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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Iran earthquake toll rises to 306 dead, more than 3,000 injured
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

PHUKET: The death toll after two devastating earthquakes struck northwestern Iran over the weekend has risen to at least 306, the country’s ministry of health said yesterday. More than 3,000 people have been injured and tens of thousands are in need of assistance.

The first earthquake at 3:53pm local time on Saturday had a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale and was centered about 17 kilometers (10 miles) from the city of Ahar in East Azerbaijan Province, according to the Iranian Seismological Center. It was followed about 11 minutes later by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake. Both quakes struck at a depth of just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

The Iranian Red Crescent Society said at least 180 villages in the region were affected, including four villages which were completely destroyed. It is estimated that more than 5,000 buildings were seriously damaged, but teams were still surveying the affected area late yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi said that the death toll has risen to 306 while at least 3,037 people have been injured, of whom more than 1,200 have been hospitalized. The head of emergency services, Gholamreza Masoumi, told the semi-official Fars News Agency that more than 4,500 people were injured.

Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Ban is “deeply saddened” by the casualties and widespread destruction. “He extends his sincere condolences to the Iranian government and people, particularly the families of those who have been killed or otherwise affected in this disaster,” he said.

Nesirky added: “The United Nations stands ready to lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs created by the disaster and to mobilize international support for that response.” A number of countries, including the United States, have also offered assistance for earthquake relief but no international assistance has been requested as of yesterday.

A number of representatives in Iran’s parliament has criticized the government’s emergency response. Some have pointed out that there has been a shortage of tents for survivors, but officials argued that most of the rescue operations were completed within 24 hours after the earthquakes. Some citizens have also complained that media coverage of the disaster was limited due to the Olympic Games in London.

Indeed, victims of the earthquake have started a “community page” requesting assistance in the form of blankets, sheets and clothes of different sizes ranging from infancy to adulthood.

Earthquakes, even light and moderate ones, often cause heavy damage and large numbers of casualties in certain parts of the country due to poor construction, especially when they hit during the night when most residents are sleeping.

In January, at least 230 people were injured when a moderate 5.5-magnitude earthquake struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northeast of Nishapur, a city in the province of Razavi Khorasan near the border with Turkmenistan. Officials said a number of buildings in nearby towns and cities were damaged or had collapsed, causing the injuries.

Prior to that, on December 20, 2010, at least seven people were killed and hundreds more were injured when a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) from the town of Hosein abad in Kerman Province, located in southeastern Iran. Scores of buildings were destroyed by the strong tremor.

Most notably, in December 2003, around 31,000 people were killed and more than 30,000 others were injured when a strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Bam. It left the area devastated with 85 percent of buildings damaged or destroyed in the city.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Survey shows growing acceptance of Covid-19 vaccines in some countries

Maya Taylor

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Survey shows growing acceptance of Covid-19 vaccines in some countries | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Pixabay

A survey of 6 countries shows that the number of people willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is on the rise. The poll, conducted by the international consultancy KekstCNC, indicates that the number of people willing to be vaccinated has risen since last year. The countries that took part were the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Sweden, with all reporting a similar trend.

The highest percentage in favour of vaccination was in the UK, where mass vaccination is well underway. 89% of those surveyed say they’re in favour of being vaccinated, an increase on December’s figure of 70%.

Sweden’s percentage of those in favour of vaccination rose to 76%, from 53% in December. In the US, it was 64%, up from December’s 58%, in Germany, 73% favour vaccination, up from 63%, and in Japan, the percentage is 64%, up from 50% in December.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the numbers were lowest in vaccine-sceptical France, with 59% in favour of the vaccine. However, this is a significant rise from December’s 40%.

In some countries, people were critical of the vaccine rollout, but 76% of people in the UK feel the government has done well. In the US, only 32% are happy with the vaccine rollout, in Germany and Japan it’s 28%, 22% in France and just 20% in Sweden. Both the UK and Israel are seen as having the most success with the rollout of their vaccine programmes.

Covid-19 has now killed 2,543,285 people and infected 114,686,933 around the world since the start of the pandemic in December 2019. The US has recorded the highest number of deaths, at 525,776.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Politics

Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup

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Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup | The Thaiger

Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to the military coup, which has received major international backlash. As a major donor to Myanmar, Japan joins other advanced nations in condemning the coup which has seen security forces using violence against peaceful protesters.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was quoted as saying in a phone call that “Japan will strongly urge the Myanmar military to release Suu Kyi and other detained individuals, and to swiftly restore democratic government.”

But it may not impose sanctions like the rest of the other developed countries as its longtime ties with the armed forces, ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy and investment promoting policy in the country may serve as a barrier in doing so. Britan and the United States have imposed sanctions in recent days which include the US freezing military funds.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official says stopping its support of building projects would give China a chance to move in, increasing its clout in Myanmar. Around 450 Japanese companies operate in Myanmar with Japan being the 5th largest investor in the Southeast nation. Singapore has the most companies, followed by China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The Foreign Ministry says Japan spent about US $1.8 billion in official development assistance in the fiscal year of 2019, making it the largest among the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But it is unknown what China has poured into it as it has refused to disclose its expenditures.

The Japanese government plans to continue coronavirus emergency assistance to Myanmar through international organisations and non-governmental organisations. The World Bank, however, has stopped payments to projects in the nation indefinitely, after the coup on February 1, which disrupted the democratic elections last November and saw the arrest of top leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party, the National League for Democracy, won the elections in a landslide victory.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Law

Australia sets worldwide precedent by passing pay‐to‐play legislation for social media giants

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Australia sets worldwide precedent by passing pay‐to‐play legislation for social media giants | The Thaiger

In a landmark decision, Australia is now requiring global digital giants, such as Facebook and Google, to pay for using local news content on their websites. The move sets a precedent that many global companies have been anticipating.

The law passed yesterday after Facebook and Google reached an agreement to pay local Australian news organisations for using their stories on their websites. 1 week ago, Australians woke up to a blackout after Facebook temporarily banned local news, which included emergency notifications. The blackout was in response to the legislation being put forth for approval, with Facebook spokespeople saying it seemed to be their only choice at the time.

The new law sets the stage for other countries worldwide to gain more revenue for local media companies by making such social media giants pay to use content. Google’s “Showcase” product will now feature paid local news with Facebook showing such paid news under its “News” category.

Companies like Google and Facebook pushed back against the legislation, saying such a law could threaten their companies’ business models, with Google saying it could make their search engine website “unworkable.”

But local news organisations have rebuked the reasoning, citing that social media giants claim a large percentage of online advertisin, leaving local news companies out of the revenue game. Citing that news is gathered by reporting and fieldwork, the companies say it is unfair for social media companies to profit largely off of the work of local, smaller companies.

The law, called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, aims to protect such local companies and to sustain public interest journalism. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs over the past decade as local media outlets have seen the bulk of their advertising revenues flow to digital companies’ sites after using their content.

Australia’s competition watchdog says that for every $100 invested by Australian advertisers, $49 is sent to Google and $24 to Facebook. Now, both online businesses say they will each invest around US $1 billion in local news content globally in the next 3 years. Facebook and Google now have 2 more months to reach solid agreements before being subjected to binding arbritations.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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