nepalfeature

News In Focus: A Look At This Week’s Most Interesting Stories

Nepal: A +7.5-magnitude earthquake on the Richter Scale devastated Nepal on Saturday, claiming more than 5,600 lives and destroying a large part of the Kathmandu’s oldest quarters.

The United Nations said that Gorkha and Lamjung, areas northwest of Kathmandu and close to the quake’s epicenter are the worst affected areas.

The Nepalese ministry for home affairs reported that close to 7,900 people were injured.  The United Nations estimates that more than 8 million people are affected in 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts, and about 2.8 million people have been displaced by the earthquake.

Many buildings have been destroyed, including the historical monument Dharahara Tower, a nine-storey landmark built by Nepal’s royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800s.

On Sunday, the country suffered a 6.7 aftershock, which was felt as far away as New Delhi.

The aftershock triggered a massive avalanche on Mount Everest that hit base camp, killing at least 19 and injuring 61 climbers.  But emergency personnel managed to rescue around 50 injured climbers by helicopter.

The earthquake is said to be the worst disaster Nepal has suffered in 80 years since the country was hit by the 8.2-magnitude Nepal–Bihar earthquake in 1934.

The disaster has prompted huge international relief operations.  Countries including India, China, Pakistan, Britain and the US have mobilized emergency personnel and delivered supplies to the earthquake-stricken areas.

Australia and New Zealand have also pledged to deploy specialist urban search-and-rescue teams to Kathmandu.

BBC has footage from the disaster:

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USA: Riots broke out in Baltimore on Tuesday following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on 19 April.

Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on 12 April for possession of a knife, but allegedly sustained spinal injuries while being transported in a police van.  Gray lapsed into a coma and died a week later in hospital, resulting in six police officers being charged.

After Gray’s funeral, hundreds took to the street and protested against police brutality. Looting and arson were reported, and more than 200 arrests were made.

Unrest soon spread to other US cities such as New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Ferguson, and Washington, DC.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake imposed a week-long curfew on Tuesday as the riot showed no sign of abating.   Police officers reportedly used pepper spray and fired tear gas to disperse crowds, while National Guard troops and police from other states have been mobilized to support the local police.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball ordered that Wednesday night’s game in Baltimore be played without a single fan in the stands.

Here’s what President Obama had to say about the riots:

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Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese leader to address a joint meeting of US Congress on Wednesday.

The prime minister’s speech was watched closely with many looking for hints as to what he’ll say in July to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

Abe’s congressional speech was also seen as a test of Mr Abe’s tact and wisdom.  An excessively apologetic statement would antagonize opponents at home and risk his political career, while too conservative a discourse would tighten tensions with Japan’s neighbours.

It turned out Abe won the hearts of the Congressional audience.  He received several standing ovations when he referred to Japan’s intention to pursue a more assertive but peaceful role in world affairs alongside with the U.S.

Concerning World War II, he said: “”My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II.”

But for other, the prime minister’s speech seemed anti-climatic as he alluded only obliquely to the controversial issue of “comfort women,” a euphemism for the recruiting or coercing of Korean and Chinese females as WWII sex slaves in Japanese-occupied areas.

Abe’s address follows:

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Indonesia: In an uncompromising stance against diplomatic pressure, Indonesian president Joko Widodo ordered the execution of eight drug convicts by police firing squads on Wednesday.

The so-called Bali Nine included four Nigerians, two Australians, a Brazilian, and one Indonesian.

The executions were the largest in Indonesia in decades.  President Widodo justified the harsh sentence and rejected international appeals for clemency, declaring the country was facing “a national emergency” of drug abuse.

Drug abuse is an epidemic in Indonesia with an estimated 18 million addicts among its 238 million population, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Indonesian government has responded to the problem with stringent laws, and offenses are punishable by death.

But the president’s hard-line approach to fight the drug problem has strained the relationship between Indonesia and other countries such as Australia.

After a number of failed attempts to rescue the two Australian prisoners, Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 34, from the death sentence, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott recalled its ambassador from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, and ceased all ministerial contacts with the country.

The two Australians were arrested in 2005 trying to smuggle 18.5 pounds of heroin out of the Indonesian resort island.

According to the Guardian, Andrew Chan became an ordained pastor, and “spends much of his day in prayer or religious study, and counselling other prisoners” while Myuran Sukumaran found his talent as an artist before his execution.

Here’s more from 9 News Perth:

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“Ruins In Kathmandu” Image: My Good Images / Shutterstock.com