Smoke and flames rise from the Intercontinental hotel during a battle between Nato-led forces and suicide bombers and Taliban insurgents in Kabul
KABUL, Afghanistan - Nato helicopters fired rockets before dawn Wednesday at Taliban gunmen who stormed one of Afghanistan's premier hotels, ending a brazen, nearly five-hour assault that left 19 people dead, including all eight attackers. The strike against the Inter-Continental was one of the biggest and most complex to have occurred within Kabul and appeared designed to show that the insurgents are capable of striking even in the center of power at a time when US officials are speaking of progress in the nearly 10-year war.
It occurred less than a week after President Barack Obama announced the beginning of an American withdrawal and the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghans in several areas, including most of Kabul province.
Militants who had managed to penetrate the hotel's security measures began the attack around 10pm Tuesday, on the eve of a conference about the transfer of security responsibilities.
After hours of fighting, two Nato helicopters opened fire at about 3 a.m. on the roof of the five-story hotel where militants had taken up positions. US Army Maj. Jason Waggoner, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan, said the helicopters killed three gunmen and Afghan security forces clearing the hotel worked their way up to the roof and engaged the insurgents.
A Spanish citizen was among 11 civilians killed in the early hours of Wednesday when Taliban militants stormed a leading Kabul hotel, a Spanish foreign ministry official said.
"We have official confirmation that there is a Spaniard among the dead," the official said, declining to provide further details.
The man was a pilot for a Turkish airline who was injured in the attack and died shortly afterwards, according to unconfirmed reports in the El Mundo daily and the news wire Europa Press.
BANGKOK, Thailand - In his quest to win a parliament seat in elections yesterday, the 49-year-old one-time massage parlour king is betting a public tired of divisive, hypocritical leaders will agree. If elected, Chuvit has vowed not to join any ruling coalition. Instead, he would stand alone as an independent outsider regardless of the outcome — a one-man, anti-corruption reality check on government. With the air and swagger of a don, the stocky, mustachioed Chuvit plays the part of former sex boss well.
As the super-pimp who once ran Thailand's biggest brothel empire and then exposed the police kickbacks he had to pay for it to flourish, Chuvit Kamolvisit feels uniquely qualified to lead the country's fight against corruption.
Politicians "are like diapers, you have to change them," Chuvit said in an interview, referring to a campaign poster that features him cradling a toddler. "Otherwise, it's too dirty."
Chuvit's bid to become a lawmaker is no joke. He first won a national assembly seat back in 2005, only to be disqualified the following year because he had not been a member of his party long enough before the poll.
"When I got into politics, I didn't know that it's too dirty for me — even me," Chuvit said ruefully.
"Maybe I'm stupid for jumping into it," he added. "I pray someday I can stop. It's like you are gambling ... you know you're gonna lose all the money but you keep playing anyway".
Divested of his brothel interests, he is a pimp-turned-Robin Hood and his own sordid past is precisely what makes his crusade against graft so believable. It all began in 2003, when he asked police to help evict scores of illegal shops and bars from a downtown Bangkok block he wanted to develop.
The police did so for a fee by brutally demolishing them all in a pre-dawn raid that snowballed into a major public scandal.
When the accusations started flying, the fingers pointed his way. And when the police failed to protect him, Chuvit fought back by exposing it all including the behemoth bribes he had to pay to keep his mighty empire of flesh running. Confirming that open secret transformed him into a folk hero in Bangkok overnight.
CANBERRA, Australia - Twenty years ago, a major government inquiry into Aboriginal suicides and suspicious deaths in prisons made more than 300 recommendations aimed at keeping more Aborigines out of jail. But in the past decade alone, the imprisonment rate for Aborigines has soared 66 per cent, the report said.
Now a days, the Australia's burgeoning population of young Aboriginal prisoners is a "national crisis" that needs urgent and wide-ranging government action, a parliamentary report warned Monday.
Aboriginal children are 28 times more likely than other Australian children to be sent to a juvenile detention center, the report on indigenous youth in the criminal justice system found.
The report comes as the government strives to close the life expectancy gap of more than a decade between Aborigines and other Australians by addressing poor health, unemployment, low education levels as well as alcohol and drug abuse among indigenous people.
The government has also cracked down on rampant child sexual abuse in Outback Aboriginal communities in recent years by banning alcohol and pornography and by restricting what Aborigines' welfare cheques can buy.
While Aborigines make up an impoverished minority of only 2.5 per cent of Australia's 22 million population, 25 per cent of the Australian prison population is indigenous. Incarceration rates are far worse for the young, with Aboriginal children accounting for 59 per cent of inmates in Australian juvenile detention centres. "The over-representation of indigenous youth in the criminal justice system is a national crisis," the report said.
"This is a national tragedy, and questions must be raised as to why the situation has worsened so dramatically after the sweeping reforms recommended" by the inquiry in 1991, the report said. The 346-page report released yesterday made 40 wide-ranging recommendations that attack many underlying causes for young indigenous Australians getting in trouble with police.
This picture of Raja, 16, and child bride Sintu, 15, from Rajasthan in India is used for illustrative purposes only.
LONDON, U.K. - One girl below the age of 18 is married off every three seconds worldwide, according to a community development charity, which is calling for the British government to help end child marriage. Plan UK will publish a report this week entitled Breaking Vows, which states that ten million under-18s become child brides every year. In developing countries in South America, North Africa and parts of Asia, one in three under-18 year olds, and one in seven of all girls under 15, are married.
Rates of early and forced marriage are also high in Europe, with the highest percentages in central and eastern Europe where 2.2 million girls have married before their 18th birthday.
The highest rates are in Georgia (17 per cent) and Turkey (14 per cent). At least 10 per cent of adolescents marry before the age of 18 in Britain and France which confirms, says Plan UK, that early marriage is of global concern. The UK governments Forced Marriage Unit received more than 1,700 calls from girls at risk last year.
Allowing people to marry under the age of 18 is against UN conventions and the practice is outlawed in most countries but others are turning a blind eye, especially in poorer communities. But the consequences for both the child and their future children are dire. It not only keeps them trapped in a cycle of poverty but creates health issues and even death.
The children of young mothers are also at much greater risk. When a mother is under 18, her baby is 60 per cent more likely to die before its first birthday than that of a baby born to a mother older than 19.
ST. JOHN, NFL, Canada - Commuters in the St. John's area who might have been expecting a heads-up about construction delays were instead warned about something else: zombies. "Zombie invasion! Run!" said one of the messages that appeared on an electronic traffic sign positioned near Windsor Lake, one of the main water supplies in St. John's. The sign, which had been expected to advise motorists of construction that started Monday on Portugal Cove Road, had been programmed with other messages, including "Expect apocalyptic doom!" A final message said, "Rule #2: Double tap!", a line from the 2009 Woody Harrelson comedy Zombieland. City crews later arrived to turn off the sign, and then carted it away.
KATHMANDU, Nepal - Between July and December, custodial torture of Nepalese women shot up to nearly 14 per cent while it had been seven per cent in the earlier months. The report said that in 2010, one of every ten women detainees in 67 prisons had complained of torture or ill treatment. While a 10-year civil war saw women suffer atrocities like gang rape and torture in Nepal, both by the state and Maoist guerrillas, their ordeal continues even after the signing of a peace accord with growing cases of torture and rape in custody.
Advocacy Forum, a leading human rights organisation that has been monitoring prisons since 2001, released a report titled Torture of women in detention: Nepal's failure to prevent and protect on the occasion of UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims Sunday.
The situation was the worst in the capital with more than 20 per cent of women detainees having undergone torture, a level as high as reported during the Maoist insurgency.
Besides district police offices, security forces have also been using private houses as secret detention centres, especially in Kathmandu. Women from the Dalit community, regarded as untouchables, and women from the Terai plains, bore the brunt of custodial torture, the report found.
In October, Hermin Ratu Lama, arrested on suspicion of theft and drug-smuggling, was taken to such a private house in Lalitpur district, where the UN and many other NGO offices are located. She was forced to lie down on the floor and strip, with policemen stepping on her knees and beating her on the soles of her feet in the presence of her husband. Desperate to stop the torture, her husband said he was ready to make any confession the police wanted.
The most common charges against tortured women detainees were committing a public offense, drugs and murder. The most common methods are beating, sexual molestation, forcible stripping, and even giving electric shocks and rape. Ironically, most tortured women detainees were released after police failed to bring any charge against them.
PARIS, French - A woman has married her dead boyfriend at a ceremony in France after getting permission from President Sarkozy. Karen Jumeaux, 22, made use of an obscure French law to wed fiancé Anthony Maillot almost two years after he was killed in a road accident. She wrote to President Sarkozy to ask permission for a posthumous wedding, which was granted because she could prove they were already planning to marry. The couple met in 2007 and had a baby boy in 2009, shortly before his death at the age of 20.
Karen Jumeaux, 22, made use of an obscure French law to wed fiancé Anthony Maillot almost two years after he was killed in a road accident. She wrote to President Sarkozy to ask permission for a posthumous wedding, which was granted because she could prove they were already planning to marry.
The couple met in 2007 and had a baby boy in 2009, shortly before his death at the age of 20. She tied the knot wearing a white dress and in the presence of family and friends at the town hall ceremony in Dizy-le-Gros, eastern France on Thursday.
She said afterwards: ‘I never wanted to do it alone, but fate decided otherwise. Now I am his wife and I will always love him.'
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesian Gina Puspita traded a career in aircraft engineering for a mission to preach Islam and help young women build happy marriages through good sex. The French-educated mother of three hosts religious programs through theObedient Wives Club which is based on the belief that a fulfilling sex life is the cure for “Western-style” social problems such as divorce and abuse.
“Wives must obey the husbands in all aspect of life, such as serving food and drinks, giving calm and support for the husband, as well as in sex relations,” Puspita, who shares her spouse with three other women, told Reuters.
A Muslim group which espouses good sex as a foundation for healthy marriages and a strong society, the Obedient Wives Club is gaining converts in the world’s most populous Muslim country after setting up in Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
Founded by Global Ikhwan, a Malaysian firm involved in businesses ranging from laundromats to pharmacies, the club was initially intended to help the company’s female staff to be good wives as well as productive employees.
Global Ikhwan’s officials have been linked to the now-defunct Malaysia-based Al-Arqam religious sect which was banned by the government in 1994. Before the Obedient Wives Club, Global Ikhwan had earlier established the Polygamy Club which encourages polygamy among Muslims. The Obedient Wives Club is open to women of all faiths but says its teachings are based on the edicts of Islam which require wives to submit to their husbands and meet their needs.
“When men cannot get satisfaction at home, they will seek it elsewhere,” said Nurul, an Obedient Wives Club spokesperson.
“When your wife is cool towards you because your wife is busy and has no time to attend to you whereas you need it that day, what are you going to do?”
Some analysts worry the club reflects growing Islamic radicalisation among the mostly moderate Muslim communities in Southeast Asian countries, where some Islamist groups are pushing for the implementation of syariah law.
The club argues that sexually fulfilled men are less likely to stray, which would curb the rise in breakdown in marriages. Muslim couples divorce every 15 minutes in Malaysia and the divorce rate among Muslims in the Southeast Asian country are now at an all-time high, according to the Islamic Development Department.
The club has a membership of 300 and growing in Indonesia and says it has drawn a positive response from men, but some sociologists and rights groups describe it as a worrying trend which demeans women.
“This is a phenomenon that depicts the strengthening of radical groups in Indonesia and this is endangering the youth because it is based on an assumption that woman is not human, this is really poisonous,” said Siti Musdah Mulia, an Islamic scholar from the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace.
A recent survey by Germany’s Goethe Institut, which polled about 2,500 Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims, found that 38 percent of Indonesians feel that a woman must wear a headscarf, a lower figure than 69 percent in Malaysia, while about 86.5 percent rejected polygamy in Indonesia compared to Malaysia’s 72.7 percent. About 98 percent of youths in both countries rejected the idea of pre-marital sex.
However according to Shaharuddin Badaruddin, a political and social analyst at Malaysia’s Universiti Teknologi Mara, while the Obedient Wives Club has its opinions it does not reflect the view of society in Malaysia and Indonesia and maybe just reflects 0.01 percent of opinions in the societies in both countries.
ROCHESTER, New York - Gilbert Herrick says he never got married because he never met the right woman—until he turned 98. Now 99, the World War II veteran and retired postal worker from western New York recently married 86-year-old Virginia Hartman, a widower who raised five children. Gilbert tells the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester that their first encounter was in 2010 in a hall at Monroe Community Hospital, the nursing home where they both live. After that, he started visiting her every day. Gilbert says they wanted to share a room, but the facility’s rules don’t allow it unless a couple is married. Hartman asked him if he wanted to tie the knot, he said yes and they were married on June 6 with Hartman’s extended family on hand.
MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Police are alarmed over the rising number of crimes victimising social networking site users, as they warned the number of cases could rise further unless steps are taken. Police Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said internet crimes had gone beyond the usual money scams and fraud and are now actually putting the lives of citizens at risk particularly those using popular social networking sites.
On June 18, Maria Luisa Dominguez-Laquindanum was stabbed to death and robbed by four people. The 44-year-old call centre agent was killed in her Mandaluyong City residence after she agreed to meet with new acquaintances she had just met through the site, ‘Tagged.'
Earlier, on June 13, 39-year-old actor and director Ricky Rivero survived an attempt on his life by someone he allowed to sleep in his house. Rivero purportedly met the man, Hans Ivan Ruiz, 22, through Facebook five months ago. The victim was stabbed 10 times by his attacker but was able to get to hospital.
Pagdilao said in both cases, a common thread was the carefree use of social networking sites and people connecting with somebody they didn't know.
The police official warned that while the use of social networking sites was not bad, cyberspace was littered with individuals with foul motives who prey on the vulnerable. He said to guard against such individuals and groups, people must use caution on such sites. It was not difficult to understand why such crimes have increased, as the Philippines ranks fifth among countries which have the most number of Facebook users, he said.
LONDON, U.K - Elderly hospital patients who were terrified that they could not summon help from nurses hoped that an electronic alarm would be installed in their day room. Instead they were given a tambourine to shake. And in case that broke, a pair of maracas was also supplied as back-up. One man visiting his mother put the system to the test by rattling the tambourine for 16 minutes but failed to attract the staff's attention. The hospital on Tuesday was forced to apologise after an NHS watchdog described the policy as ‘unacceptable' and criticised it for failing to install a proper alarm system.
The farcical arrangement was put in place at Cardiff Royal Infirmary after more than 30 elderly patients in the west wing complained that they were ‘too scared' to use the day room in case staff did not hear their calls for help.
The room is almost 40 metres from the nurses' base at the Victorian hospital, which is notorious for its long corridors and has even been used to film episodes of Doctor Who. One relative said: "It is ridiculous. These people are pensioners, not members of the Monkees or Mick Jagger.
"Where is the dignity in asking old and frail people to bash on a tambourine if they are in trouble? It makes the NHS look like a laughing stock." Another said he could not believe it when his 90-year-old mother told him about the tambourine ‘alarm'.
"I thought she was joking but I went to the day room and there it was. I gave it a good hard shaking but after 16 minutes I gave up as no one responded."
When he questioned staff at the hospital over the policy, he was told there was no money available for a more effective call system. Steve Allen, chief officer of Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Community Health Council, said: "This is totally unacceptable and the health board must address this as a matter of concern." Ruth Walker, executive director of nursing for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, on Tuesday apologised.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland - More shots were fired last night as trouble ignited in Northern Ireland again. Bricks and bottles were thrown between nationalists and unionists in east Belfast as a heavy security presence tried to quell serious unrest. Several hundred people had gathered around the Newtownards Road area and surged towards Short Strand - a Catholic enclave in the Protestant-dominated east part of the city.
Police confirmed that three shots were fired, one of which struck a press photographer in the leg. A 20-year-old woman has been arrested on a weapon charge after the most serious rioting seen in the city for years.
The disturbances follow Monday's riot, supposedly orchestrated by loyalist paramilitaries, who it is thought fired upon police. A police spokeswoman advised motorists to avoid the area and said crowds had gathered.
Masked youths were pelting each other with stones and fireworks, and bricks and petrol bombs were thrown at police lines. Police said around 700 people had gathered in the area and officers discharged several baton rounds.
Dublin-based Press Association photographer, Niall Carson, 33, was shot in the leg and was taken to hospital for treatment. Mr Carson, a former Press Photographer of the Year, was hit when a gunman jumped onto a wall and started firing.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast said: 'He is stable in Accident and Emergency.'
A police spokeswoman said there were reports that two people had sustained burn injuries.
She said: 'Police are dealing with serious disorder in the Lower Newtownards Road area of East Belfast tonight.'
A spokesman added: 'A 20-year-old female was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and assault on police.
Last year, in west Belfast, the UVF carried out the killing of a critic, who was shot in front of shoppers on a busy road. With the organisation said to be going through one of its periodic internal power struggles, one theory is that its east Belfast boss is attempting to exert his authority by taking on both Short Strand and the police.
Little known to the rest of the world, the indigenous peoples in Malaysia Peninsular Malaysia or the Orang Asli of Belum-Temenggor are still very dependent on the forest for their existence. Logging, poaching and over-harvesting have left them with very little to look forward to. Logging and poachers are emptying the Belum-Temenggor forests of its wild resources, and the orang asli are suffering as the forest, which feeds them, is no longer as rich as before. A report by the Centre for Malaysian Indigenous Studies in Universiti Malaya (UM) states that a growing number of locals and armed foreigners are encroaching into the sprawling Belum-Temenggor forest in northern Perak to hunt for animals, fish and collect gaharu (or incense wood). This is depriving the orang asli of food and livelihood.
“Rather than acknowledging that their lifestyle of exploiting jungle produce was depleting the resources of the forest, the orang asli say it is outsiders who are causing the depletion, and that is a threat to them,” says Azrina Abdullah, one of the three authors of the report Collectors And Traders: A Study Of Orang Asli Involvement In Wildlife Trade In The Belum-Temenggor Complex.
The orang asli singled out these parties as responsible for over-exploiting the forest: foreigners (Thai and Cambodian poachers, often armed), soldiers (stationed in Belum forest), Malays from surrounding villages, government officers and illegal loggers.
The main jungle produce sold by the orang asli are gaharu, rattan, honey, rafflesia buds and medicinal plants such as tongkat ali, kacip fatimah and gajah beranak. Wildlife commonly hunted for both consumption and trade are birds, monkeys, gaurs, pangolins, barking deer, deer, soft-shelled terrapins, wild boar, fish and frogs. Alarmingly, a small number admitted to hunting endangered and totally protected rhinoceros, young elephant, bear and tiger, but these were done in the past
. The majority of the orang asli – of the Jahai, Temiar and Lanoh groups – do not see their hunting and gathering practice as depleting the forest. On the other hand, they say harm comes from the outsiders. Most claim to be not involved in the sale of wild animals and do so only if they have excess. Only a handful (17 out of 284) say they have been paid by outsiders to collect forest produce, namely rattan, rafflesia buds, gaharu, honey and fish.
“Most say they do not purposely hunt for trade,” says Azrina, a research fellow at the UM centre.
There is a possibility that the orang asli are not answering survey questions truthfully but the researchers doubt that, as they themselves saw little evidence of wildlife trade in their numerous visits to the villages.
“You don’t get the sense that there is trade going on. Unlike in Pahang, where the orang asli openly trade in wild animals and plants,” says Kamal Solhaimi Fadzil, a lecturer with the Department of Anthropology and Sociology.
In any case, there is now little left to hunt, the orang asli told the researchers. They say the forest has been emptied over the past decade, due to logging, over-harvesting, poor enforcement and the influx of visitors. They say logging roads allow outsiders to easily reach the forest to collect gaharu and fish. Worse is when the outsiders use illegal fishing methods such as explosives.
Another study by Mark Rayan, a senior field biologist at World Wide Fund for Nature, also points to illegal hunting activities in Belum-Temenggor. In his survey of 131 orang asli in Temenggor forest, 101 told him they have spotted hunters, 28 say they have been asked by outsiders to lead hunting trips, and 15 have received requests to trap certain animals (hill mynas, magpies, pangolins, deer, gaurs, frogs, macaque, and even tigers).
In the Belum forests, the numbers are 51, three and 15 out of the 98 people questioned, and the “wanted” animals are turtles, frogs, deer, birds and tokek (gecko). Azrina chips in: “We’ve gone in and out of the villages and forests many times, and we don’t see a lot of wildlife. The orang asli are getting frustrated as a lot of the things which they used to harvest are not there anymore.” Poaching is rampant because the forest is highly accessible with the opening of logging roads in Temenggor and Grik forest reserves. To demonstrate how outsiders can enter the area, Kamal relates a story of how a Pakistani carpet seller rode his motorbike along a logging track to reach remote villages to tout his wares to the orang asli (he offers instalment payments to the poor folks).
To add to their woeful tale of decimated forests and encroachment, the orang asli have to contend with rampaging animals displaced by logging. Their durian, rubber, fruits and oil palm trees have been trampled over or eaten up by elephants and wild boars. “One farmer in Semelor gave up planting rubber as his crops have been destroyed eight times,” reveals Or, now a project officer at Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring body.
Past studies said that translocation of elephants displaced from Johor forests has caused a sudden spike in jumbo numbers in Belum-Temenggor, and the population has exceeded what the forest can sustain.
Growing visitor numbers further worsen the orang asli’s plight. “No one is looking at the impact of tourism on the lake, forest and local communities, such as when facilities are built, as well as noise from boats,” says Kamal. There are also rude, gawking visitors who descend by the boatloads upon orang asli villages, uninvited. The orang asli also object to newly established four-wheel drive trails which also allow more people to reach their remote settlements.
Under the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, the orang asli can only hunt 10 species for their own consumption, not for trade: wild boar, sambar deer, lesser mousedeer, pig-tailed macaque, silver leaf monkey, dusky leaf monkey, Malayan porcupine, brush-tailed porcupine, white-breasted waterhen and emerald dove. Under the old legislation, they pretty much could hunt anything except for totally protected species (which includes endangered species such as the tiger, elephant and rhinoceros).
The researchers fear that the curtailment could lead to more poaching as it fails to address underlying issues, namely those who hunt for sustenance. As it is, they see malnourished children running around in the orang asli villages.
Would compensation from the Government be enough to discourage the orang asli from hunting? The majority say no; unable to afford food purchases, they have to forage in the jungle.
Furthermore, hunting is their main source of income and their traditional right, one that is provided for by the law. They also argue that it is the Government’s responsibility to provide for them regardless of whether or not they hunt. Only a handful agree to stop hunting if compensated with cash and daily necessities such as rice, sugar, salt and milk.
To resolve the issue of wildlife trade, the underlying reasons that push the orang asli to hunt and sell forest product need attention, that is, lack of marketable skills, isolation from urban areas and poverty. They say hunting is necessary for their survival, and selling wildlife supplements their income.
Indeed, trapping wildlife for sale is appealing when you earn less than RM200 a month, have a family to feed, yet the forest no longer provides, and the prices offered by middlemen are lucrative: a rafflesia bud or bloom can sell for RM2.50 to RM21; a soft-shelled terrapin from RM5 to RM200; a bird from RM50 to RM300; a pangolin from RM500 to RM1,000; a wild boar for RM100 each; and a deer for RM70.
The orang asli were relocated to their present settlements some 30 years ago to make way for the construction of the Temenggor Dam. Promises by the Government of development and a higher standard of living have remained unfulfilled until today, according to Azrina.
“Most of the families earn RM100 a month and live in poverty. Most villages don’t have piped water and electricity, which is ironic as 1km away is the hydroelectric dam.”
Village leaders told Or that they have no rights to the land. “They say the land still does not belong to them, and they are just squatting. Also, logging is closing in on the villages and polluting their water sources.”
Although Belum-Temenggor gets a fair share of tourists, the orang asli benefits little from it. They have been left out of the expanding tourism industry; their only involvement is when groups visit their villages.
Currently, the orang asli are helpless should they see poachers. A project is in the works, however, that will entrust orang asli who are Rela members, with the authority to stop encroachers. This might require them to screen visitors at checkpoints, for entry permits into the area.