Tougher asylum rules sought
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed tougher border controls and streamlined procedures for expelling rejected asylum seekers as critics said that its migration reform plan was an appeasement to some member states. The long-awaited proposal for a “New Pact on Migration and Asylum” came two weeks after fire destroyed an overcrowded camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, and five years after Europe’s last major refugee crisis. It proposes that EU member states that do not want to volunteer to house more refugees — and reduce pressure on Italy and Greece, where most arrivals land — can instead take charge of sending those whose asylum requests are rejected back to their homelands.
Robots target virus
Robots that can eradicate viruses with ultraviolet light have been brought in at one of London’s biggest train stations, St Pancras International, as it tries to restore customer confidence in the safety of travel hubs. “The main thing for us is to get the confidence of customers,” said Jay Newton, head of Stations Engineering and Operations for the High Speed One Channel tunnel rail link. The robots use ultraviolet light to sweep large areas without the need for chemical disinfectant, the station said, adding that the technology clears nearly 100 percent of bacteria and viruses.
Cat blood theft prompts hunt
A man caught on surveillance video is suspected of stealing cat blood from a veterinary clinic in Florida, sheriff’s officials said. The St Johns County Sheriff’s Office posted pictures showing the man who walked up to the door of the Anastasia Cat Clinic on Thursday last week. The man was seen touching and inspecting an Antech Diagnostics blood box before leaving the area, sheriff’s officials said. About 20 minutes later, a truck seen in the parking area and a man wearing the same clothing walked up to the clinic and took the box. The box contained four vials of cat blood, the report said. The vehicle then left the area. The box containing the blood vials amounted to a US$600 loss for the clinic, investigators said.
Orcas knock into sailboats
Yachting has been temporarily prohibited across 100km of the nation’s northwestern coast after orcas apparently got carried away while playing and damaged several sailboats. The Ministry of Transport issued the week-long prohibition for sailboats under 15m long. Biologist Bruno Diaz of the local Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute said that the orcas were most likely just playing a bit too rough. He said that orcas, like other cetaceans such as dolphins, like to swim alongside boats. Running into hulls is rare, but he said it was likely done by “immature teenage” orcas getting rowdy.
Alexei Navalny discharged
Leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who the West believes was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent, has been discharged from hospital after a month and can make a full recovery, his doctors in Berlin said on Wednesday. Navalny spent 32 days in the Charite hospital in the German capital, including 24 days in intensive care, before his release on Tuesday, the hospital said. “Based on the patient’s progress and current condition, the treating physicians believe that complete recovery is possible,” Charite said in a statement.
Two Australians banned
The government has barred entry to two “anti-China” Australian academics: Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske, the Global Times reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources. It added that the decision came after Australia revoked the visas of two local academics over “alleged infiltration” early this month. “This ban is quite unexpected, although I have been on Beijing’s enemy list for some years,” Hamilton said in an e-mail. He added that he decided “two or three years ago” that it would be too dangerous to travel to the nation.
Moon offered olive branch
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday held his first telephone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in since taking office, telling his counterpart that the neighbors should work to resolve their strained ties. The talks, proposed by South Korea, were the first contact in nine months between leaders of the two nations. “I told President Moon that relations between the two countries are in a very severe condition right now and we should not leave this unresolved,” Suga told reporters.
Twitter sued over content
The government yesterday began legal action against Twitter and Facebook for ignoring requests to take down content, in its first such move against major Internet firms. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society filed legal complaints with cybercrime police after the two social media firms missed 15-day deadlines to comply fully with court-issued takedown orders from Aug. 27, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Puttipong Punnakanta said. “Unless the companies send their representatives to negotiate, police can bring criminal cases against them,” Puttipong told reporters. “But if they do, and acknowledge the wrongdoing, we can settle on fines.”
Labor reforms get backing
Lawmakers on Wednesday backed long-pending labor reforms, despite resistance from opposition members and labor advocates over the new rules, which include a measure to make it harder for workers to strike. The new labor codes, which would also make it easier to hire and fire, are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing reform push. The measures are expected to become law later this week. “Several trade unions are apprehensive about the implementation of the code. It has restrictions and difficulty in going legally on strike,” the Press Trust of India quoted Legislator K. Ravindra Kumar as saying. Under the reforms, workers would need to give a 14-day notice period before going on strike.
Gundam robot given trial
A life-size Gundam robot, at 18m tall and a weight of 24 tonnes, has proved to its legions of fans that it really can move. Modeled on one of the robots from the popular 1970s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, the huge machine was this week put through its paces at its new home in Yokohama. Next month, the humanoid is to become the centerpiece at Gundam Factory Yokohama, south of Tokyo, but the COVID-19 pandemic means that it is not to be officially unveiled until later this year, according to the site’s operator. This week, fans were given a sneak preview with a sped-up video showing the towering creation taking a knee, and moving its right arm and fingers, watched by workers on a nearby observation deck.
‘SPIKES’: Rudy Giuliani at a hearing asked about voting data in Pennsylvania, with a witness saying that 570,000 votes they selected were for Biden and 3,200 for Trump US president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday said that Americans “won’t stand” for attempts to derail the US election outcome, as US President Donald Trump called for results to be overturned. Biden said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, that Americans “have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results.” “The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else,” he said. However, Trump is challenging the results, with lawsuits under way in several states. “We have to turn the election over,” he told a hearing in Pennsylvania. “This election was rigged.” “All we need is
A CAUTIONARY TALE: Bookseller Lam Wing-kee speaks of the danger that his adopted home Taiwan now faces and the ordeal of his detention in China Lam Wing-kee (林榮基) leaned forward in his chair, answering quickly and sharply to issue a warning to the people of his new home, Taiwan. “Be ready now,” Lam said. “We should be more alert as citizens, we should get ready,” the 64-year-old Hong Konger said. “If they can take Hong Kong back, the next place, I feel, is Taiwan.” Late in Taipei at Causeway Bay Books Mark II, on the 10th floor of a nondescript building, Lam, a wiry, gray-haired bookseller, was sitting at his desk with a bemused gaze behind thin oval glasses. The desk was neat, but crowded with books and a
‘POLICE EVERYWHERE’: A law that would criminalize the publication of images of police officers was passed by the National Assembly and awaits Senate approval Violent clashes erupted in Paris on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black man that shocked France. Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law, which would restrict the publication of police officers’ faces. About 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the French Ministry of the Interior said. Protest organizers said about 500,000 joined nationwide, including 200,000 in the capital. French President Emmanuel Macron late
Not enough beds and not enough doctors: a skyrocketing COVID-19 caseload is pushing hospitals in the Balkans to the cusp of collapse, in chaotic scenes reminding some medics of the region’s 1990s wars. After nearly a year of keeping outbreaks more or less under control, the nightmare scenario that the Balkans feared from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is now starting to unfold. In hard-hit Bosnia-Herzegovina, one doctor described the distress of having to juggle the care of multiple patients whose lives were hanging by a thread. “The situation reminds me of the war, and I’m afraid it could get even worse