ASIA:

NKOREA-DETAINED AMERICANS

TOKYO — A U.S. citizen arrested in North Korea for allegedly tearing up his visa and seeking asylum will go before the North's Supreme Court this weekend in a trial almost certain to end quickly with a guilty verdict. Along with two other Americans detained in the North, the young defendant says he has but one hope — for a senior U.S. statesman to come and get him out. So far there don't seem to be any volunteers. By Eric Talmadge. SENT: 970 words, photos.

FIJI-SYRIA-PEACEKEEPERS

SUVA, Fiji — First came the emotional calls home and then the celebrations as 45 Fijian peacekeepers held captive for two weeks by Syrian militants made it to safety. Fiji's military chief described how his troops were released at about midnight Fijian time, and were immediately given access to telephones to call their loved ones. By 2 a.m. every affected family in Fiji knew the good news, Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said. By Nick Perry and Pita Ligaiula. SENT: 460 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-TERRORISM

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government raised its terrorism threat level to the second-highest warning in response to the domestic threat posed by Islamic State movement supporters. Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the increase from "medium" to "high" on a four-tier scale on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 550 words, photos.

CHINA-DEADLY ATTACK

BEIJING — A Chinese court sentences three men to death and a woman to life imprisonment after convicting them of terrorism and murder for killing 31 people in a knife attack outside a railway station in the southern city of Kunming earlier this year. The Kunming Intermediate People's Court opened the trials of the four just hours earlier, with state television showing armed police inside the courtroom. SENT: 390 words, photos.

— CHINA-HUMAN- RIGHTS ACTIVIST — A court postpones the trial of human rights activist Yang Maodong after his lawyers did not show up to protest a denial of their right to copy court files. SENT: 380 words.

INDIA-PAKISTAN-FLOODING

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's military says it has expanded the rescue and relief operation as flood waters hit more districts in the country's Punjab province. Meanwhile, officials in India-controlled Kashmir raise concerns of the spread of diseases with flood water receding there. SENT: 130 words, photos.

VIETNAM-ADOPTIONS

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam and the United States will soon resume limited inter-country adoptions, both nations say, six years after a ban was imposed because of allegations of widespread baby-selling and children offered without the consent of their birth parents. Under the new agreement, Americans will be able to adopt children with special needs and those over 5 years of age. SENT: 450 words.

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Thailand's coup leader-turned-prime minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha makes his first major policy statement in a 2-hour televised speech that described his vision for the country. Prayuth's 11-point plan is the latest in a series of moves by the junta to consolidate power on its own terms, starting with the May 22 coup that overthrew an elected government. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 650 words, photos.

MALAYSIA-FLIGHT-FAMILY

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The brother of Malaysian oil worker Karamjit Singh, who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, is urging authorities to speed up their probe into the accident. He wants the answer to one question: "Who actually pulled the trigger?" SENT: 330 words, photos.

INDIA-ITALIAN MARINES

NEW DELHI — India's top court allows an Italian marine to go home for medical treatment before he and another marine stand trial for killing two Indian fishermen at sea in 2012. SENT: 140 words.

SRI LANKA-SAINT

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Colombo archbishop says Pope Francis may make a 17th century priest Sri Lanka's first Roman Catholic saint during a papal visit next year. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith announced that Francis would visit the island nation Jan. 13-15. The archbishop told reporters that he hopes the final approval for the miracle that will clear the way for the sainthood of Blessed Joseph Vaz will be completed in time for an open Mass at Colombo's Galle Face Green during which the canonization can be completed. SENT: 140 words.

PHILIPPINES-KIDNAPPING

MANILA, Philippines — China warns its citizens not to travel to the Philippines after a Chinese teenager who worked in a family-run store was kidnapped. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also said it was worried because of plots confirmed by the police in the Philippines that criminal groups planned to attack the Chinese Embassy, Chinese companies and public venues such as malls. SENT: 220 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

ASIA-CREATIVITY

MANILA, Philippines — A new index ranks Japan as the most efficient among Asian countries in turning the building blocks of creativity into tangible innovations that benefit their economies and people, while Myanmar, Pakistan and Cambodia are least efficient. The Asian Development Bank said it developed the index with the Economist Intelligence Unit to give policymakers a tool to assess how best to foster innovation and creativity in Asian economies. By Teresa Cerojano. SENT: 330 words.

JAPAN-WOMEN

TOKYO — Empowerment of women and equal opportunities are crucial for driving a stronger global economic recovery, and for revitalizing Japan, the head of the International Monetary Fund says. The global recovery is too tepid and too turbulent, IMF chief Christine Lagarde told a gathering organized by the Japanese government and business groups to support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's campaign to promote a bigger role for women in the economy. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 710 words, photos.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — A South African judge finds Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and declares him not guilty of murder. Prosecutors say they are disappointed by the ruling but will decide on whether to appeal only after sentencing. Judge Thokozile Masipa says there is not enough evidence to support the contention that Pistorius knew Steenkamp was behind a locked toilet door in his home when he shot through the door in the predawn hours of Valentine's Day last year. Masipa says prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp. By Gerald Imray and Christopher Torchia. SENT: 920 words, photos, video.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC-COUNTING THE DEAD

GUEN, Central African Republic — There are no headstones to mark these mass graves, nothing to tell the world who lies here or why. Yet a few village elders are carefully gathering the name of each victim, determined that nobody will be forgotten. More than 5,000 people have died in the Central African Republic in ethnic fighting since December, according to an Associated Press tally gleaned from dozens of individual communities. That's more than double the death toll of at least 2,000 cited by the United Nations in April, underscoring how a U.N. mission due Monday is coming too late for thousands. By Krista Larson. SENT: 1,960 words, with abridged version of 950 words, photos, video, graphic.

OBAMA-WAR POWERS

WASHINGTON — As a U.S. senator from Illinois running for the White House in 2007, Barack Obama sponsored a resolution to prohibit President George W. Bush's administration from taking military action against Iran unless it was explicitly authorized by Congress. Nearly seven years later, U.S. fighter jets and unmanned drones armed with missiles have conducted under Obama's orders more than 120 airstrikes against the Islamic State group over the past three months in Iraq even as the White House has yet to formally ask for Congress for authorization for the expanding air campaign. By Stephen Braun. SENT: 750 words, photo.

— FRANCE-IRAQ — Iraq's new prime minister says France has agreed to take part in airstrikes as part of an international effort to target the Islamic State group. SENT: 650 words, photos.

PALESTINIANS-HUMAN SHIELDS

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, there is growing evidence that Hamas militants used residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel, at least at times. Even Hamas now admits "mistakes" were made. But Hamas says it had little choice in Gaza's crowded urban landscape, took safeguards to keep people away from the fighting, and that a heavy-handed Israeli response is to blame for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians. By Hamza Hendawi and Josef Federman. SENT: 1,400 words, photos.

NFL-SPONSORS

Major brand sponsors of the NFL are taking a wait-and-see approach to the league's handling of its Ray Rice video controversy, and a prominent sports marketing expert says major sponsors of the NFL should be wary about backlash as a result of the ongoing controversy. SENT: 650 words, photo.

UKRAINE

DONETSK, Ukraine — Government and rebel forces exchange dozens of prisoners captured during fighting in Ukraine, as part of a cease-fire agreement sealed earlier this month. The transfer takes place in the dark hours outside the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk under the watch of international observers. By Peter Leonard. SENT: 680 words, photos.

— NETHERLANDS-UKRAINE-PLANE — A Dutch prosecutor says shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is the "most likely" scenario. SENT: 340 words, photo.

RUSSIA-SANCTIONS

BRUSSELS — New European Union sanctions curbing access to western financial markets for some of Russia's largest firms target banks, arms manufacturers, the country's leading oil company, Rosneft, as well as the crude subsidiary of its state-owned energy giant Gazprom. The measures published in the 28-nation bloc's official journal come as a beefed-up response to what the West sees as Russia's destabilizing actions in Ukraine. The United States, too, is expected to announce another round of Russia sanctions. By Juergen Baetz. SENT: 290 words.

BRITAIN-SCOTLAND-CELEBRITIES

LONDON — Scotland's independence battle is a tough one to call. The Yes side has James Bond, but the No campaign has Harry Potter. Former 007 Sean Connery has long been a vocal Scottish nationalist — from his home in the Bahamas. But when J.K. Rowling, the Edinburgh-based creator of the boy wizard, said independence might be "a historically bad mistake"— and backed it up with a million-pound ($1.6 million) donation to the No campaign — it sent a Dementor-like chill through the Yes camp. The two are among many Scottish and Scotland-based stars making their views known — although experts say their influence may be limited. by Jill Lawless. SENT: 740 words, photos.

SWEDEN ELECTION

STOCKHOLM — Gone are the days when Sweden was the undisputed world champion of high taxes. "We are not even top three anymore," boasts Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, reflecting on the tax cuts that have defined his eight-year rule — the longest ever for a conservative leader in Sweden. Yet polls before a parliamentary election on Sunday show voters could shift back to the left amid worries that Reinfeldt's smaller-government policies have undermined Sweden's famed welfare model. By Karl Ritter. SENT: 870 words, photos.

CREDIT CARD THEFT

WASHINGTON — Working to combat an increasingly lucrative crime that crosses national boundaries, Justice Department officials are pressing for a new law to help them prosecute criminals overseas who traffic in stolen credit cards. Authorities say the current law is too weak because it allows people in other countries to avoid prosecution if they buy and sell stolen card data entirely outside the United States. By Eric Tucker. SENT: 800 words, photos.

IMMIGRATION-DEPORTATIONS DOWN

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has quietly slowed deportations by nearly 20 percent while delaying plans to act on his own potentially to shield millions of immigrants from expulsion. The Homeland Security Department is on track to remove the fewest number of immigrants since 2007, according to an analysis of its figures by The Associated Press. By Alicia A. Caldwell. SENT: 810 words, photos.

YAHOO-SURVEILLANCE

WASHINGTON — Yahoo's free email service could have cost the company an extra quarter of a million dollars a day. The government called for the huge fine in 2008 if Yahoo didn't go along with an expansion of U.S. surveillance by surrendering online information, a step the company regarded as unconstitutional. At stake, according to the government, was the nation's security. By Pete Yost. SENT: 650 words, photo.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— BRITAIN-OBIT-DONALD SINDEN — The British actor Donald Sinden dies at his home in Kent, England, of prostate cancer, his son says. SENT: 280 words.

— CANADA-TORONTO MAYOR — Mayor Rob Ford will have to wait a week to find out the results of a biopsy on his abdominal tumor, the controversial politician's doctor says. SENT: 370 words.

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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.