Hopes for immigration dim as House speaker Boehner says it will be difficult
to pass this year

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Speaker John Boehner on Thursday all but ruled out passage of immigration legislation before this fall’s elections, saying it would be difficult for the Republican-led House to act on the issue that President Barack Obama has made a top domestic priority.

In his most pessimistic comments, Boehner blamed the stalemate on widespread skepticism that Obama would properly enforce any immigration reforms that Congress approved. The GOP leader didn’t mention that his own members have balked at acting on the contentious issue, which could enrage core conservative voters in the midterm election year.

"The American people, including many of our members, don’t trust that the reform we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be," Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference. "The president seems to change the health care law on a whim, whenever he likes. Now, he is running around the country telling everyone he’s going to keep acting on his own."

Just last week, Boehner and other House Republican leaders had unveiled broad principles for immigration changes, including legal status for the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally, tougher border security and a shot at citizenship for children brought to the country illegally.

National Republicans see the failure to act on immigration as a political drag on the party after 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney captured just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, and they are pressing for action to moderate the party’s image. The principles endorsed last week were seen as a congressional jump-start for an issue that had been stalled since Senate passage of a comprehensive, bipartisan bill last June.

Despite terror warnings, banned carry-on toiletries get through Sochi-bound Russian security

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Despite a temporary Russian ban on liquids in carry-on luggage, some air travelers heading to the Sochi Olympics through Moscow have brought toothpaste and other toiletries past security checkpoints without any problems.

Security concerns ahead of the Sochi Games were renewed after the U.S. Homeland Security Department warned airlines flying to Russia that terrorists may try to smuggle explosives into the country in toothpaste tubes.

Yet six Associated Press employees arriving in Moscow from across the world or beginning their journey there passed through security without having to remove toothpaste, hand lotion or water bottles from their carry-on luggage.

Another AP journalist, arriving in Moscow from Singapore, said a security official checked his deodorant and then returned it, but didn’t notice or make mention of a very small tube of toothpaste.

Other air travelers heading to Sochi also said their experience of Russian airport security was surprisingly hassle-free.

Syrian rebels free hundreds in attack on Aleppo prison; government drops more ‘barrel bombs’

BEIRUT (AP) -- A suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of a Syrian prison Thursday and rebels stormed in behind him, freeing hundreds of inmates as part of an offensive aimed at capturing key government symbols around the northern city of Aleppo.

Government forces, meanwhile, dropped crude "barrel bombs" in deadly airstrikes as both sides escalated their fight for the strategic city ahead of a second round of peace talks set for next week. Opposition leaders threatened to suspend the talks over the barrel bombings.

In the past six days alone, the makeshift weapons -- containers packed with explosives, fuel and scrap metal -- have killed more than 250 people in Aleppo, including 73 children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

They include at least 11 who died Thursday -- six of them from the same family -- in the opposition-held neighborhood of Masaken Hanano.

Videos uploaded by activists showed the aftermath, including men weeping amid ravaged buildings and corpses covered with blankets on the pavement.

Obama administration said to be eyeing new extension for individual insurance plans

The Obama administration is considering an extension of the president’s decision to let people keep their individual insurance policies even if they are not compliant with the health care overhaul, industry and government officials said Thursday.

Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson said Thursday that the administration may let policyholders keep that coverage for as long as an additional three years, stressing that no decision has been made. Policymakers are waiting to see what rate hikes health insurers plan for the insurance exchanges that are key to the overhaul’s coverage expansions.

"The administration is entertaining a range of options to ensure that this individual market has stability to it, and that would be one thing that they could do," he said.

Avalere Health is a consulting firm, but Mendelson said his company was not advising the administration on exchange policy. He said he has had informal discussions with administration officials about the extension, but he didn’t identify them.

Health and Human Services spokesman Joanne Peters confirmed that the issue is under discussion, saying: "We are continuing to examine all sorts of ways to provide consumers with more choices and to smooth the transition as we implement the law. No decisions have been made."

New heart group guidelines aim at preventing stroke in women, pregnancy is one focus

Just as heart attack symptoms may differ between men and women, so do stroke risks.

Now, the American Heart Association has issued its first guidelines for preventing strokes in women. They focus on birth control, pregnancy, depression and other risk factors that women face uniquely or more frequently than men do.

The advice applies to patients like Denise Miller, who suffered a stroke last year that fooled doctors at two northeast Ohio hospitals before it was finally diagnosed at the Cleveland Clinic. She was 36 and had no traditional risk factors.

"There was nothing to indicate I was going to have a stroke," other than frequent migraines with aura -- dizziness or altered senses such as tingling, ringing ears or sensitivity to light, Miller said.

These headaches are more common in women and the new guidelines issued Thursday flag them as a concern. Miller recovered but has some lingering numbness and vision problems.

Martin Luther King’s children battle over Nobel medal, Bible; civil rights veterans take sides

ATLANTA (AP) -- A generation after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, his children are fighting again over control of his legacy.

This time it involves two of his most cherished possessions: his Nobel Peace Prize medal and the Bible he carried.

King’s daughter Bernice King has both items, and she says her brothers, Dexter King and Martin Luther King III, are demanding she hand them over so they can be sold.

It is the latest in a string of disputes over the years that some historians have come to see as a sad and unseemly footnote to history that could damage King’s name.

A year adrift on the Pacific? A medical Q and A on what’s humanly possible

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- The story of a Salvadoran fisherman who says he survived more than a year adrift on the Pacific Ocean raises many medical questions. The Associated Press spoke with Claude Piantadosi, a professor of medicine at Duke University and author of the book "The Biology of Human Survival," to find out what is physically possible and for his view on the tale of Jose Salvador Alvarenga. This is an edited version of the interview:

Q: How long can a human survive without any water, or without any food?

A: The average is about 100 hours (approximately four days) without water and about five or six weeks without food. You can survive much longer with just a little food, although you’ll lose weight and run into vitamin deficiency problems. So it would have been vital for Alvarenga to have collected both food and water during his journey. The Pacific’s regular squalls would have provided some rainwater that he could have scooped from the bottom of his boat.

Q: How important is shade?

A: Absolutely critical. You get significantly warmer in direct sunlight and sweat more. The pictures of the boat show a fiberglass box in the middle which he could have sheltered in, and any type of canvas would have helped keep him out of the sun.

Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner dies at 91; popular player, broadcaster

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) -- Ralph Kiner, who slugged his way into the baseball Hall of Fame and enjoyed a half-century career as a popular broadcaster, died Thursday. He was 91.

The Hall said Kiner died at his home in Rancho Mirage with his family at his side.

Kiner hit 369 home runs during his 10-year career, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made his debut in 1946 and his power quickly became the talk of baseball -- he won or tied for the National League lead in homers in each of his first seven seasons.

"Kiner’s Korner" was already a fixture on the New York Mets’ airways when he was inducted into the Hall in 1975. He was elected with just one vote to spare in his 15th and final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

The six-time All-Star still ranks sixth all-time with a home run every 14.1 at-bats. He averaged more than 100 RBIs per season and hit .279 with the Pirates, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland.

Winter Olympic’s opening ceremony to showcase Russia on its own terms,
as Putin says: We’re back

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- It’s designed to celebrate a millennium of Russian might and this country’s modern rebound, and kick off two weeks of extraordinary human endeavors and planetary sportsmanship. But the ceremony opening the Sochi Olympics on Friday, more than anything, will be about one man: Vladimir Putin.

He charmed and strong-armed his way to hosting the games at a summer beach resort that he envisioned as a winter paradise. He stared down terrorist threats and worldwide wrath at a scarcely veiled campaign against gays. He has shrugged off critiques that construction of the most costly games in Olympic history was both shoddy and corrupt.

Ballet, man-made snow and avant-garde art will make an appearance at Sochi’s opening ceremonies, though as with all past opening ceremonies, the details are under wraps. They can’t really compete with the cinematic splendor of the London Olympics or the pyrotechnic extravaganza of Beijing, but then again, the Winter Games are usually more low-key.

No matter. All Putin needs is an event that tells the world "Russia is back."

It’s a message meant for millions around the world who will watch the show -- and meant for his countrymen, too.

After 22 years, Jay Leno says goodbye to ‘Tonight’ with help from Billy Crystal, Garth Brooks

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) -- Jay Leno said farewell to "The Tonight Show" once before, but that turned out to be just a rehearsal.

On Thursday, Leno is stepping down for the second and presumably last time, making way for successor Jimmy Fallon in New York. When Leno gave up the venerable show to short-lived host Conan O’Brien in 2009, he did a prime-time NBC comedy series before reclaiming "Tonight" in 2010.

This time, Leno’s out the door.

"When we left in ‘09 we were going to the 10 o’clock show, so there wasn’t the same sort of finality to it," said "Tonight" executive producer Debbie Vickers as the program counted down toward its last taping in its Burbank home.

"It’s going to be difficult to not come in and do a show every day for our audience who has been so great to Jay. ... And also hard for this group of people (the staff) who have all been together for 22 years," said Vickers, who worked on Johnny Carson’s "Tonight" before taking the top job with Leno.