ASIA:

MALAYSIA-PLANE

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities defend their handling of the hunt for the missing Boeing 777 but acknowledge they are unsure which direction the plane was headed when it disappeared, highlighting the massive task facing an international search now in its fifth day. The mystery over the plane's whereabouts has been confounded by confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian officials, adding to the anguish of relatives of the 239 people on board the flight. By Chris Brummitt and Eileen Ng. SENT: 900 words, photos, interactive.

— INDIA-MALAYSIA PLANE — Malaysia asks for India's assistance in searching for the missing jetliner. SENT: 210 words, photos.

— MALAYSIA PLANE-BLACK BOXES — For nearly five years, government and industry officials have been exploring ways to make it easier to find airliners and their critical "black boxes" that end up in the ocean. But their efforts are too late to help in the case of a Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared over the weekend. The efforts were spurred primarily by the search for Air France Flight 447, which disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009. It was nearly two years later before the main wreckage of the Airbus A330 and its black boxes — it data and cockpit voice recorders — were found about 13,000 feet below the ocean's surface. By Joan Lowy. SENT: 730 words, photos.

MYANMAR-DESPERATE PATIENTS

THE' CHAUNG, Myanmar — Noor Jahan rocked slowly on the floor, trying to steady her weak body. Her chest heaved and her eyes closed with each raspy breath. She could longer eat or speak. Two years ago, she would have left her concrete house, one of the nicest in her community, and gone to a hospital to get tests and medicine for her failing liver and kidneys. That was before Buddhist mobs torched and pillaged her home, along with those of thousands of other ethnic Rohingya now confined to this hot, dusty camp in Myanmar's Rakhine state. It is a desperate place for all, and an unbearable one for many of the sick. By Margie Mason. SENT: 1,730 words, photos.

HONG KONG-EDITOR ATTACKED

HONG KONG — Authorities in mainland China and Hong Kong arrest nine suspects in an attack on a former Hong Kong newspaper editor whose dismissal sparked protests over press freedom, police say. Kevin Lau was critically wounded Feb. 26 when he was attacked by a man with a meat cleaver who fled on a motorcycle driven by another man. SENT: 200 words.

CHINA-POLITICAL CRIMES

BEIJING — China might be trying to obscure the number of dissidents it is targeting by charging them with public order offenses instead of political crimes, a U.S.-based rights group says. The Dui Hua Foundation estimates that the number of indictments in China for state security offenses, such as subversion and separatism, fell last year to the lowest level since 2007. Sent: 270 words.

AFGHANISTAN

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Three heavily armed insurgents try to storm a former intelligence headquarters in southern Afghanistan, prompting a fierce gunbattle that leaves the attackers dead. The Taliban claims responsibility for the attack in the city of Kandahar, which provided a test for Afghan security forces as U.S. and allied combat troops have handed over the lead in preparation for their withdrawal by the end of the year. By Kathy Gannon. SENT: 460 words, photos.

— AFGHAN-JOURNALIST KILLED — An extremist Taliban splinter group claims responsibility for killing a Swedish-British journalist. SENT: 140 words.

UNITED STATES-KARZAI STANDOFF

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has threatened to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan if a new security agreement is not signed by the end of the year, but there is no legal reason the U.S. has to resort to the "zero option" as administration officials have repeatedly claimed. Legally, the 33,600 U.S. forces still deployed are covered by an existing status-of-forces document that took effect shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the start of America's engagement in Afghanistan. The existing agreement has no expiration date and prevents U.S. military personnel from being prosecuted under Afghan law — a must-have for status of forces agreements the U.S. signs with countries around the world. Sent: 970 words, photos.

INDIA-REBEL ATTACK

NEW DELHI — Maoist insurgents will not be allowed to spoil next month's Indian elections with violent attacks, the home minister says a day after rebels killed 16 people in their deadliest raid in almost a year. By Katy Daigle. SENT: 520 words, photos.

KASHMIR-SNOW

SRINAGAR, India — Unusually heavy snowfall has unleashed avalanches and collapsed homes in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, killing at least 14 people on both sides of the de-facto border between India and Pakistan, officials say. Ten died in the Indian-controlled portion of the territory, while Pakistan's military reported another four dead in an avalanche on that side of the border. By Aijaz Hussain. SENT: 400 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-CROCODILE HUNTER

SYDNEY — Australia's famed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin knew he was dying after a massive stingray stabbed him in the chest hundreds of times, the only witness to the fatal 2006 attack said in his first detailed public account of the beloved conservationist's death. SENT: 520 words, photo.

NEW ZEALAND-CHRIS PINE

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Hollywood actor Chris Pine, known for playing Captain Kirk in the "Star Trek" movies, is charged with drunken driving in New Zealand, court officials say. SENT: 300 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

MALAYSIA-PLANE-AIRLINE WOES

HONG KONG — Within an industry notorious for impoverishing shareholders and irking customers, Malaysia Airlines has stood out for its years of restructurings and losses. The company now has global recognition of a far more unfavorable kind after one of its jets disappeared four days ago with 239 people aboard. There has been no suggestion that the unrelenting financial pressures faced by the airline and its 19,000 employees somehow played a role in the disappearance of flight MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. But the revelation this week that the jet's co-pilot allowed two female passengers to ride in the cockpit for the duration of a flight two years ago has invited scrutiny of the professionalism of top-level staff. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 800 words, photos.

THAILAND-INFRASTRUCTURE

BANGKOK — A Thai court rules that the government's ambitious 2 trillion baht ($62 billion) plan to build high speed rail and other transport infrastructure is unconstitutional and must be ended. The Constitutional Court's ruling is the latest blow to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has been the target of four months of anti-government protests. The seven-year transport plan was a centerpiece policy of the ruling party, which won a landslide victory in 2011 elections. Yingluck's government is now a caretaker administration after early elections in February were disrupted by protests in Bangkok. SENT: 430 words.

CHINA-ALIBABA-CHINAVISION

BEIJING — Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is expanding into media by acquiring control of a Hong Kong film and television company, ChinaVision, for $804 million. Alibaba Group will buy new shares giving it a 60 percent stake in the TV company, ChinaVision Media Group Ltd. said. Alibaba is allied with two ChinaVision board members whose stake is diluted to about 11 percent from 27 percent. SENT: 200 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

CIA INVESTIGATIONS

WASHINGTON — A marathon Senate investigation into allegations of CIA torture during the Bush-era war on terror is veering toward partisan political territory and possibly the federal courts after unusually pointed accusations against the spy agency CIA, including potential criminal wrongdoing. By Special Correspondent David Espo. SENT: 1,020 words, photos, video.

FLORIDA SPECIAL ELECTION

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — After months of railing against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, Republicans score a narrow victory in a hard-fought congressional race seen as a bellwether of the midterm November elections. Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a special election that largely turned on the health care law. By Michael Mishak. SENT: 630 words, photos, video, graphic.

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius was probably on his stumps when he fatally shot his girlfriend through a toilet door, a forensic analyst says at the double-amputee athlete's murder trial, a matter that becomes critical in testing the runner's assertions about what exactly happened on the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom on Feb. 14, 2013. The bathroom door, and a replica of the bathroom, took center stage at the trial. By Gerald Imray and Christopher Torchia. SENT: 560 words, photos.

HIP-HOP SCHOOL

DENVER — The Flobots, a Denver hip-hop band that gained fame with the hit single "Handlebars," are known for social activism and supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. Drew Elder, a senior vice president of the investment firm Janus, is more familiar with the cello than with Chuck D. And while it might seem like Elder and the Flobots would be natural opponents, they've come together to form an unlikely partnership. Elder sits on the board of Youth on Record, a nonprofit formed by the alternative-rap group that aims to bring music education to Denver public schools. Educators say the program can help keep students engaged long enough to earn a high school diploma. By Donna Bryson. SENT: 890 words, photos, video.

UNITED STATES-UKRAINE

WASHINGTON — In a diplomatic dig at Russia, Obama is hosting the new Ukrainian prime minister at the White House, a high-profile gesture aimed at cementing the West's allegiance to Ukraine's fledgling government. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 760 words, photo.

— NATO-UKRAINE — NATO deploys two AWAC surveillance planes to monitor Ukraine from Poland, Romania. SENT: 250 words, photos.

MILITARY-SEXUAL ASSAULT

WASHINGTON — The turmoil over how to end an epidemic of sexual assaults in the U.S. military is far from over as Congress haggles over legislative remedies and new details emerge about a high-profile case involving an Army general and a female captain under his command. By Richard Lardner. SENT: 900 words, photo.

DRIVERLESS CARS

LOS ANGELES — California is trying to do something unusual in this age of rapidly evolving technology — get ahead of a big new development before it goes public. By the end of the year, the Department of Motor Vehicles must write rules to regulate cars that rely on computers — not the owner — to do the driving. By Justin Pritchard. SENT: 750 words, photo.

ISRAEL-DRAFT LAW

JERUSALEM — Israeli lawmakers pass a contentious bill meant to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, the culmination of a drive for reforms that has seen mass protests by the religious community in Israel and beyond. By Tia Goldenberg. SENT: 650 words, photo.

NIGERIA-WASTE-TO-ELECTRICITY

LAGOS, Nigeria — Lagos is engulfed in waste. With a population of more than 20 million, garbage piles up on streets, outside homes and along the waterways and lagoons, creating eyesores and putrid smells. The booming city also has major electricity shortages and many residents rely on diesel generators that cloud the air with black exhaust. Africa's most populous city is turning these problems into an advantage by starting a program to convert waste into methane gas to generate electricity. Lagos' waste management program is also organizing recycling to clean up the biggest city in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. By Carley Petesch. SENT: 740 words, photos, video.

PUERTO RICO-CHURCH ABUSE

ARECIBO, Puerto Rico — First, the Catholic Church announced it defrocked six priests accused of sex abuse in the Puerto Rican town of Arecibo. Then, local prosecutors disclosed at least 11 other priests on the island were under investigation. Now, with U.S. authorities also looking into abuse allegations, it's clear the abuse scandal that has roiled the church worldwide has arrived on the island. By Danica Coto. SENT: 970 words, photo.

GETTING ATTENTION

— OBAMA'S WEB MOVE — Obama appears between two ferns: New ground for presidential promotion on Web's Funny or Die. SENT: 940 words, photos.

— ESPIONAGE CHARGES — Civilian defense contractor in Hawaii to plead guilty in military secrets case. SENT: 520 words, photos.

— DEATH ROW-INMATE RELEASE — Man who spent decades on Louisiana death row in 1983 killing freed after judge vacates conviction. SENT: 410 words, photos.

— FACEBOOK HEADQUARTERS THREAT — Facebook's Northern California headquarters locked down after threat later found not credible. SENT: 110 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.