Isnin, 5 Mei 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

South Korean diver dies in ferry search operation

Posted: 05 May 2014 08:16 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - A diver lost consciousness and died on Tuesday during the search operation for victims still missing after last month's South Korean ferry disaster.

The diver had lost radio contact five minutes after diving to fix guideline ropes on the fifth deck of the sunken ferry, according to Ko Myung-seok, spokesman for the government's emergency task force.

He was unable to breathe by himself when he was brought to the surface, and his death was later confirmed at a hospital.

The dead man had been working for Undine Marine Industries, the company brought in to lead search efforts on the Sewol ferry, which capsized and sank about 20 km (12 miles) off the southwest coast of South Korea on April 16 with 476 passengers and crew on board.

Among the passengers were 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing to the southern island of Jeju. Only 174 people have been rescued. The confirmed death toll is 263, with 39 still missing.

An investigation is ongoing and amid rising indignation over the government's handling of the disaster, President Park Geun-hye voiced criticism on Tuesday of the role played by the ferry operator and government officials.

"Safety rules that must be observed were not followed because of worldly desires and irresponsible acts that tolerated those injustices have resulted in death," she said during her address at a temple in Seoul on Tuesday to celebrate Buddha's birthday.

She promised to fundamentally change national policies and systems to improve safety and to clean up malpractices to ensure businesses and government officials comply with requirements.

President Park visited the families of the ferry victims on Sunday afternoon in Paengmok port in Jindo for the second time since the tragedy.

Her approval rating had slipped to 53 percent as of May 5, 12 percent down for the two weeks after the disaster, according to Seoul-based polling company Realmeter.

(Additional Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Thai PM in court for hearing that may lead to her dismissal

Posted: 05 May 2014 08:15 PM PDT

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrived at the Constitutional Court on Tuesday to defend herself against charges of abuse of power, one of two legal challenges that could see her removed from office this month.

Six months of street protests aimed at toppling Yingluck have undermined her government, but she has clung on and the number of protesters has dwindled.

However, tension is rising again, with her supporters threatening action if the courts remove her and fears of confrontation with the protesters growing.

Both her supporters and the anti-government protesters plan large rallies in or around Bangkok next week.

Yingluck is charged with abuse of power over her transfer of National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri in 2011, which opponents say was designed to benefit her Puea Thai Party. If found guilty, Yingluck could be forced to step down and some legal experts say her entire government would have to go too.

A verdict will not be handed down on Tuesday but could come quickly afterwards.

Amongst the other charges Yingluck faces is one of dereliction of duty over a state rice-buying scheme that critics say is riddled with corruption and has run up huge losses.

These charges were brought by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is expected to deliver its ruling this month. If found guilty on this count, Yingluck could be removed from office and face a five-year ban from politics.

Efforts to end the protracted political crisis have come to nothing.

Proposals by opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva for the six-month delay of a general election planned for July, so as to allow time for political and electoral reforms, have been rejected by the Puea Thai Party and leaders of the anti-government movement. [ID:nL3N0NP04K]

Yingluck's cabinet is expected to discuss the election date on Tuesday and could draw up a draft decree for royal endorsement.

The protests since November form part of a long-running crisis that broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006 and now lives in exile to avoid a jail term handed down in 2008 for abuse of power. His opponents accuse him of corruption and nepotism.

(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Alan Raybould and Clarence Fernandez)

U.S. delegation urges talks to free American jailed in Cuba

Posted: 05 May 2014 06:05 PM PDT

HAVANA (Reuters) - Four U.S. lawmakers visiting Cuba on Monday urged President Barack Obama to authorise negotiations with the Cuban government about freeing jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross.

The visiting Americans, who met with Gross in his hospital prison, also expressed hope those talks would cover other issues such as the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba and the case of three Cuban spies serving long prison terms in the United States.

Gross, 65, is serving a 15-year sentence over his 2009 arrest and 2011 conviction for attempting to set up an Internet service for Cuban Jews while working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Cuba considered his work a subversive program that used illegal, undercover and noncommercial technology.

Cuba has said it is willing to engage in negotiations about Gross without preconditions, while U.S. officials have disregarded the offer as an attempt to exchange Gross for the three Cuban agents.

"It is time that both countries make a serious commitment to engage in negotiations with no preconditions and we will communicate that to the White House upon our return," Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, told reporters.

She was joined by three other Democrats from the House, Gregory Meeks of California, Sam Farr of New York and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, on a mission sponsored by the Centre for Democracy in the Americas, a group dedicated to changing U.S. policy towards countries in the hemisphere.

All four representatives have long supported the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba.

The congressional delegation met with Gross at his hospital prison and also with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Monday, and they were briefed by American officials before departing the United States.

About a year ago, Cuba began offering to enter talks without preconditions, according to Gross's lawyer, Scott Gilbert.

Cuba previously had more directly sought to link Gross's incarceration to the cases of the so-called Cuban Five, unregistered agents who were caught spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida that opposed the communist government in Havana. Two of the five have been released.

The United States has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for Gross, and no formal talks have taken place.

(Editing by Ken Wills)


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