TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election on Monday, seeking a fresh term at the helm of the world’s third-largest economy as tensions with North Korea reach fever-pitch.
“I will dissolve the House of Representatives on the 28th” of September, Abe told reporters, a precursor to a general election.
TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election on Monday, seeking a fresh term at the helm of the world’s third-largest economy as tensions with North Korea reach fever-pitch.
WASHINGTON: Former US President Barack Obama personally urged Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to counter the rise of fake news on the social network during a meeting held shortly after last year’s election, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
The encounter reportedly took place on the sidelines of a meeting of global leaders in Lima, Peru on November 19, two months before Trump’s inauguration and days after Zuckerberg had dismissed as “crazy” the idea that misleading stories driven by Russian operatives had made a major impact on the outcome of the vote.
“Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem posed by fake news. But he told Obama that those messages weren’t widespread on Facebook and that there was no easy remedy,” the newspaper said, quoting people it said had knowledge of the exchange.
The report comes days after Facebook announced it would be handing over to Congress advertisements it discovered were bought by Russia-linked fake accounts, aimed at inflaming political tensions ahead of and following the election.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement.
NEW DELHI: Scores of juvenile inmates, including killers and rapists, staged a mass breakout from a detention center in eastern India after cutting through metal windows and gates, police said Monday.
Thirty-four out of 86 inmates broke out of the facility in the Munger district of Bihar state on Sunday, an officer said. Twelve returned in the hours after the daring escape.
“The inmates broke the iron grills and the metal gate and fled in an overnight escape,” Ashish Bharti, Munger police chief, told AFP.
Many of the escapees have either been convicted or are awaiting trial for serious offenses such as murder, rape and theft, the officer added.
Police are investigating the breakout and a manhunt is underway for the escapees.
Nearly 100 inmates fled a similar facility in the northern state in 2015 after tying bedsheets and scaling walls.
About 31,000 offenders below the age of 18 are kept in juvenile homes intended for reforming the delinquents, according to official statistics.
The homes have no armed guards and inmates often sleep in dormitories instead of individual cells.
Young offenders have come under increased scrutiny after one the six accused in the brutal gang rape of a Delhi woman in 2012 was found to be a juvenile.
YANGON, Myanmar: Myanmar troops on Monday searched for dozens of missing Hindu villagers feared dead after the discovery of a grave containing 28 corpses in Rakhine state, evidence of what the army says is a massacre by Rohingya Muslim militants.
Northern Rakhine has been ravaged by communal violence since Rohingya insurgents staged deadly raids on police posts on August 25, unleashing an army crackdown that has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The vast majority — more than 430,000 — are Rohingya Muslims who have fled across the border to Bangladesh from a military campaign which the UN says likely amounts to ethnic cleansing of the stateless minority.
But tens of thousands of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, and the region’s small population of Hindus, have also been internally displaced, saying they were attacked by Rohingya militants.
On Sunday the army said it had discovered two mud pits filled with 28 Hindu corpses, including women and children, outside the village of Ye Baw Kyaw in northern Rakhine.
“The security troops continue searching for remaining Hindu people around the places of the pits,” said a statement posted on army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page Monday, blaming Rohingya militants for the killings.
Displaced Hindus from the area told AFP last week that Rohingya fighters stormed into their communities on August 25, killing many and taking others into the forest.
They showed AFP a list of 102 people from two villages — Ye Baw Kyaw, where the bodies were found, and Taung Ywar — feared dead by distraught relatives, who wept as they described the bloodshed.
A Hindu community leader in the area, Ni Maul, confirmed to AFP that the search was going on.
“Soldiers and police are here with us to find the rest of the bodies around this area,” he said, adding that authorities are still working to identify the 28 corpses exhumed on Sunday.
With the government blocking access to the conflict zone, it is difficult to verify the maelstrom of accusations that have further fueled ethnic hatreds in Rakhine.
But the army has steadfastly blamed violence on the Rohingya — a Muslim minority it has been trying for years to eject from Myanmar — while highlighting the suffering of other ethnic groups swept up in the violence.
The focal point of the unrest, northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw district, was once home to a fragile mosaic of religious communities, dominated by the Rohingya.
Vast swathes of the border region are now completely emptied of Muslim residents, with nearly 40 percent of Rohingya villages abandoned in under a month.
Frightened and dispossessed ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus, who have largely fled south, say they see no future alongside their former Muslim neighbors.
“I do not dare go back to the village,” said Kyaw Kyaw Naing, one of hundreds of displaced Hindus sheltering in a derelict football stadium in Rakhine’s state capital Sittwe.
“We still do not know yet how many of those dead bodies include relatives from our camp,” added the 34-year-old, whose Hindu name is Shu Bown.
In Bangladesh, relief agencies are struggling to meet the vast needs of the Rohingya cramming into shanties in Cox’s Bazar, an influx the UN has described as the “fastest and most urgent refugee emergency in the world.”
Yet there is little sympathy for the Muslim minority inside Myanmar, where Islamophobia has been stewing for years among the overwhelmingly Buddhist population.
Even before the latest eruption of violence, the 1.1 million-strong Rohingya were relegated to precarious and impoverished lives, with hundreds of thousands trapped in refugee camps following previous waves of persecution.
Those outside the camps were subject to laws that stripped them of citizenship and severely restricted their movements and access to jobs, schooling and health care.
Analysts say the repression helped give rise to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, whose raids plunged the region into crisis.
MANILA: The Philippines has banned companies from compelling women to wear high heels to work under a government order hailed by a labor group Monday as a victory against sexism and pain.
The labor department order took effect on Sunday as the government took up the cudgels for long-suffering shopping mall clerks, hotel receptionists and flight attendants.
Employers should implement the use of “practical and comfortable footwear” to improve the health of workers who stand for long periods, said the order, which applies to heels measuring 2.54-centimeters (one inch) or higher unless the employee chooses to wear them.
“It’s a form of torture. It’s a form of oppression and slavery. Imagine having to endure that pain for eight to 10 hours a day,” Alan Tanjusay, spokesman for the Associated Labor Unions, told AFP.
“It’s also a form of sexism because culturally employers say women wearing high heels look taller and sexier and are then more attractive, more effective in selling products. They don’t know the women are suffering.”
The department order said female sales clerks and security guards who had been compelled to work in high heels suffered from sore feet, aching muscles and “hazardous” pressure on joints.
“These (work shoes) should not pinch the feet or toes; are well-fitted and non-slipping; provide adequate cushion and support to the arch of the feet; either flat or with low heels that must be wide-based or wedge type,” it said.
The labor department also ordered companies to give these workers rest periods or seats to reduce the time they spend standing or walking.
Tanjusay said unions lobbied the labor department last month following complaints from saleswomen, hotel receptionists and flight attendants.
Malls are a mainstay in the Southeast Asian nation, mainly employing women as sales clerks, cashiers and so-called “promo girls.”
Most of these women are short-term contract workers, Tanjusay said.
Under the department order female workers can still wear high heels if they prefer them, Tanjusay added.
NEW DELHI: A blaze at an illegal fireworks factory in eastern India killed nine workers who were stocking up ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali next month, police said Monday.
The fire broke out at the factory in Jharkhand state late Sunday after an explosion.
“The unit was being run illegally and there was a huge stock of fireworks in preparation for Diwali,” district police superintendent Prabhat Kumar told AFP.
“The fire started at 4:30 in the evening. Police and fire officials reached there soon. But intermittent explosions continued till midnight.”
“Twelve workers were trapped out of which nine have died. Three of them were rescued and are being treated for injuries.”
Authorities are investigating the incident but so far no arrests have been made.
Such accidents often occur ahead of Diwali, the annual festival of lights, which many celebrate by letting off fireworks.
In June, 25 workers died after an explosion at a firecracker factory in central Madhya Pradesh state, while a similar incident at a factory in Tamil Nadu last October left 20 workers dead.
Workplace accidents are common in India, where there are poor safety standards and lax enforcement of regulations.
LONDON: Uber said on Monday it was not clear what concerns London’s transport regulator had for stripping it of its license as the taxi app battles to keep operating in one of the world’s wealthiest cities.
On Friday, the British capital’s regulator deemed Uber unfit to run a taxi service and decided not to renew its license to operate, which will end this week, citing the firm’s approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and background checks on drivers.
“Sitting down with TfL (Transport for London) representatives as soon as possible would be the most helpful thing to really understand their concerns to work out what they are,” Uber’s UK Head of Cities Fred Jones told BBC radio.
“It’s just not clear for us what their concerns might be.”
KARANGASEM, Indonesia: Nearly 50,000 people have evacuated their homes amid fears of an imminent volcanic eruption on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, disaster officials said Monday.
Mount Agung, about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been rumbling since August, threatening to erupt for the first time in more than 50 years.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said Monday 48,540 people had fled, although the number was expected to rise because more than 60,000 people lived in the danger zone.
“There are still people who don’t want to be evacuated,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency, said at a press conference.
“The reason is firstly, the mountain hasn’t erupted yet. Secondly, they are worried about their livestock.”
Officials announced the highest possible alert level on Friday following the increasing volcanic activity, and told people to stay at least nine kilometers away from the crater.
Evacuees have packed into temporary shelters or moved in with relatives.
Some 2,000 cows have been also evacuated from the flanks of the volcano.
Nengah Satiya, who left home with his wife three days ago, said he had been returning to the danger zone to tend to his pigs and chickens.
“There are many livestock in our village but nobody is taking them,” Nengah Satiya told AFP. “We take turns going back to feed them.”
The airport in Bali’s capital Denpasar, through which millions of foreign tourists pass every year, has not been affected.
More than 1,000 people died when Mount Agung last erupted in 1963.
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: The World Health Organization warned Monday of a growing cholera risk in the makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh where more than 435,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought shelter from unrest in Myanmar.
A month after the exodus began, those dispersed in some 68 camps and settlements along the border do not have safe drinking water and hygiene facilities, according to the WHO.
The camps also face dire shortages of food and medicine in what has quickly become one of the world’s largest refugee settlements.
“Risk of water borne diseases is high, especially there is very high risk of cholera and this is why everyone is concerned,” the WHO said in a statement.
“Interventions are being scaled-up, however, the situation remains critical and challenging.”
The latest influx has overwhelmed the camps around Cox’s Bazar, which previously housed at least 300,000 people who had fled earlier violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The WHO says mobile medical centers have been set up, while Bangladesh health authorities say they have treated some 4,500 Rohingya for diarrhea in a month and vaccinated some 80,000 children for measles and polio.
“We are trying our best to face the challenges. But we are concerned,” Enayet Hossain, deputy head of Bangladesh’s health services department, told AFP.
The department said that at least 10 Rohingya have died in Bangladesh since the influx, most from bullet and blast wounds suffered in Rakhine.
Two elderly Rohingya men died of diarrhea at a charity clinic more than a week ago, said Misbah Uddin Ahmed, a health department official at Ukhia, where most of the camps are located.
“They were also suffering from old age complications and gastroenteritis,” he told AFP.
Two Rohingya women, aged 50 and 60, were shifted to a hospital in the port city of Chittagong after they were diagnosed with HIV, police said.
Ahmed said specialists from Bangladesh’s International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research (ICDDRB) and government scientists had visited camps to take samples.
“They are going to set up two field stations here,” he told AFP.
The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) group said last week the camps were on the brink of a public health disaster as filthy water and faeces flow through shanties.
It said a “massive scale-up of humanitarian aid” was needed, with adults on the cusp of dying from dehydration.
But Ahmed said the situation was improving as hundreds of latrines and tube-wells were being dug by government services and local charities.
The army, which has taken over aid management, says it has made sanitary facilities the “highest priority” in an effort to stave off a health emergency.
“The situation is still under control,” Ahmed said.
More than 436,000 refugees have crossed the border from Rakhine since August 25 when a military crackdown was launched following attacks by Rohingya militants, according to UN figures on Monday.
The refugees have given shocking accounts of killings and mass rapes by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs. The Myanmar military says they have only targeted Rohingya militants.
BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel woke up Monday to a fourth term but now faces the double headache of an emboldened hard-right opposition party and thorny coalition talks ahead.
If the campaign was widely decried as boring, its outcome was a bombshell — a populist surge weakened Merkel’s conservatives as well as the center-left Social Democrats, handing both their worst results in decades.
“A nightmare victory for Merkel,” said Germany’s best-selling daily Bild.
After 12 years in power and running on a promise of stability and continuity, Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc scored 33 percent, according to final results, against 20.5 percent for the Social Democrats under challenger Martin Schulz, who pledged to go into the opposition.
The election spelt a breakthrough for the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 12.6 percent became the third strongest party and vowed to “go after” Merkel over her migrant and refugee policy.
News weekly Der Spiegel said Merkel had no one but herself to blame for the bruising she got from voters.
“Angela Merkel deserved this defeat,” Spiegel’s Dirk Kurbjuweit wrote, accusing her of running an “uninspired” campaign and “largely ignoring the challenges posed by the right.”
The entry of dozens of hard-right nationalist MPs to the glass-domed Bundestag chamber breaks a taboo in post-World War II Germany.
“We will take our country back,” vowed the AfD’s jubilant Alexander Gauland, who has recently urged Germans to be proud of their war veterans and said a government official who is of Turkish origin should be “dumped in Anatolia.”
While joyful supporters of the AfD — a party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP — sang the German anthem at a Berlin club late Sunday, hundreds of protesters shouted “Nazis out!“
All other political parties have ruled out working with the AfD, whose leaders call Merkel a “traitor” for allowing in more than one million asylum seekers since the height of the refugee influx in 2015.
While Germany still digests the rise of the right-wingers, Merkel’s inner circle will prepare Monday for what could be lengthy coalition talks ahead with a number of smaller parties.
Party leaders will meet at 0700 GMT at Berlin headquarters to draw their conclusions from the election that some have dubbed a referendum on the refugee crisis, a contentious issue especially for her Bavarian CSU allies.
CSU chief Horst Seehofer, a vocal critic of Merkel’s asylum policy, called the poll outcome a “bitter disappointment” and vowed to close the “open flank” on the right before state elections next year, signalling more trouble ahead.
A weakened Merkel must now find a new junior partner after the Social Democrats (SPD) declared they would go into opposition, to recover the support they lost while governing in Merkel’s shadow.
Schulz, putting a brave face on the defeat, vowed that the 150-year-old traditional workers’ party would serve as “the bulwark of democracy in this country” and stop the AfD from leading the opposition.
This will likely force Merkel to team up with two smaller, and very different, parties to form a lineup dubbed the “Jamaica coalition” because the three parties’ colors match those of the Caribbean country’s flag.
One is the pro-business and liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), which scored a 10.7-percent comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago.
The other is the left-leaning, ecologist Greens party, a pioneer of Germany’s anti-nuclear movement which won 8.9 percent on campaign pledges to drive forward the country’s clean energy shift and fight climate change.
The far-left Die Linke, traditionally an opposition party, took 9.2 percent of votes.
Weeks, if not months, of jockeying and horse-trading could lie ahead to build a new government and avoid snap elections.
The FDP has governed with the conservatives before, and the two have in the past been seen as “natural allies.”
But its leader Christian Lindner has pointed to new “red lines,” voicing skepticism especially on French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a single eurozone budget, which Merkel has cautiously greeted.
The Greens, meanwhile, sharply differ with the FDP and CSU on key issues from immigration to the environment, pushing to expand wind farms, phase out coal and take to task car makers over the “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal.