ASIA:

HONG KONG-DEMOCRACY PROTEST

HONG KONG — Tension spiked at democracy protests that have gripped Hong Kong for nearly two months as police arrested four men early Wednesday after a small group of activists tried to force their way into the city's legislature in overnight clashes. The arrests came after authorities cleared some barricades a day earlier from a small section of a site occupied by pro-democracy activists for more than 50 days. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 310 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-FRANCE

CANBERRA, Australia — The French president told Australia's prime minister that countries should make their own decisions on how to achieve any binding greenhouse gas reduction targets that emerge from a United Nations climate change conference in Paris next year. The Australian government has been widely criticized by green groups for repealing in July a two-year-old carbon tax levied on Australia's worst industrial carbon gas polluters aimed at reducing to the nation's greenhouse emissions. By Rod Mcguirk. SENT: 340 words, photos.

UNITED NATIONS-NORTH KOREA

UNITED NATIONS — The world's boldest effort yet to hold North Korea and leader Kim Jong Un accountable for alleged crimes against humanity moved forward at the United Nations, where a Pyongyang envoy threatened further nuclear tests. The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee approved a resolution that urges the Security Council to refer the country's harsh human rights situation to the International Criminal Court. The non-binding resolution now goes to the General Assembly for a vote in the coming weeks. China and Russia, which hold veto power on the council, voted against it. By Cara Anna. SENT: 900 words, photos.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stock markets were lackluster Wednesday as investors digested a fall in Chinese home prices and Japan's scramble to overcome its economic malaise. Japan's Nikkei 225 was little changed at 17,347.76. It gained 2.2 percent the day before on news the government had delayed a second sales tax hike in response to the world's third-largest economy slipping into recession. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent to 23,469.31 and China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.2 percent to 2,451.23. SENT, photos.

US & INTERNATIONAL

OBAMA-HOSTAGE POLICY

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has ordered a review of how the United States responds when citizens are taken hostage overseas in light of the beheadings of Americans by Islamic militants. The review comes as some family members of those killed have complained that the United States did not take enough action in an attempt to save their loved ones. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama ordered the review of recovery efforts over the summer given "the extraordinary nature of some of the hostage takings that we've seen this year." SENT: 530 words, photos.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

JERUSALEM — Israel vows harsh retaliation for a Palestinian attack that killed five people and left blood-smeared prayer books and shawls on the floor of a synagogue in Jerusalem — an assault that sharply escalated already-high tensions after weeks of religious violence. Halting such attacks could prove to be a tough challenge. By Josef Federman. SENT: 1,000 words with a new approach, photos, video, graphic, interactive.

NSA SURVEILLANCE

WASHINGTON — The fate of President Barack Obama's proposal to end bulk collection of American phone records by the National Security Agency is in doubt as key Republican senators begin lining up against it. The White House-backed legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act, faces a cloture vote in the Senate, meaning that 60 votes would be required to allow final consideration. By Ken Dilanian. SENT: 700 words, photos.

AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT — The federal government is ratcheting up pressure on the auto industry to recall millions of additional cars equipped with faulty air bags that can injure — and even kill — passengers. Previously, U.S. safety regulators only sought recalls in states with high humidity. The new recall is nationwide. By Auto Writers Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin. SENT: 820 words, photos.

EUROPE-OLIVE OIL CALAMITY

BEJA, Portugal — If your favorite bottle of Mediterranean olive oil starts costing more, blame unseasonable European weather - and tiny insects. The conditions have also helped the proliferation of the olive fly and olive moth, which are calamitous blights. By Barry Hatton. SENT: 850 words, photos.

FRANCE GREAT WOMEN'S LETTERS

PARIS — An unprecedented collection of 1,500 documents from some of history's greatest women is auctioned in Paris, including everything from Catherine the Great's letter shunning her lover, to Brigitte Bardot's plea to cancel the release of a song that ended up being banned in several countries. By Thomas Adamson. SENT: 770 words, photos.

ENTERTAINMENT

FILM-MOCKINGJAY

NEW YORK — Jennifer Lawrence is known for being as straight a shooter as they come — and not just with a bow and arrow. And so, when the star of the upcoming "Mockingjay" talks about her feelings for her co-stars, it has the same ring of refreshing authenticity as does everything she says. By National Writer Jocelyn Noveck. SENT: 800 words, photos.

SPORTS

FIFA-CRIMINAL COMPLAINT

GENEVA — FIFA files a criminal complaint against unidentified individuals over the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar. In an apparent move to avert criticism, FIFA acts on a request by the ethics judge whose ruling was last week was denounced as a "whitewash." By Graham Dunbar. SENT: 720 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— UNITED STATES-IRAN-ANALYSIS — Plenty stands in the way of Obama's goal of improving U.S. relations with Iran, including a messy and brutal conflict in Iraq and Syria. SENT: 800 words, photo.

— ITALY MAFIA-SWEARING IN CEREMONY — Italian police say they have obtained video for the first time of a secret swearing-in ritual for the 'ndrangheta crime syndicate. SENT: 300 words, photos.

— CZECH-JOHN LENNON WALL — Prague's colorful wall dedicated to the memory of John Lennon is painted over, leaving just a single message: "Wall is over!" SENT: 300 words, photos.

— TRACY MORGAN-ACCIDENT — Tracy Morgan is fighting to recover from a severe brain injury suffered in a highway crash. SENT: 500 words, photo.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Scott McDonald. 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.