Deputy BI governor questioned over Century case

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators questioned on Wednesday deputy Bank Indonesia (BI) governor Ardhayadi Mitroatmodjo in connection with short-term liquidity support for Bank Century.

Ardhayadi said after eight hours of questioning the investigators grilled him about the facility worth Rp 689 billion that the central bank extended to the ailing bank in November 2008.

“[I was] clarified in general about the liquidity support,” he told reporters. He refused to go into details.

When asked why Bank Century was entitled to the facility, Ardhayadi refused to answer.

KPK also questioned Bank Century former owner Robert Tantular in relation to the same case. Robert said he answered 13 questions, mostly about the process of the bank’s application for the facility.

Robert said the facility was a result of a negotiation between BI and Bank Century board of directors, without his intervention.

However, Robert refused to unveil the persons responsible the most for the extension of the short-term loan. “I have no authority on that matter,” he said.

Previously the KPK had questioned a number of BI officials, including deputy governors Budi Mulya, Muliaman D. Hadad and Budi Rochadi.

Hollywood vs. The Volcano: Ash disrupts celebs

A volcanic cloud of ash hovering over Europe is causing quite a scene in Hollywood and beyond.

The ash spat out by an Icelandic volcano that has left thousands of air travelers stranded is also affecting celebrities, filmmakers, musicians and even pro-wrestlers.

With almost two-thirds of Europe's flights grounded, cancellations and postponements were popping up across the entertainment landscape on Saturday as Icelandic scientists warned that volcanic activity had increased and showed no sign of abating.

Organizers of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, tweeted that some acts were forced to pull out of the weekend event, including British rockers The Cribs and Bad Lieutenant, Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit, and British dance trio Delphic. It also appears unlikely that British synth singer Gary Numan will make it to Coachella for his Sunday slot.

"The last thing I expected this morning when I woke up was to hear that volcanic ash might be preventing us from flying to America," Numan posted on his Web site. "At the moment, the very best British Airways are offering us, and this without any guarantee, is to put us on a Sunday flight that gets into Los Angeles in the afternoon on Sunday."

However, several performers from Europe scheduled to perform at Coachella were already across the Atlantic Ocean or had boarded planes before the volcanic cloud forced a rash of flight cancellations. Those included Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Gorillaz, Muse, Hot Chip, Fever Ray and Florence and the Machine.

Whitney Houston was forced to ditch a plane for a ferry across the Irish Sea to perform in Dublin. The R&B diva, currently in the middle of her "Nothing But Love" world tour, opted for the not-so-glamorous boat ride after no-fly orders shut down airports across Europe. Houston is scheduled to perform the first of three shows Saturday at the O2 arena in London.

Although scientists were indicating that travel chaos could extend into the upcoming week, New York's Tribeca Film Festival, which is set to begin Wednesday, had yet to receive any cancellations by late Friday. The festival will feature films from nearly 40 countries and several filmmakers from Europe had been planning to attend.

Worldwide press junkets for two of the summer season's most anticipated films - "Iron Man 2," starring Robert Downey Jr., and "Robin Hood," starring Russell Crowe - also were still scheduled as planned next weekend in London, according to studio officials.

Back in Hollywood, Saturday's blue-carpet world premiere of Disneynature's "Oceans," at the El Capitan Theatre was already prepared to hit bumpy waters. The film's French director, Jacques Cluzaud, and producers won't be attending the debut of their Disney documentary narrated by Pierce Brosnan and starring underwater creatures. They're stuck overseas.

Wife vows to replace jailed governor

The wife of Riau Islands governor Ismeth Abdullah announced her bid on Saturday for the province’s top executive post, citing her intention to “carry on development” in the region.

Aida Zulaikha Nasution declared her entry to the race in a function in Batam in the absence of her husband, who is being detained in Jakarta by the Corruption Eradication Commission for a graft case which implicates him.

“I am running for the gubernatorial post because of my concern about the continuity of development in Riau Islands,” Aida, a daughter of former Riau governor, told her supporters.

Aida, who was elected as a member of the Regional Representative Council for the second five-year term in the legislative elections last year, has picked provincial secretary Eddy Wijaya as her running mate. The ticket is supported by the Golkar Party.

Golkar chief adviser Akbar Tandjung said the province under Ismeth had reached an economic growth that exceeded the national mark.

“Aida knows well her husband’s leadership style, therefore she will be able to succeed him and lead the province to progress,” Akbar told Aida's supporters.

Mild quake hits North Sulawesi

An earthquake measuring 5.3 on Richter scale shook Melonguane in North Sulawesi at 5 p.m. Jakarta time on Saturday, but no damages or injuries were reported.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency located the epicenter of the quake in North Sulawesi waters at 43 kilometers southeast of Melonguane at a depth of 10 kilometers below the sea floor.

Earlier in the day another mild quake jolted the same town, but no tsunami warning was issued.

Scholes' late header clinches United win at City

Manchester United veteran Paul Scholes headed in a stoppage-time goal Saturday to clinch a 1-0 victory over Manchester City at the end of a drab derby in the Premier League.

The victory keeps United's hopes of winning a fourth straight title alive, with the defending champions only a point behind Chelsea before the league leaders were at Tottenham in the late match.

The loss weakens City's grip on the fourth Champions League place. Tottenham is only a point behind Roberto Mancini's team.

Scholes' late header clinches United win at City

Manchester United veteran Paul Scholes headed in a stoppage-time goal Saturday to clinch a 1-0 victory over Manchester City at the end of a drab derby in the Premier League.

The victory keeps United's hopes of winning a fourth straight title alive, with the defending champions only a point behind Chelsea before the league leaders were at Tottenham in the late match.

The loss weakens City's grip on the fourth Champions League place. Tottenham is only a point behind Roberto Mancini's team.

Susno denies accepting bribes from Gayus, Sjahril

Former National Police detective chief Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji has denied allegations that he received bribes from former tax official Gayus Tambunan and former diplomat Sjahril Djohan.

Susno’s lawyer Mohammad Assegaf said Saturday his client had never been in touch with the two people, who have been named suspects in an alleged case brokering mafia.

“I have clarified the matter to Pak Susno and the allegations are not true,” Assegaf said as quoted by Antara.

Susno is scheduled to face police investigators on Tuesday in connection with the case brokering practice after Gayus and Sjahril claimed to have given money to Susno.

Assegaf said both Gayus and Sjahril had intended to give Rp 500 million to his client, but never materialized.

The lawyer said his client would turn up for the questioning, unless he fell sick. “So far Pak Susno has no intention to skip the questioning,” Assegaf said.

Gayus stole public attention after Susno revealed last month that a number of police officers had allegedly fixed an investigation into the junior tax official, who amassed suspicious funds worth Rp 28 billion.

Judge accepted bribe for haj pilgrimage

Tangerang District Court chief Judge Muhtadi Asnun accepted Rp 50 million in bribe from defendant Gayus Tambunan to cover his minor haj pilgrimage, an investigation has found.

Chairman of the Judicial Commission Busryo Muqodas said Saturday Muhtadi confessed to the commission members he used the money to add his budget for the pilgrimage, which he performed after acquitting junior tax official Gayus of corruption charges on March 12.

Judicial Commission member Soekotjo added that Gayus handed over the money to Muhtadi at his home one day before the court’s verdict was delivered.

Busyro said the commission would question Haran Tarigan and Bambang Widyatmoko,
two other members of the panel of judges that cleared Gayus of charges, on Monday.

Gayus amassed suspicious funds amounting to Rp 28 billion in his personal bank account, but the bulk of the money is believed to have gone to police investigators, prosecutors and judges in exchange for his acquittal.

Eka inaugurated as neurosurgery professor

Brain surgery expert Eka Jullanta Wahjoepramono was installed on Saturday as a new professor at the Pelita Harapan University (UPH) in Karawaci, Tangerang.

Eka is the fourth professor at the private university.

In his speech he expressed concern about rampant aneurism cases in the country, which now reaches up to 27,000 each year mostly because Indonesian doctors and people tend to regard it as a common disease.

He said the disease remained a tough challenge for Indonesian neurosurgeons because its treatment takes a long time and costs a lot. Another problem is that not many hospitals are ready to conduct operations due to lack of specialists and facilities.

World Federation Neurosurgical Societies chairman Peter Black of Harvard School of Medicine was among prominent figures who witnessed Eka’s inauguration.

French airports closed until Monday morning

The Paris airports and about two dozen others in northern France will remain closed until at least Monday morning because of Iceland's volcanic ash cloud.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon ordered the closures extended until 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) Monday at Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and others across the northern half of the country, from Nantes on the Atlantic to Lyon in the east.

The closures began Thursday. The French civil aviation authority said it would spread the shutdowns southward Saturday afternoon, to the airports at Grenoble in the Alps and Bordeaux in southwestern France.

A few select flights were allowed to take off and land from Paris on Friday, but thousands of others have been canceled.

Fillon held an emergency meeting with top transport, health and environment officials Saturday to discuss the highly unusual air traffic freeze.

He ordered regular monitoring of air quality in France and health measures linked to the ash, but said "there is currently no health risk, because of the high altitude and the dispersion of the particles" of grit.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said after Fillon's announcement Saturday that Sarkozy was still planning to fly Sunday to Poland for the state funeral of President Lech Kaczynski.

Gold medal winning students arrive home

A group of students from a senior high school in Serpong, Tangerang arrived home on Saturday after winning gold medals at the 17th International Conference of Young Scientists (ICYS) in Bali.

During the research project competition which was participated by hundreds of senior high school students from 13 countries, Indonesia was represented by two teams of Santa Laurensia senior high school in Serpong.
The first team, comprising Florencia Vanya Vaniara and Evelyin Lee Wibowo presented their research titled “Study on the Effectiveness of Embryonic Cell from Chicken (psychotria rostrata) Egg & Mangosteen (garcinia mangostana) Peel Extract in Suppressing the Growth of Abnormal Cell Using in Vitro Culture”.

In their research, the students discovered that stem cell on chicken can control the growth of abnormal cell on cancer and the use of mangosteen peel extract that contains antioxidant can suppress the growth of abnormal cell.

“We hope the research can be used as an initial reference to find a method to cure cancer,” Florencia said upon arrival at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

The second team, comprising Andreas Widy Purnomo and Aldo Vitus Wirawan, won a gold medal for designing a hydro power generator using a vertical turbine.

“This system suits rivers with slow current,” Andreas said.

Yogyakarta sultan hospitalized

Yogyakarta governor Sultan Hamengku Buwono X has received intensive medical treatment at Bethesda Hospital since Friday due to exhaustion.

A representative of the royal family, however, said the sultan would take a break to attend a ceremony to mark his 64th anniversary at the Yogyakarta Palace on Saturday evening.

“The sultan is hospitalized, but at 5 p.m. on Saturday he will return home to celebrate his anniversary which will start at 7 p.m.,” sultan’s brother PrinceYudhaningrat told Antara on Saturday.

He added the sultan would resume the medical treatment after the ceremony.

“The sultan’s health condition has slightly dropped, perhaps due to exhaustion. He also complains about painful stomach,” Hadiningrat said, adding that the sultan was admitted to the private hospital just before midnight on Friday.

Railway company to stop Parahyangan train service

State railway company PT KAI will discontinue its Parahyangan train service plying the Jakarta-Bandung route as of April 27, 2010, due to a sharp decline in the number of passengers.

"Our revenue can no longer cover the operational costs," Sugeng Priyono, spokesman for the company’s Jakarta operational area, told Antara on Saturday.

He said the route would be served by Argo Gede executive trains.

Parahyangan train carries 76 executive class passengers and 204 business class passengers on average per day.

Sugeng said PT KAI had reduced the train’s fares to woo more passengers but it did not work.

Jakarta Police refuse to respond on clash containment failure accusation

Jakarta Police spokesman said Saturday that the institution would further evaluate Wednesday's deadly clash in North Jakarta, refusing to respond on accusation that the police had failed to help contain the conflict.

“We have to look first; what caused [the clash]; who was responsible,” Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar, the spokesman, said as quoted by

The riot in Koja, North Jakarta, claimed the lives of three public order officers and injured at least 128 people. The clash erupted as the public order officers attempted to seize an Islamic leader memorial complex.

Earlier on Saturday, Hotman Sinambela, a top official at the Public Order Agency accused that the police had left his subordinates as clash broke out, leaving public order officers to their own devices.

Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo had suspended Public Order Agency head Harianto Badjoeri.

The clash was triggered by a land dispute between state-owned port operator PT Pelindo II and the self-proclaimed heirs of revered Muslim figure, Arif Billah Hasan bin Muhammad Al Hadad, whose tomb used to be located at the memorial complex on the land.

Gas canister explosion injures scores in Jakarta

A gas cylinder exploded in a house in Jl. Haji Ung, Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, on Saturday morning, injuring scores of people, including children.

News portal reported that the injured victims were taken to Islamic Hospital in Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta.

The house owner was reportedly installing the canister when it exploded and injured a number of children that happened to pass by the house.

Authorities have yet to make official statement on the incident.

Tibetans begin cremating victims of China quake

For  the dead: A Tibetan monk, rear, sets fire on the bodies covered with  cloth during a mass cremation for victims of Wednesday's  earthquake in Yushu County, northwest China's Qinghai  province, Saturday. Hundreds of earthquake victims were cremated as  necessity forced Tibetans to break with local burial traditions. AP/Andy  WongF

Hundreds of victims of an earthquake that struck western China more than 72 hours ago were cremated Saturday as necessity forced Tibetans to break with local burial traditions.

About 1,000 monks were on hand on a mountain beside Jiegu, the hardest-hit area by Wednesday's earthquake, to chant Buddhist prayers as the bodies were set on fire.

While the cremation took place, rescue workers searched through rubble in this remote western region in a bid to find any remaining survivors, with officials saying the death toll had climbed to 1,144.

The quakes struck an ethnic Tibetan area, and Tibetans traditionally perform sky burials, which involve chopping a body into pieces and leaving it on a platform to be devoured by vultures. But Genqiu, who like many Tibetans goes by one name, said the numbers made that impossible.

"The vultures can't eat them all," he said Friday at Jiegu monastery, where the bodies were prepared for the cremation by being carefully wrapped in colorful blankets and piled three or four deep on a platform.

Monks at the cremation were not able to give an exact number of bodies burned.

Relief goods continued to arrive, having come along the single main road from the Qinghai provincial capital, 12 hours away.

Police said they had increased security at areas were relief supplies were being handed out.

"We will severely attack the looting of disaster relief materials and the stealing of victims' property," provincial Deputy Police Chief Liu Tianhui told a news conference held in a tent in Jiegu on Saturday morning.

Liu said there were cases of looting right after the quake that shook the area Wednesday, but that the situation had improved and "is stable now."

He said the biggest challenge was still getting enough clean drinking water and food for estimated 100,000 people affected by earthquake.

Though the government was reaching out, many residents turned instead to the monks and their traditions, rather than a central authority dominated by the majority Han Chinese. The groups are divided by language - the government has had to mobilize hundreds of Tibetan speakers to communicate with victims - as well as culture and religion.

Cultural differences might have contributed to Friday's sharp rise in the death toll. In a telephone call with The Associated Press on Friday, rescue officials seemed surprised to hear that hundreds of bodies were at the Jiegu monastery, taken there by Buddhist families. The new official death toll was announced hours later.

Residents of the largely Tibetan town pointed out repeatedly that after the series of earthquakes Wednesday, the monks were the first to come to their aid - pulling people from the rubble and passing out their own limited supplies.

Yushu county, the area impacted by the quakes, is overwhelmingly Tibetan - 93 percent by official statistics, though that does not include Han migrants who have moved in temporarily to open restaurants, take construction jobs or work in mines.

The area largely escaped the unrest that swept the Tibetan plateau in 2008. But authorities have periodically sealed off the area to foreign media and tourists.

China Central Television reported Saturday that a survivor had been detected in a hotel in Jiegu, with workers trying to reach the person. CCTV said a 13-year-old girl was pulled from the toppled two-story hotel on Friday after a sniffer dog alerted rescuers.

State media said more equipment to check for signs of life was on the way, along with 40,000 tents - enough to accommodate all the survivors.

Two dead, two missing off West Java beach

Two children were found dead and two others were still missing Saturday off Gado Bangkong Beach in Pelabuhan Ratu, Sukabumi, West Java after the group were dragged out to sea by waves.

Oki Fazri Assidik, local Search and Rescue Agency chief, told that the children were swept out on Friday afternoon, allegedly after swimming to far to the sea.

The boies of Dandi bin Ajat (7) and Dion bin Sule (7), of Kampung Pangsorilo, Sukabumi, were found floating after the incident.

Search team continues looking for the missing victim, Opik (7) and Saepul (9), on Saturday morning.

Thai army chief takes charge of restoring order

Keep  the faith: Anti-government demonstrators chant prayers for the dead  Saturday, at a rally in Bangkok, Thailand. Last weekend, a major attempt  to clear one of the two main protest sites ended in fierce clashes, 24  deaths and hundreds of injuries. It also failed to dislodge the  protesters, although they since moved out and consolidated at their  second camp in an upscale shopping and hotel district. On Friday  Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva handed more  power to the Thai Army after security forces were humiliated in an  attempt to capture a red shirt leader. AP/David Longstreath

Thailand's prime minister talked tough and handed more law and order powers to the army after security forces were humiliated when an anti-government protest leader escaped a police raid by clambering down a rope from a hotel balcony in broad daylight with the help of supporters.

The escape by Arisman Pongruangrong - and the temporary hostage-takings of two senior police officers to secure his getaway - was the latest demonstration of the government's inability to rein in the so-called Red Shirt protesters, who have been blocking Bangkok's streets for more than a month demanding a change in government.

The Red Shirts are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed the bloodless military coup that ousted him in 2006. Thaksin is living in overseas exile to avoid a two-year prison term for corruption.

They believe Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva heads an illegitimate government because it came to power in December 2008 through parliamentary procedure, replacing an elected pro-Thaksin administration.

Abhisit, speaking Friday night in a special television broadcast, placed army commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda in charge of the peacekeeping force meant to stop violence by the increasingly aggressive Red Shirts, formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship.

Last weekend, a major attempt to clear one of the two main protest sites ended in fierce clashes, 24 deaths and hundreds of injuries. It also failed to dislodge the protesters, although they since moved out and consolidated at their second camp in an upscale shopping and hotel district.

Violence was largely absent the first month of the protest. But the stalemate over the protesters' demand for Abhisit to dissolve Parliament and call new elections he has offered to do so only at the end of the year - has ratcheted up tension, especially as some of Abhisit's own supporters have pushed him to sweep the protesters from the street at any cost.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised to see another attempt to break the red camp," said Andrew Brown, a political scientist at Australia's University of New England. "I think we are in a period where the shock of the violence has forced everyone to step back and take stock of things. But both sides have cause for outrage and opponents of the Red Shirts are certainly calling on the government to crackdown in more decisive fashion."

Abhisit's latest move seemed intended to demonstrate his resolve in ending the crisis, by taking away command of the Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations from Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and handing it over to Anupong.

The move could also be seen as a way of shoring up both men's positions. Abhisit and Anupong have come under increasing criticism for failing to take a harder line against the demonstrators. Thai media have reported widespread rumors that junior commanders are itching to crush the protesters and may seek to push Anupong aside, and Abhisit as well, by a coup if necessary.

With the appointment, Abhisit could be sending a message that he backs Anupong over his hotheaded subordinates, and Anupong -willingly or not - ends up endorsing Abhisit's approach.

Abhisit also spoke several times of cracking down on "terrorists," a frequent theme of government propaganda since last weekend's street battles, in which several unidentified masked men using heavy weapons and acting with military precision fired back on soldiers who were trying to sweep the protesters from the streets.

Abhisit said the peacekeeping center will be able to "call in forces in a more united and integrated way, so that they can handle the terrorism-related activities specifically." He also said authorities would go after those behind the violence, meaning those who they believe finance and aid the protest movement.

"Given the potential for increased state use of violence signaled by Abhisit's pervasive use of the term 'terrorist' to refer to the red-shirted ... protesters, this shake-up should be a cause of concern," said Tyrell Haberkorn, a researcher at The Australian National University in Canberra.

Thaksin's policies of cheap health care and low-interest village loans benefited Thailand's rural poor from which many of the Red Shirt protesters are drawn. But his six years in office were riddled by accusations of nepotism and an erosion of democratic institutions.

Protests from the Red Shirts or the rival Yellow Shirts have targeted each government formed since the coup that ousted Thaksin, sometimes sparking violence.

The Yellow Shirts represent Thailand's traditional royalist and military elite and are popular with Bangkok's middle class. They occupied Government House for three months in 2008 and then shut Bangkok's airports for two weeks.

Landslides block main road in West Sumatra

Landslides has blocked a road in Lembah Anai, which connects Padang and Bukittinggi, in West Sumatra, forcing authorities to redirect traffic through Solok.

Provincial disaster mitigation coordinator Ade Edward told that the landslides occurred following heavy rain that had been pouring since Friday afternoon.

Landslides blocked the road at two point.

A bridge leading to the road was also damaged after being hit by strong current of the overflowing Batang Anai river.

Two weeks earlier landslide had damaged two bridges and blocked a part of the road.

Toyota to recall 600,000 Sienna minivans

Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday it was recalling 600,000 Sienna minivans sold in the United States to address potential rusting spare tire cables that could break and create road hazards in the latest safety problem to strike the beleaguered automaker.

The recall came as House investigators said they planned to hold another congressional hearing in May to review potential electronic problems in runaway Toyotas. The Japanese automaker has recalled more than 8 million vehicles because of faulty accelerator pedals, humbling a car company long known for its quality and safety.

Company leaders vowed to respond quickly to the safety worries.

Separately, Toyota said Friday its engineers in Japan had duplicated the same results of tests that led Consumer Reports to issue a rare "don't buy" warning on the 2010 Lexus GX 460 because of an apparent rollover problem. Toyota responded by halting sales of new GX 460s and conducting tests on all of its SUVs.

Lexus spokesman Bill Kwong said the company was evaluating potential remedies for the GX 460, but it was "too early to speculate (on) the details of the remedy and its timing."

Toyota said its latest recall covered the 1998-2010 model year Siennas with two-wheel-drive that have been sold or registered in 20 cold-climate states and the District of Columbia. Toyota said rust from road salt could cause the carrier cable that holds the spare tire to rust and break, allowing the tire to tumble into the road. The problem could threaten the safety of other drivers.

Toyota said it was unaware of any accidents or injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had received six complaints of spare tires falling off Siennas.

The company said it was working on a fix for the problem. In the meantime, customers will receive a notice telling them to bring their vehicle to a dealership for an inspection.

The recall involves Siennas in the District of Columbia and the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia. They are in the northern midwest and northeastern United States.

"Toyota is listening to its customers attentively, and we want to make sure their voices are heard," said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer for North America.

St. Angelo said the company was providing free inspections of the spare tire carrier cable across the nation, including states not included in the recall.

Lawmakers remain focused on the spate of recalls affecting the company. Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democratic subcommittee chairman, said they plan to hold a May 6 hearing to look into potential electronic causes of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Toyota has said it has found no evidence of electronic problems, attributing the issues to sticking gas pedals and accelerators that can become jammed in floor mats.

Toyota said in a statement Friday it was "more than willing to meet with the committee and discuss the ongoing testing related to our electronic throttle control system, as well as the steps we are taking to improve our quality assurance processes. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive."

Where Susno's Testimony Leads to

The Law Mafia Eradication Task Force came to the National Police Headquarters on Wednesday morning to meet with National Police Chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri to discuss the alleged presence of law mafia within the national police force.

Some of the task force members who attended the meeting included Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Denny Indrayana, Yunus Husein, Mas Achmad Santosa and Darmono. Denny said the task force met the police chief to coordinate the allegations on the existence of a law mafia within the police force.

"Yesterday we met the Attorney General and his men, and today will have discussions with the police among other things about Susno Duadji’s report," Denny said it yesterday.

On Tuesday afternoon, the task force has met Attorney General Hendarman Supanji for a clarification on the same subject. The task force is currently investigating the allegations by the former chief detective Commissioner General Susno Duadji saying that there was a law mafia in the investigation of a suspicious account of Rp25 billion of a staff of the Taxation Directorate General.

Susno also accused two high-ranking officers, namely Brig Gen Raja Erizman, and Brig Gen Edmond Ilyas (Lampung police chief) of accepting money when investigating the case. Susno also mentioned about a case broker having an office besides the office of the police chief.

The police headquarters has denied Susno’s allegations pointing out that the investigations have proceeded without irregularities. The two police generals have reported Susno to the police headquarters for defamation. The professional and security division has asked Susno twice for clarification on the case.

Will Susno and Gayus Shatter The Source of Evil in Police and Tax Dept?

National police chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri will replace Brigadier General Edmond Ilyas as chief of the Lampung regional police command, national police spokesman Edward Aritonang said here on Friday. Inspector General Ilyas has been suspended following his questioning by the professionalism and security division in connection with his alleged involvement in the tax fraud case of tax officer Gayus Tambunan.

Edward said Ilyas’s post transfer would be carried out at the national police headquarters next Monday by General Bambang Hendarso Danuri. Elyas would be replaced by Brigadier General Sulistyo Ishak, currently deputy national police spokesman.

Edward said three other regional police command chiefs would also be replaced namely Inspector General Adityawarman, the chief of the Aceh regional police command for entering retirement, by Brigadier General Fajar Prihantoro, Brigadier General Sumaryono, the chief of the Gorontalo regional police command also for entering retirement by Brigadier General Irawan Dahlan.

The deputy chief of the Gorontalo regional police command, Senior Comissioner Lukman Nulhakim meanwhile would replace Brigadier General Fajar Prihantoro as the chief of the North Maluku regional police command. And, Brigadier General Anton Setiadi, the chief of the Bangka Belitung regional police command, will be replaced by Senior Commissioner M Rum Murkal. Anton Setiadi will be an expert staff of the national police chief.

Previously, Bambang Hendarso stated that there would be one-star general set as a suspect in fugitive former tax official and graft suspect Gayus Tambunan case. Does it mean there will be more high rank officers in the force that will be set as suspects in the case?

An antigraft group and a police watchdog questioned the National Police’s contradictory statements regarding its investigation into alleged case brokering practices implicating top officers and Gayus Tambunan. They said this could be seen as an indication that the police lacked the will to conduct a transparent and fair investigation into the scandal.

After the case brokering scandal broke out, police have issued several statements that they later denied or were proven to be misleading after being confirmed by third parties. “We view the police commitment to settling this case as shaky. The misleading statements they have frequently issued are clear indications of this,” Febri Diansyah of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) as quoted by The Jakarta Post.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang, for example, said that police had spoken to members of the National Police Commission (Kompolnas) requesting assistance in the investigation of Andi Kosasih, an alleged accomplice of Gayus. Kompolnas member Adnan Pandu Praja, however, told the Post that he knew nothing of the investigation.

“From the very beginning, no one has invited us to discussions about how to handle this case,” he said.

Police also made remarks regarding the status of former chief detective Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji, who was reported to the police by Brig. Gen. Raja Erizman and Brig. Gen. Edmond Ilyas. Susno had earlier implied that the two men took bribes from Gayus. The police said that Susno had already been named a suspect pertaining to Edmond’s and Raja’s report.

However, they later denied saying this, instead blaming journalists for distorting their statement. Police deputy spokesman Brig. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak reiterated on Friday that police had not named Susno a suspect in case.

Johnson Pandjaitan of Indonesian Police Watch concurred with Febri, saying that police should involve the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in the investigation to ensure fairness and impartiality.

The case started when Susno told the media that last year, while he was serving as the chief of detectives, his division received a report from the Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center (PPATK) about an account that had suddenly received a Rp 25 billion (US$2.75 million) deposit. The account was held by an employee of the Taxation Directorate General named Gayus Tambunan.

However, in November 2009 before the investigations of this case were complete, Susno was dismissed from his position following his alleged role in judicial corruption involving businessman Anggodo Widjojo. Susno said that while he was no longer a chief detective, he kept in touch with his former subordinates who later informed him the investigation had been stopped after detectives found that only Rp 400 million of the Rp 25 billion deposit was connected to graft.

Director General of Taxation M. Tjiptardjo said that the directorate general will also examine other tax officials who have worked with Gayus to anticipate other possible violations.

“I won’t stop there. Other officials, his bosses, will be examined. This is embarrassing. I will eradicate [the tax office] of corruption,” he said.

Tjiptardjo added that Gayus had admitted he received Rp 370 million from taxpayers. “Based on a temporary report, he admitted to receiving Rp 370 million. We will examine his tax returns to check whether there are other funds,” he said.

Gayus said the Rp 25 billion found in his bank account belonged to businessman Andi Kosasih, but Tjiptardjo is suspicious about that. Gayus told the police earlier that Andi, a businessman from Batam, transferred the Rp 25 billion fund to his account to buy a plot of land in Jakarta. While according to Bambang Susatyo, member of Commision III of House of Representatives, there are 149 companies with the indication of getting involved in tax graft dealing with Gayus Tambunan.

Gayus’ case has now been scrutinized by the Directorate of Internal Compliance for Official Resources Transformation at the Directorate General of Taxation. The Directorate General of Taxation and the Directorate General of Customs and Excise are responsible for 70 percent of total state revenue.

Analysis and Evaluation (Anev) session on Gayus Halomoan Tambunan case was held at National police headquarters in Jakarta on Saturday. The session was attended by three teams handling the case: the independent team, Internal Affairs, detective division of national police.

"This is just Anev. There are various teams," said National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi at the HQ. When asked that this means Edmond Ilyas is under the investigation held by the detective division after he was probed by IA, Ito Sumardi replied, "Not yet. This is just at stage of Anev."

IA handles the case of troubled police involved in Gayus case; detective division deals with general crimes such as tax evasion, money laundry, and false testimonies. While the independent team investigates legal mafia in Gayus case.

One Million Signatures from Bekasi to Support Susno Duaji

A group of Bekasi residents have launched a campaign to collect one million signatures to support the National Police’s former chief detective, Susno Duaji, in his actions to disclose case brokering paractices in the police force. The signature-collecting activity took place at the Bekasi Islamic Center building and the city’s Mega Mall building, said the campaign’s coordinator, Jon Edy, here Saturday.

"The second round of our activity will be held in front of Bekasi Grand Mall building, the railway station and the main bus terminal on Monday," Edy told Antara. According to him, the action was a manifestation of concern about the weak performance of law enforcers in fighting corruption, case brokering, and judicial mafia networks as had become publicly known lately.

Susno had recently disclosed publicly that case brokering had taken place during the investigation of a suspicious account of Rp25 billion belonging to Gayus Tambunan, a middle-tanking official of the Directorate General of Taxation.

He said police had only investigated Rp395 million of the Rp25 billion while the rest of the money has disappeared. Susno claimed two police generals had benefited from the disbursement of the funds from the account.

It's Ito Sumardi' Turn to Challenge Susno Duadji

National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi is reluctant to give details of Mr. X revealed as markus (case broker) by his predecessor Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi. "To identify whether someone is a case broker, there should be a proof leading to it, as a law enforcer I will never put the blame at random, it is not wise if I just make a guess on who Mr X is, I don't do that," he said that in his short message, in Jakarta, Friday.

Ito even challenged Susno back to prove the involvement of Mr. X that the former National Police chief detective referred to Syahrir Johan in a closed session with Commision III of House of Representatives as the mastermind of case broker in National Police. "Just let him do it if he really has the proof with him," he stated that.

As to the accusation that former national police chief Comr. Gen. Makbul Padmanegara as the main case broker in national police, Ito again reserved to put the blame on him. According to him, it takes a proof to declare Makbul as a case broker.

"It also includes the proof needed to confirm the involvement of Syahrir Johan. The proof that leads to the involvement of Syahrir and Pak (Mr) Makbul. So far he is only known as a closed friend of Pak Makbul," said Ito Sumardi.

In his briefing to public hearing of House Representatives, Wednesday, Susno revealed that he knows the identity of Mr X blamed by him as the mastermind of case broker in national police, and all parties in every line can ask that to National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi. Susno said Ito Sumardi is the one who can reveal Mr. X.

Susno Duadji Arrested without Any Notice

Former National Police detective chief Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji was arrested at the Soekarno-Jakarta international airport, Monday. According to one of his members of legal team, Henry Yosodiningrat, on phone interview with TVOne, Susno leaving for Singapore on medical check-up arrested by officers of National Police internal affairs division.

Susno was sent to local police office at the airport before driven by the officers to National Police headquarters. Susno was reported apprehended without any notice as he did not make any report to his corps on his plan to go abroad.

Indonesian Three-Star General Arrested as if A Robber

Herawati, wife of former National Police detective chief Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji, keeps on crying after hearing that her husband was arrested by police.

"I am deeply shocked after being informed by my child that my husband was arrested by force at the Soekarno-Hatta international airport."

Sobbing while trying to hold her tears, Herawati admitted she was shocked over the arrest. She said that she could not accept the fact her husband was treated as if he were a robber.

"How come my husband was treated that way," said her on a phone interview in Jakarta, Monday.

Police Deny Arresting Susno Duadji

Police denied on Monday they had arrested former National Police chief detective Commissioner General Susno Duadji saying they took him to the National Police’s profession and ethics division (Divpropam) building for questioning.

"There was no arrest. The truth is that Divpropam officers have taken Pak Susno," acting chief of the National Police Headquarters’ public relations division Zulkarnaen said.

A middle-ranking officer of the National Police’s profession and ethics division told ANTARA earlier in the day Susno was arrested when he was about to leave for Singapore without permission from his superior.

After being taken from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport the three-star general underwent questioning at the National Police’s profession and ethics division building, Zulkarnaen said. Susno underwent normal questioning on Monday night and was not detained, Zulkarnaen said.

According to him, the former National Police chief detective was questioned for allegedly violating police’s discipline under Government Regulation No. 2/2003.

"Article 6 sections B and C of the government regulation stipulates no police officers are allowed to leave their work site without permission from their superior," he said.

Susno recently revealed a conspiracy in the police force behind the alleged money laundering case of tax staffer Gayus Tambunan leading to the arrests of several suspects including some police officers.

The chief of the Presidium of the Indonesian Police Watch, Neta Pane, confirmed that Susno was detained when he was about to leave for Singapore for a medical checkup. Pane said he had last met with Susno on Sunday in a dialogue forum in Jakarta.

At the time, he said Susno looked unhealthy. "Yesterday he was coughing and looked tired," he said.

Susno was once questioned by the national police’s profession and ethics division for being absent from his job for three months. But he refused to be questioned for the second time arguing the order to question him was legally flawed.

The Mastermind behind The Arrest of Susno Duadji

Coordinator of Clean Indonesian Movement (GIB) Adhi Masardhi says the arrest of former National Police detective chief Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji shows that National Police headquarters is in panic.

"The arrest shows it and reflects the Police's attitude of being authoritarian instead of being protective," said him on Monday. According to Adhi Masardhi, Susno's revealation about tax mafia involving some high-rank officers in the corps causes panic in them.

The shocking fact, added him, is the HQ's action of arresting Susno Duadji as it indicates that the institution needs to be reformed soon.

"That's why GBI urges House of Representatives to revise the constitution on National Police."

Hot Nude Yoga Draws Fire


Some people work out to look good naked. Others skip a step.

Inside a heavily curtained fourth-floor dance studio is a male-only class specialising in "Hot Nude Yoga", a form of sensualised tantric yoga practiced nude.

A few classes are co-ed, but male-only gatherings tend to be more popular and have become a mini-phenomenon in the gay community, with studios in Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. A studioless group in Chicago practices in the apartment of a nude yoga enthusiast.

Fans say the nudity aids in deepening their yoga practice while building a close, and emphatically non-sexual, community.

"A lot of people, especially living in New York, don't get the opportunity to connect with people in an intimate way," said Aaron Star, who started the naked yoga movement.

And while participants do occasionally report a frisson of excitement, Star and the practice's aficionados make one thing clear: This is about physical fitness.

"This is about yoga and appreciating your body," said John Cottrell, 40, who teaches naked yoga classes in Salt Lake City twice a month. He calls them a safe, non-threatening space "to help men especially look at themselves in a different way.

"It's just fun. It's a great workout," he says.

Star began the practice to appeal to a primarily gay male audience and achieved fame in the yoga world with his DVD series "Hot Nude Yoga", which allows aspiring yogis to practice in the privacy of their homes.

Hot, yes - in temperature, for starters.

Awkward? That, too.

At the small class I attended, an undeniable sexual charge hung in the room, making the exercise at times painfully weird and embarrassing. Many nude yoga classes revolve around partnering positions, a series of postures that put two men within striking distance of the other's privates.

Not all serious yogis think the practice makes sense.

"I don't see the point," said Mary Dillion, who teaches clothed yoga in Manhattan. "I have a yoga practice that I like and I can be naked in my home. I don't need to do naked yoga."

And Joshua Stein, editor-at-large for OUT Magazine, who attended a class in 2008, says the quality of the yoga was diminished by the heightened sensuality.

"It's almost as if the yoga is something between an afterthought and an excuse," said Stein, who is heterosexual. "It gives you this grey area where you can be intimate physically, but not so aggressively intimate as in a bath house or in a bar."

He describes being asked to do a child's pose - a kneeling pose with arms stretched forward on the ground - while a partner draped himself on his back. "It's not something you really need a partner to do," he said.

Star acknowledges that partner work is a popular feature of Hot Nude Yoga that "generates a certain amount of heat" and keeps his client list high. Still, practitioners say they constantly combat the notion that their classes are orgies veiled as exercise.

At Nude Yoga NYC in Manhattan, nude yoga is not such a boys club. Instructor Isis Phoenix, 29, said her co-ed nude yoga studio attracts "a well-rounded population of ages, genders and sexual orientations". The men usually outnumber women two-to-one, however.

Phoenix sees nudity as an extra pull for men, who often need an incentive to practice yoga. Still, she nixed the idea that nudity created a sexual element, but one of comfort.

"Men more often fall into a general greater ease with their bodies than women do," she said.

But the trend seems to appeal mostly to gay men. David Flewelling teaches Mudraforce Yoga at a home studio in Montreal, Canada. As at Star and Cottrell's studios, the majority of attendees at Mudraforce are gay.

Flewelling said sex is never part of the experience. Nude yoga, while extremely sensual, is not sexual, he said.

"There's something fantastic about exercising without clothes," he said. "You're free of the restrictions that clothes put on and it puts everyone on an even keel."

Even teachers of naked yoga, while railing against the suggestion that the class is tantamount to foreplay, can send mixed signals. When my class ended, I took aside the instructor, Jeffrey Duval, and asked how he got into naked yoga. Duval acknowledged he attended his first class because he thought it was about sex.

But his experience surpassed all his expectations.

"You're shedding away your clothes, but you're also shedding away insecurities and fear," he said. "I can't think of a more perfect way to practice."

Vatican to Bishops: Follow Law, Report Sex Abuse

The Vatican on Monday responded to allegations it long concealed clerical sex abuse by making it clear for the first time that bishops and clerics worldwide should report such crimes to police if they are required to by law.

The policy, spelled out in a guide for laymen and posted on the Vatican's Web site, matches the policy worked out by U.S. bishops after an explosion of sex abuse cases in 2002.

Unlike the American norms, however, the Vatican guide contains no call for "zero tolerance" for priests who rape and molest children, and victims immediately criticized it as insufficient.

The Vatican insists it has long been the Catholic Church's policy for bishops, like all Christians, to obey civil reporting laws. But such an explicit policy had never been spelled out — until Monday.

"Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed," said the newly posted guideline.

That phrase was not included in a draft of the document obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The Vatican offered no explanation for the addition. However, Pope Benedict XVI has come under increasing pressure to show the Vatican is serious about confronting clerical abuse and cracking down on church officials who let it go on virtually unchecked for decades.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Vatican analyst, said the guidelines will help parishioners hold bishops accountable.

"While the Vatican never told bishops they could not report abuse to the police, this is the first time the Vatican has been so clear on the responsibility to follow civil law concerning reporting of crimes," said Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

Still, it was unclear what enforcement mechanism the guideline published Monday might have. It is just that — a guideline — and not an official instruction to bishops from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In addition, the guideline makes clear that bishops are to report "crimes" — not just allegations.

Victims were not impressed by Monday's action.

"Let's keep this in perspective: it's one sentence and it's virtually nothing unless and until we see tangible signs that bishops are responding," said Joelle Casteix, western regional director for SNAP, the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, the main victims' group in the U.S. "One sentence can't immediately reverse centuries of self-serving secrecy."

She said if the Vatican truly wanted to change course "it would be far more effective to fire or demote bishops who have clearly endangered kids and enabled abuse and hid crimes, than to add one sentence to a policy that is rarely followed with consistency."

The document falls far short of U.S. norms. That policy, approved by the Vatican as church law in the U.S., bars credibly accused priests from any public church work while the allegations are investigated. Diocesan review boards, comprised mostly of lay people, help bishops oversee cases. Clergy found guilty are permanently barred from public ministry and, in some cases, ousted from the priesthood.

In a letter to the Irish faithful last month, Pope Benedict XVI told Irish bishops they should cooperate with civil authorities in investigating abuse. However, this is the first time the Vatican has issued a guideline for the church as a whole.

None of the core public Vatican documents that address the handling of abuse direct bishops to report cases to police. Nor does canon law make such an explicit requirement.

Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's U.S. lawyer, said a 1965 document from the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, contained an implicit understanding of the need to follow civil laws that are just. The reference is vague, however.

"The statement confirms what has been long known, that where the civil state creates an obligation to report, bishops like anyone else are required to examine the law and determine what they have to do to obey it," Lena told the AP.

"These guidelines may help clarify that point for people who are less familiar with canon law."

In 2002, after the clerical abuse scandal erupted in the United States, American bishops enacted reforms instructing bishops to comply with state laws for reporting abuse, and to cooperate with authorities. All U.S. dioceses were also instructed to advise victims of their right to contact authorities themselves.

As of 2008, at least 26 U.S. states required clergy to report suspected child abuse; another 15 required anyone suspecting abuse to report it.

The Irish church, which has endured a clerical abuse scandal, has required clergy to report suspected abuse cases to health officials or police since 1996.

Norms adopted in 2002 by the German church advise accused priests to contact law enforcement themselves, but there are no requirements for church authorities to do so. Bishops in Benedict's native Bavaria have urged the policy be changed to require that all suspected cases be automatically reported to police.

Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer who was chairman of the U.S. bishops' child protection board that drafted the U.S. norms, said the Vatican guidelines were important.

"First, it makes it clear that the Vatican understands that transparency is important in confronting this crisis," he said in an e-mail.

"Second, it helps to debunk the idea that the 1962 Vatican document, Crimen Sollicitationis, mandated that bishops not report to civil authorities ... The fact is that Crimen did not mandate non-reporting, although it has been distorted that way," said Cafardi, a professor at Duquesne University Law School.

Lawyers for victims in the United States have argued the 1962 document — which means "crimes of solicitation" in Latin — and another issued in 2001 barred reporting child abuse allegations to police.

The 1962 document described church procedure for handling cases of abuse of minors or where sex is solicited in the confessional — a particularly heinous crime under canon law — as well as allegations of homosexuality and bestiality.

It was replaced in 2001 with new norms requiring bishops to refer all clerical sex abuse cases to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which then determines how to proceed. In a letter explaining the norms, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said the cases are to be sent to Rome "under pontifical secret."

Lawyers for victims have argued the reference to secrecy reflected a Vatican policy barring bishops from reporting abuse to police. The Vatican says the secrecy reference only applied to the internal, canonical proceedings and did not bar reporting allegations to authorities.

In its guideline Monday, the Vatican confirmed that it was revising the 2001 norms further, although it didn't say how.

World's Strongest Beer: BrewDog's Alcohol Heads to U.S.

Thanks to a war among European brewing companies, it's never been easier to catch a healthy beer buzz. Or get yourself totally sloshed. In November, BrewDog, a three-year-old Scottish microbrewery, released a new brand, dubbed Tactical Nuclear Penguin. The beer set a new record by weighing in at a scary 32% alcohol by volume (ABV), more than six times the strength of familiar domestic brands like Budweiser. As explained in a cheeky video on the company's website (warning: the clip contains simulated penguin sex), the brewery was able to attain the high alcohol content by freezing the beer at a local ice cream factory, at temperatures as low as -6°C (21°F), for 21 days. Alcohol freezes at lower temperatures than water, and removing water from the solution increased the alcohol concentration.

Jim Watt, one of BrewDog's co-founders, says that some 400 bottles of Tactical Nuclear Penguin are in the process of being shipped to a few stores in California and New York City, including a Whole Foods location; about half of the consumers buying beer from the BrewDog website are from the U.S. Watt's eyes are clearly fixed on the American market. "We're keen to push the envelope," he says, "and challenge people's perceptions of how beer can be enjoyed."

A warning label on the Tactical Nuclear Penguin bottle does state, "This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. It is exactly the same manner you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost."

Some alcohol-watchdog groups aren't laughing. The chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Jack Law, has blasted BrewDog's high-alcohol products as "irresponsible," especially at a time when Scotland is experiencing "severe alcohol-related problems." In December, BrewDog received a slap on the wrist from a British alcohol regulatory body, the Portman Group, which ordered that retailers pull the company's 18.2% Tokyo beer brand off shelves because of its marketing tactics. A note on the Tokyo label says, "It is all about moderation. Everything in moderation, including moderation itself. What logically follows is that you must, from time, have excess. This beer is for those times." After the beer was pulled, BrewDog came out with a 1.1% ABV brew meant to tame the critics. Its name: Nanny State.

The drinking games continued in February when a German brewer, Schorschbrau, released a 40% ABV beer called Schorschbock. The BrewDog boys fired back a few weeks later with high-octane concoction Sink the Bismarck!, which checks in at 41%, enough to reclaim the "world's strongest beer" mantle (the name is a not-so-subtle reference to the famous German battleship deployed during World War II).

For now, Sink the Bismarck! is only available for purchase on BrewDog's website, and the 500 or so bottles that BrewDog has produced are already sold out. Watt promises that more are on the way. Because of the painstaking process involved with producing such a strong drink, an 11.2-oz. bottle of Sink the Bismarck! costs some $60, minus shipping. Tactical Nuclear Penguin costs about $53 a bottle, and can also be ordered online.

Even if these brands end up being carried by more bars and retailers, Watt firmly believes that the high prices will prohibit unsophisticated drinkers (read: high school kids at a kegger, or college students on spring break) from just picking up the stuff and chugging it. But you can't deny that if the beer becomes more widely available in stores, or if other brewers mimic BrewDog's strategy, it could become hazardous. Since most drinkers don't check the alcohol level on the label like they would the expiration date on a milk carton, an unsuspecting soul with money to spare could sip a little too much strong stuff.

"We're all for responsible consumption," Watt says. But as we all know, beer and responsibility often don't mix. So enjoy the beer wars at your own risk.

Chinese Industries to Build Special Economic Estates in Indonesia

Industry Minister MS Hidayat said a group of major Chinese industries are looking for land for building a Special Economic Estates (KEK) in Indonesia.

"The group is looking for 10,000 hectares of land for the KEK project. But they were looking for land with easy access to sea ports," Hidayat said after a hearing with Commission VI of the House of Representatives in Jakarta Monday night.

The Chinese industries wished to build an integrated industrial estate to produce consumer goods for local consumption and export.

"We will try to have them build the project outside Java island, may be in Kalimantan," Hidayat said.

The Chinese group of industries, he said, was seeking a new market and making an expansion because the Chinese manufacturing industry is relatively still small in other countries. But Hidayat still did not know the industrial sector the Chinese group wished to build in Indonesia.

"I suspect that they will also make use of the ACFTA," he added.

205 Indonesian Illegal Immigrants Arrested off Tawau, Malaysia

A total of 205 illegal immigrants from Indonesia were arrested Monday evening for attempting to leave the country illegally Monday.

Tawau Immigration spokesman Surend Jayshee Praser said the illegal immigrants, of whom 55 were women and 31 children, were picked up onboard a ferry off here as they were about to leave for Nunukan, Indonesia, at 5.15pm.

"All of them were brought by pete-pete (a type of boat with an outboard engine) from the coast to the ferry which was moored offshore," he told Bernama.

He said the illegal immigrants, aged between three and 58 years, were without documents. Also arrested was the ferry's skipper, he said.

Air Force's Mystery X-37B Space Plane Fuels Speculation

The U.S. Air Force is on the verge of showcasing a new and long-sought after spaceflight capacity with its X-37B space plane, but it will do so on a space mission that's cloaked in secrecy.

What the X-37B mission truly portends is in the eye of the beholder, from a game-changing tool to hone military hardware to a provocative harbinger of things-to-come in terms of space warfare.

Now ready for an Atlas boost into Earth orbit from Florida on April 20, the reusable robotic X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is a small space shuttle-like craft. The craft will wing its way into Earth orbit, remain aloft for an unspecified time, then high-tail its way back down to terra-firma – auto-piloting down to a landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, or at neighboring Edwards Air Force Base as back-up [more photos of the X-37B space plane].

The X37-B craft was built by Boeing's Phantom Works with the mission run under the wing of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The reusable and diminutive OTV space plane is the first vehicle since the space shuttle orbiter able to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis.

Its stats are modest: The vehicle tips the scales at 11,000 pounds (4,989 kg) and is just over 29 feet (8.8 meters) in length and stands slightly more than 9 1/2 feet (2.9 meters) in height. It sports a wingspan of a little over 14 feet (4.2 meters).

The designed maximum on-orbit duration for the X-37B is 270 days, said Angie Blair, an Air Force spokeswoman for the project, but that flight time will be driven more by success in achieving demonstration objectives.

"The X-37B is a risk reduction vehicle for space experimentation and to explore concepts of operation for a long duration, reusable space vehicle. The first flight will focus on vehicle checkout and test of subsystems such as thermal management, power control and distribution, and attitude control," Blair said.

Glass half-full, half-empty

Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor of National Security Studies at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island sees the upcoming flight as a glass half-full, half-empty enterprise.

If the glass is half-full, Johnson-Freese observed that the X-37B could be to spaceflight what Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites – which had no specific mission originally when developed by the military either -- has become to navigation. "It could push the hypersonic envelope and advance spaceflight in ways not seen since the 1960's, she said.

If the glass is half-empty, Johnson-Freese added, then the X-37B could be a project taken this far because the Air Force has always wanted a crewed space plane, and this was the closest they could get, and supporting it as innovative has helped the careers of those who have apparently pushed it through the halls of the Pentagon.

"In any case, it is likely that other countries will see it as another capability intended to assure the United States will be able to dominate access to and the use of space," Johnson-Freese concluded.

Three vital characteristics

A reusable space plane can offer a range of capabilities, said William Scott, coauthor of the acclaimed techno-novel, Counterspace: The Next Hours of World War III, and former Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.

Scott observes that an X-37B-type, reusable space plane would be invaluable for reconstitution of limited on-orbit capabilities, such as signal intelligence, imaging, or missile warning. "It could deliver small satellites having specific, limited roles to bridge critical capabilities gaps," he said.

There are three vital characteristics of a reusable space plane, Scott said, whether it's piloted or unpiloted:

* Launch-on-demand: Ideally, a small fleet of these space planes would be available for immediate launch, backed by a supply of specialized small satellites that could be pulled off the shelf and loaded into the space plane to perform critical missions. The ultimate would be having these vehicles in an "alert" status, similar to how fighters and bombers sat alert, during the Cold War, ready to deploy at-will.

* Surprise factor: On the first orbit, a space plane could capture data, before the "target" knew it was coming. Not as predictable as a satellite's orbit - at least on the first pass.

* Flexibility: A space plane could be launched into any orbit, at any inclination, providing prompt "eyes-on" of virtually any area of the world. Altitude could be varied, as well. A space plane might also be used in a sub-orbital "arc" flight profile, perform its duties, then be recovered at a remote air field half-way around the globe.

"Ultimately, weapons could be delivered from a space plane in low Earth orbit," Scott said, citing a "Rods from God" scenario. That idea is akin to a lawn-dart weapon idea that uses tungsten rods lobbed from space to hit a cross-haired target on the ground.

"I did a story about the rods concept in 1994 or 1995, based on concepts being discussed in the U.S. Air Force at the time," Scott said. "Fifteen years later, maybe they're ready for testing."

Tactical advantage

Viewing the X-37B as a fascinating project, and one that fuels speculation is Everett Dolman, Professor of Comparative Military Studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

"It is not possible to tell yet whether the program is an example of the output of bureaucratic inertia or the beginning of something much bigger, Dolman advised.

The value of a true space plane to military thinkers and planners has long been evident, Dolman suggested, from thoughts in the early 1900s to the original grand visions for the space shuttle. Fast forward to today, in the case of the X-37B, while none of the planned missions for the space plane are public as of yet, he continued, a few of the potential missions are easy to conjure up.

"Regardless of its original intent, the most obvious and formidable is in service as a space fighter - a remotely piloted craft capable of disabling multiple satellites in orbit on a single mission and staying on orbit for months to engage newly orbited platforms," Dolman said. That capability "would be a tremendous tactical advantage."

Furthermore, the small size of the X-37B, coupled with maneuverability on orbit would make it almost impossible for non U.S. space watchers to keep an eye on its whereabouts, Dolman said.

Test platform for what?

Even if it were not used to engage and disable satellites, Dolman said, it could be maneuvered up close and personal to inspect orbiting satellites at a level of detail currently unimaginable. "With the anticipated increase in networked-microsatellites in the next few years, such a platform might be the best – and only – means of collecting technical intelligence in space."

Dolman also sees another use for the automated X-37B. It could be pressed into service, he said, not only as a resupply vehicle for routine resupply or maintenance of space platforms, even for the International Space Station as a publicly visible mission.

"If a reasonably-priced, reliable transport for supply and maintenance becomes operational, a whole new set of on-orbit possibilities opens up," Dolman noted. "What the U.S. Air Force has not had is a dedicated, secure platform for weapons research and, potentially, testing."

Laser and directed energy testing – to include relaying beams – could be done on civilian platforms in small strengths for communications or power-generating applications. Still, the results needed for weapons research would be unsatisfactory and potentially compromised, Dolman said. "All of the information leaked about the X-37B suggests its primary function will be as a test platform, but a test platform for what?"

While there will be some who suggest the X-37B is a program that just limped along, "it seems there are at least a few U.S. Air Force planners who are looking to the future, as well as a few civilian supporters who see the value in a reusable space plane, Dolman observed. "The X-37B is a viable and important project whose time is past due."

Technology-fed arms race

Mark Gubrud is a physicist in the Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland in College Park, and a proponent of space arms control. As a robot shuttle, he senses that the X-37B would finally give the U.S. military flexible two-way access to space, as well as some in-plane maneuver capability in orbit.

The X-37B is a product, in part, of the maturing of robotics, space robotics, military robotics and the military's confidence in robotics, Gubrud suggested.

"We are seeing a partly technology-fed arms race. But the technology for space weapons is still quite exquisite and needs extensive development and testing," Gubrud said. "I don't see the X-37 itself as a space weapon, because it is probably too expensive to use it that way," he said, compared with the kind of alternatives – smaller, more specialized space weapons – that the X-37B could be utilized to test and develop.

Gubrud pointed out there is a realistic way to limit the threat posed by the X-37 or similar vehicles produced by any country. That is, to account for their numbers and demand that they be kept either in verifiable storage or in use for declared non-weapons purposes, and that the numbers be commensurate with their declared purposes.

To that end, "basic information about the payload mass and volume, burnout velocity, orbital maneuver capability and remotely observable characteristics, as well as the numbers of such vehicles, should be required to be reported," Gubrud suggested.

200,000 civilians flee Pakistan military offensive

More than 200,000 people have fled Pakistan's latest offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest, the United Nations said as fresh clashes in the remote region killed 41 insurgents and six soldiers.

Elsewhere in the northwest, a suspected U.S. missile killed five alleged militants in a house in North Waziristan, the latest in a series of strikes in the region, Pakistani officials said Monday. North Waziristan is home to al-Qaida and Taliban commanders, many of whom play a role in the insurgency in neighboring Afghanisan.

The military has pounded the Orakzai tribal region with airstrikes and artillery in an attempt to rout insurgents from the rugged, mountainous area near the Afghan border. Many Taliban fighters fled toOrakzai last year to escape a separate army offensive in their tribal stronghold of South Waziristan.

The exodus of civilians from Orakzai adds to the more than 1.3 million people driven from their homes by fighting in the northwest and unable to return.

The U.N. warned Monday it faces a severe shortfall in funding needed to aid those displaced, saying it has only received about $106 million, or 20 percent, of the $538 million appeal it launched in February for the next six months. Last year, the U.N. had received 40 percent of its appeal by this time, it said.

Martin Mogwanja, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, said some aid groups providing water, food, health care and sanitation for the displaced were having to scale down their activities.

Funding levels have been lower this year because of the recent financial crisis and the large amounts of aid directed to help Haiti recover from a recent devastating earthquake, said Mogwanja.

Pakistan received significant international attention last spring when more than 1 million people fled a military offensive in the Swat valley. Most of those people have returned home, but the number of displaced in the country has remained high as the military has targeted other areas.

Some 210,000 people have fled Orakzai since the fighting first started at the end of last year, including nearly 50,000 people who left in the last month as the military has intensified its offensive in the area, said the U.N.

The latest violence in Orakzai occurred Monday when dozens of militants armed with rockets and automatic weapons attacked two security checkpoints in the villages of Shireen Dara and Sangrana, local administrator Saaid. Security forces successfully repelled the attack, but six soldiers were killed and three others wounded, he said.

"More than 100 militants attacked the security checkpoint in Shireen Dara," Khan said. "They fought a gunbattle for two hours and fired several rockets."

After the battles subsided, authorities found the bodies of 15 militants around the two checkpoints, said two intelligence officials. Insurgents removed the bodies of at least 26 others who were killed, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

More than 300 suspected militants have been killed in Orakzai since mid-March, including 10 on Sunday when fighter jets destroyed three militant hide-outs in Sangram village, Khan said.

Government reports are almost impossible to independently verify because journalists are prohibited from traveling to the country's semiautonomous tribal areas.

Monday's missile hit a house close to Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, said two intelligence officials on customary condition of anonymity. Five suspected militants were killed, they said.

The United States has carried out scores of missile attacks in the northwest over the last 18 months, killing many alleged insurgents. Some independent experts and rights groups have alleged many civilians have also died. Independent reporting of the attacks is impossible.

Rio starts demolishing slums in high-risk areas

The threat of new mudslides forced officials to begin evicting 2,600 families from at-risk areas Monday as they embarked on a slum demolition program on Rio de Janeiro's hills.

The danger also kept a shutdown in place for the popular trolley ride that carries tourists up a mountain to the famed Christ the Redeemer statue.

Daniele Wall, a spokeswoman with Rio's health and civil defense department, said the statue remains open to visitors. Tourists can climb the mountain by car, but will not get the kinds of views that are available from the trolleys that circle their way to the top of one of South America's most impressive tourist destinations.

Earlier Monday, city officials said in a statement that 2,600 families being evacuated from risk areas will receive a stipend to pay for housing until they are relocated to new homes provided by the government. Some residents have been evacuated to temporary shelters.

The government did not say exactly how many people were being ousted, but Brazil generally classifies families as having at least four members - meaning the number of those forced out initially was likely more than 10,000. They were being given a monthly stipend of 400 reals (US$235) to pay for rent.

People cried while toting appliances and furniture away to unknown destinations as workers using heavy equipment and sledgehammers demolished squat brick and concrete homes built on dangerous hillsides at risk of washing away and burying more people.

Officials said at least 250 homes would likely be demolished within the next two weeks. Altogether, nearly 13,000 families are living in homes at risk for slides and will have to be relocated.

"Convincing them that they are living in a high-risk area is an arduous task, but we don't want to lose any more lives," Assistant Mayor Andre Santos said. "This is a tough job. These people have been living here for 30, 40 years in homes that they had to build under difficult circumstances. But what we are doing at this moment is absolutely necessary."

Slum resident Andrea Biedade didn't know how she would find a new home for her and her 12-year-old son after her home was targeted for demolition.

"I was born and raised here and now I have to leave," she said. "A lot of people who grew up here are all leaving now."

Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral said 1 billion reals (US$555 million) would be dedicated toward new home construction, but gave no details on when the homes would be delivered.

Churches and samba schools that put on Rio's Carnival parades have been sheltering families since last week, when heavy rains and landslides killed at least 232 people in Rio de Janeiro state, firefighters said in a statement Monday night.

Most deaths happened in Niteroi, a city of about 500,000 people across the bay from Rio, where up to 60 houses that had been built atop a giant, unstable landfill were destroyed in a single slide.

Thai FM blasts former PM as terrorist

Thailand's foreign minister on Monday lashed out at former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, accusing him of personally instigating the country's deadliest political clashes in nearly two decades.

In heated comments on the sidelines of a global nuclear summit, Kasit Piromya compared Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, to 20th century dictators Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin and to the terror group al-Qaida.

"He's a bloody terrorist," Kasit told a small group of academics and reporters.

Kasit urged the United States to pressure Thaksin's supporters to turn away from violence and enter into negotiations with the government. He said that if anti-Thaksin protesters respond to the street violence, Thailand could see a military coup. The army has not hesitated to stage coups during previous political strife.

More than 20 people died Saturday in clashes that are part of a larger power struggle between rural supporters of Thaksin and members of the country's traditional ruling elite. Protesters in recent years have taken to the streets each time their rivals have come to power. The exiled Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail in 2008 for breaking a conflict-of-interest law.

The pro-Thaksin forces want Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who canceled his trip to Washington because of the chaos, to dissolve parliament immediately and call new elections. They feel their votes were ignored after Thaksin was ousted from power in 2006. Thaksin's party is popular among the country's rural majority for nitiating social and economic welfare programs.

Despite his anger, Kasit said that while the government won't allow the protests to force it to dissolve, it is ready to enter into negotiations.

Earlier, Kasit said the clashes are part of the traumatic and messy democratic process of giving a voice to rdinary farmers and workers after years of rule by the elite.

Thailand has seen three governments in the four years since the 2006 coup, and Kasit acknowledged that his country has "not found the right formula. We have not found the compromise."

"Thailand cannot go on behaving like a banana republic... and become a problem child," Kasit said at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "This is an unfinished symphony."

"As longtime friends of Thailand, President Obama and I are deeply saddened by the recent violence and loss of life in Bangkok," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. "We believe firmly that a negotiated solution is possible."

She noted that Tuesday is Songkran day, the final day of the year in Thailand's system.

"We are hopeful that this New Year will be a time of renewal and reconciliation, and an opportunity to gather with family friends, and neighbors to honor Thailand[s rich traditions and culture. While you continue on the path to resolve your political differences, we remain confident in the strong, enduring bonds between the United States and Thailand."

Kasit said the exiled Thaksin must serve his jail term before he could articipate in efforts to set up negotiations.

Kasit's comments came as Thailand's Election Commission ordered the ruling party be dissolved for allegedly misusing campaign donations. The decision is a potential victory for protesters who paraded slain comrades through Bangkok on Monday to demand the prime inister's resignation.

The United States urged a peaceful negotiated settlement and appealed to both the opposition and the government to find a solution that would strengthen Thai democracy and the rule of law.

The decision must be endorsed by the Constitutional Court to take effect. It came soon aft Thailand's influential army chief said new elections might be needed to resolve the political crisis.

Kasit said ruling officials would respect the final decision, even if it means the government is dissolved. "We go by the rules of the game," he said. "We will not interfere."

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