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International News

From The Asian Reporter, V29, #19 (October 7, 2019), page 2.

Philippines declares new polio outbreak after 19 years

MANILA, The Philippines (AP) — Philippine health officials declared a polio outbreak in the country, nearly two decades after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it to be free of the highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. Health secretary Francisco Duque III said at a news conference that authorities confirmed at least one case of polio in a three-year-old girl in southern Lanao del Sur province and detected the polio virus in sewage in Manila and in waterways in the southern Davao region. Those findings are enough to declare an outbreak of the disease in a previously polio-free country like the Philippines, he said. WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed deep concern over polio’s reemergence in the country and said they would support the government in immunizing children, who are the most susceptible to the crippling disease, and strengthening surveillance. "As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio," UNICEF Philippines representative Oyun Dendevnorov said. WHO and UNICEF said in a joint statement the polio outbreak in the Philippines is concerning because it is caused by vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. The weakened virus used in vaccines replicates for a short time in children’s intestines and is excreted in their feces. In rare instances, they said, the weakened virus can strengthen in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene. Children who have not been immunized can be susceptible. They said the last known case from a wild strain of the virus in the Philippines was in 1993. Wild poliovirus type 2 was declared globally eradicated in 2015.

4.4% minimum wage hike for Cambodian garment workers

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s government has announced it is raising the minimum wage for the garment industry, the country’s biggest export earner. The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training said that from January next year, the minimum wage will be raised 4.4% to $190 a month from $182. The increase falls short of the $195 a month requested by unions but is higher than the $186 suggested by factory owners. The clothing and footwear industry is Cambodia’s biggest export sector, employing nearly 800,000 people in about 1,000 garment and shoe factories. Workers in the industry, clustered around the capital, Phnom Penh, and in export processing zones, are an important political force whose loyalties Prime Minister Hun Sen has been trying to woo from his opposition.

Asia soccer body to launch women’s club competition

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed a pilot competition to crown a women’s club champion. AFC said a four-team event with the champions of Australia, China, Japan, and South Korea will be played November 26 through 30. The Asian soccer body said the tournament is "a vital step forward in women’s club football throughout the continent." An AFC statement did not mention where games will be played.

Pakistan to open border crossing for India Sikhs

KARTARPUR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani officials say a much-awaited visa-free border crossing for Sikh pilgrims from India will be ready by early November, allowing thousands of pilgrims to easily visit a Sikh shrine just inside Pakistan each day. The Pakistani project director, Atif Majid, told reporters at the shrine that all arrangements will be in place before November 9, a rare sign of cooperation between Islamabad and New Delhi amid heightened tensions over the Kashmir region. Instead of visas, the Sikh pilgrims will be given special permits to access the shrine. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, settled in what is now Pakistan’s Kartarpur. The shrine, known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, was built after he died in the 16th century. Many Sikh holy sites were left in Pakistan after the British partitioned the subcontinent into separate nations in 1947 following two centuries of colonial rule. The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border, and Sikhs often gather on bluffs to view the site from the Indian side. The religious group makes up only a tiny minority in Muslim-majority Pakistan. Pakistani and Indian officials met near the Pakistani border town of Lahore to finalize a draft agreement on the crossing.

Indonesian parliament elects first female house speaker

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s new parliament elected the country’s first female speaker of the House of Representatives after being sworn in amid sometimes-violent protests against several new or proposed laws, including one that weakens the country’s anti-corruption agency. Puan Maharani, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the largest party in parliament known by its Indonesian initials, PDIP, was unanimously elected house speaker. The 46-year-old politician has served as coordinating minister for human development and cultural affairs in President Joko Widodo’s cabinet since 2014. She is the daughter of former president and current PDIP leader Megawati Soekarnoputri, and a granddaughter of Indonesian founding President Sukarno. The ceremony included 575 lawmakers from nine political parties. The lawmakers will be under immediate pressure to revisit the controversial legislation, including a proposed new criminal code as well as bills on mining, land, and labor. Hundreds of officials from various branches of government have been arrested since the independent anti-graft commission was established in 2002 as part of people’s demands during a reform movement following the ouster of the country’s longtime strongman leader Suharto in 1998.

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