Month in brief

South side of the moon

South side of the moon

India has successfully launched its mission to land on the moon, following an earlier technical hitch which caused the Indian Space Research Organisation to abandon the initial launch less than an hour before lift-off. At 5.13am Eastern Time on July 22, India began its quest to join the handful of countries that have landed on the lunar surface when its Chandrayaan-2 mission was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. It is scheduled to arrive at the moon’s south pole in late August – a world first.

New PM for UK

Boris Johnson has been elected as leader of the UK Conservative Party and Britain’s new prime minister after roundly defeating his opponent Jeremy Hunt. As he faces the challenge of delivering Brexit, Johnson will no doubt focus strongly on trade deals with countries including India, with which Britain conducts more than £15bn of trade a year – although Johnson recently said ‘we need to do far more’ as ‘India is a massive natural market for the UK.’ Tensions over Iran will likely be his most pressing diplomatic issue.

Another culprit?

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has allegedly claimed that international drug syndicates orchestrated the country’s Easter Sunday bombings on churches and hotels, which killed at least 258 people, despite earlier blaming the attacks on local Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), and later claims by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that they were responsible. The purported statement comes amid a nationwide narcotics crackdown, as the President aims to bring back capital punishment for drug offences.

Curbs on South Korea

Export restrictions imposed by Japan in its dispute with South Korea will harm global technology companies and the operations of tech giant Samsung, according to a South Korean government source. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has said its move – inconsistent with World Trade Organisation principles – stems from concerns about South Korea’s control over sensitive materials and that it could soon make a decision as to whether to remove Seoul from a so-called ‘white list’ of trusted export countries.

Deadly rains

Torrential monsoon rains have swept away homes and triggered landslides across South Asia, claiming at least 180 lives and affecting millions. While the rains – which last from June to September – are vital for irrigation and groundwater supplies in the region, home to a fifth of the world’s population, they can turn deadly and have wreaked havoc again this year across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, with people, houses and boats in remote low-lying areas being washed away.

Pakistan airspace reopened

Pakistan fully reopened its airspace on July 16 to all civilian traffic, putting an end to months of restrictions affecting major international routes, including from India. The move comes after February clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals brought them to the brink of war. ‘With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic,’ said the state-run Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).A CAA spokesman confirmed that the eastern airspace along the border with India had been opened again.

Malaysia lowers voting age

MPs in Malaysia ratified a legal amendment to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. The amendment was passed by all 211 lawmakers in the country’s Lower House of Parliament – the first Bill in Parliament to receive multi-partisan support since the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government took power in May last year. The amendment also includes provisions for voters to be automatically registered on electoral rolls and for candidates to be eligible to stand for election from 18 years of age.

Time up for ‘waddling vagrants’

Two fairy penguins in New Zealand, who broke into a sushi stall at a Wellington railway station, have been returned to their natural habitat. After initially receiving a report about a small blue penguin in the city centre, police released the animal into the harbour. But it was soon with an accomplice in tow, and officers said the ‘waddling vagrants’ started building a nest, in preparation for their imminent breeding season, beneath a sushi stall at Wellington Railway Station. The penguins are listed as ‘at-risk’ as development intrudes upon their environment.

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