Pot Pourri

Greece elects first woman president
Athens: Greece’s parliament on Wednesday elected the first woman president in the country’s history, a senior judge with an expertise in environmental and constitutional law. A cross-party majority of 261 MPs voted in favour of 63-year-old Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, parliament chief Costas Tassoulas said. “Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou has been elected president of the republic,” Tassoulas said. The new president, until now the head of Greece’s top administrative court, the Council of State, will take her oath of office on March 13, he added. The daughter of a Supreme Court judge, Sakellaropoulou completed postgraduate studies at Paris’s Sorbonne university. She was also the first woman to head the Council of State. Although the president is nominally the head of the Greek state and commander-in-chief, the post is largely ceremonial. Greek presidents confirm governments and laws and technically have the power to declare war, but only in conjunction with the government. (AFP)

First woman enters Japan’s submarine academy
Tokyo: The first female student was admitted to Japan’s national naval submarine academy Wednesday after the end of a ban on women on the country’s submarines. Saki Takenouchi, 26, entered the academy in a western region of Hiroshima along with about 20 other men, after the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force overturned previous restrictions. “I hope not to put too much pressure on myself as the first woman,” she told reporters. “Instead I hope to work with my classmates and train to become a submarine crew member.” The navy has long only allowed men to serve on submarines, citing the difficulty of accommodating gender privacy concerns. But it changed the rules in late 2018, after assessing that gender-specific privacy needs can be met without major submarine remodelling, a navy spokesman told AFP. “This is a part of our efforts for efficient use of human resources,” he added. Japan’s military as a whole is attempting to expand the role of women in its ranks as the Self Defense Forces struggle to attract young talent, with local media saying the navy has had particular difficulty attracting candidates to serve on submarines. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long advocated for expanding the role of women in the workplace, but the country remains stubbornly low in international gender rankings. (AFP)

Beer sales fizzle in Vietnam as drink-driving law hits bars
Hanoi: Beer sales in Vietnam are down ahead of the lunar new year, bar owners said, as a tough new drink-driving law threatens to put a lid on celebrations in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for the cold stuff. In the run-up to Vietnam’s Tet holiday, open-air ‘bia hoi’ bars are normally packed with rowdy customers sloshing back jugs of the country’s favourite tipple. But in many bars in Hanoi, rows of chairs sit empty and some managers complained business is way down since a zero-tolerance policy was introduced on January 1. Nguyen Thi Hanh, a manager at a bia hoi in downtown Hanoi, said she would struggle to pay staff this month. “The new regulation is horrible. The number of customers has dropped significantly, by around 80 percent,” she said. The strict new law came is part of an effort to change the drinking culture in a country where swigging a few beers before dashing home on a motorbike is common — and where road accidents are a leading killer. More than 30 per cent of traffic accidents among men in Vietnam are due to excessive drinking, according to the WHO. Under the new law, motorbike drivers who have been drinking will be fined up to $345, while car drivers under the influence could face a penalty of up to $1,800. Both face two-year licence suspensions. Even bicyclists face up to $25 for riding after drinking. Traffic police said they fined around 6,300 drivers across the country in the two weeks after the law was introduced. (AFP)

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