Monday, June 25, 2012
A prominent Afghan lawyer close to a possible presidential candidate has been arrested on charges of kidnapping and raping a woman, prosecutors said Sunday.
Kabir Ranjbar, the president of the Afghan Lawyers’ Union and a former member of parliament, was detained on Saturday, deputy attorney general Rahmatullah Nazari told AFP.
Nazari said the woman, now aged 20, was kidnapped from Dehsabz district, northeast of Kabul, around two and a half years ago and held at the home of Ranjbar’s niece.
Ranjbar, a familiar face on Afghan television talk shows, allegedly got the woman drunk and raped her, the prosecutor said, and two months ago she gave birth to his child.
“I can confirm Kabir Ranjbar, a former Kabul MP in the lower house of parliament, has been arrested by the attorney general’s office yesterday, accused of kidnapping and raping a girl,” Nazari said, adding that the investigation was at an early stage.
Ranjbar is a key member of the Right and Justice Party, led by ex-interior minister Hanif Atmar, who is seen as a potential candidate for the presidential election in 2014.
TAIWAN: Like many Chinese girls her age, Qi Ji enjoys
singing and dancing and dreams of becoming a star. But rather than trying to
make a start in vast and crowded China, she is pinning her hopes on Taiwan.
The 18-year-old is the first of many Chinese contestants
expected to enter a Taiwanese reality show aimed at creating a girl band that
producers hope can rival supergroups such as Japan's AKB48 or South Korea's
With such televised contests now a major part of the global
music industry, in Asia they are spurring a migration of talent between
countries as performers and producers look to crack domestic, regional and
For Qi, who grew up in northeast China and attended a
performing art school in Beijing, this could offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance
for a fast track to stardom in China's market of 1.3 billion people -- and
perhaps beyond. AFP
US: A 10-minute video of an elderly school bus monitor in New York state jeered by cussing children has provoked outrage and online fundraising that will now pay her $176,000 for a vacation.
In the video, shot on a cell phone on Monday and posted subsequently on Facebook and YouTube, Karen Klein tries her best to ignore taunts such as "fat ass" and "asshole" from kids in the town of Greece, near Rochester.
The 12- and 13-year-olds tease the 68-year-old grandmother of eight about her weight, her hearing aid, her hairdo. One leans in and says he will "piss on your door," while others make rude gestures and laugh.
Klein did not report the harassment but the video -- captured by a kid on the Greece Athena Middle School bus -- was viewed by more than two million people online and led to an outpouring of support for the bullied monitor.
Fundraising website indiegogo.com started accepting donations, aiming to raise $5,000 to send Klein on a vacation. AFP
INDIA: A huge fire broke out at the state government headquarters in Mumbai Thursday, killing two people and injuring 16 as it engulfed the building's upper floors, reports in India said.
Fire engines and emergency teams rushed to the scene in the city's southern business district and two bodies had been recovered, the Press Trust of India (PTI) said, quoting fire brigade officials. Television footage showed people being taken out of the building on stretchers.
Earlier pictures had shown several people on balconies, desperate to be saved by rescue workers using ladders as smoke billowed across the city.
Sixty-five people trapped on the fifth and sixth floors were evacuated by firefighters, Relief and Rehabilitation Secretary Pravin Pardeshi said. Navy helicopters also joined the rescue operation after the blaze broke out in the afternoon and raged for several hours, with flames fanned by the sea breeze.
The building is the headquarters of the government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, and the chief minister's office was among those damaged in the blaze. AFP
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has nominated textile industry minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin for prime minister, state television reported Thursday.
Zardari had been locked in crisis talks with allies to select a consensus candidate to take on the premiership after the Supreme Court dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt.
"President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, has nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin as a candidate for the prime minister," Pakistan Television said. AFP
MYANMAR: More than 80 people have been killed in a wave of communal violence in western Myanmar this month, a government official said Thursday, as local people said they still feared for their lives.
About 71 people have died in more than a week of clashes, the official said, in addition to 10 Muslims killed on June 3 by a Buddhist mob seeking revenge for the rape and murder of a local woman -- the apparent spark for the unrest.
Both sides have accused each other of violent attacks. AFP
‘Solutions to world’s growing number of displaced people are political and humanitarian’:
SWITZERLAND: Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has donated $100,000 to aid Syrian refugees, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday.
The Oscar-winning actress is a special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and made the donation on World Refugee Day.
In a statement marking the occasion Jolie said the solutions to the world’s growing number of displaced people were political as well as humanitarian.
“The international community should rededicate itself to preventing conflict, addressing it when it erupts, and solving it more quickly,” she said.
“For that is the only way to create durable solutions for the refugees whose strength inspires us on this World Refugee Day.” Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled their country amid a bloody crackdown on dissent by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with most going to Turkey and Lebanon. Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the agency since 2001, was promoted to special envoy earlier this year. AFP
IRAN: France says sanctions against the Islamic Republic
over its peaceful nuclear energy program will be toughened, claiming that
Tehran does not take the negotiations seriously.
"Sanctions will continue to be toughened as long as
Iran refuses serious negotiations," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
said on Tuesday.
The French official added that pressure on Tehran would be
increased with the full implementation of the European Union oil sanction
against Iran as of July 1.
The comments come after Iran and P5+1 -- Britain, China,
France, Russia and the United States plus Germany - wrapped up two days of
their latest round of talks in the Russian capital of Moscow on June 19. PRESS
‘Assange is now beyond the reach of the police’ :
UK: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Wednesday after making a dramatic bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
The 40-year-old, who last week exhausted all his legal options in Britain, walked into the embassy Tuesday and applied for political asylum, as time ran out in his marathon legal battle to avoid being sent to Sweden.
Quito was examining the request after the latest surprise twist in a case dating back to December 2010, when the Australian former computer hacker was first detained in London on a European arrest warrant issued by Sweden.
Britain's Foreign Office said Assange was now “beyond the reach of the police” as he was on diplomatic territory, but stressed it would seek to work with the Ecuadorian authorities “to resolve this situation as soon as possible”. A police officer entered the embassy and left again after a short time overnight Tuesday. Early Wednesday, around 30 reporters and photographers, and a handful of police officers, were outside the embassy, situated in the upmarket London district of Knightsbridge, near the well-known Harrods department store.
Assange will remain at the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while his application is considered.
The white-haired Australian confirmed in a statement he was seeking “diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum” and expressed his gratitude to the Ecuadorian government for considering his request.
The embassy said in a statement: “The decision to consider Mr Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.”
It confirmed it would be seeking the views of London, Stockholm and Washington to make sure it complied with international law.
In the Ecuadorian capital Quito, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino confirmed his government was “examining the request” from Assange.The request for asylum came after Britain's Supreme Court last week rejected an application by Assange to reopen his appeal against extradition.
The decision closed Assange's last legal avenue in Britain, although he could still take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. AFP
* Moscow is suspicious that Washington is bent on Syria regime change
* Washington is concerned about Russian arms sales to Syria
MEXICO: Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin agreed Monday that Syrians deserve a “political process” to choose their future, but could not frame an immediate plan to end the bloodshed. As Syrian cities reverberated with shell fire, the US and Russian leaders held their first presidential-level talks, following a sharp public dispute about a US call for the ouster of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“We call for an immediate cessation of all violence,” the leaders said in a joint statement issued after their meeting at Mexico's Los Cabos resort.
“We are united in the belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to independently and democratically choose their own future.” Obama aides hinted at some subtle movement, saying Russia accepted that a “political process” was needed to end ferocious violence against civilians with which Washington says Assad has forfeited his right to rule.
But they offered few specifics of what they termed “common ground”, and certainly no short-term plan to end the fighting emerged from a meeting which endorsed the approach of UN enovy Kofi Annan, author of a tattered peace plan.
Putin “demonstrated an openness and an interest in supporting a political process in the country,” US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said.
“We're going to continue to work with the Russians at the international level to bring that about.”
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin and Obama spoke about the need to urgently bring the situation in Syria under control to prevent further deaths.
UK: Despite European Championship elimination, a new list of cities with the most beautiful women in the world reveals men in Russia and Ukraine still have plenty to cheer about.
After Wayne Rooney's winner for England last night, people in the Ukrainian capital Kiev will be happily looking to each other for consolation.
Travelers Digest's Top Ten Cities With The Most Beautiful Woman says Kiev is ‘without a doubt, home to the world’s most beautiful women'.
In praising its population the online magazine notes: ‘A visit to Kiev is truly awe-inducing and it’s almost hard to believe that women this beautiful even exist.
‘And for anyone who thinks that beautiful women must be vapid as well, Ukrainian women are ready to disprove that theory.
‘The women in the country are well educated and always ready to talk about literature or philosophy.’
But men in Moscow were more likely than most to have a beautiful shoulder to cry on, with their city rated as having the world's sixth most attractive females.
Travelers Digest's says: ‘This may surprise the cold-war generation who grew up believing the stereotypes of Russian women being plain and ordinary.
‘A quick visit to Moscow should set you straight on that front. Think tall, blonde or brunette and blue-eyed goddesses.
‘That’s not to say these girls are easy to talk to; Russians can be an intimidating bunch.’
Stockholm is on the second on this list, with the website saying: ‘What you have seen on the beer commercials is true; Sweden really does have some of the world’s most beautiful women.
‘The streets of Stockholm are literally packed with these gorgeous women, who are as tall as they are luscious.
‘Even better, is that Scandinavians are world renowned for their friendliness, so there’s a good chance that the girl you’re eyeing is actually a sweet and down to earth person.’
The only American city that makes the list is third placed New York. DAILY MAIL
Sunday, June 24, 2012
‘Maldives to become the largest marine reserve in the
BRAZIL: World leaders gathered in Rio on Wednesday weighed
steps to root out poverty and protect the environment as UN chief Ban Ki-moon
warned that “time is not on our side” for fixing a mounting list of problems.
Ban formally opened the Rio+20 summit on sustainable
development which brings together 191 UN members, including 86 presidents and
heads of government.
The high-profile event comes 20 years after Rio's first Earth
Summit when nations vowed to roll back climate change, desertification and
Maldives President Mohamed Waheed came to the podium to
announce that his Indian Ocean archipelago planned to set up the world's
biggest marine reserve to protect its fisheries and biodiversity. He said the
Maldives would become “the single largest marine reserve in the world,” where
only sustainable and eco-friendly fishing will be allowed. A total of 191
speakers were to take the floor until Friday when the summit leaders are to
give their seal of approval to a 53-page draft document agreed on by their
The draft outlines measures for tackling the planet's many
environmental ills and lifting billions out of poverty through policies that
nurture rather than squander natural resources.
In his opening remarks, the UN secretary general praised
Brazil, the summit host, for securing a deal on the summit's final draft
“We are now in sight of a historic agreement,” the UN chief
“The world is watching to see if words will translate into
action as we know they must... It's time for all of us to think globally and
long term, beginning here now in Rio, for time is not on our side,” he said.
French President Francois Hollande described the deal on the
draft as “a step” but “an insufficient step”.
“It will be up to world leaders to make a positive step,” he
told a press conference. AFP
‘Maldives to become the largest marine reserve in the world’:
Zookeepers in Japan were Thursday hunting a group of squirrels that made a break for freedom under cover of a powerful typhoon.
About 30 of the bushy-tailed creatures saw their chance when typhoon Guchol felled a tree near their enclosure at Tokyo's Inokashira Park Zoo, cutting a hole in the netting that held them captive.
Park workers used nets and traps to recapture 18 animals over Wednesday and Thursday morning, but were still on the lookout for a determined dozen.
"Today we set traps with pieces of bread and sweet potatoes, the food we usually give them," zoo spokeswoman Eri Tsushima said.
"They don't usually attack humans, but they have very sharp front teeth, so we urge people not to chase or tease them."
Inokashira Park Zoo, in western Tokyo, is near the busy shopping hub of Kichijoji, an area where wild squirrels are not usually found.
The squirrel escape comes a month after the recapture of a Humbolt penguin that spent 82 days at large in and around Tokyo Bay after bolting its aquarium enclosure, garnering a large media following around the world.
Typhoon Guchol raked Japan's main island of Honshu on Tuesday night, leaving one man dead and injuring 50 people, while badly affecting air, road and rail links.
SourceAgence France Presse
CHILE: A Chilean appeals court has ordered an investigation into the death of an American who was killed along with former foreign minister Orlando Letelier in a bombing in Washington nearly 36 years ago.
Letelier’s assassination was previously investigated and led to convictionsin 1993 of top Chilean secret police officials in the regime of Augusto Pinochet.
But the Santiago appeals court decided that the death of Letelier’s assistant, Ronnie Moffitt, should be investigated separately, overturning a decision by a judge who closed her case last year.
The appeals court said Moffitt’s case could not be closed because no court had rendered a judgment on her homicide.
Moffitt and Letelier were driving down Washington’s Embassy Row on September 21, 1976 when a bomb planted in the car exploded, killing them both.
Chile’s Supreme Court sentenced the former head of the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA), Manuel Contreras, and a former head of military intelligence, Pedro Espinoza, to seven years in prison for the crime.
Contreras has already served that sentence, but remains in prison sentenced to more than 200 years for other cases involving human rights violations.
Letelier was arrested after the 1973 military coup that toppled President Salvador Allende and installed a military dictatorship. He later went into exile in the United States, where he campaigned against the regime until his death.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
SYRIA: President Vladimir Putin defended Russia's policy of non-intervention in Syria by saying that outsiders have no right to interfere in other countries and decide who rules.
"We believe that nobody has the right to decide for other nations who should be in power and who should not," Putin told reporters after a G20 summit in the Mexican beach resort of Los Cabos.
"It is not changing the regime that is important, but that after changing the regime, which should be done constitutionally, violence is stopped and peace comes to the country," he said.
Putin said all sides should sit down and work things out beforehand.
And, in a veiled reference to simmering unrest in Libya in the wake of the NATO-backed ouster of now-slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi, added: "Unlike in some North African countries where violence goes on even after regime change." Putin's forthright remarks came the day after he joined US President Barack Obama in calling for an "immediate" end to the Syria conflict.
"In order to stop the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of all violence," the two leaders said in a statement after meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit of the world's leading economies.
"We are united in the belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to independently and democratically choose their own future," the leaders said.
MEXICO: Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron clashed publicly at the G20 summit on Tuesday over the future of the disputed Falkland Islands.
Argentinian officials branded the British leader a "colonialist" in dismissing Kirchner's call for talks on the sovereignty of the islands, while Cameron said he had been attempting to counter Argentina's "propaganda".
The pair came face-to-face at the meeting of the world's major economies in Mexico, at a time when tensions between their countries were already running high just days after the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War.
"The Prime Minister refused to accept the documents, turned his back and walked away without a farewell," he added, accusing Britain of disrespecting UN resolutions and of retaining an imperialist mindset.
"After years of acting as a colonial power they have forgotten that they are responsible for the existence of colonialism, and that it is countries like Argentina that defeated most of the colonial projects in the world," he said.
Cameron confirmed he approached Kirchner in order to urge her to respect the right of Falkland Islanders to choose their own future in an upcoming referendum that is expected to show overwhelming opposition to Argentinian rule.
"We should be clear that because there's a referendum there's an opportunity for those countries in the world who have not looked at this issue for a while and have perhaps accepted some of the propaganda put around by Argentina or its supporters to look again at this issue and recognize that the people of these islands should be able to determine their own future," he said.
"It's an important point to make to the Argentine president and an important point to make more widely and that's exactly why I did what I did." A Downing Street source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that there had been a tense exchange, but downplayed the allegation that Cameron had refused to accept a packet of documents from Kirchner. "He took it up to her to make those points. She took that badly and that was basically it," she said.
S AFRICA: Undetected on the mountain slope, Tino Simmerie sweeps his binoculars over the South African bay where bathers happily splash about in turquoise waters.
"They don't have a clue what's going on basically," he said, staring out at the popular Fish Hoek beach where he once saw a shark come up to the shore.
"We never know for sure when a shark is going to come into this bay -- that's why we're every day up here to just keep an eye out." Armed with a walkie-talkie, binoculars and polarised sunglasses to protect against the harsh ocean glare, the 22-year-old is part of Cape Town's frontline against the Great Whites sharing its seas.
The pioneering programme, Shark Spotters, started in 2004 after a spate of bites and sightings by placing human look-outs at busy beaches to give the alert for the sea to be cleared if fins are seen moving in.
South Africa records fewer attacks than other shark hotspots such as Australia and the United States. But the fatality rate is high: South Africa accounts for one-third of the 24 deaths worldwide on the International Shark Attack File for the past three years, despite local bites making up less than 10 percent of all attacks.
The latest victim was a young Cape Town bodyboarder who died on April 19 after his leg was bitten off at a remote surfing spot, which followed a near-fatal mauling in September across the bay at top swimming site Fish Hoek.
Attacks in the age of Twitter have sparked alerts of "dinosaur huge" killers -- as tweeted by a witness to a 2010 death on Fish Hoek -- and fierce debate over theories of why bites are on the increase. "You can understand, it's a very emotional issue especially for the people who have witnessed shark attacks," said Sarah Titley, Shark Spotters project manager. "Being eaten by a very large fish is a very scary unknown that makes people react in a completely disproportionate way to what the actual sense of risk is. You've got a one in 253 million chance of being killed by a shark." "So the risk is very small but it's such a traumatic event for people and it really does cause a lot of hype and hysteria." -- 'We don't want to kill the sharks' To counter some of the fears, an exclusion net is on the cards for Fish Hoek, to add another layer to the city's prevention buffers after the attack seven months ago deepened its deadly reputation on the back of two deaths since 2004.
UK: Cinema attendances are falling in some of the hardest-hit Eurozone countries, according to industry journal Variety. Having declined by 10% in 2011, Italy’s box office returns were down 12% between January and June this year to $372 million (£237.5m).
Spain tells a similar story. Its takings are also 12% down so far this year, having dropped by 2.7% in 2011.“Two years of decline is not healthy,” said David Hancock, senior film analyst at IHS Screen Digest.
“In fact, it does not happen very often in European or even worldwide box offices.”
ABU DHABI: An Abu Dhabi court sentenced to death two drug dealers who shot and wounded undercover police officers during an arrest operation in Bani Yas, local media reported on Tuesday.
In February, the state news agency WAM had reported that the pair -- a 26-year-old Emirati and a 19-year-old Yemeni -- shot and wounded two police officers in Bani Yas, west of Abu Dhabi city.
On Monday, the criminal court sentenced them to death “after they were convicted of carrying and trafficking hashish, stating that the death sentence overrules other sentences,” Al-Ittihad daily said.
English-language daily, The National, reported that the Emirati was also sentenced “to life imprisonment for attempted murder” and ordered to pay the two officers compensation up to 40,000 dirhams ($10,869).
The Yemeni “was given 10 years and fined 20,000 dirhams ($5,434) for resisting arrest and attacking the policemen,” it reported.
These sentences, however, are overruled by the death penalty as reported by Al-Ittihad.
United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan will decide upon the method of execution, said The National.
The two men were arrested when they tried to sell 20 kilogrammes (44 pounds) of hashish.
One of the men was arrested at the scene, The National said, while the other “initially escaped after shooting the two undercover officers but was arrested two hours later trying to flee to Yemen.” The death sentence will be appealed.
The UAE has very strict drug laws, and the customs department occasionally announces drug seizures in the country, where narcotics use is strictly prohibited. Trafficking in illegal narcotics is punishable by death, though the sentences are often reduced to life imprisonment.
CHINA: Authorities in northwest China have ordered the arrest of an elementary school teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted eight girl pupils, the youngest aged 10, a state-backed newspaper said Tuesday.
Liu Junhong, 28, reportedly raped five girls and acted indecently towards another three over the past year at the school in Gansu province, the China Youth Daily said. The oldest victim was 13.
Seven of the girls were children of migrant workers who were employed far from their homes, the report said. “My mother is too far away,” one of the victims was quoted as saying.
Authorities have removed the head of Longxi county’s education bureau and punished three other officials for failing to take responsibility in the case, the report said.
It is unclear whether police had already arrested the teacher or whether they were still looking for him. Police in Longxi declined to comment when contacted by AFP. The local government and school were unavailable for comment.
The case highlights the vulnerability of so-called “left-behind children” whose parents leave them in the care of others as they seek employment far away.
SYRIA: A Syrian air force colonel won political asylum after landing his MiG fighter in Jordan Thursday, as a watchdog reported the deadliest day of fighting in Syria since the battered April ceasefire.
The pilot, who reportedly flew his jet under the radar to safely cross the border, was the first to defect from one of the most privileged branches of Syria’s security forces.
It came as human rights monitors reported that at least 168 people had died in Thursday’s clashes inside Syria, one of the bloodiest days since the uprising began in March 2011.
“The council of ministers has decided to grant the pilot, Colonel Hassan Merei al-Hamade, political asylum,” Jordanian Information Minister Samih Maaytah told AFP.
Earlier, a government official had said the Russian MiG-21 made an emergency landing at a base in Mafraq near the border.
Syrian state television said the plane was near the border when contact was lost at 0734 GMT. Jordan said it crossed the frontier minutes later.
The opposition Syrian National Council said that the plane “took off at high speed and flew at low altitude from a military base between Daraa and Sweida in the south of the country... to avoid detection by radar.” The pilot is from Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria, “and his family is known for its opposition” to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, spokesman George Sabra said.
The Syrian defence ministry denounced Hamade in a statement on state television as a “deserter and a traitor to his country, and to his military honour,” and said that “he will be sanctioned under military rules.” Syria has made contact with Jordan to arrange for the return of the jet, the statement added.
Washington welcomed the defection.
“This is how these things start,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“It is obviously a significant moment when a guy takes a $25 million plane and flies it to another country.” Tens of thousands of soldiers have defected since the revolt against Assad’s rule erupted in March last year, with thousands joining the rebel Free Syrian Army, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Sin Chew Daily
Beijing - After decades struggling with official censorship, China's contemporary music scene is finally taking off, fuelled by live shows, the Internet and a government eager to cash in on a growing market.
Chinese indie bands came late to the music scene, largely missing out on the lucrative days of vinyl records, cassettes and compact discs, and also suffered enormously from state broadcasters' preference for pop.
But from rock to rap and hip hop to grunge, the independent music scene has blossomed in recent years as the Internet and an explosion in live venues have given an outlet to acts long shunned by state-run television and radio.
"Since I have been here, everything has changed," said Helen Feng, the lead singer of the electronica band Nova Heart who returned to her native Beijing in 2003 and has just finished a European tour.
"The changes in the music scene have been massive. Everything has gotten better, personal liberties have gone up, the numbers of bands have gone up, the numbers of venues have gone up, financial support has gone up, fans have gone up."
Born in Beijing to Chinese parents, Feng, 34, spent most of her childhood in the United States where she was raised on the likes of Natalie Cole and George Gershwin, eventually graduating from University of Southern California where she minored in music.
Since returning to China, the blonde diva has been at the centre of the Beijing music scene, fronting three different successful bands, while working jobs with state radio and television and American music video giant MTV.
Feng, whose bands have toured throughout China, playing numerous outdoor music festivals, says there is no longer much government antipathy to modern music -- something veteran music producer Kenny Bloom agrees with.
"The government has become supportive of the music industry... no one is banned in China and no one is arrested for singing a song, at least not to my knowledge," said Bloom, who runs an Internet platform promoting Chinese indie bands.
While available sales data is thin, bands get by on what they make from concerts and fairly low-level CD sales in a market notorious for piracy.
Bloom said many of the around 100 music festivals that now take place in China every year were sponsored by local governments eager to showcase their local enterprises, bolster regional tourism and let the music industry grow.
"The fact that they give licences to all these music festivals is a great indicator... they are letting these big festivals take place... with up to 60,000 people going to them. And nobody seems to mind."
Bloom used to produce albums for Cui Jian, one of China's biggest music stars and known as the "Godfather of Chinese rock and roll".
He set up Mogo.com.cn in 2009 to promote independent music in China and the website now features footage of thousands of live performances from about 300 indie bands, which users can access for free.
At the moment the site is mainly used by industry insiders and musicians themselves, but Bloom plans to introduce presenter-led programming that would appeal to a broader audience.
To build up content, he has a simple arrangement with the bands: they allow him to professionally record their performances in his cramped Beijing studio for free and he uploads it up to his website without charge.
"The Mogo Internet platform is really cool ... it is a professional video site. It allows us to see what other bands are doing," Qi Zihan, lead singer of the electronic folk band Mountain People told AFP at the Mogo studio.
After 10 years of constant touring, Mountain People -- from the mountainous southwestern province of Yunnan -- have become renowned for their amped-up traditional Chinese instruments and energy-packed shows.
As well as becoming a favorite band in Beijing, the Mountain People are revered in their home province of Yunnan and regularly tour overseas.
"Years before, the music was restricted in China, but now things are better," Qi said.
"They (the government) realised that overall the music and the music industry didn't have such a big influence on society. They realised there are no problems (with rock music). Overall they want the music industry to develop."
Meanwhile, bands are smart enough to know that mixing music with sensitive political issues could be a fast way to end a career, Bloom said.
"There are thousands of bands, indie bands, hiphop bands, ethnic bands that are really pushing the envelop in music. They are starting to write great songs, their arrangements are good, they are playing better," Bloom said.
"The bands aren't stupid, they want to play music, the fans want to hear music, it is nothing more complicated than that. Not everything has to be political, music is music."
Sin Chew Daily
Thursday, June 21, 2012
BRITAIN: Aung San Suu Kyi was to be awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University on Wednesday in the city where she studied and brought up the family she would later leave behind. The Myanmar democracy icon will be presented with an honorary doctorate in civil law at the prestigious seat of learning where she studied politics, philosophy and economics in the mid-1960s.
She will also deliver a speech in the grand surroundings of the university's 17th century Sheldonian Theatre.
The ceremony is one of the highlights of her week-long trip to Britain, part of her first trip to Europe since 1988.
On Thursday she will make an address to both houses of the British parliament -- a rare honour bestowed on only four foreign dignitaries since World War II.
In an interview with BBC TV on Wednesday, she confirmed her desire to lead the people of Myanmar “if I can lead them in the right way”.
She rejected the suggestion that her release from more than two decades of house arrest in 2010 had been a “confidence trick” aimed at getting sanctions on the country lifted.
She warned foreign companies rushing to invest in Myanmar since the military-backed civilian government began to implement reforms that they would be closely watched.
They would be exposed if they did not behave in a “democracy-friendly, human rights-friendly” way and follow “best practices”, she warned. “And if they are not such companies and if they are doing business with cronies and with those who will use their new economic powers to consolidate the grip of the government, then I think we'll have to expose them,” she added.
MEXICO: After years of pressure to take a greater role in global affairs, China and India have stepped up by contributing to a new IMF emergency fund -- from which the United States is absent. China, India and other emerging economies made commitments to a fund during a summit in Mexico of the Group of 20, a club formed during the 2008 global economic crisis that aims to give a bigger say to developing powers.
China lent $43 billion to a new firewall being set up by the International Monetary Fund to help nations escape contagion from woes still afflicting the global economy.
The pledges made China the third largest contributor after Japan and Germany. The IMF said that commitments to the firewall now totaled $456 billion (360 billion euros), more than it initially anticipated.
The United States and other Western nations have long pushed China to be, in the words of World Bank president Robert Zoellick, a “responsible stakeholder.” US officials have often charged that Beijing sought to enjoy the prestige of a top power but assume the responsibilities of a poorer nation when convenient.
“It’s a breakthrough in terms of countries committing resources,” Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters. “This is an important outcome which Australia has been advocating strongly for.” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged $10 billion but called for swift progress on promised reforms at the Washington-based lender, which along with the World Bank is dominated by the West.
“India’s contribution reflects our recognition that as a responsible player in the global community, we must play our part,” Singh told reporters after the summit on the beach resort of Los Cabos.
But the United States, the world’s largest economy, has not committed any money to the firewall. The only other Group of 20 nations that have not made specific pledges are Argentina, Canada and Indonesia, according to the IMF.
President Barack Obama’s administration has argued that Europe has the capacity to fund its own recovery.
But contributors have made clear that the firewall is not just for Europe. Foreign officials say Obama does not believe he could win approval for more funding from Congress, where skepticism of foreign commitments runs deep.
Few nations have publicly called on the United States to do more.
UN: A UN investigator has condemned the use of deadly drones by the United States, questioning the legality of such attacks that have led to the death of thousands of people. Christof Heyns, a UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, said that the US should clarify its policy of drone assassinations and targeted killings. In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN official urged the Obama Administration to abide by international laws and ensure accountability and justice for victims of the attacks.
“Disclosure of these killings is critical to ensure accountability, justice and reparation for victims or their families,” he said in a 28-page report.
“The (US) government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations,” he said. The report also refers to an alarming increase in the use of drones over the past three years.
Thousands of people have been killed in 300 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, the report said, adding that at least 957 Pakistanis lost their lives in such attacks in 2010 alone. “Although figures vary widely with regard to drone attack estimates, all studies concur on one important point: there has been a dramatic increase in their use over the past three years,” Heyns said. The US has conducted numerous strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
When a reporter for the Daily calling Tucker Carlson interrupted President Obama in the middle of a speech on immigration reform, even Fox News anchor Shep Smith and Chris Wallace found the incident "bizarre".
"I think it is outrageous," exclaimed Wallace. "I covered Ronald Reagan for six years with Sam Donaldson. We used to scream our lungs ask questions, but we always waited until that the president - a president - had finished speaking. the idea that you interrupt the chair in the middle of the prepared remarks and shouting a question - I do not think the guy should be allowed to return to the White House on a press card, and my feeling is that it will not. "
Carlson, a contributor to Fox News as well as being the editor of the Daily Caller, had responded to the incident saying: "This is what journalists are supposed to do. They are supposed to get their questions answered. It is difficult to know what's wrong with asking the president a question. "
"I hope that maybe Tucker has not seen," Smith noted, "do not know the context, because Tucker knows better.
Carlson said from the Huffington Post, however, he sees nothing wrong with the behavior journalist Neil Munro.
MONTREAL — The Supreme Court of British Columbia on Friday said a ban against physician-assisted suicides was unconstitutional.
The ruling related to the case of a 64-year-old woman named Gloria Taylor who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was one of five plaintiffs seeking to overturn legislation that prohibits doctor-assisted suicides.
Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosism, is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that progressively robs patients of control over their bodies.
In a 395-page ruling, Judge Lynn Smith said that provisions of the Criminal Code that prohibit physician-assisted death were invalid and discriminatory, and “unjustifiably infringe the equality rights” of the plaintiffs in the case.
The ruling was suspended for one year, Justice Smith indicated, giving parliament 12 months to draft and consider the legislation. But the judge granted an exemption to Taylor that allows her to proceed with physician-assisted death, under certain conditions.
“The impact of that distinction is felt particularly acutely by persons such as Ms. Taylor, who are grievously and irremediably ill, physically disabled or soon to become so, mentally competent and who wish to have some control over their circumstances at the end of their lives,” Smith wrote.
Smith stipulated that her ruling would only apply to “competent, fully informed, non-ambivalent adult persons who personally (not through a substituted decision-maker) request physician-assisted death, are free from coercion and undue influence and are not clinically depressed.”
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition qualified the decision as “naive” and vowed to appeal the ruling.
UK: The full extent of just how close the Prime Minister was to former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks was revealed by the disclosure of an astonishing text message at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics on Wednesday.
The message, sent on October 7, 2009 by Brooks, the day before a keynote speech by David Cameron and seven months before he became Prime Minister, lavished praise on him and his ‘wonderful’ wife Samantha. Brooks, a near-neighbour of the Camerons, even suggested they have ‘country supper soon'.
The Leveson Inquiry Wednesday heard that Rebekah Brooks sent David Cameron the following text message on October 7, 2009: ‘But seriously I do understand the issue with the Times.
‘Let's discuss over country supper soon. ‘On the party it was because I had asked a number of NI people to Manchester post-endorsement and they were disappointed not to see you.
‘But as always Sam was wonderful – (and I thought it was OEs [Old Etonians] that were charm personified!). ‘I am so rooting for you tomorrow not just as a proud friend but because professionally we're definitely in this together! Speech of your life! ‘Yes he Cam!’ The explosive text message released at the Leveson Inquiry today showed the cosiness of the personal relationship enjoyed by Rebekah Brooks and David Cameron.
At the start of the message, Mrs Brooks conjured up an image of the privileged, rural get-together she and near-neighbours the Camerons and others in the Chipping Norton set had become accustomed to.
She said: ‘But seriously, I understand the issue with The Times. ‘Let's discuss over country supper soon.’
The reference to The Times is thought to be in connection with Mr Cameron's unhappiness at an article that day in the newspaper. Mrs Brooks talked about Mr Cameron's failure to attend a conference party thrown by NI - for which he told the inquiry the message was a reply to his apology.
Mrs Brooks paid a compliment to Mr Cameron's wife Samantha by comparing her to the ‘charm personified’ of OEs (Old Etonians) like Mr Cameron and her husband, racehorse trainer Charlie, who were pupils together at the elite establishment and remain friends.
The text was read out by the inquiry's counsel Robert Jay QC as he grilled Mr Cameron about his close friendship with former Sun editor Mrs Brooks - questioning which the previously assured premier appeared uncomfortable dealing with. DAILY MAIL
ASUNCION — At least 16 people were killed and dozens hurt Friday in armed clashes that erupted when police tried to evict landless peasant farmers squatting a privately-owned farm in Paraguay, officials said.
Interior Minister Carlos Filizzola told reporters that seven police officers and at least nine peasants died in the incident in Curuguaty, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of the capital Asuncion.
Another official in Curuguaty said as many as 80 people had been injured in the melee, some of them seriously. Earlier, the death toll had been put at six.
Police had arrived at the farm, owned by a local businessman, to evict the peasants when the violence began.
The peasants shot at the police officers trying to evict them in Canindeyu department, in a region close to Paraguay’s borders with Brazil and Argentina that is considered to be the most fertile in the country.
“The peasants have high-caliber weapons like M16 rifles,” local police official Walter Gomez told television network 13.
Gomez said some of the 150 peasants involved in the incident “handled weapons very well.”
“They shot cleanly to kill us. This is a critical situation,” he said.
In total, about 320 police officers were deployed to the site and at one point surrounded the peasants in a wooded area with the help of helicopters.
“We acted in accordance with the law,” Filizzola said.
In a brief statement, President Fernando Lugo expressed his “absolute support” for the police and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.
Lugo summoned his interior and defense ministers, as well as the head of the armed forces, to assess the situation. The country’s senate held an extraordinary session to debate whether to declare a state of emergency in the area.
Territorial disputes are not unusual in Paraguay, where two percent of the population holds 80 percent of the land.
EGYPT: The Muslim Brotherhood has warned that Egypt’s fragile democratic gains are under threat, after a surprise court ruling overturned last year’s parliamentary elections.
Egypt could see “dangerous” days ahead if power is returned to those linked to the previous regime, it said.
The group’s candidate, Mohammed Mursi, faces ex-PM Ahmed Shafiq in a runoff presidential election this weekend.
The decision by the Supreme Court on Thursday plunged Egypt into turmoil.
The court said last year’s parliamentary vote - the first free and fair poll in decades - was unconstitutional, and called for fresh elections.
The decision effectively puts legislative power into the hands of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf), who were tasked with overseeing Egypt’s transition after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Some Brotherhood activists express hope that the situation can be turned to their advantage amid public suspicion that the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces and remnants of the former government are trying to stay in power.
Yet many analysts believe that the court decisions now make a win for Mr Shafiq even more likely. The former air forces commander is widely seen as the unofficial candidate of the generals who took power after President Mubarak was forced from office in February 2011.
Whichever man wins will inherit a difficult security situation, a struggling economy and a nation that now seems bitterly divided.
Activists, who fear Scaf is trying to increase its power, have denounced Thursday’s rulings as a “coup” designed to undermine the revolution, carried out by judges appointed under former President Mubarak. The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says that while judges were expected to rule that some parts of the parliamentary poll was illegitimate, the court went much further by ordering a complete re-run.
In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood - which won 46% of seats in parliament - said the decisions indicated Egypt was heading into “very difficult days that might be more dangerous than the last days of Mubarak’s rule”.
“All the democratic gains of the revolution could be wiped out and overturned with the handing of power to one of the symbols of the previous era,” it said. BBC