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Oklahoma man declared innocent after spending 48 years in prison


WASHINGTON —  A 71-year-old man has been declared innocent in the US state of Oklahoma after spending nearly 50 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

'A shield': Macron defends controversial immigration law


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday (Dec 20) defended a new immigration law that has split his party and sparked the resignation of his health minister, calling it a necessary “shield”.

Same-sex marriage bill gives Thai LGBTQ+ couples hope for change


BANGKOK — Mr Sean L’Estrange and Mr Chakgai Jermkwan got married 11 years ago in a small ceremony at Cambridge City Hall in the US city of Boston. Then, the two men flew back to their home in Bangkok, where they run a drag bar together.

Hopes rise for Israel-Hamas truce deal as Gaza toll hits 20,000


PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES — Hopes rose Wednesday (Dec 20) that Israel and Hamas may be inching toward another truce and hostage-release deal in the Gaza war, following talks in Europe and a visit to Egypt by the head of the Palestinian militant group.

“I wish for a complete ceasefire, and to put an end to the series of death and suffering. It’s been more than 75 days,” said Mr Kassem Shurrab, 25.

Mr Bassil Khoder, 63, said a ceasefire would allow displaced Palestinians like him to return home but it would be good for Israelis too.

“The Jews are also our neighbours,” he said. “We won’t give up on them.”


An AFPTV live camera on Wednesday filmed two bombs hitting Rafah, in southern Gaza where many of the territory’s estimated 1.9 million displaced have fled.

The Hamas health ministry said Israeli strikes killed at least 12 Palestinians when houses and a mosque in Rafah “were targeted”. It said later at least 30 more people were killed in an Israeli strike that hit two houses east of Khan Yunis.

Crowds swarmed the rubble, digging with shovels and a backhoe to try to free the victims. One blackened body lay under a blue blanket on the blood-soaked ground.

The army reported close-quarter combat and more than 300 strikes over the past day, while the death toll among its own forces rose to 134 inside Gaza.

It said troops had uncovered a tunnel network used by Hamas leaders including Mr Yahya Sinwar, the Islamist movement’s Gaza chief. The military released footage it said showed the “large network” around Gaza City’s Palestine Square linking hideouts and residences.

The UN Security Council again delayed a vote on a resolution calling for a pause to the war after members wrangled over wording. The vote is now scheduled for Thursday morning.

The United States vetoed a previous ceasefire resolution.

Israel, which declared a total siege on Gaza at the start of the war, has since allowed aid trucks through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and, as of this week, its own Kerem Shalom crossing.

The World Food Progamme said Wednesday it had delivered food through Kerem Shalom in a first direct aid convoy from Jordan and warned of the “risk of starvation”.

Fuel, water and medical supplies are also scarce, diseases are spreading, and communications have been repeatedly cut.

An Israeli military agency, COGAT, said it had started laying a pipeline from Egypt to deliver drinking water from a mobile desalination plant in a project led by the United Arab Emirates.

Visiting nearby Cyprus, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen expressed support for plans to send humanitarian aid to Gaza from the Mediterranean island.

“We aim to create a fast track for humanitarian aid to Gaza through this corridor,” he said.

The war has sparked fears of regional escalation, with exchanges of fire over the Lebanon border, and missiles from Iran-backed Yemeni rebels disrupting Red Sea shipping. AFP

Exporters explore cargo flights as way out of deepening Red Sea bottleneck


LONDON — Exporters are scrambling to find alternative air, land and ocean routes to get toys, apparel, tea and auto parts to retailers as disarray ripples through freight supply chains around the world during a wave of attacks in the Red Sea.

Slain Hong Kong model Abby Choi’s ex-husband, 2 former in-laws slapped with extra charge of preventing body’s burial


HONG KONG — Hong Kong prosecutors have slapped an additional charge of preventing the lawful burial of a body against slain model Abby Choi Tin-hung’s ex-husband and two of her former in-laws ahead of their trial at the High Court.

Commentary: COP — just a pointless exercise, or still a vital effort in saving the earth?


Long-time COP attendees observe that this year’s agenda was distinctively leaner compared to years past. The spirit of the global climate conference also seems to have shifted away from formal negotiations to engagement through pavilions and side events. As we enter the decade of implementation of the Paris Agreement, is COP still relevant today? 

'Rigorous' process in deciding who gets Covid-19 medals, says MOH as it acknowledges whole-of-society effort in pandemic fight


SINGAPORE — When deciding who to award the Covid-19 Resilience Medal to, the Ministry of Health (MOH) sought to be as inclusive as possible, while ensuring that standards are met and that the process is rigorous.

#trending: Ingenious or humiliating? Man’s use of dog cone to curb granddaughter's screen time sparks debate in China


XIAN, CHINA — A grandfather’s use of a dog cone to curb his granddaughter’s excessive phone use has sparked a debate among online users in China. 

She protests as her grandfather finally takes the device away and carries her out of the car, saying: “No, no! This is for dogs!”

“No, it was bought specially for you. It’s pink. It’s yours,” replies her amused mother as she tries to reassure the child.

The mother, surnamed Yuan, told Bailu Video that the approach surprisingly proved effective in curbing her daughter’s phone “addiction”.

“For the next few days, whenever she wanted to use the phone, I would put the cone on her. After wearing it for two or three days, she no longer wanted the phone so we don’t use it anymore,” Ms Yuan shared.

The viral video has attracted close to 2.1 million views and more than 460 comments as of Wednesday (Dec 20).

Some viewers were entertained by the family’s antics and praised the grandfather for his ingenuity.

One Weibo user wrote: “Who would have thought this could be done (laughs).”

“The dog cone is even pink. Are you sure the grandfather didn’t prepare it on purpose?” commented another.

However, the majority of online users seemed to be put off by the idea, with many casting doubt over the method’s effectiveness and expressing concern for the child.

One user pointed out: “Actually, if you lifted (the phone) higher you would still be able to see it.” 

Another person noted: “Apart from giving the old people temporary peace of mind, wearing this in public may be humiliating to the kid. I don’t believe that it can put an end to the phone addiction.”

Someone else argued: “What an idea. Parents can even harm their child this way. If they really wanted to stop the child from playing with the phone, a pair of gloves would work. Keeping the phone is an even simpler solution.”

Excessive screen time seems to be a common concern faced by parents across the world, as many struggle to keep smartphones and gadgets out of their kids’ hands.

In 2019, a trend where parents would prank their children with black eyeshadow to warn them against playing with mobile  devices too much spread on the Internet.

Believed to have started in Thailand, the trend saw parents sneakily rubbing dark eyeshadow around their children’s eyes before tricking them into believing that the “dark circles” were a consequence of prolonged screen exposure.

The viral eyeshadow videos had also sparked debate then among parents who advised against the prank, saying that it may traumatise the children.

Malaysian halal bakery chain apologises for barring Christmas greetings on cakes as govt reverses 3-year ban


MALAYSIA — A Malaysian bakery chain has apologised for asking its staff not to write Christmas greetings on its cakes despite customers’ request, after the issue kicked up a storm and the government reversed a three-year ban that prohibits halal-certified bakeries from doing so.