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Russia rejects UK claim of trying to replace Ukraine leader

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected a British claim that the Kremlin is seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is a potential candidate.

Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services, along with Murayev who is the leader of a small party that has no seats in parliament.

Those politicians include Mykola Azarov, a former prime minister under Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president ousted in a 2014 uprising, and Yanukovych’s former chief of staff, Andriy Kluyev.

“Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine,” the Foreign Office said.

Murayev told The Associated Press via Skype that the British claim “looks ridiculous and funny” and that he has been denied entry to Russia since 2018 on the grounds of being a threat to Russian security. He said that sanction was imposed in the wake of a conflict with Viktor Medvedchuk, Ukraine’s most prominent pro-Russia politician and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The department told the dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.

State Department officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.

In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of escalating tensions around Ukraine with disinformation.

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New conservative target: Race as factor in COVID treatment

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Some conservatives are taking aim at policies that allow doctors to consider race as a risk factor when allocating scarce COVID-19 treatments, saying the protocols discriminate against white people.

The wave of infections brought on by the omicron variant and a shortage of treatments have focused attention on the policies.

Medical experts say the opposition is misleading. Health officials have long said there is a strong case for considering race as one of many risk factors in treatment decisions. And there is no evidence that race alone is being used to decide who gets medicine.

The issue came to the forefront last week after Fox News host Tucker Carlson, former President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio jumped on the policies. In recent days, conservative law firms have pressured a Missouri-based health care system, Minnesota and Utah to drop their protocols and sued New York state over allocation guidelines or scoring systems that include race as a risk factor.

JP Leider, a senior fellow in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota who helped develop that state’s allocation criteria, noted that prioritization has been going on for some time because there aren’t enough treatments to go around.

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Gunfire near home of Burkina Faso’s leader after army mutiny

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Gunfire rang out late Sunday near the home of Burkina Faso’s embattled President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, raising the specter that a military coup might still be under way after mutinous soldiers seized a military base earlier in the day.

Government officials had sought to reassure people that the situation was under control even as shots rang out for hours at the army base. But by day’s end anti-government protesters supporting the mutineers also had set fire to a building belonging to Kabore’s party.

It was not immediately known whether Kabore was at home but several people in the area told The Associated Press that in addition to gunfire they could hear helicopters hovering overhead.

A mutinous soldier also told AP by phone that heavy fighting was under way near the presidential palace, a claim that could not immediately be independently corroborated.

Sunday’s mutiny came one day after the latest public demonstration calling for Kabore’s resignation as anger has mounted over the government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency. Anti-government protesters lent public support to the mutinous soldiers, prompting security forces to use tear gas to disperse crowds in the capital.

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Taxpayers face overloaded IRS as filing season opens Monday

WASHINGTON (AP) — Count 30-year-old Ethan Miller among that subset of Americans who are actually eager to file their taxes once income tax filing season opens on Monday.

The financial planner who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, is looking forward to claiming the new deductions that will come from buying a home. He also wants to get a jump on a tax season that promises to bring lots of extra headaches and delays for filers this year.

“I’m trying to get a head start on my taxes as much as possible,” Miller said, adding that he is not too nervous about forecasts of extra delays because he will file online and will not be waiting for too big a refund.

Plenty of other filers, though, may be in for more heartburn.

An IRS worker shortage, an enormous workload from administering pandemic-related programs and stalled legislation that would have given the agency billions of dollars for more expeditiously processing returns will combine to cause taxpayers pain this filing season.

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Cruise ship changes course after US judge orders seizure

MIAMI (AP) — A cruise ship that was supposed to dock in Miami has instead sailed to the Bahamas, after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over $4 million in unpaid fuel.

Cruise trackers show Crystal Symphony currently docked in the Bahamian island of Bimini.

“We all feel we were abducted by luxurious pirates!” passenger Stephen Heard Fales posted on Facebook.

Some passengers were taken by ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday. The ferry ride was apparently “uncomfortable due to inclement weather,” according to a statement from a Crystal Cruises spokesperson. The company said guests were also taken to local airports, but wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit.

It was not immediately clear how many passengers were aboard, with one news outlet reporting 300 and another, 700. According to the company website, the vessel can carry up to 848 passengers.

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Taliban talks in Norway raise new debate about recognition

OSLO, Norway (AP) — A Taliban delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Sunday started three days of talks in Oslo with Western officials and Afghan civil society representatives amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

The closed-door meetings were taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital and are the first time since the Taliban took over in August that their representatives have held official meetings in Europe.

The talks were not without controversy, however, reigniting the debate over whether they legitimize the Taliban government, especially since they were being held in Norway, a NATO country involved in Afghanistan from 2001 until the Taliban take over last summer.

Speaking at the end of the first day of talks, Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam told The Associated Press that the meetings with Western officials were “a step to legitimize (the) Afghan government,” adding that “this type of invitation and communication will help (the) European community, (the) U.S. or many other countries to erase the wrong picture of the Afghan government.”

That statement may irk the Taliban’s Norwegian hosts. Earlier, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the talks were “not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban.”

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Blind man who rescued 5 after Oklahoma City bombing dies

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Raymond Washburn, a blind man who was credited with helping rescue five people from the rubble of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, has died. He was 75.

Washburn died on Jan. 16 at his home in Oklahoma City, and funeral services were held for him Friday in Bristow, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northeast of the city.

His cousin Richard Wittman told KWTV in Oklahoma City that he was proud of Washburn not only for what he did on the day of the bombing, but for how he lived his entire life.

“So, in that sense, he was a hero in the way he was able to function, make his way in life, work, his everyday life,” Wittman said.

Washburn owned and operated a snack bar on the fourth floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Building when a truck bomb ripped through the structure on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people.

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4 killed, 1 hurt in ‘ambush’ shooting at house party near LA

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Four people were killed and one was wounded when multiple shooters opened fire at a house party near Los Angeles early Sunday, authorities said.

Police responded around 1:30 a.m. to reports of shots fired at a home in the city of Inglewood, Mayor James Butts told reporters.

Two women and two men were shot and killed and another man was hospitalized in critical condition and expected to survive, CBS2 reported.

Butts called the shooting an “ambush” involving multiple weapons including a rifle and a handgun. The mayor described the incident as the worst single shooting crime in Inglewood since the 1990s.

The victims appear to have been targeted, he added.

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Chiefs rally past Buffalo 42-36 in OT in wild playoff game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — In a never-say-die showdown between two of the NFL’s top teams, and two of its bright young quarterbacks, the Bills and Chiefs played a classic Sunday night decided by one of them calling tails and the other making him pay for it.

Josh Allen’s decision on the overtime coin toss was his only mistake for Buffalo all night.

Patrick Mahomes promptly followed it by marching Kansas City downfield against the NFL’s top-ranked but exhausted defense, then finding Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone from 8 yards, giving the Chiefs a memorable 42-36 victory.

Kansas City earned a spot in their its consecutive AFC championship game.

“The guys didn’t flinch,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team will play the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday for a spot in the Super Bowl that would be Kansas City’s third straight. “You talk about an epic game, well, that’s the way the players took it. They had tremendous respect for Buffalo and they knew it was going to be a battle and they kept going.”