Ukraine in troop pullout from Russia-annexed Crimea

NOVOOZERNOE, Crimea (AP) -- Ukraine’s fledgling government ordered troops to pull back Monday from Crimea, ending days of wavering as Russian forces stormed and seized bases on the peninsula. Even as Moscow ratcheted up the military heat, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his Ukrainian counterpart in the highest level encounter between the two countries since the Crimea invasion.

On the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in the Hague, Netherlands, Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow’s demand for constitutional reform in Ukraine that would give more autonomy to all regions of Ukraine. Russia, eager to retain its influence in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking eastern regions and prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, has pushed for Ukraine to become federation -- demands the new Ukrainian government has rejected.

Before the meeting, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia said his government remains concerned about a Russian military buildup near Ukraine’s border.

"The possibility of a military invasion is very high. We are very much worried about this concentration of troops on our eastern border," he said.

The Ukrainian concerns have been deepened in by the intense military pressure Russia has applied in Crimea since Russian President Vladimir Putin formally annexed the peninsula last week.


Advertisement

Russian forces have commandeered ships and broke into walled military installations with armored personnel carriers.

No easy fix on flood insurance, but experts say options exist to improve program

NEW YORK (AP) -- There’s no easy fix for the National Flood Insurance Program, now drowning in a $24 billion sea of red ink.

But experts and advocates say Congress does have some options that could make the troubled program financially stable, more affordable and more effective at motivating change in communities built too close to the water.

Lawmakers this month tweaked the troubled program for the second time in two years after acknowledging that a previous overhaul in 2012 had socked too many policyholders with rate hikes they couldn’t afford. The legislation, however, only put off the day of reckoning.

At least 1.1 million policyholders are still likely to see insurance premiums rise substantially in the next few years as the government whittles down rate subsidies for people in the riskiest flood zones. The Associated Press, in a story published Monday, found hundreds of river towns, port cities and coastal communities where future rate hikes might make it tough for people to keep their homes and businesses.

Yet, if premiums stay as low as they are now, those same communities could cost taxpayers billions of dollars when they do eventually flood, thanks to decades of low premiums that have given homeowners few incentives to flood-proof their properties.

In mass trial, Egypt sentences to death nearly 530 accused in police station attack

CAIRO (AP) -- An Egyptian court Monday sentenced to death nearly 530 suspected backers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi over a deadly attack on a police station, capping a swift, two-day mass trial in which defense attorneys were not allowed to present their case.

It was the largest single batch of death sentences in the world in recent years, Amnesty International said. The U.S. State Department said it "defies logic" that so many people could get a fair trial in just two sessions.

The verdicts by a court in the city of Minya are subject to appeal and are likely to be overturned.

But the outcome stunned human rights activists and raised fears that the rule of law is being swept away in the crackdown waged by the military-backed interim government against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood since his overthrow last summer.

The government is conducting a series of mass trials of Brotherhood supporters, some with hundreds of defendants.

Transit union: Indication that train operator dozed off before derailment

CHICAGO (AP) -- The president of a Chicago transit union said Monday there are indications that the operator dozed off before the train jumped the tracks and scaled an escalator at one of nation’s busiest airports, injuring 32 people.

The operator told Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly that she had worked a lot of overtime recently and was "extremely tired" at the time of the derailment, he said at a news conference.

The derailment happened just before 3 a.m. Monday at the end of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line at O’Hare International Airport. No one suffered life-threatening injuries.

Earlier, National Transportation Safety Board official Tim DePaepe said investigators had not drawn any conclusions about the cause of the accident, but were looking into whether faulty brakes, signals or human error were factors.

The operator, who was still hospitalized, will be interviewed, DePaepe said, and investigators would examine her routine over the last few days.

Secrets, whispers and lies: Mobile apps bring back online anonymity, with a twist

NEW YORK (AP) -- At a time when Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are pushing people to put forward their most polished, put-together selves, a new class of mobile applications aims for a bit more honesty.

Among the latest is Secret, created by two former Google engineers who were looking for a way to let people deliver genuine feedback to co-workers. With the app, friends and friends of friends can share their deepest and darkest thoughts, along with gossip, criticism and even plans to propose marriage, under a cloak of near-anonymity.

"This idea that you have to craft this perfect image online," says Secret’s 30-year-old co-founder Chrys Bader-Wechseler. "That’s stressful. We want to remove that stress."

Secret joins a handful of apps such as Confide, Whisper and Yik Yak that have become popular -- and in some cases, notorious -- in recent months, by offering users a way to communicate while cloaking their identities.

What happens when people are free to say what they want without a name and profile photo attached? It’s an experiment in human nature that harkens back to the early days of the Web, when faceless masses with made-up nicknames ruled chat rooms and online message boards.

Girl sells more than 18K boxes of Girl Scout cookies, breaking record

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An Oklahoma City girl who says she asks everyone she meets to buy Girl Scout cookies has broken the organization’s decades-old sales record by a margin about the size of a Thin Mint.

Katie Francis of Oklahoma City sold 18,107 boxes in the seven-week sales period that ended Sunday night. The previous mark was set by Elizabeth Brinton, who sold approximately 18,000 one year in the 1980s.

The sixth-grade student told The Oklahoman newspaper last month that there were only three ingredients needed to rack up large sales: a lot of time, a lot of commitment and asking everyone she met to buy.

Katie sold 12,428 boxes last year.

Her troop receives a share of the proceeds from the fundraiser and intends to donate to breast cancer research.

Latinos being left behind in health
care overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation’s largest minority group risks being left behind by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Hispanics make up nearly one-third of the nation’s uninsured, but many are staying on the sidelines as the White House races to meet a goal of 6 million sign-ups by March 31.

Latinos "are not at the table," says Jane Delgado, president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, a nonpartisan advocacy network.

Experts say that’s a loss both for Latinos, and the Obama administration itself.

Hispanics who remain uninsured could face fines, not to mention risking high medical bills for their families.

And the government won’t get the full advantage of a largely young and healthy group that could help keep premiums low in the new insurance markets.

Terror report
release may fuel Congress’ CIA spat

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators are readying for a big vote this week on whether to release key sections of a report on terrorism interrogations.

If the material is made public, it would start a declassification process that could further test the already strained relationship between lawmakers and the CIA and force President Barack Obama into the fray.

The Senate Intelligence Committee hopes that publishing a 400-page summary of its review and 20 key recommendations will shed light on some of the most unsavory elements of the Bush administration’s terrorism-fighting tools after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The CIA says the report underestimates the intelligence value of waterboarding and other methods employed by intelligence officials at undeclared facilities overseas.

U.S. sends more troops, aircraft to search for Kony

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. is sending military aircraft and more special operations forces to Uganda to assist in the search for fugitive African warlord Joseph Kony.

A senior U.S. military official confirmed Monday that the U.S. is sending at least four CV-22 Osprey aircraft about about 150 more Air Force special operations members and airmen to assist local forces in their long-running battle against Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA.

Obama sent about 100 U.S. troops to help the African forces in 2011. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said early Monday the additional support would enable the African Union "to conduct targeted operations to apprehend remaining LRA combatants."

The aircraft would be based in Uganda but will be used in LRA-affected areas of the Central African Republic, Congo and South Sudan to support the African Union’s regional task force, she said.

"The deployment of these aircraft and personnel does not signify a change in the nature of the U.S. military advisory role in this effort," Hayden said. "African Union-led regional forces remain in the lead, with U.S. forces supporting and advising their efforts."

The LRA is accused by the United Nations and human rights groups of killing and mutilating innocent civilians and kidnapping thousands of children, forcing them to become soldiers and sex slaves.