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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

April 2, 2014



KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A police investigation into the pilots of the missing Malaysian jet might turn up nothing, the force’s chief says, while the head of the international search effort also acknowledged that a hunt by planes for wreckage on the surface of southern Indian Ocean was not certain of success. The statements underscored the lack of knowledge authorities have about what went on board and where the plane may have ended and point to a scenario that becomes more likely with every passing day: that the fate of the Boeing 777 its 239 passengers and crew might remain a mystery forever. Sent: 700 words, photos, audio, video.


UNDATED — Two miles down or more and darker than night, the ocean becomes a particularly challenging place for human searchers. If the wreckage of a missing Malaysian airliner rests somewhere in the Indian Ocean’s depths, then investigators will likely need to entrust the hunt at least partly to robot submarines and the scientists who deploy them to scan remote swaths of the seafloor. Autonomous underwater vehicles played a critical role in recovering a lost Air France jet in 2011, but the search zone for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will need to be refined considerably before they can help this latest mission. By Adam Geller. Upcoming: 1,000 words by 0700GMT, photos.


TOKYO — Runners of the world, unite! For the first time ever, North Korea is opening up the streets of its capital to runner-tourists for the annual Pyongyang marathon, undoubtedly one of the most exotic feathers in any runner’s cap. Tourism companies say they have been inundated by requests to sign up for the April 13 event, which this year will include amateur runners from around the world. The race includes a full marathon — with a handful of world-class, invitation-only athletes — a half marathon and a 10-kilometer run. By Eric Talmadge. Sent: 850 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — All politics is local, the saying goes. But in some American cities, local politics have gone international, with city governments finding themselves caught in historical disputes between two close U.S. allies: Japan and South Korea. Korean-Americans have won approval for local memorials for the victims of Japanese sexual slavery during World War II, over the objections of Japan. They have also pressed states to change school textbooks to address geographical differences with Japan. These campaigns have gathered steam as relations between South Korea and Japan have soured despite Washington’s effort to quell tensions between its two principal allies in Asia. They reflect the growing political power of Korean-Americans in states where they have a sizeable presence. By Matthew Pennington and Mari Yamaguchi. Sent: 1,000 words, photo.


TOKYO — The finding that a lead researcher falsified data in a widely heralded stem-cell research paper is a setback for Japan’s efforts to promote its advanced research, but also a symptom of the pressure for breakthroughs in the field, experts say. The government-funded Riken Center for Development Biology in Kobe, western Japan said Tuesday it had found malpractice by scientist Haruko Obokata in the work on using a simple lab procedure to grow tissue for treating illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. By Elaine Kurtenbach. Sent: 670 words, photos.


NEW DELHI — Sheila Kumar’s husband tells her who to vote for. And the caste elders tell him to vote for. But as she waits to collect water at a communal tap in a south Delhi slum, she says she’s ready to vote for anyone who promises running water. Nearly seven decades since independence, India takes great pride in its status as the world’s biggest democracy, with more than 814 million voters, but the system is far from perfect. Voting patterns are heavily influenced by caste and religion. Entire communities are mobilized along age-old hierarchical caste formations. Women’s votes, especially in rural areas, are most often dictated by men in the household. By Nirmala George. Upcoming by 0900GMT: 1,000 words, photos.



SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials say they suspect that an unmanned drone that crashed on a frontline South Korean island was flown by rival North Korea. The drone crashed on Baengnyeong island Monday when the two Koreas fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other’s waters in a flare-up of animosity over a long-disputed sea boundary between the countries. No one was reported injured and all the shells splashed into the water. Sent: 240 words, photos.


SITTWE, Myanmar — The U.N. agency helping Myanmar carry out its first census in decades said it was “deeply concerned” members of the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim population were not being counted, accusing the government of going back on its word. In village after village in the sectarian-torn state of Rakhine, enumerators were asking households to identify their ethnicity. When the answer was “Rohingya,” they said thank you, turned around and walked away. By Khin Maung Win. Sent: 400 words.


BEIJING — A southern Chinese city has pledged to listen to public opinion in deciding whether to go ahead with a petrochemical plant after protests by residents turned into violent riots. The protests Sunday centered on a proposal to build a plant in Maoming city in Guangdong province to manufacture paraxylene, also called PX. The chemical is used in the production of plastic bottles and polyesters, and such plants have become a hot-button issue around the country because of health concerns, especially among China’s growing middle class. Sent: 440 words, photos.


KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan official says Taliban gunmen have killed nine people, including a candidate running for a seat in the provincial council, who had been abducted in northern Afghanistan. The governor of Sar-i-Pul province says authorities received intelligence that the candidate, Hussain Nazari, was slain by his abductors. Sent: 130 words.


MUMBAI, India — Asian stock markets push higher on signs of a pickup in the U.S. economy and expectations of further stimulus in Japan. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 led the gains, rising 1.8 percent to 15,050.79 after a weak outlook for companies raised hopes the Bank of Japan would launch additional monetary stimulus in coming months. Sent, 300 words.



BRUSSELS — NATO foreign ministers move to beef up the defenses of front-line alliance members feeling menaced by a more assertive Russia, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry proclaiming the U.S. commitment to their security is “unwavering.” The ministers also order the suspension of all civilian and military cooperation with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, though they make sure a line of communication with the Kremlin remains open at the ambassadorial level. By John-Thor Dahlburg and Vladimir Isachenkov. Sent: ENT: 1,200 words, photos.


SAN JOSE, California — Samsung fires back at Apple’s accusations of patent theft, saying the South Korean tech giant didn’t write any of the Android software on its smartphones and tablets, Google did. “Not one of the accused features on this phone was designed, much less copied, by anyone at Samsung,” Samsung attorney Peter Quinn said. “The accused features on this phone were developed independently by some of the software engineers at Google, up the road in Mountain View.” By Martha Mendoza. Sent: 830 words, photos, video.


RAMALLAH, West Bank — In a surprise move that could derail U.S. peace efforts, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas resumes a campaign for further U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state, despite a previous promise to suspend such efforts during nine months of negotiations with Israel. Shortly after Abbas’ announcement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cancels plans to return to the Middle East on Wednesday, but also says it’s “completely premature” to write off the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks he restarted in late July. By Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh. SENT: 990 words, video, photos.


WASHINGTON — Every president since Ronald Reagan has refused to release American spy Jonathan Pollard from prison. But now, in an attempt to keep Israelis and Palestinians at the negotiating table, the Obama administration unexpectedly is putting a possible Passover release on the table. If it brought about a peace settlement, it would be a foreign policy victory, but failure could be seen even more harshly if the U.S. gave up Pollard for naught. By Lara Jakes and Matthew Lee. SENT: 1,300 words, photos, video.


WASHINGTON — The fix for a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 traffic deaths would have cost just 57 cents, members of Congress say as they demand answers from General Motors’ new CEO on why the automaker took 10 years to recall cars with the defect. At a hearing on Capitol Hill before a House subcommittee, GM’s Mary Barra acknowledges under often testy questioning that the company took too long to act. She promised changes at GM that would prevent such a lapse from happening again. By Tom Krisher. SENT: 770 words, video, photos, audio.


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama celebrates a better-than-expected 7.1 million sign-ups for health coverage that he said should end the debate over whether his signature legislation should be repealed. Obama announced the 7 million threshold that once was seen as unattainable, even as the number still could climb. People who started applying but couldn’t finish before the Monday midnight deadline can have extra time, as do potential enrollees whose special circumstances kept them from signing up in time. Sent: 600 words, photos.


Doug Appleton’s grandparents couldn’t travel to his New York City wedding last October, but the tech-savvy Floridians were as present on the Big Day as anyone could be from 1,000-plus miles away. Thanks to FaceTime, the two-way Apple video-calling app, they watched as the ceremony unfolded. Next, they watched the party in real time via Wedding Party, an app that uploads photos taken by guests to a website that posts them in chronological order. Apps are part of many weddings today, from planning to honeymoon. By Diana Marszalek. SENT: 500 words, photos.


— BORDER-CATHOLIC LEADERS — A delegation of Roman Catholic leaders walk part of the U.S.-Mexico border to push for immigration reform and remember immigrants who died crossing into the U.S. SENT: 650 words, photos.

— CATERPILLAR-TAXES — Caterpillar executives get support from Republican senators in defending an aggressive tax strategy that helped the manufacturer save billions in what it pays the government. SENT: 720 words, photo.

— AFGHANISTAN-ELECTIONS — Afghans lined up by the hundreds in a last-minute rush to register for voting cards, a sign that interest in national elections is high despite fears of violence. SENT: 650 words, photos.

— CHAIN SAW IN NECK — Pittsburgh-area tree trimmer survives after getting a chain saw embedded in his neck. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: Photo.


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