ISLAMABAD -- Amnesty International urges the U.S. to investigate reports of civilians killed and wounded by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan in a report that provides new details about the alleged victims of the attacks, including a 68-year-old grandmother hit while farming with her grandchildren. By Sebastian Abbot. SENT: 970 words, photos.
SYDNEY -- Firefighters battling dozens of wildfires in Australia's most populous state merge two of the most worrying blazes to try to reduce the threat of a more unpredictable inferno taking hold. There had been fears that three of the fires near the Blue Mountains west of Sydney would join to create a massive, erratic wall of fire that would be difficult to control. So firefighters struck first, combining two of the fires into one that is easier to manage and contain. SENT: 210 words, photos.
BEIJING -- Forget all the headlines about eye-watering pollution in Beijing and Shanghai -- the Middle Kingdom's latest tourism slogan invites visitors to "Beautiful China." Adorning buses and trains in cities such as London, the international marketing effort has been derided as particularly inept at a time when record-busting smog has drawn attention to the environmental and health costs of China's unfettered industrialization. By Louise Watt. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
-- CHINA-POLLUTION -- Beijing seeks to tame the spikes in its infamous smog by preparing emergency measures such as factory shutdowns and traffic limits to kick in when air pollution levels are especially heavy. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 370 words, photos.
GENEVA -- Faced with a U.N. review of its human rights, China acknowledges that it still faces shortcomings but insists it has reduced poverty, deepened judicial reforms and protections of ethnic minorities. China puts its pride and promise to better itself on display at the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, which reviews each nation's record once every four years, as human rights groups and activists call attention to crackdowns on human rights defenders and ethnic Tibetan and Uighur populations. By John Heilprin. SENT: 320 words, photos.
MALE, Maldives -- Maldives officials reschedule the country's presidential election for Nov. 9 after police prevented the scheduled vote this past weekend due to a conflict with a Supreme Court ruling. While the new schedule may break a political stalemate and reassure the troubled young democracy, it may not produce a new president before the incumbent's term ends, creating a constitutional vacuum. By Hussain Sinan. SENT: 400 words, photos.
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei -- Brunei's sultan announces that a new Islamic criminal law that could include penalties like amputation for theft and stoning for adultery will be enforced in six months. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah says the Shariah Penal Code, which would be applied to Muslims only, should be regarded as a form of "special guidance" from God and would be "part of the great history" of the tiny, oil-rich monarchy. SENT: 400 words.
CANBERRA, Australia -- Provincial lawmakers for the territory that includes Australia's capital vote to allow same-sex marriage, a first for the country, but the federal government says it will try to stop gay weddings from happening. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 580 words.
BANGKOK -- Investigators in Laos say they have retrieved the midsection of a Lao Airlines passenger plane that crashed into the Mekong River a week ago, killing all 49 people on board, but have not recovered the black box. SENT: 250 words.
PATNA, India -- A school principal and her husband are charged with murder after 23 children died from eating pesticide-contaminated lunches in July at the school in eastern India, police say. By Indrajit Singh. SENT: 270 words.
STRASBOURG, France -- Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's Nobel Peace Prize laureate and long-time political prisoner, finally collects the European Union's 1990 Sakharov Prize for human rights. SENT: 120 words, photos.
BEIJING -- Chinese authorities are cracking down on how often broadcasters can air reality, dating and talent shows such as the Chinese versions of "American Idol" and "The Voice," which draw huge audiences. SENT: 300 words.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE:
BEIJING -- China Mobile Ltd., the world's biggest phone carrier by subscribers, says its latest quarterly profit tumbled 8.7 percent due to tougher competition. SENT: 190 words.
BEIJING -- Russia has signed an $85 billion deal to supply oil to China, visiting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says, expanding energy trade between the giant neighbors. The two governments also agreed to jointly construct an oil refinery in Tianjin east of Beijing, Medvedev says. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 360 words.
HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnam Airlines has grounded all 14 of its ATR-72 planes after a front tire fell off one of the jets midflight. SENT: 135 words.
MATSUMOTO, Japan -- A generation ago, Dr. Akira Sugenoya performed lifesaving cancer surgery on more than 100 children after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. Today, as mayor of a central Japanese city, he's trying to avoid a repeat of his own history. Beginning in April, parents living in the shadow of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be able to send their children about 300 kilometers (200 miles) away to his city, Matsumoto, to go to school. The city will pay 14 million yen ($140,000) a year for a six-bedroom house and caretakers; parents won't pay tuition but will cover expenses such as utilities and meals. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 950 words, photos.
U.S. & INTERNATIONAL:
WASHINGTON -- The sweep and scope of National Security Agency snooping abroad forces President Barack Obama once again to hear complaints from a U.S. ally angry about surveillance that has sparked an international debate over the limits of American spying. France is the latest in a growing list of nations demanding explanations from Washington. A report published in France says the U.S. swept up 70 million French telephone records and text messages and recorded some private conversations. The White House says some news reports have distorted the work of U.S. surveillance programs, but that Obama acknowledged in a phone call to France's president that some reports have raised "legitimate questions for our friends and allies." By Deb Riechmann and Kimberly Dozier. SENT: 850 words, photos.
LONDON -- Violent extremists seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad may instead have hurt negotiations to replace him. That's frustrating Western diplomats who continue to push for Assad's ouster as a necessary part of a peace agreement in the Mideast nation's bloody civil war. Bolstered by infighting among Syrian opposition groups -- including some linked to al-Qaida -- U.S. officials say Assad has a stronger grasp on power now than he did just months ago. How to persuade Assad to step down will be part of the focus at a London meeting of 11 nations from the West and Mideast seeking a negotiated settlement to the war. By National Security Writer Lara Jakes. SENT: 900 words, photos.
WASHINGTON -- Crammed into conference rooms with pizza for dinner, some programmers building the Obama administration's showcase health insurance website were growing increasingly stressed. Some worked past 10 p.m., energy drinks in hand. Others rewrote computer code over and over to meet what they considered last-minute requests for changes from the government or other contractors. As questions mount over the website's failure, insider interviews and a review of technical specifications by The Associated Press find a mind-numbingly complex system put together by harried programmers who pushed out a final product that was tested by the government, not private developers with more expertise. By Jack Gillum. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.
MIDDLE SCHOOL SHOOTING
SPARKS, Nev. -- Students at a Nevada middle school were filing off buses and reuniting with friends on the playground after a weeklong vacation when the pop of gunfire shattered the morning calm. Police said a student was the lone gunman who injured two young classmates and took the life of an eighth-grade math teacher who tried to stop the rampage before turning the gun on himself. By Scott Sonner. SENT: 770 words, photos, video.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The San Francisco Bay Area's main commuter train system and its unions have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, ending a crippling four-day strike. BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost says limited service will begin before the morning rush hour. SENT: 720 words, photos, video.
HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR CONCERT
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- A 90-year-old pianist who survived the Holocaust will perform a song with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma that was written in the concentration camp where he was imprisoned. George Horner, now a retired doctor living in suburban Philadelphia, will join Ma on stage at Boston's Symphony Hall. By Kathy Matheson. SENT: 450 words, photos.
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