- Associated Press - Saturday, February 14, 2015

Analysis: With NATO expansion at heart of Ukraine crisis, Russia determined to stop it

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Cold War didn’t end. It just took on a 24-year pause. The East-West showdown over Ukraine makes that clear.

As the non-Russian republics broke free in the Soviet collapse and Eastern European Soviet satellite countries snapped the chains of Moscow’s dominion, common wisdom held that the Cold War was over. The victors: The United States and its European allies, bound together in the NATO alliance to block further Soviet expansion in Europe after World War II.

Since the Soviet collapse - as Moscow had feared - that alliance has spread eastward, expanding along a line from Estonia in the north to Romania and Bulgaria in the south. The Kremlin claims it had Western assurances that would not happen. Now, Moscow’s only buffers to a complete NATO encirclement on its western border are Finland, Belarus and Ukraine.

The Kremlin would not have to be paranoid to look at that map with concern. And Russia reacted dramatically early last year. U.S.-Russian relations have fallen back into the dangerous nuclear and political standoff of the Cold War years before the Soviet collapse

It began with prolonged pro-Western demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital. The upheaval caused corrupt, Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Moscow nearly a year ago. The political turmoil broke out after Yanukovych - contrary to an agreement with the European Union for closer trade and political ties with the pan-European political and trading bloc - backed out and accepted Russian guarantees of billions of dollars in financial aid.

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Fighting in Ukraine persists in day before cease-fire is to take effect

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Officials in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol say an array of artillery attacks hit areas near the city during the morning, as the deadline for a cease-fire creeps closer.

The city’s press service reported a half-dozen rocket and mortar attacks on outlying areas Saturday morning. There was no immediate information on casualties.

Mariupol is on the Azov Sea and concerns are strong that Russian-backed separatists aim to seize it as a step toward establishing a corridor between mainland Russia and the Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed 11 months ago.

Under an agreement reached this week, rebels and Ukrainian forces are to observe a cease-fire beginning at midnight (2200 GMT, 5 p.m. EST).

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As long as there have been vaccines, some people have feared and hated them, historians say

NEW YORK (AP) - They’re considered one of mankind’s greatest medical achievements, yet people have balked at vaccines almost since the time of the first vaccination - in 1796, when an English country doctor named Edward Jenner inoculated an 8-year-old boy against smallpox.

In the mid-1800s, people protested in the streets of Victorian England after the British government began requiring citizens to get the vaccination. Many opponents mistrusted doctors and were wary of a medical treatment they didn’t understand. In the early days, the closely related cowpox virus was used to immunize people against smallpox.

“People were afraid that if you got the cowpox vaccine you would turn into a cow,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who is an outspoken critic of anti-vaccination groups.

More than a century and a half later, there’s still an undercurrent of vaccine dislike and distrust in the United States as illustrated by the measles outbreak that started in December at Disneyland - likely brought in from overseas as has been the case in recent years. Many of those who got and spread the highly contagious illness hadn’t gotten the childhood shots.

All this despite medical science’s proven successes in wiping out not only the much-feared smallpox and polio, but nearly eliminating other serious illnesses like diphtheria, German measles, lockjaw and mumps in the United States. Through it all, anti-vaccine sentiments have ebbed and flowed.

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Iran’s president retains top ayatollah’s backing despite criticism as nuclear deadline nears

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Throughout the long negotiations over the fate of Iran’s nuclear program, President Hassan Rouhani has withstood scathing criticism from hard-liners at home by sticking to his case that a deal with his country’s longtime enemies will bring peace and prosperity.

So the political stakes are high for the moderate president as talks enter their homestretch toward a June deadline.

If he succeeds in sealing an agreement, Iran could see much-hoped-for relief from withering sanctions that are dragging down the economy at a time when the OPEC producer is trying to ride out a severe slump in oil prices.

An improvement in the economy could translate into a broader boost in domestic support for Rouhani and strengthen the moderate camp gain in parliamentary elections next year. Moderates are pushing for a less confrontational relationship with the West - a break from the eight-year tenure of predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and seek more freedoms at home, including greater freedom of expression and easing of social restrictions.

Failure, however, only will bolster his hard-line opponents who are against that entire agenda.

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US Attorney issues subpoena for records pertaining to departing Oregon governor and fiancee

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his resignation Friday over a deepening influence-peddling scandal surrounding his fiancée and on the same day the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a subpoena demanding records and electronic communications pertaining to the pair.

The subpoena was the first acknowledgment of a federal investigation against Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes. It marks yet another turn in a scandal that brought down Oregon’s longest-serving chief executive.

Kitzhaber’s resignation, which is to take effect Wednesday, cleared the way for Secretary of State Kate Brown to assume Oregon’s highest office and become the nation’s first openly bisexual governor.

Kitzhaber insisted he broke no laws.

“Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life,” he said in a statement.

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Pope delivers tough love message to new cardinals: Put aside your pride, jealousy and anger

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis is delivering a tough-love message to his new cardinals, telling them to put aside their pride, jealousy, self-interests and anger since such sins are “unacceptable in a man of the church.”

Instead, Francis called for the 20 new members of the College of Cardinals to exercise perfect charity, kindness and justice, ready to trust and forgive.

Francis delivered the marching orders during a ceremony Saturday to elevate the new “princes of the church” into the club of red-hatted churchmen who will eventually elect Francis’ successor.

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APNewsbreak: Suspect in Halifax plot confessed to wanting to attack mall

TORONTO (AP) - A senior police official said that police foiled a plot by two suspects who were planning on going to a mall and killing as many people as they could before committing suicide on Valentine’s Day in Halifax.

The official told The Associated Press on Friday the suspects were on a chat stream and were apparently obsessed with death and had many photos of mass killings. Police and other officials said it was not related to Islamic terrorism.

The official said one of the two suspects, a 23-year-old American woman from Geneva, Illinois, was arrested at Halifax’s airport and confessed to the plot. The official said she prewrote a number of pronouncements to be tweeted after her death.

Police said the suspects had access to firearms, but did not elaborate.

The official said the 19-year-old male shot himself to death after police were tipped off about the plot and they surrounded his home. Police saw two people leave the house who they determined were his parents and pulled them over on a traffic check. They then called the suspect. As the man told police that he didn’t have any guns and he was on his way out of the house he shot himself, the official said.

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Muslims call for hate crime charges in shootings of 3 students, but such cases are challenging

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Relatives of the three Muslim college students killed in North Carolina are pressing for hate crime charges against the alleged shooter, but legal experts say such cases are relatively rare and can be difficult to prove.

Police in Chapel Hill say they have yet to uncover any evidence that Craig Stephen Hicks acted out of religious animus, though they are investigating the possibility. As a potential motive, they cited a longtime dispute over parking spaces at the condo community where Hicks and the victims lived.

Hicks, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

The FBI is now conducting a “parallel preliminary inquiry” to determine whether any federal laws, including hate crime laws, were violated in the case.

Search warrants filed in a court Friday showed Hicks listed a dozen firearms taken from his condo unit. The warrants list four handguns recovered from the home where he lived with his wife, in addition to a pistol the suspect had with him when he turned himself in after the shootings. Warrants also listed two shotguns and six rifles, including a military-style AR-15 carbine, and a large cache of ammunition.

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JAPAN DIARY: A man buying Valentine’s Day chocolates is an unusual sight in Tokyo

TOKYO (AP) - Perusing the Valentine’s Day chocolate selection during my lunch break made me stand out in the crowd in Tokyo: I was the only male in the Godiva store.

In Japan, women buy chocolates for men on Valentine’s Day, not vice versa. And not just for their boyfriend or partner, but also for co-workers, friends of both sexes and even themselves these days. It’s a big business: the Godiva store had shelves of specially boxed assortments rising to its high ceiling, while competing chocolate makers went head-to-head at temporary counters set up at a commuter rail station.

Two female co-workers brightened our office Friday by handing out chocolates to everyone else: a handful of Hershey kisses from one, a minibag of M&Ms; from the other.

Women get their just “desserts” one month later. Marketers have created “White Day” on March 14, when men are supposed to reciprocate with gifts for women.

- Ken Moritsugu, Tokyo bureau chief, The Associated Press.

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Little League star Mo’ne Davis outshines actor Kevin Hart at celebrity All-Star game

NEW YORK (AP) - Little League phenom Mo’ne Davis was so impressive on a basketball court she momentarily silenced trash-talking “Wedding Ringer” star Kevin Hart.

Playing in the All-Star Celebrity Game against opponents more than twice her age, the 13-year-old drove past Hart, the game’s MVP for the fourth time, with a spectacular spin move for an easy layup in the first quarter Friday night.

“That was pretty cool,” Davis said. “I work on it, but usually don’t do it. It was the right time to do it.”

Hart, who like Davis is from Philadelphia, said, “No excuses,” as he returned to the huddle shortly after her basket.

Madison Square Garden was abuzz with stars from the NBA, WNBA and Hollywood two nights before the NBA All-Star Game is played Sunday. But much of the attention was on the teenager, who got one of the loudest ovations from the crowd when she was introduced before the game.


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