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Phuket Gazette World News: Iran to swear off nuclear; Mexico storm looting spree; Heartbroken mom of DC shooter apologizes

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Phuket Gazette World News: Iran to swear off nuclear; Mexico storm looting spree; Heartbroken mom of DC shooter apologizes | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Rouhani says Iran willing to forswear nuclear arms
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Wednesday that his government would never develop nuclear weapons, his strongest signal yet that he may be seeking a diplomatic thaw with the West after decades of acrimony.

In an interview with NBC News days before he travels to New York for a U.N. appearance, the new Iranian president also insisted he had “complete authority” to negotiate a nuclear deal with the United States and other Western powers.

“We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever,” Rouhani said when asked whether he would forswear nuclear arms.

Rouhani’s conciliatory comments appeared to be another sign of his willingness to work toward a diplomatic solution in Iran’s bitter nuclear standoff with the West. Washington and its allies are intrigued but still wary, making clear they hope to see tangible steps to back up his words.

Speaking to the U.S. network at his presidential compound in Tehran, Rouhani said the tone of a letter he had received from President Barack Obama, part of a recent exchange of messages between the leaders, was “positive and constructive.”

“It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future,” Rouhani said six days before he is due to address the U.N. General Assembly, a speech that will be watched closely for fresh diplomatic overtures.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said that nuclear weapons development would be inconsistent with Islamic values. But a willingness by a newly elected president to rule out nuclear arms could help provide a new opening in long-stalled international nuclear talks.

Questions remain about how much bargaining room Khamenei, a staunch promoter of Iran’s nuclear program, will give Rouhani’s government, whether in secret talks with Washington or in multilateral discussions with major powers.

Comments on Tuesday by Khamenei about the need for “flexibility” suggest a new willingness at the highest level to explore a compromise solution to Tehran’s dispute with the West.

Complete authority

“This government enters with full power and has complete authority,” Rouhani said, according to an NBC translation. “I have given the nuclear negotiations portfolio to foreign ministry. The problem won’t be from our side. We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem.”

The White House responded cautiously.

“The world has heard a lot from President Rouhani’s administration about its desire to improve the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s relations with the international community, and President Obama believes we should test that assertion,” White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

“We hope that this new Iranian government will engage substantively in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is seeking bomb-making capability despite Tehran’s insistence that its program has only peaceful aims. Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear weapons power, has repeatedly called for a credible military threat to halt Iran’s nuclear advance.

Since Rouhani was elected president in June, the centrist cleric has called for “constructive interaction” with the world, a dramatic shift in tone from the strident anti-Western rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama said in a television interview on Tuesday that he was prepared to test Rouhani’s willingness to open a nuclear dialogue, but he did not back away from previous U.S. demands.

Rouhani said Obama wrote to him first, congratulating him on his election and raising “some issues of interest,” and the Iranian president responded.

Obama told Rouhani in their exchange that the United States was “ready to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that allows Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney reiterated that Obama had no plans to meet Rouhani at the United Nations. But there is always the possibility the two might see each other in the U.N. corridors.

In the television interview, Rouhani did not rule out meeting Obama at the United Nations, NBC said.

In a possible gesture to ease Western concerns, Iranian authorities on Wednesday released a prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was arrested in 2010 and convicted of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. Rouhani had pledged during his election campaign to ease some political and social restrictions at home.

The U.S. State Department welcomed Sotoudeh’s release and called on Iran to release “all prisoners of conscience.”

The United States and Iran cut diplomatic relations in 1980, after students and Islamist militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage.

Obama ran for president in 2008 vowing to engage with Iran. But Tehran continued its nuclear development and tough sanctions imposed by Washington and the United Nations have taken a severe toll on Iran’s economy.

Also in the NBC interview, Rouhani demurred when asked whether Iran, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, could assure the world that Damascus would comply with a U.S.-Russia agreement to give up its chemical weapons.

“We are not the government of Syria,” Rouhani said. “We are one of the countries of this region which is asking peace and stability and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the entire region.”

Looting hits Acapulco as Mexico storm death toll reaches 80
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Looting broke out in the flooded Mexican beach resort of Acapulco on Wednesday as the government struggled to reach tens of thousands of people cut off by flooding that had claimed at least 80 lives.

Stores were ransacked by looters who carried off everything from televisions to Christmas decorations after floodwaters wreaked havoc in the Pacific port that has experienced some of the worst storm damage to hit Mexico in years.

Tens of thousands of people have been trapped in the aftermath of two tropical storms that hammered vast swathes of Mexico. More than 1 million people have been affected. Acapulco’s airport terminal was under water, stranding tourists.

However there was no let-up in sight.

One of the tropical storms, Manuel, became a hurricane late on Wednesday, barrelling north along Mexico’s northwestern coast and threatening more flooding and mudslides.

Shops were plundered in the city’s upscale Acapulco neighbourhood of Diamante, home to luxury hotels and plush apartments, where dozens of cars were ruined by muddy brown floodwaters. Marines were posted outside stores to prevent further theft.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t looting from need of food. It was stealing for stealing’s sake,” said Mariberta Medina, head of a local hoteliers’ association. “They even stole Halloween and Christmas decorations and an outboard motor.”

Acapulco’s tourist trade was already grappling with a surge in drug gang violence, which earned the city the dubious distinction of

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble Thai massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by the CNN Travel team. Thailand’s smooth coconut milk and potato-based curry (add meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at Number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also making it into the World’s Best food list.

The hot and spicy shrimp/prawn soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at Number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck, Penang Assam laksa, Malaysia and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

First Place, Massaman curryEmphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Eighth Place, Tom Yum Kung

This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

46th Place, Som Tam/Papaya salad

To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies

Caitlin Ashworth

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies | The Thaiger

A volunteer for a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial in Brazil has died. But he never actually received the experimental vaccine, although he was involved in the trial groups. He did, however, die of Covid-19.

But trials on the vaccine, being developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, are set to continue. The university says “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.” The vaccine is also planned to be produced in Thailand and be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021.

The 28 year old volunteer from Rio de Janeiro died from Covid-19 complications, according to CNN Brasil. He was apparently never injected with the experimental vaccine. If the volunteer had been given the Covid-19 vaccine and died, the trial would have been suspended, a source told Reuters, adding that the volunteer may have been part of the control group.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo is helping to coordinate the trials in Brazil and has also recommended the trials continue. So far, 8,000 volunteers have been injected with the first dose of the vaccine and some have already been jabbed a second time, a university spokesperson said.

“Everything is proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers.”

Thailand is set to be the Southeast Asia production site for the new vaccine. If the AstraZeneca trials are successful, the vaccine will be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021. For Thailand, the vaccine is seen as a lifeline to save the country’s struggling economy, allowing borders to safely reopen and revive the tourism industry.

The company Siam Bioscience will manufacture the vaccine in Thailand and provide injections for the Thai populations as well as the neighbouring countries Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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World

China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue

Maya Taylor

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China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bicanski on Pixnio

The Chinese government is to keep the current ban on inbound and outbound tour groups, amid fears that the winter months could bring a resurgence of Covid-19. The Bangkok Post reports that the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has confirmed on its website that the ban remains in place. After several months with very low case numbers, officials are wary of the virus surging back this winter.

The ban on outbound tours is severely impacting places like Thailand, where former tourist hotspots are already suffering devastating economic consequences from the closure of the country’s borders in late March. Earlier this week, Thailand welcomed its first group of Chinese tourists in 7 months, but the Kingdom has a long way to go to get back to the 10.99 million Chinese who visited last year – if it ever does.

As the Covid-19 virus made itself known at the start of 2020, China put a stop to both domestic and outbound tours in January. Since July, domestic tours have started up again as a result of a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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