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, April 29, 2019

Huge Hong Kong protest against China extradition plan

France24 –AFP, 28 Apr 2019

The demonstration comes just days after four prominent leaders of Hong Kong's
democracy movement were jailed for their role in organising mass pro-democracy
protests in 2014 (AFP)

Hong Kong (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people hit Hong Kong's streets on Sunday to protest against a government plan to allow extraditions to mainland China, the crowds swollen by anger over the recent jailing of democracy leaders.

The extradition proposal has already sparked large protests and mounting alarm within the city's business and legal communities who fear it will hammer the financial hub's international appeal and tangle people up in China's opaque courts.

But Sunday's protest was one of the biggest in the city in recent years.

The demonstration comes just days after four prominent leaders of Hong Kong's democracy movement were jailed for their role in organising mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 that brought parts of the city to a standstill for months.

Demonstrators on Sunday chanted "Step down, Carrie Lam!" -- referring to the city's pro-Beijing leader, while many held the yellow umbrellas that symbolised the 2014 rallies.

Fanly Leung, an accountant, told AFP it was "heartbreaking" to see the activists jailed earlier this week.

"They are professors, highly knowledgable people contributing to society... They could have had a comfortable life making money and not suffer like this. It's not right to jail these good people," said Leung, 61.

Zoe Yuen, 20, came with her mother who became politically active since the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.

"At least we have done what we should do and can tell the next generation that although we may not get what we want, at least we have resisted," the university student told AFP.

Some protesters dressed up as Chinese mainland police officers guarding another demonstrator standing behind a portable red cage.

One held up a sign that said: "President Xi Jinping, no legalised kidnapping of Hong Kong people to China".

Police said some 22,000 turned out, their highest estimate since the 2014 protests. Organisers have yet to give their estimates which are usually far higher.

Hong Kong has a separate legal system through the "one country, two systems" deal struck between Britain and China.

Historically the city has baulked at mainland extraditions because of the opacity of China's criminal justice system and its liberal use of the death penalty.

But earlier this year Hong Kong's government announced plans to overhaul its extradition rules, allowing the transfer of fugitives with mainland China, Macau and Taiwan on a "case-basis" for the first time.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, became the latest figure to criticise the extradition proposal ahead of Sunday's protest.

"Societies which believe in the rule of law do not reach agreements like this with those who do not. These changes are an assault on Hong Kong's values, stability and security," he said.

"They create fear and uncertainty for business at a time when we should all be working to safeguard Hong Kong's reputation as one of the world's greatest business and financial centres," he added.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Xi says more nations joining Belt and Road, $64bn in deals

AFP, 27 April 2019

China's President Xi Jinping leaves after a press conference at the end of the
 final day of the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Centere 
at the Yanqi Lake venue outside Beijing on April 27, 2019. PHOTO | 

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Saturday $64 billion in deals were signed at a summit on his Belt and Road Initiative and more nations would join the global infrastructure programme as he sought to ease concerns over the colossal project.

Xi and 37 world leaders wrapped up a three-day forum in Beijing with pledges to ensure that projects on the new Silk Road are green and financially sustainable following concerns about debt and environmental damage.

"We are committed to supporting open, clean and green development and rejecting protectionism," Xi told journalists at the end of the forum, without taking questions.

His signature foreign policy aims to reinvent the ancient Silk Road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa through massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects -- with hundreds of billions of dollars in financing from Chinese banks.

But critics say the six-year-old project is a plan to boost Beijing's global influence, riddled with opaque deals favouring Chinese companies and saddling nations with debt and environmental damage.

The US, India and some European nations have looked at the project with suspicion. Washington did not send any representatives to the meeting.

"This year's forum sends a clear message: more and more friends and partners will join in the Belt and Road co-operation," Xi said.

A document released after the meeting showed that Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Luxembourg, Jamaica, Peru, Italy, Barbados, Cyprus and Yemen were the latest countries to join the club.

Xi said enterprises will be the main driver in all Belt and Road projects and market principles will apply, with governments providing a supporting role.

"This will make the projects more sustainable and create a fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign investors," Xi said.

Xi said that business leaders meeting at a side event signed some $64 billion worth of deals during the forum, without providing details.

At the picturesque Yanqi Lake outside Beijing, leaders from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America gathered to issue a joint communique.

The gathering included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose nation became the first G7 member to join Belt and Road, and Pakistan's Imran Khan.

Project 'sustainability

The massive projects, financed mainly through Chinese bank loans and investments, have raised concerns that poorer countries are being saddled with debt -- Sri Lanka turned over a deep-sea port to China for 99 years after it was unable to repay loans.

A communique released at the end of the meeting said leaders encouraged multilateral development banks and other international financial institutions to support projects "in fiscally sustainable ways" and mobilise private capital in line with local needs.

"We emphasise the importance of economic, social, fiscal, financial and environmental sustainability of projects," it said.

The draft communique says BRI will welcome developed countries and international investors to participate in the projects.

"Faced with this rising resistance for the past year and a half and this debt image ... China is trying to reposition (BRI) and send a reassuring message," said Nadege Rolland, a senior fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research, a US-based think tank.

But "let's see how it is put into practice", she said.

China's finance ministry released guidelines Thursday for assessing financial risk and debt sustainability to apply to projects in BRI countries.

But the document notes that countries already facing payment problems or in the process of restructuring payments "does not automatically mean that debt is unsustainable in a forward-looking sense".

'Civilised and soft'

Beijing also published a list Saturday of 283 "deliverables" that bore the Belt and Road brand name, including agreements between museums and art festivals, and even cooperation on space -- a clear sign that BRI is a major soft power tool for China as well.

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised China for acting in a "civilised and soft manner" and he took a veiled swipe at the United States.

"Nobody wants sanctions, nobody wants trade wars, except those who start them. These sanctions harm the world economy," Putin said, adding that China "currently defends liberal values".

BRI projects have faced pushback in some countries. In Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad cancelled some planned works and renegotiated a rail project, cutting 30 percent off the price tag.

But Mahathir and other leaders attending the summit had fulsome praise for BRI.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Never mind the substance, here's the visuals: Putin summit a win for Kim

Yahoo – AFP, Sunghee Hwang, April 25, 2019

The mere fact of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin was a
diplomatic boost for Kim Jong Un, analysts say (AFP Photo/Alexey NIKOLSKY)

The first summit between Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin was short on public content but the mere fact of it was a diplomatic boost for Pyongyang in its nuclear stalemate with the US, analysts said.

Thursday's talks in Vladivostok were the North Korean leader's first meeting with another head of state since returning from his February summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi, which broke down without a deal on Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal.

In Russia, Kim said little about the specifics of his discussions with Putin, preferring promises of strengthening traditional ties -- and did not mention the word "denuclearisation" once in public.

There was no joint statement -- and the Kremlin had said beforehand there would not be.

The Russian president told reporters that, like Washington, Moscow wanted to see "complete denuclearisation", but added that North Korea's security should be guaranteed, without going into detail.

Despite the limited substance, analysts say Kim got exactly what he was looking for: a strong handshake with Putin in front of international media.

And unlike some other occasions, the Russian president did not keep his guest waiting.

"The summit was heavy on diplomatic symbolism rather than actual cooperation, but the meeting itself is an achievement for Kim," said Shin Beom-chul of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.

It was the latest chapter in the North Korean leader's summit diplomacy, aimed at chipping away some of the negative public image of his regime, analysts said.

For six years after inheriting power, the North Korean leader was an international recluse and remained within his borders.

But since March 2018, he has held meetings four times with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with South Korea's Moon Jae-in, two with Trump and one each with Vietnam's president and Singapore's prime minister.

"Kim understands there is clearly a benefit in just holding a summit," said Harry Kazianis of the Center for National Interest ahead of the talks.

"All Kim needs to be successful is images of him shaking Putin's hand -- a sort of selfie diplomacy with summit pictures being plastered all over the media -- to prove to the world he is a global statesman."

Wining and dining

In Thursday's expanded meeting, Kim was accompanied only by Ri Yong Ho and Choe Son Hui -- his foreign minister and vice foreign minister.

Opposite them sat about a dozen Russians, among them officials handling economic cooperation with the North, such as mothballed gas pipeline and power grid projects.

Their North Korean counterparts did not travel to Russia with Kim and their absence showed that reviving such joint projects was nowhere near the top of Pyongyang's agenda, said Koo Kab-woo, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

For the North, the main goal of the summitry was finding "another exit" -- an alternative option to China -- Koo said, and seek more international support in its nuclear stand-off against Washington.

At the meeting with Trump in Hanoi, the cash-strapped North demanded immediate relief from sanctions imposed over its weapons programmes, but the talks broke up in disagreement over what Pyongyang was prepared to give up in return.

Since then, North Korea has carried out a new weapons test and demanded the removal from negotiations of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- who said Wednesday that he expected "bumpy" talks ahead with Pyongyang.

North Korea will expect the sight of Kim and Putin wining and dining together to prompt Washington to return to the negotiating table with a better offer, Koo said.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

New Zealand offers residency to families of mosque victims

Yahoo – AFP, April 24, 2019

A New Zealand flag held at a vigil for the Christchurch mosque massacres.
New Zealand has offered permanent residency to those directly affected by
the attacks (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

New Zealand opened a two-year window Wednesday for people directly affected by the Christchurch terror attacks to apply to stay permanently in the country.

The special visa category "recognises the impact of the tragedy on the lives of those most affected, and gives people currently on temporary and resident visas some certainty" about their status, Immigration New Zealand said in a statement.

People living in New Zealand who were present at one of the mosques and their immediate family based in New Zealand qualify for the visa.

The definition of "immediate family" has been expanded to include a wide circle of family members including partner's family and the grandparents of children under 25.

Mustafa Farouk, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said it was a generous gesture.

"We are very happy," he said, adding he expected everyone eligible would apply.

"Some of these people have not only lost their loved ones, they have also lost their main provider."

A self-styled white supremacist opened fire on Muslims at prayer in two Christchurch mosques on March 15.

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian" has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder.

Sri Lanka admits 'major' lapse over deadly Islamist blasts

Yahoo – AFP, Amal JAYASINGHE, April 24, 2019

The suspected bomber walks past a door (L) with a backpack on, before entering 
St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo (AFP Photo/Handout)

Colombo (AFP) - Sri Lanka's government on Wednesday acknowledged "major" lapses over its failure to prevent the horrific Easter attacks that killed more than 350 people, despite prior intelligence warnings.

Recriminations have flown since Islamist suicide bombers blew themselves up in packed churches and luxury hotels on Sunday, in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

Overnight, security forces using newly granted powers under the country's state of emergency arrested 18 more suspects in connection with the attack, as the toll rose to 359.

Police have so far arrested 58 people, all Sri Lankans, and security remains heavy, with bomb squads carrying out several controlled explosions of suspect packages on Wednesday.

But the government faces anger over revelations that specific warnings about an attack went ignored.

Sri Lanka's police chief issued a warning on April 11 that suicide bombings against "prominent churches" by the local Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) were possible, citing information from a foreign intelligence agency.

Children sit next to flowers left by mourners near St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, 
two days after a series of bomb blasts killed more than 350 people (AFP Photo/
Jewel SAMAD)

CNN reported that Indian intelligence services had passed on "unusually specific" information in the weeks before the attacks, some of it from an IS suspect in their custody.

But that information was not shared with the prime minister or other top ministers, the government says.

"It was a major lapse in the sharing of information," deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene conceded at a press conference on Wednesday.

"The government has to take responsibility."

Chilling footage

President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also defence and law and order minister, pledged Tuesday to make "major changes in the leadership of the security forces in the next 24 hours".

"The restructuring of the security forces and the police will be completed within a week," he said.

He also called an "all party conference" with the country's political parties for Thursday, and will meet with religious leaders too.

Chilling CCTV footage has emerged showing one of the attackers (C) calmly 
walking into the packed St Sebastian's church before detonating his bomb 
(AFP Photo/Handout)

New details emerged about some of the bombers on Wednesday, with Wijewardene saying one had studied in Britain and then did post-graduate studies in Australia before returning to Sri Lanka.

"Most of them are well-educated and come from middle, upper-middle class families, so they are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially, that is a worrying factor in this," the minister added.

And chilling CCTV footage emerged showing one of the attackers calmly patting a child on the head and shoulder moments before he walked into the packed St Sebastian's church and detonated his bomb.

A US FBI team is now in Sri Lanka, Wijewardene said, and Britain, Australia and the United Arab Emirates have all offered intelligence help.

Experts say the bombings bear many of the hallmarks of IS attacks, and the government has suggested local militants could not have acted alone.

But it has not yet officially confirmed any IS role in the blasts against three churches packed with Easter worshippers and three high-end hotels.

The United Nations said at least 45 children, Sri Lankans and foreigners, were 
among the dead (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

A desperate search was under way for other suspects linked to the blasts, including the head of the local Islamist group believed to have played a key role in the attacks.

The government has said the NTJ group was behind the attack, perhaps with international help, and its leader Zahran Hashim remains unaccounted for.

He appears to be among eight people seen in a video released by IS on Tuesday, leading seven others in a pledge of allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

It was not yet clear whether Hashim was among the suicide attackers or had escaped after the blasts.

Multiple attackers

Government officials have said they cannot rule out further attacks while suspects remain at large.

In all, nine people are believed to have blown themselves up in Sunday, either during attacks or when police attempted to arrest them.

Security remained tight at the churches targeted in Sri Lanka (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

Sri Lankan police sources have told AFP that two Muslim brothers, sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader, blew themselves up at the Shangri-La and the Cinnamon Grand hotels.

Their father is now one of the 58 in custody.

The Kingsbury hotel in the capital was the last one hit. A fourth planned attack on a hotel failed, authorities said. The would-be attacker was followed back to a Colombo lodge, where he blew himself up, killing two people.

Sources close to the investigation said two more people -- a man and a woman -- blew themselves up at another location as security forces launched a raid. Those blasts killed three police.

Work was continuing to identify foreign victims in the blasts.

A Danish billionaire lost three of his children in the attacks, a spokesman for his company said.

Eight Britons, 10 Indians, four Americans and nationals from Turkey, Australia, Japan and Portugal were also reported killed.

The United Nations said at least 45 children, Sri Lankans and foreigners, were among the dead.

Monday, April 22, 2019

'Horrific', 'cruel', 'sad': World leaders react to Sri Lanka blasts

Yahoo – AFP, April 21, 2019

'Appalling', 'cruel','devastating', 'horrific': World leaders condemn the Sri Lanka

Religious and world leaders have condemned a series of blasts in Sri Lanka that killed more than 200 people on Sunday, including dozens of foreigners with British, Dutch and American citizens believed to be among them.

Hospital sources also said Japanese citizens were among those injured by the bombs which ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services.

Here is a summary of the reactions:

Britain: 'Stand together'

British Prime Minister Theresa May described the attacks as "truly appalling".

"The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time," she tweeted.

"We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear."

Trump: 'Ready to help'

US President Donald Trump tweeted: "Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels.

"We stand ready to help!"

The Netherlands: 'Terrible reports'

"Terrible reports from Sri Lanka about bloody attacks on hotels and churches on this Easter Sunday," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted after initial news of the attacks.

"Thoughts are with the victims and their relatives."

Pope: 'Cruel violence'

Pope Francis expressed his sadness over the attacks during his traditional Easter address at the Vatican.

"I want to express my affectionate closeness with the Christian community, attacked while it was at prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence," he said.

The Catholic Church in Jerusalem had said in an earlier statement: "We pray for the souls of the victims and ask for speedy recovery of the injured, and ask God to inspire the terrorists to repent of their killing and intimidation."

Australia: 'Terrorist attack'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement: "At this time as Easter Sunday draws to a conclusion here in Australia, our heart goes out to those Christians and all of those other innocents who have been slaughtered today in this horrific terrorist attack."

New Zealand: 'Devastating'

A month after dozens of Muslims were killed in a shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the Sri Lanka attack as "devastating".

"New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism, and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil on the 15th of March. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels is devastating."

Pakistan: 'Horrific'

Pakistan's leader Imran Khan offered his "profound condolences" to Sri Lanka.

"Strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday resulting in precious lives lost & hundreds injured," he tweeted.

India: 'Cold blooded'

Narendra Modi, the leader of neighbouring India, condemmned the "serial terrorist attacks" in a government statement.

"Terming them as cold-blooded and pre-planned barbaric acts, he pointed out that these attacks were another grim reminder of the most serious challenge posed to the entire humanity by terrorism in our region and the entire world," the statement added.

EU: 'Sad day for the world'

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his "horror and sadness" at the blasts, while EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the attacks marked "a truly sad day for the country and for the world".

"Such acts of violence on this holy day are acts of violence against all beliefs and denominations, and against all those who value the freedom of religion and the choice to worship," she added in a statement.

France: 'Odious acts'

"We strongly condemn these odious acts," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

"Full solidarity with the Sri Lanka people and our thoughts for all those close to the victims this Easter."

Germany: 'Malicious attack'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "religious hate and intolerance that have showed themselves in such a terrible way today must not win".

"It is shocking that people who gathered to celebrate Easter together were consciously targeted in this malicious attack," Merkel said in a statement published by a spokeswoman on Twitter.

Russia: 'Cynical crime'

"I would like to reassert that Russia has been and remains a reliable partner of Sri Lanka in combating the threat of international terrorism," Vladimir Putin said in a Kremlin statement.

"I expect that the masterminds and perpetrators of such a heinous and cynical crime committed in the midst of Easter celebrations will get the punishment they deserve."

Israel: 'Deep shock'

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses in the name of Israel's citizens deep shock over the murderous attacks against innocent civilians in Sri Lanka," a government statement said.

"Israel is willing to aid the authorities in Sri Lanka in this difficult time. The whole world must unite in the struggle against the scourge of terror."

Egypt mosque: 'Cannot imagine'

The grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world's foremost religious institution, condemned the "terrorist" attacks.

"I cannot imagine a human being could target the peaceful on their celebration day," said Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb on Twitter.

"Those terrorists' perverted disposition goes against the teachings of all religions."

-South Africa: 'Fight terrorism' 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sent his condolences to Sri Lanka and vowed that his country "will continue to use its non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council to prioritise the fight against terrorism and extremist groups across the world."

Sunday, April 21, 2019

USAID launches latest clean-up for Vietnam War-era Agent Orange site

Yahoo – AFP, April 20, 2019

A Vietnamese soldier stands next to a sign warning of toxic hazard at Bien Hoa
air base, on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City (AFP Photo/Thomas WATKINS)

Hanoi (AFP) - The US launched on Saturday a $183 million clean-up at a former Vietnam storage site for Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used in their bitter war which years later is still blamed for severe birth defects, cancers and disabilities.

Located outside Ho Chi Minh City, Bien Hoa airbase -- the latest site scheduled for rehabilitation after Danang airbase's clean-up last year -- was one of the main storage grounds for Agent Orange and only hastily cleared by soldiers near the war's end more than four decades ago.

US forces sprayed 80 million litres (21 million gallons) of Agent Orange over South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 in a desperate bid to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.

The spillover from the clearing operation is believed to have seeped beyond the base and into ground water and rivers, and is linked to severe mental and physical disabilities across generations of Vietnamese -- from enlarged heads to deformed limbs.

At Bien Hoa, more than 500,000 cubic metres of dioxin had contaminated the soil and sediment, making it the "largest remaining hotspot" in Vietnam, said a statement from the US development agency USAID, which kicked off a 10-year remediation effort on Saturday.

The dioxin amounts in Bien Hoa are four times more than the volume cleaned up at Danang airport, a six-year $110 million effort which was completed in November.

"The fact that two former foes are now partnering on such a complex task is nothing short of historic," said the US ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, at Saturday morning's launch attended by Vietnamese military officials and US senators.

Hanoi says up to three million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, and that one million suffer grave health repercussions today -- including at least 150,000 children with birth defects.

An attempt by Vietnamese victims to obtain compensation from the United States has met with little success. The US Supreme Court in 2009 declined to take up the case while neither the US government nor the manufacturers of the chemical have ever admitted liability.

While US officials have never admitted direct links between Agent Orange and birth defects, USAID on Saturday also issued a "memorandum of intent" to work with government agencies to improve the lives of people with disabilities in seven Vietnamese provinces.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Saudi, UAE send relief aid to flood-stricken Iran

Yahoo – AFP, April 18, 2019

Iranians carry sandbags to build barricades against flood water in the city
of Hamidiyeh, Khuzestan province (AFP Photo/ATTA KENARE)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent 95 tons of humanitarian aid to their rival Iran as it reels from deadly floods, officials said Thursday, after Tehran complained US sanctions were obstructing relief.

"The Saudi Red Crescent, as part of a joint Saudi-UAE initiative to alleviate the suffering of Iranian citizens, has dispatched a relief plane to Tehran with 95 tons of humanitarian aid to support those affected by floods," the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The aid, which includes food and shelter material, was authorised by Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince, it added.

The Emirates Red Crescent was also involved in the relief operation, the UAE's official WAM news agency said.

At least 76 people have died in Iran after torrential rainfall, which has also caused billions of dollars worth of damage since March 19.

Iran's Red Crescent has repeatedly complained that US banking sanctions re-imposed last year make it impossible to receive donations from outside the country.

US President Donald Trump last year withdrew Washington from a multilateral agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, later re-imposing sanctions focusing on oil exports and financial transactions.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran have a longstanding rivalry based as much on geostrategic interests as religious differences.

Facing off across the Gulf, the two major oil producers have taken opposing sides for decades in conflicts across the Middle East.

Riyadh broke off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2016 in protest at the torching of its diplomatic missions by Iranian protesters angry over its execution of a leading Shiite cleric.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Hong Kong domestic worker fired for cancer awarded damages

Yahoo – AFP, April 15, 2019

Baby Jane Allas of the Philippines was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer
in January and fired by her employer, who cited the illness as the reason for
termination (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

A domestic worker sacked after a cancer diagnosis was awarded damages by a Hong Kong court Monday, in a case that highlighted exploitation of foreign women toiling as maids in the wealthy financial hub.

Baby Jane Allas of the Philippines was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer in January and fired the following month by her employer, who cited the illness as the reason for termination.

The 38-year-old single mother of five instantly lost the right to healthcare and has had to regularly apply for visa extensions as she navigated Hong Kong's legal and immigration systems while battling cancer.

She has been undergoing radiation therapy five days a week, along with chemotherapy one day a week.

Allas and her former employer -- who was absent from Monday's proceedings -- reached a settlement of HK30,000 ($3,800) at Hong Kong's labour tribunal for sickness allowance, medical fees and wages in lieu of notice.

"I am standing here right now to encourage more workers to come out if they have these kinds of cases," Allas said outside the hearing.

Allas added she hoped to find another employer "who can really understand my situation and treat me well".

She has separately filed claims with the Equal Opportunities Commission for wrongful termination and loss of earnings, which could be brought to the city's District Court.

Allas previously told AFP that she spent just over a year working for a family of Pakistani origin who ordered her to work every day of the week.

She has also said she was routinely given stale leftovers to eat and slept on a thin comforter in a cluttered store room.

Nearly 370,000 domestic helpers work in the city. Most are poor women from the Philippines and Indonesia performing menial tasks for low wages while living in often miserable conditions.

Allas was accompanied to Monday's hearing by supporters and family, including her eight-year-old daughter, who clung to her waist.

Her plight has generated widespread sympathy in Hong Kong and a fundraising campaign organised by her sister's employer, Jessica Cutrera, has so far raised more than HK$900,000 for treatment.

A large part of Allas' medical bills have been covered by hospital charities but expensive surgery will likely be needed to operate on her tumours, said Cutrera.

Academics concerned about Singapore's 'fake news' law

Yahoo – AFP, April 15, 2019

Singapore's proposed 'fake news' law includes powers for ministers to order sites
 like Facebook, Google and Twitter to put warnings next to posts authorities deem
false (AFP Photo/Roslan RAHMAN)

Nearly 100 academics worldwide have expressed concern over Singapore's proposed law against "fake news", warning it could threaten academic freedom and hurt the city-state's ambition to become a global education hub.

The government this month unveiled a bill containing tough measures, including powers for ministers to order sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter to put warnings next to posts authorities deem false, and extreme cases, to take them down.

If an action is deemed malicious and damaging to Singapore's interests, companies could be hit with fines of up to Sg$1 million ($740,000), while individuals could face jail terms of up to 10 years.

Authorities in the tightly-controlled country insist the measures are necessary to prevent online falsehoods sowing social divisions, but the move has sparked anger from press freedom groups and tech giants such as Facebook and Google.

Now ninety-seven academics from around the world with expertise in Singapore and Asia have signed a letter warning the proposed legislation "may deter scholarship and set precedents harmful to global academia".

"We are concerned that the proposed legislation will have unintended detrimental consequences for scholars and research in Singapore," said the group, who included academics from Harvard and Yale, as well as institutions in Britain, Australia, and parts of Asia.

The letter, released at the weekend, also warned the law could compromise "Singapore's notable efforts to develop itself into an internationally-recognised hub for excellence in higher education".

Singapore is home to several leading higher education institutes, which attract academics from around the world.

The group, called Academics Against Disinformation, also said they wrote to the education ministry to express their concerns.

The ministry was cited in local media as saying the draft law does not restrict opinion and will not affect academic research work, but the academics said they could not accept the response as a guarantee.

Singapore is among several countries seeking to legislate against fake news, and the bill is expected to pass easily through parliament, which is dominated by the long-ruling People's Action Party.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Iran hijab protester sentenced to year in jail: lawyer

Yahoo – AFP, April 14, 2019

Iranian women wearing hijab walk down a street in the capital Tehran in this file
picture taken on February 7, 2018 (AFP Photo/ATTA KENARE)

Tehran (AFP) - A woman who protested against Iran's compulsory hijab law by removing the Islamic veil in public last year has been sentenced to one year in prison, her lawyer said Sunday.

Vida Movahedi was arrested in October after removing her hijab from her head at Tehran's Enghelab Square, Payam Derafshan told AFP, confirming his earlier comments to state news agency IRNA.

Movahedi, in her mid-20s, was charged with "encouraging corruption and debauchery" and sentenced by a court in Tehran to one year in prison on March 2, Derafshan added.

The lawyer said Movahedi had stated her opposition to the "compulsory hijab" and that she wanted to express her opinion in "a civil protest".

Movahedi has staged protests against the law in the past.

In December 2017, she stood on a pillar box on Enghelab Avenue without the mandatory long coat and raised her white veil on a stick, an act that was copied by women in different cities.

Enghelab means revolution in Farsi and the square and avenue are among the busiest areas in the capital.

Movahedi's move sparked similar protests by other women, including some at the same spot, and they soon won recognition as "Dokhtaran-e enghelab", or the Girls of Revolution Street.

Like other women who copied her, she was arrested, but she was only fined for her first protest.

In her latest case, she has already spent more than five months in prison even though she is eligible for a pardon and the judge promised he would look favourably on a request for parole, Derafshan said.

"The judge was very sympathetic to the fact that Ms. Movahedi has a two-year-old daughter and that she had not had a political motive for her actions," the lawyer said.

According to Derafshan the judge "had urged Movahedi to make a parole request and that he would grant it as soon as he received it," however bureaucratic hurdles have prevented Movahedi from sending in her request.

"Movahedi has repeatedly made the parole requests in writing, but none of them have been sent," by Gharchak Prison where she is incarcerated.

Movahedi is also now eligible to be part of a mass pardon, but because the prison authorities have not yet updated her legal status she cannot receive it, Derafshan said.

"We have tried many times to overcome this bureaucratic dilemma but more than a month later we are nowhere, that's why we've gone to the media," Derafshan said.