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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

October 31, 2013

ASIA:

ASIA-US SPYING

SYDNEY — Australian, British and Canadian embassies are being used as hubs for a secret electronic data collection program for the U.S., according to a document published this week by German magazine Der Spiegel. By Kristen Gelineau. UPCOMING: 600 words by 0700 GMT.

PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani government says that 3 percent of 2,227 people killed in U.S. drone strikes since 2008 were civilians, a surprisingly low figure that sparked criticism from groups that have investigated deaths from the attacks. The number, which was provided by the Ministry of Defense to the Senate, is much lower than past government calculations and estimates by independent organizations that have gone as high as 300. The ministry said 317 drone strikes have killed 2,160 Islamic militants and 67 civilians since 2008. By Sebastian Abbot and Munir Ahmed. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

CAMBODIA-KHMER ROUGE TRIBUNAL

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea has denied all charges against him on the last day of a trial for the surviving leaders of the 1970s Cambodian regime widely blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people. The ailing 87-year-old Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, and 82-year-old Khieu Samphan, its head of state, are charged by the Khmer Rouge tribunal with genocide and crimes against humanity. The charges include torture, enslavement and murder for their roles in the radical communist regime nearly 40 years ago. By Justine Drennan. SENT: 600 words, photos.

JAPAN-WHALING

TOKYO — Japan’s hunts of smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises threaten some species with extinction, an environmental group says. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 400 words.

VIETNAM-DISSIDENT ARREST

HANOI, Vietnam — A young Vietnamese pro-democracy blogger has broken the news of his own detention at Hanoi airport through Facebook, the medium that is energizing his country’s activist movement and worrying its authoritarian rulers. SENT: 130 words.

NEW ZEALAND-TOURISM SAFETY

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Crash investigators says New Zealand needs stricter laws to ensure tourists remain safe after finding the pilot of a hot-air balloon likely smoked pot last year before taking a fatal flight that killed all 11 on board. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission urges lawmakers to pass stricter rules for pilots, boat captains and other transport operators. Citing recent fatal crashes, investigators said random drug-testing and zero-tolerance rules were needed. By Nick Perry. SENT: 370 words.

US-INFOSYS-VISA FRAUD

PLANO, Texas — Infosys announces a $34 million settlement to end a federal investigation into allegations that the Indian technology outsourcing giant circumvented immigration laws to bring thousands of lower-paid workers into the United States. By Nomaan Merchant. SENT: 620 words, photos.

US-UNITED NATIONS-NKOREA-HUMAN RIGHTS

WASHINGTON — Her father was tortured in detention in North Korea and died. Her elder sister went searching for food during the great famine of the 1990s, only to be trafficked to China. Her two younger brothers died of starvation: one of them a baby without milk, whose life ebbed away in her arms. North Korean defector Jin Hye Jo tearfully told her family’s story to U.N. investigators holding a hearing in Washington. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 750 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

WORLD MARKETS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Asian stocks are mostly lower Thursday, spooked by concerns that the Federal Reserve may accelerate plans to ease its economic stimulus. In its latest policy statement, the U.S. central bank said Wednesday it will continue buying $85 billion in bonds every month and keep its benchmark short-term interest rate near zero. The bond purchases are designed to keep borrowing costs low to encourage hiring and investment. By Eileen Ng. SENT: 410 words, photos.

CHINA-SUNTECH

BEIJING — China’s troubled solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Ltd. says it is in line to receive a $150 million investment from a company controlled by its hometown government following a debt default. Suntech said it has received an investment letter of intent from Wuxi Guolian Development (Group) Co. SENT: 500 words.

FEATURES:

MYANMAR-GIFT OF SIGHT-PHOTO ESSAY

BAGON, Myanmar — Five decades of isolation, military rule and woeful health care have left Myanmar with one of the highest rates of blindness in the region. Now the veil of darkness is starting to lift, thanks to an “assembly line” surgical procedure that allows cataracts to be removed safely, without stitches, through two small incisions. By Gemunu Amarasinghe. UPCOMING: 360 words, photos by 0600 GMT.

U.S. & INTERNATIONAL:

NSA-YAHOO-GOOGLE

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, the Washington Post reports, citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The latest revelations are met with outrage from Google, and trigger legal questions, including whether the NSA may be violating federal wiretap laws. By Lolita C. Baldor. SENT: 1,000 words, photo.

EUROPE NSA BACKLASH

BRUSSELS — The United States is facing a backlash from the European Union over Washington’s alleged surveillance programs — retaliation that could jeopardize tens of billions of dollars in annual trans-Atlantic business and hurt U.S. law enforcement efforts. Three significant actions being contemplated include suspending the Safe Harbor data-sharing agreement, which is vital to more than 4,200 American companies doing business in Europe; suspending U.S. anti-terrorism agents’ access to cross-border financial data handled by the SWIFT banking system; and a possible undermining of what many see as President Obama’s most important trans-Atlantic policy, the negotiation of a sweeping free trade agreement. By Juergen Baetz. SENT: 950 words, photos.

TECHNOLOGY-TWO TALES

WASHINGTON — How can the Obama administration be responsible for both the meltdown of its health care website and the stealthy, technical brilliance of hackers at the National Security Agency? In a single day in the nation’s capital, extremes of the impressive technical successes and stunning failures of the Internet age were on full display. By Science Writer Seth Borenstein. SENT: 700 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-IRAQ

WASHINGTON — Nearly two years after the U.S. military left the country, Iraq is now asking for more American weapons, training and manpower to fight a bloody resurgence of al-Qaida. Violence in Iraq has risen in recent months to levels comparable to the darkest days of the nation’s civil war. By National Security Writer Lara Jakes. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 6:30 p.m., photos.

YOUTH CONCUSSIONS

WASHINGTON — No one knows how often the youngest athletes suffer concussions. It’s not clear if better headgear is the answer, and it’s not just a risk in football. A new report reveals big gaps in what is known about the risk of concussion in youth sports, especially for athletes who suit up before high school. By Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard. SENT: 940 words, photo.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

JERUSALEM — Israel announces plans to build thousands of new homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, dealing a blow to newly relaunched U.S.-led peace efforts. Palestinians angrily condemn the move, which comes just hours after nearly two dozen Palestinian prisoners are released. By Josef Federman. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, audio, video.

EGYPT-CONSTITUTION DEBATE

CAIRO — During his presidency, Islamist allies of Mohammed Morsi pushed through a constitution that alarmed many Egyptians with its new, stronger provisions for implementing Islamic Shariah law and carving out extensive power for the military. Now it’s liberal and secular politicians’ turn to amend the charter, but to the dismay of democracy advocates they are balking at reversing those changes because they fear alienating the one Islamist party left in the constitutional assembly. By Maggie Michael. SENT: 1,250 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— BRITAIN-PHONE HACKING — Three senior journalists at the defunct News of the World tabloid have already pleaded guilty to hacking phones, a prosecutor reveals as a phone-hacking trial gets underway, calling it a sign of the scope of the illegal behavior at the Rupert Murdoch-owned publication. SENT: 550 words, photos.

— SYRIA — In talks with UN envoy, Assad says support for armed groups must end if political resolution to be found. SENT: 550 words, photos.

— ISRAEL-MILITARY-PHOTO ESSAY — Military’s influence is felt everywhere in Israel. SENT: 300 words, photos.

— NORWAY-HERE COMES THE SUN — Surrounded by mountains that block the feeble Nordic sun during the winter, the people of Rjukan will finally see daylight thanks to three giant mirrors reflecting sunrays into their darkened town. SENT: 640 words, photos.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Hrvoje Hranjski. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at asia@ap.org.

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