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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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Kate Bush fans re-enact Wuthering Heights in Australia

Yahoo – AFP, July 16, 2016

Kate Bush fans gather to rehearse a dance before performing during a
celebration to mark 'The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever', in Melbourne, on
July 16, 2016 (AFP Photo/Paul Crock)

Melbourne (AFP) - Thousands of Kate Bush fans put on their best billowy red dresses and danced en masse in Melbourne Saturday to one of the singer's most iconic songs Wuthering Heights.

They donned matching red stockings and black wigs to mark The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever -- a re-enactment of the British star's classic 1978 debut music video in which she pirouettes and cartwheels in a misty field.

Bush's distinctive voice and performance-art–style videos gained a global cult following and in 2013 theatre group Shambush gathered nearly 300 Kate Bushes to recreate her iconic frolic in the English city of Brighton.

This inspired the Melbourne event, which has taken on a life of its own with similar dances also planned Saturday in 21 cities around the world, coordinator Douglas Leitch said, including Berlin, Oslo, Montreal, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

"The whole idea really is just to get toregether and have fun and do our unique interpretation of the dance," the 44-year-old, who had an overwhelming response after advertising the day on Facebook, told AFP.

Kate Bush fans rehearse a dance before performing during a celebration to 
mark 'The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever', in Melbourne, on July 16, 2016
(AFP Photo/Paul Crock)

He said at least 800 dresses had been bought for the occasion, with dance classes booked out across Melbourne as people prepared. Organisers on Saturday estimated around 2,000 people, young and old, took part.

"It is such a unique song from a unique artist. It resonates with people and that's why it's lasted," added Leitch.

"I don't know if Kate knows it's happening, because she's a bit of a recluse, but I'm sure she might."



Related Article:


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Japan's Emperor Akihito 'planning to abdicate'

Yahoo – AFP, July 13, 2016

Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have been on the Chrysanthemum
Throne for 27 years after coming to power in 1989 (AFP Photo/Toru Hanai)

Japan's ageing Emperor Akihito plans to step down in favour of his eldest son within a few years, Japanese media reported Wednesday, in what would be the first such royal abdication in two centuries.

The 82-year-old monarch has told those close to him that his role should be occupied by someone who can fulfil the emperor's duties as stipulated in the constitution, public broadcaster NHK reported, without citing a source for the information.

Under Japan's current Imperial Household Law, which governs the status of the emperor, there is no legal mechanism for abdication.

U.S. President Barack Obama is 
greeted by Emperor Akihito upon 
arriving at the Imperial Palace in 
Tokyo November 14, 2009. Reuters/
Jim Young/File photo
Any move to step down would therefore require a revision of that law.

Kyodo News agency carried a similar report, citing an unnamed government source.

No one was immediately available at the Imperial Household Agency, which manages Akihito's affairs, or the prime minister's office for comment.

Japan, which claims to have one of the world's oldest monarchies, has not seen an imperial abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in 200 years, NHK said.

Akihito's role is strictly limited to one of "symbol of the state" under a constitution imposed by the United States in the aftermath of World War II.

His father Hirohito, in whose name the military conquests of the 20th century were prosecuted, was treated as a living god in Japan until defeat in 1945.

'Feel my age'

The Japanese throne is held in deep respect by much of the public, despite being largely stripped of its mystique and quasi-divine status in the aftermath of the war.

The revered Akihito, who has suffered from numerous health issues including prostate cancer and heart surgery, publicly hinted late last year at his growing limitations in the performance of his ceremonial duties.

"I am beginning to feel my age, and there were times when I made some mistakes at events," he told reporters at an annual press conference just ahead of his birthday on December 23.

But Kyodo stressed, citing a government source, that there are no health issues that would cause him to have to step down immediately.

The news agency also said that Akihito expressed his wish to abdicate at least one year ago.

Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako make an appearance
 before Japanese athletes during a team-forming ceremony ahead of the Japanese
 team's departure to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan July 3, 
2016. Reuters/Issei Kato

Crown Prince Naruhito, the monarch's eldest son, and Empress Michiko, his wife, support the wish, NHK said.

In 2011, Prince Akishino, the emperor's second son, told a press conference that Japan should discuss setting a retirement age for emperors, just days after his father was discharged from hospital.

Though soft spoken, the constitutionally constrained Akihito has managed to push boundaries as both crown prince and emperor.

Empress Michiko was a commoner before entering the imperial family as his wife. The two met on a tennis court and their 1959 marriage was a national sensation.

Akihito has offered subtle hints as to his own views in the nearly three-decade reign.

In an encounter at a 2004 imperial garden party captured on camera he was seen telling a Tokyo municipal official who had pushed for the compulsory use in schools of the Japanese flag and national anthem -- an ode to the emperor -- that such a forced stance was undesirable.

And in 2001 at a press conference ahead of his birthday, he acknowledged that some of his ancient ancestry was traceable to the Korean peninsula, a virtual red flag to arch-nationalists who promote a view of Japan as a nation characterised by a single, pure race.

In remarks in August last year at a memorial marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's 1945 surrender, he expressed "profound remorse" for the war fought in his father's name, reportedly the first time he had used those words at the annual event.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beijing's South China Sea claims invalid: tribunal

Yahoo – AFP, July 13, 2016

Beijing raises rhetoric ahead of South China Sea ruling

Beijing (AFP) - Beijing's claims to a vast swathe of the South China Sea are invalid, an international tribunal ruled Tuesday, dealing a devastating diplomatic blow to its ambitions in one of the world's most important flashpoints.

China, which boycotted the proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, rejected the ruling, calling it "null and void".

But analysts said it was a "huge win" for the Philippines, which brought the case.

The resource-rich, strategically vital waters of the South China Sea are disputed between the Asian giant -- which claims almost all of them on the basis of a "nine-dash line" that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s -- and several other countries including the Philippines.

The row has embroiled the United States, which has deployed aircraft carriers and a host of other vessels to assert freedom of navigation in waters through which one-third of the global oil trade passes.

China says that its fishermen have visited the area for centuries, but the PCA tribunal said that under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Beijing had not had exclusive control of it.

Any historic rights were "extinguished" when it signed up to UNCLOS, it said, and there was "no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line'," it said.

Crucially, it ruled that none of the Spratlys, a chain of outcrops in the south of the sea, were "islands" under the meaning of UNCLOS, meaning that whoever had sovereignty over them -- an issue it did not address -- they were not entitled to 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of their own.

'Branded as an outlaw'

Some sea areas were therefore definitely in the Philippines' EEZ, it said, as they were "not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China".

China had violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in its EEZ and the artificial islands Beijing has been furiously building in recent years -- reshaping facts in the water in an effort to bolster its claim -- have inflicted severe environmental damage, it added.

The damning decision was "as unfavourable to China as it can be", said Yanmei Xie, China analyst for the International Crisis Group.

The award by the five-member panel -- chaired by a Ghanaian -- "overwhelmingly favours the Philippines -- a huge win," said M. Taylor Fravel of MIT.

Manila welcomed the decision but Beijing reacted furiously, saying it "neither accepts nor recognises" the ruling.

"The award is null and void and has no binding force," China's foreign ministry said on its website, reiterating its territorial claims.

The official news agency Xinhua cited President Xi Jinping as saying the islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times, and Beijing will not accept any action based on the decision.

China has consistently said the tribunal does not have jurisdiction on the issue -- declaring the support of multiple countries for its stance, many of them poor but with significant trading relationships with it -- and Xinhua reported the ruling under the headline: "Law-abusing tribunal issues ill-founded award".

In Washington, the State Department said the ruling was an "important contribution" to resolving regional disputes and should be seen as "final and legally binding".

China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has been seeking a greater role on the global diplomatic stage, and will not want to be seen as a violator of international law.

But how the decision could be enforced remains open to question. Richard Heydarian, a political analyst at De La Salle University in Manila, told AFP: "China has been branded as an outlaw in unequivocal terms. US, Japan and other major powers should now focus on enforcing this binding verdict if China fails to comply."

In the short term, the decision was likely to escalate the "war of words" but would not immediately change the geopolitical dynamics in the sea, said Xie of the International Crisis Group.

"We?re going to see a continuation of the chest thumping we've seen, especially from the China side."

'Tough reaction'

Beijing has held naval drills between the Paracels and the southern Chinese island of Hainan in recent days, while US Pacific Command said on Twitter that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan had launched flight operations to support "security, stability" in the South China Sea.

Bonnie Glaser of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies told AFP: "I expect a very tough reaction from China since it has lost on almost every point."

China could choose to withdraw from UNCLOS, or begin building on Scarborough Shoal, which it seized from the Philippines in 2012 -- which Washington would view as a provocation.

Beijing could also declare an air defence identification zone over the South China Sea, claiming the right to interrogate aircraft passing through the airspace, or try to remove a ship grounded by Manila on Second Thomas Shoal for use as a base.

Xu Tiebing, international relations professor at Communication University of China, told AFP that Chinese would see the PCA decision as evidence of international opposition to their country.

"These international organisations were not absolutely neutral, and in fact they are still subject to the manipulation and influence of big powers," he said.

The Philippines, which had lodged the suit in 2013, welcomed the "milestone decision", and foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay said: "We call on all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety."

Nationalist demonstrations are not rare in China, sometimes apparently with the tacit backing of authorities, and the Philippine embassy in Beijing has warned its citizens to beware of personal "threats".

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Philippines willing to share South China Sea: Manila

Yahoo – AFP, Ayee Macaraig, Karl Malakunas, July 8, 2016

An activist holding a Philippine flag while a Chinese coastguard ship sails
close by at the Scarborough Shoal (AFP Photo/STR)

Manila (Philippines) (AFP) - The Philippines is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told AFP Friday.

Yasay said President Rodrigo Duterte's administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday's verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

"We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory: how we can utilise and benefit mutually from the utilisation of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping," Yasay told AFP in an interview.

The Philippines, under Benigno Aquino's previous administration, filed in 2013 a legal challenge with a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague contesting China's claims to nearly all of the strategically vital sea.

China's claims reach almost to the coasts of the Philippines and some other Southeast Asian nations, and it has in recent years built giant artificial islands in the disputed areas to enforce what it says are its indisputable sovereign rights.

The Philippines' case enraged China, which repeatedly vowed to ignore the tribunal's ruling and is currently holding military drills in the northern part of the sea as a show of force.

Beijing claims nearly all of the strategically vital South China Sea (AFP Photo)

No provocations

China continued to steam on Friday, with foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei describing the case as "a violation of international rule of order under the cloak of championing it", and state-run media warning Beijing would not take a "single step back" in the dispute.

China has been further infuriated by the United States beefing up its military presence in the waters, with the US Navy Times newspaper reporting that three American destroyers had been sent into the hotspot areas ahead of Tuesday's verdict.

Duterte, who took office on June 30, has adopted a more conciliatory approach to China than Aquino.

The previous president refused to hold direct talks, and likened China's expansionist efforts in the sea to Nazi Germany's march on parts of Europe ahead of World War II.

Yasay signalled on Friday that Duterte would be making no such analogies, emphasising his administration would seek to ensure the best possible relations with China.

"The statements we will be making will be in the pursuit of strengthening our relationship with everybody and will be for the purpose of making sure there will be no stumbling block to our negotiating a peaceful solution to the issue," Yasay said.

Yasay said after the ruling is released, the Philippines would study it closely, discuss it with allies, and then seek to launch talks with China "as soon as possible".

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country's exclusive economic zone falls within 200 nautical miles of its coast. A nation has sovereign rights to exploit natural resources in that zone.

Beijing has built a runway on the Fiery Cross Reef, which is also claimed by
Vietnam and the Philippines (AFP Photo/DigitalGlobe)

Fish, drill together

Yasay said the Philippines was open to sharing Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone that China took control of in 2012 and has banned Filipino boats from entering.

"The resources there are God-given for all and for everyone to enjoy. We can work at joint benefit in so far as using the marine resources in the area," Yasay said.

Yasay said the Philippines would also consider jointly exploring a natural gas field at Reed Bank, which is similarly within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and far from China's nearest major landmass.

"I think it would be in the pursuit of our national interest to do that and that will be a big step forward if everyone can agree on proceeding on that basis," Yasay said when asked about jointly developing Reed Bank.

Yasay insisted the Philippines would not concede any of its rights in the sea.

But he said the dispute over sovereignty would not be solved for many years, describing it as a "generational issue", and that rival claimants must in the meantime work cooperatively.

Duterte and Yasay met with China's ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, on Thursday. Zhao was seen again at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Australia PM urged to quit after failing to seal emphatic vote win

Yahoo – AFP, July 4, 2016

Australian Labor leader Bill Shorten (L) has called Prime Minister Malcolm 
Turnbull (R) the 'David Cameron of the southern hemisphere' (AFP Photo/William
West, Lukas Coch)

Australia's opposition Labor Party urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to resign Monday, calling him the "David Cameron of the southern hemisphere" after he failed to secure an emphatic election victory.

Millionaire former banker Turnbull took the country to the ballot boxes on Saturday, but his Liberal/National coalition has so far failed to win enough seats to form a government.

Labor leader Bill Shorten, whose party appears to have gained seats in the 150-member House of Representatives but also fallen short of the 76 needed to govern, said Turnbull had to go.

Malcolm Turnbull has been prime minister 
since September 2015 (AFP Photo/Gal Roma)
"This is farcical. Mr. Turnbull clearly doesn't know what he is doing. Quite frankly, I think he should quit," Shorten told reporters in Sydney.

"He has taken this nation to an election on the basis of stability; he has delivered instability."

He said Turnbull's decision to put every seat in the upper house Senate up for grabs in a so-called double dissolution election rather than have the usual half-Senate vote had "made a bad situation worse".

"He Brexited himself. This guy is like (the) David Cameron of the southern hemisphere," the Labor leader said.

"He leads a divided party, he has had an election and he has delivered an inferior and unstable outcome."

Britain's Cameron called a referendum on whether the country should stay in the EU and led the "Remain" campaign. He announced he was quitting after the nation voted to leave.

Turnbull is the country's fourth leader since 2013 after he ousted fellow Liberal Tony Abbott as prime minister in a party coup last September. He called elections early hoping to shore up support for his ruling coalition.

With the vote count still incomplete, the anti-immigration One Nation party of Pauline Hanson, who once claimed Asians were in danger of swamping the country, looks set to win multiple Senate seats.

"How on earth did Mr. Turnbull think that an idea of reform could end up with two or three One Nation senators in the Senate?" Shorten asked.

The vote count in Australia is due to resume on Tuesday, with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporting that the government has 68 seats to Labor's 67 with five minor players and 10 in doubt.

Friday, July 1, 2016

US human trafficking report blacklists Myanmar

Yahoo – AFP, Dave Clark, June 30, 2016

Libya, Somalia and Yemen were judged special cases whose governments are in
too much chaos to be judged over the actions their governments have taken to
combat human trafficking, a US report found (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

Washington (AFP) - The United States on Thursday blacklisted eight more countries for failing to combat human trafficking, including fledgling democracy Myanmar, but was criticized for taking an easier line on Thailand.

Announcing the release of the State Department's annual human trafficking report, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the rankings were based on objective criteria, and not political favor.

But activists, while welcoming the designation of Myanmar and Uzbekistan to the worst category of wrongdoer, complained that US allies Thailand and Malaysia got off relatively lightly.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, pictured
 here on April 13, 2016, in Washington, DC,
 insisted the report's rankings were based
 on objective criteria, and not political favor
 (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)
"There are some tough calls. In the end, they come down to an element of discretion, but not much, because we have a fixed set of rules that Congress had created, and we follow those rules," Kerry said.

"The conclusions are based on facts and are based on a lot of analysis over the year," he said.

Djibouti, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Suriname and Turkmenistan were also added to the now 26-strong blacklist of governments the State Department believes are not fighting people smuggling or slavery.

Kuwait and Thailand found themselves promoted from this "Tier 3" list of worst offenders to the "Tier 2 watch list" of countries making some kind of effort to combat the trade in persons but still under scrutiny.

Libya, Somalia and Yemen were judged special cases whose governments are in too much chaos to be judged.

Last year, the State Department was criticized for not including Myanmar on its Tier 3 list, amid allegations that Washington was turning a blind eye to slavery while encouraging a slow transition to democracy.

Myanmar held contested general elections last year won by the party of veteran rights activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who now steers the country's first civilian government.

Persecuted minority

Suu Kyi had spent a decade fighting corrupt military rule, and Washington has been keen to support her once pariah country on the slow road to democratic reform.

But much remains to be done, and the government has been accused of backsliding, particularly as regards the fate of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

This year's report on Myanmar dubs it "a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and for women and children subjected to sex trafficking, both in Burma and abroad."

Myanmar's democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently visiting 
Thailand, has come under fire for failing to speak up for the Rohingya (AFP Photo/
Lillian Suwanrumpha)

People from across Myanmar are subject to abuse, but the report says "Rohingya individuals are particularly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking in Rakhine State, including forced labor perpetrated by government authorities."

Myanmar has been on the "Tier 2 watch list" for four years -- the maximum period it can be allowed under US law to improve its practices or be relegated to the third tier -- which is what has now happened.

Washington had also been accused of taking too lenient an approach to Uzbekistan, where the government makes no attempt to hide the fact that it press-gangs civil servants into forced labor to harvest cotton.

This year report notes that "government-compelled forced labor of adults remains endemic during the annual cotton harvest" and concludes that the Uzbek government is not making any significant attempt to halt trafficking.

Human rights watchdogs welcomed the demotion of Myanmar and Uzbekistan, which they felt had been unfairly protected from scrutiny for political reasons in last year's report, but expressed regret that Thailand and Malaysia were not also being held to account.

Mass grave

"We're encouraged by the State Department's decision to downgrade Burma -- that was a country that we were paying pretty close attention to," said Kristen Abrams, acting director of anti-trafficking umbrella group ATEST.

"We're also equally encouraged by the right of last year's wrong on Uzbekistan, a country that has state orchestrated forced labor," she said.

But watchdogs remain concerned that Washington is going easy on its allies in Southeast Asia, where the fishing industry in particular is regularly accused of using forced labor in inhumane conditions at sea.

Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C-R) meets with Myanmar Foreign 
Minister and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the government house in 
Bangkok, Thailand, June 24, 2016. Reuters/Jorge Silva

"Starting with Thailand, we have seen some willingness to reform some of their laws, but it's not made any significant impact on the ground," Abrams said.

"With Malaysia, we know that they were moved up last year for political reasons. It was unjustified then and it remains unjustified today," she said, citing a failure to investigate mass graves.

The report notes that: "Discoveries of migrant camps and mass graves along the border with Thailand in 2015 generated reports some officials were complicit in facilitating migrant smuggling, which may have included trafficking crimes."

But it concludes that Malaysia is "making significant efforts" to meet minimum standards to fight the crime.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

China, Russia eye closer friendship amid tensions with West

Yahoo – AFP, 25 June 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Chinese President 
Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on
June 25, 2016 (AFP Photo/Greg Baker)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin promised ever-closer cooperation and oversaw a series of deals Saturday, as the two countries deepen ties in the face of growing tensions with the West.

In what was Putin's fourth trip to China since Xi became President in 2013, the two men stressed their shared outlook which mirrors the countries' converging trade, investment and geopolitical interests.

"Russia and China stick to points of view which are very close to each other or are almost the same in the international arena," Putin said.

The Russian leader added that the two had discussed "strengthening together the fight against international terrorism", the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, Syria, and stability in the South China Sea.

Russia and China have been brought together by mutual geopolitical concerns, among them wariness of the United States.

The two countries often vote as a pair on the UN Security Council, where both hold a veto, sometimes in opposition to Western powers on issues such as Syria.

China has raised tensions with its neighbours and the US over its claims to virtually all of the South China Sea, where it has built militarised artificial islands to bolster its claims in the contested but strategically vital region.

Russia’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and support for other Ukrainian separatist movements have led to the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

At loggerheads with the West, Moscow is seeking to refocus its gas and oil exports from Europe -- its main energy market -- towards Asia and is diligently building an energy alliance with Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a joint press briefing with Russian
 President Vladimir Putin, in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on June 25, 2016
(AFP Photo/Greg Baker)

'Friends forever'

Xi emphasised that this year marked the 15th anniversary of the China-Russia treaty of friendship and hoped that the two countries might remain "friends forever".

"President Putin and I equally agree that when faced with international circumstances that are increasingly complex and changing, we must persist even harder in maintaining the spirit of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership and cooperation," he said.

The two sides signed over 30 cooperation deals in areas such as trade, infrastructure, foreign affairs, technology and innovation, agriculture, finance, energy, sports and the media.

Notably, Russian oil giant Rosneft inked a deal with China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) on developing a gas processing and petrochemical plant in East Siberia, as China seeks energy to fuel its economic growth.

Xi and Putin signed two joint statements themselves, one "to strengthen global strategic stability" and one to promote the development of information and cyberspace.

Putin said that 58 different deals worth a total of around $50 billion were currently in discussion, adding that the two countries will seek to secure an agreement on building a high-speed rail line in Russia by the end of the year.

Xi also called for closer cooperation between news agencies in Russia and China so that both countries could "together increase the influence" of their media on world public opinion.

Under Xi, Communist China has mounted crackdowns on dissidents and tightened restrictions on the media, while critics accuse Putin's Russia of rights abuses.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Scores of environmental activists murdered in 2015: report

Yahoo – AFP, Marlowe Hood, June 20, 2016

Lumad people protest against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Summit on November 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Joseph Agcaoili)

Paris (AFP) - At least 185 activists and indigenous people fighting environmental pillaging were murdered in 2015, the watchdog group Global Witness said on Monday.

The grisly toll is the largest recorded -- nearly 60 percent more than in 2014 -- since the NGO began tracking such violence worldwide in 2002, and is probably higher because many killings go unreported, it said in its annual report.

Brazil and the Philippines together accounted for nearly a third of the total, followed by Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

2015 Was a Deadly Year for 
Environmental Activists
More than 40 murders were related to mining operations, according to the report.

Disputes over agribusiness, logging and dam projects also led to numerous killings.

"Communities that take a stand are increasingly finding themselves in the firing line of companies' private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers," Global Witness campaign leader Billy Kyte said in a statement.

"Governments must urgently intervene to stop this spiralling violence."

Indigenous people -- nearly 40 percent of the victims -- are frequent targets of land and resource grabs, often in collusion with corrupt local officials, he said.

The area on Mindanao in the Philippines inhabited by the Lumad people, for example, saw 25 killings last year alone, the highest death rate of any region monitored.

The Lumad homeland is rich in coal, nickel and gold.

In a particularly brazen attack, the father and grandfather of Filipino activist Michelle Campos were murdered in public for their stand against mining operations, Global Witness reported.

"We know the murderers -- they are still walking free in our community," Campos, who escaped harm, said in a statement.

In Brazil, the NGO said, the fight to save the Amazon is "increasingly a fight against criminal gangs who terrorise local populations at the behest of timber companies and the officials they have corrupted."

Thousands of unauthorised logging camps are scattered across Brazil's Amazon basin, where precious hardwoods -- mahogany, ebony, teak -- are cut and prepared for export.

A 2014 report from Chatham House estimates that 80 percent of timber coming from Brazil is illicit, accounting for a quarter of illegal wood on the global market.

"The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world," Kyte said.

The top markets for precious woods are the United States, China and the European Union.

In early March this year, two masked men gunned down indigenous activist Berta Caceres, recipient of a prestigious international environmental prize for fighting a dam project in Honduras.

Last week, some 500 indigenous Lenca people held a protest in Honduran capital Tegucigalpa to demand an international probe into the murder.

One of five people arrested for Caceres' murder is a high-ranking employee of Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), an electricity company involved in the construction of the hydro-electric dam against which she campaigned.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Dutch woman, 22, arrested in Qatar after reporting her rape

DutchNews, June 11, 2016

A Qatari woman walks in front of the city skyline in Doha. Photo: AP/
Kamran Jebreili

 A 22-year-old Dutch woman from Utrecht has been in jail in Qatar since March since making a police report she had been raped, Dutch media reported on Saturday. 

The woman, named in the media as Laura, faces being charged with having sex outside marriage, which carries a jail term of up to three years 

The Dutch foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday that Laura has been arrested but said she had not yet been charged with anything. 

Laura had gone out dancing at the Crystal Lounge in the Doha Hotel, a popular hangout with foreign tourists where alcohol is permitted, the Telegraaf said. She was on holiday in Qatar with a friend called Lisa, her mother told the Telegraaf. 

According to Laura’s family’s lawyer, she went to the police after waking up in a strange apartment and realising she had been raped. She thinks it likely her drink was drugged and had flashbacks of being taken from the hotel in a taxi by an Arab man, lawyer Brian Lokollo told Radio 1 news. 

Marriage

The man she claims attacked her has also been arrested. According to one newspaper report, he says that he paid Laura to have sex with him. 

Dutch media say Laura is coming under considerable pressure from her alleged attacker’s family to marry the man, so that both would be let off without any charge.

‘I have recommended against this, not only because it would be a appalling thing to do, but I don’t know what the other consequences would be,’ Lokollo said. 

Embassy

A foreign ministry spokesman said an official had been in court with Laura and she had been provided with a list of lawyers but that she wanted to make her own arrangements. Another hearing will take place on Monday, the spokesman said.’Our main aim is to ensure a fair trial,’ he is quoted as saying. 

MPs have urged foreign minister Bert Koenders to make a statement about the situation, in particular the role of the embassy in helping the woman and her family. 

They also want answers on claims it took three weeks before anyone from the embassy visited Laura in jail.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Singapore PM defends government Internet blockage

Yahoo – AFP, June 10, 2016

Singapore is one of the world's most Internet-savvy societies, offering
broadband speeds envied by many (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Singapore's prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has defended the country's controversial decision to cut off civil servants' work computers from the Internet, calling the move "absolutely necessary" to keep information systems secure.

"Are we happy? I don't think so, because it will slow us down in terms of day-to-day productivity. In terms of security, safety of our systems, safety of our citizens and information concerning them, it's absolutely necessary," he told Singapore media during a visit to Myanmar.

Lee said that the defence and foreign affairs ministries already have separate computers for Internet access and for handling sensitive communications.

There was a huge backlash on Wednesday when The Straits Times newspaper reported that some 100,000 government computers would be affected by the Internet blockage, aimed at keeping data secure and preventing the spread of malware.

It quoted a cyber security official as saying that there were 16 attacks on government systems from unnamed sources in the last year, but the malware was detected and destroyed.

Singapore's prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (L) has defended the country's 
controversial decision to cut off civil servants' work computers from the Internet, 
calling the move 'absolutely necessary' to keep information systems secure
(AFP Photo/Mohd Fyrol)

Malware is software specifically designed to disrupt or damage a computer system.

Civil servants would still be able to access the Internet on their personal devices such as tablets and mobile phones.

Public-school teachers and lecturers would not be affected by the move, officials said.

Singapore is one of the world's most Internet-savvy societies, offering broadband speeds envied by many.

A wide range of government services are available online, including registering for marriage, filing complaints to the police and video consultations with doctors.

Singapore announced in 2014 it was stepping up IT security measures following attacks on a section of the prime minister's website, as well the website of the presidential residence.