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Top Asian News 3:00 a.m. GMT

July 20, 2021 GMT

Indonesian Muslims mark grim Eid amid devastating virus wave

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Muslims across Indonesia marked a grim Eid al-Adha festival for a second year Tuesday as the country struggles to cope with a devastating new wave of coronavirus cases and the government has banned large gatherings and toughened travel restrictions. Indonesia is now Asia’s COVID-19 hot spot with the most confirmed daily cases, as infections and deaths have surged over the past three weeks and India’s massive outbreak has waned. Most of Indonesia’s cases are on the densely populated island of Java, where more than half of the country’s 270 million people live. Authorities in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation have banned many of the crowd-attracting activities that are usually part of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice that marks the end of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

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Microsoft Exchange hack caused by China, US and allies say

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration and Western allies formally blamed China on Monday for a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software and asserted that criminal hackers associated with the Chinese government have carried out ransomware and other illicit cyber operations. The announcements, though not accompanied by sanctions against the Chinese government, were intended as a forceful condemnation of activities a senior Biden administration official described as part of a “pattern of irresponsible behavior in cyberspace.” They highlighted the ongoing threat from Chinese hackers even as the administration remains consumed with trying to curb ransomware attacks from Russia-based syndicates that have targeted critical infrastructure.

Japan girds for a surreal Olympics, and questions are plenty

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TOKYO (AP) — After a yearlong delay and months of hand-wringing that rippled across a pandemic-inflected world, a Summer Games unlike any other is at hand. It’s an Olympics, sure, but also, in a very real way, something quite different. No foreign fans. No local attendance in Tokyo-area venues. A reluctant populace navigating a surge of virus cases amid a still-limited vaccination campaign. Athletes and their entourages confined to a quasi-bubble, under threat of deportation. Government minders and monitoring apps trying — in theory, at least — to track visitors’ every move. Alcohol curtailed or banned. Cultural exchanges, the kind that power the on-the-ground energy of most Games, completely absent.

Defector no more: Choi a proud South Korean world champion

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — As a child in an authoritarian, socialist country, Choi Hyunmi’s athletic talent was spotted early and her progress accelerated by a coach keen to impress the leader of North Korea. After packing the gloves away when her family defected to the South, it was boxing that helped her two years later after she faced discrimination. Nearly two decades after fleeing North Korea as a 13-year-old girl, Choi is South Korea’s only boxing world champion. She harbors ambitions to unify her super featherweight division and to move up a weight to challenge Irish legend Katie Taylor, who is one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the women’s ranks.

Olympic sponsor Toyota pulls Games-related TV ads in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota won’t be airing any Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese television during the Tokyo Games despite being one of the IOC’s top corporate sponsors. The extraordinary decision by the country’s top automaker underlines how polarizing the Games have become in Japan as COVID-19 infections rise ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony. “There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood,” Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata told reporters Monday. Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, the company founder’s grandson, will be skipping the opening ceremony. That’s despite about 200 athletes taking part in the Olympics and Paralympics who are affiliated with Toyota, including swimmer Takeshi Kawamoto and softball player Miu Goto.

US peace envoy visits Islamabad as Pakistan-Afghan ties sour

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Washington’s point man in talks aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan made a brief visit Monday to Pakistan as relations between Islamabad and Kabul reached a new low. Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit came just hours after Afghanistan withdrew its ambassador from Pakistan late Sunday after the diplomat’s daughter was brutally attacked last week. The U.S. envoy met with Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa but nothing was immediately known of their discussions. Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long and troubled history, their relationship fraught with mistrust and suspicion. Each accuses the other of fomenting violence on its territory while also harboring its enemies.

Thailand’s capital tightens restrictions to fight COVID-19

BANGKOK (AP) — Officials in Thailand further tightened coronavirus restrictions on Monday in response to an alarming rise in cases and deaths that is stressing the country’s health care system. City officials in Bangkok, the capital, ordered a range of establishments to close completely from Tuesday for two weeks or until further notice. They include museums, cinemas, amusement parks, fitness centers and swimming pools. Beauty parlors and barber shops may operate but must limit the numbers of customers, and public parks can stay open until 8 p.m. Restaurants have already been limited to takeout service since June 28. Violations of the city’s regulations are punishable by up to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 baht ($3,040).

Bangladesh lifts lockdown to celebrate, exasperating experts

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Waiting among hundreds of fellow travelers to catch a ferry out of Bangladesh’s capital, unemployed construction worker Mohammed Nijam knew he was risking catching the coronavirus, but he felt it was even riskier to stay in Dhaka with another lockdown looming. “I have to pay rent every month even though I have no work,” he said, adding that his landlord had been bothering him for money even as he was struggling just to feed himself. “I’d rather go to my village home and lead life as God lets me.” Nijam is among the tens of millions of Bangladeshis shopping and traveling this week during a controversial eight-day pause in the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown that the government is allowing for the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha.

Bus crashes in Pakistan, killing 33 people and injuring 40

MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — A jam-packed bus carrying mostly laborers traveling home for a major Muslim holiday rammed into a container truck on a busy highway in central Pakistan on Monday, police and rescue officials said. At least 33 people were killed and 40 others injured. The bus, which was over passenger capacity, had left the city of Sialkot and was traveling on Taunsa Road in Punjab province. Its destination was the city of Dera Ghazi Khan, said senior police officer Hassan Javed. The exact cause of the accident is still under investigation, he said. Rescuers transported the dead and injured to a nearby hospital.

Myanmar marks anniversary of killing of independence hero

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s military-installed government and those seeking to topple it on Monday marked the 74th anniversary of the assassination of independence hero Gen. Aung San, the father of the country’s recently ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The separate commemorations by the contending groups were a reminder of the tragic political turmoil that has marked much of the country’s history, including dysfunctional parliamentary rule, armed struggle by ethnic separatists and military repression. It also highlights the complicated relationship of Suu Kyi and the military to her father, whose legacy they both claim. There were protest marches Monday in several cities across the country commemorating Aung San, six Cabinet colleagues and two other officials who were killed at a Cabinet meeting less than six months before Britain formally handed independence to Myanmar, then called Burma.