Bangkok, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Thailand's government has agreed to ban the use of three farming chemicals widely regarded as dangerous to human health.
The government's National Hazardous Substances Committee voted Tuesday to put the herbicides paraquat and glyphosate and the insecticide chlorpyrifos in the category of banned chemicals, automatically barring their use under existing law.
The ban takes effect Dec. 1.
The ban, proposed by the Agriculture Ministry, had met with strong opposition from some farmers groups and academics, who argued that the chemicals were not unacceptably dangerous and banning their use would drive up farmer's costs significantly.
The use of paraquat, especially, has been sharply debated worldwide. Farm workers are at particular risk from the toxic chemical, which can cause immediate death through ingestion as well as chronic health problems from other contact.
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Malaysian prosecutors Tuesday sought a court change for Goldman Sachs's criminal trial over its role in the alleged multibillion-dollar ransacking of state investment fund 1MDB.
Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, a lawyer for Goldman, said prosecutors informed the magistrate court now hearing the case that they had applied to transfer it to the high court. He said the lower court scheduled an update on the transfer to be heard Dec. 16.
Prosecutors didn't give any reasons for the transfer but a move to a higher court usually reflects the seriousness of the case.
Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors allege bond sales organized by Goldman Sachs for 1MDB provided one of the means for associates of former Malaysian leader Najib Razak to steal billions from a fund that was ostensibly set up to accelerate Malaysia's economic development.
Three Goldman subsidiaries and two former executives were charged in December for alleged breaches of securities laws including making false, misleading statements to investors. Another 17 more current and former directors at Goldman were charged in August with allegedly conniving to commit the massive fraud.
Hisyam declined to comment on the allegations. Goldman has not entered pleas to the charges.
In January, Goldman CEO David Solomon apologized to the Malaysian people for former banker Tim Leissner's role in arranging the bond sales for 1MDB. Solomon has said the investment bank conducted due diligence but was misled by Leissner and former Malaysian government officials.
Leissner, who headed Goldman's operations in Southeast Asia, pleaded guilty in the U.S. last year to money laundering conspiracy and conspiring to violate foreign bribery laws.
Malaysia's government has said the apology was insufficient and that Goldman must pay $7.5 billion as compensation.
Najib set up 1MDB when he took office in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts and U.S. investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib's associates.
Public anger over the alleged corruption contributed to the shocking election defeat of Najib's long-ruling coalition in May 2018. Najib is now on trial for multiple charges of corruption over the 1MDB case and was in the same court building Tuesday for his second trial. Najib denies the charges. His wife and stepson also have been charged over the scandal.
Manila, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is cutting short his trip to Japan due to "unbearable pain" in his spinal column caused by his fall during a motorcycle ride last week, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Duterte attended Japanese Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony in Tokyo on Tuesday, at times using a cane and appearing to stand stiffly. In other photos sent by an aide to the media in Manila, the 74-year-old president appears to be in a light mood as he, his daughter and an aide extend their fists forward in a symbolic gesture associated with Duterte.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte would fly back to the Philippines later Tuesday and see his neurologist Wednesday but assured the public that the president's health was not worrisome.
"The palace announces that the president will cut short his trip to Japan due to unbearable pain in his spinal column near the pelvic bone as a consequence of his fall during his motorcycle ride," Panelo said in a statement. "While this was unforeseeable, the public can rest assured that there is nothing to worry as regards the physical health and condition of the president."
As a result, Durterte was to miss a banquet for the Japanese emperor that was to instead be attended by his daughter, Sara Duterte, who is mayor of Davao city, the Dutertes' hometown and political bailiwick in the southern Philippines.
An avid rider of big motorcycles in his younger days, Duterte sustained bruises and scratches when he fell off his parked motorcycle last Thursday in the sprawling presidential palace complex in Manila, but Panelo said then that the president's minor injuries would not affect his schedule.
Duterte said last year that he suffers from "perpetual pain" due to a spinal injury he sustained in a motorcycle accident many years ago. He has also acknowledged using Fentanyl, an opioid used to treat chronic pain that can also be used as a recreational drug.
A lack of regular medical bulletins on the president's health has sparked sporadic speculation about the state of his health, especially when he failed to appear in public for days in recent times.
When Duterte did not show up in public for more than a week in August, Panelo explained that the president was busy reviewing documents he needed to sign but stressed he was healthy because he even managed to bike around in Davao.
"He got enthusiastic and rode out of the village enclave on a motorcycle, alarming the Presidential Security Group," Panelo told reporters then.
Lahore, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was convicted on corruption charges, was rushed to hospital from the prison after recent blood tests raised doctors' concerns, his physician said Tuesday.
The former premier was taken to hospital late on Monday, said Sharif's doctor, Adnan Malik.
Doctors initially believed Sharif had contracted dengue fever, which is rampant in Pakistan, but on Tuesday the government issued a statement saying his concerningly low platelet count may have been the results of medication he was taking.
Sharif was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges and seven years on a separate money laundering charge. He is also under investigation on other corruption allegations. Sharif has appealed the two convictions, insisting on his innocence.
In related developments, Sharif's son-in-law, Mohammad Safdar, was arrested on Monday after he alleged that Sharif was being slowly poisoned — a charge that Pakistani authorities promptly denied.
The National Accountability Bureau, which oversees investigations into corruption allegations, had questioned Sharif for the past week on corruption charges in connection with a sugar mill in which he held controlling shares while serving as prime minister.
The charges also allege that other members of his family, including his daughter Maryam Nawaz, retained shares. Sharif's daughter is appealing an earlier conviction on corruption charges against her. She was sentenced to seven years for her involvement in the purchase of apartments in London but is now out on bail during the appeal process.
Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has been relentless in pursuit of corruption cases but has come under fire for focusing most of its attention on its opponents.
As well as Sharif, the government has alleged corruption by the co-leader of another political opposition party, the Pakistan People's Party, led by Benazir Bhutto. She was killed in 2007 after returning to Pakistan from self-imposed exile. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is in custody, under investigation on corruption charges.
The couple's son and co-leader of the party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, told reporters on Monday that his father was not receiving medical treatment despite a court order. It wasn't immediately clear what ailment the elder Zardari suffers from.
Hong Kong, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Hong Kong is feuding with Taiwan over a fugitive murder suspect whose case indirectly sparked mass protests in Hong Kong in opposition to an unpopular extradition bill.
Hong Kong officials pleaded on Tuesday for authorities in Taiwan to let the man surrender himself for killing his girlfriend while visiting the self-ruled island last year.
But Taiwan's premier, Su Tseng-chang, rejected the idea, saying Chan Tong-kai should instead go on trial in Hong Kong when he is released Wednesday after serving a sentence for money laundering offenses.
Su said Taiwan has offered its cooperation on handling the case since it began but had received no response from Hong Kong.
"Now they drastically changed their attitude, saying that they will send him to Taiwan," Su said. "This is very strange."
Formal cooperation with Taiwan would require Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to recognize the island's legal bodies as a legitimate official authority. That's something the ruling Communist Party in Beijing wouldn't stomach because it considers Taiwan a breakaway province and refuses to acknowledge the administration of directly elected President Tsai Ing-wen.
Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, had cited Chan's case as one of the main reasons behind proposed changes to Hong Kong's extradition laws, saying it presented a "loophole" allowing him to avoid being sent back to face charges in Taiwan. But fears that such a law would put residents at risk of being sent to mainland China's murky judicial system sparked months of chaotic protests that mushroomed into Hong Kong's biggest political crisis in decades.
Lam was forced to drop the bill. It's set to be formally withdrawn in a legislative session Wednesday, said one of Lam's top deputies, Matthew Cheung, following the continuation of increasingly violent street protests over the weekend.
Chan wrote to Lam last week saying he wanted to return to Taiwan and turn himself in after his 29-month sentence ends.
But Su urged Hong Kong to put Chan on trial for the February 2018 murder of girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing instead of giving him "a window of time" in which Chan can travel around after he is freed.
Cheung responded by urging Taiwan not to "complicate a simple issue, and also do not try to exploit politics in order to really achieve a certain gain" at the expense of justice.
"I really appeal to the Taiwanese authorities to tackle the matter with common sense, with compassion," Cheung said. "We are talking about somebody who is willing to surrender himself and can get back to Taiwan to face trial."