[News] News From Other Places!

It's news you can use from places with different views! (Don't misuse or abuse you yahoos.)

Eggs off the menu as Japan battles bird flu crisis

Fancy an omelette made from fish instead of eggs?

In Japan, some people are having to make the swap as the country battles its worst outbreak of avian influenza on record.

It has led to millions of chickens being culled, a shortage in eggs and sent the price of egg-based dishes soaring. In short, eggs are becoming a luxury.

And that's a huge problem when they are a staple in Japanese cuisine - from egg rolls to omurice and soft-boiled yolks on ramen.

Jerusalem Christians say attacks on the rise

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, huge crowds of Christian pilgrims have this month thronged Jerusalem's ancient streets where the Easter story unfolded.

"It's very emotional, I already cried a little," says Marina, who is visiting from Belgrade and joined the Orthodox Good Friday procession carrying a wooden cross. "It's something you have to feel to be here."

Local Christians also stand out as they join the devotions, with Palestinian and Armenian scout groups leading religious processions.

But in recent months, Christians living in the occupied East of the city say they have seen increased harassment and violence.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III has warned of "unprecedented attacks on the Christian presence by radical Israeli groups".

At the start of the year, on Mount Zion, where Christians believe the Last Supper took place, two ultra-Orthodox teenagers were caught on security cameras desecrating graves in the Anglican cemetery.

Crosses and headstones were smashed. Israeli police later said two arrests had been made.

So, there was another security issue with the Japanese PM. Again.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is safe.

After the smoke bomb attack that happened as he was about to give a speech on the local elections campaign trail, he simply moved on to his next engagement.

But this is still shocking.

One: because Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and has very strict gun controls.

Two - perhaps more crucially - because this smoke bomb attack happened less than a year after Shinzo Abe, Mr Kishida's predecessor, was assassinated - also while giving a speech among a crowd on a campaign trail.

There are major differences - unlike Mr Abe, Mr Kishida was evacuated very quickly and the assailant tackled quite promptly.

One video showed a shield being used around Mr Kishida the moment the young man was pinned to the ground.

However a number of people on social media pointed out that the very first person to tackle the attacker was actually a fisherman who was among the crowd and next to the assailant.

There are uneasy parallels between what happened today in a port in Wakayama in western Japan and what happened last year in the western city of Nara when Mr Abe was fatally shot.

In the latest attack, the assailant appeared to be in the middle of the crowd as he threw the suspected smoke bomb. Videos show him holding an unidentified metal object.

In July last year, Mr Abe's killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, stood very closely behind him as he was speaking at a political event - he then shot him with a homemade gun.

Last year's assassination shocked Japan, led to a national outcry and an investigation that found holes in Mr Abe's security and that he was not evacuated quickly enough.

Fast forward a few months, his successor had to be rushed out of a scene where a loud explosion sent frightened bystanders scrambling for cover.

The motivation for this smoke bomb attack is still unclear, but it's bound to raise questions about whether the Abe assassination could have inspired a copycat event.

Apparently, the attacker's Twitter account has been found.

From the alleged Twitter account of the man arrested for Saturday's pipe bomb attack on Prime Minister Kishida: Japan's election laws prevent ordinary citizens from running for office. Only hereditary politicians and "dogs" who obey political parties can be candidates.

The account promotes the electoral reform lawsuit that the suspect filed in 2022. It attacks election laws that don't allow legal adults to run for office until they are 25 or 30, and require deposits of up to 3 million yen just to be a candidate (no refund for most losers).

There's a lot in there. Mostly, this was fairly obviously not the best way to express one's frustration with the system. Although I would've said that about what happened to Abe before.

In grim drought, Tunisians ration water in state-ordered ban

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — It’s a feeble drip, drip, drip from the taps every night in Tunisia for six months. Spigots are cut off for seven hours from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. in a state-ordered water rationing in most regions across the country, including Tunis, the capital city.

Tunisians are on the front lines of a battle against an increasingly severe drought, now in its fifth year in the north African country, with the government issuing a sudden order to its population to ration their water usage from April to September — or risk fines or jail.

Households now need a supply of bottled water to wash, use toilets and prepare meals during late night hours. Authorities have also forbidden the use of potable water for irrigation of farmlands, watering green areas in cities and for cleaning streets and cars.

The order applies to all regions connected to the state-owned water distribution system but does not include rural areas that get their water from wells or other local sources, said agriculture ministry spokesperson Raoudha Dridi.

Water levels at almost all of Tunisia’s 30-plus dams have fallen drastically, some as low as 17% of their storage capacity.

1 city, 2 people — and India’s widening religious divide

AYODHYA, India (AP) — Syed Mohammad Munir Abidi says India is a changed country, one he doesn’t recognize anymore.

It’s a country, the 68-year-old says, where Muslims are ignored, where rising attacks against them are encouraged, and where an emboldened Hindu majoritarian government is seizing its chance to put the minority community in its place.

Swami Ram Das thinks otherwise, echoing a belief system central to Hindu nationalism.

The 48-year-old Hindu priest says India is on a quest to redeem its religious past and that the country is fundamentally a Hindu nation where minorities, especially Muslims, must subscribe to Hindu primacy.

Abidi and Das are two ordinary citizens living in one city in a country of more than 1.4 billion people that is on the cusp of becoming the world’s most populated nation. Together they embody the opposing sides of a deeply entrenched religious divide that presents India with one of its biggest challenges: to safeguard freedoms for its Muslim minority at a time when a rising tide of Hindu nationalism is eroding the country’s secular underpinnings.

Great. Just what we need, another regional powderkeg...

The mystery of Morocco’s missing king

Five years ago, an unusual image appeared on Instagram. It showed Mohammed VI, the 54-year-old king of Morocco, sitting on a sofa next to a muscular man in sportswear. The two men were pressed up next to each other with matching grins like a pair of kids at summer camp. Moroccans were more accustomed to seeing their king alone on a gilded throne.

The story behind the picture was even stranger. Abu Azaitar, the 32-year-old man sitting next to the king, is a veteran of the German prison system as well as a mixed-martial-arts (mma) champion. Since he moved to Morocco in 2018 his bling-filled Instagram feed has caused the country’s conservative elite to shudder. It’s not just the flashy cars, it’s the strikingly informal tone in which he addresses the monarch: “Our dear King,” he wrote next to one photo of the two of them together. “I can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for us.”

A crisis is brewing in Morocco, and the beaming kickboxer is at the heart of it. The country is regarded as one of the Arab world’s success stories. It has a thriving car industry and its medieval souks and tranquil riads beguile Western tourists. Morocco seems to have all the charm of the Middle East and none of its turmoil.

But Morocco’s 37m people face the same problems that have roiled so much of the Arab world over the past decade: insufficient jobs, soaring inflation and oppressive security services. This has not, so far, resulted in serious upheaval, in part because of the king’s prompt introduction of constitutional reforms at the height of the Arab spring in 2011. But now turmoil is on the horizon, and the king, insiders say, is hardly to be seen.

For the past four years Azaitar and his two brothers have monopolised the monarch’s attention. A court insider says that advisers have tried to reduce the Azaitars’ influence, but to no avail. Some officials even appear to have colluded in the publication of articles exposing Azaitar’s criminal past and alleged extravagance. The king seems impervious.

Mohammed is not just distracted – he is often entirely absent. He liked to travel and take holidays before he met the Azaitars but the tendency appears to have become much more pronounced. Sometimes he cloisters himself with the brothers in a private ranch in the Moroccan countryside. Sometimes the group escapes to a hideaway in west Africa. When Gabon palls – “so boring, there’s a beach but nothing else to do,” moans one member of the entourage – they descend on Paris. One former official estimates that the king was out of the country for 200 days last year.

It's like a meatheaded moron version of Rasputin.

Sudan fighting: Why it matters to countries worldwide

If you want to know why Sudan matters to so many other countries, just take a look at a map.

There's a reason why the fighting that has erupted there over the past week is ringing so many international alarm bells. Sudan is not only huge - the third largest country in Africa - it also stretches across an unstable and geopolitically vital region.

Whatever happens militarily or politically in the capital, Khartoum, ripples across some of the most fragile parts of the continent.

The country straddles the Nile River, making the nation's fate of almost existential importance; downstream, to water-hungry Egypt, and upstream, to land-locked Ethiopia with its ambitious hydro-electric plans that now affect the river's flow.

Sudan borders seven countries in all, each with security challenges that are intertwined with the politics of Khartoum.

Trouble in Sudan's western Darfur region almost inevitably spills over into neighbouring Chad, and vice versa. Weapons and fighters from coup-prone Chad, and from the war-torn Central African Republic, often flow freely across the region's porous borders. Much the same has proved true with Libya, to the north-west.

Sudan borders the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia - only recently emerging from a gruelling conflict that involved another unpredictable neighbour, the isolated and highly militarised autocracy of Eritrea. There is also tension on other parts of Ethiopia and Sudan's shared - and in places, contested - border.

To the south, Sudan faces a relatively new nation, South Sudan, which formally broke away from its northern neighbour in 2011 after one of Africa's longest and bloodiest civil wars. That border, too, remains unstable.

South Sudan quickly spiralled into the sort of broad scale civil war that some fear could now be Sudan's fate too. Upon independence, South Sudan took with it most of the region's precious oil fields, leaving Sudan far poorer, and contributing, indirectly, to the current crisis in Khartoum, as rival military groups now struggle for control of shrinking economic resources, like gold and agriculture.

Life at 25 in India and China: money worries, hard work and no plans for family

India has become the world’s most populous country, according to the United Nations’ latest projections, knocking China off the top spot for the first time since the UN began keeping records.

Both countries are facing significant demographic challenges, be it dealing with the legacy of a disastrous one-child policy and ageing population or working out how to take advantage of a booming youth cohort while managing huge disparities in the growth rates of different states.

We asked two 25-year-olds – one from each country – about their lives and aspirations.

Been telling my friends for the longest time how much I'd like to see a good slice-of-life anime about being in your mid-20s in modern Japan. I know there's got to be some level of fantasy to it, so maybe make it a little like Keep Your Hands of Eizouken, but nevertheless.

Aggretsuko touches on some of that, I believe.

Edit - I kind of wonder if that's part of why Isekia blew up in popularity, and there's a lot more people now who would rather fantasize about starting a new life in a new world with "simpler" problems than watch people face the same problems they do in the real world.

Yeah, I mean, I do not watch a ton of anime (I barely watch "some" anime) but Aggrestuko was one of the first ones I've ever seen that was, in part, focused on that part of people's lives.

Polarised politics are tearing Pakistan apart

The stakes have never been higher in Pakistan.

Its economy is on the brink, society is politically polarised, millions are still recovering from last year's devastating floods, terrorist attacks are increasing and, as inflation soars ever higher, many are struggling to feed themselves and their children.

While the country suffers, politicians and institutions have been pulled into a power struggle over who should run Pakistan.

Despite the hours of air time, ferociously delivered ultimatums and street stand-offs, Pakistan seems no closer to answering that question than it was a year ago.

"What makes this current situation unprecedented is the backdrop of other serious crisis," says Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center.

"Pakistan doesn't have the luxury of saying this political crisis is a distraction, eventually we'll get back to where things need to be."

Pakistan's economy is struggling. Its foreign reserves, which pay for imports including fuel, have plummeted to one of the lowest levels in decades. Meetings with the International Monetary Fund earlier this year are yet to result in a deal to unlock $1.1bn in crucial funds.

Meanwhile militants continue to launch attacks, often targeting security forces. Pakistan's armed forces recently said there had been 436 terror attacks so far in 2023. And militant groups regularly release infographics showing the number they claim to have killed or injured, and the arms they've seized around the country.

Add to this the ever-climbing food inflation, plus the fact that Pakistan is still recovering from the damage done by last year's floods before this year's rains begin again - and there is no shortage of big questions politicians need to answer.

"Political uncertainty is making things even more difficult for the entire system," says Mehmal Sarfraz, a political analyst. "The system is collapsing in Pakistan. If that happens, it won't benefit anyone - neither the political parties or the people of Pakistan."

Much like the rest of the world, I'm not sure whether to put Turkey posts in the "rest of the world" or in the "European politics" thread. But since they're not trying to join the EU anymore, I'm going to put it here.

Turkey elections: Aftershocks of anger and grief in the quake-hit nation

The family lost Eren's father, brother, sister and a nephew - all four now lie buried in a row. Fethiye blames corrupt officials, cowboy builders and, most of all, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"In first place, it's him," she says, "because he gave an opportunity to such people. The developers bribe the municipalities and they build. They bribe and build. They killed us all."

The earthquakes exposed structural faults in President Erdogan's long rule. He presided over repeated amnesties for illegal construction. Developers could build a death trap and just pay a fine. And the state itself was hollowed out, critics say, resulting in a lack of proper oversight and preparedness.


Supporters of the president - and there are many - echo his view that it was destiny. Among his religious conservative support base, his leadership remains an article of faith.

We come across Ibrahim Sener sitting in the ruins of Zumrut Street in Antakya's old city, among shards of glass and jagged metal. The 62-year-old seems not to notice, lost in thought and cigarette smoke.

"Our house cracked from end to end," he tells us. "We lived the biggest nightmare inside the house. We can't be happy that we survived because we lost our family and friends. There were no phone lines, no internet. No-one could help anyone. After five or six hours I got the news that my brother had died."

His belief in the president is unshaken.

"It came from God," he says. "It was God's will that it happened. This should not be politicised. It's not our president who created the earthquake. Our president did his best."

Ibrahim goes on his way, but two women remain just across the road - Gozde Burgac, 29, and her aunt Suheyla Kilic, 50, who are both actresses. Gozde has a tattoo on her arm - "life is beautiful" written in French. In this new landscape of rubble, it reads like a mockery.

They came to the area to feed stray cats, an enduring Turkish tradition even in the worst of times. And they listened to Ibrahim's account in disbelief and in agony.

"What I've just heard really offended me because nobody helped us in any way," says Gozde, close to tears.

"Were we in a different universe, or was he? What he said about Erdogan was definitely not true. It's his fault. The government are the ones obliged to help us, but nobody was here.

"With our own efforts, our own means, we tried to reach our families during the first hours of the earthquake. We reached their dead bodies hours later, days later."

Gozde says officials from the presidency showed up once, as her brother-in-law was about to be brought out alive.

She says he was rescued by an Italian team, while all the government officials did was "pose for the cameras, so their uniforms were visible".

"Then they left and nobody else came," she says.


Will all the death and destruction shift the needle on election day?

The answer may be no.

Polls taken after the quakes suggested only a minor drop in support for the president, who has apologised for the state's sluggish response. He has also promised an ambitious - if implausible - reconstruction programme.

"It won't affect Erdogan," according to Istanbul-based political analyst and pollster Can Selcuki. "This election is not about performance. It's about identity. Those who want him, want him no matter what."

Imran Khan: Mass protests across Pakistan after ex-PM arrest

Violent clashes have broken out in Pakistan between security forces and supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan after he was arrested on Tuesday.

Protests are erupting nationwide, and at least one person has been killed in the city of Quetta.

The United States and UK have called for adherence to the "rule of law".

Mr Khan was arrested by security forces at the High Court in the capital, Islamabad.

Dramatic footage showed dozens of paramilitary members arriving and detaining the 70-year-old, who was bundled into a vehicle and driven away.

He was appearing in court on charges of corruption, which he says are politically motivated.

Mobile data services in the country were suspended on the instructions of the interior ministry on Friday as protests grew, many of them taking place in front of army compounds.

Pakistan's army plays a prominent role in politics, sometimes seizing power in military coups, and, on other occasions, pulling levers behind the scenes.

Many analysts believe Mr Khan's election win in 2018 happened with the help of the military. Now in opposition, he is one of its most vocal critics, and analysts say the army's popularity has fallen.

Everyone worries about Russia being a failing state with nukes, but Pakistan’s problems are just as bad, if not worse. Religious strife, Terrorist organizations and militias openly competing with police and the Army. The latter openly corrupt. And above it all, climate change is hitting them now, and that will only get worse.

Imran Khan: Violence and mass arrests as former Pakistan PM charged with corruption

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges a day after his arrest sparked nationwide protests.

Eight people have died nationwide in the protests and about 1,000 have been arrested, police say.

The army is being deployed in some areas, and has issued a stern warning after crowds attacked its properties.

Mr Khan's arrest dramatically escalated tensions between Mr Khan and the military at a time of economic crisis.

Conviction would disqualify the former cricket star - prime minister from 2018 to 2022 - from standing for office, possibly for life. Elections are due later this year.

Dramatic footage showed dozens of security officers forcibly removing the 70-year-old from court on Tuesday, then bundling him into a police vehicle.

There is tight security at the police guesthouse where he is being detained, which is also serving as a courtroom.

On Wednesday Mr Khan was indicted on charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts during his premiership, in a case brought by the Election Commission.

He denies the allegations and says he fulfilled all legal requirements.

The groups who shall not be named in the country/countries that shall not be named are once again fighting.

That is, again, where I will leave it, as any further discussion or clarification will almost certainly doom this thread to being locked.

Imran Khan: Pakistan's Supreme Court rules arrest was illegal

Pakistan's Supreme Court has ruled that former prime minister Imran Khan's dramatic arrest on corruption charges this week was illegal.

The court ordered Mr Khan's immediate release. His lawyers had argued that his detention from court premises in Islamabad on Tuesday was unlawful.

At least 10 people have been killed and 2,000 arrested as violent protests have swept the country since he was held.

Tuesday's arrest escalated growing tensions between him and the military.

The opposition leader, ousted in a confidence vote in April last year, was brought to court on the orders of Pakistan's top judge.

As Mr Khan arrived in court, media ran through the corridors to capture his first public appearance since he was arrested.

Surrounded by security, Mr Khan said nothing as he walked to the wood-panelled courtroom which was filled with officials from his party and journalists.

Mr Khan stood surrounded by his lawyers in front of the three Supreme Court judges as they told him that because of the way he had been arrested on Tuesday - inside a court complex, conducting biometric tests - the arrest was invalid.

Footage of his arrest showed paramilitary forces seizing Mr Khan, who was injured in a gun attack last year, and dragging him from inside court premises, before whisking him away in an armoured vehicle.

"Your arrest was invalid so the whole process needs to be backtracked," Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial told Mr Khan. He would now be under the protection of the Supreme Court.

Turkish election could go to second round as Erdoğan attempts to claim victory

Record high turnout in a tightly fought election has presented the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with the greatest challenge to his leadership in two decades, with signs that the vote was heading for a runoff even as Erdoğan attempted to claim victory before an official vote count had ended.

Speaking to a jubilant crowd of supporters, an energised and delighted Erdoğan declared: “The fact that the election results have not yet been finalised does not diminish the fact that our nation’s choice is clearly in favor of us.”

Despite Turkey’s supreme election council, the YSK, declaring that the count had not yet finished in either the parliamentary or presidential election, Erdoğan claimed his alliance had won a majority.

We believe I will finish with above 50 percent in the first round,” he added, projecting an outright win the presidential election without the need for a run-off.

Erdoğan’s rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, hit back in a more subdued speech: “Despite all of his lies and attacks, Erdoğan did not receive the desired outcome. No one should be enthusiastic about this being a done deal. The election is not won on the balcony,” he said.

He added: “We will definitely, definitely win this election in the second round. Everyone will see it. Preliminary results show that Erdoğan did not receive the public confidence vote that he expected. The need for a change in society exceeds 50%. The AKP’s loss of votes demonstrates this too. The process of entering [election] data is ongoing. If the nation opts for a second round, it is more than welcome.”

Sadly, I see this ending in another term for Erdoğan.

Looks like a runoff has been set.

Thailand elections: Voters deliver stunning blow to army-backed rule

Thai voters have delivered a stunning verdict in favour of an opposition party that is calling for radical reform of the country's institutions.

Early results show Move Forward exceeding every prediction to win 151 of the 500 seats in the lower house.

It's now 10 seats ahead of what was the frontrunner, Pheu Thai, led by ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's daughter.

Analysts are calling this a political earthquake that represents a significant shift in public opinion.

It is also a clear repudiation of the two military-aligned parties of the current government, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a coup that ousted an elected government in 2014. The governing coalition won only 15% of the seats.

"We didn't leave any stones unturned," Move Forward's 42-year-old leader Pita Limjaroenrat told the BBC. "People have had enough in the last decade. Now, it's a new day."

Pheu Thai, the second-largest party, has said it has agreed to join Move Forward and four smaller opposition parties, giving them a coalition of more than 60% of seats in the new parliament.

fenomas wrote:

That Johnny's thing is a thoroughly messed up situation. The agency involved is so powerful that AFAIK not a single TV news show has even mentioned that press conference yet, either on nightly shows last night or on morning shows today.

An update!

Johnny Kitagawa: Calls for probe after J-pop agency abuse apology

The CEO of Japan's most powerful pop talent agency, Johnny and Associates, has apologised to alleged victims of sexual abuse committed by its late founder, Johnny Kitagawa.

A BBC documentary spoke to several victims and prompted a J-pop star to come forward with his story of abuse.

Thousands of fans of Japanese boy bands have since signed a petition calling for a full investigation.

Japanese media have long been accused of a cover-up.

Kitagawa was arguably the most influential figure in Japan's entertainment industry - his agency has held a near-monopoly on Japanese boy bands for decades.

Disturbing reports of Kitagawa sexually abusing teenage boys in his agency were first published 20 years ago.

A libel case subsequently found the claims Kitagawa sexually abused minors in his agency were true.

Despite this, the pop mogul never faced charges and continued recruiting and training teenage boys until his death four years ago, at the age of 87.

His death was a national event, and even the prime minister at the time sent condolences.

A BBC documentary in March, Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop, detailed allegations from several teenage victims who worked for the all-male agency. They detailed a pattern of exploitation, with the abuse taking place at Kitagawa's luxury homes, and often witnessed by other boys.

Several victims told the BBC they thought their careers would be harmed if they did not comply with Kitagawa's sexual demands.

The BBC's coverage prompted another of the agency's former J-pop stars to come forward - in April, the Japanese-Brazilian singer Kauan Okamoto said he had been abused by Kitagawa for four years, from the age of 15.

Okamoto said he knew of at least three others who had gone through similar ordeals, and thought as many as 100 boys had been abused.

Allegations of abuse go as far back as the 1960s.

On Sunday Julie Keiko Fujishima, the CEO of the powerful entertainment agency and a niece of Kitagawa, apologised to the victims.

"I offer my deepest apologies to those who have come forward with the experiences they suffered," she said in a rare statement posted on the company's website.

Fujishima said the agency took the allegations very seriously and believed such conduct was "never acceptable".

However, she stopped short of saying individual allegations were true, and claimed not to have known about her uncle's actions at the time. Fujishima also said there would not be an independent investigation.

Fans have responded saying the apology does not go far enough. On Friday a petition signed by a group called Penlight and signed by 16,000 fans demanded a full investigation.

'Doomsday': Singapore renters sound the alarm as prices surge

At the end of last year, the lease on Eva Teh's flat in central Singapore came up for renewal.

The Singaporean and her husband were expecting their monthly rent to rise. What they weren't prepared for was the 60% hike proposed by their landlord.

"We immediately went to search for available apartments. What we found gave us another shock. Rents have soared," she tells the BBC.

"The thought of not being able to afford a roof over our heads terrified us," she adds. "It felt like doomsday."

Ms Teh says she had little choice but to negotiate with her landlord for a better deal.

Now, they pay S$2,900 ($2,185; £1,732) a month for their one-bedroom home, up from S$1,950 before the rent hike.

"To cope with the increase in rent, I'm forcing myself to work harder so I can make more money," Ms Teh, who is a media freelancer, says.

"In months where I can't make ends meet, I will have to dip into my savings. Fortunately, we have an emergency fund for days like this."

She is not alone. Surging rents have become a major issue in the South East Asian country.

Private housing rents, which rose last year at the fastest pace in over a decade, have continued to climb in recent months.

Prices are rising across the city-state's property market, with rents for properties in public housing blocks and high-end homes heading higher.

According to real estate consultancy Knight Frank, Singapore now has the fastest rising luxury property rents, after overtaking New York.

The piece ends with officials saying they expect rent to fall as close to 40,000 homes will be built, which did surprise me a bit because when I think Singapore, "space for building homes" isn't a thing that comes to mind, but that could be American ignorance.

China’s loans pushing world’s poorest countries to brink of collapse

A dozen poor countries are facing economic instability and even collapse under the weight of hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign loans, much of them from the world’s biggest and most unforgiving government lender, China.

An Associated Press analysis of a dozen countries most indebted to China — including Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Laos and Mongolia — found paying back that debt is consuming an ever-greater amount of the tax revenue needed to keep schools open, provide electricity and pay for food and fuel. And it’s draining foreign currency reserves these countries use to pay interest on those loans, leaving some with just months before that money is gone.

Behind the scenes is China’s reluctance to forgive debt and its extreme secrecy about how much money it has loaned and on what terms, which has kept other major lenders from stepping in to help. On top of that is the recent discovery that borrowers have been required to put cash in hidden escrow accounts that push China to the front of the line of creditors to be paid.

Countries in AP’s analysis had as much as 50% of their foreign loans from China and most were devoting more than a third of government revenue to paying off foreign debt. Two of them, Zambia and Sri Lanka, have already gone into default, unable to make even interest payments on loans financing the construction of ports, mines and power plants.

In Pakistan, millions of textile workers have been laid off because the country has too much foreign debt and can’t afford to keep the electricity on and machines running.

In Kenya, the government has held back paychecks to thousands of civil service workers to save cash to pay foreign loans. The president’s chief economic adviser tweeted last month, “Salaries or default? Take your pick.”

Since Sri Lanka defaulted a year ago, a half-million industrial jobs have vanished, inflation has pierced 50% and more than half the population in many parts of the country has fallen into poverty.

Experts predict that unless China begins to soften its stance on its loans to poor countries, there could be a wave of more defaults and political upheavals.

“In a lot of the world, the clock has hit midnight,” said Harvard economist Ken Rogoff. “ China has moved in and left this geopolitical instability that could have long-lasting effects.”