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Phuket Gazette World News: US chides Russia; US train crash; Crucial evidence withheld from ex-Russian spy’s inquest

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette World News: US chides Russia; US train crash; Crucial evidence withheld from ex-Russian spy’s inquest | The Thaiger

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

U.S. chides Russia over missiles as peace plans suffer
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The United States chided Russia for sending missiles to the Syrian government as plans for a peace conference promoted by Washington and Moscow were hit by diplomatic rifts over its scope and purpose.

Sectarian bloodshed in neighbouring Iraq during Friday prayers, a hacking attack on a Western newspaper by sympathisers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and defiant comments by a rebel commander filmed eating a slain soldier’s flesh were all reminders of how the two-year-old civil war is metastising.

But the divisions among world powers that have prevented a coordinated resolution were also again on display, just 10 days after Russia and the United States agreed to bury differences and push for an urgent international conference to end the war.

The most senior U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey, described Russia’s recent delivery of anti-ship missiles to Assad as “ill-timed and very unfortunate” and risked prolonging a war which has already killed more than 80,000 Syrians and which the U.N. said had driven 1.5 million abroad.

While not responding directly to U.S. assertions that it had sent Yakhont missiles, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Russia would honour contracts to supply Syria, which has been a customer for Moscow’s weaponry since the Cold War.

“It’s at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering,” Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

With a range of 300 km (200 miles), the Yakhont could prove a threat to warships in the Mediterranean, should, for example, Western powers abandon their deep reserve and intervene to offer air support to the rebels, as they did in Libya two years ago.

No date has yet been agreed for the international meeting, which appears to face growing obstacles. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Putin in Russia on Friday and said the conference should take place as soon as possible.

But highlighting the diplomatic conundrum it poses, France spelled out explicitly on Friday that it would oppose any meeting if Assad’s regional ally Iran were invited – contrary to the Russian position that Tehran should be part of a solution.

Nearly 50 hurt as two trains collide in Connecticut
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Nearly 50 people were injured on Friday when two commuter trains collided during evening rush hour near the Connecticut town of Fairfield, shutting down Amtrak service between New York and Boston indefinitely, police and transit officials said.

Authorities said there were no reports of fatalities in the accident that occurred shortly after 6 p.m. EDT (2300 BST).

Anita Shrum, a spokeswoman for Bridgeport Hospital, said one person was seriously injured but the other 21 people it had received could be described as “walking wounded” with a variety of injuries. “They are doing OK, they are very stable,” Shrum said.

Dianne Auger, a spokeswoman for St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, said one of the 27 people taken there was in serious condition with head and neck injuries. Commuter trains on this busy commuter line to New York typically carry up to 300 passengers.

The number of injured could rise because hospital officials were told to prepare to receive up to 180 patients total.

The accident occurred when an eastbound train on the Metro-North commuter rail line derailed and collided with a train headed in the opposite direction near the suburban town of Fairfield, said spokesman Aaron Donovan of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the railroad.

Amtrak officials said in a statement that it suspended service indefinitely on the heavily travelled Northeast Corridor between Boston and New York.

The cause of the derailment was not immediately known. Fairfield is about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City.

UK inquest into ex-Russian spy’s death may be scrapped
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Britain’s long-delayed inquest into the death by radioactive poisoning of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko could be abandoned after the coroner partly upheld a British government request to withhold crucial evidence.

Robert Owen, a senior judge acting as coroner, said yesterday keeping some of the evidence secret would make it impossible to hold a “full, fair and fearless inquiry” into the death of the vocal critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Litvinenko, 43, died after drinking polonium-210, a radioactive isotope, that had been slipped into his tea at a London hotel in 2006. In a deathbed statement, he accused Putin of ordering his murder, a claim Russia has denied.

His death plunged relations between London and Moscow to a post-Cold War low, although British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Russia this month as part of efforts to improve ties.

In a written ruling, the coroner partially upheld a request by British Foreign Secretary William Hague to withhold evidence relating to the possible involvement of the Russian state in Litvinenko’s death and whether it could have been prevented.

The coroner also agreed to keep secret information that could undermine trust in the British government or “cause real harm to the UK’s international relations”.

Without being able to assess all the evidence in open hearings, Owen said he would be unable to “discharge my duty to undertake a full, fair and fearless inquiry into the circumstances”.

“The inquiry would be incomplete and a verdict potentially misleading and/or unfair,” he wrote in the ruling, which was partly censored for security reasons.

Those involved have two weeks to respond and a further hearing is due on June 11 when the coroner will announce what happens next. A British government spokesman said: “The government will carefully consider this judgement.”

The British authorities could now order a form of inquiry that would allow evidence to be heard in secret instead of an inquest, a hearing held under British law to determine the cause of death when a person dies unexpectedly.

Litvinenko’s widow Maria said she was “utterly dismayed” by the ruling, which she described as a political fix to help Russia and Britain rebuild their relations.

“All those concerned with exposing the truth will be shocked and saddened that a political deal has been done between the two governments to prevent the truth from ever seeing the light of day,” she said in a statement.

At a pre-inquest hearing in February, the Litvinenko family’s lawyers said Britain was trying to cover up his work for its Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, and material showing Russia was behind his death.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in December that the claims were unfounded and Moscow hoped that an investigation would show them to be so.

— 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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