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   MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday approved a draft bill for the annexation of Crimea, one of a flurry of steps to formally take over the Black Sea peninsula.
   Crimea on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and seek to join Russia. The West and Ukraine described the referendum which was announced two weeks ago as illegitimate.
   The United States and the European Union on Monday announced asset freezes and other sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in the Crimean crisis. President Barack Obama warned that more would come if Russia didn't stop interfering in Ukraine.
   Russian troops have been occupying the region for more than two weeks.
   The decree signed by Putin and posted on the official government website Tuesday morning is one of the steps which would formalize the annexation of Crimea. Russia, however, still has a room to back off. The treaty to annex Crimea has to be signed by leaders of Russia and Crimea leader and then ratified by the parliament.
   Putin is set to address both houses of the parliament at 3 p.m. Moscow time (1100 GMT) in a nationally televised speech where he is widely expected to stake Russia's claim on Crimea.
   Crimea had been part of Russia since the 18th century until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954. Both Russians and Crimea's majority ethnic Russian population see annexation as correcting a historic insult.
   Ukraine's turmoil, which began in November with a wave of protests against President Viktor Yanukovych and accelerated after he fled to Russia in late February, has become Europe's most severe security crisis in years.
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   Traffic is reportedly moving again along eastbound Interstate 64 near Mascoutah.  Illinois State Police shut down the highway about 6:30 p.m. after a three-vehicle crash near Illinois Route 4.  

   St. Clair County Deputy Coroner Curtis Schildknecht tells the Belleville News-Democrat that one person was killed in the rollover accident.   The name of the victim hasn't been released pending notification of family members.  

   Eastbound 64 drivers spent as much as three hours stuck on the highway before cars were turned around and guided off the interstate at Illinois Route 158.  

   Accident reconstruction crews completed their on-site investigation and one lane of the interstate was reopened to traffic by 11 p.m.  

   It's not clear what caused the accident.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014 00:00
Published in Local News
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — For the first time in six years, the Missouri Tigers are left out of the NCAA tournament.
 
As expected, the Tigers failed to earn a spot in the field of 68 when the brackets were announced Sunday. Instead, Missouri (22-11) earned a No. 2 seed in the National Invitational Tournament and will play Southern Conference champion Davidson (20-12) at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. It is Missouri's first NIT appearance since 2005.
 
"We're excited about playing in the NIT, a tournament that has great tradition," Missouri coach Frank Haith told the Columbia Tribune (http://bit.ly/1fRCfU2 ). "Obviously, our goal is to play in the NCAA Tournament every year, but we do have an opportunity to compete for a championship. There's a lot of teams that have unlaced their shoes."
 
Missouri was ranked in the top 25 early this season, but a 9-9 record in the Southeastern Conference doomed the chance for an NCAA berth. Just three SEC teams made the tournament field.
 
Missouri teams haven't fared well in past NIT appearances — the Tigers are 1-7 all-time, the lone victory over Murray State in the first round of the 1996 tournament. Missouri suffered first-round losses to Alabama-Birmingham in 1998, Michigan in 2004 and DePaul in 2005.
 
Davidson coach Bob McKillop's program has won in Columbia before, beating the Tigers 84-81 in an upset on Nov. 19, 2004 — Missouri's first loss in the new arena. The Tigers also lost to Davidson in 2005 but beat the Wildcats in 2006.
 
Adding insult to injury this season: Nine of the Missouri's former Big 12 Conference foes made the NCAA tournament — seven teams still in the Big 12 plus Colorado and Nebraska.
 
As he sat down to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, Haith wasn't sure how to feel about the Tigers' chances.
 
"I think we were right there on the bubble with a lot of teams," he said. "When I saw Tennessee become an 11 and then Kentucky was an 8/9, I just felt like they didn't have a lot of respect for our league. That's what I thought."
 
In fact, North Carolina State (21-13), the last team in the field, finished below Missouri in the RPI (Missouri was No. 49, the Wolfpack No. 55). Both teams were 9-9 in their leagues and Missouri beat North Carolina State on Dec. 28 in Raleigh, N.C. But North Carolina State had the nation's 33rd toughest schedule. Missouri's schedule ranked 68th.
 
Missouri also posted victories over then-No. 18 UCLA and Mid-American Conference champion Western Michigan as part of a 12-1 non-conference record that vaulted the Tigers as high as No. 21 in the national polls.
 
The SEC opener was an overtime loss at home to Georgia, and the Tigers never had a signature win. They needed to make a run in the SEC tournament but lost to No. 1 Florida in the quarterfinals.
Monday, 17 March 2014 22:24
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Four Missouri athletes were arrested Saturday night on suspicion of possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana during a traffic stop in Columbia.
 
Guards Wes Clark and Shane Rector of the basketball team and defensive backs Aarion Penton and Shaun Rupert from the football team were pulled over at 11:32 p.m. after Columbia police noticed an expired rear license plate tag on Rupert's car, police spokeswoman Latisha Stroer said Monday.
 
The officers approached the car and detected the smell of marijuana, prompting the discovery of a package of Swisher Sweets cigarillos containing a substance that tested positive for marijuana, Stroer said. The four athletes were each issued a court summons and released.
 
Columbia residents passed a referendum in 2004 that reduced penalties for the offense to no more than a court summons and a fine, if found guilty, of up to $250. The reductions do not apply to anyone found guilty of misdemeanor possession of marijuana on two or more occasions in the past five years.
 
The Columbia Daily Tribune first reported the arrests.
 
Basketball coach Frank Haith said Monday that Clark and Rector were suspended for the team's practice, but not necessarily for Tuesday's NIT opener against Davidson.
 
"I didn't know about it soon enough," Haith said, adding that the final decision would be made after gathering additional information.
 
Missouri missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years after finishing 22-11 and 9-9 in the Southeastern Conference.
 
Clark, a freshman from Detroit, has played in all 33 games this season as a backup point guard, averaging 20.4 minutes and 4.1 points. Rector, a freshman from New York, has averaged 4.3 minutes and 0.5 points.
 
With Tony Criswell suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules and Corey Haith out with an injury, Missouri's bench would shrink to forwards Danny Feldmann, Torren Jones and Keanau Post, leaving Jordan Clarkson with no backups at point guard.
 
"You want me to dress out?" Haith said, slightly exasperated. "Who else can I put in? That could be a problem. It is what it is."
 
Penton is currently atop the depth chart at cornerback after appearing in every game of Missouri's 12-2 season last fall as a freshman. He recorded 16 tackles and an interception while Rupert, a safety, redshirted in his first year with the team.
 
Both Penton and Rupert were suspended indefinitely after the athletics department learned of their arrests, spokesman Chad Moller said. Their long-term status with the team would be determined after an internal review.
Monday, 17 March 2014 22:20
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