AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Ukraine's president announces deal end to crisis; shots fired near protest square

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's presidency said Friday that it has negotiated an international deal intended to end battles between police and protesters that have killed scores and injured hundreds. It was unclear whether the deal would appease protesters, and shots rang out Friday morning in central Kiev.

President Viktor Yanukovych's office said that the government and the opposition had agreed to initial the deal, reached after all-night negotiations with EU diplomats, at noon local time (1000 GMT). That deadline passed without a deal, but an opposition spokeswoman said that opposition leaders will go to the president's office in the afternoon.

European officials cautioned that it's too early to declare a breakthrough in a standoff that has plunged this country into the deadliest violence it has seen since winning independence from the Soviet Union.

The conflict is a battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Several regions in the west of the country are in open revolt against the central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

The preliminary deal struck overnight would see Ukraine's president would lose some of his powers, and a caretaker government created in 48 hours that would include representatives of the opposition, Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said.

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A young woman's life entangled with al-Qaida points to reach of militant group in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Abeer al-Hassani's ex-husband was famed for his beautiful voice. He used it, she says, singing poetic hymns to martyrdom and jihad to try to draw youth from their neighborhood of the Yemeni capital into joining al-Qaida. He sang at weddings of fellow members of the terror group, and held discussions with young men at local mosques.

"One woman complained to me that her son wanted to go fight in Iraq after speaking with him," the 25-year-old al-Hassani recalled in an interview with The Associated Press.

For most of her young life, al-Hassani has been entangled with al-Qaida through family bonds she has tried to shake off. Three of her brothers became fighters for the group, and all three are now dead, two of them killed by U.S drone strikes on consecutive days in January 2013.

Her story provides a rare look into one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network, which has withstood successive blows and yet continues to thrive. It has moved to fueling conflict elsewhere in the region, sending fighters and expertise to Syria and to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Her ex-husband, Omar al-Hebishi, backed up his recruiting with cash. During their four-year marriage, she says, he received large bank transfers or cash delivered overland from Saudi Arabia — money, he told her, that was to support the families of "martyrs." She and al-Hebishi divorced in 2010.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. 'I FELT A BIT SICK': REPORTER DETAILS UKRAINE CARNAGE

Many of the victims shot by government snipers, their bodies lying on the street, were in their 30s and 40s and apparently unarmed, the AP's Yuras Karmanau relates.

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Debt, deficits — once the passion of politics — recede from the top of Washington's agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just four years ago, deficits and debt were an explosive political combination, propelling Republicans to control of the House and fueling the budget fights that would ensue over the next three years.

Today, they are an afterthought — a dying ember in Washington's political and policy landscape.

The nation's annual deficit, the amount the government spends beyond what it receives in revenue, has been cut by nearly two-thirds from its 2009 high, thanks to a combination of tax increases, an improving economy and mandatory across-the-board cuts in programs from defense to transportation to education.

And lawmakers, fatigued by their budget battles, have called a truce and abandoned the brinkmanship that led to unnerving default threats and a partial government shutdown.

As a result, the impulse to cut will be decidedly weaker when President Barack Obama's submits his latest budget plan to Congress early next month. The White House drove home the point Thursday when it said Obama's budget would drop his past offer to cut spending on federal benefits with lower cost-of-living increases for beneficiaries.

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New White House political office an early warning system for Obama in fluid midterm year

WASHINGTON (AP) — For as long as Barack Obama has been president, Democrats have complained he's done far too little to help elect his party's candidates.

Now the White House political office, shuttered by Obama three years ago, is back and in full swing. The six-person team set up shop last month, ahead of midterm elections in November in which Democratic losses could render Obama's final years in office an exercise in futility.

Working out of the same building that houses Vice President Joe Biden's staff, the office provides real-time, constant communication between the White House and the myriad political groups working to elect Democrats this year.

One White House official described the office as an "early warning system" in a year when Republicans will spend a fortune trying to use Obama's political weaknesses against his fellow Democrats.

Democrats are anxiously protecting their fragile Senate majority and hope to gain House seats, while Obama is pushing legislative proposals that have hit roadblocks despite his insistence that they enjoy broad political support.

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Obama to host Dalai Lama for White House meeting over objections from China

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is hosting the Dalai Lama at the White House over the stern objection of China, which warned the meeting would "inflict grave damages" on the U.S. relationship with the Asian powerhouse.

Obama will greet the Tibetan spiritual leader and fellow Nobel laureate on Friday while the Dalai Lama is in the U.S. on a speaking tour. The White House did not announce the meeting until late Thursday, prompting a gruff complaint from Beijing in what has become something of a diplomatic ritual whenever Obama meets with the exiled Buddhist monk.

Urging Obama to cancel the meeting, China's government accused the president of letting the Dalai Lama use the White House as a podium to promote anti-Chinese activities.

"The U.S. leader's planned meeting with Dalai is a gross interference in China's domestic politics," said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry. "It is a severe violation of the principles of international relations. It will inflict grave damages upon the China-U.S. relationship."

Beijing routinely protests when world leaders grant an audience to the Dalai Lama, including when Obama met with him in 2010 and again in 2011. Chinese officials denounce the Dalai Lama as a separatist responsible for instigating self-immolations by Tibetans inside China, but he is widely respected around the world for his advocacy of peace and tolerance.

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Police: 4 dead, 2 injured in attack at N. Calif. Indian center, former tribal leader arrested

ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) — An eviction hearing at an American Indian headquarters in Northern California turned deadly as a woman who once served as a tribal leader allegedly opened fire, killing four people and critically wounding two others in a gun and knife attack, authorities said.

Cherie Lash Rhoades, a former chairwoman of Cedarville Rancheria, was taken into custody after the bloody attack at the tribal office Thursday afternoon, Alturas police chief Ken Barnes said in area media reports.

Barnes said in a story carried by KRCR-TV that the four dead include a 19-year-old woman, a 30-year-old man, a 45-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man. The police chief said one victim is the tribe's leader.

Police said tribal members were meeting about evicting Rhoades and her son from her home at the Rancheria which, according to its website, is a federally recognized tribe with 35 members.

The station's report said that Rhoades allegedly pulled out a gun and shot four people in the Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office and a fifth person who tried to flee. After running out of bullets, authorities said, Rhoades grabbed a butcher knife and stabbed a person.

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Olympic Viewing: The wrong side of a miracle on ice for Americans

Highlights from television coverage of the Sochi Olympics:

FORESHADOWING: Fine report from NBC's Tracy Wilson setting the stage for the last women figure skaters to compete Thursday, explaining how the routine planned by Russia's Adelina Sotnikova was technically more difficult than that of her rivals, which apparently became a key factor in her winning the gold medal over South Korea's Yuna Kim. Wilson also mentioned the "home-field advantage" of Sotnikova skating before a Russian audience.

WHERE'S COACH?: Wonderful video from camera operator following a thrilled Sotnikova running through the bowels of the arena to find her coach and anyone else to hug. We did half expect a crew from Publisher's Clearinghouse to pop up with a big check.

HEARTBREAK: Now a U.S. hockey team knows what it's like to be on the wrong side of a miracle on ice. The women's excruciating 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the gold medal game will take a long time for its members to get over, and will long be remembered by those who watched it. "Nothing but gold waits for the winner," NBC's Mike "Doc" Emrick said as the sudden-death overtime began. He and NBC's team were like symphony conductors as the natural drama built, never getting in the way or calling attention to themselves. That's to be expected for them, but never taken for granted. What will most linger from this game are the images: a shot deflecting off an American player into the goal for a Canadian score; that puck skittering, skittering toward an empty net before hitting a post — when one inch to the right would have sealed an American victory; and, finally, the tears of those players upon realizing they'd lost a game they thought they had won.

NO EVENING LOVE: When the U.S. men's hockey team had its memorable shootout victory over Russia last weekend, NBC adroitly adjusted its prime-time schedule that night to lead with the story, replay the overtime sessions and interview people involved. The women's game Thursday was no less thrilling — Bob Costas called it an "epic" — and had higher stakes. Yet NBC opened its prime-time telecast with halfpipe semifinals before Costas did a voiceover report on the hockey game that lasted less than two minutes. No interviews. So what was the difference? Was it just because the United States lost? Was it because women athletes were competing instead of men? Both the U.S. and Canadian teams deserved better treatment for the benefit of people who were working and unable to see the game during the daytime.

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First lady guest on the new 'Tonight Show'; promotes exercise, diet and 'Obamacare'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama stopped by Jimmy Fallon's revamped "Tonight Show" to chat about family life in the White House and promote two of her causes, healthy eating and fighting fat.

The first lady also put in a plug for her husband's health care law.

Mrs. Obama appeared in a silly skit with Fallon and comedian Will Ferrell. Then, in a sit-down interview Thursday, told Fallon, who's wrapping up his first week as host of the long-running NBC show, that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are getting ready to show America "how they move."

With her signature charm and humor, Mrs. Obama also talked about the challenge of raising two young daughters, ages 12 and 15, in the rarified world of the White House.

"They want nothing to do with us," she laughed.

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Depending on where you tune in, it's a different Winter Olympics experience

In Sweden, commentators have fun with Norway's misfortunes. The Dutch can't get enough of their speedskaters. Japan is so crazy about figure skating they show warmups. Canada is hockey crazy, Russia struggles to stay positive even when things look down and the U.S. salutes its stars with the national anthem as it's time to go to bed.

There's only one Winter Olympics. But in reality, for television viewers around the world, the Sochi games are a different experience depending on where you tune in.

Some 464 channels are broadcasting more than 42,000 hours of Sochi competition worldwide, easily outdistancing previous Olympics, according to the International Olympic Commission. Digital platforms push that number past 100,000 hours. Worldwide viewership statistics aren't available, but the IOC says more than three-quarters of Russians have watched some coverage, two-thirds of South Koreans and 90 percent of Canadians.

So let's look at Wednesday around the world. It demonstrates one thing above all: A single day's viewing from different outposts offers an intriguing window into national passions, prides and peculiarities.

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