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From The Asian Reporter, V27, #2 (January 16, 2017), page 2.
China begins to ease its 2,000-year-old monopoly on salt
BEIJING (AP) — China has started an overhaul of its salt industry, easing a monopoly that has existed in some form for more than 2,000 years and predates the Great Wall. New regulations went into effect at the start of the year. Under a plan published by China’s State Council last year, government regulators will allow private companies to enter the salt market. Existing wholesalers will be allowed to operate outside their previously designated areas, run marketing campaigns, and introduce "modern ways of distribution." Government planners will retain supervision over retail pricing to "prevent abnormal fluctuations," but prices will otherwise be set by the market, according to the State Council. Dynasties dating back more than 2,000 years have tightly controlled how salt is manufactured and sold. Under Communist Party rule, government planners and salt manufacturers have worked hand in hand to set production targets and prices, with a special police force sniffing out and shutting down private producers. In 2013, state media reported Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group’s online marketplace, Taobao, cracked down on unauthorized salt vendors. Store managers and observers of the market told state media they are hopeful salt prices will soon fall and that new salt products will arrive on shelves.
Top China leader says Catholics must act ‘independently’
BEIJING (AP) — One of China’s top leaders has told Chinese Catholics they need to operate "independently" of outside forces and promote socialism and patriotism through religion. Yu Zhengsheng’s speech came at the end of a meeting of China’s official Catholic Church that was closely watched by the Holy See. Yu is one of seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body. State media reported that Yu called on Catholic churches to adhere to "socialism with Chinese characteristics." China and the Vatican have long clashed over whether the party-controlled Chinese church could appoint bishops and administer churches outside the authority of the Holy See. Beijing severed relations with the Holy See in 1951, though Pope Francis has signalled his openness to new dialogue with China.
Pilot fired in Indonesia after alleged attempt to fly drunk
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian budget airline has fired a pilot suspected of trying to fly a plane while drunk. Citilink president director Albert Burhan also announced he and the production director would resign over the impropriety. Citilink is a subsidiary of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia. Pilot Tekad Purna was preparing to fly an Airbus A320 from Surabaya to the capital, Jakarta, when passengers became suspicious of the slurred words and unclear announcements from the cockpit. Some of them left the plane and asked for a replacement of the pilot they believed to be either drunk or under the influence of drugs. A number of passengers reportedly cancelled their flights.
FDA orders Sanofi to remove dengue vaccine ads
MANILA, The Philippines (AP) — The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it ordered pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur Inc. to stop airing television and radio advertisements for its dengue vaccine, which is in violation of a ban promoting prescription or ethical drugs in mass media. The FDA said in a statement that it issued a summons directing the drugmaker to take down the ads for Dengvaxia. It also wrote to television and radio stations, asking them not to air the ads. Sanofi said in a statement that the ads have been taken down. The company said the order was in connection with a disease awareness campaign that it conducted. The vaccine against dengue, a tropical mosquito-borne illness, became available in 2016 and was rolled out in Philippine public schools in April 2016. The generic drug law in the Philippines prohibits the promotion in mass media of pharmaceutical products that can only be dispensed with a doctor’s order.
S. Korea to create unit to remove North’s leadership in war
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea plans to form a special military unit tasked with removing North Korea’s leadership in the event of war as Seoul looks for options to counter its rival’s nuclear weapons and missiles, according to an official. The brigade will aim to remove the North’s wartime command and paralyze its function if war breaks out, said an official from Seoul’s Defense Ministry, who refused to be named, citing office rules. The unit was originally planned to be ready by 2019. The official refused to say whether the unit will train to execute pre-emptive strikes. The plan was included in defense minister Han Min Koo’s policy briefing to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who became government caretaker upon President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment over a corruption scandal. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket test firings last year in attempts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile program.
Special anti-polio drive held in southwestern Pakistan
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani health official says a special five-day anti-polio drive was held in the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province after traces of the polio virus were found in the sewer system. Syed Faisal Ahmed, the coordinator for the Emergency Operation Centre in Quetta, said some 400,000 children under age five were immunized against the deadly virus. He said the decision to launch the special drive was made after environmental samples in Quetta confirmed the presence of the virus. Ahmed said 1,345 teams covered 39 local councils of the city amid tight security. Multiple anti-polio drives enabled Pakistan to announce last year that the virus had largely been eliminated.
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