Targeted Internet blockages highlight political battles in Venezuela
SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (AP) -- The battle for Venezuela is being fought as vigorously online as in the streets, with Internet service cut off to a strife-torn university city and the government blocking selected websites and a "walkie-talkie" service widely used by protesters.
Internet connectivity was gradually restored to San Cristobal, capital of the western border state of Tachira, Friday morning after an outage of more than 30 hours that also affected smartphones.
The tense streets smelled like burned trash after another night in which police firing tear gas broke up protests as they had Wednesday night when Internet service was cut.
Public transit was not operating, many street lights were dark and low-flying air force jets buzzed the city.
"It's an abuse!" Jeffrey Guerrero, a flour wholesaler, complained before Internet service was restored. "We've had to find out what's happening in our city from others." He held up his iPhone to show how his Twitter service had halted.
Mexico to trump Japan as No. 2 car exporter to US, has Canada in its sights for top spot
CELAYA, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico is on track to become the United States' No. 1 source of imported cars by the end of next year, overtaking Japan and Canada in a manufacturing boom that's turning the auto industry into a bigger source of dollars than money sent home by migrants.
The boom is raising hopes that Mexico can create enough new jobs to pull millions out of poverty as northbound migration slows sharply, but critics caution that most of the new car jobs are low-skill and pay too little. Mexico's low and stagnant wages have kept the poverty rate between 40 and 50 percent since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement two decades ago.
An $800 million Honda plant that opened Friday in the central state of Guanajuato will produce more than 200,000 Fit hatchbacks and compact sport-utility vehicles a year, helping push total Mexican car exports to the U.S. to 1.7 million in 2014, roughly 200,000 more than Japan, consulting firm IHS Automotive says. And with another big plant starting next week, Mexico is expected to surpass Canada for the top spot by the end of 2015.
"It's a safe bet," said Eduardo Solis, president of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association. "Mexico is now one of the major global players in car manufacturing."
When NAFTA was signed two decades ago, Mexico produced 6 percent of the cars built in North America. It now provides 19 percent. Total Mexican car production has risen 39 percent from 2007, to nearly 3 million cars a year. The total value of Mexico's car exports surged from $40 billion to $70.6 billion over that span.
Agreement on ending Ukraine conflict sparks resentment, threats of new violence
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Under heavy pressure from the West following a deadly day of clashes and sniper fire in the capital, President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders struck a deal Friday aimed at bringing Ukraine's three-month political crisis to an end. But radical protesters and some pro-Russian factions rejected it, leaving lingering doubts over whether peace could be restored.
On a day of electrifying developments, the Ukrainian parliament also opened a path for Yulia Tymoshenko --Yanukovych's political nemesis -- to be let out of prison.
In spite of what looked like a significant government retreat, protesters booed opposition figures who took to a stage Friday evening to present the deal, which cuts Yanukovych's powers and calls for early elections but falls short of demands for his immediate resignation.
"Death to the criminal!" some chanted, referring to Yanukovych.
"Resign! Resign! Resign!" shouted others as one radical speaker threatened to go on an armed offensive if the opposition doesn't demand the president's resignation by Saturday morning.
AP PHOTOS: Olympians express their joy at the moment of victory
Pumping their fists, falling to their knees, or taking victory laps with their nations' flags whipping in the wind, Olympians express their joy at winning a medal in many ways.
Here's a look at some of the winners at the Sochi Winter Olympics as they celebrate the culmination of hard work, sacrifice, and sometimes, luck.
Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiuhttp://apne.ws/1c3WMiu
Obama to award Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans from 3 wars following review over prejudice
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Seeking to correct potential acts of bias spanning three wars, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans following a congressionally mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients were not bypassed due to prejudice.
The unusual mass ceremony, scheduled for March 18, will honor veterans, most of Hispanic or Jewish heritage, who had already been recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military award. Only three of the recipients are living.
"I never really did worry about decorations," said one of those being honored, Melvin Morris of Cocoa, Fla., who was commended for courageous actions while a staff sergeant during combat operations on Sept. 17, 1969, in the vicinity of Chi Lang, South Vietnam.
Morris, who is black, said in an interview that it never occurred to him that his race might have prevented him from receiving the Medal of Honor. He said it was a huge surprise when the Army contacted him last May about the review and then arranged for a call from Obama.
"I fell to my knees. I was shocked," Morris said. "President Obama said he was sorry this didn't happen before. He said this should have been done 44 years ago."
Ignoring protests from China, Obama hosts Dalai Lama for low-key White House meeting
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama granted an audience to Tibet's Dalai Lama on Friday over the strong objections from China that the U.S. was meddling it its affairs. The White House took pains to ensure the meeting was not portrayed as a conference of two heads of state.
Obama played host to his fellow Nobel laureate in the White House's Map Room rather than the Oval Office, where the president traditionally brings dignitaries for photos. Beijing decries the Dalai Lama as an anti-Chinese separatist because of his quest for greater Tibetan autonomy. The White House calls him a respected cultural and religious figure who is committed to peace.
Despite media requests, the meeting was closed to journalists, and in a departure from previous visits the Buddhist monk left the White House without speaking to reporters.
Beijing had protested the meeting after the White House announced it Thursday night. A statement from China's Foreign Ministry issued Friday night reiterated its view that no country has a right to interfere in its internal affairs and said the U.S. had "gravely violated basic norms governing the international relations and seriously harmed the Sino-U.S. relations."
In another sign of its displeasure, China summoned Daniel Kritenbrink, the charge d'affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the State Department said. The U.S. had no immediate comment on the development.
Venezuelan beauty queen slain in protest mourned as victim of political violence
VALENCIA, Venezuela (AP) -- A university student beauty queen was mourned Friday in the provincial Venezuelan city where she was slain this week during a political protest, a victim of what government opponents say is indiscriminate violence used by President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters to stifle dissent across the country.
Family members and friends of 22-year-old Genesis Carmona say the former Miss Tourism 2013 for the central Venezuelan state of Carabobo was shot down by members of the armed militias known as "colectivos" who opened fire on a demonstration in Valencia on Tuesday.
The government says the incident is under investigation, and Maduro said at a news conference Friday that it has been "well-established" by ballistics experts that shot came from the opposition protesters. Mourners at the private Mass and graveside memorial for Carmona said they have no doubt which side fired the fatal round.
"She wanted to support her country and, well, look what it cost her for going out with a flag and a whistle. Killed by government mercenaries," said Jose Gil, an uncle of Carmona.
The violence drew condemnation Friday from U.S. based watchdog group Human Rights Watch, which said "Venezuelan security forces have used excessive and unlawful force against protesters on multiple occasions since February 12, 2014, including beating detainees and shooting at crowds of unarmed people."
265 Anne Frank books, including her diary, damaged by vandals in Tokyo public libraries
TOKYO (AP) -- Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" and scores of books about the young Holocaust victim have been vandalized in Tokyo public libraries since earlier this year.
The damage was mostly in the form of dozens of ripped pages in the books. Librarians have counted at least 265 damaged books at 31 municipal libraries since the end of January.
Japan and Nazi Germany were allies in World War II, and though Holocaust denial has occurred in Japan at times, the motive for damaging the Anne Frank books is unclear. Police are investigating.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the vandalism "shameful" and said Japan would not tolerate such acts.
The New York-based Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group fighting anti-Semitism, praised Suga's remarks.
Matteo Renzi forms Italy's new coalition government; at 39, he'll be youngest premier
ROME (AP) -- Matteo Renzi will be sworn in as Italy's youngest prime minister ever Saturday after he cobbled together a government he says will change the face of the country's politics and economy.
Renzi, the 39-year-old leader of the center-left Democratic Party, unveiled his government Friday and said the broad coalition will bring hope to the economically stagnant country.
After formally accepting the mandate to form the government, Renzi said he will waste no time in enacting reform.
"We aim tomorrow morning to immediately do the things that need to get done," he said.
Renzi had been serving as Florence mayor when he engineered a power grab last week to effectively force fellow Democrat, Enrico Letta, to step down after 10 months at the helm of a fragile, often-squabbling coalition.
AP source: Feds were investigating California tribal killing suspect over missing $50,000
ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) -- The woman who police say killed three family members and a worker at the headquarters building for an Indian tribe that was evicting her and her son from its land was the target of a federal investigation into at least $50,000 in missing tribal funds.
Investigators have been looking into whether Cherie Lash Rhoades took federal grant money meant for the Cedarville Rancheria tribe she once led, a person familiar with the tribe's situation told The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Rhoades recently was ousted as chairwoman of the 35-member tribe that includes many of her relatives.
On Thursday afternoon, her brother, Rurik Davis, and other tribal members were attending a meeting involving Rhoades's potential eviction at the headquarters building in the rural northeastern California community of Alturas. It's unclear precisely when the shooting began, but in quick succession Davis, 50; Rhoades' niece, Angel Penn, 19; her nephew, Glenn Calonicco, 30; and Shelia Lynn Russo, 47, were killed.
Investigators were looking into whether the embezzlement allegations spurred the tribe's efforts to evict Rhoades, but had not established any definitive motive, Alturas Police Chief Ken Barnes said Friday.