Monday, June 24, 2013

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Bangladesh clashes over war crimes verdicts kill 52

Fresh clashes erupted on Friday in Bangladesh, bringing the number of people killed to 52 in violence triggered by convictions for Islamist leaders over war crimes committed during the 1971 independence war.

A rickshawpuller was killed after hundreds of pro-government supporters and followers of the rival Jamaat-e-Islami party clashed with sticks at a market in the northern district of Gaibandha, local police chief Nahidul Islam said.

Security has been tightened around thousands of mosques across the Muslim-majority nation ahead of weekly prayers on Friday, with border guards deployed in major cities.

On Thursday, clashes flared across the country after Jamaat's vice president was found guilty of murder, religious persecution and rape by a war crimes tribunal hearing cases dating back to the 1971 independence conflict.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee, now a firebrand preacher, was the third person to be convicted by the court whose previous verdicts have been met with outrage from Islamists who say the process is more about settling scores than delivering justice.

At least 35 people were killed in the violence on Thursday, according to an AFP toll compiled after talking to police in the 15 districts where protests turned deadly.

A policeman was the latest to die of his wounds, raising the number of security personnel killed to five.

Twenty-three of those killed on Thursday were shot after police opened fire on thousands of rampaging Jamaat supporters who attacked law-enforcers with sticks and stones.

According to Sultana Kamal, head of rights group Ain O Salish Kendra, it was the deadliest political day of violence in the impoverished country's history since winning its independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The latest death on Friday brought the overall toll to 52 since the tribunal delivered its first verdict on January 21.

Jamaat, which rejected the verdict as politically motivated, has said 50 of its "innocent" supporters were on Thursday shot dead by police who "hunted them like birds".

But Kamal blamed Jamaat supporters for "terror" attacks on the police.

Police on Friday have banned a number of planned demonstrations at several trouble spots while authorities in the country's biggest mosque, Baitul Mokarram, have locked some of the gates in a bid to limit numbers.

Security has been stepped up at Hindu villages after homes and temples came under attack by Islamists in the southern Noakhali and Chittagong districts, killing one old Hindu man, police said.

"We've (deployed) extra policemen in all the temples and Hindu areas to prevent attack," said Robiul Islam, a senior police officer in Chittagong.

Secular protesters, who erupted in jubilation as news of Sayedee's sentence filtered through on Thursday, are set to hold a celebration rally in a central Dhaka intersection.

The war crimes tribunal has been tainted by controversies and allegations that it is targeting only the opposition with trumped-up charges. Rights groups say its legal procedures fall short of international standards.

The government rejects the accusations, saying the tribunal is independent and the trials are fair and necessary to heal the wounds of the war that it says killed three million people.

It accuses Jamaat leaders of being part of pro-Pakistani militias blamed for much of the 1971 carnage.

Independent estimates put the war toll much lower, between 300,000 and 500,000.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

AFL investigating secret Crows business

Adelaide says it will cop any penalty handed down by the AFL for its secret deal which could kill Kurt Tippett's bid to join Sydney.

The Crows face fines and loss of draft picks, and star forward Tippett could be deregistered as an AFL player, if an investigation by the AFL finds they broke the league's rules.

Tippett's manager Peter Blucher also faces a possible ban for his role in a murky deal which was hidden from the AFL for three years until last Friday.

Tippett became Adelaide's highest-paid player in 2009 when agreeing to a three-year contract extension with the club.

Since the signing, speculation has been rife of a clause which enabled Tippett to be traded at the end of the contract to the club of his choice, in return for a second-round draft pick - compensation well below the key forward's market worth.

Crows management repeatedly denied the existence of the clause in the contract.

But the Crows admitted to the AFL last Friday they had a secret agreement, outside the contract, with Tippett.

Tippett's contract with the Crows has expired and he has requested a trade to the premier Swans.
The move shocked Adelaide, which believed Queensland-born Tippett would likely return home if he left the club.

And with the AFL trade period ending on Friday at 2:00pm (AEDT), Tippett's future hinges on the findings of the league's investigation.

Adelaide chairman Rob Chapman said the Crows board confessed to the AFL "because it was the right thing to do".

"There was no alternative here," Chapman told Adelaide radio station 5AA.

"The thought not to disclose never entered our mind and (Crows chief executive) Steven (Trigg) and I made that call straight away."

Chapman did not explain why Adelaide kept the deal a secret for three years.

"If we have stuffed up in any way, and I'm not pre-empting that, we'll put up our hand and say sorry and remedy it and move on," Chapman said.

"We will take whatever comes out of it."

Chapman declined to guarantee the position of Trigg as club chief executive.

"We will reach the right conclusions after this," he said.

"Steven Trigg has been a veteran of this world, as has (former football operations manager) Johnny Reid, (current football operations manager) Phil Harper, everyone at our club.

"And they have got a history of complying with the rules and ... I don't want to speculate beyond that because that might prejudice the outcome of the investigation."

The Crows, by confessing the deal, were not ensuring a lighter penalty from the AFL, he said.
"We brought it to their attention ... but there is no assurances," Chapman said.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Weak July Data Dims China Outlook

China's export and import growth, as well as lending by Chinese banks, weakened sharply in July, damping hopes for a third-quarter rebound. 

The figures released Friday, together with disappointing industrial-output data a day earlier, indicate that expectations the economy bottomed out in the second quarter may be misplaced, and that growth in the third quarter may not be much better. Second-quarter growth was the slowest since the first quarter of 2009.
"The economic recovery this time will likely be a slow and painful process," said Deutsche Bank economist Ma Jun. "It is very uncertain when the economy will recover." 

China's July trade surplus narrowed to $25.1 billion from $31.7 billion in June, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. That was well under the $35.2 billion median forecast of 14 economists polled earlier. 

Exports were up just 1% from a year earlier, off from June's 11.3% and far below the 8% economists expected. Imports were up 4.7%, slowing from June's 6.3% and missing the 7% forecast.

Steel bars being unloaded outside a factory in China's Anhui province Monday. Trade and loan data Friday pointed to continued economic weakness.

Also Friday, the central bank reported that new yuan loans by Chinese financial institutions totaled 540.1 billion yuan ($85.1 billion) in July, down from 919.8 billion yuan in June. The median forecast of 14 economists polled earlier was 665 billion yuan.

Third-quarter growth in China's gross domestic product is likely to be near that of the second quarter, said Deutsche Bank's Mr. Ma, contrary to widespread earlier expectations that the second quarter would mark a bottom. 

The GDP was up 7.6% in the second quarter from a year earlier, the slowest rate of growth since the first quarter of 2009. First-quarter growth was 8.1%. 

"The set of weak macro data puts more pressure on the government to loosen policies," said Nomura economist Zhiwei Zhang. 

But Beijing is unlikely to roll out massive stimulus measures or loosen its controls on the property sector, Mr. Ma said, having learned from the sharp increase in property prices triggered by its 2009 stimulus.
The People's Bank of China could cut its reserve requirement ratio by 0.5 percentage point as early as Friday, Liu Li-Gang, Greater China Chief Economist at ANZ. 

"The weak data suggest that PBOC policy easing so far has not been sufficient," Mr. Liu said. "Going forward, they will have to be more aggressive cutting the reserve requirement ratio." He added that there should be two further 0.5-percentage point cuts in the third quarter. 

The weak July data will likely push authorities to allow more credit expansion in future months, Société Générale economist Yao Wei said. "They may do more in the coming months—we will see more easing, but it will be gradual and incremental." 

The persistent crisis in the euro zone and still-shaky economic growth in the U.S. were a drag on demand for Chinese goods. Exports to the European Union in July were down 16.2% from a year earlier, while shipments to U.S. were essentially flat, up just 0.6%. 

Compared with June, China's exports in July were down 1.8%, while imports were up 2.3%, the customs bureau said. Seasonally adjusted, it added, both were down from June—exports by 4.2%, imports by 5.8%.
At a press briefing Friday, Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said China would face "pressure" achieving the official target of 10% growth in exports and imports this year. 

Asian markets reacted negatively to the trade data. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index extended losses after the announcement and ended the day down 0.7%. The Shanghai Composite gave up a modest rise from earlier in the day to end the session down 0.2%. 

The Australian dollar dipped after the data, but then bounced back; it was recently at $1.0522. Australia's S&P ASX 200 slipped 0.7%, with commodity stocks lower: BHP Billiton fell 0.3%, Rio Tinto 0.7% and Fortescue Metals Group 1.6%. High-yield stocks—such as banks and telecommunications companies—continued to pull back from their recent gains. 

Other regional currencies such as the New Zealand dollar and the South Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar after the data were released. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gillard urges action on eurozone crisis

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has urged European leaders to take decisive action to resolve the continent's debt issues, saying "these are critical days".

Addressing the Commonwealth business forum in Perth, Ms Gillard says she will be telling the G20 summit in Cannes next week that "there is no time for delay" to ensure Europe's private banks are properly capitalised.

"G20 leaders will need to strike the right balance between addressing short-term risks and pledging reforms that promote growth into the future," Ms Gillard said.

"I have written to the French president and 2011 G20 chair Nicolas Sarkozy urging decisive action in Cannes."

Her strongly worded speech was made as global pension fund adviser Towers Watson warned of the chance of a full-blown economic depression brought on by the European debt crisis.

Towers Watson head of global investment Roger Urwin says the eurozone is a fragile institution at the moment, and this is one of the factors increasing the risk of a depression.

"A series of relatively weak political responses, and what we seem to refer to all the time these days as kicking the can down the road, have led to the problems of sorting out Greece and of course the potential for this to be a contagion through to Italy and Spain," Mr Urwin said.

Ms Gillard said the G20 Action Plan will need to "outline the commitments and measures" required to achieve stronger economic growth.

She urged the cost of remittances sent home from Europe by people from the trouble and drought-ravaged Horn of Africa be lowered.

"The G20 also needs a strong development agenda, particularly in areas such as food security, infrastructure and remittances," she said.

"The crisis in the Horn of Africa reminds us of the urgency of addressing the challenge of global food security, and Australia supports a comprehensive approach.

"I will be advocating strongly for G20 leaders to commit to reducing the costs of sending remittances.

"The needs of the developing world must be central to the G20 agenda, not something peripheral or remote."

Ms Gillard urged the Commonwealth business leaders to "ensure the next phase of world growth is very different to the last".

"[There must be] greater balance and less debt; rebuilding our cities and our infrastructure; freer trade and fewer barriers."

She called for "less attention to creating exotic financial products and more to creating the goods and services that sustain real growth".


Friday, July 29, 2011

Man who raped 85-year-old woman said he did it for a thrill

A MAN who bashed and raped an 85-year-old woman at a Melbourne train station says he did it for a "thrill".

Country Court Judge Duncan Allen said 65-year-old Allan Richard Hodson's attack on the elderly woman in January was "spine chilling".

"It's hard to imagine any rape of this type - a rape of a stranger in a public place - that is a lot worse than that," Judge Allen said during Hodson's pre-sentence hearing today.

Prosecutor Chris Ryan said Hodson "chillingly" described to police his motivation for the attack.

Hodson told police, "Here's a good opportunity, I suppose, to have a bit of a thrill," Mr Ryan told the court.

Hodson also admitted to police his victim was frail.

Mr Ryan said Hodson, of Bairnsdale, had travelled to Melbourne that day for a psychiatric visit and had drunk four bottles of beer before the attack.

The pre-sentence hearing before Judge Allen is continuing.

The ABC reported that the judge had set a minimum term of eight years to be served.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Jail for Sydney black magic sex trio

A so-called holy man who cruelly manipulated two women into sex "prayer sessions" to rid themselves of black magic curses has been jailed for at least 15 years.

Noting the "extraordinary circumstances" of the case, Judge Penelope Hock on Friday told NSW District Court one victim was, in effect, brain washed and that substantial emotional harm was caused to both.

The judge set minimum terms of 15 years, 12 years and five years, respectively, for Tony Golossian, Arthur Psichogios and his wife Frances Psichogios.

The Psichogios couple hugged and kissed in the Sydney court dock before being led away by prison officers.

Golossian, 63, a Syrian-born Catholic, was regarded by some members of the Greek community as a "holy man" who could communicate with angels.

He was found guilty of 24 offences, most being sexual intercourse without consent, while his friend Arthur Psichogios, 41, was convicted of 14 similar charges.

His 38-year-old wife was found guilty of seven charges, including administering an intoxicating substance with intent to enable sexual assault.

The terrified Greek Orthodox victims were told black magic curses had been placed on them and their families involving cancer, reproductive problems and horrific fatal accidents.

They totally trusted Golossian who held "prayer sessions" in hotel rooms, where they were blindfolded and forced into sex.

Instructions were given to the women over the phone by a "demonic-sounding" voice of a man claiming to be King Rasoul and, at one stage, the voice of "Queen Snake" was heard.

Judge Hock said the first victim suffered a terrible ordeal over a four-and-a-half-year period, but even after that the men's insidious influence continued.

When she was pregnant, her husband was sent parts of a video recording of a sexual encounter she was forced to have with Psichogios.

"The sheer cruelty in disseminating images to her husband showed the lengths they were prepared to go to to destroy her life," the judge said.

"She had to endure what must have been an excruciating experience of having the video played in court during the trial."

The day after receiving the images, her husband walked out on her and has never seen the daughter she gave birth to months later.

Judge Hock said the woman had been "cruelly manipulated into bizarre behaviour because she had been, in effect, brainwashed by Golossian's threats towards her family and herself".

The second woman also was the victim of a "deliberate and calculated plan to take advantage of her vulnerable state" at the time, her cultural beliefs and the fact that her father was gravely ill.

During one so-called prayer session she had to drink an intoxicating substance but Frances Psichogios later reassured her nothing had happened when the woman revealed she believed Golossian had had sex with her.

All of the offenders maintain their innocence, meaning "their prospects for rehabilitation appear bleak at this stage", the judge said.

All three were of previous good character and the judge concluded Frances Psichogios, whose convictions related only to the second woman, was under the influence of her husband and Golossian.

She set maximum terms of 20 years, 16 years and nine years, respectively, for Golossian, Arthur Psichogios and his wife.

Throughout the sentencing, police from the Public Order and Riot Squad waited outside the court after an incident last month before the sentence hearing.

Members of Golossian's family allegedly attacked the police officer in charge of the case and his thumb was broken and his suit jacket and trousers badly ripped.