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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh's finance minister downplayed the impact of last week's factory-building collapse on his country's garment industry, saying he didn't think it was "really serious" Friday, hours after the 500th body was pulled from the debris.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith spoke as the government cracked down on those it blamed for the disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar. It suspended Savar's mayor and arrested an engineer who had called for the building's evacuation last week, but was also accused of helping the owner add three illegal floors to the eight-story structure. The building owner was arrested earlier.

The government appears to be attempting to fend off accusations that it is in part to blame for the tragedy because of weak oversight of the building's construction.

During a visit to the Indian capital New Delhi, Muhith said the disaster would not harm Bangladesh's garment industry, which is by far the country's biggest source of export income.

"The present difficulties ... well, I don't think it is really serious — it's an accident," he said. "And the steps that we have taken in order to make sure that it doesn't happen, they are quite elaborate and I believe that it will be appreciated by all."

When asked if he was worried that foreign retailers might pull orders from his country, Muhith said he wasn't: "These are individual cases of ... accidents. It happens everywhere."

The April 24 collapse is likely the deadliest garment-factory accident in world history. It surpassed both long-ago disasters such as New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 workers in 1911, and more recent tragedies such as a 2012 fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh that same year that killed 112.

At the site of the collapse, the official death toll reached 501 Friday and was expected to climb. Workers carefully used cranes to remove the concrete rubble and continue the slow task of recovering bodies. The official number of missing has been 149 since Wednesday, though unofficial estimates are higher.

"We are still proceeding cautiously so that we get the bodies intact," said Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hassan Suhwardy, the commander of the area's army garrison supervising the rescue operation.

A government investigator said Friday that substandard building materials, combined with the vibration of heavy machines used by the five garment factories inside the Rana Plaza building, led to the horrific collapse.

Mainuddin Khandkar, the head of a government committee investigating the disaster, said substandard rods, cement, bricks and other weak materials were used in the construction of the Rana Plaza building, which was not properly fortified to house the garment factories' equipment.

About 15 minutes before the collapse, the building was hit by a power blackout, so its heavy generators were turned on, shaking the weakened structure, Khandkar said.

"The vibration created by machines and generators operating in the five garment factories contributed first to the cracks and then the collapse," he said, adding that a final report would be soon submitted to the government.

Police official Ohiduzzaman said Friday that engineer Abdur Razzak Khan was arrested a day earlier on a charge of negligence. He said Khan worked as a consultant to Rana Plaza owner Mohammed Sohel Rana when the illegal three-floor addition was made to the building.

Rana called Khan to inspect the building after it developed cracks on April 23, local media reported. That night Khan appeared on a private television station saying that after his inspection he told Rana to evacuate the building because it was not safe.

Khan, a former engineer at Jahangirnagar University near Savar, said he told government engineers the building needed to be examined further.

Police ordered the building evacuated, but witnesses say Rana told people gathered outside the next morning that the building was safe and that garment factory managers told their workers to go inside. It collapsed hours later.

Authorities also suspended the mayor of Savar, Mohammad Refatullah, for alleged negligence, said Abu Alam, a top official of the local government ministry.

Alam said an official investigation has found that the mayor ignored rules in approving the design and layout of the doomed building. The mayor is from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which has criticized his suspension as politically motivated.

The government also effectively suspended Kabir Hossain Sardar, the top government administrator at Savar, following reports that he declared the building safe after inspecting the cracks a day before the collapse. Sardar had close links with Rana. Alam said the government was taking action against everyone involved with Rana and his building.

Rana himself was arrested earlier and is expected to be charged with negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to join work, crimes punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail. Authorities have not said if more serious crimes will be added.

The Bangladesh High Court has ordered the government to confiscate Rana's property and freeze the assets of the owners of the factories in Rana Plaza so the money can be used to pay the salaries of their workers.

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms.

___ AP Videojournalist Archana Thiyagarajan in New Delhi contributed to this report.
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(ABC NEWS) Chris Kelly, one half of the '90s rap duo Kris Kross, has died of a possible drug overdose, Georgia authorities said.

Kelly, 34, was pronounced dead Wednesday night at the Atlanta Medical Center, Clint Harbin, an investigator with the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office, told ABC News Radio.

Authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding his death and an autopsy is expected to be performed later today.

"It appears it may have been a possible drug overdose," said Cpl. Kay Lester, a spokeswoman for the Fulton County police, according to The Associated Press.

Kelly (known as "Mac Daddy"), along with Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith, the backward-pants-wearing mini-rappers, rose to fame with their song "Jump" from their 1992 album, "Totally Krossed Out."

"Jump" hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained there for eight weeks.

Kelly and Smith were discovered by music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri in an Atlanta mall. Kelly was 13 when "Totally Krossed Out" was released. The album went on to multiplatinum status thanks to "Jump," which remained a popular song throughout 1992.

They toured with Michael Jackson later that year during his "Dangerous World Tour."

Their gimmick of wearing clothes backward won over legions of fans and allowed the duo to cross over into mainstream success. They even went on to release their own video game titled "Kris Kross: Make My Video" for the Sega CD console.

They released "Da Bomb" in 1993, which failed to match the success of their prior album. One of the singles off the album, also titled "Da Bomb," featured female rapper Da Brat.

The group's last album, "Young, Rich & Dangerous," was released in 1996 and reached gold status.

Earlier this year, the group performed together in Atlanta to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dupri's label, So So Def.

"He actually was still working on music and recording," said Yahoo music writer Billy Johnson Jr., who interviewed Kelly in February.

"He said he had several hundred songs that he had recorded and he had mentioned that during his time away from releasing music that he had actually gone back to school to learn how to be a studio engineer," Johnson said, according to ABC News Radio.

Johnson also discussed questions about Kelly's health after pictures surfaced online with patches of his hair missing.

"I asked him about that and he said he had skin disease called alopecia and he said that those rumors had been very hurtful because people thought he had cancer and it wasn't true," Johnson said.

Rapper LL Cool J tweeted a link to his new song, "Jump on It," and dedicated it to Kelly.

"R.I.P Chris Kelly. This song is now officially dedicated to you. May GOD embrace your soul & lift up your family," he tweeted."

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and Da Brat also both tweeted condolences overnight.

ABC News' Jason Nathanson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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BOSTON - AP - Three men who attended college with the Boston Marathon suspect have been charged in connection with the case.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third man, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal investigators.

An FBI affidavit says the three men removed bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack from his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth three days after the bombing.

The affidavit says Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev agreed to get rid of it after concluding from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the bombers.

A court appearance for the three is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Read more...

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