PERTH, Australia (AP) — Six weeks into the extensive search for the lost Malaysia Airlines plane without so much as a piece of debris yet found, several Chinese relatives met Friday to pray for spouses who never came home, while begging for answers that could end their misery of not knowing.
Candles burned on a table in the shape of a heart with the letters MH370 in the middle while about three dozen relatives held a prayer service at a hotel ballroom in Beijing where they have been meeting since the Boeing 777 mysteriously vanished. A banner behind them read in Chinese: "Husband, wife, come home soon."
"There are different relationships touched by grief, from children, to parents, to siblings, and now we wanted spouses to have a chance to release their feelings," said Jack Song, a representative for the relatives. Many of those gathered sobbed as gentle music played and a microphone was passed around for anyone who wished to speak.
Thousands of miles away, off the western coast of Australia, aircraft, ships and a robotic submarine continued searching for the aircraft that disappeared with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, six weeks ago on Saturday.
The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 sub was scanning the seabed with sonar to find anything that could resemble wreckage. It has searched 110 square kilometers (42 square miles) of the silt-covered seabed but has found nothing so far, the search coordination center said.
On Thursday, officials said oil samples taken from a slick near the underwater search area were not related to the plane. The underwater search was narrowed to that area because of signals believed to be emanating from the jet's black boxes. The sounds were last detected April 8, about the time the batteries on the beacons from the all-important flight data and cockpit recorders would have failed.
Radar and satellite data show the plane flew far off-course and would have run out of fuel in the remote section of the Indian Ocean where the search has been focused.
The underwater hunt is being complicated by the depth of the largely unexplored sea floor in an untraveled part of the ocean. The unmanned submarine dived to 4,695 meters (15,404 feet) during its fourth search mission, beyond its recommended limit of 4,500 meters (15,000 feet), 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 search for floating debris on the surface will continue at least into next week. On Friday, 11 planes and 12 ships searched across about 52,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) of sea. The U.S. alone has flown 35 missions, racking up 319 hours of flight time over nearly 450,000 nautical miles of ocean, according to the 7th Fleet.
Some families refuse to believe the aircraft crashed into the sea and have instead denounced the search effort as a cover-up.
"We believe the plane and our relatives are still alive. Bring them home, that's all we ask," said one of the Chinese relatives, who would only give his surname, Zhang. "The only way there could be no evidence, no debris is if the plane landed intact."
He and several other family members marched from the prayer service to a local park and held a brief sit-in on Friday.
For other waiting families, each day with no news brings more tortuous doubts as they try to go on living without knowing why their relatives didn't come home.
"We ask that they find the plane, find our loved ones, live or dead, give us something," Song said. "Until the evidence is presented, we have a right to question."
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The SpaceX company returned to orbit Friday, launching fresh supplies to the International Space Station after more than a month's delay.
The Dragon cargo ship will reach the orbiting lab on Sunday — Easter morning. That pushes urgent spacewalking repairs to Wednesday; NASA wants a bad computer replaced before something else breaks.
This was the second launch attempt this week for SpaceX.
NASA's commercial supplier was foiled by a leaky rocket valve Monday. The valve was replaced, and the company aimed for a Friday liftoff despite a dismal forecast. Storms cleared out of Cape Canaveral just in time for the mid-afternoon launch into overcast skies.
The unmanned cargo ship contains 2½ tons of station supplies, including material originally intended for the spacewalking repairs.
A critical backup computer failed outside the space station last Friday. The primary computer is working fine, but numerous systems would be seriously compromised if it broke, too. A double failure also would hinder visits by the Dragon and other vessels.
"It's imperative that we maintain" backups for these external command-routing computer boxes, also called multiplexer-demultiplexers, or MDMs, said flight director Brian Smith said Friday. "Right now, we don't have that."
NASA decided late this week to use the gasket-like material already on board the space station for the repair, instead of waiting for the Dragon. Astronauts trimmed the thermal material Friday to fit the bottom of the replacement computer, and inserted a fresh circuit card.
Much-needed food is also aboard the Dragon, along with a new spacesuit and spacesuit replacement parts. NASA wants all these things at the space station as soon as possible.
The shipment is close to five weeks late. Initially set for mid-March, the launch was delayed by extra prepping, then damage to an Air Force radar and, finally on Monday, the rocket leak.
The space station's six-man crew watched the launch via a live TV hookup; the outpost was soaring 260 miles above Turkey at the time of ignition. Video beamed down from Dragon showed the solar wings unfurling.
Earlier, as the countdown entered its final few hours, NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini said an investigation continues into the reason for last summer's spacesuit failure. The helmet worn by an Italian astronaut filled with water from the suit's cooling system, and he nearly drowned during a spacewalk.
Routine U.S. spacewalks are on hold until engineers are certain what caused the water leak. The upcoming spacewalk by the two Americans on board is considered an exception because of its urgent nature; it will include no unnecessary tasks, just the 2½-hour computer swap.
NASA is paying the California-based SpaceX — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — and Virginia's Orbital Sciences Corp. to keep the orbiting lab well stocked. Russia, Japan and Europe also make periodic deliveries.
Unlike the other cargo carriers, the Dragon can bring items back for analysis. Among the science samples going up on the Dragon and slated to return with it in a month: 200 fruit flies and their expected progeny, and germs collected from stadiums and sports arenas, as well as such notables as America's Liberty Bell and Sue, the T. rex fossil skeleton at Chicago's Field Museum.
Scientists will study the hearts of the returning flies — as many as 3,000 are expected for the trip home, if the males and females do as they should. The germ samples, once back on Earth, will be compared with duplicate cultures on the ground.
Staying up there — for as long as the space station lives — will be new legs for NASA's humanoid, Robonaut. The indoor robot has been in orbit for three years, but only from the waist up.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Democrats and their allies who are trying to take out Republican Gov. Scott Walker have invested all their hopes in Mary Burke, a Harvard-educated political newcomer whose father started Trek Bicycle when she was a teenager.
For Democrats and their friends in organized labor, this race is personal. They mean to avenge Walker's evisceration of union power as he builds his resume for a possible presidential run.
But for Burke, the campaign also poses an awkward challenge: She can't talk too stridently about her opponent's most provocative actions for fear of alienating independent voters, many of whom supported both Walker's union crackdown and President Barack Obama's re-election bid. And they will decide this contest, too.
That forces Burke to talk about supporting unions, but not to the point of overturning the law that took away nearly all collective-bargaining rights for public workers. She's even spoken in favor of the law's requirement that workers pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.
"She flirts with that, and I think that's the best anyone is going to come up with in a campaign," said John Matthews, president of the Madison teachers union.
Walker and Republicans have successfully convinced voters that the law was necessary, making it difficult for Burke to speak out too strongly against it, Matthews said.
Such delicate maneuvering would be a test for even a seasoned office seeker. But this is Burke's first statewide campaign after working as a state commerce secretary and a Trek executive. The 54-year-old launched the bid less than two years after being elected to her first position, a seat on the Madison school board.
Walker pushed his signature legislation through the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011, effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers. Ever since, opponents have been searching for the right candidate to challenge him.
After failing with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the 2012 recall, their hopes now rest with Burke, a businesswoman who's been crisscrossing Wisconsin introducing herself to voters as an alternative to Walker, the only governor in U.S. history to survive a recall.
Burke is hitting traditional Democratic issues like job creation and gay marriage instead of focusing on undoing the union law that attracted protests as large as 100,000 people and catapulted Walker onto the national stage.
Both sides seem to have concluded that the union law is off the agenda. Even the very unions hurt most by Walker's reforms are making their case against the governor based on other factors.
That's largely because Walker and Burke are going after the same 7 percent to 10 percent of voters that polls show are undecided. The so-called "Walker-Obama" voters are people who voted against recalling Walker in 2012 but said in exit polls that they intended to vote for Obama that fall.
Walker won the recall by 6.8 percentage points. Obama carried Wisconsin by 6.9 points.
A poll conducted just before the Walker recall showed that a majority of voters preferred to keep the union law rather than undo it, including 53 percent of the key independent-voter demographic.
Democrats learned from the recall that they can't win on the union issue alone. In fact, the recall candidate who promised to veto any state budget that did not undo the law could not even win the Democratic primary that year.
Burke, who declined to comment for this story, has been careful to articulate her support for collective bargaining and opposition to Act 10, but she won't promise to work on repealing it.
Burke's campaign website does not even mention her position on the union law, instead touting her jobs plan, her support for gay marriage and her opposition to school vouchers. A news release announcing her endorsement by the unions representing Wisconsin teachers, state employees and others failed to mention her view on the law known as Act 10.
"As a whole, we believe she wants what we want," said Betsy Kippers, president of the state teachers union. "There are many issues that are important to our members, not just Act 10."
Voters whose most important issue is Act 10 have already decided whether they're with Walker or Burke, said Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen. He described it as a "second-tier" issue now, behind others like jobs and the economy.
Act 10 required public workers — including teachers and most state employees — to pay more for their health insurance and pensions. It also took away their ability to collectively bargain over workplace-safety, vacations, seniority rights and a myriad of other issues in union contracts. Bargaining is now limited to general wage increases that do not exceed inflation.
The law deflated the political power of unions such as the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which represents teachers statewide. Since the measure passed, the union has slashed spending, cut staff and looked at merging with another union representing mostly college and university faculty.
Walker and his supporters say Act 10, along with other budget cuts meant to address a $3.6 billion shortfall, turned the state around and put it in position to pass nearly $2 billion in tax cuts during Walker's term.
The governor and Republicans plan to make those tax cuts a central focus of their arguments for re-election this fall.
EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — What began as a hate crime investigation two years ago has led to the murder conviction of an Iraqi immigrant, whose wife was found badly beaten with a threatening note labeling her a terrorist.
The verdict delivered Thursday against Kassim Alhimidi, who shook his head and wagged his finger as jurors were polled, spurred more of the drama that has surrounded the case from the start.
His oldest son stood, shouted obscenities and proclaimed his father's innocence before several deputies wrestled him out of the courtroom. Another son also shouted in his father's defense, while the victim's mother said Alhimidi deserved worse, according to the official court translator, Nahla David.
Superior Court Judge William McGrath and the jury cleared the courtroom during the outbursts. After a brief recess, the judge returned and scheduled sentencing for May 15.
Alhimidi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the bludgeoning death of his 32-year-old wife, Shaima Alawadi, at their house in El Cajon, home to one of the largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants in the U.S.
Local and federal investigators initially suspected a hate crime until lab tests determined that a threatening note that read, "This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist," was a photocopy — possibly of a note found outside the family home a week earlier by one of the couple's five children.
The couple's eldest daughter, then 17, found her mother in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor of their suburban San Diego home in March 2012, her body tangled in a computer cord and desk chair. She had multiple skull fractures from blunt force and died two days after the attack. A sliding glass door was shattered.
Prosecutors argued Alhimidi lied to police about his troubled marriage and apologized to his wife as she lay dying in a hospital. Defense lawyers said Alhimidi loved his wife, that he was not a violent man, and that he returned from Iraq after burying his wife there.
Prosecutors told the San Diego County jury during a two-week trial that Alhimidi was distraught over his wife's plans to leave him and had urged his children and relatives to get her to stay. Detectives found documents in Alawadi's car indicating she planned to seek a divorce, and the eldest daughter, Fatima, told investigators that her mother wanted to move to Texas to be with her sister.
After the attack, Alhimidi went to the hospital, touched his wife as she lay unconscious in bed, and apologized to her, prosecutor Kurt Mechals said. An uncle of the children who was present told authorities that Alhimidi then turned to him and said that if his wife woke up, she might try to say that he had attacked her.
The prosecutor read jurors computer messages that the woman had sent to relatives that said: "I do not love him" and "I cannot stand him."
"The relationship was in the tank. It was bad," Mechals told jurors.
The defense argued Alhimidi had no motive for killing his wife and that he loved her dearly. Attorneys said he could have stayed in Iraq after her burial but returned to the U.S. and cooperated with police until he was arrested nearly eight months after the killing.
"This man has never once raised a hand to Shaima," attorney Richard Berkon Jr. told the jury.
Alhimidi gave contradictory statements to police right after the attack because he was afraid he would be blamed for a killing he didn't commit, attorney Douglas Gilliland said.
As for the uncle who said Alhimidi confessed, Gilliland said the man always disliked his client and cultural misunderstandings clouded the truth. Muslims often apologize to loved ones who are dying for all the things that they did or didn't do for them in their lives, he said.
Alawadi left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising. She lived in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S., Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn, Mich., said after she was killed. Then-Iraq President Saddam Hussein's troops hanged Alawadi's uncle.
The family moved to the Detroit area and later to San Diego.
The jury deliberated less than two days before delivering a verdict that split the family. Alawadi's mother, Rehima Alhussanwi, said she was convinced Alhimidi was the killer.
"In Iraq, normally if he kills her he is supposed to be killed in the same way," she told reporters through David, the translator.
The eldest daughter, Fatima, declined to speak with reporters but her attorney, Ron Rockwell, said she felt "outraged and utterly betrayed" that the defense suggested during the trial that she may have been involved in the killing.
"Although we love our father," Fatima said in a statement read by her attorney, "we also hate what we believe he did."
ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets, where broken windows and debris fell, but there were no early reports of major damage or casualties.
The U.S. Geological Survey said it was centered northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for the Easter holiday.
It was felt across at least a half-dozen states and Mexico's capital, where it shook for at least 30 seconds. Around the region, there were reports of isolated and minor damage, such as fallen fences, trees and broken windows. Chilpancingo, capital of the southern state of Guerrero, where the quake was centered, reported a power outage, but service was restored after 15 minutes.
In Acapulco, 59-year-old Enedina Ramirez Perez was having breakfast, enjoying the holiday with about 20 family members, when her hotel started to shake.
"People were turning over chairs in their desperation to get out, grabbing children, trampling people," the Mexico City woman said. "The hotel security was excellent and starting calming people down. They got everyone to leave quietly."
The quake struck 170 miles (273 kilometers) southwest of Mexico City, where people fled high rises and took to the streets, many in still in their bathrobes and pajamas on their day off.
"I started to hear the walls creak and I said, 'Let's go,'" said Rodolfo Duarte, 32, who fled his third-floor apartment.
"This is really strong," said Gabriel Alejandro Hernandez Chavez, 45, an apartment building guard in Mexico City. "And I'm accustomed to earthquakes."
The USGS initially calculated the quake's magnitude at 7.5, but later downgraded it to 7.2. It said the quake was centered 22 miles (36 kilometers) northwest of the town of Tecpan de Galeana, and was 15 miles (24 kilometers) deep.
In many cases of earthquakes in Mexico, it can take time to receive word from remote areas near the epicenter, where damage could be more extensive. No one answered the phone at the city hall for Tecpan de Galeana.
Mexico City itself is vulnerable even to distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds that quiver as quake waves hit.
The magnitude-8.1 quake in 1985 that killed at least 6,000 people and destroyed many buildings in Mexico City was centered 250 miles (400 kilometers) away on the Pacific Coast.
Around the world, Christians are coming together in observance of Good Friday, which they believe was the day Jesus was crucified.
In the Philippines, Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation commemorated the occasion by re-enacting the crucifixion. Devotees have themselves nailed to wooden crosses, rituals that church leaders do not condone but that draw huge crowds. Undeterred, some penitents participate in the practice year after year.
Devotees undergo the re-enactment in the belief that extreme pain is a way to atone for their sins, attain miracle cures for illnesses or give thanks to God.
In the Holy Land, Christians marked the day with prayers and processions, with thousands of pilgrims crowding along the Via Dolorosa, or "Way of Suffering," carrying wooden crosses.
They end at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Tradition says the church was built on the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
Here are some photos from Good Friday commemorations around the world: