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UN court acquits Serb ultranationalist Seselj of all counts

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

A man walks past posters depicting Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), reading: "We don't want into EU", in Belgrade, Serbia, Dec. 7, 2011. (AP/Darko Vojinovic)

In a sweeping defeat for UN prosecutors, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal acquitted Serbian ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj on Thursday of all nine counts alleging that he was responsible for or incited atrocities by Serbian paramilitaries in the 1990s Balkan wars. The ruling sparked joy in Serbia and outrage in Bosnia and Croatia.

Prosecutors had charged Seselj, 61, with crimes including persecution, murder and torture and had demanded a 28-year sentence. But in a majority decision, the three-judge panel said there was insufficient evidence linking the politician himself to the crimes.

"Following this verdict, Vojislav Seselj is now a free man," Presiding Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said at a hearing in The Hague, which Seselj did not attend.

At a Belgrade news conference shortly after his acquittal, Seselj, who defended himself throughout his trial and did not call a single defense witness, said the decision was "the only possible one from the legal aspect."

"After so many proceedings in which innocent Serbs were given draconian punishments, this time two honest judges showed they valued honor more than political pressure," he said.

The court's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, questioned a number of key findings by two of the three trial judges. He almost certainly will appeal, but said Thursday he first has to study the 100-page ruling and its dissenting opinions.

In a majority ruling, the three-judge panel ruled that Serbian plans to carve out a "Greater Serbia" by uniting lands they considered Serb territory in Croatia and Bosnia was a "political goal" and not a criminal plan, as prosecutors alleged. The plan often was accompanied by military campaigns that drove out thousands of non-Serb civilians and left thousands of others dead.

Antonetti, the judge, distanced Seselj from the crimes of the paramilitaries he helped to establish, saying that although Seselj, "may have had a certain amount of moral authority over his party's volunteers, they were not his subordinates" when they went into combat.

Brammertz, the prosecutor, pointed to the ruling's controversial findings, including that there was not a widespread attack by Serb forces on civilians in Bosnia and Croatia, and that operations to bus non-Serbs out of areas claimed by Serbs as part of a "Greater Serbia" amounted to a humanitarian mission rather than the forcible removal of the population.

"The reading of the conflict by the trial chamber is very, very different to what we are used to," he told reporters at the court, adding that the marathon case was beset by allegations of interference with witnesses and evidence.

The acquittal stunned many Bosnians.

"An absolutely shocking decision," said lawyer and publicist Senad Pecanin. "This is the lowest point of The Hague tribunal."

Ismar Jamakovic, 23, a student of political science from Sarajevo, said judges ruled that "advocating the creation of Greater Serbia was a political and not a criminal act. Does this mean I can now advocate the creation of an Islamic State without facing any consequences? You've got to be kidding me."

The ruling also triggered outrage in Croatia, with media headlines declaring "Shame on The Hague, the notorious warmonger is free" by the Jutarnji List newspaper.

Russian state television covered the Seselj verdict extensively, spinning it as a triumph of justice.

Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian nationalist politician turned deputy prime minister, welcomed Seselj's acquittal. Rogozin met Seselj during his trip to Belgrade in January. He said at the time that was a private visit and that he had known Seselj since the 1990s.

"I congratulate my friend on his victory!" Rogozin said on Twitter. "But who is going to restore his health that was battered by the time in prison and public humiliation?"

Seselj's return to Belgrade in late 2014, when the tribunal released him on humanitarian grounds due to his ill health, only boosted his popularity among the ultranationalists.

With a surge in pro-Russian and right-wing sentiments ahead of Serbia's April 24 general election, Seselj's Serbian Radical Party has a good chance to return to parliament after missing out after the last vote two years ago.

Seselj has campaigned on the platform that Serbia must never enter the 28-nation European Union or NATO and should forge closer ties with Moscow. He has burned EU flags during pre-election rallies, and said he would join a coalition government with the incumbent populists, his former allies, only if they give up their goal of EU accession.

The acquittal has given Seselj an additional boost ahead of the vote. He also said he filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the UN court demanding 12 million euros in compensation and could now add 2 million euros more to his demand.

He said he expects to win 20-25 percent of the vote for his far-right radicals.

"The most important is that we get more than the progressives," he said, referring to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, his former allies-turned-foes.

Natasa Kandic, a human rights activist in Serbia, said the acquittal would likely be overturned on appeal.

"Some of the explanations are contrary to sane logic," she said.


Associated Press writers Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Categories: Indonesian News

21 killed, many trapped in overpass collapse in India

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

Locals and rescue workers clear the rubbles of a partially collapsed overpass in Kolkata, Thursday. (Swapan Mahapatra/Press Trust of India via AP)

A long section of a road overpass under construction collapsed Thursday in a crowded Kolkata neighborhood, with tons of concrete and steel slamming into midday traffic, leaving at least 21 people dead and scores of others injured in the Indian city, police said.

Rescuers used saws, small cranes and their bare hands to dig through the wreckage in search of survivors.

At least 21 people were killed, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. It was not immediately clear how many people remained missing.

Yogesh Sharma was sitting at a small roadside tea stand with friends when the overpass, which spanned nearly the width of the city street and was designed to ease traffic through the densely crowded neighborhood, "came down with a huge crashing sound."

"I left my cup of tea and ran," said Sharma, a 23-year-old resident of the Bara Bazaar neighborhood. "I was crying at the spot."

Smashed yellow taxis, destroyed rickshaws and the bloody legs of trapped people jutted from the collapsed girders and concrete slabs.

The fallen sections of the overpass totaled perhaps 100 meters (yards), with many other parts still standing. Mamta Banerjee, the top elected official of West Bengal state, said a private builder had missed several deadlines for completing the construction.

Army troops and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force joined efforts to extract people from vehicles that lay under massive concrete blocks and metal debris. Huge cranes and other rescue equipment reached the site and began clearing the rubble. Workers also used gas cutters to pry open the slabs.

O.P. Singh, the chief of the disaster response force, said the operation was a "very, very challenging task."

Rescuers were using sniffer dogs and special cameras to find trapped people, Singh told reporters.

More than 70 injured people were admitted to two hospitals in Kolkata, the state capital, hospital officials said.

"The area was very, very crowded. Motorized rickshaws, taxis ... there was a lot of traffic," one witness told NDTV television.

The contract for the overpass was signed in 2007 and it was expected to be completed in two years. Banerjee accused the previous Communist government in West Bengal of not adhering to building regulations.

"We completed nearly 70 percent of the construction work without any mishap," said K.P Rao, a top official of IVRCL Infrastructure company, which was building the overpass. "We have to go into the details to find out whether the collapse was due to any technical or quality issue."

"It was a total act of God,'" said his colleague, Dilip, who uses one name.

Building collapses are common in India, where regulations are poorly enforced and builders often use substandard materials.

Categories: Indonesian News

Group says 98 girls in C. African Republic sexually abused

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

UN peacekeeping soldiers patrol the streets on the occasion of Pope Francis' visit at a refugee camp, in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

A US-based advocacy group says 98 girls in Central African Republic reported they were sexually abused by international peacekeepers, and three girls told UN staff they were tied up, undressed and forced to have sex with a dog by a French military commander in 2014.

AIDS-Free World's Code Blue Campaign to end sexual abuse and exploitation said the three girls told a UN human rights officer that a fourth girl tied up with them later died of an unknown disease.

The group said the information it received, including the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in another part of the country on Monday, is in the hands of senior UN officials.

The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in a statement Thursday called the allegations "sickening" and said all three countries whose peacekeepers are accused have been formally notified. He said countries must do more to stop abuse and hold their troops accountable, "otherwise this awful cycle of abuse will never end."

There was no immediate comment from French authorities.

The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic. There have been similar allegations against the French force known as Sangaris, which operates independently in Central African Republic, known as CAR.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said last week that a UN team was sent to gather information about recently reported allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN and non-UN forces as well as civilians in Kemo prefecture, east of the capital Bangui, in 2014 and 2015.

Dujarric said in a note to correspondents Wednesday evening that the new allegations went back to 2013 and included allegations against local armed groups. He said a UN team is on the ground and the exact number and nature of "these extremely troubling allegations" is still being determined.

The team has identified the alleged involvement of UN contingents from Burundi and Gabon, which will remain confined to camps during the investigation, Dujarric said. Allegations against French forces in the same area are also being investigated, he said.

The UN recently reported that 25 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation were registered with the UN mission in Central African Republic in January and February, most from previous years. This compares with a total of six allegations in the 15 other UN peacekeeping missions in the first two months of this year, the UN peacekeeping department said.

A UN report earlier this month said there were 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in 2015 — 22 of them in CAR.

Central African Republic has been rocked by sectarian violence since 2013.

AIDS-Free World called the information it received "shocking." Two weeks ago, it said, the UN children's agency UNICEF interviewed 98 girls who reported being sexually abused.

The group said that Saturday a delegation from the UN peacekeeping mission known as MINUSCA met local leaders and victims who alleged that troops from France and Gabon had sexually abused girls. Some victims left the area because they were stigmatized by the community, it said.

During the delegation's visit, AIDS-Free World said the three girls reported being tied up inside a camp by the French military commander. After having sex with the dog, the group said, each girl was given 5,000 Central African Francs, or about US$9.

One girl told the UN human rights officer that the fourth girl who later died "was called 'the Sangaris' dog' by people in the community."

AIDS-Free World also said the mother of a 16-year-old girl informed local police in another part of CAR that a Congolese UN peacekeeper raped her daughter in a hotel room Monday afternoon.

The group said that when the soldier was questioned by police in the presence of his commander he confirmed that he "had sexual intercourse" with the victim several times and paid her between 2,000 and 5,000 Central African Francs.


Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.

Categories: Indonesian News

Indonesia rejects Israel's latest call for bilateral relations

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

Israeli Arab Bedouin children play before a rally marking the 40th anniversary of Land Day and against a plan to uproot the village of Umm Al-Hiran, in Umm Al-Hiran, the Negev desert, southern Israel on Wednesday. Land Day commemorates the killing of six Arab citizens of Israel by the Israeli army and police on March 30, 1976, during protests over Israeli confiscations of Arab land.(AP/Ariel Schalit)

Indonesia will stand firm in its support of an independent Palestine and will not respond to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu most recent call for official bilateral relations, an official said on Thursday.

"We want to assert that Indonesia's support and efforts to push for the independence of Palestine will not change," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Thursday as quoted by kompas.com.

He also expressed disappointment that several senior Indonesian journalists had recently visited Israel, after being invited by Netanyahu, who said that he wanted to change public opinion about Israel.

During the meeting, the prime minister expressed his hopes that Indonesia and Israel would initiate official relations, saying that both countries had many opportunities to cooperate.

The ministry was aware that the Middle Eastern country had conducted similar activities in the past to promote its tourist and business sectors.

"We regret that such activities are politicized by Israel," he said.

Tantowi Yahya, a lawmaker from the House of Representatives commission I overseeing foreign and security affairs, said Indonesia's support of Palestine was in accordance with the Constitution, which asserts that independence is the natural right of every nation. (liz/rin)

Categories: Indonesian News

Harvard taking more steps to acknowledge its ties to slavery

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

A bicyclist walks by Harvard University's Langdell Hall, which includes Harvard Law School's library, in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 1, 2005. (AP/Charles Krupa)

Harvard's president says the Ivy league university will do more to acknowledge its ties to slavery.

University President Drew Faust announced Wednesday in an op-ed in the student newspaper that the nearly 400-year-old institution will install a plaque next month at the former home for college presidents to recognize the slaves who lived and worked there. Slavery was abolished in Massachusetts in 1783.

She's also convened a committee to recommend other campus sites warranting similar recognition and says Harvard will host a conference on universities and slavery next year.

Faust said in her op-ed that Harvard, like many New England institutions, was "directly complicit in America's system of racial bondage" but has rarely acknowledged it.

The announcement comes as Harvard has taken steps to remove university symbols and references that harken to the slave era.

Categories: Indonesian News

Papua will continue to use noken voting system: KPU

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

In focus: A photojournalist takes his place in front of a screen showing an election-related violence index compiled by the election supervisory agency (Bawaslu) ahead of the simultaneous local elections on Dec. 9. General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Husni Kamil Manik said the noken voting system would be still used in the 2017 regional elections in Papua. (thejakartapost.com/DON)

The noken voting system will be still used in regional elections in Papua, as the social custom of the Papuan people, which has been passed across generations, has many good values, an election official has said.

General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Husni Kamil Manik said that as a gauge of public opinion in Papuan culture, noken could not be totally removed from either regional head elections or general elections.

“Several values in the noken system are in line with general election principles, but some other values are not yet in accordance with election principles, so we need to alter how they are implemented,” he said in Jayapura on Tuesday.

Giving an example, Kamil said the noken system adopted Indonesia’s widespread “musyawarah untuk mufakat” (deliberation for consensus) style of decision-making. In a general election under the noken system, there is also a campaign period, during which a candidate conveys his or her vision and mission to all constituents. The constituents are also be given time to analyze the candidate and deliberate until consensus is reached, he added.

However, Kamil further said, that the noken system did not protect voters’ right to confidentiality, which was not in line with Indonesia’s principle of direct, public and free elections. Under the noken system, the choices of voters can be seen by all people present at a voting station.

“This could potentially trigger political resentment because a candidate will be fully aware who chose him or her and who did not support him or her,” said Kamil.

Under such conditions, the KPU chairman said, the Provincial General Elections Commission (KPUD) must alter the practice so that it maintained voter confidentiality.

“Until now, [voting takes place via] a noken [traditional Papuan bag] with the name of a chosen candidate attached to it. As the result, everybody knows ‘who chooses who’,” said Kamil.

“There should be a new method. We can still use a noken but we put it in a booth so that the confidentiality of our choice is maintained. The noken will be put into a ballot box before they are counted,” he said.

To adjust the noken system so that it complies with Indonesia’s direct, public and free election principles, Kamil said, all KPUD officials in areas still using the noken system must start a dialogue with the public about the positives and negatives of the noken voting system.

“One thing that they must tell the public is that it is important for a voter to be able to cast his or her vote directly. Although there has been an agreement that they must choose a certain candidate, they should still be allowed to participate in the voting process directly, and not be represented by others as has happened under the noken system until now” said Kamil.

KPUD Papua chairman Adam Arisoi said 11 regencies and municipalities would participate in regional elections in Papua in 2017. Of the total, six regencies, namely Dogiyai, Nduga, Lanny Jaya, Puncak, Puncak Jaya and Tolikara, would still use the noken system.

“However, not all polling stations in the six regencies will apply the noken system. Only some of them will use it and the remainder will allow for vote-casting in line with nationally-adopted direct, public and free election principles,” said Adam.

He further said that in the 2017 regional elections, tribal chiefs would no longer represent their tribes in casting votes. All voters will cast their votes directly.

KPUD Puncak Jaya chairman Jennifer Darling Tabuni said the noken system would be used at only eight locations. “Voters in other areas of the regency will cast their vote in line with the direct, public and free election principles,” he said. (ebf)



Categories: Indonesian News

Papua bans alcohol consumption

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

Members of the Navy's elite frogmen command (Kopaska) and Sea Security Force from Western Fleet Quick Response IV check the cargo of KM Kawal Bahari 1 and KM Kharisma Indah at the Lantamal IV Port at Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands on March 20. The two boats were arrested when sailing from Singapore and hiding 500 sacks of sugar, 1,000 sacks of rice, 50 boxes of cigarettes, 4,000 cases of alcohol and several other types of goods.(Antara/M. N Kanwa)

Alcohol distribution and production are officially prohibited in Papua province starting Thursday to save Papuans from the disastrous effects of alcohol consumption, the Papua governor has said.

The prohibition came into effect with the signing of an integrity pact on Thursday. The document was signed by Governor Lukas Enembe, regents and mayors in Papua, the Papua Provincial Council (DPRD), Papua Police, military command and district court chiefs during a coordinating meeting.

The integrity pact would support the existing 2013 Provincial Regulations on alcohol prohibition to prevent alcohol distribution in Indonesia's easternmost province, Enembe said.

Several regional leaders expressed their support of the integrity pact, saying that alcohol had only brought issues such as domestic violence to Papua.

"Alcohol destroys Papuans. It could be the cause of their extinction," Enembe said on Thursday.

The integrity pact consists of several points, including prohibition of the production, distribution and sale of alcohol, cooperation with relevant offices in monitoring alcohol prohibition and implementation the 2013 Provincial Regulations.

Fien Yarangga, an activist from group Papuan Women (Perempuan Papua), applauded the provincial administration’s move, saying that it showed that local officials cared about the issues.

"Women are most often the victims of alcohol consumption. They fall victim to domestic violence triggered by alcohol," Fien said.

The group is currently assisting three victims of alcohol-related violence. One of them is the wife of a Jayapura public official who was tortured by her drunk husband. The two other women were raped by drunk men.

The group urged the provincial administration to promote the regulation and integrity pact among the public to raise awareness.

According to Papua Police data, 86 people have died, 264 have been heavily injured and 839 suffered light injuries since 2013 in alcohol-related cases. (rin)

Categories: Indonesian News

Hunters add to haze problem in Indochina

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

A Thai official extinguishing wildfires causing the haze in the region at a forest in Tak province, northern Thailand. (EPA via AP)

Hunting is contributing to the haze that has become an annual hazard in several parts of Indochina during the hot, dry months from February to April, when farmers burn their agricultural waste as well as clear land by fire to prepare for the next crop.

According to Nion Sirimongkonlertkun, a lecturer from the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna who works closely with firefighters in the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai, some of the biggest fires in recent weeks have been caused by hunters setting forests alight to expose wildlife.

"When [the firefighters] go to check, they see people there waiting with a gun to kill animals," she told The Straits Times.

NASA-based satellite imagery on Tuesday and Wednesday showed several hot spots raging in Cambodia, Vietnam, northern Thailand, as well as in Myanmar and Laos near the Thai border.

Wednesday, the amount of air pollutants measuring 10 micrometers or less in diameter breached the safe level of 120 micrograms per cubic m in the Thai border provinces of Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son.

Doctors say they usually see a jump in the number of patients with respiratory ailments during this time of the year.

Depending on the wind direction, the haze can reduce visibility to just a few hundred meters. This has forced airlines to cancel or divert some flights recently in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son.

The haze in Thailand's northern provinces can blow to other countries like Laos and Myanmar, said Maytee Mahayosananta, who heads the government's Northern Meteorological Center.

"But they won't go down to the central area or the south, as the wind during this season doesn't travel in this direction and is not that strong."

Thai officials have tried several methods to control the haze, including a ban on burning from mid-February to mid-April.

But locals say it has little effect in mountainous areas, where waste disposal transportation is both time-consuming and expensive, and hence there is little incentive to heed the ban.

In recent years, corn farms have been singled out for causing the haze. The hardy crop, which can be harvested in just four months, is a major component of animal feed.

Put on the defensive, agricultural conglomerate Charoen Pokphand earlier this week disclosed that it was setting up a social enterprise to steer farmers in Nan province away from corn, the Bangkok Post reported.

Categories: Indonesian News

Decapitation of 3-year-old sparks anger and fear in Taiwan

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

A woman visits a makeshift memorial for a girl who was attacked to death Monday by a knife-wielding assailant outside a subway station in Taipei, Taiwan, March 29. (AP/Chiang Ying-ying)

The apparently random decapitation of a 3-year-old girl in front of her mother in low-crime Taipei this week has sparked outrage, calls to save the death penalty and questions about the island's state of mental health care.

The attack on the child, who was walking behind her mother on the way to a metro station, has stunned and horrified inhabitants of greater Taipei, with the reaction at times verging on violence. Hours after the girl was killed, a crowd gathered outside the police station where the slaying suspect was taken, some of them armed with baseball bats.

"I can't accept this," said Chiu Yuan-chao, Taipei mother of a 9-year-old, said in a telephone interview. "This kind of person shouldn't be allowed to enjoy the treatment of a normal person. I think all moms and dads will have this kind of view. This sort of incident is becoming something of a trend and my feeling is that the society is amid some sort of panic."

Police arrested Wang Ching-yu, 33, who they suspect killed the child. He had been was hospitalized for treatment in 2010 and 2014 after arguing with his family because of an unspecified mental illness, Central News Agency said, citing police.

Authorities have not said whether mental illness was a factor in the attack or whether Wang had been clinically diagnosed with any mental illness.

City dwellers largely still consider the metro area of 5.6 million to be safe. Murders across the island have fallen from 1,765 cases in 1995 to 474 in 2014, statistics from the National Police Agency show.

But the attack triggered debate about whether to keep the death penalty as a deterrent against violent crime. Legislators have been discussing reforms to the punishment, which had been effectively suspended from December 2005 to May 2008. Thirty-three people have been executed since 2008.

About 80 percent of Taiwanese support capital punishment, according to the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty.

"We need a deeper discussion, not just keep or drop the death penalty, but a more complete system," alliance Executive Director Lin Hsin-yi said Thursday. "If we let a criminal out of jail, will he do more bad things? We need to talk about that."

The girl's killing was among several cases of random violence in recent years that have raised concerns about crime and the city's ability to provide adequate mental health support.

A day after the slaying, a police officer was stabbed at a metro station, again apparently at random. Last year, an 8-year-old girl was killed on an elementary school campus by a man who local media said heard voices. In 2014, a man killed four people in Taipei's ever-crowded metro system.

In each instance, the attackers were characterized as suffering from mental disorders. The man convicted of killing passengers on the subway at age 21 was sentenced to death last year.

The attack has also raised questions about potential inadequacies in the island's mental health services. Lin Wan-i, an incoming official of the president-elect's administration, told local media that the suspect had not been properly diagnosed and observed before being discharged.

Since Monday, many people in Taiwan, including a local official overseeing a Taipei borough, have called for hospitalizing severely mentally ill people in hospitals.

But Pan Chun-hung, director the Department of Addiction Science with Taipei City Hospital, said Taiwan needs to raise the public's overall awareness of mental health issues. Some people may have difficulty recognizing mental illness in themselves and others or are unaware that treatment is available, he said. Strangers should not fear the mentally ill as "most have no antisocial traits," he said.

"When things happen there's a bit of panic and a reaction that people should be quarantined," Pan said. "But our medication is advanced and people can be treated effectively. We hope eventually, if people know more, they won't feel so panicked."

Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's president-elect, said Wednesday that Taiwan's future head of police will need to devise "specific strategies and activities" to boost public safety.

"Facing the innocent sacrifice of a child, we can't just be angry and sad," she said in a statement. "Our responsibility is to give every father, mother and child a life that's free of fear."

Categories: Indonesian News

15 killed, many trapped in overpass collapse in India

Fri, 2016-04-01 04:29

Locals and rescue workers clear the rubbles of a partially collapsed overpass in Kolkata, India, Thursday. (Swapan Mahapatra/Press Trust of India via AP)

Rescuers in Kolkata dug through large chunks of debris from an overpass that collapsed while under construction Thursday, killing at least 15 people and injuring scores of others, officials said.

A section of the overpass in the busy Bara Bazaar residential and shopping area in north Kolkata fell on vehicles and people moving underneath, trapping scores in their cars, trucks and motorized rickshaws.

"We heard a loud rumble and then saw a lot of dust in the sky," a witness told the New Delhi Television news channel, NDTV.

Mamta Banerjee, the top elected official of West Bengal state, said 15 people had been confirmed dead. Banerjee visited the collapse site and said a private builder had missed several deadlines for completing the overpass.

Army troops and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force joined efforts to extract people from vehicles that lay under massive concrete blocks and metal debris. Huge cranes and other rescue equipment reached the site and began clearing the rubble. Workers also used gas cutters to pry open the slabs.

O.P. Singh, the chief of the disaster response force, said the operation was a "very, very challenging task."

Rescuers were using sniffer dogs and victim locating cameras to find trapped people, Singh told reporters.

More than 70 injured people were admitted to two hospitals in Kolkata, the state capital, hospital officials said.

"The area was very, very crowded. Motorized rickshaws, taxis ... there was a lot of traffic," one witness told NDTV.

Television images showed the bloody legs of some of trapped people jutting out of the collapsed girders and concrete slabs.

The contract for the overpass was signed in 2007 and it was expected to be completed in two years. Banerjee accused the previous Communist government in West Bengal of not adhering to building regulations.

Building collapses are common in India, where regulations are poorly enforced and builders often use substandard materials.


Categories: Indonesian News

Google photo editing software now free to download

Thu, 2016-03-31 21:58

Google's photo editing software that previously retailed for US$149 is now free to download for both Mac and Windows users. (Shutterstock)

Google's photo editing software that previously retailed for US$149 is now free to download for both Mac and Windows users.

According to the company's announcement, the Nik Collection desktop suite, designed for professional photographers, was made available for free following Google's long-term plans to focus on building photo editing tools for mobile applications such as Google Photos and Snapseed.

The free-to-download package consists of seven desktop plugins including Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Dfine, Sharpener Pro, Sliver Efex Pro, Viveza and HDR Efex Pro.

Those who already purchased the desktop suite this year can expect to receive a full refund.

PCMagazine reported that the collection's seven different plugins could be use as a standalone product, but they work better when combined with existing image editing programs such as Adobe's Photoshop.

This is not the first time for Google to change its policy regarding software pricing. In January, Google Earth Pro, which allows users to virtually explore the globe, has also been made available for free from previously being priced at $399. (kes)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Turkish army rules out 'anti-Erdogan coup'

Thu, 2016-03-31 21:58

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accompanied by his wife Emine walk down the stairs upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., March 29. (AP/Jose Luis Magana)

The Turkish army says it has no plans to stage a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has threatened legal action against anyone who suggests otherwise.

The rare statement aims to squash speculation over the possibility of a military coup in Turkey as the president visits the United States. The military said on its website such "baseless news" was hurting morale in its ranks without naming specific publications.

The Turkish army, historically seen as a defender of secular principles, has ousted three elected governments and one prime minister.

The institution saw its power reduced through a series of measures after Erdogan came to power as prime minister in 2003. Now the country's president, Erdogan is due to return to Turkey on Sunday.(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Rights body calls for revision of history textbooks

Thu, 2016-03-31 21:58

Human rights activists stage a rally in front of the State Palace to demand justice for past human rights abuses. Participants in the weekly protests, which began eight years ago and occur every Thursday, have called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to fulfill his campaign promise to create a rights tribunal.(JP)

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has called on the government to revise school history books, which it believes have been manipulated for decades by those in power.

“We can’t depend on the version of history that was provided by the New Order government [from 1966 to 1998], for example. There should be new lesson materials based on the process of revealing the truth,” said Komnas HAM commissioner Dianto Bachriadi.

History textbooks should be revised after the government reveals the truth regarding past human rights cases, he added.

Komnas HAM has launched its own investigations into the cases but its recommendations have never been followed up by the Attorney General’s Office.

Dianto said the government should provide updated materials for history lessons in schools countrywide and compensate victims of past rights abuses.

However, Benny Susetyo of the Setara Institute said the most important thing in resolving past human rights cases was recognition and, therefore, the government should recognize the country’s dark past in order to bring about justice for victims.

“Our society discourages efforts to recognize the truth of the past as it would threaten perpetrators’ positions nowadays,” said Benny.

The government has expressed its wish to resolve seven past human rights violations, namely a 1989 massacre in Talangsari, Lampung; the forced disappearance of anti-Soeharto activists in 1997 and 1998; the 1998 Trisakti University shootings; the Semanggi I and Semanggi II student shootings in 1998 and 1999; the mysterious killings of alleged criminals in the 1980s; the communist purge of 1965; and various abuses that took place in Wasior and Wamena, Papua, in 2001 and 2003.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on March 17 that the government expected to resolve at least six of those cases by May 2. (vps/bbn)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

World’s leaders of moderate Islam to meet on radicalism and terrorism

Thu, 2016-03-31 21:58

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Said Agil Siradj (right) sits next to NU rais am (supreme leader) Ma'ruf Amien at the muktamar (national congress) on Aug. 5, 2015.(Antara/Zabur Karuru)

About 300 leaders of moderate Islam from across the globe will meet in Jakarta to discuss measures to prevent the spread of Islamic radicalism and terrorism in the name of religion, an Islamic cleric has said.

"This event is to harmonize the perception of Islam because [the profile of] radicalism and terrorism has been intensifying given the recent bomb attacks", Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) advisory board chairman Ma'ruf Amin said after a meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the State Palace on Thursday.

The event named the “International Summit of the Islamic Moderate Leaders” will take place from May 9 to 11 at the Jakarta Convention Center, and will be attended by some 300 representatives from 60 countries, Ma’ruf added.

NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj stressed that the country’s largest Islamic organization was an anti-violent socio-religious organization, starting from its executives in the central board to its smallest branches in villages.  "All of us are anti-radicalism and hold the principle of a tolerant Islam", he went on.

The event will also attended by a number of government officials such as Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian.

The organizers have also invited experts from all around the world namely Nico Proca, an expert of the Islamic State movement, from the University of Vienna, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh and the presidential envoy to the Middle East and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Alwi Shihab. (bbn)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Sulawesi’s largest solar power plant begins operation

Thu, 2016-03-31 20:29

Renewable energy: Solar panels are pictured in a residential settlement on Ponelo Island, North Gorontalo. A solar power plant (PLTS) with a capacity of 2 megawatt peak (MWp) has begun operating in the regency's East Sumalata district, making it the biggest solar plant in Sulawesi. (thejakartapost.com/Syamsul Huda M.Suhari)

A solar power plant (PLTS) with a capacity of 2 megawatt peak (MWp) has begun operating in Gorontalo, meeting the energy needs of people in the province with renewable power.

Located in Motihelumo, East Sumalata district, North Gorontalo regency, the Sumalata PLTS is said to be Sulawesi’s biggest solar plant.

Putu Eka Astawa, manager of state-owned electricity company PLN for North Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi and Gorontalo, told thejakartapost.com that the Sumalata PLTS could supply electricity for 4,000 households.

He said the electricity output from the Sumalata PLTS had been integrated with Gorontalo’s power network, which also relies on other sources, such as a diesel power station and a steam-fueled power plant, for its electricity supply.

Built on a 5-hectare plot of land, the Sumalata PLTS took around eight months to build, and officially began operating at the end of February. At least 8,600 solar panels are installed at the plant.

The peak load from the Sumalata PLTS is estimated to occur for around three hours, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with an electricity load of 2,049 kilowatt peak.

Previously, the use of solar energy in North Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi and Gorontalo only reached 1 MWp.

Built based on a partnership between PLN and an independent power producer (IPP), the Sumalata PLTS is the second IPP-funded solar plant in Indonesia.

Earlier, PLN built a solar power plant with a capacity of 5 MWp in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.

Putu said the existing load in North Sulawesi and Gorontalo reached 325 MW on average, while the electricity capacity was 395 MW. “Currently, there is an electricity reserve of around 70 MW,” he said on Wednesday.

Gorontalo Governor Rusli said it was hoped that the electricity reserve in the province could help push economic growth.

“Each time an investor sounds out a possibility to invest in the province, the electricity capacity in Gorontalo is the main issue they always question,” he said recently. (ebf)


Categories: Indonesian News

Obama, Asian leaders to huddle on North Korea nuclear threat

Thu, 2016-03-31 20:29

A picture showing US President Barack Obama (left) and South Korean President Park Geun-hye is displayed as anti-war protesters stages a rally opposing the joint military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, between the US and South Korea, near the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, March 19.(AP/Ahn Young-joon)

Working to display a united front, the United States and key Asian countries will seek Thursday to put more pressure on North Korea as world leaders open a nuclear security summit in Washington.

President Barack Obama, the summit's host, will also seek to smooth over tensions with China over cybersecurity and maritime disputes as he and President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines. The summit also offers Obama his last major chance to focus global attention on disparate nuclear security threats before his term ends early next year.

Though nuclear terrorism and the Islamic State group top this year's agenda, concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons program are also commanding focus as the two-day summit gets under way. Those long-simmering concerns have escalated of late following the North's recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

Obama planned to have a joint meeting Thursday morning with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, two US treaty allies deeply concerned about North Korea. It's a reprise of a similar meeting the three countries held in 2014 during the last nuclear security summit in The Hague.

China's influence over the North will be front and center later in the day when Obama sits down with Xi. The White House said that meeting was also an opportunity for Obama to press US concerns about human rights and China's assertive territorial claims in waters far off its coast.

Though frictions with China remain high, the US was encouraged by China's role in passing stringent new UN sanctions on North Korea, its traditional ally. Now the US is pressing Beijing to implement those sanctions dutifully.

"The international community must remain united in the face of North Korea's continued provocations, including its recent nuclear test and missile launches," Obama wrote in an op-ed appearing Thursday in The Washington Post. He added that the recent UN sanctions "show that violations have consequences."

The US and South Korea have been discussing whether to deploy a US missile defense system called THAAD, or the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, in South Korea to counter the threat from the North. China has resisted that step out of concern it would also give the US radar coverage over Chinese territory, and Russia opposes it as well.

Antony Blinken, the US deputy secretary of state, said this week that China must engage with the US directly on North Korea if it wants to avoid the US and its partners taking steps "that it won't like."

In North Korea, meanwhile, the government has been churning out regular propaganda pieces condemning the US and South Korea, while warning it could launch a pre-emptive strike against South Korea or even the US mainland at any time.

For years, pressing security crises in the Middle East have overshadowed Obama's goal of expanding US influence and engagement in Asia, with the North Korean threat another unwanted distraction. Though the US and China have struck sweeping agreements on climate change, they've remained at odds on many economic issues. Obama has also been unable to get Congress to ratify the Asia-Pacific free trade deal his administration painstakingly negotiated.

Obama also planned to meet Thursday with French President Francois Hollande, amid steep concerns about terrorism in Europe following Islamic State-linked attacks in Paris and Brussels. The summit continues on Friday with a special session focused on preventing IS and other extremists from obtaining nuclear materials and attacking urban areas.

Some of the 2,000 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium being used in civilian or military programs worldwide could be turned into a nuclear bomb if stolen or diverted, the White House warned. Fewer than half of the countries participating in the summit have even agreed to secure sources of radiological material that could be used for a dirty bomb, though more countries are expected to announce commitments during the summit to tighten controls. (+)


Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington contributed to this report.

Categories: Indonesian News

Vietnam elects first chairwoman of parliament

Thu, 2016-03-31 20:29

Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan takes the oath of office after being elected as chairwoman of the National Assembly in Hanoi, Vietnam Thursday.(Vietnam News Agency via AP/Thong Nhat)

Vietnam's parliament on Thursday elected Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan as its chairwoman, making her the first woman to lead the Communist-dominated legislature.

Ngan, 61, won 95.5 percent of the votes, the National Assembly said on its website.

State media reported that Ngan took the oath of office, vowing to "be completely faithful to the country, people and the Constitution."

Ngan rose from director of the finance department in her home province of Ben Tre in the southern Mekong Delta to vice chairwoman of the assembly five years ago.

Her appointment was widely expected when she was re-elected to the powerful Politburo at the Communist Party Congress in January.

On Wednesday, the assembly voted to relieve chairman of the assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung of his duties.

Hung, who was not re-elected to the Politburo, should have served out his term when the new legislature meets in July, but officials have said that new leaders selected for the top positions of the ruling Communist Party should be appointed to lead the assembly, state and government.

The assembly will vote later Thursday to end the term of President Truong Tan Sang, and he will be replaced by Tran Dai Quang, the current public security minister, on Saturday.

The legislature will also relieve Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of his duties and elect his deputy Nguyen Xuan Phuc to head the government next week.

The moves will formally complete the election process that started with the Communist Party's Congress in January. (+)

Categories: Indonesian News

South Korea upholds tough anti-prostitution laws

Thu, 2016-03-31 20:29

Park Han-chul (center) president of South Korea's Constitutional Court, sits with other judges before a judgment at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday.(AP/Lee Jin-man)

South Korea's constitutional court on Thursday upheld laws that toughened punishment on prostitutes, pimps and their clients.

The 2004 legislation drove thousands of sex workers in traditional red-light zones out of business in South Korea, but prostitution has still thrived in the shadows. Sex workers have occasionally held rallies calling for the laws' abolishment.

The Constitutional Court decided to uphold a provision that makes it a criminal offense to voluntarily sell or buy sex, punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of 3 million won (US$2,600).

The ruling was made in response to a compliant by a female sex worker, who argued people have the right to choose their occupation.

A court statement said that the government could deny such individual rights to prevent exploitation and protect moral values.

South Korea has always banned prostitution, but the laws were rarely enforced and red-light districts were largely tolerated before 2004.

The court said that decriminalizing prostitution would inspire an explosive growth in sex trade, threaten the stability of South Korea's society and economy and inspire disorderly sexual behavior.

Critics of the anti-prostitution laws say they limit women's freedom over their bodies. They also say that tougher punishment has made sex work more dangerous for women by creating a thriving underground industry in which they sell sex at bars, apartment rooms and through social media and dating apps, which often leaves them more vulnerable to abusive customers and pimps.

Supporters of the laws say decriminalizing prostitution would benefit exploiters more than sex workers. They argue prostitution is inherently violent and exploitative for women, especially in a country like South Korea, where women suffer from one of the harshest inequalities among developed nations and are often economically pressured into prostitution.

Male prostitution and homosexuality largely remain taboo subjects in conservative South Korea and are rarely discussed in public. (+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Indonesia seeks best option in case of kidnapped crewmen

Thu, 2016-03-31 20:29

Sutomo,49, shows a picture of his son Bayu Oktavianto in Klaten, Central Java, on Tuesday. Bayu is one of 10 Indonesian sailors held captive by a militant group in the Philippines.(Antara/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho)

The government has intensified coordination with the Philippines government, looking for the best option to save  a group of sailors held captive by a militant group in Philippines waters, the foreign minister said on Thursday.

In the past three days, the Foreign Ministry and its Philippine counterpart have continued their joint efforts to save 10 Indonesian crewmen held as hostages by Abu Sayyaf militants, according to Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi.

Other Indonesians officials from the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) have also been communicating intensively with their counterparts in the Philippines to maximize efforts, Retno said.

"We are now still looking for the best solution. As I said on Tuesday, the safety of the 10 Indonesian crewmen is our outmost priority," Retno said in a press briefing at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday.

The ministry confirmed on Tuesday that two Indonesian-flagged vessels, the Brahma 12 and Anand 12, had been hijacked in the Philippines by a group reported to be Abu Sayyaf. Tugboat Brahma 12 has since been  handed to the Philippine authorities while the Anand 12, with 10 Indonesian crewmen, is still being held.

The notorious Southern-Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf militant group has contacted the vessels' owners and demanded a ransom of $1.08 million, setting a five-day deadline for the payment that began on  March 26.

The Foreign Ministry has been leading negotiations with the hijackers, while consulting with all relevant parties to step up the measures for the rescue, Retno added.

"Indonesia appreciates the cooperation and the support of the Philippine government ," she added. (rin)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

What you should and shouldn't do about Instagram notifications

Thu, 2016-03-31 19:00

Following Instagram's recent announcement (http://blog.instagram.com/post/141107034797/160315-news) that it would no longer display posts in chronological order, many accounts have been asking their followers to "turn on notifications" to ensure their updates would stay visible. (Shutterstock.com/Denys Prykhodov)

Following Instagram's recent announcement that it would no longer display posts in chronological order, many accounts have been asking their followers to "turn on notifications" to ensure their updates would stay visible.

If you happen to be one of those followers, hold your horses.

First, Instagram stated that the feeds update would be applied in the coming months, not right away; so you still have time.

Second, turning the notifications on means you will be flooded with annoying updates that you may or may not want to know right away, adding more unnecessary buzzing to your smartphone.

This upcoming feature by Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will probably be similar to what Facebook has been using, which basically curates what you see at the top of your News Feed based on your interests and friends, among other factors. If you are perfectly fine with how your Facebook feed works, then chances are you have nothing to worry about with Instagram's new algorithm.

As reported by The Huffington Post, the move from the old platform would particularly hurt fashion outlets and other retailers that show ads to people without paying for any sponsored placement. Greeting card company Rhubarb Paper Co., for example, which has nearly 4,000 Instagram followers, recently posted that the algorithm update will be “really bad for small businesses” -- implying that their content will be punished by an automated feed. (ken/kes)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News