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TMCNet:  AP Top News at 12:20 p.m. EDT

[March 27, 2014]

AP Top News at 12:20 p.m. EDT

(Associated Press Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Spotters fight fatigue in hunt for jet lost at seaOVER THE SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN (AP) — They stare out at a punishingly unbroken expanse of gray water that seems, at times, to blend into the clouds. Occasionally, they press their foreheads against the plane's windows so hard they leave grease marks, their eyes darting up and down, left and right, looking for something — anything — that could explain the fate of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. The hunt for Flight 370, which vanished on March 8 during a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is complicated in just about every way imaginable, from the vastness of the search area to its distance from land to the brutal weather that plagues it. But for all the fancy technology on board the planes and vessels scouring the swirling waters, the best tool searchers have are their own eyes.


IMF offers Ukraine up to $18 billion in loansKIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The International Monetary Fund pledged up to $18 billion in loans Thursday to prop up Ukraine's teetering economy, and the prime minister warned that everyone is going to feel some pain from the necessary financial reforms ahead. Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced that she will run for president in the vote set for May 25. Tymoshenko, who was released from jail last month following the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, returns as one of the most polarizing figures in Ukraine's political scene.

Obama, Francis find common ground, sharp divisionsVATICAN CITY (AP) — President Barack Obama and the Vatican gave distinctly different accounts of the president's audience with Pope Francis, with Obama stressing their common ground over issues of poverty and inequality and Vatican officials emphasizing sharp differences over abortion and birth control. Obama described himself as "incredibly moved" by his nearly hour-long session with the popular pontiff. He said the two spent the most time discussing the plight of the poor and the marginalized as well as regions of conflict and the elusive nature of peace around the world.

Mudslide recovery brings tears to searchersDARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Firefighter Jeff McClelland uncovered a body on the moon-like surface that blankets what used to be the community of Oso. Suddenly, he realized the dead man's son and brother were among the volunteers scouring the debris field. The relatives sat beside the body as it was zipped into a bag. McClelland found himself overcome with tears.

Union ruling comes at bad time for NCAAThey're battling in courtrooms, and could one day meet over a bargaining table. About the only things the two sides in the debate over big-time college athletics agree on is that things are changing. Schools bringing in hundreds of millions in bloated television contracts. Coaches making the kind of salaries that late UCLA legend John Wooden wouldn't recognize. Athletes insisting on basic rights, if not outright cash.

$1 trillion student loan debt widens US wealth gapEvery month that Gregory Zbylut pays $1,300 toward his law school loans is another month of not qualifying for a decent mortgage. Every payment toward their student loans is $900 Dr. Nida Degesys and her husband aren't putting in their retirement savings account.

Mandatory Kim Jong Un haircuts a baldfaced lie?TOKYO (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's distinctive hairstyle is the 'do of the day on the Internet, thanks to a viral report that every male university student in the capital is now under orders to get a buzz just like it. But it appears the barbers of Pyongyang aren't exactly sharpening their scissors. Recent visitors to the country say they've seen no evidence of any mass haircutting. North Korea watchers smell another imaginative but uncorroborated rumor.

Christie's lawyer: Governor not involved in plotNEW YORK (AP) — A law firm hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that the governor was not involved in a plot to create gridlock near a major bridge as part of a political retribution scheme. The taxpayer-funded report released by former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro relies on interviews with Christie and other officials in his administration and 250,000 documents, many of them emails and text messages.

Taco Bell's ads star real-life Ronald McDonaldsNEW YORK (AP) — Taco Bell is name-dropping an unlikely clown to promote its new breakfast menu — Ronald McDonald. The fast-food chain will begin airing ads Thursday that feature everyday men who happen to have the same name as the McDonald's mascot known for his bright red hair and yellow jumpsuit. The marketing campaign is intended to promote Taco Bell's new breakfast menu, which features novelties like a waffle taco.

Big threat to Japan whaling: Declining appetitesTOKYO (AP) — The greatest threat to Japan's whaling industry may not be the environmentalists harassing its ships or the countries demanding its abolishment, but Japanese consumers. They've lost their appetite. The amount of whale meat stockpiled for lack of buyers has nearly doubled over 10 years, even as anti-whaling protests helped drive catches to record lows. More than 2,300 minke whales worth of meat is sitting in freezers while whalers still plan to catch another 1,300 whales per year.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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