ASIA:

NKOREA-DECEPTIVE UNITY

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's propaganda machine has long kept alive the myth of a serene, all-powerful ruling dynasty that enjoyed universal love and support at home. In a single stroke last week, that came crashing down. In attempting to justify the execution of his uncle, who was also considered North Korea's No. 2 official, young leader Kim Jong Un has given the world a rare look behind the scenes of a notoriously hard-to-read government. It's not a pretty sight. By Foster Klug. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-VIETNAM

HANOI, Vietnam — Taking clear aim at China's growing aggressiveness in territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States will boost maritime security assistance to the countries of Southeast Asia amid rising tensions with Beijing. On his first visit to Vietnam as America's top diplomat, Kerry pledges an additional $32.5 million for members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to protect their territorial waters and navigational freedom in the South China Sea, where four states have competing claims with China. By Matthew Lee. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

CHINA-US-SHIPS

BEIJING — An official Chinese newspaper accuses the U.S. Navy of harassing a Chinese squadron earlier this month, shortly before a near-collision that marked the two nations' most serious sea confrontation in years. There has been no direct comment from China's Foreign Ministry or defense officials on the Dec. 5 incident in the South China Sea, where the USS Cowpens was operating in international waters. SENT: 500 words.

PHILIPPINES-BUS ACCIDENT

MANILA, Philippines — A passenger bus plunges off a wet, elevated highway in suburban Manila and falls onto a van passing below, killing at least 17 people and injuring some 16 others. SENT: 470 words, photos.

CHINA-XINJIANG UNREST

BEIJING — A clash between knife-wielding assailants and police officers in China's restive Xinjiang region leaves 16 people dead, including two police, state media say. SENT: 340 words.

CHINA-SPACE

BEIJING — China says its plan to launch its fifth lunar probe in 2017 with the aim of bringing moon rock back to Earth is on track after a successful moon landing of another space probe over the weekend. By Louise Watt. SENT: 480 words, photos.

PAKISTAN

PESHEWAR, Pakistan — Police say a roadside bomb has killed three members of a Pakistani bomb disposal team who were on their way to defuse another bomb elsewhere in the city of Peshawar. SENT: 120 words.

AUSTRALIA-AFGHANISTAN

SYDNEY — The last remaining Australian combat troops in Afghanistan are headed home, as Australia's military involvement in the 12-year-old conflict draws to a close. SENT: 180 words.

PHILIPPINES-US-FORGOTTEN CEMETERY

MANILA, Philippines — U.S. and Philippine officials sign an agreement for Washington to restore a cemetery north of Manila where the graves of thousands of American service members and dependents have been covered in ash since Mount Pinatubo's 1991 eruption. By Jim Gomez. SENT: 470 words, photos.

INDIA-LAW AGAINST SUPERSTITION

NEW DELHI — Witch doctors and religious charlatans beware: New legislation passed in a central Indian state aims to prosecute those who use beliefs and superstition to defraud or physically harm followers. Maharashtra became the first state to pass such legislation in multicultural and secular India, where witch doctors and Hindu holy men enjoy huge popularity and can amass millions in contributions or fees for promised miracles and health cures. By Katy Daigle. SENT: 500 words, photos.

JAPAN-US-MILITARY

TOKYO — A U.S. Navy helicopter makes an emergency landing near Tokyo, injuring two crewmembers, U.S. and Japanese officials say. SENT: 220 words.

INDONESIA-BRITON-DRUG TRIAL

SURABAYA, Indonesia — Prosecutors seek a 16-year prison sentence for a British woman accused of trafficking illegal drugs in Indonesia's second-largest city. SENT: 130 words.

NEW ZEALAND-JAMES CAMERON

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Director James Cameron says his vision for his three "Avatar" sequels is to create a family epic in the mold of "The Godfather" that will introduce viewers to new cultures and go underwater on his fictional moon Pandora. Cameron will film the sequels in New Zealand, where he shot the triple Academy Award-winning original. In an interview with The Associated Press, Cameron also talked about life on a New Zealand farm where he's growing walnuts and allowing his children to roam. By Nick Perry. SENT: 670 words, photo.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO — Business confidence at Japan's major manufacturers rose to a six-year high, a quarterly central bank survey shows amid optimism over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic recovery program. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 240 words, photos.

CHINA-iPHONE

BEIJING — Apple Inc. might have a chance to pep up cooling iPhone sales in China if it finally can reach a deal with the world's biggest phone carrier. Once China's must-have gadget, the iPhone has seen its explosive popularity squeezed as the market filled with lower-priced rivals from Samsung to ambitious local brands. That might change if Apple can gain access to China Mobile Ltd.'s network and a new pool of potential customers. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

HONG KONG — Chinese manufacturing grew a bit slower in December than the previous month in a new sign of the shaky recovery in the world's second-biggest economy. The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index slipped to 50.5 from 50.8 in November. SENT: 210 words.

INDIA-ECONOMY

MUMBAI, India — India's worrisome inflation rose to 7.52 percent in November, driven by soaring food and fuel prices. The highest level in more than a year increases pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates this week. By Kay Johnson. SENT: 360 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

NEW & DEVELOPING

— SOUTH SUDAN-VIOLENCE — South Sudan repulses coup attempt by disgruntled soldiers, politicians, minister says. SENT 660 words, photos.

— LEBANON-ISRAEL — After Israeli soldier killed, Israel says its troops have shot 2 Lebanese soldiers at border. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

— IRAQ — Attacks across Iraq kill at least 29 people, wound 63, officials say. SENT: 520 words.

— UN-HUMANITARIAN AID — UN says almost $13 billion in aid needs for world's biggest crises in 2014, half for Syria. SENT: 128 words.

— SYRIA — Syrian activists say death toll from government air raids on Aleppo has risen to at least 76. SENT: 250 words.

— SOUTH AFRICA-MANDELA — Reconciliation Day in South Africa marked with unveiling of giant statue of Nelson Mandela. SENT: 140 words, photos.

TOP STORIES

ISRAEL-SAVING JEWS

JERUSALEM — More than 100 Israeli leaders gathered with Jewish-American counterparts in Jerusalem last month with a daunting mission: to save Jewish life in North America. Jewish American leaders have known for years that assimilation and intermarriage were slowly shrinking their communities, but the early November gathering took on an extra sense of urgency after a landmark study found that young American Jews are growing increasingly estranged from Judaism. By Tia Goldenberg. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

CHILE-PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

SANTIAGO, Chile — Michelle Bachelet's landslide victory was the largest in eight decades, but turnout was the lowest since Chile's democracy was restored, suggesting she doesn't have a clear mandate for radical changes such as her $15 billion program to overhaul education, improve health care and reduce the gap between rich and poor. By Luis Andres Henao. SENT: 770 words, photos.

OBIT-JOAN FONTAINE

CARMEL, Calif. — Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine, who found stardom playing naive wives in Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion" and "Rebecca" and also was featured in films by Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang and Nicholas Ray, dies at age 96. By Hillel Italie And Bob Thomas. SENT: 1,400 words, photos.

GETTING ATTENTION

— ROMANIA-OLDEST ACTIVE ACTOR — Romanian actor Radu Beligan, 95, declared world's oldest active actor celebrates on stage. SENT: 130 words.

— UKRAINE-POWER PLAY — As Ukraine's crisis stretches on, a look at who has power. SENT: 680 words, photos.

— ITALY-KNOX TRIAL-PRIMER — Key dates, background and what's ahead in Knox murder trial. SENT: 900 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.