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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

February 8, 2014

ASIA:

NKOREA-JAILED AMERICAN

SEATTLE — A U.S. citizen detained in North Korea for 15 months has been returned to a labor camp, prompting worries about his health, his sister says. By Gene Johnson. SENT: 700 words, photo.

UNITED STATES-JAPAN

WASHINGTON — Japan has assured the U.S. it will respond calmly to actions by China that have increased tensions between the two Asian powers. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 480 words, photos.

CHINA-GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM

BEIJING — Scores of activists from around China have been converging on an eastern town during the Chinese New Year holiday to demand an investigation into the death of a fellow activist’s father at a government building. Activists are pointing to the outpouring as a sign of resilience in their movement despite a recent spate of court convictions cracking down on rallies by fellow members of loosely knit grassroots groups. “More of us should move from the Internet to real life and show the power we have as citizens,” says Yang Chong, an activist who traveled from the southern city of Guangzhou to Qufu for the rally. By Didi Tang. UPCOMING: 550 words by 0700 GMT, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

ECONOMY

WASHINGTON — For a second straight month, weak U.S. job growth has raised concern that the economy has lost the vigor it showed late last year. Yet there’s reason for optimism. Solid hiring last month in areas like manufacturing and construction point to underlying strength despite a tepid overall gain of 113,000 jobs after an even lower increase in December. More people also began looking for work in January, a healthy sign, and many found jobs, thereby reducing the unemployment rate to 6.6 percent, the lowest in more than five years. By Christopher S. Rugaber and Paul Wiseman. SENT: 940 words, video, photos.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

SOCHI-OPENING CEREMONY

SOCHI, Russia — A Russia in search of global vindication kicks off the Sochi Olympics looking more like a Russia that likes to party, with a pulse-raising opening ceremony about fun and sports instead of terrorism, gay rights and coddling despots. And that’s just the way Russian President Vladimir Putin wants these Winter Games to be. SENT: 1,200 words, video, photos.

— SOCHI-RINGS — Russian state television shows Olympic rings in flames, which never happened. SENT: 500 words, photos.

— TURKEY-PLANE-BOMB THREAT — Man suspected of trying to hijack plane to Sochi detained in Turkey as passengers evacuated. SENT: 520 words, video, photos.

— SOCHI-WORLD LEADERS — Putin welcomes Asian leaders to Sochi Olympics as Obama, other top Western leaders stay away. SENT: 620 words, photos.

— SOCHI-PHOTO GALLERY — A selection of photos from the opening ceremony. SENT: 30 words, photos.

TARGET-DATA BREACH-VENDOR

NEW YORK — The hackers who stole millions of customers’ credit and debit card numbers from Target may have used a Pittsburgh-area heating and refrigeration business as the doorway. Investigators appear to be looking into that theory — which illustrates just how vulnerable large corporations have become as they expand and connect computer networks to increase convenience and productivity. By Bree Fowler and Joe Mandak. SENT: 620 words, photos.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

BANGUI, Central African Republic — Armed soldiers from Chad guard a convoy carrying thousands of Muslims fleeing the capital of Central African Republic, and Christians cheer as the cars and trucks pull away. One man falls from a truck and is slain by a mob, just one violent incident among many in a country that is now the subject of an international war crimes inquiry. By Jerome Delay and Krista Larson. SENT: 1,100 words, video, photos.

— AP VIDEO CAR-EVACS — Thousands of Muslims climb aboard trucks guarded by heavily armed Chadian forces to flee the capital of Central African Republic.

CHICAGO VIOLENCE-YEAR LATER

CHICAGO — The low point so far in Chicago’s battle with street gangs may have been the day that Michelle Obama came home for a funeral. On Feb. 9, 2013, Obama stood in a church mourning one of the victims: a 15-year-old honor student who had been shot dead in a gang dispute about a mile from the Obamas’ Chicago house. Since then, the number of homicides has fallen sharply. Some wonder if the decline is a result of spending nearly $100 million in police overtime, but city officials insist it has more to do with changing police tactics and expanding after-school programs. But can the city sustain the progress? By Don Babwin. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

— CHICAGO VIOLENCE-GLANCE — A look at Chicago’s violent crime statistics over the past three years. SENT: 120 words.

NOTABLE PHOTO

— NYJD106 — Actor Joaquin Phoenix arrives at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola for the private funeral of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

MORE ON SOCHI GAMES

— RUSSIA-GAY ACTIVISTS — Russian police arrest gay activists in Moscow, St. Petersburg on opening day of Sochi Olympics. SENT: 270 words.

— CHEVROLET-OLYMPIC ADS — Chevy’s Olympic ads feature gay couples amid criticism of Russia’s law restricting gay rights. SENT: 450 words.

— SOCHI-TORCHBEARERS — Russian Olympic greats Tretiak and Rodnina light cauldron at Sochi opening ceremony. SENT: 430 words, photos.

— RUSSIA-ADOPTION BAN — A Minnesota woman goes on TV in Moscow with an emotional appeal for an exception to be made to Russia’s year-old ban on adoptions by Americans. SENT: 590 words, photos.

— SPORTS DOPING-DRUGMAKERS — Anti-doping officials enlist drug companies to help spot experimental doping drugs. SENT: 850 words.

— AP PHOTO OLYJH110 — A sign that says ‘We do not serve FBI and CIA agents’ hangs outside a restaurant on the opening day of the Olympics.

OBAMA-IMMIGRATION

WASHINGTON — As Republican leaders dampen prospects for overhauling immigration laws this year, the White House hopes the GOP resistance is temporary and tactical. President Barack Obama is resisting pressure from some allies to take matters into his own hands. For a president looking for a legacy piece of legislation in a potentially game-changing election year, immigration is a high-wire act: Slow deportations on his own and he likely dooms any chance of a comprehensive overhaul; be patient and the opportunity for a permanent fix could well slip away. By Jim Kuhnhenn and Donna Cassata. SENT: 940 words, photos.

— OBAMA — Obama carries out a rare-these-days presidential duty: signing into law a major piece of bipartisan legislation, in this case, the farm bill. SENT: 650 words, photos.

IMMIGRATION-BRINGING BACK MOM

MIAMI — Jose Antonio Machado finds himself in the same situation as thousands of other young people in this country: He is the child of a parent who came to the U.S. illegally and then was deported — while he was left behind. For the past three years, he has been on a mission to bring his mother back. His work has taken him to the halls of Congress and gotten him meetings with the likes of Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg. Along the way, he has grown into a steady force in the national immigration debate, a young but powerful voice for his family and the many others hoping to one day reunite. By Christine Armario. SENT: 1,700 words, photos, video.

SYRIA

BEIRUT — A first group of civilians — including children — trapped for more than a year in a besieged Syrian city are evacuated as part of a three-day cease-fire that will also let in humanitarian aid convoys. The brief truce for war-ravaged Homs may help build confidence ahead of a second round of peace talks next week. By Bassem Mroue. SENT: 600 words, photos. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos, by 3 p.m.

— AP VIDEO SYRIA_PRISON — Syrian government forces dropped barrel bombs on an Aleppo prison after rebels freed hundreds of prisoners and rebels and regained much of the area, according to activists.

BOSNIA-ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzogovina — Anti-government protesters storm into the Bosnian presidency and another government building in Sarajevo and set them ablaze as riot police fire tear gas in a desperate attempt to stop them. Smoke rises from several Bosnian cities as thousands vent their fury over the Balkan nation’s almost 40 percent unemployment and its rampant corruption. It’s the worst social unrest the country has seen since the 1992-95 war that killed over 100,000 people following Yugoslavia’s dissolution. By Aida Cerkez. SENT: 400 words, photos.

EGYPT-MILITANT RISE

CAIRO — An Islamic militant group waging a campaign of bombings and assassinations in Egypt has quickly advanced in weaponry and sophistication of attacks, drawing on the experience of Egyptians who fought in Syria’s civil war. Its increasing capacities raise the danger that a wave of violence that began as retaliation for the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi is evolving into a new front for regional jihadi groups. By Lee Keath. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

MY BROTHER THE BEATLE

ST. LOUIS — Even as her brother’s band was lighting up the charts in her native England, Louise Harrison dutifully trudged from one local radio station to the next not long after settling in 1963 in the heart of southern Illinois coal country, desperately pressing for air time for the group unheard of in America. It failed. But all of that changed just months later, when George Harrison and the rest of the Beatles trekked to the United States and did a seminal gig on “The Ed Sullivan Show” a half century ago, launching the British invasion that made the “Fab Four” household names in America and Louis Harrison’s rural Illinois town now so eager to herald its connection. By Jim Suhr. SENT: 900 words, photos.

— AP WAS THERE-BEATLES INVADE AMERICA — AP’s original reporting on the Beatles’ arrival in America in February 1964 and their appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

ENTERTAINMENT

HOFFMAN-FUNERAL

NEW YORK — A private funeral for Philip Seymour Hoffman is held in Manhattan with a somber, star-studded audience that includes included Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Ethan Hawke, Amy Adams, Ellen Burstyn and Spike Lee. By Karen Matthews. SENT: 620 words, photos.

— TV-LENO FINALE-RATINGS — Leno’s last ‘Tonight’ draws 14.6 million, exceeds first farewell; biggest audience in 15 years. SENT: 230 words, photo.

SPORTS

PEBBLE BEACH-EASTWOOD

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Clint Eastwood adds another starring role at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am — life saver. Eastwood attended a volunteer party on the eve of the PGA Tour event when he noticed tournament director Steve John choking on a piece of cheese. The 83-year-old actor quickly performed the Heimlich maneuver Wednesday night at the Monterey Conference Center. SENT: 310 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— RUSSIA-UKRAINE-PHONE CALL — Russian official denies role in leaking US diplomat’s coarse comment. SENT: 540 words, photo, video.

— HAGEL — Hagel: No single answer to why military is suffering from ethics crisis; vows to find reasons. SENT: 330 words, photo.

— NSA SURVEILLANCE — Reports: NSA collects under 30 percent of US phone data despite effort to amass it all. SENT: 870 words.

— WINTER WEATHER — Utilities chip away at ice storm power outages, say some Pa. customers may have to wait days. SENT: 550 words, photos, video. UPCOMING: Updates on merits.

— PEOPLE-HASTY PUDDING-HARRIS — Neil Patrick Harris to accept Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding 2014 Man of the Year Award. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: Updates from 8 p.m. ceremony, then 300 words by 10 p.m., photos.

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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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