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International News

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World’s oldest man, who said his secret was smiling, dies at 112


Coronvirus -Amid China virus fears, even a haircut is a major operation


Thousands light up joints during Hindu festival in Nepal


Bong’s Parasite focuses on plight of South Korea’s poor


From The Asian Reporter, V30, #04 (March 2, 2020), page 2.

Nepal census adds third gender, recognizing LGBT minority

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal will count a third gender in its next population census, for the first time counting LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people as a minority group that can be allocated government jobs and education. The LGBT community in the Himalayan nation has long demanded the census taken every 10 years count sexual minorities. Nepal’s laws prescribe special quotas for minorities in workplaces, schools, and colleges, and access to discounted healthcare, but LGBT people say the absence of census data omits them from such programs. Dhundi Raj Lamichane, an official at Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics, said the national census is planned for the summer of 2021 but a trial will be done in selected districts this month. Citizens will be able to identify themselves as male, female, or other gender. Though the change is specific to gender rather than any person’s sexual identity, activists welcomed it as increasing the visibility of the LGBT community. They estimate about 900,000 of Nepal’s 29 million people are LGBT. Sexual minorities have made significant progress securing rights in Nepal in recent years. The constitution adopted in 2015 forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, reaffirming a 2008 Supreme Court ruling. Citizenship certificates and passports now offer a "non-male, non-female" option in the gender category.

Panasonic scraps solar panels partnership with Tesla

TOKYO (AP) — Panasonic is pulling out of its partnership with Tesla to produce solar panels at a factory in New York state, the Japanese electronics maker said. Panasonic’s production at the factory in Buffalo will end by May, with an exit by September, it said in a statement. The decision is to streamline the company’s global solar energy operations, it said. Panasonic will continue making batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles in another factory in Nevada, it said. Panasonic also quoted Tesla as saying that the move won’t affect Tesla’s solar business plans. Panasonic will also continue selling solar panels under its brand in the U.S. through its own distribution channels, it said. The two companies’ agreement to work on solar energy was announced in 2016. Panasonic will offer severance packages to employees at the Buffalo plant. Tesla will hire as many as possible of those who wish to keep working there, according to Panasonic. Panasonic is a major manufacturer of home appliances, such as washing machines and refrigerators, but its operations include services and products for businesses. Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, leads the world in electric vehicle sales. Competition from cheaper Chinese manufacturing of solar components has posed a problem for Panasonic as it strives to reposition itself for future growth.

Gas leak kills seven at India carpet factory

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — A gas leak killed seven people, including three children, at a carpet-weaving factory in northern India, a government official said. Magistrate Suresh Kumar said the gas apparently leaked from a tanker delivering acid used for washing woven carpets. Five of the seven killed were members of one family, including one woman and three children, he said. It wasn’t clear how many worked there or if some were visiting the factory. Hydrofluoric acid and ammonia solution are generally used for cleaning carpets. The factory is in Sitapur, a town 50 miles southeast of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state. Uttar Pradesh is known for its hand-knotted carpet weaving industry. Such accidents are common in India because of poor safety standards in many factories.

Philippines notifies U.S. of intent to end major security pact

MANILA, The Philippines (AP) — The Philippines has notified the United States it will end a major security pact allowing American forces to train in the country, in the most serious threat under President Rodrigo Duterte to the 69-year treaty alliance. Foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that Manila’s notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement was received by the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. The termination would take effect after 180 days unless both sides agree to keep it. Locsin signed the notice on the order of Duterte, who has often criticized U.S. security policies while praising those of China and Russia despite the Philippine military’s close historic ties with its American counterpart.

Body of Pakistani reporter found hours after missing

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — The body of a Pakistani journalist was found just hours after he went missing while on his way to work, according to police. His family said he was brutally killed but that they have no idea who was behind the slaying. Aziz Memon, age 56, had worked as a reporter and cameraman for a local TV station in southwestern Sindh province. Police chief Mohammad Farooq said the body was found dumped in a canal in Mehrabpur village and that an investigation was under way. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction and killing of Memon. His brother, Abdul Hafeez, said Memon had received threats last year after reporting that a politician from the area had paid bribe money to locals to attend an opposition rally. The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, asked the government to investigate. Pakistan is considered a dangerous place for journalists and those involved in attacks on journalists are rarely punished. The country has also witnessed an intensified crackdown on human-rights defenders, activists, journalists, and members of civil society over the past years. Journalists, who have taken on military dictators and been beaten and jailed in the pursuit of a free press, say they now face a form of censorship that is more subtle but no less chilling, spearheaded by the security services, to quash critical coverage.

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