Japan's NHK World NEWSLINE program reported on the two disasters to hit Asia this past week. The first report aired April 24, and covered the latest garment factory collapse in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. The second report LinkAsia covered this week aired April 23, and focused on the response to the earthquake in China's Sichuan province.
The upper part of the commercial building suddenly collapsed during the busy morning period. The structure housed a clothing factory, bank and a shopping center. Many people are feared trapped inside. Workers at the factory were starting their shifts and some shops were already open. More than 100 people are reportedly hurt. Soldiers and citizens are helping with the rescue operation. Local media say a crack was detected in the wall of the building on Tuesday, but people were still allowed to go inside.
The response to the Sichuan earthquake is an important test for China's new president Xi Jinping. Five years ago, the former government was widely criticized for its poor response to an earthquake, which also occurred in Sichuan Province. That quake killed nearly 70,000 people. For more on the Chinese government's response to this latest earthquake, here's NHK.
The quake is the first large natural disaster since President Xi took office last month. He swears that his government will do everything possible to help survivors. Officials are also making sure the public knows about the government's efforts.
Premier Li Keqiang traveled by helicopter to the stricken areas on the day of the quake. He instructed rescuers to do all they could to save lives. His visit was reminiscent of the one by his predecessor Wen Jiabao. The former premier visited Sichuan years ago just hours after another huge quake hit the region. He tried to show the government's readiness to support survivors.
Authorities are highlighting other aspects of the government's response to the latest earthquake. Chinese media have been reporting in detail on the rescue effort. State run tv has broadcast repeated footage of the military's operations along with images of people receiving relief goods. Officials seem to want to show the public that the government's response is going well. An expert in risk management with a government affiliated think tank says China's leaders are paying more attention than ever to disaster response.
The disaster is not the only matter at home that China must address, the country's also struggling with a widening wealth gap and the recent outbreak of a new strain of bird flu. Compared to when the 2008 quake struck, people in China can now share information more quickly. Over 500 million Chinese are said to have internet access. Public discontent can spread in an instant.
A posting on China's version of Twitter is critical of the government's earthquake response. It says officials have failed to make use of lessons from the disaster 5 years ago. Wang says authorities need to quickly share information with the public. He says that's crucial for social stability.
China's leaders were harshly criticized for the slow response to the last earthquake in 2008. People were also angered by regional disparities in reconstruction efforts. Members of President Xi's government are keen to avoid making the same mistakes.
I first became acquainted with Sonya Mazumdar as a voice at one end of a US-India Skype session about Link's licensing of "Laya Project" a dazzling musical journey around the areas devastated by the massive 2004 Tsunami. The newly formed Indian production company and record label EarthSync India had just released the film as its first endeavor. The haunting travelogue garnered honors over the intervening years, and when EarthSync launched its spinoff website IndiEarth Sonya contacted me again to see if I would allow their site to stream some of my relevant videoblogs. But of course I would!
Then, many months later (yet still rather suddenly) came an invitation from Sonya to attend the first IndiEarth XChange in Chennai. Rarely one to refuse an invitation to a new place, I found myself taking the long trip to Southeast India, to report on another maiden voyage from the young, pioneering Earthsync/IndiEarth. This time it was a meeting of international and local media, with film screenings and musical performances, along with panel discussions and networking to be held at the Park Chennai Hotel. It was an ambitious project (intended to be a prototype) requiring its own networking and funding, plus massive coordination. The aim was to lay the foundation for a network of dedicated professionals supporting independent music and cinema in India.
It was a hectic three days, and the large turnout participated in vigorous panels about the obstacles and opportunities for music and film in Southeast Asia and Oceania, as well as the remarkably varied musical fare. What made it exciting for me, was the un-Western media presence. Aside from Indian, there was a significant Australian media contingent. In particular, the magnificently feisty Kate Welsman an Australian Public Radio deejay was quick to point out that there was a noticeable shift in markets of all kinds from West to East, and music was a part of that market. It made sense. At the same time it was also made clear by both the musicians and film-makers, that the audience demographics for Southeast Asia needed to be cultivated, and weaned away from a straight diet of Bollywood, which still holds the business reins in a rigidly controlled grip.
For my part, I ran around taking as much video as I could, and focusing of course, on music. But I simply could not catch it all. So what you are seeing in my video is just a wee fraction of the music that was performed in the lobby, bar, main stage and other impromptu venues.
In all, I was very excited by the spirit of IndiEarth Exchange. The people who were gathered together were bright, creative, energetic and pro-active. I felt challenged and stimulated, as well as entertained. I believe something will come from this. It may not come immediately, but it will come.
For more information about EarthSync India, visit earthsync.com.
For the complete performance of song by Parvathy and Lakshman Das Baul, click here.
For complete song by Karthick Iyer, click here.
For more of Michal's world music videos visit inter-muse.com.
US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body
After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.
World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence
Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.
Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai
BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.
Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter
Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.
Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout
Brahimi-brokered Eid al-Adha ceasefire quickly broken
New TV reported over the week that UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had been working with the Syrian government on a ceasefire for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a conditional truce on behalf of the Syrian regime, but armed opposition groups such as Ansar al-Sharia rejected the conditions and made their own demands. Sure enough, the ceasefire was broken on Friday, the first day of Eid.
Afghanistan: Dozens killed in Eid suicide blast
BBC Arabic reported on Friday that in the most violent attack in Afghanistan in months, 41 people were killed and at least another 50 were injured when a man blew himself up inside a mosque in the city of Maimana, the capital of the Faryab region in northern Afghanistan, during the early morning prayers for Eid al-Adha. The suicide bomber was reportedly wearing a police uniform. Many of the victims were government soldiers, and prominent local authorities were inside the mosque at the time of the explosion.
Sudan blames Israel for bombing of arms factory in Khartoum
Press TV reported on Wednesday that Sudan has blamed Israel for an air raid on an ammunition factory in Khartoum that killed two people. Sudanese Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman announced that evidence pointing to Israel was found among the remnants of the explosives, adding that Sudan reserved the right to retaliate. Hamas also accused Israel of orchestrating the bombing. However, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday that Israel denied the claims, and Israeli defense official Amos Gilad described Sudan as a "dangerous terrorist state."
More violence erupts against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
Press TV reports that at least 112 Rohingya have been killed in Rakhine State, and homes of Rohingya Muslims have been torched all across Myanmar in a new round of sectarian violence perpetrated mainly by Buddhist extremists. The violence had died down after a spate of killings in August that drove a number of Rohingya to flee the country, but they are again forced to leave their homes in light of the new wave of attacks.
Image: A member of the Free Syrian Army talks on the radio during an operation in Haram town, Idlib Governorate, October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih