Selasa, 26 November 2013

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Thai political protests paralyse more ministries


BANGKOK: Thai opposition protesters besieged several more ministries in Bangkok on Tuesday in a bid to topple the government, as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faced a no-confidence motion in parliament and warned against "mob rule".

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have rallied against Yingluck and her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in the biggest street protests since 2010, when more than 90 civilians were killed in a military crackdown.

Fresh turmoil in the politically turbulent country has sparked international concern and raised fears of a new bout of street violence.

Demonstrators surrounded the interior, agriculture, transport, and sports and tourism ministries, ordering officials inside to leave, a day after occupying the finance and foreign ministries.

"We have to leave because they (the protesters) will cut the utilities," tourism and sports minister Somsak Pureesrisak told AFP.

Around 1,500 protesters, waving Thai flags and blowing whistles, marched to the interior ministry, which was heavily guarded by several hundred security personnel, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Demonstrators gave officials an ultimatum to leave within one hour, threatening to "close the ministry".

Unlike at the interior ministry, most of the government buildings taken over had only a light security presence outside.

But on the streets more generally, police numbers have been increased in Bangkok in response to the expansion late Monday of the Internal Security Act, which gives authorities additional powers to block routes, impose a curfew, ban gatherings and carry out searches.

Yingluck on Tuesday reiterated a vow that authorities would "absolutely not use violence" as she arrived at parliament, which was guarded by dozens of police.

"Everybody must obey the law and not use mob rule to upstage the rule of law," she told reporters.

MPs began debating the no-confidence motion, which was put forward by the opposition Democrat Party last week as part of a barrage of legal and institutional challenges to Yingluck's embattled government.

The ruling Puea Thai party holds a comfortable majority and is expected to win the censure vote expected later in the week.

'Big move' threatened

Recent protests were sparked by Puea Thai plans to introduce an amnesty that could have allowed the return from self-imposed exile of Thaksin, a deeply polarising figure who was deposed by royalist generals in a 2006 coup.

Outrage over that plan failed to ebb after the amnesty was quashed by the Senate on November 11.
On Monday, protesters marched on more than a dozen state agencies across the capital, as well as several television stations.

There were no immediate signs that authorities were moving to evict them Tuesday but authorities said demonstrators appeared to be leaving the foreign ministry.

Television images showed protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who resigned from the Democrats to lead the protest, at the finance ministry surrounded by supporters.

In a press conference broadcast on the opposition's television channel, a rally spokesman insisted protesters would wait until Wednesday before making a "big move".

"We are occupying the finance ministry in a non-violent and peaceful way, so our supporters around the country can do the same and occupy all government offices," said Akanat Promphan, speaking on behalf of Suthep, who had lost his voice after Monday's tub-thumping rally speeches.

Both the United States and Britain have raised concerns over the street action.

The rallies are the biggest challenge yet for Yingluck, who swept to power in 2011 polls on a wave of Thaksin support from the "Red Shirts", whose 2010 protests were crushed by the then Democrat-led government.

Many Red Shirts were also angered by the amnesty proposal, believing it would have pardoned those responsible for the 2010 crackdown, but they have since rallied in support of the government, with thousands massing in a stadium in Bangkok.

"Suthep is not trying to throw out the government... he wants to throw out democracy and replace it with an ultra-royalist administration," Red Shirt leader Thida Thavornseth told AFP.

Thaksin draws strong support from many of the country's rural and urban working class. But he is loathed by the elite and the middle classes, who accuse him of being corrupt and a threat to the monarchy.

A series of protests by the royalist "Yellow Shirts" helped to trigger the coup that toppled Thaksin, who now lives abroad to avoid a prison term for corruption that he contends was politically motivated. -AFP

China high-speed train kills four rail workers


BEIJING: A Chinese high-speed train killed four maintenance workers after a communication failure, state media reported Tuesday, the latest fatal incident on the country's flagship rail network.

The D28 train was at least 11 minutes behind schedule when it hit five railway personnel maintaining and cleaning the track during what was supposed to be their "working hour window", the 21st Century Business Herald said.

Four of the staffers, all under 30 and two of them new university graduates, were killed and one injured, said the report, which cited an internal railway circular.

China's high-speed rail network is the largest in the world, and seen by Beijing as a symbol of the country's advance.

But the expansion - which has cost hundreds of billions of dollars - has seen a series of scandals and widespread allegations of corruption, with accusations that safety has been compromised for speed.

The incident, between Taian and Panjin North in the northeastern province of Liaoning on Friday, was the latest fatal accident on the network.

At least 40 people were killed in a high-speed train crash near Wenzhou in Zhejiang province in July 2011.

Ex-railway minister Liu Zhijun, who campaigned for and oversaw the expansion of the high-speed network, was given a suspended death sentence in July for taking 64.6 million yuan ($10.6 million) in bribes. -AFP

AFDetect uses phone’s in-built camera to help detect irregular heartbeats


THOSE who are worried about erratic heartbeats but wish to avoid medical tests can now find the answer in a new mobile app that can detect the common disorder – within a minute.

Called AFDetect, the app uses the phone's in-built camera and flash light to detect one's pulse, which is analysed for the problem called atrial fibrillation.

The creator of the app, local medical device company HealthSTATS International, claims the app is a world's first and has patented the software behind it.

Adults over the age of 40 have a one in four chance of developing atrial fibrillation in their lifetime.

Typically, hospitals and clinics use an electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect the disorder.

The process, which involves placing electrodes on a person's chest, can be cumbersome and time-consuming for some, said HealthSTATS' chief executive Ting Choon Meng.

While there are drugs that can treat the condition, it is not easily detectable because it happens intermittently, Dr Ting noted.

"Even if the person goes to the doctor, his heart palpitations may have stopped by then."

The app, which is co-developed with and tested at University College London, is available on GooglePlay for Android users at S$1.98 (RM5.10).

The iPhone version is expected to be launched in January.

Users place their index finger over the camera lens for about 40 seconds.

The beam from the phone's flash light illuminates the pulsating capillary tissue beneath the surface of the finger.

Each time blood is sent to the fingertip, minute colour changes occur in the blood vessels, which are picked up by the camera lens.

The information can be saved and provided to a doctor.

The technology was tested on two batches of 50 patients, including people known to have atrial fibrillation – 98% of these sufferers were correctly identified.

HealthSTATS hopes to introduce the app to clinics here, as well as to people who engage in strenuous sports.

Dr Ng Siau Peng, a general practitioner, said many cases of atrial fibrillation are detected by chance as patients had actually showed up for a different health problem.

Said Dr Ng, who runs a clinic in Ubi: "Most patients would not know that they have this problem, and doctors may not be quick enough to pick it up due to limited consultation time." — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network


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