Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 16, 2014

Harold Maass
Rescue helicopters fly over the sinking ferry. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
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Ferry sinks off South Korean coast

At least four people died and 295 were missing Wednesday after a South Korean passenger ferry carrying 450 people capsized and sank off the country's south coast. About 320 of the people on board were high-school students traveling with teachers to the resort island of Jeju. Search vessels and helicopters hurried to the scene to pluck people from the stricken ship. Authorities said they could not immediately determine what went wrong. [CNN, The Guardian]


Boston Marathon finish line evacuated over bomb scare

Police evacuated the finish line of next week's Boston Marathon on Tuesday, the anniversary of the bombing at the race's finish last year, when a man chanting "Boston strong!" dropped a black backpack on the street. Police detained him and detonated the backpack, along with another unattended bag, as a precaution. The suspect told police his bag contained a rice cooker. The incident came after ceremonies honored the victims of the 2013 attack. [Daily News]


New York drops controversial spying program in Muslim neighborhoods

New York City is getting rid of a secretive police program that used plainclothes detectives to spy in Muslim neighborhoods. The unit put together detailed files on people's activities in the targeted areas. Critics said the squad treated innocent people like suspects. The team's elimination suggested that the city's new commissioner, William Bratton, is backing away from controversial post-9/11 policies. [The New York Times]


Tensions rise in Ukraine as pro-Russian forces surge

Armored personnel carriers flying Russian flags entered the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk near the Russian border Wednesday. Several uniformed fighters said they were Ukrainian soldiers who defected to the pro-Russia side. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine had pushed the country toward civil war by sending troops to push pro-Russia protesters out of occupied government buildings. Diplomatic talks are scheduled in Geneva Thursday. [Voice of America, The Washington Post]


Video shows a large al Qaeda gathering in Yemen

Al Qaeda has released a video showing what appears to be one of the terrorist group's largest meetings in years. The clip shows Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al Qaeda's global No. 2 and the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, addressing more than 100 armed men in Yemen and encouraging attacks against the U.S. Counterterrorism experts said they were surprised that al Qaeda could assemble such a big group without the CIA knowing. [CNN]


Google Glass goes on sale to the public — briefly — for the first time

Google held a one-day sale of its Google Glass wearable computers on Tuesday. One version — the white "Cotton" model — sold out within a few hours. It was the first public offering of the widely hyped product yet. Select groups have been given the opportunity to try out the computer-enabled eyewear in the past, but on Tuesday anybody with $1,500 to spend had the option of blowing it on the Google Glass Explorer edition. [CNET]


Authorities close 1971 South Dakota cold case

South Dakota investigators solved a 42-year-old cold case after finding the remains of two missing 17-year-old girls in a car pulled out of a creek. The girls, Cheryl Miller and Pamela Jackson, disappeared on a drive to a party at a gravel pit about a half-mile away from where the vehicle, a 1960 Studebaker Lark, was discovered after wet weather followed by a drought left it visible. Investigators concluded the girls died in an accident. [Reuters]


Pot smoking linked to brain changes

Casual marijuana smoking can change the structure of your brain, according to a study published Tuesday in The Journal of Neuroscience. The researchers, led by Northwestern University psychiatrist Hans Breiter, examined 20 college students who didn't use pot, and 20 who smoked a few times a week. Smoking altered a part of the brain involved with emotion and some mental illness, which "you do not want to mess around with," Breiter said. [USA Today]


Indian court recognizes transgender people as a third gender

India's Supreme Court has announced a landmark ruling officially recognizing transgender people as a third gender. "It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," the court said. The classification could give India's transgender population, estimated at as many as two million people, access to job and education quotas. The ruling came just four months after the high court was criticized for reinstating a 1861 ban on gay sex. [BBC News]


The Stanley Cup playoffs are getting started

The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs get underway Wednesday night, with 16 teams vying for the National Hockey League's crown. The Boston Bruins, who won in 2011 but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in last year's finals, are considered a favorite. Nine different teams have won the Stanley Cup in the last 10 seasons, but odds are strong for a repeat winner in 2014, with the six champions from the last seven years in contention. [Daily News]

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