Saturday, April 19, 2014

Published:

Divers find bodies in sunken ferry as death toll approaches 50; over 250 missing; kin furious

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) -- After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into a submerged ferry off South Korea's southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to 49, officials said.

More than 250 people are still missing, most of them high school students on a holiday trip, and anguished families are furious with the pace of rescue efforts. Divers had previously failed to enter the ferry, officials said, because of extremely strong currents and bad visibility due to foul weather. They have yet to find any survivors in the ship.

The penetration by divers into the ferry follows the arrest of the captain on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

Beginning late Saturday, when divers broke a window, and continuing into Sunday, multiple teams of divers have found various routes into the ferry, discovering bodies in different spots, coast guard official Koh Myung-seok said at a briefing. Thirteen bodies had been found in the ship, and three others were found floating outside, said coast guard official Kim Jin-cheol.

Meanwhile, on an island near the submerged ferry, about 200 police in neon jackets blocked about 100 relatives of missing passengers who'd been walking on a main road in an effort, they said, to travel to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to voice their complaints to the president.

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Everest search teams recover body of 13th Sherpa killed in mountain's deadliest avalanche

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

Another three guides remained missing, and searchers were working quickly to find them in case weather conditions deteriorated, said Maddhu Sunan Burlakoti, head of the Nepalese government's mountaineering department. But the painstaking effort involved testing the strength of newly fallen snow and using extra clamps, ropes and aluminum ladders to navigate the treacherous Khumbu icefall, a maze of immense ice chunks and crevasses.

The avalanche slammed into the guides at about 6:30 a.m. Friday near the "popcorn field," a section of the Khumbu known for its bulging chunks of ice. The group of about 25 Sherpa guides were among the first people making their way up the mountain this climbing season. They were hauling gear to the higher camps that their foreign clients would use in attempting to reach the summit next month.

One of the survivors told his relatives that the path had been unstable just before the snow slide hit at an elevation near 5,800 meters (19,000 feet). The area is considered particularly dangerous due to its steep slope and deep crevasses that cut through the snow and ice covering the pass year round.

As soon as the avalanche occurred, rescuers, guides and climbers rushed to help, and all other climbing was suspended.

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Federal documents: GM delayed power steering recall despite thousands of consumer complaints

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repair claims, according to government documents released Saturday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government's auto safety watchdog, also didn't seek a recall of the compact car from the 2004 through 2007 model years even though it opened an investigation more than two years ago and found 12 crashes and two injuries caused by the problem.

The documents, posted on the agency's website, show yet another delay by GM in recalling unsafe vehicles and point to another example of government safety regulators reacting slowly to a safety problem despite being alerted by consumers and through warranty data submitted by the company.

A recall can be initiated by an automaker or demanded by the government.

Both GM and NHTSA have been criticized by safety advocates and lawmakers for their slow responses to a deadly ignition switch problem in 2.6 million GM small cars. GM admitted knowing about the problem for more than a decade, yet didn't start recalling the cars until February. The company says it knows of 13 deaths in crashes linked to the ignition switches, but family members of crash victims say the number is much higher.

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Working on the roof of the world: Mount Everest, the Sherpas, poverty and danger

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.

But they couldn't get there quickly enough. No one can move that fast. Not even the people who have spent their lives in Everest's shadow, and who have spent years working on the world's highest peak.

By Saturday evening, the bodies of 13 Sherpa guides had been taken from the mountain. Three more were missing, though few held out hope that they were still alive, 36 hours after Friday's avalanche. Four survivors had been flown to hospitals in Katmandu, Nepal's capital, where they were in stable condition. It was the deadliest disaster ever on Mount Everest.

For the Sherpas, the once-obscure mountain people whose name has become synonymous with Everest, and whose entire culture has been changed by decades of working as guides and porters for wealthy foreigners, it was a brutal reminder of the risks they face.

Many gathered Saturday at the Boudha Monastery in Katmandu, where prayers were said for the dead.

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East Ukraine insurgents prepare for Easter, fortify barricades

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine on Saturday prepared to celebrate Orthodox Easter at barricades outside government offices seized in nearly a dozen cities, despite an international agreement to disarm and free the premises.

In Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, a co-chairman of the self-appointed Donetsk People's Republic, which is demanding broader regional powers and closer ties to Russia, vowed that insurgents will continue occupying government offices until the new pro-Western Kiev government is dismissed.

"We will leave only after the Kiev junta leaves," Pushilin told the Associated Press outside the occupied regional administration building. "First Kiev, then Donetsk."

Nearby, retiree Ksenia Shuleyko, 65, was handing out pieces of home-made Easter raisin cake, traditionally served for Orthodox Easter. Speaking from a red tent, decorated with a red hammer-and-sickle Soviet Union flag, Shuleyko expressed hope that Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula last month, would also wield influence in the Donetsk region near the border with Russia, known as the Donbass.

"We believe in Russia. It helped Crimea, it will also help the Donbass," Shuleyko said. "God will help those who believe and we do believe." Moments later, she performed a patriotic Soviet-era song together with other demonstrators and could not contain tears.

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4 French journalists abducted in Syria freed, safely in Turkey while others remain held

PARIS (AP) -- Ten months after their capture in Syria, four French journalists crossed the border into neighboring Turkey and reached freedom Saturday, though dozens more remain held in the country's chaotic civil war.

Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres -- all said to be in good health -- were freed over the weekend in unclear circumstances in what has become the world's most dangerous, and deadliest, conflict for journalists.

"We are very happy to be free ... and it's very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to ... speak freely," said Francois, a noted war correspondent for Europe 1 radio, in footage recorded by the private Turkish news agency DHA. Smiling broadly, he thanked Turkish authorities for their help.

French President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement that he felt "immense relief" over the release despite the "very trying conditions" of their captivity.

Elias, a freelance photographer, also was working for Europe 1 radio. Henin and Torres are freelance journalists.

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Governor: Locking down Boston amid search for bombing suspect was 'tough' but correct call

BOSTON (AP) -- Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Gov. Deval Patrick received a call in the pre-dawn hours from a top aide telling him that police officers outside the city had just engaged in a ferocious gun battle with the two men suspected of setting the bombs and that one was dead and the other had fled.

Within hours, Patrick shut down the region's public transportation system and made an extraordinary request of more than 1 million greater Boston residents:

Shelter in place.

And for the better part of April 19, 2013, nearly everyone did.

On what otherwise would be a normal weekday, people stayed home. Stores in Boston were shuttered, streets deserted and an eerie silence prevailed while authorities searched for the suspect and attempted to cut off escape routes.

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San Francisco Chinatown probe led by FBI undercover agents leads to entrapment claims

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The FBI used millions of dollars, liquor and cigarettes seized in other cases and more than a dozen undercover operatives in an elaborate, seven-year sting operation targeting a San Francisco Chinatown association thought to be a front for a notorious organized crime syndicate.

The agents, posing as honest businessmen and a Mafia figure, spent freely and aggressively offered their targets criminal schemes, leading to the indictment of 29 people -- including state Sen. Leland Yee -- on charges that included money laundering, public corruption and gun trafficking.

The agents' behavior has already become a central issue in the month-old case, with defense lawyers arguing that the FBI entrapped otherwise honest people by luring them into criminal schemes hatched by the government.

It's an argument numerous suspected terrorists, politicians and others have made when caught in a government sting.

But legal experts say the entrapment defense rarely works. Sting targets have to prove much more than simply the government made them do it. They have to show they weren't predisposed to committing the criminal acts proposed by undercover agents.

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Woman who says she was cured by pope becomes Costa Rica celebrity, attends 4 Masses daily

TRES RIOS, Costa Rica (AP) -- On a warm spring day, Floribeth Mora was in her bed waiting to die from a seemingly inoperable brain aneurysm when her gaze fell upon a photograph of Pope John Paul II in a newspaper.

"Stand up," Mora recalls the image of the pope saying to her. "Don't be afraid."

Mora, her doctors and the Catholic Church say her aneurysm disappeared that day in a miracle that cleared the way for the late pope to be declared a saint on April 27 in a ceremony at the Vatican where Mora will be a guest of honor.

For Mora, the church-certified miracle was only the start of her metamorphosis from an ill and desperate woman into an adored symbol of faith for thousands of Costa Ricans and Catholics around the world.

Mora, 50, has been greeting a stream of local and international visitors in her modest home in a middle-class neighborhood outside the Costa Rican capital, and accepts invitations to as many as four Masses a day. The faithful have given her so many letters to deliver to current pontiff Pope Francis that she has had to buy an extra suitcase.

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Atlanta takes high road, rolling past Pacers 101-93 for 1-0 lead in East

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jeff Teague scored a playoff career-high 28 points and Paul Millsap added 25 as eighth-seeded Atlanta rolled past top-seeded Indiana 101-93 on Saturday night, taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Hawks ended an eight-game road losing streak in the playoffs, which dated to May 2011. Game 2 is Tuesday in Indianapolis.

Indiana, which spent the whole season working to get home-court advantage in the playoffs, wasted no time in giving it right back with a dismal third quarter. Paul George finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Atlanta opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run, breaking a 50-50 tie, then pulled away when Teague scored nine points in a 14-0 run that made it 74-58 with 4:08 left in the quarter. Indiana couldn't get closer than eight the rest of the way.

It was a fitting twist to open the best-of-seven series.