ASIA:

HONG KONG-DEMOCRACY PROTEST

HONG KONG — Hong Kong authorities start clearing barricades from a pro-democracy protest camp spread across a busy highway as part of a final push to retake streets occupied by activists for two and a half months. Watched by police, workers in white helmets used box cutters and pliers to remove plastic ties from the barricades, which were made up of metal and plastic safety barriers topped with traffic cones and scaffolding poles. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 560 words, photos.

JAPAN- ELECTION-NATIONALISM

TOKYO — A projected landslide victory for Japan's ruling party in national elections Sunday could give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe political breathing space to push forward with his long-held nationalist agenda. While Abe has put the economy at the center of the campaign, the platform of his Liberal Democratic Party also promises to revise Japan's pacifist constitution and actively protest what it calls "wrongful accusations" about the country's wartime past. If the party wins big, as media polls predict, Abe could hold onto power for up to four more years, giving him time to try to tackle his more controversial goals. By Ken Moritsugu and Mari Yamaguchi. UPCOMING by 0800GMT: 800 words, photos.

MYANMAR-DAMMING THE SALWEEN

EI TU HTA REFUGEE CAMP, Myanmar — Myanmar's government calls them signposts of modernity: a string of huge dam projects along the mighty Salween River, one of Asia's last untamed waterways, needed to meet economic goals and energy demands as the country opens its doors to the outside world. Yet to the Shan, Karen, Karenni and other ethnic minorities living in the river's basin, the six proposed hydro-power dams symbolize violence, anxiety about the future and a tool used by authorities to secure a greater grip over their lives. Some minority leaders say tensions over the dams could even re-ignite civil war in Myanmar, or Burma. By Denis Gray. UPCOMING by 0700GMT: 1,300 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-UKRAINE

SYDNEY — Australia pledges its support for Ukraine during a visit by the nation's president, with Australia's prime minister calling for an end to the bloody conflict in Eastern Europe and Ukraine's leader urging Russia to withdraw. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a sharp critic of Russia since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in July over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, said Russia must honor a little-respected cease-fire agreement signed in September. By Kristen Gelineau. SENT: 350 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-NORTH KOREA-HUMAN RIGHTS.

WASHINGTON — The United States has a tough message for officials running North Korea's notorious network of prison and labor camps: We know who you are, we know what you are doing. U.S. assistant secretary of state, Tom Malinowski, shared a stage at the State Department with two young North Korean defectors to mark international human rights day. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 400 words.

INDIA-RUSSIA

NEW DELHI — Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding talks with Indian leaders to strengthen trade and energy cooperation with Asia's third-largest economy as Western sanctions threaten to push his country's economy to the brink of a recession. SENT, photos.

JAPAN-MAZDA-AIR BAG RECALL

TOKYO — Mazda is expanding its U.S. recall for Takata air bags that may explode to the entire country, following Japanese rival Honda in the decision. Honda said its expanded recalls will also be global, although the numbers are still unclear. Mazda Motor Corp. said Wednesday it will officially notify the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration soon, but was still compiling details including the exact vehicle numbers requiring recall. By Yuri Kageyama.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

TOKYO — Asian stock markets slid again as falling oil prices reinforced jitters about a sluggish global economy. Tokyo's benchmark, the Nikkei 225, fell 0.9 percent to 17,254.55 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.8 percent to 23,332.19. SENT.

US & INTERNATIONAL

CIA-TORTURE REPORT

WASHINGTON — Top spies past and present press a campaign to discredit a Senate investigation into CIA torture practices after 9/11. It's a battle to define the historical record and head off any legal action around the world against former American interrogators and their superiors. By Bradley Klapper. SENT: 980 words, photos.

CIA TORTURE-REPORT-PSYCHOLOGISTS

WASHINGTON — When the CIA set out to design a program to gain intelligence from captured terrorists, it turned to two former Air Force psychologists with no practical interrogation experience or special knowledge of al-Qaida. The two, whose companies were paid $81 million for the work, did understand the brutal methods used on POWs by North Korean and Vietnamese torturers. By Intelligence Writer Ken Dilanian. SENT: 900 words, photos.

— CIA TORTURE REPORT-MIDEAST. CIA torture report causes little stir in a Mideast that has long assumed the worst about US. SENT: 900 words, photos.

— CIA TORTURE REACTION. UN: US officials, CIA agents who authorized or carried out torture must be prosecuted. SENT: 1,080 words, photos.

— CIA-TORTURE REPORT-ZERO DARK THIRTY. US Senate report on CIA interrogation casts new pall over Kathryn Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty.' SENT: 510 words, photos.

CLIMATE-ZERO EMISSIONS

LIMA, Peru — Pulling a worn, yellowed copy of the 1992 U.N. climate change convention from her handbag, Farhana Yamin points to the paragraph that states its goal: To stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous warming. It doesn't provide any guidance on how to do that. By Karl Ritter.

AP INVESTIGATION: SECRET CUBAN HIP-HOP

HAVANA — A U.S. agency secretly infiltrated Cuba's underground hip-hop movement, recruiting unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The aim was to use musicians to build a network of young people seeking change, but the operation was amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful. By Desmond Butler, Michael Weissenstein, Laura Wides-Munoz and Andrea Rodriguez. SENT: 1,200 words, photos, video. A more detailed version of 3,200 words will also move.

POLICE PROTESTS-BLACK OFFICERS

Some black police officers say they wonder whether the system they're sworn to uphold is stacked against black men. In the wake of controversial police shootings, retired and active black officers express concern about a lack of minorities on largely white forces. By Jesse J. Holland and Kristin J. Bender. SENT: 910 words, photos.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

TURMUS AYA, West Bank — An autopsy will determine what killed a Palestinian Cabinet member who died after a scuffle with Israeli troops. But images of a burly Israeli officer grabbing the 55-year-old by the neck before his collapse on a West Bank hillside are bound to add to growing Israeli-Palestinian tensions. By Mohammed Daraghmeh and Majdi Mohammed. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video.

— AP VIDEO ISRAEL PALESTINIANS — Amateur video captures the last moments of the Palestinian cabinet member's life.

NOBEL_MALALA'S MOMENT

OSLO, Norway — The Pakistani teenager stood on the stage of Oslo City Hall as the youngest Nobel Peace laureate, smiling as she listened to the thunderous ovation. Shot in the head by the Taliban two years ago for speaking out on education, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai beamed as she received the Nobel Peace Prize, then taught another lesson in courage. By Danica Kirka. SENT: 970 words, photos.

— NOBEL PRIZES — Comments from other Nobel laureates. SENT: 660 words, photos, video.

CONGRESS-SPENDING

WASHINGTON — A $1.1 trillion spending bill draws objections from House liberals and conservatives, but even some critics concede it is likely to clear Congress as lawmakers look to adjourn for the year. The measure leaves President Barack Obama's new immigration policy unchallenged — for now. By David Espo and Andrew Taylor. SENT: 930 words, photos.

HILLARY CLINTON-STATE DEPARTMENT FILES

WASHINGTON — The State Department withholds documents covering Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as secretary of state ahead of her presumptive 2016 presidential campaign. The Associated Press asks for files under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, including one request it made four years ago. By Stephen Braun. SENT: 1,020 words, photo.

EBOLA-LIFE AT GROUND ZERO

MELIANDOU, Guinea — This village is notorious as the birthplace of the current Ebola outbreak, and the devastation the disease brought is clear. Death was just the start - survivors are in debt, hungry, occasionally cut off and highly suspicious about where the disease came from. By Michelle Faul. SENT: 1,200 words, photos, video.

BRAZIL-TRUTH COMMISSION

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil's truth commission delivers its final report on abuses committed by the 1964-85 military regime, and calls for an end to an amnesty law that's shielded all abusers from being punished. But changes to that law seemed unlikely — the supreme court already struck down an attempt to modify it. By Jenny Barchfield. SENT: 990 words, photos.

COMET WATER

WASHINGTON — The mystery of where Earth's water came from has deepened, with astronomers essentially eliminating one of the chief suspects: comets. A comet that got a close-up look from the Rosetta spacecraft was found to contain the wrong type of water. By Seth Borenstein. SENT: 500 words, photos.

AP POLL-NO CONFIDENCE

WASHINGTON — Americans may not agree on much lately, but one opinion is nearly universal: There's almost no chance President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans can work together to solve the country's problems, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds. SENT: 910 words, photo.

— AP POLL-NO CONFIDENCE-METHOD — How the poll was conducted. SENT: 210 words.

ENTERTAINMENT

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Kirk Douglas is done with writing. The rakish screen legend with the famously dimpled chin made that abundantly clear on a recent overcast afternoon at his Beverly Hills home, days before the release of his poetry collection "Live Could Be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters." By Film Writer Lindsey Bahr. SENT: 850 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— COMMERCIAL DRONES — Commercial drone flights take off in other countries while the U.S. lags behind in developing safety regulations, Congress is told. SENT: 860 words, photos.

— COSBY-DEFAMATION LAWSUIT — A woman who accused Cosby of rape files defamation suit, says he publicly branded her a liar. SENT: 790 words, photos.

— TIME-PERSON OF YEAR — Ebola fighters named 2014 Person of the Year by Time magazine. SENT: 590 words, photos, video.

— MONACO-ROYAL TWINS — Monaco's Princess Charlene gives birth to royal twins, Gabriella and Jacques. SENT: 520 words, photos, video.

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