May 2, 2014 Newscast 2: Chris Mathias

For Columbia Radio News, I’m Chris Mathias.

31 people are dead in Odessa, Ukraine after a building caught fire during a clash between Pro-Russia demonstrators and supporters of the Ukranian government.

Earlier today, Pro -Russian forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters as Ukraine launched its first major offensive to take back government buildings in the eastern part of the country. Two helicopter crew members were killed in the crash. Ukraine said pro-Russian militias suffered “many” deaths and injuries in Friday morning’s attack in the city of Slavyansk. President Obama talked Ukraine with German Chancellor Angela Merckel  at the White House Friday. They threatened more sanctions against Russia. Obama said the United States and Germany stand firmly behind Ukraine.

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OBAMA: It is obvious to the world that these Russian-backed groups are not peaceful protesters. They are heavily-armed militants who are receiving significant support from Russia. The Ukranian government has the right and responsibility law and order within its territory. (00:15)

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that NATO needs to be prepared for whatever Russia does.  He said the end of the Cold War did not guarantee security in Europe.

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HAGEL: Russia’s actions in Ukraine shatter that myth and usher in bracing new realities. Even a united and deeply interconnected Europe still lives in a dangerous world. (00:13)

The US has sent troops to train in NATO countries bordering Russia.

At least 350 people are dead and more than 2,000 missing after a landslide in northeastern Afghanistan Friday. Heavy rains in the region caused a hill to collapse in the village of Hobo Barik. Authorities there say rescue crews don’t have enough equipment and are in need of more shovels. Nearby villages have been evacuated for fear of more landslides.

The United States added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in two years. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, the lowest rate since before the recession. Raymond Bayor reports some of the news in the latest jobs report wasn’t good.

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House Speaker John Boehner said Friday he’ll form a committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks. He says the White House withheld documents from congressional investigators. Earlier Friday, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry will testify on the attcks later this month. The Obama administration denies any wrongdoing. It says Republicans just politicizing the issue ahead of midterm elections.

Oklahoma authorities are testing the drugs that will be used to execute another man in two weeks time. It’s part of an investigation into the botched execution of Clayton Lockett on Tuesday. A collapsed vein in Lockett’s groin caused the execution to go awry. Officials didn’t notice the collapsed vein for 21 minutes. Lockett later died of a heart attack.

It’s 70 degrees in New York. Clear skies tonight with showers returning Sunday.

Chris Mathias, Columbia Radio News.

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