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April 19, 2014

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AP Top News at 12:44 p.m. EST

Updated Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 | 9:44 a.m.

Top Republicans say they stand by NJ Gov. Christie

High-profile Republicans were adamant Sunday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should not resign from his post as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after a recent claim from a former ally that there is evidence Christie knew about an apparently politically motivated traffic jam earlier than he has said. The support from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan put Republicans on the offensive and the Democratic chairman of a state legislative committee investigating the September lane closures near the George Washington Bridge on the defensive the day Christie's state hosts the Super Bowl.

Radicals a wild card in Ukraine's protests

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Wearing masks, helmets and protective gear on the arms and legs, radical activists are the wild card of the Ukraine protests now starting their third month, declaring they're ready to resume violence if the stalemate persists. When the protests started in late November, attracting crowds sometimes above 100,000 and visits from Western officials, the gatherings' general determined peacefulness was an integral part of their claim to legitimacy. But in mid-January, the image of placid but principled people changed sharply, to frightening scenes of protesters heaving stones and firebombs at police.

Paul Ryan: Immigration legislation unlikely in '14

WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after House Republicans unveiled a roadmap for an overhaul of the nation's broken immigration system, one of its backers said legislation is unlikely to pass during this election year. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said distrust of President Barack Obama runs so deep in the Republican caucus that he's skeptical the GOP-led House would pass any immigration measure. He said a plan that puts security first could only pass if lawmakers believe the administration would enforce it — an unlikely prospect given Republicans' deep opposition to Obama.

Despite safety emphasis, school shootings continue

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's been no real reduction in the number of U.S. school shootings despite increased security put in place after the rampage at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. In Pennsylvania and New Mexico, Colorado and Tennessee, and elsewhere, gunfire has echoed through school hallways, and killed students or their teachers in some cases. "Lockdown" is now part of the school vocabulary.

Israeli premier brushes off Kerry boycott warning

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday brushed off U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's warning that Israel faced a growing boycott threat if peace talks with the Palestinians fail, saying the campaign would not achieve its goal. In the latest flare-up between the two allies, two of Netanyahu's Cabinet ministers went even further, lashing out at Kerry and accusing him of undermined the Jewish state's legitimacy and the chances of reaching a peace agreement.

Thai elections peaceful, but crisis far from over

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand held nationwide elections without bloodshed Sunday despite widespread fears of violence. But the country's profound political crisis is far from over, and one of the next flash points is likely to be an effort to nullify the vote. Although balloting was largely peaceful, protesters forced thousands of polling booths to close in Bangkok and the south, disenfranchising millions of registered voters. Not all Parliament seats will be filled as a result, meaning the winning party will be unable to form a new government and the nation could be left in political limbo for months.

Activists: Car bomb in Syria killed al-Qaida rival

BEIRUT (AP) — A twin car bombing near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed a senior leader of an Islamic rebel brigade opposed to an al-Qaida-linked faction, activists said Sunday. The attack could exacerbate rebel infighting even as government aircraft bomb opposition-held areas of the divided city. Syrian President Bashar Assad's helicopters have pounded Aleppo for weeks with barrel bombs — crude containers packed with explosives, fuel and scraps of metal — that cause massive damage on impact. Government airstrikes hit at least four different areas of the city Sunday, including near a mosque and a vegetable market, activists said.

Handlers: Punxsutawney Phil predicts longer winter

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) — Emerging from his lair on Super Bowl Sunday, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil couldn't predict the winner of the big game but his handlers said he was sure of his weather forecast: There will be six more weeks of winter. Pennsylvania's famed groundhog was roused from slumber at 7:28 a.m. Sunday and, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, directed handler Bill Deeley to a scroll that contained the prediction — along with a Super Bowl reference.

Super Bowl Ads: Anything Could Happen

NEW YORK (AP) — Super Bowl advertisers are finally about to see their efforts play out on the industry's biggest stage Sunday night. But as they've learned in the past, anything can happen. Companies Coca-Cola, Mars and Nestle have spent the past several days trying to drum up hype for their big-money ads, in some cases by releasing teasers online. Anheuser Busch InBev even hosted a viewing party for its ads aboard a cruise ship docked at a New York City pier, which was transformed into a floating "Bud Light Hotel," complete with escargot, duck and cheesecake on the menu.

JK Rowling says 'Harry Potter' ending may be wrong

LONDON (AP) — Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is having second thoughts about having ended the series with heroine Hermione Granger paired up romantically with Ron Weasley. The hugely successful author tells Wonderland magazine she chose the red-haired Ron for Hermione for very personal reasons having little to do with literature.