08/30/2023, 09.53
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Australia set for Oct. 14 referendum on Aborigines

Today's headlines: birthrates in South Korea drop again, below 250,000 for first time; Cantonese language targeted in Hong Kong over national security law; India grants Singapore exemption from its freeze on rice exports; More than one million Pakistanis have migrated to Gulf countries since April 2022.


The Australian government has set a referendum for October 14 to decide whether to establish an indigenous voice in Parliament. If passed, the vote would recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the country's constitution and establish a permanent body to advise on laws. The proposal is creating a heated debate in the country, with objections also from those who fear that an institution of this kind could be counterproductive.


The drop in births in South Korea does not stop: according to data released today, only 249,000 children were born in the country in 2022, with a decrease of 11,000 compared to the previous year. It is the first time ever that the figure has dropped below 250,000 units. The fertility rate hit a new low of 0.78 in 2022, much lower than the 2.1 replacement level that would keep South Korea's population stable at 51 million.


Andrew Chan, founder and president of Societas Linguistica Hongkongensis, said he would close the group - created to uphold the status of the Cantonese language in Hong Kong - with immediate effect after the national security police showed up at his old home while he was absent, searching the property without a warrant. Cantonese, the lingua franca of Hong Kong, has long been seen as a channel of opposition to the Beijing government.


India has agreed to grant Singapore an exemption from the rice export ban in view of the "very close strategic partnership" between the two countries. In July, India banned the export of non-basmati rice to try to contain rising prices. Around 40 countries around the world depend on India for at least half of their rice imports. The one in Singapore is the first exemption from the ban granted by the New Delhi government.


According to official data, from April 2022 to today - coinciding with the worsening of the political crisis in Islamabad - 700,000 Pakistanis have moved to Saudi Arabia, 229,000 to the United Arab Emirates, over 100,000 to Oman and about 90,000 to Qatar. The phenomenon is further accentuating: last week the Pakistani passport authority recorded a surge in the average number of applications received per day, from 24,000 to 40,000.


The Chinese language has been included in all programs of Russian higher education institutions, as "it is becoming one of the world's leading languages in science". According to the assistant to the Russian president for science and education, Andrei Fursenko, more than 30% of scientific literature is now published in Chinese, "and we cannot lag behind, even if Russian must itself remain one of the languages main".


In Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, concerns are growing about the increase of young people addicted to substances with narcotic effects, who use mixtures of medicines that, unlike in other countries, are sold without a prescription, such as Baralgin or Metamisol. They are taken orally directly on the street, creating dangers for the entire population

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