Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 APU Person of the Year: Benazir Bhutto

For the first time, is choosing a Person of the Year who has passed on before the start of the New Year.

There was really no question that Benazir Bhutto, the two-time prime minister of Pakistan, would be this year’s choice. Even before her assassination this month, she would have been chosen in a tie along with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf.

The pair had dominated news in the Asia Pacific region in the run up to January’s national election, which now may be postponed. Musharraf has been under pressure from the West because of the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The fundamentalist group often operated across the border in western Pakistan.

Supporters of slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto ...
Mon Dec 31, 8:18 PM ET
Supporters of slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto light candles in Lahore December 31, 2007. Pakistani electoral officials will decide on Tuesday whether to go ahead with a Jan. 8 poll, with expectations it will be delayed by up to two months after Benazir Bhutto's killing. Picture taken December 31, 2007.

The Pakistani president agreed to hold elections and to remove his military uniform after outside calls for greater democratization in his country. This provided the opportunity for Benazir Bhutto to return from exile in the United Arab Emirates and run for the prime minister’s office for the third time. Originally the idea had been for Musharraf and Bhutto to arrange some sort of power-sharing deal.

Both are basically allied against the growing power of Islamic fundamentalists and extremists in the country. However, after a bomb blast shortly after Bhutto arrived nearly killed the former prime minister, the first female to lead a modern Muslim-dominated state.

Musharraf declared a state of emergency and curbed Bhutto’s freedom of movement igniting a conflict between the two and basically driving them on separate paths. Bhutto and her party claimed that Musharraf was using his power to influence the elections.

However, opinion polls had shown that she was well ahead of the competition in the race for prime minister. Bhutto insisted on making direct contact with the people and it was this conviction that contributed to her death. She was attacked and killed while waving to onlookers from the roof window of her armored transport vehicle.

She met the same fate as her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former prime minister who was executed after a suspicious trial for authorizing the murder of a political opponent. Both her parents were Shi’a Muslims in a country dominated by Sunnis. Benazir also lost two brothers under suspicious circumstances.

Born in 1953, Benazir earned a Bachelor of Arts with cum laude honors in comparative government from Harvard University. She was elected Phi Beta Kappa. She also attended Oxford in the United Kingdom where she became the first Asian woman president of the Oxford Union. In 1987, she married Asif Ali Zardari.

Benazir’s election as prime minister in 1988 was a milestone for women in the Muslim world although for the most part women throughout most of the country had little opportunity for equality. Bhutto had promised reforms including repealing the anti-woman Zina and Hudood ordinances but was unable to deliver because of the strength of the opposition and the problems she had maintaining a stable government.

Bhutto and her husband were the target of many charges of corruption that eventually ended her government. She went into self-imposed exile in 1998. She has left a controversial legacy. Her niece, for example, has accused here of complicity in the killing of her brother Murtaza Bhutto in 1996. Her husband spent eight years in jail on corruption charges.

Her death has left Pakistan severely destabilized but in the end it may contribute to her reputation as an agent of change. In typical South Asian dynastic style, it appears her son and husband will take over her party, the Pakistan People’s Party, founded by her father in 1967.

So, we name Benazir Bhutto as the APU Person of the Year in 2007, and may she rest in peace.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Manmohan Singh says nuke deal on ice

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told U.S. President George W. Bush that he may have to renege on a nuclear deal between the two countries.

Allied parties on the left of the political spectrum have opposed the deal saying it compromised India's own scientific research and independent foreign policy.

The prime minister "explained to President Bush that certain difficulties have arisen with respect to the operationalization of the India-U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement," said an official statement released last night.

U.S.-based General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, the latter a unit of Toshiba of Japan, were to help India establish 40,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020.

The deal was set to be the first nuclear cooperation between the two countries since India tested nuclear weapons decades ago. For its part the U.S. would recognize that India operates its nuclear program outside of the constraints of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

George W. Bush shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The two are having trouble closing a nuclear power deal. AFP/File/Raveendran photo.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hu Jintao opens party congress

China's leader Hu Jintao addressed the party congress Monday in what is widely seen as a test of his authority.

Hu all but rules out substantial reforms as party congress opens
International Herald Tribune
By Joseph Kahn President
Hu Jintao of China promised Monday to address social fissures, a degraded environment and rampant corruption during his second term as China's top leader. He also promised to make the party more inclusive and to better distribute the benefits of China's economic boom. However he all but ruled out key political reforms.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

China cracks down after Dalai Lama protest

China appears to be cracking down on Tibetan activists after a pro-Dalai Lama protest led by nomad Runggye Adak in August.

A political prisoner was recently executed and increased detentions have been reported. Beijing also described the Dalai Lama as a supporter of "evil cults" like Falun Gong and Japan's Aum Shinrikyo.

Runggye Adak staged a protest in support of the Dalai Lama at the Lithang horse festival before thousands of people. He was originally at the Lithang police detention center, but reportedly he has been moved closer to the provincial capital of Chengdu. Immediately after his detention, local Tibetans and nomads in the area for the summer horse festival, where he made his protested his detention before being dispersed by authorities. Several days afterwards, Tibetans gathered outside the town were dispersed by riot police using tear-gas and firing guns into the air.

Last month, China blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel for meeting the Dalai Lama and demanded Berlin make amends to restore bilateral ties. Beijing has opposed any official recognition of the Dalai Lama by foreign countries.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Musharraf sweeps Pakistan presidential election

Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf easily won the country's presidential elections Saturday after a near entire boycott by the opposition.

Musharraf's opponents have objected to the process and the Supreme Court is reviewing the case before permitting release of official results.

Of a total of 1,170 lawmakers eligible to vote, 671 cast their ballots for Musharraf.

Abandoning his trademark military uniform, Musharraf dismissed the idea that the boycott undermined the validity of the election. "Democracy means majority, whether there is opposition or no opposition," he said.

Pakistan ruler General Pervez Musharraf arrives at the President's house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Oct 6, 2007. Unofficial results showed Musharraf winning Saturday's presidential election, but the Supreme Court could still disqualify the military leader. AP Photo/B.K.Bangash via Yahoo News.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Gen. Than Shwe may meet with Suu Kyi

Myanmar's military leader may meet with dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week according to reports released on Thursday. The country made headlines recently over its crackdown on protests led largely by Buddhist monks.

eFluxMedia (press release)

Myanmar Junta Leader May Meet With Suu Kyi
Wall Street Journal - 2 hours ago
AP YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar military leader Gen. Than Shwe told a United Nations envoy this week that he will meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but with preconditions, state media reported Thursday.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Myanmar cracks down on monks, blocks internet

The government cracked down on protesting Buddhist monks and their supporters in Myanmar killing at least 10 and injuring or detaining many others.

Rangoon also blocked land-line access to the internet and surrounded key Buddhist temples in the country.

Monks had joined protests in the country condemning a fuel price hike. The demonstrations continued to swell reaching into the tens of thousands before the government began confronting the protesters earlier this week. According to some reports, hundreds have been killed in the violence.

Myanmar crackdown brings condemnation (AP)

Filipino protesters display a wanted poster of Myanmar's military junta leader Gen. Than Shwe during a rally in support to the ongoing protest in Myanmar Friday, Sept. 28, 2007 in front of the building housing the Myanmar embassy in Manila's financial district Philippines. Soldiers with automatic rifles fired into crowds of anti-government demonstrators in Myanmar Thursday, killing at least nine people in the bloodiest day in more than a month of protests demanding an end to military rule. (AP Photo/Pat Roque)AP - Myanmar's suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators drew condemnation and protests Friday particularly in surrounding Asian countries. ASEAN envoys and China urged the country to exercise restraint in dealing with the protests.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Shanghai praces for Typhoon Wipha

Although it is expected to weaken dramatically before reaching Shanghai in China, Typhoon Wipha could still be the most damaging storm to hit the area in a decade.

After passing over Taiwan, Wipha was still a Category 3 typhoon although it is expected to weaken to a tropical storm over the next 12 hours.

More than 2 million people have been evacuated throughout China ahead of the massive cyclone.

China's official government website issued a statement said to come from both President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao that "demanded that relevant provinces and cities strengthen their guard against the typhoon, increase implementation of defence measures ... and safeguard the lives and safety of the people"

Typhoons normally strike the Chinese coast during the summer months as they move northwest across the South China Sea from Southeast Asia.

Shaghai has evacuated 291,000 people and stopped all construction in the city. Two FIFA Women's World Cup matches scheduled for Wednesday in Shanghai and Hangzhou have been postponed to Thursday. The Shanghai match will be relocated to Hangzhou.

Pedestrian in Taipei walk through rain brought by Typhoon Wipha.AFP/Patrick Lin photo via Yahoo News.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Chinese state visit to Tonga; Chennai under alert

China continued to outreach to Pacific island nations with its first congressional level visit to the kingdom of Tonga this week.

Matangi Tonga

China's Congress makes first visit to Tonga
Matangi Tonga, Tonga
High-level Chinese legislators from China's Congress visited Tonga for the first time this week. A delegation from the Standing Committee of the ...

The South India city of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu state, was put on alert for a possible terrorist strike. The neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh suffered two bomb blasts recently. Intelligence reports suggest an operative with a Bangladeshi extremist group might be at work in the city.

Zee News

New Delhi warns of terror threat in Chennai
The Statesman, India - Sep 3, 2007
... the initial inputs suggested that the terrorists might plan a terror attack at Chennai, which has so far remained largely untouched terrorist activity ...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Greenpeace, Searice fight GMO rice in Philippines

Greenpeace and the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (Searice) are seeking an injunction against the approval of genetically-modified (GMO) rice in the Philippines.

If approved, the LL62 Bayer rice will be the first GMO food approved anywhere in the world by a national government.

Greenpeace and Searice asked for a restraining order expressing concern about the lack of public discussion on a matter of great public concern.

Community-based and environmental groups all over the world have been fighting fierce battles against GMOs, or "Frakenfoods" as they are also called. The opponents note that GMOs are unnatural, untested and have already proven harmful to human health. They also decrease diversity of crops and wild vegetation often due to accidental contamination.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Beating world poverty

Leaders from Africa and Asia met in Langkawi, Malaysia this week for the Smart Partnership International Dialogue aimed at reducing poverty in both regions.

I've always thought the main problem in developing world poverty is found in the colonial mentality still cemented in the minds of the developing world's people.

Interestingly enough, the non-Western nations that have succeeded economically in our times are mostly those who had not suffered Western colonization.

Japan, of course, is the biggest example. Of the Asian tigers, we have China, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand all who avoided the experience of Western colonization. Only Malaysia among the current tigers was colonized.

But Malaysia had the stalwart Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, a man often reviled by neighbors because of his anti-Western rants. If you compare what Malaysia has done to tackle poverty in the country during Mahathir's reign, and it compare to the other boot-licking countries in the region, and you can see the results of a proper mindset.

Malaysia went from a 50 percent poverty rate in 1970 to 15 percent in 1990 and 5.5 percent in 2000.

The problem with most developing countries is that they are waiting to be saved by the West. They're waiting for Western aid, waiting for Western private investment, waiting for the West to tell them what to do.

Vietnam may be ready to emulate Malaysia's performance, but possibly again because of the difference of its experience. After the Vietnam War, the country was forced to make it on its own without Western help. It took the tough mindset of the war and applied it to building up the country.

Be that as it may, whatever the attitude of the people, there are some things that can help in addressing the problems of poverty.

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto believes that poor nations can rapidly increase their resources by simply processing titles to unregistered land in poor nations.

Unlike developed countries, most people in the developing world have homes on property with no title. For all intents and purposes they own the land, they are not squatters, but they have no papers that allow them to capitalize on their property.

De Soto call this "dead capital." In some countries like Ethiopia and Peru, efforts to process titles on this land has led to billions of dollars in increased capital. He believes that Africa has some $9 trillion in dead capital equivalent to three years of gross domestic product for the continent.

There's no shortage of good ideas to tackle the problem but the people of the region must take the initiative and take full responsibility for making change.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Representatives from the Illinois Veterans Equity Center and National Alliance Met with Senator's Staff During April 11 Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing
Washington, DC- The National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE) today applauds Senator Barack Obama's commitment to the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. The Senator's staff contacted NAFVE today to confirm the Senator's cosponsorship of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, in follow up to a meeting NAFVE and the Illinois Veterans Equity Center (IVEC) held immediately following the April 11 Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing on the bill. Senator Obama sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and his cosponsorship is a significant turn of events. His office has pledged to work with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for passage of this bill.
"The Senator's support comes at a critical juncture for this bill as the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee looks to markup this legislation, " said Ben de Guzman, NAFVE National Campaign Coordinator. "We are so thankful for the Senator and his staff for their continued commitment to securing passage of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act."
"Filipino community members in Chicago , including stalwart leaders like Atty. Vanessa Vergara, have been working directly with Senator Obama for a long time now. When we met with the Senator's staff in April, we reminded them of the previous statement of support for the Filipino Veterans Senator Obama has made in the past," said Jerry Clarito, IVEC Director, referring to a quote from the Senator in an NBC news piece on November 2005. "His staff has told us that the commitment of local Filipino WW 2 veterans like IVEC President Arcadio Calabas to come all the way to Washington for this issue was key in securing the Senator's support for this bill."
NAFVE represents over 20 local, national and international organizations committed to securing full equity for Filipino World War II Veterans. More information about NAFVE and the Filipino Veterans Equity Act is available on the NAFVE Web site:

QUOTE from NBC 5 News, Chicago , IL (November 17, 2005): "The latest to join the push for recognition is Sen. Barack Obama, a member of the Veteran Affairs Committee. Obama said, 'I believe we should honor their sacrifices and give them the benefits that they earned; that is why I support bringing this legislation to a vote.'" http://www.nbc5. com/news/ 5350489/detail. html?z=dp&dpswid=2265994&dppid=65193

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thousands of potential new marine species found in Philippine waters

New mollusk species found in Philippines
A very rare seashell of the Slit shell family (scientific name: Bayerotrochus philpoppei) which was discovered by Belgian Guido Poppe in early 2006 off Balut Island in southern Philippines is displayed at the National Museum in Manila, Philippines Monday Feb.5, 2007 at the turn-over ceremony of newly-discovered marine species in the waters off Panglao Island in Bohol province in central Philippines. More than 1,200 species of decapod crustaceans and some 6,000 species of mollusks were discovered by the Panglao 2005-2006 Expedition team headed by Dr. Philippe Bouchet of the French National Museum of Natural History. Only 10 specimens are known around the world as claimed by Belgian Guido Poppe who discovered the rare find and has a price tag of US $10,000 dollars. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines - A French-led marine expedition team believes it has discovered thousands of new species of mollusks and crustaceans around a Philippine island, officials and scientists announced Monday.

Some 80 scientists, technicians, students and volunteers from 19 countries surveyed waters around Panglao island, 390 miles southeast of Manila from 2004-2005.

The Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project turned over to the Philippine National Museum on Monday more than a hundred holotypes or representative specimen of the rare finds, officials said.

"Numerous species were observed and photographed alive, many for the first time, and it is estimated that 150-250 of the crustaceans and 1,500-2,500 of the mollusks are new species," said a statement from the expedition team, which was led by Philippe Bouchet of the French National Museum of Natural History.

"However, it requires a thorough comparison with all previously named species to ascertain if a novel species is indeed new to science," it added. "This is a slow and tedious process."

The expedition team said its survey revealed over 1,200 species of decapod crustaceans — a group that includes crayfish, crabs, lobsters and shrimps — and some 6,000 species of mollusks.

The expedition received funding from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Total Foundation.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

India to form aerospace defence command

India will form an "aerospace defence" command to protect against attacks from outer space, officials said Sunday.

The announcement comes three days after India called for a "weapons free outer space" in response to China's test of an anti-satellite weapon.

Indian Air Force (IAF) commander Shashi Tyagi said military was in the process of building an aerospace program but gave no timetable for its progress.

"We will take help of ISRO (Indian Space Research organisation) for the aerospace command but it will have distinct features as it is a military command," he said.

Indian airforce chief Shashi Tyagi speaks at a press conference in Gandhinagar. Tyagi said the military was in the process of establishing an aerospace defence command "to exploit outer space," the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported. AFP/File/Sam Panthaky photo via Yahoo News.