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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

March 28, 2014

ASIA:

MALAYSIA-PLANE

PERTH, Australia —The search area for the lost Malaysian jetliner moves 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) to the northeast following a new analysis of radar data, and a plane quickly finds objects there. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says it will take another day before one of six ships on the way to the area is likely to be able to determine whether the objects are wreckage from Flight 370. By Rob Griffith and Eileen Ng. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

MALAYSIA-PLANE-LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY

NEW YORK — The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has presented two tales of modern technology. The limitations of tracking and communications devices allowed the plane to vanish from sight for nearly three weeks. But satellites’ advanced capabilities have provided hope that the mystery won’t go unsolved. By Scott Mayerowitz. SENT: 1,500 words, photos.

— MALAYSIA PLANE-SEARCH — A list of the countries taking part and what they have sent to help the operation overseen by Australia from a military base near the southwestern city of Perth. SENT: 130 words, photos.

— MALAYSIA PLANE-NEWS GUIDE — Latest information on search in southern Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines jet. SENT: 370 words.

PAKISTAN

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court convicts a Pakistani Christian man and sentences him to death in a blasphemy case that sparked a riot last year in the eastern city of Lahore. By Zaheer Babar. SENT: 460 words.

MYANMAR-VIOLENCE

YANGON, Myanmar — Soldiers and police patrol streets in western Myanmar after Buddhist mobs attacked offices and residences of international aid workers, prompting the evacuation of almost all non-essential staff. The mob action resulted in the death of a 13-year-old girl who was killed when police fired into the air to disperse the crowds. The government says it will investigate the violence Wednesday and Thursday in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state. By Robin McDowell. SENT: 510 words, photos.

JAPAN-NUCLEAR

TOKYO — A worker dies at the Japanese nuclear plant devastated by the 2011 tsunami after getting buried in a mudslide, in the first death from an accident during efforts to control and decommission the facility. The man had been working near a storage area at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. SENT: 310 words, photos.

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Two grenades are fired into Thailand’s anti-corruption office, police say, the latest attack on an agency that has lodged a case against the embattled prime minister that could lead to her impeachment. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is to defend herself Monday at the National Anti-Corruption Commission against charges that she failed to stop corruption and stem huge losses in the government’s flagship rice-buying program. Yingluck’s supporters have been protesting at the commission’s compound for several days. SENT: 340 words.

AFGHAN-RASSOUL-INTERVIEW

KABUL, Afghanistan — One of the top three contenders in Afghanistan’s presidential race tells the AP he won’t challenge the results even if he loses and suspects fraud, and he urges his opponents to do the same for the sake of stability. Zalmai Rassoul, whose close association with President Hamid Karzai has sparked suspicion the government could intervene to aid him, warns anything but “clean and clear” elections will undermine the country’s nascent democracy. By Kathy Gannon. SENT: 710 words, photos.

AFGHAN-WOMEN LAWMAKERS-PHOTO ESSAY

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, women rarely left their home. When they did venture beyond their four walls, they wafted through crowded markets covered from head to toe in the all-encompassing burqa. While most women in conservative Afghanistan may still wear the burqa, today’s Afghan woman has choices she didn’t have during the Taliban rule that lasted from the mid-1990s to 2001 — like running for parliament. Here is a selection of portraits of women lawmakers in Afghanistan. By Anja Niedringhaus. SENT: 300 words, 16 photos.

CHINA-WAR REMAINS

BEIJING — The remains of 437 Chinese soldiers killed in the Korean War return home more than 60 years after an armistice ended the fighting. By Didi Tang. SENT: 420 words, photos.

KASHMIR-CLASHES

SRINAGAR, India — Gunmen disguised as Indian soldiers open fire on a car in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing a passenger and triggering a firefight with army troops, authorities say. Three passengers are wounded. By Aijaz Hussein. SENT: 180 words, photos.

INDIA-AIR FORCE CRASH

NEW DELHI — An Indian Air Force C-130J Hercules cargo plane crashes during a routine training mission, killing all five crew members on board. SENT: 100 words.

SRI LANKA-INDIA

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka is releasing Indian fishermen detained for poaching to thank India for abstaining from a vote by the U.N.’s top human rights body to launch an investigation into alleged abuses during Sri Lanka’s civil war, an official says. President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of all Indian fishermen “as a gesture of good will in response to India’s stance” at the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, a presidential spokesman says. By Bharatha Mallawarachi. SENT: 220 words.

MACAU-ASIAN FILM AWARDS

MACAU — “The Grandmaster” wins best picture, best director for Wong Kar Wai and five other honors at the Asian Film Awards. Backstage, Wong and his star, best-actress winner Zhang Ziyi, were all smiles with their awards. But their thoughts were with the family of Ju Kun, a “Grandmaster” crew member who was a passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. SENT: 360 words, photos.

INDIA-ELEPHANT ABUSE

NEW DELHI — An animal rights group says a 14-year-old elephant is still being abused despite a 2012 appeal by former Beatle Paul McCartney. The Indian government had ordered the elephant, named Sunder, returned to the wild after McCartney highlighted its plight during a 2012 trip to India. By Chonchui Ngashangva. SENT: 310 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

PHILIPPINES-TAX COLLECTOR

MANILA, Philippines — The sharp-shooting bureaucrat in charge of getting Filipinos to pay their fair share of taxes couldn’t have chosen a higher profile target: Manny Pacquiao, the world champion boxer and hero to millions. The pursuit of the boxer and congressman made a striking statement that no one was above the law, but it wasn’t universally popular. One of Pacquiao’s fellow congressmen proposed legislation to give him a lifetime tax exemption because his sporting feats had inspired the country. By Oliver Teves. SENT: 990 words, photos.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO — Japanese household spending fell 1.5 percent in February from a year earlier, suggesting consumers are tightening belts ahead of an April 1 hike in the country’s sales tax. The government also reports that core consumer prices rose 1.3 percent in February, though a large share of the increase was due to rising energy costs. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 370 words, photos.

NEW ZEALAND-GENESIS ENERGY

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand is closing the books on a contentious, multibillion dollar program of asset sales. The government announces it would sell a minority stake in power company Genesis Energy for 736 million New Zealand dollars ($638 million). The company will list on the New Zealand stock market on April 17. SENT: 130 words.

PHILIPPINES-FIGHTER JETS

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines signs contracts worth $527 million to buy 12 fighter jets from South Korea and four combat utility helicopters from Canada to boost the capability of its air force, one of the weakest in Southeast Asia. SENT: 310 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

NUCLEAR MISSTEPS

WASHINGTON — Investigators dubbed them “the librarians,” four Air Force nuclear missile launch officers at the center of a still-unfolding scandal over cheating on proficiency tests. “They tended to be at the hub” of illicit exchanges of test information, says one of the seven investigators who dug into details of cheating that has embarrassed the Air Force and now has brought down virtually the entire operational command of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. By National Security Writer Robert Burns. SENT: 1,100 words, photos, video.

AP POLL-HEALTH OVERHAUL

WASHINGTON — Public support for President Barack Obama’s health care law is languishing at its lowest level since passage of the landmark legislation four years ago, according to a new poll. The Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 26 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act. Yet even fewer — 13 percent — think it will be completely repealed. A narrow majority expects the law to be further implemented with minor changes, or as passed. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Dennis Junius. SENT: 630 words, photo.

SYRIA-FEARFUL ARMENIANS

BADROUSIEH, Syria — When hundreds of residents of the postcard-pretty coastal Syrian village of Kassab fled this week, it bore historic weight: it was the third time since 1900 that ethnic Armenians there felt they had no choice but to run for their lives. They left once at the hands of vengeful Turkish neighbors, and later because of Ottoman forces. This time it was Syrian rebels storming into the town. It’s a heavy blow for the minority community that sees the town as key to preserving the Armenians’ identity in the country. By Albert Aji and Diaa Hadid. SENT: 900 words, map graphic of Kassab.

MUDSLIDE

DARRINGTON, Wash. — There is only one way searchers are narrowing the list of 90 people still missing seven days after a landslide obliterated the mountain community of Oso: by digging. There are no more phone calls being made to determine whether some on that list were away and just haven’t checked in since the slide struck Saturday morning. No house checks in nearby neighborhoods to see if someone may have been missed. That left authorities to prepare the public for an announcement Friday morning the official death toll was set to rise from 16, with at least another nine bodies located but not yet recovered. In the same breath, they insist the searchers may still find survivors. By Manuel Valdes and Rachel La Corte. SENT: 650 words, photos, video.

OBAMA

ROME — President Barack Obama is leaving the European continent and shifting his attention from an Eastern European power play to the complicated religious and tribal politics of the Middle East. After four days spread across European capitals in the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, Obama is off to Saudi Arabia to reassure Arab allies that despite troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, greater energy independence back home and nuclear talks with predominantly Persian Iran, the United States is not abandoning the Arab world. By Jim Kuhnhenn. SENT: 640 words.

CHRISTIE-TRAFFIC JAMS

NEW YORK — Investigations led by federal authorities and New Jersey legislators are continuing to delve into a traffic-blocking operation near a major bridge, even as Gov. Chris Christie’s own probe has concluded that he was not involved in the plot. By Angela Delli Santi. SENT: 360 words, photos.

SAN FRANCISCO-CHINATOWN CRIME

SAN FRANCISCO — Beneath the strings of red paper lanterns and narrow alleyways of the nation’s oldest Chinatown lies a sinister underworld, according to an FBI criminal complaint that has stunned even those familiar with the neighborhood’s history of gambling houses, opium dens and occasional gangland-style murders. The federal charges, which allege a California lawmaker accepted money and campaign donations in exchange for providing official favors and helping broker an arms deal, cast harsh light on Chinatown’s tight-knit network of fraternal organizations and one of its most shadowy characters, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. By Garance Burke. SENT: 1,000 words, photo, video.

TURKEY-ERDOGAN EVERYWHERE

ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been ensnared in a corruption scandal that has toppled four Cabinet ministers. He has provoked outrage at home and abroad with an attempt to block Twitter. His incessant us-against-them rhetoric and conspiracy theories have alienated allies. Meanwhile, the Turkish Lira has fallen, interest rates are up and the Turkish economy has fallen off a cliff. It all might be enough to oust any leader. But as Turks prepare to vote in local elections Sunday, Erdogan is the only show in town. By Desmond Butler and Suzan Fraser. SENT: 950 words, photos.

HAITI-DROUGHT

BOMBARDOPOLIS, Haiti — A drought is ravaging northwestern Haiti, a deeply impoverished region isolated by a lack of roads that even in the best of times can barely feed itself because of heavy winds, scant rainfall and poor soil conditions. The World Food Program will distribute cereal and vegetable to families to hold them over, the U.N. agency hopes, until rainfall resumes in the coming weeks. By Trenton Daniel. SENT: 660 words, photos, video.

CUBA-FOREIGN INVESTMENT

HAVANA — Cuba convenes an extraordinary session of parliament this weekend to consider a proposed new law that aims to make it more attractive for foreigners to do business with the island. Economists say it’s Cuba’s last-gasp hope to meet near-term economic goals by luring more foreign investment, but President Raul Castro’s government has high hurdles to clear if it’s going to convince skeptical businesspeople. By Peter Orsi. SENT: 750 words, photos.

FILM-CINEMACON-WARNER BROS

LAS VEGAS — Footage of the sci-fi drama “Transcendence” previewed at CinemaCon in Las Vegas shows an eerily convincing Johnny Depp as a terminally ill scientist turned unruly machine in the Wally Pfister film that asks: What if we could upload a human mind into a computer? Warner Bros. was the final studio to preview its upcoming titles at the theater exhibitor’s convention Thursday, and it ended with an impressive crew of A-listers led by Depp. By Jessica Herndon. SENT: 730 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— STRADIVARIUS FESTIVAL — Los Angeles festival brings together 8 Stradivarius violins for performances. SENT: 700 words.

— NEWLYWED MURDER — The defendant’s tears notwithstanding, a federal judge cited a lack of remorse as he sentenced a Montana woman to more than three decades in prison for pushing her newlywed husband to his death in Glacier National Park. SENT: 790 words.

— PEANUT BUTTER DUMPED — Million jars of peanut butter dumped in New Mexico after bankruptcy dispute. SENT: 150 words.

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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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