Asian Correspondent Asian Correspondent Sat, 04 Jul 2015 06:09:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Beijing says its air pollution better in first half of 2015 Sat, 04 Jul 2015 06:08:34 +0000
A visitor stretches her arms as she looks over the Forbidden City through severe haze in Beijing. Pic: AP.

A visitor stretches her arms as she looks over the Forbidden City through severe haze in Beijing. Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing’s municipal government says air pollution in the capital improved during the first six months of 2015.

It said the concentration of PM 2.5 — tiny airborne particles that are particularly harmful to human health — dropped by 15.2 percent from a year earlier to an average of 77.7 micrograms per cubic meter during the first half of the year.

However, that level remains higher than the 10 micrograms per cubic meter average considered safe by the World Health Organization.

The city government said the amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM 10 particles also decreased.

Chinese officials have vowed to clean up Beijing’s notoriously foul air and have closed some polluting factories in the region.

]]> 0
Solar-powered plane lands in Hawaii after flight from Japan Sat, 04 Jul 2015 06:03:34 +0000
Solar Impulse 2, a plane powered by the sun's rays and piloted by Andre Borschberg, approaches Kalaeloa Airport near Honolulu, Friday. Pic: AP.

Solar Impulse 2, a plane powered by the sun’s rays and piloted by Andre Borschberg, approaches Kalaeloa Airport near Honolulu, Friday. Pic: AP.

KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) — A plane powered by the sun’s rays has landed in Hawaii after a record-breaking five-day journey across the Pacific Ocean from Japan.

Pilot Andre Borschberg and his single-seat aircraft landed at Kalaeloa, a small airport outside Honolulu. His 120-hour voyage from Nagoya broke the record for the world’s longest nonstop solo flight, his team said. The late U.S. adventurer Steve Fossett set the previous record of 76 hours when he flew a specially-designed jet around the globe in 2006.

But Borschberg flew the Solar Impulse 2 without fuel. Instead, its wings were equipped with 17,000 solar cells that charged batteries. The plane ran on stored energy at night.

The plane’s ideal flight speed is about 28 mph though that can double during the day when sun’s rays are strongest. The carbon-fiber aircraft weighs over 5,000 pounds or about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck.

Borschberg and his co-pilot Bertrand Piccard have been taking turns flying the plane on an around-the-world trip since taking off from Abu Dhabi in March. After Hawaii, it will head to Phoenix and then New York.

The project, which began in 2002 and is estimated to cost more than $100 million, is aimed at highlighting the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation. Solar-powered air travel is not yet commercially practical, however, given the slow travel time, weather and weight constraints of the aircraft.

The plane is visiting Hawaii just as the state has embarked on its own ambitious clean energy project. Gov. David Ige last month signed legislation directing Hawaii’s utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2045. The utilities currently get 21 percent of their power from renewable sources.

Borschberg took naps and practiced yoga to cope with the long hours.

“Yoga is a huge support for this flight above the Pacific: it positively affects my mood and mindset,” he wrote in a tweet from the plane on Thursday.

]]> 0
Philippines: Palawan to Brunei, Malaysia shipping service eyed Fri, 03 Jul 2015 23:47:11 +0000

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Mindanao authorities said the Philippine government is going to open shipping services from Brooke’s Point in Palawan to Muara Port in Brunei to go along with existing shipping routes in BIMP-EAGA.

Romeo Montenegro, investments and promotion officer of the Mindanao Development Authority, said he is currently in talks with local government officials in Palawan to explore trade products that may be shipped to Brunei.

“From Palawan, oil palm kernel, certain agri-fishery products and potentially bananas,” Montenegro mentioned.

The MinDA executive revealed that pineapple giant Del Monte Philippines is set unveil a P12-billion ($360 million) expansion project in Brooke’s Point.

Palawan grown bananas could soon be in the Malaysian, Brunei market if shipping links are opened.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Palawan grown bananas could soon be in the Malaysian, Brunei market if shipping links are opened.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Montenegro likewise said there is a big market for hot chili in BIMP-EAGA.

The cuisines of Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia are heavy on spices and hot chili.

The Palawan gateway is also eyeing a Brooke’s Point-Sandakan (Sabah, Malaysia) shipping route.

“We can import construction materials from Malaysia,” he added.

Malaysia and Brunei, along with Indonesia are part of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-EastAsia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

The BIMP-EAGA was organized in 1994.

It was aimed fostering economic, social and security cooperation among select cities in four countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

At least 4 Mindanao cities have already established trade and shipping links with BIMP-EAGA member countries. These are the cities of Davao, Zamboanga and Bongao in Tawi-Tawi.

In 2007, a shipping route between Glan in Sarangani Province and Tahuna in Indonesia was inaugurated but has since become dormant although occasional cargo trips are plying between General Santos City-Bitung and Davao-North Sulawesi.

Philippine authorities in Mindanao are also mulling the re-opening of Davao-Manado air link.

]]> 0
Malaysian fund denies it funneled $700 million to prime minister Fri, 03 Jul 2015 07:33:10 +0000
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s state investment fund 1MDB says it has never provided any funds to Prime Minister Najib Razak, denying reports that entities linked to the fund had funneled $700 million ($2.6 billion) into Najib’s personal accounts.

1MDB, which has accumulated 42 billion ringgit ($11.2 billion) in debt, is currently under government investigations for alleged impropriety. The Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report online news portal reported that investigators have traced some $700 million wired into Najib’s bank accounts ahead of general elections two years ago.

In a statement Friday, 1MDB said it “wishes to make clear that the company has never provided any funds to the prime minister.” It said the reports were “highly irresponsible.”

1MDB’s huge debt has raised fears a possible bailout could leave the government bankrupt.

]]> 0
Top Chinese universities clash in student recruitment war of words Fri, 03 Jul 2015 05:14:23 +0000
Pic: Shutterstock.

Pic: Shutterstock.

The Chinese higher education system has been rocked this week by accusations of underhand tactics employed by universities to recruit students. Peking University and Tsinghua University have been at the centre of attention as their methods used in student recruitment have come under scrutiny.

Commonly known for their fierce rivalry over top students, the two universities broke out in a war of words on their Weibo accounts, accusing one another of employing dirty tactics in their recruiting strategies, notably in the Sichuan Province. Peking’s recruitment team reportedly suggested the Tsunghua’s recruiters were offering students monetary incentives in order to entice them to enrol. This resulted in a reply from Tsinghua’s Sichuan recruitment team turning the accusation back on Peking, saying that it was they who were guilty of these behaviours.

The very public spat eventually resulted in the offending messages being removed by each university respectively, however by this point the damage was done as the website ifeng published screenshots of the exchange which proceeded to garner thousands of blistering comments, shares and negative media attention.

Whilst there have long been questions over the competition for top students and the transparency of the recruitment and enrolment processes employed by Chinese universities, the public nature of defamatory accusations between rivalling institutions has been less common.

Universities in China are increasingly feeling the pressure to compete for top students, not just amongst each other but also with the rest of the world. The number of students sitting the national college entrance test in China, gaokao, has decreased by over a million since 2008 as more students each year choose to study overseas, lured by the opportunities and prestige of many leading universities outside of China.

China’s Education Minister issued a statement following the furore, urging universities to abide by orderly enrolment processes and to refrain from offering questionable incentives. Whilst dragging the name of the Chinese higher education system through the mud, the clash has at least highlighted the need for a clean-up of the country’s enrolment system, especially if Chinese universities want to continue to attract top students and to stand a chance in competing with other institutions on an international level.

This article first appeared on / Image via Shutterstock

]]> 0
Thailand could abolish college uniforms in crackdown on gang warfare Fri, 03 Jul 2015 04:34:49 +0000
In this 2010 photo, Thai soldiers search vocational school students for possible weapons as they arrive at a reform camp north of Bangkok. Pic: AP.

In this 2010 photo, Thai soldiers search vocational school students for possible weapons as they arrive at a reform camp north of Bangkok. Pic: AP.

Thailand’s Education Ministry is considering changing or even abolishing polytechnic college uniforms in a bid to rein in gang violence between students.

Authorities have for years struggled to control rivalries between college gangs that have resulted in injuries and even deaths.

Khaosod English reports that the decision to focus on uniforms was made at a meeting between Education Ministry officials and college directors this week.

“The meeting has concluded that fights among students are not caused by personal problems, but by issues between colleges,” Education Minister Admiral Narong Pipattanasai.

(READ MORE: Sanctioned sadism: Thai universities’ barbaric hazing culture)

“So, we had the idea to change the uniform regulations of polytechnic students to be the same across the country. We will choose between two options: either everyone will be able to dress in private clothes, or everyone will wear the same uniform.”

All third level students in Thailand are required to wear a uniform, usually a white shirt with black trousers or skirt.

In May, authorities proposed setting up military run “prep camps”, where students could mix with their peers from rival colleges and get to know one another. This strategy has been used in the past, with little success.

(READ MORE: Thai university approves uniforms for cross-dressing students)

It’s clear, however, that authorities need to do something. The latest student gang violence death came just last week, when a 19-year-old male was shot dead near Dusit Polytechnic College in Bangkok.

In September last year two students were shot dead and another seriously injured in suspected college gang violence.

The Thai junta is putting much of the onus on college directors to control student behavior within their institutions, threatening temporary closures or even permanent closures if the violence persists.

“This time, the Ministry of Education is serious. If the administrators do not take care or pay attention to their students, they will lose their licenses for real,” Admiral Narong said. “This is not just a threat.”

(READ MORE: Thai university uniforms ‘sexiest in the world’)

For more education news and views from around the world, check out our sister site

]]> 0
China says 6.5 quake hits far western region of Xinjiang Fri, 03 Jul 2015 03:33:49 +0000
Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — Officials say a 6.5 magnitude earthquake has hit China’s far western region of Xinjiang.

There have been no immediate reports of casualties.

The China Earthquake Networks Center says the 6.5 magnitude quake hit Pishan county in the Hotan region of Xinjiang at a depth of about 10 kilometers shortly after 9 a.m. Friday.

]]> 0
Prostitution: Thailand’s worst kept secret Fri, 03 Jul 2015 03:08:05 +0000
Sex workers wait for customers in a red light district in Bangkok. Pic: AP.

Sex workers wait for customers in a red light district in Bangkok. Pic: AP.

By James Austin

You could be forgiven for thinking if you were new to Thailand that prostitution was a market aimed solely at foreign tourists and fund-dumping expatriates. The garish lights, garish hook-ups, and garish whispers in the night have become iconic, a thing of holiday myths, books, films, and for many who don’t live here deceitfully representative of an entire culture. But Thailand’s lusty epithet of a land of salacious, often mendacious smiles, is a foreign concoction, and within these borders most citizens I think don’t taint themselves with that brush.

It’s said that about US$16 million from Vietnam War foreign soldiers’ pockets went towards the Thai sex industry, the catalyst of what gave Thailand its seedy image. But the industry, apropos tourism, is hardly even the tip of the iceberg.

A lot of women, and men, in Thailand sell sexual services for money. Siamese 50 satang brothels were popular in the early half of the 20th century, while the ragingly popular arb ob nuad (soapy massage) has been around since the 1940s. Only over the last few years has the full-body massage (no penetration) become extremely popular, with new houses of supposedly ill-repute opening and closing – as is often the case with the service orientated industry in Thailand – all over the country. There’s also now what is referred to as the business of sidelines, which is young girls, supposedly of a more pure status, selling themselves online. It’s no secret; in this report by the Kinsey Institute, “90% of the [Thai] male participants had had sex with a prostitute and 74% had lost their virginity with a female sex worker.” It’s no secret, but Thais tend to be discreet about the matter. You should know that prostitution has been illegal in Thailand since 1960. Still, it’s estimated to be worth US$6.4 billion a year in revenue, a large part of the country’s GDP, according to black market research company Havocscope.

(READ MORE: Opinion: Sexual hypocrisy is alive and well in Thailand)

In 2004, Dr. Nitet Tinnakul, while working at Chulalongkorn University, said that the sex industry in Thailand involved 2.8 million people: 2 million women; 20,000 adult males, and 800,000 minors under the age of 18. Dr. Nitet explained that this number includes those indirectly involved in the industry, including cleaners at establishments, accountants, and even corrupt policemen receiving kickbacks from bars.

I interviewed Dr. Nitet a few years ago for a story I was writing for ‘Citylife’ magazine. He told me that women in Thailand, “become prostitutes for economic reasons, and lack of education…It can’t be legalised as society still doesn’t accept it. Women can’t admit they do it, it’s a loss of their dignity.” While much has been said about not making the women, the ones who choose this occupation, victims, it’s likely the case that economic hardship is the grounding for this kind of what I imagine to be difficult work. Thai women historically have been used as chattel. F.A. Neale’s book, ‘Residence in Siam’, written in the late 19th century, explains that he witnessed fathers taking their unmarried 13 year old daughters, “having reached their expiration date”, to their shops to be “ sold to the highest bidder”, or even “sold to Arab merchants”. Dok Kaew, the practice of selling off a daughter at a young age to a male buyer – although not available until she came of age – was evident in Thailand until the ’90s. Modern prostitution, while often decried by those a long way from ever understanding it, is at least empowering when we consider what befell many poor Thai women in the past.

Footage of a bargirl giving performing fellatio on a customer in Pattaya has upset a lot of people this week. Image via MCOT.

Footage of a bargirl giving performing fellatio on a customer in Pattaya has upset a lot of people this week. Image via MCOT.

So it really should come as no surprise to anyone in Thailand that many women’s bodies have been, and still are, a commodity. But this last week it seems the nation was shocked by a moment of lewd candidness after a Thai sex worker in the city of Pattaya was caught on camera fellating her Korean John. The aptly named Pol.Col. Sukthat Pumpanmuang, superintendent of Pattaya Police Station, said that the couple would be charged with public indecency, as was reported by Khaosod. In the same story the director of a hotel association, Sanpetch Suphabowornsatient, said that a government response should be to campaign and educate people, “about the good culture and tradition” of Thailand. He added that, “Right now, Thailand is trying to promote the Thai way of tourism, and Buddhist way of tourism… Thailand is a Buddhist country, yet nowadays men and women express themselves in a way that causes damage to image of the country.” The offending bar was shut down for 10 days, and life in Thailand’s worst/best tourist destination, even though “tarnished”, goes on as normal.

(READ MORE: Thailand anti-vice efforts target prostitution and corruption)

Whether a cash industry should be equated with Buddhism is something all Buddhists might ponder. Even so, Thai tourism and those that profit from it have banked on Thai women being poor enough to become part of a diaspora leaving the fields and doing the epitome of physical work in the city, and the fact there are enough virile, and non-virile, tourists coming to abate their sexual frustrations. There is a niche, and Thailand, like many other countries, fills it. Let’s not pretend otherwise. The shock is not because something has happened that we thought didn’t exist, it’s because the worst kept secret, for a lurid minute, was captured on camera and has caused some folks to blush.

It’s commonly known, from Chiang Mai to Pattaya, that establishments breaking the prostitution law must pay heavy kick-backs to the local police. This is another of Thailand’s worst kept secrets. Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has rhetorically stated time and again the need to address the moral fabric of the country. But what of the economic fabric of the country? A large percentage of the country’s revenue comes from tourism, and billions of that money is spent on sex tourism. Cracking down on women doing their jobs, often focusing on the meager foreign part of the business enterprise, only hurts the people at the bottom of the food chain. Thailand needs prostitution, as things are, because a lot of people are reliant upon it. Perhaps if a crackdown is deemed necessary, then it should not be a crackdown not on sexual morality, but on capitalist morality; a crackdown on the police cracking down; a crackdown on hypocrisy. Thailand must start to accept what it has become. Crackdowns and ethics rhetoric are facepalms to the real world. Prostitution was born out of poverty; if there’s anything that requires the great leader’s attention, it’s just that: lack of money for the majority. A paid-for blowjob is negligible in itself, but in the wider scheme of things, it’s a big deal.

About the author:
James Austin
is a journalist and fiction writer living in Thailand.

]]> 2
Malaysia seeks ‘criminal accountability’ for Flight MH17 crash Fri, 03 Jul 2015 02:05:57 +0000
A man walks amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of  Hrabove, Ukraine last year. Pic: AP.

A man walks amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine last year. Pic: AP.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Malaysia has told the U.N. Security Council that it plans to submit a resolution that would establish an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last year.

New Zealand’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, the current council president, told reporters after Thursday’s closed council meeting that Malaysia and the four other countries investigating the crash are seeking “criminal accountability” for the downing of flight MH17.

The flight heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur went down July 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Controversy continues over who downed the plane. Ukraine and the West suspect it was destroyed by a Russian surface-to-air missile fired by Russian soldiers or Russia-backed separatist rebels fighting in the area. Moscow denies that.

]]> 0
Is Asia’s growth creating a generation of sick people? Fri, 03 Jul 2015 01:52:52 +0000
Delhi smog. Pic: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier (Flickr CC)

Delhi smog. Pic: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier (Flickr CC)

Recent scientific research on air quality and human health has only underscored how much — and in how many ways — pollution can cause harm and even death. High concentrations of particulate matter in the air result in higher instances of diseases of the heart and lungs, asthma and other respiratory problems.

Asia is most at risk from air pollution

A study at the University of Texas, which singles out China and India as home to places with dangerously poor air quality, estimates that cutting outdoor pollution could save 1.4 million lives.

Air in the Indian city of Delhi is particularly hazardous, with ambient fine particulate matter concentrations 15 times higher than WHO guidelines. Beijing does not fare much better.

About 75 percent of the total number of deaths that could be avoided from cleaner air could come from improving air in some of the most polluted parts of the world like India and China. Those benefits could be as large as many of the other public health things we might like do globally like addressing major diseases like malaria and AIDS.

—Joshua Apte, assistant professor of environmental engineering, University of Texas, Austin (via VOA News)

Principal drivers of deteriorating air quality are coal-burning industry and increased road traffic, which are both causes and symptoms of industrial and economic growth. Somewhat ironically, it is the very pollution caused by growth that may end up stopping growth.

(READ MORE: China’s most polluted province sends its industry overseas)

Such is the argument of former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who now promotes sustainable economic growth focusing on China and the US. Paulson is one of the principal figures responsible for the global financial crisis beginning at the end of the last decade, though he has also been involved in several major projects for nature conservation in both countries.

In his new book, ‘Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower’, Paulson praises the Chinese government for recognizing and confronting the dangers of climate change, but also warns that the country’s explosive growth, urbanization and pollution are part of an extremely unsustainable system.

Pollution in Beijing, pic: Michael Henley (Flickr CC)

Pollution in Beijing. Pic: Michael Henley (Flickr CC)

Alzheimer’s and pollution threaten a new generation

In addition to the already well established health risks of air pollution, new evidence links toxic air to degenerative brain diseases, namely Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It turns out that ultrafine particles of pollution — at least 36 times finer than a grain of sand — can enter through the nostrils and eventually into the brain, resulting in brain trauma.

Studies of domesticated dogs in Mexico City, which show similar symptoms to humans suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, support the link between particulate matter and degenerative brain disease. The head researcher of the studies, Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas of the University of Montana, found the same kind of damage among the dogs as is found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.

From an article on the topic in Mother Jones:

Dogs are also one of only a handful of animal species known to naturally develop Alzheimer’s-type dementia. What Calderón-Garcidueñas discovered more than a decade ago may prove to be the missing element in a long-standing theory of neurodegenerative disease origin. For reasons poorly understood, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s often reveal themselves in humans through early breakdowns in the olfactory system.

Air quality in the United States, while still hazardous in congested cities like Los Angeles, is on the whole better than it has been in 40 years. Asia’s population centers, on the other hand, are experiencing unprecedented levels of particulate matter pollution. Could China and India’s industrial megacities experience high levels of degenerative brain diseases in the coming years? It is a possibility both countries will have to consider and it does not bode well for future concerns about human or economic health.

(READ MORE: Will a tax on pollution help curb China’s deadly smog?)

]]> 0
Southeast Asian nations to set up fund to help Rohingya migrants Thu, 02 Jul 2015 10:05:00 +0000
Rohingya migrants gather at Kuala Langsa Port in Langsa, Aceh province, Indonesia after landing there in May. Pic: AP.

Rohingya migrants gather at Kuala Langsa Port in Langsa, Aceh province, Indonesia after landing there in May. Pic: AP.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian minister says Southeast Asian countries will establish a humanitarian fund to help boatloads of Rohingya Muslim and Bangladeshi immigrants who have recently landed in Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand.

Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Zahid Hamidi also says Singapore has pledged $200,000 to the fund at a special regional meeting Thursday on the refugee crisis.

(READ MORE: Southeast Asia to set up fund to help boat people)

Since early May, more than 4,600 boat people from Burma and Bangladesh have come ashore in Southeast Asian waters. The United Nations estimates some 2,000 migrants could still be at sea after human smugglers abandoned their boats amid a regional crackdown.

Zahid says he has proposed that each Southeast Asian nation contribute $100,000 to the fund.

]]> 0
Afghan court cancels death sentences in mob killing of Farkhunda Malikzada Thu, 02 Jul 2015 09:51:29 +0000
Afghan women chant slogans during a protest in downtown Kabul demanding justice for a woman who was beaten to death by a mob after being falsely accused of burning a Quran earlier this year. Pic: AP.

Afghan women chant slogans during a protest in downtown Kabul demanding justice for a woman who was beaten to death by a mob after being falsely accused of burning a Quran earlier this year. Pic: AP.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan judge says a court has overturned the death sentences for four men convicted of taking part in the mob killing of a woman outside a Kabul shrine.

Appeals Court Judge Abdul Nasir Murid said Thursday that three of the men convicted of the murder of Farkhunda Malikzada in March were instead given 20-year sentences. The fourth was sentenced to 10 years.

The ruling was made in a closed-door hearing Wednesday and first reported by the independent Tolo TV. Tolo said the peddler at the shrine who allegedly incited the mob was acquitted.

The brutal killing led to calls for judicial reform and stronger protection for women from violence.

Of the 49 people convicted, 37 were released last month ahead of their appeals.

(READ MORE: Afghanistan: The role of social media in bringing justice for Farkhunda)


]]> 0
Cambodia: 2 former Khmer Rouge leaders appeal convictions Thu, 02 Jul 2015 09:27:07 +0000
Nuon Chea, Cambodia Khmer Rouge trial

Nuon Chea. Pic: AP.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Two leaders of Cambodia’s former Khmer Rouge regime have appealed their convictions by a U.N.-backed tribunal that sentenced them to life in prison for their roles during the group’s brutal rule in the 1970s.

Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge’s 83-year-old former head of state, and Nuon Chea, its 88-year-old chief ideologue, appeared in court Thursday.

The two men are the regime’s only surviving senior leaders. In August, they were convicted of crimes against humanity in a ruling three and a half decades after the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-1979 rule, which left an estimated 1.7 million people dead from starvation, disease and execution.

The tribunal said in a statement that the former leaders insisted they are innocent and filed hundreds of grounds for appeal.

]]> 0
Ferry capsizes in Philippines, at least 38 dead (VIDEO) Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:57:14 +0000
Screenshot from video showing Thursday afternoon's rescue efforts. Image via Facebook.

Screenshot from video showing Thursday afternoon’s rescue efforts. Image via Facebook.

A ferry with 173 passengers capsized Thursday 100 meters from a pier in the central Philippines, killing at least 38 people.

Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo says the captain and some of the crew of the overturned ferry boat have been rescued and are in custody pending an investigation.

He says there were a total of 189 passengers and crew; 134 have been rescued, 38 died and 17 more are missing.

Balilo described the boat as a large, 36-ton outrigger that plies the Ormoc-Camotes route regularly.

Balilo says coast guard district head Capt. Pedto Tinampay is requesting a vessel to be able to lift the capsized boat.

According to the Ormoc rescue group team leader Ciriaco Tolibao, six divers are working at the moment along with several army frogmen and coast guard divers, scouring the hull of the overturned boat.

“We are trying hopefully to find survivors or at least recover the bodies,” he says.

It is a low tide now and the bottom part of the boat’s hull is visible above the water.

Low visibility, clouds, a choppy sea and strong winds are hampering the rescue operation at the site where the ferry capsized.

Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, says the air force could not operate in those conditions. He says a team of divers was supposed to be deployed but additional divers could not fly in because of the bad weather.

Balilo says the ferry, MB Kim Nirvana, had just left Ormoc for Camotes Islands, about 44 kilometers (27 miles) to the south, when it was hit by big waves.

Among the 173 passengers were at least three Americans and a Canadian who were rescued Thursday.

Lawrence Drake, 48 years old, of Rochester, New York, said he was able to revive a woman who wasn’t breathing while they were in the water via mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

He says he is a retired firefighter and emergency medical technician. He says he also saved an 8-year-old boy and the woman’s pregnant daughter.

He says he saw at least 7 bodies floating in the water, including two children.

Drake is married to a Filipino. His wife was traveling with him from Ormoc to Camotes along with her mother. They too survived by swimming out of the boat after it overturned.

This footage of the rescue operation was posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon:

Additional reporting from Associated Press

]]> 0
WATCH: Thai woman puts up a helluva fight against handbag thieves Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:23:09 +0000

We have to hand it to this feisty Thai lady, who is taking absolutely no **** from these two would-be handbag thieves. The footage, caught on CCTV camera last month, show the opportunistic crooks strike on a quiet street.

The bike pulls up beside her and the passenger hops off and grabs the woman’s handbag. We’re not sure what was in it, but there is no way she’s letting go, even when she is being dragged along the street. In the end the thieves simply give up and drive off.

You might also like…

WATCH: Taiwanese man braves gang fight to finish noodles

WATCH: The ‘7-minute miracle': High-speed cleaning on Japan’s bullet trains

WATCH: This short animation on poverty and education in Burma is sad, but cool

]]> 0
China gay couple holds informal ceremony to push for legalized marriage Thu, 02 Jul 2015 07:57:32 +0000
Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — A prominent Chinese lesbian couple has held an informal ceremony to announce their marriage in their latest effort to push for legalization of same-sex unions in China.

The union of Li Tingting and Teresa Xu came six days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to validate same-sex marriages in the United States, and four months after Li was detained in China for her activism for women’s rights.

Li says the ceremony Thursday was partly prompted by the U.S. court decision

Same-sex marriage is not legal in China, and there is no broad social effort to push for its legalization.

Li was detained in early March with four others amid China’s crackdown on social activism, and their detention drew concern from foreign governments. The five were released 37 days later.

]]> 0
Illustrations show why Hong Kongers don’t want to be part of China Thu, 02 Jul 2015 05:19:55 +0000

As pro-democracy protesters took to Hong Kong’s streets to mark the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule, this collection of illustrations from Local Studio HK was making its mark online. The collection of 24 images, some of which we’ve published below, depicts just some of the reasons so many Hong Kongers oppose being ruled by Beijing.

The excellent collection was picked up by Shanghaiist from Local Studio’s Facebook post, which has racked up almost 4,000 shares already. The scathing illustrations cover many contentious issues, including censorship, food safety, and even toilet manners, reflecting growing anti-China sentiment in the city.



HongKongNot China3






]]> 0
2nd person dies after Taiwan water park fire; 200 in intensive care Thu, 02 Jul 2015 04:56:34 +0000
Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

The death toll in a blaze at a Taiwan water park party over the weekend has risen to two with 200 still in intensive care.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency says 19-year-old college student Liu Chih-wei died early Thursday after suffering burns over 90 percent of his body. A 20-year-old woman died on Monday after suffering similar injuries on Saturday night when colored powder sprayed from a stage caught fire.

The report says Liu had been a design student at Taiwan’s College of Maritime Technology.

Investigators are looking into whether a spark might have triggered the explosion of colored corn powder thrown into the dancing crowd.

A U.S. man is fighting for his life after he was badly burned in a fire at a Taiwan water park at his weekend, his family said.

Roger Haas of New Hampshire said Wednesday that his son Alex Haas received burns to 90 percent of his body.

Injured victims are treated after an accidental explosion during a music concert at the Formosa Water Park in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Saturday. Pic: AP.

Injured victims are treated after an accidental explosion during a music concert at the Formosa Water Park in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Saturday. Pic: AP.

He says the family faults the park management for the fire last Saturday that killed one person and burned hundreds of more.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that a cigarette or spark triggered the explosion of colored powder that was thrown into a crowd from a stage at the Formosa Water Park in New Taipei City.

Five people were arrested earlier this week after more than 500 were injured, many seriously, in Saturday night’s fire.

Local media sources reported Monday that one death has been confirmed.

About 1,000 people were dancing at a party at the water park when the colored powder thrown at the party-goers caught fire.

“The explosion occurred when a large volume of unknown colored powder spewed out into the air at an open stage in the Formosa water park, [which] caught on fire at around 8.30pm,” a police officer told the South China Morning Post.

One of the five arrested is the organizer of the ‘Color Play Asia Party’ event, Lu Chung-chi.

“We need to apologize to the families. I am very sorry that something like this happened,” Lu said in a statement. “We shoulder ultimate responsibility”.

The water park issued a statement saying: “We are very regretful (for) this accident that caused injuries to many victims. The most urgent matter currently for us is to handle and assist victims at the scene and work with the fire department.”

More footage of the incident can be seen here.

Additional reporting from Associated Press

]]> 0
Customs officials recover idol looted from Indian temple Thu, 02 Jul 2015 04:42:33 +0000
Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

NEW YORK (AP) — Customs officials in New York have recovered a bronze religious statue from the 11th or 12th century that they say was looted from a temple in India.

The New York office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Wednesday an anonymous collector voluntarily surrendered the idol. It says the 2 1/2-foot idol was looted from a temple in Tamil Nadu at the southern tip of India and will be returned to India.

Customs agents say the collector bought the object in 2006 and was given false provenance papers.

ICE says the bronze statue would sell for as much as $1 million if offered on the market.

The idol’s recovery is part of a three-year investigation into former New York-based art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who’s awaiting trial in India on looting charges.

]]> 0
Indian civil servant sues Outlook magazine for calling her ‘eye candy’ Thu, 02 Jul 2015 04:25:59 +0000

Smita Sabharwal. Pic: Wikimedia Commons.

An Indian bureaucrat is suing Outlook magazine for describing her as “eye candy” in a recent article, and publishing an illustration that showed her on a catwalk with her political bosses leering at her.

Smita Sabharwal, 38, who works in the office of the chief minister of Telangana state, said the described the article and caricature as “yellow journalism” and that they “hurt very badly” in an interview with NDTV.

The Outlook article, which didn’t name her, said,”She makes a fashion statement with her lovely saris and serves as ‘eye candy’ at meetings.” It added that what “she exactly does is a puzzle”.

Smita Caricature

“It made me think that if they can do this to a bureaucrat who is doing a serious job, possibly women across would be subjected to think kind of yellow journalism and it is high time we step up and put an end to it,” Sabharwal told NDTV.

She added: “If we continue to encourage and indulge in this kind of journalism, the world opinion remains the same about how we view ourselves and how we our women. To me, this is a personal agenda in the sense that I want Outlook to apologise to women across the country, across the world.”

Indian netizens supported her call for the magazine to apologize, calling the article and caricature “shameful” “in very poor taste”.

Outlook published a notice on its website that it has not received any legal notice from the bureaucrat, but has already taken the article down.

“Outlook wishes to clarify that the said piece was part of satire carried in the magazine in the usual course, was not intended to be derisive or derogatory, and was meant to be received in a lighter vein. That said, being conscious of sensitivities, Outlook has taken down the satirical piece entirely,” it said.

“Outlook expresses regret if any offence has been taken.”

It added that the author of the article “has been subjected to vile and personal attacks, and her physical safety has been threatened.”

]]> 1
WATCH: Feisty middle-aged woman beats up thief on bus in China Thu, 02 Jul 2015 03:45:30 +0000

This feisty lady gave a thief what was coming to him in Harbin, beating him with her fists and then a shoe after he attempted to make off with her belongings. The thief did return the package, which the woman said contained important documents, but that didn’t stop her from hitting him again, and again, and again. The action gets going around the one-minute mark.

You might also like…

WATCH: Taiwanese man braves gang fight to finish noodles

WATCH: Thai woman puts up a helluva fight against handbag thieves

WATCH: The ‘7-minute miracle': High-speed cleaning on Japan’s bullet trains

]]> 0
Japan police seek motive for self-immolation on bullet train Thu, 02 Jul 2015 03:30:40 +0000

Japanese police have searched the apartment of the man who set himself on fire on a high-speed bullet train, killing himself and another passenger, as officials sought clues to his motive.

Investigators identified the man as 71-year-old Haruo Hayashizaki. He poured an oil-like liquid over himself and set fire to it at the end of a train car on Tuesday, filling the coach with smoke and killing himself. A 52-year-old female passenger died from suffocation after suffering throat burns.

Police said they haven’t determined the motive.

Transport officials met with bullet train operators on Wednesday to discuss how they can tighten security without affecting the efficiency of the trains.

Authorities said 20 more people received minor injuries. About 1,000 people are believed to have been on the train when the fire started.

The shinkansen train was stopped after the emergency alarm was activated at around 11.30am Tuesday.

Reports said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set up a task force to respond to the incident.

The high speed network is thought to be the most efficient and safest in the world, with no fatalities from crashes in its half-century of service. The trains travel at speeds of up to 320km/h (198 mph).

Additional reporting from Associated Press

]]> 0
Philippines: The alleged brains behind Ampatuan massacre is terminally ill Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:11:39 +0000
Andal Ampatuan Sr. , left, a powerful Filipino clan leader who is a suspect in the 2009 massacre of 57 people, sits beside his lawyer Sigfrid Fortun during his arraignment on electoral sabotage at the Pasay city regional trial court, south of Manila, Philippines on Monday March 26, 2012. Andal Sr. has been on trial for murder and on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges of rigging elections to favor former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's allies. (AP Photo/Noel Celis, Pool)

Andal Ampatuan Sr. is unliely to live out the year. Pic: AP.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The patriarch of the once powerful Ampatuan family that ruled the Mindanao province of Maguindanao for more than two decades has three to six months left to live, according to reports.

Former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. reportedly has cirrhosis of the liver and has been diagnosed as having a Stage 4 cancer.

Ampatuan has been named as the brains behind the 2009 massacre in southern Mindanao that left 58 people dead, among them 32 journalists and media workers.

He was charged and arrested along with his sons Andal Jr, Zaldy, Sajid, Anwar and son-in-law Akmad ‘Tato’ Ampatuan, who is also a nephew.

The special court hearing the case earlier granted the request of the counsels of Andal Sr for a medical checkup after his health deteriorated while in detention following their arrests.

He was admitted to the National Kidney Institute (NKI) on June 5 where he was diagnosed.

“Prognosis is currently dim as pharmacotic intervention is limited. Life expectancy for such case is usually three to six months but may be shorter if the liver function will continuously and progressively deteriorate,” Dr. Jade Jamias of the NKI said in an advisory.

On November 23, 2009, a convoy of vehicles was flagged down along the national highway in Ampatuan town by armed men led by then Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. while on its way to the provincial capitol to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.

The convoy was headed by Mangudadatu’s wife Genalyn and sisters Eden, Farida and Farina and several other relatives and supporters.

The victims were then herded and brought to a nearby secluded hill where they were mercilessly gunned down. A waiting backhoe dug a hole in an apparent attempt to hide the crime. Frantic calls from relatives of the victims, however, brought the military to the massacre site.

The perpetrators, numbering over 150 police, militiamen and private bodyguards hastily left the crime scene leaving a trail of blood and gore.

Of the 196 charged in court, only 106 have been arrested and placed in government custody.

Ampatuan’s youngest son Sajid was also granted bail by the court earlier this year.

Mangudadatu, who challenged the Ampatuans reign in the province, was elected governor in May 2010 and was re-elected in 2013.

]]> 0
Hackers target website of extremist Burmese monk Wirathu Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:11:48 +0000
Hardline Burmese monk Wirathu. Pic: AP.

Hardline Burmese monk Wirathu. Pic: AP.

Hardline Burmese monk Wirathu is in the market for an IT expert after his popular website was targeted by hackers at the weekend.

The list of possible culprits for the online attack is a long one, with the 969 movement leader’s hardline anti-Muslim stance earning him a spot on the front cover of TIME magazine above the headline: ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’. He has also been described as the “Bin Laden of Buddhism”.

The Myanmar Times reported Wednesday that the hackers said they attacked the website as a stance against religious extremism. Wirathu pointed the finger of blame at Chinese atheists.

“They said they hacked my blog because it posted wrong news. In fact, they hacked it because I posted news about China. They objected to my June 26 post titled, ‘Don’t do ridiculous things,’ and they struck the next day, targeting only that post. I believe they are Chinese atheists who object to the publication of news about China,” he said.


(INTERVIEW: Wirathu, Time Magazine, and the power of propaganda in Burma)

Wirathu, who said that all the data on the site is gone, said he is looking for an IT expert to help him recover the lost information.

The monk’s extremist far-right, anti-Muslim stance is widely blamed for contributing to the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state.

His vitriolic outbursts regularly make the headlines. He attracted international condemnation earlier this year when he described UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, a ‘bitch’ and a ‘whore’ during a public speech in Yangon.

]]> 0
Toyota’s top female exec resigns after Japan drug arrest Wed, 01 Jul 2015 09:44:52 +0000
Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota says Julie Hamp, who was arrested in Japan last month on suspicion of drug law violations, has resigned as managing officer. She was the most senior female executive ever at the Japanese automaker.

Toyota Motor Corp. issued a statement Wednesday saying it had accepted her resignation, considering the troubles the arrest had caused stakeholders.

Hamp, a 55-year-old American and Toyota’s newly appointed head of public relations, was arrested June 18 on suspicion of importing oxycodone, a narcotic pain killer, into Japan. The drug is tightly controlled in Japan.

Toyota declined to disclose other details, noting the investigation was still ongoing.

Her appointment in April had been highlighted with much fanfare as a step toward promoting diversity. Toyota reiterated that it remained committed to diversity.

]]> 0