Fukushima nuclear reactor’s giant ‘ice wall is almost finished

Fukushima’s operator on Tuesday started freezing the last section of a US$320 million ice wall designed to combat widespread water contamination at the site of the worst nuclear accident in a generation. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) began pumping coolant into the remaining seven metres of its 1.5km underground wall which encircles the four reactors along Japan’s northeast coast. Underground pipes circulate the coolant and freeze soil around the buildings. The 30-metre deep wall is...
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India's top court bans Islamic ‘triple talaq’ instant divorce

India’s top court on Tuesday banned a controversial Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives instantly, saying it was unconstitutional. Victims of the practice known as “triple talaq”, whereby Muslim men can divorce their wives by reciting the word talaq (divorce) three times, had approached the Supreme Court to ask for a ban. Triple talaq “is not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality,” a panel of Supreme Court judges...
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Myanmar man faces two years in jail for speaking about his harrowing ordeal as a child soldier

A man in Myanmar faces up to two years in jail after he was arrested for allegedly defaming the military in an interview he gave detailing his harrowing life as a child soldier. Aung Ko Htwe, 26, was arrested on Friday, shortly after he spoke to Radio Free Asia’s Burmese Service recalling how he was abducted and forced into the military as a teenager, his sister Nay Zar Htun, confirmed on Monday. “The police arrested him for 505[b],” she said, referring to a section of Myanmar...
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‘In the arms of the republic’: US defector to North Korea Joe Dresnok confirmed dead

The only US soldier known to still be living in North Korea after defecting more than five decades ago died last year pledging his loyalty to the “great leader Kim Jong-un”, his sons said. James Joseph Dresnok was among just a handful of American servicemen to desert following the Korean war, crossing the heavily fortified demilitarised zone in 1962. He went on to appear in North Korean propaganda films and was believed to be the last US defector in the country, the others all...
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Election countdown: New Zealand PM ‘worried’ as support surges for opposition leader Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand’s conservative Prime Minister Bill English conceded Monday he was “worried” about next month’s general election, as support for the opposition continued to surge. The centre-left Labour Party has enjoyed a huge boost in support ahead of the September 23 election after gambling on a charismatic new leader in 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern. In a phenomenon local media have dubbed “Jacinda-mania”, Labour’s support has rocketed since she took over...
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Australia publishes ‘how-to guide’ to protect against vehicle terror attacks

Australia on Sunday released a strategy to prevent vehicle terror attacks carried out in crowded public places following deadly assaults in Barcelona, Nice and London. The report – commissioned after 86 people were killed in the Nice truck attack last year – gives venue operators a “toolkit” to work from when addressing terrorism concerns. “As we have seen from tragic events in Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona, terrorists continue to target crowded places,...
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Philippine Catholic Church head urges end to drug killings after week of bloodshed

The head of the Philippines’ powerful Catholic Church called on Sunday for an end to the “waste of human lives” following a brutal week in President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in which a 17-year-old boy was among dozens killed. Police raids dubbed “One Time Big Time” saw at least 76 people shot dead, authorities said, as rights groups and lawmakers condemned the operation as an alarming “killing spree” in Duterte’s flagship campaign. On...
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State funeral for German nun Ruth Pfau who devoted her life fighting leprosy in Pakistan

Ruth Pfau, a German nun who devoted her life to combating leprosy in Pakistan, was buried with full state honours on Saturday, in an unprecedented service for a foreign Christian in the Muslim-majority country. Pfau, who died at the age of 87 on August 10 was known locally as Pakistan’s Mother Teresa. She came to the southern port city of Karachi in 1960 and spent half a century taking care of some of the country’s sickest and poorest people. She was the founder of Marie Adelaide...
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Japan launches satellite to boost map and navigation systems

Japan on Saturday launched the third satellite in its effort to build a home-grown geolocation system aimed at improving the accuracy of car navigation systems and smartphone maps to mere centimetres. An H-IIA rocket blasted off at about 2.30pm local time from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The rocket successfully released the Michibiki No. 3 satellite about 30 minutes after launch. The launch was initially scheduled...
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South Korean arrested for trafficking Thai women for sex trade

A South Korean man accused of duping over 20 Thai women into forced prostitution in his home country has been arrested in Bangkok, an officer said on Saturday. Kim Hyoung-joon, 39, is believed to be part of a transnational gang funnelling Thai women into the sex trade in South Korea, and his arrest follows efforts by Bangkok and Seoul to dismantle the group. Thai police said Kim promised women jobs as masseuses in South Korea. But upon their arrival they were instead forced into sex work by...
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Top American general warns North Korea that ‘an attack on Japan is an attack on US’

The United States’ most senior military officer on Friday said North Korea understands that an any attack on Japan is equal to one on the US itself – and vice versa. General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held talks with his Japanese counterpart at the defence ministry in Tokyo, wrapping up a regional tour during heightened tensions with North Korea. Tokyo remains on alert against potential military provocations by Pyongyang after North Korea threatened to fire...
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North Korean media brands Moon Jae-in a ‘failure’ and a ‘hypocrite’ after 100 days as South Korean president

North Korea’s top state newspaper gave the South’s President Moon Jae-in a “fail” grade on Friday for his first 100 days in office, dismissing his proffered olive branches as “hypocrisy”. Moon, elected to replace impeached president Park Geun-hye, came into office in May and has since had to deal with tensions over the North’s missile and nuclear programmes. Pyongyang carried out its first successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM...
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10-year-old India rape victim gives birth to baby after plea for abortion rejected

A 10-year-old rape victim whose plea for an abortion was rejected by India’s Supreme Court has given birth to a baby girl, a doctor said Thursday. The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was raped several times allegedly by an uncle who has since been arrested. Last month her parents asked the country’s top court to allow her to have a late-term abortion but the request was turned down. Indian law does not allow medical terminations after 20 weeks unless there is a threat...
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Man with no face: Cambodian politician deleted from signs

He has become a man without a face. In recent weeks Cambodia’s beleaguered opposition has been frantically scrubbing images of their exiled former leader Sam Rainsy from thousands of billboards and signposts across the country. The mass pictorial purge was sparked by a new law banning political parties from “using the voice, images or written documents” of anyone convicted of a crime. The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) believes the law was specifically...
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South Korea’s Moon vows no war with North after Trump warns US weapons ‘locked and loaded’

There will be no war on the Korean peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday, saying Seoul effectively had a veto over US military action in response to the North’s nuclear and missile programmes. “All South Koreans have worked so hard together to rebuild the country from the ruins of the Korean war,” Moon told a press conference marking his first 100 days in office. “I will prevent war at all cost,” he added. “So I want all South Koreans to...
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A new generation of Philippine communist rebels to take on Duterte

A kerosene lamp flickers beside a Macbook in a jungle camp as ageing Philippine communist leader Jaime Padilla plots the next step in one of Asia’s oldest insurgencies with a new generation of fighters. Fuelled by one of the world’s starkest rich-poor divides, a Maoist rebellion that began months before the first human landed on the moon plods on even though the country now boasts one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. “There’s a big pool of young people who...
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Philippine police kill 32, arrest more than a hundred in ‘shock and awe’ drug raids

Philippine police killed 32 people in “shock and awe” raids aimed at scaring drug traffickers, authorities said on Wednesday, after President Rodrigo Duterte admitted to setbacks in his controversial crime war. Duterte has waged an unprecedented crackdown on drugs during his 14 months in power that has seen police and suspected vigilantes kill thousands of people, leading to warnings by rights groups that he may be overseeing a crime against humanity. In one of the deadliest...
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Japan launches study into illegal ‘Chinese coral poaching’

Japan on Wednesday launched a study into whether precious coral was being illegally poached by Chinese fishermen off its shores to be sold for use in jewellery.
The Fisheries Agency investigation will use an underwater camera to check the condition of the coral off the southern island of Kyushu.
It also aims to find evidence such as traces of fishing nets possibly used for poaching precious coral, an official said.
Precious coral, a species of coral which is usually red, pink or white in colour…

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Australian opposition dismisses claims it conspired with New Zealand to undermine government

Australia’s opposition Labor Party on Wednesday rejected extraordinary claims from the country’s top diplomat it conspired with New Zealand leftists to try to topple the government. Labor’s Penny Wong accused Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of “a Kiwis under-the-bed scare campaign” to divert attention from government woes, invoking anti-communist “Reds under the beds” fears of the cold war. “This sort of behaviour, I don’t think is...
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Bangladesh extremist killed in suicide blast as police were about to raid his hotel room

An Islamist extremist was killed on Tuesday in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka after detonating a suicide vest and other explosives as police prepared to raid his hotel room, an official said. The blast, on the third floor of a hotel in the city centre, sent police running for cover and showered the streets below in rubble and smoke. National police chief A.K.M Shahidul Hoque said the deceased was a foot soldier from Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh – a local militant outfit blamed for the...
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