Monday November 26, 2012

At least 112 killed as fire races through garment factory outside of Bangladesh’s capital

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- Fire raced through a garment factory that supplies major retailers in the West, killing at least 112 people, many of whom were trapped by the flames because the eight-story building lacked emergency exits, an official said Sunday.

The blaze broke out late Saturday at a factory operated just outside Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which makes products for Wal-Mart and other companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory, Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director, told The Associated Press. He said 12 other people who were injured after they jumped from the building to escape died at hospitals.

Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed. The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear, and authorities ordered an investigation.

Army soldiers and border guards were sent to help police keep order as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered, Mahbub said.

Teen protester killed, 40 injured
in clash at Muslim Brotherhood HQ in northern Egypt

CAIRO (AP) -- Security officials say rioters have stormed a Muslim Brotherhood headquarters building in northern Egypt, and a teenager protester was killed.


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It was the first death in three days of street battles after a power grab by the country’s president.

A 15-year-old died and 40 people were injured in the clash between protesters and police late Sunday in the town of Damanhoor in the Nile delta, according to security officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

The demonstrators are protesting Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s decree granting himself immunity from judicial review as well as other measures neutralizing the judges.

Egypt’s stock market plummeted nearly 10 percent on Sunday, the first day of trading since Morsi’s assumption of extra powers.

Four-year fight for family health coverage leads lesbian couple to Supreme Court’s door

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Like a lot of newlyweds, Karen Golinski was eager to enjoy the financial fruits of marriage. Within weeks of her wedding, she applied to add her spouse to her employer-sponsored health care plan, a move that would save the couple thousands of dollars a year.

Her ordinarily routine request still is being debated more than four years later, and by the likes of former attorneys general, a slew of senators, the Obama administration and possibly this week, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Because Golinski is married to another woman and works for the U.S.government, her claim for benefits has morphed into a multi-layered legal challenge to a 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing unions like hers.

The high court has scheduled a closed-door conference for Friday to review Golinski’s case and four others that also seek to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act overwhelmingly approved by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.

The purpose of the meeting is to decide which, if any, to put on the court’s schedule for arguments next year.

New Congress: More women, many newcomers, but fewer moderates make getting deals harder

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the next Congress cranks up in January, there will be more women, many new faces and 11 fewer tea party-backed House Republicans from the class of 2010 who sought a second term.

Overriding those changes, though, is a thinning of pragmatic, centrist veterans in both parties. Among those leaving are some of the Senate’s most pragmatic lawmakers, nearly half the House’s centrist Blue Dog Democrats and several moderate House Republicans.

That could leave the parties more polarized even as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders talk up the cooperation needed to tackle complex, vexing problems such as curbing deficits, revamping tax laws and culling savings from Medicare and other costly, popular programs.

"This movement away from the center, at a time when issues have to be resolved from the middle, makes it much more difficult to find solutions to major problems," said William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a private group advocating compromise.

In the Senate, moderate Scott Brown, R-Mass., lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who will be one of the most liberal members. Another GOP moderate, Richard Lugar of Indiana, fell in the primary election. Two others, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Olympia Snowe of Maine, are retiring.

Cease-fire deal raises hopes for quick reconstruction in war-battered Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Mohammed Falah Azzam has been through this before.

His mother’s home was bombed in the 2008-09 Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which left hundreds dead and thousands of homes destroyed. In renewed fighting last week, an entire block of buildings housing his extended family was badly damaged in an airstrike that Israel said was aimed at a militant.

While none of his relatives was hurt, the 61-year-old retired schoolteacher once again has to worry about providing shelter for his family. Some relatives are sleeping in an empty shop, squeezed in with other family members. Others are spending their nights in rooms covered in plastic wrap to shield them from the winter rain because all the windows were blown out.

"This is going to cost thousands," Azzam said. "The longer I wait, the more damage will happen," he added, pointing to a heavily damaged building sitting atop tilting concrete columns.

Azzam finds himself caught again in a pile of paperwork to seek assistance, trying to secure hard-to-get construction materials. This time, he hopes the process will be smoother, thanks to both Israel’s pledges to ease its longstanding border blockade and the newfound political clout of Gaza’s Hamas rulers in the region.

Cyber Monday is likely to be the busiest online shopping day, but other days gain ground

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bye-bye Black Friday. So long Small Business Saturday. Now, it’s Cyber Monday’s turn.

Cyber Monday, coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed online sales spiked on the Monday following Thanksgiving, is the next in a series of days that stores are counting on to jumpstart the holiday shopping season.

It’s estimated that this year’s Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row: According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20 percent from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up their deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.

Amazon.com, which is starting its Cyber Monday deals at midnight on Monday, is offering as much as 60 percent off a Panasonic VIERA 55-inch TV that’s usually priced higher than $1,000. Sears is offering $430 off a Maytag washer and dryer, each on sale for $399. And Kmart is offering 75 percent off all of its diamond earrings and $60 off a 12-in-1 multigame table on sale for $89.99.

Retailers are hoping the deals will appeal to shoppers like Matt Sexton, 39, who for the first time plans to complete all of his holiday shopping online this year on his iPad tablet computer. Sexton, who plans to spend up to $4,000 this season, already shopped online on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday and found a laptop from Best Buy for $399, a $200 savings, among other deals.

Despite Sandy’s wrath, building gigantic storm barriers no easy
sell to New Yorkers

Think Sandy was just a 100-year storm that devastated New York City? Imagine one just as bad, or worse, every three years.

Prominent planners and builders say now is the time to think big to shield the city’s core: a 5-mile barrier blocking the entryway to New York Harbor, an archipelago of man-made islets guarding the tip of Manhattan, or something like CDM Smith engineer Larry Murphy’s 1,700-foot barrier -- complete with locks for passing boats and a walkway for pedestrians -- at the mouth of the Arthur Kill waterway between the borough of Staten Island and New Jersey.

Act now, before the next deluge, and they say it could even save money in the long run.

These strategies aren’t just pipe dreams. Not only do these technologies already exist, some of the concepts have been around for decades and have been deployed successfully in other countries and U.S. cities.

So if the science and engineering are sound, the long-term cost would actually be a savings, and the frequency and severity of more killer floods is inevitable, what’s the holdup?

For Thanksgiving travelers,
a smooth trip home

SEATTLE (AP) -- Travelers heading home after the long Thanksgiving weekend had another reason to be thankful on Sunday: favorable weather and few airport delays reported on what is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year.

Although there was little elbow room on packed buses, trains and airplanes, travel appeared to be running smoothly as millions of people trekked home after feasting with family and friends.

Experts had predicted that travel this season would be up slightly from last year. According to AAA’s yearly Thanksgiving travel analysis, some 43.6 million Americans were expected to journey 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday, and more of them were driving while fewer were flying.