Saturday, April 26, 2014

Published:

SKorean PM offers to resign over ferry sinking, speaks of 'deep-rooted evils' in society

JINDO, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea's prime minister offered to resign Sunday over the government's handling of a deadly ferry sinking, blaming "deep-rooted evils" and societal irregularities for a tragedy that has left more than 300 people dead or missing and led to widespread shame, fury and finger-pointing.

The resignation offer comes amid rising indignation over claims by the victims' relatives that the government didn't do enough to rescue or to protect their loved ones. Most of the missing and dead were high school students on a school trip. Officials have taken into custody all 15 people involved in navigating the ferry that sank April 16, a prosecutor said.

South Korean executive power is largely concentrated in the president, Park Geun-hye, so the resignation offer by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won appears to be largely symbolic. There was no immediate word from Park about whether she would accept Chung's resignation.

Chung was heckled by relatives and his car was blocked when he visited a shelter on an island near the site of the sinking a week ago. On Sunday, he issued an extraordinary statement to reporters in Seoul on the national tragedy.

"As I saw grieving families suffering with the pain of losing their loved ones and the sadness and resentment of the public, I thought I should take all responsibility as prime minister," Chung said. "There have been so many varieties of irregularities that have continued in every corner of our society and practices that have gone wrong. I hope these deep-rooted evils get corrected this time and this kind of accident never happens again."

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While in Asia, Obama carefully calibrates messages to China, trying to both counter and court

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- President Barack Obama is hopscotching through China's neighborhood with a carefully calibrated message for Beijing, trying both to counter and court.

During visits to U.S. allies, Obama has signaled that American military power can blunt Chinese aggression in the Asia-Pacific region, even as he urges Beijing to use its growing clout to help resolve international disputes with Russia and North Korea.

The dual tracks underscore Beijing's outsized importance to Obama's four-country swing through Asia, even though China is absent from his itinerary.

The president opened a long-awaited visit to Malaysia on Saturday, following stops in Japan and South Korea, and ahead of a visit to the Philippines. On a hot and muggy Sunday morning, the president padded through the National Mosque of Malaysia in black socks, removing his shoes in keeping with protocol, and stopped for a few moments in a prayer room with his head bowed.

Obama's trip comes at a tense time for the region, where China's aggressive stance in territorial disputes has its smaller neighbors on edge.

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As West plans more Russia sanctions, military observers held by insurgency in eastern Ukraine

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) -- As Western governments vowed to impose more sanctions against Russia and its supporters in eastern Ukraine, a group of foreign military observers remained in captivity Saturday accused of being NATO spies by a pro-Russian insurgency.

The German-led, eight-member team was traveling under the auspices of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe when they were detained Friday.

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed "people's mayor" of Slovyansk, described the detained observers as "captives" and said that they were officers from NATO member states.

"As we found maps on them containing information about the location of our checkpoints, we get the impression that they are officers carrying out a certain spying mission," Ponomarev said, adding they could be released in exchange for jailed pro-Russian activists.

Outside Slovyansk, a city about 150 kilometers (90 miles) west of Russia, Ukraine government forces continued operations to form a security cordon as it attempts to quell unrest threatening to derail the planned May 25 presidential election.

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Vatican: retired Pope Benedict to help Francis celebrate sainthood ceremony for 2 pontiffs

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Retired pontiff Benedict XVI will help Pope Francis celebrate the sainthood ceremony Sunday for John Paul II and John XXIII, setting the stage for an unprecedented occurrence of two living popes canonizing two of their predecessors. About 1 million pilgrims are expected at the event and many were flooding into Rome on Saturday.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters on Saturday that Benedict will be in St. Peter's Square for the canonization of John and John Paul. He said Benedict and many cardinals will "concelebrate" the Mass with Francis.

Benedict resigned from the papacy a year ago, and since has largely dedicated himself to prayer in a monastery on the Vatican grounds. Sunday's appearance will be his highest-profile one since he retired. Francis, who lives elsewhere in Vatican City, in a guesthouse, has been quite welcoming to his predecessor, occasionally paying a call on Benedict. It was Francis who sought to include Benedict in Sunday's ceremony, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists and pilgrims.

"Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the invitation, and has let Pope Francis know that he will be present tomorrow morning at the canonization ceremony and will concelebrate" along with other prelates, Lombardi said.

"That doesn't mean that he will go up on the altar" on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, Lombardi said of the outdoor Mass. He noted that during the ceremony, cardinals and bishops will be seated on one side of the esplanade, with, presumably, Benedict, among them.

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NBA investigating recording said to be of Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racial remarks

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Anger, frustration and calls for action echoed around the NBA on Saturday after an audio recording surfaced of a man identified as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.

Everybody except for the embattled Clippers owner, who has a decades-long history of alleged discrimination and offensive behavior, seemed to have a response.

The league said it was investigating the recording posted on TMZ's website, calling the comments "disturbing and offensive." Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, a target of Sterling's remarks, said he wouldn't attend Clippers' games as long as Sterling was the owner. Miami Heat star LeBron James asked new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to take aggressive measures, saying "there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league."

"Obviously, if the reports are true it's unacceptable in our league," James said. "It doesn't matter, white, black or Hispanic -- all across the races it's unacceptable. As the commissioner of our league they have to make a stand. They have to be very aggressive with it. I don't know what it will be, but we can't have that in our league."

Silver spoke Saturday night in Memphis, Tenn., before the Grizzlies' game against Oklahoma City, repeating that the league finds the audio tape "disturbing and offensive" and that Sterling agreed to not attend the Clippers' game Sunday at Golden State.

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Helicopter crash kills 5 NATO troops in Afghanistan; deadliest day this year for alliance

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A British helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing five NATO troops in the single deadliest day this year for foreign forces as they prepare to withdraw from the country, officials said.

The British defense ministry confirmed that all five of the dead were British. Maj. Gen. Richard Felton, commander of the Joint Helicopter Command, said the crash appeared to be "a tragic accident."

In Kabul, an Afghan university official identified two Americans killed by a local policeman at a hospital in the capital earlier this week. The shooting was the latest by a member of Afghanistan's security forces against those they are supposed to protect.

The cause of the helicopter crash was not immediately known. Kandahar provincial police spokesman Zia Durrani said the aircraft went down in the province's Takhta Pul district in the southeast, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Pakistani border.

The coalition said it was investigating the circumstances of the crash but said it had no reports of enemy activity in the area.

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Lawyer: Suspect in girl's fatal stabbing on day of junior prom is under psychiatric evaluation

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A teenager charged with stabbing a fellow high school student to death on the day of their junior prom is being held in a hospital under psychiatric evaluation where he will likely remain for two weeks, one of his attorneys said Saturday.

The name of the 16-year-old suspect was not officially released but people who saw him taken into custody identified him as Chris Plaskon, a friend of the victim's and an athlete described as genial and respectful.

Plaskon is accused of stabbing to death Maren Sanchez, 16, in the hallway of Jonathan Law High School in Milford. The attack occurred Friday morning, hours before the school's junior prom, and authorities were investigating whether Sanchez was stabbed after turning down his invitation to the dance.

The suspect, who is charged as a juvenile offender, will not appear at an arraignment scheduled for Monday in New Haven, attorney Richard Meehan said. The hospital commitment can last for up to 15 days, according to Meehan. He said doctors typically order such involuntary commitments in cases where someone in custody is considered a danger to himself.

Meehan said the suspect's family is also reeling from the attack.

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Cast as tax evaders, but deciding to give up US citizenship as much for life as wealth

Inside the long-awaited package, six pages of government paperwork dryly affirmed Carol Tapanila's anxious request. But when Tapanila slipped the contents from the brown envelope, she saw there was something more.

"We the people...." declared the script inside her U.S. passport -- now with four holes punched through it from cover to cover. Her departure from life as an American was stamped final on the same page: "Bearer Expatriated Self."

With the envelope's arrival, Tapanila, a native of upstate New York who has lived in Canada since 1969, joined a largely overlooked surge of Americans rejecting what is, to millions, a highly sought prize: U.S. citizenship. Last year, the U.S. government reported a record 2,999 people renounced citizenship or terminated permanent residency; most are widely assumed to be driven by a desire to avoid paying taxes on hidden wealth.

The reality, though, is more complicated. The government's pursuit of tax evaders among Americans living abroad is indeed driving the jump in abandoned citizenship, experts say. But renouncers -- whose ranks have swelled more than five-fold from a decade ago -- often contradict the stereotype of the financial scoundrel. Many are from very ordinary economic circumstances.

Some call themselves "accidental Americans," who recall little of life in the U.S., but long ago happened to be born in it. Others say they renounced because of politics, family or personal identity. Some say signing away citizenship was a huge relief. Others recall being sickened by the decision.

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Diggers find hundreds of decades-old Atari 'E.T.' and other game cartridges in a landfill

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) -- A decades-old urban legend was put to rest Saturday when workers for a documentary film production company recovered "E.T." Atari game cartridges from a heap of garbage buried deep in the New Mexico desert.

The "Atari grave" was, until that moment, a highly debated tale among gaming enthusiasts and other self-described geeks for 30 years. The story claimed that in its death throes, the video game company sent about a dozen truckloads of cartridges of what many call the worst video game ever to be forever hidden in a concrete-covered landfill in southeastern New Mexico.

The search for the cartridges of a game that contributed to the demise of Atari will be featured in an upcoming documentary about the biggest video game company of the early '80s.

As a backhoe scattered a huge scoop of 30-year-old trash and dirt over the sand, the film crew spotted boxes and booklets carrying the Atari logo. Soon after, a game cartridge turned up, then another and another.

Film director Zak Penn showed assembled gaming fans one cartridge retrieved from the site and said that hundreds more were in the surrounding mounds of garbage.

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Carter's buzzer-beating 3-pointer helps Mavs keep home-court edge on Spurs with 109-108 win

DALLAS (AP) -- Vince Carter knew right away the exact date of the last time he had a buzzer-beating try in a playoff game -- 13 years ago.

It's seared in the memory of the 16-year veteran because he missed that one. He was on target Saturday.

Carter hit a double-pump 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Dallas Mavericks a 109-108 victory in Game 3 and a first-round series lead over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.

With 1.7 seconds left, Carter took an inbound pass from Jose Calderon in the left corner. After a quick pump fake got Manu Ginobili in the air -- moments after the Argentine guard had given the Spurs the lead -- Carter released the ball just in time.

He strutted stone-faced toward Dirk Nowitzki, who was waving his arms wildly as he jumped on Carter. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban joined the celebration on the court before the automatic review confirmed the obvious: The shot was good.