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After years of pressure, Japan bans possession of child porn

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

After years of pressure, Japan bans possession of child porn
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Japan’s parliament voted on Wednesday to outlaw possession of child pornography after years of international calls for a crackdown, but avoided a clampdown on sexually explicit manga comics and animation depicting young children.

Japan is the last OECD nation to criminalise possession of child pornography, although it outlawed production and distribution in 1999, and has long been considered a safe haven for those buying child pornography.

“For too long, there was a poor understanding of children’s rights. Ultimately, that’s why it’s taken so long,” Kiyohiko Toyama, a member of the New Komeito party and a proponent of the bill, told Reuters.

“By outlawing the possession of child pornography with the intent to satisfy sexual interest, we make it harder for people to trade in such material.”

The new law, however, excluded an original clause calling for a study onto the effects of such pornographic manga involving young children, after publishers and opposition lawmakers said it could lead to curbing free speech.

Masatada Tsuchiya, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, supported the bill but said he was disappointed.

“I believed we should go a step further and take a look at manga and animation in which children are sexually abused,” he said, recalling a case in which a child murder suspect was found to own dozens of explicit manga depicting children.

“Of course freedom of expression is important. And I love manga. But some of the things out there are so depraved they aren’t worth defending,” he said.

National data show a rise in child pornography crimes, with police uncovering 1,644 cases last year, around 10 times higher than a decade ago. Over half of the cases involved sharing or selling photos or videos over the Internet, police said.

Lawmakers said the new legislation would likely help police crack down on child pornography as buyers can be held and questioned, possibly leading them to other collectors as well as distributors and manufacturers.

The law is due to take effect next month. Those found guilty under the new law will face imprisonment of up to a year or a fine of up to 1 million yen (about ) , although such punishment will not be enforced in the first year.

Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said he hoped it would also help change a culture of tolerating objectification of children.

“We must fight against a tendency of looking at children as sexual objects, and allowing them to be taken advantage of, sexually and commercially,” he said in parliamentary testimony on Tuesday, a day before the Upper House officially voted to adopt the bill. The Lower House passed it earlier in June.

Japan’s fascination with young women as sexual objects is apparent from a quick glance through Japanese bookstores and subway ads featuring “junior idols” as child models are known. The new law would not apply to most such images.

More explicit and often violent content is available online. A small portion of Japan’s manga and animation market includes graphic, sexual depictions of children including stories of incest.

Even without the clause on manga, however, publishers said they were still against the revised law. Some opposition lawmakers also voted against it, saying it could lead to police overreach.

“This could lead to a regression in freedom of expression and put a strain on artists and the publishing culture. This cannot be accepted,” the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, representing over 90 publishing companies, said in a statement on its website.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia

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WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia | Thaiger
Stock photo via World Bank Blogs

Despite vaccines being rolled out, the WHO is warning that the Covid-19 pandemic has reached a “critical level” in South Asia as infections keep rising. The virus has already taken 2.9 million lives, infecting 136 million worldwide and the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, says the “trajectory of this pandemic is growing…exponentially.”

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic when we have proven control measures. We are at a critical point of the pandemic right now.”

The US is still the country with the most amount of infections, but India has recently taken the number 2 spot over Brazil, reporting 168,000 new cases in 1 day. India’s total amount of infections is now at 13.5 million, edging Brazil’s 13.48 million into the number 3 spot.

But a race among nations for Covid infections is not what the WHO – or anyone for that matter – is wanting. 28 year old Rohit, a waiter in Mumbai, seems to say that the race won’t end if people continue to not listen to safety protocols.

“The solution is for everyone to stay home for two months and end this (pandemic) once and for all. But the public doesn’t listen. Nobody follows the rules in the restaurant… If we tell customers to wear masks, they are rude and disrespectful to us.”

Ignoring the social – distancing rules has experts up in arms as they warn that huge, mass gatherings are what we all thought they were: a super spreader event for Covid-19.

But the Indian government appears desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s nationwide March shutdown which saw some of the world’s toughest measures causing misery all around. Thus, the balance between managing a country’s overall health and financial situation is a tedious one.

Bangladesh has chosen health, for now, as it is shuttering both international and domestic airports from tomorrow. Its population of 160 million people, will be sealed off from the rest of the world.

And, in Thailand, a 3rd wave has hit, making plans for a full reopening by October, seem to be in vain. Social distancing and mass gatherings are, again, to blame, as entertainment venues sparked the recent spread. As normally tourism-heavy destinations, like the Andaman island of Phuket, are rapidly inoculating its residents to prepare for a July reopening, the new wave has dampened hopes of reviving the economy.

For now, the efforts to contain the Covid pandemic have been futile worldwide, but history has a habit of repeating itself, especially when safety protocols fall on deaf ears.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

China may combine its Covid-19 vaccines to improve efficacy

Maya Taylor

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China may combine its Covid-19 vaccines to improve efficacy | Thaiger
PHOTO: Jernej Furman / Flickr

Health officials in China say they may consider combining vaccines to boost their efficacy, after admitting the protection rate is “low”. In a rare acknowledgment of weakness, Gao Fu from the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention admitted the country’s vaccines do not offer high levels of protection. He was addressing a conference in the south-western city of Chengdu at the weekend.

According to a Thai PBS World report, China has 4 Covid-19 vaccines and the country plans to produce 3 billion doses by the end of this year. However, data shows that although strict temperature requirements govern their storage and transportation, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines far outperform their Chinese counterparts in terms of efficacy. As a result, Gao says researchers in China are now considering combining their vaccines. They may also look at altering the number of doses required and/or the amount of time between doses.

“Inoculation using vaccines of different technical lines is being considered.”

The Chinese-developed Sinovac jab, currently being rolled out in Thailand, was found to be just over 50% effective in trials involving the Brazilian variant, although a separate Turkish study found it to be 83.5% effective.

Meanwhile, the efficacy rate of a second vaccine, made by the China National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation, aka Sinopharm, is not known. However, the manufacturers say they have developed 2 vaccines and that interim results show them to be 79.4% and 72.5% effective.

Officials in China have long defended the country’s vaccines, while casting doubt on those developed by other countries. Chinese vaccines are the only ones being administered in China and the country has also exported millions of jabs around the world.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UK Covid strain not more severe than others- The Lancet

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UK Covid strain not more severe than others- The Lancet | Thaiger
Stock photo via Pixabay

2 studies by The Lancet say there is no evidence that the recent UK Covid-19 variant, B117, is not more severe than other strains. Despite the bit of good news, the study did say that the particular strain is more transmissible, meaning its viral load is higher and well as its reproduction rates.

The recent study, indeed, gives backing to the fact that B117 is now the dominant strain appearing across Europe. Thailand is now reporting infections featuring the strain, as a new cluster in Thong Lor district of Bangkok, is becoming Thailand’s 3rd wave epicentre.

Despite previous studies showing the strain was linked to a higher likelihood of death than the other Covid variants, the 2 new studies published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and The Lancet Public Health journals found no evidence that people with B117 experience worse symptoms or a greater risk of developing long Covid than those infected with different variants.

Authors of the first study looked at data from 341 patients who tested positive for Covid-19. They found that 58% of those patients had B117, while 42% had non-B117 Covid-19. Of those infected with B117, 36% became severely ill or died, compared with 38% of those with non-B117, suggesting that there was no association between B117 and heightened risk of severe infection.

The study also noted that those patients who were infected with the variant were younger, and the variant occurred more often in minority groups.

A 2nd study analysed self-reported data from 36,920 British users of a Covid-19 symptom app. They found that the B117 variant had a reproduction rate 1.35 times higher than normal coronavirus variants, but also found no evidence of increased disease severity.

Thailand reported 985 new Covid infections yesterday, with the death toll remaining at 97. 28,248 have recovered from the virus, while 5, 265 are listed as still in care or under observation.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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