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Court: School can ban U.S. flag shirts for safety
Written by PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press   
Friday, 28 February 2014 07:04

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Officials at a Northern California high school acted appropriately when they ordered students wearing American flag T-shirts to turn the garments inside out during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the officials' concerns of racial violence outweighed students' freedom of expression rights. Administrators feared the American-flag shirts would enflame the passions of Latino students celebrating the Mexican holiday. Live Oak High School, in the San Jose suburb of Morgan Hill, had a history of problems between white and Latino students on that day.

The unanimous three-judge panel said past problems gave school officials sufficient and justifiable reasons for their actions. The court said schools have wide latitude in curbing certain civil rights to ensure campus safety.

"Our role is not to second-guess the decision to have a Cinco de Mayo celebration or the precautions put in place to avoid violence," Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel. The past events "made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real," she wrote.

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Winter-weary Americans plead: Get me out of here
Written by DON BABWIN, Associated Press   
Friday, 28 February 2014 07:00

CHICAGO (AP) — Shannon Frauenholtz has had it with winter. Barely able to stomach the television news with its images of snowbound cars, she heads to the tanning salon, closes her eyes and imagines she's back in Mexico, where she's already vacationed once this winter.

She's toyed with the idea of joining her mother in Hawaii or just driving to an indoor water park, figuring that while the palm trees might be plastic and the "beach" smells of chlorine, at least it's warm.

"I don't need a vacation. I don't need the relaxation," she said. "I just need the heat."

All over the Midwest and the East Coast, travel agents are being inundated with a simple request: Get me out of here. And travelers fortunate enough to have escaped are begging hotels to let them stay a little longer.

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Hundreds march for release of Sinaloa cartel boss in Mexico
Written by MARTIN DURAN, Associated Press   
Thursday, 27 February 2014 15:20

CULIACAN, Mexico (AP) — Sinaloa state authorities said on Thursday they are investigating who organized a march in which hundreds demanded the release of cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a display of public support for crime boss in a state that many say he controls.

Gov. Mario Lopez Valdez told Televisa that officials suspect Guzman's family and friends, and there are also rumors that protesters were paid and given food and drink, a common practice in Mexico.

"We don't know at this time, but the investigation should reveal that," Lopez said.

Hundreds of people marched Wednesday night demanding that Mexican authorities free the boss of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. Many said he provides needed jobs in poor mountain areas.

Norteno musicians played trumpets while high school students in uniforms held up signs reading "We want Chapo free" and "We Love Chapo" as they paraded in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, which is the cartel's bastion.

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Ukraine says Russian forces block airport
Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 28 February 2014 06:54

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian military were blocking a Ukrainian military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea near the Russian naval base while unidentified armed men were patrolling another airport serving the regional capital, Ukraine's new Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Friday.

No violence was reported, and flights continued to operate at the airport serving Simferopol, the regional capital. It was not immediately clear whether the airport in Sevastopol, owned by the Ukrainian defense ministry, was open but there are no scheduled services to the facility.

The Russian foreign ministry refused to comment while a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry also had no comment.

Avakov wrote in a Facebook post that the Belbek international airport in Sevastopol was blocked by military units of the Russian navy.

"I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation," Avakov said.

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IMF 'ready to respond' to Ukraine aid bid
Written by JUERGEN BAETZ, Associated Press   
Thursday, 27 February 2014 11:54

BRUSSELS (AP) — The International Monetary Fund will answer Ukraine's call for financial help "at this critical moment in its history," fund chief Christine Lagarde said Thursday.

In the IMF's first official statement on Ukraine since the country's political crisis intensified last week, Lagarde said a fact-finding team will be sent to Kiev in the coming days to assess the financial needs.

"We are ready to respond," she said.

The mission will help the IMF understand the economic situation and its officials will start discussing with Ukrainian authorities what reforms would be required in exchange for an emergency loan program, she added.

Ukraine's finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion for this year and next to avoid default. The political turmoil since the end of last year has roiled the economy, depleted the central bank's reserves and sent its currency tumbling.

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