Saturday, October 31, 2009

WASHINGTON, — About 60 Yemeni Jews have moved to the United States since July under a clandestine operation by State Department officials to escape anti-Jewish attacks in their homeland, the Wall Street Journal reported today.
  • Only 200 to 300 Jews still live among Yemen’s 23 million Muslims. The murder of a Jew last year, a Shi’ite revolt in northern Yemen and the growth of Sunni Islamist fervour have fuelled their desire to leave the Arabian Peninsula country.
  • “The operation followed a year of mounting harassment, and was plotted with Jewish relief groups while Washington was signalling alarm about Yemen,” the Journal said.
  • State Department officials were not immediately available to comment on the story.
  • The journal said a first group of 17 arrived in New York on July 8, a day after leaving the Yemeni capital Sanaa on a flight for Frankfurt.
  • “In all, about 60 Yemeni Jews have resettled in the US since July; officials say another 100 could still come,” the paper said. “An undisclosed number of people have reached Israel,” it added.
  • The Journal quoted Yair Yaish, head of the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America, as saying he was barraged with “desperate calls from the community here saying we have to do something to get our families out.”
  • The US ambassador in Sanaa urged Yemeni ministers to facilitate the departure, and the government eventually agreed to issue exit permits, it said.
  • “It was the embassy’s view, and the Department concurred, that because of their vulnerability, we should consider them for resettlement,” the paper quoted a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration as saying.
  • The refugees are being settled in Monsey, New York, a suburban enclave of ultraorthodox Jews, the Journal said.
  • One man describing his final months in Yemen spoke of rocks shattering the windows of his house and car, the paper said. Another bore scars from rocks that hit his head and said he had not left his house for two months.
Source: Reuters
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The roof of the world is springing a dangerous leak. Accelerated melting of glaciers and changes in rainfall patterns in the high Himalayan mountain chain are posing a growing risk to people’s lives and livelihoods in the 10 river basins downstream.
  • When climate-change negotiators meet in Barcelona next week ahead of their gathering in Copenhagen, they should not forget the need for greater attention to the plight of the Himalayas.
  • The region is the source of the largest rivers in Asia, a vast hydrological system that supplies water to millions of people and plays an important role in global atmospheric circulation, biodiversity, rain-fed and irrigated agriculture and hydropower.
  • Sometimes called the Earth’s “Third Pole,” the snow and ice in the region constitute the principal river run-off from any single site on the planet. The Himalayan-Hindu Kush mountain glaciers form the water towers of Asia.
  • If the melting of the large ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic increases, it will cause ocean levels to rise. The ice and snow melt from the Himalayas, in combination with changes in the nature of precipitation, would have equally large consequences for millions of people.
  • Rivers that flow from these mountains wind their way through thousands of kilometers of grazing, agricultural and forest lands, and are a source of irrigation, drinking water and energy for some 1.3 billion people who live in the river basins. But the glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya range are shrinking at a fast pace.
  • Any long-term loss of natural fresh- water storage is likely to have severe effects on communities downstream. One relatively recent occurrence is the formation of lakes behind glacial debris that can burst and cause “glacial lake outburst floods,” or Glofs. These can do considerable damage downstream.
  • Perhaps even more important are changes in the magnitude and frequency of rainfall, which, in combination with a reduced amount of snow and ice, could have substantial impact on the availability of water. The effect on food production could be catastrophic.
  • There are other signs of climate change in the Himalayas. Flies can now be found at Mount Everest base camps. Mountain populations nearly 3,500 meters above sea level are reporting mosquitoes for the first time. In the past, cooler temperatures protected populations from these disease-carrying bugs.
  • Himalayan communities need support to monitor and take action to adapt to a changing climate. For example, Tibetan nomads already move yaks to alpine meadows much earlier than was their traditional practice. Farmers in the floodplains of Bangladesh build houses on stilts, and Nepali farmers store crop seeds against potential new disasters.
  • Water storage should be developed in the mountain region to deal with the problem of too much water during the monsoon and too little during the dry season. Increased forest recovery and better land management are essential.
  • Himalayan institutions and their funding have been inadequate to carry out long-term assessments, and countries in the region have not agreed on ways to share information.
  • International models for climate change capture global warming trends on a broad scale, but do not adequately follow the events taking place in the large Himalayan drainage basins. For this, well-equipped baseline stations and long-term monitoring, networking and cooperation within and outside the region are essential.
  • Better disaster forecasting and management, coordinated research and data collection and early warning systems all require financial support and greater international attention. As the two biggest countries in the region, China and India should cooperate with other Himalayan countries instead of remaining locked in cold conflict.
  • Disaster is not destiny if information, innovation and early warning systems are shared and expanded. But without international support, the “Third Pole” and the millions of people who depend on it are in jeopardy.
Source: NYT
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

HELSINKI – It's five times larger than the Titanic, has seven neighborhoods, an ice rink, a golf course and a 750-seat outdoor amphitheater. The world's largest cruise ship is finally finished and Friday it began gliding toward its home port in Florida.
  • The Oasis of the Seas will meet its first obstacle Saturday when exits the Baltic Sea and must squeeze under the Great Belt Bridge, which is just 1 foot taller than the ship — even after its telescopic smokestacks are lowered.
  • To be on the safe side, the ship — which rises about 20 stories high — will speed up so that it sinks deeper into the water when it passes below the span, said Lene Gebauer Thomsen, a spokeswoman for the operator of the Great Belt Bridge.
  • Once home, the $1.5 billion floating extravaganza will have more, if less visible, obstacles to duck: a sagging U.S. economy, questions about the consumer appetite for luxury cruises and criticism that such sailing behemoths are damaging to the environment and diminish the experience of traveling.
  • Travel guide writer Arthur Frommer has railed against Oasis and other mega ships he calls "floating resorts," suggesting that voyages on such large vessels are "a dumbing down of the cruise experience."
  • Oasis of the Seas, which is nearly 40 percent larger than the industry's next-biggest ship, was conceived years before the economic downturn caused desperate cruise lines to slash prices to fill vacant berths.
  • It sets sail as cruise lines clamor to increase capacity, adding newer and bigger ships to their fleets.
  • The Oasis of the Seas has 2,700 cabins and can accommodate 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew members. Company officials are banking that its novelty will help guarantee its success.
  • The enormous ship features various "neighborhoods" — parks, squares and arenas with special themes. One of them will be a tropical environment, including palm trees and vines among the total 12,000 plants on board. They will be planted after the ship arrives in Fort Lauderdale.
  • In the stern, a 750-seat outdoor theater, modeled on an ancient Greek amphitheater doubles as a swimming pool by day and an ocean front theater by night. The pool has a diving tower with spring boards and two 33-foot high-dive platforms. An indoor theater seats 1,300 guests.
  • Accommodations include loft cabins, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and 1,600-square-foot luxury suites with balconies overlooking the sea or promenades.
  • One of the "neighborhoods," named Central Park, features a square with boutiques, restaurants and bars, including a bar that moves up and down three decks, allowing customers to get on and off at different levels.
  • The liner also has four swimming pools, volleyball and basketball courts, and a youth zone with theme parks and nurseries for children.
  • Frommer suggests that such ships should never even leave port: "Who would know the difference?"
  • Paul Motter, editor of, has said that other critics have also complained that these huge ships flood ports of call, dumping 5,000 people all at once in an area.
  • Motter said suites are sold out for most of the sailings. Junior suites are mostly sold out and there is availability in inside, ocean view and balcony rooms.
  • He said ticket prices are still high for the Oasis, running $1,299 to $4,829, compared with $509 to $1,299 on the company's next most popular ship, Freedom of the Seas.
  • While environmentalists have said that the ship does not do enough to reduce air pollution and burns more fuel than a land-based resort, engineers at shipbuilder STX Finland said environmental considerations played an important part in planning the vessel. It dumps no sewage into the sea, reuses its waste water and consumes 25 percent less power than similar, but smaller, cruise liners.
  • The Oasis of the Seas is due to make its U.S. debut on Nov. 20 at its home port, Port Everglades in Florida
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Friday, October 30, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Typhoon Mirinae, the fourth cyclone to wallop the Philippines in a month, was barreling toward the capital of Manila, where some districts are still submerged by recent massive flooding, forecasters said Friday.
  • Authorities closed schools, grounded ferries and army troops mobilized a battalion with rubber boats ready for rescue operations in the capital and more than 25 other provinces. Trucks with food and other relief goods were dispatched to northern provinces in the typhoon's path.
  • Mirinae, Korean for the Milky Way is forecast to make landfall Friday evening in the eastern province of Quezon, sparing the country's rice bowl in the heart of the main Luzon Island before passing south of Manila.
  • "If the center does not pass directly over Manila, we will still surely feel it," said chief government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz.
  • The typhoon, packing winds of 93 miles (150 kilometers) per hour and gusts of up to 115 mph (185 kph), is expected to exit Luzon into the South China Sea later on Saturday.
  • The government's disaster agency told people to prepare 72-hour survival kits, including food items like rice plus a radio set, flashlights and batteries, clothing and first aid.
Source: AP
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Friday, October 30, 2009

In a limbo: Malaysian BOCs Tracy (far left), Edward (far right) and Dee (second from right) together with CIAC’s Malaysian chairman Edmond Yeo (second from left), solicitor Christine Lee (third from left) and London Citizens’ Jessica Jones (fourth from left) and Neil Jameson (behind her) after the All-Party Parliament Group for Chinese meeting in London.
LONDON: Britain has agreed to look into the plight of more than 500 Malaysian British Overseas Citizens (BOCs) who have found themselves stateless in the country.
  • Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said he would meet with the ex-Malaysians in a predicament after they were misled into giving up their passports as a route towards acquiring British citizenship.
  • He described the BOCs’ position as a “hangover” from Britain’s colonial past which the Government was willing to pursue.
  • This is the first time the Malaysian BOCs have had the opportunity to press for a meeting with the minister following their peace rally in July to lobby for British citizenship.
  • They had acquired BOC status by virtue of being born in the two former British colonies before 1983 following an amendment to the British Nationality Act, which created a residual BOC category.
  • Earlier, in his written response to London Citizens, a grassroots organisation, Woolas said the UK Border Agency’s position on Malaysian citizenship was based on a recent decision by the Immigration Appeal Tribunal in a case involving Ting and others.
  • According to reports made available to The Star, the tribunal had dismissed the applications of 122 BOCs, citing among the reasons, that they were not entitled to British citizenship.
  • Woolas said it had been the agency’s understanding and the Malaysian Govern­ment’s position, that acquisition of a BOC passport by a Malaysian citizen was sufficient justification for the deprivation of Malaysian citizenship.
  • However, he said the tribunal took the view in the case of Lim, Teh and Ting that the relevant articles of the Malaysian Constitution did not give reasons to conclude that a BOC lost Malaysian nationality by acquiring or using a BOC passport.
Source: mStar
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Friday, October 30, 2009

New Delhi, India - Most Indian mothers want their daughters to marry decent men who make a good living. Now, in parts of rural India, women have a new -- and rather unusual -- demand for matrimony: a toilet.
  • "No toilet, no bride," has become a rallying cry for women raising a stink about the lack of a basic amenity.
  • They see it as a human rights issue, especially in villages where plumbing can be nonexistent.
  • It was that way in Sunariyan Kalan in the northern state of Haryana. Sumitra Rathi said village women had no choice but to relieve themselves without privacy.
  • They would go before sunrise or hold it in until darkness fell once again to avoid being seen. Or they would walk out to the fields and endure embarrassment. They don't want their daughters to face the same indignity.
  • "Many of them do make serious inquiries from the families of grooms about latrines," she said.
  • As a member of the local council, Rathi has helped build toilets in 250 houses in Sunariyan Kalan since 1996.
  • Still, about five dozen homes lack covered bathrooms.
  • The problem is so big in India that the country would need to construct 112,000 toilets every day if it wants to meet its sanitation goal by 2012, according to the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • Even as India emerges as a global economic power, millions of its citizens still live in poverty. The government estimates that less than 30 percent of villagers have access to latrines, which poses serious health risks and increases the threat of deadly diseases like typhoid and malaria.
  • To help overcome the enormity of the sanitation challenge, the government is offering incentives to encourage villagers to build bathrooms. The poorest
  • of the poor in Haryana stands to receive Rs. 2,200 ($48) for each toilet they install, said P.S. Yadav, a state coordinator for the sanitation campaign.
  • The incentives are especially attractive to women, for whom the problem transcends health issues.
  • Local women, often illiterate, have taken a keen interest in bathroom construction, said Roshni Devi, the council chief in Haryana's Kothal Khurd village.
  • And through it, they have gained a sense of self, making the lowly toilet seat feel more like a lofty throne.
Source: CNN
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

DETROIT, USA — Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested several members of a suspected radical Sunni Islam group in the U.S., killing one of its leaders at a shootout in a Michigan warehouse, the U.S. attorney's office said.
  • Agents were trying to arrest Luqman Ameen Abdullah, 53, at a Dearborn warehouse on charges that included conspiracy to sell stolen goods and illegal possession and sale of firearms. Authorities also conducted raids elsewhere to try to round up 10 followers named in a federal complaint.
  • Abdullah refused to surrender, fired a weapon and was killed by gunfire from agents, FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.
  • In the 43-paged complaint unsealed Wednesday, the FBI said Abdullah, also known as Christopher Thomas, was an imam, or prayer leader, of a radical group named Ummah whose primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the United States.
  • No one was charged with terrorism. But Abdullah was "advocating and encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States," FBI agent Gary Leone said in an affidavit.
  • He told them it was their "duty to oppose the FBI and the government and it does not matter if they die," Leone said.
  • Abdullah regularly preached anti-government rhetoric and was trained, along with his followers, in the use of firearms, martial arts and swords, the agent said.
  • Leone said members of the national group mostly are black and some converted to Islam while in prisons across the United States.
  • "Abdullah preaches that every Muslim should have a weapon, and should not be scared to use their weapon when needed," Leone wrote.
  • Seven of the 10 people charged with Abdullah were in custody, including a state prison inmate, the U.S. attorney's office said. Three were still at large. Another man not named in the complaint also was arrested.
Source: FoxNews
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

TORONTO – Two coyotes attacked a promising young musician as she was hiking alone in a national park in eastern Canada, and authorities said she died Wednesday of her injuries.
  • The victim was identified as Taylor Mitchell, 19, a singer-songwriter from Toronto who was touring her new album on the East Coast.
  • She was hiking solo on a trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia on Tuesday when the attack occurred. She was airlifted to a Halifax hospital in critical condition and died Wednesday morning, authorities said.
  • Coyotes, which also are known as prairie wolves, are found from Central America to the United States and Canada.
  • Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft said coyote attacks are extremely rare because the animals are usually shy.
  • Bancroft, a retired biologist with Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources, said it's possible the coyotes thought Mitchell was a deer or other prey.
  • "It's very unusual and is not likely to be repeated," Bancroft said. "We shouldn't assume that coyotes are suddenly going to become the big bad wolf."
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Brigdit Leger said other hikers heard Mitchell's screams for help on Tuesday and called emergency police dispatchers.
  • Police who were in the area reached the scene quickly and shot one of the animals, apparently wounding it. But the wounded animal and a companion coyote managed to get away.
  • Paul Maynard of Emergency Health Services said Mitchell already was in critical condition when paramedics arrived on the scene and had multiple bite wounds over her entire body.
  • "She was losing a considerable amount of blood from the wounds," he said.
  • An official with Parks Canada said they blocked the entrance to the trail where Mitchell was attacked and were trying to find the animals to determine what prompted such an unusual attack.
  • "There's been some reports of aggressive animals, so it's not unknown," said Helene Robichaud, the park's superintendent. "But we certainly never have had anything so dramatic and tragic."
  • Mitchell was an up-and-coming folk and country musician who was nominated for a 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award in the Young Performer of the Year category.
  • "Words can't begin to express the sadness and tragedy of losing such a sweet, compassionate, vibrant, and phenomenally talented young woman," Lisa Weitz, Mitchell's manager, said in an e-mail. "She just turned 19 two months ago, and was so excited about the future."
Source: AP
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

KOTA BARU, Malaysia - Kelantan Women, Family and Health committee chairman Wan Ubaidah Omar suggested that awards be given to assemblymen for marrying single mothers should they decide to take another wife.
  • Her suggestion drew support from backbenchers. All of them men who started thumping their palms on the table at the Kelantan State Assembly on Wednesday.
  • She said the assemblymen could increase their quota to help single mothers with young children and it would help greatly if the assemblymen assisted by marrying them.
  • Her statement prompted house speaker Nassuruddin Daud to ask Wan Ubaidah to explain the word “quota.”
  • “What I meant by quota is the number of wives; awards should be given to learned House members who take the lead in doing this and also for those who have already married single mothers.
  • “This would help to reduce the number of single mothers in the state,” she said in reply to a question by Hassan Mahmood (PAS-Tawang), who had asked what was being done to reduce the number of divorce cases and what efforts were being taken by the state government to help single mothers.
  • To a supplementary question, Wan Ubaidah said that based on state records, there were 16,500-registered single mothers below the age of 60 in Kelantan and this figure did not include those who had been left in the lurch by their husbands.
  • She said one dilemma facing some single mothers in Kelantan and the country as a whole was that many of them could not register at the Welfare Department or related agencies because their husbands had left them without filing for divorce.
  • She said that she agreed with the call by Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Nik Mat to whip irresponsible husbands who left their wives high and dry without any reason.
  • She said Kelantan spent RM2mil annually to look after the welfare of single mothers who had no source of income.
  • “Apart from that, we have organised entrepreneurial workshops to help single mothers earn a living.
  • “The government has also organised talks to educate the immediate families of single mothers to take the initiative to help and not leave them alone to fend for themselves.
  • “We have had similar educational talks for husbands who had divorced their wives to encourage them to pay alimony to help their ex-wives get on with their lives,” she added.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The most peaceful country for 2009? New Zealand. The least? Iraq, not surprisingly. Where does the U.S. fit in? Thanks to such factors as its high incarceration and homicide rates, as well as its overseas military operations, it ranks a relatively bellicose 83rd.
No. 1

New Zealand
GDP per capita: $28,980*
Life Expectancy: 79.9**
Mean Years of Schooling: 19.5***
Unemployment: 4.1%****
After ranking toward the top in previous surveys by the Global Peace Index, New Zealand earns the title of the most peaceful country in 2009. The small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean is home to only 4 million people, about 80% of whom live in cities. Referring to improved relations between indigenous Maori peoples and European settlers, GPI founder Steve Killelea says New Zealand provides an example of an ability "to bridge an ethnic divide and have a peaceful nation."

No. 2 (Tie)

GDP per capita: $62,140
Life Expectancy: 78.1
Mean Years of Schooling: 16.7
Unemployment: 1.8%
Denmark is the second-most peaceful nation for the second year in a row, sharing its spot with neighboring Norway. Like all Scandinavian countries, Denmark enjoys good foreign relations and has low levels of crime, weapons possession, and organized conflict within and outside its borders. A member of NATO, Denmark had 500 troops in Iraq from June 2003 until their withdrawal in August 2007.

No. 2 (Tie)

GDP per capita: $93,759
Life Expectancy: 80.3
Mean Years of Schooling: 17.5
Unemployment: 2.6%
Sharing second place with Denmark, Norway’s economy is rich with natural resources; oil and gas reserves discovered in the 1960s make it the third-largest gas exporter and seventh-largest oil exporter, according to the The World Factbook published by the CIA. The Norwegian government provides its citizens with a vast safety net of social welfare programs such as universal health care, and received maximum 10 scores for a highly clean electoral process, political participation, and civil liberties. The country’s participation in external conflict continues to be limited to peacekeeping, and it has been reducing its military resources since 2002.

No. 4

GDP per capita: $52,390
Life Expectancy: 81.2
Mean Years of Schooling: 18.2
Unemployment: 1.6%
Badly hurt by the global economic downturn in the fall of 2008, Iceland drops three places from its No. 1 spot last year. The investment banking industry, which fueled a ninefold rise in the country's stock market from 2003 to 2007 (U.S. market doubled in the same period), has since collapsed. Although violent demonstrations resulted in some injuries, but no deaths, and the coalition government collapsed in January 2009, GPI’s Killelea says Iceland’s ability to remain at the top of the list shows that it is "a good example of how peaceful nations are more resilient and able to rebound than countries that are more fragile and likely to crack under stress."

No. 5

GDP per capita: $49,720
Life Expectancy: 79.8
Mean Years of Schooling: 15.3
Unemployment: 3.8%
Neutral since 1955, this small mountainous country rose five places this year to claim the top spot for a non-Scandinavian European country. While Austria’s military expenditure as a percentage of GDP is one of the lowest in the world, it has sent troops on peacekeeping missions in Serbia and Afghanistan. Minimal crime and civil unrest complement good relations with neighboring countries. Austria’s score for its respect for human rights, while still good, is the worst of any country in the top 10. In July 2008, its grand coalition government folded after just 18 months in office.

No. 6

GDP per capita: $51,943
Life Expectancy: 80.8
Mean Years of Schooling: 15.8
Unemployment: 6.2%
Sweden boasts one of the lowest levels of incarceration in the world and received perfect scores for a highly clean electoral process, functioning of government, political participation, and civil liberties. Yet its rank was hurt by its role as a heavy supplier of major conventional weapons—it’s one of the highest such suppliers in the world per capita. This European Union-member nation has not engaged in any war in almost two centuries, according to the CIA's World Factbook, but in recent years has committed peacekeeping troops to U.N. efforts in Afghanistan, Chad, the Balkans, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

No. 7

GDP per capita: 38,580
Life Expectancy: 82.3
Mean Years of Schooling: 15
Unemployment: 4%
With the third-largest economy after the U.S. and China, Japan is down two places from last year in the Global Peace Index. The California-sized cluster of islands in the North Pacific Ocean is home to about 127 million people, who enjoy some of the world’s lowest crime and homicide rates and are banned from possessing firearms. Japan is a major exporter of fish but has no natural energy resources to speak of, making it the world's largest importer of coal and liquefied natural gas and the second-largest importer of oil, according to the World Factbook.

The next 17 world' peaceful countries
11.Czech Republic
Source: Business Week
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

PESHWAR,Pakistan - A car bomb has exploded in a crowded market in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing at least 80 people and wounding about 100, officials have said.
  • A huge blaze erupted after the explosion on Wednesday, which came just hours after Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrived in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, for talks with government officials.
  • "The death toll is more than 80. Most of them are women and children," Sahib Gul, a doctor at the city's main hospital said.
  • "We are facing a shortage of blood. I appeal on citizens to come and donate blood," another doctor was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
  • The blast caused serious damage in the area, and rescue workers said people were trapped under collapsed shops and buildings.
  • The blast comes as Pakistan's military is fighting members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the country's semi-autonomous tribal region of South Waziristan.
  • The military launched its offensive nearly two weeks ago, pitting around 30,000 Pakistani troops against an estimated 10-12,000 Taliban fighters.
Source: The Agencies
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

KABUL – Taliban militants wearing suicide vests stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in the heart of the Afghan capital early Wednesday, killing 12 people — including six U.N. staff — in the biggest in a series of attacks intended to undermine next month's presidential runoff election.
  • One of the six U.N. dead was an American, the U.S. Embassy said. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the early morning assaults, which also included rocket attacks at the presidential palace and the city's main luxury hotel.
  • One rocket struck the "outer limit" of the presidential palace but caused no casualties, presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said. Another slammed into the grounds of the Serena Hotel, which is favored by many foreigners.
  • The device failed to explode but filled the lobby with smoke, forcing guests and employees to flee to the basement, according to an Afghan witness who asked that his name not be used for security reasons.
  • President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack as "an inhuman act" and called on the army and police to strengthen security around all international institutions.
  • The chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said the attack "will not deter the U.N. from continuing all its work" in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks in a telephone call to The Associated Press, saying three militants with suicide vests, grenades and machine guns carried out the guest house assault.
Source: AP
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO : Legions of Facebook users united in protest on Monday, demanding that the world's most popular social-networking service undo recent changes to its home page.
  • A "Change Facebook Back to Normal" group at the website claimed slightly more than a million members as once again, Facebook's penchant for change triggered ire among users that prefer things remain the same.
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," a Facebook user with the screen name Carlos Deleon wrote on a protest group chat page.
  • On Friday, Facebook modified its news feed feature to let members of the world's leading social-networking service catch up on tidbits they may have missed while away from the website.
  • Facebook now lets members switch between getting real time streams of news or activities taking place, and highlights of what friends have shared online in the preceding 24 hours.
  • News Feed picks re-cap stories based on factors including how many friends have liked and commented on them.
  • The Live Feed option funnels updates and news about online friends' activities to Facebook home pages as the information surfaces.
  • "When we redesigned the Facebook home page last March, we heard from millions of users whose feedback was gathered and considered in developing News Feed and Live Feed," Facebook said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.
  • "Whenever we launch new products, we listen carefully to our users about what specific changes we can make to improve their experiences on the site."
  • Some Facebook users on Monday posted instructions describing a way to reset the former news feed mode to home pages by making "status updates" a default option.
  • "We encourage people to continue to send us constructive, detailed feedback and are committed to using it to inform how we build and improve the site for everyone," Facebook said.
Source: AFP
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For those who value their freedom of expression as much as health, wealth, and prosperity, then Finland is the place to be, with an index ranking the Nordic nation the best in the world.
  • The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index, published on Tuesday and compiled by the Legatum Institute, an independent policy, advocacy and advisory organization, ranked 104 countries which are home to 90 percent of the world's population.
  • The index is based on a definition of prosperity that combines economic growth with the level of personal freedoms and democracy in a country as well as measures of happiness and quality of life.
  • With the exception of Switzerland, which came in at number 2, Nordic countries dominated the top 5 slots, with Sweden in third place followed by Denmark and Norway.
  • The top 10 were all also Western nations, with Australia (6th place) and Canada (7th place) both beating the United States, ranked 9th. Britain came in at number 12.
  • In Asia, Japan was the region's highest ranked country at number 16, followed by Hong Kong (18th place) and Singapore (23rd place) and Taiwan (24th place).
  • Cambodia came in the 93rd slot while China, with its tight political controls, came in 75th despite booming economic growth.
  • And the world's least prosperous country? According to the Legatum Index, it is Zimbabwe, with Sudan and Yemen close runners-up.
Source: Reuters
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CAIRO - Egypt's transportation minister Mohammed Mansur resigned on Tuesday over a train crash that killed 18 people earlier this week, the official news agency MENA reported.
  • The agency said President Hosni Mubarak has accepted Mansur's resignation, in which he took responsibility for the deadly accident that also injured 36 people.
  • The accident happened when a passenger train drove full-speed into the back of another southwest of the Egyptian capital Cairo on Saturday. The first train had made an unscheduled halt, apparently after the driver saw a water buffalo on the track.
  • Egypt's national railway system is the biggest in the Middle East, with early 5,000 km (3,150 miles) of track, according to Egyptian National Railways, which employs 86,000 people.
  • Egypt's deadliest ever train crash happened in February 2002 when the bodies of at least 361 passengers were recovered from a train following a fire.
Source: The Agency
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PALERMO, Sicily – Imagine a Sicilian builder transferred from prison to house arrest tried to get himself locked up again to escape arguments with his wife at home, Italian media reported .
  • Santo Gambino, 30, did time for dumping hazardous waste before being moved to house arrest in Villabate, outside the Sicilian capital, Palermo, Italian news agencies reported.
  • Gambino went to the police station and asked to be put away again to avoid arguing with his wife, who accused him of failing to pay for the upkeep of their two children.
  • Police charged him with violating the conditions of his sentence and made him go home and patch things up with his wife.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SYDNEY – Australia may have to force people to evacuate coastal areas as rising sea levels threaten thousands of homes, an official report has warned.
  • The National Sea Change Taskforce said urgent action was needed to protect Australia's coast from seas expected to rise more than 80 centimetres (31 inches) this century.
  • The sweeping parliamentary report noted that 80 percent of Australians live in coastal areas with about 711,000 homes within three kilometres (about two miles) of the sea.
  • It urged authorities to consider "the possibility of a government instrument that prohibits continued occupation of the land or future building development on the property due to sea hazard".
  • The move was among dozens of recommendations in the report including a national coastline plan, greater cooperation between different authorities and a revised building code to cope with storm surges and soil erosion.
  • Australia's major cities are all in coastal areas, as well as the homes of some six million people outside the main population centres, according to the report which was tabled in parliament on Monday.
Source: AFP
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BELAGA,Malaysia: Many Penan families living in the Belaga district of central Sarawak have been affected by the clearing of jungles for the construction of the RM3bil Murum Dam.
  • The jungles being cleared for the dam, located 70km inland from the Bakun Dam, have a large population of Penans, many of whom have lived in isolation from the outside world for centuries.
  • The clearing of the jungles has affected their food supply and they have been forced to migrate in search of food.
  • Catholic priest for the Belaga parish, Sylvester Ding, recently came across a group of semi-nomadic Penans who had wandered out of Murum while searching for food.
  • “A community made up of some 20 Penan families from Murum have now moved out from the dam area because they are short of food. We found them wandering near the Bakun resettlement site in Sungai Asap.
  • “They are now taking temporary shelter in a long-house,” said Ding.
  • He added there might be more needy Penans who would be forced to migrate once the dam construction was in full-swing.
  • He hoped the Government would look into the plight of the Murum Penans. There are some 1,800 Penans living in eight long-houses along the Murum River who will have to make way for the construction of the dam.
  • The Star found that the access road into the Murum Dam site has already been paved. The construction of the site office is in progress and the terracing of the hillslopes on both sides of the Murum River is being carried out.
Source: mStar
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Monday, October 26, 2009

KABUL – Helicopter crashes killed 14 Americans on Monday in the deadliest day for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in more than four years. The deaths came as President Barack Obama prepared to meet his national security team for a sixth full-scale conference on the future of the troubled war.
  • In the first crash, a helicopter went down in the west of the country after leaving the scene of a firefight with insurgents, killing 10 Americans, seven troops and three civilians working for the government. Eleven American troops, one U.S. civilian and 14 Afghans were also injured.
  • In a separate incident, two U.S. Marine helicopters, one UH-1 and an AH-1 Cobra collided in flight before sunrise over the southern province of Helmand, killing four American troops and wounding two more, Marine spokesman Capt. Bill Pelletier said.
  • U.S. authorities have ruled out hostile fire in the collision but have not given a cause for the other fatal crash in the west. Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmedi claimed Taliban fighters shot down a helicopter in northwest Badghis province's Darabam district. It was impossible to verify the claim and unclear if he was referring to the same incident.
Source: AP
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Monday, October 26, 2009

JERUSALEM – Hundreds of Israeli police are patrolling Jerusalem's most volatile shrine, a day after fierce clashes with Palestinian protesters.
  • The hilltop compound claimed by both Arabs and Jews was quiet Monday, but there was a massive police presence on high alert.
  • On Sunday, officers armed with batons and stun grenades faced off against masked Palestinians hurling rocks and plastic chairs.
  • Conflicting claims to the plateau, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, lie at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
  • In the past, even low-level scuffles there have degenerated into drawn-out conflicts.
  • Israel has controlled the site since 1967, but has left day-to-day administration to a Muslim clerical body.
Source: AP
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Singapore Airlines has been ranked as the world's best airline for the 3rd time in a decade. The awards are given every year by the Skytrax, which conducts a world airline survey.
  • Singapore Airlines also bagged the award for offering the 'Best Business Class'. Singapore Airlines took off with three flights per week in the beginning. Today, their network spans across 103 destinations in 41 countries.
  • Singapore Airlines was ranked 17th in 'Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies' rankings in 2007. The airline is known the world over for its innovation, safety and service excellence and profitability.
  • The airline boasts of excellent inflight telecommunication, entertainment services and luxurious amenities that make flying a memorable experience.
  • The airline started its services on 1 May 1947. Singapore Airlines is also the first airline to fly the world's largest aircraft, the A380. The average age of the passenger fleet is about 6 years.
10 Best Airlines Worldwide 2009
1. Singapore Airlines
2. Cathay Pacific Airways
3. Thai Airways International
4. Emirates, Virgin Atlantic
5. British Airways
6. Jet Airways
7. Japan Airlines
8.Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa
9. Qantas
10. Air France, Qatar Airways
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Monday, October 26, 2009
Thousands of Sydney residents picnic on 10,000 square metres of grass at the inaugural 'Breakfast On The Bridge' event spanning the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • The unorthodox breakfast involving some 6000 Sydneysiders was part of the Crave Sydney festival which includes numerous food, art, music, comedy and entertainment events across the city.
  • People eat breakfast at the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Central Sydney October 25, 2009.
  • Thousands of people attended the Breakfast on the Bridge event as part of the Crave festival, one month of food, art, comedy and outdoor fun, which runs until October 31.
Source: AP
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two suicide car bombs exploded in downtown Baghdad Sunday, killing at least 136 people and delivering a powerful blow to the heart of the fragile city's government in the worst attack of the year, officials said.
  • While violence has dropped dramatically in the country since the height of the sectarian tensions, such bombings like Sunday's demonstrate the precarious nature of the security gains and the insurgency's abilities to still pull off devastating attacks in the center of what is supposed to be one of Baghdad's most secure areas.
  • Black smoke could be seen billowing from the frantic scene, as emergency service vehicles sped to the area. Even civilian cars were being commandeered to transport the wounded to hospitals.
  • "The walls collapsed and we had to run out," said Yasmeen Afdhal, 24, an employee of the Baghdad provincial administration, which was targeted by one of the car bombs. "There are many wounded, and I saw them being taken away. They were pulling victims out of the rubble, and rushing them to ambulances."
  • The car bombs, which targeted the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial administration, come as Iraq is preparing for elections scheduled this January, and many Iraqi officials have warned that violence by insurgents intent destabilizing the country could rise.
  • There have been no claims of responsibility so far, but massive car bombs have been the hallmark of the Sunni insurgents seeking to overthrow the country's Shiite-dominated government.
Source: AP
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

CAIRO, Egypt - A passenger train collided with the back of a second one just outside of Cairo on Saturday, destroying several passenger cars and killing at least 25 people, a police official said.
  • At least 55 others were wounded in the accident, which occurred in Girzah district of 6th of October province, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
  • Emergency personnel worked to extract the dead and wounded from the trains, said the official.
  • The train that caused the collision was headed from Cairo to the southern city of Assuit, while the one ahead of it was traveling from Giza province to the oasis town of Fayoum, said Egypt's official Middle East News Agency.
  • Egypt has a poor safety record on its railways, and there are several fatal accidents each year, usually blamed on poorly maintained equipment.
  • The country's worst railway disaster took place in February 2002 when a train heading to southern Egypt caught fire, killing 363 people.
  • More recently, a passenger train barreling toward a station collided with a second train in August 2006, killing 58 people. The train belonged to the country's oldest and most dilapidated third-class train service.
  • The crash stirred a wave of outrage among Egyptians over the poor state of transportation infrastructure. The transportation minister, Mohammed Mansour, acknowledged after the accident that the rail system was in need of a major overhaul and was severely underfunded.
  • The incident prompted the government to approve an immediate allocation of $860 million to develop the rail infrastructure, plus another $600 million in loans to the sector later in that year.
Source: AP
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

From Asia to Europe via the Middle East, activists staged lively events addressing world leaders and to mark 50 days before the UN climate summit.
  • Kicking off with thousands gathering on the steps of Sydney's iconic Opera House, global warming protests have taken place around the world.
  • Many waved placards bearing the logo 350, referring to 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere which scientists say must not be exceeded to avoid runaway global warming.
  • France's politicians received a "wake up" call from several hundred Parisians who chose clocks as their symbol.
  • Protesters who met in a central square had set their alarm clocks and mobile phones to ring at 12:18 p.m. (1018 GMT) in reference to the closing date of the summit, which lasts from December 7 to 18.
  • The summit is considered crucial as world leaders will try to thrash out a new treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions in place of the Kyoto Protocol which will expire in 2012.
  • In Berlin, some 350 protesters wearing masks with the face of German Chancellor Angela Merkel came together in front of the Brandenburg Gate in the city center.
  • In London, more than 600 people gathered beneath the London Eye Ferris wheel by the River Thames to arrange themselves into the shape of the number five, according to organizers Campaign against Climate Change.
  • In the Lebanese capital Beirut, hundreds of activists, many wearing snorkels, held demonstrations at key archaeological sites.
  • Environmental activists in Istanbul staged their protest in a boat, unfurling a banner reading "Sun, wind, right now!" under the main bridge linking Asia and Europe over the Bosphorus Strait, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Source: Press TV
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – A Saudi court on Saturday sentenced a female journalist to 60 lashes after she had been charged with involvement in a TV show in which a Saudi man publicly talked about sex.
  • Rozanna al-Yami, 22, is believed to be the first Saudi woman journalist to be given such a punishment, but there were conflicting accounts about how the court issued its verdict.
  • Al-Yami, who worked as a coordinator for the program but has denied working on the sex-show episode, told The Associated Press it was her understanding that the judge at the court in the western city of Jiddah dropped the charges against her. They included involvement in the preparation of the show and advertising the segment on the Internet.
  • But she said he still handed down the lashing sentence "as a deterrence."I am too frustrated and upset to appeal the sentence," said al-Yami.
  • Al-Yami refused to provide contact details for her lawyer to ask about the legal proceedings, including the basis in Islamic law for the punishment and whether the charges were really dropped.
  • Sulaiman al-Jumeii, the lawyer for the man who appeared in the TV show, said such "physical punishment is not an indication of innocence or a drop of charges."
  • "If the judge had dropped the charges, then why did he give her the 60 lashes?" he added.
  • Abdul-Rahman al-Hazza, the spokesman of the Ministry of Culture and Information, told the AP he had no details of the sentencing and could not comment on it.
  • In the program, which aired in July on the Lebanese LBC satellite channel, the man, Mazen Abdul-Jawad appears to describe an active sex life and shows sex toys that were blurred by the station. The same court sentenced Abdul-Jawad earlier this month to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes.
  • Al-Jumeii maintains his client was duped by the TV station and was unaware in many cases he was being recorded.
  • On Saturday, he told the AP that not trying al-Yami before a court specialized in media matters at the Ministry of Culture and Information was a violation of Saudi law.
  • The case has scandalized this ultraconservative country where such public talk about sex is taboo and the sexes are strictly segregated.
  • The government moved swiftly in the wake of the case, shutting down LBC's two offices in the kingdom and arresting Abdul-Jawad, who works for the national airline.
  • Three other men who appeared on the show, "Bold Red Line," were also convicted of discussing sex publicly and sentenced to two years imprisonment and 300 lashes each.
Source: AP
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Somewhere in SARIKEI, Malaysia, A quarrel between two Thai fishermen on board their vessel at Tanjung Manis last Tuesday night resulted in one of them dead.
Deputy district police chief Dominic Josip, when contacted for confirmation, said that the incident was reported to the police in Tanjung Manis by the vessel’s skipper around 8.30pm.
  • According to the skipper, the two men were having a drink on board the vessel and for unknown reasons an argument broke out between them. The skipper who was busy cooking at that time heard the commotion, but thinking that it was just a minor scuffle, did not bother to check immediately.
  • However, after he finished cooking, he went out to check only to be shocked to find one of the men seriously injured.
  • On being notified by the skipper, the local police dispatched a team to investigate, Dominic said, adding that on arrival they saw one seriously injured.
  • He said the suspect was arrested after crew members were interviewed.
  • The victim, aged 31, sustained serious injuries on the mouth, believed to be inflicted with an ice pick, Dominic said.
  • The police sent the injured man to the Sarikei Hospital the same night, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.
  • The suspect, 38, had been remanded in police custody under Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code for five days since last Tuesday, he said, adding that the case had been classified as murder under Section 302 0f the Penal Code.
Source: Borneo Post
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

International cyberspace romances via social networking and dating sites are spurring a surge in Filipinas marrying foreigners, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), an agency under the president’s office.
  • There has been a threefold rise in Filipinos migrating for marriage over the past 20 years. Some 23,927 Filipino spouses, overwhelmingly women, went through the CFO’s predeparture registration programme in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available. The commission believes the numbers dipped slightly last year and this year because of the global recession, but will pick up strongly again.
  • Not many Filipino spouses have headed for Singapore — just 843 were processed by the CFO over the past two decades. South Koreans — often in advanced middle-age from rural areas — are leading the rise in the marriages of foreigners to Filipinas.
  • For many Filipino women, marrying a foreigner — and typically a far older one — from a wealthy country is a hard-nosed decision to seek a secure economic future for herself and her family.
  • The CFO believes widening access to the Internet has been a key factor in the recent phenomenon.
  • And with seven of the top 10 nationalities for foreign spouses coming from either English-speaking countries or those with a high standard of English comprehension, communication is not a problem for the Filipinos.
  • Matching Filipinas to foreigners as a business in the Philippines is banned under an ineffective 1990 law hobbled by — among other things — the reluctance of witnesses to testify in criminal cases and the hazy jurisdiction of cyberspace.

  • “We’re drafting a Bill to amend the law to bring it up to date,” said CFO emigrant services officer Cherry Veniles.

  • The rise in websites operating ‘show-up’ tours to the Philippines for foreigners to choose brides is a particular area of concern for the CFO. “Meet the beautiful exotic women of the Philippines...where age is a plus for men, Philippine women look at older men as more desirable,” is the pitch of one American matchmaking website organising tours to the Philippines and countries in the former eastern bloc. It charges US$1,795 (RM6,071) for a seven-day tour to Cebu.

  • The commission estimates that one in 10 of its ‘clients’ is a mail-order bride. “Five years ago, the average age was 26 to 35 years; now it is more 20 to 25,” said Ms Veniles. She attributes much of that trend to the influence of the Internet.

  • While there are plenty of stories of abused Filipino brides, CFO counsellors admit there are happy endings too.

  • Source: The Straits Times
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR , Malaysia – A baby boy who made a surprise arrival on board an AirAsia flight this week will be given free flights for life with the budget carrier, as will his mother, the airline said Friday.
  • AirAsia said 31-year-old passenger Liew Siaw Hsia went into labour on Wednesday's flight from the northern island of Penang to Kuching on Borneo island.
  • The aircraft made an emergency diversion to the Malaysian capital but the baby arrived just before landing, delivered by a doctor who was on board and who was assisted by the airline's flight attendants.
  • "The baby was safely delivered when flight AK 6506 was approaching Kuala Lumpur for landing at 2,000 feet," the airline said in a statement, adding that mother and baby were taken to a nearby hospital following touchdown.
  • "To celebrate this momentous occasion, we decided to present both mother and child with free flights for life," said AirAsia's director of operations Moses Devanayagam after visiting them in hospital.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

ISLAMABAD – A suicide bomber killed seven people near a major air force complex in northwest Pakistan on Friday, while an explosion killed 24 on a bus heading to wedding elsewhere in the region, the latest in a surge of militant attacks this month.
  • The bloodshed has coincided with the run-up and first week of a major army offensive in a Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold along the Afghan border. About 200 people have died as the insurgents have shown they can strike in a variety of ways and places in the nuclear-armed, U.S.-allied nation.
  • The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra is the country's major air force maintenance and research hub.
  • Some foreign military experts have mentioned it as a possible place to keep planes that can carry nuclear warheads, but the army, which does not reveal where its nuclear-related facilities are, strongly denies that the facility is tied to the program in any way.
  • A lone suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up at a checkpoint on a road leading to the complex, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the capital, Islamabad. Police officer Akbar Abbas blamed the Taliban for the attack.
  • The seven dead included two troops. Some 13 people were wounded.
  • Hours later, a blast struck the bus, which was traveling in the Mohmand tribal region. Four women and three children were among the 17 killed, said Zabit Khan, a local government official, who said the exact cause of the blast was still not certain.
Source: AP
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Friday, October 23, 2009

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia: A Nigerian man escaped the gallows when the High Court here on Friday amended his charge and sentenced him to five years' jail for bringing cocaine in transit at the KL International Airport (KLIA) seven years ago for distribution in another country.
  • Justice Mohd Zaki Md.Yasin ordered Samuel Chuks, 40, an unemployed, to serve the sentence from the date of his arrest on May 29, 2002.
  • However, he walked out a free man as he had been in custody for the past seven years.
  • Chuks was initially charged with trafficking in 573.8gm of cocaine at the luggage collection counter on the third floor of the KLIA main terminal building at 1.50pm on May 29, 2002.
  • The offence under section 39B(1)(A) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 carries the mandatory death sentence, if convicted.
  • Mohd Zaki amended the charge to one under Section 21 (6) of the Act, which is for bringing the drug in transit for the purpose of distribution in another country, after 10 witnesses took to the stand.
  • The offence carries a maximum fine of RM20,000 or a five years' jail, or both.
  • In his judgment, Mohd Zaki said he did not believe Chuks' defence that he had no knowledge of the drugs.
  • He, however, gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was only in transit and was on his way to Thailand when he was caught with the drugs.
  • Deputy public prosecutor Alfred Egin prosecuted while Chuks was represented by counsel Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin.
Source: Bernama
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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Democratic Republic of Congo is grappling with rampant rape, which has become an every day practice and is used as a weapon of war, the UN has said.
  • It said almost 5,400 cases of rape against women were reported in the South Kivu province during the first six months of the year.
  • Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said South Kivu, near Rwanda, was an increasingly dangerous place for civilians, especially for women.
  • "Night-time attacks against civilians by unidentified armed elements, and rape against women, remain widespread," Byrs said.
  • About 90 per cent of the rapes are allegedly committed by armed groups or regular forces.
  • Nabwemba Natabaro, a woman in South Kivu, told Al Jazeera that she had been held in the bush for two months and repeatedly gang raped, after being abducted from her village.
  • "My family thought I had been killed and lost all hope of ever seeing me. Then I managed to escape. I was very sick," she said.
  • Her family brought her to a hospital where she was diagnosed with HIV.
  • Due to the huge numbers of rape victims, some women have to wait for months for reconstructive surgery.
  • Dede Amanor-Wilks, Action Aid's director for West and Central Africa, said many rape cases go unreported.
  • "Currently the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] is thought to have the highest incident of rape in the world, but statistics that come to surface are only a fraction probably of the rapes that actually occur," she told Al Jazeera.
  • The fighting in the eastern DRC between UN-backed Congolese government forces and Rwandan Hutu rebels have worsened in recent months.
  • The country hosts one of the biggest UN aid operations. Hundreds of thousands of people in the east of the country have been driven from their homes due to fighting, many of whom need protection from violent attacks.
Source: The Agencies
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Friday, October 23, 2009

PERTH, Australia – An 88-year-old man accused by Hungary of Nazi war crimes during World War II surrendered to Australian police Thursday after exhausting his appeals against extradition.
  • Australian citizen Charles Zentai is accused by the Hungarian government of being one of three men who tortured and killed a Jewish teenager in 1944 for failing to wear a star identifying him as a Jew.
  • Zentai, who emigrated to Australia in 1950, says he is innocent and was not in Budapest when the slaying occurred.
  • He was taken to Perth's Hakea prison on Thursday after surrendering, two weeks after the Federal Court granted him a 14-day stay on a ruling that allowed his extradition to Hungary.
  • Zentai's lawyer, Denis Barich, said there would be no further legal appeals until the attorney-general made a decision on the case.
  • Attorney-General Robert McClelland has the final say on Zentai's extradition but has delegated the decision to Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor.
  • If the federal government orders his extradition, Zentai will resume the legal appeals process and could appeal to the country's High Court, Barich said.
  • Barich said Hungarian authorities had told McClelland they wanted to question Zentai, not charge him.
  • "Why should he be forced to go to Hungary, with all the danger to his health that such a trip would bring, when he can be questioned here in Australia?" Barich told reporters Thursday.
  • Zentai's poor health has kept him out of custody since a court ruled last year that he was eligible for extradition. He appealed in March and again earlier this month.
  • Zentai is listed by the U.S.-based, Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center among its 10 most wanted for having "participated in manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944."
  • A warrant was first issued for his arrest in 2005.
Source: AP
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

STOCKHOLM — Sweden will release former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic next week, two-thirds into an 11-year jail term for war crimes, the government said today.
  • The Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which convicted Plavsic in February 2003, consented last month to grant her an early release, a decision met with protests by Bosnian Muslim relatives of victims of the 1992-95 war but celebrated by Bosnian Serbs.
  • Plavsic, 79, was one of three members of the presidency of the Serbian Republic, headed by Radovan Karadzic, who is due to go on trial at the tribunal on Monday on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide at Srebrenica.
  • She will be released from prison next Tuesday and will be free to leave the country, a justice ministry spokeswoman said.
  • Plavsic pleaded guilty to persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds by “inviting paramilitaries from Serbia to assist Bosnian Serb forces in effecting ethnic separation by force”.
  • Charges of genocide, extermination and murder were dropped as part of a plea bargain.
  • People convicted at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia do not serve their sentence in The Hague but are transferred to prisons outside the Netherlands to serve their time.
Source: Reuters
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

For the creatures who call them home, cemeteries are not gloomy places, rather, they luxuriate with life.
  • Foxes trot past the crypts at Palo Alto's Alta Mesa. Western bluebirds soar over the grassy lawns of San Jose's Oak Hill. Swallows flit through Calvary Cemetery in East San Jose. In Saratoga, deer wander through the elegant gates of Madronia Cemetery.
  • After mourners depart Santa Clara's Mission City, mischievous squirrels steal silk flowers from headstones and use them away to build cozy silk-lined nests.
  • Then, with winter's gusty winds, "we see flowers raining out of the trees," says operations superintendent Larry DeJanvier.
  • Preserving acres of open space, the region's burial grounds are swaths of green in a sea of concrete and asphalt. With spectacular shade trees, winding walkways and fountains, they are sanctuaries not just for the dead but for nature lovers and history buffs.
  • Their headstones tell tales of things both illustrious and illicit, many bearing familiar names that identify today's streets, schools, buildings and landmarks, such as Bernal, Overfelt, Curtner, Lawrence, Eichler and Packard.
  • But they are remarkable not only for their stately monuments, but also their natural habitats. The mature trees provide seeds and nuts; lawns hold tasty grubs and other insects; water sprinklers create puddles, quenching thirst.
  • This spring, Audubon Society volunteer Kate Gudmundson peered into one of Mission City's many bird boxes and discovered bluebird eggs — five of them! — small and oval-shaped, smooth and glossy.
  • And so springs a new generation, in this land of the dead.
Source: Mercury News
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