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Fmr. Thai PM’s prison sentence reduced to a year

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Thailand’s King has reduced the eight-year prison sentence of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to a year.

Mr Thaksin, who returned home last month after 15 years of self-imposed exile, was immediately sent to jail.

He was then moved to the luxury wing of a state hospital after complaining of heart problems.

Mr Thaksin had previously said the outstanding sentences, over charges of corruption and abuse of power, were politically motivated.

Deposed by a military coup in 2006, Mr Thaksin, one of Thailand’s most influential and polarising personalities, left the country two years later to avoid a prison sentence.

His return on 22 August was assumed to be part of a wider political deal. And it was one that was meant to bring his popular Pheu Thai party together with its one-time adversaries in a compromise government.

And it did that. Hours after he arrived, a new coalition government, led by Pheu Thai, voted its candidate Srettha Thavisin as the new PM. The coalition includes Mr Thaksin’s former military rivals who deposed his party in 2014 in a coup.

(BBC News)

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Tamil Nadu bans cotton candy over cancer risk

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Can cotton candy give you cancer?

Some Indian states think so and have banned the sale of the pink, wispy, sugary-sweet treat.

Last week, the southern state of Tamil Nadu implemented the ban after lab tests confirmed the presence of a cancer-causing substance, Rhodamine-B, in samples sent for testing.

Earlier this month, the union territory of Puducherry banned the sweet treat while other states have begun testing samples of it.

Cotton candy, also called buddi-ka-baal (old woman’s hair) in India because of its appearance, is popular with children the world over.

It’s a fixture in amusement parks, fairs and other places of entertainment frequented by children, who like it because of its sticky, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

But some Indian officials say that the candy is more sinister than it seems.

P Satheesh Kumar, food safety officer in Chennai city in Tamil Nadu, told The Indian Express newspaper that the contaminants in cotton candy “could lead to cancer and affect all organs of the body”.

His team raided candy sellers at a beach in the city last week. Mr Kumar said the sweet sold in the city was made by independent sellers and not registered factories.

A few days later, the government announced a ban on its sale after lab tests detected the presence of Rhodamine-B, a chemical compound, in the samples. The chemical imparts a fluorescent pink hue and is used to dye textiles, cosmetics and inks.

Studies have shown that the chemical can increase the risk of cancer and Europe and California have made its use as a food dye illegal.

While banning cotton candy in Tamil Nadu, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said in a statement that using Rhodamine-B in the “packaging, import, sale of food or serving food containing it at weddings and other public events would be punishable under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006”.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh has also reportedly started testing samples of the candy to check for the presence of the carcinogen.

And earlier this week, the New India Express newspaper reported that food safety officials in Delhi too were pushing for a ban on cotton candy.

(BBC News)

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Indian farmers say they will resume march to New Delhi

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Protesting Indian farmers say they will resume marching to capital Delhi this week after rejecting a government proposal to buy some crops at assured prices on a five-year contract.
The protesters began marching last week but were stopped around 200km (125 miles) from Delhi.

Since then, farmer leaders were in talks with the government on their demands.

But on Monday night, they said the offer was “not in their interest”.

The government had proposed buying pulses, maize and cotton at guaranteed floor prices – also known as Minimum Support Price or MSP – through cooperatives for five years.

But the farmers say that they will stand by their demand of a “legal guarantee for MSP on all 23 crops”.

“We appeal to the government to either resolve our issues or remove barricades and allow us to proceed to Delhi to protest peacefully,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal, a farm union leader, told local media.

They say they will resume marching from Wednesday.

Farmers form an influential voting bloc in India and and analysts say the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be keen not to anger or alienate them. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a third consecutive term in power in general elections this year.

Last week, authorities clashed with the protesters, firing tear gas and plastic bullets at them in a bid to halt the march. They fear a repeat of 2020, when thousands of farmers camped at Delhi’s borders for months, forcing the government to repeal controversial agricultural reforms.

The latest round of protests began on Wednesday, when farmers from Haryana and Punjab started marching to Delhi. They say the government did not keep promises made during the 2020-21 protest, and also have demands including pensions and a debt waiver.

But their most important demand is a law guaranteeing a support price for crops.

India introduced the MSP system in the 1960s – first for only wheat and later other essential crops – in a bid for food security.

Supporters of MSP say it is necessary to protect farmers against losses due to fluctuation in prices. They argue that the resulting income boost will allow farmers to invest in new technologies, improve productivity and protect cultivators from being fleeced by middlemen.

But critics say the system needs an overhaul as it is not sustainable and will be disastrous for government finances. They also say that it will be ruinous for the agricultural sector in the long run, leading to over-cultivation and storage issues.

Since last week, federal minister Piyush Goyal and other government officials had held four rounds of talks with the farmers. On Sunday, Mr Goyal told journalists that the discussions had been “positive” and that the government was devising an “out-of-the-box” solution to benefit farmers, consumers and the economy.

But on Monday, farmer leaders said they were dissatisfied with the way the talks were being held, claiming that there was no “transparency”.


(BBC News)

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Greece legalizes same-sex marriage

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Greece has become the first Christian Orthodox-majority country to legalise same-sex marriage.

Same-sex couples will now also be legally allowed to adopt children after Thursday’s 176-76 vote in parliament.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the new law would “boldly abolish a serious inequality”.

But it has divided the country, with fierce resistance led by the powerful Orthodox Church. Its supporters held a protest rally in Athens.

Many displayed banners, held crosses, read prayers and sang passages from the Bible in the capital’s Syntagma Square.

The head of the Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, said the measure would “corrupt the homeland’s social cohesion”.

The bill needed a simple majority to pass through the 300-member parliament.

Mr Mitsotakis had championed the bill but required the support of opposition parties to get it over the line, with dozens of MPs from his centre-right governing party opposed.

“People who have been invisible will finally be made visible around us, and with them, many children will finally find their rightful place,” the prime minister told parliament during a debate ahead of the vote.

“The reform makes the lives of several of our fellow citizens better, without taking away anything from the lives of the many.”

The vote has been welcomed by LGBTQ organisations in Greece.

“This is a historic moment,” Stella Belia, the head of same-sex parents’ group Rainbow Families, told Reuters news agency. “This is a day of joy.”

Fifteen of the European Union’s 27 members have already legalised same-sex marriage. It is permitted in 35 countries worldwide.

Greece has until now lagged behind some of its European neighbours, largely because of opposition from the Church.

It is the first country in south-eastern Europe to have marriage equality.

(BBC News)

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