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Putin warns Kiev against irreversible mistakes

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Wednesday a positive outcome to the first international peace talks on Ukraine but also upped the pressure by warning Kiev's interim leaders against making any irreversible mistakes. The veteran strongman's mixed message came as Kalashnikov-wielding separatists barricaded inside state offices in the Russified east of Ukraine remained locked in a standoff that the country's police chief said should be resolved within 48 hours but may require the use of force.

California Democrats begin fight for free preschool

By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - A proposal to offer free preschool to all California 4-year-olds faces its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday with strong support from majority Democrats' liberal wing but skepticism from Governor Jerry Brown that could doom its chances this year. The $1.5 billion program is being pushed hard by the state senate's Democratic leader, Darrell Steinberg, who is leaving office at the end of this year and views it as key to his legacy in the most populous U.S. state.

Saudi authorities asked to allow school sport for girls: agency

By Angus McDowall RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi authorities have been asked to consider lifting a state school ban on sports for girls, according to the official SPA news agency, in a religiously conservative country that included women in its Olympic team for the first time only two years ago.

Disputed Hungary Holocaust monument sparks fresh protest

Several hundred protesters blocked work on a controversial monument in Budapest Tuesday which Jewish critics say glosses over Hungary's active role in the Holocaust. Around 300 people angrily tore down a cordon erected by workers and occupied the site of the planned monument, which the Hungarian government says will mark all the victims of Hungary's occupation by Nazi Germany in 1944.

U.S. accuses Russian agents of stirring eastern Ukraine unrest

By Arshad Mohammed and Thomas Grove WASHINGTON/LUHANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russian agents and special forces on Tuesday of stirring separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine, saying Moscow could be trying to prepare for military action as it had in Crimea. Armed pro-Moscow protesters were still occupying Ukrainian government buildings in two cities in the largely Russian-speaking east on Tuesday, although police ended a third occupation in a lightning night-time operation.

P.E.I. delivers budget focused on health care as it takes aim at surplus

CHARLOTTETOWN - Some kindergarten children in Prince Edward Island will get free eye exams and glasses in a $1.6 billion budget introduced Tuesday by the provincial government that also sees revenue outpace increases in spending. The province and the Prince Edward Island Association of Optometrists are behind the program, called Eye See, Eye Learn, which Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said is aimed at improving children's ability to learn.

Ontario entrenches system to negotiate teachers' contracts

TORONTO - Ontario will soon enshrine in law a process for labour negotiations with the province's teachers, but critics say it won't stop instructors from depriving students of cherished extracurricular activities if talks break down again. The new law, which passed Tuesday, entrenches the current system for collective bargaining talks with some adjustments, something the Liberals were pressed to do after inflicting major damage on its relationship with public school teachers two years ago.

Catalan leader says parliament rejection won't halt referendum

By Raquel Castillo MADRID (Reuters) - Catalonia President Artur Mas said on Tuesday he would forge ahead with his region's plans to hold a referendum on independence in November after Spain's parliament overwhelmingly rejected the petition. After a seven-hour debate in the national parliament in Madrid, and despite heavy support for the separatist movement in the wealthy northeastern region, 299 lawmakers voted against, 47 voted for and one abstained.

Companies took millions in 'Obamacare' subsidies, then supported the law's Republican critics

WASHINGTON - Several big corporations have reaped millions of dollars from "Obamacare" even as they support GOP candidates who vow to repeal the law. This condemn-while-benefiting strategy angers Democrats, who see some of their top congressional candidates struggling against waves of anti-Obamacare ads partly funded by these companies.

Companies took millions in 'Obamacare' subsidies, then supported the law's Republican critics

WASHINGTON - Several big corporations have reaped millions of dollars from "Obamacare" even as they support GOP candidates who vow to repeal the law. This condemn-while-benefiting strategy angers Democrats, who see some of their top congressional candidates struggling against waves of anti-Obamacare ads partly funded by these companies.
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