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

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Associated Press

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Death count in South Korean ferry sinking tops 100, with nearly 200 still missing

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

Dozens of police officers in neon green jackets formed a cordon around the dock as the bodies arrived Tuesday. Since divers found a way over the weekend to enter the submerged ferry, the death count has shot up. Officials said Tuesday that confirmed fatalities had reached 104, with nearly 200 people still missing.

If a body lacks identification, details such as height, hair length and clothing are posted on a white signboard for families waiting on Jindo island for news.

The bodies are then driven in ambulances to two tents: one for men and boys, the other for women and girls. Families listen quietly outside as an official briefs them, then line up and file in. Only relatives are allowed inside.

For a brief moment there is silence. Then the anguished cries, the wailing, the howling. They have not known for nearly a week whether they should grieve or not, and now they sound like they're being torn apart.

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Weakened rebels in last stand for Homs, capital of Syrian revolution, as Assad forces advance

BEIRUT (AP) — Weakened Syrian rebels are making their last desperate stand in Homs, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad launch their harshest assault yet to expel them from the central city, once known as the capital of the revolution.

Some among the hundreds of rebels remaining in the city talk of surrender, according to opposition activists there. Others have lashed back against the siege with suicide car bombings in districts under government control. Some fighters are turning on comrades they suspect want to desert, pushing them into battle.

"We expect Homs to fall," said an activist who uses the name Thaer Khalidiya in an online interview with The Associated Press. "In the next few days, it could be under the regime's control."

The fight for Homs underscores Assad's determination to rout rebels ahead of presidential elections now set for June 3, aiming to scatter fighters back further north toward their supply lines on the Turkish borders. Assad's forces are building on gains elsewhere — they have been able to almost clear rebels from a broad swath of territory south of Homs between the capital, Damascus, and the Lebanese border, breaking important rebel supply lines there. Rebels have also capitulated in several towns around Damascus after blockades that caused widespread hunger and suffering.

Homs, Syria's third largest city, is a crucial target. Located in the country's center, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Damascus, it links the capital with Aleppo in the north — the country's largest city and another key battleground. But rebels still control large areas of the countryside in the north and south and have consolidated around the Turkish and Jordanian borders.

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Caught on camera, but unnoticed: Teen stowaway shows holes in multilayered airport security

KAHULUI, Hawaii (AP) — Surveillance cameras at San Jose International Airport successfully captured the teenager on the tarmac, climbing up the landing gear of a jet. But in the end, the cameras failed because no one noticed the security breach until the plane — and the boy — landed in Hawaii.

Although the 15-year-old apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.

Video surveillance can help catch trespassers. Some airports use not just human eyes watching video screens, but also technology that can be programmed to sound an alert when a camera captures something potentially suspicious. But just because something is caught on camera doesn't mean it will make an impression.

Despite great promise, "sometimes the actual results are quite underwhelming when it gets to the real world, where people are fatigued, people are preoccupied," said Richard Bloom, an airport security expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. "There's no way to guarantee security, even if you had one person per video screen."

There were no obvious efforts Monday to increase security or the police presence at airports in San Jose or Maui. In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers.

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David Moyes leaves as Man United manager; Ryan Giggs named interim replacement

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — David Moyes was fired as Manchester United manager on Tuesday, paying the price for the club's spectacular and sudden decline in his 10 months in charge since replacing Alex Ferguson.

United announced hours later that Ryan Giggs, a club great who was on Moyes' coaching staff, will take temporary control of the team until a permanent replacement is found.

The 50-year-old Scot was removed from his post by vice chairman Ed Woodward during a meeting at United's training ground in the morning.

United, which is seventh in the English Premier League in a woeful defense of its title, released a two-line statement on its website, saying Moyes has left the club and that it "would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role."

Louis van Gaal, who will leave his position as Netherlands coach after the World Cup in Brazil, has been linked strongly with the position. Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp has also been mentioned but told British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday that his "commitment to Borussia Dortmund and the people is not breakable."

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Biden tells Ukrainian leaders US stands with them, urges them to fight corruption

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden told Ukrainian political leaders Tuesday that the United States stands with them against "humiliating threats" and encouraged them to root out corruption as they rebuild their government.

In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, Biden told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from President Barack Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms.

"The opportunity to generate a united Ukraine, getting it right, is within your grasp," Biden said. "And we want to be your partner, your friend in the project. And we're ready to assist."

Biden spoke to nine Ukrainians in a hearing room with gilded moldings at the parliament, or Rada, as the media looked on. The group included three candidates running for president in the May 25 election — most notably billionaire chocolate magnate and front-runner Petro Poroshenko. Biden told the candidates he hopes that they have more luck than he did in two presidential runs.

Biden also met privately with acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and later planned to meet with democracy activists. After his meetings, Biden plans to announce new technical support to the Ukrainian government for energy and economic reforms.

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US weighs curbing deportations of people without serious criminal records

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally but don't have serious criminal records could be shielded from deportation under a policy change being weighed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

The change, if adopted following a review ordered by President Barack Obama, could limit removals of people who have little or no criminal record but have committed repeat immigration violations such as re-entering the country illegally after having been deported, or failing to comply with a deportation order.

The possible move, confirmed by two people with knowledge of the review, would fall short of the sweeping changes sought by activists. They want Obama to expand a two-year-old program that grants work permits to certain immigrants brought here illegally as children to include other groups, such as the parents of any children born in the U.S.

John Sandweg, who until February served as acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said he had promoted the policy change for immigrants without serious criminal records before his departure and said it was being weighed by Johnson. An immigration advocate who has discussed the review with the administration also confirmed the change was under consideration. The advocate spoke on condition of anonymity because the proceedings are confidential.

"Any report of specific considerations at this time would be premature," Clark Stevens, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said Monday. Stevens said Johnson "has undergone a very rigorous and inclusive process to best inform the review," including seeking input from people within DHS as well as lawmakers of both parties and other stakeholders.

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Japan, Philippines, other Asian hosts looking to Obama visit as counterweight to China

TOKYO (AP) — President Barack Obama's travels through Asia in coming days aim to reassure partners about the renewed U.S. commitment to the region, with an eye both to China's rising assertiveness and the fast-growing markets that are the center of gravity for global growth.

The question: Will it be enough?

Nearly seven months after he cancelled an Asian tour due to the U.S. government shutdown, Obama's failure to prevent Russia from annexing Crimea has sharpened concerns that America lacks the will or wherewithal to follow through on its much-touted "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific.

"Words come easy," said Philippine political analyst Ramon Casiple. "But U.S. allies would want to know what help they can get when things reach a point of no return."

The United States has been stepping up regional military deployments, but has made less progress on rebalancing through broader diplomatic and economic initiatives, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim free trade agreement.

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Leaders of prominent Cuban-American nonprofit provided support for US-backed 'Cuban Twitter'

MIAMI (AP) — Leaders with the largest nonprofit organization for young Cuban-Americans quietly provided strategic support for the federal government's secret "Cuban Twitter" program, connecting contractors with potential investors and even serving as paid consultants, The Associated Press has learned.

Interviews and documents obtained by the AP show leaders of the organization, Roots of Hope, were approached by the "Cuban Twitter" program's organizers in early 2011 about taking over the text-messaging service, known as ZunZuneo, and discussed how to shift it into private hands. Few if any investors were willing to privately finance ZunZuneo, and Roots of Hope members dropped the idea. But at least two people on its board of directors went on to work as consultants, even as they served in an organization that explicitly refused to accept any U.S. government funds and distanced itself from groups that did.

The disclosure could have wide repercussions for what has become one of the most visible and influential Cuban-American organizations. Roots of Hope has been a key player in events like Latin pop star Juanes' 2009 peace concert that drew more than a million people in Havana and in the promotion of technology on the island. Its leaders recently accompanied Cuban blogger and Castro critic Yoani Sanchez to Washington, where she met with Vice President Joe Biden.

Chris Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, said he wasn't surprised that Roots of Hope's leaders had been approached by U.S. Agency for International Development contractors about the ZunZuneo project, given the large sums of money USAID has available and the limited number of creative, tech-savvy groups that work on Cuba issues.

"I think it does risk tainting the group, a group that I think has done amazing work and changed the discussion and mobilized a new generation toward a much more pragmatic agenda," Sabatini said.

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No JPII fever in Poland as canonization approaches — a sign of changing times

WADOWICE, Poland (AP) — His death triggered a massive outpouring of grief in Poland. His beatification, an explosion of pride and jubilation. But days before John Paul II is to be declared a saint, many of his countrymen are greeting the landmark with little more than a shrug.

One reason is that John Paul has already long been a saint in Polish hearts — so making it official with Vatican pageantry is just a bit of icing on the cake. But it's also clear that less than a decade since his death, the enthusiasm that Poles accord their great countryman seems to be dissipating, just as memories of him fade and a new generation comes of age in this young EU country that is moving toward a more secular outlook.

Only a few hundred people turned out in Warsaw's main square for prayers before the pope's relics on April 2, the ninth anniversary of his death. And there is little talk in Polish media of the April 27 saint-making ceremony at the Vatican. It all contrasts sharply with the pontiff's 2011 beatification, which was preceded by months of media frenzy and church preparations across Poland.

"Who needs this canonization?" said Andrzej Grendys, stressing that he is Catholic but does not go to church. "We all know that he was a very good and decent man with a great heart and mind. That is most important and needs no official confirmation."

And many say the country has already completed its emotional reckoning with John Paul's life and death.

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More than 30,000 defiant runners finish Boston Marathon in celebration 1 year after bombings

BOSTON (AP) — Unfinished business. Defiance. Hope, strength and resilience. They used different words but the meaning was the same for thousands of people who were stopped by twin bombings at last year's Boston Marathon and came back this year to finish what they started.

The 118th running of the storied race from Hopkinton to Boston was run under the long and still-sharp shadow of the 117th, which turned tragic when two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people, injuring more than 260 and searing the day into a city with a long memory. On this marathon Monday, there was no choice but to remember, reflect and even confront the past, but the athletes found it easier — and more fun — to celebrate.

Jeff Glasbrenner said he returned to Boston for some "unfinished business." after being forced to stop at mile 25.9 last year after the bombing.

"I felt like those two bad guys stopped a lot of people from going after their dreams. I needed to come back," said Glasbrenner, 41, who runs with a prosthetic right leg after losing part of his leg in a childhood farming accident.

"It was the most amazing thing crossing that finish line," he said moments after he finished the race with two other amputees, all from Arkansas. "But it wasn't for us. It was for all these people out here."

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