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Phuket Media Watch – Indonesian protests; flash flooding

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Dozens of Indonesians sew mouths shut in deforestation protest
Phuket Gazette
A group of Indonesian protesters have sewed their mouths shut in a protest against deforestation which took place in front of the parliament building in the capital this week, the Jakarta Globe reported today.

Ten more people sewed their mouths shut on Wednesday, joining other protesters who did the same on Monday and Tuesday. The protesters from “Communication Forum to Save Padang Island” are demanding the government revoke a permit issued for a paper company to clear forest which has been categorized as an industrial plantation.

Before Wednesday’s protest, eight people sewed their mouths shut on Monday and another ten did the same on Tuesday. Some of the protesters’ conditions have weakened because they have not been able to eat, according to reports.

House Speaker Marzuki Alie on Wednesday promised protesters that the House will request that the regional government solves the problem. “Don’t sew your mouths shut because you cannot eat or work and it’s useless,” he told the protesters, as quoted by the newspaper.

The group claimed the company Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper cleared land during its operation that has made local people worry about the possibility of erosion caused by deforestation.

Indonesia has one of the world’s fastest rates of deforestation. As the world’s third largest forest area – behind Brazil and Congo – Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed earlier this year a Presidential Instruction on deforestation moratorium to fight climate change impacts and preserve the remaining tropical forests and its biodiversity.

Padang Island is in the Riau province of Indonesia, and like Phuket produces palm oil and rubber among other commodities. Similarly it is also one of the richest provinces, however extensive logging has lead to a massive decline of forest cover from 78% in 1982 to only 33% in 2005 (Source: WWF).

Death toll reaches 11 after floods, landslide in Indonesia’s Central Java
Phuket Gazette

The death toll has risen to eleven after a flash flood and a landslide struck a small village in the Indonesian province of Central Java on Sunday, officials said on Tuesday.

The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon when a rain-triggered flash flood and a subsequent landslide hit the village of Tieng in the town of Wonosobo. The floods and landslide swept away at least thirteen houses and damaged 26 others and a community building.

Banjarnegara Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) officer Andri Sulistyo told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday that two additional male bodies have been found in the Mrica Reservoir, while three others were found floating near the Mrican Dam, bringing the total death toll to 11.

All of the bodies have been transported to the Kejajar Hospital in Wonosobo for proper identification by the Central Java Police Forensic team. However, the remains were damaged beyond recognition and tests would be carried out to identify them.

In addition, emergency workers have also recovered a part of a foot near the dam. Central Java National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) member Aris Triyono said the foot does not belong to any of the eleven other victims.

Officials previously said 627 people have been displaced in the village, which has been seriously affected by the current rainy season.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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United Kingdom approves new Covid-19 vaccine, first jabs start next week

Caitlin Ashworth

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United Kingdom approves new Covid-19 vaccine, first jabs start next week | The Thaiger

The United Kingdom approved the new Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech for emergency use and will start injections next week. The UK became the first country in the world to license the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which Pfizer says marks a historic moment in the fight against the coronavirus.

The UK purchased 40 million doses of the vaccine and 800,000 doses will be available next week, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock. He says the most vulnerable people will get the first jabs. 50 hospitals are ready to receive the vaccine, he says.

“From early next week we will start the programme of vaccinating people against Covid-19 here in this country… It’s very good news.”

The new Covid-19 vaccine was authorised for emergency use by the private Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says the company applauds the agency for conducting a careful, yet timely, assessment of the vaccine.

“As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world.”

The vaccine has been shown to have a 95% efficacy in its final trials. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson says the approval of the vaccine follows months of rigorous clinical trials and experts have concluded that the vaccine meets strict safety, quality and effectiveness standards.

SOURCES: Reuters | Guardian

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Chinese probe collects rock samples from surface of the Moon

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Chinese probe collects rock samples from surface of the Moon | The Thaiger

The Chinese, like the rest of us, are mostly prohibited from travelling at the moment, but it hasn’t stopped them travelling to the Moon. A Chinese space probe has landed on the surface of the Moon to bring back the first lunar samples in nearly 5 decades. Since the US dropped its Apollo missions to the Moon in 1972, the Earth’s only natural satellite has been a bit lonely.

The Chinese space program has poured billions into its space program, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the Moon to establish an ongoing lunar base. No Chinese have been participating in the International Space Station.

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft adds to a string of successes for Beijing’s increasingly ambitious space program. Chang’e is the name for the mythical Chinese moon goddess. The probe touched down on the near side of the Moon yesterday. It will spend a total of 48 hours on the surface of the moon before re-uniting with it’s mother-ship which will then bring the lunar probe back to Earth.

The unmanned Chang’e-5 probe will collect lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the Moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity, the first such collections since the 1970s when an unmanned Russian lunar probe conducted a similar mission. The probe is the latest venture by a Chinese space program that sent its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, has a spacecraft en route to Mars and aims eventually to land a human on the moon.

If Chang’e-5 returns to Earth successfully, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.

The probe was launched from China’s southern tropical island of Hainan last week and entered lunar orbit aver the weekend after a 112 hour journey. The probe will collect 2 kilograms of material in a previously unexplored area known as “Ocean of Storms”, a vast lava plain of grey rocks and dust.

The probe will collect samples from the surface and drill a 2 metre deep hole to gather soil and rock samples from beneath the lunar surface as well.

Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA official from the mission directorate, says the mission was no easy task.

“When the samples collected on the Moon are returned to Earth, we hope everyone will benefit from being able to study this precious cargo that could advance the international science community. Congratulations to China on the successful landing of Chang’e 5.”

The Chang’e 5 flight is China’s third successful lunar landing. Its predecessor, Chang’e 4, was the first probe to land on the Moon’s lesser-explored far side which is perpetually facing away from the Earth.

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No evidence of voter fraud that would change election outcome – US Attorney General

Caitlin Ashworth

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No evidence of voter fraud that would change election outcome – US Attorney General | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

After repeated claims on voter fraud from United States President Donald Trump, and refusal to concede his loss to president-elect Joe Biden, the US Justice Department says they have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud “that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election”, according to US Attorney General William Barr.

President Trump has repeatedly posted on Twitter with comments such as “fake election results”, “impossible result” and “rigged election.” His posts are often flagged on Twitter with a warning saying “This claim about election fraud is disputed”, linking to a page with information from various news outlets.

US attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up on complaints and information on voter fraud, but nothing they uncovered impact the outcome of the election, Barr told the Associated Press.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome on the election.”

Before the election, Barr, who is considered to be one of Trump’s most loyal allies, said mail-in votes could be vulnerable to fraud this year since many Americans would rather vote from home rather than going to the polls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With some states flipping from red to blue once all the mail-in ballots were counted, the Trump campaign has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to count illegal ballots and rig the election. The Trump campaign has been calling out problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks. But local courts have repeatedly thrown out the lawsuits saying the claims have not been backed up with any evidence.

AG Barr says government agencies have also looked into claims that machines were programmed to skew election results and says that, so far, there is no evidence to back the claim.

In response to Barr’s statements, Trump’s attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis wrote a statement saying the opinion doesn’t seem to be backed by their investigation into the matters.

“With all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation … with the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud.”

SOURCE: Aljazeera

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