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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

May 7, 2014

ASIA:

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Thailand’s prime minister is ordered by a court to step down in a ruling that hands a victory to anti-government protesters who have staged six months of street protests — but does little to resolve the country’s political crisis. The Constitutional Court finds Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of abusing her power by transferring a senior civil servant in 2011 to another position. It rules that the transfer was carried out to benefit her politically powerful family and, therefore, violated the constitution — an accusation she has denied. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 950 words, photos.

— THAILAND-POLITICS TIMELINE — Developments in Thailand’s political crisis. SENT: 480 words, photo.

SOUTH KOREA-SHIP SINKS

SEOUL, South Korea — Three weeks after South Korea’s ferry tragedy, the government says it miscounted the number of survivors, the latest of many missteps that have eroded the nation’s confidence in its leaders. Coast guard chief Kim Suk-kyoon said only 172 people survived the April 16 sinking of the ferry Sewol — not 174, as the government had been saying since April 18. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 570 words, photos.

VIETNAM-CHINA-OIL RIG

HANOI, Vietnam — Chinese ships are ramming and spraying water cannons at Vietnamese vessels trying to stop Beijing from setting up an oil rig in the South China Sea, according to Vietnamese officials and video evidence, a dangerous escalation of tensions in disputed waters considered a global flashpoint. By Chris Brummitt. SENT: 800 words, photo.

CHINA-FISHERMEN ABDUCTED

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines says it seized a Chinese fishing boat and its 11 crewmen on charges of catching endangered sea turtles in disputed South China Sea waters, prompting China to demand their release and accuse Manila of being provocative. By Jim Gomez and Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 440 words.

INDIA-ELECTIONS

SRINAGAR, India — Violence flares in Indian-controlled Kashmir as millions of Indians vote on the penultimate day of national elections. An explosion in a polling booth injures a paramilitary soldier, and three other troops are wounded overnight when suspected militants fired at them. SENT: 230 words, photos.

INDONESIA-RAPE VICTIM

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — An Indonesian woman who was gang-raped by men who accused her of having extramarital sex may be caned publicly for violating Islamic law, an official says. The 25-year-old widow said she was raped by eight men who allegedly found her having sex with a married man in her house. The men reportedly beat the man, doused the two with sewage, and then turned them over to Islamic police in conservative Aceh province. SENT: 200 words.

INDIA-NORTHEAST VIOLENCE

GAUHATI, India — Officials say six bodies have been recovered from a river near an area where more than 30 Muslims were killed last week in the worst ethnic violence in India’s remote northeast in two years. SENT: 270 words.

UNITED STATES-KOREAS

NEW YORK — South Korea’s foreign minister warns North Korea that the cost of keeping and testing nuclear weapons will be so high that it could threaten the survival of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Yun Byung-se says the North will pay “the heaviest price” in new sanctions if it defies the international community and goes ahead with a new nuclear test. By Edith M. Lederer. SENT: 700 words.

AUSTRALIA-INDONESIA

CANBERRA, Australia — Reports that the Australian navy added three passengers to an asylum seeker boat turned back to Indonesia have threatened to further damage already strained relationships between the countries over Australia’s tough policies to deter boat arrivals. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 500 words.

AFGHANISTAN-LANDSLIDE

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai tours the site of last week’s horrific landslide in the country’s remote northeast, pledging to provide relief to families displaced by the disaster that killed hundreds of people. SENT: 170 words, photos.

PHILIPPINES-ARMY BARRACKS FIRE

MANILA, Philippines — A fire at the Philippine army’s explosives and ordnance unit triggers a large explosion that destroys a building and injures at least 24 people, mostly soldiers and firefighters. SENT: 200 words, photos.

NEW ZEALAND-DESIGNER DRUGS BANNED

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has reversed course on allowing some designer drugs to be legally sold after a public outcry about the toll they were taking. A law change will ban the sale and possession of all synthetic drugs. That ends the sale of 36 substances, many of which had been designed to mimic marijuana. SENT: 130 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

ALIBABA-IPO-JACK MA

HONG KONG — The mammoth IPO planned by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group highlights founder Jack Ma’s improbable rise to China’s entrepreneur-in-chief. Ma, a former English teacher who flunked his college entrance exam twice, founded Alibaba in his apartment in 1999 with 17 friends and $60,000 they had raised. Charismatic by the gray standards of Chinese CEOs, the impish Ma has cult status in China, where he’s seen as the equivalent of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

— ALIBABA-IPO — Alibaba Group, the king of e-commerce in China, is dangling a deal that could turn into one of the biggest IPOs in history. By Michael Liedtke. SENT: 970 words, photos.

INDIA-EUROPE-MANGO BAN

MUMBAI, India — Indians are feasting on some of the world’s most succulent mangoes after the European Union banned imports of the fruit from India this month, producing a glut and rock-bottom prices for local consumers. Starting May 1, the EU banned imports of Indian mangoes including the Alphonso, considered the king of all the mango varieties grown in South Asia, because a large number of shipments were contaminated with fruit flies. The pests are considered a threat to crops grown in Europe. By Manish Mehta. SENT: 720 words, photos.

JAPAN-EARNS-NINTENDO

TOKYO — Nintendo Co. sank to a loss for the fiscal year ended March as sales of its Wii U game machine continued to lag, but the Japanese manufacturer of Pokemon and Super Mario games promises to return to profit this year. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 380 words, photos.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

SYRIA

BEIRUT — Exhausted and worn out from a year-long siege, Syrian rebels board buses to evacuate their last bastions in the central city of Homs under a ceasefire deal struck last week with government forces. The exit of some 1,200 fighters from rebel strongholds in Homs will mark a de-facto end of the rebellion in the battered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar Assad’s rule, earning its nickname as “the capital of the revolution.” By Bassem Mroue. SENT: 880 words, photo.

BENGHAZI ATTACK-CHAIRMAN

WASHINGTON — Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republicans’ newest point man on the Benghazi attack, is a seasoned prosecutor determined to apply those well-honed courtroom skills to an election-year examination of the Obama administration’s actions. The two-term South Carolina congressman is leading a special select committee investigating the chaotic night of Sept. 11, 2012, when extremists attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. By Donna Cassata. SENT: 680 words, photo.

CLIMATE REPORT

WASHINGTON — When it came time to deliver a new federal report detailing what global warming is doing to America and the dire forecast for the future, President Barack Obama turned to the pros who regularly deliver the bad news about wild weather: TV meteorologists. By Science Writer Seth Borenstein. SENT: 1,050, photos, video.

OBAMA-INSIDER BOOKS

WASHINGTON — Over the next month, two of President Barack Obama’s closest first-term advisers will spill insider details on the administration’s handling of the early days of the financial crisis, its cautious response to the Syrian civil war and the genesis of clandestine talks with Iran. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 780 words, photos.

GAY ARAB-AMERICANS

NEW YORK — With a loud hiccup and a hand over her mouth in coy embarrassment, Madame Tayoush mimics Lebanese diva Sabah in her performance of the sultry classic “Atshana” — or “I’m Thirsty” — as Arab-Americans hoot and cheer. The burst of a trumpet vibrato sends her into a dramatic swoon, basking under applause and the warmth of stage lights. The low neckline of her halter gown exposes a hairy chest. Madame Tayoush is a man in drag, performing at a Tarab NYC event, at which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arab-Americans can celebrate without judgment both their sexual orientation and Arab culture — a slice of society with customs that seldom allow for discussion of sex and gender. By Salim Essaid. SENT: 700 words, photos, video.

CIRCUS ACCIDENT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — One of eight circus acrobats who plunged about 20 feet to the ground during a hair-hanging act witnessed by thousands says she’ll perform the stunt again. “For me, you gotta get back up and do it again,” Samantha Pitard told The Associated Press after being released from a hospital. By Michelle R. Smith. SENT: 490 words, photos, video.

UKRAINE

The United Nations’ under-secretary-general for political affairs has arrived in Kiev to meet with Ukraine’s interim government, and the United States and European nations have stepped up diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election. By Maria Danilova. SENT: 270 words, photos.

CUBA-HEMINGWAY MOVIE

HAVANA — An international film crew has wrapped up shooting for a movie about Ernest Hemingway’s friendship with a young American journalist in pre-revolution Cuba. It is believed to be the first full-length film with Hollywood director and actors shot in Cuba since 1959. By Peter Orsi. SENT: 1,080 words, photos.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-SEWAGE

JERUSALEM — Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank rarely mix, but authorities are hoping their sewage will. The Jewish settlement of Ofra and neighboring Palestinian villages currently dump their sewage into valleys, threatening to contaminate a critical underground water aquifer. So Israeli authorities are advancing plans to solve the environmental mess with a new treatment plant serving both communities — but the project is stalled in the contentious politics of the West Bank. By Daniel Estrin. SENT: 980 words, photos.

GETTING ATTENTION

— TEEN STOWAWAY-HAWAII — Hawaii releases video of teen stowaway dropping to tarmac from jet’s wheel well. SENT: 350 words, photo.

— FROZEN BODY-BERNIE TIEDE — Former mortician set free from prison in Texas widow slaying case that inspired ‘Bernie’ movie. SENT: 590 words, photos.

— SOUTH AFRICA-ELECTIONS — South African ruling party is election front runner despite fierce opposition challenge. SENT: 720 words, photos.

— ECUADOR-RESERVE-OIL — Ecuador council rejects petitions seeking referendum to halt oil drilling in Amazon reserve. SENT: 340 words, photos.

— HAITI-ELECTIONS — Haiti’s president names council to oversee long overdue local, legislative elections. SENT: 380 words, photo.

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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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