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Ukraine's Crimean peninsula declared itself an independent nation on Monday, a day after its residents voted overwhelmingly to secede and join Russia, while U.S. and EU diplomats discussed sanctions against Moscow for backing the referendum.
The United States, the European Union and Ukraine's new government refused to recognize the Crimean referendum, saying it violates Ukrainian and international norms. Moscow, however, considers the vote legitimate. Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to address both houses of parliament Tuesday on the issue.
The Crimean parliament declared that all Ukrainian state property in the region — a strategically located peninsula on the Black Sea — will be nationalized and become the property of the Crimean Republic. Lawmakers also asked the United Nations to recognize it, and they began work on setting up a central bank with money from Russia.
US President Barack Obama on Monday underlined Washington's commitment to working with its European allies to resolve the Ukraine crisis. He also warned that Russia could face further isolation following the Crimean referendum.
Obama said he was prepared to impose tougher sanctions on Russia over its alleged incursion into Ukraine's Crimea region.
"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," said Obama.
"We'll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world."
Obama underlined the US' commitment to NATO allies, saying Vice President Joe Biden was on his way to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
"As NATO allies, we have a solemn commitment to collective defense," he added.
The EU has imposed new sanctions to prevent Vladimir Putin from further escalating the crisis in Ukraine. Berlin has played a leading role in the punitive actions, despite protests from the German business community. There's no turning back for Merkel.
Some of the guests attending a ball organized by German companies high above the rooftops of Moscow brought along machine guns and pistols. It was a James Bond-themed evening and the weapons in question were, of course, toys. The party also featured a scantily clad woman slithering in a giant martini glass.
With champagne and cigars, the owners of mid-sized companies toasted the dazzling profits they earn in Russia. At the time, everything all was still rosy in the world of German-Russian business relations. The event took place two Saturdays ago.
When Holger Apfel showed up at the Saxony state parliament with a "parliamentary delegation" from Ukraine last May, few had even heard of a party called Svoboda. Apfel, who was head of the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) at the time, proudly showed his guests -- Ukrainian parliamentarian Mikhail Golovko and two municipal politicians from the Ukrainian city of Ternopol -- around the parliament building in Dresden.
Speaking to other NPD parliamentarians, Apfel called the nationalist Svoboda party "one of the most important European right-wing parties."
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed a decree late Monday night formally recognizing Ukraine’s Crimea region as a “sovereign and independent state,” defying the United States and Europe just hours after they imposed their first financial sanctions since the crisis began and laying the groundwork for possible annexation.
Mr. Putin’s decree came after the breakaway republic formally declared its independence and asked Russia to annex it in keeping with the results of a referendum conducted Sunday under the watch of Russian troops. The Kremlin announced that Mr. Putin would address both houses of the Russian Parliament on Tuesday, when many expect him to endorse annexation.
The moves showed that Moscow had no intention of backing down in the face of Western sanctions over a dispute that has created a profound rift in East-West relations and threatens the security of borders created after the Soviet Union’s breakup in the early 1990s.
WASHINGTON — Democrats and the Republican-friendly Koch brothers are locked in a vicious, multi-million-dollar slugfest whose battlegrounds extend from the floor of the U.S. Senate to the airwaves in several states that are key to this year’s congressional elections.
The big prize is control of the Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats next fall to win a majority. Particularly vulnerable are seven Democratic-held seats in states that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won: North Carolina, Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana.
Democrats have decided that trying to discredit the efforts of Wichita, Kan.-based billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch (pronounced “coke”) is good politics, and they’ve been unusually aggressive in trying to tar them _ but not always accurate.
Neither have the ads against Democrats engineered by Koch-backed groups been completely accurate.
It is a demographic milestone signalling the changing face of America: this month, Latinos will overtake whites to become California’s largest racial/ethnic group.
They will officially make up 39% of the country’s most populous state, edging past the 38.8% who are white non-Hispanic, and dwarfing the Asian American and African American communities.
Demographic ascendance is producing a fast growing ethnic voting bloc nationwide. The Latino electorate, which cast ballots in record numbers in the 2012 presidential election, is expected to double within a generation. “An awakened giant”, declared the Pew Research Center.
So why, then, are Latinos taking a political hammering? Immigration reform, a priority for the community, is flatlining in Washington. Meanwhile the number of people deported under President Barack Obama is set to reach two million next month, far outstripping deportations during the Bush administration.
The world’s biggest St Patrick’s Day parade went ahead in New York on Monday, under the shadow of a gay rights controversy, without the blessing of the city’s mayor and shorn of its most prominent commercial sponsors.
Guinness became the latest and most prominent company to withdraw its support, less than 24 hours before the parade was due to begin, because the parade’s organisers refused to allow LGBT marchers to identify their sexuality.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, held the traditional St Patrick’s Day breakfast at his official residence, Gracie Mansion, with the prime minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny. But he declined to join the parade.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined Fifth Avenue in New York to watch the parade of kilted Irish-Americans and bagpipers, but observers estimated that the crowd was only about half the size as in previous years.
A similar controversy in Boston led to its mayor, Marty Walsh, sitting out the parade after failing to negotiate a compromise between organisers and gay groups, including war veterans, who wanted to take part.
A pre-dawn earthquake rolled across the Los Angeles basin on Monday, rattling residents from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach.
The quake’s magnitude was 4.4 and it was centered 15 miles west-northwest of the downtown civic center, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Los Angeles police and fire officials said there were no immediate reports of damage.
“It felt like a bomb going off underneath our house,” said George McQuade, a West Hills, California resident. “Nothing was damaged, but it sure woke everyone up. It was an eye-opener.”
The 6.25am quake occurred at a depth of about 5 miles.
The epicenter was 6 miles from Beverly Hills, 7 miles from Universal City and 7 miles from Santa Monica, the USGS said.
The math is clear: College pays off.
Among Americans ages 25 to 32, college graduates earned $17,500 more than high school graduates in 2012 — the largest pay differential ever, according to Pew Research. When it comes to earnings, "the picture is consistently bleaker for less-educated workers," the Pew study concluded.
But even as the value of a college diploma has been rising, the cost of tuition has been increasing even faster — far beyond the reach of most young people. The cost of four years of tuition, room, board, books and fees can stretch up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the pace of increase has accelerated throughout the recession and slow recovery.
Westboro Baptist Church founder Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. is in hospice care and near death, according to family and church members say. His estranged son says the longtime pastor's passing would put his followers in a crisis, because the church's members "think that death is a judgment from God."
"So far, that illusion has held because none of them has passed," Nathan Phelps continues in an interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal.
The church's members are convinced they will be taken up by Jesus Christ, he tells the newspaper. "They're clear about that, that they're not going to feel the sting of death," he says.
Phelps says if that belief isn't borne out, the church's members will likely see it as a test of their faith. He predicted that some would find a "palatable justification" to continue on with Westboro Baptist.
General Motors Co announced new recalls of 1.5 million vehicles on Monday and in a virtually unprecedented public admission by a GM chief executive, Mary Barra acknowledged the company fell short in catching faulty ignition switches linked to 12 deaths.
"Something went wrong with our process in this instance, and terrible things happened," she told employees in a video message posted online. Barra said the company is changing how it handles defect investigations and recalls.
In the last two months, GM has recalled more than 3.1 million vehicles in the United States and other markets. The actions started with last month's recall of more than 1.6 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches. The latest recalls cover airbag wiring harnesses, brake parts and other components across several models.
A California man who prosecutors say was on his way to Syria to join an al Qaeda splinter group was arrested on Monday near the U.S.-Canada border in Washington state on a terrorism charge, federal officials said.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that 20-year-old Nicholas Teausant, an American-born convert to Islam, had planned to cross into Canada and travel on to Syria to join Islamist militants.
A criminal complaint outlining the accusations against Teausant said he wanted to join an al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which it said was also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"My designs have me staying there and being on every news station in the world," the criminal complaint quoted Teausant as telling an FBI informant last month.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day, time for my annual ritual of ethnic angst and ambivalence. I grew up proud to be Irish American, since I was raised to think of us as underdogs and freedom fighters; as an adult, it’s hard to see so many of my people have become overdogs (or overdog defenders) and freedom squelchers. I like the way Malachy McCourt puts it: “My attitude is, St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland and they all came here and they became conservatives.” So today, while I have cousins I love marching down Fifth Avenue in the parade, I support Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to stay away as long as parade organizers continue to exclude LGBT groups from marching.
US President Barack Obama has told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas he must take risks to forge peace with Israel. The two held talks in the White House on US-brokered Middle East peace negotiations.
Obama on Monday said Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must be prepared to make difficult political decisions and take "risks" in order for peace talks, which resumed in July of last year, to move forward.
"We remain convinced there is an opportunity," Obama told reporters after the meeting.
He said he hoped progress would be made in reaching a "framework" deal in the coming weeks that would extend the US-led talks beyond the current April deadline.
Sitting beside Obama at the Oval Office, Abbas warned that with the deadline approaching time "is not on our side."
He urged Netanyahu to push ahead with the planned release of a final group of Palestinian prisioners to illustrate his committment to negotiations.
Delegates from Nigeria's many religious, ethnic and linguistic groups are meeting for a conference in Abuja to discuss the country's future. The plight of the internally displaced is a reminder of unresolved tensions.
Nigerians living in the north east of their country live in constant fear of attacks by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram. Many have therefore fled to neighboring countries or neighboring Nigerian states.
Laraba Ahmed Karwu works for the State Emergency Management Service (SEMA) in Gombe state. She is sitting in a comfortable stool watching a film on a laptop. A generator could he heard running outside.
Karwu is responsible for displaced persons in Gombe state, but she doesn't appear to be very busy.
Al Jazeera America
U.S. Navy SEALs have boarded and taken control of an oil tanker that sailed out of a Libyan port earlier this month with armed men at the helm, the Pentagon said.
Libyan anti-government fighters, who are calling for a greater share of oil wealth and autonomy, managed to load crude oil onto the 37,000-ton tanker, embarrassing the weak central government and prompting parliament to vote Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan out of office last week.
No one was hurt in the SEALs' boarding operation, which was approved by U.S. President Barack Obama, requested by the Libyan and Cypriot governments and conducted late Sunday in international waters southeast of Cyprus, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
"The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained" from the Libyan port of al-Sidra, Kirby’s statement said.
The Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the North Korean–flagged vessel is heading west in the Mediterranean with a U.S. military escort. It was about 18 miles southwest of Cyprus when the operation occurred around midnight Cyprus time.
The last spoken communication from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane came from the flight's co-pilot, investigators believe.
But in their Monday briefing, Malaysian officials appeared to backtrack on Sunday's statement that the words "All right, goodnight" came after a communications system was turned off.
Hishammuddin Hussein, transport minister, said the first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, was believed to have uttered the last words to Malaysian air traffic controllers at 1.19am – two minutes before the plane's transponder, which communicates with the civil radar system, stopped.
The minister said the last aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (Acars) transmission was at 1.07am, but added: "We do not know when it was switched off after that. It was supposed to transmit 30 minutes from then, but that [subsequent] transmission never came through."
It is unclear why investigators appear so certain that the two communications systems were disabled deliberately, rather than malfunctioning. Attention has focused on the crew – particularly the pilots – because of the difficulty of shutting off the systems and because of the way the plane navigated subsequently.
It is also unclear at what point others on board became aware of the plane's diversion.
(Reuters) - Makassar is a scrappy, traffic-choked port city in South Sulawesi where everybody knows your name. If, that is, your name is Limpo.
The family of Syahrul Yasin Limpo, the second-term governor of this resource-rich Indonesian province, has dominated local politics for three generations, and a fourth waits in the wings. Eight of Limpo's close relatives will run in the country's parliamentary elections on April 9: two sisters, one brother, two brothers-in-law, two nephews and a daughter.
It all adds up to a formidable dynasty in a country where political families are both increasingly common and dogged by allegations of corruption, neglect and misrule.
In December, Indonesia's anti-graft agency, known by its Indonesian initials KPK, arrested Ratu Atut Chosiyah, 51, the matriarch of a wealthy clan with a stranglehold over politics and business in Banten, an impoverished province west of the capital Jakarta.
L’Wren Scott, the designer, former model and partner of Sir Mick Jagger, was found dead at her home in New York on Monday morning in an apparent suicide.
A spokesman for Jagger told the Guardian in an email that the singer, who had just arrived in Australia on tour, was “completely shocked and devastated by the news”.
New York police sources said that Scott, 49, was found by her assistant at her apartment on 11th Avenue in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood at about 10am.
An NYPD spokesman confirmed in a statement that “officers discovered a 49-year-old female unconscious and unresponsive” and that she was declared dead at the scene. Scott is believed to have been found hanged. “The investigation is ongoing and the medical examiner will determine the cause of death,” said the police spokesman.
The co-pilot of a missing Malaysian jetliner spoke the last words heard from the cockpit, the airline's chief executive said, as investigators consider suicide by the captain or first officer as one possible explanation for the disappearance.
No trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard. Investigators are increasingly convinced it was diverted perhaps thousands of miles off course by someone with deep knowledge of the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial navigation.
A search of unprecedented scale involving 26 countries is under way, covering an area stretching from the shores of the Caspian Sea in the north to deep in the southern Indian Ocean.
Researchers say they've discovered that gravitational waves rippled through the fabric of space-time in the first sliver of a second after the Big Bang — the first direct evidence for a mysterious, ultrarapid expansion at the dawn of the universe. If confirmed, it would represent one of the most profound insights in decades to emerge from the field of cosmology.
Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used an experiment known as Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization — BICEP2 — which involves a telescope based at the South Pole, to detect waves in the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background at just 10-35 of a second after the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago.
How small a moment is that? For the 13.7 blog, astrophysicist Adam Frank defines it as "a decimal point with 34 zeros after it, which looks like this: T = 0.00000000000000000000000000000000001 second."
In less than a year, Google has bought more than a half-dozen robotics companies, setting the industry abuzz. But when I ask Google what it's up to with all these robots, the company won't say a thing.
"They are very careful — they haven't disclosed what they are doing," says Richard Mahoney, the director of the robotics program at SRI International, a nonprofit technology accelerator in Menlo Park, Calif. Mahoney also served on the board of Redwood Robotics, one of the companies Google bought.
"If I had information that wasn't proprietary, I would share it," he says. "But right now they are being pretty careful about what they are telling people."
Mahoney, like dozens of others in the industry, had to sign a nondisclosure agreement to do business with Google. As I poke around, talking to folks even at companies that hadn't been bought by Google, these nondisclosure agreements keep popping up.
We're already giving voice instructions to virtual personal assistants, like Apple's Siri. But artificial intelligence is getting even smarter. The next wave of behavior-changing computing is a technology called anticipatory computing — systems that learn to predict what you need, even before you ask.
Google Now, which is available on tablets and mobile devices, is an early form of this. You can ask it a question like, "Where is the White House?" and get a spoken-word answer. Then, Google Now recognizes any follow-up questions, like "How far is it from here?" as a human would — the system realizes you're still asking about the White House, even without you mentioning the search term again. It's an example of how anticipatory computing is moving the way we interact with devices from tapping or typing to predictive voice control.
VANCOUVER -- A change that Apple imposed to make iOS 7 more secure instead has dramatically weakened the security of devices running that mobile operating system, a security researcher has charged.
At the CanSecWest conference here last week, Azimuth Security researcher Tarjei Mandt said that Apple made a major mistake when it changed its random-number generator to make its kernel encryption tougher in iOS 7. The kernel is the most basic level of an operating system and controls things like security, file management, and resource allocation.
"In terms of security, it's much worse than iOS 6," Mandt said. Soon after his presentation Wednesday in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Wall Centre, he published his presentation slides (PDF) and supporting whitepaper (PDF) as evidence.
It looks like Microsoft's new CEO himself may be taking the wraps off Microsoft's Office for iPad.
Microsoft has scheduled a March 27 press briefing in San Francisco with news "focused on the intersection of cloud and mobile computing." Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will be providing the opening remarks.
According to several sources of mine, Microsoft's latest timetable calls for the company to finally introduce the long-rumored Microsoft Office for iPad suite of applications before the end of March 2014. This March 27 event sounds like it might be the time and place.
The suite for the iPad is rumored to include only Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and possibly no other Office client apps. It is expected to be downloaded from the Apple Store but most likely to require a Microsoft Office 365 subscription, similar to the way Office Mobile for iPhone works.
If you were never able to solve a Rubik's Cube without peeling off the stickers or prying it apart with a butter knife, you're really going to hate this robot.
Cubestormer 3, a robot built with Legos and powered by a smartphone, shattered its predecessor's record over the weekend, solving the iconic '80s puzzle in just over 3.5 seconds.
The lightning-quick feat, pulled off Saturday at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, UK, shaved nearly two seconds off the former Guinness-recognized world record of 5.27 seconds, accomplished by the same team's Cubestormer 2. That mark narrowly bested the best human time of 5.5 seconds, set by Mats Valk of the Netherlands last year.
"We knew Cubestormer 3 had the potential to beat the existing record, but with the robot performing physical operations quicker than the human eye can see, there's always an element of risk," said David Gilday, who built the robots along with co-inventor Mike Dobson.