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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

March 20, 2014

ASIA:

MALAYSIA-PLANE

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Four military search planes are dispatched to try to determine whether two large objects bobbing in a remote part of the Indian Ocean were part of a possible debris field of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. By Scott Mcdonald and Kristen Gelineau. SENT: 888 words, photos, video, audio. UPCOMING: Developments will be expedited.

MALAYSIA-PLANE-AVIATION BOOM

HONG KONG — The transfixing mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet with 239 people on board has unfolded in a region experiencing red-hot growth in air travel as the middle class expands, discount airlines proliferate and business ties with the rest of the world deepen. Asia’s airports are bulging with passengers and a little known Indonesian airline has given Boeing and Airbus their biggest jet orders ever. By Kelvin Chan. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos.

— MALAYSIA-PLANE-FLIGHT SIMULATOR — Malaysian authorities have asked the FBI to help analyze data from a flight simulator found at the home of Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the Malaysia Airlines pilot whose plane has been missing since March 8. A look at a flight simulator.

MALAYSIA-PLANE-LEADING THEORIES

NEW YORK — Countless theories have surfaced about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 nearly two weeks ago. Some are plausible, some are downright absurd. There is, unfortunately, no clear answer as the families of the 239 passengers and crew — and the rest of the world — wait in agony. Even the most logical hypotheses about what happened to the 209-foot-long Boeing 777 have holes. No scenario solves this mystery. By Scott Mayerowitz. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

CHINA-MICHELLE OBAMA

BEIJING — First lady Michelle Obama plans to avoid politics and focus on education and people-to-people contact on her first trip to China. By Didi Tang. SENT: 550 words. UPCOMING: Will be updated after arrival scheduled for 1000 GMT, photos.

INDIA-GANG RAPE

NEW DELHI — A court has convicted four men of gang raping a photojournalist in India’s financial capital of Mumbai last year. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 350 words by 0730 GMT.

CHINA-TIBETAN MASTIFFS

BEIJING — A Chinese dog breeder says a property developer paid him 18 million yuan ($3 million) for Tibetan mastiff twins, highlighting how the breed has become a status symbol for China’s rich. SENT: 375 words, photo.

UNITED STATES-HONG KONG

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is voicing concern over attacks on media figures in Hong Kong after assailants targeted two executives planning to launch a new publication in the semiautonomous Chinese city. SENT: 130 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

WORLD MARKETS

TOKYO — Asian stocks inched down after comments from the new head of the Federal Reserve suggested U.S. interest rates could rise sooner than financial markets were anticipating. Janet Yellen’s comments after the Fed’s first policy meeting since she replaced Ben Bernanke sent Wall Street lower and the dollar higher on Wednesday. By Yuri Kageyama.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

UKRAINE

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea — Ukraine announces it plans to pull its forces from Crimea after a day that sees masked Russian-speaking troops take control of Ukrainian naval headquarters in the disputed peninsula. Pro-Moscow Crimean authorities also detain the Ukrainian navy commander. By John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 950 words, photos, video.

— CRIMEA-PHOTO GALLERY — Russian-speaking soldiers take over military base in Crimea. SENT: 60 words, photos.

OBAMA-RUSSIA-ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON — For President Barack Obama, Russia’s aggressive annexation of Crimea is testing central tenets of his foreign policy philosophy: his belief in direct diplomacy, his preference for economic sanctions as punishment, and his inclination to proceed cautiously in order to avoid creating larger long-term problems. The president’s strategy has failed to deter Russia’s Vladimir Putin, raising the question of whether Obama is willing to break from this mold or stand pat. AP News Analysis by White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 950 words, photos, video.

TOYOTA-GENERAL MOTORS

Toyota’s saga of recalls, investigations and lawsuits related to unintended acceleration foreshadows some of what General Motors faces as it resolves issues related to a faulty ignition switch linked to at least 12 deaths. Some things are clear: The damage to the company’s sales and reputation is a greater risk than the financial liabilities. And failing to be up front with regulators and Congress about safety issues can come back to haunt the company. Less certain is whether individuals will be charged and how the car-buying public will react. By Tom Krisher. SENT: 1,120 words, photos, video.

— UNITED STATES-TOYOTA — The government announces a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota, including an admission by the automaker that it misled consumers and hid information from regulators and Congress related to defects that caused Toyota and Lexus vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly. SENT: 970 words, photo, video.

APNewsBreak: EXECUTION DRUGS-TEXAS

HOUSTON - Texas has obtained a new batch of the drugs it uses to execute death row inmates, allowing the state to continue carrying out death sentences once its existing supply expires at the end of the month. But correction officials will not say where they bought the drugs, nor whether providing anonymity to its new supplier was a condition of the purchase. The moves in secret come as major drugmakers, many based in Europe, have stopped selling pentobarbital and other substances used in lethal injections to U.S. corrections agencies because they oppose the death penalty. By Michael Graczyk. SENT: 1,080 words, photo.

HOT CELL DEATH

NEW YORK — Jerome Murdough was just looking for a warm place to sleep on a chilly night last month when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem public housing project where he was arrested for trespassing. A week later, the mentally ill homeless man was found dead in a Rikers Island jail cell that four city officials tell the AP had overheated to at least 100 degrees, apparently because of malfunctioning equipment. Says one official: “He basically baked to death.” Advocates for mentally ill inmates say the death represents the failure of the city’s justice system on almost every level. By Jake Pearson. SENT: 980 words, photos.

MORE ON UKRAINE

CRIMEA-STAY OR GO

SIMFERPOL, Crimea — Vait Sitdzhemiliev brought his wife and three daughters to Crimea to honor a deathbed wish from his father six years ago. Now, waking Wednesday in a land officially annexed by Russia, the Crimean Tatar is worried about what is to come, but has decided to stay. His choice mirrors that of the majority of members of minority populations in ethnic Russian-dominated Crimea — at least so far. By John-Thor Dahlbrug. SENT: 970 words, photos.

— RUSSIA-COST OF CRIMEA — Despite the pebble beaches and cliff-hanging castles that made Crimea famous as a Soviet resort hub, the Black Sea peninsula has long been a corruption-riddled backwater in economic terms. A look at what Crimea needs most and the economic challenges Russia faces in absorbing it. SENT: 950 words, photos.

BIN LADEN SPOKESMAN

NEW YORK — Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law recounts in surprise testimony how the al-Qaida leader sent a messenger to drive him into a mountainous area for a meeting inside a cave on the night of the Sept. 11 attacks. “Did you learn what happened? We are the ones who did it,” Sulaiman Abu Ghaith recalls bin Laden telling him. An announcement by Abu Ghaith’s lawyer that his client would testify quickly fills the courtroom with spectators eager to hear from the man who acted as al-Qaida’s spokesman and is accused of conspiring to kill Americans. By Larry Neumeister and Tom Hays. SENT: 840 words, photos.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A Palestinian uprising leader imprisoned by Israel could soon emerge as the key to keeping fragile U.S.-led peace efforts alive. The Palestinians are seeking the freedom of Marwan Barghouti, serving multiple life sentences for his alleged role in killings of Israelis, as part of any plan to extend negotiations with Israel beyond an April deadline. His release could inject new life into the troubled peace process and establish a potential successor to embattled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. By Mohammed Daraghmeh. SENT: 1,260 words, photos.

— ISRAEL-SYRIA — Israeli warplanes unleash a series of airstrikes on Syrian military posts, killing one soldier and wounding seven in one of the most serious clashes between the countries in the past four decades. SENT: 670 words, photos.

EGYPT

CAIRO — Egyptian security forces raid a warehouse suspected of being a militants’ bomb factory on Cairo’s outskirts, sparking a battle with gunmen that left two military officers and five militants dead. The battle points to how an al-Qaida-inspired Islamic militant group based in Sinai that is waging an expanding campaign of violence has been able to set up cells on the doorstep of the capital. By Sarah El Deeb. SENT: 890 words, photos.

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend was standing in a toilet cubicle and facing the closed door when she was hit in the right hip by the first of four bullets that he fired, a police ballistics expert testifies at the double-amputee runner’s murder trial. Reeva Steenkamp fell back onto a magazine holder in the cubicle and crossed her arms over her head to protect herself, said Capt. Christiaan Mangena, but the third and fourth bullets hit her in the arm and the head, killing her. By Christopher Torchia and Gerald Imray. SENT: 820 words, photos.

NOTABLE PHOTOS — IRAN-FIRE-FESTIVEAL-PHOTO-GALLERY — Iranians celebrate end of winter with traditional fire festival. SENT: 230 words, photos.

ENTERTAINMENT

STEVEN SPIELBERG-SHOAH FOUNDATION

LOS ANGELES — Steven Spielberg isn’t planning to make any more Holocaust movies. The Oscar-winning director of “Schindler’s List” is leaving that to the Shoah Foundation he established 20 years ago, which has filmed and digitized testimonies from nearly 52,000 Holocaust survivors. By Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen. SENT: 750 words, photos.

GETTING ATTENTION

— L’WREN SCOTT — Death of fashion designer is ruled a suicide. SENT: 133 words, photos. UPCOMING: 400 words by 6:30 p.m.

— CHICKEN FROM HELL — After years as the ‘chicken from hell,’ a two-legged, beaked dinosaur gets a scientific name. SENT: 370 words, photos.

— FILM-DIVERGENT — Drawing comparisons to “The Hunger Games,” young adult sci-fi adaptation “Divergent” is lining up to be Hollywood’s next box-office sensation. SENT: 700 words, photos.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Hrvoje Hranjski. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at asia@ap.org.

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Between 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.

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