Hanoi aims to lower number of families with more than three children
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2023
The capital city has set the target of reducing the number of families with more than three children as its population hit 8.4 million people in 2022, according to the municipal Department of Health.
The city will reduce both the percentage of families with more than three children and the percentage of malnourished children under five years of age by 0.1 %.
Hanoi has recorded positive results in population and family planning work, contributing to the overall socio-economic development of the city, said deputy director of the department Vu Cao Cuong.
By the end of 2022, Hanoi’s population accounted for 8.4 % of the whole country’s population, and the gender imbalance at birth improved to 112.5 boys for every 100 girls.
Its prenatal and newborn screening rates stood at 82 % and 86 %, respectively in the year.
The official also noted that the city still faced new challenges due to the large population scale and area. The number of families with at least three children decreased but not at a stable rate.
An ageing population is also a major challenge to the capital that requires a proactive plan with proper policies to ensure the health, social welfare and benefits of senior citizens, according to Cuong.
He suggested relevant authorities, along with districts and townships across the city, strengthen coordination to ensure population work is treated with due care and attention.
The city will also expand its communication work on population with special attention to adolescent and youth reproductive health, pre-marital counselling and health examination, prenatal and newborn screening, and the health of the elderly.
In addition to its existing initiatives, Hanoi has announced its focus on providing contraceptives, reproductive health-related products and services, and the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases.
Yamagata regains Ramen Spending crown; Miyazaki Retains Gyoza Title
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2023
Residents of Yamagata have regained their crown as the nation’s largest spenders on ramen, while consumers in Miyazaki splashed the most cash on gyoza dumplings.
According to an annual family income and expenditure survey conducted by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, households with two or more occupants in Yamagata spent ¥13,196 ( 3,373 baht ) on Chinese noodle dishes including ramen in 2022.
This figure eclipsed the ¥12,573 ( 3,214 baht ) spent by such households in Niigata and propelled Yamagata back to the top spot for the first time since 2020.
Results of the survey, which was conducted on households in prefectural capitals and other major cities across Japan, were released earlier this month. Yamagata reigned supreme for expenditure on ramen for eight years between 2013 and 2020 but slipped to second behind Niigata in 2021.
This spurred the public and private sectors in Yamagata to work together to step up efforts to reclaim the top ranking. The owners of ramen restaurants in the city made and sold key chains with ramen discount coupons, and the municipal government served as the secretariat for a council established to promote ramen as a tourist attraction.
“This is the result of the entire city working together,” said Toshihiko Suzuki, a ramen restaurant owner and one of the council’s founders.
“We’ll keep working hard to ensure people from across Japan will feel glad that they came to Yamagata to eat ramen.”
The head of the Niigata government’s food and flower promotion section said about the city’s brief tenure as champion: “We placed second [for 2022], but that’s still a high ranking. We’ll continue to promote ramen as one of the delicious foods available in Niigata.”
Miyazaki households spent more than families in other cities on gyoza for the second consecutive year.
Average annual expenditure on the dumplings was ¥4,053 ( 1,035 baht ) for households in Miyazaki, followed by renowned “gyoza town” Utsunomiya (¥3,763 or 961 baht ) and Hamamatsu (¥3,434 or 877 baht ).
The survey focused on take-out, ready-to-cook and pan-fried gyoza purchased at supermarkets and other locations. The frozen version and gyoza consumed at restaurants were not included.
Miyazaki Prefecture is well-known for its many pig farms, and it also is home to numerous producers of key gyoza ingredients such as cabbage and Chinese chives.
Restaurant and bar officials in 2020 in Miyazaki City launched a “gyoza council” and bolstered campaigns to promote the dish, including events at which participants could eat dumplings from various establishments. The city clinched the top spot in gyoza expenditure for the first time in 2021.
“We ranked first for consecutive years, thanks in part to our residents,” said Aika Watanabe, head of the council. “We’ll keep showcasing gyoza as a specialty of Miyazaki.”
‘Drinking my urine saved me’, Turkish quake survivor tells his story of survival
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2023
Huseyin Berber’s voice was hoarse from calling for help from under the rubble of his home but he was finally freed more than a week after Turkey’s massive earthquake, defying the odds for survival and one of several remarkable stories to emerge.
Doctors say people can last, even without water, for days. But there are so many variables – what injuries were sustained in a building collapse and how hot or cold is it outside – that rescuers say anything after five days is miraculous.
Berber, a 62-year-old diabetic, survived 187 hours after the walls of his groundfloor flat were propped up by a fridge and a cabinet, leaving him an armchair to sit in and a rug to keep him warm.
He had a single bottle of water, and when that ran out, drank his own urine.
Berber was speaking from a bed at Mersin City Hospital, some 250 km from the 15-story building that collapsed in the city of Antakya in southern Hatay province, where half the buildings were either destroyed or heavily damaged. He was admitted on Tuesday (February 14).
He said he had been surrounded by relatives in different rooms in his apartment, all of whom he believes managed to survive.
“In a second tremor, the ceiling collapsed, but it did not touch me. I immediately crouched, and sat down. The wall fell over on to fridge and the cabinet. I was stuck there. There was a rug. I took that and put it over me… I saw there was an armchair, I climbed over it took the rug and sat there.
“I shouted, I called, but no one was there…I was a little relieved when I heard the sounds on top of the wreckage, but my throat was swollen as I kept shouting.”
He said he found his diabetes medicine and a bottle of water on the floor.
“An hour later, I took (the water bottle) and drank it. Apologies, I peed in it and let it rest. I drank it when it got cold. I saved myself with that.”
Deniz Gezer, internal medicine specialist at Mersin City Hospital, said one of the biggest problems for survival was the cold.
As for drinking urine, Gezer said it was not recommended since it is a toxic substance and it doesn’t meet human water needs.
Berber, in his hospital bed, surrounded by beeping machines, said he thought no one would save him until he heard the sound of rescuers.
“Someone reached their hand out and it met with my hand. After that, they pulled me out from there.”
In ageing South Korea, free subway rides for the elderly become a political headache
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2023
In Seoul, where almost 1.7 million people are 65 or older, more than 233 million subway free rides were taken last year. That cost Seoul Metro some 315 billion won ($250 million) last year, equivalent to 30% of its debt, Seoul Metro data showed.
Park Gyung-sun waits patiently for passengers to filter out of a subway train at a bustling station in the heart of Seoul.
The 71-year-old, who works part-time as a courier for a delivery company, lets off a slight sigh as he slumps into a priority seat on board the underground train, which is usually reserved for elderly people of his age group. Although Park isn’t living below the poverty line, he still needs a part-time job to make a little extra cash and live comfortably. And thanks to the Seoul subway system, he travels entirely for free, as people over the age of 65 are granted free rides, no questions asked.
Park is one of South Korea’s growing number of “silver delivery” couriers, which completely rely on their free underground pass to work. Park rides around Seoul all day via metro delivering flowers, documents or other packages, earning a monthly income of 600,000-700,000 won ($470-550), and getting a healthy workout in the process.
Despite the service they offer, many “silver delivery” couriers like Park are at the centre of a public debate about raising the standard age that qualifies for free subway rides, as Seoul’s local government claims the influx of free riders is creating a massive financial burden. Amid a rapidly ageing population and soaring operating costs, subway systems in South Korea’s metropolises are increasingly grappling with snowballing losses from free rides for old people.
More than 18% of South Korea’s population of 51 million is aged 65 or older. That proportion is projected to hit 30% in 2035 and 40% in 2050, according to the country’s statistics agency.
“If we have to pay for the subway, we will have to think about another alternative (jobs),” said Park, during a 40-minute trip to deliver a banner to a funeral home in southern Seoul.
His company, Silver Quick Subway Delivery, has about 30 employees and delivers anything portable to anywhere the 23 Seoul metropolitan subway lines reach, which means they can travel as far as 200 km (124 miles), for a fee of 11,000-30,000 won ($9-24), according to its owner, Bae Ki-geun. The company strategically only hires seniors who can qualify for the free passes, as the work requires employees to “travel a lot by subway and it costs a lot,” said Bae.
“We’ve tried (hiring younger people) before, but it’s not possible to hire people under the age of 65 in this field,” Bae added.
In the capital, where almost 1.7 million people are 65 or older, more than 233 million free rides were taken last year. That cost Seoul Metro some 315 billion won ($250 million) last year, equivalent to 30% of its debt, Seoul Metro data showed.
In 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the losses peaked at 371 billion won ($292.45 million) from more than 274 million free rides. The situation has city governments locking horns with the finance ministry, which rejects their calls for the national government to shoulder some of the surging costs.
The dispute is part of broader challenges for Asia’s fourth-largest economy which faces growing demand for senior welfare despite one of the world’s lowest birth rates.
Seoul city unveiled plans in December to raise base metro fares by up to 30% starting in April, citing the mushrooming debt, and said the national government should help as the policy began under authoritarian rule in the 1980s. However, the finance ministry has refused the demand, saying the state has already funded building and improving subway systems and local authorities are responsible for operating them.
A Gallup poll released last week showed 60% of South Koreans support raising the minimum age for senior citizen benefits to 70 and 34% opposed it. It showed little signs of a generational divide, but some young voters said there need to be broader social discussions over ways to better support the underprivileged, while others said welfare standards should be updated as the country is rapidly changing into an ageing society.
Truffles Successfully Cultivated by Japanese Researchers
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023
A team of researchers has announced the first successful cultivation in Japan of truffles, which is an expensive ingredient in Western cooking and said to be one of the world’s top three luxury foods, along with foie gras and caviar.
Researchers from the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, said the truffles have a rich flavor on par with the most commonly consumed European truffles. The team will work to further hone cultivation techniques with a goal of seeing stable production in about 10 years.
The species cultivated was Tuber japonicum, a type of white truffle that grows wild in Japan. The fungus forms symbiotic relationships called mycorrhizae with plants such as oak trees where they colonize the plant’s roots via long fungal threads.
Focusing on this symbiosis, the team artificially stimulated mycorrhiza formation by pouring liquid containing truffle spores on the roots of konara oak saplings.
They then planted the saplings at four test sites in Japan between three and five years ago. In November last year, they found 22 truffles growing at two of the four sites. The largest was 9 centimeters long and weighed 60 grams, comparable in size to those on the market.
Truffles rarely grow wild in Japan, and those available for purchase are almost all imported. If mass production of domestic truffles becomes possible through cultivation, it could lead to a new industry with export potential.
“We want to aim for stable production as we continue our research,” said Takashi Yamanaka, director of the institute’s Tohoku branch.
“It’s a great achievement made possible by using saplings and fungi suited to Japanese soil,” said Fumio Eguchi President of the Tokyo University of Agriculture, a scholar of mushroom research.
Cambodia to repatriate Thai, Lao prisoners by Khmer New Year
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023
Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that Cambodia plans to repatriate Lao and Thai prisoners from the Kingdom’s prisons before the traditional Khmer New Year celebrations in April. The humanitarian gesture is intended to strengthen diplomatic ties with the neighbouring nations.
At a joint press conference during his visit to Laos on February 13, Hun Sen said the prisoners would be returned to their mother countries via existing extradition mechanisms.
“I have informed Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone that there is no need to wait for reciprocity. We will return prisoners convicted in Cambodia back to Laos to mark the Khmer New Year,” he said.
Cambodia, Laos and Thailand will all celebrate the New Year at the same time in April.
Hun Sen said Cambodia will also implement this mechanism with the Thai side so prisoners can return to their homeland. He urged Minister of JusticeKoeut Rith to cooperate with Minister of InteriorSar Kheng to start the work as soon as possible.
Nuth Savna, spokesman for the interior ministry’s General Department of Prisons (GDP), said on February 14 that the GDP was preparing documents regarding each Lao detainee. The files would be sent to the justice ministry, who would work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation according to standard procedure.
“There are a total of 75 Lao prisoners being held in Cambodia, 73 of them for drug offences. Just three of them are women,” he noted.
Savna said he did not have data on hand regarding the number of Thai prisoners being held in Cambodia.
“The decision to return foreign prisoners to their home countries, especially ahead of the New Year, is a humanitarian gesture which is driven by compassion for them, most of whom are forgotten. It also speaks to the close friendship and diplomatic ties with the neighbours,” he said.
Justice ministry spokesmen Chin Malin and Kim Santepheap could not be reached for comment on February 14.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, said the three nations have joint extradition treaties regarding the repatriation of prisoners following convictions. In addition to their humanitarian purpose, the treaties are a part of their diplomatic relations.
“I think the repatriations are a good thing and will benefit the prisoners, as well as the prison system,” he said.
Hun Sen was in Laos from February 13-14 at the invitation of his counterpart Sonexay Siphandone, in an official visit aimed at strengthening ties and cooperation between the two countries.
Scalding demand for Hot-Water Bottles in Japan has factories in overtime
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023
A kind of traditional, eco-friendly heater is in demand as fuel prices soar and inflate household utility bills. Hot-water bottles, or yutampo in Japanese, have been sold out at some retailers, forcing factories to keep running despite production for the winter usually finishing by this time of year.
The government has asked households and businesses to conserve electricity during the winter for the first time in seven years. The rise in electricity and gas bills driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, along with a severe cold snap in late January, has sent consumers scrambling for hot-water bottles of their own.
“My electricity bill was almost 50% higher than last winter,” said a man looking for a hot-water bottle at a Tokyo store. “I’ll avoid using the heating as much as possible.”
Chiba-based Aeon Retail Co., which operates supermarkets nationwide, prepared 50% more yutampo than last year, but sold out in January, earlier than usual.
Tokyo-based home improvement retailer DCM Co. said its hot-water bottle sales since November have doubled over the previous year. On e-commerce site Rakuten Ichiba, sales in January were up 60% over the same month last year. The best-selling products are those priced between ¥1,000 and ¥3,000.
“They are selling especially well among families where the parents are in their 30s or 40s,” a Rakuten spokesperson said.
Maruka Corp., a long-established manufacturer of metal hot-water bottles in Hyogo Prefecture, usually finishes production in December. But orders have piled up this winter, and the company is still making them this month.
Tange Chemical Industry, a leading producer of plastic yutampo in Nagoya, has shipped about 50% more product than usual, forcing its factory in Ama, Aichi Prefecture, to run every day. The company sometimes receives calls from first-time users asking how to use a yutampo.
“We want people to experience the gentle warmth of this old-fashioned heater,” said company President Akinori Tange.