Archive for May, 2013

Philippines, Vietnam Cry Foul Over Chinese Vessels in Disputed Waters

May 31, 2013
Filipino fishermen bring their fish to shore in the coastal town of Infanta, Pangasinan province, northwestern Philippines, May, 7, 2013.

Filipino fishermen bring their fish to shore in the coastal town of Infanta, Pangasinan province, northwestern Philippines, May, 7, 2013.

Voice of America

Simone Orendain

May 31, 2013

It is fishing season once again in the South China Sea and, as in past years, clashes between Chinese fishermen and those of their maritime neighbors are on the rise.  China is aggressively asserting its sovereignty over the disputed waters while some of its neighbors are also defending their claims with diplomatic might.
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Days after a 32-vessel fishing fleet from China headed for the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest.  On May 10, the Philippines said China had a military frigate, two surveillance ships and some fishing boats around Second Thomas Shoal, in an area that Manila says is within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
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Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez called the presence of the Chinese vessels provocative and illegal.
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“The concern of the Philippines is that this area, this shoal, is really an integral part of our national territory,” Hernandez said.

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This is the second year in a row that military vessels have escorted a Chinese fishing fleet so far south at this time of year. China bans fishing near its own shores from mid-May until August to permit the rehabilitation of fish stocks.  That’s when the fleets head out into waters claimed by China’s neighbors: the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
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The fishing ban causes special problems for Vietnam, which refuses to recognize the prohibition in waters it claims as its own.
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That has led to regular clashes, some of them violent. This week, Hanoi filed a diplomatic protest saying one of its ships was rammed by a Chinese vessel on May 20.
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Li Mingjiang, a security expert at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the Chinese excursions to the Spratlys have been going on for decades.  But he said the tension has escalated since last year.
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“In the context of… this more tense relationship between the Philippines and China since April last year when the Scarborough Shoal conflict broke out… the Philippines seems to be more vigilant of any Chinese activity,” Li said.
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A year ago, Philippine maritime officials tried to arrest Chinese fishermen in waters off Scarborough Shoal, which Manila says is well within its exclusive economic zone.
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Hernandez said this year’s Chinese fishing trip may appear to be routine.
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“But this is all part of their strategy to aggressively claim the whole of the South China Sea,” he noted.
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China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has consistently said China’s sovereignty over the Spratlys — which it calls the Nansha Islands — is “indisputable” and that its behavior is “beyond reproach.”
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While it wages a diplomatic fight, the Philippines is also talking tough.  Last week, President Benigno Aquino announced $1.8 billion in new funding for the country’s notoriously weak military and said the Philippines will always stand up to anybody who threatens it.
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But Carl Thayer, a security analyst with the Australian Defense Force Academy, said Aquino will have a hard time backing up his rhetoric.   “Until their force modernization takes hold, which is years away, there’s nothing much they can do except make public protests,” Thayer remarked.
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Rommel Banlaoi of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research said Manila is pushing that strategy as hard as it can.
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“Now there is a systematic attempt to really use all possible diplomatic channels, all possible diplomatic means, to protect the Philippines’ interest in the South China Sea,” he said.
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Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippines is ready to file more protests for as long as the perceived intrusions take place.

Vietnam slams ‘groundless’ maritime claims of China

May 31, 2013

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung says “strategic trust” is key in keeping peace in the region. Photo: AFP

Vietnam on Friday, May 31, slammed “groundless” territorial claims in Asian waters and called for self-restraint among parties involved in disputes.

Speaking at a security conference in Singapore, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said building “strategic trust” was the key to continued peace, cooperation and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, he warned that sovereignty and territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea were “evolving with great complexity”, threatening maritime security and freedom of navigation in those areas.

“Somewhere in the region, there have emerged preferences for unilateral might, groundless claims and actions that run counter to international law and stem from imposition of power politics,” Dung said in a keynote speech to the annual conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Dung did not specify any one country, but Vietnam and the Philippines are the most vocal states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in opposing Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, which is known in Vietnam as the East Sea, .

China claims that it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the sea, including waters and territories much closer to other countries and thousands of miles away from the Chinese coast.

ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea, which is believed to sit atop huge deposits of oil and gas and is home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and richest fishing grounds.

Competing claims have, for decades, made the area one of Asia’s potential flashpoints for military conflict. China and Vietnam fought battles in 1974 and 1988 for control of islands that left dozens of soldiers dead.

Tensions have risen again in recent years as China uses increasingly aggressive diplomatic and military tactics to assert its claims.

Among the moves that have caused alarm were China’s occupation of a shoal close to the Philippines’ main island last year, and the deployment in March of Chinese naval ships to within 80 kilometers of Malaysia’s coast.

Manila this month also protested what it said was the “provocative and illegal presence” of a Chinese warship near Second Thomas Shoal, but Beijing dismissed the complaint, insisting that the area was part of its territory.

In his speech in Singapore, Dung said Vietnam adhered to the principle of peacefully settling disputes and urged others to do the same.

“All parties concerned need to exercise self-restraint and must not resort to force or (the) threat to use force,” he said.

He called on ASEAN and China to work together on a legally binding code of conduct to prevent conflict in the South China Sea.

The conference gets into full swing on Saturday, with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expected to press China on cyber attacks and reaffirm Washington’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region.

Chinese Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, will address the forum on Sunday.

Mice vs Tiger: Vietnam PM seeks regional unity as China pushes maritime claims

May 31, 2013

ReutersBy John O’Callaghan | Reuters

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Vietnam’s prime minister called for unity among Southeast Asian countries as China asserts its claims to the energy-rich South China Sea, warning that any conflict could disrupt international trade and the global economy.

Tensions in the decades-old territorial dispute between six Asian claimants have risen in recent weeks after Chinese vessels converged near a ship the Philippines ran aground on a reef in 1999 to mark its territory (BRP Sierra Madre, see below).

The BRF Sierre Madre, formerly a US tank-landing ship which saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War, ran aground on Ayungin Reef in 1999 and has since been an advance outpost for the Philippine military. (Internet photo)

BRP Sierra Madre

“Somewhere in the region, there have emerged preferences for unilateral might, groundless claims and actions that run counter to international law and stem from imposition and power politics,” Nguyen Tan Dung said in a speech on Friday at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual regional security forum in Singapore.

“A single irresponsible action or instigation of conflict could well lead to the interruption of huge trade flows, causing unforeseeable consequences not only to regional economies but also to the entire world,” he said in remarks translated from Vietnamese.

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung gives the keynote address at the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore May 31, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Photo Above: Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung gives the keynote address at the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore  May 31, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

China claims almost all of the South China Sea as its territory, setting it directly against the Philippines and Vietnam as it displays the growing “blue water” reach of its navy and the United States turns more of its attention to Asia.

Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the South China Sea, whose waters are vital to the international flow of goods and energy and whose seabed is believed to contain rich deposits of oil and natural gas.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is attending the three-day forum convened by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), with the U.S. “pivot” toward Asia, the region’s military build-up and the South China Sea high on the agenda.

Stressing the need for “strategic trust”, Dung said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must stay united and strong, without any of its 10 members “forced to take sides with one country or the other for the benefit of their own relationships with big powers.”

ASEAN has been talking to China about a binding code of conduct to ease tensions but Beijing has said it will negotiate “when the time is ripe”. ASEAN foreign ministers are due to meet in Thailand in August to forge a position on the code of conduct before meeting Chinese officials in Beijing.

Vietnam will not be a military ally to anyone or allow any country to set up military bases on its soil, Dung said, adding the modernisation of its forces was “only for self-defence and to safeguard our legitimate interests”.

“OPPORTUNISTIC ASSERTIVENESS”

China’s response to the actions of its rival claimants may be part of a very long-term negotiating strategy, said Christian Le Miere, a senior fellow at the IISS.

“I would call it a form of opportunistic assertiveness whereby China is often aware that these actions are going to happen and then uses them as a justification for its overzealous reactions,”  Le Mieretold a news conference.

“What we will continue to see is China trying to change the facts on the water and trying to build a stronger legal case and adapt the legal environment to its own benefit wherever possible and continue with its maximalist claims because they will, in the future, provide China with a stronger negotiation position.”

A Chinese military think-tank, the Centre for National Defence Policy, said this week the U.S. pivot to Asia had “shattered” the relative calm of the South China Sea.

“While the conditions do not yet exist for a large-scale armed clash, the dispute is becoming normalised and long-term … and ineffective management may lead to a serious crisis,” the report said, according to the China News Service.

Washington says it is focusing more security, economic and diplomatic attention on Asia to engage the fast-growing region, which has fuelled Chinese suspicions that the United States is trying to contain its economic and military might.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Map of South China Sea
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China: Mothers of Pro-Democracy Youths Killed in Tiananmen Square Accuse Xi Jinping of “Giant Steps Backwards”

May 31, 2013

China: More than 100 people whose relatives were killed during China’s 1989 crackdown on protestors in Tiananmen Square have lashed out at Xi Jinping, accusing the country’s new president of taking “giant steps backwards”.

China's President Xi Jinping : Tiananmen Mothers condemn China's President Xi Jinping

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Tiananmen Mothers condemn China’s President Xi Jinping  Photo: REUTERS

By Kathleen McLaughlin, Beijing

The Telegraph

In an open letter, penned on the eve of the 24th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown, the relatives wrote of their “disappointment and despair” at the thought that their grievances might never be addressed.

“Our hope is fading and despair is drawing near,” members of the Tiananmen Mothers group wrote according to a translation by the group Human Rights in China.

“We don’t believe our leaders, and we have little trust in their words.”

Mr Xi took power in March, stirring hopes among intellectuals and ordinary Chinese that his decade in power might bring political reform to the Chinese Communist Party, which has ruled the country since 1949.

But the letter claimed those hopes had already been dashed, with China’s new leader giving no indication that he would publicly reassess the crackdown on pro-democracy activists which rights groups say claimed anywhere between 200 and 3,000 lives.

Chinese leaders “come one after another, as if through a revolving door; and as they move forward, they become ever more distant and outrageous, causing a universal feeling of despair to descend on the people from all sides,” the mothers claimed.

The group, which has 123 members, complained that more than two decades after what is known as the “June 4 incident” the authorities still refused to recognise the official death toll or explain what had happened that day.

“To this day, all our efforts have been in vain, we have received not a single response from the government,” the letter said.

Responding to the letter on Friday, Hong Lei, the foreign ministry spokesman, said China had already reached a “clear conclusion” about the events of June 4, 1989.

“The Chinese people enjoy extensive rights and freedom,” he added.

The Tiananmen Mothers group vowed to “never give up” campaigning until the “souls of the victims” could be laid to rest with an official recognition of the scale of the tragedy.

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Tank Man, or the Unknown Protester
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A bronze replica of the “Goddess of Democracy“, a statue hastily created by Tiananmen protesters, from the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
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Protestors climb captured tank, Tiananmen Square, Beijing.  June, 1989.
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Photos From Where Oscar Pistorius Allegedly Killed Reeva Steenkamp

May 31, 2013

  • Reeva  Steenkamp was killed as she sat on the toilet in the locked  room
  • Bullet  holes seen in bathroom door of the Paralympian’s Pretoria  home
  • The graphic  pictures show trails of blood on the house’s walls and stairs
  • Pistorius  denies premeditated murder and is due in court on  Tuesday

By  Helen Lawson

 

The blood-spattered bathroom where Reeva  Steenkamp was shot dead by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius has been pictured for  the first time.

The graphic pictures show inside the  Paralympian sprinter’s house in Pretoria, South Africa, where Miss Steenkamp was  killed in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.

Pools of blood cover the toilet and floor of  the room, with police tape marking the holes where bullets flew through the  bathroom door, which is missing a panel.

Scroll down for  video

Graphic pictures obtained by Sky News show for the first time the bathroom where Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead by Paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

Graphic pictures obtained by Sky News show for the first  time the bathroom where Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead by Paralympian Oscar  Pistorius

Pistorius denies that Reeva Steenkamp's Valentine's Day murder was premeditated.

Pistorius denies that Reeva Steenkamp’s Valentine’s Day  murder was premeditated

It is thought that the low position of the  bullet holes will be used by Pistorius’s defence team to argue that he was not  wearing his prosthetic legs at the time of the shooting, so could not have  planned the murder.

He claims he  shot Miss Steenkamp, 29, by accident because he believed a burglar had entered  their home while they slept.

The pictures, obtained by Sky  News, also  show trails of blood leading from the bathroom and down the stairs of the house,  from Pistorius carrying Miss Steenkamp’s body as he called for help.

In one poignant scene, a Valentine’s gift for  Pistorius, 26, from his girlfriend remains unopened.

More…

 

A card bearing the nickname ‘Ozzy’ and a  packet of heart-shaped sweets lie on top of a parcel wrapped in striped  paper.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder  for the shooting of his model girlfriend.

He is due in court on Tuesday for a brief  hearing while the police investigation continues.

The Sky footage also shows bloodied  footprints – thought to have been caused by investigating officer Hilton Botha  walking into the house without protective covers on his shoes.

The investigation into Miss Steenkamp’s death  has been heavily criticised.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius pictured together in November last year. Three months later he killed herReeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius pictured together in  November last year. Three months later he killed her

Botha was then forced to step down  when it  emerged he faced seven charges of attempted murder for a 2011  case in which he  and two other officers fired on a vehicle in an attempt to make it stop.

Sources told Sky News that other  officers in  the case are being investigated for the disappearance of a  watch belonging to  Pistorius.

Today, his uncle Arnold Pistorius described  what life is like for the athlete while he waits for his trial to  begin.

He told CNN: ‘He is housebound. He doesn’t go  out in public places.

‘But he’s not keen to go out. This fits him  at the moment.

‘He’s got photos [of Reeva] in his room, he’s  got photos all over the places.

WATCH: ARNOLD PISTORIUS  DESCRIBES HIS NEPHEW’S DAY-TO-DAY LIFE

 

‘If the person you love the most died and you  were the instrument, how would you feel? It’s unthinkable.

‘[His life] won’t be the same again. He will  have to cope with it somehow.’

Earlier this week, Pistorius was fined about  £60,000 for not paying his taxes in South Africa.

The fine came after he was forced to declare  his assets during his bail hearing in February.

The 26-year-old declared in an affidavit  during his application that he earned around £420,000 a year and owned three  houses and land in South Africa with a combined value of nearly £600,000.

Media reports in South Arica suggested that  he also owned another property, in Johannesburg, which was bought for around  £600,000 this year.

That house was not declared as part of his  assets in his affidavit.

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2333856/Reeva-Steenkam
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scar-Pistorius-shot-dead-girlfriend.html#ixzz2UtK2yIYc

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Turkey: Summer of Discontent Erupts

May 31, 2013

A Turkish riot policeman uses tear gas as a demonstrator holds a banner which reads, “Chemical Tayyip”, referring to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, during a protest against the destruction of trees in a park brought about by a pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul May 31, 2013. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

By Ayla Jean Yackley

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at protesters occupying a park in central Istanbul, wounding scores including tourists in the harshest crackdown so far on days of anti-government unrest.

The protest at Gezi Park started late on Monday after developers tore up trees but has widened into a broader demonstration against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Friday’s violence erupted after a dawn police raid on demonstrators who had camped for days in the park in anger at plans to build a shopping mall. Clouds of tear gas rose around the area in Taksim Square, long a venue for political protest.

Video:

http://news.yahoo.com/police-tear-gas-ag
ainst-turkish-anti-government-protesters-112451888.html

Broken glass and rocks were strewn across a main shopping street. A group of primary school children ran crying from the tear gas while tourists caught by surprise scurried to get back to luxury hotels lining the square.

“We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan…Even AK Party supporters are saying they have lost their mind, they are not listening to us,” said Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Bosphorus University who attended the protest. “This is the beginning of a summer of discontent.”

Riot police clashed with tens of thousands of May Day protesters in Istanbul weeks ago. There have also been protests against the government’s stance on the conflict in neighbouring Syria, a recent tightening of restrictions on alcohol sales and warnings against public displays of affection.

“This isn’t just about trees anymore, it’s about all of the pressure we’re under from this government. We’re fed up, we don’t like the direction the country is headed in,” said 18-year-old student Mert Burge, who came to support the protesters after reading on Twitter about the police use of tear gas.

“We will stay here tonight and sleep on the street if we have to,” he said.

An Egyptian tourist was in a critical condition after being hit by a police gas canister, Istanbul Medical Chamber board member Huseyin Demirduzen told Reuters. The 34-year-old woman was undergoing an operation after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

A total of 12 people, including a pro-Kurdish MP and a Reuters photographer, suffered trauma injuries and hundreds suffered respiratory problems due to the effects of tear gas during the clashes, Demirduzen said.

Some people were injured when a wall they were climbing collapsed as they tried to flee clouds of tear gas.

Amnesty International said it was concerned by what it described as “the use of excessive force” by the police against what had started out as a peaceful protest.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler promised that claims that police had used disproportionate force would be investigated.

Erdogan has overseen a transformation in Turkey during his decade in power, turning its economy from crisis-prone into Europe’s fastest-growing. Per capita income has tripled in nominal terms since his party rose to power.

He remains by far Turkey’s most popular politician, and is widely viewed as its most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern secular republic on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire 90 years ago.

The unrest has not matched the mass demonstrations seen in some Arab or European countries in recent years, but it reflects growing opposition concern about Erdogan’s authoritarianism.

DEFIANCE

Hundreds of military officers have been jailed for plotting a coup against Erdogan in recent years. Academics, journalists, politicians and others face trial on similar charges.

Erdogan has made no secret of his ambition to run for the presidency in elections next year when his term as prime minister ends, exacerbating opposition dismay.

“These people will not bow down to you” read one banner at the Gezi Park protest, alongside a cartoon of Erdogan wearing an Ottoman emperor’s turban.

Postings on social media including Twitter, where “Occupy Gezi” – a reference to protests in New York and London last year – was a top-trending hashtag, and Facebook said similar demonstrations were planned for the next few days in other Turkish cities including Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Bursa.

“Kiss protests”, in which demonstrators are urged to lock lips, had already been planned for Istanbul and Ankara this weekend after subway officials were reported to have admonished a couple for kissing in public a week ago.

Erdogan is pushing ahead with a slew of multi-billion dollar projects which he sees as embodying Turkey’s emergence as a major power. They include a shipping canal designed to rival Panama or Suez, a giant mosque and a third Istanbul airport billed to be one of the world’s biggest.

Speaking just a few miles from Gezi Park at the launch on Wednesday of construction of a third bridge linking Istanbul’s European and Asian shores, Erdogan vowed to pursue plans to redevelop Taksim Square.

Architects, leftist political parties, academics, city planners and others have long opposed the plans, saying they lacked consultation with civic groups and would remove one of central Istanbul’s few green spaces.

(Additional reporting by Murad Sezer, Osman Orsal and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Just Out of Detox — Heroin

May 31, 2013
Philip Seymour  Hoffman Entered Detox For  Narcotic Abuse
Exclusive

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Philip  Seymour Hoffman just got out of detox for a drug problem that was  spinning out of control … a problem he desperately wanted to nip in the bud  … and he’s already back doing a movie.
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Hoffman — who struggled with  substance abuse in the past but kicked the habit for 23 years — fell off the  wagon more than a year ago.  He tells TMZ it started slowly with  prescription pills, and recently escalated to snorting  heroin.
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Hoffman — who won a Best Actor Oscar in 2006 for “Capote”  — tells us the heroin use only lasted a week or so and he quickly realized he  needed help, so he checked himself into a detox facility on the East  Coast.   He says he was at the facility for 10 days and checked out  last Friday.  Hoffman credits what he calls “a great group of friends and  family” for helping him seek the treatment he needed to get better.
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And  at least for now, it seems it worked, because Hoffman is clean and back on a  movie set in Europe.
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Read more: http://www.tmz.com/2013/05/30/philip-seymour-hoffman-
detox-narcotics-heroin-drugs-abuse/#ixzz2UtG5sa99

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International Federation for Human Rights Adopts Urgent Resolution on Human Rights in Vietnam

May 31, 2013
ISTANBUL, Turkey, 27 May 2013 (VCHR) – Representatives of 178 non-governmental organizations from 117 countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania, gathering in Istanbul, Turkey from 22-27 May for the 38th Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) adopted an Urgent Resolution on Human Rights in Vietnam.
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FIDH members denounced the crackdown on freedom of expression in Vietnam, in particular the recent sentencing of University student Nguyen Uyen Phuong and computer engineer Dinh Nguyen Kha to six and eight years in prison for “anti-State propaganda” on 16 May 2013. The Resolution called for their immediate release, as well as that of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do, bloggers Dieu Cay, Ta Phong Tan, Phan Thanh Hai and other dissidents. Condemning censorship of the media, including foreign television news channels, the use of the death penalty and new methods of execution in Vietnam, the FIDH denounced Vietnam’s bid for membership of the UN Human Rights Council in 2014-2016.
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Just as this Resolution was adopted, well-kown blogger Truong Duy Nhat, 49, was arrested in the central city of Danang. Accused of “abusing democratic freedoms to encroach upon the interests of the State” (Article 258 of the Criminal Code), he risks up to seven years in prison. His arrest illustrates the ongoing crackdown on bloggers described in the 2013 report published jointly by the FIDH and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, “Bloggers and Netizens Behind Bars: Restrictions on Internet Freedom in Vietnam” (in English, French and Vietnamese). An updated edition of the report in French was released at the Congress in Istanbul.
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The FIDH Congress, which takes place every three years, was held under the theme of “Political Transitions from a Human Rights Perspective”. Keynote speakers included Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Deputy Prime Minister Be?ir Atalay, President of the International Criminal Court Song Sang Hyun, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter, and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion Asma Jahangir.
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Founded in 1922, the FIDH is France’s oldest and largest human rights organization, with 178 member organizations in more than 130 countries around the world. The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights’ Executive Secretary Vo Tran Nhat represented Vietnam at the Congress.

Urgent Resolution on Human Rights in Vietnam

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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), meeting at its 38th Congress in Istanbul, Turkey,

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Whereas Vietnam persistently invokes vague and broadly-defined “national security” provisions in the Criminal Code such as “spying”, “anti-State propaganda”, activities “aimed at overthrowing the people’s power”, or “abusing democratic freedoms and rights” in order to silence dissidents, human rights defenders and ordinary citizens who simply take part in demonstrations;
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Whereas a recent example is the sentencing of University student Nguyen Phuong Uyen (21 years old) and computer technician Dinh Nguyen Kha (25) at an unfair trial on 16 May 2013 to respectively six and eight years in prison followed by three years house arrest simply for writing poems and distributing leaflets critical of the government;
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Whereas at least 100 people are condemned to death each year in Vietnam, and over 500 prisoners are currently detained on death row in unbearable, inhumane conditions; following the EU’s ban on exporting substances for lethal injections, Vietnam has adopted a decree authorizing the use of a mixture of “domestic poisons” for lethal injections, the effects of which are still uncertain;
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Whereas, constrained by Decision 20/2011/QD-TTg which requires the simultaneous translation into Vietnamese of all films and documentaries shown on TV, several TV operators, including the joint company Canal+ (France) and VTV (Vietnam) have withdrawn major information channels such as CNN, BBC, CNBC, NHK World or ChannelNewsAsia from their package offer;
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Whereas many dissidents are detained in prison and others are held under house arrest for extremely long periods, such as Thich Quang Do, head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV, (independent Buddhist organization, banned by the authorities since 1981), who has spent the past 30 years in detention;
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Whereas Vietnam systematically represses all those who advocate human rights: human rights defenders, members of “non-recognized” religions, dissidents, bloggers, people taking part in demonstrations or students organizing “human rights picnics” are placed under surveillance, interrogated, harassed, beaten and molested by Police, imprisoned or detained in psychiatric hospitals;
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Regrets that Vietnam has not declared a moratorium on capital punishment as a first step towards total abolition of the death penalty;
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Denounces the Vietnamese authorities’ censorship policies and savage repression (police crackdowns, harassments, unfair trials) which have created a climate of fear in which citizens dare not express themselves, and which have blocked the free flow of information by imposing technical or cultural dictates, such as requiring simultaneous interpretation of information channels into Vietnamese;
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Calls upon Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release all citizens detained for the legitimate and peaceful exercise of their fundamental human rights, such as Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do, bloggers Dieu Cay, Ta Phong Tan, Phan Thanh Hai, and Nguyen Phuong Uyen and Dinh Nguyen Kha;
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Urges Vietnam to collaborate sincerely with the United Nations to promote human rights, especially by inviting UN special procedures such as the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights Defenders to visit Vietnam; as a priority, Vietnam must follow up its invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion by urgently fixing the date of his visit;
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Denounces Vietnam’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, which is incompatible with its abysmal human rights record, and urges the UN General Assembly to reject Vietnam’s candidacy;
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Calls upon the European Union to insist that Vietnam upholds its obligations to respect human rights; in particular, the EU should undertake a human rights impact assessment on Vietnam before it pursues negotiations on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.
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Ông Trương Duy Nhất

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Nguyen Phuong Uyen.  Photo by Dan Lam Bao

Vietnam has been on a campaign to put the muzzle on people: Here Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly being restrained from talking at his own trial in Vietnam — Father Ly is one of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents and has been a strong advocate for religious freedom and democracy for over 40 years. If his case is discussed by Vietnam’s bloggers, the communist government tries to find out who is involved so they can punish the bloggers….Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly remains in prison somewhere in Vietnam. Please pray for him.

Above: Vietnam’s usual response to reporters, cameras and recorders: “No Comment” followed quickly by “You Under Arrest!” Vietnam, like China, has no real free media, no real freedom of speech and no real freedom of religion. The government of each nation is not accountable to the people…..

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Sticker Shock: In California, Obamacare to Increase Individual Health Insurance Premiums by 64-146%

May 31, 2013

One of the most serious flaws with Obamacare is that its blizzard of regulations and mandates drives up the cost of insurance for people who buy it on their own. This problem will be especially acute when the law’s main provisions kick in on January 1, 2014, leading many to worry about health insurance “rate shock.”

Last week, the state of California claimed that its version of Obamacare’s health insurance exchange would actually reduce premiums. “These rates are way below the worst-case gloom-and-doom scenarios we have heard,” boasted Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange.

Angela Braly, then-CEO of WellPoint, testified before Congress about allegations that its California unit, Anthem Blue Cross, was raising premiums on some customers by more than 30 percent. Last week, California announced that the Affordable Care Act would increase non-group insurance premiums by as much as 146 percent. (Image courtesy U.S. House of Representatives)

But the data that Lee released tells a different story: Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent.

Lee’s claims that there won’t be rate shock in California were repeated uncritically in some quarters. “Despite the political naysayers,” writes my Forbes colleague Rick Ungar, “the healthcare exchange concept appears to be working very well indeed in states like California.” A bit more analysis would have prevented Rick from falling for California’s sleight-of-hand.

Here’s what happened. Last week, Covered California—the name for the state’s Obamacare-compatible insurance exchange—released the rates that Californians will have to pay to enroll in the exchange.

“The rates submitted to Covered California for the 2014 individual market,” the state said in a press release, “ranged from two percent above to 29 percent below the 2013 average premium for small employer plans in California’s most populous regions.”

That’s the sentence that led to all of the triumphant commentary from the left. “This is a home run for consumers in every region of California,” exulted Peter Lee.

Except that Lee was making a misleading comparison. He was comparing apples—the plans that Californians buy today for themselves in a robust individual market—and oranges—the highly regulated plans that small employers purchase for their workers as a group. The difference is critical.

Obamacare to double individual-market premiums

If you’re a 25 year old male non-smoker, buying insurance for yourself, the cheapest plan on Obamacare’s exchanges is the catastrophic plan, which costs an average of $184 a month. (That’s the median monthly premium across California’s 19 insurance rating regions.)

The next cheapest plan, the “bronze” comprehensive plan, costs $205 a month. But in 2013, on eHealthInsurance.com (NASDAQ:EHTH), the average cost of the five cheapest plans was only $92. In other words, for the average 25-year-old male non-smoking Californian, Obamacare will drive premiums up by between 100 and 123 percent.

Under Obamacare, only people under the age of 30 can participate in the slightly cheaper catastrophic plan. So if you’re 40, your cheapest option is the bronze plan. In California, the median price of a bronze plan for a 40-year-old male non-smoker will be $261. But on eHealthInsurance, the average cost of the five cheapest plans was $121. That is, Obamacare will increase individual-market premiums by an average of 116 percent.

For both 25-year-olds and 40-year-olds, then, Californians under Obamacare who buy insurance for themselves will see their insurance premiums double.

China Plans To “Recover the Islands Occupied by the Philippines” in the South China Sea — “Cabbage Strategy” Already At Work

May 31, 2013

By Camille Diola (philstar.com)

MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese military general has revealed their strategy to take over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) off Zambales province.

China Daily Mail reported that in a recent television interview, Major General Zhang Zhaozhong said that China’s navy has been wrapping the disputed island like a “cabbage” with warships.

Major General Zhang Zhaozhong

China calls the shoal, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone, as Huangyan Island. It claims virtually the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

In the online news site’s transcript of the interview, Zhang explained at length China’s strategy to a television host who called the Philippines’ activities in the territory “rude” and “barbaric.”

“We have begun to take measures to seal and control the areas around the Huangyan Island, seal and control continuously up till now,” the Chinese news site quoted Zhang as saying.

The Chinese military added that they have been employing the “cabbage” strategy to secure the island from the Philippines by having constant surveillance and assigning administrative fishing vessels, besides warships, in the territory.

“If the Philippines wants to go in, in the outermost area, it has first to ask whether our navy will allow it. Then it has to ask whether our fishery administration ships and marine surveillance ships will allow it,” Zhang said in the interview.

The high-ranking officer said that the “satisfactory” strategy is to ensure Sino fishermen can carry out their work “safely.”

“We have gained quite satisfactory experience about the ways to recover the islands and reefs and defend them,” he told the TV host.

Zhang also explained that such a scheme can also be potentially used to monitor smaller islands in the disputed coastal waters, only that it resources would be scarce.

“For those small islands, only a few troopers are able to station on each of them, but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the “cabbage” strategy, you will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands,” he said.

Zhang complained that Philippine forces have threatened Chinese fishermen making their living in the area and have “violated … China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“As you have first violated the law and pointed your guns at our fishermen, you would never be allowed to enter the area,” Zhang said, indirectly addressing his Filipino counterparts.

“Each time our Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested, but (the Philippines) refused to listen. In the meantime, it was busy doing this and that, such as sunk a boat there and conducting lots of patrols there,” he said.

Forceful recovery

The major general said that China’s so-called successful recovery of similar contested areas such as the Spratlys group have been due to “right timing.”

“Over the past few years, we have made a series of achievements at the Nansha Islands (the Spratly Islands), the greatest of which I think have been on the Huangyan Island, Meiji Reef (Mischief Reef) and Ren’ai Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal),” he added.

China has also been sending ships to the Ayungin Shoal near Palawan province. The shoal is also within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Zhang said that Chinese authorities next step would be to have a “vigorous development” in the islands to support China’s economy as well as its tourism efforts, fisheries and marine protection.

“We have to do much more work there, and coordinate various efforts. We should not rely only on military effort. In the military perspective, fighting is the last resort while before it there must be production on a large scale and with high enthusiasm and large-scale production on the sea,” he concluded.

He also mentioned that China plans to implement its law and military might more forcefully for the islands’ complete “recovery.”

Photo: Chinese officers stop and question fishermen in the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and others have had trouble with China’s aggression in the South China Sea.

Photo: China  marine surveillance ship on patrol

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Called the Nansha Islands by China, the same Islands are called the Spratly Islands by most of the world, Meiji Reef  is Mischief Reef,  Ren’ai Shoal  is Second Thomas Shoal, South China Sea is now often called “West Philippine Sea” by Filipinos– in Vietnam it is often called the “East Sea”, Scarborough Shoal or Scarborough Reef is often called Panatag Shoal by Filipinos, and what China calls Xisha  is often called the Paracel Islands.

Vietnam often calls the South China Sea the “East Sea”, the Paracel Islands are Hoang Sa, the Spratly Islands are Truong Sa.

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From The China Daily Mail

The following is a translation of an interview on Chinese State TV. It does not necessarily represent the views of China Daily Mail, but is provided so readers can form their own views.

Recently, well-known military expert Major General Zhang Zhaozhong talked in a TV interview in Beijing about the current situation of dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, and analysed China’s strategy in the South China Sea region. The following is what was said in the interview:

TV host: “Well, we have watched the footage and now let’s look at the big screen that shows the Chinese islands and reefs illegally occupied by the Philippines. All of us should remember that counting from the north, there are the Beizi Island, Feixin Island, Zhongye Island, Xiyue Island, Shuanghuangzhou Shoal, Mahuan Island, Nanyue Island and Siling Reef.

“What one has stolen has to be returned. No matter how long the Philippines have illegally occupied those Chinese islands and reefs, I believe that it cannot change the fact that those islands and reefs are inherent Chinese territories. However, what shall we do to counter those rude and barbarian acts of the Philippines?”

Zhang Zhaozhong: What should we do about those islands and reefs? I think that in the main we have done some things relatively successfully in dealing with the Philippines. Since the 1990s, the Philippines has done quite a few illegal and irrational things in its attempt to turn the Huangyan Island into its territory by means of presidential order, domestic legislation, and so on.

“Each time our Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested, but it refused to listen. In the meantime, it was busy doing this and that, such as sunk a boat there and conducting lots of patrols there. By April, 2012, an incident finally took place that it took initiative to detain Chinese fishermen by force; it sent troops to detain at gun point the Chinese fishermen who entered the lagoon to carry out normal fishing.

“Since then, we have begun to take measures to seal and control the areas around the Huangyan Island, seal and control continuously up till now. In the over one year period since then, there have been fishermen in the inside. Our fishermen are often there because there is lot of fish there. Fishermen go there in large ships and then sail small boats in the lagoon to fish. They can have shelter in the lagoon when there is a typhoon.

“The fishermen conduct normal production there. In the area around the island, fishing administration ships and marine surveillance ships are conducting normal patrols while in the outer ring there are navy warships. The island is thus wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage. As a result, a cabbage strategy has taken shape.

“If the Philippines wants to go in, in the outermost area, it has first to ask whether our navy will allow it. Then it has to ask whether our fishery administration ships and marine surveillance ships will allow it. Therefore, our fishermen can carry out their production safely while our country’s marine rights and interests as well as sovereignty are safeguarded. Is that not satisfactory?

“We can adopt this method elsewhere. We have not resorted to war and we have not forced the others to do anything, have we? You have invaded and then left. You have violated Chinese law and China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, haven’t you? Why did you point your guns at our fishermen? As you have first violated the law and pointed your guns at our fishermen, you would never be allowed to enter the area.

“We should do more such things in the future. For those small islands, only a few troopers are able to station on each of them, but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the “cabbage” strategy, you will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands. Without the supply for one or two weeks, the troopers stationed there will leave the islands on their own. Once they have left, they will never be able to come back.

“For many things, we have to grab the right timing to do them. Over the past few years, we have made a series of achievements at the Nansha Islands (the Spratly Islands), the greatest of which I think have been on the Huangyan Island, Meiji Reef (Mischief Reef) and Ren’ai Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).

We have gained quite satisfactory experience about the ways to recover the islands and reefs and defend them. For the Nansha and Xisha (Paracel) Islands, we have established Sansha City to administrate them. That was a good step we have taken.

“The next step will be the strengthening of power and authority in implementing our law in conduct our administration. The further next step shall be the vigorous development there, including the development of economy, tourism, marine fishery and marine protection.

“We have to do much more work there, and coordinate various efforts. We should not rely only on military effort. In the military perspective, fighting is the last resort while before it there must be production on a large scale and with high enthusiasm and large-scale production on the sea. That is why I say that we have to create such an environment and atmosphere.”

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Zhang Zhaozhong: To recover the islands occupied by the Philippines, the ‘cabbage’ strategy is enough” (translated from Chinese by Chan Kai Yee)

Related:

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Map of South China Sea
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