Back to bodies in Bangladesh

Grim task resumes after gratitude for discovery of 17-day survivor in the rubble. Get the Associated Press world roundup here.
Associated Press
May 11, 2013

SAVAR, Bangladesh — Even amid the euphoria over finding a woman alive in the rubble of a garment factory that collapsed more than two weeks ago, rescuers on Saturday returned to the grim task of dismantling the wreckage and retrieving decomposing bodies, knowing there was little chance of finding any more survivors.

The death toll from Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster is more than 1,000 and climbing. More than 2,500 people were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the April 24 disaster, but until Friday, crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive.

Then, in the midst of what had become a grim search for decaying bodies following the world's worst garment industry disaster, rescuers found a woman alive, providing a much-needed boost for the weary workers.

For 17 days, the 19-year-old woman, a seamstress, lay trapped in a dark basement pocket beneath thousands of tons of wreckage as temperatures outside climbed into the mid-30s Celsius (mid-90s Fahrenheit). She rationed food and water. She banged a pipe to attract attention. She was fast losing hope of ever making it out alive.

In the ruins of the collapsed eight-store garment factory building above her, the frantic rescue operation had long ago ended.

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Pakistanis go to the polls in historic election marred by violence; 16 killed in attacks

ISLAMABAD — Defying the danger of militant attacks, Pakistanis streamed to the polls Saturday for a historic vote pitting a former cricket star against a two-time prime minister and an unpopular incumbent. But attacks that killed 16 people and wounded dozens more underlined the risks many people took just casting their ballots.

The violence was a continuation of what has been a brutal election season with more than 130 people killed in bombings and shootings. Some are calling this one of the deadliest votes in the country's history.

Despite the violence, many see the election — the country's first transition between an elected government fulfilling its term to another — as a key step to solidify civilian rule for a country that has experienced three military coups.

Twin blasts in the port city of Karachi targeted the political offices of the Awami National Party, one of three secular liberal parties that have been targeted by Taliban militants during the run-up to the election, said police officer Shabir Hussain. Nine people died in the attack and 30 were wounded.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar a bomb exploded outside a polling station, killing at least one person and wounding 10 others, said police officer Mukhtiar Khan.

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A look at the major issues ahead of Pakistan's nationwide elections

ISLAMABAD — National elections come at a time of widespread despair in Pakistan, as the country suffers from faltering economic growth, worsening energy shortages and continued attacks by militants.

FALTERING ECONOMIC GROWTH: The economy has grown at less than 4 percent a year under the most recent government, which was led by the Pakistan People's Party and governed for five years. That is much lower than the rates during the previous administration, which at times hovered near 7 percent. Under the most recent government, inflation spiked, reaching an annualized rate of around 25 percent in some months. However, the inflation rate has fallen and averaged around 11 percent last year.

ENERGY SHORTAGES: Electricity shortages nearly doubled under the PPP compared with the previous administration. Some places in Pakistan suffer blackouts for up to 18 hours a day during summer months. The country also has experienced increased shortages of natural gas, which were felt acutely during the winter because many people rely on natural gas to heat their homes as well as cook. Spending on energy subsidies and failing public enterprises has helped sap the government's funds, which are much lower than they should be because of ineffective tax collection. The combination of these factors means the government will likely have to seek yet another unpopular bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

TALIBAN ATTACKS: The military has launched numerous operations against the Pakistani Taliban in the country's northwest tribal region along the Afghan border during the past five years. Analysts say the operations and U.S. drone attacks against militants in the tribal region have helped produce a significant decline in overall levels of violence in 2011 and 2012. But the Taliban have remained a potent threat, including during the election campaign. The group carried out near-daily attacks against election candidates and offices that killed more than 120 people. The militants mostly targeted liberal secular parties that supported operations against the Taliban. Sectarian violence by radical Sunni Muslim militants against minority Shiites also has significantly worsened in recent months.

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DNA shows Ohio kidnap suspect fathered girl freed with 3 women; relatives call him paranoid

CLEVELAND — As relatives of the Cleveland kidnapping and rape suspect recounted claims of his unnerving paranoia and violent outbursts, DNA testing confirmed the man who allegedly held three women captive for nearly a decade is the father of a 6-year-old girl who escaped from the house along with the women.Ariel Castro, charged with rape and kidnapping, remained jailed Friday under a suicide watch on $8 million bond while prosecutors weighed more charges, including some that might carry the death penalty. Public defender Kathleen Demetz, who said she is acting as Castro's adviser while he awaits a full-time attorney, said Friday she can't speak to his guilt or innocence and said only that she advised him not to talk to reporters.

But those who know the 52-year-old Castro are speaking up, saying he was often angry, paranoid and prone to violent outbursts against the mother of his children. He frequently beat her, played bizarre psychological games and locked her indoors, they said.

The stories, repeated in separate interviews with The Associated Press by members of Castro's extended family, have surprised people who knew him as a musician who played bass in several bands around Cleveland the last two decades.

Miguel Quinones, manager of a group Castro played with twice as a backup bass player about five years ago, said he had nothing bad to say about Castro based on his own experiences.

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New bits of information feed GOP's claim that Benghazi is huge liability for Obama, Clinton

WASHINGTON — Steady drips of information about a horrific night in Libya are fueling Republican arguments and ads designed to fire up the conservative base and undercut the Democrats' early favorite for president in 2016.

Democratic and Republican strategists sharply disagree on the issue's power to influence elections next year and beyond. But after eight months of trying, Democrats are still struggling to move past last September's terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, which killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Democrats insist that an independent inquiry, the dismissal of several State Department officials, and nine congressional hearings leave little new to say on the matter. But Friday turned up the sort of nuggets that feed conservative activists' belief that a major scandal may still be at hand.

Newly revealed communications show that senior State Department officials pressed for changes in the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used a few days after the Benghazi attacks. These senior officials expressed concerns that Congress might criticize the Obama administration for ignoring warnings of a growing threat in Libya.

The White House has insisted that it made only stylistic changes to the intelligence agency talking points, in which Rice suggested that spontaneous protests over an anti-Islamic video set off the deadly attack. The new details suggest a greater degree of political sensitivity and involvement by the White House and State Department.

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Va. woman says faith prompted her efforts to get bury Boston Marathon bombing buried

DOSWELL, Va. — The Virginia woman whose actions led to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev being buried about 30 miles north of her Richmond home said the angry backlash from local officials, some cemetery neighbors and online critics has been unpleasant, but she has no regrets.

"I can't pretend it's not difficult to be reviled and maligned," Martha Mullen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. "But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that's what God calls us to do."

Tsarnaev, 26, was quietly buried Thursday at a small Islamic cemetery in rural Caroline County. His body had remained at a Worcester, Mass., funeral parlor since he was killed April 19 in a gunfight with police, days after the bombings that killed three and injured more than 260 in downtown Boston. Cemeteries in Massachusetts and several other states refused to accept the remains. With costs to protect the funeral home mounting, Worcester police appealed for help finding a place to bury Tsarnaev.

Mullen said she was at a Starbucks when she heard a radio news report about the difficulty finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev.

"My first thought was Jesus said love your enemies," she said.

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Newtown panel recommends tearing down Sandy Hook elementary school, rebuilding on site

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Newtown parents Steven Uhde and Peter Barresi didn't want the town to abandon the Sandy Hook Elementary School property where 20 first-graders and six educators were killed in December and build a new school elsewhere, saying that would be like letting the gunman win.

So they were glad Friday night when a task force of 28 local elected officials voted unanimously in favor of a plan calling for tearing down Sandy Hook School and constructing a new building on the same property.

"I think our message should be at that site that love can win over fear," said Uhde, whose son is a Sandy Hook second-grader.

Barresi said he was worried that if a new school was built at a different location, "We didn't just lose 20 children and six adults, we're letting him (the gunman) take the building too." His son attends the first grade and was on the other side of the school from where the shootings happened.

The plan approved by the Sandy Hook School Building Task Force now goes to the local school board and ultimately will have to be approved by residents at a referendum.

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IRS apologizes for inappropriately targeting conservative political groups in 2012 election

WASHINGTON— The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing for what it acknowledges was "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.

IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their exemption applications, Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, said Friday. In some cases, groups were asked for lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.

The agency — led at the time by a Bush administration appointee — blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware. But that wasn't good enough for Republicans in Congress, who are conducting several investigations and asked for more.

"I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

White House spokesman Jay Carney declared it was indeed inappropriate for the IRS to target tea party groups. But he brushed aside questions about whether the White House itself would investigate.

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Space station leaking ammonia coolant; astronauts will do spacewalk to try to fix it

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station on Saturday to tackle an ammonia leak in the power cooling system.

The leak was discovered Thursday and the repair job was quickly planned for the weekend.

Spacewalks usually aren't done on such short notice. But NASA wanted to try to fix the leak before all the ammonia escaped. The space agency also wanted to take advantage of a veteran spacewalker who is due to return home on Monday with two other astronauts.

The two spacewalkers — Americans Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn — will swap out a pump box on one of the eight solar panels that supply electricity to the station.

NASA says the station has plenty of power, and the six-man crew is not in danger.

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MLB suspends, fines umpires after acknowledging 2nd mistake in 2 days

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball suspended umpire Fieldin Culbreth for two games on Friday because he was in charge of the crew that allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to improperly switch relievers in the middle of an inning.

Culbreth and the rest of his crew — Brian O'Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson — were also fined an undisclosed amount after MLB admitted its umps goofed for the second straight day.

"The rule covering pitching changes was not applied correctly by the umpiring crew," MLB said in a statement.

Culbreth and his crew worked the Padres-Rays game in Tampa, Fla., on Friday night.

He told a pool reporter after the game that he takes "all the responsibility" for what happened.