Friday, February 7, 2014

Published:

Not gonna get us! Russia sets aside troubles, kicks off Sochi Games with hope and some hubris

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- A Russia in search of global vindication kicked off the Sochi Olympics looking more like a Russia that likes to party, with a pulse-raising opening ceremony about fun and sports instead of terrorism, gay rights and coddling despots.

And that's just the way Russian President Vladimir Putin wants these Winter Games to be.

The world's premier athletes on ice and snow have more to worry about than geopolitics as they plunge into the biggest challenges of their lives on the mountain slopes of the Caucasus and in the wet-paint-fresh arenas on the shores of the Black Sea.

But watch out for those Russians on their home turf. A raucous group of Russian athletes had a message for their nearly 3,000 rivals in Sochi, marching through Fisht Stadium singing that they're "not gonna get us!"

Superlatives abounded and the mood soared as Tchaikovsky met pseudo-lesbian pop duo Tatu and their hit, "Not Gonna Get Us." Russian TV presenter Yana Churikova shouted: "Welcome to the center of the universe!"

___

Woody Allen responds to Dylan Farrow's molestation claim in open letter

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Woody Allen is again denying he molested adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow and is calling ex-partner Mia Farrow vindictive, spiteful and malevolent in an open letter published online Friday by The New York Times.

The 78-year-old filmmaker says Dylan Farrow's open letter published last week by The New York Times includes "creative flourishes that seem to have magically appeared during our 21-year estrangement."

"Of course, I did not molest Dylan," writes Allen. "I loved her and hope one day she will grasp how she has been cheated out of having a loving father and exploited by a mother more interested in her own festering anger than her daughter's well-being."

Allen was investigated for the alleged molestation, but was never charged. A team of child abuse specialists from the Yale-New Haven Hospital, brought in to the case by prosecutors and police, concluded that Dylan Farrow had not been molested.

"Now it's 21 years later and Dylan has come forward with the accusations that the Yale experts investigated and found false," Allen said.

___

Chicago jury acquits 3 NATO summit protesters of terrorism, convicts on lesser arson counts

CHICAGO (AP) -- A jury acquitted three NATO summit protesters Friday of breaking Illinois' rarely tested state terrorism law, a finding the defense said should dissuade Illinois or any other states from ever pressing such charges in a similar way against activists.

While jurors found them not guilty of the most ominous charges, Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly were convicted on lesser counts of arson and mob action.

Prosecutors portrayed the activists as sinister and dangerous anarchists who plotted to throw Molotov cocktails at President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters during the 2012 summit.

Attorney Molly Armour, who represents Betterly, said jurors had showed they agreed prosecutors had been overzealous in characterizing the alleged crimes as terrorism.

"This is a line in the sand," she said. "The war on terror can't go this far."

___

Second straight month of weak hiring renews economic concerns, offers some cause for optimism

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A second straight month of weak job growth renewed concerns Friday that the vigor displayed by the American economy late last year may be gone, at least for the moment.

The Labor Department's monthly employment report showing a tepid gain of 113,000 jobs in January followed December's puny increase of 75,000 -- far below last year's average monthly gain of 194,000.

Yet the report provided some cause for optimism. Solid hiring last month in manufacturing and construction point to underlying strength.

And in a healthy sign, more Americans began looking for jobs, suggesting they were more hopeful about their prospects. A sizable 115,000 formerly unemployed people also said they found jobs. Their hiring reduced the unemployment rate to a seasonally adjusted 6.6 percent, the lowest in more than five years.

Most economists say they think hiring will strengthen during 2014 as the economy improves further.

___

Thousands of Muslims flee violence in Central African Republic; ICC opens war crimes probe

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- Thousands of Muslims climbed aboard trucks protected by heavily armed Chadian soldiers in a mass exodus Friday from the capital of Central African Republic. Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on anyone perceived as supporting a now-defunct Muslim rebel government blamed for scores of atrocities during its rule of this predominantly Christian country.

In The Hague, Netherlands, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced a preliminary investigation into potential war crimes or crimes against humanity in Central African Republic, saying the crisis has "gone from bad to worse" since September.

Along the streets of Bangui, crowds of Christians gathered to cheer the convoy's departure for the neighboring country of Chad, which is mostly Muslim. It was an acrid farewell to their Muslim neighbors who had in some cases lived alongside Christians for generations here and have few ties to Chad.

The dangers for those who stayed behind were clear: One man who tumbled from the precariously overloaded trucks was brutally slain, witnesses said.

"He didn't even have the time to fall -- he landed into the hands of the angry mob who then lynched him at the scene," said Armando Yanguendji, a resident of the Gobongo district who witnessed the horror.

___

Prosecutors charge Denver woman with kidnapping, say she took newborn from Wisconsin to Iowa

TOWN OF BELOIT, Wis. (AP) -- A woman who pretended to be pregnant stole her half-sister's newborn boy from a Wisconsin home and left him in a storage crate outside an Iowa gas station in frigid temperatures as police closed in, according to court documents filed Friday.

Federal prosecutors in Madison charged Kristen Smith of Denver with kidnapping Friday afternoon, hours after an Iowa police chief miraculously discovered Kayden Powell, who is nearly a week old, alive and well in the plastic storage crate that morning. Police found a prosthetic pregnancy belly in Smith's car along with baby clothes, a car seat and a stroller, but no sign of Kayden, according to the affidavit.

The discovery of the infant shortly after 10 a.m. Friday capped a frantic search that involved scores of police officers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

"He's strong," the newborn's great-uncle, Mark Bennett, said of the boy. "I'm glad that baby is still living instead of in a ditch somewhere on a strange highway."

Online court records didn't list Smith's case or a defense attorney Friday evening. She faces life in prison if convicted.

___

The hackers who hit Target may have used Pa. refrigeration business as a back door

NEW YORK (AP) -- The hackers who stole millions of customers' credit and debit card numbers from Target may have used a Pittsburgh-area heating and refrigeration business as the back door to get in.

If that was, in fact, how they pulled it off -- and investigators appear to be looking at that theory -- it illustrates just how vulnerable big corporations have become as they expand and connect their computer networks to other companies to increase convenience and productivity.

Fazio Mechanical Services Inc., a contractor that does business with Target, said in a statement Thursday that it was the victim of a "sophisticated cyberattack operation," just as Target was. It said it is cooperating with the Secret Service and Target to figure out what happened.

The statement came days after Internet security bloggers identified the Sharpsburg, Pa., company as the third-party vendor through which hackers penetrated Target's computer systems.

Target has said it believes hackers broke into its vast network by first infiltrating the computers of one of its vendors. Then the hackers installed malicious software in Target's checkout system for its estimated 1,800 U.S. stores.

___

Fox's 'The X Factor' ending after 3 seasons; Simon Cowell to return to U.K. series

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "The X Factor" is ending after three seasons.

Fox and the show's production companies announced Friday that the U.S. edition of the singing competition won't be coming back this fall.

"X Factor" head judge and creator-executive producer Simon Cowell, who served as a judge on Fox's "American Idol" for nine seasons, will instead return to the U.K. version of "X Factor" later this year.

"I've had a fantastic time over the last 12 years, both on 'The X Factor' and 'American Idol,' " Cowell said in a statement. "And apart from being lucky enough to find some amazing talent on the shows, I have always had an incredible welcome from the American public -- most of the time!"

The acerbic judge initially predicted that "X Factor" would be a major hit before its 2011 debut, but the show never garnered stellar ratings, which continued to dip in last year's third season. "X Factor" also failed to produce a winner as successful as past "Idol" champions.

___

Alex Rodriguez end legal fight, accepts season-long suspension following drug investigation

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez ended his extended and acrimonious fight with Major League Baseball on Friday, withdrawing a pair of lawsuits and accepting a season-long suspension that marks the longest penalty in the sport's history related to performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez, who has steadfastly denied using banned substances while with the New York Yankees, made the decision nearly four weeks after arbitrator Fredric Horowitz largely upheld the discipline issued last summer by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

"I think it's a good move for him," former Commissioner Fay Vincent said. "A-Rod had no chance legally, and the commissioner got his authority validated."

Rodriguez was among 14 players suspended last summer following MLB's investigation of a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned substances. Given the harshest punishment, A-Rod was the only player to contest his penalty.

The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance, arguing Rodriguez's 211-game ban was unwarranted or at the very least excessive. Rodriguez also sued MLB and Selig in October, accusing them of "vigilante justice" as part of a "witch hunt" against him.

___

Philip Seymour Hoffman's NYC funeral attracts Hollywood stars including Streep, Blanchett

NEW YORK (AP) -- Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Ethan Hawke, Brian Dennehey, Amy Adams and Ellen Burstyn were among the stars who paid their respects Friday at a private funeral for Philip Seymour Hoffman that combined sadness and humor to honor an actor widely considered among the best of his generation.

The coffin holding Hoffman's body was brought out of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola by pallbearers and put in a hearse as family and guests began to stream out Friday afternoon. Streep hugged Diane Sawyer as they left.

"He left an enormous amount of love behind. It's a terrible loss," said Jose Rivera, a playwright whose work has been produced by Hoffman's LAByrinth Theatre Company.

He said the service was loving and simple, with people sharing their memories of Hoffman and laughing. "It was quite beautiful and heartfelt and sincere, and everybody had a lot to remember, in terms of Phil," Rivera said.

The list of mourners also included Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Joaquin Phoenix, Louis C.K., Mary Louise Parker, John Slattery, Laura Linney, Jerry Stiller, Chris Rock, Marisa Tomei, Spike Lee and Sawyer's husband, the director Mike Nichols. Playwright David Bar Katz, who found Hoffman's body, was visibly upset as he arrived.