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Phuket Gazette World News: Brazil mass protests; Israel accused of child torture; Pope cleared of Falklands role; Greek politics in ruins

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Phuket Gazette World News: Brazil mass protests; Israel accused of child torture; Pope cleared of Falklands role; Greek politics in ruins | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Brazil hit by largest protests yet
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Brazil’s biggest protests in two decades intensified on Thursday despite government concessions meant to quell the demonstrations as 300,000 people took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro and hundreds of thousands more flooded other cities.

Undeterred by the reversal of transport fare hikes that sparked the protests, and promises of better public services, demonstrators marched around two international football matches and in locales as diverse as the Amazon capital of Manaus and the prosperous southern city of Florianopolis.

“Twenty cents was just the start,” read signs held by many converging along the Avenida Paulista, the broad avenue in central Sao Paulo, referring to the bus fare reductions. Police there said more than 100,000 people lined the avenue.

While the protests remain mostly non-violent, the growing number of participants made them more tense than previous demonstrations. In the capital, Brasilia, tens of thousands of protesters marched around the landmark modernist buildings that house Congress and the Supreme Court and briefly set fire to the outside of the Foreign Ministry building.

The swelling tide of protests prompted President Dilma Rousseff to cancel a trip next week to Japan, her office said. Local media across the country reported hundreds of minor injuries during the protests, including a television reporter in Rio de Janeiro who recounted being hit by a rubber bullet fired by police.

The targets of the protests, now in their second week, have broadened to include high taxes, inflation, corruption and poor public services ranging from hospitals and schools to roads and police forces.

With an international football tournament as a backdrop, demonstrators are also denouncing the more than $26 billion (16.7 billion pounds) of public money that will be spent on the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, two events meant to showcase a modern, developed Brazil.

“This is fair play,” read a banner among the hordes in Brasilia, a twist on the slogan used to promote sportsmanship by FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.

Multiple grievances

After the concession on transport fares on Wednesday, activist groups differed over what their next priority should be. But the competing demands of demonstrators appeared to add to the intensity of Thursday’s protests.

“What am I protesting for?” asked Savina Santos, a 29-year-old civil servant in Sao Paulo. “You should ask what I’m not protesting for! We need political reform, tax reform, an end to corruption, better schools, better transportation. We are not in a position to be hosting the World Cup.”

Inside Rio’s iconic Maracanã stadium, football fans sang protest songs and showed support for the throngs of demonstrators gathering in the city. In Salvador, a northeastern city hosting another game of the football tournament that serves as a World Cup test run, protesters clashed with police, who fired tear gas to disperse crowds.

Police also used tear gas, pepper spray, and other dispersal methods in Rio, Brasilia and other cities. They donned riot gear and used horses, trucks and barricades to help channel the crowds and protect buildings.

The unrest comes six months before an election year. And after nearly a decade-long economic boom in which the country’s profile soared on the global stage, Brazil is entering a period of uncertainty. Economic growth of less than 1 percent last year, annual inflation of 6.5 percent and a loss of appetite for Brazilian assets among international investors have clouded what had been a feel-good era for Brazil.

Brazil’s currency, the real, dropped to a four-year low on Thursday, trading as weak as 2.275 per U.S. dollar. The country’s benchmark stock market index, the Bovespa, also hit a four-year low.

Changing political landscape

The protests have shaken the once solid ground under Rousseff and her ruling Workers’ Party, a bloc that grew out of convulsive demonstrations by Brazil’s labour movement 30 years ago. Until inflation and other economic woes began eroding her poll numbers in recent weeks, Rousseff enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings of any elected leader worldwide.

The demonstrations have been comprised of mostly middle-class, well-educated voters who do not form the bulk of Rousseff’s electoral base. The president and her party have sought to get ahead of the complaints and embrace them as their own – a shift that contrasts sharply with a playbook that long relied on telling Brazilians that they had never had it so good.

With little more than a year to go before presidential and gubernatorial elections, the unrest is forcing incumbents and traditional political parties to reconsider their strategies.

Icelandic businessman says plane ready to take Snowden to Iceland
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: An Icelandic businessman linked to WikiLeaks said he has readied a private plane to take Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed secret U.S. surveillance programmes, to Iceland if the government grants him asylum.

“We have made everything ready at our end now we only have to wait for confirmation from the (Icelandic) Interior Ministry,” Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson told Reuters. He is a director of DataCell, a company which processed payments for WikiLeaks.

“A private jet is in place in China and we could fly Snowden over tomorrow if we get positive reaction from the Interior Ministry. We need to get confirmation of asylum and that he will not be extradited to the U.S. We would most want him to get a citizenship as well,” Sigurvinsson said.

Neither a WikiLeaks spokesman nor the Icelandic government were immediately available for comment.

Snowden, a former employee of contractor Booz Allen Hamilton who worked in an NSA facility in Hawaii, made world headlines this month after providing details of the programmes to the Guardian and Washington Post and fleeing to Hong Kong.

Earlier this week, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said a middleman had approached him on behalf of Snowden to seek asylum in Iceland.

The Icelandic government, which has declined to say whether they would grant asylum to Snowden, confirmed it had received the message from Hrafnsson.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, a lawmaker for the Pirate Party in Iceland which campaigns for Internet freedom, said the only way for Snowden to travel to the Nordic country would be to have Icelandic citizenship.

Snowden has mentioned Iceland as a possible refuge.

Iceland has a reputation for promoting Internet freedoms, but Snowden has said he did not travel there immediately from the United States because he feared the country of 320,000 could be pressured by Washington.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sex offences, visited Iceland several times in the run-up to some of the website’s major releases. Assange denies any wrongdoing.

WikiLeaks and DataCell won a ruling this year in Iceland’s Supreme Court against MasterCard’s local partner.

The court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the payment card company had illegally ended its contract with the website. WikiLeaks’ fundin

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home

The Thaiger

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Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Lost In Space? Or lost in reality? Maybe someone will fall for it – Lost in Space’s Jupiter 2

The Nigerians have somewhat of a reputation for scams and scammers. Who hasn’t received an email offering loads of cash in return for your bank account and a moderate deposit? But this letter takes the famous Nigerian Scam to another level. Or perhaps it’s true (we don’t think so…)?

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde – Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555, Misau Street, PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA

Dear Mr. Sir,

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14 years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-XXXX only.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
XXXX@nasrda.gov.ng

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World

Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis

The Thaiger

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Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | The Thaiger

Thousands of rescue workers are searching for survivors from the fury of Typhoon Hagibis, two days after the storm slammed into Japan. As of the time of this post, the storm had killed at least 35 people.

(Video from Sky News below…)

Hagibis crashed into the country Saturday evening, but brought hours of torrential rains before it made landfall, causing landslides and filling rivers until they burst their banks.

More than 110,000 rescuers, including 31,000 troops, worked through the night searching for people trapped by the disaster. Local media report at least 35 people have been killed, with the Kyodo news agency reporting nearly 20 people were missing. Government figures from Sunday night were lower, though updates were expected throughout today.

While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres per hours (134 miles per hour), it was the heavy rains that caused most damage, with 21 rivers bursting their banks.

Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | News by The Thaiger

In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. Military and fire department helicopters winched survivors from roofs and balconies in several locations, but in Fukushima one operation went tragically awry when a woman died after falling while being rescued.

The destruction forced the Rugby World Cup being hosted by Japan to cancel several games, but the “Brave Blossoms”, as the national team is known, lifted spirits with a stunning 28-21 victory over Scotland on Sunday that put them into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time.

Rescue efforts have been continuing this morning, with local television showing soldiers rowing a rubber rescue dingy through floodwaters in Fukushima, while elsewhere workers removed dirt with a digger.

Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | News by The Thaiger

The death toll mounted throughout yesterday as bodies were recovered from flooded homes and cars, buildings caught in landslides, and swollen rivers.

The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least five Chinese crew members aboard a boat that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night.

As of this morning, some 57,500 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.

But most subway trains have resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse PHOTOS: AFP

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia

The Thaiger

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Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia | The Thaiger

From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.

Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.

Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.

A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.

“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”

And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.

“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.

The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.

China-fuelled boom

While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.

Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.

But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.

There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.

“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.

As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.

“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”

Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.

And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.

“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.

Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.

But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.

“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

PHOTO: newlaunches.sg

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