Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 16th of December, 2017:-
1. Saudi women will be allowed to drive motorcycles:-
Saudi Arabian women will be able to drive trucks and motorcycles, officials have said three months after the kingdom announced a historic decision to end a ban on women driving. In September, King Salman issued a decree saying women will be able to drive from next June as part of an ambitious reform push in the conservative kingdom.
The Saudi General Directorate of Traffic gave details of the new regulations that will follow the lifting of the ban on the official Saudi Press Agency late on Friday. “Yes, we will authorize women to drive motorcycles as well as trucks,” it said, adding that the royal decree stipulates that the law on driving will be “equal” for both men and women.
There will be no special license plate numbers for female-driven cars, it said. But women involved in road accidents or who commit traffic violations will be dealt with at special centers that will be established and run by women.
Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to impose a ban on women driving and its maintenance was seen around the world as a symbol of repression in the Gulf kingdom. Its historic decision to allow women to drive from next June has been cheered inside the kingdom and abroad — and comes after decades of resistance from female activists, many of whom were jailed for flouting the ban.
Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women. Under the country’s guardianship system, a male family member — normally the father, husband or brother — must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities.
2. Toll rises to three dead after Indonesian quake:-
At least three people have been killed following a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake on Indonesia’s main island of Java, an official said Saturday. The quake struck at a depth of 91 kilometers (56 miles) just outside the coastal town of Cipatujah on Java island late Friday, the US Geological Survey said.
The tremor was felt across the island including in the capital Jakarta, some 300 kilometers (190 miles) from the epicenter. A 62-year-old man in Ciamis and an 80-year-old woman in Pekalongan city were killed when the buildings they were in collapsed, national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, while a 34-year-old woman from the city of Yogyakarta died when she fell while running out of her house.
“Several hospitals in several areas have also been damaged and patients had to be evacuated”, Nugroho said. A hospital in Banyumas suffered damage to ceilings, cracked walls and leaks to oxygen pipelines, forcing around 70 patients to be moved to temporary shelters.
At least nine hundred houses were also damaged in addition to schools and government offices across West Java and Central Java provinces, the national disaster mitigation agency said.
Jakarta resident Web Warouw, 50, was on the 18th floor of a building in the capital when the quake struck just before midnight local time (1700 GMT). “Suddenly, we felt dizzy… We then realised it was a quake and immediately ran downstairs”, Warouw told AFP.
Aid is being distributed and temporary tents have been set up for those who have lost their homes. The agency was still evaluating the impact of the disaster and urged people to be cautious and stay alert.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide. Some 170,000 lives were lost when a 9.1-magnitude quake and tsunami struck Aceh province in December 2004, which also hit coastal areas as far away as Somalia. An earthquake struck Aceh again in December 2016, killing more than 100 people, injuring many others and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
3. Rex Tillerson calls for the release of two reporters arrested in Myanmar:-
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that the United States was demanding “the immediate release” of two Reuters reporters arrested in Myanmar “or information as to the circumstances around their disappearance.”
The United States joined mounting demands for the reporters to be freed. The United Nations, United Kingdom, Sweden and Bangladesh, among others, have denounced the arrests.
The journalists, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, went missing on Tuesday after being invited to meet police officials over dinner on the northern outskirts of the city of Yangon. They had worked on stories about a military crackdown in Rakhine state, which has triggered the flight of more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh since late August.
As of Friday, Reuters had not been formally contacted by officials about the detention of the reporters. The Ministry of Information has said that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media,” and released a photo of the pair in handcuffs.
Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler has called for the immediate release of the journalists, saying in a statement on Wednesday that the global news organization was “outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom.”
A court official in the northern district of Yangon where they were detained said that no paperwork had been filed relating to either journalist. The official said that usually cases are lodged 20-30 days after an arrest as suspects can be held in custody for up to 28 days without being charged.
On Wednesday, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information said the reporters and two policemen faced charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act, though officials have since disclosed that they have not been charged. The 1923 law carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
4. One dead, thousands flee as storms pounds the Philippines:-
A boy drowned and tens of thousands were driven from their homes by floods as Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the eastern Philippines on Saturday, cutting off power and triggering landslides, officials said.
Kai-Tak, packing gusts of up to 110 kilometers (62 miles) an hour, hit the country’s third-largest island Samar in the afternoon and was forecast to slice across the rest of the central Philippines over the weekend, the state weather service said.
Military trucks drove through rising floodwaters on Samar and nearby Leyte island to rescue trapped residents, with more than 38,000 people now in evacuation centers, local officials said.
A two-year-old boy drowned in the Leyte town of Mahaplag, the civil defense office in the region said.
A spokeswoman for the national government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told AFP it is trying to confirm reports of two other deaths from landslides and floods.
Samar and Leyte, with a combined population of about 4.5 million, had borne the brunt of Super Typhoon Haiyan four years ago, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.
Bus driver Felix Villaseran, his wife, and four children hunkered down in their two-story house in the Leyte city of Tacloban along with 11 relatives whose homes were flooded in waist-high waters from the incessant rain.
“We have yet to shake off our phobia. I hope to God we don’t have a repeat of that”, Villaseran, who lost 39 cousins in the Haiyan onslaught, told AFP by telephone.
“My missus stockpiled on groceries before the storm hit, but since we also have to feed these three other families we’re now running low on food”, he added.
Strong winds toppled trees and power pylons, knocking out power through the region while floods, small landslides, and rock falls blocked roads and buried some homes, local officials and witnesses said.
5. South Africa’s troubled ANC meets to elect new leader:-
Thousands of delegates from South Africa’s ANC party gathered Saturday for a five-day meeting to elect their new leader in a divisive race seen as a pivotal moment in the country’s post-apartheid history.
The winner will be well placed to be the next president, but the ANC has lost much popularity since Nelson Mandela led it to power in the euphoric 1994 election that marked the end of white-minority rule. Soaring unemployment and government corruption have fuelled frustration among millions of poor black South Africans who face dire housing, inadequate education, and continuing racial inequality.
President Jacob Zuma, whose reign has been marred by graft scandals, will step down as ANC chief but remain as head of state ahead of general elections in 2019. The two front-runners for the party leadership are his ex-wife and former African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman.
The battle could split the ANC and the conference looks set to be acrimonious. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Saturday said some delegates had been disqualified from voting after multiple legal disputes raged in courts for weeks before the meeting. As rival delegates danced and sang songs in support of their chosen candidate, Mantashe said the start of the event had been delayed until 1200 GMT when Zuma would make the opening address.
Dlamini-Zuma, 68, headed the African Union commission until earlier this year and is a former interior, foreign affairs, and health minister. But her critics say she would pursue Zuma’s failing economic and political policies and would be his proxy to protect him from criminal prosecution over graft allegations.