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Phuket Gazette World News: Egypt braces; Himalayan tsunami; Obama digs at China, Russia; Whitey Bulger mobster swears

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Phuket Gazette World News: Egypt braces; Himalayan tsunami; Obama digs at China, Russia; Whitey Bulger mobster swears | The Thaiger

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

Egypt braced for protests as Mursi stands ground
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Egypt faces a showdown in the streets after President Mohamed Mursi failed, in an address to the nation, to satisfy the demands of opponents who want the Islamist to step down after a year in office.

Days of brawling between his supporters and their rivals have already left several dead and scores injured and the camps now plan mass rallies, raising the risk of bigger clashes that the army warns could prompt it to take command again.

On Friday, Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and their allies will gather in Cairo, as will some opposition groups. On Sunday, the opposition hopes millions will heed their call, a year to the day since Mursi became Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

“I am more determined than ever to go out on June 30 to demand the removal of an absolutely irresponsible president,” Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for a coalition of liberal parties, said on Thursday after Mursi’s marathon late-night address.

The army, which helped protesters topple Hosni Mubarak in 2011, says it will act if politicians cannot reach consensus. The United States, which continues to fund the military as it did under Mubarak, has urged Egypt’s leaders to pull together.

Mursi described his opponents as “enemies” and “saboteurs” loyal to the ousted dictator, whose “corruption” had thwarted him and driven the economy into crisis, though he conceded he had made some mistakes and promised reforms.

He also offered talks on “national reconciliation” and constitutional change to end the polarisation and paralysis that he said threatened democracy.

Opponents dismissed that as nothing new. Mursi and his allies complain that their opponents, defeated by the highly mobilised Islamist groups in a series of elections last year, are bad losers who have repeatedly snubbed offers to cooperate.

They in turn say Mursi makes such proposals in bad faith, accusing him of usurping the revolution by entrenching Brotherhood control of the state and “Islamising” society to the detriment of more secular Egyptians and religious minorities.

“I feel ashamed that this man has become a president of my state,” said Mahmoud Badr, the 28-year-old journalist behind a petition which he says has garnered 15 million signatures calling on Mursi to quit or face mass sit-ins from Sunday.

“Our demand was early presidential elections and since that was not addressed anywhere in the speech then our response will be on the streets on June 30,” said Badr, who told Reuters he had voted for Mursi in last year’s presidential run-off against Mubarak’s last prime minister. “I hope he’ll be watching.”

Islamists say the opposition tactics amount to a “coup” and many who were jailed under Mubarak fear a return of army rule.

International concern

Urging peaceful protests – and warning “violence will only lead to violence” – Mursi urged his opponents to focus on parliamentary elections, which may be held this year, rather than on “undemocratic” demands to overturn his election on the streets: “I say to the opposition, the road to change is clear,” he said. “Our hands are extended.”

Instability in the biggest Arab nation could send shocks well beyond its borders. Signatory to a key, U.S.-backed peace treaty with Israel, Egypt also controls the Suez Canal, a vital link in global transport networks between Europe and Asia.

“Egypt is historically a critical country to this region U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is on a tour of the Middle East, said on Wednesday, highlighting economic problems.

“Our hopes are that all parties … whether it is the demonstration that takes place on Friday or the demonstration that takes place on Sunday, will all engage in peaceful, free expression … but not engage in violence but help the democracy of Egypt to be able to make the right choices,” Kerry said.

With the government short of cash and seeking funding from allies and the IMF, Kerry said Egypt should curb unrest in order to attract investment and restore vital tourism income. The U.S. ambassador in Cairo has angered opposition activists by saying explicitly that their protests risked being counter-productive.

The secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Cairo-born Turkish academic Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, raised the alarm about the fragility of the democracy Egyptians secured in the Arab Spring uprising two and half years ago:

“I hope Egyptian politics do not become polarised and that the polarisation does not turn into clashes,” he told Egypt’s state news agency MENA. “Because if that happened, then it means that there will not be a democratic solution.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s insistence on its right to rule as it sees fit because of its electoral mandate has drawn comparison with the way Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government, dismissed street protesters earlier this month. In both cases, critics say large minority voices have been ignored.

Threats

Mursi threatened legal action against several named senior figures and raised the possibility of using military law codes in some cases. He said some judges and civil servants were obstructing him, and accused liberal media owners of bias.

Those attacks, as well as flashes of humour in the speech, showed a more animated Mursi than most Egyptians have seen since he emerged from obscurity as a last-minute stand-in to carry the Brotherhood’s banner in the presidential election. That may play well with his core supporters, if not with critics.

With protesters planning to gather around the presidential palace in a Cairo suburb, the head of the Republican Guard was quoted by the state news agency saying his men would not deploy outside the walls of the compound and so would not confront them – unless “there is an attempt to storm the gates”.

On Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the cradle of the revolution, people have pitched tents and are preparing to demonstrate. As Mursi spoke on a nearby television overnight, Ayman Anwar, a 55-year old computer engineer, was watching with disdain.

“I didn’t come out tonight to listen,” he said. “I came out because I’m angry. No one could have imagined that this would happen to Egypt. We’ve replaced one dictator with another.”

India begins mass cremation of ‘Himalayan tsunami’ victims
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: India began the mass cremation of bodies recovered after devastating floods in the country’s northern Himalayan region, government officials said on Thursday, adding that hundreds of people were still missing.

The floods, triggered by heavier than normal and early monsoon rains, have killed at least 822 people and displaced tens of thousands of inhabitants in Uttarakhand state, a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims due to its shrines and temples.

The disaster has been dubbed a “Himalayan tsunami” by the media due to the torrents of water unleashed in the hilly region, which sent mud and boulders crashing down, burying homes, sweeping away buildings, roads and bridges.

Eighteen bodies were cremated on Wednesday in the temple town of Kedarnath – one of the worst affected areas – and at least 40 would be cremated on Thursday, said a government doctor in Guptkashi, some 40 km (25 miles) from Kedarnath.

Media reports said 600

— 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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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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