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From The Asian Reporter, V28, #23 (December 3, 2018), page 2.
U.N.: Polio remains global emergency, eradication at risk
LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization (WHO) says the ongoing attempt to eradicate polio remains a global emergency amid an increase in cases for the first time in years and a worrying number of outbreaks sparked by the vaccine. After a meeting convened by the U.N. health agency, experts said that failing to wipe out polio in the next few years could lead to a resurgence of the crippling disease. An international initiative to eradicate polio began in 1988 but efforts have stalled in war-torn countries and WHO and its partners have missed repeated deadlines to stop the virus. WHO said the polio epidemics in Afghanistan and Pakistan were particularly worrying. The number of cases in Afghanistan has almost doubled this year and polio is increasingly being found in the environment.
Tens of thousands demand rebuilding of Hindu temple
LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Tens of thousands of Hindus gathered in a northern Indian city to renew calls to build a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked and demolished in 1992, sparking deadly Hindu-Muslim violence. The gathering at Ayodhya, 350 miles east of New Delhi, brought Hindu holy men and activists to the town where the Hindu god Ram was believed to have been born. Hindu fundamentalists with pickaxes and crowbars razed the 16th-century Babri Mosque to the ground in December 1992. Hindu groups say the mosque was built after a temple dedicated to Ram was destroyed by Muslim invaders. The destruction of the mosque sparked riots across India that left at least 2,000 people dead.
Akihito performs last harvest ritual before abdication
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Emperor Akihito gave thanks to the gods for a bountiful autumn harvest, the last time he performed one of the most important annual palace rites before abdicating next spring. Akihito conducted the Niiname ritual at an Imperial Palace shrine illuminated by torchlight as ancient music was played. He offered harvested rice and other items to the gods, thanking them and praying for peace for the nation. November 23 was Japan’s national thanksgiving holiday. Some of the rice was harvested by Akihito from a field inside the palace grounds. The rest was offered by farmers from around the country. Ahead of the ritual, Akihito invited some farmers to ask about their harvests this year, according to Japanese media. Akihito is to abdicate on April 30 and will be succeeded the following day by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. The religious harvest prayer is one of about 20 rituals that the emperor performs privately at the palace each year, separate from his official duties. The two-part ritual runs past midnight — including a three-hour interval — inside the unheated shrine, making it difficult for the 84-year-old emperor. In recent years, he has attended only the first half of the rite, with an aide performing the latter half. According to tradition, the emperor must sit straight with his legs tucked under him for nearly two hours while performing the ancient ritual.
8,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping standby force ready
BEIJING (AP) — China says it has assembled a standby force of thousands of United Nations peacekeepers, furthering its leading role in the global body’s efforts to tamp down conflicts worldwide. Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told reporters that the 8,000-member force had passed an assessment approved by U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix. It fulfills a pledge made at the U.N. three years ago by Chinese President Xi Jinping. China provides the most peacekeepers of any permanent U.N. Security Council member and is the second-largest contributor to the operations’ multibillion dollar budget, at slightly over 10 percent. Ren said China has also trained more than 1,500 peacekeepers from more than a dozen countries. The U.N. currently runs 15 peacekeeping missions, the bulk of them in Africa.
North Korea explodes 10 guard posts to lower tensions
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says North Korea has blown up some of its own frontline guard posts as part of agreements to ease tensions in the rivals’ heavily fortified border. The Defense Ministry said its military confirmed the dismantling of 10 North Korean guard posts. It said North Korea had informed the South of its plans in advance. In September, the Koreas agreed to dismantle all of its guard posts inside the 155-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide border. They later each withdrew weapons and troops from 11 of their guard posts and decided to completely dismantle 10 of them. South Korea had been dismantling 10 of its guard posts with dynamite and excavators. The Koreas’ border has been the site of numerous cases of deadly fighting and bloodshed.
Investigators say doomed Lion Air jet "airworthy"
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Investigators of the October 28 crash of a Lion Air flight into the Java Sea say the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was deemed airworthy when it made its final takeoff from Jakarta. Officials summoned reporters to refute reports in a news conference the day before where some media reported they had said the plane was not airworthy when it took off. The investigators were reporting on data from the aircraft’s black boxes. They say the cockpit voice recorder, which is still missing and being searched for, is needed to understand what caused the jet to plunge in the Java Sea just 11 minutes after takeoff. Investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said that based on test results after the aircraft’s problems were repaired, the aircraft was declared airworthy.
Hundreds of Chinese arrested in Cambodia for online scams
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Police in Cambodia have arrested more than 200 Chinese citizens accused of defrauding people in China over the internet. Gen. Y Sok Khy, director of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, said 36 women were among the 235 Chinese arrested in three different villages in Takeo province, south of the capital, Phnom Penh. Online scams by Chinese gangs that operate from foreign countries and target mainland Chinese are common throughout Southeast Asia and have been found as far away as Kenya and Spain. Cambodia has arrested and sent at least 1,000 Chinese and Taiwanese residents allegedly involved in such schemes to China since 2012. The scams are carried out by making phone calls over the internet and employing deception, threats, and blackmail against the victims.
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