Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Published:

Northwestern football players can unionize, federal agency says in precedent-setting decision

CHICAGO (AP) -- In a stunning ruling that could revolutionize a college sports industry worth billions of dollars and have dramatic repercussions at schools coast to coast, a federal agency said Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University can create the nation's first union of college athletes.

The decision by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board answered the question at the heart of the debate over the unionization bid: Are football players who receive full scholarships to the Big Ten school considered employees under federal law, thereby allowing them to unionize?

Peter Sung Ohr, the NLRB regional director, said in a 24-page decision that the players "fall squarely" within the broad definition of employee.

Pro-union activists cheered as they learned of the ruling.

"It's like preparing so long for a big game and then when you win -- it is pure joy," said former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, the designated president of Northwestern's would-be football players' union.

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A look at the ruling that Northwestern football players can unionize

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that Northwestern football players could unionize. Does that mean some players will be able to organize and get better health care and academic support? Or does it spell the end of college sports as we know it? The AP takes a look at all sides of the issue.

Question: Who came up with the idea of unionizing football players at Northwestern and why?

Answer: Outgoing senior quarterback Kain Colter began the process by helping form the College Athletes Players Association, which is also affiliated with the National College Players Association, an advocacy group in California. Colter, who wanted to go into medicine but couldn't because of the time he spent playing football, said the main thing he wanted was to make sure player medical needs were met, even after graduation.

"If we are making sacrifices like we are, we should have these basic protections taken care of," Colter told ESPN. "With the sacrifices we make athletically, medically and with our bodies, we need to be taken care of."

The football players are backed by the United Steelworkers, which provided lawyers and other help in seeking the NLRB ruling.

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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. FOOTBALL PLAYERS AT NORTHWESTERN CAN UNIONIZE

The federal agency's decision could revolutionize college sports -- raising the possibility of salaries for student-athletes, along with such things as labor strikes and lockouts.

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Analysis: Putin's ties to Obama's priorities complicate reassessment of US-Russia relationship

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Even as he criticizes Vladimir Putin and imposes sanctions on Russia, President Barack Obama is struggling with the consequences of his own earlier quest for a fresh start between Washington and Moscow.

From early in his presidency, Obama has engaged Russia to help achieve some of his key goals, including preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power and, more recently, solving the war in Syria before it spreads further in the Middle East. Now, he finds that the engagement may limit how hard he can hit back at Russia without toppling everything else.

White House officials insist that the U.S. can't go back to a business-as-usual relationship with Russia as long as Putin still has control of Crimea, the strategically important peninsula he annexed from Ukraine.

Exactly what might be changed is still being debated inside the West Wing. Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, said Russia's incursion in Crimea "is causing the countries and people of Europe and the international community and, of course, the United States to reassess what does this mean and what are the implications."

But even as officials warn of curtailed ties with Russia, they're seeking to insulate Obama's most pressing foreign policy priorities from any major harm that might result.

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Air hunt targets 122 objects identified by satellite as floating in Flight 370 search area

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- More satellite images have given searchers the latest clues in the hunt for the downed Malaysian jetliner, as planes flew out of Australia on Thursday trying to spot 122 objects seen floating in the turbulent Indian Ocean where officials believe the missing passenger jet may have crashed.

Almost two-thirds of the 239 people who died on the flight were from China, and the first search plane in the air was a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft.

In total, 11 planes and five ships are set to scour a search area 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth on Australia's western coast, but the Australian Maritime Safety Authority cautioned that weather was expected to deteriorate later Thursday.

Nineteen days into the mystery of Flight 370 that vanished early March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the discovery of the objects that ranged in size from 1 meter (3 feet) to 23 meters (75 feet) offered "the most credible lead that we have," a top Malaysian official said Wednesday.

A search Wednesday for the objects -- seen by a French satellite -- was unsuccessful, echoing the frustration of earlier sweeps that failed to zero in on three objects seen by satellites in recent days.

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Egypt's el-Sissi resigns from military and announces he will run for president

CAIRO (AP) -- Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian military chief who last summer removed the elected Islamist president, announced Wednesday that he will run for president in elections expected next month, putting him on an apparent track to lead a nation beleaguered by ongoing turmoil and violence, a broken political order, a dilapidated economy and concerns over the chances for building a democracy.

Wearing his military fatigues in a nationally televised speech, el-Sissi announced he was resigning from the armed forces -- a required step since only civilians can run for president. He declared that it was the last time he would wear his uniform because he was stepping down to run president and continue to defend the country. He said he was "answering the demand of a wide range of Egyptians."

The 59-year-old el-Sissi is widely expected to win the vote, and restore a tradition of presidents from military background that Egypt had for all but one year since 1952. He has been the country's most powerful figure since removing President Mohammed Morsi, and Morsi's once politically dominant Muslim Brotherhood has since been declared a terrorist group.

A nationalist fervor has gripped the country since the removal of Morsi, who in 2012 became Egypt's first freely elected and civilian president. The ouster in July came after massive protests by millions against Morsi and the Islamists.

Since then, the military-backed interim government has waged a fierce crackdown on the Brotherhood, arresting thousands of members and killing hundreds of protesters in clashes. At the same time, militants have waged a campaign of attacks on police and the military, and authorities have accused the Brotherhood of orchestrating terrorism, a claim the group denies.

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Charlotte, NC, mayor resigns after being accused of taking bribes, charged with corruption

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, who has been in office less than six months, resigned Wednesday, just hours after he was arrested and accused of taking more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina's largest city.

Cannon submitted his resignation letter to city manager Ron Carlee and city attorney Bob Hagemann, Charlotte spokesman Keith Richardson said in an email. The 47-year-old Cannon is charged with bribery and public corruption. The Democrat took cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment as bribes and solicited more than $1 million more, according to a criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Cannon said in his resignation letter that the pending charges "will create too much of a distraction" for the business of the city to go forward. He said it was effective immediately.

"I regret that I have to take this action, but I believe that it is in the best interest of the City for me to do so," he said.

Cannon did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment. He had an initial court appearance Wednesday and was released on $25,000 unsecured bond.

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Number missing in mudslide drops to 90, but families start realizing some may never be found

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) -- Becky Bach watches and waits, hoping that search crews find her brother and three other relatives who are missing in Washington state's deadly mudslide.

Doug Massingale waits too, for word about his 4-month-old granddaughter. Searchers were able to identify carpet from the infant's bedroom, but a log jam stood in the way of a more thorough effort to find little Sanoah Huestis, known as "Snowy."

With little hope to cling to, family members of the missing are beginning to confront a grim reality: Their loved ones might never be found, remaining entombed forever inside a mountain of mud that is believed to have claimed more than 20 lives.

"It just generates so many questions if they don't find them," Bach said. "I've never known anybody to die in a natural disaster. Do they issue death certificates?"

Search crews using dogs, bulldozers and their bare hands kept slogging through the mess of broken wood and mud again Wednesday, looking for more bodies or anyone who might still be alive nearly five days after a wall of fast-moving earth destroyed a small rural community. But authorities have acknowledged they might have to leave some victims buried in the debris some 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

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Smoky blaze rips through Boston brownstone, killing 2 firefighters trapped in basement

BOSTON (AP) -- A fire driven by strong winds raced through a brownstone on Wednesday, trapping and killing two firefighters in the basement, where their colleagues could not rescue them.

Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the blaze, and several police officers also were taken to hospitals. Some residents had to be rescued from the upper floors of the four-story apartment building, but none was hurt, city officials said.

"Today's a sad day for the city of Boston," Mayor Marty Walsh said. "We lost two heroes here today."

The firefighters were identified as Lt. Edward J. Walsh, a 43-year-old father of three who had almost a decade of experience, and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, a 33-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran who had been a firefighter for more than six years.

Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn said the fire, which sent smoke and flames pouring from the roof and windows of the brownstone, appeared to have started in the basement but moved quickly throughout the building. The cause wasn't known, but he said all indications are that it was accidental and that it was the wind that caused the fire to spread through the building so quickly. Firewalls stopped the fire from consuming adjacent buildings.

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Nebraska woman's dog uses paws to dial 911 on smartphone -- a first for dispatchers

BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP) -- When emergency dispatchers in Nebraska's Sarpy County picked up a recent call, all they heard were the sounds of breathing and scratching.

Dispatchers were worried -- until they learned the noises were coming from a dog who dialed 911.

Sarpy County 911 Assistant Director Marilyn Gable tells Omaha television station KETV (http://bit.ly/1m6BSWd) that it's the first time a dog has called the emergency center.

The dog's owner, Melissa Acosta, says she thought her 2-pound Japanese Chin, Sophie, was trying to curl up next to her on the couch, when she realized Sophie was scratching at Acosta's smartphone with her paw.

Then Acosta heard a voice from the phone asking for an "address of the emergency."