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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Friday, February 28, 2014

Xi Jinping to head national internet security group

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-02-28

Xi Jinping chairs a meeting in Beijing on Feb. 17. (Photo/Xinhua)

China's president, Xi Jinping, will head the central internet security and informatization leading group, according to a statement released after the first meeting of the group on Thursday.

Xi presided over the meeting, stressing that internet security and informatization is a major strategic issue concerning a country's security and development as well as people's life and work. "Efforts should be made to build our country into a cyber power," he said.

Premier Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan, who are both members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, are the group's deputy heads.

The group is designed to lead and coordinate internet security and informatization work among different sectors, as well as draft national strategies, development plans and major policies in this field, Xi said. Members of the group adopted the group's work rules and its working plan for this year at the meeting.

China has the world's largest number of internet users but it still lags behind in development of Internet technologies, the president noted. The digital gap between rural and urban areas remains large and the average bandwidth enjoyed by each Chinese is far less than that in some developed countries, he added. By the end of 2013, China had about 618 million internet users, but only 28.6% of them are from the countryside.

"We should be fully aware of the importance and urgency of internet security and informatization," Xi said.

China has to balance its needs of developing IT technologies and safeguarding internet security, the president said, describing the two issues as "two wings of a bird and two wheels of an engine."

Xi called for innovative methods to spread mainstream values and stimulate positive energy while maintaining proper guidance of online opinions in terms of timing, intensity and impact. "Cyberspace should be made clean and chipper," Xi said.

"No internet safety means no national security. No informatization means no modernization," Xi said, noting that cyber information flows across countries and steers technology, funding and talent.

According to the president, information resources are increasingly becoming a crucial production factor and a key part of social wealth, signaling a country's soft and competitive power.

Xi called for more independent innovation in core technology and the construction of infrastructures as well as enhanced abilities to collect, process, spread, utilize and secure information to better benefit the livelihood of the general public.

In Xi's view, building a cyber power calls for domestically developed solid technology, rich and comprehensive information services, prosperous cyber cultures, sound infrastructure, high-caliber talent working in internet security and information, as well as international cooperation.

Xi stressed the need for a comprehensive plan to develop IT and cyber security technology, citing policies to support companies working in this field.

The meeting was also told that there must be legislative efforts to draft laws and regulations on managing information online, protection of key infrastructure facilities, and cleaning up cyberspace. In addition, Xi called for the fostering of a "politically firm, professionally competent and morally upright" team.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Domestic workers around the world: the big picture

There are an estimated 52 million domestic workers worldwide, but the kafala system in the Middle East can make life particularly hard there

The Guardian, Leila Haddou, Wednesday 26 February 2014

Foreign maids gather in Central, the business district in Hong Kong. Only 10%
 of domestic employees worldwide have the same rights as other workers. Photograph:
Kin Cheung/Associated Press

The number of domestic workers has surged in recent years to at least 52 million people worldwide, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), though the real figure may be far higher. In all, 83% are women and 45% have no entitlement to weekly rest periods or paid annual leave.

Only 10% of domestic workers are covered by general labour legislation to the same extent as other workers. More than a quarter are excluded from national labour laws, the ILO says.

The kafala system in the Gulf exacerbates their precarious position, ILO experts say, by requiring every foreign worker in Qatar to have a local sponsor who employs them and supervises their stay. It exists in different forms across the Gulf. According to Human Rights Watch, the "sponsorship law prohibits migrant workers from changing jobs without their employer's consent; even when employers fail to pay competitive wages, provide decent conditions, or meet the conditions of the employment contract, workers cannot simply change jobs."

The law requires employers to report workers who quit without permission for "absconding", an offence leading to their detention and deportation. It also requires workers to secure exit permits from their employers before leaving.

These conditions make migrant workers particularly vulnerable to forced labour. Azfar Khan, a senior migration specialist for the ILO, says: "The kafala system destroys the balance between employer and employee. Workers can be subjected to moral, sexual and physical abuse.

"In many states proposals for new laws have been sat on in parliament for years, and the rules that are eventually made are unenforceable.

"There is a hierarchy in these countries. If somebody has a well-educated, highly skilled Filipino maid, everyone else wants one too. It's like keeping up with the Joneses," Khan explains.

Related Article:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brunei sultan hits back at rare criticism over sharia

Google – AFP, 26 February 2014

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah speaks during the closing ceremony of the
 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bandar Seri Begawan, on
October 10, 2013 (AFP/File, Roslan Rahman)

Bandar Seri Begawan — Brunei's all-powerful sultan, stung by rare criticism, has ordered social media users to stop attacking his plans to introduce harsh Islamic criminal punishments in the placid oil-rich kingdom.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah -- one of the world's wealthiest men -- announced last October that Brunei would phase in sharia law punishments such as flogging, severing limbs and death by stoning beginning April 1.

The move has sparked a growing outcry on social media, the only outlet for public criticism of authorities in the Muslim country where questioning the 67-year-old sultan is taboo.

In a weekend speech, the sultan issued a clear threat to the critics.

"They cannot be allowed to continue committing these insults, but if there are elements which allow them to be brought to court, then the first phase of implementing the Syariah Penal Code Order in April will be very relevant to them," he said, according to a copy of his speech published by state media.

He did not specify how social media users could be prosecuted under Islamic law.

The sultan remains a revered figure in the tiny realm of 400,000 -- which enjoys some of the highest living standards in Asia -- and his word is unquestioned.

But in recent weeks a heated online debate has erupted in the easy-going country between sharia's supporters and those fearful of it.

"It is truly frightening to think that we might potentially be stoned to death for being lovers, that we may be fined for being of a different sexual orientation, and that what we wear will be regulated," one recent posting said.

Brunei has some of Asia's highest rates of Internet penetration and social media use.

Sharia punishments can include stoning to death for adultery, severing of limbs for theft, and flogging for violations ranging from abortion to alcohol consumption to homosexuality.

The country already practices a more conservative form of Islam compared to its Muslim neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia, banning the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restricting other religions.

Its dual-track legal system combines civil courts with sharia courts that have typically handled mainly marital, inheritance and other low-key issues.

But Hassanal has increasingly advocated strengthening Islam in the face of potentially harmful outside influences, including the Internet, and has warned of rising crime.

In his speech, he called his Islamic monarchy a "firewall" against globalisation.

Officials have previously said sharia cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion applying it.

Overseas human right groups have denounced the move.

The sultan's wealth -- estimated at $20 billion by Forbes magazine in 2011 -- has become legendary with reports of a vast collection of luxury vehicles and gold-bedecked palaces.

The monarchy was deeply embarrassed by a sensational family feud between the sultan and his younger brother Jefri who allegedly embezzled $15 billion in the 1990s.

Court battles and exposes revealed salacious details of Jefri's un-Islamic jet-set lifestyle, including allegations of a high-priced harem of Western paramours and a luxury yacht he owned called "Tits".

Xi calls for socialism to fill China's spiritual void

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-02-26

Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony of a workshop on reform for leading
 officials at the provincial and ministerial level at the CPC Central Committee Party
School in Beijing, Feb. 17. (Photo/Xinhua)

Chinese president Xi Jinping has reiterated the importance of "core socialist values," urging deep understanding and comprehensive implementation of the moral doctrine nationwide.

While presiding over a high-level meeting on this issue on Monday, Xi asked for widespread publicity of the values, which he called the "moral and ideological foundation" for socialist China,in order to guide morality.

Xi said authorities should make use of various opportunities and occasions to create circumstances for the promotion of these values.

Core socialist values comprise a set of moral principles summarized by central authorities as prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship.

This doctrine has been encouraged by the Communist Party of China since its 18th Party Congress in late 2012. It has evolved into a national campaign to rebuild faith amid concerns that the world's second-largest economy has lost its moral compass during its three-decade economic development.

Last week, Xi called for greater efforts to set up a socialist value system with Chinese characteristics in line with a new era while addressing a meeting of ministerial-level officials.

Cultivating and acting on core socialist values is an important way of ensuring the smooth operation of social systems and safeguarding social order, according to the president.

He urged implementation of the values in every aspect of life and for the doctrine to be made a "spiritual pursuit" for the public.

The principles should be introduced into text books, classes and schools and should be demonstrated in various cultural and art works, according to Xi.

"Core socialist values are the soul of cultural soft power," Xi said. "Basically, the soft power of a nation depends on the vitality, cohesive force and charisma of its core values."

Officials and CPC members were told to take the lead in following the principles and acting as role models in practicing morality.

The media have also been asked to spread moral righteousness, a call to which it appears TV stations across China are already responding.

All policies regarding the economy, politics, culture and society must be worked out to benefit the cultivation of core socialist values, and the law should also promote them, Xi said.

Behavior complying with the values should be encouraged and violations of them must be restrained, he added.

The president also said that their implementation must be based on traditional Chinese culture, which he labelled the root of the values.

Plight of Domestic Workers in Indonesia Is Seen as Mirroring Slavery

Jakarta Globe, Vita A.D. Busyra,February 25, 2014

A domestic worker being identified for work at an employment
center in Cipete, Jakarta. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Jakarta. The allegation that a retired police general and his wife held 16 domestic workers in captivity and tortured them in their Bogor, West Java, mansion, is a form of modern-day slavery that is only one of countless such incidents occurring behind the high walls of luxury homes in Indonesia.

Anis Hidayah, executive director of Jakarta-based Migrant Care, told the Jakarta Globe on Monday that such practices are physically concealed but occur all around us, stripping those silent victims of their most basic of human rights: freedom.

“Many of us are still trapped in the feudalistic mentality, always wanting to be served,” she said, comparing the situation to the early years of the American colonies, when Europeans desperate to cross the ocean ended up signing contracts of debt bondage or indentured servitude.

“Although indentured servants are needed to work only for a limited period, as stated in the signed contract, many were exploited as low-cost laborers and severely maltreated. Ironically, such cases occur in Indonesia today,” she said.

Mutiara Situmorang and her husband, retired police general Mangisi Situmorang, were reported to the police after one of their 16 domestic workers — half of whom were under the legal working age of 17 — fled the mansion last week, claiming she had suffered from physical abuse.

The 17-year-old, Yuliana Lewer, said she was forced to work more than 12 hours a day, and Mutiara would beat her if she made any mistake.

Anis said this case was not unique as many domestic workers in the country have similar experiences.

Similar cases

In June last year, 18-year-old Siti Nur Amalah, a housemaid working in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, went to the police after her employers, husband and wife couple Usman and Dina, had been beating her since 2012, resulting in permanent blindness. Usman had also frequently sexually abused the teenager.

“I was often told to strip naked, and he then touched my private parts,” she told

Police said they were still investigating the matter.

In October, the Supreme Court handed down a longer jail term to Lidya Natalia and her mother Tan Fang May for torturing their maid, Marlena, 16.

“She was chained like a dog, and beaten and soaked in the bathtub,” a judge told

Also in October that year, the same court punished Sri Sunarti, 29, and Yudaka, 63, for torturing their 17-year-old housemaid, Kaminah, since 2008.

Semarang-based Perisai, a child labor advocacy group, said they received reports from 30 house workers in 2012 alone who were victims of abuse at the hands of their employers.

“They have been raped, beaten and scolded almost every day of their employment,” the group said in a statement.

Anis said based on data from Walk Free Foundation’s inaugural Global Slavery Index 2013, “some 29.8 million [people] are still forced to live in slavery around the world, with some 21 million slaves in Asia, including Indonesia.”

Data from the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT) stated 1,273 abuse cases [of domestic workers] were reported from 2011 to 2012 nationwide. In 2013, they received 650 reports of maid abuse.

Jala PRT estimates more than 10 million people currently work as maids in Indonesia.

Human trafficking

Alvon Kurnia Palma, chairman of the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) feared these cases might indicate human trafficking, though further investigation was still needed.

“These cases of abuse not only involve torture, but also forced captivity and perhaps even human trafficking. In the latter, young domestic workers are recruited, transported, delivered and finally cheated out of their wages and freedom,” he said on Monday.

In the Bogor case for instance, Alvon questioned how Mutiara was able to recruit so many girls, and more importantly, who supplied them.

“We need to find out whether these workers were taken from a broker or formal agency. And if a broker was involved, we need to find out whether he or she had the legal authority to do so.”

Alvon doubted the recruiting agency was legal.

“If they have a [proper] license, why did they recruit children of under the age of 18?” he asked.

Alvon demanded the police to investigate every lead, every person who was involved, up to the recruiting agency to prevent similar cases in future.

“No one is exempt from the law, whoever the abuser may be — even the wife of a well-known general, for example, will not be given legal leeway,” he said.

Sri Nurherwati, a commissioner at the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), condemned Mutiara for mistreating her domestic workers and holding them hostage. Sri also urged the police to punish the guilty accordingly, so they may never commit the same atrocities again.

Weak protection

Sri said no form of legal protection exists for household workers in Indonesia.

Any law that applies to them are weak at best, making them dependent on the “kindness” of their employers — a situation similar to slavery.

“Many of these housemaids live with their employers. They are placed in a ‘lower’ position and feel they cannot speak up for their rights,” she explained. “They are dependent on their employer. So, we must establish a legal means to protect them.”

She lamented the continued 10-year delay in the deliberations of the domestic worker protection bill in the House of Representatives. The bill, she said, would cater to the main interests of Indonesia’s domestic workers by touching on issues including minimum wage and working hours, with clear punishments outlined for employers who violate the regulations.

“We [Komnas Perempuan] have urged the House many times to discuss and then pass the bill. But the lawmakers somehow believe cases tortured maids can be resolved through existing laws,” Sri said.

However, the increasing number of abuse cases against domestic workers proves current laws fail to protect them.

“Maids, who fall into informal sectors, will still be vulnerable to mistreatment. If we do not have a form of legal protection emphasizing domestic workers as being part of the wheel of economic development, how can we consider a housewife’s job as honorable?” she said.

Anis Hidayah added that household maids work within the obstructing walls of a home; no one would bear witness to any form of abuse, and the government would not be able to intervene unless the victim voluntarily approached the police.

“There is no reason for holding back the draft bill as this [abuse] truly degrades human kind,” she said.

Related Article:

Malala Yousafzai backs campaign against FGM

Pakistani schoolgirl shot by Taliban praises campaign calling for better education on female genital mutilation in UK schools, Alexandra Topping, Monday 24 February 2014

Malala Yousafzai with the anti-FGM campaigner Muna Hasan.
Photograph: David Levene

MalalaYousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who has spearheaded the campaign for universal education for children, has backed a campaign led by the 17-year-old British student Fahma Mohamed to get education about female genital mutilation into all schools in the UK.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Malala praised Fahma's campaign, and joined her in calling for better education in schools about FGM. "I've watched every step of Fahma's campaign and I think she is on the edge of something huge," she said. "Over 140 million girls and women are mutilated – but like keeping girls out of school in Pakistan, we can come out together and be strong and change things for the next generation. I am her sister and I am at her side and I want her to be listened to I as I was."

Fahma is to meet the education secretary, Michael Gove, on Tuesday in an attempt to convince him to play a role in ending the practice of FGM in the UK. Gove agreed to a meeting after a Guardian-backed petition – which is supported by a range of FGM campaigners and groups – attracted hundreds of thousands of signatures since launching at the beginning of February.

Malala – who was shot at close range by the Taliban for her campaign for girls' education and went on to become the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel peace prize – urged Fahma to keep up pressure on the education secretary to write to every school in the UK telling them to train teachers and parents about the risks and impact of FGM on women and girls.

"I think it is very important that we make people aware of this issue because if no one knows, if no one wants to know, then we can never highlight it in front of responsible people and we can never find a solution," said Malala, who is 16. "It's good that … girls like Fahma – so active and with a passion – are continuing this campaign. I truly support you."

Fahma Mohamed is to meet Michael Gove on Tuesday. Photograph:
Patrick Hoeschler

Following sustained public pressure which has seen the Guardian petition attract almost a quarter of a million signatures on, the Scottish government has agreed to write to every teacher in Scotland about FGM, while an early day motion led by the Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron in support of the campaign has received the backing of 33 MPs.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, supported the campaign, calling it "deeply inspiring" and praising Mohamed.

The Kent police and crime commissioner, Ann Barnes, also signed the petition and, with the backing of the not-for-profit lobbying group Policing for All, urged all 41 PCCs to sign the campaign before Fahma meets Gove.

Malala, who has recovered well in the UK after receiving specialised treatment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, compared the work done by Fahma and other members of the anti-FGM charity Integrate Bristol to her own battle for universal education. "I'm also trying to work for women's rights and girls' education and I think the campaign that you are doing is a part of my campaign as well," she said. "[W]hen you talk about education you talk about quality education and it should be [known] all over the world about FGM – what it is and how can it affect the life of a girl. So I think it should be a part of education and we both will struggle for this. Because we can never achieve our goals unless we struggle for it, so I think this is the time to start it."

Malala, who now lives in Birmingham with her family, took time from revising for her GCSEs to meet representatives of Integrate Bristol, including Lisa Zimmermann, a teacher at City Academy Bristol who set up the project seven years ago, and 20-year-old Muna Hasan, one of the group's original members. City Academy Bristol is one of only two schools in the country to have a dedicated project on the practice, which is thought to affect 140 million women and girls worldwide, and is practiced in 28 African countries as well as some parts of Asia and the Middle East.

Hasan said when she joined the campaign the group had to overcome prejudice and opposition from those who did not want FGM to be discussed. "I faced, and quite a few of the girls in the community faced, hardship," she said. "It wasn't just certain people in our communities who didn't want to know – teachers didn't, politicians didn't want to know, some doctors didn't know what it was."

She said it was now time for politicians such as Gove to play their part in eradicating the practice of FGM, which is believed to affect 66,000 women in England and Wales, while 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are thought to be at risk. "For this to have got so big and to have so many signatures shows people do care, but it is politicians' time – it's their turn to start caring and do something active to stop FGM in this country," she said.

Malala, who will share a platform with other women's rights campaigners, including FGM activists, at the Southbank centre in London next month as part of the Women of the World festival, said the struggle for women's and girls' right must continue. "I totally support you in your campaign for girls' rights because it should be the right of a girl how she wants her body," she said. "I'm truly surprised to hear that 140 million women are affected by FGM. I think we should start a campaign and we should struggle for it because if we remain silent we will never achieve our goals and we will never achieve change. The only way to fight against it is to speak."

Ban Ki-moon and Fahma Mohamed. Photograph: Irene Baqué for Guardian
British girl leads Guardian campaign to end female genital mutilation

Question: Dear and beloved Kryon: What should we know about "Brit-Mila" (Jewish circumcision)?

Answer: All circumcision was based on commonsense health issues of the day, which manifested itself in religious-based teaching. That basically is what made people keep doing it. This eighth-day-from-birth ritual is no more religious today than trimming your fingernails (except that Brit-Mila is only done once, and it hurts a bit more).

It's time to start seeing these things for what they are. Common sense is not static. It's dynamic, and related to the culture of the time. Yesterday's common sense about health changed greatly with the discovery of germs. It changed again with practices of cleanliness due to the discovery of germs, and so on. Therefore, we would say that it really doesn't make a lot of difference in today's health practices. It's done almost totally for cultural historic and traditional purposes and holds no energy around it other than the obvious intent of the tradition.

This is also true for a great deal of the admonishments of the Old Testament regarding food and cleanliness, and even the rules of the neighborhood (such as taking your neighbor's life if he steals your goat, or selling your daughter in slavery if you really need the money... all found in scripture). The times are gone where these things matter anymore, yet they're still treated with reverence and even practiced religiously in some places. They're now only relics of tradition, and that's all. If you feel that you should honor a tradition, then do it. If not, then don't. It's not a spiritual or health issue any longer.

Be the boss of your own body and your own traditions. Follow what your spiritual intuition tells you is appropriate for your own spiritual path and health.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More Riau Haze Arrests as Singapore Drafts Legislation

Jakarta Globe, February 25, 2014

A resident of Riau sprays water on a peatland fire in the Pekanbaru district
on February 16, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Jakarta. Another 24 suspects were charged with setting brushfires in Riau on Tuesday in the latest police crackdown on illegal land clearing as the fires raging across the Sumatran province for more than three weeks showed signs of subsiding.

“All suspects are being investigated by the district police,” Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Cmr. Guntur Aryo Tejo told the Indonesian news portal

The arrests came on the heels of last week’s arrest of a dozen people allegedly involved in setting some of the region’s widespread fires. None of those arrested had any expressed affiliation with the large palm oil and pulp companies found in Indonesia’s once-forested Riau province. The act of setting fire to the forest land has been called a “traditional” method to clear-out land for palm oil plantations, one allegedly used by small-scale farmers for decades in this fertile region. Law enforcement’s seeming inability to address the issue has become a heated concern in Singapore and Malaysia.

One suspect, a 49-year-old woman, was allegedly caught setting fires herself, in spite of protests from her neighbors. A witness told police that he warned the woman to not set fire to scrub land in East Dumai district. Ignoring his pleas, the woman set the ground alight. The fire quickly spread to cover more than a hectare of land, according to Tempo reports.

“The fire has been doused by police officers with the help of residents,” Guntur told Tempo. “The perpetrator and the evidence have been taken to the local police office.”

This year, police in Riau have taken a tough stance on illegal land clearing. Last year’s fires raged for weeks and blanketed neighboring Malaysia and Singapore and hazardous levels of thick haze. The pollution ignited a diplomatic row between Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore — two nations seemingly exasperated with Indonesia’s inability to control burning in Riau and Kalimantan. Singapore was quick to pour fuel on the flames this year, with the city-state’s environment minister almost immediately accusing Indonesia of not caring about the welfare of its neighbors.

The city-state’s environment minister Vivian Balakhrisnan accused “those countries” bordering Singapore of ineffectual law enforcement as he proposed legislation that would allow Singaporean police to criminally charge companies caught setting land on fire.

“We need to go further,” Vivian said. “We have therefore decided to draft new legislation with extra-territorial applications. If approved by Parliament, errant companies — local or foreign — will face criminal charges in Singapore courts if their overseas actions cause haze pollution in Singapore.”

He said that Singapore was tired of dealing with the problem.

“The root cause is commercial,” he said. “It is not the weather or the environment. Errant companies have been clearing land by illegal burning because it is the cheapest way to do so.”

The proposed legislation — the “Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill” — is still under deliberation. If passed, parties responsible for haze-causing activities would have to pay up to $300,000 in fines, or or up to $450,000 if deliberate criminal activity could be proven in court. The bill would apply to Singaporean and non-Singaporean entities equally, although enforcing the law outside the city-state would present its own challenges.

“We hope this legislation will send a strong signal of deterrence to errant companies,” Balakhrisnan said.

Although this year’s haze has yet to impact Singaporeans — air quality has remained safe throughout the heaviest period of burning — residents in Riau were left to suffer the ill-effects of forest fires as nearly 6,000 hectares burned. Air quality in Riau dropped to dangerous levels, prompting school closures and an outbreak of respiratory illness.

The number of hotspots was recorded as 145 on Tuesday, down significantly from the 1,398 reported by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) on Monday. Most of the remaining fires burned in Bengkalis district. Flights at Pekanbaru’s Sutan Syarif Kasim II International Airport continued to be affected on Tuesday, with 16 scheduled flights suffering delays, airport manager Ibnu Hasan told the Indonesian news portal

Other flights were diverted to Batam, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Ibnu said.

More than 100 people were forced to evacuate their homes as the fires spread and air quality dropped in Bengkalis, the local police chief told the Indonesian newsportal

“Our data shows that 125 people in total, including 24 children under five years old, 18 children and 83 adults [have left their homes],” Bengkalis Police Chief Adj. Sr. Cmr. Andry Wibowo told “We had to take them to shelters because their village was surrounded by fire, causing thick smog.”

The provincial government continued to advise against children going outside, closing local schools for some two weeks.

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Honda appoints first woman to its board

Hideko Kunii named first female board member and foreigner promoted as carmaker shakes up Japanese corporate culture, Associated Press, Monday 24 February 2014

Hideko Kunii, who is in charge of promoting gender equality at the university
of Tokyo, becomes Honda's first female board member. Photograph: AP

Honda has appointed a woman to its board for the first time and given a major promotion to a foreigner, in a sign that the automaker wants to change perceptions of a hidebound corporate culture.

Technology expert Hideko Kunii, 66, will join the carmaker's board, while Issao Mizoguchi, a Brazilian of Japanese ancestry who has worked with Honda's South American operations for nearly 30 years has been appointed operating officer, Honda said on Monday. The appointments need shareholder approval at a meeting set for June.

Japanese companies have come under fire for promoting only Japanese men. Putting women in leadership positions is a pillar of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies to revive the economy.

Toyota has one foreigner on its board, Mark Hogan, an American, formerly of General Motors, but had yet to appoint a woman.

Honda has cultivated an international image from its early years, as founder Soichiro Honda always regarded global acceptance as part of his vision for the company. It was the first Japanese carmaker to open a vehicle assembly plant in the US. But the addition of Mizoguchi, 54, as one of the top executives at its headquarters, as well as the appointment of Kunii, a professor at the Shibaura Institute of Technology, is a high-profile move for the company.

Kunii studied at San Jose University and the University of Texas at Austin, and previously worked for Japanese electronics maker Ricoh. She is in charge of promoting gender equality at the university of Tokyo.

Mizoguchi serves as senior vice-president and director of Honda South America.

Despite Abe's attempts to persuade firms to promote women to corporate boards, Honda is the first major Japanese company to act.

Honda officials stressed Kunii was picked because she was the right person for the job, not because of her gender.

Among Japanese companies, Nissan, allied with Renault of France, has been the most progressive in promoting diversity but has yet to appoint a woman to its board despite corporate vice-president Asako Hoshino being among its top executives. Nissan has three non-Japanese on its 12-member board, including the chief executive, Carlos Ghosn.

Japanese society is expected to lose its potential for growth and innovation if it does not do more to encourage women to enter the workforce, as its population is ageing and dwindling. Women say the difficulties of finding childcare as well as cultural expectations about women doing housework make it difficult to pursue a career in Japan.

The nation's tax system encourages women to stay in poorer-paying part-time jobs. The lack of role models in Japan also adds to the obstacles for women's efforts to move up the corporate ladder.

Boosted by the weak yen, Japanese acarmakers are targeting overseas growth. In late 2012, Honda announced ambitious plans to double its global annual auto sales to more than 6m vehicles in five years.

Monday, February 24, 2014

North Korea to Participate in Asian Games: Media Reports

Jakarta Globe - AFP, February 24, 2014

Misaki Sango of Japan, center, leads the Women’s 3000 meter Steeplechase
 before finishing in second place during the East Asian Games held at the Tianjin
 Olympic Center Stadium in China on October 9, 2013. The East Asian Games which
 are held every four years see nine countries — including China, Japan, South and
North Korea — participate in 262 events and 22 different sports. (AFP Photo/Mark

Seoul. North Korea will participate in all events at the Asian Games to be hosted in South Korea’s western port city of Incheon later this year, reports said Monday.

North Korean officials told South Korean reporters that preparations are under way to compete in all events at the so-called Asiad games, according to pooled media reports from the current reunion of families divided by the Korean War.

South Korea has invited North Korea to participate in the games, which will run from September 19 to October 4, through the Olympic Council of Asia, a body that governs all sports in Asia.

But there has been no formal confirmation of participation yet from North Korea’s rulers.

The North boycotted the 1988 Olympics hosted by Seoul but sent athletes and cheerleaders for the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea’s southern port city of Busan.

The first family reunion for more than three years is under way at a mountain resort in North Korea, raising hopes of greater North-South cooperation.

North Korea had originally threatened to cancel if the South and the United States pushed ahead with annual joint military drills that began on Monday.

In an apparent goodwill gesture, Seoul last week approved the shipment by two private aid groups for close to $1.0 million worth of tuberculosis medicine and powdered milk to North Korea.

On Monday South Korea offered to send vaccine and medical equipment to help contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the North.

The offer came days after the North confirmed cases of the highly contagious livestock disease at a pig farm in a suburb of Pyongyang.

Hong Kong protesters march to demand media freedom

Deutsche Welle, 23 February 2014

Protesters have rallied in Hong Kong to demand that the city government halt a perceived erosion of media freedom. Journalists claim mainland China is increasingly seeking to influence editorial decisions.

Organizers claimed that 6,000 people participated in the march on Sunday, although police figures put the attendance at less than 2,000.

The rally finished outside the office of the city's chief executive, where guest speakers, including broadcasters and writers, claimed they had had their work censored.

Two international organizations earlier this month raised concern about the status of press freedom in Hong Kong. The New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said media freedom in the city was "at a low point," while Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Hong Kong's media independence was "now in jeopardy."

"A journalist's duty is to report, not to protest but our consciences compel us to raise the alarm," said Hong Kong Journalists Association Chairperson Sham Yee-lan. "Those in power are attacking the media and their ultimate aim is to create a population kept in ignorance and blind loyalty."

Beijing anxious over elections?

Journalist groups claim headlines have been edited, interviews prohibited and columnists fired.

Tensions have risen in the semi-autonomous region, where political reforms are being put into place ahead of unprecedented direct elections for a new city leader in 2017.

It remains unclear if the list of contenders will include pro-democracy candidates. Journalists in Hong Kong claim China's national government is increasingly nervous about pro-democracy contenders, and has directed propaganda officials to increase their influence within newsrooms.

The former British colony and regional business hub enjoys a considerable degree of autonomy, and is a relative beacon of press freedom compared with other parts of China. A deal between Britain and China ahead of the handover in 1997 stipulated that freedom of the press - along with other rights - be preserved for at least 50 years.

rc/ipj (AFP, Reuters)

Sochi Winter Olympics end with glitzy, emotional closing ceremony

Deutsche Welle, 23 February 2014

The Sochi Winter Games have wrapped up with the closing ceremony held in the Fisht Olympic Stadium. The next Winter Games are to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

The Games ended on Sunday night as they do at every Games, be they summer or winter, with the Olympic Flame being extinguished. This time, it was a larger-than-life mechanical bear that "blew out" the flame towards the end of a glitzy, emotional closing ceremony.

At the start of the ceremony, which ran for well over two hours, the organizers of the Sochi Games proved that they were capable of a little self-depreciating humor.

As around 700 dancers formed the five Olympic rings on the floor of the Fisht Stadium, they delayed forming the fifth one, in a nod to a malfunction during the opening ceremony, in which the same top right ring failed to illuminate.

The packed house cheered as the spectators realized what was happening, as the dancers representing that ring remained in a smaller, filled circle. They then roared their approval a few second later when the dancers spread apart to form the fully-shaped ring.

Over the next couple of hours the spectators in the stadium as well as those watching on television around the world saw a closing ceremony filled with pageantry and protocol.

Russian culture

Among those who performed at the ceremony were dancers from the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky ballet companies, two of the world's oldest.

At another point the faces of famous Russian authors were projected onto huge screens, and a pile of books transformed into a swirling, loose pages.

Hundreds of athletes who had not yet left Sochi also entered the stadium, led by the winners of Russia's record 13 gold medals, who carried the country's white, blue and red flag, which was raised alongside the Olympic flag.

Lavish praise from the IOC president

Russian President Vladimir Putin was among those watching from the stands, as the president of the International Olympic Committee, Germany's Thomas Bach, delivered lavish praise of the Games.

"Russia delivered all what it had promised," Bach said. "What took decades in other parts of the world was achieved here in just seven years," he added.

"I would like to thank the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin, for his personal commitment to the extraordinary success of these Olympic Winter Games," Bach concluded.

Also during the ceremony, the Olympic flag was lowered and handed to the host of the next Winter Games, South Korea.

"I declare the 22nd Olympic Winter Games closed. In accordance with tradition, I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in PyeongChang to celebrate with us the 23rd Olympic Winter Games," Bach said.

pfd/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) toasts a glass of champagne with Prime
 Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova (R) in
 the presidential lounge at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014
(Pool/AFP, David Goldman)

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Table of gold, silver and bronze medals
per country (AFP)