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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

February 6, 2014



SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea threatens to cancel reunions of Korean War-divided families because of upcoming U.S.-South Korean military drills and accuses the United States of raising tensions by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers near the Korean Peninsula. The apparent about-face a day after the rival Koreas agreed on dates for the emotional meetings fits a pattern analysts describe of North Korea agreeing to things South Korea covets and then pulling back until it gets what it wants. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 680 words, photos.


BANGKOK — An ambitious rice buying program that Thailand’s ruling party hoped would uplift millions of its poor rural supporters may end up helping to bring down the increasingly cornered government. Hundreds of farmers from more than 10 provinces converge the capital to demand rice payments now overdue for several months after the policy caused ruinous losses. Some are blocking three main highways in the north and the west, while a few hundred in the ruling party’s northeastern heartland protest at a provincial government hall. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 910 words, photos.


ISLAMABAD — Officials say much-delayed peace talks between representatives of the government and Pakistani Taliban militants have begun in the capital, ending a deadlock in getting negotiations started. The talks were to be originally held Tuesday, but were delayed after the government negotiators sought some clarification about the identities of the Taliban’s negotiating team. By Munir Ahmed. SENT: 130 words.


YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar arrests four reporters and the chief executive officer of a private weekly journal for disclosing what it says are “state secrets” following publication of a story about the construction of a defense factory, state-run media report. Yangon-based Unity journal quoted villagers as saying the sprawling factory in Pauk, a township in central Myanmar’s Magway region, was for production of chemical weapons — a claim the government decried as “totally baseless.” SENT: 330 words.


DHAKA, Bangladesh — A human rights group says garment factory owners in Bangladesh have been intimidating and threatening workers who try to organize trade unions. The working conditions in Bangladesh garment factories are often harsh and unsafe. There have been a series of disasters highlighting the poor conditions, including a 2012 fire and a factory building collapse last April that killed more than 1,100 workers. SENT: 230 words.


TOKYO — The ghostwriter for the musician lauded as Japan’s Beethoven says he became fed up and ended their 18-year collaboration last year and questioned if Mamoru Samuragochi really could hear. Samuragochi had previously claimed to be the sole author of his classical works and sound tracks for video games, such as Biohazard, despite having lost his hearing by age 35. His story resonated in Japan, where perseverance is greatly admired. But he admitted Wednesday that he did not write the powerful “Hiroshima Symphony” and other works. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 420 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — A group of American celebrities and other activists want President Barack Obama to refuse to sign an international trade agreement until Japan bans the capture and slaughter of dolphins in the fishing town of Taiji. Backing the effort are Oscar-winning performers Sean Penn, Cher, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Charlize Theron as well as TV stars Ellen DeGeneres and William Shatner, and many others. SENT: 370 words.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Salvadoran man who says he spent more than a year drifting across the Pacific Ocean before finally making landfall in the Marshall Islands last week makes a brief public appearance looking much weaker than he did earlier in the week. By Nick Perry. SENT: 380 words, photos.

— NEW ZEALAND-SEA SURVIVOR Q AND A — The story of the Salvadoran fisherman who says he survived more than a year adrift on the Pacific Ocean raises many medical questions. By Nick Perry. SENT: 760 words, photos.


DANGJIN, South Korea — Several bears lie on top of each other, as still as teddy bears, as they gaze out past rusty iron bars. Others pace restlessly. The ground below their metal cages is littered with feces, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, dog food and fruit. They’ve been kept in these dirty pens since birth, bred for a single purpose: to be killed for their bile. But these bears aren’t dying. The industry is. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.



TOKYO — Sony is in talks to sell its troubled personal computer business and lowered its earnings forecast for the business year ending March to a 110 billion yen loss ($1.1 million). The company also said it’s cutting its global workforce by about 3 percent or 5,000 people by the end of March 2015 as it restructures its PC, television and other businesses. Some 3,500 of the job losses will be overseas and 1,500 in Japan. That comes on top of the 10,000 jobs cuts Sony announced over the previous year. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 740 words, photos.



WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants military leaders to inject more urgency into ensuring “moral character and moral courage” in a force suffering a rash of ethical lapses. Hagel has been worried by a string of scandals that has produced a wave of unwelcome publicity for the military. But in light of new disclosures this week, including the announcement of alleged cheating among senior sailors in the nuclear Navy, Hagel has decided to demand a fuller accounting of the depth of the problem. By Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns. SENT: 790 words, photo, video.


PHILADELPHIA — A snow-and-ice storm that caused more than a million U.S. power outages has long since cleared out, yet its effects are expected to linger for days as utility crews work feverishly to restore electricity. The vast majority of the outages are in a single state, Pennsylvania, where some customers could be in the dark until the weekend. What made this storm stand out — and caused all of the outages — was the thick coating of ice it left on trees and power lines. By Michael Rubinkam and Joann Loviglio. SENT: 160 words, photos.


NEW YORK — While three of four people arrested in the investigation of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death were arraigned on drug charges, the New York theater community mourned the actor’s love of the state with a dimming of Broadway’s marquee lights and a candlelight vigil. By Jennifer Peltz and Tom Hays. SENT: 900 words, photos.


SOCHI, Russia — A record number of world dignitaries are coming to the Sochi Olympics, triple the amount that attended the 2010 Vancouver Games, Russian organizers say on the eve of the opening ceremony. By Stephen Wilson. SENT: 600 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — It’s not quite the bionics of science fiction, but European researchers created a robotic hand that gave an amputee a sense of touch he hadn’t felt in a decade. The experiment lasted only a week, but it let the patient feel if different objects — a bottle, a baseball, some cotton, a mandarin orange — were hard or soft, slim or round, and intuitively adjust his grasp. By Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard. SENT: 840 words, photos, video.


NEW YORK — Yeah, Yeah, Yeah — Ye-ah! A large piece of stage backdrop autographed by the Beatles during their first live U.S. concert 50 years ago is headed to auction, where it could draw $800,000 to $1 million. By Ula Ilnytzky. SENT: 700 words, photos.


— EGYPT — Egypt: Military denies el-Sissi decided to run for president, says Kuwaiti report inaccurate. SENT: 140 words.

— VATICAN-UN-ABUSE — Pope Francis under pressure to act on abuse after UN committee accuses Vatican of complicity. SENT: 1,080 words, photos, video.

— OBAMA-HAITI — Obama to discuss Haiti’s economic, political future in first meeting with President Martelly. SENT: 130 words.

— SOUTH AFRICA-MINE FIRE — South African gold mine says 8 miners died in underground fire caused by earthquake. SENT: 500 words.


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