Saturday May 11, 2013

IRS apologizes for targeting conservative political groups in 2012 election

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.

IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their exemption applications, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.

The agency -- led at the time by a Bush administration appointee -- blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware. But that wasn’t good enough for Republicans in Congress, who are conducting several investigations and asked for more.

"I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

White House spokesman Jay Carney declared it was indeed inappropriate for the IRS to target tea party groups.


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But he brushed aside questions about whether the White House itself would investigate.

Woman rescued after 17 days in Bangladesh ruins: ‘I never dreamed I’d see the daylight again’

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) -- For 17 days, the seamstress lay trapped in a dark basement pocket beneath thousands of tons of wreckage as temperatures outside climbed into the mid-90s F. She rationed food and water. She banged a pipe to attract attention. She was fast losing hope of ever making it out alive.

In the ruins of the collapsed eight-store garment factory building above her, the frantic rescue operation had long ago ended. It had turned instead into a grim search for the decaying bodies of the more than 1,000 people killed in the world’s worst garment industry disaster.

"No one heard me. It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I’d see the daylight again," the seamstress, Reshma Begum, told Somoy TV from her hospital bed after her astonishing rescue on Friday.

The miraculous moment came when salvage workers finally heard Begum’s banging. They pulled her to safety. She was in shockingly good condition, wearing a violet outfit with a large, bright pink scarf.

"I heard her say, ‘I am alive, please save me.’ I gave her water. She was OK," said Miraj Hossain, a volunteer who crawled through the debris to help cut Begum free.

Criminal investigation in Texas plant explosion; officials haven’t linked paramedic’s arrest

WACO, Texas (AP) -- Texas law enforcement officials on Friday launched a criminal investigation into the massive fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people last month, after weeks of largely treating the blast as an industrial accident.

The announcement came the same day federal agents said they found bomb-making materials belonging to a paramedic who helped evacuate residents the night of the explosion. Bryce Reed was arrested early Friday on a charge of possessing a destructive device, but law enforcement officials said they had not linked the charge to the April 17 fire and blast at West Fertilizer Co.

"It is important to emphasize that at this point, no evidence has been uncovered to indicate any connection to the events surrounding the fire and subsequent explosion ... and the arrest of Bryce Reed by the ATF," the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Texas Department of Public Safety said earlier Friday that the agency had instructed the Texas Rangers and the sheriff’s department to conduct a criminal probe into the explosion. The agencies will join the State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which have been leading the investigation and never ruled out that a crime may have been committed.

"This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered," DPS Director Steven McCraw said.

Cleveland suspect had terrifying violent streak, relatives say; ‘He was really controlling’

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The mannequin was life-sized, with a mop-like wig and creepy, slanted eyes. Ariel Castro kept it propped against a wall of his house and liked to use it to scare people. Sometimes he drove around town with it in the back seat of his car.

"He threatened me lots of times with it," said Castro’s nephew, 26-year-old Angel Caraballo, who was terrified of his uncle as a little boy and unnerved by him as an adult. "He would say: ‘Act up again, you’ll be in that back room with the mannequin."’

Castro installed padlocks on every door leading into his dilapidated home on Seymour Avenue. He kept the basement bolted shut, too. When relatives showed up at his front door, he made them wait for half an hour before emerging, and nobody was ever allowed past the living room.

"He had told me to stay in the kitchen," said Elida Marie Caraballo, Castro’s niece, who was at his house about seven years ago with Castro’s daughter Rosie. "I didn’t know why."

In the days since Castro’s arrest on charges of keeping three women imprisoned in his home for a decade, relatives and acquaintances have sketched a portrait of him as a man with a twisted sense of humor, a compulsion for secrecy and a towering, terrifying rage that led him to savagely beat, torment and control his common-law wife, Grimilda Figueroa.

Pakistan set for historic election that could shatter country’s traditional politics

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Despite a bloody campaign marred by Taliban attacks, Pakistan holds historic elections Saturday pitting a former cricket star against a two-time prime minister once exiled by the army and an incumbent blamed for power blackouts and inflation.

The vote marks the first time in Pakistan’s 65-year history that a civilian government has completed its full term and handed over power in democratic elections. Previous governments have been toppled by military coups or sacked by presidents allied with the powerful army.

Deadly violence struck again Friday, with a pair of bombings against election offices in northwest Pakistan that killed three people and a shooting that killed a candidate in the southern city of Karachi. More than 130 people have been killed in the run-up to the vote, mostly secular party candidates and workers. Most attacks have been traced to Taliban militants, who have vowed to disrupt a democratic process they say runs counter to Islam.

The vote is being watched closely by Washington since the U.S. relies on the nuclear-armed country of 180 million people for help in fighting Islamic militants and negotiating an end to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The rise of former cricket star Imran Khan, who has almost mythical status in Pakistan, has challenged the dominance of the country’s two main political parties, making the outcome of the election very hard to call.

Bank heist impressed cybercrime experts with its technical sophistication

NEW YORK (AP) -- A bloodless bank heist that netted more than $45 million has left even cybercrime experts impressed by the technical sophistication, if not the virtue, of the con artists who pulled off a remarkable internationally organized attack.

"It was pretty ingenious," Pace University computer science professor Darren Hayes said Friday.

On the creative side of the heist, a small team of highly skilled hackers penetrated bank systems, erased withdrawal limits on prepaid debit cards and stole account numbers. On the crude end, criminals used handheld devices to change the information on the magnetic strips of old hotel key cards, used credit cards and depleted debit cards.

Seven people were arrested in the U.S., accused of operating the New York cell of what prosecutors said was a network that carried out thefts at ATMs in 27 countries from Canada to Russia. Law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen nations were involved in the investigation, which was being led by the Secret Service.

Boston Marathon bombing suspect buried in Virginia

DOSWELL, Va. (AP) -- Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in a cemetery in central Virginia, infuriating some members of the area’s Islamic community who say they weren’t consulted and flooring at least one neighbor who said she didn’t even know she lived near a burial ground.

The secret interment this week at a small Islamic cemetery ended a frustrating search for a community willing to take the body, which had been kept at a funeral parlor in Worcester, Mass., as cemeteries in Massachusetts and several other states refused to accept the remains.

Tsarnaev, 26, was killed April 19 in a getaway attempt after a gun battle with police. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured later and remains in custody. They are accused of setting off two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs April 15 near the marathon finish line, an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.

Their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., took responsibility for the body after Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell, said she wanted it released to her in-laws. He said his nephew was buried in a cemetery in Doswell with the help of a faith coalition.

"The body’s buried," said the uncle. "That’s it."