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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

August 27, 2014



KABUL, Afghanistan — One of two men vying to become the president of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, pulls his observers from an audit of the country’s disputed election over concerns of widespread fraud in a move that throws the already contentious election into further crisis. The U.S. brokered the audit of the 8 million ballots from the country’s June presidential runoff as a way to end what had been a debilitating impasse over who would take over from outgoing President Hamid Karzai. But the audit, which was announced in July, has proceeded in fits and starts as both sides have argued strenuously over every ballot. By Amir Shah and Rebecca Santana.

— AFGHANISTAN-FUTURE — Afghanistan’s election stalemate has hurt progress in training the country’s military, and resolving the political chaos will be key to that military’s success in 2015, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford says as he steps down as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. By Lolita C. Baldor. SENT: 960 words, photos.


TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a note earlier this year to a ceremony at a Buddhist temple honoring hundreds of World War II-era war criminals praising their contributions to the country, the government’s top spokesman says. Abe sent the message to an annual ceremony at the Koyasan temple in central Japan in his capacity as head of the ruling party, not as prime minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. By Mari Yamaguchi. SENT: 400 words.


BANGKOK — Century-old shop houses, twisting alleyways and temples scented with incense still pulsate with the pursuit of old trades and time-honored rituals of families who have lived in Bangkok’s Chinatown for generations. But probably not for much longer. Jackhammers and cranes are closing in on one of the last historic quarters of Thailand’s capital as developers and city authorities pursue plans to build subways and high-rises — with little thought to preserving heritage. The story is common amid the rapid economic development across much of Asia. By Denis D. Gray. SENT: 1,260 words, photos.


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea is saying the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, is evidence that the United States is a “graveyard of human rights.” The comments by a Foreign Ministry spokesman fit a North Korean pattern of seizing any opportunity to turn the table on Washington’s longstanding criticism of the North as one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. SENT: 260 words.


ISLAMABAD — A Cabinet minister urges Pakistan’s two key opposition figures leading mass rallies outside parliament to back off their demand for the prime minister’s resignation in ongoing talks with the government. Railways Minister Saad Rafiq says the two opposition leaders — cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri — should not insist on Nawaz Sharif stepping down. SENT: 400 words, photos.


NEW DELHI — Rampant trash-burning is throwing more pollution and toxic particles into the air than governments are reporting, according to a scientific study estimating more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned. The study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology attempts the first comprehensive assessment of global trash-burning data, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, mercury and tiny particulate matter that can dim the sun’s rays or clog human lungs. By Katy Daigle. SENT: 750 words, photos.


TOKYO — The Japanese laboratory that retracted a paper reporting a potentially major breakthrough in stem cell research says its researchers have not managed to replicate the results. Scientists at the government-affiliated Riken Center for Developmental Biology said they are still trying to match results reported in two papers published by the journal Nature in January and then retracted in July. But they refused to say whether or not they expected to succeed in doing so. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 300 words.


TOKYO — Japanese health authorities have reported the first locally transmitted case of dengue fever in the country in more than 60 years. The ministry said the case occurred in Saitama, a prefecture adjacent to Tokyo. Local media reports said the patient was a teen-aged girl who has since recovered. SENT: 180 words, photos.


BEIJING — China and Vietnam say they’re committed to negotiating maritime disputes to avoid a recurrence of tensions that spiked when China deployed an oil rig in waters claimed by Hanoi. SENT: 120 words.


HANOI, Vietnam — The United States expresses alarm over prison terms handed down against three Vietnamese democracy activists for obstructing traffic. Human rights groups have described the charges used to convict Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and Nguyen Van Minh as “bogus.” SENT: 230 words.


CANBERRA, Australia — New counterterrorism units have been working at Australia’s two largest airports since last week and have already intercepted a person of interest, the prime minister says. Tony Abbott said the units at Sydney and Melbourne Airports would soon be introduced at all Australian international airports to monitor the movements of travelers on security watch lists. Biometric screening of passengers will also be introduced at all airports. By Rod McGuirk. SENTL: 530 words.


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia and Indonesia have reached a new agreement on how they’ll use their intelligence operations in the future, even settling their disagreement on its name. The agreement their foreign ministers are scheduled to sign Thursday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali is designed to mend a rift sparked last November by accusations that Australians tapped the cellphones of the Indonesian president, his wife and eight ministers and officials in 2009. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 310 words, photos.


COSTA MESA, Calif. — On a hot summer day, nearly two dozen Chinese tourists descended from a white shuttle bus outside Orange County’s South Coast Plaza for an afternoon of shopping at one of Southern California’s signature upscale malls. It’s a common scene. Chinese tourism is surging and the mall is a popular destination that is doing what it can to keep the buses coming, from accepting China’s UnionPay card to providing Mandarin-speaking salespeople. Tourism from China to the United States has soared since the countries signed an agreement in 2007 promoting travel. And California is the No. 1 destination. By Amy Taxin. SENT: 830 words, photos, video.


MANILA, Philippines— Manny Pacquiao is setting up a boxing institute in China and believes the country of 1.4 billion people can produce professional world champions. SENT: 365 words, photo.



HONG KONG — Malaysia is preparing to unveil the latest overhaul of its beleaguered state-owned airline, which is reeling from twin disasters months apart that killed hundreds of passengers. Khazanah Nasional, the state investment company that owns 69 percent of Malaysia Airlines, said in early August it will announce details of the overhaul by the end of this month. Malaysian news reports said the announcement will come Friday. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 500 words, photos.


KABUL, Afghanistan — Rows of dusty trucks and used cars sit unsold in Afghanistan’s capital, where real estate agents bemoan a lack of sales and international businessmen no longer frequent top hotels. Even government employees nervously await each payday, worried the next might be delayed. Afghanistan’s economy, vastly supported by international military spending and aid since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban, finds itself struggling on the precipice of what could be an uncertain future. NATO forces plan to pull out at the end of the year, insecurity is rising as international aid falls and a drawn-out election battle threatens to destabilize the country. By Rebecca Santana. SENT: 810 words, photos.


TOKYO — At a humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. The effort with “4K” technology is carefully removing scratches and discoloration from the films and also unearthing hidden information on the reel-to-reel. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 610 words, photos.


BEIJING — China Telecom Ltd., one of the country’s three main state-owned carriers, says its profit rose 11.8 percent in the first half of the year as its Internet and mobile data businesses grew. The Beijing-based company earned 11.4 billion yuan ($1.9 billion), or 0.14 yuan (2 U.S. cents) per share, in the six months ended June 30. Revenue rose 5.3 percent to 165.9 billion yuan ($27.2 billion). SENT: 210 words.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra says it’s forming a partnership with China’s Beingmate to help meet growing demand for infant formula in the world’s most populous nation. SENT: 330 words.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s national airline has posted a 45 percent increase in annual profit and said it expects to benefit from the fuel efficiency of 787-9 Dreamliners it is adding to its fleet. By Nick Perry. SENT: 320 words.



JERUSALEM — An open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is holding, as many wonder what was gained during 50 days of fighting that left more than 2,100 people dead, resulted in widespread destruction of the densely populated coastal territory and paralyzed large parts of southern Israel during much of the summer. By Peter Enav and Ibrahim Barzak. SENT: 820 words, photos, video.


WASHINGTON — Journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Theo Curtis shared one thing when they were captured by Islamic militants in Syria, the title “freelance journalist.” The role of freelancers, who make a living by selling individual stories to multiple outlets, has expanded across conflict zones in recent years with the spread of technology and social media. While some are cautious and well-trained, others take major risks in hopes of getting a picture or story that no one else has, and thus is more valuable. And they often lack the institutional support staff writers receive if they get into trouble in a conflict zone. By Jessica Gresko. SENT: 700 words, photos.


ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — A young man on camera names the person who’s challenged him to dump the contents of a bucket over his head. But in a twist on the ice bucket challenge, this man is soon drenched in frothy, soapy water — part of a campaign to raise awareness about Ebola prevention in West Africa. By Marc-Andre Boisvert. SENT: 590 words, photos.


NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine — Separatist rebels shell a town in southeastern Ukraine, raising fears they are launching a counter-offensive on government-held parts of the region, one day after the leaders of Ukraine and Russia met to discuss the escalating crisis. Plumes of black smoke rise above the town of Novoazovsk, which was also hit repeatedly by shelling Tuesday, as shelling injures four people in a hospital. By Peter Leonard. SENT 430 words, photos.


— FRANCE-LAGARDE-CORRUPTION — IMF chief Lagarde under official investigation in France for ‘negligence’ in corruption probe. SENT: 220 words, photos.

— ISLAMIC STATE-AMERICAN KILLED — AP source: American believed to be killed in Syria was fighting alongside militant group. SENT: 750 photos.

— ISLAMIC STATE HOSTAGE — US hostage held by Islamic State militants is female aid worker. SENT: 560 words.

— VENEZUELA-BULGING WAISTLINES. Venezuela’s socialist government sounds the alarm about growing waistlines in a country where record food shortages are making it harder to put healthy meals on the table. By Joshua Goodman. SENT: 640 words, photos.


YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is David Thurber. 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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