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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

February 23, 2015

ASIA:

BANGLADESH-FERRY CAPSIZE

DHAKA, Bangladesh — The death toll from a weekend ferry disaster in central Bangladesh rises to 70 in the latest shipping mishap in the South Asian nation. By Julhas Alam. SENT: words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-TERRORISM

SYDNEY — Australia will strengthen immigration laws and crack down on groups that incite hatred under a raft of counterterrorism measures introduced Monday in a bid to combat the threat from home-grown terrorists. By Kristen Gelineau. SENT: words.

NKOREA-EBOLA FEARS

TOKYO — Tightening the screws even further on travel to their already isolated country, North Korean authorities have barred foreigners from one of the year’s most popular tourist events — the annual Pyongyang marathon — because of ongoing concerns over the spread of the Ebola virus, travel agencies say. By Eric Talmadge. SENT: words, photo.

THAILAND-MONARCHY

BANGKOK — A court in Thailand sentences two theater activists to 2 1/2 years in prison each for insulting the country’s monarchy. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: words.

NEPAL-EVEREST

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal is improving weather forecasting systems, stepping up security and promising swift rescues if needed during the upcoming climbing season on Everest in attempt to recover from the worst mountaineering disaster on the world’s highest peak last year. By Binaj Gurubacharya. SENT: words.

INDIA-THE RIVER’S CURSE

BHAREH, India — For centuries, curses saved a river in this rugged, hidden corner of northern India’s industrial belt. The Chambal was viewed as somehow unholy, the surrounding land was of poor quality, and it was notorious for bandits hiding in the badlands. Instead of destroying the river, these curses protected it by keeping the outside world away. But if bad news saved the river, good news now threatens to destroy it. By Tim Sullivan. SENT: 1,500 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

TOKYO — Asian stock markets are mostly higher after Greece and its European creditors reached an agreement that staved off the immediate threat of bankruptcy and exit from the euro though hurdles remain to cementing the short-term funding deal. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 360 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

OSCARS

LOS ANGELES — The long take of “Birdman” has stretched all the way to the Academy Awards, where the jazzy, surreal comedy about an actor fleeing his superhero past took Hollywood’s top honor in a ceremony punctuated by passionate pleas for equality. All eight of the best-picture nominees won awards, including Eddie Redmayne for best actor for his technically nuanced performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” All of the big winners were first-timers, including best actress winner Julianne Moore, who won for her performance as an academic with early onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.” By Jake Coyle. SENT: 1,200 words, photos, video.

ISRAEL-ZIONISM DEBATE

JERUSALEM — What is Zionism? The seemingly antiquated philosophical question has gained urgency in an Israeli election campaign where the liberal opposition has rebranded itself as the Zionist Union in a bid to take votes from the nationalist right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — sparking a debate about Israel’s place in the world and setting the stage for a surprisingly climactic vote. By Dan Perry and Josef Federman. SENT: 1,200 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.

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