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 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:39 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Nigeria Is Free of Ebola, Health Agency Affirms

OCT. 20, 2014

GENEVA — The World Health Organization declared Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, officially free of Ebola infections on Monday, calling the outcome the triumphal result of “world-class epidemiological detective work.”

The announcement came 42 days after the last reported infection in Nigeria’s outbreak, twice the maximum incubation period for the Ebola virus.

The Nigerian response was upheld by the W.H.O. as an example of the measures other countries can take to halt the spread of the epidemic, which is concentrated in three West African countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“This is a spectacular success story that shows that Ebola can be contained,” the W.H.O. said in a report on its website. But it also expressed caution that Nigeria cannot relax its defenses against the deadly virus.

More than 9,000 people have become infected in the epidemic, over 4,500 people have died, and the number of infections is still doubling every month, the W.H.O. has reported.

Although infection rates have slowed in some districts of the three worst affected countries, the organization has also reported the spread of the disease to new areas, including districts of Guinea bordering Ivory Coast.

Rui Gama Vaz, a World Health Organization representative in Nigeria, and the country’s health minister, Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu, discussed the news that the country was free of the Ebola virus.
Publish Date October 20, 2014. Photo by Reuters.

Nigeria’s outbreak started in July when Patrick Sawyer, an American of Liberian descent, traveled by air from Liberia to Lagos, the country’s biggest city, starting a chain of infection that spread the disease to 19 other people and resulted in eight deaths.

Mr. Sawyer died five days after arriving, but the disease spread to Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil industry hub, after a close contact of Mr. Sawyer’s flew there for treatment, adding to fears that Nigeria faced what could become West Africa’s worst epidemic.

Nigeria’s success in averting that outcome started with the action of Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, a doctor at First Consultant Hospital in Lagos who diagnosed the Ebola virus in Mr. Sawyer and later died of the disease. Together with Benjamin Ohiaeri, the hospital director, Dr. Adadevoh had insisted on keeping Mr. Sawyer isolated despite threats of legal action by Liberian officials demanding his release.   

Other important Nigerian actions cited by the W.H.O. included the quick response and close coordination of public health authorities and international organizations to isolate and treat patients, and the detective work of contact tracing teams.

The teams drew on the experience of Nigeria’s anti-polio program to identify and monitor on a daily basis nearly 900 people who had contact with those infected with the disease.

Still, Nigeria, like Senegal, which was declared free of Ebola on Friday, is susceptible to new cases by virtue of its proximity to the West African epicenter, health authorities warn.

Nigeria also is at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. The W.H.O.’s representative in Nigeria, Rui Gama Vaz, said Ebola patients in the epicenter may now seek entry to Nigeria in an effort to get lifesaving care.

“Many desperate people in heavily affected countries believe that Nigeria must have some especially good — maybe even ‘magical’ — treatments to offer,” a W.H.O. statement said.

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:36 am 
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South Sudan sexual violence ‘rampant’, says UN envoy

UN representative accuses both sides of targeted rapes on basis of ethnicity, after two-year-old attacked

Reuters, Tuesday 21 October 2014 11.58 BST   

Rape and other forms of sexual violence by all sides in South Sudan’s civil war have become widespread and a two-year-old was among the victims, the UN special representative on sexual violence in armed conflict said on Monday.

“In my 30 years of experience, I’ve never witnessed anything like what I saw in Bentiu,” Zainab Hawa Bangura said after a recent trip to the northern town, one of the regions worst hit by the conflict. “The IDPs [internally displaced people] seeking refuge there face a combination of … insecurity, unimaginable living conditions, acute day-to-day protection concerns and rampant sexual violence,” she added.

Fighting began in December after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and political rival, Riek Machar. Peace talks brokered by the African regional bloc Igad have yet to bring an end to the bloodshed.

“Survivors and healthcare workers told me heartbreaking stories of rape, gang rape, abduction, sexual slavery and forced marriage,” Bangura said. “Those who try to fight back against their attackers are often raped with objects instead. Some victims have even been raped to death.”

She said the victims included women, men, girls and boys, with 74% of them under the age of 18, according to South Sudanese hospital officials. “The youngest victim they have treated is two years old,” Bangura said.

She said both sides in the conflict have committed sexual violence, adding that orders had been given within the military forces to perpetrate rapes on the basis of ethnicity. Bangura said a local radio station, Radio Bentiu FM, was used to broadcast appeals for men to rape women and girls based on their ethnic backgrounds and their perceived political loyalties.

At the end of Bangura’s trip to South Sudan, she and the government signed a communique outlining steps that would be taken to put an end to the rapes, adding that the message must be sent across the military’s chain of command, Bangura said. She was especially concerned about the lack of psychological and medical care for the victims.

“I am also concerned about the lack of reporting of this crime due to the closure of government offices, insecurity in the country, malfunctioning police services, [and] a lack of capacity by the police and medical service providers,” she said.

The conflict in South Sudan has killed more than 10,000 people, caused more than 1 million to flee, and driven the country of 11 million people closer to famine. By the end of this year a third of the people could face starvation, the UN said. South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011.

Last month the US warned Kiir and Machar to engage in serious peace talks to end nearly a year of violence in the world’s newest state or face UN security council sanctions.

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:34 am 
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Australian teenager addresses Tony Abbott in Isis video

Speaker believed to be 17-year-old runaway Abdullah Elmir from Sydney appears in video posted to YouTube

Australian Associated Press, Tuesday 21 October 2014 10.13 BST

An Australian teenage runaway has appeared in an Islamic State video, telling the prime minister, Tony Abbott, jihadists will not stop until the notorious black flag of Isis is flying above every nation.

In a video posted on YouTube, the speaker believed to be 17-year-old Abdullah Elmir from Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west, warns western leaders of the terror group’s resolve.

Using the name Abu Khaled, holding a rifle and dressed in military garb, he is surrounded by dozens of other young jihadists as he addresses the camera.

“To Tony Abbott, I say this. These weapons that we have, these soldiers, we will not stop fighting.

“We will not put down our weapons until we reach your lands and until we take the head of every tyrant and until the black flag is flying high in every single land, until we put the black flag on top of Buckingham Palace, until we put the black flag on top of the White House.”

Abdullah went missing in June, saying he was going fishing but told his family shortly afterwards he was in Turkey about to “cross the border”.

A lawyer representing his family said in June his mother thought that meant her son was heading to Iraq.

“Bring every nation that you want to come and fight us. It means nothing to us,” he says in the video.

“Whether it’s 50 nations or 50,000 nations, it means nothing to us. Bring your planes.

“Bring everything you want to us. Because it will not harm us. Why? Because we have Allah. This is something you do not have.”

Comment is being sought from the Elmir family.


Most Australians believe the cost of living has soared over the past year

Poll finds 72% believe cost of living has worsened, while two in three say electricity costs have risen

Daniel Hurst, political correspondent, Tuesday 21 October 2014 09.18 BST   
Australians overwhelmingly believe that the cost of living, electricity bills and unemployment have increased in the past year, according to a new survey.

The Essential poll asked 1,801 people to consider a range of economic issues compared with the situation 12 months ago.

Demonstrating why cost of living remains a potent political issue, 72% of respondents said it had got worse in the past year, while only 6% said it was better.

About two in three, or 67%, of survey participants said electricity costs had worsened, with 7% saying they had improved – indicating that people are yet to notice any substantial savings from Tony Abbott’s scrapping of the carbon tax.

Job security and unemployment also looms as an enduring concern, with about 60% reporting a deterioration against these indicators.

Asked about the overall economy, 50% said it had worsened and 18% said it had improved. Just over half of respondents said national debt had increased.

Some 44% of participants said their personal financial situation had deteriorated in the past year, 35% reported no change, and 16% said it had improved.

But in a separate section of the same survey, only 7% said they did not have enough money for basic essentials such as housing, food and electricity. About 35% said they had enough money for essentials but not enough to save money, while 47% said they had enough money for essentials and could save a little money. About 8% could save a lot of money.

The Coalition government is seeking Senate support for a raft of budget measures, including deregulation of university fees, introduction of a Medicare co-payment, and changes to welfare payments. Labor is campaigning against the “rotten” and “unfair” measures by highlighting the impact on household budgets.

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:31 am 
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Malaysian MPs urge Australia to do more to stamp out extremism

Opposition MP Rafizi Ramli warns Julie Bishop that Malaysia’s ruling UMNO party is ignoring radicalism in the country

Shalailah Medhora, Tuesday 21 October 2014 08.44 BST  

Malaysian opposition MPs have urged Australia to step up and do more to stamp out extremism in the region, as criticism of the Najib government mounts.

A group of Malaysian parliamentarians met the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, to discuss Canberra’s role in promoting democracy in the region. They had planned to appear before the foreign affairs Senate estimates committee, but all inquiries were suspended after the death of Gough Whitlam.

The Malaysian opposition treasury spokesman, Rafizi Ramli, who faces the threat of jail time under Malaysia’s Sedition Act for airing allegationsof government corruption, has warned that the ruling UMNO party is ignoring extremism in the country.

“We have a government that has relied heavily on race and religion narratives to campaign,” Ramli said. “In an environment where the state subtly and indirectly endorses criticism and intimidation of minorities, it is easier for the messages of radical groups like Isis [Islamic State] to take hold.

“The Malaysian government is seen as being complicit in endorsing the rise of radicalism for its political manoeuvring and expediency.”

In June this year, the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, urged UMNO members to be brave like Isis fighters.

He has since stepped back from the comments, last month saying in a joint press conference with Tony Abbott that Malaysia was committed to eradicating the threat posed by the militant group.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who was barred from entering Malaysia on a fact-finding mission last year, has cast doubt on Najib’s words.

“I’m very disturbed at the pandering to extremists and the behaviour of the ruling UMNO coalition,” he said.

There are currently 150 known Malaysian fighters in Isis.

Ramli says possible extremism in Malaysia will affect Australia.

“If the majority Malay population veers to radicalism it will affect the whole region and this will travel all the way to Australia,” he said.

Dr Clinton Fernandes, an associate professor in international studiesat the University of New South Wales, said inequalities still exist in Malaysia between the Muslim Malay majority and minority groups.

“The UMNO ran a particularly ugly campaign in the rural Malay heartlands during the 2013 elections,” he said. “And there were vociferous anti-Chinese headlines in the Malay language press. It regularly warns Malay voters that they should fear dominance by other races.”

Xenophon said Australia must help usher Malaysia back to democracy in order to create stability in the region.

“Australia does have a role in respect to the Commonwealth of nations to speak out on these issues,” he said. “We’ve shown leadership on human rights issues and issues in the region, in fact, we’ve sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan over democracy. I’m suggesting the least we can do is to speak out in terms of the quite repressive nature of the Malaysian regime.”

After meeting with the Malaysian delegation, Bishop said Australia “is working closely with regional and international partners to respond to this threat [of foreign fighters].”

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:29 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Mixed Economic Signals From China

OCT. 20, 2014

HONG KONG — Markets around the world have been jolted by fears that slowing growth and deflationary pressures in Europe, Japan and other major economies could derail the United States. But the health of China, for decades an engine of growth, has emerged as one of the most significant wild cards in the global economy.

It is hard to be certain just exactly how the Chinese economy is faring, given mixed signals in the data.

Chinese inflation is at its weakest levels in nearly five years. Commodity prices are plunging. New home sales are declining. Foreign investment is contracting.

The overall economy, though, continues to chug along at a steady, albeit more modest, pace. China’s gross domestic product increased by 7.3 percent in the third quarter, compared with 7.5 percent in the previous quarter. While that was the lowest quarterly growth since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, the rate remains the envy of major economies. The economy also continues adding jobs at a good clip, and the currency is one of very few that are still rising against the dollar.

“The question or problem we are all facing at the moment is, ‘What is right picture for the economy as a whole?’ ” said Louis Kuijs, the chief China economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Hong Kong. “It’s complicated by negative forces that show up very strongly in industry but not in the service sector.”

Making sense of China’s economic health is challenging because the slowdown is partly by design.

The Communist leadership has pledged to reduce China’s dependence on credit-fueled growth and investment, to instead emphasize domestic consumption. It is a risky proposal, and leaders have signaled a willingness to live with slower growth, provided employment holds up and systemic risks are contained.

One figure that Chinese leaders study closely is the number of new jobs. Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister, boasted in a speech at a World Economic Forum meeting last month that nearly 10 million urban jobs had been created in the first eight months of the year, up slightly from a year ago. As a result, he said, he would not mind if the growth of the gross domestic product fell short of this year’s official target of 7.5 percent.

“An important goal of maintaining stable growth is to ensure employment, and the floor of the proper range is to ensure relatively adequate employment,” he said at the meeting in Tianjin.

But even in the jobs figures, broad disparities exist across China. Employment has grown solidly in the services sector nearly every month in the last five years, according to the purchasing managers index compiled by HSBC and Markit. By contrast, manufacturing employment, which generally expanded from 2009 through 2011, has mostly contracted since.

At an employment fair for the medical appliance industry at a government-run career center near the Lama Temple in Beijing last week, more than a hundred job seekers bantered with recruiters and weighed their options. A 42-year-old man who gave only his surname, Mr. Lin, was applying for a job at Beijing Niubao Technology, a chemical equipment maker.

With 20 years of experience in a specialized industry, Mr. Lin expressed confidence about his prospects despite the overall outlook in the sector. “Manufacturing isn’t doing so great in the past few years, but I think chemical equipment is still doing relatively O.K.,” he said.

That somewhat positive outlook is a sharp contrast to most traditional industries. “We didn’t have any new recruits this year,” Huang Xinqun, 48, a manager at a large ocean-shipping company, said last week. “Usually when the manufacturing business is not doing so well, it would be directly reflected on us,” he said.

“We’re like a signal post on how the economy is doing,” Mr. Huang said. “If companies don’t have that many orders and products to transport, then we don’t have as much work.”

Despite the signs of malaise in China’s manufacturing and industrial sectors, the government is wary of repeating the significant stimulus measures it undertook after the financial crisis. Leaders are worried that would add to China’s ballooning debt, which rose to 250 percent of gross domestic product at the end of June, from 150 percent five years ago, according to estimates by Standard Chartered Bank.

Instead, policy makers in recent months have used targeted, behind-the-scenes stimulus measures, including extending limited amounts of short-term credit to large and medium-size banks. The government also has directed more financing to favored projects, like supporting agricultural efforts and redeveloping shantytowns.

“Things can be done to bolster activity for short periods of time, but I think the fundamental theme is a persistent ratcheting down in the measured rate of growth,” said George Magnus, a financial consultant and a former chief economist at UBS. “China is in for an extended period of volatility.”

Other major indicators offer similarly contradictory perspectives on the progress of China’s economic transition.

Retail sales are rising at their slowest pace in nearly a decade, seemingly casting doubt on the ability of Chinese consumers to drive economic growth. But with an increase of about 12 percent in value this year, sales are hardly anemic.

What is more, official sales figures fail to capture the explosive growth of online shopping in China. The statistics bureau only began including the sales of some unnamed, large Internet retailers in its data this year. But Mark Williams, the chief Asia economist at Capital Economics, estimates that official retail sales figures only capture about one-sixth of the online purchases in China.

Trade figures, too, are somewhat unclear. Reported Chinese exports rose 15.3 percent last month, their biggest increase since 2013. But that was partly because of a 34 percent increase in exports to Hong Kong.

The dynamic has prompted some economists to question whether trade figures are again being distorted by so-called over-

The most problematic economic indicator in China may be gross domestic product itself. Though economists say the data broadly are improving, the numbers do not always seem to add up. For example, the combined G.D.P. reported by each of China’s provinces still regularly exceeds the official total for the country.

Even Mr. Li, the prime minister, has at times expressed doubts over this benchmark measure of output. In 2007, when he was governor of Liaoning Province in northeastern China, Mr. Li privately acknowledged to a visiting American diplomat that China’s G.D.P. figures were unreliable and “for reference only” because they were “man-made,” according to a confidential diplomatic cable released in 2010 by WikiLeaks.

Since then, many economists have supplemented China’s official figures with their own versions of a “Li Keqiang Index,” alternative measures based on what Mr. Li said were his bellwethers of economic expansion. They include electricity consumption, rail cargo volumes and the value of loans disbursed.

“Certainly these data have the potential to be more reliable but there are complications there, too,” said Carsten Holz, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who has scrutinized China’s economic data.

“It’s a planned economy thing,” Mr. Holz said of the Li Keqiang indexes, likening them to tallying apples on a tree but making no attempt to calculate their value.

“It is a very rudimentary measure, because you don’t know how many of these apples are rotten, or measure how big they are,” he said. “You are just counting apples.”

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:26 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Hong Kong leader complains: Allowing democracy would let poor people dominate elections

Agence France-Presse
20 Oct 2014 at 22:14 ET     

Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader Leung Chun-ying told media that if the government met pro-democracy protesters’ demands it would result in the city’s poorer people dominating elections.

In an interview with foreign media, carried in the Wall Street Journal and International New York Times, the embattled chief executive reiterated his position that free elections were impossible.

Demonstrators have paralysed parts of Hong Kong with mass rallies and road blockades for more than three weeks, in one of the biggest challenges to Beijing’s authority since the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests of 1989.

Leung’s comments were published just hours before talks between senior government officials and student leaders to end the impasse are scheduled to take place later on Tuesday.

China has offered Hong Kongers the chance to vote for their next leader in 2017. But only those vetted by a committee expected to be loyal to Beijing will be allowed to stand — something protesters have labelled as “fake democracy”.

Leung said that if candidates were nominated by the public then the largest sector of society would likely dominate the electoral process.

“If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you’d be talking to the half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month,” Leung said in comments published by the WSJ and INYT.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has one of the biggest income divides in the world, with growing discontent at increased inequality and exorbitant property prices fuelling the protests which turned increasingly violent at the end of last week.

There are fears any further clashes between police and protesters could derail Tuesday’s discussions.

Leung’s latest comments are likely to further fuel the anger of protesters who see him as hapless, out of touch and pandering to the whims of a small number of tycoons who dominate the financial hub.

His quotes also echo that of Wang Zhenmin, a well-connected scholar and regular advisor to Beijing.

Wang said recently that greater democratic freedom in the semi-autonomous city must be balanced against the city’s powerful business elite who would have to share their “slice of the pie” with voters.

“The business community is in reality a very small group of elites in Hong Kong who control the destiny of the economy in Hong Kong. If we ignore their interests, Hong Kong capitalism will stop (working),” he said in August.

Leung played down expectations ahead of the long-delayed talks with student leaders that will be broadcast live.

“We are not quite sure what they will say… at the session,” he said.

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:24 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
N.Korea Warns of 'Unpredictable' Retaliation

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 October 2014, 17:27

North Korea warned Monday of an "unpredictable" retaliatory strike against South Korea following a series of minor border skirmishes that have raised military tensions ahead of planned high-level talks.

Troops from the two sides exchanged small arms fire on Sunday after South Korean troops fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol moving towards the military demarcation line that marks the border on the peninsula.

The North's military warned in a message sent Monday through a border hotline that it would take "unpredictable measures" in retaliation for alleged provocations from South Korea, the South's defense ministry said.

It also vowed to continue its patrol along the demarcation line, a ministry spokesman said, adding the South responded with a message expressing regret and warning North Korea against further provocations.

"Our side clarified our position that we will sternly deal with further provocations by North Korea," he said.

On October 7 North and South Korean naval vessels traded warning fire near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Three days later border guards exchanged heavy machine-gun fire after the North tried to shoot down balloons launched over the land frontier with bundles of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

The North has repeatedly urged the South to ban the leaflet launches organised by activist groups, but Seoul insists it has no legal grounds for doing so.

Last week the two Koreas held military talks to address the tensions but these ended without agreement.

The border incidents have jeopardized a decision -- reached during a surprise visit to the South by a top-ranking North delegation earlier this month -- to resume high-level talks suspended since February.

The South has proposed October 30 as a date for restarting the dialogue, and unification ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-Cheol told reporters Friday he still believes the talks will go ahead.

Because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.

Despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone straddling the border bristles with watchtowers and landmines.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:22 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Myanmar Sets Provisional Date for Key 2015 Polls

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 October 2014, 11:38

Landmark elections in Myanmar that could propel opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party into office have been provisionally scheduled for late next year, electoral officials said Tuesday.

The 2015 general election, seen as a key test of Myanmar's democratic reforms, is due to be held in the final week of October or the first week of November, Union Election Commission chairman Tin Aye said at a meeting with political parties in Yangon.

He said the election “needs to be free and fair” so that “smart and good people” would be installed in parliament, adding that the exact date would be confirmed next August.

Myanmar authorities have promised the vote will be the freest in the country’s modern history after the military ceded direct power to a quasi-civilian government three years ago.

President Thein Sein's government has been lauded by the international community for a range of dramatic reforms that have seen most Western sanctions lifted.

But rights groups have raised concerns that a number of prosecutions of journalists and activists this year are a sign that the country could be backsliding.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is expected to win a major slice of the legislature in the 2015 vote.

The party won almost every seat available in 2012 by-elections that saw the democracy veteran become an MP for the first time.

Parliament will select a president following the vote.

But 69-year-old Suu Kyi, who spent more than a decade under house arrest, is currently barred from taking the top job by the constitution.

Under the charter, anyone whose spouse or children are foreign nationals cannot become president -- the Nobel laureate's late husband was British, as are her two sons.

Many believe the clause was crafted specifically to thwart her political rise.

Tin Aye, a former military general, said authorities were running trials to computerize voter lists to help avoid fraud.

The previous general election in 2010 was marred by accusations of widespread cheating, as well as by the absence of the NLD which boycotted the poll. Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest just days after the vote.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:21 am 
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Thailand's Junta-picked Council Starts Work on Reforms

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 October 2014, 08:32

A council selected by Thailand's ruling junta Tuesday started work on reforms to close the nation's festering political divide, a task critics dismiss as aimed at diluting the influence of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who led a military coup in May, has said reforms to rid the kingdom of corruption are necessary before new elections can take place.

The first meeting of the 250-strong National Reform Council (NRC), tasked with recommending initiatives including a new constitution, began with members taking an oath in parliament.

NRC member Paiboon Nititawan, a former senator and frontman of a group that staged months-long protests preceding the coup, said the new body would help restore power to voters.

"We have to decrease the power of parties and increase the power of people... People should have the power to monitor MPs," he told Agence France Presse ahead of the meeting.

But critics say the new council is stacked with anti-Thaksin figures and designed to rid the kingdom of his influence.

The new constitution is expected to include clauses preventing those convicted of corruption from entering politics, a move which appears to target Thaksin who fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid jail for a graft conviction.

Prayut seized power from an elected government in a bloodless coup on May 22, shortly after Yingluck Shinawatra was dismissed as prime minister in a controversial court ruling.

It was the latest crisis in a country which has been riven by political divisions since Yingluck's elder brother Thaksin was toppled as prime minister in an earlier military takeover in 2006.

Thaksin, whose parties have won every election since 2001, is reviled by much of Thailand's Bangkok-based royalist elite but draws deep loyalty from the poorer northern portion of the country.

Analysts expect the new constitution to target Thaksin’s political network as well as his enduring electoral popularity in the north by either redrawing constitutional boundaries, culling the number of lawmakers in parliament or part-appointing the lower house.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 21, 2014, 06:19 am 
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Pakistani Government Suspends License of ARY News

OCT. 20, 2014

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani government on Monday suspended the license of ARY News, a broadcast network that has been sharply critical of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a move that was widely criticized by rights groups and journalists.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority said the 15-day suspension was effective immediately. It also imposed a fine of 10 million rupees, or about $97,000.

The regulatory body said in a statement that ARY had maligned the country’s judiciary in an episode of the talk show “Khara Sach,” which was critical of the court system and senior judges.

However, analysts said that the suspension seemed aimed at curtailing coverage by ARY that had been increasingly critical of Mr. Sharif and his government and party, particularly by the host of “Khara Sach,” Mubashar Lucman, and other hosts on the network. Mr. Lucman has been on a professed campaign against Mr. Sharif’s government, and in one TV appearance distributed candy after a politician allied with the government lost a by-election in central Pakistan.

“ARY TV must be immediately allowed back on air,” said Mustafa Qadri, a Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International. “There is simply no justification for the Pakistani authorities to silence sections of the media solely because of their political leanings.”

“The ban on ARY is a sobering reminder of the threat of criminal prosecution on the basis of overly broad contempt of court or anti-state provisions,” Mr. Qadri said. “Journalists in Pakistan are under attack from all sides, facing harassment, even abduction and killings for carrying out their work.”

Monday’s suspension is the second time this year that a major television news network has been silenced by a government order.

In June, the media regulatory authority suspended the license of Geo TV, the country’s leading news network, after it aired accusations that the head of the country’s powerful spy organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, was behind an attempt to kill Hamid Mir, a popular Geo talk show host.

Even though Mr. Sharif publicly expressed support for Mr. Mir and his channel, the government did little when the country’s powerful military establishment pushed to have the channel taken off the air.

Geo has now been restored, but its management says that its distribution has greatly decreased. The channel has been muted in its criticism of the military ever since it returned to the air.

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