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AP Top News at 4:45 a.m. EDT

Number of military suicides dropped last year
WASHINGTON (AP) - Suicides across the military dropped by more than 15 percent last year, but new detailed data reveals an increase in the number of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers who took their own lives. The overall totals provided by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps give some hope that prevention programs and increased efforts to identify troops at risk may be taking hold after several years of escalating suicides. But the increase among Army National Guard and Reserve members raises questions about whether those programs are getting to the citizen soldiers who may not have the same access to support networks and help that their active duty comrades receive.


Obama visit to South Korea tinged by mourning
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - President Barack Obama is sitting down with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye, whose attention is unavoidably split between her economic agenda with Obama and the unfolding aftermath of a tragic ferry disaster. Arriving on Friday afternoon at the Blue House, South Korea's presidential residence, Obama presented Park with an American flag that flew over the White House on April 16 - a day of growing infamy for South Korea. Sitting down for meetings with Park, Obama expressed his condolences over the sunken ferry incident, which has consumed Park's government for more than a week as divers discover yet more bodies.


AP Exclusive: Foreign food aid drying up in NKorea
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - A funding crunch for aid to North Korea has become so severe 500,000 rural schoolchildren are as of this month no longer receiving assistance and aid to millions more could soon dry up, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. The report underscores the flight of international donors to countries with less political baggage and more willingness to let aid workers do their jobs. Just a short walk from one of the World Food Programme's two still-functioning food factories in the heart of Pyongyang, children snack on ice cream and sweets at street-side stalls. Well-heeled guests in luxury hotels sip on cappuccinos while white-hatted chefs back in the kitchen whip up pizzas smothered in cheese and sausage. This is the face North Korea prefers the world see. If there is hunger here, it is anything but obvious.


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Analysis: Beyond Kerry, seeking new Mideast ideas
JERUSALEM (AP) - Nine months of U.S.-driven diplomacy have left Israelis and Palestinians less hopeful than ever about a comprehensive peace agreement to end their century of conflict. Although a formula may yet be found to somehow prolong the talks past an end-of-April deadline, they are on the brink of collapse and the search is already on for new ideas. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts have exposed vast differences: On sharing Jerusalem, resolving the situation of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, and even borders, the sides seem nowhere close to agreement. And Thursday, Israel said it halted the talks in response to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to form a unity government with the Islamic militant Hamas movement, which Israel and the West consider a terrorist group.


Baltic states lead push to cut Russia gas reliance
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) - Later this year, a ship the size of an aircraft carrier will arrive at Lithuania's port of Klaipeda on the Baltic Sea. The 300-meter (984-foot) vessel is not a warship, but a floating natural gas import terminal - aptly named "Independence" - that will be key to the Baltic region's plan to reduce its reliance on Russia's energy supplies. The countries in this northeastern corner of the European Union are among the most dependent on Russia to keep their homes warm and industries running. The three Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania get all their gas from Russia and lack connections to the wider European pipeline system that would allow them to import from elsewhere. Poland meets 70 percent of its energy needs with Russian supplies.


Where will calorie labels appear? Not just menus
WASHINGTON (AP) - Diners could soon see calorie counts on the menus of chain restaurants. But will they be able to get that same clear information at grocery stores, convenience stores, movie theaters or airplanes?


Seabed search for missing Malaysian jet to widen
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - The seabed search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is set to widen as a sonar scan of the most likely crash site deep beneath the Indian Ocean nears completion without yielding a single clue, authorities said Friday. Meanwhile in Beijing, about 50 relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane continued a sit-in protest outside the Malaysian Embassy after officials failed to show up to update them on the search.


S&P cuts Russia's credit rating
MOSCOW (AP) - The Standard & Poor's credit agency on Friday cut Russia's credit rating for the first time in more than five years, raising the financial stakes flowing from the crisis in Ukraine as tensions rise and the United States and its allies are contemplating further economic sanctions. In southeastern Ukraine, seven people were injured early Friday by a blast at a checkpoint set up by local authorities and activists outside the Black Sea port of Odessa. Local police spokesman Volodymyr Shablienko said unknown men had thrown a grenade at the checkpoint.


Tornado shelters face dilemma with pet lovers
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Jerry Starr thought he was taking the safe approach when a twister was reported heading toward his suburban neighborhood outside Oklahoma City last May. He grabbed his teenage daughter Dyonna and his dog and drove to the local City Hall, which serves as a public storm shelter. But when he arrived, a police officer told him that the only way they could come in was if Tobi, his shih tzu-yorkie mix, stayed outside. No pets allowed. So Starr and Tobi rode out the storm in his car, one of the most dangerous places he could be.


Northwestern players vote on union question
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - Northwestern football players will file into an on-campus hall adjacent to their home stadium to cast secret ballots Friday on whether to form the nation's first union for college athletes. Just don't expect results any time soon.


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