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, June 30, 2017

For Chinese gays, 'coming out' is a family affair

Yahoo – AFP, Dan Martin, June 29, 2017

Li Tao (L) and Duan Rongfeng are among a new generation of gay Chinese
willing to take a stand on their sexuality, despite family pressure to conform

When Piao Chunmei's son told her he was gay, she reacted the way many Chinese parents do, sleepless and crying for days due to the lingering shame of same sex relationships in China.

But she eventually accepted her son and is now part of an expanding network of gays and their parents who help other families cope with the stress of coming out in a country which until 2001 classified homosexuality as a mental illness.

Deep-seated cultural expectations for each generation to produce a male heir -- heightened by China's "one-child policy", which expanded to two in 2015 -- added to the pressure to conform. But a new generation is more willing to take a stand on their sexuality, despite what their relatives may think.

Piao and her fellow volunteers bridge the generation gap.

"We don't want to shut them in the closet where no one can see them," said Piao, an effervescent 54-year-old who works for a Shanghai cosmetics equipment company.

Taiwan's top court recently ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, Shanghai's low-key annual gay pride festival is in its ninth year, and opinion surveys increasingly indicate greater public acceptance of China's gays.

On May 20, "Lover's Day" in China, a group of mothers, affiliated with the US-founded PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), caused a stir by appearing at a Shanghai park where parents regularly display advertisements seeking marriage matches for their heterosexual children.

The gate-crashing parents did the same for their gay children -- before police escorted them out.

But coming-out in family-oriented China remains traumatic, often tearing households apart or leading to suicides. The fears are so intense that advocacy groups estimate millions lead a double life -- hiding their identity by marrying heterosexuals.

"Family is the most important part (of coming out) in terms of our emotions, but it's the hardest area to break through," said Duan Rongfeng, a 40-year-old gay Shanghai architect.

"Having two sons is even better. My one son has turned into two," says He 
Fenglanm who admits she initially struggled to cope when her son Li Tao (C) told
 her he was gay. Duan Rongfeng (L) and Li Tao (C) walking their dog together
 with Li Tao's mother, He Fenglanm in Shanghai.Coming-out in family-oriented China 
remains traumatic, often tearing households apart or leading to gay suicides. The fears
 are so intense that advocacy groups estimate millions of gays marry heterosexuals,
hiding their identities in miserable unions that often fail

Bridging the gap

Volunteers for PFLAG say they are seeing more people confident enough to come out, especially in cosmopolitan cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, which are have more relaxed attitudes than rural areas.

PFLAG organises various discreet events but earlier this month arranged its biggest yet, a four-day ship cruise from Shanghai to Japan, which organisers said drew more than 1,000 people.

The group took to sea to avoid interference from authorities, as LGBT events are often abruptly shut down.

But Duan, also a volunteer, estimates more than 100,000 parents and children nationwide have been helped by PFLAG's loose network, which he said is expanding to smaller cities and China's interior.

Piao's initial devastated reaction to her son's announcement reflects the lack of understanding common among Chinese parents.

She wondered whether she had caused it by giving him too much candy as a child or if he was corrupted at university or by foreigners. She asked him to seek a medical cure.

But after reading about gay suicides, she relented.

"I was afraid he would disappear before my eyes," she said.

Coming-out in family-oriented China remains traumatic, often tearing households 
apart or leading to suicides. The fears are so intense that advocacy groups 
estimate millions lead a double life -- hiding their identity by marrying heterosexuals.  

'He can't change'

Anguished parents reach out to Piao daily by phone, social media, or in person. To some, she is affectionately called "Big Sister Mei," but others accuse her of corrupting their kids.

Her unwavering message: you can't change your child's sexual identity.

"I would give my life away to make him change," she admits of her own son.

"But he can't."

Piao said most Shanghai parents eventually come around and families end up stronger, but success is less assured outside major cities.

Fearing ostracism, Piao and her son relocated several years ago from northeastern China to Shanghai.

The support network helped He Fenglan, 55, pull out of a year-long spiral of despair after her son came out three years ago.

"The first thing I thought was, how could I face relatives? How could I face society? How could I face close friends? The problem of 'face' is very important," said He, who was "repulsed" by homosexuality.

But she added: "You see more and more gays coming out, as well as their parents. You feel you are not alone in this world."

Today she embraces her son's identity and the prospect of his relationships with a uniquely Chinese twist.

"Having two sons is even better. My one son has turned into two."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pakistan deploys 15,000-strong force for Chinese security

Yahoo – AFP, June 25, 2017

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain (R) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign
Minister Wang Yi upon his arrival in Islamabad (AFP Photo/HO)

Pakistan has deployed a 15,000-strong military force to protect Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure projects in the country, the president said Sunday, after the abduction of a Chinese couple raised safety concerns.

President Mamnoon Hussain told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Islamabad that the protection of Chinese citizens working in Pakistan was the "top priority" of the government, according to a statement issued by the presidency.

Beijing is investing around $50 billion in its South Asian neighbour as part of a plan unveiled in 2015 to link its far-western Xinjiang region to Gwadar port in Balochistan with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.

But fears over safety arose last month when two Chinese workers were abducted in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Balochistan province, which is at the heart of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project but racked by separatist and Islamist insurgencies.

Authorities were going to all possible efforts to arrest those responsible for kidnapping, Hussain said.

China has stated it will cooperate with Pakistani authorities to investigate whether the two Chinese citizens -- who were allegedly killed by the Islamic State group in the country -- had been illegally preaching.

So far there has been no official confirmation of the Chinese pair's fate.

Pakistan has been battling Islamist and nationalist insurgencies in mineral-rich Balochistan since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.

The IS group has been making inroads in the country through alliances with local militant outfits, although its presence is generally downplayed by the government.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pakistan issues first transgender passport

Yahoo – AFP, June 24, 2017

Farzana Riaz said the new passport would help her campaign globally on behalf 
of her community, who are also known as khawajasiras -- an umbrella term in 
Pakistan denoting a third sex that includes transsexuals, transvestites and eunuchs

Pakistan has issued its first third-gender passport to a transgender activist, who hailed the move as a step forward for the marginalised community in the deeply conservative South Asian country.

Farzana Riaz, a transgender in northwestern Peshawar city, said the new passport would help her campaign globally on behalf of her community, who are also known as khawajasiras -- an umbrella term in Pakistan denoting a third sex that includes transsexuals, transvestites and eunuchs.

"I have received my passport which mentions my gender as X and not as a male or female," Farzana told AFP on Saturday.

"Earlier I had a passport which had described my gender as a male. But this time I told the authorities that I won't accept my passport if it doesn't identify me as a transgender," the 30-year-old co-founder and president of rights organisation TransAction said.

"Now it will be more convenient for me to travel abroad because earlier I faced problems at international airports because of a contradiction in my appearance and sex mention on my passport," she added.

Modern-day Pakistani transgender people claim to be cultural heirs of the eunuchs who thrived at the courts of the Mughal emperors that ruled the Indian subcontinent for two centuries until the British arrived in the 19th century and banned them.

In 2009, Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to legally recognise a third sex, allowing transgenders to obtain identity cards, while several have also run in elections.

They number at least half a million people in the country, according to several studies.

Like Farzana, many earn their living by being called upon for rituals such as blessing newborns or to bring life to weddings and parties as dancers -- and, sometimes, in more clandestine ways.

But despite these signs of integration they live daily as pariahs, often reduced to begging and prostitution, subjected to extortion and discrimination.

Meanwhile homosexuality, prohibited by Islam, is punishable by 10 years imprisonment or even 100 lashes in Pakistan.

S. Korea president invites N. Korea to Pyeongchang Olympics

Yahoo – AFP, June 24, 2017

South Korea's mountain resort of Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Winter
Olympics (AFP Photo/JUNG YEON-JE)

Seoul (AFP) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday invited North Korea to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, saying sports could serve as a peace maker.

The South and nuclear-armed North Korea are separated by one of the world's most heavily armed borders and remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

But the centre-left Moon is known to favour engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table in a break from his conservative predecessors who took a hardline stance.

"I believe in the strength of sports that has been brokering peace," Moon said.

"If a North Korean delegation takes part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, I believe it will greatly contribute to realizing the Olympic values of friendship and peace," he said, according to a script of his remarks released by the presidential Blue House.

Moon also suggested the two countries pool their athletes to form joint teams for the games to achieve better performances.

The president was speaking at the opening of the World Taekwondo Championships in the southern county of Muju.

Also on hand was North Korea's top sports official Jang Woong, the country's sole IOC member, together with a North Korean delegation of athletes.

In March, Jang reportedly said in Japan that there was no reason for the North to stay away from the Olympics, but that the games would be hosted by South Korea.

In Seoul on Friday he said he would discuss the idea of co-hosting the Winter Games with Olympic chief Thomas Bach when he meets him in South Korea next week.

He was speaking after South Korea's sports minister Do Jong-Hwan was quoted as saying some skiing events for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics could be held in North Korea, although officials insist he was misunderstood.

However, Do does plan to raise the idea of inviting North Korean players to join South Korea's women's ice hockey team for the Pyeongchang Olympics, a spokesman of the ministry said.

South Korea considered sharing some events at the Seoul 1988 Olympics with the North, but talks broke down and the North boycotted the Games.

Moon suggested earlier this month that the two Koreas should apply to co-host the 2030 World Cup.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Saudi king ousts nephew, names son as heir

Yahoo – AFP, Ian Timberlake, June 21, 2017

Saudi King Salman has ousted his nephew as crown prince and installed his
son Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) (AFP Photo/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's King Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince on Wednesday and installed his son Mohammed bin Salman, capping a meteoric rise for the 31-year-old that puts him one step from the throne.

The young prince already wielded huge power before he became heir, spearheading a sweeping economic and social reform programme for the ultraconservative kingdom.

His rise comes at a crucial time for Saudi Arabia which is in a battle for regional influence with arch-rival Iran, bogged down in a controversial military intervention in neighbouring Yemen and at loggerheads with fellow US Gulf ally Qatar.

Prince Mohammed is now "de factor ruler of the kingdom," said Andreas Krieg of the Defence Studies Department at King's College London.

"The king needed to strengthen his son's position amid the current turmoil in the region," Krieg said.

Mohammed's youth is a novelty for a country that is used to ageing leaders -- King Salman is 81 and his predecessor King Abdullah died in 2015 aged around 90.

His rapid ascent over the past two years has symbolised the hopes of the kingdom's young population, more than half of which is under 25.

Saudi television channels showed the bearded Mohammed bin Salman kissing the hand of his ousted cousin Mohammed bin Nayef and kneeling in front of the older prince, who patted his shoulder to congratulate him.

"I am going to rest now. May God help you," the former crown prince said, to which his replacement replied: "May God help you. I will never do without your advice."

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was politically "getting weaker, 
more marginalised", after continuous chipping away at his powers and 
influence, according to a foreign diplomat (AFP Photo)

Stocks rise

The king called on governors and other princes to pledge allegiance to his new heir and ordered a ceremony -- routine on such occasions -- after night prayers on Wednesday at a royal palace in Mecca.

Many ordinary citizens tweeted their allegiance, but support for Mohammed has not been unanimous.

A royal order said his appointment was endorsed by 31 of 34 members on the Council of Allegiance, which decides on succession issues.

The king accompanied his son's elevation with measures to woo the many Saudis who work for the government, either as civilian or military personnel.

The enticements come as the kingdom's war in Yemen drags on and citizens for the first time pay taxes, imposed after oil prices fell.

Salman ordered the reinstatement of all civil service benefits cut in a controversial move as part of an austerity package late last year.

He also extended the end-of-Ramadan Eid Al-Fitr holidays until July 9 for civil servants.

As deputy crown prince, the new heir to the throne already held multiple posts.

He is the main champion of the kingdom's Vision 2030 reform plan to bring social and economic change to the oil-dependent economy of a country where women's rights are among the most restricted in the world.

One Saudi, Sultan al-Asimi, 33, said in Mecca that Mohammed's appointment sends a message of "hope and trust about the future of the country".

Saudi Arabia's King Salman had already set a precedent for removal of a crown 
prince when, in April 2015, he appointed Mohammed bin Nayef and fired Prince 
Moqren bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud, an appointee of the late King Abdullah (AFP 
Photo/Tomohiro Ohsumi)

The Saudi stock market seemed to agree. It closed 5.5 percent higher on news of Mohammed's appointment as well as word that the exchange had moved closer to joining a major global index.

Mohammed is also defence minister with overall responsibility for the kingdom's military intervention in Yemen.

Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia leads a coalition supporting the Yemeni government against Shiite rebels who control the capital Sanaa.

The coalition's bombing campaign has drawn repeated criticism from human rights groups for the high number of civilian casualties.

'Expected for a long time'

Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen in March 2015 signalled a more aggressive foreign policy, emphasised again this month when the kingdom and its allies imposed an embargo on neighbouring Qatar.

They accused Doha of supporting extremists, a charge it denies.

Saudi King Salman has ousted his nephew as crown prince and installed
his son Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) (AFP Photo/)

Mohammed's appointment as heir to the throne completes a gradual stripping of power from the ousted crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who has also been fired as deputy prime minister and interior minister.

An April government and security shakeup prepared the way for Mohammed bin Salman's rise, when a number of his allies were appointed to prominent positions and a brother was named ambassador to Washington.

While the exact timing of such a move had been uncertain, "it has been expected for a long time," said analyst Riad Kahwaji, founder of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA).

Salman had already set a precedent for removal of a crown prince when, in April 2015, he appointed Mohammed bin Nayef and fired Prince Moqren bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud, an appointee of King Abdullah.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef -- the ousted interior minister's nephew -- was named to replace him.

He takes control of the security forces while the kingdom faces periodic shootings and bombings claimed by the Islamic State group, as well as discontent among its Shiite minority.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Taboo-breaking liberal mosque opens in Berlin

Yahoo – AFP, Yannick PASQUET, June 17, 2017

Lawyer and women's rights activist Seyran Ates opened the
Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque with words of welcome before Christian and
Jewish guests and a large media contingent (AFP Photo/John MACDOUGALL)

Berlin (AFP) - With a mission to spread a liberal form of Islam, a mosque where men and women pray side by side has opened its doors in Berlin, complete with female imams.

The Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar" ('God is greatest') resonated through the crowded Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque Friday as US-Malaysian Ani Zonneveld, one of the world's few female imams, launched the call to prayer.

Then one of the founders of the new place of worship, lawyer and women's rights activist Seyran Ates, opened the event with words of welcome before Christian and Jewish guests and a large media contingent.

"We want to send a signal against Islamic terror and the misuse of our religion," said Turkish-born Ates, 54, dressed in a long white robe. "We want to practise our religion together."

Ates -- no stranger to breaking taboos, having called for a "sexual revolution" in the Muslim world -- vowed she would not allow ultra-conservatives "to rob me of my right to be Muslim".

Kneeling on green carpets, the faithful -- men and women, side by side -- bowed to Mecca for the traditional prayer as the imam spoke in German.

Some of the women wore veils or head coverings, others did not.

'Depoliticise' Islam

The new mosque, the 88th in the German capital, is located in a rented room on the third floor of the Protestant Johanniskirche (St. John's Church) building.

Founded by Seyran Ates, the mosque aims to establish a humanistic, 
secular and liberal reading of Islam (AFP Photo/John MACDOUGALL)

All Muslims -- Sunni or Shia, Alawite or Sufi -- are welcome in the mosque named after one of Germany's greatest writers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and 12th century Islamic scholar Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroes.

The seven founding members said they want to open their prayer hall to all groups, including gays and lesbians.

"This mosque allows Muslims to define themselves in a new way," said co-founder and German Islam scholar Abdel-Hakim Ourghi.

He added that "we will try to depoliticise Islam", as the religion was being torn by rival political movements. "Because religion is a private matter."

Police stood guard outside the entrance of the building.

The founders said they had not received any threats or insults, but that they fully expected not everyone would be happy.

Time for change

Germany, with some four million Muslims, has been the target of jihadist attacks, the deadliest last December when a truck tore through a Berlin Christmas market crowd killing 12 people.

Seyran Ates -- who has campaigned against forced marriages,
domestic violence and so-called "honour killings" among Muslim
migrants -- said the project was eight years in the making (AFP

The arrival of more than one million refugees, most from mainly Muslim countries, since 2015 has worsened the fears of some Germans.

Ates -- who has campaigned against forced marriages, domestic violence and so-called "honour killings" among Muslim migrants -- said the project was eight years in the making.

"Many left along the way," she said. "They told us it was dangerous, that they were afraid."

Elham Manea, a Swiss political scientist of Yemeni background, said the time had come for change, with other so-called liberal mosques having also opened in the United States, Britain and Switzerland.

The Berlin mosque, financed by private donations, is located in the Berlin district of Moabit, which has a large immigrant population.

It was in this neighbourhood that Tunisian Anis Amri, the Christmas market attacker, frequented a radical mosque that has since been closed.

Pakistani human rights activist Mukhtar Mai (C) receives a standing ovation
as she takes the stage following performance of the opera 'Thumbprint', at
the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles, on
June 16, 2017 (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)

Related Articles:

Yassmine el Ksaihi poses in the prayer hall of the Polder Mosque in Amsterdam, 
Netherlands, Tuesday, March 2, 2010. Uniquely in the Netherlands, men and 
women pray together in her mosque, albeit segregated, with the women praying
 in the back of the prayer hall. Devotions and sermons are conducted mostly in
 Dutch rather than Arabic. And non-Muslims are welcome. Across Europe Muslims
 are seeking a formula that lets them be an inseparable part of their country while
 maintaining their loyalty to their faith and origin. (AP Photo/ Evert Elzinga)

Pakistan rape victim attends US opera inspired by her story

Yahoo – AFP, Jocelyne ZABLIT, June 17, 2017

Pakistani human rights activist Mukhtar Mai (C) receives a standing ovation
as she takes the stage following performance of the opera 'Thumbprint', at
the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles, on
June 16, 2017 (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)

Los Angeles (AFP) - Fifteen years after her horrific gang rape by a local clan in her village in Pakistan, Mukhtar Mai is reliving her ordeal -- and courageousness -- through a US opera inspired by her story.

"I was very emotional when I first started watching it and began reliving the incident in my mind," Mai, 37, told AFP on Friday, after attending the Los Angeles premiere of "Thumbprint."

"But then as the opera progressed, it became easier to watch and I felt more courage," she said in Urdu, speaking through a translator.

The opera, by composer Kamala Sankaram and librettist Susan Yankowitz, recounts Mai's 2002 rape and her decision to defy her attackers and take them to court -- an unusual move in male-dominated Pakistan, where a woman who suffers such a crime often commits suicide rather than endure the stigma and shame associated with it.

"Thumbprint" first opened in New York in 2014 but Mai had never seen the opera. She traveled this week from her home in the remote Pakistani village of Meerwala to attend the West Coast premiere.

While the story onstage ends when Mai's rapists have been sentenced to death, in reality her attackers walk free -- seemingly going about their daily life with total impunity after their sentences were overturned on appeal.

Kamala Sankaram (C) portrays Pakistani women's rights activist Mukhtar Mai
 in the opera 'Thumbprint', at the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater 
(REDCAT) in Los Angeles, on June 16, 2017 (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)

The men had raped Mai -- with the approval of the village council -- as a punishment after her 12-year-old brother was falsely accused of having an illicit relationship with a woman from the dominant clan in the village.

"My rapists live across from my house and I try not to cross paths with them," said Mai, who used compensation money from her case to start several schools and a women's shelter in her village. "When I walk past, they taunt me and make catcalls."

In an added strange twist to her story, the children of her rapists attend her school, and the daughters of some of the village elders who ordered her rape have sought refuge at her shelter.

"Even though some members of my own family were outraged, I told them I could not turn away the kids as the school is here to serve everyone in the community," she said.

Mai, who married in 2009 and has three children, acknowledged that her story had empowered women in her village and beyond, giving them courage to stand for their rights.

But she said she held little hope that the legal system in her country would ever render her justice.

"All four of the men who raped me and the two village elders who ordered the rape are free," she said. "And they will only learn that what they did is a crime if they are punished."

Pakistani human rights activist Mukhtar Mai says she holds little hope that the
legal system in her country would ever render her justice (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)

Daily threats

She said she had grown tired of being the woman everyone points to because of her ordeal, in contrast to her rapists who are unconcerned and will likely never pay for their crime.

"I am the one who is always interviewed and put forward in this case," she sighed. "Why doesn't anyone confront them, why doesn't anyone point them out in the street and say, 'These are the people who committed horrific acts against Mukhtar Mai?'"

She said she receives threatening messages daily on her telephone, Facebook page or in person and is now afraid for the safety of her children.

"I have reported nearly 35 such threatening calls and incidents and only one person was arrested, but even he was let out on bail," she said. "I want to make it known that if anything happens to me or my children and family members, the Pakistani government is responsible."

As for the opera inspired by her story, she doubts it could ever be shown in Pakistan, where it would certainly hit a nerve.

But, she said, "I would like it to be shown everywhere."

"And I would like for the people who committed this crime to be identified and come face to face with what they did."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Asylum-seekers in Australia win multimillion dollar payout

Yahoo – AFP, Martin PARRY, June 14, 2017

Conditions in the Manus camp have been criticised by refugee advocates and
doctors, with reports of abuse, self-harm and mental health problems (AFP

Detainees at an Australian asylum-seeker camp in Papua New Guinea won millions of dollars in compensation for "degrading and cruel" treatment Wednesday, in a decision hailed as an important human rights victory.

Abuse, self-harm and mental health problems are reportedly rife in offshore processing centres, with detainees resorting to desperate protests like sewing their own lips together to raise awareness of their plight.

Wednesday's AUS$70 million (US$53 million) conditional settlement, to be shared by 1,905 people who have been held on Manus Island since 2012, averted a public trial against the government and security providers Transfield and G4S.

A class action had sought damages for what claimants said was suffering due to the harsh conditions in which they were held.

It also called for a payout for false imprisonment after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled last year that holding asylum-seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional and illegal.

Law firm Slater and Gordon said they believed it was the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian history, with the defendants also agreeing to pay more than Aus$20 million in costs.

"The people detained on Manus Island have endured extremely hostile conditions, but they will no longer suffer in silence," said the firm's Andrew Baker.

Campaigners say conditions at the Manus Island camp are basic, and lead to
mental health problems for detainees (AFP Photo/Handout)

"While no amount of money could fully recognise the terrible conditions the detainees endured, we hope today’s settlement can begin to provide them with an opportunity to help put this dark chapter of their lives behind them."

The Manus detention facility opened in 2012 to hold people trying to enter Australia by boat, under a tough immigration policy that sends them offshore to be processed.

They are blocked from resettling in Australia even if found to be refugees.

Conditions in the camp, and another one on Nauru in the Pacific, have been widely criticised by refugee advocates and medical professionals, with reports of maltreatment and neglect, leading to serious health problems.

Amnesty International called the decision "historic" and "a major crack in the Australian government's crumbling system of abuse".

"It must be a turning point towards a better solution for refugees -- one that is grounded in protection, not abuse," said Amnesty Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze.

Prudent outcome

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the payout was not an admission of liability, but to avoid a costly six-month trial.

"In such circumstances a settlement was considered a prudent outcome for Australian taxpayers," he said in a statement.

"The Commonwealth strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings. Settlement is not an admission of liability in any regard."

The Manus detention facility opened in 2012 to hold people trying to enter 
Australia by boat under a tough immigration policy that sends them 
offshore to be processed (AFP Photo/Handout)

Slater and Gordon lawyer Rory Walsh said the government and its contractor’s defence "was that it was the PNG authorities doing the imprisoning and detaining and not them".

"The denial of liability allows the Commonwealth and the defendants to run those positions in any other cases and maintain that position," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Lead plaintiff Majid Kamasaee, an Iranian, welcomed the settlement as an overdue acknowledgement of the suffering he and others endured.

"This case is not just about me, it is about every person who has been trapped on Manus Island,” said Kamasaee, who was held there for 11 months

"I left my home in Iran in 2013 because of religious persecution and I came to Australia seeking peace, but I was sent to Manus, which was hell.

"The way we were treated at the Manus Island detention centre was degrading and cruel."

While the Manus camp needs to close following the PNG court decision, Dutton has made clear those housed there would not be moved to Australia but instead relocated to third countries such as the United States and Cambodia, or resettled in PNG.

The government has not revealed any plans to shut down the Nauru facility.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Japan clears way for first emperor abdication in over 200 years

Yahoo – AFP, Kyoko HASEGAWA, June 9, 2017

At 83, Emperor Akihito, has signalled his desire to take a back seat after
nearly three decades on the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing his age and
health problems

Japan's parliament passed a law Friday that clears the way for its ageing Emperor Akihito to step down, in what would be the first imperial abdication in more than two centuries.

The popular 83-year-old monarch shocked the country last summer when he signalled his desire to take a back seat after nearly three decades on the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing his age and health problems.

The unexpected move presented a challenge since there was no law to deal with an emperor retiring from what is usually a job for life.

The one-off rule was passed in the last-stage upper house on Friday in a unanimous decision after the lower chamber gave its stamp of approval last week.

The abdication must take place within three years of the new law taking effect or it expires -- and it only applies to Akihito.

Japanese media have said the government is eyeing the end of 2018 as a likely timeline for his retirement.

The status of the emperor is sensitive in Japan given its 20th century history of war waged in the name of Akihito's father Hirohito, who died in 1989.

Some scholars and politicians worried that changing the law to allow any emperor to abdicate could put Japan's future monarchs at risk of being subject to political manipulation.

Akihito, who has been treated for prostate cancer and had heart surgery, is expected to step aside in favour of his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

There have been abdications in Japan's long imperial history, but the last one was more than 200 years ago, so politicians had to craft new legislation to make it possible.

"The one-off law is a result of political compromises, but it will become a precedent for future abdications," said Setsu Kobayashi, a constitutional expert and professor emeritus at Japan's Keio University.

'Casual image'

Akihito was born in 1933 just as Japan was embarking on its militaristic sweep across Asia, and was 11 when the war ended in defeat.

His father was allowed to remain on the throne after Japan's defeat, but his status was downgraded from semi-devine sovereign to a figurehead with no political power.

Japan's emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko are seen as being the 
more accessible face of a monarchy that largely remains in the shadows, 
unlike the British royals

Akihito embraced the role and tried to use it to help heal the scars of the war while remoulding one of the world's oldest monarchies for a democratic age.

"The emperor prefers the more casual image of himself as a 'symbol' of the Japanese people," Kobayashi said.

Even before he assumed the throne, Akihito broke with tradition when he married the daughter of a wealthy flour magnate in 1959, becoming the first imperial heir to wed a commoner.

The emperor and his wife Empress Michiko are seen as being the more accessible face of a monarchy that largely remains in the shadows, unlike the British royals.

The couple have frequently attended public events and console victims of natural disasters, including Japan's 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

Akihito is officially barred from commenting on politics, but he has over the years hinted at his own anti-nationalist views.

Speaking at a memorial marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender, Akihito expressed "deep remorse" for the country's actions in World War II.

Some saw this as a rebuke to nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pushed to change Japan's pacifist constitution and prevent Japanese from having to apologise again for the nation's warring past.

Akihito's pending abdication had reignited concerns about a potential succession crisis.

There are no more eligible male heirs after the 10-year-old son of Crown Prince Naruhito's younger brother Akishino.

Japan's centuries-old succession would be broken if that son, Hisahito, does not have a male child.

In response, Japan's parliament has called for a debate on giving women a bigger role in the male-dominated monarchy.

The idea -- including the possibility of letting women ascend the throne -- is popular among ordinary Japanese, but it is vehemently opposed by traditionalists including the current prime minister and likeminded conservatives.

Female imperial family members lose their royal status upon marriage to a commoner, a point highlighted by recent news that one of Akihito's granddaughters, Princess Mako, plans to marry her college sweetheart.

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