AP News in Brief at 8:58 p.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on April 9, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 9 at 3:30 PM

Ukraine tries to quell pro-Moscow uprisings; US accuses Russia of fomenting unrest

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities moved to quell pro-Moscow uprisings along the Russian border with mixed results Tuesday, retaking one occupied regional headquarters and watching protesters consolidate their hold on another.

In a third city, Luhansk, Ukraine's Security Service said separatists armed with explosives and other weapons were holding 60 people hostage inside the agency's local headquarters.

Those occupying the building issued a video statement saying they want a referendum on the region's status and warning that any attempt to storm the place would be met with armed force.

In the video, posted by Ukrainian media, a masked man identified the occupiers as Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan and said that if authorities try to retake the building, "Welcome to hell, then!"

The Ukrainian government and the U.S. have accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest as a pretext for another Russian military incursion like the takeover of Crimea last month. Up to 40,000 Russian troops are massed along the Ukrainian border, according to NATO.

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Pork prices expected to rise 10 percent after virus new to US kills millions of baby pigs

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A virus never before seen in the U.S. has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, and with little known about how it spreads or how to stop it, it's threatening pork production and pushing up prices by 10 percent or more.

Scientists think porcine epidemic diarrhea, which does not infect humans or other animals, came from China, but they don't know how it got into the country or spread to 27 states since last May. The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.

The U.S. is both a top producer and exporter of pork, but production could decline about 7 percent this year compared to last — the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to a recent report from Rabobank, which focuses on the food, beverage and agribusiness industries.

Already, prices have shot up: A pound of bacon averaged $5.46 in February, 13 percent more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ham and chops have gone up too, although not as much.

Farmer and longtime veterinarian Craig Rowles did all he could to prevent PED from spreading to his farm in Iowa, the nation's top pork producer and the state hardest hit by the disease. He trained workers to spot symptoms, had them shower and change clothing before entering barns and limited deliveries and visitors.

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Messages for 'Cuban Twitter' program overtly political, despite US claims; poked at Castros

WASHINGTON (AP) — Draft messages produced for a Twitter-like network that the U.S. government secretly built in Cuba were overtly political and poked fun at the Castro brothers, documents obtained by The Associated Press show. The messages conflict with claims by the Obama administration that the program had no U.S.-generated political content and was never intended to stir unrest on the island.

Disclosure of the messages, as described in internal documents, came as the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development told Congress in sometimes- confrontational testimony Tuesday that his agency's program was "absolutely not" covert and was simply meant to increase the flow of information.

An AP investigation last week found that the program, known as ZunZuneo, evaded Cuba's Internet restrictions by creating a text-messaging service that could be used to organize political demonstrations. It drew tens of thousands of subscribers who were unaware it was backed by the U.S. government.

At an oversight hearing Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah that the program was "cockamamie" and not adequately described to Congress.

USAID, known worldwide for its humanitarian work, has repeatedly maintained it did not send out political messages under the project. Leahy asked Shah whether the project's goal was to "influence political conditions abroad by gathering information about Cuban cellphone users" or "to encourage popular opposition to the Cuban government."

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Glance: Messages drafted for secret 'Cuban Twitter' mocked Castros, Venezuela's Chavez

WASHINGTON (AP) — USAID's secret Cuban Twitter program hired Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Havana-born satirical artist based in Chile, to propose text messages to be sent to Cuban users. Neither Lauzan nor the Cuban subscribers realized the U.S. government was behind ZunZuneo, the social media network.

Last Thursday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said "no political content was ever supplied by anyone working on this project or running it. It was the people — the Cuban people on the ground who were doing so."

But in an interview Tuesday, Lauzan said he does only political work.

In a series of linked messages, obtained by The Associated Press, Lauzan had imagined Cuban President Raul Castro teaming with the now-deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a pop act who would dance the "perreo," a twerk-like Caribbean dance associated with the tropical genre reggaeton, and record songs with titles mocking their countries' economic and social policies.

Said one text: "'The economy is not our thing' by the Hugo and Raul duo is already a hit."

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To comply with treaty, US will cut Air Force and Navy nukes, including 50 land-based missiles

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will keep its current force of 450 land-based nuclear missiles but remove 50 from their launch silos as part of a plan to bring the U.S. into compliance with a 2011 U.S.-Russia arms control treaty, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The resulting launch-ready total of 400 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles would be the lowest deployed ICBM total since the early 1960s.

The decisions come after a strong push by members of Congress from the states that host missile bases — North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana — to not eliminate any of the silos from which the missiles would be launched. Fifty silos will be kept in "warm" status — empty of missiles but capable of returning to active use.

Sen. John Tester, a Montana Democrat, called the Pentagon's announcement "a big win for our nation's security and for Malmstrom Air Force Base," home of the 341st Missile Wing with 150 Minuteman 3 missiles.

"ICBMs are the most cost-effective nuclear deterrent, and keeping silos warm is a smart decision and the kind of common sense Montanans expect from their leaders," Tester said.

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Oscar Pistorius wails, weeps while testifying on fatal shooting at South African murder trial

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A subdued Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday described dinner at home, chatting and looking at cell phone photos with Reeva Steenkamp on the last night of her life. Then he erupted in anguished howls and heaving sobs while testifying at his murder trial about the moments when he says he realized he shot his girlfriend through a closed toilet door.

The shocking spectacle of what appeared to be a tormented man highlighted the drama of Pistorius' inspirational rise and sudden fall. The South African double-amputee runner captured the world's attention when he successfully fought for permission to run in the 2012 Olympics on his carbon-fiber prostheses. The very next year, he was facing charges for killing the woman he said he loved.

The court in Pretoria, the South African capital, adjourned because of the star athlete's breakdown, ending a day in which Pistorius spoke of the loving aspects of his relationship with Steenkamp in testimony designed to counter a prosecution picture of him as temperamental and overbearing, and then outlined his version of the final hours before the shooting.

"I sat over Reeva and I cried," Pistorius said, telling how he broke open the stall door in his bathroom in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013 to discover his bloodied girlfriend slumped in the cubicle. "I don't know how long I was there for."

Pistorius has said in statements that he shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder in his bathroom. Tuesday marked the first time he has spoken publicly about the details of the fatal shooting. Prosecutors call Pistorius' story an intricate lie and maintain he intentionally killed his 29-year-old girlfriend, a model and reality TV show star, after an argument.

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Missing Malaysia plane could have speared into the sea, leaving few clues to follow

SYDNEY (AP) — Did the missing Malaysian jet plunge into the ocean at a steep angle, leaving virtually no debris on the surface? Did it come in flat, clip a wave and cartwheel into pieces? Or did it break up in midair, sending chunks tumbling down over a wide swath of water?

Exactly how the plane hit the water makes a big difference to the teams undertaking the painstaking search for the wreckage. Investigators have frustratingly little hard data to work out how Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 came down in the Indian Ocean on March 8 with 239 people on board.

Here are some possible scenarios:

A STEEP DIVE:

If the plane ran out of fuel at its normal cruising altitude and the pilots were incapacitated, the autopilot would stop working and the aircraft could dip into an increasingly steep and rapid dive, aviation experts said. Under this scenario, the plane could hit the water nose-first and close to perpendicular with the surface, piercing the ocean like an arrow.

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Al Sharpton says report on his work with FBI not new, says he cooperated but wasn't informant

NEW YORK (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton admitted on Tuesday that he helped the FBI investigate New York Mafia figures in the 1980s, even making secret recordings that appeared to help bring down a mob boss.

But at a news conference, Sharpton insisted he never considered himself a confidential informant, despite a report identifying him as the "CI-7" referenced in recently released court records.

"I was never told I was an informant with a number," Sharpton told reporters at his Harlem headquarters in response to the report posted Monday on The Smoking Gun website. "In my own mind, I was not an informant. I was cooperating with an investigation."

The report's timing became a distraction for Sharpton a day before he was to host President Barack Obama as the keynote speaker at the annual convention his civil rights group, the National Action Network. The MSNBC host complained that he was unfairly portrayed as a turncoat mob associate instead of a victim in front-page tabloid stories featuring headlines like "REV RAT" and 30-year-old photos of him when he was overweight and wore his hair in a bouffant.

Sharpton said that he went to federal authorities after low-level mobsters warned him and others they would be harmed if they continued to compete for a stake in the music business — a claim he recounted in his 1996 book, "Go and Tell Pharaoh."

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High cost of child care cited as likely factor for rise in full-time mothers at home

NEW YORK (AP) — The rising cost of child care is among likely reasons for a rise in the number of women staying home full-time with their children, according to a new Pew Research Center report released Tuesday.

Other factors cited by Pew to explain the increase include more immigrant mothers, who tend to stay home with children in greater numbers than U.S.-born moms; more women unable to find work; and ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children.

The share of mothers who do not work outside the home rose to 29 percent in 2012, the study found. That's up from 23 percent at the turn of the century, according to the report. At the height of the recession in 2008, Pew estimated 26 percent of mothers were home with children.

The at-home moms include women who are married, single, disabled, enrolled in school or unable to find work.

Pew cited a 2010 U.S. census report that singled out the expense of child care as a factor. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the average weekly child care expense for families with working mothers who paid for child care rose more than 70 percent, from $87 in 1985 to $148 in 2011, according to government estimates. That represented 7.2 percent of the income for such families.

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Lawsuit: New York nursing home resident subjected to unwanted performance by male stripper

WEST BABYLON, N.Y. (AP) — An 85-year-old nursing home patient was the victim of "disgraceful sexual perversion" when a male stripper gyrated in front of her against her will at the suburban New York facility, an attorney for the woman's family said Tuesday.

John Ray, the attorney for Bernice Youngblood and her family, displayed a picture of a man in white briefs dancing in front of the woman at East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in September 2012.

The photo, which Ray said Youngblood's son found during a visit to his mother, shows the woman putting money into the dancer's waistband.

Ray said Youngblood had been urged to participate and did so against her will. The family has filed suit against the nursing home seeking unspecified damages.

Ray said Youngblood, who herself had worked as a health aide for the elderly, had her dignity taken away when "nursing home employees subjected her to this disgraceful sexual perversion."

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