Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto killed in suicide attack at political rally

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated in a suicide attack Thursday by an attacker who shot her after a rally in the city of Rawalpindi, and then blew himself up.

The suicide attack also killed at least 20 others at the end of a campaign rally. Police said a suicide bomber fired shots at Ms Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up.

The attack occurred close to an entrance gate of the city park where Ms Bhutto had been speaking.

Benazir Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery.

"At 6:16 p.m. she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital.

The death of the 54-year-old charismatic former prime minister threw the campaign for the Jan. 8 election into chaos and created fears of mass protests and an eruption of violence across the volatile south Asian nation. "The man first fired at Bhutto's vehicle. She ducked and then he blew himself up," police officer Mohammad Shahid said.

Ms Bhutto - the first woman PM in an Islamic state - was leaving an election rally in Rawalpindi when a gunman shot her in the neck and set off a bomb.

Security forces have been placed on a state of "red alert" nationwide.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. Analysts believe Islamist militants to be the most likely group behind it.

Ms Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), had served as prime minister from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996, and had been campaigning ahead of elections due on 8 January.

It was the second suicide attack against her in recent months and came amid a wave of bombings targeting security and government officials.

Police confirmed reports Ms Bhutto had been shot in the neck and chest before the gunman blew himself up.

Ms Bhutto's coffin was removed from hospital in Rawalpindi and has now arrived by plane in Sukkur in Sindh province for burial in her home town, Larkana.

Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, has arrived in Pakistan from Dubai to escort the coffin to its final resting-place.

Photos - Benazir Bhutto's coffin has now been taken from the hospital.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nepal agrees to abolish monarchy

The government of Nepal has agreed to abolish the monarchy as part of a deal to persuade Maoist former rebels to rejoin the interim administration.

Under the deal, Nepal will be declared a republic after a general election has been held next year and a new constituent assembly established.

The Maoists pulled out of the government in September, demanding an immediate end to the monarchy.

The latest deal was signed by Nepal's main parties, including the Maoists.

However no date has been set for the ex-rebels to rejoin the government.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Nepal says that, while a milestone, the move is no surprise.

The Maoists walked out of the government three months ago, vowing not to return unless the royal system was scrapped.

They have now secured what they wanted, even though the other parties in the ruling coalition had said, up to now, that voters should decide on the issue via the new assembly, our correspondent adds.

Analysts say that many Nepalis will be happy to have a republic.

Since the death of the well-loved King Birendra in the notorious palace massacre of 2001, the monarchy's popularity has sunk under his brother, Gyanendra - whose efforts to counter the Maoist insurgency led to a worsening of the country's human rights situation.

The Maoists called a ceasefire after the king ended his controversial direct rule in April 2006 and restored parliament.

The king backed down after weeks of strikes and protests against his rule which saw huge demonstrations against him.

Political parties - who were then in opposition and are now in government - had promised to work with the Maoists as a prelude to bringing them into government.

The political crisis came amid a rise in ethnic and religious tension, as regional groups strove to assert their authority in advance of the elections. -BBC

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Emerging China in World Bank

China is starting to play a bigger role in the World Bank and can be an important partner in helping development in places such as Africa as it becomes an aid giver instead of an aid recipient, the bank's president said Tuesday.

Robert Zoellick said he welcomed the news that China, which once received grants from the World Bank's International Development Association, is now a contributor to it.

That included a contribution at a recent meeting of the IDA, which provides grants and loans to the world's poorest countries.

"This is an example of China being a stakeholder in the field of development," Zoellick told a news conference at the end of a four-day visit. The undisclosed amount was a "modest but also significant step," he said.

China stopped taking loans from the IDA in 1999 after having received more than US$9.9 billion, but last week was the first time it started to contribute.

Although China has fewer voting shares in the bank than some developed countries, it still has an "influential" voice, he said. The bank is also recruiting Chinese staff, including senior staff, Zoellick said.

Zoellick said he discussed debt sustainability with Chinese officials because of worries some of the poorest countries would never be able to pay back their loans.

"Many developed countries have forgiven the debt of some of the poorest countries and so there's a legitimate concern about building that debt up again," he said.

He said that while China no longer needs financing from the World Bank, it still needs expertise to help shape its development agenda. That includes such things as providing microfinance initiatives in rural areas, raising China's energy efficiency and improving its environment.

Photos-China's Premier Wen Jiabao meets with the World Bank president Robert Zoellick at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 17, 2007. [Xinhua]

Friday, December 14, 2007

US submarines killer patrol planes to begin production

American Spirit Aviation Systems, Inc. has begun the first Boeing P-8A "Poseidon" maritime patrol aircraft fuselage manufacturing work. Based on the next generation of such modified Boeing 737 of the aircraft will be used to replace the service of the United States Navy P-3 maritime patrol aircraft.

According to the British "Flight International" on December 11, the same day, Spirit of Kansas Weiaisa factory began assembling frame loading, the fuselage is expected to be the first in the 100 days after the March 19, 2008 through railway transportation the Washington, and Boeing 737 assembly line.  

The first P-8 will be the development and verification system projects (SDD) phase of the five aircraft production one of this five aircraft in the three will be used for flight testing, two for ground testing using machine.

P-8 and 737 civil aircraft fuselage in the Spirit of the same production line.

P-8 production on the 737 production line needs to do to comply with the United States, including changes in the international arms trade regulations (ITAR) security restrictions, as well as the procedures to increase the assembly and installation of the fuselage weapons cabin.

P-8 will be Brandi No. 3 with the 737 assembly line ITAR completed assembly, the first P-8 in August 2008 off the assembly line, in Seattle, Boeing test site after the system is installed mandate, the
first P - 8 (T-1 aircraft) will be in September 2009 for the first flight.

The P-8A Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. It possesses an advanced mission system for maximum interoperability in battle space.

Capable of broad-area, maritime, and littoral operations, the P-8A is expected to
influence how the U.S. Navy's maritime patrol and reconnaissance forces train, operate, and deploy.

Toyota and Ford on China pollution blacklist

Forty multinationals are among some 4,000 firms on an air pollution blacklist released Thursday.

Top companies such as Michelin China, Sina-Mars Group APP in China, the joint ventures of Toyota and Ford, and subsidiaries of Sinopec figure on the list of the China Air Pollution Map (, compiled by the Beijing-based non-governmental Institute of Public and Environment Affairs (IPEA).

"We started collecting the records of polluters in 2004," said Ma Jun, director of the institute.

Besides information about the polluters, the institute's latest database also records air quality and air pollution sources in 150 cities in the southern parts of the country.

Ma said the institute gets polluters' information from local and central environmental protection departments' websites or from news reports.

The air pollution map is the second such blacklist launched by the group. The China Water Pollution Map has made public details of about 9,400 water violations since last year, including those involving up to 280 foreign firms.

The water map has led 50 companies, including two local players, to respond; and two have cleared their names so far. To get their names removed from the blacklist, the companies need to comply with the rules and undergo a third-party audit.

Ma expressed the hope that the lists will pressure polluters to make improvements and encourage more people to join in the clean efforts.

The blacklisted companies should move to "provide the public with an open explanation and mend their ways," Ma told China Daily.

He said the air pollution map is only partial and more information about northern China will be released.

"Access to information is a pre-condition for public participation," said Ma. "And China has progressed in disclosing environmental information."- China Daily

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Five HINDRAF leaders detained under ISA

KUALA LUMPUR: Five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), with police saying more could be picked up.

The detained leaders are (from left) : P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, R. Kengadharan, V. Ganabatirau and K. Vasantha Kumar.

Bukit Aman police officers picked them up between 12.30pm and 2.30pm yesterday.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said they were picked up under Section 8(1) of the ISA after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also Internal Security Minister, signed their detention order.

Their detention is for two years.

“Other personalities who are involved or have links with any terrorist organisation that could threaten or jeopardise national security will be picked up,” he said.

The IGP said all five had been sent to the Kamunting detention centre.

Uthayakumar was picked up from his office in Bangsar here; Kengadharan from his office in SS2/55, Petaling Jaya; Vasantha Kumar from a restaurant in Brickfields; Manoharan from his Pantai office; and Ganabatirau in Seremban.

The group came into the spotlight on Nov 25 when it organised a mass protest that saw thousands of Indians gathering at various locations in the city to support Hindraf’s plan to submit a petition with 100,000 signatures to the British High Commission.

The petition was to ask Queen Elizabeth II to appoint a Queen’s Counsel to represent the Indian community in a class-action suit against the British Government for bringing in Indians as indentured labourers to the then Malaya and exploiting them.

P. Waythamoorthy, who is another Hindraf leaders, is currently overseas.

All Malaysian news paper reported the news.

Global Economy to Slow More

The combination of higher energy prices and weaker growth prospects in advanced economies could dampen the outlook also for emerging markets. Nonetheless, despite these risks, the most likely outcome is a continued global expansion.

However, the persistence of the imbalances undermines confidence that the global growth expansion can be sustained, says IMF First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky.

The imbalances are:

i. New risks threaten global growth

ii. Global imbalances still challenging

iii. Currency moves reflect new uncertainties

ising oil prices, financial market turmoil, and a sliding dollar have grabbed the headlines in recent months.

Underlying these developments, however, is the emergence of record external payments imbalances and the associated capital flows.

Speaking with the IMF Survey magazine, he argues that it is more urgent than ever that the major players—China, the Euro area, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States—follow through on promised policy plans that were announced last April as part of the IMF's Multilateral Consultation On Global Imbalances. -IMF

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Israel Is 4th Largest Arms Exporter

Associated Press reported that Israel became the world's fourth largest defense exporter in 2007, surpassing Britain, with $4.3 billion in signed contracts, officials said Tuesday amid efforts to tighten controls on the nation's arms sales to banned countries or groups.

Israel exports mostly radar systems, drones and anti-tank missiles to India, Turkey, Britain, the United States and other Western nations, defense officials said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information. But Israel has earned a questionable reputation for the small percentage of its sales -- usually of shells, rifles and ammunition -- that go to war-torn countries, analysts said.

A new Israeli law attempts to ensure that Israeli weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.

Under pressure from the United States, the No. 1 arms exporter, Israel enacted the law that will make it illegal for Israeli residents to sell any weapons, even if they are not Israeli-made, to embargoed countries or militias.

Those convicted could serve as much as three years in prison and be fined up to $1.5 million, said Eli Pinko, the head of the new inspection department set up to comply with the law. The new law takes effect Jan. 1.

Israelis have in the past sold arms to embargoed countries and groups. Despite the violations and international pressure on Israel to take action, local law did not allow for their arrests.

"About 5 percent of the exports are meant for problematic countries in the Third World, in Asia and Africa, for countries that are in the midst of civil war," said military affairs expert Yossi Melman. "These are the markets that give Israel a bad name."

Israel also deals with countries with poor human rights records, like a sale to Zimbabwe in 2001 of crowd dispersal equipment that was later used against demonstrators protesting Robert Mugabe's rule, Amnesty International's Israel branch said.

Israelis also have been suspect in sales to Croatia during the war there in the mid-1990s and to Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

Amnesty welcomed Israel's attempt to improve its laws but the organization's campaign director, Ilan Lonai, said the efforts needed to go further.

"Israel needs to come up to standards that are not only better than what they are at the moment, but to international standards, like those of the United States and European Union," Lonai said.

Israeli defense officials have said Israel must export arms to keep its defense industries viable. Israel needs to develop and manufacture weapons for its military, which faces threats from hostile neighbors, but the Israeli military by itself is too small a market to sustain the industry.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

World views on free press mixed

World opinion is divided on the importance of having a free press, according to a poll conducted for the BBC World Service.

Of those interviewed, 56% thought that freedom of the press was very important to ensure a free society.

But 40% said it was more important to maintain social harmony and peace, even if it meant curbing the press's freedom to report news truthfully.

Pollsters interviewed 11,344 people in 14 countries for the survey.

In most of the 14 countries surveyed, press freedom (including broadcasting) was considered more important than social stability.

The strongest endorsement came from North America and Western Europe, where up to 70% put freedom first, followed by Venezuela, Kenya and South Africa, with over 60%.

Graph: How different countries rate press freedom

In India, Singapore and Russia, by contrast, more people favoured stability over press freedom.

In those countries, around 48% of respondents supported controls over the press to ensure peace and stability.

Around 40% expressed the view that press freedom was more important.

People were also asked to rate how free the press and broadcasters were in their country to report the news truthfully and without undue bias.
Perceptions varied
widely among developing countries, ranging from 81% giving a high rating in Kenya, to 41% in Mexico.

In India, 72% of respondents thought their media were free, compared with just 36% in Singapore.

But some developed countries which strongly believed in press
freedom were critical of their own media's honesty and accuracy.

In the United States, Britain and Germany, only around 29% of those interviewed thought their media did a good job in reporting news accurately.

Chris Coulter, vice-president of GlobeScan, the company that led the research, says: "Despite the fact that people in Britain really value freedom of the press, when we asked specifically around news organisations how they're doing in reporting news accurately and truthfully, respondents were quite critical."

"Only about a third of people in Britain actually gave positive ratings to either publicly-funded news
organisations or privately-funded news organisations."

He says he was quite surprised by this finding, but points out that the research was conducted during October this year, when trust in the BBC and other public service broadcasters in Britain had been hit by a series of phone-in problems and other editorial lapses.

Owners' views

The survey also identified concern in some countries over the concentration of private media ownership in the hands of fewer large companies.

In Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Britain, more than 70% of respondents agreed with the suggestion that ownership was an issue because the owners' political views emerged in the news.

Germans had a particularly poor view of their private media companies - with just 18% giving them a high rating for accurate news.

But overall, publicly-run news organisations were viewed slightly more negatively than ones run for profit.

Only in Egypt, Germany, Russia and Singapore did people rate the public media more than privately-owned media companies.

The poll was conducted by the international research firms GlobeScan and Synovate, as part of a season of programmes marking the 75th anniversary of BBC World Service.- BBC

Monday, December 3, 2007

The largest Christmas tree in China

A photo taken on December 3, 2007 shows a Christmas tree in Beijing, capital of China. The Christmas tree, which was erected at Jiadebao square in Beijing, is 23 meters high and 10 meters in diameter.

Currently the Christmas tree is the largest one in the capital of China. [newsphoto]