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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

November 21, 2014

ASIA:

JAPAN-ELECTION

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolves the lower house of Japan’s parliament, forcing an early election in an apparent bid to shore up support for his scandal-plagued government so he can pursue his policy goals. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in power for most of the post-World War II era, may lose some seats but is likely to retain a solid majority with its coalition partner in the 480-seat lower house. By Mari Yamaguchi. SENT: 700 words, photos.

CHINA-PROFESSORS MONITORED

BEIJING — Over two weeks, a Communist Party-run newspaper sent reporters to sit in on dozens of university lectures all over the country looking for what it said were professors “being scornful of China.” It found what it was looking for, in what many consider a broadening of party tactics that have already cost several academics their jobs or landed them in prison. By Jack Chang. SENT: 1,030 words, photos.

CHINA-FREE SPEECH

BEIJING —Closed-door court hearings of a prominent journalist and a noted minority scholar are sharply criticized for violating due process and chilling freedom of expression as Chinese authorities tighten oversight of public speech. By Erika Kinetz. SENT: 440 words, photos.

SRI LANKA-POLITICS

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s health minister quits President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government to challenge him in upcoming elections in the most serious setback for the leader’s quest for a third term. SENT: 340 words.

INDIA-ASHRAM RAID

NEW DELHI — Indian police search the sprawling ashram of a holy man who was arrested on suspicion of murder and criminal conspiracy after a deadly siege at his fortress-like compound. Sant Rampal, a former engineer, had ignored orders to appear in court for questioning in a 2006 murder case. SENT: 300 words, photos.

INDONESIA-EARTHQUAKE

TERNATE, Indonesia — A strong undersea earthquake hits off the coast of eastern Indonesia, but there are no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage and officials say it is unlikely to trigger a tsunami. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured magnitude 6.9 and struck off Tobelo in North Maluku province at a depth of about 48 kilometers (30 miles). SENT: 150 words.

PAKISTAN

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A bomb attached to a motorcycle strikes an army vehicle in northwestern Pakistan, killing two soldiers, police say. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The bomb exploded as the army vehicle was passing by on a road on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar. SENT: 240 words.

CHINA-ASIA SECURITY CONFERENCE

BEIJING — China’s defense minister says he wants to enhance dialogue to manage disputes with his country’s neighbors, sounding a conciliatory note after years of sharpened confrontations over territorial claims on land and sea. Chang Wanquan said China is considering opening defense hotlines with its Southeast Asian neighbors. Four of them, including Vietnam and the Philippines, are involved in disputes with Beijing over territory in the South China Sea. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 340 words, photos.

SKOREA-FIRE

SEOUL, South Korea — An elderly dementia patient in South Korea is sentenced to 20 years in prison for setting a fire at a hospital for the elderly that killed 22 people. The 81-year-old man was convicted of arson and manslaughter. SENT: 200 words.

NEW ZEALAND-MALAYSIA-DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY CASE

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A Malaysian military officer who was extradited to New Zealand pleads not guilty to sexual assault charges. SENT: 140 words.

AFGHANISTAN-AMUSEMENT PARK

KABUL, Afghanistan — Excitement builds in the queue forming behind the barbed-wire security fence outside Afghanistan’s first amusement park as children in bright clothes clutch their parents’ hands and hop from foot to foot in anticipation of the pleasures waiting behind the high concrete blast walls. For the thousands of families who have visited Kabul’s City Park since it opened during a national religious holiday weekend in October, it is a rare escape from lives blighted by war, death and misery. By Rahim Faiez. SENT: 540 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

MALAYSIA-FUEL SUBSIDIES

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s government says it will completely withdraw fuel subsidies from next month following the plunge in global oil prices. Domestic Trade Minister Hasan Malek said fuel prices will now be based on a monthly average price under a “managed float” system. By Eileen Ng. SENT: 310 words.

JAPAN-US-AIR BAGS

TOKYO — Japan’s transport ministry says it has ordered air bag maker Takata to conduct an internal investigation after cases of its air bags exploding triggered safety concerns in the U.S. and other countries, as the government stepped up oversight of the company. SENT: 170 words.

CHINA-ECONOMY

BEIJING —China’s central bank cuts interest rates and promises to inject extra credit into the financial system if needed amid a deepening slowdown in the world’s No. 2 economy. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 410 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

OBAMA-IMMIGRATION

WASHINGTON —President Barack Obama invites a showdown with newly empowered Republicans in Congress, ordering far-reaching changes to the U.S. immigration system that will protect nearly 5 million people from deportation while testing the limits of his presidential powers. In a televised address, Obama described the most sweeping changes to fractured immigration laws in nearly three decades, saying that taking executive actions were a “commonsense” plan consistent with what previous presidents of both parties had done. SENT: 830 words, photos, video, interactive.

BILL COSBY

BOCA RATON, Fla. — A Florida woman becomes the fourth person in recent weeks to say Bill Cosby gave her pills that made her feel groggy then forced himself on her sexually. Therese Serignese, now 57 and a nurse in Boca Raton, says the TV icon raped her in 1976 when she was 19 years old following a show in Las Vegas. By Matt Sedensky. SENT: 1,170 words, photos, video.

— BAHAMAS-BILL COSBY — No sign of controversy dogging him back home as Cosby takes standup show to the Bahamas. SENT: 350 words, photo.

TURKEY-US RELATIONS

ISTANBUL — Vice President Joe Biden on Friday will become the latest U.S. official trying to push Turkey to step up its role in the international coalition’s fight against Islamic State extremists. By Deb Riechmann. SENT: 890 words, photos, interactive.

HONDURAS-BEAUTY QUEEN

SANTA BARBARA, Honduras — The killing of Miss Honduras and a sister is both a family tragedy and a national outrage in a country caught in a homicidal bloodbath. While many of the daily dead are gangsters, drug traffickers and police officers, many others are taxi drivers, journalists, abused women and other innocents. By Alberto Arce. SENT: 1,520 words, photos.

IRAN-NUCLEAR TALKS

VIENNA — With talks on Iran’s nuclear program stalled four days before a deadline for agreement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry embarks on a crucial round of diplomacy on Friday. By George Jahn and Matthew Lee. SENT: 290 words, photos. UPCOMING: developing.

MEXICO-MISSING STUDENTS

MEXICO CITY — A largely peaceful march by tens of thousands demanding the return of 43 missing students ends in violence, as a small group of masked protesters battle police in Mexico City’s main square. By Mark Stevenson and Christopher Sherman. SENT: 740 words, photos, video.

EGYPT-COMICS

CAIRO — A new feminist comic book, the Jewelry Box, emerges in Egypt, the latest addition in a blossoming scene of alternative comics, as artists seek freer expression in a country where independent voices are finding it harder to speak. By Sarah El Deeb. SENT: 850 words, photos.

WINTRY WEATHER

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Snow onslaught finally stops, but Buffalo can hardly breathe easy, with cleanup and potential for rain and flooding this weekend. SENT: 430 words, photos, video, interactive.

MERGERS-BIG CEO PAY

NEW YORK — It’s anyone’s guess whether the recent flurry of corporate mergers will pay off for shareholders, but one thing is for sure: the bosses who’ve decided to sell will do just fine, a study finds. By Business Writer Bernard Condon. SENT: 880 words, photos.

EUROPE-STIMULUS

FRANKFURT, Germany — Japan’s return to recession renews questions about the effectiveness of buying government bonds to stimulate an economy — and how far such a program would help in Europe. A look at the potential impact of such stimulus in the 18-country eurozone as the European Central Bank considers using it as well. By Business Writers Pan Pylas and David McHugh. SENT: 940 words, photo.

GETTING ATTENTION

— FERGUSON-POLICE OFFICER — Police union official: Ferguson officer doesn’t appear to expect to face criminal charges. SENT: 560 words, photo.

— GERMANY-HITLER PAINTING — An original Hitler: Watercolor by the future Fuehrer going on sale in Germany. SENT: 290 words, photos.

— EBOLA-GUINEA-SAMPLES STOLEN — Bandits in Guinea steal blood samples suspected of Ebola infection; officials plead for return. SENT: 210 words.

— GAMBIA-GAY LAW — Gambia leader approves law that would jail some gays for life amid fresh wave of arrests. SENT: 360 words.

— BRITAIN-SPYING ON JOURNALISTS — Lawsuit, documents reveal years of police surveillance on British journalists. SENT: 590 words.

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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 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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