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Hundreds Missing After Ferry Sinks off South Korea's Coast


The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Nearly 300 people are missing after a ferry carrying 462 passengers, many of them students, sank in cold waters off South Korea’s southern coast Wednesday.

So far, four deaths have been reported with 164 people having been rescued. A female crew member and a male student are among the fatalities.

The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was sailing from the port of Incheon in the northwest to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began leaning to one side.

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Coast Guard crews tried to break into the ferry, searching for anyone left behind, but they have been unable to do so since the vessel has sunk more than 100 feet below the water's surface.

The reason for the crash is still unknown, but officials are looking into the possibility that it may have hit a reef.

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Ukraine’s Offensive Falters as Elite Units Defect to Pro-Russia Side


GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images(SLOVIANSK, Ukraine) -- Ukraine’s “anti-terrorist operation” to take back areas in eastern Ukraine seized by pro-Russian forces faltered Wednesday as units of Ukraine’s elite forces in tanks and armored personnel carriers defected to the pro-Russian side.

In at least two towns -- Sloviansk and Kramatorsk -- armored vehicles were seen flying Russian flags and carrying defected troops.

It comes after Ukraine made a big display of military might for journalists on Sunday, showing off the hardware and forces that would take part in the operation. A little while later, helicopters containing special forces took off on their first mission, taking back the Kramatorsk airfield that had been occupied by armed gunmen.

As the operation continued Monday, Ukrainian jets and helicopters could be seen flying across the skies of the eastern Donetsk region.

Ukraine’s acting president said on Sunday that the operation would be conducted “gradually with caution and responsibility.”

“I want to emphasize that the aim of the operation is to protect the citizens of Ukraine, to stop terror, to stop criminals and to stop attempts at tearing our country apart,” he said.

Pro-Russia protesters have been calling for greater autonomy for the eastern part of the country and for closer ties with Moscow.

Ukraine and the United States have repeatedly accused Russia of fueling the unrest in eastern Ukraine and on Wednesday, Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arsenly Yatsenyuk said Russia is “exporting terrorism” to Ukraine.

“Russia must withdraw its sabotage groups, condemn terrorists and liberate all administrative buildings,” Yatsenyuk said.

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Sub Deployed in Flight 370 Search Forced to Resurface Early


U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/Released(PERTH, Australia) -- The underwater search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was temporarily interrupted on Wednesday.

The U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21, the robotic submarine searching the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Boeing 777, had to resurface Wednesday morning to fix a technical issue, Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Center said in a statement.

The JACC, which is leading the search for the jetliner, said an intial analysis of the data downloaded from the sub while it was on deck showed no significant detections.

The Bluefin-21 has since been redeployed and is continuing the slow process of creating a sonar map of the area to chart any debris on the sea floor. Each mission takes the sub a total of 24 hours to complete: two hours to reach the bottom of the ocean, 16 hours to execute its search, two hours to return to the surface, and four hours to download and analyze the data it collected.

Officials are hoping to find Flight 370's black boxes in order to understand what happened to the plane when it disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.

So far, crews have detected four signals consistent with the pings of an airplane's black box, which has a battery life of about a month.

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Boehner Supports US Forces in Afghanistan Past 2014


Alex Wong/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A top U.S. lawmaker is giving his support to keeping a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of most coalition forces by the end of 2014.

Meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that American troops "fought to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and to ensure it can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States."

The Obama administration has been at loggerheads with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers in the country in a training and advisory role past 2014.

Karzai, who wants various concessions from Washington, says he will leave it up to his successor to determine whether a post-war pact is right for Afghanistan.

A week-and-a-half ago, millions of Afghans went to the polls to select a new leader but the outcome may not be known for some time. Even then, a run-off is predicted between the two top candidates, which could further delay the signing of the BSA.

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Iraq Shuts Down Abu Ghraib Prison


Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- The Iraqi prison formerly known as Abu Ghraib has been shut down, perhaps permanently.

Iraq's justice ministry announced on Tuesday the "complete closure of Baghdad Central Prison...and the removal of the inmates in cooperation with the ministries of defense and interior."

The government suggested that the prison's shuttering was due to the rise of violence in Iraq, especially because the facility is located "in a hot area."

About 2,400 detainees alleged to have been involved in terrorist-related activities have been moved to other jails in central and northern Iraq.

Abu Ghraib prison first became notorious during the regime of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, whose minions committed unspeakable acts of torture against his political foes and ordinary criminals.

In 2004, following the U.S. occupation of Iraq, photographs surfaced of American prison guards abusing detainees at the prison. It's believed these images helped fuel the insurgency that stretched the U.S. war effort in Iraq until the end of 2011.

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Syrian Rebels Claim They Received US Missiles


creisinger/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. may have finally gotten around to providing Syrian rebels with the heavy artillery they've been demanding since the start of the conflict three years ago to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

According to a report by Agence France-Presse, "fighters from the Hazm movement have for the first time received more than 20 TOW anti-tank missiles from a Western source."

The AFP quoted an unidentified source familiar with the purported weapons hand-off.

The Hazm movement is a force within the Free Syrian Army. Amateur video released by an opposition media organization apparently shows rebels firing missiles at undisclosed locations in Syria.

U.S. officials have declined to comment on the source of the missiles.

The Obama administration has been skittish about providing opposition forces with heavy artillery, fearing it could fall into the heads of radical Islamic groups who have also joined in the Syrian civil war that has cost an estimated 150,000 lives since March 2011.

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Ukraine Retakes Airfield with ‘Anti-Terrorist’ Operation


Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(IZIUM, Ukraine) -- Ukraine’s military launched an offensive Tuesday to quell pro-Russian violence that has swept eastern Ukraine, as Russia’s prime minister tweeted an ominous message.

“There is foreboding of a civil war in #Ukraine,” Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev posted Tuesday.

In what Ukraine’s acting president has called an “anti-terrorist operation,” Ukraine’s military -- complete with helicopters loaded with special forces units -- quickly won back an occupied airfield, its first target.

There were reports of wounded pro-Russian protesters, raising fears in Washington that Moscow would use bloodshed as an excuse to invade Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly warned it may intervene to defend Russian speakers in Ukraine.

The U.S. warned of more possible sanctions Tuesday against Russia for meddling in Ukraine, and appeared cautiously supportive of the operation by Ukrainian security forces in eastern cities.

“We are obviously evaluating requests and looking at ways that we can support the Ukrainian government,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

“But our focus is on continuing to put pressure on Russia so that it understands that the international community is united when it comes to support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that there is a path for Russia to take that would de-escalate the situation and ensure that it doesn’t devolve into violence.”

Amid the unrest and counter-offensive, life largely continued as normal. Most do not support the violence and fear it may spiral.

“I don’t want troops to be here,” said Kosta Kolsenik in the seized town of Sloviansk. “Really. It’s really dangerous for our people.”


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Italy Hopes Sale of Island Will Help to Pay Debts


iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- A financially desperate Italy has put an island in the Venice lagoon up for auction to help pay off its public debt. The Venetian island of Poveglia is one of a range of historic sites that Italy has put on sale, including a Catholic pilgrimage site and a 15th-century bastion.

Italy hopes the sale of these properties will bring its debt in line with European Union regulations. The government owns more than half a million commercial and residential properties that Italians and foreigners will have the chance to bid for online.

In the past 13 years, Italy has raised $2.5 billion by selling off state property. It expects to earn another $700 million more this year through the sales.
 
As a move to make the properties more enticing, Italy has cut down the number of permits needed to restore historic sites.

The auction is open until May 6.

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Berlusconi Convicted of Tax Fraud, Receives Sentence


Pete Souza / The White House(MILAN, Italy) -- Former Italian leader and convicted fraudster Silvio Berlusconi will be spending some quality time with older Italians.

A Milan court has agreed to allow the 77-year-old billionaire to volunteer once a week at an old-age home instead of being put under house arrest for his 2013 tax fraud conviction. The court rejected, however, Berlusconi’s request to act as a “motivational speaker” for the older residents.

Berlusconi was originally sentenced to four years in jail, which was later commuted to just one year. Italy does not send those over 70 to prison for non-violent crimes.

As part of the conviction, the former leader was also expelled from parliament and banned from running for office for a period of six years.

The ban, however, does not stop him from campaigning politically. He’s leading the charge for his center-right party Forza Italia in the European Union elections next month.

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Rabbit with Your Pizza? New Zealand Billboard Combines Them


Hell Pizza(NEW YORK) -- A new billboard for Hell Pizza advertising an Easter special of rabbit pizza is itself covered in rabbit -- or at least rabbit furs.

The New Zealand-based pizza chain tweeted that the recipe will include smoked wild New Zealand rabbit, toasted pine nuts, beetroot and horopito relish, cream cheese, rosemary, and fresh spring onions.

After weathering some blowback on the Internet for the bunny-themed pies and ads, the company let loose some rabbit facts:

“As well as being a delicious meat, and even quite cute, rabbits are unfortunately also a noted pest that is damaging to the New Zealand environment, particularly in the South Island,” they wrote on their Facebook page.

“For those who are concerned, we sourced these rabbit skins via a professional animal tanning company, who in turn sourced them from local meat processing companies where the skins are a regular by-product. Our Rabbit Pizzas are made purely from wild rabbits from Southland and Otago,” the statement continued.

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Reeva Steenkamp's Heartbreaking Valentine to Pistorius Revealed


Theana Breugem/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- A heartbreaking Valentine's Day card that Reeva Steenkamp wrote to Oscar Pistorius on the day she died was read in court Tuesday.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you," the message reads.

Pistorius' defense advocate asked him to read the card aloud after the state concluded its cross examination of the athlete.

As prosecutor Gerrie Nel wrapped up the state's five-day cross examination, he alleged that Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp in the 2013 tragedy.

“She was locked into the bathroom, and you armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her … and that’s what you did,” Nel said. “Afterwards, indeed, you were overcome by what you’d done, that is true. Only because you intentioned to kill her. You realized that.”

Pistorius is charged with murder in Steenkamp’s death. If convicted, he could face 25 years to life in prison. Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, the prosecution asked for a break in the trial, a request the defense supports. Judge Thokozile Masipa will consider the option and announce a decision on Wednesday.

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Missed the 'Blood Moon'? Here's Your Next Chance


NASA Ames Research Center/Brian Day(NEW YORK) -- If you were asleep when the “blood moon” graced the sky early Tuesday, you’re in luck. The moon will glow red three more times in the next 18 months, scientists say.

It’s all part of a lunar eclipse “tetrad”: a series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses that happen at about six-month intervals.

The next one is due Oct. 8, followed by blood moons on April 4, 2015, and Sept. 28, 2015, according to NASA.

There will be a total lunar eclipse on those dates, when the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, and the moon will begin to appear bright orange or red because of the way sunlight bends through the Earth’s atmosphere. The sunset hue lasts up to an hour.

The moon appeared reddest Tuesday around 3 a.m.

You’ll have to be an early riser to catch the October “blood moon.” That total eclipse will begin at 6:25 a.m. Clear skies are key and people on the West Coast will have the best view.

NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak pointed out that this lunar eclipse series is unique because all four eclipses will be visible in North America, which isn’t always the case.

There are about two lunar eclipses a year, but you’ll only see a blood mood during a total eclipse. There are also partial eclipses, when the moon only passes into part of Earth’s shadow, and penumbral eclipses, when the moon barely grazes the Earth’s shadow, which is so subtle most sky-gazers don’t even notice.

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Obama and Putin Clash as Ukraine Situation Heats Up


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- As pro-Russian separatists continue to hold buildings throughout eastern Ukraine, President Obama spoke by phone Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to stop the situation from spinning out of control.

According to a statement issued by the White House, the president "expressed grave concern about Russian government support for the actions of armed, pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilize the government of Ukraine."

The president emphasized that a diplomatic solution, while still possible, is being made difficult by Russian troops near Ukraine's border, the instigation of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and the Kremlin's belligerent rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Moscow dismissed Obama's concerns, claiming that speculation about Russian involvement in the affairs of southeastern Ukraine was "based on inaccurate information."

Instead, Putin blamed the current unrest in Ukraine on the "unwillingness and inability" of the interim government "to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population."

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Tension Heats Up Between the US and Russia over Ukraine


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Pentagon officials have called out Russia for flying a fighter jet over the weekend too close to a U.S. warship in the Black Sea.

The jet was 500 feet above sea level and 3,000 feet away from the U.S.S. Donald Cook, close enough that the ship sent warnings that were ignored for more than 90 minutes.

Officials say the jet was unarmed and the ship was never in danger, but have called the Russian's actions irresponsible.

Watch the report from ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer:


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Top US Spy: Intel Cooperation with Pakistan ‘On the Upswing’


Stocktrek Images(ATHENS, Ga.) -- The strained spy relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. is “of late…on the upswing,” according to America’s top intelligence official.

“I have to be careful what I say here,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told students at the University of Georgia Monday. “First I’ll say that Pakistan is a very important ally, partner -- particularly as we draw down in Afghanistan and won’t have the presence there that we’ve had in the past, whatever form that takes…”

“Many times our interests converge and sometimes they don’t,” Clapper said, adding that while thousands of Pakistani citizens have been killed or injured because of domestic militant actions, for the Pakistani government and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), neighboring India is their greatest strategic concern.

“When we can converge with our interests, particularly in the intelligence realm -- [I] can’t say too much about that publicly -- we do. Of late, particularly with the new government in Pakistan, I think that cooperation has been on the upswing,” he said.

Michael Birmingham, spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declined to expand on his boss’s comments except to tell ABC News Clapper “was referring to the strong ongoing dialogue we have with Pakistan, including through our revitalized strategic dialogue, regarding all aspects of our bilateral relationship and shared interests, to include intelligence and security issues.”

America has for years had a complex relationship with Pakistani security forces -- critical to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts -- which was crystallized by the extremely guarded stance the CIA took towards its counterpart, the ISI. American officials have accused the ISI of using terrorist groups in Pakistan to their own ends, even if it means targeting Americans.

In September 2011, then-Joint Chief of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen testified before Congress that the Haqqani network, a Taliban-linked group designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, was a “veritable arm” of the ISI and that the Pakistani government was responsible for “exporting violence” to Afghanistan, including what he alleged to be an ISI-supported attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The Pakistani government denied the charges.

The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistani intelligence was already at its lowest after May 2011 when a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he had lived for at least six years less than a mile from one of Pakistan’s most elite military academies. Immediately speculation ran rampant that Pakistan and the ISI must have known the terror leader was there.

“I think that at high levels -- high levels being the intelligence service -- at high levels they knew it,” Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told ABC News’ Jon Karl just days after the raid. “I can’t prove it. I just think it’s counterintuitive not to.”

Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta later told CBS News’ 60 Minutes in early 2012 that he “personally felt” that “somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound.”

Panetta also said the U.S. didn’t warn Pakistan about the raid ahead of time because the U.S. government feared “that if we, in fact, brought [Pakistan] into it, that they might… give bin Laden a heads-up.” Panetta said, however, that he had no proof of Pakistani collusion with bin Laden.

The U.S. has never proved any Pakistani officials knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts, and sources previously said communications intercepted by American intelligence immediately after the raid indicated bin Laden’s presence had taken top Pakistani officials by surprise.

Last year the Pakistani government accused its political and military leaders of “gross incompetence” in allowing bin Laden to evade capture for so long in Pakistan, according to a leaked copy of the Abbottabad Commission report as published by Al Jazeera, but did not accuse anyone of working with bin Laden.

Still, documents concerning America’s top secret intelligence budget, leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Washington Post last year, indicated a deep distrust in Pakistan and showed that the U.S. repeatedly lumped its ally in with other “key [intelligence] targets” like Iran, Russia and North Korea.

For its part, Pakistan for years has publicly condemned the CIA’s use of drone strikes within its borders. Ahead of a meeting with President Obama in October, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the issue of drone strikes had “become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship…”

Later sitting with Sharif, Obama told reporters the two had “talked about security” and said they were “committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension… that it can be a source of strength.”

Birmingham declined to identify exactly to whom the intelligence director was referring Monday when he attributed the “upswing” in relations Pakistan’s “new government.” In March 2012 Pakistan appointed a new chief of intelligence, Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, who between 2008 and 2010 held the position of deputy head of the ISI. In July 2013 Pakistan elected Mamnoon Hussain, a textiles magnate, as its newest president. Hussain took office in September.

Pakistani media reported in February that CIA Director John Brennan made a secret visit to Pakistan and had met with top Pakistani military officials, reportedly including Islam. Pakistan’s The News noted that the meeting was the latest high-level interaction between Pakistani and U.S. officials in recent months, a development the paper said was a “positive change” signaling the “improving nature of the relationship between the two estranged allies…”

While cautious not to overstate how much the situation has changed since 2011, other U.S. intelligence officials told ABC News they shared Clapper’s view of “improved relations.”

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