South Korean ferry sinks, with 6 confirmed dead and 290 missing, many of them students

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) -- Koo Bon-hee could see the exit. For half an hour, as the doomed ferry filled with water and listed severely on its side, the crew told passengers to wait for rescuers.

With their breathing room disappearing, the 36-year-old businessman and some of the other passengers floated to an exit and swam to a nearby fishing boat. But 290 of the 475 people aboard -- many of them high school students on a class trip -- were still missing after the ferry sank Wednesday off the southern coast of South Korea. Six were confirmed dead and 55 were injured.

Early Thursday, divers, helicopters and boats continued to search for survivors from the ferry, which slipped beneath the surface until only the blue-tipped, forward edge of the keel was visible. The high number of people unaccounted for -- possibly trapped in the ship or floating in the chilly water nearby -- raised fears that the death toll could increase drastically.

It was still unknown why the ferry sank, and the coast guard was interviewing the captain and crew. The Sewol, a 146-meter (480-foot) vessel that can hold more than 900 people, set sail Tuesday from Incheon, in northwestern South Korea, on an overnight, 14-hour journey to the tourist island of Jeju.

About 9 a.m.


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Wednesday, when it was three hours from Jeju, the ferry sent a distress call after it began listing to one side, according to the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.

Combat vehicles in east Ukraine seized by pro-Russian insurgents; Troops must hand over ammo

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Pro-Russian insurgents commandeered six Ukrainian armored vehicles along with their crews and hoisted Russian flags over them Wednesday, dampening the central government’s hopes of re-establishing control over restive eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian soldiers manning the vehicles offered no armed resistance, and masked pro-Russian militias in combat fatigues sat on top as they drove into the eastern city of Slovyansk, a hotbed of unrest against Ukraine’s interim government.

In Brussels, NATO announced it was immediately strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border -- which often lies next to Russia -- in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The leaders of Russia and Germany, meanwhile, talked about the turmoil in Ukraine but came to very different conclusions, their offices said.

Insurgents in Slovyansk have seized the police headquarters and the administration building, demanding broader autonomy for eastern Ukraine and closer ties with Russia. Their actions have been repeated in at least eight other cities in eastern Ukraine -- and the central government says Moscow is fomenting the unrest.

One of the Ukrainian soldiers said they had defected to the pro-Russian side -- which raises the specter of an uprising led by disgruntled Ukrainian forces. But an AP journalist overheard another soldier suggesting they were forced at gunpoint to hand over the vehicles.

The new SAT: College Board offers a glimpse at the types of questions students might face

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Calculate the foreign exchange rate a vacationing American would pay in India. Estimate from a random sample the number of 18- to 34-year olds who voted for a candidate. These are sample questions from the newly redesigned SAT, which aims for more real-world applications and analysis from students.

The College Board released the sample test questions on Wednesday, offering clues to how the revised college entrance exam, taken last year by 1.7 million students, will look when it rolls out in 2016.

One of the biggest changes is that relatively obscure vocabulary words such as "punctilious" and "lachrymose" are unlikely to appear on the test. Test takers will see words more likely to be used in classrooms or in the workplace, like "synthesis."

Instead of a wide range, the math section will concentrate on areas that "matter most for college and career readiness and success," the College Board said.

The essay section is becoming optional. And it now will require a student to read a passage and explain how the author constructed an argument instead of offering the student’s own point of view on a specific issue.

NYC police dismantling some
post-9/11 anti-terrorism efforts;
’A different tone’ at the top

NEW YORK (AP) -- The move by New York City’s new police commissioner to disband a unit that spied on the everyday activities of Muslims could be just the first step in a dismantling of some of the huge post-9/11 intelligence-gathering machinery built by his predecessor.

Among other anti-terror programs that are getting a hard look from Commissioner William Bratton is a unit that stations NYPD officers in foreign cities such as London, Paris, Tel Aviv and Amman, Jordan. Also under review are the protocols for when and how to conduct surveillance in the hunt for terrorists.

Bratton, who has been in office for three months, was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, and given a sweeping mandate to ease tensions between the 35,000-officer department and the city’s minorities.

Over the past few years, Bratton’s predecessor Ray Kelly and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently defended what has become the nation’s largest intelligence-gathering, anti-terrorism operation outside the federal government, saying the lack of any major attack on the city since 9/11, and the lowest overall crime rate in a generation, are proof it is working.

But Bratton and his allies say the unit-by-unit review of the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism operations is necessary to eliminate possible inefficiencies, better deploy resources and respond to criticism that the department has trampled on civil rights.

Man charged with bringing backpack to Boston Marathon area to undergo mental health evaluation

BOSTON (AP) -- The man arrested near the Boston Marathon finish line carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker was sent to a state psychiatric facility for an evaluation Wednesday after an initial court appearance.

Kevin "Kayvon" Edson, 25, was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital and ordered held on $100,000 bail at an appearance in Boston Municipal Court on charges of threatening battery, possession of a hoax explosive device, threats to commit a crime, disturbing the peace, disturbing a public assembly and disorderly conduct. He’s due back in court May 7.

Edson was arrested Tuesday hours after ceremonies to mark last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, in which two pressure cooker bombs hidden in backpacks exploded, killing three people near the finish line and injuring more than 260 others.

The backpack incident rattled nerves days ahead of this year’s marathon. Police kept people away from the finish line area for about three hours Tuesday and trains bypassed the nearby Copley Square station.

Edson, with addresses in Boston and Wakefield, was stopped late Tuesday after passers-by told an officer they saw him yelling, walking barefoot down the middle of a street, veiled in black, in pouring rain. His face was painted yellow and blue, the traditional colors of the marathon, police said. The street was open to pedestrians at the time, and police said his presence was not a security breach.

Robot sub makes 2nd dive to search for plane; Chinese families walk out on Malaysian govt

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- As a robotic submarine dived into the ocean to look for lost Flight 370, angry Chinese relatives stormed out of a teleconference meeting Wednesday to protest the Malaysian government for not addressing them in person.

The Bluefin 21 sub surfaced early for the second time in as many missions, this time after experiencing technical difficulties. It was sent back into the water after its data were downloaded but there’s been no sign of the plane, according to the search coordinator.

As the search continued, more than 100 relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane walked out of a teleconference meeting with senior Malaysian officials, an act of defiance over a lack of contact with that country’s government and for taking so long to respond to their demands.

The family members had gathered in a meeting room at a Beijing hotel where Malaysia Airlines had provided lodging and food. But they stood and filed out shortly before the call with Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, and others as it was about to start.

"These video conference meetings often don’t work, the sound stops and it’s constantly disrupted. Is that how we are going to communicate?" said Jiang Hui, one of the family members, after the walkout. "Do they need to waste our time in such a way?"

North Korea asks British government to act over barber’s Kim Jong Un ‘Bad Hair Day?’ poster

LONDON (AP) -- North Korea has made a diplomatic appeal to the British government to get a London salon out of its hair.

The country’s diplomats have complained to the Foreign Office about a hairdressing salon that put up a poster poking fun at distinctively coiffed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Foreign Office confirmed Wednesday it had received a letter from the North Korean embassy objecting to the poster, and was considering its response.

The Evening Standard newspaper reported the letter urged Britain to take "necessary action to stop the provocation."

Staff at M&M Hair Academy say they were visited by diplomats from the embassy after putting up a poster last week featuring a picture of Kim -- who sports a distinctive short-back-and-sides ‘do -- and the slogan "Bad Hair Day?"

Under prosecutor’s aggressive challenge, Pistorius defense
tries to rebuild case

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius’ lawyers tried to roll back the prosecution’s momentum at his murder trial Wednesday following the star athlete’s shaky testimony, presenting a forensic expert who quickly found his own credentials and findings sharply questioned.

With Pistorius now back watching the proceedings from a wooden bench, the double-amputee Olympian’s defense team was attempting to bolster his account that he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by mistake through a toilet door in his home, thinking she was a dangerous intruder about to attack him in the night. Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder in Steenkamp’s death in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

But former police officer Roger Dixon, testifying for the defense, also appeared unsteady as chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel warned him that it was irresponsible to "try and be an expert" in areas he was not. Nel asserted in his cross-examination that Dixon was not an expert in light, sound, ballistics, gunshot wounds or pathology -- all areas about which he was testifying.

Dixon worked at the police forensic laboratory in Pretoria until he left the force in December 2012. He was a specialist in analyzing materials at crime scenes. He now works in the geology department at the University of Pretoria.

Nel also accused him of not answering questions directly. "For an expert you are evasive," Nel said, prompting the judge at one point to tell the energetic prosecutor to "restrain" himself.

Convicted robber was never
told to report to prison, lived productive life for 13 years

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- After he was convicted of armed robbery in 2000, Cornealious Anderson was sentenced to 13 years behind bars and told to await instructions on when and where to report to prison. But those instructions never came.

So Anderson didn’t report. He spent the next 13 years turning his life around -- getting married, raising three kids, learning a trade. He made no effort to conceal his identity or whereabouts. Anderson paid taxes and traffic tickets, renewed his driver’s license and registered his businesses.

Not until last year did the Missouri Department of Corrections discover the clerical error that kept him free. Now he’s fighting for release, saying authorities missed their chance to incarcerate him.

In a single day last July, Anderson’s life was turned upside-down.

"They sent a SWAT team to his house," Anderson’s attorney, Patrick Megaro, said Wednesday. "He was getting his 3-year-old daughter breakfast, and these men with automatic weapons bang on his door."