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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

March 2, 2014

ASIA:

CHINA-TRAIN STATION ATTACK

KUNMING, China — More than 10 assailants slash scores of people with knives at a train station in southern China in what state media say is a terrorist assault by ethnic separatists from the far west. Twenty-nine slash victims and four attackers are killed and 143 people wounded. By Didi Tang. SENT: 750 words, photos, video.

MYANMAR-DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS

YANGON, Myanmar — A day after Doctors Without Borders announced its expulsion from Myanmar, the government has backpedaled, saying the aid organization would be allowed to resume operations everywhere but Rakhine, a state plagued by bloody bouts of sectarian violence. SENT: 250 words, photos.

US & INTERNATIONAL:

UKRAINE

KIEV, Ukraine — Russia executes a de facto military takeover of a strategic region in Ukraine as the parliament in Moscow gives President Vladimir Putin a green light to proceed to protect Russian interests. The newly installed government in Kiev was powerless to react to the swift takeover of Crimea. Putin’s call came as pro-Russian demonstrations broke out in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, where protesters raised Russian flags and clashed with supporters of the new Ukrainian government. By David McHugh and Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 1,920 words, photos, video.

UKRAINE-WEST’S OPTIONS-ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON — Despite blunt warnings about costs and consequences, President Barack Obama and European leaders have limited options for retaliating against Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have dismissed the few specific threats from the U.S., including canceling Obama’s upcoming trip to Russia, and broader action at the United Nations will be all but impossible given Russia’s veto power at the Security Council. A News Analysis by White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 800 words, photos.

— UNITED STATES-RUSSIA — US condemns Russian military intervention in Ukraine, calls on Russia to withdraw forces. SENT: 1,010 words, photo, video.

— UKRAINE-CRIMEA-PRIMER — How the Crimea Peninsula differs from the rest of Ukraine. SENT: 400 words, photos.

— UKRAINE-PHOTO-GALLERY — AP PHOTOS: Days of turmoil in Ukraine. SENT: 85 words, photos.

VIDEO — ukraine — unrest — Pro-Russian demonstrations break out in major cities in eastern and southern Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin was granted parliamentary permission to use troops to protect Russians in the country.

EL CHAPO’S RISE

It was nighttime in May of 1990, during the heyday of the cocaine boom across America. Twenty Mexican federal police officers and a handful of U.S. Customs agents, acting on a tip, descended on a stucco home on the edge of Agua Prieta, Mexico — a stone’s throw from the boundary separating that country and Arizona. Inside the house, under the pool table, they found the entrance to an underground tunnel that connected to a warehouse 300 feet away in the U.S. Outfitted with lighting, air vents and tracks on the floor to transport carts full of drugs, the tunnel marked the dawn of a new, craftier and more deadly era in the drug war: the beginning of the reign of “El Chapo.” By Jacques Billeaud, Alicia A. Caldwell, Elliot Spagat and Michael Weissenstein. SENT: 2,160 words, photos, video. Abridged version of 1,730 words is available. For online release at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS--CRIMINAL PROBE

WASHINGTON — The ties between a former Army colonel and a Russian businessman once linked to mobsters in Moscow are at the heart of a criminal investigation of a program to supply American allies with Russian helicopters. Federal authorities are examining why the obscure Department of Defense acquisition office in Alabama that the ex-Army officer used to run championed the Russian’s companies despite their dismal record on prior contracts to refurbish the Mi-17 choppers. By Richard Lardner. SENT: 2,000 words, photos. An abridged version of 1,300 words is also available.

PISTORIUS

JOHANNESBURG — With his athletic triumphs tarnished by his killing of his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius faces the possibility of being sent to prison until he is older than 50. The 27-year-old’s life has been tumultuous but he emerged to become a role model for goodness and triumph over adversity. But now, the double-amputee Olympian is fighting accusations that throw doubt on his entire story; accusations that he is a trigger-happy, gun-obsessed risk-taker who is prone to outbursts of anger and who killed his girlfriend intentionally and in a rage and then lied extensively about it. By Gerald Imray. SENT: 930 words, photos.

— PISTORIUS-TIMELINE — A look at some of the significant dates in Oscar Pistorius’ headline-grabbing life. By Gerald Imray. SENT: 540 words, photos.

UKRAINE-TALE OF TWO COUNTRIES

DONETSK, Ukraine — If Ukraine looks neatly delineated on maps, its often-bloody history is a tangle of invasions and occupations, peoples and beliefs. It is a place that has been struggling for centuries to define itself. And now it finds itself so sharply divided — between support for Russia on one side of the country and loyalty to the West on the other — that it often seems more like two countries than one. On opposite sides of Ukraine, two cities, each of about 1 million people, illustrate that divide. By Tim Sullivan. SENT: 1,420 words, photos.

SYRIA-RECONCILIATION

BEIRUT — In one besieged neighborhood after another, weary rebels have turned over their weapons to the Syrian government in exchange for an easing of suffocating blockades that have prevented food, medicine and other staples from reaching civilians trapped inside. The local cease-fires struck in at least four neighborhoods in and around the Syrian capital in recent weeks have brought an end to the shelling and most of the fighting in the affected areas. But activists and rebels describe the deals as the final stage of a ruthless tactic President Bashar Assad’s government has employed to devastating effect: shelling and starving fighters and civilians alike in opposition-held areas into submission. By Ryan Lucas and Diaa Hadid. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

EGYPT

CAIRO — Egypt swears in a new interim government in a limited reshuffle that keeps the powerful ministers of defense and interior in place as the country gears up for a presidential elections. The defense minister, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, is widely expected to run for the presidency and the moves keep him fully at the wheel of power in the country. By Miriam Rizk. SENT: 700 words, photos.

PAKISTAN

PESHAWAR, Pakistan —The Pakistani Taliban announce that the group will observe a one-month cease-fire as part of efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the government, throwing new life into a foundering peace process. Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement emailed to reporters that the top leadership of the militant group has instructed all of its units to comply with the cease-fire. By Riaz Khan. SENT: 800 words, photos.

SOMALIA-GENITAL MUTILATION

HARGEISA, Somalia — The 30 Somali teenagers — both boys and girls — all agree: Female genital mutilation is a harmful practice that should be abandoned. But what they really meant is that girls should have their genitalia cut — like all the girls in the room — just not sewn shut. Child rights advocates in nearly 30 countries are fighting to reduce the number of girls subjected to the cutting of their genitalia, a practice that goes back thousands of years that Somali practitioners often link to Islamic requirements. By Jason Straziuso. SENT: 930 words, photos.

ENTERTAINMENT

FILM-SPIRIT AWARDS

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — 12 Years a Slave” rolled at the Spirit Awards, winning five awards including best feature at the annual independent film celebration. On the eve of the Academy Awards, the slavery tale won awards for director Steve McQueen, actress Lupita Nyong’o, screenwriter John Ridley and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. In a more laid-back, beachside ceremony in Santa Monica, just west of Los Angeles, “12 Years a Slave” was applauded as the clear favorite of the indie circuit. By Film Writer Jake Coyle. SENT: 850 words, photos, video.

— FILM-RAZZIE AWARDS — The Razzie Awards, Hollywood’s annual dishonorable spoof of the Oscars, are handed out in Los Angeles and not surprisingly, winners seldom show up. By Entertainment Writer Derrik Lang. SENT: 340 words, photos.

— OSCARS-STARS IN SNEAKERS — A-listers come as they are for a last-minute rehearsal before Hollywood’s big night. By Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen. SENT: 500 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— STOLEN NAZI ARTWORK-LAWSUIT — The University of Oklahoma is drawn into a fight it thought settled more than 60 years ago as a family renews claims to a piece of Nazi-looted artwork bequeathed to the school. SENT: 900 words, photos.

— CUBA-CIGAR FESTIVAL — Cuban cigar humidors fetch over $1.1 million at Havana festival auction. SENT: 125 words, photo.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Hrvoje Hranjski. 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.

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