Deal reached to calm Ukraine -- for now; Obama, Kerry say Russian follow-up action is urgent
GENEVA (AP) -- In a surprise accord, Ukraine and Russia agreed Thursday on tentative steps to halt violence and calm tensions along their shared border after more than a month of Cold War-style military posturing triggered by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
Russia’s pledge to refrain from further provocative actions drew support but also a measure of skepticism from President Barack Obama, who said at a news conference at the White House that the United States and its allies were prepared to ratchet up sanctions if Moscow doesn’t fulfill its commitments.
"I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point," Obama said after Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and diplomats from Ukraine and Europe sealed their agreement after hours of talks in Geneva.
The abruptly announced agreement, brokered by the West, provides no long-term guide for Ukraine’s future nor any guarantee that the crisis in eastern Ukraine will abate. But it eases international pressure both on Moscow and nervous European Union nations that depend on Russia for their energy.
Reached after seven hours of negotiations, the deal requires all sides to refrain from violence, intimidation or provocative actions. It calls for disarming all illegally armed groups and returning to Ukrainian authorities control of buildings seized by pro-Russian separatists during protests.
Officers of sinking South Korean ferry didn’t order immediate evacuation
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) -- There was chaos and confusion on the bridge of a sinking ferry, with the captain first trying to stabilize the listing vessel before ordering its evacuation, a crewman said Thursday.
By the time the order came, however, he said it had become impossible to help many of the passengers -- although the captain and a dozen crew members survived.
The confirmed death toll from Wednesday’s sinking of the Sawol off southern South Korea was 25, the coast guard said. But the number was expected to rise with about 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a class trip. Officials said there were 179 survivors.
Divers worked in shifts to try to get into the sunken vessel, but strong currents would not allow them to enter, said coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in. The divers planned to pump oxygen into the ship to help any survivors, but first they had to get inside, he added.
The water temperature in the area was about 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit), cold enough to cause signs of hypothermia after about 90 minutes of exposure.
Chelsea Clinton announces she’s expecting 1st child later this year
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Call it the year of the baby: Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are expecting their first child later this year.
The 34-year-old daughter of former President Bill Clinton and ex-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement Thursday at the end of a Clinton Foundation event in New York on empowering girls.
Joined on stage by her mother, Chelsea Clinton said she feels "all the better whether it’s a girl or a boy that she or he will grow up in a world with so many strong female leaders."
"I just hope I will be as good a mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me," the former first daughter said.
The former first lady, secretary of state and New York senator, who is considering another presidential campaign in 2016, said she was "really excited" about becoming a grandmother.
NASA telescope discovers most Earth-like planet yet outside our solar system
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected -- a distant, rocky world that’s similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it’s not too hot and not too cold for life.
The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.
"This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock solid," University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy, who had no role in the discovery, said in an email.
The planet was detected by NASA’s orbiting Kepler telescope, which studies the heavens for subtle changes in brightness that indicate an orbiting planet is crossing in front of a star. From those changes, scientists can calculate a planet’s size and make certain inferences about its makeup.
The newfound object, dubbed Kepler-186f, circles a red dwarf star 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. A light-year is almost 6 trillion miles.
Colombian Nobel laureate who helped define Latin America, dies at 87
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez crafted intoxicating fiction from the fatalism, fantasy, cruelty and heroics of the world that set his mind churning as a child growing up on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
One of the most revered and influential writers of his generation, he brought Latin America’s charm and maddening contradictions to life in the minds of millions and became the best-known practitioner of "magical realism," a blending of fantastic elements into portrayals of daily life that made the extraordinary seem almost routine.
In his works, clouds of yellow butterflies precede a forbidden lover’s arrival. A heroic liberator of nations dies alone, destitute and far from home. "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," as one of his short stories is called, is spotted in a muddy courtyard.
Garcia Marquez’s own epic story ended Thursday, at age 87, with his death at his home in southern Mexico City, according to two people close to the family who spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for the family’s privacy.
Known to millions simply as "Gabo," Garcia Marquez was widely seen as the Spanish language’s most popular writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century. His extraordinary literary celebrity spawned comparisons with Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.
has helped guitarists make memorable music for 60 years
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Jimi Hendrix made it shriek. Buddy Holly made it swing. Stevie Ray Vaughn made it snarl.
Some of the most legendary guitarists in music history have elicited unforgettable sounds from the Fender Stratocaster, the distinctive double-cutaway guitar born in a small Fullerton, Calif., workshop 60 years ago this month.
It’s far from a musical relic: It remains an essential tool for some of today’s top guitarists. Vince Gill relies on it so much he calls it an "extension of my hands," while blues virtuoso Robert Cray calls it a workhorse.
As shredder Yngwie Malmsteen put it: "There is no substitute."
As this iconic guitar celebrates its 60th anniversary in April, The Associated Press takes a visual journey into the creation of the iconic guitars, and explores why it’s still a fixture on concert stages today.
Dirty creek, well-preserved purse help solve 43-year-old mystery of missing South Dakota teens
ELK POINT, S.D. (AP) -- Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson had planned to celebrate the end of the 1971 school year by gathering with classmates at a quarry along a gravel road.
But the 17-year-old girls weren’t known for frequenting parties, so when they didn’t show up, other teens just assumed they had changed plans, perhaps to avoid any underage drinking or pot smoking.
It soon became clear that the well-liked pair from the farming town of Alcester, S.D., had vanished in their Studebaker. Now the 43-year-old mystery of their disappearance has been solved, largely by the ebb and flow of a dirty creek and the contents of a well-preserved purse, which indicate the girls probably died after their car plunged into a creek.
"This has really been a tragedy for two families, a tragedy for a class, as well as all of South Dakota, to some degree," state Attorney General Marty Jackley said this week.
The questions began on the evening of May 19, 1971. After visiting Miller’s ailing grandmother at a hospital, the girls met up with some boys at a church parking lot and started to follow them to the quarry. Miller drove the beige 1960 Studebaker Lark that had belonged to her grandmother, who died shortly after she disappeared. Jackson was in the passenger’s seat.
Peaceful pro-unity rallies in eastern Ukraine after earlier attack on military base kills 3
MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- Thousands gathered for peaceful demonstrations Thursday in at least four eastern cities to denounce Russia for its perceived meddling in Ukrainian affairs, a day after the most lethal clash so far killed three pro-Russian activists.
Political developments in eastern Ukraine have for weeks been dominated by a small, vocal and armed opposition to the interim government in Kiev. Thursday’s rallies, by contrast, drew crowds who listened to speeches condemning Russia and resisting the pro-Russian movement that is pushing for autonomy for eastern Ukraine.
Rallies were held in Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol and Kramatorsk, where key government buildings have been occupied by pro-Russian groups.
Parliamentary deputy Oleh Lyashko, who is running for office in the May 25 presidential election, rejected charges that Russian speakers in the east had been subject to any discrimination. He also said the armed groups active in the seizures of buildings would not prevail.
"Let those who have weapons be afraid of us, we will fight back. Let the ones who want to split up our country be afraid, because we won’t allow them to do it," Lyashko said.
Ukraine talks in Geneva leave gains for all, if agreement is implemented
MOSCOW (AP) -- The talks in Geneva on Ukraine brought together four parties that had seemed extremely far apart on some issues, but within a few hours they produced a broad agreement that holds out substantial hope for a crisis that appeared on the verge of spinning out of control.
In what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described, with seeming understatement, as "a good day’s work," Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the European Union each achieved initial satisfaction on some issues and weren’t hit by overt defeat on any. Some of that is because of what was left carefully unspoken in the joint statement at the end of Thursday’s talks. Other issues depend on whether the words can be translated into action.