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News Wrap: Russian court puts opposition leader Navalny on house arrest

February 28, 2014 at 6:06 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF:In Moscow today, a Russian court put opposition leader Alexei Navalny under house arrest for at least two months. Prosecutors say he violated rules barring him from leaving the city of Moscow. The court banned Navalny from using the Internet or having any visitors. But he said the decree is meant to silence his outspoken criticism of President Putin.

ALEXEI NAVALNY, Opposition Leader, Russia (through interpreter): Using my last opportunity, I just want to say that this is obviously an illegal prosecution. I think it is needless to explain that what happened is only aimed at limiting my ability to continue an anti-corruption investigation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Navalny is already serving a five-year suspended sentence on a theft conviction. He’s also charged with theft and money laundering in a separate case that has yet to come to trial.

The medical relief group Doctors Without Borders says that it has been expelled from Myanmar, the former Burma. The move is linked to the group’s work with the Rohingya Muslim minority. They have come under attack by Buddhist-led mobs. Myanmar is predominately Buddhist, and the government has accused Doctors Without Borders of creating tensions.

A powerful storm dumped heavy rain across much of California today, raising the risk of mudslides. The deluge brought much-needed relief to areas coping with long-term drought. But communities east of Los Angeles were vulnerable because mountain slopes above them were burned clean of vegetation by wildfires last month. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for 1,200 homes.

In Alaska, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced initial steps to restrict, or outright bar, a huge gold and copper mining project. The proposed Pebble Mine operation would be near a Bristol Bay fishery that produces nearly half the world’s sockeye salmon. Separately, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the number of sea otters in Alaska’s Prince William Sound has returned to what it was before the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.

The Obama administration has issued another fix to the health care law, this one to help states that struggled to get enrollment Web sites up and running. The change permits residents of those states to receive federal tax credits, even if they ended up buying insurance outside the online exchanges.

White House spokesman Jay Carney:

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: The subsidies available because of the Affordable Care Act remain available no matter how you get insurance. And we’re making sure CMS is working closely with states to support their efforts to successfully implement their marketplaces. And that includes making sure that those who are eligible for subsidies are able to receive them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The problems with the federal health care insurance exchange have largely been repaired. But the states of Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Hawaii are still laboring to get their Web sites into optimum shape.

A retirement surge means that regional airlines in the U.S. will need hundreds of new pilots each year over the next decade, but they may not get them. The Government Accountability Office reports that 11 out of 12 regional carriers failed to meet hiring targets last year. A major factor could be the average annual starting salary, just $22,400. Regional airlines handle half of all domestic flights.

A major exchange for Bitcoins filed for bankruptcy protection today. Mt. Gox, based in Tokyo, acknowledged a massive loss of the virtual currency topping $400 million. It’s still unclear exactly what happened to the missing Bitcoins. We will find out more about the exchange’s troubles later in the program.

The U.S. economy grew more slowly in the fourth quarter of last year than first estimated, an annual rate of 2.4 percent. The government said today that severe winter weather was partly to blame.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 49 points to close at 16,321. The Nasdaq fell more than 10 points to close at 4,308. And the S&P 500 rose five points to finish at 1,859, another all-time high. For the month, the Dow and the S&P gained 4 percent; the Nasdaq rose 5 percent.