Chiang Mai to hand out face masks as dust from fires hits hazardous levels

Thai authorities struggle to contain forest fires, a persistent cause of air pollution during the dry season

The Chiang Mai authorities in northern Thailand will hand out face masks to the public as the province struggles with dangerously high levels of air pollution caused by persistent forest fires.

The fires are an annual problem between the months of December and April, when farmers set light to their fields to clear the land ready for the next crop cycle.

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Thai man jailed for selling duck calendars that ‘mocked’ king

‘Tonmai’, 26, given two-year sentence over cartoons of yellow ducks that became symbol of democracy protests

A 26-year-old man in Thailand has been sentenced to three years in prison, reduced to two years, for selling satirical calendars featuring pictures of cartoon ducks that officials say insult the monarchy.

The man, a legal officer known by the nickname Tonmai, was arrested on 31 December 2020 after police raided his home and confiscated desk calendars that included images of yellow ducks – one of the symbols of youth-led pro-democracy protests that began more than two years ago. Officials said the calendars, which were being sold through a Facebook protest group, defamed the king.

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We don’t need discount vouchers for International Women’s Day. We need equal rights | Nilanjana Bhowmick

International Women’s Day is too often dumbed down into a mere marketing opportunity that capitalises feminism

Brands wanting to “appreciate” women are offering discounts on clothes and makeup, and celebrities are urging women to use the day to pamper themselves. In India, International Women’s Day has been captured by commerce.

“No amount of discounts or offers are enough to appreciate women. However, here’s our little effort in making them feel ultra-special … up to 50% off all our products until Women’s Day,” read yet another of many such messages in my inbox last week.

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Kashmir letters cast doubt on claims Nehru blundered by agreeing ceasefire

Exclusive: papers kept classified for decades reveal India’s first PM acted on advice from most senior general

India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was urged by his most senior general to agree to a ceasefire with Pakistan in 1948, the Guardian can reveal after viewing letters on Kashmir that have been kept classified in India for decades.

The correspondence from the then commander-in-chief, Gen Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher, will have significant political ramifications for the current nationalist government in Delhi, which has discredited Nehru’s decision to come to a compromise on the status of disputed Kashmir as an ill-informed “blunder”.

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Former Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama quits parliament following ‘unjustified’ suspension

Ex-prime minister says he will remain in politics as he seeks to retain his opposition party’s share of parliamentary seats

Former Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama has resigned from the Pacific nation’s parliament, weeks after he was suspended for sedition and insulting the president.

Bainimarama said he was tendering his resignation “with immediate effect”, but had no intention of resigning from politics, in a post on his FijiFirst party’s Facebook page.

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US expected to ease Covid testing for arrivals from China

Improving situation in China prompts decision, say news reports quoting Biden administration officials

The US is preparing to relax Covid-19 testing restrictions for travellers from China as soon as Friday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The people, who were not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Biden administration had decided to roll back the testing requirements as cases, hospitalisations and deaths were declining in China and the US had gathered better information about the surge. The Washington Post was first to report on Tuesday about the easing of requirements.

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Chinese cities hit record high temperatures for early March

After months of extreme heat, Wuhan has registered spring temperatures of 26C, while Beijing and surrounding cities hit 25C

Temperatures in more than a dozen Chinese cities have hit record seasonal highs this week, with central China’s Wuhan and Zhengzhou more than 10C hotter than average for early March, official data showed.

Wuhan, located on the middle reaches of the Yangtze river, registered temperatures of 26C on Monday, 12 degrees higher than the long-term early March average, while Beijing and surrounding cities also saw temperatures reach 25C earlier this week.

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Buried by mud and silt, New Zealand’s farms face ‘10-year recovery’ – picture essay

Livelihoods in tatters after months of relentless rain and extreme weather – and the clean-up is just beginning

Karyn Maddren walks out into the ruins of her stud farm, and stands in front of the waterfall. A month earlier, it was a green hillside. Now, the dirt has fallen away, exposing the golden-ribbed sandstone beneath. Water washes over the rocks, running clear now, carrying the last of the silt downstream.

“That particular slip has transformed into something very, very pretty,” Maddren says.

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China to set up new financial watchdog as part of reforms

New body will replace banking and insurance regulators after concerns over creaking property market

China will set up a new financial watchdog to replace its banking and insurance regulators as part of an overhaul of state institutions after concern about exposure to its creaking property market.

The new body, which does not have an official name yet, would bring oversight of China’s financial system under direct control of the State Council, the top government body. There are also reports that the president, Xi Jinping, who will in all likelihood be granted a third presidential term on Friday, will revive the Central Financial Work Commission, an organisation that would supervise the financial system on behalf of the Chinese Communist party, although this has yet to be announced publicly.

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