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.
‘WITHIN SAFE LIMITS’: Hong Kong is to ask authorities in Guangdong for updates regarding the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant and inform the public of developments The Hong Kong government is closely watching a nearby Chinese nuclear power plant following a news report that it might be leaking, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said yesterday. The plant’s operators have released few details, but nuclear experts have said that based on their brief public statement, the facility might be suffering a leak of gas from fuel rods inside a reactor. Government data showed that radiation levels in Hong Kong were normal on Monday night, Lam said. Data from the Hong Kong Observatory showed radiation levels were still normal yesterday. A French company that helps manage the Taishan Nuclear
Maori might have been the first to discover Antarctica, with connections to the icy continent and its surrounding oceans stretching back to the seventh century, researchers say. A new paper by University of Otago combines literature and oral histories, and concludes that Maori were likely the first people to explore Antarctica’s surrounding waters and possibly the continent in the distance. They write that Maori and Polynesian journeys to the deep south have been occurring for a long time, perhaps as far back as the 7th century, and are recorded in a variety of oral traditions. The oral histories of Maori groups Ngti Rrua
Until recently, the location of executed Japanese prime minister Hideki Tojo’s remains was one of World War II’s biggest mysteries in the nation he once led. Now, a Japanese university professor has revealed declassified US military documents that appear to hold the answer. The documents show the cremated ashes of Tojo, one of the masterminds of the Pearl Harbor attack, were scattered from a US Army aircraft over the Pacific Ocean about 50km east of Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city. It was a tension-filled, highly secretive mission, with US officials taking extreme steps to keep Tojo’s remains, and those of six others executed
In India’s capital, New Delhi, thousands of commuters yesterday crowded into underground train stations and shopping malls, prompting some doctors to say that it could lead to a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. Major Indian cities have begun lifting strict lockdowns as the nationwide tally of new infections has dropped to its lowest level in more than two months. However, disease experts and doctors have cautioned that a race toward resuming business as usual would compromise vaccination efforts, as only about 5 percent of all 950 million eligible adults have been inoculated. Doctors have said New Delhi’s near-complete reopening is concerning. The city’s authorities