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Source: National News

Transcript reveals panic on South Korean ship

<p> Passengers aboard the doomed South Korean ferry could not board lifeboats because the vessel had already listed too much, a crew member on the ship said, according to a radio transcript released Sunday. </p><p> The dramatic conversation that took place while the Sewol ferry was sinking last Wednesday was released by the search mission's joint task force. </p><p> Here's an exchange between an unidentified crew member of the Sewol and the Jindo Vehicle Traffic Service: </p><p> Sewol: "Our ship is listing and may fall."</p><p> Jindo VTS: "How are the passengers doing? ..."</p><p> Sewol: "It's too listed that they are not able to move."</p><p> A short time later, another exchange took place: </p><p> Jindo VTS: "Are the passengers able to escape?"</p><p> Sewol: "The ship listed too much, so it is impossible."</p><p> The transcripts may help answer one of the major questions about the capsizing: Why didn't passengers escape on lifeboats?</p><p> At least 58 people have died in the sinking, and 244 are missing, the South Korean coast guard said Sunday. </p><p> Search crews brought more than a dozen bodies to shore Sunday morning, a solemn process pierced by the deafening screams and cries from the passengers' families.</p><p> The wrenching scene came after four police boats arrived in rapid succession. The first carried four bodies. The second boat had three more. The third and fourth also carried three bodies each.</p><p> Each body was taken onto a stretcher on the dock in Jindo, draped in cloth. After an inspection, they were carried along a path guarded by police -- who were also shedding tears -- and past grieving family members. </p><p> Some relatives refused to accept the outcome. </p><p> "Wake up! Wake up, please!" one man screamed. </p><p> With hundreds of people still missing after the ferry sank Wednesday, the heartbreaking scene will likely play out over and over again. </p><p> Although 174 people were rescued shortly after the vessel sank Wednesday, no survivors have been found since. </p><p> Nonetheless, 563 divers will continue plunging into the frigid Yellow Sea on Sunday. And 34 aircraft and 204 ships will aid in the search Sunday, the country's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said. </p><p> As they wait, relatives of the missing were asked to submit DNA samples. </p><p> Ship's captain defends evacuation</p><p> According to the transcript, Jindo Vehicle Traffic Service urged the captain to take charge.</p><p> Jindo VTS: "The captain should make (the) decision to make people escape. We do not know the situation so captain make final decision on passengers' escape."</p><p> The captain has defended his order to delay the evacuation of the ferry. </p><p> "It is a fairly fast current area, and the water temperature was cold," Capt. Lee Joon Seok said, according to CNN affiliate YTN. </p><p> "I thought that abandoning the ship without discretion would make you drift off a fairly far distance and cause a lot of trouble. At the same time, the rescue ship did not come, and there weer no fishing boats or supporting ships around to help at that time." </p><p> The captain has been charged with abandoning his boat, negligence, causing bodily injury, not seeking rescue from other ships and violating "seamen's law," state media reported.</p><p> Prosecutor Lee Bong-chang gave more details about the accusations against the captain. </p><p> "Mr. Lee is charged with causing the Sewol ship to sink by failing to slow down while sailing the narrow route and making (a) turn excessively," the prosecutor told the semiofficial Yonhap news agency. </p><p> "Lee is also charged with failing to do the right thing to guide the passengers to escape and thereby leading to their death or injury."</p><p> If convicted, the captain faces from five years to life in prison. </p><p> The captain wasn't at the helm of the Sewol when it started to sink, the prosecutor said. A third mate was at the helm. </p><p> So where was the captain?</p><p> The captain was not in the steering room when the accident took place, according to police and his own account.</p><p> He said he plotted the ship's course, and then went to his cabin briefly "to tend to something." It was then, the captain said, that the accident happened. </p><p> A crew member, described as the third mate and identified only as Park, appeared in handcuffs with Lee. </p><p> The third mate, who was at the helm of the ship when Lee left, said she did not make a sharp turn, but "the steering turned much more than usual." </p><p> Park is facing charges including negligence and causing injuries leading to deaths, said Yang Joong Jin, a maritime police spokesman. </p><p> A technician with the surname Cho is also facing the same charges, he said.</p><p> The captain was one those rescued soon after the Sewol began to sink, violating an "internationally recognized rule that a captain must stay on the vessel," maritime law attorney Jack Hickey said. </p><p> "Pretty much every law, rule, regulation and standard throughout the world says that yes, the captain must stay with the ship until all personnel are safely off of the ship, certainly passengers."</p><p> In the radio transcript, the crew is urged to get the passengers in life jackets.</p><p> Jindo VTS: "Patrol boat ETA is 15 minutes. Please broadcast and tell the passengers to wear life jackets. "</p><p> Sewol: "We are unable to broadcast."</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 10:36:15 GMT

Easter tension in Israel, prayers in Boston

<p> Christians celebrated Easter around the world Sunday, but with reminders of violence and politics.</p><p> In Jerusalem, security will be tight throughout the city. Tensions escalated Saturday when Israeli security forces halted Palestinian Christians who took part in a pre-Easter procession in the Old City. </p><p> Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, was among the group trying to walk together on what was Holy Saturday. </p><p> "I call on all parties to respect the right of religious freedom, granting access to holy sites for worshippers of all faiths and refraining from provocations, not least during the religious holidays," Serry said. </p><p> But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the incident a "non-event." He told the Jerusalem Post that police were trying to limit the number of those packed into the church and the narrow streets around it.</p><p> Boston: A blessing before the marathon</p><p> In the United States, Cardinal Sean O'Malley will offer a blessing for runners in the Boston Marathon at the end of Easter Sunday Mass at the Cathedral, CNN affiliate WJAR-TV said. </p><p> Though an annual part of the race buildup, the Cardinal's blessing will have extra meaning this year. The city is marking the one-year anniversary of the bombings that killed three people and wounded at least 264 others. </p><p> This year's marathon is Monday. Other Boston churches will offer special blessings.</p><p> Pope Francis' message to the world</p><p> Pope Francis will celebrate Easter for the second time since becoming pope in 2013. He will deliver the Easter message at 6 a.m. ET. from the central balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.</p><p> British royals, Obama celebrate Easter</p><p> Queen Elizabeth II will attend Easter Mass at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continue their tour of Australia.</p><p> President Obama wished the American people a happy Easter on Saturday in his weekly address. </p><p> "For me, Easter is a story of hope -- a belief in a better day to come, just around the bend," he said. "So to all Christians who are celebrating, from my family to yours, Happy Easter. And to every American, have a joyful weekend."</p><p> He celebrated Passover earlier this week with the fifth Seder at the White House. Obama is the first president to host a Seder dinner while in office.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 10:06:35 GMT

Hamilton completes F1 hat-trick in China

<p> Britain's Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two at the Chinese Grand Prix Sunday as his teammate Nico Rosberg clung on to his lead in the F1 world championship title race.</p><p> It was the third straight victory for Hamilton after his retirement in the opening round in Australia and he led for every one of the 56 laps in Shanghai after starting from pole position.</p><p> By contrast, Rosberg had to battle through the field after a wretched start and only overhauled Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari after the final round of pit stops.</p><p> Rosberg, who won in Australia, has a four-point lead over Hamilton after four rounds of the 2014 season, which is being dominated by their all-conquering Mercedes team.</p><p> Alonso's third was a rare bright spot in a difficult season for Ferrari, whose team boss Stefano Domenicali quit earlier this week, but it was a frustrating afternoon for Red Bull and defending four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.</p><p> The German had to give best to his rookie teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the battle for a distant fourth after initially running in second following a fine start.</p><p> Vettel also appeared to disregard team orders after being told to let Australia's Ricciardo past. </p><p> "Tough luck" came the reply over race radio, but he did move over shortly afterwards.</p><p> Hamilton was involved in an epic battle with Rosberg in Bahrain, but spent much of the latest race in splendid isolation, finishing over 18 seconds clear as he took the checkered flag.</p><p> "It's incredible, I just can't believe how amazing this car is," the 2008 world champion said in his post-race podium interview. "I was just really racing myself," he added.</p><p> Two-time champion Alonso was delighted to have edged ahead of the two Red Bulls after the ructions within his team which have seen Domenicali replaced by Marco Mattiacci. "It was a good weekend, we improved the car and were more competitive," he said.</p><p> "We've not had the start to the season we would have liked, but we are still in the fight," added the Spaniard.</p><p> Nico Hulkenberg was sixth for Force India, just holding off Finn Valtteri Bottas in his Williams.</p><p> Bottas and Rosberg made heavy contact on the first corner but both were able to continue unhindered. "There were cars all over the place and it was great my car held on," a relieved Rosberg said.</p><p> Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez in the second Force India and youngster Daniil Kvyat in a Toro Rosso completed the points scoring positions.</p><p> Hamilton was completing his 25th career win and it was the first time he has achieved a run of three successive victories, underlining his challenge for a coveted second world crown.</p><p> With four races out of 19 gone, Mercedes already have established a massive lead in the constructors' standings with 154 points, 97 more than second-placed Red Bull, who disappointed in the race proper Sunday after promising performances in practice and qualifying.</p><p> They will hope to have closed the gap by the time the fifth round of the season in Barcelona from May 9-11, a circuit which has favored Red Bull in the past.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 09:56:53 GMT

Drones find nothing in MH370 search

<p> The underwater drone scanning for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 finished its seventh mission Sunday, having covered about half its intended territory without finding any sign of the missing plane.</p><p> This has been the case for 44 days now, which seems like an eternity for the relatives of the 239 passengers and crew on board still hoping for a miracle or, at least, closure.</p><p> The Bluefin-21 drone started its eighth mission soon after the previous one ended Sunday morning, surveying the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean for traces of the Boeing 777.</p><p> These efforts may be a main focus of the search, but they aren't the only part.</p><p> Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre announced Sunday morning that up to 11 military aircraft and 12 ships will participate in the day's search. They'll be looking in two zones that, together, encompass about 18,700 square miles (48,500 square kilometers).</p><p> A day earlier, acting Malaysian transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that "experts have narrowed down the search area." </p><p> But are they actually closer to finding anything? Hishammuddin conceded, "it's difficult to say," adding the search "is at a critical juncture."</p><p> "I appeal to everybody around the world," he said, "to pray and pray hard that we find something to work on over the next couple of days."</p><p> The failure to find clues to the plane's disappearance does not mean that the operation will stop, only that other approaches -- such as a wider scope or the use of other assets -- may be considered, Hishammuddin told reporters. "The search will always continue."</p><p> Still, he said, "With every passing day, the search has become more and more difficult."</p><p> Mother Nature isn't making this task much easier. </p><p> Tropical Cyclone Jack is circulating northwest of the search area. And while it won't hit directly, this system should increase winds and rains on Sunday into Monday.</p><p> Passengers' relatives list questions</p><p> It was early on March 8 when Flight 370 set off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, destined for Beijing.</p><p> The plane never made it.</p><p> What happened has been a confounding mystery, with passengers family members' frustrations compounded by a scarcity of details from authorities.</p><p> New ones that have come out six weeks later may help round out the picture but don't answer the main question: Why did the plane go off course, and where is it now?</p><p> These recent developments include a senior Malaysian aviation source's assertion that the jetliner deviated from its flight path while inside Vietnamese airspace. </p><p> It turned left, then climbed to 39,000 feet -- below its peak safe limit of 43,100 feet -- and maintained that altitude for about 20 minutes over the Malay Peninsula before beginning to descend, the source said.</p><p> Malaysia Airlines has declined to answer CNN questions on various matters -- including the fact that, according to the source, the missing jet was equipped with four emergency locator transmitters. When triggered by a crash, ELTs are designed to transmit their location to a satellite.</p><p> Relatives of people aboard the jetliner have drawn up 26 questions that they want addressed by Malaysian officials, who are to meet with them next week in Beijing. Most of the Flight 370 passengers and crew were Chinese.</p><p> Among them: What's in the flight's log book? Can they review the jet's maintenance records? Can they listen to recordings of the Boeing 777 pilot's conversations with air traffic controllers just before contact was lost?</p><p> Hishammuddin has defended his government's handling of the operation and accused members of the media of focusing on the Chinese families. He said relatives of passengers and crew from other nations represented have not had problems.</p><p> "The most difficult part of any investigation of this nature is having to deal with the families," he said. </p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 09:54:33 GMT

S. Korea families protest over rescue operation

<p> Angry and frustrated over both the search and rescue operation and the flow of information from South Korean authorities, dozens of relatives of missing ferry passengers intending to march in protest to Seoul were blocked by police from leaving Jindo.</p><p> Early Sunday around 2 a.m, the family members left their temporary shelter at an indoor gym and demanded they be able to go to the Blue House -- the official residence of the South Korean President Park Geun-hye -- to present their complaints. </p><p> The residence is located in the capital, Seoul -- some 275 miles north of Jindo. </p><p> Jindo is the port city where the search, rescue and recovery operation has been based since the ferry, carrying 476 passengers, capsized and sank on Wednesday. Hundreds of passengers remain unaccounted for.</p><p> A police cordon prevented the planned march from proceeding, witnesses said. A few scuffles broke out but no one was reported hurt.</p><p> "We are not getting any help, so we want to go to the Blue House," said Nam Sa Hyun, an older sister of a student who is missing from the ferry. "We want to tell the president about our situation." </p><p> "For four days, there is no help. Right now, nobody is giving information on the missing. Our children are in the boat and there is no plan."</p><p> Though the police were not aggressive to the protesting families, Nam questioned why there were so many officers at the site of anguished relatives. </p><p> "They're not letting us get on the bus, the police are blocking us," she said. "They're not helping us, they're just blocking us."</p><p> Several families stayed in the street, attempting to break through police lines in their march. Some families lay down on the ground, sleeping outside in the cold to express their displeasure. </p><p> In a video sent to CNN, angry parents yelled at officials who were trying to convince the families to go back to the gym, which serves as a temporary shelter for families.</p><p> "I can't believe them," a woman shouted at the official who was urging them to return.</p><p> "Let's go on our way. Why do we sit here and listen to them?'</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 08:51:24 GMT

Murky waters hamper ferry rescue efforts

<p> Two large inflatables mark the spot where the Sewol ferry sank on Wednesday, taking with it hundreds of passengers.</p><p> Without these markers, there would be nothing to indicate the horror that lies beneath these waves. Peering into the murky waters of the Yellow Sea from aboard a local fishing boat, visibility is almost non-existent. </p><p> Under the water, conditions for divers carrying out the grim task of looking for survivors, but finding bodies instead, are challenging at best.</p><p> There are more than 120 vessels near the site of the sunken ferry.</p><p> These range from imposing South Korean and U.S. warships to small private vessels -- all making themselves available and offering whatever help they can in the, desperate hope there may still be life beneath these waves.</p><p> This is the assumption search and rescue officials are working on. </p><p> Floating nearby, however, is a reminder that some time soon this operation will change from search and rescue to simply recovery.</p><p> Four massive cranes stand by to move the sunken ferry. </p><p> Some divers say the cranes are necessary to bring the vessel closer to the surface, allowing easier access for dive teams.</p><p> The decision to employ the cranes is not just a practical one. It is an emotional one that officials say will be made with the consent of families. </p><p> Moving the ship could be an implicit acceptance all life still onboard has been lost -- that no more survivors trapped in the ship will be found.</p><p> Despite the sheer volume of vessels, it does not look like an urgent rescue operation on the surface. It is under the water that the crucial work is happening.</p><p> A dozen speedboats filled with divers and their teams circled around the center of the site mid morning, as the sea was calm and visibility, at least above the water, was good. </p><p> Less than two hours later, the weather had turned and the diving teams disappeared.</p><p> A significant swell and strong currents forced many of the smaller vessels to seek respite in calmer waters near one of the surrounding islands. </p><p> Hundreds of divers, both navy and civilian, continue to work around the clock to find passengers and to give heartbroken families an answer. </p><p> The immense manpower of this rescue operation remains at the cruel mercy of the recently fast changing weather in the Yellow Sea.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 08:42:16 GMT

Body is that of missing 5-year-old boy

<p> A body found off a central Massachusetts highway has been positively identified as that of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old boy who was missing for months before police were alerted.</p><p> Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s announcement on Saturday wasn't surprising: One day before, Early had said the body wrapped in a blanket and stuffed inside a bag matched the height and weight of Jeremiah.</p><p> Still, how he got there and even how he died is still unknown. The district attorney did not detail a cause of death Saturday, explaining the child's autopsy is not yet complete.</p><p> The case raised questions about the state's role as it relates to Jeremiah's care, with Massachusetts Department of Children and Families Commissioner Olga Roche admitting that there had been "a serious failure."</p><p> "We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Jeremiah Oliver" Roche said Saturday. "DCF continues to focus on caring for Jeremiah's siblings to ensure they are receiving the support they need during this very difficult time."</p><p> In March, Jeremiah's mother, 28-year-old Elsa Oliver, and her boyfriend, 22-year-old Alberto Sierra, were indicted by a grand jury on charges related to Jeremiah's disappearance as well as on charges of child abuse. Calls to the attorneys for both were not immediately returned Friday.</p><p> The district attorney's office did not speculate Saturday on whether they might face additional charges now that Jeremiah has been confirmed dead. </p><p> The last documentation of state authorities' interaction with Jeremiah was in May 2013, according to Department of Children and Families spokesman Alec Loftus.</p><p> In June, Loftus said, the social worker was told that Jeremiah had moved to Florida to live with his grandmother but did not follow up or verify that.</p><p> The last visit to the home was in November, when the social worker left behind a business card indicating it would be the Department of Children and Families' final visit, according to Loftus.</p><p> On December 2, Jeremiah's 8-year-old sister told counselors at her elementary school that her mother's boyfriend, Sierra, had abused her, according to a police affidavit.</p><p> After those statements, the girl and another brother were taken into protective custody, according to the affidavit.</p><p> It was in December that authorities realized that the boy was missing.</p><p> Roche fired the social worker and supervisor assigned to his case because they did not conduct the required in-person, monthly checks on the family, according to a statement released that month.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 05:32:14 GMT

'8THEIST' denied, 'BAPTIST' approved; atheist sues

<p> Shannon Morgan identifies as an atheist and wants the world, or at least the car behind her, to know it. But the state of New Jersey says no.</p><p> Morgan, of Leesburg, is suing the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission for rejecting her request for a vanity license plate reading "8THEIST," according to a formal complaint filed Thursday with the district court. </p><p> But the commission nixed her request, saying the message "may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency," according to the complaint. </p><p> An Americans United for Separation of Church and State legal team is now helping her sue the commission claiming Morgan's First Amendment rights were violated. </p><p> "The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging nonbelief," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the group. "It simply has no right to do that."</p><p> Morgan claims that she was denied a license plate for "8THEIST" but approved for one that read "BAPTIST" and that this "expresses a preference for theistic religious beliefs, over non-theistic beliefs" according to the complaint. </p><p> This case is all too familiar to another New Jersey native, David Silverman, who had to petition for a vanity license plate announcing his atheistic views. After he was initially rejected for a plate reading, "ATHE1ST," Silverman filed a formal complaint with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. He says that within three days, a supervisor at the commission issued him the plate.</p><p> "The word 'atheist,' in my opinion, is not objectionable," Silverman, who is president of American Atheists, told CNN. "It's not a bad word and shouldn't be regarded as a bad word." </p><p> He takes issue with the process, saying that it's problematic that atheists have to jump through hoops only to be denied, then have to appeal before their license plates get approved.</p><p> Calls to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission were not immediately returned.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 05:29:35 GMT

Drones find nothing in MH370 search

<p> The underwater drone scanning for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 finished its seventh mission Sunday, having covered about half its intended territory without finding any sign of the missing plane.</p><p> This has been the case for 44 days now, which seems like an eternity for the relatives of the 239 passengers and crew on board still hoping for a miracle or, at least, closure.</p><p> The Bluefin-21 drone started its eighth mission soon after the previous one ended Sunday morning, surveying the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean for traces of the Boeing 777.</p><p> These efforts may be a main focus of the search, but they aren't the only part.</p><p> Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre announced Sunday morning that up to 11 military aircraft and 12 ships will participate in the day's search. They'll be looking in two zones that, together, encompass about 18,700 square miles (48,500 square kilometers).</p><p> A day earlier, acting Malaysian transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that "experts have narrowed down the search area." </p><p> But are they actually closer to finding anything? Hishammuddin conceded, "it's difficult to say," adding the search "is at a critical juncture."</p><p> "I appeal to everybody around the world," he said, "to pray and pray hard that we find something to work on over the next couple of days."</p><p> The failure to find clues to the plane's disappearance does not mean that the operation will stop, only that other approaches -- such as a wider scope or the use of other assets -- may be considered, Hishammuddin told reporters. "The search will always continue."</p><p> Still, he said, "With every passing day, the search has become more and more difficult."</p><p> Mother Nature isn't making this task much easier. </p><p> Tropical Cyclone Jack is circulating northwest of the search area. And while it won't hit directly, this system should increase winds and rains on Sunday into Monday.</p><p> Passengers' relatives list questions</p><p> It was early on March 8 when Flight 370 set off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, destined for Beijing.</p><p> The plane never made it.</p><p> What happened has been a confounding mystery, with passengers family members' frustrations compounded by a scarcity of details from authorities.</p><p> New ones that have come out six weeks later may help round out the picture but don't answer the main question: Why did the plane go off course, and where is it now?</p><p> These recent developments include a senior Malaysian aviation source's assertion that the jetliner deviated from its flight path while inside Vietnamese airspace. </p><p> It turned left, then climbed to 39,000 feet -- below its peak safe limit of 43,100 feet -- and maintained that altitude for about 20 minutes over the Malay Peninsula before beginning to descend, the source said.</p><p> Malaysia Airlines has declined to answer CNN questions on various matters -- including the fact that, according to the source, the missing jet was equipped with four emergency locator transmitters. When triggered by a crash, ELTs are designed to transmit their location to a satellite.</p><p> Relatives of people aboard the jetliner have drawn up 26 questions that they want addressed by Malaysian officials, who are to meet with them next week in Beijing. Most of the Flight 370 passengers and crew were Chinese.</p><p> Among them: What's in the flight's log book? Can they review the jet's maintenance records? Can they listen to recordings of the Boeing 777 pilot's conversations with air traffic controllers just before contact was lost?</p><p> Hishammuddin has defended his government's handling of the operation and accused members of the media of focusing on the Chinese families. He said relatives of passengers and crew from other nations represented have not had problems.</p><p> "The most difficult part of any investigation of this nature is having to deal with the families," he said. </p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 04:57:53 GMT

Prosecutor: Pair used cat to defraud owner

<p> A once fat cat is now almost broke, literally. Not the Wall Street-type, but the four-legged, furry variety.</p><p> A 7-year-old tabby called Puddy Cat is at the center of an extensive embezzlement case out of Suffolk County, Mass. </p><p> Puddy Cat once stood to inherit part of a trust fund worth at least $450,000, until its owner fell victim to a couple of swindling neighbors, prosecutors said. </p><p> Puddy Cat belongs to a 74-year-old Brighton woman who is suffering from progressive dementia and living in a nursing home. </p><p> The woman created the "Puddy Cat Trust" in her will and specified that, upon her death, the tabby was to be cared for through the trust and that all remaining assets would benefit animal welfare groups. </p><p> The Suffolk County District Attorney said Thursday in a news release that several years ago, the two neighbors, who were roommates, befriended Puddy Cat's owner and offered to take care of the beloved cat.</p><p> Those two neighbors, Randi Berkowitz, 63, and Patricia DiGiacomo, 58, pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday to a 63-count indictment accusing them of raiding the victim's financial accounts.</p><p> They are accused of using Puddy Cat to swindle the ailing victim out of her life savings and the tabby out of its inheritance.</p><p> District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said the pair used Puddy Cat, under the guise of caring for the feline, to gain access to the victim's bank accounts and financial assets.</p><p> "This is one of the most startling cases of elder exploitation we've seen in years," Conley said.</p><p> Berkowitz and DiGiacomo are charged with a laundry list of crimes, including embezzlement, larceny, intimidation, and perjury.</p><p> Beginning in late 2012, Berkowitz persuaded the victim to give Berkowitz her power of attorney and name her the administrator of her will, granting Berkowitz authority to make financial and other decisions in the victim's name, according to Assistant District Attorney Michele Granda.</p><p> "The defendant had unrestricted access to the victim's finances and even got the victim to sign blank checks."</p><p> Granda said that within 12 months of Berkowitz being given power of attorney, the neighbors had drained the victim's bank account of $175,000.</p><p> They allegedly used the money to buy a $27,000 Mini Cooper car, an iPad, exercise equipment and specialty kitchen items, among other purchases.</p><p> Granda said authorities were able to recover some of the stolen money.</p><p> Prosecutors also accuse Berkowitz and DiGiacomo of gaining ownership of the woman's condominium.</p><p> Berkowitz's attorney, Susan Rayburn, said her client is innocent of the charges. Rayburn said Berkowitz has felt "hunted and harassed" by authorities. </p><p> "What it feels like to me, in my experience, is more of a witch hunt than anything else. It's been really vindictive," Rayburn told CNN affiliate WBZ.</p><p> DiGiacomo's attorney did not respond to CNN's requests for comment. </p><p> After the not guilty pleas at the arraignment Thursday, the judge released the pair on their own recognizance on the condition that they stay away from the nursing home where the victim is living and that they avoid the kennel where Puddy Cat lives.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 04:37:56 GMT

Death toll from S. Korean ferry rises to 50

<p> Boat after boat, body after body from a capsized South Korean ferry came ashore Sunday morning, a solemn process interrupted by piercing cries and screams from passengers' kin.</p><p> The wrenching scene came after four police boats arrived in rapid succession. The first carried four bodies. The second boat had three more, likewise the third and fourth.</p><p> Each body was taken onto a stretcher on the dock in Jindo, draped in cloth. After an inspection, they were carried along a path guarded by police -- who themselves shed tears -- and past even more outwardly emotional family members. </p><p> These relatives cried and, in some cases, yelled loudly, clearly overtaken by the moment.</p><p> Some of those shouts came from inside the identification tent.</p><p> One man yelled out, "Wake up! Wake up, please!"</p><p> The arrival of the 13 bodies corresponds with the South Korean coast guard's announcement, a short time earlier, that the death toll had increased by that number, up to 50. But few expect it to stop there.</p><p> While 174 were rescued shortly after the vessel sunk Wednesday, there have been none saved since despite extensive, exhaustive searches by air, from ships and by divers plunging into the frigid waters and ideally inside the now completely submerged ship itself.</p><p> The number of those unaccounted for stood at 252 early Sunday.</p><p> Relatives of some of them gathered in Jindo -- the nearest port to the wreckage some 12 miles (20 kilometers) away -- were asked earlier in the weekend to submit DNA samples.</p><p> Ship's captain defends evacuation</p><p> As divers and others scrambled to retrieve yet more bodies, details are trickling in about what happened the day the ferry capsized. </p><p> Capt. Lee Joon Seok defended his order to delay the evacuation of his sinking ferry, CNN affiliate YTN reported early Saturday.</p><p> Lee was charged with abandoning his boat, negligence, causing bodily injury, not seeking rescue from other ships and violating "seamen's law," state media reported.</p><p> He appeared before reporters in handcuffs. </p><p> "Mr. Lee is charged with causing the Sewol ship to sink by failing to slow down while sailing the narrow route and making (a) turn excessively," prosecutor Lee Bong-chang told the semiofficial Yonhap news agency. </p><p> "Lee is also charged with failing to do the right thing to guide the passengers to escape and thereby leading to their death or injury."</p><p> If convicted, he faces from five years to life in prison. </p><p> Lee wasn't at the helm of the Sewol when it started to sink; a third mate was at the helm, a prosecutor said. </p><p> Where was the captain?</p><p> The captain was not in the steering room when the accident occurred, according to police and his own account. He was in his cabin. </p><p> A crew member, described as the third mate and identified only as Park, appeared in handcuffs with Lee. </p><p> Park is facing charges including negligence and causing injuries leading to deaths, said Yang Joong Jin, a maritime police spokesman. </p><p> A technician with the surname Cho is also facing the same charges, he said.</p><p> Lee answered questions as he left a court hearing Saturday. </p><p> "The tidal current was strong and water temperature was cold, and there was no rescue boat," he told reporters, according to CNN affiliate YTN. "So I had everyone stand by and wait for the rescue boat to arrive." </p><p> He said he plotted the ship's course, and then went to his cabin briefly "to tend to something." It was then, he said, the accident happened. </p><p> The third mate, who was at the helm of the ship when Lee left, said she did not make a sharp turn, but "the steering turned much more than usual." </p><p> The captain was one of at least 174 people rescued soon after the Sewol began to sink, violating an "internationally recognized rule that a captain must stay on the vessel," maritime law attorney Jack Hickey said. </p><p> "Pretty much every law, rule, regulation and standard throughout the world says that yes, the captain must stay with the ship until all personnel are safely off of the ship, certainly passengers."</p><p> More ships, aircraft </p><p> Hopes of finding the missing alive dimmed further when the entire boat became submerged Friday. Until then, part of the ship's blue-and-white hull was still poking out of the frigid waters of the Yellow Sea. </p><p> The coast guard said workers continued to pump air into the hull of the submerged ship, but could not stop its descent. The ferry boat sank 10 meters (33 feet) farther below the surface of the Yellow Sea overnight, Maritime Police told CNN Saturday.</p><p> South Korean officials said Saturday they are sending in 176 ships, 28 aircraft and 652 divers to take part in the search and rescue efforts. </p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 02:00:06 GMT

Gunmen target prominent Pakistani news anchor

<p> Gunmen wounded a prominent Pakistani TV news anchor on Saturday in an attack his brother linked to the nation's government, despite its firm denial.</p><p> Hamid Mir was shot three times by gunmen in a car and on two motorcycles near Karachi's airport, his network Geo News -- a CNN affiliate -- reported. </p><p> Shahid Hayat, the police chief for Karachi, said bullets struck Mir's intestines, leg and pelvic area. Dr. Aamir Hussain told Geo News that Mir then underwent a successful operation at a private hospital.</p><p> Amir Mir -- the targeted news anchor's brother and a journalist himself -- said Hamid Mir believed ISI, Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, and specifically its leader Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, had plans to assassinate him.</p><p> Yet the Pakistani military public relations agency ISPR said that "raising allegations against ISI or the head of ISI without any basis is highly regrettable and misleading."</p><p> In the same statement, a spokesman for that agency condemned the attack and "prayed for (Mir's) well-being and quick recovery."</p><p> The United States condemned the shooting, calling it the latest in a series of worrisome attacks on journalists in Pakistan. </p><p> "...Attacks like these should be a wake-up call to all who value democracy in Pakistan," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said."</p><p> "We wish Hamid Mir a speedy recovery and urge the Government of Pakistan to bring all those responsible for these attacks on the media to justice."</p><p> A former newspaper reporter and editor, Hamid Mir writes columns and hosts a political talk show on Geo News. His guests have included members of Pakistan's ruling government and the opposition. Mir is also writing a book on Osama bin Laden, the late al Qaeda leader whose escape from the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan he extensively reported on.</p><p> Two Pakistani governments -- once in 2007 and again in 2008 -- banned him from appearing on Pakistani television.</p><p> Pointing to a late March attack against a Pakistani journalist, an official with the Committee to Protect Journalists called the targeting of Mir "an indicator that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not been able to reverse the country's appalling record of violence against journalists, despite pledges to do so."</p><p> "Police must act swiftly and decisively in this and all cases that have been building up for years in Pakistan," said Bob Dietz, the journalism advocacy group's Asia program coordinator. "And the country's media must use their capabilities to pursue their own investigations, as well as pressure the government to take action."</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 01:44:01 GMT

Families' frustration: 'Nothing is changing'

<p> When a ship comes into sight, they come -- seemingly out of nowhere, inching closer to the dock. Bleary-eyed, the faces of the families of the missing have become swollen from crying. </p><p> They watch the South Korean Coast Guard pull in from the Yellow Sea to a dock flanked by emergency workers and police officers. </p><p> This is where the bodies from sunken ferry Sewol land.</p><p> They're watching to see if their loved ones have been retrieved from the sea. So far, dozens of people are dead. </p><p> Several family members of the more than 250 missing have been watching for clues about their loved ones. Some have resorted to sleeping in their cars, stepping out only when they see the ships arrive. As a fourth day of search brought several more bodies to shore, the parents of the missing found little solace.</p><p> "There is no hell like this," said one parent, who did not give his name.</p><p> Located just 12 miles from the accident site, Paeng Mok Harbor has become a refugee camp for the brokenhearted. </p><p> It is essentially one street with a few docks and a scattered number of faded buildings -- one sign that reads "Beach City." There is no sun-kissed beach here, just slabs of concrete juxtaposed to the water.</p><p> Tents have popped up on the sole street -- rows of them have become clinics, pharmacies, cafeterias and drop-in counseling centers for families. </p><p> At one of the largest tents at the harbor, family members meet everyday with officials. For days now, they've hurled pointed questions at South Korean officials, accusing them of not acting swiftly enough to find their children. </p><p> A similar scene unfolded about 19 miles away from the harbor, where Coast Guard officials also provided a briefing at a large gymnasium, which serves as a temporary shelter for families.</p><p> "You have no answers!" a man stood up from the audience. "You all are not taking any responsibility."</p><p> The families of the missing had little patience for the officials who told them that numerous divers, ships and aircraft were involved in the search effort. A few yelled that they had heard all this before and that they were tired of the same explanations about poor conditions hampering the search.</p><p> "Nothing is changing," another parent yelled. "What effort are you making? At this pace, it is going to take one, two or three years." </p><p> "We are trying our best. We are sorry," one of the divers said.</p><p> One father stood up in the crowd. He suggested that it was time to make a decision: To continue to use divers or to use the seaborne cranes that have arrived at the site. </p><p> If they start using cranes, it means the movement could displace the water and possible air pockets -- if any exist. Officials say they must confer with the parents before deciding to use the cranes.</p><p> Kim Joong Chil, whose son is missing, says he believes it's time to lift the submerged ferry. </p><p> "He's inside the sea, if he died," Kim said of his eldest son. "Either way, the students are in the water and we have to find them."</p><p> His son, Kim Yoon Soo, 18, is missing -- one of the high school students heading on a field trip. Kim and his wife gave DNA samples, an effort undertaken by the Maritime Police in anticipation of recovering and identifying the bodies. </p><p> Since Wednesday, Kim has stayed at the gym where families sleep on the open floor, on top of blankets in the stuffy gym. They are given towels, toothbrushes and hot meals. Some families sit in circles on the floor eating out of bento boxes handed to them by volunteers. A live feed shows the rescue efforts on the Yellow Sea on a big screen in front of the gym, but not many appear to be watching. </p><p> Kim barely glances at the screen. Dangling from his neck is a name tag with two numbers: his son's grade level (2) and his classroom (3). Here at the Jindo gymnasium, family members wear their children's name instead of their own.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 01:12:17 GMT

Israeli police block U.N. envoy in Jerusalem

<p> Israeli security forces halted Palestinian Christians -- joined by a U.N. envoy -- participating a pre-Easter procession Saturday in Jerusalem's Old City, an action the envoy sharply criticized but that an Israeli official dismissed as a "non-event."</p><p> Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, was among a large, tightly packed group trying to walk together on what is Holy Saturday on the Christian calendar. A woman yells out at one point, "They are preventing us from accessing our churches to pray."</p><p> Some time later, the people are stopped by security forces. Barricades are set up, only to be picked up and taken away. There's also some pushing and shoving before the scene eventually calms down.</p><p> The special coordinator's office explained that the group had intended to move from the area's New Gate to the Holy Sepulchre "at the invitation of the Palestinian Christian community in Jerusalem." It said the group had been earlier given "assurances ... of unhindered access," only to have "the Israeli police refuse ... to allow such entry claiming they had orders to that effect."</p><p> Serry expressed "dismay" over the incident, adding, "I call on all parties to respect the right of religious freedom, granting access to holy sites for worshippers of all faiths and refraining from provocations, not least during the religious holidays." </p><p> Yet Israel's government saw the matter in a different light.</p><p> Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor -- in a message retweeted by Israel Defense Forces spokesman Peter Lerner -- said, "UN envoy #RobertSerry shows poor judgment in fabricating an incident out of a non-event, mishandling sensitive issue of religious freedom."</p><p> Palmor told the Jerusalem Post that police were acting to limit the number of those packed into the church and the narrow streets around it, dismissing what happened as "a micro-incident."</p><p> This incident is not Serry's first run-in with authorities: The U.N. envoy said he was threatened by armed men in Crimea, which broke away from Ukraine and joined Russia.</p><p> Whatever its origins or conclusions, Saturday's ordeal did not prevent other activities in and around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is where many Christians believe Jesus was buried and rose from the dead. </p><p> On Saturday, the church once again was home to the Holy Fire ceremony, including the sight of dozens of people holding candles or small torches.</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 01:09:41 GMT

S. Korea's families ask how they can go on

<p> The grief of any parent who loses a child is unimaginable. But that pain is amplified now in South Korea, due to the uncertainty over the fate of hundreds -- many of them children on a school field trip -- on a sunken ferry and how this east Asian nation's culture copes with such heartache.</p><p> For proof, one need look no further than hospital beds where some parents are hooked up to IVs because their sorrow is so great that they have refused to eat.</p><p> Some say they don't want to live. </p><p> "If I don't have my younger child, I want to jump in the sea," one woman said. "Thinking about my child in the sea, how can I, as a parent, eat or drink. I hate myself for this." </p><p> In South Korea, suicide is a real threat. </p><p> It has the highest suicide rate among the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Some point to South Korea's ultra-competitive society or an unwillingness to accept failure as factors that contribute to this reality. </p><p> It is a culture where shame carries a heavy burden, and where there is simply a societal acceptance of suicide. </p><p> Officials have made mental health workers available to the families, but despite the enormity of the tragedy, they find themselves not busy. </p><p> "No one came to us for counseling. The families don't care about their safety or well-being," said Han Kee Rae, a psychology volunteer. </p><p> Counselors hope more people will come for help, especially in light of the high number of suicides in the country.</p><p> There are fears that some may follow the example of Kang Min Kyu, the vice principal of Seoul's Ansan Danwon High School.</p><p> The 52-year-old Kyu was among the first to be rescued from the sinking ship.</p><p> Then, two days later, he was found hanging from a tree. </p><p> Police said he used a belt to apparently hang himself from a tree near a gymnasium in Jindo, where the distraught relatives of missing passengers have been camping out.</p><p> In a note, Kang wrote that the field trip had been his idea and that the deaths of the students were his fault.</p><p> His suicide is hardly the first, nor the most high-profile, in recent memory in South Korea.</p><p> Former President Roh Moo Hyun jumped to his death in 2009 in the wake of a financial scandal. And Hyundai Group Chairman Chung Mong Hun leaped from a building in the midst of a corruption investigation in 2003, ending his life.</p><p> Wherever it leads, the despair was palpable at the site where grieving family members of the capsized ferry's passengers have been gathering.</p><p> For some, the sadness is mixed with anger. And desperation abounds.</p><p> As one woman, during a briefing by maritime officials, shouted: "How are we going to live now?"</p>

Published: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 01:05:59 GMT