Tuesday April 23, 2013

Rescuers push into remote Chinese villages hit by Sichuan earthquake; 188 killed

LUSHAN, China (AP) -- After dynamiting through landslide-blocked roads, Chinese relief crews hurried food, water and other supplies into the rural hills of China’s Sichuan province Monday, two days after an earthquake killed at least 188 people and injured more than 11,000.

Rescuers reached the most cut-off communities in Baoxing and Lushan counties, though heavy machinery and trucks bearing supplies moved slowly along roads partly blocked by landslide debris. Repairmen hoisted ladders up against electrical poles to fix power lines.

The delivery of relief supplies, while not enough to meet all the demand, marked headway as frustrations grew among survivors.

Near an old house that had crumpled by the roadside in Lushan, about 2,000 people gathered early Monday to complain about the lack of food. A few jumped on to a motorized three-wheel cart to look for officials, and 20 minutes later a truck pulled up and distributed instant noodles. At another street corner, a truck handed out bottled water.

"We’re so grateful for these donations," said Ji Yanzi, who was loading cartons of bottled water on to a three-wheeled vehicle to take to her family of 10, including aging parents. "At this point, we don’t have much except a tent we made ourselves and some food we were able to pull out from our apartment."

Taliban take 9 hostages after emergency helicopter landing in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A Turkish civilian helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in a Taliban-controlled area of eastern Afghanistan, and the insurgents took all nine people aboard the aircraft hostage, including eight Turks, officials said Monday.

The transport helicopter landed in strong winds and heavy rain on Sunday in a village in the Azra district of Logar province, southeast of Kabul and 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Pakistan border, said district governor Hamidullah Hamid.

Taliban fighters then captured all nine aboard the helicopter and took them from the area, Hamid told The Associated Press. He said most of the nine civilian hostages are Turks but that one is an Afghan translator.

In Ankara, a spokesman at Turkey’s Foreign Ministry told the AP that there were eight Turks aboard the helicopter but did not know if it also was carrying other civilians or what their nationalities were.

Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu news agency quoted Logar Deputy Police Chief Resishan Sadik Abdurrahminzey as saying that "a large number" of policemen were being sent to the region to rescue the hostages.

Air traffic controllers furloughed as budget cuts kick in; some flight delays show up

Commercial airline flights moved smoothly throughout most of the country on Sunday, the first day air traffic controllers were subject to furloughs resulting from government spending cuts, though some delays appeared in the late evening in and around New York. And even though the nightmarish flight delays and cancellations that the airline industry predicted would result from the furloughs did not materialize yet, the real test will come Monday, when traffic ramps up.

Information from the FAA and others showed that flying Sunday was largely uneventful, with most flights on time. There were delays in parts of Florida, but those were caused by thunderstorms.

Mark Duell at the flight tracking website FlightAware said that John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York indicated delays due to lower staffing starting late Sunday evening. JFK averaged 70-minute delays for inbound flights, but no detectable departure delays. LaGuardia averaged 74-minute delays for inbound flights, and departure delays of 37 minutes.

The FAA website said that flights from Philadelphia and Orlando, Fla., into John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Westchester County airports were delayed due to staffing issues.

The trade group Airlines for America, which represents the airlines and had predicted a big traffic snarl, said Sunday evening that it was "not seeing a significant impact at this point."

Doctors warn teens about cinnamon challenge after surge in calls to poison centers

CHICAGO (AP) -- Don’t take the cinnamon challenge. That’s the advice from doctors in a new report about a dangerous prank depicted in popular YouTube videos but which has led to hospitalizations and a surge in calls to U.S. poison centers.

The fad involves daring someone to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water. But the spice is caustic, and trying to gulp it down can cause choking, throat irritation, breathing trouble and even collapsed lungs, the report said.

Published online Monday in Pediatrics, the report said at least 30 teens nationwide needed medical attention after taking the challenge last year.

The number of poison control center calls about teens doing the prank "has increased dramatically," from 51 in 2011 to 222 last year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

"People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are at greater risk of having this result in shortness of breath and trouble breathing," according to an alert posted on the association’s website.

Reese Witherspoon: ‘Deeply embarrassed’ after arrest, apologizes for behavior

ATLANTA (AP) -- Reese Witherspoon is "deeply embarrassed" about what she said to police officers after she and her husband were arrested during a traffic stop in Atlanta.

The Oscar-winning actress released a statement late Sunday apologizing for her behavior to police that began when her husband, Hollywood agent Jim Toth, was arrested early Friday for driving under the influence of alcohol.

"Do you know my name?" Witherspoon is quoted as saying in a state trooper’s report. She also said: "You’re about to find out who I am" and "You’re about to be on national news," according to the report.

"I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said," Witherspoon said. "It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. The words I used that night definitely do not reflect who I am. I have nothing but respect for the police and I’m very sorry for my behavior."

Police report 5 dead in shootings at apartment complex south of Seattle

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (AP) -- Gunfire erupted at an apartment complex in a city south of Seattle and five people were shot to death, including a suspect who was shot by arriving officers, police said early Monday.

Officers responding to an emergency call at 9:30 p.m. Sunday at the apartments in Federal Way encountered a chaotic scene, with bullets flying.

"When officers arrived there were still shots being fired," said Federal Way police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock.

They found two injured men on the ground in a parking lot. One of the men reached for a gun as police moved in to assist the two, she said.

At that point, officers opened fire. The suspect died but police said it wasn’t immediately clear if it was from their gunfire.