Thursday, April 15, 2010

Police beating of university student John McKenna shocks the US

AU.News.AU 15/04/2010

Ckick here for VIDEO fotage: Sports fan bashed by cops

FOOTAGE of police brutalising an innocent sports fan in Maryland and rendering him unconscious has shocked America today.

In scenes captured by CCTV cameras, University of Maryland student John McKenna is seen skipping down the street celebrating after watching his university basketball team defeat Duke.

Within seconds he is approached by police on horseback who stand over him before other cops in riot gear swoop and begin beating him with batons, The Sun reports.

Police reports allege it was Mr McKenna who had first been assaulting the cops and their horses causing "minor injuries" as they responded to reports of trouble after the game.

But he never strikes out on the footage - and even tries to back away when confronted.

The FBI are now investigating the incident which left the 21-year-old needing eight staples to repair a gaping wound in his head.

He was also allegedly told by officers in Maryland not to make a fuss about his injuries because they would have to fill out more paper work.

Microsoft accused of 52c-an-hour 'slaves'

MICROSOFT said it had opened an investigation following a report of harsh working conditions at a factory in China that makes products for the US software giant.

The Pittsburgh-based National Labor Committee, in a report released Tuesday, denounced conditions at a KYE Systems factory in the city of Dongguan in Guangdong province.

The NLC, a private group with a stated mission to "help defend the human rights of workers in the global economy," said KYE recruits hundreds of "work study students" aged 16 and 17 years old who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week.

It showed photos released over the past three years purporting to have been smuggled out of the factory, showing "exhausted teenaged workers, toiling and slumping asleep on their assembly line during break time".

It said that in 2007 and 2008, before the recession, "workers were at the factory 97 hours a week while working 80-and-a-half hours".

"In 2009, workers report being at the factory 83 hours a week, while working 68 hours," the NLC said.

It said workers were paid 65c an hour, "which falls to a take-home wage of 52c after deductions for factory food."

Aussie dies after Thailand street attack

AU.Yahoo.Com 15/04/2010
An Australian tourist who died after being attacked in Thailand will be buried there on Friday, farewelled by his pregnant Thai wife and Adelaide family.

Andrew Oake, 28, had been holidaying in Prasat, near Surin in northeastern Thailand, for two months with his wife, Som, who is six months pregnant.

About four weeks ago the pair were travelling between villages when they were set upon by two men on motorbikes.

Som ran for help while Mr Oake was slashed in the arms and head with a machete in what might have been a failed robbery.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thai Protesters Take to Streets to Express Wide-Ranging Grievances

VOA News 24/03/2010

Thailand is again gripped by political unrest. But unlike some previous demonstrations, which were mainly seen as part of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's struggle against those who deposed him, political analysts say the new rallies have become a forum for people who feel marginalized and want broad political change.

Tens of thousands of Thais poured into Bangkok over the past week demanding fresh elections.

The red-shirted protesters are usually associated with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

But many do not care about Mr. Thaksin. They want elections because they think the government does not serve the poor.

PROTESTER: "If we have election, and I have the government be mine, be ours, it's good, better than now."

After court cases forced out an elected government in 2008, parliament selected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, under rules set up by the military government that ousted Mr. Thaksin.

Pan, a maid, is one of the thousands of people who cheered as the demonstrators paraded in Bangkok. She wants a new election because she thinks Mr. Abhisit is insensitive to the needs of the poor.

'Tangible Progress' Reported in Control of TB in SE Asia

The World Health Organization has taken the occasion of World TB Day to document the progress and challenges in its fight against tuberculosis in its Southeast Asia region.
Picture: Tuberculosis patient Supachai Sengsum on his bed at Wat Prabat Nampu in Lopburi, Thailand (2009 File)

The United Nations health body warns it faces several challenges in its TB programs in the region. The World Health Organization says it main tasks are to sustain and expand services to countries struggling with poverty, rapid urbanization and large population displacements.

India accounts for 20 percent of all global tuberculosis cases. And while the overall death rate has been on the decline in the 11 countries in the WHO's Southeast Asia region, it is responsible for half a million deaths each year.

The region is composed of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and East Timor.

WHO officials are particularly concerned by data showing more than a third of patients getting repeat treatments in Thailand have multi-drug resistant TB. India has the highest such number of cases globally. Multi-drug resistant TB is much harder to treat successfully.

Australian scientists in TB drug breakthrough

Bangkok Post 24/03/2010

Australian scientists said Wednesday they had discovered a drug which could cure tuberculosis at its non-infectious stage and could be the first major breakthrough on the disease in 50 years.

Bacteriologist Nick West said researchers at Sydney's Centenary Institute had developed a drug which could essentially combat the disease before it takes hold, potentially saving millions of lives around the world.

"We have investigated a protein that is essential for TB to survive and we have had some success in developing a drug that will inhibit this protein," said West.

"Our goal over the coming months is to find out the full extent of this drug's potential."

West said it would be the first time in history that dormant or asymptomatic, non-infectious TB would be able to be treated, potentially stemming a deadly tide of infection which claimed two million lives every year.

"Unfortunately, the antibiotics we use to fight TB aren't effective against latent TB and can only be used when the disease becomes active," he explained.

"This is a major problem as one out of 10 people who have latent TB will develop the active disease, becoming sick and contagious."

"If we can figure out a way to treat TB when it's in a latent stage, then we could save millions of lives throughout the world," West added.

If successful the drug would be the the first new treatment for TB since 1962, according to the institute which is affiliated with the University of Sydney.

One third of the world's population, or two billion people, are estimated to be infected with TB, with the disease growing fastest in South East Asia.

Lethal multidrug-resistant strains of the disease were becoming a serious threat to global health, infecting almost half a million people in 2008, of whom one-third died, the World Health Organisation warned last week.

Almost half the drug resistant cases were estimated to have occurred in India and China, the WHO said, with an extensively drug-resistant form, found in 58 countries, "virtually untreatable".

Heading for a stalemate that could last till Songkran

Bangkok Post 25/03/2010
Picture: PM Abhisit Vejjajiva reacts during yesterday’s meeting in Parliament, which the opposition Puea Thai Party boycotted.

With both the red shirt protesters and government proclaiming they are going in the right direction, an extended stalemate that could last close to the Songkran holidays is becoming a likely scenario.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva reacts during yesterday’s meeting in Parliament, which the opposition Puea Thai Party boycotted. With the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) keeping the protest peaceful and orderly, and the government holding its stance of not dissolving the House or cracking down forcefully on the demonstrators, the confrontation simply has to carry on.

Although the "Three Buddies" leaders of the red shirts may have wanted to wrap up the protest within a week as they initially declared, they had no choice but to keep the show going because the real commander of the red shirt movement, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, is still holding on to his dream. Thaksin remains as committed as ever to his aspiration of returning to power, claiming back all his interests and toppling the amataya who, as he tells the protesters every day, are the real liability of the country. For Thaksin, the bureaucratic elite are holding back Thailand from opening up to new things because that could affect its superior position which allows it to be above everyone and "suck everything" from ordinary citizens to enrich itself and its network.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Survive a Heart Attack

When a heart attack occurs outside of a hospital, death is frequently the outcome, but a new study has shown that rapid intervention using two strategies can increase the chances for survival.

Emergency physician Arthur Kellermann, a senior principal researcher at the Rand Corporation, says the single most effective way to save a heart attack patient's life is for someone to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

"Bystander CPR is easy to learn, easy to remember and easy to perform. You can save lives with CPR by just pumping on the chest, you don't even have to do mouth-to-mouth breathing."

Electronic devices called Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs, can also help save a heart attack victim's life.

"Automated External Defibrillators allow a citizen with little or no training to apply that counter shock to a patient and potentially restart their heart." Kellermann adds that the sooner the AED is used, the more likely the heart is to restart.

Lessons for successful emergency response

Although clinically AEDs have been shown to be effective, it was unclear whether having them publicly available in places like schools, workplaces and sports facilities would improve community survival rates following cardiac arrests.

Vitamin D May Protect Against Heart Attack

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that we get through exposure to sunlight and through diet. Without enough Vitamin D, we are at risk for rickets, osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Now, researchers have found that Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

J. Brent Muhlestein, a cardiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, looked at Vitamin D levels in 41,000 patients who visited the medical center for various health problems. He found that about two-thirds of them had low levels of Vitamin D.

"We found a significant association with future heart attacks and strokes and death in the patients who were low compared to ones who were not low in that blood test," says Muhlestein.

Over the next twelve months, one group took Vitamin D supplements to get up to normal levels. The other group did not. At the end of the year, Muhlestein tested both groups again.

Religious Leaders to Fight HIV Stigma

Spiritual leaders from around the world are meeting in The Netherlands to discuss their response to HIV/AIDS. Selah Hennessy spoke to African church leaders for VOA about how they can use their influence to fight the stigma surrounding the disease.

Reverend Patricia Sawo is a pastor at the Calvary Celebration Church in Kenya and the mother of 10 children.

Sawo found out she was HIV positive more than a decade ago. She says before then she had been misinformed about the disease.

"Before I was confronted with my own HIV status, I knew that HIV was a disease for the sinners, and that is how it was presented," she said.

When she learned she was HIV-positive she lost her position in the church. But she learned more about HIV/AIDS and has retaken charge of her church and says she aims to teach her congregation the facts.

"There were people already in the church who were actually having HIV and who were hopeless and did not have anywhere to turn to," she said. "So my coming back into the church with the good news in itself started an automatic support group within the church. That Sunday that I spoke in the Sunday service, in the evening there were eight people who came to confide in me and just to tell me that they were there and they were living with HIV and we needed to find more information," she explained.

Agreement to Provide Pneumonia Vaccine to Poor Children Expected to Save Millions of Lives

VOA News 23/03/2010
The GAVI Alliance and two leading pharmaceutical companies have signed an agreement to provide low-cost life-saving vaccines to millions of the world's poorest children. Each year, the World Health Organization reports an estimated two million children under age five die of pneumonia. This disease is responsible for about one-quarter of all child deaths.

GAVI Alliance CEO Julian Lob-Levyt says pneumonia kills more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. "And more than 90 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries. So, today, I am very proud to announce that GAVI is signing a landmark agreement with GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and Pfizer to provide long-term supplies of a revolutionary new vaccine against this major killer of children," she said.

The Geneva-based public-private alliance, and GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer say supplies of the new vaccine to Africa and other developing countries will start early this year at a fraction of the price charged in industrialized countries.

Lob-Levyt says cost is the major reason why the vaccine has been unavailable to children in the poorest countries.

Potent Jungle Vine Brew Has Potential to Treat Addiction

VOA News 23/03/2010
New research suggests ayahuasca, a jungle vine found in the Peruvian rainforest, can have a powerful effect on the human central nervous system when brewed with other plants. Researchers say one of ayahuasca's most promising uses could be in treating drug and alcohol addiction.

According to the World Health Organization, medicines derived from plants play a major role in the health care of 80 percent of the world's population. Western medicine has synthesized many of these natural drugs, from the painkillers in willow bark to the anti-cancer compounds in the neem tree, and is constantly searching for more pharmaceuticals in the biodiversity of the world's forests.

Ayahuasca is one traditional plant-based medicine that has drawn the attention of investigators. In the South American jungles, it is used in religious ceremonies to induce visions and also as a remedy to cure ills.

At the Onanyan Shobo spiritual retreat center in the rainforest near Iquitos, Peru, shaman Alfredo Kayruna Canayo shows off a section of the twisting, leafy vine. "What ayahuasca means is vine of the dead," he explains through an interpreter. "Some people call it soul vine."

Ayahuasca is known as a master plant, a very powerful remedy that treats the whole person: body, mind, and soul. "The ayahuasca [can] cure anything you have," the shaman says. "Start with simple things. For example, it's very simple to cure or repel the bad energies from your insides. What is the bad energy? One of them could be the fears, then some wound or injury you have."

Whether the plant is being used for religious or medicinal purposes, ayahuasca is taken only in a ceremonial setting under the direction of an experienced shaman. To turn it into a drink, also called ayahuasca, pieces of the vine are pounded into a pulp and combined with several other plants, then brewed down for eight or more hours into a thick orange liquid.

Grenades hit Health Ministry

Grenade blasts at the Public Health Ministry just half an hour after a cabinet meeting adjourned have sparked a war of words between the government and army on one side and the red shirts on the other.

The two grenade explosions yesterday afternoon prompted the army to add another 13,000 troops to the force securing the capital, with another 17,000 more put on standby.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the explosions in the parking lot of the ministry's Emergency Medical Institute were an attempt to expose lapses in the state's security measures.

The parking lot is 700 metres from a building where Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his cabinet were holding talks up until about 30 minutes before the explosions.

The army and police have deployed more than 34,500 officers to maintain law and order in Bangkok since March 12, when the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship launched its rally in support of calls for the government to dissolve the lower house and call new elections.

Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the spokesman for the army and the peace-keeping command, the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), said the grenade attack was aimed at discrediting the government.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sexual images now an inescapable part of children's lives, says psychiatrist

THE professional body for Australia's psychiatrists says the self-regulation of advertising and other media industries has failed to protect children from an onslaught of sexualised content.

Today's generation of kids faced the "widespread use of sexual images to sell anything from margarine to fashion", Professor Newman, the president of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, said.

She said risque images were now an "inescapable" part of a child's environment and pointed to billboard and TV advertising, magazines and music videos and even the posters in department stores.

Prof Newman is calling for a new regime of restrictions to protect children from both targeted and inadvertent exposure to sexualised media content.

She said more Australian research was needed to gauge its effect, though the anecdotal evidence was troubling.

The exposure appeared to push typically teenage and adult concerns about body image, "sexiness" and of being a "worthwhile individual" well into a child's first years of life.

"I've seen four-year-olds and pre-schoolers who want to diet ... going on intermittent food refusal," she said.

Live Kidney Donation Safe For Donor

VOA News 11/03/2010
Most of the studies on kidney donation focus on the recipients and how well they adjust to their new kidneys. A new study documents how well donors fare after the surgery.

Kidneys are the most sought after donor organs around the world, according to the World Health Organization. To address the shortage, some hospitals have created programs that pair prospective donors with recipients.

In 2006, the Johns Hopkins University Hospital held a news conference to announce a successful operation involving 10 people: five donors and five recipients.

Dr. Dorry Segev was one of the surgeons. He outlined the problem in an interview with VOA. "Every year we list more and more people for a kidney transplant and that's because more and more people are developing kidney failure, more people are becoming candidates for a transplant," he stated.

People often become donors because a loved one needs a kidney. Some do it for altruistic reasons. That was Judy Payne's motive. "It didn't seem to be that hard of a decision. I like to give to others. I like to share what I can of my blessings," she said.

Dr. Segev studied more than 80,000 live kidney donors from the time of surgery until three months afterwards. "What we found is that live donation is very safe, the risk of dying from donating a kidney is 3 in 10,000 which is much lower than the risk of almost any other operation that you can undergo."

Fruit Flies Could Unlock Mystery of Alzheimer's

At Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, scientists are working to find clues about how the human brain processes memories. Their laboratory test animal is not a chimp or a dog or a rat — animals that we know can remember things — it is the common fruit fly.

"They're relatively simple," Ron Davis says, explaining why the fruit fly's brain has some ideal properties for human brain research. "The brain of the fruit fly has about 100,000 neurons. The brain of a human has about 100 billion neurons, and that's an enormous network of interconnected neurons in the human brain, if one thinks about it. We literally can't wrap our brains around the human brain yet."
Fruit fly training regimen

Davis chairs the Department of Neuroscience at Scripps Florida. He's designed an experiment in which fruit flies are trained to remember an odor associated with an unpleasant electrical shock.

Dr. Ron Davis says fruit flies have essentially the same genes as humans do, just fewer of them.

It involves a series of Plexiglas tubes which have an electrifiable copper grid on their surfaces. "One puts the fly in these tubes first, passes an odor through the tube," Davis says. "Odor A shocks the animal, mild electric shock." After fresh air has been blown through the tubes to remove any trace of the first odor, a second scent is pumped in.

"Odor B passes through the tube and the animals are not shocked. That's the training where we're hoping the animals will develop an association. They'll learn that one odor is bad because it's been punished in the presence of that odor. And the other odor is okay."

 Then, the flies are tested to see how well they remember which odor is which. Davis says about 90 percent do, and avoid the electric shock. The ones that don't are isolated, so their genes can be studied.

Suthep: We'll talk, if Thaksin okays it

The government is ready for talks with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, particularly its core leader Veera Musikhapong, on the condition that he must first get the green light from former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Wednesday.

Mr Suthep made the offer as the UDD continued to mount pressure on the government for an early general election. The UDD's latest action was an attack on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's house with what the leaders claimed was blood drawn from red-shirt donors.

"We are ready for talks, but, most important of all, Mr Thaksin must first show a clear stance. If Mr Thaksin orders it, we can talk with his men.

"We want to see peace and order in the country. With Mr Veera, for one, we would not need an interpreter. Whenever he is ready, he can call me on the phone.. or send a signal. I'm easy going," said Mr Suthep.

Mr Abhisit also mentioned earlier that he would be be happy to talk with Mr Veera.

He said Pracharaj Party leader Sanoh Thienthong's suggestion that a national government be set up would be difficult to implement. Thaksin's real objectives in his fight were to take back his assets and be exempted from legal action.

Moreover, a national government could not include UDD core leaders.

The deputy prime minister said one possible way of resolving the ongoing political conflict was for all parties to come to see one another, and joint;y agree on how to amend the constitution.

If the constitution was not acceptable to all concerned, then problems would again emerge when an election was held.

In addition to this, all parties must firmly agree they would no longer organise protests. They should enter a social contract that while an election is being held they must not obstruct or harm one another in any way, Mr Suthep said.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said the government was concerned about reports of possible sabotage.

He could not say whether the saboteurs would take orders from Thaksin. All he could say was that there were still some people who wanted to stir up unrest and hurt the country.

Mr Suthep said the government would continue to take stringent measures until it was sure that there would not be any violence. The government would definitely not allow the seizure of important installations, including Suvarnabhumi airport, he added.

The deputy prime minister admitted he was unhappy with Thaksin. The former prime minister had continued to phone-in and further widen the division between the Thai people. He said this tactic of Thaksin was used by the communists 20 or 30 years ago and should be no longer used.

He felt pity seeing the red-shirts resort to their blood-spilling tactic, because this would only cause the world to believe that some Thai people were still superstitious and followers of black magic.

The blood ritual the red-shirts performed at the Democrat Party head office had hurt the feelings of the Democrats and Government House officials, Mr Suthep said.

He warned UDD leaders to adhere to peaceful means, because violence was not acceptable to the majority of the people.

On his reported remark during a press interview that intelligence units of foreign countries had warned the government of possible sabotage, after bugging Thaksin's telephone conversations, Mr Suthep said he had not named any countries.

He rejected Thaksin's call that he produce proof of the allegation, saying it would be unethical to reveal the sources.

PM's house splattered with blood

Red-shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship poured blood in front of the gate of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's residence in Sukhumvit Soi 31 and threw bags of blood and other objects over the fence into the grounds on Wednesday.
The protesters managed to get to the house and perform their ritual in steady rain about noon, despite police efforts to keep them at least 5 metres from the fence.

Red-shirts gather around the prime minister's house before pouring blood. (Photo by Kitja Apichornrojarek)

After completing their mission, the red-shirts withdrew and their leaders said they would head for the United States embassy on Witthayu road.

They wanted clarification from the embassy of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban's remark that the US and some other countries had warned the Thai government of possible sabotage after they tapped the telephone conversations of convicted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The red-shirts started moving from Phan Fa bridge shortly after 9am past Siam Paragon, Central World and Ratchaprasong intersection, causing heavy traffic congestion on the outbound lanes of Sukhumvit road.

On arriving at the mouth of Sukhumvit Soi 31, they were barred from entering the soi, where police lined up in cordons to prevent them from getting close to the fence of the prime minister's house.

Police officers are deployed around the prime minister's house. (Photo by Kitja Apichornrojarek)

Following negotations with Pol Maj-Gen Wichai Sangprapai, the Metropolitan Police Division 1 chief, UDD leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Arisman Pongruangrong and a number of red-shirts were allowed to get closer to the fence with bottles of blood.

They spilled the blood in front of the gate and splashed it into the house grounds. Some red shirts threw bags of blood and other objects across the fence onto the roof of the house, despite being warned not to do so by UDD leader Natthawut Saikua.

While the red-shirts were gathering near his house, Mr Abhisit was in Songkhla's Hat Yai district to attend the funeral of Pol Col Sompien Eksomya, the Bannang Sata district police chief who was killed in an ambush by separatist insurgents last week

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible loss of vision worldwide and now doctors believe the devastating disease begins in the brain and not in the eye as has long been thought.

Dr. David Calkins, director of research at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Tennessee, quotes estimates that by the year 2020, there will be 80 million cases of glaucoma worldwide.

Glaucoma is called the 'silent thief of sight,' since most people with the disease don't notice a change in their vision. It happens gradually, as increased fluid pressure inside the eye, known as ocular pressure, damages the optic nerve, which sends visual images to the brain. Damaged nerve cells cannot be replaced or repaired.
There is currently just one treatment for glaucoma, which is to reduce ocular pressure. Doctors test for glaucoma by measuring pressure inside the eye and checking peripheral vision.

But Calkins and his colleagues have discovered that the earliest signs of glaucoma are not in the eye, but in the brain.

A new understanding of the disease progression

"We don't really understand why it is that there is a loss of communication at the brain first," Calkins says, adding that it is now clear the degeneration of vision starts in the brain and works its way back to the retina, rather than the other way around.

The finding suggests that glaucoma may be reversible in the early stages, since the nerve structures between the brain and the optic nerve do not degenerate right away. "The structure that allows the communication remains in place for a very, very long time," Calkins says.

And that, he says, opens up new ways to treat glaucoma and puts it in an entirely new perspective.

"Instead of treating it just as a disease of the eye, we now understand that it is really a neurological disease that involves loss of communication between the optic nerve and the brain." And, by studying glaucoma as a neurological disease, Calkins says researchers may be able to learn more about other age-related neuro-degenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

The study appeared in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Australian, Indonesian Leaders Discuss Human Trafficking

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (L) looks on as Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 10 Mar 2010
The leaders of Indonesia and Australia have discussed plans to fight people smuggling and say the two nations will continue to cooperate in fighting the problem. The discussion came during Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's visit to Australia.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday told the Australian federal Parliament that his country will toughen laws against people smuggling.

 Thousands of people, primarily from South Asia, have tried to sneak into Australia over the past several years, many of them paying people smugglers to take them by boat from Indonesia. Both countries have been working to combat the problem.
Mr. Yudhoyono, on a state visit to Australia, stressed the increasing close ties between the two countries in his speech to Parliament. The relationship, which was tense for decades, has improved dramatically in the past eight years as the two have cooperated in fighting violent Islamic militants responsible for a number of bombings in Indonesia that were aimed at Westerners.
The president, who is the first Indonesian leader to address a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, says that adversity brought the two countries closer together.
"Our intense and fruitful cooperation to bring the Bali bombers to justice and Australia's outpouring of sympathy, and rescue and relief effort in the wake of the tsunami tragedy of 2004 was the emotional turning point of our bilateral relations," he said.

Former British Intelligence Chief Says US Hid Torture Details

The former head of Britain's domestic intelligence service, MI5, has accused the United States of concealing its mistreatment of terror suspects.
Eliza Manningham-Buller said Tuesday that the U.S. deliberately held back details of harsh handling of some detainees, including the waterboarding of alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Manningham-Buller's comments come as the British intelligence service fights charges it collaborated with U.S. agencies in torturing terror suspects.
British appeals court judges ordered the government last month to release documents concerning the treatment of a Guantanamo inmate Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born man living in Britain.
U.S. forces arrested him in Pakistan in 2002 on suspicion of terrorism. U.S. documents show that Mohamed was shackled, beaten and subjected to genital mutilation and sleep deprivation while held in Morocco and later at Guantanamo.
The British government had said it wanted to keep the information secret, fearing it could hurt intelligence-sharing with the United States.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

UN Human Rights Council Postpones Discussion of 'Secret Detentions' Report

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, is speaking out. He says government officials in the United States and elsewhere who ordered secret detentions of terror suspects should face prosecution
The U.N. Human Rights council has postponed discussion of a highly critical report on the secret detention of terror suspects in dozens of countries. One of the report's authors tells VOA that government officials in the United States and elsewhere who ordered secret detentions of terror suspects should face prosecution and imprisonment.

The 222-page report names dozens of countries involved in the practice of detaining people or taking advantage of their detention by other countries to elicit information from them. The suspects were held in secret, without access to lawyers or the International Red Cross, and were subjected to interrogation techniques that in many cases, the authors say, amount to torture.

The report's strong criticisms have angered many of the countries on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council who said they are untrue. Others, including the Muslim and African members, say the experts had no mandate to write the report and that it should not be considered by the HRC. Some Western countries, including the United States and Britain, disagree with the report's findings, but are willing for the discussion to go forward.

The council was supposed to hear the final report this week, but instead agreed to postpone it until June.

But one of the study's authors, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, is speaking out. He says government officials in the United States and elsewhere who ordered secret detentions of terror suspects should face prosecution. "Every individual case of an enforced disappearance and torture should be a crime under domestic law, with proper sanctions. And proper sanctions doesn't mean a fine; it means imprisonment for similar to other major crimes like homicide," he said.

Nowak adds that people who have been secretly detained should be entitled to compensation. "For me, providing reparations to the victims is certainly as important as the criminal investigations and bringing the main perpetrators to justice," he said.

The study on the use of secret detention was written by Nowak and Martin Scheinin, who is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism. They were joined by representatives of the U.N. Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention, and Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

In the study, the United States and the administration of former President George W. Bush received some of the harshest criticism for the use of secret detention after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The main focus [of the report] is on the United States of America, because they have developed a very sophisticated program of extraordinary rendition flights where persons have been kidnapped who were suspected of terrorism and flown around the world to different countries for the purpose of keeping them in secret places, for getting information about future terrorist attacks," Nowak said.

John Bolton was President Bush's Ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 through 2006. He said the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were an act of war on the United States and, therefore, Washington was entitled to respond in self-defense.

"People say [that] we are torturing these 'poor terrorists' we have picked up. It implies we are putting them on the rack, we are pulling out their fingernails, we are using cattle prods -- none of that is true. None of that has any basis in fact. This is all a question of whether we can out-psyche the terrorists, using techniques that were analyzed by highly-competent lawyers, and which were used in a very limited number of cases and which, by all accounts, did produce useful information," he said.

Shortly after taking office the Obama administration adopted measures intended to treat prisoners more humanely and transparently. The authors of the U.N. report have cautiously welcomed those commitments.

Human rights groups say the report will not lead to prosecutions, but that it will shine a light on illegal practices governments try to keep hidden. They say exposing that can lead to change.

White Campaign: Let you calls for pece be heard

The Nation 10/03/2010

We invite our friends to send in your comments, photos or graphics - whatever represents your idea to promote peace ahead of the red-shirted rally.

Shinawatras flee country before rally

Bangkok Post 10/-3/2010

Members of Thaksin Shinawatra's immediate family have left or are leaving the country ahead of this weekend's rally by supporters of the fugitive former prime minister

Thaksin's former wife Potjaman na Pombejra and their son Panthongtae Shinawatra left for Hong Kong on Monday while their two daughters Ms Pinthongta and Ms Paethongtan fly out today for Berlin.

A source from the Puea Thai Party said yesterday the trips were organised in the expectation that there could be unrest at the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protest at the weekend. There were also concerns they might be taken hostage if the situation turned violent.

The UDD is hoping to attract one million red shirts to the demonstration but security authorities say they may be over-estimating.

Army chief Anupong Paojinda is confident the Internal Security Act, which was endorsed by the government yesterday and transfers the role of maintaining law and order from the police to the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), will be adequate to deal with the rally without recourse to emergency rule.

Gen Anupong said there was no need at this stage to fall back on the Executive Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations, which gives officers more sweeping powers to deal with protesters.
The internal security law will cover all areas of Bangkok, all districts of Nonthaburi and 21 other districts in Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao, Nakhon Pathom, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon from tomorrow until March 23.

Isoc, chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, will meet today to find ways to coordinate efforts to handle the rally.

The prime minister said the government would not use force to quell the demonstration. But he ruled out dissolving parliament, saying this option would not put an end to the problem.

Mr Abhisit urged supporters of Thaksin to rethink their ideas now that Khunying Potjaman and her children would not be in the country during the rally. He said red shirt supporters should now realise that while they are fighting hard for the interests of the Shinawatra family, the Shinawatras were living in the lap of luxury. It was irresponsible to leave their supporters in the lurch.

In addition to the ISA, the cabinet has also decided to place 17 other laws under the authority of Isoc instead of the usual agencies. They include laws on disaster prevention, medical emergencies, road traffic, water transport and radio operations.

Puea Thai MP for Samut Prakan Pracha Prasopdee said the government plan to impose the ISA would not discourage pro-Thaksin supporters upcountry who have vowed to go ahead with their demonstration in the capital.

At least 100,000 people will travel to Bangkok from the Northeast, according to UDD co-leader Nisit Sinthuprai, a former MP for Roi Et.

The People's Alliance for Democracy stressed yesterday that its members would not counter the UDD rally. But the PAD would stay alert and wait for orders from its leaders for future moves, it said in a statement.
Deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau Piya Uthayo said at least 8,000 city police, including 41 crowd control units, would be on standby to support security operations.

Ayutthaya police chief Jaruwat Waisaya said he had received reports that the UDD planned to use at least 120 boats to carry red shirt supporters from Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, and Nonthaburi provinces along the Chao Phraya River to Bangkok. They would disembark at the Tha Phra Chan pier, Pol Maj Gen Jaruwat said.

He said boat skippers could face legal action if the boats carried too many passengers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Officials see industry as key to FTA benefits

SEZs vital for growth ahead of full free-trade agreement: experts

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

A sign advertises engineering, construction and security services on Friday at Tai Seng SEZ in Bavet on the border with Vietnam.

The important thing [for Cambodia] is to get foreign money to foster its domestic industry."

JAKARTA. FOREIGN investment in Cambodia’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is vital if Cambodia is to benefit from free trade with China, say senior ASEAN officials.

On January 1, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area was created, reducing the vast majority of trade tariffs between founding ASEAN members and China to zero percent.

Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, as new members, must reduce their tariffs on certain goods to 5 percent and have until 2015 to eliminate the tariffs completely.

“The important thing [for Cambodia] is to get foreign money to foster its domestic industry. SEZ development in Cambodia is a potential way to produce exports for China,” Hidetoshi Nishimura, executive director of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, said at his office in Jakarta on Thursday.

Cambodian exports to China are dwarfed by imports to the Kingdom, and foreign investment in the nation has plummeted due to the global economic crisis.

According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), trade volume between Cambodia and China was US$480 million in 2009. Of that, only $13 million consisted of Cambodian exports to China, mostly agricultural products.

According to Cambodia’s central bank, foreign direct investment flows into Cambodia declined 35.2 percent to $514.7 million in 2009, from $794.7 million in 2008.

S Pushpanathan, deputy secretary general for the ASEAN Economic Community, said that for Cambodia to attract more foreign direct investment the country must have clear and transparent investment laws and a mechanism for business-dispute resolution.

“These are factors that investors think about before they put their money in a country,” he said.

He added that as labour costs in Cambodia are cheap, Chinese investors will be attracted to investment in the garment and textile industries here.

The business community seems united in regarding sucessful SEZs as important factors in the Kingdom’s economic development.
Yuji Imamura, Japan International Cooperation Agency’s advisor in charge of investment environment improvement at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, wrote in an email Monday: “For investors, SEZs are where there is basic infrastructure is in place. It is hard work for them to set up their factories outside SEZ areas.”

He added that so far eight of Cambodia’s 21 SEZs are in operation. Around 40 companies are manufacturing garments, textiles, shoes and consumer goods within the zones.

Imamura added that in the future, international investors will see Cambodia as an alternative to investment in Vietnam, as labour costs in the Kingdom’s neighbour have risen.

Chan Nora, secretary of state for the commerce ministry, said Monday that it is clear that SEZs will be a positive attraction for foreign investors as trade facilitation, such as import and export paperwork, is easier inside the zones.

Hirosi Uematsu, managing director of Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, wrote in an e-mail on Monday that since the start of this year, three foreign companies – an animal feed company from China, a Philippine snack food firm and an Indian food-processing company – have signed up to build factories, bringing the number of companies operating in the zone to 17. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SOEUN SAY

Researchers: Gene Test Could Help Breast Cancer Treatment

A new technique that links genes to a patient's response to chemotherapy for breast cancer could help doctors find more effective cancer treatments in the future. Our correspondent spoke to the British doctor who is leading the research.

The research is collaboration between scientists in Belgium, Denmark, the United States and Great Britain. They have identified six genes that impact whether a common form of chemotherapy, called paclitaxel is effective against breast cancer. Doctor Charles Swanton of the London Research Institute led the study.

"Potentially we have the opportunity now to I hope in the future to develop new ways of predicting which patients will specifically benefit from defined drugs, to better target the right drugs to the patients most likely to benefit," said Dr. Swanton. "But also, in the future we hope to identify new drugs that patients who have cancers that are resistant to conventional therapy, to try to identify new drugs that these specific patients may benefit from using tool like this."

Dr. Swanton says the research is in its early stages and that it will be years before it could be used in a normal medical setting. Still, he says, it has a lot of potential.

"It's a first small step in a much bigger scientific endeavor," he said.

By eliminating treatments that won't work for a patient, it could make it easier to determine which medicines will work. Swanton says this technique may also be effective or other types of cancers where the same genes have been spotted.

"That's the way we hope medicine is heading where each patient is treated differently, based on the expression of genes within the tumor or indeed the expression or sequence of specific genes within the patient," said Charles Swanton.

He says while this is a breakthrough, there is no guarantee of success. Years of research and clinical trials are needed.

Drug Maker Accused of False Advertising

VOA News 02/03/2010

A county in the U.S. state of California is suing GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Avandia, a controversial diabetes drug. The lawsuit was spurred by a report on the drug released by the U.S. Senate last week (March 22). That report accused the drug company of withholding information about side effects of serious heart problems, including death. At issue now is whether Avandia should be taken off the market.
A U.S. Senate report on the diabetes drug Avandia says both the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should have warned patients about the dangers of the drug years before they did. The report recommends taking Avandia off the market.

In 2007, Dr. Steven Nissen published a study showing that those taking Avandia had a 43 percent higher risk of having a heart attack and a 64 percent greater chance of dying from a heart attack than those not taking the drug. "We've been warning about this for two and a half years," he said. "There really isn't a good reason for physicians to continue to prescribe the drug. It's time to get it off the market."

But doctors still prescribe Avandia to hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide.

Dr. Yasser Ousman at Washington Hospital Center prescribes it for some pre-diabetic patients or those in the early stages of diabetes. "There are a number of drugs that have been tested in these individuals and Avandia is one of them, and actually, it is quite effective in improving the blood sugar, in normalizing the blood sugar or delaying the occurrence of diabetes in these individuals," Dr. Ousman said.

"What bothers me the most is that every month that goes by, more people are harmed by a drug that people simply don't need," Dr. Nissen said. Dr. Nissen's report was based on 42 clinical trials that showed a connection between Avandia and heart problems.

"I think when you look at the information and the statistics from the initial study, the initial paper by Dr. Nissen in 2007, the increase in the risks of heart attacks is actually small," Dr. Ousman points out. He says that many over the counter drugs - aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen or paracetamol - can be toxic if used improperly.

"If you look at the large studies, that were published over the last several years, including a large number of patients comparing Avandia to a placebo or other drugs, there was actually no increase in that risk. That risk was based on smaller studies," Dr. Ousman said.

A study on Avandia funded by GlaxoSmithKline published last year, found no increase in heart attacks. But it found a significant increase in the risk of heart failure where the heart cannot pump enough blood to the organs or muscles. A number of cases resulted in hospitalization or death.

The Food and Drug Administration says it will review Avandia for heart risks and has scheduled a meeting of its advisory panel in July. The agency warns those taking Avandia not to discontinue use without consulting with a doctor.

Millions of Migrants Face Health Risks

The World Health Organization and International Organization for Migration say many of the nearly one-billion international and internal migrants around the world suffer from ill health because of stress and exploitative work conditions. The Geneva-based agencies, along with the government of Spain, are sponsoring a Madrid conference, Wednesday through Friday, to explore ways to improve the health of migrants.

The two agencies say most migrants are healthy. But, those who are not tend to be among the estimated 214 million migrants who leave their countries in search of a better life abroad.

These disadvantaged groups include undocumented migrants, people forced to migrate because of natural or man-made disasters and groups such as victims of trafficking. The agencies say these migrants often suffer exploitation and physical and mental abuse.
WHO Senior Migrant Health Officer Jacqueline Weekers says migrants also are more susceptible to ill health because many live in poverty. She says they lack access to health and social services and social protection.
"Think of living in overcrowded settings," Weekers said. "Think of lack of proper nutrition over long periods of times, etc. But, also unattended chronic problems will cause a great burden on the health of migrants over time. We need to think of occupational health issues. Most migrants migrate because they look for work and they end up in work situations that are degrading, dangerous and dirty. They do jobs that many others will not do and very often without health insurance."
Weekers notes more than half of all migrants are women. Many have migrated on their own. She says women migrants who are in an unprotected situation often are subjected to sexual abuse.
She says the mental health of migrants is another area of great concern.
"Mental health is not only of relevance for those who experience grave stressful situations such as refugees or people who are on the go, who experience human rights violations," Weekers said. "But, also the many migrants who find themselves greatly isolated and marginalized and not able to communicate with people around them."
The World Health Assembly, which took place in Geneva in 2008 passed a resolution on the Health of Migrants. The issue will come up again at this year's assembly, in May.
Weekers says the three-day conference in Madrid will take stock of what has happened since the resolution was adopted two years ago. She says the aim of the meeting is to identify policies and legislation that will improve the health of migrants.

Fresh Political Uncertainties Lie on Thai Political Horizon

A Thai Supreme Court verdict last week against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, accused of abuse of power and concealing his wealth, has eased the political uncertainty that had gripped the country in recent months. But, new uncertainties have emerged as pro-Thaksin supporters vow to mobilize against the government to force new elections, as a way to bring Thaksin back to power.

The long-awaited Supreme Court verdict concerning telecom tycoon and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra ended months of political uncertainties, amid fears of fresh protests after the verdict's outcome.

Initial reaction by pro-Thaksin supporters has been muted. But threats of protests this month against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government adds new concerns to an already troubled political landscape.

In a verdict broadcast Friday on television and radio, the panel of nine judges found Thaksin guilty of concealment of wealth and abuse of power by using his position to benefit family-linked telecommunications business.

The court called for seizure of $1.4 billion, about 60 percent of the more than $2.3 billion of family assets frozen by the state after Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Thaksin faces a new round of legal cases against him and family members on charges ranging from tax avoidance to perjury.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Pasuk Pongpaichit says the verdict ended months of uncertainty surrounding Thailland.

"Things are clearer now about what is going to happen to Mr. Thaksin. It would be very difficult for him to return to fight through his supporters here. I suspect that he will not be able to recoup any of these back," she said.

While in power for five years, Thaksin drew his support from urban and rural poor and working class people who benefited from his populist policies of low-cost health care and rural development programs.

But the urban middle and upper class accuse him of abuse of power, attacks on the media and human rights abuses. He has been in exile since 2008 to avoid a corruption verdict in absentia that sentenced him to two years jail.

Death row grows even smaller

The 4th World Congress for Abolition of the Death Penalty, held from Feb 24 to 26. The participants were united in the movement for abolition, which has become a worldwide tide of hope.

There was an expectation among those attending that a Buddhist country could propose a respect for life to inspire others. While there is such an inspiration, sadly it does not stop Thailand from applying the death penalty, as exemplified in two executions last August.

Bangkok Post 03/03/2010

About 1,700 men, women and children recently gathered in Geneva from all around the world. Those from countries which retain the death penalty told their stories which brought many to tears, but the meeting also ended full of hope for the end of this ancient curse which is recorded from the beginning of time.

Others from countries where the death penalty has been abolished, came to give their support. Sometimes, they recalled with regret that the death penalty was a legacy of colonialist times, which somehow persisted when other liberties were achieved.

Or, they came to acknowledge that the death penalty was an inheritance of the past which affects us all; as expressed so movingly in the words of John Donne: "The death of any man diminishes me."

The occasion was the 4th World Congress for Abolition of the Death Penalty, held from Feb 24 to 26. The participants were united in the movement for abolition, which has become a worldwide tide of hope.

The number of abolitionist countries continues to rise, now reaching 140. On the other hand, not only do the countries retaining the death penalty decrease in number, but in many of the others, even in the most brash in claiming the right to execute, the number being put to death is decreasing each year.

A growing optimism pervades the movement for abolition. From the timeline of executions worldwide, one scholar predicted that it will all be over by the year 2025. It is even possible that rejection of the death penalty will become a tidal surge and achieve total abolition by 2015.

What country would dare to be the last place on earth to exercise the awful trade of judicial execution, or to be identified as the homeland of the last person ever to be executed, whose name will surely be remembered for ever to the shame of humankind?

Party throws weight behind UDD protest

The Puea Thai Party plans to work more closely with the red shirt movement in preparations for a major rally planned for March 14 in Bangkok.

Puea Thai MP for Chiang Mai Surapong Towijakchaikul said the demonstration by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) was expected to be huge and would need more coordinated management.

Mr Surapong said Puea Thai MPs felt it was their duty to help the UDD organise and manage the rally.

Between 40,000 and 50,000 people from the North are expected to travel to Bangkok to participate, he said.

The rally would begin on March 12 and would reach its peak on March 14, the UDD said last week.

Mr Surapong said anti-government activities both inside and outside parliament would now intensify.

The UDD gatherings would be better organised than in the past through the support of Puea Thai MPs who will provide all provisions and facilities, he added.

Each party MP had been asked to distribute 1,000 red T-shirts that feature the image of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to constituents.

UDD leader Jatuporn Prompan said yesterday the UDD was planning to collect 20,000 signatures this week in an effort to impeach the nine Supreme Court judges who ordered the seizure last week of 46.37 billion baht in assets from Thaksin's family.

Mr Jatuporn has accused the judges of violating the constitution by disregarding the Constitution Court ruling that said the Thaksin government's conversion of mobile phone operators' concession fees into an excise tax was legal. He said the rulings were binding on other government bodies.

Office of the Judiciary secretary-general Virat Chinvinijkul warned that anyone who signed the petition could face a countersuit if it was proved the judges had not done anything wrong.