Rape Culture in India

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Smuggling Chewing Gum into Singapore

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Buy 1 Get 1 50% Off Plastic Surgery in South Korea

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Are You A Kimchi Woman?

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Two Koreas, One History

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UN Report: North Korea's Human Rights Abuses Are 'Systematic and Widespread'
NK Rights


The panel members heard testimony from 240 witnesses including several defectors from North Korea. The commission concluded, based on the evidence, in many cases the country committed crimes against humanity.

Michael Kirby:

It’s a unanimous report, it’s a report which speaks of the great wrongs that have been done to the people of North Korea, and which calls for attention from the international community.


UN investigators say political prisoners are subjected to torture, rape, and other forms of violence. They estimate the number of people in political prison camps is between 80-thousand and 120-thousand, even though leaders in Pyongyang deny their existence. The report also recognizes the abduction of foreign nationals by North Korean authorities is systematic. They believe agents may have abducted more than 200,000 people including more than 100 Japanese citizens. The commission acknowledges officials use land, naval and intelligence forces for abduction. They say operations were approved at the level of the supreme leader 

Members of human rights groups in Japan welcomed the report. They held a news conference in Tokyo. Shigeru Yokota and his wife Sakie attended. Their daughter Megumi was abducted to the North in 1977 when she was only 13.

Sakie Yokota / Abductee's mother:

I think whether the UN Security Council sincerely discusses this issue and takes action is crucial. It took many years for us to see the world starting to understand the situation.

Kanae Doi:

We continue to push Japanese government, as well as other key governments who sit at the Human Rights Council to adopt the very strong resolution to put this human right situation on North Korea at the Security Council.



Japanese Abduction Issue Minister, Keiji Furuya, called the report unprecedented. He said the findings are in depth. North Korean leaders have rejected the report. Their UN representative said they have been no cases of human rights abuse in the country. Investigators are now advising the UN they should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.


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Thailand's Anti-government Protesters Vow to Sabotage Elections

In Thailand, anti-government protesters are ramping up their efforts to disrupt this weekend’s general election.  They wanted a postponement, but Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra refused. Here’s NHK.


Yingluck met with members of the electoral commission. They urged her to put off the poll something that Thai constitutional court ruled would be legal. They said a fair election is unlikely given the current situation, but the prime minister didn’t agree. So the vote will go ahead. Demonstrators are vowing  to stop it. Already they’ve been sabotaging absentee voting.  They want Yingluck to resign because they feel her brother, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, exerts too much influence.  Protest leader and former deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, denounced Yingluck for ignoring the will of the people.

Suthep Thaugsuban:

We must continue the fight. And expand our protests to topple the Yingluck’s government.


Suthep called on demonstrators to surround the offices of security authorities. The government declared a state of emergency last week for Bangkok and the surrounding area to maintain security ahead of the election.



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Could This Japanese Solution Provide Millions of Asians with Clean Water?

And now to a problem that's affecting hundreds of millions of people in Asia. More than 650 million don't have clean water to drink. A city in Japan says it has a solution. Here's NHK with the story.


Regional municipalities operate almost all the water work systems in Japan. The city of Kitakyushu in western Japan provides clean tap water to the city’s 490-thousand households. The city developed a water-purifying machine with the private company 15 years ago. Micro-organisms attached to activated carbon dissolve the pollutants. The machine is half the price of other technologies. It uses less chlorine to disinfect the water. Kitakyushu officials started promoting the technology with private firms from 2010 to emerging economies in Asia.

Kazuya Kubata, Waterworks Bureau:

Kitakyushu has a long history as a city of technology and manufacture. It's our mission to take  action. That’s something we must do.


Kitakyushu officials are now turning their attention to Vietnam. Haiphong is the country’s third biggest city. Raw sewage and industrial wastewater is discharged into rivers. The river water is purified for use in tap water by adding lots of chlorine. But that combination can generate harmful substances. Citizens boil tap water for drinking and cooking. They want clean water that their children can safely drink.


I don’t feel safe using tap water. I feel uneasy. Because I have small children. But I don’t have any other choice.


Kitakyushu officials told their counterparts at the Haiphong Water Authority about their water purification technology. The Vietnamese officials liked what they saw and decided to start using the Japanese system. It went into operation last month.

The Haiphong officials based their decision on low cost of the Japanese system and the fact that it uses less chlorine. The machine succeeded in eliminating most of the pollutants.

The Japanese system has caught the attention of officials in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s biggest city.

They started testing at this month. That could lead to a deal worth almost 20 million dollars. Seven other Vietnamese cities have also asked Kitakyushu officials to do on site service.

Ho Chi Minh City water official:

Providing people safe water supply is one of our biggest goals. I hope their technology will bring us good results.

Kazuya Kubota:

If we want to get orders from abroad. We need to go into the field with local officials, and talk with them about what needs to be done.


Kitakyushu officials have high hopes for their work in Vietnam. They hope it will encourage Japanese companies to work together to design water resource management systems and win orders from overseas clients.


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Trial for Chinese Rights Activist Who Assembled Anti-Corruption Demonstrations
Xu Zhiyong, a Chinese rights activist, has gone on trial in Beijing for his role in anti-corruption protests. Xu is charged with gathering crowds to disrupt public order. Earlier this year, the police cracked down on Xu's grassroots movement, which called for government officials to publicly declare their assets. Here's a report from Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

Xu is a founder of the New Citizens Movement, which started last year. It encourages people to get involved in politics. Many people in the movement have been detained for taking part in demonstrations. They have demanded the disclosure of assets held by senior Communist Party officials.

Zhang Qingfang:

The proceedings don’t meet the minimum requirements for a fair trial. They lack legitimacy.


Xu’s supporters waved banners outside court and shouted that he is innocent. They called for freedom of speech. Police stopped the protest and could be seen hauling some people away.

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Our Unbalanced Chemical Burden
Chemical safetyThe year 2014 started with a claxon blare of emergency warnings: 300,000 West Virginians were given urgent instructions not to drink or even touch their own tap water. 

But 300 million other Americans could also hear the alarm's sound as the story grabbed nationwide media attention. That was appropriate. Not just because a ruptured storage tank had spilled its toxic contents into public water supplies in Charleston, West Virginia, but because the incident exposed the underlying failure in the safety of all Americans who assume they are protected by vigilant federal state and local agencies supposedly policing environmental threats.

Surprise. We are all living amid constantly increasing exposure to tens of thousands of chemicals in combinations and in doses we would never encounter in nature.

Why? Because of modern science, coupled with the industrial impulse to make money by manufacturing more and more products to make life easier and more enjoyable for more and more people. We call this progress.

Yes, there are laws on the books intended to protect us. Laws with huge loopholes demanded by special interests whose money and influence over lawmakers and lawmaking is hard to overstate. For example, when the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in the 1970's, some 62,000 chemicals that were already in wide use were granted automatic approval under legislation that prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring them to be safety tested unless scientific evidence already existed showing them to be dangerous. And these days the EPA, the big bulldog guarding public health, has also been granting conditional licenses for pesticide makers to introduce new, untested chemical products for food crop treatment under fast-track authority also imbedded in the law. Conditional licenses can last up to 20 years. 

Today 84,000 chemicals are in commercial use in manufacturing and agriculture. The number is growing, and the vast majority have never been tested and evaluated at all for safety by any regulatory authorities. The stuff is in our food and food packaging, cosmetics, in the clothes we wear and in household products of all kinds. So much for toxic substance control.

Cosmetics chemicalsDoctors and scientists are finding many links between chemicals widely in use and increases in leukemia, brain, breast and childhood cancers, asthma and certain birth defects. Chances of developing learning and development disorders, including autism, and endocrine disruption that effects development, metabolism, fertility and intelligence are increased at even extremely low doses. Whether that evidence is sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the law is subject to much debate but little or no action. And so it goes.  

This is the way things work, because we believe so much in balancing interests and promoting a vigorous economy. Avoiding over-regulation is an important part of all that, as so many of those serving in elected office believe as they go about passing laws and blocking laws and collecting campaign contributions to help them remain in office. Most people know by now that much of that money comes from chemical companies and manufacturers who use those chemicals in their products and who of course employ many hard-working Americans who want to keep their jobs. Strictures on enforcement actions are in place not only in the EPA but also at the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers For Disease Control, and the Agriculture Department, where targeted budget constraints can cripple enforcement as effectively as can loopholes. And the conflict between public health concerns and private interests is even worse at many state and local agencies.

Since the effects of long term exposure to chemicals is slow and subtle, and because medical science is boosting life expectancy for so many of us, there is no sense of crisis, no emergency alarm. But look around. Not everyone is enjoying a longer life and good health.   

Miles R. Benson had a long career as a political correspondent for the Newhouse Newspaper Group. He spent 16 years as a senior Congressional correspondent and 16 years covering the White House. Since 2007, he has served as the special correspondent for Link TV's Earth Focus.

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