World briefs

HONG KONG’s de facto central bank intervened to defend the local currency’s peg against the dollar for the second time in days. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority bought HKD3.925 billion of local currency.

CHINA-TAIWAN Attempts to block Beijing’s goal of bringing Taiwan under its control are like “stretching out an arm to block a car,” China said in its latest rhetorical broadside against the self-governing island republic’s independence-minded president.

AUSTRALIA The new U.S. ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse Jr., said yesterday that he’s concerned about the way China lends money to developing Pacific nations in what he describes as “payday loan diplomacy.”

INDONESIA Chinese and Russian hackers are attacking Indonesia’s voter data base in a bid to disrupt the country’s upcoming presidential election, according to a senior election commission official. As Indonesia prepares for simultaneous presidential and legislative polls on April 17, authorities are facing a wave of cyber incursions.

THAILAND’s military-installed prime minister has crooned a love song and boasted of his government’s achievements during an official visit to the country’s northeast ahead of the March 24 election. Prayuth Chan-ocha led a 2014 coup ousting an elected government and he appeared yesterday before a crowd of thousands on a trip that was nominally part of his official duties.

MALAYSIA’s government has ordered 34 schools in southern Johor state to close after toxic waste illegally dumped into a river sickened scores of students and teachers. Education Minister Maszlee Malek said in a statement that the shutdown was necessary because the situation had turned critical.

AFGHANISTAN Many Afghans are taking to social media, demanding harsh punishment for two men arrested in the kidnapping and killing of a little girl in Kabul, a case that has shaken the city’s residents. The police said yesterday that the men confessed to their crime.

BRAZIL Two young men, wearing hoods and carrying several weapons, opened fired at a school in southern Brazil, killing eight people before taking their own lives. Yesterday’s shooting happened in a public school in Suzano, a suburb of Sao Paulo. The two attackers were believed to be between 20 and 25 years old.

VATICAN Pope Francis marked his sixth anniversary as pontiff in prayer yesterday, attending a weeklong spiritual retreat with his closest advisers. Elsewhere in the world, one of his cardinals, George Pell, was sentenced for sex abuse and a new poll found American Catholics are increasingly questioning their faith because of the scandal.

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