Haircutting laws relaxed
The nation has relaxed laws on haircutting to allow barbers and stylists in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami to clip and style at evacuation shelters or makeshift shops, a report said yesterday. The current law bans barbers and beauticians from cutting hair anywhere other than authorized shops, apart from for housebound customers or weddings. The government has relaxed the regulations for a period of about two years starting this month, the Yomiuri Shimbun said. Many hairdressers’ shops were damaged or destroyed in the March 11 quake and tsunami. The measure covers barbers and beauticians who cannot run their businesses as before or who are living in shelters due to the quake, the paper said.
Refugee center in doubt
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said yesterday he opposed an Australian proposal to establish a regional refugee center in the country. “I have never accepted it,” he said on the sidelines of a ruling party conference in Dili. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard raised the idea last year as a way of stemming the flow of asylum seekers who travel via Indonesia to northern Australia in rickety boats. Her government says negotiations are ongoing. The only person in the tiny country who has spoken in favor of the idea is President Jose Ramos-Horta. A spokesman for the president said any such center would have to be established with the backing of ASEAN, which East Timor is hoping to join and the UN.
Media restrictions imposed
King Abdullah has imposed new media controls and threatened hefty fines and closure of news organizations allegedly undermining national security, press reports said yesterday. Under a decree issued on Friday, the media will be prohibited from reporting anything that contradicts the Islamic Shariah law or serves “foreign interests and undermines national security.” The decree requires publishers to stick “to objective and constructive criticism that serves the general interest,” media reports said, adding that violators face fines of up to 500,000 riyals (US$133,000). In addition to a threat to close publishers who violate the decree, the authorities can also ban a writer for life from contributing to any media organization.
Live-fire exercises scheduled
The nation’s military will stage live-fire artillery exercises in the coming week on two frontline islands including one hit by deadly North Korean shelling in November, a news report said yesterday. A defense ministry spokesman said that regular military exercises would be carried out on the two islands, but declined to give further details on the timing or whether live-fire drills will be carried out. Dong-A Ilbo daily said marine troops will fire K-9 self-propelled howitzers, Vulcan cannons and 81mm mortars deployed on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands, both located near the tense Yellow Sea border. About 10 US military regiment and battalion commanders will attend the exercises as observers, it said. In November, North Korea responded to a South Korean live-fire artillery drill from Yeonpyeong Island by shelling the island, killing four people. Tuesday’s drills will be the second live-fire exercise on the two islands this year. The previous drills passed without incident despite threats from the North to hit back.