’Nothing can ever break us’: Sept. 11 museum opens to family members, survivors and rescuers

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tears in her eyes, firefighter widow Maureen Fanning emerged Thursday from the new Sept. 11 museum deep beneath ground zero, unable to bring herself to look at all of it.

"I just think it would be a little too overwhelming today," she said, unsure when she would return. "It’s a lot to digest, to absorb. Not anytime soon."

Victims’ friends and relatives, rescue workers and survivors of the terrorist attack descended into the subterranean space and revisited the tragedy as the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum was dedicated by President Barack Obama as a symbol that says of America: "Nothing can ever break us."

The museum’s artifacts range from the monumental, like two of the huge fork-shaped columns from the World Trade Center’s facade, to the intimate: a wedding ring, a victim’s voice mail message.

Some relatives found the exhibits both upsetting and inspiring.

Anger, grief blend at Turkey coal miner funerals as death toll reaches 283

SOMA, Turkey (AP) -- With photos of their loved ones pinned to their chests and chanting the names of lost miners, grieving relatives laid their dead to rest in mass burials Thursday, as gravediggers labored to make room for scores more victims of Turkey’s worst mining disaster.

"The love of my life is gone," women wailed loudly, swaying and singing improvised laments about the departed as bodies were lowered, one by one, into the freshly dug graves.

Rescue teams recovered another nine victims, raising the death toll to 283 from Tuesday’s disaster, with at least 140 miners believed still trapped underground, according to government figures.

Rage blended with grief as revulsion over poor safety conditions and what some perceived as government indifference set off protests across Turkey. "It’s not an accident, it’s murder," read a banner waved by trade unionists who marched through the streets of Istanbul.

The disaster has stirred up new hostility toward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and thrown his presidential ambitions off stride. Blackening his reputation further, Turkish newspapers published a photograph Thursday of one of Erdogan’s aides kicking a protester who was being held on the ground by armed police.

Investigator: More VA complaints, no proof that any deaths linked to delays in treatment

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New complaints about long wait lists and falsified patient appointment reports have surfaced at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics across the country, the department’s internal watchdog said Thursday, but he said there’s no proof so far that delays in treatment have caused any patient’s death.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said he was "mad as hell" about allegations of severe problems and said he was looking for quick results from a nationwide audit. He rejected calls for him to resign and a senator’s suggestion that he call in the FBI to investigate.

At a sometimes-combative congressional hearing, Richard Griffin, the department’s acting inspector general, said that after an initial review of 17 people who died while awaiting appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital, none of the deaths appeared to have been caused by delays in treatment.

"It’s one thing to be on a waiting list, and it’s another thing to conclude that as a result of being on the waiting list that’s the cause of death, depending on what your illness might have been at the beginning," Griffin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Griffin said his office is working off several lists of patients at the giant Phoenix facility, which treats more than 80,000 veterans a year. He said a widely reported list of 40 patients who died while awaiting appointments "does not represent the total number of veterans that we’re looking at." He said his office has 185 employees working on the Phoenix case, including criminal investigators, and said he expects to have a report completed in August. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona and the Justice Department’s public integrity section also are assisting in the investigation.

Judge strikes down all Arkansas laws banning gay marriage, won’t put ruling on hold

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A judge cleared the way on Thursday for gay marriages to resume in Arkansas, striking down all state laws that prevent same-sex couples from wedding.

A day after the state Supreme Court effectively halted gay marriages in the state, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza expanded his ruling striking down a constitutional ban to also include the prohibition on clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Justices had ruled Wednesday that Piazza’s decision on the gay marriage ban did not change that license law.

Piazza also rejected a request to suspend his ruling, saying there’s no evidence the state would be harmed by allowing gay marriages to continue.

"The same cannot be said of the plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who have not been afforded the same measure of human dignity, respect and recognition by this state as their similarly situated, opposite sex counterparts," Piazza wrote. "A stay would operate to further damage Arkansas families and deprive them of equal access to the rights associated with marriage status in this state."

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office said he would appeal and was asking the high court to suspend Piazza’s latest order. McDaniel, a Democrat, recently said he supports gay marriage but would continue defending the state’s ban in court.

Putin: Ukraine must pay in advance for Russian gas supplies starting June 1

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine must pay in advance for Russian gas supplies starting next month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, raising pressure on the struggling neighbor as Moscow voiced dismay over what it says is Ukraine’s reluctance to implement an international peace plan.

Putin said in a letter to European leaders that Ukraine’s debt for Russian gas supplies has reached $3.5 billion, and because of its refusal to pay Moscow, it will have to switch to pre-paid gas deliveries starting from June 1.

The Russian president first warned of the move in April in a letter to European leaders, whose nations are customers of Russian state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant. Ukraine serves as a major conduit for Russian gas supplies to Europe, and pricing disputes have led to shutdowns in the past.

Putin said that gas talks involving Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have failed to reach a compromise, and pointed at Ukraine’s refusal to pay even though it has received a $3.2 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Ukraine says it would pay if Moscow restores the price discounts canceled after the toppling of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February after months of protests.

Investors pull back from stocks after weak Wal-Mart results; mixed economic news

NEW YORK (AP) -- Investors retreated from stocks Thursday, leading the Dow Jones industrial average to its worst day in five weeks, after disappointing earnings from Wal-Mart and mixed news about the global economy.

Financial markets reflected broader investor jitters: government bonds rose, small-company stocks continued to plunge, and safe, slower-growth industries fared the best.

The latest economic data from the United States was mixed: Factory output fell. But fewer people sought unemployment benefits, evidence that hat solid hiring should continue. The news was more disappointing in Europe, where the economy of the 18 countries that share the euro saw output rise just 0.2 percent in the first quarter.

"People are just a little bit nervous about the entire global economic environment at the moment," said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equities at the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Dow lost 167.16 points, or 1 percent, to 16,446.81. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 17.68 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,870.85 and the Nasdaq composite fell 31.33 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,069.29.

Activists: Car bomb kills at least 43 people in northern Syria near Turkish border crossing

BEIRUT (AP) -- A massive car bomb ripped through a crowded garage Thursday near a rebel-held border crossing between Syria and Turkey, killing at least 43 people in an area that has seen fierce fighting between rival rebel groups, an anti-government activist group said.

The attack came as President Bashar Assad’s forces have seized the momentum of the country’s 3-year-old civil war ahead of presidential elections scheduled for June 3.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast killed 43 people and wounded more than 80. Injured Syrians taken to hospitals in Turkey and later died are among the 43 killed, said Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory. The group relies on a network of activists on the ground.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, also reported the car bombing but said only that it killed and wounded "dozens of people."

Car bombings have become common in Syria as the influence of Islamic extremist groups has risen, dampening the support of the U.S. and its European allies for the opposition seeking to oust Assad. Opposition activists have blamed al-Qaida-linked fighters, who are engaged in deadly fighting between rival rebel factions in Syria, although no group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s blast.