it? Kelly shrugs. NDEs “tell us to open our minds and think there may be a great deal more to mind and consciousness—that’s as far as I’m willing to go.”

When Alexander published his book in 2012, drawing on the work of Kelly and her husband, Edward, he drew derision, as he knew he would, from broad segments of the rationalist and scientific communities. Having fallen into a coma after contracting bacterial meningitis, he saw incredible things. “I was a speck on a beautiful butterfly wing,” he said in an interview, “millions of other butterflies around us. We were flying through blooming flowers, blossoms on trees, and they were all coming out as we flew through them…[There were] waterfalls, pools of water, indescribable colors, and above there were these arcs of silver and gold light and beautiful hymns coming down from them. Indescribably gorgeous hymns. I later came to call them ‘angels,’ those arcs of light in the sky.” This experience convinced him beyond any doubt of the existence of a loving God and the ability of souls to travel to the realms where God lives. The idea of a godless universe “now lies broken at our feet, ” he wrote in his book. “What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more than our physical brains as clear as I can.”

The rationalist author Sam Harris, who is also a neuroscientist, aimed a fierce critique at Alexander’s account of his NDE. On his blog, Harris wrote that while he had no particular convictions about the essence or origins of consciousness, he was quite sure Alexander’s argument was specious. No one’s cerebral cortex shuts down entirely during coma, Harris pointed out. Additionally, the doctor showed no understanding of the kinds of neurotransmitters that can be released by the brain during trauma, including one called DMT, which produces hallucinations. “Let me suggest that, whether or not heaven exists, Alexander sounds precisely how a scientist should not sound when he doesn’t know what he is talking about, ” Harris concluded.

My own concern is somewhat different, relating back to the tree-in-the-forest conundrum. I believe Alexander (and all the others who testify to having visited heaven) saw what he says he saw, but one person’s vision, seen during trauma, does not add up to proof. Further all the emphasis on Alexander’s scientific credentials that accompanied the marketing of his book is disingenuous and entirely beside the point: the veracity of a vision of heaven would have nothing to do with where one went to medical school.

Adapted from Visions of Heaven: A Journey Through the Afterlife, available wherever books are sold.

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