SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says it won't send cheerleaders to the upcoming Asian Games in rival South Korea, blaming what it called Seoul's hostility for reversing a decision to dispatch the women dubbed by South Korean media as a "squad of beauties." Many South Koreans were infatuated in past years with the cheer squads of mostly young North Korean women that came south, often lavishing more attention on them than on the North's athletes. Before her marriage, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's wife was on a 2005 squad. Analysts say the North's decision suggests that the country may not continue an earlier push to improve ties with South Korea. By Hyung-Jin Kim.


TOKYO — Japan and India both have much to gain from a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his delegation of more than a dozen Indian steel, energy and IT tycoons that begins Saturday in the ancient capital of Kyoto. The two countries have complementary economies, given Japan's technological prowess and wealth and India's resources and need for help with modernizing its economy. So far, though, they have failed to capitalize much on those mutual interests. By Elaine Kurtenbach. UPCOMING by 0800GMT, photos.


Hong Kong — Hong Kong's simmering summer of discontent gets even hotter Sunday when Beijing is expected to recommend restricting the first direct elections for the Chinese-controlled financial hub's leader, stepping up chances of a showdown with democracy groups. The former British colony, which was handed back to China in 1997, has been the scene of escalating tension for the past year after activists threatened a mass sit-in paralyzing the financial district if Beijing rules out genuine democratic reforms. By Kelvin Chan. UPCOMING by 0700GMT, photos.


BEIJING — Hundreds of rescuers hunt for survivors of a massive landslide in southwestern China that killed at least 14 people. More than 600 members of specialized search and rescue teams were working in a pair of destroyed villages in Guizhou provinces, state media reported. They came equipped with electronic devices to detect signs of life, as well as backhoes and other specialized equipment, the reports said. SENT, photos.


SUVA, Fiji — Fiji's military confirms that 43 of its soldiers, working as U.N. peacekeepers, have been captured by a militant group on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Fijian Commander Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the soldiers were alive and unharmed. He said talks between the U.N. and the unidentified rebel group had begun and negotiations would be pursued further at daybreak. SENT: 600 words.


BEIJING — A Taiwanese actor arrested along with the son of Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan on drug charges has been released after two weeks in detention. Kai Ko emerged early Friday morning from a Beijing detention center into a scrum of reporters from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Followed to his hotel by the press pack, he challenged one reporter to a fight before retreating inside an elevator. SENT: 370 words.


TOKYO — Japan's vital signs remained weak in July as wages fell further and household spending dropped, signaling continued weakness in the world's third-largest economy. Data released Friday showed the inflation rate was unchanged from the previous month. The core price consumer index that excludes volatile fresh food prices rose 3.3 percent in July, the same as a month earlier. Much of the increase stems from a 2 percentage point increase in Japan's sales tax in April, which has since sapped much of the steam from the country's economic recovery. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 520 words.


HANOI, Vietnam — State media say a court in Hanoi has sentenced a Philippine man to death for cocaine trafficking. The Law and Society newspaper says that Emmanuel Sillo Camacho, 39, was convicted of trafficking 3.4 kilograms (7.5 pounds) of cocaine from Brazil to Vietnam at a one-day trial Thursday. SENT: 130 words.


SYDNEY — Australia's second-largest airline, Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., says it lost 356 million Australian dollars ($333 million) in its last fiscal year, a three-fold increase over the previous year. The results for the year through June 2014 followed a AU$98 loss the previous year. The company blamed excess market capacity due to competition from its larger rival Qantas Airways Ltd., weak consumer sentiment and the AU$52 million cost of Australia's carbon tax. SENT: 180 words.



BEIRUT — The Islamic State group kills more than 150 Syrian government troops, posting pictures of terrified young conscripts stripped to their underwear before meeting their death in the latest massacre attributed to the extremists. In southern Syria, gunmen detain 43 U.N. peacekeepers during fighting on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. By Zeina Karam and Ryan Lucas. SENT: 1,100 words, video, photos.

— OBAMA-SYRIA — Obama downplays prospect of imminent US military action to confront militants in Syria. SENT: 920 words, photos.

— UNITED NATIONS-SYRIA-REFUGEES — The number of refugees from Syria tops 3 million, up by 1 million from a year ago. SENT: 320 words.


NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine — Ukraine accuses Russia of entering its territory with tanks, artillery and troops, and Western powers said Moscow had "outright lied" about its role and dangerously escalated the conflict. Russia dismissed the allegations, describing the fighters there as "Russian volunteers." The Kremlin has repeatedly denied arming and supporting the separatists who have been fighting Ukrainian troops for four months in the gravest crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. By Dalton Bennett, Jim Heintz and Raf Casert. SENT: , photos


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, faced with deepening crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, is putting the brakes on the notion that American military power can solve either conflict. While that stance is in keeping with Obama's long-standing aversion to military entanglements, it comes at a time when the effectiveness of his preferred options is being challenged and there are indications that some in the administration are ready to take more robust actions. By Julie Pace.


MINNEAPOLIS — Two high school buddies who loved to shoot hoops and crack jokes with their friends both converted to Islam in early adulthood and were recruited by terror groups to leave the United States and die for jihadist causes on separate continents. It's not clear if Douglas McAuthur McCain and Troy Kastigar influenced each other along the way, but school records and interviews show that the two best friends went down similar paths and met the same end. By Amy Forliti. SENT: 850 words, photos.


GENEVA — The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is accelerating and could grow six times larger to infect as many as 20,000 people, the World Health Organization said Thursday. The U.N. health agency unveiled a new road map for containing the virus, and scientists are fast-tracking efforts to find a treatment or vaccine. Ebola has menaced Africa for 40 years, but previously struck in remote villages and was contained fairly quickly. This time, it has spread to major cities in four countries, provoking unrest as whole neighborhoods and towns have been sealed to the outside. By John Heilprin and Krista Larson. SENT: photos.


JERUSALEM — European nations are offering to help enforce the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, a scenario that could provide key international backing for maintaining the peace and step up the pressure on Hamas militants to relinquish power. The European plan remains vague, and it is unclear whether Israel or the Palestinians will agree. By Josef Federman. SENT: 900 words, video, photos.


WASHINGTON — After a bleak start to the year, the U.S. economy grew at a brisk annual rate of 4.2 percent in the April-June quarter, the government says, slightly faster than it had first estimated. The upward revision supports expectations that the second half of 2014 will prove far stronger than the first half. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 660 words, photo.



WASHINGTON — Sorry, clean freaks. No matter how well you scrub your home, it's covered in bacteria that come from your own body. And if you pack up and move, new research shows you'll rapidly transfer your unique microbial fingerprint to your new house, too. A new study seeks to understand how the mostly beneficial bacteria in and on our bodies interact with bugs in the environment to affect our health. By Lauran Neergaard. SENT: 760 words, photo.



NEW YORK — The wait is finally over: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are married. Despite two years of feverish scrutiny, the couple managed to keep their ceremony in France shrouded from the media's glare. They did it, too, just as both Pitt and Jolie are preparing to be a big presence at the movies this fall. By Film Writer Jake Coyle. SENT: 550 words, video, photos.

— PEOPLE-JOLIE-PITT-CELEBRITY CEREMONIES — Huge or intimate, announced or private: A look at how other celebs handle their weddings. SENT: 600 words, photos.


— GIRL WITH UZI — Uzi killing in Arizona displays tragic side of gun tourism as it grows in popularity. SENT: 1,000 words, video, photos, audio.

— FILM-SUMMER BOX OFFICE — The summer box office will sputter to a close this weekend, finishing about 15 percent down from last year's summer. Here are five takeaways from Hollywood's lackluster season. UPCOMING: 800 words by 3 p.m., photos.




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