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    Asian Insider 1 November: ISIS’ new leader, Whatsapp hack, a snake last seen in 1847

    Published On: 1 November 2019

    Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


    1 November 2019

    In today’s bulletin: ISIS names new leader no one has ever heard of; a Whatsapp hack has reportedly been used to spy on top government officials; China warns Hong Kong about “one country, two systems”, a snake not seen for 172 years is rediscovered; and more…



    In the wake of the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, experts had put forward several names of possible replacements. None of those names matched the one ISIS announced today: Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. The name is unknown and analysts are now scrambling to figure out who he is. Part of the challenge may be that al-Qurayshi is likely to have gone by a completely different name before being appointed as leader. But the speed at which ISIS was ready to name a replacement is sign the group intends to show it has not been affected by al-Baghdadi’s demise.

    Watch the Asian Insider video series episode on al-BaghdadiWhat now for Islamic extremists in South-east Asia



    A Whatsapp investigation reportedly found that senior government officials in at least 20 countries were targeted by hacking software that used the messaging app to take over users’ phones. The hack – that came into the spotlight earlier this week when Whastapp filed a lawsuit against Israeli hacking tool developer NSO Group – was initially thought to have targeted activists and journalists. NSO Group has said it sells its hacking software only to governments  to help them catch terrorists and criminals.

    See alsoIndia, Whatsapp’s biggest market, demands answers from the messaging service



    Chinese leaders emerging from the just-concluded fourth-plenum – a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s top-ranking officials – had some warnings for the territory that has been wracked by months of unrest. One said that China will not tolerate anything that challenges the “one country, two systems” principle while another hinted that China might move to introduce “patriotic education” in Hong Kong. The communique released after the plenum had also signalled that Beijing would take a tougher approach to the unrest.

    What else you need to know about Hong Kong today:

    Hong Kong protesters plan huge march after gatecrashing Halloween

    Analysis: Carrie Lam’s mission impossible



    China may not have been the first country to flip the switch on 5G, but it is now poised to jump into the lead in the race. It’s three major telcos rolled out 5G services today in 50 cities across the country, with plans starting from S$24 a month. This makes its network significantly broader than 5G in the US and significantly cheaper than 5G in South Korea, the only other country who has rolled out 5G nationwide.

    What good is 5GRacing to gain the edge with next-frontier 5G applications



    Singapore is not best known for its wildlife but species of snake not seen for 172 years was spotted in one of the city’s nature reserves last month. The line blind snake, or Ramphotyphlops lineatus, was found dead on a bike trail by a university lecturer in September. The status of the striped, worm-like snake, has been changed from indeterminate to “extant” though the population size is unknown. Several species have been rediscovered in Singapore in recent years, including two species of flower flies last seen more than two centuries ago.

    Other discoveries:

    Sightings of 2 species of flower flies last seen in Singapore 200 years ago

    Cheers to sponge lost and found

    NParks discovers 40 potentially new species of animals in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve



    Smoggy welcome:  German Chancellor Angela Merkel got a toxic welcome to India on Friday (Nov 1) as Prime Minister Narendra Modi treated her to a military parade in New Delhi in severely polluted air. Ignoring medical advice issued to the choking megacity’s 20 million inhabitants to wear pollution masks, Dr Merkel and Mr Modi reviewed a guard of honour at the presidential palace breathing in the air without protection.

    COP 25Spain has offered to host the United Nations COP25 climate change summit in Madrid, following Chile’s withdrawal as host amid raging street protests in the South American nation.

    Impeachment inquiry: Congress formally opened a new, public phase of its corruption investigation into Donald Trump on Thursday (Oct 31) as US lawmakers voted for the first time to advance the impeachment process targeting the US president.

    Controversial child abuse case: A Malaysian couple in Norway are facing child abuse charges, after being accused of hitting and pressuring their children to perform their prayers and forcing them to fast during Ramadan.


    These insights are produced by The Straits Times, the official media partner for the Asia House Global Trade Dialogue, taking place in Singapore on 7 November 2019.

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