Saturday, April 12, 2014


Armed protesters seize police station in eastern Ukrainian town

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- At least a dozen armed men have seized a police station in a small town in eastern Ukraine as tensions in the country's Russia-speaking regions intensify.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said men in camouflage stormed a police station in Slovyansk early Saturday. The town is about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of the regional center, Donetsk, where pro-Russian protesters have occupied a government building for nearly a week.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov pledged a "very tough response" to the seizure.

Video on a local website showed several armed men in balaclavas guarding the entrance to the police station.

Protesters who have held the administration building in Donetsk since Sunday initially called for a referendum on secession but later reduced the demand to a vote on autonomy within Ukraine.


With no new signals and black box batteries dying, Abbott says jet search will take long time

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- With no new underwater signals detected, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Saturday that the massive search for the Malaysian jet would likely continue "for a long time" as electronic transmissions from the dying black boxes were fading fast.

Abbott appeared to couch his comments from a day earlier while on a visit to China, where he met President Xi Jinping. He said Friday he was "very confident" signals heard by an Australian ship towing a U.S. Navy device that detects flight recorder pings are coming from the Boeing 777.

He continued to express this belief on Saturday, but added that the job of finding the plane that disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing remains arduous.

"No one should underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us," he said on the last day of his China trip. We have "very considerably narrowed down the search area, but trying to locate anything 4.5 kilometers beneath the surface of the ocean about 1,000 kilometers from land is a massive, massive task and it is likely to continue for a long time to come," Abbott said.

After analyzing satellite data, officials believe the plane with 239 people aboard flew off course for an unknown reason and went down in the southern Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia.


College dreams of families, young couples' futures dashed in tour bus crash that killed 10

ORLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Three months after sharing a picture-perfect Christmas engagement outside the Louvre Museum in Paris, Michael Myvett and Mattison Haywood were on another adventure, accompanying 44 teenagers on a visit to Myvett's college alma mater.

The Los Angeles couple volunteered to be chaperones on a charter bus carrying high school seniors on a 650-mile trip from Southern California to Humboldt State University. They died together when a FedEx tractor-trailer slammed into the bus, in a fiery crash that also killed five teens, another adult chaperone and the drivers of both vehicles, officials and relatives said.

That Myvett, who graduated from Humboldt State with a psychology degree in 2007 and worked with autistic children, was eager to make the trip with the fiancé to whom he had proposed on bended knee made sense to friends and co-workers.

Haywood was "the love of his life" and "to be a liaison and representative for high school students who wanted to attend Humboldt was in sync with his personality, wanting to facilitate peoples' achievement of their dreams," said Kyle Farris, a colleague at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Torrance.

The bus carried a lot of dreams. It was one of three the northern California college chartered to bring prospective students, many of them hoping to be the first in their families to attend college, to tour its campus before they got busy with prom and graduation.


Striving for unity, US faces reluctant partner in Europe in financial penalties against Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As it warns Russia to step back from Ukraine or suffer another financial hit, the U.S. is simultaneously trying to coax along a reluctant Europe, which is trying to balance its desire to punish Moscow against its fear of economic turmoil from the effects of a new, harsher round of Western trade sanctions.

Economists say the U.S. risks appearing weak without support from Europe, which is Russia's largest trading partner and therefore has huge sway over Russia's already shaky economy. But Europe is far from ready to issue sanctions on Moscow that would undercut its own financial stability while risking its main source of energy.

The fate of new sanctions -- and how tough they might be -- depends on Moscow's next moves, and whether Russia deepens or pulls back its meddling in Ukraine.

President Barack Obama already has signed orders that would allow the U.S. to sanction key Russian industries, and European Union foreign ministers will meet Monday to decide what new penalties should be issued if Moscow continues to ignore the West's warnings.

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told a Senate panel this week that current U.S. and EU sanctions are "biting" and "pinching" the Russian economy, "and we're now considering further measures."


Iran says it has no plan to name new UN envoy after its pick blocked

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran says it has no plans to name a new diplomat to the United Nations after the United States blocked the man Tehran chose.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi is quoted by the semiofficial Mehr news agency as saying Saturday that the Islamic Republic instead seeks to challenge the U.S. decision through legal channels.

The U.S. blocked Iran's pick because it alleges Hamid Aboutalebi took part in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.

Aboutalebi says he was only a translator when militant students stormed the Embassy. Iran says he is one of the country's best diplomats, and that he previously received a U.S. visa. He has already served at Iranian diplomatic missions in Australia, Belgium and Italy.


Every comma is scrutinized as UN climate report balances science and politics

BERLIN (AP) -- After racing against the clock in an all-night session, the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change was putting the final touches Saturday on a scientific guide to help governments, industries and regular people take action to stop global warming from reaching dangerous levels.

As always when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change adopts one of its high-profile reports, the week-long talks in Berlin were slowed by wrangling between scientists and governments over which words, charts and tables to use in the roughly 30-page summary of a much bigger scientific report.

The painstaking process is meant to clarify the complex world of climate science to non-scientists but it also reflects the brinksmanship that characterizes international talks on climate action -- so far unsuccessful in their goal to stop the rise of man-made carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

"Sometimes it's framed as if what the IPCC does is 'just the facts, ma'am,' and that of course is not accurate," said Steve Rayner, an Oxford scientist who has taken part in three of the IPCC's previous assessments, but not this one.

"It's not pure science and it's not just politics," but a blend of both, Rayner said.


Obama's health care law faces new round of criticism as top conservatives gather for summit

BOSTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is coming under renewed attack as some of the nation's leading conservatives gather for a New Hampshire summit thick with presidential implications.

Several potential Republican White House contenders -- among them Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- headline a conference Saturday in Manchester, N.H., hosted by the conservative groups Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity.

Scheduled speakers also include real estate mogul Donald Trump, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The gathering highlights the role of Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate headed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

The Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity has already spent millions of dollars on health care-related attack ads aimed at Democratic senators in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and elsewhere. That's made the Koch brothers a prime target for Democratic criticism.

The summit comes as prospective presidential candidates begin to step up appearances in key states ahead of the 2016 presidential contest, even though New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation-presidential primary isn't planned for another two years. The speakers are expected to bash the Democratic-backed health care overhaul, a central issue in the GOP's midterm election strategy despite reports of strong enrollment figures.


In La. district of 'kissing congressman,' voters disappointed yet willing to forgive

MONROE, La. (AP) -- In a matter of days, Republican Vance McAllister has gone from being the unlikely congressman -- a special election winner who trounced his party's establishment candidate -- to the "kissing congressman," a faith-and-family politician caught on video embracing an aide married to one of his friends.

Amid some calls for his resignation, he has said he will respect the verdict of his constituents this fall. Residents interviewed here by The Associated Press expressed disappointment, but not surprise.

Noting the histories of President Bill Clinton and former Louisiana governor and current congressional candidate Edwin Edwards and sitting Sen. David Vitter, voters say they're accustomed to tawdry politician scandals. Many are as eager to speculate how a local newspaper got video of McAllister kissing Melissa Peacock as they are to opine on the dalliance itself. And they're sure there's more than enough hypocrisy and political intrigue to go around.

McAllister's "main thing now is to get straight with his family," said Jackie Coleman, a retired law enforcement officer from Olla, south of Monroe. "Then," Coleman said, "this should be over."

There's been little subtlety in the response from Republican powers.


Waiting for water: Myanmar's villages get left behind in development boom

DALA, Myanmar (AP) -- Every afternoon, the long lines start to form, hundreds of men, women and children waiting to dip their plastic buckets into the lotus-filled reservoir just outside Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon. It's their only source of clean drinking water, they say, and during the dry season, April and May, there is only so much to go around.  

"It wasn't always this way," says 72-year-old Tin Shwe, one of the village elders, as he looks at the queue, some boys as young as 8 waiting their turn, yokes at their side. "It used to be only paddy fields. Only a few houses. There was enough water for all of us."

Myanmar only recently emerged from a half-century of military rule. Nascent democratic reforms implemented by the new civilian government since 2011 have resulted in a development boom, with the World Bank and others pouring billions of dollars into the country of 60 million as it starts to open up to the world. But so far, it is the big cities that are seeing the benefits.

Even places like Dala township -- just a 20-minute boat ride from Yangon -- have so far been left out. Authorities tell residents that maybe next year the government will start installing pipes so that water can be delivered straight to their homes.

The water shortages began with a population boom in the 1980s, with the number of inhabitants jumping from a few dozen to more than a thousand in part because they wanted to be close to the big city.


Outkast reunite after near decadelong hiatus as headliners at Coachella music festival

Outkast reunited onstage after a near decadelong hiatus with a jam-packed set at the Coachella music festival, their first of many performances planned this year.

The rap duo headlined the first night of the music festival Friday in Indio, Calif., performing well-known hits such as "Hey Ya!," ''Ms. Jackson," ''The Way You Move," ''Elevators (Me & You)," and "So Fresh, So Clean."

The Grammy winners performed two dozen tracks -- seen via its livestream on YouTube -- as they celebrated 20 years in music since the release of their 1994 debut, "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik."

"Hey Coachella, are y'all alive?" Andre 3000 asked the crowd at the top of their set. "Are y'all alive? Are y'all alive?"

"I really appreciate y'all coming out," he said at the end of the performance, more than 90 minutes later. "I know it's kind of weird 20 years later."

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