Japan’s Nikkei Posts Solid Gains

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 2:40 am (UTC-5)
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Japanese markets closed higher Tuesday, while the U.S. dollar is higher against the Japanese yen.

Tokyo's Nikkei index gained nearly three-quarters of one percent to finish at 9,443.

In currency trading, the dollar was selling at 80.30 yen, a gain of nearly one-quarter of a yen from Monday.

The Taipei market closed at 9,057, a gain of just over one-tenth of one percent .

Chinese Marathoners Fall Ill in Iran; Date Rape Drug Suspected

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 2:35 am (UTC-5)
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Iranian police are reported to be investigating complaints that two Chinese and a Taiwanese marathoner may have had their water spiked with the date rape drug Rohypnol during an expedition along the Old Silk Road.

Organizers of the expedition say the three became “tired and disoriented” while running through Iran early Monday and were taken to a hospital. All were released after treatment and were expected to resume their run Tuesday.

Organizers said Iranian police are seeking to determine whether the powerful sedative Rohypnol, also known as Flunitrazepam, was slipped into the runners' water by an Iranian driver who was angry at being fired.

The expedition was organized by Taiwan ultramarathoner Kevin Lin to raise public awareness about water shortages. He and Chinese runners Bai Bin and Chen Jun are following a 10,000-kilometer route from Turkey to Xian, China.

Fresh Charges Roil Two South China Sea Disputes

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 2:10 am (UTC-5)
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Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario says China has “aggressively violated” a 2002 agreement with its Southeast Asian neighbors by recently unloading building materials on a set of reefs near his country.

Del Rosario said in a commentary published Tuesday that China's action is the most serious challenge to Philippine sovereignty in the South China Sea since 1995, when Beijing seized an area claimed by Manila known as Mischief Reef.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media are accusing Vietnam of increased assertiveness in a separate South China Sea dispute, charging that Hanoi has been emboldened by support from the United States.

The German news agency said Monday that Vietnam has sent a survey ship back into disputed waters off its coast where Chinese warships cut an exploration cable trailing from the same ship last month.

Rosario made his comments in an article in the Philippine Star newspaper. He called for territorial disputes in the South China Sea to be settled according to a code of conduct agreed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002.

Rosario said the declaration calls for members to refrain from provocative actions such as establishing permanent structures on uninhabited reefs and shoals. The Philippines complained last week that Chinese ships had offloaded building materials and erected marker posts on vacant shoals within Manila's exclusive economic zone west of Palawan island.

The reefs lie close to the potentially oil- and gas-rich Spratly Islands, which are claimed in whole or part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The same dispute lies behind China's attack on the Vietnamese survey boat, which prompted a rare public protest outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi on Sunday.

Wen Wei Po, a Chinese government-owned newspaper in Hong Kong, said Vietnam has been emboldened to act “more rampantly” by U.S. “pampering.” It quoted military expert Peng Quangqian saying Hanoi must not continue to provoke China, and warning that Washington will abandon Vietnam if its interests are hurt.

The newspaper also said Vietnam should be reminded of the phrase, “A disobedient child should be smacked on the bottom.”

Australian PM Defends Afghanistan Military Mission

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 2:00 am (UTC-5)
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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the recent deaths of four servicemen in Afghanistan will not deter the country in its mission to support the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Ms. Gillard defended the country's presence in Afghanistan Tuesday when she and Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the head of Australia's defense forces, announced the death of a 23-year-old soldier who was killed during a firefight in the southern province of Helmand. He is the fourth Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan in the past two weeks, and the 27th killed in action during the 10-year-old conflict.

The prime minister told reporters she could not promise Australians “there will be no more hard days.” But Ms. Gillard insisted Afghanistan “is not an endless war,” and “is not a war without purpose.”

About 1,550 Australian troops are stationed in Afghanistan on a mission to train Afghan forces to take over security from U.S. and NATO forces by 2014. Public support for the mission has steadily declined, but Houston said the country has begun “making the best progress” ever against the insurgents.

Houston said the recent death occurred during a raid with Afghan forces that destroyed a large cache of weapons, explosives and ammunition.

Chinese Floods Kill 14, Displace 45,000 as Drought Eases

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 12:55 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media say 14 people are dead and tens of thousands have been displaced by flooding in southwestern China.

The official Xinhua news agency said Tuesday that 35 other people are missing and 3,000 are stranded in a single county in Guizhou province. It said 45,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes in Wangmo county.

The agency said heavy rains have washed away more than 500 vehicles, toppled 100 homes, destroyed road and bridges and damaged more than 5,000 hectares of cropland.

The rains, which began late last week, have brought some relief to residents and farmers on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, who have been suffering the region's most severe drought in decades.

Authorities said the summer rainy season has arrived just in time to help farmers who are engaged in planting rice, but serious economic losses still are expected.

Boston Bruins Win Crucial Game Three in NHL Stanley Cup Finals

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 12:35 am (UTC-5)
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The Boston Bruins trounced the visiting Vancouver Canucks 8-1 Monday to claim their first victory in the National Hockey League Stanley Cup championship series.

The slumping Bruins offense came alive after Nathan Horton was taken off the ice on a stretcher following a vicious hit from Vancouver's Aaron Rome early in the first period. Mark Recchi led Boston's scoring output with two goals, one of them during the team's four-goal scoring burst in the third period to put the game away.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas made 40 saves.

The franchise announced after the game that Horton was able to move all his extremities.

The Canucks still lead the best-of-seven Stanley Cup series by a 2-1 margin, with game four set for Wednesday in Boston.

Indonesian Passenger Ferry Sinks, Killing 18 People

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 12:25 am (UTC-5)
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Indonesian authorities say 18 people are dead after a passenger ship capsized in the waters off Borneo Island.

A local port authority official said a search and rescue operation was underway Tuesday for another 18 passengers who are still missing.

The official said the vessel sank Monday when it was overcome by heavy winds and waves near South Kalimantan province. The ship was carrying four crew members and at least 100 passengers at the time of the accident.

With over 17,000 islands, the Indonesian archipelago is heavily dependent on sea travel, but the sector has been marred by several fatal accidents over the years due to poor safety standards.

Report Calls for Africa to Embrace Emerging Economies

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 12:25 am (UTC-5)
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A new U.N.-backed report says African countries should develop closer ties with emerging economies in order to boost sustainable growth.

The report released Monday says Africa is becoming more integrated into the global economy, and that a more diverse set of trading partners can help the continent.

The report says emerging economies such as China, India, South Korea, Brazil and Turkey can provide knowledge about technology and development to help raise the standard of living for millions of people in Africa.

The chief economist at the African Development Bank, Mthuli Ncube, says Africa is growing, but still faces risks. He says countries must also improve political accountability and address the bulging youth population.

The report is a partnership among the United Nations, the African Development Bank and the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation.

In addition to partnering with other economies, the report calls for promoting different economic sectors and reducing reliance on cash crops and minerals.

Quake-Stricken Japan to Host 2012 IMF, World Bank Meetings

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 12:20 am (UTC-5)
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The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have moved their 2012 annual meetings to Tokyo in a show of support for Japan's efforts to recover from the nation's most powerful earthquake.

The Washington-based institutions said Monday the meetings were being transferred from Egypt, which had asked that they be moved because of political instability in that country.

Japan had sought to host the October 2012 event in order to demonstrate its hoped-for recovery from its devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, including the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The IMF and World Bank, with 187 member countries, hold their annual meetings outside the United States every third year. The last time they were held in Japan was in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Summer Olympics which heralded the country's emergence as a developed country.

Malaysia to Offer Amnesty to Illegal Workers

Posted June 6th, 2011 at 9:45 pm (UTC-5)
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A senior Malaysian official says the government will offer amnesty to some of the country's estimated two million illegal immigrants in an effort to reduce the illegal workforce and curb exploitation by traffickers.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Monday that the government would launch a program to grant illegal workers permits to stay in the country and work legally. They will not be granted Malaysian citizenship.

The home minister said the program would start in July and that the immigrants would have three weeks to accept the government's offer. He did not clarify which workers would be eligible to stay in the country and under what terms.

The program is named “6P” after six Malay words for registration, legalization, amnesty, supervision, enforcement and deportation.

Malaysia has a large number of foreign workers, especially from the neighboring southeast Asian countries. Those who stay in the country illegally often work long hours, performing low-paid menial jobs shunned by the domestic labor.