Posted: Mar 23, 2013 4:00 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2013 4:00 AM
US Secretary of State Kerry in Iraq to press on Iran flights to Syria, push unity
BAGHDAD (AP) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Iraq on an unannounced visit to urge Iraqi leaders to stop Iranian overflights of arms and fighters heading to Syria and to overcome sectarian differences that still threaten Iraqi stability 10 years after the American-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
Kerry flew into Baghdad on Sunday from Amman after accompanying President Barack Obama to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.
Officials traveling with him said he would press Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other senior officials on democratic reforms and directly urge them to stop overflights of Iranian aircraft carrying military personnel and equipment to support the Syrian government as it battles rebels.
The overflights have long been a source of contention between the U.S. and Iraq and Kerry will tell the Iraqis that allowing them to continue will make the situation in Syria worse and threaten Iraq's stability.
A senior U.S. official said the sheer number of overflights, which occur "close to daily," as well as overland shipments to Syria through Iraq from Iran was inconsistent with Iranian claims that they are only carrying humanitarian supplies. The official said it was in Iraq's interest to prevent the situation in Syria from deteriorating further, particularly as there are fears that Iranian-backed extremists may gain a foothold in the country.
Cyprus bailout negotiations go down to the wire with no deal yet
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) Cyprus officials and international representatives ended torturous negotiation in the early hours of Sunday with no agreement on a plan to raise money the island nation needs to qualify for a bailout package. Talks are set to resume later Sunday in Brussels, but time is running out: Failure would mean Cyprus could declare bankruptcy in just two days and possibly have to exit the eurozone.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Finance Minister Michalis Sarris will travel to the Belgian capital early Sunday. A viable plan must be cemented before finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro currency meet in Brussels in the evening.
"Negotiations are at a very delicate phase," government spokesman Christos Stylianides said in a statement. "The situation is very difficult and the margins very limited."
Cyprus has been told it must raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in order to secure 10 billion euros in rescue loans from other European countries that use the single currency, as well as from the IMF.
The IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission known as the troika will determine whether the plan that the Cypriots devise will meet the requirements for any international bailout package. Then, the plan is to be presented to the eurozone finance ministers for final approval.
NYC mayor announces $12M gun control ad buy targeting senators before legislation debate
NEW YORK (AP) A new $12 million television ad campaign from Mayors Against Illegal Guns will push senators in key states to back gun control efforts, including comprehensive background checks.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the ad buy Saturday just days after Senate Democrats touted stronger background checks while acknowledging insufficient support to restore a ban on assault-style weapons to federal gun control legislation.
"These ads bring the voices of Americans who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence," Bloomberg said in a statement issued by the group he co-founded in 2006.
The two ads posted on the group's website, called "Responsible" and "Family," show a gun owner holding a rifle while sitting on the back of a pickup truck.
In one ad, the man says he'll defend the Second Amendment but adds "with rights come responsibilities." The ad then urges viewers to tell Congress to support background checks.
Police: Boris Berezovsky, self-exiled Russian tycoon and Putin rival, found dead in England
LONDON (AP) Boris Berezovsky, a self-exiled and outspoken Russian tycoon who had a bitter falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead in southeast England on Saturday. He was 67.
In recent years, the one-time Kremlin powerbroker-turned-thorn in Putin's side fended off verbal and legal attacks in cases that often bore political undertones and bit into his fortune.
The cause of Berezovsky's death was not immediately clear, and Thames Valley police said it was being treated as "unexplained." The police would not directly identify him, but when asked about Berezovsky by name they read a statement saying they were investigating the death of a 67-year-old man at a property in Ascot, a town 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of London.
Lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky told Russian state TV that his client who had survived assassination attempts in the past lately had been in "a horrible, terrible" emotional state.
"All he had was debts," Dobrovinsky said. "He was practically destroyed. He was selling his paintings and other things."
1 winning ticket for Saturday's $338M Powerball jackpot sold in NJ; 6th largest jackpot ever
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) A single ticket sold in New Jersey matched all six numbers in Saturday night's drawing for the $338.3 million Powerball jackpot, lottery officials said. It was the 13th drawing held in the days since a Virginia man won a $217 million jackpot Feb. 6.
Thirteen other tickets worth $1 million each matched all but the final Powerball number on Saturday night. Those runner-up tickets were sold in New Jersey and 10 other states.
The New Jersey Lottery said Sunday that details about the winning ticket would be released Monday, declining to reveal where it had been purchased and whether anyone had immediately come forward. It was the sixth largest jackpot in history.
The numbers drawn were 17, 29, 31, 52, 53 and Powerball 31. A lump sum payout would be $221 million.
Lotter officials said the 13 tickets worth $1 million apiece matching the first five numbers but missing the Powerball were sold in Arizona, Florida (2), Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina and Virginia.
Spring snowstorm moves out of Colorado, takes aim at Plains, Midwest states
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) An early spring snowstorm forced the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Denver International Airport and closed several roads Saturday as it moved eastward, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places.
The snow started falling around midnight in northeast Colorado and then moved into northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska.
Ten to 15 inches of snow had fallen by Saturday afternoon north of Interstate 70 in northwest Kansas and northeast Colorado, with another 1 to 2 inches expected in the area, said Ryan Husted, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Goodland, Kan., where 15 inches of snow had fallen.
The storm also dropped up to 7 inches of snow in southwestern Nebraska before tapering off Saturday afternoon, said David Pearson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service near Omaha, Neb.
"But the wind is really blowing, so visibility in those areas is still going to be pretty low," Pearson said.
Mayor: Radical Islamists attack Malian city of Gao, but are pushed back
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) Islamic extremists infiltrated and attacked the northern Malian city of Gao, the mayor and residents said late Saturday. It was the third major attack on the town since it was liberated by French forces in January.
The assault indicates that the radical Islamists remain entrenched and able to attack despite the thousands of French troops who have liberated most of northern Mali's towns from control by the extremists.
Reached by telephone, Gao Mayor Sadou Diallo said the Islamic fighters launched their attack inside the Quatrieme Quartier, or Fourth District, a neighborhood inside the city which is divided into a numbered grid. The mayor said Malian forces engaged the fighters and they retreated, but a second column of Islamists then attacked from across the Niger River. He said that by evening the situation appeared to be under control, though residents said they still heard shooting.
"There was heavy gunfire. The situation is under control now. The Islamists entered via Quatrieme Quartier, and the army went to meet them and was able to push them back," said Diallo. "There is another group that entered via the river, but they too were pushed back. It's under control," he repeated.
For nearly 10 months, Gao was occupied by the Movement for the Oneness of Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, one of three al-Qaida-linked groups which invaded northern Mali a year ago. MUJAO was among the most brutal, amputating the limbs of so many accused thieves that the public place where they meted out their version of justice became known as "Shariah Square." In January, the city along with much of the rest of northern Mali was liberated by French troops, who used Mirage and Rafalle jets to bombard rebel positions before launching a ground assault.
Joe Weider, who popularized bodybuilding, helped promote Arnold Schwarzenegger to fame, dies
LOS ANGELES (AP) Joe Weider, a legendary figure in bodybuilding who helped popularize the sport worldwide and played a key role in introducing a charismatic young weightlifter named Arnold Schwarzenegger to the world, died Saturday. He was 93.
Weider's publicist, Charlotte Parker, told The Associated Press that the bodybuilder, publisher and promoter died of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.
"I knew about Joe Weider long before I met him," Schwarzenegger, who tweeted the news of his old friend's death, said in a lengthy statement posted on his website. "He was the godfather of fitness who told all of us to be somebody with a body. He taught us that through hard work and training we could all be champions."
A bodybuilder with an impressive physique himself, Weider became better known in later years as a behind-the-scenes guru to the sport.
He popularized bodybuilding and spread the message of health and fitness worldwide with such publications as Muscle & Fitness, Flex and Shape. Schwarzenegger himself is the executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex.
AP Photos: Cities go dark for 'Earth Hour'
It's something of a voluntary rolling blackout: Communities around the globe are going dark for an hour on Saturday evening as part of an initiative called "Earth Hour," to raise awareness of climate change.
In more than 7,000 cities and towns across the planet, millions of residents are turning off their lights for an hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time to show their environmental concern.
Here are some photos of "Earth Hour" observances.
BracketRacket: Gonzaga says goodbye, Bo Ryan's critics take to Wikipedia and Geno turns 59
Welcome back to BracketRacket, the one-stop shop for all your NCAA tournament needs.
Today, we say farewell to our first No. 1 seed and explain why Gonzaga's ouster was unusual compared to recent tournament history. We also check in with actor Josh Duhamel, browse Bo Ryan's Wikipedia page and get Coach K to compare Duke with the Yankees.
But first, let's see just how rough things have gotten for your bracket.