- Taiwan police use water cannon to retake government HQ
- Missing plane fuels security rethink
- Kim Jong-Un lookalike sizzles in China
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
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
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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