Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Published:

Ukraine bows to Russia's Crimea annexation, announces plans for mass troop withdrawals

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (AP) -- Surrendering to Russia's inexorable seizure of Crimea, Ukraine announced plans Wednesday for mass troop withdrawals from the strategic peninsula as Moscow-loyal forces seized control of Kiev's naval headquarters here and detained its commander.

Attempting to face down the unblinking incursion, Ukraine said it would hold joint military exercises with the United States and Britain.

Hours after masked Russian-speaking troops forced their way onto Ukraine's main naval base here, forlorn Ukrainian soldiers streamed out carrying clothing and other belongings in bags. A group of local militia and Cossacks, later joined by officers from Russia's Black Sea Fleet, looked on.

Just how many retreating troops Ukraine will have to absorb in what amounts to a military surrender of Crimea was unclear. Many servicemen have already switched sides to Russia, but authorities said they were prepared to relocate as many as 25,000 soldiers and their families to the Ukrainian mainland.

Humbled but defiant, Ukraine lashed out symbolically at Russia by declaring its intent to leave the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of 11 former Soviet nations. The last nation to leave the group was Georgia, which lost a brief war with neighboring Russia in 2008 and ended up losing two separatist territories.

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Malaysia, FBI analyze data deleted from flight simulator of pilot on missing jetliner

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The FBI joined forces with Malaysian authorities in analyzing deleted data on a flight simulator belonging to the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, while distraught relatives of the passengers unleashed their anger -- wailing in frustration at 12 days of uncertainty.

The anguish of relatives of the 239 people on Flight 370 boiled over Wednesday at a briefing near Kuala Lumpur's airport. Two Chinese women who shouted at Malaysian authorities and unfurled a banner accusing officials of "hiding the truth" were removed from the room. In a heart-wrenching scene, one woman screamed in sorrow as she was dragged away.

"I want you to help me to find my son! I want to see my son!" one of the two unidentified women said. "We have been here for 10 days."

Files containing records of flight simulations were deleted Feb. 3 from the device found in the home of the Malaysia Airlines pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu said.

It was not immediately clear whether investigators thought that deleting the files was unusual. The files might hold signs of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went. Then again, the files could have been deleted simply to clear memory for other material.

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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. UKRAINE PULLING TROOPS FROM CRIMEA

Bowing to the Russian takeover, Kiev says it's preparing to bring home as many as 25,000 soldiers and their families.

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APNewsBreak: NYC inmate 'basically baked to death' in overheated jail cell at Rikers Island

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jerome Murdough was just looking for a warm place to sleep on a chilly night last month when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem public housing project where he was arrested for trespassing.

A week later, the mentally ill homeless man was found dead in a Rikers Island jail cell that four city officials say had overheated to at least 100 degrees, apparently because of malfunctioning equipment.

The officials told The Associated Press that the 56-year-old former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat. He also apparently did not open a small vent in his cell, as other inmates did, to let in cool air.

"He basically baked to death," said one of the officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss specifics of the case.

The medical examiner's office said an autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests were needed to determine Murdough's exact cause of death. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, say initial indications from the autopsy and investigation point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

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Al-Qaida spokesman says he warned bin Laden on night of 9/11 that America would kill him

NEW YORK (AP) -- Osama bin Laden's son-in-law offered a rare glimpse of the al-Qaida leader in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, recounting during surprise testimony Wednesday in a Manhattan courtroom how the two met that night in a cave in Afghanistan.

"Did you learn about what happened ... the attacks on the United States?" the son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, recalled bin Laden asking him.

"We are the ones who did it."

The testimony came as Abu Ghaith's trial on charges he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida as a spokesman for the terrorist group took a dramatic turn. His decision to take the witness stand was announced by his lawyer, Stanley Cohen, who surprised a nearly empty courtroom that quickly filled with spectators as word spread.

Abu Ghaith testified that bin Laden seemed worried that night and asked what he thought would happen next. Abu Ghaith said he predicted America "will not settle until it accomplishes two things: to kill you and topple the state of the Taliban."

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Robert Strauss, former Democratic Party chairman and ambassador to Soviet Union, dies at 95

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bob Strauss could work with anybody -- Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Soviets, Israelis and Arabs. Playing the game and making the deal made his day.

Of Strauss' many accomplishments -- earning a fortune in postwar investments, co-founding an international law firm, leading the Democratic Party, running one successful presidential campaign and surviving the loss of another -- being welcome on either side of the political street might have been the achievement he most treasured.

A Strauss specialty was what he called "the art of making things happen instead of just tilting at windmills." A little sign he had kept on his desk put it succinctly: "It CAN be done."

"He is absolutely the most amazing politician," former first lady Barbara Bush wrote of the prominent Democratic powerbroker who died Wednesday at his home in Washington at 95. "He is everybody's friend and, if he chooses, could sell you the paper off your own wall."

President Ronald Reagan sought Strauss' advice when his administration was embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair. President George H.W. Bush turned to him when he needed an ambassador to the Soviet Union to represent American interests as the communist country fell apart -- and when the Russian Federation took its place.

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Rand Paul criticizes Obama over government surveillance, calls for probe in UC Berkeley speech

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Republican Sen. Rand Paul's criticisms of President Barack Obama and other government leaders over recent surveillance disclosures were warmly received on Wednesday at the University of California, Berkeley.

Paul, who is considering a presidential bid and is seen as one of several GOP front-runners ahead of 2016, held forth for 30 minutes on what he perceives to be abuses of government spy programs and a lack of oversight of the National Security Agency.

"I find it ironic that the first African-American president has without compunction allowed this vast exercise of raw power by the NSA," said Paul, noting that other black heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. were targets of illegal government spying.

Paul called for the creation of a bipartisan congressional committee to address allegations raised by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that CIA agents secretly searched Senate computers.

He said he hoped that such a commission would be similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s, referring to the special Senate panel that exposed CIA abuses and pushed through laws limiting the intelligence community's powers.

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Toyota's $1.2B penalty in criminal case offers possible glimpse into future of General Motors

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors, beware.

Wednesday's announcement that Toyota will pay $1.2 billion to avoid criminal prosecution for hiding information in a recall case could be a glimpse into your future. It's also a warning to anyone selling cars in the U.S.: Although the federal government's road-safety watchdog doesn't have big fangs, the Justice Department does.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's maximum fine for hiding information is $35 million, a pittance to automakers. But the Justice Department can reach deeper into your wallet and hurt your reputation with damning public statements.

Shortly after the announcement, Attorney General Eric Holder issued an apparent warning to GM and other automakers, saying the Toyota deal was "not necessarily the only time we will use this approach."

General Motors Co., which is facing a federal criminal probe over delays in recalling small cars with a deadly ignition switch problem, has many parallels to the Toyota case.

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Cat whisperer Jackson Galaxy heading to Oregon to work with animal that attacked family

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The large cat that attacked a baby and trapped an Oregon family in a bedroom touched off an Internet uproar that worries Jackson Galaxy, star of Animal Planet's "My Cat from Hell."

Cats don't become ferocious felines that turn on their families for no reason, says the cat behavior expert, who is heading to Portland soon to work with the 4-year-old part-Himalayan pet named Lux. Galaxy will film the visit for his show's fifth season, which kicks off April 26.

"Every parental site on the Internet blames the cat for this confrontation. Every pet site blames the family," he said, adding that something is wrong if the cat is acting out. "We need to step away from the hysteria. There is a story behind all this. Don't assume anything."

Lux became a worldwide phenomenon after owner Lee Palmer called 911 and said the cat had cornered him, his girlfriend, their baby and the family dog inside a room.

Palmer says his 7-month-old pulled Lux's tail, and he kicked the animal after it scratched the child. Then, the cat "just went off over the edge," Palmer told an emergency dispatcher after the family barricaded themselves. "He's charging us," Palmer said, as the cat was heard screeching in the background. Officers arrived and caught Lux with a dog snare.

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Eversley scores 19 to lead 19-loss Cal Poly to 81-69 win over Texas Southern in First Four

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Now that Cal Poly has gotten its first NCAA victory out of the way, why stop at one?

Chris Eversley scored 19 points to help Cal Poly become the first team in 59 years with 19 losses to win an NCAA tournament game, beating Texas Southern 81-69 on Wednesday night in the First Four.

Now the team with the worst record in the tournament (14-19) moves on to face the one with the best -- top-seeded Wichita State (34-0) -- in the second round in St. Louis on Friday.

It's exactly what Mustangs coach Joe Callero had hoped.

"I'm so weird that I was cheering the last five years that a 16 (seed) never upsets a 1," he said. "Because if we ever got a bid, we'd be a 16 seed and then we'd have a chance to make real history."