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AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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Ukraine: parliament speaker says no new government before Thursday

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - The European Union's top foreign policy official has urged Ukraine's new government to work out a reform program so that the West could consider financial aid to the country's battered economy.

Catherine Ashton spoke on Tuesday after meeting with the leaders of Ukraine's interim authorities formed after President Viktor Yanukvoych fled the capital.

The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday delayed the formation of a new government, reflecting political tensions and economic challenges.

Law enforcement agencies have issued an arrest warrant for Yanukovych over the killing of 82 people, mostly protesters. He was reportedly last seen in the pro-Russian Crimean peninsula.

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Website of major Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox offline amid reports of debilitating theft

TOKYO (AP) - The website of major bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox is offline Tuesday amid reports it suffered a debilitating theft, a new setback for efforts to gain legitimacy for the virtual currency.

The URL of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox was returning a blank page. The disappearance of the site follows the resignation Sunday of Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles from the board of the Bitcoin Foundation, a group seeking legitimacy for the currency.

At the Tokyo office tower housing Mt. Gox, bitcoin trader Kolin Burgess said he had picketed the building since Feb. 14 after flying in from London, hoping to get back $320,000 he has tied up in bitcoins with Mt Gox.

"I may have lost all of my money," said Burgess, next to placards asking if Mt. Gox is bankrupt. "It hasn't shaken my trust in Bitcoin, but it has shaken my trust in bitcoin exchanges."

A "crisis strategy" report shared widely online that purports to be an internal Mt. Gox document says more than 740,000 bitcoins are missing from the exchange, which froze withdrawals earlier this month. It says the theft went unnoticed for several years and turned on disguised withdrawals.

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US prosecutors jockey to try Mexican drug lord; unclear whether he'll be brought to US

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal prosecutors across the United States are already jockeying over who will handle any case against drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, even though it's far from clear whether he'll ever be brought to this country to face charges.

Who in the U.S. gets to prosecute the longtime fugitive, apprehended over the weekend in Mexico and now charged with violating his country's drug trafficking laws, likely will turn on which office has the strongest case - and perhaps some politics.

"You want No. 1 to be the best shot that you have," said David Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida in Miami who helped prosecute several high-profile suspected drug traffickers from Colombia and Haiti in his 11 years in the office. "What do they say? If you shoot at the king, you make sure you hit him in the head."

At least seven federal district courts have indictments pending against Guzman on a variety of charges, and several already are pressing for extradition. He had been dubbed "public enemy No. 1" in Chicago even before his arrest at a Mexican beach resort. He's wanted as well by federal prosecutors in New York City, and years-old indictments in San Diego and Texas charge Guzman with masterminding a mammoth cocaine trafficking operation.

The Justice Department hasn't said whether it plans to seek extradition, allowing only that it will be "the subject of further discussion between the United States and Mexico."

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Shrinking US military: Hagel proposes cutting Army to smallest in decades, closing more bases

WASHINGTON (AP) - Looking beyond America's post-9/11 wars, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday proposed shrinking the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, closing bases and reshaping forces to confront a "more volatile, more unpredictable" world with a more nimble military.

The nation can afford a smaller military so long as it retains a technological edge and the agility to respond on short notice to crises anywhere on the globe, Hagel said. He said the priorities he outlined reflect a consensus view among America's military leaders, but Republicans in Congress were quick to criticize some proposed changes.

In a speech at the one-year mark of his tenure as Pentagon chief, Hagel revealed many details of the defense spending plan that will be part of the 2015 budget that President Barack Obama will submit to Congress next week. Hagel described it as the first Pentagon budget to fully reflect the nation's transition from 13 years of war.

At the core of his plan is the notion that after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that proved longer and more costly than foreseen, the U.S. military will no longer be sized to conduct large and protracted ground wars. It will put more emphasis on versatile, agile forces that can project power over great distances, including in Asia.

Hagel stressed that such changes entail risk. He said, "We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted."

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After anti-gay law is signed, Uganda tabloid publishes list of the country's 'top' homosexuals

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) - A Ugandan newspaper published a list Tuesday of what it called the country's "200 top" homosexuals, outing some Ugandans who previously had not identified themselves as gay one day after the president enacted a harsh anti-gay law.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday's signing of the bill by President Yoweri Museveni marked "a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights" and warned that Washington could cut aid to the government of the East African nation.

"Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values," Kerry said in a statement.

The Red Pepper tabloid published the names - and some pictures - of alleged homosexuals in a front-page story under the headline: "EXPOSED!"

The list included prominent Ugandan gay activists such as Pepe Julian Onziema, who has repeatedly warned that Uganda's new anti-gay law could spark violence against homosexuals. A popular Ugandan hip-hop star as well as a Catholic priest are also on the list.

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Expanded vets benefits likely to clear Senate hurdle, faces roadblocks over GOP cost concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) - A sprawling Democratic bill expanding health, education and other benefits for veterans seems ready to clear an initial hurdle in the Senate. Yet the election-year measure faces an uncertain fate as Republicans try to make it smaller and find ways to pay for it.

The legislation, which sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., says would cost $21 billion over the coming decade, could confront GOP lawmakers with an uncomfortable campaign-season test over curbing spending for the nation's 22 million veterans and their families. Most veterans groups support the legislation, and the voting bloc they represent is a potent one that both parties usually try to avoid offending.

"There's a lot of need in the veterans community," said Sanders, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Senate was expected to vote Tuesday to begin debating the legislation. Republicans seemed prepared to provide enough support for the measure to win the 60 votes needed to proceed.

After that, the path is uncertain, and some Republicans consider the measure a campaign season ploy by Democrats to force them to oppose helping veterans.

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Polio-like disease appears in California children in what researchers call a 'rare phenomenon'

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - An extremely rare, polio-like disease has appeared in more than a dozen California children within the past year, and each of them suffered paralysis to one or more arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say. But public health officials haven't identified any common causes connecting the cases.

The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr. Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.

"The disease resembles but is not the same as polio," he said. "But this is serious. Most of the children we've seen so far have not recovered use of their arm or their leg."

But doctors are not sure if it's a virus or something else, he said. Van Haren said he has studied five cases from Monterey up through the San Francisco Bay Area, including two that were identified as the disease enterovirus-68, which is from the same family as the polio viruses. He said there have been about 20 cases statewide.

"We want to temper the concern, because at the moment, it does not appear to represent a major epidemic but only a very rare phenomenon," he said, noting similar outbreaks in Asia and Australia.

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With Obama unpopular in many states, former President Clinton to help Democrats in 2014 races

WASHINGTON (AP) - Bill Clinton, popular in territory unfriendly to President Barack Obama, is reprising his role as a super-surrogate for Democrats battling to keep their Senate majority and win other races. In the long run, Clinton could pick up political chits for his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she run for president in 2016.

The political terrain is rough in these Senate battleground states. Obama's signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is unpopular. Obama himself has soft poll numbers. Many Democrats won't appear with the president, even though they'll accept his prodigious fundraising help.

Not so with Clinton, who appears Tuesday in Louisville, Ky., with Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who's trying to unseat Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. It's perhaps the nation's hardest-fought Senate race in a state where Obama would be of little help.

Clinton is the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry a swath of Southern states crucial to the 2014 midterms, including his native Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana. The former president remains in heavy demand as a fundraiser and adviser as his wife plans an upcoming book tour and considers how she may help Democrats this year.

"He has an open invitation from me," Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat challenging GOP Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said of Clinton.

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Q&A: Breakthrough deal between Netflix, Comcast should produce better Internet video streaming

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - After years of bickering, Netflix and Comcast are working together to provide their subscribers with a more enjoyable experience when they're watching movies and television shows over high-speed Internet connections.

The new partnership is part of a breakthrough announced Sunday that requires Comcast's Internet service to create new avenues for Netflix's video to travel on its way to TVs and other devices. In return for the improved access, Netflix will pay Comcast an undisclosed amount of money for the next few years.

The arrangement represents an about-face for Netflix Inc., which had steadfastly refused to pay high-speed Internet service providers already collecting $40 to $60 per month from its customers. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had contended that his company's Internet video service is one of the main reasons why households pay for broadband, making it unreasonable for Internet service providers such as Comcast Corp. to demand additional money from content providers.

Comcast and other broadband providers argued Netflix's growing popularity should require the Los Gatos, Calif., company to shoulder some of the financial burden for delivering its video. In evening hours, Netflix's 33 million U.S. subscribers generate nearly a third of the Internet's downloading activity, according to the research firm Sandvine.

Now that Netflix has relented to Comcast, the largest U.S. broadband service, similar deals are more likely to be reached with other Internet providers such as Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and Charter Communications Inc.

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New host Seth Meyers lands at 'Late Night' mostly smoothly, joined by Vice President Joe Biden

NEW YORK (AP) - The monologue jokes were mostly thin and the host seemed stiff delivering them.

But jokes about the Winter Olympics that already felt irrelevant, and a few opening-night butterflies for the guy voicing them, could be excused. Soon enough, Seth Meyers seemed to gain control of his inaugural edition of "Late Night."

Part of his subsequent comfort level had to be explained by his savvy choice of guests. Amy Poehler, his longtime pal and former "Weekend Update" deskmate on "Saturday Night Live" was the first guest of NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers."

His other guest: Vice President Joe Biden, who's a talk show all by himself.

When Biden arrived to join Poehler, it made for a cozy trio. After all, Biden and Poehler have a history of their own, reaching back to his cameo appearance last season on her NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation."

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