Pro-Russian leader of Ukraine’s Crimea claims control of military, police; asks Putin for help
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (AP) - The discord between Russia and Ukraine sharpened Saturday when the pro-Russian leader of Ukraine’s Crimea region claimed control of the military and police and appealed to Russia’s president for help in keeping peace there.
It was the latest escalation of tension between the two countries following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president last week by a protest movement aimed at turning Ukraine toward the European Union and away from Russia.
Armed men described as Russian troops took control of key airports and a communications center in Crimea on Friday. Ukraine has accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation” - a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis, and raised fears that Moscow is moving to annex a strategic peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based.
Ukraine’s population is divided in loyalties between Russia and Europe, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support. Crimea is mainly Russian-speaking.
Crimean’s prime minister, Sergei Aksenov, declared that the armed forces, the police, the national security service and border guards will answer only to his orders.
At heart of Ukraine drama, a tale of two countries with historic grudges
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - In the afternoon, when the shift ends at the coal mine and the miners walk out into the cold and past the old concrete statue of Lenin, they often head to a tiny corner store a block away. There they’ll stand in the parking lot for a while, drinking little bottles of the vodka called “Truthful.”
They know what is happening in Kiev, the capital city that can seem so far away. They’ve seen pictures of the democracy protesters shot dead in Kiev’s streets, and the TV reports on the mansions of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, the one-time thug and pro-Russia politician who grew up in this far-eastern city. They watched from afar this week as protesters, many from western Ukraine, helped form the country’s new government.
They don’t like it at all.
“I have always felt that we are so different,” said a miner who gave his name only as Nikolai, a thickset 35-year-old who went from high school directly into the mines. People speak Russian across most of Ukraine’s east, and worship in onion-domed Orthodox churches. They were shaped by 70 years of Soviet rule and its celebration of socialist industrialization, and by the Russian empire before that. To them, the government is now being run by outsiders who care little for this side of the country. “If they try to pressure us, our region will revolt.”
His words are echoed - except for a few key words - in a conversation 800 miles (1,250 kilometers) to the west, in a medieval cobblestoned city, Ukrainian-speaking residents and houses displaying the EU flag and its yellow stars.
10 Things to Know: This Week’s Takeaways
Looking back at the stories to remember from the past week:
1. UKRAINE CRISIS TAKES AN OMINOUS TURN; TENSIONS WITH RUSSIA RISE SHARPLY
Ukraine’s fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych resurfaced in Russia on Friday and condemned the uprising against him as a “bandit coup,” while men described as Russian troops took up positions at airports and a coast guard base in the Crimea. Ukraine accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation.”
Obama vows Russia will face ‘costs’ for possible military intervention in Ukraine
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is warning Russia “there will be costs” for any military maneuvers it launches in Ukraine, a move U.S. and Ukrainian officials say they believe to be already underway.
Officials say Obama may retaliate by canceling a trip to Russia this summer for an international summit and could also cut off trade discussions with Moscow. But it’s unclear whether those moves will have any impact on Russia’s calculus in Ukraine, which is at the center of what many see as a tug of war between East and West.
“Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing,” Obama declared Friday in a statement from the White House. Such action by Russia would represent a “profound interference” in matters that must be decided by the Ukrainian people, he said.
Separately, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that while he would not address specific U.S. options, “this could be a very dangerous situation if this continues in a provocative way.” Asked about options in a CBS News interview, he said that “we’re trying to deal with a diplomatic focus, that’s the appropriate, responsible approach.”
As Obama prepared to speak late Friday, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said eight Russian transport planes had landed with unknown cargo in Ukraine’s Crimea region. Serhiy Astakhov told The Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base.
Documents shows Hillary Clinton’s advisers seeking to soften her image among public
WASHINGTON (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton’s advisers sought to “humanize” what they saw as her stern, defensive public image during her husband’s White House days and as she embarked on her groundbreaking Senate campaign in New York.
“Be real,” wrote adviser Mandy Grunwald in a July 1999 memo as Clinton prepared for a Senate campaign. In the memo, the adviser urged the first lady to “look for opportunities for humor. It’s important that people see more sides of you, and they often see you only in very stern situations.”
Thousands of pages of documents released Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library reveal the first lady’s struggles with the health care plan during the 1990s, “an aversion” to the Washington press corps and her transition into a political candidate in her own right as the Clinton administration ended.
Clinton is the leading Democratic contender to succeed President Barack Obama, though she has not said whether she will run. The nearly 4,000 pages of records, the first of more than 25,000 expected to be released in the next two weeks, underscore her attempts to appeal to average Americans and her aides’ advice that she show a more human side, reminiscent of problems that surfaced in her 2008 primary loss against Obama.
Clinton’s public image has been a hotly debated topic throughout her career and could linger into any presidential campaign in 2016. She generated headlines during her husband’s 1992 campaign when she defended her work as an attorney instead of being someone who “could have stayed home and baked cookies.” Her role in the health care reform effort was criticized as Democrats were routed in the 1994 elections. Establishing herself in the Senate, Clinton lost to Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary but has become one of the most admired women in the world, watching her popularity grow as Obama’s secretary of state.
No significant drought dent but no serious damage either as storm covers California
AZUSA, Calif. (AP) - A storm that brought some of the highest rainfall totals to the Los Angeles area in years, including eight inches on some mountains, was just the beginning of what the region needs to pull out of a major drought.
Although the storm was expected to remain strong Saturday, forecasters said such systems would have to become common for the state to make serious inroads against the drought.
“We need several large storms and we just don’t see that on the horizon,” National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt said Friday. “This is a rogue storm. We will dry out next week.”
But the storm had yet to do serious damage either. At least not yet.
In Azusa and neighboring foothill communities about 25 miles east of Los Angeles that sit beneath nearly 2,000 acres of steep mountain slopes that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire, about 1,200 homes were under evacuation orders over mudflow fears but were so-far spared.
GAO report: Regional airlines having trouble finding pilots, pay could be 1 reason
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation’s regional airlines are having trouble hiring enough pilots, the government says, suggesting one reason may be that they simply don’t pay enough.
A pool of qualified pilots is available, but it’s unclear whether they are willing to work for low entry-level wages, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Friday.
One key economic indicator supports the emergence of a shortage, something regional airlines have complained of and point to as a reason for limiting service to some small communities. But two other indicators suggest the opposite is true, GAO said. Also, two studies reviewed by the GAO “point to the large number of qualified pilots that exist, but may be working abroad, in the military or in another occupation, as evidence that there is adequate supply,” the report said.
The U.S. airline industry will need to hire 1,900 to 4,500 new pilots annually over the next 10 years due to an expected surge in retirements of pilots reaching age 65 and increased demand for air travel, the report said.
Eleven out of 12 regional airlines failed to meet their hiring targets for entry-level pilots last year, the report said. However, no major airlines were experiencing problems finding pilots.
From Riyadh to Beirut, growing fear of blowback from militants returning home from Syria
BISARIYEH, Lebanon (AP) - The once-tranquil, religiously mixed village of Bisariyeh is seething: Two of its young men who fought alongside the rebels in Syria recently returned home radicalized and staged suicide bombings in Lebanon.
The phenomenon is being watched anxiously across the Mideast, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where authorities are moving decisively to prevent citizens from going off to fight in Syria.
The developments illustrate how the Syrian war is sending dangerous ripples across a highly combustible region and sparking fears that jihadis will come home with dangerous ideas and turn their weapons against their own countries.
In Lebanon, where longstanding tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have been heightened by the conflict next door, the fear of blowback has very much turned into reality.
The social fabric of towns and villages across the country is being torn by conflicting loyalties and a wave of bombings carried out by Sunni extremists in retaliation for the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah’s military support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
NYC coroner: Philip Seymour Hoffman died from toxic mix of drugs, including heroin, cocaine
NEW YORK (AP) - Philip Seymour Hoffman died from taking a combination of heroin, cocaine and other drugs, the New York City medical examiner ruled Friday, a toxic mix that addiction specialists say is not uncommon in the tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S. each year.
Hoffman, 46, who was found Feb. 2 with a needle in his arm on the floor of his Manhattan apartment, also had taken amphetamines and benzodiazepines, which are drugs such as Xanax and Valium that are widely prescribed for anxiety, trouble sleeping and other problems, said a spokeswoman for the medical examiner. The death was ruled accidental.
The medical examiner didn’t provide the names of the drugs or the amounts found in the actor’s system, making it impossible to determine which drug was the major factor, said Dr. Charles McKay, a medical toxicologist for Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and a spokesman for the American College of Medical Toxicology.
“There’s a difference between a stimulant death, which would be cocaine and the amphetamines, and a narcotic death, like heroin,” he said.
The first two can cause heart rhythm problems, a stroke or heart attack, whereas heroin, especially with sedatives such as benzodiazepines, can depress breathing.
Pharrell Williams, U2, Karen O, Idina Menzel rock Oscar’s star-studded music rehearsals
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Having the nation’s No. 1 song does not exempt an artist from Oscar rehearsals.
Pharrell Williams ran through his catchy hit “Happy” more than half a dozen times Friday in preparation for the Oscar telecast. He even shared the spotlight with a spate of stars: Jamie Foxx, Brad Pitt and Kate Hudson showed up to rehearse while he was on stage.
All I care about is the fun,” Williams said to Hudson, who boogied in the audience as he practiced his dance-heavy number. A choir of high-school students and 20 professional dancers accompany his colorful performance.
Also rehearsing Friday: Broadway star Idina Menzel, who’s set to sing “Let It Go” from animated film nominee “Frozen”; U2, which is nominated for its song from the Mandela movie, “Ordinary Love”; and rocker Karen O, who is nominated for “The Moon Song” from best-picture nominee “Her.”
Menzel was awed by the technology that allowed the Oscar orchestra, playing off-site at the Capitol Records building, to coordinate with her live at the Dolby Theatre.
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