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ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogMorocco is the biggest producer of hashish in the world-AFP RABAT: Moroccan custom officials said Tuesday that they had seized 240 kilograms of hashish squeezed into orange juice cartons destined for export at the port city of Casablanca. Authorities said the stash was found after a check of the supposed shipment of fruit drink showed up some "discrepancies". After a search, bricks of cannabis resin totalling 240 kilograms (530 pounds) were found "carefully concealed inside cartons of orange juice from a local brand," said a statement by the customs authorities carried by local media. In a bid to outfox officials the smugglers had added sand to the shipment to make it weigh the same as a consignment of juice, it said. North African nation Morocco is the biggest producer of hashish in the world and one of the major exporters of cannabis resin, which is mainly shipped to Europe, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Some 50,000 hectares of agricultural land were used for the production of cannabis, mostly in the impoverished northern Rif region, statistics from 2015 said.
ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogPARIS: France has stopped a large shipment of Belarus mushrooms contaminated with low-level radioactivity probably from Chernobyl and not linked to a radioactive cloud that appeared in southern Russia last month, officials said on Thursday. Earlier, Pierre-Franck Chevet ? the head of French nuclear regulator ASN ? told the French Senate that traces of caesium had been found on imported mushrooms from Russia but did not mention Belarus. A spokesman for French nuclear safety institute IRSN said a few days ago, customs officials found that a 3.5-tonne shipment of Belarus mushrooms ? coming through Frankfurt, Germany ? was contaminated with caesium 137, a radioactive nuclide that is a waste product of nuclear reactors. While the contaminated mushrooms did not represent a health threat to consumers, the shipment will be destroyed in a specialized incinerator in coming days, the IRSN said. ?There is no link with the ruthenium 106 pollution,? the official said. Earlier this month, the IRSN said that a cloud containing radioactive ruthenium 106 originating from southern Russia had blown over large parts of Europe in October but added that there was no danger to people. Russia later confirmed it had measured ruthenium pollution at nearly 1,000 times normal levels in the Ural mountains, but did not acknowledge any accident. ?As the mushrooms came from Belarus, it is very likely the contamination originated in Chernobyl,? the official said. ASN did not reply to a number of Reuters calls later on Thursday. Highly unusual Chernobyl, Ukraine is just south of the Belarus border and was the site of a major nuclear disaster in 1986. Cesium 137 ? which has a 30-year half-life ? is still widely found in the areas around Chernobyl. The official said it was highly unusual for such a large shipment of mushrooms to be stopped and that none of the produce had made it onto French retail markets. Mushrooms, more than any other vegetable, concentrate radioactivity because their thread-like root systems spread over a large area for several meters on the surface around the plant. The IRSN said eating tens of kilos of the Belarus mushrooms would expose a consumer to a radioactivity level similar to natural ambient radioactivity during a whole year. Chevet added there had been no risk for the customs officials, even if they had touched the mushrooms with their bare hands. In a statement, French consumer protection agency DGCCRF said the Belarus mushrooms had caesium 137 levels above legal limits but contained no ruthenium 106. The agency said that following the discovery of the ruthenium, it had started testing samples of food products imported from the regions affected by the radioactive cloud. So far, it has not found food items with ruthenium 106 levels above legal thresholds.
ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News Blogsource: Reuters MARSHALLSITTWE: Buddhist protesters in Myanmar threw petrol bombs to try and block an aid shipment to Muslims in Rakhine State, where the United Nations has accused the country's military of ethnic cleansing. The incident on Wednesday, ended when police fired in the air to disperse the protesters, reflected rising communal animosity and came during an official visit by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy. Murphy said later, after talks with government leaders, that Washington was alarmed by reports of rights abuses and called on authorities to stop the violence, which raised concern about Myanmar's transition from military rule to democracy. Myanmar's army chief on Thursday called for internally displaced non-Muslims to go home. In a speech on his plans for Rakhine State while on his first visit there since strife erupted, he made no mention of the estimated 422,000 Rohingya Muslims who have crossed the border into Bangladesh. They have fled Myanmar to escape a sweeping counter-insurgency operation by his army in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on August 25. Hundreds of protesters were involved in the attempt to stop Red Cross workers loading a boat with relief supplies bound for the north of Rakhine State, where the insurgent attacks last month triggered the military backlash. The boat being was loaded with aid at a dock in the state capital of Sittwe, a government information office said. "People thought the aid was only for the Bengalis," the secretary of the state government, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters, using a term that Rohingya find offensive. Protesters threw petrol bombs and about 200 police eventually dispersed them by shooting into the air, a witness and the government information office said. The witness said he saw some injured people. Eight people were detained, the office said. No aid workers were hurt, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said. Plight The tension between majority Buddhists and Rohingya, most of whom are denied citizenship, has simmered for decades in Rakhine, but it has exploded at times over the past few years, as old enmities surfaced with the end of decades of harsh military rule. The latest bout of bloodshed began with August´s insurgent attacks on about 30 police posts and an army camp, in which about a dozen people were killed. The government says more than 400 people, most of them insurgents, have been killed since then. Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign to drive out the Muslim population and torch their villages. Myanmar rejects that, saying its forces are tackling insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who it has accused of setting the fires and attacking civilians. The crisis has drawn international condemnation and US President Donald Trump called on Wednesday for a quick end to the violence. The plight of the Rohingya has raised questions about the commitment of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi to human rights. Nobel peace prize laureate Suu Kyi addressed the nation on Tuesday and condemned abuses and said all violators would be punished. However, she did not address the UN accusations of ethnic cleansing by the military, which is in charge of security. 'Disproportionate' Murphy, the most senior foreign official to visit Myanmar since the violence erupted, met government officials and representatives of different communities in Sittwe. "It's become quite clear to many that the Burmese security forces have had a response that is disproportionate and failed to protect all local populations," he later told reporters. The situation could have an impact on Myanmar´s transition and risked creating "a more significant terrorism problem". "We continue to call on the Burmese authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence - including that perpetrated by local vigilantes," he said, adding that he had raised concern about two remote Muslim villages cut off by hostile Buddhists that Reuters reported about this week. Military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said his forces had handled the situation as best they could and he urged the internally displaced, most of them Buddhist, to go home. "For the national races who fled their homes, first of all they must go back ... that is their rightful place," he said in a speech in Sittwe. "National races" refers to officially recognised indigenous ethnic groups. The Rohingya are not recognised as a "national race" and Min Aung Hlaing did not refer to their return. The Bangladesh government and aid groups are struggling with shortages of food, water, shelter and medical supplies for the refugees, who keep coming, though at a slower pace than over the past couple of weeks, officials say. The group Medecins Sans Frontieres said a "massive scale-up of humanitarian aid in Bangladesh is needed to avoid a massive public health disaster".
ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogPhoto: Reuters SITTWE: An attack on an aid shipment in Myanmar´s violence-wracked Rakhine state and a deadly Red Cross truck crash in Bangladesh on Thursday hampered desperately needed relief efforts for Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution. Communal tensions remain high across Rakhine where raids by Rohingya militants at the end of last month sparked a massive army crackdown, driving more than 420,000 people into Bangladesh in what the UN has called a campaign of "ethnic cleansing". Tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas -- who are widely reviled in Buddhist-majority Myanmar -- are feared trapped in hard-hit areas of Rakhine state, while humanitarian agencies in neighbouring Bangladesh are strained by the massive refugee influx. The crisis has prompted a global chorus of condemnation against Myanmar´s government for failing to blame the all-powerful military for the renewed violence, which French President Emmanuel Macron called a "genocide". The United Nations has called for unhindered access to Rakhine state, which has been mostly closed to media and humanitarian groups. An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ship carrying 50 tonnes of aid was halted by a 300-strong Buddhist mob in the state capital Sittwe on Wednesday night. The group forced the ICRC to unload the aid from the boat and prevented the vessel from leaving, state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Thursday, quoting Myanmar´s Information Committee. The crowd hurled "stones and Molotov (cocktails)" at riot police on the scene, injuring several officers before order was restored. The ICRC confirmed the incident and said its staff were not injured, vowing to continue to try to deliver aid. "We will carry on, nothing has been put on hold," Graziella Leite Piccoli, ICRC spokeswoman for Asia, told AFP. News of the clashes emerged as a truck hired by the Red Cross and ICRC crashed in Bangladesh, killing nine people and injuring 10 others. "It was carrying the food to Rohingya refugees on the border, including those stranded in the no-man´s land," Yasir Arafat, deputy police chief of Bandarban border district, told AFP. Aid airlift Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have streamed into Bangladesh since the end of August, cramming into ill-equipped camps and makeshift shelters near the border town of Cox´s Bazar. Aid groups say they are overwhelmed by the massive influx, and though the Bangladeshi government is building a new camp in the area it will be some time before it is fully equipped. Saudi Arabia is airlifting 100 tonnes of donated tents, sleeping mats, blankets and food to refugees in Bangladesh, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is chartering the flight. "Many of these families are still living in the open without adequate shelter, food or clean water," Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, said in a statement. Myanmar´s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire for downplaying the violence and failing to condemn the military crackdown against the Rohingya, a marginalised group the government considers illegal "Bengali" immigrants. Amid urgent calls from the UN for humanitarian access this week, Myanmar insisted the crisis was easing. "I am happy to inform you that the situation has improved," second vice president Henry Van Thio told the UN General Assembly Wednesday. He said there have been no clashes since September 5 in Rakhine, where the military has been accused of burning scores of villages to the ground sending terrified Rohingya villagers fleeing. "Humanitarian assistance is our first priority. We are committed to ensuring that aid is received by all those in need, without discrimination," he said. There were more than one million Rohingyas in Rakhine state before the current crisis, though nearly half have fled since the deadly attacks on military posts by militants from The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25. The Rohingya have long been sidelined in Myanmar, where they are considered illegal immigrants and face severe restrictions. Myanmar´s army chief on Thursday said the Rohingya population "exploded" under British rule, blaming the former colonists for the current crisis. "The Bengali population exploded and the aliens tried to seize the land of local (ethnicities)," Min Aung Hlaing said in comments posted on Facebook, using a term Rohingya consider derogatory. Britain said this week it had suspended its educational training courses for the Myanmar military due to the violence, amid a mounting diplomatic spat between the countries.