2010/11/06

Japan to join Pacific free-trade talks: reports

TOKYO, November  6, 2010 (AFP) - Japan will announce Saturday that it is to join talks on a Pacific free-trade pact, but will avoid a clear statement of any intent to sign up to the agreement for fear of provoking a domestic backlash, reports said.

Japan's centre-left government has been struggling to reach a consensus on whether to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) backed by the United States.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan will announce late Saturday his government's plan "to start talks with the countries concerned" with the TPP, major Japanese dailies the Asahi, Yomiuri and Nikkei reported, without citing sources.

But the plan, which will be put before the cabinet on Tuesday, stops short of saying whether Japan wants to become a member of the TPP or not and instead stresses "the need to gather information" on the ongoing talks, they said.

The TPP so far has just four signed-up members who have agreed to drop most tariffs and other trade barriers -- Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.

However, the world's largest economy, the United States, is now in talks to join the group, as are Australia, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.

Tokyo's decision-making has gained urgency ahead of an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Japan this month, at which the 21 members will talk about the tricky issue of opening up their markets to each other.

Japanese newspapers last week reported with alarm that China -- the world's top exporter which months ago overtook Japan as the global number two economy -- was for the first time considering entering the talks.

Japanese business groups have urged Kan to join talks on the TPP but his Democratic Party of Japan made recommendations that the government should "decide whether to join or not (the TPP) after starting talks to gather information," fearing the impact of cheap imports on the farm sector.

Japan, citing food-security and cultural reasons, has long protected its now highly inefficient rice farmers against imports of cheaper grain from big producers such as the United States, Australia and Vietnam.

Difficult to be optimistic about financial reforms: Sarkozy

NICE, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday it was difficult to be optimistic about the chances of France's ambitions to achieve a reform of the global monetary system during its G20 presidency.

"Optimistic? That's really difficult because we are confronted with subjects that are very, very complex," Sarkozy said in response to a question by a journalist before having dinner with his visiting Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

Sarkozy has made reform of the financial system a key priority of the French G20 presidency which begins at a summit in South Korea next week, in particular bringing in measures to end volatility of exchange rates and commodities prices.

The French president said the current global financial system was little changed from its introduction following WWII when the US economy and the dollar were dominant.

"So you can imagine the complexity of the system to be put in place..." said Sarkozy.

"But the ambition of France is that everyone agrees to sit around a table to lay the groundwork for a new system that guarantees the stability of the world.

"That is, rather than insulting one another, gather everyone to try to build, basically, the system of the 21st century," he added.

Earlier, a senior French presidential advisor gave a positive summary of the talks between Sarkozy and Hu Friday on reform of the global monetary system during talks.

"There is a true convergence of views between China and France on the aims to be achieved and the route and means necessary to achieve this reform," the official told reporters.

US cable network suspends host over political donations

WASHINGTON, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - US cable television news channel MSNBC suspended one of its most high-profile hosts on Friday for donating to the election campaigns of three Democratic candidates for Congress.

Keith Olbermann, a prominent liberal voice on MSNBC TV, has been suspended indefinitely for violating NBC News ethics policies, MSNBC.com said.

"I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night," MSNBC TV President Phil Griffin said in a statement. "Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."

In a statement to the Politico news site, Olbermann acknowledged making donations of 2,400 dollars each to two Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives in Arizona and the same amount to a Democrat running for the Senate in Kentucky.

MSNBC.com said NBC News prohibits its journalists from activities that may "jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist" including "participation in or contributions to political campaigns."

Olbermann, host of "Countdown," one of the most popular shows on MSNBC TV, is the latest high-profile US media personality to get in trouble recently.

National Public Radio (NPR) last month fired Juan Williams as a senior news analyst after he said he got "nervous" when he saw people on airplanes dressed in Muslim garb.

Rick Sanchez, a CNN anchor, was fired by the cable television news station  last month after calling a popular comedian a "bigot" and suggesting that the TV industry, including his own news network, is run by Jews.

In July, Octavia Nasr, senior editor of Middle East affairs at CNN, left the network after sending a message on Twitter praising the late Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

Qantas says two mid-air engine problems unrelated

SYDNEY, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Dramatic mid-air engine problems on Qantas aircraft which forced two emergency landings in Singapore in as many days were unrelated incidents, a spokeswoman for the Australian airline said Saturday.

A Qantas A380 superjumbo carrying 466 passengers and crew was forced to return to Singapore on Thursday after an engine exploded and failed during ascent, raining debris onto an Indonesian island.

And a Sydney-bound Boeing 747 turned back to Singapore shortly after take-off on Friday after reporting engine trouble, with one passenger saying she saw the affected engine sparking like fireworks.

Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said while both aircraft operated on Rolls Royce-manufactured engines, they were using different models and there was no apparent connection between the incidents.

"These are both unrelated incidents," Wirth told the Nine Network. "They are unrelated."

Wirth said travellers should feel "absolutely safe" on Qantas, despite the recent run of problems, adding that the airline was investigating both incidents and was keeping its A380s grounded until they could be checked.

"Safety is at the heart of our business, we take these issues very, very seriously," Wirth said.
Qantas has never had a fatal jetliner crash in 90 years.

US News & World Report going Web-only

WASHINGTON, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - US News & World Report, which dropped its weekly format two years ago and went monthly, is now abandoning print entirely for the Web.

US News & World Report management announced the move to go digital only in a memo to staff, which was obtained by the Romenesko blog at Poynter Online.

The December issue of US News & World Report will be the last print edition of the magazine, long the number three news weekly in the United States behind Time and Newsweek.

Like newspapers, magazines in the United States have been grappling with a steep drop in print advertising revenue, steadily declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online.

The Washington Post Co. sold money-losing Newsweek to audio tycoon Sidney Harman in September for one dollar.

Since dropping its weekly format, US News & World Report has concentrated on consumer guides and popular annual rankings on such topics as America's "best colleges" and "best hospitals."

US News & World Report management said the magazine will continue to publish "selected, single-topic print issues" like the college and hospital guides for newsstand sale and targeted distribution.

They expressed confidence in a digital strategy focused on USNews.com.

"With an average unique audience of 9 million and counting, we've become a significant publisher in the digital space, creating content that people want and an audience that advertisers will pay for," they said.

"These latest moves will accelerate our ability to grow our online businesses and position ourselves to take advantage of the emerging platforms for distributing information such as the iPad and Android tablets.

"The iPad and the next generations of tablets and mobile platforms will create a brand new set of opportunities for us," they said.

China leads criticism of US Fed policy move

BRUSSELS, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - A Federal Reserve decison to pump more cash into the struggling US economy got a chilly reception Friday from global economic powerhouses, where officials doubted its usefulness and warned it could even spark a fresh crisis.

China, Germany, Brazil and France all voiced reservations about the move, in which the Fed plans to inject another 600 billion dollars (422.5 billion euros) into the economy.

Through a process known as quantitative easing, the Fed will buy up US Treasury securities in a bid to get more cash into the hands of companies and consumers by making long-term borrowing cheaper.

A European official, who asked not to be named, cautioned that the policy "at the end of the day might be dampening the recovery of the euro area."

He added that the question should be raised at a summit in Seoul November 11-12 of the Group of 20 emerging market and industrialised nations.

The fear in Europe is that adding so much liquidity to the US economy will dilute the value of the dollar, which would tend as a consequence to weaken the US unit against the euro.

A stronger euro is often seen as putting upward pressure on eurozone exports, making them more expensive and less competitive.

Chinese officials meanwhile said they wanted an explanation of why the Fed had chosen to go ahead with a new round of quantitative easing.

Such action, they said, might make sense for the United States but for other countries there was a price to be paid as the dollar slumped, hitting their exports, and developing countries were flooded with capital seeking a safer home.

The Fed hope its action will boost demand and so get the US economy back on track, reducing the worst unemployment in years which has remained stubbornly high despite earlier QE of some 1.5 trillion dollars.

If the US economy, the world's biggest, can get out of the doldrums, it argues, then that will be good for everyone by helping power global growth.

For China, that seems to be no longer good enough.

"If there is no restraint in issuing major global currencies such as the US dollar, the occurrence of another crisis is inevitable," said Xia Bin, an adviser to the Poeple's Bank of China, according to the Beijing News.

Dubbing the US action abusive, Xia called on developing countries to take measures to "prevent hot money inflows from impacting their economy."

PBoC governor Zhou Xiaochuan told a forum in Beijing that US move was "not necessarily optimal for the world ... It may cause a lot of negative impacts for the world economy."

The issue is specially sensitive for China given tensions over the yuan with Washington, which says the Chinese currency is kept undervalued to gain an export advantage at its expense.

For China, and other Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea running massive trade surpluses with the United States, the Fed action appears designed expressly to make their exports more expensive.

Pointedly, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, China's top negotiator on Group of 20 issues, called for an explanation of US policy.

"It would be appropriate for someone to step forward and give us an explanation. Otherwise, international confidence in the recovery and growth of the global economy might be hurt," Cui said, only days ahead of the G20 summit in South Korea where currency issues will likely top a heavy agenda.

Brazil, which has already warned of the dangers posed by a "currency war" was equally blunt.
"Everyone wants the US economy to recover but it does no good to inject massive amounts of money into the economy because that will not get growth moving again," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said.

"The only result is a devaluation of the dollar so that the United States becomes more competitive in international trade," he added.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned that the Fed measures would not work and only create more problems.

"They have already pumped endless amounts of money into the economy with extremely high budget deficits (but) ... The results have been hopeless," he said on television channel ZDF.

"I don't think that the Americans are going to solve their problems with this and I believe that it is going to create extra problems for the world," Schaeuble said on ARD public television late on Thursday.

For France, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde expressed disappointment that it was the euro that would "bear the brunt" of the US action, with the single European currency rising steadily against the dollar in recent weeks.

China, France agree on monetary reform: French presidency

NICE, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - China and France reached a "true convergence of views" on reform of the global monetary system during talks between their two presidents Friday, a senior French presidential advisor said.

"There is a true convergence of views between China and France on the aims to be achieved and the route and means necessary to achieve this reform," the official told reporters after talks between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his visiting Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two leaders also agreed to hold a summit of monetary experts in China at an unspecified date, "probably in the spring" in early 2011.

Fire, screams as second Qantas jet makes forced landing

SINGAPORE, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Passengers on board the Qantas Boeing 747-400 jumbo that made an emergency landing in Singapore on Friday reported hearing an explosion and seeing flames on the one of the engines minutes after takeoff.

Some passengers were screaming, while the cabin crew yelled "crisis!" and ordered everyone to be on their seats as the plane prepared to make a forced landing at Changi Airport.
"It was pretty scary," said Swedish tourist Lisa Ogden, 28.

"An engine on the wing exploded. It looked like fireworks, a petty big one," she told reporters after disembarking at the airport.

"The plane jumped a bit and the cabin crew were yelling 'crisis' and they told everyone to sit down. Some were screaming, one or two got up. It felt like forever but it was one minute then the fire was out," she added.

It "feels good to be on the ground again".

The Sydney-bound plane was carrying 431 people, including 412 passengers. It was the second Qantas plane to be involved in a mid-air emergency in two days.

"We could see some flames coming out from the engine," Singaporean passenger Terence Sim told reporters at the airport.

"We could see quite an impressive plume of flame from the engine," said Australian national Andrew Jenkins, 43.

"There was a bang, not particularly loud, just loud enough to draw your attention."

Alan Rumsey, a 60-year-old Australian, slammed his country's national flag carrier for the second incident in as many days.

On Thursday, an Airbus A380 also belonging to Qantas was forced to turn back to Singapore after one of its engines exploded minutes into the flight to Sydney, showering debris on a nearby Indonesia town.

"It makes me wonder how reliable Qantas is since this is the second incident in two days," said Rumsey, adding that the airline needed to improve its maintenance.

He said the people seated on the left side of the plane who saw the fire "got scared and started shouting."

But Ogden, the Swedish tourist, said she did not blame Qantas.

"Things like that can happen," she said.

Sri Lankan-born Australian national Ranjan Sivagnanasumdaram said he also heard the bang and they were told to prepare for emergency landing, but there was no general panic.

"There was a small bang noise," he said.

"They basically asked for us to put our heads down and be like that for 20 minutes. They (rest of the passengers) were not panicking as such, there was not much of a chaos."

Some passengers said the plane dumped fuel 25 minutes before the forced landing.

The Boeing 747-400 passengers' accounts were similar to the experience of those aboard the A380 who also recounted hearing a loud explosion and seeing fire on the Rolls-Royce engine.
It was still unclear what engine powered the stricken 747-400 aircraft.

Second Qantas jet in engine scare

SINGAPORE, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - A second Qantas jet made an emergency landing in Singapore with engine trouble Friday, the airline said, a day after one of its  A380 superjumbos was forced to return to the same airport after an engine failed.

The Sydney-bound Boeing 747-400 jumbo carrying 412 passengers and 19 crew, reported engine trouble soon after a take-off Friday and was forced to return to Changi Airport, according to a spokeswoman for the Australian flag carrier.

"Shortly after take-off the captain experienced an issue with one of its engines," the spokeswoman said.

"As a precautionary measure the captain sought priority clearance to return to Singapore. The aircraft landed safely a short time later without incident."

Passengers told reporters that they heard a bang and then saw smoke and flames coming from one of the engines.

On its website Qantas says one of its Boeing 747-400 models runs on a Rolls-Royce engine.
Earlier the airline said an engine design fault may have caused Thursday's dramatic mid-air emergency involving a flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said early signs pointed to a "material failure or a design issue" in the Rolls-Royce engines after one exploded just minutes into flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney on Thursday, prompting an emergency landing.

However, Joyce said Qantas' five other A380s -- the world's biggest passenger jets -- could be back in action within days, after safety checks by Rolls-Royce and Qantas engineers in Los Angeles and Sydney.

"This is an engine issue and the engines were maintained by Rolls-Royce since being installed on the aircraft," Joyce said in Sydney.

"We believe that this is most likely some kind of material failure or a design issue... We don't believe this is related to maintenance in any way."

Joyce's comments are the clearest insight yet into Thursday's events, when the blast rained engine casing on an Indonesian town and the superjumbo, carrying 466 people, turned back to Singapore.

He said that a second engine, next to the one that exploded, would not shut down after the landing raising further concerns.

The incident has thrown the A380 -- a double-decker aircraft vying with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in the long-haul sector -- into the spotlight three years after it took to the skies.

Since its 2007 launch, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and one Air France flight was forced back to New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

In April, a Qantas A380 suffered tyre damage on landing in Sydney, causing a shower of sparks.

Joyce said tyres also burst during Thursday's incident, but added that was of limited significance.

Specialists from Airbus arrived in Singapore after the European plane maker said it would cooperate with French and Australian accident investigators probing the incident.

Australian officials said the probe could take up to a year.

Airbus said it had urged all airlines operating A380s with Rolls-Royce engines to send their planes for "inspections to ensure continuous safe operations of the fleet".

Qantas, which has never had a fatal jetliner crash in 90 years, said the A380 was the first it received in 2008 and had recently had a major maintenance check. Airbus said it had completed 831 trips over about 8,165 flight hours.

Rolls-Royce urged airlines to carry out "basic precautionary checks" on its Trent 900 engines after the incident. A total of 37 A380s are currently in use around the world, though not all have Rolls-Royce engines.

Singapore Airlines (SIA), the first airline to operate the world's largest passenger jet in 2007, said it had resumed A380 flights after "precautionary checks".

Qantas said flights between Australia and Los Angeles and Australia and London had been affected by the grounding of the A380s, delaying about 1,200 passengers who would have a wait of about 24 hours for replacement planes.

"The pilot and the crew handled this superbly," Joyce said. One passenger called him "fantastic".
Most of those on the aborted flight resumed their journey and arrived back in Sydney on Friday, Australia's AAP news agency reported.

As well as the 37 A380s now flying commercially, another 234 are on order from airlines, according to Airbus -- whose US arch-rival Boeing will launch the smaller 787 Dreamliner next year.

Shares in Qantas fell 1.04 percent to 2.86 Australian dollars in Friday trade, while Rolls-Royce shares were down 3.30 percent in London by lunchtime.

Flames 'coming out' of second Qantas jet engine: passengers

SINGAPORE, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Passengers on board the Qantas Boeing 747-400 jumbo that made an emergency landing in Singapore on Friday said they heard a bang and saw flames "coming out" of the aircraft's engine minutes after takeoff.

"We could see some flames coming out from the engine," Singaporean passenger Terence Sim told reporters after disembarking at the airport.

It was the second Qantas jet in two days to be forced to return to the airport after take-off with engine trouble.

"We could see quite an impressive plume of flame from the engine," said Australian national Andrew Jenkins, 43.

"There was a bang, not particularly loud, just loud enough to draw your attention."

Sri Lankan-born Australian national Ranjan Sivagnanasumdaram said he also heard the bang and they were told to prepare for emergency landing, but there was no panic.

"There was a small bang noise," he said.

"They basically asked for us to put our heads down and be like that for 20 minutes. They (rest of the passengers) were not panicking as such, there was not much of a chaos."

Some passengers said the plane dumped fuel 25 minutes before the forced landing.

2010/11/05

Another Foxconn worker falls to death in China

BEIJING, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - A male worker died Friday in an apparent suicide at a plant in southern China run by Taiwan's high-tech giant Foxconn, the firm and state media said -- the 11th such death this year at the factory.

The worker died after falling from a building at Foxconn's massive complex in the city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, Xinhua news agency said.

A company spokesperson said the 23-year-old -- who had worked at Foxconn for eight months -- was found dead outside his dormitory in the early hours of Friday, adding that police were investigating the case with Foxconn's help.

The death resembled 10 other suicides carried out earlier this year at the factory, which employs an estimated 400,000 people.

At least 13 employees of Foxconn -- the world's largest maker of computer components, which produces goods for Apple, Sony and Nokia -- have died in similar circumstances this year, according to the official Global Times.

Labour rights activists have blamed the suicides at Foxconn on tough working conditions in its factories, highlighting the difficulties faced by millions of factory workers across the country.

Following the spate of suicides, Foxconn raised wages by nearly 70 percent at its China plants earlier this year.

But in a recent survey, researchers questioned 1,736 Foxconn workers at plants in nine cities and found they worked an average of 83.2 hours overtime a month, more than twice the maximum 36 hours allowed under Chinese law, the China Business News said last month.

Workers also claimed Foxconn skimped on overtime payments, forced student interns to work more than the statutory eight hours a day and provided inadequate medical check-ups for employees exposed to poisonous and harmful substances, the report said.

Foxconn refuted the accusations and said it was working to improve the conditions for its workers.

Taiwan's jailed ex-leader cleared in financial case - Lead

TAIPEI, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Taiwan's jailed ex-president Chen Shui-bian on Friday won a rare legal victory when a court cleared him of wrongdoing in connection with two high-profile bank mergers.

Chen is currently appealing a 20-year jail sentence for multiple counts of corruption in a separate trial.

"This is belated justice and it should be a key reason to stop the detention of former president Chen," his office said in a statement.

The Taipei district court found Chen and his wife not guilty of allegations of accepting nearly 20 million US dollars in bribes from bankers. There was not enough evidence, the court said.

Twenty co-defendants, including several well-known bankers, were also cleared of charges of money laundering, breach of trust and insider trading because of insufficient proof.

Chen says the legal action against him is a vendetta carried out by the island's current Beijing-friendly government in retaliation for his pro-independence stance during his 2000-2008 term.

China-Japan 'ship collision video' leaked on YouTube

TOKYO, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - A video apparently capturing a collision between vessels from China and Japan which sparked an ongoing diplomatic row was posted on YouTube Friday, prompting Beijing to express concern, Tokyo's foreign minister said.

The Japanese coastguard arrested a Chinese trawler captain two months ago for allegedly ramming two of its patrol boats near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, sparking a barrage of protests from Beijing.

Video footage of the incident taken by the coastguard had so far been shown only to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, security officials and some lawmakers, but not released to the public for fear it would worsen the spat.

"I have a strong sense of crisis because our information management is not in shape," Kan told reporters. "It is important for both countries to respond calmly even if such a problem arises."

China has called the captain's September 8 arrest invalid and illegal and launched strong protests which continued after Japan released the captain, plunging the two Asian economic giants into their worst row in years.

Early on Friday, 44 minutes of footage purporting to show the incident were posted on the YouTube website, sending Japanese officials scrambling to contain the damage, a week before Japan hosts an Asia-Pacific summit.

Japanese television stations throughout the day showed the clips, assuming them to be authentic, although no officials have confirmed this on the record.

The YouTube clip appears to show the blue Chinese boat which was later detained by Japan, marked the Minjinyu 5179, colliding with the grey-hulled Japanese boat as a plume of black smoke is seen billowing from the patrol ship.

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a media briefing: "I think it probably was taken by the coastguard. That is how I feel after seeing the footage."

He said the Chinese embassy in Tokyo had called Japan's foreign ministry to check into the leak, and that China later had "expressed concern and conveyed worry in Tokyo and Beijing through diplomatic channels".

The incident was sensitive because both sides claim the potentially resource-rich islets, known as the Diaoyus in China and Senkakus in Japan, and the nearby seas where the incidents took place, as their own, as does Taiwan.

The apparent anonymous leak follows the illicit publication online only days ago of classified anti-terrorism documents and sparked immediate criticism from Japan.

Social Democrats leader Mizuho Fukushima said: "It's extremely problematic in view of Japan's risk management that such an important thing, which could dramatically affect the future of Japan and China... was leaked so easily."

Maehara said that "if coastguard videos have been leaked, it represents a case in which government documents were leaked in spite of public servants' obligation to keep secrets. This would be a criminal case."

Tokyo's outspoken conservative governor Shintaro Ishihara, however, praised the apparent leak as strengthening Japan's position in the row.

"I guess it is a case of whistle-blowing," he said. "It was leaked so as to let the people see the reality. Isn't that a welcome thing?"

The YouTube videos came as Asia's two biggest economies are seeking to repair ties after their prime ministers, Kan and Wen Jiabao, failed at two recent summits, in Brussels and Hanoi, to hold formal bilateral talks.

World leaders, including those of Japan and China, will next week meet for a G20 summit in South Korea and then an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit being held in Yokohama near Tokyo.

Another Qantas plane makes emergency landing in Singapore

SINGAPORE, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Another Qantas plane made an emergency landing in Singapore Friday after experiencing engine problems, an airline spokeswoman told AFP.

The Sydney-bound Boeing 747-400 landed safely at Changi Airport without incident, she said.
"Shortly after take-off the captain experienced an issue with one of its engines," the spokeswoman said.

It was the second incident in as many days involving a Qantas plane.

On Thursday, an Airbus A380 operated by the Australian flag carrier made a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore after an engine failed minutes after taking off on the flight from the city-state to Sydney.

Taiwan to open its first international expo

TAIPEI, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Diplomatically isolated Taiwan is set to unveil its first international expo this weekend as it seeks to boost its global profile and attract more tourists, organisers said Friday.

The six-month Taipei International Flora Exposition is estimated to attract at least eight million visitors and generate 16.8 billion Taiwan dollars (545 million US) in revenue, they said, adding that was a conservative estimate.

"We hope the world will see the beautiful side of Taipei through the expo," said mayor Hau Lung-bin, adding that 59 international cities, including three from China, are participating in the event.

Among them, the city of Shanghai, impressed by Taiwan's high-tech pavilion at its World Expo, is recreating an elegant traditional Chinese garden, he said.

The expo also features the world's first pavilion hall made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
The structure, which required 1.5 million bottles, is Taiwan's latest invention as it seeks to promote green technology and architecture.

"It's more than an expo of flowers and gardening. We want to use this to call attention to the fact that environmental protection is a way of life," Hau said.

Organisers also fended off public criticism about the cost of the expo at 9.5 billion Taiwan dollars, saying it is expected to generate at least twice that amount in revenue and boost annual floral exports by 10 percent.

Taiwan, which only has 23 allies worldwide, wants to boost its international profile amid warming ties with former bitter rival China.

This move was highlighted by its return to this year's World Expo in Shanghai after a 40-year absence.

However, Beijing still considers the self-ruled island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

PBoC advisor warns Fed move may cause another crisis: report

PBoC advisor warns Fed move may cause another crisis: report

BEIJING, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Unrestricted issuance of US dollars could plunge the world into a new financial crisis, an adviser to China's central bank warned, after the US Federal Reserve poured more money into the economy.

The comments in Chinese state media Friday came after the Fed said it would spend 600 billion dollars buying government bonds to kickstart the US recovery -- a move that could spark tensions at next week's G20 summit in South Korea.

"If there is no restraint in issuing major global currencies such as the US dollar, the occurrence of another crisis is inevitable," said Xia Bin, a member of the bank's monetary policy committee, according to the Beijing News.

The dollar sank against other major currencies Thursday after the Fed said it would buy up new Treasury debt at a rate of around 75 billion dollars a month through to the middle of next year.

The Fed's move, which follows a similar quantitative easing worth about 1.5 trillion dollars during the crisis, has stoked fears of a deluge of speculative cash into emerging markets by players seeking higher non-dollar returns.

Xia lashed out at the US issuance of dollars as "abusive" and called on developing countries to take capital control measures to "prevent hot money inflows from impacting their economy".

Li Daokui, another advisor to the People's Bank of China, said the US move might fall short of the target to boost the world's largest economy, according to Friday's China Daily.

"The quantitative easing policy might not fulfil the target of revitalising the US economy as the country's financial system is still saddled by heavy debts, but the move will add pressure for yuan appreciation," Li said.

The United States and Europe accuse China of deliberately holding down the value of the yuan to benefit exporters. The currency has appreciated about 2.4 percent against the dollar since Beijing pledged in June to loosen its grip.

Japan, South Korea, Brazil and Indonesia among others have intervened unilaterally in recent weeks to curb the alarming rise in their currencies, which is hurting their exporting companies.

The China Daily said in a commentary Friday that the Fed's move "does not bode well for the world economy, which is struggling to find a way out of the worst global recession in more than half a century".

"The international community must work together to persuade the United States to give up its growing addiction to cheap money that, in all likelihood, will cripple any global effort to seek a rebalanced and lasting recovery."

China-Japan 'ship collision video' leaked on YouTube

TOKYO, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Video footage apparently showing a tense maritime incident between China and Japan two months ago was posted on YouTube early Friday, threatening to further inflame a bitter row between the Asian giants.

Japan's coastguard in early September arrested a Chinese trawler captain for allegedly ramming two of its patrol boats near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, sparking strong protests from Beijing.

Video footage taken by the coastguard of the incident has so far been shown only to Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan and about 30 lawmakers, but not officially released to the public for fear it would worsen the row.

However, clips claiming to show the incident were posted on the YouTube website overnight, sending Japanese officials scrambling in the morning to contain the damage a week before Japan hosts an Asia-Pacific summit.

The YouTube clip appears to show the blue Chinese fishing boat which was later detained by Japan, marked the Minjinyu 5179, sailing in calm seas parallel to the vessel from which the footage was taken.

The vessel then appears to change course and collides with the starboard side of the grey-hulled Japanese boat as a plume of black smoke is seen billowing from the patrol ship.

Japanese media quoted several unnamed coastguard officers as saying the video footage "is most likely real", although none said so on the record.

Japan Coast Guard chief Hisayasu Suzuki told parliament merely that "We are investigating the issue of the video on YouTube with the utmost effort now."

The top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, said that the leak, if confirmed, would be "grave" and added that China had already "made inquiries through diplomatic channels" about the YouTube clips.

China has called the September 8 arrest invalid and illegal.

Both sides claim the potentially resource-rich islets, known as the Diaoyus in China and Senkakus in Japan, as their own. Taiwan also has a claim to the uninhabited rocky outcrops, which are administered by Tokyo.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped into the fray last week at a regional summit in Vietnam, telling both sides that Washington was willing to host a trilateral meeting to ease tensions, but Beijing baulked at the notion.

Sengoku -- speaking days ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit being held in Yokohama near Tokyo -- declined to confirm the authenticity of the video clip but worried about its impact, saying: "I hope a Japan-China summit will be held without being affected".

He added that the online video, divided into six parts and a total of 44 minutes long, was "a bit different" from the footage he had seen earlier.

The apparent leak of sensitive material by an unknown person -- which follows the illicit publication online of classified anti-terrorism police documents only days ago -- sparked immediate criticism.

The leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party, Mizuho Fukushima, told reporters: "It's extremely problematic in view of Japan's risk management that such an important thing, which could dramatically affect the future of Japan and China... was leaked so easily."

The news came as Asia's two biggest economies have been seeking to repair ties after their prime ministers, Kan and Wen Jiabao, have failed at two recent summits, in Brussels and Hanoi, to hold formal bilateral talks.

Kyodo News reported that Japan's Sengoku and visiting former Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan agreed Thursday to make efforts to improve ties.

China says its car boom is ruining air quality

SHANGHAI, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - China's booming car sales have had a devastating effect on the environment, the national environmental watchdog has warned in its first-ever report on pollution caused by vehicle emissions.

About a third of 113 cities surveyed failed national air standards last year as the number of vehicles swelled to 170 million, up 9.3 percent on year and 25 times the number on the roads in 1980, the ministry of environmental protection said.

"All the problems are closely related to vehicle exhaust emissions," said the government report, which was published on Thursday.

Vehicle exhaust emissions exceeded 51 million tonnes in 2009, including more than 40 million tonnes of carbon monoxide, nearly five million tonnes of hydrocarbons and about six million tonnes of nitrogen oxide, the report said.

China's auto sales hit 13.64 million units in 2009, up 46 percent on-year, and are expected to rise by a further 25 percent this year to 17 million.

The ministry pledged to toughen supervision and control of vehicle exhaust emissions.

Projects are already under way in several cities to upgrade petrol stations, oil storage tanks and oil tankers to rein in emissions, the report said.

China's latest Five-Year Plan, for 2011-2015, which was adopted last month, called on car makers to focus on researching and developing new energy vehicles, such as electric cars and hybrid vehicles.

Praise for 'fantastic' Aussie captain after Qantas drama

SYDNEY, November  5, 2010 (AFP) - Praise poured in Friday for the unflappable Australian pilot of an A380 superjumbo who calmly landed the massive aircraft after a mid-air engine blast.

Richard Champion de Crespigny returned the Qantas plane carrying 466 people to Singapore on Thursday after one of its four engines failed just minutes after take-off, slightly damaging a wing and showering debris on a town below.

Passengers praised the way 53-year-old de Crespigny, who has 35 years of flying experience, reassured them over the Airbus intercom during the unfolding emergency.

"I do apologise. I'm sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our no. 2 engine," he said, in an in-flight recording of the incident posted on the Internet.

"I'm sure you are aware we are not proceeding to Sydney at this stage. The aircraft is flying safely at this stage. Thank you for your patience."

Sydney man Simon Johnson, who was on board the flight, said passengers saw something fall away from the double-decker plane and then heard loud bangs as the plane shuddered.

"The captain was fantastic, as were the crew," Johnson told the Sydney Morning Herald, adding that there was no panic but "obviously your stomach sort of drops when you hear those bangs".

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce also praised de Crespigny's skills in bringing the plane down safely.

"The pilot and the crew handled this superbly," he told a press conference in Sydney. "They landed the aircraft fully safely."

Joyce said the captain told him he had full confidence in the Qantas A380s, which the airline has grounded for safety checks.

"He was so positive about the aircraft," Joyce said. "He says he loves the aircraft. He thinks it's a fantastic aircraft. And he's 100-percent convinced that this is a great aircraft to fly."

The captain's wife Coral Champion de Crespigny said she was not surprised at her husband's unruffled manner during the incident, saying "that's just the way Richard is".

"All I can say is that the passengers are very lucky that Richard was their pilot yesterday," she told The Australian newspaper.

Chinese Nobel laureate wins another prize

NEW YORK, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Jailed Chinese Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has won another prize, with Human Rights Watch honoring him for risking his life to "protect the dignity" of others.

The New York-based rights group named the 54-year-old writer as one of six recipients of its Alison Des Forges Award, named after a leading expert on Rwanda's genocide who died last year in a plane crash.

Renee Xia of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a network of activists, accepted the award at a ceremony Wednesday evening in New York on behalf of the imprisoned Liu.

Liu, 54, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling for sweeping political reform that has been circulated online and signed by thousands.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the award "celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others."

"By honoring Liu Xiaobo, we also honor countless human rights defenders who have been unjustly imprisoned for their own courageous and dogged efforts to reform China from within. They, and Liu, should be released immediately," said Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

China voiced outrage when Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month, saying the move by the Norwegian committee was tantamount to "encouraging crime."

Human Rights Watch is also presenting its award in a series of ceremonies to Egyptian activist Hossam Bahgat, Russian investigative journalist Elena Milashina and Ethiopian rights advocate Yoseph Mulugeta.

The other recipients are Steave Nemande, a doctor in Cameroon fighting for gay rights across Africa, and Iranian women's rights activist Sussan Tahmasebi.

Hu bests Obama in Forbes power list

WASHINGTON, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Chinese President Hu Jintao has topped US President Barack Obama on the Forbes list of most powerful people, with the magazine pointing to Hu's sweeping powers and the stinging defeat of Obama's democrats in legislative polls.

Thursday, the magazine said Hu was the world's most powerful person, saying he "exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world's population."

"Unlike Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts," it said.

Hu topped Obama, last year's most powerful person, whose Democratic Party suffered major losses in congressional elections on Tuesday.

Forbes said it was "quite a comedown" for Obama, "who after enacting widespread reforms in his first two years in office will be hard-pressed to implement his agenda in the next two."

King Abdullah of oil-rich Saudi Arabia came in third, followed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Pope Benedict XVI.

Forbes magazine last month listed First Lady Michelle Obama as the world's most powerful woman.

The magazine, whose editor Steve Forbes is a former Republican presidential candidate, infuriated the White House in September by running an essay saying Obama was consumed by "anti-colonialism" inherited from his Kenyan father.

Airbus that lost engine had two years service

PARIS, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - The Airbus A380 superjumbo that lost an engine and made an emergency landing in Singapore on Thursday had been in service since September 2008 and had logged 8,165 flight hours, the manufacturer said.

"Preliminary reports indicate that the aircraft suffered an engine failure after take-off from Singapore. It performed an in-flight turn back and landed safely back in Singapore," Airbus said in a statement.

"The aircraft, registration number VH-OQA, manufacturer serial number 14, was delivered to Qantas on September 19, 2008, and had logged around 8,165 flight hours and 831 flight cycles as of today," the statement said.

"It is powered by four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines," it added.

Airbus said there were 433 passengers and 26 crew on board.

The company said it would cooperate fully with the probe launched by Australian and French air accident investigators.

Flight delays as Singapore Airlines checks A380s: SIA

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Singapore Airlines (SIA) said Thursday there will be flight delays as it conducts technical checks on its A380s following the forced landing of a Qantas plane with the same engine model.

SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides said the checks were being carried out on the advise of aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Rolls-Royce, which made the Trent 900 engine used in the carrier's fleet of 11 double-decker A380s.

The Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine is the same as those installed in the Qantas plane that made an emergency landing in Singapore earlier Thursday due to an engine failure.

"Our engine manufacturer Rolls Royce and aircraft manufacturer Airbus have advised us to conduct precautionary technical checks on our A380 aircraft, following today's incident involving another operator's A380," Ionides said in a statement.

"Resulting from this development, Singapore Airlines will be delaying all flights operating our A380 aircraft. We will keep affected customers updated and more information will be provided once it is available."

However, an SIA spokeswoman told AFP it was "incorrect" to say that the airline was grounding its A380 fleet.

Qantas said flight QF32 developed major engine trouble just six minutes into a flight from Singapore to Sydney, and it dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to Singapore's Changi Airport.

SIA acquired its first A380 in October 2007, becoming the first airline in the world to operate the world's biggest passenger jet.

A total of 37 of the giant aircraft are in operation around the world, including six with Qantas. Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are the other operators.

Various airlines have ordered another 234 A380s, according to Airbus.

2010/11/04

3D smartphone to make debut in Japan in December

TOKYO, November 4, 2010 (AFP) - Japan's Softbank on Thursday unveiled smartphones that enable users to enjoy three-dimensional photos, videos and games without the need to wear special glasses.

Softbank Mobile said it would release a 3D-capable Galapagos smartphone in early December and another model of the brand in mid-February.

Both phones, produced by Sharp, have 3.8-inch liquid crystal display screens, enabling users to snap pictures, play games and watch video in 3D. Ustream will also feed live 3D video to the phones.

Softbank Mobile will also offer electronic book services on the two smartphones, which run on Google's Android operating system.

Softbank, Japan's exclusive carrier of Apple's iPhone, last week reported a record quarterly profit for the July-September term on strong demand for smartphones.

China finance minister to give APEC meeting a miss

BEIJING, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Chinese Finance Minister Xie Xuren will not attend a meeting of Asia-Pacific finance chiefs in Japan this weekend, an official said Thursday, amid a simmering row between Tokyo and Beijing.

Vice Finance Minister Wang Jun will lead the Chinese delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum gathering on Friday and Saturday in Kyoto, a ministry official who asked not to be named told AFP.

Xie cannot attend due to scheduling concerns, the official said, without elaborating.

China and Japan have been locked in a row over contested islands in the East China Sea for the past two months, which erupted when Tokyo arrested a Chinese captain whose fishing trawler collided with two Japanese coastguard vessels.

Both sides claim the potentially resource-rich islets, which are known as the Diaoyus in China and Senkakus in Japan, as their own. Taiwan also has a claim to the uninhabited rocky outcrops, which are administered by Japan.

Beijing expressed outrage over the captain's detention, and did not relent even after the man was released.

Last week, China at the last minute cancelled a formal meeting between Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Hanoi. The two eventually held only brief informal talks.

Singapore clinic says sorry over IVF sperm mix-up

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - A Singapore private medical centre apologised Thursday for a sperm mix-up in an in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment that resulted in the baby having a different DNA from the supposed father.

"We fully empathise with the couple, and are very sorry and distressed over what has happened," said Cheng Li Chang, medical director of the Thomson Fertility Centre which runs the clinic involved.

"We have met with them to explain the situation to the best of our knowledge, and we will continue to update them and offer all possible support," he said in a statement dated Wednesday.

The couple made the shock DNA discovery after they were told by their paediatrician that the baby's blood type was B while they were groups O and A, a scientific impossibility if they were the two biological parents.

S. Palaniappan, the lawyer representing the couple, a Chinese Singaporean woman and her Caucasian husband, said the baby remained in their care.

"They discovered it a few days after the birth of the baby. They were informed by the paediatrician that the baby's blood group is B," he told AFP Wednesday.

"So they were a bit surprised because the mother is O and the father is A. Biologically it's not possible when you have such a combination."

A DNA test carried out in a Hong Kong laboratory at the couple's request showed the baby, who was born on October 1, had the mother's DNA but not the official father's, Palaniappan said.

Thomson Medical Centre, which specialises in obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics, said it had placed extra checks in its IVF procedures since the incident.

"In our 22 years of operation this is the first such incident and we are taking this very seriously," Cheng said.

Memorial for Chinese tourists killed in Taiwan landslides

TAIPEI, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - The families of 20 Chinese tourists killed in typhoon-triggered landslides in Taiwan paid an emotional tribute to their loved ones on Thursday.

Relatives, most of them in tears, laid flowers and fruit while burning incense sticks in front of a shrine decorated with the photos of the deceased in a public funeral parlour in Taipei.

While the bodies of the tourists have not yet been found, Taiwan prosecutors have declared them dead in order to enable the relatives to file compensation claims.

Nineteen tourists and a tour guide lost contact while travelling on buses along a highway ravaged by landslides when Typhoon Megi hit the island with torrential rains and strong winds late last month.

Taiwanese rescuers have since found only the upper torso, the left hand and the right leg of one female Chinese tourist in the waters off Ilan county, and it was believed that others could have been washed into the sea.

Relatives of the missing applied for formal death certificates after acknowledging that two weeks after the disaster there was no longer hope of finding any survivors, said Taiwan's Travel Agent Association.

The families are entitled to about 5.1 million Taiwan dollars (165,000 US) in compensation from travel liability insurance for each deceased tourist, according to the association.

Taiwan has hosted growing numbers of Chinese tourists in the past two years as ties improve following the 2008 election of Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou as the island's president.

A380 with blown engine in Singapore emergency landing

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - A Qantas A380 with more than 450 people on board made a dramatic forced landing in Singapore Thursday, trailing smoke from a blackened engine, in the Airbus superjumbo's first mid-air emergency.

Australia's Qantas Airways, which prides itself as the world's safest airline with no fatal jet crashes in its 90-year history, said it was grounding all six of its A380s following the incident.

The double-decker plane carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew developed engine trouble just six minutes into a flight from Singapore to Sydney, and dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to Singapore's Changi Airport.

There were no injuries to passengers or crew, officials said.

Metal debris including a part bearing the airline's red-and-white "flying kangaroo" emblem slammed into industrial and residential areas of the Indonesian city of Batam, opposite Singapore.

Witness Noor Kanwa described a "loud explosion in the air" and saw "metal shards coming down from the sky".

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said flight QF32 had experienced "a significant engine failure" to one of its four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines. The British engine maker pledged to work with Qantas to identify the problem.

"We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met," Joyce told reporters in Sydney.

Airbus, which had bet its future on the commercial viability of the world's largest passenger plane, said the Qantas incident had been "significant" but stressed the A380 was safe to fly on three engines.

"We are not playing down the incident, but it is covered in the certification procedures," a spokesman for the French-based company said.

German passenger Ulf Waschbusch said there was a loud boom and flames on the plane's left wing soon after take-off.

"Something ruptured the left wing," Waschbusch, a technology company executive based in Singapore, told AFP after disembarking.

Six fire engines swarmed the A380 on landing, spraying liquid on it, according to an AFP reporter at the Singapore airport.

One of the engines on the plane's left wing was blackened and its rear cowling was missing.

The plane circled over Indonesian territory for nearly two hours, dumping fuel prior to the emergency landing, Waschbusch said.

"Everyone was surprisingly calm on the plane. We are not going crazy at all," he said. "The crew helped tremendously. I felt in good hands. Qantas did a great job in keeping us safe."

Another witness on the ground in Batam said he heard a "thunderous" sound, and said residents came out of their homes to observe the superjumbo circling as it used up its fuel to ensure a safer landing.

"Then three or four pieces of metal fell from the sky, each not longer than a metre (yard). They fell into a field," added the witness, 35-year-old driver Ricky.

Qantas shares had been up 10 cents at 2.97 Australian dollars before erroneous reports that one of its jets had crashed in Indonesia sent them plunging to 2.82 dollars. The stock ended the day up two cents at 2.89 dollars.

After 18 months of production delays notably caused by wiring problems, the A380's first commercial flight, operated by Singapore Airlines, was on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.

Since the launch, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and at least one Air France flight was forced to turn around and land in New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

In April, a Qantas A380 damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, showering sparks and scaring passengers.

A total of 37 A380s are now flying commercially. Apart from Qantas and Singapore Airlines, the other operators are Emirates, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa. Another 234 A380s are on order from airlines, according to Airbus.

Singapore Airlines and Air France said they had no plans to ground their own fleets.

Emirates says no plans to ground Airbus A380: statement

DUBAI, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Emirates airline, the biggest single-customer of Airbus A380, said Thursday it had no plans to ground its 13 superjumbos following the Qantas forced landing in Singapore.

"All of our Emirates A380s are operating as scheduled," said a company statement.

Qantas drama: Lufthansa has no plans to ground A380 jets

BERLIN, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - German flag carrier Lufthansa said it had no plans to ground its three A380 jets after a Qantas flight with more than 450 people on board made a dramatic forced landing in Singapore.

"Our planes are continuing to fly. We are running a normal operation," company spokesman Thomas Jachnow told AFP, adding that two of the three planes were currently in the air.

Singapore still top for small business, says report

HONG KONG, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Singapore remains the easiest place in the world for small and medium sized firms to do businesses but rival Hong Kong gained on it as it came second in a World Bank report released Thursday.

The annual report sheds light on how easy or difficult it is for local entrepreneurs to open and run their businesses, comparing 183 economies.

Despite Singapore's top spot, the city-state's lead was eroded as Hong Kong made big strides in cutting red tape in the past year, according to "Doing Business 2010", jointly conducted with the International Finance Corporation.

New Zealand, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and the United States completed top 10.

"Hong Kong's success in offering one of the best business environments globally rests on continuous reforms despite its already established position as a leader," said Geoffrey Walton, business line Leader for the World Bank's East Asia and Pacific business climate unit.

"Hong Kong has made use of online applications to make complying with business regulations easier or implemented one-stop shops for efficient processing of construction permits," he added.

The report noted that the southern Chinese financial hub abolished a tax on diesel fuel and streamlined the legal process for commercial disputes.

But IFC spokesman Hannfried von Hindenburg said highlighting Hong Kong's reform efforts did not take away from Singapore's success.

"Singapore is number one and has been for five years running," he said.

Singapore leads the world in investor protection, ahead of New Zealand and Hong Kong, the report said.

The report's criteria includes dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across borders and closing a business.

China was ranked 79th, although it, along with Vietnam and East Timor were the three most improved countries over the past five years.

Chad was bottom of the list, with the Central African Republic second bottom and Burundi third last.

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia remained the most difficult places to conduct business, although three African countries were among this year's top 10 most improved nations -- Rwanda, Cape Verde and Zambia.

Qantas grounds all A380s after Singapore emergency

SYDNEY, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Australia's Qantas Airways grounded its fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos Thursday after an engine failure forced a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore.

"We have decided that we will suspend all A380 take-offs until we're fully comfortable that sufficient information has been obtained about QF32," chief executive Alan Joyce told reporters in Sydney.

Passenger onboard Qantas plane recounts boom, fire

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - A passenger aboard the Qantas A380 plane that made an emergency landing Thursday in Singapore said there was a loud boom and a fire on the superjumbo's wing shortly after it took off from the city-state.

"We heard the boom, I looked outside and saw a little bit of fire," German national Ulf Waschbusch told AFP by telephone after he disembarked from the plane along with the 432 other passengers.

"Something ruptured the left wing, it was a small rupture," said the passenger, a technology company executive based in Singapore who was heading to Sydney on holiday.

The plane's captain then announced that the A380 was going to dump fuel in preparation for an emergency landing. There was no panic among the passengers as it circled over Indonesian territory, said Waschbusch.

"We were circling for almost two hours dumping fuel," he said, adding it was his first flight aboard the huge Airbus plane.

"Everyone was surprisingly calm on the plane. We are not going crazy at all," Waschbusch said.
"The crew helped tremendously. I felt in good hands. Qantas did a great job in keeping us safe."

The Australian carrier said there were no reports of injuries to the passengers and 26 crew, following the first mid-air emergency involving the A380 since the plane's entry into commercial service three years ago.

Police stop China environmentalist from seeking retrial

BEIJING, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Plainclothes police prevented a prominent Chinese environmentalist convicted of extortion in 2007 from requesting a retrial Thursday, blocking him inside China's top court, the activist said.

Wu Lihong, who has campaigned against the industrial pollution that has ravaged what was once one of the country's most scenic lakes, said he was kept from filing the necessary forms at the Supreme People's Court in Beijing.

"This has made me very angry," Wu told AFP, saying he was eventually able to flee the court.
"China has refused to allow me to seek a retrial. This is a violation of my rights and a violation of judicial procedure."

Wu, 42, was arrested in April 2007 and sentenced to three years on extortion charges after campaigning for years against pollution in Taihu lake, one of China's biggest freshwater lakes. He was released on April 12.

Wu has long proclaimed his innocence and insisted he was set up by the government of Yixing city, which was eager to protect the vibrant local industry from pollution controls.

Shortly after his arrest, a toxic algae bloom in Taihu lake contaminated water supplies for more than 2.3 million people in Wuxi city, which sits across the lake from Yixing, bringing nationwide attention to the issue.

Many of Wu's supporters said the toxic pollution, which turned large parts of Taihu Lake a murky green, should have led to the activist's release.

But instead, police allegedly beat him repeatedly during interrogation sessions in an effort to get him to confess to the extortion charges, something he adamantly refused to do, he said.

Wu had hoped to introduce the police beatings as evidence at his retrial.

"The plainclothes police prevented me from filling out the documents for the retrial," Wu said.

"They were all from Jiangsu. I was afraid they were going to take me into custody again, so I fled."

Since arriving in Beijing last week, Wu said he has been constantly trying to elude Jiangsu police, whom he feared would try to prevent him from going to the high court.

Taihu lake, which borders China's eastern Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, continues to be badly polluted but remains a major source of drinking water for the heavily populated area, which includes Shanghai.

A380 with engine trouble in Singapore emergency landing

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - A Qantas A380 made a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore Thursday, trailing smoke from a damaged engine, in the first mid-air emergency involving the Airbus superjumbo.

The double-decker plane, which had taken off from Singapore bound for Sydney carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to the city-state's Changi Airport.

"The flight has landed safely at Changi Airport and there are no passengers or crew injured," an Australian foreign department statement said.

Six fire engines swarmed the A380 on landing, spraying liquid on it, according to an AFP reporter at the Singapore airport.

One of the engines on the four-engined plane's left wing was blackened and its rear casing was missing.

Interviewed on CNN, passenger Ulf Waschbusch said his fellow passengers had remained calm, and he paid "kudos to the flight crew" for their handling of the incident.

Metal debris including a part bearing the airline's red-and-white "flying kangaroo" emblem slammed into industrial and residential areas of the Indonesian city of Batam, opposite Singapore.

"I didn't see a plane crash but I heard a loud explosion in the air. There were metal shards coming down from the sky into an industrial area in Batam," witness Noor Kanwa told AFP.

Another witness described hearing a deafening screeching sound, and said Batam residents came out of their homes to observe the superjumbo circling as it used up its fuel before attempting to land.

"I was driving near a residential estate when suddenly I heard a thunderous braking sound," 35-year-old driver Ricky said.

"Then three or four pieces of metal fell from the sky, each not longer than a metre (yard). They fell into a field," he added.

Australian flag-carrier Qantas, which prides itself as the world's safest airline with no fatal jetliner crashes in its 90-year history, blamed an "engine issue" for the incident but gave no further details.

"In line with procedure, the pilot sought priority clearance for its return to Singapore," the airline said.

According to Qantas, flight QF32 was equipped with four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.

"We will work with Qantas to identify what the problem is," a spokesman for the British engine maker told Dow Jones Newswires.

A spokesman for Airbus, a division of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) that is based in the French city of Toulouse, declined to comment on the incident but said: "The A380 is operating very well."

The A380's very first commercial flight operated by Singapore Airlines was on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.

Since then, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and at least one Air France flight was forced to turn around and land in New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

In April, a Qantas A380 damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, showing sparks and scaring passengers.

Qantas shares plunged 3.75 percent in Sydney to 2.82 Australian dollars on initial reports of a crashed plane but rallied after the A380 landed and later stood at 2.89 dollars.

The plane is the largest passenger jet in operation, with 50 percent more floor space than Boeing's veteran 747 jumbo. The A380 can carry up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration.

A total of 37 of the giant jets are in operation, including six by Qantas. Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are the other operators. Another 234 A380s are on order from airlines, according to Airbus.

Qantas said its A380s operate selected flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles, Singapore and London.

Airbus A380 factfile

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Facts about the Airbus A380 superjumbo:

- The double-decker A380 measures 73 metres (239 feet) in length, or about 80 percent of a football field

- Its wingspan is 79.75 metres, its wing area is 845 square metres (9,092 square feet), enough to park 72 medium-sized cars on each wing

- It has 50 percent more floor space than the next biggest aircraft, the Boeing 747 jumbo

- It is 24.45 metres high, about the same height as a seven storey building

- It can carry 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration

- The project was delayed 18 months at an additional cost of about six billion dollars, Airbus estimates

- The A380 has 530 kilometres (328 miles) of wiring, roughly equivalent to the distance between Frankfurt and Paris

- The first aircraft, operated by Singapore Airlines, entered service on 25 October 2007 with an inaugural flight between Singapore and Sydney (flight number SQ380)

- The A380 can be fitted with two types of engines: Rolls-Royce Trent 900 and Engine Alliance GP7000 turbofans

- Airbus said in June 2010 it had 234 confirmed orders for the A380 from 17 customers, Qantas is the second biggest customer with 20 aircraft on order. Emirates is by far the biggest, with 90 aircraft on order

- There are 37 of the aircraft currently in operation, airlines who have taken delivery are Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates, Lufthansa and Air France

Indonesians describe explosion, debris from Qantas jet

BATAM, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Witnesses heard a loud mid-air explosion and saw falling debris as a Qantas A380 experienced engine trouble over Indonesia on Thursday and was forced to make a dramatic emergency landing.

Metal debris including a piece bearing part of the airline's red-and-white "flying kangaroo" emblem slammed into industrial and residential areas of the northern city of Batam, opposite Singapore.

"I didn't see a plane crash but I heard a loud explosion in the air. There were metal shards coming down from the sky into an industrial area in Batam," witness Noor Kanwa told AFP.

The double-decker plane was carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew from Singapore to Sydney when it ran into trouble shortly after takeoff and had to return to the city-state's Changi Airport leaving a trail of smoke.

Another witness described hearing a screeching sound before the explosion, and said Batam residents came out of their homes to observe the high-tech superjumbo circling as it used up its fuel before attempting to land.

"I was driving near a residential estate when suddenly I heard a thunderous braking sound," 35-year-old driver Ricky, 35, said.

"I thought it was an explosion but when I looked up I saw a plane going round and round and there was smoke coming out of its tail.

"Then three or four pieces of metal fell from the sky, each not longer than a metre (yard). They fell into a field," he added.

"Dozens of residents rushed out of their homes to see what was going on. They looked excited. In Batam it's common to see planes taking off from Singapore and flying over us. But we didn't expect to see something like this."

Batam police officer Bobby Baharudin said debris was "scattered over Batam".

"Most of it fell in residential areas. There's a part that looks like a door and shards of aluminum," he said.

It was the first mid-air emergency involving the giant Airbus plane, which made its first commercial flight with Singapore Airlines on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.

The Qantas plane spent several minutes dumping fuel over Indonesia before making its emergency landing in Singapore, where it touched down safely and was swarmed by fire trucks.

One of the engines on the left wing looked to be missing, and the area around it was black.

The Australian government said no passengers or crew were injured in the incident, keeping intact Qantas's record of never having had a fatal jetliner accident in its 90-year history.

A380 with engine trouble in Singapore emergency landing

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - A Qantas A380 made a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore Thursday, trailing smoke from a damaged engine, in the first mid-air emergency involving the Airbus superjumbo.

The double-decker plane, which had taken off from Singapore bound for Sydney carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to the city-state's Changi Airport.

"The flight has landed safely at Changi Airport and there are no passengers or crew injured," an Australian foreign department statement said.

Six fire engines swarmed the A380 flight on landing, spraying liquid on it, according to an AFP reporter at the Singapore airport.

One of the engines on the four-engined plane's left wing was blackened and its rear casing was missing.

Metal debris including a part bearing the airline's red-and-white "flying kangaroo" emblem slammed into industrial and residential areas of the Indonesian city of Batam, opposite Singapore.

"I didn't see a plane crash but I heard a loud explosion in the air. There were metal shards coming down from the sky into an industrial area in Batam," witness Noor Kanwa told AFP.

Another witness described hearing a deafening screeching sound, and said Batam residents came out of their homes to observe the superjumbo circling as it used up its fuel before attempting to land.

"I was driving near a residential estate when suddenly I heard a thunderous braking sound," 35-year-old driver Ricky said.

"Then three or four pieces of metal fell from the sky, each not longer than a metre (yard). They fell into a field," he added.

Australian flag-carrier Qantas, which prides itself as the world's safest airline with no fatal jetliner crashes in its 90-year history, blamed an "engine issue" for the incident but gave no further details.

"In line with procedure, the pilot sought priority clearance for its return to Singapore," the airline said.

According to Qantas, flight QF32 was equipped with four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.

"We will work with Qantas to identify what the problem is," a spokesman for the British engine maker told Dow Jones Newswires.

A spokesman for Airbus, a division of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) that is based in the French city of Toulouse, declined to comment on the incident but said: "The A380 is operating very well."

The A380's very first commercial flight operated by Singapore Airlines was on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.

Since then, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and at least one Air France flight was forced to turn around and land in New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

In April, a Qantas A380 damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, showing sparks and scaring passengers.

Qantas shares plunged 3.75 percent in Sydney to 2.82 Australian dollars on initial reports of a crashed plane but rallied after the A380 landed and later stood at 2.89 dollars.

The plane is the largest passenger jet in operation, with 50 percent more floor space than Boeing's veteran 747 jumbo. The A380 can carry up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration.

A total of 37 of the giant jets are in operation, including six by Qantas. Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are the other operators. Another 234 A380s are on order from airlines, according to Airbus.

Qantas said its A380s operate selected flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles, Singapore and London.

A380 makes emergency landing in Singapore


A380 makes emergency landing in Singapore - Wrap, Lead


SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - A Qantas A380 made a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore Thursday, trailing smoke from a damaged engine, in the first mid-air emergency involving the Airbus superjumbo.

The double-decker plane, which had taken off from Singapore bound for Sydney carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to the city-state's Changi Airport.

"The flight has landed safely at Changi Airport and there are no passengers or crew injured," an Australian foreign department statement said.

Six fire engines swarmed A380 flight QF32 on landing, spraying liquid on it, according to an AFP reporter at the airport.

One of the engines on the four-engined plane's left wing was blackened and its rear casing was missing.

Plane debris including what appeared to be part of a Qantas jet was found in the Indonesian town of Batam, after a mid-air explosion was heard on the ground.

"I didn't see a plane crash but I heard a loud explosion in the air. There were metal shards coming down from the sky into an industrial area in Batam," witness Noor Kanwa told AFP.

Australian flag-carrier Qantas, which prides itself as the world's safest airline with no fatal jetliner crashes in its 90-year history, blamed an "engine issue" for the incident but gave no further details.

"In line with procedure, the pilot sought priority clearance for its return to Singapore," the airline said.

The A380's very first commercial flight operated by Singapore Airlines was on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.

Since then, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and at least one Air France flight was forced to turn around and land in New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

And in April, a Qantas A380 superjumbo damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, showing sparks and scaring passengers.

Qantas shares plunged 3.75 percent in Sydney to 2.82 Australian dollars on initial reports of the incident but rallied after the plane landed and were 1.0 percent up at 2.89 dollars, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The plane is the largest passenger jet in operation, with 50 percent more floor space than Boeing's veteran 747 jumbo. The A380 can carry up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration.

Qantas said on its website it has taken delivery of six of its 20 Airbus A380-800 aircraft, which it said represents the second-largest A380 order of any airline in the world.

Qantas said the A380 operates selected flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles, Singapore and London

Two dead, including German woman in Malaysia floods: reports

KUALA LUMPUR, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Two people, including a German woman, are dead and more than 41,000 have been displaced in floods in northern Malaysia, reports said Thursday.

Rising waters have hit three Malaysian states on the border with Thailand, which has also been seriously affected.

An airport and a major highway have been closed, and train services and water supplies have also been disrupted by Malaysia's worst floods in five years.

Police in Kedah state said the body of 64-year-old German Erna Fisher, who went missing Wednesday, was recovered near her home, according to national news agency Bernama.

Fisher was reportedly living in Kedah state with her son and his Malaysian wife.

The other fatality was a 13-year-old boy who drowned Tuesday. Bernama quoted Kedah police as saying that two sisters, aged 13 and eight, were also feared drowned after the motorcycle they were passengers on crashed into a canal.

The New Straits Times said more than 41,000 people have now been taken to relief centres to escape the floods in Perlis, Kedah and Kelantan states.

Australia's Rudd, in China, calls for Nobel winner's release

BEIJING, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has again called for the release of jailed Chinese Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, and indicated he would not shy away from raising the issue while in Beijing.

The visit to China by the Mandarin-speaking Rudd is his first since being ousted from office as prime minister in June and taking over as foreign minister in the new Labor government of Julia Gillard in September.

"In terms of this individual's incarceration, we do not believe that is appropriate or justified," Rudd said Wednesday, according to a transcript of his remarks released by his ministry.

"Secondly, consistent with statements we've made in Australia, this sentence should be brought to a termination and he should be released."

Liu, 54, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling for sweeping political reform that has been circulated online and signed by thousands.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month, angering China, which said the honour was tantamount to "encouraging crime".

Rudd did not say specifically when he would raise the issues with Chinese leaders during his visit to Beijing, though he hinted that it did not come up with his counterpart Yang Jiechi in Shanghai.

"It's part of the normal exchange with China that matters of difficulty are raised and aired, as are the great interests we have in common," he said, noting that such relations could not always be "sweetness and apple pie".

"These sorts of questions will always be raised by me with appropriate Chinese leaders and there will be no difference on this score."

Ties between Canberra and Beijing became rocky earlier this year over the jailing of an Australian national working in China for mining giant Rio Tinto on charges of bribery and commercial espionage.

Rudd said he would adopt a "third way" approach to dealing with China -- "a constructive way, a positive way, a practical way of engaging our Chinese friends on all the interests we have in common".

Rudd is part of a major Australian diplomatic charm offensive in China -- he is one of four ministers to visit the world's second-largest economy this week.

China is Australia's major trading partner, with two-way trade expected to top 85 billion US dollars this year as the Asian giant seeks raw materials to feed its rapid industrialisation.

Resources exports to China helped Australia stare down recession during the global slump.

Cyber sleuths fight online crime in Singapore - Feature

SINGAPORE, November  4, 2010 (AFP) - If you've just become the victim of identity thieves or computer hackers, it's time to call in someone like Ali Fazeli.

The Iranian expatriate specialises in crime scene investigations but unlike his glamorised television counterparts, he packs no gun and the evidence he looks for does not include DNA, fingerprints or blood.

Fazeli is a digital sleuth operating in cyberspace, trawling computers, Internet websites and the latest mobile devices for evidence of corruption and fraud -- even marital infidelity.

"We are IT security people, private security who specialise in computer forensics," the 30-year-old said with a smile.

Fazeli and fellow digital crime fighters have a growing number of cases to crack in Singapore, a global financial hub where crooks are using modern technology to steal money and precious business information.

"I believe cybercrimes, or attempts at cybercrimes in Singapore, are on the increase given our increasing connectivity of computer systems and use of the Internet here," said Gerard Tan, president of the Association of Information Security Professionals.

"If you include virus attacks, most of us, if not all users, would have been targeted or hit at some time, as this is so common now," he told AFP.

"We have also heard of, and know of, deliberate intrusion attacks on corporate websites and have seen evidence of these in internal reports. Most of them are probably unsuccessful and unreported."

Government statistics from 2009 showed that 90 percent of Singapore's residents aged 15 and above had Internet access of one form or another, and 81 percent of households were connected to the world wide web.

Overall computer usage among enterprises also reached 78 percent in 2009, with 75 percent of businesses using the Internet in their work.

Data from Internet security firm Symantec released in September showed that 70 percent of Internet users in Singapore had fallen victim at least once to cybercrime, including credit card fraud and identity theft.

Thus the growing need for cyber sleuths like Fazeli, who has tracked down thieves selling confidential company information to rivals and resurrected data deleted by criminals attempting to erase evidence of their misdeeds.

Fazeli, who studied Internet security in Australia, also test-hacks company websites to see if they are vulnerable to attack.

"Singapore is one of the financial hubs, so when we're dealing with the finance, the corporations, we see crimes." he said.

Fazeli's private Singapore-based cyber security company, Infinity Forensics, handles around 25 cases per year for local and foreign clients, most of them corporate jobs but also private cases like harassment and divorce.

"If there is any legal case of divorce, let's say maybe there's cheating and the evidence is already removed from your mobile phone, from your hard disk or anything, usually we can help to recover that information," he said.

The police have their own Technological Crime Division, but many companies prefer consulting private sleuths like Fazeli who offer confidentiality and discretion when dealing with cases.

Police declined to give numbers on cybercrime cases handled in Singapore.

But with an estimated 50 private digital forensics experts operating in the country, the industry will need more experts to cope with the rapidly evolving technological landscape.

"Yes, there would be an increasing demand for digital forensics experts in Singapore," said Mandy Mak, assistant director of the information technology school at Temasek Polytechnic, which is starting a course next year to help meet demand.

The school is targeting enrolment of 50 to 60 students for the three-year diploma programme in digital forensics.

Fazeli's company also holds workshops for individuals including police and military officers, government employees and academics.

Army combat engineer Ravi Krishnan, 31, paid over 500 US dollars to attend a workshop in October to learn how he could retrieve evidence from mobile phones for his speciality -- improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

IEDs can be detonated by mobile phones, as shown to devastating effect in places like Iraq.

"Basically I'm here just to get a better idea about mobile forensics, how can we apply mobile forensics to our IED fields, how much we can collect from the mobiles," Krishnan said.

China yuan policy 'hurting' neighbours: experts

MANILA, November  3, 2010 (AFP) - China's undervalued yuan is hurting Asia as much as the United States, and neighbours should help convince Beijing to let its currency rise, financial experts meeting in the Philippines said Thursday.

The Asian Development Bank-backed Asian Policy Forum also urged regional governments as well as Group of 20 leaders meeting in South Korea this month to take steps to avert possible currency and trade wars.

Masahiro Kawai, dean of the Tokyo-based ADB think-tank ADB Institute and formerly an official at Japan's finance ministry, said neighbours must urge China to relax its exchange rate controls to help ease a global current account imbalance.

"Asian countries really have to... convince China that maintaining its current exchange rate regime is not good not only for China but also other neighbouring Asian economies," Kawai said.

Former Thai finance minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn, from the Thailand Development Resource Institute, said US monetary easing, intended to fight off recession, was adding to the problems.

"The US printing money and China keeping its exchange rate low is creating a spillover effect on the emerging market economies," he told the forum.

Chalongphob said the issue was apparently not tabled at a summit in Vietnam last weekend that grouped leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with trading partners China, Japan and South Korea.

"We need a mechanism where we can discuss some cooperation in this area. It is very important particularly for ASEAN countries to have this discussion with China," he said.

The forum issued a statement calling for the Group of 20 rich and emerging economies to discuss the currency problem at its summit in South Korea on November 11 and 12.

"G20 nations need to oppose unilateral devaluation moves and support currency stability, while allowing for adjustments where needed," it said.

Taiwan police chief vows to bring back fugitives from China

TAIPEI, November  3, 2010 (AFP) - Taiwan's police chief returned from a historic China visit on Wednesday vowing to bring to justice fugitives from the island hiding on the mainland.

Wang Cho-chiun, head of Taiwan's National Police Agency, said both sides agreed during his visit that their priority was to extradite Taiwan's most wanted criminals.

The two sides also pledged to continue collaborating on busting crime in areas such as drug trafficking, fraud and human smuggling, he said in a statement.

Wang led a 16-member delegation to China on a week-long visit, meeting Chinese public security minister Meng Jianzhu and other top police officials, in yet another sign of improving ties.

Taiwan and its giant neighbour forged an agreement in April 2009 on judicial cooperation and joint efforts to beat crime, which has been rising as an unwanted side effect of more frequent exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.

Since the signing of the agreement, police in Taiwan and China have arrested 1,254 people from the two sides on charges of fraud, according to Taiwanese government data.

The visit comes after Chen Zhimin, China's vice-minister for public security, made a low-profile visit to the island earlier this year.

Relations between the two sides, which split at the end of a civil war in 1949, have improved markedly after Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008.

2010/11/03

Chinese man arrested for spreading Nobel Peace Prize news

BEIJING, November  3, 2010 (AFP) - Police in southern China have arrested and charged a rights campaigner with subversion for handing out flyers announcing Liu Xiaobo's 2010 Nobel Peace Prize win, fellow activists said Wednesday.

The arrest took place in the city of Guangzhou, which hosts the mammoth Asian Games from next week and has launched a massive security operation aimed at ensuring the event goes off without a hitch.

City police informed the wife of Guo Xianliang on Tuesday that her husband had been arrested and was being charged with "inciting subversion of state power," Ye Du, a friend of Guo's, told AFP by phone.

It is the same crime for which Liu, 54, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling for sweeping political reform that has been circulated online and signed by thousands.

"I believe Guo is the first person to be arrested and charged for a crime linked to Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize," said Ye, a writer and supporter of the jailed dissident.

The Norwegian Nobel committee last month chose Liu as this year's recipient of the Peace Prize -- a move that angered China's communist rulers and has led to the house arrest or strict surveillance of dozens of activists.

State-controlled media initially blacked out news of Liu's win, and has since printed a number of scathing diatribes against the activist in China's English-language press.

Police in Guangzhou refused to comment on Guo's arrest when contacted by AFP.

Wang Songlian, spokeswoman for the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) activist network, said Guo's bid to inform ordinary Chinese of the Nobel prize awarded to Liu was likely the main reason for his arrest.

"We think the Asian Games are another reason because Guangzhou authorities don't want any problems associated with the handling of the Games, which usually means controlling elements of instability," Wang told AFP.

Wang added that police had only informed Guo's kin of the arrest by telephone and that the family had yet to receive the formal documents on the arrest and charges.

Guo's wife, Yang Di, refused to discuss the case with AFP when contacted by phone.

"This is unbelievable, it is ridiculous because it means that police are viewing the act of telling people about Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize as an act of inciting the subversion of the government," Ye said.

"This is a clear violation of even the most basic human rights."

According to CHRD, Guo, an engineer who lives in the southwestern province of Yunnan, had been passing out leaflets announcing Liu's win in the streets and parks of Guangzhou, which will stage the Asiad from November 12-27.

He went missing on October 28, it said in a statement.

On Tuesday, police also detained Ye for questioning in the case, but freed him after several hours. Police then went to Ye's home and confiscated two computers, a hard disk drive and several CD-ROMs, he said.

Rights groups have demanded China end the wide-ranging crackdown on Liu's supporters, including on his wife Liu Xia, who remains under house arrest in Beijing.

"With the Asian Games coming, all the civil rights defenders in Guangzhou are facing a reign of red terror -- a lot of people are being investigated, questioned, detained or arrested," Ye said.

"We are living in an atmosphere of fear -- it is worse than (the police crackdown) ahead of the Beijing Olympics."

British watchdog says Google 'Street View' broke law

LONDON, November  3, 2010 (AFP) - Google committed a "signficant breach" of British law when its Street View cars grabbed personal data but the Internet giant will not be fined, the country's information commissoner said Wednesday.

Britain is the latest in a series of countries to condemn Google after the cars, which take photos for the search engine's free online mapping service, mistakenly picked up private emails and passwords from wireless networks.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said Google's British arm will now be subjected to an audit but it will escape a fine so long as the firm vows not to commit similar privacy breaches in future.

"It is my view that the collection of this information was not fair or lawful and constitutes a significant breach of the first principle of the Data Protection Act," Graham said in a statement.

He said an investigation by the independent authority found Google's Street View cars had collected "fragments of personal data" from wireless networks which it had now been ordered to delete.

"Google UK will be subject to an audit and must sign an undertaking to ensure data protection breaches do not occur again or they will face enforcement action."

The statement said Graham had rejected calls to fine Google over the breaches "but is well placed to take further regulatory action if the undertaking is not fully complied with."

Google apologised for collecting the data and said it was working with British authorities to ensure that it did not happen again. It first revealed the problem in May.

"We are profoundly sorry for mistakenly collecting payload data in the UK from unencrypted wireless networks," Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said in a statement.

"As we have said before, we did not want this data, have never used any of it in our products or services, and have sought to delete it as quickly as possible."

But Big Brother Watch, a British pressure group that fights invasion of privacy, said it was "disgraceful" that the watchdog had not fined Google.

"If Google can harvest the personal information of thousands of people and get off scot-free, then the (information commissioner) plainly has a contempt for privacy," the group's director Alex Deane said in a statement.

The Californian company has faced strong resistance in some countries to Street View -- which enables Internet users to obtain a virtual image of a whole street from every angle -- due to concerns over invasion of privacy.

Italian prosecutors said last week they had launched an investigation against Google. Spain filed suit against the firm earlier in October while in September Czech authorities banned Google from collecting Street View data.

The US Federal Trade Commission said last week that it was ending its inquiry into Street View, although Google is facing civil suits in several US states demanding millions of dollars in damages.