China and Russia block US bid to sanction North Koreans at UN

China and Russia delayed a US bid to impose UN sanctions on five North Koreans on Thursday, diplomats said, as Pyongyang suggested it may resume tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.The move by China and Russia came ahead of a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on North Korea later on Thursday – the second in two weeks – after Pyongyang fired tactical guided missiles on Monday.“These launches demonstrate the regime’s determination to pursue weapons of mass destruction and…

Merck’s Covid-19 pill to be made by 11 countries for developing nations in UN deal

A United Nations-backed organisation announced Thursday that it has signed agreements with more than two dozen generic drug makers to produce versions of Merck’s Covid-19 pill to supply 105 developing countries.The Medicines Patent Pool said the deals would allow drug companies to make both the raw ingredients for molnupiravir and the finished product itself.Molnupiravir, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, has been reported to cut the hospitalisation rate in half among patients with…

Tsunami-hit Tonga’s oiled-up Olympic flag bearer Pita Taufatofua raises over US$340,000 in disaster aid

The flag-bearer who represented Tonga at the 2016 Summer Olympics, 2018 Winter Olympics, and 2020 Summer Olympics has raised more than US$340,000 in relief funds for the country to recover from a recent tsunami and volcanic eruption.The small island nation of Tonga lost most of its communication with the rest of the world on January 15, 2022, after a devastating tsunami hit its islands following an enormous volcanic eruption.Olympian Pita Taufatofua, who rose to international prominence for…

Malaysia’s ‘Azamgate’ escalates as Securities Commission contradicts anti-graft chief’s account of events

A stock-trading controversy involving Malaysia’s powerful anti-graft chief Azam Baki is showing no signs of fading, with the securities regulator tasked with investigating the matter releasing fresh details contradicting the official’s account of events.With Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob not commenting publicly on the saga as it continues to escalate, political observers have suggested public and investor confidence in his already beleaguered administration will probably take a hit.The…

Thailand to drop jail terms and fines as it decriminalises marijuana

Thailand plans to decriminalise marijuana, moving a step closer to clearing its use for recreation, after becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise medical cannabis and its use in food and cosmetics.The nation’s Food and Drug Administration is set to propose the removal of marijuana from a list of controlled drugs to the narcotics control board on Wednesday. Once cleared by the board, the proposal will need to be approved by Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul before it becomes…

As Indonesia names its new US$34 billion capital ‘Nusantara’, historically minded critics say it’s ‘hard to see the idea’

The construction of Indonesia’s US$34 billion new capital is moving ahead, with lawmakers on Tuesday passing into law the bill governing the administrative centre, which will be named Nusantara.The name Nusantara (literally, “archipelago”) was chosen by President Joko Widodo to underline the country’s motto of “unity in diversity”.Minister of National Development Planning Suharso Monoarfa told parliament on Monday that the president wanted the new capital to showcase the diversity Indonesia –…

Missing British woman’s family ‘devastated’ as body found after Tonga tsunami

The body of a British woman who went missing after a tsunami swept Tonga has been found, her brother said on Monday.Brighton-born Angela Glover was washed away by a wave when she and her husband, James, who own the Happy Sailor Tattoo in Nuku’alofa, had gone to rescue their dogs.James managed to hold onto a tree, but Glover and their dogs were swept away, New Zealand state broadcaster TVNZ reported.Glover was the founder of the Tongan Animal Welfare Society, and had a “a deep love of dogs”, her…