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U.S. readies sanctions on Russia, aid for Ukraine
Written by JULIE PACE, Associated Press LARA JAKES, Associated Press   
Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:39

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is preparing to ratchet up sanctions on Russia and boost assistance for the Ukrainian military in the coming days, U.S. officials said Wednesday, as Ukraine struggles to contain a pro-Russian uprising in its eastern cities.

Officials said they had no plans to levy new sanctions ahead of Thursday's talks in Geneva between the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. But with low expectations for a breakthrough in those meetings, officials already have prepared targets for sanctions that include wealthy individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the entities they run.

"Each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, there are going to be consequences," President Barack Obama said in an interview with CBS News. "Mr. Putin's decisions aren't just bad for Ukraine. Over the long-term, they're going to be bad for Russia."

The administration also was working on a package of non-lethal assistance for Ukraine's military. The assistance, which was expected to be finalized this week, could include medical supplies and clothing for Ukraine's military, but was expected to stop short of providing body armor and other military-style equipment.

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Nigeria: Fate of 100+ abducted girls unknown
Written by HARUNA UMAR, Associated Press   
Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:25

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — The fate of more than 100 girls and young women abducted by Islamic extremists was thrown into uncertainty Thursday when their school principal denied a report from Nigeria's military that almost all the students were free.

"Up till now we are still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students ... the security people, especially the vigilantes and the well-meaning volunteers of Gwoza are still out searching for them. The military people too are in the bush searching," the principal, Asabe Kwambura, told The Associated Press by telephone.

She said only 14 of the 129 girls kidnapped by gunmen before dawn Tuesday have returned to Chibok town — four who jumped from the back of a truck and 10 who escaped into the bush when their abductors asked them to cook a meal.

Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the Defense Ministry spokesman, said in a statement late Wednesday night that all but eight of the students have been accounted for. "The others have been freed this evening," he said.

Olukolade could not immediately be reached for further comment.

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Firetruck plows into Los Angeles-area cafe; 15 hurt
Written by JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press   
Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:16

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) — A Monterey Park firetruck heading to a blaze collided with another engine and then plowed into restaurant, injuring 15 people including six firefighters, authorities said.

The crash Wednesday afternoon ripped through the front of Lu Dumpling House and left it littered with victims, witnesses said.

Wendy Wu, a waitress at the Chinese restaurant, was in a walk-in freezer when the truck hit and wasn't hurt.

"There was a loud boom and a lot of shaking. I thought it was an earthquake," she said. Walking out of the freezer, she saw a refrigerator pushed across the room and furniture in disarray.

Speaking through an interpreter, Wu said she saw several injured people bleeding and trying to stand.

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Experts say video doesn't show Earhart wreckage
Written by BEN NEARY, Associated Press   
Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:21

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Experts retained by an aircraft preservation group say underwater video shot in the South Pacific yields no evidence of the wreckage of the missing plane piloted by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1932. She was trying to become the first female to circle the globe when she and her navigator disappeared somewhere in the South Pacific in 1937.

The mystery of what happened to Earhart and the twin-engine Lockheed Electra she was piloting holds a continuing fascination for The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) of Pennsylvania and its executive director, Richard E. Gillespie.

They've staged repeated expeditions to search the waters around the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, about 1,800 miles south of Hawaii.

Wyoming resident Timothy Mellon, son of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon, filed a federal lawsuit against the TIGHAR group and Gillespie last year. Mellon claims they had found the wreckage of Earhart's plane in 2010 but kept the discovery a secret so it could solicit money from him to continue the search.

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Evacuation came too late for many on sinking ferry
Written by FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press YOUKYUNG LEE, Associated Press   
Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:11

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday.

The first instructions from the captain were for the passengers to put on life jackets and stay put, and it was not until about 30 minutes later that he ordered an evacuation, Oh Yong-seok, a 58-year-old crew member, told The Associated Press. But Oh said he wasn't sure if the captain's order, given to crew members, was actually relayed to passengers on the public address system.

Several survivors also told the AP that they never heard any evacuation order.

The loss of that precious time may have deprived many passengers of the opportunity to escape as The Sewol sank on Wednesday, not too far from the southern city of Mokpo.

Nine people, including five students and two teachers, were confirmed dead, but the toll was expected to jump amid fears that the missing 287 passengers — many high school students — were dead. The confirmed fatalities include a female crew member in her 20s, five high school students and two teachers. Coast guard officials put the number of survivors Thursday at 179.

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