Saturday, November 17, 2012

Published:

Coast Guard: Divers find body near Gulf oil rig that caught fire; 2 workers were missing

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Authorities say that divers hired by the owner of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico that caught fire on Friday have recovered a body near the site.

Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said the unidentified person was found Saturday evening by divers hired by Houston-based Black Elk Energy who were inspecting the platform. Vega said the Coast Guard was turning over the remains to local authorities.

The news came shortly after the Coast Guard suspended a 32-hour-long search for two workers missing after the fire erupted. The search covered a 1,400-square-foot area. Vega said the Guard could resume the search if there is credible evidence that one of the workers survived.

Four other workers who were severely burned remained at Baton Rouge General Medical Center on Saturday night.

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Israel broadens air assault on rocket operations in Gaza; shoots down rocket aimed at Tel Aviv

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel destroyed the headquarters of Hamas' prime minister and blasted a sprawling network of smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, broadening a blistering four-day-old offensive against the Islamic militant group even as diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire appeared to be gaining steam.

Hamas officials said a building used by Hamas for broadcasts was bombed and three people were injured. The injured were from Al Quds TV, a Lebanon-based television channel. The building is also used by foreign news outlets including Germany's ARD, Kuwait TV and the Italian RAI and others.

The Israeli military spokesman was not immediately aware of the strikes but said they were investigating.

In neighboring Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi hosted leaders from Hamas and two key allies, Qatar and Turkey, to seek a way to end the fighting.

"There are discussions about the ways to bring a cease-fire soon, but there are no guarantees until now," Morsi said at a news conference. He said he was working with Turkey, Arab countries, the U.S., Russia and western European countries to halt the fighting.

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After election setbacks, Republicans say Grand Old Party really needs to get with the times

WASHINGTON (AP) -- To hear some Republicans tell it, the Grand Old Party needs to get with the times.

Some of the early prescriptions offered by officials and operatives to rebuild after devastating elections: retool the party message to appeal to Latinos, women and working-class people; upgrade antiquated get-out-the-vote systems with the latest technology. Teach candidates how to handle the new media landscape.

From longtime GOP luminaries to the party's rising stars, almost everyone asked about the Republicans' Nov. 6 election drubbing seems to agree that a wholesale update is necessary for a party that appears to be running years behind Democrats in adapting to rapidly changing campaigns and an evolving electorate.

Interviews with more than a dozen Republicans at all levels of the party indicated that postelection soul-searching must quickly turn into a period of action.

"We've got to have a very brutally honest review from stem to stern of what we did and what we didn't do, and what worked and what failed," said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who ran the party in the 1990s.

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Gas drilling boom presents Obama with historic choices on jobs, energy, environment

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Energy companies, environmental groups, and even Hollywood stars are watching to see what decisions President Barack Obama makes about regulating or promoting natural gas drilling.

The stakes are huge. Business leaders don't want government regulations to slow the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of clean, cheap domestic energy over the next few decades. Environmental groups see that same tide as a potential threat, not just to air and water, but to renewable energy. And on a strategic level, diplomats envision a future when natural gas helps make the U.S. less beholden to imports.

Some say the unexpected drilling boom presents historic options -- and risks -- for the Obama administration.

"It's a tough choice. The president is in a real bind," said Charles Ebinger, director of the energy security initiative at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit. "I think the question is what does he want his legacy to be?"

Ebinger said that if Obama fully embraced the boom in gas drilling the nation could see "incredible" job gains that could lead to "a re-industrialization of America." Possibilities like that are tempting to any president, and perhaps even more so in the current economy.

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Investigators say railroad signals were activated before Texas veterans' float crossed track

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) -- A parade float filled with wounded veterans that was struck by a freight train had crossed onto the railroad tracks after warning signals were going off, investigators said Saturday.

Four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were killed and 16 more people were injured when the train crashed into the flatbed truck in West Texas.

It was the second of two floats carrying veterans in Thursday's parade in Midland. The first was exiting the tracks when the warning bells and signals were activated, 20 seconds before the accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The second float didn't enter the tracks until several seconds after the warning system went off, the NTSB said. By that time, the guardrail was lowering.

"Once the crossing becomes active, people should stop," lead investigator Robert Accetta with the NTSB said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

The timeline was pieced together by combining information from a video camera mounted on the front of the train, another one on a sheriff's car and a data recorder that acts like an airplane's black box, activating when the train blared the horn, NTSB member Mark Rosekind said.

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At least 48 Egyptian kindergarteners, 3 adults die when train hits school bus

ASSIUT, Egypt (AP) -- A speeding train that crashed into a bus carrying Egyptian children to their kindergarten on Saturday killed 51 and prompted a wave of anger against a government under mounting pressure to rectify the former regime's legacy of neglect.

The crash, which killed children between four and six years old and three adults, led to local protests and accusations from outraged Egyptians that President Mohammed Morsi is failing to deliver on the demands of last year's uprising for basic rights, dignity and social justice.

The accident left behind a mangled shell of a bus twisted underneath the blood-splattered train outside the city of Assiut, some 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Cairo. Children's body parts, their books, schoolbags and tiny socks were strewn along the tracks.

Um Ibrahim, a mother whose three children were on the bus, pulled her hair in grief. "My children! I didn't feed you before you left," she wailed in horror. A witness said the train pushed the bus along the tracks for nearly a kilometer (half a mile).

As one man picked up pieces of shattered limbs he screamed: "Only God can help!" More than a dozen injured children were being treated in two different facilities, many with severed limbs and in critical condition.

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Democrats taking tougher stance against trimming Medicare, Social Security programs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's re-election has stiffened Democrats' spine against cutting popular benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Their new resolve could become as big a hurdle to a deal that would skirt crippling tax increases and spending cuts in January as Republicans' resistance to raising tax rates on the wealthy.

Just last year, Obama and top Democrats were willing during budget negotiations with Republicans to take politically risky steps such as reducing the annual inflation adjustment to Social Security and raising the eligibility age for Medicare.

Now, with new leverage from Obama's big election victory and a playing field for negotiations that is more favorable in other ways, too, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats are taking a harder line.

"I've made it very clear. I've told anyone that will listen, including everyone in the White House, including the president, that I am not going to be part of having Social Security as part of these talks relating to this deficit," Reid, D-Nev., told reporters.

Reid's edict would appear to take a key proposal off the table as an ingredient for a deal on avoiding the "fiscal cliff," the year-end combination of expiring President George W. Bush-era tax cuts and harsh across-the-board spending cuts.

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With prescription for fellow Republicans, Rubio makes first trip to Iowa after Election Day

ALTOONA, Iowa (AP) -- Sen. Marco Rubio said the way to turn around the nation's struggling economy is not to raise taxes on the wealthiest individuals, but rather to make "poor people richer" as he visited this politically important state in a trip certain to stoke speculation about Rubio's plans.

Ostensibly, Rubio's visit to this early nominating state was for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's birthday party. But the political implications of Rubio's visit were clear from the start as the Republican Party looks ahead to 2016's presidential contest.

"For Gov. Branstad's birthday, his 66th," Rubio said, flashing a grin when asked what he was doing in the state.

But his birthday wishes for Branstad were more like a roadmap for his party looking for a new direction and an argument for a Rubio presidential campaign.

Lower taxes to spur economic growth. A compassionate immigration overhaul to help those who want to become Americans. Reduced regulation to let small businesses grow. Stronger families to give children more stability at home.

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Monkey dies from blow to head after break-in at Zoo Boise; police looking for 2 male suspects

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A break-in at Zoo Boise early Saturday left a Patas monkey dead from blunt force trauma to the head and neck and police were analyzing blood found at the scene to determine if it came from the monkey or one of two human intruders.

Two males wearing dark clothing were spotted by a security guard at 4:30 a.m. outside the fence near the primate exhibit, police said. Both fled, one of them heading into the interior of the zoo. Boise police used a thermal imager in searching the 11-acre zoo grounds but didn't find the person.

"I've been here for 15 years and we haven't had anything like this happen," Zoo Boise Director Steve Burns said. "It's unfortunate that we have to let kids know that something like this happens. Monkeys are always among the most favorite animals here."

Patas monkeys, often called the military monkey, have reddish-brown fur with grey chin whiskers and distinctive white moustaches. They are widely distributed across central Africa south of the Sahara Desert and can live more than 20 years in captivity.

During a search of the zoo before dawn, Burns heard a groan that at first he thought sounded human. It turned out to be an injured Patas monkey barely moving near the perimeter fence.

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Notre Dame stays unbeaten with an unbeaten victory, then gets to root for upset

No. 3 Notre Dame stayed undefeated with an uncharacteristically easy victory at home and then had the rest of the night to root for the upset it needs to move into position to play for the BCS title.

The Fighting Irish hammered Wake Forest 38-0 on senior day in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame remained undefeated, and will likely stay stuck in third-place in the BCS standings unless Kansas State or Oregon loses.

The second-ranked Wildcats were at Big 12 rival Baylor on Saturday night. No. 1 Oregon was hosting No. 14 Stanford in a game that could decide the Pac-12 North.

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