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, December 31, 2018

N. Korea's Kim vows more summits with South next year: Seoul

Yahoo – AFP, December 30, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly "expressed a strong determination
to visit Seoul while watching future situation" (AFP Photo/KCNA VIA KNS)

Seoul (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to meet the South's President Moon Jae-in "frequently" next year to discuss denuclearisation of the peninsula in a rare letter sent to Seoul, Moon's office said Sunday.

The leader of the isolated North met with Moon three times this year -- twice at the border truce village of Panmunjom and once in the North's capital Pyongyang -- as a reconciliatory push gathered pace.

During Moon's visit to Pyongyang in September, Kim promised to pay a return visit to the South's capital Seoul "at an earliest date," sparking speculation he may visit by the end of this year.

But the much-anticipated trip has not yet materialised, which left the young ruler feeling "much regret," according to Kim's letter sent to mark the end of the year, Moon's spokesman said.

The North's leader "expressed a strong determination to visit Seoul while watching future situation," Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters.

Kim Jong Un also "expressed an intention to meet with Moon frequently in 2019" to pursue peace and "solve the issue of denuclearising the peninsula together," the spokesman said.

The official did not elaborate on how the letter was delivered.

Moon welcomed the latest message, saying Kim had also expressed "active intention to carry out agreements" made in his previous summits with the US and the South, without elaborating further.

"I welcome chairman Kim's intention to solve together the issue of denuclearisation...by meeting frequently even next year," Moon said in a statement.

The two neighbours technically remain at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire instead of a peace treaty.

Moon -- a dovish former human rights lawyer -- has advocated dialogue to push the impoverished but nuclear-armed North toward denuclearisation.

Cross-border ties improved markedly in 2018 as Kim made a series of reconciliatory gestures -- including a historic summit with US President Donald Trump in June in Singapore.

But progress in pushing the North to give up its atomic arsenal has stalled as Washington and Pyongyang accuse each other of dragging their feet and acting in bad faith.

Critics say North Korea has made no concrete commitments and is unlikely to surrender its nuclear weapons, while Washington's policy of maintaining pressure through isolation and sanctions has left Pyongyang seething.

Trump said last week that he was "looking forward" to his second summit with Kim, which the US says may take place early next year.

Friday, December 28, 2018

N. Korea admits farming failures amid food shortages

Yahoo – AFP, 27 December 2018

Agricultural production is chronically poor in North Korea

North Korea has acknowledged "drawbacks" in its agricultural sector this year, echoing UN reports of declining crop yields in a country that remains heavily reliant on food imports and aid.

Agricultural production is chronically poor in the North, which has periodically been hit by famine, with hundreds of thousands dying -- some estimates say millions -- in the mid-1990s.

Premier of the government cabinet, Pak Pong Ju, referred to "drawbacks made by some farms and units in the past" at a national meeting of farming officials that took place in Pyongyang this week, state media said on Thursday.

"He said that they failed to conduct seed production and management in a responsible way and also fell short of doing proper strain distribution," Pak was quoted as saying by the KCNA news agency in an English-language report.

He "underscored the need to attain the goal of grain production" set out in a five-year development plan that wraps up in 2020.

The North has been less hesitant in highlighting shortcomings and policy failures through its state media since leader Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father Kim Jong Il in 2011.

North Korea has been less hesitant in bringing out shortcomings and policy
 failures through its state media since leader Kim Jong Un succeeded his late 
father Kim Jong Il

The young, Swiss-educated leader has occasionally been reported rebuking officials for failing to satisfactorily carry out tasks.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said this month that the isolated, nuclear-armed state would need to import 641,000 tonnes of food in the coming year. The figure is up from 456,000 tonnes this year, when it bought 390,000 tonnes and received 66,000 tonnes in food aid.

There was a widespread lack of access to food in the North, it said.

North Korea was one of 40 countries -- 31 of them in Africa -- identified by the FAO as in need of external assistance for food.

UN agencies estimate that 10.3 million people in the North need humanitarian assistance.

But donor funding has dried up in the face of political tensions over its weapons programmes, with critics saying the provision of aid encourages Pyongyang to prioritise its military ambitions over adequately providing for its people.

David Beasley, the head of the UN's World Food Programme, said in May that there was undoubtedly a hunger problem in North Korea but it was not on the scale of the 1990s famine.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Exonerated but not free: Asia Bibi to spend Christmas in custody

Yahoo – AFP, David STOUT, 23 December 2018

Asia Bibi was on death row for eight years before her death sentence was overturned

Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi will celebrate Christmas under guard, despite being cleared of the blasphemy charges that kept her in jail since 2010.

Bibi -- a former labourer who was on death row for eight years -- remains a prime target in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, with extremists calling for her blood and the government refusing to reveal her location out of fear for her safety.

"It's too dangerous... People want to kill her," said Yousaf Hadayat, a resident from one of Islamabad's impoverished Christian ghettos, littered this week by a smattering of Santa hats and Christmas trees.

Security this Christmas, like many before it, will be tight with the government set to deploy armed forces to the Christian colonies.

Residents say they feel more uneasy than ever during the religious holiday while Bibi's fate continues to loom large.

"We're afraid," said Pastor Munawar Inayat at Holy of Holies Church in Islamabad. "We can't speak against anyone."

Residents of the Christian ghettos like Pastor Munawar Inayat say they feel 
uneasy as Asia Bibi's fate continues to loom large during Christmas

The Supreme Court overturned Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy in October, and she has legally been a free woman ever since.

But the ruling ignited days of violent demonstrations that paralysed large swathes of the country, with enraged Islamists calling for her beheading, mutiny within the powerful military and the assassination of the country's top judges.

The government has since launched a crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party -- the Islamist group driving the violent protests -- charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.

But authorities also struck a deal with the protesters to end the violence, forming an agreement which included allowing a final review of the Supreme Court's judgement.

Bibi, who is seeking asylum abroad, is believed to be in protective custody inside Pakistan as the review continues.

But there is no clear timeline for when it will be completed.

A government spokesman refused to comment on its status, saying only that the matter is with the court.

Security will be tight this Christmas around Pakistan's Christian communities

Analyst Fasi Zaka warned that the longer Bibi remains in limbo, the greater the danger. "For some elements if they don't have access to Asia Bibi they'll find stand-ins for their vengeance," he told AFP.

'Lightning rod'

Blasphemy continues to be a massively inflammatory issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven accusations of insulting Islam can spark lynchings.

Many cases see Muslims accusing Muslims. But rights activists have warned that minorities -- particularly Christians -- are often caught in the crossfire, with blasphemy charges used to settle personal scores.

"This is a lighting rod issue that affects a whole community," said Zaka.

The allegations against Bibi date back to 2009, when a fight erupted between her and fellow Muslim labourers, who later accused Bibi of blasphemy. She was convicted under Pakistan's controversial anti-blasphemy laws and in 2010 sentenced to death.

Since her acquittal speculation has been rife that an asylum deal with a European or North American country may be in the works.

While Asia Bibi remains in custody, Christians in the 100 Quarters Colony are
 preparing for Christmas with their families

Many residents of the 100 Quarters Colony in Islamabad cautioned against Bibi's release, saying her safety would only be guaranteed once she was granted asylum in a foreign country.

"No, no. She cannot stay," said resident Hadayat.

Polio campaign worker Shahnaz Arif argued against Bibi's ongoing custody. "We should get the same freedom that others enjoy," she said.

Even so she admitted she was afraid, citing Pakistan's long history of political assassinations, including some over blasphemy.

"There is not enough security for our leaders -- we are just poor citizens," she explained.

Blacklisted

Christians -- who make up around two percent of the population -- occupy one of the lowest rungs in class-obsessed Pakistani society, largely living in slums and working menial jobs as street sweepers, cleaners and cooks.

Christians occupy one of the lowest rungs in Pakistani society, largely living in slums 
like the 100 Quarters Colony and working menial jobs as street sweepers, cleaners 
and cooks

The tension comes as Washington added Pakistan this month to a blacklist of countries that it says wantonly violate religious freedom, citing the country's high number of blasphemy convictions and failure to hold perpetrators targeting religious minorities to account.

Islamabad later dismissed the US move as politically motivated.

Back in the 100 Quarters Colony, residents said their thoughts were with a mother who has already spent many Christmases in solitary confinement.

"Christmas is celebrated with near and dear ones, and not in custody," said Christmas decoration seller Amjab Burgkat.

"There are security fears, but she should celebrate Christmas with her family."

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tearful S. Korean Olympic champion tells court of coach abuse

Yahoo – AFP, December 18, 2018

South Korean Olympic short track champion Shim Suk-hee told a court her coach
had been beating her since she was seven leaving her "deeply traumatised" (AFP
Photo/YONHAP)

Double Olympic gold medallist Shim Suk-hee broke down in tears as she told a South Korean court of the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach.

Aged 21, the short-track skater has four Olympic medals to her name, including relay golds at both Sochi 2014 and on home ice at this year's Pyeongchang Games.

But she told a court that her coach Cho Jae-beom had been beating her since she was seven -- on one occasion breaking her fingers -- leaving her "deeply traumatised".

His violence "kept escalating" as she grew older, she said at the hearing in Suwon, south of Seoul.

"He frequently beat me and verbally abused me since I was seven... at one point beating me with an ice hockey stick and breaking my fingers," she said.

Another time he hurled metal nuts at her, ripping open her forehead.

Just weeks ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics, "he kicked and punched me so hard, especially on my head, that I even thought 'I could die here'," she said, breaking down.

South Korea is a regional sporting power and is regularly in the top 10 medal table places at the summer and winter Olympics. It is the only Asian country other than Japan to have hosted both Games.

But in an already intensely competitive society, winning is everything in its sports community -- where coaches hold immense sway over athletes' careers, and physical and verbal abuse are known to be rife. Those who speak out are liable to be sidelined and castigated as "traitors".

Cho admitted to police that he beat Shim and three other athletes at their training camp to "improve their performance" and was given 10 months in prison for assault at his trial in October.

But he appealed against the sentence.

Shim said she had been "brainwashed" by Cho who threatened to end her sporting career if she spoke out, saying she had been "gripped by extreme fear and anxiety" about Cho all her life.

"I'm getting psychological treatment for depression, anxiety, sleep disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder," she said.

The pre-Pyeongchang beating left her concussed and she blamed it for affecting her performance at the Games, where she failed to match her medal haul from Sochi, which included silver in the 1500m and bronze in the 1000m.

She did not testify at Cho's original trial for fear of "having to confront him", she told the hearing on Monday, "but I mustered up courage because I thought I needed to speak the truth".

The South Korean women's curling team -- another star of this year's Winter Games, whose unexpected run to the final and a silver medal earned them global headlines -- have accused their coaches of verbal abuse and exploitation.

The team -- nicknamed "Garlic Girls" after the local specialty of their rural hometown -- said the managers had banned them from talking to other athletes, did not share how donations and prize money were being spent and censored all gifts and letters from fans.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Bishop from China's underground Catholic church steps down: state media

Yahoo – AFP, December 15, 2018

An agreement struck in September paved the way for a rapprochement between
the Holy See and Beijing (AFP Photo/Nicolas ASFOURI)

A bishop from China's underground Catholic church will step down at the request of the Vatican to make way for a candidate recognised by Beijing, state-run media reported, amid a thaw in relations.

There are an estimated 12 million Catholics in China, divided between a government-run association whose clergy are chosen by the Communist Party and the unofficial church which swears allegiance to the Vatican.

An agreement struck in September on the appointment of bishops paved the way for a rapprochement between the Holy See and Beijing, establishing diplomatic ties for the first time since 1951.

Guo Xijin, bishop of the underground church in eastern Fujian province was appointed by the Pope, but his title was never recognised by Chinese authorities, who have detained and questioned him several times in the past.

His decision to step aside follows a rare visit this week by an official Vatican delegation to the Chinese capital, the state-run daily Global Times said on its website on Friday.

The religious leader was at the centre of this week's negotiations between China and the Vatican, who have been asking him to leave his post since 2017 to allow for talks aimed at normalising relations with Beijing.

"I will become the auxiliary bishop, and bishop Zhan Silu will be the diocesan bishop in Mindong," Guo told the Global Times, adding that the underground and official churches of the diocese will merge.

In September, Pope Francis agreed to recognise the appointment of seven bishops appointed by the communist authorities without his consent.

The Vatican's accord with Beijing was signed after a clampdown on religious worship in China.

Churches have been destroyed in some regions, crosses have been removed from church steeples, church-run kindergartens have been closed and authorities have clamped down on Bible sales.

Earlier this week, dozens of members of a prominent unofficial Protestant church and their pastor went missing in southwest China after authorities raided their homes, churchgoers said.

The police sweep occurred Sunday night, according to a statement from the Early Rain Covenant Church, which is based in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Beyonce, Bollywood, Hillary as India's richest daughter weds

Yahoo – AFP, December 12, 2018

Isha Ambani was set to wed Anand Piramal in the Ambanis' 27-storey home
in Mumbai (AFP Photo)

Topping anything in hit film "Crazy Rich Asians", the only daughter of India's richest man ties the knot Wednesday after days of lavish celebrations that included a Beyonce concert in a lakeside palace.

Isha Ambani, whose father is tycoon Mukesh Ambani, was set to wed Anand Piramal, son of Indian billionaire industrialist Ajay Piramal, in the Ambanis' 27-storey home in Mumbai.

Days of pre-wedding festivities at a sprawling palace in Udaipur in the desert state of Rajasthan included a concert by Beyonce, purportedly the bride's favourite singer.

Attendees included Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State John Kerry and dozens of Bollywood stars including Salman Khan and Aamir Khan as well as cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar.

Joining them was a who's-who of India's super-rich elite, arriving on dozens of specially chartered flights into Udaipur's normally sleepy airport and whisked away in expensive cars.

Attendees at pre-wedding festivities in the desert state of Rajasthan included 
Hillary Clinton (AFP Photo/Handout)

Actress Priyanka Chopra and American singer Nick Jonas, who themselves became husband and wife earlier this month, were also guests at Udaipur's City Palace on the banks of Lake Pichola.

Wednesday evening's actual wedding was set to be a more private affair with around 600 close friends and family, and some politicians, expected to be on the guest list.

There was a high police presence in the south Mumbai area around the Ambanis' home, which is called Antilia and reportedly cost over $1 billion when it was completed in 2010.

Indian newspapers have been abuzz with speculation about the total cost of the wedding. Conservative estimates have put it around $15 million while others insist $100 million is closer to the truth.

Ambani, 27 and Piramal, 33 got engaged at Lake Como in Italy in September and the high-profile wedding brings together two of India's biggest industrialist families.

Mukesh Ambani is the chairman of oil-to-telecoms conglomerate Reliance Industries. He is worth more than $47 billion and recently overtook China's Jack Ma as Asia's wealthiest man.

The respective families will hold several other receptions across India's financial 
capital in the coming days (AFP Photo/Handout)

The respective families will hold several other receptions across India's financial capital in the coming days.

The wedding caps a big month for what social media users have been calling "big fat Indian weddings". The Chopra-Jonas nuptials came shortly after Bollywood stars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh wed.

Not everyone is happy though.

"Isha Ambani's wedding is a perfect example of the wealth inequality in India," wrote one Twitter user.

"Here you have one of the richest families in the nation spending so much while millions still can't even afford food or shelter," she added.

"The new standard for lavish Indian wedding is Beyonce. Imagine," tweeted another.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Maldives applies to rejoin Commonwealth: president's office

AFP – MSN, 9 Dec 2018 

Solih took office last month after winning a landslide election victory (AFP)

The Maldives has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth, reversing a policy of isolation under autocratic leader Abdulla Yameen who suffered a shock defeat in September.

His successor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, wrote to the 53-member bloc on Friday seeking readmission two years after Yameen pulled the atoll nation out of it, the president's office said Sunday.

Yameen withdrew the Maldives, an archipelago of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, from the Commonwealth after it mounted pressure on him to protect human rights and ensure the rule of law amid a ferocious crackdown on dissent.

Solih's office said the new president's administration believed in the values of the bloc, which consists mainly of former territories and colonies of the British empire.

"The Maldives' interest in re-joining the Commonwealth stems from a deep conviction that the values and principles enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter are more vital than ever," the president's office said in a statement.

The 54-year-old took office last month after winning a landslide election victory despite Yameen waging a crackdown on his political rivals and jailing most of the opposition.

The former British protectorate faced persistent international pressure during Yameen's iron-fisted tenure. The strongman accused the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat of interfering in the nation's affairs.

During Yameen's reign, the United States had repeatedly warned democracy was under serious threat in the strategically-located archipelago sitting on key international shipping lanes.

Since Solih's election, political prisoners have been freed and opposition figures in exile have returned home.

Solih has warned of a "dire" economic crisis in the Maldives and asked regional power India for help. Yameen had drifted closer to China and the Maldives saw its foreign debt balloon under his leadership.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Pakistan will no longer fight someone else's war: Imran Khan

France24 – AFP, 7 Dec 2018

Khan has long been vocal about Pakistan's role in the war on terror Khan has
long been vocal about Pakistan's role in the war on terror. 
Islamabad (AFP)

Pakistan will no longer act as a hired gun in someone else's war, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday, striking a note of defiance against US demands for Islamabad to do more in the battle against militancy.

Khan -- who also reiterated his backing for a recent push by the US for talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan -- said in a televised address that he wants Pakistan to move forward with "honour".

"We will no longer fight someone else's war, nor will we bow down in front of anyone", the former cricketer said.

Islamabad joined Washington's "war on terror" in 2001, and says it has paid a heavy price for the alliance, which sparked an Islamist backlash and homegrown militant groups who turned their guns on the Pakistani state, costing thousands of lives.

Security has dramatically improved in recent years after a military crackdown.

But the US continues to accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which allegedly attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The White House believes that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban both for ideological reasons and to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.

It believes that a Pakistani crackdown on the militants could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the war.

Khan, who has long been vocal about Pakistan's role in the war on terror, said his country wants "peace with all".

"Thanks (God) that today, the same people who were asking to do more are now asking us to help them in Afghanistan, to establish peace and to negotiate," he said.

More than 17 years after the US invasion, Washington has stepped up its bid for talks with the resurgent Taliban with a flurry of recent diplomatic efforts.

This week the Pakistani foreign ministry said Khan had been sent a letter by US President Donald Trump seeking Islamabad's support in securing a peace deal.

In the letter, Trump said a settlement is "his most important regional priority", the Pakistani foreign ministry stated.

"In this regard, he has sought Pakistan's support and facilitation", it continued.

Trump's letter was followed by a visit from US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has said he hopes a deal can be in place before the Afghan presidential elections, set for April next year.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Pope to visit United Arab Emirates in February

Yahoo – AFP, 6 December 2018

Pope Francis, seen here at the Vatican, has already visited several
Muslim countries, including Turkey, Azerbaijan and Egypt

Pope Francis, who has made boosting ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy, will visit Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in February, the Vatican said Thursday.

The pontiff was invited to the majority-Muslim country by both Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and the local Catholic church.

Francis will take part in an international "interfaith" meeting during the trip, which will run from February 3 to 5.

The 81-year old has already visited several Muslim countries, including Turkey in 2014, Azerbaijan in 2016 and Egypt in 2017.

The Vatican said the theme for the Abu Dhabi trip was summed up in the phrase "make me a channel of your peace" -- a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, the pope's namesake.

The hope was the visit would "spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of good will," it said.

"This visit, like the one to Egypt, shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to inter-religious dialogue," spokesman Greg Burke said.

"Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter," he added.

The UAE prides itself on its religious tolerance and cultural diversity, and most Gulf Arab states have long allowed Christians to worship in churches.

Nearly 80 percent of the population of the UAE is Muslim, while Christians constitute around nine percent, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Many of the Catholics are workers from Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, though some are locals.

The UAE trip will come head of a visit in March to Morocco.

Pope Francis moved quickly after his election in 2013 to make overtures to Jews and Muslims, inviting two old friends from Buenos Aires -- a rabbi and a Muslim professor -- on a trip to the Middle East where he condemned religious hatred.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Chess tournament moved from Saudi after Israelis barred

Yahoo – AFP, December 4, 2018

Participants attend the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championships, the
first international chess competition held in Saudi Arabia, in the capital Riyadh
on December 26, 2017 (AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Jerusalem (AFP) - A World Chess Federation tournament has been moved from Saudi Arabia to Russia after concerns over Israeli players being barred, the federation announced Tuesday.

Israeli players backed by a New York-based NGO, The Lawfare Project, were threatening legal action over not being allowed to play in Saudi Arabia, which has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

The federation, known as FIDE, said it decided to move its World Rapid and Blitz Championships scheduled for December 25-31 to Russia "due to the policy adopted by Saudi organisers".

The decision was made "in spite of the generous financial offer made by Saudi Arabia", FIDE said in a statement.

"FIDE will no longer stage its official events in the countries that deny entry visa and fair treatment to all the eligible players," it said.

It added that "officials in Riyadh could not guarantee an entry to representatives of all the national federations who had a right to participate in the event".

It is not the first time Israeli players have raised such concerns.

In December 2017, the Israel Chess Federation said it was seeking compensation from the organisers of last year's World Rapid and Blitz Championships, also in Saudi Arabia, after the Gulf state refused to issue visas for its players.

But Israel has made headway in past months in its efforts towards ties with Arab nations in the Gulf that do not officially recognise the country, including through sport.

In October, Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev toured the UAE's famed Sheikh Zayed mosque, Israel's communications minister delivered a speech in Dubai and the Israeli national anthem was played at a judo competition in Abu Dhabi.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also paid a surprise visit to Oman in October.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Suu Kyi to be stripped of freedom of Paris award: mayor's office

Yahoo – AFP, 30 November 2018

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo decided to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi (pictured 
November 14, 2018) of herh onorary freedom of the French capital because of
 the "multiple violations of human rights" in Myanmar regarding the Rohingya minority

Paris city will strip Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary freedom of the French capital over her failure to speak out against a crackdown on Myanmar's Rohingya minority, a mayor's spokeswoman said Friday.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo decided to revoke the honour because of the "multiple violations of human rights recorded in Myanmar and the violence and persecution by Myanmar's security forces against the Rohingya minority," the spokeswoman told AFP.

The move, which follows similar decisions by Glasgow, Edinburgh and Oxford, would make Myanmar's de facto leader the first person to lose the freedom of the French capital, a purely symbolic award.

The move will be finalised by the city council at a meeting in mid-December, the spokeswoman said.

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, once feted as a democracy icon in the mould of Nelson Mandela for leading opposition to Myanmar's military junta, has fallen out of favour in the West over her inaction in the face of the crackdown on the mostly Muslim Rohingya.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled violence in the Buddhist-majority country last year, mostly to neighbouring Bangladesh.

A UN rights team found evidence of widespread murder, rape, torture and arson and called for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hidalgo's office said the mayor wrote to Suu Kyi late last year to "express her concern and call for respect for the rights of the Rohingya minority", but that the letter went unanswered.

Suu Kyi's supporters argue that she has no powers to rein in the army.

She has already been stripped of her honorary Canadian citizenship and her Amnesty International's "Ambassador of Conscience Award".

Friday, November 30, 2018

Top S. Korea court orders Japanese firm to pay out over forced labour

Yahoo – AFP, 29 November 2018

Kim Sung-joo (in orange), a victim of forced labour by Japan, cheered in
reaction to the court decision

South Korea's top court on Thursday ordered a Japanese heavy industries giant to pay compensation over forced wartime labour -- the latest in a series of decisions to strain ties between the two neighbours.

South Korea and Japan are both democracies and US allies faced with an increasingly assertive neighbour China and the long-running threat of nuclear-armed North Korea.

But their own ties have remained icy for years by bitter disputes over history and territory stemming from Japan's brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, with forced labour and wartime sexual slavery key examples.

According to official Seoul data, around 780,000 Koreans were conscripted into forced labour by Japan during the 35-year occupation, not including the women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops.

Among those forced to work at the factories for Japanese firms, six survivors filed a lawsuit against The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2000 seeking compensation.

Seoul's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that the firm should pay each of the plaintiffs unpaid wages or compensation worth about 80 million won ($71,197).

The same court, in a ruling on a similar, separate case on Thursday, also ordered Mitsubishi to pay compensation of 100 million to 150 million won to a group of five people for forced wartime labour at its plants.

Many said they had been tricked by their Japanese teachers at elementary schools into going to Japan to "study" but were instead forced to work at Mitsubishi plants producing aircrafts with no or little pay for years.

Both of the two groups filed lawsuits in Seoul after Japanese courts had dismissed their claims seeking compensation.

Japan says the victims' right to sue had been extinguished by the 1965 treaty which saw Seoul and Tokyo restore diplomatic ties and included a reparation package of about $800 million in grants and cheap loans.

But recent court rulings in Seoul -- including Thursday's rulings -- argued that the forced labour for Japanese firms was not included in the controversial treaty.

The Supreme Court late last month ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to pay compensations worth 100 million won to four people over forced labour during World War II -- a decision that drew anger from Tokyo.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono slammed the latest rulings he described "extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable" and demand that Seoul take "immediate actions to remedy such breach of international law."

"Above all, the decisions completely overthrow the legal foundation of the friendly and cooperative relationship that Japan and... Korea have developed since the normalisation of diplomatic relations in 1965," Kono said in a statement.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

UN grants sanctions exemption for Korea railway survey

Yahoo – AFP, 24 November 2018

The two Koreas have agreed to start surveys on reconnecting railways across
the border between North and South

The UN Security Council has granted a sanctions exemption for the two Koreas to jointly conduct a survey on reconnecting railways across their border, a spokesman for the South Korean presidency said Saturday.

The two Koreas last month agreed to start the survey no later than late October and to hold the groundbreaking ceremony sometime between late November and early December, as the countries pursue a reconciliation drive.

But the possibility of the project running up against UN sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear programmes has caused delays.

"It is significant that this project has received support from the United States and international community", said Kim Eui-Gyeom, spokesman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

Railway experts from both sides will criss-cross the country on survey trains together, Kim said in a statement, adding that the process will "bring inter-Korean cooperation to a new level".

Yonhap news agency said the South was expected to bring fuel for train locomotives, and other unspecified materials for the survey in the North.

Delivering fuel to North Korea could potentially have been in breach of a UN cap limiting imports to 500,000 barrels a year.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday any inter-Korean rapprochement had to move forward "in tandem" with efforts to denuclearise the peninsula, and could not come sooner.

US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a historic summit in Singapore earlier this year, signing a vaguely worded deal on denuclearisation.

But since then, talks on denuclearisation have stalled, with meetings either deemed unproductive, pushed back or cancelled altogether.

The US and South Korea have launched a working group to make sure that they don't "talk past each other", Pompeo said, as Seoul and Pyongyang appear to be moving ahead with their rapprochement more quickly than Washington and the North are making headway on nuclear disarmament.

A second leaders' summit is expected to take place in early 2019, according to Washington.

In the meantime, North and South Korea have made several concrete decisions on reconciliation and exchanges.

But the implementation of cross-border projects such as the reconnection of railways have been hamstrung by the lack of progress in denuclearisation talks.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) advocates talking to the North's leader
Kim Jong Un to push him to denuclearise (AFP Photo)

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