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Nepal women keep the art of traditional instruments alive despite their past stigma


Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama dies at 68


A 41-year-old pelican and other animals wait for their food at Nepal’s only zoo


From The Asian Reporter, V34, #4 (April 1, 2024), page 2.

Prime Minister sounds a sour note on trucks’ musical horns

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet has ordered a ban on musical horns, after videos posted on social media showed people dancing on roads and roadsides as passing trucks blasted rhythmic little tunes. Hun Manet, who last year took over the wheel of government from his father, Hun Sen — who led Cambodia for 38 years — called on the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation and police across the country to immediately take action against any vehicle whose normal horn has been replaced by a tune-playing one by ripping it out and restoring the standard honking type. He said the measure has already been implemented by provincial authorities, but he wanted to announce it publicly to make sure it was enforced nationwide. He commented on his Facebook page that recent social media posts had shown "inappropriate activity committed by some people, especially youth and children, dancing on the roadside to the musical sounds from trucks’ horns." Hun Manet said such dancing affects public order and poses a traffic hazard that is a threat to life and limb, not least of all to the dancers themselves. One video showed three young people dancing in the middle of a road while a large trailer truck coming their way lays down a beat. For Cambodians, there will be no more dancing in the street.

New Zealand slips into second recession in 18 months

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has entered its second recession in 18 months after the latest round of GDP figures confirmed its economy contracted in the last quarter of 2023. The country’s economy shrank by 0.1% in the quarter to December, and 0.7% in per capita terms, the New Zealand’s official statistics agency, Stats NZ, announced in March. The latest slip follows a 0.3% contraction in the September quarter, which fulfils the technical definition of a recession. It is New Zealand’s second recession event in the past 18 months. Stats NZ said New Zealand had returned negative GDP figures in four of the last five quarters, and had a stagnant annual growth rate of just 0.6%. The slump was largely expected with New Zealand’s central bank forecasting a flat figure, while bank economists suggested a range of results between a narrow contraction and fractional growth. The data made for worse reading in a per capita context with the last five quarters all retreating by an average of 0.8%. Helping to prop up the south Pacific island nation’s economy has been a record migration intake, which hit a record peak of 141,000 new arrivals in 2023. Without that population growth stimulating an otherwise stagnant economy, New Zealand’s economic position would be slipping at an even faster rate. Regulation minister David Seymour said the current economic conditions would lead to cuts in the country’s forthcoming budget, including cutting the number of government workers. "We’re in a slump, but that won’t be news to you, because you’ve already been living in it," Seymour said.

Nissan, Honda to work together on EVs, intelligence tech

TOKYO (AP) — Nissan and Honda have announced that they will work together in developing electric vehicles and auto intelligence technology, sectors where Japanese automakers have fallen behind. The chief executives of Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. appeared together at a news conference in Tokyo to announce that Japan’s second and third biggest automakers will look into areas with a potential for collaboration. The details of the non-binding agreement are still being worked out, both sides said. The executives said the companies will develop core technologies together, but their products will remain different. The world’s automakers are rapidly shifting toward electric vehicles, focusing on batteries and motors instead of gas engines, as concerns grow about emissions and climate change.

Blinken underscores "ironclad" support for the Philippines

MANILA, The Philippines (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken under- scored Washington’s "ironclad commitment" to help defend the Philippines in case of an armed attack against its forces after clashes between Chinese and Filipino coast guards in the disputed South China Sea recently turned more hostile. Blinken, the latest high-level official to visit the United States treaty ally, met his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo in March before separately meeting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila. President Joe Biden will host Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a White House summit in April. The three are likely to discuss growing concerns over increasingly aggressive Chinese actions in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear program. "We stand with the Philippines and stand by our ironclad defense commitments, including under the Mutual Defense Treaty," Blinken said in a news conference with Manalo. "We have a shared concern about the PRC’s actions that threaten our common vision for a free, open Indo-Pacific, including in the South China Sea and in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone," Blinken said, using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China. He cited "repeated violations of international law and the rights of the Philippines: water cannons, blocking maneuvers, close shadowing, other dangerous operations." The Chinese coast guard blocked and used water cannons against Philippine vessels in a confrontation several weeks ago that slightly injured a Filipino admiral and four of his sailors near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal. The March 5 faceoff in the high seas also caused two minor collisions between Chinese and Philippine vessels and prompted Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs to summon China’s deputy ambassador to convey a protest against the Chinese coast guard’s actions, which the Philippines said were unacceptable.

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