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POPE FRANCIS VISITS SOUTH KOREA

POPE FRANCIS VISITS SOUTH KOREA

BANGKOK (AP) — Century-old shop houses, twisting alleyways and temples scented with incense still pulsate with the pursuit of old trades and time-honored rituals of families who have lived in Bangkok's Chinatown for generations. But probably not for much longer. Jackhammers and cranes are closing in on one of the last historic quarters of Thailand's capital as developers and city authorities pursue plans to build subways and high-rises — with little thought to preserving heritage.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Rampant trash-burning is throwing more pollution and toxic particles into the air than governments are reporting, according to a scientific study estimating more than 40 percent of the world's garbage is burned. The study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology attempts the first comprehensive assessment of global trash-burning data, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, mercury and tiny particulate matter that can dim the sun's rays or clog human lungs.

HONG KONG (AP) — Malaysia is preparing to unveil the latest overhaul of its beleaguered state-owned airline, which is reeling from twin disasters months apart that killed hundreds of passengers. Khazanah Nasional, the state investment company that owns 69 percent of Malaysia Airlines, said in early August it will announce details of the overhaul by the end of this month. Malaysian news reports said the announcement will come Friday.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's election stalemate this summer hurt progress in training the country's military, and resolving the political chaos will be key to that military's success in 2015, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said as he stepped down as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. The Taliban will test the Afghan forces next year with an onslaught of fighters and attacks, hoping to capitalize on the dwindling U.S. and coalition troops in the country, Dunford said Tuesday.

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a note earlier this year to a ceremony honoring more than a thousand World War II-era war criminals which praised their contributions to the country, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday. Abe sent the message to an annual ceremony held April 29 at the Koyasan Buddhist temple in central Japan in his capacity as head of the ruling party, not as prime minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Four janitors charged with raping a kindergartner at a prestigious international school in Indonesia retracted their confessions Wednesday, saying they were tortured by police during questioning. They made the retractions on the second day of the closed-door trials of five custodians at the Jakarta International School, which is facing a storm of controversy following allegations of additional abuse.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Rows of dusty trucks and used cars sit unsold in Afghanistan's capital, where real estate agents bemoan a lack of sales and international businessmen no longer frequent top hotels. Even government employees nervously await each payday, worried the next might be delayed. Afghanistan's economy, vastly supported by international military spending and aid since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban, finds itself struggling on the precipice of what could be an uncertain future. NATO forces plan to pull out at the end of the year, insecurity is rising as international aid falls and a drawn-out election battle threatens to destabilize the country.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia and Indonesia have reached a new agreement on how they'll use their intelligence operations in the future, even settling their disagreement on its name. The agreement their foreign ministers are scheduled to sign Thursday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali is designed to mend a rift sparked last November by accusations that Australians tapped the cellphones of the Indonesian president, his wife and eight ministers and officials in 2009.

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese laboratory that retracted a paper reporting a potentially major breakthrough in stem cell research said Wednesday its researchers have not managed to replicate the results. Scientists at the government-affiliated Riken Center for Developmental Biology said they are still trying to match results reported in two papers published by the journal Nature in January and then retracted in July. But they refused to say whether or not they expected to succeed in doing so.

In this photo by Dar Yasin, a Muslim in Indian-ruled Kashmir is hugged by her relative before leaving on the hajj to Mecca. Governments of many countries help arrange travel for local Muslims making the journey, and daily flights from Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, to Saudi Arabia started Wednesday and continue until Sept. 12. More than 3 million Muslims worldwide make the pilgrimage each year, but recent reports say Saudi Arabia plans to restrict the number this year to about 1.3 million because of construction projects in the holy city. ___

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Experts working to identify the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have gathered DNA samples from 283 people and have positively identified 173. Wim Heijnen of the Netherlands Forensic Institute said Wednesday the DNA samples do not all correspond to a victim's identification. Some of the samples could be from workers who gathered the bodies where the jet was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — New counterterrorism units have been working at Australia's two largest airports since last week and had already intercepted a person of interest, the prime minister said Wednesday. Tony Abbott said the units operating at Sydney and Melbourne Airports would soon be introduced at all Australian international airports to monitor the movements of travelers on security watch lists. Biometric screening of passengers will also be introduced at all airports.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — Several militant commanders and their followers have split from the Pakistani Taliban, the second group this year to part ways with the umbrella organization in a move that analysts said Wednesday would further weaken the Taliban. The development comes as Pakistan is waging an offensive against militants in North Waziristan, near Afghanistan's border.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's government said Wednesday that the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, is evidence that the United States is a "graveyard of human rights." The comments by a Foreign Ministry spokesman fit a pattern by North Korea of seizing any opportunity to turn the table on Washington's longstanding criticism of the North as one of the world's worst human rights abusers.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The United States has expressed alarm over prison terms handed down against three Vietnamese democracy activists for obstructing traffic. Human rights groups have described the charges used to convict Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and Nguyen Van Minh to 3 years, 2 years and 2 1/2 years respectively on Tuesday as "bogus."

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