Nation & World Briefs 02-21-14 Deal announced but Euro leaders say it's too early to declare a breakthrough

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KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's presidency said today that it has negotiated an international deal intended to end battles between police and protesters that have killed scores and injured hundreds. It was unclear whether the deal would appease protesters, and shots rang out today morning in central Kiev.

President Viktor Yanukovych's office said that the government and the opposition have agreed to initial the deal, reached after all-night negotiations with EU diplomats, at noon local time.

European officials cautioned that it's too early to declare a breakthrough in a standoff that has plunged this country into the deadliest violence it has seen since winning independence from the Soviet Union.

The conflict is a battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Several regions in the west of the country are in open revolt against the central government. Many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

Winner remains lone stranger: Someone's got a golden ticket, but they either don't know it or don't want to show it. The unknown lone winner of a $425 million Powerball jackpot failed to come forward Thursday after Wednesday night's drawing. The ticket was sold at a Dixon Landing Chevron station in Milpitas, Calif., about 10 miles north of San Jose that bills itself as The Gateway to The Silicon Valley.

Shakeup of MIA accounting mission ordered: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering a shakeup of agencies responsible for accounting for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars, a mission heavily criticized as wasteful and fragmented. Hagel's press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, announced Thursday that Hagel wants the two main accounting agencies combined into a single organization. For years the two groups have engaged in bureaucratic warfare. Hagel ordered his policy chief to give him a plan within 30 days to better account for as many of the missing as possible -- and to make the government's accounting work more transparent to families of the missing.

Sheriff pleads guilty to mail fraud: Barbour (W.Va.) County Sheriff John Hawkins resigned Thursday and pleaded guilty to a federal charge that he staged an automobile accident to receive an insurance payment of nearly $8,300. The 47-year-old Philippi resident entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Elkins to a mail fraud charge. U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said Hawkins admitted to staging the accident last April. With the help of one of his deputies, he fabricated a claim to Nationwide Insurance.

No more 90-day waiting period: Employers can't make new hires wait more than 90 days for coverage in the company's health care plan. The new limit is in government rules that carry out a section of President Barack Obama's health care law. The Labor Department issued the rules Thursday. It could make a difference as the economy gets stronger and more jobs open up. The Kaiser Family Foundation said nearly 80 percent of workers face a waiting period before coverage takes effect. Most don't have to wait as long as 90 days. The average wait is under two months, but 30 percent have to wait three months or more. For most plans, the 90-day limit will apply starting Jan. 1, 2015.

Obama meeting with Dalai Lama: President Barack Obama is hosting the Dalai Lama at the White House over the stern objection of China. Obama will greet the Tibetan spiritual leader and fellow Nobel laureate today while the Dalai Lama is in the U.S. on a speaking tour. The White House announced the meeting late Thursday. That prompted a gruff complaint from China, which warned the meeting would "inflict grave damages" on the U.S. relationship with China. Beijing routinely protests when world leaders grant an audience to the Dalai Lama. That includes when Obama met with him in 2010 and again in 2011. The White House said Obama is meeting with the Dalai Lama in his capacity as a cultural and religious leader.

Owed $82M for parking tickets: A TV station's review of public records has found that Detroit is owed more than $82 million in fines and late fees for unpaid parking tickets. Reporting the figure, WDIV-TV said (http://bit.ly/NdzAsc ) some of the overdue fines are more than 10 years old and can't be collected. Some individuals owe the city more than $10,000. The city is trying to get payments for some of what's owed. James Canty of Detroit's parking division said the city is putting holds on driver's licenses when they come up for renewal, taking motorists who owe money to court and reporting them to credit agencies.

Plan to restructure debt expected today: The blueprint for Detroit's restructuring in its historic bankruptcy is expected to be filed Friday, according to a spokesman for state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Orr's long-awaited plan of adjustment will spell out how pensioners, retirees, banks, bond insurers and other creditors will be treated as his team reduces Detroit's $18 billion debt load. The plan will be filed today in federal court in Detroit, said Bill Nowling, Orr's spokesman.

BNSF plans to upgrade tanker fleet: BNSF Railway Co. said Thursday it intends to buy a fleet of 5,000 strengthened tank cars to haul oil and ethanol in a move that would set a higher benchmark for safety within an industry that's seen multiple major accidents. The voluntary step by the Texas-based subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. comes as railroads in the U.S. and Canada are under intense pressure to improve safety for hazardous materials shipments. There's been a string of recent train accidents involving oil and ethanol, punctuated by a crude shipment that derailed in Quebec last July and killed 47 people.

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