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, December 31, 2017

Malaysian transgender conversion plan sparks alarm

Yahoo – AFP, 30 December 2017

Human Rights Watch has previously warned that discrimination against LGBT
people was "pervasive" in Malaysia

A Malaysian state plans to run a conversion therapy course aimed at transgender women, officials said Saturday, sparking alarm among LGBT activists in the conservative Muslim-majority country.

The course would run over several days next year after authorities had completed a survey of the transgender population, a Terengganu state official said.

Participation in the course would be voluntary, Ghazali said, adding that the programme would include medical, psychological and religious experts, as well as transgender women who have "returned to normal lives".

"Transgender women are part of our society.... They are our responsibility," Terengganu executive council member Ghazali Taib told AFP.

"At the end, it is up to them to make a choice. The government's concept is not (to) force. (We) give them a path to make the best choices for their lives," he said.

A Human Rights Watch report in 2017 wrote that discrimination against LGBT people was "pervasive" in Malaysia, where there are laws against sodomy, with offenders facing jail time and whipping.

LGBT activists condemned the government's plans.

"If you ask someone not to be themselves that will have an adverse impact on the health and-well being of the person," Thilaga Sulathireh, co-founder of transgender activist group Justice for Sisters, said.

Leading transgender activist Nisha Ayub said courses such as these would only deepen the community's isolation.

"They're looking more to... corrective therapy, which violates everyone's rights in so many ways," she said.

"If (transgenders)...feel that they cannot change themselves, they will feel like outcasts from society," she added.

There are no official figures on transgenders in Malaysia, though a health ministry document estimated that the country was home to about 24,000 transgender sex workers as of 2014.

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(Photo: Alexandria)

Nepal bans solo climbers from Everest

Yahoo – AFP, December 30, 2017

Thousands of mountaineers flock to Nepal each spring and autumn when clear
weather provides good climbing conditions (AFP Photo/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

Kathmandu (AFP) - Nepal has banned solo climbers from scaling its mountains, including Mount Everest, in a bid to reduce accidents, an official said Saturday.

The cabinet late Thursday endorsed a revision to the Himalayan nation's mountaineering regulations, banning solo climbers from its mountains -- one of a string of measures being flagged ahead of the 2018 spring climbing season.

"The changes have barred solo expeditions, which were allowed before," Maheshwor Neupane, secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, told AFP.

Neupane said that the law was revised to make mountaineering safer and decrease deaths.

Experienced Swiss climber Ueli Steck lost his life in April this year when he slipped and fell from a steep ridge during a solo acclimatisation climb to Nuptse, a peak neighbouring Everest.

The ban is likely to anger elite solo mountaineers, who enjoy the challenge of climbing alone, even eschewing bottled oxygen, and who blame a huge influx of commercial expeditions for creating potentially deadly bottlenecks on the world's tallest peak.

The cabinet also endorsed a ban on double amputee and blind climbers, although Everest has drawn multitudes of mountaineers wanting to overcome their disabilities and achieve the formidable feat.

New Zealander Mark Inglis, who lost both his legs to frostbite, became the first double amputee to reach the top of the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak in 2006.

Blind American Erik Weihenmayer scaled Everest in May 2001 and later became the only visually-impaired person to summit the highest peaks on all seven continents.

Aspiring Everest climber Hari Budha Magar, a former Gurkha soldier who lost both his legs when he was deployed in Afghanistan, said the ban was discriminatory.

"If the cabinet passes, this is #Discrimination against disable people, breaking #HumanRights," Magar said in a Facebook post after the decision was proposed early this month.

Thousands of mountaineers flock to Nepal -- home to eight of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000 metres -- each spring and autumn when clear weather provides good climbing conditions.

Almost 450 climbers -- 190 foreigners and 259 Nepalis -- reached the summit of Everest from the south side in Nepal last year.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Australian gran escapes death in Malaysia drugs case

Yahoo – AFP, Patrick Lee, 27 December 2017

Exposto is escorted upon arrival in court before her acquittal

An Australian grandmother who said she was tricked into carrying drugs into Malaysia after falling for an online romance scam was Wednesday cleared of trafficking, a crime punishable by death.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto wept and hugged her son after being found not guilty of smuggling crystal methamphetamine, a rare outcome in a country where hundreds of people have been sentenced to death for drugs offences in recent years.

"I'm happy now that I'm free," said the 54-year-old, as she was ushered out of the courtroom after the verdict.

But prosecutors have indicated they want to appeal the acquittal, her lawyer said, meaning Exposto won't be able to go back home yet and there is still a chance she could be sentenced to death.

She was arrested in December 2014 while in transit at Kuala Lumpur airport with 1.1 kilos (2.4 pounds) of the drug stitched into the compartment of a backpack she was carrying.

The mother of four argued she did not know about the hidden stash of "ice". She said she had been fooled into carrying the bag after travelling to China to see someone she met online called "Captain Daniel Smith", who had claimed to be a US serviceman.

Anyone caught with at least 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of crystal meth is considered a trafficker in Muslim-majority Malaysia, and death by hanging is mandatory in the case of a conviction.

However handing down his verdict at the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Judge Ghazali Cha accepted the defence's argument that Exposto did not know the bag contained drugs and acquitted her.

"I agree with the defence lawyer that the accused did not have knowledge about the drugs," he said.

"I believe that at that time her (Exposto) feelings of love towards 'Captain Daniel Smith' overcame everything, including her own husband, her family and her future."

Hundreds on death row

Exposto's lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah welcomed the verdict but said he was surprised at prosecutors' intention to appeal as the judge had sided firmly with the defence. Prosecutors have 14 days to lodge the challenge.

After engaging in a long online romance, Exposto had travelled to Shanghai to see "Smith".

But she did not succeed in meeting her supposed love interest while there and ended up being given a bag by a stranger, who asked her to take it to Melbourne.

When she arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to change flights, she mistakenly went through immigration as she was unfamiliar with the airport.

She voluntarily offered her bags for customs inspection and the drugs were discovered.

There are at least 900 people on death row in Malaysia, officials have said, but executions have been rare in recent years.

Malaysian lawmakers voted last year to amend legislation so that capital punishment is no longer mandatory in drug-trafficking cases.

But the changes have not yet come into force as they must be passed by the upper house, meaning that in the case of a conviction in Exposto's case, the judge would have had to impose the death penalty.

Two Australians were hanged in Malaysia in 1986 for heroin trafficking -- the first Westerners to be executed in the country -- in a case that strained relations.

In 2013 Dominic Bird, a former truck driver from Perth, was acquitted of drug trafficking charges after he was allegedly caught with 167 grams of crystal methamphetamine.



Wednesday, December 27, 2017

'I feel less scared': Safety alarms help empower Rohingya women

Yahoo – AFP, Annie BANERJI, December 23, 2017

A local charity has distributed nearly 1,000 alarms to refugees (AFP Photo/Ed JONES)

Cox's Bazar (Bangladesh) (AFP) - A piercing wail emanates from the small device in the palm of a young Rohingya woman, drawing startled looks from other refugees crowded onto a hillside in a Bangladesh camp.

It has the desired effect -- the safety alarms are designed to attract attention and scare off anyone preying on vulnerable women and girls, who make up the majority of refugees in the sprawling Rohingya tent cities.

The colourful plastic sirens are being distributed to Rohingya women, girls and the infirm in Cox's Bazar district, where an estimated 655,000 of the Muslim minority have arrived since August.

They have escaped a systematic campaign of rape and violence in Myanmar described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing -- but the squalid camps across the border are not without dangers.

Aid groups say women and girls, many of whom have arrived in Bangladesh alone, are at particular risk of exploitation by pimps and human traffickers active in the camps.

There have already been cases of minors lured away by promises of marriage or jobs in big cities that have ended in brothel work or forced labour, the International Organization for Migration says.

In the teeming camps there is little privacy and overcrowding forces women to share latrines with men or venture into the jungle at night.

Aid groups say women and girls, many of whom have arrived in Bangladesh
 alone, are at particular risk of exploitation by pimps and human traffickers (AFP 
Photo/Ed JONES)

The alarms, fitted with a torch and high-pitched siren, provide comfort for Rohingya women like 22-year-old Hazera Khatun, who frets constantly about the safety of her two daughters.

The trio arrived in Bangladesh in September without Khatun's husband, who she said was gunned down by Myanmar soldiers as they fled their village.

"I feel safer and less scared now after receiving this, because now I know that if I encounter any problem, I can call for help," Khatun told AFP, gesturing to the device in her hand.

The local charity behind the alarms, Moonlight Development Society, developed the idea after hearing about abduction attempts on young children in the camps.

Since then, they have distributed nearly 1,000 alarms to refugees -- mainly women and children, but also the elderly and others vulnerable to abuse.

"If someone is bedridden, or cannot call out for help, they can just press the alarm," the nonprofit's medical assistant Marufa Munni told AFP.

Apart from showing refugees how to use the alarms, staff train aid workers and other Rohingya on how to respond should one sound in the camps.

The charity hopes to expand the programme beyond its trial site to the district's mega-camps of Kutupalong and Balukhali -- the world's largest refugee settlement, housing around 550,000 people -- by January.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

'Kung fu nuns' on bikes swap maroon robes for lycra leggings

Yahoo – AFP, 23 December 2017

'Kung fu nuns' on bikes swap maroon robes for lycra leggings

Kathmandu (AFP) - About 200 "Kung fu nuns" kicked off a month-long journey from Nepal through India on Saturday, swapping their flowing maroon robes for lycra leggings to raise awareness about human trafficking and gender equality.

The Buddhist nuns are trained in martial arts and frequently organise pilgrimages and cycling trips to promote gender equality.

"We are starting our fifth cycle yatra (pilgrimage) today and our main mission is about increasing awareness about female empowerment, the environment and human trafficking," nun Yeshe Lhamo told AFP.

Each year thousands of women and children across South Asia are lured into cities and across borders with promises of lucrative jobs but are instead sold into modern-day slavery.

Nepal has seen an upswing in the number of cases of trafficking since a devastating earthquake in 2015 left thousands homeless.

The country's human rights commission estimated that there were about 23,200 cases of trafficking or attempted trafficking last year.

The nuns said they came across several cases of trafficking while volunteering in relief efforts for earthquake victims.

"That's how we had this idea of going on this cycle yatra to all the remote places and telling people we are all girls, girls are capable of doing everything. They are not useless, they are not things to sell," said 23-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo.

The nuns will cover a 3,000-kilometre route from the hills of Nepal's capital Kathmandu, peddling through south India to Delhi and then to Darjeeling.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

First gay marriages take place in Australia

Yahoo – AFP, December 16, 2017

All but four members of Australia's lower House of Representatives voted
in support of marriage equality (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Australia's first gay weddings took place Saturday, ushering in a new era after the country's marriage equality law came into effect this month.

The historic reforms were given royal assent on December 8, the final step in a process that began with a national postal vote in September.

There was supposed to be a 30-day waiting period after couples registered to marry, with the first weddings expected on January 9.

But some sought an exemption due to their circumstances, and the first ceremonies went ahead on Saturday, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne.

"Australia's first legal same-sex marriage has just taken place. Congratulations Amy and Lauren," Equal Marriage Rights Australia announced on its Facebook page.

Fairfax Media said Lauren Price, 31, and Amy Laker, 29, solemnised their vows in Sydney, while Melbourne couple Amy and Elise McDonald -- who coincidentally have the same surname -- tied the knot two hours later.

A photo showed Price and Laker dressed in traditional white gowns and holding hands as they said "I do" on a glorious Sydney day.

Among hundreds of comments on the Facebook page, Paul Antoine said: "Now... has the country collapsed? NOOO!! Two women have just shown their love. Pretty simple, but nonetheless special in my view!"

Jason Chapman added: "Relentless dedication from so many over the last fifty years have led us to enjoy this beautiful moment of equality. Congratulations ladies."

All but four members of Australia's 150-seat lower House of Representatives voted in support of marriage equality, with the legislation passing without any religious freedom amendments that some were pushing for.

The bill was introduced in parliament by the conservative government after Australians in November endorsed the reforms in a contentious voluntary postal vote.

Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the poll, and almost 62 percent of those who voted chose "yes" on their ballots.

Fairfax said Price and Laker had originally intended to hold a commitment ceremony at the British consulate because Price was from Wales.

But when the new law was passed, they sought an exemption from the normal waiting period because Price's family had already travelled to Sydney for the celebrations.

Melbourne's Amy and Elise McDonald, aged 36 and 28, reportedly only got permission to marry on Saturday morning, gaining an exemption for similar reasons, according to the Herald Sun newspaper.

They were allowed to have a legal marriage on financial grounds and because their families had travelled from overseas.

Same-sex marriage is now recognised in more than 20 countries, of which 16 are in Europe.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bangladesh arrests cleric over fatwa against women farming

Yahoo – AFP, December 13, 2017

A labour shortage has meant millions of women now work in the fields
during harvest in Bangladesh (AFP Photo/Farjana KHAN GODHULY)

A Muslim cleric accused of issuing a fatwa banning women from working on farms has been arrested in Bangladesh, police said Wednesday.

The imam and five mosque officials face charges after their announcement prompted locals in the western town of Kumarkhali to try and prevent women from going to work in the fields.

"They took the decision after prayers on Friday, banning women from going out of their homes," local police chief Abdul Khaleque told AFP.

"They used the mosque's loudspeakers that evening to spread the news."

Muslim-majority Bangladesh is officially secular, but Muslim clerics are hugely influential, particularly in the more socially conservative rural areas of the country.

Fatwas were banned in 2001, but the nation's highest court in 2011 ruled that they could be issued on personal and religious matters if they did not impose physical punishment.

Rights groups have criticised that ruling, saying villages far from Bangladesh's secular courts use fatwas to issue sentences that go against the nation's laws.

Women were once largely confined to the home in rural Bangladesh, but a labour shortage has meant millions now work in the fields during harvest or crop sowing season.

Women also account for some 80 percent of four million workers in the country's 4,500 textile plants -- the mainstay of the impoverished nation's economy.

Police said the six arrested would face charges under the special powers act, a controversial military-era law.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nepal's Communist parties poised for election landslide

Yahoo – AFP, Annabel SYMINGTON, December 11, 2017

The landmark elections for national and provincial parliaments capped Nepal's 11-year
 transition from monarchy to federal democracy after a brutal civil war (AFP Photo/
PRAKASH MATHEMA)

Nepal's Communist parties were headed Monday for a landslide win in elections seen as a turning point after two decades of conflict, political instability and disaster that have crippled the Himalayan country.

The landmark elections for national and provincial parliaments capped Nepal's 11-year transition from monarchy to federal democracy after a brutal civil war.

Many hope they will usher in a much-needed period of stability in the impoverished country, which has cycled through 10 prime ministers since 2006.

An alliance of the main Communist party and the country's former Maoist rebels is expected to form the next government, ousting the ruling centrist Nepali Congress.

"If Congress had done good work, it would not be wiped out like this from the country. The people are giving these parties a chance but if they do nothing for the country, they will also be wiped out," said one voter, 66-year-old farmer Lachu Prasad Bohara.

The Himalayan Times said the leftist alliance's strong mandate meant the country "could experience political stability", which it has lacked over the last decade, but cautioned that a strong opposition was also crucial in the young democracy.

With counting still going on, the alliance has won 105 seats in the national parliament, according to preliminary data from the election commission. The incumbent Nepali Congress has won just 21.

An alliance of the main Communist party and the country's former Maoist rebels
is expected to form the next government (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)

That puts the alliance on course for a hefty majority in the country's 275-seat parliament.

The assembly is made up of 165 directly-elected seats, while the rest are allocated on a proportional representation basis, guaranteeing seats for women, people from indigenous communities and the lowest Dalit caste.

The Communist bloc is also leading in six out of seven provincial assemblies mandated in a new national constitution.

The charter was finally agreed by parliament in 2015 in a rare moment of cross-party consensus, months after the country was devastated by a powerful earthquake. It laid the ground for a sweeping overhaul of the political system to devolve power from the centre to newly-created provinces.

It was intended to build on the promise of a more inclusive society, integral to the 2006 peace deal that ended the decade-long civil war between Maoists and the state.

But the constitution sparked deadly protests among ethnic minorities who said the provincial boundaries it laid out had been gerrymandered to limit their voice.

Relations with China, India

The leftist alliance campaigned on a promise to bring economic growth to Nepal.

The Communist bloc is also leading in six out of seven provincial assemblies
mandated in a new national constitution (AFP Photo/Manish Paudel)

"We will take the country towards peace and stability and move forward on the road of prosperity," Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-UML) leader K.P. Sharma Oli said in a television interview late Sunday.

Oli is expected to be elected as the next prime minister when parliament sits for the first time, likely in early January.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a two-time former prime minister who led the rebel faction during the war, is also tipped for a prominent position in the next cabinet.

During Oli's last term in office, relations between Kathmandu and New Delhi reached a nadir after protests over the new constitution led to a blockade of the border with India and a crippling shortage of goods in landlocked, import-dependent Nepal.

The Communist leader blamed the blockade on India, stoked nationalistic sentiment and aggressively courted China for much-needed infrastructure development -- undermining New Delhi's influence over its small northern neighbour.

Analyst Prateek Pradhan warned that Oli needed to take a more pragmatic approach to balancing relations with both regional powers if he is to deliver on his campaign promise of growth.

Most voters voiced a desire for stability and a longer-lasting government (AFP Photo/
PRAKASH MATHEMA)

"Nepal has to have good relations with India and that doesn't mean you have to compromise on sovereignty," Pradhan said.

The newly-elected provincial assemblies will be tasked with naming their provinces, which are currently referred to by a number, choosing capitals and negotiating budgets with Kathmandu -- all issues that could rekindle ethnic unrest.

But the protest movements have lost momentum as voters have become fed up with the political merry-go-round that has starved the country of much-needed development.

Most voters voiced a desire for stability and a longer-lasting government, while also expressing hope that the provincial assemblies will prioritise local needs.

The new constitution lays out strict rules for ousting a prime minister, meaning this government could be the first to last a full five-year term.

Final results are expected by the end of the week.



Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas: government

Yahoo – AFP, December 11, 2017

Saudi women attend a rare cinema screening at a film festival in Riyadh in
October 2017. Saudi Arabia on Monday announced a lifting of the kingdom's
decades-long ban on cinemas (AFP Photo/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Monday lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom.

"Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years," the culture and information ministry said in a statement, adding that the government will begin licensing cinemas immediately.

Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan dubbed "Vision 2030", despite opposition from conservatives.

"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom," information minister Awwad Alawwad said in the statement.

Hardliners, who see cinemas as a threat to cultural and religious identity, were instrumental in shutting them down in the 1980s.

Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric warned in January of the "depravity" of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals.

But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat.

Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.



Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sri Lanka hands over debt-laden port to Chinese owner

Yahoo – AFP, 9 December 2017

Sri Lanka hands over debt-laden port to Chinese owner

Colombo (AFP) - Sri Lanka Saturday handed over a deep-sea port to a Chinese firm, in a deal agreed to boost the cash-strapped island's finances that has raised concerns at home and abroad over Beijing's growing influence.

The $1.12 billion deal first announced in July lets a Chinese state company take over the southern port of Hambantota, which straddles the world's busiest east-west shipping route, on a 99-year lease.

"With the signing of the agreement today the Treasury has received $300 million," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said at a ceremony in the capital to mark the handover.

"This is the beginning of our debt settlement," Wickremesinghe said.

The loss-making port will now be jointly managed by the state-owned Sri Lanka Port Authority and China Merchants Port Holdings.

Sri Lanka owes China $8 billion that former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime borrowed for its infrastructure development projects, including the port.

The deal has raised concerns at home and overseas, where countries such as India and the United States are known to be worried that China getting a foothold at the deep-sea port could give it a military naval advantage in the Indian Ocean.

On Friday Sri Lanka's parliament approved wide-ranging tax concessions for the port deal, including a tax holiday of up to 32 years for the Chinese firm, that opposition parties objected to.

"Please tell this House the details of very favourable tax concessions you gave China on the deal. What are you getting out of it?" Anura Dissanayake, an opposition law marker asked in parliament Saturday.

Sri Lanka has said it wants to reduce its high foreign debt with the proceeds of the Hambantota port deal, and is selling off some other enterprises to raise revenue.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Most detained in Saudi purge agree to cash settlements

Yahoo – AFP, December 5, 2017

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, shown here attending an investment
forum in October, has launched a sweeping purge (AFP Photo/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Riyadh (AFP) - Most of those detained in a sweeping anti-corruption purge of the Saudi elite have struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom, the attorney general said Tuesday, a month after they were locked up in a 5-star hotel.

Dozens of high-profile figures including princes, ministers and tycoons are being held in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel, now a makeshift luxury prison, in the biggest sweep of the kingdom's elite in its recent history.

Some 320 people were called in for questioning and 159 people are currently being detained, many of whom have agreed to a "settlement", or handing over allegedly ill-gotten gains to the Saudi state treasury, attorney general Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said.

"The necessary arrangements are being finalised to conclude such agreements," Mojeb said in a statement.

The attorney general has previously said he estimates at least $100 billion has been lost in embezzlement or corruption over several decades.

His latest statement comes after Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the former National Guard chief once seen as a contender to the throne, was released last week following a settlement reportedly exceeding $1 billion.

Some analysts saw Prince Miteb's removal as an attempt by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defence minister, to consolidate his control over the security services.

But Saudi authorities insist the purge was meant solely to target endemic corruption as the kingdom seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy.

In a recent interview to The New York Times, Prince Mohammed described as "ludicrous" reports equating the crackdown to a power grab, saying that many of those detained at the opulent Ritz-Carlton had already pledged allegiance to him.

The attorney general said the bank accounts of 376 people have been frozen, all of whom are detained or linked to corruption allegations.

Saudi forces also grounded private jets at airports, possibly to prevent high-profile figures from leaving the country, an aviation source told AFP.

The purge has triggered uncertainty among businesses that could lead to capital flight or derail reforms, experts say, at a time when the kingdom is seeking to attract badly needed investments to offset a protracted oil slump.

Other high-profile targets of the crackdown include billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia. The government has not commented on his current status.

The crackdown has exposed the kingdom's once-untouchable elite to rare public scrutiny -- Saudis on social media have quipped that the Ritz-Carlton was not the worst place to be trapped.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Australia MP proposes to gay partner in parliament

Yahoo – AFP, December 4, 2017

Australian lawmaker Tim Wilson proposes to his partner in parliament in Canberra,
moments after a bill paving the way for same-sex marriage was introduced (AFP Photo)

Sydney (AFP) - A gay Australian lawmaker popped the question to his partner in parliament on Monday, with the first ever proposal in the chamber coming shortly after a bill paving the way for same-sex marriage was introduced.

Tim Wilson, who has reportedly been engaged to Ryan Bolger for nine years, fought back tears as he thanked his fiance for enduring a marriage debate that "has been the soundtrack to our relationship".

"In my first speech I defined our bond by the ring that sits on both of our left hands -- that they are the answer to the questions we cannot ask," the 37-year-old lawmaker from the ruling conservative party said.

"So there is only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger will you marry me?"

Bolger, who was sitting in the public gallery, quickly responded "yes" as the floor erupted in applause.

"That was a 'yes', a resounding 'yes'," house speaker Rob Mitchell noted for the record. "Congratulations, well done mate."

Ryan Bolger, who was sitting in the public gallery in the Canberra parliament, quickly 
responded "yes" to the marriage proposal as the floor erupted in applause (AFP Photo)

The Australian House of Representatives official twitter account confirmed later that after reviewing past records, Wilson's proposal was likely the first ever in that chamber of Parliament.

"Update: We've dug through Hansard and @timwilsoncomau appears to be the first ever Member to propose on the floor of the House," it tweeted.

Wilson earlier emotionally recalled the uneasiness he experienced with some friends when he and Bolger were first engaged.

"Many simply didn't know how to react. Many SMS went unresponded. In conversations some people politely changed the topic, or fell silent entirely," he said.

His partner had pushed him to have an engagement party.

"On informing one person of our news, they responded: Why bother?

"At the time I fell silent and I have never had an answer to that question. But the Australian people have now answered that for me."

'Historic moment of inclusion'

The same-sex marriage bill being debated is expected to comfortably pass through the House of Representatives before Christmas after the upper house Senate last week overwhelmingly voted in its favour.

After more than a decade of debate, Australians emphatically endorsed gay marriage in a recent nationwide postal vote, with some 62 percent of the 12.7 million who took part voting "yes" last month.

Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing same-sex couples to
marry (AFP Photo/WILLIAM WEST)

"This is a historic moment of inclusion, of recognition, of respect," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said shortly after the bill was introduced for debate in the lower house Monday.

"This is a day to be especially proud that all of our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours, our brothers, our sisters, can marry the people they love."

Former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott, a leading voice in the 'no' campaign, said he would now back the bill.

"I certainly don't pretend to be an overnight convert to support same-sex marriage but I am pledged to respect and to facilitate the verdict of the Australian people," he said.

"Same-sex marriage should now be recognised. It will now be recognised."

Abbott moved an amendment he said protected discrimination against anyone over their "conscientious view about the nature of marriage", before saying he planned to attend his gay sister's wedding next year.

"I am looking forward to attending the marriage of my sister, Christine, to her partner Virginia some time early in the new year."


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Trump promises 'major sanctions' against North Korea

Yahoo – AFP, November 29, 2017

People watch a television news screen showing pictures of US President Donald
Trump (C) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) at a railway station in Seoul as
a new North Korean missile test sends tensions soaring (AFP Photo/JUNG Yeon-Je)

Washington (AFP) - US President Donald Trump vowed to impose additional "major sanctions" against North Korea on Wednesday in response to its latest groundbreaking missile test.

"Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea," Trump tweeted.

"Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!"

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained that the sanctions would be announced by the US Treasury and would target "additional financial institutions."

This suggests that secondary measures could target foreign banks that still deal with North Korea. A Chinese bank has already been hit in this way.

"We have a long list of additional potential sanctions," Tillerson told reporters.

Asked how long Washington could continue to mount peaceful pressure on Pyongyang without resorting to military action, Tillerson said: "Diplomatically, we keep working at it every day."

During his call with Xi, the White House said Trump urged Beijing to use "all available levers" to press North Korea.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang fired what is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Washington.

The US president has threatened North Korea with "fire and fury" if it continues to threaten the United States or its allies with work toward an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

The latest test came after a more than two-month pause, which had prompted speculation that talks could end the nuclear standoff.

Since coming to office, Trump has ratcheted up the diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime of Kim Jong-Un, demanding he abandon nuclear and ballistic weapons.

As part of that effort, Trump has repeatedly pressed China to break trade ties with its dependent neighbor and has applauded countries for shuttering Pyongyang's diplomatic installations, which have long been used to gather illicit finance.

Earlier this month, Trump declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism -- a symbolic move, but one which amps up diplomatic pressure on the regime.

The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting later Wednesday to discuss the response to Pyongyang's latest test.


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