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Associated Press

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 18 at 12:01 PM

UKRAINE-PROTESTS

UPDATE: Ukraine: Authorities set deadline to end clashes

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's law enforcement agencies have set a deadline for protesters to end street clashes with police in Kiev, and have vow to restore order.

Ukraine's Security Service and the Interior Ministry issued a joint statement Tuesday, saying that if "disorders" don't stop by 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), the authorities will restore order.

At least four people were reported dead in the clashes Tuesday.

A lawmaker for a Ukrainian opposition party and a coordinator for the protesters' medical team say three protesters died in clashes with police outside the parliament building in central Kiev.

Emergency officials in Kiev said that another person was found dead after clashes between protesters and police at the offices of the president's party.

PUSSY RIOT-SOCHI

UPDATE: 2 members of punk group Pussy Riot released

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Two members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot have been released after being detained by police in Sochi, the host city of the Winter Olympics.

No charges were filed against Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who were held along with several other people near the city's ferry terminal, a popular area for fans celebrating the Olympics.

Seven other people who were detained with them also were released Tuesday.

Police said they were being questioned in connection with a theft at the hotel where they were staying.

SYRIA

Syria ousts rebels from site of alleged killings

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian state media says government troops have regained full control of a village in the central province of Hama after ousting rebels accused of killing dozens of people there, mostly members of the minority Alawite sect.

State news agency SANA says government troops took control of the village of Maan on Monday after destroying the last "hideouts of terrorists, who came into the village and committed a massacre."

Syria refers to rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad as terrorists. The rebels are mostly Sunni Muslims and Assad's government is predominantly Alawite, a sect of Shiite Islam.

Opposition activists have also reported sectarian killings in Maan. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 40 people were killed when hard-line Islamic fighters overran the village Feb.9.

WALL STREET

UPDATE: Mixed start for stocks after long holiday weekend

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market is getting off to a mixed start as traders return from a long holiday weekend.

Coca-Cola slumped after turning in disappointing quarterly results and health care stocks rose following news a big merger in the pharmaceutical sector.

Forest Laboratories jumped 30 percent after another drugmaker, Actavis, agreed to buy the company for $25 billion.

Coca-Cola fell 3 percent after reporting a decline in fourth-quarter profit and sales from a year ago.

U.S. financial markets were closed Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday.

BUILDER SENTIMENT

NEW: US homebuilder confidence sinks in February

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market has declined sharply as the severe weather battering much of the nation keeps many would-be buyers at home.

Storms and cold weather dampened builders' outlook for sales ahead of the spring home-selling season and could further slow the pace of home construction.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index slid to 46. That's down from January's reading of 56 and is the lowest level since May.

Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

Builders' view of current sales conditions for single-family homes, their outlook for sales over the next six months and traffic by prospective buyers have all declined since January.

Economists predict that U.S. sales of new homes fell last month.

ETHIOPIA-PLANE HIJACKER

Ethiopia pilot was distraught over death in family

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The uncle of an Ethiopian pilot who hijacked a flight to Rome and took it to Geneva says his nephew had been distraught over the loss of another uncle.

The uncle (Alemu Asmamaw) tells The Associated Press in a phone interview today that 31-year-old co-pilot was in emotional distress over the past month following the sudden death of an uncle.

The co-pilot, who had worked for Ethiopian Airlines for five years, on Monday locked the pilot of a Rome-bound flight out of the cockpit and then diverted the plane to Geneva, where he sought asylum.

Geneva prosecutors say he'll be charged with taking hostages, a crime punishable by up to 20 years.

NORWAY-BREIVIK HUNGER STRIKE

NEW: Breivik hunger strike threat: wants bigger gym

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — Convicted Norwegian mass-killer Anders Behring Breivik has threatened to go on hunger strike unless he gets access to better video games, a sofa and a larger gym.

In a letter received by The Associated Press Tuesday, Breivik writes the hunger strike will continue until his demands are met or he dies.

Breivik's lawyer Tord Jordet confirmed the letter was authentic and said his client is waiting for a response from prison authorities before starting the hunger strike.

Breivik is serving a 21-year prison sentence, which can be extended when it expires, for killing 77 people in bomb and gun massacres in 2011.

Among his demands, Breivik wants the lifting of restrictions on communications and improved air conditions. He wants the available PlayStation 2 console replaced by a modern version.

CHRISTIE-TRAFFIC JAMS-MAYOR

Fort Lee mayor rebuffs Christie lawyer's request

FORT LEE, N.J. (AP) — The mayor of the New Jersey town where allies of Gov. Chris Christie created traffic jams last fall has refused a request to be interviewed by a lawyer representing the governor.

Fort Lee Mark Sokolich also was asked to provide documents. The Record (http://bit.ly/1mqCtpB ) reports that Mastro sent a letter back to attorney Randy Mastro on Monday declining the request.

Emails and text messages subpoenaed by a New Jersey legislative committee revealed that an aide to Christie wrote to a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official and told him, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

A federal investigation into the matter is underway.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who has made separate allegations against the governor and his aides, also has declined an interview request by Mastro.

BULLYING-INCOGNITO APOLOGY

UPDATE: Incognito apologizes to Martin, Ross and Wells

UNDATED (AP) — Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito has offered apologies to teammate Jonathan Martin, team owner Stephen Ross and investigator Ted Wells in the wake of the NFL-ordered report detailing a racially charged bullying scandal.

The report stated there was a "pattern of harassment" committed by Incognito and teammates John Jerry and Mike Pouncey that extended to two Dolphins linemen and an assistant trainer, all targets of vicious taunts and racist insults.

On his Twitter account Tuesday, Incognito wrote, "I would like to send Jonathan my apologies as well. Until someone tells me different you are still my brother. No hard feelings :)"

That came after the soon-to-be free agent apologized Monday night for "acting like a big baby."

Incognito also wrote that he's in "good spirits" and wants to play football again.

ZIMBABWE-CONGRESSMAN

Former US congressman arrested in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A Zimbabwean immigration official says former U.S. Rep. Melvin Jay Reynolds has been arrested in the African country.

The official, Ario Mabika, told The Associated Press Tuesday that Reynolds is being investigated.

The state-controlled The Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that Reynolds was arrested for allegedly possessing pornographic material and violating immigration laws.

Reynolds, an Illinois Democrat, resigned from his congressional seat in 1995 after he was convicted of 12 counts of statutory rape, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography.

The Herald said Reynolds was arrested Monday by police detectives and immigration officials at a Harare hotel.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy, Karen Kelley, said the embassy could not comment as it was a private matter and the embassy did not did not have a privacy waiver.

CHINA-BIGGER SOLDIERS

China says bigger soldiers causing cramped tanks

BEIJING (AP) — China's military says its average soldier has grown taller and wider over the past two decades, leading to cramped tanks and other equipment problems.

The official People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper said Tuesday that a survey of 20,000 troops begun in 2009 showed them to be an average of 2 centimeters (about three-quarters of an inch) taller and 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) bigger around the waist.

It said that was causing discomfort when soldiers tried to squeeze into tanks designed 30 years ago for troops of considerably smaller size. It said rifle barrels were also relatively short for the taller soldiers, leading to accuracy problems.

It said adjustments would be made, with 28 body measurements taken into consideration when designing new firearms and other equipment.

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