Still searching. Malaysian officials now say Flight 370 was likely hijacked before it disappeared more than a week ago. Ongoing analysis of radar and satellite data indicates the plane flew for five and a half hours after its last communication with air traffic controllers. Analysts say whoever took the plane had to be a skilled pilot who knew how to disable the plane’s communication systems. Search teams are now looking at the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean as the most likely place the plane went down. Some families of passengers, mostly from China, are holding out hope that the plane might have gone north, rather than south, and landed safely somewhere in central Asia. But investigators say the hijackers’chance of flying undetected through closely watched airspace in those regions is pretty slim. Malaysian authorities are looking into the background and recent communication of the plane’s two pilots, as well as a passenger with extensive flight training. Among all the questions still unanswered, investigators are struggling with motive: Why would someone want to hijack the plane only to crash it into the sea?
Beer boycott. Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and parade organizers in New York City are facing accusations of bigotry over their request that gay rights groups not march openly in the annual event. Over the weekend, two of the parade’s beer-making sponsors announced they would no longer participate. On Saturday, Heineken pulled its sponsorship, and on Sunday, Guinness followed suit. Both companies waited until the last minute to punish organizers for a stance they announced weeks ago. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to participate in the parade, although he did not forbid city workers from joining in the festivities, which have long been popular with police and firefighters. Heineken and Guinness faced pressure from the gay-rights group GLAAD to boycott the event.
Guilty plea. An Army general facing sexual assault charges agreed over the weekend to plead guilty to lesser charges. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair admitted to mistreating a junior officer with whom he had a longstanding affair, causing her emotional distress. In exchange for his guilty plea, the Army dropped the sexual assault charges, which would most likely have sent him to prison and required him to register as a sex offender. Sinclair is only the third Army general to face a court martial proceeding in the last 60 years.
Weather woes. Government offices in the nation’s capital are closed again today after a snowstorm blanketed the city with about a foot of snow. The storm caused havoc with flights and public transportation just days before the official start of spring. The late-season storm also slammed parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and southern New Jersey before moving out to sea.
Wake-up call. While the Mid-Atlantic deals with yet another round of white stuff, Los Angeles residents are shaking off the effects of an early morning, 4.4-magnitude earthquake. The temblor didn’t cause any reports of major damage or injuries, but officials are using it as a reminder that Southern California residents need to be prepared for more serious future incidents. Six aftershocks have rumbled through the area so far.
Nearing the end? The founder of Westboro Baptist Church, made famous for picketing service members’funerals to bring attention to its rabidly anti-gay stance, is allegedly near death and in hospice care. The church calls reports of Fred Phelp’s illness “speculative.”Phelps’ son Nathan, who is no longer associated with the church made up mostly of Phelps’extended family members, made the announcement on his Facebook page. Nathan Phelps also claims the church recently excommunicated his father, something a church spokesman would not confirm.