- When President Obama arrives today in South Korea, he will be thrust anew into the role of consoler-in-chief in a time of crisis, a responsibility he has become all too accustomed to in the United States.
South Korea is reeling from the ferry disaster that has left more than 300 dead or missing, with the vast majority of the victims being students from a high school near the capital, Seoul. The tragedy has consumed South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the lead-up to Obama's visit and could distract from the security and economic agenda she had been expected to highlight during her meetings with Obama.
Another world issue is shadowing Obama on his four-nation Asia trip: the crisis in Ukraine. In Tokyo yesterday, the president said at a news conference that the U.S. has a new round of economic sanctions against Russia "teed up" if the Russians provoke further instability in Ukraine.
White House officials said Obama did not plan to change his schedule in South Korea as a result of the disaster. But the president probably will balance his expected statements - warnings against North Korean nuclear provocations and calls to lower tensions in regional territorial disputes - with words of condolence for the ferry victims and the people of South Korea.
- Three Americans - a pediatrician and a father and son - were killed by an Afghan government security officer at a hospital yesterday, the latest in a series of attacks on foreign civilians that has rattled aid workers, contractors and journalists.
Another American, a female medical worker, was wounded in the attack at Cure International Hospital of Kabul, run by a U.S.-based Christian charity, and the gunman also was wounded, officials said.
The hospital staff performed surgery on the attacker, who had shot himself, before he was handed over to Afghan authorities, Cure said in a statement. However, Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the assailant was shot by other security guards. The attacker's motive was not clear, police said, and there was no Taliban claim of responsibility.
SALT LAKE CITY
- The results of an investigation released yesterday concluded that it may never be known how a convicted felon replaced a patient's sperm with his own two decades ago and fathered a child, or whether he did the same type of switch with other families.
The University of Utah said its review determined there was no evidence to suggest the late Thomas Lippert fathered any other children. However, it also noted that hundreds of families who used the fertility clinic where he worked have not been contacted.
The university, based on a recommendation by the doctors and medical ethicists who did the investigation, has chosen not to reach out to the estimated 1,500 couples who used the facility when Lippert worked there from 1988 to 1993. Officials believe making families aware of the mix-up and offering paternity tests could cause emotional distress for families, some of whom may not have told children how they were conceived.
- The federal government's move to regulate e-cigarettes is a leap into the unknown.
Most everyone agrees a ban on selling them to kids would be a step forward. But health and public policy experts can't say for certain whether the electronic devices are a good thing or a bad thing overall, whether they help smokers kick the habit or are a gateway to ordinary paper-and-tobacco cigarettes.
The proposed rules, issued yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration, tread fairly lightly. They would ban sales to anyone younger than 18, add warning labels and require FDA approval for new products.
IOWA CITY, Iowa
- Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz's chief deputy conducted virtually no state business by email during his final seven months of employment and had to show up to work only four days a week, sometimes very briefly, according to records and a former colleague's detailed account yesterday.
Schultz told deputy Jim Gibbons that he was required to report to the office only four days weekly even as he kept his $126,000 annual salary, State Auditor Mary Mosiman told the Associated Press. Mosiman, who was Schultz's other deputy at the time, said she was present when Schultz gave Gibbons that direction. She said sometimes Gibbons left soon after swiping his badge at the Lucas Building in Des Moines and checking in because there was no work for him.
Mosiman's account and emails released by Schultz's office raise questions about whether the $80,000 that Gibbons collected in pay between June 1, 2012, and his Dec. 31, 2012, resignation was justified. The compensation included more than $4,000 in pay for "unused vacation" time he cashed out in January 2013.
- Eleven elementary school students and their driver were injured in a school bus crash yesterday afternoon in Southern California, authorities said.
Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said three of the injured - the driver and two of the children - were in critical condition after the crash. The other nine students had minor injuries.
Television news reports showed the Orange Unified School District bus tilting sideways and leaning against a tree on a roadside embankment next to Anaheim Hills Golf Course. Police said no other vehicles were involved in the crash.