Ukraine president and protest leaders agree on truce

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine’s embattled president and leaders of the protests that have been roiling the country agreed Wednesday on a truce to halt the violence that has killed 26 people and injured more than 425 others. A protest leader was quoted as saying the government pledged not to attack an opposition encampment in central Kiev while further negotiations unfold.

President Viktor Yanukovych met with opposition leaders and the two sides agreed to halt the violence and to hold talks on ending bloodshed, a statement on the presidential website said. The statement did not give any further details.

Vitali Klitschko, one of the leaders of the protests that have sought to keep Ukraine open to Europe and out of a close political and economic alliance with Russia, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Yanukovych agreed that there would be no attempt to storm the protesters’ encampment on the main square of downtown Kiev.

Flames from burning barricades of tires and refuse leapt into the air at the square for a second night, as protesters demanding Yanukovych’s resignation showed no sign of yielding.

The truce announcement came hours after the president replaced the army chief and the military vowed a national anti-terrorist operation to restore order. Officials have often referred to the protesters who have demanded Yanukovych’s resignation for months as "terrorists."

Obama says ‘there will be consequences’ for Ukraine violence if people step
over the line

TOLUCA, Mexico (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Ukraine to avoid violence against peaceful protesters or face consequences, as the United States considered joining European partners to impose sanctions aimed at ending deadly street clashes that are sparking fears of civil war.

"There will be consequences if people step over the line," Obama said shortly after landing in Mexico for a summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, as fires burned in central Kiev. "And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step in to what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians."

Shortly after Obama’s remarks, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s office said he and opposition leaders had agreed on a truce, although the brief statement offered no details about what it would entail or how it would be implemented.

Meanwhile, the European Union called an extraordinary meeting of its 28 member countries on Thursday to address the situation.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris that he and his counterparts from Germany and Poland would travel to Ukraine, meeting with the Ukrainian government and opposition before the emergency EU meeting. EU sanctions would typically include banning leading officials from traveling to the EU countries and freezing their assets there.

Los Angeles bishop kept altar boy list from police probing clergy abuse

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When Los Angeles police were investigating allegations of child abuse by a Roman Catholic priest in 1988, they asked for a list of altar boys at the last parish where the priest worked.

Archbishop Roger Mahony told a subordinate not to give the list, saying he didn’t want the boys to be scarred by the investigation and that he felt the altar boys were too old to be potential victims, according to a February 2013 deposition made public Wednesday.

The detectives investigating allegations against Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, a visiting Mexican priest, ultimately got the names of the boys from parish families. They determined the priest molested at least 26 boys during his 10 months in Los Angeles, according to the priest’s confidential archdiocese file and police records made public by attorneys for the victims.

Twenty-five of the alleged victims were altar boys and the 26th was training with the priest to be one, said Anthony DeMarco, a plaintiff attorney. It’s not clear what impact Mahony’s action had on the investigation, though at the time police complained that the archdiocese wasn’t fully cooperating.

Mahony’s deposition was obtained by The Associated Press and is part of the evidence included in a settlement of abuse claims against Aguilar Rivera and four other priests. The archdiocese, the nation’s largest, agreed to pay $13 million to 17 victims.

Facebook to buy mobile messaging company WhatsApp for up to $19B, its largest acquisition

NEW YORK (AP) -- Facebook is buying mobile messaging service WhatsApp for up to $19 billion in cash and stock, by far the company’s largest acquisition.

The world’s biggest social networking company said Wednesday that it is paying $12 billion in Facebook stock and $4 billion in cash for WhatsApp. In addition, the app’s founders and employees will be granted $3 billion in restricted stock that will vest over four years after the deal closes.

Facebook says it is keeping WhatsApp as a separate service, just as it did with Instagram, which it bought for about $715.3 million.

WhatsApp has more than 450 million monthly active users. In comparison, Twitter had 241 million users at the end of 2013.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says WhatsApp is on path to reach a billion users.

Pa. couple who prayed for children in lieu of medicine sent to prison for 2nd child’s death

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A couple who believed in faith-healing were sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 to seven years in prison in the death of a second child who never saw a doctor despite being stricken with pneumonia.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible defied a court order to get medical care for their children after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died in 2009. Instead, they tried to comfort and pray over 8-month-old Brandon last year as he, too, died of treatable pneumonia.

"My religious beliefs are that you should pray, and not have to use medicine. But because it is against the law, then whatever sentence you give me, I will accept," Catherine Schaible, 44, told the judge. She added that her beliefs have since changed.

The Schaibles are third-generation members of an insular Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia, where they also taught at the church school. They have seven surviving children.

Judge Benjamin Lerner rejected defense claims that their religious beliefs "clashed" with the 2011 court order to get annual checkups and call a doctor if a child became ill. The order came after a jury convicted them of involuntary manslaughter in Kent’s death, and they were sentenced to 10 years of probation.

Taliban say they held indirect talks with U.S. about possible prisoner exchange

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Washington has held indirect talks with the Taliban over the possible transfer of five senior Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a U.S. soldier captured nearly five years ago, a senior Taliban official told The Associated Press.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 27, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as "proof of life" demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the only U.S. soldier to be captured in America’s longest war, which began with the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for sheltering al-Qaida in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The talks, which the Taliban official said took place sometime over the past two months in a Middle East country, would be the first significant movement toward an exchange since it was last discussed by the U.S. and the Taliban in June 2013. That earlier initiative, along with the overall peace efforts, lost steam after Afghan President Hamid Karzai argued over the name of a Taliban political office that opened in the Gulf nation of Qatar. The office was eventually closed but several Taliban have remained behind in Qatar.

A U.S. official said the Americans are considering a prisoner exchange but would not comment on whether any new talks have taken place. The official, who has been closely involved with this issue and has knowledge of previous talks with the Taliban, refused to give more details.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not confirm the efforts.

Cossacks attack Pussy Riot members in Sochi with horsewhips, preventing protest performance

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Cossack militia attacked Russia’s Pussy Riot punk group with horsewhips on Wednesday as the artists -- who have feuded with Vladimir Putin’s government for years -- tried to perform under a sign advertising the Sochi Olympics.

The group has resurfaced as a thorn for Russian authorities this week for the first time in nearly two years, just as Putin had been using the Winter Games to burnish his image at home and charm critics abroad with the most expensive Olympics ever.

Six group members -- five women and one man -- donned their signature ski masks in downtown Sochi and were pulling out a guitar and microphone as at least 10 Cossacks and other security officials moved in. One Cossack appeared to use pepper spray. Another whipped several group members while other Cossacks ripped off their masks and threw the guitar in a garbage can.

Police arrived and questioned witnesses, but no one was arrested.

The Cossacks violently pulled masks from women’s heads, beating group member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova with a whip as she lay on the ground.

Michigan woman gets year in prison for fake cancer scam; ‘all based on lies,’ says judge

SANDUSKY, Mich. (AP) -- A judge sentenced a Michigan woman to a year behind bars Wednesday in an "almost mind-boggling" scam that tricked an insurance company and swindled big-hearted people in small communities who believed she was dying of cancer.

Authorities said it was all an extraordinary lie: No doctor has ever stepped forward to even suggest that Sara Ylen had cancer.

Ylen, 38, already is serving a minimum five-year prison sentence in another case of deceit, and the one-year punishment for fraud will run at the same time.

Ylen claimed she developed cervical cancer from a sexual assault in 2001 and was regularly treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill. The Michigan-based Mercy Hospice cut her off in 2011 after two years when tests showed her life wasn’t in peril. The cancer hospital said it had no record of her as a patient.

The Lexington resident accepted thousands of dollars from supporters who for years regularly read of her plight in the Port Huron Times Herald. She repeatedly forged medical records, including documents that bore the letterhead of cancer specialists at the University of Michigan.