Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Published:

Ukraine leader names new army chief after deadly clashes; military vows anti-terror campaign

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's protest leaders and the president they aim to oust called a truce Wednesday, just hours after the military raised fears of a widespread crackdown with a vow to defeat "terrorists" responsible for seizing weapons and burning down buildings.

The two sides agreed to negotiate in an effort to end the violence that left at least 26 people dead and more than 400 injured on Tuesday. Protesters say the casualty toll is substantially higher.

The intense clashes between police and protesters led President Viktor Yanukovych to declare that the military would take part in a "national anti-terrorist operation." The parameters weren't specified, but the military's involvement and Yanukovych's appointment of a new military chief of staff fueled new worries.

As protective fires blazed around the tent camp in Kiev for a second night and protesters defending it showed no signs of yielding, Yanukovych met with top opposition leaders. A statement on his website said they had agreed on a truce and negotiations.

Vitali Klitschko, a leader of the protests that have sought to keep Ukraine open to Europe and out of a close alliance with Russia, said Yanukovych assured them that police would not storm the protesters' encampment on Kiev's Independence Square, according to the Interfax news agency.

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Obama pressed by N. American leaders on trade, immigration and the Keystone pipeline

TOLUCA, Mexico (AP) -- Pressed by North American allies on an array of politically fraught issues, President Barack Obama on Wednesday vowed to press ahead with stalled efforts to expand trade agreements for the Americas into Asia and overhaul fractured U.S. immigration laws. But Obama made no promises to frustrated Canadian leaders about his long-anticipated decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Closing a day of talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, Obama said the North American partners must maintain their "competitive advantage" on trade, in part by expanding into the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. While Obama acknowledged that "elements in my party" oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, he disputed the notion that Democratic concerns would derail the agreement.

"We'll get this passed if it's a good agreement," Obama declared during a joint news conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The North America Leaders' Summit -- often referred to as the "Three Amigos" meeting -- coincided with the 20th year of the North American Free Trade Agreement among the three countries, a deal that has vastly expanded cross-border commerce in the region but which remains a contentious issue in the United States over its impact on jobs and on environmental protections.

Trade experts say the agreement is due for an upgrade to take into account the current globalized environment and to address issues not touched in the original pact. But rather than reopen NAFTA, the three countries are instead relying on negotiations underway to complete the TPP, which is a trade bloc of 12 countries in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. FACEBOOK REALLY LIKES WHATSAPP

The world's biggest social networking company is buying the mobile messaging service for up to $19 billion in cash and stock.

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Los Angeles cardinal emerges from church abuse settlements bruised, but avoids prosecution

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese has agreed to pay $720 million to clergy abuse victims over the past decade and released internal files that showed Cardinal Roger Mahony shielded priests and ordered a surrogate to withhold evidence from police, yet Mahony and other archdiocese leaders are unlikely to face criminal charges.

With the final $13 million settlement of existing old cases announced Wednesday, Mahony has emerged from the scandal with his reputation tarnished, but his place in the church intact -- even after being publicly rebuked by his successor for internal church files showing that he and others worked to protect priests, keep parishioners in the dark and defend the church's image.

By settling the cases, the archdiocese avoids a trial in which Mahony would have been publicly questioned under oath about what plaintiffs' lawyers said was an attempt to thwart a Los Angeles police investigation.

During a deposition unsealed Wednesday, Mahony acknowledged he told an underling not to give police a list of altar boys who had worked with the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera. He testified he wasn't trying to hinder police, but he didn't want the boys to be scarred by the investigation and that he felt the altar boys were too old to be potential victims of the Mexican priest.

Police later found that 25 of Aguilar Rivera's alleged victims were altar boys and the other victim was training with the priest to be one, said Anthony DeMarco, a plaintiff attorney.

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Facebook to buy mobile messaging company WhatsApp for up to $19B, its largest acquisition

NEW YORK (AP) -- Facebook is buying mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, by far the company's largest acquisition and bigger than any that Google, Microsoft or Apple have ever done.

The world's biggest social networking company said Wednesday that it is paying $12 billion in Facebook stock and $4 billion in cash for WhatsApp. In addition, the app's founders and employees -- 55 in all -- will be granted restricted stock worth $3 billion that will vest over four years after the deal closes.

The deal translates to roughly 11 percent of Facebook's market value. In comparison, Google's biggest deal was its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, while Microsoft's largest was Skype at $8.5 billion. Apple, meanwhile, has never done a deal above $1 billion.

The deal's price tag stunned Gartner analyst Brian Blau. "I am not surprised they went after WhatsApp, but the amount is staggering," he said.

Facebook likely prizes WhatsApp for its audience of teenagers and young adults who are increasingly using the service to engage in online conversations outside of Facebook, which has evolved into a more mainstream hangout inhabited by their parents, grandparents and even their bosses at work.

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Taliban say they held indirect talks with US about possible prisoner exchange

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Washington has held indirect talks with the Taliban over the possible transfer of five senior Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a U.S. soldier captured nearly five years ago, a senior Taliban official told The Associated Press.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 27, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as "proof of life" demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the only U.S. soldier to be captured in America's longest war, which began with the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for sheltering al-Qaida in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The talks, which the Taliban official said took place sometime over the past two months in a Middle East country, would be the first significant movement toward an exchange since it was last discussed by the U.S. and the Taliban in June 2013. That earlier initiative, along with the overall peace efforts, lost steam after Afghan President Hamid Karzai argued over the name of a Taliban political office that opened in the Gulf nation of Qatar. The office was eventually closed but several Taliban have remained behind in Qatar.

A U.S. official said the Americans are considering a prisoner exchange but would not comment on whether any new talks have taken place. The official, who has been closely involved with this issue and has knowledge of previous talks with the Taliban, refused to give more details.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not confirm the efforts.

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Homeland Security warns airlines of new threat to air travel, cites possible shoe bombs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Homeland Security Department has warned airlines that terrorists could try to hide explosives in shoes. It's the second time in less than three weeks that the government has issued a warning about possible attempts to smuggle explosives on a commercial jetliner.

Homeland Security said Wednesday it regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners, but it declined to discuss specifics of a warning sent to airlines.

"Our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by the latest intelligence and as always DHS continues to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment," the department said in a statement.

A U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press that DHS released a notice to airlines reiterating that liquids, shoes and certain cosmetics were of concern, all of which are covered under existing Transportation Security Administration security policies.

The latest warning was focused on flights headed to the United States from abroad.

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Biden indicates health care sign-ups may fall short of unofficial goal of 7 million

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that it would be a good start for the federal health care law if 5 million to 6 million people sign up by the end of March, an acknowledgement that enrollments might fall significantly short of the Obama administration's unofficial goal of 7 million.

Biden, who was attending a private fundraiser in Minneapolis, made a brief unannounced stop at a coffee shop and visited with a handful of women who have signed up for coverage. Open enrollment under the federal law ends on March 31, after which people without insurance are subject to federal tax penalties.

Biden acknowledged the rocky rollout of the administration's Affordable Care Act and the difficulty people have had in signing up. Minnesota has been among the numerous states, along with the federal Healthcare.gov website, to experience rampant technical problems that hampered enrollment.

"We didn't want this to start off as shaky as it did," he said. "But it's complicated."

In its original projection, the administration said 7 million Americans would have to be signed up by the end of March for the insurance pool at the heart of the law to function properly. Biden acknowledged that "we may not get to 7 million, but if we get to 5 or 6 million that's a hell of a start."

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Elton John, Kanye West and Jack White to headline this summer's Bonnaroo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The eclectic trio of Elton John, Kanye West and Jack White will headline this summer's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

Organizers announced the lineup for the June 12-15 festival Wednesday night. As usual, it offers a bit of something for everyone.

Sir Elton will be attending his first Bonnaroo, while West will be making his first return after one of the most memorable appearances in 2008. That year he made fans wait nearly two hours for his early morning set, which didn't start until 4:30 a.m.

Other performers scheduled to appear in Manchester, Tenn., include Frank Ocean, Lionel Richie, Vampire Weekend, The Avett Brothers, Lauryn Hill, and Skrillex, who will host one of Bonnaroo's SuperJams.

Tickets go on sale at noon Feb. 22 on the festival's website.

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Unbeaten no more: No. 1 Syracuse stunned by Boston College 62-59 in overtime

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Olivier Hanlan and Patrick Heckmann hit 3-pointers in overtime, Lonnie Jackson made four straight free throws in the final 26.2 seconds, and lowly Boston College stunned top-ranked Syracuse 62-59 on Wednesday night, ending the Orange's unbeaten season.

"It was an emotional game for us," BC coach Steve Donahue said after his first Carrier Dome win in eight tries against the Orange. "It's been incredible for these guys to persevere. We've played well in a lot of games."

The Eagles came to town with heavy hearts and a good dose of determination. Longtime basketball media contact and sports information assistant Dick Kelley died last week after a two-year battle with ALS. His funeral was Tuesday and the Eagles, who often visited his apartment, were wearing "DK" patches on their uniforms.

"The patch on our chests, toward the end of the game it was like, 'We can't be denied. DK is looking down on us. He's got us,'" said Ryan Anderson. "It's real emotional. It's really going to set in in a couple of hours."

Boston College (7-19, 3-10 Atlantic Coast Conference), which had lost five straight, rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to pull off the improbable upset.