Putin calls for talks; Ukraine says rebels fire on border guard vessel
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called on Ukraine to immediately start talks on a political solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Hours later, Ukraine said a border guard vessel operating in the Azov Sea was attacked by land-based forces. Pro-Russian rebels have recently opened a new offensive along the seacoast.
Putin’s comment, made to national TV network Channel 1, said Ukraine should "hold substantive, meaningful talks, not about technical issues but about the question of the political organization of society and statehood in southeast Ukraine, with the goal of safeguarding the legitimate interests of those people who live there."
Despite the use of the word "statehood," Putin did not envision sovereignty for the two separatist eastern regions that style themselves as "Novorossiya" (New Russia ), his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later, according to a Russian news report.
Putin’s comments came a day after leaders of the European Union decided to put off any new sanctions against Russia for at least a week.
Philippines says peacekeepers pull ‘greatest escape’ from Syrian rebels; 44 Fijians still held
BEIRUT (AP) -- Under cover of darkness, 40 Filipino peacekeepers escaped their besieged outpost in the Golan Heights after a seven-hour gunbattle with Syrian rebels, Philippine officials said Sunday.
The getaway, combined with the departure of another entrapped group of Filipino troops, marked a major step forward in a crisis that erupted on Thursday when Syrian rebels began targeting the peacekeeping forces. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the assaults on the international troops monitoring the Syrian-Israeli frontier, and has demanded the unconditional release of those still in captivity.
The crisis began after Syrian rebels overran the Quneitra crossing -- located on the de facto border between Syrian- and Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights -- on Wednesday. A day later, insurgents from the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front seized the Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded their Filipino colleagues, demanding they surrender.
The Filipinos, occupying two U.N. encampments, refused and fought the rebels Saturday. The first group of 35 peacekeepers was then successfully escorted out of a U.N. encampment in Breiqa by Irish and Filipino forces on board armored vehicles.
The remaining 40 peacekeepers were besieged at the second encampment, called Rwihana, by more than 100 gunmen who rammed the camp’s gates with their trucks and fired mortar rounds. The Filipinos returned fire in self-defense, Philippine military officials said.
After taking Libya’s capital, Islamist militia group now guards US Embassy and its residences
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- An Islamist-allied militia group in control of Libya’s capital now guards the U.S. Embassy and its residential compound, a commander said Sunday, as onlookers toured the abandoned homes of diplomats who fled the country more than a month ago.
An Associated Press journalist saw holes left by small-arms and rocket fire dotting the residential compound, reminders of weeks of violence between rival militias over control of Tripoli that sparked the evacuation.
The breach of a deserted U.S. diplomatic post -- including images of men earlier swimming in the compound’s algae-filled pools -- likely will reinvigorate debate in the U.S. over its role in Libya, more than three years after supporting rebels who toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It also comes just before the two-year anniversary of the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.
A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that his forces had been guarding the residential compound since last week, a day after it seized control of the capital and its international airport after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia from Zintan was in the compound before his troops took it over.
Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The AP journalist saw treadmills, weight benches and protein bars in the compound’s abandoned gym. Forks, knives and napkins set for a banquet sat on one table, while a cantina still had cornflakes, vinegar, salt and pepper sitting out.
Iraqi security forces, militiamen end 2-month Sunni militant siege of Shiite Turkmen town
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen on Sunday broke a six-week siege imposed by the Islamic State extremist group on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, as a suicide bombing killed 14 people in Anbar western province, officials said.
Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the operation started at dawn Sunday and the forces entered the town shortly after midday.
Speaking live on state TV, al-Moussawi said the forces suffered "some causalities," but did not give a specific number. He said fighting was "still ongoing to clear the surrounding villages."
Breaking the siege was a "big achievement and an important victory" he said, for all involved: the Iraqi army, elite troops, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias.
Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi said they entered the town from two directions and were distributing aid to residents.
States’ bidding war for $5B Tesla Motors battery factory like a game of high-stakes poker
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- From the start, little has been typical about Tesla Motors’ plan for a $5 billion factory to make batteries for a new generation of electric cars.
It’s not just the project’s massive scale, the cutting-edge technology, or even the bonanza of 6,500 good-paying jobs.
It’s how Tesla is deciding where to build.
Through a series of unusual plays, Tesla has five states bidding up subsidy packages to land the coveted plant. The winner is expected to offer the luxury car-maker publicly financed incentives exceeding a half-billion dollars.
Tesla signaled this would be no ordinary competition last fall, when it gathered economic development officials from seven Western states and unveiled its vision for a "gigafactory." ("Giga" refers to the large amount of power that batteries produced at the plant will store.)
Fearing Russian invasion of Alaska, U.S. in ‘50s secretly trained locals as ‘stay-behind’ agents
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fearing a Russian invasion and occupation of Alaska, the U.S.government in the early Cold War years recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military, newly declassified Air Force and FBI documents show.
Invasion of Alaska? Yes. It seemed like a real possibility in 1950.
"The military believes that it would be an airborne invasion involving bombing and the dropping of paratroopers," one FBI memo said. The most likely targets were thought to be Nome, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Seward.
So FBI director J. Edgar Hoover teamed up on a highly classified project, code-named "Washtub," with the newly created Air Force Office of Special Investigations, headed by Hoover protege and former FBI official Joseph F. Carroll.
The secret plan was to have citizen-agents in key locations in Alaska ready to hide from the invaders of what was then only a U.S. territory. The citizen-agents would find their way to survival caches of food, cold-weather gear, message-coding material and radios. In hiding they would transmit word of enemy movements.
Data center companies are finding Cleveland fertile ground for growing their server farms
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Northeast Ohio is hardly ready to usurp Silicon Valley as a high-tech mecca, but a growing number of data centers are choosing to locate in and around Cleveland to take advantage of cheap power, an abundance of fiber-optic cable and one of the safest environments in the country for storing digital information.
BYTEGRID, which got its start in northern Virginia, is investing millions to convert a small data center near downtown Cleveland into a large one capable of using enough electricity to power around 20,000 homes. At least one other company is looking for a site in Cleveland, and several more have established sites in the city and its suburbs.
"One of the things that is attracting data centers to Cleveland is we have a lot of industries with a lot of data," said Tracey Nichols, director of city’s Department of Economic Development.
Data centers do not create large numbers of jobs directly, Nichols said, but their existence is a big attraction to companies that use massive amounts of data. Hospitals and medical research centers such as the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, for example, are prime customers for data centers. Nichols hopes these data centers will help grow the city’s fledgling health tech corridor. Information technology companies like Rosetta and Brandmuscle have come to Cleveland, in part, because of its high-speed, fiber-optic data and Internet connections, Nichols and others said.
"We have a very robust fiber trunk that runs through Cleveland, which means excellent connectivity," Nichols said.
Joan Rivers’ daughter: ‘We are keeping our fingers crossed’ about comedian’s recovery
NEW YORK (AP) -- Joan Rivers’ loved ones said Sunday that they remain hopeful about her recovery three days after she went into cardiac arrest at a doctor’s office.
"We are keeping our fingers crossed," her daughter, Melissa Rivers, said in a statement, thanking people who have expressed support for the 81-year-old comedian. Rivers on Friday described her mother’s condition as serious.
Joan Rivers was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital on Thursday, a day after she spoke at an employee event at Time Inc. in New York. Spectators there said she had appeared to be well.
Rivers is the host of "Fashion Police" on E! and presides over an online talk show, "In Bed With Joan." She also co-stars with her daughter on the WEtv reality show "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?"
Two of her "Fashion Police" co-stars tweeted their well-wishes to Joan Rivers and her family Saturday.
Beijing rules out open nominations for Hong Kong’s 1st election, setting stage for showdown
BEIJING (AP) -- China’s legislature on Sunday ruled out allowing open nominations in the inaugural election for Hong Kong’s leader, saying they would create a "chaotic society." Democracy activists in the Asian financial hub responded by saying that a long-threatened mass occupation of the heart of the city "will definitely happen."
In setting tight limits on how far electoral reforms can go in Hong Kong, Beijing issued its firmest reminder yet that it’s still in charge despite the substantial autonomy it promised the city after taking control from Britain in 1997.
The guidelines laid down by China’s communist leaders ratchet up the potential for a showdown pitting Beijing against Hong Kong democracy supporters, a group that represents a broad swath of society, including students, religious leaders and financial workers.
The decision by the legislature’s powerful Standing Committee sharpens fears that China wants to screen candidates for loyalty to the central government and is reneging on its promise to let Hong Kong’s leader be directly elected by voters, rather than the current committee of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons.
"At this very moment, the path of dialogue has been exhausted," said Benny Tai, a leader of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace protest movement, which has vowed to rally at least 10,000 people to paralyze Hong Kong’s financial district -- known as Central -- to press demands for genuine democracy.