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Phuket Gazette World News: Obama urged to press China; Privacy debate; Letter gives hope; 165 Migrants saved; Search ends; Russian navy deploys to Med

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Phuket Gazette World News: Obama urged to press China; Privacy debate; Letter gives hope; 165 Migrants saved; Search ends; Russian navy deploys to Med | The Thaiger

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

Lawmakers, activists urge Obama to press Xi on China prisoners
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: U.S. lawmakers and 30 human rights groups yesterday urged President Barack Obama to use a weekend summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to press for the freedom of 16 prominent political and religious prisoners.

The “China 16” include imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng and political prisoners from the Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities, Christians and followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Obama hosts Xi in California on Friday and Saturday for what both countries have billed as an informal summit focusing more on developing personal chemistry than on resolving specific disputes between the world’s two biggest economies.

The 16 prisoners were “only the tip of the iceberg among hundreds of thousands of cases,” blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng told a news conference in Washington, speaking by video from New York.

Chen made international headlines last year when he escaped house arrest and took refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing before flying to exile in New York to study law.

The 30 rights groups include Amnesty International, Jubilee Campaign and the International Campaign for Tibet and are backed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers. They called on Obama to restore human rights as a central issue in U.S.-China relations – as it had been in the first two decades after diplomatic ties were established in 1979.

“(We) call upon you to advocate for the rights of prisoners of conscience, as your predecessors have done,” Republican Representatives Frank Wolf of Virginia and Chris Smith of New Jersey and Democratic Representatives James McGovern of Massachusetts and Karen Bass of California said in a letter to Obama.

A senior Obama administration official told reporters on Tuesday that, “As always, the president will forthrightly – and I think persuasively – raise American human rights concerns.”

U.S. presidents routinely used to champion individual rights cases and during Bill Clinton’s 1993-2001 tenure in the White House, China released well-known political prisoners on humanitarian grounds before bilateral summits.

But such releases have become rare since the United States gave Beijing permanent trading privileges in 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization, ending an annual vote by the U.S. Congress based on a review of China’s record.

“We all know how dangerous it is to get our hopes up, because we have had our hopes dashed on more than one occasion,” Ti-Anna Wang told a news conference in Washington, where she has been lobbying on behalf her jailed father and other prisoners.

The 24-year-old Wang’s father, Wang Bingzhang, is a physician serving life in prison for his role in overseas Chinese democracy movements. Wang and several other daughters of jailed dissidents fought back tears as they described growing up in exile in the United states, far from their jailed fathers.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s World News section, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter at @PhuketGazette for the latest international news updates.

Obama administration defends massive phone record collection
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Obama administration yesterday defended its collection of a massive amount of telephone records from at least one carrier as part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, re-igniting a debate over privacy even as it called the practice critical to protecting Americans from attacks.

The admission came after Britain’s Guardian newspaper published on Wednesday a secret court order related to the records of millions of Verizon Communications customers. The surveillance appears to have involved the phone records of millions of Americans.

Privacy advocates blasted the order as unconstitutional government surveillance and called for a review.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not specifically confirm the report, but noted the published court order pertains only to data such as a telephone number or the length of a call, and not the subscribers’ identities or the content of the telephone calls.

The order requires the government to turn over to the National Security Agency so-called “metadata” such as a list of numbers that called other U.S. or international numbers as well as other transactional information on the time and location of calls. The NSA is the main U.S. intelligence-gathering agency tasked with monitoring electronic communications.

“Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” the senior administration official said.

The revelation renewed concerns about the intelligence-gathering effort – criticized by human rights and privacy advocates – launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and raised questions about its oversight.

It also drew fresh attention to President Barack Obama’s handling of privacy and free speech issues. His administration already is under fire for searching Associated Press journalists’ calling records and the emails of a Fox News Channel reporter as part of its inquiries into leaked government information.

Verizon has declined to comment. It remains unclear whether the practice extends to other carriers, though several security experts and at least one U.S. lawmaker said that was likely.

AT&T Inc declined to comment. Representatives for other major carriers, including Sprint Nextel Corp and T-Mobile, could not be immediately reached or had no immediate comment.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s World News section, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter at @PhuketGazette for the latest international news updates.

Parents say letter from captive U.S. soldier gives them hope
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Idaho parents of a U.S. soldier held prisoner by Taliban allies since 2009 said yesterday they have received a letter from their son that gives them hope that he is well despite his captivity.

Bob Bergdahl, father of 27-year-old Bowe Bergdahl, said in a statement that he was confident the letter recently received through the efforts of the International Committee of the

— 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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