India PM Modi to take oath for third term on Sunday

India PM Modi to take oath for third term on Sunday
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi shows a letter by President Droupadi Murmu requesting him to form the country's new government as he was elected for his third term following the nation's general election, in New Delhi on June 7, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 10 June 2024
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India PM Modi to take oath for third term on Sunday

India PM Modi to take oath for third term on Sunday
  • Composition of Modi’s Cabinet to be revealed during swearing-in ceremony
  • Modi was formally elected leader of India’s winning coalition on Friday

NEW DELHI: India’s incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet will take an oath of office for a third term on Sunday, after he was elected leader of the coalition that won the most seats in the recent general vote.

Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has governed India as part of the National Democratic Alliance over the past decade. While the coalition won the election last week, for the first time since 2014, the BJP has lost its absolute majority in parliament, making it dependent on allies to form a government.

The composition of the Cabinet will be revealed when Modi and his ministers are sworn in.

“The swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the Council of Ministers following the General Elections 2024 is scheduled on 09 June 2024,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“On the occasion, leaders from India’s neighbourhood and Indian Ocean region have been cordially invited as distinguished guests.”

Among the guests were listed the presidents of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the vice president of Seychelles, and the prime ministers of Bangladesh, Mauritius, Nepal, and Bhutan.

“The visit of the leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for his third consecutive term is in keeping with the highest priority accorded by India to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and ‘SAGAR’ vision,” the statement said, referring to Security and Growth for All in the Region — Modi’s geopolitical framework of maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.

The statement did not mention India’s rivals — China and Pakistan.

While Beijing had congratulated Modi, Islamabad said on Friday that congratulations would be “premature” as his government has not been formed yet.

On Friday, Modi was formally elected leader of the NDA, after securing support from two key allies — the Telugu Desam Party in southern Andhra Pradesh state and Janata Dal (United) in eastern Bihar state.

“NDA has become synonymous with good governance in the past 10 years, and we have worked to make the country touch new heights of success. This is the most successful alliance in India’s history,” Modi said after coalition members backed him as prime ministerial candidate.

“We were neither defeated nor are we defeated.”

The final results from India’s marathon, six-week election, which began on April 19, were released on Wednesday. The BJP won 240 seats, while 272 were needed for a majority.

The NDA coalition bagged 293 seats in the 543-member lower house of parliament.

It was challenged by an alliance of two dozen opposition parties — the Congress Party-led Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA, which has 232 seats.


Typhoon Gaemi weakens as it leaves Taiwan for China

Typhoon Gaemi weakens as it leaves Taiwan for China
Updated 17 sec ago
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Typhoon Gaemi weakens as it leaves Taiwan for China

Typhoon Gaemi weakens as it leaves Taiwan for China

TAIPEI: Typhoon Gaemi passed through Taiwan overnight and was headed toward eastern China on Thursday, leaving two dead as heavy rains and strong gusts continued to lash the island in its wake.

The day before, the storm had forced Taiwan to cancel some of its annual war games, shutter schools and offices, and evacuate thousands from high-risk, landslide-prone areas.

By Thursday morning, its sustained wind speeds had weakened to 154 kilometers (95 miles) per hour after “the center has moved out to sea” at around 4:20 am (2020 GMT), said Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration.

“Wind and rain continue posing a threat to various parts of Taiwan, (and the outlying islands of) Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu,” the administration said.

The nearby Philippines — which was not in Gaemi’s path — saw its seasonal monsoon rains exacerbated by the typhoon’s impacts, triggering floods that killed at least six, according to authorities Wednesday.

The storm is now tracking toward China’s Fujian province, while Taiwan is still experiencing persistent downpours and reports of flooding in the south.

Several cities, including Taipei, announced a second consecutive day off, with schools, government offices and the stock market closed.

More than 200 people were injured and two killed before Gaemi made landfall at around midnight. A motorist in the southern Kaohsiung city was crushed by a tree, while a woman in eastern Hualien died after part of a building fell on her car.

Taiwan is accustomed to frequent tropical storms from July to October, but experts say climate change has increased their intensity, leading to heavy rains, flash floods and strong gusts.

At its peak, Gaemi packed sustained wind speeds of 190 kilometers (118 miles) per hour as it was barrelling toward Taiwan, prompting forecasters to say it could be “the strongest” typhoon to make landfall in eight years.


Violence sends Mexican families fleeing into Guatemala

Violence sends Mexican families fleeing into Guatemala
Updated 14 min 18 sec ago
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Violence sends Mexican families fleeing into Guatemala

Violence sends Mexican families fleeing into Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY: Dozens of Mexican families have fled across the border into Guatemala because of drug cartel violence, Guatemalan President Bernardo Arevalo said Wednesday.

The Central American nation’s defense ministry said that the army was tightening security along the countries’ shared border.

Guatemalan authorities were providing assistance “to people who are escaping this confrontation between (criminal) groups that is taking place on the Mexican side,” Arevalo said at a press conference.

The office of the country’s human rights ombudsman told AFP that around 280-300 displaced Mexicans were at a temporary shelter near the border.

Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas draws tourists with its lush jungle, Indigenous communities and ancient Mayan ruins, but it has also seen intensifying turf wars between gangs fighting for control of drug and people-smuggling routes.

In late June, a clash between drug cartels in Chiapas left 19 people dead, including several Guatemalans.

Earlier that month, violence displaced several thousand people in the southern state.

Spiraling criminal violence has seen more than 450,000 people murdered in Mexico since the government of then-president Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against drug gangs in 2006.


Australia imposes sanctions on Israeli settlers, youth group over West Bank violence

Australia imposes sanctions on Israeli settlers, youth group over West Bank violence
Updated 17 min 41 sec ago
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Australia imposes sanctions on Israeli settlers, youth group over West Bank violence

Australia imposes sanctions on Israeli settlers, youth group over West Bank violence
  • Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the unnamed group was responsible for inciting and perpetrating violence against Palestinians
  • Australia considers Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories illegal and an obstacle to peace.

SYDNEY: Australia on Thursday imposed financial sanctions and travel bans on seven Israeli settlers and a youth group it said had been involved in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.
The unnamed group was responsible for inciting and perpetrating violence against Palestinians, while the settlers had been involved in beatings, sexual assault and torture and in some cases death, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.
“We call on Israel to hold perpetrators of settler violence to account and to cease its ongoing settlement activity, which only inflames tensions and further undermines stability and prospects for a two-state solution,” Wong said in a statement.

The move by the Australian government comes after allies Britain, the United States, Canada and Japan sanctioned some Israeli settlers in response to the violence in the West Bank.

Palestinian Mohamed al-Nawajaa, 78, talks with a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity coordinator, in Susya village, in the south of the occupied West Bank, July 17, 2024. (AFP)

Israel’s embassy in Australia said the country condemned violence acts against Palestinian communities.
“Israel is a state of law and will work to bring the extreme minority involved to justice,” a spokesperson said in an email.
Violent acts by some Israeli settlers in the West Bank have increased amid Israel’s war in Gaza, sparked by an attack on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Oct. 7.
Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River which Palestinians want as the core of an independent state. It has built Jewish settlements there that most countries deem illegal but Israel disputes this and cites historical and Biblical ties to the land.
Australia considers Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories illegal and an obstacle to peace.


Venezuela’s Maduro is everywhere as vote looms

Venezuela’s Maduro is everywhere as vote looms
Updated 22 min 24 sec ago
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Venezuela’s Maduro is everywhere as vote looms

Venezuela’s Maduro is everywhere as vote looms

CARACAS: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is omnipresent in the runup to elections Sunday — shaking his fist on state TV, smiling on building facades in Caracas, beaming from the night sky over Maracaibo.

Unlimited access to state media and propaganda funding has allowed non-stop appearances on television, radio, murals, toll booth signage and even ambulances.

The opposition, in comparison, has been all but absent from traditional campaigning platforms in a political climate widely denounced as authoritarian. Nevertheless, polls show the opposition leaving Maduro in the dust.

It is not for a lack of trying on his part.

A well-oiled spin machine has worked 24-7 to portray the 61-year-old as an anti-imperialist strongman, but caring and convivial.

Maduro is shown alternately railing against capitalist “fascists,” dancing salsa with his wife, and promising prosperity after years of economic crisis that has sent more than seven million Venezuelans fleeing — almost a quarter of the population.

“There is a saturation that allows him to survive in the minds of people,” Leon Hernandez of the Andres Bello Catholic University’s Institute for Information and Communication Research told AFP.

And importantly, to remind them that he is the heir of the late socialist icon Hugo Chavez. Unlike Maduro, he remains wildly popular and is hailed by many as a revolutionary hero.

With no independent TV channels left, images of opposition candidate Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia do not make it into people’s living rooms.

Instead, the opposition communicates on YouTube and TikTok, a space they also have to share with Maduro’s 24-hour spin machine.

The president, seeking a third six-year term at the helm, blares at his people in numerous daily broadcasts of his campaign “pilgrimage” through Venezuela.

He is also the subject of a film that recently premiered at a Caracas theater, based on a book about his life.

To augment his real-life presence, Maduro also has a cartoon character in his image — a caped hero named Super-Bigote (Super Moustache) fighting monsters sent by the United States.

And he has recently embraced the emblem of a fighting cock with feathers in Venezuela’s yellow, blue and red, that is meant to highlight his sprightliness relative to the soft-spoken 74-year-old Gonzalez Urrutia.

Cock crows can be heard echoing over Maduro’s live election events, and campaign songs glorify the pugilist bird.

The cock has also featured, along with Maduro’s face, in a drone light show over Maracaibo, once the epicenter of the petro-state’s oil riches but today battling constant fuel shortages among other ills.

On the other side of the spectrum, there has been little space for opposition voices in an independent media.

More than 400 private newspapers, radio and television stations have closed in over two decades of Chavista rule — a social movement named after Chavez.

Others were bought by business people close to the regime. Yet more opted for self-censorship to continue operating semi-independently.

Foreign networks such as CNN Spanish and Deutsche Welle (DW) were taken off air by cable providers on the government’s orders.

On platforms like YouTube, from which the opposition cannot be banned, the onslaught has been relentless.

Videos accuse Gonzalez Urrutia — a stand-in for wildly popular opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, barred from the race by institutions loyal to Maduro — of fomenting plots and wanting to “give” Venezuelan oil to the United States.

In a country where the electoral authority is aligned to the regime, there are no posters bearing Gonzalez Urrutia’s face, and few alluding to the opposition at all.

During the campaign, which officially closes on Thursday, Gonzalez Urrutia was able to secure only a handful of interviews in national media, conducted in a climate of strict regime oversight and self-censorship.

Disinformation, too, has been a popular tool.

Military leaders recently spread a video of a talk given by Machado and Gonzalez Urrutia in front of a screen listing proposals to privatize the PDVSA state oil company and the education system.

AFP has established that the video was altered, and the screen had in fact been blank.


Japan’s population falls for the 15th year in a row. Births hit a record low, deaths a record high

Japan’s population falls for the 15th year in a row. Births hit a record low, deaths a record high
Updated 55 min 31 sec ago
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Japan’s population falls for the 15th year in a row. Births hit a record low, deaths a record high

Japan’s population falls for the 15th year in a row. Births hit a record low, deaths a record high
  • Births in Japan hit a record low of 730,000 last year, while deaths for the same period were a record high of 1.58 million
  • Foreign residents surpassed 3 million for the first time, now making up nearly 3 percent of the total population

TOKYO: Japan’s total population marked the 15th straight year of decline, according to government data released Wednesday, dropping by more than a half-million people as the population ages and births remain low.
Births in Japan hit a record low of 730,000 last year. The 1.58 million deaths last year were also a record high. Japan’s population was 124.9 million as of Jan. 1.
The data released by the Internal Affairs Ministry also showed that the 11 percent increase in foreign residents helped their population surpass 3 million for the first time. They now make up nearly 3 percent of the total population and are mostly of working age from 15 to 64.
Surveys show that younger Japanese are increasingly reluctant to marry or have children, discouraged by bleak job prospects, the high cost of living — which rises at a faster pace than salaries — and a gender-biased corporate culture that adds a burden only on women and working mothers.
The government earmarked 5.3 trillion yen ($34 billion) as part of the 2024 budget to fund incentives for young couples to have more children, such as increasing subsidies for childcare and education, and is expected to spend 3.6 trillion yen ($23 billion) in tax money annually over the next three years.
Experts say the measures are largely meant for married couples who plan to have or who already have children, and don’t address the growing number of young people reluctant to get married.
Japan’s population is projected to fall by about 30 percent, to 87 million by 2070, when four out of every 10 people will be 65 years of age or older.