February 13, 2019

India Citizenship Amendment Bill dropped amid protests

India Citizenship Amendment Bill dropped amid protests Image copyright Reuters Image caption The lapsing of the bill is a major U-turn by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party India's government has quietly shelved a controversial amendment to its citizenship bill after violent protests in the north-east of the country. The bill was aimed at helping Hindus and other minorities move to India from neighbouring Muslim-majority countries. The legislation cleared parliament's lower house but the ruling BJP failed to enact it in the upper house, which ended its term without hearing it. The move marks a major about-turn ahead of general elections due by May. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah told a rally as recently as last month the bill would be pushed through regardless of protests. The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says the BJP seems to have miscalculated just how unpopular the bill would be with people in the north-east, who argued they would be requi..
February 13, 2019

Maria Ressa: Head of Philippines news site Rappler arrested

Maria Ressa: Head of Philippines news site Rappler arrested Image copyright Reuters Image caption Maria Ressa was arrested in Rappler's headquarters in Manila. The CEO of Rappler, a news website critical of the government in the Philippines, has been arrested at its headquarters in Manila. Maria Ressa said the accusation of "cyber-libel" is an attempt by Rodrigo Duterte's government to silence the publication. It is the latest in a string of charges against her for various alleged crimes, including tax evasion. Rappler journalists live-streamed the arrest on Facebook and Twitter. Footage streamed on Facebook showed plain-clothes party officials speaking with Maria Ressa, while several of the site's journalists live-tweeted what was happening. Officers from the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) reportedly ordered them to stop filming and taking photos. Miriam Grace Go, Rappler's news editor, tweeted that NBI agents had taken Ms Ressa off Rappler's propert..
February 13, 2019

New ‘mysterious’ frog species discovered in India’s Western Ghats

New 'mysterious' frog species discovered in India's Western Ghats Indian researchers have discovered a new species of frog - in a roadside puddle. Sonali Garg, a PhD student at Delhi University, and her supervisor SD Biju found the new species in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot in southern India. The species belongs to a new Indian frog group or genus which the scientists have named Mysticellus. The name is derived from Latin and means mysterious and diminutive. The scientists discovered the narrow-mouthed frog after three years of extensive explorations, and have confirmed that it represents an entirely new species and genus of microhylid frogs. 'Dancing' tadpoles discovered in India 'Extinct' frog rediscovered in India India's maverick 'frog man' The new genus is currently known only in a single locality. "Our discovery of this new frog genus from one of the most explored and researched regions in the Western Ghats indicat..
February 13, 2019

Thailand election: Princess Ubolratana and the party power play

Thailand election: Princess Ubolratana and the party power play Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Princses Ubolratana is now out of the prime ministerial race Until last Friday, expectations of next month's general election in Thailand had been underwhelming. The military clique which seized power nearly five years ago had spent that time crafting a constitution and electoral system specifically to ensure its influence extended over future governments regardless of the outcome of the election. It also did this to minimise the seats that could be won by parties allied to its nemesis - former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who now lives in exile. Those parties included a new one, Thai Raksa Chart, which was established in November last year with the aim of getting around the ceiling on party list seats that can be won, a ceiling that in particular affects the main pro-Thaksin party Pheu Thai. Everyone knew Thai Raksa Chart was just another vehicle for Mr Thaksin and h..
February 13, 2019

PNG is missing almost 300 cars after international summit

PNG is missing almost 300 cars after international summit Image copyright AirBridgeCargo Image caption Thankfully, the Maserati cars are said to be fine Police in Papua New Guinea are seeking the return of almost 300 cars, which were loaned to officials during last year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit. The luxury fleet was imported so visiting world leaders could be driven around in style. But a police commander said on Tuesday that 284 vehicles are missing. The cars include Landcruisers, Fords, Mazdas and Pajeros, Superintendent Dennis Corcoran said. A special police unit has been assembled to find them in Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby. "There are 284 vehicles that were issued to personnel to use during Apec that haven't been returned as yet," superintendent Dennis Corcoran, told news agency Reuters. What is Papua New Guinea like? PNG plays unlikely host to major summit The most dangerous city to be a woman? Fortunately the priciest cars ..
February 13, 2019

Christmas Island: Australia ‘to re-open’ controversial detention centre

Christmas Island: Australia 'to re-open' controversial detention centre Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Christmas Island detention centre operated from 2003-2018 Australian PM Scott Morrison says he will re-open a controversial detention centre on Christmas Island, after a historic defeat in parliament. On Tuesday, non-government MPs secured enough votes to pass a bill making it easier for sick refugees held offshore to be treated in the country. Mr Morrison said the law would weaken the nation's tough border policies and embolden human traffickers. Opponents accused him of spreading fear before an impending election. Since 2013, Australia has sent asylum seekers arriving by boat to detention centres on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and Nauru. It previously also sent detainees to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean which is about 2,600km (1,600 miles) from the mainland and 300km south of Indonesia. The UN has criticised Austra..
February 13, 2019

Thailand’s Princess Ubolratana ‘sad’ about election fallout

Thailand's Princess Ubolratana 'sad' about election fallout Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Princess Ubolratana's bid to run for prime minister was branded "inappropriate" The sister of Thailand's king has said she is "saddened" that her bid to be the country's next prime minister has created "a problem that shouldn't happen in this day and age". Princess Ubolratana was disqualified by the country's Election Commission on Monday. Her unprecedented nomination broke with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics. King Vajiralongkorn had called her bid "extremely inappropriate". Posting on her private Instagram account, the princess wrote: "I am sad that the sincere intention to work for the country and us Thais has created a problem that shouldn't happen in this day and age." The photo she posted - of a scenic garden - also included the hashtag #HowComeItsTheWayItIs. Last week, Thailand's elect..
February 12, 2019

Trade war: Trump ‘could extend’ deadline for deal with China

Trade war: Trump 'could extend' deadline for deal with China Image copyright Getty Images US President Donald Trump has said he could extend the 1 March deadline to reach a trade deal with China if they are making good progress. Chinese and US officials will hold high-level talks this week aimed at halting their damaging trade war. US officials previously said 1 March was a hard deadline for achieving a deal to avert further tariffs. Both countries have imposed duties on billions of dollars worth of one another's goods. Deputy-level talks began this week in Beijing. High-level discussions, led by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, are due to begin on Thursday as both sides rush to make progress before the 1 March deadline. "If we're close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal and it's going to get done, I could see myself letting that slide for a little while," Mr Trump said referring to the March 1 deadline. "..
February 12, 2019

Valentine’s Day: Japan falling out of love with ‘obligation chocolates’

Valentine's Day: Japan falling out of love with 'obligation chocolates' Image copyright Getty Images Around the world, people use chocolate treats to express sweet nothings on Valentine's Day. But in Japan, it's a little more complicated. On Valentine's Day, only women give chocolate, and not just to their partners, but to their male colleagues too. Critics say the practice sucks all the fun out of Valentine's Day and instead turns it into a dreary duty where women risk offending co-workers if they leave someone out. Others say "giri choco", which translates to "obligation chocolate" is a little misunderstood, and besides, it's slowly fading as women opt to give chocolate to their friends instead. 'Obligation chocolate'Of course, giving chocolate on Valentine's Day can also be a romantic gesture. Women will often give "honmei choco" or "true feelings chocolate" to their partners. But giri choco is more about expressing apprecia..
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