BANGKOK — Anti-government protesters aiming to shut down central Bangkok take over key intersections, halting much of the traffic into the Thai capital’s main business district as part of a campaign to thwart elections and overthrow the democratically elected prime minister. The intensified protests, which could last weeks or more, are peaceful and even festive, as people sporting “Shutdown Bangkok” T-shirts blow whistles, wave Thai flags of various sizes and spread out picnic mats to eat on the pavement. Otherwise, life continues normally in much of the capital, with most businesses and shops open. By Thanyarat Doksone and Todd Pitman. SENT: 970 words, photos, video.
NEW DELHI — India marks three years since its last reported polio case, putting the country on course to being formally declared free of the disease later this year. India has made great strides against polio in recent years through a rigorous vaccination campaign. But for many in India, where polio victims with withered, twisted limbs are a common sight on the streets, these advances have come too late. By Nirmala George. SENT: 500 words, photos.
NEW DELHI — India is scrambling to protect its beleaguered tiger population after several tested positive for a virus common among dogs but deadly to other carnivores. In the last year, canine distemper virus has killed at least four tigers and several other animals across northern and eastern India. By Katy Daigle. SENT: 900 words, photos.
BEIJING — Former basketball star Dennis Rodman apologizes for not being able to help an American missionary detained in North Korea while he played there to celebrate the birthday of his friend and leader Kim Jong Un. By Aritz Parra. SENT: 520 words, photos.
BEIJING — China prosecuted 20 cases involving national security in Tibet last year, a state newspaper reports, in an indication of continuing low-level unrest in the Himalayan region. SENT: 340 words.
CHINA-ANCIENT TOWN FIRE
BEIJING — A fire prevention system costing more than $1 million wasn’t functioning and failed to prevent a blaze that razed an ancient tourist town in southwest China, the fire service says. The system had been shut down to prevent pipes from bursting in the below-freezing temperatures. SENT: 270 words, photos.
PERTH, Australia — A man dies defending his home from an intense wildfire that razed wooded hills near Australia’s west coast city of Perth, destroying 49 houses. SENT: 310 words, photos.
MANILA, Philippines —Two days of heavy rains set off floods and landslides in the southeastern Philippines, leaving at least 20 people dead, 13 missing and thousands displaced. SENT: 225 words, photos.
KIDAPAWAN, Philippines — A grenade attack wounds at least 24 people in a school campus in the southern Philippines, including government personnel, who were battling a fire. The attacker escaped. SENT: 220 words.
SRINAGAR, India — Indian law enforcement officers kill two suspected militants in a gunbattle in the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed Kashmir region, police say. SENT: 140 words.
NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga — Tongan officials say that 300 to 400 families had their homes severely damaged or destroyed in a powerful storm but they are relieved the death toll hasn’t risen beyond one. Director of Emergencies Leveni Aho said it’s “almost unbelievable” there weren’t more fatalities given the devastation caused by Cyclone Ian, which pummeled the South Pacific archipelago with gusts up to 287 kilometers (178 miles) per hour on Saturday. SENT: 300 words, photo.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE:
BEIJING — China’s biggest drug distributor says two former executives are the target of a corruption investigation, widening a graft probe that has focused on foreign pharmaceutical makers. A former vice president of state-owned Sinopharm Group Ltd., Shi Jinming, was detained last week by Shanghai prosecutors for “an investigation in relation to an allegation of corruption against him,” a company statement said. It said Shi resigned in December for unspecified personal reasons. SENT: 350 words.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A Cambodian court suspends a request for the extradition of a Russian property developer wanted in his homeland for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars. The ruling on Sergei Polonsky’s fate in a closed-door hearing also saw the 41-year-old businessman released after being detained in Cambodia two months ago following a request by Moscow. SENT: 150 words.
U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:
PARIS — As the final day of talks to raise pressure on Syria’s opposition to attend the peace conference wraps up in Paris, Russia’s foreign minister says Syria’s government is considering opening humanitarian access and a prisoner exchange. The conference, scheduled to begin in just over a week in Switzerland, would bring together the opposition and the leadership for the first time. By Lori Hinnant. SENT: 130 words, photo. UPCOMING: 500 words by 1300 GMT, photos.
— SYRIA — State media, activists say mortar attack in central Syrian city has killed at least 19. SENT: 140 words, photo.
JERUSALEM — Israeli officials and international dignitaries bid farewell to the late Ariel Sharon at a state ceremony, remembering the controversial former prime minister as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting his country’s security. After the ceremony, Sharon’s coffin, draped in a blue and white Israeli flag, is driven in a police-escorted convoy toward his family ranch in the southern desert for a private funeral. By Josef Federman. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES-WRONG AIRPORT
BRANSON, Mo. — Federal officials are investigating why a Southwest Airlines flight that was supposed to land at Branson Airport in southwest Missouri, instead landed at another airport about 7 miles away that only had about half as much runway. Southwest Airlines Flight 4013, carrying 124 passengers and five crew members, was scheduled to go from Chicago to Branson Airport, an airline spokesman says. But the Boeing 737-700 landed at Taney County Airport, which is also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport. SENT: 360 words, photo, video.
SWEDEN WOMB TRANSPLANT
STOCKHOLM — Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives and will soon try to become pregnant, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed. The women were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer. Most are in their 30s and are part of the first major experiment to test whether it’s possible to transplant wombs into women so they can give birth to their own children. By Malin Rising and Maria Cheng. SENT: 1,110 words, photos.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The Golden Globes are typically Hollywood’s bawdiest awards show — “a wonderful mess,” said co-host Tina Fey of this year’s bash. But in the end, after all the boozy banter — some of it bleeped for broadcast — the con caper “American Hustle” got a very serious push toward Oscar glory, picking up three major awards. By Film Writer Jessica Herndon. SENT: 680 words, photos, video.
CHEMICAL SPILL-WEST VIRGINIA
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the fifth straight day, hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia had to wash, cook and brush their teeth with bottled water, but officials promise the ban on tap water that was tainted by a chemical spill would soon be lifted. Over the weekend, water tests showed levels of the licorice-smelling chemical used in coal processing were consistently below a toxic threshold, and in some samples, there was no trace of the foaming agent at all. As the tests continue Monday, there are still questions about how and why the leak occurred and whether the company, Freedom Industries, took too long to let state officials know about the problem. By Brendan Farrington. SENT: 650 words, photos, video.
LAZAROPOLE, Macedonia — The sumptuous altar screen in this village church rises in tiers of crimson, royal blue and gold leaf, all the way up to a crucifix flanked by dragons. Near the top, icon niches gape empty like blown-out windows. The two dozen paintings were torn out in April, apparent victims to an art theft racket catering to rising international appetite for Orthodox religious paintings — a market worth tens of millions of dollars. By Konstantin Testorides. SENT: 810 words, photos.
AUTO SHOW-FORD F-150
DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford pickups have been doing the country’s work for 66 years. They’ve hauled grain, towed logs and plowed snow. They’ve cleared debris after tornadoes and pulled floats in the Rose Bowl parade. They’ve shouldered those loads with parts forged from steel. Until now. On Monday, Ford unveils a new F-150 with a body built almost entirely out of aluminum. By Auto Writers Dee-Ann Durbin and Tom Krisher. SENT: 1,420 words, photos, videos.
WASHINGTON — Nearing a milestone birthday, Michelle Obama exuberantly describes herself as “50 and fabulous.” Nearly five years after assuming the first lady’s role following a bruising campaign in which she sometimes became a target, Mrs. Obama is showing increased comfort in what amounts to a volunteer position with a host of responsibilities and outsized expectations. By Darlene Superville. SENT: 1,040 words, photos.
Five people freshly graduated from college and all on paths that will lead to apocalypse for the world. It’s not what most would expect as they prepare for their own futures but it’s not every day five friends chance upon a mysterious bunker with warnings about a devastating future to come if ways are not changed and different roads taken. By Matt Moore. SENT: 350 words, photos.
— RODRIGUEZ-60 MINUTES — MLB witness: Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez paid $12,000 a month for banned drugs; slugger will try to overturn suspension in federal court. SENT: 380 words, photos.
— ITALY-SHIP AGROUND — Survivors mark second anniversary of Concordia wreck with march, moment of silence in courtroom. SENT: 410 words, photos.
— SWEDEN-SOCHI SNUB — Swedish minister snubs Sochi Olympics opening ceremony; calls it a Putin “propaganda stunt.” SENT: 150 words.
— BIEBER DISPUTE — Neighbor accuses pop star Justin Bieber of egging home; singer investigated for assault, vandalism. SENT: 140 words, photo.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.