The following is the latest list of selected news summaries by Kyodo News.


Australia to join diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

SYDNEY - Australia will not send government officials to next year's Beijing Olympics, the country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday, joining the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games.

Morrison told reporters in Sydney he decided to bar officials from attending as his government has been rebuffed in its attempts to discuss with China its alleged human rights abuses in its far-western Xinjiang region, as well as various other issues of concern.


Japanese doctor holds ceremony for Pearl Harbor victims in hometown

SHIZUOKA, Japan - A Japanese doctor from central Japan who for the past 30 years has visited Hawaii almost every December to commemorate victims of the Pearl Harbor attack held a ceremony Wednesday in his hometown for the first time.

Hiroya Sugano, who decided to forego the trip to the U.S. state this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, held the ceremony at the foot of Mt. Shizuhata in Shizuoka Prefecture to mark the 80th anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack.


Japan struggling to bring forward vaccine booster amid Omicron fears

TOKYO - The Japanese government has been struggling to present concrete plans to bring forward vaccine booster shots against the novel coronavirus, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida telling parliament Wednesday that it is urgent to analyze whether the existing COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Omicron variant.

"We are hoping to determine the effect of the existing vaccines on the Omicron strain as soon as possible, and then show the scope and method of moving up booster shots," Kishida said at a plenary session of the House of Representatives.


Entrepreneur Maezawa departs for ISS as 1st Japanese civilian

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan - Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa departed from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Wednesday, on course to become the first Japanese civilian to stay on the International Space Station.

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying the 46-year-old founder of major online fashion retailer Zozo Inc. lifted off at 12:38 p.m. and is expected to dock with the ISS after a six-hour journey, with Maezawa staying for 12 days until Dec. 20.


Afghan evacuees to be allowed into Japan despite COVID border rules

TOKYO - Afghan staff of Japanese organizations who wish to evacuate from Afghanistan will be granted special permission to enter Japan in an exemption from current COVID-19 border restrictions, government sources said Wednesday.

The decision, which applies to staff at the now-closed Japanese Embassy in Kabul and workers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency as well as their families, is based on humanitarian grounds in light of the worsening situation in the Taliban-ruled country.


South Korea daily COVID-19 cases surpass 7,000 for 1st time

SEOUL - South Korea reported Wednesday that its daily COVID-19 case count surpassed 7,000 for the first time, with a gradual rise in the number of Omicron variant infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said 7,175 coronavirus cases were newly detected on Tuesday, marking a jump from 4,954 on Monday. The previous daily record was 5,352 set on Friday last week.


Malaysia court upholds jail sentence for ex-PM Najib

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - A Malaysian court on Wednesday upheld the 12-year prison sentence and fine of 210 million ringgit ($50 million) given to former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for illegally transferring money from a state investment fund and other charges related to it.

The Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, the federal administrative capital, rejected an appeal by Najib against his conviction for transferring a total of 42 million ringgit from a former unit of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad to his private bank accounts between December 2014 and February 2015.


Japan's economic shrinkage in July-Sept. amid pandemic downgraded to 3.6%

TOKYO - Japan's economy in the July-September period shrank an annualized real 3.6 percent from the previous quarter, downgraded from the 3.0 percent contraction initially reported, as a technical change in the way seasonal adjustments are made led to a larger recorded fall in private consumption, government data showed Wednesday.

Private consumption, which accounts for more than half of the country's gross domestic product, fell 1.3 percent, revised down from a 1.1 percent decline, as spending on durable goods and services was lower amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Cabinet Office.