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Phuket Gazette World News: Manning verdict – not guilty of aiding enemy; Pentagon warns against zero option; Iraeli-Palestinian peace deal

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Phuket Gazette World News: Manning verdict – not guilty of aiding enemy; Pentagon warns against zero option; Iraeli-Palestinian peace deal | The Thaiger

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

Private Manning acquitted of aiding enemy in WikiLeaks case
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A military judge yesterday found U.S. soldier Bradley Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy – the most serious charge among many he faced for handing over documents to WikiLeaks.

But Col. Denise Lind, in her verdict, found Army Private First Class Manning, 25, guilty of 19 of the other 20 criminal counts in the biggest breach of classified information in the nation’s history.

The U.S. government was pushing for the maximum penalty for the intelligence analyst’s leaking of information that included battlefield reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It viewed the action as a serious breach of national security, while anti-secrecy activists praised it as shining a light on shadowy U.S. operations abroad.

Army prosecutors contended during the court-martial that U.S. security was harmed when the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website published combat videos of an attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship, diplomatic cables and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay that Manning provided to the site while he was a junior intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.

Manning, who early this year pleaded guilty to lesser charges that carried a 20-year sentence, will still be looking at a long prison term when the trial’s sentencing phase gets under way today.

“This is a historic verdict,” said Elizabeth Goitein, a security specialist at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

“Manning is one of very few people ever charged under the Espionage Act prosecutions for leaks to the media … Despite the lack of any evidence that he intended any harm to the United States, Manning faces decades in prison. That’s a very scary precedent,” she added.

A crowd of about 30 Manning supporters had gathered outside Fort Meade ahead of the reading of the verdict.

‘Chilling effect’


The guilty verdict on most of the counts could make it difficult for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to persuade future sources of information to share classified details with the website.

“That is going to make it more difficult for people who want to deal with Assange. They are going to be at greater risk and that will put his operation at risk,” said Michael Corgan, a professor of international relations at Boston University and former officer in the U.S. Navy.

“It will have a very chilling effect on WikiLeaks,” he said ahead of the verdict.

Manning, originally from Crescent, Oklahoma, opted to have his case heard by a judge, rather than a panel of military jurors.

During the court-martial proceedings, military prosecutors called the defendant a “traitor” for publicly posting information that the U.S. government said could jeopardize national security and intelligence operations.

Defence lawyers described Manning as well-intentioned but naive in hoping that his disclosures would provoke a more intense debate in the United States about diplomatic and military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than three years after Manning’s arrest in May 2010, the U.S. intelligence community was reeling again as a result of leaked security documents. The latest revelations came from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has been holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport for more than a month, despite U.S. calls for Russian authorities to turn him over.

WikiLeaks founder Assange surfaced again as a major player in the newest scandal, this time offering aid to Snowden in eluding authorities while seeking asylum abroad.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for more than a year to avoid extradition to Sweden, where two women have accused him of sexual assault. He fears that if sent there, he could be extradited to the United States, where he would likely face charges related to the classified documents published by his website.

The cases of Manning and Snowden illustrate the difficulties of keeping government secrets at a time the Internet makes it easy to disseminate them quickly and widely. In addition, more people are granted access to classified data.

Afghan forces will need help after NATO mission ends – Pentagon
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Afghan forces will require significant support from the U.S. military and its allies after the NATO combat mission ends next year, according to a new Pentagon report implicitly warning against a “zero option” of total withdrawal.

A senior U.S. defence official said the Pentagon had not developed a plan for total pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but that failure to reach a deal with Kabul on legal guarantees for U.S. troops could force such a scenario.

U.S. officials have previously said the United States could potentially pull out all of its troops from Afghanistan next year amid tensions between President Barack Obama’s administration and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

But the twice-yearly report released on Tuesday stressed that Afghan forces would be fundamentally unprepared to go it alone on January 1, 2015.

Peter Lavoy, an assistant secretary of defence, said foreign assistance would be key for the basic operations of the Afghan military, from ensuring Afghan soldiers get paid and fed to developing contracts so that they have fuel for their vehicles.

“These are the kind of functional skills and capabilities that Afghans are still developing today,” Lavoy told a news conference detailing the report, adding the Pentagon has not developed a “zero option” for consideration.

“And we envision that it will take a period of time before they can adequately fully have sovereign ownership of all those skill sets, including well beyond the 2014 date.”

Still, Lavoy acknowledged that if the United States and Afghanistan cannot reach an agreement on a bilateral security pact giving legal guarantees for U.S. troops to stay, the United States would be forced to withdraw.

“And so then you end up with zero,” he said.

The Pentagon report was released the same day that NATO’s new top military commander said the alliance hopes to deliver a detailed operations plan for its smaller post-2014 mission in Afghanistan – including the number of troops involved – by late this year.

That NATO troop figure, and whether it matches up with the perceived needs of the Afghan forces, could determine whether the Afghans can preserve the hard-won gains made against a still resilient Taliban insurgency during the costly, unpopular conflict that began in 2001.

The report does not speculate on the security outlook after 2014 without knowing the NATO figure. “Assessing whether the gains to date will be sustainable will be difficult to do until the exact size and structure of the post-2014 U.S. and NATO presence is determined,” is said.

Israelis, Palestinians strive for peace deal within nine months
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators gave themselves about nine months to try to reach an agreement on ending their conflict of more than six decades in U.S.-brokered peace talks.

The two sides started their first peace ne

— 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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Opinion

Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge

The Thaiger

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Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge | The Thaiger

OPINION: The Buddhist Times

Since its creation in 1996, Buddha-Bar Paris has been using the name and image of Buddha in it’s Bars and Hotels throughout the world. Typically the franchises use large statues of Buddha in their Bars and around dance floors and in restaurants similar to a Buddhist temple.

What makes the use of Buddha’s image in these bars most insulting to Buddhists around the world is that Buddhism does not support the consumption of alcohol. So to use the Buddha’s image as decoration to promote the consumption and sale of alcohol and as a prop on dance floors and in restaurants is especially disrespectful and hurtful to Buddhists.

Now comes a further insult with the Buddha-Bar franchise opening the Siddhartha Lounge at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. (Siddhartha Gautama being the full name of Buddha).

According to the Knowing Buddha Organisation in Thailand what the Buddha-Bar franchise is doing is not only disrespectful but it is immoral. The foundation points out that “Respect is Common Sense”.

Buddhists feel hurt by the misuse of the name and image of their father, as people of other faiths would be if the image of Christ or Mohammad were used to promote bars and nightclubs.

The Buddha–Bar, restaurant, and hotel franchise created by French-Romanian restaurateur Raymond Vișan and DJ and interior designer Claude Challe, with its original location having opened in Paris, France in 1996.

Raymond Vișan, according to Wikipedia, had the idea of establishing the chain of restaurants and bars which came from his fascination with the Orient. However at the age of 60 Visan suddenly died of terminal cancer. The franchise was continued by co-founder Claude Challe and Vișan’s wife Tarja, who took over the reins of the Buddha Bar franchise upon Vișan death.

Critics of the Vișan’s and Claude Challe say that these self described artists and creators have created nothing but bad Karma and Sin for themselves. They suggest that Buddha-Bar franchise is a form of “grotesque Plagiarism ” which has merely hi-jacked a 2500 year old religion, using the name and image of Buddha, who imparts peace, compassion and loving kindness, for the purpose of selling alcohol and making money. As any case of plagiarism it is expected that Buddha-Bar and Waldorf Astoria will soon find them selves in the courts say Buddhims advocats.

Buddhist around the world are calling the Boycotting of Waldorf Astoria Hotels Hilton Hotels, Buddha-Bars and the music of Claude Challe, demanding that they stop using the image of Buddha and instead creat their own brand.

The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of The Thaiger or its staff

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Hong Kong

1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally

May Taylor

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1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally | The Thaiger

PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Last night, Chater Garden, located near government headquarters in the Central district of Hong Kong, was the scene of the city’s first approved rally since the face mask ban came into being about 10 days ago. So far, the face mask ban has been largely ineffectual.

A day after an explosive device was detonated during protests, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in the park. They were calling on Washington to approve proposed US legislation that could see some Chinese officials face sanctions.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act aims to review the territory’s special trading status and sanction those responsible for undermining the rights of Hong Kong citizens. It passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last month.

The Chinese Government has responded angrily, accusing the US of “interfering in China’s internal affairs” with the aim of harming its interests, and says the law will only serve to worsen the situation in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has been the scene of often violent pro-democracy protests for over four months now, as its citizens call for greater democracy and less interference from Beijing.

SOURCE: The Nation

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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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