Saturday April 27, 2013

Officials: Boston bombing suspects' mother also in US terror database

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. intelligence agencies added the mother of the Boston bombing suspects to a government terrorism database 18 months before the bombings, two officials told The Associated Press. She called it "lies and hypocrisy" and said she has never been linked to crimes or terrorism.

The CIA asked for the Boston terror suspect and his mother to be added to a terrorist database in the fall of 2011, after the Russian government contacted the agency with concerns that both had become religious militants, according to officials briefed on the investigation. About six months earlier, the FBI investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, also at Russia's request, one of the officials said. The FBI found no ties to terrorism.

The revelation that the FBI had also investigated Tsarnaeva and the CIA arranged for her to be added to the terrorism database deepened the mystery around the family. The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens from southern Russia who immigrated to the Boston area in the past 11 years. Tsarnaeva, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has appeared on television interviews since the attacks and reversed her decision to return to the U.S. after the bombings, has said her sons could never have been behind the deadly attacks and believes they were framed.


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The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about the ongoing case.

Tsarnaev, who died in a gun battle with police last week, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, are accused of carrying out the bombings. Officials said that before he was advised of his constitutional rights to remain silent or consult a lawyer, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev admitted to FBI interrogators that the brothers committed the bombings and that he was recruited by his brother to participate only a week or two before the attacks.

After foiling terror plot, Canadian officials raises questions about deportation issues

TORONTO (AP) -- Canada is reviewing the country's deportation policies following revelations that a court decided nine years ago against deporting a man who was arrested last week on terror charges in an alleged plot to derail a train, the federal immigration minister said Friday.

Raed Jaser, who arrived in Canada with his family as a teenager in 1993, was convicted in 1997 on fraud charges and in 2001 of threatening death or bodily harm, according to court records, which did not provide details on the cases. He served probation but was arrested in 2004 after authorities issued a warrant for his deportation. At a court hearing, Jaser argued that he could not be deported because he was a stateless Palestinian with nowhere to go. The court deferred the deportation order for Jaser, who was eventually granted a pardon.

Last week, Jaser was arrested along with a Tunisian citizen on charges of conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group in a plot to derail a train that runs between New York City and Montreal. Investigators say the men received guidance from members of al-Qaida in Iran. Iranian government officials have said the government had nothing to do with the plot.

Federal immigration minister Jason Kenney said Friday that he will get a briefing from officials on the deportation issue.

He said he was "disturbed to learn a foreigner can get a pardon for serious criminal cases and then be allowed to stay."

"I don't care if you get a pardon or not. If you commit a serious crime in Canada, you should be kicked out, period," he told reporters outside of Parliament. "Why should a pardon override a criminal inadmissibility?"

Kenny noted that Canada has already toughened its deportation policies since Jaser's 2004 case. He said the government recently passed the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, which makes it easier to remove foreigners who served six months or more in jail by barring them from appealing a removal order.

Controllers going back to work: Congress acts to end airport delays after week of complaints

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Furloughed air traffic controllers will soon be heading back to work, ending a week of coast-to-coast flight delays that left thousands of travelers frustrated and furious.

Unable to ignore the travelers' anger, Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation Friday to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to withdraw the furloughs. The vote underscored a shift by Democrats who had insisted on erasing all of this year's $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts, not just the most publicly painful ones, for fear of losing leverage to restore money for Head Start and other programs with less lobbying clout and popular support.

With President Barack Obama's promised signature, the measure will erase one of the most stinging and publicly visible consequences of the budget-wide cuts known as the sequester.

Friday's House approval was 361-41 and followed the previous evening's passage by the Senate, which didn't even bother with a roll call. Lawmakers then streamed toward the exits -- and airports -- for a weeklong spring recess.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would sign the bill, but Carney complained that the measure left the rest of the sequester intact.

Bangladesh building collapse death toll tops 300 as search for survivors continues

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) -- With time running out to save workers still trapped in a collapsed garment factory building, rescuers dug through mangled metal and concrete Friday and found more survivors -- but also more corpses that pushed the death toll past 300.

Wailing, angry relatives fought with police who held them back from the wrecked, eight-story Rana Plaza building, as search-and-rescue operations went on more than two days after the structure crumbled.

Amid the cries for help and the smell of decaying bodies, the rescue of 18-year-old Mussamat Anna came at a high cost: Emergency crews cut off the garment worker's mangled right hand to pull her free from the debris Thursday night.

"First a machine fell over my hand, and I was crushed under the debris. ... Then the roof collapsed over me," she told an Associated Press cameraman from a hospital bed Friday.

More than 40 survivors were found late Friday evening on some floors of the Rana Plaza, said fire service inspector Shafiqul Islam, who searched the building. Through holes in the structure, he gave them water and juice packs to combat dehydration in the stifling heat and humidity.

Obama: Anti-abortion forces at work to turn back clock to ‘50s, backs Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama vowed Friday to join Planned Parenthood in fighting against what he said are efforts by states to turn women's health back to the 1950s, before the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide, and singled out the GOP-governed states of North Dakota and Mississippi for criticism.

"When politicians try to turn Planned Parenthood into a punching bag, they're not just talking about you," Obama said, becoming the first sitting president to address the abortion-rights group in person. "They're talking about the millions of women who you serve."

Obama asserted that "an assault on women's rights" is underway across the country, with bills introduced in more than 40 states to limit or ban abortion or restrict access to birth control or other services.

"The fact is, after decades of progress, there's still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century," he said. "And they've been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women's health."

Last month, North Dakota Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a law that bans abortions as early as six weeks, or when a fetal heartbeat is detected, making the state the most restrictive in the nation in which to get the procedure.

At 95, Hitler's food taster talks of paranoia, poison fears, vegetarian diet for Nazi leader

BERLIN (AP) -- They were feasts of sublime asparagus -- laced with fear. And for more than half a century, Margot Woelk kept her secret hidden from the world, even from her husband. Then, a few months after her 95th birthday, she revealed the truth about her wartime role: Adolf Hitler's food taster.

Woelk, then in her mid-twenties, spent two and a half years as one of 15 young women who sampled Hitler's food to make sure it wasn't poisoned before it was served to the Nazi leader in his "Wolf's Lair," the heavily guarded command center in what is now Poland, where he spent much of his time in the final years of World War II.

"He was a vegetarian. He never ate any meat during the entire time I was there," Woelk said of the Nazi leader. "And Hitler was so paranoid that the British would poison him -- that's why he had 15 girls taste the food before he ate it himself."

With many Germans contending with food shortages and a bland diet as the war dragged on, sampling Hitler's food had its advantages.

"The food was delicious, only the best vegetables, asparagus, bell peppers, everything you can imagine. And always with a side of rice or pasta," she recalled. "But this constant fear -- we knew of all those poisoning rumors and could never enjoy the food. Every day we feared it was going to be our last meal."