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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

January 30, 2014



BANGKOK — The protest leader, a monk in flowing orange robes, sat sternly at the head of a long hardwood table, his newfound authority in this patch of Bangkok plain for all to see. Before him, three high-level Thai officials were begging permission to get back to work — in offices his anti-government demonstrators had shut them out of two weeks earlier. “We are begging your mercy,” Bangkok’s deputy police chief said on behalf of the group. The monk refused, in an extraordinarily humbling moment for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government. By Todd Pitman. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.


MANILA, Philippines — Philippine troops kill at least 40 Islamic fighters and captured a rebel stronghold with a bomb-making facility in a three-day offensive against insurgents opposed to a new peace deal, military officials say. By Jim Gomez. SENT: 510 words.


BEIJING — Dragging a heavy suitcase through a Shanghai subway station, 17-year-old Linghu Yong prepared to cram onto a jam-packed train for the 30-hour trip home to spend the Lunar New Year with his family. And he was one of the lucky ones. Crowds of other migrant workers were still camped out for the often dayslong wait for a ticket. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 640 words, photos.


BEIJING — The former mayor of the city of Nanjing is expelled from China’s ruling Communist Party, clearing the way for him to be prosecuted in a nationwide anti-corruption crackdown. Ji Jianye was found to have abused his position and improperly accepted money and gifts. SENT: 210 words.


TOKYO — About 1,400 people file a joint lawsuit against three companies that manufactured Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, saying they should be financially liable for damage caused by its 2011 meltdowns. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the lawsuit is a landmark challenge of current regulations which give manufacturers immunity from liability in nuclear accidents. SENT: 130 words.


DHAKA, Bangladesh — The head of the main Bangladeshi Islamist opposition party is among 14 people sentenced to death on charges of smuggling weapons to a rebel group in neighboring India. Security officials seized more than 4,000 firearms and 1 million bullets and other military equipment in April 2004 when they were being unloaded from fishing boats. By Julhas Alam. SENT: 380 words, photos.


WASHINGTON — North Korea has followed through on its threat to advance its nuclear weapons program, the top U.S. intelligence official says, while a research institute points to signs the communist country is preparing to launch bigger rockets. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 600 words.


WARSAW, Poland — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hints at growing U.S. impatience with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for not signing an accord permitting American troops to remain in his country after the U.S. combat mission ends in December. Hagel says at some point Karzai’s indecision will interfere with Washington’s need to plan the post-2014 military mission that Karzai himself has said he favors. SENT: 230 words.


KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide car bomber kills two police officers in eastern Afghanistan while policemen elsewhere in the same province foil another suicide attack, officials say. SENT: 180 words, photos.


UNITED NATIONS — The tensions gripping East Asia flare at a U.N. Security Council debate on war and peace. Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi says Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “closed the door to dialogue with China” with his recent visit to a shrine where convicted World War II criminals are buried. The envoys of North and South Korea also lambasted the visit. Japan rebuked its neighbors for raising their grievances in an open forum with envoys of more than 50 countries present. The bitter exchanges played out over hours as each of the four countries took the floor twice to have their say. SENT: 400 words.


GAUHATI, India — A mob armed with shotguns attacks a remote village in northeast India, killing at least 10 people in a long-simmering land dispute, police say. By Wasbir Hussain. SENT: 150 words.


MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government says it regrets new Hong Kong sanctions but cannot accept a demand that it apologize for the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists in a 2010 hostage tragedy. SENT: 330 words, photos.



BEIJING — Business should be picking up for Zhao Guoping, a Beijing shopkeeper, as Chinese leaders try to build a consumer society to replace a worn-out economic model based on trade and investment. But his financial struggle highlights the hurdles that ambitious effort faces. Squeezed by higher costs and weak sales to budget-minded shoppers, Zhao said the income from his neighborhood shop has fallen by half to 50,000 yuan ($6,000) a year. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.


HONG KONG — Chinese manufacturing shrank this month for the first time in half a year, a survey of factory purchasing managers confirms. The HSBC survey backs up a preliminary version earlier this month that unsettled global investors by raising fears the world’s No. 2 economy is slowing. SENT: 400 words.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Five years after the global financial crisis, New Zealand is poised to become one of the first developed nations to raise interest rates in response to a thriving economy. The South Pacific nation of 4.5 million is benefiting from huge demand in China for its milk products and from the gathering pace of reconstruction in Christchurch, where a 2011 earthquake destroyed much of the southern city’s downtown. By Nick Perry. SENT: 830 words, photos.


TOKYO — Nintendo has been unable to arrest a slide in console sales as more people play games on smartphones and tablets. The company’s apparent solution? A move into health care. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata vows to stick to the company’s old ways, refuses to resign or cut product prices despite its dismal earnings, but says the video game maker will enter the health care industry. SENT: 320 words, photos.


MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine economy expanded 7.2 percent in 2013 despite the havoc wrought in the last months of the year by a super typhoon, an earthquake and a weekslong gun battle that shut down a major port city. Even then, the Philippines was the second best performing economy in Asia after China in the fourth quarter, growing 6.5 percent from a year earlier, officials say. By Oliver Teves. SENT: 460 words, photos.


TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. is in discussions with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about a possible recall in the U.S. and Canada covering several car models, including the popular Camry, for a problem with seat fabric. The Japanese automaker has already halted sales of the problem vehicles, which are only those equipped with seat heaters, because the fabric may not clear flammability standards. SENT: 230 words.



KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovych is taking sick leave, his office announced Thursday, leaving it unclear how involved he may be in efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis in which protesters are calling for his resignation. The announcement prompted skeptical reactions and even the suggestion that it was a ruse to take him out of power. By Jim Heintz. SENT: 500 words, photos. By Jim Heintz. SENT: 480 words, photos, interactive.


BEIRUT — The Syrian government used controlled explosives and bulldozers to raze thousands of residential buildings, in some cases entire neighborhoods, in a campaign that appeared designed to punish civilians sympathetic to the opposition or cause disproportionate harm to them, an international human rights group says. The demolitions took place between July 2012 and July 2013 in seven opposition districts in and around the capital, Damascus, and the central city of Hama, Human Rights Watch says in a 38-page report. The New York-based group says the deliberate destruction violated international law, and called for an immediate end to the practice. By Ryan Lucas. SENT: 720 words, photos.

— SYRIA-PEACE TALKS — Syrian negotiators resume peace talks a day after Assad’s adviser rejects the opposition’s call for a transitional governing body and suggests for the first time that a presidential election may not take place as planned later this year. SENT: 130 words.


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Consumer prices are soaring, the treasury is running low on foreign currency, and the peso has had its sharpest slide in 12 years. Instead of rioting, Argentines are falling back on tried and true survival skills to cope with the turmoil. By Almudena Calatrava and Debora Rey. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.


SAN FRANCISCO — Google is selling Motorola’s smartphone business to Lenovo for $2.9 billion, a price that leaves little doubt that Google’s biggest acquisition turned out to be an expensive mistake. By Michael Liedtke. SENT: 700 words, photo.


TORONTO — Justin Bieber is charged with assault for allegedly hitting a Toronto limousine driver several times in the back of the head last month, just hours after his attorney entered a separate not guilty plea in Florida to drunken-driving and other charges. The baby-faced 19-year-old turned himself in to a Toronto police station Wednesday evening, arriving amid a crush of media and screaming fans. He was charged with one count of assault and is scheduled to appear in court in Toronto on March 10. SENT: 850 words, photos.


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza’s tiny movie industry may struggle with amateur actors and power outages, but at least it has a winning formula: the heroics, from a Palestinian perspective, of those fighting Israeli occupation. “Losing Schalit,” the second film to be made in the territory, tackles the 2006 capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit by gunmen allied with the Islamic militant Hamas movement. Like the first film, about a senior militant commander, it received financing from Gaza’s Hamas government. By Ibrahim Barzak. SENT: 840 words, photos, video.


CAIRO — The head of Egypt’s military, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, is riding a wave of popular fervor that is almost certain to carry him to election as president. Unknown two years ago, a broad sector of Egyptians now hails him as the nation’s savior after he ousted the Islamists from power. If he runs, he’s also taking enormous risks. His presidency would enmesh the military even more deeply into politics and likely further stoke a backlash from Islamists. By Maggie Michael and Lee Keath. SENT: 1,400 words, photos.


MALAKAL, South Sudan — Behind barbed wire fencing Peter Tap cuts a forlorn figure, one of 27,000 South Sudanese seeking safety at a UN base in an area that has suffered some of South Sudan’s worst violence. Like many, he feels it is too dangerous to return home despite a truce between the warring factions. Some wonder if they can ever make a home here again and are asking to be refugees in other countries. By Ilya Gridneff. SENT: 600 words, photos.


BAYONNE, N.J. — Kim Waite was disappointed to fall ill while treating herself to a Caribbean cruise after completing cancer treatment. The London woman thought she was the only sick one as her husband wheeled her to the infirmary — until the elevator doors opened to reveal hundreds of people vomiting into bags, in buckets, on the floor, whatever was closest. The suspected norovirus outbreak that sickened nearly 700 passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas would rank among the worst to happen at sea; the ship is being sanitized in preparation for its next voyage. By Samantha Henry. SENT: 500 words, photos, video.


— NUCLEAR MISSTEPS — Top military officials searching for solutions to systemic personnel problems in nuclear corps. SENT: 600 words, photo.

— PEANUT ALLERGY — Giving kids with peanut allergies doses of peanut flour helped many safely eat a few nuts. SENT: 570 words, photos.

— HEROIN-HAPPY MEALS — McDonald’s employee in Pittsburgh charged with selling heroin in Happy Meals from drive-thru. SENT: 160 words.


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.

The Asia Photo Desk can be reached at (81-3) 6215-8941 or by fax at (81-3) 3574-8850.

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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