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News in Asia!

PAKISTAN (BBC) The shooting of a 14-year-old activist has sparked outrage, both in Pakistan and abroad. On Tuesday, Malala Yousafzai, a campaigner for girls’ rights, was shot in the head while walking home from school in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan. Two other girls were injured in the attack. The Taliban took responsibility for the shooting, saying the young girl was targeted for “promoting secularism.” A spokesman for the Islamist militant group, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told BBC Urdu on Tuesday she would not be spared if she survived. Malala Yousafzai started a blog in 2009 at the age of 11 for BBC Urdu and chronicled life under Taliban rule. The militant group had taken control of the Swat Valley in 2007 and remained in power until they were driven out by Pakistani military forces in 2009. Writing under the pen name Gul Makai, she told of life under the Taliban’s oppressive rule where girl’s schools were ordered to be closed. Her real identity emerged later and after the Taliban left the area and she was nominated for an international children’s peace award and received a national bravery award. On Wednesday, surgeons were able to successfully remove the bullet from Yousafzai’s head. Though it has been reported that her condition has greatly improved, she is not completely out of danger and has been moved to another hospital with better facilities. Schools were also closed on Wednesday to protest the attack and a day of prayer was held for Malala on Friday. Update: Reports have been coming in saying that Malala’s chance for life are limited and the next 12 hours could be critical. An unidentified source says the young girl could be removed from the ventilators in the next few hours.

INDONESIA (ALJAZEERA) Survivors and relatives of 202 people killed in the night club bombings in Bali, gathered for the commemoration ceremony on the 10th anniversary of the attack. Hundreds of people attended the ceremony where security was tight with more than 2000 police and military guarding the memorial service on Friday. There had been reports of certain terrorists movements and it was enough to raise security. Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika said, “The loss is not just giving us grief, it is also giving us the strength to fight terrorism and all other extremist activities. The twin bombings, killed 202 people – including 88 Australians and seven Americans – and injured more than 240 others at the popular Sari Club and Paddy’s Pub in Kuta. The attacks were carried out by suicide bombers from the al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiah. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attended Friday’s event along with John Howard, who was Australian premier at the time of the attacks. “On September 11, terrorists attacked the great symbols of American prestige. Here in Bali, they attacked our people and, through them, sought to overwhelm our values.” Memorial services were also held throughout Australia.

CHINA (ALJAZEERA) According to the human rights group, Amnesty International, a construction boom has lead to the forcible eviction of people from their homes in land in recent years. A report released by the group on Thursday says, “The escalation of evictions in the past three years has been driven by massive stimulus spending after the global financial crisis.” The report also stated that, “The problem of forced evictions represents the single most significant source of popular discontent in China and a serious threat to social and political stability.” In the report, 40 forced evictions were examined in detail. It was found that nine culminated in the deaths of people resisting eviction. Some people who resist forced evictions end up in prison or in labor camps. The stories emerging from the investigation are shocking. In one case, a 70-year-old woman was reportedly buried alive by an excavator as she tried to stop workers demolishing her house. In another, a woman who petitioned authorities about her eviction was beaten and forced to undergo sterilization. Although Beijing approved a regulation making it more difficult for developers to forcefully evict landowners and destroy houses in 2011, Amnesty International claims that problems remain at the local level. Nicola Duckworth, senior director of research at Amnesty International in Hong Kong said, developers would cut residents off from essential services such as water and electricity, among other tactics. Given the size of the country, it’s easy to see how the central government would have a hard time regulating things at the local level. Although compensation is supposed to be given to those evicted, it does not always occur.

MALAYSIA (BBC) Four Muslim transsexuals have lost a court case challenging an Islamic law that bars them from dressing as women. The four men have been arrested repeatedly for wearing women’s clothing and hair accessories. Islamic Sharia law makes it illegal for men to pose as women and the four plaintiffs had appealed to a secular court to get the law overturned.  The high court in Seremban, Negri Sembilan state, denied the case to declare the Sharia law as unconstitutional. Sharia law is used in religious courts. The transsexuals’ lawyer, Aston Paiva, told the Associated Press news agency that they had asked the court to uphold freedom of expression and forbid gender discrimination. The four men who work as makeup artists were “distraught” after the verdict and were deciding whether to appeal.

INDIA (BBC) The state-owned railway system is planning on introducing high speed trains in order to cut down on travel time. Trains running at speeds up to 93 mph could be up and running within two years. The present average top speed is 53 mph. India’s fastest train, connecting the capital, Delhi, and the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh state, hits top speeds of 86-93mph only occasionally and mostly maintains the average speed just above 50 mph. There are 7000 passenger trains in operation, carrying an estimated 13 million passengers daily. Railway spokesman Anil Saxena says that seven train corridors had been identified to conduct “feasibility studies” for running bullet trains at speeds above 186 mph. Faster suburban trains could also be introduced to help commuters get to the city centers quicker. Railway experts say India has lagged behind in high-speed rail because it is expensive to build suitable tracks and purchase the trains. There is also concern over whether 67,543 miles of tracks are in good enough shape for high-speed trains.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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