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Iran likely to increase nuclear capacity & Jordanian PM resigns over economic protest

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Saudi-led Yemeni coalition seeks US help as last resort, and no one is pleased with China’s guts in the disputed waters of the South China Sea

Iran is set to increase its nuclear enrichment capacity

Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, announced Monday that he has ordered the country’s atomic energy body to increase its uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with other global powers falls apart. The decision comes after the highly controversial US withdrawal from the Iran deal.

In a televised speech, Khamenei said that Iran’s “enemies” will never be able to halt the country’s nuclear progress, reports Reuters.

Despite efforts by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal last month, calling it “deeply flawed”.

Protests over economic reforms in Jordan forces prime minister to resign

In an attempt to subdue protests over IMF-supported tax reforms, the King of Jordan replaced his prime minister Hani Mulki with Omar al-Razzaz Monday, former education minister in Mulki’s cabinet.

Al-Razzaz is expected to stabilise the economy and curb the ongoing protests.

The protests are over economic reforms that will hit the poorest and the middle class the hardest. Jordan has been one of the most stable countries in West Asia, but a general sales tax hike earlier this year and the abolition of bread subsidies have stoked public anger, leading to the widespread protests over the proposed reforms, reports Reuters.

Saudi coalition seeks US aid as last resort to save Yemen’s only lifeline

The Saudi-led coalition is reportedly seeking direct US support to recapture the port city of Hodeidah in Yemen. Yemen imports 90 per cent of its food, mainly through Hodeidah.

Recapturing the port from the Houthis is crucial, not only because it is the country’s main gateway for humanitarian aid for millions of hungry civilians, but is also a densely-populated area that would come with a huge human cost in a battle, reports Reuters.

The Arab-backed Yemeni forces and the Iran-allied Houthi movement are at loggerheads over the city. At least 10,000 people have been killed and 3 million displaced.

China is expanding its presence in the South China Sea and no one is pleased

Beijing’s increasing military presence in the South China Sea is now drawing reactions from across the world including Britain, France and the US.

“Beijing’s claims to more than 90 per cent of the South China Sea overlap with several of its neighbours’ and in recent months it has expanded militarisation of its man-made islands in the resource-rich waterway,” reports South China Morning Post.

France and Britain will sail warships through the South China Sea to challenge Beijing, their defence ministers declared.

US secretary of defence Jim Mattis warned China of “much larger consequences” if their expansion into the disputed waters continue.

Kim appoints yes-men as new military leaders

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is said to have removed the top three military officials in the country in an attempt to “silence dissent ahead of a summit with Donald Trump” reports The Guardian.

The officials reportedly did not agree completely with Jong-un’s policies towards the US and South Korea. They were older and conservative — unlike the new appointees to the job, who are “known for their unquestioning support of leader Kim Jong Un” reports Reuters.

As pet economy booms in China, experts call for regulations

In China, owning a pet has become an increasingly popular lifestyle choice, so much so that by the end of 2016, China’s pet electronic device market value had reached $1 billion and would expand to over one-fifth of the global market share in 24 years. However, with the current craze, Chinese policymakers are talking about urgent reforms to regulate the pet industry and guide social conduct towards animal care, along with ending cruelty towards animals reports Xinhua.

In Beijing, more than one million households own at least one pet dog, and an equal number of- if not more- families are likely to have cats.

However, this boom has its dark side too. Excessive breeding, ill animals, pet abandonment and an unregulated market has brought its own problems.

Donald Trump claims to have the “absolute right” to pardon himself of federal crimes

In yet another Twitter rant, US President Donald Trump has said that he has the right to pardon himself of any federal crimes– but has no reason to, since he claims he has not done anything wrong in the first place.

He also referenced the “witch hunt” against him, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose appointment Trump called “unconstitutional”. Trump’s claim of self-pardoning come amid the ongoing investigation against him for collusion with Russia and the obstruction of justice. Trump’s claim of self-pardoning comes amid the ongoing investigation against him for collusion with Russia and the obstruction of justice

Nearly half of Afghan children are out of school, as situation grows bleak

Nearly half of the children in Afghanistan are out of school and the number is rising for the first time since 2002, reports Reuters. The children who are the victims of conflict, poverty, discrimination and child marriage comprise mostly young girls who find themselves in the middle of social obligations.

“In the worst affected provinces, up to 85 per cent of girls are not going to school”, Reuters quoted a study conducted by UNICEF, USAID and the independent Samuel Hall think tank.

Atrocities by the Taliban include adamant opposition to the education of girls, which has resulted in the shutdown of many schools across the country.

Citizens of Hong Kong mark the Tiananmen Square massacre with candlelight vigil

Over 100,000 people gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on Monday, to mark the 29th anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

“This year’s vigil focused on freeing “dissidents imprisoned or under home arrest” in addition to pushing for greater democracy in mainland China,” reports the New York Times. 

According to the South China Morning Post,  the vigil has been held annually since 1990, though numbers have been dwindling in recent years.

Apart from heavy rains in Hong Kong, the comparatively low turnout this year has been attributed to student organisations being unwilling to join the vigil.

By Vandana Menon, Yashasvini Mathur, Kaveesha Kohli, and Sankalita Dey.

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