US and World News: Keystone Pipeline Given Green Light?; Terrorist Leader Killed?

By  | 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supporters of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas say that a new State Department report is the latest evidence the project should be approved.
The draft report, issued Friday, finds there would be no significant environmental impact to most resources along the proposed route. The report also says that other options to get the oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change.
Environmentalists see the State Department report in a vastly different light, calling it inadequate and saying it fails to account for climate risks posed by the pipeline.
The draft report begins a 45-day comment period. The State Department will issue a final environmental report before Secretary of State John Kerry makes a recommendation.

SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) -- The effort to find the body of a Florida man who was swallowed by a sinkhole under his home has been called off and crews plan to begin demolishing the four-bedroom house.
The 20-foot-wide opening of the sinkhole is almost completely covered by the house and rescuers are afraid it would collapse on them if they try to search for 37-year-old Jeff Bush. Crews are testing the unstable ground surrounding the home and have evacuated two neighboring houses as a precaution.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill says "At this point it's really not possible to recover the body." Merrill also says they're dealing with what he describes as "a very unusual sinkhole."
He says heavy equipment would be brought in to begin the demolition Sunday morning.
Bush was in his bedroom Thursday night in Seffner -- a suburb of 8,000 people 15 miles east of downtown Tampa -- when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house escape unharmed.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- BP's head of drilling engineering for the Gulf of Mexico at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster testified he didn't believe deepwater drilling was a "high-risk" activity before the 2010 blowout of the company's Macondo well.
Jonathan Sprague's March 2011 testimony is contained in a batch of documents plaintiffs' lawyers submitted Thursday to the federal judge presiding over a trial for litigation spawned by the massive Gulf oil spill.
During a pretrial deposition, Sprague said he recognized the risks associated with deepwater wells but thought they could be eliminated before the deadly rig explosion and the nation's worst offshore oil spill.
Plaintiffs' lawyers and government attorneys claim BP and its contractors ignored risks in a rush to complete the Macondo project.

Pair of crashes results in 6 deaths, 5 injuries
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky State Police are investigating whether distracted driving caused a tractor-trailer to plow into an SUV carrying eight people on Saturday, killing six and possibly triggering a serious crash on the opposite side of the highway.
Master Trooper Norman Chaffins says the truck driver told police he saw the vehicle that was in front of him and hit the brakes but not in time. Chaffins adds, "There was a reason for that and we're trying to figure out what the reason was."
The late-morning crash was followed 15 minutes later by a multi-vehicle crash on the opposite side of Interstate 65 that injured three people.
Chaffins says weather was not a factor.
The six killed were identified as members of an extended family from Marion, Wis. Two of the dead were foster children. The two survivors were also foster children.
The two crashes shut down the busy stretch of highway for about five hours. The first happened shortly after 11:00 a.m. EST on northbound I-65 south of Elizabethtown. In the second crash, four vehicles collided at the same location on the southbound side.

N'DJAMENA, Chad (AP) -- The head of Chad's military says Chadian troops deployed in northern Mali killed Moktar Belmoktar, the international terrorist responsible for the attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria that resulted in the death of dozens of foreigners. The French military, which is leading the offensive against al-Qaida-linked rebels in northern Mali, says it cannot confirm the information.
The Army Chief of Staff read a statement saying Chadian soldiers on Saturday had destroyed a jihadist base in the (Adrar and Ifoghas) mountains of North Mali, killing Belmoktar.
The purported death of Belmoktar comes a day after Chad's president said their troops killed Abou Zeid, the other main al-Qaida commander in the region, a claim the French also said they could not confirm.

NATO says 2 Afghan boys accidentally killed
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The U.S.-led coalition says its forces accidentally killed two Afghan boys during an operation in southern Afghanistan.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, offered his "personal apology and condolences to the family of the boys who were killed" and said the coalition takes full responsibility for the deaths.
A statement issued by the coalition says the boys were killed Thursday when coalition forces fired at what they thought were insurgent forces in the Shahid-e Hasas district of Uruzgan province. It says a joint Afghan-NATO investigation team visited the location Saturday and met with local leaders.
The killing of civilians by foreign forces has been a major source of tension with the Afghan government throughout the nearly 12-year-old war.

CAIRO (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry says Egypt's bickering government and opposition need to overcome their differences to create "a sense of political and economic viability" if the country is to thrive as a democracy. And he's urging both sides to compromise for the good of the country.
In meetings Saturday with Egypt's foreign minister and opposition politicians, some of whom plan to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections, Kerry said an agreement on economic reforms to seal a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan package was critical. Closing the IMF deal also will unlock significant U.S. assistance promised by President Barack Obama last year.
Kerry also told business leaders Saturday that the U.S. is not picking sides in Egypt, and he appealed to all sides to come together around human rights, freedom and speech and religious tolerance. Equally essential, he said, is uniting to undertake the reforms necessary to qualify for the IMF package. Those include increasing tax collections and curbing energy subsidies.
Kerry, who's in Cairo on the sixth leg of a nine-nation trip to Europe and the Middle East, meets with President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday.

Syrian mortar shells land in Israel-held Golan
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's military says a series of Syrian mortar shells have landed in the Israeli-held Golan Heights.
A military spokesman says the shells landed on Saturday afternoon in an open area, causing no damage. He says they were likely stray fire from the civil war.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military policy.
He says Israeli troops were searching the area and were not immediately sure how many shells had landed. Israeli media reported at least three exploded in the area.
Stray fire from Syria's conflict has occasionally landed in Israeli-controlled territory and there are concerns the fighting could spill over the border.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the territory, a move the international community doesn't recognize.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A Southern California wildfire has been held to about 300 acres, despite extremely dry conditions and temperatures in the 80s.
It's being contained and the Riverside County Fire Department says crews will remain on site until it's certain there will be no flare-ups.
At its peak, the fire downed power lines and burned near a residential area, prompting a call for voluntary evacuations.
On Thursday, a backyard trailer went up in flames about a quarter-mile from the fire lines in a neighborhood where embers were flying, but fire officials couldn't immediately say whether the wildfire embers sparked it.
No injuries were reported.

Mitch McConnell criticizes group for tweet on wife
WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) -- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has lambasted a liberal group for criticizing the ethnicity of his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.
McConnell told home-state supporters at a Republican dinner in Winchester on Saturday that Progress Kentucky engaged in "the ultimate outrage" when it used Twitter to distribute a message making an issue of Chao's Asian heritage. The tweet said McConnell's marriage to Chao "may explain why your job moved to (hash)China!"
McConnell's described the tweet as "a racial attack" against Chao, who was born in Taiwan.
Progress Kentucky removed the tweet after Louisville public radio station WFPL-FM aired a story. And the group issued two apologies over the past week for what they described as "inappropriate tweets sent by our organization."

Rove: GOP needs candidates that reflect diversity
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- GOP strategist Karl Rove says California Republicans need to "get up off of the mat" and find new ways to reach voters if they are to regain popularity in the nation's most populous state.
Rove's speech Saturday at the state party convention referred to the party's recent deep losses in the state.
He says the state GOP needs to focus on larger themes of restoring jobs and reducing government spending, and that the party must recruit candidates who reflect the diversity of the country, and in particular California.
By next year, Hispanics will overtake whites as the state's largest demographic group.
Rove says that rebuilding would be "a big task," but noted Texas as an example. Once a Democratic stronghold, Texas elected Republicans to 95 of 150 state House seats.

Iditarod kicks off Sunday
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Mushers and their dogs will begin Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday in Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage.
The 66 teams will make their way through 1,000-miles of unforgiving wilderness toward the finish line in Nome on Alaska's western coast.
The winner will get a new truck and $50,400. The rest of the $600,000 purse will be split between the next 29 mushers to cross the finish line.