Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the investigation of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers for possible violations of the Constitution in their armed incursion in Sabah.
Aquino said he believes Kiram and his followers may have been financed or helped by other groups, which he said will also be held accountable.
"As President and chief executor of our laws, I have tasked an investigation into possible violations of laws by you, your followers, and collaborators engaged in this foolhardy act. May I remind you as well that as a citizen of the Republic, you are bound by the Constitution and its laws," the President said in a statement aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Tuesday.
"Among your possible violations is Article II Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, the enabling law of which is Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes those who ‘provoke or give occasion for a war...or expose Filipino citizens to reprisals on their persons or property.’ Thus, you are now fully aware of the consequences of your actions," Aquino added.
  • Close to 180 Filipinos, led by Kiram's brother Agbimuddin, trooped to Sabah on Feb. 12 and have refused to leave the island state.
The Philippine government has already dispatched a naval ship for humanitarian purposes to Sabah but Kiram and his followers have insisted on their right to remain there.
Aquino warned Kiram that he and his followers now "fast approaching that point (of no return)."
"This is the time to demonstrate that you are a true leader both in name and deed. The right thing to do now would be to order your followers to return home as soon as possible," the President said.
"The choices and consequences are yours. If you choose not to cooperate, the full force of the laws of the state will be used to achieve justice for all who have been put in harm’s way," he added.

Source: Agency

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
MANILA, Philippines -  Mohaqher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiating panel, has been appointed by President Benigno Aquino III to lead a 15-member panel that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The appointment of Iqbal, as well as seven representatives each from the MILF and the government side in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission was announced late Monday by Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. 
The Transition Commission (TransCom) has the task of crafting and the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will establish the new institutions that shall serve as the vehicle to realize the aspirations for self-governance of the peoples in the Bangsamoro. 
Iqbal, the appointed chair of the Transition Commission, described his new task as “a big challenge.”
  • The transition panel is largely made up of Muslims. On the part of the Government of the Philippines panel, the seven appointees are: Akmad A. Sakkam, Johaira C. Wahab, Talib A. Benito, Asani S. Tammang, Pedrito A. Eisma, Froilyn T. Mendoza, and Fatmawati T. Salapuddin.
  • Aside from Iqbal, those by the MILF to represent them in the panel are Bobby Alonto, Abdulla U. Camlian, Ibrahim D. Ali, Raissa H. Jajurie, Melanio U. Ulama, Hussein P. Munoz and Said M. Shiek.
  • For her part, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles stressed that its balanced membership reflects the government’s commitment to inclusivity in the peace process.
  • The TransCom has been given until March to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be certified urgent by the President and submitted to Congress for passage.
  • “It will undergo a plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory as per the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). Once ratified, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is deemed abolished and the new Bangsamoro region will be formally established,” Deles said.
  • Meanwhile the government and MILF negotiating panels resumed Monday the formal talks in Malaysia to discuss the remaining issues on the four annexes of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro.
  • The 36th formal exploratory talks will try to settle the “remaining unsettled substantive issues” on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, transitional arrangement and modalities, and normalisation.
Source: Agency
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Thousands of devotees today took holy dip at Triumakudali Narasipura about 35 km from here, where Cauvery and Kabini and mythical Spatika sarovar meet, as part of the ninth Kumbh Mela.
The event is dubbed as the Kumbh Mela of the south as large number of devotees perform rituals were held at Triveni Sangam. Spatika, a rivulet also known as Gutapa Gamini.
The south kumbha mela, meant to provide an opportunity to the devoute who may not be able to have a holy dip at Allahabad where Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati meet is held every year.
The event this year was held in the presence of Suttur math seer Sri Shivarathi Deshikendra swamy, newly nominated seer of Adichunchanagiri math Sri Nirmalanandanath swami and Sri Shivanandapuri swamy of Kaginele Kanakaguru Peeta.
The venue of the special event was an island to which a walkway of sand bas has been created. Others take the coracles.
Barricades have been erected around the deeper areas of the river, a result of excessive sand mining.
The district administration has also deputed locally selected expert swimmers as life guards, who stood guard on the banks to tackle any untoward incidents.
Devotees took a holy dip in the 'sangama', offering prayers at the Agasthyeswara, Bhiksheswara and Sri Gunja Nanrasima Swamy temples around the places.

Source: Agency
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Monday, February 25, 2013
SYDNEY, Australia Thousands of people on Australia's east coast were cut off by floodwater today, with the heavy rain claiming two lives as extreme thunderstorms damaged homes and brought down trees in Sydney. 
State Emergency Services said the Macleay River peaked lower than had been forecast in the northern New South Wales town of Kempsey, 350 kilometres north of Sydney, and the town appeared to have escaped major flooding. 
But the north coast region, including the towns of Port Macquarie and Taree, remained under close watch along with the Hawkesbury-Nepean area west of Sydney.
The SES said it had undertaken 66 flood rescues, including from stranded cars, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard urged the public to avoid the floodwaters if possible.
"Water is a dangerous thing. Deceptively dangerous. Even very low levels of water, if it's fast moving, can sweep people away," she said.
A 17-year-old boy was swept into a drainpipe on Friday as he stood in waist-high water in Kew, near Port Macquarie, to collect golf balls.
Yesterday the body of a man was found in his submerged car on a road about 20 kilometres northwest of Grafton, also on the New South Wales north coast.
Intense storms bringing high winds and heavy rain also tore through eastern Sydney and other areas overnight, ripping off roofs and bringing down trees.
The latest deluge comes just weeks after torrential rains in the wake of tropical cyclone Oswald flooded parts of Queensland and neighbouring New South Wales.

Source: Agency
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Sunday, February 24, 2013
Three priests and one former cleric have accused Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the senior leader of the Catholic church in Britain, of committing inappropriate behaviour against them. 
The UK's Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that the cardinal, the head of the Scottish Catholic church, made the physical advances as far back as three decades ago. 
The allegations against O'Brien come at a time when Roger Mahony, another cardinal, is being accused of covering up sex abuses by priests in the US, further clouding the remaining days of Benedict XVI as pope.
O'Brien and Mahony are among the 116 cardinals eligible to vote for the next leader of the 1.1 billion Catholics around the world, once Benedict resigns on February 28. 
Over the last few days, the Vatican has been busy fending off a torrent of negative reports, even as it prepares for Benedict's last Sunday service, which is expected to attract as many as 100,000 people to St Peter Square in Rome.

Source:  Al Jazeera...More...
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

NEW DELHI, India - Thetwin blasts in Hyderabad on Thursday evening rocked both Houses of parliament yesterday as the opposition took on the government and blamed it for intelligence failure leading to deaths of 16 persons.
Parliament was adjourned repeatedly through the day, first on account of non-arrival of federal home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde who had gone to visit the blast site yesterday morning. However, when he read out his identical statements in both Houses, the opposition appeared unimpressed and took the government for its failure to prevent the incident despite advance information.
Terming Shinde’s statement, in which he reiterated government’s commitment to fight terrorism and that improvised explosive devices (IED) were used in the blasts, Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, termed Shinde’s statement as routine. 

Source: Gulfnews...More...
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Thursday, February 21, 2013
At least 42 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in a powerful car bomb targeting the ruling Baath Party headquarters in central Damascus on Thursday, state media and activists say.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based anti-government rights group, said the attack took place in the central Mazraa neighbourhood on Thursday, and left at least 42, including nine members of government forces and many civilians, dead. It said that dozens of the wounded were in critical condition.
Syrian state television reported that at least 53 people had been killed and 237 injured. It described the bombing as as a "terrorist attack". Syria's main opposition group, the National Coalition, also denounced those responsible as "terrorists", saying that the opposition was not responsible for the bombing.
The pro-government TV station al-Ikhbariya showed images of what appeared to be at least four dead bodies on the ground and cars on fire.

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Bulgaria's government resigned from office after nationwide protests against high electricity prices, joining a long list of European administrations felled by austerity measures.
Prime Minister Boiko Borisov had tried to calm protests by sacking his finance minister, pledging to cut power prices and punish foreign-owned companies, but the measures failed to defuse discontent and protests continued on Tuesday.
Many Bulgarians are deeply unhappy over high energy costs, power monopolies, low living standards and corruption in the European Union's poorest country.
At least 25 people were taken to hospital after protesters clashed with police late on Tuesday.
"I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people," Borisov said as he announced his resignation on Wednesday.
  • The premier did not say if a parliamentary election scheduled for July would now be brought forward.
  • Borisov has said the electricity distribution licence of central Europe's largest listed company, Czech-based CEZ will be revoked, setting Bulgarian on course with its EU partner the Czech Republic.

Source: Al Jazeera
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Eight heavily armed robbers have stolen a consignment of diamonds worth up to £32 million from a Brinks van on the runway of Brussels airport. 
The gang, wearing masks, hooded tops and armed with automatic weapons equipped with laser sights, struck just before 7.50pm on Monday night in a raid that lasted just three minutes. 
Their target was a Brink's diamond and jewellery services truck that was loading the 8.05pm Helvetic airlines flight bound for Zurich. 
The robbers used two vehicles, using a Mercedes van to break through a security fence and escaping in an Audi disguised with a blue flashing light as a police car. 
The first vehicle was later recovered burned out in a Brussels suburb, the second car disappeared without trace.
The gang of robbers held Brinks and airport staff at gunpoint, ransacked the aircraft's cargo consignment and made off with a shipment of 120 small parcels of uncut and polished diamonds. 

Source: Telegraph UK
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Monday, February 18, 2013
MANILA, Philippines - The government has warned Filipino women against selling their babies for profit as reports said there had been several incidents when infants are being offered to childless couples without undergoing legal adoption procedures.
Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said women, no matter how poor, should not resort to selling their babies as they risk being charged with violations of the law on Domestic Adoption, Republic Act 8552.
  • “We should be alarmed by reports of babies being sold. This is also a form of birth simulation which evades the legal adoption process thereby violating RA 8552, an Act establishing the rules and policies on the domestic adoption of Filipino children,” Soliman said.
  • Earlier, local television aired reports that some poor women are selling their babies for profit.
  • A report by the GMA Television Network said that the sale of infants are so prevalent, especially in poor communities, that it had already brought about an underground trade.
Some infants are even being kidnapped in the hospitals and sold to baby traffickers who make a profit from the sale. There had been cases of infants being sold to foreigners.

According to Soliman, there are existing cases of poor pregnant women who are unable to raise their babies and would offer them to childless couples to illegally adopt in exchange for a certain amount. 
She said that any person who tampers the birth registration of a child or any physician, nurse, or health personnel who will collaborate in such an illegal act shall be guilty of “birth simulation”. 
 Source: Agency
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Australia has demanded an explanation from Malaysia for why it turned away an Australian senator from his fact-finding mission to investigate the Southeast Asian country's electoral system ahead of elections due within months, the prime minister has said. 
Nick Xenophon, an independent South Australia state senator, returned from Malaysia on Sunday saying he had been deported on the orders of the "highest levels'' of the Malaysian government for his support of democracy reformers. 
Xenophon told Al Jazeera that he is disappointed that his own government tried to downplay the importance of his visit.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Islamic group staged counter-demonstrations against Valentine's Day celebrations with hardline groups mobilising against the increasingly popular festival.  Opponents believe the festival promotes teen "sex parties" and premarital sex. After the deputy mayor in the conservative city of Depok on Jakarta's outskirts urged parents to stop their children from celebrating, local religious leaders voiced support.
The Head of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in Depok, Habib Idrus Al Gadhri, declared the day "haram" (forbidden) for Muslims, claiming it is part of the culture of "infidels". 

  • Despite the calls, many of the country's glitzy malls, hotels and restaurants are offering love-themed banquets and special events.
  • Around 90 percent of Indonesia's 240 million people are Muslim but the vast majority practise a moderate form of the religion.
  • Dozens of schoolgirls wearing headscarves in eastern Java's Malang city protested against the day, declaring February 14 "headscarf day".
  • Local media reported protests in the central Java city of Solo on Wednesday, where nearly 500 elementary school students and teachers marched against youths celebrating the day. They carried signs reading "Valentine, Infidel Culture". 

Source: agencies
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Thursday, February 14, 2013
Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of his girlfriend at his home in Pretoria.
Police said they opened a murder case after receiving a call on Thursday morning that there had been a shooting at Pistorius' home in the upscale Silverlakes gated community on the outskirts of the capital.
Katlego Mogale, a police spokeswoman, said that when officers arrived they found paramedics trying to revive a 30-year-old woman who had been shot an unspecified number of times. The woman died at the home, Mogale said.
Officers found a 9mm pistol at the scene and took the 26-year-old Pistorius into custody. Mogale said Pistorius was expected to appear in court later on Thursday.
"There are witnesses and they have been interviewed this morning. We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," said Denise Beukes, a police brigadier, in a press conference outside the crime scene.
Reeva Steenkamp was reported to have been dating Pistorius for a year. In the social pages of last weekend's Sunday. Independent, she described Pistorius as having "impeccable" taste.

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Last September, environmental politics came to a head when illegal logging almost caused a diplomatic incident. 
Britain’s Prince William was urged to abandon an official visit to Borneo by campaigners who have accused Malaysian leaders and their business partners of earning millions of dollars from illegal logging in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
The timing of the planned royal visit was unfortunate. A month earlier, Musa Aman, Chief Minister of Sabah and a man with extensive ties to Najib, was named as a key figure in an investigation by Swiss authorities into allegations that UBS Bank was involved in laundering U.S. $90 million made via illegal logging in Sabah. 
The Basel-based Bruno Manser Fund, which campaigns for tropical rainforests and the rights of indigenous people, has helped to build international credibility for local environmental groups. 
The Fund has accused Musa of having ties to illegal logging. In response, Musa dismissed the charges as political conspiracy.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim expressed concern that Malaysian authorities used the royal tour to drum-up publicity “at a time that these revelations are coming out.” 
  • In light of the Swiss Attorney General’s criminal investigation, he suggested that it was incumbent upon the Malaysian authorities to investigate Musa’s involvement.
Meanwhile, Anwar is also targeting a rare earths processing plant being built by Australia’s Lynas mining group in the Peninsular Malaysian state of Pahang. This project has faced fierce opposition from locals and has emerged as a lightning rod for environmentalists who are facing-off against big business.
But logging, legal or otherwise, and the habitat destruction it causes; alongside the close ties between politicians and plantation owners, are at the core of Malaysian politics. If left unaddressed, these issues could form the basis of many electoral gripes and translate into lost votes at the polls in June.
Environmentalists have fought a dogged battle with Malaysian politicians and big business interests in recent years. Results, however, have been mixed, as much of the country’s rainforests have been lost to the planting of palm oil and rubber plantations. With an election due, campaigners hope to put the environment, and the damage it has endured, back on the political agenda.

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