Crowd overflows from St. Peter’s Square for Pope’s Easter Mass under sunny skies

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Marking Christianity’s most hopeful day, Pope Francis made an Easter Sunday plea for peace and dialogue in Ukraine and Syria, for an end to terrorist attacks against Christians in Nigeria and for more attention to the hungry and neediest close to home.

Well over 150,000 tourists -- Romans and pilgrims, young and old -- turned out for the Mass that Francis celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

So great were their numbers that they overflowed from sprawling St. Peter’s Square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Waving flags from the pope’s native Argentina as well as from Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other countries, they also filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber River.

Easter is the culmination of Holy Week and marks Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

Francis noted that this year the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine.

Republicans test health care law strategy in U.S. Senate race in reliably Democratic Oregon

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. (AP) -- The GOP is making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in reliably Democratic Oregon, where a Republican hasn’t been elected to a statewide office in more than a decade.

Republicans back in Washington think they’ve found the right candidate in Monica Wehby, a children’s brain surgeon who’s raised more than $1 million and put her early opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care law at the center of her campaign.

The race is shaping up to be a strong test of the GOP strategy of relentlessly using the health law against Democrats in hopes of regaining control of the Senate.

The rollout of the law in Oregon has been worse than in most other states, and Republicans are hoping a doctor has the credibility to capitalize on the resulting voter discontent.

"Doctors are trained differently," Wehby said in a recent candidate forum at a Republican women’s club in Lake Oswego, a well-to-do Portland suburb. "We know how to look at things logically, not ideologically, and we also know how to work with other people."

Once an underground phenomenon, pot holiday tries to go mainstream in Colorado

DENVER (AP) -- Denver police say they have issued 28 citations for public consumption of marijuana and arrested one person accused of attempting to distribute the drug so far this weekend as revelers celebrate the traditional pot holiday of April 20.

Public consumption of marijuana is still illegal in Colorado, the first state to legalize -- and regulate -- recreational marijuana.

Of the infractions police reported Sunday, 22, including the arrest, happened Saturday. The remaining citations were as of about 2 p.m. Sunday, hours before crowds plan to smoke pot at 4:20 p.m. MDT.

In Boulder, University of Colorado officials closed the campus to all but students, faculty and staff to ensure no 4/20 celebrations were held.

Denver is one of many cities across the country where 4/20 marijuana celebrations are planned Sunday.

Transcript shows indecision over whether to evacuate passengers from sinking ferry

JINDO, South Korea (AP) -- The South Korean ferry that sank was crippled by confusion and indecision well after it began listing, a radio transcript released Sunday showed, suggesting the chaotic situation may have added to a death toll that could eventually exceed 300.

About 30 minutes after the Sewol began tilting, a crew member asked a marine traffic controller whether passengers would be rescued if they abandoned ship off South Korea’s southern coast. The crew member posed the question three times in succession.

That followed several statements from the ship that people aboard could not move and another in which someone declared that it was "impossible to broadcast" instructions.

Many people followed the captain’s initial order to stay below deck, where it is feared they remain trapped. Fifty-nine bodies have been recovered, and about 240 people are still missing.

"Even if it’s impossible to broadcast, please go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing," an unidentified official at Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center urged at 9:24 a.m. Wednesday, 29 minutes after the ferry first reported trouble, according to the transcript released by South Korea’s coast guard.

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, prizefighter who became symbol of racial injustice, dies at 76

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter never surrendered hope of regaining his freedom, not even after he was convicted of a triple murder, then convicted again and abandoned by many prominent supporters.

For 19 long years, the prizefighter was locked in a prison cell far away from the spotlight and the adulation of the boxing ring. But when he at last won his biggest fight -- for exoneration -- he betrayed little bitterness. Instead, Carter dedicated much of his remaining life to helping other prisoners and exposing other injustices.

The middleweight title contender, whose murder convictions became an international symbol of racial injustice and inspired a Bob Dylan song and a Hollywood film, died Sunday. He was 76.

The New Jersey native, who had suffered from prostate cancer, died in his sleep at his home in Toronto..

Carter "didn’t have any bitterness or anger -- he kind of got above it all. That was his great strength," said Thom Kidrin, who became friends with Carter after visiting him several times in prison.

In West Bank, Israeli and Palestinian teens arrested for rock throwing face different fates

BEIT UMAR, West Bank (AP) -- The boys were both 15, with the crackly voices and awkward peach fuzz of adolescence. They lived just a few minutes away from one another in the West Bank. And both were accused of throwing stones at vehicles, one day after the other.

But there was a crucial difference that helped to shape each boy’s fate: One was Israeli, and the other Palestinian.

The tale of the two teens provides a stark example of the vast disparities of Israel’s justice system in the West Bank, a contested area at the heart of the elusive search for a lasting peace.

While Israeli settlers in the West Bank fall mostly under civilian rule, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law. Israeli and Palestinian youths face inequities at every stage in the path of justice, from arrests to convictions and sentencing, according to police statistics obtained by The Associated Press through multiple requests under Israel’s freedom of information law.

The results can ripple for years.

Land grabs in 1 of Africa’s last elephant bastions puts herds in poachers’ sights

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Political and military elites are seizing protected areas in one of Africa’s last bastions for elephants, putting broad swaths of Zimbabwe at risk of becoming fronts for ivory poaching, according to a nonprofit research group’s report that examines government collusion in wildlife trafficking.

Zimbabwe has maintained robust elephant populations compared with other countries on the continent. But economic penalties imposed by the United States and Europe have led Zimbabweans with ties to President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party to find new methods of making money. The report, set for release Monday, says they may be turning to elephants’ highly valued ivory tusks.

Zimbabwe’s embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Born Free USA, an animal advocacy group, commissioned the report from Washington-based C4ADS to better understand the role organized crime and corrupt government officials play in ivory trafficking across Africa, said Adam Roberts, Born Free USA’s chief executive officer.

Wildlife trafficking long has been viewed as a conservation issue, but it has exploded into an illicit global economy monopolized by mafia-like syndicates and enabled by high-level bureaucrats and powerful business interests. The report describes a toxic combination of conflict, crime and failures of governance throughout Africa that threatens to wipe out the continent’s dwindling elephant herds.