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Associated Press

Posted on February 2, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Radicals with a taste for violence are wild card in Ukraine's protests

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Kitted out in masks, helmets and protective gear on the arms and legs, radical activists are the wild card of the Ukraine protests now starting their third month, declaring they're ready to resume violence if the stalemate persists.

When the protests started in December, attracting not only tens of thousands of Ukrainians but a flurry of visits from Western officials, the gatherings' determined peacefulness was an integral part of their claim to legitimacy. But in mid-January, the image of placid but principled people changed sharply, to frightening scenes of protesters heaving stones and firebombs at police.

The violence was sparked by the radicals within the larger protest movement, angered by President Viktor Yanukovych's implementation of harsh anti-protest laws and increasingly impatient with the protesters' failure to achieve any of their demands. In a vivid demonstration of frustration, they sprayed opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, the towering former heavyweight boxing champion, with a fire extinguisher when he pleaded for clashes to stop.

An uneasy truce settled in days later after three protesters died, but with no government concessions apparently in the works, the radicals say they're preparing to fight again.

"We are ready for a national mobilization and complete blockade of the government quarter. The time for chatter has passed," the leader of the radical group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), Dmitry Jarosh, told The Associated Press. The group nominally cooperates with protest leaders, but often sharply differs with their views.

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Super Bowl no respite for scandal around NJ Gov. Christie, now on the offensive against critic

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The Super Bowl being played in New Jersey Sunday is not providing a respite from scandal for Gov. Chris Christie.

Some Republicans say allegations from a former loyalist that Christie knew about a politically motivated lane closure as it happened last year could end up damaging his 2016 presidential prospects. Meanwhile, Christie's political team is going on the offensive against the accuser.

The governor's political team sent an email Saturday to donors, along with columnists and pundits who might be in a position to defend Christie, bashing the man Christie put in a top post at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the accusations the man's lawyer made in a letter Friday.

The email says the former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, "will do and say anything to save David Wildstein."

Christie's team denies that Christie knew about the traffic jam or its political motive until after it was over and bashes Wildstein, a former mayor who later became an anonymous political blogger.

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Activists: Al-Qaida fighters in Syria kill rival rebel leader in twin car bombing

BEIRUT (AP) — Al-Qaida fighters killed the leader of a rival Islamic brigade in a twin car bombing near Syria's northern city of Aleppo, an attack likely to further exacerbate rebel infighting even as government forces continued their intense shelling of opposition-held areas of the city on Sunday.

Syrian aircraft bombed buildings, burying people underneath rubble in the Bab Neirab area, said the Aleppo Media Center. It wasn't immediately clear how many casualties there were.

The bombings came after military aircraft dropped barrels packed with explosives over rebel-held areas on Saturday, killing dozens, including an attack that killed 34 people in the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Bab, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group collates the country's war death toll.

Syrian forces have inched into eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo in recent weeks, their most important advance there since rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad seized the areas in mid-2012.

Activists say the troops' advance has been mostly been propelled by military aircraft heavily bombing residential areas, smashing buildings into rubble, forcing civilians and rebels to flee.

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In open-letter, Dylan Farrow renews allegation of child molestation against Woody Allen

NEW YORK (AP) — Dylan Farrow renewed molestation allegations against Woody Allen, claiming the movie director sexually assaulted her when she was 7 after he and actress Mia Farrow adopted her.

In an open-letter to The New York Times posted online Saturday, Dylan Farrow commented about the 1992 incident. In a letter to op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, she said she was moved to speak out because of Hollywood's continued embrace of Allen.

"That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up," wrote Farrow. "I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls."

The New York Times reported that Allen declined comment. Also, representatives for Allen and for former partner Mia Farrow also did not immediately return requests for comment Saturday from The Associated Press. Allen, who attended Saturday night's New York Knicks game, has long maintained his innocence.

In the letter, Dylan Farrow claims that in 1992 at the family's Connecticut home, Allen led her to a "dim, closet-like attic" and "then he sexually assaulted me." Farrow didn't specify Allen's actions, but described other abusive behavior.

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Protesters shut hundreds of Bangkok polling stations but Thai national election goes ahead

BANGKOK (AP) — Protesters trying to derail Thailand's national elections Sunday forced the closure of hundreds of polling stations in a highly contentious vote that has become the latest flash point in the country's deepening political crisis.

Around the country, the vast majority of voting stations were open and polling proceeded relatively peacefully. Polling stations closed for the day with no reports of violent clashes, easing fears of bloodshed a day after gun battles in Bangkok left seven people wounded.

The national focus was riveted to the capital where 488 of the capital's 6,600 polling stations were shut and several skirmishes broke out between protesters intent on disrupting the vote and frustrated would-be voters. The Election Commission said the closure of polls affected more than 6 million registered voters.

In some cases, protesters formed blockades to prevent voters from entering polling stations. Elsewhere, protesters blocked the delivery of ballots and other election materials, preventing voting stations from opening. The Election Commission said that hundreds of polling stations in the south, an opposition stronghold, faced similar problems.

Angry voters at one Bangkok district stood outside of closed voting stations waving their identification cards and shouting "Election! Election!"

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Keystone XL foes look to Nebraska lawsuit, protests, elections in wake of State Dept. report

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — With yet another obstacle removed for the Keystone XL pipeline, opponents were pressing forward with a lawsuit to challenge the project, public protests and an effort to inject the issue into the November elections.

Supporters and opponents both were quick to claim victories with the U.S. State Department report released Friday, which raised no major objections to the pipeline. The oil industry, some union groups and congressional Republicans called on the Obama administration to move forward with the project, while a coalition of landowners and environmentalists say there is still cause for denying a federal permit. The project would ship 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Meanwhile, farmers and ranchers in Nebraska who oppose the pipeline are planning to run for seats on a state board that regulates power stations that are needed along the project route. And national activists say they have recruited more than 75,000 volunteers willing to participate in civil disobedience, should President Barack Obama approve the Keystone project.

The project now goes to a 30-day comment period and a review by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other agencies. Obama has 90 days to make the decision on the pipeline, but the White House on Friday disputed the notion that the report is headed to a fast approval. Oil began flowing last week through an Oklahoma-to-Texas section already approved by Obama.

"There's no question, if the president approves this permit, that there will be civil disobedience," said Jane Kleeb, executive director of the group Bold Nebraska, which has helped organize opposition in the state. "We've said from the beginning that we will support the landowners and what they want to do and what they think is best for their property. I think you'll see some landowners driving really slow on their county roads to block the (pipeline) trucks."

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Obama to be interviewed during Super Bowl pregame show by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is getting some time in front of the cameras before sitting down to watch the Super Bowl.

He's doing a live interview from the White House with Bill O'Reilly about two hours before kickoff, during the Fox pregame show.

The interview comes less than a week after Obama's State of the Union address, in which he pledged to act to help the middle class if Congress won't.

Obama declined during a recent CNN interview to choose between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks in the title game, saying he didn't want to offend either city.

The White House wouldn't say whether anyone besides family is joining Obama to watch the game.

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Kerry: Ukraine should be free to align with Europe if it wants, not feel coerced by Russia

MUNICH (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that Ukraine, confronting a political crisis and massive anti-government protests, should be free to align with Europe if it wants and not feel coerced by more powerful neighbors such as Russia.

"Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine," Kerry said at a security conference in Munich. "While there are unsavory elements in the streets in any chaotic situation, the vast majority of Ukrainians want to live freely in a safe, prosperous country."

In a meeting later with opposition leaders, Kerry affirmed U.S. support for "the democratic, European aspirations" of Ukrainians and the leaders' efforts "to speak out to defend democracy and choice," according to the State Department. He urged the opposition to keep up talks with the government.

The department said Kerry also told Ukraine's foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara, to release political prisoners, address the deteriorating human rights situation, safeguard democratic principles and form a "technical government" that can address the country's economic problems and European aspirations of its citizens.

The crisis in Ukraine began after President Victor Yanukovych backed out of an agreement to deepen ties with the European Union in favor of getting closer to Russia. Protests quickly came to encompass a wide array of discontent over corruption, heavy-handed police and other grievances.

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Weather, award winners and new Hall of Famers among 5 things to know on Super Bowl Sunday

NEW YORK (AP) — It's time. Finally.

After a week of interviews, practices and plenty of hype, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are ready to kick off the Super Bowl in a matchup that makes even the most casual football fans drool.

It's Peyton Manning and the Broncos' top-rated, record-setting offense going against Richard Sherman and the Seahawks' stingy, No. 1-ranked defense.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the first Super Bowl held outdoors at a cold-weather site.

"We're ready to go," Seattle coach Pete Carroll declared Saturday after his team's final walkthrough. "That's kind of how we are. I don't know if it's loose, but we're where we're supposed to be."

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Peyton Manning wins 5th MVP, AP offensive player, Kuechly defensive player, Rivera top coach.

NEW YORK (AP) — Peyton Manning made his fifth MVP award a family affair.

Manning's record-setting season earned him The Associated Press NFL MVP award Saturday night in a landslide. No other player has won more than three.

Denver's record-setting quarterback, who threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards in leading the Broncos to the AFC's best record, earned 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. New England quarterback Tom Brady got the other vote.

Manning won his other MVPs with Indianapolis in 2003, '04, '08 and '09. He also was the runner-up last season to Adrian Peterson.

"I am humbled by this recognition and grateful to my family, (Broncos owner) Pat Bowlen, John Elway, John Fox and the entire Denver Broncos organization, and of course, my coaches and my teammates," Manning said in a prepared video acceptance speech. He was not on hand as he gets ready for Sunday's Super Bowl against Seattle.

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