Asia News

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Indian salesman goes viral for speaking fluent Mandarin, Hokkien

SINGAPORE (AsiaOne/ANN) — Being bilingual is nothing to gawk about nowadays, but when a man appearing to be of Indian descent was heard hawking...

US unveils new rules for government contacts with Taiwan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Friday unveiled new rules for U.S. government contacts with Taiwan that are likely anger China but appear...
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Kali — A versatile martial art from the Philippines

TAIPEI (The China Post) — What is the hidden superpower of your favorite Hollywood hard-action hero Bruce Lee? Kungfu? No, it's Kali.  Kali is a...

In latest attack on Asians, woman dragged by car in robbery

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A woman was dragged by a car in Oakland’s Asian business district during a robbery that her husband says...

US bans second Malaysian palm oil giant over forced labor

The U.S. said it will ban all shipments of palm oil from one of the world’s biggest producers after finding indicators of forced labor and other abuses on plantations that feed into the supply chains of some of America’s most famous food and cosmetic companies. The order against Malaysian-owned Sime Darby Plantation Berhad and its local subsidiaries, joint ventures and affiliates followed an intensive months-long investigation by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Trade, said Ana Hinojosa, one of the agency’s executive directors.Hinojosa said the investigation “reasonably indicates” abuses against workers that included physical and sexual violence, restriction of movement, intimidation and threats, debt bondage, withholding of wages and excessive overtime. Some of the problems appeared to be systemic, occurring on numerous plantations, which stretch across wide swaths of the country, she said. “Importers should know that there are reputational, financial and legal risks associated with importing goods made by forced labor into the United States,” Hinojosa said in a telephone press briefing.The order was announced just three months after the federal government slapped the same ban on another Malaysian palm oil giant, FGV Holdings Berhad -- the first palm oil company ever targeted by Customs over concerns about forced labor. The U.S. imported $410 million of crude palm oil from Malaysia in fiscal year 2020, representing a third of the total value shipped in. The bans, triggered by petitions filed by non-profit groups and a law firm, came in the wake of an in-depth investigation by The Associated Press into labor abuses on plantations in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia, which together produce about 85% of the $65 billion supply of the world's most consumed vegetable oil. Palm oil can be found in roughly half the products on supermarket shelves and in most cosmetic brands. It’s in paints, plywood, pesticides, animal feed, biofuels and even hand sanitizer. The AP interviewed more than 130 current and former workers from two dozen palm oil companies, including Sime Darby, for its investigation. Reporters found everything from rape and child labor to trafficking and outright slavery on plantations in both countries. Earlier this month, 25 Democratic lawmakers from the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee cited AP’s investigation in a letter calling for the government to come down harder on the palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia, asking Customs and Border Protection if it had considered a blanket ban on imports from those countries. “In our view, these odious labor practices and their pervasive impact across supply chains highlight the need for an aggressive and effective enforcement strategy,” the letter said. Sime Darby, which did not immediately comment, has palm oil plantations covering nearly 1.5 million acres, making it one of Malaysia's largest producers. It supplies to some of the biggest names in the business, from Cargill to Nestle, Unilever and L'Óreal, according to the companies’ most recently published supplier and palm oil mill lists. Hinojosa said the agency’s decision to issue the ban should send an “unambiguous” message to the trade community. “Consumers have a right to know where the palm oil is coming from and the conditions under which that palm oil is produced and what products that particular palm oil is going into,” she said.Meanwhile, Duncan Jepson of the anti-trafficking group Liberty Shared, which submitted the petition leading to the Sime Darby ban, filed two additional complaints Wednesday — one to the UK's Home Office, questioning the company’s disclosure about its protection of human rights under the country’s Modern Slavery Act, and the other to the Malaysian stock exchange, regarding the company’s stated commitments to sustainability. Both complaints questioned the accuracy of Sime Darby's disclosures in light of the CPB's findings. Jepson said the U.S. ban also should be a red flag for Asian and Western financial institutions that have helped support the industry, saying ties to forced labor could have serious consequences for banks and lenders.The U.S. government's announcement about Sime Darby marked the 14th time this year Customs has issued an order to detain shipments from an array of sectors following similar investigations into forced labor. They include seafood and cotton, along with human hair pieces believed to have been made by persecuted Uighur Muslims in Chinese labor camps. Under Wednesday’s order, palm oil products or derivatives traceable to Sime Darby will be detained at U.S. ports. Shipments can be exported if the company is unable to prove that the goods were not produced with forced labor.

McDonald's sells 'Spam burger' with cookie crumbs in China

BEIJING (AP) — McDonald’s is selling a sandwich made of Spam topped with crushed Oreo cookies Monday in China in an attention-grabbing move that has raised eyebrows. Global brands from restaurants to automakers sometimes roll out offbeat products to appeal to Chinese tastes in the populous and intensely competitive market.This is undoubtedly one of them. “I thought it was delicious,” said a comment signed Feifei Mao Enthusiast on the Sina Weibo microblog service. “Is that because I love McDonald’s too deeply? Or is something wrong with my taste?"The sandwich is made of two slices of Spam, a product of Hormell Foods LLC, and Mondelez International's Oreo cookies, topped with mayonnaise.McDonald’s Corp. said the sandwich was part of a series of “members only” promotions to be released on Mondays in China.“There is no need to release unnecessary products,” said a comment left on the company’s microblog account. It received more than 2,000 “likes.”McDonald’s said it planned to sell no more than 400,000 of the “Lunchmeat Burgers." It wasn’t clear how many have been sold or how many people who flooded social media with scathing comments had eaten one.“When you hate someone but have to invite him to dinner, you can ask him to eat McDonald’s Oreo lunchmeat burger,” said a separate comment on Sina Weibo.

I’m no dictator: Indonesia President

The Jakarta Post/ANN Indonesian President Joko Widodo ensures the public that he does not have the look as a dictator although critics...

Thailand finds new coronavirus clusters in south and east

BANGKOK (AP) — Health officials in Thailand said Saturday that two new clusters of coronavirus cases have been found that appear to be linked to a major outbreak discovered a week earlier among migrant workers in an industrial province near Bangkok.The new cases were found in 19 members of a motorcycling club who held a holiday gathering on Lanta island in the southern province of Krabi, and in nine people who were in a gambling den in the eastern province of Rayong, said the Disease Control Department.The first of the motorcyclists to be diagnosed with the virus had come from Samut Sakhon province, where the outbreak among migrant workers occurred.On Saturday morning, 110 new coronavirus cases were reported, bringing Thailand’s total to 6,020. Sixty of the 110 were linked to the Samut Sakhon outbreak.At the beginning of December, Thailand had 4,008 cases. The death toll has remained at 60 since early November. Until recently, almost all new cases had been found among people who were quarantined upon arrival from abroad.Cases linked to the Samut Sakhon outbreak, which was first found at a major seafood market, have now been reported in 33 provinces.The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, which coordinates Thailand’s battle against the virus, said Friday that unless social distancing and other restrictions are observed, a nationwide lockdown might have to be implemented by March.Thailand had been considered a success story in controlling the disease by taking early significant measures, including banning the arrival of virtually all foreign tourists. It has recently been seeking to restart its lucrative travel industry, but the discovery of more than 1,300 cases in Samut Sakhon among the migrant workers, mostly from Myanmar, has put the authorities on high alert.Restrictions, including limiting the nighttime hours of public places and temporary closings of schools, have been tightened province by province according to the number of infections.There are 40 active cases in Bangkok, and contact tracing has led to several restaurants and other businesses being closed for decontamination, and the city’s schools being shut down for 12 days.

Seoul agrees to pay more for hosting American troops in 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) — Striking a delicate balance, the United States and South Korea have agreed Seoul will pay 13.9% more this year for...