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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

August 18, 2014

ASIA:

SKOREA-POPE

SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis wraps up his first trip to Asia by challenging Koreans —from the North and the South — to reject the “mindset of suspicion and confrontation” that clouds their relations and find new ways to forge peace on the war-divided peninsula. Before boarding a plane back to Rome, the pope held a Mass of reconciliation at Seoul’s main cathedral, attended by South Korean President Park Geun-hye as well as some North Korean defectors. It was the final event of a five-day trip that confirmed the importance of Asia for this papacy and for the Catholic Church as a whole, given the church is young and growing here whereas it is withering in traditionally Christian lands in Europe. By Nicole Winfield and Jung-Yoon Choi. SENT: 870 words, photos, video.

NEPAL-FLOODING

KATMANDU, Nepal — Nepalese authorities are bracing for an outbreak of disease as they attempted to reach thousands of people stranded by flooding that has already killed 101 people and left more than 136 missing. Four helicopters with food, emergency supplies, medicine and medical workers were sent to villages in the west of the country. By Binaj Gurubacharya. SENT: 280 words.

INDIA-WILDLIFE THREATENED

NEW DELHI — Wildlife poachers, hindered by India’s efforts to protect majestic endangered animals including tigers and rhinos, have begun to think smaller. And activists say scores of the country’s lesser-known species are vanishing from the wild as a result. The Indian pangolin, a scaly critter whose defense mechanism of rolling up into a ball is no help against humans, and the star tortoise, a popular pet that maxes out at a foot in length, are just two of the species that are being killed or smuggled in ever-increasing numbers over the past several years while conservation efforts focused on other creatures. By Nirmala George. UPCOMING: 800 words by 0700GMT, photos.

MYANMAR-UNSPOKEN NAME

WASHINGTON — Myanmar’s downtrodden Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship, targeted in deadly sectarian violence and corralled into dirty camps without aid. To heap on the indignity, Myanmar’s government is pressuring foreign officials not to speak the group’s name, and the tactic appears to be working. U.N. officials say they avoid the term in public to avoid stirring tensions between the country’s Buddhists and Muslims. And after Secretary of State John Kerry recently met with Myanmar leaders, a senior State Department official told reporters the U.S. thinks the name issue should be “set aside.” By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 940 words.

JAPAN-SYRIA

TOKYO — Japan is looking into reports that a Japanese man may have been detained possibly by militants in Syria. The government was trying to confirm through the Japanese embassy in Damascus, now operating out of Jordan, the reports that surfaced over the weekend, such as online posts showing a man being captured, allegedly in Syria, officials said. SENT: 250 words.

PAKISTAN-CRIPPLED CAPITAL

ISLAMABAD — Twin protests demanding the Pakistani government step down have wreaked havoc in the capital, Islamabad, where commuters must circumvent shipping containers and barbed wire to get to work, protesters knock on people’s doors to use the bathroom, and garbage is piling up. “People are talking of revolution but (they) don’t care about the difficulties we are facing due to this situation,” said Zafar Habib, a 56-year-old government employee in Islamabad. SENT: 710 words, photos.

CHINA-MONOPOLY CRACKDOWN-AUTOS

BEIJING — China’s government says it has concluded Mercedes-Benz violated anti-monopoly law and charged excessive prices for parts, adding to a growing number of global automakers snared in an investigation of the industry. Regulators found the luxury unit of Germany’s Daimler AG engaged in “vertical price-fixing” by abusing its control over supplies of replacement parts, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. It said investigators from the price bureau of the eastern province of Jiangsu found prices were so high that purchasing the parts used to make one Mercedes C-class car would cost the equivalent of buying 12 vehicles. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 450 words.

US & INTERNATIONAL

UNITED STATES-IRAQ

EDGARTOWN, Massachusetts — The U.S. has expanded its air campaign in Iraq with attacks aimed at helping Iraqi forces regain control of the strategic Mosul dam. The White House says President Barack Obama notified Congress on Sunday that the widened mission would be limited in duration and scope. The latest round of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State extremist group includes the first reported use of land-based bombers in the military campaign. SENT: 270 words, photos, audio.

POLICE SHOOTING-MISSOURI

FERGUSON, Missouri — Attorney General Eric Holder orders a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes-violent protests in suburban St. Louis. The “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and a request by Brown’s family members prompted the order, Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement. SENT: 920 words, photos, video.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

CAIRO — The Palestinians appear divided as the clock winds down on the latest Gaza cease-fire, with officials saying Hamas is still opposing a compromise Egyptian proposal that would ease the closure of the strip while the other groups, including delegates representing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, are inclined to accept. Hamas is holding out in hopes of more concessions from Israel, such as an agreement to establish a Gaza seaport. Once the truce expires late Monday, the range of outcomes includes a return to the fighting that has brought great devastation to Gaza civilians, an unofficial understanding that the fighting ends without a deal that might be difficult to sell to either side’s public, or yet another extension. By Mohammed Daraghmeh and Josef Federman. SENT: 820 words, photos.

UKRAINE

KIEV, Ukraine — Army troops have penetrated deep inside a rebel-controlled city in eastern Ukraine in what could prove a breakthrough development in the four-month-long conflict, the Ukrainian government says. However, the military acknowledged that another one of its fighter planes was shot down by the separatists, who have been bullish about their ability to continue the battle and have bragged about receiving support from Russia. Meanwhile Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers are meeting in Berlin to resume diplomatic talks. By Peter Leonard. SENT: 600 words, photos.

EBOLA-SOURCE

A scary problem lurks beyond the frenzied efforts to keep people from spreading Ebola: No one knows exactly where the virus comes from or how to stop it from seeding new outbreaks. Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since the virus first emerged in 1976. It is coming from somewhere — probably bats — but experts agree they need to pinpoint its origins in nature. By AP Medical Writers Mike Stobbe and Marilynn Marchione. SENT: 860 words, photos.

LEBANON-HIP HOP DISSENT

BEIRUT — In a red-lit bar in Beirut, Nasser Shorbaji and Marwan Alameh try not to knock the microphones over while laughing during the broadcast of their weekly radio show. Moments later, they turn more somber as they introduce a segment on Palestinian hip hop, discussing the most recent outbreak of war on Gaza. Heads nod in the packed bar to the rhymes of Sati, a Palestinian rapper. The duo are among a host of Lebanese graffiti artists and rappers trying to re-engage disaffected youth in a debate about the country’s latest wave of political turmoil and the woes of the greater Middle East. By Sam Kimball. SENT: 620 words, photos.

HEALTHBEAT-MATH SKILLS

WASHINGTON — Sometime in elementary school, you quit counting your fingers and just know the answer. Now, scientists have put youngsters into brain scanners to find out why, and watched how the brain reorganizes itself as kids learn math. The take-home advice: drilling your kids on simple addition and multiplication may pay off. Healthy children start making that switch between counting to what’s called fact retrieval when they’re 8 years old to 9 years old, when they’re still working on fundamental addition and subtraction. How well kids make that shift to memory-based problem-solving is known to predict their ultimate math achievement. By Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard. SENT: 650 words, photo.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION:

— BOX OFFICE — With $28.4 million, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ tops a weak debut for ‘Expendables 3’ in US market. SENT: 680 words.

— OBAMA — Obama back in Washington on rare vacation break; plans meetings on Iraq, Ferguson clashes. SENT: 400 words.

— MISSING GIRLS — Couple charged with kidnapping 2 Amish sisters may have planned other abductions. SENT: 380 words.

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