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TOKYO - President Barack Obama is seeking to reassure Japanese leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges to Asia even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere. The ominous standoff between Ukraine and Russia is threatening to overshadow Obama's four-country Asia swing that began Wednesday. But at least publicly, Obama will try to keep the focus on his Asia agenda, which includes reaffirming his commitment to a defence treaty with Japan, making progress on a stalled trans-Pacific trade agreement and finalizing a deal to modestly increase the American military footprint in the Philippines. Obama steered clear of more sensitive topics like the trade and China tensions as he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat down for a morning meeting at Tokyo's Akasaka Palace.
CLEVELAND - Attorneys for two women held in a Cleveland home and abused for a decade say Joan Rivers should apologize for comparing living in her daughter's guest room with the captivity they experienced. Rivers and her daughter were discussing their reality show Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show when she complained about her living arrangements, saying, "Those women in the basement in Cleveland had more space." A Wednesday statement from attorneys for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus calls Rivers' remark hurtful and shocking.
HONOLULU, Hawaii - Long flights can leave anyone a little unsteady, but a teenager who defied the odds, surviving a flight from California to Hawaii tucked in a jetliner's wheel well, was disoriented, thirsty and could barely walk after the freezing, low-pressure ordeal, airport officials said Wednesday. Security video of his arrival shows the 15-year-old boy dangling his feet for about 15 seconds from the wheel well before jumping about 10 feet (3.05 metres) to the ground, landing on his feet and immediately collapsing Sunday morning, Maui District Airport Manager Marvin Moniz said. Staggering toward the front of the plane, the soft-spoken boy in a San Francisco Giants hoodie asked a ramp agent for a drink of water, setting in motion federal and local law enforcement investigations, national calls for better airport security and a flurry of speculation about how anyone could survive such a perilous trip. Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, who said he is the boy's father, told Voice of America Wednesday that his son â€” who is still hospitalized in Honolulu â€” missed Africa, where they used to live, and had been struggling in school.
JINDO, South Korea - Divers made their way deeper Thursday into the submerged wreck of a ferry that sank more than a week ago as the death toll neared 160 and relatives of the more than 140 still missing pressed the government to finish the grim task of recovery soon. The coast guard and a rescue company were searching the middle section of the same floor, and another team was to search the front and middle of the fourth floor. As divers plunge deeper into the ferry, the work gets harder as they find they have to rip through cabin walls to retrieve more victims. "Now we think we have to deal with this realistically," said Pyun Yong-gi, whose 17-year-old daughter is among the missing.
NEW YORK, N.Y. - The largest police department in the U.S. learned the hard way that there are legions online devoted to short-circuiting even the best-intentioned public relations campaign â€” in this case, the NYPD's Twitter invitation to people to post feel-good photos of themselves posing with New York's Finest. It was a mistake of epic proportions, with the hashtag among the most-trafficked in the world Tuesday, creating a public relations nightmare for a new NYPD leadership intent on creating a more community-friendly force. "When you're in the social space, it's tough to predict what's going to happen," said Glen Gilmore, who teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. A similar meltdown came last November when investment giant JP Morgan Chase, which had been paying billions in fines stemming from the financial crisis, asked followers on Twitter to post career advice questions.
MOSCOW - The founder of Russia's leading social media network â€” a wunderkind often described as Russia's Mark Zuckerberg â€” 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. Although months in the making, the loss of Durov's leadership in VKontakte means that the space for free speech on the Russian web could shrink even further. As one of his final acts of defiance, Durov posted online last week what he said were documents from the security services, demanding personal details from 39 Ukraine-linked groups on VKontakte, also known as VK.
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that two death row inmates are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them. In rejecting the inmates' claims, the court also lifted a stay of execution that it had granted earlier in the week in a case that placed Oklahoma's two highest courts at odds and prompted calls for impeaching justices on the Supreme Court. Wednesday's decision paves the way for death row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner to receive a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. A stay issued on Tuesday by Gov. Mary Fallin remains in place for Lockett, but only until April 29, the same day Warner is scheduled to die.
CANBERRA, Australia - Australian officials said Thursday that after examining detailed photographs of unidentified material that washed ashore in the southwestern part of the country they are satisfied it is not a clue in the search for the missing Malaysian plane. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has advised search co-ordinators that the material, which washed ashore 10 kilometres (6 miles) east of Augusta in Western Australia, is not from missing Flight 370, according to a statement from the Joint Agency Coordination Centre. Augusta is near Australia's southwestern tip, about 310 kilometres (190 miles) from Perth, where the search has been headquartered. Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday that failure to find any clue in the most likely crash site of the lost jet would not spell the end of the search, as officials plan soon to bring in more powerful sonar equipment that can delve deeper beneath the Indian Ocean.
By Edwin Chan SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc has approved another $30 billion in share buybacks till the end of 2015 and authorized a rarely seen seven-for-one stock split, addressing calls to share more of its cash hoard while broadening the stock's appeal to individual investors. Activist investor Carl Icahn, who had famously called on the iPhone maker to boost its buyback program, tweeted his approval of the move on Wednesday. On Wednesday, Apple reported sales of 43.7 million iPhones in the quarter ended March, far outpacing the roughly 38 million that Wall Street had predicted. But whether Apple can again produce a revolutionary new product remains the central question in investors' and Silicon Valley executives' minds.
By Noel Randewich SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Leading mobile chipmaker Qualcomm said on Wednesday it could face a civil action from U.S. authorities over alleged bribery of officials associated with state-owned companies in China. With smartphone sales tapering off in the United States, China is a major market for Qualcomm, but doing business there has included disagreements over royalties and an antitrust investigation. In its fiscal second-quarter report, Qualcomm said it has received a notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission's Los Angeles office advising it of a preliminary determination to recommend an enforcement action against the company for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Qualcomm said the civil action could seek remedies including "disgorgement of profits, the retention of an independent compliance monitor to review the company's FCPA policies and procedures, an injunction, civil monetary penalties and prejudgment interest." Qualcomm said it first learned of and disclosed the SEC investigation in 2012.