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International News


As temperatures rise, farmers plant crops in South Korean tunnel

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Korean boy bands, soccer stars march to different beats

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From The Asian Reporter, V28, #18 (September 17, 2018), page 2.

Aceh region bans unmarried couples at same café tables

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — A district in Indonesia’s deeply conservative Aceh province has banned unmarried couples from sitting at the same table in restaurants, cafés, and coffee shops. The head of the district’s Islamic affairs office, Jufliwan, said the measure also forbids restaurants, cafés, and coffee shops from serving female customers after 9:00pm if they are not accompanied by their husbands, fathers, or brothers. He said the regulation, which was issued in August in Bireuen district, also prohibits restaurants and coffee shops from hiring lesbians, gays, bisexual, or transgender people as waiters or waitresses. Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia that practices Islamic Shariah law, a concession made by the central government in 2001 as part of efforts to end a decades-long war for independence.

China move points to possible end of birth limits

BEIJING (AP) — China is eliminating a trio of agencies responsible for enforcing family-planning policies in a further sign the government may be planning to scrap long-standing limits on the number of children its citizens can have. The move was part of a reorganization of the National Health Commission that creates a new single department called the Division of Population Monitoring and Family Development. Alarmed by the rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce, China abandoned the notorious one-child policy two years ago to allow two children, but the effect on the birthrate has been less than expected. There were 17.2 million births in the country last year, down from 17.9 million in 2016. Meanwhile, the proportion of the population age 60 or older increased last year to 17.3 percent.

Philippine president vents anger toward fierce critic on TV

MANILA, The Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has vented his anger toward his fiercest political critic on a TV talk show, prompting opposition calls for him to focus instead on worsening inflation, rice shortages, and an approaching powerful typhoon. President Rodrigo Duterte attempted to explain the legal offensive he launched against opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV. He linked Trillanes’ political group to an alleged plot to oust him, and said he has ordered the release of intelligence provided by a foreign government about the alleged plan. Opposition senator Risa Hontiveros responded that Duterte "should snap out of his fantasy with destabilization plots, roll up his sleeves, and start working."

DJ mounts challenge of colonial-era anti-gay law

SINGAPORE (AP) — A Singaporean disc jockey (DJ) is challenging a law that bans sex between men, a holdover from British colonial days that conservatives insist on keeping but authorities have promised not to enforce. The case brought by Johnson Ong, whose stage name is DJ Big Kid, is the first against the anti-gay law since an appeal by three people was thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2014. The law, known as Section 377A, states that acts of "gross indecency" between men are punishable with a jail term of up to two years. Homosexuality is quietly tolerated in Singapore. However, discrimination remains rife, although it is often subtle and masked under the need to protect a pro-family Asian culture.

Vietnam’s capital urges residents to stop eating dog meat

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Authorities in Vietnam’s capital are urging residents to stop eating dog meat because it hurts the city’s image and improper raising and slaughtering of the animals could spread rabies. For many Vietnamese, dog meat is a delicacy that is thought to increase stamina. Hanoi vice mayor Nguyen Van Suu said in a message on the city’s website that slaughtering and consuming dog and cat meat are disturbing to foreigners and "negatively impact the image of a civilized and modern capital." Suu instructed local governments to raise awareness of the risk of rabies when raising dog and cat meat. The move is part of a national program to stamp out rabies by 2021. Nguyen Thi Minh, who has run a dog meat restaurant in Hanoi for more than 20 years, said there are no risks of rabies because her restaurant selects healthy dogs and the meat is properly cooked. "People eat dog meat and there’s no problem," she said. "I serve customers from South Korea, the United States, and other countries." Officials say there are 493,000 dogs and cats in Hanoi, of which more than 10 percent are raised for commercial purposes.

Muslim lesbian couple caned in public punishment

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Two Malaysian Muslim women convicted under Islamic laws for attempting to have sexual intercourse have been caned in a rare public whipping that was slammed by rights activists as a grave miscarriage of justice. Lawyers and activists say more than 100 people witnessed the caning in a Sharia court in northeast Terengganu state. Muslim Lawyers’ Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan said the women, 22 and 32 years old, were given six strokes from a light rattan cane on their backs by female prison officers. He said the caning wasn’t harsh and was meant to educate the women so they will repent. But women’s groups called the caning "a form of torture" and warned it could worsen discrimination against people in Malaysia’s lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered community. Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 31 million people are Muslims, who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage, and personal issues. The two unidentified women were discovered by Islamic officials in April and sentenced in August by a Shariah court to six strokes of a cane and a fine after pleading guilty.

Undersea eruption detected at Japan’s Iwo Jima

TOKYO (AP) — Signs of undersea volcanic eruptions have been detected at Iwo Jima, the site of one of the bloodiest battles in World War II, meteorological and defense officials said. Aerial photos taken by navy aircraft showed seawater shooting as high as 33 feet above the surface just off the island’s southern coast, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The island, which has been renamed Ioto, has shown increased volcanic activity, the agency said, warning of more eruptions. The island is 780 miles south of Tokyo. Ioto last had an undersea explosion off its northern coast in 2013, and small overland explosions at a few places in 2015, the agency said. Defense officials said troops stationed on the island are safe and there are no evacuation plans. The island is closed to civilians, except for those with permits to search for the remains of more than 10,000 soldiers still unaccounted for or to attend memorial services and other special events. Virtually all of the Japanese soldiers defending the tiny island died in the battle in early 1945, which claimed 21,570 Japanese and 6,821 American lives. Japan has about 100 active volcanoes and is frequently jolted by earthquakes. Earlier this month, a magnitude 6.7 quake on the northern island of Hokkaido killed more than 40 and injured hundreds.

Japan’s foreign minister says country to open to foreigners

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Japan is gearing up to accept more foreign workers as its own population is on the brink of a steep decline, foreign minister Taro Kono said. Kono told a World Economic Forum meeting in Hanoi that Japan gains "value added" by accepting foreigners, especially since its aging population and low birth rate mean the country is shrinking by a half-million people per year. "We cannot sustain our society like that," he said in response to a question during a panel discussion. "We are opening up our country. We are opening up our labor market to foreign countries. We are now trying to come up with a new work permit policy so I think everyone shall be welcome in Japan if they are willing to assimilate into Japanese society." Japan has traditionally resisted accepting migrant workers, at times easing such restrictions but then re-imposing them during economic downturns. Many Japanese are uncomfortable with outsiders who might not speak their language or conform to expectations for how to behave. Still, there are millions of foreigners living in Japan, including those who work in technical training-related programs or labor-short industries such as restaurants, construction, and elder care. The country has gradually been loosening restrictions to enable families to hire domestic help. It also has short programs to bring in foreign nurses from Indonesia and other countries. But language requirements have made long-term employment in such jobs difficult. Kono cited sports stars including tennis sensation Naomi Osaka, the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, as an example of the benefits of welcoming outsiders. Osaka, who was born in Japan but raised in the United States, is being lauded by Japanese as the first from the country to win a Grand Slam singles tennis title. "It’s good to have diversity. It’s good to have an open policy," Kono said.

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