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U.S. Air Force jets shoot down giant Chinese balloon off U.S. east coast

China has reacted angrily after U.S. Air Force jets shot down a Chinese balloon on Saturday that the U.S. believes was on a mission to spy on U.S. military sites in the continental United States.

Three F22 jets from the air force base in Langley, Virginia chased down the balloon and shot it down with a single Sidewinder missile strike after it had crossed the coast of the state of South Carolina and was over the Atlantic Ocean over U.S. territorial waters. Three airports in South Carolina were closed down prior to the interception, in order to ensure that civilian aircraft were not endangered.

U.S. TV networks showed the downing live at 2:40 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.

The balloon, which China says was a privately owned research project, but which the U.S. government believes was on a spying mission, was first spotted over the state of Montana last Wednesday, having drifted in from over Canada. President Joe Biden wanted it shot down immediately but Pentagon military commanders were cautious that debris from the balloon, which was as large as three school busses, would endanger people on the ground.

The debris landed off the resort town of Myrtle Beach in about 14m of water and defense officials are attempting to recover it.

The balloon caused a diplomatic incident with Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceling a long-awaited visit to China scheduled for Feb. 5-6. It had entered U.S. airspace on Jan. 28 and flew over Alaska and Canada before reaching Montana and drifting across several states of the U.S.

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the use of force to attack a civilian unmanned aircraft”.

Meanwhile, a second suspected Chinese balloon is being tracked over South America after it entered the airspace of Costa Rica, Venezuela and Colombia, the Colombian Air Force said.

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Myanmar court extends Suu Kyi’s prison sentence to 26 years

A court in military-run Myanmar has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s deposed former leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, to three additional years in jail for corruption, a source familiar with the case told CNN, extending her total prison term to 26 years.

Wednesday’s verdict is the latest in a string of punishments meted out against the 77-year-old, a figurehead of opposition to decades of military rule who led Myanmar for five years before being forced from power in a coup in early 2021.

Suu Kyi was found guilty of receiving $500,000 in bribes from a local tycoon, a charge she denied, according to the source. Her lawyers have said the series of crimes levelled against her are politically motivated.

Suu Kyi is currently being held in solitary confinement at a prison in the capital Naypyidaw.

Last month, Suu Kyi was found guilty of electoral fraud and sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor, in a trial related to the November 2020 general election that her National League for Democracy won in a landslide, defeating a party created by the military.

It was the first time Suu Kyi had been sentenced to hard labor since the 2021 military coup. She was given the same punishment in a separate trial under a previous administration in 2009 but that sentence was commuted.

Suu Kyi has also previously been found guilty of offenses ranging from graft to election violations.

Rights groups have repeatedly expressed concerns about the punishment of pro-democracy activists in the country since the military seized power.

Last week, a military court in Myanmar sentenced a Japanese journalist to 10 years in prison for sedition and violating a law on electronic communications after he filmed an anti-government protest in July, a Japanese diplomat said.

Toru Kubota, 26, was arrested by plainclothes police in Yangon, where he was filming a documentary that he had been working on for several years, according to a Change.org petition calling for his release.

In July, the military junta executed two prominent pro-democracy activists and two other men accused of terrorism, following a trial condemned by the UN and rights groups.

Source - CNN

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Jacinda Ardern to step down next month as New Zealand PM after 6 years at the helm

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, 42, announces she will step down next month after 6 years. Ardern said she doesn't have the energy to continue and will step down before February 7. Elections are not due until October of this year.

"The decision was my own. Leading a country is the most priviledged job anyone could have, but also the most challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges. I no longer have enough in the tank," she said.

Ardern became one of the youngest world leaders when she was elected in 2017 at 37 years, New Zealand's third woman PM. Within a year she had given birth, only the second world leader to ever do so. She won re-election in 2020.

Elections are scheduled for October 14, 2023. But Ardern said she would step down before February 7 and a new PM would be sworn in from her Labour Party. This would allow her party to prepare for the polls with a new leader in place well in advance.

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Nearly 130 die in Indonesia soccer horror

At least 129 people have died after police fired tear gas to disperse rioting fans in Indonesia’s East Java province.

Most of the victims died from a lack of oxygen during a stampede after fans invaded the pitch in the Kanjuruhan stadium on Saturday night as hosts Arema Malang lost 3-2 to rival East Java club Persebaya Surabaya.

“We regret and deplore the tragedy,” provincial police chief Nico Afinta told a news conference on Sunday.

Given the fierce rivalry between the two sets of supporters, police “had suggested that the match be attended by Arema fans only”, he said.

Afinta said two police officers were among the dead.

Malang health chief Widjanto Widjoyo put the death toll at 129, based on information collected from hospitals in the city. (AAP)

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4 killed, 38 injured in a explosion occurred in center of Istanbul

An explosion on one of Istanbul’s most popular pedestrian thoroughfares killed four people and injured 38 on Sunday, authorities said.

The cause of the blast on Istiklal Avenue was not immediately clear. Five prosecutors were assigned to investigate the explosion, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

A video posted online showed flames erupting and a loud bang, as pedestrians turned and ran away. Other footage showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.

Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary ban on reporting on the explosion — a move that prevents broadcasters from showing videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. The Supreme Council of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks and accidents.

Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya tweeted the death toll and said those hurt were being treated.

Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by the Islamic State group and outlawed Kurdish groups.

Source: AP

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Liz Truss will become UK’s next prime minister

Liz Truss will become the next prime minister after defeating Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership contest.

Ms Truss, who was the favourite to win, will succeed Boris Johnson on Tuesday and become the nation's third female leader.

The foreign secretary used her victory speech to indicate she would not trigger an early general election, instead pledging to secure "a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024".

She won by a comfortable margin, but her victory was slimmer than in other recent leadership contests.

Ms Truss said it is an "honour to be elected" as she thanked her party for organising "one of the longest job interviews in history".

In a short speech after the result was announced, she issued her thanks to her "friend" Mr Johnson.

"You got Brexit done. You crushed Jeremy Corbyn. You rolled out the vaccine and you stood up to Vladimir Putin," she said.

Mr Johnson, who was forced to resign after a wave of ministers left his government over a series of controversies, will visit the Queen at Balmoral to formally tender his resignation tomorrow.

Reacting to Ms Truss' victory, he said his successor "has the right plan to tackle the cost of living crisis, unite our party and continue the great work of uniting and levelling up our country".

Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, has also called for the Conservative Party to unite behind Ms Truss following his loss.

In a tweet he said: "Thank you to everyone who voted for me in this campaign. I've said throughout that the Conservatives are one family.

"It's right we now unite behind the new PM, Liz Truss, as she steers the country through difficult times."

Ms Truss will officially become PM tomorrow when she will meet the Queen, who will invite her to form a government.

She is expected to make a speech outside Number 10 once she takes office and will then get to work on appointing her cabinet.

Sky News

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Magnitude 5.4 earthquake strikes NE Afghanistan

A magnitude-5.4 earthquake occurred in Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan, at around 07:55 on Monday.

The epicenter was about 32 km (20 miles) east-northeast of Jurm. The tremor occurred at a depth of about 103 km (64 miles), and light shaking was probably felt throughout parts of northeastern Afghanistan, southern and central Tajikistan, and far northern Pakistan.

There have been no initial reports of damage or casualties as a result of the earthquake. Minor damage to unstable structures is possible near the epicenter, including in Jurm. It could take several hours until authorities can conduct comprehensive damage assessments, especially in remote areas.

Light aftershocks are likely over the coming days.

Source – MEHR News Agency

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‘Bangladesh will never face situation like Sri Lanka’

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her firm conviction that Bangladesh will never plunge into Sri Lanka-like situation for its development spree, rather the country will continue to move ahead overcoming all global challenges, BSS reports.

"Remember one thing (my party leaders and activists) that Bangladesh will never be Sri Lanka, can't be . . .," she said at a discussion as the chief guest.

She stated that Bangladesh had to face Sri Lanka-like situation in the regime of BNP, but Awami League (AL) government has pulled the country out of that state.

Sheikh Hasina, also the ruling AL President, said during BNP's regime in 2001-2006, Bangladesh became champion in corruption for five consecutive times, while the country saw huge price hike of essential commodities, and scarcity of electricity, water and employment.

She also said Bangladesh witnessed militancy, terrorism, grenade attack, August 21 grade attack, grenade attack in 500 places across the country, former finance minister Kibria murder and bomb attack in many places as well.

She added that, "Bangladesh's economy came to standstill due to terrorism, militancy and corruption."

The prime minister continued that people at that time (BNP's regime) took to the street, actually they were compelled to come down on the street.

She went on saying, "AL government has rescued the country from that state. So, why will Bangladesh become Sri Lanka today?"

The prime minister said her government is adopting development schemes in a well planned manner so the country's economy keeps rolling, continuing its ongoing trend and moving ahead.

"We think in a pragmatic way before taking any development project. We think that what type of development will be in the country after implementation of the project," she said.

She added that she does not take any project in return for commission and it is the reality.

"My only thought is that what type of benefit the country and people will get from the development projects," she said. "We do such a plan, and we are taking the country ahead this way," she added.

She said Bangladesh is repaying all loans on time whenever they borrow from someone but "we are doing it so carefully".

(Source: BSS)

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Pakistan PM condemns attack on Imran Khan

Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has taken notice of and “severely condemned” the firing incident at Imran Khan’s long march container in Wazirabad.

He has instructed Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah to seek an immediate report on the incident from the IGP and chief secretary Punjab, according to a tweet from the Government of Pakistan’s official Twitter account.

After a man opened fire at PTI chairman Imran Khan to injure him in Gujranwala, party leader Shahbaz Gill said that "Imran Khan is our red line and an attempt has been made to cross that red line."

He also said that Khan will fight till his last breath.

Following the incident, the PTI chairman has been shifted to a hospital. Meanwhile, rescue sources told Geo News that four to five PTI leaders have sustained injuries.

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Police file terrorism charges against Pakistan’s Imran Khan

Pakistani police have filed terrorism charges against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, authorities said Monday, escalating political tensions in the country as the ousted premier holds mass rallies seeking to return to office.

The terrorism charges come over a speech Khan gave in Islamabad on Saturday in which he vowed to sue police officers and a female judge and alleged that a close aide had been tortured after his arrest.

Khan himself appeared to still be free and had not immediately addressed the police charge sheet being lodged against him. Khan’s political party — Tehreek-e-Insaf, now in the opposition — published online videos showing supporters surrounding his home to potentially stop police from reaching it.

Hundreds remained there early Monday. Tehreek-e-Insaf warned that it will hold nationwide rallies if Khan is arrested.

Under Pakistan’s legal system, police file what is known as a first information report about charges against an accused person to a magistrate judge, who allows the investigation to move forward. Typically, police then arrest and question the accused.

The report against Khan includes testimony from Magistrate Judge Ali Javed, who described being at the Islamabad rally on Saturday and hearing Khan criticize the inspector-general of Pakistan’s police and another judge. Khan went on to reportedly say: “You also get ready for it, we will also take action against you. All of you must be ashamed.”

Khan could face several years in prison from the new charges, which accuse him of threatening police officers and the judge. However, he’s not been detained on other lesser charges levied against him in his recent campaigning against the government.

The Pakistani judiciary also has a history of politicization and taking sides in power struggles between the military, the civilian government and opposition politicians, according to the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.

Khan came to power in 2018, promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan. His opponents contend he was elected with help from the powerful military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

Source: AP News

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UK PM resigns after 45 days in office

Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister after just 45 days in office.

The announcement, made by Truss outside Downing Street, follows the near-complete evaporation of her political authority which has seen her crash the markets, lose two key ministers and shed the confidence of almost all her own MPs.

Truss will be the shortest-serving prime minister in UK history.

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Myanmar court convicts deposed leader Suu Kyi in corruption cases

Suu Kyi already serving 11-year jail term in other charges brought by the military, which deposed her government.

A court in Myanmar has convicted deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in corruption cases, adding six years to her prison sentence, according to a legal official.

She already had been sentenced to 11 years in prison on sedition, corruption and other charges at earlier trials after the military deposed her elected government and detained her in February 2021.

Suu Kyi, 77, was convicted of misusing funds from the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation – an organisation she founded promoting health and education – to build a home, and leasing government-owned land at a discounted rate.

The trial was held behind closed doors, with no access for media or the public and her lawyers were forbidden by a gag order from revealing information about the proceedings.

In the four corruption cases decided on Monday, Suu Kyi was alleged to have abused her position to rent public land at below-market prices and to have built a residence with donations meant for charitable purposes.

She received sentences of three years for each of the four counts but the sentences for three of them will be served concurrently, giving her a total of six more years in prison.

She denied all the charges and her lawyers are expected to appeal.

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