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AP Top News at 4:17 a.m. EST
Obama's warnings brushed aside by Russia's Putin WASHINGTON (AP) - One by one, President Barack Obama's warnings to Russia are being brushed aside by President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be speeding up efforts to formally stake his claim to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. In the week since Obama first declared there would be "costs" if Putin pressed into Crimea, Russian forces have taken control of the region and a referendum has been scheduled to decide its future. Obama declared the March 16 vote a violation of international law, but in a region where ethnic Russians are the majority, the referendum seems likely to become another barrier to White House efforts to compel Putin to pull his forces from Crimea.
Heavier sanctions on Russia could backfire WASHINGTON (AP) - Underlying talk about taking harsh punitive measures against Russia for its military incursion into Ukraine are economic complications and worries that sanctions levied against Moscow could backfire on the U.S. and Europe. Heavier U.S. and European Union sanctions could sting Russia's already slow-growing economy and hurt its financial sector. But Moscow could retaliate and seize American and other foreign assets or cut exports of natural gas to Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russia for energy.
AP Exclusive: Man said to create bitcoin denies it LOS ANGELES (AP) - Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto said Thursday that he is not the creator of bitcoin, adding further mystery to the story of how the world's most popular digital currency came to be. The denial came after Newsweek published a 4,500-word cover story claiming Nakamoto is the person who wrote the computer code underpinnings of bitcoin.
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Doctor testifies in Pistorius trial PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - A doctor who said he saw Oscar Pistorius weeping over his dead or dying girlfriend after he shot her has resumed testimony in the murder trial of the double-amputee runner. Radiologist Johan Stipp was being questioned by defense lawyer Barry Roux on Friday, a day after Stipp described how Pistorius knelt at Reeva Steenkamp's side and struggled in vain to help her breathe by holding two fingers in her clenched mouth.
Ukraine oligarchs get key posts in bid for unity KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - In a surprising move after Russia flexed its military might in the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine's new leadership has reached out to oligarchs for help - appointing them as governors in eastern regions where loyalties to Moscow are strong. With their wealth, influence and self-interest in preventing further conflict, the oligarchs could be the key to calming tensions and maintaining Ukraine's control in areas where pro-Russian activists have stoked separatist tensions.
NKorea elections: 0 pct drama, 100 pct mandatory TOKYO (AP) - North Korean voters will make a choice Sunday when they elect a new national legislature, but not for a candidate. The ruling elite have already done that for them, and there's only one per district. They get to vote "yes" or "no." Virtually all pick "yes."
Senate blocks change to military sex assault cases WASHINGTON (AP) - Bowing to the Pentagon, the Senate agreed after impassioned debate Thursday to leave the authority to prosecute rapes and other serious crimes with military commanders in a struggle that highlighted the growing role of women in Congress. The vote was 55-45 in favor of stripping commanders of that authority, but that was short of the 60 necessary to move ahead on the legislation sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Her bill would have given the decision to take serious crimes to courts-martial to seasoned military trial lawyers, independent of the chain of command.
General admits guilt on 3 counts; denies assault FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - In his immaculate blue dress uniform, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair stood ramrod straight before a judge Thursday and pleaded guilty to three charges that could send him to prison for up to 15 years. It was a remarkable admission sure to end the military career of a man once regarded as a rising star among the U.S. Army's small cadre of trusted battle commanders.
Half of millennials more likely to lean Democratic WASHINGTON (AP) - Young adults like to think of themselves as independent, but when it comes to politics, they're more likely than not to lean to the left. Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.
AP PHOTOS: Women brick-makers in debt in Pakistan MANDRA, Pakistan (AP) - Amna Bhatti has spent half a century shaping mud into bricks in a huge kiln south of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. She started by paying off her parents' debt and now she's on to her late husband's. She'll probably spend the rest of her life here. Bhatti was 10 when she started working at the kiln to pay off her parents' debt. Now, at 60, she is paying off the 250,000 rupees (approximately $2,500) in debt her husband left behind when he died 12 years ago.
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