News Desk – Touche For Pissed off Swordfish

If completed, the $24 billion Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze River will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It will create a reservoir of 600km long and will be one of the largest man-made structures ever. China is hoping the dam over the high limestone cliffs of the Qutang, Wu, and Xiling gorges will provide for the country’s ever-growing electrical consumption needs. The dam’s hydropower turbines are expected to create 18,000mw of power; and as powerful as 18 nuclear power plants. It may end up providing one-ninth of the nation’s electrical production, and environmental benefits would be high given that China currently uses 50 million tonnes of coal annually. The Three Gorges reservoir would benefit China’s export business as well by enabling 10,000-ton ocean freighters to sail directly more than 2200 kilometers inland up to the city of Chongqing, transforming it into a major business hub. A lock system will increase river shipping from 10 to 50 million tonnes per year, and cut transportation costs by up to 37%. The reservoir’s 22 cubic kilometers of flood storage will lessen the frequency of big downstream floods from one every decade to one every century. Work on the project started in 1993 and is expected to span 17 years. The first phase (1993-1997) focused on the diversion of the Yangtze River, which took until end of 1997 to complete. The first set of generators started generating power in 2003. Also in 2003, the sluice gates were closed and the reservoir started to fill with water. It is expected to reach its capacity by 2009. More than 20,000 people work, sometimes around the clock, to complete the project. Construction should continue until at least 2008. Official numbers put the cost of the Three Gorges Dam at $24 billion; unofficial rumors speak of numbers closer to 75 billion.
Red tape, archaic laws and corruption are seen as major threats to Mozambique’s reform agenda, which has won the country stable economic growth and acclaim from international lenders, analysts said. The former Portuguese colony, which emerged from civil war and ditched Marxism in 1992, has implemented stringent reforms advocated by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and bilateral lenders, helping put it on a path of stable economic expansion. But analysts say a growth average of 8% annually over the past decade has yet to deliver a solution for poverty, and further reforms and investment were required to bolster the southern African country of 18 million people.
Myanmar’s military junta says the country is taking a big step toward democracy with its constitution-drafting convention, but residents in the tea shops and markets of the rundown capital said they think it’s a sham. The junta has invited more than 1,000 delegates — including politicians, leaders of ethnic groups, workers, businessmen and government employees — to meet at a convention center about 25 miles north of the capital to continue work on the much-delayed document. About a month ago, Myanmar’s government began relocating its ministries to a planned new capital, Pyinmana, about 250 miles north of Yangon (Rangoon). Some analysts said the move is being driven by irrational fears of a U.S. invasion, while many in Myanmar believe it is due to worries about possible internal unrest. Still, most analysts say the junta is firmly in control, noting there have been few public protests. The country also has the economic and political support of neighboring China and India — two of Asia’s biggest powers.

Yemen’s government is making another push to cut the use of Qat, the rubbery green leaf with amphetamine-like qualities that is blamed for many of the country’s ills, from widespread poverty to growing health problems. But there is little progress. Up to 90% of Yemeni men are now believed to chew qat daily and growing numbers of women and children are also chewing, the World Bank says. Qat is a centuries-old social custom that stimulates mental activity, long conversations and tall tales in this tribal-dominated nation at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Qat chewing is ubiquitous — as common in Yemen as wearing a curved dagger on the belt. But now, many experts have come to believe it’s at the root of Yemen’s 40% unemployment rate, its status as the poorest country in the Middle East and its growing national health problems. Critics blame qat for everything from the country’s low economic productivity to excessive water use to irrigate the qat crop. Some blame it for eating disorders and high cholesterol rates.

Eritreans are fleeing their country in growing numbers amid fears of a new war with Ethiopia and economic hardships blamed on authoritarian government policies, according to observers. Diplomats say the numbers are rising even as those who leave risk being shot if caught and their families face prosecution, something Eritrean officials deny. Diplomats say it costs up to $2 000 for an Eritrean to pay a middleman to get them fake documents and then cross into Ethiopia or Sudan.

Red tape, archaic laws and corruption are seen as major threats to Mozambique’s reform agenda, which has won the country stable economic growth and acclaim from international lenders, analysts said. The former Portuguese colony, which emerged from civil war and ditched Marxism in 1992, has implemented stringent reforms advocated by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and bilateral lenders, helping put it on a path of stable economic expansion. But analysts say a growth average of 8% annually over the past decade has yet to deliver a solution for poverty, and further reforms and investment were required to bolster the southern African country of 18 million people.

Saudi Arabia
Four Saudi women teaching in a remote village school have married their driver so they can live closer to work, al-Watan newspaper said. The newspaper said the women from al-Baha province in south-west Saudi Arabia were impressed with the man’s “good morals” and decided to marry him and live together in the village where they teach – avoiding a tiring daily commute. They were married in a short ceremony, and have agreed to pay the driver a share of their monthly salaries, al-Watan said. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, while men can marry up to four women according to Islamic law.

A survey says 3.5 million adults in Britain have stolen from a shop in the past five years. The British Retail Consortium says shoplifting has gone up 50% since 2000, with $22.3 million in goods stolen from businesses every year. A total of 700,000 people annually are estimated to shoplift, taking $180 worth of items each, the London Mirror reported. Razor blades were the most popular item stolen. Small independent shops were seen as the easier targets and 21% of the 1,200 people questioned said supermarkets were an easy touch. The North of England had the most shoplifters — 1.9 million — with 1.2 million in the South and just under one million in the Midlands.

Hong Kong
Pedestrians are again donning face masks, handwash dispensers have sprung up in stores and offices, disinfecting carpets have been laid in hotels and notices tell citizens to observe personal hygiene. But as Hong Kongers batten down for an outbreak they have been told could claim millions of lives, experts warn authorities are overstating the risk and face, instead, a potentially damaging public panic. A hoax warning that the entire city had been made a quarantine port during the SARS scare sent thousands of people to supermarkets panic buying food and water in expectation of an international blockade.

This is bizarre….A Thai minister has claimed that by returning missed calls on their cell phones people from the Muslim-majority southern provinces could unintentionally trigger bombs set by Islamic militants. Thai authorities have begun tracing cell phone calls in a bid to track down suspects who use mobiles to detonate bombs across three provinces along the Malaysian border. But the minister for information and communication warned that militants could try to foil the two-week-old cell phone registry by calling a random number, hanging up and then wiring the handset to a bomb (But they would have do it quickly and run like hell-think about it). If someone returned to the call, the bomb would blow up and authorities would trace the call to an innocent person.

The increased use of Joint Direct Attack Munitions against the Iraqi insurgency is creating a shortage of such precision-guided weaponry for the U.S. military. The JDAMs are used to convert bombs that range from 500 to 2,000 pounds into precision guided weapons. They are used where collateral damage is a concern or to penetrate concrete bunkers 4 to 6 feet thick. The newest JDAM weapon in the Marine Corps arsenal is the 500-pound GBU-38, which has become the preferred precision guided munitions for fixed wing aircraft in the urban close air support environment, the report said. Officials said it produces the smallest amount of collateral damage and can be used in all weather conditions.

South Africa
Authorities need to take radical action because Cape Town’s transport system is in a state of crisis with a rapidly deteriorating public transport system, massive road congestion and a bleeding of skills in transport planning at local and provincial government level, according to experts. Some of the major problems which were raised are: Massive underfunding of rail rolling stock and infrastructure nationally and a reduction of trains serving the city from 96 ten years ago to 66 now; An ageing bus system which has been undercut by the minibus industry and has dwindled from moving 120 million Capetonians a year in 1975 to 52 million today; A minibus taxi industry which runs unscheduled services only on routes where they can be assured of fares, characterized by violent crime, unroadworthy vehicles and run by “warlords”; A huge swing towards the use of private vehicles as a result of public transport inefficiency and crime, leading to massive road congestion and loss of productivity.

Hundreds of Nigerian troops have deployed to the capital of the country’s biggest oil producing region after militant youths rallied around a state governor accused of embezzling millions of dollars. Yenagoa is the capital of Bayelsa State and the headquarters of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who last week skipped bail in Britain to escape money-laundering charges and escaped to Nigeria, where he enjoys immunity from prosecution. His flight angered President Olusegun Obasanjo and, with the governor now facing a threat of impeachment by Bayelsa lawmakers, he has reportedly surrounded himself with armed supporters drawn from the ethnic Ijaw militant groups which operate in the wetlands of the Niger Delta.

Leftist rebels attacked energy towers in Colombia for a third time in a week, leaving a major Pacific port and several other towns without electricity, officials said. In the latest strike, suspected fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, dynamited energy pylons outside Galapa, 650 kilometers (400 miles) north of Bogota, cutting electricity to the town and its outlying villages. Meanwhile, rebel activity prevented repair crews from restoring service to the Pacific port of Buenaventura, whose 600,000 residents were plunged into darkness earlier this week when the FARC hit a cluster of energy towers linked to a major circuit at a nearby reservoir. The FARC also blew up a bridge outside Tibu, 480 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of Bogota in oil-rich Norte de Santander state, cutting road access to the regional state capital.

Six luxury hotels in Paris including the Ritz were fined by the French competition regulator for running an illegal cartel. The Conseil de la Concurrence said in a statement that it levied fines totaling 709,000 euros ($831,000) on the hotels, which also included the Bristol, the Crillon, the George V, the Meurice and the Plaza Athenee. The regulator said they illegally exchanged data, maintaining average rates of 700 euros a night. The Hotel de Crillon, in Place de la Concorde, belongs to the Societe du Louvre, France’s second-largest hotel company. It received a 248,000-euro fine, the highest. Room prices range between 595 euros per night for a single room in high season and the 8,080 euro-per-night Bernstein suite, named after the American composer, who used to stay there.

Washington has condemned the United Arab Emirates’ arrest of more than two dozen gays at what police called a mass homosexual wedding and warned that any attempt to treat detainees with male hormones would violate international law. Police raided a hotel chalet near Abu Dhabi earlier this month and arrested 22 Emirati men and three Arabs from neighboring countries. Police reported finding a dozen men dressed as brides and a dozen others in male Arab dress, apparently preparing for a mock marriage ceremony. The authorities said the detainees, some of whom had been arrested before, are likely to be tried on charges related to adultery and prostitution. They also said the men would be tested for male-hormone levels and could possibly face government-ordered hormone injections.

Police will begin patrolling Peru’s famed Inca Trail following the recent armed robbery of 13 tourists, officials said. Peru’s National Institute of Culture, which administers the trail and the Machu Picchu ruins — the country’s top tourist destination — said national police would assign 12 officers to protect hikers. “This number could increase in the future,” said institute spokeswoman Ana Palomino in Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire 350 miles southeast of Lima. She said agents assigned to the trail will be required to speak a foreign language and will focus on guarding campsites.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Disney theme park has drawn much lower than expected visitors in the two months since opening, a press report says. A headcount of visitors to the park carried out by four reporters of the South China Morning Post showed that 12,972 people visited on Sunday November 13, and 11,399 entered on Wednesday November 16. The government, which owns a 57% stake in the three billion US dollar resort, said it expected 5.6 million visitors in its first year of operation, equivalent to an average daily attendance of 15,342. The park failed to attract the crowds despite introducing a discounted price for Hong Kong residents from November 8 to December 8, the report said. Disney and the government have so far refused to reveal the park’s daily attendance figures.

Singapore will stick to hanging as its method of execution, the government said, less than two weeks before the planned hanging of an Australian drug smuggler. Laws enacted in 1975 prescribe death by hanging for anyone aged 18 or over who is convicted of carrying more than 15 grams (0.5 ounce) of heroin, 30 grams (1.1 ounces) of cocaine, 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of cannabis or 250 grams (8.8 ounces) of methamphetamines.

Zimbabwe’s national airline has grounded its fleet for lack of fuel. Air Zimbabwe’s international flights to Johannesburg, London, Singapore, Entebbe, Lilongwe and Lusaka were suspended on Monday and domestic flights to second city Bulawayo and Victoria Falls were cancelled a few hours later. Hundreds of passengers were affected and calls to Air Zimbabwe at the Harare airport went largely unanswered. Earlier this year Air Zimbabwe introduced flights to Dubai, Singapore and China as part of President Robert Mugabe’s new Look East policy. One flight to Dubai attracted just one passenger on a 200-seat aircraft.

A Malaysian fisherman died two days after a swordfish pierced his brain when he was out at sea fishing. In the freak accident at sea off the northern state of Kedah, a swordfish, measuring almost a metre in length, leapt out of the water and stabbed him in his right eye. Though the swordfish missed his actual eyeball, the fish’s beak pierced the brain. Although the fisherman managed to pull the fish out of his eye, a piece of its beak got lodged in the brain, which later caused his death.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa declared a national food disaster, appealing for immediate donor help to feed hundreds of thousands of people left hungry by drought and crop failures. Mwanawasa’s declaration follows a government estimate last week that 1.7 million Zambians were suffering from acute food shortages in the current crisis, part of a wider food emergency stretching across parts of southern Africa. Zambia’s staple white maize output declined to 866,000 tonnes in 2005 from 1.3 million tones the previous year. Zimbabwe is right next door (across Victoria Falls) and it is in an even worse state. The summer is just beginning down there and you can figure out the rest.

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