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

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Associated Press

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 11:02 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 11 at 9:00 AM

Australian PM confident underwater signals are coming from missing Malaysian plane's black box

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Authorities are confident that signals detected deep in the Indian Ocean are from the missing Malaysian jet's black boxes, Australia's prime minister said Friday, raising hopes they are near solving one of aviation's most perplexing mysteries.

Tony Abbott told reporters in Shanghai that crews hunting for Flight 370 have zeroed in on a more targeted area in their search for the source of the sounds, first heard on Saturday.

"We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH370," Abbott said.

"Nevertheless, we're getting into the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade," he added. "We are hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal finally expires."

The plane's black boxes, or flight data and cockpit voice recorders, may hold the answers to why the Boeing 777 lost communications and veered so far off course when it vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board.

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Truck and bus with high school students collide in fiery N. California crash, at least 9 dead

ORLAND, Calif. (AP) — The long bus ride north from Los Angeles for a group of high school students who planned to visit Humboldt State University had been fun: The hours whizzed by as they watched movies, chatted up new friends, and jammed to hip-hop on the radio.

Steven Clavijo, 18, a senior at West Ranch High in Santa Clarita, was looking forward to his visit to Humboldt, where he planned to enroll. Just as Clavijo was trying to catch a nap Thursday afternoon, he said he felt the big vehicle begin to shake from left to right and then he heard a loud boom.

"We knew we were in major trouble," he said.

A FedEx tractor-trailer had crossed a grassy freeway median and slammed into the bus. At least nine were killed in the fiery crash.

Many of the more than 40 students on board escaped through a window that someone had kicked open, Clavijo said, running for their lives to the other side of Interstate 5 before hearing an explosion and seeing the bus burst into flame.

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Sebelius, a lightning rod for health care law critics, resigns as White House seeks new start

WASHINGTON (AP) — For five years, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been a lightning rod for critics of President Barack Obama's health care law. But with sign-ups exceeding expectations and a new face soon to be in charge at HHS, the White House is eager to see if the poisonous atmosphere might give way to more pragmatic efforts aimed at fixing problems with the nation's newest social program.

Obama will announce Sebelius' resignation Friday and nominate his budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, as her replacement. The moves come just over a week after sign-ups closed for the first year of insurance coverage under the so-called Obamacare law.

The opening weeks of the enrollment period were marred by website woes, straining ties between Sebelius and officials in the West Wing. Though the administration rebounded strongly and exceeded expectations by enrolling 7.1 million people by the March 31 deadline, the comeback wasn't enough to tamp down Republican criticism of Sebelius or boost the public's perception of the federal health care overhaul.

Enrollment has since risen to 7.5 million as people were given extra time to complete applications.

Even with the robust enrollment, huge implementation challenges remain. The administration has to improve customer service for millions of Americans trying to navigate the new system. And there's a concern that premiums may rise for 2015, since many younger, healthier people appear to have sat out open enrollment season.

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Ukraine's premier says regions should have more power

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's prime minister has told leaders in the country's restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk met Friday with officials in Donetsk, where pro-Russian separatists are occupying the regional administration building and calling for a referendum that could prefigure seeking annexation by Russia.

Donetsk and other cities in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland were the support base for Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests. Last month, the Crimea region voted to secede and was annexed by Russia.

Yatsenyuk told the meeting, which did not include representatives of the separatists, that more authority should be delegated to regional authorities. But it was unclear how much authority he envisioned, or whether it would be likely to mollify separatists.

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Cross-examination in Oscar Pistorius trial focuses on security system

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The prosecutor at Oscar Pistorius' murder trial on Friday challenged the athlete's statements that he was worried about crime before he fatally shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a closed toilet door in his home.

Pistorius has said he killed Steenkamp by accident after mistaking her for an intruder in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel examined the details of the alarm system at Pistorius' house, questioning why the athlete would believe an intruder had broken into his home when he had extensive security measures, including interior and exterior sensors. Pistorius said he activated the sensors on the home alarm system before going to sleep on the night he killed Steenkamp, but feared that building contractors doing work on his house may have moved some of the security beacons.

The prosecutor said Pistorius had not mentioned immediately after the shooting that he had fears that building contractors had removed some of the security beacons, specifically near the bathroom window where he allegedly thought an intruder may have gained access on the night he killed Steenkamp.

Querying why Pistorius had not mentioned those fears earlier, Nel said Pistorius was trying to build a story to explain his fears of an intruder and therefore a mistaken shooting.

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Obama to call for fewer voting restrictions in second civil rights address in 2 days

WASHINGTON (AP) — A day after hailing the Civil Rights Act as a lasting legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency, President Barack Obama is using another civil rights forum to issue an election-year warning against erosion of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 law that helped pave Obama's path in politics.

On Friday, Obama was to address Al Sharpton's National Action Network conference in New York where, the White House says, the president will take issue with Republican measures in some states that make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

Obama's speech at the annual conference sponsored by the civil rights activist and television talk host is part of the administration's effort to mobilize voters and push back against state voting restrictions prompted by last year's Supreme Court invalidation of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

For the remainder of the year, no political issue stands out more prominently for Democrats than their ability to motivate voters to turn out at the polls in November. Control of the Senate, now in the hands of Democrats, is at stake, as is Obama's already limited ability to push his agenda through Congress.

But traditionally weak midterm turnout by Democrats coupled with efforts in some states to limit early voting and to enact voter identification requirements have prompted the president and his party to raise alarms and step up their get-out-the-vote efforts.

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4 years after BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, questions about cleanup workers' long-term health

CHALMETTE, La. (AP) — When a BP oil well began gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, fisherman George Barisich used his boat to help clean up the millions of gallons of spew that would become the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

Like so many Gulf Coast residents who pitched in after the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, Barisich was motivated by a desire to help and a need to make money — the oil had eviscerated his livelihood.

Today he regrets that decision, and worries his life has been permanently altered. Barisich, 58, says respiratory problems he developed during the cleanup turned into pneumonia and that his health has never been the same.

"After that, I found out that I couldn't run. I couldn't exert past a walk," he said. His doctor declined comment.

Barisich is among thousands considering claims under a medical settlement BP reached with cleanup workers and coastal residents. The settlement, which could benefit an estimated 200,000 people, received final approval in February from a federal court. It establishes set amounts of money — up to $60,700 in some cases — to cover costs of various ailments for those who can document that they worked the spill and developed related illnesses, such as respiratory problems and skin conditions.

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Nirvana, Kiss, Springsteen's E Street Band inducted into rock hall in New York City ceremony

NEW YORK (AP) — Kiss made up, but its music went unheard. Nirvana used four women rockers to sing Kurt Cobain's songs. And Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band — predictably — turned its honor into a marathon.

The three acts were ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday in a colorful induction ceremony at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. They were joined by the blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates, British rocker Peter Gabriel, 1970s folkie Cat Stevens and the absent Linda Ronstadt.

Nirvana was the emotional centerpiece. The trio rooted in the Seattle-area punk rock scene was voted into the hall in its first year of eligibility. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit like a thunderclap upon its 1991 release, but the band was done after Kurt Cobain committed suicide 20 years ago this month.

"Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say thank you for the music," said Krist Novoselic, the band's bass player, who was inducted with drummer Dave Grohl. "When I hear that, I think of Kurt Cobain."

A subdued Courtney Love, Cobain's widow, was booed by some in the audience. She said Cobain would have appreciated the honor.

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Calm champion: Adam Scott relishes role as Masters winner, looks to claim another green jacket

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — For some, the burden of defending a championship can be overwhelming.

For Adam Scott, it was pure joy — at least for a day.

With a green jacket already in his collection, Scott felt a sense of calm that carried over to the golf course Thursday. The result: a 3-under 69 that got the laid-back Aussie off to just the kind of start he was looking for at the Masters.

Now, to keep it going for three more days.

"Having won last year, in some ways, has taken a little pressure off me," Scott said. "I kind of felt like what was the worst than can happen? I'm still going to be a Masters champion."

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AP Interview: US Navy's Adam Schantz, who is leading US aerial search for missing Flight 370

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Every day from the Perth airport and a nearby military base, about a dozen planes from several countries take flight to search for debris from missing Flight 370 — so far without success. The U.S. Defense Department alone committed $7.3 million to the effort in the first month of the search, much of it spent on two U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon planes that cost $4,000 per hour to fly.

Lt. Cmdr. Adam Schantz is the officer in charge of the 32 air and ground crew manning the surveillance aircraft, which are modified Boeing 737s. This is an edited version of the interview:

Q: What does a typical day involve?

A: The maintenance crew have to come in very early in the morning, well before the sun comes up, to prep the airplane for the day's flight. Our typical mission is about nine hours. We fly anywhere between 900 miles and 1,500 miles to the search zone and spend about five hours out there searching. The air crew are often working 15-hour days and the maintenance crew sometimes even more. So we are putting in really long hours, but doing well, and our crew and maintainers are motivated, and proud to be here. We haven't missed a mission yet.

Q: How do you conduct the search?

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