ASIA:

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Anti-government protesters determined to unseat Thailand's prime minister surround a Bangkok sports stadium in an unsuccessful attempt to physically block political parties from registering for a February election. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is popular among the rural majority but disliked by the urban middle class and educated elite, called the Feb. 2 elections to diffuse tension after several weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations in the Thai capital. By Jocelyn Gecker and Jinda Wedel. SENT: 550 words, photos.

CHINA-MAO ANNIVERSARY

BEIJING — With his image gracing bank notes and staring out from Tiananmen Gate, Mao Zedong remains a constant presence in China 120 years after his birth, revered as a hero who founded the communist state and restored national pride — even as China moves ever further from his vision of a communist society. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 860 words, photos.

NKOREA-RODMAN

BEIJING — Former basketball star Dennis Rodman leaves North Korea without answering questions from the media on whether he met with leader Kim Jong Un. The two struck up a friendship when Rodman first traveled to the secretive state earlier this year. SENT: 160 words, photos.

CHINA-CHURCH CRACKDOWN

BEIJING — Lawyers and Christian churchgoers say they were blocked from meeting in a central Chinese county to commemorate Christmas and draw attention to the detention of a pastor and his aides. The canceled meeting at the church in Henan province's Nanle county came during a monthlong crackdown on the church over a land dispute that pits its popular preacher against the county government. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 460 words.

INDIA-DELHI GOVERNMENT

NEW DELHI — A new political party pledging to uproot corruption from Indian politics announces that it will form a government in the capital city. The Aam Aadmi, or Common Man's Party, won 28 of Delhi's 70 assembly seats, short of a majority, in polls held earlier this month. It initially said it would not form a minority government. By Nirmala George. SENT: 380 words.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO says an attack in eastern Afghanistan has killed one of its service members. A statement from the U.S.-led coalition says the soldier died after coming under direct fire by enemy forces. SENT: 120 words.

FRANCE-HELICOPTER CRASH

PARIS — French authorities say a Chinese magnate, his 12-year-old son and two others died in a helicopter crash as they toured Bordeaux vineyards the businessman had recently purchased. SENT: 130 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

APPLE-CHINA

BEIJING — Apple says it has reached a deal to bring the iPhone to China Mobile, the world's biggest phone carrier. By Joe McDonald and Marley Seaman. SENT: 460 words, photo.

— CHINA-IPHONE-GLANCE: A list showing how Apple's market share has declined over the past year while those of most of its biggest rivals have grown. SENT: 130 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

RUSSIA-PUSSY RIOT

MOSCOW — Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been released from prison, saying that the amnesty bill that gave her freedom was a Kremlin public relations stunt. Maria Alekhina was one of two band members who were granted amnesty last week, which was largely viewed as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights records ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February. By Nataliya Vasilyeva. SENT: 530 words, photos.

GAY MARRIAGE-UTAH

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge decides whether to block gay weddings that have been taking place since Friday in Utah after a ruling declared the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Lawyers for the state want the ruling put on hold as they appeal the decision that has put Utah in the national spotlight because of its long-standing opposition to gay marriage. By Brady McCombs and Paul Foy. SENT: 900 words, photos.

DUBAI-CHRISTMAS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Just days before Christmas, an artificial snow company is doing brisk business delivering faux flurries to Dubai homes, and Christmas trees and Santas are out in force. The Middle East's brashest city is increasingly embracing the trappings of the holiday in a way that would be unthinkable in more conservative parts of the Muslim world. By ADAM SCHRECK. SENT: 900 words, photos.

BOLIVIA-CHOLITA TRAFFIC COPS-PHOTO GALLERY

EL ALTO, Bolivia — A city in Bolivia's highlands has hired Aymara women dressed in traditional multilayered Andean skirts and brightly embroidered vests to work as traffic cops and bring order to its road chaos. With photo gallery by Juan Karita. SENT: 280 words, photos.

PANCHO CLAUS

HOUSTON — They have black hair and black beards, though sometimes just a mustache. They, like Santa, wear hats — usually sombreros but sometimes a fedora. They are clad in serapes and ponchos or, in one case, a red and black zoot suit. And they make their grand entrance on low riders, Harleys and, in San Antonio, via a pack of burros. Meet Pancho Claus. This Tex-Mex Santa, borne from the Chicano civil rights movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is now an adored Christmas fixture in many Texas cities. Each one has a unique local flavor, but all share common roots that set Pancho apart from Santa. It's Feliz Navidad, amigos, and the ultimate goal is to help low-income families and at-risk children. By Ramit Plushnick-Masti. SENT: 900 words, photos, video.

GETTING ATTENTION

— BUILDING FALL-FATALITIES — NYPD: Man throws 3-year-old son, himself off 52-story Manhattan building roof. SENT: 320 words, photos.

— DUCK DYNASTY-HOMETOWN — Folks in Louisiana town stand by Duck Dynasty clan; Willie Robertson baptizes 3 at church. SENT: 1,270 words, photos.

— OBAMA-HAWAII VACATION — How Obama spent Day 2 of his holiday vacation in Hawaii. SENT: 280 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.