Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian government forces have attacked rebel-held areas with poisonous chlorine gas in recent weeks and months, leaving men, women and children coughing, choking and gasping for breath, according to Associated Press interviews with more than a dozen activists, medics and residents on the opposition side. Syria flatly denied the allegations, and they have yet to be confirmed by any foreign country or international organization. But if true, they highlight the limitations of the global effort to rid President Bashar Assad's government of its chemical weapons.
Amid Russian warning, Ukraine's in a security bind DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - Ukraine's highly publicized goal to recapture police stations and government buildings seized by pro-Russia forces in the east produced little action on the ground Wednesday but ignited foreboding words from Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Russia would mount a firm response if its citizens or interests come under attack in Ukraine. Although he did not specifically say Russia would launch a military attack, his comments bolstered wide concern that Russia could use any violence in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for sending in troops.
US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release - and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It's an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says. On Wednesday, the Justice Department unveiled a revamped clemency process directed primarily at low-level felons imprisoned for at least 10 years who have clean records while in custody. The effort is part of a broader administration push to scale back harsh penalties in some drug-related prosecutions and to address sentencing disparities arising from the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic that yielded disproportionately tough punishment for black drug offenders.
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Russian social media CEO quits, flees country MOSCOW (AP) - The founder of Russia's leading social media network - a wunderkind often described as Russia's Mark Zuckerberg - has left his post as CEO and fled the country as cronies of President Vladimir Putin have made steady inroads into the company's ownership. The slow-motion ouster of Pavel Durov from the network known as VKontakte, or "In Contact," is the latest sign that independent media outlets in Russia have become increasingly imperiled.
Wellness programs grow more popular with employers That little voice nagging you to put down the cake and lace up the running shoes is increasingly coming from your employer and is likely to grow louder with a looming change under the federal health care overhaul. More companies are starting or expanding wellness programs that aim to reduce their medical costs by improving their employees' health. They're asking workers to take physical exams, complete detailed health assessments and focus on controlling conditions such as diabetes. Along with that, many companies also are dangling the threat of higher monthly insurance premiums to prod workers into action.
SKorea ferry toll hits 156 as search gets tougher JINDO, South Korea (AP) - As the 156th body was pulled from waters where the ferry Sewol sank a week ago, relatives of the nearly 150 still missing pressed the government Wednesday to finish the grim task of recovery soon. But the work was reaching a new, more complicated phase, with an official saying divers must now rip through cabin walls to retrieve more victims. Looming in the background is a sensitive issue: When to bring in the cranes and begin the salvage effort by cutting up and raising the submerged vessel. The government has warned that the work might eliminate air pockets that could be sustaining survivors, but for some relatives that is a long-lost hope.
Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - An Army private convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks won an initial victory Wednesday to living as a woman when a Kansas judge granted a petition to change her name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning. The decision clears the way for official changes to Manning's military records, but does not compel the military to treat the soldier previously known as Bradley Edward Manning as a woman.
AP WAS THERE: Probable cause of AIDS found WASHINGTON (AP) - EDITOR'S NOTE: In 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases of a rare pneumonia that had sickened five Los Angeles gay men. The AIDS epidemic had begun. Over the next three years, the CDC formally named the condition and announced that sexual contact and infected blood were the major ways the disease spread.
Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jodie Foster is a married woman. The 51-year-old Oscar winner wed girlfriend Alexandra Hedison over the weekend, Foster's publicist confirmed Wednesday. Jennifer Allen offered no other details.
For Wrigley, it's party of a century CHICAGO (AP) - For Wrigley Field, it really was the party of a century. Exactly 100 years after the Chicago Federals pounded the Kansas City Packers in the first game at the Chicago ballpark, Wrigley got quite the birthday bash on Wednesday afternoon. Hall of Famers such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson were on hand, and so were Bears greats Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.