National Politics

UK's Johnson defiant even as opponents tell him time is up

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected clamors for his resignation from the Cabinet and from across the Conservative Party. He is digging in his heels even as dozens of officials quit and previously loyal allies urged him to go after yet another scandal engulfed his leadership. Johnson has instead opted to fight for his political career and fired one of his Cabinet officials, Michael Gove. The Guardian’s front page on Thursday called Johnson “Desperate, deluded.” A fourth Cabinet minister resigned early Thursday, and some 40 junior government officials have also quit amid a furor over Johnson’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official and a string of issues before that.

Singapore hangs 2 drug traffickers despite opposition

Two drug traffickers have been hanged in Singapore, bringing the number of executions this year in the city-state to four. Activists said the prison department gave the belongings and death certificates for Malaysian Kalwant Singh and Singaporean Norasharee Gous to their families after their execution Thursday morning. Rights groups said the executions were a blatant flouting of international laws. Amnesty International said Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years. Kalwant, who was convicted in 2016 of bringing heroin into Singapore, was the second Malaysian to be executed this year. The hanging of another Malaysian in April sparked an outcry because he was believed to be mentally disabled.

Beijing mandates COVID vaccines to enter some public spaces

The Chinese capital has issued a mandate requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before they can enter some public spaces including gyms, museums and libraries. Exceptions are only available to those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons. Li Ang, a spokesperson at Beijing’s municipal health commission, says the list of public places does not include restaurants and offices. The health app that shows a person’s latest PCR test results has been updated to make it easier to access their vaccination status. The new mandate goes into effect on Monday.

Griner's Moscow trial resumes amid calls for US to seek deal

Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner returns to a Russian court Thursday as calls increase for Washington to do more to secure her release. Griner was detained in February at a Moscow airport after vape canisters with cannabis oil allegedly were found in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs. The trial of the Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist began last week but the second session was adjourned because two scheduled witnesses did not appear. President Joe Biden assured Griner's wife in a phone call on Wednesday that he's doing everything he can to try to obtain the athlete's release as soon as possible.

Russia's war in Ukraine to overshadow G20 talks in Bali

Foreign ministers from the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations are gathering in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali for talks bound to be dominated by the conflict in Ukraine despite an agenda focused on global cooperation and food and energy security. The one-day gathering will take place on Friday on the mostly Hindu “island of the gods” in the majority Muslim archipelago nation. Underscoring the backdrop of tensions hanging over the meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov stopped in various Asian capitals on their way to Bali, drumming up support and fortifying their ties in the region ahead of the talks.

Australia drops charge against lawyer over spying claim

Australia’s new government has dropped the 4-year-old prosecution of a lawyer over his alleged attempt to help East Timor prove Australia spied on it during multibillion-dollar oil and gas negotiations. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Thursday the decision was in the interests of justice, national security and Australia's relations with its neighbors. Australia has long refused to confirm or deny whether Australian spies bugged East Timor offices for an advantage in negotiations on undersea energy resources. East Timor had lobbied for the charge to be dropped. The East Timorese argued the 2006 treaty was invalid because Australia failed to negotiate in good faith. They agreed on a new maritime border treaty in 2018.

S Korean group floats balloons toward North amid animosities

A South Korea activist says he launched more huge balloons carrying COVID-19 relief items toward North Korea. It came days after the North vowed to sternly deal with such activities and made a highly questionable claim that things floating across the border were a source of the virus. Some experts say blaming South Korean balloons might be North Korea's way of trying to ease public complaints over its handling of the outbreak. The activists said the balloons floated Wednesday carried masks and vitamin C and fever-reducing tablets. Park is standing trial for a past leafleting campaign under a contentious South Korean law criminalizing such activities that took effect last year.

'Hopeless': Japan's weak opposition no match for ruling LDP

More than a dozen opposition parties are running in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, but they are no match for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s behemoth Liberal Democratic Party, which has reigned postwar Japan almost without interruption. The dominance of the LDP is taken for granted here, calling into question whether Japan enjoys a real democracy. On Sunday, 545 candidates from 15 parties are vying for 124 seats, or half of the 248-seat upper house, the less powerful of Japan’s two-chamber parliament. The strong result expected for Kishida would allow him to work on long-term policy goals. With little chance of governing on their own, opposition parties are focused on survival rather than a mutual effort to present a viable challenge.

Biden tells Griner's wife he's working to get her home

The White House says President Joe Biden has called the wife of WNBA player Brittney Griner, who is detained in Russia, and has pledged he's working to win her release as soon as possible. Biden's conversation with Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, comes after Brittney Griner wrote Biden a letter on Monday. In the letter, Brittney Griner told the president she feared she would spend forever in a Russian jail. The WNBA star is currently on trial in Russia, accused of possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Cherelle Griner says she is “grateful” for the outreach but will keep up the public pressure.

Court won't fast-track Arizona AG's election fight appeal

The Arizona Supreme Court is refusing to fast-track an appeal from Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich after a judge sided with Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs over election rules. The decision means an updated 2019 election manual will likely remain in place for the general election. A Yavapai County judge last month rejected Brnovich’s effort to order Hobbs to do a major rewrite of a nearly 300-page document she wrote last year that tells county election officials how to manage elections. Brnovich refused to approve it. The judge said Brnovich waited too long to sue over issues with her new rules. The Supreme Court rejected a direct appeal on Wednesday, saying the case did meet the standards for bypassing normal court rules.