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General in sex case: Guilty plea on lesser counts
Written by JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press MICHAEL BIESECKER, Associated Press   
Monday, 17 March 2014 09:40

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — An Army general who admitted to multiple affairs with soldiers under his command has pleaded guilty to a host of lesser charges as prosecutors dropped the most serious — sexual assault counts — as part of a deal.

The hearing Monday at Fort Bragg caps the high-profile prosecution of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair. It comes as the military continues to grapple with revelations of sex crimes in its ranks and political pressure to address the issue. A sentencing hearing for Sinclair could begin as soon as Monday.

He is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to face court-martial on sexual assault charges.

Sinclair, 51, had been accused of twice forcing a female captain under his command to perform oral sex during a three-year extramarital affair.


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(Updated) Earthquake strongly felt across Los Angeles
Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 17 March 2014 09:37
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A pre-dawn earthquake rolled across the Los Angeles basin on Monday, rattling residents from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach.

The quake's magnitude was 4.4 and it was centered 15 miles west-northwest of the downtown civic center, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Los Angeles police and fire officials said there were no immediate reports of damage.

"It rocked and rolled for about 10 or 12 seconds. I'm surprised nothing fell off the walls or broke — and nothing did — but it was quite a shaker," said Brian Bland, a retired AP Radio correspondent who lives in suburban Santa Monica.

The 6:25 a.m. quake occurred at a depth of about 5 miles.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 10:22
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St. Pat's festivities in full swing
Written by MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press   
Monday, 17 March 2014 06:12

 

NEW YORK (AP) — A weekend of St. Patrick's Day revelry and tensions over the exclusion of gays in some of the celebrations was culminating Monday in New York, where Guinness beer and the city's new mayor planned to sit out the world's largest parade celebrating Irish heritage.

Mayor Bill de Blasio held the traditional St. Patrick's Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion with the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, but planned to boycott the parade, which doesn't allow expressions of gay identity. Boston's new mayor, Martin Walsh, also opted out of that city's parade Sunday after talks broke down that would have allowed a gay veterans group to march.

For the second year running, Dublin's major parade was including groups from Ireland's gay rights groups, Dublin Pride and BeLonG To. Gay groups are a big part of the Dublin community dance groups, which wear flamboyant outfits and feature in each year's Dublin parade.

While New York's Irish, their descendants and the Irish for a day planned to revel in the celebration of culture on Monday, de Blasio's decision to skip the parade underscores lingering political tensions over gay rights issues in the United States. Kenny, however, refused to be sidelined, saying he'd join the procession Monday in Manhattan because the holiday is about Irishness, not sexuality.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 11:04
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Study to test 'chocolate' pills for heart health
Written by MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Chief Medical Writer   
Monday, 17 March 2014 06:15

It won't be nearly as much fun as eating candy bars, but a big study is being launched to see if pills containing the nutrients in dark chocolate can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The pills are so packed with nutrients that you'd have to eat a gazillion candy bars to get the amount being tested in this study, which will enroll 18,000 men and women nationwide.

"People eat chocolate because they enjoy it," not because they think it's good for them, and the idea of the study is to see whether there are health benefits from chocolate's ingredients minus the sugar and fat, said Dr. JoAnn Manson, preventive medicine chief at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The study will be the first large test of cocoa flavanols, which in previous smaller studies improved blood pressure, cholesterol, the body's use of insulin, artery health and other heart-related factors.

A second part of the study will test multivitamins to help prevent cancer. Earlier research suggested this benefit but involved just older, unusually healthy men. Researchers want to see if multivitamins lower cancer risk in a broader population.

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Final Crimea count: 97 percent back Russia
Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 17 March 2014 06:09

MOSCOW (AP) — Final results of the referendum in Crimea show that 97 percent of voters have supported leaving Ukraine to join Russia, the head of the referendum election commission said Monday.

Mikhail Malyshev told a televised news conference that the final tally from Sunday's vote was 96.8 percent in favor of splitting from Ukraine. He also said that the commission has not registered a single complaint about the vote.

The referendum was widely condemned by Western leaders who were planning to discuss economic sanctions to punish Russia on Monday. Ukraine's new government in Kiev called the referendum a "circus" directed at gunpoint by Moscow.

But Valery Ryazantsev, head of Russia's observer mission in Crimea and a lawmaker from the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Monday that the results are beyond dispute. He told the Interfax news agency that there are "absolutely no reasons to consider the vote results illegitimate."

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