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NORTH KOREA SAYS IT’S IN STATE OF WAR IN SOUTH KOREA

Saturday, March 30, 2013
 
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea issued its latest belligerent threat Saturday, saying it has entered "a state of war" with South Korea a day after its young leader threatened the United States because two American B-2 bombers flew a training mission in South Korea.
Analysts say a full-scale conflict is extremely unlikely and North Korea's threats are instead aimed at drawing Washington into talks that could result in aid and boosting leader Kim Jong Un's image at home. 
  • But the harsh rhetoric from North Korea and rising animosity from the rivals that have followed U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang's Feb. 12 nuclear test have raised worries of a misjudgment leading to a clash.
  • In a joint statement by the government, political parties and organizations, North Korea said Saturday that it will deal with all matters involving South Korea according to "wartime regulations." It also warned it will retaliate against any provocations by the United States and South Korea without "any prior notice."
  • The divided Korean Peninsula is already in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. But Pyongyang said it was scrapping the war armistice earlier this month.
  • South Korea's Unification Ministry released a statement saying the latest threat wasn't new and was just a follow-up to Kim's earlier order to put troops on a high alert in response to annual U.S-South Korean military drills. Pyongyang sees those drills as rehearsals for an invasion; the allies call them routine and defensive.
  • In an indication North Korea is not immediately considering starting a war, officials in Seoul said South Korean workers continued Saturday to cross the border to their jobs at a joint factory park in North Korea that's funded by South Koreans.

Source: Business Week...More..
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THAILAND, MUSLIM REBELS AGREE TO RESUME TALKS

Friday, March 29, 2013
 
Thai authorities and Muslim rebels leaders have agreed to meet again next month after a meeting in Malaysia aimed at ending nearly one decade of violence that has killed thousands of people in southern Thailand.
Peace negotiators for the Thai government and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) said in a joint statement on Friday that they had agreed on the terms of reference for the negotiations.
The statement said that the two sides will resume discussion on April 29.
  • Thursday's discussions focused on "approaches towards solving the issues of violence and stability in South Thailand," the negotiators said.
  • "Both sides also exchanged views and information pertaining to the issue of violence in an open and sincere manner."
  • More than 5,300 people have been killed in the conflict in the majority-Muslim provinces in Thailand, which are under emergency law.
  • Rebels have carried out shootings and bombings on monks, teachers and village officials as symbols of the majority-Buddhist state.

Source: Al Jazeera
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OBAMA NAMES FIRST WOMAN TO HEAD US SECRET SERVICE

Thursday, March 28, 2013
US President Barack Obama has picked the first woman director of the Secret Service.
Julia Pierson, formerly Secret Service chief of staff, will succeed Mark Sullivan, who announced last month that he would retire.
The agency was caught up in a prostitution scandal last year during a presidential visit to Colombia.
The Secret Service investigates financial crimes, and protects the president and his family.
"Over her 30 years of experience with the Secret Service, Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day," Mr Obama said in a statement.
"Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency."
Ms Pierson, originally from Florida, joined the Secret Service's Miami Field Office in 1983.
From 1988, she spent four years with the Presidential Protective Division.
Ms Pierson's appointment does not require confirmation by Congress.

Source: BBC
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MANILA TELLS FILIPINOS TO CLAIM SABAH THROUGH INTERNATIONAL LAWS NOT FORCE

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MANILA, Philippines - On March 19, it was reported that Manila had engaged a team of lawyers to study the country’s claim on Sabah amid clashes between Filipino gunmen and Malaysian security forces there.
The Philippine Star reported a senior member of the Philippine government as saying that the country had not given up its claim on the territory that has been part of Malaysia for decades.
“Are they kidding when they say we have given up our claim? We’re paying so much for the lawyers to study the claim,” Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras was quoted as saying.
But, he said, that any action by the country will be carried out according to international laws, and not through force, appearing to echo President Benigno Aquino III’s views.
The daily also reported Aquino as saying that his administration was drawing up a roadmap to end the dispute over Sabah peacefully.
Debates about the Philippine government and the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim on Sabah had resurfaced following an incursion into Sabah’s east coast by a group of over 200 armed followers of the self-styled Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III over a month ago.
The Sultanate of Sulu has laid claim to Sabah, saying it had merely leased North Borneo in 1878 to the British North Borneo Company for an annual payment of 5,000 Malayan dollars then, which was increased to 5,300 Malayan dollars in 1903.
Sabah, however, joined Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore to form Malaysia in 1963, after which Malaysia continued paying an annual stipend of RM5,300 to the Sulu sultanate on the basis of the sultanate ceding the Borneo state.
Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had previously highlighted the Cobbold Commission’s 1962 referendum in Sabah and Sarawak, where about two-thirds of the people voted to be part of Malaysia.
Early this month, Malaysia’s Bar Council said the Sulu sultanate no longer holds any legal claim over Sabah.
  • Pointing out that the ICJ had recognised Malaysia’s rights and sovereignty over Sabah and the islands surrounding it during a territorial dispute in 2002.
  • The ICJ recognised Malaysia’s claim in its decision on the dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia over the islands of Ligitan and Sipadan, off the coast of Sabah, in December 2002. The Philippines had at the time applied to intervene in the case, but its application was rejected.
  • Both Malaysia and the Philippines are members of ASEAN, and the former was instrumental in brokering a peace deal in the southern Philippines.

Source: Yahoo News

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CALL FOR SEPARATE IDENTITY FOR FILIPINOS RETURNING FROM SABAH?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
MANILA, Philippines -  The Filipinos returning from Sabah, due to Filipino-Muslims who invaded it last February, should be called Filipinos displaced from Sabah, a radio report said.
The description was arrived at during a meeting of government officials who are handling the growing number of Filipino-Muslims who have been returning to their homes in the southern Philippines, the same radio report said.
It was not clarified if this description was made in support of the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III who allowed his brother Rajah Mudda Agbimuddin and his 200 followers to occupy Tanduao Village, Lahad Datu on February 9.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said he is pushing for his family’s claim over Sabah, adding it has a legal basis and a history as far as 1650. 
  • He referred to the time when the Sultan of Brunei gave Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu who helped quell a rebellion there.
  • Clashes between Malaysian security forces and Kiram’s group which began on March 2, have killed 70 Filipino-Muslims, the majority of them civilians; some ten Malaysian policemen were killed; and 100 people arrested, reports said, adding that eight Filipino-Muslims were charged for terrorism, which is punishable by death.
  • But Kiram’s brother and other followers refused to return to the southern Philippines.
  • Meanwhile, Malaysia’s prime minister said on Monday authorities would relocate residents of areas deemed vulnerable to foreign infiltration as they continued to try to root out Filipino Islamic invaders.

Source: AP
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GAY MARRIAGE OPPONENTS MARCH IN PARIS

Monday, March 25, 2013
Paris riot police have fought back crowds who pushed their way on to the French capital's landmark Champs-Elysees avenue as part of a huge protest against a draft law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
Hundreds of thousands of people, including conservative activists, children, retirees and priests converged on the city on Sunday in a last-ditch bid to stop the bill, many bused in from the French provinces.
The lower house of France's parliament approved the "marriage for everyone" bill last month with a large majority, and the measure faces a vote in the Senate next month.
Both houses are dominated by French President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party and its allies.
Sustained protests led by opposition conservatives in the traditionally Catholic country have eroded support for the draft law in recent months, and organisers hope Sunday's march will weigh on the Senate debate.
The first few hours of the protest were peaceful. But as it was meant to be winding down, about 100 youths tried to push past police barricades onto the Champs-Elysees, the avenue that cuts through central Paris and draws throngs of tourists daily.
In an indication of the sensitivity of the issue, protesters had been barred from marching on the avenue.
Police officers wrangled with the youths and then fired teargas to force them back. Gaining momentum, more and more protesters took side streets to reach the avenue, blocking a key intersection on the route to the president's Elysee Palace.

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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DROUGHT HAS INDIA FARMERS DROWNING IN DEBT?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

India's Maharasthra state has been hard-hit by poor rainfall and dwindling water supply - causing many farmers to have to pay for water tankers to deliver water on borrowed money. 
Many have farmed their land for generations and no option but to try to make their crops grow successfully no matter the cost. The government has allocated $280m for a relief package for a quarter of a million Indians living in Maharasthra and suffering from drought. But for many, it may already be too late.  
Source: Al Jazeera
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3 AUSTRALIAN MINISTERS QUIT?

Saturday, March 23, 2013
CANBERRA, Australia -  Three Australian government ministers quit their portfolios on Friday in the continuing fallout from a bungled leadership showdown that reinforces perceptions of a crisis in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s administration six months before national elections.
Cabinet ministers Chris Bowen and Martin Ferguson as well as Kim Carr, who was a minister outside Cabinet, resigned Friday over their support for Gillard’s rival, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
  • Five ministers have now resigned or have been dumped by Gillard over the botched scheme to reinstall Rudd. Another three lawmakers have also resigned from senior positions within the government.
  • The loss of experienced ministers will likely exacerbate the government’s growing reputation for being shambolic and unstable.
  • Gillard bent to pressure from within her center-left Labor Party’s ranks by throwing open her job to a leadership ballot on Thursday.
  • Australian prime ministers are chosen by lawmakers within the ruling party, and a leadership change is often considered as a solution to abysmal opinion polling.
  • Rudd stunned many with an 11th-hour announcement that he wouldn’t challenge her. His office said in a statement Friday that “there are no circumstances under which he will return to the Labor Party leadership in the future.”
  • Rudd later explained that he decided against running because it he did not have a clear majority.
  • “There’s no point in inheriting a disunited party,” Rudd said.
  • Bowen and Carr both said a ballot would have been close, but agreed with Rudd’s decision not to run in the interests of party unity. But Ferguson, who held the important Resources and Energy Ministry which controls much of Australia’s export earnings, said Rudd should have challenged.
  • “There’s a lot of people who feel very let down by his failure to run, a lot of people who have associated with him,” Ferguson said.
  • Ferguson said the party needed “a fresh start” and would be wiped out at elections on Sept. 14 unless there were changes.
  • “Let’s just go forward and try to pull this party together,” he said.
  • Gillard is expected to name her new Cabinet this week. 
Source: Agency
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MOSQUES TORCHED IN DEADLY MYANMAR RIOTS

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Five people, including a Buddhist monk, were killed and at least three mosques were destroyed after riots broke out in a town in central Myanmar, police said.
Around 200 people fought in the streets after an argument in a Muslim-owned gold shop turned violent in Meiktila on Wednesday, according to a post on the Myanmar Police Force's Facebook page.
"One injured monk and Than Myint Naing, 26, who were being treated for their injuries died from their burns at hospital," it said.
Police imposed a curfew from evening to early morning to control the situation.
"People tried to burn down the mosques," one local police officer told the AFP news agency.
Al Jazeera's correspondent Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said that a state of emergency has been put in place and many people are said to be leaving the town.

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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FRENCH HOSTAGE BEHEADED IN MALI

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Man claiming to be spokesman for al-Qaeda says Philippe Verdon beheaded "in response" to French intervention in Mali. 
A French foreign office spokesman said on Tuesday that Paris was trying to verify the report of the killing of Philippe Verdon, who was kidnapped in November 2011, adding that "we don't know at the moment" whether it was reliable.
The private Mauritanian news agency reported that someone calling himself Al-Qairawani and claiming to be a spokesman for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group told them that the "spy" Verdon had been executed "on March 10 in response to France's intervention in Northern Mali".
"The French President (Francois) Hollande is responsible for the lives of the other French hostages," he warned.
In all 15 French nationals, including Verdon, are being held captive in Africa, with AQIM claiming responsibility for six of the kidnappings.
Refusal to pay ransom
Verdon was seized on the night of November 24, 2011 along with Serge Lazarevic. According to their families the two men had been on a business trip and were kidnapped from their hotel in Hombori, northeast Mali.
The families denied that the two men were mercenaries or secret service agents.
AQIM swiftly claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and in August last year a video showing Verdon describing the "difficult living conditions" was released on a Mauritanian website.
The hostages' families have in recent weeks expressed growing fears for their loved ones in the light of France's military actions in Mali.
Earlier Tuesday, Verdon's father Jean-Pierre Verdon complained that the families were hearing nothing from the French authorities.
"We are in a total fog and it is impossible to live this way," he told RTL radio. "We have no information."
Asked about France's refusal to pay ransoms to kidnappers, Verdon senior replied that the families had no say in such "decisions of state".
Paris deployed forces in Mali on January 11 to help stop al-Qaeda linked fighters who had controlled the north of the country since April 2012 from moving southward and threatening the capital Bamako.
Pockets of resistance
France now has more than 4,000 troops on the ground in Mali, of whom about 1,200 are currently deployed in the northeast, carrying out operations after driving out most of the rebels from the area.
There are still pockets of resistance in areas such as Gao, which have witnessed stray attacks and suicide bombings since the rebels fled.
The French troops in the region are backed up by African forces. Soldiers from Chad, whose experience and training has made them key in the French-led offensive, have also suffered casualties with at least 26 deaths.
On Tuesday the French army announced that 15 rebel fighters had been killed in recent days in the northern Mali region of Gao, with the seizure of a large cache of arms and ammunition.
The AQIM source cited by the Mauritanian news agency refused to confirm reports that top rebels, Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abou Zeid had been killed in Mali earlier this month.
France has been carrying out DNA tests to determine whether the rebel leaders are among those killed in recent fighting in Mali.

Source: Al Jazeera
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6 IN COURT OVER GANG-RAPE OF SWISS CYCLIST IN INDIA

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
 
NEW DELHI, India - Six men accused of raping a Swiss tourist who was cycling with her husband in central India have appeared in court. The men appeared in a magistrates court in Madhya Pradesh state with their faces covered with black cloth, police superintendent Chandra Shekhar Solanki said.
It was not clear how they pleaded. 
  • During their arrest on Sunday they confessed to the crime, according to police. The men face additional charges of robbing the Swiss couple.
  • The attack occurred on Friday night as the couple camped in a forest in Datia district. The couple told police that the woman had been raped by seven or eight men, but that it was dark and they could not be sure of the exact number.
  • The men beat up the husband and tied him to a tree before raping the woman, police said. They stole the couple's mobile phone, laptop computer and 10,000 rupees (about £120). Police said they recovered the laptop and phone from one of the suspects.
  • The tourists were on a three-month holiday in India and had visited the temple town of Orchha. They were planning to cycle to Agra, about 130 miles away, to visit the Taj Mahal. 
They set out from Orchha on Friday and had pitched their tent in the forest near Jatia village when they were attacked, police said.
The Press Trust of India news agency reported that the 39-year-old woman said she would stay in India for now to help the investigation. India's tourism minister, K Chiranjeevi (photo), met the Swiss ambassador to assure him that the victim would receive justice, a statement from his office said.

Source: The Guardian
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SEXUAL VIOLENCE ON RISE IN DRC

Monday, March 18, 2013

The UN and human rights groups are warning of a rise in sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Earlier this month, a senior UN official said the organisation's peacekeeping mission in the country had threatened to stop supporting two Congolese army battalions unless soldiers accused of raping scores of women in an eastern town were prosecuted. 
  • In December, UN investigators said they had proof of at least 126 rapes carried out by soldiers fleeing a rebel offensive. 
  • Armed groups in eastern DR Congo often use rape as a weapon of war. The UN said the rapes occurred in the town of Minova, to the south of the city of Goma which was captured by M23 rebels in November. 
Source: Al Jazeera
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SWISS TOURIST GANG-RAPED IN INDIA

Sunday, March 17, 2013
At least seven men have raped a 39-year-old Swiss woman camping with her husband in an Indian forest, police say, the latest victim of sexual violence against women in the country. The Swiss woman and her husband were touring the impoverished Madhya Pradesh state by bicycle and were camping overnight in the forest when at least seven men attacked the couple on Friday night, sexually assaulting the woman and robbing the pair.
Source:AlJazeera...More...
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MALAYSIA FACING POLICY ‘BLOWBACK’?

Saturday, March 16, 2013
The former head of a Philippine separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), has told Al Jazeera that despite support from Malaysia in the 1960s, some of his fighters have now turned against the Malaysian government. 
According to Nur Misuari, the MNLF fighters have joined the Royal Army of Sulu, which has been fighting for control of Malaysia's eastern Sabah state. 
Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan reports from the Philippine capital, Manila, on whether Malaysia's foreign policy in the 1960s has backfired.
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PHILIPPINES NAVY ARRESTS SULU MEN

Saturday, March 16, 2013
MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino sultan’s spokesman said 22 out of the 38 men arrested by the Philippine authorities in the south sea are members of their group.
Jamalul Kiram said the men left Sabah on two speedboats filled with firearms and the rest of the men are not part of their group.
Leonardo de Vera and a team of defence lawyers will represent the 22 men, Idjirani said.
  • The Philippine Navy arrested the armed men as they crossed the sea between Sabah and the south Philippines on Wednesday.
  • Cases for illegal possession of firearms, violation of the election gun ban and violation of Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code for Inciting to War or Giving Motives for reprisals would be filed against them before the Bongao, Tawi-Tawi Regional Trial Court, said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (photo right below). 
  • Inquest proceedings against the 38 were held on Thursday. 
  • The 38 were earlier detained in a naval facility in Panlima, Tawi-Tawi. They will remain under the custody of the Philippine Navy as their case is being heard, De Lima said.
Other groups or individuals will be charged in court in connection with the ongoing tension in Sabah, said De Lima. She did not give details.
Jamalul Kiram allowed his brother Raja Mudda Agbimuddin Kiram and his 200 followers to occupy Tanduao village, Lahad Datu on February 9, to push for his family’s historical claim over Sabah, which dates back to 1650.
Clashes with Malaysian authorities which began on March 1, have killed almost 60, majority of the victims were Filipino Muslims. Almost 100 of them were also arrested, Malaysian authorities said.

Source: Agency
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US TOURIST ABDUCTED AND GANG RAPED BY CABBIE, ACCOMPLICES

Friday, March 15, 2013
 
PETALING JAYA, Malaysia -  An American woman who boarded a taxi at Mutiara Damansara here was abducted, robbed and gang raped by three men on Monday.
Police are tight lipped on the details of the case but sketchy information from sources revealed that the 24-year-old tourist from the US had hailed a taxi near the Curve shopping centre in the evening.
Apart from the cabbie, apparently another man who was also in the taxi threatened the woman with harm before relieving her of her valuables.
  • The woman's intended destination was unknown but it is learn that her assailants fetched another accomplice along the way before taking the victim to an undisclosed location in Sungai Pelek, Sepang. She was held captive and then gang raped by the men.
  • Meanwhile, A massive manhunt has been launched to trace three accomplices of a man who was nabbed over the abduction and rape of an American woman after she boarded a taxi here on Monday.
Selangor police CID chief SAC Mohd Adnan Abdullah said today that police have obtained a nine-day remand order on the man.
He said the 47-year-old old suspect, a lorry driver, had previous criminal records for theft and was tested positive for drug abuse.
He said police learnt that the 24-year-old US citizen was not a tourist but was working in Malaysia as an English teacher.
Mohd Adnan also said the woman was raped by one of the four men and not by all of them.

Source: The Sun Daily
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NEW POPE IS CHOSEN

Thursday, March 14, 2013
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Nuns smile and cheer when they see white smoke billow from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Dozens of red-clad cardinals crowd onto a balcony to watch as Pope Francis speaks. 
The newly elected pope gives a stunned smile as he appears before a hundred-thousand devotees waiting for him in St. Peter's Square.
The new pontiff, who will take over from retired Benedict XVI, is likely to be presented within an hour on a balcony over the main doors of St. Peter’s. “Habemus Papam,” Latin for “we have a pope,” will be announced before faithful gathered in the square below.
The new pope was elected after five ballots over two days by the 115 voting cardinals under the age of 80. Benedict was chosen in four votes over two days in 2005. The quickest modern- era conclave came in 1939, according to Vatican Today website, when Pope Pius XII won in three ballots over two days.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio becomes Pope Francis I: White smoke from Sistine Chapel heralds shock decision to elect first Latin American, first Jesuit and first Francis to lead world's Catholics.

Source: The Independent...More...
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