ASIA:

BIDEN-SKOREA

SEOUL, South Korea — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden declares that America's pledge to expand its Asian footprint shouldn't be doubted as he met with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Paying a visit to a peninsula perpetually on edge, Biden said that the U.S. would continue to place its bet on South Korea, where nearly 30,000 American troops remain six decades after the end of the Korean War. He said the U.S. and South Korea had much to plan for their joint journey for the next 60 years as he neared the end of a weeklong Asia tour aimed at reinforcing the U.S. resolve to be a Pacific power. By Josh Lederman. SENT: 450 words, photos.

JAPAN-NUCLEAR

TOKYO — The top U.S. nuclear regulator says nuclear energy users, including Japan, must figure out how to ultimately store radioactive waste. Allison Macfarlane, head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says that an underground repository is needed but finding one is a challenge. She urged countries that are only just introducing nuclear energy to have back-end plans at an early stage. SENT: 120 words, photos planned.

JAPAN-WORLD BANK

TOKYO — Ensuring greater access to affordable health care is a crucial factor in alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says Friday in announcing ambitious targets for preventing and treating chronic illnesses in developing countries. About 100 million people are impoverished by medical expenses each year. The World Bank and World Health Organization aim by 2020 to reduce that figure by half and by 2030 to eliminate it altogether. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 270 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-GAY MARRIAGE

CANBERRA, Australia — A state lawmaker and his partner plan to fly 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) across Australia to become one of the nation's first same-sex couples to legally marry at an after-midnight ceremony in the Australian capital. SENT: 130 words.

AUSTRALIA-QANTAS

SYDNEY — Qantas Airways' credit rating was downgraded to junk status, a day after the beleaguered Australian carrier said it would slash 1,000 jobs and suffer half-year losses of at least 250 million Australian dollars ($225 million). Standard & Poor's cut the airline's rating to BB+, which is below investment grade, citing the airline's losses. SENT: 260 words, photos.

HONG KONG-BRUCE LEE

HONG KONG — The yellow jumpsuit worn onscreen by martial arts legend Bruce Lee in the movie "Game of Death," his final film, has sold at a Hong Kong auction for $100,000. The yellow polyester suit with black stripes down the sides went to an unidentified telephone bidder at Spink auction house's Thursday night sale. SENT: 290 words, photos.

ENTERPRISE:

FIJI-ELECTIONS

SUVA, Fiji — The monsoon rains have struck and the crowd remains huddled under a canopy, near the plates of steaming food, as Fiji's ruler Frank Bainimarama strides down the red carpet to open a new waterfront picnic park in the capital. Photographers scamper after him after it is announced that yes, they are allowed to record the event. Seven years after seizing power in a military coup, the 59-year-old former naval officer has promised he'll soon hold democratic elections in this tropical South Pacific island nation of 900,000. That's garnered a cautious welcome from the international community, which imposed political sanctions after the coup. But Bainimarama has also said he'll likely be a candidate, and is already acting like one. Will the vote be legitimate? Will he honor the results — risking possible arrest — if he loses? Or will he simply cancel the election if he doubts his chances? By Nick Perry. UPCOMING: 1,100 words by 0800GMT, photos, video.

U.S. & INTERNATIONAL

OBIT-MANDELA

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela was a master of forgiveness. South Africa's first black president spent nearly a third of his life as a prisoner of apartheid, yet he sought to win over its defeated guardians in a relatively peaceful transition of power that inspired the world. As head of state, the former boxer, lawyer and inmate lunched with the prosecutor who argued successfully for his incarceration. He sang the apartheid-era Afrikaans anthem at his inauguration and traveled hundreds of miles to have tea with the widow of the prime minister in power at the time he was sent to prison. By Christopher Torchia and Marcus Eliason. SENT: 2,500 words, photos, video.

MANDELA-GLOBAL REAX

In nearly seven decades spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela inspired and challenged the world to stand up for others. As word of Mandela's death spread, current and former presidents, athletes and entertainers, and people around the world spoke out about the life and legacy of the former South African leader. By Christina A. Cassiday and Gillian Wong. SENT: 1,130 words, photos, video.

MANDELA-REMEMBRANCE

The thing about Nelson Mandela was that he made the rest of us want to be almost as noble as he. Imprisoned for 27 years, the anti-apartheid leader who had declared at his 1964 trial that he was willing to die for his beliefs in human dignity and racial equality emerged from that experience not filled with hatred, but courtly, magnanimous, humble and good-humored. His very demeanor served as the rebuttal to all those who peddled fear and foretold disaster and bloodshed should black South Africans get the vote and take power in Pretoria. By John Daniszewski. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

MANDELA-POWER OF SPORTS

JOHANNESBURG — He emerged into bright winter sunshine, stepped onto the lush field and pulled on a cap. His long-sleeve green rugby jersey was untucked and buttoned right up to the top, a style all his own. On the back, a gold No. 6, big and bold. Within seconds, the chants went up from the fans packed into Ellis Park stadium in the heart of Johannesburg: "Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!" SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

— MANDELA-SNAPSHOTS. JOHANNESBURG — Five key moments of Nelson Mandela's life that show how he became a symbol of reconciliation, told partly through his own words. SENT: 720 words, photo.

— MANDELA'S MOSAIC. Rugby, prison guards, Valentine's Day: What you might not have known about Nelson Mandela. SENT: 1,500 words.

— MANDELA-OBAMA. WASHINGTON — Obama mourns death of Mandela, says icon now 'belongs to the ages' SENT: 500 words, photo.

— MANDELA ART-PHOTO GALLERY — AP PHOTOS: Nelson Mandela honored through art around the world. SENT: 220 words, photos.

— MANDELA-CHRONOLOGY-SHORT — Major events in the life of Nelson Mandela. SENT: 750 words.

— MANDELA-CHRONOLOGY-LONG — A longer look at major events in Mandela's life. SENT: 1,600 words.

— MANDELA-QUOTES — A glance of quotes by Mandela. SENT: 500 words, photo.

MEXICO-RADIOACTIVE THEFT

MEXICO CITY — Officials were engaged in the delicate task of recovering a stolen shipment of highly radioactive cobalt-60 abandoned in a rural field in central Mexico state. The material, which the International Atomic Energy Agency called "extremely dangerous," was found removed from its protective container. The pellets did not appear to have been damaged or broken up and there was no sign of contamination to the area, the agency said Thursday, quoting Mexican nuclear safety officials. By Olga R. Rodriguez. SENT: 850 words, photos, video.

YEMEN

ADEN, Yemen — Militants storm the Defense Ministry in the heart of Yemen's capital, killing 52 people and wounding 167 in a suicide car bombing and an assault by gunmen. The brazen attack in the signature style of al-Qaida follows a rise in U.S. drone strikes in this key American ally in the Middle East. By Ahmed al-Haj. SENT: 670 words, photos, audio, video.

— PHILIPPINES-YEMEN. MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines condemns Yemen attack that killed 7 Filipino hospital workers, injured 11 others. SENT: 130 words.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC-VIOLENCE

BANGUI, Central African Republic — Wielding rifles and machetes, armed Christian fighters who support the Central African Republic's exiled president assault the capital at dawn, leaving nearly 100 people dead. The battle, which comes as the U.N. votes to send in French troops, touches even the most protected parts of the capital — including the residence of the president — and underscores the volatile mix of arms and ideology in the troubled nation. By Krista Larson. AP photos by Jerome Delay. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video.

NYC TRAIN DERAILMENT

NEW YORK — The engineer driving the speeding commuter train that derailed in New York City last weekend, killing four people, has been suspended without pay, a railroad spokesman says. SENT: 500 words, photos, audio.

ENTERTAINMENT:

FILM-X-MEN

LOS ANGELES — The "X-Men" franchise will get another boost in 2016 with the release of "X-Men: Apocalypse." Director and producer Bryan Singer hinted at the next installment via Twitter on Thursday when he wrote, "#Xmen #Apocalypse 2016!" SENT.

SPRINGSTEEN MANUSCRIPT

NEW YORK — Someone was willing to pay big bucks for an early glimpse of what would become the Boss' "runaway American dream." A handwritten, working lyric sheet for Bruce Springsteen's 1975 hit "Born to Run" sold at Sotheby's on Thursday for $197,000, well exceeding pre-sale estimates of between $70,000 and $100,000. SENT: 460 words.

SPORTS

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil — Thirty two teams and a world of possibilities. The 31 countries that qualified for the 2014 World Cup and host nation Brazil will cross fingers and toes and hope for the luck of the draw on Friday when their names are plucked from bowls one by one in a globally televised extravaganza to determine where, when and, most importantly, who they will play in Brazil next June at football's showcase tournament. SENT: 870 words, photos.

— WCUP-DRAW-5 THINGS. COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil — 5 Things to know about the World Cup Schedule.

— WCUP-DRAW-GLANCE. COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil — How Friday's World Cup draw will work.

AUSTRALIA-MATCH-FIXING

MELBOURNE, Australia — A Malaysian man and two English football players have admitted to fixing matches in Melbourne as part of an international syndicate. Defender Reiss Noel and goalkeeper Joe Woolley, both 24, were convicted and fined on Friday after they admitted helping to fix games while playing for the Southern Stars in the semi-professional Victorian Premier League. SENT.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION:

— US-MIDEAST — Looking to soothe irritated relations with Israel, America's top diplomat pledges to support the Jewish state's security throughout separate negotiations with Iran and the Palestinians. SENT: 750 words, photos.

— EUROPE-STORM — Gale-force winds hit Scotland, causing a fatal truck accident, halting all trains and leaving tens of thousands of homes without electricity. SENT: 680 words, photos.

— SYRIA — Rebels kill an Iraqi journalist in northern Syria. SENT: 600 words.

— RFK DOCUMENTS — Newly opened RFK documents include condolences, plans after brother's assassination. SENT: 650 words.

— SPRINGSTEEN MANUSCRIPT — Handwritten Springsteen 'Born to Run' manuscript sells for $197,000 at NYC auction. SENT: 510 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.

The Asia Photo Desk can be reached at (81-3) 6215-8941 or by fax at (81-3) 3574-8850.

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