DAEJEON, South Korea — Pope Francis urges Catholic youth to renounce the materialism that afflicts much of Asian society today and reject "inhuman" economic systems that disenfranchise the poor, pressing his economic agenda in one of the region's powerhouses where financial gain is a key barometer of success. By Nicole Winfield. SENT: 780 words, photos, video.


TOKYO — Yes, North Korea has Catholics. It even has a Catholic church. But while Pope Francis is being welcomed by millions of South Korean Catholics, Christianity has been largely quashed north of the border and as a string of recent arrests suggest would-be missionaries there face severe risks amid a North-South religious divide that is perhaps wider than ever. By Eric Talmadge. UPCOMING: 785 words by 0900 GMT, photos.

— CHINA-POPE — Chinese Catholics are cheering Pope Francis' visit to neighbor South Korea, saying they hope that it will help end the estrangement between their government and the Vatican. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 350 words by 0600 GMT, photos.


TOKYO — Two Japanese Cabinet ministers pay respects at a Tokyo shrine that honors the war dead including convicted criminals, a move that draws immediate criticism from South Korea, although Japan's prime minister stayed away. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 515 words, photos.


CANBERRA, Australia — Four couples from the United States and Australia have been prevented from leaving Thailand with surrogate babies as part of a government crackdown on the burgeoning commercial surrogacy industry, an Australian broadcaster reports. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 380 words.


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's prime minister has conceded the nation's border security is not good enough after a second suspected jihadist flew to the Middle East using a brother's passport. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 480 words.


HANOI, Vietnam — An official says a court in northern Vietnam has sentenced six people to death for trafficking heroin from Laos to be sold to China. SENT: 130 words.

— CHINA-MINERS TRAPPED — Rescuers pull out nine of 25 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine, state media report. SENT: 125 words.



TOKYO — Asian stock markets are mostly higher, cheered by a rise on Wall Street and a sense that Ukraine tensions are easing, but trading was muted by holidays. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 370 words, photo.


HONG KONG — Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's recently acquired film unit says a review has uncovered possible accounting irregularities. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 250 words by 0600 GMT.




WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has promised to expand U.S. humanitarian relief to Iraqis threatened by the advancing army of the Islamic State militants. He takes credit for alleviating the genocide threat to thousands trapped on a mountaintop but says the situation "remains dire" throughout the country. By Robert Burns and Ken Dilanian. SENT: 940 words, photos.


BAGHDAD — Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announces he's relinquishing his post to his nominated replacement, ending a political deadlock that has plunged the country into uncertainty as it fights a Sunni militant insurgency. By Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra. SENT: 1,090 words, photos, video.

— WHITE HOUSE-IRAQ — The Obama administration commends Iraq's incumbent prime minister for stepping aside, calling it a milestone that sets the stage for a peaceful transition of power that could unite Iraqis against the security threat from Islamic State militants. SENT: 200 words.


NEW YORK — It's an eye-catching angle in the story of an experimental treatment for Ebola: The drug comes from tobacco plants that were turned into living pharmaceutical factories. Using plants this way — sometimes called "pharming" — can produce complex and valuable proteins for medicines. That approach, studied for about 20 years, hasn't caught on widely in the pharmaceutical industry. But some companies and academic labs are pursuing it to create medicines and vaccines against such targets as HIV, cancer, the deadly Marburg virus and norovirus, known for causing outbreaks of a stomach bug on cruise ships, as well as Ebola. By Science Writer Malcolm Ritter. UPCOMING: 790 words by 0700 GMT, photos, video.

— EBOLA-POTENTIAL VACCINE-TREATMENT — Scientists are racing to begin the first human safety tests of two experimental Ebola vaccines, but it won't be easy to prove that the shots and other potential treatments in the pipeline really work. SENT: 925 words.


BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip — The group of neighbors survey the destruction wreaked on their residential complex by Israeli bombardment, with building after building flattened or punctured by shells. The men then begin to voice something almost never heard out loud in Gaza: criticism of its Hamas rulers. By Hamza Hendawi. SENT: 1,210 words, photos.


FERGUSON, Mo. — County police in riot gear and armored tanks gave way to state troopers walking side-by-side in solidarity with thousands of protesters as the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teen was shot by a municipal police officer largely avoided violence after nearly a week of unrest and mounting public tension. By Alan Scher Zagier. SENT: 900 words, photos, video.

— POLICE SHOOTING-MISSOURI-MILITARY GEAR — Images of police outfitted in paramilitary gear clashing with protesters in suburban St. Louis after the weekend shooting death of an unarmed black teenager is giving new impetus to efforts to rein in a Pentagon program that provides free machine guns and other surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. SENT: 665 words, photos.


PANAMA CITY — It was supposed to be a grand celebration of the engineering triumph that forged a nation. Instead, the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal's opening Friday is being marred by doubts about the country's ability to harness the full benefits of a multibillion-dollar expansion beset by cost overruns, strikes and competition from rival projects. By Juan Zamorano. SENT: 790 words, photos.



LOS ANGELES — You couldn't miss Hollywood talent agent Sid Levin's office in the old days: It wasn't much bigger than a closet and it was often filled with burglars, bank robbers and gang members, all trying to break into the movies. These days you'll find everyone from Gulf War veterans to a 15-time world arm-wrestling champion who has been nominated for three Emmys there, and Levin didn't bring them in to chase away the ex-cons. They're looking to be movie stars too. In a town where seemingly everyone wants to be a star, but very few look like James Franco or Scarlett Johansson, Levin is the talent agent who represents the people who look like the rest of us. By John Rogers. SENT: 840 words, photos.

— ROBIN WILLIAMS — Robin Williams' wife: He had Parkinson's disease, was sober at time of death. SENT: 760 words, photos.




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

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