News in Asia

INDIA (AL JAZEERA) India’s ruling party stages pro-reforms rally seeking to defend moves to liberalise retail, insurance and aviation sectors. Sonia Gandhi, India’s ruling Congress party chief, and Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, are trying to gain support for controversial economic policies before the 2014 parliamentary elections. Gandhi, who spoke at the rally in New Delhi on Sunday said that the party has the interest of India’s impoverished at heart.  The government has recently allowed allow foreign investment in the retail, insurance and aviation sectors in order to stimulate a sharply slowing economy and create jobs. Critics of the measures say the reforms benefit investors, but they do not address the concerns of the majority of India’s 1.2 billion citizens, many of whom live in poverty. Rahul Gandhi, Sonia’s 42-year-old son and potential Congress Party candidate should the party win in 2014, asserts that policy changes will transform India’s retail sector by allowing global supermarket chains such as Walmart and Tesco to open in India and tap into its burgeoning consumer market.

‘We need economic reforms because only when businesses operate well will there be progress, and then we can run programmes to benefit the poor… The world is saying that India is standing up,’ he told the rally. ‘The youth here will show not just India but also the whole world the way forward.’ – Rahul Gandhi

CAMBODIA (BBC) The Cambodian government has approved a controversial hydroelectric dam on a tributary of the Mekong River. The joint venture involves Cambodian, Chinese and Vietnamese governments and is a $781 million investment. The dam is due to be completed in five years. The project in northern Stung Treng province is known as Lower Sesan 2. Environmental activists claim that the dam will damage the river’s biodiversity and devastate the livelihoods and homes of thousands of people. Activist Meach Mean, of the 3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN), believes that more than 50,000 people would be affected by the dam and expressed surprise at the approval. Also, in September, a report by UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi also raised concerns about the dam, saying communities did not believe they had been adequately consulted about the project. While hydroelectric dams produce vast sources of electricity for countries, they threaten to hugely change the ecosystem of the Mekong region.

Other News and Tidbits

Twenty-year-old Kevin Balot, a Filipino nursing graduate, won the Miss International Queen pageant, the prestigious pageant for transgenders and transvestites in Pattaya Thailand. Jessika Simoes of Brazil won 1st runner-up while Thailand’s Panvilas Mongkol was 2nd runner-up.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Papua New Guinea to begin their tour for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The royal couple are also visiting Australia and New Zealand on the tour.

At the “Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Asia-Pacific” conference, health and foreign affairs ministers, malaria experts and representatives from donor and malaria-endemic governments call for a stronger response in the Asia-Pacific.

CNN has a story about how the Pakistani Taliban are targeting female students with acid attacks.

There is also a special section on the CNN site about the Chinese government’s mysterious process of choosing their new leadership.

Finally, Apple seems to be losing ground to Google and Amazon as the new iPad minis are unveiled in Asian markets to smaller crowds than in the past.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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