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  • Exclusive: Modi govt puts brakes on India's universal health …
    Exclusive: Modi govt puts brakes on India's universal health …

    By Aditya Kalra NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for a drastic cutback of an ambitious health care plan after cost estimates came in at $18.5 billion over five years, several government sources said, delaying a promise made in his election manifesto. The health ministry developed a draft policy on universal health care in coordination with the prime minister's office last year. The National Health Assurance Mission aims to provide free drugs, diagnostic services and insurance for serious ailments for India's 1.2 billion people. The health ministry proposed rolling out the system from April 2015, and in October projected its cost as $25.5 billion over four years.

  • Thailand keeps suspected Uighurs in custody amid Turkey-China …

    By Amy Sawitta Lefevre BANGKOK (Reuters) - A family of 17 suspected Uighur Muslims at the centre of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Turkey and China will remain in custody after a Thai court on Friday rejected their argument that their prolonged detention was illegal. Turkey and China both claim the detainees as nationals in a dispute with potential implications for hundreds of other suspected Uighur detainees and to where they should be repatriated. Thai police detained the group, all from the same family, in March 2014 after they illegally entered Thailand overland from Cambodia. The family claimed to be Turkish and, while still in detention, were issued with passports by the Turkish Embassy and granted permission to travel to Turkey.

  • South Korea demands release of two men accused by North Korea …
    South Korea demands release of two men accused by North Korea …

    By James Pearson and Jack Kim SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea demanded on Friday the immediate release of two of its citizens that North Korea said it had arrested, accusing them of spying for the South. Late on Thursday, the North's official KCNA news agency showed images of two middle-aged men it identified as Kim Kuk Gi and Choe Chun Gil speaking at a news conference in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. It said the two men were South Korean nationals working as spies for Seoul's National Intelligence Service from the Chinese border city of Dandong. "They zealously took part in the anti-DPRK smear campaign of the U.S. imperialists and the puppet group of traitors to isolate and blockade the DPRK in (the) international arena," the agency said, using North Korea's official DPRK acronym for Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

  • Airlines introduce two-person cockpit rule after Alps crash
    Airlines introduce two-person cockpit rule after Alps crash

    By Victoria Bryan and Tim Hepher BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) - Airlines rushed on Thursday to change their rules so as to require a second crew member in the cockpit at all times, hours after French prosecutors suggested a co-pilot who barricaded himself alone at the controls of a jetliner had crashed it on purpose. The United States already requires two crew members to be in the cabin at all times, but many other countries do not, allowing pilots to leave the flight deck, for example to use the toilet, as long as one pilot is at the controls. Airlines including Norwegian Air Shuttle, Britain's easyJet, Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Air Berlin all said within hours that they had introduced a requirement that two crew members be in the cockpit at all times. Among the companies that did not announce such a policy change was Germanwings parent Lufthansa, whose CEO Carsten Spohr said he believed it was unnecessary.

  • White House crafts first-ever plan to fight superbugs

    By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lisa Baertlein NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The White House is due to issue an ambitious plan to slow the growing and deadly problem of antibiotic resistance over the next five years, one that requires massive investments and policy changes from a broad array of U.S. government health agencies, according to a copy of the report reviewed by Reuters. The 60-page report is the first ever to tackle antibiotic resistance so broadly. A White House official confirmed that it would release the plan on Friday. Doctors and health experts have warned for decades that rising rates of resistant bacteria are leading to tens of thousands of deaths, threatening to nullify modern medical advancements.

  • China launches "Sky Net" to better coordinate graft …

    The Chinese government has unveiled an initiative called "Sky Net" to better coordinate its fight against suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas, and to recover their dirty assets, the latest step in its fight against graft. The group will be comprised of officials from the Communist Party's corruption watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Public Security Ministry, the Supreme Prosecutor, the party's Organisation Department and the central People's Bank of China. The Ministry of Public Security will concentrate on officials who have fled abroad because they are already leading the similar "Fox Hunt" initiative, the statement said. The Organisation Department, a powerful and secretive body that oversees personnel decisions, will watch trips by officials abroad.

  • With Yemen strikes, Saudis show growing independence from U. …
    With Yemen strikes, Saudis show growing independence from U. …

    By Matt Spetalnick, Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia kept some key details of its military action in Yemen from Washington until the last moment, U.S. officials said, as the kingdom takes a more assertive regional role to compensate for perceived U.S. disengagement. The Middle East's top oil power told the United States weeks ago it was weighing action in Yemen but only informed Washington of the exact details just before Thursday's unprecedented air strikes against Iran-allied Houthi rebels, the officials said. U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East policy increasingly relies on surrogates rather than direct U.S. military involvement.

  • Japan makes a start on sharing lessons from nuclear crisis

    By Megan Rowling SENDAI, Japan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When professional boxer and model Tomomi Takano heard that children in Japan's Fukushima prefecture were becoming unfit and overweight as the 2011 nuclear crisis there limited the time they could play outside, she decided to use her skills to help. "They really concentrated on the boxing and tried hard," she said at a recent U.N. conference on disasters in the northeastern city of Sendai. The boxer hopes to run more sessions in Fukushima to improve children's agility and provide an outlet for their emotions. Takano and civil society activists in Sendai said they wanted to communicate to the rest of the world the human impacts of the crisis sparked when a huge earthquake and tsunami caused nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to melt down four years ago.

  • Syria's Assad says open to dialogue with U.S. - CBS inte …

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is open to having a dialogue with the United States, but there can be no "pressuring of the sovereignty" of his country, he said in an excerpt of an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired on Thursday. Asked about recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington would have to negotiate with the Syrian leader to end the conflict there, Assad said: "As principal, in Syria we could say that every dialogue is a positive thing, and we are going to be open to any dialogue with anyone, including the United States, regarding anything based on mutual respect." While saying there had been no direct communication between Damascus and Washington, Assad, who has been fighting Islamist and other rebels since 2011, added: "Any dialogue is positive, as I said, in principal, of course, without pressuring the sovereignty of Syria." The United States still wants a negotiated political settlement to Syria's civil war that excludes Assad, U.S. officials said earlier this month after Kerry's comments.

  • UK must cut aid for Nepal if 'endemic' corruption persists …
    UK must cut aid for Nepal if 'endemic' corruption persists …

    By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The British government should make cuts to its 86 million pound aid budget for Nepal unless the country takes action to combat poor governance and "endemic" corruption, a parliamentary committee said on Friday. The Department for International Development (DFID)'s funding has seen Nepal make huge progress in health, water and sanitation, but this spending will only be justified if governance improves, the International Development Committee (IDC) said. DFID should also address the needs of women and girls in Nepal, who are at risk of trafficking, early marriage, domestic abuse and murder, by working to change social norms and ensure justice for victims, the IDC said in a report.

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