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Asia (/ˈʒə, ˈʃə/ (About this soundlisten)) is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people () constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.

In general terms, Asia is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. The border of Asia with Europe is a historical and cultural construct, as there is no clear physical and geographical separation between them. It is somewhat arbitrary and has moved since its first conception in classical antiquity. The division of Eurasia into two continents reflects East–West cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences, some of which vary on a spectrum rather than with a sharp dividing line. The most commonly accepted boundaries place Asia to the east of the Suez Canal separating it from Africa; and to the east of the Turkish Straits, the Ural Mountains and Ural River, and to the south of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas, separating it from Europe.

China and India alternated in being the largest economies in the world from 1 to 1800 CE. China was a major economic power and attracted many to the east, and for many the legendary wealth and prosperity of the ancient culture of India personified Asia, attracting European commerce, exploration and colonialism. The accidental discovery of a trans-Atlantic route from Europe to America by Columbus while in search for a route to India demonstrates this deep fascination. The Silk Road became the main east–west trading route in the Asian hinterlands while the Straits of Malacca stood as a major sea route. Asia has exhibited economic dynamism (particularly East Asia) as well as robust population growth during the 20th century, but overall population growth has since fallen. Asia was the birthplace of most of the world's mainstream religions including Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, as well as many other religions.

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Selected panorama

150pxLuang Prabang, Laos
Credit: Benh Lieu Song

Panorama of the city of Luang Prabang in northern Laos, as seen from Phu Si hill. The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name, and after Laos's independence from France, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. This view features the Nam Khan river on the left, and Luang Prabang International Airport on the very far left.

Featured picture

Darvasa gas crater
Credit: Tormod Sandtorv

The Darvaza gas crater, also called the "Door to Hell" or the "Gates of Hell" by locals, a crater of natural gas that has been burning since 1971, is located in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. The crater is a major tourist attraction, with hundreds of visitors arriving each year.

Selected Country

Flag of Kuwait.svg

Kuwait (/kʊˈwt/ (About this soundlisten); Arabic: الكويتal-Kuwait, Gulf Arabic pronunciation: [ɪl‿ɪkweːt] or [lɪkweːt]), officially the State of Kuwait (Arabic: دولة الكويتDawlat al-Kuwait), is a country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. , Kuwait has a population of 4.5 million people: 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 3.2 million are expatriates. Expatriates account for 70% of the population.

Oil reserves were discovered in commercial quantities in 1938. In 1946, crude oil was exported for the first time. From 1946 to 1982, the country underwent large-scale modernization. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded, and later annexed, by Saddam's Iraq. The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait came to an end in 1991 after military intervention by a military coalition led by the United States. Kuwait is a major non-NATO ally of the United States. It is also a major ally of ASEAN, while maintaining a strong relationship with China.

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Featured biography

Modern artist's impression of Shen Kuo

Shen Kuo (Chinese: 沈括; 1031–1095) or Shen Gua, courtesy name Cunzhong (存中) and pseudonym Mengqi (now usually given as Mengxi) Weng (夢溪翁), was a Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman of the Song dynasty (960–1279). Excelling in many fields of study and statecraft, he was a mathematician, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, entomologist, anatomist, climatologist, zoologist, botanist, pharmacologist, medical scientist, agronomist, archaeologist, ethnographer, cartographer, geographer, geophysicist, mineralogist, encyclopedist, military general, diplomat, hydraulic engineer, inventor, economist, academy chancellor, finance minister, governmental state inspector, philosopher, art critic, poet, and musician. He was the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy in the Song court, as well as an Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality. At court his political allegiance was to the Reformist faction known as the New Policies Group, headed by Chancellor Wang Anshi (1021–1085).

In his Dream Pool Essays or Dream Torrent Essays (夢溪筆談; Mengxi Bitan) of 1088, Shen was the first to describe the magnetic needle compass, which would be used for navigation (first described in Europe by Alexander Neckam in 1187). Shen discovered the concept of true north in terms of magnetic declination towards the north pole, with experimentation of suspended magnetic needles and "the improved meridian determined by Shen's [astronomical] measurement of the distance between the pole star and true north". This was the decisive step in human history to make compasses more useful for navigation, and may have been a concept unknown in Europe for another four hundred years (evidence of German sundials made circa 1450 show markings similar to Chinese geomancer compasses in regard to declination). Read more...

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Gonu 2007-06-04 0900Z.jpg

Super Cyclonic Storm Gonu was an extremely powerful tropical cyclone that became the strongest cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea until surpassed by Cyclone Kyarr in 2019. The second named tropical cyclone of the 2007 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, Gonu developed from a persistent area of convection in the eastern Arabian Sea on June 1, 2007. With a favorable upper-level environment and warm sea surface temperatures, it rapidly intensified to attain peak winds of 240 km/h (150 mph) on June 4, according to the India Meteorological Department. Gonu weakened after encountering dry air and cooler waters, and early on June 6, it made landfall on the easternmost tip of Oman, becoming the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the Arabian Peninsula. It then turned northward into the Gulf of Oman, and dissipated on June 7, after making landfall in southern Iran, the first landfall in the country since 1898.

Intense tropical cyclones like Gonu are extremely rare in the Arabian Sea, and most storms in this area tend to be small and dissipate quickly. The cyclone caused 50 deaths and about $4.2 billion in damage (2007 USD) in Oman, where the cyclone was considered the nation's worst natural disaster. Gonu dropped heavy rainfall near the eastern coastline, reaching up to 610 mm (24 inches), which caused flooding and heavy damage. In Iran, the cyclone caused 28 deaths and $216 million in damage (2007 USD). Read more...

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Updated: 16:33, 30 December 2019

In the news

30 December 2019 – Lulu and Nana controversy
Chinese state news agency Xinhua reports that He Jiankui, who last year announced the birth of babies with modified DNA, is sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of 3 million yuan, for "illegal medical practice". Two other defendants are sentenced to a lesser degree. (CNN)
30 December 2019 –
A Yemeni man, suspected to be an Al-Qaeda militant, is sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for a terror attack that he carried out nearly two months ago against a group of Spanish theatre actors, wounding three of them. An accomplice is sentenced to 12 years of jail. (BBC)
29 December 2019 – Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)
Security Belt forces say a missile fired by the Houthis hit a military parade in the southern separatist-held town of al-Dhalea, killing at least five people and injuring others. There are no claims of responsibility for the attack. (Reuters)
29 December 2019 – War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Local officials say Taliban have killed 17 local militiamen in an attack on their base in Khwaja Bahauddin District, Takhar Province. A Taliban spokesman says they killed 21 gunmen. The Taliban propose a 7 to 10-day nationwide ceasefire, after which a peace deal with the United States would be signed. (Al Jazeera)
29 December 2019 – American-led intervention in Iraq
The United States Air Force carries out strikes using F-15E Strike Eagle jets and drones in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for the death of an American civil contractor in a rocket attack on K-1 Air Base in Kirkuk Governorate. The strikes were targeted at the Iranian-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah militia group. A spokesman for Kata'ib Hezbollah, says 19 of its fighters were killed and 35 injured in the American strikes, while vowing to respond. (Reuters) (FRANCE 24) (The Washington Post)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi condemns the unilateral American bombings inside Iraq, saying the U.S. strikes are a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty", and a "dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region." (USA Today)

Updated: 20:33, 30 December 2019

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