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Three dead, eight injured, in Jersey shore motel fire fire
Written by WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press   
Friday, 21 March 2014 09:38

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (AP) — A fire early Friday destroyed a Jersey shore motel that was housing people displaced by Superstorm Sandy, killing three people, critically injuring three others and leaving 10 unaccounted for, authorities said.

Officials weren't ruling out the possibility that the 10 had escaped before the fire engulfed the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn in this popular summer resort town at around 5:30 a.m. The wooden building was overwhelmed by flames by the time firefighters arrived, and at least one person leaped from a second-floor window to escape.

Investigators interviewed motel management, and determined about 40 people were staying there when the fire broke out, Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said. The motel's office was destroyed and many records were lost, he said, making an accurate accounting difficult.

Coronato said authorities hope the missing hotel occupants had simply gone elsewhere to stay with relatives, or to another motel, and asked them to check in with police.

"We are trying to make sure they are safe and unharmed," he said.

Survivors described a chaotic scene of flames, smoke and screaming.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 13:06
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Google enhances encryption technology for email
Written by EILEEN SULLIVAN, Associated Press   
Friday, 21 March 2014 06:35

WASHINGTON (AP) — Google has enhanced the encryption technology for its flagship email service in ways that will make it harder for the National Security Agency to intercept messages moving among the company's worldwide data centers.

Among the most extraordinary disclosures in documents leaked by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden were reports that the NSA had secretly tapped into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world.

Google, whose executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said in November that he was outraged over the practice, didn't mention the NSA in Thursday's announcement, except in a veiled reference to "last summer's revelations." The change affects more than 425 million users of Google's Gmail service.

Yahoo has promised similar steps for its email service by this spring.

Google and other technology companies have been outspoken about the U.S. government's spy programs. The companies are worried more people will reduce their online activities if they believe almost everything they do is being monitored by the government. A decline in Internet use could hurt the companies financially by giving them fewer opportunities to show online ads and sell other services.

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Australia says nothing spotted in search for plane
Written by KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press SCOTT MCDONALD, Associated Press   
Friday, 21 March 2014 06:23

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Search planes flying deep into the southern Indian Ocean have found nothing so far that could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, Australia's acting prime minister said Friday.

The planes are part of an international effort to solve the nearly 2-week-old mystery of what happened to Flight 370 with 239 people aboard. They are looking for two large floating objects detected by a satellite off the southwest coast of Australia, about halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

"The last report I have is that nothing of particular significance has been identified in the search today but the work will continue," said Warren Truss, who is acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is in Papua New Guinea.

Truss said the search was difficult due to testing weather conditions and because the satellite imagery was five days old. "So something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating — it may have slipped to the bottom. It's also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometers."

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Thousands of preschool kids face suspension
Written by JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press   
Friday, 21 March 2014 06:32

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even preschoolers are getting suspended from U.S. public schools — and they're disproportionately black, a trend that continues up through the later grades.

Data to be released Friday by the Education Department's civil rights arm finds that black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in schools, but almost half of the students suspended more than once. Six percent of the nation's districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.

Advocates have long said that get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have contributed to a "school-to-prison" pipeline that snags minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This data shows the disparities starting in the youngest of children.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration issued guidance encouraging schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal's office. But, even before the announcement, school districts have been adjusting policies that disproportionately affect minority students.

Overall, the data shows that black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that's three times higher than that of white children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys.

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Putin: no need for further retaliation against U.S.
Written by VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press   
Friday, 21 March 2014 06:22

MOSCOW (AP) — There is no need for Russia to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said Friday as Russia's upper house of parliament endorsed the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Moscow made its first retaliatory shot on Thursday by banning nine U.S. officials and lawmakers from entering Russia, but Putin indicated that Russia would likely refrain from curtailing cooperation in areas such as Afghanistan. Moscow appears to hope to limit the damage from the latest U.S. and EU sanctions and avoid further Western blows.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's prime minister pulled his nation closer into Europe's orbit by signing a political association agreement with the European Union at a summit of the bloc's leaders in Brussels.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a second round of sanctions targeting about two dozen members of Putin's inner circle and a major bank supporting them.

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