Monday, April 7, 2014

Published:

Pro-Russian activists declare east Ukrainian region independent, call for referendum

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Pro-Moscow activists barricaded inside government buildings in eastern Ukraine proclaimed their regions independent Monday and called for a referendum on seceding from Ukraine -- an ominous echo of the events that led to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The Ukrainian government accused Russia of stirring up the unrest and tried to flush the assailants from some of the seized buildings, setting off fiery clashes in one city. Russia, which has tens of thousands of troops massed along the border, sternly warned Ukraine against using force.

In Washington, the U.S. said any move by Russia into eastern Ukraine would be a "very serious escalation" that could bring further sanctions. White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was strong evidence that some of the pro-Russian protesters were hired and were not local residents.

At the same time, the U.S. announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union in a new push to ease tensions. The meeting, the first such four-way talks since the crisis erupted, will take place in the next 10 days, the State Department said.

Pro-Russian activists who seized the provincial administrative building in the city of Donetsk over the weekend announced the formation Monday of the independent Donetsk People's Republic.

___

Army investigators: 8-minute rampage at Texas Army post related to argument over leave request

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- Army investigators on Monday released a more detailed timeline of last week's fatal shootings at Fort Hood, describing an eight-minute rampage in which the suspect fired 35 shots over an area spanning the equivalent of two city blocks.

Three people were killed and 16 others wounded in the shooting spree before the suspect, Spc. Ivan Lopez, killed himself, authorities said.

During a news conference Monday, Army spokesman Chris Grey said the shootings at the Texas post followed an argument related to Lopez's request for taking leave, but he didn't indicate whether it was granted or describe circumstances behind the request.

A spokesman for Lopez's family said last week that Lopez was upset he was granted only a 24-hour leave to attend his mother's funeral in November. That leave was then extended to two days.

The shooting spree Wednesday ended when Lopez killed himself with his .45-caliber pistol after confronting a female military police officer, who Grey said fired once at Lopez but didn't strike him.

___

Pings off Australian coast called 'most promising lead' in month-old search for Malaysian jet

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- A concentrated air and sea search was underway in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday after an Australian ship detected faint pings deep underwater in what an official called the "most promising lead" yet in the search for Flight 370.

Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, 2,270 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, said the Joint Agency Coordination Center, which is overseeing the operation.

Chinese, Australian and British ships were taking advantage of forecast good weather to continue the underwater hunt with sensitive acoustic equipment for the plane's black boxes in the northern end of the of the search zone, the center said.

The Boeing 777 vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board. The focus of the search changed repeatedly. It began in the South China Sea, then shifted toward the Strait of Malacca to the west, and then to several locations in the southern Indian Ocean as an analysis of satellite and radar data indicated the plane veered far off course for a still-unknown reason.

"We are cautiously hopeful that there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours," Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.

___

Senate clears jobless-benefits bill -- but the Republican House is not inclined to accept it

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate voted 59-38 Monday to resurrect federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, and a small band of Republican supporters swiftly appealed to a reluctant Speaker John Boehner to permit election-year action in the House as well.

Steps are needed "to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans," seven House Republicans wrote Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. They released their letter as the Senate was bestowing its widely expected approval on the legislation.

Despite the appeal, the bill's prospects are cloudy at best, given widespread opposition among conservative lawmakers and outside groups and Boehner's unwillingness to allow it to the floor without changes that Republicans say would enhance job creation.

The Senate vote itself, seven months before congressional elections, capped a bruising three-month struggle. Fifty-one Democrats, two independents and six Republicans voted for approval.

The bill was the first major piece of legislation that Democrats sent to the floor of the Senate when Congress convened early in the year, the linchpin of a broader campaign-season agenda meant to showcase concern for men and women who are doing poorly in an era of economic disparity between rich and poor.

___

Olympic athletes asked to keep cell phones in pockets when they met Obama

A handshake? Sure. A selfie? No way.

Some of America's Olympic athletes say they were asked to keep their cellphones in their pockets last week when they visited the White House and met with President Barack Obama.

The White House said that's longstanding practice because taking individual photos with hundreds of people wouldn't be practical, and there are official photographers at such events. But the request to the Olympians drew attention because it came after the selfie Boston Red Sox slugger David "Big Papi" Ortiz took with the president during his team's visit to the White House.

Many criticized that snapshot as a marketing ploy after Samsung, the maker of the phone Ortiz used, used the picture in an advertisement. Ortiz denied taking the picture with the knowledge it would be part of a promotion.

"I was a little bummed," said Nick Goepper, a bronze medalist in slopestyle skiing. "I thought about trying to sneak one, but they were pretty adamant about it. I'm sure if they would've allowed it, there'd be 150 people with selfies with the president right now."

___

At 21, recovering heroin addict happy to be clean, starting new life

AURORA, Ill. (AP) -- Just out of Cook County Jail after being arrested with 15 bags of heroin, Cody Lewis had all of $11 in his pocket. But not for long.

Almost immediately, he spent $10 on yet another bag of smack, making the buy on the Chicago streets last May as he headed to a police station to retrieve his cellphone. He shot up in a grocery store parking lot, then continued on his way.

By then, Lewis was a $100-a-day addict. Heroin was no longer fun. He needed it to get rid of the sweats and the shakes, the body cramps, the aches in his bones. "I had to use," he says, "to feel normal, like a regular person."

Lewis was consumed by heroin. Every day was the same: Get up sick if he hadn't used in 12 hours. Figure out how to get money. Then drive 35 miles from his suburban home in Aurora to Chicago to score.

"My whole existence," he says, "was just finding ways to get high."

___

5 things to know about rise in heroin use, how to get help

Long a scourge of the back alleys of American life, heroin is spreading across the country. The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in February only underscored a problem many American communities already were combatting: the rising use of -- and deaths from -- heroin. Here are five things to know about this issue.

1. RISING USE IN RECENT YEARS

The number of past-year heroin users in the U.S. has risen from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA.

2. OVERDOSE DEATHS WORRY DOJ

Overdose deaths involving heroin rose 45 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently described the problem as "an urgent and growing public health crisis," as he called for more first responders to carry an antidote that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. But federal statistics also show that in 2010, heroin accounted for less than 10 percent of all drug overdose deaths.

___

5 of Mickey Rooney's most memorable movie roles, from 'Boy's Town' to 'National Velvet'

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mickey Rooney might be best remembered for his ceaseless ups and downs, his dramatic failures and his many comebacks. But Rooney's roller-coaster melodrama -- he was married eight times and quickly spent the fortune he amassed -- wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't also had genuine, enduring talent.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, while under contract for MGM, Rooney was one of the most popular stars on the planet. At just 19, he was the top box-office draw.

In Rooney's subsequent decades, things would rarely come as easily as his early stardom. But across movies, Broadway and television, his manic energy rarely flagged. Rooney, who died Sunday at age 93, remained working into his 90s, still driven to "put on a show."

Here are five of Rooney's most memorable movie roles:

-- "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1935) -- The production of Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle's Shakespeare adaptation had to be rearranged after Rooney broke his leg while skiing, enraging Warner Bros. head Jack Warner. But as the mischievous sprite Puck, Rooney (who did the play on stage before the movie) excelled in the dreamy film and it remains one of his finest and enchanting performances.

___

Analysts: End of XP could cause operational and security problems for industry, consumers

NEW YORK (AP) -- Microsoft will end support for the persistently popular Windows XP on Tuesday, and the move could put everything from the operations of heavy industry to the identities of everyday people in danger.

An estimated 30 percent of computers being used by businesses and consumers around the world are still running the 12-year-old operating system.

"What once was considered low-hanging fruit by hackers now has a big neon bull's eye on it," says Patrick Thomas, a security consultant at the San Jose, Calif.-based firm Neohapsis.

Microsoft has released a handful of Windows operating systems since 2001, but XP's popularity and the durability of the computers it was installed on kept it around longer than expected. Analysts say that if a PC is more than five years old, chances are it's running XP.

While users can still run XP after Tuesday, Microsoft says it will no longer provide security updates, issue fixes to non-security related problems or offer online technical content updates. The company is discontinuing XP to focus on maintaining its newer operating systems, the core programs that run personal computers.

___

FINALS WATCH: Kentucky tailgaters, Jerry Jones, AT&T Stadium

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Absolutely no chance that that Susan Hughes would forget where she was parked Monday night.

Hughes and the rest of her party of hardcore Kentucky fan backed up their Wildcats blue pickup truck right underneath a billboard of a screaming Louisville fan decked in red.

In case you haven't heard, Kentucky and Louisville backers aren't exactly fond of each other. Hughes, 55, of Paducah, used the occasion to torment a friend who works at Louisville.

"I took that picture and sent it to him and said 'Thinking of you,'" said Hughes, wearing a blue No. 11 jersey for former guard John Wall.

Not surprisingly, Big Blue Nation turned out in force at AT&T Stadium. Kentucky fans outnumbered Connecticut fans by about 4-to-1 in the parking lots about two hours before the game.