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World News: Venezuela deports gringo spy; WikiLeaks case update; US soldier pleads guilty to murder

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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World News: Venezuela deports gringo spy; WikiLeaks case update; US soldier pleads guilty to murder | The Thaiger

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

Venezuela deports US filmmaker accused of being a spy
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Venezuela yesterday deported an American filmmaker who was arrested in April on accusations of spying for Washington and plotting with opposition student groups to destabilize the South American OPEC nation.

“The gringo Timothy Hallet Tracy, who was captured while spying in our country, has been expelled,” Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said on Twitter.

The American’s lawyer, Daniel Rosales, said the charges against his client had been dropped, and the 35-year-old returned to the United States on a commercial flight to Miami.

“It was a traumatic experience. He’s going to need some time,” his sister, Tiffany Klaasen, told Reuters, saying he was still trying to come to grips with his imprisonment.

“We’re just really happy that my brother is back and safe,” she said by phone from her home in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

The outcome of the case was seen as a test of new Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s intentions toward Washington following years of hostility from his predecessor, late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

During a trip to Latin America in May, President Barack Obama called the accusations against Tracy “ridiculous.”

Tracy’s release came hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Guatemala in a rare high-level meeting between the ideologically opposed governments.

Tracy’s sister said a former US congressman from Massachusetts, William Delahunt, who has worked to foster better relations between the two countries, helped win his release.

Delahunt was part of a small US delegation at Chavez’s funeral in March. He has been advising Tracy’s family since his arrest.

Kerry welcomes release

Friends and relatives of Tracy, who was a director and producer at Los Angeles-based Freehold Productions, according to his LinkedIn profile, said he was making a documentary in Venezuela ahead of its April 14 presidential election.

He was arrested 10 days after the vote as he tried to fly out of the country – amid a flurry of headline-grabbing accusations by the government that included claims of assassination plots against Maduro from US soil.

Venezuela said intelligence agents had been tracking Tracy since late 2012 and had uncovered ample evidence he was plotting with militant anti-government groups to provoke “civil war.”

Klaasen said her brother was treated well while he was in jail. “We were in touch with him every day,” she said. “We never had any concerns about his safety.”

Several dozen Venezuelan filmmakers had appealed for Tracy’s release. According to his LinkedIn profile, Tracy attended Georgetown University and his work included the “Madhouse” TV series about stock car racing for the History Channel.

Obama’s comments on Tracy’s arrest infuriated Venezuela’s government and revived accusations of “imperialist meddling” that became routine during Chavez’s polarizing 14-year rule.

Maduro rebuffed Obama, describing his US counterpart as “the grand chief of devils” and issuing a formal protest note.

Maduro, who narrowly won April’s vote amid allegations of foul play by both sides, has at times also seemed to strike a more conciliatory note.

On Wednesday, Kerry called Venezuela’s decision to release Tracy a “positive development” after meeting with Jaua. He said he hoped the two countries could move quickly to reinstate mutual ambassadors, which they have been without since 2010.

“We agreed today, both of us, that we would like to see our countries find a new way forward, establish a more constructive and positive relationship,” Kerry said.

Washington has held back recognition of Maduro, and a US official said this week that there remained concerns about how deep post-election divisions in Venezuela would be resolved.

Keep checking 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

US soldier in WikiLeaks case boasted of hacking passwords
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The US soldier accused of passing classified files to the WikiLeaks website boasted of his ability to crack passwords, one of his Army supervisors said at a court-martial yesterday.

The soldier, Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, is charged with providing more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks, the biggest unauthorized release of classified files in US history. The most serious among the charges is aiding the enemy.

Manning, then an intelligence analyst, boasted of being able to bypass any Internet portal password, former Army Specialist Jihrleah Showman testified under prosecution questioning.

“He said he felt very fluent with computers. He said he spoke their language,” said Showman, who was one of Manning’s supervisors when he worked as an intelligence analyst at a US Army base east of Baghdad in 2010. “He said there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on a computer.”

WikiLeaks began exposing the US government secrets in 2010, stunning diplomats and officials. They accused Manning of endangering lives and damaging sensitive diplomacy.

Showman said Manning had installed Microsoft’s IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, on her computer even though only a civilian contractor was allowed to do so.

One of Manning’s commanders testified that anti-US insurgents used several online sites to mine for information. In a potential blow to the case against Manning, she did not name WikiLeaks even though the website was listed in a 2008 Army counterintelligence report as a potential source of leaks from inside the military.

“They go to Facebook, Google and Google Maps and types of social media,” intelligence officer Captain Casey Fulton said under questioning by defence attorney David Coombs.

Fulton’s testimony could potentially hurt the prosecution’s charge that Manning was aiding the enemy by providing documents to WikiLeaks, said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice in Washington.

Fulton said she had seen part of the leaked material, a combat video from a 2007 Apache gunship attack in Baghdad, in December 2009 when it was stored on the hard drive of the Iraq base’s classified computer.

When the video surfaced in April 2010 on WikiLeaks, she told Manning and others that she did not believe it was the same one she had seen. Manning told her he believed it had been edited and then sent her both versions, she said.

Manning, who has been in confinement since he was arrested in May 2010, could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted. His lawyers have said he only wanted to show the US public the reality of war in Afghanistan and Iraq by releasing the information.

Among the 21 charges Manning faces is adding unauthorized software to a computer that was part of the clas

— 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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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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