Blog Posts by Holly Bailey

  • Officials find two more bodies at site of Texas fertilizer plant explosion

    A home near the West Fertilizer plant smolders Thursday (Erich Schlegal/Getty Images)

    WEST, Texas—Investigators recovered two more bodies from the site of a massive fertilizer plant explosion on Friday, bringing the official death toll of Wednesday’s blast to 14 people.

    At the same time, Mayor Tommy Muska discounted Sen. John Cornyn’s declaration earlier Friday that at least 60 residents remain unaccounted for after the blast. Speaking at a press conference with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Muska and other local officials described that number as an “informal” list largely compiled of reports by out-of-town relatives who haven’t yet made contact with relatives displaced by the blast.

    “There are people who do not have a home,” Muska said. “They are living either in a hotel, they are living with Mama down the road (or) with their brother. The cousin from Dallas doesn’t know that. If they have a land line and they don’t have a cell phone, you’re not going to know where those people are.”

    McLennen County Judge Scott Felton said the city was hopeful it would be able to “eliminate 99 percent” of the people on the missing persons list. He added that it's possible that nobody is missing.

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  • Texas town residents look for normalcy after deadly fertilizer plant explosion

    A man lowers a flag to half-staff in downtown West, Texas. ( Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    WEST, Texas--If there’s one absolute truth in life, it’s that very few things can stop a little old lady from getting her hair done. Not ill health—and, it turns out, not even a deadly explosion.

    On Wednesday a fire and subsequent explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant here leveled five city blocks, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 160. Some 60 people remain unaccounted for, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said on Friday. At least 150 homes and buildings—including a nursing home and an elementary school—were damaged or destroyed.

    But on Friday morning at the Headquarters Beauty Salon on Main Street, Dorothy Kucera was holding court as she does most Fridays from under the blow dryer chair. Her short wet hair had just been freshened with a brunette rinse and wrapped in tiny curlers. And as the dryer purred, she and five other ladies in the salon gossiped about what was going on in town—only this week, the topic was a little more serious.

    Kucera’s home is just blocks from the plant. She and her husband, Jerry, had just eaten dinner when the fire broke out. When she saw the flames, she called to her husband, who had been washing dishes, to come outside and look at the huge fire which was rapidly expanding.

    “I said, ‘Jerry, you’ve gotta see this,’” she recalled to a rapt audience at the salon on Friday, including a pair of stylists and a tiny elderly woman, whose blueish-gray hair was being unwrapped from curlers.

    Kucera said her husband, who uses a walker, at first didn’t want to come out and instead was peering out a window above their kitchen sink. But he did after she insisted—and within seconds, the plant exploded, sending up a plume of smoke she likened to something she’d seen in photos of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    “That thing just blew,” she said, matter-of factly. The windows in her house shattered, and the force caused her garage door to buckle, preventing her from getting access to her car to escape. She added that if her husband had been still standing at the kitchen window, he would have been seriously injured “because it was just right there.”

    Soon they were evacuated and moved to a local hotel, where they’ve been staying since the explosion. They haven’t been allowed to go back to their house, Kucera said, "And I don't know when we will."

    As she spoke about that night, she occasionally paused to update the gaggle on what was happening with other friends. “Barbara’s windows are all blown out,” she said, at one point. And then she spoke of those whom she had heard were dead, whispering their names.

    “Nobody knows for sure, but people are talking, and we’ll know soon enough,” Kucera said. “This is a small town.”

    Indeed, in a town of less than 3,000 people, everybody knows somebody who was killed or injured or displaced. And many residents are trying to figure out how to cope.

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  • News conference on Boston Marathon bombings canceled

    Law enforcement officers race into Boston's federal courthouse after a bomb threat. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

    BOSTON—The FBI postponed and then ultimately canceled a planned 5 p.m. ET news conference about updates in the investigation of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.

    A Boston Police Department spokesman made the announcement to more than 100 reporters already gathered at the Westin Hotel near Copley Square where Gov. Deval Patrick and other state and federal officials had been expected to speak.

    A spokesman for the FBI's Boston office had said officials hoped to reschedule the news conference for later Wednesday night. Shortly after 7:15 p.m., the Boston Police announced the FBI would make a "brief statement" to the press at 8 p.m. ET. But less than 15 minutes later, the police backtracked and said the news conference was canceled. A FBI spokesman did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

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  • 8-year-old marathon victim’s mother, sister severely injured

    Martin Richard (Reuters/Handout)BOSTON—One victim of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon has been identified: 8-year-old Martin Richard of nearby Dorchester, who was attending the race with his family.

    His mother, Denise, and his 6-year-old sister, Jane, were severely injured. Richard's father, Bill, was hit in the leg by fragments of the bomb, while his older brother escaped serious injury.

    Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch, who has known the family for 25 years, told Yahoo News that Bill Richard, who had run the marathon in the past but skipped this year because of injury, had taken his family to watch the race.

    The family had gone to get ice cream and then returned to watch runners along Boylston Street when they witnessed the first blast, according to Lynch. He said they immediately tried to move off the sidewalk into the street in an attempt to get away from buildings out of fear of another blast.

    That was when the second bomb struck, killing Martin Richard and severely injuring his mother and sister.

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  • Witnesses describe ‘terrifying’ scene after blasts at Boston Marathon

    BOSTON—Arlene Caruso had just cheered on her husband as he ran past the 25-mile mark of Monday’s Boston Marathon when she saw a flash followed by a loud boom a few blocks down Boylston Street near the finish line.

    “At first, we thought, ‘Wow, there’s a celebration canon,” recalled Caruso, who was standing with her brother and sister-in-law along the sidelines. “But then there was another boom, and then I realized, ‘Oh no.’”

    According to Caruso, the scene immediately erupted into chaos: people were screaming and shoving and running in all directions. To her horror, she realized that the last time she had seen her husband was as he was running into the area in between the two blast zones.

    Caruso immediately began pushing her way toward the finish line to find her husband—but she recalled, “It was like swimming upstream.”

    All she could think about was whether her husband was safe. “It was terrifying. It was really scary,” Caruso said, as she stood inside the lobby of the Marriott Hotel near Copley Square Monday night, just blocks from the two bombs erupted, killing three and injuring more than 130. “All I could think about was, ‘Where was he?’”

    About fifteen minutes later, she received a text from her husband, alerting her that he was safely back at their hotel. But as she recalled to a reporter, the period of time between the blasts and hearing from her husband had felt “forever.” As she stood in line Monday night at a hotel computer trying to print out her family’s boarding passes for their flight back to Pennsylvania Tuesday, she said in a shaky voice that all she wanted to do was go home.

    “What happened here was just unimaginable,” she said.

    And that was largely the mood at the Marriott, where hundreds of runners along with their family and friends were staying. Inside the lobby, dozens of race participants, many still dressed in their official blue and yellow Boston Marathon shirts or jackets, wandered around dazed—trying to make sense of what had happened earlier Monday. Others warily eyed the front door, where more than a dozen Boston police officers, dressed in head-to-toe combat gear, stood guard outside in what looked like a war zone.

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  • In new HBO documentary, Sebastian Junger pays tribute to photojournalist killed in Libya

    Hetherington in Afghanistan (courtesy HBO)

    Tim Hetherington is trying to explain why he's drawn to documenting wars.

    “There are all sorts of generalizations made up about [war]. But in going to these extremities, what’s interesting is that you see that—even in these terrible times, in these terrible moments and in these terrible extremities—people are still human. That for me is the redeeming factor of the human experience,” Hetherington says somberly before breaking into laughter. “No,” he adds, aware of how cliché he sounds. “That’s too f------ b-------.”

    The footage, outtakes from a British television interview with Hetherington—who was killed while covering the uprising in Libya in April 2011—kicks off “Which Way Is the Front Line From Here," a posthumous documentary about the photojournalist’s life directed by his friend and colleague Sebastian Junger, author of the blockbuster book "The Perfect Storm."

    When Hetherington was killed, Junger tried to make sense of the tragedy by seeking out and questioning the journalists who had been with him when he died.

    “I had a lot of questions,” Junger told Yahoo News. “All I had known is that he had been killed. I didn’t even know what the wound was. My first impulse was to interview the journalists who had been with him to answer those questions. Very quickly I realized I was making a film.”

    While Hetherington laughed off his answer, the film shows how invested he was in seeking out the "human experience." It quickly shifts to footage Hetherington shot himself while covering the Libyan uprising.

    Sitting inside a car on a dusty road in Misrata, Hetherington slowly pans around the vehicle to film a normal-looking scene with his colleagues—including Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros, who seems to be bobbing his head to the song on the radio: “How Deep Is Your Love?” by the Bee Gees.

    But you soon realize this is no ordinary car ride. Their driver, who calmly smokes a cigarette, sits close to his machine gun as he speeds along a deserted road littered with bombed-out cars and buildings. In a nearby car, two little kids hang out a back window and flash peace signs to the camera.

    “Which way is the front line from here?” Hetherington asks at one point. He doesn’t get an answer, but just hours later, he and Hondros would be dead, killed in a mortar attack on the very front line they'd been looking for.

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  • Sequestration cuts threaten New York’s Fleet Week

    Sailors stroll through New York during Fleet Week 2012. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    For the last 29 years, thousands of members of the nation’s armed services have sailed into New York Harbor every May to mark the city’s annual Fleet Week celebration. But this year, due to the federal budget sequestration, much of the party may be off.

    The U.S. Navy announced this week it would comply with a Defense Department directive putting a hold on optional armed forces events around the country in order to comply with sequestration—across-the-board federal spending cuts that have slashed billions of dollars from the military’s annual budget.

    “No branch of the armed forces may participate in community relations or outreach events that come at additional cost to the government or rely on anything other than local assets,” Beth Baker, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s Mid-Atlantic region, told Yahoo News. “That includes participation in Fleet Week.”

    The announcement was a swift change in policy for the Navy. An official earlier this week said New York City’s Fleet Week celebration,

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  • Bloomberg scolds media for focusing on Anthony Weiner’s past

    Bloomberg (Larry Busacca/Getty ImagesThere’s at least one person in New York who isn’t caught up in the frenzy over whether former Rep. Anthony Weiner might run for mayor: Michael Bloomberg, the man who currently holds the seat.

    Per the New York Post, Bloomberg didn’t respond kindly to reporters asking him for his reaction to Weiner’s possible return to politics, disclosed in a lengthy New York Times magazine story this week. Bloomberg said it was up to the ex-lawmaker “to decide whether he wants to run or not.”

    But then Bloomberg chided reporters for even asking him about Weiner's political plans and said they were focusing too much on the sexting scandal that forced Weiner from office two years ago.

    “I think the fact that that's the question of the day ... there's got to be more important things than who runs or his history. We have major problems facing this city. Maybe that's what you should be focusing on,” Bloomberg said, per the Post.

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  • Gloria Steinem backs Christine Quinn for NYC mayor

    Gloria Steinem and Christine Quinn at a Planned Parenthood gala in March. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)Feminist icon Gloria Steinem formally endorsed New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s bid for mayor.

    The backing comes after Steinem, who lives in Manhattan, had publicly threatened to withhold her support of Quinn over the speaker’s opposition to a bill that would require businesses to give paid sick time to its employees.

    Two weeks ago, Quinn announced she had reached a compromise with labor unions on the issue and would soon bring the legislation to a vote of the City Council—even though Mayor Michael Bloomberg has threatened to veto it.

    If elected, Quinn would not only be the city’s first female mayor, but also the city’s first openly gay mayor. Last year, she married her longtime partner, Kim Catullo.

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  • George W. Bush raises more than $500 million for library

    George W. Bush speaking in Fort Worth in March. (Joyce Marshall/Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Getty Images)Former President George W. Bush has raised more than $500 million for his presidential library set to open later this month.

    “It was our goal to raise $500 million by the time the George W. Bush Presidential Center was dedicated, and we reached that goal,” Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Center, tells Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller.

    That total means Bush has emerged as one of the most successful postpresidency fundraisers. By comparison, former President Bill Clinton had barely raised the $165 million to cover the cost of his presidential library when it opened in Little Rock in 2004—though he has gone on to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years for his foundation.

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