- - Thursday, December 9, 2010

LAOS

New dam is test for hydropower

NAKAI TAI | One of Asia’s poorest countries officially inaugurated a $1.3 billion hydroelectric dam Thursday that is earning badly needed revenue and could set new global standards for limiting environmental damage and improving the lives of those displaced.

The dam in central Laos was the first major hydroelectric project supported by the World Bank after a long hiatus in the face of criticism that dams harm communities and the environment.

The dam, which has been operating since April, is expected to bring in $2 billion over the next 25 years, money the government has pledged to spend on reducing poverty in this landlocked nation with few resources besides its mountains and rivers.

CHINA

Catholics pick leaders amid Vatican tensions

BEIJING | China’s government-backed Catholic church elected new leaders on Thursday, including a prelate unrecognized by the Vatican to head its bishops’ council, in a move likely to worsen often uneasy relations with the Holy See.

Ties between China and the Vatican already were strained because of a dispute over the Nov. 20 ordination of the Rev. Joseph Guo Jincai as a bishop without papal approval. The Vatican says only it has the right to name bishops, and the question of their appointment has been the main stumbling block in resuming relations with the government in Beijing.

Now the state-backed church has picked two other bishops to lead the two main organizations supervising Catholic church policy in China — groups the Vatican disapproves of because they run counter to Catholic doctrine.

INDIA

Report: Border guards killing with impunity

NEW DELHI | India’s security forces routinely gun down cattle smugglers and other civilians crossing the border with Bangladesh despite scant evidence of any crime, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The Border Security Force — responsible for guarding against extremists, drug and weapons smugglers and human traffickers — is using its muscle to detain, torture and kill with impunity, according to the 81-page report released by the New York-based rights group.

While authorities say the suspects were killed in self-defense or for evading arrest, Human Rights Watch said it “found no evidence in any death it documented that the person was engaged in any activity that would justify such an extreme response.”

INDONESIA

‘Gap’ seen in Asian politics

NUSA DUA | Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned Thursday that uneven political development poses a threat to Asian security, as he opened the third annual Bali Democracy Forum.

He said regional cooperation had focused almost exclusively on economic development but there is an “urgent need to overcome the ‘political development’ gap” as well.

“If we don’t handle this carefully, this political development gap could cause trouble for development, create political instability and become a security threat to the region,” he said in a speech.

Indonesia is a founding member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes democracies like Thailand and the Philippines and communist states like Vietnam and junta-ruled Myanmar.

SRI LANKA

Group: War-crimes probe needed in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO | New video evidence has emerged linking Sri Lanka’s military to the execution of prisoners during the final hours of the country’s decades-long civil war last year, an international human rights group said Thursday.

Human Rights Watch said the grisly content of a five-minute video clip aired by Britain’s Channel 4 television last month warrants a U.N. investigation.

The video was an extension of a short clip aired by the station last year showing blindfolded, naked men being fatally shot at close range. The latest video shows the naked body of a young woman with a blood-spattered face identified by Tamil media as “Isaippriya,” a news reader with the Tamil Tiger rebel television station.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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