Diplomatic efforts don't yet bear fruit...Obama pushes for wage increase...Essay is optional



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PARIS (AP) — The building blocks for a possible diplomatic solution in Ukraine have emerged today in Paris -- where top Russian and Western officials have been trying to defuse the crisis over Crimea. But a top French diplomat says while Russia is open to international mediation, a major sticking point is the refusal of Russia's foreign minister to meet with the foreign minister of Ukraine at those talks. On another diplomatic front, NATO ministers today met in Brussels with their Russian counterpart -- and decided to suspend most of the alliance's meetings with Russia. NATO is also reviewing all of its cooperation with Moscow.

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — President Barack Obama says Congress should follow the lead of New England states that have raised the minimum wage above the federal rate. He was joined in Connecticut today by the state's governor, and the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont -- and called them the "justice league of governors," saying they are making sure workers get a decent wage. The president wants Congress to increase the wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. But he faces opposition to the idea on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Federal Reserve survey shows severe winter weather held back economic growth in much of the nation from January through early February. Even so, conditions improved in most U.S. regions, helped by slight gains in areas such as employment and commercial real estate.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The essay is optional on the new version of the SAT college entrance exam. It will continue to test reading, writing and math skills, with an emphasis on analysis. Scoring will be on a 1,600-point scale, with a separate score for the optional essay. The testing company, the College Board, is doing away with some vocabulary words that students wouldn't often come across -- in favor of words more commonly used in school and on the job.

LONDON (AP) — How much of your daily calorie intake comes from sugar? The World Health Organization says it should be just five percent. That's half of what the agency previously recommended. The new draft guidelines were published today. An expert panel says dropping sugar intake to the five-percent level will fight obesity and cavities. The sugar total includes sugars added to foods, and those that are present in honey, syrups and fruit juices -- but not those that occur naturally in fruits. Americans and others in the West eat a lot more sugar than that. Their average sugar intake would have to drop by two-thirds.

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