SYDNEY -- Fire officials are backing Australia's defense department after investigators revealed a military training exercise ignited the largest of the wildfires that have torn across the nation's most populous state over the past week. By Kristen Gelineau. SENT: 380 words, photos.
BANGKOK -- A bus carrying worshippers home from a temple at the end of Buddhist Lent plunged into a ravine in northern Thailand, killing 22 passengers, police say. SENT: 150 words.
HONG KONG -- Police are investigating a second reported extortion attempt at the Hong Kong film set of the latest "Transformers" movie. SENT: 200 words.
BEIJING --? A $300 million-endowed scholarship backed by a Wall Street tycoon and modeled after the Rhodes program breaks ground in Beijing, in a symbol of how the? world's geopolitics are shifting toward China. By Didi Tang. UPCOMING: 500 words by 0800 GMT.
US-NKOREA-NUCLEAR TEST SITE
WASHINGTON -- Satellite imagery shows North Korea has made new tunnel entrances at its nuclear test site in a sign it is preparing to conduct more underground explosions there in the future, a U.S. research institute says. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 360 words.
WASHINGTON -- Indonesia is highlighting its progress in curbing the environmental destruction that has depleted forests and made the Southeast Asian nation a leading source of greenhouse gases. But environmentalists are unconvinced. They say pulp and palm oil plantations are still expanding at an alarming rate in Sumatran forests, threatening endangered tigers and orangutans. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 900 words.
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meet for the first time, signaling an easing of tensions in their countries' rocky relationship. The high-stakes agenda includes U.S. drone strikes, reconciliation talks with the Taliban, and the future of the American troop presence in Afghanistan. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 820 words, photos.
MYANMAR-BAD GUY BLUES
YANGON, Myanmar -- In a dimly lit alley on a cramped side street of a teeming Southeast Asian city, the bad guys cluster together, plotting their next move. For 30 years, as Myanmar endured dictatorship and international isolation, these actors were the twisted faces of wrongdoing that the country's struggling film industry showed in movies that rarely dealt with anything that really mattered. Now this nation is opening to a wider world brimming with pop-culture choices, big-budget special effects and international bad guys who jet from Stockholm to Shanghai to wreak destruction on shiny, globalized levels. By Ted Anthony. UPCOMING: 1,400 words, photos by 0700 gmt.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE:
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korean lawmakers will tour a jointly-run factory park in North Korea next week following approval by Pyongyang, officials say. SENT: 170 words.
HONG KONG -- Chinese manufacturing rose to a seven-month high in October, suggesting continued momentum for the rebound in the world's second-biggest economy. The report released follows Chinese data earlier this month that showed quarterly economic growth rose to 7.8 percent after hitting a two-decade low in the second quarter, easing pressure for further stimulus and allowing leaders to focus on reforms. SENT: 275 words.
BANK OF AMERICA-COUNTRYWIDE
NEW YORK -- Bank of America Corp. is found liable for lying about the quality of mortgages it was passing along to financial firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a case the government said captured the frenzied pursued of profits at all costs just before the economy collapsed in 2008. A jury returns its verdict after several hours of deliberations following a monthlong trial that focuses on prime mortgages that Bank of America's Countrywide Financial unit completed in late 2007 and 2008. By Larry Neumeister. SENT: 500 words by 6:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- "Crowdfunding" is about to go big time. For years, filmmakers, artists and charities have used the power of the Internet to raise money from individuals. Soon, with a blessing from Congress, startup companies will be allowed to finance their ventures this way by selling stock. While proponents view it as a way for ordinary investors to get in early on the next Twitter or Facebook, regulators are worried it could become a breeding ground for fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission puts forth rules that would restrict how much any individual can invest and which financial information companies must disclose. By Business Writer Marcy Gordon. SENT: 580 words.
US & INTERNATIONAL:
BERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel complains to President Barack Obama after learning that U.S. intelligence may have targeted her mobile phone, the latest case of alleged American spy efforts straining ties with allies. For its part, the White House denies that the U.S. is listening in on Merkel's phone calls now. By Geir Moulson and John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.
WASHINGTON -- On the defensive, the Obama administration acknowledges its problem-plagued health insurance website didn't get enough testing before going live. It says technicians were deep into the job of fixing major computer snags but provides no timetable. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Alan Fram. SENT: 1080, photos, video.
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING
BOSTON -- Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers may try to save him from the death penalty by arguing that he fell under the murderous influence of his older brother, legal experts say. The outlines of a possible defense came into focus when it was learned that Tsarnaev's attorneys are trying to get access to investigative records implicating the now-dead brother in a grisly triple slaying committed in 2011. By Bridget Murphy and Michelle R. Smith. SENT: 500 words, photos, video, audio.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- One day, Saudi Arabia looks to spend $6.8 billion in its latest buying spree of American weapons. Two days later, the kingdom vents its anger at the U.S.'s Mideast policy by snubbing a seat on the U.N. Security Council in a show of discontent. A mix of both customer and critic, Saudi Arabia is trying to carve out its own path to counter U.S. moves such as outreach to Iran, while knowing it still needs its longtime ally as a powerful big brother. By Brian Murphy and Matthew Lee. SENT: 1,300 words, photos.
LEBANON-MARINE BOMBING-PHOTO ESSAY
A massive, four-story building that had withstood air strikes and artillery was now reduced to a mountain of rubble and enormous chunks of concrete. Watching crews remove wreckage, I thought, "My God. How did anyone survive?" AP's Cairo bureau chief at the time recounts the Oct. 23, 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans, one of the U.S.'s first experiences with a Mideast suicide attack. By Robert H. Reid. With photos from the time and the current site. SENT: 700 words, photos.
OSLO, Norway -- Norway's domestic intelligence service tried to prevent one of the suspected gunmen in the Nairobi mall attack from joining Somali militants more than three years ago, but failed to talk him out of it, the agency's chief says in an interview with The Associated Press. The man has been identified in Kenya as Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, a 23-year-old Somalia native whose family moved to Norway in 1999. By Karl Ritter. SENT: 629 words, photo.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- One of the world's most wanted women, a British-born Muslim convert called "the white widow" by London's tabloids, lived close to one of Nairobi's major malls in 2011 but likely wasn't carrying out surveillance on it, says a Kenyan security official. Interpol has issued an arrest notice for 29-year-old fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite, not in connection with the deadly terrorist attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall but over a 2011 plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya. She managed to escape Kenyan police twice in 2011, once in Nairobi and again in Mombasa. By Tom Odula. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.
HEALTH & SCIENCE
Doctors now have convincing evidence that they put HIV into remission, hopefully for good, in a Mississippi baby born with the AIDS virus -- a medical first that is prompting a new look at how hard and fast such cases should be treated. When the case was reported earlier this year, some doctors were skeptical that the baby was really infected. By Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione. SENT: 700 words.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
-- BRITAIN PRINCE GEORGE -- Draped in a christening gown designed in the 1840s, Britain's 3-month-old future monarch, Prince George, is christened in London with water from the River Jordan, one of Christianity's holiest sites. SENT: 670 words, photos, video.
-- FLU VACCINE-ELDERLY -- A high-dose flu vaccine for seniors works better than the standard shot, according to a long-awaited study by the vaccine's manufacturer. UPCOMING: 400 by 6:30 p.m.
-- PET SNACK WARNING -- About 580 dogs died and 3,600 dogs and 10 cats were sickened after eating pet jerky treats -- an outbreak federal health officials say is "one of the most elusive and mysterious" they've seen. They're asking the public's help in solving it. SENT: 740 words.
-- OSWALD RING-AUCTION -- The gold wedding band that once belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald is among almost 300 items tied to John F. Kennedy's life and assassination on auction this week. UPCOMING: 600 words by 6:30 p.m., photos.
YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Leon Keith. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Asia Photo Desk can be reached at (81-3) 6215-8941 or by fax at (81-3) 3574-8850.
Between 1700 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.