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Top Asian News 3:37 a.m. GMT

August 3, 2021 GMT

Refugees pushed to back of the line amid vaccine shortages

NEW DELHI (AP) — Salimullah, a Rohingya refugee, has been living in the Indian capital of New Delhi since 2013 when he fled violence in Myanmar. Stateless, and now homeless after a fire razed his camp, the 35-year-old lives in a tent with as many as 10 other people at a time. Before the pandemic, he ran a small business selling groceries from a shack. But that was closed during India’s harsh, months-long lockdown, and his savings are gone. He and his family have been surviving on donated food, but he has to return to work soon, despite the risk of getting COVID-19 and infecting others.

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US expands Afghan refugee program as Taliban violence rises

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Monday expanded its efforts to assist at-risk Afghan citizens flee Taliban violence as fighting intensifies ahead of the U.S. military pullout at the end of the month. The State Department said it is widening the scope of Afghans eligible for refugee status in United States to include current and former employees of U.S.-based news organizations, U.S.-based aid and development agencies and other relief groups that receive U.S. funding. Current and former employees of the U.S. government and the NATO military operation who don’t meet the criteria for a dedicated program for such workers are also covered.

Afghan president seeks defense of cities as Taliban advance

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan president on Monday blamed the American troops’ speedy pullout for the worsening violence in his country and said that his administration would now focus on protecting provincial capitals and major urban areas in the face of the rapidly advancing Taliban. Ashraf Ghani also urged lawmakers to back a national mobilization drive against the Taliban amid an intensifying war between the Taliban and Afghan government forces over the past few months as U.S. and NATO troops complete their pullout from the war-torn country. “An imported, hasty” peace process — a reference to Washington’s push for negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban — “not only failed to bring peace but created doubt and ambiguity” among Afghans, Ghani said in his address to Parliament.

Malaysia lawmakers protest Parliament closure as ploy by PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Police blocked opposition lawmakers from marching Monday to protest a two-week lockdown of Malaysia’s Parliament, which they consider another ploy for the embattled prime minister to dodge a no-confidence vote. With a crucial parliamentary session due, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin instead postponed it and Parliament will be shut for two weeks. The health ministry said Parliament was deemed a high-risk venue because four of 11 COVID-19 cases detected among staff and others were suspected to be the fast-spreading delta variant. Lawmakers and activists questioned the timing of the announcement of Parliament’s closure, which came after the king rebuked Muhyiddin’s government on Thursday for misleading Parliament on the status of ordinances it issued during the seven-month coronavirus state of emergency.

UN calls Myanmar military actions moves away from democracy

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations on Monday called the Myanmar military’s election delay and extension of the state of emergency a move in the wrong direction from international calls for the restoration of democracy. Six months after seizing power from the elected government, Myanmar’s military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, declared himself prime minister Sunday and said he would lead the country during the extended emergency until elections are held in about two years. “It’s not taking us in the right direction,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said when asked about the military’s announcement. “It’s moving us further away from what we have been calling for, member states have been calling for, which is a return to democratic rule, a release of all … political prisoners, a halt on the violence and the crackdown,” he said.

Beijing Games: Sports coverage fine, other things maybe not

TOKYO (AP) — The IOC says the Olympics are only about the sports; no politics allowed. This will be the mantra, as it always is, when the Beijing Winter Games open in six months. Covering ski races or figure-skating finals should be painless; just stay in the sports bubble and out of trouble. But reporters from other countries who puncture the PR skin to explore other aspects of life in China — as they have in Japan during the Tokyo Olympics — could draw more than criticism. They could face harassment and threats if portrayals are deemed by the government — and the increasingly nationalist public — to be giving a negative view of China.

Olympic volunteers strive to share stories of 3/11 disaster

RIFU, Japan (AP) — Atsushi Muramatsu’s handmade flyers are the size of a business card, written in several languages. “Welcome to Miyagi Stadium,” one reads. “The gymnasium next door was the largest morgue for tsunami victims.” Over a decade after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, the Tokyo Games were supposed to offer a chance to showcase how much has been rebuilt. They were even billed as the “Recovery and Reconstruction Games,” and the Olympic torch relay started from Fukushima prefecture, the heart of the nuclear disaster area. But the coronavirus pandemic means few spectators are coming to any of the Olympic events, including soccer and baseball, being held here.

Clean, repeat: At Tokyo Games, virus is Olympians’ chief foe

TOKYO (AP) — Holding each other tighter than lovers, the wrestlers smear each other with sweat, spittle and — when they inadvertently cut each other — sometimes blood. Lungs heaving, mouths agape, they huff and puff into each others’ flushed faces. On their glistening bodies, it’s impossible to tell their opponents’ fluids and theirs apart. Underscoring the health risks of such proximity: They are the only people in the cavernous hall not wearing face masks. Watching Olympic wrestling in the midst of the pandemic of a deadly airborne disease feels like being part of a virological experiment, a real-life study of droplets, aerosols and fluid dispersion.

EXPLAINER: Why track cycling records are falling at Olympics

IZU, Japan (AP) — Everybody expected records to fall when the track cycling program began at the Tokyo Olympics, but nobody expected the German women’s pursuit squad to shatter the mark held by the two-time and defending gold medalists from Britain. Or the Chinese to lower their team sprint record. Or Denmark taking down the Olympic record in men’s team pursuit. All on the first day of competition. “We knew there would be world records broken this week. That’s the first thing,” explained Gary Sutton, the endurance coach for the world champion U.S. women’s pursuit team. “The track is quick.” Indeed, just as the track surface at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo is shaping up to be a fast surface, so is the Siberian pine wood of the Izu Velodrome.

Death toll triples to more than 300 in recent China flooding

BEIJING (AP) — More than 300 people died in recent flooding in central China, authorities said Monday, three times the previously announced toll. The Henan provincial government said 302 people died and 50 remain missing. The vast majority of the victims were in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, where 292 died and 47 are missing. Ten others died in three other cities, officials said at a news conference in Zhengzhou. Record rainfall inundated the city on July 20, turning streets into rushing rivers and flooding at least part of a subway line. Video posted online showed vehicles being washed away and desperate people trapped in subway cars as the waters rose.