TOKYO -- Hundreds of people fell sick across Japan after eating frozen food that may have been tainted with a pesticide. Food maker Maruha Nichiro Holdings used full-page ads in major newspapers Wednesday apologizing and warning consumers not to eat any of the tainted food, including pizza, croquettes and pancakes manufactured at a factory in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 400 words, photos.
CHINA-SOUTH CHINA SEA
BEIJING -- China says it is beefing up enforcement of its South China Sea claims, including new rules requiring foreign fishing vessels to ask Beijing's permission to operate within about two-thirds of the vast and strategically vital water body. By Christopher Bodeen. UPCOMING by 0900 GMT, 700 words.
PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Former NBA star Charles D. Smith says he feels remorse for coming to Pyongyang with Dennis Rodman for a game on the North Korean leader's birthday because the event has been dwarfed by politics and tainted by Rodman's own comments. Smith and other former NBA players are scheduled to play with Rodman against a team of North Koreans on Wednesday that organizers say leader Kim Jong Un is expected to attend. Many of the players on Tuesday privately expressed second thoughts about going ahead because of an outpouring of criticism back home in the United States. SENT: 800 words, photos, video.
MUMBAI, India -- A deadly fire engulfed three cars of a passenger train, killing nine people as they slept in the latest tragedy to hit India's vast railway network, officials said. Authorities are trying to determine what caused the fire to break out before dawn, just hours after the train left Mumbai on a 48-hour journey to the Himalayan foothill town of Dehradun, Western Railways spokesman Sunil Singh said. By Kay Johnson. SENT: 240 words, photos expected.
SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea says it will elect members of its rubber-stamp parliament in March, which could provide a glimpse into any changes in the country's power elite after the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's uncle. North Korea usually holds parliamentary elections every five years and the polls are largely a formality because candidates are believed to be hand-picked by the ruling Workers' Party. SENT: 260 words.
TOKYO -- Japanese police launch a rare nationwide man hunt for a rape suspect who fled while he was being interrogated near Tokyo. Police say the suspect, Yuta Sugimoto, 20, fled the day before from the prosecutors' office in Kawasaki. He apparently loosened his waist rope after requesting a toilet break. By Mari Yamaguchi. SENT: 180 words, photos.
CANBERRA, Australia -- The government refused to comment on a newspaper report on Wednesday that Australia is buying lifeboats to carry asylum seekers back to Indonesian islands. Australia was buying 16 engine-powered and enclosed lifeboats -- similar to those carried by cruise ships and oil tankers -- for border protection boats to carry as an alternative to rescuing asylum seekers found in unseaworthy vessels, Fairfax Media newspaper reported. By Rod Mcguirk. SENT: 410 words.
BEIJING -- A Russian research ship at the center of an Antarctic rescue drama has broken free from heavy pack ice two weeks after it became trapped, hours after a Chinese icebreaker that became trapped while trying to help the Akademik Shokalskiy also freed itself and was heading for open waters. SENT.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Taliban deny that they dispatched a 10-year-old girl to carry out a suicide attack against Afghan police, a day after the girl said her brother wrapped her in an explosives-packed vest but that she refused to blow herself up at a checkpoint in Helmand province. SENT: 420 words, photos, video.
Asian stock markets mostly rose Wednesday, spurred by expectations of faster U.S. economic growth. A decline in the U.S. trade deficit for November, which was partly due to increased domestic oil production, has raised expectations that fourth quarter economic growth will be higher than 3 percent. By Teresa Cerojano. SENT.
U.S. & INTERNATIONAL
ATLANTA -- A deep freeze spread from the U.S. Midwest to the East and South, setting record low temperatures from Boston to Birmingham, and leaving 21 people dead, authorities said. The Midwest and the East experienced temperatures colder than much of Antarctica. In a phenomenon that forecasters said is actually not all that unusual, all 50 states saw freezing temperatures at some point Tuesday. That included Hawaii, where it was 18 degrees (-8 Celsius) atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano. SENT: 570 words, photos, audio, video.
WASHINGTON -- After taking a hands-off approach to conflicts in Iraq and Syria, President Barack Obama now confronts a burst of strength by al-Qaida in those countries that is chipping away at the remains of Mideast stability and highlighting the risks of pulling all troops out of Afghanistan. Obama is pushing to keep up to 10,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a war he ramped up, but may be forced to retreat if Kabul refuses to go along. By Julie Pace and Lara Jakes. SENT: 1,060 words, photos
BEIRUT -- The first batch of the most dangerous chemicals in Syria's stockpile is loaded onto a Danish ship under tight security, an important milestone in the international operation to rid President Bashar Assad of the weapons by midyear. The operation takes place against the backdrop of escalating fighting between a chaotic mix of Syrian rebel brigades and al-Qaida-linked militants. By Diaa Hadid and Mike Corder. SENT: 800 words, photos.
BAGHDAD -- A government airstrike kills 25 al-Qaida militants in a besieged province west of Baghdad amid fierce clashes between Iraqi special forces and insurgents battling for control of the key cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. The fighting follows the capture of an army officer and four soldiers in the Sunni-dominated province a day earlier. By Qassim Abdul-Zahra. Sent: 725 words, photos.
HOLOT DETENTION CENTER, Negev Desert -- Tumuzgee Aman fled his native Eritrea in search of a better life more than three years ago, making his way to Israel after a treacherous journey across Egypt. But after working briefly in a copper mine, he was rounded up and thrown into jail. Frustrations this week finally boiled over into protests by thousands of African migrants, whose presence has confronted the Jewish state with key questions: Who is a refugee, and do Jews have a special duty to be accommodating in light of their own history? By David MacDougall and Josef Federman. SENT: 1,110 words, photos.
VATICAN-LEGION OF CHRIST
VATICAN CITY -- The troubled Legion of Christ religious order this week begins electing a new leadership for the first time since its founder, held up as a model by the Vatican, was revealed to have been a pedophile and fraud. The process will formally end the Vatican's three-year rehabilitation of the order, which the Legion is touting as a success and critics have dismissed as a sham. By Nicole Winfield. SENT: 1,160 words, photo.
SUPREME COURT-AVERSE TO TECHNOLOGY
WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court justices don't use email with each other, even when they have something to say in writing. Their courthouse didn't even have a photocopying machine until a few years after "Xerox" had become a verb. As the legal fight over the NSA's mass collection of telephone records moves toward the high court, some justices are wary about taking on big questions of technology and privacy. By Mark Sherman. SENT: 1,120 words, photos.
CHICAGO -- Anti-smoking measures have saved roughly 8 million U.S. lives since a landmark 1964 report linking smoking and disease, a study estimates, yet the nation's top disease detective says dozens of other countries have surpassed U.S. efforts to stop many tobacco-related harms. By Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner. SENT: 665 words, photos.
GADGET SHOW-TV ON THE INTERNET
NEW YORK -- Aereo, a Barry Diller-backed startup that provides broadcast television channels over the Internet for a monthly fee, says it has secured $34 million in additional funding from outside investors. SENT: 130 words.
NEW YORK -- Research firm Gartner expects worldwide shipments of computers and mobile devices to reach 2.5 billion units this year, up nearly 8 percent from 2013. SENT: 130 words.
GADGET SHOW-MICHAEL BAY
LAS VEGAS -- "Transformers" director Michael Bay says he's embarrassed that he walked off the stage during a presentation of Samsung's new curved ultra-high-definition television. SENT.
FILM-WOLF OF WALL STREET-DEBATE
NEW YORK -- In "The Wolf of Wall Street," out-of-control stock broker Jordan Belfort is initially furious when a Forbes magazine profile turns out to be a hatchet job labeling him a "twisted Robin Hood who takes from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers." But Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is quickly schooled on the rules of publicity. The next morning his office is overrun with rabid young brokers desperately waving resumes, dying to join his merry band. By Jake Coyle. SENT: 820 words, photos.
Almost from the moment she tore knee ligaments during a crash in February 2013, Lindsey Vonn spoke about returning for the Olympics. Along the way, she kept running into problems. In the end, it was too much. The Olympic downhill champion -- expected to be one of Sochi's biggest stars -- will not compete next month. By Howard Fendrich and Pat Graham. SENT: 1,100 words, photos, video.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION:
-- BRITAIN-HELICOPTER-CRASH -- U.S. Air Force Pave Hawk helicopter crashes in a coastal area of eastern England during a training mission, killing all four crew members aboard. SENT: 175 words.
-- VENEZUELA-ACTRESS SLAIN -- Former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband are slain resisting robbery, 5-year-old daughter injured. SENT: 630 words, photos.
-- FORD-MULALLY -- Ford CEO Alan Mulally says he won't leave for Microsoft, will stay at Ford at least through 2014. SENT: 135 words.
YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Scott McDonald. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at email@example.com.
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