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Phuket Gazette World News: Israel blocks EU aid; Snowden won’t be tortured, executed – US; Strauss-Kahn on pimp charges; Pink Panther jailbreak; Tunisia, Syria sectarian divide deepens

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Phuket Gazette World News: Israel blocks EU aid; Snowden won’t be tortured, executed – US; Strauss-Kahn on pimp charges; Pink Panther jailbreak; Tunisia, Syria sectarian divide deepens | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Israel blocks EU aid in West Bank
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Israel has blocked the European Union from aiding tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank in retaliation for Brussels’ ban on financial assistance to Israeli organisations in the occupied territories.

An Israeli official said on Friday the move was a result of the EU decision “to sanction or boycott the settlements”.

“From our standpoint we cannot just ignore this or treat spitting in our face as though it is rain,” the official said.

The EU imposed restrictions last week citing its frustration over the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.

The guidelines render Israeli entities operating there ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year.

Settler leaders say the aid they receive from Europe is minimal. But many in Israel worry about possible knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had decided to suspend contacts with the EU in the West Bank.

Yaalon, a former army chief and hardliner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, has “frozen projects, cancelled meetings, curtailed coordination and permits for Europe’s operations” for Palestinians living in what is known as Area C, a West Bank area fully administered by Israel, he said.

The EU expressed concern about the Israeli steps, which may hurt its humanitarian work for Palestinians, an EU source in Israel told Reuters.

The organisation had not been formally notified of the Israeli measures and was seeking clarification, he said.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said several European humanitarian aid staff had had difficulty obtaining permits and some requests had gone unanswered.

Under the terms of a 1993 interim peace accord, some 150,000 Palestinians, many of then poor farmers and shepherds living in Area C, a West Bank zone where many settlements have been built, are fully under Israeli military control,

The Palestinians have limited self-rule over other parts of the West Bank, and share joint custody with Israel over yet other areas.

Some of Europe’s assistance in the West Bank goes to Palestinians whose homes built with EU funding are demolished by Israel, often maintaining the structures were built illegally.

The Association of International Development Agencies, a coalition of 80 aid groups, said in a report in May that 600 settler houses had been built since mid-2012 while Israel demolished 535 Palestinian-owned homes and structures.

The United States, Israel’s main backer, has been trying to revive peace talks that have been deadlocked for three years and aimed at reaching an agreement for the Palestinians to establish a state alongside Israel.

Ex-IMF chief Strauss-Kahn to be tried for pimping
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn will be tried on charges of pimping, prosecutors said on Friday, capping an inquiry into sex parties attended by a man whose French presidential hopes were dashed by a separate 2011 U.S. sex scandal.

Prosecutors in the northern city of Lille said investigating judges had determined that Strauss-Kahn, 64, who has been under investigation in the case since 2012, should be judged by a criminal court.

The decision came as a surprise after a public prosecutor had recommended in June that the inquiry be dropped without trial.

“We’re not in the realm of the law, we’re in ideology. We’re sending someone to court for nothing,” said Henri Leclerc, one of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers.

The so-called Carlton affair, named after a hotel in Lille, involves sex parties that Strauss-Kahn has acknowledged attending. He says he was unaware that the women who participated were prostitutes.

Strauss-Kahn is charged with “aggravated pimping.” Pimping under French law is a broad crime that can encompass aiding or encouraging the act of prostitution. Strauss-Kahn was charged with the more serious form because it allegedly involved more than one prostitute.

The crime carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a fine of 1.5 million euros (1.2 million pounds).

The former French finance minister quit his post as head of the International Monetary Fund in 2011 after being accused of raping a maid in New York, a charge that was later dropped.

U.S. assures Russia Snowden won’t be tortured or executed
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden would not face the death penalty or be tortured and would have all the protections of the U.S. civilian court system if he were sent home, the chief U.S. prosecutor wrote in a letter to his Russian counterpart this week.

In the letter dated Tuesday July 23 and released on Friday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that he sought to dispel claims about what would happen to Snowden if Russia handed him over to face charges of illegally disclosing government secrets about surveillance programs.

Snowden, 30, has been stuck at a Moscow airport for more than a month while he searches for a country that will grant him asylum and avoid the criminal charges.

Russia has refused to hand over Snowden, who leaked details of secret U.S. electronic surveillance programs to British and U.S. media, to the United States, and is considering a temporary asylum request.

“We believe that these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise,” Holder wrote in the two-page letter to Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov.

Holder, the head of the U.S. Justice Department and an appointee of President Barack Obama, also promised that Snowden could have a lawyer with him for any questioning.

Citing media reports, Holder wrote that “Mr. Snowden has filed papers seeking temporary asylum in Russia on the grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and would face the death penalty. These claims are entirely without merit.”

Snowden’s supporters have worried he could face the same fate as Private First Class Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of providing documents to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group. Upon his arrest, Manning was placed in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day with guards checking on him every few minutes.

“Torture is unlawful in the United States,” Holder wrote, without explicit reference to Manning. “If he returns to the United States, Mr. Snowden would promptly be brought before a civilian court.”.

Pink Panther gang in daring jailbreak
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Armed men have broken a member of the so-called Pink Panther gang of jewel thieves out of a Swiss prison, police said on Friday.

Bosni

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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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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