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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

May 13, 2014

ASIA:

UNITED STATES-INDIA-REPAIRING RELATIONS

WASHINGTON — Indian elections results due Friday provide a chance to repair relations with the U.S. that were strained by the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York. But there’s a big catch: Washington’s uneasy relationship with the man expected to become India’s next prime minister. SENT: 860 words.

CHINA-US

BEIJING — The U.S. treasury secretary presses China to ease politically sensitive exchange rate controls and lower barriers to foreign investment. Beijing in March widened the narrow band in which it allows its yuan to fluctuate against the U.S. dollar. But it retained controls that critics complain keep the yuan undervalued and give its exporters an unfair price advantage. By Joe Mcdonald. SENT: 400 words, photo.

KOREAS-TENSION

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea warns that a South Korean official would pay the dear price for saying the North “must disappear soon” in an escalation of rhetoric between the rivals. South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok made the remark during a briefing Monday, when he said that North Korea wasn’t a real country and existed for the benefit of only one person — a reference to dictator Kim Jong Un. He said the North has no human rights or public freedoms. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 330 words, photos.

CHINA-ACTIVIST DETAINED

BEIJING — A Beijing man who supplied information to a dissident-run U.S.-based news website has been detained on charges he made up stories that disparaged the Chinese government, police announced Tuesday. Xiang Nanfu, 62, was accused of providing false stories to Boxun.com of organ harvesting and live burials by the Chinese government, according to a police statement. It said Xiang worked with Boxun to incite public dissatisfaction against the government. SENT: 200 words.

CHINA-BUS BLAST

BEIJING — A man is suspected of setting a commuter bus ablaze in southern China, killing himself and injuring dozens of people, authorities said Tuesday. There was no immediate word on a motive for what authorities called an arson attack Monday evening in the Sichuan province city of Yibin. Seventy-seven passengers and rescuers were sent to hospitals, including 12 seriously or critically injured. SENT: 300 words.

UNITED STATES-SOUTH CHINA SEA

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. and other nations are deeply concerned about “aggressive” Chinese action in the South China Sea. SENT: 250 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-BUDGET

CANBERRA, Australia — Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to share the pain in his conservative government’s first annual budget aimed at reducing national debt. His government’s financial blueprint for the next fiscal year beginning on July 1 to be revealed to Parliament on Tuesday also promises to be politically damaging after his coalition was elected in September on a pledge not to increase taxes. By Rod Mcguirk. SENT: 500 words.

US & INTERNATIONAL

NIGERIA-KIDNAPPED GIRLS

LAGOS, Nigeria — Under the guns of their captors, dozens of barefoot girls sat huddled together wearing gray Muslim veils as they chanted Quranic verses in Arabic. Some Christians among them said they had converted to Islam. “I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured,” the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist network threatened, an assault rifle slung across his chest. By Michelle Faul and Sunday Alamba. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

— AP VIDEO NIGERIA GIRLS — A new video from Nigeria’s Boko Haram militant network purports to show dozens of abducted schoolgirls, wearing hijabs and praying in Arabic.

CONGO STAMPEDE

KINSHASA, Congo — A stampede at a soccer stadium in Congo’s capital kills at least 15 people and injures more than a dozen, the government says. According to witnesses, police fired tear gas after fans threw objects onto the field in the final minutes of the match on the last day of the league season. By Jeanric Umande and Gerald Imray. SENT: 350 words.

UKRAINE

DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern Ukraine declare their independence following a referendum on self-rule, undermining upcoming presidential elections, strengthening the Kremlin’s hand and putting pressure on Kiev to hold talks with the separatists. By Peter Leonard and Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 1,000 words with new approach, photos, video.

— UKRAINE-SANCTIONS — Officials say European Union foreign ministers have added 13 people to its visa ban and asset freeze list over Ukraine but are not expected to take tougher measures before the May 25 elections in the east European nation. SENT: 300 words, photos.

PISTORIUS TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius wants the double-amputee Olympian placed under psychiatric observation after an expert called by the defense says the runner has an anxiety disorder. By Christopher Torchia and Gerald Imray. SENT: 670 words, photos.

ANTARCTIC MELT

The huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a glacially slow collapse in an unstoppable way, two new studies show. Alarmed scientists say that means even more sea level rise than they figured. The worrisome outcomes won’t be seen soon. Scientists are talking hundreds of years, but over that time the melt that has started could eventually add 4 to 12 feet to current sea levels. By Seth Borenstein. SENT: 660 words, photo.

GAY MARRIAGE-ARKANSAS

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Dozens of gay couples are receiving Arkansas marriage licenses after a judge tossed out the state’s 10-year-old same-sex marriage ban, but they’re doing so in only a small number of courthouses as an overwhelming majority of county clerks in this Bible Belt state say they’ll wait until the state Supreme Court weighs in. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who recently announced support for same-sex marriage rights but said he’ll defend the law, didn’t ask justices to re-impose the ban until Monday, but clerks in all but the least-conservative counties still are refusing to sign off. By Christina Huynh. SENT: 700 words.

GAY MILESTONES

A gay football player kissed his boyfriend on national TV after being drafted by the NFL; gay marriage arrived in the Bible Belt, a bearded transvestite won one of the biggest TV song competitions in the world. This was an extraordinary LGBT moment. But were we marching toward equality, or descending to depravity? It depends on your point of view. SENT, photos.

HEALTHBEAT-VIRTUAL HOUSE CALLS

WASHINGTON — In the latest twist on telemedicine, virtual house calls are getting more attention as a way to diagnose simple maladies, such as whether that runny nose and cough is a cold or the flu. Now patient groups and technology advocates say it’s time to expand this digital care even more — to patients with chronic diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s that make a trip to the doctor more than just an inconvenience. SENT: 850 words, photos.

APPLE-DIFFERENT THINKING CEO

SAN FRANCISCO — “Think different” became Apple’s creed during the late Steve Jobs’ reign as CEO. Now, chief executive Tim Cook is embracing the idea while making decisions that would have seemed crazy to his fabled predecessor. Apple’s pending purchase of headphone maker and streaming music company Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion is just the latest example of Cook’s deviation from Jobs, who had so much confidence in his company’s innovative powers that he saw little sense in spending large amounts of money on acquisitions. By AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke. SENT: 1,100 words, photos, video.

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

WASHINGTON — For some, the chance to finally visit the Washington Monument after a nearly two-year closure is a deeply patriotic and touching experience. For one man, it was simply a chance to see a landmark he never saw as a boy because bad behavior in school excluded him from field trips. SENT: 755 words with new approach, photos, video.

ENTERTAINMENT

PROTECTING GODZILLA

LOS ANGELES — For 60 years, Godzilla has been stomping cities and beating down opponents from Earth and beyond. But even concrete-crushing monsters need lawyers sometimes, and in the real world, Godzilla has his own legal team devoted to fighting copycats, counterfeiters and those whose products evoke even a connection to the giant radioactive beast. As the monster returns to theaters May 16 in a big-budget reboot, Godzilla’s attorneys say they hope their efforts to discourage misuse of the image of one of the planet’s most fearsome, and recognizable, characters are successful. If not, a costly crushing could await in court. By Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney. SENT: 800 words, photos.

FILM-CANNES-PREVIEW

The Cannes Film Festival, which opens Wednesday with the premiere of “Grace of Monaco” with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, is much more than the heightened contest for the Palme d’Or. It’s a Cote d’Azur crush of celebrity; the world’s largest movie marketplace, where countless films are bought and sold; and a sprawling cinema event — the biggest in the world — that encompasses several sidebar fests. By Film Writer Jake Coyle. SENT: 860 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION:

— UNITED NATIONS-WOMAN PEACEKEEPING COMMANDER. UN chief appoints first woman to command a UN peacekeeping force — a Norwegian general. SENT: 120 words.

— PEOPLE-BARBARA WALTERS — ABC News headquarters in New York named in honor of retiring Barbara Walters. SENT: 100 words.

— US-EXCHANGE-STUDENT-SHOT — Authorities say slain German exchange student may have been seeking alcohol in Montana garage. SENT: 320 words.

— PEOPLE-JAY Z-BEYONCE — The Standard Hotel in New York City says it is investigating the leak of a security video that appears to show Beyonce’s sister, Solange, attacking Jay Z. SENT: 130 words.

— HUMAN RIGHTS-PROSECUTIONS — The Justice Department is encouraging refugees to help it find and prosecute human rights abusers from their country who are hiding in the U.S. SENT: 930 words, photos.

___

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.

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