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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

February 21, 2014

ASIA:

CHINA-PROSTITUTION

BEIJING — China’s booming sex industry may finally be entering a winter after decades of robust growth, as Beijing wages a harsher-than-usual clampdown on vice. Suppressed during the Mao years, prostitution flourished after China’s economic opening in the 1980s while local governments eager for new business looked the other way and half-hearted police crackdowns barely dented the illicit industry. But this crackdown seems to be different. By Didi Tang. SENT: 850 words, photos.

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — Angry farmers driving hundreds of tractors call off a threatened protest at Thailand’s main airport, offering a reprieve to the country’s embattled prime minister and to travelers fearing a repeat of a major 2008 blockade of the airport. The farmers canceled the protest after striking a last-minute deal with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who agreed to make long-delayed payments on last year’s rice crops by next week. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 500 words, photos.

JAPAN-ANNE FRANK

TOKYO — Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl” and scores of books about the young Holocaust victim have been vandalized in Tokyo public libraries since earlier this year. The damage was mostly in the form of dozens of ripped pages in the books. Librarians have counted at least 265 damaged books at 31 municipal libraries since the end of January. SENT: 300 words, photos.

CHINA-AIR POLLUTION

BEIJING — When the air gets really bad, Beijing says it has an emergency plan to yank half the city’s cars off the road. The only problem is: It may be difficult to ever set that plan in motion. It wasn’t triggered in January, when the city recorded extremely poisonous air pollution. And not this week, when pollution was expected to continue for several days at hazardous levels. A rare alert issued Friday was an “orange” one — the second-highest in the four levels of urgency — prompting health advisories and bans on barbeques, fireworks and demolition work, but no order to pull cars from the streets. By Didi Tang. SENT: 500 words, photos.

INDONESIA-PROTECTING MANTAS

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia is now the world’s largest sanctuary for manta rays, after officials were persuaded by evidence that the gentle giants known for delighting tourists are worth more alive than dead. The government on Friday announced that manta rays within the archipelago’s 5.8 million square kilometers (2.2 million square miles) of ocean will be protected from fishing and export. By Margie Mason. SENT: 850 words, photos.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan — Militants attack a police compound near Kabul with explosives and guns, setting off an hour-long firefight that left one officer dead and four wounded, according to Afghan officials. SENT: 200 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-AFGHANISTAN

WASHINGTON — A new assessment of Afghanistan’s future says the country could revert to a terrorist haven unless U.S. and international partners underwrite a larger, and more expensive, Afghan security force than is currently planned beyond 2014. SENT: 820 words, photo.

PHILIPPINES-FREED SISTERS

MANILA, Philippines —Two Algerian-born Filipino sisters kidnapped by Muslim extremists eight months ago escape from their captors in the jungles of the southern Philippines with a cat that gave them company during their ordeal. By Jim Gomez. SENT: 580 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-DALAI LAMA

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will meet with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Friday at the White House. The meeting could strain already tense relations between the U.S. and China. The exiled leader, who is in the U.S. for a speaking tour, is famed for his peaceful struggle for greater Tibetan autonomy that China bitterly opposes. SENT: 460 words, photos.

— CHINA-US — China and the United States share common objectives and should boost cooperation between their militaries, the U.S. Army chief says at the start of meetings with top Chinese generals aimed at building trust amid rising regional tensions. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 460 words, photos.

PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD — A defense lawyer says a Pakistani court trying the country’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for treason has rejected his plea to send his case to a military court, saying it has the jurisdiction to hear the case. SENT: 130 words.

INDONESIA-DRUG ARREST

BALI, Indonesia — Indonesian authorities arrest a New Zealand woman for allegedly possessing illegal drugs in a raid on the resort island of Bali, police and a lawyer say. SENT: 210 words.

PHILIPPINES-DRUGS

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine authorities kill at least seven alleged drug traffickers and arrest dozens of others in raids in a southern city, police say. Police officers and Drug Enforcement Agency agents were met by gunfire when they raided 26 hideouts of suspected drug traffickers in Davao city’s coastal Tibungco district. SENT: 260 words.

MYANMAR-JADE BOULDER

YANGON, Myanmar — An enormous jade boulder that could weigh up to 50 tons has been found half buried in restive northern Myanmar, and the government has sent troops to protect it, a state minister says. By Esther Htusan. SENT: 270 words.

AUSTRALIA-MODERN FAMILY

SYDNEY — Actress Sarah Hyland was back on set on a Sydney beach shooting a scene for the hit television comedy “Modern Family,” maintaining a tight work schedule despite being indecently assaulted by a fan. Police have charged a 29-year-old man with indecently assaulting the 23-year-old actress outside a party for cast members at a Sydney hotel. SENT: 370 words, photos.

FIG-YUNA KIM-SKOREA REACTION

SEOUL, South Korea — South Koreans still love Yuna Kim. The judges, however, are another matter. Kim, known as the “Queen” in South Korea, finished with the figure skating silver medal at the Sochi Olympics behind gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova of Russia. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 550 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

JAPAN-STRUGGLING SONY

TOKYO — PlayStation stands out among the long list of famous Sony brands as one that hasn’t faded or succumbed to a nimbler competitor. Months after hitting global markets, the latest version of the video-game console is going on sale at midnight in Tokyo, a big shift from times when Sony was ascendant enough to launch flagship products in Japan first. The PlayStation 4′s much awaited arrival in Sony Corp.’s home market is the first time Japan did not get a major Sony game machine ahead of other markets. With much riding on the PS4’s success, the commercial advantages of targeting overseas markets outweighed the sentimental pull of a home town launch. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 900 words, photos.

JAPAN-BHUTAN-ELECTRIC CARS

TOKYO — The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has tapped Nissan Motor Co. to supply electric cars for its taxis and government fleet, hoping to reduce reliance on imported oil. Under the agreement, Nissan will supply its Leaf electric car and set up charging stations in Bhutan. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 480 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-SHELL

SYDNEY — Royal Dutch Shell says it is selling its Australian gasoline stations and refinery to energy trader Vitol Group for 2.9 billion Australian dollars ($2.6 billion). The sale of Shell’s downstream businesses includes its Geelong refinery near Melbourne and its 870 retail outlets, the Hague, Netherlands-based company says. It does not include Shell’s aviation unit. SENT: 130 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

UKRAINE PROTESTS

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announces early presidential elections and promises to bring opposition members into the government in a bid to defuse a deep crisis in which scores have been killed and hundreds injured. SENT: 450 words, photos.

SOMALIA-ATTACK

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Militants wearing suicide vests and carrying guns and grenades attack the presidential palace, the latest attack in the violence-prone Somali capital of Mogadishu. The country’s president is reported to be unharmed, though others are killed. SENT: 380 words.

VENEZUELA-PROTESTS

CARACAS, Venezuela — The Venezuelan military plans to send additional troops to a border region where unrest has been particularly fierce, officials says, as the government faces growing criticism for its heavy-handed attempt to subdue a protest movement with nighttime sweeps that have turned many parts of the country into dangerous free-fire zones. By Ben Fox and Joshua Goodman. AP Photos.

PANAMA-CANAL

PANAMA CITY — A European-led consortium says work has resumed on a major expansion of the Panama Canal, following a two-week shutdown caused by a dispute over who is to pay for $1.6 billion in cost overruns.

INDIAN HEADQUARTERS SHOOTING

ALTURAS, California — Authorities say four people were shot to death and two were wounded in a shooting and knife attack at an American Indian tribal headquarters in California.

HAITI-DUVALIER

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A Haitian appellate court called for further investigation into human rights abuses allegedly committed during the 15-year rule of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, creating an opportunity for the prosecution to submit more evidence and perhaps even launch a trial against him. By Trenton Daniel.

MEXICO-CAR BOOM

CELAYA, Mexico — Sayonara, Japan. Mexico is on track to replace the Asian automotive giant as the second-largest exporter of cars to the United States by the end of the year. An $800 million Honda plant opening Friday in the central state of Guanajuato will produce about 200,000 Fit hatchbacks a year, helping push total Mexican car exports to the U.S. to 1.7 million in 2014, roughly 200,000 more than Japan, consulting firm IHS Automotive says. By Adriana Gomez Licon. AP Photos.

DEFICITS-FADING ISSUE

WASHINGTON — Just four years ago, U.S. deficits and debt were an explosive political combination, propelling Republicans to control of the House of Representatives and fueling the budget fights that would ensue over the next three years. Today, they are an afterthought in Washington’s political and policy landscape. AP Photo.

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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.

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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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