House GOP leaders intervene to block immigration vote, dealing blow to chances for action

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republican leaders intervened Friday to prevent a vote on immigration legislation, dealing a severe blow to election-year efforts to overhaul the dysfunctional system.

The move came after a Republican congressman from California announced plans to try to force a vote next week, over strong conservative opposition, on his measure creating a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children and serve in the military.

Rep. Jeff Denham labeled his bill the ENLIST Act and said he would seek a vote as an amendment to the popular annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

In response, Doug Heye, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said: "No proposed ENLIST amendments to NDAA will be made in order."

Heye said no stand-alone vote on the measure would be permitted, either.

Landslide win for India’s opposition party as voters hope for stronger economy and more jobs

NEW DELHI (AP) -- India’s opposition leader, Narendra Modi, will become the next prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in three decades and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power.

Modi, a career politician whose campaign promised a revival of economic growth, will have a strong mandate to govern at a time of profound changes in Indian society.


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He also has said he wants to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with the United States. But critics worry the ascendance of his Hindu nationalist party could worsen sectarian tensions with India’s minority 138 million Muslims.

The results were a crushing defeat for the Congress party, which is deeply entwined with the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty that has been at the center of Indian politics for most of the country’s post-independence history. The party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals and a poor economy.

As his overwhelming win became clear Friday, Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and tried to strike a conciliatory note.

"I have always said that to govern the nation it is our responsibility to take everyone with us," Modi said after a lengthy and punishing race. "I want your blessings so that we can run a government that carries everyone with it."

’Silence can kill’: GM is fined a record $35 million for not disclosing deadly ignition defect

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal safety regulators slapped General Motors with a record $35 million fine Friday for taking more than a decade to disclose an ignition-switch defect in millions of cars that has been linked to at least 13 deaths.

Under an agreement with the Transportation Department, GM admitted it was slow to inform regulators, promised to report problems faster and submitted to more in-depth government oversight of its safety operations.

The fine was the maximum the department can impose.

"Literally, silence can kill," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, adding: "GM did not act and did not alert us in a timely manner. What GM did was break the law."

Safety advocates said the fine, which is less than a day’s revenue for GM, is too small to deter bad behavior by automakers.

Volunteer fight back
against east Ukraine’s
pro-Russian rebels threatens new confrontation

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- Steelworkers from plants owned by Ukraine’s richest man retook government buildings from pro-Moscow insurgents, reversing the tide of rebellion and lawlessness that has gripped this industrial port and dealing a setback to anti-Kiev forces aspiring to merge with Russia.

Wearing overalls and hard hats, dozens of workers cleared away barricades of debris and tires outside the Mariupol city hall on Friday, scoring early successes against the pro-Russian forces, but threatening to open a new and dangerously unpredictable cycle of confrontation.

"People are tired of war and chaos. Burglaries and marauding have to stop," said Viktor Gusak, a steelworker who joined in the effort to banish the pro-Russia militants from Mariupol, the Donetsk region’s second-largest city and the site of bloody clashes last week between Ukrainian troops and the insurgents.

About 75 miles to the north, armed backers of Ukrainian unity dressed in black patrolled in a village just inside the troubled Donetsk region, vowing to expel the separatists through force if necessary.

The patrols, which began Thursday in Mariupol and the village of Velyka Novosilka, were a blow to the separatists who have seized control of government offices in this city and a dozen others in the east.

Turkey mine survivor recounts tragedy, blames company; mining company denies negligence

SAVASTEPE, Turkey (AP) -- A survivor of Turkey’s worst mining disaster that killed at least 292 people accused mining company officials of negligence, saying Friday outdated oxygen masks were handed out after the explosion and inspections weren’t thorough enough. The mining company has vehemently denied any carelessness.

Erdal Bicak, 24, said he had just ended his shift Tuesday and he had started to go up to the surface when mine managers ordered him back down because there was a problem.

"The company is guilty," Bicak said, saying managers had machines that measure methane gas levels. "The new gas levels had gotten too high and they didn’t tell us in time."

His accusations came as Turkish government and mining company officials vehemently denied that negligence was at the root of the country’s worst mining disaster even as opposition lawmakers raised questions about possible lax oversight.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said at least 292 people died in the tragedy in the western town of Soma. Another nine or 10 people are believed to be missing underground while 485 miners escaped or were rescued from the inferno.

Investigators look
for signs of arson in California fire outbreak

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- With evacuation orders being lifted Friday, investigators worked to determine whether an unusually early and intense outbreak of wildfires in Southern California this week was ignited by something as ordinary as sparks from cars or something as sinister as an arsonist.

State fire officials said the first of at least 10 blazes that broke out between Tuesday and Thursday was found to have been caused by a spark from malfunctioning construction equipment. But it could take months to get to the bottom of the rest of the fires.

"We are not ruling out anything," San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.

All together, the fires burned through more than 10,000 acres in the San Diego area, killing one person and causing more than $20 million in damage. At least eight houses, an 18-unit condominium complex and two businesses were destroyed, and tens of thousands of people were asked to leave their homes.

Six of the fires popped up within hours on Wednesday -- raising suspicions that some had been set.

Top VA health official resigns amid firestorm over delayed care, falsified records

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top official for veterans’ health care resigned Friday amid a firestorm over delays in care and falsified records at veterans’ hospitals.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says he has accepted the resignation of Robert Petzel, the department’s undersecretary for health care. Shinseki had asked for the resignation, a department official later said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, mocked the announcement, calling it "the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak" since Petzel had been scheduled to retire this year anyway. The American Legion, which has called for Shinseki to resign, said pretty much the same thing: "This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual."

The White House said President Barack Obama supports Shinseki’s decision on Petzel and thanks Petzel for his service. "As the president has said, America has a sacred trust with the men and women who have served our country in uniform and he is committed to doing all we can to ensure our veterans have access to timely, quality health care," the White House said.

The announcement came a day after Shinseki and Petzel were grilled at a four-hour hearing of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where lawmakers and veteran groups expressed exasperation of long-standing problems at the department.