AP News Briefs

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

AP News in Brief

 

Taliban release video showing handover of captured US soldier to Americans in east Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban on Wednesday released a video showing the handover of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, touting the swap of the American soldier for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo as a significant achievement for the insurgents.

The 17-minute video, emailed to media, shows the moment of Bergdahl's handover. He was freed on Saturday after five years in captivity, and exchanged for the five Guantanamo detainees who were flown to Qatar, a tiny Gulf Arab country which has served as a mediator in the negotiations for the swap.

Since his release, the 28-year-old from Hailey, Idaho, was reported to be in stable condition at a military hospital in Germany.

The Taliban video shows Bergdahl in traditional Afghan clothing, the white salwar kameez, clean-shaven and sitting in a white pickup truck parked on a hillside. More than a dozen Taliban fighters with machineguns, their faces mostly covered by headscarves, stand around the truck and on the hillside.

Bergdahl is seen blinking frequently as he looks out of the truck and appears to be listening as his captors speak to him. A Black Hawk helicopter then lands and two Taliban fighters, one carrying a white piece of cloth tied to a stick of wood, lead Bergdahl half the way toward the helicopter, a few hundred meters (yards) away.

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Analysis: Blending tea party and mainstream energies, GOP voters pick grade-A Senate nominees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican Party continues its disciplined march toward an impressive lineup of candidates this fall, when it hopes to wrest the Senate majority from Democrats and control both chambers of Congress during President Barack Obama's final two years.

Tuesday's primaries produced another batch of Senate nominees who seem about as promising as party leaders could have hoped for. There's still plenty of time for stumbles, of course. But so far, the GOP appears to be sidestepping the type of gaffe-prone and fiercely ideological candidates who blundered into excruciating losses in 2010 and 2012.

As they did Tuesday in Iowa, Republican activists have accomplished this by blurring the differences between tea party enthusiasts and the party's corporate and "country club" wings. Tea partyers are largely justified in saying they're winning the larger ideological struggle by pulling the entire party rightward. But establishment Republicans are happy to be called "nominee."

Suspenseful or not, Tuesday's results confirmed that Republicans will have top-tier nominees in South Dakota and Montana, where long-time Democratic senators are departing or have already left.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds' primary win in South Dakota puts him in a category with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who won the GOP Senate nomination last month in West Virginia. Both are well-established politicians favored to pick up Democratic-held Senate seats in states Obama lost badly. Businessman Rick Weiland was unopposed in South Dakota's Democratic Senate primary.

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Meeting with new Ukraine leader, Obama says nation can be thriving democracy with global help

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Sitting down with Ukraine's new leader, President Barack Obama said Ukraine can become a vibrant, thriving democracy if the world community stands behind it. He pledged the United States would provide new support as Ukraine's fragile government seeks a path out of crisis.

"The Ukrainian people made a wise selection in someone to lead them through this period," Obama said after meeting with President-elect Petro Poroshenko.

In tandem with Wednesday's meeting, the U.S. announced it would send Kiev an additional $5 million in equipment, as Ukraine's military continues to suffer casualties in its confrontation with pro-Russian insurgents, especially in the country's east.

More significant than the dollar amount was the nature of the new aid. The White House said for the first time, the aid would include body armor and night vision goggles — tools that could directly help Ukraine's troops as they battle separatists. Until now, the U.S. has only provided other nonlethal forms of aid like clothes, food and radios

The new batch of aid followed an announcement by Obama a day earlier that the U.S. intends to beef up its military presence in Eastern Europe. Shortly after arriving in Warsaw, Obama asked Congress for up to $1 billion to boost deployments and exercises throughout Europe in a significant departure from a two-decade trend toward a smaller U.S. presence on the continent.

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Ukraine's National Guard: 6 militants killed, 3 Ukrainian troops injured in Luhansk

LUHANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine have taken two government bases in battles around Luhansk, seizing quantities of ammunition and explosives from a border guards post and taking another installation after National Guard forces ran out of ammunition.

Officials said in a statement Wednesday that six militants were killed and three Ukrainian servicemen were injured in 10 hours of fighting overnight at the National Guard base.

Rebels seized a border guards base on the outskirts of Luhansk following nearly a nearly two-day-long siege. An Associated Press reporter saw pro-Russian militia carrying crates of ammunition and explosives out of the base Wednesday and driving away in border guards' cars.

There was no immediate report of casualties in the fighting at the border guards base.

The border guards answer directly to Ukraine's president while the National Guard is part of the country's police troops.

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Security tight in Beijing on 25th anniversary of deadly Tiananmen crackdown on protesters

BEIJING (AP) — Heavy security blanketed central Beijing on the 25th anniversary of the bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests on Wednesday, pre-empting any attempts to publicly commemorate one of the darkest chapters in recent Chinese history.

Scores of police and paramilitary troops patrolled the vast plaza in the city's heart and surrounding streets, stopping vehicles and demanding identification from passers-by.

Accompanied or otherwise monitored by police, some relatives of the crackdown's victims paid respects at cemeteries or at home, expressing frustration at being prevented from organizing public memorials.

China allows no public discussion of the events of June 3-4, 1989, when soldiers backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers fought their way into the heart of Beijing, killing hundreds of unarmed protesters and onlookers.

Yin Min, whose 19-year-old son, Ye Weihang, was killed in the crackdown, said she wept in grief as she hugged his ashes at home in the morning.

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FBI: Suspect in San Francisco explosives case had ball bearings, screws, bomb components

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal investigators said a search of a social media expert's apartment in San Francisco turned up ball bearings, screws and components needed to make a homemade bomb designed to kill or maim, according to an affidavit unsealed Tuesday.

Investigators said they found the materials inside a bag at the apartment of Ryan Kelly Chamberlain during a search over the weekend. The discovery prompted a manhunt for the 42-year-old Chamberlain that ended with his arrest Monday in San Francisco.

The bag also contained a circuit board, screw top glass jar with batteries, a wire and a powdery green substance believed to be explosive material, FBI Special Agent Michael Eldridge said in the document.

"FBI bomb technicians believe that the circuit board described above was designed to serve as a remote control, allowing detonation of the device from afar," Eldridge said. "They further believe that the device was designed to maim or kill a human being or human beings."

The FBI has not said what, if any, plans Chamberlain might have had for the device, or how they were alerted to the material.

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After exhausting playoff chases, NY Rangers and LA Kings are ready for a Stanley Cup finish

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers have played 41 combined postseason games over the previous six weeks, they still have ample energy for the big finale to their epic playoff chase.

"No, you don't get tired right now," said Kings forward Marian Gaborik, the former 40-goal scorer for the Rangers. "All you think about is winning the Stanley Cup."

When they meet at Staples Center on Wednesday night to begin the first New York-L.A. Cup final in NHL history, the Rangers and Kings are prepared for one more exhausting series in a spring filled with two-week sagas, nail-biting finishes and Game 7 heroics.

No team in NHL history had made it to the Stanley Cup finals after going seven games in each of the first two rounds — until New York and Los Angeles both did it this spring. The Kings even went one longer, playing the maximum 21 games.

Yet neither team will be satisfied without one more achievement. The Rangers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1994, while the Kings are just two years removed from their only NHL championship. Two franchises long familiar with losing have the chance to raise the Cup again, and the players already felt the energy building when they went through practices Tuesday.

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House Republicans divided on moving forward with alternative to 'Obamacare'

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are united as ever in their election-year opposition to "Obamacare," but they're increasingly divided over their promise to vote this year on an alternative to it.

The disagreement comes amid a shifting political calculus around President Barack Obama's health care law. Millions are enrolled for medical insurance through the law's exchanges, and an all-out repeal has become less practical and popular. Some Democrats have begun promoting the measure in campaign commercials, and some Republicans are treading more carefully in belittling the program.

At a recent closed-door House Republican caucus meeting, several conservatives pressed GOP leaders over the pledge Majority Leader Eric Cantor made in January that House Republicans would rally around an alternative to "Obamacare" and pass it this year.

"We said at the retreat in January we were going to do this. Well it's June and we still haven't done it," Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said he told Cantor during the meeting last week. "It's moving at a snail's pace. ... We want to be for something."

Roe said he got little reply beyond polite attention. Cantor's spokesman, Doug Heye, said, "Majority Leader Cantor continues to work towards bold legislative solutions to replace 'Obamacare.'"

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World Cup squads debate ban on sex as Brazil's temptations stir players' testosterone

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — If you're intending to score in a World Cup match, should you score the night before?

It's a question that prompts coaches to set rules, players to seek understanding from wives and lovers, and fans everywhere to debate fervently, with many adamantly believing that abstaining from sex improves performance on the field.

The age-old argument has been triggered anew by Mexico's coach Miguel Herrera, who told the newspaper Reforma last month that he expects his players to refrain from any horizontal samba during their stay in Brazil, where the monthlong tournament opens next week. The remark sparked a lively debate in the media, prompting Herrera to clarify that he wasn't banning sex outright, just urging his players to behave prudently — along the lines proposed by his Brazilian counterpart, Luis Felipe Scolari, who has cautioned against attempting any bedroom "acrobatics."

Not everyone is so reserved. Colombian star Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama lived up to his candid nature by declaring that the teams he captained in the 1990s would have advanced further in World Cup play had the players been freed from chastity.

Theories linking sex to athletic performance date to at least the ancient Greeks, who believed safeguarding a man's sperm was important for spurring aggression needed to perform well in the arena. There's little scientific evidence, however, to support abstinence as a performance enhancer.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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