wiki globe

Posts Tagged ‘threat’

S.Korea to go ahead with fire drill despite N.Korea threat

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

South Korea’s military said Saturday it would go ahead with a live-fire drill on a border island bombarded by North Korea last month, despite the North’s threat to strike back again with deadlier firepower.

A South Korean Navy vessel berths at a Movement Sea Base (MSB) off the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on December 17, 2010.

But an AFP photographer on Yeonpyeong island said the atmosphere was calm and a media report said the one-day training exercise — scheduled for sometime between Saturday and Tuesday — may be delayed till next week.


“There is no change in our stance with regards to the live-fire exercise,” a defence ministry spokesman told AFP. “We cannot confirm… whether we will carry out the exercise today.”


The North threatened Friday to “deal the second and third unpredictable self-defensive blow” if the artillery exercise goes ahead.


“It will be deadlier than what was made on November 23 in terms of the powerfulness and sphere of the strike,” it said.


Pyongyang disputes the Yellow Sea border drawn after the 1950-53 war and claims the waters around Yeonpyeong and other frontline islands as its own maritime territory.


The November 23 bombardment killed two marines and two civilians and damaged dozens of homes. It came after a firing drill into the sea by South Korean marines based on the island.


The North’s latest warning sharply raised the stakes in the regional crisis.


Russia urged South Korea not to go ahead with the exercise and China, the North’s sole major ally, said it opposed any action that would raise tensions.


Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun summoned South Korea’s ambassador Yu Woo-Ik Friday afternoon to express concern at the planned drill, Yonhap news agency quoted a diplomatic source as saying.


South Korea, outraged at the first shelling of civilian areas since the war, has fortified Yeonpyeong with more troops and artillery and vowed to use air power against any future attack.


Its military has said artillery will be aimed away from the North as usual during the upcoming drill, but it would respond strongly if provoked.


But a military source quoted by Yonhap said the firing might be delayed a day or two.


“Weather conditions are the most important factor in deciding the time for a drill. Early next week will be the most likely time to hold it because the weather should improve,” the source said.


Asked why weather was a factor, a military spokesman cited comments by a government source in Chosun Ilbo newspaper.


“The live-fire exercise itself will end in 1-2 hours, but since we have to prepare for North Korea’s provocation afterwards, there is a good possibility the exercise will be delayed to when the weather is good all day long,” the source was quoted as saying.


“It is highly likely that the drill will be held early next week.”


The South’s close ally the United States plans to send some 20 US soldiers to play a supporting role in the drill.


State Department spokesman Philip Crowley Friday again defended the South’s right to hold the drill in the face of North Korea’s “ongoing provocations”.


But he said Washington trusts that the South “will be very cautious in terms of what it does”.


Pyongyang’s disclosure last month of an apparently working uranium enrichment plant — a potential new source of bomb-making material — has also heightened regional security fears.


The North’s website Uriminzokkiri said the drill could spark nuclear war.


“It is clear if war breaks out again in this land, a grave nuclear disaster will take place which will bear no comparison to the Korean War.”


US troubleshooter Bill Richardson said he urged North Korean officials during his current visit to Pyongyang to let the South go ahead with the drill.


“I’m urging them extreme restraint,” the New Mexico governor told CNN, saying he was “very, very strong with foreign ministry officials” during a dinner on Friday.


“I think I made a little headway,” Richardson said. “My sense from the North Koreans is that they are trying to find ways to tamp things down.”


Analyst Andrei Lankov said that for the first time in decades, a new war appeared to be a distinct probability.


Lankov, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University, said the Pyongyang regime seemed determined to escalate provocations, and South Korean society was in “unusually bellicose mood” after the last Yeonpyeong attack.


But in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, Lankov said “the hard truth is that restraint is the only option for South Korea”.

Source: SGGP

Currency war threat looms over G20 ministers’ meeting

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 4:07 am

SEOUL, Oct 20, 2010 (AFP) – G20 finance ministers will meet in South Korea this week to try to chart a new direction for the world’s economy after a devastating downturn, but fears of a “currency war” could blow them off course.


The host nation dislikes the phrase — Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-Hyun has said the exchange rate issue is not “like a duel in a Western film”.


But South Korea admits the disputes will loom large over the October 22-23 meeting of ministers and central bank chiefs in the southeastern city of Gyeongju.


Ministers will set the agenda for the November 11-12 Group of 20 summit in Seoul, South Korea’s biggest international event for two decades.

AFP – This file photo taken on May 26, 2010 shows an Australian 100 dollar note (C) amidst a raft of foreign currencies.

Seoul wants to leave its mark on history with a “Korea Initiative” to set up a global financial safety net aimed at protecting emerging markets from disruptions caused by sudden changes in capital flows.


The nation, which built its economic “Miracle on the Han River” on the ashes of the Korean War, also intends to put development prominently on the G20 summit agenda for the first time.


And it wants to push ahead with reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to give emerging countries greater voting power, while encouraging the adoption of post-crisis rules to bolster the world’s banks.


“South Korea… will stress that a currency war is tantamount to mutual economic destruction and push for a compromise,” an organiser told Yonhap news agency on condition of anonymity.


The United States and European Union, trying to export their way to economic health amid lacklustre domestic demand, accuse China of significantly undervaluing the yuan to boost its own exports.


China says it is being made a scapegoat for US domestic problems.


And it points out that expectations of US “quantitative easing”, a move to pump more dollars into the market, are swamping emerging markets with destabilising capital inflows as investors chase higher yields.


The United States last Friday signalled a temporary truce, delaying publication until after the Seoul summit of a report that could have labelled China a currency “manipulator”.


There is a chance that “some sort of understanding” may be reached in Gyeongju, the Seoul official said, after weekend talks overseen by the United Nations raised the need for deeper global governance to tackle common problems.


Yoon Deok-Ryong, of the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, said it would be hard to reach a firm agreement on forex issues at the South Korea meetings.


“However, an understanding may be reached by countries to abstain from measures that can worsen the situation until the next G20 summit planned for 2011 in France,” Yoon said.


The stakes are high, according to IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.


“The spirit of cooperation must be maintained. Without that, the recovery is in peril,” he told a meeting in Shanghai Monday.


South Korea says the G20 pulled the world back from a 1930s-style Great Depression but must now show it can cooperate in a post-crisis era.


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in comments to Wednesday’s Financial Times, expressed fears about the group’s fraying cohesion — a concern echoed by Bank of England governor Mervyn King.


King called Tuesday for a “grand bargain” among the world’s major economies, saying forex tensions could spark trade protectionism.


“That could, as it did in the 1930s, lead to a disastrous collapse in activity around the world,” he said in a speech.


Ministers will discuss the state of the world economy, IMF reform and establishment of a financial safety net, the G20 framework for “strong, sustainable and balanced growth”, and regulatory reform among other issues.


The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision met Tuesday in Seoul to finalise reforms requiring global banks to bolster their reserves.


“The capital requirement, combined with a global liquidity framework, will substantially reduce the possibility of a banking crisis in the future,” said its chairman Nout Willink.


The Financial Stability Board created by the G20 was meeting in Seoul Wednesday. It was expected to agree a broad plan to strengthen regulation and supervision of banks and other financial companies seen as “too big to fail”.

d
Source: SGGP

Thai PM in court as party faces ban threat

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 6:24 am

BANGKOK, Oct 18, 2010 (AFP) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrived at court amid tight security Monday as his ruling party fights to avoid a political ban that could bring fresh upheaval to the deeply divided kingdom.


Abhisit will be a witness for the defence at the Constitutional Court in what could be the final hearing in the case, which centres on accusations of misuse of a 29-million-baht (900,000 dollar) state grant in 2005.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (C) arrives at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok on October 18, 2010. AFP

The Democrat Party — Thailand’s oldest party — could be dissolved if found guilty, while the premier, who was its deputy leader at the time, could be handed a five-year ban from politics, alongside other executives.


Abhisit looked relaxed as he arrived but made no comment to the throngs of reporters gathered outside the court, where there was a heavy police presence.


Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) in April called for the ruling party to be abolished over the accusations, as well as a separate case alleging an undeclared political donation.


The call coincided with the country’s worst political violence in decades, which ultimately left 91 people dead and almost 1,900 wounded in a series of street clashes between opposition protesters and armed troops.


The Democrats are accused of paying 23 million baht to advertising firms, despite only having permission to spend 19 million on billboard marketing.


Abhisit has rejected accusations that a member of his party had attempted to influence the judiciary over the case.


The opposition’s allegations that a Democrat lawmaker met an aide of a Constitutional Court judge ahead of the hearing — and was captured on video — were splashed on the front pages of local media Monday.


Judicial rulings have played a pivotal role in shaping Thailand’s political landscape in the past.


The Democrats came to power two years ago after court decisions ousted allies of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was himself unseated in a 2006 military coup.


Two premiers were forced from office by the judiciary in 2008 — one of whom, Samak Sundaravej, was removed for taking payments for hosting TV cooking shows.


Uncertainty over the government comes at a difficult stage for the country, which remains bitterly torn in the wake of deadly opposition protests by the opposition “Red Shirt” movement.


The Reds accuse Abhisit’s government of being undemocratic because it came to power with army backing in a parliamentary vote after the controversial court rulings, and their protests have called for immediate elections.


Some observers questioned whether Abhisit’s backers in the military and Bangkok-based elite would allow the Democrats to be toppled.


Former Thai diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an author and fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said he did not believe the party would be disbanded.


However, he said one potential motive for dissolution would be as a gesture to the Reds to rebuff allegations of double standards in the legal system.


Pavin said “even then, they will have a plan B”, with rumours that a new party would swiftly rise from the ashes of the old.

d
Source: SGGP

Huge ice island could pose threat to oil, shipping

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

An island of ice more than four times the size of Manhattan is drifting across the Arctic Ocean after breaking off from a glacier in Greenland.


Potentially in the path of this unstoppable giant are oil platforms and shipping lanes — and any collision could do untold damage. In a worst case scenario, large chunks could reach the heavily trafficked waters where another Greenland iceberg sank the Titanic in 1912.


It’s been a summer of near biblical climatic havoc across the planet, with wildfires, heat and smog in Russia and killer floods in Asia. But the moment the Petermann glacier cracked last week — creating the biggest Arctic ice island in half a century — may symbolize a warming world like no other.

This combination of two satellite images provided by NASA and taken on July 28, 2010, at left, and Aug. 5, 2010, at right, shows the Petermann Glacier in Northern Greenland

“It’s so big that you can’t prevent it from drifting. You can’t stop it,” said Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo.


Few images can capture the world’s climate fears like a 100-square- mile (260-sqare-kilometer) chunk of ice breaking off Greenland’s vast ice sheet, a reservoir of freshwater that if it collapsed would raise global sea levels by a devastating 20 feet (6 meters).


The world’s newest ice island already is being used as a powerful emblem in the global warming debate, with U.S. Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts suggesting it could serve as a home for climate change skeptics.


Researchers are in a scramble to plot the trajectory of the floating ice shelf, which is moving toward the Nares Strait separating Greenland’s northwestern coast and Canada’s Ellsemere Island.


If it makes it into the strait before the winter freeze — due to start next month — it would likely be carried south by ocean currents, hugging Canada’s east coast until it enters waters busy with oil activities and shipping off Newfoundland.


“That’s where it starts to become dangerous,” said Mark Drinkwater, of the European Space Agency.


The Canadian Ice Service estimates the journey will take one to two years. It’s likely to break up as it bumps into other icebergs and jagged islands. The fragments would be further ground down by winds and waves and would start to melt as they move into warmer waters.


“But the fragments may still be quite large,” warned Trudy Wohlleben, a Canadian ice forecaster, who first spotted the massive chunk of ice on satellite images last Thursday.


The chunks of ice could be large enough to threaten Canada’s offshore platforms in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, said Wohlleben.


And, while it’s possible to redirect smaller icebergs, by towing them or spraying them with water cannons, “I don’t think they could do that with an iceberg this large,” she said. “They would have to physically move the rig.”


Moving an offshore platform is time-consuming and expensive — and very complicated in cases where they are fixed to the ocean floor.


While Greenland’s glaciers break off thousands of icebergs into Arctic waters every year, scientists say this ice island is the biggest in the northern hemisphere since 1962.


It contains enough freshwater to keep the Hudson River flowing for more than two years, said Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware.


The drifting ice sheet is likely to remain at the heart of the global warming discussion during its journey.


While experts say it’s difficult to directly tie the giant ice island to climate change because there are so many factors that affect glaciers in the area, the unusual event coincides with worrisome signs of warming in the Arctic.

Since 1970, temperatures have risen more than 4.5 degrees (2.5 degrees C) in much of the Arctic — much faster than the global average. In June the Arctic sea ice cover was at the lowest level for that month since records began in 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The retreat of Greenland’s glaciers, which has accelerated in recent years, is one of the least understood pieces of the climate puzzle.

A team of climate scientists who visited the Petermann glacier last year, expecting it to crack then, is now planning another trip within weeks.

“We did leave behind a couple of time-lapse cameras and 11 GPS (devices). Now we are scrambling to get up there and recover the data,” said Jason Box, an expert on Greenland glaciers from the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University.

Box and two British researchers traveled to the glacier last year with Greenpeace activists who offered space aboard their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, to scientists studying climate change.

They were hoping to capture the event with cameras rolling, which would have been a powerful image just months before the Copenhagen climate talks that failed to produce a binding treaty to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions.

“It would have been nice if it had broken off last year,” said Melanie Duchin, who led that Greenpeace expedition. “I mean ice melting, it doesn’t get any simpler than that.”

Still, she finds it ironic that the Petermann breakup coincides with another catastrophe linked to fossil fuels. The Arctic Sunrise is now in the Gulf of Mexico, surveying the massive oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Source: SGGP

Giants of the Mekong River under threat from dams: WWF

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 3:17 am

BANGKOK, July 28, 2010 (AFP) – One of the world’s biggest freshwater fish could be driven to extinction if plans to build hydropower dams on Southeast Asia’s longest river go ahead, wildlife organisation WWF warned Wednesday.


Numbers of Mekong giant catfish — believed to grow up to three metres (9.9 feet) long — would “collapse” if it was blocked from its spawning grounds on the river through China, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the group said.


WWF said a hydropower dam planned at Sayabouly Province in northern Laos, one of 11 planned on the lower Mekong, was a “threat to the survival” of the species’ wild population, which has already fallen 90 percent over 20 years.


The group also fears damming the river could irreversibly change its ecosystem, negatively affecting fisheries crucial to the livelihoods of over 60 million people in the region.


It warned there are at least 50 migratory species of fish in the Mekong — making up 40 to 70 percent of the catch from the river — that are highly vulnerable to the development of mainstream dams.


The giant catfish, which is thought to be the third largest freshwater fish on earth, migrates from Cambodia to spawn upriver in northern Thailand and Laos and the organisation fears damming the waterway could leave it stranded.


Roger Mollot, freshwater biologist for WWF Laos, said the giant catfish “simply will not be able to swim across a large barrier like a dam to reach its spawning grounds upstream”.


“This would lead to the collapse of the wild population of this iconic species,” he said.


The report said despite laws prohibiting catching the Mekong giant catfish in Cambodia, the population was already threatened because it is believed to bring good luck forever when eaten.

(L-R) Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Laos Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith pose for a photo during the 2nd Lower Mekong – US Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi on July 22, 2010. AFP

WWF said one quarter of the planet’s giant freshwater fish can be found in the 4,800 km (2,976 miles) river — more species of the huge creatures than in any other waterway on Earth.


Other mammoth fish in the Mekong include the giant freshwater stingray, which is thought to be the world’s biggest river fish and can grow to half the length of a bus, with a maximum weight of 600 kilos (1,320 pounds).


The wildlife group is calling for delays in approval for the dams under development while further study is undertaken on their potential impact.

d
Source: SGGP

Storm threat may imperil BP battle to plug Gulf well

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2010 at 11:18 am

BURAS, Louisiana, July 22, 2010 (AFP) – The threat of a new tropical storm forced crews to make preparations to protect the damaged Gulf of Mexico oil well, which could delay plans to permanently seal the leak that led to the environmental disaster.


The National Hurricane Center said Thursday a storm system over the Bahamas had a 40 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone and would likely move westward into the Gulf of Mexico.

A pelican flies away from boom used to protect Queen Bess Island on July 21, 2010 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. AFP

The forecasting service Accuweather said the forecast track “takes the system near south Florida on Friday then into the eastern Gulf of Mexico by Saturday then into the Louisiana coast Saturday night or Sunday.”


“We are having to watch the weather very, very carefully now and adjust our plans accordingly,” BP senior vice president Kent Wells told reporters Wednesday.


Anxiously eyeing the bad weather brewing in the Caribbean to see if it could become a tropical storm and veer towards the Gulf, US and BP officials pored over data mulling whether to order an evacuation.


But in case it has to evacuate the area around the damaged well, which lies some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast, BP early Wednesday placed a special plug inside the well’s casing.


The well has been capped since Thursday and the plug, dubbed “a storm packer,” was “another barrier, so that nothing can flow up or down past that plug… so that if we have to leave we have multiple barriers,” Wells said.


Depending on how the system develops, officials may have to issue evacuation orders for hundreds of support ships and engineers trying to finish drilling a relief well deep under the seabed.


“If we have to evacuate the area… we could be looking at 10 to 14 day gaps in our lines of operation,” warned retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is in charge of the US government response to the Gulf disaster.


President Barack Obama, who met with top officials including Allen on the oil spill response, “pushed his team to be prepared for any scenarios related to the potential development of a tropical storm in the Gulf,” the White House said.


Any storm would be a frustrating setback as the British energy giant may be within days of permanently plugging the well, which began leaking after an April 20 explosion.


Wells confirmed work had stopped Wednesday on the relief well still seen as the ultimate solution to killing the damaged well, until the weather forecast became clearer.


The final pieces of casing need to be placed on the relief well to protect it before a so-called “static kill” can begin.


Allen said earlier that depending on the weather the “static kill” could start as early as the weekend.


But BP has not yet been given permission to start the operation, and Wells was more cautious on the timing saying it would take three to four days to first finish the relief well casing.


The static kill would see BP try to drown the oil flow by pumping in mud and cement via the giant 30-foot (10-meter) cap which has prevented any oil from streaming into the Gulf for almost a week.


Local residents warned that efforts to choke off the well may be too late, with hundreds of miles of coastline in five Gulf states already fouled.


“There is a definite sense of doom here. Everyone seems just defeated. Every day they are being told about oiled marshes, where they grew up,” said Jessica Lass, spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has set up a center in the small Louisiana town of Buras.


“This is their livelihood, because it’s not like the shrimp are going to come back this year. Knowing that your source of income could potentially be permanently gone, what are you supposed to do?”


A vast swath of the Gulf has been closed to commercial and sport fishing, a key economic lifeline for this impoverished area.


“It’s the uncertainty of what’s going to happen, creating this huge growth in stress levels here,” spokeswoman Lisa Becnel from volunteer group C.A.R.E told AFP.


BP has already spent close to four billion dollars on clean-up costs and compensation claims and has promised to set up a 20-billion-dollar fund to pay victims of the disaster along the US Gulf Coast.


In a sign of some potentially good news, Allen said hundreds of boats deployed to skim oil from the Gulf surface were having trouble finding any.


It is not known exactly how much oil has leaked into the sea, but if an upper estimate of over four million barrels is confirmed, the disaster would be the biggest accidental oil spill ever.

d
Source: SGGP

Naval exercises threat to global peace: N.Korea

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

HANOI (AFP) – Planned naval exercises between South Korea and the United States are a threat to global peace, and new sanctions reinforce a “hostile” policy towards Pyongyang, North Korea said Thursday.


“Such movements pose a great threat not only to the peace and security of the Korean peninsula but also to global peace and security,” said Ri Tong Il, spokesman for the North Korean delegation at regional security talks in Hanoi.

Ri Tong Il is interviewed at the main venue of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Hanoi on July 22, 2010. AFP

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his South Korean counterpart Kim Tae-Young announced the drills on Tuesday, saying they were designed “to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop”.


The manoeuvres begin on Sunday with tensions rising over the sinking in March of the South Korean warship Cheonan.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Seoul before heading to Vietnam for Friday’s ASEAN Regional Forum security talks, announced new sanctions against Pyongyang on Wednesday.


“If the US is truly interested in the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, it must take the lead in creating an atmosphere (for dialogue) rather than hurting such an atmosphere by staging military exercises or imposing sanctions,” Ri said.


“The sanctions are a clear expression of an amplified and intensified hostile policy against the DPRK,” he added, referring to North Korea by its formal initials.


Washington has made a major show of support for its ally Seoul.


Ri said the US moves violated the spirit of a July 9 United Nations Security Council statement on the Cheonan sinking.


The UN condemned the attack as a threat to regional peace and called for “appropriate and peaceful measures” against those responsible.


The UN expressed deep concern at the findings of the multinational investigation team, but noted the North’s denial of responsibility and did not apportion blame.


Clinton said the new sanctions were directed at North Korea’s “destabilising, illicit and provocative policies”.


Ri spoke to reporters after North Korea’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun met Yang Jiechi, the foreign minister of China.


Pak refused to comment, and security guards shoved and manhandled a crowd of cameramen and reporters who surrounded him.


Yang also said nothing after the meeting.


The US called Wednesday for Beijing to look at additional steps to pressure North Korea.


Meanwhile, North Korea’s military will hold more talks Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom with the US-led United Nations Command about the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Command said.


The UN Command, which enforces the armistice that ended the 1950-53 war, said in a statement the colonel-level talks first held last week would resume at 10 am (0100 GMT).


At the previous meeting, the North demanded the right to send a high-level team to the South to inspect evidence dredged from the seabed, including what Seoul and other investigators say is part of a North Korean torpedo.


The South has already rejected the demand, saying the UN Command should handle the case as a serious breach of the armistice.


The colonel-level talks are intended to prepare for discussions between generals from the two sides.


But the North last week said US forces should press Seoul to accept its investigation team before any higher-level talks are held.

d
Source: SGGP

Rodents pose new health threat in Zimbabwe’s towns

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

 A stray cat paws through a heap of refuse between blocks of flats in Harare‘s upmarket Avenues area, sending rats squealing and scurrying for cover among the rubbish.


Across the road, cars take turns to skirt a swelling mound of garbage nearly blocking one of the two lanes.


Informal dumpsites have become a familiar sight in sections of Harare where residents are resorting to emptying bins in open spaces as the municipal authorities fail to collect refuse, causing residents to fear disease outbreaks.


The ubiquitous heaps are breeding grounds for rats and mice, posing a health threat as the rodents sometimes find their way into homes.

People are seen walking past a heap of rubbish in Harare’s Mbare suburb. Local authorites have not collected the garbage over the past few months resulting in the increase of rats in the capital.

Combined Harare Residents’ Association has warned of possible disease outbreak if the refuse problem is not addressed.


“In areas such as Mabvuku, residents say refuse was last collected in February 2009,” the association said in statement, referring to a township in eastern Harare where five people died in a typhoid outbreak in February which affected scores of residents.


“The piles of refuse have provided conducive breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rats and residents fear for their health.”


Rats can spread diseases through droppings, some of which could be life threatening, including salmonella, diarrhea, vomiting and fever.


Humans can also contract ratbite fever from a rat.


“You can’t blame the people who are dumping the rubbish here,” Jennifer Mazhawidza, a street vendor said pointing to a heap of garbage blocking a sanitary lane.


“The municipality should do something about it. They charge levies for collecting refuse but they don’t provide the service. Now there are rats everywhere because of the rubbish and we may have another disease outbreak.”


Municipal authorities collect a monthly levy from residents and companies for refuse collection.


But residents like Tapiwa Ndenda from the populous township of Chitungwiza cannot recall the last time municipal dumptrucks did rounds in his neighbourhood.


“If the trucks came this year, it’s not more than three times,” he says after looking to the sky trying to remember when he last saw the dustmen in the now-rare orange trucks in action.


“We sometimes have these big rats which can easily be mistaken for kittens.”


Chitungwiza recorded the first cases of cholera during an outbreak in 2008 which claimed at least 4,000 lives and affected around 100,000 people across Zimbabwe.


The outbreak was contained last year with a heavy injection of international aid, although sporadic cases are still reported.


A woman who works for a pest-control company said demand for rat-baiting services has surged.

“We get more calls from people wanting to rid their houses of rats than we used to. It’s because of the rubbish that’s everywhere,” said the woman who declined to give her name.

“At my own house I put rat poison and a few rats die, but I keep seeing one every time.”

Godfrey Chikwenhere, a rodent control specialist at the government’s research and extension services said his department was receiving frequent requests for help to get rid of rats.

“We are receiving reports that rodents are on the increase,” said Chikwenhere, who was part of a research team that undertook a study in the southern Africa on the problem of rodents.

“How that relates to incidence of human disease still needs to be researched on.”

Let down by the authorities, residents and civic groups are teaming up in clean-up campaigns to clear away the informal dumpsites.

“However the dumpsites are sprouting again as the city has not complemented the efforts of the residents by collecting refuse,” the residents’ association said.

Source: SGGP

Thai protesters back down after live fire threat

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s anti-government protesters cancelled plans to march on Bangkok’s financial hub Tuesday, as authorities warned they would face tear gas and live weapons fire in any fresh clashes.


Ten days after 25 people were killed and 800 injured in a failed attempt to dislodge the red-shirted demonstrators, the government said it was determined to end four weeks of rallies but would not give a date for the crackdown.

Thai office workers walk past armed soldiers in the Silom business district of Bangkok. AFP photo

The army also toughened its stance on the demonstrators who have paralysed parts of the capital and forced major shopping centres to close, wreaking havoc on the economy, and the tourism industry in particular.


“Security forces will begin by firing tear gas and if they cannot stop protesters, then soldiers will start taking decisive action with live bullets,” army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said.


Sunsern targeted shadowy black-clad provocateurs accused of kicking off the April 10 violence, who have been disowned by both sides of Thailand’s political divide, referring to them as “terrorists”.


“We have received intelligence from the field that terrorists are armed with hand grenades, molotov cocktails and acid,” he said after a meeting chaired by army chief Anupong Paojinda.


Suthep Thaugsuban, the deputy prime minister in charge of national security, also warned that the troops deployed in downtown Bangkok were equipped with weapons and live ammunition and were authorised to fire in self-defence.


“The government intends to enforce the law, but that does not mean it will happen today or tomorrow,” he said of looming plans to shut down the movement.


“Everything will be carefully implemented to lessen damage… I cannot say when.”


The Red Shirts, who are encamped in Bangkok’s retail heartland, had threatened to march Tuesday to the nearby Silom financial district but were thwarted when armed troops and riot police descended Monday.


“Red Shirt protesters will not march into Silom Road because the government has already sent ten of thousands of armed soldiers to occupy the road,” said leader Nattawut Saikuar.


The deployment saw rolls of razor wire rolled out along the financial strip, which is packed with bank headquarters and corporate towers, and knots of soldiers take up positions on overhead walkways.


Nattawut said the Reds would not make any alternative plans for a march, but would focus on bolstering numbers at their rally base which stretches along four kilometres (2.5 miles) of some of Bangkok’s major thoroughfares.


“Before we go into the big battle we have to strengthen our own camp because the military will soon attack us,” Nattawut said, adding that they expect the army to make its move some time before next Monday.


The crowds at the Reds’ camp, a formidable logistical base that offers food, entertainment and facilities for washing and sleeping, have hit 100,000 in the past but dwindled Tuesday to 6,500 in a usual mid-week lull.


Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is resisting calls to stand down and announce fresh elections, said the government knows “the people are suffering” but added that it could not be rushed into taking action.


“Both the government and the people want this to end quickly but we have to think about many factors,” he said on television late Monday. “We have to minimise the damage and do this effectively.”


The protesters are mainly supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is now living in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.


The Reds say that Abhisit’s government is illegitimate because it came to power in a parliamentary vote, not a popular election, and that it is the tool of Thailand’s palace, military and bureaucratic circles.


A rival faction, the elite-backed “Yellow Shirts”, vowed Sunday to take action if the government fails to deal with the protesters within a week, raising fears of new clashes.

d
Source: SGGP

Cuban academic says corruption island’s big threat

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 10:28 am

Corruption at the highest levels of government — not the meddling of a small band of dissidents — is the greatest threat to Cuba’s communist system, a leading academic said in a highly unusual opinion posted Thursday on a state Web site.


The article by Esteban Morales — a historian who has written extensively on race and relations with the United States — crossed a number of red lines in tightly controlled Cuba, including openly discussing corruption rumors surrounding the dismissal of a top government aviation official who had fought alongside Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Castros in the 1950s.

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, left, speaks with Cuba’s President Raul Castro upon arrival to Jose Marti airport in Havana, early Thursday, April 15, 2010

Morales said some top Cuban officials are preparing to divide the spoils if Cuba’s political system disintegrates, like the shadowy oligarchs that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.


“In reality, corruption is much more dangerous than so-called internal dissent,” Morales wrote in the piece, which appeared on the Web site of the state National Artists and Writers Union of Cuba. “The latter is isolated … but corruption is truly counterrevolutionary because it comes from within the government and the state apparatus, which are the ones that really control the country’s resources.”


Members of the artists union have been surprisingly critical of the government in the past, but often with little effect. Criticism can also appear in government newspapers, but rarely on such hot-button issues as corruption among senior officials.


Morales is a prominent intellectual who only Monday appeared on a state television program defending the government on another topic. The frank assessment on the Web site went far further than what is normally tolerated.


Morales never singled out Fidel or Raul Castro for blame, but he said cronyism is rampant in the system that has developed 51 years after their revolution won power and said some officials are waiting for a chance to grab the country’s resources.


“It has become evident that there are people in government and state positions who are preparing a financial assault for when the revolution falls,” Morales wrote. “Others likely have everything ready to produce the transfer of state property into private hands, like what happened in the former Soviet Union.”


Meanwhile, the government early Friday announced preliminary results of an autopsy on Roberto Baudrand, a top Chilean executive who was found dead in his Havana apartment on Monday after being detained by Cuban authorities investigating his company, which is owned by a businessman who was a close friend of Fidel Castro. The autopsy revealed that Baudrand died of a lack of oxygen, and that unnamed drugs and alcohol were found in his blood, the government said in a statement sent to foreign journalists.


It did not say whether the death was considered a suicide, but noted that the investigation would continue.


Chile’s diplomats have pushed Cuban officials for information on the businessman’s death.


Baudrand, 59, was general manager of Alimentos Rio Zaza SA and served as liaison in Cuba for Max Marambio, the former head bodyguard of Chilean socialist President Salvador Allende, who was toppled in a 1973 military coup. The company makes “Tropical Island” brand juices and other food products sold in hard-currency stores catering to foreigners and tourists. The company is joint-owned by Cuba’s government and Marambio, but has been shuttered for months as part of an investigation.


In his scathing opinion piece, Morales brought up another prominent case — the abrupt March 9 firing of veteran revolutionary Rogelio Acevedo, who had overseen the country’s airlines and airports since the 1980s. The government gave no reason for his dismissal, but the island has been awash with speculation that he has been placed under house arrest for corruption.


Exile Web sites have reported that a large amount of cash was found hidden at Acevedo’s house and that he is suspected of operating a private airline, among other things. The government has not commented on the allegations.


“There must be some truth to these reports, because this is a small country where everyone knows each other,” Morales wrote of the speculation over Acevedo. He said the government owed people a fuller account because the same sort of corruption is happening in other state-run institutions.


“Whether it be to vindicate or condemn Acevedo, the people must be told what happened,” he said.


While complaints of low-level corruption are not uncommon in state media, allegations of wide-scale, top-level malfeasance are very unusual and the fall of party officials has usually been seen as an anomaly rather than a symptom of broader rot.


When Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Vice President Carlos Lage were dismissed last year, Fidel Castro wrote that “the honey of power … awoke in them ambitions that led to an undignified role.”

Officials gave few public details of what they had done wrong, though Communist Party members said they were shown a video showing both making disparaging comments about the government and Miami journalist Maria Elvira Salazar released photos showing them partying with a Spanish business representative.

Morales appeared to refer to that case Thursday, when he complained of “favoritism, cronyism, certain acts of corruption” that led to information being passed to Spanish intelligence.

Source: SGGP

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.