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Associated Press

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Tina Maze of Slovenia wins rainy Olympic giant slalom for 2nd gold medal of Sochi Games

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Tina Maze earned her second gold medal of the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, winning from the front in a rainy and snowy giant slalom.

Wearing bib No. 1, Maze skied through the gates cleanly to defend her big first-run lead and finish 0.07 seconds ahead of Anna Fenninger of Austria.

Maze celebrated by belly-flopping onto the snow and pretending to swim the breaststroke.

Defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was third, trailing 0.27 behind Maze's two-run time of 2 minutes, 36.87 seconds.

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin placed fifth in her Olympic debut, missing a medal by just 0.23 seconds.

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European opposition to death penalty behind chronic US execution dilemma

BRUSSELS (AP) — There's one big reason why the United States has a dearth of execution drugs so acute that some states are considering solutions such as firing squads and gas chambers: Europe's fierce hostility to capital punishment.

The phenomenon started nine years ago when the EU banned the export of products used for execution, citing its goal to be the "leading institutional actor and largest donor to the fight against the death penalty." But beefed up European rules mean the results are being most strongly felt in the United States now, with shortages becoming chronic and gruesome executions making headlines.

In Ohio last month, Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die after a previously untested mix of chemicals began flowing into his body, gasping repeatedly as he lay on a gurney. On Jan. 9, Oklahoma inmate Michael Lee Wilson's last words were: "I feel my whole body burning."

The dilemma again grabbed national attention this week when an Oklahoma pharmacy agreed Monday to refrain from supplying an execution drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for an upcoming lethal injection. Death row inmate Michael Taylor's had argued in a lawsuit that recent executions involving the drug pentobarbital would likely cause "inhumane pain" — and, ahead of a hearing set for Tuesday, The Apothecary Shoppe said it would not provide the drug.

EU nations are notorious for disagreeing on just about everything when it comes to common policy, but they all strongly — and proudly — agree on one thing: abolishing capital punishment.

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NSA surveillance exposes divisions in political parties as GOP shifts on national security

WASHINGTON (AP) — The debate about whether to continue the dragnet surveillance of Americans' phone records is highlighting divisions within the Democratic and Republican parties that could transform the politics of national security.

While some leading Democrats have been reluctant to condemn the National Security Agency's tactics, the GOP has begun to embrace a libertarian shift opposing the spy agency's broad surveillance powers — a striking departure from the aggressive national security policies that have defined the Republican Party for generations.

The lines are drawn but not in the traditional way. The Republican National Committee, civil libertarians like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and liberals like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are on one side of the debate. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the House and Senate leadership are on the other side, defending the Obama administration's surveillance programs as necessary to prevent terrorism.

The split in each party could have practical and political consequences ahead of the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential contest.

Congress may address government surveillance this spring in one of its last major moves before members head home to focus on the November elections. But if Congress punts the surveillance debate to this time next year, it would resurface just as the presidential primary campaigns are beginning.

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Thai police clash with demonstrators, leaving 3 dead; corruption charges brought against PM

BANGKOK (AP) — Hundreds of riot police attempted to clear out anti-government protest sites around Thailand's capital on Tuesday, triggering clashes that left three people dead and 57 others injured.

Multiple gunshots were heard near the prime minister's offices, where riot police had started to remove protesters and dismantle a makeshift stage, but it wasn't clear who was firing.

Erawan emergency medical services said a male civilian died from a head wound and a police officer received a fatal chest wound. It also said another man died, but didn't have further details. It said 57 others were injured in the clashes.

Department of Special Investigation chief Tharit Pengdit told a news conference that the protesters had launched grenades at the police. Police later withdrew.

In another blow to the government, the state anti-corruption agency charged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday with improperly handling an expensive rice subsidy scheme, putting her in jeopardy of being impeached.

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Fears of clashes high in Venezuela as pro- and anti-government forces plan competing marches

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Fears of more clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters ratcheted up in Venezuela as both sides prepared to march in the capital Tuesday and opposition leader Leonardo Lopez dared authorities to arrest him when he reappears in public.

The competing demonstrations loomed one day after President Nicolas Maduro's government gave three U.S. Embassy officials 48 hours to leave the country, claiming they were supporting what he says are opposition plots to topple his socialist administration. The U.S. denied that.

Supporters of Lopez, who is Maduro's strongest foe and the target of an arrest order, rerouted their protest march away from the central plaza in Caracas where pro-government oil workers planned their own demonstration.

The Venezuelan government accuses the Obama administration of siding with student protesters it has blamed for violence that led to three deaths last week. Maduro claims the U.S. is trying to stir up unrest to regain dominance of South America's largest oil producer.

In Washington, the State Department said allegations that the U.S. is helping to organize protests are "baseless and false" and called on Venezuela's government to engage the opposition in "meaningful dialogue."

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Families with kids with seizures move to Colorado for special pot, but doctors are concerned

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The doctors were out of ideas to help 5-year-old Charlotte Figi.

Suffering from a rare genetic disorder, she had as many as 300 grand mal seizures a week, used a wheelchair, went into repeated cardiac arrest and could barely speak. As a last resort, her mother began calling medical marijuana shops.

Two years later, Charlotte is largely seizure-free and able to walk, talk and feed herself after taking oil infused with a special pot strain. Her recovery has inspired both a name for the strain of marijuana she takes that is bred not to make users high — Charlotte's Web — and an influx of families with seizure-stricken children to Colorado from states that ban the drug.

"She can walk, talk; she ate chili in the car," her mother, Paige Figi, said as her dark-haired daughter strolled through a cavernous greenhouse full of marijuana plants that will later be broken down into their anti-seizure components and mixed with olive oil so patients can consume them. "So I'll fight for whoever wants this."

Doctors warn there is no proof that Charlotte's Web is effective, or even safe.

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Status of Missouri execution unclear after Oklahoma pharmacy agrees not to provide lethal drug

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma pharmacy will not provide a drug for a scheduled execution next week in Missouri as part of a settlement with the death row inmate's attorneys. But it's unclear whether the agreement will prevent or delay the lethal injection.

A court hearing is scheduled Tuesday in the federal lawsuit filed by inmate Michael Taylor against The Apothecary Shoppe, a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa that his attorneys said was providing a drug that could cause "inhumane pain" during his Feb. 26 execution.

In court documents filed late Monday, his lawyers asked a judge to dismiss the case because the company had agreed not to prepare or provide any drug for use in Taylor's lethal injection. The pharmacy also acknowledged it had not already provided any drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for the execution, said Taylor's attorney, Matt Hellman.

However, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon indicated last week that the state could move forward with the execution even after the judge issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the company from providing the drug. He did not directly say "yes" or "no" when asked if Missouri had enough drugs for the execution, but he twice stressed that the Department of Corrections was prepared.

Messages seeking comment about the settlement and Taylor's execution status weren't returned late Monday by either Missouri's attorney general or its Corrections Department. Messages also were left by The Associated Press after business hours with the pharmacy and its attorney.

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US olive oil industry pushing government to give more scrutiny to olive oil imports

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a pressing matter for the tiny U.S. olive oil industry: American shoppers more often are going for European imports, which are cheaper and viewed as more authentic.

And that's pitting U.S. producers against importers of the European oil, with some likening the battle to the California wine industry's struggles to gain acceptance decades ago.

The tiny California olive industry says European olive oil filling U.S. shelves often is mislabeled and lower-grade oil, and they're pushing the federal government to give more scrutiny to imported varieties. One congressman-farmer even goes so far as suggesting labels on imported oil say "extra rancid" rather than "extra virgin."

Imposing stricter standards might help American producers grab more market share from the Europeans, who produce in bulk and now have 97 percent of the U.S. market.

Olive oil production is growing steadily. The domestic industry, with mostly high-end specialty brands, has gone from 1 percent of the national olive oil market five years ago to 3 percent today. Most of the production is in California, although there are smaller operations in Texas, Georgia and a few other states.

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Abenomics recovery a mirage for many in Japan as wages lag, steady jobs scarcer

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has ticked off the easy items on his to-do list for economic revival.

Flashy indicators show that factories are churning out more cars and electronics. Corporate profits are up. Stock prices have surged 30 percent in the past year.

Despite his brash declaration that "Japan is back" in a speech last September to the New York Stock Exchange, Abe faces a thornier challenge in ensuring that his "Abenomics" recovery spreads beyond boardrooms to the Japanese people.

Over the past two decades Japan's system of salaried jobs with full benefits has crumbled as companies struggled to stay afloat in cut-throat global markets, shifting much of their manufacturing overseas. Steady jobs in manufacturing and finance that moved abroad or became obsolete were replaced by low-paying service jobs such as clerking in convenience stores and delivery work, especially for workers under 40.

About 40 percent of Japan's workers, or triple the figure of just 30 years ago, are employed under part-time or non-regular contracts that pay far less than "salaryman" type jobs of the past. That hollowing out is undercutting the domestic demand that powers nearly three-quarters of business activity within Japan, compounding the effects of a shrinking and aging population.

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Jimmy Fallon's opening night as 'Tonight Show' host brings it back to New York with a splash

NEW YORK (AP) — If Jimmy Fallon had already proven he was a natural hosting NBC's "Late Night," he left no doubt Monday that "The Tonight Show" now fits him like a glove.

As promised during the much-promoted run-up to his "Tonight Show" debut, Fallon made no drastic changes to the "Late Night" formula that had served him for five years. He remained funny, gracious, bubbly and, above all, comfortable presiding over a show that was different mostly for its earlier time slot, its classier production values and legendary brand name.

"We can book people from the West Coast?!" he joked at his newfound status.

He did pretty well with his bookings on opening night: Will Smith and the rock group U2.

But all that was ahead.

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