DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Thousands of police officials have fanned out across Bangladesh's capital ahead of a mass opposition rally calling on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to cancel next month's elections. By Julhas Alam. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 300 words by 0700 GMT, photos.
BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping dropped in unexpectedly at a traditional Beijing bun shop, where he queued up, ordered and paid for a simple lunch of buns stuffed with pork and onions, green vegetables, and stewed pig livers and intestines. Such visits are extremely rare -- if not unheard of -- for top Chinese leaders, who are usually surrounded by heavy security and are not known for mingling with the public other than at scheduled events. SENT: 460 words, photos.
SURABAYA, Indonesia -- Indonesian police say an overcrowded pickup van with dozens of mourners has slammed into a truck on the main island of Java, killing 18 people and injuring 14 others. SENT: 130 words.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE:
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says China has given his country $5 billion in credits under a deal reached in September. SENT: 63 words.
U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:
JUBA, South Sudan -- Twenty-five thousand young men who make up a tribal militia known as the "White Army" are marching toward a contested state capital in South Sudan, dimming hopes for a cease-fire. Seeking an end to the nearly two-week crisis in which an estimated 1,000 people have been killed, the government announced a "cessation of hostilities." It was quickly rejected by former Vice President Riek Machar, accused by the government of leading a coup attempt Dec. 15 that erupted into spiraling violence. By Jason Straziuso. SENT: 850 words, photos.
-- SOUTH SUDAN-GLANCE -- A look at South Sudan, world's newest country now hit by escalating violence. SENT: 750 words, photos.
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry will head to the Middle East next week to continue talks on an elusive Mideast peace deal just as Israel is poised to announce plans to build more Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem -- a move expected to anger the Palestinians. By Deb Riechmann. SENT: 580 words.
BEIRUT -- A Syrian government airstrike hit a crowded vegetable market in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo, shattering cars and storefronts and killing at least 21 people, activists say. For nearly two weeks, President Bashar Assad's warplanes and helicopters have pounded opposition-controlled areas of the divided city. The campaign comes in the run-up to an international peace conference scheduled to start Jan. 22 in Switzerland to try to find a political solution to Syria's civil war. Some observers say the Aleppo assault fits into Assad's apparent strategy of trying to expose the opposition's weakness to strengthen his own hand ahead of the negotiations. SENT: 1,040 words, photo.SCHOOL SHOOTING-GUNMAN
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Adam Lanza could write stories that struck horror into a teacher's heart, then turn around and craft a poem so beautiful it moved listeners to tears. As a child, he rode bikes, played baseball and saxophone, and kept hamsters. As a man, he taped black garbage bags over his bedroom windows, retreating into a world of violent video games, guns and statistics on mass murder. Yet despite the release Friday by Connecticut state police of thousands of pages of interviews, photographs and writings, the man who gunned down 20 first-graders and six adults at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, remains an enigma. Some of the most tantalizing evidence of the inner workings of the 20-year-old Newtown man's brain appears to be contained in writings that the police chose not to release. By Allen G. Breed and John Christoffersen. SENT: 2,240 words, photos, video.
AP IMPACT: GREAT RESET-RETIREMENT, HFR
WASHINGTON - A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages. Spawned years before the Great Recession and the 2008 financial meltdown, the crisis was significantly worsened by those twin traumas. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching. Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65 - to 70 or longer. Living standards will fall and poverty rates rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people's rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can't afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents. By Paul Wiseman, David McHugh, Elaine Kurtenbach. Hold for release until 12:02 a.m. SENT: 3,170 words, photos, interactive. An abridged version of 1,710 words was also sent.
-- GREAT RESET-RETIREMENT-HISTORY, HFR -- Work until you die - or until you can't work anymore. Until the late 19th century, that was the old-age plan for the bulk of the world's workers. Only in 1889 did German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck introduce modern pensions. The idea of providing financial security for the aged gradually caught on and expanded in Europe, the United States and other advanced economies. Now, as life expectancy reaches lengths Bismarck couldn't have imagined and retirement lasts two or three decades, these countries are struggling with government pension plans they can't afford. Hold for release until 12:03 a.m. SENT: 680 words.
-- GREAT RESET RETIREMENT-THUMBNAILS, HFR -- How retirement systems vary among major nations, from the US to China to Germany. Hold for release until 12: 03 a.m. SENT: 1,600 words.
WASHINGTON -- At the beginning of the year, Obama had never heard of Edward Snowden, who would lay bare the government's massive surveillance program. Large-scale use of chemical weapons in Syria was only a threat. A government shutdown and second debt crisis seemed improbable. His health care law, the signature achievement of his presidency, seemed poised to make the leap from theory to reality. But great expectations disappeared in fumbles and failures. By Nancy Benac and Julie Pace. SENT: 1,900 words, photos, video.
The Boy Scouts of America will accept openly gay youths starting on New Year's Day, a historic change that has prompted the BSA to ponder a host of potential complications -- ranging from policies on tent mates and showers to whether Scouts can march in gay pride parades. Yet despite their be-prepared approach, BSA leaders are rooting for the change to be a non-event, comparable to another New Year's Day in 2000 when widespread fears of digital-clock chaos to start the new millennium proved unfounded. By David Crary and Nomaan Merchant. SENT: 1,600 words, photos.
HONOLULU - On these pleasant shores, Barack Obama was born and raised, soaking in an island sensibility that is vital to understanding his presidency. Yet in the search for a home for his future presidential library, sunny Hawaii is overshadowed by Chicago's commanding influence. It's not for lack of trying -- a high-level campaign has been underway since 2008, with Hawaii sparing no effort in laying the groundwork for a potential library. By Josh Lederman. SENT: 1,070 words, photos.
WATSONVILLE, Calif. -- In the brick plaza, strolling musicians wearing glitzy cowboy outfits blast a mariachi song, while Spanish-speaking shoppers bustle between farm stands choosing tasty cactus leaves and fresh chiles. Welcome to an increasingly typical town in California, a state where Hispanics become the largest ethnic or racial group next year. As the Golden State becomes less and less white, communities are becoming more segregated, not less. "We do see signs of increasing residential segregation," said Hans Johnson at the Public Policy Institute of California. In Watsonville, 82 percent of the residents are Hispanic, up from 75 percent in 1990. One in five residents speaks no English whatsoever. For demographers, it's another California community heading toward isolation. By Martha Mendoza. SENT: 1,050 words, photos. Also moved in advance.
NEW YORK -- In the waning days of his reign as New York Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly has worried publicly about the future of the large and complex counterterrorism infrastructure that he has put in place since the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He says it's still necessary to protect the city but Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and new commissioner Bill Bratton may disagree. By Tom Hays. SENT: 860 words, photo.
BURYING THE BLUES
ST. LOUIS -- Blues guitarist Tommy Bankhead rubbed shoulders with some of the genre's royalty, from Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James to Albert King and Sonny Boy Williamson. But visitors to the overgrown St. Louis cemetery where Bankhead was buried more than a decade ago would never know his musical legacy. Or his name. Be it neglect, inattention or hard times, Bankhead's family never added a grave marker to his burial plot. That will soon change thanks to the Killer Blues Headstone Project, a nonprofit effort to bring belated recognition to long-forgotten blues musicians. Though the group has posthumously honored musicians as far away as California, its efforts are concentrated in a fertile blues corridor that stretches from the Mississippi Delta through St. Louis, north to Chicago and Michigan. By Alan Scher Zagier. SENT: 710 words, photos.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
-- VATICAN-TWO POPES -- Retired pope lunches with Francis at Vatican hotel residence after holiday invitation. SENT: 130 words.
-- EGYPT -- 1 Egyptian student killed in clashes between protesters, police at Cairo's main Islamic university. SENT: 930 words, photos.
-- BRITNEY SPEARS RESIDENCY-VEGAS -- Britney Spears' long-term Las Vegas show debuts with a younger audience. SENT: 630 words, photos.
-- CAPITOL DOME REPAIR -- A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome. SENT: 745 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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