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International News


Noted Indian transgender activist shakes up Hindu festival

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South Koreans mourn death of former World War II sex slave

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From The Asian Reporter, V29, #03 (February 4, 2019), page 2.

Toyota, Panasonic setting up green auto battery venture

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. and Panasonic Corp. say they are setting up a joint venture to research, manufacture, and sell batteries for ecological autos, an increasingly lucrative sector amid concerns about global warming. The Japanese automaker and the Japanese electronics maker said in a joint statement that Toyota will take a 51 percent stake and Panasonic a 49 percent in the joint venture, which is to be running by the end of 2020. Products will be sold to various automakers, they said. The companies have been studying working together on batteries since 2017. Panasonic will transfer equipment, assets, and workers from its plants in Japan and China to the joint venture, and 3,500 workers from both companies will be moved to the joint venture. Innovations in batteries are critical for electric vehicles.

Pilot’s disorientation, lost awareness cited in Nepal crash

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — An investigation report says the pilot of a Bangladeshi airliner was disoriented and lost situational awareness before his plane crashed in Nepal last year, killing 51 people and injuring 20. US-Bangla Airlines Flight BS211 from Dhaka crashed on its second landing attempt at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport on March 12, 2018. The investigation report compiled by Nepalese officials said the probable cause of the crash was the pilot’s disorientation and incomplete loss of situation awareness. The report also said the pilot had been released from the Bangladesh Air Force in 1993 due to depression and was only allowed to fly civilian planes from 2002 after a detailed medical evaluation.

Singapore says American leaked 14,200 HIV records

SINGAPORE (AP) — Singapore’s health ministry has accused an American of stealing and leaking the records of 14,200 people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, before January 2013. The ministry said that Mikhy K. Farrera Brochez recently put the records online. It said they included HIV test results, names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and other health information. The ministry said it has disabled access to the information. It said Brochez worked in Singapore for a period before he was jailed for several drug and fraud-related offenses and deported last year. The ministry said his partner, who headed the ministry’s National Public Health Unit from March 2012 to May 2013, had access to the confidential information. Police are investigating and authorities are seeking help from foreign counterparts.

Migrant who founded Indonesian business empire dies

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Eka Tjipta Widjaja, patriarch of one of Asia’s richest families and the founder of a sprawling Indonesian conglomerate, has died. Widjaja passed away at age 97, according to Gandi Sulistiyanto, a managing director at the Sinarmas conglomerate. The son of migrants from Fujian in China, Widjaja was a coconut-oil trader on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in the 1930s before building businesses in palm oil, pulp and paper, and mining. Forbes estimated Widjaja’s fortune at $8.6 billion last year, making him Indonesia’s third-richest person and the family among the 25 richest in Asia. He had several wives and, according to some reports, as many as 40 children. Sinarmas is known for the record $14 billion default of its Asia Pulp and Paper business in 2001. Earlier this decade it became an international pariah as Greenpeace campaigned against its destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests.

Radiation leaks at plutonium lab; no workers exposed

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese state-run nuclear fuel laboratory near Tokyo has detected a radiation leak in its plutonium handling facility, but no workers were exposed. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said a radiation alarm went off after nine workers changed plastic covers on two canisters containing a mixture of plutonium and uranium and removed them from a sealed compartment. The agency said the workers, each wearing a mask, escaped radiation exposure after running into another room. No leak was detected outside the facility, which ended fuel production in 2001 and is being decommissioned. The cause of the leak is under investigation. The agency suggested possible damage to the plastic covers. A bag of plutonium broke during an inspection at another facility operated by the agency in 2017, contaminating five workers.

Nepal police search for missing followers of "Buddha Boy"

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Police in Nepal are searching for five missing followers of a spiritual leader who is believed by devotees to be a reincarnation of Buddha, according to officials. Ram Bahadur Bamjan, also known as "Buddha Boy," became famous in southern Nepal in 2005 when many believed he was able to meditate without moving for months while sitting beneath a tree with no food or water. He remains popular despite accusations of sexually and physically assaulting his followers. Uma Prasad Chaturbedi of Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau said police raided three of Bamjan’s camps and are keeping him under strict surveillance as they search for the five missing people. Chaturbedi said jungle areas near the camps were dug up after they received information that bodies might be buried there, but none were found. The families of the five missing followers have filed cases with the authorities seeking to find them. Bamjan has thousands of followers who visit him in his camps, believing he is a reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in southwestern Nepal roughly 2,500 years ago and became revered as the Buddha. Buddhist scholars have been skeptical of the claims.

China plans major cut in number of Everest climbers

BEIJING (AP) — China will cut the number of climbers attempting to scale Mount Everest from the north by one-third this year as part of plans for a major cleanup on the world’s highest peak, according to state media. The total number of climbers seeking to summit the world’s highest peak at 29,035 feet from the north will be limited to less than 300 and the climbing season restricted to spring, the reports said. The cleanup efforts will include the recovery of the bodies of climbers who died at more than 26,246 feet up the mountain, they said. Parts of Everest are in China and Nepal. Each year, about 60,000 climbers and guides visit the Chinese north side of the mountain, which China refers to by its Tibetan name, Mount Qomolangma. China has set up stations to sort, recycle, and break down garbage from the mountain, which includes cans, plastic bags, stove equipment, tents, and oxygen tanks. On the Nepalese side, mountaineering expedition organizers have begun sending huge trash bags with climbers during the spring climbing season to collect trash that then can be winched by helicopters back to the base camp. Everest claims multiple victims each year, often in the "death zone" above 26,246 feet, where the air is too thin to sustain human life. In 2017, 648 people summited Everest, including 202 from the north side, according to the nonprofit Himalayan Database. Six people were confirmed to have died on the mountain that year, one of them on the north side.

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