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PHILIPPINES PRESSES UN CASE OVER CHINA SEA ROW

Monday, March 31, 2014
MANILA - The Philippines on Sunday filed a formal plea to the United Nations challenging Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea, defying Chinese warnings, a day after a dramatic maritime stand-off with the Asian giant.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila has filed the plea before a UN arbitration tribunal to declare China’s claims over the strategic and resource-rich waters as a violation of international law.
“It is about defending what is legitimately ours. It is about securing our children’s future. It is about guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations,” he told a news conference.
China’s claims over the South China Sea, believed to harbour vast oil and gas reserves, overlap those of the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The Philippines announced last year that it will ask the United Nations to declare China’s claims over the area illegal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The tribunal had given Manila until Sunday to submit its legal brief.
  • Chief Philippine government lawyer Francis Jardeleza said he expects the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in the German city of Hamburg, to advise both parties on the next steps. He did not know when a ruling will be made.
  • Both officials declined to disclose the specifics of around 4,000 pages of documents that were submitted to the tribunal.
  • China has refused to take part in the arbitration with its foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei last week warning that bilateral relations will suffer if the Philippines pursues the appeal.
  • Hong also said China was “committed to managing and resolving relevant issues (in the South China Sea) through dialogue and consultation”.
Manila has argued that China’s claims cover areas as far as 870 nautical miles (1,611 kilometres) from the nearest Chinese coast and interfere with the Philippines’ exercise of its rights to its continental shelf.
The Philippine filing came a day after a Filipino supply vessel slipped past a blockade of Chinese coastguard vessels to deliver supplies to, and rotate troops from, a remote and disputed South China Sea reef.
The dramatic confrontation took place at Second Thomas Shoal, where a small number of Filipino soldiers are stationed on a Navy vessel that was grounded there in 1999 to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty.
  • China had said its coastguard successfully turned away a similar Filipino attempt on March 9, forcing the Philippine military to air-drop supplies to the marines.
  • The Philippine foreign department argues the disputed areas, including the Second Thomas Shoal, are part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf over which Manila has sole sovereign rights under the UN sea treaty.
  • Both China and the Philippines are signatories to the 1982 treaty, but Beijing has repeatedly said it has sovereign rights over the entire Spratlys as well as waters and other islets approaching its neighbours.
  • It has also accused the Philippines of illegally “occupying” Second Thomas Shoal, which is around 200 kilometres from the western Philippine island of Palawan and about 1,100 kilometres from the nearest major Chinese land mass.
Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP on Sunday that authorities were hoping the supply vessel would be able to leave the shoal without further incident after delivering food, water and fresh troops.
The two neighbours are also involved in increasingly frequent confrontations over Scarborough Shoal, another South China Sea outcrop that lies about 220 kilometres west 
of the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Source: AFP
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GAY COUPLES ACROSS ENGLAND AND WALES SAID "I DO"

Sunday, March 30, 2014
While 15 countries have legalised gay marriage and another three allow it in some areas, homosexuals remain persecuted in many parts of the world.
Gay couples across England and Wales said “I do” Saturday as a law authorising same-sex marriage came into effect at midnight, the final stage in a long fight for equality. 
Following the first marriages amid a supposed race to wed, Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “Congratulations to all same-sex couples getting married today — I wish you every possible happiness for the future.” 
The Conservative party leader also described the change as an “important moment for our country”, and a rainbow flag flew above government offices in London in celebration.
In London, John Coffey, 52, and Bernardo Marti, 48, exchanged vows as the clock struck midnight, before being pronounced "husband and husband".
They were among several couples bidding to be first to take advantage of last year's Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.
In Brighton on England's south coast, Neil Allard and Andrew Wale(photo) exchanged vows and rings in the opulent splendour of the Royal Pavilion in front of about 100 guests.
Wearing velvet-collared three-piece suits with white flowers in their buttonholes, the smiling couple of seven years hugged and kissed after sealing their marriage.

Source: Agencies
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THE WORLD'S RISKIEST CITIES

Saturday, March 29, 2014
What are the world’s riskiest cities when it comes to natural disasters? For the insurance industry it seems an ever-more urgent question, so last year one reinsurance company set out to assess 616 cities around the world for their risk of earthquake, hurricanes and cyclones, storm surge, river flooding and tsunami. Here are Swiss Re’s overall top 10 most risky cities:

1 Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan: 
With 37 million inhabitants living under the threat of earthquakes, monsoons, river floods and tsunami, the Tokyo-Yokohama region is by far the riskiest in the world: an estimated 80 per cent of Tokyoites, or 29 million, are potentially exposed at any one time to a very large earthquake. 
Japan is also the country most exposed to tsunami risk, as the country’s urban centres are dotted with an almost perverse accuracy along the Ring of Fire, the active faults of the western Pacific. 
The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 devastated both Tokyo and Yokohama, killing an estimated 142,800 people.

2 Manila, Philippines: 
Built just off the Philippines trench, Manila is one of the most risk-plagued cities you can possibly live in. As well as the substantial earthquake risk, high wind speeds are a severe threat: the powerful typhoon Haiyan that swept the country last year was one of the strongest ever to make landfall. 
It destroyed several central islands, ruined the coastal city of Tacloban and killed thousands.

3 Pearl River Delta, China: 
This near-unbroken urban conglomeration, including Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Macau and Ghangzhou, is home to more than 42 million people. 
One of China’s economic jewels (estimated GDP: $690bn or Dh2.5 trillion) is spread across a flood plain threatened by all manner of natural disasters: 
it is the number one metropolitan area for storm surge, with 5.3 million people affected, the third-highest for cyclonic wind damage (17.2 million), and the fifth riskiest city for river floods.

4 Osaka-Kobe, Japan: 
Osaka-Kobe is home to 14.6 million people living under the threat of earthquakes such as the one that killed thousands of people in 1995. It also suffers from brutal storms and the risk of river flooding. 
And then there are the storm surges, in which heavy winds from typhoons of the kind that hit east Asia whip up gigantic waves: the metropolitan area’s location on a large coastal plain means three million people are at risk. It is also the third-most tsunami-prone city in the world.

5 Jakarta, Indonesia: 
Fully 40 per cent of Jakarta is below sea level; it lies in a flat basin with soft soil near a fault line. This means earthquakes can be particularly dangerous to its 17.7 million inhabitants, as the soft soil can magnify the intensity of the tremors. 
Quakes can also liquify Jakarta’s poorly drained soil, causing the ground to lose its structural integrity and react like a liquid. Add to that Jakarta’s risk of river flood and it becomes one of the most exposed cities on the planet.

6 Nagoya, Japan: Tsunami risk dominates in the Pacific. The most exposed cities, dotted along the active faults of the western ocean, are in Japan – led by Tokyo-Yokohama and Nagoya, each with around 2.4 million people potentially affected. 
With 12 million people in total at great risk, tsunamis affect by far the fewest people of the great five natural disasters analysed here – but the death tolls can be enormous.

7 Kolkata, India:
River floods also affect Kolkata, with 10.5 million people at risk – but the eastern Indian city is also fifth in terms of tsunami risk, with more than half a million people exposed. 
It is also threatened by hurricanes, human-made disaster like fire and  rampant transportation vehicle accidents.

8 Shanghai River, China: 
With so many cities built on flood plains and river deltas, flooding is the most common risk they face. India and China face the most significant risks; with 11.7 million residents directly threatened, Shanghai is a particular hot spot for flooding, but other such risky cities include Bangkok, Mexico City, Baghdad, Paris and Doha.

9 Los Angeles, United States: 
Its location on the San Andreas Fault makes Los Angeles one of the most earthquake-prone cities – although not as vulnerable to tsunami as might be expected. Subduction zones, where oceanic plates dive underneath the continental crust, generally create much larger tsunamis than so-called “strike-slip” faults such as the San Andreas and Northern Anatolian faults. 
Small comfort to the 14.7 million inhabitants of the area threatened by earthquake.

10 Tehran, Iran: 
San Andreas fault or the Pacific Ring of Fire as being the riskiest zones for earthquakes, but not everyone is immediately aware that the Northern Anatolian fault is one of the most dangerous in the world. 
The entire 13.6 million population of Tehran is exposed, as are the residents of Bucharest, Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, and much of Turkey. 
The last quake in Tehran was in 1830, and its building regulations are shakily followed at best – making it a city living on borrowed time.

Source: Agencies
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NEWLYWED U.S. WOMAN PUSH HUSBAND OFF CLIFF

Friday, March 28, 2014
A woman was sentenced Thursday to more than 30 years in prison for killing her husband of eight days by pushing him from a cliff after they argued over her regrets about the marriage. 
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said he saw no remorse from Jordan Graham, 22, in the killing of Cody Johnson, 25.
He sentenced her to 30 years and five months in prison and ordered her to pay $16,910 in restitution.

Graham will be subject to five years of court supervision upon her release. There is no possibility of parole in the federal system, meaning she's likely to serve the full term.

Source: CBC...More...
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TIGER KILLING SHOW FOR CHINESE RICH AND POWERFUL?

Thursday, March 27, 2014
 
BEIJING - More than 10 tigers have been killed as "visual feasts" to entertain officials and rich businessmen in a Chinese city, state media reported.
Police in Zhanjiang in the southern province of Guangdong seized a freshly slaughtered tiger and multiple tiger products in a raid this month, said the Nanfang Daily, the mouthpiece of the provincial Communist Party.
Local officials and successful businesspeople gathered to watch the tigers being killed as "eye-openers" to show off their social stature, it said.
An experienced cattle or pig slaughterer is normally hired to butcher the carcass, it said, adding that tiger bones sold for an average of 14,000 yuan (S$2,850) a kilogramme while the meat fetched 1,000 yuan a kilogramme.


  • Police said a butcher - who jumped to his death while trying to escape arrest in a raid - had killed more than 10 animals, the report Wednesday added.
  • "The tigers were probably anaesthetised for transport. But buyers would check them to make sure that they were alive before the killing," it quoted an unnamed source as saying.
  • Most buyers of the meat and bones were business owners who would then give them to officials as gifts, the paper said.

Tiger bones have long been an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine, supposedly for a capacity to strengthen the human body, and while they have been removed from its official ingredient list the belief persists among some.
Decades of trafficking and habitat destruction have slashed the roaming big cat's numbers from 100,000 a century ago to approximately 3,000, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species, where 
it is classed as endangered.

Source: AsiaOne
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ONE OF THE DEADLIEST LANDSLIDES IN US HISTORY HIT WASHINGTON

Thursday, March 27, 2014
 
ARLINGTON, Washington: The likely death toll from a devastating weekend landslide in Washington state rose to 24 on Tuesday after rescue workers recovered two bodies and believed they had located eight more, the local fire chief said.
As many as 176 people remained listed as missing three days after a rain-soaked hillside collapsed on Saturday, tumbling over a river, across a state road and into a rural residential area where it buried dozens of homes near the town of Oso.
The discovery of additional bodies came as crews searched in drizzling rain for survivors amid fading hopes that anyone could still be plucked alive from the massive pile of heavy muck and debris. 
“Unfortunately we did not find any signs of life today, we didn’t locate anybody alive, so that’s the disappointing part,” local fire chief Travis Hots told a media briefing, adding that the official death toll would remain at 16 until the eight sets of remains could be extricated and sent to the medical examiner.
Officials said they were hoping that the number of missing would decline as some of those listed may have been double-counted or were slow to alert family and officials of their whereabouts. Eight people were injured.
But the disaster already ranks as one of the deadliest landslides in recent US history. In 1969, 150 people were killed in landslides and ensuing floods in Nelson County, Virginia, according to the US Geological Survey.

Source: Agency
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ENGINE OF TERENGGANU-BOUND MALINDO AIR FLIGHT CATCHES FIRE?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
With Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 said to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, another Malaysia Air disaster struck. According to report, one of the engines of a Malindo Air flight en route to Terengganu from Subang caught fire this morning.
Malindo Air confirmed in a statement that the aircraft's fire detection system was activated during its climb at about 7,000 feet.
"Immediately the operating crew carried out the emergency checklist as per the standard operating procedure to contain the situation," the statement said.
"The captain decided to turn back to Subang and the aircraft landed safely in Subang without any further incident and no one was hurt. All the passengers were later transferred to another flight to Terengganu."
Malindo Air said the cause of the incident is being investigated and has been reported to the relevant authorities, and the engine and aircraft manufacturer.
The Star Online also reported that on board the plane was the Terengganu football team (photo).
The English daily said everyone on board the flight was safe.

Source: The Malaysian Insider
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G7 LEADERS THREATEN TO INTENSIFY SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
 
Russia will face sanctions designed to harm specific economic sectors if it fails to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
Obama, speaking at the end of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, Netherlands, said the sanctions could target Russia’s energy, finance, arm sales and trade sectors.
“We are prepared to take the next step if the situation gets worse,” Obama said.
Potential sectoral sanctions are still being researched, Obama said. Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, standing at a podium alongside Obama, said European countries support the U.S. idea, even though the new sanctions would have global financial repercussions.
Obama conceded Russia has a right to station 30,000 of its troops near the eastern Ukrainian border, but urged Vladimir Putin’s government to seek a diplomatic solution with Ukraine.

  • “This is not a zero sum game,” Obama said, adding there was a place for Russia’s influence in Ukraine.
  • “It is up to the Ukrainian people to make decisions about how they organize themselves and who they interact with."
  • Side discussions about Ukraine have overshadowed some of the summit's nuclear agenda. On Wednesday, G7 leaders issued a declaration reiterating their support for Ukraine’s new government and calling Russia’s annexation of Crimea illegal.  
 
The leaders “reaffirm our support for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence,” the declaration read.
The G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and U.S. called on Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine, and begin talks with the interim government.
The G7 did praise Russia for its decision to allow observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) into Ukraine.
Representatives from Ukraine, meanwhile, worked on a deal with the International Monetary Fund to provide a $15-20-billion relief package.

Source: CBC
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FAMILIES TOLD MH370 PLANE LOST IN INDIAN OCEAN

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has informed the families of those missing on flight MH370 that the plane likely crashed in the Indian Ocean west of Perth.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board on March 8.
No confirmed sighting of the plane has been made since, but much debris has been found in remote waters off Australia which might be part of the missing plane.
Malaysian Airlines said on Monday it was now "beyond any reasonable doubt" that missing flight MH370 had been lost and there were no survivors.
"Malaysia Airlines have already spoken to the families of the passengers and crew to inform them of this development," said the prime minister.
"For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking; I know this news must be harder still.
"I urge the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time."

Source: Al Jazeera
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PHILIPPINE MEMBER OF COMUNIST PARTY ADVISE TO LAY DOWN ARMS

Monday, March 24, 2014
MANILA, Philippines - Rebel sources on Saturday evening confirmed the arrest of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) highest ranking official Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Austria in Cebu, an island province in central Philippines.
In a statement, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella organ of the local communist movement, confirmed the news.
The couple were believed to be holding sensitive positions in the local insurgent movement with Tiamzon being the current chair of the CPP and Austria, the person in charge of the organisation’s finances.
The CPP provides ideological direction and organisational support to the 45-year-old movement.
Armed Forces Chief Emmanuel Bautista (photo) in a press briefing, announced that Tiamson and his wife, Wilma Austria, were arrested by joint units of the national police and the military on the basis of an arrest warrant issued against them for committing “crimes against humanity” and the murder and attempted killing of several others in Samar.
At the same time, he called on all members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) to “lay down their arms and abandon the armed struggle.”
“In many areas of the country the insurgents have lost their ideological moorings and have degenerated into bandit groups primarily focused on extortion activities only,” he said.
The group commanded an estimated 25,000 armed regulars deployed in various parts of the country during the mid-1980s, but now the membership of the CPP-NPA, according military appraisals, has dwindled to around 4,000 people.
Source: AFP, Agencies
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MASS SLAUGHTER OF TURTLES IN EAST MALAYSIA

Sunday, March 23, 2014
KOTA KINABALU, East Malaysia -  A horrified Universiti Sabah Malaysia (UMS) researcher-lecturer last week stumbled upon a mass "killing field" of protected sea turtles on Pulau Tiga located at the northern side of Balambangan-Banggi channel, north of Kudat and about two hours by speed boat from Karakit, the main town on Banggi Island.
"I saw 60 or more carcasses of sea turtles strewn at two sites and hidden under trees at the north eastern tip of Pulau Tiga - ironically one of the islands included in the proposed million-acre Tun Mustapha Marine Park and a premier Coral Triangle site," Dr James Alin said.
Dr James said he received a tip off in January from a fishing tawkeh in Kudat about the movement of sea turtle hunters in and out of the Balambangan-Banggi Channel.
"Five to six of them were camping at different locations in Pulau Tiga, live sea turtles were brought to Balambangan where they would be kept inside a pen or fish cages ," the informants reported.
Once the volume of live turtles builds up, they would translocate these caged turtles live across the border of Balabac Strait.
But one a while, they also slaughter sea turtles for meat and hide it inside ice boxes and transport them across the Balabac Strait where they sell them to fishing vessels from Mainland China and Vietnam, Dr James said.
The wholesale price of fresh turtle meat is RM300 per kg but only RM100 for dried meat while an adult live turtle can be sold at RM2,000 whereas juvenile turtles can fetch RM1,300, Dr James said.
  • The poachers are said to comprise foreigners from Mangsee island in Philippines and locals from Manabuan and Dogotan islands within the Banggi region. "The tawkeh claimed that one of his friend actually alerted the Maritime Enforcement Agency," Dr James said.
  • Citing an interesting incident, he said in November 2013, two Malaysians, Ku Vui Hjung and Rahman bin Abdul Rahman, both from Kudat, were arrested by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Marine Group in Mangsee island allegedly in possession of 10,000 turtle eggs, two sacks of dried sea turtle meat and three sacks of dried giant clams.
  • The two suspects were brought under the custody of Special Boat Unit in Puerto Princessa City which filed charges against them for violating Section 27(1) of Republic Act 9147 (The Wildlife Act).
  • In December 2013, PNP Marine Group were conducting operations in the waters of Balabac when they noticed foreign vessels and arrested 13 Vietnamese for illegally entering Philippines Waters and poaching protected marine species.
Dr James said on board the Vietnamese fishing vessels were the remains of 300 dead sea turtles!
In November 2912, the PNP found and rescued 123 live sea turtles of various species hidden in three submerged cages inside a mangrove swamp in Balabac Island. Six turtles died, no arrests were made and the surviving turtles released in marine species sanctuary Roughton Island, Dr James said. 

Source: Daily Express
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