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Jan. 12, 2010 at 11:30 PM

Clinton: Haiti quake 'catastrophic'

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday a 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti was "catastrophic" as Washington offered aid to victims.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake was centered about 10 miles southwest of Port au Prince, the capital of the Caribbean island nation. Some injuries have been reported, the quake disrupted the country's communication systems, sections of the National Palace crumbled and there was a report a hospital had collapsed, The Miami Herald said.

The newspaper said Haitian President Rene Preval has sought safe haven on the island nation.

Clinton said the United States was "still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti."

"The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region," she said. "We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance."

The White House said President Barack Obama has directed his staff to make sure U.S. Embassy personnel in Port au Prince are safe and to initiate planning to respond in case humanitarian assistance is necessary.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti."

The State Department, USAID and the U.S. Southern Command had begun work on coordinating U.S. assistance to Haiti, the White House said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a local tsunami watch for Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas, although a major destructive wave was considered unlikely.

Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, told CNN a Haitian government official advised him property damage included an undetermined number of collapsed buildings.

"He said it is a catastrophe of major proportions," Joseph said.

Frank Williams, Haitian director of World Vision International, told CNN "walls from buildings and private residences (were) falling into the streets." Williams said his relief agency's building shook for about 35 seconds and "portions of things on the building fell off."


Mexican drug lord 'El Teo' captured

TIJUANA, Mexico, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The notorious Tijuana, Mexico, drug kingpin known as "El Teo" was captured Tuesday, U.S. and Mexican authorities say.

Law enforcement officials said Teodoro Garcia Simental, known for his brutal tactics and gruesome reprisals that included massacres and beheadings, was captured early Tuesday in the Baja California port city of La Paz, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The newspaper said Mexican media reports indicted Garcia Simental was taken into custody without incident in an upscale area of the city and flown to Mexico City.

Authorities said "El Teo" was one of two crime bosses struggling for control of Tijuana's booming drug trade, and was best known for inspiring fear through extortion and kidnappings of people in all levels of society.

The Times said he was considered one of Mexico's most wanted criminals and had narrowly escaped capture several times. His time atop Tijuana's underworld reportedly prompted hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of residents to leave the city to avoid being abducted.

A one-time lieutenant in the Arellano Felix drug cartel, he established his own network after an April 2008 shootout with a rival gang that left 13 people dead, the newspaper said.


2 dead, 3 hurt in Ga. workplace shooting

KENNESAW, Ga., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- A 60-year-old former worker shot two people to death and critically injured three others Tuesday at a truck rental business near Kennesaw, Ga., police alleged.

The suspect, Jesse James Warren of Temple, was taken to the Cobb County jail where charges were being prepared, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

County police said the gunman entered a Penske truck rental business about 1:30 p.m. dressed in a camouflage suit and began firing, the newspaper said.

Penske spokesman Randy Ryerson said the victims included four employees and one customer.

Cobb County police officer Joe Hernandez said the suspect fled in a red pickup truck and was taken into custody without incident about a mile away.

"He was pretty well surrounded," Hernandez said.

A handgun believed used in the shootings was recovered, he said.

It wasn't known what may have set off the gunman. Penske recently implemented layoffs but Ryerson was unable to confirm if the Kennesaw site, which has about 25 workers, had been affected, the newspaper said.


Pricey Palin tix raise tea party eyebrows

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Steep ticket prices for Sarah Palin's appearance at an upcoming tea party movement convention in Nashville are causing controversy, Politico reported Tuesday.

The publication said documents indicate Palin is charging $100,000 per appearance, and with tickets to attend next month's first-ever tea party convention costing $549 apiece, plus a $9.95 fee, some of the grassroots conservative activists are reportedly complaining they're being priced out.

"I'm hearing through sources Sarah Palin is getting $75K to speak at this tea party convention," Politico quoted conservative blogger Dan Riehl as writing recently. "That's a lot of damned tea."

During her first appearance as an analyst on Fox News Channel Tuesday, Palin said organizers offered to pay her for the speech but she said, "I will not financially be gaining anything from this."

"More important than money in my pocket from an event like that is being able to turn it right back around and contribute to campaigns, candidates and issues that will help our country," Palin said.

Anthony Shreeve, a Tennessee tea party organizer who reportedly quit the convention's steering committee, told Politico "most tea party people won't be there because they can't afford it."

"The tea party movement is a grassroots movement; it's not a business," Shreeve said.

Conference organizer Judson Phillips declined to discuss the matter of fees with Politico as did Palin's aides.

Conservative political consultant Greg Mueller defended the reported arrangement.

"She's in demand as a best-selling author, a former governor and a former GOP VP candidate and is capitalizing on that demand while she decides what's next for her," he said.

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