Monday, June 30, 2014
PETALING JAYA - Malaysia identified 650 human trafficking victims last year but only nine traffickers were caught and convicted.
This is among the main reasons why the country has dropped to Tier 3 in the Trafficking in Persons (TiP) 2014 report - the lowest ranking, leaving it in the same category as Thailand, Venezuela, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.
Malaysia must now work on closing the gap between the number of victims and the number of people brought to justice, according to US State Department ambassador-at-large Luis CdeBaca (pic).
The 2014 TiP report states that Malaysia decreased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and reported fewer investigations and convictions in 2013 as compared with 2012.
CdeBaca, who heads the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the treatment of victims was also critical. 
He said this included providing psychological care and feeling of safety for victims. 
  • CdeBaca also urged Malaysia to provide better support for non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in helping human trafficking victims. 
  • Countries which engage strongly with civil society in the fight against human trafficking end up being most successful, he said. 
  • He pointed out that NGOs were unlikely to refer cases to authorities if victims are kept in detention centres and deported. 
Citing cases of victims who were were held in shelters for almost a year, he said: "There is no freedom of movement. 
"They have not been convicted of anything but are still behind gates and barbed wire." 
However, CdeBaca acknowledged that there have been improvements since 2009. 
He said Malaysia had dedicated officials fighting human trafficking and the drop from Tier 2 was not a denigration of those on the front lines. 
He said the TiP report, published since 2001, is based on the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2002, which is calibrated to the Palermo Protocol. 
This is the United Nations anti-human trafficking treaty which most countries have signed, he said. 
He also denied criticism that close allies of the United States would never fall to the Tier 3 category.
  • "One only needs to look at the downgrades this year of Colombia, Qatar, Malaysia and Thailand to recognise that the US is not afraid to tell the truth about the trafficking situation.
  • "I think there is a responsibility to tell your friends when there is a problem and work with them in partnership to try to address that," he said.

Source:  Neville Spykerman
The Star/Asia News Network
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Monday, June 30, 2014
ROME, Italy - About 30 bodies have been found in a migrant boat which was stopped between Sicily and the North African coast, Italian news agencies reported today, citing the navy and coastguard.
The rescuers made the gruesome discovery when they boarded a fishing boat carrying around 590 refugees and migrants to evacuate those in most distress, including two pregnant women.
  • The immigrants apparently died of asphyxiation, the news agencies said. It is not the first time Italian rescuers have found migrants dead on the overcrowded boats but never before were there such a large number.
  • The boat is being towed by the Italian navy and is expected to arrive later today in Pozzallo on the southeast coast of Sicily.
  • Over the past weekend more than 1,600 migrants were rescued by Italian authorities, bringing the total number of migrants so far this year to above 60,000.
  • The number is expected to soar past the record 63,000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings.
  • Italy has long borne the brunt of migrants making the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe, but EU border agency Frontex says there has been a significant rise in numbers in recent months.

The last few weeks have seen a series of tragedies, with ten people drowning and 39 having to be rescued after their boat sank off the Libyan coast earlier in June.
Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano has called for the rescue operation to become a European initiative amid reports of thousands of migrants waiting in Libya to make the trip during the next few weeks.
Source: AFP
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Monday, June 30, 2014
CHENNAI, India - Police in southern India detained five construction company officials Sunday as rescuers using gas cutters and shovels searched for dozens of workers believed buried in the rubble of a building that collapsed during monsoon rains.
It was one of two weekend building collapses that killed at least 26 people.
Nearly 90 contract workers were believed to have been in the basement of the 11-story structure to collect their wages when it collapsed Saturday on the outskirts of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state.
Police said eight died on the spot and another seven succumbed to injuries in a hospital. Another 20 people have been pulled out alive.
J. Jayalalitha, the state’s top elected official, visited the site on Sunday and said another 40 people may still be trapped under the debris, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
  • Rescuers could hear feeble voices in the debris, said T.S. Sridhar, the disaster management agency commissioner. Officials used gas cutters, iron rods and shovels after cranes lifted concrete blocks to get to the survivors.
  • Moderate to heavy rains hampered rescue efforts later Sunday, but these were continuing, said police officer Pushpraj, who uses one name.
  • George Fernandes, another police officer, said two directors, two engineers and one supervisor of the construction company, Prime Sristi, were detained for questioning as authorities began investigating the collapse.
  • Balaguru, one of the builders, said the structure collapsed possibly due to the impact of lightning.
  • Earlier Saturday, 11 people died and one survivor was being treated in a hospital after a four-story, 50-year-old structure toppled in an area of New Delhi inhabited by the poor, said fire service officer Praveer Haldiar.
Most homes in that part of the capital were built without permission and using substandard materials, police officer Madhur Verma said.

Building collapses are common in India, where high demand for housing and lax regulations have encouraged some builders to cut corners, use substandard materials or add unauthorized extra floors.
In April last year, 74 people were killed when an eight-story building being constructed illegally in the Mumbai suburb of Thane in western Maharashtra state caved in. It was the worst building collapse in the country in decades.

Source:  AFP.
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Sunday, June 29, 2014
Brazil’s national team escaped with a riveting round-of-16 win on Saturday over Chile, thanks to Julio Cesar’s saves and Neymar’s cold-blooded shootout goal.This was as close as it gets to a-soccer-lypse. 
The concern was etched on the faces of Brazil fans all day in this capital city: darting glances, tight fists, outstretched arms, palms on foreheads, and of course, shrieks every time a Chile player neared Brazil's net.
In a packed restaurant, a group of ladies sat around a table and cheered mightily when Brazil took a 1-0 lead. Then, when Chile tied it up, their expressions fell and they looked at each other without a word. The silent message was unmistakable: “Uh oh.”
In the second half, the TV feed in the restaurant went out, leaving black screens all around. A groan reverberated through the place. 
  • Half of the women at the table did not show any patience with the glitch, which lasted no longer than two minutes; they got up and left. They didn’t even say goodbye.
Brazil’s 2014 team is good , in fact very good. They are the favorites. But as talented as they are, there are also flaws. The yellow and green are not unbeatable. 
They are not impervious. That has been clear from the first match, and it was quite clear on Saturday. Chile, fearless and fast, pushed their foes to the very brink. 
There is a good chance it will happen again. Colombia, who will face Brazil on July 4, is just as dangerous.
There will be nerves for fan bases all over the planet in the coming days, and that certainly includes the Americans, who will be yelling expletives with joy and frustration on Tuesday.
Here in this country, though, the anxiety rises to a singular level. A loss in this tournament will hurt not for hours or days, but for months or years. 
And if a defeat comes at the hands of a nearby team like Colombia or  Argentina, the pain will go even deeper.
During Saturday’s match, just like during all of Brazil’s matches, normally busy streets were vacant. The rare noise came from a city bus or a stray dog. Businesses were closed; taxis were hard to find. 
It was like the middle of the night, except it was the middle of the day.
At just about 4 p.m. local time, the quiet was punctured: Neymar did it; Brazil won. Yet on this memorable day, a day of relief, it was all but impossible not to wonder what it would be like in this country if one of these matches end, and the silence isn’t broken.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014
BWUNDI,Uganda - The mountain gorilla is fearless in the face of strangers on his territory, but the endangered ape is unaware the family group he guards survives by the thinnest of threads.
The gorillas here in Uganda's lush forests are protected by the economic lifeline they create for remote communities from the tourist dollars they generate, providing a key incentive for humans to protect the giant animals.
The forest in Uganda's far southwest is home to an estimated 400 mountain gorillas -- roughly half of the world’s population -- including several families which have been habituated to human presence.
But it is the income from tourism that is helping protect the animals, which in the past were regularly hunted for their meat, and by farmers to protect their crops.
  • "In order to protect this endangered specie we needed to show the economic benefit of these gorillas," said Charles Tumwesigye, deputy head of conservation for the government's Ugandan Wildlife Authority.
  • "Tourism started as a way of showing the people that gorillas can be economically important, that we can earn revenue which can improve your livelihood".
  • Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo are the only countries in the world where you can see the giant primates.
  • But the privilege comes at a high price , costing some $600 (450 euros) for a single, brief visit.

Conflict remains, such as the destruction of crops and property, and competition for natural resources. 
Habitat destruction and human population growth increasingly bring locals into contact with the gorillas, resulting in the transmission of human diseases and occasional animal attacks.
Ape experts this week warned that accelerated and unsustainable exploitation of the earth's primary natural resources has become a major threat to apes in Africa and Asia.

Source: News daily, AFP
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Saturday, June 28, 2014
WELLINGTONA New Zealand schoolboy won the right to keep his long hair on Friday after the nation’s top court combed through the merits of an often tangled case and found in his favour.
Lucan Battison, 16, called in the lawyers after he was suspended from St John’s College in Hastings last month for refusing to cut his mop of curly hair.
The Catholic school said it did not meet the school rule that hair be “off the collar and out of the eyes” and refused to accept his compromise offer of wearing it in a bun.
During the High Court hearing, Battison’s lawyer Jol Bates said his client was standing up for his rights, likening him to US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and suffragettes who won the vote for women.
The case has enjoyed front-page coverage in New Zealand and generated heated debate on social media, with some accusing the school of being heavy handed and others saying Battison should obey the rules.
Judge David Collins sided with the teenager on Friday, finding the school’s hair policy was open to interpretation and his refusal to cut his locks did not warrant suspension.
  • “(School) principals must ensure that serious disciplinary consequences are reserved for truly serious cases,” he said in a judgement.
  • The school said in a statement that it was “naturally disappointed” with the decision but did not indicate whether it would appeal.
Source:  AFP
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Saturday, June 28, 2014
Mumbai, India - Although a sizeable number at its peak, the Jewish population in India has diminished drastically, leaving behind a miniscule minority who are trying to keep their traditions alive. 
The first Jews arrived in India more than 2,000 years ago and settled in the southern state of Kerala. Six hundred years later, the Bene Israelis followed, while the Baghdadi Jews arrived in 1730, some of them fleeing religious persecution in the Arab world. 
After the formation of Israel in 1948, around 33,000 people emigrated, leaving just 5,000 Jews in India today. The majority of them are Bene Israelis, most of whom live in Mumbai. The city is also host to around 100 Baghdadi Jews. 
The community continues to observe Jewish practices and its synagogues serve as a meeting point. 
"Very few synagogues survive in this part of the world," conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah told Al Jazeera, "but Bombay has traditionally had a large Jewish population." 
The Jewish community has often been applauded for integrating completely with the local population. Most people in the community wear Indian traditional dress, participate in local festivals and speak local languages. 
Al Jazeera visited some of Mumbai's most iconic Jewish buildings and met the people who make up one of India's smallest religious minorities.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, banned from football for four months after biting an opponent at the World Cup, returned home to a hero's welcome from hundreds of fans at Montevideo airport on Friday.
Hundreds of fans were waiting at Montevideo airport for Suarez who arrived in a private jet after being ordered by FIFA to leave Uruguay's team hotel in Brazil.
Suarez, 27, bid farewell to his team-mates on Thursday as they prepared for Saturday's last 16 game with Colombia. 
FIFA said the ban on football activities meant he could not stay at the hotel. 
Suarez will not even be allowed in a stadium where Uruguay are playing during the four months.
However, the Uruguayan nation has rallied behind the shamed goalscorer however. Hundreds of fans were at the airport carrying banners with slogans such as "Luis, All Of Uruguay Is With You."
Uruguay's President Jose Mujica went to the airport intending to greet the star striker, but left because Suarez's flight was delayed. Suarez was whisked away to his mother's home in the southern, province of Canelones.

Source: AFP
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Friday, June 27, 2014
SINGAPORE - Forbes Asia today announced its latest annual Heroes of Philanthropy list, highlighting 48 of the Asia-Pacific region's notable philanthropists. 
The honorees ranged from billionaires with expansive visions of how best to help society to less well-known business people whose generosity is also leaving a huge mark. 
The list pays tribute to these leading givers, four each from 12 markets across the Asia-Pacific region. 
  • The full list can be found in the July issue of Forbes Asia as well as at
  • In Australia, billionaires Andrew Forrest and James Packer are channeling their wealth into good causes. Mining magnate Forrest donated US$62 million to Western Australia's five universities last October to fund scholarships and a residential college. 
  • The 46-year old casino operator James Packer established the $56 million Sydney Arts Fund in November following government approval for his $2 billion casino resort at the Sydney Harbour. Half the funding will go to arts group in Sydney's poor, western suburbs.
  • HNA Group's Chen Feng and Ningxi Baofeng Energy Group's Dang Yanbao of China are focused on helping youth. Feng donated $1.6 million last year to the UN World Food Programme to feed girls attending school in Ghana. 
  • Yanbao pledged $186 million last year to help university-bound students in his native Ningxia region of northwestern China. 
In Hong Kong, 65-year old Nellie Fong, the founder of Lifeline Express and former Chairman for China at PricewaterhouseCoopers, started an eye hospital on a train in 1997.
Her project has grown beyond conducting cataract operations in rural China to doctor training and building a network of clinics. Robert W. Miller, co-founder of Duty Free Shopping, pledged $13 million this May to the Asia Society Hong Kong Center to promote the arts.
  • Rohini Nilekani from India has given roughly US$40 million over the years. She set up Arghyam, which supports projects to protect groundwater and improve sanitation in India. 
  • She has also donated funds raised from the sale of her Infosys shares to causes such as improving the quality of India's laws and preserving biodiversity. 
  • Ajay Piramal, Chairman of Piramal Enterprises, has also set up a foundation that operates water-filtration plants and vending machines for selling clean water in bulk at a low cost.
Healthcare and education remained the focus of some other honorees. 
In Indonesia, 62-year old Tahir, Chairman of Mayapada Group, persuaded eight other local tycoons to each give $5 million to the Indonesia Health Fund, in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The aim is to raise $100 million to fight tuberculosis and expand family planning programs.

  • Triputra Group's Theodore Rachmat supports scholarship programs at 17 major colleges and universities in Indonesia through his family's A&A Rachmat Compassionate Service Foundation. 
  • He also funds 32 medical clinics that have provided affordable care to 698,000 patients around the country.

Source: The Straits Times
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Friday, June 27, 2014
ANGELES CITY, Philippines - There were believed to be at least 50,000 “Amerasians” children fathered by US soldiers who served in the Philippines, home to the US military’s biggest overseas bases until they closed down in 1992. 
The US embassy in Manila declined to answer questions about government policy towards Filipino Amerasians and whether it had tried to help them find their fathers.

The Amerasians’ problems have continued to deepen with time, according to a 2012 study by Kutschera’s research unit.

Their community has grown to up 250,000, taking into account children and grandchildren, and they remain at the lowest rungs of a society in an already impoverished country.

“Many of its (Amerasian community’s) members are living in extreme poverty of the variety unknown, or not imagined, in the United States,” Kutschera said.

Kutschera described Filipino Amerasians as “a marginalised, at risk, highly stressed population” adding they were particularly vulnerable to drug use and prostitution.

For the once-youthful but now visibly exhausted Calaguas, life has been as brutal as it has been typical of many Filipino Amerasians.
Beirut Calaguas, now 44, is among the tens of thousands of “Amerasians” fathered by US soldiers who served in the Philippines, home to the US military’s biggest overseas bases until they closed down in 1992.

  • Struggling to pay the rent, Calaguas’ mother entrusted her to childless landlords, hoping to one day return. She never did. 
  • Calaguas dropped out of school at 17 and, unable to find work locally, acquired fake travel documents so she could become an entertainer at clubs in Japan that also catered to US servicemen. 
  • “I fell in love with a soldier, and got pregnant, so now, I also have an Amerasian son,” she said.
  • After the father abandoned Calaguas, she returned to the Philippines with her son. 
  • The Philippine government is expected to seal the deal late this year to welcome US soldiers back to Subic and other bases.

Filipino leaders have hailed the defense pact as an important plank in its effort to fend off an increasingly assertive China, which is expanding its presence in contested South China Sea waters near the Philippines.

But on the fringes of the Filipino bases, there are fears the US soldiers will plant another baby time bomb that will cause many more generations of pain.

“Many (new Amerasians) over time will become the abandoned, forsaken offspring of soldiers and contractors,” Kutschera said.
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Friday, June 27, 2014
Controversial Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao created a scene in New York by distributing US$100 bills to the homeless recently. 
Followed around by cameras, the eccentric businessman approached homeless people one by one to give away free money. 
Chen Guangbiao is certainly no stranger to publicity stunts, billing himself as China’s ‘most generous billionaire’. 
He recently posted a full-page advertisement in the New York Times welcoming poor Americans living in Manhattan to a free lunch where he would also give out US$300 in cash to each. 
He has also done similar stunts in other countries in the past. Other notable Chen Guangbiao efforts include trying to sell canned fresh air, and spraying a fire extinguisher into his mouth.
Despite this, one man is seen simply walking away from the handout, unconvinced by Guangbiao’s demeanor.

Source: Agency
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Thursday, June 26, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR - A chilling video of a Malaysian riding in a truck with a group of militants fighting in the Syrian jihadist movement has surfaced on the Internet. He is one of the 20 Malaysians confirmed by Bukit Aman to have taken part in the uprising in Syria. 
The one-and-a-half minute video, which appeared to have been shot by the man who spoke mostly in Bahasa Malaysia with a northern accent, described his joy as they drove off "to the battlefield". 
The authenticity of the video, which had been viewed more than 5,000 times since it was uploaded to on June 7, was verified by Bukit Aman. 
"Yes, they are among 20 Malaysi­ans who are identified as having joined the uprising in Syria. We will announce the names of all the Malaysians involved soon," said spokesman ACP Datin Asmawati Ahmad. founder Maher Ra claimed that the video was shot in Allepo, Syria, by a Mohd Lotfi Ariffin from Kuala Ketil, Kedah. 
Syriantube has been showing video footage depicting the behind the scene shots of terrorists activities and atrocities commited by militants in Syria. 
Checks on Mohd Lotfi's Facebook showed that the video did originate from his page on June 3, which had been liked and shared by many Malaysians, some of whom offered words of encouragement. 
In a story first broken by Mstar Online and Star Online, the video opened with a shot of a tank from inside a truck. 
The tank then rolled away in a bushland with several Middle Eastern looking men, dressed in army fatigue sitting on it. The men were also heavily armed. 
  • "Yes, the tank is moving, making its way to its destination - the battlefield. Allahu Akbar (God is great)! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!" said the cameraman in Bahasa Malaysia. 
  • "These are our friends," he continued, panning over to show several men - all dressed in combat gear, bulletproof vests, helmets and black bandanas, and with riffles slung around their necks. 
  • Some of the men even smiled and showed the "V" victory sign with their fingers as the camera closed up on them. 
  • Without the weapons and war gear, they would have appeared like a group of friends, taking pictures with their smartphones, seemingly happy about going on a drive. 
  • The camera then rested on a bearded Middle Eastern-looking man wearing combat uniform and a blue ski cap, who shouted Allahu Akbar! as the group of about 20 men in the truck chanted along. 
  • "Our friends, working happily!" said the cameraman in Bahasa Malaysia, who then focused his shot on a bespectacled young man wearing a black headband and holding a smartphone, who, ironically, made a peace sign. 
  • "Yes, our friends, we are all ready to go to the fight at the battlefield. We don't feel scared. We don't feel nervous!" The voice was heard saying, the camera shaking as the truck engine revved up. 
  • "We are moving! Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar," the group chanted. 
  • Maher claimed that the Malaysians had been in Syria for over a year. 
  • "There aren't 15. There are over 200 of them. Some, even as old as 60. They came with their wives and children. They stay in Aleppo and Ar-Raqqah. 
They have killed people. They have beheaded innocent civilians, he claimed, describing himself as a pro-government Syrian who started to expose the atrocities committed by militant groups in the conflict-ridden country. 
The Syrian government recently claimed that 15 Malaysians, purportedly involved in terrorism and jihadist activities with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) network, had been killed.

Source: Agencies,
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