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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

February 18, 2014

ASIA:

SKOREA-ROOF COLLAPSE

SEOUL, South Korea — A resort auditorium’s roof loaded down with snow and rain collapses during a welcoming ceremony for South Korean university freshmen, killing 10 and injuring more than 100. Emergency staff worked through the night to pull people from beneath twisted metal and other debris and rush the injured on stretchers to waiting ambulances. Snow, sleet and icy roads hampered rescue operations. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 300 words, photos. UPCOMING: 800 words by 0730GMT.

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — At least 42 people have been injured in clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Bangkok after police started rounding up demonstrators who have been camping out at various locations around the capital. Multiple gunshots were heard midday Tuesday at the site, in a historic section of town near the Government House, but it wasn’t clear who was firing. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 130 words, photos. UPCOMING: 500 words by 0700GMT.

AUSTRALIA-PAPUA NEW GUINEA

CANBERRA, Australia — An asylum seeker is killed and scores are injured when a violent protest ends with a breakout from an immigration detention camp run by Australia on the South Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea. One asylum seeker had died from head injuries as he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said. It wasn’t clear what his nationality was, or how he had sustained the injuries. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 400 words.

UN-NORTH KOREA-HUMAN RIGHTS

GENEVA — A U.N. panel warns North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he may be held accountable for orchestrating widespread crimes against civilians in the secretive Asian nation. The panel’s chairman, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, tells the leader in a letter accompanying a yearlong investigative report on North Korea that international prosecution is needed “to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for crimes against humanity.” By John Heilprin. SENT: 660 words, photos.

NEW ZEALAND-LOST AT SEA

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A Louisiana couple have spent three months and $600,000 on a private search for their only daughter, who has been lost at sea for eight months. Authorities long ago gave up the search for 19-year-old Danielle Wright and six other people aboard the classic wooden sailboat Nina, which disappeared between Australia and New Zealand last June. Robin and Ricky Wright still hold out hope, but their funds are running low. By Nick Perry. UPCOMING: 1000 words by 0800GMT, photos.

INDIA-GANDHI ASSASSINATION

NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court has commuted the death sentences for three men convicted in the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The three were among 26 convicted of playing minor roles in the May 1991 assassination, but were the only ones left on death row after the others were released or had their sentences commuted earlier. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 400 words by 0700GMT.

AUSTRALIA-INDONESIA-DRUG CONVICT

SYDNEY — Police, seeking to prevent a convicted drug trafficker from profiting from her life story, raid the Sydney headquarters of a television network that is negotiating an exclusive interview deal. Schapelle Corby has been holed up in an expensive Bali resort since she was released on parole from a nearby Indonesian prison last week. The 35-year-old Australian has been negotiating with media companies over a deal to sell her story about being caught at a Bali airport with 4.2 kilograms (9 pounds) of marijuana in her surfboard bag and spending the next nine years in prison. SENT: 400 words. UPCOMING: photos.

VIETNAM-DISSIDENT TRIAL

HANOI, Vietnam — A Vietnamese appeals court has upheld the conviction and 30-month prison sentence against a U.S.-trained lawyer and well-known dissident found guilty of tax evasion in a case that international rights groups say was politically motivated. The court in Hanoi rejected Le Quoc Quan’s appeal after a half-day trial on Tuesday. His lawyer Ha Huy Son quotes judges as saying they found no new evidence, and that the conviction by the intermediate court was well founded. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 300 words by 0730GMT.

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BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

AUSTRALIA-EARNS-BHP BILLITON

MELBOURNE, Australia — BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, reported a better-than-expected half year profit of $8.1 billion as cost cuts offset lower commodity prices. The Anglo-Australian company’s shareholders could participate in a company share buyback in six months. Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said net debt could be down to $25 billion by then, a level he has previously said could trigger a capital return.

JAPAN-BIG SQUEEZE

TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has ticked off the easy items on his to-do list for economic revival. Flashy indicators show that factories are churning out more cars and high-definition TVs. Corporate profits are up. Stock prices gained 29 percent in the past year. Despite his brash declaration that “Japan is back” in a speech last September to the New York Stock Exchange, Abe faces a thornier challenge in ensuring that his “Abenomics” recovery spreads beyond boardrooms and investment portfolios. By Elaine Kurtenbach. UPCOMING: 980 words at 0800 GMT, photos.

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US AND INTERNATIONAL

SWITZERLAND-PLANE DIVERTED

GENEVA — It seemed like a routine overnight flight until the Ethiopian Airlines jetliner went into a dive and oxygen masks fell from the ceiling. Only then did the terrified passengers — bound for Italy from Addis Ababa — realize something was terribly wrong. The co-pilot had locked his captain from the cockpit, commandeered the plane, and headed for Geneva, where he asked for political asylum, although authorities say a prison cell is more likely. By John Heilprin and Geir Moulson. SENT: 1,100 words, video, photos.

— AP VIDEO — Footage shot by a passenger aboard the diverted airliner.

— ETHIOPIA-PLANE HIJACKINGS-GLANCE — A look at previous hijackings involving Ethiopians and Ethiopian Airlines. SENT: 370 words.

NSA SURVEILLANCE-POLITICS-VOTERS

WASHINGTON — Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency are uniting an unlikely combination — tea partyers and liberals. They’re on opposite sides of the political divide. But people to the right and left of mainstream America are sounding a lot alike now. An Associated Press-GfK poll shows that when compared with moderate Republicans or Democrats, tea party supporters and liberals are significantly more likely to oppose the collection of millions of ordinary citizens’ telephone and Internet data. By Connie Cass. SENT: 800 words, photos.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-AGING BOOMERS

CHICAGO — For many older Americans who lost jobs during the recession, the quest for health care has been one obstacle after another. Yet these luckless people have emerged as early winners under the nation’s new health care reforms. Americans ages 55 to 64 represent the largest segment by age group of new enrollees in the health insurance marketplaces. They represent a glimmer of success for President Barack Obama’s beleaguered law. By Carla K. Johnson. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

EGYPT

CAIRO — A suicide bombing that hits a bus of South Koreans visiting biblical sites raises fears that Islamic militants in Sinai are turning to target foreign tourists, a potential new blow to Egypt’s struggling industry. Though it has proven resilient to past attacks, Egypt’s tourism is already coming off its worst year, shaken by political turmoil that shows no sign of abating, and the new attack hits one of the few relatively strong draws, the resorts of the Red Sea. By Hamza Hendawi. SENT: 930 words, photos.

SOCHI SECURITY

SOCHI, Russia — For all the warnings that security in Sochi would be invasive and aggressive, it’s appearing more and more uneven, and in places almost relaxed. No attacks have been reported, and the world’s attention has turned to skiing and skating instead of security measures. By Angela Charlton. SENT: 700 words, photos.

— SOCHI-PHOTO GALLERY — AP PHOTOS: Ice and fog rule the day at Sochi. SENT: 50 words, photos.

TV-FALLON’S FIRST NIGHT

NEW YORK — Little more than a week after exiting “Late Night,” Jimmy Fallon makes his much-anticipated debut Monday as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” as this TV institution returns to New York after decades based in Los Angeles. By TV Writer Frazier Moore. SENT: 600 words, video, photos.

HACKATHON NATION

SAN JOSE, Calif. — There was a time when hacking was just a type of crime, a computer break-in. But today weekend-long and perfectly legal marathons of computer programming known as hackathons are proliferating as geeks, nerds and other techies get together to eat pizza, lose sleep and build something entirely new. This year a record 1,500 hackathons are planned around the world, up from just a handful in 2010. Their focus is broadening from developing lucrative apps to solving problems with coding for an array of issues including dental, fashion, immigration, transgender and social justice. By Martha Mendoza. SENT: 890 words, photos.

IRAN-NUCLEAR

VIENNA — It took months of arduous bargaining before Iran and six world powers could agree on a first-step nuclear deal. But the two sides may find the going even tougher Tuesday, when they start to confront hurdles standing in the path of a final accord. The AP takes a look at some of the obstacles. By George Jahn. SENT: 930 words, photos.

SYRIA

BEIRUT — After losing ground for months, the Western-backed rebel movement replaces its military chief with a moderate field commander from the south. The move is part of a broader restructuring aimed at persuading the U.S. and its allies to provide more sophisticated weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, accuses Syrian President Bashar Assad of stonewalling in peace talks and calls on Russia to push him to negotiate with opposition leaders. By Zeina Karam and Barbara Surk. SENT: 1,140 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION:

— TV-FALLON’S FIRST NIGHT — SENT: 600 words, video, photos.

— COSTAS RETURNS — After missing 6 days with an eye infection, Costas returning to NBC Olympic coverage. SENT: 670 words, photos.

—SNAKE-HANDLING PASTOR’S DEATH — MIDDLESBORO, Ky. — A snake-handling pastor who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show “Snake Salvation” has died after being bitten by a snake during a weekend church service in Kentucky. SENT: 700 words.

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