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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

April 8, 2014

ASIA

MALAYSIA-PLANE

PERTH, Australia — Search crews have failed to relocate faint sounds heard deep in the Indian Ocean, possibly from the missing Malaysian jetliner’s black boxes whose batteries are at the end of their life. Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal who is heading the search far off Australia’s west coast, said sound locating equipment on board the Ocean Shield has picked up no trace of the signals since they were first heard late Saturday and early Sunday. The signals had sparked hopes of a breakthrough in the search for Flight 370. By Nick Perry. SENT: 980 words, photos.

MALAYSIA-PLANE-HITTING THE WATER

SYDNEY — Did the missing Malaysian jet plunge into the ocean at a steep angle, leaving virtually no debris on the surface? Did it come in flat, clip a wave and cartwheel into pieces? Or did it break up in midair, sending chunks tumbling down over a wide swath of water? By Rohan Sullivan. SENT: 790 words, photos.

HAGEL-CHINA

BEIJING — The defense chiefs of China and the U.S. face off over Beijing’s escalating territorial disputes in the region, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, wagging his finger, said China doesn’t have the right to unilaterally establish an air defense zone over disputed islands with no consultation. And he said America will protect Japan in a dispute with China. By Lolita C. Baldor. SENT: 550 words, photos.

THAILAND-RED SHIRTS

UDON THANI, Thailand — On a scorching afternoon in northeast Thailand, about 1,000 black-clad supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra clenched their fists and punched imaginary opponents with forceful uppercuts. Then they fended off kicks and practiced footwork to loud speakers blaring music typically heard at a Thai kickboxing stadium. The scene in Udon Thani province was part of a two-day training course in the heart of pro-government “Red Shirt” country — Thailand’s rural, poor north and northeast. The Red Shirts have been largely quiet since anti-Yingluck protesters shut down key intersections in Bangkok for several weeks earlier this year. But now, with growing speculation that Thailand’s constitutional court and anti-graft agency may remove Yingluck from office in what critics say would be a “judicial coup,” her supporters are gearing up to march on Bangkok themselves, raising the specter of renewed violence in Thailand’s decade-long political turmoil. By Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

MYANMAR-ROHINGYA-PERSECUTION

YANGON, Myanmar — A U.N. human rights envoy says severe shortages of food, water and medical care for Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar are part of a long history of persecution against the religious minority that could amount to “crimes against humanity.” Tomás Ojea Quintana’s statement follows the evacuation of hundreds of international humanitarian workers from Rakhine state, home to almost all the country’s 1.3 million Rohingya, tens of thousands of whom are living in crowded displacement camps. SENT: 500 words.

PHILIPPINES-MUSLIM REBELS

MANILA, Philippines — The largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines says it has formed a political party as it turns away from a decades-long rebellion after signing a peace pact with the government. Mohagher Iqbal, a leader of the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said Tuesday that his rebel group’s new political organization, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, would be used as a springboard to contest leadership of a more powerful Muslim autonomous region to be established in the south of the largely Catholic Philippines. SENT: 130 words, photos.

CHINA-TRAPPED MINERS

BEIJING — Rescuers struggled Tuesday to pump water from a coal mine in southern China where 22 miners have been trapped for more than a day. State media said narrow passageways and a lack of electricity at the Xiahaizi mine in Yunnan province were hampering rescue efforts. Four miners escaped following the shaft’s flooding before dawn Monday, which was apparently caused by blasting on an upper level, the official Xinhua News Agency said. SENT: 160 words.

GERMANY-NKOREA

BERLIN — Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it summoned North Korea’s envoy in Berlin over Pyongyang’s threat to carry out another nuclear test. The Foreign Ministry says the summoning of Ambassador Ri Si Hong on Monday was also prompted by North Korea’s recent series of test-launches of short-range missiles and rockets and at least two medium-range missiles, as well as an exchange of artillery fire at sea with South Korea. SENT: 120 words.

UNITED STATES-NKOREA-NUCLEAR REACTOR

WASHINGTON — North Korea may have temporarily shut down a plutonium reactor earlier this year as it grappled with water supply problems that could threaten the safety of its nuclear complex, a U.S. research institute says. By Matthew Pennington. Sent: 550 words.

UNITED STATES-VIETNAM-DISSIDENT.

WASHINGTON — A prominent Vietnamese dissident whose father was an associate of the nation’s founding president Ho Chi Minh arrives in the U.S. after being released from prison by Vietnam, the State Department says. By Matthew Pennington. Sent: 330 words.

PHILIPPINES

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Supreme Court rules that a family planning law is constitutional, allowing the government to provide reproductive health care services primarily to the country’s poor despite strong opposition to the law from the Roman Catholic Church. Supporters of the law cheered as court spokesman Theodore Te announced the ruling in northern Baguio city, where it was issued. SENT: 590 words.

JAPAN-TAKEDA-ELI LILLY

TOKYO — A U.S. jury ordered Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Eli Lilly to pay $9 billion in punitive damages over a diabetes medicine linked to cancer, but Japan’s biggest drugmaker said Tuesday it will “vigorously challenge” the decision. The District Court, Western District Louisiana, ordered a $6 billion penalty for Takeda and $3 billion for its business partner and co-defendant Eli Lilly. It also decided $1.5 million in compensatory damages in favor of the plaintiff. SENT: 220 words.

HONG KONG-CHINESE CUP AUCTION

HONG KONG — A Shanghai collector bought a rare Ming Dynasty cup that’s touted as the “holy grail” of China’s art world for $36 million at a Hong Kong auction on Tuesday, smashing the previous world record price for Chinese porcelain. Sotheby’s said Liu Yiqian was the winning bidder for the small white cup, which measures just 8 centimeters (3.1 Inches) in diameter and is more than 500 years old. The vessel is known as a “chicken cup” because it’s decorated with a rooster and hen tending to their chicks. SENT: 360 words, photos.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO — Japan’s central bank refrains from expanding its ultra-loose monetary policy despite a sales tax hike, saying the economy is recovering moderately. The Bank of Japan’s policy statement Tuesday was the first since an April 1 increase in the sales tax, to 8 percent from 5 percent, that is expected to stall economic growth in coming months as consumers adjust to higher costs. By Elaine Kurtenbach. Sent: 400 words.

SKOREA-EARNS-SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea — Declining smartphone prices hit profit at Samsung Electronics Co. for a second straight quarter. The consumer technology heavyweight said Tuesday that it expects operating income of about 8.4 trillion won ($8 billion) for the January-March quarter, down 4 percent from a year earlier. Sales were flat at 53 trillion won. Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips, will release full quarterly results later this month. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 430 words.

US & INTERNATIONAL

UKRAINE

MOSCOW — Ukraine’s interior minister says pro-Russia demonstrators who seized the regional administration building in the country’s second-largest city have been driven out of the building and about 70 of them were arrested. Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page that an “anti-terrorist operation” was launched in the city of Kharkiv early Tuesday. He did not specify what forces took part. The Interfax news agency cited the head of the region, Igor Baluta, as saying it included police and soldiers.

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius describes how he shot dead his girlfriend in his second day of testimony at the murder trial. Earlier, the double-amputee Olympian described how “besotted” he was with Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius said they sometimes had troubles in their relationship but that they sorted them out, were in love and were planning a life together. By Gerald Imray and Christopher Torchia. SENT: 490 words, photos.

SECRET CUBAN TWITTER-HEARINGS

WASHINGTON — The administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development begins a series of appearances before lawmakers who are asking questions about his agency’s secret “Cuban Twitter,” a social media network built to stir unrest in the communist island. By Desmond Butler and Jack Gillum. SENT: 800 words. UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 2 p.m. from Senate hearing.

UNITED STATES-IRAN

WASHINGTON — Reports of multibillion-dollar oil talks between Iran and Russia are emerging as the latest obstacle to a comprehensive pact eliminating the threat of an Iranian nuclear arsenal. The Obama administration is weighing potentially deal-breaking sanctions if a contract is completed. By Bradley Klapper. SENT: 860 words.

EGYPT-WOMEN’S RIGHTS

CAIRO — Women activists say they won a major step forward with Egypt’s new constitution, which enshrined greater rights for women. But months after its passage, they’re worrying whether those rights will be implemented or will turn out to be merely ink on paper. Men hold an overwhelming lock on decision-making and are doing little to bring equality, activists say, and the increasingly repressive political climate is stifling chances for reforms. By Laura Dean. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

SMART CAR VANDALISM

SAN FRANCISCO — Authorities in San Francisco on Tuesday were still looking for suspects who flipped four Smart cars. The small two-seat cars were flipped on their sides or roofs in an apparent vandalism spree Monday in two San Francisco neighborhoods. Police said they didn’t know whether the incidents were a prank or another episode in escalating tensions among some residents who blame the tech industry for rising rents and cost of living. By Terry Collins. SENT: 410 words, photos.

TEXAS-MEXICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Board of Education is mulling adding a Mexican-American course as an official high school elective, a move proponents say is essential to understanding a state that was once part of Mexico and where Hispanics make up a majority of the public school population today. Critics, however, dismiss the proposal as an attempt to inject progressive politics into the classroom. By Will Weissert. SENT: 650 words.

CONGRESS-UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON — Election-year legislation to resume long-term jobless benefits is headed to the House, where a small band of dissident Republicans is leaning on Speaker John Boehner to permit a vote on resuming aid to more than 2 million victims of the Great Recession. By Special Correspondent David Espo. SENT: 740 words.

WHITE HOUSE-NO SELFIES

A handshake? Sure. A selfie? No way. Some of America’s Olympic athletes say they were asked to keep their cellphones in their pockets last week when they visited the White House and met with President Barack Obama. By Eddie Pells. SENT.

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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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