In brief | Nation & World, January 21, 2014


Two people dead in Omaha plant explosion, death toll could rise

OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha authorities confirm two people died and 10 others were seriously hurt in an explosion and partial building collapse at an animal feed processing plant Monday morning.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine says he’s been notified about two deaths in Monday’s explosion.

It’s unclear if the death toll will rise as crews sift through the rubble of the International Nutrition plant.

Interim Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger says the search is progressing slowly because the structure is unsafe.

Kanger said he doesn’t believe anyone remaining inside is alive.

Family of man held in North Korea worried, encouraged by report

SEATTLE — The family of an American missionary held more than a year in North Korea was heartbroken and encouraged by a brief news conference in which Kenneth Bae, wearing a gray cap and inmate’s uniform with the number 103 on his chest, apologized and said he committed anti-government acts.

“Our end goal is to see Kenneth reunited so he can recover emotionally and physically. He has chronic health problems,” family friend Derek Sciba told The Associated Press. Sciba is a friend of Bae’s sister, Terri Chung of Edmonds, and part of a group pushing for Bae’s release.

“On the one hand it’s heartbreaking to see him in a prison uniform at the mercy of folks in North Korea, but on the other hand it’s encouraging to see him and that he’s able to speak,” Sciba said.

Bae made the comments at what he called a press conference held at his own request. He was under guard during the appearance. It is not unusual for prisoners in North Korea to say after their release that they spoke in similar situations under duress.

Complications hinder several of Obama’s key surveillance changes

WASHINGTON — Several of the key surveillance reforms unveiled by President Barack Obama face complications that could muddy the proposals’ lawfulness, slow their momentum in Congress and saddle the government with heavy costs and bureaucracy, legal experts warn.

Despite Obama’s plans to shift the National Security Agency’s mass storage of Americans’ bulk phone records elsewhere, telephone companies do not want the responsibility. And the government could face privacy and structural hurdles in relying on any other entity to store the data.

Constitutional analysts also question the legal underpinning of Obama’s commitment to setting up an advisory panel of privacy experts to intervene in some proceedings of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the NSA’s data mining operations. Obama has asked Congress to set up such a panel, but senior federal judges already oppose the move, citing practical and legal drawbacks.

The secret courts now operate with only the government making its case to a federal judge for examining someone’s phone data. Civil libertarians have called for a voice in the room that might offer the judge an opposing view.

Comet-chasing craft wakes from hibernation, sends signal to Earth

BERLIN — Waking up after almost three years of hibernation, a comet-chasing spacecraft sent its first signal back to Earth on Monday, prompting cheers from scientists who hope to use it to land the first space lander onto a comet.

The European Space Agency received the all-clear message from its Rosetta spacecraft — a message that had to travel some 500 million miles.

In keeping with the agency’s effort to turn the tense wait for a signal into a social media event, the probe triggered a series of “Hello World!” tweets in different languages.

Dormant systems on the unmanned spacecraft were switched back on in preparation for the final stage of its decade-long mission to rendezvous with the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Systems had been powered down in 2011 to conserve energy, leaving scientists in the dark about the probe’s fate until now.

By wire sources