Friday, March 01, 2013

Mekong murderers execution just - Chinese authorities...

National emblem of the People's Republic of China
National emblem of the People's Republic of China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Kunming City, Yunnan Province, China
English: Kunming City, Yunnan Province, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)   

KUNMING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming execution of four Mekong River murderers manifests judicial sovereignty and judicial authorities' protection of Chinese citizens' legitimate rights and interests, prosecution authorities in southwest China's Yunnan Province have said.
Myanmar drug lord Naw Kham and three of his accomplices, all of whom were convicted of murdering 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River in 2011, will be executed on Friday, the Kunming Intermediate People's Court(KIPC) said on Wednesday.
They will be executed by lethal injection in the city of Kunming in Yunnan Province, the court ruled.
Naw Kham's three accomplices were identified as Hsang Kham from Thailand; Yi Lai, stateless; and Zha Xika, Laotian.
"The trial of the Naw Kham case is in accordance with the law and manifests related rules of China's criminal laws," Yan Hui, presiding judge in the first instance of the case, told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday.
The case built up sufficient evidence. According to China's criminal laws, the criminal measures taken by the four murderers were held to be extremely cruel and the consequences extremely serious. "They were sentenced to death due to combined punishment according to laws," Yan added.
Prosecutor Zhang Weiting from the People's Procuratorate of Yunnan Province told Xinhua that "intentional murder is the heaviest crime in China and the murderers deserve their sentence."
The execution will be supervised by the Kunming People's Procuratorate.
"Lethal injection can better demonstrate judicial progress," said Cai Shunbin, spokesman for the KIPC.
The KIPC received a judgment regarding the judicial review, as well as the execution order on Feb. 22. The convicts were informed of the judgment on Feb. 24.
"Naw Kham has learned that he will be executed. We have arranged translators to accompany and chat with him, plus psychological counseling," said Yang Xiaoping, a judge of the case from the KIPC.
"Naw Kham's current situation is relatively stable and nothing special is happening," said Yang.
According to the KIPC judge, after Naw Kham was informed of the verdict, he maintained that he had paid compensation and confessed, so hoped that the Chinese government can be lenient.
After the judge explained to him that execution is the final verdict, he said that he has 10 children and hoped to meet them though he cannot remember their phone numbers, Yang said.
"We have informed the consulate of Naw Kham's hope and not received any applications to meet him so far," he added.
The court already arranged for officials from the Royal Thai Consulate General in Kunming, as well as some of the convicts' relatives, to meet with the convicts on Thursday morning.
The meeting was in accordance with Chinese law, a note from the Thai consulate and applications from convicts' relatives, according to the KIPC.
After the execution, the court will hand over their remains, wills and personal belongings to their relatives or relevant consulates.
"Given the current situation, since the downfall of Naw Kham's gang, the security of Mekong waters has been fine," noted Wu Ruzhen, liaison officer to Myanmar from China's Ministry of Public Security.
Naw Kham and his gang members were found to have masterminded and colluded with Thai soldiers in an attack on two Chinese cargo ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8, on Oct. 5, 2011 on the Mekong River.
Under Naw Kham's instructions, several of his subordinates were also found to have kidnapped Chinese sailors and hijacked cargo ships in exchange for ransom in early April 2011.
The gang was broken up in early 2012 in a joint operation by police from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand after the brutal murders of Chinese sailors triggered calls to rein in rampant crime in the border region.
Naw Kham and the other three convicts were given death penalties on Nov. 6, 2012.
Another two members of Naw Kham's gang, identified as Zha Bo and Zha Tuobo, received a death sentence with reprieve and eight years in prison, respectively.
Nicknamed "the Godfather," Naw Kham was the boss of the largest armed drug trafficking gang on the Mekong River, which flows through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Who should pay for the cost of climate disasters? Good question...

FEMA seal before 2003
FEMA seal before 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Hurricane Sandy flooding damage in New York City October 29, 2012
Hurricane Sandy flooding damage in New York City on Avenue C at East 6th Street, moments before the local ConEdison power substation at Avenue C and 14th Street blew out and the entire neighborhood lost electricity on October 29, 2012. Image: David Shankbone
(WNN/UNU) Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES: Who should pay the costs of climate disasters? In light of the current debate in the United States about federal assistance to Hurricane Sandy victims and the recent debate at the recent Doha Climate Conference about international assistance for climate change victims, that has become an increasingly pressing question for humankind.
The frequency and cost of natural disasters is rapidly increasing. Since the 1980s the number of billion dollar natural disasters on average each year in the United States has tripled from two to six. In 2011 there were 14 separate US$1 billion plus weather events and losses topped $60 billion. This year Hurricane Sandy alone will exceed that total.
As costs have exceeded the ability of insurance companies, individual homeowners, businesses and communities to pay, some states have created statewide pooled risk funds. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for example, Florida created the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.
An increasing federalization of disaster relief has been occurring since the 1988 passage of the Stafford Act, which required Washington to assume at least 75 percent of the costs of federally declared disasters. Predictably, the number of such declarations has increased dramatically, from 53 in 1992 under George H.W. Bush to 110 in 1999 under Bill Clinton, to 143 in 2008 under George W. Bush. In 2011 President Obama set a record by declaring federal disasters 242 times.
But as Hurricane Sandy has demonstrated, natural disasters are exceeding even the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s expanded financial capacity, leading to the need for additional ad hoc Congressional appropriations. This has given a boost to efforts to create a natural catastrophe insurance fund that would pool the risk nationally, similar to the terrorist catastrophe fund put in place immediately after 9/11 with the passage of the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act. The fund created by that Act eventually paid out about $7 billion to more than 7400 victims. In 2002 Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. The program is triggered if losses exceed $100 million and cost to an individual insurance company is more than 20 percent of premiums paid. When the program is triggered, the federal government pays 85 percent of insured terrorism losses in excess of individual insurer trigger/deductibles while the insurer pays 15 percent. The program is capped at $100 billion per year.
But national natural catastrophe insurance has proven a hard sell. In 2008, when Congress debated a form of national catastrophe fund called the Homeowners Defense Act, presidential candidate Senator McCain of Arizona argued that since the natural disasters that it was targeting occurred primarily in the south and southeastern part of the United States, the risk should be pooled regionally not nationally. In a 2009 report the Heritage Foundation agreed, although it might have undermined its case with its example, “a catastrophic hurricane could hit New York and Connecticut, but such an event may not happen for many years, if at all. Therefore individuals living in those states cannot be held to be placing themselves at risk of such a low probability event.”
Despite the lack of progress on a national catastrophe fund and the refusal of the Republican House to quickly approve federal assistance to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, the principle that we are all in this together does seem widely accepted.
The global level question
Which brings me to last November’s Doha Conference on Climate Change.
The sad truth is that the poorest countries on the planet will be hit first and hardest by climate change. In the last decade it is poor counties like Honduras, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Bangladesh and Thailand that have been most battered by the climate storm.
In the 1990s global climate conferences focused on greenhouse gas reductions. In 2010, at Cancun, governments began to focus on adaptation and mitigation, pledging $30 billion in “fast start” funding for 2010-2012 and $100 billion annually by 2020. (The latter is the annual cost of adaptation to a 2-degree C. warmer world as estimated by the World Bank.)
At Doha the 195 participating countries went a step further. For the first time the phrase “loss and damage from climate change” made it into an international legal document.
US and UK negotiators made certain that neither the word “compensation” nor any other term connoting legal liability was used in the final text. But for the first time richer countries seem to have accepted their moral obligation to offer aid, given their outsized contribution to the problem.
True, Doha is only an agreement in principle. No money was committed nor was a mechanism established to dispense the aid. The issue will be revisited at the next climate conference in Warsaw this year.
Where will the money come from? Many worry that it will come from existing foreign aid budgets. And that is exactly what happened when the UK created the adaptation-oriented International Climate Fund with money transferred from existing aid commitments.
The signs are not promising about our willingness to help. A month after Hurricane Sandy struck the US coast, typhoon Bopha struck the Philippines, the fourth major natural disaster in as many years, devastating the economy and leaving as many as 2000 dead. The current estimate of the total cost is $839 million. The Philippines requested $65 million in immediate assistance. Currently it has received only $12 million. US AID gave $100,000. (USAID maintains it has provided about $11.7 million in disaster response assistance to the Philippines over the past five years.)
The United States ranks near the bottom in terms of countries that give foreign aid. U.S. foreign aid constitutes only 0.19 percent of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The international leaders, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway give from 0.80 to 1.2 percent of their GDP. Most other European donors give between 0.38 and 0.50 percent. And for most Americans even this is too much. A recent USA TODAY/Gallup poll found that 59 percent of Americans favor cutting foreign aid.
Moreover, the vast proportion of US foreign assistance is given for geopolitical and military considerations, not for humanitarian aid. Indeed, last March, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned the priorities on US foreign assistance to the Western Hemisphere. She wanted funds directed more towards counter narco-trafficking efforts and security assistance and not to offset climate change impacts insisting, “With limited resources, we must ask if this best meets our US national security interests.”
At the Doha climate conference, 195 countries accepted the premise of a global pooling of risk.
Pooling climate change risk nationally is now widely accepted by US policymakers. At Doha 195 countries, including the United States, accepted the premise of a global pooling of risk. What might be the governing principle for such a global pool? Perhaps the Christian Bible could give us guidance. When famine was predicted the Bible notes, “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea.” (Acts 11:29. King James Bible)
Hurricane Sandy hit the richest section of the richest country on earth. Connecticut is by far the richest state. New Jersey ranks third and New York fourth. Connecticut has a per capita income of $56,000. The Philippines has a per capita income of $2,000. That stark disparity argues for the Mid-Atlantic States to generously join in helping the Philippines even as they ask the other US states to help them.
Just as the Stafford Act was intended to stop the ad hoc financial response to natural disasters, an outcome of the upcoming Warsaw conference might be to create a comparable international mechanism and agency.
How will such a mechanism be funded? From a tax on greenhouse gas emissions. Such a tax is both fair and strategic. It will impose costs commensurate with the damage generated while at the same time providing a market signal that will reduce future damages.
In the United States, a $10 per ton of CO2 tax would raise about $60 billion annually, sufficient funds to pay for adaptation, mitigation and assistance for at least for the foreseeable future. An additional $10 per ton paid by the richer nations alone would provide sufficient funds on an international scale to pay for adaptation and compensation, although all nations should be required to pay something in catastrophic insurance premiums.
Much needs to be worked out both on a national and international level. Who should dispense the money? What formula should govern the funds disbursement (i.e., what percentage of the costs should the national or international fund cover)? How do we assess the actual damages? Are funds available to cover only the costs of climate-induced natural disasters or for broader natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes?
The conversation will be hard and loud. But the confluence of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy and the agreements at Cancun and Doha by richer nations to help pay for adaptation and mitigation as well as assist the victims of climate change has brought to the United States and the world the centrality of the question. Who will pay the costs of climate change?
David Morris is co-founder and vice president of the Minneapolis- and DC-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Public Good Initiative. His books include The New City-States and We Must Make Haste Slowly: The Process of Revolution in Chile.
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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Former police spy spills the beans on a decade of deception...

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Police spy unravels decade of deception  (Source: ONE News)
    Source: ONE News
A former police spy has lifted the lid on his decade of deception under the codename Muldoon.
The details of Rob Gilchrist's double life infiltrating protest groups and leading trade unions are contained in a draft claim for more than $500,000 from police for lost income, for humiliation, distress, and loss of reputation.
He claims that, to bolster his "cover" for what he says became a $600 a week job, he became a vegan, an anarchist, an animal rights activist and a tino rangatiratanga supporter.
Police say they cannot discuss the Christchurch man's claim, but do not accept the allegations and will be "vigorously" defending the proceedings.
The draft claim alleges that, on the instructions of police, Gilchrist foiled a plan to "gas" 50,000 battery chickens.
He further claims that he had felt under-appreciated in his undercover role.
When he wanted to stop being an informant, police placated him by introducing him to then-prime minister Helen Clark as someone helping police to gather intelligence on activist groups, he say
When his relationship with his family suffered because of the lies he was having to tell, his police "handler" met his parents and told them about the work he was doing, describing him as a "police national asset".
He says that he was directed to spy on unions, including the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, Service and Food Workers, Maritime Union, and the Council of Trade Unions, along with environment, peace, animal rights and political groups.
Union representatives said they had no suspicions of being spied on and could not imagine why police would wish to do so.
Hans Kriek, executive director of animal welfare group SAFE, said Gilchrist's claims about the chickens were ludicrous and completely false.
Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said she had never come across Gilchrist. There was no evidence of spying, but if it had occurred it would be an "absolute intrusion".
"I've got no idea if it's true or not, but if it's confirmed we would be very, very concerned."
Labour MP Andrew Little, formerly EPMU national secretary, said there had been no hint of surveillance during his time in charge.
It was hard to imagine why police would be interested in spying on unions, but if it had happened, it was horrifying, he said.
Kriek said last week: "He probably lives in his own little fantasy world and actually I feel sad for him; he's a bit of a sad figure."
To the best of Kriek's knowledge, police had made no arrests while employing Gilchrist as an informant, which showed that animal welfare groups were generally law-abiding.
Among his claims, Gilchrist says police incited him to commit benefit fraud.
When he first started working for them, he was receiving a sickness benefit. He was reimbursed expenses and then, at police insistence, he says, accepted an offer of $10 an hour. This was later increased to $600 for a 50-to-60-hour week, plus expenses.
It is claimed his handler indicated that police had an arrangement with Inland Revenue that tax was not paid on payments to informants, and that being on a benefit was an "integral part of the cover".
A Work and Income spokesman said on Friday that there was no arrangement between it and police in relation to informants. Anyone who received a benefit had an obligation to disclose any change in circumstances, including receipt of money.
Double life takes toll
Rob Gilchrist says he went to Australia twice in his role as an informant.
The second time was for a vivisection protest, and at the request of police he agreed to being an "intelligence asset" for Australian Federal Police.
In 2005 he set up a company, NZ Scanners, and when it started making a profit, his handler indicated that it was acceptable for him to get company income, his welfare benefit and an income from police. He is claiming lost income because his job ended and he was paid less than an undercover police officer. He is also claiming for humiliation, distress and loss of reputation.
He says police did not look after him, take steps to prevent his role becoming known or care for his health and safety, including providing no counselling, sick days or holidays.
Since being "outed" in December 2008, he has been threatened. He has suffered depression, can no longer work undercover and is psychologically unfit for alternative work, he says.
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