• Japan to mark 75th WW2 anniversary in scaled-back ceremony amid COVID-19
    TOKYO, August 14 (Reuters): Japan will mark the 75th anniversary of its World War Two surrender on Saturday in a memorial ceremony scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as ties with neighbours China and South Korea remain haunted by the conflict's legacy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who with Emperor Naruhito was set to attend an official ceremony at an indoor arena, was expected separately to send a ritual offering to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine but avo
  • Afghanistan forms new women's council ahead of Taliban talks
    KABUL, August 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation): The Afghan government has announced a new council to safeguard women's rights and interests, amid fears peace talks with the Taliban could lead to the loss of hard-won gains. President Ashraf Ghani said the council, announced late on Thursday, would "empower women", promote their rights at home and implement Afghanistan's international commitments on women's rights. The move came a day after a coalition of women
  • EU agrees first COVID-19 vaccine deal with AstraZeneca in WHO blow
    BRUSSELS, August 14 (Reuters): The European Union has agreed to buy at least 300 million doses of AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19 vaccine in its first such advance purchase deal, which could weaken plans led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for a global approach. The European Commission, which is negotiating on behalf of all 27 EU member states, said the deal included an option to purchase 100 million additional doses from the British drugmaker should its vaccine prove sa
  • Thai king commutes death sentence for Myanmar men in British tourist murder case
    BANGKOK, August 14 (Reuters): Two migrant workers from Myanmar on death row in Thailand for the 2014 murder of two British backpackers had their sentences commuted to life in prison on Friday thanks to a royal decree, their lawyer said. The two workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, were sentenced to death for the murder of David Miller and the murder and rape of Hannah Witheridge, whose bodies were discovered on a beach on the popular tourist island of Koh Tao in September 2014.
  • As UAE hails Israel accord, silence from Saudi Arabia
    DUBAI/RIYADH, August 14 (Reuters): As media and people in the United Arab Emirates hailed the Gulf state's deal to normalise relations with Israel as a diplomatic victory that helps the Palestinians, silence reigned in Saudi Arabia, longtime figurehead of regional policy towards Israel. Analysts see the surprise UAE-Israel agreement announced on Thursday as a strategic boost for the UAE's regional and global standing that could put it ahead of its powerful Saudi neighbo
  • Mountain village landslides kill 16 in Nepal, sweep away homes
    KATHMANDU, August 14 (Reuters): Landslides triggered by heavy rain swept away dozens of houses and killed at least 16 people in mountainous villages of Nepal on Friday and many people were missing, a home ministry official said. Nepal suffers flash floods and landslides during the June-September rainy season, resulting in loss of life and property every year. A massive landslide swept away dozens of houses, killing at least 10 people, early on Friday in Sindhupalshowk, near
  • Turkey may suspend ties with UAE over Israel deal, Erdogan says
    ISTANBUL, August 14 (Reuters): Turkey is considering suspending diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates and withdrawing its ambassador over the Gulf state's accord to normalise ties with Israel, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. The Turkish foreign ministry said history would never forgive the UAE's "hypocritical behaviour" in agreeing such a deal, which recasts the order of Middle East politics. Under the U.S.-brokered, the first between Israe
  • Lebanon alone must decide its own future, says Iran foreign minister
    BEIRUT, August 14 (Reuters): Only the Lebanese people and their representatives can decide the country's future, Iran's foreign minister said on a visit to Beirut on Friday, following the massive blast at the city's port that killed 172 people and prompted the government to resign. Iran backs Lebanon's powerful armed movement Hezbollah, which along with its allies helped form the outgoing government. The United States classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
  • China air pollution falls 10.8% because of coronavirus slowdown
    SHANGHAI/BEIJING, August 14 (Reuters): China saw average concentrations of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5 fall by 10.8% from January to July as industry slowed because of the coronavirus, data showed on Friday, though levels were still well above WHO recommendations. Average PM2.5 stood at 33 micrograms per cubic metre over the seven months, according to data collected from monitoring stations in more than 300 cities, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment sai
  • South Korea's Moon to focus on victims in 'comfort women' dispute with Japan
    CHEONAN, South Korea, August 14 (Reuters): President Moon Jae-in vowed on Friday to spotlight the plight of South Korea's last few surviving "comfort women", as those forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels are known, in efforts to resolve a dispute with its neighbour over the thorny issue. The comments figured in a recorded message to a 100-strong gathering of activists, government officials, and others in the city of Cheonan to commemorate the victims of
  • Afghan government releases 80 of final 400 Taliban prisoners
    KABUL, August 14 (Reuters): The Afghan government has begun releasing the last Taliban prisoners from a final batch of 400 who the militants want freed before they agree to start peace negotiations, a security agency spokesman said on Friday. The government agreed on Sunday to release the 400 "hard-core" prisoners after consulting a grand assembly of elders and other community leaders, known as a Loya Jirga. "The government ... yesterday released 80 Taliban co
  • Russian doctors wary of rapidly approved COVID-19 vaccine, survey shows
    MOSCOW, August 14 (Reuters): A majority of Russian doctors would not feel comfortable being injected with Russia's new COVID-19 vaccine due to the lack of sufficient data about it and its super-fast approval, a survey of more than 3,000 medical professionals showed on Friday. Russia has said that the world's first vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be rolled out by the end of this month, with doctors among those set to be administered with it on a voluntary basis.
  • New Zealand extends Covid-19 restrictions for 12 days
    Wellington, August 14 (IANS): New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday announced a 12-day extension of the country's Covid-19 restrictions, after a cluster of cases in Auckland city increased to 29 amid the second and stronger wave of the pandemic. Addressing the media here, Ardern said the decision to extend the restrictions was "in keeping with our cautionary approach and New Zealand's philosophy of going hard and going early", the BBC reported. She
  • 'Little brown girl': Australian Biden-Harris cartoon sparks furore
    MELBOURNE, August 15 (Reuters): A cartoon in Australia's biggest national newspaper drew condemnation on Friday as being racist for portraying U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden describing his new running mate, Kamala Harris, as "this little brown girl". The cartoon by Johannes Leak in Rupert Murdoch's The Australian newspaper, known for its conservative views, depicted a beaming Biden saying Harris, the first Black woman on a major-party national tic
  • Ex-lawyer reveals Trump's tax fraud, back channel to Putin
    London, August 14 (IANS): Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has released a teaser of his tell-all book, in which he claims of helping the US President commit tax fraud and create a back channel to Russia's Vladimir Putin, it was reported on Friday. "I know where the skeletons are buried because I was the one who buried them," the Metro newspaper quoted an excerpt from Cohen's book, titled "Disloyal: A Memoir. The true story of the former personal
  • Kim Jong-un appoints new premier
    Seoul, August 14 (IANS): North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appointed a new premier during a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, state-media reported on Friday. According to Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the appointment was made during the meeting on Thursday. Workers' Party Vice Chairman Kim Tok-hun took over as the country's new premier, while replacing Kim Jae-ryong, Yonhap News Agency quoted the KCNA as saying
  • People should not fear spread of COVID-19 in food, packaging - WHO
    GENEVA, August 14 (Reuters) - The World Health Organization said on Thursday it saw no evidence of coronavirus being spread by food or packaging and urged people not to be afraid of the virus entering the food chain. Two cities in China said they had found traces of the coronavirus in imported frozen chicken wings from Brazil and on outer packaging of frozen Ecuadorian shrimp, raising fears that contaminated food shipments might cause a new outbreak. “People should not fear
  • With Trump's help, Israel and the United Arab Emirates reach historic deal to normalize relations
    WASHINGTON, August 13 (Reuters): Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a historic peace deal on Thursday that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations in an agreement that U.S. President Donald Trump helped broker. Under the agreement, Israel has agreed to suspend applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank that it has been discussing annexing, senior White House officials told Reuters. The peace deal was the p
  • Israeli hospital trials super-quick saliva test for COVID-19
    RAMAT GAN, Israel, August 13 (Reuters): A newly developed saliva test aims to determine in less than a second whether or not you are infected with the novel coronavirus, Israel's largest medical center said on Thursday. Patients rinse their mouth with a saline wash and spit into a vial. This is then examined by a small spectral device that, in simple terms, shines light on the specimen and analyses the reaction to see if it is consistent with COVID-19. With machine learn
  • Trump holds up coronavirus aid to block Democrats' bid for election funding
    WASHINGTON, August 13 (Reuters): Funding for the U.S. Postal Service and to shore up election infrastructure became a major sticking point in congressional talks on coronavirus relief, as President Donald Trump on Thursday vowed to block any money to facilitate mail-in voting. The Republican president has been railing against mail-in ballots for months as a possible source of fraud, although there is little evidence it takes place and millions of Americans - including much of t