Russia

10 things you need to know today: July 10, 2014

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a house after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike. 

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a house after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike | (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The Week

Israel launches a third day of air strikes on Hamas, Utah asks the Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage, and more

1. Israel steps up its Gaza offensive as death toll rises
Israeli air strikes — intended to stop Hamas rocket fire — killed eight members of a family, including five children, in Gaza early Thursday, according to Palestinian officials. Israel’s three-day air offensive has killed at least 66 people, Gaza medical authorities said. Israel says it is targeting Hamas sites, including launchers behind a barrage of more than 320 rockets into Israel. The rockets have paralyzed businesses and sent thousands fleeing southern Israel but caused no serious casualties. [Reuters]

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2. Utah asks the Supreme Court to take gay marriage case
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced Wednesday that he was taking his state’s appeal of a ruling declaring its same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Reyes said he was seeking “clarity and resolution from the highest court” instead of appealing to the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A panel of three of the court’s judges last month upheld a lower-court decision overturning the ban. It was the first federal appeals court ruling on gay marriage. [USA Today]

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3. Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin sentenced to 10 years in bribery scandal
A federal judge sentenced former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to 10 years in prison for public corruption on Wednesday. A jury in February found the two-term Democrat guilty of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and favors from businessmen seeking special treatment from his administration. Nagin, who was the city’s face in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, maintains his innocence. He is the first New Orleans mayor ever sent to prison for corruption. [CNN]

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4. Snowden asks Russia to extend his temporary asylum
Fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has officially applied to Russia toextend his temporary asylum in the country, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russia’s Interfaxnews agency on Wednesday. Snowden’s year-long Russian visa is set to expire on July 31. Snowden, 31, was trying to flee to Cuba after leaking secret documents on NSA mining of phone and internet records, but he got stuck in a Moscow airport after the U.S. revoked his passport. [Los Angeles Times]

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5. Report finds 40 percent of colleges have not investigated a rape in five years
Many colleges are “failing to comply with the law” in investigating campus rapes, according to a report released Wednesday by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). About 40 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have not conducted a single sexual assault investigation in five years, and one in five institutions allowed their athletic departments oversight of cases involving student athletes. McCaskill said that was a “big problem” because the departments want to protect athletes. [NBC NewsThe Washington Post]

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6. Obama urges Rick Perry to back $3.7 billion immigration plan
President Obama challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to rally his fellow Republicans behind a $3.7 billion White House proposal to address a crisis created by a wave of Central American immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. over the Mexican border. Obama said he told Perry the proposal to care for and deport the children would meet GOP calls for increased border security. Perry said later on Fox News that Obama could stop the “humanitarian crisis” by sending National Guard troops to secure the border. [The New York TimesFox News]

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7. Weakening storm hits Japan’s main islands
Typhoon Neoguri, once the strongest storm yet of the Pacific season, has slammed into Japan’s southernmost main island, flooding hundreds of homes with heavy rain. Authorities urged thousands of people to seek shelter from the storm, which has injured nearly 50 people and been linked to five deaths. The weakening storm, which first ravaged the Okinawa island chain, is expected to hit the country’s biggest island, Honshu, next, and reach the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Friday. [AFP]

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8. Colorado says annual legal pot demand will reach 130 tons
A day after Washington became the second state to allow legal marijuana sales, Colorado, where the nation’s first licensed pot stores opened in January, released a study estimating its marijuana demand at 130 tons per year. The projection was far higher than expected, and it came as tax figures showed that the state’s retail supply was growing. “The primary difference is caused by much heavier dosage amounts consumed by the state’s ‘heavy user’ population,” the Colorado Department of Revenue report said. [Reuters]

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9. Alleged prostitute arrested in connection with Google executive’s overdose
Police have uncovered a surveillance video they say suggests that a Google executive, Forrest Hayes, found dead on his yacht of an apparent overdose in November might actually have been a victim of manslaughter. Santa Clara, California, police have arrested Alix Tichelman, whom they describe as a high-end call girl, and accused her of injecting Hayes with heroin and callously leaving him to die on his yacht, Escape. Hayes was on the team working on the rollout of Google’s cutting-edge Glass eyewear. [ABC NewsMercury News]

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10. Argentina beats the Netherlands to advance to World Cup final
Argentina eliminated the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout on Wednesday to win a spot in the World Cup final against Germany. After 120 minutes of regulation and extra time, the teams remained locked in a scoreless tie. Then Argentina’s goalkeeper, Sergio Romero, confidently blocked two Dutch players’ penalty kicks, while his teammates Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Garay, and Maxi Rodriquez blasted their shots into the net. Argentina and Germany now square off July 13 for their third meeting in a World Cup final. [BloombergThe New York Times]

10 things you need to know today: June 5, 2014

Minus Russia, the G7 downsizes.

Minus Russia, the G7 downsizes. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The Week

G7 leaders tell Russia to stop interfering in Ukraine, Bergdahl’s hometown cancels his welcome-home party, and more

1. G7 leaders show support for Ukraine at Brussels summit
President Obama and other Group of 7 leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday for talks expected to focus on pressuring Russia to stop supporting separatist unrest in Ukraine. The summit was supposed to be held in Sochi, Russia, but the group froze out Russian President Vladimir Putin after his government annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region. In a joint statement Wednesday, G7 leaders pledged to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s “unacceptable interference.” [CNN]

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2. Bergdahl’s hometown cancels plans to celebrate his freedom
As the controversy continued over the prisoner swap that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former POW’s Idaho hometown on Wednesday canceled a rally that was to celebrate his return. Critics say Bergdahl deserted his unit in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban, andformer comrades called on Hailey, Idaho, to cancel the event. The town’s administrator, Heather Dawson, said it was unprepared for the crowds it expected. [Reuters]

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3. Application inconsistencies could affect ObamaCare coverage for some
Paperwork errors could jeopardize health coverage for two million people who enrolled for subsidized insurance through the ObamaCare website, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press. About 5.4 million people signed up through the federal exchange, and another 2.6 million enrolled through state-run websites. The people whose coverage could be at risk provided information that doesn’t match data already on record. [The Associated Press]

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4. Assad officially declared the winner of Syria’s presidential vote
Syrian election officials declared Wednesday that President Bashar al-Assad had been elected to a third term, as expected. Assad reportedly was credited with winning 89 percent of the vote. The balloting took place as the country’s three-year civil war continued, with rebels declaring it a “farce” and demanding that voters stay home. [Slate]

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5. Sprint nears deal to buy T-Mobile
Sprint is close to an agreement to buy T-Mobile for $32 billion. Sprint would pay about $40 per share in cash and stock — a 17 percent premium over T-Mobile’s share price at Wednesday’s closing. The merger of the nation’s third and fourth largest mobile phone carriers could still fall through, but analysts say the two companies need to join forces to compete with their larger rivals, Verizon Wireless and AT&T. [Bloomberg News]

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6. Canadian authorities hunt for man who gunned down three police officers
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police continued a search early Thursday for a man — Justin Bourque, 24 — suspected of killing three police officers in the city of Moncton, New Brunswick. Witness Vanessa Bernatchez, 19, said she and her family saw the gunman, dressed in camouflage and carrying two rifles, shoot one of the officers from behind. “He was just calm and cool…” she said, “as if he’d do it every day.” [Los Angeles Times]

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7. Montana judge suspended for blaming rape victim
The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Yellowstone County District Judge G. Todd Baugh suspended without pay for saying a 14-year-old sexual assault victim was as much to blame as her attacker. Baugh sentenced the man, former teacher Stacy Rambold, to 31 days in jail, but sparked eight formal complaints and angry protests by saying that the girl was “older than her chronological age” and as much in control as Rambold. [Los Angeles Times]

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8. Report says U.S. plans for a manned Mars trip will fail
The National Research Council released a report on Wednesday saying that a NASA plan — favored by President Obama — to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s won’t work. The authors of the 300-page study, which was mandated by Congress, instead argues that the U.S. should send astronauts back to the moon. NASA was pushing a moon mission under former president George W. Bush, but Obama said in 2010, “I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.” [The Washington Post]

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9. Last of the original World War II code talkers dies
Chester Nez, the last of the original Navajo Code Talkers who served in World War II, died Wednesday in New Mexico. He was 93. Nez, then in 10th grade, lied about his age and joined the Marines with 28 other Navajo shortly after Pearl Harbor. The men were assigned to develop a code based on their language for the Pacific theater that could not be deciphered by the Japanese. The code was later used by 400 code talkers. [Voice of America]

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10. Sterling agrees to sell the Clippers for $2 billion
Disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has dropped plans to sue the NBA and agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, Sterling’s lawyers said Wednesday. Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, negotiated the sale to Ballmer last week. Resistance from her husband, who was banned from the league for life over racist comments, had threatened to spoil the deal. NBA owners still must sign off. [CNN]

 

Obama Says U.S. Will Boost Military Presence in Europe, Warns Russia

NBC News

WARSAW – President Barack Obama announced a major initiative to bolster U.S. military activity in support of NATO allies Tuesday as he kicked off a four-day trip to Europe.

He urged Congress to support a $1 billion “European Reassurance Initiative” and said the White House was reviewing its military presence in the region as a result of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

Obama also warned Russia it would face more sanctions if it showed further aggression, and called on Moscow to do more to tackled the pro-Russian armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

“The U.S. will position more equipment in Europe, we will be increasing our exercises with our allies in Europe,” Obama said at a joint news conference in Warsaw with his Polish counterpart, Bronislaw Komorowski.

“We will be stepping up our partnerships with allies including Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as they build up their own defenses.”

Image: U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks upon his arrival in Warsaw

With an F-16 fighter in the background, U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks upon his arrival in Warsaw June 3, 2014. Obama is visiting Warsaw, Brussels, Paris and Normandy this week where he is expected to elaborate on the U.S. commitment to counter Russian moves against Ukraine and reassure nervous allies the United States has their backs. | KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS

He said the initiative demonstrated America’s “unshakeable commitment to our NATO allies.”

Earlier, Obama met Polish and American troops and spoke to his host briefly about their security cooperation and the pall that events in Ukraine have cast on the region.

“As friends and allies we stand united together and forever,” Komorowski said.

Obama said he was starting his visit in Warsaw because America’s commitment to the security of Poland and its allies “is sacrosanct,” alluding to additional measures to increase the U.S. commitment to Poland’s security.

Image: Captain Tomasz Neuman, company commander of Polish 6 Airborne Brigade, and Captain Tadeusz Borawski, company commander of the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, speak in Poland

Captain Tomasz Neuman, right, company commander of Polish 6 Airborne Brigade, and Captain Tadeusz Borawski, company commander of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, talk after participating in joint training exercises at the Land Forces Training Centre in northwest Poland on May 1 | KACPER PEMPEL / REUTERS, FILE

 

The White House said Obama will call on Congress to support a “European Reassurance Initiative” of up to $1 billion to increase U.S. military rotations on the continent, plus boost exercises, training and the responsiveness of U.S. forces to reinforce NATO.

“These efforts will not come at the expense of other defense priorities, such as our commitment to the Asia Pacific rebalance,” the White House said in a statement.

The effort would involve increased participation by the U.S. Navy in NATO naval force deployments, including “more persistent deployments” to the Black and Baltic seas, it added.

Obama said further Russian provocation “will be met with further costs to Russia, including sanctions.”

He called on Russia to tackle the “flow of militants” across the border into Ukraine, and to use its influence with pro-Russia armed separatists to “lay down their arms.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

10 things you need to know today: April 28, 2014

A man surveys the destruction left by a tornado in Arkansas. 

A man surveys the destruction left by a tornado in Arkansas. (AP Photo/Courtesy of James Bryant)

The Week

Obama announces more sanctions on Russia, tornadoes kill 17 in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and more

1. West steps up pressure on Russia over Ukraine’s crisis
President Obama on Monday announced more sanctions against Russia over its threats against Ukraine. The sanctions will target people linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, aiming to “encourage him to walk the walk, not just talk the talk” on deescalating the crisis, Obama said. European Union leaders are meeting Monday to discuss tightening their own sanctions against Russia for backing separatists in Ukraine. [The New York TimesBBC News]

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2. Deadly tornadoes hit central and southern U.S.
Two tornadoes from a powerful storm system killed at least 17 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma on Sunday. Authorities in Arkansas said the twister there killed 16. It touched down about 10 miles west of Little Rock, and stretched a half-mile wide. It obliterated buildings, including a $14 million intermediate school due to open in the fall. “There’s just really nothing there anymore,” Vilonia Schools Superintendent Frank Mitchell said. [Fox NewsCNN]

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3. Syria misses the deadline for getting rid of its chemical arsenal
Syria missed a Sunday deadline for dismantling its arsenal of chemical weapons. International experts said, however, that Syria’s embattled government might be able to finish destroying or exporting the 7.5 percent of the arsenal that remains within a few days. Syria was originally supposed to get rid of the roughly 1,200 tons of chemical arms and components by February, but it got an extension after missing that deadline. [The New York Times]

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4. The U.S. strikes a military deal with the Philippines
The U.S. and the Philippines have struck a new defense cooperation agreement that could let a large American military contingent return for the first time since the Philippines evicted U.S. forces in the early 1990s. The framework will permit the U.S. to send troops, warships, and aircraft to Philippine bases, but won’t authorize the U.S. to establish new bases of its own. Protesters have rallied against the deal outside the U.S. embassy. [Los Angeles Times]

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5. Single-engine planes collide over San Francisco Bay
Two small planes collided over northern San Francisco Bay on Sunday. One of the pilots was able to land his plane, a single-engine Hawker Sea Fury TMK 20, safely. The other crashed his single-engine Cessna 210 into the water and went missing. The Coast Guard is still searching for the downed pilot. [The Associated Press]

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6. Egyptian court seeks execution of Muslim Brotherhood leader and supporters
An Egyptian court on Monday recommended the death penalty for Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and 682 supporters. The Islamist group has been the target of a brutal crackdown since the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi, a former Brotherhood member. The sentences are not yet final, but the threatened executions were considered likely to increase the threat of violence ahead of elections scheduled for next month. [Reuters]

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7. New York congressman faces a federal indictment
Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-New York) reportedly plans to turn himself in to the FBI in New York early Monday to face charges connected to a Manhattan health-food restaurant he ran before entering Congress in 2011. The federal indictment stems from a two-year investigation into Grimm’s fundraising. The charges are expected to concern tax and fraud at the restaurant, Healthalicious, which has ties to an Israeli fundraiser. [The Washington Post]

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8. Assad reportedly plans to run in Syrian election
The speaker of Syria’s parliament announced Monday that President Bashar al-Assad has declared his candidacy for the June 3 presidential elections. Opposition groups assailed the upcoming vote as absurd and farcical. There are six other contenders on the ballot, but Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, is expected to be declared the winner. [The Associated Press]

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9. Playwright sues Valerie Harper for allegedly concealing her cancer
Broadway playwright Matthew Lombardo is suing actress Valerie Harper for $2 million, accusing her of hiding her terminal cancer diagnosis after she had signed on to star in his play, Looped. Harper, 74, dropped out of last year’s national tour of the show after she revealed that her lung cancer had spread to her brain. The suit was filed to counter one by Harper, demanding that she still be paid because she dropped out due to her health. [Daily News]

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10. Players and politicians protest Clippers owner Sterling’s alleged comments
Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks is drafting a resolution to condemn racist remarks attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The National Basketball Players Association demanded that the league bar Sterling from playoff games. Clippers players wore their warmups inside out, hiding the team logo, in a silent protest ahead of Sunday’s Game 4 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors. [Los Angeles TimesSporting News]

10 things you need to know today: April 25, 2014

Kerry said Russia was making a "grave mistake."

Kerry said Russia was making a “grave mistake.” | (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Week

Kerry warns Russia over Ukraine, conservatives condemn Nevada rancher, and more

1. Kerry warns Russia it’s running out of time in Ukraine
Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia that it would be making a “grave mistake” if it failed to comply with an accord requiring it to reduce tensions between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists. Meanwhile, Russia launched military exercises near the border. A U.S. official said Russian leaders could face new economic sanctions as soon as Friday if Moscow does not stop threatening force. “The window to change course is closing, Kerry said. [The New York Times]

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2. Conservatives rush to slam rancher’s remarks on slavery
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy became a libertarian hero for his fight to graze his cattle on federal land, but his supporters rushed to denounce him Thursday for asking at a press conference if African Americans were “better off as slaves.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky.), one of Bundy’s most influential supporters, called the comments “offensive.” Fox News pundit Sean Hannity called them “ignorant” and “racist.” [Los Angeles Times]

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3. Israel ends peace talks over Palestinian unity deal
Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinians on Thursday after President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction agreed to form a unity government with its rivals Hamas. The U.S., which sponsored the talks, had been trying to extend them beyond an April 29 deadline for a deal. Israel’s security cabinet said the country would not negotiated with Hamas, “a terror organization that calls for Israel’s destruction.” [Reuters]

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4. Obama promises South Korea support as North Korean nuclear test looms
President Obama promised South Koreans on Friday that the U.S. would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with them against the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea. Obama, visiting South Korea on an Asia tour, said North Korea would only isolate itself further by pursuing nukes. The remarks came as North Korea reportedly prepared for its latest nuclear weapons test. Obama also offered condolences for South Korea’s deadly ferry disaster. [The Associated PressCNN]

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5. Eleven middle-school students and driver injured in bus crash
Twelve people were injured, three critically, when a bus carrying middle-school students slammed into trees and a lamp post in California on Thursday. The driver appeared to have suffered the most severe injuries. Rescuers had to cut him from the bus and pull him out through the broken windshield. A student said the bus went off the road in a turn. A California Highway Patrol spokesman said the driver might not have hit the brakes. [The Associated Press]

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6. Disorderly passenger triggers a hijacking false alarm
A drunk passenger caused a hijacking scare on Thursday when he tried to enter the cockpit of a Virgin Australia flight. The jet’s crew stopped him, handcuffed him, and put him into a seat in the rear of the Boeing 737-800. The plane landed safely and the passenger was arrested after Indonesian authorities initially interpreted the incident as a hijacking and briefly closed Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport. [The Age]

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7. Measles cases hit a 19-year high
The number of measles cases in the U.S. jumped to a 19-year high in 2014, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control. Measles was officially declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, but the CDC said 129 cases had been reported so far this year. Most involved unvaccinated people who were infected abroad. Among those unvaccinated, 68 percent had “personal belief” exemptions from school vaccination requirements. [WLTZUSA Today]

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8. Buffalo Bills cheerleaders suspend operations over lawsuit
The company that manages the Buffalo Bills’ cheerleading squad — the Buffalo Jills — has halted operations through next season, after five cheerleaders filed a lawsuit claiming they had to work hundreds of hours without pay and endured groping. The suit also says the company president — Stephanie Mateczun of Stejon Productions Corp. — made them take a “jiggle test.” Stejon is hiring lawyers and declined to comment. [The Associated Press]

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9. X-Men director Bryan Singer publicly denies sexual abuse allegation
X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer on Thursday made his first public statement about a lawsuit in which 31-year-old Michael Egan accuses Singer of drugging and raping him as a teenager, calling the allegations a “sick twisted shakedown.” He also said he was dropping out of an X-Men promotional campaign to avoid diverting attention from the film. [The WrapStar-Ledger]

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10. Ex-justice Stevens joins the majority favoring legal pot
Former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens said Thursday that the federal government shouldlegalize marijuana. The “distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction,” Stevens told NPR. The general consensus is that prohibition against alcohol nearly a century “was not worth the cost,” Stevens said, and most Americans will eventually reach the same conclusion about pot. More than half already favor legalization. [NPR]

Ukraine Agitators ID’d As Russian Military – Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia

The New York Times

KIEV, Ukraine — For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as “green men” have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across easternUkraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.

Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces — equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February. Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.

And Ukraine’s state security service has identified one Russian reported to be active among the green men as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a Russian military intelligence operative in his mid- to late 50s. He is said to have a long résumé of undercover service with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian general staff, most recently in Crimea in February and March and now in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk.

“There has been broad unity in the international community about the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine, and the photos presented by the Ukrainians last week only further confirm this, which is why U.S. officials have continued to make that case,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Sunday.

The question of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine has a critical bearing on the agreement reached Thursday in Geneva among Russian, Ukrainian, American and European diplomats to ease the crisis. American officials have said that Russia would be held responsible for ensuring that the Ukrainian government buildings were vacated, and that it could face new sanctions if the terms were not met.

Ukraine Provides Evidence of Russian Military in Civil Unrest

The Ukrainian government provided these photographs last week to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna. Ukraine says the photographs document that the armed men who have taken over government buildings in eastern Ukraine are Russian combatants. The State Department, which has also alleged Russian interference, says that the Ukrainian evidence is convincing.

The Kremlin insists that Russian forces are in no way involved, and that Mr. Strelkov does not even exist, at least not as a Russian operative sent to Ukraine with orders to stir up trouble. “It’s all nonsense,” PresidentVladimir V. Putin said Thursday during a four-hour question-and-answer session on Russian television. “There are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.” Pro-Russian activists who have seized government buildings in at least 10 towns across eastern Ukraine also deny getting help from professional Russian soldiers or intelligence agents.

But masking the identity of its forces, and clouding the possibilities for international denunciation, is a central part of the Russian strategy, developed over years of conflict in the former Soviet sphere, Ukrainian and American officials say.

John R. Schindler, a former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer who now teaches at the Naval War College, calls it “special war”: “an amalgam of espionage, subversion, even forms of terrorism to attain political ends without actually going to war in any conventional sense.”

And one country, Mr. Schindler noted in an article last year in which he coined the term, that particularly excels at special war is Russia, which carried out its first post-Soviet war to regain control of rebellious Chechnya back in 1994 by sending in a column of armored vehicles filled with Russian soldiers masquerading as pro-Moscow Chechens.

Russia’s flair for “maskirovka” — disguised warfare — has become even more evident under Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer whose closest advisers are mostly from that same Soviet intelligence agency.

For nearly two months now, the shaky new Ukrainian government has been left to battle phantoms, first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine, where previously fringe pro-Russian political activists have had their fortunes lifted by small but heavily armed groups of masked men.

In the eastern city of Slovyansk, under the control of pro-Russian insurgents for more than a week now, the green men have worked hard to blend in with locals but have occasionally let the mask slip, apparently to send a clear message that any push to regain control by Ukrainian forces would risk bringing down the wrath of the Russian military.

A gradation of forces control the city and other areas now in the hands of separatist rebels, ranging from clearly professional masked soldiers and unruly groups of local men in camouflage, rifles slung over their shoulders, to teenage boys in sweatpants carrying baseball bats or hunting knives. At most times, only the local toughs are visible on the streets.

But when a woman sidled up to one of the masked gunmen in the city’s central square last week and asked where he was from, she got an answer that summed up Russia’s bedeviling and constantly shifting disguises. The gunman initially said he was “from Russia,” but when pressed, said coyly that he was “from New Russia,” a long-forgotten czarist-era term revived last week by Mr. Putin to describe a large section of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Asked by the woman what would happen if the Ukrainian Army attacked, he replied, “We have to stand for only 24 hours, to tend the fire, and after that, a one million man army will be here.”

When a Ukrainian armored column approached the town last Wednesday and then swiftly surrendered, a group of disciplined green men suddenly appeared on the scene and stood guard. Over the course of several hours, several of them told bystanders in the sympathetic crowd that they were Russians. They allowed themselves to be photographed with local girls, and drove an armored personnel carrier in circles to please the crowd.


10 things you need to know today: April 18, 2014

Tensions remain high in Ukraine, despite Thursday's deal. 

Tensions remain high in Ukraine, despite Thursday’s deal. (AP Photo)

The Week

Russia and Ukraine strike a deal, an avalanche kills 12 on Mount Everest, and more

1. Russia agrees to deal on easing tensions in Ukraine
Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union struck a deal Thursday calling for pro-Russia separatists to surrender local government buildings they seized in eastern Ukraine. The agreement also spells out steps to defuse tensions. President Obama said the deal was promising but if it fizzles the U.S. still could impose more sanctions on Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to rule out sending troops if violence escalates. [The New York Times]

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2. Mount Everest avalanche kills at least 12
An avalanche killed at least 12 Nepalese Sherpa guides on Mount Everest early Friday. It was the deadliest disaster ever on the world’s highest mountain. Three other guides are still missing. The guides had set out early to fix ropes for other climbers below Camp 2. Hundreds of climbers, along with their guides and support crews, are gathered at the base camp to attempt to reach the 29,035-foot summit when weather permits next month. [The Associated Press]

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3. ObamaCare enrollments topped 8 million by Tuesday’s deadline
More than eight million people signed up for ObamaCare health plans by Tuesday’s enrollment deadline, President Obama announced Thursday. The tally exceeded the estimate administration officials made last summer by one million, despite terrible glitches when the health law’s online insurance exchanges launched last fall. The number of young people signing up fell short of White House hopes. Still, Obama said, “this thing is working.” [CNBC]

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4. South Korea ferry slips underwater as death toll climbs
The death toll from the South Korea ferry disaster reached 28 on Friday. Hopes for saving the 270 still missing dimmed as the ship became completely submerged in frigid Yellow Sea waters. Despite strong currents, two divers managed to enter the hull to search for trapped survivors. Anarrest warrant was issued for Captain Lee Joon Suk, and a vice principal who accompanied high school students on board hanged himself after being rescued. [CNNABC News]

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5. Texas seizes jailed polygamist Warren Jeffs’ ranch
Texas authorities have seized the secluded ranch of imprisoned polygamist Warren Jeffs, leader of the Utah-based Fundamentalist LDS Church. Only eight adults were still living at the compound. The FBI and police raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch in April 2008 to investigate allegations that underage girls there were being forced into polygamist marriages. Jeffs was convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting two child brides. He is serving a life sentence. [The Associated Press]

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6. Scientists discover the most Earth-like planet ever seen
Researchers have discovered the first Earth-sized planet in another solar system’s habitable zone, meaning it is at the right distance from its star to allow it to hold liquid water and support life. The rocky planet, which has been named Kepler 186f, is 500 light years away. The find, made with the now defunct Kepler telescope, marked a leap forward in the hunt for life on another planet. “This is a historic discovery,” one astronomer said. [Popular Mechanics]

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7. Gunmen kill dozens at U.N. base in South Sudan
Armed youths, pretending to be peaceful protesters, attacked a United Nations compound in South Sudan on Thursday, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding dozens more. Nearly 5,000 civiliansand U.N. personnel are being sheltered at the base in the war-ravaged town of Bor. The roughly 350 attackers reportedly broke the gate. “They came in and started shooting indiscriminately,” said Toby Lanzer, U.N. assistant secretary general in South Sudan. [BBC NewsReuters]

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8. Suspect arrested in Kansas City highway shootings
Kansas City police have arrested a man suspected in a series of apparently random freeway shootings that has left nine people injured since last month. Nobody has been killed, but the attacks have frightened motorists in and around the city, with many telling journalists they have altered their driving habits to stay safe. A neighbor said the suspect, who was not immediately charged, kept odd, late hours: “The dude was like a ghost.” [The Kansas City Star]

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9. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton announces pregnancy
Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are expecting their first child. “I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me,” said Clinton, 34, with her mother, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by her side. The baby is due in the fall. The surprise announcement comes as Hillary Clinton weighs a second run for the presidency in 2016. [The Washington Post]

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10. Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies
Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, master of the magical realism genre and winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature, died Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87. His novelOne Hundred Years of Solitude was considered one of the great books of the 20th century. It helped establish Garcia Marquez as one of the rare writers, along with such icons as Dickens and Hemingway, who was embraced by critics and the public alike. [The New York Times]

 

Snowden Calls Putin To Talk NSA…

No word from Edward Snowden regarding Putin’s invasion and takeover of Crimea or his Ukraine antics, yet he participates in a staged call-in show to embarrass the POTUS.  I don’t like the surveillance programs in this country either, but his “patriotism” for his “motherland” has diminished significantly.  Since his buddies who wrote about his story got Pulitzer Prizes in journalism, he seems to feel more empowered than ever, to pull off a stunt like this…

The Hill 

The exchange between Putin and Snowden appeared to be a piece of theater crafted by the Kremlin  and designed to embarrass the Obama administration amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine.

Edward Snowden called into a Russian state television program on Thursday and asked President Vladimir Putin about whether Moscow has surveillance programs similar to those exposed by the former government contractor.

The exchange between Putin and Snowden appeared to be a piece of theater crafted by the Kremlin  and designed to embarrass the Obama administration amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine.

“I’ve seen little public discussion of Russia’s own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance,” Snowden, a former government contractor facing espionage charges in the U.S., told Putin via video message.

“So I’d like to ask you: Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals? And do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than subjects, under surveillance?”

In response, Putin said that bulk collection programs “cannot exist’ under Russian law.

“We don’t like a mass system of such interception,” Putin said, according to a translation from state-run broadcaster Russia Today.

“I hope we won’t do that, and we don’t have as much money as they have in the States and don’t have these technical devices that they have in the States,” he added. “Our special services, thanks God, are strictly controlled by the society and by the law and regulated by the law.”

The exchange was all the more remarkable given Snowden’s asylum in Russia, where he traveled after first fleeing the U.S. for Hong Kong.

Moscow has faced pressure from the U.S. to send Snowden back to Washington.

Snowden’s question to Putin took place a day after President Obama accused Putin of being behind uprisings in eastern Ukraine by Russian separatists. In a television interview, Obama also said Russia didn’t want a military confrontation with the U.S. because of the Pentagon’s superiority.

Snowden’s leaks about National Security Agency programs were turned into stories in the Washington Post and The Guardian that this week were awarded with the Pulitzer Prize. But the espionage charges against Snowden could put him behind bars for decades if he returns to the United States.

Snowden fled to Russia last year shortly after releasing documents showing that the NSA conducts wide surveillance efforts to track people’s phone calls and online activity, among other operations.

He has been sharply criticized for choosing Russia, where the government routinely cracks down on journalists. Opponents have claimed that Snowden is working with foreign powers or, at the least, has given secret U.S. documents to Russian spies. Supporters have denied the charge.

10 things you need to know today: April 10, 2014

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett waits to speak about the stabbings. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett waits to speak about the stabbings. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Week

A student is charged with a high-school stabbing rampage, Chris Christie catches a break, and more

1. Pennsylvania student charged with high school stabbings
A 16-year-old boy was accused of stabbing at least 21 people in a rampage at a Murrysville, Penn. high school on Wednesday. Four were in critical condition. Witnesses said the student, Alex Hribal, moved through the hallways with two kitchen knives before being tackled by a security officer and a vice principal. Another student, Nate Scimio, was praised as a hero for sending people fleeing by pulling a fire alarm, and defending a girl before being slashed. [Reuters]

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2. Judge shields ex-Christie aides from Bridgegate subpoenas
A New Jersey judge ruled Wednesday that two former aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie do not have to comply with subpoenas for records related to the Bridgegate scandal. Some state officials have complied and provided documents, but Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, were fighting a demand to turn over information on the allegedly politically motivated bridge-lane closures. [Asbury Park Press]

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3. Russia didn’t tell the U.S. about Tsarnaev’s talk of jihad
The Russian government knew that one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had discussed Islamic jihad in a phone call with his mother, but didn’t tell the FBI until after last year’s deadly attack. Russia had the information, which should have prompted heightened scrutiny of Tsarnaev, for two years before sharing it. Before the deadly bombing, all Russia had told the FBI was that Tsarnaev believed in radical Islam. [The New York Times]

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4. Search chief says Malaysia Airlines plane will be found soon
Australian authorities shrank the area where crews are looking for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 on Wednesday after the detection of fresh pings believed to have come from the plane’s black-box recorders. “I’m now optimistic that we will find the aircraft… in the not too distant future,” said Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who’s coordinating the search. The area in the southern Indian Ocean is still as big as South Carolina. [CNN]

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5. GOP senators reject equal pay bill
Republican Senators blocked a Democratic bill on pay equality on Wednesday, unanimously backing a filibuster to prevent the opening of debate. The bill sought to narrow the pay gapbetween men and women by making it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who ask about or disclose their wages. Democrats said the bill would increase fairness. Republicans said it would only increase lawsuits. [The Washington Post]

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6. Car crashes into Florida day-care center
One girl was killed and 14 other children were injured on Wednesday when a car crashed into a central Florida day-care center. Authorities were searching for a man, Robert Corchado, whose SUV they believe sent another vehicle slamming into the building. Police said Corchado fled the horrific scene. “It was just kids on the ground and there was teachers giving CPR,” one witness said. “It was horrible.” [CNN]

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7. Alleged cartel enforcer reportedly confesses to 40 killings
A man accused of nine contract killings in Central California has confessed to killing 40 people over several decades as a drug-cartel hitman, police said Wednesday. Jose Manuel Martinez, 51, was arrested last year after entering Arizona from Mexico, and allegedly told investigators about the murders while in custody. Martinez faces a June trial in Alabama, but says he is innocent of the charge there, a defense attorney said. [The Associated Press]

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8. Embarrassed congressman decides not to ask who leaked damning video
Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) reportedly has decided not to ask the FBI to look into who leaked a surveillance video showing him kissing a staff member in his district office. McAllister, a first-term representative who ran as a devout family values Baptist, has apologized for his actions. The woman’s husband has called McAllister, saying he and his wife, who quit her job after a local paper posted the video online, are heading for divorce. [The Christian Science Monitor]

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9. George H.W. Bush greets the Obamas in Houston
Former president George H.W. Bush went to Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport on Wednesday to greet President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. “When the president comes to your home town,” Bush said, “you show up to meet him.” After a brief visit with the Republican former president, Obama headed to a meeting with 30 members of the Democratic National Committee and a Democratic fundraiser. [Houston Chronicle]

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10. UMass guard Derrick Gordon becomes first openly gay Division I player
University of Massachusetts basketball player Derrick Gordon announced to ESPN and Outsports that he was gay, becoming the first openly gay player in Division I men’s college basketball. Gordon, a starting sophomore shooting guard, said he told his parents, coaches, and teammates, then decided to make a public announcement because he didn’t want to hide. He said he had been waiting for a player to come out. “Finally I just said, ‘Why not me?’” [ESPN]

10 things you need to know today: March 15, 2014

Not seeing eye to eye. 

Not seeing eye to eye. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

The Week

U.S., Russia talks break down, missing Malaysian plane may have been deliberately diverted, and more

1. U.S., Russia talks fail to broker agreement on Crimea crisis
With Sunday’s scheduled referendum looming, the U.S. and Russia were unable to agree on a solution to the Ukrainian crisis on Friday. As Western nations express concern over Russian troop movements along the Ukrainian border, Russia’s Sergey V. Lavrov insisted the country has no invasion plans. But, in 11th-hour talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Lavrov also maintained that disputed peninsula Crimea has a right to self-determination. [The New York Times,Los Angeles Times]
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2. Malaysian PM: ‘Deliberate action’ diverted missing plane
Saying the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is entering a “new phase,”Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak reported on Saturday that investigators have determined “deliberate action by someone on the plane” was taken to divert the flight’s course. Malaysian authorities now believe the plane may have flown for up to seven more hours after losing its communications systems. Razak outlined two possible paths on which the plane may have continued, one south toward Australia, the other north over heavily monitored airspaces such as Pakistan, India, and even the United States’ Bagram Air Base. [The Washington Post]
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3. Five cities — one in Ukraine — submit bids for 2022 Winter Games
Five cities completed applications for the 2022 Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee’s Friday deadline: Lviv, Ukraine; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing, China; Krakow, Poland; and Oslo, Norway. The IOC will whittle the contenders this summer before selecting a winner in July 2015. Ukraine’s Lviv bid team hopes the country’s crisis will not affect its chances, but “of course, it’s very uncertain,” Sergej Gontcharov, CEO of the Lviv bid, said. “I’m not here telling fairytales.” [The Associated Press]
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4. Authorities nab man on U.S. Army’s ’15 Most Wanted’ list
After 37 years on the run, authorities caught up to one of the U.S. Army’s “15 Most Wanted” fugitives, James Robert Jones, 59, on Thursday. Jones had been living in Deerfield Beach, Florida, since at least 2005, under the alias Bruce Walter Keith, but authorities finally discovered his real identity using a facial recognition database. The U.S. Army private was sentenced to 23 years in a maximum-security federal prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1974, but he escaped three years later. “The first words out of his mouth was, ‘I knew this would catch up with me one day,’” Barry Golden of the U.S. Marshals Service said. [NBC 6]
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5. Police rescue 200 people from Thailand human smuggling camp
Authorities rescued about 200 people, including at least 100 children, on Friday from a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand. Believed to be Muslim Uighurs originally from China’s far-western region of Xinjiang, the group is the latest find as Southeast Asian authorities continue to crack down on human trafficking rings. So far, the group is refusing to speak more than a few words or confirm their nationality, because of fears for their safety if returned to China. “They’re under pressure,” police Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot said. “They want to go somewhere, but they don’t want to go back to China.” [Reuters]
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6. UNICEF gets clearance from Syria to deliver more aid supplies
Following last month’s call from the U.N. Security Council for more aid access in Syria, the country agreed in talks with UNICEF this week to allow more supplies across frontlines separating President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the rebels. While no specific numbers were released, UNICEF officials said they hope the agreement will include more food and medicine to be delivered to refugee camps and other areas most devastated by the fighting. [Reuters]
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7. FDA recommends HPV tests be used to detect cervical cancer
After years of touting the Pap test as the first line of defense against cervical cancer, an FDA advisory committee recommended this week that an HPV test be used instead. Current guidelines recommend women between the ages of 30 and 65 receive a Pap test every three years; the new recommendation would allow women 25 years and older to receive just the Roche cobas test, which detects the DNA of the human papillomavirus. [CNN]
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8. Quiznos files for bankruptcy, plans to keep operating
Sandwich chain Quiznos filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday, continuing a two-year long debt and management restructuring initiative. The toasted subs maker says it will continue operations while the deal is reviewed; if approved, the plan would cut the company’s debt by more than $444 million. [The Wall Street Journal]
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9. Sam Adams pulls Boston St. Patrick’s parade sponsorship
Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams beer, said Friday it will not sponsor Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. The event, which draws more than 1 million spectators to South Boston, does not allow gay groups to march, and that decision has led politicians such as Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch to say they will not participate in the parade. Boston Beer Co. says it will still sponsor the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, which takes place on Sunday along with the parade. [The Associated Press]
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10. Colorado’s pot tax may earn taxpayers a refund
Colorado budget advisers discovered this week that the state could owe as much as $100 millionto its taxpayers, depending on how much money Colorado brings in through recreational marijuana taxes. The state is allowed to collect about $70 million, but if it brings in more than that — and it’s currently on track to exceed $100 million — Colorado would have to return the surplus to taxpayers, either through a credit on next year’s tax bill, a reduced sales tax, or a similar measure. [CNNMoney]