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.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory