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December 17, 2017

Pope arrives in Sri Lanka and backs search for wartime truth

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Pope Francis brought calls for reconciliation as well as justice as he arrived Tuesday in Sri Lanka at the start of a weeklong Asian tour, saying the island nation can’t fully heal from a quarter-century of ethnic civil war without pursuing the truth about abuses that were committed.

In a show of ethnic coexistence, the pope’s welcoming ceremony at Colombo’s airport featured traditional dancers and drummers from both majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic groups, as well as a children’s choir serenading him in both of Sri Lanka’s languages — as well as Italian and English.

With 40 elephants dressed in colorful costumes lining the airport road behind him, Francis said that finding true peace after so much bloodshed “can only be done by overcoming evil with good, and by cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace.”

He didn’t specifically mention Sri Lanka’s refusal to cooperate with a U.N. investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the final months of the war. But he said: “The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity.”

Tamil rebels fought a 25-year civil war to demand an independent Tamil nation after decades of perceived discrimination by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. U.N. estimates say 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed during the course of the war, which ended in 2009; other reports suggest the toll could be much higher.

Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, has promised to launch a domestic inquiry into wartime abuses, but he has also pledged to protect everyone who contributed to the defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists from international legal action.

A 2011 U.N. report said up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the last months of the civil war, and accused both sides of serious human rights violations. It said the government was suspected of deliberately shelling civilians and hospitals and preventing food and medicine from getting to civilians trapped in the war zone. The rebels were accused of recruiting child soldiers and holding civilians as human shields and firing from among them.

A few months after the U.N. report was released, the government of longtime President Mahinda Rajapaksa released its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission findings, which concluded that Sri Lanka’s military didn’t intentionally target civilians at the end of the war and that ethnic rebels routinely violated international humanitarian law.

Sirisena, who was sworn in Friday after an election upset, told Francis in the airport welcome ceremony that his government aims to promote “peace and friendship among our people after overcoming a cruel terrorist conflict.”

“We are a people who believe in religious tolerance and coexistence based on our centuries-old heritage,” he said.

Tamils, however, say they are still discriminated against, and human rights activists say the government isn’t serious about probing rights abuses.

In his speech, Francis said it wasn’t enough for the government to build infrastructure and meet material needs of Sri Lanka’s people. “The great work of rebuilding,” he said, must embrace “promoting human dignity, respect for human rights and the full inclusion of each member of society.”

Thousands of people lined Francis’ 28-kilometer (17-mile) route in from the airport, which he traveled entirely in his open-topped popemobile. While some who had staked out positions since dawn were frustrated that he sped past so quickly, Francis took so long greeting well-wishers that he canceled a meeting with Sri Lanka’s bishops in the afternoon after falling more than an hour behind schedule.

“This is like Jesus Christ himself coming to Sri Lanka!” marveled Ranjit Solis, 60, a retired engineer. He recalled that Pope Paul VI only spent two hours in Sri Lanka in 1970, while St. John Paul II spent a day in 1975. “The current pope is coming for three days! He serves the poor and is concerned about poor countries. It’s a great thing.”

Aside from the airport welcome ceremony, Francis’ other main event Tuesday was a meeting with representatives from Sri Lanka’s main religions.

Some 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhist — most from the Sinhalese ethnic group. Another 13 percent are Hindu, most of them Tamil, and some 10 percent are Muslim. Catholics make up less than 7 percent of the island nation’s 20 million people, but the church counts both Sinhalese and Tamils as members and sees itself as a strong source for national unity.

Francis is expected to call for greater interfaith dialogue amid a surge in anti-Muslim violence by extremist Buddhists.

“It is a blessing and will be helpful for inter-religious friendship,” said Rev. Wimalananda, a young Buddhist monk, who was out on the street to welcome Francis.

Francis arrived just days after Rajapaksa was upset in an election he had called. The victor, Sirisena, had defected from the ruling party in November in a surprise move and won the election by capitalizing on Rajapaksa’s unpopularity among ethnic and religious minorities.

“This is a good opportunity to unify the country after a war and bring together a society divided with an election,” said another Francis watcher on the road in from the airport, Saman Priyankara. “It will be a strength to the new government at a time we are free from an autocracy and on a new path.”

On Wednesday, Francis will canonize Sri Lanka’s first saint, the Rev. Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary from India who is credited with having revived the Catholic faith among both Sinhalese and Tamils amid persecution by Dutch colonial rulers, who were Calvinists.

Later in the day he flies into Tamil territory to pray at a shrine beloved by both Sinhalese and Tamil faithful.

On Thursday he heads to the Philippines, the largest Roman Catholic country in Asia and third-largest in the world, for the final leg of the journey.

There he’ll comfort victims of the devastating 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, displaced some 4 million and turned a huge densely populated region into a wasteland.

Millions of Filipinos are expected to turn out for his events, possibly surpassing the record 5 million who turned out for the last papal visit: St. John Paul II in 1995. Themes Francis is expected to raise are related to the family, poverty and the environment.

___

Associated Press Writer Krishan Francis contributed to this report.

___

Follow Nicole Winfield on Twitter at twitter.com/nwinfield

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Pope arrives in Sri Lanka and backs search for wartime truth

Woman found in Massachusetts home with dead babies charged with murder

BOSTON (Reuters) – A 31-year-old Massachusetts woman who authorities discovered living with the bodies of three dead babies tucked inside a closet in her rodent-infested house was charged on Tuesday with two counts of murder, prosecutors said.

The woman, Erika Murray, had been charged in September with crimes including fetal death concealment after police found the bodies of three dead young children in the home in Blackstone, Massachusetts, she shared with her boyfriend, Raymond Rivera, 38.

Rivera was arrested on Tuesday and charged with seven criminal counts including assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

“This has been and will continue to be a difficult case,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said in a statement. “Our investigators followed the evidence where it led.”

Police were called to the house, located in a suburb some 40 miles southwest of Boston near the Rhode Island border in August, after crying children were reported there. They found four children, ranging in age from three months to 13 years, who were taken into state custody.

All the children, living and deceased, were the offspring of Murray and Rivera, prosecutors said.

Attorneys for the two defendants could not be reached for immediate comment.

Authorities have since razed the house, which had been located just a half-mile from the local police station on a quiet residential street.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Woman found in Massachusetts home with dead babies charged with murder

Top Asian News at 5:00 p.m. GMT

HONG KONG (AP) — Both victims in a double murder case that has shocked Hong Kong were Indonesian women, and one of the victims was frequenting a red light district on a lapsed domestic worker visa, an Indonesian consulate official said Tuesday. Consulate spokesman Sam Aryadi confirmed one of the women found dead in an upscale apartment over the weekend was 29-year-old Seneng Mujiasih, who had come as a domestic worker from the city of Muna on Sulawesi island.

BANGKOK (AP) — One of the founders of popular file-sharing website The Pirate Bay has been arrested under an Interpol warrant as he was crossing into Thailand from Laos, police said Tuesday. Hans Fredrik Lennart Neij, who uses the alias TiAMO, was detained Monday by Thai immigration police at a checkpoint in Thailand’s Nong Khai province, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the U.S. and China must work together to stave off a global catastrophe from climate change, as he appealed for greater cooperation between the two world powers despite strains between them over cyber theft and maritime security. Kerry heads to Beijing this week, to set the stage for a visit by President Barack Obama for a regional summit and talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That will be first leg of a three-nation swing through Asia, intended to underscore the president’s commitment to the region.

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s military-installed government appointed a committee on Tuesday to draft the country’s new constitution amid speculation that it will seek to bar former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies from politics. The 36-member panel consists of law experts, academics, former senators and others with close ties to the military and traditional conservative establishment. The appointment came more than five months after the military, led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, toppled an elected government headed by Thaksin’s allies.

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai court sentenced a university student to 2 1/2 years in prison on Tuesday for posting a message on Facebook that the court said insulted the country’s king. A Criminal Court judge found 24-year-old Akkaradet Eiamsuwan guilty of violating Thailand’s lese majeste law, which punishes people who defame, insult or threaten the monarchy.

NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Tuesday ordered that Delhi’s legislative assembly be dissolved for a new election after the three main political parties failed to form a government this year for a city of nearly 25 million people. Delhi has been run by the federal government since the city’s top elected official resigned in February.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand last month was one of five nations to win elections for coveted seats on the U.N. Security Council. It will serve a two-year term as a non-veto-wielding member beginning in January. Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says it’s an opportunity to boost the South Pacific island nation’s profile and contribute to solving international problems such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and long-divided Cyprus. The Associated Press recently interviewed McCully about what the win means. The interview has been edited for clarity and length. ___

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A big victory by German stallion Protectionist in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday was overshadowed by the deaths of two horses after Australia’s richest horse race, including the favorite Admire Rakti. Red Cadeaux strode to the lead in the last straight of the 2-mile (3,200-meter) classic but was overhauled on the inside by five-year-old Protectionist, which went on to win by four lengths in only its 10th race.

BANGKOK (AP) — Revelers in northern Thailand have been asked not to launch lanterns into the sky near airports to avoid airborne accidents during a popular festival this week, airport officials said Tuesday. The air traffic control center in Chiang Mai province has declared a 5-kilometer (3-mile) zone around the airport where people are advised not to launch lanterns from Wednesday to Friday, when Loy Krathong festival celebrations will take place, said Kiattisak Rienvatana, the center’s director.

In this photo taken on a smartphone camera by Leesa Willmott, a fallstreak hole forms in the sky over Wonthaggi, Australia. The bizarre sight seen Monday in the town near Melbourne looked like a hole in the sky, or perhaps an alien spacecraft. Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Adam Conroy said fallstreak holes are circular gaps that appear in high clouds when a section of the cloud freezes. The ice crystals are heavy, so they fall out of the cloud, leaving a hole. It is a relatively rare phenomenon.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A day after saying a billboard advertisement highlighting climate change was too political for world leaders gathering in the Australian city of Brisbane for a major economic summit, local airport authorities said Tuesday that they had also rejected an ad highlighting corruption problems. Brisbane Airport Corp. confirmed Monday that a World Wildlife Fund ad asking leaders of wealthy and developing countries to put climate change on the agenda of their G20 summit next week had been banned because it had “political intent.”

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese engineers have successfully tested a laser weapon that can shoot down low-flying, slow-moving drones, state media reported Tuesday. The Low Altitude Sentinel system can detect a small aircraft within a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) radius and shoot it down within five seconds, the newspaper China Daily said, citing a statement from the China Academy of Engineering Physics.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The shooting of a Shiite religious leader outside a Sydney prayer hall appeared to have been influenced by the Islamic State movement, Australia’s prime minister said Tuesday. Rasoul Al Mousawi, 47, was blasted with a shotgun in the face and shoulder in a drive-by shooting outside the Husainiyah Nabi Akram Center in suburban Greenacre early Monday.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack similar to previous hacker intrusions from China penetrated computer networks for months at USIS, the government’s leading security clearance contractor, before the company noticed, officials and others familiar with an FBI investigation and related official inquiries told The Associated Press. The breach, first revealed by the company and government agencies in August, compromised the private records of at least 25,000 employees at the Homeland Security Department and cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in lost government contracts.

WAGAH, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistanis mourned on Monday for the victims of a massive suicide bombing near the border with India as the death toll from the explosion the previous day rose to 60, police said. The attack, for which a Taliban splinter faction claimed responsibility, was the deadliest to hit the country in over a year. In September 2013, a suicide bombing killed at least 85 people in a church in Peshawar province.

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Top Asian News at 5:00 p.m. GMT

Top Asian News at 12:30 p.m. GMT

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A big victory by German stallion Protectionist in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday was overshadowed by the deaths of two horses after Australia’s richest horse race, including the favorite Admire Rakti. Red Cadeaux strode to the lead in the last straight of the 2-mile (3,200-meter) classic but was overhauled on the inside by five-year-old Protectionist, which went on to win by four lengths in only its 10th race.

HONG KONG (AP) — Both victims in a double murder case that has shocked Hong Kong were Indonesian women, and one of the victims was frequenting a red light district on a lapsed domestic worker visa, an Indonesian consulate official said Tuesday. Consulate spokesman Sam Aryadi confirmed one of the women found dead in an upscale apartment over the weekend was 29-year-old Seneng Mujiasih, who had come as a domestic worker from the city of Muna on Sulawesi island.

BANGKOK (AP) — One of the founders of popular file-sharing website The Pirate Bay has been arrested under an Interpol warrant as he was crossing into Thailand from Laos, police said Tuesday. Hans Fredrik Lennart Neij, who uses the alias TiAMO, was detained Monday by Thai immigration police at a checkpoint in Thailand’s Nong Khai province, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand last month was one of five nations to win elections for coveted seats on the U.N. Security Council. It will serve a two-year term as a non-veto-wielding member beginning in January. Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says it’s an opportunity to boost the South Pacific island nation’s profile and contribute to solving international problems such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and long-divided Cyprus. The Associated Press recently interviewed McCully about what the win means. The interview has been edited for clarity and length. ___

NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Tuesday ordered that Delhi’s legislative assembly be dissolved for a new election after the three main political parties failed to form a government this year for a city of nearly 25 million people. Delhi has been run by the federal government since the city’s top elected official resigned in February.

BANGKOK (AP) — Revelers in northern Thailand have been asked not to launch lanterns into the sky near airports to avoid airborne accidents during a popular festival this week, airport officials said Tuesday. The air traffic control center in Chiang Mai province has declared a 5-kilometer (3-mile) zone around the airport where people are advised not to launch lanterns from Wednesday to Friday, when Loy Krathong festival celebrations will take place, said Kiattisak Rienvatana, the center’s director.

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai court sentenced a university student to 2 1/2 years in prison on Tuesday for posting a message on Facebook that the court said insulted the country’s king. A Criminal Court judge found 24-year-old Akkaradet Eiamsuwan guilty of violating Thailand’s lese majeste law, which punishes people who defame, insult or threaten the monarchy.

In this photo taken on a smartphone camera by Leesa Willmott, a fallstreak hole forms in the sky over Wonthaggi, Australia. The bizarre sight seen Monday in the town near Melbourne looked like a hole in the sky, or perhaps an alien spacecraft. Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Adam Conroy said fallstreak holes are circular gaps that appear in high clouds when a section of the cloud freezes. The ice crystals are heavy, so they fall out of the cloud, leaving a hole. It is a relatively rare phenomenon.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A day after saying a billboard advertisement highlighting climate change was too political for world leaders gathering in the Australian city of Brisbane for a major economic summit, local airport authorities said Tuesday that they had also rejected an ad highlighting corruption problems. Brisbane Airport Corp. confirmed Monday that a World Wildlife Fund ad asking leaders of wealthy and developing countries to put climate change on the agenda of their G20 summit next week had been banned because it had “political intent.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack similar to previous hacker intrusions from China penetrated computer networks for months at USIS, the government’s leading security clearance contractor, before the company noticed, officials and others familiar with an FBI investigation and related official inquiries told The Associated Press. The breach, first revealed by the company and government agencies in August, compromised the private records of at least 25,000 employees at the Homeland Security Department and cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in lost government contracts.

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese engineers have successfully tested a laser weapon that can shoot down low-flying, slow-moving drones, state media reported Tuesday. The Low Altitude Sentinel system can detect a small aircraft within a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) radius and shoot it down within five seconds, the English-language newspaper China Daily said, citing a statement from the China Academy of Engineering Physics.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The shooting of a Shiite religious leader outside a Sydney prayer hall appeared to have been influenced by the Islamic State movement, Australia’s prime minister said Tuesday. Rasoul Al Mousawi, 47, was blasted with a shotgun in the face and shoulder in a drive-by shooting outside the Husainiyah Nabi Akram Center in suburban Greenacre early Monday.

WAGAH, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistanis mourned on Monday for the victims of a massive suicide bombing near the border with India as the death toll from the explosion the previous day rose to 60, police said. The attack, for which a Taliban splinter faction claimed responsibility, was the deadliest to hit the country in over a year. In September 2013, a suicide bombing killed at least 85 people in a church in Peshawar province.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Attacks across Afghanistan, including the fatal shooting of a provincial deputy governor, killed five people as the country marked a major Shiite holiday, authorities said Monday. In southern Kandahar province, a gunman attacked Deputy Gov. Abdul Qadeem Patyall, shooting at him Sunday through the window of a classroom at Kandahar University, said Samim Khpolwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Patyall, who was studying to become a teacher, was seriously wounded and later died, Khpolwak said.

MILAN (AP) — The body of an Indian waiter who was the last missing victim of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner has been found by crews dismantling the vessel, authorities said Monday. The body was discovered by workers clearing debris from the ship in a passenger’s cabin on the eighth deck, said Carabinieri commander Capt. Massimo Pittaluga. He said the victim was wearing a shirt that contained an identification card for missing crew member Russel Rebello.

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Top Asian News at 12:30 p.m. GMT

Typhoon hits China's Hainan after shutting down Hong Kong

A powerful typhoon slammed into southern China Tuesday, swamping ships, grounding flights and forcing thousands — many of them still recovering from a previous storm — to leave home.

Typhoon Kalmaegi made landfall on the east coast of Hainan island packing winds of 144 kilometres (89 miles) an hour, the China Meteorological Administration said.

More than 20,000 residents have been resettled in 24 camps in Hainan since Monday, state media said, following earlier reports which said 90,000 people were evacuated.

Kalmaegi follows Typhoon Rammasun in July, the strongest storm to hit China in four decades, which killed 62 and left swathes of devastation in the south of the country.

Survivors of Rammasun told state news agency Xinhua that while Kalmaegi appears weaker, they still feared for their livelihoods.

“Our new house has yet to be completed and we suffer again,” Xinhua quoted Gao Yuanfu, who has been living in a tent since Rammasun destroyed his house, as saying.

“It is only half a month away from the harvest,” he added.

Gao, from Hainan’s Wengtian Township, badly injured his leg in the previous typhoon, the report said.

Images of the havoc caused by Kalmaegi showed scores of downed trees, urban streets flooded in knee-deep water and torrential rain.

More than 170 flights on Hainan were cancelled as of 9am on Tuesday, while 4,300 fishing boats in one county were called back, Xinhua said, following reports late Monday that 30,000 vessels had returned to harbour.

Rescuers in a helicopter plucked 12 Chinese sailors from a sinking cargo vessel as the storm approached the Chinese coast, Xinhua said.

But no casualties had been reported from the typhoon as of noon, the news agency added.

Local governments in China were told to prepare for “disaster-relief operations”, while ferry services between Hainan and the mainland across the 30 kilometre (18 mile) Qiongzhou Strait were suspended, it said.

The China Meteorological Administration had an “orange” alert in place, the second-most severe in the nation’s four-tier weather warning system.

– Hong Kong buffeted –

An earlier statement, which carried the most severe “red” alert, said that up to 400 centimetres (157 inches) of rain was expected in some coastal areas.

Kalmaegi hit China after sweeping past Hong Kong, where it disrupted flights and forced the closure of the stock market and container port.

It buffeted the city with gusts of up to 159 kilometres (98 miles) per hour as it barrelled west, injuring some 29 people, felling scores of trees and causing floods and a landslide.

The Hong Kong Observatory hoisted a number-eight cyclone warning late Monday, triggering the closure of schools and businesses. It was lowered to a number-three strong wind signal late Tuesday morning, allowing the stock market to reopen.

The storm had crossed the southern tip of Guangdong province and was over the Beibu Gulf and heading for northern Vietnam, the Observatory’s website showed Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities in Hong Kong city were hauling away debris and clearing a backlog of hundreds of delayed or cancelled flights.

Television news footage showed uprooted trees, overturned bus stop signs and damaged bamboo construction scaffolding that had been torn down by the strong winds.

Typhoon Kalmaegi swept out of the Philippines on Monday after causing chest-deep floods in some rural areas but leaving the storm-prone country largely unscathed.

Six people were killed after a passenger ferry sank in the central Philippines on Saturday amid rough weather as the storm approached, the navy said.

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Typhoon hits China's Hainan after shutting down Hong Kong

Top Asian News at 8:30 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — A typhoon struck China’s southernmost island of Hainan on Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of dozens of flights as it headed northwest toward Vietnam. About 90,000 people in southern China were evacuated from high-risk areas ahead of Typhoon Kalmaegi, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. But the typhoon’s course was giving only a glancing blow to southern China as the storm headed toward northern Vietnam, where it was expected to make landfall Tuesday night.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — One of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes is showing signs of heightened unrest and an eruption is possible within weeks, government scientists warned Tuesday. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level to “critical” for Mount Mayon in eastern Albay province late Monday after recording an escalation of unrest over a 15-hour period, including 39 incidents of hot rocks falling in the summit area and 32 low-frequency volcanic earthquakes.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban attacker detonated his car bomb next to an international military convoy on Tuesday, killing three troops from the NATO-led force and wounding nearly 20 troops and civilians, officials said. Security forces in full battle gear administered CPR to wounded comrades shortly after the 8:10 a.m. blast, which rattled nearby neighborhoods and sent a plume of smoke high into the sky. The attack happened only a couple hundred yards from the U.S. Embassy, on a main Kabul road that leads to the airport.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The music publishers for American rapper Eminem filed a lawsuit Tuesday against New Zealand’s ruling political party over the music it used in a campaign commercial. Detroit-based Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated both claim the National Party breached copyright laws by using Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself.” Joel Martin, a spokesman for the two companies, said they filed a case in the New Zealand High Court and are seeking damages.

TWANTE, Myanmar (AP) — For generations, the Myanmar town of Twante has been known for its thriving pottery industry. Even today, residents can be seen sitting on wooden stools beneath the thatched roofs of their homes, placing lumps of soft clay onto wheels and shaping it with the gentle press of their fingertips into pots for cooking, storing water, preserving fish or flowers. But the opening up of this once-isolated Southeast Asian of 50 million in 2011, when ruling generals handed over power to a nominally civilian government, has affected traditional ways. Modernization and the reluctance of the younger generation to learn the art of pottery, compounded by the cost of transporting the bulky and fragile products, have turned it into an unstable, dying industry.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. says North Korea is using detained American citizens as political pawns, after a 24-year-old Californian man was sentenced to six years of hard labor. Matthew Miller was convicted Sunday of entering the country illegally to commit espionage. The court said he tore up his visa on arriving in Pyongyang April 10 and had wanted to experience prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea’s human rights situation.

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Experts worry a health crisis could be looming nearly two weeks after massive flooding engulfed much of Kashmir, with countless bloated livestock carcasses now floating across the waterlogged region. Doctors are already seeing cases of diarrhea, skin allergies and fungus among the population. Rescue workers are rushing in medical aid, water pumps and purification systems.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s army says a group of militants have attacked one of its positions from neighboring Afghanistan, sparking a shootout that left 11 insurgents and three soldiers killed. In a statement, the military says “a group of terrorists” from Afghanistan attacked the Pakistani post in the North Waziristan tribal region on Tuesday. The military has been carrying out a major offensive in the area against local and foreign militants since June 15.

BANGKOK (AP) — Police on the scenic resort island of Koh Tao in southern Thailand conducted a sweep of hotels and workers’ residences Tuesday searching for clues into the slayings of two British tourists whose nearly naked, battered bodies were found on a beach a day earlier. More than 70 police officers were deployed to Koh Tao, a popular diving destination in the Gulf of Thailand, as the country’s leaders called for a swift investigation into a pair of brutal killings that marked a new blow to Thailand’s tourism industry.

In this photo by Achmad Ibrahim, an Indonesian worker wears a mask depicting the Japanese character Doraemon during a rally against outsourcing and low wages near Indonesia’s presidential palace in Jakarta on Monday. Thousands of factory workers took to the streets of the capital to take part in the protest. The demonstrators shouted “End the temporary contract system now!” as they waved colorful flags and banners lambasting the system and demanding more benefits.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — At a recent political rally in Wellington, indicted Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom jokingly asked members of New Zealand’s spy agency to raise their hands. “Please don’t worry,” he said, to rising laughter and applause. “Even though we are going to shut you down, we will find you guys new jobs.”

BEIJING (AP) — Officials in a southern Chinese town where a proposed garbage incinerator drew thousands of protesters over the weekend say no firm plans have been made for the plant’s location and that a public hearing will be held on the issue. Hundreds of people marched against the project in Bulou county in southern Guangdong province Sunday, a day after 10,000 to 20,000 protesters came out to denounce the plan, according to three residents who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone.

Flooding from days of heavy monsoon rains partially submerged the city of Srinigar in Kashmir and left more than 400 people dead in northern Pakistan and India. The flood waters have begun to recede, but vast fields of crops have been destroyed and tens of thousands of families have lost all their possessions. Japanese were thrilled to see one of their own, Kei Nishikori, become the first Asian man to play in a Grand Slam tennis final. Ultimately, the 24-year-old lost to Croatian Marin Cilic in the lopsided U.S. Open final, but Nishikori’s run is expected to boost his career and tennis’ popularity in a country where baseball and soccer reign.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Former National Security Agency systems analyst turned leaker Edward Snowden said Monday that the NSA is collecting mass surveillance data on New Zealanders through its XKeyscore program and has set up a facility in the South Pacific nation’s largest city to tap into vast amounts of data. Snowden talked via video link from Russia to hundreds of people at Auckland’s Town Hall.

BEIJING (AP) — Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they’re going. But the property manager says it’s intended to be ironic — to remind people that it’s dangerous to tweet while walking the street.

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Top Asian News at 8:30 a.m. GMT