ASIA:

UNITED STATES-AUSTRALIA-INTELLIGENCE

WASHINGTON — Australia's top diplomat accuses former NSA analyst Edward Snowden of "unprecedented treachery" for his leaks about secret government surveillance, and offered a staunch defense of her nation's intelligence cooperation with America. Snowden's revelations prompted President Barack Obama last week to order new limits on how U.S. intelligence officials access the phone records of Americans. But they've also embarrassed Australia, a close U.S. ally. Documents Snowden provided alleged Australia bugged the phone of the Indonesian president. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 400 words.

THAILAND-ROLES REVERSED

BANGKOK — Just before the start of an anti-government rally that paralyzed the heart of Bangkok four years ago, Thailand's deputy prime minister warned protesters the government would disperse them if they blocked roads and invaded government offices. He eventually followed through on that threat in bloody fashion. That official, Suthep Thaugsuban, is now the one leading anti-government protests, which even occupy the same intersection his old foes took over in the heart of Bangkok. The extraordinary role reversal underscores not only the cyclical nature of Thai politics, but the total lack of progress toward bridging a political divide that has plagued the country for nearly a decade. By Todd Pitman. UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 0800GMT, photos.

CHINA-US-AUDITS

BEIJING — An American judge rules the China arms of global accounting firms should be barred from providing audits for U.S.-traded companies in a dispute that might force major corporate names such as oil giant PetroChina and search engine Baidu to withdraw from American stock exchanges. The dispute highlights the clash between Washington's heightened anti-fraud efforts and Beijing's official secrecy despite its desire to profit from broader links with the global economy. By Joe Mcdonald. SENT: 640 words.

CHINA-REGULATING MICROFILMS

BEIJING — Chinese authorities are requiring makers of online films to gain licenses and report their content before it is posted, tightening regulation of what in recent years has been a more freewheeling genre than China's traditional film industry. China's online video sites have provided an accessible platform for filmmakers of all kinds to post their work, often of shorter form than those in traditional cinemas. Microfilms, often produced by amateurs and students and increasingly by professional companies, have exploded over the past few years, stretching the boundaries of what can be shown. By Louise Watt. SENT: 500 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-UNEXPLAINED CASH

SYDNEY — An American man has been charged after 5.7 million Australian dollars ($5 million) in cash was found in suitcases in a Sydney apartment. Police allege it is one of the biggest cash hauls of crime proceeds in Australian history. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said Thursday that a 58-year-old U.S. citizen had appeared in a Sydney court on Wednesday charged with dealing with the suspected proceeds of crime. The maximum penalty for the charge is three years in prison. SENT: 240 words.

DIGITAL LIFE-APP WATCH-BETWEEN

SEOUL, South Korea — If ever in doubt about your guy's commitment to a relationship, ask him if he would commit to an app. A growing number of young couples in Asia are sharing special moments in the privacy of Between, a tight networking app that links only two people. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 780 words, photos.

BUSINESS:

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

HONG KONG — Chinese manufacturing looks set to contract in January for the first time in six months, according to an survey released Thursday, further evidence of a slowdown that complicates reform efforts in the world's No. 2 economy. The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index dipped to 49.6 this month from December's 50.5 reading. It's the lowest reading since July's 47.7. The index is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion. SENT: 300 words, photos.

SKOREA-ECONOMY

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea recorded its fastest growth since the first quarter of 2011, its central bank said Thursday, showing a recovery in Asia's fourth-largest economy is on track. The Bank of Korea said preliminary data showed that the economy expanded by 3.9 percent in the final quarter of 2013 over a year earlier, accelerating from the third quarter's 3.3 percent. The growth was thanks to an increase in capital expenditure and exports. By Youkyung Lee. SENT, photos.

WORLD MARKETS

HONG KONG — Stock markets across Asia sink after a report indicated that China's manufacturing, a mainstay of the world's second largest economy, was likely to shrink for the first time in half a year. Investors were rattled by the results of HSBC's preliminary survey of factory purchasing managers in January, which adds to signs of China's prolonged slowdown. The report came days after data showed China's economy slowed in the final quarter of 2013. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 250 words.

US & INTERNATIONAL

SYRIA-PEACE TALKS

MONTREUX, Switzerland — Furiously divided from the start, representatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebellion against him threaten to collapse a peace conference intended to lead them out of civil war. Assad's future in the country devastated by three years of bloodshed is at the heart of the sparring, which takes place against a pristine Alpine backdrop as Syrian forces and rebel fighters clash across a wide area from Aleppo and Idlib in the north to Daraa in the south. By Lori Hinnant and Matthew Lee. SENT: 830 words, photos, video.

— SYRIA-PEACE TALKS-TENSE EXCHANGE — Syrian foreign minister, UN chief in verbal clash at Syrian peace conference in Switzerland. SENT: 280 words.UN-BAN'S DIPLOMACY

UNITED NATIONS — Ban Ki-moon made a rare effort at solo diplomacy when he invited Iran to join this week's Syria peace talks, but it backfired, raising questions about the effectiveness of a U.N. secretary-general better known — and often criticized — for his reserved and scripted style. By Cara Anna. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

ISRAEL-US-AL-QAIDA

JERUSALEM — Israel says it foiled an "advanced" al-Qaida plan to carry out a suicide bombing on the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and bomb other targets, in what analysts say was the first time the global terror network's leadership has been directly involved in plotting an attack inside Israel. The Shin Bet intelligence agency says it has arrested three Palestinians who allegedly plotted bombings, shootings, kidnappings and other attacks. By Ian Deitch. SENT: 550 words, photo, graphic.

UKRAINE-PROTESTS

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian opposition leaders issue a stark ultimatum to President Viktor Yanukovych to call early elections within 24 hours or face more popular rage, after at least two protesters are killed in confrontations with police in a grim escalation of a two-monthlong political crisis. The protesters' deaths fuel fears that the daily demonstrations aimed at bringing down the government over its decision to shun the European Union for closer ties to Moscow and over human rights violations could turn more violent. By Yuras Karmanau and Maria Danilova. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video.

SUPREME COURT-CHILD PORN-PAYING VICTIMS

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court lends a sympathetic ear to a victim of child pornography who seeks to make it easier for victims to collect money from people convicted of downloading their images. "Amy" is trying to persuade the court that those who possess child pornography should be liable for the entire cost of the harms their victims suffer. By Mark Sherman. SENT: 580 words, photo.

SENATE-FEMALE SOLIDARITY

WASHINGTON — Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's responsibilities are familiar to many women: planning her daughter's wedding, looking out for her elderly parents, concentrating on her day job. The Republican House member from West Virginia is also running for the U.S. Senate. The Senate's 20 women are providing campaign and fundraising help to swell their ranks this November. By Donna Cassata. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

AFGHANISTAN-DEATH ROAD

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan — Maps refer to it as part of the Kabul-Behsud Highway. Motorists call it Death Road. A 20-mile stretch of a two-lane road in central Afghanistan has seen many beheadings, kidnappings and other Taliban attacks in recent years against members of the minority ethnic Hazara community. The situation is a reminder of how fragile Afghanistan's ethnic and sectarian balance remains less than a year before all foreign forces are to leave the country. By Greg Keller. SENT: 1,080 words, photos.

SOCHI-TERRORIST THREAT

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Threats to a string of European Olympic offices are reviving a question that has haunted preparations for the Winter Games next month: Is it safe to go to Sochi? Members of the U.S. Congress aren't so sure, since the games are around the corner from an Islamic insurgency that Russia's huge security apparatus has struggled to quell. Yet European sports authorities are shrugging off the recent menacing messages as marginal and common ahead of big events. By Angela Charlton and Pablo Gorondi. SENT: 870 words, photos.

TEXAS EXECUTION

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Mexican national was executed in Texas for killing a Houston police officer, despite pleas and diplomatic pressure from the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department to halt the punishment. Edgar Tamayo, 46, received a lethal injection Wednesday night for the January 1994 fatal shooting of Officer Guy Gaddis, 24. By Michael Graczyk. SENT.

TV-VALERIE PLAME

PASADENA, California — Former CIA operative Valerie Plame has a mixed opinion of Showtime's spy drama "Homeland." Plame said Wednesday the Emmy Award-winning TV series is a compelling drama and that star Claire Danes is "fabulous" as a CIA operations officer. SENT.

ARGENTINA-PRESIDENT

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Cristina Fernandez speaks publicly for the first time in more than 40 days Wednesday, ending a long silence that had Argentines speculating about her health following head surgery. In a nationally televised address, an energetic Fernandez announced the creation of a program to encourage young, unemployed Argentines to attend public school with an $80 subsidy. She also criticized those who speculated about her condition during her absence. SENT: 570 words.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION:

— IDENTICAL TRIPLETS — Southern California couple welcomes rare identical triplets. SENT: 280 words, photo.

— DAVOS FORUM — At Davos forum, political and business leaders push for cleaner energy to limit climate change. SENT: 580 words, photos.

— ASTEROID-MISSION — Space telescope spies water plumes on dwarf planet Ceres, target of NASA's Dawn spacecraft. SENT: 410 words.

— NSA SURVEILLANCE-VERIZON — Verizon reports 1,000 to 1,999 national security-related requests for customer data in 2013. SENT: 440 words.

— PEOPLE-ELTON JOHN — Elton John challenges Russian anti-gay law while declaring support for Russian people. SENT: 130 words.

— TV-BILL COSBY — Bill Cosby developing a script for a possible new NBC comedy to star himself. SENT: 140 words, photos.

— YANKEES-TANAKA — Yankees, prized Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka agree to a $155 million, seven-year contract. SENT: 800 words, photos.

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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.