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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

February 19, 2014

ASIA:

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Anti-government protesters were pressing ahead with their efforts to remove the prime minister from power by surrounding her temporary office a day after clashes between riot police and demonstrators left five dead. A court was to rule later Wednesday on whether the government’s invocation of a state of emergency last month was legal. If the decree is struck down, the government will be forced to dismantle a special security command center and their extra security powers will be removed. UPCOMING by 0700GMT: 400 words, photos.

KOREAS-DIVIDED FAMILIES

BUCHEON, South Korea — As he waits to travel Thursday to North Korea to reunite with a sister he hasn’t seen in six decades, Kim Se-rin tries to balance his excitement with a large dose of skepticism. The octogenarian with chronic heart problems still seethes at Pyongyang’s cancellation only six months ago of a previously planned reunion at the last minute. South Koreans are used to North Korea’s backtracking from deals depending on hard-to-read political whims, but there has been an intensely personal disappointment for the elderly Koreans in both countries who have spent the last half a year wondering if political squabbling will keep them from seeing long-lost family members’ faces again before they die. UPCOMING by 0800GMT: 1,000 words, photos.

OBAMA’S TRADE TROUBLES

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he wants to put major emerging trade deals with Europe and Asia on a congressional “fast track” to passage. But many fellow Democrats are working to sidetrack the proposed pacts, fearing a loss of jobs important to labor unions in an election year. By Tom Raum. SENT: 920 words, photos.

FIJI-DENGUE OUTBREAK

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fiji is grappling with its worst outbreak of dengue fever in 16 years, but authorities say tourists visiting tropical beaches face little risk. Health officials in the Pacific island nation said Wednesday there have been 2,589 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus since the outbreak began in November. Two males, aged 17 and 35, have died. By Nick Perry. SENT: 290 words.

CHINA-CORRUPTION

BEIJING — China’s Communist Party says Ji Wenlin, the vice governor of the southern island province of Hainan, is under investigation for serious violations, an apparent reference to corruption. is one of the latest high-ranking officials to be investigated since party leader and President Xi Jinping launched an anti-corruption campaign last spring. On Wednesday, the party announced that Zhu Zuoli, vice chairman of the top political advisory body of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in the northwestern province of Shaanxi also is under investigation for serious violations of party disciplines and laws.

SENT: 310 words, photos.

CHINA-DONGFENG-PEUGEOT

BEIJING — Chinese automaker Dongfeng says it will invest 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) in France’s Peugeot and expand cooperation in China’s fast-growing market. The agreement would give struggling PSA Peugeot Citroen much-needed capital while state-owned Dongfeng Motor Co. gains access to a well-known brand and advanced technology to help expand its share of the Chinese auto market. By Joe Mcdonald. SENT: 250 words, photos planned.

AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY

CANBERRA, Australia — Australian state governments that sell assets such as airports and utilities as part of a national policy to rekindle economic growth will get new tax arrangements to offset lost revenue. Treasurer Joe Hockey wants to reinvest the money from asset sales into new national infrastructure that he hopes will fill the investment void left by the slowing mining industry. SENT: 300 words.

HONG KONG-AIRLINE TURBULENCE

HONG KONG — Cathay Pacific Airways says nine people were injured when a Boeing 747 hit severe turbulence over Japan. The airline said two crew members and six passengers were taken to hospital after the jet landed in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening. Another passenger who sustained an injury didn’t require hospitalization. SENT: 100 words.

WORLD MARKETS

TOKYO — Shares were lackluster in Asia on Wednesday as investors waited for major earnings reports and took stock of a torrid start to the year for markets. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo slipped 0.7 percent to 14,742.36 after big gains the previous day. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 330 words.

US & INTERNATIONAL

UKRAINE-PROTESTS

KIEV, Ukraine — Defiant protesters shout “Glory to Ukraine” as burning tents light up the night sky after riot police move against the sprawling protest camp in the center of Kiev. At least 18 people — including several officers — die and hundreds are injured in street clashes — the deadliest violence in nearly three months of protests that have paralyzed Ukraine’s capital in a struggle over the nation’s identity. By Maria Danilova. SENT: 1,000 words, video, photos.

NUCLEAR LOAN

WASHINGTON — The Energy Department is poised to approve $6.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for the first nuclear power plants built from scratch in the U.S. in more than three decades. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is expected to announce final approval of the deal during a speech Wednesday. By Matthew Daly. SENT: 540 words, photos.

MINIMUM WAGE

WASHINGTON — Boosting the federal minimum wage as President Obama and congressional Democrats are proposing would increase earnings for more than 16.5 million people by 2016 — but also cut employment by roughly 500,000 jobs, Congress’ nonpartisan budget analyst says. The report contains ammunition for both supporters and opponents of the Democratic election-year proposal. By Alam Fram. SENT: 650 words.

VENEZUELA-PROTESTS

CARACAS, Venezuela — Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez re-emerges from days of hiding to make a defiant speech to thousands of followers and then surrenders to authorities, a move that he says will open the world’s eyes to the increasingly authoritarian bent of Venezuela’s socialist government. By Joshua Goodman. SENT: 680 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-SYRIA

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is struggling for a new strategy to halt Syria’s savage civil war at a time when peace talks are failing, Syria’s government is gaining strength and moderate rebels are being pushed aside by al-Qaida-linked militants. U.S. officials say they’re studying options as far-reaching as drone strikes on extremist groups, but are running into the same constraints that have hampered the American response throughout. By Bradley Klapper and Julie Pace. SENT: 970 words, photo.

PUSSY RIOT-SOCHI

SOCHI, Russia — Shouting and wearing their trademark garish balaclavas, two members of the punk group Pussy Riot leave a police station after being released following several hours of questioning in Sochi. Police say Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina were held in connection with a theft at the hotel where they were staying. But no charges were filed, and Tolokonnikova says the detention followed three days of police harassment. By Nataliya Vasilyeva. SENT: 650 words, photos.

IRAN-NUCLEAR TALKS

VIENNA — Iran says it will not scrap any of its nuclear facilities, drawing a red line in negotiations with six world powers seeking deep cutbacks in Tehran’s atomic program in exchange for an end to crippling economic sanctions. The statement by a deputy foreign minister suggests that talks that resumed Tuesday would be tough and slow-going. By George Jahn. SENT: 620 words, photos.

ZIMBABWE-CONGRESSMAN

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, who lost his seat in Congress almost two decades ago after being convicted of statutory rape, is arrested in Zimbabwe on suspicion of possessing pornography and an immigration offence. Reynolds, 62, allegedly brought several Zimbabwean models and other women to his hotel room, where he took photographs and videos. By Ray Faure and Gillian Gotora. SENT: 700 words, photo.

ISRAEL-DEMOGRAPHY DEBATE

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian construction worker Nael Yassin and his wife Wafa are the proud parents of a new baby girl, the fifth child for the young couple in their early 30s. Such fecundity is usually a private affair, but in the complex universe of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict much more is at stake: a race for “demographic” prominence is on, and the fact that Israel may be losing it has become critical to the current peace effort of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. By Karin Laub and Dan Perry. SENT: 1,300 words, photos.

GETTING ATTENTION

— HOFFMAN INVESTIGATION-HEROIN SUSPECT — NYC musician seeks treatment after arrest on heroin charge amid probe into Hoffman death. SENT: 440 words, photos.

— NSA SURVEILLANCE-POLITICS — The debate about whether to continue the dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone records is highlighting divisions within the Democratic and Republican parties that could transform the politics of national security. SENT: 1100 words, photos.

— CANADA-OBIT-GALLANT — Mavis Gallant, the Montreal-born writer who carved out an international reputation as a master short-story author while living in Paris for decades, has died at age 91. SENT: 800 words, photos.

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