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International News

Volunteers spend Sundays to help Singapore’s less fortunate


Beijing noodle restaurant remembers Biden’s 2011 visit


Drones light up Seoul sky, urge virus vigilance


Indian holy city lights record number of oil lamps


From a flower in Kashmir comes a precious spice


Japan Nobel laureate Koshiba, who found neutrinos, dies at 94


Indonesians collect old phones to help students get online


As virus mutes Dubai nightlife, Filipino bands feel the pain


Highway-side eatery in UAE feeds hungry one meal at a time


Firecrackers and prayers as Indians celebrate Harris’ win


In India, polluted air spells trouble for virus patients


India celebrates Diwali amid pandemic, pollution fears


Trump skips Asian summits as China set to expand influence


G-20 summit ends with support for COVID-19 vaccines for all


Spike in cases delays Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble


Vietnam has first local transmission in 89 days


From The Asian Reporter, V30, #13 (December 7, 2020), page 2.

South Korea OKs single test for COVID-19 and flu

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Health officials in South Korea have approved a new test that’s designed to detect both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza from the same samples, which would help prevent disruption at hospitals as the pandemic stretches into the flu season. The country has struggled to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which some experts say could spread more broadly during cold weather when people spend more time indoors. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has reported increased daily new cases of COVID-19. People have been venturing out in public after the government eased social distancing restrictions in October to support a weak economy. "Despite efforts by health authorities to trace contacts and suppress transmissions, such efforts have been outpaced by the speed of viral spread," senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said. The new test, which targets genes that are specific to both COVID-19 and seasonal flu, is an evolved version of PCR tests that are used to detect COVID-19 from samples taken from noses or throats. Laboratories use machines to amplify genetic materials so tiny quantities of the virus are detected. The illnesses are hard to tell apart by their symptoms, so having a diagnosis for both in three to six hours "would be convenient for patients and also reduce the burden of medical workers," Yoon said.

China’s manufacturing accelerates in November

BEIJING (AP) — China’s manufacturing activity accelerated in November as its rebound from the pandemic gained strength, a survey shows, while the United States and Europe struggle with rising infections and renewed controls on business. The monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the state statistics agency and an industry group rose to 52.1 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show an expansion. That was up from October’s 51.4. Business conditions have largely returned to normal since the ruling Communist Party declared the outbreak that began in southwestern China under control in March. Factories, stores, and offices have reopened, though restrictions on visitors entering the country remain. Retail spending, auto sales, factory output, and other activity have rebounded to above pre-pandemic levels. "The pace of economic growth picked up in November on the back of a broad-based improvement in both services and manufacturing," Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report. In November, an indicator of factory production rose to 54.7 from October’s 53.9, the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing reported. The new orders index rose 1.1 points to 53.9. The measure of new exports rose to 51.5 from the previous month’s 51.0. Chinese exporters have benefitted from the relatively early reopening of their economy and demand for masks and other medical supplies. They are taking market share from foreign competitors that still face anti-virus restrictions. Employment contracted again in November but at a slower pace. The employment index gained 0.2 points to 49.5.

Walmart sells majority stake in Japanese Seiyu supermarket

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. retailer Walmart is selling off 85% of its wholly owned Japanese supermarket subsidiary Seiyu, while retaining a 15% stake, in a deal valued at $1.6 billion, the companies said. KKR & Co., a global investment firm, will purchase a 65% stake, while Japanese online retailer Rakuten will acquire a 20% stake from Walmart, a statement said. KKR and Rakuten will bring their expertise in e-commerce and global digital marketing to strengthen Seiyu in the increasingly digital shopping age, according to the statement. Seiyu chief Lionel Desclee will continue to lead in the transition period, after which he will take on a new role at Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer. A board will be set up, made up of representatives from KKR, Rakuten, and Walmart, and a new CEO appointed, the companies said. The transaction, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, which also runs stores in Europe and other parts of Asia, entered the Japanese market with its purchase of a small stake in Seiyu in 2002, promising to bring its "every day low price" to Japan. Seiyu became Walmart’s group company in 2008. The Japanese retail market has often proved a challenge for foreign players, and Walmart’s arrival was met with skepticism from the start. Japanese buyers tend to be finicky and have at times shunned products viewed as cheap or of poor quality. But that trend has rapidly changed, and discount stores are increasingly popular as more Japanese seek out bargains. The other hot trend all over the world is the move toward online shopping, a shift that’s accelerated amid the coronavirus pandemic.

China demands India rescind app ban

BEIJING (AP) — China has demanded India rescind a ban on more Chinese mobile phone apps amid tension between Beijing and other governments over technology and security. A foreign ministry spokesman accused India of violating global free-trade rules and discriminating against Chinese companies. India announced a ban on 43 apps, many of them Chinese. It said they threaten India’s "sovereignty and integrity" but gave no details. That came on top of earlier bans on Chinese apps including popular video service TikTok. "The Indian side should immediately correct this discriminatory practice so as to avoid causing greater damage to the cooperation between the two sides," said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian. Zhao called on India to "safeguard the legitimate rights and interests" of Chinese companies but gave no indication whether Beijing might retaliate. The United States and some other governments also have expressed concern about whether Chinese apps might be gathering too much sensitive information about their users.

Volcano in eastern Indonesia erupts, thousands evacuated

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A volcano in eastern Indonesia erupted in November, sending a column of ash as high as 13,120 feet into the sky and prompting the evacuation of thousands of people. Nearly 2,800 people from at least 28 villages were evacuated from the slopes of Mount Ili Lewotolok, which is located on Lembata island of East Nusa Tenggara province, as the volcano began erupting, said Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Raditya Jati. There were no deaths or injuries from the eruption. The Transportation Ministry said a flight warning was issued after the eruption and a local airport was closed as ash rained down on many areas of the island. Mount Ili Lewotolok has been erupting off and on since October 2017. Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center raised the volcano’s alert level to the second-highest level after sensors picked up increasing activity. The 17,790-foot mountain is one of three currently erupting in Indonesia after Merapi on Java island and Sinabung on Sumatra island. They are among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines around the Pacific Ocean. After the eruption, the Disaster Mitigation Agency advised villagers and climbers to stay 2.4 miles from the crater and be aware of the peril of lava.