ASIA:

KOREAS-TENSION

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials criticize a North Korean artillery launch they say happened minutes before a Chinese commercial plane reportedly carrying 202 people flew in the same area. It wasn't immediately clear what danger, if any, the launch posed to the China Southern Airlines plane traveling from Tokyo to Shenyang, China, but Seoul Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok called it a "serious threat" that Pyongyang failed to notify international aviation authorities of its launch plans in the area. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 500 words.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan — An early morning NATO airstrike in Afghanistan's eastern Logar province kills five Afghan soldiers and injures eight others, the coalition and Afghan defense ministry officials say. By Rahim Faiez and Kathy Gannon. SENT: 500 words.

AFGHANISTAN-GERMAN TRANSLATORS

KABUL, Afghanistan — Sometimes the calls come in the middle of the night. Other times it's a text message sent to a mobile phone. But the messages are always the same, threats of death for having worked with the German military in northern Afghanistan. "I might be the next victim" said a frightened Zamir Ahmadi, who interpreted for the German military for two years in northeastern Afghanistan until May 2013. By Rahim Faiez. SENT: 890 words, photos.

BRUNEI-ISLAMIC LAW

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei — Brunei's ruling sultan urges his people to support the implementation next month of a form of Islamic Shariah law that includes harsh penalties, and says foreign countries should respect the country's decision. The tiny Southeast Asian nation will begin phasing in a version of Shariah law that allows penalties such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. SENT: 280 words.

CHINA-POLLUTION

PINGSHAN COUNTY, China — Huge chunks of concrete and broken machinery are all that is left of a cement plant that once spewed clouds of pollution over China's most polluted province, Hebei. The factory was one of 35 closed or torn down in Pingshan county as part of the government's drive to clear up China's notoriously smoggy skies. For years, the ruling Communist Party pushed for rapid economic development with little concern about the environmental impact. Under public pressure, the country's leaders are now rebalancing their priorities. But shutting plants is taking a human and economic toll in lost jobs and income, and some residents say they haven't seen any improvement in air pollution. By Louise Watt. SENT: 880 words, photos.

PAKISTAN-SCHOOL FROM SCRATCH

KARACHI, Pakistan — Humaira Bachal knows firsthand how lack of education hurts her community. She had a cousin who died because his mother couldn't read the expiration date on a bottle of medicine. She knows women in her neighborhood who died giving birth at home because their families didn't know to send them to the hospital. So at age 13, she began teaching other girls what she learned in school. Bachal now runs a foundation that teaches 1,200 boys and girls at her Dream Model Street School. By Rebecca Santana. SENT: 1,130 words, photos.

INDIA-KASHMIRI STUDENTS

LUCKNOW, India — Dozens of Kashmiri students who cheered for the Pakistani cricket team during a match against India could face sedition charges, police say. The students were expelled and kicked out of their dorms after Sunday's televised cricket match, in which India lost to Pakistan. SENT: 290 words.

INDIA-ELECTION CLASHES

NEW DELHI — Indian police say they've arrested 14 people after supporters of rival political parties clashed in the streets of the capital, injuring dozens of people. The clashes occurred Wednesday after the Election Commission announced that India's general election will start April 7. SENT: 200 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-EGYPT

BRISBANE, Australia — The parents of an Australian journalist jailed in Egypt say they were haunted and depressed by images of their son caged in a Cairo courtroom. Peter Greste is one of three Al-Jazeera English journalists who appeared in a Cairo court on Wednesday along with 17 other defendants on charges of joining and aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security. SENT: 240 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-CHINA-MILITARY

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Pacific commander voices concern over China's intentions as the Asian power announces its latest double-digit hike in defense spending. Several lawmakers questioned Adm. Samuel Locklear about U.S. ability to contend with a rising China and sustain a "pivot" to Asia amid growing pressure on the U.S. defense budget. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 470 words.

UNITED STATES-NKOREA-MYANMAR

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department says Myanmar is still buying conventional weapons from North Korea, although it has begun distancing itself from Pyongyang. SENT: 130 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

CHINA-ECONOMY-JOBS

BEIJING — China's finance minister says that creating jobs is the government's priority this year and economic growth below the official target of 7.5 percent might be acceptable. The economic target announced this week is "about 7.5 percent," which could mean growth might be lower than that, Lou Jiwei said at a news conference during the annual meeting of China's legislature. SENT: 260 words, photos.

SINGAPORE-CEO DEATH

SINGAPORE — The CEO of a virtual currency exchange is found dead at her home in Singapore. A police spokesman says the death was "unnatural" but initial investigations indicate there is no suspicion of "foul play," meaning officers do not suspect murder. By Satish Cheney. SENT: 180 words.

AUSTRALIA-QANTAS

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government takes a step toward relaxing foreign ownership restrictions on Qantas Airways by passing legislation through Parliament's lower house. But the opposition Labor Party and Greens party plan to use their majority in the Senate to keep the national carrier in Australian ownership. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 300 words.

US-TRADE SECRETS STOLEN-TRIAL

SAN FRANCISCO — Two men are convicted of stealing an American company's secret recipe for making a chemical used to whiten products from cars to the middle of Oreo cookies and selling it to a competitor controlled by the Chinese government. The jury found Robert Maegerle and Walter Liew guilty of economic espionage and each could face 15 years or more in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. SENT: 760 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

UKRAINE

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Voting unanimously, lawmakers in Crimea call for a March 16 referendum on whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia instead. Meanwhile, Crimea's new leader says pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 control all access to the peninsula and have blockaded all military bases that have not yet surrendered. By Yuras Karmanau and Tim Sullivan. SENT: 860 words, photos.

UKRAINE-DIPLOMACY

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders warn Russia that it faces sanctions over its military incursion in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula unless it immediately withdraws its troops or engages in credible talks to defuse the situation. Whether the EU sanctions will have the same bite as those planned by the U.S. Congress, or whether the attempt to punish Vladimir Putin will expose rifts within the West's tactics, remains to be seen. By Juergen Baetz and Mike Corder. SENT: 130 words, photos.

— CONGRESS-UKRAINE — U.S. Congress rushes to put in place hard-hitting sanctions on Russia in response to its takeover of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. SENT: 790 words, photos.

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius shakes slightly, his hands covering his ears as a neighbor describes in court how the famed athlete knelt next to his dead or dying girlfriend, praying as he tried to help Reeva Steenkamp breathe. The riveting testimony in Pistorius' murder trial is the first detailed public description of the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, by the double-amputee Paralympic champion in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 — Valentine's Day — last year. By Gerald Imray and Christopher Torchia. SENT: 800 words, photos. UPCOMING: Updates through the day.

WEALTH GAP-SILICON VALLEY

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Arwin Buditom guards some of the most successful high-tech firms in America. Joseph Farfan keeps their heat, air and electric systems humming. But these workers and tens of thousands like them who help fuel the Silicon Valley's tech boom are having trouble making ends meet these days. Buditom rooms with his sister an hour's drive from work. Farfan gets his groceries at a food pantry. Silicon Valley is entering a fifth year of unfettered growth, but the river of money flowing through America's technology mecca has also driven housing costs to double while wages for low- and middle-skilled workers remain stagnant. Now the widening gap in lifestyle between the wealthy and those left behind is sparking protests and raw anger. By National Writer Martha Mendoza. SENT: 1,000 words, video, photos.

LIBYA

TRIPOLI, Libya — Niger extradites to Libya one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, al-Saadi, who fled as his father's regime crumbled in 2011 and who has been under house arrest in the desert West African nation ever since, the government in Tripoli says. Authorities say al-Saadi — one of the deposed Libyan leader's eight children — will be treated "in accordance with international law." By Esam Mohamed. SENT: 580 words, photos.

SENATE-CIVIL RIGHTS

WASHINGTON — Should a lawyer be disqualified from public service for representing a client like a cop killer? The question arises after the Senate rejected President Barack Obama's candidate to be the government's chief civil rights attorney. The White House, attorneys and civil rights groups argue that a bipartisan vote blocking Debo Adegbile from advancing toward confirmation set a troubling precedent that could dissuade lawyers with aspirations to serve in government from taking on unpopular clients or working for unpopular causes. By Jesse J. Holland and Nedra Pickler. SENT: 340 words, photo.

CIOS UNDER PRESSURE

NEW YORK —The departure of Target's chief information officer in the wake of the company's massive pre-Christmas data breach highlights the increased pressure facing executives who are tasked with protecting corporate computer systems from hackers whose attacks are on the rise and becoming more sophisticated. CIOs from companies in all walks of business — from retail to banking and drug discovery — are using the Target breach as a rally call to bring attention to their struggle and garner additional funding and manpower. By Bree Fowler. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

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