Monday May 6, 2013

Compulsive gambling funds off pace of new casinos

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The unrelenting spread of casino gambling across America is reaping billions of dollars for the industry and government coffers yet is also creating more compulsive gamblers. Addiction experts say the sum spent for treatment and counseling isn’t enough to keep pace.

Even in tough economic times, developers are building new casinos with the blessings of cash-hungry states.

Advocates for an expansion of treatment services point to enormous gaps between the money states are taking in and what they’re spending on compulsive gambling. In Pennsylvania, casinos and card rooms generated about $2.3 billion in revenue in 2010. The state’s gambling treatment fund got $17.5 million between 2007 and last year.

Connecticut’s casinos, off-track betting and state lottery generated nearly $659 million in state revenue in 2012. Problem-gambling services got $1.9 million.

Bomb suspect’s uncle says he knows ‘no one wants to associate ... with such evil’

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) -- The uncle of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev arrived in Massachusetts on Sunday to arrange for his burial, saying he understands that "no one wants to associate their names with such evil events."

Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., and three of his friends met with the Worcester funeral home director and prepared to wash and shroud Tsarnaev’s body according to Muslim tradition. The 26-year-old died after a gun battle with police on April 19.

Funeral director Peter Stefan said he hasn’t been able to find a cemetery in Massachusetts willing to take the body. He said he plans to ask the city of Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived, to provide a burial plot, and if Cambridge turns him down, he will seek help from state officials.

Tsarni told reporters that he is arranging for Tsarnaev’s burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He would like him buried in Massachusetts because he’s lived in the state for the last decade, he said.

"I’m dealing with logistics. A dead person must be buried," he said.

Israel beefs up rocket defenses after its twin airstrikes in Syria prompt anger, threats

BEIRUT (AP) -- Israel rushed to beef up its rocket defenses on its northern border Sunday to shield against possible retaliation after carrying out two airstrikes in Syria over 48 hours -- an unprecedented escalation of Israeli involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Syria and its patron Iran hinted at possible retribution, though the rhetoric in official statements appeared relatively muted.

Despite new concerns about a regional war, Israeli officials signaled they will keep trying to block what they see as an effort by Iran to send sophisticated weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia ahead of a possible collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to intervene in the Syrian civil war to stop the transfer of what it calls "game-changing" weapons to Hezbollah, a Syrian-backed group that battled Israel to a stalemate during a monthlong war in 2006.

Since carrying out a lone airstrike in January that reportedly destroyed a shipment of anti-aircraft missiles headed to Hezbollah, Israel had largely stayed on the sidelines. That changed over the weekend with a pair of airstrikes, including an attack near a sprawling military complex close to the Syrian capital of Damascus early Sunday that set off a series of powerful explosions.

Death toll tops 600 in Bangladesh building collapse; 622 bodies now recovered

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- More than 600 bodies have been recovered from the garment-factory building that collapsed well over a week ago, police said Sunday as the grim recovery work continued in one of the worst industrial accidents ever.

Police said Sunday night that the death toll had reached 622. Well over 200 bodies have been recovered since Wednesday, when authorities said only 149 people had been listed as missing. The stench of decomposing bodies remains amid the broken concrete of the eight-story Rana Plaza building, and it is anyone’s guess how many victims remain to be recovered.

The April 24 disaster is likely the worst garment-factory accident ever, and there have been few industrial accidents of any kind with a higher death toll. It surpassed long-ago garment-industry disasters such as New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 workers in 1911, and more recent tragedies such as a 2012 fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh that same year that killed 112.

An architect whose firm designed the building said Sunday that it had not been designed to handle heavy industrial equipment, let alone the three floors that were later illegally added. The equipment used by the five garment factories that occupied Rana Plaza included huge generators that were turned on shortly before the building crumbled.

Masood Reza, an architect with Vastukalpa Consultants, said the building was designed in 2004 as a shopping mall and not for any industrial purpose.

In S. Illinois, residents debate economic lure of ‘fracking,’ preserving area’s rugged beauty

VIENNA, Ill. (AP) -- This is the Illinois that many people never see -- the sparsely populated southern tip where flat farmland gives way to rolling hills, rocky outcrops, thick forests and cypress swamps.

Blacktopped county roads wend through no-stoplight towns. Locals speak in soft drawls and talk of generations who’ve lived on the same land or in the same villages. The remote and rugged Shawnee National Forest attracts hikers, campers and horseback riders, and offers a stark contrast to the rest of a state that largely has been plowed, paved or suburbanized.

But many here are beginning to brace for change as the Illinois Legislature considers regulations that could set off a rush among energy companies to drill deep in the southern Illinois bedrock for oil and natural gas. The crews would be using a process known as high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," that has transformed the landscape in places like North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

After drilling intensively in many states in the last few years, the industry is now preparing to push into new territory, hoping to tap deposits long considered out of reach. Residents here -- and states like New York and California that also are part of this next frontier -- have heard the angry clamor over fracking elsewhere, but most have little experience with the oil industry.

Already, drillers have leased hundreds of thousands of acres throughout southern Illinois, including in scenic Johnson and Pope counties, which hasn’t seen conventional drilling and where people aren’t sure what to expect if a fracking rush becomes a reality.

Limo headed to bachelorette party catches fire on bridge; 5 women inside killed

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A limousine taking nine women to a bachelorette party erupted in flames, killing five of the passengers, including the bride-to-be, authorities and the mother of one of the survivors said Sunday.

The limo caught fire at around 10 p.m. Saturday on one of the busiest bridges on San Francisco Bay, California Highway Patrol officer Art Montiel told The Associated Press.

Five of the women were trapped, but the four other women managed to get out after the vehicle came to a stop on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, the patrol said.

Rosita Guardiano told the San Francisco Chronicle that the woman for whom the bachelorette party was being thrown was to be married next month. Guardiano said her daughter was one of the survivors.

Investigators haven’t determined what sparked the fire, but the patrol said the white stretch limo became engulfed in flames after smoke started coming out of the rear of the vehicle.

Malaysia’s governing coalition wins 13th national elections, extending 56-year rule

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia’s long-governing coalition won national elections Sunday to extend its 56 years of unbroken rule, fending off the strongest opposition it has ever faced but exposing vulnerabilities in the process.

The Election Commission reported that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s National Front coalition captured 127 of Malaysia’s 222 parliamentary seats to win a majority Sunday. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party alliance seized 77 seats, and other races were too close to call.

It was the National Front’s 13th consecutive victory in general elections since independence from Britain in 1957. It faced its most unified challenge ever from an opposition that hoped to capitalize on allegations of arrogance, abuse of public funds and racial discrimination against the government.

Najib urged all Malaysians to accept his coalition’s victory. "We have to show to the world that we are a mature democracy," he said.

Car bomber kills 7 after ramming into convey escorting a Qatari delegation in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Seven people were killed Sunday morning when a suicide bomber attempted to ram a car laden with explosives into a military convoy escorting a four-member Qatari delegation.

Gen. Garad Nor Abdulle, a senior police official said the members of the Qatari delegation who were being escorted in the interior minister’s convoy were unharmed and safely reached their hotel.

Abdulle said the interior minister was not in the convoy.

Mohamed Abdi, an officer at the scene of the blast, said four civilians and a soldier died immediately. Another two people died in hospital and 18 were being treated of wounds from the blast, said Dr. Duniya Mohamed Ali at the Medina hospital.

The Qatari delegates are involved in development projects in Mogadishu, Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.

Frontier fort from Revolutionary War found in Georgia

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Archaeologists in Georgia say they have discovered the location of a small frontier fort that was the site of a violent Revolutionary War gunbattle between patriot militiamen and fellow colonists siding with the British army.

The fighting at Carr’s Fort in Wilkes County in northeastern Georgia killed or wounded more than a dozen men on each side of the battle on Feb. 10, 1779. Archaeologist Dan Elliott’s team found musket balls and rifle parts at the battle site, and he says it was a rare victory for Georgia patriots who mostly saw defeats during the Revolutionary War.

The fort was built around the farm house of Wilkes County cattle farmer and militia captain Robert Carr to give colonists protection from attacks by enemy troops and hostile Indians.