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Asian News Digest, AS
Associated Press
2014-07-29 08:42 PM

ASIA:

CHINA-SECURITY CZAR

BEIJING -- China's ruling Communist Party announces an investigation into a feared ex-security chief, demonstrating President Xi Jinping's grip on power and breaking a longstanding taboo against publicly targeting the country's topmost leaders. The party's anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on its website that it is investigating Zhou Yongkang for serious violations of party discipline, but gave no details. Such an announcement typically paves the way for the official to be ousted from the party and face prosecution. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 540 words, photos.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A cousin and close associate of outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai is assassinated by a suicide bomber who hid his explosives under his turban, a provincial official says. The bomber walked up to the home of Hashmat Khalil Karzai to greet him after morning prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, and detonated the explosives after shaking hands with the president's cousin, the official said. By Amir Shah. SENT: 430 words, photos.

NKOREA-PHOTOS-HAPPY CAMPERS

WONSAN, North Korea -- Summer camp in North Korea? It's got one -- and it's got everything from giant water slides and a private beach to video games and volleyball courts. Oh, and, of course, a big bronze statue of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il surrounded by adoring children. After some on-the-spot guidance from North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, and a major face-lift, the Songdowon International Children's Camp reopened Tuesday for this year's flock of foreign campers -- more than 300 young children and teenagers from Russia, China, Vietnam, Ireland and Tanzania. By Eric Talmadge. SENT: 280 words, photos.

CAMBODIA-KHMER ROUGE TRIAL

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The slow course of justice for the leaders of Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge regime will inch forward again Wednesday, as a U.N.-backed tribunal holds an initial hearing against a pair of defendants in their 80s facing genocide and other charges. Khmer Rouge head of state, Khieu Samphan, and Nuon Chea, right-hand man to the group's late chief, Pol Pot, are among the few surviving top leaders of the brutal communist group that was responsible for some 1.7 million deaths from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution when it was in power in 1975-79. By Abby Seiff. SENT: 880 words, photos.

SKOREA-SHIP SINKS-STUDENTS

ANSAN, South Korea -- South Korean teenagers who survived April's ferry sinking say they are still haunted by the disaster that killed dozens of their friends, and demand that crew members be punished for abandoning the passengers and fleeing the ship. Students from Danwon High School near Seoul testified for a second day at the trial of 15 crew members involved with the ferry's navigation who face charges of negligence and failing to carry out their duty to rescue passengers. The sinking left more than 300 people dead or missing, and most of the victims were Danwon students who were traveling to a resort island on a school trip. SENT: 460 words.

VATICAN-POPE-TRIP

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican confirms the dates for Pope Francis' second trip to Asia, a weeklong visit Jan. 12-19 to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Francis had already announced his intention to visit Sri Lanka and meet with victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed some 6,300 people, left another 1,060 missing and devastated parts of the central Philippines last year. SENT: 130 words.

NEPAL-BUDDHIST MONK

KATMANDU, Nepal -- The body of a revered Tibetan Buddhist monk can now be cremated at his monastery in the hills outside Nepal's capital, the government says after reversing its earlier objections to bringing the body into the country. Nepal had initially said Shamar Rinpoche's body could not enter Nepal because he was a citizen of the nearby Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Some accused the government, however, of fearing anti-China protests by Tibetans during the funeral procession, which is expected to be attended by thousands of Rinpoche's followers. By Binaj Gurubacharya. SENT: 250 words.

PHILIPPINES-ABU SAYYAF

MANILA, Philippines -- A 3-year-old boy and his father died from wounds suffered in a brazen attack by Abu Sayyaf extremists on Filipinos celebrating the end of Ramadan, raising the toll to 23 dead, officials say. About 40 to 50 Abu Sayyaf militants armed with assault rifles opened fire Monday on some 50 villagers as they traveled on a southern road to visit relatives during the holiday ending the Muslim holy month. SENT: 460 words.

AUSTRALIA-TERROR CHARGES

CANBERRA, Australia -- Australian police have obtained arrest warrants for two Australians who are fighting with the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria after one posted photographs of the other posing with severed heads of Syrian soldiers. Australian Federal Police said they obtained arrest warrants for Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar for "terrorism-related activity." By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 220 words.

AUSTRALIA-UK DRUGS

CANBERRA, Australia -- Police have arrested six men in Australia and Britain for allegedly smuggling amphetamines from the United Kingdom halfway around the world through a courier service, investigators say. Authorities seized 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of the illicit drug, worth at least 20 million Australian dollars ($19 million). SENT: 230 words.

NEW ZEALAND-STRANDED PASSENGERS

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A group of Air New Zealand passengers are stranded for a third night after being repeatedly told their plane was delayed due to mechanical problems. By Nick Perry. SENT: 320 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

CHINA-INVESTIGATORS TRIAL

BEIJING -- A Shanghai court says American and British investigators who worked for drug maker GlaxoSmithKline will stand trial Aug. 8 on charges of illegally obtaining information on Chinese citizens. The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court said Yingzeng Yu and her husband Peter Humphrey will have a "public trial." Authorities had told U.S. and British diplomats they would be barred because the trial involved secret information but later reversed that decision. SENT: 130 words.

JAPAN-EARNS-HONDA

TOKYO -- Honda's quarterly profit surged nearly 20 percent on demand for remodeled cars in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. The Japanese automaker also raised its full-year profit and sales forecasts. Honda Motor Co. reported a profit of 146.5 billion yen ($1.4 billion) for the April-June fiscal first quarter, close to what analysts had forecast. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 330 words, photos.

JAPAN-MCDONALD'S

TOKYO -- McDonald's in Japan is increasing its checks on chicken from vendors in China and Thailand after allegations a Chinese supplier sold expired chicken. It says the scare will hurt its earnings. The U.S. fast-food chain's Japan unit withdrew this year's earnings and sales forecasts, citing uncertainties from the food scandal. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 280 words.

CHINA-MICROSOFT

BEIJING -- China's anti-monopoly agency announces an investigation of Microsoft Corp., stepping up pressure on foreign technology companies. SENT: 130 words.

CZECH-HYUNDAI MOBIS

PRAGUE -- South Korea's Hyundai Mobis signs a deal with the Czech government to build a car lights plant in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Hyundai Mobis will invest up to 4 billion koruna ($195 million) in the factory to be built near the city of Ostrava. The project is expected to create some 900 jobs. SENT: 110 words, photos.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israel escalates its military campaign against Hamas, striking symbols of the group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far. Flares turn the sky over Gaza City orange overnight and by daybreak, as the conflict entered its fourth week, heavy clouds of dust hovered over the territory. The pounding comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a "prolonged" campaign ahead. By Karin Laub and Peter Enav. SENT: 1,040 words, photos, videos, interactive.

CONGRESS-ISRAEL

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress are falling over one another to show their support for Israel. While much of the rest of the world watches the Gaza war in horror and scrambles for a cease-fire, U.S. lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration to take no action that puts pressure on Israel to halt its military operations. Many even have criticized the administration's effort to stop violence. By Bradley Klapper. SENT: 820 words, photos, interactive.

UKRAINE

KIEV, Ukraine -- Local authorities say at least 22 civilians have been killed in one day by shelling in the east. City hall in Luhansk, which is under the control of separatist rebels, says five people were killed when a home for the elderly was struck by artillery fire. In Horlivka, a city besieged by government troops, the mayor's office reported 17 people, including three children, were killed. By Peter Leonard and Mstyslav Chernov. SENT: 770 words, photos.

-- EUROPE-RUSSIA -- U.S. and European Union are preparing a powerful 1-2 punch against the Russian economy. SENT: 550 words.

-- UNITED STATES-RUSSIA-NUCLEAR ARMS -- U.S says Russia violated 1987 nuclear missile treaty, calls breach "a very serious matter." SENT: 550 words, photo.

HEPATITIS DRUG

WASHINGTON -- A $1,000-per-pill drug that insurers are reluctant to pay for has quickly become the treatment of choice for a liver-wasting viral disease that affects more than 3 million Americans. In less than six months, prescriptions for Sovaldi have eclipsed all other hepatitis C pills combined, according to new data from IMS Health. The prospect of a real cure, with fewer nasty side effects, is enticing thousands of patients to get treated for the first time. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. SENT: 930 words, photos.

CLIPPERS-STERLING FUTURE

The NBA and the Los Angeles Clippers are ready to move on, even if Donald Sterling wants to keep fighting. Move on to Steve Ballmer, who paid a record price for the team and is now a step closer to finally owning it. The Clippers are a potential powerhouse team next season. The only thing that could've messed it up was ownership. That no longer appears to be a concern after Monday's ruling in Los Angeles, where a Superior Court judge sided with Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, who negotiated the sale to Ballmer for a record-breaking $2 billion. Now the deal could be completed within two weeks. By Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney. SENT: 870 words, photos, video, interactive.

BRITAIN-TALK TO ME

LONDON -- It's a typical urban routine: Sit on the subway, headphones in, fiddling with the smartphone to avoid eye contact with fellow passengers. Now a new campaign called Talk To Me wants to change London's image as one of the loneliest places in Britain. Volunteers are handing out special badges with the message "Talk to me, I'll talk to you" -- an invitation to strike up a conversation with the wearer, anywhere. By Bethan McKernan. SENT: 550 words, photos.

AIRLINES-IMPROVING SAFETY

NEW YORK -- More travelers are flying than ever before, creating a daunting challenge for airlines: keep passengers safe in an ever more crowded airspace. Each day, 8.3 million people around the globe -- roughly the population of New York City -- step aboard an airplane. They almost always land safely. Some flights, however, are safer than others. By Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz. SENT: 960 words, photos.

DEBT STUDY

WASHINGTON -- More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study by the Urban Institute. By Economics Writer Josh Boak. SENT: 620 words, photo.

ALSO GETTING ATTENTION

-- WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT -- Connecticut man jailed for 21 years in killing he did not commit to seek up to $8 million. SENT: 290 words, photo.

-- FUGITIVE ARREST-SHOOTOUT -- Sexual-assault suspect killed in New York shootout; two federal marshals, policeman wounded. SENT: 560 words, photos.

-- AUSTRIA-DEADLY COWS -- Cow herd kills German woman hiker in Austria, police say bovines apparently riled by her dog. SENT: 80 words.

-- GIANT KETCHUP BOTTLE -- Tourists drawn to giant ketchup bottle now on sale in Illinois for $500,000, with warehouse. SENT: 140 words, photos, video.

-- WHALE WATCH BOAT -- Whale watching cruise boat caught by lobster trap rope on return to Boston; trip home delayed. SENT: 200 words.

-- WEST AFRICA-EBOLA -- Sick man with Ebola who boarded plane shows weaknesses in stopping deadly disease's spread. SENT: 1,260 words, photos.

___

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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