Asean Summit, Malaysia on Nov 21, 1015

Asean Summit, Malaysia  on Nov 21, 1015
Asean Establishes Landmark Economic and Security Bloc
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) - Text version)

“….. Here is the prediction: China will turn North Korea loose soon. The alliance will dissolve, or become stale. There will be political upheaval in China. Not a coup and not a revolution. Within the inner circles of that which you call Chinese politics, there will be a re-evaluation of goals and monetary policy. Eventually, you will see a break with North Korea, allowing still another dictator to fall and unification to occur with the south. ….”

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk
North Korean defector and activist Hyeonseo Lee, who lives in South Korea, poses as she presents her book 'The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story' in Beijing on March 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

US under fire in global press freedom report

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Tributes to 'inspiration' Hawking as curtain falls on Paralympics

Yahoo – AFP, Sam Reeves, Mar 18, 2018

Fireworks erupt during the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter
Paralympic Games (AFP Photo/JUNG Yeon-Je)

Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) - The Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics closed Sunday with a dazzling ceremony featuring light shows, dancing and music, as well as tributes to late wheelchair-bound British physicist Stephen Hawking as an "inspiration".

Nine days of sporting action ended earlier in the day with a flurry of events, including victory for the United States in a hard-fought sledge hockey final, helping them to top the medals table with 36 overall.

North Korea's athletes, who made their country's Winter Paralympics debut in Pyeongchang, were absent from the closing ceremony after heading home early, but it was a minor sticking point after the rapid inter-Korean thaw of recent weeks.

With thousands packing out the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons used his closing address to pay tribute to Hawking, who died last week aged 76.

The scientist is seen as an inspiration by Paralympians. He never let his acute physical disability stop him from pursuing his dreams, and is fondly remembered for opening the London 2012 Games.

Parsons hailed him as "a genius of a man, a pioneer and inspiration to us all".

Artists perform during the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 
Winter Paralympic Games (AFP Photo/JUNG Yeon-Je)

"While Hawking tested the limits of his imagination, Paralympians, you have once again pushed the boundaries of human endeavour," he said.

"Your logic-defying performances have focused the world not on what holds you back, but on what motivates you and pushes you forward."

Hawking developed a form of motor neurone disease in his 20s that left him confined to a wheelchair, almost completely paralysed and only able to speak through a voice synthesiser.

But his disability did not stop him pursuing his ambition of unlocking the secrets of the Universe, and his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time" made him a household name.

In a memorable speech at the opening of the 2012 Games, Hawking urged Paralympians to "look up at the stars and not down at your feet".

Triumph over adversity

Athletes carried their countries' flags into the stadium at the closing ceremony but North Korea's was brought in by a Games volunteer, after Pyongyang's delegation headed home a few days ago.

Pyongyang sent two novice sit-skiers to the Games and they finished at or near the back of their two events, but were still welcomed by South Korean fans delighted at the latest sign of detente on the Korean peninsula.

USA's Declan Farmer (L) and Canada's Greg Westlake (R) fight for the puck 
in the ice hockey gold medal game (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

The rapprochement began at last month's Winter Olympics, when the North sent 22 athletes to the Games and the two Koreas marched under a united flag at the opening ceremony.

The North's presence at the Paralympics was low-key compared to the Olympics -- as well as leaving before the end, the North did not march with the South at the opening.

Sunday's closing ceremony included traditional Korean music and dancing, and also modern rock and pop, with K-pop star Ailee among the performers.

There were also disabled performers, including a dancer with a hearing impairment and a wheelchair-bound dancer.

Towards the end of the ceremony, the Paralympic flag was hauled down and handed to the mayor of Beijing -- which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

In a fitting finale to the Games' high-octane sporting action, the USA earlier Sunday beat Canada 2-1 with a dramatic goal in overtime to defend their Paralympic sledge hockey title.

It brought Team USA's gold medal haul to 13.

Russian athletes -- competing as neutrals after their country was banned due to a doping scandal -- picked up eight gold medals, second-highest after the USA and tied with Canada.

The Winter Paralympics broke records for ticket sales, which topped 340,000, as well as for the number of athletes competing at 567.

There were numerous tales of triumph over adversity.

Dutch snowboarder Bibian Mentel-Spee won two gold medals despite having had cancer surgery twice in recent months. American skier Oksana Masters -- born with multiple birth defects due to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster -- also won double gold.

British scientist Stephen Hawking's 1988 book "A Brief History of Time" became
 an unlikely worldwide bestseller and cemented his superstar status, dedicated his
life to unlocking the secrets of the Universe

Related Article:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Rohingya returnees won't be kept in camps 'forever': Myanmar official

Yahoo – AFP, Joe Freeman, March 17, 2018

Myanmar's government has built transit camps in Rakhine but so far not a single
Rohingya has crossed back from Bangladesh (AFP Photo/Cape Diamond)

Maungdaw (Myanmar) (AFP) - A Myanmar official in Rakhine state said Saturday that Rohingya refugees who return will not be held in newly-built camps "forever," as concerns mount over a vexed repatriation process and efforts to reshape communities in the crisis-hit state.

Ye Htut, the administrator of Maungdaw district, was speaking to reporters on a government-chaperoned trip to northern Rakhine, the site of a military crackdown last August that has emptied the region of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar has been trumpeting its readiness to take back refugees, who are massed across the border in Bangladesh, and built reception centres and transit camps for returnees.

But not a single Rohingya has crossed the border, with the United Nations sounding the alarm that Myanmar must do far more to ensure the safety of a minority that was targeted in an army-led campaign the UN branded "ethnic cleansing".

Rights groups have also raised concerns about how Buddhist-majority Myanmar is reconstructing Rakhine in the Rohingyas' absence, with authorities bulldozing over their burned villages and building new settlements and security posts.

An AFP reporter witnessed a flurry of construction in the region on Saturday, with work crews erecting prefabricated houses along a road leading to Maungdaw town.

Speaking to reporters from his office, Ye Htut insisted that any Rohingya returnees would eventually be resettled close to their original villages after staying in transit camps.

"I can't ask them to live (at the camps) forever...We don't have any vision or intention to keep them long," he said.

The government "will return them back to their native villages or close by," he added.

But a visit to one of the resettlement sites intended for Rohingya, whom a government official referred to only as Muslims, showed slow progress.

Only three squat houses with concrete and brick foundations had been built in a field covered in churned up dirt and tread marks from heavy machinery.

Charred ruins

The site, which lies two hours north of Maungdaw town by car, was chosen for its proximity to the original village, which lay in charred ruins within view.

Myint Khaing, Maungdaw township administrator, said about 100 families were supposed to live in the new site and that it would be completed in two months.

Asked why its construction was not as far along as a settlement 30 minutes away intended for an internally displaced ethnic minority called the Mro, he suggested priority was given to communities that had not fled to Bangladesh.

"They didn't run away," he said.

Myanmar has vehemently denied accusations that is trying to erase the Rohingya's ties to Rakhine, insisting the army crackdown was a targeted assault on Muslim militants.

But the UN and rights groups have pointed to the country's long history of marginalising and persecuting the Muslim minority, who are denied citizenship and loathed by the Buddhist majority.

More than 100,000 are still languishing in a squalid refugee camp in southern Rakhine state after being displaced by communal violence in 2012.

On Friday the head of the UN's refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, said the conditions for the Rohingyas' safe return were not yet in place and that discussions with Myanmar on repatriation "have been pretty basic, not very frequent (and) not very advanced".

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal that was supposed to see repatriation begin in January.

But Myanmar has so far agreed to accept only 374 of 8,000 refugees whose names have been put forward by Dhaka for the initial batch of returnees.

Related Article:

'Wake up' and stop Rohingya abuses: Nobel laureates to Suu Kyi

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Air India to fly over Saudi airspace to Israel

Yahoo – AFP,  March 16, 2018

The new route was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

New Delhi (AFP) - India's state-run carrier Air India said Friday it will fly over Saudi airspace to Tel Aviv, a move that ends a decades-long Saudi ban on the use of its airspace for flights to Israel.

The decision comes at a time of growing ties between India and several Middle Eastern countries, and after Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at a diplomatic realignment in the region earlier this month.

"The Air India flights to Israel will start from March 22. The flights will take around seven hours and five minutes, and fly over... Saudi airspace," airline spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told AFP.

The new route was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last July, with Netanyahu first suggesting in January the route could pass over Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has no official ties with Tel Aviv, with Israel's national carrier El Al currently taking a detour over the Red Sea on its India service to avoid Saudi and Iranian airspace.

Netanyahu told reporters in Washington earlier this month that Air India had reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia for the route.

The airline's spokesman at the time confirmed the launch schedule for a thrice-a-week service from New Delhi to Tel Aviv but couldn't confirm the exact route.

'Common challenges'

Flying over Saudi Arabia significantly shortens the flight time over the proposed route.

Riyadh has maintained public silence about suggestions the kingdom has covert relations with Israel, but Netanyahu said earlier this month in Washington that Israel and the Arab states have "never been closer".

"Most of the states in our region know -- they know very well, believe me -- that Israel is not their enemy, but their indispensible ally in confronting our common challenges and seizing our common opportunities," Netanyahu also said at a public event in the US capital.

Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel last year, and has pushed for investment, technology cooperation and closer defence ties between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia and its immediate neighbourhood is also strategically important for India as the major source of the country's energy imports.

The wider region also hosts millions of Indian migrant workers who send billions of dollars in remittances each year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Japan minister admits files altered in scandal dogging Abe

Yahoo – AFP, Kyoko HASEGAWA, 12 March 2018

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso are under pressure
over the scandal

Japan's finance minister admitted Monday that official papers related to a favouritism scandal dogging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been altered, but denied any plans to step down over the row.

Abe's government has faced mounting pressure in recent days over the 2016 sale of state-owned land to one of his supporters at a price well below market value.

Speaking to reporters outside his office, the prime minister "deeply" apologised to the public for this "incident that could shake confidence" in government operations.

"I take people's criticism sincerely and want Finance Minister (Taro) Aso to be responsible for pushing ahead with an investigation to fully reveal why this kind of incident happened," added Abe.

Earlier Monday, Aso told a hastily arranged press conference: "Changing official documents is very grave and extremely regrettable and I deeply apologise."

"What is important is that these things don't happen again," Aso added.

The scandal first emerged early last year, but resurfaced after the revelation that official documents related to the sale had been changed.

Versions of the original and the doctored documents published Monday by opposition lawmakers appeared to show Abe's name had been scrubbed, along with that of his wife Akie, and Aso.

Aso blamed the alterations on "some staff members" at the ministry, and said he had only learned about them on Sunday.

But he batted off suggestions he might resign over the scandal.

"I am not thinking about that at all," he said, adding he did not believe the alterations were intended to protect Abe and his wife.

Abe called on his finance minister and close ally to make his "utmost efforts to rebuild the organisation (finance ministry) so that this never happens again".

Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso (C) has dismissed suggestions that he might
resign over the scandal

'Debased democracy'

The opposition immediately went on the attack over the affair. "What became clear is that they debased democracy," by lying to parliament, said opposition lawmaker Renho, who uses one name.

Opposition politicians have alleged that the buyer of the land -- a right-wing operator of private schools -- was able to clinch the sale at such a favourable price because of his ties to the Abe family.

The operator had named Akie Abe the honorary principal of the school he was planning to build on the government plot.

Aso said the documents were doctored to be "coherent" with a speech made in parliament by the head of the tax agency Nobuhisa Sagawa, who stepped down on Friday over the scandal.

Sagawa was head of the finance ministry department that oversaw the land deal, before being promoted last year to tax agency chief.

"It is possible that Sagawa ordered the alterations," the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said, citing government sources.

Adding to the pressure, a finance ministry official linked to the scandal was found dead on Friday, although it is not clear if the reported suicide is linked to the affair.

Abe has consistently denied any wrongdoing and vowed to resign if he was found to be involved in the land deal.

But a poll released published Monday in the Yomiuri Shimbun showed his support dropping by six percentage points from last month to 48 percent, the first reading under 50 percent since he won re-election in October.

Eight out of 10 voters said the government was not responding appropriately to the allegations, according to the survey conducted over the weekend among 1,036 voters.

The allegations have also paralysed parliament in recent days, with some opposition lawmakers boycotting debates.

Abe is facing re-election as head of his ruling LDP party in September, which would put him on course to be Japan's longest-serving premier.

Some analysts have said the scandal could harm his chances although no serious challenger to his rule have yet put themselves forward.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

US vows no let-up on N. Korea ahead of historic Trump-Kim summit

Yahoo – AFP, Andrew BEATTY, 9 March 2018

The White House confirmed President Donald Trump would accept the invitation
to meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un "at a place and time to be determined"

The United States vowed Friday there would be no let-up of pressure on North Korea until it takes concrete steps to end its nuclear program after Donald Trump agreed to meet Kim Jong Un in a stunning diplomatic gamble.

A day after the bombshell announcement that the US and North Korean leaders would meet before the end of May, Trump's Vice President Mike Pence said Washington's efforts to isolate Kim had been vindicated.

While there was no reaction from Kim's regime, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said news of the summit -- announced by his national security advisor on a visit to Washington -- was "like a miracle".

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the two leaders to begin talks as "soon as possible" and praised Trump's "positive aspiration" during a phone call with his US counterpart, according to state media.

China has long been North Korea's most important ally but has been on board with the program of sanctions agreed at the UN.

The announcement triggered a rise in global stock markets while world leaders voiced hope that the summit would deflate tensions that had been building dramatically in recent months.

While some observers questioned the US president's wisdom in granting Kim a long-standing wish for a summit after only agreeing a temporary halt to its nuclear tests, others said his gamble could be a game changer.

Trump has previously ridiculed Kim as "Little Rocket Man", slapping wideranging bilateral sanctions on the Pyongyang regime and also leading a drive for international sanctions through the UN.

"North Korea's desire to meet to discuss denuclearization -- while suspending all ballistic missile and nuclear testing -- is evidence that President Trump's strategy to isolate the Kim regime is working," Pence said in a statement.

Chronology of diplomatic tensions between the US and North Korea

The North Koreans "are coming to the table despite the United States making zero concessions and, in close coordination with our allies, we have consistently increased the pressure on the Kim regime.

"Our resolve is undeterred and our policy remains the same: all sanctions remain in place and the maximum pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes concrete, permanent, and verifiable steps to end their nuclear program."

Standing in front of the White House on Thursday night, Moon's National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong announced the first ever meeting between a US president and a North Korean leader would take place by May.

Chung had recently returned from Pyongyang, where he met Kim who, he said, "expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible."

Sanctions remain

In a notably restrained tweet, Trump hailed "great progress" in the push to persuade Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program, adding that "sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the world leaders to hail the announcement as a "glimmer of hope," saying North Korea's nuclear drive "has been a source of great concern for all of us."

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the UN's nuclear watchdog, voiced hope that the summit would produce "concrete progress" and a resumption of nuclear inspections which have been suspended for years.

"The IAEA is closely following the recent developments related to the nuclear program of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the Vienna-based UN body said in a statement.

Pyongyang's long race to develop a nuclear weapon capable has proved a problem for successive US administrations.

But the alarm bells have been ringing even louder since last July when Pyongyang conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests, declaring that the entire United States was now within its range.

'Fire and Fury'

Trump then threatened "fire and fury" if Pyongyang continued to threaten the United States only for North Korea to carry out its sixth nuclear test while Kim derided Trump as "mentally deranged".

The United States and North Korea were foes throughout the Cold War and fought on opposite sides of a bloody war in the 1950s.

In the last two decades, they have been engaged in what is perhaps the world's most dangerous nuclear standoff, with 30,000 US military personnel stationed just over the border in the South.

On multiple occasions, Kim's father Kim Jong Il dangled the prospect of talks and denuclearization as a means of buying time, easing sanctions and dividing South Korea from its allies.

Related Article:

"... The Darkness Can't See Beyond Itself

I want to give you proof yet again of something unusual and very telling of the way low vibration works. Within the first channel of the year [2016], I spoke about the young North Korean leader. I'm going to do it again. I'm going to do it again as a profound example of how low consciousness cannot see above itself. That means that it can only work with what it sees and knows. As powerful, as smart, as intellectual as it thinks it is, it can't get out of its own circle.

The former leader of North Korea was a classic egotist. When he died, his son took over and could do anything he wanted. This boy had watched his father for decades and knew he would take over someday. Naturally, he inherited the attributes his father taught him of self-importance, and he also became egotistically driven to the max. When he took power, he had the choice to make changes that would allow him to be even greater than his father. He wanted something that would elevate his name and his position to the highest egotistic place imaginable. His father was the model, and now he could do anything he wanted to be even more famous. What happened is classic. He completely missed the greatest opportunity that any man has had to become the most famous and beloved person on the earth. The idea never occurred to him. Even though he had been educated in the western world, he missed it.

If he had considered the high road and included the earth instead of a restricted population of his own country, he could have been the most famous and beloved leader on Earth, all of his life. At the moment he took over, all he had to do was to think beyond his circle. He was in the unique position to be a "wild card" and do something amazing - unify North an South Korea, drop the zone of death that was between those countries, bring families together after generations, stop nuclear programs that he really never needed other than to look important and, thereby, give his people abundance, food for all and peace in his region. All of Korea would worship him and the earth would give a sigh of relief in thanks for his wisdom and courage.

He would have received standing ovations upon entering the United Nations great room and they would bow before him and give him the highest peace prizes. He would have his ego stroked and stroked and stroked and stroked and be far greater than his father had ever been. But it never occurred to him. Instead, he perpetuated the dark box he inherited, and now he presides over the lowest energy possible, representing the most dangerous renegade energy on the planet. At the expense of keeping his people poor and impoverished and creating instability in his region, he gets to be a powerful and famous person for a moment in time from a small population. He will not last long. He can't see that what he is doing has no support within the majority of the planet's population, and he will lose everything. Isn't it interesting how strong the circle is that keeps a low vibration low. All of this is beginning to change, dear ones. If you examine individual people and the way they act, you're going to see this coming. You're going to recognize it.  ..."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

South Korean envoys in historic trip to North, meet Kim

Yahoo – AFP, Sunghee Hwang, March 5, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has sought to use the Pyeongchang
Games to open dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang (AFP Photo)

Seoul (AFP) - The most senior South Koreans to travel to North Korea for more than a decade met leader Kim Jong Un Monday, a Seoul official said, the latest step in an Olympics-driven rapprochement on the divided peninsula.

The delegation, representing the South's President Moon Jae-in, is pushing for talks between the nuclear-armed regime and the United States, after Kim sent his sister Kim Yo Jong to the Winter Games in the South.

"Chairman Kim Jong Un is currently hosting a dinner for the special envoys," Moon's spokesman told a press briefing Monday evening, Yonhap news agency reported.

Kim Yo Jong's trip was the first visit to the South by a member of the North's ruling dynasty since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and her appearance at the Games' opening ceremony -- where athletes from the two Koreas marched together -- made global headlines.

Moon has sought to use the Pyeongchang Games to open dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang in hopes of easing a nuclear standoff that has heightened fears over global security.

In Seoul, Kim Yo Jong invited him to a summit in Pyongyang on her brother's behalf. But Moon did not immediately accept, saying the right conditions were necessary first.

Before leaving for Pyongyang, the South's national security advisor Chung Eui-yong said: "We plan to hold in-depth discussions for ways to continue not only inter-Korean talks but dialogue between North Korea and the international community including the United States."

It is a challenging task -- in defiance of UN sanctions, the isolated and impoverished North last year staged its most powerful nuclear test and test-fired several missiles, some of them capable of reaching the US mainland.

US President Donald Trump dubbed Kim "Little Rocket Man" and boasted about the size of his own nuclear button, while the North Korean leader called Trump a "mentally deranged US dotard".

They traded threats of war and sent tensions soaring before a thaw in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.

"We will deliver President Moon's firm resolution to denuclearise the Korean peninsula and to create sincere and lasting peace," delegation leader Chung told reporters.

Chung is one of five senior officials who flew to Pyongyang on Monday.

It was the first ministerial-level South Korean visit to the North since December 2007, when Seoul's then-intelligence chief travelled to Pyongyang.

Conservative Lee Myung-bak was elected the South's president the following day and took a markedly harder line on relations with the North.

Washington connection

Monday's delegation included spy chief Suh Hoon, who is a veteran in dealings with the North. He is known to have been deeply involved in negotiations to arrange two previous inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency also announced their impending visit in a one-paragraph dispatch.

The 10-member group -- five top delegates and five supporting officials -- will return to Seoul on Tuesday.

Other members include Suh's deputy at the National Intelligence Service as well as Chun Hae-sung, the vice minister in Seoul's unification ministry which handles cross-border affairs.

The delegation will fly to the US on Wednesday to explain the result of the two-day trip to officials in Washington, according to the South's presidential office.

Moon, who advocates dialogue with the North's nuclear-armed regime, said last week that Washington needs to "lower the threshold for talks" with Pyongyang.

But the US has ruled out any possibility of talks before the North takes steps towards denuclearisation, and imposed what Trump hailed as the "toughest ever" sanctions on Kim's regime late last month.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Tibetans greet new year with giant Buddhas, dancing and lamb carcasses

Yahoo – AFP, Becky Davis, 4 March 2018

Monks dressed as deities took part in the religious ritual wrapping up Losar,
the Tibetan new year in China's northwestern province of Qinghai

Despite a few elbows to the face, Tsering pushed through the broil of Tibetan worshippers and lifted her bawling two-year-old over the mad crush, briefly pressing the girl's forehead to a passing sacred scroll.

Scores of monks and men heaved the enormous thangka -- an image of Buddha painted on silk, rolled up in a tight cylinder while in transit -- through the packed streets around Rongwo Monastery in China's northwestern province of Qinghai for a religious ritual wrapping up Losar, the Tibetan new year.

"It's good luck, especially for children," said Tsering, breathless and flushed with success, before whirling away to search rather fruitlessly for her daughter's missing right shoe.

China has long been accused of trying to eradicate Tibetan culture through political and religious repression. Beijing insists that Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms.

Rebkong county is a major centre of traditional Tibetan culture and the Gelug -- or "Yellow Hat" -- sect of the exiled Dalai Lama. It has witnessed numerous self-immolation protests against Chinese rule since 2009.

Tibetan Buddhist monks unveiled the huge thangka -- an image of Buddha 
painted on silk -- during the festivities

Police were a constant presence throughout the new year celebrations, watching over the various ceremonies, stopping all cars entering the county seat and checking the few hotels allowed to receive foreigners.

But Losar passed without incident in a riot of colour and celebration.

Like the Chinese lunar new year, the first few days are dominated by family and feasting.

The climax for the Gelug sect is the annual "sunning of the Buddha", as it is known in Chinese, where a colossal thangka painting multiple stories tall is paraded through the streets and briefly displayed.

Dancing and exorcisms

Under crisp blue skies men flailed ceremonial scarves as a procession left the Rongwo monastery, beating away an endless stream of frantic hopefuls aggressively pushing to touch the painting.

On a steep hillside outside the monastery, the thangka was unrolled in a splendour of rich pinks, greens, and blues to the sound of firecrackers and the wail of conch shells.

"The thangka is an offering to Buddha, but it must be big so all living creatures can see it -- people, but also birds and insects. That way, all beings will have a chance at a better existence in their next life," a monk told AFP.

Beijing insists that Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms

The thangka's size flaunts its monastery's wealth and power, said Anna Sehnalova, a Tibetologist at Oxford University.

"It's a way to show sponsors that something is happening with their money. Tibetans love to see rituals performed for them."

At a much smaller monastery in Gartse town families gathered in their finest clothes -- off-the-shoulder robes of jewel-toned brocades and sheepskin -- to watch the cham dances, ritual performances by masked monks thought to purge the new year of negativity from the previous.

"It's an exorcism, to get rid of bad things and dishonest practices. If we don't do this today, there will be bad consequences for everyone," said a dancer.

Two young monks in skull masks, reminders of life's impermanence, waggled their heads in a slow pas-de-deux as children licked purple-topped ice creams.

Another pair of dancers raised their swords and flung the skinned, shriveled carcasses of two tiny baby lambs over the heads of the crowd.

"To be honest, I don't know what it means," said a student named Tenzin, echoing the sentiments of many baffled but delighted spectators in the crowd.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sydney's Mardi Gras turns a colourful 40

Yahoo – AFP, Daniel DE CARTERET, 3 March 2018

Sydney's Mardi Gras turns a colourful 40

Rainbow colours beamed from faces and floats parading through Sydney Saturday as hundreds of thousands of partygoers celebrated 40 years of the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Organisers predicted close to half a million people would witness the glittery spectacle as some 200 floats and 12,500 participants -- including police, politicians, indigenous groups and celebrities -- made their way down Oxford Street, Sydney's gay hub.

The flamboyant displays included an over-the-top dinner party, featuring Mardi Gras costumes from the past four decades, and a giant champagne bottle that erupted, spraying confetti over onlookers.

The event grew out of a brutal and bloody police crackdown of gay and lesbian activists in 1978 and is now one of the biggest street parties in the world.

"This year we look back on the Mardi Gras' 40 years and we acknowledge that we are built on the backs of so many that have come before us," said Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras chief executive Terese Casu.

"Those incredible activists, the protestors, our artists, our creators, our volunteers -- all those people that have bought us to Mardi Gras."

Last year, after more than a decade of political wrangling and months of heated debate, Australia legalised gay marriage.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy marched through the parade route before it kicked off, and he told reporters this edition carried extra gravity in the wake of the same-sex marriage vote.

"This is a huge affirmation of respect and love. It is so worth it. The vote gave same-sex couples a huge hug," he said.

Casu said it had been a difficult year for the LGBTQI -- lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, intersex -- community, "but it showed our strength, our courage and indeed our grace."

"For many, equality has been a long, hard journey and this year we celebrate. We look back, we dance with our partners, in fact our new wives, our husbands and we celebrate 40 years of Mardi Gras," she said.

'Freedom to express myself'

Among the floats was one featuring dozens of giant red, glittering "remembrance butterflies" in tribute to those lost to AIDS-related illnesses, while another showcasing hundreds of sparkling silver and pink hearts was dedicated to volunteers.

A special Sydney Opera House float had giant replicas of the building's famous sails.

Lebanese-Australian Carlos Lopez, 28, was on a float highlighting diversity in the gay community.

"I feel like this is a really important platform for me to show myself as a Middle Eastern Australian and show a different side of myself, for the people that don't have my freedom," he said, referring to more conservative places in the world.

Asked what 40 years of Mardi Gras meant to him, he replied: "The freedom to be who I want to be. The freedom to express myself."

The growing popularity of the event attracted newcomers including Ronya Touk, who was at the Mardi Gras for the first time.

"It's amazing, overwhelming," said Touk.

"I'm 43 and I've never been and I've heard so much hype about it. I've got a few friends that have come out this year (as gay), so I thought it's a good opportunity to see what it's all about."

American pop superstar and LGBTQI icon Cher was the headline act at the after-parade party.