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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

December 5, 2013

ASIA:

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Thailand put politics aside Thursday to celebrate the 86th birthday of the country’s revered monarch, who used his annual birthday speech to call for stability but made no direct reference to the crisis that has deeply divided the nation. Violence and street battles between anti-government protesters and police were put on hold as both sides observed a truce to mark the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has often served as a unifying figure in times of crisis. By Grant Peck. SENT: 450 words, photos.

INDONESIA-ROHINGYA TRIAL

MEDAN, Indonesia — An Indonesian court sentences 14 Rohingya asylum seekers from Myanmar to nine months in jail for their role in a deadly brawl at a detention center that left eight Buddhist fishermen from their country dead. The melee occurred eight months ago in North Sumatra province, where more than 100 ethnic Rohingya Muslim asylum seekers — most intercepted off Indonesia’s coast after fleeing Myanmar in rickety boats — and 11 fishermen accused of illegal fishing were being housed together. SENT: 330 words, photos planned.

NEW ZEALAND-INTERNET UPGRADE PROBLEMS

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A plan by the New Zealand government to upgrade the country’s notoriously slow Internet service has hit a snag after accountants confirmed the main contractor is facing financial problems. By Nick Perry. SENT: 420 words.

JAPAN-FOOD-HERITAGE LISTING

TOKYO — The United Nations cultural organization has added traditional Japanese food to its cultural heritage list, making it only the second national cuisine to receive the prized designation. A UNESCO committee announced the decision Wednesday at a meeting in Azerbaijan. SENT: 200 words, photos.

JAPAN-YOKO ONO

TOKYO — Yoko Ono says her own bitter experience in Japan during World War II inspired her to support WhyHunger’s “Imagine There’s No Hunger” campaign to fight childhood hunger around the world. SENT: 100 words. UPCOMING: 300 words, photos.

BUSINESS & FINANCE:

AUSTRALIA-QANTAS

SYDNEY — Qantas Airways says it will slash 1,000 jobs and suffer half-year losses of at least 250 million Australian dollars ($225 million), increasing the likelihood that regulators will throw the flag carrier a lifeline by easing restrictions on foreign ownership. Lower demand, a strong Australian dollar and steep fuel costs have put pressure on the airline, which warned that conditions are expected to remain volatile next year. SENT: 230 words, photos.

CHINA-RENAULT

BEIJING — China has given Renault and a local partner approval to launch a $1.3 billion auto manufacturing joint venture, the French brand’s first in the world’s biggest vehicle market. Renault SA, maker of the Clio and Megane hatchbacks, is one of the last major auto brands without its own manufacturing in China. Its arrival will add to already intense competition in a market crowded with global car makers and ambitious local brands. SENT: 240 words.

SKOREA-ECONOMY

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s economy expands at its fastest clip in nearly two years during the third quarter as construction and capital expenditure offset weak growth in exports. The Bank of Korea said Thursday that the economy grew 3.3 percent in the July-September period over a year earlier, the fastest rate since the fourth quarter of 2011. By Youkyung Lee. SENT.

WORLD MARKETS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Asian stocks were in the red after strong U.S. economic data renewed fears that the Federal Reserve may start cutting its monetary stimulus this month. By Eileen Ng. SENT: 300 words.

FORD-NEW MUSTANG

DEARBORN, Michigan — America’s first pony car — the Ford Mustang — is celebrating its 50th birthday with a new design and plans to go global. Ford Motor Co. was to reveal the 2015 Mustang on Thursday morning at events in New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Sydney, Barcelona and its Michigan hometown. It goes on sale next later year in North America and will arrive later in Europe and Asia. By Dee-Ann Durbin. SENT: 420 words, photos.

ENTERPRISE:

THAILAND-THAKSIN’S HEARTLAND

KAMBON, Thailand — Here, in a village where electricity is still a novelty, they’ll quickly tell you who was responsible for bringing change to this long-neglected corner of Thailand: former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. His opponents, many of them members of Thailand’s traditional urban elite, view him as a corrupt leader who spent billions of the government’s dollars to win over the poor and uneducated. But around here he is a saint who brought everything from virtually free health care to paved roads. The self-exiled politician’s continued influence over the current government has fueled massive demonstrations in Bangkok by protesters demanding an overthrow, but in places like Kambon at the heart of Thaksin’s power, there are millions of villagers he can still call upon. If no one here is calling for bloodshed, the threat is always implicit. “They can’t control the whole country,” one rice farmer said of Thaksin’s opponents. “We can.” By Tim Sullivan. UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 0900GMT, photos by Manish Swarup.

INDIA-STREET FOOD-PHOTO ESSAY

NEW DELHI — The millions of food vendors peddling tasty morsels from roadside stalls and rickshaws across India have long been an emblem of the country’s boisterous, chaotic spirit. But now, Indian officials have a stern message for these often-unregulated roadside chefs: Wash your hands, don’t sneeze into the food and please don’t pick your nose. Hundreds of vendors recently took part in a training seminar on the basics of food safety and hygiene, an attempt to curtail the infamous “Delhi belly” that has struck down many an adventurous snacker. UPCOMING: 400 words by 0700GMT, photos, video.

CHINA-ULTRA CHEAP CARS

HUADU, China — His Chinese sedan was a disappointment. So when truck driver Xie Yanzhen needed to replace it, he turned to Venucia, a 2-year-old no-frills brand launched by Nissan and a Chinese partner. Nissan Motor Co. wants Venucia and Chinese buyers like Xie to help drive its global turnaround. Venucia is a leader in the latest twist in the world’s biggest auto market — Chinese brands created by global automakers with local partners to sell foreign cachet at lower prices. The trend started with government pressure on global automakers to help create Chinese brands. But some are trying to turn that into a commercial advantage. By Joe McDonald: UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 0700 GMT, photos.

U.S. & INTERNATIONAL

MEXICO-RADIOACTIVE THEFT

MEXICO CITY — Mexican troops and federal police kept a nighttime watch on a rural field where thieves abandoned a stolen shipment of highly radioactive cobalt-60, while officials began planning the delicate task of recovering the dangerous material. Juan Eibenschutz, director general of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards, said late Wednesday that it could take at least two days to safely get the material into a secure container and transport it to a waste site. By Olga R. Rodriguez. SENT: 700 words, photos.

LEBANON

BAALBEK, Lebanon — The attackers waited in an olive grove around midnight. As the Hezbollah commander pulled into the garage of his nearby apartment building, they went in after him. Five bullets were pumped into his head and neck from a silencer-equipped pistol — an assassination that reverberated across the Middle East. The killing early Wednesday of Hassan al-Laqis, described as a member of the inner circle of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, was the latest in a series of recent attacks against the Iranian-backed group. SENT: 1,200 words, photos, video, audio.

NSA SURVEILLANCE-TRACKING CELL PHONES

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency tracks the locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those belonging to Americans abroad, The Washington Post reports. The NSA inadvertently gathers the location records of “tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad” annually, along with the billions of other records it collects by tapping into worldwide mobile network cables, the newspaper said in a report on its website. SENT: 560 words, photos.

FACE TRANSPLANTS

CHICAGO — The first full-face transplant patients in the U.S. are growing into their new appearances — literally. Medical imaging shows new blood vessel networks have formed, connecting transplanted skin with the patients’ facial tissue, a finding that may help improve future face transplant surgeries, doctors announced Wednesday. By Lindsey Tanner. SENT.

CONNECTICUT SCHOOL SHOOTING

HARTFORD, Connecticut — Recordings of emergency calls released of the U.S. school shooting a year ago show town dispatchers urged panicked callers to take cover as gunshots could be heard in the background. The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, shot his way into the Connecticut school the morning of Dec. 14 and killed 20 children and six educators with a semi-automatic rifle. He also killed his mother in their home before driving to the school, and he killed himself as police arrived. By Michael Melia and Jack Gillum. SENT: 450 words, photos, video.

MALI-SOLDIERS KILLED

BAMAKO, Mali — A mass grave containing 21 skulls has been discovered near the Kati military barracks, formerly the fief of Mali’s military strongman. The remains are believed to be those of soldiers, and a prosecutor says the discovery paves the way for Gen. Amadou Haya Sanogo to be charged with murder. By Baba Ahmed and Rukmini Callimachi. SENT: 900 words, photos.

FASHION-COLOR OF THE YEAR

NEW YORK — Orchid is growing on us: A version of the purple hue is Pantone Inc.’s color of the year for 2014. It follows this year’s pick of emerald green. By Samantha Critchell. SENT: 480 words.

ENTERATAINMENT:

FILM-SUNDANCE

LOS ANGELES — Ladies will continue to drive the feature lineup at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as Robert Redford’s independent-cinema fair celebrates its 30th anniversary next month in Park City, Utah. At the 2013 festival, female directors dominated the competition and for 2014, women once again reign supreme — only this time, comedians eclipse the layout. By Jessica Herndon. SENT: 650 words, photos.

SPORTS

SPURS-TIMBERWOLVES-ARENA EVACUATION

MEXICO CITY — The game between the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves was postponed because of smoky conditions inside the Mexico City arena. The matchup will be made up in Minnesota at a later date. By Ricardo Zuniga. SENT, photos.

NEW ZEALAND-FIXING

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Former test opener Lou Vincent has confirmed he is one of three New Zealand past players being investigated by the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit for possible involvement in match or spot fixing. SENT, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION:

— TV-BASHIR RESIGNATION — Talk show host Martin Bashir resigns from MSNBC over remarks insulting former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. SENT: 420 words, photos.

— GAY MARRIAGE-UTAH — Three gay couples challenge Utah’s same-sex marriage ban in the city that’s home to the Mormon Church. SENT: 300 words.

— SEPT 11-LAWSUITS — US appeals court rules negligence was not the cause of the third building collapse in Sept. 11 attacks. SENT: 430 words, photos.

— SYRIA — Pope prays for 12 Orthodox nuns reportedly abducted in Syria by rebels, urges peace. SENT: 720 words, photos.

— ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS — Kerry will present the outlines of a West Bank security plan in meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, U.S. officials say. SENT: 760 words, photo.

— ROCKEFELLER TREE LIGHTING — 45,000 LED lights to illuminate 76-foot Christmas tree at NYC’s Rockefeller Center. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 300 words by 9:30 p.m., photos, video.

— NORMAN ROCKWELL-AUCTION — Norman Rockwell painting ‘Saying Grace’ sells for artist record $46 million at NYC auction. SENT: 400 words, photos.

___

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 1700 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.

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