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

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Associated Press

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Ukraine forces seek to retake Slovyansk; Russia says move "destroyed" peace hope

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine launched what appeared to be its first major assault against pro-Russian forces who have seized government buildings in the country's east, with fighting breaking out Friday around a city that has become the focus of the insurgency. Three deaths were reported in early fighting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said the offensive "effectively destroyed the last hope for the implementation of the Geneva agreements" which were intended to defuse the crisis.

Two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down and their pilots killed, both sides said. The Ukrainian Security Service said one of the helicopters was shot down with a surface-to-air missile, which it said undercut Russia's claims that the city is under control of civilians who took up arms.

Stella Khorosheva, a spokeswoman for the pro-Russian militants, said one of their men was killed and another injured. She offered no further details.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Kremlin had sent an envoy to Ukraine's southeast to negotiate the release of foreign military observers who were captured by pro-Russian militia in Slovyansk.

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19 killed in car bomb in Nigerian capital, Abuja, 2nd in 3 weeks

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — The death toll from a car bomb that exploded on a busy road in Nigeria's capital rose to at least 19 overnight, police said Friday from the city that within days hosts an international conference.

The bomb was driven near a checkpoint where traffic built up, located across the road from a busy bus station where a massive explosion on April 14 killed at least 75 people. That blast was claimed by the Islamic extremist Boko Haram terrorist network in a video April 19 that threatened further assaults.

The government is deploying 6,000 police to protect the May 7-9 World Economic Forum on Africa, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as an honored guest, in Abuja, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan last week assured delegates they would be safe. It attracts world leaders, policymakers, philanthropists and business leaders to discuss Africa's economic growth prospects.

The explosion occurred in a working class suburb just a 15-minute drive from the presidential villa and the hotel venue of the conference.

Police Superintendent Frank Mba told reporters Friday the toll is up to 19 dead with as many wounded being treated in the hospitals. Six cars were burned up in the blast, he said.

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US economy's spring thaw could boost April hiring as consumer spending powers growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Signs that the U.S. economy is emerging from a deep winter freeze have raised hopes that hiring accelerated in April.

Economists are mostly bullish. They forecast that the economy gained 210,000 jobs in April, according to a survey by FactSet, and that the unemployment rate dipped to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent.

The government will release the April employment report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time Friday.

If economists' forecasts are accurate, April will have produced the largest burst of hiring since November. That would show that the economy is producing consistently solid job growth. Job gains totaled 197,000 in February and 192,000 in March.

The steady pace of hiring has encouraged more Americans to start looking for work. That's a hopeful sign that they think their prospects for finding a job have improved. In the first three months of this year, about 1.3 million people began looking for jobs, and most have found them.

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Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel to show trans-Atlantic unity against Russia on Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are putting on a display of trans-Atlantic unity against an assertive Russia, even as sanctions imposed by Western allies seem to be doing little to change Russian President Vladimir Putin's reasoning on Ukraine.

Days after the United States and the European Union slapped Moscow with a new round of sanctions, Merkel was to hold meetings, a working lunch and a joint news conference with Obama on Friday. The German chancellor comes to the White House buoyed by a decisive re-election victory late last year but facing pressure from all sides as Europe seeks to toe a hard line against Russia on Ukraine without harming its own economic interests.

As the crisis in Ukraine has deteriorated, Merkel has spoken to Putin perhaps more frequently than any other European leader. As such, the U.S. sees her as a critical channel of communication with the unpredictable Russian leader, as well as a key player in the effort to prevent other EU nations from going soft on sanctions.

"There's no question that the situation in Ukraine, the continued failure by Russia to abide by its commitments in the Geneva Agreement will be a focus of the conversation," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a reference to the diplomatic deal struck two weeks ago in the Swiss city to calm tensions between pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and the central government in Kiev.

U.S. and German officials said ahead of the Obama-Merkel meeting that part of the discussion probably would focus on how the U.S. and Europe would coordinate harsher punishments — including sanctions targeting broad sectors of Russia's economy — should Moscow further provoke tensions in Ukraine, such as by sending military forces into restive eastern Ukraine. The White House is concerned that Europe's deep economic interests in Russia and dependence on Russian energy could deter EU nations from following through with sanctions that could ricochet onto their own economies.

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Sinn Fein chief Adams still in custody over killing; supporters question motives for arrest

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was in police custody for a third day Friday as detectives questioned him over his alleged role in the Irish Republican Army killing of a Belfast mother of 10 in 1972.

Under British anti-terrorist law Adams, 65, must be charged or released by Friday night, unless a judge approves an extension. Other senior figures in Adams' Irish nationalist party have accused those behind Wednesday's arrest of their leader of pursuing an anti-Sinn Fein agenda.

Adams, who as Sinn Fein chief since 1983 is Europe's longest-serving party leader, denies any role in the outlawed IRA. But former members who spoke on tape to a Boston College-commissioned research project have linked him to the abduction, slaying and secret burial of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old widow whom the IRA branded a British spy.

The daughter who has led a two-decade campaign for the truth says she's praying for a murder charge — and is prepared to name publicly those IRA members she believes are responsible. Her other siblings say they're too afraid to do this because it could inspire IRA attacks on themselves or their children.

"What are they going to do to me? They have done so much to me in the last 42 years. Are they going to come and put a bullet in my head? Well, they know where I live," Helen McKendry told the BBC Newsnight program.

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Top US diplomat urges end to killing in South Sudan as young nation faces specter of genocide

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — In a stern warning, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging South Sudan's warring government and rebel leaders to uphold a monthslong promise to embrace a cease-fire or risk the specter of genocide through continued ethnic killings.

Kerry, landing in the capital Juba on Friday, carried the threat of U.S. sanctions against prominent South Sudanese leaders if the rampant violence doesn't stop. But more than anything, he sought to compel authorities on both sides of the fight to put aside personal and tribal animosities for the good of a nation that declared independence three years ago to escape decades of war.

Now, South Sudan is engulfed in widespread killings that have largely broken down along ethnic lines and are drawing comparisons to genocide.

It's estimated that thousands of people have been killed since the fighting began nearly six months ago, and about 1 million others have fled their homes. If that continues, Kerry said Thursday, it "could really present a very serious challenge to the international community with respect to the question of genocide."

"It is our hope that that can be avoided," he said on the eve of his daylong visit to South Sudan. "It is our hope that in these next days, literally, we can move more rapidly to put people on the ground who could begin to make a difference."

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Police use new tool to source crowds for photos, videos and evidence

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An annual spring party in a Southern California beach town devolved into a riot last month when revelers turned violent, rocking cars, smashing windows and throwing rocks. Dozens were injured and about 50 people ended up in the hospital, including several police officers.

Today, as authorities seek help with the investigation in Isla Vista, they're employing a new online and mobile app that designers say was created specifically for this type of situation.

"When the public really wants to catch these bad guys as badly as we do, this is the mechanism," said Los Angeles Sheriff's Cmdr. Scott Edson, who helped conceptualize the system in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. "They can help us by sending us pictures and video."

The innovation, known as LEEDIR, the Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository, pairs an app with cloud storage to help police use smartphones as tools to gather evidence.

Proponents say the crowdsourcing system gives authorities a secure, central repository for the countless electronic tips that can come in during a crisis. And since it uses remote database servers that police access online, floods of data won't cause system crashes or be expensive to store. Most agencies, Edson said, "don't have lots of bandwidth lying around."

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For graduates at 2 colleges, a warning on selfies; administrators cite time, disruption

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Toss your cap. Turn your tassel. Just don't snap that selfie.

Graduates at the University of South Florida and Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., have been asked to refrain from taking self-portraits with their cell phones as they collect their diplomas. The seemingly simple directive is standing out for placing the slightest curtailment on a collective societal march toward sharing every waking moment on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the like.

Kyra Ciotti, a 22-year-old mass communication major at USF, has taken selfies lying in bed, riding in a car, posing with her dog, taking a shot of tequila and whenever she feels her hair is having a particularly good day. She had planned to keep her arm extended as she walked across the stage at a ceremony Friday, capturing the moment for a sister in Australia.

Now, chastened by the university's admonition that it's improper and fearful of a threat to withhold diplomas, she'll keep her phone away.

"I didn't think it was that big of a deal," she said as she posed on campus in her cap and gown for some early graduation pictures. "But I don't want to be disrespectful."

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Alaska State Troopers: 2 officers killed in village; at least 1 had been featured on TV show

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Two Alaska State Troopers have been shot and killed during an investigation in a remote village, including at least one who had appeared in a television show about Alaska officers on the job.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters identified the two killed Thursday in Tanana as Trooper Gabriel "Gabe" Rich and Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson.

She confirmed that Rich had been featured on the National Geographic show "Alaska State Troopers," and said Johnson might have also appeared but couldn't immediately confirm that.

The show's website says it follows "one of the toughest law enforcement agencies in the nation" and adds, "Responding by land, air, and sea — with backup sometimes days away — these troopers patrol hundreds of miles of rugged terrain in bone-chilling temperatures to protect the people and wildlife of Alaska."

Troopers have released few details about the violence in the isolated community located about 130 miles west of Fairbanks, other than saying one person has been detained. No roads lead to Tanana and travel there is mainly by aircraft. Residents live a largely subsistence lifestyle.

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St. Louis trial over compensation of Anheuser-Busch executive highlights gender bias in pay

ST. LOUIS (AP) — From male-only corporate jets to guys' golf outings and hunting trips, Francine Katz says her time in the Anheuser-Busch executive suite was rife with exclusion, intentional slights and outright discrimination. But it wasn't until the King of Beers' 2008 sale to Belgian brewer InBev in a hostile takeover that she says she realized the boy's club atmosphere was costing her millions in salary and bonuses.

In a 20-year career that saw her rise from a young corporate lawyer to a job as vice president, key strategist and the beer maker's top female executive, Katz became the public face of her hometown employer, defending the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light from overzealous regulators and anti-alcohol crusaders before Congress and on network TV news shows.

Now she's accusing Anheuser-Busch of sex discrimination, arguing in a 2009 lawsuit that went to trial this week that top male executives — including former CEOs August Busch III and his son, August Busch IV — purposely paid her less solely because she's a woman. Six years after the sale of AB to inBev, the trial fascinates a company town, threatening to give more unwanted publicity to a family dynasty that's had its fair share.

"This was a company run by men who were unaccustomed with working with women at high levels," Katz's attorney, Mary Anne Sedey, told the jury of seven women and five men in opening arguments of a trial expected to last several weeks.

The trial comes amid growing national attention to gender discrimination in the workplace. In March, the White House Council on Economic Advisers issued a report noting that on average full-time working women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Critics of the report said that figure oversimplifies the situation, but even they concede that women with advanced degrees in fields such as medicine and law face a persistent wage gap as their careers advance.

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