Russian PM Putin blasts U.S. secretary

MOSCOW ( AP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blasted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today for encouraging and supporting the election protesters and warned of a wider Russian crackdown on unrest.

By describing Russia’s parliamentary election as rigged, Putin said Clinton “gave a signal” to his opponents.

“They heard this signal and with the support of the U.S. State Department began their active work,” Putin said in televised remarks.

Russian protesters have taken to the streets in Moscow and St. Petersburg for three straight nights despite heavy police presence, outraged over observers’ reports of widespread ballot box stuffing and manipulations of the vote count in Sunday’s parliamentary election. The demonstrations have been some of the biggest and most sustained protests Russia has seen in years, and police have detained hundreds of protesters.

Putin’s United Russia party barely held onto its majority in parliament, with official results giving it about 50 percent of the vote, down from 64 percent four years ago. But the fraud allegations indicate that support for United Russia was even lower as Russians are growing weary of Putin and his party after nearly 12 years in office.

Disaster budget used for whaling hunt

TOKYO ( AP) — Japan is spending $29 million from its supplementary budget for tsunami reconstruction to fund the country’s annual whaling hunt in the Antarctic Ocean, a fisheries official confirmed today.

Tatsuya Nakaoku, a Fisheries Agency official in charge of whaling, defended the move, saying the funding helps support Japan’s whaling industry as a whole, including some whaling towns along the devastated northeastern coast. One ship on the hunt is based in Ishinomaki, a town hit badly by the March 11 tsunami, he said.

The budget request was made to beef up security and maintain the “stable operation” of Japan’s research whaling, he said, which has faced increasingly aggressive interference from boats with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Conservationist group Greenpeace blasted the funding move, claiming it was siphoning money away from disaster victims.

Vegas-bound plane lands safely in Pa.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A plane headed to Las Vegas had to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport.

Airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica said U. S. Airways Flight 436 returned to the airport shortly after takeoff, making a safe landing about 9: 15 p. m. Wednesday after the pilot reported fumes in its cockpit.

She said there were no injuries.

Boeing workers OK contract extension

SEATTLE (AP) — Unionized Boeing Machinists voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a four-year contract extension in a deal that grants the company a long stretch of elusive labor peace and likely ends a federal complaint that had become a hot topic for Republican presidential candidates.

Dozens of union members erupted in applause and cheers Wednesday night as Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists District Lodge 751, announced that 74 percent of voting members chose to approve the deal.

The union represents 28,000 workers in Washington, Oregon and Kansas.

Boeing promised that if workers approved the pact, the company would build the new version of the popular 737 in the Puget Sound region, while the Machinists said they’d drop their allegations that Boeing opened a nonunion assembly plant in South Carolina in retaliation for a previous strike.

Machinists went on strike in 2005 and 2008. The latter strike helped delay delivery of Boeing’s first 787, costing the company dearly.

Five killed in tour helicopter crash

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Recovery and investigative teams are heading to a remote site near Lake Mead where a helicopter slammed into a mountainside, killing the pilot and the four passengers who were on a tour of the Las Vegas Strip and Hoover Dam, federal authorities said.

The aircraft operated by Sundance Helicopters crashed just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, said National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz.

Numerous witnesses heard the crash and reported seeing smoke about 4 miles west of the lake’s edge, Munoz said.

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