Strongest earthquake in 40 years hits Southeast Asia
Strongest earthquake in 40 years hits Southeast Asia

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Indian Ocean – The death toll continues to grow and millions face a homeless life in the new year as coastal communities in south Asia struggle against continued aftershocks and flooding caused by the largest earthquake to strike the planet in more than a generation.

The magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake struck off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia on December 26, 2004, at 00:58:50 UTC (or 07:58:50 local time in Jakarta and Bangkok).

The earthquake was the strongest in the world since the 9.2-magnitude Good Friday Earthquake which struck Alaska, USA in 1964, and the fourth largest since 1900. More than 140,000 deaths[1] were caused by resulting tsunami, which in Thailand were up to 10 meters (33 feet) tall, and struck within three hours of the initial event.

Multiple tsunamis struck and ravaged coastal regions all over the Indian Ocean, devastating regions including the Indonesian province of Aceh, the coast of Sri Lanka, coastal areas of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the resort island of Phuket, Thailand, and even as far away as Somalia, 4,100 km (2,500 mi) west of the epicenter.

While the earthquake and the tsunamis are no longer ongoing (other than aftershocks), the humanitarian and economic crisis generated by the disaster is still ongoing. This report will attempt to cover the crisis as it continues to develop.


  • 1 Damage and casualties
  • 2 Quake characteristics
  • 3 Post-tsunami humanitarian situation
    • 3.1 Humanitarian assistance
  • 4 Related news
  • 5 See also
  • 6 External links
    • 6.1 Aid efforts
    • 6.2 Video and Pictures of the devastation
  • 7 Video
  • 8 Pictures
UK public sector workers strike over pension rights
UK public sector workers strike over pension rights

Wednesday, March 29, 2006Local Government workers in the UK withdrew their labour yesterday as part of a dispute over pension entitlements. The members of 11 different trades unions were involved in the 24hr strike. As the day began they declared that support for the strike was solid. Although the strikers work for local councils, their pay and conditions are agreed nationally. The Local Government Association which represents the local councils in England and Wales declared predictions that 1.5 million people would stay away from work as “wildly optimistic”.

The Unions’ complaint is that local government workers are being treated unfavourably compared to other public sector employees. They say that agreements on pensions that have been reached with civil servants, teachers and health workers will allow those staff to continue to retire at 60 while local government staff will be forced to work until they are 65. Civil servants work for national government, teachers work for local councils but have their own pension arrangements and most health workers are employed by the state-controlled National Health Service.

The Local Government Association claims that if council workers continue to be able to retire at 60, it will increase the levels of Council Tax (a tax on people living in properties which funds a proportion of local government expenditure) by 2%.

The striking workers provide a wide range of services from assisting teachers in the class room, through inspecting kitchens for hygiene to provising care to the vulnerable in society. In some places council workers collect tolls for road tunnels or manage ferries. Mainstream media have reported on the strike all day with heavy coverage of disruption to commuters where transport has been affected. The unions have emphasised the large number of their members who are women working in low paid jobs.

The Government which regulates the scheme claimed that the early retirement provisions (called the rule of 85) were age-discriminatory and had to be removed.

The strike ended at midnight. The Unions have not declared any further strike days.



Ten charged with plot to overthrow Laos government
Ten charged with plot to overthrow Laos government

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ten people, including former Royal Lao Army general Vang Pao, 77, and a former United States Army officer Harrison Jack, 60, were arrested Monday in six different cities in California, USA after authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), uncovered a plot to bring down the government of Laos.

Suspects were arrested in Chico, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Stockton and Woodland.

The plot, said prosecutors, involved obtaining C-4 explosives, AK-47 rifles, rockets, land mines and Stinger missiles, which were to be shipped to Thailand, and then used to take down the main branch of the Laotian government by blowing up the government’s main buildings in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

The bombs would be deployed using “special operation mercenaries,” but undercover agents working with the ATF foiled the plot when the suspects were tricked into buying the weapons and supplies they needed from the undercover agents. The government’s investigation was dubbed “Operation Tarnished Eagle”.

“These defendants had developed an audacious plan to overthrow the government of Laos, and were seeking to arm themselves with automatic rifles, rockets and surface-to-air missiles,” said the assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, Kenneth Wainstein in a statement to the press.

“The individuals arrested today thought an arms dealer would provide the necessary weapons and personnel to assist them in the violent overthrow of another government. An undercover ATF agent led them to believe he could fulfill their needs,” said acting ATF director Michael Sullivan in a statement to the press.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the plot was put together by a Lao liberation movement known as Neo Hom, led in the U.S. by Vang Pao, and had conducted extensive fund-raising activities, surveillance operations and an insurgent force within Laos.

Vang Pao led Hmong forces backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency against the communist Pathet Lao in the “Secret War” in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s. He served in the Royal Army of Laos, holding the rank of major general. After the fall of Laos to the communists in 1975, Vang Pao immigrated to the U.S., where he is a folk hero among Laotian refugees. There were plans to name an elementary school after him in Wisconsin, which is home to many Hmong people.

Another man named in the charges, Jack, is a former California National Guard lieutenant colonel and a 1968 West Point graduate. He was involved in covert operations during the Vietnam War. Jack acted as an arms broker and organizer of the plot, according to the criminal complaint.

Most of the remaining suspects had fought in Laos with Vang Pao, the complaint said. Among those named in the complaint are seven prominent members of the Hmong community in California’s Central Valley. They are:

  • Lo Cha Thao, 34, of Clovis in Fresno County. Had worked as an aide to a former Wisconsin state senator.
  • Lo Thao, 53, of Sacramento County, president of United Hmong International (also known as the Supreme Council of the Hmong 18 Clans).
  • Youa True Vang, 60, of Fresno, founder of Fresno’s Hmong International New Year.
  • Hue Vang, 39, of Fresno, a former Clovis police officer. Director of United Lao Council for Peace, Freedom, and Reconstruction.
  • Chong Yang Thao, 53, a Fresno chiropractor.
  • Seng Vue, 68, of Fresno, member of United Hmong International.
  • Chue Lo, 59, of Stockton, member of United Hmong International.

A tenth person arrested, but not yet charged, was Nhia Kao Vang of Rancho Cordova, California.

The Laotian government welcomed the arrests. “We praise the U.S. government as the group committed wrong doing against the Laos government which has good relations with the US,” said Yong Chanthalangsy, Laotian Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Thailand, which was to be used as a transit country for the arms, said it would investigate the plot as well. “Thailand has a clear policy not to allow any party to use our territory as a lunching pad against our neighbors,” said Tharit Charungvat, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman.

In the past year, Thailand has had to deal with a stream of Hmong refugees, and has been forcibly repatriating them to Laos. Many of the refugees said they were associates of Secret War veterans and were fleeing from persecution. They hoped to follow other Hmong refugees to the West.

Laos spokesman Yong said the Hmong in Thailand were not fighters but victims of human traffickers, and that dissident groups had been long ago been suppressed in Laos.”The arrest of Vang Pao and his group might not have direct impact to Laos as we have nothing to do with them, but it would be a good news for Hmong minorities since the traffickers would have no excuse to lure them to Thailand to seek resettlement in the U.S. with Vang Pao,” Yong said.

On Monday, Thai and Laotian officials met in Bangkok to discuss border security issues, and the two countries agreed to deport the Hmong in Thailand to Laos, Yong said.

Both Laos and Vietnam remain under communist governments. In 2005, the U.S. normalized trade agreements with Laos.

High school football coach shot dead at school gym in Iowa
High school football coach shot dead at school gym in Iowa

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An American football coach has been shot at his school gym in Iowa, United States. Ed Thomas was shot in front of his students at around 8.00 am local time. Thomas was in the weight room at the time of the shooting. An adult male has been arrested suspected of his murder.

Thomas was the head football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg High School. He had coached 37 seasons of High School football in his career and has a career record of 292-84 of which 156-31 is with Aplington-Parkersburg. He led Parkersburg to 19 state playoffs and won state titles in 1993 and 2001. He was named NFL High School Coach of the Year in 2003 and previously coached four active NFL players including Brad Meester, Jared DeVries, Casey Wiegmann and Aaron Kampman.

Thomas was well known in the local community for his work. When Parkersburg was hit by a tornado in the summer of 2008 Thomas worked endlessly to restore the damaged football field. County Sheriff Jason Johnson said that “Coach Thomas is the pillar of the community. Anything that affects him affects Parkersburg.”

No students were injured during the shooting.

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Google creates new desktop software
Google creates new desktop software

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Recently, Google had released Google Desktop 2 (beta), software that aims to provide information on a side-bar that sticks to the right end of your screen. Content on Google Desktop include e-mail searching, news and weather, subscribing to RSS-syndicated websites, and more features.

One particular feature of Google Desktop is how it sends anonymous information of your computer use to Google (at option) in order to help choose RSS feeds and the like for you. This is much akin to how spyware works, however, said features can be disabled rather simply. Along the same lines are the ability to automatically find Weather and Stocks you would like at the first time you open it. This is a Beta so there are a few kinks in this system that can be expected to be sorted out at the full release.

Google Desktop replaces the “Gmail Notifier“, so you can check your gmail emails directly from the Sidebar. In addition to the Gmail mail checker, if you have Outlook, Outlook Express or Thunderbird email clients on your computer then it will check the email accounts in them. All this is automatic, so you get all these emails. Emails can be hidden by using filters.

The program is a 1.3MB download and requires Windows 2000 or Windows XP. It automatically starts up when you load your computer.

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Law will delay University of Minnesota strike
Law will delay University of Minnesota strike

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A law was passed that will prevent clerical, technical and health care workers from striking when the University of Minnesota students return to classes on Tuesday, however, the new law makes no guarantee about workers striking on Wednesday.

According to Jan Johnson, with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, both sides do wish to avoid a strike if at all possible.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have filed for a ten-day notice to strike, however, the ten-day notice to strike law requires that the tenth day of the cooling-off period fall on a day other than a Saturday, Sunday or a holiday, thus, Labor Day Monday is out of reason. A strike, therefore, would not be possible until at least Wednesday, the second day of classes.

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U.S. President Obama’s farewell address focuses on accomplishment
U.S. President Obama’s farewell address focuses on accomplishment

Thursday, January 12, 2017

United States President Barack Obama gave his official farewell address on Tuesday night from McCormick Place in Chicago, reflecting on personal and national accomplishments. This is expected to be his last major speech before officially handing the reins to president-elect Donald Trump on January 20.

“Its why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.”

Obama’s speech was wide-ranging. He thanked his family and the nation, spoke of the need for unity, noted the country’s accomplishments and need for improvement in areas like education and civil rights, and spoke about the need for pride in U.S. accomplishments, citing milestones of U.S. history and of his presidency specifically. “It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.”

The president also addressed his country’s troubled history with race and racism, an issue many black citizens feel he has avoided. Despite this, Chauncy Devega of Salon described the president as “a role model of calm, cool reflective black masculinity: a man utterly at home in his own skin.” Obama described the concept of a post-racial U.S. “unrealistic” and particularly cited the need for reform in education and the criminal justice system and greater acceptance of scientific evidence, particularly evidence supporting action to counteract climate change.

However, publications including The Washington Post and Salon have given particular focus to another aspect of the president’s address: the country’s increasing political tensions and controversies involving access to news and information, both accurate and inaccurate. “We become so secure and our bubbles,” said Obama, “that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there,” calling this trend “a third threat to our democracy.”

The Washington Post characterized Obama’s comment, “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves,” as a “not-so-subtle jab” at the campaign tactics of President-elect Donald Trump. The Telegraph describes Obama’s warnings about the need to protect democracy as “a thinly veiled slight to the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump’s election campaign, which included attacks on Muslims, the disabled, women and immigrants.” The president went on to call on the public to “reject the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties that make us one America. We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive […] We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them. It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy.”

Despite this, when the mention of Donald Trump brought boos from the crowd, Obama reiterated the importance of the long history of peaceful transfers of power from one president to the next: “No no no no no. […] I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.” However, this was not unaccompanied by a call to action. Near the end of the speech, he insisted citizens dissatisfied with elected officials should “lace up your shoes, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.”

Overall, the departing president’s speech focused on accomplishment, echoing the “Yes we can” slogan from his 2008 campaign: “If I have told you eight years ago, that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history. If I had told you, that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11[…] If I had told you that we would win a marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another twenty million of our fellow citizens. If I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high. But that’s what we did.”

But when the crowd began shouting “Four more years! Four more years!” Obama, with a small laugh, answered, “I can’t do that.”

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China: ‘the Dalai Lama is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage’
China: ‘the Dalai Lama is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage’

Monday, March 24, 2008

The government of China has claimed that the Dalai Lama is cooperating with Islamic extremists as part of a plot to bring the country into crises before the Olympic Games, which are due to be half in Beijing this Summer. The official newspaper of the government of China claimed that “the Dalai Lama is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage to force the Chinese government to make concessions to Tibet independence.”

This move comes after Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, vowed to step down from his position if things “get out of control” in Tibet, where violent demonstrations against China have killed anywhere from 13 to 100 people.

The protests, which began in Lhasa, have since spread to neighboring provinces. In Aba, Sichuan, one witness reported 17 deaths. “Earlier today, the whole town was teeming with police and soldiers,” he said. “All the shops have been closed. There are no arrests that I know of … People are anticipating that something big is going to happen.” Elsewhere in Sichuan, thousands of Tibetans turned out in the streets of Seda, according to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

The international community has repeatedly urged China to use restraint in dealing with protesters, and to start talks with the Dalai Lama. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday, “We have really urged the Chinese over several years to find a way to talk with the Dalai Lama, who is a figure of authority, who is not a separatist, and to find a way to engage him and bring his moral weight to a more sustainable and better solution of the Tibet issue.”

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eBay may acquire VoIP firm Skype
eBay may acquire VoIP firm Skype

Friday, September 9, 2005

Online US-based auction company eBay is in talks to acquire Voice-over-IP (VoIP) provider Skype for US$5 billion. Many believe that eBay intends to enter the rapidly expanding VoIP market and give recent entrants, Google and Microsoft, a run for their money.

The speculation that eBay may buy the small Luxembourg-based company sent their shares down four percent on Wall Street.

Last month, Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation, was in talks with Skype to possibly buy the company. The talks ended when Skype said the company was not for sale.

VoIP is becoming an increasingly significant threat to traditional telephone companies, since most calls between computers are free and some users wonder why a separate land line is still needed.

Skype was founded by the creators of the P2P file-sharing program KaZaA.

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‘Mobile phone dermatitis’ linked to nickel deposits
‘Mobile phone dermatitis’ linked to nickel deposits

Friday, October 17, 2008

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has released a report saying that an illness they named ‘mobile phone dermatitis’, in which individuals owning a cell phone have developed a rash on the side of their face, is likely linked to nickel deposits in the metal of some cellular phones. Nickel has been known to cause rashes on those who have a sensitivity to, or are allergic to the metal. Nickel is also mixed with other metals to make jewelry.

The Association says that the condition is likely to affect people who spend too much time talking on the phone. They found that those who spend too much time text messaging or talking for long periods on the phone, were most likely to develop a rash, sometimes severe, on their face and ears, or the tips of their fingers.

Tests in January, performed on 22 cellular phones by scientists at Brown University in Rhode Island located in the United States, had found that just under half, a total of 10, contained nickel while the rest had rubber buttons and a plastic case. Initially the rashes were unexplained, and researchers could not find a reason why so many individuals began to experience the symptoms. In most cases the rashes were untreatable.

“Cell phones intended for rugged use … often have rubber coating and no surface nickel. Those with more fashionable designs often have metallic accents and are more likely to contain free nickel in their casings,” said Lionel Bercovitch MD., one of the researchers, in a report in the journal for the Canadian Medical Association on January 1, 2008.

Researchers also state that although some people may not be allergic to nickel, “prolonged” and continuous exposure to it can cause severe reactions.

“Prolonged or repetitive contact with a nickel-containing phone is more likely to cause a skin reaction in those who are allergic,” said BAD dermatologist Dr. Graham Lowe in a press release. In the United Kingdom alone, BAD says nearly 30% of the population suffers from rashes brought on by prolonged exposure to the metal.

The researchers also recommend individuals to buy swab test kits to test for traces of nickel.

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