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April 16, 2014

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AP Top News at 12:16 p.m. EST

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 | 9:17 a.m.

Dempsey worries about effects of withdrawal talk

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — America's top military officer said Wednesday that the impasse over a security agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan is encouraging the enemy to take bold actions and could lead some Afghan forces to cooperate with the Taliban to "hedge their bets." Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with his commanders in Afghanistan to assess conditions and reassure them that they should focus on the considerable work they have to do this year and not worry about next year.

Rival groups clash in Ukraine's Crimea, 20 injured

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Fistfights broke out between pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine's strategic Crimea region on Wednesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered major military exercises just across the border. The tests of military readiness involve most of the units in central and western Russia, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a televised statement. He said the exercise would "check the troops' readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation's military security."

Ukraine's Maidan protest unites different beliefs

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — For the past three months, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been singing the Ukrainian national anthem on Kiev's central square, the Maidan, united in their dreams of change. In fact, the protest movement is a mixed bag of pro-Western intelligentsia and well-off businessmen, white-collar office clerks and student romantics, radical far-rightists, pop singers, poets and even priests. The one thing holding them together: anger against now fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych and his government. Here is a look at some of the main groups driving the protests which removed Yanukovych from power last week.

Arizona governor to hold meetings over rights bill

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will hold a series of private meetings with opponents and proponents of legislation adding protections for people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays. Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder says the governor will spend Wednesday gathering information about Senate Bill 1062 as she considers signing it into law or a veto. She has until Saturday to act.

Kentucky snake handler death doesn't shake belief

Three days after pastor Jamie Coots died from a rattlesnake bite at church, mourners leaving the funeral went to the church to handle snakes. Coots, who appeared on the National Geographic Channel's "Snake Salvation," pastored the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church founded by his grandfather in Middlesboro, Ky. The third-generation snake handler was bitten during a service on Feb. 15 and died later at his home after refusing medical help. Now his adult son, Cody Coots, is taking over the family church where snakes are frequently part of services.

Sentence due for 2 guilty of UK soldier murder

LONDON (AP) — Sentencing is underway for two al-Qaida-inspired extremists convicted of murdering an off-duty British soldier who was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack on a London street. Self-described "soldier of Allah" Michael Adebolajo and accomplice Michael Adebowale were convicted in December of murdering 25-year-old Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was struck by a car and then repeatedly stabbed with knives and a cleaver in front of horrified passers-by.

State media says Syrian army killed 175 rebels

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian army troops killed 175 rebels in an ambush Wednesday south of Damascus, state media reported, a major attack targeting mostly al-Qaida-linked fighters as part of a government effort to secure the capital. The dawn attack by President Bashar Assad's forces in the opposition-held area of eastern Ghouta likely will push rebel groups against his rule further away from Damascus, his seat of power. The capital's suburbs have been opposition strongholds since March 2011, when the revolt against the ruling family began.

Data-breach costs take toll on Target profit

NEW YORK (AP) — Target Corp. will be feeling the financial pain for a while from the theft of credit card numbers and other information from millions of its customers. The retailer said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter profit slumped 46 percent. It also reported that revenue slipped 5.3 percent as the breach scared off customers.

Lessons on salt for dietitians ... by a chip maker

HOUSTON (AP) — Snack and soda makers that often are blamed for fueling the nation's obesity rates also play a role in educating the dietitians who advise Americans on healthy eating. Companies such as Frito-Lay, Kellogg and Coca-Cola are essentially teaching the teachers. They're offering seminars, online classes and workshops that are usually free to the nation's dietitians as part of their behind-the-scenes efforts to burnish the image of their snacks and drinks. The practice has raised ethical concerns among some who say it gives the food industry too much influence over dietitians, who can take the classes for education credits to maintain their licenses.

Behaviorists: Dogs feel no shame despite the look

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The next time you start shaking your finger and shouting "Shame on you!" because your dog chewed up your favorite fuzzy slippers, just remember that no matter how guilty your dog looks, it doesn't know what your rant is about. Behaviorists insist dogs lack shame. The guilty look — head cowered, ears back, eyes droopy — is a reaction to the tantrum you are throwing now over the damage they did hours earlier.