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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

May 21, 2014

ASIA:

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Thailand’s army chief assumes the role of mediator by summoning the country’s key political rivals for face-to-face talks one day after imposing martial law. The meeting ended without any resolution, however, underscoring the profound challenge the army faces in trying to end the country’s crisis. Residents, meanwhile, tried to make sense of the dramatic turn of events after six months of protests aimed at ousting the government. By Thanyarat Doksone and Jocelyn Gecker. SENT: 1,060 words, photos.

— THAILAND-POLITICS-NEWS GUIDE — A summary of events and a guide to understanding what is happening. By Jocelyn Gecker. SENT: 720 words, photos.

— THAILAND’S SIGNIFICANCE — Thailand’s declaration of martial law again propels into international headlines a colorful country known for its beaches and pagodas, spicy food and nightlife, and relative prosperity in a developing region. SENT: 700 words, photos.

TAIWAN-SUBWAY STABBINGS

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A university student wielding a knife attacks riders aboard a subway train in Taiwan’s capital, killing three people and injuring nearly a dozen others, police and local media say. The seemingly random attack occurred at the start of the afternoon rush hour. By Johnson Lai. SENT: 580 words, photos.

CHINA-GETTING ITS WAY

BEIJING — China’s planting of an oil platform in contested waters off Vietnam drew robust complaints from Hanoi, a messy standoff between ships and violent protests among Vietnamese — but nothing to dislodge the rig and no broader pushback in the region. Southeast Asian countries, with diverging interests and wariness of angering Beijing, are shunning any collective action that might halt China as it relentlessly nudges forward its sovereignty claims in disputed seas seen as a possible flashpoint for the world’s next major conflict. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

— PHILIPPINES-VIETNAM — Vietnam’s prime minister calls on the world to condemn China for causing what he called an “extremely dangerous” situation in the disputed South China Sea, citing Beijing’s recent deployment of an oil rig near an island that both countries claim. SENT: 300 words, photos.

CHINA-ASIAN SECURITY GROUP

SHANGHAI — China’s president calls for the creation of a new Asian structure for security cooperation based on a regional group that includes Russia and Iran and excludes the United States. President Xi Jinping spoke at a meeting in Shanghai of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building measures in Asia, a little-known group that has taken on significance as Beijing tries to extend its influence and limit the role of the United States, which it sees as a strategic rival. By Louise Watt. SENT: 600 words, photos.

KOREAS-TENSION

SEOUL, South Korea — A Roman Catholic cardinal from South Korea visits North Korea for the first time despite rekindled animosity between the neighboring countries. Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung and other South Korean priests traveled to a joint North-South industrial park in Kaesong, North Korea, to tour the complex and meet South Koreans working there. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 370 words, photos.

PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani army raises the death toll from airstrikes targeting militant hideouts near the Afghan border to 60. An army statement says the strikes in the North Waziristan tribal region wounded another 30 militants. SENT: 60 words, photos.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan — A provincial official says villagers have found the bodies of eight slain police officers who had been kidnapped almost two weeks ago by Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan. By Rahim Faiez. SENT: 120 words.

CHINA-XINJIANG

BEIJING — Courts in China’s restive far western region have jailed dozens of people in a special operation to curb the spread of audios and videos inciting terrorism, the Xinjiang Supreme Court says. In statements posted to its official microblog, the court said 39 people were sentenced to prison after being convicted of crimes including organizing and leading terrorist groups, inciting ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination and the illegal manufacturing of guns. SENT: 290 words.

CHINA-KNIFE ATTACK

BEIJING — A Chinese state news agency says a man stabbed seven people to death in a village in a central province. It says the attacker was captured. SENT: 120 words.

INDIA-CORRUPTION CRUSADER

NEW DELHI — An Indian anti-corruption campaigner who quit as New Delhi’s top elected official just 49 days into the job apologizes for his action after his upstart party fizzled nationally. Arvind Kejriwal added that his exit made people think his party was running away from responsibility. SENT: 310 words, photos.

PHILIPPINES-DEATH SQUAD

MANILA, Philippines — A U.S.-based human rights group says a “death squad” targeting criminal suspects in a southern Philippine city was organized by a former mayor and was responsible for nearly 300 killings in recent years. Human Rights Watch says it has documented at least a dozen of the 298 killings from January 2007 to March 2013 based largely on accounts of former hit men, witnesses, relatives of victims and police officers in Tagum City, the capital of Davao del Norte province. By Oliver Teves. SENT: 570 words.

JAPAN-NUCLEAR

TOKYO — Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant has begun releasing groundwater from the least contaminated areas of the facility into the ocean so it does not run into contaminated areas and create more toxic water amid storage space limitations. The water, temporarily stored in a tank, has been deemed clean enough to pump into the ocean without treatment. By Mari Yamaguchi. SENT: 360 words.

MALAYSIA-CHINA-PANDAS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Two giant pandas arrive in Malaysia from China after a one-month delay due to the missing Malaysian jetliner. Male Fu Wa and female Feng Yi are on a 10-year loan from China to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. SENT: 430 words, photos.

SOUTH KOREA-PAUL MCCARTNEY

SEOUL, South Korea — Paul McCartney has canceled his concert in South Korea next week due to the virus-caused illness that forced him to call off his entire Japan tour, organizers say. The former Beatle, who turns 72 next month, had planned concerts in the two countries as part of his world tour. SENT: 250 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

CHINA-RUSSIA-GAS DEAL

SHANGHAI — China signs a long-awaited, 30-year deal to buy Russian natural gas worth $400 billion in a financial and diplomatic boost to diplomatically isolated President Vladimir Putin. Negotiations on the price for the gas had continued into the final hours of a two-day visit by Putin to China, during which the two sides had said they hoped to sign a deal. By Louise Watt. SENT: 800 words, photos.

CHINA-HOMEGROWN JET

SHANGHAI — A state-owned aircraft maker says it is ready to deliver China’s first homegrown regional airliner and should complete a bigger plane in 2018. The first two of the ARJ21-700 regional jets have been completed for a Chinese carrier, Chengdu Airlines, and are coming to the end of the certification process, according to Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. The company said it has 252 orders. By Louise Watt. SENT: 560 words, photos.

CHINA-EARNS-LENOVO

HONG KONG — Computer maker Lenovo’s annual profit rose 29 percent to a record high as smartphone sales surged in China and other markets. Lenovo said smartphone shipments during the year jumped by nearly three-quarters to 50 million on strong demand in China, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, almost matching the 55 million PCs sold in the same period. SENT: 280 words.

JAPAN-TRADE

TOKYO — Japan’s trade deficit narrowed in April after the yen strengthened and a sales tax hike dampened demand for imports of consumer goods despite still modest growth in exports. Costs for imports of oil and gas that account for about a third of the country’s imports moderated, reflecting a rise in the yen after a year of decline and decreases in shipments of some fuels. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 460 words, photos.

HONG KONG-JCREW

HONG KONG — U.S. fashion retailer J. Crew opens two stores in Hong Kong, marking the company’s return to Asia after it pulled out of Japan six years ago. J. Crew is the latest Western brand to set up in the city notorious for high rents as it explores future expansion in the lucrative China market. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 300 words, photos.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

EGYPT

CAIRO — A Cairo court convicts ousted President Hosni Mubarak of embezzlement and sentences him to three years in prison. Mubarak’s two sons, one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa, are also convicted of graft and sentenced to four years in prison each in the same case. The 86-year-old Mubarak, who is kept in custody at a military hospital, is being retried separately over the killings of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising against his rule. By Hamza Hendawi. SENT: 530 words, photos.

SEPT 11 MUSEUM-TACKLING TRAUMA

NEW YORK — There are large videos of the twin towers collapsing and photos of people falling from them. Photos of nearly 3,000 victims and footage of terrorists going through airport security. A soundscape with squawking police radios and voice mail messages from people in the doomed buildings. But behind the wrenching sights and sounds of the Sept. 11 museum lies a quiet effort to help visitors handle its potentially traumatizing impact, from built-in tissue boxes to discreet symbols on items connected to the dead. There even will be Red Cross counseling volunteers standing by as it opens to the public Wednesday. “There’s a lot of thought given to the psychological safety of visitors,” an exhibit designer says. By Jennifer Peltz. SENT: 690 words, photos, video.

HOLY LAND-CHRISTIANS

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Pope Francis arrives this weekend to the land where Christianity was born — and where Christians are disappearing. The Christian community in the Holy Land is one of the oldest in the world. But it has dwindled to around 2 percent of the population today, as economic hardship, violence and the bitter realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have sent them searching for better opportunities overseas. By Daniel Estrin. SENT: 980 words, photos.

MISSOURI EXECUTION

BONNE TERRE, Mo. — A Missouri death row inmate with a rare medical condition received a reprieve about an hour before his scheduled execution by lethal injection. But the state could still execute Russell Bucklew before the day is through if given the OK by the U.S. Supreme Court. It would be the nation’s first execution since last month’s botched procedure in Oklahoma in which the prisoner’s vein collapsed while the fatal drugs were being pumped into him. By Jim Salter and Jim Suhr. SENT: 780 words, photo.

GAY MARRIAGE

PHILADELPHIA — The Keystone State lives up to its name by linking a bloc of 11 states from Maine to Maryland that allow gay marriage, becoming the last northeastern state to do so. Couples line up for marriage licenses in Pennsylvania, the latest in a string of states where bans on same-sex marriage have fallen. SENT: 480 words, photos, video.

SHIELD ACTOR-WIFE KILLING

LOS ANGELES —Michael Jace projected the image of a doting dad in his neighborhood in recent years, leaving investigators to sort out what prompted the actor to apparently kill his wife during an argument Monday night. “The Shield” actor’s recent financial problems are among the possible motives being explored by police assembling a murder case against Jace. Among the clues detectives will aim to explore Wednesday are details from April Jace’s autopsy and 911 calls about the shooting, including Michael Jace’s apparent admission to a dispatcher that he shot his wife to death. By Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney. SENT: 600 words, photos, video.

WCUP-BRAZIL ASSAULTS

RIO DE JANEIRO — This city has long been a notoriously dangerous place, but recent years have seen major strides in reducing crime as Rio gears up to host six World Cup matches and the 2016 Olympics. But with the showcase soccer tournament just weeks away, there are troubling rises in muggings and robberies. By Jenny Barchfield. SENT: 900 words, photos.

EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

BRUSSELS — These days, more Europeans than ever are skeptical or hostile toward the continuing efforts to build a European Union. In that volatile mood, voters in 28 countries on Thursday begin choosing the next European Parliament and helping determine the EU’s future leaders and course. A prominent Dutch Euroskeptic, Geert Wilders, predicts the results will produce a political “earthquake.” By John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

MOROCCO-HORSES OF GOD

RABAT, Morocco — There’s a moment in the Moroccan film “Horses of God” when the protagonist and a friend successfully repair an old moped and cruise around the dusty alleys of the desperately poor shantytown and experience a fleeting moment of freedom. Otherwise the lives of the two young men have been dominated by the claustrophobia of their hovels outside Casablanca and the struggle to earn money in a community awash with drugs, prostitution and violence. Soon afterward they are seduced by the dangerously simple message of extremist Islam that turns them into suicide bombers. By Paul Schemm. SENT: 930 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-EUROPE-UKRAINE

WASHINGTON — The crisis in Ukraine is giving Russia an opening to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe just as Western powers try to repair a struggling trade deal and decide how to bolster a cash-strapped NATO. By National Security Writer Lara Jakes. SENT: 1,040 words.

GETTING ATTENTION

— BRITAIN-PRINCE CHARLES — Report: Prince Charles compared Vladimir Putin’s actions to those of Adolf Hitler. SENT: 350 words, photo.

— NIGERIA-EXPLOSIONS — Rescuers to search for bodies in buildings collapsed in twin car bombs blast in Nigerian city. SENT: 540 words, photos, video.

— HERO CAT-BASEBALL PITCH — Hero cat that saved boy from dog ‘throws’ first pitch at California minor league baseball game. SENT: 250 words, photos.

— MEXICO-SNAKE REDISCOVERED — Snake species ‘lost’ for nearly 8 decades rediscovered on remote Mexican island in Pacific. SENT: 480 words, photo.

— NICARAGUA-PEDOPHILE TEACHER — School head who fired pedophile teacher after seeing photo evidence of molestation resigns. SENT: 510 words, photo.

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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.

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

Between 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.

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