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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

September 30, 2014



HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s leader says China won’t back down from its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub as pro-democracy protesters set a Wednesday deadline for a response from the government to meet their demands. The unequivocal statement from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Tuesday dashed hopes that the standoff between demonstrators and authorities could be resolved quickly through negotiations. It does not come as a surprise given that showing a willingness to talk would have made the Chinese leadership appear weak, which could embolden dissidents, critics and separatists on the mainland. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 860 words, photos, video.


BEIJING — The images in Hong Kong media of unarmed students wearing googles and wielding umbrellas in clouds of tear gas could not contrast more starkly with the virtual blackout in news about the pro-democracy protests on mainland China. Not a single rally image has appeared in Chinese state media, and at least one man has been criminally detained for reposting news about what some have dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution.” The unusually thorough clampdown on news reflects the Beijing leadership’s extreme sensitivity about any allowing any sparks of pro-democracy protest in the mainland’s citizenry. “The authorities see this as a matter of life and death,” Shanghai-based analyst Zhao Chu said. By Didi Tang. UPCOMING by 1400GMT: 850 words, photos.


KISO, Japan — Increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption at a Japanese volcano where 36 people were killed, forcing rescuers to suspend plans to try to recover at least two dozen bodies still near the summit. Volcanic tremors rose to a level not seen since Saturday evening, hours after Mount Ontake’s initial large eruption. By Emily Wang. SENT: 440 words, photos, video.


ABOARD THE COCONUT PRINCESS — On a cruise more about politics than pleasure, Zhang Jing watched the gray shells of the Paracel Islands emerge from the purple, pre-dawn South China Sea. Cheers erupted on board at the sight of the distant land, and Zhang and the other passengers scurried to take pictures of each other at the railing holding China’s bright red flag. A few miles away, a Chinese navy frigate cruised by silently, part of the country’s continuing watch over the tiny islands it has long claimed as part of its territory. “This is the southern frontier of China,” Zhang, a policeman, said when he had reached one of the islands. “As a Chinese, I feel proud to come here and declare sovereignty.” SENT: 840 words, photos, video.


WASHINGTON — In a display of intercontinental unity, President Barack Obama and India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi are joining together to put an optimistic face on the future of relations between India and the United States, amid lingering concerns that the close ties the two democracies once enjoyed have lost their luster. An Oval Office meeting Tuesday with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was to be the centerpiece of Modi’s two-day visit to the White House, where the Indian leader was to be greeted with a formal arrival ceremony outside the West Wing. The previous evening, Obama hosted his Indian counterpart for a private dinner — despite the fact that Modi, a devout Hindu, was fasting. By Josh Lederman. SENT: 650 words, photos, audio.


MELBOURNE, Australia — One man was arrested in counterterrorism raids in Melbourne after police said he provided money to a U.S. citizen fighting alongside extremists in Syria. The 23-year-old man, whom police have not named, will be charged with intentionally making funds available to a terrorist organization, Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said. SENT.


SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean cruise ship runs aground off the southwestern coast but all of the 109 people aboard the vessel have been rescued. The incident came as South Korea is still struggling to deal with the aftermath of April’s ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing. By Hyung-Jin Kim.


HUA HIN, Thailand — A Thai court has sentenced a man to death after convicting him of raping a 13-year-old girl on an overnight train, killing her and then throwing her body out the window. The brutal murder committed by a train employee in July sparked an uproar in Thailand and prompted calls for the execution of rapists. SENT: 130 words. Will be updated.


BEIJING — President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders solemnly present flower baskets at the People’s Heroes Monument in central Beijing to mark Martyr’s Day, one of three new holidays created this year in a renewed focus on World War II. Scores of ordinary people also lined up at Tiananmen Square to lay single flowers at the monument in Tuesday’s nationally televised ceremony. SENT.


SYDNEY — Actress Nicole Kidman breaks her public silence since the death of her father more than two weeks ago by sharing her heartbreak and thanking well-wishers for their comforting thoughts and prayers. “We would just like to thank everyone for their love and prayers over these past couple of weeks,” Kidman and her singer husband Keith Urban said in a joint statement posted on their Facebook pages. SENT: 150 words.


BEIJING — China’s phone regulator has approved the iPhone 6 for sale after Apple Inc. promised never to allow other governments access to users’ information. Tuesday’s announcement reflected Chinese unease about the reliability of foreign communications technology following disclosures about widespread U.S. government eavesdropping. SENT: 100 words.


BEIJING — China’s manufacturing activity in September held steady at the previous month’s low level, indicating the world’s second-largest economy faces risks to growth, a survey shows. HSBC Corp.‘s monthly purchasing managers’ index stood at 50.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion. It was unchanged from August’s three-month low. SENT: 190 words.



UNITED NATIONS — Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem tells The Associated Press that the U.S.-led bombing campaign should be expanded to target other militant groups other than the Islamic State group. The bombing campaign has aligned Damascus with Western and Arab opponents in fighting the same enemy. By Zeina Karam and Edith M. Lederer. SENT: 360 words, photo.

— SYRIA — US-led coalition hits Islamic State group in 4 provinces across northern and eastern Syria. SENT: 930 words, photos.


AMMAN, Jordan — The expanding battle against Islamic State militants, who are seen by some Arab governments as an existential threat, is creating an unlikely cocktail of allies. Longtime foes such as the United States and Iran now find themselves fighting a common enemy, as do Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds — who rarely agree on much. Squabbling Arab states have at least temporarily put aside their differences to try push back the militants who have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq. By Karin Laub and Adam Schreck. SENT: 1,300 words, photos.

— OBAMA-ISLAMIC STATE — Helping Assad? Amid the airstrikes, efforts to oust Syria president are pushed to back burner. SENT: 700 words, photo.


WASHINGTON — The intruder who climbed a fence made it farther inside the White House than the Secret Service has publicly acknowledged, the Washington Post and New York Times newspapers report. The disclosures come on the eve of a congressional oversight hearing with the director of the embattled agency assigned to protect the president’s life. By Alicia A. Caldwell. SENT: 1,000 words, photo. UPCOMING: Updates as merited.


UNITED NATIONS — In a blistering address to the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns that Muslim extremists from Hamas to the Islamic State group are all bent on world domination through fear and violence, just as the Nazis were. He also accuses Hamas of committing “the real war crimes” in Gaza by using Palestinian civilians as human shields. By Edith M. Lederer and Mohammed Daraghmeh. SENT: 670 words, photos.


NEW YORK — When the economy tanks, women have fewer babies. But what happens in the following years, when conditions improve? A massive new study suggests that for some U.S. women, living through a recession can mean they will never have children. By Science Writer Malcolm Ritter. SENT: 640 words, photo.


WASHINGTON — Scientists looking at 16 cases of wild weather around the world last year see the fingerprints of man-made global warming on more than half of them. Researchers found that climate change increased the odds of heat waves in Australia, Europe, China, Japan and Korea, intense rain in parts of the United States and India, and severe droughts in California and New Zealand. By Science Writer Seth Borenstein. SENT: 650 words, photos.


NEW YORK — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates topped Forbes’ latest list of the 400 richest Americans for the 21st straight year. The list, released on Monday, was largely unchanged for 2014 and showed the rich getting richer. Gates’ net worth totaled $81 billion, up $9 billion from 2013. Investor Warren Buffett, the head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., remained in second place at $67 billion. Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison also kept his No. 3 spot with $50 billion. SENT: 200 words.


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