Magnitude 8.2 quake kills only 6 in Chile; experts credit hard-won experience, and luck
IQUIQUE, Chile (AP) -- Hard-won expertise and a big dose of luck helped Chile escape its latest magnitude-8.2 earthquake with surprisingly little damage and death.
The country that suffers some of the world’s most powerful quakes has strict building codes, mandatory evacuations and emergency preparedness that sets a global example. But Chileans weren’t satisfied Wednesday, finding much room for improvement. And experts warn that a "seismic gap" has left northern Chile overdue for a far bigger quake.
Authorities on Wednesday discovered just six reported deaths from the previous night’s quake. It’s possible that other people were killed in older structures made of adobe in remote communities that weren’t immediately accessible, but it’s still a very low toll for such a powerful shift in the undersea fault that runs along the length of South America’s Pacific coast.
"How much is it luck? How much is it science? How much is it preparedness? It is a combination of all of the above. I think what we just saw here is pure luck. Mostly, it is luck that the tsunami was not bigger and that it hit a fairly isolated area of Chile," said Costas Synolakis, an engineer who directs the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California.
Chile is one of the world’s most seismic countries and is particularly prone to tsunamis, because of the way the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera ever higher.
Ukraine’s ousted leader says he was wrong to invite Russian troops into Crimea
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) -- Defensive and at times tearful, Ukraine’s ousted president conceded Wednesday that he made a mistake when he invited Russian troops into Crimea and vowed to try to negotiate with Vladimir Putin to get the coveted Black Sea peninsula back.
"Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy," Viktor Yanukovych told The Associated Press in his first interview since fleeing to Russia in February, following monthslong protests focused on corruption and his decision to seek closer ties to Russia instead of the European Union.
Putin said last month that Yanukovych had asked Russia to send its troops to Crimea to protect its people -- a request seen as treason by many Ukrainians. Russian troops quickly overran Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority, taking over government and military facilities on the pretext of protecting Russians.
Asked about the move, Yanukovych said he made a mistake.
"I was wrong," he told the AP and Russia’s state NTV television, speaking in Russian. "I acted on my emotions."
Palestinians leave door open for continued talks with Israel, despite new recognition bid
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- A decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to seek further international recognition of a "state of Palestine" -- despite promises to hold off while negotiating with Israel -- has thrown into disarray the troubled U.S. mediation efforts on a peace deal. Here’s a look at the possible repercussions.
WHAT EXACTLY DID ABBAS DO?
He signed letters stating the state of Palestine would join 15 international conventions and treaties. This includes the Geneva Convention on protecting civilians in conflict zones as well as covenants prohibiting torture and discrimination against women. The letters were given Wednesday to the relevant parties, including a U.N. envoy.
The Palestinians say they have the right to seek membership in 63 U.N. agencies, international conventions and treaties as a result of the General Assembly’s decision in November 2012 to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. In the vote, the General Assembly said Palestine encompasses the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem -- lands Israel captured in 1967. Israel opposed the Palestinian bid, alleging it was an attempt to bypass negotiations.
Grim duty: Team of experts has been able to ID all but 1 of 29 sets of remains
EVERETT, Wash. (AP) -- Members of the medical examiner’s office in a Washington county devastated by a mudslide work around the clock to identify bodies. Of the 29 sets of remains delivered so far just one is still a mystery.
Journalists on Wednesday were given a tour of the Snohomish County office in Everett and told about the difficult task of identifying bodies from the March 22 disaster.
Medical examiners have worked with detectives to match human remains with missing people.
Spokesman Ed Troyer said all but one man have been identified. The victim doesn’t match reports of those listed as missing.
Although 29 people are confirmed dead, officials so far have released the names of only 22.
Former CIA official: Politics played no role in changes to Benghazi talking points
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The CIA’s former deputy director said Wednesday he deleted references to terrorism warnings from widely disputed talking points on the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack to avoid the spy agency’s gloating at the expense of the State Department.
Mike Morell faced more than three hours of questioning from the House Intelligence committee in a rare open session that examined who changed the talking points --and why -- in the politically-charged aftermath of the deadly Sept. 11 assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya.
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in two separate attacks over a chaotic period of several hours. Multiple independent and congressional investigations have largely faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the mission.
Morell, a 33-year veteran of the agency who has served six Republican and Democratic presidents, insisted that politics had no bearing on the revisions to the talking points and said he was under no pressure to protect either President Barack Obama or then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"I never allowed politics to influence what I said or did. Never," he said.
Iranians head outside to mark ancient festival; staying inside on 13th day of new year unlucky
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranians flocked to parks rich with the smell of grilled kebabs Wednesday to toss around Frisbees, bat badminton birdies and battle one another in chess and backgammon -- all to avoid being caught inside on the unlucky 13th day of the Iranian new year.
The annual public picnic day, called Sizdeh Bedar, which comes from the Farsi words for "thirteen" and "day out," is a legacy from Iran’s pre-Islamic past that hard-liners in the Islamic Republic never managed to erase from calendars.
Many say it’s bad luck to stay indoors for the holiday.
"I know a family who stayed in and later in the day the leg of their young boy was broken when he fell down the stairs." said Tehran resident Fatemeh Moshiri, 48.
Iranian hard-liners have tried unsuccessfully for decades to stamp out the festival and other pre-Islamic events, which are seen as closer to Zoroastrianism, the predominant faith of Iranians before Islam.
Europe’s surging far right -- riding French electoral win -- sets sights on European Parliament
PARIS (AP) -- France’s far-right National Front, coming off a historic electoral victory at home, is marching toward a new target: the European Parliament.
Party chief Marine Le Pen is leading the charge for continent-wide elections next month like the general of a conquering army, and hoping to attract kindred parties around Europe in a broad alliance.
As the extreme right rises across Europe, Le Pen wants to seize the momentum -- raising the voice of her anti-immigration National Front and amplifying it through a broad parliamentary group. These parties, leveraging public frustration with the EU, want to weaken the bloc’s power over European citizens from within Europe’s premier legislative institution.
"My goal is to be first" in France’s vote for the European Parliament, "to raise the conscience over what the European Union is making our country live through," she said on French television the morning after her party won a dozen town halls and more than 1,000 city and town council seats in municipal elections.
The voting for the 751-seat European Parliament, based in Strasbourg in eastern France, takes place in each of the EU’s 28 member states, stretching over four days beginning May 22. Even if far-right groups expand their presence in Parliament, they’re unlikely to break the mainstream majority, and their divergent nationalist agendas may clash with each other on the legislative floor.
Egypt: Bombnigs outside Cairo University kill police general in escalation to campus battles
CAIRO (AP) -- A series of three bombs went off Wednesday outside Cairo University, killing a police general and wounding seven people, introducing a new level of violence to the almost daily battles at campuses fought by Egyptian police and students loyal to the ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
Universities have emerged as the main center of the campaign of protests by Morsi’s supporters against the military-backed government that replaced him, because a fierce crackdown the past nine months has made significant rallies by Islamists in the streets nearly impossible.
The result has been increasingly deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in and around the walled campuses, with several students killed the past weeks.
Wednesday’s blasts targeted a post of riot police deployed outside Cairo University in case of protests, in apparent retaliation for police assaults. That would be a significant escalation and raises the likelihood of a fierce response by security forces that would further push a spiral of violence at the universities.
A new group that first appeared in January, Ajnad Misr, or "Egypt’s Soldiers," claimed responsibility for the bombing. In a statement, it said it was waging a campaign of retribution and that the slain police general had been involved in killings of protesters. It said the attack also came in response to increased detentions of female protesters.