Chinese planes fly close
Tokyo scrambled military jets yesterday to counter three Chinese military planes that flew near its airspace, defense officials said. One Y-8 information-gathering plane and two H-6 bombers flew over the East China Sea, traveling in international airspace between southern islands and went to the Pacific Ocean before returning toward China on the same route yesterday morning, a Joint Staff of the Ministry of Defense spokesman said. “They flew above public seas, and there was no violation of our airspace,” he said, declining to release more details about the incident.
Aid groups demand access
Nearly 130 organizations have called for immediate and permanent humanitarian access to civilians to help relieve the immense suffering caused by the country’s civil war. The 128 groups making the appeal include UN agencies and relief organizations from around the world. In a statement released yesterday, the groups urge all sides in the conflict “to listen to the voice of the international community as expressed unanimously through the Security Council.” The UN says more than 9 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Yunnan vice governor probed
A province vice governor is being investigated, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) internal disciplinary body announced yesterday, the latest high-ranking official to fall in a high-profile anti-graft campaign. Shen Peiping (沈培平), vice governor of Yunnan, was suspected of “serious disciplinary and legal violations,” the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a one-sentence statement on its Web site. The phrase is usually a euphemism for corruption, an issue which causes widespread public anger. Shen was born in Yunnan and has been vice governor of the province since last year, according to the provincial government Web site.
Tuna quota to be cut
Plans are underway to slash by half the amount of juvenile bluefin tuna taken from the Northern Pacific starting next year, compared to the 2002 to 2004 average, reports said yesterday. The Fisheries Agency has decided to increase protection for bluefin tuna amid international concerns about declining stocks, according to major media, including the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun. Studies have found bluefin tuna stocks, prized by sushi lovers, have fallen dramatically, with juveniles forming the majority of specimens now being caught, pushing the species closer to extinction. Last year, an international conference agreed to cut each nation’s quota for juvenile bluefin tuna this year by more than 15 percent from the 2002 to 2004 average, according to Kyodo News. The plan is aimed at encouraging other nations to adopt bigger cuts in their tuna catch quota, Kyodo said.
Anti-nuclear rally held
Banging on drums and waving “Sayonara nukes” signs, thousands of people rallied in a Tokyo park and marched to parliament to demand an end to nuclear power ahead of the third anniversary of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster. The demonstration yesterday, planned across the country is one of many such protests that have erupted since the March 11, 2011, nuclear disaster. The government has expressed interest in restarting some of the country’s 48 idled reactors. Oil imports have soared since the disaster, hurting the economy.
No guarantee of deal: Ashton
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton yesterday said there is “no guarantee” that talks with the country on its disputed nuclear program will lead to a comprehensive agreement. “This interim agreement is really important, but not as important as a comprehensive agreement [which is] ... difficult, challenging and there is no guarantee that we will succeed,” Ashton told a joint news conference in Tehran with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Javad Zarif. Negotiators are trying to reach a final accord in the coming months.
Domestic violence protested
Protesters took to the streets of Beirut on Saturday on International Women’s Day to demand better protection for women amid an uproar over husbands murdering their wives. The march by about 4,000 women, men and children from the National Museum to the Palace of Justice, was led by mothers and other relatives of women they said had been the victims of domestic violence. Urging parliament to adopt a bill that would set prison terms of up to 25 years with forced labor for men convicted of murdering a female relative, many women wept as they walked. The bill, which has languished after being approved by a parliamentary committee last year, would also create a specialized police agency to deal with abuse and permit women to seek civil damages in abuse cases. The country is viewed as one of the Middle East’s most liberal, but no law protects women from abuse or violence by their fathers, husbands or brothers. Women who do contact the police for help in domestic violence cases are often laughed at.
Tymoshenko treated in Berlin
Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has arrived in Berlin for medical treatment, a hospital official said on Saturday. The face of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, who suffers from herniated discs, started medical examinations on Saturday morning, said Karl-Max Einhaupl, director of the Charite University Hospital, Berlin. “We have confidence that she will be able to walk freely again,” he said. Tymoshenko, 53, was freed from prison on Feb. 23, having served three years of a seven-year sentence for abuse of power, charges she always denied. Immediately after her release, she appeared in a wheelchair in Kiev’s Independence Square to address protesters in Ukraine’s capital. Tymoshenko also met with Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend on the sidelines of the European People’s Party congress in Dublin.
‘Arab Jon Stewart’ jammed
A Saudi-owned satellite network says the signal of its affiliate in the country was deliberately jammed while it aired the country’s top satirical program. Middle East Broadcasting Center spokesman Mazen Hayek on Saturday said that the network’s satellite carrier identified small satellite transmitters in two Cairo locations as the cause of the jamming during satirist Bassem Youssef’s show, called The Program in Arabic. Hayek said it was not possible to identify who was behind the jamming. He called the jamming of “a form of terrorism.” Youssef, often compared to US comedian Jon Stewart, has faced legal challenges over his skewering of politicians. A private TV station suspended his show last fall. The Saudi broadcaster began airing his show last month.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and