Southern China braces for deadly typhoon

HONG KONG: Residents stockpiled food and ships were ordered to dock as southern China braced for a typhoon Thursday that has already lashed the northern Philippines amid floods that have killed more than 70 people across Asia.

Typhoon Megi packed winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour) when it struck the Philippines on Monday. Philippine officials reported 20 deaths, including several people who drowned after being pinned by fallen trees. The storm damaged thousands of homes and flooded vast areas of rice and corn fields.

Late Wednesday, Megi was about 350 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of the southern financial hub of Hong Kong and expected to eventually hit the southern Chinese coast, the Hong Kong Observatory said on its website.

The storm’s winds have weakened to 110 mph (175 kph), but are expected to build strength over the next two days before losing steam again Saturday, when the typhoon is projected to make landfall in China’s Guangdong province, the observatory said.

In Guangdong, officials have ordered all fishing boats back to shore, put the provincial flood control headquarters on alert and warned that reservoirs should be watched, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday. In the southern island province of Hainan, residents rushed to supermarkets to stock up on food, vegetables and bottled water, Xinhua said.

In Hong Kong, the mood was calmer in the densely populated city of 7 million whose infrastructure has traditionally held up well against the annual summer barrage of typhoons. Still, the Hong Kong Observatory urged residents to make sure their windows could be properly bolted, avoid the coastline and refrain from water sports. It also ordered small vessels to return to shore.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said Thursday that Typhoon Megi was unlikely to make landfall on the island but warned residents in southern and eastern Taiwan to brace for heavy rains and landslides. It also cautioned ships off the southern and western parts of the island to be on the lookout out for rough seas.

In the Philippines, more than 215,000 people were affected by the typhoon, including 10,300 people who fled to evacuation centers, officials said. About $30 million (1.3 billion pesos) worth of infrastructure and crops were damaged and nearly 5,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by Megi’s ferocious wind, according to the government’s main disaster-response agency.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, where recent flooding from a different weather system has killed at least 45 people over the past week, soldiers and police found a bus that was carrying dozens of people when it was washed away by flood waters, disaster officials said Wednesday. It was located on a river bed, half a mile (one kilometer) downstream from where it was yanked off the road. Twenty people who failed to escape the bus before it was inundated are missing, presumed dead.

Up to 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) of rain pounded the region in the past week, submerging more than 220,000 houses and forcing more than 173,000 people to flee their homes, according to the national flood and storm control committee.

In Thailand, floods have killed nine people since the weekend. Runoff of those waters were due to sweep down the Chao Phraya river into the capital, Bangkok, late Wednesday.

Bangkok Deputy Gov. Porntep Techaipaibul said that officials have prepared more than 4 million sandbags amid fears of serious floods in parts of the city, particularly during high tides next week.

Authorities say the flooding has affected nearly 4,000 villages in 19 eastern, central and northeastern provinces. More heavy rains — the tail end of the annual monsoon — are forecast, including in some central provinces.

NBR non-transparency riles CAG

The auditing watchdog has asked the revenue board to address the “non-disclosure” practice by its large taxpayer unit and field level VAT offices, which are reluctant to share data with auditors.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) office said it has raised the issue several times with the National Board of Revenue (NBR) but the board took no decisive step to end the malpractice.

The CAG office, the nation’s top audit authority, is responsible for auditing public expenses and for ascertaining whether spending has made any difference to the public service.

The allegations came after the head of the CAG office, Md. Abdul Baset Khan, recently issued a written complaint against the revenue board, seeking its intervention.

Referring verdict of the Supreme Court, Mr. Baset complained that the auditors are not getting cooperation of large taxpayers unit and Chittagong Vat offices while they are getting full-fledged cooperation of income tax offices.

“CAG has the mandate to determine the scope and extent of audit. There is no restriction on assessment audit. But LTU and Fauzder Haat circle, Chittagong VAT offices have declined to provide necessary data sought by auditors,” Mr Khan said in a letter to the revenue board.

The field offices claimed that they can’t provide VAT documents to auditors for scrutiny, a practice the CAG office termed ‘illogical,’ he said.

In the last fiscal year, the revenue board managed to collect additional Tk 132.0 million through general audit.

The CAG office requested the tax authority to give instructions to its field offices to cooperate with auditors as they plan next audit, scheduled for July-December.

“We don’t have any objection to auditing the VAT offices as it is constitutional right of the CAG,” said Abdul Mannan Patowary who oversees VAT department.

On receipt of complaint, the board has instructed its field offices to provide all required data to the audit team, he said.

Field officials of VAT department said they have found “toll-seeking attitude” of some auditors, rather than pure auditing.

They said the concerned VAT office didn’t want to harass their VAT payers by seeking documents one after another as per the requirement of the auditors.

Iraq documents release exposes ‘truth’

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has defended the unauthorised release of 400,000 classified US military documents on the war in Iraq, saying they revealed the “truth” about the conflict. The mass of documents from 2004 to 2009 offer a grim snapshot of the conflict, especially of the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.
“This disclosure is about the truth,” Assange told a news conference in London on Saturday after the whistleblowing website published the logs on the Internet.
“The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts, and continues long after a war ends,” he said, adding that WikiLeaks hoped “to correct some of that attack on the truth”.
He claimed the documents revealed around 15,000 more civilian deaths than were previously known about.
The heavily redacted logs appear to show that the US military turned a blind eye to evidence of torture and abuse of Iraqis by the Iraqi authorities.
Assange said the documents showed the war had been “a bloodbath on every corner”.
Washington and London warned that releasing the documents could endanger the lives of coalition troops and Iraqi civilians, although the rights ministry in Baghdad said the
logs “did not contain any surprises”.
In an announcement which could further concern the United States, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the website would soon release a further 15,000 secret files on the war in Afghanistan which had been held back for line-by-line reviewing and redacting.
WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing 92,000 documents on the Afghan war in July, and drew criticism from rights groups who said the inclusion of Afghan informants’ names put lives at risk.
The files published on Friday contain graphic accounts of torture, civilian killings and Iran’s hand in the Iraq war, documenting years of bloodshed and suffering following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.
In one document, US military personnel describe abuse by Iraqis at a Baghdad facility that was holding 95 detainees in a single room.
It says “many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores… according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks.”
Other reports describe Iraqis beating prisoners and women being killed at US military checkpoints. WikiLeaks made the files available several weeks ago to selected newspapers and television channels, including Al-Jazeera, Le Monde, The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian.
British newspaper The Guardian said the leaks showed “US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.”
It said “US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.”