Benghazi attack: State Department pushed for changes in the administration's talking points
WASHINGTON (AP) — Political considerations influenced the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used five days after the deadly Sept. 11 assault in Benghazi, Libya, with State Department and other senior administration officials asking that references to terror groups and prior warnings be deleted, according to department emails.
The latest disclosures Friday raised new questions about whether the Obama administration tried to play down any terrorist factor in the attack on a diplomatic compound just weeks before the November presidential election. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when insurgents struck the U.S. mission in two nighttime attacks.
The White House has insisted that it made only a "stylistic" change to the intelligence agency talking points from which Rice suggested on five Sunday talk shows that demonstrations over an anti-Islamic video devolved into the Benghazi attack.
Numerous agencies had engaged in an email discussion about the talking points that would be provided to members of Congress and to Rice for their public comments. In one email, then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland worried about the effect of openly discussing earlier warnings about the dangers of Islamic extremists in Benghazi.
Nuland's email said such revelations "could be abused by members of Congress to beat the State Department for not paying attention to (central intelligence) agency warnings," according to a congressional official who reviewed the 100 pages of emails.
IRS apologizes for inappropriately targeting conservative political groups in 2012 election
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their exemption applications, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
The agency — led at the time by a Bush administration appointee — blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware. But that wasn't good enough for Republicans in Congress, who are conducting several investigations and asked for more.
"I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declared it was indeed inappropriate for the IRS to target tea party groups. But he brushed aside questions about whether the White House itself would investigate.
'I never dreamed I'd see the daylight again': Woman rescued after 17 days in Bangladesh ruins
SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — For 17 days, the seamstress lay trapped in a dark basement pocket beneath thousands of tons of wreckage as temperatures outside climbed into the mid-90s F. She rationed food and water. She banged a pipe to attract attention. She was fast losing hope of ever making it out alive.
In the ruins of the collapsed eight-store garment factory building above her, the frantic rescue operation had long ago ended. It had turned instead into a grim search for the decaying bodies of the more than 1,000 people killed in the world's worst garment industry disaster.
"No one heard me. It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I'd see the daylight again," the seamstress, Reshma Begum, told Somoy TV from her hospital bed after her astonishing rescue on Friday.
The miraculous moment came when salvage workers finally heard Begum's banging. They pulled her to safety. She was in shockingly good condition, wearing a violet outfit with a large, bright pink scarf.
"I heard her say, 'I am alive, please save me.' I gave her water. She was OK," said Miraj Hossain, a volunteer who crawled through the debris to help cut Begum free.
Criminal investigation in Texas plant explosion; officials haven't linked paramedic's arrest
WACO, Texas (AP) — Texas law enforcement officials on Friday launched a criminal investigation into the massive fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people last month, after weeks of largely treating the blast as an industrial accident.
The announcement came the same day federal agents said they found bomb-making materials belonging to a paramedic who helped evacuate residents the night of the explosion. Bryce Reed was arrested early Friday on a charge of possessing a destructive device, but law enforcement officials said they had not linked the charge to the April 17 fire and blast at West Fertilizer Co.
"It is important to emphasize that at this point, no evidence has been uncovered to indicate any connection to the events surrounding the fire and subsequent explosion ... and the arrest of Bryce Reed by the ATF," the McLennan County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
Texas Department of Public Safety said earlier Friday that the agency had instructed the Texas Rangers and the sheriff's department to conduct a criminal probe into the explosion. The agencies will join the State Fire Marshall's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which have been leading the investigation and never ruled out that a crime may have been committed.
"This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered," DPS Director Steven McCraw said.
Cleveland suspect had a terrifying violent streak, relatives say; 'He was really controlling'
CLEVELAND (AP) — The mannequin was life-sized, with a mop-like wig and creepy, slanted eyes. Ariel Castro kept it propped against a wall of his house and liked to use it to scare people. Sometimes he drove around town with it in the back seat of his car.
"He threatened me lots of times with it," said Castro's nephew, 26-year-old Angel Caraballo, who was terrified of his uncle as a little boy and unnerved by him as an adult. "He would say: 'Act up again, you'll be in that back room with the mannequin.'"
Castro installed padlocks on every door leading into his dilapidated home on Seymour Avenue. He kept the basement bolted shut, too. When relatives showed up at his front door, he made them wait for half an hour before emerging, and nobody was ever allowed past the living room.
"He had told me to stay in the kitchen," said Elida Marie Caraballo, Castro's niece, who was at his house about seven years ago with Castro's daughter Rosie. "I didn't know why."
In the days since Castro's arrest on charges of keeping three women imprisoned in his home for a decade, relatives and acquaintances have sketched a portrait of him as a man with a twisted sense of humor, a compulsion for secrecy and a towering, terrifying rage that led him to savagely beat, torment and control his common-law wife, Grimilda Figueroa.
Newtown panel recommends tearing down Sandy Hook elementary, rebuilding on same site
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A task force of elected officials in Newtown on Friday recommended tearing down Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 first-graders and six educators were killed in December, and rebuilding on the same site.
The group of 28 town elected officials voted unanimously in favor of a plan that would construct a new building in the same location as the existing school. The proposal now goes to the local school board and then before voters as a referendum.
Parent Daniel Krauss, whose daughter is a second-grader, said he was pleased by the panel's recommendation.
"It's been a place for learning, for kids to grow up and it's going to go back to that," he said.
The panel had previously narrowed a list of choices to renovating or rebuilding on the school site or building a new school on property down the street. A study found building a new school on the existing site would cost $57 million.
Boston Marathon bombing suspect buried in Virginia, upsetting some nearby residents
DOSWELL, Va. (AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in a cemetery in central Virginia, infuriating some members of the area's Islamic community who say they weren't consulted and flooring at least one neighbor who said she didn't even know she lived near a burial ground.
The secret interment this week at a small Islamic cemetery ended a frustrating search for a community willing to take the body, which had been kept at a funeral parlor in Worcester, Mass., as cemeteries in Massachusetts and several other states refused to accept the remains.
Tsarnaev, 26, was killed April 19 in a getaway attempt after a gun battle with police. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured later and remains in custody. They are accused of setting off two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs April 15 near the marathon finish line, an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.
Their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., took responsibility for the body after Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell, said she wanted it released to her in-laws. He said his nephew was buried in a cemetery in Doswell with the help of a faith coalition.
"The body's buried," said the uncle. "That's it."
For first time in 2 million years, levels of chief greenhouse gas hit 400 parts per million
WASHINGTON (AP) — Worldwide levels of the chief greenhouse gas that causes global warming have hit a milestone, reaching an amount never before encountered by humans, federal scientists said Friday.
Carbon dioxide was measured at 400 parts per million at the oldest monitoring station which is in Hawaii sets the global benchmark. The last time the worldwide carbon level was probably that high was about 2 million years ago, said Pieter Tans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
That was during the Pleistocene Era. "It was much warmer than it is today," Tans said. "There were forests in Greenland. Sea level was higher, between 10 and 20 meters (33 to 66 feet)."
Other scientists say it may have been 10 million years ago that Earth last encountered this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The first modern humans only appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago.
The measurement was recorded Thursday and it is only a daily figure, the monthly and yearly average will be smaller. The number 400 has been anticipated by climate scientists and environmental activists for years as a notable indicator, in part because it's a round number — not because any changes in man-made global warming happen by reaching it.
Slayer: Guitarist Jeff Hanneman died of alcohol-related cirrhosis; death not spider-related
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Members of Slayer say Jeff Hanneman died of alcohol-related cirrhosis.
The guitarist died last week at a hospital in Hemet, Calif., at age 49. It was initially theorized that Hanneman's death might have had something to do with a suspected spider bite that led to a case of necrotizing fasciitis, nearly costing him his arm.
The band disclosed Hanneman's cause of death on its website Thursday, and a publicist said Friday the determination was made by his attending physician. She did not know the doctor's name.
The statement says Hanneman was not aware of the extent of damage to his liver until his last days.
The band also says it is planning a public celebration of Hanneman's life later this month with details to come.
New Rutgers basketball coach Jordan doesn't have degree, though school's bio says he does
New Rutgers basketball coach Eddie Jordan is not a graduate of the university as the school had claimed, another embarrassment for an athletic program still smarting from the firing of previous coach Mike Rice.
Jordan's biography on the athletic department's website says he earned a degree in health and physical education in 1977. But the registrar's office at the university says the former NBA player and coach never graduated from Rutgers, though he earned 103 credit hours from 1973 to 1985.
The degree discrepancy was first reported Friday by the sports website Deadspin, resulting in an admission of error later in the day.
A statement released by the athletic communications office said: "While Rutgers was in error when it reported that Eddie Jordan had earned a degree from Rutgers University, neither Rutgers nor the NCAA requires a head coach to hold a baccalaureate degree."
A second statement from the university also defended the Scarlet Knights' new coach.