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Phuket Gazette World News: Israel plays down Syria war; EU tackles carbon; Auschwitz guard arrested; Women missing 10 years found alive in house

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Phuket Gazette World News: Israel plays down Syria war; EU tackles carbon; Auschwitz guard arrested; Women missing 10 years found alive in house | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Israel says ‘no winds of war’ despite Syria air strikes
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Israel played down weekend air strikes close to Damascus reported to have killed dozens of Syrian soldiers, saying they were not aimed at influencing its neighbour’s civil war but only at stopping Iranian missiles reaching Lebanese Hezbollah militants.

Oil prices spiked above $105 (67.5 pounds) a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of the two-year-old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports.

“There are no winds of war,” Yair Golan, the general commanding Israeli forces on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, told reporters while out jogging with troops.

“Do you see tension? There is no tension. Do I look tense to you?” he said, according to the Maariv NRG news website.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under veiled criticism in Beijing, where he began a scheduled visit in an apparent sign of confidence Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not retaliate. China urged restraint without mentioning Israel by name.

Russia, Assad’s other protector on the U.N. Security Council, said the strikes by Israel “caused particular alarm”. President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Tuesday to try to tackle differences over the Syrian crisis.

Israeli officials said the raids were not connected with Syria’s civil war but aimed at stopping Hezbollah, an ally of Iran, acquiring weapons to strike Israeli territory.

Israel aimed to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime,” veteran lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Israel Radio.

Most casualties from elite unit

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group based in Britain, said at least 42 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes and 100 were missing.

Other opposition sources put the death toll at 300 soldiers, mostly belonging to the elite Republican Guards, a praetorian unit that forms the last line of defence of Damascus and includes mainly members of Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that has controlled Syria since the 1960s.

As well as the heavily fortified Hamah compound, linked to Syria’s chemical and biological weapons programme, the warplanes hit military facilities manned by Republican Guards on Qasioun Mountain overlooking Damascus and the nearby Barada River basin.

Residents, activists and rebel sources said the area is a supply route to the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah, but missiles for Hezbollah did not appear to be the only target.

Air defences comprising Russian-made surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns on Qasioun and overlooking the rebellious Damascus district of Barzeh were also hit, they said. Their statements could not be verified due to restrictions on media.

“The destruction appeared to be massive,” said one activist in Damascus, who did not want to be identified.

Russia said it was concerned the chances of foreign military intervention in Syria were growing, suggesting its worry stemmed in part from reports about the alleged use of chemical weapons in the conflict that has killed 70,000 people.

“The further escalation of armed confrontation sharply increases the risk of creating new areas of tension, in addition to Syria, in Lebanon, and the destabilisation of the so-far relatively calm atmosphere on the Lebanese-Israeli border,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Assad’s government accused Israel of effectively helping al Qaeda Islamist “terrorists” and said the strikes “open the door to all possibilities”. It said many civilians had died but there was no official casualty toll.

Calculating

Israeli officials said that, as after a similar attack in the same area in January, they were calculating Assad would not fight a well-armed neighbour while preoccupied with survival against a revolt that grew from pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Israel has not confirmed the latest attacks officially, but has reinforced anti-missile batteries in the north. It said two rockets landed, by mistake, on Monday, in the Golan Heights, the Israeli-occupied area near Syria’s border with Israel.

“They were fired erroneously as a by-product of internal conflict in Syria,” an Israeli military spokesman said.

Syria would be no match for Israel in any direct military showdown. But Damascus, with its leverage over Lebanon’s Hezbollah, could consider proxy attacks through Lebanon.

Tehran, which has long backed Assad, whose Alawite minority has religious ties to Iran’s Shi’ite Islam, denied Israel’s attack was on arms for Hezbollah. Hezbollah did not comment.

Moscow and Beijing have blocked Western-backed measures against Assad at the United Nations Security Council, opposing any proposal that has his exit from power as a starting point.

Allegations of the use of chemical weapons – long described by Western leaders as a “red line” that would have serious consequences – have added to regional and international tension.

After months of increasingly bitter fighting, Assad’s government and the rebels have each accused the other of carrying out three chemical weapon attacks.

In Washington, an influential U.S. senator introduced a bill on Monday that would provide weapons to some Syrian rebels.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that Assad had crossed a red line and “the U.S. must play a role in tipping the scales toward opposition groups”.

President Barack Obama has taken a cautious approach to the reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, saying he would not allow himself to be pressured prematurely into deeper intervention in the conflict.

The White House has said the Syrian government has probably used chemical weapons. A U.S. official said on Monday that Washington had no information to suggest that rebels had used them.

Syria is not part of the international treaty that bans poison gas but has said it would never use it in an internal conflict. Rebels say they have no access to chemical arms.

A U.N. inquiry commission said on Monday war crimes investigators had reached no conclusions on whether any side in the Syrian war has used chemical weapons, after a suggestion from one of the team that rebel forces had done so.

EU ministers urge July decision on carbon market – draft
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Governments and members of the European Parliament must decide on a plan to prop up the EU carbon market by July at the latest, a joint statement from nine energy and environment ministers, said.

The statement, seen by Reuters, is expected to be published officially on Tuesday to coincide with discussions among members of the European Parliament on the European Commission plan.

No-one from Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, which is expected to release the statement, was immediately available for comment.

A proposal, known as backloading, to strengthen the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) by removing some of a glut of carbo

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Chiang Rai

Italian busted in Australia smuggling heroin

Greeley Pulitzer

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Italian busted in Australia smuggling heroin | The Thaiger

An 49-year-old Italian has been charged with drug smuggling after arriving at Perth Airport from Chiang Mai. He allegedly had about 300 grams of heroin, worth about 135,000 Australian dollars, hidden inside his body.

After trace technology during a baggage examination showed positive for narcotics, Australian Border Force officers referred him to the Australian Federal Police for an internal exam.

The man was taken to hospital where 63 pellets of heroin were allegedly found in his stomach. X-Rays also revealed three more pellets of heroin had been internally inserted into his rectum.

Italian busted in Australia smuggling heroin | News by The Thaiger

Photo: Australian Border Force

He was charged with importing a controlled drug and faces 25 years in prison.

A spokeman for the Australian Border Forcesaid the ABF is fully aware of the lengths people are willing to go to bring drugs into Australia.

“They not only risk lengthy jail time, but are playing Russian roulette with their own lives and health,” he said.

“Smuggling drugs internally is an incredibly stupid endeavour. Furthermore there is a risk that stomach acid will eat through the wrapping of the heroin, consequently risking a fatal drug overdose,” according to federal police.

SOURCE: chiangraitimes.com

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World

Brexit latest – Five possible scenarios

The Thaiger

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Brexit latest – Five possible scenarios | The Thaiger

Britain’s three year Brexit saga, the UK’s most challenging and debilitating political debacle in decades, has taken another dramatic twist with the outcome still difficult to predict. In a landmark vote, MPs finally backed an EU divorce deal – only moments later rejecting British PM Boris Johnson’s rushed timetable to turn it into law ahead of the country’s scheduled October 31 departure date.

The decision makes that deadline almost impossible to meet, but it does not kill the deal – the first that has got a majority in parliament.

Here are some possible scenarios ahead…

A technical extension

Legislation passed last month stated that unless MPs backed a divorce deal by October 19, Johnson must write to EU leaders asking for Brexit to be postponed for three months to January 31, 2020. The PM reluctantly sent the letter last Saturday, and EU leaders are still considering their response.

European Council President Donald Tusk said yesterday, following the drama in Westminster, that he was now recommending they accept the request. Johnson had earlier told lawmakers who had just defied his bid to fast-track his deal through parliament that he would “pause” the ratification process while the EU decides on an extension.

Although he insisted Britain should still leave on October 31, he may have little choice but to accept a short “technical” delay to allow for a new parliamentary timetable to pass the legislation in the coming weeks.

More delays

Despite Johnson being adamant he will not delay Brexit for months, the EU may also offer Britain the option of a longer extension – which opposition MPs argue the premier would be compelled by law to accept. European leaders could claim a longer delay is necessary to give the country enough time to resolve the issue.

Legislation of this type would normally take months and must be approved again by the House of Commons as well as by the upper House of Lords. There is a real risk MPs could try to hijack its passage and attach various amendments, for example to make approval subject to negotiating a future customs union with the bloc or even to hold a new referendum.

A longer delay could also allow for a general election.

A crash and burn exit

The default legal position is that Britain leaves the EU on October 31 unless the other 27 member states agree to a delay.

Business and markets across Europe fear the shock of a sudden Brexit that even the government’s own assessment says would cause economic damage, raising the chances that the EU will offer an extension.

Despite EU leaders claiming they would never cause a no-deal Brexit, their decision to offer a delay must be unanimous and any one of the 27 member states could block such a move. In that highly unlikely scenario, Britain would crash out of the bloc at the end of next week.

Another general election

Johnson warned MPs ahead of the votes yesterday that he would pull his Brexit deal legislation and try to hold a general election if they rejected his timetable – although he did not repeat the threat afterwards.

Riding high in the polls, he has already unsuccessfully tried twice to get an early election to win back a majority in parliament, and seemed buoyed by having secured MPs’ initial approval for his new Brexit deal. But he needs the support of the main opposition Labour Party for an election to be called and it has so far resisted.

Labour says it would back an election when the threat of a “no deal” Brexit is off the table.

Another referendum

Labour says any deal should be subject to a new referendum, and has promised to call one if it takes office. Some MPs may try to force the issue during the passage of the Brexit deal legislation, although it is far from clear that they have the numbers to succeed.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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ASEAN

Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women

Greeley Pulitzer

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Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women | The Thaiger

Hair extensions have become an essential part of the multi-billion-dollar hair industry, with estimated annual sales of 250 million to over 1 billion USD. Based on a 2018 Research and Markets report, the global hair, wigs and extension market is expected to surpass 10 billion USD by 2023.

Raw human hair has significant commercial value: it’s a coveted commodity to be processed into hair extensions and wigs. According to a report by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the global value for human hair exports in 2017 was 126 million USD. Asia exported 72.4 million USD, accounting for 58 percent of the global trade.

In India, the Tirupati Balaji temple earns 10 percent of its income through auctioning hair donated by devotees, raking in a profit of 25 million to 40 million USD annually.

There are three categories for collected hair: Remy, non-Remy and virgin hair. Remy is usually obtained from temple donations and is of the highest grade. Non-Remy hair is a lower grade, collected from individuals, and is typically broken or short. Virgin hairhas never been chemically treated.

In Southeast Asia, long hair is esteemed as a mark of beauty with deep religious and social meaning, especially in Buddhist countries. While most brands opt to acquire hair from India where it’s donated for religious reasons, in Southeast Asia, traders target impoverished areas to buy hair from desperately poor people whose poverty makes them easy prey. Hair extensions in the US can cost 500 to 2000 USD, but the owner of the hair usually receives only a fraction of that. For example, Nguyen Thi Thuy of Vietnam says the highest she has ever been offered for her hair is 70,000 Vietnamese dong, or 3 USD. Pheng Sreyvy from Cambodia fared slightly better at 15 USD for her locks.

According to the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, women don’t know how to bargain over the price of hair. “They decided to sell their hair because they are poor, and they don’t know where to sell their hair for international market price,” a spokeswoman said.

The high value of human hair has made hair-theft muggings a recurrent problem in some countries, and some companies have resorted to chemical processing or a mixture of human and goat hair.

Increased awareness of exploitation has prompted many companies to collect hair from more transparent and ethical sources. While the human hair trade has provided many communities with income and opportunities, practices that exploit and deprive women of opportunities continue.

SOURCE: theaseanpost.com

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