Boko Haram leader vows abducted Nigerian girls will not be seen again until fighters are freed

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Under the guns of their captors, dozens of barefoot girls sat huddled together wearing gray Muslim veils as they chanted Quranic verses in Arabic. Some Christians among them said they had converted to Islam.

"I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured," the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist network threatened, an assault rifle slung across his chest.

A video released by the group Monday offered the first public glimpse of what it claimed were some of the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped a month ago. The girls’ plight has spurred a global movement to secure their freedom.

It is not known how many suspected Boko Haram members are detained by security forces. Hundreds were killed last month when leader Abubakar Shekau’s fighters stormed the military’s main northeastern barracks in Maiduguri, the terror group’s birthplace and the headquarters of a year-old military state of emergency to put down the 5-year-old Islamic uprising.

In the video, two of the girls were singled out for questioning.

Insurgents in eastern Ukraine declare independence; Kremlin urges Kiev to hold talks

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern Ukraine declared independence Monday and sought to join Russia, undermining upcoming presidential elections, strengthening the Kremlin’s hand and putting pressure on Kiev to hold talks with the separatists following a referendum on self-rule.


Advertisement

Russia signaled it has no intention of subsuming eastern Ukraine the way it annexed Crimea in March. Instead, Moscow is pushing to include eastern regions in negotiations on Ukraine’s future -- suggesting that Russia prefers a political rather than a military solution to its worst standoff with the West since the Cold War.

Such talks are central to a potential path toward peace outlined Monday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The plan laid out by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter calls on all sides to refrain from violence and urges immediate amnesty, talks on decentralization and the status of the Russian language. That’s a key complaint of insurgents who have seized power in eastern regions and clashed with government troops and police.

But it’s up to the Ukrainian government to take the next step.

Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk pledged to hold a dialogue with Ukraine’s east. But he gave no specifics and stopped short of addressing Sunday’s referendum and the declarations of independence in the pro-Moscow regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Snow in Rockies but Western drought continues with hot winds in California, wildfire in Texas

DENVER (AP) -- A powerful spring storm that dumped more than 3 feet of snow in some parts of the Rockies closed a major national trucking route for more than 24 hours, snapped power lines and drew skiers to the slopes of Colorado’s only remaining open ski area. Just to the south, some Arizona communities are rationing water because of drought, and to the west, drought-parched California is bracing for another week of hot weather that could fuel more wildfires. Welcome to springtime in the West, where May snowstorms are coinciding with the start to the region’s wildfire season -- and doing little to alleviate the overall regional drought.

SNOW: Spring is normally the wettest time of year in the Rockies. While snowfall is common in the mountains in May, significant snowfall at lower elevations like Denver in May only occurs every five or 10 years, Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken said. Denver got between 4 and 7 inches of typical heavy, wet spring snow. While much of it didn’t stick to the warm ground, it weighed down trees just sprouting spring leaves and led gardeners to cover flowers and plants with plastic sheets and buckets. A freeze is expected to follow before warmer weather returns Tuesday.

TRAVEL: The storm shut down Interstate 80 through southern Wyoming and into Nebraska for more than 24 hours. Some drivers abandoned their vehicles while stranded truckers filled up rest area parking lots along the highway, which averages more than 6,000 trucks per day. Snowy conditions appear to have contributed to at least one fatal crash southwest of Denver. The snow caused minimal problems at Denver International Airport, canceling about 60 of its 1,600 daily flights and delaying both arrivals and departures in the morning. The airport also briefly lost power, stalling some escalators and elevators. Airport spokeswoman Julie Smith said a backup generator spared the airport any major problems.

DROUGHT: Much of the West remains in some stage of drought, with the worst conditions in Southern California and the Southern Plains and Texas Panhandle. Gusty Santa Ana winds are raising the fire danger in California, where temperatures are expected to top 100 degrees in drought-stricken inland areas this week. A wildfire on Sunday on the Panhandle’s dry, dusty plains destroyed 75 homes in a mobile home community. Conditions vary greatly within states. While Colorado’s overall amount of snow in the mountains -- the state’s main water supply -- is close to average this year, the snowpack in its southwestern corner is way below normal and severe drought continues to afflict farms and ranches in the southeast. Fire officials are predicting a normal wildfire season for Colorado, which would be an improvement over recent years in which blazes have destroyed hundreds of houses.

SKIING: After lots of snow in March and April, many Colorado ski resorts added extra days of skiing but only one resort is still open. After getting 17 inches of new snow in the last three days, Arapahoe Basin says conditions are better than they were in February. Spokeswoman Leigh Hierholzer said about 2,000 people were on the slopes, apparently undeterred by slippery roads or the start of the work week.

Immigrants’ rising interest in self-employment spurs growth in micro-business training

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- After immigrating to Oregon from the Mexican state of Oaxaca more than two decades ago, Paula Asuncion worked on farms and in minimum wage jobs at fast-food restaurants -- a widow struggling to feed six children, sharing cramped apartments with other families.

Her prospects changed two years ago after she joined a program that helps immigrants open small culinary businesses. After training with the microbusiness incubator at Portland nonprofit Hacienda CDC, Asuncion now runs a catering service, employs other immigrants, and has bought a home for her family.

Asuncion’s story is not uncommon. Experts say the economic downturn brought new interest in self-employment from people having a difficult time finding well-paying jobs, and that has spurred significant growth in microbusiness development programs that teach skills such as business plan writing, marketing and accounting.

Interest in opening a business is especially high among immigrants and refugees. Many have low incomes and less access to employment opportunities than the general population because they have limited English language skills, lack reliable transportation or an American diploma, and are still learning how American society works.

Many of them see self-employment as a shot at the "American dream."

Confab at Ga. resort highlights common practice: Closed-door meetings of many powerful elite

ATLANTA (AP) -- For a few days in March, the American Enterprise Institute welcomed scores of business and political leaders to a private annual meeting at a resort on the Georgia coast. But only those who attended know what issues were discussed, strategy planned or promises made.

That’s because the ground rules for the invitation-only meeting required the participants’ confidentiality -- even if some were elected leaders, discussing the public’s business.

An impressive array of power attended the conservative think tank’s World Forum 2014, according to a printed program first disclosed in late April by the Center for Public Integrity: House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican congressional leaders; potential 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Apple CEO Tim Cook; beer magnate Pete Coors; TD Ameritrade founder-turned-billionaire-conservative activist Joe Ricketts; and executives from multiple venture-capital firms.

Similar events occur across the political spectrum giving powerful people with deep pockets face-to-face exchanges with national and state leaders that the average American cannot match.

Last month, a group of liberals held closed sessions in Chicago under the banner of Democracy Alliance to talk political strategy for progressive causes. Conservatives complained that the gathering included top environmentalists like billionaire Tom Steyer, though a spokeswoman for Steyer told The Associated Press he did not attend.

With pending Beats buy, Apple CEO Tim Cook makes break from managerial style of Steve Jobs

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- "Think different" became Apple’s creed during the late Steve Jobs’ reign as CEO. Now, chief executive Tim Cook is embracing the idea while making decisions that would have seemed crazy to his fabled predecessor.

Apple’s pending purchase of headphone maker and streaming music company Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion is just the latest example of Cook’s deviation from Jobs, who had so much confidence in his company’s innovative powers that he saw little sense in spending large amounts of money on acquisitions.

Cook became chief executive in late August 2011, roughly six weeks before Jobs died. But in a number of ways, he is just beginning to put his own imprint on Apple. Cook is straying from Jobs’ cash-hoarding habits by committing to return $130 billion to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks. He has orchestrated a company stock split and agreed to match employees’ charitable contributions up to $10,000 annually.

Under Cook’s leadership, Apple also has displayed more social responsibility by working to improve labor conditions in the overseas factories that assemble its devices and taking steps to reduce pollution caused by its data centers and gadgets.

The shift in management philosophy has resulted in an odd twist: Apple Inc.’s pace of innovation has slowed and it now looks more like a conventional company than the corporate rebel Jobs tried to cultivate. Instead of releasing revolutionary gadgets such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple has been mostly upgrading existing products and figuring out ways to manage its bulging bank account since Cook took over. Gay couples flood Little Rock courthouse for marriage licenses; attorney general seeks stay

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Dozens of gay couples, some of whom waited in line overnight, received licenses to marry from county clerks Monday, while lawyers for the state of Arkansas asked its highest court to suspend an order gutting a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

"When we heard the news in Arkansas, we had to jump in the car to get here," 51-year-old Shelly Butler of Dallas said shortly before receiving the first license in Little Rock, the state’s largest city. Butler met her partner, 48-year-old Susan Barr, at Southern Arkansas University in 1985. They arrived at the courthouse at 6:30 a.m. and were allowed to go to the front of the line because Butler has muscular dystrophy and is in a wheelchair.

"I am just in shock, I think. You go from being so private and hidden to such a public display of commitment. It’s just so nice," Barr said.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza tossed out Arkansas’ gay marriage ban after business hours Friday, setting up Monday’s run on courthouses in Little Rock and Fayetteville as same-sex marriage arrived in the Bible Belt. As he arrived at work Monday, Piazza walked up to a colleague performing same-sex weddings in the courthouse rotunda and shook his hand. Piazza declined to talk to reporters.

"I have already spoken my opinion," Piazza said.

NC entrepreneur in close primary with ‘Idol’ singer Clay Aiken dies at home in possible fall

ASHEBORO, N.C. (AP) -- The North Carolina entrepreneur who was locked in a too-close-to-call Democratic Party primary with former "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken died Monday, said the president of the textile company he founded.

Keith Crisco, 71, died from "some type of fall" at his home, according to Robert Lawson, president of AEC Narrow Fabrics.

Crisco’s sons, who work for the company, told Lawson about their dad’s death.

It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen in the Democratic primary. Fewer than 400 votes separated Crisco and Aiken, who was leading, after the contest last Tuesday. The spokesman and the executive director of the State Board of Elections did not return messages.

The winner will face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in November in the GOP-leaning 2nd Congressional District.