EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 5, 2014

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Ukraine says government troops making advances

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Authorities in Ukraine on Sunday said government forces reclaimed a television tower during a security operation to quell pro-Russian rebel activity in the eastern town of Kramatorsk.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement on his Facebook page that a new assault to reclaim control over the town by the National Guard and armed forces began at dawn.

The city saw a standoff Saturday that culminated in insurgents setting buses alight to ward off attacks. Russian state television has reported 10 deaths, including two among government forces, during clashes in Kramatorsk so far. Those figures could not be independently confirmed.

At least 12 government armored personnel carriers were spotted driving through the town Saturday, although they appeared to have returned to their base at a military airfield on the edge of the city by day’s end.

Efforts to counteract the insurgency have focused mostly on the nearby town of Slovyansk; authorities are currently seeking to form a security cordon around that city.

South Korea ferry that sank was regularly overloaded

INCHEON, South Korea (AP) — The doomed ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips — nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo — in the 13 months before it sank, according to documents that reveal the regulatory failures that allowed passengers by the hundreds to set off on an unsafe vessel. And it may have been more overloaded than ever on its final journey.

One private, industry-connected entity recorded the weights. Another set the weight limit. Neither appears to have had any idea what the other was doing. And they are but two parts of a maritime system that failed passengers April 16 when the ferry sank, leaving more than 300 people missing or dead.

The disaster has exposed enormous safety gaps in South Korea’s monitoring of domestic passenger ships, which is in some ways less rigorous than its rules for ships that handle only cargo. Collectively, the country’s regulators held more than enough information to conclude that the Sewol was routinely overloaded, but because they did not share that data and were not required to do so, it was practically useless.

The Korean Register of Shipping examined the Sewol early last year as it was being redesigned to handle more passengers. The register slashed the ship’s cargo capacity by more than half, to 987 tons, and said the vessel needed to carry more than 2,000 tons of water to stay balanced.

But the register gave its report only to the ship owner, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd. Neither the coast guard nor the Korean Shipping Association, which regulates and oversees departures and arrivals of domestic passenger ships, appear to have had any knowledge of the new limit before the disaster.

SC Sen. Graham avoids big names in re-election bid

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Here’s how Sen. Lindsey Graham is navigating through six challengers in South Carolina’s Republican primary: goodwill, shrewd politics and nearly $7 million in campaign cash.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney was thought to be a credible challenger in the June 10 primary, until Graham inspired House leaders to give Mulvaney a seat on the House Financial Services Committee. Mulvaney opted against challenging the two-term senator.

A hacking episode resulted in the theft of South Carolina taxpayers’ personal information and a public relations problem for Gov. Nikki Haley, also up for re-election this year. Graham advised her on the situation, and now she has better poll numbers than he does.

Not long ago, Graham looked vulnerable to a primary challenge from conservatives offended by his bipartisan dealmaking and votes for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. Tea party challenges ousted GOP incumbents in the past two elections, and, some believe, prevented the party from regaining the Senate.

But Graham’s power and shrewdness, not to mention the intimidating $7 million treasury, have positioned him to cruise to the nomination and likely re-election in November. He’s benefited from the support of establishment Republicans and allied groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce focused on gaining the six seats the GOP needs to retake the Senate.

At reporters’ dinner, comedian in chief takes center stage

WASHINGTON (AP) — From the bungled rollout of “Obamacare” to New Jersey gridlock to the hue of John Boehner’s tan, all was fair game for President Barack Obama and his spirited but pointed humor when he took center stage as comedian in chief.

At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, Obama observed that the House speaker’s fellow Republicans have lately been as critical of Boehner as they’ve been of him.

“Which proves that orange really is the new black,” Obama said to roars of laughter.

“We rolled out healthcare.gov. That could have gone better,” Obama said, poking a little fun at himself and his administration. “In 2008 my slogan was ‘Yes we can.’ In 2013 my slogan was ‘Control-alt-delete.’”

On the plus side, the president said, “they did turn the launch of healthcare.gov into one of the year’s biggest movies.” On a screen flashed the poster for “Frozen.”

With win, California Chrome rises from humble beginnings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A horse with a humble pedigree. A couple of working stiff owners. A 77-year-old trainer with his first Kentucky Derby horse.

Even Hollywood couldn’t have made this up.

California Chrome made it look easy on Saturday, pulling away down the stretch to win the Derby by 1 3/4 lengths.

In a sport dominated by wealthy owners and regally bred horses from Kentucky’s bluegrass country, this was a victory for the little guys. Owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn bred an $8,000 mare to a $2,500 stallion to produce the winner of the world’s most famous race with their one-horse stable.

“This is just a dream come true and a great birthday present,’” said Coburn, who turned 61 on Saturday.

Condoleezza Rice backs out of delivering Rutgers commencement address after student protests

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed out of delivering the commencement address at Rutgers University following protests by some faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War.

Rice said in a statement Saturday that she informed Rutgers President Robert Barchi that she was declining the invitation to speak at the graduation.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

The school’s board of governors had voted to pay $35,000 to the former secretary of state under President George W. Bush and national security adviser for her appearance at the May 18 ceremony. Rutgers was also planning to bestow Rice with an honorary doctorate.

But some students and faculty at New Jersey’s flagship university had protested, staging sit-ins and saying Rice bore some responsibility for the Iraq War as a member of the Bush administration. Barchi and other school leaders had resisted the calls to disinvite Rice, saying the university welcomes open discourse on controversial topics.