Super typhoon hits Hong Kong: A super typhoon has hit Hong Kong on its way to south China. Typhoon Usagi has killed at least 25 people in Guangdong province, south China, but Hong Kong has escaped the worst of the storm.
23 September 2013
The streets of Hong Kong, one of the world’s most densely packed cities, are eerily quiet. Residents had been preparing for days for a super typhoon, the worst in decades.
But the storm weakened on its way to south China. Though there has been damage caused, it has been far less than originally anticipated.
About a dozen people here have sought treatment in hospital. There has been some flooding, and of course, hundreds of flights have been cancelled.
With the wind and rain abating, the city is likely to return to business as usual by mid-morning.
Saudi women campaign for the right to drive: Saudi women activists have launched a new campaign for the right to drive. Women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, although there’s no formal law banning them.
20 September 2013
In a sign of how pervasive online social networks have become in Saudi Arabia, the new campaign has been started on Twitter. It’s the idea of the activist, Eman al Nafjan, who’s set things in motion with a simple message saying that Saudi women will express their feelings about driving on October the 26th.
She’s told the BBC the hope is that women will come out en masse to drive on that day. She says the campaign’s meant to be a grassroots movement open to all Saudis – men as well as women – to show their support. Hundreds of messages backing the campaign have already been posted. Well-known Saudis are due to give their public backing, while videos of women driving will be posted when they emerge.
Women activists say the issue of being allowed to drive is key to their gaining other rights, such as freedom from what many see as oppressive male guardianship. They argue that there’s an irony in the ban on driving as it means that women must rely on male drivers, thereby spending large amounts of time with a man outside their family. In other circumstances, this would be condemned as a serious transgression of the country’s deeply conservative interpretation of Islam.
Those who oppose women driving do so on the grounds that it would violate that deeply traditional code. In public, there’ve been some signs that Saudi officials may be softening their line on women driving. That’s a change from several years ago when women were arrested or lost their jobs for taking to the wheel as part of similar campaigns. But Eman al Nafjan says persistent rumours that the ban might be lifted soon are so far nothing more than that.
Japan switches off nuclear power: Japan is shutting down its last functioning nuclear reactor, with no timetable for a restart.
The closure highlights the changing fortunes of nuclear power in a nation that was once one of its biggest users – until the accident at Fukushima.
16 September 2013
The reactor in Ohi is one of only two in Japan that’s been operational since July 2012. Reactor No 3 at the site was taken offline nearly a fortnight ago, and now the operators of Reactor No 4 have begun shutting it down too.
The plant‘s owners are amongst four companies who want to restart their reactors in the future, observing new safety guidelines. But the memories of the accidents at Fukushima in 2011 have left most Japanese people opposed to nuclear power.
The country’s Prime Minister, though, wants to bring nuclear energy in from the cold. Shinzo Abe says that Japan can’t carry on paying the high costs of importing gas and oil, in order to keep the country’s lights on.
Some household electricity bills are now 30% higher than before the Fukushima accident, and analysts think the rises are set to continue. And the price of importing more energy from abroad has helped to inflate Japan’s trade deficit.
Yet even if every nuclear reactor was brought back online many of them are reaching the end of their 40-year lives, which means a decision will have to be made about whether to replace them.
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