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Australian PM makes drug concession to woo islands

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday took the uncharacteristic step of advocating looser drug laws, backing greater imports of narcotic kava root in a symbolic gesture to court Pacific island neighbors. Visiting Vanuatu on the first day of a landmark regional charm offensive, Morrison endorsed aFULL STORY

Campaign targets China’s gay ‘conversion therapy’

A Chinese artist and a gay policeman have launched an unusually bold public protest campaign in which red trucks bearing slogans denouncing homosexual “conversion therapy” are being paraded through several major cities. Artist Wu Qiong said the rolling protest was inspired by the 2017 film ThreeFULL STORY

In Asia’s space-starved cities, urban planners bringing ‘dead’ land to life

Urban planners and authorities in fast-expanding Asian cities are increasingly turning to unused land underneath bridges, flyovers and viaducts to create much-needed public spaces. With rapid urbanization, a construction boom in South and Southeast Asian cities is resulting in more offices, houses and apartments, as wellFULL STORY

Nairobi attackers killed, leave 14 dead

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday said that militants who stormed an upmarket hotel complex, killing 14 people, had been “eliminated” after an almost 20-hour siege in which hundreds of civilians were rescued. At least one suicide bomber blew himself up and gunmen engaged security forces inFULL STORY

Mongolia reports first African swine fever case

Asian pork producers need to redouble efforts to combat African swine fever after Mongolia reported its first outbreak, just five months after the deadly disease was first discovered in China. “This indicates that it’s very difficult for any country to avoid introduction of the virus,” DirkFULL STORY

Transgender Indians take first festival dip

For decades, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi has fought India’s conservative laws and beliefs to put her transgender community on a par with the rest of society, and now she has notched a new milestone. She and dozens of other resplendent “Kinnars” on Tuesday splashed in the sacredFULL STORY

‘Naive’ tourists couch surfing in Afghanistan

Seeking an “authentic” experience as he backpacked through Afghanistan, Dutch tourist Ciaran Barr searched the Couchsurfing Web site for locals to stay with. He found an astonishing number of potential hosts. Despite the nation’s decaying security, nearly 2,000 Afghans — the vast majority of them menFULL STORY

ICC acquits Ivory Coast ex-strongman Gbagbo

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday acquitted former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo over a wave of post-electoral violence in a stunning blow to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Judges ordered the release of the 73-year-old deposed strongman, the first head of stateFULL STORY

Iranian satellite launch fails in criticized move

An Iranian satellite-carrying rocket on Tuesday blasted off into space, but scientists failed to put the device into orbit in a launch criticized by the US as helping the Islamic Republic further develop its ballistic missile program. After the launch, US Secretary of State Mike PompeoFULL STORY

Probe no ‘witch hunt’: Trump nominee

US President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee Bill Barr on Tuesday pledged to protect the investigation into possible election collusion with Russia and rejected the president’s characterization of the probe as a “witch hunt.” Asked in a US Senate confirmation hearing whether he would obey anFULL STORY

Bolsonaro loosens gun laws in world murder capital

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday signed a decree making it easier for many Brazilians to own firearms, the first of many expected changes by the nascent administration to overhaul gun laws in the nation that leads the world in total homicides. Bolsonaro signed the decreeFULL STORY

Macron launches a ‘grand debate’ following protests

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday encouraged people to list their grievances and propose changes to the country’s economy during a “grand debate” aimed at appeasing the “yellow vest” movement, following weeks of anti-government protests. Macron formally launched a three-month national debate during a meetingFULL STORY

Drug trafficker tells of ‘El Chapo’ boast about bribing former Mexican president

A Colombian drug trafficker on Tuesday testified that Mexican cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman boasted about paying a US$100 million bribe to former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto to call off a manhunt for the notorious kingpin. Alex Cifuentes spoke about the alleged bribe whileFULL STORY

Judge blocks question on citizenship in US census

A US federal judge on Tuesday said that US President Donald Trump’s administration could not add a question about citizenship in the 2020 census — a victory for liberals and rights groups, although the matter is expected to end up in the US Supreme Court. SeveralFULL STORY

World News Quick Take

UNITED NATIONS Palestine key for G77 head Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday took over as head of the key group of developing countries at the UN with a promise to confront “assaults” on multilateralism and a pledge to seek a peaceful two-state solution of the Israeli-PalestinianFULL STORY

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