Sinar Mas Faces Sanction from Industry Body

An industry body for sustainable palm oil on Thursday accused Indonesian giant Sinar Mas of breaching its principles, and warned that it could face expulsion. Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) has been struggling to repair its image after Greenpeace alleged the Indonesian firm was devastating rainforests and habitats for endangered species like orangutans.

The name-and-shame campaign by the environmental group has led several foreign buyers to cancel major contracts, but SMART said last month that an audit it had commissioned had cleared it of the charges. In a rare public censure, the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — an industry group of producers, environmental groups and food companies — said it had found “serious non-compliance” on the firm’s part.

“The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil takes all infringements of its Code of Conduct and Principles and Criteria very seriously,” the Kuala Lumpur-based RSPO said in a statement on its website.

“Members who have been found to not be in compliance and who continue to be in non-compliance with the RSPO regulations could ultimately face sanctions, including the suspension and, eventually, the termination of their membership of the RSPO.”

The industry group said SMART was found to have failed to “work towards implementation and certification of the RSPO Principles and Criteria”.

The RSPO was formed in 2004 to establish stringent social and environmental criteria including a ban on clearing forests in order to plant the crop. SMART, the Indonesian palm oil unit of its Singapore-listed parent company Golden Agri Resources (GAR) and part of the Sinar Mas agri-industry empire, commissioned the audit in February after Greenpeace made the claims.

The environmental watchdog accuses SMART of widespread forest destruction, including clearing primary forests and peatland. SMART — part of the Singapore-listed Sinar Mas agribusiness group — has said it should not be blamed for the destruction of Borneo’s forests and that the allegations are “largely unfounded”. GAR has lost major clients including Unilever, Kraft and Nestle in the resulting furore.

Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil, which is used in everything from biscuits to cosmetics, but environmentalists say plantations are driving deforestation blamed for habitat loss and producing greenhouse gases.

How Al Qaeda Gets Stronger in Indonesia

An Indonesian police officer who quit the force to become a terrorist said Thursday he was affiliated to Al-Qaeda and had trained about 170 militants to wage jihad, or “holy war”. Mohammed Sofyan Tsauri, 34, made the comments to reporters as he appeared at a court near Jakarta for the start of his trial on terrorism-related charges.

“I’m affiliated with Al-Qaeda and in contact with Abu Sayyaf,” he said, referring to Osama bin Laden’s network and a Philippines-based Islamist militant outfit.

“I became a terrorist after I quit the police (in 2008)... What I’ve done isn’t an act of terror, it’s an obligatory religious activity ordered by God.” Tsauri, alias Abu Ayyash, was arrested earlier this year as part of a sweep of Islamist militants linked to a training camp that was discovered in February in Aceh province.

The camp was under the command of Indonesian terror mastermind Dulmatin, one of the architects of the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Dulmatin was killed by police in March.

The former police officer could face the death sentence if convicted of charges including supplying weapons for terrorist acts. Tsauri said God guided him to meet Dulmatin in 2008 and join his effort to set up a new terrorist network in Aceh province, the most devoutly Islamic part of the mainly Muslim archipelago.

His activities included recruiting former rebels from Aceh’s disbanded separatist movement to the jihadists’ cause, supplying weapons and conducting military-style training.

“I have trained about 100 people in early 2009 and on another occasion there were about 67 people,” he said.

Indonesia’s jihadist “factions” had agreed to change tactics from indiscriminate, Bali-style bombings to more focused gun attacks that would minimise Muslim casualties, he said. He was not specific about the group’s targets, but said they included foreigners.

“You should understand already that Al-Qaeda has always had foreign targets,” Tsauri said.

“We changed our pattern from bomb attacks to a war with guns. With guns, we can be more focused on our target but bombs can hit civilians. The jihadist factions in Indonesia agreed on this method.”

He said he was betrayed by his Islamist cohorts once police got wind of their activities and started rounding up and killing members of the cell.

“I have been cheated by them. I became a scapegoat for their failure in Aceh,” he said.

Prosecutor Totok Bambang told the court Tsauri had led training exercises and supplied weapons to the group. Indonesia is struggling to deal with the threat of homegrown Islamist militants who oppose its secular, democratic system and want to create a caliphate across much of Southeast Asia.

The country has been hit by a number of deadly bombings including attacks on luxury hotels, the Australian embassy and tourist spots that have killed around 250 people since 2002.

Privatization in Indonesia Remains Uncertain

Plans to privatize Indonesia’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have existed for years but they appear not easy to implement. Each time State Enterprises Minister Mustafa Abubakar appears in parliament for working meetings, the issue comes up and is in a fierce debate. Facing members of the House of Representatives last week, again, he confirmed that some state owned enterprises were deemed ready to release their shares to the public.

The companies include steel-maker PT Krakatau Steel, national flag-carrier PT Garuda Indonesia, PT Bank Mandiri and PT Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI). The privatization of those companies, he said, will generate IDR30 trillion-35 trillion in cash should they all be put on the privatization list and release their shares this year.

"The figure does not yet include several smaller companies, like Sarana Karya, Primissima, and Paper Padalarang," he said at a working meeting with the House’s Commission VI. The House approved all privatization plans except for Bank Mandiri and BNI.

"For Bank Mandiri and BNI, we expect to obtain the House’s approval in October. Thus, the privatization process can run as expected," added Mustafa. Rapidly balanced with the usual nationalistic whistles, the government has been warned against recklessly privatizing state-state-owned enterprises.

"We at the House hope the privatization will prioritize investment from within," House Commission III member Bambang Soesatyo said last Monday.

Responding to the question of how the House views the drive for SOEs privatization , the Golkar politician said the program needed to be scrutinized closely considering that it is part of IMF’s Structure Adjustment Program for Indonesia, prescribed back in 1997.

"This program has been rejected by many strata of the people," Soesatyo said and he warned the government against privatizing companies which are of strategic importance such as those in the plantation and banking sectors.

The resilience of the national economy must not be weakened by the privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), much less make the country dependent on foreign financing sources, Soesatyo emphasized.

Ross H. McLeod, an economic researcher with the Australian National University (ANU), in his study of Indonesia’s privatization drive, noted that privatization idea came to prominence as a result of the economic crisis that commenced in Indonesia shortly after the unexpected float of the Thai baht in July 1997.

It was included as one of the policies to which the government committed itself as a condition for the provision of financial assistance by the IMF in November 1997 (GOI 1997). The rationale for this was rather vague.

Reading between the lines, the reasoning seems to have been that since private capital was fleeing the country it was necessary to persuade the markets that henceforth the government would pay greater attention to microeconomic reform as a precondition for the return of rapid growth, he said.

Among other things, this would require SOEs-previously used as instruments for the distribution of patronage by way of artificially high buying prices, artificially low selling prices, privileged access to jobs and cheap loans or even grants-to be divested.

Presidential order

Against such an enigmatic atmosphere with regard to the privatization plans came the order from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that ministers must do a thorough evaluation of all SOEs by 2013. He made clear his stance of the matter when speaking at the opening of the Indonesia Business-BUMN Expo and Conference (IBBEX) 2010, in Jakarta, Thursday.

"From ministers, especially the coordinating economic minister and the state enterprises minister, I want an incisive evaluation within three years. If SOEs are still inefficient, not productive, and not profitable and with no prospects, something will have to be done," President Yudhoyono said.

Towards getting that done, he added, the ministers could merge, reform, restructure or even liquidate the companies. Indonesia currently has 141 state-owned enterprises operating in various sectors. State firms booked Rp 45.3 trillion in net profit during the first half of this year, an 18.26 percent increase from Rp 38.3 trillion in the same period last year.

Economist Faisal Basri of University of Indonesia recently said that SOEs were mostly inefficient and this bleak condition has been due to corruption.

"SOEs will remain a cashcow to ruling politicians and their cronies because our election costs are unusually high. No one can offer subtle loyalty in the form of campaign funding other than SOE executives, who are also vying to remain in power," he said.

Cases of corruption in SOEs are becoming more sophisticated, Faisal said, with numerous proxies making the graft less apparent to the public.

How US Sees Terrorism in Indonesia

US ambassador to Indonesia Scot Marciel said terrorism issue in Indonesia would not affect cooperation between the two countries’ governments.

"Every country has problems and so do the US and Indonesia," he said after visitign the Pabelan Islamic boarding school in Magelang, Central Java, here on Thursday.

He said Indonesia as a developing country is facing a terrorism problem but the US will continue to develop cooperation with Indonesia in fundamental areas such as education, healthcare, environment and welfare improvement. During a meeting with board members and students of the boarding school Marciel said Moslem community in the US is an inseparable part of the US community.

He admitted that some of the US citizens have not yet known Islam and therefore they are afraid of it. He said Muslims in the US have not informed the people much about Islam.

"But in the last 10 years however some US Muslims have started to know that Islam is a good religion that needs to be respected," he said.

He said the US is a diverse country with people from various backgrounds including in terms of culture and origins. He said Muslims in the US are not a separated community but integrated.

"We have no problems although it is not perfect we are improving. Muslims are also our brothers," he said. Before being assigned to Indonesia, Marciel lived in Virginia and his children also have Muslim friends from Indonesia and Iran.

"They played together and had no problems. They came to our home and we also visited them," he said.

He said in the US there are also schools like the Islamic boarding schools managed by community members or churches but basically the students are the same namely studying math, natural and social sciences.

"Religion is not taught at public schools in the US but it is in private schools," he said.

Why Should Indonesia Still Expect Obama's Visit?

President of the United States Barack Obama is expected to come to Indonesia before the end of 2010 after he has earlier canceled his two previous planned visits, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

"In his opening speech at the UN General Assembly this morning, one of Obama’s statements contained an announcement that he would visit Indonesia in the near future," Marty told the press here on Thursday or early Wednesday in Indonesia.

The foreign affairs minister made the statement during a press conference led by Vice President Boediono which was also attended by Head of the Indonesian Capital Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), Gita Wirjawan, Chief of the Presidential Working Unit for Development Control and Supervision (UKP4) Kuntoro Mangkusubroto and Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Dino Patti Djalal.

"Obama’s planned visit to Indonesia would be as part of his tour of a number of countries like India," Marty said.

Although Obama has canceled his two previous visits, Indonesia would prepare everything based on the standing procedures for his coming visit. Marty said that Obama’s planned visit indicated that Indonesia remained an important and a priority country to visit for the United States.

Asked on the certainty of Obama’s visit to Indonesia, Marty diplomatically said he could not ascertain whether or not the plan would be canceled again.

"I have no idea what would happen in the coming several months, where a plan cannot be realized. But we will remain to prepare for his planned visit," the foreign minister said.

Obama has canceled his plan visit to Indonesia on March 23, 2010 over a health bill issue. He again canceled his planned visit on July 13-19 due to an environmental problem offshore Lousiana as a result of an oil spill in the gulf of Mexico.

Ahmadinejad Holds Koran and Bible at UN General Assembly

The U.S. delegation has walked out of the U.N. speech of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after he said some in the world have speculated that Americans were actually behind the September 11 terror attacks.

The Iranian president said some believe the attacks were staged in an attempt to assure Israel's survival. He did not explain the logic behind the belief. Mr Ahmadinejad made the claim as he attacked the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And he declared that threats by U.S. religious groups to burn the Koran were an act of 'evil'. He held up a copy of the Muslim holy book, saying 'the truth cannot be burned'.

The leaders of more than 192 nations are gathered at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan - near where the 9/11 attacks took place - for the annual General Assembly.

President Barack Obama also addressed the summit today. He challenged the UN to push for peace in the Middle East in order to create an independent Palestine and secure Israel within a year.

Exhorting world leaders to push past years of cynicism and pessimism, the U.S. President urged them to press forward with renewed determination. In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he admitted the peace process had encountered 'few peaks and many valleys'.

But he warned that without an agreement, 'more blood will be shed' and 'this Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity'.

As Obama spoke, Israel's seat in the hall sat empty because it was a Jewish holiday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was present, listening to the president through a translator's earphone.

Obama's call for a Palestinian state drew a burst of applause from throughout the hall but his one-year timeline is hugely ambitious. He made no mention of the militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and refuses to accept Israel's right to exist.

The failure of past peace efforts has left both sides with rigid demands and public ambivalence about the value of a negotiated settlement. Obama spoke with resolve of the need to address trouble spots around the world, but he tended first to the economic concerns that abound both at home and abroad.

'There is much to show for our efforts,' he said, recalling the economic turmoil of years past. 'We cannot - and will not - rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity for all Americans and for people around the globe.'

Obama also defended his administration's approach to engaging Iran in negotiations over its nuclear programme - an effort that has failed thus far. In July, the administration imposed a new set of sanctions on Iran but he said: 'The door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it.

'But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear programme.'

Iran recently has indicated interest in restarting talks with the West, and on Wednesday the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany offered Iran another chance to enter negotiations.

Obama also spoke to the promotion of human rights, open government and democracy - familiar themes from a president who has pushed for international cooperation against repression and tyranny.

'Make no mistake: The ultimate success of democracy in the world won't come because the United States dictates it. It will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed,' he said. 'There is no soil where this cannot take root.'

Obama drew applause in mentioning U.N. efforts to protect the rights of women, and he urged all nations to act against oppression.

'Do no stand idly by, don't be silent when dissidents everywhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten,' he said.

The president devoted his greatest attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, underscoring the urgency of overcoming the hurdles that he has met less than a month after relaunching direct negotiations between the parties.

Abbas is threatening to walk out of the talks if Israel does not extend a slowdown on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank that is set to expire next week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not extend that partial freeze.

The looming expiration appears to have stalled the negotiations, which got under way in early September in Washington between Abbas and Netanyahu and then moved to a second round in Egypt and in Jerusalem last week.

That second round ended inconclusively with little visible progress and without the expected announcement of a third session. Obama underscored the administration's position that the settlement moratorium should be extended, saying it 'has made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks.'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the administration's special Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell have been meeting with officials from both sides and other interested parties this week in New York but seem to have made little headway.

Faced with the real possibility of the collapse of negotiations, Obama implored the international community to get behind the idea of peace and forget favoritism to one side or the other.

'Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine,' he said.

'And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means - including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.'

Obama urged the U.N. in its 60th year to look beyond past Middle East peace failures and get on with the task at hand.

'We can come back here, next year, as we have for the last 60, and make long speeches about it,' he said. 'We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate.'

'Or we can say that this time will be different, that this time we will not let terror or turbulence or posturing or petty politics stand in the way.'

Jessica Alba Gives in to Naked Ambition

She's very publicly stated that she wouldn't ever do gratuitous nude scenes - so we can only presume from these pictures of Jessica Alba that the script of her latest movie must have been very good indeed.

The fact it's an arthouse action film based on Mexican B-movies called Machete makes Ms Alba revealing her birthday suit all the more baffling - not that we imagine her admirers are complaining.

The Latino star told Scarlet magazine in February that she would never bare all for the cameras, saying: 'No, I'll never do a nude scene. I can act sexy and wear sexy clothes but I can't go naked.'

The Sin City
star she continued: 'I think I was always very uncomfortable about the way my body developed, and I remember my grandmother would freak out and throw a towel over me if she saw me wearing just a bra and panties.

'I come from a very Catholic family so it wasn't seen as a good thing to flaunt yourself like that. I can handle being sexy with clothes on but not with them off.'

The 29-year-old however has had no qualms appearing in her birthday suit in new Robert Rodriquez movie Machete.

The movie also stars Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez, Don Johnson and ex-con Danny Trejo in the lead role as Machete.

An arthouse 'Mexploitation' action movie, it tells the story of an ex-Federale, or above the law cop, who launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss when he betrays him.

The film has already opened in the U.S, where so far it's taken $21million. It opens in the UK on 26 November.

Fantastic Four
favourite Jessica meanwhile next appears in movie An Invisible Sign - presumably with her clothes back on.

Plane Engulfed by Fire at Indonesian Air Show

A pilot was seriously injured when he crashed a plane while performing a low-altitude stunt at an air show in Indonesia on Friday, officials and witnesses said.

Thousands of people including children from local kindergartens watched on in horror as the Super Decathlon plane smashed into the ground and burst into flames at Husein Sastranegara Air Base in Bandung city.

“The pilot failed to control the aircraft during an aerobatic manoeuvre at low altitude. The plane hit the ground and caught fire,” Air Force spokesman Bambang Samudro told AFP. The single-prop plane belonged to the Indonesian Aero Sports Federation and the pilot, Alexander Supeli, had won second place at an international aerobatics championship in Australia in 1997.

“The pilot is in intensive care at a hospital with serious injuries.”

The pilot — the only person aboard the single-engine aircraft — was rushed to a hospital in critical condition, said Asni Wati, the spokesman for the city of Bandung’s international airport. No one on the ground was injured.

Gasps rang out from the crowd of spectators — many of them elementary school students — as the plane burst into flames. The accident occurred on the second day of an air show celebrating the 200th anniversary of Bandung, located 120 kilometers southeast of the capital, Jakarta.

Apple Peel Transforms iPod Touch into iPhone

Pan Lei and Pan Yong, the Chinese brothers who invented a device to convert Apple's iPod Touch into an iPhone, say they are innovators, not copycats.

Their Apple Peel 520 is a case including a circuit board and battery that wraps around the iPod Touch media player, allowing calls to be made after software is installed. The device, which requires breaking into Apple's operating system, isn't a counterfeit iPhone, Pan Lei, 25, told Bloomberg Television.

“We're capable of coming up with something original,” Pan Lei, who quit his job as an interior designer to found Shenzhen, China-based Yosion Technology with his 23-year-old software- engineer brother, said in an interview broadcast today.

The iPod music player has sold more than 220 million units since it was first released in 2001, according to the company. Apple first released its iPhone in 2007, climbing to 2.7 per cent of the global market by June this year and sparking copycat models from Chinese grey market, or Shanzhai, vendors.

“The brothers who invented this Apple Peel probably ran down a list of how many ways could they annoy Steve Jobs,” said Jonathan Hudis, chairman of the American Bar Association's Trademarks and Unfair Competition Division. “I could not see Apple standing by to let this continue, especially if it results in product shipping into the United States.”

U.S. users can save at least $US770 by using the device to be priced at $US60. Jill Tan, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Apple, said any product that's been tampered with won't receive warranty support. Apple is aware of Apple Peel, she said, declining to comment further.

'We're very creative'

Apple Peel sells for $US78 on, China's largest online shopping site. Yosion agreed to offer the device in the U.S. with New Orleans-based Go Solar USA, whose website teaches users to “jailbreak” the iPod Touch in preparation for installing Apple Peel software.

U.S. users must sign a two-year contract with AT&T for the iPhone, paying at least $US39.99 a month and $US99 for the iPhone 3GS, or a total of $US1059. The iPod Touch sells from $US229.

“We're also very creative,” Pan Lei said. “Not just getting a Nokia phone and copy, getting Apple and copy, or a Samsung phone to copy as well. It shouldn't be like that.”

Kim Kardashian Sexes up Heidi

Kim Kardashian donned a traditional German outfit as she celebrated Oktoberfest in Munich. The reality TV star - who is currently on a tour of Europe with her mother Kris Jenner - wore a dirndl and braids for the annual beer celebration as she wanted to get into the spirit of things.

She tweeted: "Off to Oktoberfest in my new drindle! (sic)"

Kris also wore a similar outfit as the pair sipped on steins of beer but Kim admits her mother became a little too fond of her new look.

She wrote: "My mom will not take off her drindle she is even doing interviews in it! Embarrassing! (sic)"

A dirndl is a type of traditional dress worn Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italian South Tirol, based on the historical costume of Alpine peasants.

Oktoberfest runs from late September until the first weekend in October and is the world's largest fair, attracting six million people each year. When she's not donning traditional outfits, Kim recently revealed how she's a huge fan of designers, especially Victoria Beckham.

She said: "I love Victoria Beckham. Her new stuff, it's crazy! I've got lots of her stuff."

US Considers Papua Integral Part of Indonesia

Joe Yan, deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of State, said Papua is an integral part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), according to Indonesian Ambassador to the US Dino Patti Djalal.

"The US position is recognizing Papua as an integral part of NKRI and hopes that the special autonomy status (for Papua) could be fully implemented soon," Ambassador Dino Djalal said here Thursday.

The ambassador made the statement during a press conference by Vice President Boediono for Indonesian media. Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, Chairman of the National Investment Coordinating Board Gita Wirjawan and Head of the Development Control and Supervision Working Unit Kuntoro Mangkusubroto were also present in the press conference.

The US government had made the confirmation as the country was always following the developments in Papua and West Papua, including reports on alleged human rights violation in the region. A similar statement was also made by Robert Scher, deputy assistant of the US Secretary of Defense.

According to Dino, Scher acknowledged the significance of the Indonesia-US bilateral relations for Indonesia, the world’s third largest democratic country, had carried out reform process in the defense sector and the military professionalism.

"The US government is convinced about the Indonesian government’s seriousness in reforming the Indonesian Defense Force (TNI) organization to become a professional military organization. The inclusion of human rights in the curricula of the TNI education is a concrete proof of the reform process," the ambassador said.

The US government’s statements were made following a hearing on Papua at the US Congress on September 2, 2010, at the initiative of Eni Faleomavaega, chairman of the Sub Committee on Asia, the Pacific, and Global Environment, from the Democrat Party. Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal believed that the Papua issue would not affect the Indonesia-US bilateral relations.

Texts, Phones Kill 16,000

Drivers distracted by talking or texting on cell phones killed an estimated 16,000 people from 2001 to 2007, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. The estimate, one of the first scientific attempts to quantify how many people have died in accidents caused specifically by mobile telephone distractions, also suggests a growing number of these drivers are under 30.

"Our results suggested that recent and rapid increases in texting volumes have resulted in thousands of additional road fatalities in the United States," Fernando Wilson and Jim Stimpson of the University of North Texas Health Science Center wrote in the American Journal of Public Health.

Wilson and Stimpson used details on road deaths from each state, on cell phone ownership and data on text message volume from the Federal Communications Commission. They got reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on deaths attributable to distracted driving.

"Since roughly 2001-2002, texting volumes have increased by several hundred percent," Wilson said in a telephone interview. In 2002, 1 million texts were sent every month; this rose to 110 million in 2008.

"Since 2001 our model predicts that about 16,000 people have died since then that we attribute to the increase in texting volume in the United States."

Just talking on a cell phone can distract a driver, and several studies have demonstrated that, even with a hands-free device. But Wilson said texting and using so-called smart phones that provide e-mail access and other distracting applications take the problem to a new level.

U.S. traffic deaths are down -- in 2009 the Transportation Department said they hit their lowest level since the mid-1950s in 2009 at 33,963. But for every 1 million new cell phone subscribers, Wilson and Stimpson estimate a 19-percent rise in deaths due to distracted driving.

"Distracted deaths as a share of all road fatalities increased from 10.9 percent to 15.8 percent from 1999 to 2008, and much of the increase occurred after 2005," they wrote.

Deaths track cellphone use

"In 2008, approximately 1 in 6 fatal vehicle collisions resulted from a driver being distracted while driving," the report said. It found 5,870 people died in accidents attributed to distracted driving.

Cellphone ownership and the number of text messages sent rose sharply over the same time, Wilson and Stimpson found. Wilson said 30 states ban texting while driving, and some cities and states require hands-free devices for drivers using mobile telephones.

This week Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation would work to fight distractions, encouraging employers to find ways to prevent workers from texting while driving for work. Wilson said better enforcement is needed but he cannot see an easy way to do it.

"I guess a perfect solution would be installing cell phone jammers in every car but that is not going to happen," said Wilson, who himself answered a telephone call to be interviewed while driving, but who pulled over to talk.

"Unlike drunk driving, where you have effective enforcement mechanisms you don’t have that with texting," he said. "The cop just has to get lucky and see you texting while driving."

Gay Film Festival Opens in Muslim-Majority Indonesia

A gay film festival hailed as the biggest in Asia and the only one in the Muslim world kicks off in Indonesia on Friday, hoping to draw 15,000 viewers to screenings and fringe events.

In its ninth annual edition, the Q! Film Festival ( will showcase 150 films from more than 20 countries including France, Japan and the Philippines, highlighting such issues as gay rights and HIV/AIDS.

Festival director John Badalu said organisers do not expect public opposition but prefer to keep the event low-key due to the “stigma against gays” among conservative sections of the mainly Muslim population.

“We don’t want to publicise the event in the mainstream local media as they’re still very conservative,” Badalu said.

Social networking sites such as Twitter ( are abuzz with chat about the event, however, signalling it has already achieved one of its chief aims — to “let people know that the queer community exists in Indonesia”, he added. Indonesian Muslims are often categorised as “moderate” but such generalisations, favoured by Western diplomats, upset religious and other minorities who have to endure the daily opprobrium of Islamic conservatives.

In March, a regional gay and lesbian conference was forced to cancel when scores of Islamic radicals stormed the venue and reportedly went from room to room hunting participants. A month later, Islamic vigilantes burst into a civil rights awareness session for transsexuals held by the National Commission for Human Rights and sent the participants fleeing in panic.

Homosexuality is technically legal in the country of 240 million people but it remains a taboo, especially among the 80 percent of the population who are Muslims. Lawmakers in deeply Islamic Aceh province last year voted to make homosexuality punishable by up to 100 lashes under local religious by-laws which the provincial government has refused to approve.

Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring, chief of an Islamic party, in June implied a link between pornography and HIV-AIDS, and questioned whether state funds used to fight the disease could not be better spent.

“The country has dispersed 180 billion rupiah (20 million dollars) to curb HIV-AIDS. The budget should actually be reduced so the money can be allocated for other things that are beneficial for the country,” he told reporters.

Despite these attitudes, communications ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto said the central government had given its assurances that the Q! festival could go ahead.

“We have no objections. As long as the content is not too sexually explicit, not too vulgar, we’re OK, we can tolerate it,” he said.

“This festival has been taking place for many years already. I’m sure the organisers know the do’s and the don’ts and consider the ethical and normative nuances in Indonesia,” he added.

Organisers are not taking any chances and have taken steps to ensure the festival takes place without incident. Screenings, which are free, will be held in private clubs and foreign cultural centres in six cities including Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

International backing also provides a protective umbrella and cosmopolitan legitimacy that radical fringe elements would be reluctant to challenge, Badalu said.

“Funding for the festival comes from foreign groups. We hold screenings at foreign centres. The radicals won’t dare to attack us. If they do, it’s like attacking several countries at one go,” he said.

He said Indonesia’s “double standards” on issues of sexuality, morality and privacy left space for events like Q! and what organisers jokingly refer to as the “Q-munity”. “Indonesians are generally tolerant towards gays because you see, people have double standards. Some claim to be religious but surf porn websites at home, some say no to piracy but still use pirated goods,” Badalu said.

“Anyway, whatever happens, we’ll still be around. We can’t disappear just like that.

General Mills against Indonesia Company Blamed for Forest Destruction

Environmentalists on Friday praised a decision by U.S. food-maker General Mills to stop buying palm oil from companies accused of rain forest destruction — the latest in a string of multinationals to announce policy reversals.

The Minnesota-based maker of popular brands like Cheerios, Betty Crocker and Hamburger Helper said this week it would try to procure all of its palm oil from “responsible and sustainable sources” by 2015.

“We are concerned about the role of palm oil expansion in the deforestation of the world’s rain forests,” the company announced on its website. Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia are the two largest producers of palm oil, used for everything from frying food to making cosmetics, candy and — when mixed with diesel — cleaner burning fuel for cars.

In recent years, advocacy groups in the United States and Europe have warned that the rapidly growing industry is destroying large tracts of forests and encroaching on the habitats of orangutans and other endangered species.

Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group that has been pushing for change, applauded General Mills’ decision, saying it hoped it would “serve as a wake-up call for others in the food industry.”

Already, U.S. companies Kraft Foods and Burger King have announced similar shifts in policy. Barry Furqon, who heads the local environmental group, Walhi, said growing awareness by multinationals about the negative impact of the palm oil industry was “a slap in the face of the government.”

“International consumers are expressing concern about the protection of our environment,” he said. “But the government could care less.”

Ahmadinejad Says Future is Iran's

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that "the future belongs to Iran," and challenged the United States to accept that his country has a major role in the world.

The comments came in an hourlong interview with The Associated Press on the first day of his visit to the United States to attend the annual General Assembly of the United Nations this week.

He insisted that his government does not want an atomic bomb — something he has said in the past — and that Iran is only seeking peace and a nuclear-weapons-free world. He repeatedly sidestepped questions on when Iran would resume talks on its disputed nuclear program, and he said anti-nuclear sanctions against his government would have no effect.

Appearing calm and self-assured on his seventh trip to the United States, the Iranian president showed every sign of being in command of himself and prepared to deflect questions about his government's harsh suppression of opposition forces after last year's disputed election that returned him to a second term.

"The United States' administrations ... must recognize that Iran is a big power," he said. "Having said that, we consider ourselves to be a human force and a cultural power and hence a friend of other nations. We have never sought to dominate others or to violate the rights of any other country.

"Those who insist on having hostilities with us, kill and destroy the option of friendship with us in the future, which is unfortunate because it is clear the future belongs to Iran and that enmities will be fruitless."

Over the years, Ahmadinejad has become more articulate and polished. He wore a gray pinstriped suit and a pinstriped white shirt, open with no tie, for the interview, conducted in an East Side hotel not far from the United Nations.

A few blocks away, dozens of protesters demonstrated with tape across their mouths to symbolize what they consider to be the oppressive nature of the Iranian government. The nonprofit Israeli education group, Stand With Us, organized the rally, one of many expected outside the United Nations and elsewhere in the city before Ahmadinejad leaves Friday.

In the interview in a room crowded with aides, bodyguards and Iranian journalists, the Iranian leader projected an air of innocence, saying his country's quest to process ever greater amounts of uranium is reasonable for its expanding civilian power program, omitting that the watchdog United Nations agency involved has found Iran keeping secrets from its investigators on several occasions, including secret research sites.

He also did not acknowledge that the leaders of the political opposition in Iran have been harassed and that government opponents risk violence and arrest if they try to assemble. He did allow that there have been some judicial "mistakes."

Ahmadinejad argued that the opposition Green Movement, which has largely been forced underground, continues to enjoys rights in Iran but said that in the end it must respect "majority rule." He also disavowed any knowledge of the fate of a retired FBI employee, Robert Levinson, who vanished inside Iran in 2007, saying the trail will be followed up by a joint U.S.-Iranian committee.

Government opponents "have their activities that are ongoing and they also express their views publicly. They have several parties, as well as several newspapers, and many newspapers and publications. And so there are really no restrictions of such nature," the president said.

He did not mention that many newspapers have been closed down and that prominent opposition figures were put in prison and then tried after tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets claiming that the election that put him back in power in 2010 was fraudulent and stolen.

The public appearances of his rivals Mir Houssein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been severely restricted and their offices recently were raided by police.

Ahmadinejad said Iran is more free than some other countries. "I believe that when we discuss the subject of freedoms and liberty it has to be done on a comparative basis and to keep in mind that democracy at the end of the day means the rule of the majority, so the minority cannot rule."

He added: "In Iran I think nobody loses their job because of making a statement that reflects their opinion. ... From this point of view, conditions in Iran are far better than in many other places in the world."

Ahmadinejad asserted that international nuclear regulators had never found proof that Iran is pursuing an atomic bomb.

"We are not afraid of nuclear weapons. The point is that if we had in fact wanted to build a nuclear bomb, we are brave enough to say that we want it. But we never do that. We are saying that the arsenal of nuclear bombs (worldwide) have to be destroyed as well," he said.

The U.S. accuses Iran of hiding plans to build a nuclear bomb; Iran denies that and says it's working only toward building nuclear power plants.

Ahmadinejad took no personal responsibility for the fate of the three American hikers who were taken prisoner along the border with Iraq more than a year ago — treating it as a strictly legal affair.

"We're very glad that that lady was released," he said about Sarah Shourd, who arrived in New York on Sunday and held a news conference while Ahmadinejad was being interviewed by the AP, denying she had done anything wrong.

"(Due) to the humanitarian perspective of the Islamic Republic chose to adopt on the subject, she was released on bail," Ahmadinejad said. "And we hope that the other two will soon be able to prove and provide evidence to the court that they had no ill intention in crossing the border, so that their release can also be secured."

Tying the case to Iran's assertion that eight of its citizens are being held unjustly in the United States, he said, "It certainly does not give us joy when we see people in prison, wherever in the world that may be, and even when we think of prisoners here."

His answers were translated from Farsi by an Iranian translator, but Ahmadinejad appeared to be following the questions in English and occasionally corrected his interpreter.

Asked about Levinson, Ahmadinejad hinted that his government considers it possible that the retired FBI employee had been on some "mission" when he vanished.

"Of course if it becomes clear what his goal was, or if he was indeed on a mission, then perhaps specific assistance can be given," the Iranian leader said. "For example, if he had plans to visit with a group or an individual or go to another country, he would be easier to trace in that instance."

Levinson was last seen on Iran's Kish island in March 2007 where he had gone to seek information on cigarette smuggling for a client of his security firm. He had been an FBI agent in New York and Florida before retiring in 1998. He has not been seen since. Iran says it has no information on him.

Overall, Ahmadinejad said that Iran's course is set and the rest of the world needs to accept it. Another round of international pressure in the form of sanctions would only be futile, he said.

"If they were to be effective, I should not be sitting here right now."

The U.N. Security Council already has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran to try to pressure Ahmadinejad's government to suspend enrichment and return to negotiations with the six countries trying to resolve the dispute over the country's nuclear ambitions — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Foreign ministers of the six are to meet this week on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad said in July that talks would begin in early September, and he was asked repeatedly if Iran would join those talks. He sidestepped an answer and refused to give any kind of timetable.

"We have placed no restrictions on negotiations," he insisted. "If they tell us officially that there's a joint meeting, we'll make the preparations for it."

But at the same time, Ahmadinejad said Iran wants answers to a number of questions it has presented to the six powers.

They include whether the group wants "to create the circumstances for further friendship or for further confrontation," whether the six are fully committed to implementing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and "what the group's opinion is regarding the atomic bombs that the Zionist regime holds," he said, a reference to Israel, which refuses to confirm it possesses a nuclear arsenal.

"Their response does not prevent the resumption of negotiations, but it certainly will define the framework for those talks when they resume," Ahmadinejad said.

Indonesian Police Kill 3 Armed Suspects, Arrest 4

An elite anti-terrorism squad with a startling kill-to-capture ratio shot dead three men and arrested four others in western Indonesia, officials said Monday.

The shootings on Sumatra island by the U.S.-trained force were being investigated. Officials called the seven suspects armed and dangerous, but disagreed on what crimes the group allegedly committed.

Brig. Gen. Ketut Untung Yoga, deputy spokesman for the National Police, said they were suspected of involvement in a brazen armed robbery at a private bank last month in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province.

But Maj. Gen. Oegroseno, the local police chief, was quoted as saying by the daily newspaper, Kompas, that the bodies had yet to be identified.

“We are not yet sure if they are linked to the bank robbery or to other terrorist activities,” he said, adding several automatic weapons were seized in the raids.

The anti-terror unit has been criticized in recent months for its high kill-to-capture ratio — with one suspect killed for every four arrested. The deaths raise human rights concerns and risk fueling Islamist propaganda and tarnishing what has been a highly praised anti-terrorism campaign that has seen hundreds of suspects arrested and convicted. The killings also mean the suspects cannot be questioned and intelligence on their networks is lost.

SBY Chairs Limited Cabinet Meeting

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono chaired a limited cabinet meeting at his office here Monday. The meeting which started at 1 pm local time, was attended by among others Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono, and Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa.

Also present in the meeting were National Education Minister Muhammad Nuh, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Linda Amelia Sari, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo, and State Enterprise Minister Mustafa Abubakar. The meeting discussed a number of national issues in various sectors.

SBY Chairs Limited Cabinet Meeting

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono chaired a limited cabinet meeting at his office here Monday. The meeting which started at 1 pm local time, was attended by among others Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono, and Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa.

Also present in the meeting were National Education Minister Muhammad Nuh, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Linda Amelia Sari, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo, and State Enterprise Minister Mustafa Abubakar. The meeting discussed a number of national issues in various sectors.

Millions of South Koreans on The Move for Holiday

Millions of South Koreans began heading for their home towns Monday as the annual exodus for the autumn harvest holiday got under way. In Seoul alone, traffic authorities said some 410,000 cars would leave the city Monday on the eve of the three-day Chuseok holiday which starts Tuesday.

Families traditionally get together in home towns, prepare special food to thank their ancestors for the harvest and visit family graves during Chuseok, one of the country’s two major holidays along with Lunar New Year. The Korea Expressway Corporation said about 1.5 million cars were expected to have left Seoul by Thursday.

The transportation ministry expects more than 40 million of the nation’s almost 50 million people to make journeys of some sort for family reunions or traditional ancestral rites during the holiday. It has increased frequencies of trains, buses, planes and ferries.

The exodus in the past has effectively turned some stretches of highway into giant car parks. But the ministry predicts lighter traffic this year since many have stretched the public holiday to take a total nine days off. More and more people are using the break to visit resorts or go abroad.

Hotels and condominiums at domestic resorts are fully booked while airport officials forecast more people will fly abroad this year. President Lee Myung-Bak sent a holiday email to 590,000 civil servants, praising them for their hard work. In a separate radio address he also reaffirmed Seoul’s desire for regular reunion programmes for families separated by the peninsula’s division.

“Those who have home towns on the northern side will have deeper thought of home towns and families on a festive day,” he said. “I hope (the two Koreas) will celebrate Chuseok together some day.”

After months of tension, officials from North and South Korea met for talks last week but failed to agree on arrangements for a family reunion programme. They will meet again on Friday.

The North has suggested restarting the programme after a one-year lapse, a move which could ease tensions. Relations soured dramatically this year after the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships and killing 46 sailors in March.

The North denied involvement, and threatened retaliation for the South’s military exercises staged as a show of strength. But it has been making a series of apparent peace overtures this month. Tens of thousands of Koreans on both sides have not seen family members since the 1950-1953 war sealed the peninsula’s division with minefields and barbed wire.

Lady Gaga to Rally against 'don't ask'

Organizers say Lady Gaga is visiting Maine’s largest city to join a rally against the military’s ban on service members being openly gay. The singer is expected to join a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network event near the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus Monday.

Network spokesman Trevor Thomas says she’ll stand alongside veterans discharged because of the so-callled “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which forbids military recruiters from asking about people’s sexual orientations and prohibits service members from revealing if they’re gay.

The organization is trying to pressure Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine to vote to allow a repeal of the policy. Collins previously voted for a provision to repeal.

Lady Gaga recently called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to repeal the policy during an interview with TV host Ellen DeGeneres. Her representatives haven’t returned e-mails seeking comment.

Malaysia's Anwar Loses Bid to Strike out Sodomy Charges

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Monday lost another bid to have sodomy charges against him thrown out, on the grounds his accuser allegedly had an affair with a prosecutor. Anwar, a 63-year-old former deputy prime minister who was sacked and jailed on separate sex and corruption counts a decade ago, has argued that the relationship undermines the entire case against him.

The High Court in August conceded the allegations that 25-year-old Saiful Bukhari Azlan and lawyer Farah Azlina Latif were romantically involved were presumably true as the prosecution had not denied them. But it refused the defence request to strike out the sodomy charges, saying there was no proof of its argument that Saiful could have been passed confidential trial information by the junior prosecutor.

In another blow for Anwar on Monday, Court of Appeal judge Ahmad Maarop said it could not hear the case because the High Court order in August was not a formal decision which could be reviewed.

“We have no jurisdiction to hear and determine this appeal. We dismiss the appellant’s appeal,” he said, drawing an angry response from Anwar whose counsel said they would appeal to the nation’s highest court.

“Justice was not served in this case. The right to be heard was not there. It was an absurd judgement,” he told reporters.

“This is a sorry state of affairs of the judiciary in the country.”

Defence counsel Karpal Singh bitterly criticised the decision, saying it merely rested on a technicality, and that the defence had had no opportunity to put forward its arguments.

“The decision given by the Court of Appeal is unsupportable, illogical, against common sense. Unfortunately, we are bound by it,” he said.

“This court, in my view, has abdicated from its duty to do justice.”

Anwar has repeatedly said he is the victim of a political conspiracy and that he fears he will not receive justice on the charges which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

The trial, which opened in February but which has been punctuated by lengthy delays and made little progress, will now resume and the High Court will on Tuesday fix a date for the next hearing.

Israel to Allow Cars into Gaza for First Time since 2007

Israeli authorities were to allow some 20 cars to be transported into Gaza on Monday, the first such shipment in more than three years, the military said. The decision to allow some 20 passenger vehicles to enter was taken in June amid international outrage over the deadly seizure of a Gaza-bound aid fleet but was held up by red tape and rocket attacks, a spokesman said.

Major Guy Inbar of the military’s Gaza liaison office said there had been “several problems” in coordinating the shipment with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, without providing further details. The delivery was also held up by near-daily rocket and mortar attacks last week, he added.

The cars were to be loaded from 0700 GMT and delivered between 0900 and 1000 GMT. Israel and Egypt shut down Gaza’s border crossings after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier in June 2006 and tightened the blockade a year later when the Islamic Hamas movement seized power.

Since then Israel has coordinated all imports into Gaza with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which has been confined to the occupied West Bank since its forces were ousted from Gaza. In June, Israel eased the blockade to allow in all purely civilian goods as international outrage soared over the May 31 seizure of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which Israeli commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists.

However, it has kept a complete naval blockade in place and only allows in desperately needed construction materials for projects supervised by international organisations. An official at the International Monetary Fund said earlier this month that the Gaza economy had grown 16 percent since the easing, but cautioned that the rate was measured against a “very low base.”

Unemployment has remained at 35 percent, one of the highest rates in the world, and four out of five of the territory’s 1.5 million residents rely on foreign aid.

First drive:
Audi A7 Sportback

The latest in automotive fashion has been launched in Italy but it wears a Made-in-Germany label. Looking as sharp as a Hugo Boss suit against the backdrop of Sardinia's shimmering coastal waters, Audi's new A7 Sportback joins the current trend for luxury cars that aim to combine the swooping lines of a coupe with the practicality of four doors.

It follows in the dictionary-defying footsteps of Mercedes-Benz's CLS 'coupe' - and, as its name suggests, is to the A6 what the A5 Sportback is to the A4.

Sardonic grins are said to be plentiful on the Mediterranean's second largest island, where the adjective has its origins (because of the convulsive facial expressions the Greeks claimed were caused by eating an indigenous plant) and some may scoff at Audi's suggestion that the A7 is a genuine family car.

Open the standard electrically operated liftback hatch, however, and the A7 reveals a 535-litre boot capable of hording several large- and medium-sized suitcases. The rear seats also fold almost flat to increase cargo capacity to 1390 litres.

And despite that tapering rear roofline, taller passengers can sit in the back seat without feeling they've been packed in like a tin of the proverbial oily little fish that also take their name from Sardinia. Legroom is also decent.

The A7 won't accommodate 2.4 children, though, as there are only two rear seats - and two seatbelts. The middle seat is simply a leathered no man's land, until it becomes occupied by the centre armrest that is otherwise near-seamlessly integrated into the back seat.

Next year's all-new A6 will again offer a wagon (Avant) variant, which will invariably provide less style but greater flexibility for well-heeled families.

The A7's underpinnings are shared with the upcoming A6 - a new platform that is essentially an extended version of the A4's and one that brings new electro-mechanical steering.

Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the near-five-metre-long A7 drives very much like a bigger A4 or A5; which is both good and bad.

There's the familiar liberal helping of on-road refinement, and another selection of fine engines, including two V6s - of four initially offered in Europe - that are all but officially confirmed for Australia.

The 180kW 3.0 (litre) TDI remains remarkably quiet for a diesel and provides smooth and effortless progress, the latter helped considerably by a maximum torque figure of 500Nm that's delivered from 1400 to 3250rpm. Consumption of 6.0L/100km is also a standout figure for car that's bigger than a Commodore.

For those with a penchant for petrol, the 220kW supercharged V6 of the 3.0 TFSI model uses more fuel (8.2L/100km) but, according to Audi's claims, generates faster acceleration: 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds compared with the TDI's still-creditable 6.3sec.

Audi Australia is also considering a 2.8-litre V6 petrol, which if imported would complete a trio of A7s that each features start-stop technology and puts its power to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch auto that shifts quickly and seamlessly but retains the standing-start hesitancy common to this VW Group transmission.

Bigger vices shared with A4/A5, though, include the ride in sportier (optional) S-line trim, where the firmer, lower suspension starts to get busy as soon as there's the slightest downgrade in road surface quality.

A test of an A7 fitted with optional adaptive air suspension suggested its expected $3000 cost (same as for the A8 limo) would be a worthwhile investment. It brought a greater respite from the Sardinian roads in need of a good steam-rollering, though there was still some suspension thump over more pronounced bumps.

The sport part of the model's name also has more in keeping with the car's dynamic body shape than its abilities on winding roads.

While plenty competent through corners despite its noticeable 1.9m width, and proving to be less unwieldy than an A8, the A7 struggles to involve the driver - with the steering again a key culprit.

It's sufficiently precise, but the weighting is still too light and devoid of feedback.

The driver will feel a greater sense of connection with the A7's interior.

If there has been any concern that Audi interiors, despite their impeccable quality, were starting to stagnate in terms of design, the A7 allays such fears with a curvaceous evolution.

An obvious focal point is the wraparound-style cockpit created by a horizontal arc of trim that sweeps around the back of the dash before blending almost seamlessly into, and across, the door trims. A wavy dash design also helps to give the A7 a bespoke look compared to the A8, and no doubt the A6, too, when we see it early next year.

Trim choices are no less impressive, particularly the panelled/planked wood that could have been inspired by the classic mahogany decking of a '60s Italian Riva speedboat.

They say if you have to look at the price tag, you can't afford it, though Audi Australia has yet to determine local pricing. We do know it will reflect its positioning between the range-topping $112,800 A6 and the entry-level $188,000 A8, so expect the A7 to come off the showroom rack for something in the region of $150,000.

There are a few loose threads, but the A7's standout exterior and interior styling at the very least should ensure this will be one of the cars to be seen in for 2011.

Indonesia Yet to Name Police Chief Candidate

The government has yet to submit a name of National Police (Polri) chief candidate to the House of Representatives (DPR). Deputy House Speaker Pramono Anung said at the Parliament building here on Monday that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had yet to submit to the DPR the name of the National Police chief candidate.

"The DPR has not officially received the name of prospective National Police chief from President Yudhoyono," Pramono said.

But he added that the House leader had communicated with officials at Presidential Palace in relation with the matter.

"The House of Representatives has made communication with the minister/state secretary," said the former secretary general of the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P).

Pramono expressed hope that the DPR would receive the name of the candidate for the National Police chief post by this week.

"We hope to receive the name this week, or before Thursday September 23, 2010. Otherwise it would slow down the process of fit and proper test," Pramono said.

He said the incumbent Police Chief Gen Bambang Hendarso Danuri would finish his term in office in the middle of October this year. Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said President Yudhoyono would probably not send the name of National Police chief candidate to the DPR on Monday.

"It’s still not sure today. The president is careful in this matter because it has a wide range of interest but it does not mean that the president is wishy-washy," Julian said.

Elizabeth O'Neill Journalism Award
An Offer to Indonesian Journalists to Spend 3 Weeks in Australia

Indonesian high achieving early or mid-career journalists are invited to apply for an Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award. The Award was to commemorate the distinguished career of Elizabeth O’Neill, the Australian embassy’s former press attache who died in service of the Australian department of foreign affairs and trade, in Indonesia on March 7, 2007, according to a press release from the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Monday.

The award is organized by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australia-Indonesia Institute. The Award builds on her tireless work to foster mutual understanding of Australia and Indonesia through accurate and informed media coverage.

The Award recipient will spend up to three weeks in Australia on a fully-funded program to build a stronger understanding and appreciation of the broad range of issues facing contemporary Australia and relations with Indonesia. The program will be tailored to the journalist’s area of expertise and reporting responsibilities in such areas as foreign and trade policy, development assistance, people-to-people links and education.

The successful applicants who are working in print, radio, television or online media must be available to travel in December 2010 or between February and March 2011.

Main Asset for Developing Harmonious Industrial Relations in Indonesia

Indonesian traditional culture of consensus is a main asset for the country’s success in developing harmonious industrial relations, Director of UNI Asia Pacific Dr. Kun Wardana Abyoto said here Monday.

He conveyed the view when meeting with five labor union activists participating in the Seventh Asian Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association (IIRA) being held in Denpasar, Bali, for four days starting Monday morning.

Kun said labor unions and company management can promote consensus in a positive way to reduce potential disputes. "Potential dispute is very possible to be reduced," he said.

Kun explained about Vice President Boediono’s support to UNI and Indonesian’s labor unions to develop industrial relations based on harmonious partnership with entrepreneurs. The support was expressed when the vice president received an organizing committee members of the Seventh IIRA Asian Regional Congress recently, he said.

Vice President Boediono supported UNI and labor unions to develop any concrete programs because the partnership harmonious will not only promote the companies but also improve the workers’ welfare, he said.

"UNI see Indonesia as a country which is taken into account together with China, India, Brazil and Russia," Kun said.

The congress is being participated in by representatives of industries, labor unions, governments, academicians, and businessmen. Topics to be discussed in the meeting will be among other things on industrial democracy, partnership, and appropriate works needed to respond to the global financial crisis.

The agenda of the four-day congress will include a signing of the Global Framework Protocol between UNI Asia and Pacific and Telkom Indonesia, and paper presentations by dozens of academicians and researchers from leading universities in the Asia Pacific region. Indonesia’s academicians from North Sumatra University (USU), Gadjah Mada University (UGM), Hasanuddin University (Unhas) and Krisnadwipayana University are also scheduled to give speeches in the international forum .

Indonesian labor union activists attending the congress are among others secretary general of labor unions association (ASPEK) Muhamad Rusdi, and general chairman of Hero’s labor union Rusdi Salam. Representatives of ANTARA’s labor union, Danamon Bank’s labor union and Makro’s labor union are also attending the congress.

Foreign participants and speakers in the congress are among others from the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, India, China, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Why Australians Care for Indonesian Culture

A group of students and teachers from Tranby College in Western Australia will pay a reciprocal visit to their BRIDGE partner school, SMAN 5 Surabaya, from 20 to 22 September 2010 to undertake a program of language and cultural studies.

"Our students have been very enthusiastic about the visit and enjoy communicating online with their peers in Indonesia. It is very important for them to understand the culture not just the language," an Indonesian teacher at Tranby College, Vicky Richardson, said in a press statement on the official website of the Australian Embassy here, Monday.

The event follows the successful visit to Western Australia on March 2010 by 30 students and teachers from state high school SMAN 5 Surabaya, East Java. A comprehensive program has been prepared by SMAN 5 including Indonesian language activities, Reog (traditional mask dance) dancing and outbound teamwork exercises.

Abdul Latif, a BRIDGE teacher with the school, said it was critical to allow teenagers to converse together in mediums they feel comfortable with in order to break down cultural barriers and challenge stereotypes. Lili Soleh, the head of the Cooperation Bureau of the Government of East Java, said the visit would make an important contribution to the 20th anniversary of sister state relationship between Western Australia and East Java being celebrated this year.

The two schools have committed to develop an annual student-teacher exchange program which will include participation and collaborative programs between schools, community and governments from both Indonesia and Australia. The BRIDGE project commenced in 2008 and is implemented by the Australia-Indonesia Institute in partnership with the Asia Education Foundation. Funding support has been provided by the Myer Foundation and the Australian aid program.

Some 91 teachers from 47 Indonesian schools in 7 provinces (Jakarta, South Sumatra, Bali, East Java, South Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara and West Kalimantan) have visited Australia under the BRIDGE project until now, as a way of forging ongoing relationships between schools in both countries.

The Indonesian schools have included several funded through the Australia Indonesia Partnership to build 2,000 junior secondary schools across Indonesia.

Breaking Taboo to Send Models down Catwalk Naked

As a wigmaker, it was certainly one way to draw attention to his model’s headwear. Designer Charlie Le Mindu broke the last taboo in the fashion world yesterday by sending models down the catwalk stark naked.

The 24-year-old whose creations are worn by Lady Gaga - caused a stir at London Fashion Week with a show featuring models clad in hot pink high-heeled boots, hats, bags, wigs...and little else.

In a scene reminiscent of the Emperor’s New Clothes, many of the assembled fashionistas did not know where to look.

French-born Le Mindu, his real name, launched his label just a year ago but has managed to grab plenty of headlines, and not just for his outlandish headgear which has included wigs in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

At last year’s Fashion Week, he unveiled a full face headdress made of real mice and rat carcasses, outraging animal rights activists.

Asked if he was worried about the public’s reaction, he said: ‘It’s better to make them (the rodents) beautiful than give them to the snakes.’

His latest creations are not the most practical with some, including a bizarre leopard-print teddy bear headdress, covering the model’s entire face.

Born in deepest rural France, he studied hairdressing at Vidal Sassoon and Toni & Guy before turning to wigs and opening a studio in trendy Shoreditch in East London where he is now based.

It is only his second London Fashion Week, although his show was not part of the main event but staged at a fringe venue.

On the show’s website he described his interests as: ‘Stripers [sic] Los Angeles, pink cadillacs and Cher.’

CIMB Niaga Armed Robbery Linked to Terorrism

National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said the August 16 armed robbery at Bank CIMB Niaga in the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan is not merely an ordinary crime but also is linked to terrorism.

"The robbers looked for funds to finance terrorism," he said at the North Sumatra provincial police headquarters here on Monday night.

He said they robbed a number of banks to collect funds to buy firearms and finance other terrorism activities.

Therefore, he added police sent members of anti-terrorist unit special detachment 88 (Densus 88) to North Sumatra to hunt down suspects in the armed robbery at the bank.

The Dansus 88 members worked day and night to find the suspects and arrested six of the suspects and shot dead three of them as they resisted arrest, he said.

Earlier in the day, Head of the Public Relations Division at the National Police Headquarters Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan said police have named 18 people as suspects in the armed robbery.

The suspects were arrested in different places in Belawan and Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, on Sunday (Sept 19) at around 07.00 p.m., and the other two were arrested in Lampung, he said.

"The suspects particularly those arrested in Lampung are linked to an arms sales and are involved in a robbery. Meanwhile, the mastermind of the robbery is identified by his initial as M," he said.

Police also seized an AK 47 firearm, a FN firearm and explosives of TNT type from the suspects, he said.

Sixteen armed robbers raided the bank in the North Sumatra provincial capital on August 16 and made off with Rp1.5 billion in cash after killing a Mobile Brigade member stationed there to ensure security and wounding two bank security guards.

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