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Phuket Gazette World News: Snowden saga; 37 arrested for Himalayan massacre; Homophobia reaches new levels; Wimbledon update

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Phuket Gazette World News: Snowden saga; 37 arrested for Himalayan massacre; Homophobia reaches new levels; Wimbledon update | The Thaiger

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

Putin rules out handing Snowden over to United States
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: President Vladimir Putin confirmed yesterday a former U.S. spy agency contractor sought by the United States was in the transit area of a Moscow airport but ruled out handing him to Washington, dismissing U.S. criticisms as “ravings and rubbish”.

In his first public comments since Edward Snowden flew in on Sunday, Putin appeared to make light of the diplomatic uproar over the fugitive, whose flight from U.S. authorities is becoming a growing embarrassment for President Barack Obama. Asked by a journalist about the affair, he smiled fleetingly.

“I myself would prefer not to deal with these issues. It’s like shearing a piglet: there’s a lot of squealing, but there’s little wool,” Putin told a news conference in Finland.

Snowden, who worked as a systems administrator at a U.S. National Security Agency facility in Hawaii, is facing espionage charges from the United States after leaking details about secret U.S. surveillance programs to the news media.

Putin’s refusal to hand back Snowden risked deepening a rift with the United States that has also drawn in China and threatens relations between countries that may be essential in settling global conflicts including the Syrian war.

Republican lawmakers in Washington seized on the Snowden saga to portray Obama as an ineffective foreign leader.

Washington has gone to great lengths to try to ensure Snowden has nowhere to go to seek refuge. But Putin said Russia had no extradition treaty with the United States and suggested Moscow would expel Snowden only if he were a criminal.

“He has not crossed the state’s border, and therefore does not need a visa. And any accusations against Russia (of aiding him) are ravings and rubbish,” Putin said in the garden of a presidential residence, with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto beside him.

Shortly after Putin’s comments, the White House once again urged Russia to immediately expel Snowden and said Moscow had a “clear legal basis” to do so because of his revoked passport and the outstanding charges against him.

“Accordingly, we are asking the Russian government to take action to expel Mr. Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement cooperation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing,” said White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Hayden said the United States agreed with Putin’s comment in Finland that it did not want the incident to negatively impact U.S.-Russia relations, but members of the U.S. Congress denounced Putin’s stance and said it would have an inevitable impact.

“It should cause a profound reevaluation on our relationship with Russia and with Vladimir Putin, something that a lot of us have been saying for a long time,” Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential contender, told reporters.

Hours earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had cautiously questioned the Russian approach.

“It is accurate there is not an extradition treaty between Russia and the United States, but there are standards of behaviour between sovereign nations,” Kerry said, in Jeddah.

Republican critics of the president said the Snowden furore was a sign of Obama’s weakness and declining international stature, and Russia was taking advantage of the United States.

“They know that he’s weak. They know that he’s so fearful about getting involved in balance-of-power foreign affairs and they’re playing on it, and they’re enjoying it very, very much,” said Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador but Quito has said it is still considering the application and the United States is trying to persuade the governments of countries where he might head to hand him over. His plans remain unclear.

Free to leave

Putin said the 30-year-old Snowden was in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and, not having gone through passport control, was free to leave.

“The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it would be for us and for himself,” Putin said.

Russian law requires travellers who spend more than 24 hours in the airport’s transit area – as Snowden has done – to get a transit visa. It was unclear whether Snowden had sought or received a transit visa.

There has been speculation in the Russian media that Snowden may be talking to the FSB, the Russian security service, and could be involved in a prisoner swap. Putin said Russian security agencies “never worked with … Snowden and are not working with him today”.

The U.S. State Department said diplomats and Justice Department officials were talking to Russia, suggesting they sought a deal to secure his return to face espionage charges.

“We’ve asked the Russian government to consider all potential options to expel him to return to the United States, and we’re going to continue those discussions in law enforcement and diplomatic channels,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters.

U.S. officials have said intelligence agencies are concerned they do not know how much sensitive material Snowden has and that he may have taken more documents than initially estimated which could get into the hands of foreign intelligence.

Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow on Sunday, and the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group said he was headed for Ecuador and is travelling on a refugee document of passage provided by Ecuador.

Journalists camped out at the airport have not spotted him inside, or leaving, the transit area. He has not registered at a hotel in the transit zone, hotel sources say.

A receptionist at the Capsule Hotel “Air Express”, a complex of 47 basic rooms furnished predominantly with grey carpets and grey walls, said Snowden had turned up on Sunday, looked at the price list and then left.

U.S. officials admonished Beijing and Moscow on Monday for allowing Snowden to escape their clutches but the United States’ partners on the U.N. Security Council, already at odds with Washington over the conflict in Syria, hit back indignantly.

“The United States’ criticism of China’s central government is baseless. China absolutely cannot accept it,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing, also dismissing U.S. criticism of Hong Kong, a Chinese territory, for letting Snowden leave.

37 suspects arrested over tourist killings on Pakistani mountain
Phuket Gazette / News Wires
PHUKET: Pakistani authorities detained nearly 40 suspects on Monday after gunmen killed 10 foreign mountaineers in the northern region of the country, officials said. The weekend attack marked one of the country’s worst ever attacks on foreigners.

A total of eleven people were killed on Sunday, including ten foreigners, when a group of at least fifteen suspected militants wearing paramilitary Gilgit Scout uniforms attacked a base camp on Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas. It is one of the tallest mountains in the world, being located in the district of Diameer in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Two separate groups have claimed responsibility for the attack, including the sectarian extremist group Jundullah and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The Pakistani Taliban claimed the attack was carried out by a new faction set up to specifically target foreigners in re

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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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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Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis

The Thaiger

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Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | The Thaiger

Thousands of rescue workers are searching for survivors from the fury of Typhoon Hagibis, two days after the storm slammed into Japan. As of the time of this post, the storm had killed at least 35 people.

(Video from Sky News below…)

Hagibis crashed into the country Saturday evening, but brought hours of torrential rains before it made landfall, causing landslides and filling rivers until they burst their banks.

More than 110,000 rescuers, including 31,000 troops, worked through the night searching for people trapped by the disaster. Local media report at least 35 people have been killed, with the Kyodo news agency reporting nearly 20 people were missing. Government figures from Sunday night were lower, though updates were expected throughout today.

While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres per hours (134 miles per hour), it was the heavy rains that caused most damage, with 21 rivers bursting their banks.

Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | News by The Thaiger

In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. Military and fire department helicopters winched survivors from roofs and balconies in several locations, but in Fukushima one operation went tragically awry when a woman died after falling while being rescued.

The destruction forced the Rugby World Cup being hosted by Japan to cancel several games, but the “Brave Blossoms”, as the national team is known, lifted spirits with a stunning 28-21 victory over Scotland on Sunday that put them into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time.

Rescue efforts have been continuing this morning, with local television showing soldiers rowing a rubber rescue dingy through floodwaters in Fukushima, while elsewhere workers removed dirt with a digger.

Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | News by The Thaiger

The death toll mounted throughout yesterday as bodies were recovered from flooded homes and cars, buildings caught in landslides, and swollen rivers.

The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least five Chinese crew members aboard a boat that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night.

As of this morning, some 57,500 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.

But most subway trains have resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse PHOTOS: AFP

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia

The Thaiger

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Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia | The Thaiger

From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.

Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.

Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.

A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.

“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”

And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.

“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.

The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.

China-fuelled boom

While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.

Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.

But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.

There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.

“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.

As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.

“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”

Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.

And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.

“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.

Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.

But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.

“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

PHOTO: newlaunches.sg

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