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, August 31, 2015

Higher wages in store for foreign caregivers in Taiwan

Want China Times, CNA 2015-08-30

Foreign caregivers at a park in Taipei, March 30. (Photo/Fang Chun-che)

Foreign caregivers planning to work in Taiwan will receive a monthly wage of NT$17,000 (US$525) beginning on Sept. 1, the country's labor minister Chen Hsiung-wen announced on Friday.

That represents an increase of NT$1,160 (US$35), or 7.32%, from the current monthly wage of NT$15,840 (US$490), which has been the fixed rate for the past 18 years.

In contrast to the minimum monthly wage of NT$20,008 (US$617.34) for workers in Taiwan, which has increased 26% during the period, Chen said the 7.32% raise was reasonable.

Foreign nationals working as domestic caregivers in Taiwan are not covered under Taiwan's Labor Standards Act and therefore not entitled to the statutory minimum wage.

The higher monthly wage will only be applied, however, to new applicants from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and not to those already working in Taiwan.

With the monthly pay for migrant domestic helpers in Hong Kong and Macau at NT$16,530 (US$510), Taiwan hopes that the wage increase can attract quality domestic helpers to work in the country, Chen said, after a meeting with officials from the four Southeast Asian countries earlier in the day.

Indonesia and the Philippines, the two countries that provide the most migrant domestic helpers in Taiwan, have pressed Taiwan for months to increase the wages for their workers to NT$17,500 (US$540) per month, and have been holding back new workers from employers unwilling to pay that amount.

It was not immediately clear if the new wage settled the differences between Taiwan and the two countries.

But Agusdin Subiantoro, deputy director of Indonesia's National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers, told CNA on Thursday that Indonesia and Taiwan had reached the agreement to increase migrant caregivers' pay to NT$17,000 (US$525) after rounds of negotiations.

Groups of manpower brokers called for the ministry on Friday afternoon to require incoming migrant workers to have HIV/AIDS testing and pregnancy tests done.

But the Labor Ministry said that considering international human rights conventions and workplace gender equality, those tests should not be requirements for those workers.

Related Article:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Protesters gather in Malaysian capital

Protesters have been gathering in the Malaysian capital ahead of a planned two-day anti-government rally, despite a ban on the demonstration. Many are wearing yellow pro-democracy T-shirts in defiance of another order.

Deutsche Welle, 29 Aug 2015

Two yellow T-shirted protesters take a selfie near a barrier manned by police
Reuters/Olivia Harris

Thousands of protesters congregated in several areas of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday ahead of the planned rally, during which huge crowds are expected to march to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib has been facing public outrage over a multi-million-dollar payment made to a bank account under his name.

Security is expected to be tight for the rally, which is due to run until Sunday evening. Police were reported to have blocked access to one square where protesters intended to converge.

A local news portal reported that the army might intervene if the crowds get out of hand, and a state of emergency could be declared. However, a military spokesman declined to comment on the report. The police, meanwhile, have declared the rally illegal and have banned online information about the event, while authorities have urged people not to join the protest.

Kuala Lumpur authorities rejected an application by pro-democracy group Bersih for a permit to protest, setting the stage for a possible showdown with security forces. Police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters at Bersih's last big rally in 2012. The activist group has also called for rallies in the cities of Kota Kinabalu and Kuching on the Malaysian side of Borneo.

The wearing of yellow

Ahead of the protests, Malaysia also banned the wearing of any yellow clothing which contains the word "Bersih", according to the German news agency DPA. Bersih, the Malay word for clean, refers to the Coalition of Free and Fair Elections. The coalition is comprised of 84 non-governmental organizations calling for a thorough reform of the electoral process in Malaysia as well as transparency in government.

But the director of independent pollster Merdeka Center, Ibrahim Suffian, said discontent with Najib, who took office in 2009, was concentrated in urban areas, adding that a national survey this month showed a slight majority were opposed to the rally. Najib also reshuffled part of his cabinet to ensure he had supporters on his side while weathering the storm.

Najib under investigation

The 62-year-old leader ran into trouble in July when it was reported that investigators had launched a probe into the "1Malaysia Development Berhad" (1MDB) debt-laden state fund. A payment of more than $600 million had been traced to an account under the premier's name.

Criticism of Najib has come even
from within his own part
Malaysia's anti-graft agency had verified the funds were a donation from the Middle East, which came just before a 2013 election. On August 3, it said it would ask Najib to explain why the donation was deposited into his private account.

The prime minister's fiercest critic, former leader Mahathir Mohamad, this week said he did not believe the money was a donation and called again for Najib to go. The premier denied any wrongdoing. Opposition parties, meanwhile, have filed a lawsuit against the prime minister.

ss/lw (Reuters, dpa)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thai elephant kills keeper, runs off with 3 Chinese on its back

Yahoo – AFP, 26 Aug 2015

Thai policemen attend to the body of a mahout killed by his elephant in Chiang
Mai province on August 26, 2015 (AFP Photo)

An elephant in northern Thailand went berserk Wednesday, killing his "mahout" keeper before running off into the jungle with three terrified Chinese tourists still on his back, police said.

"The mahout who was killed was Karen and he was not familiar with the elephant. They (the tourists) are safe now," Colonel Thawatchai Thepboon, police commander of Mae Wang district in Chiang Mai province, told AFP.

The Karen are an ethnic minority widespread in northern Thailand.

Police said the incident took place at 9.30am (0230 GMT) as a Chinese family of three -- a father, mother and a young child -- took a ride on the back of a male elephant.

Rides are a popular and lucrative tourist activity but many animal rights groups say it is cruel and stressful for the pachyderms.

Mahouts with their elephants after bathing them in a river at Anantara resort, 
home to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, in Chiang Saen on
April 10, 2015 (AFP Photo/Christophe Archambault)

The elephant had not taken easily to his new keeper and turned on him suddenly, goring him to death, Channel 3 reported.

The channel broadcast footage of the three frightened tourists being led back to camp still on the elephant's back once it had been calmed down by other mahouts and their rides.

Thailand's roughly 4,000 domesticated elephants outnumber an estimated 2,500 remaining in the wild.

Domestic elephants in Thailand -- where the pachyderm is a national symbol -- have been used en masse in the tourist trade since they found themselves unemployed in 1989 when logging was banned.

Accidents are not unheard of. In June an elephant killed a Thai man and injured another as they were eating dinner at a beachside restaurant. The pair had been talking to the animal's mahout when it suddenly flipped.

Elephants eat platters of fruit during the elephant banquet to mark "National 
Elephant Day" in Ayutthaya province on March 13, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Rights groups have documented the more unscrupulous mahouts using controversial techniques to crush the animal's spirit or severely overworking their rides to make more money.

"Elephants work every day, of every month, basically 365 days per year," Edwin Wiek, a campaigner from Wildlife Friends of Thailand told AFP.

"If you had to do the same, you would get stressed. It is the same for elephants. At some point they become crazy and we can't control them."

The accident comes as Thailand's tourism industry reels from last week's bombing of a religious shrine in Bangkok, an attack that killed 20 people, mostly ethnic Chinese devotees from across Asia.

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Thai Department of National Parks (DNP) workers display pieces of ivory
during a destruction ceremony in Bangkok on August 26, 2015 (AFP Photo/
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Thailand destroys ivory stockpile amid junta crackdown

Yahoo – AFP, 26 Aug 2015

Thai Department of National Parks (DNP) workers display pieces of ivory 
during a destruction ceremony in Bangkok on August 26, 2015 (AFP Photo/
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Bangkok (AFP) - Thailand destroyed more than two tonnes of ivory Wednesday -- a victory for animal rights groups fighting against the trade in a country renowned for being a hub for illegal tusks.

The ceremony, in which 2,155 kilograms of raw tusks and carved trinkets were fed into an industrial rock crusher before being incinerated, was presided over by the Thai junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha and is the first time the kingdom has taken steps to destroy part of its stockpile.

"This is to show the Thai government's strong determination to oppose ivory trafficking and that Thailand will comply with international rules," he said during the ceremony.

Animal rights campaigners have long accused successive Thai civilian and military administrations of turning a blind eye to the lucrative trade.

They have pushed for Bangkok to destroy its stockpile to signal its determination to stamp down on the trade and avoid the risk of seized ivory finding its way back onto the black market through corrupt officials.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha (2nd R) looks at pieces of ivory
 on display during a destruction of confiscated ivory exercise at Thailand's 
Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation in Bangkok on
August 26, 2015 (AFP Photo/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But that has not stopped criminal gangs seeking to exploit a continued demand for tusks in Asia.

Ivory and other body parts of elephants are prized for decoration, as talismans, and for use in traditional medicine across parts of Asia with Thailand a key transit point.

The country's generals, who seized power in a coup last spring, have vowed to crack down on the illegal ivory trade.

Earlier this year, they ordered all Thais to register any ivory they owned, warning that those who failed to do so would see their items confiscated.

They have also made a series of high profile seizures including four tonnes of ivory found hidden in containers in April that originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was destined for Laos.

Thai police seized more than three tonnes of ivory a week later in a second haul, this time from Kenya that was again destined for Laos.

Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 - but that has not stopped criminal gangs
 seeking to exploit a continued demand for tusks in Asia (AFP Photo/
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

The ivory destroyed on Wednesday accounts for most of Thailand's stockpile where criminal cases have been completed.

A further 540 kilograms has been donated to museums, government institution and universities to be used for educational and awareness raising purposes.

Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, from the World Wildlife Fund, said Thailand's junta had taken significant steps to tackle the illegal trade and that the destruction of the stockpile was "more than just a symbolic act".

"For too long Thailand has been exploited by wildlife criminals as both a gateway and marketplace for ivory poached in Africa and Asia," she added.

The ceremony came as state media in Vietnam reported two significant seizures of elephant tusks in the last few days, including two tonnes from Nigeria and another yet to be weighed haul that came via Malaysia.

Related Article:

Vietnam seizes illegal ivory from Malaysia

Customs officials in Vietnam have confiscated illegally imported ivory for the second time in two weeks. The elephant tusks and pangolin scales were hidden amongst red beans in a container imported from Malaysia.

Deutsche Welle, 26 Aug 2015

Seized ivories and ivory products prior to its destruction in Brussels, 
Belgium(Photo: Xinhua/Gong Bing)

According to the Vietnamese VNExpress news website, the police seized ivory in central Danang's Tien Sa port on Tuesday.

"This is a very big case. At least a ton of elephant tusks and pangolin scales were hidden inside the container," said Dang Van Toan, head of the control division of Da Nang customs.
In a similar case last week, Vietnamese police busted two tons of ivory from Nigeria.

Earlier this month, officials confiscated more than 700 kilograms of rhino horns and elephant tusks imported from Mozambique.

Ivory products are popular in the Southeast Asian country. A kilogram of elephant tusk sells for at least $2,100 (1,822 euros) on the black market - around double the country's annual per capita GDP.

Vietnamese activists have long campaigned to convince people not to buy ivory products, but they haven't had much success.

Trading in ivory has been a crime since 1989 following the hunt of scores of elephants in Africa. Their population had dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to just 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

shs/msh (AFP, dpa)
Related Article:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indonesia Wants to Use Yuan for Trades in Asean

Jakarta Globe, 2 August 2015

Jakarta. Indonesia is proposing the use of China's yuan for trade and investment purposes in Asean‎ countries in a bid to counter further impacts from the stronger US dollar against currencies in the region, a minister said on Tuesday.

The 10 members of the Asean region, including Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, mostly use US dollars for international trade. But a strengthening greenback has made imports and servicing debt more expensive, pushing some to consider turning to the yuan.

"We want to push [the use of the yuan] when Indonesia trades with China in particular," Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said at the House of Representatives. "Bank Indonesia is preparing the mechanism so it will be attractive for traders."

Trade Minister Thomas Lembong also brought up the issue on Monday after a meeting with the president.

He said Indonesia should push harder for broader use of the Chinese currency in the region because Asean economies were "much more in tune" with China.

The rupiah traded at an average of 14,700 per US dollar on Monday morning, its weakest point since 1998, according to the counter price at state-owned Bank Rakyat Indonesia. It has lost about 13 percent of its value against the dollar this year.

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China and Japan will start direct currency trading

"The U in Kundalini"- Oct 18, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Kundalini, Unification, EU, Nobel Peace Prize 2012, Middle East, South America, Only 5 Currencies on EarthOld Souls, Duality will dismiss, 3D Humanity will melt with Multi dimensional higher self, Global Unity… etc.)

Singapore to hold snap election on September 11

Yahoo – AFP, Bhavan Jaipragas, 25 Aug 2015

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the Istana presidential 
palace in Singapore on July 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Singapore will hold a snap general election on September 11, officials said Tuesday as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong seeks a new mandate from voters worried over immigration and the high cost of living.

Despite a slowing economy the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled for more than 50 years thanks to strict political controls and Singaporeans' rising affluence, is expected to keep its overwhelming majority in parliament against a fragmented opposition.

But the party will be under pressure to improve on its electoral performance in 2011, when it won just 60 percent of votes cast -- its lowest-ever share -- despite retaining 80 of the 87 seats in a block-voting system.

This photo taken on August 9, 2015 shows 
Singaporeans celebrating the country's
50th National Day in Singapore (AFP
Photo/Roslan Rahman)
It will be the first election without the prime minister’s hugely influential father, independence leader Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March.

The election department set the shortest possible campaigning period of nine days after President Tony Tan dissolved parliament at the prime minister's request.

Lee, who has been in power for 11 years and had until January 2017 to hold an election, sought support in a Facebook post.

"I called this general election to seek your mandate to take Singapore beyond SG50, into its next half century," he said, referring to the 50th anniversary of independence from Malaysia.

Singapore celebrated half a century as a republic on August 9 with a massive parade which highlighted its rapid economic development and stability under PAP rule.

All eyes will be on whether the opposition can gain more than the seven seats it currently holds.

Watershed election

"I would say this would be the watershed election after independence because we will see whether Singapore moves in a definitive manner towards a two-party system," said analyst Eugene Tan, an associate law professor at the Singapore Management University.

A survey by local research firm Blackbox said the government enjoyed a "satisfaction index" of 76.4 percent in July after peaking at 80 percent in April following Lee Kuan Yew’s death, which triggered an outpouring of grief and stirred patriotism.

Singapore's satisfaction rating on the cost of living in July stood at just 42 percent, 
housing affordability at 53 percent, public transport at 57 percent and population
 management at 61 percent (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

But its satisfaction rating on the cost of living in July stood at just 42 percent, housing affordability at 53 percent, public transport at 57 percent and population management at 61 percent.

An influx of foreign workers and immigrants as the local birthrate declined has seen the population surge from 4.17 million in 2004 to 5.47 million last year, of whom over 2.46 million are eligible Singaporean voters.

Middle-class Singaporeans complain that newcomers are competing with them for jobs and housing while straining public services like mass transport.

After the 2011 election the government invested billions of dollars in building new public housing flats and metro lines while curbing the intake of foreign workers and immigrants.

Michael Barr, a Singapore politics researcher at Flinders University in Australia, said the PAP had no doubts about being re-elected. "But they are worried about losing more seats than the last time, which was a record for the opposition."

However the main opposition Workers' Party has indicated it will contest only 28 of the 89 seats in the next parliament, with weaker parties fighting the PAP in the rest.

"Most of the opposition will simply secure a protest vote," said local analyst Derek da Cunha.

Rights groups have long criticised the PAP, particularly under Lee Kuan Yew, 
for jailing dissidents and driving political opponents to self-exile or financial ruin 
as a result of costly libel suits (AFP Photo/Philippe Lopez)

Singapore is now one of the world's richest cities, boasting top-notch education, health care and high-tech industries and financial institutions that attract workers and executives from around the world.

But rights groups have long criticised the PAP, particularly under Lee Kuan Yew, for jailing dissidents and driving political opponents to self-exile or financial ruin as a result of costly libel suits.

Singapore continues to impose strict rules on free speech and assembly, but social media have undermined the government's control over information and political debate.

Braema Mathi, president of independent human rights group Maruah, said the PAP has largely abandoned its "big stick approach" under the younger Lee, a British-educated former army brigadier general.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Koreas agree to defuse crisis after marathon talks

Yahoo – AFP, Jung Ha-Won, 24 Aug 2015

South Korean soldiers ride a military truck on the road leading to the truce village 
of Panmunjom in the border city of Paju on August 24, 2015 (AFP Photo)

Seoul (AFP) - North and South Korea wrapped up marathon talks Tuesday with an agreement on a series of measures to defuse a crisis that had pushed the two rivals to the brink of armed conflict.

The measures detailed in a joint statement included what amounted to an extremely rare public apology from North Korea, which "expressed regret" over mine blasts this month that maimed two South Korean soldiers on border patrol.

In response, the South agreed to halt loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts into North Korea which it had resumed -- after a break of more than a decade -- in retaliation for the mine blasts.

Anti-North Korean activists shout slogans
 as they protest on the Unification Bridge
that leads to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
 between North and South Korea in Paju on
August 24, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)
The loudspeakers will be switched off midday (0300 GMT) Tuesday, at which time the North will lift a "semi-war state" declared last week by leader Kim Jong-Un.

The two also agreed to work towards a resumption next month of reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, and to hold official talks in either Seoul or Pyongyang at a date to be decided.

The agreement, which appeared to cover all the major areas of contention, came after days and nights of gruelling negotiations which began early Saturday evening in the border truce village of Panmunjom.

The talks had played out against a dangerous military stand-off, which triggered a rare artillery exchange over the border last week, with both sides ramping up the military rhetoric and flexing their weaponry.

Rising tensions

Tensions continued to rise as the discussions were taking place, with South Korean and US jets flying simulated bombing runs, and North Korea reportedly deploying two thirds of its 70-vessel submarine fleet.

"I hope that from now on, (both sides) sincerely implement the agreement and build trust through dialogue and cooperation in order to build new inter-Korean ties that meet the people's expectations," South Korea's lead negotiator, National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-Jin, told reporters.

Kim said the agreed measures would not only settle the current crisis, but also provide a "new momentum" for inter-Korean relations in the future.

The Panmunjom talks between Kim and his North Korean counterpart Hwang Pyong-So -- a close confidant of leader Kim Jong-Un -- were the highest-level inter-Korean talks for nearly a year.

There was some surprise at the unequivocal nature of the North Korean expression of regret over the mine blasts -- which many had predicted would be the main stumbling block to any agreement.

North Korea had repeatedly denied any responsibility for the blasts, and apologies for anything -- especially where South Korea is concerned -- are not in its usual diplomatic vocabulary.

A 'clear apology'

"Past inter-Korea agreements at a time like this have tended to be extremely ambiguous," said Jeung Young-Tae, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.

"But in the world of diplomatic language, this is a clear apology, with the object of the regret -- the landmine blasts that maimed the soldiers -- clearly stated," Jeung said.

Television crews gather at a checkpoint on the Unification Bridge that leads to the 
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 23, 2015
(AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye had insisted that Seoul would only switch off the propaganda loudspeakers if the North provided a "clear apology" for the landmine incident.

In televised remarks to a meeting of senior aides, a combative Park had also vowed "no retreat" in the face of North Korean provocation.

Tuesday's agreement noted that the South's undertaking to turn off the propaganda loudspeakers would be null and void if "an abnormal case occurs" -- an apparent reference to future provocations.

The agreement will be welcomed by neighbouring countries like China and Japan, which had viewed the stand-off on the Korean peninsula with growing concern and urged both sides to show calm and restraint.

It will also be viewed with some relief by the United States, which has nearly 30,000 US troops permanently stationed in South Korea and had repeatedly reiterated its commitment to the defence of its key Asian ally.

Technically, the two Koreas have been at war for the past 65 years since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire that was never ratified by a formal peace treaty.

Bangladesh court bans garment factory disaster film

A film depicting Bangladesh's 2013 Rana Plaza disaster has been banned by the high court. Justices ruled film would "negatively portray" nation's $25 billion garment industry.

Deutsche Welle, 24 Aug 2015

High Court judges ruled Monday that a drama based on the real-life garment factory disaster could not be screened for six months. The ruling was in response to objections filed by a trade group representing garment factory owners.

"The judges imposed the ban following concerns that it would negatively portray Bangladesh's sensitive garment sector in the world and can also create [a] law and order problem in the country," Deputy Attorney General Mokleshur Rahman told the AFP news agency.

The film is entitled Rana Plaza after the factory complex that collapsed in April 2013, killing at least 1,138 people, mostly female garment workers.

The 137-minute drama was scheduled to premiere September 4 at more than 100 cinemas across Bangladesh following last month's clearance from the Bangladesh Film Censor Board.

A national heroine

19-year-old Reshma Akter was rescued
 from the rubble of the Rana Plaza 17 days
after the building collapsed.
The plot centers on the dramatic real-life rescue of a 19-year-old garment worker named Reshma Akter from the ruins of the nine-storey Rana Plaza 17 days after it collapsed.

Images of a dazed Akter pulled alive from the wreckage were beamed around the globe and since marrying her boyfriend and taking a job in the hospitality industry, she has become a venerated figure in Bangladesh

"The Rana Plaza is also about Reshma's love story, which tries to raise awareness about the life of the country's millions of woman garment workers," director of the movie Nazrul Islam Khan told AFP.

But a petition by the Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League - which represents employers - argued that the film's use of graphic television footage ran counter to censorship rules, which the court accepted.

The ruling gave the Film Censor Board four weeks to justify its decision to try to give the film a certificate. But the court did not explain why the ban would only apply for six months, or in what circumstances it might be revisited after that period.

Khan, the film's director, said he's confused by the court ruling noting that he'd already cut scenes deemed "too cruel" by censors.

"I don't know what prompted the court to ban the film. Rana Plaza movie is about the tragedy at the factory complex," he said.

The deadly disaster at the garment factory that supplied many European household brands brought to light substandard working conditions of much of Bangladesh's workforce.

jar/jil (AFP, dpa)

Monday, August 24, 2015

UK's Hammond hails 'new phase' of ties with Iran

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said the ties between the UK and Iran have entered a new phase as he reopened his country's embassy in Tehran. This follows an agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program.

Deutsche Welle, 23 Aug 2015

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (L) and non-resident charge d'affaires
 Ajay Sharma watch as the Union flag is raised at the British Embassy in Tehran,
Iran, August 23, 2015

Hammond arrived in the Iranian capital on Sunday to attend the opening ceremony of the British Embassy and to hold talks with the officials of the Shiite state.

Britain severed diplomatic ties with Iran following an attack on its embassy in 2011. His trip to Iran was the first by a British foreign secretary since 2003.

"Four years on from an attack on the British Embassy, I am today re-opening it," Hammond said in a statement. "Today's ceremony marks the end of one phase in the relationship between our two countries and the start of a new one - one that I believe offers the promise of better," he added.

Iran simultaneously opened its embassy in London, confirmed the Iranian ISNA news agency.

"Our relationship has improved since 2011. President (Hasan) Rouhani's election and last month's nuclear agreement were important milestones. I believe that we have the potential to go much further," said Hammond.

Common threats

According to the foreign secretary, terrorism, regional stability and the threat of the Sunni militant group "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq are among some of the challenges which Britain and Iran will be trying to overcome together.

The new British charge d'affaires, Ajay Sharma, was also present at the Sunday's ceremony, which was attended by representatives of the Iranian foreign ministry. Hammond was also accompanied by a small delegate of trade representatives who will discuss the possibility of economic cooperation with Iran following the nuclear deal.

Under the terms of the P5+1 deal, sanctions imposed by the European Union, the United Nations and the United States are to be gradually lifted in exchange for Iran agreeing on the long-term curbs, which are mean to prevent Tehran from developing the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.

The trip marked the first time a British
foreign secretary has visited Tehran
since 2003
While the United States and its Western allies have long suspected that Iran could be using its nuclear program as a cover to develop a nuclear bomb, Tehran has consistently insisted that the program is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran back on the world stage

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the reopening of the British Embassy and said it proved his country's regional and global significance.

"The world has realized Iran's constructive role in the region and globe," Zarif was quoted as saying on Sunday. "Of course, we have differences with some European countries, but that can be negotiated through interaction, open eyes and a realistic approach," he added.

While the thaw in relations between Iran and the West has been hailed by most countries in the world, the US' Arab allies in the region and Israel are skeptical about it.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Middle East to assure the Arab nations that the Iran deal would not undermine their interests in the region.

shs/se (Reuters, AP, dpa)
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