Scores killed in deadly Ukraine protest day as diplomats scramble for resolution.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Protesters advanced on police lines in the heart of the Ukrainian capital on Thursday, prompting government snipers to shoot back and kill scores of people in the country’s deadliest day since the breakup of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago.
The European Union imposed sanctions on those deemed responsible for the violence and three EU foreign ministers held a long day of talks in Kiev with both embattled President Viktor Yanukovych and leaders of the protests seeking his ouster. But it’s increasingly unclear whether either side has the will or ability to compromise.
Yanukovych and the opposition protesters are locked in a battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country -- mostly in its western cities -- are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.
Protesters across the country are also upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights and the country’s ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with a $15 billion aid infusion from Russia.
The clashes in central Kiev may have only hardened protesters to continue their push for Yanukovych’s resignation and early presidential and parliamentary elections. Despite the violence, people streamed toward the square Thursday afternoon as other protesters hurled wood, refuse and tires on barricades.
Heavyweight champion shocked at Ukraine deaths; calls for president to step down
SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko expressed shock and revulsion Thursday at the deaths in his country, and said Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych must step down before civil war engulfs the nation.
Klitschko, the brother of opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, said the situation in Ukraine had spiraled out of control because of government provocation.
"My own people are killing each other. It’s something worse than a dream," Klitschko said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Hamburg. "I am just speechless. I can’t believe something like this is happening in my country."
Klitschko, who was in Kiev last month when the demonstrations were still peaceful, claimed the deaths in recent days were part of a government plan to break the opposition by forcing the Army to come in and impose martial law.
He called on the world to hold Yanukovych responsible for the violence, which he compared to some of the worst actions of dictators of the past.
N.J. judge throws out lawsuit challenging NYPD surveillance of Muslims
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Police Department’s intelligence unit didn’t discriminate against Muslims with far-reaching surveillance aimed at identifying "budding terrorist conspiracies" at Newark mosques and other locations in New Jersey, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
In a written decision filed in federal court in Newark, U.S. District Judge William Martini dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought in 2012 by eight Muslims who alleged the NYPD’s surveillance programs were unconstitutional because they focused on religion, national origin and race. The suit had accused the department of spying on ordinary people at several mosques, restaurants and grade schools in New Jersey since 2002.
The plaintiffs, including the former principal of a grade school for Muslim girls, "have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion," Martini wrote. "The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies."
The judge added: "The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself. ... The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but to find Muslim terrorists hiding among the ordinary law-abiding Muslims."
The ruling also singled out The Associated Press, which sparked the suit with a series of stories based on confidential NYPD document showing how the department sought to infiltrate dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds in New York and elsewhere.
Israel sets off awkward debate by demanding recognition as a ‘Jewish state’
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Is Israel "the Jewish state"?
The answer may seem as obvious as the Star of David on the Israeli flag. Yet the question is starting to complicate the ambitious U.S. effort to ram through a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel.
A broad-based group of Israelis plans to lobby the Knesset to declare the country, for the first time, a Jewish state by law. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s Jewish status explicitly as part of any agreement.
"This is the Jewish land. This is the Jewish state," he said in a speech this week to assembled U.S. Jewish leaders. "When we make an agreement it is an agreement between the nation state of the Jewish people and a nation state of the Palestinian people."
Leading Palestinians made their opposition clear this week, insisting that by introducing the Jewish factor, Israel is drawing a red line that could doom negotiations.
Health law outreach
targets taxi drivers, other pockets of uninsured, as deadline approaches
CHICAGO (AP) -- Like most taxi drivers, Sebti Boukarit doesn’t have health insurance. And because he works up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, he hasn’t had much time to sign up under the nation’s new health care law.
But when he arrived at a Chicago city office to renew his taxi license one recent morning, the opportunity was impossible to miss. Enrollment workers had set up a table in the waiting room to snag drivers just like him, who are among the health law’s most desired prospects.
"We have a captive audience," said Salvador Cerna, a coordinator for the outreach campaign for Get Covered Illinois, which gave enrollment information to 50 cab drivers and began the sign-up process for 18.
As the March 31 enrollment deadline creeps closer, time is running out for supporters of the law to make up for the months of technical problems that hampered the new insurance exchanges and depressed enrollment.
The latest figures show nearly 3.3 million Americans have signed up for private insurance plans on the insurance marketplaces, about a million short of where the Obama administration had hoped to be at this stage of the rollout.
New study says Afghanistan will need larger security force than U.S. and NATO now envision
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new assessment of Afghanistan’s future says the country could revert to a terrorist haven unless U.S. and international partners underwrite a larger -- and more expensive -- Afghan security force than is currently planned beyond 2014.
The study released Thursday also concludes that this larger force and the government ministries to support it will require international trainers and advisers at least through 2018. U.S. military commanders have recommended such a role following the withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO combat troops in December, but the Obama administration has not yet committed to it.
The study was ordered by the Congress and conducted by CNA Strategic Studies, a federally funded research group.
It describes in detail what is at stake for the U.S. at an important juncture of the war, which was launched by President George W. Bush in response to the 9/11 attacks orchestrated by al-Qaida, then based in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama is weighing his options in Afghanistan, aware of the American public’s war-weariness as well as the risks of failing to ensure that Afghanistan does not once more become a sanctuary for al-Qaida.