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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

January 23, 2015

ASIA:

JAPAN-ISLAMIC STATE

TOKYO — The deadline to pay ransom for two Japanese hostages of the Islamic State group was fast approaching Friday, as the mother of one of the captives appealed for her son’s rescue. With time running short, the mother of one of the hostages, 47-year-old journalist Kenji Goto, appealed for understanding and urged the government to help him. By Mari Yamaguchi and Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 650 words, photos.

WITH:

— JAPAN-ISLAMIC STATE-VIDEO. Questions raised about extent of doctoring of video showing Japanese hostages. SENT.

— IRAQ-ISLAMIC STATE — Tensions emerge between Iraq, US-led coalition in battle against Islamic State group. SENT: 1,400 words, photos, audio, video.

— KERRY-ISLAMIC STATE— The U.S.-led coalition claims it has killed thousands of Islamic State fighters and half of its leadership even as the Iraqi prime minster asks for more help. SENT: 900 words, photos.

THAILAND-IMPEACHMENT

BANGKOK — The office of Thailand’s attorney general announces plans to indict former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for her role in overseeing a government rice subsidy program that lost billions of dollars and temporarily cost Thailand its place as the world’s leading exporter. The announcement comes the same day as Thailand’s junta-appointed legislature is due to vote on whether to impeach Yingluck for the subsidy program, a move which would ban her from politics for five years. SENT, photos.

INDIA-OBAMA-CLIMATE

NEW DELHI — When President Barack Obama visits New Delhi from Sunday, he will join the Indian capital’s masses in breathing some of the world’s filthiest air. Hazy skies will serve as the backdrop to meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials who are expected to discuss India’s biggest environmental woes: Heavy reliance on fossil fuels that has transformed New Delhi into the planet’s most polluted capital and made India the third biggest national emitter of greenhouse gases. By Katy Daigle. UPCOMING: 850 words by 0700 GMT, photos.

PHILIPPINES-SUMS OF THE FATHER

MANILA, Philippines — When the pope comes to town, a huge bill awaits the host country, but in pope-adoring Philippines, the mammoth crowds whipped up by the Roman Catholic Church leader also offered plenty of good business. By Teresa Cerojano. UPCOMING: 800 words by 0700 GMT.

SRI LANKA-BACKLASH

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Their friends have deserted them. Their houses have been raided. Their power — near-absolute on this island nation just a month ago — has melted away, replaced with talk that some family members could face charges of corruption or murder. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family — brothers, nephews and cousins who have dominated Sri Lanka for nearly a decade — are suddenly portraying themselves as victims. UPCOMING by 0600GMT, photos.

S KOREA-NEW PM NOMINEE

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Park Geun-hye nominated ruling party lawmaker Lee Wan Koo to replace Prime Minister Chung Hong-won nearly 10 months after Chung offered to resign over a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people in April last year. SENT: 130 words.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

HONG KONG — China’s manufacturing shrank for a second month in January, further evidence that momentum in the world’s second-biggest economy remains weak after posting its slowest growth in more than two decades. HSBC said Friday its preliminary index of manufacturing activity, based on a survey of factory purchasing managers, rose to 49.8 from 49.6 in December. Reading less than 50 on the index’s 100-point scale indicate manufacturing is contracting. By Kelvin Chan.

SKOREA-EARNS-HYUNDAI MOTOR

SEOUL, South Korea — Hyundai Motor Co. suffers a drop in quarterly earnings and is forecasting weak sales growth this year after falling behind competitors in factory expansions. South Korea’s largest automaker said Thursday its October-December net income dropped 22 percent from a year earlier to 1.66 trillion won ($1.53 billion). By Youkyung Lee. SENT, photos.

SKOREA-ECONOMY

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s economy grew at its slowest pace in more than a year in the fourth quarter due to reduced government spending. The Bank of Korea said Friday that Asia’s fourth-largest economy expanded 2.7 percent from a year earlier in the October-December quarter.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

TOKYO — Asian stocks zoomed higher Friday, boosted by the European Central Bank’s stimulus announcement, a long awaited move that also set off gains in Europe and on Wall Street. SENT.

US & INTERNATIONAL

YEMEN

SANAA, Yemen — Yemen’s U.S.-backed president resigns under pressure from Shiite rebels two days after they confined him to his home. The resignation fuels fears that the poorest Arab nation will once again split apart and greatly complicate U.S. efforts to combat al-Qaida and other jihadists. By Ahmed al-Haj. SENT: 900 words, photos.

OBIT-KING ABDULLAH

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the powerful U.S. ally who fought against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom, including by nudging open greater opportunities for women, has died at age 90. More than his guarded and hidebound predecessors, Abdullah assertively threw his oil-rich nation’s weight behind trying to shape the Middle East. By Aya Batrawy and Abdullah Al-Shihri. SENT, photos.

OBAMA-NETANYAHU

WASHINGTON — A planned speech to Congress by Israel’s prime minister is kicking up a diplomatic storm. The White House says President Barack Obama won’t meet with Benjamin Netanyahu. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 500 words, photos.

BRITAIN-PRINCE ANDREW

DAVOS, Switzerland —Britain’s Prince Andrew publicly denies for the first time allegations that he had sex with an underage teenager. SENT: 300 words, photos.

ARGENTINA-PROSECUTOR KILLED

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Cristina Fernandez says she’s now convinced prosecutor did not commit suicide as more questions arise about the death of the man who had accused the president of a cover-up in the nation’s worst terrorist attack, the bombing of a Jewish center he had blamed on former Iranian officials. By Almudena Calatrava. SENT: 900 words, photos.

FRANCE-TROUBLED SUBURBS

MONTFERMEIL, France — As France’s prime minister kicks off a new plan to fix troubled schools and restive suburbs, the people he’s trying to help are more skeptical than hopeful. The new impetus comes after French-born Islamic radicals shocked the nation with terror attacks. By Elaine Ganley and Sylvie Corbet. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

LEBANON-MILITANT PRISON

ROUMIEH, Lebanon — For years, Islamist prisoners linked up with militants outside through smartphones and computers bought from guards, operating freely in a notorious jail in Lebanon. Until commandos cleared out some 900 prisoners this month, Roumieh prison was a dramatic example of a worldwide problem — how to incarcerate militants without creating places for them to flourish. By Diaa Hadid. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

LOST PLANES

WASHINGTON — Responding to recent incidents in which airliners vanished, U.S. accident investigators recommended Thursday that all passenger planes making long flights over water carry improved technology that will allow them to be found more readily in the event of a crash. By Joan Lowy. SENT: 770 words, photos.

MAGNETIC SMUGGLING

SAN DIEGO — Drug smugglers are turning “trusted travelers” into unwitting mules by placing containers with powerful magnets under their cars and then recovering the illegal cargo far from the view of border authorities. One motorist spotted the containers while pumping gas and thought it was a bomb; it turned out to be 13 pounds of heroin. By Elliot Spagat. SENT: 770 words, photos.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

FRANKFURT, Germany — Europe’s ailing economy gets a major dose of help from the European Central Bank, which launches a far-reaching government bond-buying program to try to make loans and exports cheaper and get companies to expand and hire. By David McHugh. SENT: 850 words, photos.

SCIENCE

EBOLA VACCINES

WASHINGTON — Long-awaited studies of two possible Ebola vaccines are set to begin in West Africa in a couple of weeks, starting in Liberia, U.S. officials say. By Lauran Neergaard. SENT: 500 words, photos.

SEA SPARKLE

Eerie fluorescent blue patches of water glimmering off Hong Kong’s seashore are magnificent, disturbing and potentially toxic, marine biologists say. By Seth Borenstein. SENT: 300 words, photos.

ENTERTAINMENT

OSCAR FEVER

NEW YORK — Oscar fever is spreading across the land. Between Jan. 15, when Academy Award nominations are announced, and Feb. 22 — the movie industry’s big night — sufferers flock to theaters, beg screening DVDs from voting Screen Actors Guild members and trek to marathons to see as many contenders as possible in one stretch. By Leanne Italie. SENT: 800 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— UNITED STATES-CUBA— The United States and Cuba set a detailed agenda for re-establishing full diplomatic ties, but say it could take weeks just to schedule the next round of talks. SENT: 460 words, photos.

— CIA LEAK — A disgruntled ex-CIA officer was the only person with the knowledge, motive and opportunity to leak details of a classified operation against Iran to a New York Times reporter, prosecutors say. SENT: 700 words.

— COMET SCIENCE — Scientists find further evidence that comets harbor the building blocks of life. SENT: 340 words.

— POLAND-RUSSIA-AUSCHWITZ — Russia accuses Poland of engaging in a “mockery of history” after the Polish foreign minister credited Ukrainian soldiers, rather than the Soviet Red Army, with liberating Auschwitz 70 years ago. SENT: 560 words, photos.

— KIDS-HOME ALONE — Police in New Hampshire say 9-year-old twins were left mostly on their own for four months while their parents went to Nigeria. SENT: 440 words.

___

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