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Associated Press

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 8:05 PM

Obama's speech gets mixed response overseas; some see fresh approach emphasizing diplomacy

LONDON (AP) — President Barack Obama's speech emphasizing soft power and alliances over military might crystallized into a single speech what many experts said Wednesday was an inevitable — and welcome — evolution of U.S. foreign policy.

The president who pulled U.S. troops from Iraq, avoided direct confrontation in Syria and has tapered off the American military presence in Afghanistan seemed to be saying that the U.S. had learned that it cannot impose its will on the rest of the world, said David Livingstone, an expert in international security at London's Chatham House. He said Obama's words went against the "American instinct to go in hard with the military first" when crisis erupts.

"America has to be in sympathy with the world, and its leadership has been perceived to be unilateral," he said after listening to Obama's speech at West Point. He thought the president should have made it clear that it is impossible to assure the safety of every American.

In the Gulf state of Qatar, Brookings Center director Salman Shaikh saw the speech as a boost for consensus, but he said broke no new ground for a president who has distanced himself from the "interventionist wars" of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

"He talked about partnerships, working multilaterally, which is all to be welcomed," Shaikh said, cautioning that had to be balanced against "whether the U.S. is really willing to lead across the Middle East."

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Waistlines worldwide are starting to bulge; study finds more than 2 billion people now heavy

LONDON (AP) — Almost a third of the world is now fat, and no country has been able to curb obesity rates in the last three decades, according to a new global analysis.

Researchers found more than 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 percent of men and 65 percent of women are heavy. The U.S. has about 13 percent of the world's fat population, a greater percentage than any other country. China and India combined have about 15 percent.

"It's pretty grim," said Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. He and colleagues reviewed more than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries from 1980 to 2013. "When we realized that not a single country has had a significant decline in obesity, that tells you how hard a challenge this is."

Murray said there was a strong link between income and obesity; as people get richer, their waistlines also tend to start bulging. He said scientists have noticed accompanying spikes in diabetes and that rates of cancers linked to weight, like pancreatic cancer, are also rising.

The new report was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet.

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Seeking to redefine US foreign policy, Obama straddles line between intervention and isolation

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Seeking to redefine America's foreign policy for a post-war era, President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared that the United States remains the only nation with the capacity to lead on the world stage but argued it would be a mistake to channel that power into unrestrained military adventures.

Obama's approach, outlined in a commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy, underscored his efforts to straddle the line between global isolation and intervention. Neither view, he said, "fully speaks to the demands of this moment."

"It is absolutely true that in the 21st century, American isolation is not an option," Obama said in remarks to more than 1,000 of the military's newest officers. "But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution."

Obama has often struggled to articulate not only what should fill the space between intervention and isolation but also any success the administration has had in finding that middle ground. His preferred tool kit, which includes economic sanctions, diplomatic negotiations and international coalition building, rarely generates quick fixes and is often more ambiguous than more easily explained military action.

The president's strategy also has garnered mixed results. While diplomacy and sanctions have brought the U.S. and Iran closer to a nuclear accord than ever before, neither approach has stopped the bloodshed of Syria's four-year civil war or prevented Russia from annexing territory from Ukraine.

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Maya Angelou, inaugural poet and celebrated author of 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' dies

NEW YORK (AP) — Maya Angelou's story awed millions. A childhood victim of rape, she broke through silence and shame to tell her tale in one of the most widely read memoirs of the 20th century. A black woman born into poverty and segregation, she recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history.

"I'm not modest," she told The Associated Press in 2013. "I have no modesty. Modesty is a learned behavior. But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out."

Angelou, a renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

"She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace," said her son, Guy B. Johnson.

Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, she was unforgettable whether encountered in person, through sound or the printed word. She was an actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s and made a brave and sensational debut as an author in 1969 with "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading and made Angelou one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream literary success.

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10 Things to Remember about Author Maya Angelou

Ten things to remember about poet and writer Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday at age 86:

1. HOW SHE GOT HER NAME

"Maya" was a childhood nickname bestowed upon her by her brother. "Angelou" was inspired by the last name of her Greek-American first husband, Tosh Angelos.

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Google to build prototype car controlled by computers, not driver, without steering wheel

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Google plans to build and launch onto city streets a small fleet of subcompact cars that could operate without a person at the wheel.

Actually, the cars wouldn't even have a wheel. Or gas and brake pedals. The company says the vehicles will use sensors and computing power, with no human needed.

Google Inc. hopes that by this time next year, 100 of the two-seaters will be on public roads, following extensive testing. The cars would not be for sale and instead would be provided to select operators for further tweaking and have limitations such as a 25 mph top speed.

The announcement presents a challenge to automakers that have been more cautious about introducing fully automated driving and to government regulators who are scrambling to accommodate self-driving cars on public roads. Other companies are working on the technology but none as large as Google has said it intends to put such cars in the hands of the public so soon.

To date, Google has driven hundreds of thousands of miles on public roads and freeways in Lexus SUVs and Toyota Priuses outfitted with special sensors and cameras. But with a "safety driver" in the front seat, those vehicles were not truly self-driving.

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Prosecutor: Spilled drink in club led Ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez to kill 2 in 2012

BOSTON (AP) — A spilled drink in a Boston nightclub led former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez to kill two people in a drive-by shooting two years ago, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Hernandez felt disrespected after a stranger bumped into him and spilled his drink, prompting him to follow the man and his friends then open fire on their car at a red light.

"I think I got one in the head and one in the chest," Hernandez told a friend as they fled the intersection, prosecutors said at the former gridiron star's arraignment.

Hernandez, already charged with killing another man last year, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to seven charges — including two counts of first-degree murder — in the July 2012 shooting that killed Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. A third man was wounded.

In the months before the killings, Suffolk County First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan told the court Hernandez had become increasingly convinced that people "had been testing, trying or otherwise disrespecting him when he frequented nightclubs in the area."

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Inspector general says 1,700 veterans awaiting care at Phoenix VA hospital left off wait list

WASHINGTON (AP) — About 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off the official waiting list at the troubled Phoenix veterans hospital, the Veterans Affairs watchdog said Wednesday in a scathing report that increases pressure on Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

The investigation, initially focused on the Phoenix hospital, found systemic problems in the VA's sprawling nationwide system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans each year. The interim report confirmed allegations of excessive waiting time for care in Phoenix, with an average 115-day wait for a first appointment for those on the waiting list — 91 days longer than the hospital had reported.

"While our work is not complete, we have substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care at this medical facility," Richard J. Griffin, the department's acting inspector general, wrote in the 35-page report. It found that "inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout" the VA's 1,700 health facilities nationwide, including 150 hospitals and 820 clinics.

Griffin said 42 centers are under investigation, up from 26.

Three Senate Democrats facing tough election campaigns — Colorado's Mark Udall, Montana's John Walsh and Kay Hagan of North Carolina — called for Shinseki to leave. "We need new leadership who will demand accountability to fix these problems," Udall said in a statement.

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Ukraine sees Russia as source of insurgent threat as rebels admit to outside assistance

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — As separatists conceded that militants from Russia's province of Chechnya had joined the rebellion, a Ukrainian government official cautioned Wednesday that its borders had become a "front line" in the crisis.

Chechnya's Moscow-backed strongman brushed away allegations he had dispatched paramilitary forces under his command to Ukraine, saying he was powerless to stop fellow Chechens from joining the fight.

While there is no immediate indication that the Kremlin is enabling or supporting combatants from Russia crossing into Ukraine, Moscow may have to dispel suspicions it is waging a proxy war if it is to avoid more Western sanctions.

In a wide-ranging foreign policy speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, President Barack Obama addressed the crisis in Ukraine by saying, "Russia's recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe."

The Kremlin welcomed the election Sunday of billionaire Petro Poroshenko as the president of Ukraine. An advocate of strong ties with Europe, Poroshenko also favors mending relations with Russia.

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Egypt's el-Sissi way ahead of sole rival in presidential election

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's former military chief appeared well on his way to a landslide victory over his sole opponent, according to partial election results announced late Wednesday, after voting was extended for a third day in an attempt to prevent an embarrassment over low turnout.

The campaign of retired field marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he won 10.35 million votes after nearly half the ballots were counted, with left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabahi taking 333,566.

El-Sissi's win was never in doubt, but the 59-year-old career infantry officer had hoped for a strong turnout to bestow legitimacy on his ouster last July of Egypt's first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi.

However, el-Sissi's campaign said turnout nationwide was around 44 percent, even after voting was extended for a third day Wednesday — well below the nearly 52 percent won by Morsi.

In his final campaign TV interview last week, el-Sissi set the bar even higher, saying he wanted more than 40 million voters to cast ballots — a turnout of more than 80 percent — to "show the world" the extent of his popular backing.

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