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Phuket Gazette World News: Egypt interim president sworn in; Mandela hangs on; Vatican high-life; Ecuador dour on bugs

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Phuket Gazette World News: Egypt interim president sworn in; Mandela hangs on; Vatican high-life; Ecuador dour on bugs | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Brotherhood leader arrested as Egypt interim leader sworn in
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood was arrested by Egyptian security forces on Thursday in a crackdown against the Islamist movement after the army ousted the country’s first democratically elected president.

The dramatic exit of President Mohamed Mursi was greeted with delight by millions of people on the streets of Cairo and other cities overnight, but there was simmering resentment among Egyptians who opposed military intervention.

Perhaps aware of the risk of a polarised society, the new interim leader, judge Adli Mansour, used his inauguration to hold out an olive branch to the Brotherhood, Mursi’s power base.

“The Muslim Brotherhood are part of this people and are invited to participate in building the nation as nobody will be excluded, and if they respond to the invitation, they will be welcomed,” he said.

But a senior Brotherhood official said it would not work with “the usurper authorities”. Another of its politicians said Mursi’s overthrow would push other groups, though not his own, to violent resistance.

Mursi’s removal after a year in office marked another twist in the turmoil that has gripped the Arab world’s most populous country in the two years since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Investigation into Mursi

The United Nations, the United States and some other world powers did not condemn Mursi’s removal as a military coup. To do so might trigger sanctions.

Army intervention was backed by millions of Egyptians, however, including liberal leaders and religious figures who expect new elections under a revised set of rules.

Egypt’s armed forces have been at the heart of power since officers staged the 1952 overthrow of King Farouk.

The protests that spurred the military to step in this time were rooted in a liberal opposition that lost elections to Islamists, but their ranks were swelled by anger over broken promises on the economy and shrinking real incomes.

The downfall of Egypt’s first elected leader to emerge from the Arab Spring revolutions raised questions about the future of political Islam, which only lately seemed triumphant.

Deeply divided, Egypt’s 84 million people are again a focus of concern in a region traumatised by the civil war in Syria.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, was arrested in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh, near the Libyan border, although security sources said they did not believe he had been trying to flee the country.

Prosecutors also ordered the arrest of his influential deputy Khairat el-Shater after both men were charged with inciting violence against protesters outside the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo that was attacked on Sunday night.

At least 16 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in street clashes across Egypt since Mursi’s overthrow.

Television stations sympathetic to Mursi were taken off air, and a newspaper affiliated with the Brotherhood’s political arm said the state-owned printing press had refused to produce its Thursday edition.

Mursi was in military custody, army and Brotherhood sources said, and authorities opened an investigation into accusations that he and 15 other Islamists insulted the judiciary.

A senior Brotherhood politician, Essam El-Erian, said the movement would take a long view of the political setback, and that Egypt’s Islamist leaders had not been given a fair chance to succeed in office.

Mohamed El-Beltagy, another senior Brotherhood politician, said the movement would not take up arms over what he called a military coup, although he warned that other, unnamed, groups could be pushed to violent resistance by recent events.

But there was a call from calm from the influential Dawa Salafiya movement of Egyptian Salafists.

For Egypt

Outside the court where Mansour was sworn in, 25-year-old engineer Maysar El-Tawtansy summed up the mood among those who voted for Mursi in 2012 and opposed military intervention.

“We queued for hours at the election, and now our votes are void,” he said. “It’s not about the Brotherhood, it’s about Egypt.”

For the defeated Islamists, the clampdown revived memories of their sufferings under the old, military-backed regime led by Mubarak, himself toppled by a popular uprising in 2011.

The clock started ticking for Mursi when millions took to the streets on Sunday to demand he resign. They accused the Brotherhood of hijacking the revolution, entrenching its power and failing to revive the economy.

That gave armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who already had his own reservations about the state of the nation under Mursi, a justification to invoke the “will of the people” and demand the president share power or step aside.

The United States and other Western allies had also pressed Mursi hard to open his administration to a broader mix of ideas.

Sisi, in uniform and flanked by politicians, officers and clergy, called on Wednesday for measures to wipe clear a slate of messy democratic reforms enacted since Mubarak fell. The constitution was suspended.

Interim government

A technocratic interim government will be formed, along with a panel for national reconciliation, and the constitution will be reviewed. Mansour said fresh parliamentary and presidential elections would be held, but he did not specify when.

Liberal chief negotiator Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. nuclear agency chief and favourite to become prime minister in the interim government, said the plan would “continue the revolution” of 2011.

Straddling the Suez Canal and Israel’s biggest neighbour, Egypt’s stability is important for many powers.

U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration provides $1.3 billion a year to the Egyptian military, expressed concern about Mursi’s removal and called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government.

But he stopped short of condemning a military move that could block U.S. aid.

A senator involved in aid decisions said the United States would cut off its financial support if the intervention was deemed a military coup.

Israel avoided any show of satisfaction over the fall of an Islamist president who alarmed many in the Jewish state but who quickly made clear he would not renege on a peace treaty.

Germany called the latest events in Egypt “a serious setback for democracy” while NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was “gravely concerned” about the situation.

The African Union said it was likely to suspend Egypt from all its activities and Turkey said the army’s overthrow of Mursi constituted an “unacceptable” military coup.

But the new emir in Qatar, which has provided billions of dollars in aid to Egypt following the ousting of Mubarak, congratulated Mansour on his appointment.

The markets reacted positively to Mursi’s exit. Egypt’s main stock index rose 7.3 percent on the day.

South Africa says Mandela still ‘critical but stable’
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: South Africa’s ailing anti-apartheid hero and former President Nelson Mandela remained in a “critical but stable” condition after nearly four weeks in hospital, the government said on Thursday.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year

The Thaiger

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Conversation

Chinese medical officials have now reported four more cases of the viral pneumonia strain caused by a new coronavirus. The discoveries are causing rising concern that the disease is not fully understand and could spread during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

The new virus, originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the apparent epicentre of the outbreak – is believed to belong in the same class of coronaviruses that includes the deadly SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002/03. That outbreak also started in China.

At this stage all signs are that the virus isn’t as lethal as SARS, but there is still little known about the coronavirus’ origins and how it is transmitted. But it has been established at this stage that it is not spread human to human.

Both Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus. In Thailand the patient was detected when arriving on a flight from Wuhan. And Japan’s health ministry reported that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return to Japan.

Both patients have fully recovered.

The new cases detected in China, and the cases detected overseas, are stoking global concerns as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese will head overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays that begin next week and run through to early February.

The Wuhan Health Commission reports that the the four new cases are now in stable condition. 45 cases have been reported in the city as of last Thursday. A second patient died on Wednesday this week. Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all of them either lived in Wuhan or have travelled to the city.

The London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis speculates that there are probably “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently declared by Wuhan authorities. Their modelling estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by the second week in January.

Meanwhile US authorities say they are now screening at three airports to detect passengers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. And in Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are stepping up monitoring of travellers from Wuhan at airports.

SOURCE: Reuters | Science Alert

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Thailand

Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released

Greeley Pulitzer

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Johan van Laarhoven walks free after serving six years of a 100 year sentence in Thai prison - The Chiang Rai Times

A Dutch citizen who was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is now on his way home after years of campaigning for his release. His sentence was reduced to 75 years on appeal and later to 50 years by the Supreme court. Johan van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis “coffee shops” in Holland, was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, along with his Thai wife, though the offences took place in The Netherlands.

Thai authorities began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after a letter from a Dutch public prosecutor’s office, informing them that he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting their help. Last year, MPs called on the government to to extradite Van Laarhoven and his wife back to Netherlands. The Dutch justice minister even met with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.

Even though cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, Dutch officials bungled a tax query to Thai authorities regarding the sale of the Dutchman’s cannabis cafe chain. This led to a criminal investigation and his televised arrest in Thailand.

Thai authorities seized the Dutchman’s assets and he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was jailed for 13 years as an accomplice. The Netherlands has an extradition treaty with Thailand, but it can only be implemented after a case has been ruled “definitive.” Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution. It’s unclear whether his wife will be allowed to join him in the Netherlands.

Once back, Van Laarhoven will spend two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, and also face criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership in a criminal organisation and laundering €20m (675 million baht) according to a Dutch public prosecutor.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times | Dutchnews.nl

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Expats

MSG makes a comeback with a new campaign against the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’

The Thaiger

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MSG makes a comeback with a new campaign against the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MSG got a bad rap for 50 years - bostonmagazine.com

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, a common seasoning in many foods from Doritos, to salad-dressing and Thai food, is making a come back. Not that it really went away. But there was 50 years or so when it suffered, unreasonably, a poor reputation.

For years it was branded an unhealthy processed ingredient despite a lack of supporting scientific evidence. It became the whipping boy of Chinese restaurants with people alleging they would suffer from symptoms like dizziness and palpitations after eating Chinese food seasoned with MSG. It even earned the nickname “Chinese restaurant syndrome”.

The Merriam-Webster even added “Chinese restaurant syndrome” to its dictionaries from 1993 after it became somewhat of an urban legend such that it became excepted that a lot of Chinese food contained MSG and that it was, somehow, bad for you. Despite hundreds of studies there has never been any repeatable experiments where it could be proven that monosodium glutamate was bad for consumer’s health or could repeat the alleged side-effects in control groups.

It all started when a biochemist wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Science in 1968 saying that Chinese restaurant food left him “lightheaded and with odd aches and pains”. The next issue of the journal published more purported side-effects.

That grew into a meme that Chinese food was dangerous for you and spread quickly, and even gained some early legitimacy by some medical professionals at the time. A 1969 scientific paper claimed that MSG was “the cause of the Chinese restaurant syndrome,” and said it caused “burning sensations, facial pressure, and chest pain.”

Subsequent scientific studies over the next half century have never been able to validate the 1969 paper’s claims or find any link between the white salt-like substance and any side effects. Studies suggest that any correlation on side effects from eating MSG were probably psychosomatic.

MSG was first introduced in 1908 by a Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was able to isolate unique flavour of a popular broth made from a seaweed called kombu. Ikeda described the flavour as neither salty, sweet, sour or bitter. It was unique. The taste came from the glutamate in the seaweed and earned the new, “fifth taste” which would be called “umami”, neither salty, sweet, sour or bitter.

But MSG has been used as an active ingredient in many Asian foods, not the least Thai food where the white crystals are sprinkled liberally on favourite Thai dishes from the street stalls to the hi-so restaurants.

Now there’s a campaign, “Redefine CRS” headed by Japanese food and seasoning company Ajinomoto to reflect the current knowledge about MSG and the impact of misinformation on the public’s perception of Asian cuisine.

The whole Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was a western construct and never became a ‘thing’ in Asia. So Ajinomoto are calling out the half century of misinformation as “racist”. If MSG was actually dangerous or could conjour up it’s reputed side effects a long list of Asian countries and their populations would be walking around complaining about it.

“To this day, the myth around MSG is ingrained in America’s consciousness, with Asian food and culture still receiving unfair blame. Chinese Restaurant Syndrome isn’t just scientifically false, it’s xenophobic.”

In a video several Asian American figures, restaurateurs, and medical professionals spoke out against the misconceptions surrounding MSG and Chinese food. Famed restaurateur Eddie Huang, whose memoir was adapted into the hit sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat points out that MSG is not only delicious but found in hundreds of commonly used foods we use every day.

“Calling it Chinese restaurant syndrome is really ignorant.”

The campaign proposes a redefinition of “Chinese restaurant syndrome”… “an outdated term that falsely blamed Chinese food containing MSG, or monosodium glutamate, for a group of symptoms.”

Chances are, you’ve eaten it. You light be eating it right now as you snack and scroll through your phone. MSG is a common amino acid naturally found in foods like tomatoes and cheese, which people then figured out how to extract and ferment. This fermented glutamate salt is now used to flavour lots of different foods like stews or chicken stock and seasoning.

A joint study by the World Health Organisation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation “failed to confirm a link between MSG and the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’. The syndrome itself was based on “anecdotal” evidence rather than any scientific fact.”

As the new campaign points out, the public scare over MSG unfairly placed the blame on Chinese food. That myth persists in many western countries where Chinese food as is sometimes considered processed, unclean, or unhealthy.

So, head down to your local Chinese restaurant and thoroughly enjoy your meal because it tastes great, along with all the other Asian cuisines you love. If you feel ‘icky, bloated and tingly’ after your meal it’s not the MSG, you probably just ate or drank too much.

As a side note, The Thaiger was involved in an experiment six years ago in Phuket when we had two control groups of three people. The six people were sat down and told we wanted to measure the effects of MSG in their food. All were given a standard Pad Thai Goong. One group was told the meal had been prepared with MSG, the other without MSG. In the interviews after, the group who ate the food prepared with MSG noted they had ‘tingling around their lips’, ‘feeling of flush cheeks’ and ‘racing heartbeat’.

The other group, who were told their meals were prepared without MSG, had no complaints.

Then everyone was told that, in fact, the meals had been switched, so that the group who thought they had consumed MSG had eaten a Pad Thai Going without any MSG.

Hardly a scientifically-validated study but an indication how we can be easily convinced to believe anything.

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