Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners

Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners
Widodo has pledged to bring reform to Indonesia

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person
The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison   (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)
Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)



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"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. …

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Two families staged Indonesian suicide bombings: police

Yahoo – AFP, Juni Kriswanto, May 14, 2018

The spate of bombings has rocked Indonesia, with the Islamic State group claiming
the church attacks and raising fears about its influence in Southeast Asia (AFP
Photo/Andy PINARIA)

Surabaya (Indonesia) (AFP) - A family of five, including a child, carried out the suicide bombing of a police headquarters in Indonesia's second city Surabaya on Monday, police said, a day after a deadly wave of attacks on churches staged by another family.

The spate of bombings has rocked Indonesia, with the Islamic State group claiming both the church and police station attacks, raising fears about its influence in Southeast Asia as its dreams of a Middle Eastern caliphate fade.

Indonesia, which is set to host the Asian Games in just three months, has long struggled with Islamist militancy, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people -- mostly foreign tourists -- in the country's worst-ever terror attack.

Security forces have arrested hundreds of militants during a sustained crackdown that smashed some networks, and most recent attacks have been low-level and targeted domestic security forces.

But that changed Sunday as a family of six -- including girls aged nine and 12 -- staged suicide bombings of three churches during morning services in Surabaya, killing 18 including the bombers.

On Monday members of another family blew themselves up at a police station in the city, wounding 10.

"There were five people on two motorbikes. One of them was a little kid," national police chief Tito Karnavian said. "This is one family."

Indonesia Surabaya family attacks (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)

An eight-year-old girl from the family survived the attack and was taken to hospital, while her mother, father and two brothers died in the blast, he said.

"A martyrdom-seeking operation with an explosive-laden motorcycle hit the gate of an Indonesian police headquarters," IS's official Amaq agency reported, according to SITE.

The children were likely led to their deaths without a full awareness of their fate, said Ade Banani, of the University of Indonesia’s research centre of police science and terrorism studies.

If a family believed in traditional roles, the father "has the power, so everyone has to obey", Banani said.

"The children probably don't know what's going on or don't understand."

The father of the church suicide bombers was a local leader in extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which supports IS, and the second family was also linked to JAD.

"It ordered and gave instructions for its cells to make a move," Karnavian said of the Islamic State's role in the church attacks.

He added that the bombings may have also been motivated by the arrest of JAD leaders, including jailed radical Aman Abdurrahman, and were linked to a deadly prison riot staged by Islamist prisoners at a high-security jail near Jakarta last week.

Abdurrahman has been connected to several deadly incidents, including a 2016 gun and suicide attack in the capital Jakarta that left four attackers and four civilians dead.

Despite their apparent allegiance to IS, the church-bombing family were not returnees from Syria, police said Monday, correcting their earlier statements.

However, hundreds of Indonesians have flocked in recent years to fight alongside IS there.

Its ambitions have been reined in after losing most of the land it once occupied in Iraq and Syria, and there are concerns that jihadists will now turn their focus on establishing a base in Southeast Asia.

Indonesian police have foiled numerous terror plots, but the coordinated nature of
 the church bombings and subsequent blasts point to more sophisticated planning 
than in the past, analysts said (AFP Photo/JUNI KRISWANTO)

'Increasingly proficient'

On Sunday evening, just hours after the church bombings, a further three people in another family were killed and two wounded when another bomb exploded at an apartment complex about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Surabaya.

That explosion appeared to have been an accidental detonation that killed a mother and her 17-year-old child who was not identified.

The woman's husband -- a confidante of the husband behind the church bombings, Dita Oepriyanto -- was badly injured in the explosion.

Police said they arrived after the explosion and shot dead the injured man, Anton Febrianto, as he held a bomb detonator in his hand.

"When we searched the flat we found pipe bombs, similar to pipe bombs we found near the churches," said Karnavian.

Police said they also shot dead four suspects,including the second-ranking member of the JAD cell in Surabaya, in raids on houses and offices Monday while nine others were arrested.

Indonesian police have foiled numerous terror plots, but the coordinated nature of Sunday's church bombings and the subsequent blasts point to more sophisticated planning than in the past, analysts said.

"There is definitely a growing technical proficiency," said Zachary Abuza, Southeast Asian security expert at the National War College in Washington.

"To pull off three near-simultaneous bombings is the hallmark of a group that is thinking."

Abuza questioned the police suggestion that the attacks were ordered by the IS leadership abroad, but said it would likely boost its presence in Southeast Asia as it fades elsewhere.

"(They're) going to continue to benefit from operating transnationally in Southeast Asia," he said.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Deadly Indonesia church suicide bombings committed by one family

Yahoo – AFP, Juni Kriswanto, May 13, 2018

Indonesia has been on high alert over attacks by militants (AFP Photo/
JUNI KRISWANTO)

A family of six including two young daughters staged suicide bombings at three Indonesian churches during Sunday services, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

The bombings at three churches in Surabaya were Indonesia's deadliest for years, as the world's biggest Muslim-majority country grapples with homegrown militancy and rising intolerance towards religious minorities.

A further three people were killed and two wounded when another bomb exploded at an apartment complex in Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, just hours later, police said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The church bombers -- a mother and father, two daughters aged nine and 12, and two sons aged 16 and 18 -- were linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which supports IS, said national police chief Tito Karnavian.

Local media reports say they may have returned from Syria, where hundreds of Indonesians have flocked in recent years to fight alongside IS in its bid to carve out a caliphate ruled by strict Islamic law.

The mother, identified as Puji Kuswati, and her two daughters were wearing niqab face veils and had bombs strapped to their waists as they entered the grounds of the Kristen Indonesia Diponegoro Church and blew themselves up, Karnavian said.

The father, JAD cell leader Dita Priyanto, drove a bomb-laden car into the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church while his sons rode motorcycles into Santa Maria church, where they detonated explosives they were carrying, Karnavian said.

"All were suicide attacks but the types of bombs are different," he said of the church attacks.

Police and soldiers examine a site following attacks outside the Surabaya 
Centre Pentecostal Church (AFP Photo/JUNI KRISWANTO)

Coordinated attacks

The group, led by jailed radical Aman Abdurrahman, has been linked to several deadly incidents, including a 2016 gun and suicide attack in the capital Jakarta that left four attackers and four civilians dead.

That was the first assault claimed by IS in Southeast Asia.

Police on Sunday said four suspected JAD members were killed in a shootout during raids linked to a deadly prison riot this week.

Five members of Indonesia's elite anti-terrorism squad and a prisoner were killed in clashes that saw Islamist inmates take a guard hostage at a high-security jail on the outskirts of Jakarta. IS claimed responsibility.

Karnavian said Sunday's church attacks may have been revenge for the arrest of some of JAD's leaders and for the prison crisis which eventually saw the surrender of the radical inmates.

The Pope offered support over "the severe attack against places of worship", while President Joko Widodo called for Indonesians to "unite against terrorism".

"The state will not tolerate this act of cowardice," he told reporters in Surabaya.

East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera confirmed the deaths of 13 people in the church bombings, with about 40 injured in the coordinated attacks at around 7:30 am (0030 GMT).

Images showed a vehicle engulfed in flames and plumes of thick black smoke as a body lay outside the gate of Santa Maria Catholic church, with motorcycles toppled over amid the mangled debris.

In addition to the suicide blast police experts defused two unexploded bombs at the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church.

Later on Sunday night a bomb killed three people and wounded two, all from the same family, who occupied the fifth floor of a low-cost Surabaya apartment complex, East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said.

"Three people have died, two are in the hospital and one is safe," he told AFP via Whatsapp.

Police with dogs examine a site following attacks outside the Surabaya Centre 
Pentecostal Church (AFP Photo/JUNI KRISWANTO)

The explosion hit the apartment complex about 9 pm, local media reported, and residents were evacuated from the building after the blast.

Yono, tenant coordinator at the apartment block, said the family had lived there since 2015.

'Professional' attacks

Concerns about sectarian intolerance in Indonesia have been on the rise, with churches targeted in the past.

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia's 260 million people are Muslim, but there are significant numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

Police shot and wounded an IS-inspired radical who attacked a church congregation outside Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta with a sword during a Sunday mass in February. Four people were injured.

In 2000 bombs disguised as Christmas gifts and delivered to churches and clergymen killed 19 people on Christmas Eve and injured scores more across the country.

The archipelago nation of some 17,000 islands has long struggled with Islamic militancy, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people -- mostly foreign tourists -- in the country's worst-ever terror attack.

Sunday's bombings had the highest death toll since nine people were killed in 2009 attacks on two luxury hotels in Jakarta.

Security forces have arrested hundreds of militants during a sustained crackdown in recent years that smashed some networks, and most recent attacks have been low-level and targeted domestic security forces.

But the coordinated nature of Sunday's bombings suggested a higher level of planning, analysts said.

"Recent (previous) attacks have been far less 'professional'," Sidney Jones, an expert on Southeast Asian terrorism and director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, told AFP.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Police hostage crisis at Indonesia jail over: officials

Yahoo – AFP, 10 May 2018

The raid secured the release of the police hostage and no further casualties were reported

A hostage crisis involving Islamist prisoners at a high-security jail outside Jakarta has been resolved nearly two days after a deadly riot broke out at the prison, Indonesian officials said Thursday.

Hundreds of police and armoured vehicles were deployed to rescue a police officer taken hostage by inmates after chaos erupted late Tuesday at the facility inside the Mobile Police Brigade headquarters in Depok, leaving five officers and an inmate dead.

In the pre-dawn operation, 145 prisoners "surrendered unconditionally" and the hostage was released with no further casualties reported, said Chief Security Minister Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Another ten inmates holding out against police later surrendered after tear gas was used, according to Wiranto.

Several blasts heard near the prison on Thursday morning were caused by police destroying home-made bombs created by the prisoners, police said.

Rioting broke out after several prisoners demanded they be given food sent to them by their families and managed to grab some of their jailers' firearms in the ensuing fracas.

Some of the inmates involved in the clashes were Islamist militants jailed on terror-related charges, according to police.

Five officers and an inmate were killed in the deadly riot

The Islamic State group was quick to claim responsibility for the riot through its Amaq News Agency, but authorities rejected that claim.

Among the facility's prisoners is Aman Abdurrahman, an Islamic radical jailed for orchestrating an attack in Jakarta in 2016 that left eight people dead.

Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was jailed for two years for blasphemy after losing a re-election bid, is also held in the jail.

Abdurrahman and Purnama, better known as Ahok, are not housed in the part of the prison where the riot broke out.

Indonesia's overcrowded prisons are notorious for their poor conditions and outbreaks of violence.

Two years ago, nearly 500 inmates broke out from a prison after complaining about overcrowding and extortion.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Malaysia's Mahathir wins shock election victory, toppling 61-yr-old regime

Yahoo – AFP, Martin Abbugao, May 9, 2018

As it became clear that Mahathir had won, supporters took to the streets
waving flags of the opposition alliance (AFP Photo/Mohd RASFAN)

Malaysia's veteran ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad, 92, won a shock election victory Thursday, in a political earthquake that toppled the country's scandal-plagued premier and ousted a regime that has ruled for over six decades.

It was a stunning triumph that almost no one had predicted and ended the long hold on power of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has ruled Malaysia since its birth as an independent country.

The victory capped a dramatic political comeback for Mahathir, who previously ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years, and came out of retirement to taken on Prime Minister Najib Razak after the leader became embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.

When he takes power, Mahathir will be the oldest prime minister in the world.

His victory spells big trouble for Najib -- Mahathir has vowed to bring him to justice over allegations that billions of dollars were looted from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, which the scandal-plagued leader set up and oversaw.

But at a press conference, Mahathir vowed: "We are not seeking revenge. We want to restore the rule of law."

Mahathir's return to the political frontlines saw him throw in his lot with an opposition alliance filled with parties that he crushed while in power, and which includes jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim -- his former nemesis.

When he takes power, Mahathir Mohamad, 92, will be the oldest prime minister
in the world (AFP Photo/Manan VATSYAYANA)

As well as seizing control of the national government, several state legislatures across the country fell into opposition hands for the first time, including the highly symbolic bastion of Johor, the birthplace of Najib's party that was the lynchpin of the ruling coalition.

Official results from the Election Commission showed that Mahathir's opposition grouping Pakatan Harapan, along with an ally in the Borneo state of Sabah, had secured 115 parliamentary seats. 112 are needed to form a government. BN were on 79 seats with just a few left to count.

As it became clear that Mahathir had won, supporters took to the streets waving flags of the opposition alliance.

After polls closed earlier in the day, journalists had flocked to the headquarters of Najib's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the lynchpin in the ruling coalition -- but he failed to turn up to give a victory speech and the media were told to leave.

Huge numbers of voters earlier flocked to the polls across the country, despite Najib having called the election on a weekday in what critics said was a bid to keep turnout down.

The BN wipeout is a disaster for Najib, who had been under pressure to score an emphatic win after the government lost the popular vote for the first time at the last elections in 2013.

The controversy surrounding 1MDB has dogged Najib since the story exploded in 2015. Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the fund, which was set up and overseen by Najib. The leader and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.

But in rural areas, the rising cost of living, which has hit poor Malays hard, was the main concern at the election particularly after the introduction of an unpopular sales tax in 2015.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

'I'll come back': Australian nun defiant over Philippine expulsion

Yahoo – AFP, Cecil MORELLA, 1 May 2018

Australian nun Patricia Fox, who faces deportation, prays in a mini-chapel at
her residence in Manila

She spent decades helping the Philippines' poorest people, but Australian nun Patricia Fox is fighting deportation after drawing President Rodrigo Duterte's ire -- and says she will try to return even if expelled.

The 71-year-old Melbourne native is due to be kicked out of the country by May 25 after Duterte personally accused her of political activism that violates the rules of her visa.

Fox was singled out as Manila cracks down on foreign critics on its soil, where the president's deadly anti-drug war has provoked a storm of international condemnation.

The government deportation order against her sparked outrage from rights advocates and the religious community, but authorities are pressing ahead.

"I'm still hoping that somehow something will happen (to stop the expulsion)," she told AFP in Manila.

Even if her appeal fails, Fox said she would still like to return and resume her work in the nation that has been home since 1990.

"If I can come back as a tourist I'll try and come back," she said. "This is my life."

She landed in the Philippines as a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, a congregation of nuns founded in France in 1847 and famed for harbouring Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution in World War II.

A former practising lawyer who worked with indigent clients in Australia, Fox said she has been educating landless Filipino farm hands and factory workers about their rights.

Then on April 16 immigration service agents arrived at the congregation's modest Manila office.

Australian nun Patricia Fox was escorted by immigration officers after leaving
a detention facility in April

'No right to criticise'

Fox, the country head of an eight-member missionary group, was hauled off to the government agency's headquarters, where she was informed of the allegations.

She said she spent the night on the floor of the immigration service building, lying on a borrowed blanket and getting little sleep.

The nun said she apparently angered the president by joining a fact-finding mission in April to investigate alleged abuses against farmers, including killings and evictions by soldiers fighting guerrillas in the southern Philippines.

In Duterte's hometown of Davao, Fox went to see farmers detained on charges of possessing explosives, and attended a press conference by workers who were fired after demanding better wages and conditions.

"I gave a solidarity statement saying the social teachings of the Catholic Church say you have the right to unionise, you have the right to just wages, you have the right to security of tenure," she said.

Fox said she thought she was safe in espousing a pet advocacy of the president.

Australian nun Patricia Fox, a former practicing lawyer, arrived in the
Philippines in 1990

Duterte vowed during the 2016 election campaign to end the common corporate practice of hiring workers on five-month contracts to avoid paying benefits enjoyed by permanent employees.

Yet hours after Fox's release, Duterte announced he had personally ordered her investigated as a warning to foreigners who criticise his government.

"Don't let that nun in because her mouth is one that knows no shame. You do not have that right to criticise us," he added. "You insult me."

Earlier in April Manila also deported Italian Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary general of the Party of European Socialists, who had condemned Duterte's anti-drug war.

Fox said she has been quiet on the narcotics crackdown, a sensitive point that usually draws a response from Duterte.

"Presidents can say what they like, but you know I've never met the president. I don't remember saying anything in public about him," the nun said.

"I don't know where his information is coming from."

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Asian Games could have 7 joint Korean teams: Seoul official

Yahoo – AFP, Sunghee Hwang, Apr 30, 2018

The sight of North and South Korean skaters wearing the same jersey drew emotive
 responses from spectators and quickly became a Wintern Olympic favourite (AFP
Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Seoul (AFP) - Seven South Korean sports associations are considering forming joint teams with North Korea for this year's Asian Games in Indonesia, an official told AFP Monday - but reports said football will not be joining them.

At their groundbreaking summit on Friday, the latest step in a rapidly moving diplomatic sequence, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South's president Moon Jae-in agreed to show solidarity by "jointly participating in international sports events such as the 2018 Asian Games".

The phrasing left open whether it was a reference to unified teams, or marching together at opening ceremonies, as they have done at several past Olympics, including this year's Winter Games in Pyeongchang in the South.

But a spokeswoman for the South's national Olympic committee told AFP that the country's governing bodies for "basketball, judo, canoe, gymnastics, table tennis, rowing and soft tennis have expressed interest".

No details had been discussed yet, she added.

Seoul's unification ministry declined to comment on the issue but said the two sides will soon hold a working-level meeting which may include discussions on joint teams at the Asian Games.

Some sports bodies are already pushing ahead, proposing their own plans for the Asian Games, which will take place in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.

The Korean Canoe Federation said Monday a joint team for the dragon boat race -- one of three canoe disciplines at the event -- will be a good idea since neither Korea has a national team for it.

"Even if we form a joint team, it won't affect any existing athletes," the group said in a statement.

The joint teams could hold open practice sessions on the Han river in Seoul as well as the Taedong river in Pyongyang, it added.

Final whistle

But the South's football association declined the idea, Yonhap news agency reported, saying the move could require unwanted sacrifices from its players.

In South Korea, male athletes who win gold at the Asian Games or any Olympic medal are exempted from the country's mandatory two-year military service.

Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min could be among the players seeking the Asian Games title to enable him to extend his career in Europe without interruptions.

Son withdrew from consideration for the South Korean team for London 2012 -- when the side finished third, earnings its members the exemption -- to concentrate on his club activities with Hamburg SV.

When a joint women's ice hockey team was first mooted for the Winter Olympics it provoked a backlash in the South, on the grounds that Seoul was depriving its own athletes of the chance to compete on the Olympic stage.

Ultimately the sight of North and South Korean skaters wearing the same jersey and passing the puck to each other drew emotive responses from spectators and quickly became an Olympic favourite, despite the team being thrashed in all five of their matches.

The rapprochement on the peninsula was triggered by the Games, to which the North's Kim sent athletes, cheerleaders and his sister as an envoy.

Friday's historic meeting saw Kim and Moon agree to pursue the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula and to improve inter-Korean relations.

Seoul's defence ministry said Monday it will start removing propaganda loudspeakers along the border with the North on Tuesday.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

The first museum dedicated to Palestinian art in the US opens its doors in Connecticut

Friday, April 27, 2018

Heavy security as Philippines closes Boracay to tourists

Yahoo – AFP, Ayee Macaraig, April 26, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the shutdown this month after calling the resort
 a "cesspool", dirtied by tourism-related businesses flushing their raw sewage
directly into the ocean (AFP Photo/NOEL CELIS)

Boracay (Philippines) (AFP) - The Philippines shuttered its most famous holiday island Boracay to tourists on Thursday for a six-month clean-up, which the government has imposed with a muscular show of its security forces.

Coast guard boats were on patrol and assault rifle-wielding police were posted at entry points to the once-pristine island that has become tainted by heavy commercialisation and overdevelopment.

Regional police head Cesar Binag told AFP the shutdown began past midnight, with tourists barred from boarding the ferry that is the main way onto the island.

"Boracay is officially closed to tourists. We are not closing establishments but tourists cannot enter. We are implementing the instruction of the president," Binag said.

About 600 policemen were deployed, with some performing life-like drills including riot officers battling bottle-hurling protesters and mock hostage taking of sunbathers -- all before startled locals.

"My nephews and nieces were afraid," Filipino tourist Tara Calcetas told AFP. "It was scary because there were people swimming yesterday (at the beach) and the police were firing guns as if there was a criminal here."

Map and factfile on the Philippines' best known holiday island 
Boracay. (AFP Photo/Laurence CHU)

The government conceded on Thursday there was no real threat, with interior ministry assistant secretary Epimaco Densing telling AFP the security presence was "just part of preparing for the worst".

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the shutdown this month after calling the resort a "cesspool", dirtied by tourism-related businesses flushing their raw sewage directly into the ocean.

During the closure, only residents with ID cards are allowed to board ferries to Boracay, which is home to around 40,000 people.

People on the so-called "party island" held a final bash on the beachfront on the eve of the closure, complete with a fireworks display and cheers of "Bye, Bye Boracay".

But on Thursday, residents had the swaying palms, turquoise waters and usually mobbed white-sand beaches mostly to themselves.

"This is what you call an island, a paradise. Boracay looks like its original beautiful self," said restaurant cook John Reymar.

The Philippines has pledged to take advantage of the calm to spruce up the 1,000-hectare (2,470-acre) chunk of bruised paradise.

There are plans to bulldoze illegal or dilapidated structures, to shore up the island's infrastructure and clean up the mess left by years of unchecked growth.

Volunteers help to clean up Boracay's Bulabog beach (AFP Photo/NOEL CELIS)

However, plans to help the up to 30,000 people who had been employed by the island's bustling tourist trade were less clear. Though Duterte has promised some $38 million in funds to help workers, they say they haven't seen a cent yet.

The workers were drawn by the relatively good wages on the island that has seen the number of visitors roughly quadruple to two million since 2006.

Those tourists, a growing number of whom are Chinese and Korean, pumped roughly $1 billion in revenue into the Philippine economy last year.

But its growth from a sleepy backpacker hideaway into a mass-tourism hub with fast food outlets on the beach has taken a toll.

Unchecked construction has eaten away at the island's natural beauty, while slimy algae-filled waves in some areas and mountains of discarded drink bottles are problems acknowledged even by critics of the shutdown.

"I'm all for rehabilitation and preserving it but clearly this is not the way to do it," Philippine politics expert Ashley Acedillo told AFP.

He called the closure an "ill-thought through, unplanned and knee-jerk action" that did not take into account the economic impact on the island's workers and business community.

Reymar, the restaurant cook, agreed: "But maybe without tourists, what is the use of having a beautiful island?"


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dance music superstar Avicii dead at 28

Yahoo – AFP, Shaun TANDON, April 21, 2018

Avicii, seen here performing in the southern Swedish city of Malmo in 2016, was
among the first DJs to break through in the mainstream as electronic dance music
grew over the past decade from nightclubs to Top 40 radio (AFP Photo/Bjorn Lindgren)

New York (AFP) - Avicii, one of the world's most successful DJs who helped usher in the global boom in electronic music but struggled to cope with the hard-partying lifestyle, died Friday in Oman, his representative said. He was 28.

Two years after his unusually early retirement from touring amid recurring health scares, the Swedish DJ was found dead in the Gulf sultanate's capital Muscat.

"It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii," his management said in a statement, without specifying the cause of death.

"The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time. No further statements will be given."

Maitrai Joshi, a DJ at the Muscat Hills Resort, said he had spotted Avicii and understood the dance superstar was on vacation in Oman for the first time and had extended his stay.

"I saw him again the next day and again he was friendly, humble and took some photos," Joshi told AFP by email.

Avicii was among the first DJs to break through in the mainstream as electronic dance music grew over the past decade from nightclubs to Top 40 radio. He created a global hit out of Coldplay's "A Sky Full of Stars," to which he added a layer of energetic electronica.

He also helped produce Madonna's last album. On Instagram, the pop icon posted a picture of herself in the DJ booth with Avicii and wrote: "So Tragic. Goodbye Dear Sweet Tim. Gone Too Soon."

His biggest individual hits included "Wake Me Up," which went to number one across Europe in 2013 and featured the soul singer Aloe Blacc.

Avicii was one of the world's most successful 
DJs (AFP Photo/Jason Merritt)

In 2015, he DJ-ed the wedding reception of Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and his bride Sofia. The couple mourned him in a statement, saying: "We had the honor to have known him and admired him both as an artist and the beautiful person that he was."

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called Avicii "one of the greatest names of music in Sweden in modern times."

Scene 'not for me'

Avicii has spoken publicly in recent years about his health problems, including pancreatitis, triggered in part by excessive drinking.

The condition forced him to cancel shows in 2014 as he had to have his gallbladder and appendix removed.

In 2016, Avicii stunned fans by retiring from touring when he was just 26.

"The scene was not for me," he told music magazine Billboard after his decision.

"It was not the shows and not the music. It was always the other stuff surrounding it that never came naturally to me. All the other parts of being an artist," he added.

"I'm more of an introverted person in general. It was always very hard for me. I took on board too much negative energy, I think."

Avicii later returned to the more quiet life of a studio artist. Last year, he put out a six-song EP that featured British pop singer Rita Ora.

'Genius and musical innovator'

The son of Anki Liden, a prominent Swedish actress, Avicii had his start uploading tracks on the internet and was discovered by Dutch superstar Tiesto, who invited him to play at his residency in the clubbing hub of Ibiza.

Avicii, seen here at the Sziget festival in Budapest in 2015, took his stage name 
from the Sanskrit word for the lowest level of hell in Buddhism, adding an 
additional "i" at the end (AFP Photo/Attila KISBENEDEK)

His breakthrough single, "Levels," adapted a sample of soul singer Etta James and earned him one of his two Grammy nominations.

He took his stage name from the Sanskrit word for the lowest level of hell in Buddhism, adding an additional "i" at the end.

In 2014, he was tied with Tiesto as the third top-grossing DJ in the world on the list of Forbes magazine, which estimated his earnings for the year at $28 million.

Pop star Charlie Puth paid tribute to Avicii as "a genius and a music innovator" and said he "really opened my eyes to what my production could one day sound like."

Deadmau5 -- an outspoken top DJ who had mocked Avicii when he quit touring so young -- offered his "sincerest and most heartfelt condolences."

"Banter aside, nobody can deny what he has accomplished and done for modern dance music and I'm very proud of him," Deadmau5 tweeted.

Fellow star DJ David Guetta, who collaborated with Avicii on "Sunshine," wrote: "We lost a friend with such a beautiful heart and the world lost an incredibly talented musician

Electronic producer Diplo on Instagram called Avicii "the gold standard" in setting musical trends.

"I know you had your demons and maybe this wasn't the right place for you sometimes, but we need to protect true artists like you at all costs because there are not enough left and we are losing too many," Diplo said.