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

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Associated Press

Posted on February 23, 2014 at 9:02 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 24 at 6:01 AM

Ukrainian interim authorities issue arrest warrant for President Yanukovych, seen in Crimea

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's acting government issued a warrant Monday for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych, last reportedly seen in the pro-Russian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, accusing him of mass crimes against protesters who stood up for months against his rule.

Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Yanukovych on trial, after a tumultuous presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and cracked down on protesters. Anger boiled over last week after snipers attacked protesters in the bloodiest violence in Ukraine's post-Soviet history.

The turmoil has turned this strategically located country of 46 million inside out over the past few days, raising fears that it could split apart. The parliament speaker is suddenly nominally in charge of a country whose economy is on the brink of default and whose loyalties are torn between Europe and longtime ruler Russia.

"The state treasury has been torn apart, the country has been brought to bankruptcy," Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a leader of the protest movement and prominent lawmaker whose name is being floated as a possibility for prime minister, said in parliament Monday.

The acting finance minister said Monday that the country needs $35 billion (25.5 billion euros) to finance government needs this year and next and expressed hope that Europe or the United States would help.

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Officials: Wiretaps, arrested aides led US and Mexican officials most wanted drug lord

CULIACAN, MEXICO (AP) — As Mexican troops forced their way into Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's main hideout in Culiacan, the country's most powerful drug lord sneaked out of the house through an escape tunnel beneath the bathtub.

Mexican marines working with U.S. authorities chased him but lost the man known as "Shorty" in a maze of tunnels under the city, a U.S. government official and a senior law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sunday.

It would be a short-lived escape for Guzman, who was captured early Saturday hiding out in a condominium in Mazatlan, a beach resort town on Mexico's Pacific Coast.

He had a military-style assault rifle with him but didn't fire a shot, the officials said. His beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel, was with him when the manhunt for one of the world's most wanted drug traffickers ended.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss specific details of how U.S. authorities tracked down Guzman.

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Farewell, Sochi! Brimming with pride and medals, Russia closes costliest Olympics ever

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Flushed with pride after its athletes' spectacular showing at the costliest Olympics ever, Russia celebrated Sunday night with a visually stunning finale that handed off a smooth but politically charged Winter Games to their next host, Pyeongchang in South Korea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, these Olympics' political architect and booster-in-chief, watched and smiled as Sochi gave itself a giant pat on the back for a Winter Games that IOC President Thomas Bach declared an "extraordinary success."

The crowd that partied in Fisht Olympic Stadium, in high spirits after the high-security games passed safely without feared terror attacks, hooted with delight when Bach said Russia delivered on promises of "excellent" venues, "outstanding" accommodation for the 2,856 athletes and "impeccable organization." The spectators let out an audibly sad moan when Bach declared the 17-day Winter Games closed.

"We leave as friends of the Russian people," Bach said.

The nation's $51 billion investment — topping even Beijing's estimated $40 billion layout for the 2008 Summer Games — transformed a decaying resort town on the Black Sea into a household name. All-new facilities, unthinkable in the Soviet era of drab shoddiness, showcased how far Russia has come in the two decades since it turned its back on communism. But the Olympic show didn't win over critics of Russia's backsliding on democracy and human rights under Putin and its institutionalized intolerance of gays.

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Governors report 'Obamacare' repeal complicated, if not impossible as millions gain coverage

WASHINGTON (AP) — The explosive politics of health care have divided the nation, but America's governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, suggest that President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is here to stay.

While governors from Connecticut to Louisiana sparred Sunday over how best to improve the nation's economy, governors of both parties shared a far more pragmatic outlook on the controversial program known as "Obamacare" as millions of their constituents begin to be covered.

"We're just trying to make the best of a bad situation," said Republican Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, who called the health care law "unaffordable and unsustainable" yet something he has to implement by law. "We're trying to make it work as best we can for the people of Iowa."

As governors gathered in Washington this weekend, Democrats such as Maryland's Martin O'Malley and Connecticut's Dannel Malloy made pitches to raise the minimum wage, while Republicans such as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Indiana's Mike Pence called for more freedom from federal regulations, particularly those related to the health insurance overhaul.

But governors from both parties say a full repeal of the law would be complicated at best, if not impossible, as states move forward with implementation and begin covering millions of people — both by expanding Medicaid rolls for lower-income residents or through state or federal exchanges that offer federal subsidies to those who qualify.

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Supreme Court hearing arguments in case that deals with climate change, executive power

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is squaring off at the Supreme Court with industry groups and Republican-led states over a small but important program aimed at limiting power-plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.

The justices are hearing arguments Monday in a challenge to a regulation that forces companies that want to expand industrial facilities or build new ones that would increase overall pollution to evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release. Carbon dioxide is the chief greenhouse gas.

The case comes to the court as President Barack Obama is stepping up his use of executive authority to act on environmental and other matters when Congress doesn't, or won't. Opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency's program at issue call it a power grab of historic proportions.

Republicans have objected strenuously to the administration's decision to push ahead with the regulations after Congress failed to pass climate legislation, and after the administration of President George W. Bush resisted such steps. Both sides agree that it would have been better to deal with climate change through legislation.

In 2012, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the EPA was "unambiguously correct" in using existing federal law to address global warming.

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GOP intensifies effort highlighting health care woes; state exchange troubles provide fodder

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans intent on highlighting the woes of President Barack Obama's health care law need to look no further than their own back yards, some of which are traditionally liberal strongholds.

Maryland's online health care exchange has been plagued by computer glitches since its rollout last year, reflected in abysmal enrollment numbers well below projections through January. The state's lone Republican in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, has asked the inspector general of the federal Health and Human Services Department to investigate.

In Oregon, the online portal has struggled to sign up a single individual, and Republican Rep. Greg Walden recently sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office pressing for an inquiry. Officials in both states insist they are working to fix the problems.

"Everybody's pointing fingers at everyone else, so we have no idea why this went wrong," Harris, who was an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 30 years, said in a recent interview.

Unified in their opposition to the law, Republicans have been relentless in focusing on its problems, from complaints of canceled policies to higher insurance premiums and Obama's unilateral decision to delay for two years the requirement that small businesses cover employees.

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The day after: A proud Sochi cleans up after end of Winter Olympics as the world heads home

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — By the busload, the world's athletes and visitors rolled toward Sochi's airport and took off for home Monday, fresh from a Winter Games experience that many Russians pronounced a smashing success and that the Olympic movement's chief enthusiastically labeled a victory for the region and the host nation. "Yes! We did it!" one Olympic volunteer exulted as she darted into the night.

After 17 days of global sport and spotlight, Sochi ended the spirited chants of "Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!" and started cleaning up.

Travelers through the region's airport, rebuilt completely for the games, reported briskly moving security lines and check-in times of anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours, depending on destination. On what was predicted to be the heaviest Olympic-related travel day, the transit situation seemed to come down to this: It was like a busy morning at any normal big-city airport.

By the Black Sea coastline, Olympic Park, which will be hosting events at the upcoming Paralympic Games, had cleared out. Like the city of Sochi around it, the park felt deserted except for the legions of volunteers in multicolored patchwork jackets who still patrolled the area. Most security barriers remained in place in anticipation of the Paralympics, but security was noticeably more relaxed.

These Winter Games, Russian President Vladimir Putin's political showpiece and bragging trophy, convened under storm clouds — international concerns about gay rights and fears of a terror attack among them. But athletes overwhelmingly chose not to use the Olympic stage to make any statements, and the games opened and closed with vigorous (if sometimes spotty) security and no sign of any potentially violent activity.

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'Which (blank) are you?' Online personality quizzes go viral on social media

NEW YORK (AP) — For a compulsive online quiz-taker like Chrissy Noh, the temptation was too great to resist: "Which sandwich are you?"

After answering a series of unscientific, seemingly unrelated questions, which included selecting her favorite doughnut from a lineup of frosted pastries, she had her answer (grilled cheese, for the record). And she's not the only one who's comparing herself to sandwiches lately. Go on, admit it: Chances are, you've been doing it, too.

A recent explosion of silly online personality quizzes, most of them created by the young social media mavens at Buzzfeed.com, has everybody talking about which state they really ought to be living in and which Harry Potter character they really are. Buzzfeed says the quizzes are smashing traffic records and generating more Facebook comment threads than any viral posts in the site's history.

Experts say the phenomenon isn't surprising given the age-old fascination with that central question — "Who AM I?" — and a desire to compare ourselves with others in a social media-obsessed society.

On a recent snowy day, the 37-year-old Noh, who lives in New York City, admitted that she and several friends spent the afternoon taking quizzes and texting each other screen shots of the results. "It turned into an all-day group text message fest, where it was just picture after picture of, oh, what rapper are you?" she says, laughing. "What career should you actually have? Which sandwich are you? Which member of One Direction should you marry?"

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CNN's low-rated 'Piers Morgan Live' to end after 3 years; British host followed Larry King

LOS ANGELES (AP) — CNN's prime-time talk show "Piers Morgan Live" is coming to an end, the news channel said Sunday.

Morgan, who succeeded Larry King in the 9 p.m. EST time slot three years ago, was drawing lackluster ratings. In contrast, King had a 25-year run on CNN.

The airdate for Morgan's last show has yet to be determined, CNN said in a statement.

Morgan is a former U.K. tabloid editor who reinvented himself as a TV personality with stints as a judge on "Britain's Got Talent" and its U.S. spinoff, NBC's "America's Got Talent," and as a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice."

He hosted BBC's "You Can't Fire Me, I'm Famous," and did interview shows and documentaries for ITV.

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Jason Collins signs with Nets, becomes first openly gay player in 4 major pro leagues in US

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jason Collins heard his name called by Nets coach Jason Kidd early in the second quarter and headed to the scorer's table to check in.

When he walked onto the court, Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the United States' four major professional leagues.

He understood the significance attached to his appearance in an NBA game, but he had a job to do.

"It felt like, 'I've done this thousands of times before,'" Collins said after Brooklyn's 108-102 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. "You go to the scorer's table, you hear what the play's going to be for the next offensive play and you go out there. Once you're out on the court, it's about basketball. It's what I've been doing for almost three decades."

Collins entered the game with 10:28 left in the second quarter and the Nets leading 35-26 after Nick Young made the first of his two free throws. The crowd welcomed him with a nice ovation when public address announcer Lawrence Tanter introduced him.

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