Posted: Jun 7, 2014 4:00 AM
Updated: Jun 7, 2014 4:00 AM
Petro Poroshenko takes oath of office as Ukrainian president, offers amnesty to armed groups
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Ukraine's new president on Saturday called for dialogue with the country's east, gripped by a violent separatist insurgency, and for armed groups to lay down their weapons but said he won't talk with rebels he called "gangsters and killers."
Petro Poroshenko spoke in parliament after taking the oath of office and assumed leadership of a country mired in an uprising, severe economic troubles and tensions with its giant neighbor Russia.
The 48-year-old Poroshenko, often called "The Chocolate King" because of the fortune he made as a confectionery tycoon, was elected May 25 and replaces an interim leader who had been in office since Russia-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in February after months of street protests against him.
The fall of Yanukovych aggravated long-brewing tensions in eastern and southern Ukraine, whose majority native Russian speakers denounced the new government as a nationalist putsch that aimed to suppress them.
Within a month, the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia after a secession referendum and an armed insurgency arose in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukrainian forces are fighting the insurgents in those regions and officials say more than 200 people have been killed.
Recent barrel bombings in Iraq raise concerns about excessive government force in terror hunt
WASHINGTON (AP) In desperate efforts to gain ground on battlefields, frustrated governments in the Mideast and Africa are using barrel bombs against their enemies launching the cheap, quickly manufactured weapons as a crude counter to roadside blasts and suicide explosions that insurgents have deployed with deadly success for years.
New evidence that they are being used in Iraq after being dropped on civilian populations in Syria and Sudan has raised concerns that governments in a number of unstable nations will embrace them.
Described as "flying IEDs" or improvised explosive devices barrel bombs have the power to wipe out a row of buildings in a single blast and can kill large numbers of people, including unintended victims.
"It's fair to say that a lot of governments are losing control of the counterinsurgency," said Michael Knights, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "They're also watching what they see in Syria, and they feel like their air power is what is making the difference."
"Barrel bomb" is a catchall term for a large container packed with fuel, chemicals or explosives and often scraps of metal that, in recent years, have most often been dropped on targets from helicopters or planes overhead. However, they also have been found on Israeli beaches, where authorities believe they washed up after militants on the Gaza Strip released them.
Officials: Iraq militants storm university, take dozens of students hostage
BAGHDAD (AP) Gunmen have stormed a university in the restive Anbar province west of Baghdad and are holding dozens of students hostage, Iraqi officials said Saturday.
Police and army officials say the attack took place Saturday morning when gunmen stormed Anbar University near the provincial capital Ramadi, parts of which have been held by Islamic extremists and other anti-government militants for months. The gunmen have detained dozens of students inside the university dormitory, they said.
The gunmen killed three police guards who tried to stop them at the university gate, the officials said, adding that security forces have arrived at the scene and sealed off the area. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
Ahmed al-Mehamdi, a student who was taken hostage, said he awoke to the crackle of gunfire, looked out the window and saw armed men dressed in black racing across the campus. Minutes later, the gunmen entered the dormitory and ordered everybody to stay in their rooms.
"The gunmen took some students to other university buildings. For the rest of us, we are still trapped in our rooms and everybody is in panic, especially the Shiite students," al-Mehamdi told The Associated Press in a phone interview from inside the dormitory.
US job market appears weaker despite recovery of positions lost to the Great Recession
WASHINGTON (AP) The U.S. economy has finally regained the jobs lost to the Great Recession. But go easy on the hallelujahs. The comeback is far from complete.
Friday's report from the government revealed an economy healing yet marked by deep and lasting scars. The downturn that began 6 years ago accelerated wrenching changes that have left many Americans feeling worse off than they did the last time the economy had roughly the same number of jobs it does now.
Employers added 217,000 workers in May, more than enough to surpass the 138.4 million jobs that existed when the recession began in December 2007. But even as the unemployment rate has slipped to 6.3 percent from 10 percent at the depth of the recession, the economy still lacks its former firepower.
To many economists, the job figures are both proof of the sustained recovery and evidence of a painful transformation in how Americans earn a living.
"The labor market recovery has been disappointing," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. "Even with the new peak, there is still a great deal of slack."
Clerks begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in Wisconsin after judge's ruling
MADISON, Wis. (AP) When a federal judge struck down Wisconsin's gay marriage ban, pastor Andrew Warner was among those who headed to the courthouse to get a license so he could legally wed his longtime partner.
Then he turned to perform a wedding for two members of his Milwaukee church.
"I always felt like we were second-class citizens in not being able to get married," Warner said after marrying Jay Edmundson on Friday evening, despite confusion over the effect of a federal judge's ruling that declared Wisconsin's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. "And now I feel good about my state in a way I haven't before."
Clerks in Madison and Milwaukee began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, a little over an hour after the judge released her ruling. More marriage licenses could be issued over the weekend, even though Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the ruling did not clear the way for weddings to begin. Van Hollen has sought an emergency order in federal court to stop more marriage licenses from being issued.
In Milwaukee, Jose Fernando Gutierrez and Matthew Schreck married outside the county clerk's office in what was possibly the first gay marriage in the state. Gutierrez and Schreck then served as witnesses when Warner performed a ceremony for Christopher Martell and Mark Williams. All of the men attend Plymouth Church, where Warner is a minister.
Police: Seattle campus shooting suspect Aaron Ybarra called 911 to report 'a rage inside him'
SEATTLE (AP) In 2010, Aaron Ybarra called 911 to report "a rage inside him" and said he wanted to hurt himself and others, according to a police report of the incident.
Two years later, officers responded again this time finding him lying in the middle of the street in front of his suburban Mountlake Terrace home, ranting drunkenly for a SWAT team "to get him and make him famous."
The rage and thirst for notoriety may have got the better of him Thursday, when police say he stormed into a sciences and engineering building on the leafy campus of Seattle Pacific University, armed with a shotgun and more than 50 shells.
He fatally shot a 19-year-old freshman and wounded two other young people before his plan to kill as many people as possible and himself was thwarted by a student building monitor who pepper-sprayed and tackled him as he reloaded, officials said.
A King County Superior Court judge ordered Ybarra, 26, held without bail Friday. His attorney, public defender Ramona Brandes, said he was on suicide watch at the jail.
Canada man accused of killing 3 Mounties seemed obsessed with guns, conspiracy theories
MONCTON, New Brunswick (AP) A chilling portrait of a man obsessed with guns and anti-government rhetoric began to emerge as people in this eastern Canadian city struggled to reconcile the knowledge that the person charged with murdering three Mounties was the same one who had seemingly lived quietly among them.
Justin Bourque, 24, was caught and charged with three murders and two attempted murders Friday, ending a 30-hour manhunt that closed schools, forced residents to hide inside their homes and paralyzed Moncton with fear. He appeared briefly in court Friday after he was charged in the second deadliest attack on the Royal Canadian Mountain Police nearly 130 years.
But as neighbors of his parents and others who knew Bourque spoke of a quiet man from a well-liked, religious Catholic family that home-schooled its children, recent posts on social networks told a very different tale a litany of paranoid conspiracies that included statements on Russia being a threat to Canada and deep animosity toward authority figures.
A friend, Trever Finck, said he noticed changes in Bourque's behavior over the last year, particularly after he created a new Facebook page for himself in February and filled it with anti-police messages and conspiracy theories. His profile picture shows him standing in the woods with a friend, wearing camouflage gear and clutching a shotgun. What appear to be dozens of spent shell casings lie at their feet.
"I just want to know what was going through his head," Finck said.
Vodafone wades into surveillance debate, puts spotlight on legal differences
NEW YORK (AP) Wireless carrier Vodafone Group PLC is performing a tricky balancing maneuver by publishing a report on government surveillance of its subscribers in 29 countries a release that reveals more than first meets the eye.
In the report published Friday, Vodafone, which has unparalleled global reach for a cellphone company, said six countries have demanded direct access to its network. That cuts Vodafone's employees out of the surveillance process, removing one of the hurdles that can curb government overreach.
Vodafone would not say which countries have established these direct links. But in an exhaustively researched appendix to the report, the U.K.-based company sheds light on the legal frameworks that surround government interception in the 29 countries. The appendix reveals that six countries Albania, Egypt, Hungary, Ireland, Qatar and Turkey have provisions that allow authorities to request unfettered access.
In two other countries, India and the U.K., legal provisions are unclear as to whether government officials are allowed to have direct access, according to the report.
The report is remarkable not so much for what it reveals about the extent of law enforcement and intelligence agency surveillance, but for the comparisons it enables across countries. The report also highlights six countries for which Vodafone was unable to disclose any statistics on warrants from the government or other requests: Romania, Qatar, Egypt, India, South Africa and Turkey.
Cheer up, Thailand! Army junta wants to "return happiness" even as it stifles dissent
BANGKOK (AP) Cheer up, Thailand. That's an order.
The military junta that seized power here last month has no plans to restore civilian rule any time soon. But it has launched an official campaign to bring back something else it says this divided nation desperately needs happiness.
The project has involved free concerts, free food, alluring female dancers in suggestive camouflage miniskirts, even the chance to pet horses trucked into downtown Bangkok with makeshift stables and bales of hay. The fair-like events are supposed to pave the way for reconciliation after a decade of political upheaval and coups.
But critics point out the feel-good project is being carried out alongside an entirely different junta-led campaign an effort to stifle all opposition to the army's May 22 putsch, which deposed a government elected by a majority of Thai voters three years ago.
"The very first question you have to ask is, who's happiness are they talking about?" said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai professor of Southeast Asian studies at Kyoto University who has refused to respond to a junta summons ordering him to return home and report to the army.
No excuses for California Chrome heading into Belmont Stakes
NEW YORK (AP) So far, so smooth for California Chrome.
It has been fairly clear sailing for the chestnut colt through the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
He parlayed trouble-free trips in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness into victories, setting the stage for a possible Triple Crown sweep on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. The 1 1/2-mile Belmont, known as "The Test of a Champion," is the longest of the three races in the series.
And, in many respects, the cruelest.
Only 11 horses have swept the three races, Affirmed the most recent in 1978. Since then, 12 horses have captured the first two legs without completing the equine hat trick.