Vietnam chooses new President
Vietnam has chosen a new president after an anti-corruption drive and power struggle within its leadership.
Vo Van Thuong takes over from Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who stepped down in January.
With its long tradition of collective leadership, the party’s senior figures since Ho Chi Minh have rarely had much of a profile outside the country.
Mr Thuong, 52, is no exception, standing out largely for his relative youth in a party which usually gives top jobs to much older officials.
He is also noteworthy for having a career almost entirely inside the party, and being steeped in its Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy.
That might seem a very conservative choice, in a country which has embraced breakneck economic growth and is also juggling delicate relationships with the US and China.
But it is also a safe choice for party Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong, arguably the most powerful leader Vietnam has had since the end of the war with the US in 1975.
Of the “four pillars” at the top of Vietnamese politics, Mr Trong’s post is the most influential – although the president also holds significant authority. The other two are the prime minister and the chairman of the National Assembly.
Like Mr Thuong, who is widely seen as his preferred successor, Mr Trong is also a communist ideologue who has launched a series of campaigns against official corruption.
It was allegations of corruption in the government’s response to the Covid pandemic which forced out Mr Phuc in January.
But the Communist Party, which holds a monopoly on power in Vietnam, still faces two difficult challenges.
Can it curb corruption, while still maintaining the high economic growth levels which underpin its legitimacy?
And can it engineer a smooth succession to Nguyen Phu Trong, who at 78 years old is in fragile health, yet was given an unusual third term as secretary-general in 2021 largely because the party could not agree on an alternative.
India suspends visas for Canadians
India has suspended visa services for Canadian citizens amid an escalating row over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.
Visa service provider BLS posted a message from India’s mission blaming “operational reasons” for the decision.
Tensions flared this week after Canada said it was investigating “credible allegations” linking India with the murder of the separatist leader.
India angrily rejected the allegation calling it “absurd”.
Analysts say relations between the countries, which have been strained for months, are now at an all-time low.
The message about the suspension of visas was first posted on the BLS website on Thursday.
“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” it read.
India’s foreign ministry refused to comment on the matter and asked the BBC to refer to the BLS website.
The move comes a day after India issued an advisory urging its citizens travelling to or living in Canada to “exercise utmost caution” in view of the “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada”.
Canada has 1.4 million people of Indian origin, making up 3.7% of the country’s population, according to the 2021 census. India also sends the highest number of international students to Canada – in 2022, they made up 40% of total overseas students at 320,000.
One in 10 people now aged 80 or older
For the first time ever, more than one in 10 people in Japan are now aged 80 or older.
National data also shows 29.1% of the 125 million population is aged 65 or older- a record.
Japan has one of the lowest birth-rates in the world and has long struggled with how to provide for its ageing population.
It has the world’s oldest population, measured by the proportion of people aged 65 or up, the United Nations says.
That proportion stands at 24.5% in Italy and 23.6% in Finland, which rank second and third respectively.
In Japan, those aged over 65 are expected to account for 34.8% of the population by 2040, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
The country’s elderly employment rate is among the highest across major economies – workers aged 65 or more make up more than 13% of the national workforce.
But this has done little to relieve the burden on the country’s social security spending.
Japan has approved a record budget for the next fiscal year, in part due to rising social security costs.
Efforts to boost its birth rates have also met with little success amid the growing cost of living, and notoriously long working hours.
Birth rates are slowing in many countries, including Japan’s neighbours, but the problem is particularly acute in Japan.
The country was estimated to have had fewer than 800,000 babies born last year – the lowest number since records began in the 19th century.
In the 1970s, that figure was more than two million.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in January that his country is on the brink of not being able to function as a society because of its declining birth rate.
However authorities remain hesitant about accepting migrant workers as a solution to falling fertility.
Other countries in Asia are facing similar demographic challenges.
Last year, China’s population fell for the first time since 1961, while South Korea has reported the lowest fertility rate in the world.
UK to ban American bully XL dogs
The British government has announced steps to outlaw the American bully XL by the end of the year.
The American bully XL is a popular breed that likely descended from pit bulls.
The ban was announced after a string of dog attacks that caused outrage on social media last week.
PM Rishi Sunak said it was clear the American XL bullies were “a danger to communities” and a ban was needed.
He added that experts and police will work together to “accurately define the breed” and powers will be used in the Dangerous Dogs Act.
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