WORLD NEWS AS REPORTED III

It cost US$260 per meal to feed North Korean special guests, including Kim Jong-un’s sister during Olympics visit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 15 min 23 sec ago
The South Korean government spent more than US$260 per meal per person for the high-level North Korean delegates including leader Kim Jong-un’s sister who visited the Winter Olympics, reports said. The nuclear-armed North sent four top officials including Kim Yo-jong and the ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, along with 18 support staff, to the Pyeongchang Winter Games as it mounted a charm offensive. The February 9-11 trip cost the Seoul government a total of 240 million won (US$220,...

Joko Widodo pays US$805 to redeem Metallica album given to him by Danish Prime Minister

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 1 hour 36 min ago
By Jessica Lin Indonesian President Joko Widodo (also known as Jokowi) has proven himself to be a true Metallica fan. The 56-year-old leader reportedly paid 11 million rupiah (US$805) to redeem a limited-edition boxed set of Metallica’s Master of Puppets presented to him by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen last year. According to Jakarta Post, Jokowi had declared the gift to Corruption Eradication Commission which decided the double-vinyl album was a part of state...

North Korea: how preacher Billy Graham opened door for America to the ‘hermit kingdom’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 3 hours 12 sec ago
Billy Graham, a charismatic American evangelist, died Wednesday at age 99. He was often known as “America’s pastor,” but his influence extended around the world, and he was well known for travelling to poor nations and international war zones as well as taking positions on contentious foreign-policy issues. One of Graham’s most significant foreign trips was to North Korea in 1992. He was one of the first international religious figures – in fact, one of the first...

Israel spy team called ‘Unit 8200’ foiled IS plot to bring down passenger jet from Australia

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 4 hours 38 min ago
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that intelligence provided by his country foiled a plot by Islamic State to bring down a plane from Australia. “The Israeli intelligence services thwarted the downing of an Australian plane, an unimaginable slaughter,” the Israeli leader told an American Jewish conference in Jerusalem Wednesday. “This would have caused a major disruption in global air transport and this is only one of dozens of terrorist attacks we have foiled...

Trump sending Ivanka to South Korea for Olympics closing ceremony

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 22:15
Ivanka Trump, US President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser, will lead a US government delegation to South Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, a group that will also include Washington's commander of joint US-South Korea military forces.  The first daughter's group will include General Vincent K. Brooks, commander of United Nations command, Combined Forces Command, and United States Forces Korea, as well as James Risch, chairman of the...

Transparency International: China climbs two places in global corruption perception ranking as President Xi Jinping wages war on graft

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 19:03
China has moved up two places in a global corruption index of the world’s nations as President Xi Jinping waged a high profile war on graft that has netted thousands of officials. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 was released on Wednesday, showing very little change among the largest nations’ standings, and more than two thirds of all 180 participating countries with a score of less than 50 – out of a possible 100. Leading the rankings,...

Both sales and tourism up over 10% for holiday

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
SHOPS and restaurants across China reported robust sales during the weeklong Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, data from the Ministry of Commerce showed yesterday. Sales in the retail and catering sectors reached 926 billion yuan (US$146 billion) during the week, up 10.2 percent from last year’s holiday, the ministry said. Sales of traditional festival-related goods, organic food, jewelry, apparel, household appliances and digital products maintained rapid growth. Major organic food producers in Jiangxi, Qinghai and Shandong provinces saw double-digit sales growth, while major jewelry stores in Shaanxi and Guizhou provinces reported sales increases of 43 percent and 30.6 percent respectively, compared with last year’s holiday. Dog-themed accessories were most favored by consumers as this year is the Year of the Dog in the 12-animal Chinese zodiac. In the catering market, family dinners on the Chinese New Year’s Eve were almost fully booked at some restaurants, and numerous restaurants worked with online platforms to offer delivered dinners or home cooking services. Consumption in culture and entertainment was also strong, with China’s box office raking in 4.6 billion yuan over the February 16-20 period, up nearly 60 percent from the first six days of last year’s Spring Festival. China, meanwhile, posted a double-digit growth in tourism revenue during the weeklong holiday. Official data showed yesterday that the tourism industry garnered 475 billion yuan in revenue, up 12.6 percent from last year’s holiday, according to the China National Tourism Administration. Some 386 million trips by tourists were made, up 12.1 percent from last year’s holiday, the tourism administration said. Guangdong, Sichuan and Hunan received the most tourists among all provincial regions. Nearly half of travelers drove instead of taking public transport. Overseas travel remained popular, with Chinese tourists from nearly 200 cities visiting 68 countries and regions during the holiday. Southeast Asia was the top destination, while long-distance tours to countries including Argentina and Mexico were also popular. Nearly half of overseas travels were independent tours rather than escorted group tours, the tourism administration cited data from online tour operator Ctrip.com as saying. The Chinese Lunar New Year, which this year began last Friday, is traditionally a time for family gatherings in China. In recent years, family travels have become increasingly common that help to drive a tourism boom across the country. China earned 5.4 trillion yuan from tourism in 2017, an increase of 15.1 percent. The country plans to raise tourism revenue to 7 trillion yuan by 2020 in a bid to develop tourism into a major driver of economic transformation and upgrading.

Steel mills set to roar after curbs end

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
CHINA’S steel producers are eager to unleash their mills’ capacity when this winter’s output curbs end next month. They are hoping for a repeat of last year’s record profits based on high margins and less competition after outdated plants were closed. China shut down up to half of its steel production this winter in 28 cities in the country’s manufacturing heartland in the north as part of an anti-pollution campaign. With margins still encouraging full output, China’s pent-up steel production should erupt when the curbs expire on March 15. Because of the curbs, China’s average daily steel output in December was the lowest in a year at 2.16 million tons, government data showed last month. Average daily output could rise to about 2.5 million tons if the mills quickly boost production when restrictions are lifted, Wang Yingsheng, vice secretary-general of the China Iron and Steel Association said recently. With the government likely to reimpose the limits next winter, northern Chinese mills will have only about eight months to run at full speed, so plants are stocking up on raw materials to maximize production while the market conditions remain strong. “I think there could be restrictions again on mills in north China this year and they could increase output before the restrictions,” said a senior manager at a steel mill in south China. “If the market’s good, every mill will try to run at full capacity in order to make more profit.” Thanks to China’s infrastructure push that sustained steel demand even as the environmental crackdown cut supplies, mills are set to report massive profit gains. Xinjiang Ba Yi Iron & Steel in northwest China said 2017 net profit might have risen by 3,000 percent and Anyang Iron & Steel, based in Henan province, could show last year’s profit up 1,300 percent, according to preliminary estimates by the companies. Last month, Jiujiang Steel in Jiangxi Province rewarded workers with 278 million yuan (US$44 million) in 2017 bonuses. The cash weighed 3.5 tons and was delivered by four vans to staff at its main office, according to a company official and photos on Jiujiang Steel’s WeChat account. Profit margins have retreated from last year’s peaks, but are still more than enough to motivate maximum production, said the southern mill manager. Chinese steel margins for rebar this year are averaging 866 yuan a ton, according to data from brokerage CLSA. While down from last year’s average of 922 yuan, rebar margins are well above the five-year average of 251 yuan. Hot-rolled coil margins are averaging 865 yuan this year versus a five-year average of 259 yuan. To prepare for the output ramp-up, steel producers have raised their iron ore stockpiles to 34 days of consumption as of early January, according to consultants Mysteel, almost matching the all-time high of 35 days a year ago. Even with the bulging inventories, mills are adding more. China imported 100 million tons of iron ore last month, the second-highest on record, even as stockpiles at ports are at 153 million tons, near the record reached in January of 154.4 million. Soon after China announced the winter controls in February last year, mills increased production ahead of the curbs, hitting a series of output records over the next several months. The situation will likely repeat itself this year as mills expect another round of restrictions next winter. “Mills will be more prepared this year and they will just bring forward their production plans if they know there will be supply restrictions again,” said Richard Lu, analyst at consultants CRU. One possible drag on the expected surge in Chinese output may occur in Tangshan, the country’s largest steel-producing city. Officials there have said they will continue some curbs beyond the March expiry, including at eight mills located near the city center.

Soaring business is made from scrap too

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
CHINA’S scrap steel exports soared last year as domestic demand was dampened, according to data from an industry association. The country exported 2.2 million tons of scrap steel last year, compared with just around a meager 1,000 tons in 2016, according to figures supplied by the China Iron and Steel Association. The surge came despite a 40 percent tariff on scrap steel exports as millions of tons of such steel was kept out of the domestic market due to a ban on the production of ditiaogang, or steel made from scrap metal. Most exports went to Southeast Asian nations. The biggest sources of exports were eastern and southern coastal provinces including Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Hainan. China phased out the production of 140 million tons of ditiaogang last year as part of efforts to reduce excessive capacity in the steel sector.

Huawei and Vodafone in first 5G call

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
CHINESE telecommunications giant Huawei and British multinational network provider Vodafone announced on Tuesday they had completed the first 5G call in the world. In a press communique, Huawei confirmed the call was made using a dual “4G to 5G connection” at speeds which are eight times faster than the current 4G standard. Huawei also said a second test “using a 5G data connection” for a video call was also successfully carried out. The call was made from the town of Castelldefels, close to Barcelona, to Madrid using the 3.7 GHz bandwidth which will be incorporated in the future rollout of 5G technology. “Huawei is totally committed to the development of the technology of the 5G network and today’s test shows the maturity of 5G development on the standards approved by the 3GPP,” said Yang Chaobin, the president of Huawei’s 5G product line. He added that Huawei was now prepared to “advance” in its collaboration with Vodafone to “start commercial trials.” The CEO of Vodafone Spain Antonio Coimbra said the first 5G connection in Spain was of “great relevance for the digital transformation” of the country.

UK jobless rises to 4.4% over Brexit

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
BRITAIN’S unemployment rate has risen for the first time in 16 months, official data showed yesterday, in a sign that Brexit uncertainty is feeding into the wider economy. The jobless rate, or the proportion of the workforce that is unemployed, stood at 4.4 percent in the three months to the end of December, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. That was up from 4.3 percent in the quarter to November 2017, which had been the lowest level in 42 years. Analysts said that yesterday’s data reduced the likelihood that the Bank of England would raise its main interest rate in May, as had been widely expected by markets. Prior to the data, markets had widely expected the Bank of England to raise its key lending rate in May, by a quarter-point to 0.75 percent, following a small hike last year.

Share curbs for insurance sector

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
RISK control will remain a priority in China’s insurance sector with planned measures like limiting the share ownership of single share owners, a top official from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission said yesterday. Each share owner will no longer be allowed to hold more than one third of shares in an insurance firm, down from the previous 51 percent, to prevent a single party enjoying too much power in making investment decisions, Chen Wenhui, vice chairman of the CIRC told the People’s Daily yesterday. The commission will also study the feasibility of creating a “black list” for professional managers in the sector. It will establish a multi-level prevention system to cope with deep-rooted malpractices such as offering misleading information in sales, making claims difficult and cheating for compensations. “Preventing systemic financial risk is the eternal theme of financial work,” Chen said. “As an industry to control risks and decentralize them, insurance itself should pay more attention to risk management and develop more steadily.” The industry has played an active role in serving economic and social development. It has provided an accumulated 1.6 trillion yuan (US$252.58 billion) of risk insurance to 180 million agricultural households, and 1.01 billion people have been covered by critical illness insurance. Through investments in bonds and stocks, the insurance funds have directly raised over 7 trillion yuan for the real economy, and has supported the Belt and Road construction with 772 billion yuan in the form of debt investment plan and stock ownership plan. “CIRC will promote the insurance industry to play a long-term risk management and security function, thus better serving the development of real economy,” Chen said. Multinational insurance companies have set up 56 foreign-invested institutions in China, while China has established 37 insurance business institutions abroad with two of them becoming the world’s top 10 insurance companies. China has already announced that it plans to open up the sector for foreign investment. “In the next step, we will also push for more open policies in the free trade zones and reform pilot areas to encourage foreign investment in the insurance sectors such as health care and pension fund,” Chen said. He said that by increasing supervision and opening up in an orderly manner, China would gradually grow in the international insurance sector.

Cybercrime cost rises to US$600b globally

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
THE annual cost of cybercrime has hit US$600 billion worldwide, fueled by growing sophistication of hackers and proliferation of criminal marketplaces and cryptocurrencies, researchers said yesterday. A report produced by the security firm McAfee with the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies found theft of intellectual property represents about one-fourth of the cost of cybercrime in 2017. The researchers said ransomware is the fastest-growing component of cybercrime, helped by the easy availability of marketplaces offering hacking services. The global research report comes days after the White House released a report showing cyberattacks cost the United States between US$57 billion and US$109 billion in 2016, while warning of a “spillover” effect for the broader economy if certain sectors are hit. Globally, criminals are using the same tools for data or identity theft, bank hacks, and other cyber mischief, with anonymity preserved by using bitcoin or other cryptocurrency. “The digital world has transformed almost every aspect of our lives, including risk and crime, so that crime is more efficient, less risky, more profitable and has never been easier to execute,” said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer for McAfee. The study did not attempt to measure the cost of all malicious activity on the Internet, but focused on the loss of proprietary business data, online fraud and financial crimes, manipulation directed toward publicly traded companies, cyber insurance and reputational damage.

Broadcom cuts offer for Qualcomm

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
BROADCOM Corp yesterday fired its latest salvo against Qualcomm Inc by lowering its takeover offer to US$117 billion from US$121 billion, a day after the US chipmaker increased its own offer for NXP Semiconductors NV. Broadcom’s previous US$82 per share offer for Qualcomm was contingent on it buying NXP at its earlier offered price of US$110 per share. Broadcom said it had cut its offer to US$79 per share due to Qualcomm’s increase of its price for NXP to US$127.50 per share, but would revert to US$82 per share if Qualcomm was unable to complete the NXP deal. Under the new terms, Broadcom will offer Qualcomm shareholders US$57 per share in cash and US$22 per share in Broadcom shares. Broadcom said other conditions of the proposed merger agreement remained unchanged, including an US$8 billion regulatory reverse termination fee.

Air France strike to hit foreign flights

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
HALF of Air France’s long-haul flights out of Paris today will be canceled due to a strike by pilots, cabin crew and ground staff, the carrier said. The airline said yesterday it expected to maintain 75 percent of its scheduled service but only 50 percent of its long-haul flights and advised travelers to postpone their trips until February 27 at no extra cost. The staff are demanding a 6 percent across-the-board pay increase. Management is offering a basic increase of 1 percent to be paid in two installments and a range of incentives, which trade unions have dismissed as “small change.” The Air France-KLM group posted a 42 percent increase in its operating profit to 1.49 billion euros (US$1.84 billion) in 2017.

4 maritime car transporters hit with fines

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
THE EU yesterday hit four maritime car transporters with a 395-million-euro (US$486 million) fine as well as slapping penalties on auto parts manufacturers including Germany’s Bosch and Continental. An investigation by the bloc found that Chilean carrier CSAV, Japan’s “K” Line, MOL and NYK, and the Norwegian-Swedish WWL-EUKOR had run a cartel over six years to fix prices and allocate customers in the market for the deep sea transport of cars, trucks and other vehicles. Bosch and Continental were among a group of companies fined for operating cartels in the supply of spark plugs and braking systems. “By raising component prices or transport costs for cars, the cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and adversely impacted the competitiveness of the European automotive sector, which employs around 12 million people in the EU,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. MOL revealed the existence of the transport agreement to the authorities and as a result escaped without a fine. In the spark plug cartel, Bosch was fined 46 million euros and Japan’s NGK 30 million euros for agreeing not to compete with each other for traditional customers, swapping sensitive information and fixing prices. Bosch and Continental, along with TRW of the United States, were also found to have colluded over the supply of braking systems to BMW and Volkswagen.

Crisis-hit Venezuela puts faith in cryptocurrency

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
VENEZUELA formally launched its new oil-backed cryptocurrency on Tuesday in an unconventional bid to haul itself out of a deepening economic crisis. The Caracas government put 38.4 million units of the world’s first state-backed digital currency, the Petro, on private pre-sale from the early hours. During the first 20 hours of the pre-sale, which runs through March 19, Venezuela received “intent to buy” offers to the tune of US$735 million, according to President Nicolas Maduro. “The Petro reinforces our independence and economic sovereignty and will allow us to fight the greed of foreign powers that try to suffocate Venezuelan families to seize our oil,” he said. A total of 100 million Petros will go on sale, with an initial value set at US$60, based on the price of a barrel of Venezuelan crude in mid-January — but subject to change. Economist and cryptocurrency expert Jean-Paul Leidenz said prices during the pre-sale “will be agreed privately,” and will then fluctuate according to the market when the initial coin offering of 44 million Petros is made on March 20. Meanwhile, the government will reserve the remaining 17.6 million Petros. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves but is facing a crippling economic and political crisis. Vice President Tareck El Aissami said the Petro will “generate confidence and security in the national and international market.” Maduro announced in early December that Venezuela, which is under sanctions from the US as well as the EU, was creating the digital currency. The Venezuelan leader said he expects the Petro to open “new avenues of financing” in the face of Washington’s sanctions, which prohibit US citizens and companies from trading debt issued by the country and its oil company PDVSA. But experts are skeptical about the Petro’s chances of success, pointing out that the country’s deep economic imbalances will only serve to undermine confidence in the new currency. “Theoretically, with cryptocurrencies you could bypass the US financial system... but everything depends on generating confidence,” said economist Henkel Garcia. Consulting firm Eurasia Group estimates that although Venezuela could raise some US$2 billion in the initial offer, it is “unlikely” that the Petro will be established as “a credible means of exchange,” beyond short term “interest.” Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis triggered in large part by a fall in crude oil prices and a drop in oil production.

Imprisoned co-CEO of retail giant Lotte quits

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
ASIAN retail and chewing gum giant Lotte has accepted the resignation of its co-CEO after he was convicted of bribery and embezzlement in a wide-ranging corruption scandal that brought down South Korea’s president. The company said yesterday that Shin Dong-bin has left his CEO post at Lotte Holdings but will remain on its board as vice chairman. Shin, a son of Lotte’s founder, was convicted and imprisoned earlier this month. His Japanese co-CEO, Takayuki Tsukuda, will head the holding company at the heart of Lotte’s complicated ownership structure, Lotte Holdings said in an emailed statement. Japan typically adopts a tough stance toward convicted executives, who are usually sacked from chief executive positions when indicted by authorities. Lotte Holdings in Japan controls Hotel Lotte, which controls Lotte’s various South Korean businesses. Shin’s resignation will inevitably weaken ties between Lotte’s businesses in South Korea and in Japan, the company said. Sprawling business Before he was convicted and given a two-and-a-half year jail term earlier this month, Shin had sought to improve transparency and reform South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate. Founded by his father in Japan, Lotte is well-known across Asia with a sprawling business that encompasses retailing, confectionery, chemicals, hotels and entertainment. Shin’s imprisonment came as a shock to the South Korean business community and to Lotte itself. Just a week before a Seoul district court ordered him to be jailed, a Seoul appeals court released another business tycoon involved in the same scandal: Samsung Vice Chair Lee Jae-yong. He had spent nearly a year in prison on bribery and other charges but won a suspended sentence on appeal. Lee’s release fueled a public outcry and anger toward the perceived soft treatment of business elites by South Korea’s judiciary system. Many in Seoul had expected Shin would also avoid imprisonment because he appeared to be less deeply implicated in the case.

SK U-turn on virtual coin trade

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
A BETTER deal for South Korea’s cryptocurrency industry might be in the offing as the market regulator changes tack from its tough stance on the virtual coin trade, promising instead to help promote blockchain technology. The regulator said on Tuesday that it hopes to see South Korea, which has become a hub for cryptocurrency trade, normalize the virtual coin business in a self-regulatory environment. “The whole world is now framing the outline (for cryptocurrency) and therefore (the government) should rather work more on normalization than increasing regulation,” Choe Heung-sik, chief of South Korea’s Finance Supervisory Service (FSS), told reporters. The latest news suggests authorities might adopt a lighter regulatory touch, a step change from the justice minister’s warnings in January that the government was considering shutting down local cryptocurrency exchanges, throwing the market into turmoil. FSS has been leading the government’s regulation of cryptocurrency trading as part of a task force. Cryptocurrency operators see Choe’s comments as a positive step for the industry. “Though the government and the industry have not yet reached a full agreement, the fact that the regulator himself made clear the government’s stance on cooperation is a positive sign for the markets,” said Kim Haw-joon of the Korea Blockchain Association. South Korea banned the use of anonymous bank accounts for virtual coin trading as of January 30 to stop cryptocurrencies being used in money laundering and other crimes. Three local banks including Shinhan Bank, Industrial Bank of Korea, NH Bank, are currently offering cryptocurrency accounts to around five local virtual coin exchanges. An FSS official said tough regulatory oversight of illegal trade in cryptocurrencies will remain in place.

Plug battle is on for electric car supremacy

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:01
GERMAN carmakers hope a network of high-power charging stations they are rolling out with Ford will set an industry standard for plugs and protocols that will give them an edge over electric car rivals. At the moment, Tesla and carmakers in Japan and Germany use different plugs and communication protocols to link batteries to chargers, but firms building the charging networks needed for electric vehicles to become mainstream say the number of plug formats will need to be limited to keep costs down. Carmakers behind the winning technology will benefit from having an established supply chain and an extensive network, making their vehicles potentially more attractive to customers worried about embarking upon longer journeys, analysts say. Manufacturers that back losing plugs, however, could end up with redundant research and development and may have to invest to adapt assembly lines and vehicle designs so their customers can use the most widespread fast-charging networks. Swiss bank UBS has estimated that US$360 billion will need to be spent over the next eight years to build global charging infrastructure to keep pace with electric car sales, and it will be key to limit the numerous technologies now in use. “The quick-charging marketplace might be growing fast but the issue of different types of connectivity and communication will need to be resolved going forward,” UBS said in a study published this month. To try to build critical mass for the Combined Charging System (CCS) favored by Europe, BMW, Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen group, which includes Audi and Porsche, said in November they would develop 400 high-power charging stations on main roads in 18 European countries by 2020. “In the end, it is about safe-guarding investments for those that are investing in electric mobility,” said Claas Bracklo, head of electromobility at BMW and the chairman of the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN), which is backing CCS. “We have founded CharIN to build a position of power.” It is still early days for electric cars and difficult to predict which plug technology will prevail or even whether there will always be different ways to charge vehicles, unlike the one-size-fits-all nozzle that can refill all petrol cars. But there is a lot at stake for the carmakers ploughing billions of dollars into the development of batteries and electric cars. Format wars Besides CCS, there are three other standards that will charge batteries fast: Tesla’s Supercharger system, CHAdeMO, or Charge de Move, developed by Japanese firms including carmakers Nissan and Mitsubishi, and GB/T in China, the world’s biggest electric car market. “I think over time CHAdeMO and CCS converge, likely into the current CCS standard, and the jury is out as to what will happen to Tesla,” said Pasquale Romano, chief executive officer of Silicon Valley-based ChargePoint, which runs one of the world’s largest charging station networks. So far, there are about 7,000 CCS charging points worldwide, according to CharIN, with more than half in Europe. The European Union backs CCS as the standard for fast-charging but does not prohibit other plugs being installed. That compares with 16,639 charge points compatible with CHAdeMO — most in Japan and Europe — and 8,496 Tesla Superchargers, with the majority in the United States. In China, there are 127,434 GB/T charging stations, according to the China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance. Just as in previous format wars such as the battle for videotape dominance between VHS and Betamax, each charging standard has its pros and cons. Tesla’s system is exclusive to its clients, for example, while CCS features a double-plug that can charge direct current (DC) and alternate current (AC), increasing the number of spots where drivers can recharge. CHAdeMO, meanwhile, allows cars to sell power from their batteries back to the grid, a process known as bi-directional charging that can help stabilize energy networks in times of demand swings and earn car owners some extra cash. “If I were Nissan, I’d be wanting to take that standard and make it the dominant one,” said Gerard Reid, founder of Alexa Capital that advises companies in the energy, technology and power infrastructure sectors. “It creates a competitive advantage for them,” he said. Fast-chargers matter Most plugs used to charge cars at home use AC and are slow, so building networks that can power vehicles fast when on the road is seen as key by the industry, given many potential consumers still worry about battery range. Able to deliver more powerful, DC fast-chargers can load electric cars up to seven times faster. The fastest DC stations, capable of delivering up to 400 kilowatts, can recharge cars within 10 minutes, a vast improvement on the 10-12 hours it can take to reload at some AC charging points today. Developers hope drivers will feel more confident about undertaking longer journeys if they know they can reboot with a quick pit stop similar to stopping at a petrol station. With that in mind, the joint venture set up by the German carmakers and Ford to install CCS fast-chargers has teamed up with companies that have service station networks in Europe: Shell, OMV, Germany’s Tank & Rast and retailer Circle K. For traditional carmakers, getting ahead in the electric car race is also about staying relevant in an industry that has been shaken up by Tesla. Elon Musk’s company is now worth US$11 billion more than Ford, even though Tesla delivered just 76,230 cars in 2016 while the US car industry pioneer sold 6.65 million vehicles. The German carmakers teaming up with Ford, however, believe their deeper pockets should give them the upper hand in the long run and they see charging technology as an important factor in the fight. For now, CCS, Supercharger and CHAdeMO plugs continue to be installed in Europe as well as the United States, while China is pressing ahead with GB/T, suggesting it is too early to call a winner in the plug wars — especially as no carmaker will want to lose out on the Chinese market. Tesla, for example, said in October it was modifying its Model S and Model X cars for China to add a second charge port compatible with the country’s GB/T fast-charging standard. Most other rivals are also incorporating the GB/T standard into their vehicles for China, which has ambitious quotas for electric car sales, although some industry officials still hope the country will adopt one of the other standards at some point. While sticking with developing its proprietary network for now, Tesla is a member of the CHAdeMO and CharIN initiatives. It is also selling adapters so owners of its cars in North America and Japan can use CHAdeMO charging stations. Tesla declined to comment on whether it would consider joining a rival charging standard at some point, a move analysts say could be a tipping point in the race for plug dominance. “For Tesla it was always very important to have a charging infrastructure for our clients from the get-go,” a spokeswoman said, adding that it welcomed all investment in car charging. Tomoko Blech, who represents CHAdeMO in Europe, said fussing over which standard would prevail was not helpful given that the electric car industry was still in its early days and carmakers should fight it out with their models. Some also argue there will always be several ways to charge battery-powered cars. “If you drive a petrol car you can fuel it any place in the world. This is the best you can get,” said Nicolas Meilhan, principal analyst at consultancy Frost & Sullivan. “You will not get that for electric vehicles.”

Singaporean in City Harvest Church fraud case tries to flee on boat ahead of jail time

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:13
A Singaporean man convicted over a high-profile fraud case at a megachurch was caught on Wednesday trying to flee in a boat before he was due to start his sentence, police said. In a case that gripped the city state with a heady mix of religion, showbiz and fraud, six leaders from City Harvest Church were convicted in 2015 of pilfering tens of millions of dollars from the place of worship to promote the pop career of the pastor’s wife. Among them was investment manager Chew Eng Han, who...

Japan picks Osaka to host G20 summit in 2019

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:37
Japan has picked the western city of Osaka to host next year’s G20 summit, the first such gathering to be held in Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the decision based on the western Japan city’s successful hosting of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in 1995, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. The government also “comprehensively took into consideration such factors as the number of hotel rooms and security aspects,” the top...

Australian man sentenced to life in Philippines prison for child trafficking and pornography

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 10:41
A Philippine court has sentenced an Australian man to life imprisonment after finding him guilty on human trafficking and child pornography charges. Drew Frederick Shobbrook, 51, listened quietly as the verdict was read in a court in Cebu city on Tuesday. Footage shot by local broadcaster ABS-CBN of the proceedings showed Leslie Ann Fernandez, a Philippine national co-accused in the case, crying next to Shobbrook. Both were arrested during a 2013 operation in which 15 girls were rescued by...

New Zealand dairy owner’s son tops the world in physics exam

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 09:45
By Simon Collins A young man who started out stacking shelves in his family’s Taranaki dairy has won the top mark in the world in a physics exam. Henry Chen, now 18, grew up in the small Taranaki town of Stratford, where his Chinese-immigrant parents ran a dairy. The whole family moved to Auckland in 2015, to a street just around the corner from Auckland Grammar School so that Henry and his twin brother Kevin could attend the school. Henry will be honoured in a ceremony at the Eden Park...

Philippines: Britain sold spy gear as President Rodrigo Duterte waged deadly drug war

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 09:22
The British government sold nearly US$200,000 of hi-tech spying equipment to the Philippines, giving President Rodrigo Duterte the tools to hunt down and kill dealers and addicts as part of his brutal war on drugs. The equipment purchased by Duterte’s government included IMSI-Catchers, which are used to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, and surveillance tools to monitor internet activity. Duterte has admitted authorising the wiretapping of at least two mayors whom he accused of being...

Mental patient takes ambulance for joyride around Malaysian city

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:05
By Muhd Amirum Faiz Ahmad A man, said to be a mental patient, spent an hour driving a stolen ambulance around the Malaysian city of Kuching before he was finally apprehended near a shopping mall. In the, the man, 36, had managed to sneak into a private ambulance, which was dropping off another patient at the Sarawak General Hospital before gunning the engine and fleeing with the vehicle. Deputy Kuching police chief Superintendent Abang Junaidi Abang Annuar said they eventually managed...

Japan to boost its future stealth fighter force with 20 more F-35A jets, defence sources say

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:05
Japan plans to buy at least 20 additional F-35A stealth fighters over the next six years, some or all of which it may purchase directly from Lockheed Martin Corp in the United States rather than assemble locally, three sources said. “In view of budgets and production schedules a new acquisition of around 25 planes is appropriate,” said one of the sources with knowledge of the plan. The sources asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to the media. The...

Pizza Hut Korea outsmarts IOC with controversial sales promotion

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 07:38
By Yi Whan-woo With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) getting tougher on unauthorised Olympic marketing, Pizza Hut Korea is outsmarting the IOC by playing on words in the South Korea’s Winter Games host city. The company is running a sales promotion, titled “Pyengchang together,” during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, offering a cheese topping and a 1.25-liter Pepsi for free if customers buy premium pizzas. Literally meaning “inflation” or “expansion...

Japan donates 10,000 ballot boxes for 2018 Cambodia election after China pledges voting equipment

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 06:05
Japan donated over 10,000 ballot boxes for Cambodia’s 2018 election on Wednesday, the first international aid for the vote after European Union and the United States withdrew their support following the dissolution of the main opposition party. Rights groups and members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have urged foreign backers, including Japan, to halt funding for Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) following a Supreme Court decision to dissolve the...

Japan reports suspicious activity between Chinese and North Korean ships in suspected breach of UN sanctions

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 05:42
Japan has reported a new suspected sanctions violation by Pyongyang to the UN after spotting an apparent cargo transfer between a ship marked with Chinese characters and a North Korean vessel, the Japanese foreign ministry said. The incident is the third time this year that Tokyo has reported a cargo transfer by a North Korean vessel in violation of UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Japan’s foreign ministry said late Tuesday a military...

Hundreds of hotel bookings cancelled as Maldives extends state of emergency for 30 days

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 03:23
Parliament in the Maldives on Tuesday approved a 30-day extension of a state of emergency sought by President Abdulla Yameen who cited an ongoing national security threat and constitutional crisis. Countries including the United States, India and Canada along with the United Nations have urged Yameen to lift the emergency and restore normalcy. Tour operators say hundreds of hotel bookings have been cancelled daily since the 15-day emergency was imposed on February 5 despite government...

US Vice-President Mike Pence was set to meet with North Korean officials during Winter Olympics before last minute cancellation

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 01:57
US Vice-President Mike Pence departed for a five-day, two country swing through Asia earlier this month having agreed to a secret meeting with North Korean officials while in South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. But on Saturday February 10, less than two hours before Pence and his team were set to meet with Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Kim Yong-nam, the regime’s nominal head of state, the North Koreans pulled out of the scheduled meeting...

State-owned enterprises 5-year boom

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 17:01
CHINA’S state-owned enterprises administered by the central government saw surging assets in the past five years thanks to improved production and efficiency. Total assets of the centrally administered SOEs stood at 54.5 trillion yuan (US$8.6 trillion) at the end of last year, up 73.8 percent from the end of 2012, according to the country’s SOE regulator. Profits made in the past five years reached 6.5 trillion yuan, up 27 percent compared with the 2008-2012 period. Consolidation among them also picked up as the number of centrally administered SOEs was cut from over 100 in 2013 to just 97 now after a string of mergers and reorganizations. Meanwhile, more than two thirds of China’s centrally administered SOEs and their subsidiaries have introduced outside investors, registered new firms, restructured or gone public to optimize corporate management. Their global competitiveness gained traction thanks to reform efforts, with three Chinese centrally administered SOEs ranking among the top five Fortune 500 Companies of 2017.

North Korea strengthening its cyberweapons for large-scale attacks, new report warns

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 15:32
North Korea is quietly expanding both the scope and sophistication of its cyberweaponry, laying the groundwork for more devastating attacks, according to a new report published on Tuesday. Kim Jong-un’s cyberwarriors have been accused of causing huge disruption in recent years, including being blamed for the massive hack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and last year’s WannaCry ransomware worm, as well as umpteen attacks on South Korean servers. Now it appears that North Korea has also been...

Singapore promises not to cane suspected bank robber if UK sends him back to face trial

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:51
Singapore has agreed not to cane a man accused of carrying out a rare bank robbery in the city state if Britain extradites him to face charges, officials said on Tuesday. David Roach, a Canadian citizen, is wanted in Singapore for allegedly stealing Sg$30,000 (US$22,700) from a Standard Chartered bank branch in 2016 after strolling in and presenting a threatening note. He fled to Bangkok, where he was jailed on charges related to bringing the stolen cash into Thailand but authorities refused to...

‘Everything will be evaluated’: Indonesia suspends infrastructure projects after string of accidents

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:55
Indonesia has suspended the construction of elevated infrastructure projects, including rail and roads, after a series of accidents raised questions about the safety of a government drive to upgrade transport networks. Minister of Public Works and Housing Basuki Hadimuljono, who is in charge of infrastructure construction, on Tuesday said the government would suspend all construction of elevated infrastructure. “Design, equipment and standard operating procedures will be evaluated....

Fukushima operator Tepco told to compensate for suicide of 102-year-old

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:22
A Japanese court on Tuesday ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to compensate relatives of a 102-year-old man who killed himself at the prospect of fleeing his home. The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Co (TEPCO) to pay 15.2 million yen (US$143,400) in damages to the family of Fumio Okubo, according to their lawyer Yukio Yasuda. Okubo was the oldest resident of Iitate village, 40km (25 miles) from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant on Japan’s...

Lynch mob drags two men from police station in India, beats them to death for rape and murder of young girl

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:20
Two men suspected of raping and murdering a five-year-old girl in a remote northeast Indian state were dragged from a police station and lynched by an enraged mob, police said Tuesday. The girl’s disappearance from Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh state, and the discovery of her badly disfigured body, sparked widespread anger. The accused, both plantation workers from neighbouring Assam state, were being questioned by police in a town called Tezu, when a hundreds-strong mob carrying...

Malaysian artist jailed for clown face caricature of PM Najib Razak that went viral

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 10:48
A Malaysian artist was jailed for a month Tuesday for publishing a caricature of scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak looking like a clown, the latest government critic to be imprisoned. Fahmi Reza’s picture of the premier wearing powder-white clown make-up, with evilly arched eyebrows and blood-red lips, went viral and the image was widely used in demonstrations against Najib. His lawyer Syahredzan Johan said Fahmi, 40, was jailed and fined 30,000 ringgit (US$7,700) by a court in...

World's tallest wooden skyscraper planned in Tokyo

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:57
By Holly Ellyatt A Japanese company is planning to build the world's tallest wooden skyscraper with 90 per cent of the building made of wood. Sumitomo Forestry says its wooden high-rise — dubbed the W350 — will be 350 meters tall and the planned structure will be a hybrid of mostly wood and steel. The 70-storey building, expected to be built in Tokyo, will comprise of stores, offices, hotels and private homes, the company noted in plans released earlier in February...

‘Rare union’: Nepal’s ruling Communist Party merges with Maoists for super bloc

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:28
Nepal’s ruling party has merged with a former Maoist rebel group to form a super bloc that experts say will reshape politics after years of turbulence in the Himalayan nation. Officials said Tuesday the new alliance, the Nepal Communist Party, was formally signed into agreement following late-night negotiations between the two sides Monday. They forged a political alliance to trounce the incumbent party in last year’s landmark general elections, but this formal merger creates a...

Battleground Malaysia: China extends crackdown on Uygurs across borders

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:11
Malaysia has emerged as the latest battleground pitting Chinese efforts to export its security notions against principles of the rule of law. The Malaysian Bar Association warned in a pithy statement last week that granting a Chinese demand for the extradition of 11 Uygurs from Malaysia would constitute a violation of international law. If Malaysia’s past record is anything to go by, prospects for the Uygurs who face certain detention in China are not good. “The Malaysian government...

‘Trump is here. Are you invited?’ US president’s son in India to sell luxury flats

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 08:24
The eldest son of US President Donald Trump has arrived in India to help sell luxury flats and lavish attention on wealthy Indians who have already bought units in Trump-branded developments. Donald Trump Jnr posed for photos Tuesday morning with Indian developers, who are building the complexes in four cities. Later in the week, he is expected to make a speech about Indo-Pacific relations at a New Delhi business summit, sharing the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Trump...

US F-16 fighter jet drops fuel tanks in Japan lake after engine catches fire

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 07:25
Japan’s defence ministry demanded explanations Tuesday from the US military after a fighter jet experiencing an engine fire dropped two fuel tanks into a lake in the country’s north. The incident, which caused no injuries, is the latest in a string of accidents involving the US military that have prompted concern from Japanese officials and renewed criticism of the US military presence in the country. “We are asking the US side to explain what happened and its cause, and we...

Religious teacher blames WeChat for LGBT movement in Malaysia and proposes a North Korea-esque approach

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 07:19
By Jonathan Loh An Islamic religious teacher has called for a near dictatorial level of control by the government over online media access to support the suppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) sentiment among the Malaysian community  Ustaz Hanafiah Abd Malek said in a report by The Malay Mail Online that the Malaysian government should adopt North Korea’s strict control of the internet to handle the LGBT community.  Hanafiah cited examples of North Korea...

Lagging e-commerce spending inches up in Thailand

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:58
By Suchit Leesa-Nguansuk E-commerce spending in Thailand has inched higher, but is still lower than the global average. Thailand’s average e-commerce spending per user for consumer goods is US$248 (7,782 baht), compared with the global median of US$833 (26,141 baht), according to a study by social media management platform Hootsuite and global agency We Are Social. Some 52 per cent of the Thai population who buy items online do so via mobile phone (m-commerce), behind only South Korea at...

Family of murdered Cambodian government critic Kem Ley arrive in Australia as refugees after fleeing country in fear

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:51
The family of murdered Cambodian government critic Kem Ley, whose 2016 death sparked major street protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been granted a special humanitarian refugee visa by Australia and landed in the country. Kem’s Ley wife Bou Rachana and her five children arrived in the southern Australian city of Melbourne on Saturday, the office of Victorian state MP Hong Lim said Tuesday. “They were granted a Special Humanitarian Visa on 14 February 2018 … We are...

Controversial Australian fitness blogger Ashy Bines launches new programme targeting babies

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:18
Controversial Australian fitness blogger Ashy Bines is making headlines again, this time for her newly launched programme aimed at babies and children. The personal trainer and Instagram star from the Gold Coast has launched an "edu-tainment programme" that is aimed at children as young as 12 months old.  "Ashy and Friends" is an animated DVD series described as "a fun-packed music, fitness and education show for 1 to 6-year-olds". The show...

Latvia’s ABLV Bank in crisis after US accuses it of helping North Korea bust sanctions

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:08
Latvia’s ABLV Bank sought emergency support on Monday after US officials accused it of helping breach North Korean sanctions while the country’s central bank chief faced bribery allegations, turning up the spotlight on its financial system. The Baltic country, which is a member of the euro zone and shares a border with Russia, has come under increasing scrutiny recently as a conduit for illicit financial activities. Last year, two Latvian banks were fined more than 2.8 million euros...

Bangkok court gives Japanese man who lived in Hong Kong custody of 13 children born to Thai surrogate mothers

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 05:10
A Bangkok court on Tuesday granted a Japanese man “sole parent” rights to 13 babies fathered through Thai surrogate mothers, a ruling that paves the way for him to take custody of the children. “For the happiness and opportunities of the 13 children … the court rules that all who were born from surrogacy to be legal children of the plaintiff,” Bangkok’s Central Juvenile Court said in a statement. Mitsutoki Shigeta was deemed the “sole parent” of...

My bar crawl with Kim Jong-un (the Hong Kong-born one)

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:37
It is a rare night when you find yourself on a chilly street corner waiting for a car to arrive for a rendezvous with Kim Jong-un. Rarer still when Kim decides tonight is the night to go on a bar crawl. Two things are not as they seem, though. The first is that Kim is a teetotaller, making a the bar trip a potentially fruitless exercise. The second is that Kim is not Kim – he’s a Hong-Kong born Australian called Howard. Howard hit the headlines last week when he attempted to...

Maldives president seeks to extend state of emergency amid strife over opposition arrests

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 17:00
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on Monday sought parliamentary approval to extend a state of emergency for 15 days in the Indian Ocean archipelago as “the situation has not changed”, a top parliamentary official said. Yameen imposed the emergency on February 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered his government to free those held in prison. The state of emergency was to end on Tuesday. Deputy...

Rodrigo Duterte says Chinese military bases are to oppose US, not Philippines

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 16:36
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tried to allay fears over China’s construction of military bases on man-made islands in the South China Sea, saying they are a defence against the US, not made to attack Asian states. “It’s not intended for us,” he said in a speech to Chinese-Filipino businessmen on Monday. “The contending ideological powers of the world or the geopolitics has greatly changed. “It’s really intended against those who the Chinese think...

Singapore to raise GST for first time in decade despite surplus – but taxpayers won’t feel pain for at least three years

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 13:49
Singapore will hike its goods and services tax by two percentage points, the finance minister said on Monday, the first such move in a decade as the cash-rich government cited the need to pre-emptively increase revenue amid surging health care, security and infrastructure spending. The decision to raise the GST to 9 per cent was widely expected, but the curveball announcement that the change would be stayed until “sometime” between 2021 and 2025 drew praise from observers for being...

Philippine forces arrest ‘Egyptian ex-Islamic State commander’ after raid on Manila flat

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 13:39
Philippine police and army troops have arrested an Arab man they believe was a former commander of Islamic State along the Syria and Turkey border in a raid on a Manila flat, where they found bomb-making materials and an IS-style flag, the national police chief said on Monday. Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Fehmi Lassoued, who is reportedly from Egypt, and his Filipino companion, Anabel Moncera Salipada, were arrested last week based on intelligence provided by foreign...

Troops drink cobra blood in US-Thailand war games

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:55
US and Thai marines slurped snake blood and ate scorpions in a jungle survival programme on Monday as part of the two nations’ annual Cobra Gold war games. Now in its 37th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of troops from the United States, Thailand and other countries for 10 days of field training on Thai shores. On Monday, several dozen US and Thai marines took park in an annual jungle survival drill on a Thai navy base in Chonburi...

Nepal leader vows to revive Chinese dam project, open to review pact over Nepalese soldiers in India

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:30
Nepal’s new communist prime minister will restart a Chinese-led US$2.5 billion hydropower project that was pulled by the previous government considered friendly towards India, and wants to increase infrastructure connectivity with Beijing to ease the country’s reliance on New Delhi. He also wants to “update” relations with India “in keeping with the times” and favours a review of all special provisions of Indo-Nepal relations, including the long-established...

Cambodia court drops pornography charges against nine foreigners for ‘sexy dancing’ at pool party

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:32
A Cambodian court has dropped pornography charges against nine of the 10 foreigners arrested last month at a pool party in the tourist town of Siem Reap, an official said Monday. The group was detained for around two weeks on charges of producing pornographic materials to promote the event at a private villa in the city flanking Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat temple ruins. Police, who broke up the party on January 25, initially accused the foreigners of “singing and dancing...

Australian politician under fire for posting gun range photo on Facebook

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:25
A conservative Australian politician who posted a photo of himself on Facebook holding a gun in a dig at environmentalists was reported to police and accused of being insensitive after a mass shooting at a US school. George Christensen put up the image on Saturday showing him at a shooting range with the comment: “You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky, greenie punks?” He said it was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “Dirty Harry” films starring Clint Eastwood who...

Plane with flaming engine makes emergency landing in Thailand with 84 passengers on board

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 09:52
By Pratuan Kajonwuthinan A NokAir plane made an emergency landing at Sakon airport in Thailand after flames were seen coming from one of its two engines and the propeller stopped turning shortly after take-off. Flight DD9407,  a Bombardier Q400 carrying 84 passengers, left Sakon Nakhon airport about 3.10pm yesterday, due to arrive at Don Mueang airport at 4.35pm. A few minutes later it suddenly turned back to Sakon Nakhon airport and made an emergency landing. Some passengers were...

Indonesians arrested for shooting an orangutan 130 times

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 09:22
Four Indonesian men have been arrested over the killing of an orangutan shot some 130 times with an air rifle, police said on Monday, in the latest fatal attack on a critically endangered species. The suspects, farmers from the island of Borneo, admitted killing the animal, saying it ruined their crops at a pineapple and palm oil plantation, according to authorities. “They meant to shoo [it] away but their actions instead killed the orangutan,” said Teddy Ristiawan, district police...

GPS trackers, soiled stuff animals and stabbings: the perils of being a Japanese pop star

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 08:59
Infatuated fans of Japan’s stage stars are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to get closer to the objects of their desire. The management of all-boy dance troupe Anatashia has been forced to issue a statement through the group’s official Twitter account saying the six dancers will no longer accept soft toys from fans after what appeared to be a tracking device was found inside a stuffed animal given to one of them at a recent event. “We are sad to have to...

No one is applauding a Malaysian political party’s promise of ‘free plastic bags’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 08:53
By Jonathan Loh The right-wing Barisan Nasional party in Malaysia has promised to bring back free plastic bags if it should recapture Selangor in the upcoming 14th general election. According to Malaysiakini, Selangor BN information chief Mohamed Satim Diman said at a dialogue on February 18: “This is part of the BN manifesto, if BN gets back the Selangor government, no more payments for plastic bags. Do you want this?” The ruling federal coalition will also cease the practice of...

Are Malaysian theme parks safe? Issue highlighted after Phillipine star Ruffa Gutierrez’s daughters allegedly harassed

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 08:39
By Jessica Lin You mess with them, you mess with me @loringabriella @venicebektas ️ @sweet.escape #rcmemories #rcpartner A post shared by RUFFA GUTIERREZ (@iloveruffag) on Feb 15, 2018 at 3:50am PST Family-centred theme parks are meant to be safe, comfortable zones for people of all ages to be in, right? Unfortunately, family trips don’t always work out the way we expect them to. A Filipino star with more than a million followers on Instagram recently highlighted a bad...

Imran Khan’s new bride wears full veil in wedding photos as former Pakistan cricketer marries for third time

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 08:26
Pakistani politician and former playboy cricketer Imran Khan has married a woman described as his spiritual adviser, party officials said, the third wedding for the World Cup champion once touted as Pakistan’s most eligible bachelor. Khan, 65, married Bushra Wattoo in a private ceremony attended by relatives and friends in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday, his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party announced on Twitter. Pictures of the ceremony, showing the bride in a full veil, were...

South Korean airline chairman apologises over sexual harassment accusations

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 08:08
By Jung Min-ho and Kang Aa-young Kumho Asiana Chairman Park Sam-koo has apologised over allegations that he sexually harassed the company’s flight attendants. In a statement released February 12, Park, 72, said he was sorry for those who “felt uncomfortable” with what he did. But he gave no details of what he did, nor did he admit that he physically touched them against their will. Park had been accused of forcing some flight attendants to hug him or hold his hand when he...

Malaysian rapper Namewee probed over ‘offensive’ Lunar New Year dog video with suggestive sex moves

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:46
A rapper in Muslim-majority Malaysia is under police investigation for allegedly insulting Islam with a Lunar New Year video that features dancers wearing dog masks and performing suggestive moves. The video features controversial rapper Wee Meng Chee, known by his stage name Namewee, sitting on a chair in front of a domed building and mimicking barks of canines from around the world. Several black-clad dancers wearing masks of dogs – an animal considered unclean in Islam – gyrate...

Controversial Malaysian rapper Namewee under police probe for ‘Like A Dog’ music video

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:34
By Sujin Thomas The Malaysian authorities have launched an investigation into controversial rapper Namewee over his recent Chinese New Year-themed music video call Like A Dog. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the police are working with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to probe the clip. According to The Star, he told reporters: “The investigation paper has been opened.” “We also know that currently he is overseas.” On...

‘Red notice’ warning for airlines as Indonesia’s Sinabung volcano unleashes towering column of ash

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:11
Rumbling Mount Sinabung on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has shot billowing columns of ash more than 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) into the atmosphere and hot clouds down its slopes. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said there were no fatalities or injuries from Monday morning’s eruption. The volcano, one of three currently erupting in Indonesia, was dormant for four centuries before exploding in 2010, killing two people. Another eruption in 2014 killed 16 people, while seven died...

Abuse or unemployment: Philippine domestic helpers face stark choice in Kuwait as stories of exploitation by horrible bosses emerge

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 04:56
After the murder of a Philippine maid in Kuwait, domestic helpers are streaming back to Manila with tales of abusive employers – but many are still prepared to take their chances overseas again. For them, the sometimes brutal conditions and the hide-and-seek with Kuwaiti police are outweighed by the need to provide for their families at home. “The mother of my boss, she would hurt me, she would hit me with a shoe with a thick sole. My body was bruised but I would not (go home),...

Australia, US, India and Japan in talks to establish ‘alternative’ to China’s Belt and Road (just don’t call it a rival)

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 04:02
Australia, the United States, India and Japan are talking about establishing a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative in an attempt to counter Beijing’s spreading influence, the Australian Financial Review reported on Monday, citing a senior US official. The unnamed official was quoted as saying the plan involving the four regional partners was still “nascent” and “won’t be ripe enough to...

Racial politics, a Malaysian disease?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 01:35
I am sipping tea in an electrically decorated, hipster-style cafe in Penang. The place – a restored old shophouse – is packed. Tourists from Singapore to China mix with yuppie Malaysians eating cheesecake. Nearby, hordes of backpackers throng the alleys of Georgetown, filling up bars and taking selfies with street art. Since 2008, Penang has transformed itself from a local food haven to a global tourist magnet. The state has, for better or for worse, seen rapid development....

The Philippine lawyer who wants to put Duterte in the dock

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 15:34
Philippine lawyer Jude Sabio says he has not been home for a year, steers clear of public events and is always looking over his shoulder after accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of crimes against humanity. Sabio, a stocky 51-year-old, says he lives in constant fear of reprisals after filing a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the wildly popular Duterte, whose administration Filipinos rate as the best performing since opinion polls started in the 1980s. A little-known...

Thai officials discover smelly clue in tycoon poaching case

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:30
Thai officials will test human faeces found at a campsite in a wildlife sanctuary to try to prove their case against a tycoon accused of poaching a leopard. Construction magnate Premchai Karnasuta has denied poaching charges against him and three others. They were arrested earlier this month in the sanctuary in western Thailand where rangers stumbled upon their camp and found guns and animal carcasses. Rich and influential Thais have a habit of avoiding justice. The government is on the back...

Death toll from gas explosion at Indian wedding rises to 18

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:06
Rescuers discovered nine more bodies on Sunday beneath the ruins of an Indian hotel, bringing the known death toll from an explosion which tore through a wedding party to 18, an official said. A gas cylinder exploded late on Friday at the hotel in the city of Beawar, in the western state of Rajasthan, reducing the venue to ruins and sparking a huge fire. By Saturday evening officials said nine bodies had been found. But the figure rose sharply Sunday as rescue teams, aided by the army, found...

Violent brawls transform South Pacific trip into ‘cruise from hell’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 10:17
People holidaying on a Carnival cruise ship this week in the South Pacific had their trip turned upside down thanks to a series of violent brawls that seemed to transform the ship from a paradise into a fight club. Passengers have described the trip as the “cruise from hell”. The Carnival Legend was forced to escort several guests off the ship and place them on a smaller boat before the boat docked in Australia on Saturday. Several fights broke out over the 10-day cruise, including...

Palmreader? Introducing the ‘second skin’ health monitor and messaging system

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 09:12
Palmreading could take on a whole new meaning thanks to a new invention from Japan: an ultra-thin display and monitor that can be stuck directly onto the body. The sticking plaster-like device is just one millimetre thick and can monitor important health data as well as send and receive messages, including emoji. Takao Someya, the University of Tokyo professor who developed the device, envisions it as a boon for medical professionals with bedridden or far-flung patients, as well as family...

South Korean director rejects sex abuse claims at Berlin film fest

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 08:49
A South Korean director defiantly rejected abuse accusations against him at the Berlin film festival on Saturday, saying he ensures no one “suffers” on the sets of his ultraviolent, sexually explicit art films. Acclaimed filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, who has picked up prizes at the Cannes, Venice and Berlinale festivals, faced a barrage of questions from reporters about allegations of physical and sexual abuse by an actress he worked with in 2013. His invitation to Berlinale prompted the...

Mother wants public execution for Pakistan serial killer sentenced to death for rape and murder of her 7-year-old daughter

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 05:12
A Pakistani court has handed four death sentences to a man charged with raping and murdering a six-year-old girl, in a case that shocked the country and sparked major riots in his home district. Imran Ali, 24, was on trial for killing Zainab Ansari in the eastern city of Kasur last month. He faces further charges in the cases of at least seven other children attacked in the Punjab city – five of whom were murdered – in a spate of assaults that had stoked fears a serial child killer...

The museums behind the murmurs of a Southeast Asian renaissance

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 04:04
Museums have always been both window and mirror: they provide a lens into our society while also functioning as a way to reflect upon our own lives. They have played an outsize role in shaping culture, often with political purpose; the National Palace Museum in Taipei forms part of Taiwan’s claim that it is the “real China”, while the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts presents what it considers to be works exhibiting the “national character” of the country. In...

Can Indonesia’s new cybercrime unit win its war on fake news?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 01:01
Indonesia has unleashed a new cyber and encryption agency as a weapon in its long war on cybercrime, online radicalism and fake news, but the Southeast Asian nation still needs to define the office’s scope of authority to prevent bureaucratic overlap and to shake off privacy concerns. A plan to establish the National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN) was put forth four years ago when President Joko Widodo took office, but the agency only started work in January after Major General Djoko...

25 arrested after protest demanding Maldive president's detention

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 21:56
Maldives police arrested 25 people under a state of emergency, opposition legislators said on Saturday, after thousands of protesters gathered a day earlier to call for the detention of the president and release of opposition leaders. The tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, best known for its luxury hotels and dive resorts, imposed a 15-day state of emergency on February 5 to annul a Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of nine leading opposition figures. Shortly after imposing the state of...

Will Japan’s casino plan create big business for yakuza?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 13:02
The Japanese government has outlined a scheme by which it intends to prevent excessive gambling becoming a social problem after the country’s first casinos open for business, although critics say it will be relatively easy to circumvent the safeguards. They also warn that Japan’s organised crime groups are looking on with increasing interest as legislation makes its way through the Diet to allow casinos to operate as part of larger “integrated resorts” that bring...

May pleads for ‘urgent’ post-Brexit EU security deal

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 13:01
British Prime Minister Theresa May pleaded on Saturday for an urgent deal with the European Union on post-Brexit security cooperation, claiming peoples’ lives were at stake. In a speech at the Munich Security Conference, she acknowledged that no deal currently exists between the EU and a third country “that captures the full depth and breadth of our existing relationship”. But she said there was no reason both sides could not come up with practical ways to create a “deep...

India cancels passport of jeweller to the stars Nirav Modi over massive bank scam

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 11:28
Indian investigators have arrested three people who allegedly helped a billionaire jeweller obtain fake documents for overseas loans in one of the country’s biggest bank scams, an official said on Saturday. Investigators are looking into allegations that Nirav Modi and his business partner Mehul Choksi were involved in defrauding India’s second-largest state-run lender the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of 2.8 billion rupees (US$43.8 million). The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)...

US urges Malaysia to protect minority Muslims wanted by China

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 10:46
The United States urged Malaysia on Friday to offer temporary protection to 11 Uygur Muslims whose extradition is being sought by China. The US State Department said it had called on Malaysia to allow the UN refugee agency access to the Uygurs – among a group of 20 originally from China who escaped from Thailand last year – to determine their eligibility for international protection and eventual resettlement in a third country. “We urge the Malaysian authorities to conduct a...

Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce meet to resolve row

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 10:21
Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull met face-to-face in Sydney on Saturday to try to resolve the damaging public crisis engulfing the coalition government. The pair are understood to have met at about midday for more than an hour. The meeting came as the internal rift in the coalition took a turn for the worse. Liberal senator Ian Macdonald appeared on ABC and called on Joyce to resign to the backbench. Macdonald said that by staying on as deputy prime minister, Joyce was giving Bill Shorten a...

Call for justice as body of Filipino beaten to death and stuffed in a freezer returns home from Kuwait

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 09:53
More than 100 relatives and supporters of a Filipino maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait brandished banners demanding justice as her coffin was returned home on Saturday. The family of Joanna Demafelis openly wept as the white casket was unloaded at an airport cargo terminal in the central city of Iloilo. “Justice for Joanna D. Demafelis,” was written on signs and T-shirts worn by the crowd which included a congressman and local officials expressing anger over...

Was Kim Jong-un’s ‘historic’ missile recycled Russian weapon technology?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 09:21
The powerful intercontinental missile tested by North Korea late last year is “highly likely” to have been built with foreign blueprints or parts, according to a new technical analysis that describes several similarities between Pyongyang’s new missile and ones built by the Soviet Union decades ago. The alleged foreign help – the nature of which is unclear – could explain why North Korea apparently was able to skip months or even years of preliminary testing...

Planned ‘pharma city’ to pump out cheap Indian drugs is making villagers sick with anger

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 04:30
Driving up the motorway from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, smooth all-weather roads become wider. In the crisp February morning, factory chimneys raise their heads above the green landscape and roadsides are lined with cotton crops, waiting to be harvested. Saraswati, a landowner of the Medipally village in Telangana province, of which Hyderabad is the capital, shudders to think that all this would soon be replaced by miles and miles of concrete factories manufacturing pharmaceuticals...

US-South Korea military drills to go on despite Pyongyang’s charm offensive: former CIA officer

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 20:00
South Korean government officials have offered assurances that their joint military exercises with the US, which were pre-empted by the Winter Olympic Games, will proceed despite North Korea’s recent efforts to rebuild ties with Seoul by inviting President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang. “In the near term, the US will be wary about how far President Moon will go, but when I was in Seoul recently all of the officials assured us that the military exercises would go on as they need to,...

‘A real trip is a hassle’: Japan firm taking wishful travellers on virtual reality first class flights to Paris

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 09:50
Fasten your seat belts for a flight departing to Paris, and never leave the ground. That is exactly what 12 passengers did at First Airlines in central Tokyo this week, where they relaxed in first and business-class seats and were served four-course dinners, before immersing themselves in 360-degree virtual reality (VR) tours of the City of Light’s sights. “A real trip is a hassle to prepare for, and expensive, and takes time. So I think it is good that we can enjoy all this hassle...

Borneo’s orangutan population plunged by 100,000 since 1999, new study finds

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 09:04
The most comprehensive study of Borneo’s orangutans estimates their numbers have plummeted by more than 100,000 since 1999, as the palm oil and paper industries shrink their jungle habitat and fatal conflicts with people increase. The finding, which is to be published in the journal Current Biology, is in line with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2016 designation of Borneo’s orangutans as critically endangered. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for...

Senior US Navy officials in Japan fired after one was found drunk, naked and wandering in the woods

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 08:42
The US Navy said on Friday it had removed three senior officers deployed in Japan for “personal misconduct”, after one was reportedly found wandering the base drunk and naked. The navy did not disclose the details of the February 12 incident, but the Navy Times reported that Lieutenant Commander Jason Gabbard was relieved of duty after “being discovered in the woods wearing only his boots”. He was “found intoxicated and walking naked in the woods on Camp Shields...

A young Chinese Indonesian straddles modernity and tradition in Jakarta

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 08:18
Arifin Kurniawan towers over his 55-year-old father’s prostrate figure. With his hand placed firmly on the older man’s head, the blonde-haired son barks out instructions in Hokkien. Only moments before, the 21-year-old Chinese-Indonesian had cut his tongue deliberately with a sword – using the blood to write Chinese characters on rice paper. Bathed in an eerie red light, with statues of countless deities lining the walls and the air filled with chanting, the Fat Cu Kung shrine...

Can North Korea cover up its brutal regime with lipstick diplomacy?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:34
North Korea’s rebranding campaign has gained purchase on the Olympic stage and won lavish media attention, but to bear the kind of fruit that really matters Pyongyang will have to do more than just smile and bat its eyes. On Wednesday, Seoul approved a US$2.6 million budget to cover the cost of food, lodging, transport and more for North Korea’s 229 cheerleaders, its 30 taekwondo performers and all 140 members of its Samjiyon Orchestra. The announcement came a day after North Korean...

Malaysian government mocked for featuring barking rooster in Chinese ‘Year of the Dog’ ad cock-up

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 06:32
Malaysia has apologised after a government ad in Chinese-language newspapers featuring a picture of a barking rooster to mark the Year of the Dog sparked a flood of mockery. The full-page advert by the domestic trade, co-operatives and consumerism ministry showed a rooster emitting the word “wang”, used to represent a dog’s bark in Mandarin. The advert, printed in Chinese-language newspapers in the multi-ethnic country on Thursday, also carried a message welcoming a “...

Australia’s government in turmoil as PM Malcolm Turnbull and deputy Barnaby Joyce trade barbs over sex scandal

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 06:01
The Australian government was thrown into turmoil on Friday after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce hit out at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, calling the prime minister’s criticism of his extramarital affair with a former staffer “inept” and “unnecessary.” The rare public dispute between the two top government officials followed Turnbull taking the extraordinary step of banning sexual relations between ministers and their staff on Thursday. Joyce, who is also...

‘Falling behind’: US admiral warns of China dominance in hypersonic missile race

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 05:25
Even as the Pentagon hustles to ensure that its defences keep pace with North Korea’s fast-growing rocket programme, US officials increasingly are turning attention to a new generation of missile threat. These weapons under development by China and Russia – as well as by the United States – can fly at many times the speed of sound and are designed to beat regular anti-missile defence systems. The hypersonic missiles could change the face of future warfare, as they can switch...

Bank of Japan’s ‘bazooka-wielding’ chief Haruhiko Kuroda nominated for second five-year term

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 04:34
Japan’s government nominated Haruhiko Kuroda for a second term as central bank governor on Friday, handing the veteran finance chief more time to battle deflation and kick-start the world’s number-three economy. Kuroda’s nomination was among those submitted to the parliament in a document seen by reporters, and had been widely expected. Hand-picked by Shinzo Abe to steer the former economic powerhouse out of a dangerous cycle of falling prices, Kuroda has guided the key...

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