Covering The Multicultural Asian American Community in Georgia
www.gasiantimes.com August 15-31, 2012 Vol 9. No 15
Closing Ceremony London 2012 Olympics
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012
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GAT Calendar of Events (For latest & updated events, visit www.gasiantimes.com)
GAT welcome submission of announcement pertaining to community related events. Please email event, date, venue, and time to email@example.com. GAT does not guarantee insertion of event announcement and has the right to deny any posting.
The Home Depot Pan -Asian ARG Networking Event Diversity and Inclusion: Take It To The Next Level Guest Speaker: Jennifer Ngo Waldrop Date: Tuesday, August 21 Time: 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm Venue: The Home Depot Store Support Center RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org Hong Kong Dragon Boat - Atlanta Date: Saturday Sept 8, 2012 Time: 7:00 am Venue: Clarks Bridge Olympic Rowing Facility Lake Lanier For more info: dragonboatatlanta.com JapanFest Date: Sept 15-16, 2012 Time: 10 am -6 pm; 10 am - 5 pm Venue: Gwinnett Center For more info: www.japanfest.org
â€œIwami Kaguraâ€? - Dynamic and theatrical ancient Japanese dance performance Presented by Consulate General of Japan Atlanta Date: Saturday Sept 15 & Sunday Sept 16 Time: 7:00 pm Sat ; 2:00 pm Sun Venue: 14th Street Playhouse (Saturday) & Center for Puppetry Arts (Sunday) RSVP required. For more info: 404-926-3020
Vietnamese American Community of Georgia - Mid Autumn Festival Date: Saturday Sept 29, 2012 Time: 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm Venue: Hong Kong Supermarket For more info: Trish Nguyen, 678.820.8822
8th Atlanta Asian Film Festival Date: Oct 5-20, 2012 Venues: Emory University, GPC-Dunwoody, GSU-Cinefest For more info: www.atlaff.org
August 15-31, 2012 Georgia Asian Times
METRO ASIAN NEWS Renowned Classical Japanese Dance To Perform in Atlanta Atlanta, August 8, 2012 — The Consulate General of Japan Atlanta will showcase two free performance of Iawami Kagura, a dynamic form of ancient Japanese dance renowned for its colorful costumes, special effects, pulsating drum rhythms, and melodic flute. The performance is a display of appreciation for the support given by people of Atlanta to the people of Tohoku region during the earthquake and tsunami disaster last year, according to release statement by Consulate General of Japan Atlanta. Iwami Kagura was originally performed by Shinto priests at the yearly autumn festival as a sign of gratitude to the Shinto gods for their help in producing a bountiful harvest. After the Meiji Era (1868-1912), this tradition was handed down from the Shinto priests to the common people, and developed as a traditional folk art performance, known as Kagura. Various types of Kagura have been
transmitted throughout Japan, but Iwami Kagura, named for the region in Shimane Prefecture where it originated, remains the most wellknown. Iwami Kagura is now widely performed in the region, throughout Japan, and abroad. This performance will be the first time this art form has been showcased in Atlanta. This tour of Iwami Kagura consists of a group of thirteen performers and musicians from the Iwami Kagura Shinwa-Kai in Masuda City, Shimane Prefecture. Formed in 1975, the Shinwa-kai holds many performances throughout the year and is well respected for its mastery of this ancient, culturally unique art. The first performance will be Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm at the 14th Street Playhouse (173 14th Street NE, Atlanta, GA). Seating is first-come first-served. The second performance, which will be followed
by a workshop, will be on Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm at the Center for Puppetry Arts (1404 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA). RSVP is required and can be made by registering at www.puppet.org/kagura.
Puppetry Arts. Further details can be found at the Consulate General of Japan’s website at www.atlanta. us.emb-japan.go.jp/kagura.html or by contacting the Consulate at 404-2404300 or email@example.com.
This tour of “Iwami Kagura” is sponsored by the Japan Foundation and the Consulate General of Japan and supported by the Center for
Advancing Justice and 70+ Asian American and Pacific Islander Groups File Brief at U.S. Supreme Court in Support of Race Conscious Admissions in Higher Education Washington, August 13, 2012 – The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (“Advancing Justice”)—the Asian American Institute (“AAI”) in Chicago, the Asian American Justice Center (“AAJC”) in Washington, the Asian Law Caucus (“ALC”) in San Francisco, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (“APALC”) in Los Angeles—and over 70 Asian American and Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) organizations, will file an amicus curiae brief later today with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of race-conscious admissions in higher education. The organizations have long histories of representing the interests of a wide swath of AAPI communities
on a diverse range of issues. In October, the Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin to determine whether the University of Texas-Austin’s use of race as one of many factors in its consideration of 25 percent of its total admissions pool is constitutional. “Allowing colleges to consider racial diversity as one of many factors in a small number of admissions will promote equal opportunity and ensure that qualified but socioeconomically disadvantaged students of color, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, have access to higher education and are not left behind,” said Stewart Kwoh, executive director at
APALC. “Flagship universities like UT Austin have a mission and obligation to train the leaders of tomorrow and promote and provide a diverse learning environment.” Equal opportunity in higher education was also before the Court in 2003. Ruling in two University of Michigan cases (Gratz v. Bollinger & Grutter v. Bollinger), the Court upheld as constitutional universities’ consideration of race as one of many factors in order to achieve educational benefits only gained through a racially and socioeconomically diverse student body. “We stand by the promise of integrated and equal public education set
out in Brown v. Board of Education,” said Hyeon-Ju Ro, executive director at ALC. “Race-conscious programs have desegregated our colleges and universities and are still needed to address racial inequalities in our education system today. We must combat the model minority stereotype and better understand the diversity of the Asian American community and the racial discrimination our communities suffer. We must not pit Asian Americans against other communities of color.” Advancing Justice’s brief places the experience of Asian Americans and race-conscious admissions programs in context, describing how the programs have opened up higher education for
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012
AAPIs and other minorities and how AAPIs have benefited from race-conscious programs in employment, business, and government contracting. “Voting and polling trends consistently show that a majority of Asian Americans support race-conscious admissions programs,” said Mee Moua, executive director of AAJC. “Asian American voters in California, Michigan, Washington, and other states have opposed referenda to eliminate race-conscious programs, and national opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Asian Americans support race-conscious programs. The breadth of our coalition is proof of just how much Asian Americans recognize that policies that promote diversity and equal opportunity strengthen our society and benefit us all.” Advancing Justice supports UT Austin’s admissions program and disputes that the program harms Asian Americans. The amicus brief demonstrates how all students, including Asian Americans, benefit from raceconscious admissions programs that increase campus diversity, promote cross-racial interaction and cultural understanding, and prepare all students to be effective leaders in our multi-cultural society. The brief also
challenges the overemphasis on test scores in admissions in light of studies and data showing that test scores are an inaccurate and incomplete measure of merit and achievement, and that Asian American admissions rates do not suffer when other factors are taken into account. “We believe that Asian Americans should not be used as a wedge group to curtail opportunities for racial minorities,” said Tuyet Le, executive director of AAI. “Asian Americans and other communities of color have struggled together against racial discrimination and have fought for greater civil rights, protections, justice, and equality in this country.” The over 70 groups who joined Advancing Justice’s brief include national organizations, local community based groups, advocacy organizations, bar associations, business associations, academic institutions, and student organizations. These organizations reflect the broad diversity of the AAPI community, including Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander American organizations.
Comcast Launches Year Two Digital Internet Literacy Partnership with CPACS Doraville, August 15, 2012 -- Comcast and the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) will kick off year two of the Internet Essentials Program in Atlanta by announcing a partnership to improve digital literacy through increasing broadband access and providing training sessions to families and students. As part of the launch event, Comcast will donate a total of $50,000 to CPACS to help close the digital divide in the Pan Asian community. Comcast Foundation will present CPACS with a $25,000 investment grant to fund upgrades to the organi-
zation’s computer lab, and a second $25,000 grant will be used to fund the Digital Connectors program for the 2012-13 school year. Digital Connectors is an educational program designed to teach underserved youth skills in digital literacy, computer programming and refurbishment. Available to 111,111 low-income families who receive a free or reduced lunch under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in 28 metro Atlanta area school districts, the goal of Internet Essentials is to help close the digital divide and ensure more Ameri-
cans benefit from all the Internet has to offer. The program expanded this past year to include eligibility for children on the reduced lunch program thereby offering the program to thousands more students in 28 metro-Atlanta area school districts.
Atlanta has experienced the second-highest achieved enrollment with 5,500 students benefitting the Internet Essentials program. Atlanta’s enrollment is second only to Chicago since the program’s launch in August 2011.
August 15-31, 2012 Georgia Asian Times
BUSINESS Google plans 4,000 layoffs at Motorola
NEW YORK, Aug 13, 2012 (AFP) Internet giant Google on Monday said it plans to lay off about 4,000 employees at cellphone maker Motorola Mobility, as it seeks to focus on sales of its Android devices. About two-thirds of the layoffs will come from outside the United States, and some 30 of Motorola Mobility’s 90 global facilities will be shut, Google said. The aim of the cuts is to simplify the Motorola line of mobile phones “from feature phones to more innovative and profitable devices.” “These changes are designed to return Motorola’s mobile devices unit to profitability, after it lost money in 14 of the last 16 quarters,” Google said in a statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm is likely to take a charge on severance payments of up to $275 million, mostly accounted for in the third quarter. However Google warned investors not to expect a firm rebound to profits for several quarters. Google bought the Mobility unit for $12.5 billion in May, eyeing both its mobile phone line, which uses Google’s Android platform, and some 17,000 valuable patents. About one-fifth of Motorola Mobility’s 20,000 workers face getting pink slips. The cuts will hit operations in Asia and India, focusing research and development on the existing units in Chicago, Sunnyvale and Beijing, the New York Times reported. “While we expect this strategy to create new opportunities and help return Motorola’s mobile devices unit to profitability, we understand how hard these changes will be for the employees concerned,” said a company spokesperson.
“Motorola is committed to helping them through this difficult transition and will be providing generous severance packages, as well as outplacement services to help people find new jobs,” the spokesperson said. Motorola Mobility was created in 2011 when US-based Motorola Inc split the company into a mobile devices unit and a government and public safety division known as Motorola Solutions. Google said it will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business unit that will be a licensee of Android. Sales of Android-based smartphones handily beat out Apple’s hit iPhone in the first quarter of the year, and Android phones have been selling strongly in international markets as well. But in the tablet market, Apple’s iPad continues to dominate over rivals including Android models. Google sought control of Motorola’s phone line and its patents in the May takeover to boost its competitiveness against Apple in the booming smartphone and tablet market. Motorola Mobility “is a company which was never able to make money but its integration into Google will simplify its structure,” said Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert New York. In taking over Motorola Mobility, Google had to assuage regulators in the United States, China and Europe amid concerns it would not maintain Android as an open operating system, locking out other equipment makers from using it. Conditions from China’s Ministry of Commerce included Google keeping its Android software for smartphones and tablet computers free and open for at least five years.
US auto bailout cost keeps rising WASHINGTON, Aug 13, 2012 (AFP) - The US Treasury raised its estimate of the net cost to US taxpayers of rescuing the country’s auto industry by $3.3 billion, as the weak economy restrains the industry’s rebound. The Treasury told Congress in a new report seen on its website Monday that the cost of the government’s massive bailout of Detroit in the economic crisis of 2007-2008 would hit $25 billion, based on figures to May 31. That compared a forecast loss of $21.7 billion based on figures to February 29, according to Treasury data. The US government rescued General Motors and Chrysler at the height of the financial crisis, pouring $80 billion into the two. Both have since graduated from the program, and are making solid profits on reasonably strong auto sales.
But the Treasury continues to prop up GM’s former financing arm, now dubbed Ally Financial, which lost $898 million in the second quarter mainly due to the bankruptcy of its home mortgage arm, forced by its huge book of defaulted home loans. A year ago, when hopes were that the economy was solidly recovering and the housing market might turn around, the Treasury was projecting losses on the industry bailout of just $14.3 billion. Treasury spokesman Matt Anderson defended the bailout as having had a broader impact on reviving the overall economy. “The auto industry rescue helped save more than one million jobs throughout our nation’s industrial heartland and is expected to cost far less than many had feared during the height of the crisis,” he said.
Georgia Asian Times
August 15-31, 2012
Manchester United shares flat after cut-price IPO NEW YORK, Aug 10, 2012 (AFP) - Manchester United shares barely treaded water in debut trade in New York Friday even after underwriters slashed the IPO price amid doubts about the legendary British football club’s financial promise. Midway through trade the team’s shares were changing hands at $14.00, the price set on Thursday for subscribers to the club’s $234 million initial public offering. Analysts said underwriters were propping up the shares on the New York Stock Exchange to keep them from dropping below the issue price. Underwriters had already cut the offering from the expected $16-20 range, significantly reducing the $300 million sum the debt-ridden club had originally hoped to bring in. The launch ran into doubts from investors and analysts over whether Manchester United could match its fabulous record on the football pitch with a similar profit for share buyers. Investors have also become wary about aggressively priced IPOs since the much-promoted Facebook launch soured, with the social networking giant’s shares slumping by nearly half since its May 18 listing. Manchester United has been mired in debt since 2005 after a heavily leveraged takeover by the Miami-based Glazer family, whose management since has endured heavy criticism from the team’s tens of millions of fans. The IPO was originally planned for Hong Kong or Singapore, where the team apparently hoped the presence of millions of Asian supporters would help it raise enough to retire the current debt load of 423 million pounds ($660 million). But regulators in the Asian finan-
cial hubs reportedly looked askance at the company’s two-tier share structure, with a small number of “A” shares to be sold to the public while the Glazers retained full control of the much larger number of “B” shares, each of which has 10 times the voting rights of “A” shares. That structure was not a problem with US regulators, but led to doubts from investment analysts. In addition, only half of the receipts from the 16.7 million shares offered in the IPO were to go toward debt reduction, while the other half would go straight to the owners, who put up 8.33 million of their share into the offer. “The question to ask is whether Manchester United is really the next Facebook Inc. IPO,” said analyst Jon Ogg of 24/7 Wall St. “It has 600 million fans, it is under tight control by the Glazer family and it is full of hype,” he said. “Perhaps the discounted price will keep some interest in the shares, but this dual class listing in New York is not allowed in London, where Manchester United should be based for its home market trading. “Man-U would easily fit on our list of companies where shareholders have no power -- at all,” Ogg added. But Manchester United chief executive David Gill, told CNBC television he was optimistic about the club’s future, with big opportunities to earn income through marketing partnerships with other firms. “We have a sensible business plan going forward. What we are doing today is for the long term plan of the club,” he said.
positive thing and people have bought into it,” he said.
“What we can show... is we are very much a growth story, and in the current climate we all face, it’s a very
Gill said the management is “very comfortable” with its debt level, “particularly given the growth of opportunities,” for the club.
Bangladesh minister accuses Muhammad Yunus DHAKA, Aug 12, 2012 (AFP) Bangladesh Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith on Sunday accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner and micro finance pioneer Muhammad Yunus of waging a “harmful campaign” against the country. The comments came a week after the United States expressed deep concern about Dhaka’s expanding role in Grameen Bank, the micro-lender founded by Yunus. The 72-year-old “banker to the poor” -- a leading anti-poverty activist with many powerful foreign supporters -- was forced from the bank last year over what his supporters say is a government vendetta against him. Earlier this month, Bangladesh’s cabinet led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered a new probe into Yunus to check for irregularities during his time as head of the micro-credit giant. The cabinet also approved a plan to amend Grameen Bank laws, which would give the government-appointed chairman of the bank’s board control over the selection of a new managing director. Muhith denied allegations by Yunus -- who won the Nobel prize in 2006 -- and the main opposition party that the move to empower the chairman
would jeopardize the lender’s independence. “He has been saying that the government wants to wrest control of Grameen Bank. I have been saying from the first day that the government does not want to take over Grameen Bank and it has not done that as of now,” he said. “Mr Yunus is carrying out an unnecessary campaign. It’s harmful for the country.” Yunus, who fell out with Hasina after talking about going into politics, was officially fired for exceeding the mandatory retirement age of 60. He challenged the move in the Supreme Court, but lost. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, heaped praise on Yunus during a visit to Dhaka in May and urged Hasina’s government to maintain “an environment where civil society groups operate freely”. The US last week criticized the government’s move, saying it would “diminish the role the largely female borrower-shareholders play in shaping the direction of” Grameen.
August 15-31, 2012 Georgia Asian Times
Archaeologists cover up Afghan heritage
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan, Aug 12, 2012 (AFP) - “It’s there,” says an archaeologist pointing to the ground, where fragments of a Buddha statue from the ancient Gandhara civilization have been covered up to stop them being stolen or vandalized. Just months before the US-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban regime shocked the world by destroying two giant, 1,500-yearold Buddhas in the rocky Bamiyan valley, branding them un-Islamic. More than 10 years on Western experts say Afghanistan’s ancient Buddhist and early Islamic heritage is little safer. At the foot of the cliff where the two Buddhas used to stand 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Kabul, an archaeological site has been found and parts of a third Buddha, lying down, were discovered in 2008. The area of the lying Buddha is around half the size of a football pitch. A dozen statues or more lie under tons of stone and earth. “We covered everything up because the ground is private and to prevent looting,” says Zemaryalai Tarzi, the 75-year-old French archaeologist born in Afghanistan who is leading the project. Tarzi says he dug first in the potato fields to find artifacts, which he buried again afterwards. All around him, under a large area of farmland, he says, lie exceptional treasures. In the West, the presence of such riches would lead to a large-scale excavation, frantic research and in time, glorious museum exhibitions. In Afghanistan, ground down by poverty and three decades of war, it is the opposite.
“The safest place is to leave heritage underground,” says Brendan Cassar, head of the UNESCO mission in Afghanistan, adding that policing the thousands of prehistoric, Buddhist and Islamic sites dotted around the country was impossible. Below ground, the relics are protected from endemic looting, illegal smuggling and the corrosive effects of freezing winters. “There is looting on a large or small scale at 99.9 percent of sites,” says Philippe Marquis, director of a French archaeological delegation in Afghanistan. Middlemen pay Afghans $4 to $5 a day to dig up artifacts, which are smuggled abroad and sold for tens of thousands of dollars in European and Asian capitals, he says.
Cassar believes the solution is educating locals about the value of their history and the need to implement the law, and a global campaign using Interpol and customs to stop smuggling. UNESCO added the rocky Bamiyan valley, with its old forts, temples and cave paintings, to its list of endangered heritage sites in 2003. But sites have been destroyed throughout the country. Hadda in the east was home to thousands of Greco-Buddhist sculptures dating from the 1st century BC to 1st century AD, but it was devastated in the 1990s civil war. Hundreds of pieces have disappeared or been destroyed.
Marquis says the old city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand -- whose 11th-century arch appears on the 100 afghani ($2) banknote -- was irreparably damaged by an influx of refugees. A Chinese copper mining company has been granted a concession over an area in Logar province, south of Kabul, that includes an ancient Buddhist monastery, and researchers fear the ruins will largely be destroyed. Archaeologists complain that culture is only a secondary consideration to development and security. “Cultural issues are never the priority. Security, yes, which eats up 40 percent of the Afghan state budget,” says Habiba Sorabi, the governor of Bamiyan province, where few public resources are allotted to archaeology. A meeting in Paris last year decided one of the two niches that housed Bamiyan’s giant Buddhas should be left empty as testimony to the destruction, while experts should look at partially reassembling the other statue on site. But local archaeologist Farid Haidary says “lots of money” was spent on restor-
ing the Buddhas before the Taliban destroyed them.
“What’s the point in building something if the Taliban, who are 20 kilometers away, destroy it afterwards?” he asks.
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012
Urban disasters spotlight strain on Asian cities
Bangkok, Aug 12, 2012 (AFP) - Deadly floods, power blackouts and traffic gridlock -- many of Asia’s biggest cities are buckling under the strain of rapid economic development, extreme weather and an exodus from the countryside. Poor strategic planning, paltry investment in infrastructure and a lack of political will have also left the region’s overcrowded metropolises highly vulnerable to the pressures of climate change, experts say. Over the past year Bangkok and Manila have been hit by the most devastating floods in decades, while India recently suffered the world’s worst-ever power blackout due to surging demand from industry, homes and offices. It is a situation that is increasingly out of step with growing affluence in Asia, where millions of people escape from poverty every year but face a return to third-world conditions when disaster strikes. Many Asian cities are “lagging behind in infrastructure provision, whether we talk about sewers, roads or electricity supplies,” said Professor Sun Sheng Han, an urban planning expert at Australia’s University of Melbourne. At the heart of the problem lies a lack of vision in a region where urban development policies reflect a mixture of “political goals and economic ambitions,” he said.
In the Thai capital Bangkok, years of aggressive groundwater extraction to meet the growing needs of its factories and 12 million inhabitants have taken a heavy toll. Yet despite warnings the city -- built on swampland and slowly sinking -- risks being below sea level in half a century from now, a building boom shows no sign of abating with apartment towers mushrooming around the city. Rapid urbanization that blocks natural waterways and neglected drainage systems are also seen as major factors behind the deadly floods that have battered the Philippine capital Manila this month. On the outskirts of Manila, vital forested areas have been destroyed to make way for housing developments catering to growing middle and upper classes. Within the city, squatters -- attracted by economic opportunities -- often build shanties on river banks, storm drains and canals, dumping garbage and impeding the flow of waterways. But perhaps nowhere are the challenges more stark than in India, where a two-day power blackout across half the country last month left more than 600 million people without supplies as high demand overwhelmed the grid. Yet even now, only 30 percent of India’s 1.2-billion population live in
cities, far lower than the 50.6 percent in China or the 70-80 percent in developed countries, according to a UN report released last year.
In neighboring Bangladesh, the capital Dhaka is facing the worst transport infrastructure problems in its history.
It forecasts India’s urban population will grow by 60 percent from its current level of 377 million, to 606 million, by 2030.
Soon after taking over in January 2009, the government promised to tackle the crisis with an array of ambitious rail, bus and road projects, but most are still in the design stage.
As air conditioners, microwave ovens, washing machines and other electrical items become increasingly popular with the country’s burgeoning middle class, the strains on the power sector are expected to increase.
“Dhaka already is a moribund city. It’s dying fast and I see no hope how we can save it,” said Shamsul Haq, the country’s top transport expert and a professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute research centre, India also needs 350-400 kilometers (around 250 miles) of new metros and subways a year and 19,000-25,000 kilometers of roads.
Traffic jams are by no means unique to Dhaka, however, and in many teeming cities the prospect of abandoning city life altogether is becoming increasingly appealing for some frustrated residents.
Mumbai -- with 20,000 inhabitants per square kilometer -- is one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
In Jakarta, ranked bottom of 23 cities in Frost & Sullivan’s 2011 global commuter satisfaction survey, experts predict that given its aging bus network and lack of train system, the capital will reach total gridlock by 2014.
Its packed suburban trains are estimated to carry seven million people every day, and each year more than 3,000 people are killed on the railway network, sometimes falling from open doors or hit while crossing the tracks. “The rush hour is the biggest issue. There are times it’s so crowded, it’s difficult to breathe,” said Sudhir Gadgil, 62, an office assistant in Mumbai’s southern business district, whose commute to work by train takes 1.5 hours.
“If it doesn’t change in the next five years, I’m moving to Bali for a more peaceful life,” said freelance writer Dian Agustino in one of the city’s shopping malls.
August 15-31, 2012 Georgia Asian Times
Rooftop farms flourish in space-starved Hong Kong
Hong Kong, Aug 14, 2012 (AFP) - On the rooftop of a tower block above the hustle and bustle of teeming Hong Kong, dedicated growers tend to their organic crops in a vegetable garden. Against a backdrop of skyscrapers and jungle-clad hills, earth-filled boxes are spread out on the roof of the 14-story building, where a wide variety of produce including cucumbers and potatoes are cultivated. It is one of several such sites that have sprung up in Hong Kong’s concrete jungle, as the appetite for organic produce grows and people seek ways to escape one of the most densely populated places on earth. “I am happier eating what I grow rather than food I buy from supermarkets,” said Melanie Lam, a 28-year-old nurse, who comes to the “City Farm” in the Quarry Bay district of Hong Kong’s main island about twice a week. “Compared to vegetables from the supermarket, vegetables that I plant are sweeter and fresher. It gives me a greater sense of satisfaction.” With most of the southern Chinese territory’s seven million people living in tower blocks and land prices skyhigh, unused roofs are some of the few places in the most heavily populated areas for budding vegetable gardeners.
The money-obsessed city has been late to latch on to rooftop farming, which has been popular in cities such as London and New York for years. While there are no official figures for the number of sites, as no license is needed to set one up, anecdotal evidence suggests their popularity is growing. “I think urban farming is becoming more popular... we have grown bigger in a short time,” sad Osbert Lam, the founder of “City Farm”, which has about 100 regular gardeners two years after opening. There are 400 growing boxes on the 10,000-square-foot (930-squaremeter) rooftop available to rent for between HK$150-200 ($20-25) a month each. “People who come to the farm are so happy -- It’s like a tranquiliser, it’s a way out,” added Lam.
‘One pot at a time’ In To Kwa Wan in the east of the Kowloon peninsula, one of the founders of another rooftop farm says the project has given a boost to the neglected neighborhood, which has poor
transport links and a predominantly elderly population. Chu Pui-Kwan and two friends came up with the idea of setting up a vegetable garden on the unused rooftop of a 12-story building. Using old planks and other materials salvaged from construction sites, they assembled growing boxes, and then decided to get the local community involved before the farm opened in November. “We invited the older people from around this area to come up, we gave them paints and had them paint the different boxes,” she said. “They had so much fun.”
It is running classes once a week on Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong’s main island, where participants have stunning views over the city. “The whole idea is to get into each individual home a little bit of green... rooftops, windows, even one pot at a time,” said Chu. Official figures suggest organic food is becoming increasingly popular in Hong Kong, with the number of farms taking part in a government-run scheme to encourage organic agriculture rising to 193 in June this year, from 123 in 2008.
Now the brightly decorated boxes are filled with a huge variety of vegetables and herbs, including spinach, peas, lemongrass, mint and rosemary, providing a splash of color to the drab neighborhood.
But despite the hobby’s growing popularity, there is little sign of Hong Kong’s rooftop farmers producing enough crops to sell for profit, unlike their counterparts in cities where space is not so scarce and the idea took root earlier.
The site has regular open days and runs classes to teach people about urban farming.
Just three percent of vegetables consumed in Hong Kong are grown locally, according to government figures.
Chu is also involved in Time To Grow, a company which aims to improve access to locally produced food.
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012
Judge asks Samsung-Apple chiefs to resolve patent spat SAN JOSE, California, Aug 15, 2012 (AFP) - A US judge on Wednesday urged the chiefs of Apple and Samsung to negotiate a truce in their high-profile patent trial here, saying it was “time for peace.”
Kwon took the helm at the world’s largest technology firm in June after his predecessor Choi Gee-Sung was appointed to head the strategy office for the Samsung group, of which the electronics firm is the flagship.
US District Court Judge Lucy Koh asked the heads of Apple and Samsung to speak on the phone in order to reach a legal settlement before the matter is put in the hands of jurors, probably late next week.
Apple and Samsung each accuse the other of infringing on patented technology in smartphones or tablets and are fighting patent battles in more than half a dozen countries.
“I see risk here for both sides; I think it’s at least worth one more chance,” Koh said while asking that Apple chief Tim Cook and Samsung boss Kwon Oh-Hyun personally connect to end the dispute. “If what you all had wanted is to raise awareness that you have IP (intellectual property) on these devices, message delivered,” she continued. “In many ways, it’s message delivered. It’s time for peace.” Two days of court-directed peace talks in May between Cook and thenSamsung chief Choi Gee-Sung were fruitless, clearing the way for the highstakes trial that started on July 30 in Silicon Valley.
“If you have wanted some valuation on the IP...I think you have all gotten it from courts worldwide,” Koh told Apple and Samsung, which agreed to have their respective chiefs speak on the phone. Samsung this week has been calling witnesses in a counterattack on Apple, which rested its side of the case on Friday. Apple accuses Samsung of unabashedly copying features from iPads and iPhones for competing gadgets powered by Google-backed Android software and is seeking more than $2.5 billion in damages. Samsung adamantly denies any wrongdoing and is intent on showing that it is Apple who has infringed on its patents.
Obama outpacing Republicans in Internet race WASHINGTON, Aug 15, 2012 (AFP) - US President Barack Obama’s campaign team is proving again in 2012 to be more conscious than rival Republicans are of the power of the Internet, particularly Twitter, a study released Wednesday said.
But perhaps more crucially, the Obama campaign is using digital means to target key groups such as Hispanics, women voters -- a problem area for Romney -- and young Americans, all of whom are vital to winning a US election.
With online communications set to be even more important than in 2008, when Obama raised the bar on targeting voters and donors via the Internet, the Pew Research Center said he is dominating the 2012 digital campaign stakes.
For example, visitors to Obama’s website are offered the chance to join 18 different groups, among them African-Americans, women, and Gay or Lesbian voters.
While Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney’s team averaged one tweet per day, Obama averaged 29 tweets -- 17 on @BarackObama (the Twitter account associated with his presidency) and 12 on @Obama2012 (the account associated with his campaign), during the research study period. “Obama holds a distinct advantage over Romney in the way his campaign is using digital technology to communicate directly with voters,” said a statement from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Obama also had about twice as many blog posts on his campaign website than did Romney and more than twice as many YouTube videos, researchers said.
If a visitor joins such a group, they then receive targeted content, the Pew report said, but the Romney campaign offered no such groups at the time the study was conducted. “It has since added feature pages for nine groups, although users can still only join the general ‘Team Romney’ rather than the particular voter group,” said the report. PEJ director Tom Rosenstiel said an effective online strategy in 2012 was likely to bear electoral fruit, though a conclusive gain is tough to pin down. “While more digital activity does not necessarily translate into more votes, historically candidates who are first to exploit changing technology have an advantage,” said Rosenstiel.
August 15-31, 2012 Georgia Asian Times
Entrepreneur invests in Hong Kong’s fragrant past Hong Kong, Aug 10, 2012 (AFP) – He may not be able to resuscitate Hong Kong’s long-dead incense trade but entrepreneur Chan Koon-wing is at least hoping to save the tree that gave the city its name centuries ago. Chan returned to the southern Chinese city from his adopted home in Northern Ireland four years ago to revive his late grandfather’s incensetree plantation in the northern village of Shing Ping, near the border with the mainland. “If I don’t start growing incense trees again, I fear we’ll lose the species because of exploitation by illegal loggers,” said Chan, standing on the edge of his vast and and faintly aromatic plantation. Southern China’s native incense trees once provided the raw material for joss sticks that were exported from Hong Kong — the city’s name means “fragrant harbour” — to ports as far afield as the Arabian peninsula. Local experts say Hong Kong’s
incense trade thrived for hundreds of years, especially in the Song Dynasty around the turn of the first millennium, and in the later Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). But as the island in the Pearl River Delta transformed itself into a powerhouse of business and finance in the 1980s, the trees that were once a pillar of the local economy were replaced by offices and apartment blocks. Chan’s grandfather’s farm is now the only plantation left in the city.
Known in China as chen xiang, the sap is prized in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for illnesses ranging from asthma to cancer.
Kong has a better record of protecting its incense trees than mainland China, where habitat destruction and illegal logging have taken a greater toll.
The highest quality resin can fetch more than HK$10,000, or $1,300, a gram (HK$285,000 or $36,500 an ounce), leading to the indiscriminate felling of wild trees by poachers.
“There has been an increase in the number of reports of damage on mature incense trees,” Hong Kong’s agriculture, fisheries and conservation department said in a statement.
“More expensive than gold”
The department has found the species in 86 out of 118 sites surveyed around Hong Kong since 2003, but there are no figures showing at what rate the trees’ numbers are declining.
Chan’s farm produces a local species called aquilaria sinensis, the native Chinese member of the family commonly known as agarwood which is found throughout Asia. Its most valuable incense and fragrant oils are produced by wounding the trunk and exposing the wood to fungal infection, which the tree fights by producing a dark resin. Burning wood steeped in this resin produces the aroma. Ancient Asian texts abound in references to the religious and cultural uses of agarwood, including the oldest Sanskrit literature of Hinduism dating back thousands of years.
Some of the surviving trees bear signs of wounding, where poachers have slashed the trunks to induce resin production.
“Some people said incense trees are more expensive than gold because of their medicinal properties,” Conservancy Association senior campaign manager Peter Li said. The species is listed alongside Great White sharks and American black bears under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning its trade should be restricted. Conservationists say that Hong
“Owing to the high price of ‘chen xiang’ in the market, illegal harvesting of incense trees was detected in southern China including Hong Kong,” the department said. Chan said he hoped more farmers would join him in reviving Hong Kong’s legal incense production. “I hope to see more people planting the incense trees so Hong Kong can restore its reputation as a fragrant harbor,” he said.
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012
South Koreans back footballer over banner SEOUL, Aug 12, 2012 (AFP) - South Koreans have overwhelmingly backed an Olympic footballer with the national side who was barred from a medals ceremony after he held up a banner claiming a disputed island chain. Park Jong-Woo celebrated his team’s 2-0 win on Friday over Japan -- which also claims the Seoul-controlled islands -- by holding a sign reading “Dokdo is our land”. After a request from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Park was not on the podium at Wembley Stadium as his team-mates collected their bronze medals. The IOC said it had opened an inquiry and had asked the Korean Olympic Committee for an explanation. The long-running territorial dispute flared up earlier Friday when South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak made a surprise visit to the islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan. A Korean Football Association official said Park took the sign from a fan in the crowd after the match, stressing that the incident was not pre-planned.
The South’s Internet users Sunday said he had nothing to apologize for. “What inquiry? IOC investigating into the matter itself is siding with Japan. That (inquiry) is political actions,” said a user identified as Jongsiki on major portal Daum.net. “We are saying it (Dokdo) is our territory simply because it is, and why are they making such a fuss about it? We have your back!” said another user named Hardy. “There’s nothing wrong with stating the fact that Dokdo is our territory,” said another post. Only a few criticized Park’s action. “Is it so hard to understand the (Olympic) rules not to mix sports and politics?” said a posting by cromeheart. The Korean Olympic Committee said it has also been asked by football’s world governing body FIFA to investigate the episode and report by August 16, according to Yonhap news agency.
Malaysian ace won’t rule out 2016 Games KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 7, 2012 (AFP) - Badminton star Lee Chong Wei said Tuesday he could make another tilt at Olympic glory in 2016 after Malaysia’s top gold-medal hope fell at the final hurdle for the second straight Games. Lee, who will be 33 by the time the Olympics are held in Rio de Janeiro, came within two points of securing Malaysia’s first ever gold medal on Sunday in London but lost in a gripping match to long-time nemesis Lin Dan. Lee had hinted before the contest that he might retire and badminton players rarely continue at the top in their 30s. But he was quoted saying right after the match he would play for “at least two more years” and told hundreds of fans on his arrival back home in Malaysia on Tuesday that 2016 was a possibility, the Malaysian Insider news portal said. “If there are no injuries, I will try for 2016,” it quoted Lee saying as he arrived to an early morning welcome by hundreds of fans, some of whom had waited for up to four hours at Kuala Lumpur’s airport.
Lee said he would first focus on the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar next year and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014, before making a final decision on the Olympics, the report said. Malaysia has won five Olympic medals but never gold, and Lee, for a long time the world number one, was again its greatest hope to finally bring that drought to a glorious end. Lee is Malaysia’s most successful Olympian with two silver medals, from the Beijing and London Olympics, and is the biggest sports star in a country where badminton is hugely popular. A visibly crushed Lee tweeted an apology to the nation over falling short for the second time, but Malaysians have responded with an outpouring of sympathy and praise for the 29-yearold.
August 15-31, 2012 Georgia Asian Times
SPORTS For US, it’s all one big Dream Team China comes to terms with second Beijing, Aug 13, 2012 (AFP) - Staterun newspapers on Monday hailed China’s “Olympic spirit” despite slipping back to second place in the medals table, but some web users claimed that anti-China bias cost the country top spot. Four years after cleaning up with 51 golds in Beijing, China’s tally dropped to 38 in London, leaving them in second overall behind the United States, who won 46 golds. China’s most widely circulated newspaper, the People’s Daily, led its front page with a letter of congratulation from the State Council, or cabinet, saying the medal tally “displayed the spirit of the Chinese people”.
positive, with users keen to praise their country’s performance with comments such as “Great job China!” and “38 gold medals isn’t too bad”. However, some Internet users claimed China was denied several medals because of bias from Olympic officials, with one asking, “Was this the Olympics with the most refereeing mistakes?”. Chinese gymnast Chen Yibing’s failure to win gold has proved particularly controversial and a Chinese news report alleging bias had over 700,000 views on the popular video-sharing site Youku by Monday afternoon.
The letter called on China’s athletes to “carry on improving their competitive level to build a great sporting power”.
Web users were also angered by what they saw as negative Western media coverage of Chinese athletes -- notably the unsubstantiated doping suspicions leveled at the 16-year-old Gold medalwinning swimmer Ye Shiwen.
But other newspapers sought to play down China’s sporting ambitions after Chef de mission Liu Peng said the result was “satisfactory” and praised athletes for showing the Olympic values of fair play and sporting behaviour.
The London Olympics were typified by a “constant stream of negative news, and serious doubts about biased judges,” according to the majority of voters in an online poll run by news portal iFeng.
“The majority of Chinese aren’t upset about the result... few Chinese really support the idea of winning gold medals at any price,” said the Global Times Daily in an editorial.
“The controversies during this Olympics were so disappointing, I hope the next one can be better administered,” one Sina Weibo user wrote.
The English-language China Daily also said in an editorial that the “journey is more important than the destination”, following concerns that some of China’s athletes had been pushed too hard in the pursuit of gold. On Sina Weibo -- China’s answer to Twitter -- the mood was also largely
For others, the focus had already shifted to the Rio Olympics in 2016. “China will perform better in the future. The more medals the better,” one Weibo user wrote.
NEW YORK, Aug 13, 2012 (AFP) Dream Team? Better make that several Dream Teams, because there was almost nothing keeping US athletes from medals at what one newspaper called an “astounding” London Olympics. From the pool to the wrestling mat to the soccer field and, in one of Sunday’s closing events, the basketball court: this Olympics was a true American moment at a time of grim economic news and political division. “Most medals. Most gold medals. The US left no doubt at the Olympics,” CBS Sports said Monday. Facing a tense presidential election campaign, mass joblessness, and two recent mass shootings, Americans are not holding back from celebrating. President Barack Obama has been quick to call and Tweet his congratulations to athletes and the women’s goldwinning gymnastics team has been invited to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
often underperforming Britain and the astonishing feats of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the American stars were unmatched for the sheer variety and consistency of their achievements. The NBA stars who squeezed past Spain on Sunday carried outsized reputations into London. But, unlike during the fiasco in Athens eight years ago, they showed they were patriotic, not prima donnas, when it came to a close game. “It means more than my name on my back. It means everything to the name on the front,” Miami Heat’s LeBron James said of performing in his USA kit. Michael Phelps, winning four more golds and becoming the most winning Olympian of all time, arguably rivals Bolt as a mega star. Gabby Douglas captured hearts across America as the first black American to win the all-around women’s gymnastics title.
“This really was an astounding Olympics for the Americans, 46 gold medals and 104 medals overall,” the New York Daily News said.
Perhaps most eye-catching to Americans has been the general success of their women’s squad, led by the gold medal soccer team.
That was ahead of rising superpower China and bitter rival Russia, followed by host nation Britain and the traditionally strong sporting nation of Germany.
In fact, the only collective group that was better than Team USA, was women’s Team USA.
“MIDAS TOUCH” screamed the New York Post’s main sports headline. Time magazine crunched the medals numbers, musing on how to weigh the relative value of gold, silver and bronze, then said simply: “In London, however, no math needed. The US won the Olympics, hands down.” And while there were other winners, notably a plucky performance by
“They dominated the US team in every way: More women than men made the American team, and they won far more gold medals than the American men,” USA Today noted. “The USA won 46 gold medals in the Games, more than any other nation. Women won 29 of them. Were US women their own nation, they would have finished ahead of every other country’s total gold medal count except China.”
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012
HEALTH Roche says gets US green light to sell diabetes eye drug ZURICH, Switzerland, Aug 13, 2012 (AFP) - Swiss pharma giant Roche said Monday it will sell in the United States a drug that treats a diabetes-related illness linked to blindness after getting the regulatory green light. The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision means that Roche can take Lucentis to the US to treat diabetic macular oedema (DME), a condition that causes swelling, blurred vision and blindness in people with diabetes. In a statement Roche called the development the “first major treatment advance in more than 25 years for (the) sight-threatening condition.” “For the first time, Americans with diabetic macular oedema will have access to an FDA-approved medicine shown to help many patients rapidly regain substantial amounts of lost vision,” said Hal Barron, global product development director at Roche. Lucentis is described by Roche as the “first and only FDA-approved medicine” to help those with the condition, which is otherwise treated with limited success by laser surgery. Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes which is the principal cause of blindness in America, Roche said in a statement. More than 560,000 have related macular oedema and one in 10 people with diabetes will get DME during their lifetime, the Basel-based manufacturer added. According to Swiss market analysts Helvea, sales of Lucentis could reach $1.6 billion (1.3 billion euros).
Child abuse disrupts brain, may cause depression, says study PARIS, Aug 1, 2012 (AFP) - Children who suffer or witness physical abuse undergo changes to their brain structure that may predispose them to depression and substance abuse later in life, a study said Wednesday. The finding holds promise for early detection and pre-emptive counseling already in adolescence -- a crucial phase of physical and emotional development and brain maturation, say researchers in the United States. Using a specialized MRI scanning technique, “we identified micro structural disruption at certain locations of the white matter tracts of adolescents who experienced maltreatment during childhood,” said researcher Hao Huang. White matter tracts or nerve fibers, comparable to computer network cables, connect the grey matter in the brain’s different processing regions -- transmitting signals to ensure they “talk” with each other efficiently. Nineteen adolescents who had suffered
physical or sexual abuse before the age of 10 or witnessed domestic violence that lasted six months or longer, took part in the study, as well as a control group of 13 with no abuse history.
Two from the maltreated group developed both conditions, said the study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Those in the abused group were physically and mentally healthy at the time they were recruited at an average age of 16, and were not abusing alcohol or drugs at the time.
The adolescents exposed to childhood abuse as well as those who later developed depression had significantly lower FA values -- a measure of white matter efficiency.
All the teenagers were followed at sixmonth intervals for up to five years.
“We believe that... brain scans might be helpful in identifying youngsters who are at high risk for developing these disorders and target them for early preventive intervention,” said Huang.
“We found that adolescents with maltreatment history who had disrupted white matter tracts during the initial recruitment were more likely to develop depressive and addictive disorders,” said Huang of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre’s Advanced Imaging Research Centre. Five of the 19 abuse victims developed depression later, compared to one in the control group, while four became substance abusers compared to one control teenager.
Earlier studies had observed similar white matter changes in individuals with a history of abuse, but this was the first to find a link to later psychological problems. Huang said the exact mechanism by which the white matter tracts were disrupted was not yet understood and required further investigation.
Suicides may rise 15% in hard times: research PARIS, Aug 15, 2012 (AFP) - Suicide rates can rise by between eight and 15 percent in times of economic hardship, according to studies that separately probed the effects of Europe’s economic crisis and of droughts in Australia. Writing in the BMJ medical journal, researchers estimated the recession may have been to blame for some 1,000 people taking their own lives in Britain between 2008 and 2010. Before the financial crisis, the suicide rate in Britain had been on the decline, reaching a 20-year low of 4,006 deaths in 2007, the team wrote. But the figures rose to 4,292 in 2008 and 4,388 in 2009, coinciding with a rise in unemployment, before dipping again in 2010 to 4,206 as jobless figures also declined. “We estimated the difference between the actual figures and what would have been expected if suicides had continued to fall, which they had been before the crisis
occurred,” study co-author David Stuckler from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told AFP. The team concluded that 846 suicides among men and 155 among women over the three years may not have occurred if it were not for the crisis -- representing an eight percent rise for men and nine percent for women from 2007 to 2008. In a separate study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Australian researchers said they found a 15-percent rise in the relative risk of suicide for rural men aged 30 to 49 in dry seasons. Looking at data in the state of New South Wales from 1970 to 2007, the team from the Australian National University in Canberra and other research institutions found “clear evidence” for the hypothesis that drought increases suicide in farmers and farm workers. “The possible increased risk of suicide during drought in rural Australia warrants
public health focus and concern,” they wrote, given climate change projections suggesting that droughts will become more frequent and more severe. Both studies found a much higher rise in suicides among men than women in periods of economic stress. This may be explained by the fact that men were less likely to seek help for depression, and that a large part of male identity “is about having a job”, said Stuckler. The British researchers argued for government policies that seek to boost reemployment for people who lose their jobs in hard times. “There is a danger that the human cost of continued high levels of unemployment will outweigh the purported benefits of budget cuts,” they wrote.
August 15-31, 2012 Georgia Asian Times
Misc Asia Vietnam airline fined for inflight bikini show Hanoi, Aug 9, 2012 (AFP) - A Vietnamese airline has been fined for hosting a mid-flight dance by bikini-clad beauty pageant contestants without first gaining permission, state media said Thursday. Low-cost carrier VietJet Air was fined $1,000 by the nation’s aviation authorities for organizing the Hawaiian-themed dance to celebrate its maiden flight between Ho Chi Minh City and the tourist hub of Nha Trang, the Tuoi Tre newspaper said.
Casinos are ‘secret strategy’ to protect Cambodia: PM PHNOM PENH, Aug 9, 2012 (AFP) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said allowing the construction of a spate of border casinos was part of a “secret strategy” to protect the country’s territory from its neighbors. “I don’t like casinos, but the biggest goal for giving permission to build casinos is to protect the border,” he told parliament during a five-hour speech addressing border demarcation issues with Vietnam. “One can remove border markers, but one can’t remove five-story hotels. Don’t be stupid,” Hun Sen said, in response to opposition criticism that the gambling dens were harmful to the country. Cambodia’s border with Vietnam and Thailand is dotted with dozens of casinos and accompanying hotels catering mostly to foreign gamblers since Cambodians are not legally allowed to gamble.
Five women, all candidates in a local beauty contest, performed the three-minute dance on the August 3 flight while passengers recorded the show on camera phones and later
posted clips online, the paper added. The airline “violated local aviation regulations” by organizing “an unapproved show on a flight,” Nguyen Trong Thang, chief inspector of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam, was quoted as saying in the report. Thang added the pictures were taken while mobile phones were in flight-safe mode and did not pose any risk. The incident has stirred public debate in conservative Vietnam after photographs and video clips of the sultry performance spread on the Internet.
“You force me to talk about it. This should be a secret strategy to protect the nation,” the strongman premier said in typically feisty fashion. Hun Sen used the marathon address, which was broadcast live on television, to deny long-standing claims from the main opposition party that his government was allowing Vietnam to encroach on Cambodian territory. Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their 1,270-kilometer (790-mile) border in September 2006 after decades of territorial disputes stemming from French colonial times. According to Hun Sen some 700 kilometers have been demarcated so far.
Seven rare rhinos spotted in Indonesian jungle JAKARTA, Aug 9, 2012 (AFP) - Seven Sumatran rhinos have been captured on hidden cameras in an Indonesian national park where the critically endangered species was feared extinct, a conservationist said Thursday. The Sumatran rhino had not been sighted in the Mount Leuser National Park on the northern tip of Sumatra for 26 years, the project’s team leader Tarmizi of the Leuser International Foundation said. “This discovery can allay doubts over the rhino’s presence in the park,” said Tarmizi adding he hoped the discovery would encourage more efforts to conserve the species.
Images of the rhinos were captured by 28 infrared cameras set up between June 2011 and April this year and confirmed six female and one male rhino appearing in 1,000 photo frames. The Sumatran rhino population has dropped 50 percent over the past 20 years, and there are now believed to be fewer than 200 left in the world. The rhinos are commonly targeted by poachers and rampant illegal logging has destroyed much of their habitat.
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012
Misc Asia In flooded Philippines, living and dead share shelter CALUMPIT, Philippines, Aug 12, 2012 (AFP) - As floods which have swamped parts of the Philippines and affected more than two million people extend into their second week, the dead and the living are sharing premium space on dry ground. Teresa Concepcion and her extended family of five moved to the Catholic cemetery in Calumpit town, on the main island of Luzon, on Wednesday after their house went under chest-deep floodwaters. Both they and the water have stayed put since. The Concepcions have set up camp on the tops of tombs that sit like islands atop the murky water. Some of the bigger tombs have roofs, providing a dry spot even during the rain. “We believe in ghosts, but they have not troubled us. Maybe they took pity on us and allowed us to stay,” said the 34-year-old unwed mother of two as she dried driftwood with which to cook their food. Her mother was also keeping busy, taking advantage of a break in the rain to wash clothes. But her father, who gets paid 300 pesos ($7.16) for burying the dead, is temporarily out of work because funerals have been put off until after the disaster. In the capital Manila, several cemeteries are home to entire communities of settlers who dwell among the tombs year round and eke out a living as scavengers in nearby rubbish dumps. The Concepcions appeared quite relaxed about remaining at the cemetery which is just across the road from their home. “We had done this once before, and three of our neighbors have told us they plan to join us,” she said. “But we could do with food rations though.” The family has survived on buying instant noodles and tins of sardines from a nearby store. The floods, which submerged about 80 percent of Manila for about two days early last week, have killed 66 people and affected 2.68 million others, according to the government.
Large areas of Calumpit, a farming town 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital, have been swamped with floods for a week, as have surrounding areas on the low-lying, rice-growing plains at the centre of Luzon. While most of the waters in the capital had receded by Friday, large areas of central Luzon remained paralyzed by waters that remain chest-deep in some parts. More than 441,000 people displaced by the floods are crammed into schools, gymnasiums and other government-run makeshift evacuation centers. Tens of thousands more have been converging on the centers each day, and the government has repeatedly said the refuges are overwhelmed. Those who cannot find space there have sought shelter elsewhere. Rosie Flores, 52, and 30 other people arrived at a small village Catholic church in Paombong, the town neighboring Calumpit, on the first day of the floods. They have shared the refuge with a coffin carrying the embalmed body of an old woman who died the same day. Each family has a pew to sleep on but there is not enough room for everyone so individuals need to take turns, and everyone shares a single bathroom. “We’re all neighbors here,” said the mother-of-three on Friday, explaining their familiarity meant they did not mind sharing such cramped quarters. The family’s house, along with a fish farm managed by her husband, remains underwater, as is the church courtyard, so the children play in front of the altar near the dead woman’s coffin.
Indian minister says bureaucrats ‘can steal a little’ LUCKNOW, India, Aug 10, 2012 (AFP) - A provincial minister in India’s most populous state has sparked a scandal after suggesting to bureaucrats that they could “steal a little” if they performed well in their duties. Shivpal Singh Yadav, in charge of housing and construction in northern Uttar Pradesh state, on Friday hastily withdrew the offer he made a day earlier during a meeting with government employees, which was also attended by journalists. Yadav is an uncle to the state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party stormed into power on an anti-graft platform in elections held in graft-ridden Uttar Pradesh in March.
steal the public money,” local BJP leader Lalji Tandon said. “It is not appropriate for a minister to talk like this,” he told reporters. Shahid Siddiqui, who was expelled last month from a senior post in the ruling Samajwadi Party, also turned his guns on the minister. “It is very unfortunate that a minister who is the uncle of the chief minister and who does not consider himself anything less than a chief minister talks in such a way,” Siddiqui said. “Now you are giving officers a free hand to steal,” he added.
“If you work hard, you can steal a little, but don’t behave like bandits,” the Press Trust of India quoted Yadav as saying at the meeting in Etah town, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from capital Lucknow.
Yadav’s dubious offer came a month after his nephew warned about corruption in the overwhelmingly poor and under-developed state of nearly 200 million people -- a population larger than Brazil’s.
The comments drew flak from political opponents, prompting Yadav to retract his offer and accuse journalists of sneaking into the gathering.
Corruption has been one of the biggest political issues in India over the last two years, with a string of scandals hitting the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sparking popular protest movements.
“I have taken back those words,” he told reporters in Lucknow on Friday. “Why are you raking it up? I don’t know why the media is targeting me,” he said. The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) condemned the minister’s invitation to officials to steal. “A minister’s statement is like a policy of the government and if he says so then the government is offering a license to
Flores said her family had received just one grocery bag of food relief and two small bottles of drinking water.
State meteorologist Jori Loyz said central Luzon suffered from its low elevation, turning it into a catchment for heavy rain not only in the immediate area but also water running off the mountains to the east.
Complaints of not enough food have been common throughout the flood zones, and the government has conceded it has not had enough manpower to get relief goods out as quickly as it had hoped.
No-one is sure how long the floods will last. Loyz said thunderstorms were forecast for central Luzon over the coming days, so the Concepcions may be sharing space with the dead for a while yet.
Activist Anna Hazare, who models himself on independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, and famous TV yoga guru Baba Ramdev have led hundreds of thousands in protests against endemic bribe-taking and corruption in India.
Georgia Asian Times August 15-31, 2012