Snow storm disrupts travel
A snow storm hit Japan yesterday, disrupting rail and road travel, grounding more than 100 flights and adding to the piles left behind by an earlier blanketing. Up to 30cm of snow was forecast for some parts of the country by this morning, a week after the heaviest snowfall in decades left at least 11 people dead and more than 1,200 injured. The weather agency also warned of heavy snow in western and central Japan, as well as strong winds and high waves along coastal areas. The storm caused delays on the Shinkansen bullet-train services. Japan Airlines said it had cancelled 77 flights yesterday day and All Nippon Airways grounded 40 flights across the nation. Jiji Press said 16,000 air passengers were affected. Forecasters said the bad weather would continue into today.
Gay activists kiss in protest
A group of gay and lesbian activists staged a Valentine’s Day kissing protest in Beijing yesterday aimed at highlighting Russia’s controversial anti-homosexuality laws. The six people held up a banner with the rainbow flag, the Olympic symbol and the words “To Russia with love” as they kissed on a Beijing street. Russia’s adoption in June last year of a law prohibiting the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors has sparked protests from human rights groups and calls for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the country’s first post-Soviet Games. “We feel more positive today as it is Valentine’s Day, and we have the opportunity to relay the message that everybody has the right to love and the right to campaign,” activist Xiao Tie said.
Family reunions to go ahead
High-level talks between the rival Koreas ended yesterday with a rare agreement to go ahead as planned with a reunion for divided families, despite the North’s objections to overlapping South Korea-US military drills. The two sides also agreed to stop exchanging verbal insults and to continue their nascent dialogue at a convenient date, according to a joint statement read to reporters in Seoul by South Korea’s senior talks delegate Kim Kyou-hyun. The agreement, which was also carried on the North’s official KCNA news agency, suggested a significant concession by North Korea, which had wanted the South to postpone the Feb. 24 start of its annual military drills with the US until after the reunion. The South had refused, arguing that the two issues — one humanitarian and one military — should not be linked. The apparent concession and the commitment to continue what has been the highest-level official contact between the two countries since 2007 will fuel hopes that they might be entering a period of genuinely constructive engagement. “Agreement was reached today after North Korea accepted our position that the family reunion event is important ... as the first step to build trust,” Kim said.
Torture doctor convicted
A Delaware pediatrician known for his research on paranormal science and near-death experiences with children was convicted on Thursday of waterboarding the daughter of his longtime companion by holding her head under a faucet. Melvin Morse, 60, was charged with three felonies — two for the alleged waterboarding and one for alleged suffocation by hand, and convicted of one felony — waterboarding in the bathtub — and five misdemeanors. Jurors reduced the second waterboarding charge to a misdemeanor and acquitted Morse of the suffocation charge.