EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 22, 2014

Matteo Renzi forms Italy's new coalition government


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — ROME (AP) — Matteo Renzi will be sworn in as Italy’s youngest prime minister ever today after he cobbled together a government he says will change the face of the country’s politics and economy.

Renzi, the 39-year-old leader of the center-left Democratic Party, unveiled his government yesterday and said the broad coalition will bring hope to the economically stagnant country.

After formally accepting the mandate to form the government, Renzi said he will waste no time in enacting reform.

“We aim tomorrow morning to immediately do the things that need to get done,” he said.

Renzi had been serving as Florence mayor when he engineered a power grab last week to effectively force fellow Democrat, Enrico Letta, to step down after 10 months at the helm of a fragile, often-squabbling coalition.

Agreement on ending Ukraine conflict sparks resentment

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Under heavy pressure from the West following a deadly day of clashes and sniper fire in the capital, President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders struck a deal yesterday aimed at bringing Ukraine’s three-month political crisis to an end. But radical protesters and some pro-Russian factions rejected it, leaving lingering doubts over whether peace could be restored.

On a day of electrifying developments, the Ukrainian parliament also opened a path for Yulia Tymoshenko —Yanukovych’s political nemesis — to be let out of prison.

In spite of what looked like a significant government retreat, protesters booed opposition figures who took to a stage Friday evening to present the deal, which cuts Yanukovych’s powers and calls for early elections but falls short of demands for his immediate resignation.

“Death to the criminal!” some chanted, referring to Yanukovych.

“Resign! Resign! Resign!” shouted others as one radical speaker threatened to go on an armed offensive if the opposition doesn’t demand the president’s resignation by Saturday morning.

Obama to award Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to correct potential acts of bias spanning three wars, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans following a congressionally mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients were not bypassed due to prejudice.

The unusual mass ceremony, scheduled for March 18, will honor veterans, most of Hispanic or Jewish heritage, who had already been recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest military award. Only three of the recipients are living.

“I never really did worry about decorations,” said one of those being honored, Melvin Morris of Cocoa, Fla., who was commended for courageous actions while a staff sergeant during combat operations on Sept. 17, 1969, in the vicinity of Chi Lang, South Vietnam.

Morris, who is black, said in an interview that it never occurred to him that his race might have prevented him from receiving the Medal of Honor. He said it was a huge surprise when the Army contacted him last May about the review and then arranged for a call from Obama.

“I fell to my knees. I was shocked,” Morris said. “President Obama said he was sorry this didn’t happen before. He said this should have been done 44 years ago.”

Venezuelan beauty queen slain in protest mourned

VALENCIA, Venezuela (AP) — A university student beauty queen was mourned Friday in the provincial Venezuelan city where she was slain this week during a political protest, a victim of what government opponents say is indiscriminate violence used by President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters to stifle dissent across the country.

Family members and friends of 22-year-old Genesis Carmona say the former Miss Tourism 2013 for the central Venezuelan state of Carabobo was shot down by members of the armed militias known as “colectivos” who opened fire on a demonstration in Valencia on Tuesday.

The government says the incident is under investigation, and Maduro said at a news conference Friday that it has been “well-established” by ballistics experts that shot came from the opposition protesters. Mourners at the private Mass and graveside memorial for Carmona said they have no doubt which side fired the fatal round.

“She wanted to support her country and, well, look what it cost her for going out with a flag and a whistle. Killed by government mercenaries,” said Jose Gil, an uncle of Carmona.

The violence drew condemnation Friday from U.S. based watchdog group Human Rights Watch, which said “Venezuelan security forces have used excessive and unlawful force against protesters on multiple occasions since February 12, 2014, including beating detainees and shooting at crowds of unarmed people.”

265 Anne Frank books, including her diary, damaged

TOKYO (AP) — Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl” and scores of books about the young Holocaust victim have been vandalized in Tokyo public libraries since earlier this year.

The damage was mostly in the form of dozens of ripped pages in the books. Librarians have counted at least 265 damaged books at 31 municipal libraries since the end of January.

Japan and Nazi Germany were allies in World War II, and though Holocaust denial has occurred in Japan at times, the motive for damaging the Anne Frank books is unclear. Police are investigating.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the vandalism “shameful” and said Japan would not tolerate such acts.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group fighting anti-Semitism, praised Suga’s remarks.

Ukraine women’s team provides good news; Canada deals yet another hockey loss to US

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Four Ukrainian women gave their politically torn country some good news at the Sochi Games yesterday, and Canada delivered more bad news to the United States — yet another Olympic hockey defeat.

As government and opposition leaders worked to end the months-long Ukrainian crisis that erupted in deadly violence this week, the Ukraine women’s 4x6-kilometer biathlon relay team won the nation’s first gold medal in two decades.

The four women celebrated with a Ukrainian flag as lawmakers back home paused to mark the occasion.

“Great proof of how sport can unite the nation,” Sergei Bubka, the pole vault great and leader of the Ukraine Olympic Committee, wrote on Twitter.

There were no celebrations for the U.S. hockey team, with Canada winning 1-0 and dashing the American hopes for men’s gold for the third time since 2002. And it happened just one night after the Canadian women had ousted their American counterparts for the third straight Olympics.

White House finds new sense of purpose in acting alone, no matter how modest the measures

WASHINGTON (AP) — This week, President Barack Obama promoted tougher fuel efficiency standards for trucks. He touted progress on initiatives to strengthen the U.S. patent system. And he signed an executive order intended to speed up the process for approving import or export cargo.

Welcome to Obama’s self-proclaimed “year of action,” where hardly a day goes by without the president and his top advisers trumpeting policy initiatives the White House is undertaking without the help of Congress.

The mostly modest actions — far shy of the sweeping immigration overhaul Obama hoped for this year — put into sharp focus the president’s limitations as he grapples with reluctant lawmakers in an election year. They also underscore how much has changed for Obama since the early days of his presidency, when he declared, “We do big things.”

Yet the flurry of executive actions does seem to be having a cathartic effect inside the White House, which was in need of a jolt after a frustrating and disjointed 2013 that included the flawed rollout of Obama’s signature health care law and a sharp drop in the president’s approval ratings. Advisers who ended the year dispirited now appear buoyed by a new sense of purpose — and the prospect of working around a Congress that has long been an irritant to the president.

“I think people came back from the break over the holidays in a real positive frame of mind,” said David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to the president. “You don’t want to be the prisoner of a negative narrative that somehow Congress has stymied the president and nothing can get done.”