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Phuket Gazette World News: Snowden in Moscow, seeks asylum in Ecuador; Mandela health critical; Bus plunges off Montenegro bridge; Saudis change working week

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Phuket Gazette World News: Snowden in Moscow, seeks asylum in Ecuador; Mandela health critical; Bus plunges off Montenegro bridge; Saudis change working week | The Thaiger

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


Snowden lands in Moscow, seeks asylum in Ecuador
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is seeking asylum in Ecuador, the Quito government said on Sunday, after Hong Kong let him leave for Russia despite Washington’s efforts to extradite him on espionage charges.

In a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, an aircraft thought to have been carrying Snowden landed in Moscow, and the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said he was “bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum.”

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, visiting Vietnam, tweeted: “The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden.”

Ecuador has been sheltering WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at its London embassy for the past year, and Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia said he expected to meet Snowden in Moscow on Sunday.

Snowden, who worked for the U.S. National Security Agency in Hawaii, had been hiding in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997, since leaking details about U.S. surveillance activities at home and abroad to news media.

U.S. authorities had said only on Saturday they were optimistic Hong Kong would cooperate over Snowden.

On Friday, U.S. authorities charged Snowden with theft of U.S. government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person, with the latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.

Earlier on Sunday, a source at the Russian airline Aeroflot said Snowden would fly on from Moscow within 24 hours to Cuba, although that source said he planned to go on to Venezuela. The chief of Cuba’s International Press Center, Gustavo Machin, said he had no such information though pro-government bloggers heaped praise on Snowden and condemned U.S. spying activity.

Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador are all members of the ALBA bloc, an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America that pride themselves on their “anti-imperialist” credentials.

Ecuadorean Ambassador Patricio Alberto Chavez Zavala told reporters at a Moscow airport hotel that he would hold talks with Snowden and Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks representative.

China and Russia criticized

Influential Democratic Senator Charles Schumer charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely knew and approved of Snowden’s flight to Russia and thought Beijing was involved. He said that will “have serious consequences” for a U.S.-Russian relationship already strained over Syria and human rights.

“Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States – whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden,” Schumer told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong,” he said. “As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies and I have a feeling that the hand of Beijing was involved here.”

In their statement announcing Snowden’s departure, the Hong Kong authorities said they were seeking clarification from Washington about reports of U.S. spying on government computers in the territory.

The Obama administration has previously painted the United States as a victim of Chinese government computer hacking.

At a summit earlier this month, Obama called on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to acknowledge the threat posed by “cyber-enabled espionage” against the United States and to investigate the problem. Obama also met Putin in Northern Ireland last week.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said it had allowed the departure of Snowden – considered a whistleblower by his critics and a criminal or even a traitor by his critics – as the U.S. request for his arrest did not comply with the law.

In Washington, a Justice Department official said it would seek cooperation with countries Snowden may try to go to and sources familiar with the issue said Washington had revoked Snowden’s U.S. passport. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said revoking the passport of someone under a felony arrest warrant was routine. “Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status,” she said.

“It’s a shocker,” Simon Young, a law professor with Hong Kong University said of the case. “I thought he was going to stay and fight it out. The U.S. government will be irate.”

The issue has been a major distraction for Obama, who has found his domestic and international policy agenda sidelined as he has scrambled to deflect accusations that U.S. surveillance practices violate privacy protections and civil rights. The president has maintained that the measures have been necessary to thwart attacks on the United States.

The White House had no immediate comment on Sunday’s developments.

WikiLeaks said Snowden was accompanied by diplomats and that Harrison, a British legal researcher working for WikiLeaks, was “accompanying Mr Snowden in his passage to safety.”

“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person,” former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of WikiLeaks and lawyer for Assange, said in a statement.

“What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people.”

Wikileaks case

Assange, an Australian, said last week he would not leave the sanctuary of Ecuador’s London embassy even if Sweden stopped pursuing sexual assault claims against him because he feared arrest on the orders of the United States.

The latest drama coincides with the court martial of Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier accused of providing reams of classified documents to WikiLeaks, which Assange began releasing on the Internet in 2010, and, according to some critics, put its national security and people’s lives at risk.

A spokesman for Wikileaks refused to make any comment about possible routes to Ecuador. Asked why Ecuador, he replied “That is something that Mr. Snowden needs to reply to. … It was a decision taken by him. … Various governments were approached.”

Iceland refused on Friday to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said this month that Russia would consider granting asylum if Snowden were to ask for it and pro-Kremlin lawmakers supported the idea, but there has been no indication he has done so.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper earlier quoted Snowden offering new details about U.S. surveillance activities, including accusations of U.S. hacking of Chinese mobile phone firms and targeting of China’s Tsinghua University.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Snowden needed to be caught and brought back for trial as secrets he was carrying could do a lot of damage to U.S. interests.

“I think we need to know exactly what he has,” she told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He could have a lot, lot more that may really put people in jeopardy.”

Documents previously leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies, including Facebook and Google, under a government program known as Prism.

The head of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, said he did not know why it failed to prevent S

— 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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