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Top Asian News 3:41 a.m. GMT

October 18, 2021 GMT

China’s economic growth weakens amid construction slowdown

BEIJING (AP) — China’s economic growth sank in the latest quarter as a construction slowdown and official curbs on energy use by factories weighed on the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The world’s second-largest economy grew 4.9% over a year earlier in July-September, down from the previous quarter’s 7.9%, government data showed Monday. Factory output, retail sales and investment in construction and other fixed assets all weakened. Growth is under pressure from government controls aimed at making the energy-hungry economy more efficient and at reducing reliance on debt that Chinese leaders worry is dangerously high and could cause financial problems.

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Attack kills 2 civilians in Kashmir, amid rise in violence

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Two civilians were shot dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir late on Sunday, police said, in what authorities described as a militant attack. The region has witnessed a major uptick in violence targeting Indian civilians who hail from outside of the disputed Himalayan region. Police have blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the attacks. A police statement said that two laborers were killed when militants “fired indiscriminately” in the southern district of Kulgam, with a third laborer critically wounded and taken to hospital. Officials said the dead were from the eastern state of Bihar. On Saturday, assailants fatally shot two non-local workers in separate attacks in the region’s main city of Srinagar and southern Pulwama district.

Vaccines, masks? Japan puzzling over sudden virus success

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TOKYO (AP) — Almost overnight, Japan has become a stunning, and somewhat mysterious, coronavirus success story. Daily new COVID-19 cases have plummeted from a mid-August peak of nearly 6,000 in Tokyo, with caseloads in the densely populated capital now routinely below 100, an 11-month low. The bars are packed, the trains are crowded, and the mood is celebratory, despite a general bafflement over what, exactly, is behind the sharp drop. Japan, unlike other places in Europe and Asia, has never had anything close to a lockdown, just a series of relatively toothless states of emergency. Some possible factors in Japan’s success include a belated but remarkably rapid vaccination campaign, an emptying out of many nightlife areas as fears spread during the recent surge in cases, a widespread practice, well before the pandemic, of wearing masks and bad weather in late August that kept people home.

Japan PM says Fukushima wastewater release can’t be delayed

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s new prime minister on Sunday said the planned mass disposal of wastewater stored at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant cannot be delayed, despite concerns from local residents. Speaking at his first visit to the facility since taking office, Fumio Kishida said his government would work to reassure residents nearby the plant about the technical safety of the wastewater disposal project. The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered a triple meltdown in 2011 following a massive earthquake and tsunami. Kishida’s brief tour of the facility by its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, focused on the ongoing decommissioning of the plant, and the massive amount of treated but still radioactive water stored there.

Heavy rains, landslides leave 18 dead in south India

NEW DELHI (AP) — At least 18 people have died a day after torrential rains swept through villages and flooded roads in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Officials said rescuers recovered the bodies in two of the worst-hit districts, Kottayam and Idukki, where the heavy downpours triggered massive landslides, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. The National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Army deployed teams to help with rescue efforts as several are still feared to be missing. On Saturday, when the heavy rains began, television reports showed people wading through chest-deep waters to rescue passengers from a bus that was nearly submerged by the torrents flooding the roads.

Rescuers: Last Jew of Kabul making his way to Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — The man known as the last Jew of Kabul could soon be heading to Israel, after agreeing to grant his estranged wife a religious divorce in a Zoom call — a precondition for smooth entry to the Holy Land. Zebulon Simentov, who fled Afghanistan last month after the Taliban takeover, landed Sunday in Turkey on what his rescuers say is a final stop before traveling to Israel, perhaps as soon as this week. It caps a weekslong odyssey that included an escape from his homeland as well as a videoconference divorce procedure meant to ensure he will not run into trouble with Israeli authorities.

Japan’s premier sends offering to controversial Tokyo shrine

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s new prime minister donated ritual offerings Sunday to a Tokyo shrine viewed by Chinese and Koreans as a symbol of Japanese wartime aggression, though he did not make a visit in person. Fumio Kishida donated “masakaki” religious ornaments to mark Yasukuni Shrine’s autumn festival. It was the first such observance by Kishida since he took office on Oct. 4. Victims of Japanese aggression during the first half of the 20th century, especially Chinese and Koreans, see the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s militarism because it honors convicted World War II criminals among about 2.5 million war dead.

University offers to rehire prof acquitted of ties to China

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has offered to reinstate a professor who was acquitted of federal charges that had accused him of hiding his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving NASA research grants, a letter obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel says. The newspaper reports that in the Oct. 14 letter, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick offered a tenured engineering professor job to Anming Hu, along with some back pay, and payment for an immigration attorney. Hu also was offered $200,000 over three years to reestablish his research program, and an explanation of the university’s support for his work visa as a naturalized Canadian citizen, according to the report.

Russian filmmakers land after shoot aboard space station

MOSCOW (AP) — A Soyuz space capsule carrying a cosmonaut and two Russian filmmakers has landed after a 3 1/2-hour trip from the International Space Station. The capsule, descending under a red-and-white striped parachute after entering Earth’s atmosphere, landed upright in the steppes of Kazakhstan on schedule at 0435 GMT Sunday with Oleg Novitskiy, Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko aboard. Actress Peresild and film director Shipenko rocketed to the space station on Oct. 5 for a 12-day stint to film segments of a movie titled “Challenge,” in which a surgeon played by Peresild rushes to the space station to save a crew member who needs an urgent operation in orbit.

2 arrested in Athens for protesting Beijing Olympics

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Two women attempted to hang a banner from the Acropolis in Athens Sunday morning in protest at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, and were detained by Greek police. The activists, 18-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang and 22-year-old exiled Hong Kong activist Joey Siu, both American citizens, are members of the “No Beijing 2022” campaign, a statement from the New York-based organization Students for a Free Tibet said. They, and a third person, entered the archeological site as paying customers and then Zoksang and Siu climbed up some scaffolding, from which they attempted to unfurl the banner. A security officer rushed to them and took the banner away.