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Asian News Digest, AS
Associated Press
2013-12-30 08:22 PM

ASIA:

CHINA-JAPAN

BEIJING -- China's Foreign Ministry accuses Japan's prime minister of hypocrisy and says he will not be welcome in China after he visited a shrine honoring Japan's war dead. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 450 words, photos.

CHINA-XINJIANG VIOLENCE

BEIJING -- Authorities in western China say police fatally shot eight "terrorists" who had attacked them using knives and explosives in the latest in a string of violent incidents in the ethnically tense region. SENT: 370 words.

BANGLADESH-ELECTION

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Ruling party supporters and their opponents throw stones at each other on the second day of sporadic violence in the Bangladeshi capital, after heavy police presence foiled an opposition plan for a rally to pressure the government to scrap next month's election. By Julhas Alam. SENT: 490 words, photos.

THAILAND-POLITICS

BANGKOK -- Thai police have staged a protest in Bangkok to show their frustration after weeks of dealing with aggressive and often violent anti-government demonstrators. SENT: 130 words.

CHINA-SMOKING

BEIJING -- China, which has the world's largest number of smokers, is making another effort at limiting smoking by banning officials from lighting up in public. This time, the edict is coming from the highest levels of the ruling Communist Party and government. SENT: 430 words, photos.

CHINA-OFFICIAL INVESTIGATED

BEIJING -- China's ruling Communist Party is investigating a top political adviser in a southwestern province believed to be linked to a former security czar who until recently was one of the country's most powerful leaders. SENT: 340 words.

CHINA-SOIL POLLUTION

BEIJING -- More than 8 million acres of China's farmland is too polluted with heavy metals and other chemicals to use for growing food, a Cabinet official says, highlighting a problem that is causing growing public concern. SENT: 540 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

WORLD MARKETS

TOKYO -- Shares advanced in Asia but were trading lower in Europe in thin pre-holiday trading, after Japan's Nikkei 225 index ended 2013 at its highest level in more than six years. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 560 words, photos.

SKOREA-SAMSUNG-NEW TV

SEOUL, South Korea -- Samsung said a 110-inch TV that has four times the resolution of standard high-definition TVs is going on sale for about $150,000 in South Korea. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 370 words, photos.

CHINA-GOVERNMENT DEBT

BEIJING -- China's local government debt has soared 70 percent over the past three years, according to an official audit, which called on local leaders to curb the rapid increase. SENT: 480 words.

FEATURES:

THAILAND-EXPORTING ALZHEIMER'S

CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- Residents of this facility for people with Alzheimer's disease toss around a yellow ball and laugh under a cascade with their caregivers, in a swimming pool ringed by palm trees and wind chimes. Susanna Kuratli, once a painter of delicate oils, swims a lap and smiles. Watching is her husband, Ulrich, who has a heart-rending decision: to leave his wife of 41 years in this facility 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) from home, or to bring her back to Switzerland. By Denis D. Gray. SENT: 2,000 words, photos, video. An abridged version is available.

GREECE-PRISON HELL

ATHENS, Greece -- More than 30 men were crammed into the cell, locked up night and day for weeks or months. Without enough bunks, many slept on the floor. The windows were painted over, blocking out the sun, and the air was thick with cigarette smoke and the reek of the one toilet everyone shared. But what might come as the biggest surprise about this prison was its location: In Greece, squarely in Europe. The Associated Press pieced together this stark picture of Greece's prison crisis from interviews across the system and a variety of government reports and other documents. By Elena Becatoros. SENT: 1,700 words, photos. Also moved in advance. There is an abridged version of the story.

GAY IN UTAH

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has long been known as a bastion of red-state conservatism, with deep roots in the Mormon faith, the kind of place that has historically been unwelcoming to gay marriage. But, like the rest of America, how gays are received can depend on where they live, among other things. As gay couples wait for the courts to sort out the legal challenges to a judge's decision to overturn the state's gay marriage ban, three gay couples describe differing experiences in Utah: By Paul Foy, Michelle Price and Brian Skoloff. SENT: 1,300 words. photos.

TEACHER-HOUSE-CALLS

ST. LOUIS -- Like many parents, Trecia Buckner worried how the teachers at her 6-year-old son Josiah's new school would react to the rambunctious kindergartner -- and whether she could trust an unknown authority figure who would soon spend more time with Josiah each day than she was able. Buckner need not worry - by the first day of school, Josiah's teacher already knew far more personal details about him than some other teachers could obtain in an entire year, thanks to Home Works, a pilot program that sends public school teachers into their students' homes several times annually. The St. Louis program builds upon existing efforts in communities ranging from Sacramento, Calif., to Omaha, Neb. and Washington, D.C., where a philanthropic group provides the extra teacher pay for the out-of-school visits. Program supporters cite research that suggests home visits boosts both student academic achievement as well as parental involvement, especially in urban school districts where parent participation typically lags. By Alan Scher Zagier. SENT: 1,045 words, photos.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

RUSSIA-EXPLOSION

MOSCOW -- The blast that tore through an electric bus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd during morning rush hour, killing 14, was probably carried out by suicide bombers from the same organization behind a railway explosion a day earlier, officials say. Together more than 30 people were killed in the explosions, putting the city of one million on edge and highlighting the terrorist threat Russia is facing as it prepares to host February's Winter Games in Sochi. By Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 1,040 words, photos, video.

-- CONGO-VIOLENCE -- Government spokesman say armed group has attacked state radio, TV in Congo's capital. SENT: 100 words.

-- GREECE-GERMANY-SHOOTING -- The home of Germany's ambassador to Greece is sprayed with gunfire, in a suspected terrorist attack the government says is aimed at hurting the country's image before it takes over the presidency of the European Union. SENT: 400 words, photos.

SCHUMACHER-INJURED

GRENOBLE, France -- Doctors treating Michael Schumacher refuse to predict the outcome for the former Formula One driver, saying they were taking his very critical head injury "hour by hour" following his ski accident. Chief anesthesiologist Jean-Francois Payen tells reporters that the seven-time champion is still in a medically induced coma. "We cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher," Payen says. SENT: 555 words, photos. UPCOMING: 800 words by 1300 GMT., photos, video.

SALVADOR-VOLCANO

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- Authorities in El Salvador evacuate an area around the Chaparrastique volcano after the peak shoots a cloud of gas and ash about 3 miles into the air. Civil Defense Director Jorge Melendez says a yellow alert has been issued and investigators have been sent to the area to look for signs of fresh lava, but that none has been detected so far. SENT: 240 words, photos, video.

-- AP VIDEO: SALVADOR VOLCANO -- A government camera captures dramatic pictures from the eruption of Chaparrastique volcano.

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CHECKLIST-CANDIDATES

WASHINGTON -- The 2016 presidential campaign is well underway. Not in name, so much, but rather in the deeds of more than a dozen people who might run. They've been busy plugging holes in resumes, getting known on TV, networking with activists and party luminaries, taking early steps to build campaign organizations and much more. By Calvin Woodward. SENT: 7,600 words, photos, interactive.

-- SENATE-ELECTIONS -- Republicans count enough competitive races to challenge Democrats for control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, if only they can figure out what to do with the tea party. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

HEALTH OVERHAUL

HONOLULU -- The government's rehabilitated health insurance website has seen a December surge in customer sign-ups, pushing enrollment past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration says. Combined with numbers for state-run markets, that should put total enrollment in the new private insurance plans under President Barack Obama's health law at about 2 million people through the end of the year, independent experts say. By Josh Lederman and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. SENT: 940 words, photos.

-- OBAMA'S YEAR -- The president's great expectations for 2013 disappeared amid fumbles and failures. SENT: 1,950 words, photos.

SPORTS:

AMERICAN BALLPLAYERS IN VENEZUELA

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's fiercely competitive professional league has drawn the biggest contingent of U.S. players in decades. In the land of Hugo Chavez, a place in many ways hostile to Americans owing to its reputation for rampant crime, a crumbling economy and an anti-American government, young hitters and hurlers from across America are thriving this winter season. By Joshua Goodman. SENT: 2,000 words, photos, video.

NFL PLAYOFFS RDP

There will be rematches galore in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs next weekend. It begins with the Colts hosting the Chiefs on Saturday. At night, in the only first-round game not involving teams that saw each other this season, New Orleans is at Philadelphia. On Sunday, it's San Diego at Cincinnati. The wild-card finale not only is a redux of the season opener, but also of a divisional playoff matchup from last January, as San Francisco goes to Green Bay. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. SENT: 1,020 words, photos.

-- NFL-PHOTO-GALLERY -- A look at a milestone day for the NFL. SENT: 100 words, photos.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

-- JOURNALIST DEATHS-- Committee to Protect Journalists says 70 reporters were slain in 2013, including 29 in Syria. SENT: 440 words.

-- PAKISTAN -- Pakistani police defuse 4 small bombs planted near former President Pervez Musharraf's house. SENT: 135 words, photos.

-- STAMP FIND -- Stamp sheet featuring famous rarity turns up in NY, issued by Postal Service to recharge collecting. SENT: 320 words, photos.

-- PHOENIX-ROBBERY SHOOTING -- The Secret Service says man linked to officer's death, robberies in three states arrested for threat to president. SENT: 790 words, photos.

___

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