Month in brief

Double jeopardy

Asia Bibi, the Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, then acquitted, has arrived in Canada to start a new life after years on death row. But although Asia’s release may seem to have struck a blow for religious freedom, her flight from Pakistan might not mean the end of her ordeal, as Islamic extremists have pledged to pursue and kill her for her supposed act of blasphemy.

Myanmar frees Reuters journalists

Myanmar frees Reuters journalistsTwo Reuters journalists  jailed in Myanmar for reporting on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims have been freed after spending more than 17 months behind bars. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested in December 2017, were charged with breaking Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act and have been incarcerated in Yangon’s Insein jail ever since. They were released as part of an amnesty of 6,520 prisoners by President Win Myint, and reunited with their families. Wa Lone’s first child was born while he was still in jail.

Rohingya rescue

Rohingya rescuePolice in Bangladesh have prevented the trafficking of dozens of Rohingya Muslims, mainly women, who were about to be sent to Malaysia by boat. Traffickers picked up around 70 Rohingya from refugee camps in the country’s Cox’s Bazar district, promising them jobs in Malaysia where many Rohingya already live. In recent months, many have boarded boats bound for Malaysia and Bangladeshi authorities fear this could mark a new wave of people-smuggling by sea after a clampdown in 2015, when an estimated 25,000 Rohingya crossed the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, many drowning in overloaded boats.

Radioactivity’s long reach

Traces of radioactive carbon have been found in crustaceans living in the deepest trenches of the Pacific Ocean, decades after the nuclear bomb tests of the Cold War. The creatures showed high levels of radioactive carbon in their muscle tissues, according to a recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Weidong Sun, a professor of marine geology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, China, a co-author of the study, said this illustrates how the actions of humans can inflict long-term harm on the planet.

Attack in Gwadar

ATTACK IN GWADARFive people, including a soldier, were killed after gunmen stormed a five-star luxury hotel in Pakistan’s volatile Balochistan province. The May 11 attack on the Pearl Continental in the port city of Gwadar, which destroyed the building’s fourth floor, left four hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier dead, and six others were injured. The military said that all three attackers, who planned to take hotel guests hostage, had been killed. Security at Gwadar has been stepped up in the wake of the attack.

Oz to buy wheat from Canada

Australiais preparing to make a rare purchase of Canadian wheat, as drought hasdestroyedthis and other grain crops across the country, which is normally the biggest exporter of wheat in the Southern Hemisphere. An importer was issued a permit to ship bulk wheat from Canada, which is expected to arrive within the next two months. Although Australia does import small amounts of speciality wheat grades each year, a bulk shipment like this is significant because it is so rare.

No smoking, please

An increasing number of companies in Japan are not employing smokers, in a bid to take stronger action against tobacco use and place greater emphasis on promoting employees’ health. This includes limiting exposure to passive smoking and boosting productivity by eliminating ‘smoking breaks’. The world of academia has also moved to limit tobacco consumption, with Nagasaki University saying it will not hire faculty members who smoke, and Oita University giving preference to non-smokers when appointing staff.

Picture this

An endangered Asiatic black bear has been caught on camera in the demilitarised zone dividing North and South Korea. A photo of the young bear, classed as a vulnerable species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, was snapped in the area by an unmanned ecological study camera.  Although the DMZ between the two Koreas is one of the world’s most heavily armed borders, it has also become a haven for endangered species, due to restrictions on entry to the area.

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