Nation & World Briefs 02-28-14 Ukraine claims that Russian forces have blocked airport; seeks UN council meeting


KIEV, Ukraine -- Russian military were blocking a Ukrainian military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea near the Russian naval base while unidentified armed men were patrolling another airport serving the regional capital, Ukraine's new Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said today.

No violence was reported, and flights continued to operate at the airport serving Simferopol, the regional capital. It was not immediately clear whether the airport in Sevastopol, owned by the Ukrainian defense ministry, was open but there are no scheduled services to the facility.

The Russian foreign ministry refused to comment while a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry also had no comment.

Avakov wrote in a Facebook post that the Belbek international airport in Sevastopol was blocked by military units of the Russian navy.

"I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation," Avakov said.

Ukraine's Parliament, meanwhile, adopted a resolution calling for a UN Security Council meeting on the nation's crisis and demanding that Russia halt steps which it said are aimed against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

U.S. imposes new penalties: The Treasury Department is imposed financial penalties against seven people and 10 businesses accused of having ties to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel. The Office of Foreign Asset Control says it's penalizing Hugo Cuellar Hurtado and five relatives for their alleged support of the cartel. Guzman was one of the world's most wanted traffickers when he was captured early Saturday in Mexico.

Seeks review of paralysis cases: Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday to initiate a formal investigation into what has caused polio-like paralysis in about 20 children in California over the past 18 months. Boxer said "we need answers" in her letter to CDC director Thomas Frieden. In particular, she wants the agency to look into whether the illness can be traced to a virus or environmental factors. She also wants to know whether the agency is aware of similar reports of paralysis nationwide. In a statement emailed to Associated Press, the CDC said Frieden had received the letter "and will be giving it careful consideration."

Cruz blasts GOP leaders: The sniping between establishment Republicans and tea partyers resumed Thursday as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz refused to endorse his state's senior senator in next week's Republican primary. Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate's second-ranking Republican leader, faces tea party-backed Rep. Steve Stockman in Tuesday's election. "I am not supporting any of the senators from my party or their opponents" in this year's primaries, Cruz said, adding that he might change his mind later. Cruz's comments are especially notable because he is a vice chairman of the GOP committee tasked with winning Senate elections. He criticized the committee's track record and policy of virtually always backing incumbents.

Insists it's alive and kicking: The foot soldiers of the Tea Party movement dismiss the chatter about its demise and stand ready to use their unbending political force against both President Barack Obama and the Republican establishment this election year. The Tea Party Patriots, one of the major grass-roots groups, marked the fifth anniversary of the movement Thursday, attracting hundreds of members and plenty of speakers to a Washington celebration in which they directed their animosity at the Washington establishment.

Sets conditions of Hinckley's visits: John Hinckley, who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981, soon will be spending more than half of his time outside a Washington mental hospital. In an order Wednesday that Hinckley's lawyer called a "milestone," U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman laid out the guidelines for the monthly visits of 17 days that Hinckley will be allowed to make to his mother's home in Virginia. Hinckley, who was found to be insane when he shot Reagan, has since 2006 been allowed to leave St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington to visit his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va. The length of those visits has expanded over the years with the goal that Hinckley will ultimately live there full time.

Charged with hacking Federal Reserve: Brit Lauri Love, accused of hacking into U.S. government computer networks, was charged in a new indictment unsealed Thursday with infiltrating the Federal Reserve's computers. Love, 28, of Stradishall, England, was charged with computer hacking and aggravated identity theft, which carry a potential penalty of up to 12 years in prison. He initially was arrested in Great Britain in October and released on bail after he was charged under a United Kingdom law that permits the arrest of anyone who starts attacks from the U.K. on computers anywhere in the world. U.S. authorities in the fall had said Love cost the federal government millions of dollars by hacking into the computer systems of various agencies, including the U.S. Army, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency. Those charges were brought in federal court in Newark, N.J.

Stocks reach a record: After coming close all week, the stock market reached an all-time high Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had moved above its previous record many times this week, only to fade in the afternoon. On Thursday, it finally closed above the milestone, powered by strong earnings from a number of U.S. companies including the drugmaker Mylan and several retailers. The S&P 500 rose 9.13 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,854.29. It last closed at a record high of 1,848.38 on Jan. 15.

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