CAIRO. Egypt - The US government continues exporting tons of tear gas to Egypt, which is being used by the military junta to crack down on protesters across the North African country. The new documents show that the cargo, which has arrived in 479 barrels, was to be delivered to the Egyptian Interior Ministry.
They also show that a second shipment of 14 tons of US tear gas is scheduled to arrive in the country soon, bringing the total to 21 tons in a single week.
The US tear gas exports have created a rift among Egyptian officials, as some port officials have refused to sign and accept the shipments out of concern that the tear gas would be used against peaceful Egyptian protesters.
Last week, thousands of tear gas canisters were fired at Egyptian protesters in downtown Cairo as the Egyptian military staged a massive crackdown on demonstrators demanding that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) hand over power to a civilian government.
LONDON, U.K. - Soaring funeral prices and the breakdown of families mean about 21,000 pensioners die every year without the money for funeral bills and with no relatives willing or able to pay. Their funerals are paid for by councils, many of which have admitted they inter the bodies in communal plots or cremate them to save costs. At least 100,000 pensioners who died penniless and alone have been buried in paupers' graves in the past five years, a charity revealed yesterday.
Such paupers' mass graves conjure an image of Dickensian poverty. But this has become the reality for some of the 40,000 people a year in Britain who receive state-funded funerals — of According to councils, this figure has been rising since the recession. And it is likely only to keep increasing as Britain's population gets older, warns the charity Anchor, which compiled the figures.
The group, England's largest not-for-profit housing and care provider, is calling on the government to appoint a "Minister for Older People" to address this and other issues affecting the elderly.
Funeral costs have doubled in the past ten years, meaning families can now expect to pay a minimum of £2,000, but the cost can be far higher. If a person made no previous financial arrangements and their family is unwilling or unable to pay, legislation means their local council must pick up the bill.
It pays for a simple ceremony, followed by a cremation or burial.
The average cost of such a "public health funeral" is about £900, according to the Local Government Association
The council is entitled to recover costs from the estate of the deceased, if they had any property or assets.
Councils have reported an increase in the number of people who die with no estate or known relatives. More than half of authorities said they had also seen a rise in the number of families unable to contribute to the costs of a funeral for relatives over the past three years since the recession.
The South East has seen a 14 per cent increase in the number of council-paid funerals in the last five years, with the East Midlands showing an 8 per cent rise.
The majority of these funerals — more than three-quarters — were for men, councils reported...which about 21,000 are pensioners. Chief executive Jane Ashcroft said: "These sad figures speak for themselves. Close to 40,000 people, mostly elderly, are dying around us with no family or friends nearby to care for them every year."
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Dewan Rakyat today passed the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill, which bars street protests, with only six adjustments to the original proposal, and after a walkout by the opposition as well as a protest march led by lawyers. Despite this morning’s big show from more than 1,000 Bar Council members and strident objections from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc who staged a walkout from the Dewan Rakyat, the Barisan Nasional (BN) government got its way.
The Bill was swiftly passed with the six amendments revolving around the advance notice required for an assembly.
Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia (picture) had allowed just three opposition MPs to debate the Bill, all of whom asked for it to be withdrawn and put before a select committee.
“This is our way of rejecting the Bill until we have a select committee,” PKR’s Subang MP R. Sivarasa told The Malaysian Insider as the opposition lawmakers left Parliament.
“This Bill does not protect national security, only the security of BN leaders,” said PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who was the last PR MP allowed to speak.
Critics have said the proposed law, which bars street protests, is more repressive than those in countries like Myanmar, which has one of the world’s poorest human rights records. Myanmar’s military-dominated Parliament passed a law last week allowing street protests and a notice period of just five days, fewer than the 10 days required by the Peaceful Assembly Bill.
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines - Powerful bomb killed at least three people and wounded 27 others in a budget hotel packed with wedding guests in the southern Philippines, officials said yesterday. Investigators believe the blast and ensuing fire that gutted the two-storey Atilano Pension House in downtown Zamboanga City late on Sunday was a terrorist strike and that it was not linked to the wedding, city police director Edwin de Ocampo said.
Still, many of the victims were from a group of more than 20 people who occupied six of the hotel's 35 rooms for a planned ceremony yesterday. The tragedy forced the wedding to be postponed, Zamboanga Mayor Celso Lobregat said.
The blast was believed to be one of two simultaneous bombings planned by Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants. The other would have been on nearby Basilan island, where two explosives were separately found and safely defused by authorities in Isabela city on Sunday, de Ocampo said.
The hotel blast, caused by about 10kg of TNT powder, was one of the most high-profile bombings this year blamed on the Abu Sayyaf, which has been weakened by years of battle setbacks. The blast was so powerful it caused much of the second floor to collapse, blew off the hotel roof and shattered glass panes and windows from nearby buildings, Zamboanga city Mayor Celso Lobregat said.
CAIRO, Egypt - The Arab League has approved sanctions against Syria to pressure the government to end its eight-month crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, effective immediately. Syria described the move, announced on Sunday in Cairo, as a betrayal of Arab solidarity. At a press conference in the Egyptian capital, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister, said 19 of the bloc's 22 member nations approved the sanctions, including cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria.
The sanctions include a stop to relationships between Arab countries and the Syrian Central Bank, a stop to trade exchange with the Syrian government, and a travel ban on Syrian officials. The Arab League had set a Friday deadline for Syria to allow rights monitors into the country and withdraw tanks from the streets or face sanctions, but the ultimatum drew no firm commitment from Syrian officials.
Network Rail has been left with a £10.1million bill from scrap metal thefts, which it admitted it will have to pass on to fare-paying passengers
LONDON, U.K. - Undercover police units are travelling on railways in the dead of night in an attempt to catch the surging number of scrap-metal thieves red-handed. The locomotives – dubbed ghost trains – travel with their lights dimmed and their engines muffled to allow specialist officers, equipped with infrared cameras, to catch unsuspecting criminals in the act.
The tactic is aimed at countering the metal theft crimewave that has caused chaos for rail passengers. In the past seven months alone, 1,969 trains have been cancelled because of 675 copper cable thefts across the network.
This has left Network Rail, which owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure, with a £10.1 million bill – which it admits will inevitably be passed on to fare-paying passengers.
The ‘ghost trains’ are four carriages long and carry a team of four officers from British Transport Police and Network Rail.
The ‘ghost trains’ are further aided by secret cameras, disguised as rocks or parts of the track, which have been discreetly installed across the rail network.
These are triggered by motion-sensors and send live pictures back to a control centre where staff immediately inform the train driver of any intelligence.
Police figures show 14 times more copper-cable burglaries have been perpetrated in Britain this year compared with five years ago. A Network Rail expert estimated the number of ‘ghost trains’ being operated on stretches of track most commonly targeted by thieves has quadrupled over the same period. Despite power lines above the railways carrying 25,000 volts, criminals have been willing to risk their lives to seize the lucrative copper-lined cables.
KUALA LUMPUR: More than 200 people gathered in opposition of the Peaceful Assembly Bill yesterday. With many dressed in yellow T-shirts, the crowd gathered at the park near the Suria KLCC shopping centre here at around 2:15pm. Seen holding yellow-coloured items such as balloons and placards, they called for the Bill to be abolished. “Bebas Rakyat! Say no to the Bill! Merdeka!” the crowd chanted several times during the 30-minute gathering.
The crowd was led by Bersih 2.0 steering committee members, who insisted that the gathering was not a protest but in fact “a social assembly”.
Nevertheless, the Bersih 2.0 representatives present vehemently protested against the Bill, which was tabled by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in Parliament two days ago.
Pakistani officials have responded with fury to an apparent attack by Nato helicopters on a border checkpoint they say killed at least 24 soldiers.
The "unprovoked and indiscriminate" attack took place in Mohmand tribal region, the Pakistani military said. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called it "outrageous" and convened an emergency meeting of the cabinet. Nato's force in Afghanistan is investigating and has offered condolences to the affected families. The night-time attack took place at the Salala checkpoint, about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from the Afghan border, at around 02:00 local time (21:00 GMT).
A statement from the Pakistani army said 24 people were killed and 13 were injured.
Prime Minister Gilani cut short a visit to his hometown to return to Islamabad, where he called an emergency meeting of the cabinet.
A foreign ministry statement said he was taking up the matter with Nato and the US "in the strongest terms". Within hours of the alleged attack it was reported Pakistan had closed the border crossing for supplies bound for Nato forces in Afghanistan - a move which has been used in the past as a protest.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand opposition leader Phil Goff accepted defeat on Saturday by telling his supporters "the people have made their decision and we treat their decision with humility and respect". His Labour Party has conceded defeat in general elections, giving the ruling National Party the win and allowing John Key(right photo) to return as prime minister. The Labour Party had a disastrous night, winning just 27 per cent of the vote with most already counted. Meanwhile, the National Party was on course to win 60 of 121 seats in Parliament.
Though Key's party appeared to be coming up just short of giving him enough votes to govern alone, he will likely find enough support among minor parties to shore up his leadership.
The Green Party, a possible ally, won 11 per cent of the vote, its best showing ever.
Opinion polls before the vote had put the National Party at just over the 50 per cent mark, with the opposition Labour Party at 27 per cent.
Observers say voters have warmed to Key over his handling of both the Christchurch earthquakes and the deadly blast at the Pike River mine in November 2010.
The All Blacks' recent victory on home soil in the Rugby World Cup final has also created a feel good factor in the rugby-mad nation which has played in his favour, they believe.
Economic issues have dominated the campaign, with Key promising to build on policies of the past three years with an emphasis on sparking economic growth by cutting debt, curbing spending, selling state assets and returning to a budget surplus by 2014/15. Queues were reported at some suburban booths in major cities as fine weather brought out voters. Key cast his ballot at a school near his Auckland home and said he was taking nothing for granted despite the party's commanding poll lead.
New video footage shows US police attacking and assaulting an "Occupy Oakland" protester, during a confrontation on Thanksgiving Day.
OAKLAND, Ca, U.S.A. - The video shows US police attacking the protester while he is attempting to unload portable toilets. Later in the video, a police officer draws his taser but a resident prevents him from using it. Similar incidents have occurred in which the police provoked unrest at peaceful gatherings in Oakland.
Earlier this month casualties were reported after riot police in California arrested dozens of “Occupy Oakland” protesters while clearing out their campsite in front of Oakland's City Hall.
On Friday, Occupy Oakland protesters declared that they plan to shut down all West Coast ports on December 12, three weeks after they closed the Port of Oakland.
The Occupy movement emerged after a group of demonstrators gathered in New York's financial district on September 17 to protest against the unjust distribution of wealth in the country. Despite police hindrance and mass arrests, the Occupy movement has now spread to major US cities. Source: Agency
MONTREAL, Canada - The body of an alleged Mafia boss, who U.S. authorities said once headed New York's notorious Bonanno crime family, has been fished out of a river near Montreal. Salvatore Montagna's body was found in the Assomption River Thursday morning, in Charlemagne, northeast of the city. Nicknamed Sal The Iron Worker, Montagno owned and operated a successful steel business in the U.S. The FBI once called him the acting boss of the Bonanno crime family – prompting one of New York's tabloids to dub him the "Bambino Boss" because of his rise to power in his mid-30s. His death is the latest in a series of Mafia-related killings and disappearances over the last two years. Montagna was considered a contender to take over the decimated Rizzuto family.
Sometimes a peso in the pocket could be worth more than its weight in gold MANILA, Philippines - A recent report by the Bombo Radyo dzGR from northern Philippines' Tuguegarao said Marlon Manuel, a former official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the town of Amulung in Cagayan, was walking to his home in Leonarda village late at night, when a man with a pistol suddenly approached him and declared a stick up. Caught off guard, Manuel had no choice but to give to the robber the money he had with him which amounted to more than P5,000 ((Dh 423.28).
Not content with the cash, the man demanded that Manuel hand him the laptop he was carrying as well as the licence for a firearm he had in his pocket. The victim refused and at this point, the robber fired off a warning shot to scare Manuel.
The bullet hit Manuel in the leg and all that he could do was close his eyes and anticipate the incoming injury. But to his surprise he felt no pain, instead he found out that the bullet had hit his pocket and glanced off, without injuring him. The thief allowed Manuel to keep the coin as a souvenir. For Manuel, the peso saved something more than its weight in gold — his own skin, literally.
COLUMBUS, Ohio, U.S.A. - What started as an internal dispute between different Amish religious groups in the US state of Ohio has now ended up in a federal court. Members of a breakaway Amish group have been accused of a spate of hair- and beard-cutting attacks, with seven men now facing hate crime charges. Source: Agency
A War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia has found former US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of war crimes for their roles in the Iraq war.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The five-panel Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal decided that Bush and Blair committed genocide and crimes against humanity by leading the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a Press TV correspondent reported on Tuesday. In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq in blatant violation of international law and under the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction allegedly stockpiled by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The Malaysian tribunal judges ruled that the decision to wage war against Iraq by the two former heads of government was a flagrant abuse of law and an act of aggression that led to large-scale massacres of the Iraqi people.
Bombings and other forms of violence became commonplace in Iraq shortly after the US-led invasion of the country.
In their ruling, the tribunal judges also stated that the US, under the leadership of Bush, fabricated documents to make it appear that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
However, the world later learned that the former Iraqi regime did not possess WMDs and that the US and British leaders knew this all along. Over one million Iraqis were killed during the invasion, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored. The judges also said the court findings should be provided to signatories to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, and added that the names of Bush and Blair should be listed on a war crimes register.
LONDON, U.K. - An orchid that unfurls its petals at night and loses its flowers by day has been found on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The plant is the only known night-flowering orchid and was collected by botanists on a field trip to New Britain, an island in the Bismarck archipelago. The flowers of the species, Bulbophyllum nocturnum, are thought to be pollinated by midges and last for only one night, according to a description of the plant published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.
Orchid specialist Ed de Vogel, from the Netherlands, discovered its unusual flowering after he gathered some of the plants from trees in a logging area on the island and returned home to cultivate the orchids at the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden. Most orchids are epiphytes, which means they take root on trees.
The botanist was particularly eager to see the orchid's flowers because it was a member of the Epicrianthes group of orchids. This group contains several species that have bizarre flowers with strange appendages, which often resemble leggy insects, small hairy spiders or intricate sea-creatures. The appendages are usually attached by thin filaments, which allow them to move erratically in the slightest breeze.
As de Vogel cultivated the orchids, he noticed flower buds appear but instead of opening to reveal their petals, they simply shrivelled up and died. He finally realised what was happening when he took one of the plants home and saw its flowers open around 10pm one night and close again soon after sunrise.
Flowers that open only at night are seen in a small number of plant species, such as the queen of the night cactus, the midnight horror tree and night blooming jasmine.
Bulbophyllum nocturnum is the only orchid among 25,000 species that is known to do so. Many orchids are pollinated by moths and other nocturnal insects, but have flowers that remain open during the day. Andr Schuiteman, an orchid specialist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew said: "This is another reminder that surprising discover
CAIRO, Egypt - Back to square one and like what they did during Hosni Mubarak regime, fresh deadly clashes erupted like volcano taken place in Cairo's Tahrir Square between police and protesters demanding the end of army rule, as the ruling military council faced its worst crisis since Hosni Mubarak was toppled. The clashes, which have left 22 left dead in three days according to the interior ministry, threatened to derail the country's first elections since Mubarak's ouster in February. Renewed fighting also broke out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, state television said. Hundreds have also been injured during the protests that have raged in Cairo, Alexandria and the canal city of Suez.
Police and military forces Monday sporadically used batons, tear gas and birdshot against thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square demanding for a third straight day that the ruling military cede power to a civilian authority.
Culture minister Emad Abu Ghazi quit in protest at the government response to the demonstrations, he told the official MENA news agency.
By the afternoon, thousands had converged on Tahrir Square — the symbolic heart of protests that toppled Mubarak.
The health ministry said 22 people had died in the violence, kicking off a violent countdown to the country's November 28 parliamentary elections.
Egypt's stock exchange tumbled 4.04 per cent on closing yesterday, with the main EGX-30 index dropping 3,860.00 points.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called for calm and urged all political forces to press forward with the democratic process.
He urged them to work for calm and return to the political process and move forward with the process of democratic change based on the principles of freedom, dignity and social justice on which the January 25 revolution was founded.
The clashes first erupted on Saturday, a day after large crowds staged a peaceful anti-military mass rally at the square, resuming on Sunday and carrying through the night into Monday, witnesses and television footage showed. Police and troops on Sunday seized the square only to be beaten back by protesters who retook it later, as had also happened on Saturday.