Isnin, 13 Januari 2014

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Rodman 'sorry' after controversial North Korea trip

Posted: 12 Jan 2014 11:57 PM PST

BEIJING: An emotional Dennis Rodman appeared to break down Monday as he apologised on his return from a controversial trip to North Korea, where he sang "Happy Birthday" to regime leader Kim Jong-Un.

The former NBA star was widely criticised for refusing to bring up human rights abuses or the plight of a US missionary detained in North Korea during his week-long visit.

The former Chicago Bulls player was also accused of pandering to North Korean authorities during the trip, which featured an exhibition basketball match involving other NBA stars to mark Kim's birthday.

"I love my country, America, I love it and I will never trade it for nothing in the world," the pierced and heavily tattooed Rodman told reporters at Beijing airport.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has described Rodman's actions as "treason".

Rodman said he wanted to "show people that no matter what is going on in the world, for one day... not politics, not all this stuff..." before launching into an apology.

"I am sorry. I am not the president. I am not an ambassador. I am Dennis Rodman. Just an individual, just showing the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day," Rodman said, before his voice broke and he put his hands to his face.

He was ushered through a heavy media presence by security and his entourage, which includes Joseph Terwilliger, a bearded tuba-playing neuroscience professor from Columbia University in New York.

Rodman has developed an unlikely relationship with the young North Korean leader since making his first trip there in February, when he declared Kim a "friend for life".

The former power forward, who was wearing dark glasses, a blue tracksuit top and orange scarf, was asked whether he raised the issue of Kenneth Bae, who was detained by North Korean authorities.

In an interview with CNN last week, Rodman delivered an angry tirade in which he appeared to suggest that the missionary merited his 15-year prison sentence.

"I'm sorry I couldn't do anything," Rodman said, in comments echoing those of his publicist last week.

"I'm sorry, it's not my fault. I'm sorry... I just want to do some good stuff, that's all I want to do, basketball, that's all," he added.

Rodman was returning from his fourth visit to the reclusive state in 12 months.

"It is amazing that I had the opportunity just to go to North Korea, and for the Marshal (Kim) just to give me an opportunity just to be in his presence and in his city," he said, adding that he would visit the North again next month for "another game".

Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, is reported to be a huge fan of basketball and especially of the Chicago Bulls, with whom Rodman won three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Bae was arrested in November 2012 as he entered Rason, a port in the northeast of the hardline Communist state.

North Korea, which bans religious proselytising, says that Bae was a Christian evangelist who brought in "inflammatory" material. -AFP

India defeats polio, global eradication efforts advance

Posted: 13 Jan 2014 12:14 AM PST

NEW DELHI, India: India marks three years since its last reported polio case on Monday, meaning it will soon be certified as having defeated the ancient scourge in a huge advance for global eradication efforts.

The milestone confirms one of India's biggest public health success stories, achieving something once thought impossible, thanks to a massive and sustained vaccination programme.

With the number of cases in decline in Nigeria and Afghanistan, two of only three countries where polio is still endemic, world efforts to consign the crippling virus to history are making steady progress.

"In 2012, there were the fewest numbers of cases in endemic countries as ever before. So far in 2013 (records are still being checked), there were even less," Hamid Jafari, global polio expert at the World Health Organisation told AFP.

"If the current trends of progress continue we could very easily see the end of polio in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2014," added Jafari, hailed as having played a crucial role in India's victory.

Despite the success, isolated polio outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and war-wracked Syria emerged as new causes for concern in 2013.

Nicole Deutsch, head of polio operations for UN children's arm UNICEF in India, called three years without polio in the country "a monumental milestone".

Success and caution

Despite its population density and sanitation problems, "India proved to the world how to conquer this disease," she told AFP.

The Rotary International charity, which has been a key donor, will illuminate the India Gate and Red Fort monuments in New Delhi with a message celebrating the achievement.

Countries are certified by the WHO as being polio-free if they go 12 months without a case, and are then said to have eradicated it after a period of three years without new infections.

India will likely receive this endorsement only in March, which will trigger more exuberant celebrations than on Monday.

There also remain reasons for caution, with the virus still considered endemic in neighbouring Pakistan, where vaccinators are being killed by the Taliban which views them as possible spies.

A fake vaccination programme was used by the CIA to provide cover for operatives tracking Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan by US special forces in May 2011.

Hopes of progress were given a boost last month when cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan pledged to personally spearhead vaccination efforts in the troubled northwest of the country.

In India, the wretched sight of crippled street hawkers or beggars on wheeled trolleys will also remain as a legacy of the country's time as an epicentre of the disease.

In the absence of any official data, most experts agree there are several million survivors left with withered legs or twisted spines who face discrimination and often live on the very margins of Indian society.

Million of vaccinators

The country's success was built on a huge vaccination programme that began in the mid-1990s with the backing of the central government and a coalition of charities, private donors, and UN agencies.

An army of more than two million vaccinators, backed by local religious and community leaders, canvassed villages, slums, train stations and public gatherings in even the most remote parts of the country.

The country reported 150,000 cases of paralytic polio in 1985, and it still accounted for half of all cases globally in 2009, with 741 infections that led to paralysis.

In 2010, the number of victims fell to double figures before the last case on January 13, 2011, when an 18-month-old girl in a Kolkata slum was found to have contracted it.

The girl, Rukshar Khatoon, is now attending school and leads a "normal life", although she still suffers pain in her right leg from the disease, doctors and her parents told AFP.

"She can now stand on her feet and walk, but can't run," her father Abdul Saha said. "When her friends play, she remains a spectator."

Saha, a father of four, conceded he had taken his son to get immunised but not two of his daughters. "It was a grave mistake," he said.

Jafari from the WHO highlighted the immense knock-on benefits for India, which is still afflicted by other preventable diseases, widespread malnutrition and poor sanitation.

"India has now set other important public health goals as a result of the confidence that the country has got from the successful eradication of polio," he said, citing a new measles eradication goal.

Ruling party MP and businessman Naveen Jindal underlined this with a message on Twitter on Monday which read: "Imagine what we can do when we come 2gether." -AFP

Related story:
India's last reported polio victim 'leads normal life'

Report: Snowden worked at US embassy in Delhi

Posted: 13 Jan 2014 05:38 AM PST

NEW DELHI: Fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden worked briefly at the US embassy in India almost three years before revealing the scale of his country's surveillance programmes, according to a report Monday.

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor arrived in New Delhi in September 2010 "to assist as a technical expert" at the US embassy, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

The American magazine, citing an unnamed source, did not say what Snowden was working on at the embassy during his short stay in the Indian capital.

The embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment or confirmation.

Snowden sent shockwaves around the world last year by revealing the extent of Washington's electronic eavesdropping.

The 30-year-old former contractor leaked explosive details of the secret surveillance schemes to media including the Washington Post and Britain's Guardian, and has fled the United States to avoid prosecution.

While in Delhi, Snowden undertook a six-day "ethical hacker and security analyst" course, according to a spokesman for the company that ran the course.

Snowden had contacted Koenig Solutions in 2009, wishing to take a course during his business visit the next year, spokesman Somit Biswas told AFP.

Snowden paid some $2,000 for tuition, food and lodging from his personal account, which he said would be reimbursed, Biswas said.

He started another course in JAVA before cutting halting midway through, saying he had to leave the country for medical reasons, Biswas added.

Snowden's leaks have deeply embarrassed President Barack Obama's administration by revealing the massive scale of America's spying efforts.

He arrived in Russia in June last year as a fugitive and spent more than a month holed up in a Moscow airport before being granted a year's asylum.

US federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint against him, charging him with espionage and felony theft of government property. -AFP


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