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By Sharon Bernstein LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Democrats on Saturday vowed to restore their two-thirds majority in the legislature and push their statewide success eastward in an effort to retake a majority in Congress. The pledge at the state's annual Democratic convention came a week after the legislative session ended as two state senators were forced to go on leave under criminal indictments or convictions. The convention, which effectively kicks off election season, showcased Democratic stars such as California Governor Jerry Brown and the state's Attorney General Kamala Harris as well as featured former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom party leaders are hoping may be able to return to her old job. "Where else but Los Angeles could you go to find a million registered Democrats?" Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti asked in opening remarks.
By Arshad Mohammed and Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON/KEY LARGO, Florida (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia on Saturday that any steps to annex Ukraine's Crimea region would close the door to diplomacy, a U.S. State Department official said. Kerry's latest telephone call with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, came as the standoff between occupying Russian forces and besieged Ukrainian troops intensified in Crimea. "He made clear that continued military escalation and provocation in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine, along with steps to annex Crimea to Russia would close any available space for diplomacy, and he urged utmost restraint," the official said.
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — She was not on the speaking program, but Hillary Rodham Clinton had presence at the nation's largest annual gathering of conservative activists on Saturday, as high-profile Republicans launched a dual effort to attack the prospective Democratic presidential candidate and improve the GOP's longstanding struggle with women voters.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Shaquille O'Neal won four NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal in a career that likely will land him in the Hall of Fame.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A marathon spelling bee between two Kansas City-area students who exhausted the initial word list last month ended after 29 more rounds Saturday when the eventual runner-up stumbled over the word "stifling."
Simferopol (Ukraine) (AFP) - Pro-Kremlin militia fired warning shots as unarmed foreign observers tried to enter Crimea on Saturday while Russia stepped up its standoff with the West over Ukraine by threatening to keep Washington from checking on its nuclear arms. The dangerous escalation in the Black Sea peninsula that Russia effectively seized last week saw 40 gunmen in balaclavas and military fatigues fire shots above a convoy with 54 civilian and military observers from 29 countries of the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It was the third successive day that the OSCE buses attempted to enter the tension-wracked peninsula to check on the frozen conflict that has pitted overpowered Ukrainian troops against Russian forces and Kremlin-backed militias. Ukraine's border guards service added to the tinderbox atmosphere by reporting that one of its light patrol planes came under fire from "extremists" in the same area but was unscathed.
By Jan Lopatka PRAGUE (Reuters) - Four central European countries have asked the U.S. Congress to make it easier for them to import natural gas from the United States and reduce their dependence on supplies from Russia, the Czech Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. The Visegrad 4 group including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia is looking to diversify supplies to eliminate the danger Russia could use its control of gas and oil flows to exert political pressure on the former Soviet satellite states. Supplies were briefly disrupted in 2009 during a dispute between Russia and Ukraine, through which much of the Russian gas is piped, and central Europeans fear they could be under threat again due to an escalation of tensions between Russia and the West over Russia's seizure of Crimea.
ENGLEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Sheila MacRae starred on the Broadway stage and in films, yet it was her small-screen role as the tolerant and brassy wife of a Brooklyn bus driver for which she is most remembered.
NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo has been suspended one game for punching New Orleans Pelicans center Greg Stiemsma in the throat.
BERLIN (AP) — Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, has begun medical treatment at Berlin's Charite hospital, but the doctors caring for her said Saturday it's too soon to say how long the treatment will take and what lasting damage the 53-year-old might have from three slipped discs she suffered while in prison.
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of military trucks transporting heavily armed soldiers rumbled over Crimea's rutted roads Saturday as Russia reinforced its armed presence on the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea. Moscow's foreign minister ruled out any dialogue with Ukraine's new authorities, whom he dismissed as the puppets of extremists.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Eron Harris scored 28 points, Juwan Staten added 24 and West Virginia withstood 41 points by freshman Andrew Wiggins and a furious comeback by No. 8 Kansas to upset the Jayhawks 92-86 in their Big 12 regular-season finale Saturday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Patric Young scored 18 points in his final home game and No. 1 Florida routed 25th-ranked Kentucky 84-65 on Saturday, becoming the first team in Southeastern Conference history to go 18-0 in league play.
By Peter Graff and Andrew Osborn KIEV/SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) - Shots were fired in Crimea to warn off an unarmed international team of monitors and at a Ukrainian observation plane, as the standoff between occupying Russian forces and besieged Ukrainian troops intensified. Russia's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, which began 10 days ago, has so far been bloodless, but its forces have become increasingly aggressive towards Ukrainian troops, who are trapped in bases and have offered no resistance. Tempers have grown hotter in the last two days, since the region's pro-Moscow leadership declared it part of Russia and announced a March 16 referendum to confirm it. A spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said no one was hurt when shots were fired to turn back its mission of more than 40 unarmed observers, who have been invited by Kiev but lack permission from Crimea's pro-Russian authorities to cross the isthmus to the peninsula.SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Suspected al-Qaida militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machineguns at a military base in southern Yemen on Saturday, killing two soldiers guarding its gate, a senior military official said.
Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini Saturday called for a US guns dealer to withdraw an advertisement using an image of Michelangelo's David -- but with the famed statue holding a bolt-action rifle. "The image of David, armed, offends and infringes the law. We will take action against the American company so that it immediately withdraws its (advertising) campaign," Franceschini tweeted in the afternoon. His comments come after the Historical Heritage and Fine Arts Board in Florence condemned the image by Illinois-based ArmaLite, which uses Michelangelo's statue to promote the huge, $3,000 rifle with the tagline "a work of art".
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces seized a town from rebels near the Lebanese border on Saturday, their latest attempt to cut off opposition fighters' fluid supply lines from the country, state media and activists said.
CAIRO (AP) — The signal of a Saudi-based television network was deliberately jammed while airing the show of Egypt's top satirist, the broadcaster's spokesman said Saturday, the latest disruption to hit the popular program.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Vietnamese air force planes on Saturday spotted two large oil slicks close to where a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 went missing earlier in the day, the first sign that the aircraft carrying 239 people had crashed.
Benghazi (Libya) (AFP) - Libya threatened on Saturday to bomb a North Korean-flagged tanker at an oil terminal held by militants in the restive east, saying it was being loaded illegally. Separatists blockading Al-Sidra facility attempted to load crude aboard the Morning Glory in the latest challenge to central government control. "The attorney general has given the order for the ship to be stopped," Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told a news conference. The self-proclaimed government of Cyrenaica in the east, the political wing of the separatists, said oil exports from Al-Sidra had now begun.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Sean Kilpatrick scored 24 points and No. 15 Cincinnati clinched at least a share of the American Athletic Conference regular-season title with a tough 70-66 win over Rutgers on Saturday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, speaking to Baltic leaders on Saturday amid rising tensions in Ukraine, told them that the United States supports them and is committed to its NATO defense commitments, the White House said. "The President reaffirmed the United States' unwavering commitment to our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty and our enduring support for the security and democracy of our Baltic allies," the White House said in a statement about the telephone call Obama held. ...KIEV (Reuters) - Here is a timeline of the fall of Ukraine's government and Russia's subsequent incursion into Ukraine's Crimea region. The crisis began in November when Ukraine's then president, Viktor Yanukovich, under Russian pressure, turned his back on a trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15 billion bailout from Moscow. That prompted three months of street protests, leading to the overthrow of Yanukovich on February 22. Moscow denounced the events as an illegitimate coup and refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities. ...
MILAN (AP) — Foreign ministry officials in Rome and Vienna confirmed Saturday that names of two nationals listed on the manifest of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight match passports reported stolen in Thailand.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A runner-up from the last two years and a four-time champion continued to play leapfrog Saturday at the head of the pack in the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Sopot (Poland) (AFP) - US combined events master Ashton Eaton was left gasping for air after cruelly failing to better his own world record when retaining his world indoor heptathlon title on Saturday. Eaton, whose Canadian wife Brianne Thiesen Eaton won silver in the women's pentathlon on Friday, was overnight leader after the first four events (60m - 6.66sec, long jump - 7.78m, shot put - 14.88m, high jump - 2.06m). Leading from the front, Eaton pushed himself all the way, roared on by a capacity crowd at the Ergo Arena in the Polish Baltic Sea resort of Sopot. But he left himself needing to run a final 200 metres in 28 seconds, something that fell 1.18sec beyond an athlete who is also the current world and Olympic decathlon champion and world record holder.
By Ulf Laessing and Feras Bosalum TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya threatened on Saturday to bomb a North Korean-flagged tanker if it tried to ship oil from a rebel-controlled port, in a major escalation of a standoff over the country's petroleum wealth. The oil dispute is just one facet of the deepening turmoil in the North African OPEC member, where the government is struggling to control militias who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons and now challenge state authority. A local television station controlled by protesters showed footage of pro-autonomy rebels holding a lengthy ceremony and slaughtering a camel to celebrate their first oil shipment. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan appeared hours later on television to warn the tanker's crew.
By Anuradha Raghu and Nguyen Phuong Linh KUALA LUMPUR/HANOI (Reuters) - A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew went missing off the Vietnamese coast on Saturday and was presumed to have crashed. There were no reports of bad weather and no sign why the Boeing 777-200ER would have vanished from radar screens about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. The Italian foreign ministry said in Rome that an Italian was listed on the flight's manifest although no national from the country was on board. The passenger list provided by the airline includes Luigi Maraldi, 37, an Italian citizen.
The mother of an Italian falsely listed as a passenger on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight said her son's passport had been lost, presumed stolen, in Phuket in 2013. "He lost his passport in Thailand, and he reported it to the authorities... Maybe the one who stole it came to a bad end, we don't know, they have to investigate," Renata Lucchi, the mother of 37-year-old Luigi Maraldi, told Reuters. An Austrian man falsely listed as a passenger had also had his passport stolen.
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter has signed a six-year contract extension, the Major League Baseball team announced Saturday, in a deal worth $52 million. The contract runs through the 2019 season and gives the Cardinals an option for the 2020 campaign on the 28-year-old American, who helped the Cardinals win the 2011 World Series in his rookie year. Carpenter led Major League Baseball with 199 hits, 126 runs and 55 doubles last season and this year the All-Star makes a fielding position switch from playing at second base to guarding third. "We are pleased to have reached an agreement that insures Matt will remain a Cardinal on a long-term basis," said Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt.
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — In the fading light in the mountains above Sochi, the athletes and flags from Russia and Ukraine appeared side by side Saturday, united by success on the opening day of action at the Paralympics as the discord between their nations deepens.
By Suadad al-Salhy BAGHDAD (Reuters) - About two dozen Iraqi women demonstrated on Saturday in Baghdad against a draft law approved by the Iraqi cabinet that would permit the marriage of nine-year-old girls and automatically give child custody to fathers. The group's protest was on International Women's Day and a week after the cabinet voted for the legislation, based on Shi'ite Islamic jurisprudence, allowing clergy to preside over marriages, divorces and inheritances. "On this day of women, women of Iraq are in mourning," the protesters shouted. "We believe that this is a crime against humanity," said Hanaa Eduar, a prominent Iraqi human rights activist.
By Chris Witkowsky NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters-peHUB) - The auction of JP Morgan Chase's private equity business, One Equity Partners, in the market since at least November, has hit an impasse, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. A spokesperson for JP Morgan Chase declined to comment. The bank announced last July it was spinning off One Equity, its last remaining private equity operation, because the unit was not core. JP Morgan Chase was not under regulatory pressure to sell: One Equity would not be affected by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which restricts the ability of bank holding companies to own and operate private equity groups, sister news service Reuters reported last year.
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Ukraine's first medalist of the Sochi Paralympics dedicated her achievement Saturday to Ukrainian independence and appealed for peace with Russia.
BEIRUT (AP) — Nada Sabbagh received a brief, chilling telephone call from her son-in-law last month telling her: "Come to your daughter. I am going to kill her."
CAIRO (AP) — A Saudi-owned satellite network says the signal of its Egyptian affiliate deliberately was jammed while it aired the country's top satirical program.
Barcelona slumped to their third defeat in seven league games as they lost away to relegation-threatened Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday. Italian Fausto Rossi scored the only goal of the game as he slammed home from close range after 17 minutes. Valladolid goalkeeper Diego Marino was forced into four saves by Lionel Messi, but it was Neymar who had the best chance to level when he ballooned over just before the hour mark. However, the Catalans couldn't find a way through and could fall four points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid should Los Blancos beat Levante at home on Sunday.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four Central European nations are urging the United States to boost natural gas exports to Europe as a hedge against the possibility that Russia could cut off its supply of gas to Ukraine.
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Matt Carpenter called agreeing to a new $52 million, six-year deal with St. Louis a no-brainer. The Cardinals are hoping their third baseman sticks even longer than that.
By Alexander Dziadosz BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian government forces seized a village in the central Homs province on Saturday, state media and a monitoring group said, as part of a push for control of areas along the Lebanese border. The village of al-Zara, west of the city of Homs, fell after "heavy clashes" between government and rebel forces, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, although the number of casualties was not immediately clear. In a statement on state news agency SANA, Syria's armed forces said they had established complete control over the village and killed and captured a "large number of terrorists", using state media's customary term for rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. The victory gave government forces control over a route connecting central Syria to the Mediterranean coast and which had been used as "a primary route for terrorist groups coming from Lebanese territory to neighboring areas to carry out criminal operations", it said.
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