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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin, Obama face off over Syria at G8; Italy flooded with refugees; Brazil unrest swells; NK negotiator to talk in China

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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin, Obama face off over Syria at G8; Italy flooded with refugees; Brazil unrest swells; NK negotiator to talk in China | The Thaiger

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

European, U.S. leaders launch free-trade talks
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The United States and the European Union launched negotiations for the world’s most ambitious free-trade deal on Monday, promising thousands of new jobs and accelerated growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

Trade between Europe and the United States is worth almost $3 billion (1.9 billion pounds) a day and a pact could boost both the EU and U.S. economies by more than $100 billion a year each – an attractive prospect after the devastating impact of Europe’s debt crisis.

“This is a once in a generation prize and we are determined to seize it,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron, flanked by U.S. President Barack Obama and the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

The first round of negotiations will take place in Washington in July, Obama said, speaking at the Group of Eight summit near the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen.

First considered three decades ago but knocked down by France in the 1990s, the idea of an EU-U.S. free-trade deal has gathered momentum as Brussels and Washington look to generate growth and China’s rise prompts deeper Western integration.

The United States and the European Commission, the executive body of the 27-country European Union, hope for a free-trade deal by the end of 2014 – a tight deadline in complex international trade talks that usually take many years.

The European Union and the United States already account for about half the world’s economic output and nearly a third of world trade, and bringing down the final barriers to trade could unleash billions of dollars in transatlantic business.

But France threatened to block the start of talks until the other 26 EU governments accepted on Friday its demand to shield movies and online entertainment from the might of Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

That kept Paris on board, but EU and U.S. officials have said that excluding any sector from the talks threatens the scope of comprehensive deal and could limit the economic gains.

Obama hinted at that in his remarks. “It is important that we get it right and that means resisting the temptation to downsize our ambitions or avoid tough issues just for the sake of getting a deal,” he said.

The London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research estimates a pact – to be known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – could boost the EU economy by 119 billion euros (101.2 billion pounds) a year, and the U.S. economy by 95 billion euros.

However, a report commissioned by Germany’s non-profit Bertelsmann Foundation and published on Monday, said the United States may benefit more than Europe. A deal could increase GDP per capita in the United States by 13 percent over the long term but by only 5 percent on average for the European Union, the study found.

Businesses on both sides would like an agreement in which a car tested for safety in the United States would not have to be tested again in Europe, and a drug deemed safe by Brussels would not have to be approved as well by the U.S. government.

Following the collapse of global trade talks in 2008, both the United States and Europe have sought to strike as many free-trade agreements as possible, and Brussels alone is negotiating with more than 80 countries.

Putin, Obama face off over Syria at tense G8 summit
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Russian President Vladimir Putin faced further isolation on the second day of a G8 summit on Tuesday as world leaders lined up to pressure him into toning down his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Following an icy encounter between the Kremlin chief and U.S. President Barack Obama late on Monday, the G8 leaders will seek to find resolution to a war that has prompted powers across the Middle East to square off on sectarian lines.

The sticking point again will be Putin, who faced a barrage of criticism from Western leaders for supporting Assad and the Syrian’s president’s attempt to crush a 2-year-old uprising in which at least 93,000 people have been killed.

“It’s a clarifying moment to see what kind of commitments the Russians are willing to make in a leading world forum,” a British official said before the leaders met for dinner at a remote, heavily guarded golf course outside of Enniskillen.

An official close to one of the delegations said the talks over dinner had gone better than expected and that a joint communiqué with Russia on Syria now seemed more likely. However, the official declined to speculate on what Russia might be willing to sign up for.

But if consensus could not be reached, it was possible a final statement at the end of the two-day summit might be released without Russia’s input and in the name of the G7 rather than the G8.

Divisions over Syria dominated the atmosphere as global leaders met in Northern Ireland, a place once rocked by decades of violence but which Britain now wants to showcase as a model of conflict resolution.

Putin and Obama appeared tense as they addressed reporters late on Monday after about two hours of talks, with Putin mostly staring at the floor as he spoke about Syria and Obama only glancing occasionally at the Russian leader.

Stung by recent victories for Assad’s forces and their support from Hezbollah guerrillas, the United States said last week it would step up military aid to the rebels, including automatic weapons, light mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Putin said Moscow and Washington had different views on Syria but agreed the bloodshed must stop and that the warring parties should be brought to the negotiating table.

“With respect to Syria, we do have differing perspectives on the problem but we share an interest in reducing the violence and securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they’re neither used nor are they subject to proliferation,” Obama said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is chairing the summit, will on Tuesday seek to move the conversation on to taxation and how the Group of Eight leading nations can help close international loopholes in what has become a central theme for the British prime minister.

Cameron has been stung by revelations that the likes of Google and Starbucks have sharply cut their corporate tax bills in Britain using legal loopholes.

Last week he sought to turn up the pressure on other rich economies by pressing Britain’s overseas tax havens into a transparency deal and announcing new disclosure rules for British firms.

Also on the agenda will be a drive by the British to secure a commitment from all the G8 leaders that they will no longer pay a ransom to kidnappers as part of an early meeting between the leaders about counterterrorism.
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Protests build in Brazil as discontent spreads
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities on Monday in a growing protest that is tapping into widespread anger at poor public services, police violence and government corruption.

The marches, organized mostly through snowballing social media campaigns, blocked streets and halted traffic in more than a half-

— 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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