Wednesday, March 31, 2010
LONDON - British researchers said Wednesday that they observed a mass exodus of toads from a breeding site in Italy five days before a major tremor struck, suggesting the amphibians may be able to sense environmental changes, imperceptible to humans, that foretell a coming quake.
  • Researchers from the Open University were studying toads in central Italy when they noticed a sharp decline in the number of animals at the site. Days later, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit, killing hundreds of people and badly damaging the town of L'Aquila.
  • Researcher Rachel Grant said the findings suggested "that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system."
  • Initially puzzled by the toads' disappearance in the middle of the breeding season, the scientists tracked the population in the days that followed. They found that 96 percent of males — who vastly outnumber females at breeding spots — abandoned the site, 46 miles (74 kilometers) from the quake's epicenter, five days before it struck on April 6, 2009.
  • The number of toads at the site fell to zero three days before the quake, according to the study, published in the Zoological Society of London's Journal of Zoology.
  • "A day after the earthquake, they all started coming back," said Grant, the report's lead author. "The numbers were still lower than normal and remained low until after the last aftershock."
  • She said one possibility is that the animals sensed a change in the amount of radon gas emitted by the Earth because of the buildup of pressure prior to a quake.
  • Scientists also have surmised that animals may be able to detect minor tremors imperceptible to humans, or that they sense electrical signals emitted by rocks under stress before an earthquake.
  • Grant said the sense may be the result of millions of years of evolution, a trigger that tells the toads to move to safer ground.
Source: AP, Yahoo News
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — International communications consultancy APCO Worldwide reiterated that it neither worked with the Israeli government nor helped to create the 1 Malaysia concept as claimed by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“The allegations repeated against APCO Worldwide in the Malaysian Parliament are false. APCO Worldwide is not working for the government of Israel. We did not devise the 1 Malaysia concept,” it said in a statement issued to Bernama here.
  • However, Anwar, speaking in Parliament yesterday, dropped another bombshell when he persisted said that APCO’s link with the Malaysian government began well before 1 Malaysia.
  • Anwar also zeroed in on Asero Worldwide, an APCO associate, that specialises in homeland security and is headed by Israeli security experts.
  • APCO’s denial that it ever did any work for the Israeli government has proven untrue as a Straits Times report revealed that filings with the US Justice Department show otherwise.
  • The international public relations firm “entered into an agreement in 1992 to provide services for the Jewish state.
  • In written queries about the State Department filing, APCO said it worked with another associate company on a project for the Israel government at the time.
  • APCO’s deputy managing director B. Jay Cooper said, “The work, which was primarily in the media area, involved acquiring US government money for Russian immigrants’ housing in Israel.
  • Cooper went on to explain that APCO “was then owned by Grey Global Group.”
  • “In 2004, APCO did a management buy-out and cut all ownership ties with the Grey Global Group,” he said. “APCO Worldwide, with new ownership, is today’s company.”
  • Anwar had suggested that One Israel was conceived by APCO. The link, while tenuous, could weaken Malay support for Malaysianh PM, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration.
Source: The Malaysian Insider
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Who doesn't want to be a millionaire? Maybe a 43-year-old unemployed bachelor who lives with his elderly mother in Russia and who won $1 million for solving a problem that has stumped mathematicians for a century. Grigory Perelman can't decide if he wants the money.
  • "He said he would need to think about it," said James Carlson, who telephoned Perelman with the news he had won the Millennium Prize awarded by the Clay Mathematics Institute of Cambridge, Mass.
  • Carlson said he wasn't too surprised by the apparent lack of interest from Perelman, a reclusive genius who has a history of refusing big prizes.
  • In 2006, Perelman made headlines when he stayed away from the ceremony in Madrid where he was supposed to get a Fields Medal, often called the Nobel prize of mathematics. He remained at home in St. Petersburg instead.
  • As for the new prize, Perelman (PER-il-mahn) told a local television station he hasn't made a decision on whether to accept the money, and that Carlson's institute will be the first to know when he does.
  • Sergei Rukshin, Perelman's high school math teacher, told The Associated Press on Monday that Perelman is still unsure whether to accept it.
  • "I know that this time he is seriously thinking about whether he will accept the prize. He still has some time," Rukshin said. The awards ceremony is in June.
  • Rukshin said Perelman has been without work for four years and has declined all job offers. He previously worked at the Steklov Mathematics Institute.
  • "As far as I know, after there was so much media attention ... he did not want to be a public person and to look like an animal in the zoo," Rukshin said.
  • He said he had encouraged Perelman to accept the prize to provide for himself and his elderly mother. Technically, the award is a done deal.
Source: AP, Yahoo News
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Where those who pull down 10-figure salaries go for fun
Stressful times typically call for big vacations, but the tough economic climate has forced some families to find enjoyment closer to home this year. The same isn't true for the world's billionaires. Although some have seen their net worth shrink, many continue to visit their personal getaways to escape from their high-profile lives.
The location of these luxury destinations is a matter of personal taste.
Talk about luxury. Oprah has both a 60-acre Maui getaway and a 42-acre estate in Montecito, Calif., that she calls "Promised Land." Yet when she wants crystal-clear Caribbean water and perfect palm trees, she returns to her playground on Antigua, where Eric Clapton and Giorgio Armani are among her famous neighbors. Much like George Clooney's villa on Lake Como, Oprah's vacation home is featured in many of the boat tours that run along the beautiful coastline.
Bill Gates
West Greenland
Since officially retiring from Microsoft in June 2008, Bill Gates has often traveled for work dedicated to the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. When he needs a break from the African heat — where the foundation does most of its work — he's been known to hop in a helicopter to Apussuit Adventure Camp, a remote skiing resort 15 miles outside Maniitsoq, West Greenland. This resort has no ski lifts and, more importantly, no other people.
Ty Warner
Ty Warner Penthouse at the Four Seasons New York
Ty Warner earned his fortune as the founder and sole owner of Ty Inc., manufacturer of Beanie Babies. With this money, he purchased several of the world's favorite resort playgrounds, including San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito and Las Ventanas al Paraiso Resort in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. He also owns the Four Seasons New York, where a 4,300-square-foot namesake penthouse suite offers a 25-foot ceiling, a 360-degree view of Manhattan and virtually every amenity known to hoteliers.
Paul Allen
Annual operating costs for a mega-yacht are said to run 10 percent of the ship's initial cost. For Paul Allen's 416-foot yacht Octopus, that's $20 million. At least the Microsoft cofounder gets his money's worth. This floating five-star hotel features a pool, a basketball court, a movie theater, two helicopters, a 10-person submarine, a jet-ski dock and a 60-person crew.
Richard Branson
Necker Island
This 74-acre private getaway near St. Thomas is owned by the Virgin billionaire. Surrounded by turquoise waters, the island is home to 101 flamingos and houses both a watersports crew that teaches guests how to kitesurf, snorkel and kayak and a personal chef. Most visitors to this exclusive paradise rent out the entire island, which can accommodate parties of up to 28 guests, and famous patrons have included Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Oprah.
Source: Yahoo.Travel
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Monday, March 29, 2010

The My Tree in Dubai campaign strongly encourages the planting of indigenous trees and trees that are appropriate to the local environment.
In Dubai a new campaign has been launched to encourage residents to recycle paper and have a tree planted in their name in return.
Trees play a key role in the biodiversity of the planet, helping in the production of oxygen, and positively influence potable water supplies while helping restore soil fertility and ensuring a stable climate.
  • Through social networking site Facebook, the Emirates Environment Group (EEG), in partnership with Wunderman Dubai, an advertising agency, launched the My Tree in Dubai campaign to reward avid recyclers.
  • The public has been urged to join EEG's Recycling Campaign on and start recycling. There are only 200 trees to be given out to people who manage to recycle at least 60kg of paper in one month.
  • All the trees which will be planted will contribute to The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign — a tree planting initiative started by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The initiative aims to preside over the planting of 12 billion trees worldwide.
  • The campaign strongly encourages the planting of indigenous trees and trees that are appropriate to the local environment.
  • The influence of trees in people's lives is widespread as they provide vital ecosystem services which human beings have come to depend on.
  • The billions of trees planted through the collective efforts of participants of the Billion Tree Campaign will contribute to biodiversity across the planet.
  • As part of the My tree in Dubai campaign, Facebook users can download an application that monitors how much paper they recycle. So far 28 trees have been planted and a total of 2,805kg of paper have been collected for recycling.
  • This campaign ends on April 20. To give people an opportunity to plant their own trees, a tree planting day will be organised on April 24, the Regional Environment Day, with the support of Dubai Municipality.
  • Under the initiative, trees will be planted in a public park in Dubai. The trees will be named after people who recycle at least 60kg of paper.
  • "For the first time, EEG is giving people a chance to recycle their paper into trees and see the results for themselves," Habiba Al Marashi, EEG chairperson, said in a press statement recently.
Source: Golf news
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Washington - Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday he hoped to export coveted US drone technology to allies, despite legal hurdles, and played down the threat from rival drone programmes in nations like Iran.
Gates, testifying at a Senate hearing, said it was in the US interest to try to help friendly nations get drone technology, despite limitations on exports imposed by an international pact.

"There are other countries that are very interested in this capability and frankly it is, in my view, in our interest to see what we can do to accommodate them," Gates said.
The drones have proven to be a crucial technological advantage for the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq, allowing it to remotely track and kill insurgents and giving troops eyes-in-the-sky battleground imagery in real time.
  • The CIA has used drones armed with missiles to ramp up its covert campaign to kill Al Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan.
  • "The reality is so far we have been in situations where [drone] technology cannot be used, or has not been used against our troops anywhere," Gates said.
  • But that might not remain the case, he said. He cited Iran, which he has said is providing limited support to Afghan insurgents, and which is developing unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
  • "Iran has UAVs and that is a concern because it is one of those areas where I suppose if they chose to, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, they could create difficulties for us," Gates said.
  • Still, he called UAVs "relatively slow flyers" that could be neutralised by the Air Force if they threatened US forces.
  • "I actually think our ability to protect our troops from these things particularly in a theatre of combat like this is actually quite good," he said.
  • Militant groups, as opposed to other countries, were a bigger concern when it came to the spread of drone technology.
  • "My worry would be capabilities like this getting into the hands of non-state actors who could use them for terrorist purposes," Gates said.
  • The US aerospace industry estimated in December that US military demand for unmanned aircraft would double over the next five years after rising 600 per cent since 2004. It is also hoping for growth abroad.
  • The industry wants to change the Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, a pact among at least 34 countries aimed at curbing the spread of unmanned delivery systems that could be used for weapons of mass destruction.
Source: Reuters
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

LONDON – Europe's best known landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and Rome's Colosseum fell dark Saturday, following Sydney's Opera House and Beijing's Forbidden City in joining a global climate change protest, as lights were switched off across the world to mark the Earth Hour event.
In the United States, the lights went out at the Empire State Building in New York, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, among many other sites in the Eastern time zone.
  • Millions were turned off lights and appliances for an hour from 8:30 p.m. in a gesture to highlight environmental concerns and to call for a binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This year's was the fourth annual Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund.
  • Some 4,000 cities in more than 120 countries starting with the remote Chatham Islands off the coast of New Zealand were voluntarily switched off Saturday to reduce energy consumption, though traffic lights and other safety features were unaffected, organizers said.
  • Other sites participated in the U.S. were businesses on the glittering Las Vegas strip and the Mount Rushmore presidential monument in South Dakota. The lights stayed on at the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln and Washington monuments.
  • In Europe, Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and buildings across Germany went dark. Amsterdam cut the lights at most city buildings including Schiphol Airport, Artis Zoo and the Amsterdam Arena.
  • Buckingham Palace and the British Parliament building along with other famed London landmarks including St. Paul's Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall, as well as Edinburgh Castle in Scotland the light were switch off leaving the areas in the dark on Saturday night.
  • Rome switched off the lights of the Trevi Fountain, the 18th-century landmark where many tourists flip a coin in hopes of coming back to the city. State-TV RAI showed the fountain that was immortalized by Federico Fellini in "La Dolce Vita" falling dark.
  • Moscow's iconic and imposing State University, perched on a hill overlooking the city, all but disappeared into the darkness as the city took part in the protest. The gigantic Luzhniki Stadium nearby also went black, as did the skyscraping Ukraina Hotel downtown. Restaurants in Vladivostok held a so-called Candle Evening, promoting Earth Hour as a chance for romance.
  • Last year, some 88 cities took part in Earth Hour, which is backed by the United Nations as well as global corporations, nonprofit groups, schools, scientists and celebrities.
Source: AP
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sydney – The death of several Australian Aborigines who have died in prison or police custody around the country recently has underscored the disproportionately high percentage of Aborigines among the country’s incarcerated – a result in part of overcrowded housing and low education rates that go hand in hand with violence and petty crime. But discrimination is also to blame, say critics.
  • The picture is especially bleak for young indigenous people, who are 28 times more likely to end up in juvenile detention according to the latest official figures. In one notorious case last November, police charged a 12-year-old boy in Western Australia with receiving a chocolate frog allegedly stolen from a supermarket.
  • Aboriginal adults are six times more likely to be arrested than other Australians and 13 times more likely to be jailed. In the Northern Territory, they make up 80 percent of the prison population although only one-third of the territory’s residents are indigenous.
  • Arrested for drunkenness, Doomadgee dies in jailA young man named Mulrunji Doomadgee, of Palm Island off Queensland’s coast, was one such Australian Aborigine who was caught up in the criminal justice system. Arrested for drunkenness and swearing, he was found dead in a cell after a struggle with the policeman who had brought him in, Chris Hurley.
  • Critics say Doomadgee’s offense is precisely the type that does not warrant automatic arrest and imprisonment.
  • “The initial apprehension and locking up of Mulrunji Doomadgee were as much an issue as what happened afterwards,” says Chris Cunneen, a law professor at the University of New South Wales. “They showed how police are far too ready to arrest and take aboriginal people into custody in situations where there would be alternatives available.”
Sporce: Yahoo News
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Recycling is one of the few options left for Gazans to meet their needs, creating an environment ripe for innovative solutions to common problems.
GAZA, Palestine - After the last invasion of Gaza, huge amounts of rubble covered the coastal enclave, creating a large problem for Gazans. However, as usual, they have an innovative solution.
  • During an exhibition, titled Inventions Facing the Siege, in Gaza City on March 23, inventors and business owners came together to discuss ways through which they could take advantage of the remains of buildings following the invasion.
  • Abu Al Abed Al Ghefary — owner of a glass factory in the northern Gaza Strip which was partially damaged in the last offensive — is one of the people who is trying to ignore the blockade and take advantage of the war's rubble.
  • Al Ghefary buys and collects broken glass to recycle it into decorative pieces.
  • "The long years that the Gaza Strip [has] lived under the siege [have] created so much pain, sorrow and need, but on the other hand there is a bright side to this dilemma," Al Ghefary said.
  • The Gazan people have learned to live under any circumstances and made accommodations to deal with the difficult situation that the siege has imposed upon them.
  • The tunnels between Gaza and Egypt are an example of this determination to succeed. Lack of resources has been a major problem in Gaza since Hamas was elected in the parliamentary elections in 2006.
  • The Gaza Strip had been a major market for Israeli products until the siege was put in place. Recycling was not really necessary, as all the necessities and luxuries — were easily available.
  • Today, recycling is one of the few options left for Gazans to meet their needs, creating an environment ripe for innovative solutions to common problems.
  • Ahmad Hamad, a social researcher and lecturer at the Community College of Applied Science and Technology in Gaza, said: "The recent situation [has] forced the Gazans to change their consumer [habits] and to create a new culture which can fit the different, and difficult circumstances the people are living [under] at the moment."
  • The war left a great deal of destruction all over Gaza, with many houses, factories, and farms reduced to rubble.
  • Tahsen Al Masri is a blacksmith from Khan Younis in southern Gaza. He started to buy the iron from destroyed buildings, after the invasion, in order to melt and reuse it for different purposes.
  • Al Masri said: "Because of the blockade, I couldn't buy the iron to make what I want. Then I found so much rubble because of the war. I started to […] melt it, [and] then use it again and make different usages of it."
  • He added: "In the beginning it was hard because I didn't have the experience or the right equipment [for] this process, but now it's much easier for me."
  • "This way is much harder [for] me than buying new iron but at the same time, it is cheaper for me, which will make it cheaper for the normal Palestinian citizen."
  • Al Ghefary said, "I found it interesting to use this broken glass instead of just throwing it away, and to make something nice out of it... So I started to collect it from people and now I'm making samples of board frames and slabs."
Source: Gulf News
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Friday, March 26, 2010

LONDON — The Church of England has published prayers to help confused and cynical voters ahead of Britain’s upcoming election.
Britons are due to go to the polls this spring with many voters disenchanted after a parliamentary expenses scandal that saw lawmakers from all the main parties make excessive claims ranging from bath plugs to moat cleaning.
  • Voters also have to decide which party would be best to tackle the country’s record deficit.
  • The CoE, the Anglican mother church, has published a series of prayers which remind voters they can make a difference.
  • “(The prayers) ask that the concerns of all may be heard and seek protection from despair and cynicism,” the church said.
  • One says: “Thank you for caring about how our country is run, and that we have the right to vote for our politicians and government.” But it goes on to say: “Sometimes I wonder whether there’s any point in voting, whether anyone cares what I think.”
  • “Help me not to be cynical about politics and politicians, help me to remember that my vote can make a difference.”
  • Some ask for guidance to choose the party which can protect the poor and vulnerable and which will make “our nation a place of fairness and peace”.
  • Another urges that “truth may prevail over distortion, wisdom triumph over recklessness”.
  • Labour, which has been in power for the past 13 years is neck-and-neck with the main opposition Conservatives in opinion polls ahead of an election expected on May 6.
  • The church traditionally steers clear of politics, but it has found itself in conflict with various governments of different hue.
  • Most recently, it has opposed Labour’s plans to introduce an Equality Bill, while in late 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams likened the government’s fiscal stimulus package to an “addict returning to a drug”.
  • A predecessor of Williams, Robert Runcie, had criticised the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, blaming her policies in the 1980s for high unemployment, which he said had created “despair about the future”.
Source: Reuters
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Friday, March 26, 2010
KOLKATA, India – A tiny island at the centre of a territorial dispute between India and Bangladesh has disappeared beneath the waves due to rising sea levels and erosion, scientists say.
The uninhabited outcrop called New Moore island by India and South Talpatti by Bangladesh was 3.5 kilometres (about two miles) long and 3.0 kilometres wide before it was swallowed up by the Bay of Bengal.
  • "There's no trace of the island anymore. After studying satellite images, I confirmed this from fishermen," Sugata Hazra, a professor from the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, told reporters.
  • Hazra said global warming and erosion were responsible for solving a point of contention in the sometimes fractious relations between India and Bangladesh, which both claimed the island.
  • "Climate change has obliterated the source of dispute," he said.
  • Hazra said temperatures in the region had been rising at an annual rate of 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • The island, which is thought to have been created by a cyclone only about 40 years ago, sat in the Sundarbans mangrove delta in the mouth of the Hariabhanga River that divides India and Bangladesh.
  • At its height, it was never more than two metres (about six feet) above sea level.
  • Hazra said a larger island, called Lohachara, disappeared in the Bay of Bengal in 1996 after 4,000 inhabitants had fled.
  • At least five other islands in the region are also threatened, he said.
  • Bangladesh is one of the countries worst affected by climate change with some scientists predicting 20 million people will be displaced by 2050 because of rising sea levels.
Source: AFP
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

ADELAIDE, Australia – About 100 Australian police are being investigated for circulating racist and pornographic e-mails via an internal system, a scandal blamed for one officer's suicide, a top official said Thursday.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said the officers had let down the community by forwarding the offensive e-mails.
  • "It's a mix of racist and pornographic and otherwise offensive material," Overland told reporters. "There are varying degrees of involvement and varying degrees of seriousness."
  • Overland refused to elaborate on the content of the e-mails, saying none of it was illegal but all of it was offensive and in breach of department policy.
  • He also would not confirm whether the racist material concerned Indians or Africans, two minority groups that have been the target of violence in Victoria state and have criticized police conduct in recent months.
  • The months-long investigation led to two officers receiving what is called a Section 68 — notice that the commissioner has lost confidence in the officers and giving them a chance to explain why they should not be dismissed — for introducing the material into the police system.
  • The other officers were being questioned for further circulating the e-mails, sometimes adding inappropriate comments of their own.
  • Overland confirmed that a police officer who committed suicide earlier this week was one of two given the Section 68.
  • Tony Vangorp, 47, tendered his resignation Friday and returned to the police station Monday night and shot himself. Overland said Vangorp had not been responsible for any racist e-mails.
  • "A tragic event has happened," Overland said. "It's deeply, deeply regrettable and we need to learn the lessons but it doesn't mean that I can or should avoid my responsibilities around the good order and governance of Victoria Police."
  • The state police department has 13,800 employees, including police officers, public servants and protective security officers.
Source: AP
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Thursday, March 25, 2010
Manila, Philippine - A letter submitted to the House of Representatives calls for declaring cockfighting as part of the country's national cultural heritage.
Representative Rodolfo Plaza, author of the letter, said cockfighting is deeply engrained in the customs and traditions of Filipinos and that the sport is already part of their identity.
  • Cockfighting, a sport which pits two roosters fitted with razor sharp blades against each other is a popular, traditional and customary form of recreation and entertainment among Filipinos especially during holidays, fiestas, fairs and other events.
  • Plaza, who represents the congressional district of Agusan del Sur, is urging the National Commission for Culture and Arts and the National Historical Institute to declare cockfighting as part of the intangible Philippine cultural heritage.
  • "Intangible cultural heritage includes practices, representations expressions and skills, as well as the objects, instruments and artefacts that communities, groups and individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage," Plaza said.
  • Presently, cockfights are allowed inside purpose built arenas where betting is legal, but clandestine matches also abound.
  • Plaza argued that even the law that bans illegal cockfights, Presidential Decree No 449, or the Cockfighting Law, recognises that cockfighting is a vehicle for the preservation and perpetuation of native Filipino heritage that enhances national identity.
  • "Cockfighting should neither be exploited as an object of commercialism or business enterprise nor made a tool of uncontrolled gambling," Plaza said.
  • "Cockfighting must be recognised and institutionalised as part of the national cultural heritage and must be promoted, protected and enhanced," Plaza said.
  • Reacting on the news that cockfighting may soon be declared as part of the country's national heritage, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society said they were "aghast".
Source:Gulf News
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian police ordered the cancellation Wednesday of a conference of Asian gay activists, saying it could prompt violent protests by conservative Muslim groups.
The conference, organized by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, was due to take place this weekend with participants from 16 countries.
  • The ban was issued by police in Surabaya, East Java's capital, where the three-day event was to be held, national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak said.
  • The decision was made after considering public objections by Muslim groups and the Indonesian Ulema Council, an influential board of Muslim clerics, he said.
  • "There are indications that the event could trigger a social crisis and cause public unrest," Ishak said. "This ban was issued for the sake of public order."
  • Poedjiati Tan, head of the organizing committee, said more than 150 activists representing 100 organizations in 16 Asian countries planned to attend the conference.
  • Tan said the committee is trying to appeal the decision with police and religious leaders, arguing that the conference was meant to raise awareness of social issues faced by gays.
  • "We want to convince Indonesian authorities and religious leaders that we only want to talk about social problems related to this minority group," she said. "We are seeking direction and a way out of our problems in health, education and issues of discrimination."
  • However, Abdussomad Bukhori, a prominent member of the cleric council, said the board would oppose any kind of gay event.
  • "The event will hurt Indonesian Muslims because lesbians and gays are contrary to Islamic teaching," he said. "We will continue to reject any kind of homosexual event."
  • Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but remains a sensitive issue in the socially conservative, Muslim-majority nation. At the same time, most of its society, which follows a moderate form of Islam, is tolerant, with gay and transsexual entertainers often appearing on television shows.
  • The ILGA is a worldwide federation of more than 560 local, national and international organizations. Regional ILGA conferences have been held in India, the Philippines and Thailand in the past.
Source: AP

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NEW YORK — Women with lots of children might be stressed but they are less likely to commit suicide, according to a Taiwanese study that found the more children a woman has, the lower her suicide risk.
A long-standing theory that historically lower suicide rates seen among married versus unmarried women reflects a “protective effect” of motherhood, rather than advantages of marriage per se.
  • Researchers at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan said this latest study supported that theory.
  • The study looked at 30 years of data on 1.3 million Taiwanese mothers and found that women with two children were 39 per cent less likely than those with one child to commit suicide.
  • Researcher Dr. Chun-Yuh Yang told Reuters Health that the risk was 60 per cent lower among women with three or more children.
  • The study, reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, was based on birth and mortality records for Taiwanese women who had their first child between 1978 and 1987. Yang followed death rates for the study group through 2007.
  • Suicide was uncommon regardless of the number of children the women had.
  • Among women with one child, there were 11 suicides per 100,000 women per year. That rate was seven per 100,000 among women with two children, and just under six per 100,000 among mothers with three or more children.
  • When Yang factored in a number of other variables — including the women’s age at first birth, marital status and education level — the number of children a woman had remained linked to suicide risk.
  • Yang said it was possible that women with a large brood of children benefit from greater emotional or material support when times are tough. Women who have several children also spend a larger share of their lives caring for young children compared with mothers who have one child.
  • He said mothers who feel “needed” may be less vulnerable to suicide.
  • However, Yang added that it was also likely that women who are already more vulnerable to suicide — because of serious depression or other psychiatric illnesses — tend to have fewer children.
  • Although the current study included only Taiwanese women, Yang said the findings were likely relevant to other countries with studies conducted in Norway, Denmark and Finland finding a similar relationship between a woman’s number of children and her risk of suicide.
Source: Reuters
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

a photo of farmer Digonta Saikia shows a 'Bhut jolokia' or 'ghost chili'
GAUHATI, India – The Indian military has a new weapon against terrorism: the world's hottest chili.
After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized "bhut jolokia," or "ghost chili," to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilize suspects, defense officials said Tuesday.
  • The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India's northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the crippling summer heat.
  • It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.
  • "The chili grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defense laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defense Research and Development Organization," Col. R. Kalia, a defense spokesman in the northeastern state of Assam, told The Associated Press.
  • "This is definitely going to be an effective nontoxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hide-outs," R. B. Srivastava, the director of the Life Sciences Department at the New Delhi headquarters of the DRDO said.
  • Srivastava, who led a defense research laboratory in Assam, said trials are also on to produce bhut jolokia-based aerosol sprays to be used by women against attackers and for the police to control and disperse mobs.
Source: AP
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Goh King Chin, a member of Brunei's Parliament, sparked debate last week when he suggested authorities could promote tourism by establishing a special district for non-Muslim foreign visitors to purchase and consume alcohol.
However, Brunei's religious affairs minister has poured cold water on a lawmaker's suggestion of an "alcohol zone" for tourists in this Muslim country.
The minister, Zain Serudin, said on Monday it could invite God's wrath and cause people to consider starting prostitution and gambling businesses.
Brunei's laws ban the public sale and consumption of alcohol. However, non-Muslim visitors are allowed to bring in limited amounts for private consumption.
Source: AP
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hamas militant, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh (ringed), is shown arriving at his hotel in this CCTV handout
LONDON – Britain's government will expel an Israeli diplomat from London on Tuesday over the use of forged British passports in the suspected Mossad assassination of a Hamas operative.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband was scheduled to address lawmakers in the House of Commons over the issue, following the conclusion of an investigation into the use of fake U.K. documents.
  • Miliband's office declined to provide details of his statement in advance, citing Parliamentary rules. But a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment ahead of the statement, confirmed that Britain will expel one Israeli diplomat.
  • Israel's foreign ministry confirmed that the country's ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor was called to London's Foreign Office on Monday for talks.
  • Britain sent investigators to Israel this month to meet eight Israeli-British dual nationals whose identities were used by syspects in the Jan 20. slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel room.
  • Dubai authorities have accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of being behind the slaying, and have identified at least 26 suspects from the alleged hit squad that traveled to Dubai on fake identities and forged European and Australian passports.
  • At least 15 of the suspected killers share names with Israeli citizens, further fueling suspicions the Mossad was behind the hit. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in al-Mabhouh's killing.
  • Interpol has published a wanted list of 27 people in connection with the slaying.
Source: AP
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today maintained that APCO Worldwide had served the Ehud Barak administration in 1999 and said that he will give an explanation to the Speaker of Parliament as soon as possible.
  • “I will give my explanation, and my explanation will be based on the prime minister’s response on March 18,” said Anwar, referring to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s written reply to Parliament admitting that “APCO Worldwide Sdn Bhd was appointed to provide total communication services.”
  • Earlier today, Anwar was asked by the House to explain his allegation last week that 1 Malaysia is a carbon copy of the 1 Israel initiative and was drawn up by APCO.
  • The public relations consultant had dismissed the allegations, resulting in the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) move to refer Anwar to the Rights and Privileges Committee.
  • “I will explain, because APCO was indeed in Israel at that point of time,” Anwar told reporters.
  • “Naturally they are paid to deny, but let me give the facts,” said Anwar when pointed out that APCO had dismissed his allegations.
  • “But I will also demand for an explanation as to who is APCO, how much are they paid and what is the role played by APCO in communication, and what is their advice to the various ministries, especially the strategic ministries,” he added.
  • Anwar said that he had to raise the issue of APCO’s involvement because he had been accused of being a Jewish agent.
  • “I raised the APCO issue not because they are Jewish, but I have been accused of being a Jewish agent for 12 years, with no evidence provided,” said Anwar.
  • He also pointed out that the government had also previously engaged disgraced American lobbyist Jack Abramoff to improve ties with Washington.
Source: The Malaysian Insider
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Monday, March 22, 2010

A rare 12-year-old Sumatran tiger named "Trenggani" swims in the water within its enclosure
An Indonesian man was killed when a rare Sumatran tiger dragged him from a forest hut, broke his neck and shattered his skull before his friends could save him, a conservation official said Monday.
  • The victim, 25, died from his injuries after the attack on Sunday night at Berbak National Park in Jambi province, Sumatra island, provincial conservation agency head Didi Wuryanto told AFP.
  • "A Sumatran tiger went into the makeshift hut while they were asleep and dragged one of the men out. There was a struggle but the tiger managed to break the victim's neck and bit the back of his head, leaving a hole," he said.
While in Australian a child was slashed in a near escape from a crocodile, police said Monday, as a hearing into a fatal attack on a schoolgirl last year reignited debate on managing the predators.

File photo of a saltwater crocodile near Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory.
  • The five-year-old girl was swimming off tropical northern Australia on Sunday when she encountered the saltwater reptile, police said.
  • "She received a laceration to her leg and quite deep," superintendent Mike Murphy told state radio.
  • "I believe it's from the rear foot of the crocodile. Obviously the claws have gouged her and basically slashed her leg open."
  • Rangers searched the area but were unable to find the crocodile, he added.
Source: AFP
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Manila - Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao flew home to a hero's welcome Monday after defending his world title and immediately began a political fight he said was aimed at helping the nation's poor masses.
  • Wearing a jacket and tie and accompanied by wife Jinkee, Pacquiao was met at Manila airport by a throng of press photographers and a group of politicians wanting to share the limelight with boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter.
  • "I am very happy that I have returned to the Philippines to be with my children. I thank everyone who supported and prayed for me in my last fight," Pacquiao said.
  • Pacquiao defeated Ghana's Joshua Clottey in Texas last week to retain his World Boxing Organization welterweight title.
  • Opposition senator Manuel Villar, a millionaire property developer who is one of the leading candidates for the presidency in the May 10 national elections, was among those who met Pacquiao at the airport.
  • Pacquiao, 31, is running under Villar's Nacionalista Party for a House of Representatives seat in the southern Philippine province of Sarangani.
  • "What we need now is a man who rose from poverty, who understands the call of the poor like myself," Pacquiao said in an obvious reference to Villar.
  • Villar, a son of a fish dealer who rose to become one of the country's most powerful men, has made poverty alleviation his central platform.
  • Pacquiao, who similarly lifted himself out of deep poverty to become one of the world's richest sportsmen, has said helping the poor is also his main motivation in running for Congress.
Source: AFP, Gulfnews, Click here for in-depth coverage on Manny Pacquiao
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Monday, March 22, 2010

photo of salamander that can be bought through internet
DOHA, Qatar – The Internet has emerged as one of the greatest threats to rare species, fueling the illegal wildlife trade and making it easier to buy everything from live baby lions to wine made from tiger bones, conservationists and law enforcement officers said Sunday.
  • The Web's impact was made clear at the meeting of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. Delegates voted overwhelmingly Sunday to ban the trade of the Kaiser's spotted newt, which the World Wildlife Fund says has been devastated by the Internet trade.
  • A proposal from the United States and Sweden to regulate the trade in red and pink coral — which is crafted into expensive jewelry and sold extensively on the Web — was defeated. Delegates voted the idea down mostly over concerns the increased regulations might impact poor fishing communities.
  • Trade on the Web poses "one of the biggest challenges facing CITES," said Paul Todd, a campaign manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
  • "The Internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species," he said. "There will come a time when country to country trade of large shipments between big buyers and big sellers in different countries is a thing of the past."
  • The IFAW has done several surveys of illegal trade on the Web and a three-month survey in 2008 found more than 7,000 species worth $3.8 million sold on auction sites, classified ads and chat rooms, mostly in the United States but also Europe, China, Russia and Australia. Most of what is traded is illegal African ivory but the group has also found exotic birds along with rare products such as tiger-bone wine and pelts from protected species like polar bears and leopards.
  • A separate 2009 survey by the group Campaign Against the Cruelty to Animals targeted the Internet trade in Ecuador, finding offers to sell live capuchin monkeys, lion cubs and ocelots.
  • "As the Internet knows no borders, it causes several new problems regarding the enforcement of the protection of endangered species," the group said in its report.
Source: AP
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

These days, chocolates and long walks are certainly more realistic, but if lovers dare to dream, how about these eight suggestions for an unforgettable Valentine's Day.
1)Bike Ride in the Atacama

Chile's Atacama Desert may be the driest place on earth, but it's also one of the most spectacular. From the dusty streets of San Pedro, rent a couple bikes and head out into the moonscape of the Valley of the Moon, a national park with glowing red rocky outcrops and inspiring vistas.
Newly paved, flat roads also shepherd you along active volcanoes to the cold, brightly coloured Cejas Lagoon, fed by underwater rivers. After a refreshing dip, gaze at flamingos, and bike back for a candlelit dinner in San Pedro. The Atacama gives one the sense of visiting a desolate, utterly romantic planet, right here on earth.
2)Drifting amongst Fireflies, Kuala Selangor, Malaysia.

Twinkle twinkle little firefly? Malays call them "kelip-kelip", which means "to twinkle", the result of a mating glow set off by these small insects in the dark blue night. From a wooden jetty at Kampung Kauntan, a man will row you and your loved one down a quiet river, standing as he does so, his motions slow and patient.
The boat trip itself is romantic, through warm air under bright stars. Suddenly, you see a tiny flash of light. And another, and another, until the shores of the river are lined with as many stars as the sky above, pulsing on and off. It feels like you're floating through your own universe, holding hands, with only the soft splash of wooden oars reminding you of earth. It's tough to catch fireflies, so just sit back, and enjoy the ride.

3)Sunset from the Rose Garden, Cappadocia, Turkey

Over thousands of years, the wind and elements have carved a unique landscape in central Turkey's Cappadocia. Soft rocks have eroded into striking "fairy chimneys," standing upright in strange shapes and forms.
You can enjoy a hot air balloon at sunrise, drifting romantically above this quiet, eerie landscape. Alternatively, head to the Rose Garden, located a short drive from the town of Goreme, for a picture-perfect sunset, watching the chimneys and caves glow as pink as the cheeks of young lovers.

4)A Heli-Yoga Class in the Canadian Rockies

Adventurous couples, with a few dollars more than the rest of us, might want to consider heading to the Rockies of Alberta. Here, Icefields Helicopter Tours offer a unique service designed to connect you with nature, and each other. They'll drop you on top of a mountain with a certified yoga instructor, where you can enjoy a relaxing class, meditation, and delicious picnic.
Here, you can take a walk on top of the world, or even get married at a particularly romantic location. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, a pure blue sky above, helicopters help eliminate the physical effort in finding the peaks of romance.

5)Walk in a Cloud Forest, Monteverde, Costa Rica

There's something sensuous about a jungle, as our hero discovered in the hit movie Avatar. Teeming with life and colour, a walk in the jungle is no walk on the beach, which is why couples chasing romance might consider Monteverde's stunning Cloud Forest. Its Skywalk consists of over 2.5 km of trails, with five treetop suspension bridges, the longest of which stretches about 243m.
Without worrying about mud or insects, you can stroll high above the land, peeking at cheeky monkeys, walking amongst the colourful butterflies and birds that live in the canopy. The Skywalk takes about two hours. One doesn't need to be a large tall blue alien to recognize that romance also comes in shades of green.

6)Onsen Hot Pools, New Zealand

After a long day thrill-seeking Queenstown's famous adventures – bungy jumping, bridge swinging, river jets – the perfect place for Valentine's Day is inside a warm wooden pool, with a view. But this isn't just any hot tub. Press a button to open a retractable picture window and reveal a beautiful mountain view.
Couples get their own private tub, complete with change area and shower. The water is a combination of mountain spring, rain and lake water, constantly filtered with ozone so that it's clean enough to drink. The heated water can be cooled with the touch of a button, and the wooden tubs are big enough to accommodate four adults. Romantic, private, soothing, and wonderfully decadent.

7)Dance the Forro on Ilha Grande, Brazil

Ilha Grande, recently in the news because of heavy rains, has long been an escape for both Brazilians and travellers. It's an island, located 180km from Rio de Janeiro, and accessible only by boat. No cars are allowed on the island, which is largely protected from development, and offers beautiful hikes into the mountains, or along quiet, tropical beaches.
When I took this photo, Brazilian visitors of all ages had randomly decided to dance in the streets of the main village Abraao, to music playing only in their heads. The dance is called the forro, and being Brazilian, it involves intense physical contact, perfect for couples in love. Feel the warm sea breeze against your skin, hear the sound of a lone percussionist, beating to the rhythm of an island in love. It's reason enough why exotic travel will always be perfect for Valentines Day.

8)Midnight through the Locks of the Three Gorges Dam, China

Cruises have long travelled along the Yangtze, the third biggest river in the world, and now home to the most ambitious engineering feat in history. Sure, there's always romance in a cruise, but descending through massive locks, bypassing a dam powerful enough to generate energy equivalent to 18 nuclear power plants?
Power is always an aphrodisiac too. Standing on deck at midnight, the humidity hugging you close, it's a spectacle watching giant gates open and close, holding back the flood while lowering 10,000 tons of ship into the Gorge below. It's powerful, exotic, and romantic too. After all, size does matter.

Source: Life and Style, Gulf News
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

BEIJING – Tons of sand turned Beijing's sky orange as the strongest sandstorm this year hit northern China, a gritty reminder that the country's expanding deserts have led to a sharp increase in the storms.
The sky glowed Saturday and a thin dusting of sand covered Beijing, causing workers and tourists to muffle their faces in vast Tiananmen Square. The city's weather bureau gave air quality a rare hazardous ranking.
  • Air quality is "very bad for the health," China's national weather bureau warned. It said people should cover their mouths when outside and keep doors and windows closed.
  • China's expanding deserts now cover one-third of the country because of overgrazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and drought. The shifting sands have led to a sharp increase in sandstorms — the grit from which can travel as far as the western United States.
  • The Chinese Academy of Sciences has estimated that the number of sandstorms has jumped six-fold in the past 50 years to two dozen a year.
Source: AP
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Manila, Philippine - The influential Catholic Church and women's rights groups have complained about a mobile phone advertisement published on March 3 saying it relegates women as commodities.
Several women's groups have signed a letter complaining about the advert which uses "a woman with her legs spread wide open" with a mobile phone "strategically placed between" the model's legs.
The letter protested the "deplorable use of a woman's body in advertisements that in effect reduce it to a mere commodity," Zenaida Rotea, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Office on Women, said on the CBCP website.
Source: Gulf News
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" by Rembrandt was one of more than a dozen works of art burglars stole during a 1990 heist in Boston.
Boston, USA - It remains the most tantalising art heist mystery in the world.
In the early hours of March 18, 1990, two thieves walked into Boston's elegant Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum disguised as police officers and bound and gagged two guards using handcuffs and duct tape.
For the next 81 minutes, they sauntered around the ornate galleries, removing masterworks including those by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet, cutting some of the largest pieces from their frames.
  • By the time they disappeared, they would be credited with the largest art theft in history, making off with upward of a half-billion dollars in loot far too hot to sell.
  • Now, 20 years later, investigators are making a renewed push to recover the paintings. The FBI has resubmitted DNA samples for updated testing, the museum is publicising its $5 million no-questions-asked reward, and the US attorney's office is offering immunity. Two billboards on Interstate highways 93 and 495 are also advertising the reward.
  • "Our priority is to get the paintings back," US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said. "If someone had information or had possession of the paintings, immunity from prosecution is negotiable."
  • Investigators say they've largely ruled out some of the more popular theories, from the spectre of a recluse billionaire art collector to the hand of notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger.
  • More likely, investigators say, the two were home grown thieves with knowledge of the museum's security system — including the absence of a dead man's switch that would have alerted police once the guards became incapacitated.
  • "I picture the thieves waking up the next morning and looking in the papers and saying, 'We just pulled off the largest art theft in history,"' Anthony Amore, the museum's security director, said.
  • After the heavier works of art were removed from the walls, the thief in charge might have let the other thief take what he wanted.
  • On their way out, the two thieves smashed their way into the security office and snatched the only visual record of their crime — a VHS tape.
  • Amore said he won't stop until the paintings again fill the empty frames still hanging in the museum's galleries.
  • "I don't have any doubt we are going to recover them," he said. "There's nothing we're not doing."
Source: AP
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Saturday, March 20, 2010
SOME 42 per cent of consumers in the country are not aware of their rights, including in claiming damages through the consumer claims tribunal, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said.
He said the percentage was obtained during a study involving 5,000 respondents last year.
  • "Based on the study, they have no idea on their rights nor the avenue for redress should their rights are infringed," he told a news conferencehere yesterday.
  • On the consumer claims tribunal, he said, many respondents were not aware that they only need to pay RM5 ($2.1) to open a case with the tribunal and that they also need not appoint a lawyer to handle the case.
  • There are 23 consumer claims tribunals nationwide with seven new ones in the pipeline including one each in Selangor, Sabah and Pahang.
  • He said consumers should utilise the facility provided by the tribunal.
  • "Last year 6,491 cases were brought up nationwide, with 97.17 having been settled," he said.
  • Of the total, 44 per cent were solved through withdrawal of complaints after both sides agreed to settle their cases outside the tribunal, 32.83 per cent through awards after the complainantss won cases and 3.07 per cent rejected.
  • He said each case brought to the tribunal would need about 45 days to dispose of.
Source: Bernama
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Friday, March 19, 2010
Earlier this month, divers took to the polluted waters of Hong Kong's Rambler Channel, searching for the drowned body of a seven-year-old boy. A week prior, the boy and his mother, a 39-year-old divorc√Če and welfare recipient, were seen plunging 17 meters into the sea from the Tsing Yi Bridge, near the city's container port.
  • The mother's body was quickly retrieved, but except for a red schoolbag there was no trace of the boy until March 4. On that day, his body was finally hauled out of the water and Hong Kong notched up a peculiarly grim statistic - it was the third instance in a month of a mother killing her child and herself.
  • So-called filicide-suicides are not a new phenomenon in East Asia, but Hong Kong's relatively high number - there have been at least 15 since the start of 2008 - has raised alarm. "Three in one month is a critical warning sign," says Paul Yip, director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention in Hong Kong.
  • In the United States, murder-suicides predominantly involve spouses killing partners before taking their own lives. But in Hong Kong, Yip says, at least 50% of cases involve the death of a child.
  • Feelings of isolation unite these cases. Researchers agree that in instances of filicide-suicide, parents feel there is no friend or relative able or trustworthy enough to care for the children.
  • "In Hong Kong, it's common not to know neighbors who have been beside you for 10 years," says researcher Yip. While social and mental health workers have been asked to pay close attention to depressed parents of small children, professional help remains thin on the ground in Hong Kong, and is no substitute for a strong personal support network.
  • "It is packed here," says Yip of a city where population density, at its highest, exceeds 50,000 per square kilometer. "Physically we are very close, but emotionally we could not be more distant."
Source: TIME
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