SOLYMONE BLOG

GANDHI ASHES SCATTERED OFF SOUTH AFRICA COAST ?

Sunday, January 31, 2010
Eli Gandhi, the grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, centre, is helped by others during a ceremony to sprinkle
DURBAN, South Africa – Six decades after his death Saturday, some of Mohandas K. Gandhi's ashes were scattered off the coast of South Africa, where he was confronted by racial discrimination during a 21-year sojourn and developed some of his philosophies of peaceful resistance.
An early morning service in a harbor in the eastern city of Durban on the 62nd anniversary of Gandhi's death included the laying of flowers and candles on the water's surface.
Gandhi, known as the Mahatma or "great soul," was shot dead by a Hindu hard-liner in 1948 in New Delhi. His ashes were divided, stored in steel urns and sent across India and beyond for memorial services. It was not unusual for some of the ashes to have been preserved instead of scattered as intended.
South Africa's state broadcaster, SABC, reported the portion of Gandhi's ashes in South Africa was brought here by a family friend. SABC quoted Gandhi's great grandson Kidar Ramgobin as saying Saturday's ceremony included the playing of the national anthems of South Africa and India.
Gandhi first came to South Africa to work as a lawyer in the Indian community.
Soon after his arrival in South Africa in 1893, Gandhi, was thrown off a train for refusing to leave the "whites only" compartment. As a result, he threw himself into the fight for human rights in South Africa.
Gandhi lived in homes and farms across South Africa for two decades, before returning to India at the age of 46 to help fight for independence from Britain.
A large number of South Africans are descended from indentured workers brought from India in the 19th century to work on sugar plantations in the Durban area.
In 2007, some of Gandhi's ashes were sent to a Gandhi museum in Mumbai by an Indian businessman whose father, a friend of Gandhi, had saved them. Those ashes were scattered in the sea off Mumbai in 2008.
In 1997, ashes that had been found in a bank vault in northern India were immersed at the holy spot where India's Ganges and Yamuna rivers met.
Source: AP
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TB HEALTH EMERGENCY IN MARSHAL ISLANDS

Sunday, January 31, 2010
MAJURO - The number of people in the Marshall Islands with the drug-resistant disease has risen from 6 to 10 in less than two months and there are fears it will spread further with health officials tracking an estimated 500 contacts.
An outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the western Pacific nation has been declared a public health emergency, as the government Saturday considered invoking special powers of quarantine.
  • Rachel Powell of the US Centers for Disease Control, which is working with the World Health Organisation to coordinate the response to the newly identified strain, described the escalating situation as "a public health emergency."
  • Marshall Islands Health Minister Amenta Matthew said she was drafting legislation to give the director of health power to quarantine people who did not voluntarily comply with TB prevention requirements.
  • She said the development of drug-resistant TB was due largely to the refusal of patients to take medicines despite the counselling efforts of physicians.
  • "Currently, there are patients who continuously move around the community with TB disease posing the threat of exposing others to the disease," she said.
Health authorities took one patient to court last week for failing to take treatment and remain in isolation.
The judge, lawyers, witnesses and the defendant were required to wear face masks to prevent the spread of TB during the hearing, but the session ended without an immediate result, allowing the patient to remain in the community.
Source: AFP
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OSAMA BIN LADEN BLASTS U.S FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

Saturday, January 30, 2010
Osama bin Laden sought to draw a wider public into his fight against the United States in a new message Friday, dropping his usual talk of religion and holy war and focusing instead on an unexpected topic: global warming.
The al-Qaida leader blamed the United States and other industrialized nations for climate change and said the only way to prevent disaster was to break the American economy, calling on the world to boycott U.S. goods and stop using the dollar.
  • "The effects of global warming have touched every continent. Drought and deserts are spreading, while from the other floods and hurricanes unseen before the previous decades have now become frequent," bin Laden said in the audiotape, aired on the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera.
  • The terror leader noted Washington's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and painted the United States as in the thrall of major corporations that he said "are the true criminals against the global climate" and are to blame for the global economic crisis, driving "tens of millions into poverty and unemployment."
  • Bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders have mentioned global warming and struck an anti-globalization tone in previous tapes and videos. But the latest was the first message by bin Laden solely dedicated to the topic. It was also nearly entirely empty of the Islamic militant rhetoric that usually fills his declarations.
  • The change in rhetoric aims to give al-Qaida's message an appeal beyond hardcore Islamic militants, said Evan Kohlmann, of globalterroralert.com, a private, U.S.-based terrorism analysis group.
  • The al-Qaida leader's call for an economic boycott helps in the appeal,providing a nonviolent way to participate in opposing the United States.
  • "People of the world, it's not right for the burden to be left on the mujahedeen (holy warriors) in an issue that causes harm to everyone," he said. "Boycott them to save yourselves and your possessions and your children from climate change and to live proud and free."
  • Al-Jazeera aired excerpts of the message and posted a transcript on its Web site. The tape's authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but the voice resembled that of bin Laden on messages known to be from him. The new message comes after a bin Laden tape released last week in which he endorsed a failed attempt to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day.
  • In the new tape, bin Laden refers to the Dec. 18 climate conference in Copenhagen — indicated the message was made recently.
  • The message whose length Al-Jazeera did not specify — makes only brief passing mentions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and instead hits on issues that could resonate at a time of widespread economic woes.
  • "The world is held hostage by major corporations, which are pushing it to the brink," he said. "World politics are not governed by reason but by the force and greed of oil thieves and warmongers and the cruel beasts of capitalism."
  • To stop global warming, he called for the "wheels of the American economy" to be brought to a halt. "This is possible if the peoples of the world stop consuming American goods."
  • "We must also stop dealings in the dollar and get rid of it as soon as possible," he said. "I know that this has great consequences and grave ramifications, but it is the only means to liberate humanity from slavery and dependence on America."
Source: AP
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10 SUSPECTS LINKED TO NIGERIAN BOMBER ARRESTED IN MALAYSIA

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ten people arrested last week in Malaysia on suspicion of terror activities have ties to a Nigerian accused of attempting to blow up a US plane last month, a newspaper report says.
New Straits Times quoted sources as saying the men were linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, charged with seeking to detonate explosives on a plane as it landed in Detroit on December 25.
  • On Wednesday Malaysia's home minister announced the arrests under Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA), saying they were mainly foreigners linked to an international terror network.
  • At a news conference on Thursday a rights group said that the 10 include four men from Syria, two from Nigeria and one each from Yemen and Jordan.
  • Muhammad Yunus Zainal Abidin, who witnessed last week's arrests, identified one of the detainees as Aiman al-Dakkak, a 50-year-old Syrian freelance religious teacher who has been living in Malaysia since 2003.
  • Muhammad Yunus said he was with about 50 men at a religious talk by Aiman on January 21 at his home on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, when police stormed the house.
  • He said the police, wearing bullet-proof vests and armed with machine guns, took all the men to a police training centre in the city.
  • An observer, Muhammad Yunus said most of them at the talk were international students aged between 20 and 40, and comprising Malaysians, Nigerians, Eritreans, Syrians, Jordanians, a Saudi Arabian and an American.
  • He said police wanted to know if anyone in the group was from Yemen, Russia or Pakistan, and later separated them by nationalities for questioning.
  • Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian home minister, did not give details on the arrests saying it may jeopardise the investigations.
  • He said the detainees posed a "serious threat" to security and that their arrests were based on co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies.
  • "This is a very good wake-up call for us because the playground for terrorists is no longer just one nation. The whole world is their playground," he added.
Source: The Agencies
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HUMAN PREDATORS STALK HAITI'S VULNERABLE KIDS

Thursday, January 28, 2010
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive on Tuesday expressed the fear that amid the clamor to airlift Haitian orphans out of the devastated country to waiting adoptive parents in the U.S. and Europe, others are being trafficked.
The U.N. says it's on alert to prevent the exploitation of the thousands of Haitian kids who've lost or been separated from their parents and who wander aimlessly in search of food, water and shelter.
  • UNICEF, the U.N.'s child advocacy arm, as well as groups like Save the Children and the Red Cross, say they're registering at-risk kids and setting up shelters exclusively for them. Says one UNICEF official monitoring reports of scenes like the one witnessed by Pean, "Traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability, and we've rarely if ever seen one like this."
  • The earthquake seems to have shaken more Haitians into vigilance as well - and perhaps, unfortunately, some vigilantism. In the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Petit Place Cazeu on Wednesday, a crowd of quake survivors living in tents surrounded a pickup truck and beat up the driver, saying he had for several days been trying to kidnap young girls.
  • Bleeding from his nose, mouth and scalp, he managed to get back in his truck and flee. (The angry crowd then threatened to beat up a journalist for even asking questions about child trafficking.)
  • But the problem remains daunting, and it is exacerbated by the fact that children are not accorded much if any protection under Haitian law or culture. That's a big reason restaveks are still so prevalent today, not just in Haiti but even in Haitian-American enclaves in the U.S., such as New York and Miami, as TIME first reported in 2001.
  • Restavek in Creole means "to stay with," an innocuous term for a far more sinister practice - children, often given up by their poor Haitian families, "stay with" more affluent families as slaves. And like most slaves, they're usually subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Source: Time
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TURKISH PM ACCUSED OF ANTI SEMITISM

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Israel has accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of inciting "anti-Semitism" by making remarks on the war crimes committed against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
A new report prepared by the foreign ministry in Tel Aviv charges that although Erdogan has stresses that anti-Semitism is "a crime against humanity," he "indirectly incites and encourages" it in Turkey, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
  • "In our estimate, ever since his party took power, Erdogan has conducted an ongoing process of ... fashioning a negative view of Israel in Turkish public opinion," through endless talks of Palestinian suffering, repeatedly accusing Israel of war crimes and even "anti-Semitic expressions and incitement," read the report.
  • The seven-page report written by the Center for Political Research has already been distributed to Israeli embassies and consulates abroad.
  • "For Erdogan and some of those around him," the report claimed, "there is no distinction between 'Israeli' and 'Jewish,' and therefore, [their] anti-Israel fervor and criticism become anti-Jewish."
  • "Turkey today, under the leadership of the AKP [Erdogan's Justice and Development Party], is different from the Turkey with which Israel forged a strategic relationship in the early 1990s," the report concluded.
  • Relations between Israel and Turkey began to deteriorate after Erdogan publicly slammed Israel over its late 2008 incursion into Gaza and charged the regime with committing "barbarian" acts against the Palestinian civilians.
Source: Press TV
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3 HOTELS HIT BY SUICIDE CAR BOMBER IN CENTERAL BAGHDAD

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Suicide bombers struck in quick succession Monday at three Baghdad hotels favored by Western journalists in well-planned assaults that killed at least 37 people and wounded more than 100.
The attacks were another blow to an Iraqi government already struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out massive attacks in the heart of the Iraqi capital since August, raising serious questions about the country's stability ahead of March 7 parliamentary elections
  • This week's bombings — all against prominent and heavily fortified targets — dealt yet another blow to the image of an Iraqi government struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out a number of massive attacks in the heart of the capital since August.
  • The latest blast came as family members of the Saddam Hussein stalwart known as "Chemical Ali" arrived in Baghdad to collect his body for an afternoon burial. Ali Hassan al-Majid was hanged Monday after a series of convictions for atrocities that included mass killings and crimes against humanity.
  • The timing of this week's deadly bombings have prompted speculation among some Iraqis that the attacks were retaliation for the death sentence. But the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, dismissed those claims, saying there was "absolutely no connection" between the attacks and the execution.
Source: AP
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'CHEMICAL ALI' HANGED FOR IRAQ'S GAS ATTACK

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Even in Saddam Hussein's ruthless regime, "Chemical Ali" stood apart, notable for his role in gassing 5,000 people in a Kurdish village — the deadliest chemical weapons attack ever against civilians.
Ali Hassan al-Majid was hanged Monday, leaving a notorious legacy that stamped Saddam's regime as capable of unimaginable cruelty and brought unsettling questions about Iraq's stockpiles of poison gas and whether it could unleash them again.
  • The poison gas clouds that struck the village of Halabja began what would become an about-face by Washington — which had supported Saddam during the eight-year war against Iran's new Islamic state in the 1980s, but soon became his arch-foe and protector of the Kurds in their northern enclave.
  • "I want to kiss the hangman's rope," said Kamil Mahmoud, a 40-year-old teacher who lost eight family members in the March 16, 1988, attack in Iraq's Kurdish region.
  • Al-Majid, 68, was executed about a week after he received his fourth death sentence since facing Iraqi courts after the fall of Saddam. He was one of the last high-profile members of the former Sunni-led regime still on trial in Iraq.
  • He said "Praise God" in Arabic as the sentence was read Jan. 17.
  • The only public record of the execution so far are two still photos shown briefly on state TV: one of him wearing red prison coveralls and the other of him on the gallows with a black hood over his head. The mood was far more controlled than the taunting reported at Saddam's hanging in December 2006.
Source: AP
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ETHIOPIAN PLANE WITH 90 PEOPLE ON BOARD CRASHES OFF BEIRUT

Monday, January 25, 2010

BEIRUT, Lebanon - An Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 people on board crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Beirut in stormy weather early on Monday and the airline's chief executive said there was no word of survivors.
  • The Boeing 737-800, heading for Addis Ababa, disappeared off the radar some five minutes after taking off at 2:37 a.m. (0037 GMT) during a thunder storm and heavy rain. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said he did not think the plane had been brought down deliberately.
  • "As of now, a sabotage act is unlikely. The investigation will uncover the cause," Suleiman told a news conference.
  • Fourteen bodies have so far been recovered near the crash site three-and-a-half km (two miles) west of the coastal village of Na'ameh. Eighty-three passengers and seven crew were on the flight, Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said at the airport.
  • Ethiopian Airlines CEO Girma Wake said he had spoken with Lebanese authorities who did not confirm there were survivors.
  • Fifty-four of those on board were Lebanese, 22 were Ethiopian, two were British and there were also Canadian, Russian, French, Iraqi and Syrian nationals.
  • Marla Pietton, wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton, was on the plane, the French embassy said.
  • The Lebanese government declared a day of mourning. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited the airport to meet distraught relatives waiting for news of survivors, some of whom were angry that the plane was allowed to take off in bad weather.
  • "They should have delayed the flight for an hour or two to protect the passengers. There had been strong lightning bolts and we hear that lighting strikes at planes especially during take offs," a relative of one of the passengers told a local television station.
Source: Reuters
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15 WHALES DIE BEACHED IN NEW ZEALAND

Monday, January 25, 2010
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Rescuers in New Zealand managed to coax 33 beached whales back out into deep waters Sunday, but another 15 of the pod died, a conservation official said.
The 48 pilot whales stranded Saturday at Port Levy on South Island, but scores of volunteers joined Department of Conservation workers to refloat them off the shallow, muddy inlet, said the department's community relations manager, Grant Campbell.
It was the third mass stranding on the New Zealand coast this summer. Some 125 pilot whales died in the two other beachings, while 43 were returned to the ocean.
  • Campbell said that in the latest incident, residents were quick to help after spotting the whales apparently feeding in the inlet before they stranded.
  • "It's a very, very shallow bay in Port Levy, very muddy, so whether they were chasing food and got caught in the shallows, we don't know," he told The Associated Press.
  • Whales in the pod were up to 17 feet (5 meters) -long, while a few calves were between 3 feet (1 meter) and 5 feet (a meter and a half) -long, Campbell said.
  • Local Ted Howden said the pod stranded twice. Residents helped the whales back out to open waters Saturday, but by Sunday morning they were all back on the beach, he told TV One News.
  • More than 80 people rallied to aid the mammals, and as the tide flowed in Sunday, "they began floating and we were able to push them out, and away they went," Howden said.
  • By later Sunday, the survivors had been shepherded into deeper waters by a couple of boats and were swimming away, Campbell said.
  • Specialists will carry out autopsies on two of the dead whales Monday, before the 15 dead mammals are buried high up the beach, he said.
  • Large numbers of whales become stranded on New Zealand's beaches each summer as they pass by from Antarctic waters on their way to breeding grounds. Scientists have been unable to explain why whales become stranded.
Source: AP
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THE DIMINISHING RAINFORESTS OF THE SEA

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Coral reefs, have often called "the rainforests of the sea" because of their richness in wildlife. The destruction in coral means also the elimination of the various life forms who used the coral as habitats.
Organisms reliant on coral are becoming rare many facing extinction.
More than 80 per cent of the reefs clustered around the Philippines are considered to be in jeopardy
.

Coral off the East coast of Africa has been reduced in recent years to a tenth of its size.
Cold-water reefs off the coast of Britain, reefs not yet accurately mapped, which are up to 8,500 years old, survive in the Atlantic at depths of 200 to 1,000 metres.
These reefs are under threat from the nets of trawlers that damage vast swathes of the reefs.
Scientists are issuing warnings that all these reefs will be destroyed.
Four-fifths of the coral on Caribbean reefs has disappeared in the past 25 years in a phenomenal saga of destruction.

There has been nothing like it in the past few thousand years according to a study published in the journal Science.
One of the most serious consequences of the decline is that the reefs from Barbados, the Florida Keys, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama, Mexico, may now be unable to withstand the effects of global warming.

"We report a massive region-wide decline of corals across the entire Caribbean basin," the five-strong team says in the introduction to the paper, in language remarkably strong for a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
"The ability of Caribbean coral reefs to cope with future local and global environmental change may be irretrievably compromised," the team reports.
The Great Barrier Reef coral will mostly be dead by 2050, says a study by Hans and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg — the head of Queensland University's marine studies centre. The report is entitled: "Implications of Climate Change for Australia's Great Barrier Reef".
The brightly-coloured corals that make Australia's Great Barrier Reef one of the world's natural wonders is dying because of rising sea temperatures.
Their 350-page report found no prospect of avoiding the "chilling long-term eventualities" of coral bleaching because greenhouse gases were already warming the seas as part of a process it said would take decades to stop.
Coral has a narrow comfort zone and is highly stressed by a temperature rise of less than one degree Celsius.
Water temperature rises of less than one degree coincided with the world's worst recorded coral bleaching episode in 1988.
With bleaching, the warmer water forces out the algae that give coral its colour and, if all are lost, the coral dies and the reef will crumble.

Many scientists say global temperatures are rising because fossil fuel emissions from cars, industry and other sources are trapping the earth's heat. Experts worry some coral reefs could be wiped out by the end of the century.

Tropical algae thriving on fertilizers from hotel golf courses and badly treated sewage killing coastal reef.
Source: AFP
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US-MADE RIFLES INSCRIBED WITH BIBLE CODES ON AFGHAN ARMY GUNS

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The inscriptions do not include actual text from the Bible but refer numerically to passages
US-made rifles inscribed with Bible codes are being used by US forces and Afghans to fight the Taliban.
The weapons come from Trijicon, a manufacturer based in Wixom, Michigan, that supplies the US military. The company's now deceased founder, Glyn Bandon, started the practice which continues today.
  • David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Afghan capital Kabul, said: "It is a rallying cry for the Taliban. It gives them a propaganda tool.
  • "They've always tried to paint the US efforts in Afghanistan as a Christian campaign."
  • General David Petraeus, the chief of the US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, called the inscriptions, which he said he only learnt about on Wednesday, "disturbing".
  • "This is a serious concern to me and the other commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan because it indeed conveys a perception that is absolutely contrary to what we have sought to do," he said at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Thursday.
  • A Nato spokesman in Afghanistan acknowledged that the inscriptions were inappropriate but said the guns would remain in use for now.
  • Interviewed by Al Jazeera on Thursday, Colonel Gregory Breazile, of the Nato Training Command in Afghanistan, said: "We were told about it last night and when we looked into it, we noticed it was true.
  • "We started to take action and notify both the ministry of defence and our chain of command and they have all taken action so that we don't purchase any more of these sights.
  • "We gave the Afghan military these weapons. We are very disappointed, but it's a tiny little inscription and very hard to notice and I don't think it will be an issue in the field."
  • Breazile said: "We would have not bought these sights had we known they had these inscriptions on them."
  • Trijicon said it has inscribed references to the New Testament on the metal casings of its gun sights for over two decades.
  • But it offered on Thursday to stop putting Biblical references on all products manufactured for the US military.
  • The company also said it would provide, free of charge, 100 modification kits to the Pentagon to enable the removal of the references that are already on products that are currently deployed.
Source: The Agencies
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150 BODIES RECOVERED IN WELLS AFTER NIGERIAN MASSACRE

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A dead body is carried away following violent clashes in Kuru Karama village near the city of Jos in Nigeria
JOS, Nigeria – At least 150 bodies have been recovered from wells following Muslim-Christian clashes in central Nigeria in which the estimated death toll already stood at over 300, a village head and volunteers told AFP Saturday.
"So far we have picked 150 bodies from the wells. But 60 more people are still missing, said Umar Baza, head of Kuru Karama village near the city of Jos.
  • "We took an inventory of the displaced people from this village, sheltering in three camps and we realise that 60 people can still not be accounted for," he added, speaking by telephone.
  • Head of the Muslim volunteer team in the village, Mohammed Shittu, said further searches would be carried out on Saturday.
  • "Now we have 150 bodies in all, taken from the wells as from Thursday. We are still going back there today (Saturday) to comb the bush around the village to search for more bodies," he also told AFP.
  • "From the account of survivors, some people fleeing attacks were ambushed and killed in the bush. That is why we are going there to search for more bodies.
  • "We believe there are more bodies in the wells but the degree of their decomposition makes it difficult to continue the retrieval operation. We have therefore decided to sand-fill all the wells," Baza further said.
  • The state government has given no official death toll for the violence, which broke out last Sunday in Jos, capital of Plateau State and later spread to nearby towns and villages, but religious leaders and medical workers said they had counted around 300 bodies by Wednesday.
  • Global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday urged Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to order "an immediate criminal investigation into credible reports of a massacre of at least 150 Muslim residents of a town in central Nigeria."
  • HRW said in a statement received in Lagos that witnesses said groups of armed men, believed to be Christians attacked the largely Muslim population of Kuru Karama on Tuesday morning.
  • "After surrounding the town, they hunted down and attacked Muslim residents, some of whom had sought refuge in homes and a local mosque, killing many as they tried to flee and burning many others alive," the statement said.
Source: AFP
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19 RARE ASIATIC MOON BEARS RESCUED FROM BEAR BILE FARM IN VIETNAM

Saturday, January 23, 2010
TAN UYEN, Vietnam – The three tractor-trailer containers sat in a row, divided with metal partitions into 19 tiny, sweltering cells.
Massive claws and furry black noses poked between the iron bars: 19 rare Asiatic moon bears awaiting their next gall bladder milking. Their bile is a coveted traditional medicine ingredient used to treat everything from hemorrhoids to epilepsy.
Some paced nervously inside the cages, panting and foaming at the mouth with wild bloodshot eyes. Others laid in their urine and feces, resting on the cool concrete floor. They devoured the bananas and chunks of watermelon — including the rinds — offered to them, a welcome treat from their usual diet of rice gruel.
  • The bears were found at an illegal Taiwanese-owned operation in southern Vietnam. On Friday, four days after being hoisted onto tractor trailers and driven 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) north, they reached a new home with grass and tire swings at a rescue center about two hours outside of Hanoi, the capital.
  • The newly rescued bears — two of them missing limbs and one blind — were sedated and removed one-by-one from their tiny cages Friday at Tam Dao National Park. They are joining 29 bears already at the rescue center.
  • Ultrasound tests found evidence of thickened gall bladders, a telltale sign of milking, said Animals Asia veterinarian Heather Bacon. She said some may need to have the organ removed because of extensive damage.
  • Many of the black bears, some standing 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall on their hind legs and weighing 330 pounds (150 kilograms), have been caged since being snatched from the wild as cubs up to seven years ago, said Tuan Bendixsen of Animals Asia Foundation in Vietnam, which rescued the bears this week.
  • Bear bile has been used for thousands of years in Asia to treat fevers, pain, inflammation and many other ailments. In the 1980s, China began promoting bear farms as a way to discourage poaching. The bears were housed in small cages, and the green bitter fluid was sucked from their gall bladders using crude catheters, sometimes creating pus-filled abscesses or internal bile leakage. Many bears die slowly from infections or liver ailments, including cancer.
  • The idea caught on in Vietnam and elsewhere as demand grew alongside the region's increasing wealth. Bear bile products are also illegally smuggled into Chinatowns worldwide. An informal survey by the World Society for the Protection of Animals found 75 percent of stores visited in Japan selling bear bile products, followed by 42 percent in South Korea. In the U.S. and Canada, it was about 15 percent.
  • Bear bile harvesting remains legal in China, where the government says 7,000 bears are milked on about 250 farms, though animal welfare groups say the real number could be double that. Demand for illegal wild bear bile, believed to be more potent, is also increasing, they say.
Source: AP
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CHAVEZ SAYS U.S 'TECTONIC WEAPON' CAUSED HAITI QUAKE

Friday, January 22, 2010
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez Wednesday accused the United States of causing the destruction in Haiti by testing a 'tectonic weapon' to induce the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country last week.
President Chavez said the US was "playing God" by testing devices capable of creating eco-type catastrophes, the Spanish newspaper ABC quoted him as saying.
  • A 7.0-magnitude quake rattled the desperately poor country on January 12, killing an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people. As Haiti looks to the world for basic sustenance, the authorities say the biggest dangers facing survivors are untreated wounds and rising disease.
  • Chavez said the killer earthquake followed a test of "weapon of earthquakes" just offshore from Haiti. He did not elaborate on the source of his claim.
  • The outspoken leader had earlier accused the US of occupying Haiti "under the guise of the natural disaster."
  • At least 11,000 US troops have been dispatched to the country to provide security for aid distribution efforts.
  • Venezuelan media have reported that the earthquake "may be associated with the project called HAARP, a system that can generate violent and unexpected changes in climate."
  • HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a study run in Alaska directed at the occasional reconfiguration of the properties of the Earth's ionosphere to improve satellite communications.
  • Former US Secretary of Defense William Cohen in 1997 expressed concerned over countries engaging "in eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves."
Source:Press TV
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THE MYTH BEHIND M'SIA OPPOSITION LEADER SODOMY TRAIL'S POSTPONEMENT

Friday, January 22, 2010

Federal Court postponed its decision on the Anwar Ibrahim appeal for additional discovery by nine days to January 29th. This forces a one-week delay in the start of the sodomy trial to February 2.
  • The Federal Court’s decision came as a surprise given its Monday morning rejection of a defense request to postpone today’s hearing.
  • It has also led some observers to the conclusion that the Federal government, seen to be the unseen hand behind the prosecution of Anwar, has flinched.
  • Since early December the Court has been seen to be on a fast track to start the trial on January 25th. Due process in the final appeal for discovery was almost cast aside in the interests of expediency and the scheduling today’s hearing was also regarded as fast tracking an appeals process which has favoured the prosecution at every stage.
  • Some are asking why reject the defense’s request for postponement on Monday and then postpone the case two days later?
  • Behind the scenes there is still little consensus on whether or not this trial will end badly for BN. Some in the ruling coalition believe a repeat of the 1998 Reformasi demonstrations is unlikely and a swift and clean conviction would elicit minimal public outrage. Others are not so sure, and are fearful that Anwar Ibrahim’s ability to mobilize huge mass demonstrations from behind bars is even greater today.
  • Given the negative publicity that nation has endured since Najib’s premiership began, the country can hardly afford another major international fiasco.
  • With Anwar’s trial looming, it is accepted that there will be a heavy price to pay in the international community given Anwar Ibrahim’s impeccable networking with world leaders and the international media, the legacy of his botched 1998 trials and the dark cloud still hanging over Malaysia’s troubled judiciary since the Lingam tape controversy demonstrated pervasive corruption in the Malaysian courts.
  • It is also believed that Prime Minister Najib has come under intense international pressure during his current road trip to end what is perceived as the ongoing judicial persecution of Anwar Ibrahim. Efforts by Malaysian ambassadors to justify the case have been largely rebuffed and some world leaders have made personal calls on the Prime Minister to urge him to change course.
  • The postponement can therefore be seen in the broader context of the UMNO’s inability to commit fully to the political risk of Sodomy II.
Source: MalaysiaKini,
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DR M CLAIMED 9/11 ATTACKS WAS STAGED TO HIT MUSLIM WORLD

Thursday, January 21, 2010
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed the 9/11 attacks in the United States, that killed nearly 3,000, was staged as an excuse to “mount attacks on the Muslim world”, saying killing as an excuse for war is not new to the US.
  • The former prime minister also argued that Israel was created to solve the “Jewish problem” in Europe, saying the Holocaust had failed as a final solution against the community.
  • “In September 2001, the World Trade Centre was attacked allegedly by terrorists. I am not sure now that Muslim terrorists carried out these attacks. There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,” said Dr Mahathir during his speech at the General Conference for the Support of Al-Quds here. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
  • “Killing innocent people to provide an excuse for war is not new to the US. But whether the real or staged 9/11 attacks have served the United States and Western countries well. They have an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim world,” he added.

Dr Mahathir also argued the creation of the Jewish state was decided after Europeans failed to massacre the community.
  • “The Jews had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom.
  • “Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world. The Holocaust failed as a final solution,” said the outspoken Malaysian leader who was noted for his anti-Western and anti-Zionist stand while in power for 22 years, until October 2003.
  • Dr Mahathir added that it was easier for the European powers to set up a Jewish state in Palestine.
  • “Creating a state for them was thought to be a better solution. It could be if some European territory had been allocated to make a permanent ghetto for the Jews. But of course if this was done then the affected European state would rise in arms and kill all the Jews the way they had been doing before. So the debate was about creating an Israeli state in Uganda, Africa, or somewhere in Latin America or Palestine of course.
  • “It was so easy to decide on Palestine, a British mandated territory. Restrictions on the disposal of mandated land could be ignored. This is nothing new — reneging on solemnly given undertaking is endemic with Europeans,” he said.
  • Dr Mahathir also accused democratic countries for being “hypocritical” and pointed out that the world is “partially civilised.”
  • “We live in a world that is only partially civilised. I say this because we still believe that the way to resolve conflicts between nations is to kill people in what is called war. The winner is the side which succeeds in killing the most number of people. Yet we vehemently declare that killing people is murder, a terrible crime worthy of the most severe punishment.
  • “We are being openly hypocritical. Mass killing is glorious but killing one man is a heinous crime,” he said in his speech.
  • Dr Mahathir also expressed his disappointment in Barack Obama and said that the US president has failed. Obama celebrated his first year in office today.
  • “Well, I am a bit disappointed because so far none of his promises have been kept. He promised to get out from Afghanistan but he ended up sending more troops there instead. He promised to close down Guantanamo but he has not closed down Guantanamo. Even other things he has not been able to do.
  • “It is quite easy to promise during election time but you know there are forces in the United States which prevents the president from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby, IPAC,” he said.
  • Dr Mahathir had previously blamed the Jews for causing the Asian financial crisis.
Source: The Malaysian Insider
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8 MALAYSIANS ARRESTED OVER CHURCHES ARSON ATTACK

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Malaysian Muslim volunteers stand guard outside St. James Church in Kuala Lumpur on Jaunary 12.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysian police Wednesday announced the arrest of eight Muslim men who allegedly attacked a Christian church with a firebomb. The first suspects in a spate of assaults on churches after a court ruled that non-Muslims could use the word "Allah" to refer to God.
  • The unprecedented attacks on 11 churches and a Sikh temple were apparently sparked by a Dec. 31 court verdict that upset many ethnic Malay Muslims who insist that letting Christians use "Allah" in their Malay-language publications could confuse some Muslims and entice them to convert.
  • The dispute has strained ties between Malays, who make up nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 28 million people, and religious minorities, mainly ethnic Chinese and Indians who practice Buddhism, Christianity or Hinduism. Minority communities often complain about what they believe is institutionalized religious discrimination.
  • Authorities detained eight suspects since Tuesday in connection to a Jan. 8 attack on Kuala Lumpur's Metro Tabernacle Church, which had its office gutted by fire, said Bakri Zinin, the federal police chief of criminal investigations. It was the first and most serious of all the attacks on churches.
  • "We believe that we solved this case," Bakri told a news conference.
  • The suspects were all Malays from 21 to 26 years old, according to a police statement. Police tracked them down after one of them sought treatment at a hospital for burn injuries, Bakri said.
  • They could be charged with "mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy" a place of worship, which is punishable by a maximum 20-year prison sentence and a fine. Police have obtained a court order to detain the men for at least a week pending further investigation.
  • A Metro Tabernacle Church official, Peter Yeow, praised police for the breakthrough.
  • "Right from the word 'go,' the authorities have been doing their job quite well," Yeow said. "We have put the event behind us. We are concentrating on going on with our lives."
Source: AP
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JAPAN AIRLINES DECLARES BANKRUPTCY

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TOKYO : Japan Airlines went bankrupt Tuesday with 26 billion dollars of debt in one of the country's biggest ever corporate failures, beginning a painful overhaul involving more than 15,600 job cuts.

  • JAL, a once-proud flag carrier now worth less than a jumbo jet, reassured passengers its flights would not be interrupted during the bankruptcy, which is similar to the process used to revive ailing US auto giant General Motors.
  • Asia's biggest airline, which carries more than 50 million passengers every year, will slash 30 percent of its workforce and receive almost 10 billion dollars of public funds and emergency loans under a three-year turnaround plan.
  • JAL said it aimed to "be reborn as a leading airline group".
  • But transport minister Seiji Maehara warned the government would not keep bailing out JAL indefinitely, saying it would have pulled the plug on the group if it were not such an important company. "JAL will have to fly on its own after three years," he said. "Looking to the future for the aviation industry, we have to determine if two mega-carriers should exist or not."
  • Japan's top carrier has fared much worse than smaller rival All Nippon Airways in recent years.
  • Its shares plunged to an all-time low of just three yen (three US cents) at one point earlier Tuesday, reducing the market value of the group to about 90 million dollars, far less than even the cost of a new Boeing jumbo.
  • The stock will be delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange on February 20 or earlier, a move expected to wipe out shareholders' investments.

Source: ChannelAsia, AFP

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THE CONSERVATIVE SEBASTIAN PINERA WINS CHILE POLLS

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Sebastian Pinera who is ranked No. 701 on Forbes' global list of the world's richest individuals,has won Chile's presidential election, becoming the nation's first democratically elected right-wing president in 52 years.
With 99 per cent of the ballots counted on Sunday, the billionaire conservative candidate had a 52 per cent to 48 per cent advantage over Eduardo Frei, the left leaning former president, who conceded defeat.
  • The victory by Pinera, a Harvard-educated airline magnate, marks a shift to the right in South America, a region dominated by leftist rulers from Venezuela to Argentina, although no major changes to economic policy are expected.
  • Chile, with a population of 16 million, has the highest standard of living in Latin America, according to the Human Development Index, which measures education, health, income and other factors.
  • But many voters, disenchanted with the ruling centre-left "Concertacion" coalition that has governed the world's top copper producer since the end of General Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 reign, said it was time for a change.
  • Critics said the government could have made better use in recent years of billions of dollars in copper boom savings and there was also growing frustration over an old guard dominating politics.
Source:The Agencies
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SUICIDE BOMBERS ATTACK CENTRAL KABUL

Monday, January 18, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — About two dozen gunmen, some wearing suicide vests, attacked locations across Kabul today in a coordinated commando-style operation against several targets, including banks and Afghan government ministries.
Gunfire from street battles and loud explosions could be heard across the capital in the worst attack on the city in almost a year.
  • The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as some Cabinet members of President Hamid Karzai were being sworn in.
  • “At least 10 people who are suicide bombers are in several buildings, including in banks and shopping centres,” security officer Amir Mohammad said at the scene where Afghan forces had cordoned off parts of central Kabul. He had no information about casualties.
  • Another security source said as many as 30 attackers could be involved in clashes and three people had been killed.
  • “Gunmen are besieged in the store,” he told Reuters, referring to a large store opposite the Justice Ministry and close to the presidential palace.
  • “They are firing on security forces and we believe suicide bombers are among them.”
  • Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, said 20 of the insurgent group’s fighters, including suicide bombers, had occupied several government buildings and were clashing with Afghan security forces.
  • Nato forces said they were assisting Afghan security forces in securing an area near the central bank, after reports of an explosion.
  • A security source told Reuters two rockets had also landed inside the capital.
  • “It is a chaotic scene, we do not know what to do and where to go,” an official trapped in a government building near the presidential palace told Reuters.
  • The attack was the biggest in Kabul since gunmen stormed the Justice Ministry and other government buildings in February.
Source: Reuters
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LUXURY MADE IN INDONESIA'S PRISONS

Sunday, January 17, 2010

An investigation into Indonesia's prisons has found that some inmates live a life of luxury behind bars, with flat-screen televisions and king-sized beds.
A video shot by a local television station showed the lavish living quarters of a businesswoman who was sentenced to five years in prison for bribing a prosecutor with $600,000 for dropping a case against her.
  • In prison, Artalyta Suryani's had access to a private bathroom and an adjoining karaoke suite.
  • She was serviced by maids and allowed to receive unlimited visits and beauty treatments in her room.
  • The details of the living conditions of Suryani and other rich prisoners have topped the news in Indonesian media this week, after a team set up by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the president, made a surprise visit to Jakarta Pondok Bambu women's penitentiary.
  • "We found a number of wealthy inmates had been provided with exclusive facilities," Denny Indrayana, a member of the team, said.
  • "They allegedly paid some corrupt individuals in the prison to get all they want. It shows the weakness of our judicial system."
  • Suryani has reportedly been moved to a general population cell, shared with three other prisoners, since the details became public.
  • "Investigation into other prisons is now under way to eradicate such practises," Untung Sugiyono, the director-general of prisons at the justice ministry, said.
  • Average prisoner in Indonesia sleep on the floor in cement cells, often along with dozens of other inmates.
  • Anton Medan, who spent more than 18 years in 14 different Indonesian prisons, told Al Jazeera that special treatment of rich prisoners is common.
  • He said prison directors rely on the money from rich convicts because the government is not doing anything to improve conditions in overcrowded prisons.
  • "There is something positive about this corruption. At least we don't have any fights in these over-crowded prisons because the money of corrupt people keeps them quiet.
  • "Of course it should not be like that, the government should take care of it," he said.
  • Another example of prisoners receiving special treatment was Tommy Suharto, the son of a former Indonesian president, who had personal staff and used a helicopter landing pad to go on regular outings while serving a 15-year sentence for masterminding the murder of a judge.
  • In return he built a small factory inside prison to keep inmates busy. He was released after four years.
  • Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from the capital, Jakarta, said it has been a "public secret" for many years that the rich and powerful live like kings and queens in prison.
  • "Now when this has finally come into the open the special treatment will be harder to get. But looking at the corrupt Indonesian justice system, this is only tip of the iceberg."
  • The government has announced harsh action against the corrupt practices, including sacking prison heads and staff. After the news about Suryani broke, the president allocated $1bn to improve the prison system in the country.
  • Transparency International ranks Indonesia among the most corrupt in the world.
  • Bambang Harymurti, the chief editor of the weekly Tempo Magazine, told Al Jazeera that corruption is "everywhere" in Indonesia.
  • "If the president is serious about eradicating the corruption, he should start first with corruption at judiciary, at the police, at the prosecutes, in prison and in the court. Because without cleaning up corruption in these places, corrupt people with live very happily inside prison."
  • "Suryani is known as a mafia broker of judiciary mafia. Even inside the jail she can live a luxurious life because of her connections with people in high places."
Source: The Agencies
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WORD 'ALLAH' SHOULD BE ALLOWED IN EAST MALAYSIA ?

Saturday, January 16, 2010
KUALA KANGSAR: Christians in East Malaysia, namely Sabah and Sarawak should be allowed to use the word “Allah” because it has been part of their custom for decades, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said.
Similarly, they must respect the sensitivities of those in the peninsula, who are uncomfortable with the use of the word by non-Muslims, and not use the word here, he said.
  • “I have been to a church in Sabah and I know that the Kadazans and Ibans refer to God as Allah. The Muslims there are used to it. That is their custom, let it be.
  • “But when they are in semenanjung (peninsular Malaysia), then they must respect our custom here, which means that you cannot use the word ‘Allah’, because people here cannot accept it,” he said, referring to the growing number of people from Sabah and Sarawak who have moved to the peninsula.
  • Nazri, who was voicing his personal opinion over the “Allah” issue, noted that Sabahans and Sarawakians could still conduct Mass and give sermons in Bahasa Malaysia but should not use the word “Allah” while in the peninsula.
  • “We must respect each other. When I go to east Malaysia, I have to respect their customs. So when they come here, they also have to listen. That is only fair,” he said, adding that copies of the Bible containing the word “Allah” needed to be changed when used in the peninsula.
  • The same, he said, should apply to the peninsula orang asli. “They have to use Bibles in English or their mother tongue.
  • “It is all right to hold Mass in Bahasa Malaysia but do not use the word ‘Allah’. They must use Tuhan as in the national language,” he said in an interview.
  • Although he agreed that the word “Allah” had been long used in Christianity way before Islam existed, Nazri said: “That’s why I say it is all right in Sabah and Sarawak but culturally, you cannot apply it in a place where Allah has always been Islam’s God.”
  • Asked about the publication of the Herald, Nazri said there could always be separate editions for the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak. “It’s all man-made. It’s not carved in stone.”
Source: mStar
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PRINCE WILLIAM ASK TO HELP FINDING SLAIN ABORIGINES WARRIOR'S HEAD

Friday, January 15, 2010

SYDNEY – Australian Aborigines said Friday they will ask Britain's Prince William for help in finding and returning the head of an indigenous warrior when he visits Sydney next week.
William, 27, will meet several indigenous leaders on Tuesday on his first trip to Australia since visiting as a baby with his parents Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana in 1983.
  • Elder Michael Mundine of the Aboriginal Housing Company said he believed the prince "has his mother's heart" and would understand the request to recover the remains of the warrior Pemulwuy.
  • "He is from a different generation and, because he is young, I think he will understand that Pemulwuy needs to come home to his lands," Mundine, who will meet with the prince in disadvantaged, inner-city Redfern, told The Australian.
  • Pemulwuy, who was born around 1750, opposed the British settlement and was described by Sydney's then governor Philip King as "a terrible pest to the colony" but also "a brave and independent character".
  • When the warrior was shot dead in 1802, his head was cut off and believed to have been placed in a jar and sent to England. Its location is now unknown.
  • The return of Aboriginal remains is an important issue for indigenous Australians who are lobbying British museums for their repatriation.
  • Rob Welsh, who chairs the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, said he was concerned about "the remains of all our ancestors".
Source: AFP
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MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MANOHARA WAS CLOSED AND I LOVE HER, SAYA PRINCE

Friday, January 15, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Tengku Temenggong of Kelantan Tengku Muhammad Fakhry Sultan Ismail Petra declared in the High Court that he loved his wife and had never been violent towards her.
  • “Our relationship was very close and I loved her very much. All my family members and the workers at the palace are witnesses to our close relationship,” said the 32-year-old prince.
  • He said this when reading out a 23-page witness statement before senior assistant registrar Noordura Mohamed Din in her chambers.
  • He said he now had to “live in hiding” because of the slanderous statements made by his estranged wife Cik Puan Temenggong Manohara Odelia Pinot, a former model.
  • He said this yesterday at the hearing of the assessment of the damages he had suffered by her allegations that he had tortured, raped and confined her unlawfully.
  • On Nov 5, the High Court had granted him a judgment-in-default in his RM105mil defamation suit against his wife and her mother.
  • In his statement yesterday, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry testified that Manohara’s statements meant that he had kidnapped and unlawfully confined her.
  • To a question by his counsel Mohd Haaziq Pillay, he said Manohara, whom he married on Aug 26, 2008, had never expressed dissatisfaction to his parents of his conduct as a husband.
  • The prince said his wife suddenly went home to Indonesia without his permission and knowledge nine months after their marriage.
  • He said Manohara did not contact him from there but instead held several press conference slandering him and tarnishing his good name and reputation.
  • “Many people started to be suspicious of me and believed that I had committed all the violence which had been alleged by her,” he said.
  • Asked whether his acquaintances kept in touch with him, he said they had e-mailed and telephoned him but he felt embarrassed as he had become a laughing stock.
  • “Some of them ended their friendship and terminated business contracts with me as they did not want to have any relations with me.”
  • He said his wife’s statements had portrayed him as a wild animal.
  • The prince said Manohara’s mother Daisy Fajarina also held several press conferences slandering him and her statements were recorded and published worldwide.
  • “I cannot go out as usual and am forced to ‘live in hiding’ because of the shame,” he said.
  • “Some people now think that I am not fit to hold the Tengku Temenggong Kelantan post.”
  • He said it had been a bitter experience for him as his ailing father had to hear the false allegations that had injured his feelings as well as tarnished his reputation and integrity as a prince and Tengku Temenggong of Kelantan.
  • Noordura set Feb 25 to hear comprehensive submissions from Mohd Haaziq over the appropriate quantum of damages to be awarded.
Source: mStar
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500,000 FEARED DEAD IN HAITI EARTHQUAKEf

Thursday, January 14, 2010
Port-au-Prince (Haiti) - Nearly five hundred thousand are feared to be dead in Haiti after a grade 7.0-magnitude quake struck the impoverished country's capital on Tuesday afternoon.
A major international relief effort was launched to hurry rescuers and suppliers to the Caribbean country as the streets of Port-au-Prince were left scattered with corpses and shattered buildings, The Telegraph reports.
  • Hospitals and schools collapsed and were reportedly full of dead while 200 foreigners were missing from the city's expensive Hotel Montana.
  • The whereabouts of almost 200 United Nations staff in the city are yet to be ascertained including the civilian head of mission, Hedi Annabi of Tunisia.
  • The city's Catholic archbishop, Monsignor Serge Miot, was a confirmed casualty, as his body was pulled from the rubble of his offices.
  • Haitian President Rene Preval, whose palace was substantially destroyed, described the scene in his capital as "unimaginable".
  • He said he had been stepping over the bodies of the dead and hearing the cries of the trapped underneath his country's collapsed parliament building.
  • The country's Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, said the government believed the death toll in the city of two million people was "well over 100,000" while Youri Latortue, a senior senator, said it could be 500,000.
  • Both admitted they had no way of knowing but aid workers on the scene reported widespread destruction and suffering as severely injured people lay in the streets, unable to get medical assistance.
  • Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, was already struggling to recover from a series of severe hurricanes and flooding in 2008.
  • The country sits on a major fault line and scientists have warned for years that it was likely to be hit by a major earthquake.
Source: ANI
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TURKISH GUNMAN WANTS TO VISIT POPE JOHN PAUL'S TOMB

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca wants to meet Pope Benedict and visit the tomb of Pope John Paul II, whom he tried to kill in 1981, after his release from prison next week, he said in comments faxed to Reuters on Wednesday.
  • The former far-right gangster served 19 years in an Italian prison for the assassination attempt, before being pardoned at the pope’s behest in 2000 and extradited to serve time in Turkey for crimes, including the 1979 murder of a newspaper editor.
  • “I want to visit the Vatican and the Pope (Benedict) Ratzinger. I also want to visit the grave of one of the most wonderful and respectable people of the 20th century, Pope John Paul II,” he said in a handwritten statement.
  • Mystery surrounds his motives for shooting the pope in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square. Some believe he was a hitman for Soviet-era East European security services alarmed by the Polish-born pontiff’s fierce opposition to communism.
  • Agca, who is to be released on Jan 18 from his prison in the Turkish capital Ankara, said he would answer questions on the attack in the coming weeks, including whether the Kremlin used the Bulgarian government in the assassination attempt.
  • He said the world needed the Vatican as it faced economic, ecological and human crises.
  • The rambling and bizarre statement went on to call on Pope Benedict to announce the end of the world.
  • He said he would prove within a few years that he was “Agca the Messiah” and that he would write the “perfect bible”.
  • Similar claims in the past have prompted questions about Agca’s mental health, but he said he was in good condition.
  • “For around 30 years I have been staying in cells on my own. I experienced hell on earth. But in spite of everything I am well. I feel good in myself both physically and psychologically,” he said.
  • In a statement issued by his lawyers earlier on Wednesday, Agca had called for a “new American Empire” championing democracy, peace and freedom.
  • The 52-year-old failed assassin condemned terrorism, especially al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
  • “Terrorism is the Evil of Devil. All religions prohibit and condemn terrorism. The al Qaeda is a psychopathic criminal Nazi organisation,” Agca wrote.
  • Agca went on to name bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan and Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot as “the common enemies of all religions and all nations in the world”.
  • In his comments to Reuters he said he planned to live in Istanbul but had not decided yet whether to get married.
  • He also said he had received many offers internationally to make films and write books.
Source: Reuters
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39,000 INDIAN CITIZENS ARE MISSING IN MALAYSIA

Thursday, January 14, 2010
PUTRAJAYA: A total of 39,046 Indian citizens are “missing” in Malaysia after their tourist visas expired, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The Prime Minister said they had gone missing from the Immigration Department’s records, according to a report drawn up in June last year.
  • This, he said, was worrying for the country, “That is why the department is not keen on visas-on-arrival for Indians as the facility has been abused, especially by those from Chennai,” he said.
  • He said this in an interview with visiting Indian journalists at his office here yesterday.
  • The interview by the journalists was held ahead of Najib’s official visit to India beginning this Friday.
  • Visa-on-arrival facility was introduced for Indian visitors in 2006 but was revoked in 2008.
  • Najib said the Indian visitors who came to Malaysia using the visa-on-arrival facility could be back in India or were still “among people here ... maybe working in the Indian restaurants.”
  • “We just do not know where these people are now. They could still be in Malaysia for economic reasons,” he said. He indicated that he might take up the issue when he visits India.
  • Najib said Malaysia had been liberal in allowing priests and barbers from India to come to work in the country. “We would like Indians to visit Malaysia as tourists. We have been quite liberal. We want genuine ones. They are most welcome.”
  • Najib said Malaysia was considering reintroducing the visa-on-arrival scheme for people coming from cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi but not those from Chennai.“The problem of overstaying only involves Chennai,” he said.
Source: mStar
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EARTHQUAKE HIT THE IMPROVERISHED HAITI

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - A major earthquake with 7.0-magnitude, hit the impoverished country of Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing buildings in the capital Port-au-Prince and burying residents under rubble, a Reuters reporter in the city said.
  • The epicentre of the quake was located inland, only 10 miles (16 km) from the capital Port-au-Prince and was very shallow at a depth of only 6.2 miles (10 km).
  • It prompted a tsunami watch for parts the Caribbean, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said on Tuesday.
  • "Everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing ... it's total chaos," Reuters reporter Joseph Guyler Delva said. "I saw people under the rubble, and people killed," he added.
  • A local employee for the U.S. charity Food for the Poor reported seeing a five-storey building collapse in Port-au-Prince, a spokeswoman for the group, Kathy Skipper, told Reuters.
  • Another Food for the Poor employee said there were more houses destroyed than standing in Delmas Road, a major thoroughfare in the city.
  • Panic-stricken residents filled the streets desperately trying to dig people from rubble or seeking missing relatives as dark fell shortly after the quake.
  • "People were screaming 'Jesus, Jesus' and running in all directions," Delva said
  • A major earthquake, of magnitude 7 or higher, is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage. There was no immediate report of damage or casualties.
  • The tsunami centre said the watch was in effect for Haiti, the neighbouring Dominican Republic, with which it shares the island of Hispaniola, Cuba and the Bahamas.
  • "A destructive widespread tsunami threat does not exist based on historical earthquake and tsunami data," the centre said. "However, there is the possibility of a local tsunami that could affect coasts located usually no more than a 100 km (60 miles) from the earthquake epicenter."
  • The quake was quickly followed by two nearby, strong aftershocks of initial magnitude of 5.9 and 5.5,
  • Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Source: Reuters
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