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AP Top International News At 12:31 p.m. EDT

283 missing, 4 dead in South Korea ferry disaster
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) -- A ferry carrying 462 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving more than 280 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured....

Combat vehicles in east Ukraine fly Russian flag
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) -- A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russian insurgents Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes of re-establishing control over restive eastern Ukraine....

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....

Venezuelan crisis talks show signs of progress
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Negotiators from Venezuela's government and the opposition agreed to broaden membership in a truth commission tasked with investigating who's to blame for 41 deaths tied to weeks of political unrest....

NKorea complains over barber's Kim Jong Un poster
LONDON (AP) -- North Korea has made a diplomatic appeal to the British government to get a London salon out of its hair....

If filed, plane lawsuits might not get heard in US
BEIJING (AP) -- Since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, some lawyers have claimed they can get several millions of dollars in damages for each lost passenger by taking the cases to the United States. But past lawsuits show U.S. federal courts are more likely to throw such cases out if the crashes happened overseas....

Pistorius trial: Defense tries to build case
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius' lawyers at his murder trial Wednesday tried to roll back the prosecution's momentum, but the prosecutor sharply questioned the credentials and findings of a forensic expert for the defense....

Protector of vast African park shot and wounded
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- A member of Belgium's royal family who, as director of a vast national park in eastern Congo has tried to defend endangered mountain gorillas and other animals from poachers and the forests from illegal logging and charcoal production, was shot and seriously wounded as he drove in the area, officials said Wednesday....

China's growth slows to 7.4 percent in 1Q
BEIJING (AP) -- China's economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter but appeared strong enough to satisfy Chinese leaders who are trying to put the country on a more sustainable path without politically dangerous job losses....

Algerian election faces disaffected populace
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- The college students playing pick-up soccer along the faded grandeur of Algiers' sweeping waterfront say they won't be voting in Thursday's presidential elections, echoing the sentiments of many young Algerians....

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