SOLYMONE BLOG

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES CANCELLED DUE TO SHORTAGE OF PILOTS

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good morning, passengers, and welcome aboard. We're expecting clear skies today, but we're out of pilots.
MANILA, Philippines – National air carrier Philippine Airlines had to cancel at least five flights Saturday — one to Hong Kong, the others to domestic destinations — after several Airbus A320 pilots decamped for jobs abroad.
The decamping of professionals, including teachers and nurses, for better jobs abroad — has long plagued the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. About 10 percent of the population of 94 million works abroad, sending home the money that provides the bloodline for the economy.
  • PAL spokesman Jonathan Gesmundo went on TV and radio stations to apologize to the public for the cancellations, which he said were caused by the sudden departure of nearly dozen pilots for better-paying jobs overseas.
  • He said the pilots did not inform the management, but that this was not a group action.
  • "In the past few days, pilots had not been reporting for duty. This has caused problems for us," Gesmundo said.
  • He said the airline was adjusting its schedule and will probably bring in bigger aircraft to accommodate the stranded passengers.
The indebted flag carrier has said it would lay off some of its 8,000-strong work force because of financial losses in the third straight year.
Source: AP
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AT LEAST 267 KILL IN PAKISTAN FLOODS

Friday, July 30, 2010

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Poor weather this week also may have been a factor in Wednesday's Airblue plane crash that killed 313 people in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
On the same token, flood had also contributed to the disaster faced by Pakistan. The death toll in three days of flooding in Pakistan reached at least 267 on Friday, rescue and government officials said, as rains bloated rivers, submerged villages, and triggered landslides.
  • The rising toll of the monsoon rains underscore the poor infrastructure in impoverished Pakistan, where under-equipped rescue workers were struggling to reach people stranded in far-flung villages.
  • Pakistani TV showed striking images of people clinging to fences and other stationary items as water at times gushed over their heads.
  • The northwest appeared to be the hardest hit, and Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for the province, said it was the worst flooding in the region since 1929.
  • At least 245 people died in various parts of that province over the last three days, said Mujahid Khan of the Edhi Foundation, a privately run rescue service that operates morgues and ambulances across the South Asian country.
  • In Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, at least 22 people had been confirmed dead as of Thursday evening, the area's prime minister, Sardar Attique Khan, told reporters.
  • The tolls from the deluge were expected to rise because many people were still missing.
  • In the Swat Valley, residents were forced to trudge through knee-deep water in some streets.
  • A newly constructed part of a dam in the Charsadda district collapsed, while the U.N. said it had reports that 5,000 homes were underwater in that area. Hussain estimated 400,000 people were stranded in various northwest villages.
  • "A rescue operation using helicopters cannot be conducted due to the bad weather, while there are only 48 rescue boats available for rescue," he said on Thursday.
  • Pakistan's poorest residents are often the ones living in flood-prone areas because they can't afford safer land.
Southwest Baluchistan province has also been hit hard by the recent rains. Last week, flash floods in that region killed at least 41 people and swept away thousands of homes. The UN statement Thursday said 150,000 people were affected there.
The U.N. said Punjab province in Pakistan's east was also hit by some flooding. Crops were soaked in farmlands throughout the country. The U.N. said the humanitarian community was trying to put together a proper response, but the rains were making many roads impassable, complicating efforts to assess needs.
Source: AP
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152 PEOPLE ON A PRIVATE AIRBUS CRASH AND KILL IN PAKISTAN

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A passenger jet crashed into the hills surrounding Pakistan's capital amid poor weather Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board and blazing a path of devastation strewn with body parts and twisted metal wreckage.
Initial Interior Ministry reports that five people survived the Airblue crash were wrong, said Imtiaz Elahi, chairman of the Capital Development Authority, which deals with emergencies and reports to the ministry.
"The situation at the site of the crash is heartbreaking," Elahi told The Associated Press. "It is a great tragedy, and I confirm it with pain that there are no survivors."
The dead included two U.S. citizens, the spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Richard Snelsire, said without providing further details.
Local TV footage showed twisted metal wreckage hanging from trees and scattered across the ground on a bed of broken branches. Fire was visible and smoke rose from the scene as a helicopter hovered above. The army said it was sending special troops to aid the search.
"I'm seeing only body parts," Dawar Adnan, a rescue worker with the Pakistan Red Crescent, told the AP by telephone from the crash site. "This is a very horrible scene. We have scanned almost all the area, but there is no chance of any survivors."
The search effort was hampered by muddy conditions and smoldering wreckage that authorities were having trouble extinguishing by helicopter, Adnan said.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said the government does not suspect terrorism.
Source: AP, Yahoo News
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ACTIVISTS FROM THE LAND OF BORNEO WANT OUT FROM MALAYSIA?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some place on the north and eastern part of the island of Borneo, lies two states called Sabah and Sarawak. Sometimes in September 16, 1963, these states had join a federation ties with various states in Malayan peninsular to form a nation so-called Malaysia.
However, some activist felt based on consensus the reasons why membership in the Malaysian Federation has become irrelevant to Sabah and Sarawak in the 21 st century, just as it has always been irrelevant to Singapore and Brunei since the 20 Th century. Singapore and Brunei have both done even better without Malaysia.
  • Accordingly, the results of the UN Referendum, announced on Sept 16, 1963, found that only a third of the people of both Sabah and Sarawak favored the formation of Malaysia, it was pointed out.
  • The mood of the collective on the sidelines, according to insiders, has turned distinctly sombre in marked contrast to their light-hearted beginning. ‘Enough is enough’, according to them, ‘after nearly 50 years of Malaysia’. They said Joining federation a 'very bad idea'.
  • For a purposes these activist had organized some kind of seminar pertaining to Formation of Malaysia, a Promise Revisited, and the Way Forward. It has been some weeks since the organizers first huddled together in Kota Kinabalu ( Capital City of Sabah) , almost daily, preparing for the July 31 seminar,
  • Researching the many seminar topics, and going forward, the activists from two NGOs the Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMA) and the Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF) want to cut the Gordian Knot on the Federation of Malaysia.
  • They hope the two Borneo states will exit from Malaysia in the same manner that Singapore was ushered out in 1965.
  • Malaysia is expected to be replaced in Sabah and Sarawak by a loose union of the two states with Brunei and Labuan in a common market with Kalimantan and the 13 provinces - 8 Christian, 5 Muslim in the Philippines south.
  • The activists see the opposition alliance, the Pakatan Rakyat, as the sword they need to slice the Knot. The Gordian Knot is an intricate knot tied in Asia Minor by King Gordius of Phrygia. It was cut by Alexander the Great with his sword after hearing an oracle promise that whoever could undo it would be the next ruler of Asia.
  • The plan calls for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition to introduce a "Singapore-style" Bill in Parliament for the orderly exit of Sabah and Sarawak from the Malaysian Federation.
  • The Bill is expected to have the unanimous support of MPs from Sabah and Sarawak and several other pro-PR MPs in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN). No MP in Sabah and Sarawak, it is said, can afford to oppose such a Bill and live to fight another day.
  • The exit of Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia is expected to pave the way for PR to seize the reins of power in Putrajaya.
  • The Gordian Knot theory in Sabah and Sarawak politics appears to be a variation, nay a counter-proposal, to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's still-born Sept 16, 2008, people's revolution to topple Umno from power.
  • UMNO the ruling party threw a spanner in the works through Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing who spirited away most of the 57 MPs in Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak to Taiwan for an extended agricultural study tour, an euphemism for the men taking in the fleshpots in Taipei, wining, dining, gambling and shopping till they dropped from sheer exhaustion.
  • Each of them, it has been reliably learnt, received an ang pow of RM50,000. This was to help them rebuff Anwar's attempts, initially through Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan, who was quite successful in getting the MPs on his aide. Azmin Ali, who took over from Jeffrey at the express instruction of Anwar, turned the MPs against him.
  • Researching the many seminar topics, and going forward, the activists from two NGOs the Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMA) and the Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF) want to cut the Gordian Knot on the Federation of Malaysia.
  • They hope the two Borneo states will exit from Malaysia in the same manner that Singapore was ushered out in 1965.
  • Malaysia is expected to be replaced in Sabah and Sarawak by a loose union of the two states with Brunei and Labuan in a common market with Kalimantan and the 13 provinces - 8 Christian, 5 Muslim in the Philippines south.
  • The activists see the opposition alliance, the Pakatan Rakyat, as the sword they need to slice the Knot. The Gordian Knot is an intricate knot tied in Asia Minor by King Gordius of Phrygia. It was cut by Alexander the Great with his sword after hearing an oracle promise that whoever could undo it would be the next ruler of Asia.
  • The plan calls for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition to introduce a "Singapore-style" Bill in Parliament for the orderly exit of Sabah and Sarawak from the Malaysian Federation.
  • The Bill is expected to have the unanimous support of MPs from Sabah and Sarawak and several other pro-PR MPs in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN). No MP in Sabah and Sarawak, it is said, can afford to oppose such a Bill and live to fight another day.
  • The exit of Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia is expected to pave the way for PR to seize the reins of power in Putrajaya.
  • The Gordian Knot theory in Sabah and Sarawak politics appears to be a variation, nay a counter-proposal, to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's still-born Sept 16, 2008, people's revolution to topple Umno from power.
  • UMNO threw a spanner in the works through Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing who spirited away most of the 57 MPs in Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak to Taiwan for an extended agricultural study tour, an euphemism for the men taking in the fleshpots in Taipei, wining, dining, gambling and shopping till they dropped from sheer exhaustion.
  • Each of them, it has been reliably learnt, received an ang pow of RM50,000. This was to help them rebuff Anwar's attempts, initially through Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan, who was quite successful in getting the MPs on his aide. Azmin Ali, who took over from Jeffrey at the express instruction of Anwar, turned the MPs against him.
The cycle has now turned full circle with the July 31 seminar as a curtain raiser to the first official Malaysia Day on Sept 16 this year. This will be the run-up to the 50th year of the Malaysian Federation on Sept 16, 2013.
The debate for the July 31 seminar is whether the Gordian Knot should be cut before or after the next general election. The five-year term of the current Malaysian Parliament runs out in 2013.
Source: SK
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IT IS BEYOND APARTHEID IN THE PROMISED LAND

Monday, July 26, 2010
The debate in Israel over whether to force all prospective Israeli citizens to declare loyalty to "a Jewish and democratic state" is reflective of the Israeli right's efforts to further institutionalise the dispossession of Palestinians.
It is ironic that the proposed loyalty oath should include the term democracy as, if introduced, the law itself would be a blatant exercise in state coercion.
As Adalah, a legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, puts it, the proposed amendment to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law "requires all non-Jews to identify with Zionism and imposes a political ideology and loyalty to the principles or Judaism and Zionism".

Targeting intermarriage
In practice, the amendment - which would require all Jews and non-Jews applying for citizenship to endorse the ideology of the state - is mainly aimed at Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs.
Israeli-Arabs constitute 20 per cent of the Israeli population. The majority are Muslim but there is also a strong Christian contingent. The purpose of the law is not to impose Judaism but the Jewishness of the state - which in practical terms excludes Arabs and legitimises their expulsion.
  • Other elements of the law, which was originally passed as a temporary emergency measure in 2003 but has been repeatedly extended by the Knesset since, mean that many Palestinians married to Israelis actually live in Israel illegally.
  • Such marriages are largely between Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel, so the law effectively discourages marriages between Palestinians from the Occupied Territories and those living inside Israel.
  • Israel's Palestinian minority today are those who stayed in their homes after the creation of Israel in 1948 and their descendents. But when Israel occupied the remaining territories of historic Palestine in the 1967 war, the dispersed Palestinians were able to reconnect and intermarriages ensued.
  • However, the law bars Palestinians married to Israelis from joining their families inside Israel until the interior ministry has granted them permission to reside in the country. The law also denies residency rights to any foreign spouse or his children if he is married to other women in addition to his Israeli wife. And it requires that Palestinians seeking Israeli citizenship provide financial guarantees and proof that they have a home in Israel.
  • Israel has also made it difficult - and at times, impossible - for Arabs or any non-Israelis to reside with their Palestinian spouses in the West Bank in order to force the latter group to leave.
Sacred security cow
Israeli advocates of the amendment cite security issues as a justification and argue that the oath would discourage Arab citizens of Israel from taking part in attacks or actions against Israel.
The explanatory notes accompanying the proposed restrictions state that their purpose is to make it harder for Palestinian terrorist groups to recruit Palestinians who have acquired Israeli citizenship to carry out attacks.
  • "An examination of the security reality since the outbreak of armed confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians revealed growing involvement by Palestinians who took advantage of their status in Israel, received on the basis of their family reunification process with Israelis, to become involved in terrorism and abet suicide bombing attacks," the notes said.
  • "The Israeli identity cards granted to [these] Palestinians provided them with freedom of movement between Israel and the [Palestinian] Authority and thus made them into the terrorist organisations' preferred population for carrying out hostile actions in general and inside Israel in particular."
  • The claim that there are Israeli-Arabs who have used their citizenship to engage in or facilitate attacks inside Israel may be true, but the solution is to be found in addressing the root cause of the conflict - the dispossession of the Palestinians - and not in institutionalising "ethnic cleansing".
  • Taking an oath will not prevent an alienated citizen - whether Jewish or not - from protesting against the government or even committing violent acts. But as so often with Israel's arbitrary laws and actions, the sacred cow of security concerns is being held aloft.
Another brick
All evictions of Palestinians - whether through the demolition of homes, deportations or the confiscation of lands - are committed under the guise of Israel's security needs. But their aim is, in fact, to maintain a Jewish majority and to reduce - and if this continues, potentially end - the presence of Palestinians in both Israel proper and the Occupied Territories.
If introduced, the loyalty oath would be not only a tool for the subversion of Palestinians, but also a vehicle for the continued eviction of Palestinians from their homeland.
  • Editors of the Israeli daily Haaretz, who urged the government not to pass the amendment to the law, have unequivocally rejected the security rationale. "The wording of the initiative perpetuates the lie that these measures are required by security considerations, when in truth they are clearly driven by demographic concerns," said an editorialpublished prior the decision's ratification.
  • In Israel proper, the government has systematically employed discrimination and the confiscation of land to strangle major Arab cities, encircling them with Jewish settlements so as to prevent them from expanding outwards as any city might as a result of natural growth.
  • There has always been talk, mainly but not exclusively among right-wing Israeli politicians, of the need to 'transfer' - a euphemism for expel - the country's Arab minority to the West Bank or even to Arab countries.
  • This talk was renewed when the extreme right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party secured third place in the country's 2009 election and joined a coalition government led by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud prime minister.
  • Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu's leader, himself a Russian immigrant, started to aggressively advocate 'transferring' the country's Arab minority so as to maintain a Jewish majority and the Jewishness of the state.
Yisrael Beiteinu has been the driving force behind the demand that non-Jews declare loyalty to a Jewish state and the proposed amendment to the citizenship law is a watered down version of an earlier Yisrael Beiteinu initiative to expel Arabs who do not do so.
If approved, the amendment will be another brick in the apartheid system that Israel has built. But the main problem in Israel is not apartheid but the systemic colonisation and dispossession of Arabs. And for Israel, apartheid is a tool - not an aim in itself - to complete the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.

Source: Lamis Andoni - An analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.
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MASS PANIC KILLED 18 PEOPLE AT GERMANY'S LOVE PARADE

Sunday, July 25, 2010

DUISBURG, Germany – Crowds of people streaming into a techno music festival surged through an already jammed entry tunnel on Saturday, setting off a panic that killed 18 people and injured 80 at an event meant to celebrate love and peace.
The circumstances of the stampede at the famed Love Parade festival in Duisburg in western Germany were still not clear even hours after the chaos, but it appeared that some or most of the 18 had been crushed to death.
Authorities also suggested that some of the people killed or injured might have attempted to flee the crowd by jumping over a barrier and falling several meters (yards). Witnesses described a desperate scene, as people piled up on each other or scrambled over others who had fallen in the crush.
"The young people came to celebrate and instead there are dead and injured," said Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I am horrified by the suffering and the pain."
Criticism quickly fell on city officials for allowing only one entrance to the grounds of a hugely popular event that drew hundreds of thousands of people to dance, watch floats and listen to DJs spin. German media said 1.4 million people attended but that figure could not be immediately confirmed.
The founder of the Love Parade, Matthias Roeingh, known by the name Dr. Motte, blasted the planning for the event, saying "one single entrance through a tunnel lends itself to disaster. I am very sad."
Source: Yahoo News..read more
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THE SIGHT AND SOUND OF BP WELL ON MEXICAN GULF COULD BE TAKEN AWAY BY STORM

Saturday, July 24, 2010

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO – Ships relaying the sights and sounds from BP's broken oil well stood fast Friday as the leftovers of Tropical Storm Bonnie blew straight for the spill site, threatening to force a full evacuation that would leave engineers clueless about whether a makeshift cap on the gusher was holding.
  • Vessels connected to deep-sea robots equipped with cameras and seismic devices would be among the last to flee and would ride out the rough weather if possible, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.
  • "If conditions allow, they will remain through the passage of the storm," Allen said in New Orleans.
  • Bonnie made landfall south of Miami early Friday as a feeble tropical storm with top sustained winds of 40 mph. It broke apart as it crossed Florida and was a tropical depression as it moved into the Gulf, but forecasters expected it to strengthen slightly and roll over the spill site around midday Saturday.
  • Some of the dozens of vessels working at the well site were leaving Friday evening. By daybreak, all but a handful, including those providing video images, were expected to remain. Allen said individual captains would decide when to leave, based on weather conditions.
  • The ships holding the robots would be among the first to return if forecasts force them to leave, but they could be gone for up to two days, said Allen, the federal government's spill chief.
  • The mechanical plug that has mostly contained the oil for eight days will be left closed, Allen said. But if the robots are reeled in, the only way officials will know whether the cap has failed will be if oil pooling on the surface appears in satellite and aerial views — provided the clouds aren't too thick.
  • Audio surveillance gear left behind could tell BP whether the well is still stable, but scientists won't be able to listen to the recordings until the ships return to the area.
  • Allen expressed increasing confidence in the experimental cap despite a few leaks that initially worried government experts. Scientists say even a severe storm shouldn't affect the plug, nearly a mile beneath the ocean surface 40 miles from the Louisiana coast.
  • "There's almost no chance it'll have any impact on the well head or the cap because it's right around 5,000 feet deep and even the largest waves won't get down that far," said Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of professional geoscience programs at the University of Houston.
The broken well spewed 94 million to 184 million gallons into the Gulf after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.
BP is likely to be fined per gallon spilled, although determining that could be difficult. Concentrations of underwater oil at least doubled last month, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Researchers at the University of South Florida said Friday they have the first scientific proof that two giant plumes of oil beneath the surface of the Gulf came from the broken well. BP initially denied the plumes even existed.

Source: AP
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MALAYSIAN BORNEO PENAN GIRLS AND WOMEN, REPORTED SEXUALLY ABUSED

Friday, July 23, 2010

BARAM, Malaysia - Many years back, a government task force report has confirmed that Penan women and children in Sarawak were raped and sexually abused by timber workers.
The report by the national task force set up in October last year also found troubling incidents of children as young as 10 years old being sexually abused by the timber companies’ truck drivers when they took the children to school.
The task force reported that students were “frequently molested” by the truck drivers.
  • “In one account, the truck driver molested a 14-year-old’s breasts on the journey to school,” the report, written in Malay, said.
  • It said that in another incident, a girl was taken away by the truck driver after the boys were told to get down from the vehicle. Other girls in the truck managed to escape, but were unable to help that one girl get down in time.
  • In yet another instance, a girl was riding, together with her father, in a timber truck to go to Long Bangan to apply for her identity card. “Halfway through the journey, the passengers were told to alight, but the driver hung on to Mary (not her real name) and sped off. He then stopped the truck, dragged her to a bush by the side of the road and tried to molest her.
  • “Her father and the other passengers ran after the truck after realising that Mary had been apprehended, and managed to catch up with them and stop any further abuse,” the report said.
  • An interviewee told the task force she had been raped by the timber company’s truck driver on her way to a neighbouring longhouse, in addition to being raped when she was 12 outside the school compound by an unidentified man.
  • “She recalled that the government used to provide vehicles to take them home from school during the term breaks. However, this had been discontinued, so they had to rely on the timber companies as the only means of transportation,” the report noted.
  • In the absence of any viable alternatives such as proper tarred roads or school buses, Penan children who live in the interior are entirely reliant on the timber companies for transport as some of their schools are located four to six hours away by truck.
  • The report was prepared mostly from interviews conducted by ministry officials and other representatives, including women’s groups, in November 2008 when they visited the Penan community in Sarawak. The task force was set up to investigate the allegations of rape and sexual abuse of Penan women and girls in the Baram district.
Despite the task force’s findings, it remains to be seen whether any of the offenders will be charged and brought to justice for the sexual abuse perpetrated on the Penan women and children. Although several police reports have been made, it is unclear whether the police will be investigating the matter.
Source:The Nuth Graph
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MUSIC IS KEY TO HIDDEN FACULTIES?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Research data strongly suggested that neural connections made during musical training also primed the brain for other aspects of human communication
New York, USA - It is said, Learning to play a musical instrument can change your brain, with a US review finding music training can lead to improved speech and foreign language skills.
Although it has been suggested in the past that listening to Mozart or other classical music could make you smarter, there has been little evidence to show that music boosts brain power.
  • But a data-driven review by Northwestern University has pulled together research that links musical training to learning that spills over into skills including language, speech, memory, attention and even vocal emotion.
  • Researcher Nina Kraus said the data strongly suggested that the neural connections made during musical training also primed the brain for other aspects of human communication.
  • "The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness and thus requires society to re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development," the researchers said in their study.
  • The study, published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, looked at the explosion of research in recent years focused on the effects of music training on the nervous system which could have strong implications for education.
The researchers concluded that there needed to be a serious investment of resources into music training in schools accompanied with rigorous examinations of the effects of such instruction on listening, learning, memory, attention and literacy skills.
Source: Gulf News
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INDIAN TRAIN CRASH KILLING 61 COULD BE A SABOTAGE

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sainthia: A speeding express train plowed into a stationary passenger train in eastern India on Monday, killing 61 people in a crash so powerful it sent the roof of one car flying onto an overpass.
Officials said they could not rule out sabotage.
Residents crawled over the twisted wreckage trying desperately to free survivors before rescue workers arrived with heavy equipment to cut through the metal.
  • Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who rushed to the site, raised the possibility the crash could have been another case of sabotage, two months after Maoist rebels were blamed for a derailment that killed 145 people.
  • Banerjee said an investigation was under way to find out how both trains came to be on the same track.
  • The crash happened about 2am when the Uttarbanga Express slammed into the Vananchal Express as it left the platform at Sainthia station, about 200 kilometres north of Kolkata.
  • The accident destroyed two passenger cars and a luggage car, turning them into a tangle of twisted metal. The passenger cars were reserved for those on the cheapest tickets and such carriages are usually packed to capacity.
  • The force of the crash was so intense the roof of one car flew into the air and landed on an overpass above the tracks. Residents climbing through the debris searching for survivors were later joined by rescue workers using heavy equipment to cut through the metal.
  • "I was sleeping when I felt a huge jolt and heard a loud noise and then the train stopped," passenger Lakshman Bhaumik told local television. Bhaumik survived with minor injuries.
  • Rescuers recovered 61 bodies from the crash site and 125 other people were injured, said Surajit Kar Purkayastha, a top police official. The two drivers of the Uttarbanga Express were among the dead.
  • Rescue teams arrived about three hours after the accident, a local resident said. Before that locals scrambled to help survivors out of the trains and to pull out bodies.
  • Police official Humayun Kabir told NDTV, however, rescue workers reached the site within an hour of the crash.
By late Monday afternoon, rescue operations were nearly complete, said Samir Goswami, a railway spokesman. Cranes and labourers were working to remove the mangled coaches so the tracks could be cleared and train services resumed.
Source: AFP
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UK AUTHOR ARRESTS BY SINGAPOREAN AUTHORITY ON DEFAMATION CHARGE

Monday, July 19, 2010
SINGAPORE — Singapore police have arrested a British author on charges of criminal defamation and contempt of court, a day after he launched a book on death penalty in the city-state.
The arrest was made pursuant to a report that was lodged by the government’s Media Development Authority on Friday, the Singapore police said in a statement.
  • Alan Shadrake, has also been served with an application by the attorney-general for “an order of committal for contempt of court,” it said.
  • Shadrake, who was arrested at a hotel yesterday, remained in police custody as the investigation was ongoing, a police spokesman said.
  • In an email to Reuters on July 3, Shadrake called himself a “British freelance journalist and author,” who had planned to launch his latest book “Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock” in the city-state two days ago.
  • The Straits Times reported on its website on Sunday that Shadrake was 75 and his 219-page book was filled with accounts of high-profile cases in Singapore involving the use of the death penalty. It also included interviews with the city-state’s former executioner.
Singapore imposes a death penalty for crimes such as murder and a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking.
The crime rate on the island nation of 5 million people is among the lowest in the world.
Source: Reuters
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AUSTRALIA'S NEXT LEADER SET TO BE BRITISH BORN?

Monday, July 19, 2010
SYDNEY - Australia is to have a British-born prime minister, whatever the outcome of the general election expected to take place next month.
Welsh-born Labor premier Julia Gillard, 48, will go head-to-head with London-born Liberal leader Tony Abbott on August 21.
  • Gillard, a coalminer's daughter, was brought to Australia from the Vale of Glamorgan in 1966 when she was five because doctors advised the warmer climate would be better for the chest infection she had.
  • Abbott, 52, whose father served in the RAF, was taken to Australia in 1960 at the age of two when his expatriate parents decided to return to Sydney. While he was growing up in the harbour city, Gillard was growing up in Adelaide.
  • The office of prime minister was created in Australia in 1901 and only four of its incumbents were born in the United Kingdom, all of them taking office in early years of the last century.
  • Twenty-two years after his parents had brought him to Australia from London, Abbott returned to the UK as an Australian Rhodes scholar at Oxford.
  • Abbott, the father of three daughters, started studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1983, only to quit, resulting in him earning the nickname of The Mad Monk.
  • He has always been a controversial figure — just a few weeks ago he raised eyebrows when he was photographed in a lifesaver's uniform of skimpy swimming trunks and cap.
The straight-talking Abbott was a rank outsider for the opposition leadership but pulled off a major shock last December when he won by just one vote to take over the flailing Liberal/National party coalition.
Source:Gulf News
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A GENTLE SPICES OF THE DEEP SEA IN INDIA TO WOO TOURISTS

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Delhi, India - The giant whale shark a gentle species of the deep sea about which very little is known will soon be a tourist attraction off the Gujarat coastline even as it is tagged for genetic analysis and conservation.
Tourism officials are hoping to start "whale shark tours" along the Gujarat coast in the Arabian sea soon, once the infrastructure is available.
  • Gujarat's ministry of environment and forests and NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) are also taking training from Australian experts to launch the two projects simultaneously under the Whale Shark Conservation Project.
  • "In India, a large number of whale sharks have been seen off the Gujarat coastline. However, there is little information whether these are resident or migratory. If tags are enabled on these sharks, it will help track them and understand their migratory patterns and habitats," Dhiresh Joshi, coordinator of WTI, told IANS.
  • India's ministry of environment and forests has given the green signal for tagging the species for genetic analysis. The whale shark is a highly migratory specie. There is no knowledge whether there is breeding among different groups within the species.
  • The whale shark, one of the biggest species among sharks that weighs a massive 34 tonnes and feeds on microscopic three-millimetre-long plankton, is listed under Indian wildlife laws.
  • Once tagged, marine conservationists will be able to track their movement. Genetic sampling may also throw light on how closely different populations of the whale shark are related.
  • Marine experts from Australia's Scientific Advisory Council visited Porbandar to help prepare a work plan for the project.
  • "We are in the process of procuring satellite tags and will soon be initiating genetic analysis of individual whale sharks. This is a completely new exercise for the species in India.
  • "Hopefully, in a few years, through extensive studies, we will be able to shed more light on this gentle giant of the deep seas," Joshi said.
  • The campaign will also help convert fishermen into protectors of the whale shark, benefiting the coastal communities of the state, he said.
Pradeep Khanna, Gujarat's principal chief conservator of forests, said one would have to take care that tourism does not impact the whale sharks' habitat.
Hunted for their liver oil, a global campaign is on for whale shark conservation through scientific methods and community awareness.
The species was first noticed in 1828 in Cape Town, South Africa. Australia has been doing a lot of research on whale sharks, including tracking the ones coming to its shores through satellite tagging.
Source: Gulf News
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TYPHOON CONSON IN PHILIPPINES KILL MORE THAN 70

Saturday, July 17, 2010

MANILA, Philippines - Manila Rescue operations for missing fishermen continued, but death toll from Typhoon Conson (locally known as Basyang), the country's first major storm, could rise.
The toll could rise to more than 70, with 23 fatalities identified and the number of missing climbing to 77 Thursday, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said a day after the storm ravaged 194 villages in five cities, including Metro Manila, and 47 municipalities in 12 provinces nationwide.
  • Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ricardo David said that helicopters continued to search for missing fishermen in central and northern Luzon that were affected by Typhoon Conson.
  • Rescuers were looking for five missing fishermen who were companions of 19 fishermen who survived and were found alive off Polilio Island, Quezon province, southern Luzon. Four of their companions died at the height of the storm, said the NDCC.
  • On board three fishing boats (with 16 passengers each), they had left Quezon on July 13 but the boats sank by large waves on July 14.
  • Rescuers found the body of Efren Ledesma, 59, a barge captain, in a river near Limay town, Bataan, central Luzon. His companions said he hit his head after they jumped from the barge which broke into two.
  • Eight fishermen were rescued off Camarines Sur in southern Luzon on Wednesday. They said one of their companions died because of extreme cold.
  • Reacting to reports that majority of missing people were fishermen from central and southern Luzon, President Benigno Aquino told disaster officials that fishermen should be notified of incoming storms 36 hours ahead of landfall.
  • Other victims in Metro Manila, southern and central Luzon died by drowning, electrocution, and toppled walls.
  • Yesterday, areas in central Luzon and southern Luzon remained isolated because of damaged roads and bridges and uncollected debris that clogged several roads.
Metro Manila's elevated train system, communication services, and power system went back to normal.
Schools and offices were opened, but those in suburban areas remained closed due to power outages.
Electricity will return in three days in central and southern Luzon, in one more day in suburban areas in Metro Manila.
Because of the destruction of several grids, "we have to ration off supply. Three-hour rotational brownouts are expected," Dina Lomotan, spokeswoman of the Manila Electric Company said in a radio interview.
Source: Reuters
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FLIRTING WITH ZEALOTRY IN MALAYSIA

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of Malaysia’s political opposition, has become known over the past decade as one of the foremost advocates of liberal democracy in Muslim countries. His many friends in Washington include prominent members of the neoconservative movement — such as Paul Wolfowitz, the former World Bank president and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia — as well as such Democratic grandees as Al Gore.
Lately, Anwar has been getting attention for something else: strident rhetoric about Israel and alleged “Zionist influence” in Malaysia. He recently joined a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur where an Israeli flag was burned. He’s made dark insinuations about the “Jewish-controlled” Washington public relations firm Apco Worldwide, which is working for Malaysia’s quasi-authoritarian government.
  • Therein lies a story of the Obama era about a beleaguered democrat fighting for political and personal survival with little help from Washington; about the growing global climate of hostility toward Israel; and about the increasing willingness of U.S. friends in places such as Turkey and Malaysia to exploit it.
  • First, a little about Anwar: While serving as deputy prime minister under Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s, he began pushing for reforms — only to be arrested, tried and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of homosexual sodomy. Freed after six years, he built a multiethnic democratic opposition movement that shocked the ruling party with its gains in recent elections. It now appears to have a chance at winning the next parliamentary campaign, which would allow Malaysia to join Indonesia and Turkey as full-fledged majority-Muslim democracies.
  • Not surprisingly, Anwar is being prosecuted again. Once again the charge is consensual sodomy, which to Malaysia’s discredit remains a crime punishable by whipping and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Anwar, who is 63 and married with children, denies the charge, and the evidence once again is highly suspect. His 25-year-old accuser has confessed to meeting Prime Minister Najib Razak and talking by phone with the national police chief in the days before the alleged sexual encounter.
  • Nevertheless the trial is not going well. If it ends in another conviction, Anwar’s political career and his opposition coalition could be destroyed, and his life could be at risk: His health is not great. Yet the opposition leader is not getting the kind of support from the United States as during his first prosecution, when then-Vice President Gore spoke up for him. Obama said nothing in public about Anwar when he granted Najib a prized bilateral meeting in Washington in April.
  • After a “senior officials dialogue” between the two governments this month, the State Department conceded that the ongoing trial again had not been raised, “because this issue was recently discussed at length.” When it comes to human rights, the Obama administration apparently does not wish to be repetitive.
  • Anwar meanwhile found his own way to fight back. Hammered for years by government propaganda describing him as an Israeli agent and a Wolfowitz-loving American lackey, he tried to turn the tables, alleging that Apco was manipulating the government to support Israeli and U.S. interests. He also said that Israeli agents had infiltrated Malaysia’s security forces and were “directly involved in the running of the government.”
  • Najib describes Israel as “world gangsters.” But he quickly turned Anwar’s words against him; Apco has been peddling the anti-Israel statements around Washington.
  • Anwar is like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he regards as a friend and fellow traveler. Both know better than to indulge in such stuff. Both have recently begun to do it anyway after a year in which the Obama administration has frequently displayed irritation with Israel. “If you say we are growing impatient with Israel, that is true,” Anwar told me. “If you say I am not too guarded or careful in what I say sometimes, that is also true.”
  • Anwar, who was in Washington sometimes ago, spent a lot of time offering explanations to old friends, not to mention House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman and a Jewish leader or two. He said he regretted using terms such as “Zionist aggression,” which are common coin for demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Why do I need to use it if it causes so much misunderstanding?” he said. “I need to be more careful.”
Many of the Malaysian’s friends are inclined to give him a break. “What Anwar did was wrong, but considering that he’s literally fighting for his life physically as well as politically against a government that attacks him as being ‘a puppet of the Jews,’ one should cut him some slack,” Wolfowitz said.
But Anwar’s story can also be read as a warning. His transition from pro-American democrat to anti-Israeli zealot is sobering and it is on the verge of becoming a trend.
Source: Washington Post
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AQUINO PLANS TO END MANILA CONFLICT WITH MORO?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Manila: President Benigno Aquino III's government has bared its dream to end the Moro separatist conflict in the south, which at the onset, does not appear to be much different from the tack taken by the Arroyo administration.
During the formal turnover ceremonies in suburban Pasig City of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), newly appointed Secretary Teresita Deles presented a four-point peace agenda to end the four-decade old southern Philippines' conflict between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
She identified these four areas as:
  1. The delivery of basic services to communities affected by the conflict, with particular emphasis on education and health;
  2. The economic reconstruction and sustainable development in the region, wherein
  3. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is an integral part; security with stress placed on disbanding private armies
  4. Good governance.
"There could be no peace if there is no good governance and in this, the organs of local government play an important role," Deles said.
Deles assumed the post as Aquino III's peace adviser taking over from outgoing secretary Annabelle Abaya.
Not surprisingly, Deles's strategy is not much different from that taken by the OPAPP under Abaya. This is partly because it had been Deles who was chief architect of the peace strategy taken by then president Gloria Arroyo.
Source:Gulf News
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