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Associated Press

Posted on February 23, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Updated Sunday, Feb 23 at 11:00 AM

Ukraine: Legislature votes to hand presidential powers to parliament speaker

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's newly emboldened legislature has voted to hand the president's powers to the parliament speaker.

The legitimacy of Sunday's vote is unclear. President Viktor Yanukovych has said that a flurry of parliament decisions in recent days are illegal.

The Verhovna Rada voted overwhelmingly to temporarily hand the president's powers to speaker Turchinov.

Oleksandr Turchinov is a close ally of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the president's main foe.

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As allies fell to US-Mexican operations, noose closed on most-wanted drug lord 'El Chapo'

MAZATLAN, Mexico (AP) — For 13 years Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman watched from the rugged mountains of western Mexico as authorities captured or killed the leaders of every group that challenged his Sinaloa cartel's spot at the top of global drug trafficking.

Unscathed and his legend growing, the stocky son of a peasant farmer grabbed a slot on the Forbes' billionaires' list and a folkloric status as the capo who grew too powerful to catch. Then, late last year, authorities started closing on the inner circle of the world's most-wanted drug lord.

The son of one of his two top henchmen, Ismael "Mayo" Zambada, was arrested at a border crossing in Nogales, Arizona in November as part of a sprawling, complex investigation involving as many as 100 wiretaps, according to his lawyer.

A month later, one of the Sinaloa cartel's main lieutenants was gunned down by Mexican helicopter gunships in a resort town a few hours drive to the east. Less than two weeks passed before police at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam arrested one of the cartel's top assassins, a man who handled transport and logistics for Guzman.

This month the noose started tightening. Federal forces began sweeping through Culiacan, capital of the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa — closing streets, raiding houses, seizing automatic weapons, drugs and money, and arresting a series of men Mexican officials carefully described to reporters as top officials for Zambada.

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A look at detentions of major drug chiefs in recent years

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Top Mexican drug cartel captures or killings in recent years:

—Feb. 22, 2014: Authorities say Mexican and U.S. officials capture the world's most powerful drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in the beach resort of Mazatlan.

—July 15, 2013: Authorities in northern Mexico capture Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, alias "Z-40," leader of the brutal Zetas cartel.

—Oct. 7, 2012: Mexican marines kill Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias "El Lazca," a founder and top leader of the Zetas. His body is later stolen from a funeral home. Trevino Morales takes over the Zetas.

—Oct. 6, 2012: Mexican marines arrest alleged Zetas regional leader Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, suspected of involvement in massacres and the killing of U.S. citizen David Hartley in 2010 on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border.

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G-20 finance chiefs vow to boost world economy by $2 trillion over next 5 years

SYDNEY (AP) — Finance chiefs from the 20 largest economies agreed Sunday to implement policies that will boost world GDP by more than $2 trillion over the coming five years.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey, who hosted the Group of 20 meeting in Sydney, said the commitment from the G-20 finance ministers and central bankers was "unprecedented."

The world economy has sputtered since the 2008 financial crisis and global recession that followed. Progress in returning economic growth to pre-crisis levels has been hampered by austerity policies in Europe, high unemployment in the U.S. and a cooling of China's torrid expansion.

The centerpiece of the $2 trillion commitment made at the Sydney meeting is to boost the combined gross domestic product of G-20 countries by 2 percent above the levels expected for the next five years, possibly creating tens of millions of new jobs. World GDP was about $72 trillion in 2012.

The G-20 combines the world's major industrialized and developing countries from the United States to Saudi Arabia and China, representing about 85 percent of the global economy.

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Climate change, executive power at issue in environmental case at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — Industry groups and Republican-led states are heading an attack at the Supreme Court against the Obama administration's sole means of trying to limit power-plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.

As President Barack Obama pledges to act on environmental and other matters when Congress doesn't, or won't, opponents of regulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases cast the rule as a power grab of historic proportions.

The court is hearing arguments Monday about a small but important piece of the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to cut the emissions — a requirement that companies expanding industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must also evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release.

Environmental groups and even some of their opponents say that whatever the court decides, EPA still will be able to move forward with broader plans to set emission standards for greenhouse gases for new and existing power plants.

But a court ruling against the EPA almost undoubtedly would be used to challenge every step of the agency's effort to deal with climate change, said Jacob Hollinger, a partner with the McDermott Will and Emery law firm in New York and a former EPA lawyer.

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Taliban says talks suspended to exchange captive US soldier for prisoners in Guantanamo Bay

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Afghanistan's Taliban says it has suspended "mediation" with the United States to exchange captive U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban prisoners held in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, halting — at least temporarily — what was considered the best chance yet of securing the 27-year-old's freedom since his capture in 2009.

In a terse Pashto language statement emailed to the Associated Press on Sunday, Zabihullah Mujahed blamed the "current complex political situation in the country" for the suspension.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as "proof of life" demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mujahed said the indirect talks with the United States had been mediated by the Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where the Taliban established a political office last June. The video of Bergdahl was part of the negotiations which were to lead to the eventual transfer of five senior Taliban leaders held since 2002 in Guantanamo Bay.

"The leadership of the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend the process for some time due to the current complex political situation in the country," according to the statement. "The process will remain suspended without the exchange of the prisoners until our decision to resume."

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Russian sweep in cross-country clinches medals title for host nation

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Alexander Legkov's victory in the men's 50-kilometer cross-country race Sunday clinched the overall medals title for the host nation at the Sochi Games.

Legkov led a sweep of the podium for Russia in the 50K. Russia started the day tied with Norway for the most gold medals with 11 and with a 29-27 lead over the United States in total medals.

With only three events on the final day of competition — cross-country, four-man bobsled and the men's hockey gold medal game — the Russians didn't waste any time in sealing the deal.

Norway figured to challenge the Russians in cross-country, but Martin Johnsrud Sundby finished fourth while Russians Maxim Vylegzhanin and Ilia Chernousov took silver and bronze.

The three skiers had a wild celebration at the finish line.

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US-South Korean war games loom over emotional family reunions of war-divided Koreans

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A year ago, North Korea vowed nuclear attacks to retaliate for U.S.-South Korean war games. But the start Monday of this year's joint military drills comes as Pyongyang allows wrenching reunions of elderly Koreans separated since the Korean War.

As always with the rival Koreas, cold political calculations loom behind the scenes of pure emotion.

The reasons for Pyongyang's about-face are seen as having more to do with the impoverished country's desire to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington and its need for money than with concern about the painfully brief reunions of Koreans who haven't seen each other since the war's end in 1953.

"Humanitarianism is not at all what North Korea is about," Scott Snyder, a Korea specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a recent online post. Improvements in ties "always engender doubts about how and when the other shoe will drop."

After a last-minute cancellation of reunions in September, Pyongyang allowed them to go forward this time after recent rare high-level talks with Seoul. The first reunions of North and South Koreans in more than three years have been held despite the refusal by the U.S. and South Korea to cancel what they call routine drills, but which Pyongyang says are preparations for an invasion.

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Heating system at center of probe into carbon monoxide leak at New York mall restaurant

HUNTINGTON STATION, N.Y. (AP) — Officials investigating a carbon monoxide leak at a New York mall are concentrating on the heating system of a restaurant following the death of the eatery's 55-year-old manager and more than two dozen others being sent to hospitals.

Suffolk County police identified the man who died Saturday as Steven Nelson, a manager at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station on Long Island.

Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said the medical examiner would determine Nelson's cause of death.

Fitzpatrick said the initial call to police came shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday about a woman who had fallen and hit her head in the basement of the Legal Sea Foods outlet.

When rescue workers arrived at the scene, they started to feel lightheaded and nauseated and suspected a carbon monoxide leak, Fitzpatrick said.

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Maria von Trapp, last surviving member of family made famous in 'Sound of Music,' dies in Vt.

STOWE, Vt. (AP) — Maria von Trapp, the last surviving member and second-eldest daughter of the musical family whose escape from Nazi-occupied Austria was the basis for "The Sound of Music," has died. She was 99.

Von Trapp died at her home in Vermont on Tuesday, according to her brother Johannes von Trapp.

"She was a lovely woman who was one of the few truly good people," he said. "There wasn't a mean or miserable bone in her body. I think everyone who knew her would agree with that."

Maria von Trapp was the last surviving member of the seven original Trapp Family Singers made famous in "The Sound of Music." She was portrayed as Louisa in the 1959 Broadway musical and a 1965 film, which won the Oscar for best picture.

She was the third child and second-oldest daughter of Austrian Naval Capt. Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp. Their seven children were the basis for the singing family in the musical and film.

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