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

Associated Press

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Malaysia's prime minister on Thursday called on Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatists to agree to a cease-fire in the area surrounding the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down. Two weeks after the plane's destruction on July 17, the remains and personal possessions of many of the victims haven't been recovered — to the anguish of their relatives and friends.

BEIJING (AP) — Already China's biggest restaurant operator with 4,600 outlets, KFC is pursuing Chinese consumers so avidly it opens two more every day. That dramatic growth comes with a big catch: KFC's quality control is struggling to keep up.

MALIN, India (AP) — Rescuers using earth-moving equipment and their bare hands dug through heavy mud and debris Thursday after a landslide engulfed an entire village in western India, killing at least 30 people and leaving about 100 missing and feared dead. More than 24 hours after the Wednesday morning landslide, authorities said the chances of survival were slim for anyone still trapped under the mud in Malin, a village of some 700 people in Pune district of Maharashtra state.

BEIJING (AP) — Not many years ago, foreign reporters in China trying to call the country's secretive military couldn't even get a connection because phone numbers assigned to the journalists were barred from reaching the Defense Ministry. On Thursday, they were finally permitted to attend the Defense Ministry's monthly news briefing, marking a small milestone in the increasingly confident military's efforts to project a more transparent image.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Along with its towering monuments to socialism, bronze statues of its leaders and sprawling plazas for mass political gatherings and military parades, North Korea's showcase capital is a city of parks. To be sure, daily life in Pyongyang is filled with the many duties of work, school and mandatory community service. But even in Pyongyang, people need a place to relax and unwind.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee endorsed on Wednesday a resolution calling on China to immediately end what it calls state-sanctioned harvesting of human organs from prisoners. China said the panel was making "false and irresponsible accusations." Human rights groups have long criticized China for taking organs from executed prisoners, the source of most transplanted organs. China said in 2012 it plans to abolish the practice in three to five years.

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese judicial panel has recommended that three former executives of the utility that operates the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant face criminal charges over their role in the disaster. A document released by the panel on Thursday showed it voted in favor of indicting Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the time of the crisis, along with two vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A boat carrying Indonesian villagers to their hometown to celebrate the end of Ramadan sank Thursday after hitting a stump in a river, leaving a woman and six children dead and at least 13 others missing, an official said. National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the boat ran out of fuel and was swept by the current into the stump, causing it to flip over and sink in the Barombang River in North Sumatra.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top diplomat said Thursday he was on his way to arrange the evacuation from Libya of thousands of Filipino workers, one of whom was beheaded and a nurse gang-raped amid the worsening turmoil. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said he would fly to Tunisia's Djerba Island near the Libyan border to help arrange the departure of about 13,000 Filipino workers from the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Misarata and the capital, Tripoli. The Filipinos will be brought by chartered ships to Malta, where they could take flights to Manila.

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Thousands of Tibetan exiles recited prayers and offered white and orange scarves Thursday during the cremation ceremony for a revered Tibetan monk, whose funeral in Nepal nearly fell victim to regional politics. Nepal had initially given permission to let the remains of Shamar Rinpoche enter the country, but immediately withdrew amid concerns that Tibetan exiles would protest China's rule over their homeland during the rites. Nepal strictly prohibits any activities considered to be anti-China.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Chinese investigative journalist whose work has led to the ouster of corrupt officials and a Chinese environmental lawyer are among this year's six recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, often regarded as Asia's version of the Nobel Prize. Hu Shuli was recognized as editor-in-chief of the Beijing-based, multi-platform Ciaxin Media Group that has exposed corporate fraud and government corruption, including the sale-for-adoption of children who were seized by family planning officials in Hunan province, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation in the Philippines announced Thursday.

BEIJING (AP) — A gay Chinese man said Thursday he was suing a psychological clinic for carrying out electric shocks intended to turn him straight, as well as the search engine giant Baidu for advertising the center. The Beijing LGBT Center, which campaigns for gay rights, said it was the first court case involving so-called conversion therapy in China.

BEIJING (AP) — An outspoken Chinese minority scholar was indicted on separatism charges amid a renewed flare-up of bloody anti-government violence in the country's far west. The prosecutor's office in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi announced the indictment of economics professor Ilham Tohti in a brief online statement Wednesday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — Racing against time, members of a Japanese organization are combing a New York military museum's World War II records for information they hope will lead to the graves of American servicemen still listed as missing in action on Saipan. The reason for the urgency: A developer plans to begin construction in the fall on a condominium near the beach where scores of Americans were killed on July 7, 1944, during Japan's largest mass suicide attack of the war.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's prime minister and foreign minister on Thursday sent mixed messages on whether Russia was frustrating Dutch and Australian police efforts to retrieve the bodies of victims of the Malaysian airliner disaster in war-torn east Ukraine. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she feared Russia was behind the daily artillery barrages blocking police, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was too early to judge. Abbott has declined to follow the U.S. and European examples by ratcheting up sanctions against Russia in a bid to pressure President Vladimir Putin into ending his country's support for the separatists.

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