ASIA

MALAYSIA-PLANE

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — More than four days after a Malaysian jetliner went missing en route to Beijing, authorities acknowledge they didn't know which direction the plane carrying 239 passengers was heading when it disappeared, vastly complicating efforts to find it. Amid intensifying confusion and occasionally contradictory statements, the country's civil aviation authorities and the military both said the plane may have turned back from its last known position between Malaysia and Vietnam, possibly as far as the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane on the western side of Malaysia. By Chris Brummitt and Eileen Ng. Sent: 760 words, photos, video.

— MALAYSIA PLANE-BLACK BOXES — For nearly five years, government and industry officials have been exploring ways to make it easier to find airliners and their critical "black boxes" that end up in the ocean, but their efforts are too late to help in the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet. Sent: 720 words, photo.

MYANMAR-DESPERATE PATIENTS

THE' CHAUNG, Myanmar — Noor Jahan rocked slowly on the floor, trying to steady her weak body. Her chest heaved and her eyes closed with each raspy breath. She could longer eat or speak. Two years ago, she would have left her concrete house, one of the nicest in her community, and gone to a hospital to get tests and medicine for her failing liver and kidneys. That was before Buddhist mobs torched and pillaged her home, along with those of thousands of other ethnic Rohingya now confined to this hot, dusty camp in Myanmar's Rakhine state. It is a desperate place for all, and an unbearable one for many of the sick. By Margie Mason. UPCOMING: 1,500 words by 0800GMT, photos.

CHINA-POLITICAL CRIMES

BEIJING — China might be trying to obscure the number of dissidents it is targeting by charging them with public order offenses instead of political crimes, a U.S.-based rights group says. The Dui Hua Foundation estimates that the number of indictments in China for state security offenses, such as subversion and separatism, fell last year to the lowest level since 2007. Sent: 270 words.

UNITED STATES-KARZAI STANDOFF

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has threatened to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan if a new security agreement is not signed by the end of the year, but there is no legal reason the U.S. has to resort to the "zero option" as administration officials have repeatedly claimed. Legally, the 33,600 U.S. forces still deployed are covered by an existing status-of-forces document that took effect shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the start of America's engagement in Afghanistan. The existing agreement has no expiration date and prevents U.S. military personnel from being prosecuted under Afghan law — a must-have for status of forces agreements the U.S. signs with countries around the world. Sent: 970 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-CROCODILE HUNTER

SYDNEY — Australia's famed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin knew he was dying after a massive stingray stabbed him in the chest hundreds of times, the only witness to the fatal 2006 attack said in his first detailed public account of the beloved conservationist's death. Sent: 520 words, photo.

CHINA-ALIBABA-CHINAVISION

BEIJING — Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is expanding into media by acquiring control of a Hong Kong film and television company, ChinaVision, for $804 million. Alibaba Group will buy new shares giving it a 60 percent stake in the TV company, ChinaVision Media Group Ltd. said. Alibaba is allied with two ChinaVision board members whose stake is diluted to about 11 percent from 27 percent. Sent: 200 words.

WORLD MARKETS

MANILA, Philippines — Asian stock markets sink as recent declines in Chinese copper and iron prices added to jitters that the world's No. 2 economy is continuing to slow. Sent: 460 words.

US & INTERNATIONAL

UNITED STATES-UKRAINE

WASHINGTON — In a diplomatic dig at Russia, President Barack Obama is hosting the new Ukrainian prime minister at the White House, a high-profile gesture aimed at cementing the West's allegiance to Ukraine's fledgling government. The meeting Wednesday between Obama and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk comes as a pro-Russian area of Ukraine readies for a referendum Sunday to determine its future. Voters in the Crimean Peninsula will be given two options: becoming part of Russia, or remaining in Ukraine with broader powers. By Julie Pace. Sent:

MILITARY-SEXUAL ASSAULT

WASHINGTON — The turmoil over how to end an epidemic of sexual assaults in the U.S. military is far from over as Congress haggles over legislative remedies and new details emerge about a high-profile case involving an Army general and a female captain under his command. In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate unanimously approved legislation this week to better protect victims within the ranks and ban the "good soldier defense" to make sure a defendant's fate is determined solely by evidence. But the House has signaled it won't take up the bill immediately despite the momentum generated by the Senate's 97-0 vote. By Richard Lardner.

CIA INVESTIGATIONS

WASHINGTON — The controversy over America's intelligence agencies escalates sharply as a powerful senator levels an extraordinary accusation: that the CIA engaged in potentially unconstitutional interference with the Senate's investigation into alleged Bush-era torture. CIA Director John Brennan insists the CIA did not spy on lawmakers or their staffs. Federal prosecutors are reviewing the case. By Donna Cassata. SENT: 970 words, photos, video.

— CIA INVESTIGATIONS-HIGHLIGHTS — Secret reports. Vanishing documents. Whispers of crimes, intimidation and cover-up. Highlights of what's involved and what's at stake. SENT: 870 words, photo.

— CIA INVESTIGATIONS-FEINSTEIN PROFILE — Sen. Dianne Feinstein's comments about CIA spying on Congress are in sharp contrast to her usual defense of the agency. SENT: 500 words, photo.

— CIA INVESTIGATIONS-TIMELINE

SYRIA

BEIRUT — The number of Syrian children affected by the civil war in their homeland has doubled in the past year to at least 5.5 million — more than half the country's children — with devastating effects on the health, education and psychological well-being of an entire generation, the United Nations children's agency says. By Ryan Lucas. SENT: 900 words, photos.

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius twice fired guns in public in the months before he killed his girlfriend, a friend says at the athlete's murder trial, drawing an aggressive effort from the chief defense lawyer to expose inconsistencies in his testimony. By Gerald Imray and Christopher Torchia. SENT: 900 words with new approach, photos.

VATICAN-FRANCISCAN FUNDRAISING

ROME — Pope Francis' namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, founded his order of mendicant friars in the 13th century after receiving a calling from God to "rebuild my church." Some 800 years later, St. Francis' followers are rebuilding his church in the ancient tradition of door-to-door begging that St. Francis championed — but with a very modern twist, The Associated Press has learned. By Nicole Winfield. UPCOMING: 850 words by 7 p.m., photos, video.

ISRAEL-ANCIENT MASKS

JERUSALEM — The oldest known masks in the world went on display in Jerusalem in the largest-ever exhibit of the ghoulish faces, believed to have been created in the Holy Land thousands of years before the time of the Bible. The 11 stone masks, said to have been discovered in the Judean desert and hills near Jerusalem, date back 9,000 years and offer a rare glimpse at some of civilization's first communal rituals. By Daniel Estrin. SENT: 840 words, photos.

OBAMA'S WEB MOVE

NEW YORK — Zach Galifianakis brought the ferns, and President Barack Obama opened a new avenue of presidential communication. The president urged young people to sign up for the new health through an appearance posted Tuesday on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing TV talk show titans like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel. By David Bauder. SENT: 875 words, photos.

FLORIDA SPECIAL ELECTION

CLEARWATER BEACH, Florida — A Republican won a special election Tuesday in a Florida Congressional district where President Barack Obama's health care overhaul got its first test ahead of November's midterm elections and Democrats and Republicans spent millions of dollars auditioning national strategies for the rest of the year. Sent: 600 words, photos.

CHEESE FIGHT

WASHINGTON — Would parmesan by any other name be as tasty atop your pasta? A ripening trade battle might put it to the test. The European Union wants to ban the use of European names on cheese — others include feta and Gruyere — made in the United States. By Mary Clare Jalonick. SENT: 800 words, photos, video.

AP PHOTOS

OBAMA SHOPPING — NYPM103-109 — President Barack Obama shops at the Gap clothing store in Manhattan during an unannounced visit. Obama used the visit to talk about raising the minimum hourly wage and applauded the Gap, which earlier in the year announced it was raising the minimum wage for its employees.

ENTERTAINMENT

JERRY BRUCKHEIMER

SANTA MONICA, California — After more than two decades with Disney, where he produced the juggernaut "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "National Treasure" film franchises among many other box-office hits, Jerry Bruckheimer is beginning a new partnership with Paramount. By Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen. SENT: 980 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

— LIBYA — Libya's parliament ousts the Western-backed prime minister in a vote of confidence, adding a new layer of instability as the central government tries to rein in a militia that has taken control of oil facilities and tried this week to export oil on its own. SENT: 900 words, photos.

— ITALY-CIA KIDNAPPING — Italy's highest court upholds guilty verdicts against the final three U.S. defendants in the 2003 rendition kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect. SENT: 600 words, photos.

— AFGHANISTAN: A Swedish journalist is shot to death while reporting in an affluent and well-guarded area in Kabul, underscoring fears of rising violence ahead of a crucial election to choose a new leader for Afghanistan. SENT: 800 words, photos.

— DRIVERLESS CARS — California's Department of Motor Vehicles is wading into the complex question of how to regulate the use of driverless cars, holding a hearing to consider questions ranging from data privacy and security to whether a person will have to be in the driver's seat at all. SENT: 500 words, photos video.

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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.