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Today's national and world news, in brief

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - Updated: 3:12 PM

Investigations of IRS’ targeting of groups is continuing in wake of ouster of top official

WASHINGTON (AP) — Don’t look for the outcry over the Internal Revenue Service’s improper targeting of tea party groups to subside with the ouster of the agency’s acting commissioner.

Three congressional committees are investigating and the FBI is looking into potential civil rights violations at the IRS, Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Other potential crimes include making false statements to authorities and violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in some partisan political activities, Holder said.

President Barack Obama said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had asked for and accepted Steven T. Miller’s resignation.

“Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” Obama said Wednesday evening in a televised statement from the White House. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives.”

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White House fails to placate congressional Republicans despite release of Benghazi emails

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House release of some 100 pages of emails and notes about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year has failed to satisfy congressional Republicans, who are demanding more information.

“Why not release all of the unclassified documents?” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “The president has repeatedly said that when he gets new information, he’ll release it to the public. Why not release — instead of the hand-picked ones — why not release all the unclassified documents?”

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday Republicans hoped “this limited release of documents is a sign of more cooperation to come,” while the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee pressed the Pentagon for more details about military orders around the time of the attack and what military aircraft were in the region.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed when militants struck the U.S. mission and CIA annex in twin nighttime attacks on Sept. 11, 2012.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of misleading the American people about the circumstances of the attack, playing down a terrorist strike that would reflect poorly on President Barack Obama in the heat of a presidential race. Obama has dismissed charges of a cover-up and suggested on Monday that the criticism was politically motivated.

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Officials begin damage assessment after tornado that killed at least 6 in North Texas

GRANBURY, Texas (AP) — Officials awaited daybreak to fully assess the scope of the destruction left in the wake of a deadly tornado in Granbury.

Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said he hoped the death toll from the tornado would hold at six, with about 50 people injured and 250 people left homeless.

The twister was part of a swarm of tornadoes unleashed on North Texas, devastating two neighborhoods in southern Granbury and a neighborhood in nearby Cleburne.

“I’ve been assured by my deputies on the scene that they’re pretty confident with the six that they found, but there was a report that two of these people that they found were not even near their homes. So we’re going to have to search the area out there,” he said.

About 50 people were taken to a Granbury hospital, where 14 were admitted for treatment of injuries and two were transferred to a hospital in Fort Worth, about 35 miles to the northeast, Deeds said.

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Cyclone Mahasen hits coast of Bangladesh, sending 1 million people fleeing

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Cyclone Mahasen struck the southern coast of Bangladesh on Thursday, lashing remote fishing villages with heavy rain and fierce winds that flattened mud and straw huts and forced the evacuation of more than 1 million people.

The main section of the storm reached land Thursday and immediately began weakening, according to Mohammad Shah Alam, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. However, its forward movement was also slowing, meaning that towns in its path would have to weather the storm for longer, he said.

Even before the brunt of the storm hit, at least 18 deaths related to Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had said Wednesday that depending on its trajectory, the storm could bring life-threatening conditions to about 8.2 million people in Bangladesh, Myanmar and northeast India. But the storm appeared to spare at least some areas once thought to be at risk.

In the seafront resort town of Cox’s Bazar, tens of thousands of people had fled shanty homes along the coast and packed into cyclone shelters, hotels, schools and government office buildings. But by Thursday afternoon, the sun was shining and local government administrator Ruhul Amin said he planned to close the shelters by that evening.

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Suicide car bomb strikes NATO convoy in Afghan capital, killing at least 6 and wounding dozens

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber rammed his car into a NATO convoy in the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing at least six people in the explosion and wounding more than 30, officials said.

A Muslim militant group, Hizb-e-Islami, claimed responsibility for the early morning attack and said it had formed a special “martyrdom” unit to attack foreign troops. The announcement could mean a steep escalation for the movement, which is based in northeastern Afghanistan and which has fought against the American-led coalition but is also a fierce rival of the Taliban.

Body parts littered the scene of the blast in eastern Kabul, and one coalition vehicle was reduced to a mangled pile of metal. The explosion was powerful enough to rattle buildings on the other side of the city.

NATO spokesman Lt. j.g. Quenton Roehricht said the international alliance can “confirm an explosion occurred on a coalition convoy in Kabul this morning,” but provided no further details.

Kabul provincial police spokesman Hashmad Stanakzi said the suicide bomber attacked at about 8 a.m. with a car packed with explosives. “The explosion was very big. It set the nearby buildings on fire,” Stanakzi said.

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Bloomberg News’ crisis is unique, but raises ethics questions for host of media ventures

NEW YORK (AP) — Launching his namesake company’s news division in the 1990s, Michael Bloomberg largely rejected long-held rules of the journalism trade that insist on keeping thick firewalls between reporters and the profit-making workings of their companies.

Now, a byproduct of Bloomberg’s widely admired and novel business model has ensnared his company in a problem of its own making. But the uproar — revolving around specialized computer terminals unknown to most news consumers, and the reporters who tapped into data showing how high-powered Wall Street customers were using them — is potentially about much more than Bloomberg.

Instead, experts say, it highlights the uncertain and rapidly changing ethical landscape facing companies that, like Bloomberg, are reinventing the news business. And it raises key questions for people who watch the media, most notably this one: As the news business gets reconfigured around advances in technology, what does that mean for the old rules and the people who follow them?

Such tensions are evident in the way Michael Bloomberg himself laid out his company’s ethos. “Most news organizations never connect reporters and commerce. At Bloomberg, they’re as close to seamless as it can get,” the billionaire entrepreneur and current New York City mayor wrote in his 1997 autobiography, penned with the “invaluable help” of the news division’s founding editor-in-chief.

That meant, Bloomberg wrote, that a key part of his reporters’ jobs was to keep tabs on what customers wanted and needed in order to provide it.

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No winning tickets sold in latest Powerball drawing; jackpot soars to $475 million

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — So you didn’t win Wednesday’s $360 million Powerball jackpot? Make that you and everyone else.

A message early Thursday on the multistate lottery’s website said the jackpot has soared to $475 million after none of the ticket sold matched all the winning numbers in Wednesday night’s drawing: 2, 11, 26, 34, 41 and a Powerball of 32.

The next drawing will be held Saturday.

A jackpot of $475 million ranks as the second largest in Powerball history and third biggest overall.

Lottery officials expect jackpot totals of this size to continue to climb in shorter amounts of time, thanks in part to a game redesign in January 2012 that increased the odds of winning some kind of prize, but also lowered the possible number combinations to win the Powerball.

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Tiny premature babies get boost from live music; hospitals & even ’American Idol’ catching on

CHICAGO (AP) — As the guitarist strums and softly sings a lullaby in Spanish, tiny Augustin Morales stops squirming in his hospital crib and closes his eyes.

This is therapy in a newborn intensive care unit, and research suggests that music may help those born way too soon adapt to life outside the womb.

Some tiny preemies are too small and fragile to be held and comforted by human touch, and many are often fussy and show other signs of stress. Other common complications include immature lungs, eye disease, problems with sucking, and sleeping and alertness difficulties.

Recent studies and anecdotal reports suggest the vibrations and soothing rhythms of music, especially performed live in the hospital, might benefit preemies and other sick babies.

Many insurers won’t pay for music therapy because of doubts that it results in any lasting medical improvement. Some doctors say the music works best at relieving babies’ stress and helping parents bond with infants too sick to go home.

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INFLUENCE GAME: Tech industry, big labor wrangle over high-tech jobs for foreigners

WASHINGTON (AP) — To the U.S. technology industry, there’s a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business. To unions and some Democrats, it’s more sinister: The push by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to expand the number of visas for high-tech foreign workers is an attempt to dilute a lucrative job market with cheap, indentured labor.

The answer is somewhere in between, depending as much on new technologies and the U.S. education system’s ability to keep up as on the immigration law itself. But the sliver of computer-related jobs inside the U.S. that might be designated for foreigners — fewer than 200,000 out of 6 million — has been enough to strain a bipartisan deal in the Senate on immigration reform, showcase the power of big labor and splinter a once-chummy group of elite tech leaders hoping to make inroads in Washington.

“A lot of people agree that employers should have access to (highly trained) immigrants — that they are a benefit to the country, and we are a country of immigrants,” said B. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration. “I think the question is how much of a good thing is good.”

The Senate immigration bill — the result of months of quiet negotiations among eight influential senators — is on track to nearly double the number of highly skilled foreign workers allowed to work in the U.S. under what’s called an H-1B visa, from 65,000 to 110,000. The number of visas could climb as high as 180,000 depending on the number of applications received and the unemployment rate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee planned to take up the portion of the bill relating to H-1B visas on Thursday, paving the way for an eventual floor vote and setting the tone for debate in the House.

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Grizzlies hold off Thunder 88-84, reach 1st Western Conference final in franchise history

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With their trademark grit-and-grind mentality, the Memphis Grizzlies are making history for a franchise with little prior postseason success.

Zach Randolph had 28 points and 14 rebounds, Mike Conley added 13 points and 11 assists and the fifth-seeded Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 88-84 on Wednesday night.

“This is the first time, so it definitely means a lot. I’m happy, but we’ve still got work to do,” Randolph said. “I want to win a ring.”

The Grizzlies, who got swept out of the playoffs in their first three trips and had won just one postseason series before this season, have already made it farther than ever before but still aren’t satisfied.

“We’re trying to do something really special. We want to go as far as we can go,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “To get there, we had to get through Oklahoma City. And now, we have to get through either Golden State or San Antonio to get further.”

     

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