INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

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 Brazil lifts WhatsApp  suspension

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A Brazilian judge ordered the lifting of a 48-hour suspension of the services of Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp phone-messaging application, overturning an order from a lower court. The ban lasted about 12 hours until an appeals court judge overturned it, said the BBC.
The interruption of WhatsApp’s text message and internet telephone service caused outrage in Latin America’s largest country, where the company estimates it has 100 million personal users, and led to angry exchanges on the floor of the Congress. WhatsApp is installed on 93 percent of Android devices in Brazil, making it the most installed app in the country, according to the TechCrunch website.

Japanese scribe gets off the hook

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A Japanese journalist has been found not guilty of defaming South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, Voice of America reports.
Writing for Japan’s Sankei Shimbun, Tatsuya Kato repeated rumors about Park’s whereabouts on the day of the Sewol ferry disaster in April 2014 that killed more than 300 people—mostly teenagers on a school trip. Kato maintained that the report was in the public interest. Critics had said the decision to prosecute infringed on free speech. Park’s government has faced a huge public backlash for its handling of the rescue operation.

Denmark decides to seize migrants’ assets for maintenance

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A Danish government proposal to seize assets of asylum-seekers to make them pay for their maintenance has drawn sharp criticism in international media. The Washington Post described the plan as “extreme” and website Vox called it “cruel”.Denmark expects to receive around 20,000 asylum seekers this year, compared to 15,000 last year. It further expects about 25,000 next year.

Integration minister Inger Stoejberg said the police should be allowed to seize valuables to make them pay for housing, healthcare and education. She likened migrants to jobless Danes who must sell their assets above a certain level to claim benefits. Both the ruling centre-right Venstre party and the right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party back the bill, meaning it should pass by February. Stoejberg said wedding rings, watches or items “with a sentimental value” should not be taken. The law will only apply to cash worth more than 3,000 kroners ($436) and “tangible assets of a considerable value”.

Japanese couples to share surnames

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The Japanese Supreme Court has upheld a law that married couples must have the same surname, in a blow to women’s rights activists, reports The Atlantic.
Campaigners have said the law is discriminatory as most couples end up using the husband’s surname. However, the court said the law did not violate the constitution. It did, however, deem a separate law that stops women
remarrying within six months of a divorce unconstitutional.

Turkey ill-treating refugees: Amnesty

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Amnesty International says Turkey has rounded up scores of refugees and asylum-seekers since September and transported them to detention centers where some have been mistreated or forcibly returned to Syria and Iraq, reports International Business Times.

Turkey hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, including 2.2 million Syrians. It has denied that Syrians are being forced back, and says that all returnees are
interviewed by the UN staff.

This month, Turkey and the EU reached an agreement aimed to curb the flow of migrants to Europe. It includes an EU pledge to provide 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help improve the conditions of refugees in Turkey.