PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia -- Divers and an unmanned underwater vehicle spot the tail of the missing AirAsia plane in the Java Sea, the first confirmed sighting of any major wreckage 11 days after Flight 8501 disappeared with 162 people on board. Following days of strong currents and murky water that hindered the operation, searchers managed to get a photograph of the debris, National Search and Rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo told reporters. By Achmad Ibrahim. SENT: 330 words, photos. UPCOMING: 550 words by 0700GMT.
HONG KONG-ELECTION DEBATE
HONG KONG -- Hong Kong leaders launch a second consultation on how to choose the city's top leader in 2017, after signaling their firm intention to stick with a proposal to screen candidates, an issue that sparked massive street protests throughout the fall. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam opened the weekslong consultation by addressing the territory's Legislative Council. Her speech was immediately greeted with a protest by so-called pan-democrat legislators, who raised yellow umbrellas that have become symbols of the city's pro-democracy movement and walked out of the chamber. SENT: 320 words,
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The retired postal worker knows who he is voting against in Thursday's presidential election. Like most ethnic Tamils on this island nation, he cannot even imagine voting for the current president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a man who solidified his power base by crushing a brutal Tamil insurgency and then largely ignored Tamil demands to heal the wounds of a decades-long civil war. So he'll cast his ballot for the president's former friend and health minister, Maithripala Sirisena, who defected from the ruling party just a few weeks ago and has created a formidable political opposition. By Krishan Francis. UPCOMING by 0800GMT.
MOKPO, South Korea -- Life as a salt-farm slave was so bad Kim Jong-seok sometimes fantasized about killing the owner who beat him daily. Freedom, he says, has been worse. In the year since police emancipated the severely mentally disabled man from the remote island farm where he had worked for eight years, Kim has lived in a grim homeless shelter, where he has been preyed upon and robbed by other residents. He has no friends, no job training prospects or counseling, and feels confined and deeply bored. "I want to go back," Kim, 41, said during a recent interview in the shelter near Mokpo. "I feel trapped here." SENT: 1,200 words, photos.
NEW ZEALAND-PLANE CRASH
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- All 13 people aboard a New Zealand skydiving plane that suffered an apparent engine failure Wednesday managed to leap out in parachutes moments before the plane plunged into a lake. SENT: 450 words.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Authorities say insurgent attacks across Afghanistan have killed seven people, including a provincial judge. Police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal in Nangarhar province said a bomb blast Wednesday killed Judge Mohammad-ul Hassan and wounded two of his daughters in the city of Jalalabad. The judge served in neighboring Laghman province. SENT: 120 words.
US & INTERNATIONAL
PARIS -- EU sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine are cutting both ways: hurting Russia as well as pinching some big European companies. But economic relief isn't likely any time soon, diplomats and analysts say, since EU divisions make the sanctions tough to overturn. By Jamey Keaten and Sylvie Corbet. SENT 650 words, photo.
FRESNO, California -- California's high-speed rail project reached a milestone as officials mark the start of work on the first U.S. bullet train, which is designed to whisk travelers at 200 mph (320 kph) between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours. By Scott Smith. SENT: 510 words, photos.
KILLINGS BY POLICE-FERGUSON GRAND JURY
ST. LOUIS -- The NAACP has asked a Missouri judge to convene a new grand jury to consider charges against the Ferguson officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, citing "grave legal concerns" about the process, including confusing instructions to jurors and the decision to allow testimony from witnesses who clearly lied. By Jim Salter. SENT: 525 words, photo.
BRUSSELS -- NATO's most pressing priority for 2015 is getting the swift and nimble expeditionary force into operation that's supposed to act as a deterrent to Russia_and not just staffing and equipping it, but settling who is going to pay for it. By John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 820 words, photos.
LIMA, Peru -- He was a businessman from Brooklyn who went to Bolivia on a business venture, got caught up in an extortion ring and landed in jail. His escape to the United States was made possible by Hollywood star Sean Penn. But, so far, there has been no Hollywood ending for Jacob Ostreicher. By Frank Bajak. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING
BOSTON -- To try to save him from the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers will probably look for jurors who are intellectual and curious about other cultures and religions. Prosecutors, in turn, will pick people who are conservative, patriotic and inclined to see things in black-and-white terms. Such is the conventional wisdom among legal experts. By Denise Lavoie. SENT: 770 words with a new approach, photos, video.
NEW YORK -- Former Gov. Mario Cuomo's legacy as a liberal leader, powerful orator and immigrant's son whose humble upbringing inspired his approach to public service are championed at his funeral by an inarguable heir to his example -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his son. SENT: 650 words, photos, video.
WASHINGTON -- We've got new sister Earths. Astronomers have found eight new planets elsewhere in the galaxy that are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold Goldilocks zone where there can be life-sustaining liquid water. By Science Writer Seth Borenstein. SENT: 630 words, photos.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- SpaceX calls off a supply flight to the space station because of rocket trouble, another delay in the delivery of groceries and overdue Christmas presents. Also postponed was an unprecedented test to land the main booster on a floating platform in the ocean. By Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn. SENT: 520 words, photos.
VENEZUELA-FRENCH FRY SHORTAGE
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Forget the French fries. How about a side of yuca with that Big Mac? Venezuela's more than 100 McDonald's franchises have run out of potatoes and are now serving alternatives like deep-fried arepa flatbreads or yuca, a starchy staple of traditional South American cooking. SENT: 580 words, photos.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
--CLEVELAND POLICE SHOOT BOY -- Mom of Cleveland boy shot by police while carrying pellet gun discusses investigation. SENT: 130 words.
--UNITED STATES-MEXICO-- Obama welcomes Mexico's embattled president to the White House, seeking help on immigration problems, Cuba and trade. SENT: 650 words, photos.
--PALESTINIANS-HAMAS -- The Israeli government claims Qatar expelled the leader of the Hamas militant group, but Hamas officials quickly deny the claim as baseless. SENT: 600 words, photo.
-- FERTILITY TREATMENT RISKS -- Complications are uncommon for women undergoing test-tube fertility procedures, a new 12-year U.S. study shows. SENT: 470 words, photo.
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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