---- — SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Masked gunmen stormed parliament in Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region Thursday as Russian fighter jets scrambled to patrol borders, while the newly formed government pledged to prevent a national breakup with strong backing from the West — the stirrings of a potentially dangerous confrontation reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.
Moscow granted shelter to Ukraine’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, state media said. He was said to be holed up in a luxury government retreat and to have scheduled a news conference Friday near the Ukrainian border.
As gunmen wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms erected a sign reading “Crimea is Russia” in the provincial capital, Ukraine’s interim prime minister declared the Black Sea territory “has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”
The escalating conflict sent Ukraine’s finances plummeting further, prompting Western leaders to prepare an emergency financial package.
GOP derails SenateDems’ bill boostingveterans benefits
WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for the nation’s veterans. The bill fell victim to election-year disputes over spending and fresh penalties against Iran.
Each party covets the allegiance of the country’s 22 million veterans and their families, and each party blamed the other for turning the effort into a chess match aimed at forcing politically embarrassing votes.
Republicans used a procedural move to block the bill after Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chided GOP lawmakers about their priorities.
“I personally, I have to say this honestly, have a hard time understanding how anyone could vote for tax breaks for billionaires, for millionaires, for large corporations and then say we don’t have the resources to protect our veterans,” said Sanders, the measure’s chief author.
Airport phone system didn’t give dispatchers spot of airport shooting
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles International Airport police dispatcher who received a call seconds after a gunman opened fire last year didn’t know where to send officers because no one was on the line and the airport communications system didn’t identify that the call was from a security checkpoint emergency phone, two officials told The Associated Press.
A screening supervisor in the sprawling airport’s Terminal 3 picked up the phone but fled before responding to a dispatcher’s questions because the gunman was approaching with a high-powered rifle and spraying bullets, according to two officials briefed on preliminary findings of a review of the emergency response. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because the final report won’t be released until next month.
One of the officials likened the situation to a 911 call but police not knowing what address to go to. Airport dispatchers knew something was wrong but didn’t know where to send help because the system didn’t identify locations of its emergency phones.
After asking questions and receiving no answers, the dispatcher hung up. An airline contractor working in the terminal called dispatch directly from his cellphone, and officers were dispatched 90 seconds after the shooting started.
Sen. Cruz blasts GOP leaders, refuses to endorse fellow Texan
WASHINGTON (AP) — The sniping between establishment Republicans and tea partyers resumed Thursday as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz refused to endorse his state’s senior senator in next week’s Republican primary.
Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican leader, faces tea party-backed Rep. Steve Stockman in Tuesday’s election. Cruz declined to tell reporters how he plans to vote.
“I am not supporting any of the senators from my party or their opponents” in this year’s primaries, Cruz said, adding that he might change his mind later.