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Phuket Gazette World News: Two killed in Egypt; UN seeks proof of peacekeeper, rebel talks; Israel, Palestine lay groundwork for peace talks; Pope looks for Vatican reform

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Phuket Gazette World News: Two killed in Egypt; UN seeks proof of peacekeeper, rebel talks; Israel, Palestine lay groundwork for peace talks; Pope looks for Vatican reform | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Two killed in clashes between pro- and anti-Mursi protesters
Reuters/Phuket Gazette
An Egyptian woman and a 13-year-old boy were killed when supporters and opponents of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi clashed in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura, the website of state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said on Saturday.

Thousands of Mursi supporters took to the streets of Egyptian cities on Friday to demand the reinstatement of the Islamist leader who was removed by the army on July 3 after mass protests.

UN asks Rwanda for proof of links between peacekeepers, Hutu rebels
Reuters/Phuket Gazette
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked Rwanda’s government for evidence to support its allegation that UN peacekeepers in Congo discussed collaboration with Hutu rebels linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a UN spokesman said on Friday.

In a letter to US Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo released early this week, Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said UN intervention brigade commanders in the Democratic Republic of Congo have met with rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The FDLR is made up of the remnants of Hutu killers who carried out the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

The letter, which was sent to DiCarlo in her role as this month’s president of the UN Security Council, said Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also wrote to Ban about the same matter.

In a letter to Mushikiwabo, Ban “notes with deep concern the allegations that meetings have taken place between senior commanders of the MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade and the (FDLR),” Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) is a 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force that has been in the mineral-rich eastern DRC for more than a decade.

It is the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world.

The complex conflict has dragged on, with millions of people dying from the violence, famine and disease since the 1990s.

That has led the United Nations to create a new “intervention brigade” – part of the MONUSCO force but assigned the additional task of taking active steps to neutralize armed groups, above all M23 rebels in eastern Congo.

M23 is a Tutsi-dominated movement made up of former Congolese soldiers that has demanded political concessions from President Joseph Kabila’s government.

Ban said there was nothing so far to back up the allegations of Rwanda, which also accused MONUSCO and Congo’s army of deliberately bombing Rwandan territory on Monday.

“Following initial inquiries within MONUSCO, (Ban) has no reason to believe that senior commanders of the Force Intervention Brigade would meet with the FDLR to discuss matters related to their ‘tactical and strategic collaboration’,” Ban said in his letter, according to Nesirky.

Nesirky added that it was “important to ensure that these allegations are properly addressed … (and) has thus requested that the Rwandan Government share as soon as possible any concrete evidence it may have to substantiate these claims.”

A Rwandan diplomat said Ban’s letter was received on Wednesday and that Kigali has not yet responded.

Ban and MONUSCO have also denied UN involvement in any bombing of Rwandan territory.

In its complaints to the United Nations, Rwanda also supported an allegation in the latest report by the UN Group of Experts that units of the Congolese army have been cooperating with the FDLR.

Heavy fighting erupted between the army and the M23 rebels on Sunday some 12 km (7.5 miles) northeast of Goma, ending several weeks of relative calm and reviving memories of an attack in November when the Tutsi-led insurgents briefly seized the city of 1 million people.

Hundreds of people protested in Goma on Thursday against Kabila, accusing him of incompetence in efforts to neutralize rebels who have long plagued the region.

Nesirky said MONUSCO reported on Friday that “the situation remains calm but tense around the city of Goma, in North Kivu province. It (MONUSCO) says that fighting between the Congolese armed forces and the M23 armed group has stopped.”

The Congolese government also rejected Rwanda’s allegations and again accused it of backing M23 rebels. The U.N. Group of Experts said in their latest report that Rwanda had decreased but not ended support for M23, a charge Kigali dismissed.

Kerry says Israelis, Palestinians laying groundwork for peace talks
Reuters/Phuket Gazette
Israel and the Palestinians have laid the groundwork for resuming peace talks after an almost three-year stalemate, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday, though he cautioned the deal was not final and required more diplomacy.

Kerry, winding up his sixth Middle East brokering mission this year, gave few details. He anticipated Israeli and Palestinian envoys would come to Washington soon for what a US official said would mark the launch of direct negotiations.

“I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final-status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry told reporters in Amman.

“The best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private,” he said. “We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead. Today, however, I am hopeful.”

Peacemaking has ebbed and flowed for two decades, last breaking down in late 2010 over Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where, along with the Gaza Strip, Palestinians seek statehood.

The Palestinians, with international backing, have said that state must have borders approximating the territories’ boundaries before Israel captured them in the 1967 Middle East War – a demand hard to reconcile with the Jewish state’s insistence on keeping swathes of settlements under any eventual peace accord.

Israeli and Palestinian officials welcomed Kerry’s announcement cautiously. Both sides face hardline opposition at home to compromise in a stubborn conflict of turf and faith.

“I know that as soon as the negotiations start, they will be complex and not easy,” Tzipi Livni, the Israeli cabinet minister in charge of the diplomatic drive, wrote on Facebook. “But I am convinced with all my heart that it is the right thing to do for our future, our security, our economy and the values of Israel.”

Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, told Reuters: “The announcement today did not mean the return to negotiations. It meant efforts would continue to secure the achievement of Palestinian demands … Israel must recognise the 1967 borders.”

Kerry said that Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat could come to Washington “within the next week or so, and a further announcement will be made by all of us at that time”.

Asked if that meeting of envoys would be considered the start of negotiations, a US official said: “Yes.”

MONTHS OF TALKS

The talks would take months to unfold, an Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Such a

— 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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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year

The Thaiger

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Conversation

Chinese medical officials have now reported four more cases of the viral pneumonia strain caused by a new coronavirus. The discoveries are causing rising concern that the disease is not fully understand and could spread during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

The new virus, originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the apparent epicentre of the outbreak – is believed to belong in the same class of coronaviruses that includes the deadly SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002/03. That outbreak also started in China.

At this stage all signs are that the virus isn’t as lethal as SARS, but there is still little known about the coronavirus’ origins and how it is transmitted. But it has been established at this stage that it is not spread human to human.

Both Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus. In Thailand the patient was detected when arriving on a flight from Wuhan. And Japan’s health ministry reported that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return to Japan.

Both patients have fully recovered.

The new cases detected in China, and the cases detected overseas, are stoking global concerns as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese will head overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays that begin next week and run through to early February.

The Wuhan Health Commission reports that the the four new cases are now in stable condition. 45 cases have been reported in the city as of last Thursday. A second patient died on Wednesday this week. Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all of them either lived in Wuhan or have travelled to the city.

The London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis speculates that there are probably “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently declared by Wuhan authorities. Their modelling estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by the second week in January.

Meanwhile US authorities say they are now screening at three airports to detect passengers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. And in Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are stepping up monitoring of travellers from Wuhan at airports.

SOURCE: Reuters | Science Alert

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Thailand

Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released

Greeley Pulitzer

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Johan van Laarhoven walks free after serving six years of a 100 year sentence in Thai prison - The Chiang Rai Times

A Dutch citizen who was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is now on his way home after years of campaigning for his release. His sentence was reduced to 75 years on appeal and later to 50 years by the Supreme court. Johan van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis “coffee shops” in Holland, was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, along with his Thai wife, though the offences took place in The Netherlands.

Thai authorities began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after a letter from a Dutch public prosecutor’s office, informing them that he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting their help. Last year, MPs called on the government to to extradite Van Laarhoven and his wife back to Netherlands. The Dutch justice minister even met with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.

Even though cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, Dutch officials bungled a tax query to Thai authorities regarding the sale of the Dutchman’s cannabis cafe chain. This led to a criminal investigation and his televised arrest in Thailand.

Thai authorities seized the Dutchman’s assets and he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was jailed for 13 years as an accomplice. The Netherlands has an extradition treaty with Thailand, but it can only be implemented after a case has been ruled “definitive.” Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution. It’s unclear whether his wife will be allowed to join him in the Netherlands.

Once back, Van Laarhoven will spend two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, and also face criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership in a criminal organisation and laundering €20m (675 million baht) according to a Dutch public prosecutor.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times | Dutchnews.nl

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Expats

MSG makes a comeback with a new campaign against the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’

The Thaiger

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MSG makes a comeback with a new campaign against the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MSG got a bad rap for 50 years - bostonmagazine.com

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, a common seasoning in many foods from Doritos, to salad-dressing and Thai food, is making a come back. Not that it really went away. But there was 50 years or so when it suffered, unreasonably, a poor reputation.

For years it was branded an unhealthy processed ingredient despite a lack of supporting scientific evidence. It became the whipping boy of Chinese restaurants with people alleging they would suffer from symptoms like dizziness and palpitations after eating Chinese food seasoned with MSG. It even earned the nickname “Chinese restaurant syndrome”.

The Merriam-Webster even added “Chinese restaurant syndrome” to its dictionaries from 1993 after it became somewhat of an urban legend such that it became excepted that a lot of Chinese food contained MSG and that it was, somehow, bad for you. Despite hundreds of studies there has never been any repeatable experiments where it could be proven that monosodium glutamate was bad for consumer’s health or could repeat the alleged side-effects in control groups.

It all started when a biochemist wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Science in 1968 saying that Chinese restaurant food left him “lightheaded and with odd aches and pains”. The next issue of the journal published more purported side-effects.

That grew into a meme that Chinese food was dangerous for you and spread quickly, and even gained some early legitimacy by some medical professionals at the time. A 1969 scientific paper claimed that MSG was “the cause of the Chinese restaurant syndrome,” and said it caused “burning sensations, facial pressure, and chest pain.”

Subsequent scientific studies over the next half century have never been able to validate the 1969 paper’s claims or find any link between the white salt-like substance and any side effects. Studies suggest that any correlation on side effects from eating MSG were probably psychosomatic.

MSG was first introduced in 1908 by a Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was able to isolate unique flavour of a popular broth made from a seaweed called kombu. Ikeda described the flavour as neither salty, sweet, sour or bitter. It was unique. The taste came from the glutamate in the seaweed and earned the new, “fifth taste” which would be called “umami”, neither salty, sweet, sour or bitter.

But MSG has been used as an active ingredient in many Asian foods, not the least Thai food where the white crystals are sprinkled liberally on favourite Thai dishes from the street stalls to the hi-so restaurants.

Now there’s a campaign, “Redefine CRS” headed by Japanese food and seasoning company Ajinomoto to reflect the current knowledge about MSG and the impact of misinformation on the public’s perception of Asian cuisine.

The whole Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was a western construct and never became a ‘thing’ in Asia. So Ajinomoto are calling out the half century of misinformation as “racist”. If MSG was actually dangerous or could conjour up it’s reputed side effects a long list of Asian countries and their populations would be walking around complaining about it.

“To this day, the myth around MSG is ingrained in America’s consciousness, with Asian food and culture still receiving unfair blame. Chinese Restaurant Syndrome isn’t just scientifically false, it’s xenophobic.”

In a video several Asian American figures, restaurateurs, and medical professionals spoke out against the misconceptions surrounding MSG and Chinese food. Famed restaurateur Eddie Huang, whose memoir was adapted into the hit sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat points out that MSG is not only delicious but found in hundreds of commonly used foods we use every day.

“Calling it Chinese restaurant syndrome is really ignorant.”

The campaign proposes a redefinition of “Chinese restaurant syndrome”… “an outdated term that falsely blamed Chinese food containing MSG, or monosodium glutamate, for a group of symptoms.”

Chances are, you’ve eaten it. You light be eating it right now as you snack and scroll through your phone. MSG is a common amino acid naturally found in foods like tomatoes and cheese, which people then figured out how to extract and ferment. This fermented glutamate salt is now used to flavour lots of different foods like stews or chicken stock and seasoning.

A joint study by the World Health Organisation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation “failed to confirm a link between MSG and the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’. The syndrome itself was based on “anecdotal” evidence rather than any scientific fact.”

As the new campaign points out, the public scare over MSG unfairly placed the blame on Chinese food. That myth persists in many western countries where Chinese food as is sometimes considered processed, unclean, or unhealthy.

So, head down to your local Chinese restaurant and thoroughly enjoy your meal because it tastes great, along with all the other Asian cuisines you love. If you feel ‘icky, bloated and tingly’ after your meal it’s not the MSG, you probably just ate or drank too much.

As a side note, The Thaiger was involved in an experiment six years ago in Phuket when we had two control groups of three people. The six people were sat down and told we wanted to measure the effects of MSG in their food. All were given a standard Pad Thai Goong. One group was told the meal had been prepared with MSG, the other without MSG. In the interviews after, the group who ate the food prepared with MSG noted they had ‘tingling around their lips’, ‘feeling of flush cheeks’ and ‘racing heartbeat’.

The other group, who were told their meals were prepared without MSG, had no complaints.

Then everyone was told that, in fact, the meals had been switched, so that the group who thought they had consumed MSG had eaten a Pad Thai Going without any MSG.

Hardly a scientifically-validated study but an indication how we can be easily convinced to believe anything.

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