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Phuket Gazette World News: US stealth fighters in Korea; New bird flu in China; Cyprus banks’ pitiable payout

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Phuket Gazette World News: US stealth fighters in Korea; New bird flu in China; Cyprus banks’ pitiable payout | The Thaiger

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

U.S. F-22 stealth jets join South Korea drills amid sabre-rattling
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The United States sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea on Sunday to join military drills aimed at underscoring the U.S. commitment to defend Seoul in the face of an intensifying campaign of threats from North Korea.

The advanced, radar-evading F-22 Raptors were deployed to Osan Air Base, the main U.S. Air Force base in South Korea, from Japan to support ongoing bilateral exercises, the U.S. military command in South Korea said in a statement that urged North Korea to restrain itself.

“(North Korea) will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” the statement said.

Sabre-rattling on the Korean peninsula drew a plea for peace from Pope Francis, who in his first Easter Sunday address called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

“Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow,” he said, speaking in Italian.

Tensions have been high since the North’s young new leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered a nuclear weapons test in February, breaching U.N. sanctions and ignoring warnings from North Korea’s closest ally, China, not to do so.

That test, North Korea’s third since 2006, drew further U.N. and bilateral sanctions designed to pressure the impoverished North to stop its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang responded to the new steps by ratcheting up warnings and threats of war.

North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea, but Seoul and its ally the United States played down the statement from the official KCNA news agency as the latest in a stream of tough talk from Pyongyang.

In a rare U.S. show of force aimed at North Korea, the United States on Thursday flew two radar-evading B-2 Spirit bombers on practice runs over South Korea.

On Friday, Kim signed an order putting the North’s missile units on standby to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after the stealth bomber flights.

The F-22 jets will take part in the annual U.S.-South Korea Foal Eagle military drills, which are designed to sharpen the allies’ readiness to defend the South from an attack by North Korea, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. military did not say how many of the planes were flown to South Korea from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. The statement described Sunday’s deployment as part of routine shifts of air power among bases in the Western Pacific that U.S. forces have been conducting since 2004.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the top Japanese government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, as condemning Pyongyang for “aggressive provocation” after Kim’s ruling party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, identified U.S. military bases in Japan as targets for attack.

The two Koreas have been technically in a state of war since a truce that ended their 1950-53 conflict. Despite its threats, few people see any indication Pyongyang will risk a near-certain defeat by re-starting full-scale war.

H7N9 bird flu kills 2 in China in first human cases
Phuket Gazette / News wires
PHUKET: Two people in China’s largest city of Shanghai died this month after contracting a strain of avian influenza that had never been transmitted to humans before, health authorities said on Sunday. A third victim in China is in critical condition.

China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission said two men from Shanghai and a woman from another region in eastern China were diagnosed with avian influenza, better known as bird flu, after they became ill with coughs and fevers before developing pneumonia. Laboratory tests confirmed Saturday that they had contracted H7N9, a strain not seen in humans before.

The first known victim, an 87-year-old man from Shanghai, became ill on February 19 and passed away on March 4, according to the Commission. The second victim, a 27-year-old man who was also from Shanghai, began showing symptoms on February 27 and died at a local hospital on March 10.

A 35-year-old woman from Chuzhou, a city in Anhui province, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of Shanghai, became ill on March 15. The woman was later admitted to a hospital in Nanjing, a city in neighboring Jiangsu province, and remained in a critical condition on Sunday.

It is unclear how the virus infected the three victims, who do not appear to have any direct connections, but none of their relatives or friends are believed to have fallen ill. The Commission said the 27-year-old man was a butcher while the 35-year-old woman had been in contact with poultry before falling ill.

The Chinese government said it is closely following the situation and has informed the World Health Organization (WHO), Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and a number of countries about the deaths. A WHO spokesman said the risk to public health appears to be low as there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

In Hong Kong, a spokesman for the Center for Health Protection said it would closely monitor the situation and urged members of the public to remain vigilant for possible cases of bird flu. “We will heighten our vigilance and continue to maintain stringent port health measures in connection with this development,” he said.

There is no known vaccine for H7N9, but the strain is different from the well-known H5N1 variant. Since 2003, the H5N1 bird flu virus has killed or forced the culling of more than 400 million domestic poultry worldwide and caused an estimated $20 billion in economic damage before it was eliminated from most of the 63 infected countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the bird flu virus has infected at least 605 people since it first appeared, killing 357 of them. Most cases and deaths were recorded in Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt and China. Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Cambodia all reported bird flu deaths last year.

Cyprus: Big depositors could lose up to 60 percent
Phuket Gazette / News wires
PHUKET: Big depositors at Cyprus’ largest bank face losing up to 60 percent of their savings which exceed 100,000 euros ($127,770), far more than had been initially estimated as part of a European rescue package, the government said on Saturday.

As part of the measures, as much as 60 percent of deposits exceeding 100,000 euros ($127,770) at the Bank of Cyprus could be effectively lost. Deposits up to 100,000 euros are safe and will be paid out to customers, but only 40 percent of deposits exceeding that amount are certain to be paid out in full.

A statement from the country’s central bank said 37.5 percent of the big deposits will be converted into Class A shares of the Bank of Cyprus, giving the owners voting rights and dividends. This would theoretically allow depositors to eventually recover some of their losses, but the shares are now virtually worthless and it is uncertain if they will ever regain value.

Another 22.5 percent of the big deposits is also at risk of being converted into Class A shares of the Bank of Cyprus, but an i

— 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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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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