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BC--- News Digest

January 21, 2015

ISLAMIC STATE

CAIRO — The Islamic State group threatened to kill two Japanese hostages within 72 hours, demanding a $200 million ransom in a video posted online Tuesday that showed a knife-brandishing masked militant standing over the two kneeling captives. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was traveling in the Middle East, vowed to save the men. But with his military only operating in a self-defense capacity at home, Abe faces a hard choice: openly pay the extremists or ask an ally like the United States to attempt a risky rescue inside Syria. By Jon Gambrell and Mari Yamaguchi. SENT:

WITH:

— ISLAMIC STATE-JAPAN-Q&A. A look at hostages and Japan, and its interests in the Middle East. SENT, photos.

CHINA-SHANGHAI STAMPEDE

SHANGHAI — Shanghai has sacked four top district officials for insufficient preparation and response to the New Year’s Eve stampede that killed 36 people, the city government announced Wednesday. Investigation results released by the Shanghai government also noted that some of the officials responsible were at an opulent banquet the night of the disaster, hampering the response and adding to public discontent. SENT: 280 words.

CHINA-ARTICLE CONTROVERSY

BEIJING — A New Yorker journalist famed for his reporting from China wrote that the state-run newspaper China Daily faked an editorial under his byline after interviewing him. Peter Hessler said on Facebook on Tuesday that he didn’t write the piece posted on China Daily’s website a day earlier titled “US observer: Comparing Egypt with China” and that his words were taken out of context. By Jack Chang.

NEW ZEALAND-ANTARCTIC POACHING

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The New Zealand navy caught poachers on video illegally hauling up Chilean sea bass from Antarctic waters, but the fishermen aboard the three rusting ships just kept on working. They refused orders to board them before finally slipping away. The brazen act highlights the challenges of protecting Antarctic waters from fish poachers who have managed to stay a step ahead of justice. By Nick Perry. UPCOMING: 800 words by 0700GMT, photos.

AFGHANISTAN-MEDIA UNDER ATTACK

KABUL, Afghanistan — When Afghan journalist Hussain Sirat’s car disappeared in late December, he assumed it was simply theft, until a man called to say that he had the vehicle, and a gun with which he planned to kill him. In the weeks since then, Sirat, an editor at Afghanistan’s biggest daily newspaper 8AM who also works for Deutsche Welle, has been attacked in the street and received death threats in text messages that accuse him of being an “infidel” — which he assumes is related to his work for the German broadcaster. By Lynne O’donnell. SENT, photos.

JAPAN-TOYOTA

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. stayed at the top in global vehicle sales in 2014, but is pessimistic about this year. The Japanese automaker sold 10.23 million vehicles, beating out Volkswagen and General Motors to take that auto industry crown for the third year straight. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 240 words.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO — The Japanese central bank says that the world’s third largest economy will suffer a contraction in its nearly ended current fiscal year but then rebound. SENT: 170 words.

FINANCIAL MARKETS

HONG KONG — Most Asian stock markets rose Wednesday as investors anticipated European policymakers would soon unleash more stimulus while Chinese shares extended their rebound following a steep plunge at the start of the week. By Kelvin Chan. SENT, photo.

US & INTERNATIONAL

STATE OF UNION

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, undaunted by the new Republican majority in Congress, issued a sweeping challenge Tuesday night to do more for the poor and middle class and to end the nasty partisan political fight that has characterized his six years in office. In a speech reminiscent of a campaign stump message, the president issued a broadly optimistic report about the country in his nationally televised State of the Union address to Congress. He spoke of millions of new jobs created, modestly rising wages and a stock market that has soared as the country climbed out of the Great Recession that greeted him when he took office in 2009. By Steven R. Hurst. SENT, photos.

EUROPE TERROR

PARIS — French anti-terror prosecutors seek to charge four men in connection with the attacks in Paris that left 20 people dead, which would be the first suspects charged in the country’s bloodiest terrorist attacks in decades. The four men remain in court awaiting an anti-terror judge’s decision on whether to open preliminary investigations against them. By Greg Keller. SENT: 805 words with a new approach, photos, video.

— GOP 2016-JINDAL — Bobby Jindal’s claim that there are neighborhoods in Western nations where Islamic traditions trump civic law is the latest example of his rhetoric aimed at helping break out from GOP hopefuls field. SENT: 700 words, photos.

INDONESIA-PLANE

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An AirAsia plane that crashed last month with 162 people on board was climbing at an abnormally high rate, then plunged and suddenly disappeared from radar, Indonesia’s transport minister says. Ignasius Jonan tells Parliament that radar data showed the Airbus A320 was climbing at about 6,000 feet a minute before it disappeared on Dec. 28. By Niniek Karmini. SENT: 420 words, photo.

SAUDI-FREE SPEECH

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The public flogging of a man convicted of “insulting Islam” draws attention to what activists say is an intensifying Saudi crackdown on dissent in the kingdom. By Aya Batrawy. SENT: 900 words, photos.

ANCIENT SCROLLS

BERLIN — Scientists succeed in reading parts of an ancient scroll that was buried in a volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago, holding out the promise that the world’s oldest surviving library may one day reveal all of its secrets. The scroll is among hundreds retrieved from the remains of a lavish villa in Herculaneum. By Frank Jordans. SENT: 515 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-CUBA

HAVANA — The highest-level U.S. delegation in decades heads to Cuba as Obama makes his case to the nation for ending a half-century of enmity. American officials’ initial goals are small: Taking steps to establish an embassy on the island. By Bradley Klapper and Michael Weissenstein. SENT: 600 words with a new approach, photos.

YEMEN

SANAA, Yemen — Shiite rebels shell the residence of Yemen’s leader and sweep into the nearby presidential palace in what a top army commander says is an unfolding coup. U.S. officials say the violence is undermining American operations against Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, which claims responsibility for the deadly newspaper-office attack in Paris. By Ahmed Al-Haj and Maggie Michael. SENT: 780 words with a new approach, photos.

AIRLINES-CHEAP FUEL

DALLAS — Airlines will save billions this year thanks to cheaper jet fuel, but they aren’t likely to share the bounty with passengers — not while so many flights are already full. Instead, the airlines will use their windfall to pay down debt and reward shareholders. By David Koenig. SENT: 800 words, photo.

OVERPASS COLLAPSE

CINCINNATI — Tons of concrete and steel cover the southbound lanes of a major Cincinnati artery after an overpass collapse during demolition work left one worker dead, a tractor-trailer driver injured and police considering what the potential toll might have been had the accident occurred amid heavy traffic. By Dan Sewell. SENT: 575 words, photos.

EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK-Q&A

FRANKFURT, Germany — A Q&A on what the European Central Bank is expected to do at its meeting on Thursday and why it’s important. By David McHugh. SENT: 750 words, photo.

— DAVOS FORUM-GLOBAL ECONOMY — The U.S. overtakes China as the No. 1 investment destination among chief executives, a survey finds. SENT: 430 words.

ENTERTAINMENT

FILM-AMERICAN SNIPER SUCCESS

NEW YORK — Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” which pulled in an estimated $105.3 million over the holiday weekend, is a big, old-fashioned runaway blockbuster. But the film’s success wouldn’t have been possible without the strong support of a seldom catered to demographic: conservatives. By Film Writer Jake Coyle. UPCOMING: 800 words by 7 p.m., photos.

FILM-SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

LOS ANGELES — Just as Hollywood’s awards season heats up, half the town takes off for a snowy getaway to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, which has outgrown its indie-film roots to showcase emerging and established talent in all kinds of media. By Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen. SENT: 600 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— FAKE FACEBOOK — APNewsBreak: Justice Department reaches $134,000 settlement over fake Facebook page created by drug agency. SENT: 540 words. UPCOMING: Photos.

— CONGRESS-KEYSTONE — Senate blocks efforts to ban exports from Keystone XL pipeline, use American-made steel. SENT: 130 words. Will be updated.

YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Scott McDonald. 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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