Ahad, 23 Mac 2014

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Taiwan police use water cannon to retake government HQ

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 10:32 PM PDT

TAIPEI: Taiwan riot police unleashed water cannon Monday to dislodge hundreds of demonstrators who had stormed government headquarters in violent scenes that dramatically escalated a days-old protest against a trade pact with China.

After nearly a week-long occupation of Taiwan's parliament, the protesters late Sunday also infiltrated the Executive Yuan where the cabinet is located, pulling down barbed-wire barricades outside and using ladders to break into offices on the second floor.

The assault came after President Ma Ying-jeou refused to back down on the trade pact, which he argues is vital for Taiwan's economic future, rejecting opposition claims that he is effectively handing the island over to Chinese control after six decades of political separation.

About 1,000 officers were deployed overnight to forcibly remove the protesters from the Executive Yuan. Premier Jiang Yi-huah, whose office is located in the building, said at least 110 people were injured, including 52 police officers, while police arrested 61 people.

"Suddenly water was spraying at us and it was very powerful. My glasses flew off and I was very dizzy," protester Frank Hsieh, a former premier from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told reporters.

One injured male protester lay on the ground receiving medical care, while another was led away with blood streaming down his face, AFP journalists saw.

After taking over the building, many protesters had lain on the ground with their arms linked to defy efforts to shift them.

Police used riot shields to push the crowds back while some of the demonstrators tried to grab their batons and pelted them with plastic bottles. Two water cannon trucks were then deployed early Monday, eventually subduing the crowd and clearing the building.

"The government denounces violence and dispersed the crowd according to the law. We will not tolerate actions designed to paralyse the government," the presidential office said in a statement. 

'Let us calm down'

But the DPP, which historically has favoured formal independence for Taiwan, called on Ma to respond to the protesters' demands and scrap the pact.

"Forcible dispersals will only cause more students and police to get hurt and are likely to trigger more outrage and protests," the party said in a statement.

Ma has overseen a marked thaw in relations with Beijing since he came to power in 2008 pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links.

But China still considers Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification - by force if necessary - while Taipei still styles itself the legitimate "Republic of China".

The president warns that trade-reliant Taiwan could be marginalised without the China agreement - which is designed to further open up trade in services - and similar pacts with other countries, as regional economic blocs emerge.

"I must say that (the pact) is completely for the sake of Taiwan's economic future," Ma told a news conference on Sunday, denouncing the parliamentary sit-in before the protests spread to the Executive Yuan.

"Let us calm down and think carefully. Is this the democracy we want? Do we have to do in this way, risking the rule of law?"

Some 200 protesters - mainly college students - stormed the parliament last Tuesday and took over its main chamber to stop Ma's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party from ratifying the agreement with China.

Hundreds of police attempted to end the occupation hours after it began, but failed to push their way through piles of armchairs barricading the doorways.

After the unruly scenes at the Executive Yuan, hundreds of police remained deployed outside the parliament complex a short walk away on Monday.

But they showed no sign of intervening to retake control of the chamber inside, where the protesters remain holed up.

Parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who is from the KMT party, has ruled out force to retake the chamber and called for a peaceful resolution. -AFP

Missing plane fuels security rethink

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: As the hunt for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 enters a third week, the piecemeal returns from one of the most intense, international searches in living memory have delivered a public and institutional shock that could force a major rethink about aviation security.

The fact that a Boeing-777 equipped with state-of-the-art location tracking technology could vanish for so long, is in itself, aviation experts say, shocking enough to compel changes in the way commercial aircraft are electronically monitored.

One priority would be to enhance tracking coverage for a plane in an emergency situation that forces it beyond the reach of conventional radar systems.

It was modern satellite imagery that pointed MH370 investigators to a remote part of the Indian Ocean 2,500km southwest of Perth, but the physical search for debris in the area had to rely on less sophisticated methods – binoculars held to the windows of spotter planes.

If a crash site is finally located, investigators will have to rush to find the plane's crucial "black box" before it stops emitting its tracking signals.

"There's no doubt that what has gone on is one of the greatest mysteries of modern aviation and it will have an impact on the global aviation and airline industry," Jonathan Galaviz, partner at the US-based travel and aviation consultancy firm Global Market Advisors, said.

"I expect there will be a real examination of the kind of recording technology we have right now in airplanes, a debate on how they are designed and how long they can last," Galaviz said.               

"There will also be discussion about live satellite streaming of such data so that it can constantly be monitored," he added.

The separate flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder currently send pings for about 30 days – a timespan that could well be reconsidered given the unprecedented length of the search for the Malaysian airliner.

The mystery of MH370 owes much to the abrupt nature of its "disappearance".

Nearly one hour into its flight, both its automated signalling systems ceased to function and the plane dropped off civilian radar.

The immediate assumption was of a catastrophic event that plunged the plane into the South China Sea before any distress call could be made.

But sketchy satellite and military radar showed that, in fact, the aircraft had veered sharply off course, backtracked across the Malaysian peninsula, and then flown on – possibly for hours – in a northerly or southerly direction.

Technology already exists for passenger jets to immediately relay the black box data via satellite, but most commercial airlines have baulked at the prospect of investing millions in such systems, as bottom lines come under pressure due to rising fuel costs and increasing competition.

Major airlines, including Malaysia Airlines, have access to the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (Acars), a digital datalink via satellite or VHS radio, for brief text messages from aircraft, but they do not compare with the parameters that the flight data recorder monitors.

In the case of flight MH370, the Acars, which was supposed to transmit data every 30 minutes, failed to send messages after the aircraft fell off civilian radar.               

Andrew Herdman, director-general of the Asia Pacific Airlines Association, said costs for satellite-linked black boxes could be minimised by programming them to transmit data to ground controllers only when an in-flight abnormality is detected.

Such abnormalities might include the disabling of communications systems or a sudden deviation from the flight plan.

"The idea of live streaming the black boxes would also entail an enormous amount of data being transmitted on any given day and that in itself would also be a huge logistical challenge," he said.

Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor for aviation industry magazine Flightglobal, said the uptake of such technology by airlines would be a "slow and gradual process".

Airlines may move faster if leading civil aviation regulators including the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency decide to make such systems mandatory for their respective jurisdictions within a set deadline, he said. — AFP

Kim Jong-Un lookalike sizzles in China

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 10:36 PM PDT

BEIJING: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un strikes fear into some hearts, but photos of a Chinese street food vendor with a distinct resemblance to the Pyongyang strongman have fuelled online mirth.

Chubby, with a round face and sporting Kim's trademark side-shaved haircut, the vendor was pictured cooking skewered meat on a rusty barbecue.

Though his identity remains unknown, he works in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, not far from the border with North Korea.

Like Kim, the vendor has a penchant for high-buttoned jackets, and a smoking habit.

But he appears to lead a simpler existence than his powerful doppelganger - who is reported to enjoy a luxury lifestyle - and was seen at the weekend sitting on a small plastic stool, tending to his meaty wares.

Thousands of Chinese Internet users commented on the images, with many referring to Kim by the nickname "Fatty the Third", a reference to his weight as well as his inheritance of his position from his father and grandfather.

Beijing has long been Pyongyang's closest ally, but the North's continued nuclear programme is said to have chilled ties, and Chinese social media users often skewer the young leader with irreverent criticism.

"This has got to be Fatty the Third's brother - quick, bring him back!" wrote one user of Sina Weibo, a social media service similar to Twitter.

China provides the bulk of North Korea's trade and aid, and another user wrote: "Fatty the Third finally has a money-making career."

Another added: "If Kim Jong-Un saw these pictures, I'm sure he'd hire him as a body double." -AFP

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Insight - Disquiet in Baltics over sympathies of Russian speakers

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 06:00 AM PDT

DAUGAVPILS, Latvia/TALLINN (Reuters) - In the former Soviet republics of Latvia and Estonia, there is unease over events in Crimea, which was formally annexed by Moscow last week on the pretext of safeguarding its Russian minorities.

Russian news reports carried in Crimea had said Ukraine was being overrun by gangs of anti-Russian fascist thugs and that hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking refugees had fled a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Ukraine, a claim for which no evidence has been found.

In the Latvian town of Daugavpils, where a Russian Tzarist-era fortress and barracks meet grey Soviet-era apartment blocks, you are more likely to be greeted in Russian than Latvian, with 51 percent of the city's residents Russians.

Russian speaker Irina Gorkina says the region, within two hour's drive of Russia's border, has never seen ethnic conflict.

She quickly knocks on the wooden table in front of her - three times - just in case.

"Not everything is smooth here. Not everything is right," said the 59-year-old, whose father was born in Latvia and mother in Russia. She complains about pensions and slow economic growth in the region. "But it's not only Russians who suffer from state policies; Latvians do, too."

Concern over the Baltics extends to Brussels.

"I mean if you are a Baltic country, where we have 40 percent of people speaking Russian, you are not very comfortable these days," said an EU official, who asked to remain anonymous.

"I would not be surprised if we are now going to see troops of some of our member states in some of these countries."

Russian speakers make up about 35 percent of Latvia's 2 million population. In Estonia, around a quarter of its 1.3 million people are Russian speakers. In neighbouring Lithuania, which does not border Russia, ethnic Russians make up about 6 percent.

The three Baltic states are all NATO members, and Lithuania will be the last of them to adopt the euro currency next year as the three lean towards the West, but they are also hugely dependent on energy from Russia and have strong trade ties.

Some fear their Russian enclaves could be geopolitical flashpoints, potentially manipulated by President Vladimir Putin to destabilise the region. Moscow has long complained about the rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltics.

SECOND CLASS CITIZENS?

Jurijs Zaicevs, a 26-year-old Daugavpils City Council member said "dissatisfaction in the Russian community is huge", mainly due to the issue of citizenship.

Thousands of Russians came over during the Soviet era to work in Baltic industries. But after 1991 independence, they were not granted automatic citizenship in the new republics. Many still hold on to Russian passports.

Many complain they feel like second-class citizens. About 270,000 Latvians do not have citizenship, cannot vote or apply for certain public sector jobs.

"We are non-citizens. They called us occupiers, but now they turn out occupiers themselves. This is Russia's land," said Marija, a Russian-speaking 80-year-old at the market in Daugavpils. She came to Latvia in the early 1950s.

In some of the worst unrest since independence, ethnic Russians in Estonia rioted in 2007 over the relocation of a Soviet-era Bronze Soldier victory statue. That was followed by cyber attacks on Estonian computers, which the government blamed on Russia.

There was disquiet when, as pro-Russian forces took up positions in Crimea, the Russian ambassador to Latvia offered Russian passports and pensions for ethnic Russians. Then a Moscow diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this month that "language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups", and Russia was "concerned by steps taken in this regard in Estonia as well as in Ukraine".

Latvians now want Russian speakers in the country to learn their language, which some see as a resurgence of Latvian nationalism. After more than half a century of living in the country, many Russian speakers only understand basic Latvian.

As in southern and eastern parts of Ukraine, they depend for their news on Russian media, largely controlled by the Kremlin, which worries Baltic governments. Lithuania last week banned a Russian TV channel for broadcasting "lies" about the country's history.

Some ethnic Latvians say Russian speakers were hostile to Latvia's adoption of the euro because of the influence of Russian media.

For all that, Marija Kokareva, a 20-something vendor at a market in the centre of Daugavpils, is the face of a new generation that sees Latvia as its motherland.

"I've spent my childhood in Latvia," she said in Russian. "I'm a Latvian citizen and would of course not want to separate from Latvia. We are proud of our country."

FROM ST PETERSBURG TO TALLINN

In Narva, one of Estonia's biggest cities, near the Russian border, where Russian speakers are a majority, there is some fellow feeling with the people of Crimea.

But the number of people with real nostalgia for the Soviet era is declining. A younger generation now has the Euro and the chance to travel freely in Europe.

"People in Narva can, of course, see across the river and see that life is not better in Ivangorod in Russia, so they are happy where they are," said Andres Kasekamp, a political science professor at Estonia's Tartu University.

Estonian film director Aljona Surzhikova has made several documentaries in the past decade on Estonia's Russian enclave.

"When we were filming in Narva 10 years ago, the youth were looking more towards St. Petersburg, but now they are looking towards Tallinn," she has been quoted by local media as saying.

Integration may be slow, but it is happening.

In Estonia, which uses the phrase "Our Russians" to describe ethnic Russians in the country, some of its best footballers are Russian. Konstantin Vassiljev's goals took Estonia to the qualifying round of the Euro football championship in 2012.

This year's Estonian entry for Eurovision, the continent's annual song contest, is for the first time, by an ethnic Russian singer, Tatjana Mihhailova.

Fjodor Dubinin, a Russian citizen who studied shipping in Riga and is now a pensioner in Daugavpils, said he doubted people were looking so much towards Moscow these days.

"I think that we won't be asking for help from Putin," he said. "We live well. Nobody says anything bad to me, and I don't do so (to others) either."

(Additional reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius and Luke Baker in Brussels; Writing by Mia Shanley and Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Will Waterman)

Turkey shot down Syrian plane which violated air space - media

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 05:50 AM PDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's armed forces shot down a Syrian plane on Sunday after it crossed into Turkish air space, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, quoting officials.

Syrian activists said the incident occurred close to an area where Syrian rebels have been battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces for control of a border crossing between the two countries.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Syrian jet shot down near Turkish border - media

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 05:40 AM PDT

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian plane was shot down on Sunday in the northern border region with Turkey where rebels have been battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces, activists and regional media said.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted local residents as saying the plane was brought down by shooting from the Turkish side of the border. Al Manar, the television station of Lebanon's Hezbollah group, said two rockets were fired from Turkish territory.

But Turkish media quoted officials as denying Turkey had shot it down and said Syrian rebels were responsible.

(Reporting By Dominic Evans in Beirut and Daren Butler in Istanbul)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Comic comeback: Billy Crystal to return to TV in 2015

Posted: 20 Mar 2014 09:25 PM PDT

The American actor will topline The Comedians, a 13-episode series set to air on FX next season.

In this comedy inspired by the Swedish format Ulveson & Herngren, Billy Crystal will play a veteran comic forced to team up with a young newcomer on a late-night TV show. The up-and-coming comic will be played by Josh Gad, who was recently seen in Jobs and The Internship.

Crystal contributed to the screenplays for the series alongside Community writer Ben Wexler. The pilot episode was directed by Larry Charles, the former Seinfeld writer who has helmed several episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, in addition to the Sacha Baron Cohen vehicles Borat, Brüno and The Dictator. Convinced by this test run, FX has placed an order for the first season, consisting of 13 episodes.

The Comedians will give Crystal his first regular TV role since he played Jodie Dallas on ABC's soap opera parody Soap in the early 1980s. – AFP Relaxnews

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Companies urged to hire the disabled

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

KULAIJAYA: Companies in Johor have been urged to be more receptive to hiring people with disabilities.

State Unity and Human Resouces exco R. Vidyanathan has said that so far the state government has identified 30 companies that have already employed disabled people.

"I am sure there are more in other districts and we urge them to come forward and work with the state government so that we can do job matching and include the disabled people in the state's developments," he said after launching a job fair for special people in Senai here yesterday.

He said the fair was a good beginning in getting potential employers to be more proactive in creating job opportunities for people with disabilities and less privileged people like single mothers, ex-convicts and ex-drug addicts.

A disabled worker Norhanah Ismail who walks with a crutch is one of those who had benefited from the matching programme.

Met at the fair, the 44-year-old printing assistant said she went through a very bad time trying to secure a stable job due to her disability. She had struggled finding a job suitable for her condition before she managed to land a job at the printing company in Bandar Baru Uda.

Nohanah, 44, who suffered from the disability after being born prematurely and suffering from severe fever added that she felt grateful as her employer has been understanding since she began working at the company four years ago.

"I am given the responsibility of handling the printing process for business cards, banners and buntings, which do not require a lot of physical exertion," she said.

She said sometimes she would be asked to work faster to meet urgent orders.

"But I take it as a challenge because I want to prove to others that even with my shortcomings, I can perform well and do my best," she said, adding that she learned basic reading and writing from courses conducted by the state Welfare Department.

She was among those who received certificates of appreciation at the fair, which recognises the efforts by special people to strive to be independent and earn their own keep.

Three captive Sumatran rhinos raise conservation hopes

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife researchers are hopeful that three Sumatran rhinoceros now in captivity at a reserve will help save the species from extinction.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said they were examining the latest captive, a female Sumatran rhino recently translocated to the reserve to join two other creatures from the critically endangered species.

The female rhino was air-lifted by a helicopter to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve on Friday, about 10 days after its capture at the Danum Valley conservation area.

Researchers have named the female rhino Iman after the small river at the Danum Valley.

"Once Iman is settled into Tabin, we will review all potential options on how she can best contribute to her species," Dr Ambu said.

"We hope that this success will act as a boost to international collaboration on the Sumatran rhino, and through the NGO Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), try to engage with our counterparts in Indonesia."

He said the capture of Iman and two others – a male named Tam and a female named Puntung – was necessary.

"The Sumatran rhino is on the verge of extinction in Sabah. Bringing them into captive conditions allows us to maximise the chance that each rhino can help save the species," Laurentius said, adding that the department had been working on this matter with Bora, WWF Malaysia and Yayasan Sabah.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state Cabinet had decided a year ago to bring all remaining Sumatran rhinos into a managed, fenced-in facility.

"Our hope is to breed them with the neccessary local and global expertise," he said.

"We also hope that with the continued support and expertise on rhino reproductive biology from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife based in Berlin, Germany, we will have baby rhinos soon," Masidi added.

In this regard, he said while the Sabah cabinet had agreed to loan Tam to the Cincinatti Zoo for breeding as part of international collaboration, that move may not be necessary if Iman was proven to be fertile.

"The state Cabinet approval to send Tam to the United States was conditional upon our failure to catch a fertile young female rhino at Danum within a reasonable time to mate with Tam," he added.

MAS: Battery cargo non-hazardous

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

SEPANG: The cargo of lithium-ion batteries carried as cargo on MH370 is deemed non-hazardous, said Malaysia Airlines chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahaya (pic).

He said this when asked about reports of previous air incidents from lithium-ion batteries carried in passengers' baggage or aircraft cargo.

"Despite the reports, it is deemed non-hazardous cargo, provided it is handled in accordance to very specific and strict guidelines and compliance.

"This is done by all airlines," Ahmad Jauhari told a press conference here.

To another question on why MAS did not upgrade its satellite services which may have helped in locating the missing plane, Ahmad Jauhari said an update "would not have made any difference in the current situation."

"The service is only to increase bandwidth for the satellite communications and the current set-up that we have fulfils all our needs."

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Time Regulation Institute

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 04:00 PM PDT

The first Turkish book to be translated into English.

THE Time Regulation Institute was originally published in 1962, the year of the author's death. It is generally regarded as the pinnacle of Ahmet Hamdi Tapinar's literary career. This is the first Turkish book to be translated into English and published by Penguin Classics and the filter of translation is so fine as to be imperceptible.

Set in the 1930s in Tanpinar's native Turkey, and almost entirely centred on the city of Istanbul, this book is a sardonic exploration of a country, navigating the narrow straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles that separate Europe from Asia, tugged in one direction by the winds of Kemal Ataturk's modernisation, while pulled in the opposite by the undertow of tradition and history. The cover illustration captures this cleverly with one hand of a ticking clock depicted as the minaret of a mosque.

When approaching this book it helps to understand a little of the history of the time in which it is set. Ataturk was Turkey's first president and one of the early 20th century's most charismatic and visionary political reformists. He established Turkey as a secular country, instigated free and fair elections, abolished the Caliphate and the Sharia courts, unified the hitherto fragmented education system, gave equality to women and replaced the Arabic writing system with a new Turkish Latin-based alphabet.

The introduction and control of so many reforms required the creation of a massive bureaucracy, with all the attendant ills inherent in such a system. It is on this canvas that Tanpinar wryly paints his satirical picture of the growing pains of a nation as related through, and reflected by, his unreliable narrator Hayri Irdal.

One of the central conceits of the plot is that inanimate objects are affected by their owners; a borrowed jacket will cause the wearer to embody certain characteristics of the lender, for example, but most importantly and central to the story, watches, clocks and any other timepieces, already being semi-animate objects (they are treated like patients by the watch repairman to whom the narrator is apprenticed in his youth, and his childhood household is ruled over by an eccentric and dictatorial grandfather clock called the Blessed One) are particularly susceptible to the vibrations of transubstantiation (just like Flann O'Brien's cyclists and their bicycles).

The Time Regulation Institute is established with the insight that, while influenced by their human owners and their whims, these timepieces also exercise a disproportionate level of control over them. Hence the control and coordination of the clockwork of the timepieces is an effective, and indeed necessary, means by which to regulate society. A complex system of fines are put in place to punish those whose clocks or watches run fast or slow.

While there are moments in this book that are laugh-out-loud funny, there are times when the reader becomes mired in long and ploddingly tedious passages about complex family dynasties redolent of some of the more ponderous works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Indeed, this book takes almost as much stamina and perseverance as Marquez's One Hundred Years Of Solitude.

The Time Regulation Institute is rich in analogy and euphemism and I suspect a reader with a greater familiarity of Turkish history might understand certain sub-plots and allusions better than this reviewer.

The decay and disintegration of a once rich and populous household mirrors the decline of the Ottoman Empire. But even though time is inexorably moving forward, the past still refuses to dissipate completely, as in an episode where a dead aunt comes back to life just as she is about to be buried. Poverty and riches are juxtaposed. Uneducated and unsuitable people, like the narrator himself, are put in positions of influence and importance. The protagonist's life and world are changing.

On one level the story is a comedy of errors. A quest for a mythical jewel, based on an off-hand joke, gets completely out of hand, and sees Idral dragged through protracted and complicated legal proceedings that lead to him being entrusted into the dubious care of a neurotic psychiatrist, who he eventually befriends and adopts as a mentor.

This book is a dense and multi-layered satire on government and bureaucracy and contains many elements of the fantastic, with alchemy, an opium addict, unseen spirits, dream sequences and absurd, surreal and farcical episodes thrown into the mix. If you are a reader who has the inclination and requisite endurance to read Dostoyevsky, or Dickens, then you won't find The Time Regulation Institute overly taxing; but if you tend to prefer an easy and light-hearted read then you might find this book somewhat challenging.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Thousands mourn Shanghai's 'underground' bishop

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 05:18 PM PDT

Shanghai (AFP) - Thousands of mourners packed a Shanghai square Saturday to bid farewell to "underground" Catholic Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, whose faith led him to endure decades of suffering at the hands of China's ruling Communist Party, they said.

Fan, who was imprisoned for much of the last two decades and spent his final years under house arrest, died last Sunday at the age of 97 after several days of high fever, according to the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, a Roman Catholic organisation.

China has a state-controlled Catholic Church, which rejects the Vatican's authority, as well as an "underground" church. Experts estimate that there are as many as 12 million Catholics in China, split roughly evenly between the two churches.

"I came here to bid farewell to our bishop," said a woman in her 60s who gave her name only as Clare and who was among a throng of mourners gathered outside the funeral home where Fan's body was laid out.

"He had kept loyal to the Lord throughout his life and endured great suffering. I have great respect for him," she said of Fan, who was appointed bishop of Shanghai in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

In the square outside the funeral home, a large screen displayed photos of Fan while mourners sang, prayed and listened to a man narrating the bishop's life story.

As the service got underway, it relayed scenes from inside the funeral home: Fan's body was laid out in the centre, flanked by mourners and clergy in red-and-white robes. A large photo of Fan adorned the hall, surrounded by flowers.

Chinese authorities had turned down a request from worshippers to hold Fan's funeral service at Shanghai's main Catholic cathedral, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said.

- 'Forbidden' from pastoral duty -

Fan was ordained a priest in 1951 and spent more than two decades in jail and labour camps. His appointment as bishop of Shanghai in 2000 was rejected by China's state-run church.

"Bishop Fan was forbidden to carry out his pastoral duty as the government put him under house arrest almost immediately -- a sentence that he served until the day he died," Joseph Kung, president of the foundation, wrote in a statement.

China's Communist regime broke ties with the Vatican in 1951, and although relations have improved in recent years as the country's Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain priests.

Shanghai is considered an important diocese given the city's historical ties to the Catholic Church -- it was home to Xu Guangqi, one of the most prominent converts secured by 16th-century Italian missionary Matteo Ricci.

The long-serving bishop of Shanghai's state-run Catholic Church, Aloysius Jin Luxian, died last year at age 96.

Father Giuseppe Zhu Yude, a priest from the underground church, led the mass for Fan's funeral on Saturday.

Overseas and underground Chinese Catholics had requested that Jin's successor, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, be allowed to preside.

But that request was apparently rebuffed. According to the Vatican-linked AsiaNews website, Ma -- who was stripped of his title after he dramatically split with China's state-run church at his installation ceremony last July and has since been under house arrest -- remained under close watch by authorities.

Members of both the state-controlled and underground churches were in attendance at Fan's funeral, and some expressed concern about the uncertainty the church in Shanghai now faces.

"Bishop Fan had held onto his faith during the darkest times," said a middle-aged woman named Grace. "I believe as long as we follow his example, the Lord will bless the Shanghai diocese and we will have new leadership."

India's new breed of politicians

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

As India heads towards general elections, candidates with no political background will throw down the most serious challenge yet to the establishment.

IN Indian politics, as is generally the way of the world, old men died and the young filled their places. But the typical politician has not changed beyond recognition over the decades. He is still mostly a he; a relic and beneficiary of village values even when he lives in the heart of a city, who correctly identifies modernity as his archenemy; a practical man of ordinary intellect who is perceived to be corrupt, even dangerous.

Until recently, the young who were heralded as the "new breed" of politicians tended to be merely the progeny of this typical politician. They were not very different from their papas.

They just wore the skin of an easily procured Western education and all its masquerades. It was as if the typical Indian politician were a species so suited to the terrain where it foraged that it did not have to evolve.

But then circumstances forced the voters to evolve and from them have risen the mutants – engineers, activists, corporate executives, journalists, former government officers and at least one actress – who have become politicians out of necessity. Naïve and upright, they view politics as a transformational public service. It is not the first time that Indians infected with idealism have entered politics. But now, as the great republic heads toward general elections, they will throw down the most serious challenge yet to the old.

"What has happened is that the pool of hyper-aspirational youth has become very, very large, and they want Indian politics to change," said Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of the software firm Infosys and until recently the bureaucrat at the helm of India's attempt to give every citizen a unique biometric identity.

Nilekani is running for office for the first time, and his declaration of assets to the Election Commission will affirm the known fact that he is a billionaire and the richest candidate in the fray among those whose wealth can be measured.

Most of those who are debuting in electoral politics are drawn to the Aam Aadmi Party, a new outfit born out of public rage against the typical politician.

Nilekani is an anomaly because he has joined the governing Indian National Congress.

The significance of the vast pool of hopeful, educated young people that Nilekani was referring to is that they do not have the means to escape to the West and so are deeply invested in the fate of the nation. The idea of home as the only refuge, which is often expressed as nationalistic awakening, is the fundamental force behind the heightened interest in politics today not only among the young, but also the many layers of the middle class.

In November 2008, after 10 terrorists attacked Mumbai, the urban disquiet over the state of the nation erupted in the form of street processions and passionate television shows that abused the political class so severely that politicians threatened to censor television news in the interest of national security.

Meera Sanyal, a banker whose friend died in the terrorist attack as he was dining in a hotel, was inspired by the public rage against politicians to run in the 2009 general elections as an independent candidate from the high-profile Mumbai South constituency.

She fared very poorly. She is running again now, and this time, she told me, "There is a sea change in the voters."

In 2009, she said: "People thought I was crazy. Friends said politics was dirty business and there was no place in it for someone like me. But now, the idea that a person with no political background should enter politics has become mainstream."

This is a consequence of the extraordinary impact of the Aam Aadmi Party, which she has joined.

"It is a magnet for people with no political background who want to enter politics," she said.

The Aam Aadmi Party believes it is a sudden force of nature that can make the typical Indian politician extinct.

The transformation has begun, and irrespective of the fortunes of the Aam Aadmi Party, the golden age of a dominant species is over. — © 2014 The New York Times

> Manu Joseph is author of the novel 'The Illicit Happiness of Other People'.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Thousands mourn Shanghai's 'underground' bishop

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 05:18 PM PDT

Shanghai (AFP) - Thousands of mourners packed a Shanghai square Saturday to bid farewell to "underground" Catholic Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, whose faith led him to endure decades of suffering at the hands of China's ruling Communist Party, they said.

Fan, who was imprisoned for much of the last two decades and spent his final years under house arrest, died last Sunday at the age of 97 after several days of high fever, according to the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, a Roman Catholic organisation.

China has a state-controlled Catholic Church, which rejects the Vatican's authority, as well as an "underground" church. Experts estimate that there are as many as 12 million Catholics in China, split roughly evenly between the two churches.

"I came here to bid farewell to our bishop," said a woman in her 60s who gave her name only as Clare and who was among a throng of mourners gathered outside the funeral home where Fan's body was laid out.

"He had kept loyal to the Lord throughout his life and endured great suffering. I have great respect for him," she said of Fan, who was appointed bishop of Shanghai in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

In the square outside the funeral home, a large screen displayed photos of Fan while mourners sang, prayed and listened to a man narrating the bishop's life story.

As the service got underway, it relayed scenes from inside the funeral home: Fan's body was laid out in the centre, flanked by mourners and clergy in red-and-white robes. A large photo of Fan adorned the hall, surrounded by flowers.

Chinese authorities had turned down a request from worshippers to hold Fan's funeral service at Shanghai's main Catholic cathedral, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said.

- 'Forbidden' from pastoral duty -

Fan was ordained a priest in 1951 and spent more than two decades in jail and labour camps. His appointment as bishop of Shanghai in 2000 was rejected by China's state-run church.

"Bishop Fan was forbidden to carry out his pastoral duty as the government put him under house arrest almost immediately -- a sentence that he served until the day he died," Joseph Kung, president of the foundation, wrote in a statement.

China's Communist regime broke ties with the Vatican in 1951, and although relations have improved in recent years as the country's Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain priests.

Shanghai is considered an important diocese given the city's historical ties to the Catholic Church -- it was home to Xu Guangqi, one of the most prominent converts secured by 16th-century Italian missionary Matteo Ricci.

The long-serving bishop of Shanghai's state-run Catholic Church, Aloysius Jin Luxian, died last year at age 96.

Father Giuseppe Zhu Yude, a priest from the underground church, led the mass for Fan's funeral on Saturday.

Overseas and underground Chinese Catholics had requested that Jin's successor, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, be allowed to preside.

But that request was apparently rebuffed. According to the Vatican-linked AsiaNews website, Ma -- who was stripped of his title after he dramatically split with China's state-run church at his installation ceremony last July and has since been under house arrest -- remained under close watch by authorities.

Members of both the state-controlled and underground churches were in attendance at Fan's funeral, and some expressed concern about the uncertainty the church in Shanghai now faces.

"Bishop Fan had held onto his faith during the darkest times," said a middle-aged woman named Grace. "I believe as long as we follow his example, the Lord will bless the Shanghai diocese and we will have new leadership."

India's new breed of politicians

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

As India heads towards general elections, candidates with no political background will throw down the most serious challenge yet to the establishment.

IN Indian politics, as is generally the way of the world, old men died and the young filled their places. But the typical politician has not changed beyond recognition over the decades. He is still mostly a he; a relic and beneficiary of village values even when he lives in the heart of a city, who correctly identifies modernity as his archenemy; a practical man of ordinary intellect who is perceived to be corrupt, even dangerous.

Until recently, the young who were heralded as the "new breed" of politicians tended to be merely the progeny of this typical politician. They were not very different from their papas.

They just wore the skin of an easily procured Western education and all its masquerades. It was as if the typical Indian politician were a species so suited to the terrain where it foraged that it did not have to evolve.

But then circumstances forced the voters to evolve and from them have risen the mutants – engineers, activists, corporate executives, journalists, former government officers and at least one actress – who have become politicians out of necessity. Naïve and upright, they view politics as a transformational public service. It is not the first time that Indians infected with idealism have entered politics. But now, as the great republic heads toward general elections, they will throw down the most serious challenge yet to the old.

"What has happened is that the pool of hyper-aspirational youth has become very, very large, and they want Indian politics to change," said Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of the software firm Infosys and until recently the bureaucrat at the helm of India's attempt to give every citizen a unique biometric identity.

Nilekani is running for office for the first time, and his declaration of assets to the Election Commission will affirm the known fact that he is a billionaire and the richest candidate in the fray among those whose wealth can be measured.

Most of those who are debuting in electoral politics are drawn to the Aam Aadmi Party, a new outfit born out of public rage against the typical politician.

Nilekani is an anomaly because he has joined the governing Indian National Congress.

The significance of the vast pool of hopeful, educated young people that Nilekani was referring to is that they do not have the means to escape to the West and so are deeply invested in the fate of the nation. The idea of home as the only refuge, which is often expressed as nationalistic awakening, is the fundamental force behind the heightened interest in politics today not only among the young, but also the many layers of the middle class.

In November 2008, after 10 terrorists attacked Mumbai, the urban disquiet over the state of the nation erupted in the form of street processions and passionate television shows that abused the political class so severely that politicians threatened to censor television news in the interest of national security.

Meera Sanyal, a banker whose friend died in the terrorist attack as he was dining in a hotel, was inspired by the public rage against politicians to run in the 2009 general elections as an independent candidate from the high-profile Mumbai South constituency.

She fared very poorly. She is running again now, and this time, she told me, "There is a sea change in the voters."

In 2009, she said: "People thought I was crazy. Friends said politics was dirty business and there was no place in it for someone like me. But now, the idea that a person with no political background should enter politics has become mainstream."

This is a consequence of the extraordinary impact of the Aam Aadmi Party, which she has joined.

"It is a magnet for people with no political background who want to enter politics," she said.

The Aam Aadmi Party believes it is a sudden force of nature that can make the typical Indian politician extinct.

The transformation has begun, and irrespective of the fortunes of the Aam Aadmi Party, the golden age of a dominant species is over. — © 2014 The New York Times

> Manu Joseph is author of the novel 'The Illicit Happiness of Other People'.

Between truth and reality

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Experts trying to solve the MH370 mystery look at the theories floated over the past two weeks.

SINGAPORE: As the mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane deepens, new theories have been floated by pilots and aviation enthusiasts to explain its disappearance. We look at some of these theories and what experts say about them.

1. The plane could have caught fire mid-air

A fire probably broke out onboard MH370 and the pilot was trying to save the plane by making a sharp left turn to land on the Malaysian island of Langkawi, said an experienced Canadian pilot.

The flight crew, however, might have been overcome by smoke and the aircraft continued flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel, said Chris Goodfellow.

Another possible scenario: the fire could have destroyed the control surfaces and the plane then crashed.

The loss of transponders and communications made sense in a fire, he wrote in an article, adding that it was likely electrical. The pilot's first response would be to shut down and restart the circuits.

Another possible cause of fire was overheating of one of the landing gear tyres, which blew on takeoff and started burning slowly.

"Fire in an aircraft demands one thing: Get the machine on the ground as soon as possible," he said, adding that Langkawi is closer than Kuala Lumpur.

What experts say:

Some said this explanation makes sense. But others quoted reports which said the left turn was achieved using a computer system on the plane. That would involve typing seven or eight keystrokes into the computer.

If the course of the plane was changed during a major emergency, it was more likely done using manual control.

Some also pointed out that the plane is believed to have made a series of turns after the first one. Such vigorous navigating, they said, would have been impossible if the crew were unconscious.

Moreover, the electronic "ping" detected by the Inmarsat satellite at 8.11am on March 8 – the day it went missing – narrowed its location at that moment to one of two arcs – one in Central Asia and the other in the southern Indian Ocean. Both areas are not in the direction of Langkawi.

2. The plane could have "stalked" another aircraft to avoid radar detection

Some believe the missing Boeing 777-200ER could have hidden in the shadow of another plane. With its transponder and lights switched off, MH370 could trail another aircraft undetected, said pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

To a ground radar controller, the planes would appear as one or two "blips" depending on how close they were.

Aviation blogger Keith Ledgerwood believes that MH370 could have trailed the Barcelona-bound Singapore Airlines (SIA) Flight 68, which left Changi Airport at about 1.05am, 25 minutes after MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

Both planes were in the same vicinity, he said.

"There are several locations along the flight path of SQ68 where it could have easily broken contact and flown and landed in Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan, or Turkmenistan," he added.

When contacted, a SIA spokesman would only say: "All queries related to MH370 have to be directed to the investigating authorities."

What experts say:

While it sounds feasible on paper, it would be difficult to closely shadow a plane at night without radar help.

Some also pointed out that military radar, which has higher resolution, would still be able to identify that there were two objects.

The two planes would need to be no further than about 1,000m to appear as one on a military radar, radar expert Hugh Griffiths told BBC News.

3. The plane could have used "terrain masking" technique to avoid detection

MH370 could have dropped to an altitude of 5,000ft, or possibly lower, to avoid commercial radar coverage after it turned back from its planned route, Malaysia's New Straits Times reported, quoting officials.

It is also possible that MH370 had hugged the terrain in some areas that are mountainous to avoid radar detection. The technique, called terrain masking, is used by military pilots to fly to their targets stealthily.

What experts say:

Aviation expert Jason Middleton of the New South Wales University told British paper Guardian that avoiding radar was a well-known technique.

"Radar goes in a straight line. If you are in the shadow of a mountain or even the curve of the Earth – if you are under the radar beam – you cannot be seen," Middleton said.

But flying a large aircraft this way is dangerous because it puts tremendous stress on the airframe.

Flying at such low altitude would also require a much higher fuel burn and result in lower speed.

4. The plane could have crashed or exploded mid-air

Some believe that the plane might have crashed. Others said it might have exploded mid-air, which would explain why no debris has been found by search teams so far.

There were also reports of sightings by people in countries from Indonesia to the Maldives.

However, these reports turned out to be false leads.

What experts say:

Austria-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which has extremely sensitive sensors throughout the world, said it did not detect any explosion or crash – either on land or at sea.

CTBTO stations have detected several plane accidents in the past, including the crash of an aircraft at Narita Airport in Japan in March 2009.

5. Flight had "structural issue"

Stanford computer science student Andrew Aude put forward a theory that the plane had a structural issue.

He cited a Federal Aviation Authority directive, which pointed to the fuselage cracking at a spot where the satellite antennae is located.

That could lead to rapid decompression and damage to the structure of the aircraft.

Aude said that could explain why no alert was raised by those onboard because they could have been rendered unconscious by a slow decompression of the plane.

What experts say:

Boeing has since clarified that the missing Boeing 777-200ER was not subject to a new US safety directive that ordered additional inspections for cracking and corrosion on certain 777 planes.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Snail venom for pain

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

AN experimental drug made from snail venom has shown early signs of promise in numbing pain, raising hopes in the hunt for new, non-addictive medications, say researchers.

The drug, which has not been tested yet on humans, was judged to be about 100 times more potent than morphine or gabapentin, which are currently considered the gold standard for chronic nerve pain.

The active ingredient, conotoxin, comes from carnivorous cone snails, which are common in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. The marine animals can reach out and stab prey, injecting a venom that paralyses fish long enough for the snail to eat it up.

A tiny protein derived from the snail's venom has formed the basis of five new experimental compounds, said lead researcher Prof David Craik of the University of Queensland in Australia.

A preliminary study using one of these new compounds on lab rats "appeared to significantly reduce pain", said a press statement released ahead of Prof Craik's presentation at an American Chemical Society meeting in Dallas, Texas.

"This is an important incremental step that could serve as the blueprint for the development of a whole new class of drugs capable of relieving one of the most severe forms of chronic pain that is currently very difficult to treat," he said.

Animal venoms are poisons that can block certain channels in the nervous system, and act differently than opioid painkillers such as morphine and hydrocodone, which carry the risk of addiction and death from overdose.

Pharmaceutical companies have begun investigating venoms in recent years as potential sources of new drugs for managing neuropathic pain, which affects 15% of the US population and can arise from cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and other debilitating diseases.

One conotoxin-derived drug, ziconotide, has already been approved for human use. However, it is not available in pill form and must be infused directly into the lower part of the spinal cord.

The five new compounds Prof Craik and his colleagues are developing would be taken orally. "We don't know about side effects yet, as it hasn't been tested in humans. But we think it would be safe," he said, adding that human trials are at least two years away. – AFP Relaxnews

Google Glass for skin consultations

RHODE Island Hospital in the United States is currently testing out Google Glass in a dermatology study.

Over the next six months, emergency room (ER) patients requiring dermatology work may participate in the study. They'll be examined by ER doctors wearing a "stripped-down version" of Google Glass that will send images to an off-site dermatologist, who will review the images using a tablet.

The hospital is working with Glass-focused startup Pristine for this pilot study. Their version of Google Glass doesn't include some of its core functionality and connectivity, nor is the device connected to the Internet.

Rather, it streams live, sending encrypted audio and video information to the receiver directly.

Photos, video and audio aren't stored in the Pristine version, either.

"It's every doctor's nightmare to have a breach or have a video uploaded on YouTube," Dr Paul Porter, the principal investigator on the study, told MobiHealthNews. "We really put a lot of time in trying to get the best possible conditions for confidentiality, picking a specialty that we thought would be the safest for the patients. In our study, (the Google Glass consultation is) over and above the standard of care, which is a phone call, plus or minus a snapshot."

Testing began on March 1, and Dr Porter says as soon as the study has 100 participants, he and his team will begin work on a paper.

The device's potential is currently being tested in other areas of healthcare.

Emotient, a leader in facial expression recognition software, is testing Google Glass with its own app that is said to gauge other people's feelings. The company says it hopes to apply this concept to healthcare for determining warning signs of illness.

Last month, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), announced its development of a Google Glass app that reads diagnostic test strips.

Should the hospital study be successful, the hope is to use the device in other healthcare applications, including emergency response, paediatric consults and stroke care. – AFP Relaxnews

Food recipes in cancer

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Learn more about cancer and related food recipes during an upcoming talk in Kuala Lumpur.

CANCER is a serious problem that is rapidly becoming a common affliction. According to the National Cancer Society of Malaysia, cancer is becoming a leading cause of death, due to avoidable risk factors like smoking and tobacco exposure, poor diet, alcohol, inadequate exercise or obesity.

The society also estimates there are about 90,000-100,000 people in Malaysia living with cancer at any one time. It estimates that one in four Malaysians will develop cancer by the time they are 75 years old.

In the Cancer Cancel – Live Right Eat Well medical talk tour hosted by Popular Bookstores on March 30, Singaporean medical oncology specialist Dr Wong Seng Weng and celebrity chef Eric Teo will join forces to share tips on effective ways to fight cancer.

Their talk will include practical tips on prevention and recovery from the disease, as well as recipes for cancer patients and for good health.

The two will also share knowledge from their jointly written book, also named Cancer Cancel - Live Right Eat Well.

The book aims to correct the misconceptions most people have about cancer, as well as answer frequently asked questions about this deadly disease.

"Cancer is a clear and present danger. A head-in-the-sand attitude of trying to avoid the dreaded subject will no longer do.

"Putting faith in hearsay, or baseless treatment methods, will only worsen your health and cause you to lose the fight against cancer," Dr Wong said.

Combining useful and comprehensive information with relatable and easy-to-apply tips, Dr Wong and Chef Teo's talk will no doubt be an eye-opener, and a potentially life-changing experience.

The public is encouraged to attend the talk to gain new understanding about this often-misunderstood disease.

Dr Wong is the medical director of The Cancer Centre, Singapore. He specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of adult cancers, with special interest in breast, lung and gastrointestinal cancers. He is currently also a visiting consultant at the National University Hospital, Singapore.

Apart from his clinical practice, Dr Wong was an investigator in over 20 clinical trials exploring new methods of cancer treatment.

He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom, as well as the European Society for Medical Oncology and Singapore Society of Oncology.

Chef Teo, on the other hand, is a celebrity chef with over 28 years of experience in the Singaporean food and beverage industry.

He has won the title of World Gourmet Summit Executive Chef of the Year three times (2006, 2008 and 2009), and subsequently entered the Awards of Excellence Hall of Fame in 2010.

He is currently running ET Culinary Arts, his own food consultancy company, founded in 2011.

The bubbly chef is very much involved in cooking demonstrations and has made numerous TV appearances. He has also served as an International Culinary Judge at the IKA Culinary World Olympics in 2012, and is the first Singaporean to be appointed president of the Singapore Chefs Association, serving from 2005-2013.

Don't miss this opportunity to gain invaluable tips on healthier living from these highly experienced personalities.

The Cancer Cancel – Live Right Eat Well medical talk tour will take place on March 30 at the Sunway University Auditorium 7, Bandar Sunway, Selangor, 2-4pm. Admission is free. For more information, contact Danny Choong at 03-91796146 or fax 03-91796339. Popular Bookstores are also running a promotion for Dr Wong and Chef Teo's book, Cancer Cancel: Live Right & Eat Well. Drop by your nearest Popular outlet to pick up a coupon offering a RM13 rebate on the book (Usual price: RM39.90).

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