Craft to land on asteroid
A spacecraft is approaching the surface of an asteroid about 280 million kilometers from Earth. Hayabusa2 began its approach at 1:15pm, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said yesterday. The start was delayed for about five hours for a safety check, but the uncrewed craft is still due to touch down as scheduled this morning. It is to attempt to collect material from the asteroid that could provide clues about the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. Hayabusa2 is aiming for a 6m-wide strip to avoid obstacles on the asteroid, which is about 900m in diameter.
Maternity leave expanded
President Rodrigo Duterte has expanded leave benefits for working new mothers, a move that could bring more women into the workforce in the nation with the least female participation in Southeast Asia. A new law has increased paid maternity leave to 105 days from 60, of which seven can be given to fathers, Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement yesterday. Single mothers would get additional 15 days. Luring and keeping more women in the job market is among government initiatives outlined by National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Ernesto Pernia to boost labor force participation, which dropped last year. The World Bank estimates more than half of Philippine women are not in the labor force.
Rain, flooding kills 26
Torrential rains lashed several cities yesterday, triggering flash floods and leaving at least 26 dead, many swept away by the waters or killed when their roofs collapsed before dawn, authorities said. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province Disaster Management Authority said that 14 people, including children, were killed. Emergency workers were trying to rescue people from flooded parts of Lasbella, authority spokesman Imran Zarqoon said. At least nine people were killed in three incidents of roofs collapsing amid the rains, four of them in the city of Multan, police and rescue services said.
Genetics firm pulls out
Thermo Fisher Scientific said it would no longer sell or service genetic sequencers in Xinjiang following criticism that they were used for surveillance that enabled human rights abuses, the Wall Street Journal reported. The US company cited its “values, ethics code and policies,” the Journal said. Thermo Fisher faced criticism from human rights groups and US lawmakers for supplying the equipment used to identify individuals in Xinjiang.
Last evacuations expected
The last civilians were expected to be evacuated from the Islamic State (IS) group’s final enclave in the east of the country yesterday, clearing the way for US-backed forces to attack militants holed up inside, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said. The village of Baghouz at the Iraqi border is the last scrap of territory left to IS in the Euphrates valley region. Taking it would nudge the eight-year civil war toward a new phase, with US President Donald Trump’s pledge to withdraw troops leaving a security vacuum that other powers could seek to fill. SDF media office head Mustafa Bali told reporters that the SDF would attack once the civilian evacuation is complete. Bali did not say how much more time was needed to finish off the remaining IS militants, nor did he give a fresh estimate of how many fighters remained.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”