Afghanistan war

drags on; Russia

resurrects interest

WASHINGTON (AP) — As America's effort to end 16 years of war in Afghanistan yields little progress, Russia is resurrecting its own interest in the "graveyard of empires." The jockeying includes engaging the Taliban and leading a new diplomatic effort to tackle Afghanistan's future, with or without U.S. support.

Uncertain of Moscow's intentions, the Trump administration will stay away when Russia hosts regional powers China, India, Iran and Pakistan, and several Central Asian countries, for another set of Afghan talks next month. No one has invited the Taliban.

For Russia, dogged by memories of the Soviet Union's disastrous 1980s occupation of Afghanistan, it's a surprising turn at the head of the country's proverbial peace table. And it coincides with the Kremlin's campaign to wield greater international authority at the U.S.' expense elsewhere.

"Russia sees a gap and is trying to fill it," said Jonah Blank, a South Asia expert at the RAND Corp. "It's looking around for opportunities, for any place where it can expand its own influence and freedom to pursue its own interests, and undermine U.S. alliances and partnerships."

Pedestrian deaths

spiked in 2016,

distraction cited

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pedestrian deaths are climbing faster than motorist fatalities, reaching nearly 6,000 deaths last year — the highest total in more than two decades, according to an analysis of preliminary state data released Thursday.

Increased driving due to an improved economy, lower gas prices and more walking for exercise and environmental factors are some of the likely reasons behind the estimated 11 percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in 2016. The figures were prepared for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.

But researchers say they think the biggest factor may be more drivers and walkers distracted by cellphones and other electronic devices, although that's hard to confirm.

Another factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol. Thirty-four percent of pedestrians and 15 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated at the time. But there is no indication that there has been a change in drinking habits that would account for the spike in deaths.

McDonald's goes

with fresh beef

NEW YORK (AP) — Coming soon to McDonald's: Fresh beef.

The fast food giant said Thursday that it will swap frozen beef patties for fresh ones in its Quarter Pounder burgers by sometime next year at most of its U.S. locations. It's a major change for McDonald's, which has relied on frozen beef for more than 40 years. Employees will cook up the never-frozen beef on a grill when burgers are ordered.

McDonald's, the world's largest hamburger chain, has been trying to improve its image as more people shun processed foods. Last year, it removed artificial preservatives from chicken McNuggets and cut out high-fructose corn syrup from its buns.

Big Macs and other hamburgers will still be made with frozen beef.

Twitter eases

140-character

limit in replies

NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter has found more creative ways to ease its 140-character limit without officially raising it.

Now, the company says that when you reply to someone — or to a group — usernames will no longer count toward those 140 characters. This will be especially helpful with group conversations, where replying to two, three or more users at a time could be especially difficult with the character constraints.

When users reply, the names of the people they are replying to will be on top of the text of the actual tweet, rather than a part of it.

Last year, Twitter said it would stop counting photos, videos, quote tweets, polls and GIF animations toward the character limit. Twitter also said it would stop counting usernames, but the change did not go into effect until now.

'Angel of Death'

serial killer dies

after prison attack

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A former nurse's aide dubbed the "Angel of Death" after he admitted killing three dozen hospital patients in Ohio and Kentucky died Thursday, two days after he was attacked and beaten in his prison cell.

Donald Harvey, who was serving multiple life sentences, was found injured in his cell Tuesday afternoon at the state prison in Toledo, officials said. A patrol report said the 64-year-old was beaten when an unnamed person entered his cell.

Harvey pleaded guilty in 1987 to killing 37 people, mostly while he worked as a nurse's aide at hospitals in Cincinnati and London, Kentucky. He later claimed he was responsible for killing 18 others while working at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Cincinnati.

Many of his victims were chronically ill patients and he claimed he was trying to end their suffering.

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