ASIA:

KERRY-CHINA

BEIJING — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeals for China's help in bringing a belligerent North Korea back to nuclear disarmament talks but faced an uncertain response as the request was accompanied by demands for Beijing to roll back a series of increasingly aggressive steps it has taken to assert itself in territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors. By Matthew Lee. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, audio.

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Hundreds of riot police move through parts of the Thai capital to retake areas occupied by anti-government protesters during a three-month push to unseat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 440 words.

KOREAS-TENSION

SEOUL, South Korea — The rival Koreas sit down for a second round of talks this week at a border village, as the North's calls for a delay of annual South Korea-U.S. military drills threaten plans for the resumption of emotional reunions of war-divided families. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 550 words.

UNITED STATES-NKOREA

WASHINGTON — A U.S. research institute says North Korea has accelerated excavation at a site used for underground nuclear test explosions, though a test doesn't appear imminent. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 1,000 words, photo.

UNITED STATES-AFGHANISTAN

WASHINGTON — The White House is dropping its insistence that a crucial security agreement with Afghanistan be signed within "weeks," suggesting it might be willing to wait and see whether the successor to outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai is easier to work with. Karzai exacerbated tensions by releasing from prison 65 accused militants. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 1,090 words, photos, video.

— AFGHANISTAN — The Afghan government disregards American protests and releases 65 accused militants despite U.S. warnings that the men are dangerous fighters and bomb-makers likely to return to killing foreign forces and Afghans. SENT: 930 words, photos.

INDONESIA-VOLCANO ERUPTS

SURABAYA, Indonesia — Volcanic ash from a major eruption in Indonesia has shrouded a large swath of the country's most densely populated island and closed three nearby international airports. By Niniek Karmini. SENT: 450 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

WORLD MARKETS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Asian stock markets are mostly higher after China's inflation was steady in January, leaving its government room to stimulate the economy if a slowdown worsens. By Eileen Ng. SENT: 480 words.

CHINA-INFLATION

BEIJING — China's consumer inflation held steady in January, easing pressure on the government to control living costs as it launches ambitious economic reforms. SENT: 200 words.

CHINA-AUTO SALES

BEIJING — China's auto sales growth tumbled to 7 percent in January amid an economic slowdown and curbs imposed to fight smog and traffic. By Joe Mcdonald. SENT: 400 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

TOP STORIES

WINTER WEATHER

PHILADELPHIA — At least 20 people die in accidents resulting from the storm that paralyzed much of the East Coast, including a pregnant woman struck by a mini-plow in New York City whose baby was then born by cesarean section in critical condition. The storm spread heavy snow and sleet along the Northeast corridor, while utility crews in the ice-encrusted South labored to restore power to more than 800,000 homes. "Snow has become a four-letter word," says one suburban Philadelphia politician. By Ron Todt and Mark Scolforo. SENT: 940 words, photos, graphic, video, interactive.

— ECONOMY WEATHER — Freezing weather contributing to a slowdown in retail sales and job growth. SENT: 1,035 words, photo.

— NOT SO COLD JANUARY — Warm West offsets cold East, makes for average January. SENT: 300 words, photo.

COMCAST-TIME WARNER CABLE

LOS ANGELES —With a single behemoth purchase, Comcast created a dominant entertainment force and presented federal regulators with an equally outsized quandary: How do you handle a media and entertainment conglomerate that allows faster, more reliable internet service to more homes but consolidates unprecedented control of what viewers watch and download? Comcast says the $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable will provide better service to customers and save money on TV programming costs. But industry watchdogs say the deal will give Comcast too much power and ultimately increase the price of high-speed connections. By Ryan Nakashima. SENT: 1,080 words, photos, graphic.

— COMCAST MERGER-WORRIES — Comcast deal stirs memories of "30 Rock's" Kabletown — and worry among some cable subscribers. SENT: 755 words.

— COMCAST-TIME WARNER -CABLE INVESTORS — There's nothing like a bidding war to turn the stock of a lackluster company into a star. Shareholders of Time Warner Cable, which has been losing subscribers, are the clear winners from a deal to be bought by a rival Comcast. SENT: 430 words, photo.

FACEBOOK-NEW GENDER OPTIONS

SAN FRANCISCO — You don't just have to be male or female on Facebook anymore. The social media giant is adding a customizable option with about 50 different terms people can use to identify their gender as well as three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them. Facebook said the changes being rolled out for the company's 159 million monthly users in the U.S. are aimed at giving people more choices in describing themselves, such as androgynous, bi-gender, intersex, gender fluid or transsexual. By Martha Mendoza and Lisa Leff. SENT: 1,200 words, photos, video.

— FACEBOOK-REACTION — Facebook users and others from across the U.S. see changes to gender options. SENT: 1,030 words by 7 p.m., updating throughout the day.

DEBT LIMIT-POLITICS

WASHINGTON — With a shot at gaining control of the Senate, the GOP's strategy for the mid-term election is to keep it simple — talk about President Barack Obama's unpopular health care law and avoid cataclysmic fights. The decision to let the government pile up more debt with no strings attached is in line with that: sparing Republicans another politically debilitating, market-rattling showdown while forcing Democrats to cast votes that GOP rivals already are using against them. By Donna Cassata. SENT: 950 words, photos.

— DEBT LIMIT-A VEILED VOTE — The markets were open and millions of Americans' retirement portfolios were potentially at risk. So in an unprecedented move, Senate leaders decided to keep Wednesday's debt limit vote hidden from the public. SENT: 1,160, photo, interactive.

HEALTHBEAT-TALKING TO BABIES

WASHINGTON — The sooner you start explaining the world to your baby, the better. New research shows that how much — and how — parents talk to their babies tunes their brains in ways that set them up for future success in school, and may be the key to fighting the infamous word gap that puts poor children at a disadvantage at an even younger age than once thought. By Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard. SENT: 800 words.

— TALKING TO BABIES-TIPS — A list of suggestions to help in an infant's development. UPCOMING: 400 words by 4 p.m.

BELGIUM-CHILD EUTHANASIA

BRUSSELS — Belgian lawmakers approve a law granting terminally ill children the right to ask to die, a legal option already possessed by the country's adults. By John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 360 words, photos, video.

— VIDEO — belgium_euthanasia — Belgian lawmakers vote to allow children under 18 the right to euthanasia.

— BELGIUM-EUTHANASIA-GLANCE — A look at how the law will work, step by step. SENT: 370 words, photos.

RUSSIA-EGYPT

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin wishes Egypt's military chief victory in the nation's presidential vote, even though he has yet to announce his bid — a strong endorsement signaling Moscow's desire to expand its military and other ties with a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. The visit comes as Gulf nations — particularly Saudi Arabia — move the Middle East off its traditional reliance on the United States. By Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 1,090 words, photos.

VENEZUELA-PROTESTS

CARACAS, Venezuela — Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez drops out of sight after pro-government gangs attack protesters and local news media report officials plan to arrest him. Lopez has vowed the demonstrations will continue despite three deaths and signs other dissidents disagree with his tactics of immediate confrontation. By Joshua Goodman. SENT: 680 words, photos.

IRAQ-ANBAR'S CHALLENGE

BAGHDAD — Iraqi officials have begun recruiting thousands of Sunni fighters on the government payroll, supplying weapons to other volunteer tribal fighters and pledging millions of dollars in aid to restive Anbar province as they try to beat back extremist Sunni jihadi militants. SENT: 1,250 words, photos.

SOCHI OLYMPICS

SOCHI-MAN MEETS MACHINE

SOCHI, Russia — The Olympics are about exceptional humans and exceptional technology, a marriage in which technology is increasingly the breadwinner. Teams and governments pay engineers to shape skis, skates and suits in hopes of medals, which yield new money for the next race. By Angela Charlton. SENT: 800 words, photos.

PLUSHENKO WITHDRAWS

SOCHI, Russia — Evgeni Plushenko's Olympics are over. So, too, is his competitive career. The Russian star retires just after withdrawing for medical reasons from the men's event at the Sochi Olympics. The 31-year-old is the only modern-era figure skater to win medals in four Olympics, a career capped by his work helping Russia win team gold over the weekend. "I think it's God saying, 'Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,'" Plushenko said. By Barry Wilner. SENT: 440 words, photos.

AP PHOTOS — WARM-SOCHI-PHOTO GALLERY — Fun in the sun for Sochi athletes, fans. SENT: 100 words, photos.

— MEN'S SLOPESTYLE — The U.S. sweeps the podium in men's slopestyle, with Joss Christensen soaring to gold in the sport's Olympic debut. SENT: 1,050 words, photos, video.

— TRACK WORKER STRUCK — An Olympic track worker struck by a bobsled has two broken legs and "maybe a concussion." The worker was hit by a forerunning sled in the braking area near the finish. It's unclear why he was there. SENT: 700 words, photos.

— US-RUSSIA-5 THINGS — Five things to know about how U.S.-Russian relations have gone in the deep freeze while the sun shines over the Sochi Olympics. SENT: 1,000 words.

— NBC-GOLD ZONE — NBC borrows an idea — and a voice — from football's popular "Red Zone" broadcasts for a digital channel that tries to reflect the breadth and immediacy of busy days with Olympic competition. SENT: 700 words, pursuing photos.

— SOCHI SCENE — AP reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the games. Will be updated throughout the day, photos.

IMMIGRATION-FAILED DEPORTATIONS

WASHINGTON— Immigrants fighting U.S. deportation orders are winning their cases in federal immigration courts at record levels, according to a new analysis of court data. The government is now winning only about half of the deportation cases it pursues, after earlier success rates as high as 80 percent, indicating more leniency by judges and greater sophistication by immigrants' lawyers. Immigration supporters accuse the Obama administration of deporting too many people, but Republicans say the president is too lenient on immigrants living in the country illegally. By Alicia a. Caldwell. SENT: 690 words.

ENTERTAINMENT

LABEOUF'S BAG

LOS ANGELES — Despite the paper bag covering his noggin declaring "I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE," actor Shia LaBeouf can still draw a crowd. A silent LaBeouf is brazenly on display on a busy Los Angeles street for a performance-art piece titled, "#IAMSORRY." By Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang. SENT: 750 words, photos.

GETTING ATTENTION

—AP POLL-RELATIONSHIPS— The state of the union is blissful. A new Associated Press-WE tv survey finds 66 percent of paired-off adults say their relationships are perfect or nearly so. Most are excited for Valentine's Day and have a gift on their wish list for the holiday.

— ITALY-POLITICS — Italian Premier Enrico Letta says he is resigning after a party rival withdrew crucial government support. SENT: 120 words, photo. UPCOMING: 700 words by 3 p.m.

— PREGNANCY-BLOOD CLOTS — Women have a higher risk of blood clots that can cause strokes, heart attacks and other problems for 12 weeks after childbirth — twice as long as doctors have thought, new research finds. SENT: 480 words, photo.

— GAY MARRIAGE-ALABAMA — A man who married his partner in Massachusetts challenges Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages in federal court, the latest in a flurry of efforts to overturn such bans across the U.S. UPCOMING: 600 words by 4 p.m.

— EGYPT-ANTIQUITIES — Spanish team in Egypt finds 3,600-year-old mummy in wooden sarcophagus in Luxor. 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 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.