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MALAYSIA BORNEO PYGMY ELEPHANTS ENDANGERED

Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
Pygmy elephant calf desperately tries to wake up dead mother who was one of ten animals found poisoned
KOTA KINABALU, Sabah, Malaysia - Again and again, the baby elephant nudged its mother’s head hoping desperately for a sign of movement. It was to no avail. She had become another victim of a mysterious spate of deaths in the tropical rainforest. 
If wildlife officials had not led the three-month-old infant to safety, it would probably have remained beside its mother until it, too, died. Its distress moved the rescuers to tears, and left them desperate to discover who or what caused the tragedy. 
In total, ten Borneo pygmy elephants have been found dead in three weeks at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve. The bodies were all near to each other and while poisoning appears to be the likely cause, it has yet to be determined whether it was intentional. 


The animals still had their tusks, indicating that they had not been killed by poachers, and none had gunshot wounds. The reserve’s head vet Sen Nathan said the elephants were all thought to be part of the same family group, and were aged between four and 20. 
It has been said that Walt Disney could not have created a cuter creature than Borneo elephants, which have distinctive baby-faced features, oversized ears and long tails. 
They grow to 8ft tall, a foot or two shorter than mainland Asian elephants. Fewer than 1,500 are believed to be in existence. 
  • Will Travers, who founded the Born Free Foundation with his actor parents Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, said: ‘I have seen on numerous occasions that where the mother has died and the calf has nowhere else to go, it often stands by her until it too dies. 
  • So I’m not surprised by the image but I’m deeply saddened by it.’ He added that elephant calves are not fully weaned until they are three and a half or four. 
  • A male is likely to stay with its mother until it is around ten, and a female possibly for life. Many animal behaviour experts believe that elephants mourn their dead just like humans. 
  • Mr Travers said that a combination of close social bonds, excellent memory and long lifespan leads to the animals experiencing emotions similar to our own.
  •  'We call it grief, in elephant language it is something else, but it is the same emotion.’ Oxford University research found elephants mourn their dead by ‘kissing’ their bodies with their trunks and even rocking to and fro with grief. The creatures also show compassion towards the sick and dying, trying to nurse them back to health. 
A separate study found that elephants seem to be compelled to visit carcasses over and over again – even when the animal is long dead. And calves orphaned by poachers are known to suffer nightmares, before losing the will to live and dying of grief. 
Elephants are not alone in exhibiting human-like emotions. For instance, magpies hold ‘funerals’ for fallen friends, laying ‘wreaths’ of grass along roadside corpses. And dolphins will stay by the side of stillborn calves for days. 
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Source: Daily Mail
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PHILIPPINES CLAIM OVER DISPUTED TERRITORIES STRENGTHEN?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
MANILA, Philippines - Two days before China comes out with its official maps that highlight territories in South China Sea, which are also being claimed by the Philippines, Spanish Ambassador to Manila Jorge Domecq(photo) said his country is willing to turn over to the Philippines some 70 of the latter's historical maps. 
Domecq made the announcement on Tuesday at the sidelines of the sixth Tribuna EspaƱa-Filipinas, a high-dialogue between the two countries held at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City.
During the event, Domecq was asked what could Spain contribute to further strengthen the Philippines' claim over the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) given that Madrid and Manila shared hundreds of years of historical heritage.
Sen. Edgardo Angara also owns a vast collection of Philippine maps dating back to Spanish colonial times, which include an old map showing that Scarborough (Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc) Shoal belongs to the Philippines. China refers to the rock fomation as Huangyan Island. 
According to Angara, it is clear that the shoal was part of the Philippines' cartography during the Spanish colonial area. 
The senator said there is map made in 1734 that shows that Panatag was already part of the Phillippine Islands, which was then under Spanish colonial rule. 
China has been firm on its stand that it owns the entire South China Sea, citing its historical inheritance and the nine-dash-line on its ancient map.
  • But a senior official from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who requested anonimity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said that with or without the old maps from Spain, the Philippines would win its case against China.

Source: Agency
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IRAN SUCESSFULLY SENT MONKEY INTO SPACE

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Iranian state television said Monday that the nation had put a monkey into space “as a prelude to sending humans.” The successful flight involved a relatively small rocket that went straight up and down, according to the state-sponsored news report, and the monkey survived the flight. 
“It doesn’t demonstrate any militarily significant technology,” said Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launching and space activity.
“This is a tiny old rocket, and what’s on top is useful only for doing astronaut stuff.”
Rather, he and other experts said, the exercise seemed to represent a small but significant step in Iran’s stated goal of developing rockets big and advanced enough to send human astronauts into space — a goal Tehran has repeated publicly for more than a year. 
Charles P. Vick, an expert on Iranian rockets at a private research group, GlobalSecurity.org, in Alexandria, Va., said that the flight, if truly successful, showed that Iran was slowly mastering the technology of life support. 


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FOUR DEAD IN AUSTRALIA FLOODS

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BRISBANE, Australia -  Helicopters plucked dozens of stranded Australians to safety in dramatic rooftop rescues on Monday as severe floods swept the northeast, killing at least four people and inundating thousands of homes.
The body of one man carried off by rising waters was found in the Queensland state capital Brisbane and another further north at Gympie, following the earlier discovery of an elderly man who died near the city of Bundaberg.
A pregnant woman and her three-year-old son were hospitalised after a large tree fell on them as they were walking on Monday morning in Brisbane. They were reported to have head injuries, with the child in critical condition.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced that an acute emergency was unfolding in Bundaberg, home to about 50,000 people some 360 kilometres north of Brisbane, with people scrambling to get out as the river hit a record peak.
Hundreds were last night spending the night in evacuation centres across central and southern Queensland as floodwaters climbed towards record heights in some parts.
Emergency crews were working to rescue people isolated by the rising waters.The widespread disaster, triggered by heavy rainfall and wind from cyclone Oswald
 Source: Agency
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NORTH KOREA PARENTS ‘EAT THEIR CHILDREN’ AFTER BEING DRIVEN MAD BY HUNGER

Monday, January 28, 2013



A starving man in North Korea has been executed after murdering his two children for food, reports from inside the secretive state claim.
A 'hidden famine' in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae is believed to have killed up to 10,000 people and there are fears that incidents of cannibalism have risen.
The grim story is just one to emerge as residents battle starvation after a drought hit farms and shortages were compounded by party officials confiscating food.
Despite reports of the widespread famine, Kim Jong Un, 30, has spent vast sums of money on two rocket launches in recent months.
There are fears he is planning a nuclear test in protest at a UN Security Council punishment for the recent rocket launches and to counter what it sees as US hostility.
One informant was quoted as saying: 'In my village in May a man who killed his own two children and tried to eat them was executed by a firing squad.'
The informant said the father killed his eldest daughter while his wife was away on business and then killed his son because he had witnessed the murder.  
When his wife returned the man told her they had 'meat' but she became suspicious and contacted officials who discovered part of the children's bodies.
  • Jiro Ishimaru, from Asia Press, which compiled a 12 page report, said: 'Particularly shocking were the numerous testimonies that hit us about cannibalism.'
  • Undercover reporters said food was confiscated from the two provinces and given to the residents of the capital Pyongyang.
  • A drought then left food supplies desperately short.
The Sunday Times also quoted an official of the ruling Korean Worker's party as saying: 'In a village in Chongdan county, a man who went mad with hunger boiled his own child, ate his flesh and was arrested.

 Source: Mail Online
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FRANCE AND AUSTRALIA CITIZENS WARNS TO LEAVE BENGHAZI

Saturday, January 26, 2013
France and Australia have become the latest nation to warn its citizens against staying in the Libyan city of Benghazi in response to a "specific, imminent threat to Westerners", linked to French action in Mali.
Friday's announcement comes after similar warnings from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands.
A statement from Australia's department of foreign affairs said: "We are aware of a specific, imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi.
  • "All Australians in Benghazi should leave immediately ... There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets in Libya following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013."
  • The decision comes a day after a British warning caused Libya to announce there was "no new intelligence" to justify such concerns in the eastern city.
  • "We are now aware of a specific and imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi, and urge any British nationals who remain there against our advice to leave immediately," the UK's foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
  • The alert from London came hours after David Cameron, the UK prime minister, said that last week's deadly attack on a gas complex in Algeria was only one part of what would be a "long struggle against murderous terrorists"
    around the world.
  • Later on Thursday, both Germany and the Netherlands also warned their citizens to leave the city.
Abdullah Massoud, Libya's deputy interior minister, expressed "astonishment" at the warnings, and said Tripoli would be demanding an explanation.
Benghazi was the centre of the uprising that toppled Muammer Gaddafi in 2011. In September last year, the US ambassador to Libya was killed in the port city.

Source: Al Jazeera
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NEW MALI FACTION CALLS FOR NEGOTATION

Friday, January 25, 2013
One of the three Islamist rebel movements occupying northern Mali is reported to have split, with a breakaway faction saying it is ready to negotiate with the government.
Alghabass Ag Intallah, a senior leader of Ansar Dine, the predominantly Malian Tuareg armed group, said his faction wanted a “peaceful solution” to the conflict, which pits French and Malian forces against the rebels. 
The newly formed Islamic Movement for Azawad also rejected “all forms of extremism and terrorism” and was committed to fighting them, it said in a statement.A background to the deteriorating situation in Mali and why France decided to intervene
It is not known how many fighters Mr Ag Intallah has under his direct command, or whether his motives are genuine.

 Source: Al Jazeera

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CITIZENSHIP-FOR-VOTES PROBE STIRS OUTRAGE IN MALAYSIA

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
 
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -  For years, charges have swirled that a secret Malaysian scheme gave citizenship to huge numbers of illegal migrants in a politically important state in exchange for votes for the ruling coalition.
Now, an inquiry is finally airing detailed allegations that have the government on the defensive ahead of elections that pose the greatest threat yet faced by the ruling bloc that has controlled Malaysia for 56 years.
A Royal Commission of Inquiry opened last week with ex-officials admitting they gave citizenship to Filipinos and Indonesians in resource-rich Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on jungly Borneo island.
  • One former official said some 100,000 identity cards (ICs) were handed out in 1993 ahead of a crucial state election, Malaysian news reports said. Another admitted signing hundreds of thousands of ICs in the 1990s.
  • The testimony has revived accusations of treason against former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is alleged to have masterminded the scheme to shore up support for his government.
  • As head of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, Mahathir dominated Malaysia for 22 years with his famously hardball political tactics until he resigned in 2003.
  • Current prime minister Najib Tun Razak is now battling to rally support for the BN ahead of polls he is expected to call within months, in an era when the coalition’s power grip has slipped.
  • But outrage over “Project IC”, as the alleged scheme is widely known, is undercutting his claims that the national electoral roll is free of fraud.
The opposition and election-reform advocates allege massive fraud in voter rolls nationwide and have seized on the testimony as proof of government vote-tampering.
 
“What we are concerned about is that this is still going on. That’s what we want to stop,” S Ambiga(top right photo), head of the clean-elections activist coalition known as “Bersih”, or “Clean”, told a press conference Tuesday.
The outlines of “Project IC” have been whispered about for three decades and have bolstered the view of Sabah as a reliable “fixed deposit” of votes for the BN to help it weather challenges elsewhere.
The government allegedly targeted Muslims from neighbouring Indonesia and the predominantly Muslim southern Philippines.

Source: Malaysia Today....More... , AFP
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THOUSANDS EVACUATE AS 4 RIVERS IN DAVAO PHILIPPINES OVERFLOW

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
 
DAVAO CITY, Philippines - Three other rivers in this city, aside from the Davao River, have overflowed, prompting evacuation of thousands of families in 13 barangays here.
The rivers that overflowed and flooded inhabited areas in the city as of Monday were Davao, Lasang, Lipadas, and Talomo rivers.
All over Davao region, close to 40,000 people have been displaced by recent flooding caused by the inter-tropical convergence zone that continue to bring rains.
A disaster monitoring report released by the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Davao as of 4 p.m. Monday showed those affected by the recent flooding have reached 10,318 families with 39,938 members.
  • "These families who experienced flooding due to incessant rains are residents of Davao City; Kapalong and Sto. Tomas in Davao Del Norte; New Bataan, Nabunturan, Maco, Mawab, Monkayo and Montevista in Compostela Valley; and Cateel in Davao Oriental," the report said.

In another report released by the City Social Service and Development Office, affected families in Davao City alone have reached 10,280 families with 26,009 dependents.
Seventeen of the city's 181 barangays were inundated by the recent flooding that also killed a certain Tata Enterino of Purok 3 in Bacaca.
Another unidentified person was also reported missing, but this has yet to be verified by CSSDO.
DSWD Disaster Report also showed 36 evacuation centers have so far been activated in affected areas -- 13 in Davao City, 12 in Davao Del Norte, and 11 in Compostela Valley.
The Davao Light & Power Co. reported Monday that it started to restore power in main lines of flood-affected areas within its franchise.
Still without power as of 4 p.m. Monday are Jade Valley, Gem Village, Matina Gravahan, Juliville, Marfori, Madapo Hills and portion of El Rio, Bacaca and Tigatto. This also included several Davao del Norte areas.
In a statement, Davao Light said it deployed several crews to these affected areas to speed up repairs of power lines and connections.
The inspection team will check the individual connections thoroughly should there be wet electrical outlets and meters.
  • The team also prioritized the repairs of its streetlights to provide illumination in affected areas at night. The full restoration of which is expected Tuesday.
  • In response to the needs of the flood-affected families in Davao City, DSWD-Davao distributed on Sunday some 6,700 family food packs containing 15 kilos rice, eight cans sardines, four cans of beef loaf and 12 sachets 3-in-1 coffee.
DSWD Davao Director Priscilla Razon, who led the monitoring of the relief operations Sunday, said 5,000 food packs were provided to the affected families from the city's first district and 1,700 to second district, two of the heavily-flooded areas in the city.
Also Monday, DSWD released food packs to affected families in submerged areas in Davao Del Norte, Compostela Valley and Cateel in Davao Oriental.

Source: Agency
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PROTEST AFTER SERBIA REMOVES MEMORIAL

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
 
PRESEVO, Serbia - Thousands of ethnic Albanians have protested in Serbia against the removal of a memorial to fallen fighters, and dozens of Serb graves in neighbouring Kosovo have been damaged in apparent retaliation.
The monument in the town of Presevo was removed on Sunday by 200 masked Serbian police officers backed by armoured personnel carriers.
It bore the names of 27 ethnic Albanian fighters killed during the 2000 conflict in the Presevo Valley, a spillover from the 1999 war in Kosovo, Serbia's former province.
Authorities in Kosovo said on Monday about 60 gravestones had been demolished at Serb cemeteries in the western town of Prizren and eastern village of Klokot.
  • Police stepped up security around Serb Orthodox cemeteries.
  • Police said shots were fired at a memorial to Serbs killed during the 1998-99 war in the western enclave of Gorazdevac and that a monument to second world war communist fighters had been destroyed in the eastern town of Vitina.
  • In Presevo, a Reuters cameraman saw about 2,000 protesters waving Albanian flags and banners reading "Stop discrimination" and "Europe, open your eyes". Presevo is one of Serbia's poorest regions bordering Kosovo and Macedonia.
  • Albania and Kosovo, which has an ethnic-Albanian majority, condemned the decision to remove the memorial, erected by the ethnic Albanian-dominated local council.
  • Serbia, a candidate to join the European Union, said it would not be "humiliated".

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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POPE APPOINTS US ARCBISHOP AS DIPLOMATIC REP TO MALAYSIA

Monday, January 21, 2013
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia -  Pope Benedict XVI has appointed American Archbishop Joseph Marino as the first Apostolic Nuncio (diplomatic representative) to Malaysia, and the Government has welcomed it.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the appointment was testament to a commitment he and Pope Benedict pledged during a meeting two years ago.
“Having established diplomatic ties in 2011, Pope Benedict and I vowed to work together to increase understanding between Christians and Muslims,” he said.
  • “The appointment is a testament to this commitment. It is my hope that we can continue to build greater unity between world religions,” he said here yesterday.
  • Najib visited Rome in July 2011 to meet Pope Benedict at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
  • Marino is expected to arrive in Malaysia in the next few weeks.
  • He will be the Pope's representative to the Catholic Church in the country and would also have the rank of an ambassador, whose role is to enhance ties between both sides.
  • A Vatican embassy has been set up in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Known as the Apostolic Nunciature Malaysia, the embassy was officially recognised in May last year following Najib's visit,
  • The 59-year-old Marino was also appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to Timor Leste and as an Apostolic Delegate to Brunei effective Wednesday, the Vatican announced.
  • Catholic priest and editor of Catholic newsletter The Herald, Father Lawrence Andrew, said the Vatican ambassador would help foster inter-faith dialogues and enhance relationships between Malaysia and the Vatican.
  • “He can help to build bridges,” he said.
  • Malaysia, he said, had appointed an ambassador to the Vatican last year, Datuk Ho May Young, who was also ambassador to Switzerland.
  • He added that in the 1960s, Malaysia had a special envoy to the Vatican, the late Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee.
  • Marino, who hails from Alabama, has been the Apostolic Nuncio to Bangladesh since January 2008.
  • He has previously served in several Apostolic Nunciatures in the Philippines, Uruguay, Nigeria and Britain. He speaks English, Italian, French and Spanish.
  • A report in Vatican Insider on Wednesday described the announcement as a “highly significant development in relations between the Holy See and Malaysia”.
  • Malaysia became the 179th state to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
  Source: The Star
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MALAYSIA HEADING TOWARDS CLOSEST EVER POLL

Sunday, January 20, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - When Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin (photo) told his audience at an academic conference in Singapore that there was a chance Malaysia's opposition would take power in this year's elections, he had no idea that his analysis would trigger such a furore back home.
Azrul, chief economist with Malaysia's Bank Islam, outlined three possible scenarios for the parliamentary polls likely to be held in March, almost at the end of the current government's five year term.
There was a "high probability", his research suggested, that Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition of opposition parties led by Anwar Ibrahim (photo), would win a tiny majority - an outcome that would mean a change in government for the first time since Malaysia gained its independence five decades ago.
A few days later, Azrul found himself suspended from his job at the bank.
  • "It seems I'm in hot soup," Azrul told Al Jazeera by phone. "Politics may have an impact on the economy in general, right? I had three parts to my report and the third was on the political outlook. I don't understand the reaction."
  • Azrul said that he believed his bosses may have come under political pressure.
  • The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has dominated Malaysia's politics since independence, but is still working out how to adapt to a rapidly changing country a decade after the retirement of  long-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir centralised power and cracked down on those who opposed him - even within his own party.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has since been trying to make Malaysia more open and democratic, but his attempts at political and economic reform - including a bold move to repeal repressive colonial-era laws - have largely failed to excite a new generation of younger, internet-savvy Malaysians, who doubt that the party shares its leader's enthusiasm for change.


Source: Al Jazeera
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FORMER MALAYSIAN PM ADMITS GIVEN OUT CITIZENSHIPS TO FOREIGNERS?

Saturday, January 19, 2013
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today admitted that citizenship were given to foreigners in Sabah, but stressed that it was “within the law”.
The former prime minister was asked to comment on the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Sabah’s illegal immigrants issue.
“When I was prime minister, I was in power to determine the implementation of government policies.
“The government received foreigners to be citizens if (they) fulfilled certain conditions, furthermore many of those who are in Sabah are there not one, two days but already 20 to 30 years and they speak in Bahasa Melayu, they have the right to be Malaysians,” Dr Mahathir (picture) said at a press conference here.
“So the problem is when there are people who are tidak senang (unhappy) when there are some who become Malaysians although those individuals have already resided in Malaysia, that is what causes problems.”
“Why we want to reject them? They work. If they commit crimes, they are exposed to our country’s laws too. But they are needed by Sabah,” he later added.
Throughout the press conference, he repeatedly stressed that the giving of citizenships to foreigners was “within the law”.
“I never deny it were given. What I deny is that I did something against the law, that I will deny.”
When asked if he was saying that the Project IC was lawful, he said: “Yes, it is lawful.”
Earlier in the press conference, Dr Mahathir was asked if the handing out of citizenships to foreigners was politically-motivated and to enable Umno to take over Sabah.
He replied: “I mean that is their right. Once they become citizens, whether they support Umno, Barisan Nasional, that is their business.”
  • “We know for a fact that not all of them are supporters of Barisan Nasional,” he added.
  • He also reminded reporters of the country’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, claiming that he gave out citizenships to those who were unqualified to receive it.
  • “One should also look back and remember that Tunku Abdul Rahman was worse than me, he gave one million citizenships to people who are not qualified and were not even tested.”
  • “Why is it when he does it, it is not wrong, and when I do it, it’s wrong?” he asked.
  • Dr Mahathir, the country’s longest serving prime minister who was in power from 1981 to 2003, has been accused of spearheading the so-called “Project IC”, in which citizenships were allegedly given to immigrants in exchange for their votes.
  • But former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh, who administered the state from 1976 to 1985, denied on Tuesday the existence of “Project IC”.
The late former deputy home affairs minister Tan Sri Megat Junid Megat Ayub was accused of ordering the National Registration Department (NRD)’s Sabah branch to issue temporary documents to allow immigrants to vote in a 1994 state election.
Dr Mahathir was today also asked if he had knowledge of Megat Junid’s alleged order just two weeks before the 1994 state election.
“... (But) that is either coincidental or deliberate, I wouldn’t know. But that is within the law. That it happened before elections doesn’t mean it is against the law,” he said.

Source: The Malaysian Insider
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