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 In The News provided by Koinonia House

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Koinonia Institute presents its 2014 Strategic Perspectives IX Conference in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho on DVD, intel and insight to understand the times.

DVD Set - 10 discs
Run time approximately 21 Hours
Dr. Chuck Missler: The Spiritual Entrepreneur
L.A. Marzulli: On the Trail of the Nephilim
Bill Salus: Nuclear Showdown in Iran: Revealing the Ancient Prophecy of Elam
Mark Biltz: The Blood Moons
Joseph Farah: ISIS SHMISIS: God's Mideast Peace Plan
Bob Cornuke: Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything about the Location of Solomon's Temple
Louis Powell: China - The Sleeping Dragon
Ron Matsen: The Re-emergence of Assyria

Also featuring: Trevor MacDuff, Chris Corlett, Jeff Altus, Gordon McDonald, William Welty, Avi Lipkin, Dan Stolebarger, Kings Highway/Debbie Holland, Steve Elwart, John Loeffler, and Jay Seegert


Price R799.00



Strategic Perspectives Conference

Run time approximately 21 Hours


  • Avi Lipkin - Russia, Ukraine, ISIS at the Gates
  • Dr. William Welty - Surviving God’s Discipline of a Nation
  • Dr. Dan Stolebarger - The Future is Now: Koinonia Institute Small Group Fellowship
  • Ron Matsen - The Reemergence of Assyria?
  • The King’s High Way Panel - The King’s High Way Ministries with Debbie Holland and Tim Tyler
  • Louis Powell - China: The Sleeping Dragon
  • Mark Biltz - The Blood Moons 
  • Dr. William Welty - I, Jesus an Autobiography 
  • Steve Elwart - WWIII: A Hundred Year Old Prophecy 
  • Joseph Farah - ISIS-SCMISIS: God’s Middle East Plan 
  • Dr. Chuck Missler - The Spiritual Entrepreneur: The Encroaching Darkness 
  • John Loeffler - Stumbling Toward an Omega Point 
  • Jay Seegert - Evolution: Problem or Problematic 
  • L.A. Marzulli - On the Trail of the Nephilim 
  • Bill Salus - Nuclear Showdown in Iran: Revealing the Ancient Prophecy of Elam
  • Bob Cornuke - Amazing New Discoveries: The Temple

Also featuring bonus workshop sessions:

  • Trevor MacDuff - Discipleship
  • Chris Corlett - Education is an “Everyman” Strategic Perspective
  • Jeff Altus - Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act?
  • Gordon McDonald - Guard Your Heart
  • Louis Powell - Koinonia Institute

Copyright © 2014





With the wealth of information at our fingertips, it is sometimes hard to see the ‘’forest for the trees’’. In this Strategic Briefing, we will give you a current perspective on many of the trends that shape our world and their relevance to Biblical Prophecy. Now, more than ever, we need to stay informed about what is really going on.

What is REALLY going on in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt?
Who is going to deal with the nuclear Iran?
Will Israel go it alone?
What about America’s political future and what is on its' 2013 horizon?

Most Americans are totally unaware that the sacred Bill of Rights has been essentially
eliminated; how, when and by whom?

Europe - The State of Dis-Union and its Islamization.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler and Ron Matsen in the Executive Briefing Room of
The River Lodge, New Zealand, in an intensive summary of some of the
Strategic Trends that will impact all of us.

© 2012 Koinonia House Inc.

This briefing pack collection contains 4 hours of teaching


2 Disks
4 M4A Files
Color, 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region 0 encoding

 This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

Price R 299.00



Asia News Headlines - Yahoo! NewsAsia News Headlines - Yahoo! News


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Malaysia orders sea search-and-rescue for migrants

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:40:43 PMGo to full article
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Four Malaysian navy ships began searching the seas for stranded boat people Thursday in the first official rescue operation since desperate migrants started washing onto Southeast Asia's shores, and a formerly reluctant Myanmar agreed to attend a regional meeting aimed at easing the crisis.

The Latest on Rohingya: US lawmakers urge more US action

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:03:09 PMGo to full article
A newly arrived migrant uses a mirror after taking shower at a temporary shelter in Bayeun, Aceh province, Indonesia, Thursday, May 21, 2015. In the past three weeks, thousands of people — Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis trying to escape poverty — have landed in overcrowded boats on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. After initially pushing many boats back, Malaysia and Indonesia announced on Wednesday that they will offer temporary shelter to all incoming migrants. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)A bipartisan group of 23 U.S. lawmakers is urging the Obama administration to prevent Southeast Asian seas from becoming a "graveyard" for thousands of Rohingya boat people.

FIFA Presidential Election Candidates

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:38:51 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 file photo FIFA vice president Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein speaks during an interview with The Associated Press after his FIFA presidency campaign launch press conference in London. Sepp Blatter’s widely expected re-election on May 29 as president of soccer’s world governing body for a fifth term has seldom seemed a real contest. Three rival candidates entered the race in January: Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Luis Figo of Portugal and Michael van Praag of the Netherlands. Van Praag, however, dropped out of the race on Thursday May 21, 2015, and switched his support to FIFA vice president Prince Ali. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)ZURICH (AP) — A look at the candidates in the FIFA presidential election on May 29 in Zurich:

KHL looks to expand into China

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:37:14 PMGo to full article
MOSCOW (AP) — The Kontinental Hockey League wants to expand into China, hoping to use a successful Chinese Winter Olympic bid to conquer the vast market.

Palmyra, the ancient pearl of Syria's desert

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:23:10 PMGo to full article
The ancient Syrian city of Palmyra is listed as a UNESCO world heritage sitePalmyra, the ancient Syrian city that has fallen to the Islamic State jihadist group, has withstood the last 2,000 years with its immaculate temples and colonnaded streets. Palmyra, which means City of Palms, is known in Syria as Tadmor, or City of Dates. In the year 129 A.D., Roman emperor Hadrian declared Palmyra a "free city" within his empire.

Image of Asia: Bakarwal herders make their seasonal journey

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:11:18 PMGo to full article
An elderly Kashmiri Bakarwal woman leads a heard of horse near Peer Ki Gali, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Srinagar, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Bakarwals are nomadic herders of India's Jammu-Kashmir state who wander in search of good pastures for their cattle. Every year in April-May more than one hundred thousand people from the nomadic Bakarwal tribes arrive in the meadows of Kashmir and parts of Ladakh from areas of the Jammu region with their flocks of cattle and sheep. After crossing snowy mountains with their cattle and belongings, Kashmir valley's lush green meadows become their home from April to September, after which they begin their return journey. This seasonal shifting of “homes” ensures a regular flow of income for the families. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)In this photo by Dar Yasin, a Kashmiri Bakarwal woman leads a herd of horses near Peer Ki Gali, in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. Bakarwals are nomadic herders of Jammu-Kashmir state who wander in search of good pastures for their cattle. Every year in April-May, more than 100,000 people from the nomadic Bakarwal tribes arrive in the meadows of Kashmir and parts of Ladakh from areas of the Jammu region with their flocks of cattle and sheep. After crossing snowy mountains with their herds and belongings, they make their home in the Kashmir valley's lush green meadows from April to September, after which they begin their return journey. This seasonal shifting of "homes" ensures a regular flow of income for the families.

Cold weather more lethal than hot spells, says study

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:55:54 AMGo to full article
A study of 74 million deaths in 13 countries -- where there was a wide variety of climate -- found that cold weather snaps were responsible for 7 percent of all deathsColder weather kills more people than hot spells, a probe into a key issue of public-health policy said on Thursday. Extreme temperatures, as opposed to those that were moderately above or below average, accounted for less than one percent of all deaths. In its landmark Fifth Assessment Report, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year said it was "likely" that heatwaves had already become more frequent in Europe, Asia and Australia.

U.S. says South China Sea reclamations stoke instability

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:03 AMGo to full article
An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly IslandsChina's land reclamation around reefs in the disputed South China Sea is undermining freedom and stability, and risks provoking tension that could even lead to conflict, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a conference in Jakarta. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, its claims overlapping with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another.

China navy warns U.S. spy plane in disputed South China Sea: CNN

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:59:02 AMGo to full article
An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands(Reuters) - The Chinese navy warned a U.S. surveillance plane flying over artificial islands that Beijing is creating in the disputed South China Sea to leave the area eight times, according to CNN, which was on board the flight on Wednesday. At one stage, after the American pilots responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said with exasperation: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!" The P8-A Poseidon, the U.S. military's most advanced surveillance aircraft, flew at 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) at its lowest point, CNN said. The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggests Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands.

Barred from Gulf, Bangladeshis risk lives to head south

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:48:57 AMGo to full article
Bangladeshi villager Habib Ullah holds the national identity card of his son Abdur Rahim, who has been missing since undertaking a journey of migration, in the village of Ramu on the outskirts of Cox's BazarCox's Bazar (Bangladesh) (AFP) - Denied their traditional route out of poverty in the Gulf and often urged on by relatives, growing numbers of young Bangladeshis are joining the waves of Rohingya trying to reach Southeast Asia on horror boat journeys. As the plight of millions has worsened in Bangladesh in recent years, smugglers organising the perilous sea voyages have grown increasingly sophisticated, keen to cash in on their misery. Scores of men have left their grindingly poor villages throughout the country after the smugglers came calling, promising jobs in more prosperous and Muslim-majority Malaysia, according to officials and elders.

Asia-Pacific militaries seek to develop amphibious skills

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:48:16 AMGo to full article
U.S. Marines sit in an amphibious assault vehicle at Bellows Air Force Station on Oahu, Hawaii during amphibious exercises, as the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy host defense leaders from around the Pacific, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. The first-of-its kind meeting comes as territorial disputes over islands are growing more heated in the region. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)HONOLULU (AP) — Japanese Maj. Gen. Jiro Hiroe turned to numbers to explain to his counterparts from other nations why Japan is developing the skills to move troops from sea to shore: his nation has 6,852 islands and 6,414 of them are uninhabited.

The Latest on Rohingya: Australia won't take in migrants

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:32:19 AMGo to full article
Newly arrived migrants sit inside a truck that will take them to a temporary shelter, in Simpang Tiga, Aceh province, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. In a major diplomatic breakthrough that could ease Southeast Asia's migrant crisis, Indonesia and Malaysia offered Wednesday to temporarily take in thousands of people who have been stranded at sea but appealed for international help, saying the crisis is a global, not regional, problem. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)2:20 p.m. (0420 GMT)

Asia, Europe migrants putting our humanity to the test: Red Cross

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:04:27 AMGo to full article
Greek rescue workers help a woman after a boat carrying migrants sank off the island of Rhodes, on April 20, 2015Surging numbers of migrants risking their lives on rickety boats both in Southeast Asia and on the way to Europe are a test of the world's humanity, the Red Cross chief told AFP in an interview. "The tolerance, the generosity, the openness, the solidarity of the world will be tested," said Elhadj As Sy, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The question is, will we pass the test?" he told AFP in his office in Geneva this week, after a visit to Asia, where he took part in a summit on migration.

US says willing to take in Rohingya boat people

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:01:17 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is willing to take in Rohingya refugees as part of international efforts to cope with Southeast Asia's stranded boat people, the State Department said Wednesday.

FIFA chief's Mideast peace bid fails

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:19:21 AMGo to full article
Palestinians play football on a beach as the sun sets over Gaza City, on January 21, 2015FIFA president Sepp Blatter saw his Mideast peace-making mission crumble on Wednesday after the Palestinians vowed to press efforts to have Israel suspended at the upcoming world football congress. After months of rising tensions over plans by the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) to have its Israeli counterpart expelled from FIFA, Blatter himself flew into the region on Tuesday on a mission to resolve the dispute. The Palestinians are also protesting the existence of five Israeli teams in settlements which are built on land they want for a future state.

FIFA backers Coke, Visa show concern over Qatar labor conditions

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:41:23 PMGo to full article
Foreign laborers work at the construction site of the al-Wakrah football stadium, one of the Qatar's 2022 World Cup stadiums, on May 4, 2015, in DohaCoca-Cola and Visa, both official sponsors of FIFA, expressed concerns Wednesday over the conditions for migrant workers in Qatar building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. "We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions," credit card giant Visa said in a statement.

Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya boatpeople

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:51:03 PMGo to full article
Myanmarese Muslim Rohingya residents sit inside a police truck in Birem Bayuen in Indonesia's East Aceh province on May 20, 2015Gambia said on Wednesday it would take in all Rohingya boatpeople as part of its "sacred duty" to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims flooding Southeast Asia to escape oppression. "The government of the Gambia notes with grave concern the inhumane condition of the Rohingya people of Myanmar -- especially those referred to as 'boatpeople' -- currently drifting in the seas off the coast of Malaysia and Indonesia," it said in a statement.

The boat people crises in Europe and Asia _ a comparison

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:57:02 PMGo to full article
Migrants who were rescued by Acehnese fishermen are assisted by local residents to board a truck that is taking them to a hospital upon arrival in Simpang Tiga, Aceh province, Indonesia Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Hundreds of migrants stranded at sea for months were rescued and taken to Indonesia, officials said Wednesday, the latest in a stream of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants to reach shore in a growing crisis confronting Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)BRUSSELS (AP) — They may be separated by thousands of miles and vast expanses of sea but those people risking their lives in the Mediterranean and the Andaman Sea in southeast Asia seem to come from the same script.

South African island a safe, but noisy, home for gannets

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:25:15 PMGo to full article
In this photo taken on Saturday, May 16, 2015, the reflection of gannet birds seen on the exterior tinted window of a bird viewing hide on a island at the town of Lambert’s Bay, South Africa. Loud shrieking calls and the pungent smell of droppings from thousands of Cape gannet birds greet visitors to the Lambert’s Bay Bird Island nature reserve off South Africa’s west coast. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)LAMBERT'S BAY, South Africa (AP) — Loud shrieking calls and the pungent smell of droppings from thousands of Cape gannet birds greet visitors to the Lambert's Bay Bird Island nature reserve off South Africa's west coast.

Turkey to donate $1 million to help Asia migrant crisis

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:17 PMGo to full article
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey says it is donating $1 million to the International Organization for Migration and the U.N. refugee agency to help ease Southeast Asia's migrant crisis and is exploring ways of organizing a humanitarian aid operation to reach Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis stranded at sea.

Cook agrees with decision to bar Pietersen from England team

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:27:06 PMGo to full article
England's cricket team captain Alastair Cook listens during a press conference at Lord's cricket ground in London, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. England will play New Zealand in the first Test Match starting on Thursday at Lord's. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)LONDON (AP) — Alastair Cook denied Wednesday he gave an ultimatum to England management to relieve him of the captaincy if Kevin Pietersen was recalled, but agreed with Pietersen's extended exile from the team.

Okinawa governor hopes US will heed base plan protests

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:27:32 PMGo to full article
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga walks past the copy of The Ryukyu Shimpo, Okinawa's major newspaper, reporting a recent anti-U.S. base relocation rally attended by 35,000 citizens, as he arrives at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Onaga said in an interview with The Associated Press Wednesday that he would head to Washington to convey local objections to a plan to relocate a U.S. air base. A plan set in 1996 would move U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma to a less developed area of Okinawa island. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)TOKYO (AP) — The governor of southern Japan's Okinawa prefecture said Wednesday he would travel to the United States to convey local objections to the relocation of a U.S. air base as protests intensify over the plan seen as being forced onto the island.

Activists demand Kenya probe after Asia ivory seizures

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:19:15 PMGo to full article
A picture released on May 19, 2015, shows ivory tusks, rhinoceros horns and canine teeth from big cats seized by Singapore authoritiesA leading Kenyan wildlife protection activist on Wednesday demanded a government investigation after Singapore seized the biggest illegal shipment of ivory and other exotic animal parts in more than a decade. The head of Wildlife Direct, Paula Kahumbu, said a string of large seizures in Asia of ivory and other exotic animal parts from Kenya pointed to either official incompetence or complicity. On Tuesday, authorities in Singapore said they had found a 3.7-tonne haul worth an estimated $6 million, including hundreds of pieces of raw ivory, four pieces of rhino horn and 22 teeth believed to be from cheetahs and leopards.

Bay of Bengal migrant crisis: the boats and the numbers

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:15:11 PMGo to full article
Rohingya migrants sit in a boat as they're towed closer to land by fishermen, off the coast near the city of Geulumpang, in Indonesia's East Aceh on May 20, 2015In the past 10 days, nearly 3,000 boatpeople from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been rescued or swum to shore in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Several thousand more are believed to be trapped on boats at sea with little food or water in a crisis sparked by smugglers abandoning their human cargo after a Thai crackdown on long-established human-trafficking routes. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand had sparked outrage for driving off some overloaded boats.

Fishermen wept as they rescued starving migrants off Indonesia

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:25:09 PMGo to full article
Acehnese fishermen (left) help transfer Rohingya migrants from their boat off the coast near the city of Geulumpang, in Indonesia's East Aceh district of Aceh province on May 20, 2015Fisherman Muchtar Ali broke down in tears when he set eyes on the overcrowded boat carrying desperate, starving Rohingya off the coast of Indonesia before going to the rescue of a vessel that has become emblematic of Asia's human-trafficking crisis. "I was speechless," Ali told AFP, recalling the moment he saw the boatload of more than 400 Muslim migrants who are fleeing persecution in their native Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. "Looking at these people, me and my friends cried because they looked so hungry, so skinny." The fisherman from staunchly Islamic Aceh province, where there has been an outpouring of sympathy as Rohingya and Bangladeshis have come ashore in recent days, said that he also felt compelled to help due to their shared religion.

U.S.-Asia amphibious forces gathering signals nudge to China containment

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:18 PMGo to full article
US Navy handout photo of the USS Tortuga in Subic BayAlthough only a drill, it represented a glimpse of cooperation and integration among non-Chinese amphibious forces in Asia that the United States is belatedly encouraging. A senior U.S. official told Reuters the-first-of-its-kind gathering also signifies a nudge towards containing China, as Beijing grows increasingly assertive in pushing its territorial claims in the South China Sea. The shift has left supporters of engagement with China "under pressure", said the source, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

China's impact looms large as US debates its own trade deals

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:15:10 PMGo to full article
A man and the headquarters building of China Central Television (CCTV) are reflected on an advertisement billboard showing various countries' landmarks in the Central Business District of Beijing, China Wednesday, May 20, 2015. If the U.S. doesn't write the rules of international trade, President Barack Obama warns, China will. In fact, China is already helping write those rules, and in some ways has jumped ahead of the game. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)WASHINGTON (AP) — If the U.S. doesn't write the rules of international trade, President Barack Obama warns, China will. In fact, China is already helping write those rules, and in some ways has jumped ahead of the game.

US demonstrates amphibious skills for military leaders

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:09:03 PMGo to full article
A U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) amphibious vehicle rushes the beach at Bellows Air Force Station on Oahu, Hawaii during joint amphibious exercises, as the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy host defense leaders from around the Pacific, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. The first-of-its kind meeting comes as territorial disputes over islands are growing more heated in the region. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)BELLOWS AIR FORCE STATION, Hawaii (AP) — U.S. Marines and sailors are demonstrating for military leaders from around the Pacific how to land troops on a beach.

Somalia's Shebab condemns 'savage Buddhists', urges Rohingya help

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:05:00 PMGo to full article
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab militants condemn Myanmar's "savage Buddhists" and urged Southeast Asia's Muslims to come to the aid of Rohingya Muslim boatpeopleSomalia's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab militants on Wednesday condemned Myanmar's "savage Buddhists" and urged Southeast Asia's Muslims to come to the aid of Rohingya Muslim boatpeople. In a rare statement on an issue outside the Horn of Africa region, the Shebab told Muslims in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to "take the pivotal role in alleviating the suffering of the Muslims in Myanmar". "At the hands of the savage Buddhists, thousands of Muslims, including many women and children, have fled their homes and are desperately trying to reach the shores of safety, their only crime being their adherence to Islam," the Islamist group said.

Zambia lifts ban on big cat trophy hunting

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:33:07 AMGo to full article
By Chris Mfula LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia has lifted the ban on the hunting of leopards and will allow lion hunting next year after it established that the population of the big cats was higher than previously thought, its tourism minister said on Wednesday. Zambia in 2013 banned the hunting of lions and other endangered wild cats such as leopards, saying the big cat numbers in the southern African country were too low to have a sustainable hunting industry. The trophy hunting would not be done indiscriminately as the government was mindful of the fact that many tourists visited Zambia to see the big cats, Tourism Minister Jean Kapata said.

China denying passports to restrict critics, minorities

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:48:40 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this May 1, 2014 file photo, a Uighur woman rests near a cage protecting heavily armed Chinese paramilitary policemen on duty in Urumqi in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang. While most Chinese can easily obtain passports, eroding barriers to travel have thrown into relief a new pattern showing that entire ethnic groups deemed potentially risky to the leadership - such as Muslim Uighurs and Buddhist Tibetans - are largely being barred. By denying them opportunities for jobs, education and overseas connections, the withholding of passports has become one of the party’s most potent weapons against dissent, both real and imagined. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)BEIJING (AP) — Hand your passport to police or it will be canceled, read the notice to all 4.4 million residents of far-northwestern China's Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture.

Governor of Japan's Okinawa to press U.S. for removal of base

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:13:01 AMGo to full article
Okinawa Governor Onaga speaks during a news conference on the transfer of a key U.S. military base within the prefecture at the Japan National Press Club in TokyoBy Elaine Lies TOKYO (Reuters) - The governor of the Japanese island of Okinawa said on Wednesday he will travel to the United States next week to press his demand that a U.S. military base be removed from his island to lighten the burden of a people weary of hosting U.S. troops. Takeshi Onaga, who won election last year as Okinawa governor largely on his stand against U.S. bases, has accused Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of looking down on the island and its people. "Unless we make the alliance something with dignity and pride, with both Japan and America deserving of respect, I don't believe that the economy in Asia will grow more stable," Onaga said.

China illegally fishing in Africa, Greenpeace study finds

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:37 AMGo to full article
The number of Chinese-flagged or Chinese-owned fishing boats operating in Africa has soared in recent decades, from just 13 in 1985 to 462 in 2013, Greenpeace saysChinese companies have been illegally fishing off the coast of West Africa, environmental campaign group Greenpeace said in a study Wednesday, at times sending incorrect location data suggesting they are as far away as Mexico. The number of Chinese-flagged or Chinese-owned fishing boats operating in Africa has soared in recent decades, from just 13 in 1985 to 462 in 2013, the international advocacy group said. It said it found 114 cases of illegal fishing by such vessels in periods totalling eight years in the waters off Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Indonesia, Malaysia to help Muslim migrants stranded at sea

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:03:44 AMGo to full article
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Indonesia and Malaysia agreed Wednesday to provide temporary shelter to thousands of migrants believed to be stranded at sea, a potential breakthrough in the humanitarian crisis confronting Southeast Asia after weeks of reluctance by the region's nations to take responsibility.

Over 430 migrants taken to Indonesia after months at sea

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:59:52 AMGo to full article
Migrants sit on their boat as they wait to be rescued by Acehnese fishermen on the sea off East Aceh, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Hundreds of migrants stranded at sea for months were rescued and taken to Indonesia, officials said Wednesday, the latest in a stream of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants to reach shore in a growing crisis confronting Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/S. Yulinnas)SIMPANG TIGA, Indonesia (AP) — A flotilla of Indonesian fishermen rescued more than 430 migrants who were stranded at sea and brought them ashore to safety Wednesday, the latest victims of a humanitarian crisis confronting Southeast Asia. Hoping to find a solution, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia held an emergency meeting to address the plight of the migrants who are fleeing persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh.

Asia stocks mostly rise as dollar gains after robust US data

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:57:04 AMGo to full article
Trader Luke Scanlon, left, and specialist Patrick King work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. U.S. stocks are edging mostly lower in early trading as the market comes off its latest record high. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday as a rebound in U.S. home construction data and a surprise announcement by the European Central Bank to frontload bond buying sent the greenback higher, giving a boost to Asian exporters.

Kashiwa Reysol, Lekhwiya earn away wins in ACL round of 16

‎20 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:18:58 AMGo to full article
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Persepolis secured a 1-0 home win after a stoppage-time own-goal from Al Hilal defender Digao to take a narrow advantage against the 2014 finalists into next week's return leg in the Asian Champion League round of 16.

Chinese PM starts South American investment tour

‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:03:11 PMGo to full article
China's Premier Li Keqiang, left, and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, attend a signing ceremony at the Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Brazil is Li's first stop on his four-nation South American tour that includes Chile, Peru and Colombia. (AP Photo/Cadu Gomes)BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — China's Premier Li Keqiang and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff agreed on Tuesday to embark on studies for an ambitious railway linking Brazil's Atlantic coast with a Pacific port in Peru, and announced billions in other investments and trade deals.

US: Myanmar legislation on birth control 'dangerous'

‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:02:29 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. says legislation on population control approved by Myanmar's parliament is dangerous and could undermine the democratic hopes of minority groups.

UN lowers global economic growth estimate amid modest pace

‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:38:31 PMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations is lowering its growth estimate for the global economy this year, saying its previous forecast of 3.1 percent growth in 2015 is now more likely to be 2.8 percent instead.

1,000 migrants land in Indonesia, Thailand in growing crisis

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:49:35 PMGo to full article
Newly arrived Bangladeshi migrants pour water on the head of a man who had fainted at Kuala Langsa Port in Langsa, Aceh province, Indonesia, Friday, May 15, 2015. Hundreds of Bangladeshi and ethnic Rohingya migrants have landed on the shores of Indonesia and Thailand after being adrift at sea for weeks, authorities said Friday. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — More than 1,000 people fleeing persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh came ashore in different parts of Southeast Asia on Friday, becoming the latest migrants to slip into countries that have made it clear they are not welcome.

European shares gain on ECB reassurance over stimulus

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:45:07 PMGo to full article
People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, May 15, 2015. Shares in Asia were uneven on Friday as the big markets in Japan and Hong Kong got a lift from the rebound on Wall Street, but weak data dragged Chinese shares lower. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)LONDON (AP) — European stock markets tracked their U.S. counterparts higher Friday, with sentiment supported by comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi that the bank will "implement in full" its bond-buying program.

India's Modi tells China to 'reconsider' approach

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:25:34 PMGo to full article
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) chats with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after a joint press conference in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 15, 2015Visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his Chinese counterpart on Friday that Beijing needs to "reconsider its approach" to relations between the Asian giants, as the Hindu nationalist leader departed from the usual diplomatic pleasantries. Modi, who despite his hardline reputation has moved to engage with Beijing since his election last year, made the remarks after being welcomed to the Great Hall of the People by Premier Li Keqiang. "I stressed the need for China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back from realising full potential of our partnership," Modi said, adding that he "suggested that China should take a strategic and long-term view of our relations". His comments stood out from the usual public declarations by diplomatic visitors to Beijing, who normally stick to uninterrupted pledges of friendship and good relations.

U.S., China set for high-stakes rivalry in skies above South China Sea

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:03:01 PMGo to full article
An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly IslandsBy Greg Torode HONG KONG (Reuters) - When the U.S. navy sent a littoral combat ship on its first patrol of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea during the past week, it was watching the skies as well. The USS Fort Worth, one of the most modern ships in the U.S. navy, dispatched a reconnaissance drone and a Seahawk helicopter to patrol the airspace, according to a little-noticed statement on the navy's website. While the navy didn't mention China's rapid land reclamation in the Spratlys, the ship's actions were a demonstration of U.S. capabilities in the event Beijing declares an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area - a move experts and some U.S. military officials see as increasingly likely. "It's not inevitable but if we are betting paychecks I'll bet that they will eventually declare one, I just don't know when," said a senior U.S. commander familiar with the situation in Asia.

Desperate scenes in migrant boat rescue off Indonesia

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:55:58 AMGo to full article
A group of rescued migrants mostly Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh pictured at a confinement area in the fishing town of Kuala Langsa in Aceh province, northern Indonesia, on May 15, 2015Desperate migrants facing certain death as their overcrowded boat began sinking fought for space on the stricken vessel, throwing some people overboard before they were plucked to safety Friday by passing Indonesian fishermen. The vessel containing more than 700 Muslim minority Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis, which authorities say was turned away from Malaysian waters, is just the latest horror story to emerge from a human-trafficking crisis gripping Southeast Asia. The region is facing mounting calls to address the problem but hopes of finding a coordinated solution look dim with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand vowing to turn back stricken boats and Myanmar threatening to boycott a planned regional summit on the issue. Pictures showed the migrants, who were taken to a warehouse in Langsa after being brought ashore early Friday by six fishing boats, looking exhausted with many wearing just shorts and sarongs.

El Niño could strengthen from September: UK Met Office

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:28:56 AMGo to full article
The El Niño climate phenomenon, which has started in the tropical Pacific, could strengthen from September, Britain's Met Office said on Friday. Observations from the tropical Pacific show that weak El Niño conditions have started for the first time in five years, the Met Office said. "The current outlook suggests that at least a moderate El Nino is likely and there is a risk of a substantial event," it said in a statement. "While it is still too early to determine with confidence how strong this El Niño might be forecast models from centers around the world, including the Met Office, suggest this El Nino could strengthen from September onwards," it added.

Prying parents: Phone monitoring apps flourish in S. Korea

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:42:49 AMGo to full article
South Korean middle school students use their smartphones at a bus station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 15, 2015. The app, "Smart Sheriff," was funded by the South Korean government primarily to block access to pornography and other offensive content online. But its features go well beyond that. Smart Sheriff and at least 14 other apps allow parents to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child's location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as "suicide," ''pregnancy" and "bully" or receives messages with those words. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Lee Chang-june can be miles from his 12-year-old son but still know when he plays a smartphone game. With the press of an app he can see his son's phone activity, disable apps or totally shut down the smartphone.

China, India pledge to cool border dispute

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:48:58 AMGo to full article
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands before they hold a meeting in XianBy Megha Rajagopalan BEIJING (Reuters) - China and India proposed measures on Friday to resolve a long-festering border dispute, as Beijing sought to clear obstacles to a relationship that it said could change the international political order. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Beijing, the second leg of his three-day trip to China during which both sides have pledged to boost cooperation between the two Asian giants. Tensions rose between China and India last year over the disputed border. India says China occupies 38,000 square km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west.

US calls for 'regional solution' for Rohingya migrants

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:29:43 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is coming under pressure from human rights groups and some in Congress to help Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded at sea as Southeast Asian nations refuse to let them come to shore.

Ex-Soviet Central Asia raises alarm over IS recruitment

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:21:00 AMGo to full article
A general view taken on April 5, 2015 shows a defaced Islamic State group flag in front of the main gate of the palace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in Tikrit after Iraqi forces retook the northern city from Islamist jihadistsFarrukh Sharifov, a 25-year-old Tajik who repented after joining the Islamic State group in Syria, spoke softly as he addressed a room full of journalists and police in his Central Asian homeland. "Hundreds and hundreds of young men from the countries of Central Asia go to war in Syria," Sharifov warned at a press conference last week called by Tajikistan's authoritarian government. Ex-Soviet Tajikistan, where remittances from migrants working in Russia account for around half of economic output, is the poorest of five former communist republics in Central Asia.


Channel NewsAsia   



Classified document on Bahrain rankles Britain decades later

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:55:34 PMGo to full article
DUBAI: A legal battle between an activist group and Britain over a decades-old diplomatic cable on Bahrain has exposed a thorny link between the UK's colonial past and its new military ambitions in a region it once dominated.

The Foreign Office has told a court in London that a censored assessment by a colonial officer of the Gulf Arab island's ruling Al Khalifa family may harm the UK's relationship with Bahrain as it seeks to build a naval base there.

The installation will be Britain's first permanent military presence in the Middle East since it withdrew from Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf region in 1971.

The court ruled at the end of April that more of the document, which is based partly on secret evidence by a top British diplomat, should be exposed, and the Foreign Office has 30 days to appeal.

The two-page report is a 1977 record of a talk between a British official and Ian Henderson, a senior British security chief who advised Bahrain for decades after its independence.

"What surprised me in our conversation was the gloomy view he took of the ability of the Al Khalifa to survive," the official wrote. The rest of the typewritten paragraph is heavily blacked out.

Marc Owen Jones, a PhD student who brought the case on behalf of UK-based activist group Bahrain Watch, told Reuters he believes the censored parts disparage a living member of the ruling family.

The passages were classified "on the grounds that international relations could be damaged were it to be released. Those grounds still exist," Edward Oakden, the Foreign Office's Middle East director, argued in the case.

Bahraini authorities did not response to a request for comment.

Oakden noted an accord in December to put a long standing UK naval presence in Bahrain on a permanent footing at the Gulf state's expense, and said disclosing more of the paper could also harm British efforts to reform Bahrain's security forces.


The move is part of a modest expansion of British military readiness in the region. In 2013 the Royal Air Force established an air transport and refuelling hub in the United Arab Emirates.

Home to the United States' Fifth Fleet, Bahrain is a strategic bulwark for Western interest in the energy-rich Gulf.

"Western countries seek good relations with Gulf States for defence reasons and also economic reasons," said Jane Kinninmont, a Middle East expert at London's Chatham House think tank. She cited rapidly increasing defence budgets in the Gulf that are partly earmarked to buy Western arms.

"The case shows how alive the history the British colonial rule still is in the Gulf today," she added.

Britain first signed a treaty with the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family in Bahrain in 1820 and their relationship has remained strong for decades after the end of its protectorate.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa skipped a Gulf Arab summit with U.S. President Barack Obama last week and instead joined Britain's Queen Elizabeth for a horse show and to discuss bilateral relations with her.

The kingdom has been buffeted by protests from its Shi'ite majority since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, which were put down with help from Saudi Arabia. But unrest within the Shi'ite community stretches back to Henderson's mandate and before.

Bahrain has denied accusations of torture and political repression by human rights groups, saying it has implemented reforms and greater transparency for its security forces while it confronts sporadic bombing attacks on its policemen.

Ala'a Shehabi, co-founder of Bahrain Watch, said Britain was putting security interests above resolving historic wrongs in Bahrain, adding that the group will seek to declassify more of the country's colonial archives on Bahrain.

(Editing by William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)

- Reuters


Saudi shells hit Yemen aid office, killing 5 - local official

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:55:29 PMGo to full article
CAIRO/DUBAI: Saudi shells hit an international aid office in Yemen on Thursday killing five Ethiopian refugees, a local official said, while efforts continued to mount peace talks between exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government and Houthi rebels.

The official said that 10 other refugees were wounded when artillery fire and air strikes hit the town of Maydee along Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia in Hajja province, a stronghold of the Iran-allied Houthi group that a Saudi-led Arab alliance has been bombing for eight weeks.

Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said there was no coalition activity in the area. "If the report is correct, it would be the responsibility of the Houthis, who have a big presence in the area," Asseri told Reuters by telephone.

U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday announced peace talks for Geneva on May 28 to try to find a way out of the crisis that triggered outside intervention by an Arab coalition on March 26.

Rajeh Badi, spokesman for Hadi's government, said consultations were held by the government in the Saudi capital Riyadh over timing, agenda and preparations for the conference.

Badi cast doubt on Houthi intentions to join the talks, saying the leader of the group Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, had effectively scuttled the plan by calling in a speech on Wednesday for a holy war and stepping up conscription.


The Saudi-Yemen frontier has in some cases become a frontline between the two sides, and the Houthis' Al Masira TV channel broadcast footage on Wednesday it said showed its fighters entering a Saudi border post after being fired on by Saudi tanks and helicopters.

"(Saudi) military hardware was deployed, but after a few moments they vanished, fleeing the Yemeni advance," the channel said.

Houthi media said the group had seized a border position and killed over two dozen Saudi troops, reports flatly denied by Riyadh.

Asseri said the Houthis regularly target Saudi positions along the border and that Saudi forces respond, but he said there were no exceptional clashes on Thursday.

Residents and local fighters opposing the Houthis said air strikes hit a southern air base controlled by the militia and their positions outside the southern city of Aden on Thursday.

Tribal and militia fighters in Yemen's south support the Arab campaign and back president Hadi, who lives in exile with his government in Saudi Arabia.

Arab air strikes and heavy ground fighting seized the central city of Taiz, another focal point of the internal war, and tribal sources said they made gains against the Houthis in the far northern province of al-Jawf, where the Houthis said Saudi-led air strikes killed 15 people.


An Iranian aid ship bound for the Houthi-controled Red Sea port of Hodaida in Yemen appeared to be headed to Djibouti for inspection on Thursday, ship-tracking data showed.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said the ship would submit to U.N. inspections in the Horn of Africa country, avoiding a potential regional showdown between Riyadh and Tehran.

The Iran Shahed had been escorted by Iranian warships, and Saudi-led forces have enforced inspections on vessels entering Yemeni ports to prevent arms supplies from reaching the Houthis.

Asseri said the coalition had given the ship a choice to either unload its cargo in Djibouti for the United Nations to deliver to Yemen or submit to an inspection by the coalition if it wanted to continue on to Hodaida port.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden and Sami Aboudi in Dubai,; Writing by Noah Browning, Editing by William Maclean; editing by Ralph Boulton)

- Reuters


US, euro zone business growth slower, China contracts

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:55:24 PMGo to full article
LONDON/NEW YORK: U.S. and euro zone business growth slowed in May while China's factory sector contracted again, reinforcing the need for major central banks to continue supporting economic growth.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is seen unlikely to tighten monetary policy in June since the world's biggest economy barely grew at the start of the year.

An employee looks at a newly-made steel block at a factory of Dongbei Special Steel Group Co., Ltd., in Dalian, Liaoning province April 10, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily

Growth in euro zone business activity also weakened in May, just two months after the European Central Bank launched a 1-trillion-euro stimulus program, and an absence of inflation pressures suggested Asian authorities could inject more stimulus if needed.

"The May (Purchasing Managers' Index) surveys were broadly disappointing although nothing terribly bad," said Richard Kelly, head of global strategy at TD Securities.

"There is no question the ECB is going to continue with quantitative easing up until September 2016. China is just starting the amount of additional liquidity and stimulus that will be needed to safely rebalance the economy," he said.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^For a euro zone graphic:

Global manufacturing PMI graphic:



Growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector slowed for a second straight month during May, with new orders rising at their slowest pace since January 2014, private data vendor Markit said on Thursday.

The preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 53.8 in May from the final April reading of 54.1, although the sector's jobs growth picked up this month from April.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the May reading would be 54.5. A figure above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

The index's flash output component fell to 55 from the final April reading of 55.3, and was the lowest since December 2014. The flash reading of the index measuring new orders also weakened in May, to 54.2 from April's final 55.3.

“The weaker order book trend doesn’t appear to have affected hiring, at least not yet, with job creation picking up in May. However, unless production growth revives, there is a worry that payroll growth will slow as companies seek to boost productivity," said Chris Williamson, Markit's chief economist.


Euro zone business growth was weaker than expected this month but firms increased staffing levels at the fastest rate in four years, according to Markit.

Any signs of growth, alongside the survey showing firms cut prices only marginally after reducing them for over three years, will cheer European Central Bank policymakers coming just two months after they launched a trillion-euro stimulus programme.

"There will be a lot of people disappointed that we have an easing in growth for the second month but it needs to be put in context that it is a reasonable number," said Markit's Chris Williamson. "The broader picture is that the recovery remains on track - it's doing rather well."

Markit's Composite Flash Purchasing Managers' Index for the euro zone, based on surveys of thousands of companies and seen as a good growth indicator, fell to 53.4 from 53.9, missing the 53.8 predicted by a Reuters poll. However, firms stepped up recruitment, with the employment sub-index at 52.3, its highest reading since May 2011.

Demand from abroad for euro zone goods soared as customers took advantage of a weaker euro's making the products cheaper. The manufacturing new export orders index jumped to a 13-month high of 53.0 from 52.3.

Shares on major world markets hovered near all-time highs on Thursday. The MSCI World equity index was up as much as 1.4 percent before trimming its gain to 0.4 percent.


Chinese activity contracted for a third straight month as domestic and export orders shrank, adding to views Beijing will have to roll out its most aggressive stimulus measures since the global financial crisis to avert a sharper slowdown.

The flash HSBC/Markit PMI for China fell to 49.1 in May, weaker than an expected 49.3 and marking the fifth contraction in activity in six months.

"The subdued flash PMI print suggests there is no clear sign of near-term stabilisation in (China's) economy. Risks to the outlook remain to the downside," Barclays economist Shengzu Wang said.

Beijing has already cut interest rates three times in six months and economists believe it will have to ease further as economic growth threatens to slow below the 7-percent pace of the first quarter.

Analysts at Nomura saw China's growth slowing to 6.6 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, before edging up to 6.8 percent in the second half of the year.

However, Japanese manufacturing activity rebounded modestly in May as output and new orders picked up, suggesting a much-needed improvement in demand at home and abroad.

The Markit/JMMA flash Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 50.9 in May from a final 49.9 in April. The index rose above the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for the first time in two months.

Other data showed Japan's economy expanded in January-March at the fastest pace in a year. But much of that growth came from inventories as goods piled up on factory floors, and private consumption, housing investment and exports all rose, though at a feeble pace.

Still, subdued input and output prices suggested inflation remained stubbornly low, adding to expectations the Bank of Japan will expand its already massive monetary stimulus programme later this year.

(Additional reporting by Ian Chua in SYDNEY, Kevin Yao in BEIJING, Stanley White in TOKYO and Mike Connor in NEW YORK; Editing by John Stonestreet, Clive McKeef and Dan Grebler)

- Reuters


Rohingya family in Myanmar grieves over teen's disappearance

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:53:53 PMGo to full article
YANGON: The news of many Rohingyas or Bengalis stranded at sea only serves as a bitter reminder for Mr Sayed Alam, whose niece Jahidah paid a broker some USD$200 to board a boat for Malaysia.

The 17-year-old Jahidah, who used to live in Rakhine state in the southwestern part of Myanmar, left without telling anyone in her family. They did not hear from her until two weeks ago, when a broker called Mr Sayed Alam to demand US$1,400 for her release. Unfortunately, the money was never paid and the family has since lost all contact with young Jahidah.

Sayed Alam, uncle of a missing Rohingya teen, is afraid his niece might have been sold into prostitution after leaving the Rakhine state for Malaysia. (Photo: May Wong/CNA)

"I am worried the brokers sold out her to dirty places such as brothels. She’s quite young," said her uncle. "I can still remember everything about her. I can only hope to see her in future. I am so sad. I can't find the words to explain."

Father-of-four Sayed Alam believes his niece felt oppressed in the village and was hoping to find a new life in Malaysia. He has been calling his friends in Malaysia to help track her down, as sorrow consumes the family.

In Myanmar, there are around 1.2 million Rohingyas or Bengalis, most of them residing in the Rakhine state.

According to reports, more than 100,000 people have fled the country since communal violence broke out in 2012.

"This is not a new situation. This is common. Rohingyas are forced to leave since 1995 because of restrictions imposed on them. This problem will become worse and worse if our government and leaders of our country are not going to address the root causes of these issue," said Abu Tahay, Chairman of the Union National Development Party.

"Because this is not a human trafficking issue; this is a political issue, because of restrictions imposed on them, because of denying their own citizenship, because of denying their ethnicity."

In predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, people tend to refrain from commenting about the Rohingya Muslims. Still, they are quietly hoping their government will address this with an adequate solution.

- CNA/pp


Asian countries should recognise, reconcile past to move forward: ESM Goh

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:53:21 PMGo to full article
TOKYO: Singapore’s Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong has called on countries in Asia to recognise and reconcile the past in order to move forward.

Speaking in Tokyo at the annual Nikkei "Future of Asia" Conference on Thursday (May 21), Mr Goh touched on the hurdles to building trust in the region.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong delivering the Keynote Speech at the 21st International Conference on The Future of Asia. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

He said that trust and confidence are what the region needs to focus on in order to maintain peace and to prosper, and called for people to respect the rule of law and not a rule of might, referring to the territorial dispute in South China Sea.

“We have strong national leaders but each has his own nation-centric dreams. China has its Chinese Dream, Japan dreams of becoming a 'normal' country. South Korea longs for reunification. India pursues a 'Make in India' economy. Only ASEAN has a shared vision as an ASEAN Economic Community,” said Mr Goh.

He added that ASEAN has shifted away from guns and artillery for peaceful negotiations to settle their differences, including border disputes. But the rest of Asia has not resolved the legacy of war.

Mr Goh thinks Prime Minister Shinzo Abe can open the way for greater trust with his neighbours as he is a strong leader. Thus, a statement Mr Abe is expected to release to remember the end of World War 2 would be crucial.

Said Mr Goh: “I would expect him to go further, to recognise history openly and get scholars – whether they are western, Japanese or Chinese scholars – get them to study history not just on Japan but to study history of that period."

But Mr Goh noted that conciliatory efforts will only see results if they are reciprocated. He said if one party offers the olive branch, the other must be willing to accept and move on.

On the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, Mr Goh thinks there is a great chance it will be completed – not before the end of the year, but before the next change in the US administration.


During the question and answer session, someone asked: Who would succeed Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong? Mr Goh said half of the fourth generation leadership is in place. The other half will be brought in in the next General Election and he thinks the picture will be clearer in two to three years.

There was also a special exhibition at the conference to pay tribute to Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away in March.

The elder Mr Lee was one of the first speakers at the conference when it was launched in 1995, and was a fixture at the event until 2012.

- CNA/dl


Anwar Ibrahim marks 100 days in prison, attends defamation hearing

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:52:01 PMGo to full article
KUALA LUMPUR: Jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday (May 21) attended a court hearing against his former political ally, S Nallakaruppan.

Thursday also marked the 101 days since Mr Anwar was sent to prison for five years on a sodomy conviction.

Anwar Ibrahim arrives in court for a defamation hearing against a former political ally. (Photo: @AnwarGaleria on Twitter)

The defamation hearing against Mr Nallakaruppan arose after Mr Anwar sued him in August 2008 for allegedly defamatory remarks suggesting he had received more than US$16 million from a betting firm.

The court date also allowed for Mr Anwar’s family to spend some time with him, something for which they are grateful for.

“Despite his health, he has lost a lot of weight and it's quite visible,” said daughter Nurul Izzah. “We're really concerned and we hope we can go for further medical check-ups at a proper hospital. But other than that, I'm glad to report that he remains in high spirits.”

She added: “He conveyed a message with regards to the 11th Malaysia Plan. So the Prime Minister can look forward to some comments from the former opposition leader and current political prisoner of Sungai Buloh prison."


- CNA/rw


SMEs to get more help for innovation, digital and mobile marketing

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:51:39 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore will soon be able to get more support to innovate and to enhance their digital and mobile marketing, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck announced on Thursday (May 21). He was speaking at the inaugural SME Capabilities Forum.

The launch of five new Collaborative Industry Projects (CIPs) will collectively help more than 400 SMEs across multiple industries, SPRING Singapore said in a news release on Thursday.

Industry experts and leaders share their views on business upgrading at the SME Capabilities Forum panel discussion, where the new initiatives were unveiled. (Photo: SPRING)

Three of the projects are a collaboration between SPRING and A*STAR, and aim to develop three solutions for SMEs:A fully-automated item tracking system which can be used for inventory management and employee and asset trackingAn enhanced application for SMEs in the education, tourism and the meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sectors to develop more interactive geospatial applicationsAn augmented reality platform to help SMEs in the advertising and e-commerce sectors to boost customer engagement

SPRING will provide funding support for 200 SMEs to adopt the solutions, while A*STAR will offer technical expertise.


Another project will provide more than 150 SMEs, particularly those in the heartlands, with technical training and an integrated IT solution to help them leverage mobile marketing.

Participating SMEs will have an official WeChat merchant account and online store, which will include a customer relationship management system and automated customer engagement and marketing features. This project will be led by Dodoca Information Technology, SPRING’s private sector industry partner.

At least 50 SMEs will also be able to get help in building their digital marketing capabilities through tools such as social media marketing. The companies will be able to get consultancy and training services from Digital Influence Lab, another private sector industry partner of SPRING.

To be eligible for the CIP and and Capability Development Grand (CDG) schemes, SMEs must be registered and operating in Singapore, have a minimum of 30 per cent local shareholding, and a group annual sales turnover of not more than S$100 million or group employment size of not more than 200 employees.

- CNA/xq


NYP student receives inaugural Lee Hsien Loong Award

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:51:20 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: A total of 336 students graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic's (NYP) School of Interactive and Digital Media on Thursday (May 21), and one of them was Mr Jerome Yap, who went from a PSLE score of 98 to the top of his cohort.

Mr Yap, 24, received his Motion Graphics and Broadcast Design diploma on Thursday after scoring a near-perfect GPA of 3.9. He also received the inaugural Lee Hsien Loong Award, which is given to the most outstanding graduate from NYP's School of Interactive and Digital Media.

From scoring 98 points for his PSLE, to graduating to the top of his cohort with a Motion Graphics and Broadcast Design diploma, Jerome Yap says it has been a "long journey", but he made it through.
Mr Jerome Yap (right), the top student of Nanyang Polytechnic's Diploma in Motion Graphics and Broadcast Design, with MediaCorp CEO Shaun Seow at the institution's graduation ceremony. (Photo: Nanyang Polytechnic)

He had also worked on several high-profile projects during his polytechnic days, including the re-designing of the opening titles for an award-winning animated short film, The Battle of Bukit Chandu.

"In my primary school, I used to draw a lot and the teachers would usually say, ‘Hey, you've got to stop drawing and listen’. But I'm not really good in academics that way,” he said.

“This is the first time in my 24 years. I've never gotten a distinction before, not even in ITE. After Higher Nitec, I could either I push myself to go to poly, or I could just get into National Service, but it just hit me that I needed to show people that it doesn't matter if this is a long journey; I made it through."

Mr Yap said he has his family to thank for spurring him on. “I told them things like, ‘I'm in ITE, but the rest of you are in degree courses already’. But they told me, ‘Don't worry about it, just do what you like to do and one day you will be able to succeed’,” he said.

Three students also took home the MediaCorp Medal, for emerging top of the Digital Media Design (Animation) diploma course.

One of them is Mr Simon Ong, who said he has his polytechnic lecturers to thank for his good results.

“They actually stayed back quite late to provide extra classes or to teach us,” he said. “It was very surprising and heartwarming they did so, because some of us may not be fast learners and we may need more time for us to understand what they teach during the lesson."

The MediaCorp Award for Outstanding Project Work (Animation) was presented to Javon Chan.

The Guest-of-Honour at the ceremony was MediaCorp's Chief Executive Officer Shaun Seow, who noted that the company had worked with NYP to recreate many scenes of old Singapore for the second season of Channel 8 period drama The Journey.

"These cool, realistic special effects you've seen, of war planes, raging rivers and burning houses, were created using CGI by your poly's School of Interactive and Digital Media,” he said. “So the sheer hard work by your lecturers and students from the digital visual effects course, has resulted in the recreation of over 250 scenes for the period drama.”

Mr Seow also noted that the Interactive and Digital Media sector offers many possibilities, with about 600 active companies today. He also pointed out that the sector has been growing in double digits in recent years and the Economic Development Board has plans to make Singapore an interactive and digital media capital.

After 14 ceremonies over the course of five days, Thursday’s graduation ceremony marked the final one at NYP this year, with more than 5,400 students graduating from the institution's seven schools.

- CNA/xq


Cutting down food waste with machines

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:48:20 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of total waste generated in Singapore. According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), 788,600 tonnes of food waste was generated in 2014, and only 13 per cent – or 101,400 tonnes of that amount was recycled.

The rest of it was disposed of at incineration plants and then landfilled.

The National Environment Agency called a tender for a food waste management pilot to be run at two hawker centres. One company, Eco-Wiz, says it will be bidding for the tender.
(File photo: TODAY)

NEA this week called a tender for a food waste management pilot to be run at two hawker centres.

One food waste management company, Eco-Wiz, said it will be bidding for NEA's tender. It will have to provide on-site recycling machines as well as relevant training for cleaners and stall-holders. It has helped more than 30 food establishments in Singapore recycle their food waste.

Swissotel Merchant Court’s General Manager Rainer Tenius said: "We are recycling approximately 1 tonne of food waste every day which, considering our total waste in our hotel, is approximately a 45 per cent reduction of our waste."

The hotel uses a waste disposal system to do the job. After food waste is segregated, it is dumped in another machine. Inside, microbes will decompose the food waste, which is done at a rate much faster than under natural conditions.

The sludge produced is then run though a grease separator and filtered. The process produces water that can be reused for various purposes, such as landscaping.

While the process looks simple, Eco-Wiz said the biggest challenge will be to train users about the importance of segregating food waste.

Eco-Wiz CEO Renee Mison said many cleaners feel “stressed out” about food segregation.

"We have a training programme and we simply train them on how to segregate the food waste with two different bins and we are going to tell them that it is important to segregate it from the source,” she said.

Marina Bay Sands uses a similar waste management system. It has five of such machines and recycles about 1.3 tonnes of food waste a day. The integrated resort is already looking at ways of improving its processes.

Executive Director of Sustainability at Marina Bay Sands Kevin Teng said: "We are looking at real tech-savvy ways to understand where our waste comes from. We are constantly looking at new and better technologies - whether it's a better enzyme mix or a new anaerobic process, whatever it is, I think we'd want to be at the forefront of that."

NEA's pilot food waste management programme is expected to be launched by the end of this year.

- CNA/dl


Singapore welcomes review of Indonesian free trade zone

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:47:59 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Singapore has welcomed efforts by Indonesia to review the Batam, Bintan and Karimun (BBK) Free Trade Zone.

Jakarta is considering moving administrative control of the zone back to the capital. Meanwhile, the Economic Development Board told Channel NewsAsia that it welcomes the interest and the continued emphasis by the Indonesian central government to develop the area.

The islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun became a free trade zone in 2007, but the joint project between Singapore and Indonesia, has not lived up to its potential. Jakarta is considering moving administrative control of the area back to the capital.
Visitors are seen arriving at the ferry terminal on Batam island in Indonesia. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

The islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun became a free trade zone in 2007, with businesses enjoying customs and tax exemptions. However, the area, which is a joint project between Singapore and Indonesia, has not lived up to its potential.

Analysts said it has been bogged down by bureaucracy following decentralisation of powers in Indonesia.

“What happened in 1998 when the Suharto regime collapsed - the change in Indonesian politics at that time whereby the local government gains big power - this is regional autonomy,” said Mr Adri Wanto, Research Associate Fellow at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “This is the beginning of dual authorities in the Free Trade Zone area, and until now this problem is not resolved.”

An analyst from the Singapore Business Federation said regional autonomy created legal uncertainties for investors, so businesses welcome the idea to centralise the management of the Free Trade Zone.

“Central control would actually provide more what investors are looking for - certainty, policy certainties, no flip-flops, no going forward three steps, and coming back two steps,” said Mr Alan Tan, director of ASEAN and South Asia Global Business Division at the Singapore Business Federation. “So, there is more certainty, business assurance for our companies."

As businesses brace themselves for change, they remain upbeat about the potential of the Free Trade Zone.

"For BBK to stay relevant it has to continuously step up its value chain, improve productivity, and also maintain close economic linkages with neighbouring economies like Singapore,” said Mr Edmund Lai, head of marketing industrial parks at Gallant Venture. “So, in my opinion BBK FTZ can continue to be an important manufacturing supply chain to Singapore, especially in labour-intensive activities.”

Indonesia has also revised investment treaties with a number of countries to ensure they stay relevant to current economic situations.

Recently, Indonesia informed Singapore that it will discontinue the agreement on promotion and protection of investments after the agreement expires on Jun 20, 2016. Such an agreement gives assurance to foreign investors that their investments are adequately protected, and also helps in the settlement of investments disputes.

Singapore investments in Indonesia made before Jun 20, 2016, will continue to be covered by the Agreement for a further 10 years, till Jun 20, 2026.

Although the agreement will end, Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said the Republic's investments will remain covered by the regional treaties such as the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement.

MTI added that Singapore’s economic relations with Indonesia remain deep and multi-faceted, and that it will continue to look for ways to enhance bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries.

- CNA/xq


Chinese tourist arrivals in Singapore set to get boost

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:47:23 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Chinese tourist arrivals to Singapore look set to get a lift, with the upcoming extension of multiple-journey visas for visitors from China.

Industry observers said this will have spillover benefits for the wider economy, and can help Singapore keep its place amid a competitive regional tourism landscape.

Tourists take pictures next to the Merlion statue in the central business district of Singapore February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su

About 11 per cent of visitors to Singapore last year came from China, making it the second largest source market for inbound tourists, both in terms of arrivals and expenditure. However, in absolute terms, there were only 1.7 million visitors from the Chinese mainland, or a drop of 24 per cent when compared to 2.3 million in 2013.

This year, the numbers appear to be picking up, and the Singapore Tourism Board wants to make it easier for Chinese visitors to come with their families. As at February, the number of visitors from China so far this year fell by just 3.4 per cent.

"We do attract a diversity of travellers from China. This would include the family segment, honeymooners, people who are on free and easy mode,” said Mr Leong Yue Kheong, assistant chief executive for the International Group at Singapore Tourism Board.

“It's quite diverse, but increasingly, we're aware that Singapore has been attracting the family segment quite successfully, and that I think is linked to the growth and expansion of family-related attractions."

From Jun 1, the multiple-journey visa for Chinese visitors will be extended to a maximum of 10 years.

"I think this is an incremental step that's very important in trying to change the game,” said Mr Leong Wai Ho, chief economist of Emerging Asia at Barclays. “Instead of attracting the Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand tour groups, group travellers, grind market and mass market travellers, this re-entry permit gives us a shot at attracting the more upmarket Chinese travellers, the middle class, the people starting to travel in a niche fashion across Southeast Asia."

Industry watchers said the increase in Chinese arrivals can help local businesses - in particular, the retail sector.

One of the more popular destinations among the Chinese is Orchard Road. The Chinese tourist spends about twice as much on shopping compared to travellers from other markets. And overall, their per capita expenditure is about 20 per cent higher than the average visitor to Singapore.

Besides retail, observers said the ease of returning to Singapore could benefit other segments in the services sector, including healthcare, education and finance.

"To pursue specialist medical care, or to look at private schools for their children ... it opens up more possibilities, maybe even to open bank account in Singapore,” said Barclays' Mr Leong.

“So the possibilities there are greater. The question is whether we're ahead of the game in offering them this sort of specialised access. I understand that South Korea as well recently offered Chinese tourists 10-year multiple-entry visas alongside Australia and Canada. So while we're pushing on this frontier, there are other frontiers we must be pushing as well to maintain the lead in the competition."

In 2014, the average length of stay for Chinese visitors was up to 4.3 days, compared to just over three days a couple of years ago.

- CNA/xq


LionsXII in the hunt for first Malaysia FA Cup crown

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:46:54 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The LionsXII will face Kelantan in the Malaysia FA Cup final on Saturday (May 23), at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. If they win, it will be their first taste of success since their Malaysia Super League triumph in 2013.

But coach Fandi Ahmad said that his priority remains the same since he was first appointed – to improve his players.

The LionsXII before they departed for Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: Abhishek Ravikrishnan)

"It's important to win the Cup but for me, the most important thing is the development of these players. As a coach, everybody wants to win a trophy, but I leave it to them. It's all in their hands,” Fandi told Channel NewsAsia on Thursday in an interview before the team left for Kuala Lumpur.

“I'm not worried. We know we will fight till the end of 95 minutes. I told them win, lose or draw, you must make yourself happy when you come out because you always give your best,” added Fandi, who has been the coach of LionsXII for one and a half years.

LionsXII will be boosted by the return of the likes of Faris Ramli, who is also part of the South-east Asian (SEA) Games squad.

The 22-year-old, along with three other players, were granted time off from SEA Games preparations to feature in the final, and he is looking to make the most of the opportunity.

"To be able to make it to the final, and to win it – I think it's almost everyone's dream,” Faris said. “It's every team's dream to win a Cup final. So I think it will boost (the confidence of) the SEA Games squad and even Singapore football.”

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said ample security measures have been taken ahead of the game, following ugly scenes after the semi-final between Terengganu and LionsXII last week. FAS said it has worked with the Football Association of Malaysia to ensure the safety of the LionsXII fans.

"We can assure the fans they will be very well taken care of. There will be designated parking areas for the coaches. There will be security escorts to guide the fans from the coaches to the stadium and back and out of the car park. There will be a designated Singapore zone called the blue zone for all Singapore fans. There will be security officers there as well,” explained Mr Gerard Wong, Director of Marketing and Communications at FAS.

FAS said almost 3,000 tickets have been snapped up by LionsXII supporters so far.

- CNA/dl


Outram Community Hospital holds groundbreaking ceremony

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:45:45 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The new Outram Community Hospital (OCH) - which paves the way for patients to have a seamless transition back to the community - held its groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday (May 21).

Slated to be completed by 2020, the new hospital will add another 550 community beds to Singapore's healthcare system.

Located within the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), the new hospital will allow patients who require extended but less intensive case to be transferred seamlessly from acute care in SGH.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Outram Community Hospital. (Photo: Vimita Mohandas)

The OCH will be located within the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), and will allow patients who require extended but less intensive case to be transferred seamlessly from acute care in SGH.

The new 19-storey community hospital will have a floor space the size of about 20 football fields. Some of its key features include a dialysis centre, outpatient clinics and rehabilitation facilities.

The hospital is located in the Bukit Merah area, which has the second-highest number of residents aged 65 and above in Singapore.

Patients will benefit from the co-management of the clinical care provided by SGH, the five SingHealth National Speciality Centres and OCH teams. On top of that, patients will also benefit from the smooth transition from one care setting to another, which will ensure that they receive continuous care during their recovery.

Professor Ang Chong Lye, CEO of SGH, said: "We all know that when a patient is transferred from one hospital to another or from once centre to another, a lot of time is wasted - 12 to 18 hours are wasted not doing meaningful activities for the patient. When we have a community hospital next to an acute hospital, we have the ability to move the patient quickly. Not only that - we have a proper care plan for them once they transit to the community hospital."

"So in the acute hospital, we have planned, articulated and discussed with both the family and the patient on their care plan. So when we transfer them to the intermediate and long-term care sector, in this case Outram Community Hospital, the management plan will be there so we can look after the patient much quicker," he added.

Every space within OCH is designed with rehabilitation in mind. For example, day rooms where patients can practise their exercise or undergo therapy are integrated into each ward. The dialysis centre will make it more convenient for patients to undergo dialysis while they are still warded.

OCH will also be extending its reach to further support patients after discharge. The hospital will be working with community partners such as HCA Hospice Care to integrate inpatient rehabilitation services with those in the community.

Officiating the groundbreaking ceremony, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said: "With an ageing population, we need to enhance our healthcare system to provide patient-centric and appropriate care for our seniors."

"Our seniors who visit our hospitals tend to be more frail, have multiple conditions and require longer care. But they take no joy in staying in hospitals. They want to go home as soon as they can and to be with their family. Therefore we need to join up patient care across acute, intermediate and long term care to make care more seamless and appropriate for our seniors," he added.

Singapore General Hospital is also seeing a rising number of older patients. Last year, over 41 per cent or 32,000 of patients who were admitted to SGH were aged 65 and above.

- CNA/eg/dl


'Great Gatsby' home up for sale on Long Island

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:44:57 PMGo to full article
NEW YORK: The elegant home where F Scott Fitzgerald began writing one of America's most celebrated novels, "The Great Gatsby", is on sale on New York's Long Island for just over US$3.8 million.

The seven-bedroom manor house is in Great Neck, where Fitzgerald and his beautiful wife Zelda lived from 1922 to 1924.

This undated photo provided by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage shows the home where F Scott Fitzgerald lived from 1922 through 1924 in the village of Great Neck Estates on Long Island just outside New York City. (Photo: Steven Bababekov/Coldwell Banker Residential Properties via AP)

The wealthy enclave and its Gold Coast parties inspired the famous 1925 novel, an American classic that came to define the excesses and extravagances of the 1920s.

The home that inspired the mansion of Fitzgerald's character, the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, is thought to be on King's Point of the Great Neck peninsula, south of the Fitzgerald home.

The author began work on the novel at the Great Neck house, before moving to France to finish the book.

Listed by real estate brokers Coldwell Banker, the 5,000 square foot (465 square metre) property has a large kitchen, a vaulted-ceiling dining area, a music room, seven bedrooms and six and a half bathrooms.

Built in 1918, it has ornate mouldings and custom-built mahogany cabinetry throughout the home, as well as several fireplaces. The master suite, located in its own wing, features a balcony, large closets and an ensuite bath.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to own a piece of history," said real estate broker Inbar Mitzman.

- AFP/al


Spaniards to overturn 40 years of predictable politics in regional vote

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:57 PMGo to full article
VALENCIA: Spaniards are expected to sweep aside 40 years of predictable politics when they vote in regional elections on Sunday and usher in an unstable era of coalition and compromise, likely to curtail the authority of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy's conservative People's Party and leftist Socialists have alternated in power since the end of dictatorship in the 1970s, with virtually no tradition of coalition government at the national or regional level.

A worker packs ballots and boxes in a warehouse, to sent them to the polls, in Barcelona, Spain, May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea

But with voters flocking to upstart groups, polls forecast that no party will win enough votes to claim a majority in 12 of the 13 regions voting on Sunday, and most of the 8,000 towns and cities electing municipal governments.

In most places at least three political groups will need to coalesce to form a government. In the Barcelona city council, the vote may be split among seven parties.

The radical transformation in how Spain is governed at the regional level is a foretaste of more uncertainty in national elections expected in November.

Spain's electoral system favours big parties, historically yielding powerful governments with strong majorities. For more than three years, a solid parliamentary majority allowed Rajoy to pass unpopular reforms needed to avoid an international bailout. The PP also now controls 10 of the 13 regions voting on Sunday.

But an inconclusive election, requiring the PP to form coalitions to remain in power or enter opposition in many regions, would dilute Rajoy's message that any compromise on his reforms will jeopardise the recovery.

For surging upstart parties expected to break through for the first time on Sunday, it is an historic opportunity to make Spanish governments more accountable to the people who elect them.

"It's the first time in decades voters will actually have the possibility to change things. It's not only about changing the government, it's about changing our democracy," said Carolina Punset, who is leads the campaign in the eastern region of Valencia for centrists Ciudadanos, one of two main upstart groups.


Polls suggest that Ciudadanos ("Citizens") and leftist Podemos ("We can"), which both burst onto the Spanish political scene last year, will confirm their popularity with disgruntled voters, although they do not quite have enough momentum to steal the scene entirely from their more established rivals.

"Fragmentation will be huge," said Narciso Michavila, who heads GAD3 polling firm.

The PP could win the most overall votes but still lose power or be forced into coalition in regions across the country.

"The PP may claim it has won the elections but the key will be what comes next - the pacts and the colour of the governments... The PP will suffer," Michavila said.

Some forecasters predict that some of Sunday's local elections will be so inconclusive that they will have to be repeated.

Such a stalemate is already paralysing the region of Andalusia, which voted in a new parliament in March that has so far been unable to form a government. Socialist regional head Susana Diaz has said she may call a new election. In an interview, she said the political landscape in her region and across the country was becoming "chaos".


Spain's two-party system became entrenched for decades because of an electoral system based on local districts that each send a small delegation of lawmakers to the national parliament, allocated proportionally within the district.

With only a few seats for each district, the threshold to win any of them is usually too high for small parties, leaving nearly all seats in the hands of the Socialists or the PP.

But this time around the new parties will be big enough to take up their share. Podemos and Ciudadanos have flourished since last year on the strength of public anger at traditional politics in a country where, despite Rajoy's boast of economic recovery, unemployment is still 24 percent.

Recent corruption cases involving members of both the PP and Socialist parties have also alienated voters.

Podemos at one point looked poised to emerge as Spain's biggest party, although it has since lost some steam because of comparisons with Greek ruling party Syriza, which is struggling to keep Athens in the euro.


The unfamiliar territory of coalition politics will prove particularly tricky for Rajoy, who is leading a robust campaign to convince voters that the economic recovery would be derailed if parties other than the PP are in power.

At the local level, the conservatives may need to dilute their message in order to strike deals with other parties.

At a rally in Valencia earlier this month, PP members cheered Rajoy when he pledged to create 2 million jobs by 2018. But many were more critical on the sidelines.

Rafael Andres, a pensioner who has been a PP activist since 1992, said Spain's prime minister was good at taking care of day-to-day issues but had not articulated a clear vision at the regional or national level.

"With him, the PP has lacked bravery and a clear stance, which is what the country and Valencia need," he said.

(Editing by Alessandra Galloni and Peter Graff)

- Reuters


Insight - Burundi ruling party youth rattles nerves in ethnic tinderbox

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:45 PMGo to full article
NGOZI, Burundi: In the Burundian president's rural stronghold, his party's youth wing dismisses the fears of those who have fled the east African nation that it is gathering arms and sharpening knives for a new bout of ethnic bloodletting.

"Whoever has a machete uses it for cultivating, not for other purposes," said Patrice Barutwanajo, 28, a member of the so-called Imbonerakure in Ngozi in northern Burundi. "It is impossible to say that people have machetes for killing."

A protester runs in front of a burning barricade during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Barutwanajo works as a marketer for a brewery. In a smart white shirt and pressed trousers, he bears little resemblance to the image of youths bearing arms which refugees say have terrified them into leaving their homeland.

The group insists it is focused exclusively on campaigning for elections, including a presidential poll on June 26 in which President Pierre Nkurunziza will seek a third term, a bid which protesters in the capital say is unconstitutional.

But Western diplomats refer to it as an armed militia of the ruling CNDD-FDD party and a great concern in a country that has faced a coup attempt this month and violent street clashes that threatened to reopen the ethnic wounds left by a civil war and decades of sporadic ethnic killings before that.

One diplomat said Imbonerakure was the "scariest" element in a crisis engulfing Burundi and spilling over into a region with a history of ethnic slaughter.

More than 110,000 Burundians, or 1 percent of the population, have fled to neighbouring states for fear of violence. Some have crossed to next door Rwanda, a nation shattered by genocidal forces two decades ago.

Peter Mushimantwari, 41, a Tutsi in a Rwandan camp, said he fled because the authorities were "distributing fire arms to Imbonerakure, plus teaching them techniques of killing."

The government denies this. In a speech on Wednesday, Nkurunziza appealed for ethnic unity and urged refugees to return.

Barutwanajo, standing in the main street in Ngozi, said the youth wing was focused on things like building the nearby football stadium or provincial building, while also promoting what they say is the government's record improving health, education and security.


Soothing words may not be enough in a country where 300,000 people were killed in an ethnically-fuelled 12-year conflict that ended a decade ago and even talk of youth groups stashing weapons sets nerves on edge.

Imbonerakure means 'Those who see far', a name that can provoke anxiety amongst opponents, particularly Tutsis.

In 1994, the Interahamwe militia of Rwanda's ethnic Hutu majority butchered 800,000 people in just three months, most of them from the Tutsi minority or moderate Hutus. Rwandan President Kagame, a Tutsi, has vowed not to allow a repeat.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowsky told Nkurunziza last month of Washington's concerns about the arming of Imbonerakure. "It is very, very dangerous," he told reporters after the meeting.

Burundi, which has the same ethnic mix as Rwanda, emerged from a civil war in 2005 in which Hutu rebel groups, including one commanded by Nkurunziza, fought an army then led by the Tutsi minority. The force is now mixed but has shown rifts.

A group of Hutu and Tutsi generals launched a coup that failed last week, after mounting violence during protests in Bujumbura against Nkurunziza's third term bid.

The ruling party says Nukurunziza can run again because for his first term he was picked by parliament, not a popular vote.

But as a power struggle rumbles on, old ethnic wounds may reopen. Protesters, who government officials have said have come out mainly in Tutsi areas of the capital, say Imbonerakure and police are attacking them, a charge officials deny.

Beyond reports of a handful of small protests in other towns, there have been few other signs of unrest in the nation of 10 million people. Yet most of those fleeing have been from the countryside, with many reporting Imbonerakure youths chanting threats in the villages.


Gedeon Ntahokaja, an Imbonerakure member and administrator in the rural Tangara district near Rwanda, said opponents tried to paint Imbonerakure as "a group of people who are just there to cause some trouble. That is not true."

Wearing a campaign shirt with CNDD-FDD badges, he spoke at his administrative office, with a picture of Nkurunziza on the wall and Burundi flag on his desk. A group of drummers filled the back of a pick-up truck, wearing headbands with CNDD-FDD colours, after a campaign drive through dirt roads.

About 30 people had fled to Rwanda from the district, he said, adding they were driven by "rumours" spread by opponents and that 12 had already come home.

"What I can tell them is not to listen to politicians making these kind of allegations," said Ntahokaja, a former rebel fighter, who said it was wrong to brand Imbonerakure a militia when it was set up only after CNDD-FDD turned to politics.

Yet it can be tough to shake off such charges. Private newspaper Iwacu carried a front page picture last month showing young men in formation marching with white CNDD-FDD t-shirts and trousers like battle fatigues.

However, Imbonerakure does not always act in harmony, say experts. "Let's not lump them all into an armed militia," said Yolande Bouka, a regional expert at the Institute of Security Studies in Nairobi. "Imbonerakure is not a unitary actor."

The group was a mixed bag of ex-fighters and civilians, with regional branches often operating fairly independently, she said. Some members may also have been tempted into criminal activities, expecting the authorities to turn a blind eye.

"The Imbonerakure have had the freedom to operate across the country with complete impunity, unlike the other youth groups," she said of a nation with dozens of political parties.

Imbonerakure officials reject such charges. "Politicians should stop saying that if one person does something, it is the whole Imbonerakure doing it," said Jules Ndatimana, 35, Imbonerakure's head for the Ngozi region.

One Western diplomat said he did not think there was a "grand design" for ethnic killing, as in Rwanda in 1994. "But on the ground, the old hatreds are still there," he said. "If you give weapons to youths of course they will go for the Tutsis."

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

- Reuters


Swedish fighter jets intercept Russian bombers near border

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:40 PMGo to full article
STOCKHOLM: Swedish fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea close to the Swedish border on Thursday, Sweden's military said.

Relations between the West and Russia have soured as a result of Moscow's role in the conflict in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, while increased Russian military activity in the Baltic region and the North Atlantic has added to tension.

Sweden, which is not a member of NATO, said it had intercepted two Tu-22M "Backfire" bombers heading in the direction of the Swedish island of Oland, south of Stockholm.

"They were up identifying these airplanes - telling them 'Hey, we see you'", said Jesper Tengroth, Sweden's military spokesman.

Russia has been critical of closer ties between Sweden and NATO, which staged one of its biggest-ever anti-submarine exercises in the North Sea in early May, inviting Sweden to join in for the first time.

(Reporting by Olena Puzina; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Kevin Liffey)

- Reuters


US labor market resilient despite sluggish economy

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:38 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, but the underlying trend continued to point to a rapidly tightening labor market.

Despite the strength in the jobs market, the broader economy is struggling to kick into higher gear after growth braked sharply at the start of the year amid tepid consumer spending, as well as weak business investment and factory activity.

File photo: Job seekers applying for available positions at a new Target retail store in San Francisco, California. (Photo: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

The modest rebound in growth at the start of the second quarter was underscored by other data on Thursday showing a surprise decline in home resales in April and persistent weakness in manufacturing in May.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000 for the week ended May 16, the Labor Department said. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell to a fresh 15-year low.

"The trend in claims, solidly below the pre-recession trough, remains in line with our forecast for continued tightening in labor market slack ahead," said Derek Lindsey, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York. Economists had forecast claims rising to 271,000 last week.

The sturdy labor market keeps the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates later this year. Minutes of the U.S. central bank's April meeting released on Wednesday showed most policymakers saw little chance of a June rate hike.

In a separate report, the National Association of Realtors said existing home sales declined 3.3 percent to an annual rate of 5.04 million units last month.

The decline, which still left the sales pace above 5 million units, is likely to be temporary given the labor market gains. In addition, housing starts and permits for future building increased to multi-year highs April.

U.S. stocks were trading marginally higher, while the dollar slipped against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury debt prices rose.


In another report, the Philadelphia Fed said its business activity index dipped to 6.7 this month from 7.5 in April.

Any reading above zero indicates expansion in the region's manufacturing. Manufacturing has been pressured by a strong dollar and deep spending cuts by energy companies whose profits have been squeezed by lower crude oil prices.

"This is consistent with our expectation that the domestic manufacturing sector will continue to face headwinds from the lagged effects of a stronger dollar and lower energy prices," said Jesse Hurwitz, an economist at Barclays in New York.

The claims data covered the period during which the government surveyed employers for the payrolls portion of May's employment report. The four-week average of claims fell 18,750 between the April and May survey period, suggesting another month of job growth above 200,000.

Outside the energy sector, which has lost thousands of jobs so far this year as oilfield companies like Schlumberger , Baker Hughes and Halliburton respond to the sharply lower oil prices, layoffs have been very minimal.

A mix of bad weather, a strong dollar, port disruptions and deep energy spending cuts weighed on the economy in the first quarter, with output barely expanding.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 223,000 in April and the unemployment rate slipped to a near seven-year low of 5.4 percent.

Thursday's claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 12,000 to 2.21 million in the week ended May 9. That was the lowest level since November 2000.

The unemployment rate among people receiving benefits fell 0.1 percentage point to 1.6 percent, the lowest since July 2000. This rate tracks the short-term unemployment rate.

"With long-term unemployment on a downward trend, we would not be surprised to see the unemployment rate fall to 5.3 percent in May," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

- Reuters/al


Senate Republicans said to pledge June vote on Ex-Im Bank

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:29 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON: U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to hold a vote in June to renew the Export-Import Bank's charter before it expires at the end of that month, Democratic Senator Patty Murray said on Thursday.

Murray, speaking to reporters outside the Senate chamber, said McConnell made the pledge ahead of a procedural vote that advanced "fast-track" negotiating authority for a major Pacific-rim free trade deal.

Some Democrats and one Republican senator had vowed to block the trade promotion authority vote until they received a commitment for a vote on renewing the Ex-Im Bank charter.

(Reporting By Anna Yukhananov and David Lawder; Editing by Susan Heavey)

- Reuters


Rocket Internet eyes IPOs for fashion, food groups - magazine

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:24 PMGo to full article
FRANKFURT: German e-commerce investor Rocket Internet aims to list the shares in two of its holdings, Global Fashion Group and Global Online Takeaway Group, eight months after its own initial public share offer, monthly Manager Magazin said.

Shares in the two firms could start trading on the stock exchange later this year or in 2016 at the latest, the magazine said in a summary of an article due to be published on Friday.

The logo of of Rocket Internet, a German venture capital group is pictured in this September 24, 2014 illustration photo in Sarajevo. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files

Rocket Internet declined to comment on the report.

While Berlin-based Rocket sees itself as building an e-commerce operating empire, some investors see it as a launchpad for future stock market listings of everything from online fashion to home furnishings to personal finance firms.

Global Fashion Group was formed from five Kinnevik- and Rocket Internet-backed online fashion start-ups active across dozens of emerging markets.

Global Online Takeaway Group combines stakes in online food delivery firms including Delivery Hero and Foodpanda.

Manager Magazin also said that Delivery Hero, in which Rocket holds a 39 percent stake, was still pursuing plans for its own stock market listing, despite Rocket's push for a flotation of Global Online Takeaway Group.

While it holds a minority stake in Delivery Hero, Rocket has no seat on the board and Delivery Hero continues to be run as an independent company.

A spokesman for Delivery Hero said the company remains on track for a possible initial public offering in 2016 and that nothing had changed in its planning. He provided no further details.

Rocket's often-volatile share price was up 3.1 percent at 42.285 euros on Thursday in Frankfurt trading, still slightly below its initial listing price in October of 42.50 euros.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Eric Auchard; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

- Reuters


Carmakers team up with General Atlantic to bid for Nokia map firm - sources

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:19 PMGo to full article
FRANKFURT: Germany's premium carmakers Mercedes, Audi and BMW have teamed up with private equity firm General Atlantic to increase their firepower to acquire Nokia's mapping unit HERE, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Finland's Nokia started a strategic review of its maps business last month, setting in motion an auction process that has pitted Internet players like Uber and Baidu against carmakers in a deal that could be worth up to US$4 billion. The review came after Nokia announced a 15.6 billion-euro takeover of network equipment maker Alcatel Lucent.

A view of Nokia's annual general meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on May 5th, 2015. REUTERS/LEHTIKUVA/Roni Rekomaa

One financial industry source said on Thursday that General Atlantic would likely take a 30 percent stake in the auto industry-led consortium, but that the exact percentage had not yet been finalised and could change.

A separate source, from the auto industry, said that each of the three carmakers was prepared to chip in up to 700 million euros (US$780 million) but that the percentage stakes of each manufacturer was not yet fixed.

The carmakers have made an indicative offer for an undisclosed amount. But they have not heard back from Nokia and are waiting for a response before they weigh whether to top up their bid, another auto industry figure said.

"The upper limit is basically what it would cost to build the maps through other means, by partnering with another player or going it alone, for example," the auto industry source said.

A second financial industry source said carmakers were ready to include other financial players in their consortium, but will demand they retain overall control of the map assets. There is no hard deadline for final offers but the process is at its end and could come to a head in days rather than weeks.

Nokia, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen's Audi declined to comment. General Atlantic Partners, which is based in Greenwich, Connecticut, also declined to comment.


Analysts put the potential value of Nokia's HERE navigation business at 2 billion euros to 4 billion euros.

Based on current bids, the value has climbed to the upper end of that range, a second auto industry source familiar with the discussions said, adding that the US$3 billion valuation mooted previously had been "overtaken by events" but that far higher estimates of up to US$6 billion were exaggerated.

Local transport services firm Uber Technologies Inc is teaming up with China's web services provider Baidu and private equity firm Apax Partners to bid for HERE, for undisclosed terms, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Another group, which teams media, mobile and Internet services firm Tencent Holdings, map maker NavInfo Co., both of China, with Swedish buyout firm EQT Partners AB, is also bidding, three sources said, asking not to be identified as negotiations are private.

Auto industry players remain fairly relaxed about their chances as a snub to them could potentially be costly for HERE, as it depends on carmakers - which use its maps in vehicle navigation systems - for more than half of its revenue.

Carmakers are counting on these maps to provide crucial context for collision-detection systems in future cars. But they believe other options exist, including turning to rival TomTom, industry sources said.

"We are not out of the race as far as we know and Nokia would also have something to worry about if we were," the first automotive industry source said.

Morgan Stanley upgraded its stock rating on Dutch navigation software company TomTom on Thursday, arguing that the sale of HERE would leave it as the only independent global map maker.

Shares of TomTom jumped 7 percent on Tuesday after the company said existing customer Apple Inc had renewed a deal to license its maps in Apple products. The stock is now trading at levels not seen since 2009.

(US$1 = 0.8974 euros)

(Additional reporting by Andreas Cremer and Freya Berry; Writing by Eric Auchard; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Pravin Char)

- Reuters


Keppel Infrastructure Trust to raise S$525m in equity deal

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:36:21 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Keppel Infrastructure Trust (KIT) is set to raise S$525 million through a private placement and preferential offering of units in what will be Singapore's largest equity fund raising this year.

KIT, Singapore's largest infrastructure-focused business trust, sold 792.6 million new units via a placement to investors at S$0.52 a unit, raising around S$412.3 million, it said in a statement on Thursday (May 21).

The Keppel Merlimau Cogen Plant on Jurong Island, which Keppel Infrastructure Trust plans to buy a 51 per cent stake in. (Photo: Keppel Infrastructure Trust)

The placement price represents a discount of 6.15 per cent to the adjusted volume-weighted average price of S$0.5541 per unit on May 19 and 20.

In addition, KIT will conduct a non-renounceable preferential offering whereby existing unitholders will be entitled to buy one new unit in the trust for every 13 units owned at S$0.515 per unit. This will bring the total amount of money raised to S$525.0 million.

The trust will use the funds raised to purchase a 51 per cent stake in Keppel Merlimau Cogen, which owns the Keppel Merlimau Cogen Plant on Jurong Island.

KIT's other assets include City Gas, the sole producer and retailer of town gas in Singapore, the SingSpring seawater desalination plant, and Basslink, which owns and operates a 370km high-voltage interconnector between the electricity grids of the States of Victoria and Tasmania in Australia.

- CNA/xq


Briton guilty of making bomb that killed US sergeant in Iraq

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:35:36 PMGo to full article
LONDON: A London taxi driver was found guilty of murder on Thursday for his role in making bombs used against U.S. forces in Iraq in 2007, including one that killed an American sergeant, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

Anis Sardar, 38, of northwest London, was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court of two counts of murder and conspiracy to murder.

(AFP/Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

The bombs had been buried under roads leading west out of Baghdad in an area close to the U.S. Army's Camp Liberty. One of the devices exploded as a U.S. armoured vehicle drove over it on Sept. 27, 2007, killing Sergeant First Class Randy Johnson.

The BBC reported that Sardar was caught seven years after the explosion when the FBI found his fingerprints on some of the bombs.

"This was a landmark prosecution that shows we will do everything in our power to ensure that international boundaries are no barrier to terrorists in the UK being brought to justice for murder committed anywhere in the world," said Sue Hemming, head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism at the CPS.

"Although Anis Sardar's fingerprints were found only on two of the bombs, it is beyond doubt that he was part of a joint enterprise to make four such devices, and potentially many others, given their similarity and location," she said.

Sardar is expected to be sentenced on Friday.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)

- Reuters


Malaysia, Indonesia Navy Chiefs meet on refugee issue

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:33:00 PMGo to full article
KUALA LUMPUR: The navy chiefs of Malaysia and Indonesia have met in Kuala Lumpur as the region tackles the Rohingya refugee issue.

Malaysian Navy Chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar hosted his Indonesian counterpart Ade Supandi at the Ministry of Defence in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday (May 21).

File photo of a Royal Malaysian Navy ship, KD Selangor. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

Their meeting came after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he has ordered search-and-rescue operations for boats of migrants stuck out at sea.

In a Facebook post, he said that the country's navy and maritime enforcement agency will be conducting the efforts.

Abdul Aziz Jaafar, Malaysia's Navy Chief, said: "We've opened the line of communication today. I will be in communication with everybody - the Myanmar chief, the Thai chief and if there is a requirement, we will be conducting surveillance, get the support of air search and comb the area. If there is anyone that requires support, assistance will be rendered."

- CNA/al


President Tony Tan opens RSAF Ground Training Centre in French Air Base

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:31:08 PMGo to full article
CAZAUX: President Tony Tan Keng Yam visited the Republic of Singapore Air Force's 150 Squadron at Cazaux Air Base on Thursday morning (May 21) as part of his week-long state visit in France.

He was hosted by the Chief of Air Force Major-General Hoo Cher Mou, and met the Commanding Officer of the Squadron Lieutenant Colonel Kelvin Wan.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, accompanied by Mrs Mary Tan and Chief of Air Force Major-General Hoo Cher Mou, viewing the M-346 Full Mission Simulator (Photo: MINDEF)

The squadron is a detachment for fighter air crew training and has been at the air base since 1998. The base is currently home to about 275 Singaporeans including 60 RSAF personnel and their family members.

President Tan also officially opened the Ground Training Centre which now houses mission planning facilities and simulators in the same building. The squadron has also been training aircrew with state-of-the-art M346 aircraft in recent years, and the RSAF says the combination of the integrated training centre and the use of such aircraft for training will provide for more seamless transition into flying the RSAF's F-15s and F-16s.

Said LT-COL Kelvin Wan, Commanding Officer for the RSAF Squadron at Cazaux Air Base: "Now before a pilot goes out to fly on an actual mission in an actual aircraft, he can plan the mission in the mission planning and debriefing system, take that mission, put it in a hard disk and bring it to the simulator, have the whole mission simulated in the simulator, and then take the same hard disk, go out there and in the aircraft and fly an actual mission. So he's better prepared to execute that mission and he will do a lot better. "

Prior to that, training was "a lot more piecemeal", he said. "Now that we have the technology to enable all the systems to be integrated, we have enhance realism and produce better-trained pilots."

"This air base and the training centre here is extremely important to the Republic of Singapore Air Force," said Dr Tan. "We are very grateful to the French Air Force and to France for hosting this air training centre here. It fulfils a vital need for us to train our pilots. I was very impressed with what I've seen with the simulators as well as all the arrangements there. I think we are well on our way with continuing our progress. We started in a very modest way initially with only two Cessna trainers and now we have a whole fleet of aircraft."

- CNA/ly


No room for looser Turkish economic policy post-election - AK candidate

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:25:31 PMGo to full article
ANKARA: A Turkish parliamentary candidate tipped as a key member of the next government's economic team said on Thursday that Turkey could ill afford to loosen monetary or fiscal policy while the global economy remains fragile.

Naci Agbal, who resigned as finance ministry undersecretary in February to run as a ruling AK Party candidate in the June 7 general election, told Reuters that the next government would need to stick to existing economic policies in the immediate term.

"Global vulnerabilities persist. Data on developed and developing countries points neither to a full recovery nor a full collapse," Agbal said in an interview in Ankara.

"In such an environment, Turkey does not have the luxury to relax or abandon its cautious monetary and fiscal policies in any way. These policies must continue to be implemented decisively."

His comments may reassure some investors nervous about policy changes after the election, when widely respected Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who has anchored the economy, is due to step down.

They also suggest that like Babacan, Agbal could be a defender of the central bank's independence if he is part of the new government.

Financial markets have been unsettled by pressure on the bank from President Tayyip Erdogan and some ministers to cut interest rates despite high inflation and a weak lira currency. Erdogan's criticism of the bank, however, has eased in recent weeks as the election nears.

Agbal forecast a pick-up in growth after the vote, following a slowdown in the first quarter, based on higher investment supported by economic reforms. A revision of Turkey's 4 percent growth target this year, up from 2.9 percent in 2014, was not on the agenda.

The biggest risk for Turkey, he said, remained its current account deficit, which topped 5 percent of GDP at the end of last year. But he pointed to a rebound in the lira from record lows over the last two weeks as a positive development.

"It appears as if the exchange rate has achieved a certain stability. If we can keep it like this and if oil prices remain in line with forecasts, this will create significant space for us on the current account deficit," he said.

Babacan, in charge of the economy for much of the AK Party's 13 years in power, is prevented from standing for re-election by a three-term limit. AKP officials have privately tipped Agbal, who served as ministry undersecretary from 2009, as one of the likely key figures in the new economy team if the ruling party win the election as widely expected.

Agbal said ratings agencies would take a more positive view of Turkey after the election if it produces strong single-party government and if structural reforms are rapidly implemented.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Susan Fenton)

- Reuters


CVS to expand pharmacy business with US$10.1 billion Omnicare buy

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:25:18 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: Drugstore operator CVS Health Corp said Thursday it will spend US$10.1 billion to buy Omnicare Inc , a company that supplies prescription medicines to nursing, assisted living and other healthcare facilities.

The move gives CVS, the second-largest U.S. drugstore operator, access to the older, sicker U.S. population and builds on its specialty pharmacy, which provides drugs to people with expensive chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

A CVS pharmacy is seen in New York City in this July 28, 2010 file photo. CVS Health Copr, the No. 2 U.S. REUTERS/Mike Segar

CVS said it expects the deal to add about 20 cents to adjusted earnings per share in 2016. The deal also includes debt of about US$2.3 billion, the companies said.

The pharmaceutical sector has been consolidating as companies look to beef up and bargain for lower prices from both drug manufacturers and the three largest U.S. drug distributors.

"There's a lot of purchasing scale. There's a lot more volume. They could renegotiate their supply contracts given the volume," said FBR analyst Steven Halper.

In addition to its drugstore chain and mail-order sales, CVS is the second-largest pharmacy benefit manager in the United States, securing pricing for big employers and government plans.

CVS offered US$98 per Omnicare share, representing a premium of 4 percent to the closing price Wednesday of Omnicare, the top U.S. provider of pharmacy services to the elderly.

The offer is at a nearly 21 percent premium to Omnicare's April 21 close, a day before Bloomberg reported that the company was exploring a sale.

Shares of Omnicare, rose 1.5 percent to US$96 while CVS was up 2.8 percent at US$104.08.


Bloomberg first reported Wednesday that CVS was nearing a deal to buy Omnicare.

Speculation has mounted of more pharmacy-industry consolidation as others have tied up, and the field of companies involved in drug distribution, sales or management has shrunk.

Health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc agreed to buy Catamaran Corp for about US$12.8 billion in March. Rite Aid Corp bought pharmacy benefit manager EnvisionRx for about US$2 billion in February. Last year, pharmacy Walgreen tied up with European pharmacy and drug distribution company Boots Alliance.

CVS said it secured US$13 billion in financing from Barclays for the deal, which is expected to close near the end of 2015.

Barclays and Evercore are CVS's financial advisers, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Centerview Partners advised Omnicare. CVS's legal adviser is Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, while White & Case LLP served as Omnicare's legal counsel.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer in New York and Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Vidya L Nathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bernadette Baum)

- Reuters


40 rebels dead in regime raid in Syria's Aleppo: Monitor

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:16:00 PMGo to full article
BEIRUT: At least 40 rebels were killed as a regime air strike on their base in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo triggered a huge explosion Thursday (May 21), a monitoring group said.

The Islamist rebels had shells stored at the base, which magnified the blast, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.

A Syrian man looks at the rubble of buildings following a reported barrel bomb attack by government forces on the Qadi Askar district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on May 20, 2015. (Photo: AFP/AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI)

"The shells exploded when the strike happened, and witnesses there described an explosion like an earthquake," Abdel Rahman said.

"At least 40 rebels from Islamist factions, including three leaders, were killed when Syria's army dropped a barrel bomb and fired a rocket on their base in Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo city," the Britain-based Observatory said.

Al-Shaar falls within opposition-controlled east Aleppo city, which is regularly bombarded by regime warplanes and helicopters.

Abdel Rahman said the fighters targeted were part of the Northern Front, a coalition of Islamist factions formed in December. The regime's use of barrel bombs - old containers full of explosives - has been criticised by human rights groups for its indiscriminate nature.

- AFP/rw


Frasers Centrepoint to raise bond issue to S$500m amid high demand

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:15:57 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Property developer Frasers Centrepoint will more than double the size of its seven-year bond issue to S$500 million after the offer attracted strong demand from both retail and institutional investors.

The strong demand for the bonds, which carry a fixed interest rate of 3.65 per cent per year, indicate investors are prepared to take higher risk in order to earn higher interest. For example, most fixed deposits in Singapore pay less than 1 per cent interest per annum, while the yield on 10-year Singapore government bonds is currently around 2.37 per cent.

People gather to view a model of North Park Residences. (Photo: Frasers Centrepoint Limited)

Frasers Centrepoint said on Thursday (May 21) that the offer of seven-year bonds by its wholly-owned subsidiary, FCL Treasury, drew total valid applications for the public tranche that amounted to about S$578.7 million. This represents a subscription rate of about 3.9 times for the S$150 million that was originally offered to the public.

The placement tranche of S$50 million was fully subscribed within a day.

"As a result of the oversubscription for the public offer, the total offer size was, after consultation with DBS Bank, the sole lead manager and bookrunner to the offer, increased from the initial S$200 million to S$500 million," Frasers Centrepoint said in a statement.

Frasers Centrepoint is one of Singapore’s top property companies with total assets above S$22 billion as at Mar 31. The FCL Treasury bonds, which are guaranteed by Frasers Centrepoint, start trading on the Singapore Exchange on May 25.

- CNA/xq


Best Buy profit beats on strong demand for TVs, smartphones

‎21 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:10:19 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: Best Buy Co Inc , the largest U.S. consumer electronics chain, reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and sales, helped by strong demand for smartphones and large-screen TVs, sending its shares up over 8 percent.

Best Buy, whose profits have benefited from cost-cutting lately, will continue to focus on aggressively pursuing its cost cutting initiatives this year. In March, the company said it planned this year to start a cost-cutting effort to save US$400 million over the next three years.

The sign outside a Best Buy store is seen on a snowy day in Boulder, Colorado March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

"These savings are not expected to begin until the back half of fiscal 2016," Chief Executive Hubert Joly said on an earnings conference call.

Since 2012, Best Buy has cut jobs, removed layers of management and closed stores.

Best Buy said its revenue growth in the United States was driven by sales of mobile phones bundled with billing plans by telecom carriers. Under these plans, telecom carriers allow customers to buy new phones for a low down payment and pay the remaining amount in installments along with monthly bills.

Revenue from the U.S. rose 1.4 percent to US$7.9 billion in the first quarter. However, same-store sales fell 0.7 percent.

For the second quarter, the company said it expected "a flat to positive low-single digit revenue growth rate" in its U.S. business and "a flat to negative low-single digit revenue growth rate" in its overall business.

The total revenue growth forecast includes the impact of some store closures and consolidation of operations in Canada, the company's second largest market.

International revenue declined 22.1 percent to US$668 million, due to an impact from foreign currency fluctuations and the loss of revenue from its Canadian operations.

The company's comparable online sales sharply decelerated and grew 5.3 percent this quarter from 29.2 percent in the same period last year due to pressure from rollout of initiatives like ship from store, softness in demand for large online categories like tablets and computers among others.

The net income attributable to Best Buy's shareholders fell to US$129 million, or 36 cents per share, in the first quarter ended May 2 from US$461 million, or US$1.31 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 37 cents per share versus 35 cents in the same period a year ago.

Revenue fell 1 percent to US$8.56 billion.

Analysts had expected a profit of 29 cents per share and revenue of US$8.46 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Best Buy's shares were up 5.4 percent at US$35.6 in mid-morning trade.

(Reporting by Ramkumar Iyer in Bengaluru and Nandita Bose in Chicago; Editing by Kirti Pandey and Marguerita Choy)

- Reuters


UN seeks speedier inspections on Yemen-bound goods

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:40:40 PMGo to full article
GENEVA: The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen urged a Saudi-led coalition to ease its inspections of Yemen-bound cargo to speed up imports of vital goods which are still being held up despite a humanitarian truce.

As electricity is lacking across Yemen, fuel is critical to run generators in hospitals, pumps for the water and sanitation system, and the communications grid, Johannes van der Klaauw told a U.N. briefing in Geneva via audio link from Sanaa.

A UNHCR employee arranges aid at the Dubai International Humanitarian city in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, before shipping them to Yemen, May 14, 2015. REUTERS/Lara Sukhtian

The tightly enforced inspection regime has hindered delivery of urgent humanitarian supplies to Yemen, while roadblocks and continued sporadic fighting were still holding up distribution within the country, van de Klaauw said.

"The arms embargo and its inspection regime results in commercial goods, be it by air or ship, no longer reaching the country," he said. Inspections should be speeded up so that imports of commercial and humanitarian goods, including fuel, "food and other life-sustaining necessities can resume".

After more than a month of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition against an Iranian-allied militia that has seized much of Yemen, a five-day humanitarian truce was declared but is now half-way over. The aim is to get supplies to 2.5 million Yemenis deprived of food, fuel and medicine.

"At the moment the pause is globally holding, though I have to say every day we see skirmishes, localised and of short duration, but we still see that there is military activity," van der Klaauw said, citing clashes in Aden and Taiz.

"We also face the roadblocks which prevent not only civilians from moving during this pause but also us from providing essential aid."

He called on all parties to the conflict to abide by pledges of safe passage for humanitarian staff and supplies. "We hope that the pause can be extended, of course in the end it should result in a ceasefire and a political agreement," he said.

The United Nations has been able to import 430,000 litres of fuel for humanitarian operations in the past week - roughly one-tenth of monthly needs, said Trond Jensen, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen.

"It has been difficult to reach our warehouses. I know there has been medical supplies stuck in Aden, 50 tonnes of it at least, there has been food and other supplies that we haven't been able to access," Jensen said.

Yemen is the latest theatre in Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia's tussle for power across the Middle East, which has played out along largely sectarian lines but has not yet led to direct confrontation between the Gulf powers.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Dominic Evans)

- Reuters


Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan still under discussion

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:40:30 PMGo to full article
CAPE TOWN,: Zimbabwe’s planned tour of Pakistan remained up in the air on Friday as discussions continued over whether they would become the first test-playing nation in six years to visit the south east Asian country.

Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) issued a statement saying its board was continuing with discussions regarding the tour. The team are scheduled to leave on Sunday.

“There are consultations going on at the moment with relevant authorities. We do not have a final position as yet,” ZC CEO Wilfred Mukondiwa said.

It followed a bizarre episode on Thursday in which ZC released a statement saying the tour had been called off, but minutes later changed its position to say talks were ongoing.

A ZC delegation which visited Lahore, the venue for all matches on the tour, approved security measures put in place by local authorities last week.

But the terror attack on a bus in Karachi that killed at least 45 people this week led Zimbabwe’s supreme sports regulatory authority, the Sports and Recreation Commission, to advise that the tour be cancelled.

Zimbabwe were due to be the first test-playing nation to tour Pakistan since a 2009 gun attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore left six Pakistani policemen and a van driver dead. Some players and a local umpire were injured.

Pakistan have since been forced to play designated home matches primarily in the United Arab Emirates.

Zimbabwe were scheduled to play two Twenty20 internationals, starting on May 22, and a three-match one-day series.

(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)

- Reuters


At least 33 killed as China bus plunges over cliff: Reports

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:32:33 PMGo to full article
BEIJING: At least 33 people died on Friday (May 15) when a bus apparently plunged off a cliff in China, reports said, in the latest deadly traffic incident in the country.

The accident in Chunhua county, in the northern province of Shaanxi, killed 33 people with another 13 injured, state broadcaster CCTV said.

A bus which apparently plunged off a cliff in Chunhua, China. (Photo: Sina Weibo)

Pictures posted online, which could not be immediately verified, showed a white bus on its side at the bottom of a steep, partially-forested red cliff. The injured were being treated and the cause of the crash was being investigated, said county authorities, who initially put the toll at 30.

Fatal road accidents are a serious problem in China, where traffic regulations are often flouted. More than 200,000 people are killed on China's notoriously dangerous roads every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this month.

Government data for road deaths in China is shrouded in secrecy, like many statistics in the country, and the WHO figures are strikingly higher than official pronouncements. The most recent figures available from the ministry of transport, cited by a vice-minister at a forum, said 60,000 people were killed on the roads in 2012.

In August last year, a tour bus plunged into a valley in Tibet after hitting two vehicles, leaving 44 people dead and 11 injured.

- AFP/ek


Official SG50 book launched, 10,000 copies printed

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:30:15 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The official SG50 book, Living the Singapore Story: Celebrating our 50 Years 1965-2015, was launched on Friday (May 15), and 10,000 copies have been printed.

It features 58 Singaporeans, including an actor, an athlete, a general, a hawker, a nurse, a scientist, a teacher and an urban planner, to express the "characteristic grit and determination of Singaporeans from all walks of life", the National Library Board (NLB) said in its press release.

Launch of SG50 book, Living the Singapore Story: Celebrating our 50 years 1965-2015. (Photo: National Library Board)

A look inside the official SG50 book. (Photo: National Library Board)

The book also showcases personal and vivid anecdotes by icons such as Singapore's founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew; wife of Singapore's first President, Madam Noor Aishah Md Salim; first part-time writer to have won the Cultural Medallion, Mr Isa Kamari; Singapore’s first three-star general, Mr Winston Choo; singer-songwriter, Mr Dick Lee; and Singapore’s first urban planner, Mr Alan Choe, it added.

Professor Tommy Koh, Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Committee, said: “This inspiring book reminds us that the success of Singapore in the last 50 years was due to a combination of good leaders and an exceptional people. Our people’s hard work, discipline, integrity and indomitable spirit have powered our miraculous journey.”

Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister Heng Swee Keat and President Tony Tan Keng Yam speaking to Mr Ngalirdjo Mungin, the oldest person profiled in the official SG50 book. (Photo: National Library Board)

Copies of the SG50 book will be made available at all public libraries across the island and the National Library from May 16, and will also be sold for S$19.65 at major bookstores in Singapore and on Amazon.

- CNA/fs


China says five injured by artillery shells from Myanmar

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:25:11 PMGo to full article
BEIJING: Shelling from neighbouring Myanmar on Thursday wounded five people in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, state media reported on Friday, the latest incidence of cross-border fire that has strained ties between the neighbours.

Shells landed in an area near the small city of Lincang, state media reported on Friday, citing the local propaganda bureau. Four houses and three vehicles were also damaged.

One Chinese and four Burmese nationals were wounded, according to a report on the People's Daily website. Two of the five were seriously hurt.

The city's government had made "solemn representations" to the Myanmar side, according to reports.

China was infuriated in March when five people were killed by stray bombs falling into Yunnan during fighting between Myanmar's government forces and rebels. Fighting has intensified over the past several months.

China has repeatedly demand that Myanmar take greater steps to prevent fighting from spilling over to its side of the border.

Myanmar government soldiers have been battling rebels who were dug in as close as 500 meters from the Chinese border, Myanmar's Information Ministry said in April.

Tens of thousands of people, many of them ethnic Chinese, have fled to China to escape the fighting in Myanmar's northeastern Kokang region.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Alex Richardson)

- Reuters


Expansion of Toyota air bag recall includes 637,000 US vehicles

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:20:21 PMGo to full article
DETROIT: Toyota Motor Corp is recalling 637,000 vehicles in the United States as part of a massive expansion of a global recall to replace potentially defective air bags that could rupture and send shrapnel into occupants.

The vehicles are being recalled in three separate campaigns, according to documents posted early Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The steering wheel of a Toyota car which contains an airbag is pictured in Vienna April 11, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

The air bags were supplied by Japan's Takata Corp . More than 36 million vehicles equipped with Takata air bags and sold by 10 manufacturers have been recalled worldwide since mid-2009.

Earlier this week, Toyota in Japan said it would expand its global air bag recalls by nearly 5 million vehicles.

As part of that effort, Toyota is recalling 300,000 vehicles sold in high-humidity U.S. states and territories, including the 2005-2007 Corolla, Corolla Matrix and Sequoia, 2005-2006 Tundra and 2005-2007 Lexus SC, as well as the 2005-2007 Pontiac Vibe made for General Motors Co .

Toyota is also recalling 177,000 2003-2004 Tundra and 2004 Sequoia, as well as 160,000 2004-2005 RAV4.

With all of the recalls, NHTSA said "the inflator could rupture, with metal fragments striking and potentially seriously injuring" vehicle occupants.

In a statement, Toyota's U.S. subsidiary said "multiple investigations into the root cause of the potential for inflator rupture are taking place."

(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

- Reuters


India, China leaders try hand at 'selfie' diplomacy

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:14:54 PMGo to full article
BEIJING: In a rare show of everyman charm from one of China's most elite politicians, Premier Li Keqiang appeared in a grinning selfie with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

Modi, who is visiting China this week to boost economic ties and discuss a persistent border dispute, is known for being at ease with social media, including a large follower base on Twitter.

Premier Li Keqiang appearing in a selfie with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Narendra Modi's Facebook page)

But such spontaneous displays online are rare for leaders in China, where discussion of politicians' personal lives is taboo and details such as their exact birthdates are considered a state secret.

The selfie, which shows the leaders at a historical site smiling shoulder to shoulder, with Li squinting slightly in the sunlight, was posted on Modi's Chinese microblog account.

He spent the day in talks with Li during his three-day trip and is set to travel to the economic powerhouse of Shanghai on Saturday.

Modi set up an account on the microblogging site Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, ahead of his trip, prompting a flurry of mostly sceptical messages from the Chinese public.

China's leadership has experimented with more unscripted interactions in recent years. President Xi Jinping surprised residents near a popular Beijing shopping street when he took a stroll there last February.

He also astonished customers at a modest steamed bun shop by turning up, paying for his own food and making small talk with other patrons.

Many Weibo users reacted with delight to the two leaders' selfie, with messages like "cute premier!"

Others wondered why China's own leaders had no social media presence.

"Wouldn't it be great if Premier Li had his own Weibo?" one user wrote. "Then we could respond to him directly."

(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan and Shu Zhang; Editing by Nick Macfie)

- Reuters


Military imbalance between China, Taiwan could pose threat to island: US

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:13:58 PMGo to full article
TAIPEI: China’s rapid military modernization is posing a serious threat to the island security, according to a recent Pentagon report.

The report says Beijing’s military build-up is mainly focused on potential conflict across the Taiwan Straits. However, local experts disputed the report, saying military clash between the two sides are unlikely.

Taiwan's indigenous 81mm mobile mortar system. (Photo: Victoria Jen)

Taiwan’s defense ministry was proud to present some locally made weapons at one of its arms manufacturing centers in Taipei on Friday (May 15), providing a glimpse of the island’s latest defense capabilities.

Their new indigenous 81 millimetre mobile mortar system is designed for swift deployment, and it reduces recoil by more than 70 per cent. The mobile mortar system is expected to go into mass production next year.

“So far, we have completed R&D testing,” said Lieutenant Colonel Chen Chien Chung from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence. “Next step will be to complete operational testing."

Video: Taiwan's indigenous 81mm mobile mortar system

Taiwan’s defense readiness however provided little comfort to many Taiwanese. The island’s military spending cuts in recent years have further widened the military capability gap across the Taiwan Strait. Last year, China’s defense budget was 13 times higher than that of the island, according to a Pentagon report.

Taiwan’s military budget was slashed to 2.5 per cent of GDP last year from 3 per cent in 2009. The island also plans to launch an all-volunteer military by 2017, which means reducing its armed forces by more than 20 per cent.

Washington has warned that the growing military imbalance could pose a serious threat to the island’s security. While that may be the case, analysts say that Beijing has more pressing issues at hand than to focus solely on Taiwan.

Said think-tank Taiwan Brain Trust’s Vice President Lin Ting Hui: “In fact, China is focused more on its military influence in the region, such as encountering threat from Japan in the East China Sea, as well as potential conflicts with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea.”

Cross-straits ties have also stagnated since last year and could deteriorate further if the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party returns to power next year. Even then, experts say the chances of an all-out war across the straits are slim.

“China’s top priority now is to beef up its overall national strength, which include not only military capability, but also economic power and nationalistic sentiment,” said Mr Lin. “Under the circumstances, I don’t think China will use force against the island before 2049.”

Analysts say Taiwan should still develop an asymmetrical warfare strategy to deter China’s military strength. They also advised authorities to explore alternatives other than building indigenous submarines.

- CNA/ek


Google versus Oracle case exposes differences within Obama administration

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:10:32 PMGo to full article
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has been locked in internal wrangling over what position to take in high profile litigation between two American technology giants, Google and Oracle, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions. It faces an end-of-May deadline to decide whether to take sides in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that will have wide implications for the technology industry.

The case involves how much copyright protection should extend to the Java programing language. Oracle won a federal appeals court ruling last year that allows it to copyright parts of Java, while Google argues it should be free to use Java without paying a licensing fee.

A woman walks past a logo of Google at the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) 2015 in Beijing, China, April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Google, which used Java to design its Android smartphone operating system, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court then asked the Obama administration in January for its opinion on whether it should take the case.

The nine justices request that U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr., the government's top lawyer before the Supreme Court, weigh in on about 20 cases a year in which the federal government has a strong interest. The justices generally give greater weight to what he or she says than other third parties that take a side in a case, an influence which has caused the solicitor general to be dubbed the "tenth justice."

According to Google, an Oracle victory would obstruct "an enormous amount of innovation" because software developers would not be able to freely build on each others’ work. But Oracle says it is effective copyright protection that’s the key to software innovation.

It is unclear what position the administration will ultimately take. Deliberations within the Obama administration have mirrored the larger debate in the technology world about how broadly copyright should apply to software, the sources said.


Charles Duan, a lawyer for interest group Public Knowledge, that backs Google in the case, said he met with officials at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice antitrust division to advance the view that Oracle is seeking a monopoly on software.

"They were very interested in the competition implications of the case," Duan said of the antitrust regulators. An FTC representative declined to comment.

Another source briefed on the discussions said the solicitor general's office has pushed back on pro-Google arguments. The debate is coming down to the wire as the solicitor general’s office, a division of the DOJ, usually files its opinions by the end of May to give the Supreme Court time to make a decision by the conclusion of its term at the end of June.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment.

Google's Android operating system is the world's best-selling smartphone platform. Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming that Google had improperly incorporated parts of Java into Android. Oracle is seeking roughly US$1 billion on its copyright claims.

The case examined whether computer language that connects programs - known as application programing interfaces, or APIs - can be copyrighted.

A San Francisco federal judge decided that the Java APIs replicated by Google were not subject to copyright protection and were free for all to use. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed that, saying it was bound to respect copyright protection for software "until either the Supreme Court or Congress tells us otherwise."

Legal teams from both Oracle and Google made separate presentations to government officials in March, a third source familiar with the meetings said. The company pitches attracted so much interest from different government agencies that they had to be moved to a larger conference room at the Department of Justice to accommodate all the lawyers, this source said.

Some of the administration’s technology advisers have been advocating the pro-Google position as well, the second source said. This week, the White House appointed Edward Felten as deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Felten, a computer scientist, signed onto a legal brief last November urging the Supreme Court to hear Google's appeal.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, nor did an Oracle spokeswoman. A Google representative declined to comment.

Meanwhile the U.S. Copyright Office, a division of the Library of Congress, is known as being pro-copyright which could make it more likely to back Oracle, according to a lawyer for groups that support Google. The Copyright Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Other technology companies, including Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard, filed legal briefs at the Supreme Court supporting Google, arguing that the Federal Circuit ruling "upset settled expectations about the scope of copyright law."

Yet Oracle argued that the Supreme Court should decline the case because the Federal Circuit applied settled legal doctrine.

"Google's argument — that the code lost all copyright protection because it became popular and Google wanted Android to be popular, too — would not fly for any other work," Oracle's attorneys wrote.


(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Amy Stevens and Martin Howell)

- Reuters


Facebook "tramples European privacy law" - Belgian watchdog

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:10:22 PMGo to full article
BRUSSELS: Belgium's privacy watchdog accused Facebook on Friday of trampling on European privacy laws by tracking people online without their consent and dodging questions from national regulators.

The Privacy Protection Commission (CPVP/CBPL), which is working with German, Dutch, French and Spanish counterparts, launched the blistering attack after trying to find out more about the U.S. social media giant's practices.

A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed cables in this illustration in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

It urged Internet users to install privacy software to shield themselves from Facebook's tracking systems, whether they have an account with the social network or not.

The show of strength from the Belgian regulator, which does not have the power to levy fines, highlights a growing willingness across the 28-member bloc to demand that big U.S. tech companies abide by European laws.

"Facebook tramples on European and Belgian privacy laws", the Commission said after publishing a report analysing changes that the company made to its privacy policies in January.

It said in a statement that Facebook had refused to recognise Belgian and other EU national jurisdictions, insisting it was subject only to the law in Ireland, the site of its European headquarters.

"Facebook has shown itself particularly miserly in giving precise answers," the watchdog said, adding that the results of the study by a group of researchers were "disconcerting".

A Facebook spokeswoman questioned the Belgians' authority but said it would review the study's recommendations with the Irish data protection commissioner: "We work hard to make sure people have control over what they share and with whom."

"Facebook is already regulated in Europe and complies with European data protection law, so the applicability of the CBPL's efforts is unclear," she said.

Some EU states accuse Ireland of being soft on the multinational firms it wants to attract, whether in data protection or corporate taxation.


The commission said it would publish a second report on Facebook this year. Sanctions available to privacy watchdogs can be negligible to big firms, but a new EU data protection law expected to be ready this year would allow for fines up to 5 percent of annual sales.

The commission said Facebook would not explain in detail how it uses data it collects. It highlighted problems with plug-ins such as Facebook's "Like" button, which it said affected many who do not have a Facebook account.

A number of firms are under fire in Europe over the data they collect. Facebook places tracking "cookies" when anyone visits a Facebook page, meaning it can track the online activities of a huge number of non-customers, but has said this is a bug that it is working to fix.

The Commission asked Facebook to stop gathering user data via cookies and plug-ins, except where users asked for it.

European regulators have previously forced Google to change its privacy policies.

And a year ago, EU judges upheld a Spanish order that Google must remove links to outdated information from searches for people's names - establishing a "right to be forgotten".

EU anti-trust regulators launched a case against Google last month and are probing Apple and Amazon over low-tax deals with Ireland and Luxembourg. The European Commission is studying whether to pursue German and French proposals for an EU-wide regulator for Internet platforms.

Some European politicians, also angered by revelations of U.S. espionage in Europe, say U.S. firms abuse their power, discouraging local start-ups and jeopardising privacy laws cherished by Europeans with memories of authoritarian rule.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is trying to negotiate a landmark transatlantic free trade deal with the EU, TTIP, says Europe is throwing up protectionist barriers to tech companies.

(Editing by David Clarke and Kevin Liffey)

- Reuters


Insight - Google versus Oracle case exposes differences within Obama administration

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:10:16 PMGo to full article
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has been locked in internal wrangling over what position to take in high profile litigation between two American technology giants, Google and Oracle, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions. It faces an end-of-May deadline to decide whether to take sides in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that will have wide implications for the technology industry.

The case involves how much copyright protection should extend to the Java programming language. Oracle won a federal appeals court ruling last year that allows it to copyright parts of Java, while Google argues it should be free to use Java without paying a licensing fee.

Google, which used Java to design its Android smartphone operating system, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court then asked the Obama administration in January for its opinion on whether it should take the case.

The nine justices request that U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr., the government's top lawyer before the Supreme Court, weigh in on about 20 cases a year in which the federal government has a strong interest. The justices generally give greater weight to what he or she says than other third parties that take a side in a case, an influence which has caused the solicitor general to be dubbed the "tenth justice."

According to Google, an Oracle victory would obstruct "an enormous amount of innovation" because software developers would not be able to freely build on each others’ work. But Oracle says it is effective copyright protection that’s the key to software innovation.

It is unclear what position the administration will ultimately take. Deliberations within the Obama administration have mirrored the larger debate in the technology world about how broadly copyright should apply to software, the sources said.


Charles Duan, a lawyer for interest group Public Knowledge, that backs Google in the case, said he met with officials at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice antitrust division to advance the view that Oracle is seeking a monopoly on software.

"They were very interested in the competition implications of the case," Duan said of the antitrust regulators. An FTC representative declined to comment.

Another source briefed on the discussions said the solicitor general's office has pushed back on pro-Google arguments. The debate is coming down to the wire as the solicitor general’s office, a division of the DOJ, usually files its opinions by the end of May to give the Supreme Court time to make a decision by the conclusion of its term at the end of June.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment.

Google's Android operating system is the world's best-selling smartphone platform. Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming that Google had improperly incorporated parts of Java into Android. Oracle is seeking roughly US$1 billion on its copyright claims.

The case examined whether computer language that connects programs - known as application programming interfaces, or APIs - can be copyrighted.

A San Francisco federal judge decided that the Java APIs replicated by Google were not subject to copyright protection and were free for all to use. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed that, saying it was bound to respect copyright protection for software "until either the Supreme Court or Congress tells us otherwise."

Legal teams from both Oracle and Google made separate presentations to government officials in March, a third source familiar with the meetings said. The company pitches attracted so much interest from different government agencies that they had to be moved to a larger conference room at the Department of Justice to accommodate all the lawyers, this source said.

Some of the administration’s technology advisers have been advocating the pro-Google position as well, the second source said. This week, the White House appointed Edward Felten as deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Felten, a computer scientist, signed onto a legal brief last November urging the Supreme Court to hear Google's appeal.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, nor did an Oracle spokeswoman. A Google representative declined to comment.

Meanwhile the U.S. Copyright Office, a division of the Library of Congress, is known as being pro-copyright which could make it more likely to back Oracle, according to a lawyer for groups that support Google. The Copyright Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Other technology companies, including Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard, filed legal briefs at the Supreme Court supporting Google, arguing that the Federal Circuit ruling "upset settled expectations about the scope of copyright law."

Yet Oracle argued that the Supreme Court should decline the case because the Federal Circuit applied settled legal doctrine.

"Google's argument — that the code lost all copyright protection because it became popular and Google wanted Android to be popular, too — would not fly for any other work," Oracle's attorneys wrote.


(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Amy Stevens and Martin Howell)

- Reuters


Manila's poor safety standards in spotlight after deadly factory fire

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:08:27 PMGo to full article
MANILA: A fire at a slipper factory in Manila where 72 workers perished on May 13 has brought to light the issue of low health and safety standards in both work and residential buildings across the city.

The Filipine capital experiences thousands of fires a month, and as the temperatures climbs so do the number of incidents. The summer months (March-May) see the highest number of fires during the year.

Philippine firemen try to put out a fire after it gutted a footwear factory in Valenzuela city, suburban Manila. (AFP Photo)

They usually occur in slum areas where there are no fire and safety standards. Because of this the fire can spread quickly, engulfing whole blocks of poorly built houses, and the effects can be devastating.

There have also been recent cases involving work places where a lack of safety measures has led to high casualties.

72 people lost their lives at a rubber slipper factory owned by Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in in Valenzuela, on the outskirts of the capital. The fire started when sparks from welding repairs ignited the chemical used in producing the footwear.

Workers were trapped inside, unable to get out due to bars on the window and no established fire escape. Investigations are now underway regarding health and safety standards in the factory.

Marciano Apostol lost his 29-year-old daughter, Marilisa, in the fire. He does not know which of the 72 bodies being buried is hers because she was charred beyond recognition.

He said she could have been saved if there were fire exits in place.

"I've been to the place where the fire has happened. I saw with my own eyes that there’s no place for the people to come out so I think that’s the reason why they can’t get out. If there’s an exit many more will escape," he said.

Supt Renato Marcial, Chief of Public Information Services, said the event highlighted the need to monitor and enforce safety standards in establishments across Manila.

"One of the problems we identified is that I think there is still a need for the people to level up their safety consciousness. Only when a tragedy occurs do they realise the ill effects of a fire," he said.

Data from the Philippine statistics authority shows that the number of incidents are increasing and so are the number of casualties. There was a 20 per cent increase in fires incident between 2013 and 2014.

These fires are usually caused by faulty electrical wiring, unattended open flames and neglected electrical appliances, mistakes that can easily be avoided with the right amount of caution.


- CNA/jb


Homeless Nepalis opt for DIY shelters before monsoon hits

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:02:54 PMGo to full article
Lele, Napel: In this quake-hit village of Lele, about an hour from the capital Kathmandu, nearly 300 houses were destroyed in a massive earthquake that rocked Nepal on April 25.

In less than three weeks after the tragedy, another earthquake struck the country again on Tuesday (May 12), which means the 40 houses that managed to remain standing are now too dangerous to live in.

A temporary metal shelter built by citizen action group Project EK for survivors of Nepal's earthquakes. (Photo: Anasuya Sanyal/CNA)

“We got so many information from people outside that they needed help and the sad thing was that we couldn't even tell them help is on the way. And that really got to us. We were able to mobilize quickly,” said Soham Dhakal, a volunteer from Project EK helping the affected Nepali build shelters before seasonal monsoon rains begin to pour within weeks.

Project EK is a grassroots initiative of regular Nepalis. It involves volunteers from a national teachers’ programme and acquires funds from a Nepali-owned cafe in the US to help fill out a crucial need for stable temporary housing.

Project EK volunteers helped Nepalis build temporary homes

“People are desperate to figure out what they're going to do and when we started building this, when we put up the first demo version up in front of the school, people saw," said the volunteer.

"There was a spark that lit up, that I can do this with it. That was also our idea to let the villagers come up with how they want to use it as long as there is a basic structure that is secure and safe."

Project EK representatives made sure that villagers looked over the prototypes first before they were set up. This is to ensure that local leaders were able to transfer their know-how elsewhere in the valley.

With help from the volunteers, the villagers can build metal shelters themselves, using cheap but sturdy materials. The likes of 29-year-old Austaman Nagarkoti and his family were able to put up the base structure within two hours.

Those staying in the shelters have also added small touches to their temporary housing, making the shelters feel more like home. In the end, nine shelters in the village were constructed in a day.

"In this Project EK's sort of an Eskimo, igloo sort of a house - temporary shelter - they just need eight to nine corrugated roofs. So that is, I think, very economical, and it is costing about US$120, which to a certain extent is affordable even for the people in the village; or even if the government wants to give them support, US$120 dollars is something the government can manage, I think, said Udaya Shumsher JB Rana, Lalitpur MP from the Nepali Congress Party.

- CNA/pp


Fighting continues in Yemeni city despite truce, 10 killed

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:00:18 PMGo to full article
ADEN, Yemen: At least 10 people were killed in heavy clashes in Yemen on Friday despite a five-day humanitarian truce, while aid distribution to the millions deprived of food, fuel and medicine by weeks of fighting and air strikes continued.

Saudi Arabia, leading a coalition of Arab states backed by the West, has pounded Iranian-allied Houthi forces and fighters loyal to Yemen's former leader since March 26, aiming to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Fighters of the Popular Resistance Committees man a checkpoint in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz May 14, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

The ceasefire, which began on Tuesday, appeared to be mostly holding on Friday despite heavy ground fighting between local militiamen and the Houthis in the city of Taiz, residents said. A medical source said 10 were killed.

In the city of Dhalea residents also reported clashes on Friday but there was no information on casualties.

"Nothing has changed with this truce. People are still fighting and the Houthis are still in control," said Alawi al-Afouri, a resident in the southern city of Aden.

"The legitimate Yemeni government is scattered abroad and has no authority inside."

Officials from Hadi's government in exile live mostly in Riyadh and have little influence on the ground in Yemen.

Meanwhile, tribal sources said on Friday Houthi fighters have withdrawn from the border area between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Impoverished and strife-torn even before the war, Yemen is now mired in a humanitarian catastrophe, as 300,000 people have been displaced by the conflict and 12 million are short of food.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen on Friday urged the Saudi-led coalition to ease inspections of Yemen-bound cargo to allow vital commercial and humanitarian goods into the country.

Aid flights have started from the United Arab Emirates to the capital Sanaa, which is under Houthi control and has faced air strikes but no ground fighting. The United Nations said aid ships had docked at ports of Hodeida and Aden.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was increasing shipments of medical supplies to Yemen during the humanitarian pause.

"More than 20 tonnes of medicines and medical supplies have been flown from WHO’s humanitarian hub in Dubai to Djibouti, where they will be loaded on a UN vessel departing for Hodeida today," it said in a statement on Friday.

A shipping source in Yemen said that seven ships with fuel, wheat and food supplies had docked in Hodeida and in al-Mukalla on Friday.

In the capital Sanaa, petrol stations have started working again and long queues of vehicles have been waiting since Thursday night, residents say.

The Houthi-run Saba news agency said new fuel shipments have reached Yemen and were being distributed across the country.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Cairo and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden, Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Dominic Evans)

- Reuters


Gerrard is pure Liverpool - Rodgers

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:00:14 PMGo to full article
LONDON: Brendan Rodgers had just one word to describe his captain Steven Gerrard ahead of what promises to be an emotional Anfield farewell - 'Liverpool'.

Gerrard will wave goodbye to the Liverpool fans in his final home match against Crystal Palace on Saturday after 17 years sterling service, packed with career-defining moments of individual heroism.

With the midfielder quitting the club at the end of the season for a swansong in Major League Soccer, Rodgers assessed the impact of a player, whose loyalty was tested on a number of occasions, but always stayed faithful to his boyhood club.

"I've asked a number of people and I've asked a lot of my staff if they could describe Steven in one word, what would it be," Rodgers told reporters on Friday.

"(I heard) all the words you will have heard before - words that come to mind in terms of being genuine, quality and world class. All the adjectives you would describe him with.

"But for me, the word I would describe him with is 'Liverpool'. Not just Liverpool as a football club or Liverpool and the supporters, but Liverpool the city...

"What he has given to this city, politicians haven't given to this city. Local hospitals, the charities, all the work he does, it's unheralded.

"He is a wonderful symbol for the people here and an incredible, incredible icon of the club."

Gerrard's status as one of the club's most iconic talents is safely assured after a career that will be remembered for his ability to bring his best game to the biggest stages, frequently hauling Liverpool over the line with acts of sheer willpower.

His performance in the 2005 Champions League final when he led Liverpool's fightback from 3-0 down against AC Milan to claim the trophy will go down as one of the greatest individual performances in the club's history.

With the current Liverpool squad perhaps lacking players of the highest stature, Rodgers acknowledged that his presence will be sorely missed.

"I will miss Steven Gerrard as a man. I think both our interests are purely devoted to Liverpool Football Club," he said.

While Gerrard's Anfield playing days are almost certainly over, Rodgers did not completely rule out a return on loan, with the MLS season ending in December and the 2016 campaign not starting until March.

“Steven has always made it clear in our talks that he would look to help the club in any capacity he can," Rodgers said.

“If we feel that could be from a playing perspective it's something we will look at another time."

(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ed Osmond)

- Reuters


30-year-old woman in Punggol bus accident dies

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:53:48 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: A 30-year-old woman who was knocked down by a bus in Punggol on Friday morning (May 15) has died from her injuries. The accident happened at about 6.45am along Punggol Place.

When Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers arrived at the scene, the woman had to be pulled out from under the bus.

Footage of the Punggol bus accident which killed a 30-year-old woman was taken by an eye-witness on Friday (May 15). Screengrab: Youtube/Marcus Mah

She was unconscious and was brought to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries and died.

A 30-year-old bus driver was arrested and investigations are still on-going, police said in a statement.

Read the original TODAY report here.

- TODAY/dl


SLA, Jurong Country Club meet to discuss issues from land acquisition

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:45:30 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) met with the the General Committee of Jurong Country Club on Friday evening (May 15) to facilitate the transition and mitigate difficulties arising from the acquisition of the club.

Jurong Country Club will have to hand over the land on which it sits on by November next year, to make way for the development of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail terminus.

Part of the golf course that overlooks the Jurong Country Club. The Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority told TODAY that the November 2016 acquisition date was set because the high-speed rail is a ‘major and complex’ project. (Photo: TODAY/Jaslin Goh)

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, SLA said: "We will continue to work closely with the management of JCC to assist the club throughout the acquisition process."

It is understood that one of the issues to be settled is the valuation of the 67-hectare piece of land. The outcome of this would be one factor in determining compensation for members, shareholders and Club staff.

SLA said JCC members can liaise with the club’s management for queries pertaining to the acquisition.

The High Speed Rail aims to cut down travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 90 minutes.

The target for completion which was initially 2020, has been pushed back due to the complexity and scale of the project. Leaders from both Singapore and Malaysia will decide on a new timeframe for when the trains will start running, at the end of the year.

- CNA/kk


South Korea spy agency under scrutiny after reporting Pyongyang execution

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:40:21 PMGo to full article
SEOUL: The South Korean spy agency's assertion that North Korea purged its defence chief and executed him with anti-aircraft fire is one of its boldest claims ever, and, given the agency's chequered history, has come under growing scrutiny.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) has a daunting major task - to look into arch-enemy North Korea, one of the world's most insular and hostile nations, and find out what's happening in its corridors of power.

The agency correctly revealed in 2013 that Jang Song Thaek, ruler Kim Jong Un's uncle and the second most powerful man in North Korea, had been purged. Among its misses, it failed to learn of the death in 2011 of leader Kim Jong Il, the current ruler's father.

The scepticism over the latest assertion stems from the NIS' evident certainty that Hyon Yong Chol was ousted as defence chief, although it will not publicly disclose its evidence, while it has said it is less certain he has been executed.

The NIS says it has intelligence of the execution but notes there has been no confirming statement from Pyongyang, and archival footage that includes Hyon continues to appear on state TV. However, the same reasoning appears to undermine its confidence of Hyon's purge, as people removed from office in Pyongyang also tend to drop out of state media, although not necessarily immediately.

Hyon, typically active in public events alongside Kim, has been absent from any mention in North Korea's official media since April 29, around the time the NIS says he was executed.

"I think they were too early to come out (with the news). NIS is playing a big, risky gamble," said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea watcher at the Sejong Institute and a critic of the NIS's handling of its information on Hyon.

"If it turns out NIS was wrong, it would be a huge embarrassment and put a dent in their ability to collect information," he said.

The secretive NIS took the rare step this week of sharing 11 pages of documents with a group of journalists to back up its assertions, although it does not reveal its sources.

"In regard to the execution, they had reliable evidence," said Kim Kwang-jin, an opposition lawmaker briefed by the NIS on Wednesday.

"Although they were not video or photos, the NIS was confident. But as public sentiment has worsened, it appears they are being less bold," he said.


North Korea, heavily sanctioned by the United Nations for its missile and nuclear tests and technically still at war with the South, is perhaps the world's most reclusive state, forcing South Korea's spies to rely on human sources.

Occasional midnight radio broadcasts of recorded strings of numbers originating in South Korea and heard across the border, a tactic that dates to the Cold War, are a signal that Seoul has agents in the North.

North Korea recently arrested two South Koreans it said confessed to spying on behalf of the NIS from the Chinese border city of Dandong. The NIS denied that they were spies.

The credibility of South Korea's intelligence organs has at times been undermined by political scandals and a history of unsavoury acts. A former head of the NIS was sentenced in February to three years in jail for meddling in the 2012 presidential election and trying to help Park Geun-hye win the vote.

The agency launched a special panel in 2004 to address its predecessors' histories of mysterious deaths and disappearances under past governments, and to open old files. It investigated the abduction of dissident and future president Kim Dae-jung by its predecessor, the KCIA, or Korean CIA.

But several observers say the agency would have little to gain from going public with such a bold assertion as Hyon's execution if it wasn't reasonably confident.

"Given my experience, when the agency calls the parliament first and gives a briefing on a North Korea issue, the intelligence must have been crossed-checked multiple times with every possible method, such as human intelligence and technical intelligence," said Jun Ok-hyun, who retired from the NIS in 2009 and was consul general in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2012.

"But due to the nature of North Korea as a closed state and little accessibility to public information, South Korean intelligence officials are inevitably left to deal with controversies after public disclosure of intelligence," he said.

(Additional reporting by James Pearson in Seoul; Editing by Tony Munroe and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

- Reuters


Futures rise as dollar weakens; data eyed

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:40:15 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: U.S. stock index futures rose on Friday, a day after a weakening dollar pushed the S&P 500 to a record-high, as investors awaited manufacturing and consumer sentiment data.

* On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 1.08 percent to end at 2,121.1, exceeding its previous all-time closing high of 2,117.69 on April 24, while the Nasdaq Composite had its strongest day since January.

* The dollar also slipped to its lowest in four months against a basket of currencies of major U.S. trading partners, offering good news for companies that have large foreign sales.

* European markets were higher on Friday as bond yields eased after government bond purchases by the European Central Bank.

* Federal Reserve data is expected to show that U.S. manufacturing output gained modestly last month. The data will be released at 9:15 a.m. ET.

* The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index, expected at 10 a.m. ET, is expected to show U.S. consumers were slightly more upbeat in the early part of May.

* Investors have been keeping a close eye on economic data for signs of improvement in the U.S. economy in the second-quarter after growth slowed to a crawl in the previous quarter.

* El Pollo Loco Holdings shares slumped 12.2 percent to US$25.50 in premarket trading after the restaurant chain operator forecast a full-year profit largely below estimates.

* King Digital Entertainment fell 9.9 percent to US$13.5 as the "Candy Crush Saga" creator said it expects forex rates and a lack of new releases to hurt bookings.

* Netflix rose 1.7 percent to US$597 after Bloomberg reported that it was in talks with a company backed by Alibaba's Jack Ma to enter China.

* Avon Products inched up 1 percent to US$7, a day after soaring as much as 20 percent on an apparently bogus takeover offer. Avon said it had received no such offer.

* Keurig Green Mountain fell 5.4 percent to US$97.50 after Bloomberg reported that the K-cup coffee pod maker would not make available its new cold brewing system in all it is retail outlets until next year.

Futures snapshot at 7:08 a.m. ET:

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.25 points, or 0.11 percent, with 102,003 contracts traded.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 11.75 points, or 0.26 percent, on volume of 15,166 contracts.

* Dow e-minis were up 19 points, or 0.1 percent, with 18,058 contracts changing hands.

(Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

- Reuters


Actors Bae Yong-joon, Park Soo-jin to tie the knot

‎15 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:36:01 PMGo to full article
SEOUL: South Korean actor Bae Yong-joon will marry actress Park Soo-jin later this year, his management agency KeyEast Entertainment announced Thursday (May 14).

The 42-year-old started dating Park, who is 13 years his junior, in February this year, said KeyEast. He found her bright personality attractive and felt that they have many things in common, so they decided to tie the knot.

Actor Bae Yong-joon and his wife-to-be, actress Park Soo-jin. (Photo: KeyEast Entertainment)

Bae's management agency said the wedding will take place in fall but the exact date and venue for their wedding has yet to be decided.

Bae is best known for his role in the hit 2002 Korean drama Winter Sonata. He then gradually moved on to behind-the-scenes work, and helped groom stars such as singer Kim Hyun-joong.

- CNA/ha




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