Saturday 28 July 2012

Miscellaneous news

Soaring Spanish unemployment hits record highs

27 July, 2012

"Spanish unemployment hit its highest level in the second quarter since the Franco dictatorship ended in the mid-1970s, succumbing to a crisis of confidence among business and consumers that looks likely to escalate as the country's recession drags on.

The jobless rate rose to 24.6 percent from 24.4 percent in the three months to March, the National Statistics Institute said on Friday.

The number of unemployed Spaniards hit 5.7 million, giving the country the highest proportion of people out of work in the European Union."

China censors aftermath of deadly Beijing storm

28 July, 2012

The storm that ravaged Beijing nearly a week ago and killed at least 77 people remains a sensitive topic in China, with a newspaper ordered to cut its coverage and online discussions curtailed.

Directed by propaganda officials, mainstream media have been focusing on positive aspects of the storm, such as rescue efforts, heroic civilian acts and sacrifices by uniformed officials. But those who want to raise questions on the city's handling of the disaster and its drainage system have come under pressure.

Southern Weekly -- an influential newspaper known for its edgy reporting -- canceled four pages of storm coverage this week, and the newspaper itself, together with Beijing's ex- and acting mayors, and the deaths in Fangshan -- the hardest-hit district in Beijing -- were all blocked on China's most popular microblogging site, Sina Weibo, on July 27.

The censorship comes during a personnel reshuffling in the city government of the capital as China braces for the once-in-a-decade power handover to the next generation of leaders. That takes place when the Communist Party holds its congress later this year, with banners around the city already calling for the creation of a stable environment for the meeting.

Officials have kept information tight, mindful that any failure to cope with the flooding could reflect badly on the country's leadership. China's communist government has justified its one-party rule in part by delivering economic growth and maintaining stability and acting quickly to manage disasters like the June 21 flooding...

Japan soil issue buried for lack of storage

27 July, 2012

"At a hamlet in a mountainous area where decontamination was attempted last autumn, airborne radiation was recently found to have returned to 2 microsieverts per hour, the same as it was beforehand and too high for human habitation, local officials said.

"I imagine it's cesium dust coming from the hill behind the village," a local chief lamented. "All we can do is decontaminate the area again, but there is nowhere to store the soil."

Minamisoma, one of the municipalities most affected by the nuclear crisis, is among 111 municipalities in eight prefectures designated in January by the central government as a "priority area" for decontamination.

Anticipating a storage space shortage, the central government has been advocating the "upside-down" method of storage — which actually means burying the tainted topsoil below that excavated from further down, instead of collecting it for storage.

This method has been strongly criticized, especially by those who were forced to leave their hometowns behind.

"This is simply a measure to reduce (radiation)," an official in the deserted Fukushima village of Katsurao angrily said. "It's nothing more than an attempt to conceal radioactive substances."
Saudi Arabia protest followed by arrests in Qatif
Security forces have detained a number of protesters in eastern Saudi Arabia, state media report.
in 5 yrs

27 July, 2012

The arrests took place in the city of Qatif after "rioters" set tyres on fire during an overnight demonstration, an interior ministry statement said.

It said there were no casualties, but witnesses said several people were wounded when police opened fire.

Among those detained was Mohammed al-Shakouri, described by the interior ministry as a wanted fugitive.

In January, he was among 23 men named as suspects in connection with the disturbances in Eastern Province.

They were accused of possessing illegal weapons, opening fire on the public and police, and of serving "foreign agendas".

The demonstration in Qatif was organised to demand the release of political detainees, including the Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Two people were killed at a rally against his arrest earlier this month. Witnesses said they were protesters who had been shot dead by police, but the interior ministry denied that there had been any clashes.

The oil-rich Eastern Province is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni ruling family.

Protests erupted in the region in March 2011 when a popular uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family, was crushed with the assistance of Saudi and other Gulf troops

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