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BRAZIL SHANTYTOWN DWELLERS JOIN MASS PROTESTS

Sunday, June 30, 2013
Thousands of Brazilians who live in shanty towns, or favelas, have joined massive street protests, so far made up mostly of middle and upper classes. 
The favela dwellers hope to get some of the problems afflicting them, such as extreme poverty, addressed.

Source: Al Jazeera
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KEVIN RUDD SWORN IN AS AUSTRALIA’S PM AGAIN?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

 
CANBERRA, Australia - FOR the second time in his political career, Kevin Rudd was this morning sworn as Prime Minister of Australia at Government House in Canberra.
Mr Rudd was joined by key colleagues Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen, who were sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer respectively.
All three new leaders signed the Oath before Governor-General Quentin Bryce put ink to the documents, sealing Mr Rudd's return to The Lodge.
Mr Rudd told Ms Bryce he would do his "absolute best" following the signing of the documents. 

  • The ceremony came after an extraordinary night in Canberra on Wednesday.
  • Within hours of rumours of a petition circulating in the Labor caucus for a special meeting, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard brought the speculation to a head by calling a leadership ballot.
  • But it was a ballot she would lose to Mr Rudd, and the resignations of six of her Cabinet ministers came thick and fast.
  • The political blood-letting included the resignations of Wayne Swan, Greg Combet, Stephen Conroy, Craig Emerson, Peter Garrett and Joe Ludwig.
  • In addition to the new PM, DPM and Treasurer, the spill has reopened the doors to higher office for several Rudd supporters.
  • Two others to be promoted were Penny Wong, who will become the first female Leader of the Senate, and Jacinta Collins the deputy.
  • Others who may be considered for promotion included Joel Fitzgibbon, Janelle Saffin, Ed Husic and Justine Elliot.
In a speech on Wednesday night, Mr Rudd promised to unite the Labor Party against the Opposition after holding a press conference.
He said he would take the role with "humility, honour and with an important sense of energy and purpose". 
Mr Rudd paid tribute to outgoing Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who resigned via the Governor General after being bested in a ballot 57-45, and is expected to follow through on her vow to not contest the upcoming election. 
In his acceptance speech, Mr Rudd said politics had failed the Australian people, having been overwhelmed with negativity.

Source: Sunshine Coastal Daily...More... 
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FLOODS IN ALBERTA CANADA TO COST CALGARY ECONOMY BILLIONS?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Economists say flooding in Alberta will cost Calgary’s economy billions of dollars and affect the Canadian economy as a whole.
Although the precise economic damage caused by the flooding is hard to measure, economists say it will be widespread and long-lasting.
One estimate from BMO Capital Markets is that Canada's GDP will be reduced by $2 billion as a direct result of the floods.
Tom MacKinnon, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, estimates that direct losses from the flooding will be between $3 billion and $5 billion. 
That is at least 10 times higher than the losses incurred during the floods of 2005.
In Calgary, the floods will cut into retail sales, tourism and industries that service the energy industry.
Todd Hirsch, chief economist at Alberta Treasury Branch, says the large oil and gas companies headquartered in Calgary are coping.
“Production itself is not being disrupted. No oil and gas comes through downtown Calgary. 
It would be far more disruptive for these companies financially if it was a refinery or maybe one of their mining operations went down in the flood,” said Hirsch.
However, three pipelines in the province have been damaged and rail shipments were disrupted for several days.
Hirsch says that he expects economic activity in Calgary to slow in the short term, but that will be somewhat offset by a boost in spending to rebuild the city’s infrastructure.
On Monday, Alberta Premier Alison Redford said it would take 10 years to rebuild the flood-damaged areas of the city and the province. She pledged an immediate $1 billion in aid toward emergency relief and reconstruction.

Source: CBC...More...
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MOUNTAIN RANGE IN PHILIPPINES DAVAO NOMINATED TO UN’S HERITAGE LIST

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
MANILA, Philippines -  The United Nations is set to deliberate the addition of a mountain range in the southern Philippines to its world natural heritage sites list.
The nomination of Mt Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary was referred for discussion at next year’s World Heritage Committee meeting, Manila’s foreign affairs department said in a statement.
The range is home to thousands of endangered species of flora, as well as the Philippine eagle and centuries old bonsai plants.
The foreign affairs department said the World Heritage Committee of the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) also asked the Philippine government to formally submit information on the mountain. 


The International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union will evaluate the nomination of Mount Hamiguitan, the statement said, adding this occurred during a session in Phnom Penh, which started on June 16 and will end on June 27.
In 2004, a Philippine law declared Mount Hamuguitan range a Wildlife Sanctuary. It straddles the municipalities of Mati, San Isidro and Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental.
It hosts endangered plant species, including the Shorea polysperma and Shorea astylosa trees, and the Paphiopedilum adductum, an orchid variety.
It is home to 341 species of wildlife that are found only in the Philippines, including the Philippine eagle and cockatoo.
The animals are on the red list of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an authority on the conservation status of plant and animal species worldwide.
Because the mountain was already nominated to the heritage list in 2009, it is on Unesco’s tentative list of UN World Heritage Sites.
Other UN World Heritage listed sites in the Philippines include the Tubbataha Reef, the Cordillera Rice Terraces, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, the town of Vigan, and local baroque churches.
The UN World Heritage Sites has a total of 967 cultural and natural (or mixed) areas all over the world.

Source: Agencies
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DEADLY FIGHTING RAGES IN LEBANON

Monday, June 24, 2013
BEIRUT, Lebanon - At least 15 Lebanese soldiers are now known to have died in clashes between government troops and followers of a Sunni sheikh, who is opposed to the Shia movement Hezbollah and its involvement in the war in Syria. 
The clashes which broke out on Sunday between the army and supporters of Ahmad al-Assir continued overnight in Sidon, reported Al Jazeera's Nour Samaha on Monday. The fighting raged around Abra and the Ain el Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, she said. 
  • Members of the Jund al Sham and Fatah al Islam armed groups have joined the battle, she added, reporting from a village several kilometres away from Sidon. She said clashes had "intensified in both areas mentioned above, with heavy weaponry being used". 
  • "The sound of explosions and gunfire can be heard several kilometres outside Sidon. The army is preventing anyone from leaving the Palestinian camps which are located in Sidon," she said.
  • "Roads are blocked entering into Sidon from the south, preventing people from reaching Beirut. Checkpoints have been erected, some by the Amal movement [pro-Hezbollah party], to prevent people from going through Sidon - they have been turning people back." 
  • She said masked gunmen had moved to Sidon's seaside road, and there were reports of further sniper attacks.

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HAZE WORSEN IN MALAYSIA

Sunday, June 23, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The recent haze that shrouds part of Malaysia deteriorates throughout the weekend, forcing the government to declare emergency status in some areas.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister G. Palanivel said Prime Minister Najib Razak had agreed to declare emergency status in Muar and Ledang areas with immediate effect on Sunday.The government urged people to stay indoors.
According to the air pollutant index released by the Deparment of Environment, the industrial town of Muar in the southern Johor state reached a staggering reading of 746 early Sunday morning.
An air pollutant index of 301 and above would be categorized as "hazardous".
The historical city of Malacca also recorded a "hazardous" reading of more than 400 by noon.
In the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, the sky was shrouded by the haze while a smell of burn filled the air.
The haze, an annual phenomenon largely attributed to the smoke from forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia brought in by the southwestern monsoon winds, is especially heavy this year, triggering dangerous air pollutant readings in Singapore and part of Malaysia.
The Malaysian government has called for regional cooperation against the hazardous weather. 

Source: Agency
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MEDICAL STUDENT GANG-RAPED IN MANIPAL INDIA

Saturday, June 22, 2013
MANIPAL, India -  A 22-year-old medical student was allegedly abducted and gang-raped by three people when she was on way to her flat from the college library late Thursday, a police official said Friday.
“We have registered a criminal case against unidentified people and have made some headway in the investigation on the basis of the information the victim gave in her complaint and after questioning one of the college security guards,” Udupi Superintendent of Police MB Boralingaiah said.
  • The incident occurred when the victim, a fourth-year student of the Kasturba Medical College, was waiting to hire an auto outside the Manipal University campus gate to return to her flat from the library around 11.30pm.
  • “The victim said in the complaint that she was abducted by the accused, driven to an isolated spot and gang-raped after midnight. Though she managed to reach her flat later, she gave the complaint early Friday,” Boralingaiah said.
  • The victim’s family, who lives in the neighbouring state of Kerala, have been informed about the incident. She is currently recovering from injuries on her hands and neck.
  • Meanwhile, amid allegations of rape, two minor girls were found dead and a third is battling for her life in West Bengal, police said Friday, but they ruled out the possibility of sexual offence in two cases.
  • A student who had checked into a hotel in Nadia district’s Mayapur died Thursday of excessive bleeding. Following her death, the family lodged a complaint of rape. Police however ruled it out.
  • According to police, the 17-year-old girl, a resident of Kalna in Burdwan district had come to Mayapur Wednesday with three male friends without informing her parents. On Thursday morning, she was taken to Krishnagar Sadar Hospital in Nadia district by her friends where doctors declared her dead.
In another incident in North 24-Parganas, a 12-year-old girl was found strangulated to death Thursday in her house with her clothes torn apart, prompting her family to suspect rape.
In yet another incident in Gaighata again in the district, an eight-year-old girl was allegedly raped and now is battling for life in a city hospital with critical injuries.
Members of civil society, and rights organisations Friday marched in large numbers through the streets of Kolkata protesting atrocities on women and a spate of rape cases recently.
Poets, painters, authors, film and theatre personalities, singers, and social activists walked alongside thousands of common people decrying the incidents of sexual violence and the “insensitive” reactions of the Trinamool Congress regime of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. A number of rape victims and their families from various corners of the state also took part.
  • The gang-rape and murder of a college girl from Kamduni village in North 24-Parganas district June 7 acted as the trigger for the mammoth rally.
  • Chief Minister Banerjee visited the village Monday, but ended up shouting at women protesting against the incident and seeking to talk to her. An enraged Banerjee screamed “shut up” at the women and called them Maoists and CPI-M activists, drawing flak from the civil society, media and the opposition.
  •  
Source: Agency
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THE CYBER SECURITY OASIS IN ISRAELI DESERT

Sunday, June 16, 2013
Jerusalem Venture Partners General Partner Gadi Tirosh discusses cyber security in Israel with Carol Massar on Bloomberg Television's "Lunch Money." 
Source: Bloomberg
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PHILIPPINES TO LAUNCH LONG TOURIST VISA

Saturday, June 15, 2013
MANILA, Philippines -  Starting next week, foreigners wishing to stay longer in the Philippines can do so by applying for a six-month-long tourist visa.
In a statement, Immigrations Commissioner Ricardo David(right photo) said the Long Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSVVE) project intends to spur tourist arrivals in the country by giving foreigners the privilege to prolong their stay without the need to visit the immigration office.
Currently, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) allows foreign tourists to stay in the country for a maximum of two months. The visa is extendable.
David said, “Through this long stay visa, we expect lesser crowding from our visa extension applicants.”
David said that according to data, many foreign tourist who had visited the country in 2012 had opted to stay longer or beyond the period of their visa.
He added that from January to December last year, the Bureau of Immigrations visa extension office had processed and approved 172,055 applications for extension of stay.
He said the number of approved visa extensions in 2012 was 13 per cent higher than the 151,913 applications in 2011.
“Our country remains a favourite tourist destination. Many foreign visitors are opting to stay here longer not only for vacation or to visit our tourist attractions but also to explore business and investment opportunities,” David said.
Apart from the long stay visa extension project, he said the immigration department also plans to use a new visa sticker that will replace the wet stamp currently used to validate extension of stay in the passports of foreign tourists.
  • He said the new visa sticker will prevent the proliferation of fake visa extension stamps. David said the sticker has security and tracking features that cannot be copied.
  • “It will also speed up transactions in our visa section, allow more efficient tracking of records and faster detection of forged and tampered stamps,” he added.
  • According to David, the projects were initiated after meetings between the BI, Department of Tourism and Department of Foreign Affairs on what policy reforms can be initiated to further attract more foreign visitors to the country.
  • The tourism department aims to increase the volume of tourist arrivals to 10 million by 2016.

Source: Agency
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GREECE HIT WITH GENERAL STRIKE OVER STATE TV CLOSURE

Friday, June 14, 2013
ATHENS, Greece -  Public services ground to a halt in Greece on Thursday as unions launched a 24-hour general strike in protest over the government's decision to shut down public broadcaster ERT as part of sweeping cost-cutting measures.

Trains and ferries stood still, hospitals were operating on emergency footing and government offices were shut across the country as part of the action.
Air traffic controllers were due to participate in a two-hour work stoppage starting from 1200 GMT and no newspapers were published, with journalists on an indefinite strike because of the government's shock move.
The socialist and moderate leftist parties supporting the coalition government had called the decision on ERT "unacceptable" and a government source said late Wednesday that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras would confer over the issue with his coalition partners.
"The prime minister, who always seeks dialogue, will telephone the political leaders for a meeting in the coming days," the government source said.
Samaras had defended the closure, saying earlier on Wednesday: "We are eliminating a hotbed of opacity and waste... We are protecting the public interest."
The broadcaster's television and radio stations were abruptly pulled off air late Tuesday and its nearly 2,700 staff suspended as part of the conservative-led coalition government's deeply unpopular austerity drive.

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THE MOST EXPENSIVE CLUB SANDWICHES IN THE WORLD?

Thursday, June 13, 2013
LONDON, United Kingdom – Geneva has knocked Paris out of the top spot this year as the most expensive city in which to order a club sandwich, to make it the priciest travel destination in the world.
That’s according to Hotels.com, which released its second annual Club Sandwich Index (CSI), a barometer that ranks the most expensive cities around the globe based on the price of a room-service club sandwich – the most common hotel menu staple around the world.
  • According to their number crunching, the average club – a double-decker of bacon, chicken, lettuce, tomato and mayo – from a three to five-star hotel in Geneva clocks in at about US$30.45 (RM95.70).
  • The index averages the price of a sandwich across 30 hotels in each city. Overall, 840 hotel menus across the globe were canvassed.
  • Results of this second annual survey also reveal that on the whole, prices seem to be falling. While the most expensive sandwiches hail from Geneva at US$30.45 this year, that price tag is lower than last year’s Paris average of US$33.10, deemed the most expensive for 2012.
  • This year, the average double-decker at a Paris hotel clocked in at US$27.45.
  • According to the sandwich index, if you’re looking for a more affordable vacation, however, consider New Delhi, where the same sandwich at a starred hotel will cost US$9.11.
  • The CSI comes the same week as a TripAdvisor index, which named Oslo in Norway the most expensive travel destination in the world based on the cost of a one-night hotel stay, cocktails, dinner and taxi rides for two people. 
  • Oslo clocked in at No. 3 on the club sandwich index.
  • Here are the results of the 2013 Club Sandwich Index:
  • 1. Geneva US$30.45; 2. Paris US$27.45; 3. Oslo US$26.72; 4. Stockholm US$23.12; 5. Copenhagen US$22.33; 6. Rome US$22.26; 7. Tokyo US$20.70; 8. London US$20.65; 9. Sydney US$20.53; 10. Hong Kong US$19.80.

Source: AFP
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HUMAN TRAFFICKING STILL ALARMING IN PHILIPPINES

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


MANILA, Philippines - Vice-President Jejomar Binay, chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Human Trafficking (IACAT) dentifying a major cause of human trafficking are, Poverty, ignorance, and crime provide the mix that breeds the modern plague. So long as these three things exist, the problem (of human trafficking) will remain (in the Philippines).
Although the Philippines was removed from Tier 2 Watchlist in the report of the Global Trafficking in 2012, the Philippines remains a source, destination and transit country of human trafficking, Binay warned.
“Men, women and children continue to be subjected to forced labour in factories, construction sites, fishing vessels, agricultural plantations, mines, quarries, and private homes, where many trafficked women and girls suffer sexual abuse, rape and physical violence,” he added.
If the Philippines land in the Tier 3 Watch List, it would mean the withholding of US non-humanitarian assistance amounting to $250 million to the country’s campaign.
Without Binay giving details of poverty alleviation meant to stop human trafficking, recent developments have also shown that the campaign against human trafficking has remained strong.
In 2010, world boxing champion, congressman Manny Pacquiao joined the crusade against human trafficking.
He called for strong legislation and a “budget allocation for an all-out war against human trafficking”.
  • “I sympathise with the victims of human trafficking (that target overseas Filipino workers or OFWs). Somehow, I am also an OFW because I train and earn money abroad,” he explained.
  • Despite their growing number, non-government organisations have been encountering “alarming levels” of human trafficking cases, revealed Susan Ople of the Blas Ople Policy Centre.
  • Even the beleaguered 22 year-old Visayan Forum has continued its campaign against human trafficking despite the investigation of its head, Cecilia Flores-Oebanda for alleged misuse of P210 million of funds from the USAID.

Source: Agency
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3.5 MILLION HOMELESS AND 18.5 VACANT HOMES IN USA?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative along with Amnesty International are asking the U.S. to step up its efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by giving serious consideration to the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief for those at risk, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.
New government census reports have revealed disturbing information that details the cold, hard numbers of Americans who have been deeply affected by the state of our economy, and bank foreclosure practices:
In the last few days, the U.S. government census figures have revealed that 1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or are struggling to live on low incomes. And we know that the financial hardships faced by our neighbors, colleagues, and others in our communities will be all the more acutely felt over the holiday season.
Along with poverty and low incomes, the foreclosure rate has created its own crisis situation as the number of families removed from their homes has skyrocketed.
Since 2007, banks have foreclosed around eight million homes. It is estimated that another eight to ten million homes will be foreclosed before the financial crisis is over. 
This approach to resolving one part of the financial crisis means many, many families are living without adequate and secure housing. In addition, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.
The stark realities that persist mean that millions of families will be facing the holidays in temporary homes, or homes under threat, and far too many children will be wishing for an end to the uncertainty and distress their family is facing rather than an Xbox or Barbie doll.
Housing is a basic human need and a fundamental human right. Yet every day in the United States, banks are foreclosing on more than 10,000 mortgages and ordering evictions of individuals and families residing in foreclosed homes. 
The U.S. government’s steps to address the foreclosure crisis to date have been partial at best.The depth and severity of the foreclosure crisis is a clear illustration of the urgent need for the U.S. government to put in place a system that respects, protects and fulfills human rights, including the right to housing. This includes implementing real protections to ensure that other actors, such as financial institutions, do not undermine or abuse human rights.
  • There is a link available at the Amnesty International website for anyone who is interested and would like to join the call on the Obama administration and Congress to urgently step up efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by seriously considering the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.

Source: Real News 24
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THOUSAND FLEE AS GERMAN DAM BUSTS

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Thousands of people have been evacuated to safety in eastern Germany after a dam burst on the swollen River Elbe and farmland was flooded in an attempt to spare towns, with meteorologists forecasting more rain.
In Magdeburg, one of the oldest cities in eastern Germany and a regional capital, about 23,000 people were asked to leave on Monday as water levels in the Elbe rose to a record 7.48 metres - about 5 metres above normal and surpassing the level reached during devastating floods in 2002.
There have been at least a dozen deaths as a result of floods that have hit Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic over the past week. Officials said more than 8,000 people were evacuated from towns and villages around Aken, south of Magdeburg.
  • A dam at the confluence of the River Elbe and the River Saale south of Magdeburg burst despite attempts to stabilise it. A dyke was also breached, and a crisis unit said the high waters were likely to put further pressure on dykes in the coming days.

Source: Al Jazeera
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UN LAUNCHES RECORD APPEAL FOR VICTIMS OF SYRIA WAR

Saturday, June 08, 2013
 
BEIRUT, Lebanon – The United Nations warned yesterday half of all Syrians would need humanitarian aid by the end of 2013, and launched what it said was the biggest emergency appeal in history to cope with the civil war crisis.
“Syria as a civilisation is unravelling,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, announcing the call for some US$5 billion (RM15.4 billion) before the end of the year.
The joint statement by UN agencies coincided with heavy fighting on numerous fronts, as rebels attacked an air base in northern Syria while forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad sought to capitalise on their own recent gains.
Clashes continued on the Golan Heights, close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, a day after rebels briefly seized the sole crossing between the two foes.
  • Austria, a major contributor to a UN monitoring mission in the Golan, announced on Thursday it was withdrawing from the area because of the violence, jeopardising an operation that has helped keep the Israeli-Syrian war quiet for four decades.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has backed the Syrian government since the start of the unrest in March 2011, said Moscow was ready to replace the Austrian peacekeepers.
  • A UN spokesman said however the four-decade-old agreement on the mission in the Golan did not allow permanent US Security Council members such as Russia to send troops.
  • Highlighting the scale of the crisis, UN humanitarian agencies in Geneva said 10.25 million Syrians would need aid by the end of the year at a cost of US$5 billion.
  • “The funds we are appealing for are a matter of survival for suffering Syrians and they are existential for the neighbouring countries hosting refugees,” Guterres said.
  • The appeal comprises US$2.9 billion for refugees, US$1.4 billion for humanitarian aid and US$830 million for Lebanon and Jordan, the biggest recipients of Syria.

Source: The Malaysian Insider...More...
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