September 19, 2019

Asia

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The cataclysm that created a Korean icon

Asia
MOUNT PAEKTU, North Korea: North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests, but by far the greatest explosion ever seen on the peninsula took place more than 1,000 years ago and created the stark, serene beauty of Mount Paektu.The volcano that now straddles the border with China erupted in 946 AD with apocalyptic fire and fury in what scientists consider one of the five largest volcanic events in human history.Bigger than Krakatoa in 1883, it ejected enough material to bury Greater London to a depth of 60m, and caused temporary climate change in the region.Material from the blast has been found in ice cores from Greenland, on the other side of the world.It left behind a spectacular caldera, with steep walls plunging down from the rim to the shores of Chonji crater lake - Heaven Lake in English - with the China frontier running through its placid blue waters.
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Southeast Asia’s ‘coolest neighbourhood’ wins hearts in Bangkok with hipness and old world charm

Asia
BANGKOK: To walk along Soi Pridi Banomyong is not to enter some urban utopia. Uneven footpaths and lumbering traffic are part of the scenery here, just like they are throughout much of Bangkok.  This neighbourhood will not win hearts in an instant. And that might be its greatest attribute. A deep dive beyond its concrete facade is to discover how urban renewal can bring excitement and passion to a community without compromising its identity. This week, it was selected by global Time Out Magazine as the world's 12th “coolest neighbourhood”, the highest selection in Southeast Asia. The list was compiled using the opinions and guidance of the magazine’s editors, writers and readers and was based on cultural and culinary criteria, the emergence of new venues and exciting events, and a neighbourhood’s affordability to travel to and live in. 
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Palm oil to blame for 39% of forest loss in Borneo since 2000: Study

Asia
KUALA LUMPUR: The palm oil industry was responsible for at least 39 per cent of forest loss in biodiversity-rich Borneo island between 2000 and 2018, data from an Indonesia-based research firm shows.The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) data, published this month via its Borneo Atlas tool, comes as a smoky haze has spread across Southeast Asia from fires in Borneo and others parts of Indonesia, causing a drop in air quality to unhealthy levels in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.Some palm oil farmers have been accused of using slash-and-burn methods to clear land for planting. The palm oil industry has long been blamed for encroaching on rainforests in Borneo, endangering wildlife such as orangutans and pygmy elephants.
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South Korean murders investigated by 1.8m officers may finally be solved

Asia
South Korean police believe they may have solved the case of a notorious serial killer who raped and murdered women around 30 years ago. Some 1.8m police officers were mobilised from 1986 to 1991 to investigate 10 women's deaths in rural parts of Hwaseong, south of Seoul.New DNA tests linked Lee Chun-jae, 56, to at least three of the killings.The suspect is already serving a life sentence for raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1994. He has denied the allegations and cannot be prosecuted, as the statute of limitations for the crime have expired. The killings, with victims ranging from teenagers to a woman in her 70s, went on to inspire an award-winning movie, Memories of Murder.Police investigated some 21,000 people during the case and compared the fingerprints of around 20,000 more without success
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Haze from Indonesian fires reaches southern Thailand

Asia
HAT YAI: The southern Thai provinces of Yala and Songkhla have been hit by haze from Indonesia's forest fires, with the PM2.5 air quality readings there exceeding the safety level of 50.According to the Pollution Control Department on Thursday (Sep 19), the PM2.5 level in Hai Yai, Songkhla was at 77 microgrammes (mcg) per cubic metre of air, the highest of the nine southern provinces being monitored by the agency.The PM2.5 reading was 59 in Mueang District in Yala province. These numbers were an improvement from Wednesday, when the readings hit 100mcg, double the designated safe limit in Thailand. Haze Watch for Southern Thailand, an air pollution research centre in Songkhla, urged residents in Songkhla, Satun, Yala and Pattani to refrain from outdoor activities, reported Associated Press. 
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Malaysia, Indonesia shut thousands of schools over haze

Asia
KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of schools were shuttered across Malaysia and Indonesia on Thursday (Sep 19), affecting at least 1.7 million pupils, officials said, as toxic haze from rampant forest fires sent air quality plummeting.Nearly 2,500 schools were ordered to shut their doors in Malaysia - including nearly 300 in the smog-hit capital Kuala Lumpur - over soaring health concerns sparked by toxic haze from out-of-control blazes in Indonesia's Sumatra and Borneo islands.Indonesia said hundreds of schools in hard-hit Riau province on Sumatra would also be shut on Thursday, with 800 closed in one district alone, while about 1,300 were shut in its Central Kalimantan province on Borneo.The closures affected at least 1.7 million students in Malaysia. It was not clear how many pupils were forced to stay home in neighbouring Indonesia.
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Solomons leader may miss UN general assembly amid China 'switch' decision fallout: Sources

Asia
SYDNEY: Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare may miss the United Nations General Assembly in New York, two parliamentary sources said, amid rising tension in the Pacific nation over its decision to sever ties with Taiwan and align with Beijing.The Solomons' decision to switch diplomatic ties drew immediate criticism from the United States, and has even sparked calls by protesters in one major island province to seek independence from the rest of the archipelago.The prime minister's office said in a statement to Reuters that it could not confirm who would represent the Solomon Islands in New York.Sogavare's grip on power could also be tested if he left the country, due to a parliamentary system that relies on maintaining alliances to retain power.
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Indonesia sports minister resigns after becoming graft suspect: President

Asia
JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday (Sep 19) said his sports minister had resigned after being named a bribery suspect by the country's anti-corruption agency.It was the second cabinet minister engulfed in the graft case, which has been a blow to Widodo, Indonesia's first president to come from outside the political or military establishment. He came to power in 2014 with the promise of clean, effective government.The Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian initials KPK, named the minister Imam Nahrawi and his assistant as suspects on Wednesday."We will decide on whether we will replace him or have an interim minister, but I was delivered the letter of resignation," Widodo told reporters.
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Bangkok neighbourhood voted “coolest” in Southeast Asia by Time Out Magazine

Asia
Southeast Asia’s “coolest neighbourhood”, as selected by Time Out Magazine, is in the Thai capital Bangkok. It’s winning hearts with its hipster vibe and old world charm. Read more on this: https://cna.asia/2M4NL35
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China still planning new coal power projects: Environmental groups

Asia
SHANGHAI: China's total planned coal-fired power projects now stand at 226.2 gigawatts (GW), the highest in the world and more than twice the amount of new capacity on the books in India, according to data published by environmental groups on Thursday (Sep 19).The projects approved by China amount to nearly 40 per cent of the world's total planned coal-fired power plants, according to the Global Coal Exit List database run by German environmental organisation Urgewald and 30 other partner organisations.The new China projects would be more than Germany's existing installed power capacity of around 200 GW by the end of 2018.The environmental groups said in a press release on Thursday that worldwide, 400 of the 746 companies in their database were still planning to expand their coal operations.
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Malaysia, Indonesia close thousands of schools as toxic haze intensifies

Asia
Air quality deteriorated to ‘unhealthy’ or ‘very unhealthy’ levels on an official index in many parts of Peninsular Malaysia, as Indonesia deploys thousands of security forces and water-bombing aircraft to tackle plantation fires.
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Toddler, teen killed in Papua clash: Indonesian military

Asia
JAKARTA: A toddler and teenager were among three people killed in a gunfight between security forces and independence-seeking rebels in Indonesia's restive Papua region, the military said on Thursday (Sep 19).The deadly clash comes after mass demonstrations and violence gripped Papua - on the western half of New Guinea island - fuelled by anger over racism and fresh calls for self-rule in Indonesia's easternmost territory.The military said three civilians were killed, including a toddler and teenager, with four others wounded after a clash in Papua's Ilaga region on Tuesday.Police and soldiers were searching for rebels when a group of guerrillas stormed out of a traditional hut and fired at them, sparking a chaotic gunfight, authorities said.
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Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

Asia
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push its Southeast Asian neighbours to strengthen cooperation in finding a long-term solution for smog wafted across the region from forest fires in Indonesia, its environment minister said on Thursday (Sep 19). In the past few weeks, Malaysia and Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations, forcing schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles."I will have a conference call with the ASEAN secretary-general to raise our views and also express our hope for a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level for a long-term solution," Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin told a news conference, but did not elaborate on other participants.
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Vaping devices still available on Amazon, Flipkart after India ban

Asia
NEW DELHI: Some vaping products were still listed on the Indian websites of Amazon.com Inc and Walmart's Flipkart on Thursday (Sep 19), while several other websites discontinued their sales a day after the government's nationwide ban.Warning of an "epidemic" among young people, India banned sale, production, import and advertising of e-cigarettes, dealing a blow to the plans of companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International to sell the products in the country.Websites such as Vapestop and Litejoy, which offered vaping products online, discontinued their operations and ran disclaimers on their websites related to the government order.However, it was still possible to purchase vaping devices from the e-commerce websites of Amazon.com and Flipkart, according to product listings reviewed by Reuters on Thursday.
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Indonesia returning hundreds of containers of waste to West

Asia
JAKARTA: Indonesia is sending back hundreds of containers of contaminated waste to the West after shipments supposedly containing plastic meant for recycling were found to hide hazardous substances, customs officials said.Among more than 2,000 containers checked by authorities at four ports from July to mid-September, nearly 550 contained hazardous material or non-plastic waste.More than 300 containers have already been repatriated, officials said."Imported waste mixed with trash or hazardous waste must be re-exported," said Heru Pambudi, Director General of Customs and Excise.Authorities were taking action against three companies involved in the shipments.Australia has been the biggest source of the toxic materials, Pambudi said, but other shipments would be sent back to the United States, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Slovenia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Hong Kong, France and Britain.
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The Kashmiris detained more than 700km away from home

Asia
India's federal government is believed to have detained thousands of people including activists, local politicians and businessmen in Indian-administered Kashmir since it stripped the region of its autonomy on 5 August. Many have even been moved to jails elsewhere in India. BBC Hindi's Vineet Khare visited one such prison in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. It was a hot and sultry Friday morning in Agra, a crowded and dusty city in Uttar Pradesh that is also home to the Taj Mahal. The occasional breeze made the weather bearable - but not for the dozen men and women from the Kashmir valley, where the temperature is around 18C in September. In Agra, it touches 35C.The Kashmiris sat in a large waiting hall outside the imposing gate of the Agra Central Jail, and patiently waited their turn for a brief reunion with jailed family members.
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Afghanistan war: Deadly Taliban attack 'destroys' hospital

Asia
At least 10 people have died after a truck packed with explosives was detonated by Taliban militants outside a hospital in southern Afghanistan.Many of the victims in the attack on Qalat city were doctors and patients, according to local media reports.The Taliban have said they were targeting government intelligence offices, next door to the hospital.The group has been carrying out near daily attacks amid crumbling peace talks and ahead of national elections.On Tuesday, the group targeted an election rally where President Ashraf Ghani had been due to speak, leaving 26 people dead. Earlier this month US President Donald Trump cited a Taliban attack in Kabul which killed a US soldier and 11 others on 6 September as his reason for pulling out of peace talks aimed at ending the 18-year conflict.
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Taliban truck bomb kills at least 20 in southern Afghanistan

Asia
KABUL: A Taliban truck bomb killed at least 20 people and wounded 95 when it exploded near a hospital in southern Afghanistan on Thursday (Sep 19), a provincial official said, with casualties expected to rise as rescuers sift the rubble.The Taliban, who have been carrying out nearly daily attacks since the collapse of peace talks with the United States this month, said the target was a nearby building of the government's intelligence department in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province."The bomb was huge and it was carried by a mini-truck," said a senior defence ministry official in the capital, Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media.The militants wanted to target a training base for Afghanistan's powerful National Directorate of Security, but parked the vehicle laden with explosives outside a hospital gate nearby, said another defence ministry source.
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Japan and US drills simulate response to a seaborne invasion, reflecting anxieties about China

Asia
The military exercises underline Japan’s resolve to protect the integrity of its territory, against the backdrop of its long-running dispute with China over the sovereignty of a small archipelago in waters between the nations.
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Among the believers in North Korea's 'holy land'

Asia
MOUNT PAEKTU, North Korea: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's father and predecessor is said to have been born in a simple wooden hut on the slopes of a sacred mountain, and guide Kim Un Sim has no doubts: "Welcome to our holy land".The North is avowedly atheist, with its own Juche ideology proclaiming that "Man is the master of all things", but quasi-religious terminology abounds at Mount Paektu, a dormant volcano straddling the border with China.It has long been considered the spiritual birthplace of the Korean nation and - according to Pyongyang's orthodoxy - Kim Jong Il, son of the North's founder Kim Il Sung, came into the world at a secret guerrilla camp on its slopes, where his father was directing the fight against Korea's Japanese colonial overlords.
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Fukushima disaster: Nuclear executives found not guilty

Asia
More than eight years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a Japanese court has cleared three former executives of the firm operating the plant of professional negligence.It was the only criminal case to arise out of the disaster, which was the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.In 2011 a plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) was hit by a tsunami causing a triple meltdown. More than 470,000 were evacuated from their homes as a result. Nearly 18,500 people died or are missing from the wider disaster. The three former executives - ex-chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and vice-presidents Sakae Muto, 66 and Ichiro Takekuro, 71 - were indicted for failing to implement tsunami countermeasures leading to the deaths of 44 people.
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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backs Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act

Asia
WASHINGTON: House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a news conference on Wednesday (Sep 18) with House members as well as Joshua Wong, Denise Ho and other Hong Kong activists to back the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019."Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate enthusiastically support this legislation," Pelosi said. "We stand with ... all who are fighting for a peaceful, hopeful future."The activists have spent much of this week in Washington making their case for U.S. support, including testifying at a congressional hearing on Tuesday. U.S. congressional committees are due to start voting next week on the legislation supporting human rights in Hong Kong, with measures under consideration including annual reviews of the Chinese territory's special economic status and the imposition of sanctions on those who undermine its autonomy.
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Where are Chinese tourists going if they’re giving protest-hit Hong Kong a miss?

Asia
Several big winners have emerged in Southeast Asia as mainland holidaymakers eye alternatives amid Hong Kong’s escalating violence. However, with the US-China trade war pinching purses across the region, people might be travelling, but are they spending?
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Japan court acquits ex-TEPCO executives over Fukushima disaster

Asia
TOKYO: A Japanese court on Thursday (Sep 19) acquitted three former officials from the firm that operated the Fukushima nuclear plant, in the only criminal trial to stem from the 2011 disaster.The three former executives from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) had faced up to five years in prison if convicted of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.The court is expected to explain its reasoning for the ruling shortly.In the wake of the verdict, dozens of protesters including some from the Fukushima region, who had gathered before the session began, expressed shock."I cannot accept this," one woman said into a microphone, addressing the rally.The three men are the only people to face criminal prosecution over the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
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Indonesia haze: Breathing in south east Asia's hazardous smoke

Asia
Every year, fires in Indonesia create a smoky haze that can end up blanketing the region, choking millions of people. It's caused serious long-term health problems, and authorities have tried to clamp down - so why is it still happening?Video by Tessa Wong
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Cambodia to curb recruitment fees in bid to protect migrants from slavery abroad

Asia
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia is planning to cap hefty recruitment fees imposed by labour brokers on people seeking jobs abroad in a bid to curb illegal migration and protect workers from modern-day slavery.More than two million Cambodians are estimated to be living and working abroad - most of them in Thailand - where hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are undocumented due to the high costs and therefore vulnerable to labour abuses, activists say.Cambodians who migrate to Thailand through official channels pay recruitment agencies about US$650 to facilitate the move, while those who make their own way across the border spend as little as US$30, said advocacy group the Mekong Migration Network.
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China to tap pork reserves as swine fever hits industry

Asia
China is set to release pork supplies from its central reserves as it moves to tackle soaring prices and shortages caused by an outbreak of swine fever.A state-owned firm will auction 10,000 tonnes of frozen pork from its strategic reserves on Thursday.China, the world's biggest producer and consumer of pork, has struggled to control the spread of the disease. Beijing has slaughtered more than 1 million pigs in a bid to contain the incurable pig virus. The highly contagious disease is not dangerous to humans, but has hit China's crucial pig-farming industry and driven up costs for consumers. Pork prices jumped 46.7% in August on a year earlier, official figures showed. In a bid to stabilise prices, a state-owned company that manages the pork reserves will auction imported frozen pork from countries including Denmark, France, the US and UK.
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US lays down line with China on next Dalai Lama

Asia
WASHINGTON: As Tibetans start grappling with the once unthinkable prospect of the octogenarian Dalai Lama's passing, the United States is looking to lay down a red line against China handpicking his successor.Through a warning from a senior official and legislation under consideration in Congress, the United States is hoping to make clear in advance that Beijing would face international opprobrium if it tries to take over the reincarnation process.At 84, the 14th Dalai Lama has slowed his once incessant travel down a notch and earlier this year was hospitalised for a chest infection, although there is no indication he faces serious health issues. Nonetheless, both Tibetan activists and Beijing are keenly aware that his death will mark a major setback in his push for more autonomy for the Himalayan region, depriving the cause of a Nobel Prize winner whose moral teachings and idiosyncratic humour have made him one of the world's most popular religious leaders.
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Hong Kong central bank follows Fed cut, hopes for calm amid protests

Asia
HONG KONG: The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) cut interest rates for the second time this year on Thursday (Aug 19) and sought to lower borrowing costs for small businesses, as the economy took a knock from months of anti-government protests and fallout from US-China trade tensions.HKMA lowered its base rate charged through the overnight discount window by 25 basis points to 2.25 per cent, hours after the US Federal Reserve delivered a rate cut of the same margin.Hong Kong's monetary policy moves in lock-step with the United States' as the city's currency is pegged to the greenback. The Fed cut rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday "to provide insurance against ongoing risks" such as weak global growth and the Sino-US trade war.
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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern gets Japan and China confused during official visit

Asia
The timing was unfortunate for Ardern: a report released by the Asia New Zealand Foundation questioned whether New Zealand had allowed its relationship with Japan to ‘drift’ with more attention being paid to China.
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Why 'hypebeasts' have fallen for Asian streetwear

Asia
Flight attendant Marc Aw is a committed "hypebeast".Before you possibly have to search online for what that slang word means, a hypebeast is someone who avidly buys and collects the latest clothing releases from the world of streetwear.A specific fashion genre, streetwear is a style of comfortable, casual clothing inspire by skateboarding, surfing, hip-hop, punk and other subcultures.Think hoodies, t-shirts, trainers, and tracksuit bottoms, but made in limited quantities by companies who aim for a distinct style and ethos.It originated in the US before going global in the 1990s. Today the market is still led by US heavyweights such as Supreme and Stussy, but in recent years a growing number of new Asian labels have entered the sphere. And their sales are rising strongly.
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Bangladesh rural poor bear financial burden of climate change: Study

Asia
DHAKA: Poor, rural Bangladeshis are spending far more than the government and aid agencies to combat the impact of climate change, diverting what little money they have away from basic needs, a study said on Thursday (Sep 19).Bangladesh - a densely populated and impoverished low-lying nation of 168 million people - is among the most vulnerable to global warming with rising sea levels threatening coastal villages.In a study billed as the first of its kind in comparing household spending to public financing, researchers found rural families were shelling out an average US$2 billion a year to address the impact of climate change.In contrast, Dhaka's budget for climate change in rural areas for 2018-2019 was US$1.46 billion, while international financing was an estimated US$154 million annually, the report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) found.
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Huawei eyes computer market as US squeezes telecom business

Asia
Shanghai - Huawei will step up its presence in the global market for computer hardware, a top company official said on Wednesday, as the Chinese telecom giant weathers a US assault on its 5G network and smartphone business.Deputy chairman Ken Hu said the strategy is based on expectations that "incredible computing power" is going to be needed as the world turns to complicated and resource-hogging future technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles."We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. We need to beef up our computing power, explore new architectures, and develop processors that meet people's needs across all scenarios," Hu said at a tech conference in Shanghai. Huawei is already the world leader in telecom networking equipment, the number two smartphone producer, and is expected to dominate in ultra-fast future 5G networks.
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South Korea serial killer suspect identified after 33 years

Asia
SEOUL: South Korean police have identified a suspect in one of the country's most notorious serial murder cases more than 30 years after the first of the 10 killings, they said Thursday (Sep 19).Between 1986 and 1991 more than two million police officers - a record for a single case - were mobilised to try and find the person who raped and murdered women in rural parts of Hwaseong, south of Seoul.They investigated some 21,000 individuals and compared the fingerprints of around 20,000 more without success, and the case inspired South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho's 2003 box office hit "Memories of Murder".But using the latest forensic techniques to retrieve DNA from long-past crimes officers have identified Lee Chun-jae, 56, as a suspect in at least three of the killings, said Ban Gi-soo of the Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency.
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The state of the super-app race in Southeast Asia

Asia
Grab is ahead of Gojek by a wide margin in Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing race, according to new data. However, that segment is unprofitable and its growth is slowing.
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Justin Trudeau apologises after brownface photo surfaces

Asia
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologised on Wednesday (Sep 18) after a 2001 photo of him wearing brownface makeup surfaced. He was at an annual dinner party which had a costume theme of 'Arabian Nights'. (Video: Reuters) Full story: https://cna.asia/2Oat7BE
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Hong Kong protests: The Taiwanese sending 2,000 gas masks

Asia
Soft-spoken, bespectacled, and based 650km (400 miles) from Hong Kong, Alex Ko is far removed from the widespread protests sweeping the former British colony.But he's exactly the kind of person China is worried about.In recent weeks, when protesters were battling police on the streets of Hong Kong demanding universal suffrage, and their freedoms to be preserved by China, Mr Ko, 23, didn't just watch idly online.He launched a donation drive for gas masks, air filters and helmets at his church.He's since collected more than 2,000 sets of such gear, and sent them to Hong Kong protesters to protect them against tear gas regularly fired by the police."I've never been to Hong Kong, but I feel I have no reason not to care," he says.
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Firefighters on frontline of Indonesia’s peatland blaze face uphill battle

Asia
PEKANBARU, Riau: Long after the visible flames were extinguished, Muhammad Rahman Solihin lingered, vigilantly watching his team of firefighters as they again doused down the ash-strewn ground beneath them.The 10ha of burnt forest, in the village of Rimbo Panjang in Riau province sat on a peatland instead of solid ground, Mr Solihin explained.The layers of decomposed plants found in peatland - which can run up to four metres deep - the firefighter continued, could still be smouldering beneath the surface.“That’s why we wet the surface with a good amount of water to make sure that the underground fires are also put out,” Mr Solihin told CNA on Tuesday (Sep 17). If the sub-surface fires were not well extinguished, they could reignite, he said.
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Netanyahu, Gantz deadlocked in Israeli polls

Asia
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is battling for political survival. General election results have been trickling in over the last few hours. With more than 90 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Netanyahu is trailing behind his main challenger, ex-military officer Benny Gantz.
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Assets under management grows 5.4% in 2018: MAS survey

Asia
Despite a "challenging year" for global financial markets, assets under management in Singapore grew 5.4 per cent in 2018. This is according to a survey by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
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India bans e-cigarettes as global backlash at vaping gathers pace

Asia
NEW DELHI: India banned the sale of electronic cigarettes on Wednesday and warned of an "epidemic" among young people, in the latest and potentially biggest move globally against vaping over growing health concerns.The ban cuts off a huge future market from e-cigarette makers at a time when the number of people smoking worldwide is declining. It could dash the expansion plans of companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International in the country."These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours and their use has increased exponentially and acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children," India's health ministry said.
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Chinese woman pleads guilty in 'birth tourism' case

Asia
A Chinese woman has pleaded guilty in the US to federal charges of running a "birth tourism" scheme for Chinese nationals who paid so their children would be born American citizens.Dongyuan Li admitted her company assisted wealthy Chinese nationals in getting to the US to give birth. Ms Li would give clients training on how to bypass US immigration control and hide their pregnancies.She amassed more than $3m (£2.4m) in wire transfers. Ms Li of California faces up to 15 years in jail when she is sentenced in December. Ms Li admitted that between 2013 and 2015, her company You Win USA Vacation Services would charge Chinese nationals - including government officials - between $40,000 and $80,000 for coaching in how to have a baby in the US.
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Sri Lankan lawmakers to investigate Lotus Tower graft allegation

Asia
COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan parliamentary panel will investigate an allegation of corruption against a Chinese company contracted to work on the construction of South Asia's tallest tower.President Maithripala Sirisena made the allegation at the inauguration on Monday of the 356-metre Lotus Tower, which overlooks Beira Lake in Colombo, sparking a political row in the country, which has relied heavily on China for project finance.Sirisena alleged that Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co (ALIT) had vanished, misappropriating some two billion rupees (US$11 million) deposited with it by Sri Lanka's state-run Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC).Sirisena's predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was in power when the alleged incident took place in 2012, said in a statement that China National Electronics Corporation and ALIT had been nominated by the Chinese government.
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Commentary: Air pollution’s nasty effects should motivate stronger action but hasn’t

Asia
LONDON: Everybody loves a good productivity hack. Clever tips on getting more from each working hour are a well-loved genre, from complicated to-do lists and tomato-shaped timers, to advice on mindfulness and the merits of going barefoot.That’s not to mention the supposed gains in creativity and concentration from surrounding your desk with the colours red and blue.But there is one action that seldom appears on these lists, despite a growing volume of evidence to suggest it has a pronounced effect on both physical and mental productivity: Working in a location with good air quality.IMPACT ON COGNITION AND WORKParticulates — especially fine and ultrafine particles below 2.5 micrometres in diameter — are widely recognised as a long-term health issue, even if many people do not appreciate the scale of the harm or how extensive the evidence has become.
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Singapore Tonight: Business news in brief Sep 18

Asia
Business Briefs on Singapore Tonight, Sep 18: - AIA Group invests in Indonesian ride-hailing firm Gojek - Malindo Air confirms data breach involving 30 million passengers
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Red Bull's Albon sets sights on top-10 finish at Singapore Grand Prix

Asia
Formula One driver Alex Albon has set his sights on a top-10 finish at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend. After being moved into the senior team at Red Bull, the 23-year-old raced to fifth spot in his team debut in Belgium last month.
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Protests in Pakistan's Kasur after boys' bodies found

Asia
Angry crowds have protested in the Pakistani district of Kasur after the bodies of three boys were found.Police have confirmed one was raped before he died. Post-mortem reports on the other two boys are awaited.Kasur in Punjab province has seen a string of child abductions, rapes and murders in recent years.In 2018 the killing of a six-year-old girl prompted widespread outrage, and protests complaining of police incompetence in which two people died.The man executed for raping and murdering the girl, whose name was Zainab, was convicted of similar crimes against six more girls.On Wednesday crowds in the Chunnian area blocked roads and burned tyres after the boys' deaths were confirmed. The local police station was surrounded and pelted with stones.
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6 Firefly flights between Singapore and Malaysia cancelled due to haze

Asia
SINGAPORE: Six Firefly flights between Malaysia and Singapore on Thursday (Sep 18) have been cancelled due to the ongoing haze, the budget carrier said late Wednesday night. Replying to queries from CNA, a Firefly spokesperson said that the company was "looking at reports carefully" to manage possible situations affecting the airspace. "Tomorrow’s first three SZB-XSP (Subang Airport to Seletar Airport) flights are cancelled due to the haze forecast that might result bad visibility," said the spokesperson on Wednesday night. The three flights, FY3122, FY3124 and FY3126, were scheduled to depart Subang at 6.50am, 7.30am and 9.30am respectively.Another three flights scheduled to depart Seletar Airport, FY3123, FY3125 and FY3127, at 8.40am, 9.20am and 11.20am respectively have also been cancelled. 
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Commentary: They are giving up their passports to play football for China but Chinese fans remain skeptical

Asia
SINGAPORE: China’s quest to reach the 2022 World Cup got off to a flying start last week when the national team thrashed Maldives 5-0 in the first qualifying game. The Chinese national team only managed to reach just one World Cup back in 2002 but harbours dreams of getting there again. This time around, they had a trick up their sleeve -  a striker born in Brazil. The striker in question is Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso, who is now known as “Ai Kesen” after becoming a Chinese citizen in August. He is also the first player of non-Chinese heritage to represent the country at football.He is unlikely to be the last - with as many as nine other players going through the process of naturalisation, according to newly elected Chinese Football Association (CFA) president Chen Xuyuan in August.
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Indonesia sending back 547 containers of hazardous waste to wealthy nations, from Australia to the US

Asia
Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the US were among the countries that would see their waste being sent back to them, amid a growing backlash against wealthy nations treating Southeast Asia as a dumping ground.
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Les Amis' Sebastien Lepinoy shares his thoughts on getting 3 Michelin stars

Asia
The Michelin Guide Singapore 2019 has awarded two Singapore restaurants a three-star rating. Ranita Sundramoorthy, Director of Retail and Dining at the Singapore Tourism Board, and Sebastien Lepinoy from Les Amis, one of the winners of the coveted three stars, were in the studio to share their thoughts.
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The countries grappling with their European heritage

Asia
Next month, a fleet of ships will circumnavigate New Zealand to mark 250 years since the arrival of European settlers.Their journey is part of Tuia 250, a NZ$13.5m ($8.5m; £6.8m) government initiative to celebrate New Zealand's "Pacific voyaging heritage". Among the flotilla is a replica of Captain James Cook's HMS Endeavour, which landed in the country in 1769 and led to the first contact between Europeans and indigenous Māoris.But not all plans have proved to be plain sailing.After complaints by Māoris, this week organisers cancelled HMS Endeavour's scheduled stop in the North Island village of Mangonui.Anahera Herbert-Graves, head of the Northland Ngāti Kahu iwi, told the BBC that the idea was "historically confusing and quite rude".
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Chan Chun Sing discusses economic opportunities with Indonesian counterparts in Jakarta

Asia
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has finished a three-day visit to Jakarta, where he discussed economic opportunities with his Indonesian counterparts.
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Millions may risk jail as Indonesia to outlaw sex outside marriage

Asia
JAKARTA: Indonesia is poised to pass a new penal code that criminalises consensual sex outside marriage and introduces stiff penalties for insulting the president's dignity: a move rights groups criticised as an intrusive assault on basic freedoms.Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim majority country and has substantial Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities, but has seen a recent trend towards deeper religious piety and conservative Islamic activism.The new criminal code is due to be adopted in the next week after parliament and the government agreed a final draft on Wednesday, four parliamentarians told Reuters.Lawmakers told Reuters that the new penal code, which would replace a Dutch colonial-era set of laws, was a long overdue expression of Indonesian independence and religiosity.
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Fire breaks out at Johor Bahru shopping mall

Asia
JOHOR BAHRU: A blaze broke out at an exhibitor's display in a popular shopping centre in Johor Bahru on Wednesday (Sep 18) afternoon, setting off fire alarms. Firefighters were called to The Mall, Mid Valley Southkey Johor after the reports of a fire on the ground floor of the shopping centre at around 2.15pm.The blaze was contained by an emergency response team about five minutes later.“As of 4pm, we can confirm that there have been no injuries or casualties reported,” said the shopping centre’s management in a Facebook post. Videos of the incident that were circulated on social media showed a large fire at the Centre Court of the mall. The blaze appeared to have started at a furniture and bedding exhibit.
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Eateries in southern part of Singapore see fewer customers due to haze

Asia
The southern part of Singapore was most affected by the haze for much of the day on Sep 18. Alfresco restaurants in the area said it has taken a toll, with some reporting up to a 50 per cent drop in the number of customers.
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Anwar expects to succeed Mahathir as Malaysian PM by May 2020

Asia
Malaysia's ruling party leader Anwar Ibrahim has said he will succeed Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister by around May next year. In an interview with Bloomberg, the PKR president said he does not foresee any challengers at the moment.
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Malindo Air confirms data breach involving passenger details

Asia
Malaysia’s Malindo Air is investigating a data breach involving potentially millions of passengers. The airline confirmed the breach on Sep 18 after cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said the data was leaked on the Dark Web.
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Asia Tonight: News in brief Sep 18

Asia
News Briefs on Asia Tonight, Sep 18: - Indian government announces ban on e-cigarettes - Indonesia to publish final report on Lion Air crash in November - Climate activist Greta Thunberg meets Barack Obama in Washington
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India e-cigarettes: Ban announced to prevent youth 'epidemic'

Asia
India's cabinet has announced a ban on the production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes, saying they pose a risk to health.An executive order had been approved banning vaping products because of their impact on young people, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.It is not clear if the order will also prohibit the use of vaping equipment.India has more than 100 million adult smokers, making it a huge potential market for e-cigarette companies.Vaping - which involves inhaling a mix typically made of nicotine, water, solvents and flavours - is seen as an alternative to smoking which can help you quit, but its impact on health is still not fully known.The ban will include jail terms of up to three years for offenders. Traditional tobacco products are not affected.
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Singapore couple investigated for wearing T-shirts bearing anti-death penalty messages at running event

Asia
The city state’s laws against dissent and street demonstrations make it illegal for even one person to hold a protest without a police permit.
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Gender diversity in workforce has positive impact on businesses, society: Halimah Yacob

Asia
President Halimah Yacob has said gender diversity in the workforce has a positive impact on businesses and society. She added that Singapore has a key role to play in championing gender equality in Asia.
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Australian hiker with broken leg makes two-day crawl to safety

Asia
An Australian hiker has been rescued after crawling for two days with a broken leg. Neil Parker was hiking alone on Mount Nebo, outside of Brisbane, when he slipped and fell down a six-metre waterfall. He fractured his leg and wrist.
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Risk of no-deal Brexit "remains very real": Juncker

Asia
The EU's top officials handling Brexit negotiations have said the risk of a no-deal exit looms large. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson two days ago, said the UK has still not offered any viable solutions to rewrite a withdrawal agreement.
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Israeli election: Exit polls show Netanyahu, Gantz in tight race

Asia
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is battling for political survival. General election results have been trickling in over the last few hours. With more than 90 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Netanyahu is trailing behind his main challenger, ex-military officer Benny Gantz.
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France's Agnes Pannier-Runacher speaks on government's views on Brexit

Asia
French Secretary of State for Economy and Finance, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, was in the studio to share the country's views on Brexit and other global economic challenges.
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Jakarta to keep growing even after Indonesian capital shifts to Kalimantan

Asia
Indonesia’s capital Jakarta has attracted people from around the archipelago for decades. In 2024, the capital will shift to East Kalimantan province. However, Jakarta is expected to continue growing, with the government allocating an additional US$40 billion for urban regeneration projects over the next 10 years.
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2 nabbed for suspected trafficking of new psychoactive substances

Asia
Two Singaporeans have been arrested for the suspected trafficking of substantial amounts of new psychoactive substances. The Central Narcotics Bureau said the men were nabbed in the vicinity of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 on Sep 16.
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Huge investment not a deterrence for young Singaporeans to achieve F1 dream

Asia
As Formula One rolls into town, some young Singaporeans are pinning their hopes on motor-racing stardom. But those dreams are not cheap - an investment of several million dollars might be required.
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Nearly 300 tap on AIC's study grant to upgrade skills since 2017

Asia
More support is being given to those who wish to deepen their professional skills in the community care sector through further education. The number of study grants given out by the Agency for Integrated Care has more than quadrupled since 2017, to reach close to 300 this year.
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Huawei to invest US$1.5b in computing-based R&D

Asia
Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has offered up its 5G technology and USS$1.5 billion to develop its computing program. Speaking at its annual conference in Shanghai, deputy chairman Ken Hu said the company aims to increase investment in its developer program over the next five years.
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Suicide bomber, gunmen attack Afghan government building

Asia
JALALABAD: At least 12 people were injured when gunmen stormed a crowded government building in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday (Sep 18) after a suicide bomber attack, with desperate survivors leaping from windows to escape the fighting, witnesses and officials said.Security forces rushed to the scene after armed men attacked the office in Jalalabad, capital of eastern Nangarhar province, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn country as it gears up for a presidential election on Sep 28.Terrified children at a nearby school climbed over walls to get further away from the fighting.A provincial spokesman, Ataullah Khogyani, said the blast had been carried out by a suicide bomber, and that security forces had rushed to the scene to rescue staff still inside the building.
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Hong Kong government cancels National Day fireworks

Asia
The Hong Kong government has cancelled the National Day fireworks display on Oct 1. In a brief statement, the administration said the decision was based on the "latest situation" as well as for public safety.
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New viaduct, more roads and cycling paths to enhance connectivity in Changi

Asia
In Singapore, major works are coming to the Changi region from 2026 to enhance connectivity in the area that will house the upcoming Cross Island MRT line and the future Changi Airport Terminal 5.
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11 who ordered electronic vaporises online assisting HSA in investigations

Asia
Eleven suspects who illegally ordered electronic vaporisers online are currently assisting the Health Sciences Authority in investigations. The orders were made from overseas sellers and declared as toys.
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Singapore does not take racial and religious harmony for granted: Josephine Teo

Asia
Singapore does not take racial and religious harmony for granted. Speaking at the International Conference on South Asia, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo added that deliberate intervention is needed to maintain multiculturalism.

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