Month in brief

Rising tensions in Middle East

Tensions in the Middle East have escalated in the wake of attacks on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The Sept. 14 strikes knocked out more than half of the top global exporter’s output –about 5.7 million barrels per day. Although Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran, which rejected the allegations. The Saudis, meanwhile, promised to ‘confront and deal with this terrorist aggression’, while US President Donald Trump hinted at possible military action.

Hackers target China’s minorities

Chinese hackers who used a previously unknown iPhone security flaw to target ethnic minority Uighurs also pursued Tibetans in exile, according to a recent report by not-for-profit group Citizen Lab. This is the first detected use of malicious software – operated by a single click on a mobile device – against exiled Tibetans, who are protesting against Chinese rule of Tibet. The link to the recently disclosed Uighur campaign suggests that forces likely working with the Chinese government are increasing their surveillance efforts against key minorities.

Khan’s explosive admission

Pakistan’s premier Imran Khan admitted during a recent visit to the US for a United Nations General Assembly session that the ISI, the country’s top spy agency, trained al-Qaeda to fight in Afghanistan during the Soviet war. ‘There were always links, there had to be links because they trained them,’ he said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. His statement is seen by many as an admission of the Pakistan military’s support for terror groups such as al-Qaeda, although al-Qaeda was not formed during the Soviet War.

Angry clashes in Indonesia

In a third day of protests, around 200 students clashed with riot police in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, launching rocks and Molotov cocktails at authorities who shot tear gas into the crowds. The demonstrations erupted in response to moves to introduce sweeping changes to the country’s laws, including criminalising pre-marital sex and restricting sales of contraceptives, to making it illegal to insult the president and beefing up the country’s blasphemy laws.

Trump-Ardern talk gun control

US President Donald Trump ‘listened with interest’ as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talked to him about the country’s gun reforms, introduced in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings in March. The Pacific nation’s moves on gun control have won global praise, especially in the United States, where lawmakers and activists have struggled to address firearms violence, despite recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in what was their first formal meeting.

Thailand to open ‘fake news’ centre

Thailand is to open its first fake news centre in a bid to contest unsubstantiated news stories circulating on social media platforms, said the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Buddhipongse Punnakanta . The centre’s aim will be to identify information that may not be factual, authenticate the facts and then disseminate an accurate picture to the public via a new website, Facebook and the Line chat application.

Boeing settles first Lion Air claim

Boeing Co has settled the first claims from the 2018crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 in Indonesia, a US plaintiffs’ lawyer said, and three other sources said that the families of those killed will each receive at least US$1.2 million (S$1.65 million).Floyd Wisner of Wisner Law Firm said he has settled 11 of his 17 claims against Boeing on behalf of families who lost their relatives when a brand new MAX crashed into the Java Sea on October 29 soon after take-off, killing all 189 aboard.

Death of an elephant

An emaciated 70-year-old elephant, which caused a social media outcry after being forced to wear a heavy costume and participate in an annual Buddhist pageant in Sri Lanka, has died. The Sri Lankan government has ordered an autopsy for Tikiri, a domesticated Asian elephant that died in Kegalle, 80km east of the capital Colombo. Elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene said it was a wonder she had lived so long, since she had been ill-treated and was severely undernourished.

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