MEXICO CITY – A blast that collapsed the lower floors of a building in the headquarters of Mexico’s state-owned oil company, crushing at least 33 people beneath tons of rubble and injuring 121, is being looked at as an accident although all lines of investigation remain open, the head of Petroleos Mexicanos said Friday.
As hundreds of emergency workers dug through the rubble, the company’s worst disaster in a decade was fueling debate about the state of Pemex, a vital source of government revenue that is suffering from decades of underinvestment and has been hit by a recent series of accidents that have tarnished its otherwise improving safety record.
Until now, virtually all the accidents had hit its petroleum infrastructure, not its office buildings.
Few details issued in hostage standoff
After four anxious days, only the slimmest of details has come to light in a police standoff with an Alabama man who is accused of holding a 5-year-old boy hostage in a bunker, a sign of just how delicate the negotiations are.
Police have used a ventilation pipe in the underground bunker to talk to 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Sykes and deliver the boy medication for his emotional disorders, and they released a photo of Sykes, but they have not revealed how often they are in touch or what the conversations have been about.
Middle school attack looks gang-related
Two groups of students were apparently arguing before a 15-year-old opened fire on a classmate at an Atlanta middle school, and investigators believe the shooting was gang-related, police said Friday.
The suspect has been charged with aggravated assault and firearms counts, though it will be up to prosecutors to decide whether he is to be charged as an adult, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said during a news conference.
Police have not named the suspect or the 14-year-old who was shot because they are juveniles, and to protect both of them from retaliation.
Twitter hack risked 250,000 users’ data
In the latest online attack, Twitter says hackers may have gained access to information on 250,000 of its more than 200 million active users.
In a blog posting Friday, Twitter says it detected attempts this week to gain access to its user data. It shut down one attack moments after it was detected. But it discovered that the attackers may have gained access to usernames, email addresses and encrypted passwords belonging to 250,000 users.
Twitter has reset the pilfered passwords and sent users email advising them that they’ll have to create a new one.
Some Marines draw line on women rule
A Marine Corps survey found about 17 percent of male Marine respondents said they would likely leave the Corps if women move into combat positions.
That number jumped to 22 percent if women are assigned involuntarily to those jobs, according to the survey.
Results of the survey of 53,000 Marines were released to The Associated Press on Friday. The survey was conducted last summer and the results were given to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta before he opened thousands of combat jobs to female service members last week.
Secret Service chief retiring after 7 years
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan announced his retirement Friday, bringing to a close a turbulent period for the law enforcement agency. In nearly seven years as director, Sullivan had to answer serious questions from lawmakers on two occasions about his employees’ actions on the job and off.
Last May, in testimony before Congress, Sullivan apologized for the conduct of Secret Service employees caught in a prostitution scandal in Colombia. In 2009, Sullivan had to answer questions about how a pair of aspiring socialites talked their way into a state dinner at the White House.
Energy secretary stepping down
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who won a Nobel Prize in physics but came under questioning for his handling of a solar energy loan, is stepping down.
Chu, 64, a former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California, drew fire from congressional Republicans who criticized his handling of a $528 million federal loan to solar panel maker Solyndra, which later went bankrupt, laying off its 1,100 workers.
Republicans said Chu and other Energy Department officials missed many warning signs about problems at Solyndra and compounded them by approving a restructuring of the loan even after problems were discovered.
Protesters take fight to Morsi’s doorstep
Protesters denouncing Egypt’s Islamist president hurled stones and firebombs through the gates of his palace gates Friday, clashing with security forces who fired tear gas and water cannons, as more than a week of political violence came to Mohammed Morsi’s symbolic doorstep for the first time.
The streets outside the presidential palace were a scene of mayhem for hours into the night.
The march on the palace, where Morsi was not present, was part of a wave of demonstrations in cities around the country called by opposition politicians, trying to wrest concessions from Morsi after around 60 people were killed in protests, clashes and riots.
Syrian rebels decry silence on Israel
Syrian opposition leaders and rebels on Friday slammed President Bashar Assad for not responding to a rare Israeli airstrike near Damascus, calling it proof of his weakness and acquiescence to the Jewish state.
The opposition’s sharp reaction underlines how those seeking to topple the Syrian leader might be more prepared to tangle with Israel if they came to power.
Wednesday’s Israeli airstrike that U.S. officials say hit a convoy of anti-aircraft weapons bound for the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group also has fueled rage among many Syrians who say they now must fear warplanes from both Assad’s forces and Israel.
Syria’s army chief of staff, Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayoub, warned Friday against testing his country’s capabilities.