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International News


Colorful Bun Festival returns to Hong Kong after 3 years

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Japanese court says government’s policy against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

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"Tony" Yasumura reveals all about his not-naked shtick and its origins in Japanese comedy

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Thailand authorities seize more than a ton of crystal methamphetamine thought bound for Australia

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From The Asian Reporter, V33, #6 (June 5, 2023), page 2.

Indian official suspended after draining reservoir to retrieve phone he dropped while taking a selfie

NEW DELHI (AP) — A government official in India was suspended from his job after he ordered a water reservoir to be drained so he could retrieve his smartphone, which he had dropped while taking a selfie. Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas dropped his Samsung smartphone in Kherkatta dam in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh last month, The Times of India newspaper reported. Vishwas first asked local divers to jump into the reservoir to find the device, claiming it contained sensitive government data. But after initial efforts to retrieve his smartphone failed, he asked for the reservoir to be emptied using diesel pumps. Over the next three days, more than 2 million liters of water were pumped out of the reservoir, which is enough to irrigate at least 1,500 acres of land during India’s scorching summer, local media reported. In videos that went viral on social media, Vishwas is seen sitting under a red umbrella as diesel pumps drained water from the reservoir. Vishwas told local media the water in the reservoir was unusable for irrigation and that he had received permission from a senior official to drain it. The smartphone was eventually retrieved but wouldn’t even start because it was waterlogged. Authorities later suspended Vishwas after he was widely criticized for wasting water resources. India is one of the most water-stressed countries and extreme temperatures have led to severe water scarcity, causing crop losses, forest fires, and cuts to power.

Fire destroys nearly century-old neoclassical landmark

MANILA, The Philippines (AP) — A massive fire tore through Manila’s historic post office building in May, slightly injuring seven people and razing the nearly 100-year-old landmark in the Philippine capital, according to police and postal officials. The fire started before midnight in the basement of the neoclassical, five-story building and was brought under control by morning more than seven hours after it began, firefighters said. An investigation was underway to determine the cause of the fire and what was damaged, officials said, adding seven people, mostly firefighters, sustained minor injuries or were overwhelmed by thick smoke. The Manila Central Post Office was one of the capital’s busiest office buildings but was closed when the fire started. The building was the country’s main mail-sorting and distribution hub and was the central office for the Philippine Postal Corporation. The building, recognized as a national landmark, was built in 1926 with high columns in the traditional neoclassical style. It was severely damaged during World War II and was rebuilt in 1946. It has been used as a backdrop for many Philippine movies and stands near a plaza named after national hero Andres Bonifacio, which has been the site of protests by left-wing and nationalist activists over a range of political and social issues. It is located along the Pasig River on a main intersection of the capital’s key roads. Postal service in the Philippines began during the Spanish colonial period with horse-riding mail couriers.

Newspaper Ming Pao to stop publishing political cartoon

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong newspaper will stop publishing works by the city’s most prominent political cartoonist after his drawings drew government complaints, in another example of hushed speech and media voices after a Beijing-led crackdown. Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao did not elaborate on why it would stop publishing Wong Kei-kwan’s works. "Ming Pao would like to express gratitude to Zunzi for witnessing how times have changed with us over the last four decades," its editorial department said, referring to Wong by his pen name. His comic drawings caricatured Hong Kong society’s frustrations since before the then-British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Wong did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press and the newspaper did not expand on its announcement that it would stop publishing the cartoons. It’s unclear whether the government played a role in the decision, and the government departments that complained about Wong’s drawings had not responded to requests for comment. After Beijing imposed a national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, the city’s art and media communities have learned to be wary of crossing vaguely defined red lines in producing art and other content that might be perceived as challenging Communist Party control. Authorities have also increasingly used a colonial-era sedition law to target critical voices. Multiple cartoons drawn by Wong have been criticized in recent months by different government units, including the security bureau. Most recently, the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau slammed his work for "smearing" the government’s role of appointing local committee members who will choose candidates in district council elections later this year.

Pledged fund to support Rohingya is grossly insufficient

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh should not bear the burden of more than 1 million Rohingya refugees alone while the agencies of the United Nations are facing challenges to feed them, an official of the United Nations said last month. Olivier De Schutter, a U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, made the statement after ending a 12-day trip to Bangladesh, where he visited camps sheltering the refugees from Myanmar. He said the response from the international community to support the refugees against the funds needed is "grossly insufficient." About $876 million are needed to support the community for a year, but only 17% of that has been pledged to date, he said, calling it "scandalous" at a news conference in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. "Bangladesh should not be left to shoulder the burden of the presence of the refugees on its own. These (U.N.) agencies should be much better supported in their work," De Schutter said.

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