07/19/2023, 09.29
ASIA TODAY
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The alliance of opposition parties against Modi for the 2024 elections will be called India

Today's headlines: US soldier voluntarily crosses border with North Korea after being convicted by a court in Seoul; New data on false Covid deaths numbers emerge from figures on  Zhejiang province cremations; Opium production increases in Afghanistan; Putin strikes deal with Iran to supply electricity from Middle Eastern country.

INDIA

More than twenty Indian opposition parties including the Congress Party and several regional parties have formed an alliance called "INDIA." The goal is to compactly challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next year's parliamentary elections. The alliance intends to "safeguard from the BJP the idea of India enshrined in the Constitution." The prime minister has branded adherents of this alliance with opportunism and corruption.

NORTH KOREA - UNITED STATES

The U.S. soldier who crossed the inter-Korean border into North Korea yesterday had been sentenced to a 5 million won (more than 3,500 euros) fine for kicking and damaging a police patrol car in Seoul. North Korea arrested the man, who is named Travis King and is in his 20s. He allegedly crossed the border voluntarily during a visit to the demilitarized zone. A few hours after the arrest, Pyongyang fired two ballistic missiles into the sea at the DMZ.

ISRAEL - SYRIA

Israel carried out several airstrikes in the Damascus area in the morning today, surprising Syrian defenses and shooting down most of the anti-aircraft fire. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, this is Israel's 20th attack on targets in Syria this year. Military positions near the airport and the Beirut-Damascus highway, where elite members of the Syrian army are stationed, were targeted. Missiles also hit warehouses of the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian government, causing a fire.

CHINA COVID-19

The number of cremations carried out in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang increased by 73 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to 2022, according to data posted on the website of the provincial civil affairs department, which has now been blacked out.The figure would testify to the very high number of casualties in the surge that followed the lifting of the "Zero Covid" policy earlier this year. For the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, this "is further evidence that the figures on deaths from Covid-19 in China would be much higher than those stated" by the official national figures, which stops at 80,000.

AFGHANISTAN 

Opium trade in 2022 from Afghanistan increased by 32 percent from 2021, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Taliban returned to power in the country in August 2021 and had announced a ban on opium cultivation the following April. Effectively, production has been greatly reduced in traditional poppy-growing areas, but the opium trade from Afghanistan has not stopped, in fact it has grown.

RUSSIA-IRAN

Russia and Iran have agreed to an exchange of electricity across the territory of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, Tehran's energy minister, Ali Akbar Mekhrabian, disclosed, after overcoming recent disagreements over Moscow's failure to support the Iranians in border disputes with other states.

KAZAKHSTAN 

Authorities in Aktau, in Kazakhstan's Mangistau Autonomous Region, decreed a state of emergency in July over lowering waters in the Caspian Sea, and have now extended it for August as well, with grave concerns for the fate of the entire reservoir, whereby postponing solutions "could lead to consequences similar to those of Lake Aral," which is now irreparably dry.

AUSTRALIA

Fifteen months ago Victoria State Prime Minister Daniel Andrews announced that Australia would host the 2026 Commonwealth Games. Now at a press conference Andrews himself said the country is withdrawing its bid. With 3 years to go before the event begins, organizers are in chaos and the future of the Games themselves is in doubt, given also their legacy as an event born in the colonial period of the British crown. "This could mean the end of the Commonwealth Games," said Steve Georgakis, professor of sports history at the University of Sydney.

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