Ex-relatives of Ohio man in hostage case say he terrorized own family; bail set at $8m for him
CLEVELAND (AP) — The man accused of holding three women captive for a decade in his Cleveland home terrorized the mother of his children, frequently beating her, playing twisted psychological games and locking her indoors in the years before their relationship disintegrated, her relatives say.
Several relatives of Grimilda Figueroa, who left Ariel Castro years ago and died after a long illness last year, painted a nightmarish portrait of Castro's family life as authorities made public horrifying details of the abuse endured by the imprisoned women.
In interviews with The Associated Press on Thursday, the relatives described Castro as a "monster" who abused his wife and locked his family inside their own home. Their views were at odds with those of some of Castro's family and a neighbor, who knew the former school bus driver only as a happy and respectful man.
Figueroa's relatives said Castro savagely beat her, pushing her down a flight of stairs, breaking her nose and dislocating her shoulder, among other injuries. Her sister, Elida Caraballo, said Castro once shoved Figueroa into a cardboard box and closed the flaps over her head.
"He told her, 'You stay there until I tell you to get out,'" said Caraballo, who cried as she recounted her late sister's torment. "That's when I got scared and I ran downstairs to get my parents."
Sophisticated network of global thieves drain cash machines in 27 countries of $45m
NEW YORK (AP) — The sophistication of a global network of thieves who drained cash machines around the globe of an astonishing $45 million in mere hours sent ripples through the security world, not merely for the size of the operation and ease with which it was carried out, but also for the threat that more such thefts may be in store.
Seven people were arrested in the U.S., accused of operating the New York cell of what prosecutors said was a network that carried out thefts at ATMs in 27 countries from Canada to Russia. Law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen nations were involved in the investigation, U.S. prosecutors in New York said Thursday.
"Unfortunately these types of cybercrimes involving ATMs, where you've got a flash mob going out across the globe, are becoming more and more common," said Rose Romero, a former federal prosecutor and regional director for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
"I expect there will be many more" of these types of crimes, she said.
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who called the theft "a massive 21st-century bank heist," announced the case Thursday in New York.
Death toll from factory collapse in Bangladesh passes 1,000 as recovery operation continues
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — The death toll from a garment factory building that collapsed more than two weeks ago near the Bangladeshi capital soared past 1,000 on Friday, with no end in sight to the stream of bodies being pulled from the wreckage of the worst-ever garment industry disaster.
Officials said 1,038 bodies had been recovered as of Friday morning from the rubble of the fallen building, which had housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. The disaster has raised alarm about the often deadly working conditions in Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the globe.
"We are trying to cut through the basement floor. This is very hard. More bodies are coming out," said Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, an army official overseeing the recovery work. "We will need more time to complete as we are trying to recover more bodies."
He said the bodies being recovered are badly decomposed and identification is difficult.
"We are working carefully," he said. "If we get any ID card or mobile phone with them, we can still identify them. Our sincere effort is to at least hand over the bodies to the families.
Obama launches new effort to sell health care as law's main components near implementation
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching a new effort to rally the public around his hotly disputed health care law, a strategy aimed at shoring up key components of the sweeping federal overhaul and staving off yet another challenge from Republicans.
The president will specifically target women and young people, groups that backed him overwhelmingly during his presidential campaigns. During a Mother's Day-themed event at the White House on Friday, Obama will promote the benefits of the law for women, including free cancer screenings and contraceptives, and ask moms to urge their uninsured adult children to sign up for the health insurance "exchanges" that open this fall.
The exchanges are the centerpiece of the landmark overhaul of the nation's health insurance system. Three years after it became law, the measure widely known as "Obamacare" remains controversial, with GOP lawmakers resolving anew to overturn it and many Americans unsure how they'll be affected.
White House advisers acknowledge they struggled in explaining the complex law to the public when it passed in 2010. Now, with the final components being implemented, Obama allies see a fresh opportunity to sell the American people on the merits of measures that will be central to the president's legacy.
"We're in the phase for the actual meat of the law to come online," said Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, a liberal group aligned with the White House. "It's important for the public to recognize that the law has tangible benefits to people so they feel comfortable enrolling."
Entitlement programs thrive amid gridlock, shifting money from younger generations to older
WASHINGTON (AP) — With Congress increasingly unable to resolve budget disputes, federal programs on automatic pilot are consuming ever larger amounts of government resources. The trend helps older Americans, who receive the bulk of Social Security and Medicare benefits, at the expense of younger people.
This generational shift draws modest public debate. But it alarms some policy advocates, who say the United States is reducing vital investments in the future.
Because Democrats and Republicans can't reach a grand bargain on deficit spending — with mutually accepted spending cuts and revenue hikes — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid keep growing, largely untouched. Steady expansions of these nondiscretionary "entitlement" programs require no congressional action, so they flourish in times of gridlock.
Meanwhile, many discretionary programs are suffering under Washington's decision-by-indecision habits, in which lawmakers lock themselves into questionable actions because they can't agree on alternatives.
The latest example is $80 billion in automatic budget cuts, which largely spare Medicare and Social Security. Growth in these costly but popular programs is virtually impossible to curb without bipartisan agreements.
Philippine foreign minister recommends pullout of peacekeepers after 4 seized by Syrian rebels
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine foreign secretary said Friday that he has recommended President Benigno Aquino III pull out all Filipino U.N. peacekeepers from the Golan Heights following the abduction of four by Syrian rebels, the second such incident in two months.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the government believes the exposure of the country's 342 peacekeepers "is beyond tolerable limits."
Aquino will have the final say in the matter. It is not clear when the decision will be made.
"We have sent a recommendation to the president and as soon as he says go, we will undertake to do that as soon as possible," del Rosario told reporters.
He added: "We have to worry about the safety of our people ... we don't want to unnecessarily expose our people there."
Space station commander calls leak in power system radiator serious but not life-threatening
WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Space Station has a radiator leak in its power system. The outpost's commander calls the situation serious, but not life-threatening.
The six-member crew on Thursday noticed white flakes of ammonia leaking out of the station. Ammonia runs through multiple radiator loops to cool the station's power system. NASA said the leak is increasing from one previously leaking loop that can be bypassed if needed. NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said engineers are working on rerouting electronics just in case the loop shuts down. The Earth-orbiting station has backup systems.
Space station Commander Chris Hadfield of Canada tweeted that the problem, while serious, was stabilized. Officials will know more Friday.
The space station always has enough emergency escape ships for the crew, but there are no plans to use them.
For better and for worse, 1 in 3 teens are Facebook friends with their mothers
Josh Knoller, a young professional in New York City, spent years refusing his mother's "Friend Request" on Facebook before, eventually, "caving in." Today they have an agreement: she'll try not to make embarrassing comments, and he can delete them if she does.
"We actually got into some pretty big fights over this," says Knoller, 29. "I love my Mom to death but she's a crazy, sweet Jewish mother and I was a little worried about what she might post in front of my closest friends."
As Mother's Day approaches, 1 in 3 mothers are connected with their teens over Facebook, according to the social networking giant's review of how users self-identify.
With more than 1 billion Facebook users, that's a lot of mothers and kids keeping in touch through social media, says Fordham University communications professor Paul Levinson, author of "New New Media." ''Facebook has been a boon to family relationships," said Levinson.
Kelly McBride, an assistant professor of communications at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, says her students who "friend" their mothers keep their Facebook pages benign, using other social media like Instagram or Twitter for the racy stuff.
AP PHOTOS: Creepy ghost town comes up for air and tries to recover its tourism past
EPECUEN, Argentina (AP) — A strange ghost town that spent a quarter century under water is coming up for air again in the Argentine farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires.
Epecuen was once a bustling little lakeside resort, where 1,500 people served 20,000 tourists a season. During Argentina's golden age, the same trains that carried grain to the outside world brought visitors from the capital to relax in Epecuen's saltwater baths and spas.
The saltwater lake was particularly attractive because it has 10 times more salt than the ocean, making the water buoyant. Tourists, especially people from Buenos Aires' large Jewish community, enjoyed floating in water that reminded them of the Dead Sea in the Middle East.
Then a particularly heavy rainstorm followed a series of wet winters, and the lake overflowed its banks on Nov. 10, 1985. Water burst through a retaining wall and spilled into the lakeside streets. People fled with what they could, and within days their homes were submerged under nearly 10 meters (33 feet) of corrosive saltwater.
Now the water has mostly receded, exposing what looks like a scene from a movie about the end of the world. The town hasn't been rebuilt, but it has become a tourist destination once again, for people willing to drive at least six hours from Buenos Aires to get here, along 340 miles (550 kilometers) of narrow country roads.
1969 telegram from Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis: Can Paul come out to play?
LONDON (AP) — Miles and Jimi. Jimi and Miles. Fans of the late trumpet and guitar masters have long known that Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix had been making plans to record together in the year before Hendrix's sudden death in 1970.
But less attention has been paid to the bass player they were trying to recruit: Paul McCartney, who was busy with another band at the time.
This tantalizing detail about the super group that never was — jazz standout Tony Williams would have been on drums — is contained in an oft-overlooked telegram that Hendrix sent to McCartney at The Beatles' Apple Records in London on Oct. 21, 1969.
"We are recording and LP together this weekend," it says, complete with a typographical error. "How about coming in to play bass stop call Alan Douglas 212-5812212. Peace Jimi Hendrix Miles Davis Tony Williams."
The telegram, advising McCartney to contact producer Douglas if he could make the session, has been part of the Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia collection since it was purchased at auction in 1995. Still it has only generated attention in recent months with the successful release of "People, Hell & Angels," expected to be the last CD of Hendrix's studio recordings.