AP WIRE: NEWS

AP Top News at 8:57 a.m. EDT

292 missing, 4 dead in South Korea ferry disaster
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - A ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured. The high number of people unaccounted for - likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean - raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry disasters since 1993, when 292 people died.


NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat
BRUSSELS (AP) - NATO is strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border immediately in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the alliance's chief said Wednesday. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO's air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region and allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere if needed.


A year after background check defeat, modest goals
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic worries about this November's elections, a lack of Senate votes and House opposition are forcing congressional gun-control supporters to significantly winnow their 2014 agenda, a year after lawmakers scuttled President Barack Obama's effort to pass new curbs on firearms. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently said he needs additional votes before revisiting a proposed expansion of gun sale background checks that the Senate derailed last April. That has left advocates of tighter gun curbs hoping Reid will allow votes on more modest proposals, such as one by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to add convicted stalkers to the list of criminals barred from acquiring guns.


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Sub makes 2nd dive to search for Malaysian plane
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.


Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
WASHINGTON (AP) - Negative campaigning and mudslinging may be a fact of life in American politics, but can false accusations made in the heat of an election be punished as a crime? That debate makes its way to the Supreme Court next week as the justices consider a challenge to an Ohio law that bars false statements about political candidates during a campaign. The case has attracted national attention, with groups across the political spectrum criticizing the law as a restriction on the First Amendment right to free speech.


College Board provides a glimpse of new SAT
WASHINGTON (AP) - Anxious students - not to mention their parents - can get a heads-up for how the redesigned SAT might look in two years. Sample questions for the new version of the college-entrance test were released on Wednesday by the College Board, which announced last month that the new test will include real-world applications and require more analysis. Students will also be asked to cite evidence to show their understanding of texts.


Man charged with marathon hoax due in court
BOSTON (AP) - A man who authorities say was taken into custody near the Boston Marathon finish line carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker on the anniversary of the deadly pressure cooker bombings is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. The 25-year-old man from Wakefield is expected to be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court, according to the Suffolk district attorney's office. Authorities have not publicly identified him.


End of NYPD Muslim surveillance program applauded
NEW YORK (AP) - Muslim groups and civil liberties advocates applauded the decision by New York Police Department officials to disband a controversial unit that tracked the daily lives of Muslims as part of efforts to detect terrorism threats, but they said there were concerns about whether other problematic practices remained in place. The Demographics Unit, conceived with the help of a CIA agent working with the NYPD, assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Plainclothes officers infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued Muslims in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames. NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis confirmed Tuesday that detectives assigned to the unit had been transferred to other duties within the department's Intelligence Division.


Police say 5 dead in Calgary stabbings
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) - The son of a Calgary police officer was charged in the fatal stabbing of five people at a house party that the law enforcement officials called the worst mass slaying in the western Canadian city's history. Matthew Douglas de Grood, a recent graduate of the University of Calgary, picked up a large knife shortly after arriving at the party and stabbed the victims one by one shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday, said police Chief Rick Hanson.


Dress codes: Where should schools set limits?
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - They're called leggings - popular fashion items that are tight-fitting pants to some, and glorified tights to others. Younger girls often wear them as pants with little fuss. But as those same girls approach middle school, leggings have become a clothing accessory that's increasingly controversial - and seemingly, the favorite new target of the school dress code.

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