BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS
FIJI-UN PEACEKEEPERS VIDEO
SUVA, Fiji — Fiji says that its 45 United Nations peacekeepers being held captive in Syria are shown in a video posted on YouTube. The 15-minute video shows two men speaking in Arabic with the Fijian troops sitting cross-legged in the background. By Nick Perry and Pita Ligaiula. SENT: 400 words.
BEIJING — Asian countries are hiking defense budgets and buying scores of submarines, naval patrol aircraft and coast guard vessels to counter China’s expanding military might, and its growing willingness to use it in territorial disputes with its neighbors. Vietnam, in particular, is arming up, nearly doubling defense spending over the past five years and splurging on big-ticket weaponry such as Russian submarines and Dutch-made frigates. At the same time, the Philippines is trying to build up a viable military virtually from scratch and, like other countries, is courting the U.S. to help defend it against China. That has tilted the world’s arms market decidedly toward Asia, where Chinese neighbors, including India, have quickly become the biggest arms purchasers around. By Jack Chang. Upcoming by 0700GMT, 900 words, photos.
BANGKOK — Amnesty International is calling on Thailand’s ruling military to end what it says is a “disturbing pattern of repression” in the country it seized power in a May coup. The group says 665 people have been summoned or detained by the junta so far, mostly political opponents, academics and activists who have protested peacefully. The group says it has also received credible reports of torture, allegations the junta has denied. SENT: 350 words.
YANGON, Myanmar — As he marched through the traffic-choked city of Yangon, handing out leaflets to lambasting the new nominally civilian government, Htin Kyaw came to show how much the country has changed since emerging from a half-century of repressive, military rule. But the arrest of the 52-year-old — and the sentencing by successive courts in each of the townships he passed — he became a symbol, too, of how much stayed the same. On Thursday, judges added two years to the prominent activist’s 9 ½ year sentence for “disrupting public order.” UPCOMING by 0900GMT: 500 words.
CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian hospital is treating a patient who returned last month from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a suspected Ebola case on Thursday, although a doctor said the man was unlikely to have the deadly disease. The 27-year-old man had been isolated and was being tested after arriving by ambulance at the Gold Coast University Hospital in Queensland state with “an acute illness.” By Rod Mcguirk. SENT: 210 words.
CHINA-HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST
BEIJING — A lawyer for a Chinese human rights activist facing trial for disrupting public order says he and a fellow defense attorney will not attend Friday’s court proceedings because authorities haven’t let them copy court files crucial to the case. Lawyer Chen Guangwu said that he and colleague Zhang Xuezhong aren’t prepared to mount an effective defense for Yang Maodong. SENT: 130 words.
BEIJING — China’s consumer inflation eased in August amid signs of cooling economic growth. Government data shows prices rose 2 percent from a year earlier, down from July’s 2.3 percent increase. Producer prices fell 0.2 percent, extending a months-long decline. SENT: 140 words.
US & INTERNATIONAL
WASHINGTON — Opening a new military front in the Middle East, President Barack Obama authorizes U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time, along with expanded strikes in Iraq as part of “a steady, relentless effort” to root out Islamic State extremists and their spreading reign of terror. Obama announces he is dispatching nearly 500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to assist that country’s besieged security forces, bringing the total number of American forces sent there this summer to more than 1,500. He also urged Congress anew to authorize a program to train and arm Syrian rebels who are fighting both the Islamic State militants and Syrian President Bashar Assad. By Julie Pace. SENT: 1,100 words, photos, video.
WASHINGTON — For a president criticized as overly cautious and reluctant to lead, Barack Obama is taking a huge risk. He is thrusting U.S. fighting forces into a growing military operation with clear dangers, unknown costs, an indefinite length and unpredictable consequences. After years of resistance, the president who wanted to end America’s wars will now oversee a sweeping airstrike campaign in both Iraq and Syria, a country mired in an intractable civil war. By Julie Pace. SENT: 780 words.
— OBAMA-ISLAMIC STATE-FACT CHECK. Obama claims no combat mission for US troops but it’s not that simple. SEN: 580 words.
— OBAMA-ISLAMIC STATE-GLANCE — A look at the Islamic State group and what to expect in Obama’s speech. SENT: 500 words.
— AP PHOTO CAITH107 — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks out from a helicopter over Baghdad, Iraq.
ISLAMIC STATE-HOW STRONG
BEIRUT — The Islamic State group is often described as the most fearsome jihadi outfit of all: a global menace outweighing al-Qaida, armies trembling before its advance. But while the group has been successful at seizing parts of Iraq and Syria, it is no unstoppable juggernaut: lacking much major weaponry to match an established military, it wields outsize influence through the fanaticism of a hard core of several thousand, capitalizing on divisions among its rivals, and disseminating terrifying videos on social media. By Zeina Karam and Vivian Salama. SENT: 1130 words, photos.
— MIDEAST-COALITION-ISLAMIC STATE — If Arab states, plus NATO member Turkey, join a coalition to take on Islamic State militants, they bring both formidable weaponry and some hesitation about participating in an American-led fight. A look at what they could offer. SENT: 1,010 words, photos.
— ISLAMIC STATE-FUNDING. US Senate leader presses for pre-election vote on Obama’s call to train Syrian rebels. SENT: 660 words.
THE LONG WAR
Thirteen years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, this was supposed to be a season of relief, with Iraq managing on its own and most U.S. troops finally ending their combat duty in Afghanistan. Instead, Americans are bracing for another upsurge of engagement against Islamic extremists in a region where one war blurs into another. A generation has now grown up amid this continuous conflict, and there’s no end in sight. “The Cold War took 45 years,” noted one former U.S. diplomat. “It’s certainly plausible that this could be the same.” By National Writer David Crary. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.
MOSCOW — Russia is developing an array of new nuclear and conventional weapons to counter recent moves by the U.S. and NATO, President Vladimir Putin says as the military successfully tests a new intercontinental ballistic missile launched from a Russian nuclear submarine. Putin accused the West of using the crisis in Ukraine to reinvigorate NATO, warning that Moscow counter the alliance’s decision to create a rapid-reaction “spearhead” force to protect Eastern Europe. By Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 970 words, photo.
— EUROPE-RUSSIA-GAS —Russian natural gas deliveries to Poland drop by almost a quarter this week and the reason remains unclear. SENT: 560 words.
WASHINGTON —Earth’s protective but fragile ozone layer is beginning to recover, largely because of the phase-out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, a U.N. scientific panel reports in a rare piece of good news about the health of the planet. By Science Writer Seth Borenstein. SENT: 610 words, photos.
WASHINGTON — Defense lawyers say an Austrian court has lifted a freeze on bank deposits held by a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, and his wife. The lawyers said late Wednesday that the regional high court in Vienna granted an appeal of an earlier order that froze the accounts of Zalmay Khalilzad and his wife, Cheryl Benard. By Eric Tucker. SENT, photos.
GLASGOW, Scotland — The British political establishment descends on Scotland to plead for a united United Kingdom, after polls show the once-fanciful notion of Scots voting to break from Britain has become a real possibility in next week’s referendum. The leaders of the three main London-based parties — all of them unpopular in Scotland — woo wavering voters. But some are unmoved, and increasingly confident independence leader Alex Salmond accuses his opponents of succumbing to “panic and desperation.” By Paul Kelbie and Jill Lawless. SENT: 830 words, photos.
A top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official has rejected a federal expert’s recommendation to shut down California’s last operating nuclear power plant until it can determine whether its reactors can withstand powerful shaking from nearby earthquake faults. The official says there’s no immediate or significant safety concern at the Diablo Canyon plant. By Michael Blood. SENT: 490 words, photos. UPCOMING: 700 words by 8 p.m.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
— BRITAIN-BURIED STONEHEDGE — Researchers have produced digital maps of what’s beneath the World Heritage Site, using ground-penetrating radar, high-resolution magnetometers and other techniques to peer deep into the soil beneath the famous stone circle. SENT: 240 words, photos.
— EBOLA-GATES FOUNDATION — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says it will spend $50 million — on top of $10 million already committed — to support emergency response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa — the group’s largest ever donation to a humanitarian effort. SENT: 350 words, photos.
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