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Noppadon defends Thaksin over article

Posted by arnon_k On October - 11 - 2010 1 COMMENT

Foreign media were getting wrong information about ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after he was listed among the world’s worst former leaders in a US magazine, according to Thaksin’s legal adviser Noppadon Pattama.

US magazine Foreign Policy has listed Thaksin among a group of “Bad Exes” – former government leaders known internationally for scandals ranging from policy blunders to corruption.

Thaksin has been placed in the same league as former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, Nigeria’s ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and former Philippine leader Joseph Estrada.

Mr Noppadon said the claim that Thaksin was holding false passports was untrue.

“If anyone can prove that Thaksin uses fake passports, the person will receive a million baht of prize money for one fake passport.

“Thaksin has a distinctive face and people would recognise him wherever he goes. It is not possible for him to use a ‘Thakky’ as his name,” the legal advisor said.

He said Thaksin had travelled to Germany briefly but it was in response to the local government’s invitation. Thaksin used passports of Montenegro and Nicaragua.

He said the article did not represent facts and did not cite information about Thaksin’s beneficial policies like the scholarships for Thai students and the 30-baht health scheme.

Mr Noppadon said no legal action will be taken against the author of this article as he was far away from the facts.

“I could not tell whether the article is politically motivated but I’m aware that there is an important Thai politician in Washington,” he added.

UAE, BlackBerry resolve dispute, averting ban

Posted by arnon_k On October - 11 - 2010 4 COMMENTS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates on Friday backed off a threat to cut key BlackBerry services, just days before a planned ban that could have harmed the country’s business-friendly reputation.

The last-minute decision ended more than two months of brinksmanship with the Canadian company that makes the smart phones, a tool popular both with businesspeople and gadget-loving consumers in this Gulf federation.

The ban on e-mail, messaging and Web services — which the government threatened to impose over security concerns — was due to take effect Monday.

Half a million local users and thousands of BlackBerry-toting business travelers would have been affected. Dubai’s airport, the region’s busiest, handles about 100,000 passengers daily.

“It’s going to come as quite a relief,” said BlackBerry user Matthew Reed, a Dubai-based analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, a research firm. “It was not at all clear what would happen until right up to the end.”

While a number of countries, including India and Saudi Arabia, have threatened BlackBerry crackdowns in recent months, the UAE’s proposed ban drew widespread attention because of the country’s tough negotiating stance and its role as a highly wired, tech-savvy trade and transportation hub.

The Emirates telecommunications regulator confirmed that a deal had been reached with device maker Research in Motion Ltd. that brought the devices into compliance with local laws.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority provided few details, but said “no suspension of service will occur” Monday as previously planned, according to a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

The wording of the announcement suggested the reprieve was permanent.

The TRA acknowledged “the positive engagement and collaboration of Research In Motion (RIM) in reaching this regulatory compliant outcome.” It wasn’t clear what concessions, if any, the Canadian device maker made to avert the ban.

TRA representatives were not available for comment Friday, the start of the local weekend.

RIM declined to comment specifically on the UAE decision.

“RIM cannot discuss the details of confidential regulatory matters that occur in specific countries, but RIM confirms that it continues to approach lawful access matters internationally within the framework of core principles” it has spelled out in the past, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Shardul Shrimani, a telecoms analyst at IHS Global Insight, said RIM likely gave authorities some limited access to the encryption data they use to safeguard users’ messages or will allow them access to its servers.

“They must have come to some sort of agreement where there’s some limited access,” Shrimani said.

RIM’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie said last month that the company has no way of providing government officials with the text of encrypted corporate e-mails sent on its phones, but that it won’t object if individual companies that use the devices hand over their encryption keys to authorities.

Balsillie said countries that want access to BlackBerry e-mails could theoretically set up a national registry where companies doing business within their borders would have to provide government officials with the ability to peek at encrypted messages.

The consumer version of BlackBerrys carries a lower level of encryption than the ones made for corporate clients. Emirati authorities would likely want the ability to access those phones’ data as well.

Saudi Arabia in August backed down from a threat to block the popular BlackBerry Messenger service after closed-door talks with RIM, resolving for now a dispute over the phones there.

India has also put off plans to block corporate e-mail and messaging services unless RIM makes data more easily available to its intelligence and law enforcement agencies. New Delhi gave the company a 60-day reprieve starting Aug. 31.

Other countries, including Lebanon and Indonesia, have raised BlackBerry concerns but have not announced plans to block service.

UAE BlackBerry users were thrilled that a ban had been averted there Friday.

“We are very happy. It’s a good decision,” said BlackBerry user Jitendra Gianchandani, an accountant who runs a consulting company in the Emirates.

Gianchandani said he had no problem with the government potentially gaining access to BlackBerry data so long as it is trying to protect against unauthorized use and terrorist threats.

But Reed, the telecoms analyst, expects many BlackBerry owners will want more clarity on the terms of the deal.

“RIM’s big corporate clients might be wondering what kind of compromises it might have made,” he said.

The UAE city-state of Dubai hosts the regional headquarters of numerous multinational companies, many of whom ship goods through its hulking seaport, the busiest in the Middle East. The Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s largest oil producers and an increasingly important source of investment capital.

BlackBerrys are popular because data sent through them is seen as highly secure.

Emirati authorities have raised concerns that the phones’ security features could be misused by terrorists and criminals. The U.S. government and some analysts say those concerns are legitimate.

Free-speech advocates have criticized the crackdown, saying it provides a convenient justification to tighten controls on the flow of information. UAE censors already patrol the Internet, blocking access to pornography and other sites deemed dangerous or offensive.

Shrimani said he was not surprised the Emirates relented in the end.

A service ban “could have had a negative impact on their economy,” he said. “So it really was in their best interest to stand back on this occasion.”

Michael Jackson memorabilia fetches $1M in Macau

Posted by arnon_k On October - 11 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

An auction of some 100 items of Michael Jackson memorabilia has fetched more than $1 million, with a basketball autographed by the late singer and Michael Jordan netting $245,000.

Showing the lingering appeal of the “King of Pop,” the sale Saturday in the southern Chinese city of Macau drew bidders from around the world.

An unidentified Internet bidder paid $180,000 for a black crystal-studded glove and an arm brace Jackson wore while filming a promotional video for his 1995 album “HIStory.” An Internet bidder also bought the basketball.

Of the 435 total items up for sale, other non-Jackson items sold included a costume worn by Bruce Lee during the filming of “Game of Death” and a costume Madonna donned during her Girlie Show world tour.

John Lennon’s 70th celebrated in NY’s Central Park

Posted by arnon_k On October - 11 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

NEW YORK – A crush of fans circled a flower-graced mosaic in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields and sang lyrics from “Imagine” on Saturday to honor Beatles legend John Lennon on his 70th birthday.

On the day when the Liverpool Lad would have become a septuagenarian, thousands of fans from around the world gathered to remember the floppy-haired British superstar who just wanted to give peace a chance.

“His music speaks to people of any nation, any age, and that’s why I think so many young people now who never would have known him still find him so appealing,” said Karen Kriendler Nelson, 69, who lives nearby and often visits the mosaic that spells out Lennon’s song “Imagine.”

She and her Maltese dog, Pino, joined a group of fans who sang the lines, “Imagine there’s no countries/ It isn’t hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too/ Imagine all the people/ Living life in peace …”

Joan Acarin and his wife, Laia, visited the memorial from Spain.

“The values Lennon defended are still alive,” said Joan Acarin, a 41-year-old attorney from Barcelona. “It’s the idea that we do not have to fight wars.”

Fans began arriving on Friday, spilling onto the sidewalk of Central Park West, where Lennon and wife Yoko Ono lived in the famed Dakota building for nine years. He was shot to death by a deranged gunman as he came home on the evening of Dec. 8, 1980.

Police erected barricades to contain the crowd alongside passing traffic.

This year, the memorial to the slain ex-Beatle and peace activist includes a mosaic donated by the city of Naples, Italy. A plaque lists 121 countries that endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace.

The 2.5-acre site was created by Ono and named after the Lennon song, which also observes that “living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.”

The birthday celebration got started early Friday in his native England, where Google UK released a 32-second video “doodle” with an “Imagine” soundtrack. The interactive electronic art generates a butterfly and a flower — reflecting Lennon’s devotion to world peace.

In Liverpool, Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia and, their son, Julian, unveiled a sculpture to celebrate his life.

Hundreds of people gathered at the city center’s Chavasse Park to watch the pair cut a ribbon to reveal the statue, called “Peace and Harmony.” The sculpture, which features a colorful globe with doves flying above it, was designed by 19-year-old American artist Lauren Voiers.

The two held hands and joined the crowd in singing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”

“I think the mourning is over for John. I think it’s time to celebrate,” said Cynthia, 71. “Think about his life that was positive and good and just enjoy that.”

She was married to John Lennon from 1962 to 1968.

In New York, planned celebrations include a Saturday evening benefit concert at the Society For Ethical Culture, a short walk from Strawberry Fields. The proceeds will go to the human rights organization Amnesty International.

Capping the New York remembrances would be a Central Park screening of a documentary detailing Lennon’s life in the city. Titled “LENNONYC,” the new public television film to be shown at 7 p.m. in the park’s Rumsey Playfield, with picnic-style seating on the ground.

Ono was set to mark her late husband’s milestone birthday in Iceland with a performance by the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band. She also was to present awards to people who had contributed to peace.

Ono marked her late husband’s milestone birthday in Iceland with a lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower, which shines a beam of blue light into the sky, followed by a concert by the Plastic Ono Band. Ono dedicated the tower to Lennon in 2007.

She also presented awards to people who have contributed to peace, included Alice Walker, the author of “The Color Purple.”

“Like millions around the world, I deeply loved John,” Walker said as she received the award in Reykjavik.

The other winners were filmmaker Josh Fox, who made the documentary “Gasland”; author and activist Michael Pollan and food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyk.

Just before Lennon was killed, the couple collaborated on a last album “that was so different from anything he did before,” said David Edwards, a college student in Kentucky who drove 14 hours to New York City to pay tribute.

The 22-year-old found a different way to honor the slain Beatle in the bustling crowd of admirers: He sat alone on a bench with earphones on, listening to Lennon’s music on his iPod while reading his book “Skywriting By Word of Mouth.”

“What gets me is his humanity,” Edwards said. “He was one of the first superstars who showed that he was vulnerable — he was Everyman.”