ASEAN ministers back currency initiative
CHIANG MAI — Finance ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed yesterday to strengthen measures to prevent any economic crisis like that of 1997 that traumatized the region for years afterward.
Thailand, epicenter of the turmoil, hosted the one-day meeting among some of the world’s most dynamic economies comprising a market of 500 million people. “We have been through the financial crisis, a period of reform and recovery and are now facing new challenges,” said Thai Finance Minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn.
After the economic meltdown a decade ago, ASEAN, Japan, China and South Korea agreed on a bilateral currency arrangement, known as “the Chiang Mai Initiative,” to prevent a repetition of the 1997 crisis. It allows an Asian country in financial trouble to borrow foreign currency — usually U.S. dollars — from another country to bolster its international reserves until the crisis passes.
Lesbian singer tells all on Web broadcast
BEIJING — For singer and bar owner, Qiao Qiao, talking about her sexuality live on an Internet broadcast accessible to millions of people was easier than telling her parents that she was a lesbian.
“My mother was very supportive,” she said yesterday, as cameras rolled in a small studio in northwest Beijing. “But my father still has not accepted it. He said I was young and would feel different when I was older. … But he is still saying that even though I’m now in my 30s,” she said.
Qiao Qiao was the first guest on “Tongxing Xinglian,” China’s first homosexual chat show, accessible to more than 130 million Internet users across the country. The weekly 12-episode show, produced by PhoenixTV.com, aims to open minds in a country where homosexuality was listed as a mental illness until 2001.
YouTube asked to drop election clips
TOKYO — Tokyo’s election commission asked the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube yesterday to remove clips of candidates for the local governor’s race, saying it gave some of them unfair advantages. The commission said it wants to “ensure fairness” among candidates for Sunday’s elections in the world’s largest metropolis.
“We made the requests via e-mail and fax to the YouTube office in the United States,” said commission official Hiroyoshi Yone. “The site has allowed only certain candidates’ speeches to be viewed freely on the site, with which we cannot ensure the fairness of the election,” he said.
The commission has not received any reply from the operator of the U.S. Web site, Mr. Yone said. Japanese election law limits the broadcasting of speeches, which are aired only on public broadcaster NHK.
BEIJING — Australia and China will jointly develop cleaner-burning coal technologies and other ways of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, visiting Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday. Although Australia is the only industrialized country besides the United States not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Downer stressed his government’s ecological concern. … JAKARTA — A court cleared the editor of Playboy Indonesia yesterday of distributing indecent pictures to the public and making money from them after a high-profile trial that exposed deep divisions in the Muslim-majority nation. Editor in Chief Erwin Arnada described the verdict as a victory for press freedom, saying the magazine was good for developing a pluralistic society, while the prosecution and Islamic hard-liners said he had “harmed the nation’s morals.”
From wire dispatches and staff reports