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Friday, December 12, 2008

Singaporean group introduces "floating" toilets in Cambodia

CAMBODIA: In rural Cambodia, only 16 per cent of residents have a proper toilet -- the lowest rate in Southeast Asia.

However, one Singaporean group is working to change that.

On Cambodia's great lake, Tonle Sap, water stretches for miles in every direction.

But getting clean drinking water and proper sanitation is another story entirely.

Homes here are floating platforms and must move seasonally, and outhouses are simply a wooden plank over the open water.

Water and sanitation issues are of crucial importance to people who are on Tonle Sap, where safe drinking water comes at a price and toilet facilities are rudimentary.

People have no choice but to contaminate the very same water they use for drinking and washing.

Singaporean non-governmental organisation Lien Aid aims to make a difference in this community of about 10,000 people.

They are introducing the concept of "floating" toilets which are affordable, locally-made, and therefore sustainable.

"It is actually a simple system… We're going to use locally available buckets where they can collect the faeces. We are going to use some locally available agent to dry the faeces, that is, using ashes and other local material," said the CEO of Lien Aid, Sahari Ani.

One key to the project is that locals will have to source and build their own toilets, to ensure that all parts of the community are involved.

"The toilet that we introduce to the community -- they are very happy to get that one and they try to find their own resources to contribute to the project," said the director of the Department of Rural Health Care, Ministry of Rural Development, Chea Samnang.

A young couple, who has two children with another on the way, says they are happy to have a simple and hygienic toilet.

They worry that people's lifelong habits will be difficult to change.

But they hope the affordable toilets will catch on with the lake's residents, just like other modern conveniences that have done so.

And it is testimonies like theirs that makes this project look set to be flush with success.

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Cambodia confirms new human case of bird flu

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's Health Ministry confirmed on Friday the country's eighth human case of virulent bird flu since 2005.

The ministry said in a statement with the U.N.'s World Health Organization that a 19-year-old man from Kandal province, southeast of the capital Phnom Penh, was confirmed to have the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus in laboratory tests Thursday.

The case, the first this year in Cambodia, comes a day after a senior World Health Organization official warned that Asian nations must remain vigilant against the disease.

The World Health Organization says there have been 246 confirmed fatal cases of the disease in humans worldwide since 2003.

The man is being treated at Calmette Hospital in the capital. Cambodian health and agriculture ministry officials have been sent to the victim's village to ensure that there is no further spread of the disease.

Ly Sovann, a health ministry expert on bird flu, said the victim became sick after touching a dead chicken that had been raised at his home.

"The boy is being treated at hospital now but his health is getting better day by day," Ly Sovann said. "If nothing changes with his health, he will be released from hospital soon."

The seven previous Cambodian victims of the disease had died.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization's regional chief urged Asian governments not to let down their guard against bird flu, saying a new outbreak among poultry in Hong Kong showed the disease still poses a threat.

"This is an indication that we have to remain vigilant," Shigeru Omi said in Malaysia. "Constant vigilance is the key."

Omi said the outbreak in Hong Kong was "not unexpected because the virus is still circulating in the world, and certainly in this part of the world."

Twenty countries had outbreaks of the disease during the first nine months of 2008, down from 25 during the same period last year, U.N. officials have said.

Some officials worry that the public has largely lost interest because the virus has so far not mutated into a much-feared form that could spread easily among people. It remains hard for people to catch, with most human cases linked to contact with infected birds.
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'Frost/Nixon' Langella brilliantly transforms into disgraced president

By Bill Goodykoontz

Say the name Nixon to most people older than 45 and all sorts of images are conjured up, most of them unpleasant: Watergate, resignation, the 18-minute gap, Cambodia, etc.

Say the name to most people younger than 45 and . . . who? President or something?

Frost/Nixon ought to change that. Not saying it will, but it should.
Ron Howard's film adaptation of Peter Morgan's play is outstanding, boasting a tremendous performance by Frank Langella as Richard M. Nixon. Somehow it turns a series of televised interviews between a disgraced former president and a lightly regarded, on-the-way-down television host into an outright thrilling drama.

A neat trick, and Howard pulls it off with aplomb.

It's all the more impressive given that Frost's interviews, which took place in 1977, three years after Nixon resigned, weren't exactly earth-shattering news - then or now. Nixon saw them as a way to rehabilitate his image but was, to some degree, exposed again by the medium that had long plagued him (the televised debates with John F. Kennedy in 1960 helped lead to his defeat). Plus - and this is certainly true in the film - Nixon wanted the money, the then-unheard-of $600,000 that Frost ponied up for the chats.

Frost, too, had an ulterior motive. Considered a lightweight (particularly by the Nixon camp), he wanted to establish legitimacy - and, as portrayed by Michael Sheen (like Langella, reprising his stage role), to reclaim a regular table at Sardi's.

The film begins with Nixon's resignation. After coming offstage from the taping of a vapid TV show in Australia, Frost catches a TV broadcast of Nixon leaving Washington and, nothing if not savvy, immediately wants to know how many people watched the resignation the night before.

So begins an odyssey, back-and-forth negotiations between Frost's people - he hires researchers, played by Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt, both good but underused - to get him up to speed on Nixon's career, though Frost shows a decided lack of interest in playing along. Nixon, meanwhile, is buoyed by loyal aide Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon), who choreographs a performance that will allow the former president to use Frost as a stooge, basically having his say unimpeded.

Ever crafty, Nixon isn't above knocking Frost back a step with a quip or a comment just before the cameras turn on. Clearly out of his depth, Frost is steamrollered - until a fateful, drunken call inspires Frost to up his game and get to work.

Complaints have been lodged that playwright Morgan plays fast and loose with the facts. So what? Sometimes fiction is the best way to get at fact, something that is evidenced by Langella's performance. Though he's clearly worked on perfecting the awkward gait, the jowly voice, he doesn't look especially like Nixon. Yet he embodies him - his essence, the paranoid intelligence, the need for approval. It's not an impersonation, it's a transformation, and it's brilliant.

Howard keeps the pace brisk, light when it needs to be, heavy when that's called for. Along with Langella, he turns Frost/Nixon into one of the most entertaining history lessons imaginable.

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