Bird flu virus becoming endemic in parts of Asia – UN

Laboratory results show that a recent wave of bird flu in poultry in Thailand and Laos was the result of both old and new strains of the H5N1 virus, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, calling for vigorous implementation of control measures to prevent further spread of the disease.The FAO says last month’s outbreak in Thailand’s Pichit province was caused by the same strain that has been circulating in the area since 2003, meaning the virus has become endemic to the region.“The H5N1 virus thus remained alive in central Thailand in a reservoir of birds and poultry, most probably a mix of backyard chickens, ducks and fighting cocks,” said Laurence Gleeson, regional manager of FAO’s bird flu centre in Bangkok today.Outbreaks in Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom province and Vientiane in Laos, on the other hand, were caused by strains that did not exist there previously but that did resemble ones found in southern China, the FAO said.The bird flu situation in the region has reached a “critical juncture,” said the agency, noting that outbreaks were continuing in China and also reoccurring in Laos, while cross-border poultry trade persisted across South-East and East Asia, despite well-known risks. For all of those reasons, heightened vigilance was essential throughout the region.“Timely reporting and sharing information continue to be crucial,” said He Changchui, FAO’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, pointing out that while some countries can beat back occasional bird flu reoccurrence, poorer countries still need funding to strengthen veterinary services and build up transboundary animal disease containment programmes. read more

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Cambridge student fined for giving feminism talk in Russia during sinister crackdown

The student has been working with the St. Petersburg-based feminist organisation Eve’s Ribs since November 2018.Daria Apakhonchich, an Eve’s Ribs representative, said: “What happened to Harriet in Krasnoyarsk is one of many incidents which reveal the inner workings of our state. “Instead of recriminalising domestic violence, closing the gender pay gap, cracking down on discrimination in employment and higher education, helping victims of domestic, sexual and reproductive violence, fighting arranged child marriages and female genital mutilation, our state spends taxpayers money fighting feminist activists.” Foreign exchange students in Russia have been warned that they are “soft targets” after a Cambridge undergraduate was fined for giving a feminism talk on her year abroad.  Harriet Phillips, 21, was visiting friends in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk when she was invited to informally address some 40 people on subjects including the patriarchy and gender stereotypes.But fifteen minutes into the talk she was interrupted by three men – one of whom she claims was an FSB agent – who filmed her speaking then ordered that the computer operating her presentation slides be switched off. The audience was told there would be a “technical break” while the officials from the Federal Migration Service told Miss Phillips she had breached Russian migration law because her tourist visa did not permit her to give educational talks.Miss Phillips, who was on an exchange programme at St. Petersburg State University, insisted it was an open meeting and the talk was simply a warm-up before a group discussion.But she was questioned for four hours and fined 2,000 roubles (£25). One of the officers admitted they would not have detained her if she had been talking about the weather rather than feminism. The city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, where Harriet was visiting friends on a tourist visa The city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, where Harriet was visiting friends on a tourist visaCredit:Ilya Naymushin/Reuters Miss Phillips was warned by a journalist before her talk began that someone might try to spring a “surprise” on her at the end.  The Modern and Medieval languages student thinks someone had incorrectly told the authorities she was giving a talk in breach of her tourist visa in order to stop her sharing ideas about feminism.She told The Telegraph: “The most likely explanation for what happened is a self-righteous citizen of misogynistic persuasion saw the event advertised online and decided to shut it down by tipping off the Ministry of Internal Affairs.”One of the officers informed me that they wouldn’t have bothered to intervene if the chosen topic of my conversation was the weather.”After being detained, officers asked to see her passport and visa. She was questioned about what sights she was seeing in Russia, and if she was married or had children.Miss Phillips was with officers from the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for four hours before being charged under Article 18.8.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation.The charge states that there is a “discrepancy between stated purpose of entering the Russian Federation and the type of occupation actually carried out”. She said: “I was told that there could be two possible chains of events – either I sign a statement admitting to my guilt, the head of the Migration Department approves it, then I pay a 2,000 rouble fine. This is the second time a foreign exchange student has been rapped by Russian officials for supposed visa violations.Last month a German exchange student was expelled from St. Petersburg State University and fined 4,000 roubles (£50) for interviewing environmental protesters in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk then publishing an article about it on a German news website.Police told Lukas Latz, an Eastern European Studies undergraduate from Berlin, that publishing the article constituted “work” and this violated the terms of his student visa.Lukas had insisted he wrote the article as part of his master’s thesis on environmental activism in Russia.Now Amnesty International has spoke out about exchange students in Russia being treated like criminals, which they say is becoming increasingly common.Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher, said: “We’re seeing more and more cases like this in Russia – where perfectly legitimate activism or even religious observance from overseas students are being treated as criminal offences.“In two recent cases in Nizhnii Novgorod, for example, students from African countries were prosecuted for ‘missionary’ activities in relation to their attendance at a Protestant church.“Overseas students are something of a soft target for the authorities, while the wider context is that anyone in Russia is at risk of persecution if they take part in political protests or activism of any kind.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “Or, if I refuse to cooperate, the case gets sent to court and I could end up with a five-year ban on entering the country. I agreed to the first option.”Miss Phillips, who is leaving Russia in August and returning to Cambridge for her final year in October, paid the fine the next day.But her ordeal was not over, as she has since received torrents of abuse on Russian social network VKontakte for daring to talk about feminism.The insulting comments included: ‘Take your feminism back to Gayurope, you witch’; ‘Go home you swine. If I ever get my hands on you…’’; ‘You can take your Gayuropean values and f*** right off! Go and live with your tolerance’; ‘They should have deported her straight away’;  ‘It’s obvious she’s a lesbian’;  ‘She needs to be sent back to Scotland and banned from reentering Russia… f*** right off you spy’.Miss Phillips added: “I’m incredibly disappointed that a highly interesting exchange of thoughts and ideas was not able to take place.”I am speechless with anger that the Russian state chooses to squander valuable time and energy chasing after a Scottish feminist, as the Russian internet has now dubbed me, instead of tackling the endemic violence which grips the country.” read more

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