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

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Associated Press

Posted on April 27, 2013 at 5:02 AM

Updated Saturday, Apr 27 at 6:31 AM

19 rescued from collapsed building as death toll touches 340, rescuers vow to carry on

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Police in Bangladesh took into custody five people in connection with the collapse of a shoddily-constructed building that collapsed this week, as rescue workers pulled out 19 survivors out of the rubble on Saturday and vowed to continue as long as necessary to find others despite fading hopes.

At least 340 people are known to have died, crushed by massive blocks of concrete and mortar falling on them when the 8-story structure came down on Wednesday morning -- a time many of the garment factories in the building were packed with workers. It was the worst tragedy to hit Bangladesh's massive garment industry, and focused attention on the poor working conditions of the employees who toil for $38 a month to produce clothing for top international brands.

Among those taken into custody is the wife of the building owner, who is on the run, in an attempt to force him to surrender. Violent public protests continued sporadically in Dhaka and spread to the southeastern city of Chittagong where several vehicles were set on fire.

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Afghans pay in blood, losing an estimated 300 a month to take lead in fight against Taliban

FORWARD OPERATING BASE CONNOLLY, Afghanistan (AP) — The Americans could be spotted waiting for the Chinooks in the 2 a.m. darkness only by the shape of their night-vision goggles, as they shared a cigarette with glowing embers in quick drags among the kneeling assaulters in the chilled dark.

They would be on the first two helicopters to drop into the villages of the Khogyani district in the shadows of the Tora Bora mountains, kicking off a four-day operation against the Taliban by roughly 175 Americans and 1,250 Afghan troops, in a teeth-clenching test of U.S. mentoring and training.

The Afghans were lined up behind the Americans, leaning back on their 130-pound backpacks, saving their strength to carry the packs onto the Chinooks for their first air assault — and without the Americans' high-tech goggles, letting their eyes adjust to the dark for the assault to come.

They didn't talk much.

A Predator drone feed showed the groups landing in the darkened district — dark spots trudging slowly up hills and sometimes falling into ditches — U.S. and Afghan alike. They set up a post to oversee the insurgent-ridden villages they would be guarding for the next four days, as Afghan police cleared them out house by house.

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Investigators push ahead to detail Boston bombing plot, while suspect in prison hospital

BOSTON (AP) — With the Boston marathon bombing suspect in a prison hospital, investigators are pushing forward both in the U.S. and abroad to piece together the myriad details of a plot that killed three people and injured more than 260.

FBI agents picked through a landfill near the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where 19-year-old suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was a sophomore. FBI spokesman Jim Martin would not say what investigators were looking for.

A federal law enforcement official not authorized to speak on the record about the investigation told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity on Friday that the FBI was gathering evidence regarding "everything imaginable."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said the bombing suspects' mother had been added to a federal terrorism database about 18 months before the April 15 attack — a disclosure that deepens the mystery around the Tsarnaev family and marks the first time American authorities have acknowledged that Zubeidat Tsarnaeva was under investigation before the tragedy.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with joining with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now dead, in setting off the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs. The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who came to the United States about a decade ago with their parents.

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Overseer of victim compensation funds in US tragedies says work wrenching but his way to help

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawyer Kenneth Feinberg has been near the heart of some of the worst catastrophes, dealing with people who've faced profound loss after 9/1l, the BP oil spill, the Virginia Tech shootings, and the Colorado movie theater ambush.

Now, he's adding the Boston Marathon bombings to his workload, managing a victims' compensation fund as he did after the previous tragedies.

The 67-year-old Feinberg said his work takes an emotional toll but is about wanting to help, in the same spirit as those who donate.

The experiences are wrenching, he said. And recipients invariably resent him, thinking he's trying to put a price on the priceless things they've lost.

"Don't expect thanks or appreciation or gratitude, none of that," Feinberg said. "We have very emotional victims and you're offering them money instead of a limb, instead of the return of a family member. This is a no-win situation."

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Syrian rebels and troops clash around sprawling air base in country's north

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists are reporting intense clashes in northwestern Syria as rebels attack a sprawling military air base.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there are casualties on both sides.

Rebels have laid siege to the Abu Zuhour air base in the northwestern Idlib province for months.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees said the Syrian air force conducted several air raids during Saturday's battles to ease pressure on troops.

Rebels control much of Idlib province, which borders Turkey, although government troops still hold some areas, including the provincial capital that carries the same name.

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Candidate recruitment troubles abound in states key to GOP's shot at Senate majority

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republicans are struggling to recruit strong Senate candidates in states that present the party's best opportunities to reclaim the majority, a sign that the GOP's post-2012 soul-searching may end up creeping into the midterm congressional elections.

It's admittedly early, with more than 18 months before the November 2014 elections.

But candidate recruitment efforts are well underway. And, so far, Republicans haven't been able to field a top-tier candidate in Iowa or Michigan, swing-voting states where the GOP hopes to make a play for seats left open by the retirement of veteran Democratic senators. Also, the GOP is facing the prospect of contentious and expensive primary races in Georgia and perhaps West Virginia, two GOP-leaning states where sitting senators — one Republican, one Democrat — are retiring.

With President Barack Obama not on the top of the ticket, Republicans may have their best chance in years to try to retake the Senate, which would put a major crimp on the president's efforts to enact his agenda and shape his legacy in the final two years of his presidency. Republicans need to gain six seats to win control of the Senate. Democrats will be defending 21 seats to Republicans' 14, meaning the GOP has more opportunity to try to win on Democratic turf.

Only recently, Republicans were reveling in the fact that several veteran Democrats were retiring in states where the GOP had not had a chance to win in decades. Last week, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana became the latest to announce his retirement in a state that typically tilts Republican.

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US citizen charged in North Korea with plotting to overthrow leadership

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea announced Saturday that an American detained for nearly six months is being tried in the Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, a crime that could draw the death penalty if he is convicted.

The case involving Kenneth Bae, who has been in North Korean custody since early November, further complicates already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington following weeks of heightened rhetoric and tensions.

The trial mirrors a similar situation in 2009, when the U.S. and North Korea were locked in a standoff over Pyongyang's decision to launch a long-range rocket and conduct an underground nuclear test. At the time, North Korea had custody of two American journalists, whose eventual release after being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor paved the way for diplomacy following months of tensions.

Bae was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, according to official state media. In North Korean dispatches, Bae, a Korean American, is called Pae Jun Ho, the North Korean spelling of his Korean name.

The exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed, but North Korea accuses Bae, described as a tour operator, of seeking to overthrow North Korea's leadership.

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National conservative group mounts new lobbying push for gay marriage in Minnesota, elsewhere

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A national group of prominent GOP donors that supports gay marriage is pouring new money into lobbying efforts to get Republican lawmakers to vote to make it legal.

American Unity PAC was formed last year to lend financial support to Republicans who bucked the party's longstanding opposition to gay marriage. Its founders are launching a new lobbying organization, American Unity Fund, and already have spent more than $250,000 in Minnesota, where the Legislature could vote on the issue as early as next week.

The group has spent $500,000 on lobbying since last month, including efforts in Rhode Island, Delaware, Indiana, West Virginia and Utah.

Billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican donor Paul Singer launched American Unity PAC. The lobbying effort is the next phase as the push for gay marriage spreads to more states, spokesman Jeff Cook-McCormac told The Associated Press.

"What you have is this network of influential Republicans who really want to see the party embrace the freedom to marry, and believe it's not only the right thing for the country but also good politics," Cook-McCormac said.

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Interior Department draft rule ends protections for gray wolves across Lower 48 states

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal wildlife officials have drafted plans to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that could end a decades-long recovery effort that has restored the animals but only in parts of their historic range.

The draft U.S. Department of Interior rule obtained by The Associated Press contends the roughly 6,000 wolves now living in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes are enough to prevent the species' extinction. The agency says having gray wolves elsewhere — such as the West Coast, parts of New England and elsewhere in the Rockies — is unnecessary for their long-term survival.

A small population of Mexican wolves in the Southwest would continue to receive federal protections, as a distinct subspecies of the gray wolf.

The loss of federal protections would be welcomed by ranchers and others in the agriculture industry, whose stock at times become prey for hungry wolf packs. Yet wildlife advocates say the proposal threatens to cut short the gray wolf's dramatic recovery from widespread extermination.

The proposal was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

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Selection of Te'o by Chargers provides highlight of second day of NFL draft

NEW YORK (AP) — The most exciting few minutes of the NFL draft came on Day 2.

In the span of a few minutes early in Friday night's second round, the San Diego Chargers caused draftniks at Radio City Music Hall to let out a roar with the selection of Notre Dame's Manti Te'o. Just when things were settling down, the New York Jets announced their pick — quarterback Geno Smith. Fans, many clad in Jets jerseys, cheered — and booed.

Te'o, of course, was the victim of a tabloid-ready hoax involving a fake girlfriend. That, and his poor play in the national title game against Alabama, followed by less-than-impressive workouts for pro scouts, had everyone wondering when he would be selected.

Smith, of course, now heads to a team with all kinds of quarterback issues, from starter Mark Sanchez still with the team despite an awful season, Tim Tebow still with the team despite not really getting a chance to play, and three other QBs on the roster for now in David Garrard, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms.

Welcome to San Diego, Manti.

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