The April 5 explosion that killed 29 men inside a West Virginia mine was preceded by years of shoddy safety practices by the operator and underscores the need for tighter regulation, a preliminary federal report said Thursday.
"Today, some mine operators can consistently engage in dangerous violations of the law, and then avoid penalties by aggressively contesting every citation," the Mine Safety and Health Administration report said.
The 11-page report, delivered to President Barack Obama, notes that the explosion inside Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch Mine near Montcoal was so powerful that miners five miles from the likely blast site reported feeling strong air currents at 3:02 p.m., as the shift was changing. That's when carbon monoxide alarms were triggered, indicating the explosion, the report said.
Now, the reverberations have extended to Washington, where West Virginia's congressional delegation met Thursday with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and MSHA chief Joe Main.
Authorities in northern Iraq have found 14 decomposed bodies of civilians kidnapped in 2008 by al Qaeda in Iraq, police officials told CNN on Thursday.
The bodies, which were buried with ID cards, were found Thursday just west of Samara in Salaheddin province, police said.
Police also found empty bullet casings at the location.
Authorities had gathered intelligence on the graves before finding the bodies.
The five most popular CNN.com stories during the last 24 hours, according to Newspulse.
Mysterious fireball lights up sky: A flash of light, later explained to be part of a meteor shower, was spotted over Iowa and Wisconsin. (No audio)¬†
Massive fireball reported in Midwestern sky: Authorities in several Midwestern states were flooded Wednesday night with reports of a gigantic fireball lighting up the sky, the National Weather Service said.
Alleged Tiger Woods mistress jailed: The cocktail waitress whose voicemail from Tiger Woods helped unravel the golfer's sex scandal last fall was arrested in West Hollywood, California, Wednesday night on several driving-related warrants.
Volcanic ash shuts air space in Europe: A cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland swept toward mainland Europe on Thursday, forcing up to 6,000 flight cancellations across the continent, according to the intergovernmental body that manages European air travel.
Jobless claims in another surprise surge: The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance for the first time jumped for the second week in a row, according to government data released Thursday.
[Updated at 7:57 p.m.]¬†The president's memo Thursday notes that "There are few moments in our lives that call for great compassion and companionship that when a loved one is admitted to the hospital ... Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides ..."
Read the president's memorandum (PDF)
Gay and lesbian Americans are "uniquely affected" by the relatives-only policy at hospitals, Obama said, adding that they "are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives - unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."
The president listed widowers without children and members of certain religious orders among those who suffer under the policy.
[Posted at 7:49 p.m.] President Barack Obama has told the Department of¬† Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would not allow hospitals to deny visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners.
A look at highlights from the day's business news:
Stocks hang on to gains
Stocks ended positive Thursday to close a volatile session, as investors took the latest jobless claims report in stride and Google reported much better-than-expected earnings after the closing bell.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 21 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 11,144.57. The S&P 500 index gained 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to end at 1,211.67. The Nasdaq composite was up 11 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 2,515.69.
The Pentagon is implementing a third of the recommendations made by a panel highly critical of the Department of Defense's safeguards to prevent events like the Fort Hood shooting last fall.
[Updated at 7:24 p.m.]¬† Pakistani authorities failed to provide adequate security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her 2007 assassination, and intelligence agencies hindered the subsequent investigation, a U.N. commission concluded Thursday.
The three-member panel issued a scathing report Thursday afternoon, concluding that the assassination "could have been prevented" and that the Pakistani government's investigation of the killing focused on low-level operatives and ignored people "further up the hierarchy in the planning, financing and execution of the assassination."
[Updated at 10:42 p.m.] President Obama on Thursday night signed into law a bill to temporarily extend unemployment benefits after it was passed by the House earlier in the evening.
The measure restores federal unemployment benefits to more than 200,000 jobless Americans who started losing them on April 5 after lawmakers let that deadline pass, CNNMoney reports.
[Updated at 7:15 p.m.] The $18 billion bill now returns to the House for a final vote, which is cheduled for later Thursday. The president is expected to sign it into law soon after.
The measure would restore federal unemployment benefits to more than 200,000 jobless Americans who started losing them on April 5 after lawmakers let that deadline pass. Checks would be retroactive to that date.
[Updated at 7:01 p.m.]¬†A tenth missionary, group leader Laura Silsby, remains in a Haitian jail. Authorities in Port-au-Prince accused the group, many of whom belong to a Baptist church in Idaho, of trying to kidnap 33 Haitian children after a devastating January earthquake leveled much of the capital and surrounding areas.
Risch spokesman Kyle Hines told CNN that the senator received a call from State Department officials Thursday afternoon, confirming that kidnapping charges against nine of the missionaries were dropped.
"The senator is pleased to hear that the charges have been dropped and is looking forward to the situation being resolved," Hines said.
The 10 Americans have said they were trying to help the children get to a safe place after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake flattened cities and towns in Haiti.
Haitian authorities stopped the group on January 29 as they tried to cross the border with 33 children without proper legal documentation. The group said it was going to house the children in a converted hotel in the Dominican Republic and later move them to an orphanage.
[Posted at 6:27 p.m.] Charges have been dropped against nine of the American missionaries held in Haiti earlier this year, according to a spokesman for Idaho Sen. Jim Risch.
China's dominant position in the production of rare earth minerals has long-reaching implications for the U.S. Department of Defense, according to a recent government report.
The report from the Government Accountability Office was commissioned by Congress amid growing concerns that China's potential reduction of the supply of much-needed rare earth minerals could impact critical military uses.
[Updated at 6:35 p.m.]¬†A suicide car bomber's attack here Thursday killed three people, all of them Afghan security guards, CNN's Michael Holmes reported.Another 17 people were wounded in the attack, including 11 Afghans, a Briton, a South African, three U.S. nationals and a Nepalese security guard, he said.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was named a primary suspect Thursday in the expanding corruption probe over the construction of a residential real estate development called Holyland, according to Israel Radio, citing police sources.
Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, is suspected of receiving large amounts of money as bribes while he was the mayor of Jerusalem to facilitate the Jerusalem real estate development project.
Authorities now believe Haleigh Cummings is dead and are treating her disappearance as a homicide investigation, the Putnam County, Florida, sheriff said Thursday.
"At this point, I'm comfortable in saying I'm calling it a homicide," Sheriff Jeff Hardy said. He added that investigators are looking at "one or more persons of interest" but would not identify any targets of the investigation.
Russia has put an end to the adoption of children by American families until rules covering them can be hashed out with U.S. officials, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.
"Further adoptions of Russian children by the American citizens, which at present has been suspended, will only be possible in case such an agreement is reached," said spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said there's not too much reason for concern. FULL POST
The chairman of the school district where a bullied student committed suicide told an agitated crowd Wednesday night that he would be stepping down from his position.
South Korea raised a naval ship from the floor of the Yellow Sea that sank under mysterious circumstances last month, Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Thursday.
The bodies of at least 25 of the 45 missing sailors believed to be in the hull of the navy corvette Cheonan were found in the hours after it was raised, Yonhap reported.
Google posted quarterly sales and profit that trumped Wall Street expectations Thursday, boosted by a rebounding advertising market. The search giant's net income was $1.96 billion, or $6.06 per share, in the first quarter, up 38 percent $1.42 billion from the same period last year.
[Updated at 4:01 p.m.] In a speech at the Kennedy Space Center, Obama outlined his proposal to pump an additional $6 billion into NASA's budget over the next five years while halting a project to again send astronauts to the moon.
The new spending would be for research on a propulsion breakthrough to travel deeper into space, as well as development of technologies to allow humans to transport necessary supplies to work and stay longer, Obama said.