AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Pro-Russian insurgents: will only leave occupied buildings if interim Ukrainian gov't resigns

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine's east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.

Denis Pushilin, a spokesman of the self-appointed Donetsk People's Republic, told reporters that the insurgents do not recognize the Ukrainian government as legitimate.

Ukraine and Russia on Thursday agreed to take tentative steps toward calming tensions along their shared border after more than a month of bloodshed. But Pushilin, speaking at the insurgent-occupied regional administration's building in Donetsk, said the deal specifies that all illegally seized buildings should be vacated and in his opinion the government in Kiev is also occupying public buildings illegally.

"This is a reasonable agreement but everyone should vacate the buildings and that includes Yatsenyuk and Turchynov," he said referring to the acting Ukrainian prime minister and president.

The deal calls for the immediate return of all government buildings seized by pro-Russian militia. But none of the government buildings seized across eastern Ukraine has yet been vacated, according to local media.

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Rescuers rush to save hundreds as fresh questions emerge about SKorean ferry captain's actions

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of ferry passengers still missing Friday and feared dead, as fresh questions emerged about whether quicker action by the captain of the doomed ship could have saved lives.

Officials also offered a rare glimpse at their investigations, saying they were looking into whether a crewman's order to abruptly turn the ship contributed to the 6,852-ton Sewol ferry tilting severely to the side and filling with water Wednesday.

The confirmed death toll from the sinking off southern South Korea was 28, the coast guard said. Most of the bodies have been found floating in the ocean because divers have been continually prevented from getting inside the ship by strong currents and bad weather. But more than 48 hours after the sinking the number of deaths was expected to rise sharply with about 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a class trip. Officials said there were 179 survivors.

New questions were raised by a transcript of a ship-to-shore exchange and interviews by The Associated Press that showed the captain delayed the evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official told the ship it might have to evacuate.

The comment at 9 a.m. by an unidentified official at the Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center came just five minutes after a distress call by the Sewol ferry. A crewmember on the ferry, which was bound for Jeju island, replied that "it's hard for people to move."

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12 Nepal guides killed, 3 missing as avalanche sweeps Mount Everest ahead of peak climb season

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three missing in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche hit just them below Camp 2 at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said from the base camp where he is monitoring rescue efforts.

Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and ice and were searching for the three missing guides, Lamsal said.

Two Sherpas who were injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Nepal's capital, Katmandu.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support crews have gathered at the base camp to prepare for attempts to scale the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain early next month when weather conditions become favorable. They have been setting up camps at higher altitudes and guides have been fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.

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White House updating online privacy policy, says wont share data with third parties

A new Obama administration privacy policy released Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites, and it clarifies that online comments, whether tirades or tributes, are in the open domain.

"Information you choose to share with the White House (directly and via third party sites) may be treated as public information," the new policy says.

The Obama Administration also promises not to sell the data of online visitors. But it cannot make the same assurances for users who go to third-party White House sites on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

There will be no significant changes in actual practices under the new policy. But legal jargon and bureaucratic language has been stripped out, making it easier for readers to now understand that the White House stores the date, time and duration of online visits; the originating Internet Protocol address; how much data users transmit from WhiteHouse.gov to their computers; and more. The administration also tracks whether emails from the White House are opened, forwarded or printed.

The updates were needed because "Our old privacy policy was just that - old," blogged Obama's digital director Nathaniel Lubin.

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6 weeks since disappearance of Malaysian jet, Chinese families gather to cry, pray for answers

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Six weeks into the extensive search for the lost Malaysia Airlines plane without so much as a piece of debris yet found, several Chinese relatives met Friday to pray for spouses who never came home, while begging for answers that could end their misery of not knowing.

Candles burned on a table in the shape of a heart with the letters MH370 in the middle while about three dozen relatives held a prayer service at a hotel ballroom in Beijing where they have been meeting since the Boeing 777 mysteriously vanished. A banner behind them read in Chinese: "Husband, wife, come home soon."

"There are different relationships touched by grief, from children, to parents, to siblings, and now we wanted spouses to have a chance to release their feelings," said Jack Song, a representative for the relatives. Many of those gathered sobbed as gentle music played and a microphone was passed around for anyone who wished to speak.

Thousands of miles away, off the western coast of Australia, aircraft, ships and a robotic submarine continued searching for the aircraft that disappeared with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, six weeks ago on Saturday.

The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 sub was scanning the seabed with sonar to find anything that could resemble wreckage. It has searched 110 square kilometers (42 square miles) of the silt-covered seabed but has found nothing so far, the search coordination center said.

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A short but well-lived life: Family remembers police officer killed days after Boston bombings

BOSTON (AP) — Like many other youngsters, Sean Collier wanted to be a police officer. Unlike most, he brought that dream to life — and then died doing it, becoming a central character in one of the most gripping manhunts the nation has ever seen.

The three people killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, along with the many others who lost limbs, have gotten the lion's share of the attention in the year since the bombings. The loved ones of Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who investigators say was shot by the bombing suspects, are this week remembering a brother and doting uncle who seemed destined to enter law enforcement.

"I can remember he was 2 or 3 years old running around the house making a siren sound yelling, 'You're breaking the law' and trying to arrest us for not doing what we were supposed to do," said Nicole Lynch, his sister. "His role in the family was to not only protect all of us, but to make sure we were doing the right things."

This year, Team Collier Strong, a group of 25 friends and family members, will run the marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund named for him. And the college plans a ceremony Friday to honor him.

Collier was called in to help with dispatch when news of the bombings broke in Boston, across the Charles River from the MIT campus in Cambridge.

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Democrats urged not to mention the word 'recovery' in upcoming campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Election-year memo to Democratic candidates: Don't talk about the economic recovery. It's a political loser.

So say Democratic strategists in a blunt declaration that such talk skips over "how much trouble people are in, and doesn't convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face."

In addition, Stan Greenberg, James Carville and others wrote that in head-to-head polling tests the mere mention of the word "recovery" is trumped by a Republican assertion that the Obama administration has had six years to get the economy moving and its policies haven't worked.

Coincidentally or not, Democrats have largely shelved the "R'' word.

President Barack Obama's only utterance of it in recent weeks was on April 8, and it was in the context of accusing Republicans of blocking progress on issues that "would help with the economic recovery and help us grow faster."

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Late sign-ups and enrollments by young adults improve outlook for Obama's health care law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A surge of eleventh-hour enrollments has improved the outlook for President Barack Obama's health care law, with more people signing up overall and a much-needed spark of interest among young adults.

Nonetheless, Obama's announcement Thursday that 8 million have signed up for subsidized private insurance, and that 35 percent of them are younger than 35, is just a peek at what might be going on with the nation's newest social program.

Still to be announced is what share of those enrolled were previously uninsured — the true test of Obama's Affordable Care Act — and how many actually secured coverage by paying their first month's premiums.

"This thing is working," a confident Obama said of his signature domestic achievement. The days of website woes and canceled policies seemed far behind.

State-by-state statistics, expected as early as next week, will provide a much fuller picture.

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Steen gets winner 26 seconds into third OT, Blues knock off Blackhawks 4-3

ST. LOUIS (AP) — In the first period, Ryan Miller looked like the goalie who limped home 0-5. For the final 80 minutes, 26 seconds, the St. Louis Blues saw the cool, confident backstop they acquired to make the deep playoff run they've long sought.

Miller allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period, then shut the door on the Chicago Blackhawks to pave the way for Alexander Steen's deciding goal in an epic 4-3, triple-overtime Game 1 victory on Thursday night.

"It's not all about one period," Miller said. "I tried not to change my approach and it's nice to come out on the right side."

Steen scored 26 seconds into the third overtime to cap the longest playoff game in franchise history, beating Corey Crawford off a pair of short passes from Steve Ott and David Backes to end the marathon.

"I didn't know how open he was, obviously," Ott said. "He obviously buried it and the game's over. We stuck with it and we found a way to win it."

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In call to 911, student on bus hit by FedEx truck in Calif. struggles to recount deadly crash

ORLAND, Calif. (AP) — Most of the 911 calls from witnesses to last week's fiery truck-bus collision that killed 10 were matter of fact. Then there was the one from a passenger: With shrieks in the background, the student struggled to recount how a truck came roaring toward them.

"What did the bus hit?" the dispatcher asked.

The student who had just escaped from the bus started to explain that the truck smashed into its left side.

The dispatcher tried to refocus the student: "Just with one or two words, tell me what the bus hit."

"The bus hit a FedEx truck," the student replied. "The FedEx truck came into us."

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