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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

January 28, 2015

ASIA:

JAPAN-ISLAMIC STATE

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan says it is willing to swap an Iraqi woman held on death row for a Jordanian pilot captured in December by extremists from the Islamic State group. The statement by government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani makes no mention of a Japanese journalist who is also being held by Islamic State. Efforts to release the Jordanian pilot and the journalist gained urgency with the release late Tuesday of an apparent ultimatum from Islamic State to kill both hostages within 24 hours if the Iraqi woman is not freed. By Karin Laub and Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 850 words, photos, video. Developing.

THAILAND-US-DIPLOMACY

BANGKOK — Thailand’s military government summons the U.S. charge d’affairs for talks after a top U.S. diplomat roiled the junta during a visit by calling for an end to martial law and saying the impeachment of a former prime minister could be politically motivated. SENT: 370 words, photos.

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK — A Thai “Red Shirt” leader is sentenced to two years in jail for insulting a former prime minister. The court found Jatuporn Prompan guilty on Wednesday of defaming Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva in two speeches in 2009. SENT: 130 words.

SRI LANKA-CHIEF JUSTICE

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The new Sri Lankan government temporarily reinstates the chief justice whose impeachment two years ago was condemned internationally as an arbitrary political move, the country’s bar association leader says. By Bharatha Mallawarachi. SENT: 390 words.

MALAYSIA-MISSING PLANE

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Civil aviation authorities will release a required report on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 a day before the one-year anniversary, but it won’t have any conclusion on what happened because the search is ongoing. The report to be released March 7 is to focus on the search for the plane, which is believed to have crashed in the remote southern Indian Ocean. SENT: 230 words.

CHINA-TIBET

BEIJING — Investigators have found that 15 Communist Party officials in Tibet joined underground Tibetan independence organizations, provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama and his supporters or participated in activities deemed harmful to China’s security, a party agency says. The announcement suggests continuing unrest in the Himalayan region, which has had a heavy security presence since a wave of riots and protests against Chinese rule in 2008. By Louise Watt. SENT: 540 words.

CHINA-BUS FIRE

BEIJING — A man admits that he set a fire that spread through a bus in eastern China and injured 33, entering his plea from a hospital bed wheeled into a courtroom because of his own injuries in the blaze. SENT: 190 words.

AUSTRALIA-KNIGHTING PRINCE PHILIP

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister promises to consult more widely before bestowing knighthoods in the future as he weathers an avalanche of criticism over his decision to make the husband of Queen Elizabeth II an Australian knight. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 400 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-ASYLUM SEEKERS

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s highest court narrowly rules that Australia acted legally when it held 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers at sea for almost a month. SENT: 230 words.

INDONESIA-US WOMAN DEAD

BALI, Indonesia — Indonesian prosecutors say the trial of an American couple charged with murdering the woman’s mother should proceed despite defense arguments that the indictments are inaccurate and should be annulled. SENT: 130 words.

VIETNAM-HELICOPTER CRASH

HANOI, Vietnam — An American-built helicopter used in the Vietnam War crashes during a training mission in the Southeast Asian nation, killing all four soldiers aboard, the military says. SENT: 190 words.

THAILAND-SNAIL SLIME MASSAGE

CHIANG MAI, Thailand - The last time I encountered escargots they were served up by a French waiter. Now, one is slithering up the bridge of my nose while five others are being stuck on to other parts of my face by a Thai beautician, all secreting slime said to smooth out wrinkles. By Denis D. Gray. SENT: 820 words, photos, video.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

CHINA-ALIBABA

BEIJING — Chinese regulators accuse e-commerce giant Alibaba of permitting sales of fake goods and hurting consumers in a report that was withheld until now to avoid disrupting the company’s U.S. stock market debut. Alibaba, one of China’s biggest private companies, responded with a statement accusing the regulator of bias and misconduct in a rare break with the obedient public tone of Chinese businesses in dealings with authorities. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 610 words, photos.

YAHOO-ALIBABA SPIN-OFF

SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is spinning off the company’s prized stake in China’s Alibaba Group Holding in a move that will enable Yahoo to avoid paying billions of dollars in future taxes. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke. SENT: 490 words, photo.

CHINA-RISING YUAN

BEIJING — China’s yuan has become one of the five most widely used currencies in global payments, an international financial transactions agency says. The yuan passed the Canadian and Australian dollars in popularity in December, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 250 words.

JAPAN-EARNS-NINTENDO

TOKYO — Nintendo reports a nearly six-fold increase in profit for the first three quarters of the fiscal year and raises its earnings forecast as a cheap yen masked weak sales. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 400 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

ISRAEL-LEBANON

JERUSALEM — The Lebanese Hezbollah group claims responsibility for firing a missile that targeted an Israeli military convoy, an attack that prompted Israel to fire at least 50 artillery shells into Lebanon in a significant escalation along the volatile border. By DANIEL ESTRIN and ZEINA KARAM. SENT: 430 words, photos.

EUROPE-HUMAN CARGO

ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER TYR — The crew was about to dig into dinner when word of the “ghost ship” came through: a freighter hurtling out of control toward Italy with no crew — and hundreds of Syrians as cargo. The rescue operation was one of the most perilous in a string of high-seas dramas that point to a new modus operandi among people-smugglers who send migrants across the Mediterranean: Gangs buy scrapyard-bound cargo ships over the Internet and pack them with Syrians willing to pay top dollar to flee their war-torn land. By Paul Schemm, Elena Becatoros and Andrea Rosa. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

WINTER WEATHER

BOSTON — New Englanders savaged by a blizzard packing knee-high snowfall and hurricane-force winds began digging out as New Yorkers and others spared its full fury questioned whether forecasts were overblown. By Bob Salsberg and William J. Kole. SENT: 530 words, photos, video, audio.

APPLE-WHAT’S NEXT

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple CEO Tim Cook says consumer demand for new iPhones has been “staggering” and “hard to comprehend.” That helped the company report record-smashing earnings for its latest quarter and primed its stock for a rally Wednesday. But after selling a record 74.5 million iPhones in three months, what can Apple do next? By Brandon Bailey. SENT: 620 words, photo.

IMMIGRATION OVERLOAD

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has ordered immigration agents to ask immigrants they encounter living in the country illegally whether they might qualify under President Barack Obama’s plans to avoid deporting them, according to internal training materials obtained by The Associated Press. The directives mark an unusual change for U.S. immigration enforcement, placing the obligation on the government for identifying immigrants who might qualify for lenient treatment. By Alicia A. Caldwell. SENT: 550 words, photos.

LIBYA

TRIPOLI, Libya — A Libyan affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group says it was behind an attack the day before on a Tripoli luxury hotel that killed 10 people, including an American and four Europeans. By Esam Mohamed. SENT: 350 words, photos.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN GIRL DETAINED

BETIN, West Bank —The fate of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl, tried before an Israeli military court for hurling rocks at passing cars in the West Bank and sentenced to two months in prison, has gripped Palestinians who say her treatment demonstrates Israel’s excessive measures against stone-throwing youth. Malak al-Khatib, who was arrested last month near her sleepy West Bank village, is one of only a rare few female Palestinian minors who have ever faced arrest and sentencing by Israeli authorities. By Mohammed Daraghmeh. SENT: 800 words, photos.

— ISRAEL-GAZA STRIKES — An Israeli rights group says the majority of Palestinians killed in dozens of Israeli attacks on Gaza homes in the 2014 war with Hamas were women, minors or the elderly. SENT: 350 words.

ISLAMIC STATE-CLERIC

BEIRUT — Turki al-Binali has crisscrossed the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq with a pistol holstered at his side, delivering fiery sermons in which he provides religious justification for the group’s bloody rampage across the region. The 30-year-old preacher’s version of Islam has been rejected, not only by mainstream religious authorities, but even by veteran jihadi clerics increasingly out of touch with the new generation of radicals. By Bassem Mroue. SENT: 950 words, photos.

LEBANON-TRIPOLI TOUR

TRIPOLI, Lebanon — As the tour group made its way through the narrow alleys of the seaside city of Tripoli, marveling at its medieval architecture, residents stared back at a sight that for them was just as exotic -- visitors in their poor, restive corner of Lebanon. By Diaa Hadid. SENT: 750 words, photos

BRAZIL-PLASTIC SURGERY

SAO PAULO — A botched cosmetic procedure that put a famous reality TV star and outspoken plastic surgery advocate into septic shock is sparking a wide discussion of Brazil’s obsession with beauty. By Adriana Gomez Licon. SENT: 845 words, photo.

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