Ukraine buckles to protests, weakening president, but opposition split over whether to go home

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- In a fast-moving day that aimed to reshape Ukraine’s political destiny, protest leaders and the beleaguered president agreed Friday to form a new government and hold an early election. Parliament slashed the powers of President Viktor Yanukovych and voted to free his rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison.

It was a crucial shift in Ukraine’s months-long standoff between Yanukovych and protesters angry that he abandoned closer ties with Europe in favor of a bailout deal with longtime ruler Russia.

If it holds, the ambitious, European-mediated agreement could be a major breakthrough in a months-long crisis over Ukraine’s identity. The standoff worsened sharply this week and left scores dead and hundreds wounded in the worst violence the country has seen since it became independent in 1991.

But not all sides embraced the deal. A Russian mediator refused to sign it, and a senior Russian lawmaker criticized it as being crafted for the West.

And at the sprawling protest encampment in central Kiev, anger percolated among the thousands massed Friday night. Hardened Ukrainian protesters angry over police violence said they were determined to stand their ground until Yanukovych steps down.

Newly released transcripts show Fed in 2008 struggling to grasp depth of financial crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve agonized in 2008 over how far to go to stop a financial crisis that threatened to cause a recession and at times struggled to recognize its speed and magnitude.

"We’re crossing certain lines. We’re doing things we haven’t done before," Chairman Ben Bernanke said as Fed officials met in an emergency session March 10 and launched never-before-taken steps to lend to teetering Wall Street firms, among a series of unorthodox moves that year to calm investors and aid the economy.

"On the other hand, this financial crisis is now in its eighth month, and the economic outlook has worsened quite significantly."

The Fed on Friday released hundreds of pages of transcripts covering its 14 meetings during 2008 -- eight regularly scheduled meetings and six emergency sessions. The Fed releases full transcripts of each year’s policy meetings after a five-year lag.

The 2008 transcripts cover the most tumultuous period of the crisis, including the collapse and rescue of investment bank Bear Stearns, the government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the fateful decision to let investment bank Lehman Brothers fold in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and the bailout of insurer American International Group.

U.S. regulators at odds when it comes to permitting cellphone calls on planes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It looks like the government is more conflicted about cellphones on planes than most travelers. Even as one federal agency considers allowing the calls, another now wants to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Passengers -- particularly those who fly often -- oppose allowing calls in flight, polls show. In line with that sentiment, the Department of Transportation signaled in a notice posted online Friday that it wants to retain the 23-year-old ban on the calls. But the notice comes just two months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to pursue lifting the ban.

The Transportation Department regulates aviation consumer issues. The FCC has responsibility over whether the use of cellphones in flight would interfere with cellular networks on the ground.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he wants to repeal the current ban, calling it restrictive and outdated. He also wants the airlines, not the government, to have final say on in-flight calling. He declined to comment Friday on the department’s notice.

Echoing some travelers’ concerns, the Transportation Department said it believes allowing passengers to make cellphone calls "may be harmful or injurious" to other passengers.

Targeted Internet blockages highlight political battles in Venezuela

SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (AP) -- The battle for Venezuela is being fought as vigorously online as in the streets, with authorities cutting off Internet service to a strife-torn university city and blocking selected websites and a "walkie-talkie" service widely used by protesters.

Internet connectivity was gradually restored to San Cristobal, capital of the western border state of Tachira, on Friday morning after an outage of more than 30 hours that also affected smartphones.

Soldiers patrolled the streets after another night in which police firing tear gas broke up protests just as they had the night before, when Internet service was cut. A local TV journalist, Beatriz Font, reported hearing gunshots.

"It’s an abuse!" Jeffrey Guerrero, a flour wholesaler, complained just before service was restored. "We’ve had to find out what’s happening in our city from others." He held up his iPhone to show how his Twitter service had halted.

The current wave of anti-government demonstrations, the fiercest unrest since President Hugo Chavez died last March, began in early February in San Cristobal, home to one private and three public universities.

Groups push Arizona governor to veto bill allowing business to refuse to serve gays

PHOENIX (AP) -- Four years after igniting a national uproar over immigration, the Arizona Legislature has jumped into the battle over gay rights with a piece of legislation that had opponents on Friday predicting business boycotts against the state.

The legislation allows business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to refuse service to gays, and all eyes are on Republican Gov. Jan Brewer as she decides whether to sign the bill. A decision is likely next week.

The conservative governor is already feeling pressure from the business community to veto the bill passed late Thursday. A prominent Phoenix group believes it would be another black eye for the state that saw a national backlash over its 2010 immigration crackdown law, SB1070. Opponents also pointed out that the legislation would serve as a major distraction as Arizona prepares to host the Super Bowl next year.

But Brewer also will be heavily pressured to sign the bill by social conservatives who backed it as a religious-rights bill.

Brewer, who is deeply religious but also pro-business, is caught somewhere in the middle. She hasn’t taken a public position on this bill.

Matteo Renzi forms Italy’s new coalition government; at 39, he’ll be youngest premier

ROME (AP) -- Matteo Renzi will be sworn in as Italy’s youngest prime minister ever Saturday after he cobbled together a government he says will change the face of the country’s politics and economy.

Renzi, the 39-year-old leader of the center-left Democratic Party, unveiled his government Friday and said the broad coalition will bring hope to the economically stagnant country.

After formally accepting the mandate to form the government, Renzi said he will waste no time in enacting reform.

"We aim tomorrow morning to immediately do the things that need to get done," he said.

Renzi had been serving as Florence mayor when he engineered a power grab last week to effectively force fellow Democrat, Enrico Letta, to step down after 10 months at the helm of a fragile, often-squabbling coalition.

AP source: Feds were investigating California tribal killing suspect over missing $50,000

ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) -- A woman suspected of killing four people at the headquarters of an Indian tribe in far Northern California had been under federal investigation over at least $50,000 in missing funds.

A person familiar with the tribe’s situation told The Associated Press on Friday that investigators were looking into whether Cherie Lash Rhoades had taken federal grants to the Cedarville Rancheria tribe.

Rhoades was recently ousted as the tribe’s chairwoman.

Authorities say she killed her brother, nephew, niece and a worker during a meeting on Thursday to determine whether she should be evicted from tribal land.

Its website says the Cedarville Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe with just 35 members. The killings happened in the northeastern corner of California, near the Oregon and Nevada borders.