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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

November 20, 2013

ASIA:

NEPAL-ELECTION

KATMANDU, Nepal — Officials begin counting votes that were cast during election for a special assembly to draw up a long-delayed constitution and pick a new Nepal government. Election Commission official Bir Bahadur Rai says the counting started in several districts and that boxes filled with ballot papers had reached counting centers in at least 20 districts. SENT: 400 words, photos.

THAILAND-CONSTITUTIONAL BATTLE

BANGKOK — Thailand’s beleaguered government, plagued by street protests over an ill-advised attempt to help ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, faces a fresh challenge when a court rules on its attempt to amend the constitution. Whether the Constitutional Court’s action amounts to a minor skirmish or a major battle in the long-running war between supporters and opponents of Thaksin — who fled into exile to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption — depends on the verdict and how the parties react to it. SENT: 600 words, photos.

ASIA-US-SPYING

CANBERRA, Australia — Prime Minister Tony Abbott tells Parliament he would do everything he “reasonably can” to repair relations with Indonesia damaged by allegations of Australian phone tapping of senior Indonesian figures. But Abbott told Parliament he did not “propose to overreact now” to Indonesian anger over this issue. SENT: 470 words, photo.

UN-MYANMAR

UNITED NATIONS — The General Assembly’s human rights committee passes a resolution urging Myanmar to give the stateless Rohingya minority equal access to citizenship and to crack down on Buddhist violence against them and other Muslims in the southeast Asian nation. SENT: 630 words.

CHINA-US AMBASSADOR

BEIJING — The American ambassador to China says he will step down from his post early next year to rejoin his family in Seattle. Gary Locke said he informed President Barack Obama of his decision when they met earlier this month. SENT: 400 words, photos.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan — In a phone call, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges “mistakes” and asks Afghan President Hamid Karzai to allow American forces to enter Afghan homes in “exceptional circumstances” as the two sides rush to finalize the wording of a draft security agreement ahead of a meeting of tribal elders who must approve the deal. By Kathy Gannon and Amir Shah. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

CHINA-PHILIPPINES TYPHOON

BEIJING — China says an emergency medical team from the government and a disaster relief team from the China Red Cross will leave for the Philippines in the coming days in response to the typhoon. SENT: 130 words.

THAILAND-INFRASTRUCTURE

BANGKOK — Thailand’s Senate approves a bill that will allow the government to borrow $69.5 billion to build high-speed train lines and other transport infrastructure over the next seven years. SENT: 200 words.

CHINA-BEIJING FIRE

BEIJING — A late-night warehouse fire in Beijing’s southeast killed 11 people and injured four others. SENT: 100 words.

PAKISTAN

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Intelligence officials say a suicide car bombing has killed two paramilitary soldiers in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border. SENT: 120 words.

ENTERPRISE:

TYPHOON-LESSONS FROM ACEH

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — The Indonesian city of Banda Aceh was battered so hard by the 2004 tsunami that some thought it would never rise again. These days its streets are bustling and the more than 150,000 displaced have new homes. Two ships brought miles inland by the waves are now star attractions on a well-managed ‘tsunami tourism’ trail in the city. The experience offers lessons for authorities just beginning to contemplate a similar task in typhoon-hit areas of the Philippines, and perhaps a sliver of comfort for the 4 million displaced. By Fakhrurradzie Gade and Chris Brummitt. UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 0800GMT, photos.

MYANMAR-TALLEST PEAK?

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar may have a new tallest mountain, though so far it seems quite happy with the old one. A U.S.-Myanmar mountaineering team trekked through jungles crawling with cobras and leeches, made a brief, illegal detour through Chinese-controlled Tibet and survived a terrifying 600-foot drop into a crevice as they climbed what was thought to be the country’s second-highest peak. The mountaineers think it’s No. 1, at 19,258 feet, and that British measurements of nearly 90 years ago were off. But Myanmar appears cool to the idea of rewriting a key national statistic that schoolchildren have learned uninterrupted through British colonial rule, bloody military coups and a half century of self-imposed isolation. By Robin McDowell. UPCOMING: 700 words by 0700GMT, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

JAPAN-TRADE

TOKYO — Japan’s trade deficit nearly doubles in October, as growth in imports outpaced robust increases in exports to the U.S. and China. A weakening in the Japanese yen over the past year has helped exports, but it has also increased the cost in yen terms for imports, especially of oil and natural gas to help offset the loss of generation capacity from nuclear plants idled after meltdowns in 2011 at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. SENT: 460 words, photo.

CHINA-FAKE BANK

BEIJING — A Chinese rice trader who shot to fame last year over a bogus claim that he had purchased a U.S. bank was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison on conviction of falsifying invoices to evade taxes. SENT: 200 words.

WORLD MARKETS

BANGKOK — Asian stock markets mostly falter after the OECD lowered its forecasts for global economic growth. In a half-yearly report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development cut its forecast for world growth this year to 2.7 percent and 3.6 percent for next. In May, it had predicted 3.1 percent and 4 percent growth, respectively. There were particularly sharp downgrades for Brazil and India though China’s forecast was raised. SENT: 350 words.

SMARTPHONE KILL SWITCH

SAN FRANCISCO — Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, proposed installing a built-in anti-theft measure known as a “kill switch” that would render stolen or lost phones inoperable. But it was rejected by the nation’s biggest carriers, who argue the kill switches could allow hackers to immobilize phones not only for regular customers but government agencies. The development emerges as top U.S. law officials demand that manufacturers create kill switches to combat the surging mobile phone theft across the country. By Terry Collins. SENT: 830 words.

HIP REPLACEMENT LAWSUIT

WASHINGTON — Johnson & Johnson says it will pay $2.5 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits brought by hip replacement patients who accuse the company of selling faulty implants that led to injuries and additional surgeries. SENT: 630 words.

U.S. & INTERNATIONAL:

IRAN-NUCLEAR TALKS

WASHINGTON — On the eve of new talks, President Barack Obama is plunging ahead in search of a nuclear deal with Iran despite fierce opposition from Israel and sharp skepticism from Congress. Iran is plunging ahead in its own way, trying to make a deal more likely without losing its own hard-line elements as talks resume Wednesday. The risks are high including to the already contentious American-Israeli relationship. By Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

LEBANON-EXPLOSION

BEIRUT — Suicide bombers strike the Iranian Embassy, killing 23 people, including a diplomat, and wounding more than 140 others in a “message of blood and death” to Tehran and Hezbollah — both supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The double bombing in a Shiite district of Beirut pulls Lebanon further into a conflict that has torn Syria apart. By Diaa Hadid and Zeina Karam. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video, graphic, audio.

— LEBANON-EXPLOSION-Q&A — Suicide bombings in Beirut underscore the ever-growing sectarian nature of Syrian civil war. SENT: 650 words, photos.

— LEBANON-EXPLOSION-PHOTO GALLERY — The AP is among the first to the scene, capturing the devastation of the twin bombings outside the Iranian Embassy. SENT: 170 words.

EGYPT

CAIRO — Egypt’s revolutionary activists scuffle with supporters of the military-backed government in Tahrir Square and wreck a state memorial dedicated to slain protesters. The vandalism reflects anger over what critics call an attempt by interim leaders to paper over past bloodshed and rewrite history. By Sarah El Deeb and Tony G. Gabriel. SENT: 900 words, photos.

GETTYSBURG ADDRESS-ANNIVERSARY

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania — On the Civil War battlefield where President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech 150 years ago that symbolized his presidency and the sacrifices made by Union and Confederate forces, historians, dignitaries and everyday Americans gather to ponder what the Gettysburg Address has meant to the nation. By Matt Rourke and Mark Scolforo. SENT: 640 words, photos, video.

— GETTYSBURG ADDRESS-TEXT — Text of Gettysburg Address, as transmitted by The Associated Press in 1863. SENT: 300 words, photos.

KIDS-DECLINING FITNESS

DALLAS — Today’s kids can’t keep up with their parents. An analysis of studies on millions of children around the world finds they don’t run as fast or as far as their parents did when they were young. On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. The American Heart Association says the research is the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the last three decades. By Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione. SENT: 520 words, photo.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— NORWAY-SURVEILLANCE — Norway’s military intel chief admits to phone spying outside country, data-sharing with allies. SENT: 200 words.

— NSA SURVEILLANCE — Intelligence community’s top lawyer compares NSA violations to health care website’s problems. SENT: 1,000 words, photo.

— GAY-MARRIAGE-METHODISTS — A United Methodist minister convicted under church law of officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding was suspended for 30 days but remained defiant, saying he refuses to change his views, even if it means permanently losing his credentials. SENT: 630 words, photos.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Scott McDonald. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at asia@ap.org.

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Between 1700 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.

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