ASIA:

MALAYSIA-PLANE

PERTH, Australia — An Australian aircraft picks up a new underwater signal while searching the same part of the Indian Ocean where earlier sounds were detected that were consistent with an aircraft's black boxes. By Nick Perry and Kristen Gelineau. SENT: 920 words, photos, audio.

MALAYSIA-PLANE-FRIENDS IN NEED

CANBERRA, Australia — The leaders of Malaysia and Australia have used warm and glowing terms to assure the world that their partnership in the desperate hunt for a missing airliner is built on a firm and abiding friendship. But it's also an odd-couple relationship that has proved brittle in the past and blighted by hostility, rivalries, competing views and cultural misunderstandings. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

INDONESIA-ELECTION

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia's biggest opposition party came out ahead in early election tallies Thursday, but the showing was far less than expected given the popularity of its pick for president, viewed as the favorite in this summer's presidential race. By Ali Kotarumalos. SENT: 690 words, photos.

HAGEL-ASIA

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — After days of high-profile, pressure-filled meetings, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got to horse around a bit during a short stop in Mongolia on Thursday. By Lolita C. Baldor. SENT: 680 words, photos.

INDIA-ELECTION

PATNA, India — Indians voted in the crucial third phase of national elections Thursday, with millions going to the polls in the heartland states that are essential to the main opposition Hindu nationalist party's bid to end the 10-year rule of Congress party. By Indrajit Singh. SENT: 560 words, photos.

CAMBODIA-POLITICS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia's opposition leader said Thursday his party was close to reaching an agreement with the government that would end the party's boycott of Parliament, but that there were still unresolved issues keeping a deal from being signed right away. By Sopheng Cheang. SENT: 480 words.

MALAYSIA-KIDNAPPING-RANSOM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Gunmen have demanded a ransom of 500 million pesos ($11.3 million) for the release of a Chinese tourist abducted last week from a Malaysian resort off Borneo island, a Malaysian minister said Thursday. SENT: 470 words.

TAIWAN-CHINA PROTEST

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Students who have occupied Taiwan's Parliament for 24 days to protest a trade pact with China planned to leave Thursday after receiving assurances the deal they see as imperiling the island's autonomy would undergo legislative review. By Gladys Tsai. SENT: 400 words, photos.

CHINA-JAR OF CLEAN AIR

BEIJING — Beijing artist Liang Kegang returned from a holiday in southern France with well-rested lungs and a small item of protest against his home city's choking pollution — a glass jar of clean, Provence air. He put it up for auction among a group of about 100 Chinese artists and collectors late last month, and it fetched $860. It's part of a gust of recent artistic protest — and entrepreneurial gimmickry — reflecting the widespread dissatisfaction over air quality in China. By Didi Tang. SENT: 600 words, photos.

NEW ZEALAND-ROYALS

BLENHEIM, New Zealand — Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate, met with "The Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson during a visit to an aviation museum in New Zealand. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the museum on Thursday in Marlborough, on the country's South Island, as part of a 3-week tour of New Zealand and Australia. SENT: 120 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

MYANMAR-NO MORE CLUNKERS

YANGON, Myanmar — One of the quaintest of many anachronisms in Yangon, a city of moldering colonial villas and gleaming golden pagodas, used to be the decades old Toyotas, Chevys and other clunkers wheezing down its mostly empty roads, a visible sign of sanctions and economic isolation. Now, the streets have filled with a flood of newer used cars, mostly from Japan. As Myanmar's reform-minded leadership opens the economy after the former military rulers allowed elections in 2010, automakers are seeking pole positions in what might become one of the world's fastest growing markets for new and used cars. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 940 words, photos.

CHINA-TRADE

BEIJING — China reported an unexpected contraction in exports in March, raising the danger of job losses as Beijing tries to overhaul its slowing economy. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 560 words, photos.

HONG KONG-CHINA-STOCK EXCHANGES

HONG KONG — China unveiled a plan to give foreign investors greater access to its stock market by allowing investors in Shanghai and Hong Kong to trade shares on each other's exchanges. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 470 words, photo.

JAPAN-TOYOTA

TOKYO — Toyota has developed an efficient gasoline engine using technology fine-tuned with gas-electric hybrids, in which the Japanese automaker is an industry leader. Toyota Motor Corp. said the engine will be rolled out in 14 models this year and next year. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 290 words.

US AND INTERNATIONAL:

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius accuses the Olympic athlete of egotistical behavior in his relationship with Reeva Steenkamp before he killed her, and describes Pistorius' courtroom apology to his girlfriend's family as an insincere "spectacle" that ignored the feelings of her relatives. By Christopher Torchia And Gerald Imray. Pistorius, who is on the witness stand for the fourth day, is facing tough questioning in his second day of cross-examination. By Christopher Torchia and Gerald Imray. SENT: 820 words, photos, video.

LIBYA-BLACKMAIL NATION

TRIPOLI, Libya — In a humiliating video, the head of Libya's parliament begs with a militia commander, trying to explain why he was caught with two women in his residence and insisting nothing scandalous was going on. Aired on Libyan TV, the footage gave the public a look at just how weak their politicians are in the face of the numerous, rival bands of gunmen that have become both the enforcers of the law and the fomenters of Libya's lawlessness. By Maggie Michael. SENT: 1330 words, photos.

OBAMA-CIVIL RIGHTS

HOUSTON — Barack Obama was 2 years old when Lyndon Baines Johnson sat in the East Room of the White House, with Martin Luther King Jr. looking on, and signed the Civil Rights Act, putting an end to an America where schools, restaurants and water fountains were divided by race. Half a century later, the first black man to become president is commemorating what's been accomplished in his lifetime — and recommitting the nation to fighting deep inequalities that remain. By Josh Lederman. SENT: 900 words. UPCOMING: Updates from remarks, photos.

FRANCE-WWI CENTENARY

PARIS — Irish photographer Mike Sheil says he knew "literally nothing" about military history before he began taking photos of World War I battlefields. "I just thought with the centenary coming up it was a good idea for some photographs," Sheil said in Paris, where he inaugurated an exhibit of his work: Fields of Battle-Lands of Peace 14-18. The 79 large photographs hang on the wrought iron fence around Paris' Jardin du Luxembourg park. The French senate, which sponsored the exhibition, expects more than 2.5 million people to see the free exhibit by the time it leaves Paris on Aug. 4 and moves to London's St. James's Park. By Greg Keller. SENT: 860 words, photos.

UNITED NATIONS-CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

UNITED NATIONS — France is predicting that the U.N. Security Council will vote unanimously Thursday to authorize a nearly 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force for Central African Republic, which has been torn by mounting violence between Christians and Muslims. By Edith M. Lederer. SENT: 580 words, photo. UPCOMING: Will be updated when the Security Council votes at around 1400 GMT.

MEXICO-CORRUPTION

MEXICO CITY — A new political scandal is revealing depths of corruption that are startling even Mexicans jaded by decades of widespread official wrongdoing. As the country struggles to combat a surge in extortion, it turns out federal lawmakers may have been working their own extortion scheme. A series of mayors have come forward to allege that they were forced to provide kickbacks to senators and congressmen in order to receive federal public works funding. They were also required to select unnecessarily pricey bids to the legislators' favored contractors. Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation seen by many as a test of the new administration's will to combat corruption. By E. Eduardo Castillo. SENT: 960 words, photos.

___

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