Saturday, June 30, 2007

UK - Terror threat 'Critical'

The Home Office has raised the security threat level to 'Critical' in the wake of the terrorist attack at Glasgow Airport. It suggests that a terror attack within the UK is imminent. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked the British public to remain calm but vigilant. "I know the British people will tand together; united, resolute and strong," he said in a short statement early this evening. Meanwhile, two men, one of which is believed to be suffering from severe burns, have been arrested and remain under guard at hospital.

'Terrorist attack' at Glasgow Airport

A car has been driven into Glasgow Airport’s terminal building in what appears to be a terrorist attack. Witnesses described two persons having exited the vehicle before it exploded at least one of them engulfed in flames. One witness said the men appeared to be Asian and one was on fire, his skin peeling. Members of the public intervened to detain the men some being injured in the mêlée. According to Sky News sources Police are treating the incident as a terrorist attack. The incident comes a day after two car bombs were found in London, one in the Haymarket and one in Park Lane. Both of those devices were made safe by police. COBRA, the government security panel, will meet this evening to discuss the series of events. Meanwhile the White House has said security will be boosted at US airports.
The area remains sealed off both from the press as well as members of the public. The vehicle, which is still embedded in the building, has been described as a Jeep Cherokee. However it is not known at this time whether the fire resulting from the explosion has been extinguished [BBC / CNN / Sky News].

Friday, June 29, 2007

Home Secretary - UK 'faces serious threat'

Speaking outside No 10, Jacqui Smith the new Home Secretary announced Sir Admiral Alan West as the new counter-terrorism and security minister. She reiterated the need for vigilance in the light of the new terror threat and urged the media not to speculate on the events. In her short statement she said, “As the government has made clear… we are currently facing a sustained threat from international terrorists”. She maintained that the government and security services were making all efforts to reduce this threat.
Besides her request for media to avoid speculation, such discussions persisted on many news channels. CNN and Sky News have both reported on a possible suspect having absconded from the vehicle. Reports also suggested the vehicle may have been abandoned after crashing into a litter bin. There is speculation that the night club may not have been the intended target and that the vehicle may have been left due to the device malfunctioning prior to arrival at its final destination. Many commentators have liked the potential attack as being similar to attacks that take place daily in Iraq. However, to place this into perspective, Baghdad sees car bombs almost daily. This was one failed attack. It certainly sends a clear message, and would have created massive devastation, but it is not the sustained attack seen in the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. But for many members of the public it adds to the fear of uncertainty. Many Londoners may shrug off the threat having experienced similar threats from the IRA over many years in the past. However, the effect on tourism may seriously affect the economy as Americans particularly avoid visiting the city.

London - Car bomb fails to explode

The green Mercedes parked in Haymarket, W1

A potentially devastating terrorist attack, possibly targeting a night club in London, has failed. A car laden with gas cylinders, 60 litres of fuel and nails failed to explode outside the Tiger Tiger night club in Haymarket near to Piccadilly Circus in West London in the early hours of Friday morning. The new Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has said it clearly showed the “sustained and serious threat” that Britain faces. The failed terror attack, which police say could have taken a substantial number of lives, comes within hours of Gordon Brown forming his new government after Tony Blair’s departure. And this morning he convened COBRA to discuss the government response at 77 Whitehall which was also attended by police and security personnel. The new Prime Minister then held a marathon cabinet session of nearly 90 minutes
Deputy Asst. Commissioner Peter Clarke told reporters earlier that the police were alerted to the Mercedes vehicle by an ambulance crew who had notice smoke coming from it. Explosives officers disarmed a potential way of detonating the device and DAC Peter Clarke praised officers for their bravery in disarming the device and preventing loss of life.
The Brown government has been handed a terror crisis in less than 24 hours after forming his cabinet. Police have significant work to do as they sift through evidence left in the vehicle and look through hours of CCTV footage. A man hunt is also underway after reports that a man had absconded from the green Mercedes.

Monday, June 25, 2007

China's manufacturing slated by West

Some Chinese toothpaste manufacturers have been criticized
for adding engine coolant to their products

China continues to make world headlines with many Western media organisations being particularly critical of the Chinese government as well as policy. In particular, their has been a great deal of focus on the Chinese government’s apparent arrogance and failure to act decisively with regards to quality standards on a number of exports which have caused concern in the west. Two months ago, exports of dog and cat food created anger amongst pet owners in the US after their pets became sick or died after eating Chinese products containing melamine. The substance was added to the food in order to boost perceived protein levels. But the chemical proved fatal to dozens of animals across the United States. The product was swiftly withdrawn, but within weeks another scare created even more concern for the American public after the FDA announced that toothpaste imported from China contained Diethylene glycol, a chemical more often used as an engine coolant [BBC]. The substance, described by the FDA as being a huge cause for concern, was dismissed as harmless by Chinese officials. Most recently has been the recall of toy trains which had been painted with lead paint – banned under regulations applying to children’s toys in the west. The Thomas the Tank Engine toys were swiftly recalled, but many disappointed children may have to wait weeks for a replacement. The company involved, RC2, has said that it may take as long as 6 to 8 weeks to mail back a replacement. Consumers may have to wait even longer for shipping costs to be refunded, since they are dealt with at another building. And it was only after parents reacted angrily that the company reversed the decision not to cover mailing costs.

The problems associated with all of these recalls, and public concerns associated with them, highlight the realities of off-shoring. Products produced abroad, out of sight of tightly controlled public regulators at home, can lead to many issues being overlooked or even ignored altogether. Many of the companies which licence Chinese manufacturers to make their products are extremely secretive about their operations. This makes it all the more difficult to scrutinize levels of safety both within the product itself and for those workers manufacturing it. Even when it comes to inspecting the thousands of products entering the West every year, control has become an issue with fewer. In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has fewer employees than they did 20 years ago.

Governments on both sides need to take stock. In China, it is a matter of reputation as well as issues of safety and workers’ rights. For the West it is an economic issue. If cheap imports are stopped or curtailed, either by bans and withdrawals, or by the public’s refusal to buy such products which they perceive to be dangerous, manufacturing bases may shift resulting in price increases.

In China, premier Wen has insisted he will crack down on bad practices. There have been signs that he means business. Recently a top official was sentenced to death for taking bribes in connection with the manufacturing of fake medicine. And most recently dozens have been arrested including two officials responsible for allowing the enforced slavery of children and adults within brick kiln factories [BBC]. According to the Xinhua news agency, two of those arrested were officials at the head of a labour inspection team in the Yongii region of Shanxi Province. According to police 55 other people were being investigated in 15 separate cases of slavery at brick kilns. According to the state media organisation, 591 workers including 51 had been freed across two provinces, Henan and Shanxi. But this high profile case may be just the tip of a very big iceberg. One Xinhua journalist revealed to tvnewswatch that it was very common for adults to be abducted after being plied with drink laced with drugs, only to find themselves miles from home forced to work for little or no money. Unemployment and an increased homeless population is further escalating the problem as people are enticed by non-existent promises of work but are instead lured into slave factories. The West too has an obligation to put pressure on both its own manufacturers, as well as the Chinese government, to crack down on these practices. A failure to do so may have far graver consequences than the recall of tubes of toothpaste and toy trains. Amongst the older population in China, many of whom do not benefit from China’s increased economic success, there is still a strong admiration and nostalgia for Mao. He brought about a popular revolution built much on the grievances of a subjugated and poor peasant population. If the balance between rich and poor, as well as continued exploitation of peasants is not addressed, China may see history repeat itself.

Monday, June 11, 2007

tvnewswatch in China

tvnewswatch has been in China for the last week, hence the lack of reports. English speaking newspapers are hard to find unless you're at top hotels. On arrival Chinese news media were reporting on a 6.0 earthquake which occurred in Yunnan province. Yunnan experiences most of China's earthquakes, and China itself sufferers from a third of all earthquakes worldwide. But the last news here is the heavy rainfall, which followed by flooding and landslides, have killed 14 people and displaced more than 20,000 people in south China's Guangdong Province. 
The storms have led to the collapse of more than 3,000 homes, and some 26,000 hectares (64,247 acres) of cropland have been damaged. The hardest-hit areas are Heyuan, Shaoguan, Meizhou, Shanwei and Qingyan, but here in Kunming the capital of Yunnan, heavy rain persists and has been for the last 24 hours.
As for other news, from here it's difficult to pull information together, especially whilst on the move. But from an occasional read of an out of date China Daily and glimpses of CCTV-9 [China's only English speaking news channel] it appears the G8 is well under way with much being debated about the environment, with China coming in for particular scrutiny. China daily also reported recently on a foiled attempt to blow up JFK airport in the US and of several attacks in Iraq, one of which killed 7 US troops. The paper also reported that Britain's Home Secretary had indicated he would be strengthening terror laws in the country. Google was also a topic in the China Daily with an article about a street level mapping which some believe is going too far in regards to personal privacy. The new Google feature called Street View enables Internet users to view locations in full photographic detail. The photographs were taken by Google using vans roaming many parts of the US. At the moment the areas are confined to the USA but Google plans to extend its tentacles all over the globe. So keep your curtains closed if you have something to hide!