May
09
2019
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Pakistan Supreme Court acquits Asia Bibi from blasphemy charges after eight years of confinement

Saturday, November 3, 2018

On Wednesday, the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi from blasphemy charges. Asia Bibi is a Christian who was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2010 and remained in confinement on death row for the past eight years awaiting a final decision, reportedly much of it in solitary confinement.

Headed by the Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the bench composed of three judges ruled the prosecution “categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt” and Bibi was freed from the charges. In the 56-page-long decision, the Supreme Court said, “This appeal is allowed. The judgements of the High Court, as well as the Trial Court, are reversed. Consequently, the conviction as also the sentence of death awarded to the appellant is set aside and she is acquitted of the charge”.

In 2009, two Muslim women accused Bibi of defaming Islamic prophet Mohammed. Bibi was arrested under 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code after local cleric Qari Mohammad Salaam registered a formal complaint against Bibi. Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death or by life imprisonment. Bibi’s case was appealed in the Supreme Court after Lahori High Court upheld her conviction in 2014.

Following the verdict, a Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leader, Afzal Qadri, said “[The judges] who have ordered the release of the accursed Asia [Bibi] are all liable to be killed under religious edict”. Demonstrations broke out in various cities across the country after the verdict. Another leader of TLP, Khadim Rizvi, said he would “paralyse the country within hours” if Bibi was acquitted and set free.

A main high-way in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad and several roads in Karachi and Punjab province’s capital Lahore were obstructed by supporters of TLP and other religious groups sparking disordered traffic jams. Per the local reports, governments of three provinces — Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh— had imposed section 144 which prevented gathering of more than four people in public. Section 144 was imposed till November 10.

The verdict of Bibi’s case was welcomed by Amnesty International. South Asia director deputy Omar Waraich said, “Justice has finally prevailed. The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country’s most vulnerable minorities”. Christians account for about one and a half percent of the population of Pakistan. In 2010, then Catholic Pope Benedict XVI called for Bibi’s release.

Regarding the blockades in various cities and the threats against the judges, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the public via TV broadcast and said, “Which government can function when people say that kill the judges, rebel against the army chief? […] If the Supreme Court does not issue a verdict according to their wishes, does that mean they will come out on the roads and paralyse the country?”

Prime Minister Imran Khan also said, “They are inciting you for their own political gain, you should not get trapped by them for the sake of the country, they are doing no service to Islam […] We will protect people’s properties and lives, we will not allow any sabotage, we will not allow any traffic to be stopped”. He supported the Supreme Court decision and said it was “according to the constitution [of Pakistan] and Pakistan’s constitution is according to the teachings of Islam”.

After the verdict was announced, Bibi told Agence France-Presse, “I can’t believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?”

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May
08
2019
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Africans keep the leading position at 2008 Mumbai Marathon

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Standard Chartered Marathon, nicknamed “The Greatest Race on Earth“, held its third stage in Mumbai, India today. Because of the scorching hot weather in India, marathon runners had to adapt to the weather to overcome the challenge.

More than 30,000 runners participated in this race, joined by local NGOs and disabled who participated in a special charity short-distance running including 6km dream run, 4.3 km senior, and 2.5km wheel-chair classes. Gabriela Szabo, former Romanian Olympic Gold Medalist, named as charity ambassador of the race, was pleased by the participation from experts and NGOs.

An hour into the race, former champion Daniel Rono and Joseph Kimisi took the lead, but then Tariku Jifar from Ethiopia and defending champion John Ekiru Kelai took over Rono and Kimisi. After 40 kilometres, Kelai took a decisive lead and finally retained his champion title in 2 hours 12 minutes 22 seconds.

In the Women’s Group, Mulu Seboka from Ethiopia won the champion with 2H30m03s. Local runners Surendra Singh & Kavita Raut won the Men’s and Women’s Champions in the half-marathon class.

Division & Groups Men’s Group Women’s Group
South East Asia Dang Duc Bao Nguyen (Vietnam) 2:30’57” Pacharee Chaitongsri (Thailand) 2:55’29”
North East Asia Chin-chi Chiang (Chinese Taipei) 2:33’33” Xin Zhang (China) 2:53’59”
South Asia and Middle East Ajith Bandara Adikari Mudiyanselage (Sri Lanka) 2:24’07” Lakmini Anuradhi Bogahawatta (Sri Lanka) 3:04’21”
Africa John Ekiru Kelai (Kenya B) 2:12’22” Irene Kemunto Mogaka (Kenya B) 2:32’50”
Europe and Oceania Oleg Kharitonov (Russia) 2:30’55” Helen Stanton (Australia) 2:52’33”
America Paulino Canchanya Canchanya (Peru) 2:28’13” Rosangela Figueredo Silva (Brazil) 2:58’16”

Division & Groups Men’s Group Women’s Group
South East Asia Vietnam Thailand
North East Asia Chinese Taipei China
South Asia & Middle East India Sri Lanka
Africa Kenya B Kenya B
Europe & Oceania Russia Finland
America Peru United States

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May
08
2019
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Three children die in Edinburgh house fire

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A criminal investigation has begun in Edinburgh after three children were killed in a fire at a three storey house just before 3pm yesterday.

Firefighters were called to the house on Slateford Road in Scotland’s capital city, for a reported gas explosion, and they put out a small fire in an upstairs room. However, there was no evidence of an explosion and none of the surrounding houses were damaged. Three young children, two boys and a girl, were found to have died at the scene. Police are treating the deaths as suspicious.

A woman, believed to be the children’s mother, was found injured on the ground in front of the house and there are reports that witnesses saw her jump from a third floor balcony. She was taken for treatment at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In a statement the Lothian and Borders Police said: “The investigation into the cause of this tragedy is in its early stages.” However, the police have also said that there was no fault with the gas supply.

Post-mortem examinations are due to be carried out on the children’s bodies. Police said no identities would be released until these were completed.

A police spokesperson said: “A criminal investigation is currently under way and nothing more can be said at this time into the circumstances which led to their deaths.”

The mother of the three children, now named as eight year olds Gianluca and Augustino and five year old Cecilia Riggi, is to be questioned by police after details emerged that suggest it is unlikely the children died in the fire.

Neighbours have reported that they heard screaming from inside the house and one source said that when they found the victims lying dead in the living room it was “a horrific scene.” However reports that the children died before the fire broke out have not been confirmed by official sources and only reports by neighbours and others at the scene have indicated this.

Police refused to confirm reports that the children had died before the fire broke out, and say that the results of the post-mortems would help them decide whether to launch a murder inquiry into the incident.

According to Detective Superintendent Allan Jones the mother, Theresa Riggi, and her three children had been living in Edinburgh for little over a month since they were reported missing from their home in Skene, Aberdeenshire last month. Mrs Riggi is currently in a stable condition in hospital and Det Supt Jones said they are hoping to speak to her on Thursday. He said: “She’s not in a position to speak to us at the moment.”

The children were reportedly at the centre of a custody battle between Mrs Riggi and the children’s father, Pasquale Riggi. He has been informed and is helping police to determine the last movements of the family. He is not a suspect in the investigation. Det Supt Jones reported: “He’s heartbroken but he’s very composed. He realizes he holds a lot of central information that we need. We’re conscious of the trauma he’s gone through.”

Theresa Riggi and her husband were going through divorce proceedings and she was due to appear at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Tuesday. She apparently did not attend the hearing. At that time the judge was told that her whereabouts were once again unknown.

The Judge, Lady Clark, granted a search warrant for Mrs Riggi and said that social workers should supervise the children, applying for child protection orders if necessary, after Mr Riggi’s counsel asked for an order to safeguard the children’s interests.

The children were allegedly educated at home so the Social Work Department had had no contact with the family since they moved to Scotland from the US.

It is believed that Mrs Riggi may have turned on the gas, and that a neighbour smelled the fumes and called the emergency services, which may have led to the original report of a gas explosion.

Tributes of flowers have been left close to the scene with cards of sympathy and condolences.

Lothian and Borders Police have released a statement confirming that the post mortems of Gianluca, Augustino and Cecilia have been concluded. Following this statement a warrant was issued and Theresa Riggi was charged with murder.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “A 46-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the petition warrant which was granted earlier today,”

“Due to the medical condition of the accused, it is not at this time known when she will appear in court.”

In an earlier statement Mr. Riggi released a statement saying: “Our family is struggling to come to terms with the immense and tragic loss of three beautiful children.

‘Thanks to all who have offered such great comfort and support.

‘We request that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time.”

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May
08
2019
0

Wikinews Shorts: June 4, 2007

A compilation of brief news reports for Monday, June 4, 2007.

MediaCorp Radio in Singapore has been fined 15,000 Singaporean dollars (US$9,800) over an on-air stunt in March in which female guests on a radio show were asked to remove their brassieres, and pose for video that was to be posted on the station’s website and on YouTube.

The Media Development Authority said the radio show’s hosts made improper and sexually suggestive remarks about “how fast the bras were removed, as well as the color, design and cup size of the bras, and the size of the girls’ breasts.”

Sources


Researchers at University of Malaya say they have developed an erectile dysfunction cure from walnut extract.

“It takes about an hour for the effects to set in and it will last for about four hours,” said Professor Dr. Kim Kah Hwi of the Faculty of Medicine Physiology.

So far, 40 volunteers have tried the Viagra alternative, called “N-Hanz”, with positive results, Kim said. To make one pill, it takes about 3.3 kilograms (about 7 pounds) of walnuts.

Sources


An 8-year-old Indonesian boy died after being attacked on Saturday by a Komodo Dragon at Komodo National Park on Komodo.

The boy was attacked while making a toilet stop in a bush, a park official said. “The dragon bit his waist, tossed him and dragged him. His right leg was badly scratched,” park spokesman Heru Rudiharto said. The boy then bled to death.

Attacks by Dragons on humans are rare, though the reptiles, which can grow to a length of 3 meters (9 feet), regularly kill such prey as pigs and small deer. Komodo Dragons are an endangered and protected species, and about 2,000 of them live in the wild, mainly on Komodo and nearby Rinca island.

Sources


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May
08
2019
0

Matt Smith revealed as 11th incarnation of Doctor Who

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Actor Matt Smith will be the next to portray the Doctor on the BBC television program Doctor Who. Smith will be the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor, taking over from actor David Tennant who will end his time with the series after filming four editions of the program through 2009. The Doctor comes from a race of Timelords, and has the ability to “regenerate” and change appearance when his health is failing. William Hartnell was the first actor to play the Doctor, from 1963–1966. Smith will become the new occupant of the Doctor’s time machine and spacecraft the “TARDIS” in 2010.

David Tennant will be a very hard act to follow, but I’m optimistic that the new Doctor will be just as good.

John Harper, founder of the Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society and a fan of the series, called the decision to cast 26-year-old Smith in the role “wonderful”. MP for Scarborough Robert Goodwill, also a fan of the program, told the Scarborough Evening News: “David Tennant will be a very hard act to follow, but I’m optimistic that the new Doctor will be just as good.”

He is possibly going to be one of the best Doctors we’ve ever had.

Matt Smith, 26, portrayed researcher Danny Foster on the political drama Party Animals, which aired on BBC Two in 2007. Fellow actor Andrew Buchan from Party Animals told The Guardian: “It’s a sublime bit of casting. He’s got that huge hair, a twinkle in his eye — Matt’s the king of geek chic. He is possibly going to be one of the best Doctors we’ve ever had.”

After a back injury got in the way of Smith’s goal of becoming a footballer, his drama teacher Jerry Hardingham at Northampton School for Boys encouraged him to pursue acting. Though Smith did not audition, Hardingham cast him in a school production of the play Twelve Angry Men. Hardingham later convinced Smith to join the National Youth Theatre, and he landed the lead role in the play Murder in the Cathedral, performing before members of the British Royal Family and other VIPs at the Westminster Cathedral.

David Tennant, 37, has portrayed the Doctor on Doctor Who since taking over for Christopher Eccleston in 2005. A major feature of his character’s stories involved a romantic interest in his companion in the TARDIS, Rose, played by actress Billie Piper.

Tennant announced his exit from the program on October 29, 2008, at the National Television Awards in the United Kingdom, during his speech accepting the outstanding drama performance award at the program. Doctor Who was recognized with the award for most popular drama program.

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“I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don’t take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you’ll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair,” said Tennant in his address to the audience in attendance at the Royal Albert Hall. He was previously recognized at the National Television Awards for his role in Doctor Who with the award for most popular actor, in 2006 and 2007.

Tennant is currently performing the lead role in Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and his engagement at the Novello Theatre in Westminster, London is set to end on January 10. He portrayed Hamlet 60 times with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon prior to the production’s move to London.

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May
07
2019
0

Improve Your Property With Retaining Walls

byAlma Abell

It can be difficult to make the most of a piece of land that includes steep hills. This is particularly true for people who are trying to figure out what to do with their yard space. A steep hill isn’t very useful for play or relaxation, and creates serious problems when it’s time to perform tasks like cutting the grass. Thanks to Retaining Walls, though, you can create much more even spaces while also reinforcing hillsides and making the entire area more stable.

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The basic version of this set-up really is just a wall. They’re often called gravity walls, because they rely mainly on gravity to perform their function. These are the most common solution on residential lots, because they’re fairly straightforward to build. They’re often made out of stone and may be thicker at the base than higher up. They’re also often constructed at a slight tilt toward the area that they’re supposed to be holding up. There’s no special reinforcement or anchoring to keep them in place, so they can only be used in areas where the ground to be held up is a maximum of about four feet high. It’s also important to check them for signs that they’re bowing out & because this is an indication that the weight of the dirt is becoming too much and it is time to rebuild the wall.

For times when taller hills need to be held back, or where the ground is not quite as solid, there are other approaches that can make Retaining Walls a workable option. One of the more complicated approaches adds cables to the structure, that help to better distribute the forces on the wall so that it can withstand them. In particularly soft soils, on the other hand, workers may embed materials deep into the ground to provide them with a strong anchor point before building the wall itself up around them.

It’s not a good idea to just try to build a wall on your own, or even to hire someone to build a retaining wall who is usually more of a general fencing or wall contractor. The professionals at Bednar Landscape Services have a strong understanding of different types of conditions, and how to choose the right approach to end up with a structure that will both look good and maintain the stability of the landscape. Click Here for more details.

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May
07
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Jokela High School reopens after deadly multiple shooting

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jokela High School in Tuusula, Finland, scene of the Jokela school shooting, has recommenced classes. Earlier this month, student Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, fatally wounded eight people with his handgun before turning the weapon on himself in the country’s worst ever school shooting. He died later in hospital, having never regained consciousness.

All last week repair teams have been working to eradicate all traces of the event, with large numbers of bullet holes in walls and doors being filled in, broken windows and torn blinds being replaced, and total renovation of one corridor which Auvinen had attempted to set fire to.

Students had previously been permitted into the school last week, in order to collect belongings left behind as they rushed to evacuate the school. On Monday, the school’s 450 pupils began to attend temporary facilities set up at nearby Tuusula Primary School as well as the local church.

Tuusula spokeswoman Heidi Hagman told reporters yesterday that at first school days would be considerably shortened, adding “Today the students will spend time getting used to the renovated and repaired school area.

“Students and teachers are getting support from Red Cross crisis workers and psychologists during the first days of school.”

Esa Ukkola, head of education in Tuusula, spoke to reporters about the fact that students had been shown around the renovated school. “We need to show there is nobody lurking in the cupboards any more. We’re trying to have as normal a school day as possible. There are dozens of extra people to ensure we can do everything in small enough groups.”

The shooting has prompted public anger in Finland at the media attention directed to it, with a feeling that it undermines the placid reputation of the country. People have questioned the decision of a survey last month to designate Finland as the world’s “most livable country”. Psycho-social service manager Anna Cantell-Forsbom from nearby Vantaa has spoken out about her view that the shooting was mainly caused by a lack of psychiatric care available to the Finnish youth and therefore did not reflect on Finnish society. The shooting has also prompted a move by the Finnish government to raise the legal age for gun ownership from 15 years to 18 years.

Finland is expected to set up a commission of inquiry this week to investigate the murders. The government will set aside resources for the ministry of social affairs, health and education as well as the local municipality for the investigation. Meanwhile, local authorities have shown a four-year response plan to the government, asking for five million Euro to fund it. Half will go towards therapy and occupational guidance for affected residents, while the other half would go to school guidance counsellors, psychologists, school healthcare personnel and other experts. The ultimate goal of the plan is the complete recovery of those adversely affected by the shooting.

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May
07
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One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Across Egypt hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets for the day, marking exactly one year since the outbreak of protests leading to 83-year-old longstanding ruler Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. The country’s decades-long emergency rule was partially lifted this week; meanwhile, a possible economic meltdown looms and a newly-elected parliament held their first meeting on Monday.

Despite the new parliament, military rule introduced following Mubarak’s fall last spring remains. Echoing the demands from a year ago, some protesters are demanding the military relinquish power; there are doubts an elected civilian leader will be permitted to replace the army.

The brief unity against Mubarak has since fragmented, with Secularists and Islamists marking the revolution’s anniversary splitting to opposing sides of Cairo’s famed Tahrir Square and chanting at each other. Initial demonstrations last year were mainly from young secularists; now, Islamic parties hold most of the new parliament’s seats — the country’s first democratic one in six decades.

Salafis hold 25% of the seats and 47% are held by the Muslim Brotherhood, which brought supporters to Cairo for the anniversary. Tahrir Square alone contained tens of thousands of people, some witnesses putting the crowd at 150,000 strong. It’s the largest number on the streets since the revolution.

Military rulers planned celebrations including pyrotechnics, commemorative coins, and air displays. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces took power after last year’s February 11 resignation of Mubarak.

Alaa al-Aswani, a pro-democracy activist writing in al-Masry al-Youm, said: “We must take to the streets on Wednesday, not to celebrate a revolution which has not achieved its goals, but to demonstrate peacefully our determination to achieve the objectives of the revolution,” — to “live in dignity, bring about justice, try the killers of the martyrs and achieve a minimum social justice”

Alexandria in the north and the eastern port city of Suez also saw large gatherings. It was bitter fighting in Suez led to the first of the revolution’s 850 casualties in ousting Mubarak. “We didn’t come out to celebrate. We came out to protest against the military council and to tell it to leave power immediately and hand over power to civilians,” said protestor Mohamed Ismail.

“Martyrs, sleep and rest. We will complete the struggle,” chanted crowds in Alexandria, a reference to the 850 ‘martyrs of the revolution’. No convictions are in yet although Mubarak is on trial. Photos of the dead were displayed in Tahrir Square. Young Tahrir chanters went with “Down with military rule” and “Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt’s streets”.

If the protestors demanding the military leave power get their way, the Islamists celebrating election victory face a variety of challenges. For now, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — whose career featured twenty years as defence minister under Mubarak — rules the nation and promises to cede power following presidential elections this year.

The economy is troubled and unemployment is up since Mubarak left. With tourism and foreign investment greatly lower than usual, budget and payment deficits are up — with the Central Bank eating into its reserves in a bid to keep the Egyptian pound from losing too much value.

Last week the nation sought US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF insists upon funding also being secured from other donors, and strong support from Egypt’s leaders. IMF estimates say the money could be handed over in a few months — whereas Egypt wanted it in a matter of weeks.

The country has managed to bolster trade with the United States and Jordan. Amr Abul Ata, Egyptian ambassador to the fellow Middle-East state, told The Jordan Times in an interview for the anniversary that trade between the nations increased in 2011, and he expects another increase this year. This despite insurgent attacks reducing Egyptian gas production — alongside electricity the main export to Jordan. Jordan exports foodstuffs to Egypt and has just signed a deal increasing the prices it pays for gas. 2011 trade between the countries was worth US$1 billion.

The anniversary also saw a new trade deal with the US, signed by foreign trade and industry minister Mahmoud Eisa and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. President Barack Obama promises work to improve U.S. investment in, and trade with, nations changing political systems after the Arab Spring. Details remain to be agreed, but various proposals include US assistance for Egyptian small and medium enterprises. Both nations intend subjecting plans to ministerial scrutiny.

The U.S. hailed “several historic milestones in its transition to democracy” within a matter of days of Egypt’s revolution. This despite U.S.-Egypt ties being close during Mubarak’s rule.

US$1 billion in grants has been received already from Qatar and Saudi Arabia but army rulers refused to take loans from Gulf nations despite offers-in-principle coming from nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Foreign aid has trickled in; no money at all has been sent from G8 nations, despite the G8 Deauville Partnership earmarking US$20 billion for Arab Spring nations.

A total of US$7 billion was promised from the Gulf. The United Kingdom pledged to split £110 million between Egypt and Arab Spring initiator Tunisia. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says G8 money should start arriving in June, when the presidential election is scheduled.

The African Development Bank approved US$1.5 billion in loans whilst Mubarak still held power but, despite discussions since last March, no further funding has been agreed. The IMF offered a cheap loan six months ago, but was turned away. Foreign investment last year fell from US$6 billion to $375 million.

Rights, justice and public order remain contentious issues. Tantawi lifted the state of emergency on Tuesday, a day before the revolution’s anniversary, but left it in place to deal with the exception of ‘thuggery’. “This is not a real cancellation of the state of emergency,” said Islamist Wasat Party MP Essam Sultan. “The proper law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it completely, nothing in between.”

The same day, Amnesty International released a report on its efforts to establish basic human rights and end the death penalty in the country. Despite sending a ten-point manifesto to all 54 political parties, only the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (of the Egyptian Bloc liberals) and the left-wing Popular Socialist Alliance Party signed up. Measures included religious freedom, help to the impoverished, and rights for women. Elections did see a handful of women win seats in the new parliament.

The largest parliamentary group is the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, who Amnesty say did not respond. Oral assurances on all but female rights and abolition of the death penalty were given by Al-Nour, the Salafist runners-up in the elections, but no written declaration or signature.

“We challenge the new parliament to use the opportunity of drafting the new constitution to guarantee all of these rights for all people in Egypt. The cornerstone must be non-discrimination and gender equality,” said Amnesty, noting that the first seven points were less contentious amongst the twelve responding parties. There was general agreement for free speech, free assembly, fair trials, investigating Mubarak’s 30-year rule for atrocities, and lifting the state of emergency. A more mixed response was given to ensuring no discrimination against LGBT individuals, whilst two parties claimed reports of Coptic Christian persecution are exaggerated.

Mubarak himself is a prominent contender for the death penalty, currently on trial for the killings of protesters. The five-man prosecution team are also seeking death for six senior police officers and the chief of security in the same case. Corruption offences are also being tried, with Gamal Mubarak and Alaa Mubarak accused alongside their father Hosni.

The prosecution case has been hampered by changes in witness testimony and there are complaints of Interior Ministry obstruction in producing evidence. Tantawi has testified in a closed hearing that Mubarak never ordered protesters shot.

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Hisham Talaat Moustafa, an ex-MP and real estate billionaire, is another death penalty candidate. He, alongside Ahmed Sukkari, was initially sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. A new trial was granted on procedural grounds and he is now serving a fifteen-year term for paying Sukkari US$2 million to slit 30-year-old’s Tamim’s throat in Dubai. Her assassin was caught when police followed him back to his hotel and found a shirt stained with her blood; he was in custody within two hours of the murder.

The court of appeals is now set to hear another trial for both men after the convictions were once more ruled unsound.

A military crackdown took place last November, the morning after a major protest, and sparking off days of violence. Egypt was wary of a repeat this week, with police and military massed near Tahrir Square whilst volunteers manned checkpoints into the square itself.

The military has pardoned and released at least 2,000 prisoners jailed following military trials, prominently including a blogger imprisoned for defaming the army and deemed troublesome for supporting Israel. 26-year-old Maikel Nabil was given a three year sentence in April. He has been on hunger strike alleging abuse at the hands of his captors. He wants normalised relations with Israel. Thousands have now left Tora prison in Cairo.

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May
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Asian countries call for global currency

Monday, April 6, 2009

Leaders and central banks in Russia, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Kazakhstan have called for an international currency system.

Speaking on April 1 in advance of the G-20 summit in London, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev argued that the international finance system needed a “new construction” including “new currency systems”, saying that such a new system could be the purpose of a revamped IMF and World Bank. The IMF was originally founded in 1946 as the overseer of the Bretton Woods system, which from its founding until the 1970s tied the western world’s currencies to the US Dollar, which was in turn backed by gold. Russia’s proposal was for the new currency to serve as a reserve currency, one which would take the place of the dollar, euro, and other heavily-traded currencies as an international standard of exchange.

Medvedev’s comments are a reversal of Russian position from a lukewarm response following a looser outline for a worldwide currency by Kazakhstani president Nursultan Nazarbayev. On March 11, Nazarbayev suggested the establishment of the “acmetal”, a portmanteau of “acme” and “capital“, as a reserve currency replacing the ruble in international transactions, first for Central Asia and then worldwide. 1999 Economics Nobel laureate Robert Mundell, speaking to the Daily Telegraph, endorsed the idea, saying “It would be a very good idea if the G-20 took that idea up in London”.

2001 Nobel economics prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, meanwhile, said the new currency could come about quickly if it was based on an expansion of the IMF’s already established system of Special Drawing Rights, units of exchange used by the IMF which already have some of the features of currency. Stiglitz argued that, as the US dollar has become the standard global reserve currency, it has inadvertently created a system which hurts the world economy. “It’s a net transfer, in a sense, to the United States of foreign aid,” he argued, reasoning that when other countries purchase US dollars in order to use them on international markets (such as for the buying and selling of petroleum), they effectively give the US a zero-interest loan — sometimes at times when they can least afford it. Stiglitz made his comments as head of a United Nations panel of economists giving recommendations to address the global financial crisis.

In the weeks leading up to the G-20 conference, the People’s Republic of China also began discussing a new system for reserve currencies. In a March 23 speech, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, endorsed a new reserve currency, saying “the desirable goal of reforming the international monetary system, therefore, is to create an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.” Zhou went on to endorse the expansion of the SDR system in the long-term creation of a reserve currency government by the IMF. While Zhou did not mention the US dollar specifically, analysis by Qu Hongbin, chief China economist for HSBC, for the Financial Times said that the speech “is a clear sign that China, as the largest holder of US dollar financial assets, is concerned about the potential inflationary risk of the US Federal Reserve printing money”.

China holds $740 billion as assets; inflation in the US economy, which has been low in recent years, would directly cause those assets to lose value.

While the Chinese government has engaged in currency swaps with several other growing economies, such as South Korea, Argentina, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Chinese Yuan cannot be used itself as a reserve currency as it cannot be freely traded on the global market.

The Chinese-Russian proposal was not entered onto the agenda at the G-20 meeting itself. Nonetheless, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the G-20 was open to considering the proposal if and when a detailed one is presented. United States President Barack Obama, meanwhile, endorsed the continuation of dollar supremacy, saying that the US dollar is “extraordinarily strong” and arguing that its strength was the result of the intrinsic stability of the United States economic and political system; US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner had, the week before, made comments that while he supported an expansion in the SDR mechanism he rejected the idea of a global currency. Rather than change the role of SDRs, the G-20 meeting instead added $250 billion in support to the fund backing SDRs.

After the G-20 conference ended on Thursday, Malaysia’s The Star BizWeek reported that the central banks of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand had endorsed the Chinese proposal. All three countries have close economic ties with China and suffered heavily from the collapse of their currencies in the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis; the sudden growth in the value of the US dollar relative to those countries’ native currencies sharply increased debt in Southeast Asia’s economies, leading to a wave of bankruptcies.

International reaction from other economies has been mixed and guarded. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, said that the currency proposal was important to discuss but did not give extensive comment. And while UPI reports that India supported the SDR proposal at the G-20 conference, the Indian Press Trust quotes Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying last month, “It is too early to talk about common currency.”

Calls for an independent global reserve currency are not new. In 1944, John Maynard Keynes proposed the “bancor“, a unit like the SDR supported by a basket of commodities. Keynes’ idea was rejected and the US dollar took the equivalent role under the Bretton Woods system. Keynes proposed that the bancor system would be reinforced by a tax on participating countries’ current accounts, the difference between their exports and their imports, in order to encourage balanced trade. Meanwhile, monetary unions have become more popular since the end of the gold standard, with most of the European Union now trading the euro, and several countries outside the EU using it as a de facto currency; five West African countries adopting the eco at the end of this year; and the African Union planning to introduce the afro in 2028. Proposals for a North American currency union based around the so-called “amero” have been frequently discussed as the focus of conspiracy theories in the United States, but none of the US, Canada or Mexico have actively pursued the establishment of any such monetary union, however the dollar is the currency of several Latin American countries.

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Sony refreshes VAIO brand for business and entertainment

Thursday, July 31, 2008

From the middle of July, Sony Corporation refreshed their senior laptop brand VAIO from “Video Audio Integrated Operation” to “Visual Audio Intelligent Organizer”. According to Sony Taiwan Limited, this refreshment is an attempt to relocate the laptop consuming market for business and entertainment factors.

In the “VAIO Experience 2008” press conference in Europe, Sony promoted their new product series for different populations including BZ for business, FW for home entertainment, Z for ultra-slim, and SR for complex applications.

Different with past series, Sony added “Clear Bright” screening technology for high-definition display, and “full-carbon production” features. BD-burning and Intel Centrino 2 processing technologies will be featured in all the new models. For security issue, Sony also embedded fingerprint system to prevent personal data to be stolen. Continued from TZ series, innovative designs including “Green Power Button”, “Situational Switch” are also added in newly-launched series.

“Due to consuming market differences, Sony only promoted BZ series in Europe and America but not included Asia. Although the TICA Show in Taipei will be different, functionality will be the greatest issue when a consumers choose a notebook [computer] before buying.” addressed by executives from Sony Taiwan Limited, during the “VAIO Experience 2008” press conference in Taiwan.

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