Nation & World Briefs 04-22-14 Biden in Ukraine today to show support even as tensions there rise

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KIEV, Ukraine -- Vice President Joe Biden on Monday launched a high-profile visit to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to Ukraine and push for urgent implementation of an international agreement aimed at de-escalating tensions even as violence continues. The United States will decide within "days, not weeks" whether Russia is abiding by the accord, a U.S. diplomat said.

"It's still too early to tell if this is going to succeed," said Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. "The ball is really in Moscow's court in terms of whether they're going to take this diplomatic off-ramp." The United States has threatened additional sanctions against Russia if the agreement is not heeded.

Biden planned to meet today with government leaders who took over after pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February following months of protests. The White House said President Barack Obama and Biden agreed he should make the two-day visit to the capital city to send a high-level signal of support for reform efforts being pushed the new government.

Biden will hold talks with Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting Ukrainian prime minister and president. He also is scheduled to meet with legislators from across the country and democracy activists before returning to Washington tonight.

Defendant killed in courtroom: Defendant Siale Angilau was listening to a witness describe gang initiation rituals on Monday in Salt Lake City when authorities said he grabbed a pen, rushed toward the witness and lunged at him. A U.S. marshal opened fire on Angilau -- a 25-year-old "Tongan Crip" gang member known on the street as "C-Down" -- shooting him several times in front of shocked jurors, lawyers and courtroom watchers. He died hours later. The shooting turned a new and secure federal courthouse that opened its doors just one week ago into a site of terror and alarm. Nobody else was hurt, but those in the courtroom were stunned by the sudden turn of events. A mistrial was declared, with U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell saying in her order that jurors were visibly shaken and upset.

Shows holes in vast airport security: Surveillance cameras at San Jose International Airport successfully captured the teenager on the tarmac, climbing up the landing gear of a jet. But in the end, the cameras failed because no one noticed the security breach until the plane -- and the boy -- landed in Hawaii. Although the 15-year-old apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.

Mudslide death toll rises to 41: The death toll from the mudslide that hit the Washington community of Oso has risen to 41 -- and just two names remain on the list of people still missing. The Snohomish County medical examiner's office counted two more victims Monday, but said they have not yet been officially identified. The sheriff's office removed two names from its missing list, which had stood at four. The search for bodies continues as President Barack Obama prepares to visit the site today and meet with victims' families and first responders.

Broadening criteria for clemency: The Justice Department is broadening the criteria it will use in evaluating clemency petitions from certain federal prisoners and expects the changes to result in thousands of new applications, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday. The new criteria, which will be detailed later this week and are aimed at inmates serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, are intended to lead to a reduction in the nation's federal prison population and to "ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens," Holder said in a video message.

Russians inspect nuclear facilities: Russian nuclear inspectors visited the U.S. amid heightened tensions between the two nations to verify that 18 nuclear missile launch facilities had been demolished as part of a 2011 arms control treaty, Air Force officials said Monday. The April 9 inspection -- the first of its kind at Montana's Malmstrom Air Force Base, according to treaty compliance chief Richard Bialczak -- went ahead despite the strain between the two nuclear powers over Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Longtime fugitive nabbed: Joseph Lewis Miller, a disabled 78-year-old church deacon living quietly in East Texas, was arrested Monday by federal agents who said he committed a murder 33 years ago and 1,300 miles away. Authorities said Miller fled Pennsylvania after shooting a man in a parking lot outside a hotel in 1981. He was charged with murder and three other felonies, but the case remained unsolved for three decades until investigators translated a previous tip that Miller had been living in Mexico under an alias -- the name of a deceased cousin. The U.S. Marshals Service in Harrisburg, Pa., traced that name to rural Mineola, Texas, a town of 4,500 people. Miller confessed to the shooting shortly after his arrest, authorities said.

Union drops appeal of defeat in VW vote: The United Auto Workers dropped its appeal of a worker vote against unionizing at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, a move that the union said should put pressure on Republican politicians to quickly approve incentives the German automaker is seeking to expand its lone U.S. assembly plant. The prolonged fight over labor issues at the Chattanooga facility appeared headed for a lengthy National Labor Relations Board appeal until the UAW announced an hour before a scheduled hearing that it was ending its challenge. The February vote went against the union 712-626.

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