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Phuket Gazette World News: Typhoon flattens Philippines; Mexico frees kidnap victims; US embroiled in Iran nuclear, Palestine dilemma

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Phuket Gazette World News: Typhoon flattens Philippines; Mexico frees kidnap victims; US embroiled in Iran nuclear, Palestine dilemma | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Typhoon Haiyan hammers Philippines
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to hit land, was barrelling out of the Philippines on Saturday after it flattened houses, triggered landslides and floods and knocked out power and communications across a number of islands.

In the central Philippines, nearly all houses in Tacloban in Leyte province with a population of about 220,000, were toppled and casualties were feared to be massive, a disaster official said.

“Almost all houses were destroyed, many are totally damaged. Only a few houses are left standing, but with partial damages,” Major Rey Balido, a spokesman for the national disaster agency, told Reuters.

“Our disaster officials can’t give a number on casualties yet, the communication lines are down,” Balido said. “But I asked our teams to send us even a crude body count, they are just using a satellite phone and the signal is poor.”

Early official reports said at least four people had died, four others were missing and seven were injured by the typhoon.

Local radio reports said at least two more people had been killed on Cebu island, a popular tourist destination.

Haiyan, a Category-5 typhoon, had weakened after hitting land at least five times in the Philippines, but weather forecasters said it could strengthen again as it passes over the South China Sea before heading to Vietnam on Sunday.

The typhoon was hovering 440 kilometres west of San Jose, in southwestern Occidental Mindoro province, packing winds of a maximum 175 kph, with gusts of up to 210 kph.

The storm lashed the islands of Leyte and Samar with 275-kph wind gusts and 5-6 metre (15-19 ft) waves on Friday before scouring the northern tip of Cebu province.

It weakened slightly as it moved west northwest towards Capiz and Aklan provinces and near the tourist island of Boracay, later hitting Mindoro island.

About a million people took shelter in 37 provinces, after President Benigno Aquino appealed to people in the path of the typhoon to leave vulnerable areas, such as river banks, coastal villages and mountain slopes.

Teams from communications and power companies were trying to restore services, but authorities warned that may take days.

Ferry services and airports in the central Philippines remained closed. The military said it was deploying at least one C-130 cargo plane loaded with relief goods and emergency supplies to Tacloban city early on Saturday.

Haiyan was the second Category 5 typhoon to hit the Philippines this year after Typhoon Usagi in September. An average of 20 typhoons strike the Philippines every year, and Haiyan was the 24th in 2013.

Last year, Typhoon Bopha flattened three towns on southern Mindanao region, killed 1,100 people and caused damage totalling more than $1 billion.

Mexico frees 61 kidnap victims held near U.S. border
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Mexican authorities freed 61 kidnapping victims in the northern border city of Reynosa, the government said on Friday, liberating a mix of foreign nationals that included at least nine minors and one American.

The raid, which took place on Thursday in four separate buildings in Reynosa, freed captives from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico and the United States, government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said at a news conference in the capital.

He said the captives, many of whom had been trying to cross the border into the United States, had been held there for at least a week in “inhuman conditions,” although he did not go into details. Reynosa is across the border from McAllen, Texas.

The captives included children ages 2, 7 and 11, he added.

Authorities arrested four suspects, who could face sentences of up to 36 years if found guilty, Sanchez said.

Mexican criminal gangs have long been involved in trafficking migrants from Mexico and Central America north into the United States in a side business that complements their drug smuggling efforts.

Although the murder rate in Mexico has fallen somewhat, kidnapping has risen since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December vowing to stamp out such crimes.

A recent Pew Research Center report found that as of March 2012, 11.7 million illegal immigrants were living in the United States, according to a preliminary estimate based on U.S. government data.

The number of such immigrants in the country peaked at 12.2 million in 2007 and fell to 11.3 million in 2009, bucking an upward trend that had held for decades, the study found.

Immigration reform is one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s main objectives following his re-election last year. The White House hopes to push through a broad bill to reform immigration rules and provide a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, but the effort has stalled in the House of Representatives after passing with bipartisan support in the Senate.

Ministers arrive in Geneva as Iran nuclear deal nears
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday important gaps needed to be bridged in high-stakes talks with Iran on curbing its nuclear programme and he would meet Tehran’s foreign minister shortly to try to clinch an interim deal.

“I want to emphasise there is not an agreement at this point,” Kerry said shortly after arriving in Geneva, tempering rising anticipation of a breakthrough that would reduce the risk of a Middle East war over Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

“We hope to try to narrow these differences but I don’t think anybody should mistake there are some important gaps that have to be closed,” he told reporters.

Midway through the second round of negotiations since Iran elected a moderate president who opened doors to a peaceful solution to the nuclear dispute, Kerry joined fellow big power foreign ministers in Geneva to help cement a preliminary accord, with Israel warning they were making an epic mistake.

Diplomats said a breakthrough remained uncertain and would in any case mark only the first step in a long, complex process towards a permanent resolution of international concerns that Iran may be seeking the means to build nuclear bombs.

But they said the arrival of Kerry, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French and German foreign ministers Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle signalled that the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany may be closer to an elusive pact with Iran than ever before.

Kerry was expected to hold a trilateral meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

A senior U.S. State Department official said Kerry was committed to doing “anything he can” to overcome the chasm with the Islamic Republic. The powers aim to cap Iran’s nuclear work to prevent any advance towards a nuclear weapons capability.

The top U.S. diplomat arrived from Tel Aviv where he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who regards Iran’s atomic aspirations as a menace to the Jewish state.

Netanyahu warned Kerry and his European counterparts that Iran would be getting “the deal of the century” if they carried ou

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble Thai massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by the CNN Travel team. Thailand’s smooth coconut milk and potato-based curry (add meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at Number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also making it into the World’s Best food list.

The hot and spicy shrimp/prawn soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at Number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck, Penang Assam laksa, Malaysia and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

First Place, Massaman curryEmphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Eighth Place, Tom Yum Kung

This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

46th Place, Som Tam/Papaya salad

To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies

Caitlin Ashworth

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies | The Thaiger

A volunteer for a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial in Brazil has died. But he never actually received the experimental vaccine, although he was involved in the trial groups. He did, however, die of Covid-19.

But trials on the vaccine, being developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, are set to continue. The university says “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.” The vaccine is also planned to be produced in Thailand and be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021.

The 28 year old volunteer from Rio de Janeiro died from Covid-19 complications, according to CNN Brasil. He was apparently never injected with the experimental vaccine. If the volunteer had been given the Covid-19 vaccine and died, the trial would have been suspended, a source told Reuters, adding that the volunteer may have been part of the control group.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo is helping to coordinate the trials in Brazil and has also recommended the trials continue. So far, 8,000 volunteers have been injected with the first dose of the vaccine and some have already been jabbed a second time, a university spokesperson said.

“Everything is proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers.”

Thailand is set to be the Southeast Asia production site for the new vaccine. If the AstraZeneca trials are successful, the vaccine will be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021. For Thailand, the vaccine is seen as a lifeline to save the country’s struggling economy, allowing borders to safely reopen and revive the tourism industry.

The company Siam Bioscience will manufacture the vaccine in Thailand and provide injections for the Thai populations as well as the neighbouring countries Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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World

China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue

Maya Taylor

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China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bicanski on Pixnio

The Chinese government is to keep the current ban on inbound and outbound tour groups, amid fears that the winter months could bring a resurgence of Covid-19. The Bangkok Post reports that the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has confirmed on its website that the ban remains in place. After several months with very low case numbers, officials are wary of the virus surging back this winter.

The ban on outbound tours is severely impacting places like Thailand, where former tourist hotspots are already suffering devastating economic consequences from the closure of the country’s borders in late March. Earlier this week, Thailand welcomed its first group of Chinese tourists in 7 months, but the Kingdom has a long way to go to get back to the 10.99 million Chinese who visited last year – if it ever does.

As the Covid-19 virus made itself known at the start of 2020, China put a stop to both domestic and outbound tours in January. Since July, domestic tours have started up again as a result of a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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