02/15/2023, 09.11
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Food crisis in North Korea, meals rationed to army

Today's headlines: Thai activists sue government over use of spyware and surveillance equipment; more than 41,000 victims in earthquake in Turkey and Syria; Iran's National Library suspends a group of female members for not wearing the hijab properly; Colombo bans single-use plastic; In Hong Kong mandatory weekly programmes on radio and TV to promote 'Chinese identity'; Delhi freezes arms contracts with Moscow.

The food crisis in North Korea is worsening, according to Seoul, after the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported rationing in meals to soldiers for the first time in over 20 years. The Kim regime called an 'urgent' party meeting focused on agriculture. The country is under international sanctions for its missile and nuclear programme. 

The earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria have exceeded 41,000, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promising - with an eye on the May elections - rapid reconstruction. In Syria, a first shipment of aid has entered the rebel-held province of Idlib in the north-west, while the UN is appealing for at least 400 million euros over three months to help the population. 

Activists in Thailand have sued the government for using spyware technology to monitor dissent. This is the first case in the country and the aim is to increase awareness and freedom for citizens, who are subject to increasing surveillance. Among the means used by Bangkok to spy on citizens is the controversial Pegasus produced by the Israeli NSO Group. 

Several women members of the Iranian National Library have been suspended for "improper" use of the hijab, in violation of the law requiring them to wear the veil. A controversial decision that triggered a response, contained in a protest letter in which they called the suspension "gender apartheid" in Iran. For months the country has been the scene of protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.

Colombo banned single-use plastic, following escalating deaths among wild elephants and deer from ingesting the material mixed with food scraps. The production or sale of plastic cutlery, cocktail shakers and artificial flowers will be banned from next June. Non-biodegradable plastic bags were banned in 2017. 

Hong Kong's TV and radio stations must broadcast weekly programmes promoting China's 'national identity' and explaining the (controversial) National Security Act, which Beijing wanted. John Lee, former security chief and now leader, accepted the new terms and recommended them to the Telecommunication Authority, which is called upon to oversee implementation. 

India, the largest international buyer of arms from Russia, has effectively frozen its existing contracts with Moscow, which until now made up more than 20% of its turnover. Delhi has halted purchases of Ka-226T helicopters, despite favourable terms and Russian willingness to sell the technology.

One of the rare representatives of Zoroastrianism in the world has died in Tajikistan at the age of 92. He is Odinašokh Kurbonov, known as Odina Šoki, a master of musical instrument making by profession. He and his family guarded the traditions of the ancient Persian religion, now passed on to his only son.

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