Tuesday March 26, 2013

What spring? Storm dumps foot or more of snow across Midwest, carpets eastern U.S.

HAMBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Five days into spring, warm weather and budding flowers were just a rumor Monday as the East Coast endured another blast of winter.

A wide-ranging storm that buried parts of the Midwest weakened as it moved east but still managed to carpet lawns and fields in a fresh layer of white. Many schools opened late or closed early, and hundreds of flights were canceled.

The cold temperatures and miserable mixture of snow and rain had people longing for more agreeable weather.

"I’m ready for flip flops," said Jessica Cunitz, 24 of Westchester County, N.Y., who stopped at a gas station along Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania to fill her overheating car with antifreeze. "It’s supposed to be spring."

In Maryland, Michael Pugh donned a wool coat, knit cap, waterproof pants and heavy boots to trudge more than a mile through four inches of wet snow to his bank in downtown Hagerstown, about 70 miles west of Baltimore. He pronounced the weather "dreadful."

Cyprus central bank to impose capital controls when banks reopen

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- All banks in Cyprus except the two largest will reopen for business Tuesday -- more than a week after they shut down to prevent a run by customers -- now that the country has clinched a vital bailout deal.


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The central bank will impose some limits on financial transactions, the country’s president, Nicos Anastasiades said, but assured the public that restrictions would be temporary.

The decision that banks would reopen normally at 8:30 a.m. came after an eleventh-hour deal to provide Cyprus with an international bailout was clinched in the early hours of Monday in a Brussels meeting between the 17-nation eurozone’s finance ministers.

All banks across the country had been shut down since March 16 while politicians set up the plan to secure funding for the bailout, after lawmakers rejected an initial scheme that would have seized up to 10 percent of people’s accounts.

Politicians from Europe and Cyprus had been up against a tight deadline. The European Central Bank had only agreed to extend emergency funding to the country’s ailing banks until Monday unless an agreement was reached. Without a deal, the banks would have collapsed on Tuesday, dragging the country’s economy down with them and potentially pushing it out of the 17-nation eurozone.

Kerry, Karzai show rare U.S.-Afghan unity, as U.S. turns over detention center

KABUL (AP) -- Eager to overcome a bout of bickering, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a show of unusual unity between their two nations on Monday. The friendly display came as the U.S. military ceded control of its last detention facility in Afghanistan, ending a longstanding irritant in relations.

Kerry arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul on an unannounced visit amid concerns that Karzai may be jeopardizing progress in the war against extremism with anti-American rhetoric. After a private meeting, Kerry said he and Karzai were "on the same page" on security and reconciliation issues and brushed aside suggestions that relations were in peril.

Karzai infuriated U.S. officials earlier this month by accusing Washington of colluding with Taliban insurgents to keep Afghanistan weak even as the Obama administration pressed ahead with plans to hand off security responsibility to Afghan forces and end NATO’s combat mission by the end of next year.

At a joint news conference after their talks, Karzai told reporters that his comments in a nationally televised speech had been misinterpreted by the media. Kerry demurred on that point but said people sometimes say things in public that reflect ideas they have heard from others but don’t necessarily agree with.

"I am confident the president (Karzai) does not believe the U.S. has any interest except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace and that we are completely cooperative with the government of Afghanistan with respect to the protection of their efforts and their people," Kerry said. He noted that he had specifically raised the comment in question with Karzai and was satisfied with the response.

Central African Republic president flees as rebels squabble over leadership

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- The president of the Central African Republic fled the country for Cameroon after rebels overran the capital of the impoverished nation long wracked by rebellions.

South Africa said Monday that 13 of its soldiers were killed in fighting with rebels, prompting criticism about why its forces had intervened in such a volatile conflict.

Ousted President Francois Bozize sought "’temporary" refuge on its territory, the Cameroonian government confirmed Monday.

Central African Republic’s new leadership appeared fragmented, with a split emerging in the rebel coalition that seized the capital.

The African Union on Monday imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on seven leaders of the rebel coalition, known as Seleka, and said their advance had undermined prospects for a lasting solution to the crisis in the landlocked country. It urged African states to deny "any sanctuary and cooperation" to the rebel chiefs.

Italy’s highest court to decide on whether U.S. student’s murder acquittal stands

ROME (AP) -- Italy’s highest court says it will issue a decision Tuesday morning on whether to overturn American student Amanda Knox’s acquittal in the murder of her roommate.

The court heard six hours of arguments on Monday before going into deliberations. After several hours, it announced it would issue the decision Tuesday morning, an unusual but not unprecedented move.

The high court normally issues the decisions the same day it hears arguments. But prosecutor general Luigio Riello told reporters that ‘’in very complex cases, it happens" that the court takes another day.

Lawyers for Knox’s co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, declined to speculate on what the delay could mean for the decision. Both were acquitted in 2011.

Girl, 9, walks a mile
to get help after surviving car crash that killed her father

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Law enforcement officials praised the bravery and tenacity of a 9-year-old girl who crawled out of a mangled SUV at the bottom of a remote Southern California canyon and hiked nearly two miles to find help for her father, who was pinned in the driver’s seat following a rollover crash.

Celia Renteria was sure her father was still alive when she climbed up the rocky embankment early Sunday, as temperatures dipped into the 40s, said California Highway Patrol Officer Gil Hernandez. When officers responded more than an hour and a half later, they found Alejandro Renteria, 35, was dead.

"She was very courageous, being able to walk through the dark, through bushes and very rough terrain to get help for her dad," Hernandez said. "Had she just waited there, we probably would not have found her until the next day."

The 2010 Ford Escape was launched about 200 feet down into the canyon along an isolated stretch of the Sierra Highway in the high desert of northern Los Angeles County at about 1 a.m. Sunday, the CHP said. The vehicle overturned several times.

Celia managed to extricate herself and walk through rugged terrain to a nearby home, but nobody answered the door, the CHP said. Then she hiked up the embankment and along the road to a commuter rail station in nearby Acton where she flagged down a passing motorist at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

As democratic change rises in Myanmar, so does drug trade

THON MIN YAR, Myanmar (AP) -- Deep in the lawless mountains of the Golden Triangle, sloping fields of illegal poppies have just been scraped dry for opium. This is the peak season for producing drugs here, and in Myanmar’s nascent era of democratic change, the haul has only increased.

Opium, its derivative heroin and methamphetamines are surging across Myanmar’s borders in quantities that the United Nations and police in neighboring countries say are the highest levels in years.

Two years after replacing a long-ruling military junta, the civilian government is still struggling to get a foothold in its war against drugs. The trade is centered in a remote, impoverished area where the government has little control and where ethnic armies have waged civil wars for decades -- wars financed with drug money.

The Associated Press was granted rare access to Myanmar’s drug-producing hub in the vast, jungle-clad mountain region of northeastern Shan state, deep in a cease-fire zone that was closed to foreigners for decades. It’s a land dotted with makeshift methamphetamine labs and tiny, poor villages where growing opium is the only real industry. The trip was part of a U.N. mission allowed only under armed police escort.

President Thein Sein has signed cease-fire agreements with a patchwork of rebel groups in the region, but the peace is extremely fragile and sporadic fighting continues. Cracking down on drug syndicates or arresting poor opium farmers risks alienating the ethnic groups he is courting for peace talks.

Gun evidence links Colo. parolee to death of corrections chief

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Gun evidence links a Colorado parolee fatally shot in Texas with the death of Colorado’s corrections’ chief, investigators said Monday.

The El Paso County sheriff’s office said that "unique and often microscopic markings" found on shell casings in Texas and Colorado leads investigators to conclude that the gun Evan Ebel used to shoot at authorities in Texas was the same gun used to kill Tom Clements at his home on Tuesday.

It had been known that the casings found at both scenes were of the same caliber and brand but Monday’s announcement was the first time Colorado investigators made a direct link between Ebel and Clements’ death.

What remained unknown though was why Clements was killed when he answered his front door Tuesday night and whether Ebel acted alone.

"There are no answers at this time surrounding motive and gaining these answers could be a lengthy process for investigators," sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer said in statement.