MEXICO CITY

Building collapse leaves 33 dead at state oil company

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.

WASHINGTON

Secret Service head retires at end of turbulent period

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan announced his retirement Friday, bringing to a close a turbulent period for the agency that included a South American prostitution scandal and a pair of White House gate-crashers.

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. Thirteen agents and officers were implicated after an agent argued with a prostitute over payment in a hotel hallway in Cartagena, Colombia.

The employees were in the Caribbean resort city in advance of President Obama’s arrival for a South American summit in April.

After a night of heavy partying in some of Cartagena’s bars and clubs, the employees brought women, including prostitutes, back to their hotel.

Eight of those Secret Service employees were forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two were fighting to get their jobs back.

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. That the pair got into the highly secured event was not only a violation of protocol but raised questions about how easily an unauthorized person could gain close access to the president and vice president.

MIDLAND CITY, Ala.

Standoff with kidnapper continues into fourth day

The standoff between police and a gunman accused of holding a kindergartner hostage in an underground bunker dragged into a fourth day Friday.

Authorities sought to continue delicate conversations with the man through a pipe and worked to safely end the tense situation.

Police said Jimmy Lee Dykes shot a school bus driver to death, grabbed a 5-year-old boy off the bus and slipped into an underground bunker on his property in rural Alabama, where the pair has been since Tuesday.

There were signs the standoff could go on: the shelter has electricity, food, TV, and police have delivered the boy’s medication through a 4-inch-wide ventilation pipe leading to the bunker.

Hostage negotiators have used the pipe to talk to the gunman, but investigators have not released details of their conversations.

– From news service reports