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Monday, April 27, 2009

Deadly Mexico Swine Flu Sparks worldwide pandemic.

April 26, 2009 - A deadly strain of swine flu has sparked concerns of a worldwide pandemic after suspected cases have been reported in the United States, Mexico, New Zealand and Israel.

More than 80 people have died from flu-related pneumonia in Mexico - where the virus originated.

Over 1,300 people are now thought to have contracted the virulent H1N1 swine influenza after it mutated into a form that spreads from human to human.

The disease has already spread to the United States, where 11 cases have been confirmed in Texas, California and Kansas.

A group of school children from New York is also undergoing tests, where a further eight are suspected to have contracted the virus, health officials said.

Another group of 10 school children in New Zealand have tested positive for influenza after returning from Mexico, which the health minister there has said is "likely" to be the H1N1 strain.

A 26-year-old Israeli man has also been admitted to hospital after returning from a trip to Mexico with flu-like symptoms.

The UK is on alert after the global health watchdog warned countries to look out for unusual flu cases, especially among passengers returning from affected areas.

Yesterday a British Airways cabin crew member was taken to hospital with flu-like symptoms after returning from Mexico City.

But a spokesman for Northwick Park Hospital in London said tests confirmed he did not have the deadly strain.

World Health Organisation director-general Margaret Chan said the outbreak constituted a "public health emergency of international concern".

It means nations will be expected to step up reporting and surveillance of the contagious respiratory disease, which she said had "pandemic potential".

Mexico's health minister Jose Angel Cordova said all schools have been shut in Mexico City, the surrounding area and the central state of San Luis Potosi until May 6.

The UK Health Protection Agency called the outbreak unusual and called for further investigation and vigilance among all countries involved.

The Agency said those with flu-like symptoms who have recently returned from the affected areas should stay at home to limit contact with others and seek medical advice from a local health professional or NHS Direct.

But an HPA spokesman added: "No cases of swine flu have been identified in the UK or anywhere in Europe."

"The HPA and the NHS have systems in place, which will alert public health authorities of any unusual strain circulating in the UK."

Britons are not currently being advised to avoid travelling to affected areas of Mexico and the US.

The H1N1 strain of swine flu is usually only seen in pigs - but in humans can cause serious symptoms including fever and fatigue.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rubber-growing nations cut exports to prop up prices

BANGKOK, April 26 – malaysianinsider – Bernama

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top three natural rubber producers, have agreed to reduce exports by 48,000 tonnes per month in the second quarter of the year to prop up falling prices of the product.

Yium Tavarolit, chief secretary of the International Rubber Consortium (IRCo), said the proposal needed ratification by the International Tripartite Rubber Corporation (ITRC) which was scheduled to meet here on May 14 and 15.

Last December, IRCo agreed to cut 915,000 tonnes of rubber from the market in 2009, some 270,000 tonnes of it in the first quarter.

Yium said the 144,000 tonnes to be cut in the second quarter could be increased or reduced depending on the market movement.

“We will monitor the market on a weekly and monthly basis. If the prices go up, we might reduce the quantum, but if they drop, we might increase it,” he said, adding that the agreement to cut 48,000 tonnes per month was made by the Bangkok-based IRCo during its board of directors and shareholders meetings here Friday.

Yium said the current price for technically specified rubber 20 (TSR20) was US$1,500, which was much lower than that for the same period in 2008.

China, the world’s biggest rubber buyer, imported a total of 376,386 tonnes in the three first three months of 2009, down 23 per cent year-on-year.

The benchmark ribbed smoked sheets RSS3 currently is around US$1.70 per kg, compared to a high of US$3.25 per kg last July, the highest in 56 years.

The IRCo consists of the three countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand – which produce 70 per cent of the global production of rubber and which exported 5.9 million tonnes in 2008.

Yium said IRCo was confident that the new measures to reduce exports would push up the rubber prices, or at least bring them to an acceptable figure to both smallholders and other industry players.

The lower prices were due to a lack of demand, he said and cited the current global economic crisis, low oil prices and reduction in car production in Thailand as the reasons for the drop.

In October 2008, the three nations agreed to implement several measures under the Supply Management Scheme (SMS) to counter the prevalent fall in natural rubber prices.

The measures included acceleration of replanting, with the total annual area to be replanted in the three countries in 2009 having increased from 112,000 hectares to 169,000 hectares, which would reduce natural rubber production by around 215,000 tonnes.

Taliban pull back after raising nuclear fears

April 24, 2009 - Pakistan said Friday that Taliban militants have completely withdrawn from the Buner district outside Pakistan's capital, which they seized control of earlier this week raising international concerns.

The reported withdrawal -- which was disputed by a human rights group monitoring the area -- comes after a Taliban land grab sounded alarms worldwide about the possibility of terrorists taking control of the country.

Syed Mohammed Javed, commissioner of the Malakand Division which includes Buner, said the Taliban withdrew without any conditions. He said they had violated a peace agreement signed two months ago.

Earlier in the day, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told CNN that the militants would pull back from the district.

Pakistani Express TV showed live footage of armed and masked Taliban militants in Buner, loading pick-up trucks and driving away.

But Amnesty International's regional chief said people in the area were reporting a different scenario.

"What we're hearing from people in Buner ... is that the Taliban that have moved out are the non-local ones," Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's Asia Pacific director, told CNN. "So the local branch of the Taliban are still in place in Buner."

The human rights agency issued a report on Friday raising concerns about Taliban rule in Buner, which it says includes a ban on music and mandatory beards for all men.

Another concern is the swath of destruction to Buner's civilian infrastructure. Zarifi said schools, courts and medical facilities have been shut down under the Taliban's control. *

Zarifi said he thinks the test for Pakistan's government is not a military defeat over the Taliban, but "whether the schools will once again open, whether the health units will once again operate (in Buner)."

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that nuclear-armed Pakistan was in danger of falling into terrorist hands.

Before the Taliban's apparent withdrawal Friday, a local Pakistani official expressed doubt about whether the militants would leave, as they pledged to local elders on Thursday.

"Nobody can trust them," Sardar Hussain Babik, the provincial education minister, said by phone from Buner.

The Taliban have broken promises before and probably would do so again, he said.

Sufi Muhammed, an Islamist fundamentalist leader who has been negotiating on behalf of the Taliban, was overseeing the withdrawal, police said.

Taliban militants surged into Buner this week. Takeover of the district brought the Taliban closer to the capital than they had been since they started the insurgency.

Militants subsequently locked up courthouses, seized court documents, and battled Pakistani troops who were sent to protect residents.

The militants said they took control of the district to ensure that Islamic law, or sharia, was properly imposed. The Pakistani government called the land grab a breach of a recent peace agreement.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani told the national assembly Friday that the military could stop the Taliban and that the country's nuclear weapons were safe.

"If anybody challenges the writ of the government, then we will react," Gilani said. "Yesterday, I heard that [the Taliban] had reached Buner and close to Islamabad. Do we not have any courage? Does this parliament not have moral courage to stop them? The defense of the country is in strong hands. Our nuclear program is in safe hands."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swine flu hits Mexico

MEXICO CITY -- A unique strain of swine flu is the suspected killer of dozens of people in Mexico in an outbreak that has spurred concerns of a global epidemic.

The new virus -- which combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before -- also sickened at least eight people in Texas and California, though there have been no deaths in the U.S.

"We are very, very concerned," World Health Organization spokesman Thomas Abraham said. "We have what appears to be a novel virus and it has spread from human to human. . . . It's 'all hands on deck' at the moment."

Mexico's Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordoba said 68 people have died of flu and the new swine flu strain had been confirmed in 20 of those deaths. At least 1,004 people nationwide were sick from the suspected flu, he said.

Residents of the capital donned surgical masks, and authorities ordered a sweeping shutdown of public gathering places. President Felipe Calderon met with his Cabinet yesterday to coordinate Mexico's response.

The WHO was convening an expert panel to consider whether to raise the pandemic alert level or issue travel advisories.

It might already be too late to contain the outbreak, a prominent U.S. pandemic flu expert said late yesterday.

There are probably cases incubating around the world already, said Dr. Michael Osterholm at the University of Minnesota.

In Mexico City, "literally hundreds and thousands of travelers come in and out every day," Osterholm said. "You'd have to believe there's been more unrecognized transmission that's occurred."

At Mexico City's international airport, passengers were questioned to try to prevent anyone with flu symptoms from boarding airplanes.

There is no vaccine that specifically protects against swine flu, and it was unclear how much protection current human flu vaccines might offer. A "seed stock" genetically matched to the new swine flu virus has been created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said Dr. Richard Besser, the agency's acting director. If the government decides vaccine production is necessary, manufacturers would need that stock to get started.

Epidemiologists are particularly concerned because the only fatalities so far were in young people and adults.

The geographical spread of the outbreaks also concerned the WHO -- while 13 of the 20 deaths were in Mexico City, the rest were spread across Mexico.

The CDC says two flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem effective against the new strain. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, said the company is prepared to immediately deploy a stockpile of the drug if requested.

Closing schools across Mexico's capital of 20 million kept 6.1 million students home, as well as thousands of university students. All state and city-run cultural activities were suspended, including libraries, state-run theaters, and at least 14 museums.

U.S. health officials said the outbreak is not yet a reason for alarm in the United States. The five people sickened in California and three in Texas have all recovered.

The most notorious flu pandemic is thought to have killed at least 40 million people worldwide in 1918-19. Two other, less deadly flu pandemics struck in 1957 and 1968.

Brief Swine Flu Update

Fri Apr 24, 2009 - by DemFromCT

CDC and WHO are closely following a large outbreak of swine flu in central Mexico and a much smaller cohort in the US (no data on anywhere else at this time.) You'll be hearing about it on the news (but, of course, readers of Daily Kos are well familiar with the topic.)

There are 6 documented cases of swine H1N1 in the San Diego area and Imperial County, and 2 in the San Antonio area, all relatively mild (one case was hospitalized, but not primarily for flu.) Seasonal H1N1 is an antigenically distinct virus which means that rapid flu tests cannot tell them apart (CDC will be issuing guidance to clinicians on this), and the current vaccine may not be protective. Tamiflu works, as does Relenza. while there are likely more cases in the US, there are no large scale outbreaks. Mexico is having a larger problem, but details are sketchy and will likely remain so.

This is a unique set of circumstances that's concerning enough for CDC and WHO to ramp up their surveillance, and collect data and investigate the outbreak. It is not a pandemic alert, and guidance on that topic has not changed, but this is an "evolving situation", and the story and guidance could change. It's at the very least become a news story. It could easily fizzle out in a few days, but until it does, it bears watching (and not necessarily on the front page here.)

Mexican officials, scrambling to control a swine flu outbreak that has killed at least 16 people and possibly dozens more in recent weeks, shuttered schools from kindergarten to university for millions of young people in and around the capital on Friday and urged people with flu symptoms to stay home from work.

"We’re dealing with a new flu virus that constitutes a respiratory epidemic that so far is controllable," Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told reporters late Thursday, after huddling with President Felipe Calderón and other top officials. He said the virus had mutated from pigs and had at some point been transmitted to humans.

We've been following it at Flu Wiki forum, we will continue to do so there. As circumstances warrant, we'll update you here. In the meantime, definitive guidance can be found at CDC's web site, and for those who wish to explore more, we recommend, your state public health web site, Flu Wiki and Get Pandemic Ready, two sites with basic flu info.- courtesy Daily Kos

Divorce by text message - hitting Saudi

April 24, 2009 - A Saudi man has divorced his wife by text message, a newspaper.

The man was in Iraq when he sent the message informing her she was no longer his spouse. He followed up with a telephone call to two of his relatives, the daily Arab News reported.

A court in the Red Sea city of Jeddah finalized the split -- the first known divorce in Saudi Arabia by text message -- after summoning the two relatives to check they had received word of the husband's intention, the paper said.

Saudi Arabia practices a strict form of Islamic Sharia law, and clerics preside over Sharia courts as judges. Under the law a man can divorce his wife by saying "I divorce you" three times.

The Saudi man was in Iraq to participate in "what he described as 'jihad,'" according to the Arab News. Many Saudis have gone to fight with al Qaeda militants against the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

US-Mexico relations

April 14, 2009 - Riz Khan speaks to Denise Dresser, a Mexican analyst and writer, about prospects for peace and stability in Mexico, Obama's visit to Mexico, and evolving US-Mexico relations.

Pepe Escobar: There will be class war and blood

April 14, 2009 - Welcome to the new New World Order Pt 2

Londoners demand Justice Now!

Justice for Ian Tomlinson - Memorial March

Assemble 11.30am, Saturday 11 April

Bethnal Green Police Station, 12 Victoria Park Square
off Roman Road, 2 minutes from Bethnal Green tube
March to Bank

Called by G20 Meltdown, who ask people to wear black and bring flowers to lay where Ian Tomlinson died.

Campaign launch meeting

8:00pm, Wednesday 15 April
Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street, London, NW1 2HR
Nearest tube/station: Euston

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thai protest leaders surrender to police

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 16:27:46 GMT | PressTV

The Red Shirt protesters support Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006

Four Thai anti-government protest leaders have surrendered themselves to the government after ending a three-week siege of the Government House.

The leaders loyal to ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra were taken to police headquarters in the capital Bangkok on late Tuesday.

Earlier, the national police chief had said protest organizers would be prosecuted for violating the state of emergency.

The group had been charged with inciting a public disturbance and illegal assembly.

Police say the Thai court has also issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin as well.

The government has extended holidays until the end of the week, saying it is in the interest of public safety and needed to restore public facilities.

Thaksin' supporters have also decided to call off protests after being surrounded by hundreds of troops.

The troops were seen firing their guns into the air and into the crowds to quell unrest in the capital, while angry demonstrators threw homemade firebombs in retaliation.

At least two people were killed and about 120 people, including police officers were injured during the anti-government rallies.

Protest leader Jakrapap Penkair said the retreat is "an honorable decision to save lives", but vowed that the movement would continue.

Thaksin's supporters have called for snap elections, arguing the current government is “illegitimate”.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has snubbed calls to give into their demands and refused to dissolve his four-month-old government to hold elections.

"We are confident that we are in control of the situation," Vejjajiva said on Monday night.

Thaksin has said: "The situation in Thailand is of very brutal suppression."

Thailand has been in turmoil since Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Earlier in 2008, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), occupied the government compound for months and forced the previous pro-Thaksin government out of office.

British-born Vejjajiva, 43, came to power after a court charged the former pro-Thaksin party with fraud and threw Thaksin's brother-in-law out of the premiership.

Vejjajiva was named prime minister in December after the collapse of the pro-Thaksin administration.

What Thailand's 'red shirts' want

April 13, 2009 - The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted Thai prime minister, is leading the ongoing anti-government protests in Bangkok.

Sean Boonpracong, the group's international spokesman, tells Al Jazeera what the 'red shirts' protesters want.

The war against unions

April 13, 2009 - Elaine Bernard: Legal system in the US is major obstacle to worker organization

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tindakan Zalim Polis Keatas Adi Anwar

April 11, 2009 - Belumpun reda kes A Kugan yang dibelasah hingga mati dalam lokap polis USJ awal tahun ini, satu lagi kes menggemparkan rakyat mengenai tindakan zalim yang dipercayai dilakukan oleh pihak polis di Ibu Pejabat Polis Daerah Klang.

Kali ini, Adi Anwar Mansor dibelasah dan dipercayai diberi minum pelarut hingga menyebabkan dia koma dan dimasukkan ke unit rawatan rapi Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Klang 8 April lalu.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

After the G20: America, Obama, the world

Godfrey Hodgson - Opendemocracy - April 6, 2009

A smooth London summit and European tour allow the global problems Barack Obama faces to be seen in their true scale, says Godfrey Hodgson.

It is too soon to say whether the Group of Twenty summit in London on 2 April 2009 has brought closer the world economic crisis closer to an end. The effect of the unimaginably vast sums of money (or at least figures) that were declared available to lubricate a blocked credit system will be an early sign. No one knows too whether the plan of United States treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, to clear up the vast toxic assets remaining in the system will work. The potential for further damage is ever-present.

There is more clarity about the statement by Gordon Brown that the G20 meeting was the beginning of a "new world order" of progressive cooperation. The British prime minister is at least halfway right. This is indeed the start of a new world in international relations, and it is time to look closely at its architecture.

The two-step illusion

What happened in London was in one sense a great step towards a new realism: that is, replacing a G7/G8 that reflects the economic realities of at best the 1970s (if not of Bretton Woods) with a G20 that can claim to represent four-fifths of the world's gross global product and well over half its population. Even more, this creates a process that almost inevitably entails further moves towards greater "representativity".

It is long overdue. The process of rethinking the distribution of power in leading international institutions is a belated acknowledgment of the changing global balance. China is at its heart. The Beijing leadership wants its country's "peaceful rise" - including a decade and more of 10% annual growth - to be recognised and rewarded. If the Chinese are to make a major contribution to the greatly increased capital of the International Monetary Fund, for example, it will be hard to resist their claim for more than 4% of the IMF's voting rights.

A key question is whether the process of change will be gradual or sudden. It has become modish in some diplomatic and journalistic circles to speak of a G2 - the United States and China - as a future steering-committee within the G20. This is unrealistic, as well as undesirable. After all, the American economy is now slightly smaller than that of the European Union, and it has long lost the dominance of the immediate post-1945 era. Moreover, China's own economy is now in aggregate roughly the size of Germany's - but the disparity in populations means that it delivers an average income per head around 10% of most western European countries.

In any case, the relationship between China and the United States is very different from a traditional great-power competition, in a way that limits the potential to forge a "duumvirate". It is neither a traditional commercial rivalry nor a military contest, but a novel and in some ways very strange relationship: China is creditor, investor, supplier of cheap consumer goods, ideological and diplomatic competitor. Chinese economic growth has been heavily dependent on exports to the United States (and even more to the European Union).

In addition, neither power has any territorial claims or ambitions of a traditional kind on the other; though in Africa and perhaps elsewhere China aspires to a sphere of influence that challenges American hegemony. China cannot yet remotely threaten American military dominance, though there are signs that the Chinese government is intent on building up its military (including naval) capacity.

There may come a time when the world is divided between Chinese and American alliances, and strategic changes in world politics do tend to come faster than anyone expects. But for the foreseeable future, China will not be a superpower in the way that the United States has been since the implosion of the Soviet Union.

An end to "number one"?

But if the "multipolar world" - long discussed in academic seminars and journals of international relations - is now becoming a reality, what will be the effect on the world's networks of influence?

The United States is in a class of its own in military power. But other countries and groups of countries - China, India, the European Union, Russia, perhaps some alignments of the Islamic world - are able to resist or divert American power in various ways, or are in a position to help Washington achieve some goals it cannot achieve alone.

The United States now needs help in international affairs. It cannot save its own environment without cooperation. It cannot rescue its own economy without help from Europe and China. It is no longer self-sufficient in energy. Its irresistibly great military power is not in practice much use.

The signs are that President Obama understands this, at least on one level. He has sent clear signals that he wants to leave behind the unwise arrogance of the George W Bush administration and its more intransigent figures - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton; and to seek more cooperative relationships.

But there is a catch. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union the preferred model of the world in the United States - among conservatives and liberals, among politicians and military officers, journalists, policy-makers and a clear majority of citizens - has not been a G7/G8 one or a G20-type one; it is most unlikely to be a G2 one. It has been a G1 model.

Most Americans in these two decades came proudly to embrace the image of their country as the lone superpower. Barack Obama speaks of a new, more tactful and more subtle style of leadership. But he is still an "American exceptionalist". He still takes his country's leadership in the world for granted - even if his speeches during his European tour (in London, at the Nato summit, in Prague, and in Turkey) have been artful in their restraint and appeals to cooperation. The American people too expect him to be what American journalists have long called the president of their country: the "leader of the free world".

This is not an elected title - or if it is, it is a title awarded by an electorate amounting to less than 5% of the world's population. Yet until recently it did represent a reality, one acknowledged by many and perhaps most of the world's other leaders. When Madeleine Albright called her country the "indispensable nation", she was not boasting. She was expressing a perception that was widely, indeed almost universally accepted.

It was not just that no other nation had the strength to compete for leadership with the United States. No other nation then wanted the burdens of leadership. Now this too may - may - have begun to change. Perhaps Americans, while happy to be number one, are now longer willing (even if they are able, which is a big "if" in the middle of an economic recession) to carry the burden of leadership.

A new narrative

In 1999 I wrote an article in which I spoke of the "grand narrative" of what the historian Eric Hobsbawm called the "short 20th century". The breakdown of the uneasy diplomatic equilibrium of the 19th century in 1914 had led to world war and economic catastrophe. That in turn led to fascism, to another world war, to genocide and to the division of the world between an American and a communist power-bloc. That led to the cold war, and in the end to the collapse of European communism.

I connected the end of that grand narrative to "the death of news". Because the citizens of the United States and western Europe were no longer frightened of war, they had turned away from the affairs of the rest of the world and concerned themselves with their own preoccupations and fears: of poverty, failure, loneliness, ill health and death. War, they imagined, was something that happened in "faraway places of which we know little".

It is interesting to ask whether the attacks on Washington and New York in September 2001 would have happened if news organisations in America and western Europe had not sharply cut back their coverage of international affairs. However that may be, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the crisis in Pakistan and the stalemate in Palestine, and now the economic disaster resulting from the crimes and follies of "Anglo-Saxon capitalism", have the public's full attention.

They sound like the ominous overture to a new and potentially dangerous world in which the United States still sees itself as G1, but may be less able and less willing to carry the responsibilities of a world leadership that is more heavy and difficult than ever.

Can Washington, given its apparently unshakable attachment to Israel's interests, solve the problem of Palestine? Can it repair (or "reset") breach with that testy and ambitious rival, Russia? Can it save Pakistan for democracy? Bring Iran into the comity of nations? Feed Africa? Halt climate change? Rebuild Wall Street or Detroit?

No American president has started with more personal ability or more sheer goodwill, from around the world, than Barack Obama. But a successful tour of Europe has if anything highlighted the scale of the tasks he faces, and the problems he may have in bringing the American people along with him in the effort.

A new narrative is unfolding. A lot depends on whether the world is nearer the end (1991), middle (1945) or beginning (1914) of the "short 20th century". The plot is still open.

Bolivia's opposition resists Morales' mandate

Fri, 10 Apr 2009 21:40:39 GMT | PressTV

President Evo Morales

While President Evo Morales is on hunger strike, Bolivia's opposition in the Senate refuses to pass a measure allowing the president a second term.

"They must think they can wear me out," Morales told reporters, recalling that in 2004, one year before he was elected president, he went 'more than 18 days' without food after he was expelled from Congress.

Twenty-four hours into his fast on Friday, Morales again vowed to refuse taking nourishment until the electoral measure passed the Senate.

Morales' ruling government controls the presidency and holds a firm grip on congress's lower house, but opposition lawmakers retain control of the senate.

The test of wills has already forced Morales to cancel a scheduled visit to Cuba, and he said that more than 1,000 people from scores of organizations across the country were backing his move, launching into hunger strikes of their own.

The Coca grower's union of Chapare said on Friday that 'it was ready to send protesters marching on La Paz to press senators to pass the electoral measure.'

The electoral bill, mandated in the new constitution approved in January, would set a December 6 date for a national poll.

The controversial quota allows, among other things, for Morales -- South America's first indigenous head of state -- to run for reelection for another five-year term.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Political turmoil continues in Thailand

The current anti-government protests in Thailand are the latest development after years of political instability.

Al Jazeera's Azhar Sukri looks back at the turmoil of the last three years.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Zinn on class in America

April 08, 2009 - Howard Zinn: In the United States we are brought up to think there's only one class

Fujimori found guilty

Tue, 07 Apr 2009 18:34:21 GMT

Fujimori has maintained innocence.

A Peru court declares guilty ex-President Alberto Fujimori on human rights charges including murder and kidnapping during his tenure in 1990s.

Following 15-month of trial Fujimori, 70, was found guilty of murder, bodily harm and two cases of kidnapping.

"The charges have been proved beyond all reasonable doubt," chief judge Cesar San Martin said. "Thus the verdict is a conviction," he said, according to AFP.

Rejecting the charges Fujimori said he had never created a paramilitary death squad rather he had been a wartime president fighting to protect his people. "The Peru that I inherited was a disaster. It was a Peru that had to be rescued," he said in his closing statements.

But the Judge noted that it was clear Fujimori authorized the creation of the death squad that killed dozens of people.

"This court declares that the four charges against him have been proven beyond all reasonable doubt," San Martin said.

Rights groups welcomed the outcome.

"Fujimori is finally being held to account for some of his crimes," Maria McFarland, a researcher for the US-based Human Rights Watch who was present in the courtroom, said in a statement.

The Peruvian court has shown the world that even former heads of state cannot expect to get away with serious crimes," she said.

He is the first democratically elected former president to be tried for rights violations in his own country.

The judges are expected later in the day to announce Fujimori's sentence, which could reach up to 30 years in prison.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

US communities print own money over tight cash

Mon, 06 Apr 2009 21:25:14 GMT | PressTV

'Detroit Cheers,' the local money in Detroit

Some US communities have started printing their own currency in order to ease the economic pain inflicted by low cash flow across the country.

People in low-income American communities have formed networks in order to create, buy and sell local currencies that are partially below the US Dollar in value but strong enough to help them buy goods at their neighborhood stores.

The 1930's Great Depression, the largest economic contraction to hit America in history, prompted the idea of generating new local currencies like 'Ithaca Hours' in New York, 'Plenty' in North Carolina, 'Berk Shares' in Massachusetts and 'Detroit Cheers', amongst 75 other types of local money mushrooming across the States.

Economists say that cash-strapped people have, through tough financial times, come up with their own solutions for ailing economies via injecting local money into their markets in an attempt to put more food in their family basket.

"The world is just now reeling from economic chaos; in Detroit, that's how we always roll," a Detroit Cheers user commented.

US communities and local governments printed a special currency known as the 'Scrip' during the Great Depression to keep trades afloat.

"We're a wiped-out small town in America," USA Today quoted a Plenty user in North Carolina as saying. "This will strengthen the local economy... The nice thing about the Plenty is that it can't leave here."

Americans are allowed to print their own local money provided that it does not look like federal banknotes, nor should it be used as legal tender.

The United States was hit by its second hardest economic recession in 2007, which has so far caused the country to shed more than two million jobs and a budget deficit almost topping two trillion dollars in a matter of less than two years.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Kugan’s post mortem files seized from UMMC

PETALING JAYA, April 6 — malaysianinsider - By Neville Spykerman

All files, pictures and samples in relation to A. Kugan, who died in custody, were seized by police from a hospital which had carried out a second post mortem on Jan 25.

A search warrant was issued to the University Malaya Medical Centre here before policemen took away the items.

Kugan was arrested on suspicion of car theft on Jan 15 but died at the police lockup five days later.

Federal Criminal Investigation Director Datuk Seri Bakri Zinin told The Malaysian Insider police were instructed to make the seizures by the Attorney-General and the move was part of ongoing investigations into the case.

Lawyer N Surendren, who is representing Kugan’s family, said he was shocked with the latest development adding police had been at UMMC the whole morning.

“I have been informed in writing by the hospital because Kugan’s family had sought the second post mortem which was carried out there.”

Meanwhile Surendren also slammed the findings of an independent committee formed by the Health Ministry today which concluded he died due to water in the lungs or acute pulmonary edema, inflammation of heart muscles or acute myocarditis which was compounded by blunt force.

Surendren said the committee has effectively found a third cause of death which is inflammation of the heart, which was never found by either pathologist who carried out the first and second post mortem.

The first post mortem carried out at the Serdang Hospital by Dr Karim Tajuddin on Jan 21 stated Kugan’s casue of death as “acute pulmonary edema” or fluid in the lungs.

A second post mortem was carried out by Dr Prashant N. Samberkar and he found Kugan died from a condition known as rhabdomyolysis, which is the rapid break-down of skeletal muscle tissue which will lead to kidney failure.

Other discrepancies, peviously reported were V-shaped marks which were described as abrasions in the Serdang Hospital report but burn wounds with a heated object in the second report.

The first report only found 22 external injuries on his body while the second found 40 such injuries.

The second post-mortem revealed congested blood vessels in Kugan’s brain haemorrhage in his neck muscles, heart and spleen, and contradicts the Serdang Hospital report which found these organs were normal.

The Serdang Hospital report says other organs in Kugan’s body were examined and were normal but the second findings showed that the organs were intact and not even removed for dissection, before the second post-mortem was conducted.

Surendren said the committee had “second guessed” the findings of the two doctors without the benefit of carrying out a post mortem and labelled the committee a whitewash.

He said unlike an on going inquiry by the Malaysian Medical Council into the case, the government independent inquiry had not called in family members or himself to give evidence or observe proceedings.

Earlier at a press conference in Putrajaya, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican disclosed the findings of the committee which was formed to investigate the discrepancies in the two post mortems. An eight page report was released to the press.

The 10-men committee unanimously agreed there was no evidence to show that the deceased had been ‘branded’ or been given repeated application of heat with an instrument or object as reported in the second post mortem.

In their opinion the injuries were the result of repeated trauma by a blunt and flexible object, like a rubber hose.

The committee found that all injuries on Kugan were insufficient to directly cause death and the discrepancies in the two reports were due to the absence of communication between the two pathologists, the misinterpretation of post mortem changes and some of the injuries by the second pathologist.

They concluded the discrepancy was not because of any foul reporting, misleading of information and there was no intention to hide information.

Dr Ismail said the differences in the number of external injuries found on Kugan, was because of different methodology used by the doctors. Dr Karim had tabulated 22 external injuries because he had grouped them by regions while Dr Prashant had listed some individually and some in groups, on the body.

He said the findings will be handed to the Attorney-General’s Chambers tomorrow.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Malaysia: Human rights agenda for new government

AI Index: ASA 28/002/2009

2 April 2009

Malaysia: Human rights agenda for new government

As Najib Tun Razak prepares to take over as Prime Minister of Malaysia, Amnesty International said that the new administration faces major human rights challenges that need to be addressed.

The organization is calling on the new Prime Minister to initiate urgent reforms to the justice system in five key areas, as follows.

Arbitrary arrest and detention

The government must reform or repeal laws providing for arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, including the Internal Security Act (ISA).

As part of this reform, the government should release five supporters of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) who have been detained for over a year under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for organizing a demonstration highlighting the marginalization of ethnic Indians.

Freedom of expression

The new government should prioritize the removal of restrictions on freedom of expression affecting bloggers, opposition politicians and human rights activists.

There was a nationwide swoop on bloggers in March when eight bloggers were charged with posting critical comments against the Sultan of Perak. They were charged under the Communication and Media Act and released on bail. The charges against them should be dropped.

The death penalty

The death penalty is imposed for a number of offences in Malaysia. Drug trafficking, murder and unauthorized firearms possession carry a mandatory death sentence. The government does not publish statistics on executions.

A moratorium on the death penalty should be announced, with a view towards abolishing it. The government should also lift the veil of secrecy around the death penalty by publicizing all information about its current application.

Torture, ill-treatment and deaths in police custody

Torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the police continue to be reported in Malaysia.

The family and lawyers of robbery suspect Kugan Ananthan, 22, who died in police custody that month, saw extensive marks of physical abuse covering his body. The investigations into the death have not progressed since the findings of the second autopsy report were submitted to the Attorney General's Office. Amnesty calls on the government to initiate an impartial, effective, independent, and prompt investigation into Kugan's death. Moreover, the government should establish an independent and impartial police oversight body to hear complaints about the police.

Migrant and refugee rights

Migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers are at risk of deportation after harsh treatment in detention camps. Malaysia does not recognise their rights under international law, and even individuals recognised as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are being arrested by untrained volunteers from the Peoples Volunteer Corps (RELA). Amnesty International urges the government to ratify the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol and the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.


Driving back from two afternoon ceremah's in Bukit Gantang, I get an sms that the new PM is magnanimously releasing 13 from Kem Kamunting.

Collecting my thoughts, I told myself that if Najib does not release Mat Shah Mohd Satray amongst the 13, this PM is a capital sham....thinking that he can fool us. I immediately rang Laila (photo), Mat Shah's wife. Even before I could question her she said, "Uncle Zorro, Mat Shah is not on the list." I do not wish to publish our conversation except to say that as expected this was a shallow attempt at damage control. If the PM was a man of stature, he would not treat us as fools, thinking that we will be so impressed that we will burn incense to his image! I know that there will be some out there who will burn this incense to his honor.[more]

Friday, April 3, 2009

Najib frees ISA detainees, lifts paper suspension

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — malaysianinsider | By Lee Wei Lian

New prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tonight freed 13 ISA detainees and lifted the suspension of two opposition papers — Harakah and Suara Keadilan.

He also told Malaysians in his maiden address that the Barisan Nasional will comprehensively review the Internal Security Act.

“These decisions are timely as we move to enhance the confidence of our citizens in those entrusted with maintaining peace, law and order, while recognizing the need to remain vigilant of the very real security threats we continue to face as a young nation,” Najib said.

Najib had come into office under intense speculation that he would be more authoritarian than his predecessor and would crack down on the democratic space in the country.

In response, the then deputy prime minister appealed at the close of the Umno general assembly last Saturday to be judged by his actions.

His first announcements as prime minister tonight have defied earlier expectations. It may even take the wind out of several opposition sails as the abolishment or comprehensive review of the ISA is one of the main thrusts of the opposition and the suspension of the two party newspapers was also one of their main grouses against the government.

Najib had promised a lot of reforms but only in the days ahead will the nation get to see the full extent of changes under the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister.

But for tonight, his speech hit the right notes, as he stressed that nobody in the country, regardless of ethnic background, should feel marginalised or left behind.

“We must draw on talented people across our nation, regardless of their position or background, to re-energize a passion for public service. We must sow the seeds of goodwill and understanding in every corner of this land, so that we continue to harvest the fruits of progress and prosperity for all Malaysians,” he said.

He also said he will be seeking to engage people from around the country in formulating the priorities of the government. The nation’s youth, who have long felt disaffected by the veterans in the government, were given a special mention.

Najib, who takes office in the midst of one of the worst economic slowdowns the world has seen, promised to work hard to steer the country through the current crisis.

The new prime minister did take one swipe at the opposition: “We must reach out to the many who may have been disaffected and left confused by political games, deceit and showmanship,” he said.

But overall, the tone of the speech was hopeful as he stressed that he will work hard to realise the full potential of the country and committed himself to meet the needs, aspirations and concerns of all Malaysians.

He ended on a high note as he invited Malaysians to join him in renewing the country and build a “One Malaysia. People First. Performance Now.”

“Let us begin this great journey together.”

In a separate telephone interview with RTM, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said that Hindraf leaders, V.S. Ganapathy Rao and R. Kengadhedharan were among the 13 ISA detainees that would be released.

Others detainees to be released included Jemaah Islamiah members and foreigners.

Hamid said that the foreigners will be deported.

> See full text of Najib’s maiden speech as prime minister

Thursday, April 2, 2009

01 April 2009 - AlJazeeraEnglish MOBILE BULLETIN 2

The latest news from Al Jazeera.

While the differences between the big G20 players were quietly discussed behind closed doors, out on the streets of London there was real anger.Thousands crowded into London's financial centre to make their protests heard.

Hamish MacDonald was there.Follow Al Jazeera's G20 coverage on twitter @ajeg20

According to Israel's new right wing foreign minister, he declared that the US sponsored Annapolis agreement with the Palestinians is not binding to israel for the Knesset had not endorsed it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

01 April 2009 - AlJazeeraEnglish MOBILE BULLETIN

The latest news from Al Jazeera.

G20 - Make or Break?

March 31, 2009 - Engdahl: The question in the EU is - will they go down with the dollar system or find their own way?

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