BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Rescue helicopters and ships searching for a Malaysia Airlines jet rush to investigate a yellow object that looked like a life raft. It turned out to be moss-covered trash floating in the ocean, once again dashing hopes after more than two days of fruitless search for the plane that disappeared en route to Beijing with 239 people on board. With no confirmation that the Boeing 777 had crashed, hundreds of distraught relatives waited anxiously for any news. Thai police and Interpol questioned the proprietors of a travel agency in the resort town of Pattaya that sold one-way tickets to two men now known to have been traveling on flight MH370 using stolen passports. By Eileen Ng and Jim Gomez. SENT: 950 words, photos.
BEIJING — The anguished hours had turned into a day and a half. Fed up with awaiting word on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, relatives of passengers in Beijing lashed out at the carrier with a handwritten ultimatum and an impromptu news conference. Faced with an emergency, the airline said it was doing all it could to answer questions about Flight MH370, which disappeared from radar Saturday with 239 people aboard while heading from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The uncertainty over the plane’s whereabouts was frustrating relatives, but also hindering the carrier’s ability to respond: It’s difficult to deliver a clear message with so much still unclear. By Gillian Wong and Didi Tang. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.
LILING, China — The local Chinese official remembers all too clearly the panic he felt in Room 109. He had refused again and again to confess to bribery, and his four Communist Party interrogators were forcing his legs farther apart than they could go. Zhou Wangyan begged them to stop. But the men taunted him and kept pushing. Then, with a loud “ka-cha,” his left thigh bone snapped. Zhou, land bureau director for the city of Liling, was trapped in secret detention in a compound in central Hunan touted by the party as a model center for anti-corruption efforts. Nobody on the outside could help him, because nobody knew where he was. In rare first-hand, on-the-record accounts to The Associated Press, Zhou and three other party members in Hunan described the months of abuse they endured while in detention. All said they talked to The Associated Press despite the risk of retaliation because they want justice. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 2,830 words, photos, video. An abridged version of 1,230 words is available.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban warns Afghans against taking part in the upcoming presidential election and orders its fighters to “use all force” possible to disrupt the polling in the militant group’s first formal threat of violence over the April 5 vote. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says in a statement that the Taliban are also telling clerics across to country to spread the word that the election is “an American conspiracy.” By Amir Shah. SENT: 600 words, photos.
PYONGYANG, North Korea — With no one else on the ballot, state media report that supreme leader Kim Jong Un was not only elected to the highest legislative body in North Korea, he won with the unanimous approval of his district, which had 100 percent turnout. SENT: 340 words, photos.
TOKYO — Japan says it won’t change its 1993 apology over a system of forced prostitution for its military during World War II, but will continue to re-examine a 20-year-old study on which it was based. Japan has come under fire from Asian neighbors for setting up a team to review history and verify the accuracy of interviews with women who said they worked as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during the war. SENT: 280 words.
DHARMSALA, India —Young Tibetans are leading the fight to free their Himalayan homeland from Chinese rule, the leader of the community’s government-in-exile says on the 55th anniversary of an uprising that led to a bloody crackdown and drove the Dalai Lama to flee into India. SENT: 540 words.
NEW DELHI — India’s top court instructs lower courts to reach verdicts within one year in cases in which lawmakers are accused of grave crimes, in an attempt to reduce the number who win re-election during drawn-out trials. The Supreme Court order is part of its attempt to clean up India’s electoral system by making it more difficult for politicians with criminal cases to contest elections. SENT: 300 words.
CHINA-TRAIN STATION ATTACK
BEIJING — The top judge overseeing China’s Communist Party-controlled courts pledges to severely punish culprits in terror attacks such the knife slashing at a train station in Kunming that killed 29 people about a week ago. In listing this year’s priorities, Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People’s Court, says that first among them is meting out heavy penalties for terrorism and crimes that endanger public order. SENT: 250 words.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s spy chief says the island received a warning of possible terrorist attacks in China as the mainland holds its annual parliamentary session. National Security Bureau head Tsai De-sheng tells a legislative committee that the NSB passed on a warning of planned attacks against the Beijing airport and the city’s subway system to Chinese authorities. SENT: 160 words.
OKUMA, Japan — The radioactive water that has accumulated at Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant remains the biggest problem hampering the cleanup process three years after the disaster. The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has stabilized substantially since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed its power and cooling system, triggering multiple meltdowns. Massive amounts of water are being used to cool the plant’s nuclear material, but the contaminated water has leaked repeatedly from storage tanks. SENT: 130 words.
MANILA, Philippines — Communist rebels launch a series of attacks in southern Davao del Sur province’s Matanao township, killing 10 government troops and wounding nine, officials said. At least two guerrillas were killed and nine captured. SENT: 280 words.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealanders will go to the polls Sept. 20 for a general election, Prime Minister John Key has announced. 200 words.
MALE, Maldives — The highest court of the Maldives has sacked the country’s elections commissioner and given him a suspended jail term for contempt of court after a months-long confrontation. By Hussain Sinan. SENT: 390 words.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE:
TANOHATA, Japan — Tens of thousands of people on Japan’s northeastern coast who were left homeless in the March 2011 tsunami are shivering their way through yet another winter in cramped temporary housing, with perhaps several more to go. Reconstruction plans are taking shape after three years of debate and red tape. But as Japan’s over-stretched construction industry begins gearing up to build venues and revamp aging infrastructure for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, shortages of skilled carpenters and heavy equipment operators as well as cement and other materials, are frustrating residents and local officials. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
BEIJING — China’s auto sales rose 11.3 percent in the first two months of this year but local brands suffered a decline in a sign of intense competition in the world’s biggest auto market, an industry group reports. Sales for the two-month period totaled 3.1 million vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Sales by domestic auto brands declined 1 percent to 1.2 million vehicles. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 470 words.
TOKYO — Japan racked up a record current account deficit in January, and lowered its growth estimate for the October-December quarter in the latest sign of hardships for the world’s third-largest economy. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 240 words.
U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:
KIEV, Ukraine — Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s most famous prisoner, delivers a speech to university students in Kiev in a bid to show the Ukrainians “another Russia,” which does not support President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Crimea. By Maria Danilova. SENT: 200 words, photos.
PRETORIA, South Africa — The judge in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius bans live broadcasting and tweeting of the graphic testimony of the expert who conducted the autopsy on Reeva Steenkamp, who was fatally shot by her athlete boyfriend. Judge Thokozile Masipa made the ruling after the prosecutor Gerrie Nel, supported by the chief defense lawyer said the testimony would have an “explicitly graphic nature” and should not be shown around the world. By Christoper Torchia and Gerald Imray. SENT: 680 words, photos.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — El Salvador’s too-close-to-call presidential runoff election raises competing claims of victory from a former fighter for leftist guerrillas and the once long-ruling conservative party that fought a civil war from 1980 to 1992. Norman Quijano, the candidate of the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA, says his party is on “a war footing” to defend what he claims was his victory. But preliminary returns from nearly all polling stations show him a few thousands votes behind Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the leftist candidate. SENT: 590 words, photos.
— COLOMBIA-ELECTIONS — Former President Alvaro Uribe is back in elected office, and his winning of a Senate seat could potentially complicate efforts by Colombia’s government to make peace with leftist rebels. SENT: 245 words, photos.
EYES ON SPIES
WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence officials are planning a sweeping system of electronic monitoring that would tap into government, financial and other databases to scan the behavior of many of the 5 million federal employees with secret clearances, current and former officials told The Associated Press. The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers, and draws on a Defense Department model under development for more than a decade. By Stephen Braun. SENT: 880 words, photos, graphic.
WASHINGTON — Sometimes it’s easier to explain what something isn’t rather than what it is. So let’s talk about what Black Twitter isn’t: It isn’t a secret location on the Internet, a special app for your smartphone or a hidden group on social media giant Twitter. It isn’t just for black folks, it isn’t representative of what all black people think, it isn’t just the hashtag #blacktwitter and it doesn’t just concern itself with the latest episode of “Scandal” or the latest iteration of “Real Housewives.” So what is Black Twitter? It’s simply a small — but powerful — corner of social media where tweeters serve up an unabashedly black spin on life, 140 characters at a time. Those who know Black Twitter define it as simply the way black culture appears and gets expressed on Twitter. By Jesse J. Holland. SENT: 550 words, photos.
NOME, Alaska — As mushers battle it out for the lead in the last stages of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the town famous for the finish line is getting ready for the teams to come in. By Mark Thiessen. SENT: 350 words, photos, video.
— BOSTON MARATHON-SECURITY — Public safety officials are to release details about enhanced security for the April 21 Boston Marathon. SENT: 130 words.
— CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKE — Powerful earthquake strikes off Northern California coast, but no reports of significant damage. SENT: 360 words, graphic.
— PERU-VAN DER SLOOT — Peru’s government says it will extradite Joran van der Sloot to the U.S. in 2038 to face charges related to the disappearance of a young American woman in Aruba. SENT: 210 words.
— BIN LADEN SPOKESMAN — Shoe-bomb witness set to testify from London at New York terrorism trial of bin Laden son-in-law. SENT: 400 words, photos. UPCOMING: Will be updated from Monday’s testimony.
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