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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

December 20, 2013



MANILA, Philippines — A gunman attacks a Philippine mayor as he leaves the country’s main airport along with crowds of Christmas travelers, killing him, his wife, a child and another man. The gunman fired on Labangan Mayor Ukol Talumpa at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, named after President Benigno Aquino III’s father, who was assassinated there 30 years ago. By Oliver Teves. SENT: 485 words, photos.


NEW DELHI — India’s information minister lashes out at the United States and demands an apology for the treatment of an Indian diplomat who was arrested in New York, saying America cannot behave “atrociously” and get away with it. The Dec. 13 arrest and strip-search of India’s deputy consul general in New York has sparked a diplomatic storm between the United States and India. Prosecutors say Khobragade lied on a visa form about how much she paid her housekeeper. By Ashok Sharma. SENT: 850 words, photos.


PYONGYANG, North Korea — Former NBA star Dennis Rodman holds tryouts for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday next month — though he hasn’t convinced all the players on the American team that it’s safe to come to Pyongyang. The flamboyant Hall of Famer said plans for the Jan. 8 game are moving ahead but some of the 12 Americans he wants are afraid to come. By Eric Talmadge. SENT: 550 words, photos.


PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Hundreds of Pakistanis rally against an army operation in the North Waziristan tribal area that residents claim killed many civilians even though the military said the offensive targeted militants. By Riaz Khan. SENT: 510 words.


NEW DELHI — India’s government asks the Supreme Court to review a decision in which it upheld a colonial-era law that bans homosexual acts and makes them punishable by up to a decade in prison. Law Minister Kapil Sibal says he hopes the court will overturn the law. “Let’s hope the right to personal choices is preserved,” he says. SENT: 220 words.


BEIJING — China’s ruling Communist Party announces that it is banning members from holding lavish funerals for their relatives as part of a drive against waste, corruption and pomp. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 360 words, photos.


TOKYO — Japan’s government announces that it will increase the amount of money it’s providing to the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to step up cleanup and reconstruction efforts. The interest-free loans provided to Tokyo Electric Power Co. will be increased to 9 trillion yen ($90 billion), up from 5 trillion yen. SENT: 230 words.


HANOI, Vietnam — A group of Western ambassadors has written to Vietnam’s leaders to call for the release of a democracy activist described as being in the final stages of cancer. Dinh Dang Dinh, a former chemistry teacher, is serving a six-year sentence for “spreading propaganda.” SENT: 270 words.


TOKYO — The first humanoid robot in space makes small talk with a Japanese astronaut and says it has no problem with zero gravity on the International Space Station. Footage released by the robot’s developers shows Kirobo performing its first mission on the station, talking in Japanese with astronaut Koichi Wakata to test its autonomous conversation functions. By Emily Wang. SENT: 300 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who helped Republican George W. Bush win sweeping tax cuts, led the design of President Barack Obama’s health law and then correctly predicted it would be a “train wreck,” is getting a diplomatic plum: Washington is shipping him to China. Democratic officials say Obama intends to nominate Baucus to be U.S. ambassador to China. If confirmed by the Senate, Baucus would become the chamber’s latest contribution to the diplomatic corps, joining former Sen. John Kerry, who is Obama’s secretary of state. SENT: 580 words, photos.



BEIJING — China has rejected 545,000 tons of imported U.S. corn found to contain an unapproved genetically modified strain, the country’s product safety agency says. China’s government is promoting genetically modified crops to increase food production. But it faces opposition from critics who question their safety, especially those imported from the United States. SENT: 230 words.


BEIJING — China has promised to ease restrictions on imports of U.S. beef and speed up work on opening its market for government purchases of software and other goods. The pledges come as U.S. and Chinese trade and agriculture envoys end a regular high-level dialogue. SENT: 430 words.


HONG KONG — Australia’s Telstra says it is selling its Hong Kong mobile phone business to Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li’s telecom company in a deal worth $2.4 billion. Telstra Corp. says it will earn about 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.8 billion) from selling its 76.4 percent stake in CSL to Li’s HKT Ltd., which is also buying the other 23.6 percent from another company, New World Development. SENT: 300 words.


TORONTO — Canada’s regulator has recommended the government approve a proposed pipeline to the Pacific Coast that would allow Canada’s oil to be shipped to Asia. A review panel says opening Pacific markets to Canadian oil is important to the economy and thus supported the controversial pipeline. There are 209 conditions, but no major potential stumbling blocks such as a route change. By Rob Gillies. SENT: 740 words, photos.



— RUSSIA-KHODORKOVSKY — Spokeswoman says Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been released. SENT: 380 words, photos.

— UGANDA-GAYS — Uganda passes anti-gay law that punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with life imprisonment. SENT: 400 words.


NEW YORK — Angry Target customers said they had trouble contracting the retailer through its website and call centers after the nation’s second-largest discounter acknowledged that data connected to about 40 million credit and debit card accounts was stolen as part of a breach that began over the Thanksgiving weekend. The theft is the second-largest credit card breach in U.S. history, exceeded only by a scam that began in 2005 involving retailer TJX Cos. That incident affected at least 45.7 million card users. By Business Writers Anne D’innocenzio and Bree Fowler. SENT: 520 words, photos.


LONDON — An industry group sought to reassure theatergoers that London’s elegant but aging venues are safe after chunks of ornamental plaster fell from a ceiling of the Apollo Theatre, showering patrons with dust and debris and injuring 76 people. The Society of London Theatre said all theaters undergo “rigorous safety checks and inspections by independent experts, and incidents like last night are extremely rare.” By Jill Lawless. SENT: 400 words, photos, video.


WASHINGTON — For months, two review panels given nearly identical assignments by President Barack Obama have been studying how the White House should change or limit the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. They have functioned separately — with different experts and private and public hearings — but with almost the same mandate. So it was at least a little surprising when the first panel, which recommended changes to NSA’s programs this week, urged the White House to abolish the second panel and replace it with a new one. By Stephen Braun. SENT: 450 words, photos.


CAIRO — In an audiotape, Egypt’s military chief talks about his dreams, saying that in one nighttime vision he professed that he will one day be president. The tape, apparently leaked by opponents to embarrass the general, kicked off an online storm of parodies and mockery. But to most Egyptians, among whom dream interpretation is a common religious tradition, it only deepened an image of him as a spiritual man. The twist illustrates the seemingly inexorable momentum for Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to run for president in elections due in 2014. By Hamza Hendawi. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.


CAIVANO, Italy — On Ciro Fusco’s farm in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, police swooped down one recent day and planted a warning sign in his broccoli fields, prohibiting any one from harvesting or even setting foot on the plot. Decades of toxic waste dumping by the Mafia that dominates the Naples area poisoned wells, authorities have found in recent months, tainting the water that irrigates crops with high levels of lead, arsenic and the industrial solvent tetrachloride. The warning came too late: Fusco had already sold some of his broccoli at nearby markets. The farmlands around Naples, authorities say, are contaminated from the Mafia’s multibillion-dollar racket in disposing toxic waste, mainly from industries in the wealthy north. By Frances D’Emilio. SENT: 1,250 words, photos.


PHILADELPHIA — A United Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding is appealing the decision, which provides the latest evidence of a split in the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination and came the same day that New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize gay marriage. By Kathy Matheson. SENT: 650 words, photos, video.


LOS ANGELES — When the A&E network suspended “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson for disparaging gay people, it may have followed a time-honored TV tradition of quickly silencing a star who, for better or worse, speaks his mind. But in doing so it also ruffled the feathers of possibly millions of fans of its most popular show. By John Rogers. SENT: 970 words, photos, video.


— PEOPLE-JUSTIN BIEBER — Usher says Justin Bieber’s troubled year is part of growing up. SENT: 330 words, photos.

— FATHERING SURVEY — Many men even do diapers, government’s fathering survey shows, deflating the detached dad myth. SENT: 900 words, photo.


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