Obama slows Afghan withdrawal
Fewer US troops will leave Afghanistan this year than planned, President Obama has announced. By the end of the year about 8,400 troops will remain, compared with some 9,800 at present and a previous target of 5,500. The decision reflects the resurgence of the Taliban, which is estimated to control at least a fifth of the country. The 15-year American military presence in Afghanistan reached a peak of nearly 100,000 between 2010 and 2012.
Malaysian PM in fraud scandal
The US Justice Department sought to seize more than $1 billion in assets in lawsuits linking Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, to fraud ‘on an enormous scale’ at the state investment fund 1MDB, which Najib set up in 2009 to develop the Malaysian economy. Though the PM denies the allegation, and is not named in court papers, he is identified as ‘Malaysian Official 1’, into whose account hundreds of millions of dollars are alleged to have flowed from fraud said to total over $3.5 billion.
Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh honoured
Unesco, the UN cultural organisation, declared 17 works of the great Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier, to be World Heritage Sites, including Chandigarh, his exercise in urban planning in Uttar Pradesh which has the world’s largest concentration of his buildings. The architect, who died in 1965, also had several designs built in Ahmedabad, including the Mill Owners’ Association Building and the Sanskar Kendra museum. Another World Heritage Site designated by Unesco at the same time was Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim.
Abdication reports denied
An imperial spokesman categorically denied that Japan’s Emperor Akihito, 82, plans to abdicate, despite widespread reports in the media that he wants to stand down in the next few years if poor health limits his duties. Akihito became emperor in 1989 on the death of his father, Hirohito. It would take a parliamentary vote to change the law to allow a living monarch to quit.
Social media star strangled
The sensational social media career of Pakistan’s Qandeel Baloch, real name Fouzia Azeem, was cut short when she was strangled by her brother, who said he had done it to protect the ‘family honour’. Baloch, who quit an abusive arranged marriage, became a social media star, posting provocative photographs and feminist messages. A Muslim cleric, Mufti Abdul Qavi, was disgraced after he was pictured side-by-side with Baloch. The scandal brought death threats, but her request for official protection was not answered.
Narrow election win in Australia
Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, declared victory after a marathon eight days of vote counting, but officials warned the final result could take weeks. The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, conceded that his Labor Party could not win enough seats to form a government, but Turnbull’s right-wing Liberal Party might need support from independents and others to govern for a second three-year term. Australia has had five Prime Ministers in as many years.
Disney angers Polynesians
Disney film corporation has been accused of stereotyping Pacific islanders as fat. In ‘Moana’, an upcoming cartoon movie, the heroine is helped by the Polynesian demigod Maui, who appears as ‘half pig, half hippo’, according to a complaint by a New Zealand MP, Jenny Salesa, who is of Tongan heritage. Most Polynesians were not overweight, she wrote, but according to the World Health Organisation in 2014, nine of the ten most obese nations in the world were Pacific islands.