Selasa, 22 April 2014

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Tension at Everest base camp over sherpa strike threat

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 03:15 AM PDT

Kathmandu (AFP) - Tensions mounted Tuesday at Everest base camp as frustrated mountaineers who have paid tens of thousands of dollars to climb the world's highest peak faced disappointment due to a strike threat by guides.

Thirteen sherpa guides were killed and another three are presumed dead after a devastating avalanche last Friday in the most deadly accident ever on the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) mountain.

The guides have since asked for a pause in expeditions as a mark of respect for their fallen colleagues, and have threatened to cancel all climbing on Mount Everest from this month onwards unless the government revises their insurance limits and sets up a welfare fund.

Ed Marzec, a retired lawyer who had planned to become the oldest American to conquer Everest at the age of 67, said he had decided to abandon his mission after losing a member of his grief-stricken team.

Speaking from base camp, he said the atmosphere between some climbers and their guides was souring -- even as a memorial was set to take place for those lost in the accident, which occurred just ahead of the start of the summer climbing season.

"Things are getting pretty ugly and we have a lot of young climbers keen to summit going from tent to tent, trying to convince people to put pressure on the sherpas so they don't cancel," Marzec said.

His views were echoed in an online account by veteran mountaineer Tim Rippel, who leads expeditions with his company Peak Freaks.

"Sherpa guides are heating up, emotions are running wild," Rippel wrote on his blog. "Things are getting very complicated and there is a lot of tension here and it's growing," he wrote.

Relations between local guides and Western mountaineers hit a low last year when a brawl broke out between three European climbers and a group of sherpas.

The guides have given the government until Monday to respond to their demands, which include a request to pay $10,000 to families of the guides killed in the avalanche as well as those who were injured and are unable to resume work.

Sherpas have also asked the government to pay the medical expenses of the injured, many of whom are recovering in hospital.

The disaster has underscored the risks borne by sherpas who ascend the icy slopes, often before dawn and usually weighed down by tents, ropes and food for wealthy clients.

Sherpas earn between $3,000 to $6,000 a season, but their insurance cover is almost always inadequate when accidents happen.

More than 300 people, most of them local guides, have died on the peak since the first ascent by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. - AFP

India's Modi condemns 'evict Muslims' statement

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 03:05 AM PDT

New Delhi (AFP) - Indian election frontrunner Narendra Modi on Tuesday condemned virulent anti-Muslim remarks by a one-time associate as he sought to keep attention on his core message of development and corruption-free administration.

Praveen Togadia, head of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), faces a police investigation after a video appeared to show him urging Hindus to evict Muslims from their neighbourhoods in western Gujarat state.

Speaking in Gujarat on Saturday, Togadia is heard saying: "We (Hindus) are in a majority -- we should have the courage to intimidate them by taking the law in our own hands."

A lawyer for Togadia said the clip was "false, malafide and mischievous".

Modi, a hardliner from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said he "disapproved" of the statement from Togadia, an associate when both men were in grassroots Hindu groups in the 1980s.

"Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP's well-wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development and good governance," he wrote on Twitter.

"I disapprove (of) any such irresponsible statement and appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so," he added.

Religious tensions, an undercurrent for much of India's election campaign due to Modi's polarising past, have burst into the open in recent weeks following reported comments from hardliners.

Last week, Giriraj Singh, a BJP leader in eastern Bihar state, said critics of the 63-year-old leader "will have to go to Pakistan".

Modi's closest aide, Amit Shah, was temporarily banned from campaigning after he made inflammatory remarks in a constituency torn by anti-Muslim riots last September, urging supporters to seek "revenge" at the ballot box.

Modi remains a hate figure for many Indian Muslims, who make up 13 percent of India's 1.2 billion population and are the largest religious minority in the secular but Hindu-majority country.

In 2002, while he was chief minister of Gujarat state, at least 1,000 people -- mostly Muslims -- were killed in religious riots. Modi has never been found guilty but he later appointed an organiser of the violence to his cabinet.

The BJP, last in power from 1990 to 2004, is widely forecast to emerge as the biggest party in the next parliament, with results in India's staggered elections due on May 16.

Modi rose through the ranks of right-wing Hindu organisations but has been campaigning as a centrist economic reformer, promising clean government after a decade of rule by the scandal-plagued Congress party.

Azam Khan, a Muslim leader of the regional Samajwadi Party, has also been sanctioned during campaigning for stating that only Muslim soldiers had fought for India during a brief 1999 war with Pakistan atop the Kargil ridges in Kashmir. - AFP

Sixty percent of Japanese support whale hunt

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 02:22 AM PDT

Tokyo (AFP) - Sixty percent of Japanese people support the country's whaling programme, but only 14 percent eat whale meat, a new poll showed Tuesday.

The survey comes less than a month after the United Nations' top court ruled the annual mission to the Southern Ocean by Japanese whaling vessels was a commercial hunt masquerading as science in a bid to skirt an international ban.

A weekend opinion poll conducted by the liberal Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed that 60 percent of 1,756 voters supported the "research" whaling programme, against 23 percent who opposed it.

Asked how often they ate whale meat, however, only four percent said they eat "sometimes" and another 10 percent said they eat it "fairly infrequently".

Nearly half (48 percent) said they have not eaten it for "a long time", while 37 percent of respondents said they never eat whale meat.

Although not difficult to find in Japan, whale meat is not a regular part of most Japanese people's diet.

The survey was conducted a day after Japan said it would redesign its Antarctic whaling mission in a bid to make it more scientific, and confirmed it would press ahead with the "research whaling" in the northwestern Pacific. The fleet is due to depart on Saturday.

Tokyo said there would be no hunting in the Southern Ocean in the 2014-15 season, but vessels would be there to carry out "non-lethal research". However, the announcement raised the possibility that harpoon ships would return the following year.

That would put Japan on a collision course with anti-whaling nations like Australia, which brought the case to the International Court of Justice.

- Appetite for whale diminishing -

Japan, a member of the IWC, has hunted whales under a loophole in a 1986 moratorium that allowed it to conduct lethal research on the mammals, but has openly admitted that their meat made its way onto menus.

Tokyo has always maintained that it was intending to prove the whale population was large enough to sustain commercial hunting.

Some observers had predicted the Japanese government would use the cover of last month's court ruling to abandon what many have long considered the facade of a scientific hunt.

The latest poll said 40 percent of voters think the ICJ's verdict was "appropriate" against 39 percent who don't think so.

But Japan's minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said Friday the government would "submit a new research programme by this autumn to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), reflecting the criteria laid out in the verdict".

Like the United States, Japan extensively hunted whales in the 19th century, when they were a source of fuel and food.

But the country's taste for whalemeat has considerably diminished in recent decades as it has become richer and has been able to farm more of its protein.

However, powerful lobbying forces have ensured Tokyo continues to subsidise the hunt with taxpayers' money.

Meanwhile, public support has been mobilised in reaction to what some paint as cultural imperialism by Western environmentalists, particularly the aggressive actions of groups like Sea Shepherd. - AFP


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