Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
Fire, drought, heatwaves: Australia prepares for tough summer
Australia's fire and drought-ravaged east will suffer continued hot and dry conditions this summer, increasing the chances of severe weather events, the country's weather bureau said on Thursday. The Bureau of Meteorology warned the country could expect more heatwaves and little rain in the east during the summer, which runs from December through February, following one of the driest springs ever.
Special Report: How Hong Kong's greatest tycoon went from friend of China to punching bag
In January of 1993, an ambitious Chinese Communist Party boss, a 39-year-old official with chubby cheeks and a mop of black hair, visited Hong Kong. He was seeking out the city’s rich among the shimmering skyscrapers, hoping to secure investment in Fuzhou, the second-tier city he ran in mainland China. His name was Xi Jinping. That August, Xi received a guest back home. Hong Kong’s most famous tycoon, Li Ka-shing, known locally as “superman” for his business acumen, had come to town. A photograph from the event shows Xi grinning as he walked beside Li, who held a bouquet of flowers in his hand. In the background, a long banner hung with the message to “warmly welcome” Li Ka-shing.
Exclusive: In face of criticism, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing says he’s getting used to ‘punches’
Li Ka-shing, the city’s most prominent tycoon, said he is getting used to “the unfounded verbal and text punches” thrown at him in recent years. Li has faced withering attacks from mainland China and pro-Beijing forces in Hong Kong, including during the protests that have engulfed the city since early June. After the 91-year-old billionaire in September called on both the authorities and protesters to exercise restraint, he was accused of “harboring criminality” by the Chinese Communist Party’s central legal affairs commission in Beijing. A pro-Beijing trade union leader in Hong Kong posted a Facebook item mocking him as the “king of cockroaches.”
Hong Kong authorities appeal for calm as major highway reopens
One of Hong Kong's main highway links, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, reopened early on Wednesday as a lockdown of the nearby Polytechnic University appeared to be drawing to a close with teams still combing the campus for remaining protesters. Hong Kong authorities hope that a lull in clashes over the weekend during local elections, where pro-democracy candidates grabbed a landslide victory, can translate into more calm after nearly six months of turmoil.
No excuse for silence on China's camps for Uighurs: exiled leader
The exiled leader of China's minority Muslim Uighurs is pressing countries to cut trade links with Beijing, saying the time for business as usual is over. Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based group the World Uighur Congress, was speaking after two leaked troves of classified Chinese government documents provided evidence of mass detention camps for Uighurs in its western Xinjiang region.
U.S. rejects proposal for spy swap of ex-Marine held in Russia
The United States rejected on Wednesday a suggestion it seek a prisoner swap involving a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia for nearly a year over spying allegations, and called for his immediate release. Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by agents from Russia's Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 last year.
UK PM Johnson on course to win majority of 68 - YouGov model
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course to win a majority of 68 in parliament at the Dec. 12 election, according to a model from pollsters YouGov that accurately predicted the 2017 election. Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit by Jan. 31 if he wins the election after nearly four years of political crisis that has shocked allies of what was once considered one of the pillars of Western economic and political stability.
UK PM Johnson's lead over Labour slips to seven percent points: Savanta ComRes poll
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's lead over the opposition Labour Party has fallen to seven points ahead of the Dec. 12 election, according to a Savanta ComRes poll for the Daily Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday. Support for the Conservative Party fell a point to 41% since the weekend, while Labour gained two points to 34%, the poll showed.
Iraqi protesters set fire to Iran consulate in Najaf: police, first responders
Iraqi protesters stormed and set fire to the Iranian consulate in the southern city of Najaf on Wednesday, police and civil defense sources said. Staff at the consulate had evacuated before the incident, they said. Authorities announced a curfew shortly afterwards, state media reported.
A journey to Vietnam and a connection between two adopted children
The message appeared on my cellphone with an intriguing opening line: “I am sure you won’t remember hearing my real name, Nguyen thi Phuong Mai...” By the end of the message, I remembered everything.