Runaway oil train brings destruction, grief to close-knit Quebec town
LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) — It was surely the most festive spot in town as a Friday night turned into a Saturday morning at the Musi-Cafe - a full house, live music, plenty of beer and nachos to animate long-time friends.
Among the dozens enjoying themselves in the pub was a sizable contingent of the Lafontaine clan, celebrating the 40th birthday of a daughter of prominent local businessman Raymond Lafontaine.
Four days later - having lost a son and two daughters-in-law who were among the revelers - Lafontaine stood near a throng of reporters on a street near the town center, watching them pepper an American railroad executive with questions.
“I wanted to see my children’s killer,” Lafontaine said. “And I wanted to see the killer of other people from here who didn’t ask to die.”
Any possible culpability on the part of the railway remains to be determined; police say their criminal investigation will proceed slowly and carefully. But it is fact that an unmanned Montreal, Maine and Atlantic freight train with 72 cars carrying shale oil turned into a runaway death machine - rolling away from its overnight parking spot, barreling for miles down an incline in the dark of night, derailing in the heart of Lac-Megantic at 1:14 a.m. on July 6, and snuffing out 50 lives when a series of explosions set off a ferocious fire.
ID emerges of third Chinese girl to die from injuries in jetliner crash
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The name of a girl who died of injuries suffered in the crash-landing of an Asiana Airlines flight in San Francisco emerged on Saturday.
San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault confirmed 15-year-old Liu Yipeng’s identity and said the girl was still in her seat when she was rescued last week. Chinese state media said she went to school with the other two victims killed in last week’s accident, a pair of 16-year-old girls.
Foucrault said Liu Yipeng was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with head injuries after the July 6 crash. She died Friday morning at San Francisco General Hospital where she had been in critical condition. An autopsy was being conducted on Saturday, the coroner said.
Liu Yipeng’s identification comes a day after her death was announced amid the official confirmation that one of the other girls who died in the disaster had been covered on the runway in flame-retardant foam and hit by a fire truck speeding to the crash site, a disclosure that raised the tragic possibility she could have survived the crash only to die in its chaotic aftermath.
Police and fire officials confirmed Friday that Ye Meng Yuan was hit by a fire truck racing to extinguish the blazing Boeing 777.
Russian official says no asylum application received from Snowden
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian immigration officials said Saturday they have not received an application from Edward Snowden, the U.S. National Security Agency leaker who wants to get asylum in Russia.
Snowden came to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport on June 23 from Hong Kong, apparently intending to board a flight to Cuba. But he did not get on that flight and is believed to have spent the last three weeks marooned in the airport’s transit zone.
On Friday, he met with human rights activists there and said he would seek Russian asylum, at least as a temporary measure before going to Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua, all of which have offered him asylum.
But the Interfax news agency quoted Russian migration service head Konstantin Romodanovsky as saying no asylum request had been received as of Saturday. The state news agency RIA Novosti cited migration service spokeswoman, Zalina Kornilova, as also saying no request had been received.
Snowden had made a previous bid for Russian asylum, but President Vladimir Putin said he would have to agree to stop further leaks of information about American intelligence service activities before it would be considered. Snowden withdrew the bid, but participants in Friday’s meeting said he was now ready to agree to stop leaks.
Homeland Security secretary resignation highlights senior leadership gap
WASHINGTON (AP) — The leadership vacancy created by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s resignation is the latest and greatest blow to a department where one-third of the heads of key agencies and divisions have been filled with acting officials or remained vacant for months.
Napolitano’s departure, slated for September, will create the 15th hole in the department’s 45 leadership positions. Napolitano’s chief of staff and the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement are leaving this month. The deputy secretary, general counsel, heads of Customs and Border Protection, privacy, legislative affairs, intelligence and analysis and more are filled with acting officials. Other key positions, like the executive secretariat, inspector general and deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity remain vacant.
The pattern of putting acting officials in leadership positions at the Homeland Security Department — sometimes replacing acting officials with other acting officials — has been going on for months. This swath of vacancies raises questions about how a department depleted of permanent leadership could implement changes, particularly as Congress considers overhauling the nation’s immigration system.
“Her departure is a substantial addition to the growing list of unfilled key leadership positions within the department,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said of Napolitano’s resignation. “The administration should move swiftly to fill the gaping holes in its management.”
The White House referred a request for comment to the Homeland Security Department, which did not respond.
Iraq officials: Bomb blasts strike Sunni mosques in Baghdad, killing at least 21
BAGHDAD (AP) — Bombs exploded outside two Sunni mosques in Baghdad late Saturday, killing at least 21 people leaving prayers and extending a wave of daily violence rippling across Iraq since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, authorities said.
A separate attack at a funeral northeast of the capital killed at least three others.
Police said the first Baghdad blast went off around 10 p.m. near the gate of the Khalid bin al-Walid mosque in the capital’s southern Dora neighborhood, a largely Sunni Muslim area. It struck just after the end of special late-evening prayers held during Ramadan.
At least 16 people were killed and 31 were wounded, police said. A hospital official confirmed the casualty toll.
Soon after, a car bomb exploded at another Sunni worship center, the Mullah Huwaish mosque, in the Hay al-Jami’a area in western Baghdad. That blast killed five and wounded 19, according to police and health officials.
Texas Republicans finally pass abortion limits delayed by filibuster
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Texas passed a bill that would give the state some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws and force most of its clinics to close, leading Democrats to promise a fight over the contentious measure in the courts and at the ballot box.
More than 2,000 demonstrators filled the Capitol building in Austin to voice their opposition to the bill, including six protesters who were dragged out of the Senate chamber by state troopers for trying to disrupt the debate. The Republican majority passed the bill unchanged late Friday — just before midnight — with all but one Democrat voting against it.
“Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life,” said Gov. Rick Perry, who will sign the bill into law in the next few days. “This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women’s health.”
Democrats promised a legal challenge to the measure, which will ban abortions after 20 weeks, require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions to take place in surgical centers. Only five of Texas’ 42 existing abortion clinics meet the requirements to be a surgical center, and clinic owners say they cannot afford to upgrade or relocate.
“There will be a lawsuit. I promise you,” Dallas Sen. Royce West said on the Senate floor, raising his right hand as if taking an oath.
Mandela’s long hospitalization sparks end-of-life discussions
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Sean Davison’s mother, a doctor, knew she faced an impending, painful death from cancer. Not willing to endure it, she chose to end her life by not eating. That attempt, Davison said, went terribly wrong.
“It went on for five weeks drinking a glass of water each day,” said Davison, a South African citizen by way of New Zealand. “She was decomposing. She couldn’t move any limb of her body, which is when I helped her, at her request, to end her life.”
End-of-life decisions have become a burning topic of discussion in South Africa, where former President Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized for five weeks, much of that time in critical condition.
A court filing late last month stated that Mandela was in a “permanent vegetative state” but that appears to have been either exaggerated or simply incorrect.
A report from the Mail and Guardian, a respected South African newspaper, said that the 94-year-old does not have a living will, meaning tricky end-of-life decisions could be left to a very fractured Mandela family.