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, July 6, 2020

Yuriko Koike: savvy politician challenging Japan's glass ceiling

Thisismoney– AFP, 5 July 2020

Yuriko Koike has managed a successful career in Japan's male-dominated
political landscape

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike is a conservative political veteran with a commanding media presence who has shown the toughness needed to climb the greasy pole of Japan's male-dominated politics.

The former television anchorwoman, long seen as potentially Japan's first female prime minister, has found herself in the national spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic, appearing daily on TV to brief the megacity's 14 million residents.

Her calm and measured speeches, peppered with catchy slogans, have presented a sharp contrast to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been viewed as too slow to act or too rigid and opaque in his addresses.

Koike swept easily to a second term but critics say the 67-year-old's first four years as governor were more about grabbing headlines than getting the job done.

Fluent in English, and with conversational Arabic, Koike is a rare internationalist in Japan's navel-gazing politics.

Born in 1952 in Ashiya city in western Japan, Koike attended the region's Kwansei Gakuin University before graduating from Cairo University in Egypt in 1976.

After a stint as a translator, she worked as a television broadcaster, interviewing Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and Palestinian Liberation Organisation chair Yasser Arafat.

She first won an upper house seat in 1992 before switching to the more powerful lower house the following year.

She joined the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 2002 and became environment minister in 2003.

During Abe's first stint as PM, Koike served as a special advisor before becoming Japan's first female defence minister.

While she rubbed shoulders with top political figures, she enjoyed only lukewarm support inside the LDP and failed in her bid to become party chief.

When she ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial race in 2016, the LDP supported a different, male candidate.

The people of Tokyo, however, embraced her reformist zeal and gave her a landslide victory, making her the first woman governor of the Japanese capital, home to more than a tenth of Japan's entire population.

'Party of Hope' 

The next year, she took a huge gamble in launching a new national "Party of Hope", but support fizzled after a promising start, where it looked like she could present a serious challenge to Abe.

Her decision to stay as governor left the public unsure about who would become PM if her party won the national election and she suffered a heavy defeat at the polls.

Allies turned rivals, Koike and Abe maintained cordial working relations as they jointly prepared for the Tokyo Olympics, which would have been a major political legacy for both of them.

But the coronavirus pandemic forced a one-year delay of the Games after costly preparations.

Koike quickly shifted her focus to the fight against the infection, giving daily media briefings and issuing warnings to Tokyoites that worse was to come.

She repeated catchy anti-virus slogans in her televised addresses to encourage the entire nation to stay home and avoid crowds.

In her re-election bid, Koike comfortably ran an independent, online-only campaign, with senior LDP members opening supporting her bid.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

North Korea says no need for talks with US

Asiatimes – AFP, July 4, 2020

Dialogue nothing more than a tool for US grappling with political crisis, North's vice foreign minister says

North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said 'the US is mistaken
if it thinks things like negotiations would still work on us'. Photo: AFP

North Korea does “not feel any need” to resume talks with Washington, a senior diplomat for the country said Saturday, days after Seoul called for a summit as it seeks improved ties with Pyongyang.

The statement by the North’s vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui came after former US national security advisor John Bolton on Thursday reportedly said President Donald Trump might pursue another meeting with leader Kim Jong Un in October.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in – who has long backed engagement with the North – on Tuesday also called for another meeting between Kim and Trump, saying the South would be making “utmost efforts” to make it happen.

But Pyongyang does “not feel any need to sit face to face with the US”, Choe said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“Dreamers” had been raising hopes of an “October surprise”, she added.

“The US is mistaken if it thinks things like negotiations would still work on us,” Choe said.

Washington “does not consider the DPRK-US dialogue as nothing more than a tool for grappling (with) its political crisis”, Choe added, using the North’s official name.

Bolton had reportedly said Trump would meet with Kim if it would help his re-election chances.

The North has “already worked out a detailed strategic timetable” to deal with the “long-term threat” from Washington, Choe said.

Talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal have been stalled since a Hanoi summit between Trump and Kim collapsed in early 2019 over what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.

Recent reports have said US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun is due to visit Seoul next week to discuss talks with North Korea, although the South’s foreign ministry has not confirmed the trip.

Last month Pyongyang issued a series of vitriolic condemnations of the South over anti-North leaflets that defectors send back across the militarised border – usually attached to balloons or floated in bottles.

It also upped the pressure by blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office and threatening military measures against Seoul but last week said it had suspended those plans in an apparent sudden dialling down of tensions.

Choe’s statement comes a day after Seoul’s presidential Blue House appointed as its new spy chief a former lawmaker who played a crucial role in organising the first inter-Korean summit back in 2000.

The move is widely seen as a sign of Moon’s determination to maintain pro-engagement policies despite the North’s abandonment of its nuclear and missile test moratoriums.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Virus-hit Iran says masks compulsory from next week

Yahoo – AFP, Amir Havasi, June 28, 2020

Iran announced new measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus as
 the country counted 144 new fatalities, its highest death toll for a single day
in almost three months (AFP Photo/ATTA KENARE)

Tehran (AFP) - Iran said Sunday it will make mask-wearing mandatory in certain areas and has allowed virus-hit provinces to reimpose restrictions, as novel coronavirus deaths mounted in the Middle East's worst-hit country.

The new steps were announced as Iran counted 144 new fatalities from the COVID-19 disease, its highest death toll for a single day in almost three months.

The Islamic republic has refrained from enforcing full lockdowns to stop the pandemic's spread, and the use of masks and protective equipment has been optional in most areas.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would have to live with the virus for the "long haul", as he announced the latest measures to combat it.

Mask-wearing would be "obligatory in covered spaces where there are gatherings", he said during a televised meeting of the country's anti-virus taskforce.

According to him, the measure would come into force as of next week, continue until July 22 and would be extended if necessary.

Rouhani said the health ministry had devised "a clear list" of the types of spaces and gatherings deemed high-risk, but he did not elaborate.

He also did not say what the penalty would be for those who fail to observe the measure.

According to deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, services would not be provided to those without masks in areas such as government organisations and shopping malls.

But implementing the measure may be difficult, as according to Tehran's mayor, many do not wear masks in places like the capital's public transport network, where it is already mandatory.

"Fifty percent of metro passengers wear masks... and even fewer in buses," Mayor Pirouz Hanachi was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

"We can't forcefully confront people without masks," he added.

Mask-wearing will be obligatory in covered spaces and gathering places, Iranian 
authorities announced after a rise in virus cases (AFP Photo/ATTA KENARE)

'Red' counties

Iran reported its first COVID-19 cases on February 19 and it has since struggled to contain the outbreak.

The health ministry on Sunday announced 144 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, its highest for a single day since April 5, raising the total to 10,508.

Spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari also raised total confirmed infections to 222,669, with 2,489 new cases during the same period.

Official figures have shown an upward trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran hit a near two-month low in daily recorded infections.

"Considering the rising numbers, I plead with you to definitely use masks outside and in covered places," Lari said.

Iran closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between its 31 provinces in March, but the government progressively lifted restrictions from April to try to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.

The economy is starting to suffer under the pressures of the health crisis.

The country's currency, the rial, has hit new lows against the US dollar in recent days, mostly over border closures and a halt in non-oil exports, according to analysts.

The increasing virus caseload has seen some previously unscathed provinces classified as "red" -- the highest level on Iran's colour-coded risk scale -- with authorities allowing them to reimpose restrictive measures if required.

According to Rouhani, the measure would also be extended to provinces with "red" counties.

"Any county that is red, its provincial (virus) committee can propose reimposing limitations for a week", which could be extended if needed, he said.

The government launched an "#I wear a mask" campaign on Saturday and pleaded with Iranians to observe guidelines aimed at curbing infections.

One Iranian is infected with COVID-19 every 33 seconds and one dies from the disease every 13 minutes, Harirchi said on Saturday.

Zanjan county in northwestern Iran has already reimposed restrictive measures for two weeks, its governor said in a televised interview.

It followed a "certain indifference from Zanjan residents and as the number of our (virus) deaths picked up again in recent weeks," said Alireza Asgari.

The limitations include closing wedding halls and a ban on funeral events held at mosques, as they can lead to large gatherings, he added.

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Migrant workers stuck in virus-hit Iraq with no wages or way home

Yahoo – AFP, Haider Husseini, June 27, 2020

Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers particularly from South Asian countries
have flocked to Iraq over the last decade to work but are now suffering from a financial
crisis following a drop in oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic (AFP Photo/AHMAD

Baghdad (AFP) - For years, Rajib Sheikh wired money to his native Bangladesh from his day job in Iraq. But now, stuck without wages, he's asking his family back home for help.

The 26-year-old patisserie chef has gone three months without wages, and his Iraqi employer just stopped paying for his food stipend, too.

He is one of thousands of foreign migrant workers now stranded in Iraq with no income or way to get back home, watching the economy around them collapse.

"We're used to sending money back to our country, but now I had to ask my cousin to transfer me money," said Sheikh, who arrived in the southern oil-rich Basra province seven years ago.

"We hope we can go back to our jobs because it's not just us who are starving, but our families back home, too," he said.

The world economy has seen a dramatic slowdown due to the spread of COVID-19, but Iraq -- OPEC's second-largest crude producer -- was also hit hard by a collapse in oil prices.

That has sent the country spiralling into its worst fiscal crisis in years, with the World Bank estimating GDP will shrink by 10 percent this year.

Informal workers, it noted, were at a higher risk of falling into "deep poverty" due to the lockdown measures enforced to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Nafis Abbas, a 32-year-old Pakistani tailor in Baghdad, returned to work last week after nearly four months of total shutdown.

"I want to go back (home) but I don't have any money. If I want to go to Pakistan now, it costs $700 and I don’t have anything -- not even 1,000 Iraqi dinars", equivalent to less than a dollar, he told AFP.

Thousands at risk

Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, largely from South Asian countries, have flocked to Iraq over the last decade to work in a range of businesses, from oil fields to restaurants.

Among them are 250,000 registered Bangladeshi workers, according to Mohammed Rezaul Kabir of the country's embassy in Baghdad.

"More than 20,000 have lost their jobs," he told AFP, adding that the numbers could be even higher, given how many work informally.

They include 9,000 Bangladeshi labourers at international oil companies and contractors in Basra, once seen as lucky for working in such a lucrative industry.

"Oil prices going down led to a lot of oil fields laying off employees, some of them without even a final paycheck," said Kabir.

Pakistani and Bengali workers clad in face masks work at a small clothing factory
 in the Iraqi capital Baghdad where many migrant workers are stranded with no income 
or a way to return home (AFP Photo/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

Many Bangladeshi oil workers headed north to Baghdad, hoping their embassy could send them home.

"We are making lists and contacting people as soon as we find a place for them. We are trying our best to transfer them back home but it is expensive and we need a lot of flights to get them there," said Kabir.

According to an International Labour Organization (ILO) survey, 95 percent of businesses in Iraq have suspended work due to COVID-19.

Four out of 10 said they had to lay off some workers, and many expected the crisis to continue another four months.

Salem Ahmed, an Iraqi restaurateur who employs Bangladeshi, Egyptian and Iraqi workers, said his establishment had been hit hard by the lockdown.

"We estimate our losses at about $20,000 per month," he said.

"The government didn't provide any support to businesses, and we're still expected to pay taxes by July," he said.

'We just hope'

Even once the lockdown is fully lifted, many business owners surveyed by the ILO predicted they would be unable to bring their operations or sales back to pre-coronavirus levels.

Forty percent feared their businesses will shut either temporarily or permanently.

"The government should explore all options to finance measures that support enterprises, and it should provide emergency support to all workers, mainly those who are working informally," said Maha Kattaa, ILO's Iraq country coordinator.

But Mohammed Fadel Lhak, a 49-year-old Bangladeshi worker, wasn't optimistic.

Lhak was in a precarious situation well before the pandemic and the plunge in oil prices, living hand-to-mouth every month from menial jobs at small businesses in Baghdad.

Last year, he always managed to sort something out -- but this year feels different.

"Everything is closed now. With the coronavirus, there are no more customers. We just hope for things to get better so we can move on with our lives," Lhak said.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Joyful PM Ardern declares New Zealand virus victory

Yahoo – AFP, News8 June 2020

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her government is confident that
the country has 'eliminated transmission' of the coronavirus

New Zealand lifted all domestic coronavirus restrictions on Monday after its final COVID-19 patient was given the all clear, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealing she danced around her living room when told about the milestone.

While strict border controls will remain in place, Ardern said restrictions such as social distancing and limits on public gatherings were no longer needed.

"We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now," she said in a televised address, saying Kiwis had "united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus".

The South Pacific nation, with a population of five million, has had 1,154 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths.

There have been no new infections for 17 days and, until Monday, just one active case for more than a week.

Details of the final patient were not released for privacy reasons but it is believed to be a woman aged in her 50s who was linked to a cluster at an Auckland nursing home.

Ardern said the sacrifices made by New Zealanders, including a drastic seven-week lockdown that helped curb infection rates, had been rewarded now that there were no active cases in the country.

Asked about her reaction upon hearing the news, she replied: "I did a little dance" with baby daughter Neve.

"She was caught a little by surprise but she joined in, having absolutely no idea why I was dancing around the lounge."

New Zealand's move down to Level 1, the lowest rating on its four-tier virus response system, means nightclubs can operate without dance floor restrictions and theatres will reopen.

It also means sporting events can proceed with crowds in the stands, a change New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said offered its Super Rugby Aotearoa competition the opportunity to achieve a world first when it kicks off this weekend.

"We're incredibly proud, and grateful, to be the first professional sports competition in the world to be in a position to have our teams play in front of their fans again," NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said.

While many other sporting competitions around the globe have announced plans to restart, the vast majority will be played either with no crowds or with numbers severely restricted.

On a broader level, Ardern said easing restrictions would help New Zealand's economy.

"We now have a head start on economic recovery because at level one we become one of the most open, if not the most open, economies in the world," she said.

The prime minister said modelling showed the economy would operate at just 3.8 percent below normal at Level 1, compared with a 37 percent impairment at Level 4 lockdown.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Wuhan lab had three live bat coronaviruses: Chinese state media

Yahoo – AFP, May 24, 2020

The director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told a Chinese state broadcaster
that the lab has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but that claims the
coronavirus could have leaked from the facility were 'pure fabrication' (AFP Photo/

The Chinese virology institute at the centre of US allegations it may have been the source of the COVID-19 pandemic has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new global contagion, its director has said.

Scientists think COVID-19 -- which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide -- originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal.

But the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster CGTN that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others the virus could have leaked from the facility were "pure fabrication".

In the interview filmed on May 13 but broadcast Saturday night, Wang Yanyi said the centre has "isolated and obtained some coronaviruses from bats".

"Now we have three strains of live viruses... But their highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 only reaches 79.8 percent," she said, referring to the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19.

One of their research teams, led by Professor Shi Zhengli, has been researching bat coronaviruses since 2004 and focused on the "source tracing of SARS", the strain behind another virus outbreak nearly two decades ago.

"We know that the whole genome of SARS-CoV-2 is only 80 percent similar to that of SARS. It's an obvious difference," she said.

"So, in Professor Shi's past research, they didn't pay attention to such viruses which are less similar to the SARS virus."

Plans for more labs

Conspiracy rumours that the biosafety lab was involved in the outbreak swirled online for months before Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought the theory into the mainstream by claiming that there is evidence the pathogen came from the institute.

The United States and Australia have called in recent weeks for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

Chinese scientists have said that the virus first emerged at a market selling live animals in Wuhan, though officials in Beijing more recently cast doubt about its origins.

Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday blasted what he called efforts by US politicians to "fabricate rumours" about the pathogen's origins and "stigmatise China".

He said China would be "open" to international cooperation to identify the source of the novel coronavirus, as long as any investigation is "free of political interference".

The World Health Organization has said Washington offered no evidence to support the "speculative" claims about the Wuhan lab.

The Wuhan lab has said it received samples of the then-unknown virus on December 30, determined the viral genome sequence on January 2 and submitted information on the pathogen to the WHO on January 11.

Wang Yanyi said in the interview that before it received samples in December, their team had never "encountered, researched or kept the virus".

"In fact, like everyone else, we didn't even know the virus existed," she said. "How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?"

At a press conference Sunday, Zhao Chenxin, deputy secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, said every Chinese prefecture must have its own P3 laboratory to ramp up preparations against infectious diseases.

Apart from the P3 lab plans -- the second-highest biosafety classification for labs handling pathogens -- Zhao said each city should also have a lower-level P2 laboratory so they could "quickly respond in a major epidemic".

The Wuhan institute has both P3 and P4 labs.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Qatar imposes mandatory masks on pain of prison

TRTWORLD – AFP, 17 May 2020

More than 30,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the tiny Gulf country — 1.1 percent of the 2.75 million population — although just 15 people have died.

In this file photo taken on March 16, 2020 A man wearing a mask as a precaution
against Covid-19 coronavirus disease, walks along the Doha corniche in the Qatari
capital. (AFP)

Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world's toughest penalties of up to three years' imprisonment for failing to wear masks in public, as it battles one of the world's highest coronavirus infection rates.

More than 30,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the tiny Gulf country — 1.1 percent of the 2.75 million population — although just 15 people have died.

Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican had higher per capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Violators of Qatar's new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.

Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but several expats told AFP that police were stopping cars at checkpoints to warn them of the new rules before they came into force.

Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.

Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to $130.

Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections.

Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar's National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was "a huge risk in gatherings of families" for Ramadan meals.

"(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris," he said.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus.

Labourers at risk

Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease's spread.

But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules.

Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26.

Tens of thousands of migrant labourers were quarantined in Doha's gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions.

Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion.

Rights groups have warned that Gulf labourers' cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.

Tibetan exile govt urges China to reveal whereabouts of Panchen Lama

This isMoney – AFP, 17 May 2020

The whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima - the boy recognised as the reincarnation
of the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama on May 14, 1995 - have not been known
since he was taken into custody three days later by Chinese authorities aged six

Tibet's parliament-in-exile on Sunday called for Beijing to confirm the "well-being and whereabouts" of the Panchen Lama, the second-most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism's largest school, a quarter of a century after he disappeared.

The whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima -- the boy recognised as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama on May 14, 1995 -- have not been known since he was taken into custody three days later by Chinese authorities aged six.

"China must provide verifiable information on the wellbeing and whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama," the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, which is based in Dharamsala in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya, said in a statement.

"The disappearance of the Panchen Lama is not only an injustice to one person, but it is an injustice to six million Tibetans and their right to religious freedom."

The US Thursday renewed calls on China -- which has appointed its own Panchen Lama -- to free the Tibetan, who rights activists have called the world's youngest political prisoner.

The Dalai Lama has made India his home since fleeing Tibet in 1959, and resides in Dharamsala in the north of the country.

In February he marked the 80th anniversary of his enthronement as the spiritual leader of Tibet, a position held almost entirely in exile and as a target of constant vilification by the Chinese state.

China's officially atheist government has said it could seek to name a successor to the 84-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader.

In 2015 the official Xinhua news agency quoted an official in Tibet as saying that the Panchen Lama was healthy, enjoying an education and "does not want to be disturbed".

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Race to prevent coronavirus 'nightmare' in Rohingya camps

Yahoo – AFP, May 15, 2020

There have long been warnings the coronavirus could race like wildfire through the
sprawling city of shacks housing nearly a million Rohingya in southeast Bangladesh
(AFP Photo/Suzauddin RUBEL)

Emergency teams raced Friday to prevent a coronavirus "nightmare" in the world's largest refugee settlement after the first confirmed cases in a sprawling city of shacks housing nearly a million Rohingya.

There have long been warnings the virus could race like wildfire through the cramped, sometimes sewage-soaked alleys of the network of 34 camps in southeast Bangladesh.

Most of the refugees have been there since around 750,000 of the Muslim minority fled a 2017 military offensive in neighbouring Myanmar for which its government faces genocide charges at the UN's top court.

Local health coordinator Abu Toha Bhuiyan initially said on Thursday two refugees had tested positive. The World Health Organization (WHO) later said one case was a local man.

On Friday, another senior health official said two more Rohingya had tested positive -- a 42-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man.

It was unclear if they had been in contact with the first two cases.

Mahbubur Rahman, the chief health official in the local Cox's Bazar district, said news of the infections had sparked "panic" in the camps.

The 35-year-old Rohingya man, whose positive result was announced Thursday, lives in Kutupalong, the largest of the camps. He sparked a manhunt at one point after he fled before police found him around four hours later.

"We are worried. He can spread the disease in the camps," community leader Abdur Rahim told AFP.

Rahim said the man is believed to have been infected in a hospital in a nearby town where he took his injured brother for treatment.

Major Rohingya refugee camp populations in Bangladesh, as of April 30, 2020. A 
Rohingya man has become the first person to test positive for COVID-19 in one 
of the camps. (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

WHO spokesman Catalin Bercaru told AFP that "rapid investigation teams" were being deployed.

Rahman, the health official, said an entire block in one camp, housing around 5,000 people, was shut off, and that all contacts of the men were being traced and would be brought to isolation centres.

"We have locked down the block, barring anyone from entering or leaving their homes," he said.

Rahman said they would ramp up coronavirus testing to "at least" 100 per day from just five to 10 at present.

Bercaru said that since February, the entire health sector had been "working round the clock" to increase capacity for testing, isolation and treatment, as well as to train health workers and talk to communities.

The UN refugee agency said that 12 severe respiratory infection treatment centres were being established locally, and that up to 1,900 intensive care beds, five quarantine centres, and 20 isolation facilities were planned.

Humanitarian groups would also help with visits by health workers to people inside the camps plus home deliveries of food and fuel.

"We call on additional international solidarity and support to ensure an adequate response for this particularly vulnerable population," a UNHCR statement said.

'Thousands may die'

In early April authorities had locked down Cox's Bazar -- home to 3.4 million people including the refugees -- after a number of COVID-19 cases.

Security personnel use a loudspeaker to raise awareness about the coronavirus in a 
Rohingya refugee camp in southeast Bangladesh (AFP Photo/Suzauddin RUBEL)

Bangladesh restricted traffic in and out of the camps and forced aid organisations to slash manpower by 80 percent.

The country of 168 million people is under lockdown and has seen a rapid rise in coronavirus cases in recent days, with almost 19,000 and 300 deaths as of Thursday.

Senior US official Sam Brownback, who has visited the refugees said it was inevitable the virus would reach the "incredibly crowded" camps and spread "very rapidly".

Daniel Sullivan from Refugees International called it the "realisation of a nightmare scenario".

Shamim Jahan at Save the Children said there was the "very real prospect that thousands of people may die", with "no intensive care beds" in the camps.

No internet, many rumours

Bangladesh has also been criticised for cutting the internet in the camps, which has restricted access to reliable information and spread false rumours.

"I have been calling on the Bangladeshi government to give internet access. It just seems to me ludicrous that they're not," Brownback told reporters in Washington.

With little prospect of being able to return to Myanmar -- where army operations persist in Rakhine state -- many of the refugees have in desperation tried to escape in rickety vessels.

Last month around 60 died in a boat stranded at sea for two months after being denied entry by Malaysia and Thailand because of coronavirus restrictions, survivors said.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

S. Korea deploys mobile data, police to tackle nightlife cluster

Yahoo – AFP, May 12, 2020

Many nightclub customers are believed to be reluctant to come forward because of the
stigma surrounding homosexuality in the socially conservative country (AFP Photo/
Jung Yeon-je)

South Korean authorities said Tuesday they were using mobile phone data to trace Seoul nightclub visitors as they try to tackle a coronavirus cluster, promising anonymity to those being tested due to the stigma surrounding homosexuality.

The country has been held up as a global model in how to curb the virus, but a spike of new cases, driven by the cluster in venues in Seoul's Itaewon district -- including several gay clubs -- forced authorities to delay this week's planned re-opening of schools.

Many nightclub customers are believed to be reluctant to come forward because of the stigma surrounding homosexuality in the socially conservative country.

Seoul, as well as its neighbouring Gyeonggi province and the nearby city of Incheon, and the southern city of Daegu, have ordered the closure of all clubs and bars.

South Korea's handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak was widely praised, and how it deals with this latest spike will be closely watched as parts of Europe begin a cautious re-opening, where health experts are warning that moving too quickly will result in a surge in infection numbers.

Officials in the east Asian nation of 52 million announced 27 new cases Tuesday, taking its total to 10,936, after recording only single-digit increases for eight of the preceding 13 days -- many of them overseas arrivals.

As of noon Tuesday, 102 cases had been linked to the Itaewon cluster, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, up 16 in 24 hours, and the vast majority were men in their 20s and 30s.

Text messages

The city government of Seoul secured a list of 10,905 people who visited the district through data provided by mobile operators and has sent text messages asking them to get tested, said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

The Korea Disaster Management Headquarters said nearly 2,000 people believed to have visited the clubs are currently unreachable, and thousands of police will be deployed to track them down.

Many nightclub customers are believed to be reluctant to come forward because 
of the stigma surrounding homosexuality in the socially conservative country (AFP 
Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

"The National Police Agency has established an operation system with 8,559 officers... to track down who cannot be identified through credit card information or data provided by mobile operators," said Yoon Tae-ho, the director of KDMH.

More than 7,000 people who have visited the area over the past two weeks have been tested, said Mayor Park -- who on Monday announced a 2 million won ($1,630) fine for those who avoid testing.

Test rates doubled after the city said it will ensure people's privacy by introducing anonymous testing, he added, but authorities still need more visitors to come forward.

People in face masks lined up for tests at a health centre in Itaewon Tuesday, keeping at least one metre (three feet) apart.

"A large number of confirmed cases were discovered in the Itaewon district, and since I live in the area I came to get tested just in case," Jeon Seung-ho, a 25-year-old musician, told AFP.

"I believe that the government should have encouraged the clubs to close down in the first place," he added.

Former K-pop star Park Gyuri admitted visiting one of the Itaewon clubs in early May and apologised for not following social distancing rules.

She tested negative but remains in self-isolation, her agency said in a statement.

Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, but rights groups say intolerance remains rampant.

KCDC vice director Kwon Joon-wook said "prejudice and discrimination" only impede prevention activities, urging the public not to blame virus patients.