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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

February 5, 2014


SEOUL, South Korea — The rival Koreas agree to hold their first reunions of Korean War-divided families in more than three years, another small step forward in easing tensions that comes despite North Korea’s anger over upcoming U.S.-South Korean military drills. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 550 words, photos.


BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping departs for the Sochi Olympics and talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in what state media portray as a sign of warming relations between the neighbors and former communist rivals. Xi’s presence at the games “shows the world that China firmly supports Russia in hosting a successful sports event,” China’s Xinhua News Agency says. SENT: 140 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — The chief of U.S. intelligence says China’s aggressive pursuit of territorial claims in the seas of East Asia is driven by a sense of historical destiny and is causing great concern among countries in the region. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 500 words.


KATMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s assembly will elect the Himalayan nation’s new prime minister next week, the parliament speaker announces. SENT: 120 words.


NEW DELHI — Sri Lankan security forces carried out arbitrary killings, torture and rape in the final months of the country’s quarter-century civil war and tried to destroy evidence of mass civilian deaths, according to an independent investigation. The Australia-based Public Interest Advocacy Center’s report also accuses Sri Lankan forces of broad human rights violations in 2008 and 2009 as they smashed a sustained Tamil rebellion for an independent homeland. By Nirmala George. SENT: 450 words.


NEW DELHI — Think twice before taking a deep breath in New Delhi, where recent seasonal spikes in air pollution have drawn comparisons with the world’s pollution poster child, Beijing. But while it’s unclear which city actually has the worst smog, one thing is clear — Beijing is taking steps to improve air quality while Delhi hasn’t done much in recent years to tackle the problem. By Katy Daigle. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — People in Cambodia’s capital board city buses for the first time in over a decade, as authorities introduce a public transportation system aimed at relieving traffic jams. Phnom Penh launches the one-month pilot program with 10 air-conditioned buses traveling a single route with 36 stops through the city center. By Sopheng Cheang. SENT: 200 words, photos.


MANILA, Philippines — Philippine police anti-cybercrime agents arrest 10 South Koreans for allegedly operating an illegal online gambling site in a posh apartment in metropolitan Manila. SENT: 200 words.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Australian woman convicted of smuggling marijuana into Indonesia in 2005 will get her parole papers signed before Friday and be released soon after, the country’s justice ministry says. Schapelle Corby was convicted of smuggling 4.2 kilograms (9 pounds) of the drug onto the resort island of Bali and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 2010, she asked for clemency, citing her poor mental state. SENT: 210 words.


CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian woman and her teenage daughter who became ill and died within hours of each other while on vacation on the tourist island of Bali were probably killed by food poisoning, a relative says. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 400 words, photos.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A minivan carrying foreign tourists plunges off a narrow New Zealand bridge, killing the 59-year-old Canadian driver and injuring the vehicle’s nine passengers, police say. The Canadian and Chinese family and friends were in New Zealand to attend a wedding. SENT: 180 words, photos.


UNITED NATIONS — The president of Palau declares that his Pacific island nation will ban commercial fishing and become a marine sanctuary. President Tommy Remengesau Jr. says in a keynote address to a U.N. meeting on “Healthy Oceans and Seas” that once current fishing contracts with Japan, Taiwan and some private companies expire only fishing by island residents and tourists will be allowed in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. By Edith M. Lederer. SENT: 470 words.


GARITA PALMERA, El Salvador — The family of a Salvadoran fisherman who says he survived at least 13 months at sea in an open boat had thought he was dead after losing touch with him eight years ago and are calling his astonishing story of survival a miracle. While authorities said questions remained about his tale, relatives provided details that might help explain how Jose Salvador Alvarenga could survive floating across 6,500 miles of the Pacific in a small boat, landing on the Marshall Islands. SENT: 1,200 words, video, photos.



MELBOURNE, Australia — One of Australia’s largest banks faces a multimillion dollar payout to thousands of customers after a judge rules that late payment fees it charged on credit cards were exorbitant. ANZ Banking Group Ltd. partially lost a class action law suit in the Australian Federal Court brought by more than 43,000 customers who claimed they had been charged excessive fees for years. In some cases the fees were 70 times the cost to the bank of administering late payments. SENT: 500 words, photos.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s economy grew at its slowest pace in four years in 2013 because of a slump in commodity prices and a slowdown in consumer spending. The Central Statistics Agency says Southeast Asia’s largest economy grew 5.8 percent last year, the first time it has expanded by less than 6 percent since 2009. SENT: 230 words.



VATICAN CITY — A U.N. human rights committee denounces the Vatican for adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, and urges it to open its files on the pedophiles and the churchmen who concealed their crimes. The committee issued its recommendations after subjecting the Holy See to a daylong interrogation last month on its implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the main international treaty ensuring children’s rights. By Nicole Winfield. SENT: 770 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama praises CVS Caremark, the second-largest U.S. drugstore chain, for its decision to stop selling tobacco products at its drugstores. SENT: 130 words.


AMMAN, Jordan — Israelis and Palestinians may be hugely skeptical about a U.S. push for a peace deal, but Jordanians aren’t waiting for anybody to sign on the dotted line. The kingdom, a key U.S. ally and home to the largest Palestinian population outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is watching warily as Secretary of State John Kerry brokers talks and warns of a widening boycott campaign against Israel if they fail. Jordanian lawmakers and protesters fear the Palestinians will be coerced into an agreement that gives up lands claimed as part of a unilateral state and leads to a new influx of refugees into the desert country. By Jamal Halaby. SENT: 1,200 words, photo.


HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A woman convicted in the slaying of a mentally impaired man lured to Texas with the promise of marriage is headed to the death chamber. By Michael Graczyk. SENT: 130 words, photo.


BAGHDAD — Multiple bombings rock central Baghdad, striking mainly near the heavily fortified Green Zone where key government offices are located and killing at least 22 people, Iraqi officials say. The attacks were the latest in a relentless push by Sunni militants to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government’s efforts to maintain security in Iraq, two years after the pullout of American troops from the country. By Sinan Salaheddin. SENT: 440 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — In a new twist to a widening tale of ethical lapses in the U.S. military, the Navy is investigating cheating allegations against about one-fifth of its trainers at a school for naval nuclear power reactor operators. It is the second exam-cheating scandal to hit the military this year, on top of a series of disclosures in recent months of ethical lapses at all ranks in the military as it transitions from more than a decade of war. By National Security Writer Robert Burns. SENT: 740 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — It isn’t just farmers who will benefit from the sweeping farm bill that Congress has sent Obama. There’s also help for rural towns, grocery stores in low-income areas and, most notably, the nation’s 47 million food stamp recipients. By Mary Clare Jalonick. SENT: 630 words, photos.


SAN FRANCISCO — After compiling a list of more than 100 CEO candidates, Microsoft took five months to anoint Satya Nadella, a homegrown leader who joined the software maker in the early 1990s. That’s back when Google’s founders were still teenagers and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in elementary school. Microsoft’s methodical, almost predictable selection of Nadella is the kind of move made by an aging company reluctant to take bold risks. The creeping conservatism made it unlikely that Microsoft could have recruited a rising technology star from Google, Facebook or other rapidly growing Silicon Valley firms —even if the software maker had decided to hire an outsider. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.


— HOFFMAN INVESTIGATION — NYPD: Heroin found at Philip Seymour Hoffman’s home tests negative for additive fentanyl. SENT: 500 words, photos.

— BRITAIN-PRINCE — Prince kicks off string of London gigs with session in fellow musician’s living room. SENT: 800 words, photo.

— OBIT-RICHARD BULL — Motion Picture & TV Fund says “Little House on the Prairie” actor Richard Bull dies at age 89. SENT: 100 words, photo.


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