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Associated Press

Posted on February 22, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Ukraine president leaves Kiev for pro-Russia east as protesters take over capital

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Protesters took control of Ukraine's capital on Saturday, seizing the president's home and office as parliament sought to oust him. An aide to President Viktor Yanukovych said he had left the capital for his support base in the country's Russian-speaking east, but that he has no intention of abandoning power.

In a special parliament session, lawmakers warned that the country risks being split in two. The country's western regions want to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych's authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine — which accounts for the bulk of the nation's economic output — favors closer ties with Russia.

Hanna Herman, a close Yanukovych ally, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the president is visiting Kharkiv, a city in Ukraine's east which is the heart of his support base.

"As much as some people want it, he has no intention to leave the country," Herman said. She said the president was to meet voters in the region and make a televised address.

The trip comes a day after Yanukovych and opposition leaders signed a European-brokered agreement aimed at resolving the months-old political crisis that has killed scores and injured hundreds. The agreement calls for early elections and constitutional reforms that reduce the president's powers.

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Florida man shocked by Medal of Honor; 24 vets getting them following review over prejudice

MIAMI (AP) — Melvin Morris was commanding a strike force on a mission near Chi Lang, South Vietnam, when his special forces group came under attack and a fellow commander was killed near an enemy bunker.

Despite massive enemy fire directed at him and his men, hitting him three times, the 72-year-old Morris told The Associated Press on Friday that he was able to get to his fallen comrade and recover the body. He also retrieved a map that included strategic information that would have been trouble if it fell into enemy hands.

More than four decades later, as a way to try to correct potential acts of bias spanning three wars, President Barack Obama will bestow the Medal of Honor on the Florida man and 23 other veterans. They come after a decade-long congressionally mandated review of minorities who may have been passed over for the U.S. military's highest honor because of long-held prejudices.

Morris became one of the first soldiers to don a "green beret" in 1961 and volunteered twice for deployments to Vietnam during the war. After his Sept 17, 1969, ordeal, the then-Staff Sgt. Morris received a Distinguished Service Cross in 1970. He said he never realized that being black might have kept the higher honor from him.

"I never really did worry about decorations," Morris said.

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In remote tented settlement in Jordan, Syrian refugees feel abandoned, desperate

NORTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan (AP) — Every day at dawn, teenager Sultan Ahmad al-Saleh gets up and starts work, 12 hours in the fields picking vegetables in this remote corner of northwestern Jordan. It's what he's been doing for the past three years, ever since he was 14 years old and his family fled here to escape Syria's civil war.

The boy and his family are part of a nearly forgotten pocket of Syria's refugee crisis — some 1,200 families who have ended up living in squalid, impromptu tent communities in the Jordan Valley. Until recently, they have lived below the radar among the 1.2 million Syrians who have flooded into Jordan since the conflict next door began in early 2011.

The majority of those refugees have moved into Jordan's towns and cities, many of them impoverished but able to reach facilities and access aid from the United Nations and other international groups. Jordan also has two organized encampments near the northern border with Syria. The largest of them is Zaatari camp, with a population of 120,000, where refugees are under direct care of the United Nations and the Jordanian government. In total, international aid reaches about 595,000 registered refugees.

But the approximately 7,000 Syrians living here, half of them children, have been largely scraping by on their own. Most of them are farming families from Syria's central provinces of Hama and Homs, both heavy battle zones between rebels and government forces. Hoping to find livelihoods, they fled to Jordan's breadbasket, in the northern Jordan Valley near the border with Israel, to work on the area's vegetable farms.

Over time, with their growing numbers, five separate tent camps have cropped up, isolated down long dirt roads, with no health care or schools and little access to U.N. food aid. Only in the past year have U.N. agencies begun reaching them with some supplies.

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2 popes at cardinal-making ceremony in unprecedented blend of papacies past, present, future

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Retired Pope Benedict XVI joined Pope Francis in a ceremony Saturday creating the cardinals who will elect their successor in an unprecedented blending of papacies past, present and future.

Benedict entered St. Peter's Basilica surrounded by a small entourage and was greeted with applause and tears from the stunned people in the pews.

He smiled, waved and seemed genuinely happy to be there, taking his seat in the front row, off to the side, alongside the red-draped cardinals.

It was the first time Benedict and Francis have appeared together at a public liturgical ceremony since Benedict retired a year ago and became the first pope to step down in more than 600 years.

After processing down the central aisle at the start of the service, Francis went directly to Benedict, clasped him by his shoulders and they embraced.

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NJ Republican Gov. Chris Christie keeps low profile in Washington as Democrats attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — Moving cautiously to repair his image, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is maintaining a low profile this weekend as the nation's governors gather in Washington.

Republican officials have been eager to change the subject as Democrats link Christie's troubles to vulnerable GOP governors in a challenging election season.

The usually outspoken Christie is scheduled to attend just one public event over the three-day annual meeting. He avoided a media-sponsored forum on Friday, wasn't granting interviews, won't attend a White House dinner and was skipping a news conference hosted by the Republican Governors Association, an organization he heads.

Christie is leaving Washington early to celebrate his daughter's birthday and focus on an upcoming budget address, according to his office. Advisers privately acknowledge a larger effort to reduce media coverage of ongoing abuse-of-power investigations in New Jersey that threaten to derail his ambitious political future. When elected to his second term last fall, Christie was considered one of his party's strongest prospective presidential candidates.

"Governor Christie may be hiding under a bridge somewhere or stuck in traffic, but the fact that he's a liability for Republican governors remains readily apparent this weekend," said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

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Student protest over campus rape attempt lit fuse behind Venezuelan unrest

SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (AP) — The violent protests that have roiled Venezuela's major cities and challenged its socialist government have their roots in a little-known incident on a college campus in a city far from the capital.

Just over a week before the Feb. 12 opposition rallies across Venezuela, students at the University of the Andes in San Cristobal in the border state of Tachira were protesting an attempted rape of a young woman on campus.

The students were outraged at the brazen assault on their campus, which underscored long-standing complaints about deteriorating security under President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

But what really set them off was the harsh police response to their initial protest, in which several students were detained and allegedly abused, as well as follow-up demonstrations to call for their release, according to students and people who live in the city of San Cristobal.

"It was shocking not just to students but to all of San Cristobal," said Gaby Arellano, a 27-year-old student leader who has been involved in the national opposition campaign. "It was the straw that broke the camel's back."

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Ignoring protests from China, Obama hosts Dalai Lama for low-key White House meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama granted an audience to Tibet's Dalai Lama on Friday over the strong objections from China that the U.S. was meddling it its affairs. The White House took pains to ensure the meeting was not portrayed as a conference of two heads of state.

Obama played host to his fellow Nobel laureate in the White House's Map Room rather than the Oval Office, where the president traditionally brings dignitaries for photos. Beijing decries the Dalai Lama as an anti-Chinese separatist because of his quest for greater Tibetan autonomy. The White House calls him a respected cultural and religious figure who is committed to peace.

Despite media requests, the meeting was closed to journalists, and in a departure from previous visits the Buddhist monk left the White House without speaking to reporters.

Beijing had protested the meeting after the White House announced it Thursday night. A statement from China's Foreign Ministry issued Friday night reiterated its view that no country has a right to interfere in its internal affairs and said the U.S. had "gravely violated basic norms governing the international relations and seriously harmed the Sino-U.S. relations."

In another sign of its displeasure, China summoned Daniel Kritenbrink, the charge d'affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the State Department said. The U.S. had no immediate comment on the development.

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Regulators sending mixed signals over whether to retain ban on in-flight use of cellphones

WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to deciding whether airline passengers can use their cellphones in flight, federal agencies are sending different signals to consumers.

The Transportation Department, which regulates aviation consumer issues, indicated in a notice posted online Friday that it is considering retaining the 23-year-old ban on the calls, and asked for public comment.

Two months ago, the Federal Communications Commission voted to pursue allowing the calls. The FCC has responsibility for determining whether the use of cellphones in flight would interfere with cellular networks on the ground.

Polls show that many passengers, particularly frequent fliers, oppose allowing in-flight calls from passengers' cellphones. Echoing their concerns, the Transportation Department said it believes allowing passengers to make cellphone calls "may be harmful or injurious" to others.

"People tend to talk louder on cellphones than when they're having face-to-face conversations," the department said. "They are also likely to talk more and further increase the noise on a flight, as passengers would not be simply talking to the persons sitting next to them but can call whomever they like."

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Clearly Canadian: Benn, Price lead Canada past US 1-0 and into gold-medal game in Sochi

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — For the rematch, Canada skipped the overtime and shelved the theatrics.

One slick goal and 60 minutes of stifling defensive hockey kept the Canadians firmly on top of the U.S. and moved them to the brink of gold again.

Jamie Benn scored in the second period, Carey Price made 31 saves, and Canada beat the United States 1-0 Friday night in the semifinals of the Olympic men's hockey tournament.

Canada advanced to the gold-medal match Sunday against Sweden, which beat Finland 2-1 in the earlier semifinal at Bolshoy Ice Dome.

With an unbeaten run through Sochi, the Canadians are a win away from their third gold medal in four Olympics, and they're guaranteed their first medals outside North America in 20 years.

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AP PHOTOS: Olympians express their joy at the moment of victory

Pumping their fists, falling to their knees, or taking victory laps with their nations' flags whipping in the wind, Olympians express their joy at winning a medal in many ways.

Here's a look at some of the winners at the Sochi Winter Olympics as they celebrate the culmination of hard work, sacrifice, and sometimes, luck.

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Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiuhttp://apne.ws/1c3WMiu

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