Thousands of flights canceled as Eastern US braces for winter storm

  NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — Thousands of flights in the United States were canceled Saturday as parts of the East Coast braced for a shellacking by a powerful winter storm packing heavy snow and high winds. Places in the North East, including New York and Boston, were expected to bear the brunt of the far-reaching system, which is also predicted to pummel the Mid-Atlantic. Salt machines and snowplows were at the ready in […]

Taiwan will not send delegation to Beijing Olympics ceremonies

  TAIPEI, Taiwan (AFP) — Taiwan will not send an official delegation to the opening or closing of the Beijing Winter Olympics due to China’s strict pandemic controls and flight disruptions, the self-ruled island’s governing body for sport said. The decision comes at a time when relations between Beijing and Taipei are at their lowest in decades with China ramping up military and economic pressure under President Xi Jinping. Taiwan’s Sports Administration said late Friday […]

Nearly 40 percent of Tigrayans face ‘extreme lack of food’: UN

  by Robbie COREY-BOULET Agence France Presse ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AFP) — Nearly 40 percent of people in Ethiopia’s Tigray are suffering “an extreme lack of food” in the face of an extended de-facto blockade of the war-hit region, a UN agency said Friday. The dire assessment published by the World Food Programme (WFP) comes as humanitarian groups are forced to increasingly curtail activities because of fuel and supply shortages, with aid having to be […]

Russia loses a million people in historic population fall

  MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russia’s population declined by more than one million people in 2021, the statistics agency Rosstat reported Friday, a historic drop not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ongoing demographic woes have been exacerbated by the pandemic with Rosstat figures showing more than 660,000 had died with coronavirus since health officials recorded the first case in the country. The new figures continue a downward trend from the previous year […]

Russia doesn’t want war but will defend its interests: official

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Moscow doesn’t want war but will not allow its interests to be ignored, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday as tensions continue to simmer over Ukraine. The West has accused Russia of massing 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and has threatened unprecedented sanctions if Moscow invades. “If it depends on Russia, there will be no war. We do not want wars,” Lavrov said in an interview with the […]

Malaysian floods caused $1.4 bn in losses: government

  KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — Devastating floods that hit Malaysia in recent weeks caused about $1.4 billion in losses, with widespread damage to homes, businesses and factories, the country’s statistics department said on Friday. Heavy monsoon rains triggered the country’s worst flooding in years from mid-December to early January, with about 50 people killed and 125,000 forced from their homes. The disaster caused losses amounting to 6.1 billion ringgit ($1.45 billion), the government’s statistics […]

Six rockets target Baghdad airport, damaging plane: security source

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) — Six rockets were fired at the Iraqi capital’s airport at dawn on Friday, causing damage but no casualties, two security sources said. The rockets landed on Baghdad airport’s runways or parking areas, one of the sources said. “One civilian plane has been hit and damaged,” the source said. © Agence France-Presse

Gunman arrested in Japan after taking doctor hostage, shooting nurse: reports

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — A Japanese man has been arrested for the attempted murder of a doctor he took hostage overnight, reports said Friday. The suspect also shot a nurse, who is severely injured, as he confined the doctor, who is feared dead after the attack, according to public broadcaster NHK. NHK said the 44-year-old doctor was in cardiorespiratory arrest — an expression often used in Japan before a death is confirmed — when he […]

North Korea confirms missile tests as Kim inspects ‘important’ munitions factory

by Cat BARTON / Kang Jin-kyu SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — North Korea test-fired two different weapons systems this week, state media said Friday, while highlighting Kim Jong Un’s inspection of an “important” munitions factory. Pyongyang has conducted six weapons tests in January, including firing hypersonic missiles, doubling down on Kim’s call to build “military muscle” with one of the most intense single-month barrages on record while ignoring US offers of talks. The official Korean […]

Hong Kong outbreak exposes flaws in 21-day quarantine policy

by Holmes CHAN HONG KONG, China (AFP) — Hong Kong’s U-turn on its mandatory three-week quarantine for arrivals follows growing scrutiny of the strict policy after a coronavirus outbreak was traced to a woman infected during her hotel stay. Like mainland China, Hong Kong is one of the few places left in the world still pursuing a zero-Covid strategy that has largely kept the virus at bay but left the finance hub internationally isolated. On […]

WHO hit by racism claims against Western Pacific head

  by Robin MILLARD Agence France Presse GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The World Health Organization vowed to take action Thursday following a slew of allegations from staff past and present against its Western Pacific regional director, including racist, abusive and authoritarian behaviour. Japanese doctor Takeshi Kasai, who denied the allegations, is accused presiding over a “toxic atmosphere” at the WHO regional office in Manila, with a culture of “systemic bullying and public ridiculing”. The staff, […]

Coast Guard ending search for bodies from capsize off Florida

MIAMI, United States (AFP) — The US Coast Guard said Thursday it will soon call off the search for dozens of people missing from a boat that capsized off Florida last weekend in a suspected human smuggling tragedy. Search teams have recovered five bodies, from around 40 people who were on the boat, according to the military branch. “If we don’t receive any additional information today that can refine our search or direct us towards […]