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Phuket Gazette World News: US woman raped in India; Nerve gas used; North Korean abuses exposed

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Phuket Gazette World News: US woman raped in India; Nerve gas used; North Korean abuses exposed | The Thaiger

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

U.S. woman is latest gang-rape victim in India
Phuket Gazette / News Wires
PHUKET: An American woman was the latest gang-rape victim in northern India, local media reported Tuesday.

The incident occurred at around 1am local time when the woman decided to hitchhike her way back to Manali, the popular tourist site in the state of Himachal Pradesh, after visiting the Vashisht village on Monday afternoon and failing to find transportation.

According to the Hindustian Times, the 31-year-old woman was able to flag down a truck, but soon after, the driver pulled over at a secluded area where he and two of his friends allegedly raped the woman for around an hour.

The men then stole her camera, cellular phone, tablet, and cash, before dropping her off at Beas bridge at around 3am. The woman walked toward the nearest police station, and authorities later confirmed the sexual assault after conducting medical tests at a civil hospital in Manali.

The US Embassay was informed and in contact with the victim, as the media outlet said authorities later detained three youths, although the victim was unable to identify them. The woman’s identity was not immediately disclosed.

The number of sexual assaults in India has dramatically increased in recent months, as the number of female tourists has also dropped. One of the most alarming incidents occurred in New Delhi earlier in the year when six men gang-raped a 23-year-old Indian student who would eventually lose her life.

Keep checking our the Phuket Gazette’s World News section, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter at @PhuketGazette for the latest international news updates.

France says tests prove Syria used nerve gas; US sends Patriots to Jordan
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: France said yesterday it had performed tests that proved President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used nerve gas in Syria’s civil war, a “red line” that the United States and other countries have repeatedly said would demand a response.

Washington separately said it would deploy Patriot missiles and F-16 fighter jets to Syria’s neighbour Jordan for a military exercise and perhaps longer. Russia, Assad’s main international backer, criticized the move and accused the West of inflaming the conflict by sending arms to the war zone.

French officials said their tests were the first that complied with international standards and proved that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Washington, which has said for months it believes Assad’s forces probably used chemical weapons, said it still needed to study the evidence. “We need more information” about claims of such use, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Speaking on France 2 television, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Paris had tested samples collected in Syria, and that some proved that the Syrian government had used sarin, the deadly nerve agent Saddam Hussein used in Iraq.

In one case it was not possible to prove who was responsible, but “in the second case there is no doubt that it was the regime and its accomplices, because we are aware of the entire chain from when the attack took place, to when the people were killed and when the samples were taken,” he said.

The results were handed to the head of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team on Tuesday in Paris, Fabius said.

A French diplomatic source said samples included blood and urine from victims, taken after a government helicopter bombed Saraqib near the northern city of Idlib on April 29.

The mounting evidence of the use of poison gas poses a dilemma for Western countries including the United States, which have promised to act if such weapons are used but have no obvious path for a military intervention.

Red line crossed?

Syria has not signed up to an international treaty banning the use of chemical weapons but has said it would never use them in an internal conflict.

Both the Syrian government and the rebels accuse each other of using chemical weapons, although Washington and other Western countries say they doubt the rebels have done so.

Asked whether a “red line” had been crossed, Fabius said “undoubtedly”. Paris was discussing with allies how to react.

“All options are on the table,” he said. “That means either we decide not to react or we decide to react including by armed actions targeting the place where the gas is stored.”

He said the military option was not at the top of the list for now as it was still vital to ensure that efforts to reach a peaceful solution were not hindered.

The French diplomatic source said Paris hoped the results of its chemical tests would help U.N. investigators push their case to enter Syria. When inspectors report, France will push for action at the U.N. Security Council, where three resolutions against Assad have so far been vetoed by Russia and China.

“This is a way of adding pressure on Syria and those who support it,” the source said. “I can’t see how Russia could defend the use of chemical weapons.”

Keep checking our the Phuket Gazette’s World News section, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter at @PhuketGazette for the latest international news updates.

New generation of defectors expose North Korean abuses
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: From the streets of Seoul to the European parliament, a new generation of North Korean defectors is stepping into the limelight, telling their personal stories to highlight the human rights abuses in their homeland.

It’s a major change for the defector community, especially in South Korea, where for years they lived on the margins of society. Most did menial jobs and kept quiet, avoiding attention for fear of being labelled a “Red” or a “Sympathiser with the North”.

Not any more.

“I plan to speak out as much as possible,” said Hyeonseo Lee, who on a recent Friday evening addressed a street rally in Seoul for an event called North Korea Freedom Week.

Lee, 33, wowed the audience at this year’s TED Conference, an international forum for people to promote their ideas. At the February gathering in Long Beach, California, Lee gave a harrowing account of life in North Korea and her eventual escape to South Korea via China, where she spent years in hiding.

Experts said it’s too early to tell what impact this newfound outspokenness will have on international policy toward North Korea, already under layers of U.N. sanctions over its banned

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote

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The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote | The Thaiger

Call it Super Saturday, call it Deal or No Deal, call it the most important day in recent UK history. Today (Saturday) the UK House of Commons will gather on a Saturday, the first time for decades. Golf games have been postponed, polo sticks will have to gather dust and the cleaner’s been told to come back on Sunday.

Earlier this week, British PM Boris Johnson did the near impossible and secured a new Brexit deal from the EU. The EU shocked everyone by throwing out the controversial Irish border backstop and replacing it with an alternative plan, after months of saying that Theresa May’s deal could not be changed. Moreover, the EU leaders seem happy with the deal and have been waxing lyrical about the scruffy British PM they all dreaded negotiating with.

But it’s not going to be easy. Some PMs have already tabled amendments that could make Johnson’s run of success fall short of a finish line. Opposition MPs will put forward proposals to scrap Brexit or schedule a second referendum.

So how is the crucial, and historic vote, going to roll?

It’s far too close to call. PM Johnson doesn’t have a majority in Parliament and his Northern Irish allies, the DUP, who he needed to pass legislation, have already said that they won’t back the new plan. Meanwhile, his opposition MPs are lining up to criticise the deal. And there’s serious concern that the arch-Brexiteers in his own Conservative party will vote against the deal too.

Bottomline, if MPs don’t vote for this deal then they can’t be certain that Brexit will be delayed, despite the fact that Johnson is legally obliged to request a Brexit extension if no deal has been agreed by 11 pm on Saturday night. Last month, opposition MPs passed legislation that binds the British to this commitment. Mr. Johnson says he will comply with the law but reminds his opponents that this decision relies on the EU still having to unanimously agree to it.

But, if the deal passes, the UK finally leaves the EU. Johnson would probably hope to capitalise on his success and call for a general election soon after. His poll ratings are good at the moment, and you’d think they would improve after delivering Brexit.

If the deal goes down, Johnson requests the extension and it’s approved, then we get into the nasty election where both sides will tear each other apart, adding more to a polarised community that may take decades to recover from this folly.

And if the EU refuses an extension, then all hell breaks loose.

Has it all been worth it?

Anyway, bring on Super Saturday as the deliberations continue.

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World

Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan

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Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan | The Thaiger

British PM Boris Johnson is warning British MPs there was “no better outcome” to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambles to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of today’s knife-edge vote in parliament (Saturday UK time).

Johnson is urging lawmakers to back the “fantastic” terms he struck with EU leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31.

“There’s no better outcome than the one I’m advocating tomorrow.”

“I want colleagues on all sides of the House to think about a world tomorrow night in which we’ve got this thing done,” he added in a separate interview with ITV.

“I think the nation will heave a great sigh of relief.”

Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. But the deal’s fortunes, and Britain’s immediate fate, rest in the hands of a few undecided MPs, who will vote in the first Saturday session of the Commons since the 1982 Falklands War.

Political pundits suggest the vote could be exceptionally tight. Johnson has no majority among MPs, every opposition party has come out against the deal and even his parliamentary ally, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), says it cannot support the terms.

Johnson requires the support of 319 other MPs to guarantee victory – and claims he is confident of getting the numbers, as he spent the day meeting and calling MPs.

He must convince diehard eurosceptics in his own Conservative ranks, former colleagues he expelled from the party for seeking to block a “no deal” departure, and main opposition Labour MPs from Brexit-backing constituencies to have any chance.

Labour is ordering its MPs to vote against the deal but threatening no punishment if they vote in favour. Several MPs spent yesterday wrestling with their consciences as the more than three years of turmoil since the June 2016 EU membership referendum came to a head.

Johnson is expected to deliver a speech to parliament from 0830 GMT on Saturday, kicking off a day of debate that could last well into the evening.

The turning of the screws

If the Commons rejects the deal, Johnson will be forced by law to ask the EU to delay Brexit, for what would be the third time. He has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch”.

French President Emmanuel Macron piled the pressure on MPs, saying he did not want a new delay now a deal was struck.

“The October 31 date should be respected. I don’t think that new deadlines should be given,” he said at the EU summit in Brussels.

“We need to end these negotiations and get on negotiating the future relationship.”

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: “There is no choice between Brexit or no Brexit: it’s a choice between deal or no deal.”

Johnson took office in July vowing to keep to the October 31 Brexit deadline, deal or no deal.

He pledged to renegotiate the most contentious elements of a divorce text agreed by his predecessor Theresa May with Brussels last year, which MPs rejected three times.

The compromise deal that was finally struck on Thursday has a new arrangement for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The DUP has said it cannot support the plans, as efforts to avoid checks on the Irish land border would lead to new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

Meanwhile…

Former Conservative prime minister John Major (1990-1997) and his Labour successor Tony Blair (1997-2007) pleaded with MPs to back a second referendum, ahead of a major rally by the “People’s Vote” campaign outside parliament on Saturday (UK time).

“Whatever is the outcome, no deal or bad deal, it should not pass without the final say resting with the people,” said Blair.

Major said Brexit was a “thoroughly bad idea” that risked breaking up the UK.

The Pound steadied around $1.29 yesterday as dealers took a breather at the end of a dizzying week.

ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker said the market was “really gambling” on the vote and had “not priced in fully all scenarios – so expect big moves”.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse | PHOTO: Associated Press

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Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy

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Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy | The Thaiger

The British pound fell today as investors fret over PM Boris Johnson’s chances of pushing his Brexit deal through the British parliament, while Asian markets were mostly down after data showed China’s economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades.

The pound rallied almost to US$1.30 yesterday following news that negotiators had hammered out an agreement that would avoid Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal – a move many warn would be economically catastrophic. But the brief celebrations were soon tempered by the realisation that the British PM faces an uphill task in getting the deal past lawmakers, with opposition MPs and even some in his own Conservative party saying they won’t pass it.

Most importantly, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson’s government, said it was “unable to support these proposals”.

Forex traders sold sterling, pushing it back down below $1.29, and it extended losses in Asia. Focus is now on a crucial vote in London on the deal scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday).

“Much will depend on the PM’s ability to get some if not all DUP and (Scottish National Party) MPs onside, in addition to also getting the backing from the 21 ex-Conservative MPs he expelled from the party last month,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

“Rejection of the deal might well see more political brinkmanship around a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but the most likely scenario would be yet another extension of the 31 October Brexit date.”

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said whichever way the vote goes, “traders should prepare themselves for some severe volatility on Monday morning, with multiple big-figure moves a strong possibility”.

China growth slows again

Asian equity markets, meanwhile, were mostly lower after China said its economy expanded 6% in the third quarter, the slowest pace in 27 years, as leaders struggle to address weak domestic demand and the long-running US trade war.

The reading was a drop from the previous three months but in line with an AFP forecast and the government’s 6-6.5% target for the year.

While the National Bureau of Statistics said the economy “maintained overall stability”, it added that it “is under mounting downward pressure” from weakness at home and abroad.

Shanghai ended down 1.3% with Stephen Innes at AxiTrader saying traders were concerned the figures were not weak enough to prompt the Chinese central bank to embark on a big stimulus drive.

“With the People’s Bank of China, who arguably have plenty of policy ammunition to right the ship, probably unwilling to turn on the monetary taps, investors are taking risk off the table,” he said in a note.

Hong Kong was off 0.5% amid concern over the possibility of more violent protests over the weekend, while Sydney closed down 0.5 percent and Singapore eased 0.4%.

Seoul shed 0.8% and Wellington lost 0.7%, with Taipei and Manila also lower. But Tokyo closed 0.2 higher at a 10-month high, while Mumbai and Jakarta also edged up.

Hopes for the China-US trade talks were given a lift after Beijing’s commerce ministry said negotiators have “accelerated efforts” to hammer out details of last Friday’s mini-deal and were holding talks on moving on to the next phase of a wider agreement.

Donald Trump said Wednesday he hopes to sign the deal with President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Chile next month.

And the Turkish lira jumped more than 1% after Ankara said it would pause military operations in northern Syria for five days and US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would not impose any fresh sanctions.

Key markets today…

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2857 from $1.2891 at 2050 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.48 pence from 86.31 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1122 from $1.1127

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.63 yen from 108.62 yen

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4% at 7,152.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2% at 22,492.68 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5% at 26,719.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.3% at 2,938.14 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $53.97 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 22 cents at $59.69 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.1% at 27,025.88 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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