Philippines hails US rights remarks, denies state-backed murders

Philippine officials on Wednesday welcomed comments by a US official noting what he described as its improving human rights record in the drugs war, but they denied Manila abetted the extrajudicial killing of suspects.
James A. Walsh, a senior US State Department drug official, said on Tuesday he was “cautiously optimistic” the rights record was improving, even though President Rodrigo Duterte is pressing on with a war on drugs in which law enforcers have killed nearly 4,000…

US drops planned South Korean ambassador ‘because he disagreed with attack on North Korea’

The White House has dropped its planned ambassador to South Korea one month after Seoul was notified of his appointment – because he privately expressed disagreement with the Trump administration’s North Korea policy in late December, sources say.
Victor Cha raised concerns with National Security Council officials over their consideration of a over a limited strike on the North aimed at sending a message without sparking a wider war – a risky concept known as a “bloody…

Kim Jong-nam assassination trial: defence lawyer says Indonesian Siti Aisyah thought it was all for a prank television show

A woman accused of killing the North Korean leader’s estranged half-brother was hired for a prank television show by a suspect wanted by the Malaysian police just over a month earlier, her lawyer told a court on Tuesday.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah is accused with another woman, Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, of killing Kim Jong-nam by smearing his face with VX, a banned chemical poison at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 last year.
Defence lawyers say the women thought they were playing…

Thai student faces up to 15 years in prison for ‘insulting king’ by sharing news story on Facebook

A student activist who allegedly insulted the King of Thailand by sharing a news story on Facebook has fled the country to avoid arrest and a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years. Chanoknan Ruamsap has become the latest political dissident to flee Thailand, explaining on her Facebook page that she made a snap decision after learning she had been charged with insulting the monarchy because she shared a BBC article about the country’s new king. Lèse-majesté, or…

Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader, met with suspected US spy days before he was killed, court hears

Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, met a suspected US intelligence agent in the northern Malaysian island resort of Langkawi just days before his mysterious demise, police revealed on Monday.
Fuelling speculation that Kim had ties with US intelligence, Wan Azirul Nizam also confirmed that a forensic report on Kim’s Dell laptop showed that some data was accessed by a USB pen drive several times on February 9, 2017, while he was in Langkawi….

The bitcoin party is over. The blockchain party has only just begun

CONFIDENCE IN cryptocurrency markets may have taken a major hit in recent weeks, but the same cannot be said of the value of the technology it relies on – the blockchain.
Bitcoin’s price plunged this week to less than US$11,000, from almost US$20,000 in mid-December, after South Korea announced that all anonymous accounts, foreigners without local banking services and minors would be banned from trading on exchanges from January 30.
But, particularly in Southeast Asia, much…

Papua’s deadly measles outbreak shows decades of neglect, experts say

Indonesia’s battle to stem a deadly measles outbreak among malnourished children in Papua is doomed to be repeated unless the government helps lift the isolated region out of grinding poverty, observers say.
Some 800 children have fallen ill and as many as 100 others, mostly toddlers, are feared to have died in what Jakarta called an “extraordinary” outbreak that was first made public this month.
At an overwhelmed hospital in Agats, one of the worst-affected communities, rail-…