BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS
BANGKOK — Hotel occupancy rates in central Bangkok have plunged. Business deals have been postponed. Tourist bookings for coming months are way down. With anti-government protesters barricading Bangkok’s major intersections and periodic outbursts of violence, Thailand’s months-long political turmoil is starting to exact an economic toll. Major businesses organizations have tried to play mediator but have been unable to get the government and protesters to talk. By Malcolm Foster. SENT: 730 words, photos.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s propaganda machine is churning out near-daily diatribes against the United States and South Korea for a series of soon-to-start military maneuvers, warning nuclear war could be imminent and saying it will take dramatic action of its own if further provoked. Sound familiar? Pyongyang’s increasingly shrill opposition to the annual joint drills looks very similar to the kind of vitriol that preceded the start of the same exercises last year and led to a steep rise in tensions on the Korean Peninsula. That round of escalation culminated in threats of a nuclear strike on Washington and the flattening of Seoul before the maneuvers ended and both sides went back to their corners. SENT: 740 words, photos.
MANILA, Philippines — At least 37 Islamic fighters have been killed in a two-day offensive against insurgents opposed to a new peace deal between the government and the main Muslim rebel group. President Benigno Aquino III said the military launched the assault to protect villages after Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement fighters staged attacks in southern Maguindanao province. SENT: 320 words.
BEIJING — Filmmakers in China are hoping a reality TV show-turned-movie will be a Chinese New Year box office smash. But will people pay to go to the cinema to see what they’ve been watching by the millions at home for free? “Dad, Where Are We Going?” about the relationships between celebrity fathers and their young children, and opening Friday, is the latest Chinese TV program to attempt to cross over to the big screen, as entertainment companies try to capitalize on the success of hit shows. Last month, a fictionalized movie featuring contestants from China’s version of the reality talent-search program “The Voice” hit the cinemas, but flopped. SENT: 570 words, photos.
BEIJING — A Beijing court says it has found two more activists from the New Citizens movement guilty of disturbing public order and sentenced one of them to prison. Hou Xin and Yuan Dong were convicted of gathering a crowd to disturb public order, the Haidian district court said on its microblog, the same charge that New Citizens founder Xu Zhiyong was convicted of on Sunday. He was sentenced to four years in prison. SENT: 300 words.
HONG KONG-LESBIAN DOWRY
HONG KONG — The daughter of a flamboyant Hong Kong tycoon whose offer of a massive dowry inspired a movie wrote an open letter on Wednesday asking him to accept who she is after he reportedly raised the price. Cecil Chao made world headlines in 2012 when he tried to find a man who could successfully woo his daughter, Gigi Chao, away from her partner by offering offered 500 million Hong Kong dollars ($65 million), an offer that a Malaysian newspaper who interviewed him last week said he has doubled. SENT: 350 words.
HONG KONG-DONNIE YEN
HONG KONG — Actor Donnie Yen says his toddler son was his inspiration for his performance in “The Monkey King.” The action star plays the title role in the 3D film, “The Monkey King,” loosely based on a classic Chinese folktale where the Monkey King accompanies a Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage to retrieve a sacred Buddhist script. The movie opens in Hong Kong on Thursday and in the rest of China on Friday in a bid to capture box office sales at the start of the Chinese New Year holiday period. SENT: 300 words, photos.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister says his government will pursue peace talks with militants despite a recent spate of attacks, naming a four-member committee to facilitate the talks. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also called on the militants to observe a cease-fire in a televised speech to lawmakers at parliament Wednesday. SENT: 120 words.
LAHORE, Pakistan — The elderly man’s troubles started when two young men milling inside his homeopathic clinic casually asked him about his religion. He thought they were merely curious. In fact, they belonged to an outlawed militant group and were carrying hidden tape recorders. Within hours, police officers showed up at Masood Ahmad’s clinic and played back the tape in which he explained the tenets of the minority Ahmadiyya sect, rejected by mainstream Muslims because it disputes the basic tenet of their faith that Muhammad is Islam’s last prophet. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong will end visa-free visits by Philippine officials because their government has not apologized for the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists nearly four years ago, the southern Chinese city’s leader says. Leung Chun-ying said holders of official Philippine government passports will no longer be allowed to visit for up to 14 days without visas starting Feb. 5. He said it was the first phase of sanctions he had threatened last year. Ordinary Filipino travelers aren’t affected. SENT: 200 words.
NEW DELHI — Indian police say at least eight people were burned to death and another 11 seriously injured when a bus collided with a diesel tanker and a car, and all three vehicles caught fire. SENT: 120 words.
MANILA, Philippines — Most Asian stock markets rise Wednesday as jitters about emerging economies were soothed by the Turkish central bank’s aggressive interest rate hike to stabilize its currency and China’s infusion on funds into its banking system. Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 2.1 percent to 15,294.54 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.1 percent to 22,191.20. By Teresa Cerojano. SENT.
TOKYO — Profit at Nintendo Co. falls 30 percent in the first nine months of the fiscal year as sales of Wii U home consoles, 3DS devices and game software languished. Top executives announced they would take pay cuts. The Japanese maker of Super Mario and Pokemon video games reported a 10.2 billion yen ($99 million) profit from April to December, down from 14.55 billion yen a year earlier. SENT: 500 words.
US & INTERNATIONAL
OBAMA-STATE OF THE UNION
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, in what served as the opening salvo in a fight for control of Congress ahead of the November election, used his biggest speech of the year to push for programs to narrow economic disparities between rich and poor. Looking to energize his sluggish second term, Obama pledged in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night to sidestep Congress “whenever and wherever” necessary to bypass the political gridlock that has bedeviled his presidency. SENT: 1,000, photos, video.
— STATE OF UNION-AFGHANISTAN. President promises end of Afghan war but avoids discussion of how many US troops may remain. SENT: 120 words.
— STATE OF UNION-IRAN. Obama says Iran talks may not succeed but threatens veto on new sanctions during talks. SENT: 650 words.
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s parliament is to vote on a measure offering amnesty to people arrested during the protests that have gripped the country, but there’s a catch. Early discussions of the bill suggest the amnesty will be offered only if demonstrators clear the streets and leave buildings they’ve seized. That condition is likely to get rejected by protesters, who want to push demands for the president’s resignation and early elections. By Maria Danilova. SENT: 340 words, photos.
GENEVA — Lakhdar Brahimi has seen faces like these before, barely able to remain in the same room, much less speak to each other. Lebanese, Afghans, Iraqis, now Syrians. Even, two decades ago, Algerians like himself. For a week, the 80-year-old U.N. mediator has presided over peace talks intended to lead the way out of Syria’s civil war. Brahimi is patient. “I am often accused of being too slow,” he says. “If you run, you may gain one hour and lose one week.” By Zeina Karam and Lori Hinnant. SENT: 850 words, photos.
WASHINGTON — The Air Force’s nuclear missile corps faces new strains after dozens more officers were implicated in an investigation of cheating on missile-launch proficiency tests. The number implicated in the probe has roughly doubled from the original 34 officers, meaning that about 14 percent of all launch officers are now sidelined. By National Security Writer Robert Burns. SENT: 1,040 words, photo.
CAIRO — Unlike his first court session when he wore a dark suit and spoke authoritatively, toppled President Mohammed Morsi appears in court in a white prison uniform and paces restlessly in a soundproof glass cell as his trial resumes. The judge mutes the Islamist leader’s booming voice with a button and state TV shows only edited footage as the military-backed authorities seek to control the narrative and fix the blame for three years of Egypt’s political turmoil. By Sarah El Deeb. SENT: 950 words, photos, video.
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is expected to further reduce its stimulus for the U.S. economy even though that prospect has unsettled global financial markets. The Fed will conclude its two-day meeting on Wednesday. It will be the last to be presided over by Ben Bernanke, who is stepping down after eight years as chairman and will be succeeded next week by Vice Chair Janet Yellen. By Economic Writer Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 910 words, photo. Will be updated after Fed policy announcement at 1700GMT.
MEXICO CITY — After months of tacit cooperation with rural vigilantes trying to drive out a cult-like drug cartel, Mexico’s government is moving to legalize the growing movement and bring more than 20,000 heavily armed civilians under army control. Authorities under pressure to restore order are now trying a risky strategy that has proven disastrous in Latin America in the past and led to government-backed paramilitaries operating outside the law. By Mark Stevenson. SENT: 840 words, photo.
BERLIN — Nazif Mujic flashes a toothless smile and his entire face lights up when he recalls how he won the best actor award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2013: “I went up on stage, everybody was cheering, everybody wanted to talk to me,” said Mujic, a Gypsy from Bosnia who was honored for his role in a film about his real-life struggle to save his wife’s life. Now, almost a year later, he is back in Germany — this time as an asylum seeker. By Kirsten Grieshaber. SENT: 870 words, photos.
CARIBBEAN-CRUISE SHIP OUTBREAK
BAYONNE, New Jersey. — A Royal Caribbean cruise ship returns to port after hundreds of passengers and crew members are sickened, cutting short a 10-day Caribbean cruise. SENT: 130 words, photo.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
— MCCAIN CENSURE — Sen. McCain says Arizona GOP censure ‘ludicrous’, may motivate him to run for sixth term. SENT: 360 words, photo.
— ANCIENT EUROPEANS — Blue-eyed, dark-skinned hunter-gatherer emerges from ancient European DNA. SENT: 420 words, photo.
— AFGHAN-LITERACY — Federal inspectors say a $200 million U.S. program to improve literacy of Afghan soldiers has had limited impact and most likely won’t hit its goals. SENT: 600 words, photo.
— HISTORIC DOCUMENTS-SALE — Rare items from NY collector’s vast trove of historical documents going to auction in spring. SENT: 500 words, photos.
— TV-MILEY CYRUS — Miley Cyrus’ duet with Madonna for MTV acoustic special features grinding, grabbing. SENT: 120 words, photo.
— ZOMBIE BEES — Vt. beekeepers face threat of ‘zombie’ bees, infected insects found for first time on East Coast. SENT: 550 words, photos.
— JUSTIN BIEBER-ARREST — Valentine’s Day arraignment set for pop star Justin Bieber in Miami DUI, resist arrest case. SENT: 120 words, photos.
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