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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

January 17, 2014

ASIA:

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Dozens of people are wounded in Thailand’s capital when a grenade blast rips through a crowd of marching anti-government demonstrators, an ominous development that raises tensions in the country’s political crisis and the specter of more bloodshed to come. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was in the procession but was not wounded when the explosive device was thrown toward a truck driven by demonstrators that was several dozen meters away. By Thanyarat Doksone and Todd Pitman. SENT: 850 words, photos.

CHINA-OUTSPOKEN ACTIVIST

BEIJING — European and American officials urge China to explain why police have detained a prominent scholar who criticized the government’s heavy repression of his Uighur ethnic minority community. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 600 words, photos.

— CHINA-TERRORISM — China’s restive Xinjiang region is doubling its budget for fighting terrorism following an unusually bloody year of anti-government attacks, state media report. SENT: 220 words.

SKOREA-CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS

SEOUL, South Korea — The young dentist was uncuffed and led to his seat in the courtroom. A few rows back, his mother watched motionlessly, her hands gently clasped together as if in prayer. Jeon Seong-Jin is being punished for a crime that is not a crime at all in most of the world. A Jehovah’s Witness, he has refused to become a soldier in South Korea, where all able-bodied male citizens are required to serve about 21 months in the army. By Eun-Young Jeong. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

PHILIPPINES-CHILD PORN

MANILA, Philippines — Cracking down on online child pornography is a growing challenge for Philippine police because those involved increasingly use unregistered pre-paid mobile phones lines and Internet devices that are hard to trace, a senior officer says. By Oliver Teves. SENT: 430 words.

INDIA ELECTION

NEW DELHI — Members of India’s ruling Congress party erupt in rapturous applause for Rahul Gandhi, heir to the country’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who is leading the struggling party’s campaign for a general election in May. By Ashok Sharma. SENT: 470 words, photos.

VIETNAM-CHINA

HANOI, Vietnam — Hanoi is marking for the first time the anniversary of a deadly 1974 battle between China and U.S.-backed South Vietnamese forces in the South China Sea, apparently seeking to boost its legitimacy at home as tensions over the disputed waters flare anew. By Chris Brummitt. SENT: 490 words.

PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan —The World Health Organization says the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar has become the world’s largest poliovirus reservoir. SENT: 130 words.

AUSTRALIA-WILDFIRES

CANBERRA, Australia — Dozens of wildfires burn out of control in heat wave conditions across southern Australia, killing at least one resident. Fire authorities said 68 fires were burning across Victoria state and another 16 were blazing across neighboring South Australia state. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 250 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-INDONESIA-ASYLUM SEEKERS

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia apologizes for its border patrol boats entering Indonesian waters without permission, a breach of sovereignty that prompted an angry Indonesia to demand Australia suspend such operations against asylum seeker boats. The number of asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar and elsewhere reaching Australia in rickety Indonesian fishing boats has soared in recent years, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to take tougher steps to block them. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 330 words.

CHINA-SOCIAL MEDIA

BEIJING — The number of online microblog users in China dropped by more than 27.8 million last year, the first major decline in popularity of a social media genre that has offered a way to share unfiltered information in a country with strict controls. The drop comes amid a crackdown on microblogs deemed sensitive by government authorities and new controls on what can be posted and reposted, and reflects an overall decline in use of traditional social media in China that once had explosive growth. At the same time, Chinese Web users are migrating to cellphone-based instant messaging services, giving a huge boost to the mobile applications that have increasingly incorporated social media functions, including microblog-like features. By Didi Tang. SENT: 550 words.

JAPAN-OBIT-ONODA

TOKYO — Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese imperial soldier to emerge from hiding in a jungle in the Philippines and surrender 29 years after the end of World War II, dies. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 560 words, photos.

INDIA-OBIT-SUCHITRA SEN

KOLKATA, India — Suchitra Sen, a legendary Indian actress known for her memorable roles in both Bengali-language and Hindi Bollywood films, dies of heart failure. By Manik Banerjee. SENT: 350 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

WORLD MARKETS

MANILA, Philippines — World stocks trade mixed, with a patchy performance in Asia and early gains in Europe and U.S. futures a day after losses on Wall Street. SENT: 430 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

NSA SURVEILLANCE

WASHINGTON — Capping a monthslong review, President Barack Obama will call for ending the government’s control of phone data from millions of Americans, a senior administration official says. The move marks a significant change to the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk phone record collection program. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 600 words, photos.

SURGEON GENERAL-SMOKING

WASHINGTON — It’s no secret that smoking causes lung cancer. But what about diabetes, a kind of blindness, erectile dysfunction? Fifty years into the war on smoking, scientists still are adding diseases to the long list of cigarettes’ harms — even as the government struggles to get more people to kick the habit. A side-by-side comparison of changes between 1964 and now. By Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard. SENT: 850 words, photos, graphic.

RUSSIA-SYRIA

MOSCOW — Syria’s foreign minister says his country is prepared to implement a cease-fire in the war-torn city of Aleppo and exchange detainees with the country’s opposition forces as confidence-building measures ahead of a peace conference opening next week in Switzerland. The assertion comes as Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group meets in Istanbul to decide whether to participate in the talks. By Laura Mills. SENT: 350 words.

OHIO EXECUTION

LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Ohio’s capital punishment system likely faces new challenges following an unusually long execution in which the condemned man appeared to gasp several times. Family members of death row inmate Dennis McGuire planned a Friday news conference to announce a lawsuit over McGuire’s death, which they are calling unconstitutional. And it’s almost certain lawyers will use McGuire’s Thursday execution to challenge Ohio’s plans to put a condemned Cleveland-area killer to death next month. By Legal Affairs Writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins. SENT: 840 words, photos, video.

PORN GOES TO VEGAS

LAS VEGAS — Prominent purveyors of erotic films are packing up their sex toys and moving to Las Vegas. Sin City’s pornography boom is expected to be the talk of the Adult Entertainment Expo this week, with several new studios hosting open houses. Industry experts say the shift started last year after Los Angeles passed a law requiring adult film actors to use condoms. The county has seen a 95 percent decline in permit applications for adult films since the law went into effect. SENT: 850 words, photos.

ISRAEL-NAZI BAN

JERUSALEM — An Israeli draft law to criminalize the use of the word Nazi in most cases has sparked a debate on freedom of speech in a state that was founded out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Offenders would face a fine of 100,000 shekels (nearly $29,000) and six months in jail, although educational settings and artistic performances would be exempt. By Tia Goldenberg. SENT: 770 words, photo.

CUBA-FREEDOM TO TRAVEL

HAVANA — In January 2013 Cuba scrapped a longstanding exit visa requirement that made it difficult for islanders to travel overseas. A year later there has been no mass exodus as some feared, though Cubans are traveling in increasing numbers and many have not returned. Meanwhile, dissidents are coming and going and raising their international profiles — and money — but there has been little discernible impact on their ability to effect political change back home. By Peter Orsi. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

ALGERIA-PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

ALGIERS, Algeria — With the Algerian presidential election expected in just three months, it is not yet clear who is even running. The elections could see the handing over of power to a new generation and for the first time Algeria would be led by someone who didn’t fight in the 1958-1962 war for independence against France. Unless, of course, incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke last year, runs for a fourth term. The lack of clarity over whether he will try to cling to power has kept others from announcing their candidacies. By Aomar Ouali and Paul Schemm. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

NETHERLANDS-ROBOTS

EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS — Let the robot race begin. Expectations are high for RoboEarth, a new European-funded system to speed the development of human-serving robots. Scientists from five major European technical universities have gathered in the Netherlands this week for its launch and to give demonstrations of possible applications. The first: the deceptively simple task of delivering a glass of milk to a patient in a mock-up hospital room. By Toby Sterling. SENT: 670 words, photos.

GOOGLE GLUCOSE MONITOR

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Brian Otis gingerly holds what looks like a typical contact lens on his index finger. Look closer. Sandwiched in this lens are two twinkling glitter-specks loaded with tens of thousands of miniaturized transistors. It’s ringed with a hair-thin antenna. Together these remarkable miniature electronics can monitor glucose levels in tears of diabetics and then wirelessly transmit them to a handheld device. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video.

GETTING ATTENTION

— CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES — Powerful wildfire near LA suburbs comes in tinder-dry week for region, parched year for state. SENT: 500 words, photos, video, audio.

— GOOGLE GLASS TICKET — Calif. driver’s Google Glass court win likely to be first fight of many as tech outpaces law. SENT: 550 words, photos.

— OBIT-RUSSELL JOHNSON — Russell Johnson, ‘Gilligan’ professor, dies at age 89. SENT: 800 words, photos.

— OBIT-DAVE MADDEN — Dave Madden, comic actor who played band’s agent on ‘The Partridge Family,’ dies in Fla. at 82. SENT: 300 words, photo.

— INDIA-OBIT-SUCHITRA SEN — Legendary Indian actress Suchitra Sen dies at age 82. SENT: 370 words.

— OBIT-RUTH ROBINSON DUCCINI — Ruth Robinson Duccini, last surviving female Munchkin from ‘Wizard of Oz,’ dies at 95. SENT: 250 words, photos.

— FILM-CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS — ‘Gravity,’ ’12 Years A Slave,′ ‘American Hustle’ win big at Critics’ Choice Awards. SENT: 300 words, photos.

— SUNDANCE-FIRST LOOK-WHIPLASH — Sundance Film Festival opens with premiere of ‘Whiplash,’ starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons. SENT: 300 words, photos.

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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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