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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

December 3, 2013

ASIA:

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Anti-government protesters swarm into the Thai prime minister’s office compound as police stand by and watch, allowing them to claim a symbolic victory after three days of bitter clashes. The unexpected reversal in the government’s strategy brings at least a lull in the violence before the revered king’s 86th birthday later this week. By Todd Pitman and Jinda Wedel. SENT: 720 words, photos.

KOREAS-KIM’S UNCLE

SEOUL, South Korea — Two South Korean lawmakers say they were told by intelligence officials that two associates of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful uncle were executed last month. They say the uncle, Jang Song Thaek, has not been seen publicly since then, indicating he may have been dismissed. There was no official word from North Korea about Jang’s fate. SENT: 300 words, photo.

NKOREA-DETAINED AMERICAN

SEOUL — Six decades before he went to North Korea as a curious tourist, Merrill Newman supervised a group of South Korean guerrillas during the Korean War who were perhaps the most hated and feared fighters in North Korea, former members of the group say. The 85-year-old war veteran has been detained in Pyongyang since being forced off a plane set to leave the country Oct. 26 after a 10-day trip. He appeared this weekend on North Korean state TV apologizing for alleged wartime crimes in what was widely seen as a coerced statement. SENT: 1,100 words, photo.

BIDEN-ASIA

TOKYO — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden voices strong opposition to China’s new air defense zone above a set of disputed islands, showing a united front with an anxious Japan as tension in the region simmers. Standing side by side in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Biden says the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea. By Josh Lederman. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

CHINA-NOBEL

BEIJING — The wife of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, depressed from being forcibly sequestered at home alone for the past three years by state security, is issuing a few requests: Let her see a doctor independently. Read her husband’s letters. Make a living. The requests conveyed by a close friend depict the psychological, emotional and financial pressure Chinese authorities have imposed on Liu Xia, a soft-spoken poet and artist, in retaliation for the activism of her jailed husband. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 560 words, photos.

CHINA-BRITAIN

BEIJING — With British Prime Minister David Cameron in the country on an official visit, a Chinese state-run newspaper labeld Britain a fallen great power worthy now only as a destination for tourists and students. SENT: 530 words, photos.

INDIA-DELHI ELECTION

NEW DELHI — When India’s capital goes to the polls Wednesday, its newest political party could play spoiler in a fight between traditional rivals, the incumbent Congress party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. Nearly 12 million Delhi residents are expected to choose representatives to the 70-member Delhi Assembly in polls that are a significant bellwether for the country’s general elections next year. By Nirmala George. SENT: 800 words, photos.

NEPAL-ELECTIONS

KATMANDU — Election officials say Nepal’s oldest political party won the most seats in last month’s elections but did not get a clear majority. The outcome means a coalition government is all but certain. SENT: 130 words.

JAPAN-NUCLEAR

TOKYO — A government panel is proposing additional measures to lessen the contaminated water crisis at Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant. The panel says the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant could run out of water storage within two years if current plans are not fully workable. A draft report proposes covering the ground with asphalt to reduce rain inflow, building giant tanks and other steps. SENT: 130 words.

PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD — Intelligence officials say the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban has returned to the country from Afghanistan to lead the militant group. By Sebastian Abbot. SENT: 130 words.

IRAN-AFGHANISTAN-US

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign ministry asks Afghanistan not to sign a security deal with the U.S. that could keep thousands of American and allied forces in its neighboring country for another decade. The request comes ahead of an expected visit to Iran next week by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has endorsed the deal but introduced new conditions before approving it and deferred its signature to his successor in next April’s elections. SENT: 290 words.

KASHMIR-FIGHTING

SRINAGAR, India — Indian army and police forces battle militants overnight in Kashmir, killing three of them, the army says a day after militants killed a top police official in the disputed Himalayan region. SENT: 200 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-GAY MARRIAGE

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s first same-sex weddings can take place this weekend after the nation’s highest court decides to rule next week on the law allowing gay marriage in the national capital. The Australian Capital Territory government, which administers Canberra, passed legislation in October that allows same-sex couples to wed in ceremonies equivalent to those heterosexual couples are entitled to under federal law. SENT: 300 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

WTO-TRADE TALKS

BALI, Indonesia — Top trade officials begin talks that will either produce an eleventh hour deal that could boost the global economy by $1 trillion or possibly spell the end of the World Trade Organization’s relevance as a forum for negotiations. After more than a decade of inertia in WTO talks, negotiators are close to a slimmed-down deal but there is no finished document for the dozens of trade ministers attending a summit on the Indonesia resort island of Bali to sign. So close to an agreement, some have been urging the trade ministers to take the unusual step of completing the negotiations themselves. By Kay Johnson and Dessianing Ariyanti. SENT: 860 words, photos.

FEATURES:

JAPAN-ENDANGERED FOOD

TOKYO — Washoku, the traditional cuisine of Japan, is being considered for designation as part of the world’s priceless cultural heritage by the U.N. this week. But even as sushi and sake booms worldwide, purists say its finer points are candidates for the endangered list at home. The younger generation is increasingly eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and McDonald’s, not rice. Among cuisines, only French cooking has been distinguished as a national culinary tradition. Other picks by UNESCO for its World Heritage list, such as food from Mexico and Turkey, are more specific dishes. Washoku embraces seasonal ingredients, a unique taste, time-consuming preparation and a style of eating steeped in centuries of tradition. At its heart is savory “umami,” recognized as a fundamental taste along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 930 words, photos.

U.S. & INTERNATIONAL:

UKRAINE-PROTEST

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s government survives a no-confidence vote, leaving political tensions unresolved over an abrupt decision to reject a cooperation agreement with the European Union which brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets on Sunday. Opposition members shouted “shame” and “revolution” as pro-government lawmakers spoke during the debate. By Maria Danilova. SENT: 290 words, photos.

— RUSSIA-EYES ON UKRAINE — Ukraine’s protests look different through the eyes of the Kremlin and its opponents. SENT: 640 words, photos.

NYC TRAIN DERAILMENT

YONKERS, N.Y. — The revelation that a commuter train derailed while barreling into a sharp curve at nearly three times the speed limit is fueling questions about whether automated crash-avoidance technology could have prevented the carnage. Safety authorities have championed what’s known as positive train control technology for decades, but the railroad industry has sought to postpone having to install it. By Jim Fitzgerald and Frank Eltman. SENT: 780 words, photos, video.

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY

DETROIT — A judge is expected to announce whether Detroit can come up with a plan to get rid of $18 billion in debt in the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history, a case that ultimately could crack a shield protecting public pensions and also put the city’s extraordinary art collection up for grabs. Judge Steven Rhodes will declare whether Detroit is eligible to stay in court, more than four months after filing for Chapter 9 protection. It’s the most critical decision so far because it could give local officials a green light to scrub the balance sheet and slowly improve the quality of life in a city that has lost more than 1 million residents since 1950. By Ed White. SENT: 540 words, photos, video.

BLIND TOUCH TOURS

PHILADELPHIA — Angel Ayala has never been a big fan of museums. Blind since birth, he says exhibits are so sight-dependent he can’t enjoy them. But he’s making an exception for the Penn Museum, an archaeology and anthropology center that offers touch tours for the blind and visually impaired. Ayala can now feel the eroded limestone of an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus and the intricate hieroglyphs on the statue of a pharaoh. Such accommodations nationwide began well before the Americans with Disabilities Act and have increased as museums have shifted their missions from mere storage of artifacts to audience interaction. By Kathy Matheson. SENT: 570 words, photos, video.

SCHOOLS-GLOBAL TEST

WASHINGTON — Teens from Asian nations dominated a global exam given to 15-year-olds, while U.S. students showed little improvement and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading, according to test results released Tuesday. American students scored below the international average in math and about average in science and reading. By Kimberly Hefling. SENT: 1,040 words, graphic.

EGYPT-MORSI AND JIHADIS

CAIRO — During his year as president, Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi cultivated ties with Islamic radicals, making them a key support for his rule by pardoning dozens of jailed militants, restraining the military from an all-out offensive on jihadis in Sinai and giving their hard-line sheiks a platform to spread their rhetoric. Now investigators are considering putting the ousted president on trial for those links, accusing him and his Muslim Brotherhood of being behind a wave of violence by Sinai-based militants, military and security officials say. By Hamza Hendawi. SENT: 1,180 words, photos.

PERU-UNEARTHING THE BODIES

CHUNGUI, Peru — In this isolated corner of Peru, an 18-hour walk from the nearest road, the government is conducting the biggest exhumation to date of victims of the nation’s 1980-2000 internal conflict. Forensic anthropologists expect to remove 202 bodies in all, mostly women and children. Survivors tell horrific tales of unspeakable cruelty — of rape and mutilation committed by both sides. “Everybody here is traumatized,” says one farmer. By Franklin Briceno. SENT: 780 words, photos.

ISRAEL-NICKNAME NATION

JERUSALEM — Israel’s newly elected opposition leader goes by the nickname of “Bougie.” His opponent, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is a man universally known by his childhood moniker: “Bibi.” Despite its macho, militaristic image, the world of Israeli politics is filled with tough characters bearing — and even flaunting — their diminutive childhood nicknames. In politics, they are nothing new, but in the Jewish state they seem to have taken on an art form. By Aron Heller. SENT: 830 words, photos.

GETTING ATTENTION

— AMAZON-DRONE DELIVERY — Online retailer Amazon’s unmanned aircraft deliveries face legal and regulatory obstacles. SENT: 1,360 words, photos.

— FATAL SHARK ATTACK-MAUI — Man fishing in kayak off Maui dies after shark bites his dangling foot, officials say. SENT: 450 words, video.

— FRANCE-BOB DYLAN — Bob Dylan handed preliminary charges in France over remarks comparing Croatians to Nazis, KKK. SENT: 130 words, photos.

— PLASTIC GUNS — Congress racing toward renewing a 25-year-old prohibition against firearms that can evade metal detectors and X-ray machines. SENT: 860 words.

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