PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Dennis Rodman sings "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before leading a squad of former NBA stars onto the court at a Pyongyang stadium for a game Rodman says is part of his "basketball diplomacy" with the North that has been heavily criticized in the United States. Rodman dedicates the game to his "best friend" Kim, who along with his wife and other senior officials and their wives watched from a special seating area. By Eric Talmadge. SENT: 550 words, photos.
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.
WASHINGTON -- The United States is sending an additional Army combat force of 800 soldiers to South Korea with tanks and armored troop carriers, and pledges to continue to modernize its military capability to face any threat posed by North Korea. By Robert Burns. SENT: 410 words.
MUMBAI, India -- Fire and smoke engulf three cars of an Indian passenger train, killing nine people as they sleep in the latest tragedy to hit the country's vast railway network. 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. By Kay Johnson. SENT: 330 words.
NEW DELHI -- India chips away at America's diplomatic perks, ordering the envoys to obey local traffic laws and warning that a popular U.S. Embassy club violates diplomatic law because it is open to outsiders. The move is the latest in a campaign to exert pressure on the U.S. following the arrest and strip search last month of an Indian diplomat based in New York City. Indian officials have called the strip search barbaric and unnecessary. By Elizabeth A. Kennedy. SENT: 560 words, photos.
CHINA-SOUTH CHINA SEA
BEIJING -- In a broadening campaign to enforce its territorial claims, China says it's beefing up its police powers in the disputed South China Sea and requiring foreign fishermen to ask Beijing's permission to operate within most of the vast, strategic waterway. The move, which took effect this month, comes on the heels of the late November announcement of a new air defense zone requiring foreign planes to notify Beijing of flights over a huge swath of the East China Sea, where China is locked in a bitter territorial dispute with Japan. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 660 words.
TOKYO -- Hundreds of people fall sick across Japan after eating frozen food that may have been tainted with a pesticide. By Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 420 words, photos.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea orders companies to suspend tear gas exports to Bahrain amid pressure from human rights groups, officials say. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 350 words.
CANBERRA, Australia -- The government refuses to comment on a newspaper report that Australia is buying lifeboats to carry asylum seekers back to Indonesian islands. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 410 words.
PARIS -- He is wanted in his native Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. He was ordered jailed in Britain. An opposition leader from a country that has been ruled by the same man since 1989, a former banker accused of siphoning off billions, Mukhtar Ablyazov has been jailed since police special forces seized him July 31 in the south of France. On Thursday, a judge is expected to rule on his extradition. By Lori Hinnant. SENT: 850 words, photos.
NEW YORK -- A business tycoon who bills himself as China's No. 1 philanthropist tells reporters in New York that he has brought two women to the U.S. to undergo surgery for disfiguring burns they suffered when they set themselves on fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 2001. Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in recycling, introduces the two women at an unorthodox and sometimes tense news conference. By David B. Caruso. SENT: 580 words, photos.
SKOREA-SUPER JUNIOR-FAMILY KILLED
SEOUL, South Korea -- The leader of popular South Korean boy band Super Junior bids farewell to his father and grandparents, who died in a suspected murder-suicide this week. TV footage showed LeeTeuk, dressed in a black suit and tie, crying when other Super Junior members moved a coffin to a black limousine at a Seoul hospital before leaving for a crematorium. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 310 words, photos.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE:
MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine budget carrier Cebu Pacific says it will buy Tigerair Philippines for $15 million. Cebu Pacific says it will acquire 100 percent of Tigerair Philippines, including the 40 percent stake of Singapore's Tigerair Holdings and stakes of private shareholders. SENT: 120 words.
U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:
SAN DIEGO -- The image of charred American bodies hanging from a bridge as a crowd cheered seared the name of Fallujah into the American psyche. The brutal house-to-house battle, "like a thousand SWAT teams going through," to tame the Iraqi insurgent stronghold cemented its place in U.S. military history. So it is no surprise that the city's recent fall to al-Qaida-linked forces has touched a nerve among service members who fought and bled there in 2004. Some call the news "disheartening," reviving painful memories of sacrifice, while others refuse to see the bitter reversal as permanent. By Julie Watson and Allen G. Breed. SENT: 1,500 words, photos.
ALBERTVILLE, France -- Investigators say they have ruled out problems with Michael Schumacher's skis and trail conditions in the devastating crash that left the Formula One great with critical head injuries. But prosecutor Patrick Quincy says two minutes of footage from a camera on Schumacher's ski helmet showed the Formula One great was clearly skiing off a groomed trail when he lost his balance and crashed on Dec. 29. By Graham Dunbar. SENT: 320 words, photos.
ATLANTA -- The arctic blast is easing its grip on much of the United States after breaking records that were more than a century old. Fountains froze over Tuesday in Atlanta, where the low was 6 degrees. Temperatures will rebound in the Midwest and South, including a sunny 42 degrees Wednesday for those frozen Georgia residents. By Ray Henry. SENT: 900 words, photos, interactive, video.
CARACAS, Venezuela -- The slayings of popular soap-opera actress and former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her ex-husband have outraged Venezuelans, triggering a wave of calls on social media for action. "Sadness, anger, indignation, impotence, shame and pain, pain, pain, dammit!!!" TV personality Camila Canabal tweeted, expressing what many were feeling. "Monica and Thomas are the face of thousands of men and woman whose children have been left without parents because of the violence of Venezuela," she added. Fatal shootings are common in armed robberies in Venezuela, and rampant kidnapping has ensnared even foreign ambassadors and professional baseball players. By Frank Bajak and Jorge Rueda. SENT: 780 words, photos, video.
HALEIWA, Hawaii -- Alice Lunt didn't worry too much when she saw waves splashing close to her home on Oahu's North Shore on Christmas Eve. She had seen the ocean edge close before. But before dawn, a neighbor woke her with a call: "Everything was washing away." The water claimed Lunt's deck and a concrete slab, part of a fast-moving collapse of the shore that damaged roughly a half-dozen properties in her neighborhood. Some property owners want to be able to be build a seawall, but scientists say that could lead to sand disappearing from the nearby coastline, including Sunset Beach, home to some of the world's top surfing contests. By Audrey McAvoy. SENT: 130 words, photos.
WASHINGTON -- The struggle in Washington over whether to renew expired jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed is as much about providing aid to 1.3 million out-of-work Americans as it is about drawing the first political bright line of an election year that has the economy as one of its central themes. By Jim Kuhnhenn. SENT: 640 words, photos.
NATURAL GAS EXPORTS
WASHINGTON -- The debate over exporting liquefied natural gas is intensifying as the Energy Department considers an array of applications to ship the fuel to Japan, India and other countries where prices are far higher than in the United States. By Matthew Daly. SENT: 640 words, photo.
BAGHDAD -- Iraq's prime minister urges all those who were "lured" to join al-Qaida and now face a siege by his troops in the western Anbar province to give up their struggle, hinting of a possible pardon if the militants give up the fight. By Sinan Salaheddin. SENT: 130 words, photos.
NEW YORK -- For more than 15 years, there were signs something was amiss with what federal prosecutors in Manhattan call the "703 account" at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Money was being transferred back and forth for no reason. The name on the account was Bernard Madoff and JPMorgan paid a steep price for keeping quiet about its suspicions. By Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister. SENT: 1,050 words, photos, video.
LONDON -- The space thriller "Gravity," the unflinching slavery saga "12 Years a Slave" and the crime caper "American Hustle" gained awards-season momentum Wednesday with stacks of nominations for the British Academy Film Awards, Britain's equivalent of the Oscars. By Jill Lawless. SENT: 500 words, photos.
-- BRITAIN-FILM AWARDS-LIST -- List of nominees for the British Academy Film Awards. SENT: 280 words.
-- GATES BOOK -- In memoir, former Defense Secretary Gates says Obama grew frustrated over Afghanistan, calls Biden consistently wrong. SENT: 660 words, photo.
-- ECUADOR-DEVILS FESTIVAL-PHOTO GALLERY -- The wild festival of devils in Ecuador's Andes. SENT: 170 words, photos.
-- PEOPLE-LILY TOMLIN -- In New Year's nuptials, Lily Tomlin ties knot with four-decade partner and collaborator. SENT: 140 words, photos.
-- BRITAIN-HELICOPTER CRASH -- U.S. Air Force helicopter crashes in England, killing four crew members. SENT: 460 words, photos.
-- AVALANCHE DEATH -- Vail founder's grandson killed, three others injured in avalanche near Colorado ski resort. SENT: 110 words, photo.
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 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 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.