Thursday, February 20, 2014

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AP reporter sees 18 dead in Kiev as brief truce crumbles in Ukrainian capital

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- An Associated Press reporter has counted 18 bodies at the sprawling protest encampment in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

The deaths Thursday came in a new eruption of violence just hours after the country's embattled president and the opposition leaders who are demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

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Rival Koreas allow emotional reunions of families divided by war; first in more than 3 years

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Their backs stooped, dozens of elderly North and South Koreans separated for six decades reunited Thursday, weeping and embracing in a rush of words and emotion. The reunions come during a rare period of detente between the rival Koreas and are all the more poignant because the participants will part again in a few days, likely forever.

About 80 South Koreans traveled through falling snow with their families to North Korea's Diamond Mountain resort to meet children, brothers, sisters, spouses and other relatives. Seoul had said about 180 North Koreans were expected.

South Korean TV showed old women in brightly-colored traditional hanbok dresses talking and hugging, families trading photographs of relatives who couldn't attend or had died. Two men in suits and ties wiped away tears, grasped each other by the necks and pressed their foreheads together as cameras flashed. One old man was wheeled in on a stretcher, his head propped on a pillow, a blue blanket wrapped tightly around him.

These meetings -- the first in more than three years because of high tensions -- are a vivid reminder that despite 60 years of animosity, misunderstanding, threats and occasional artillery exchanges, the world's most heavily armed border divides a single people.

The reunion came too late for 90-year-old Seo Jeong-suk, who died in South Korea just 15 days ago. Her daughter Kim Yong-ja, 68, sobbed as she handed her long-lost sister a framed photograph of Seo. Kim Yong Sil clasped the photo to her heart and said, "It's Mom's photo."

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Size, scale and cost of Sochi Olympics pose challenge for future Winter Games and locations

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- The sheer cost, size and scale of the Sochi Olympics has outstripped anything done before. The question for future Winter Games is clear: Can anyone -- should anyone -- try to top that?

Sochi has showcased President Vladimir Putin's grand project, using the Olympics to reshape the entire Black Sea resort region, with brand new facilities and infrastructure built from scratch.

The huge financial investment, massive security apparatus and litany of logistical issues has thrown up major challenges to potential future Winter Olympic host cities.

Can they afford it? Will the public support it? Should the games keep going to emerging and developing countries or return to more traditional winter sports nations? Will the weather be cold enough?

Under new President Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee is weighing changes to the bidding process that would cut down on the costs for applicant and host cities.

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Lottery officials say 1 winning ticket for $425 million Powerball jackpot sold in California

MILPITAS, Calif. (AP) -- The lone winning ticket for the $425 million Powerball jackpot was sold at a convenience store in central California, but there was no immediate word on who may have won one of the largest lottery jackpots in U.S. history.

The winning numbers drawn Wednesday night were: 1, 17, 35, 49, 54 and a Powerball of 34.

California lottery officials said the ticket was sold at Dixon Landing Chevron in Milpitas, a city about 10 miles north of San Jose. The business will receive $1 million for selling the winning ticket.

Rajwinder Singh, an employee at the Chevron store, said late Wednesday that he believed he was probably the person who sold the winning ticket.

"I've been here working from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.," he told The Associated Press. "I hope I'll find out soon."

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Activists fault 'quiet diplomacy' by US on Africa's anti-gay laws, suggest stronger measures

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Last month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met in his office with a team of U.S.-based rights activists concerned about legislation that would impose life sentences for some homosexual acts. South African retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined them by phone, pointing out similarities between Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill and racist laws enforced under South Africa's former apartheid government.

Museveni made clear he had no plans to sign the bill, said Santiago Canton of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, who attended the Jan. 18 meeting. "He specifically said this bill is a fascist bill," Canton recalled. "Those were the first words that came out of his mouth."

One month later, however, Museveni appears to have changed his mind, saying through a spokesman last week that he would sign the bill "to protect Ugandans from social deviants." Coming one month after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law his country's harsh anti-gay bill, which criminalizes same-sex marriage and activism, Museveni's new position highlights Western governments' apparent inability to temper governmental discrimination against gays in Africa.

The anti-gay bills are overwhelmingly supported by the general public in both Uganda and Nigeria, providing opportunities to win political points for two presidents eyeing re-election.

But international gay rights activists also blame donor countries, including the United States, which favor behind-the-scenes diplomacy intended to avoid a backlash that might come from more forceful engagement.

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Pussy Riot ends Sochi stay with anti-Putin punk video featuring clashes with police

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Russian punk band Pussy Riot is ending its stay in the Olympic city of Sochi by posting a video criticizing the Winter Games and President Vladimir Putin.

The band has been filming in Sochi since Sunday and has had violent run-ins with authorities. On Wednesday, Cossack militia attacked the group with horsewhips as they tried to perform under an Olympic sign.

Pussy Riot on Thursday presented a video called "Putin will teach you how to love the motherland". The video posted on YouTube features a song and footage of the band's protests. Members told a news conference their treatment in Sochi is symptomatic of stifling dissent in Russia.

Two band members spent nearly two years in prison on charges of hooliganism for their protest in Moscow's main cathedral in 2012.

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Motorists criticize tactics of federal roadside survey on impaired driving as intrusive

READING, Pa. (AP) -- Orange cones and flashing police lights confronted Ricardo Nieves as he rounded a bend on the way to his mother's house. Before he knew what was going on, Nieves said a man working for a government contractor stepped in front of his car and forced him to turn into a parking lot. There, a woman repeatedly tried to question him about his driving habits and asked for a mouth swab that would detect the presence of illegal or prescription drugs in his system.

Nieves refused. Then he sued, contending his rights were violated.

His Dec. 13 experience has been repeated thousands of times in cities around the country as the federal government tries to figure out how many of the nation's motorists are driving drunk or high.

U.S. transportation officials call the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving, which has been conducted five times since 1973, a vital tool for monitoring the safety of America's roadways. But some motorists and civil liberties advocates contend the government's methods are intrusive and even unconstitutional. Some police departments have refused to partner on the survey or regretted their decision to do so in the wake of public outcry, while in Tennessee, legislation that would ban law enforcement from helping out on the survey unanimously cleared the state Senate last month.

In the southeastern Pennsylvania city of Reading, Nieves is angered over what he views as an abuse of power.

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Authorities: 2nd floor collapses at Miss. church center, at least 15 hurt as dozens tumble

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) -- The second floor of an activity center at a rural church in southern Mississippi collapsed during an evening youth service, sending about 70 people tumbling and injuring at least 15 of them, authorities said.

None of the injuries appeared life-threatening though a 16-year-old girl was taken to a hospital in Hattiesburg with a possible head injury after the floor collapse Wednesday evening, authorities said. The hospital told The Associated Press it had no information to release on the girl's condition early Thursday.

Pastor Tommy Davis at Freedom Baptist Church in Myrick told The Chronicle in Laurel ( http://bit.ly/Nd2mcxhttp://bit.ly/Nd2mcx ) that the floor at the activity center collapsed as dozens of youth were gathered for a Wednesday evening gathering of worship.

"In the middle of the student service, the floor -- which is a second-story floor -- gave way, causing about 70 students to fall," Davis said. "But it's got to be said that no one was seriously injured, no one was trapped. God's hand was certainly taking care of the kids who were in that building."

Spokeswoman Linda Gavin at the South Central Regional Medical Center, said at least 15 young people were treated there and all were later released.

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IOC says images of attack on Russian punk group Pussy Riot are 'very unsettling'

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- The International Olympic Committee says images of the attack on the Pussy Riot punk group in Sochi are "very unsettling."

IOC spokesman Mark Adams says the governor of the Krasnodar region has apologized for the attack and is investigating.

Adams says it's a matter not directly related to the Sochi Games but he "found the pictures and the video very unsettling."

On Wednesday, Cossack militia attacked the group with horsewhips as they tried to perform under a sign advertising the Sochi Olympics.

Adams says the IOC wants to know more details but called it "largely an issue for" the Russian government.

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WhatsApp: A 19 billion bet for Facebook on the future of messaging

NEW YORK (AP) -- Facebook is placing a $19 billion bet on reaching its next billion mobile users with the acquisition of WhatsApp, a popular messaging service that lets people send texts, photos and videos on their smartphones.

The $19 billion deal is by far Facebook's largest and bigger than any that Google, Microsoft or Apple have ever done. But it is likely to raise worries that Facebook and other technology companies are starting to become overzealous in their pursuit of promising new products and services, said Anthony Michael Sabino, a St. John's University business professor.

"This could be seen as a microcosm of a bubble," Sabino said. "I expect there to be a lot of skepticism about this deal. People are going to look at this and say, 'Uh-oh, did they pay way too much for this?"

Facebook, for its part, is taking the long view. WhatsApp has 450 million monthly users, 70 percent of whom use it every day. The service is adding a million new users a day. There are 19 billion messages sent and 34 billion received via WhatsApp each day, in addition to 600 million photos and 100 million video messages.

At this rate, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is confident the app will reach a billion users. Services that reach that milestone, Zuckerberg said in a statement, "are all incredibly valuable."

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