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AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EDT



Landslide win for India’s opposition party as voters hope for stronger economy and more jobs

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s opposition leader, Narendra Modi, will become the next prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in three decades and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power.

Modi, a career politician whose campaign promised a revival of economic growth, will have a strong mandate to govern at a time of profound changes in Indian society. He also has said he wants to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with the United States. But critics worry the ascendance of his Hindu nationalist party could worsen sectarian tensions with India’s minority 138 million Muslims.

The results were a crushing defeat for the Congress party, which is deeply entwined with the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty that has been at the center of Indian politics for most of the country’s post-independence history. The government, led by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals and a poor economy.

As his overwhelming win became clear Friday, Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and tried to strike a conciliatory note.

“I have always said that to govern the nation it is our responsibility to take everyone with us,” Modi said after a lengthy and punishing race. “I want your blessings so that we can run a government that carries everyone with it.”

‘Silence can kill‘: GM is fined a record $35 million for not disclosing deadly ignition defect

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal safety regulators slapped General Motors with a record $35 million fine Friday for taking more than a decade to disclose an ignition-switch defect in millions of cars that has been linked to at least 13 deaths.

Under an agreement with the Transportation Department, GM admitted it was slow to inform regulators, promised to report problems faster and submitted to more in-depth government oversight of its safety operations.

The fine was the maximum the department can impose.

“Literally, silence can kill,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, adding: “GM did not act and did not alert us in a timely manner. What GM did was break the law.”

Safety advocates said the fine, which is less than a day’s revenue for GM, is too small to deter bad behavior by automakers.

GM recall investigation reveals list of words — like ‘defect’ — that employees shouldn’t use

DETROIT (AP) — What do the words “safety,” ‘‘chaotic” and “problem” have in common?

They’re all on General Motors’ list of banned words for employees who were documenting potential safety issues.

The revelation of the 68-word list is one of the odder twists in GM’s ongoing recall of 2.6 million older-model small cars for defective ignition switches.

On Friday, the U.S. government slapped GM with a $35 million fine for failing to report the deadly defect for more than a decade. The government also released a 2008 GM training document that includes the list and warns employees to stick to the facts and not use language that could hurt the company down the road.

The word “defect,” for example, “can be regarded as a legal admission” and should be avoided, the company document says.

Investigators look for signs of arson in California fire outbreak; ‘Not ruling out anything‘

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A 57-year-old man was charged with arson Friday in one of at least 10 wildfires that erupted in Southern California this week, and investigators were working to determine whether other blazes in the unusually early and intense outbreak were ignited by something as ordinary as sparks from cars or something more sinister.

State fire officials said the first blaze that erupted between Tuesday and Thursday was caused by a spark from malfunctioning construction equipment. But it could take months to get to the bottom of the most damaging fires.

Alberto Serrato pleaded not guilty to arson in connection with one of the smaller fires — a 105-acre fire in suburban Oceanside that started Wednesday and is fully contained. Bail was set at $250,000.

Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney’s office, said witnesses saw Serrato adding dead brush onto smoldering bushes, which flamed up. He has not been connected to any other fire, Sierra said.

Oceanside police Lt. Sean Marshand said Serrato is believed to have added fuel to the fire but not to have started it.

Colombia rebels, government reach agreement to jointly combat illicit drugs

HAVANA (AP) — Colombia’s government and main rebel group on Friday announced an agreement to jointly combat illicit drugs in the South American country, which was long the world’s leading cocaine producer.

Under the accord, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, agreed to divorce itself completely from the drug trade.

DEA and Colombian authorities have said that some FARC fronts are involved in the production and sales of drugs to Mexican and Colombian traffickers and through Venezuelan intermediaries. In the past, the FARC had denied any involvement in trafficking, claiming it only taxes producers. Peru recently overtook Colombia in cultivation of coca, the crop used to produce cocaine.

“What we have agreed upon recognizes that in order to set the bases for a stable and lasting peace in Colombia it is necessary to find a definitive solution to the problem of illicit drugs,” said statement from the talks read at a news conference in Havana.

It was the latest agreement reached during months of talks in the Cuban capital. The two sides earlier reached accords on agrarian reform and the political participation for the FARC, but none of them will take effect until all items on the agenda for negotiations are settled. The FARC is the Western Hemisphere’s last remaining major leftist insurgency, having taken up arms a half century ago.

Volunteer fight back against east Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebels threatens new confrontation

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Steelworkers from plants owned by Ukraine’s richest man retook government buildings from pro-Moscow insurgents, reversing the tide of rebellion and lawlessness that has gripped this industrial port and dealing a setback to anti-Kiev forces aspiring to merge with Russia.

Wearing overalls and hard hats, dozens of workers cleared away barricades of debris and tires outside the Mariupol city hall on Friday, scoring early successes against the pro-Russian forces, but threatening to open a new and dangerously unpredictable cycle of confrontation.

“People are tired of war and chaos. Burglaries and marauding have to stop,” said Viktor Gusak, a steelworker who joined in the effort to banish the pro-Russia militants from Mariupol, the Donetsk region’s second-largest city and the site of bloody clashes last week between Ukrainian troops and the insurgents.

About 75 miles (120 kilometers) to the north, armed backers of Ukrainian unity dressed in black seized control of a police station in a village just inside the troubled Donetsk region, vowing to expel the separatists through force if necessary.

The moves, which began Thursday in Mariupol and the village of Velyka Novosilka, were a blow to the separatists who have seized control of government offices in this city and a dozen others in the east.

Top VA health official resigns amid firestorm over delayed care, falsified records

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top official for the health care of veterans resigned Friday amid a firestorm over reported delays in care and falsified records at veterans hospitals.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said he has accepted the resignation of Robert Petzel, the department’s undersecretary for health care, effective immediately. Shinseki had asked for the resignation, a department official later said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution.

Reports of long waits for appointments and processing benefit applications have plagued VA for years. The agency has shortened backlogs but allegations that veterans have died while awaiting VA care have created an election-year uproar. A former clinic director at the VA’s medical center in Phoenix told a House committee last month that up to 40 people may have died while awaiting appointments and that VA officials kept a secret appointment list to mask the delays.

Shinseki asked the VA’s inspector general to investigate the clinic director’s charges. An initial review of 17 people who died while awaiting appointments at the Phoenix hospital found that none of their deaths appeared to have been caused by delays in treatment, acting inspector general Richard Griffin told senators Thursday. But he also said new complaints about wait lists and falsified patient appointment had surfaced at other VA hospitals and clinics after the Phoenix allegations came to light. At least 10 new allegations about manipulated waiting times and other problems have surfaced in the past three weeks, he said.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, mocked the announcement of Petzel’s resignation, calling it “the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak” since Petzel had been scheduled to retire this year anyway. The American Legion, which has called for Shinseki to resign, said pretty much the same thing: “This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual.”

Turkey, mining firm deny negligence in mine fire, survivor says lax inspections contributed

SAVASTEPE, Turkey (AP) — Government and company officials denied Friday that negligence caused Turkey’s worst mining disaster, as opposition lawmakers raised questions about oversight and a survivor said safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine.

Anger continued to surge in the wake of the coal mine inferno in the western town of Soma that has killed at least 298 miners. On Friday, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse rock-throwing protesters in Soma, where about 1,500 demonstrators urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to resign.

In Istanbul, police forcefully broke up a crowd of about 150 people who lit candles and lined up mining helmets on the ground to honor the victims of the disaster, the DHA news agency reported.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said at least 298 people died in Tuesday’s tragedy. Another two or three people are believed to be missing underground while 485 miners escaped or were rescued.

Protesting workers have described the disaster as murder, not an accident, because of what they call flawed safety conditions at that mine and others in the country.

Oprah’s network postpones documentary on openly gay NFL player Michael Sam

The planned documentary by the Oprah Winfrey Network on Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, has been postponed.

Erik Logan, president of the network, said Friday that the postponement was made after meetings with the St. Louis Rams.

“After careful consideration and discussion with the St. Louis Rams, ‘The Untitled Michael Sam Project’ has been postponed, allowing Michael the best opportunity to achieve his dream of making the team,” Logan said in a statement.

“It’s clear that we, along with the world, recognize the important opportunity that Michael now has in this moment. We will continue to support him in his journey to earn a spot playing for the Rams.”

As a seventh-round draft pick, Sam will face hefty challenges just to make the Rams. Being the subject of a TV documentary could have been a major distraction for the defensive end from Missouri.

CANNES WATCH: Blanchett dazzles, jokes; Weinstein slate, Ferrera’s dress; Watts on directors

CANNES, France (AP) — The Associated Press is all over the Cannes Film Festival — from its glitzy premieres to the celeb parties and quirky moments in between. Here’s what reporters have seen and heard:

LOOK OF THE DAY: CATE BLANCHETT

Radiant Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett broke the fashion mold with panache at Friday’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2” screening at Cannes in a multi-colored, bejeweled bodice and a chic black pleated floor length chiffon skirt, courtesy of Givenchy.

While Cannes is a mainstay of va-va-voom ball gowns, Blanchett stayed ahead of the fashion pack by thinking outside the box. Her bold look got her noticed for all the right reasons — sapphire chandelier Chopard earrings added a touch of class.

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