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Magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits Nicaragua coast | Earthquakes News

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No tsunami threat was reported after the quake, and authorities said there was a low likelihood.

A powerful earthquake has struck off the western coast of Nicaragua, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

No tsunami threat was immediately reported following the earthquake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 6.7.

It hit at 1:42am local time (07:42 GMT) on Thursday at a depth of 25.3km (15.7 miles), with the epicentre about 61km (38 miles) from the coastal region of Masachapa, USGS data showed.

There were no immediate reports of damage, but residents told local broadcaster La Nueva Radio Ya that strong tremors were felt in the capital, Managua.

Meanwhile, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of casualties and damage from the tremor.

However, the agency noted that there are structures in the region that are vulnerable to earthquakes.

Medics remove the bodies of a woman and her two children
EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT – Medics remove the bodies of a woman and her two children, December 26, 1972, from the wreckage caused by the earthquake that destroyed the capital city of Managua, Nicaragua. (AP Photo/Steve Starr)

Earthquakes occur sporadically in Nicaragua.

In 2014, a 6.2 earthquake in western Nicaragua killed at least one person and injured 33 others.

In 1972, an earthquake of the same magnitude hit 48km (30 miles) north of the capital Managua, killing at least 5,000 people and leaving thousands homeless.





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Israeli missile strikes kill 3 near Syria’s capital | Syria’s War News

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Missiles were fired from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and some were intercepted by Syrian air defences.

Israeli surface-to-surface missiles have killed three people near the Syrian capital, Damascus, state media reported.

The missiles came from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and some were intercepted by the Syrian air defences, an unnamed military source said on Friday.

“The Israeli enemy carried out an aggression … that led to the death of three martyrs and some material losses,” Syria’s official news agency SANA quoted the source as saying.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the three people killed were military officers and four other members of an air defence crew were wounded.

The Israeli strikes targeted Iranian positions and weapon depots near Damascus, the monitor said.

A fire broke at one of the positions near the Damascus airport where ambulances were seen rushing to the site of the attack, according to the Syrian Observatory.

The Israeli military declined to comment.

Syria Israel Golan Heights map

The latest strike follows one on May 13 that killed five people in central Syria, and another near Damascus on April 27, which according to the Syrian Observatory killed 10 combatants, among them six Syrian soldiers, in the deadliest raid in 2022.

Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes there, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

While Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, it has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of attacks.

The Israeli military has defended the military operations as necessary to prevent its arch foe Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.

The conflict in Syria has killed nearly half a million people and forced about half of the country’s prewar population from their homes.



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Taiwan delays scheme to help Hong Kongers over spying fears | Politics News

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Taiwan has indefinitely delayed a scheme that would have made it easier for professionals from Hong Kong and Macau to become permanent residents or citizens, after concerns from politicians about possible infiltration by Chinese agents.

The scheme by the island’s Mainland Affairs Council would have allowed professionals who had worked for five years in Taiwan and earned an income at double the national minimum wage to apply for more permanent status. They would also not have been required to renounce their Hong Kong or Macau citizenship if they applied to become Taiwanese, unlike ordinary citizens of China.

Most foreign professionals can apply for permanent residency after five years of employment but people from Hong Kong and Macau were required to meet other criteria such as having Taiwanese family, a Taiwanese spouse, or working in specific industries.

Legislator Lo Chih-cheng, who heads the ruling Democratic People’s Party international affairs department, said lawmakers were concerned that it was difficult to determine who was a real “Hong Konger” or “Macanese”.

“Some people in Taiwan tend to see the so-called Hong Kong people as different from the Hong Kong people they used to know,” he said. “There are concerns about China’s infiltration into Hong Kong society and there are also concerns about Hong Kong people working for Beijing.” 

Taiwanese were vocal supporters of Hong Kong’s 2019 democracy protests, which have been credited with giving a boost to President Tsai Ing-wen’s 2020 re-election campaign, which had been struggling in the months before the demonstrations began.

The protests and their aftermath have carried extra significance to Taiwanese as an example of how Beijing’s promises cannot be trusted.

Limits to support

Former European colonies, Hong Kong and Macau were returned to Chinese sovereignty in the late 1990s and until recently enjoyed certain rights and freedoms not found in the mainland under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework that Beijing also offered as a potential governance structure for Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory.

For Hong Kong, “one country, two systems” was supposed to protect the territory’s special position and guarantee that people could continue their “way of life” with all its rights and privileges for at least 50 years.

The imposition of the national security legislation in 2020 has effectively ended those freedoms, while Macau is due to see stronger national security laws this year.

But while some of those involved in the protests have found refuge in Taiwan, the opposition to migration is an indication that even in Taiwan there are limits to how far it wants to go in supporting those fleeing Beijing.

Legislators from Tsai’s DPP and the pro-Taiwan independence New Power Party have been some of the most vocal in their concern about potential security risks.

“There’s a lot of almost unanimous symbolic support for Hong Kongers in the sense where Taiwanese can look at what’s happening in Hong Kong and be like ‘we don’t want that to happen to us, and we feel bad for what’s happening to Hong Kongers,’” said Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Fairbank Center.

“But that’s qualitatively different from say, substantive support in terms of policy. We see a lot of variation, meaning that not everyone wants a pro-Hong Kong policy,” he said.

Nachman led a research team in 2021 that surveyed 1,000 Taiwanese people about their feelings about Hong Kong and found that while most were sympathetic that did not translate into a desire for legislative action, according to results published in Foreign Policy.

Ever since their return to Chinese rule and the relaxation of visa requirements, Hong Kong and Macau have emerged as popular destinations for mainland Chinese. Hong Kong’s population has swelled by one million since its 1997 handover while Macau’s population has grown 50 percent from around 418,000 in 1999 to nearly 650,000, according to World Bank data.

Lo said many Taiwanese were also concerned about the potential competition posed by Hong Kong’s highly educated workforce, despite the likely boost for the island’s economy.

“Personally, I think we should take this opportunity to recruit the best talents from Hong Kong given the deterioration of human rights and freedom in Hong Kong, it is the best opportunity for Taiwan to recruit to attract the best talent,” he said.

Generational risk

Taiwanese have aired their scepticism about the new immigration scheme online, particularly from social media accounts associated with pro-Taiwan independence views, said Chen-en Sung, the deputy CEO of the Taiwan New Constitution Foundation, a government-aligned legal group.

 

He told Al Jazeera many of their concerns about Chinese infiltration by people from Hong Kong and Macau were hypocritical because Taiwanese have also worked on behalf of Beijing’s interests.

“Even if [new immigrants] are pro-China originally, I think Taiwan is an open society, and we have the capacity to accommodate those views, not to mention that a lot of our own citizens have pro-China and anti-independence views,” he said.

Eric Tsui Sing-yan, a visiting scholar at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, however, says there is reason for caution, despite having fled the city himself in 2020 for fear he could be investigated for two books he wrote on Hong Kong.

“This question is complicated. People from Hong Kong are not 100 percent safe because Hong Kong is a complex place with all sorts of people,” he told Al Jazeera, citing a decades-long infiltration campaign by the Chinese Communist Party from Hong Kong’s trade unions into the upper echelons of society.

Tsui said the issue largely comes down to demographics: most people under 30 are likely to be low risk due to their well-documented dislike of Beijing and pro-Hong Kong feelings, while older people with potential business ties to the mainland were higher risk.

He said Taiwan’s current policies unintentionally courted the second group by focusing on professionals and people capable of making substantial financial contributions.

“The current policy attracts high-risk groups and drives away the low-risk groups,” Tsui said. “Yes, there is a security risk, but it is not equal among all Hong Kongers. The risk is different in different generations.”

In 2020, Taiwan established an office to help those fleeing political prosecution in Hong Kong after about 200 former protesters fled there, according to activist estimates. Since then, the office has helped some 100 protesters, according to government media, although efforts have been hampered by two years of strict border controls to contain COVID-19.

The government is also not obligated to help any potential refugees as it is not party to any international refugee conventions due to Taiwan’s disputed political status.

Recently, however, measures were loosened to allow students from Hong Kong and Macau to study at Taiwanese high schools and vocational schools, while many already study at Taiwanese universities.

These measures do not directly apply to professionals from Hong Kong and Macau who are already working in Taiwan and would like to remain permanently.

About 11,000 people from Hong Kong moved to Taiwan last year, according to government data, a fraction of the 89,000 who left the city between June 2020 and June 2021.

The vast majority have instead chosen to move to the United Kingdom, the territory’s former colonial ruler, where anyone born before the 1997 handover – about 5.4 million people – is eligible for a special immigration scheme. The UK Home office says more than 100,000 people have applied for the scheme since January 2021.





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Voters head to polls open in close-run Australian election | Elections News

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Sydney, Australia – Polls have opened in the Australian election, with a tight contest expected between the incumbent Liberal-National coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the opposition Labor party under Anthony Albanese.

Labor have led opinion polls throughout the campaign, but the gap has narrowed with Morrison’s coalition making up ground ahead of election day.

Morrison is aiming to become the first Prime Minister to win two elections in a row since John Howard in 2004.

Voting is compulsory in Australia and just over 17.2 million people have enrolled to vote according to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

Record numbers of voters have already cast their ballots at early voting centres or via postal votes, and more than half of the total votes had been cast by Friday evening, according to the commission. Polls close across the country at 6pm, which is 08:00 GMT in Sydney and 10:00 GMT on the west coast.  The result could be known as soon as Saturday evening.

Narrowing polls and the emergence of independent candidates has raised the possibility of a hung parliament.

Labor or the Liberal-National coalition require 76 seats in the lower house to form a government, anything less and they would need to negotiate with smaller parties and independents in order to try and form a minority government.

A man in a wetsuit and surf board joins the queue to vote at a Bondi Beach polling station
A strong showing for independents could lead to a hung parliament, amid disatisfaction over the major parties’ positions on climate change [Mark Baker/AP Photo]

The campaign has focused heavily on the rising cost of living, with Australia experiencing its highest inflation rate in 21 years, and the central bank raising interest rates.

Morrison has argued that his handling of the economy is a major reason for voters to back him again, pointing to record low unemployment rates.

He is also proposing a scheme to allow young people early access to their superannuation funds to buy property and get a foot on the housing ladder.

Concerned for future

Labor, meanwhile, has attacked the government’s economic record, highlighting how wages are not growing fast enough to meet the increased cost of living.

“As a recent grandfather I am concerned about the future generations and the economic policies of the major parties aren’t addressing that,” Brian Silver, a teacher voting in Sydney told Al Jazeera.

The rising cost of living is filtering into all areas of life, with voters concerned about the impacts on their everyday expenditure.

“Childcare is a key issue for me. I really need it, I need to know it is available but it is just so expensive”, said Lauren, who preferred only to share her first name, outside a polling station in North Sydney.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese cuddles a dog and laughs as he meets supporters outside a polling station in Melbourne in M
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese (centre) is hoping voters will back Labor to form the government for the first time since 2013 [Wendell Teodoro/AFP]

Australians have also expressed increasing concern about climate change.

The country has seen its effects first-hand, with Morrison’s time in charge dominated by extreme bushfires in 2019-20 and recent major flooding in Queensland and New South Wales.

Many of the independent candidates in the election have campaigned solely on the basis of climate change, offering different solutions to the problem compared with the two major parties.

“Climate change is something we really need to look at, especially getting electric cars into Australia. We need a fast uptake of them and we need charging stations to be created. That is something the government can do,” Tim, who preferred only to share his first name, told Al Jazeera ahead of voting in North Sydney.

A high number of independent candidates are running in traditionally Liberal seats, with high profile and well funded campaigns raising their profiles.

“I’m voting for the independent here, Kylea Tink”, explained Katie Archer, a voter in North Sydney.

“I really like her policies when it comes to climate change, I think she is really progressive. Whereas Scott Morrison, it just always feels like he is caring for himself and his own back and not putting the population first.”

Attitudes and policies towards Indigenous peoples are also on the agenda at this election, with Aboriginal groups continuing to demand land rights and recognition as the nation’s first people in the constitution.

It is an issue which could also add to the drift away from the two main parties.

“Whilst both Liberal and Labor point fingers at one another over who is doing the least for First Nations people, the minor parties such as The Greens and the newly formed Indigenous Party of Australia are offering more tangible-practical policies and solutions to effect change to our most marginalised and oppressed communities around the country,” said Indigenous activist Lynda-June Coe.

On the eve of election day, a number of high profile Australian newspapers endorsed either Morrison or Albanese.

There was support in the more right-wing and business press for Morrison and his Liberal-National coalition, with both The Australian and The Australian Financial Review calling for the Prime Minister to be re-elected, with the latter describing him as ‘Australia’s best bet’.

Meanwhile, The Age newspaper, based in the second biggest city of Melbourne, gave its backing to Labor in an editorial titled; ‘For integrity’s sake, Australia needs a change of government’.

The Sydney Morning Herald, its sister publication, also backed Albanese, saying that ​​’on balance, the nation needs a change’.



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