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)


"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, April 17, 2018

Street side: Indonesia slum kids eye youth 'World Cup'

Yahoo – AFP, Bagus SARAGIH, April 16, 2018

Nine of the players from Indonesia's street children football team "Garuda Baru"
will head to Moscow to play against teams of disadvantaged children from
two dozen nations (AFP Photo/Elisabetta ZAVOLI)

Jakarta (Indonesia) (AFP) - Somad rarely ventures beyond his impoverished Jakarta neighbourhood, but the 14-year-old is now gearing for a trip to Russia next month as a player in the 2018 Street Child World Cup.

It's the journey of a lifetime for the aspiring striker and eight other Indonesian kids set to compete against teams of other disadvantaged children from two dozen nations.

The event's third edition in Moscow is a long way from Bekasi on the outskirts of Indonesia's teeming capital where Somad's father sorts through foul trash heaps to find and sell usable goods.

Along with his food-seller mother, the teen lives in a 45-metre (485 square foot) makeshift home shared with four other families.

"Not many kids can be as lucky as I am," says Somad, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"I want to make my parents and friends proud so we can have better lives and have no need to be scavengers anymore."

Somad lives with his family in a crowded neighborhood of scavenger families in
Bekasi on the outskirts of Indonesia's capital Jakarta (AFP Photo/Elisabetta ZAVOLI)

The slum is mostly populated by trash pickers who live in its hundreds of shacks. A potent smell of garbage is everywhere in the district where stray animals wander along its muddy roads.

More than 200 children are participating in the seven-a-side tournament, which kicks off ahead of this year's Russia-hosted World Cup.

Off the pitch, the kids will take part in art lessons, workshops and there is a conference focused on disadvantaged youth.

"I want to help Indonesia win the competition. But if we do win, I don't want to show off," says striker Bayu, picked for the Indonesian contingent from among more than 90 children.

"I want to share the experience with my friends when I'm back."

In 2014, the boy's team from Tanzania won the tournament while the girl's trophy was claimed by hosts Brazil.

The inaugural 2010 event, started by British charity Street Child United, was played in South Africa.

More than 200 children are participating in the seven-a-side tournament, which
kicks off ahead of this year's Russia-hosted World Cup (AFP Photo/Elisabetta ZAVOLI)

Indonesian team coach Wahyu Kurniawan said children from poor neighbourhoods have a vitality that is key to breaking into professional football.

"Kids from the street are more active and tend to have more power and spirit," he told AFP.

"My job is to convert those qualities into good football skill and sportsmanship on the field."

But the tournament is about more than just sports -- it's to give a voice to marginalised children.

"Achievement in the tournament is not our main priority, it's a bonus," said Jessica Hutting from Kampus Diakoneia Modern (KDM), a children's rights NGO that selected the Indonesian players.

"We use football as a tool to bring street-connected children together in a safe space where their voices can be heard."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Aboriginal abuse victim throttles himself in Games protest

Yahoo – AFP, Apr 13, 2018

Aboriginal protesters have led repeated protests against this year's Commonwealth
Games in Australia (AFP Photo/Ye Aung THU)

Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) - An Aboriginal man whose abuse in custody shocked Australia tried to throttle himself in the back of a police van following angry protests at the Commonwealth Games on Friday.

Police said Dylan Voller, whose mistreatment in juvenile detention triggered a national inquiry, tied part of his T-shirt around his neck and was gasping for air before he was cut free.

Voller, 21, was one of five activists who were arrested during Friday's confrontation with a heavy police presence, the latest in a series of protests during the Games.

"(Police) found that the individual had actually torn part of his T-shirt and tied it around his neck and tied a knot and appeared to be grasping for air and choking as a result of that," police assistant commissioner Brian Codd said.

Police stopped the van and used a penknife to cut through the material, Codd said. Voller received medical attention under police custody but is not in a serious condition.

"My fear is that if they hadn't of done that we could have had a very, very serious outcome," Codd said.

Voller and four others were arrested after dozens of indigenous activists attempted to disrupt a live TV broadcast on a beach at Gold Coast, the Games' host city.

They chanted "No Games, no justice!" as they were blocked by a heavy police presence who stopped them marching to the scene of the TV broadcast.

Protesters who have dubbed the event the "Stolenwealth Games" have staged a number of demonstrations including at the opening ceremony, where three people were arrested in clashes with police.

The treatment of Voller became the focus of public outrage after footage was broadcast of prison guards assaulting mostly indigenous boys in the Northern Territory, including stripping them naked and using tear gas.

Images released in 2015 showed Voller, then 17, hooded and shackled to a mechanical restraint chair and left alone for two hours.

It prompted a Royal Commission into treatment of children in detention, which last year made multiple recommendations, including the immediate closure of the Don Dale detention centre in which Voller was held.

Aboriginal culture stretches back tens of thousands of years but indigenous people are now the most disadvantaged in Australia, with higher rates of poverty, ill-health and imprisonment than any other community.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Trouble in Paradise: Tourism surge lashes Southeast Asia's beaches

Yahoo – AFP, Lillian SUWANRUMPHA with Joe FREEMAN in Bangkok and AFP bureaus,  April 11, 2018

Thailand received 35 million tourists last year, of whom nearly 10 million hailed
from China, according to official data (AFP Photo/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

Hordes of tourists clamber across the white sand with selfie sticks as Thai park rangers wade into turquoise waters to direct boats charging into the cliff-ringed cove.

Made famous by the 2000 movie "The Beach" starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Maya Bay on the western Thai island of Koh Phi Phi Ley is now a case study in the ruinous costs of runaway tourism, swamped by up to 4,000 daily visitors.

"There is too many people here, it's bad," lamented Saad Lazrak, a 61-year-old from Morocco, as crowds around him swallowed the stretch of sand encircled by an amphitheatre of limestone cliffs.

Across the region, Southeast Asia's once-pristine beaches are reeling from decades of unchecked tourism as governments scramble to confront trash-filled waters and environmental degradation without puncturing a key economic driver.

Thailand's Maya Bay will be off limits for four months from June to September, officials announced last month, in a bid to save its ravaged coral reefs.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered this month the Boracay beach resort closed to tourists for up to six months from April 26, describing the destination as a "cesspool" tainted by sewage dumped directly into the sea.

Indonesian officials, meanwhile, declared a "garbage emergency" last year swamping a six-kilometre stretch of coast along the island of Bali.

The island's grim coastal pollution was highlighted in March by British diver Rich Horner's viral video of swimming through a sea of trash swirling off shore.

"Plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!" Horner said in a Facebook post that has been viewed more than a million times.

Thailand's Maya Bay will be off limits for four months from June to September 
in a bid to save its ravaged coral reefs (AFP Photo/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

Breathing space

Conservationists and governments are worried about the health of coral reefs, which are in a dire state globally due to climate change and rising sea temperatures.

When exposed to warmer waters, they shed the algae that dazzle the eye and are vital to marine eco-systems, leaving the corals diseased or bone-white in a process called bleaching.

Environmental stress, including pollution, human contact and exposure to plastics that comes with mass tourism are also major threats to reefs that are part of the draw for snorkellers and scuba-divers.

"Tourism has a series of detrimental effects on coral health," said Eike Schoenig, a Thailand-based marine biologist at the Center for Oceanic Research and Education.

Countries in Southeast Asia are looking to stem the threats without cutting off the cash flow of a regional tourism boom, led by China, the top source market for travellers to the region.

Thailand received 35 million tourists last year, of whom nearly 10 million hailed from China, according to official data.

But what is good for business can be bad for beaches.

Songtam Suksawang, Thailand's National Park Office Director, told AFP he personally inspected the beach at Maya Bay and said it "must definitely be (temporarily) closed" in order to rehabilitate it.

He said authorities are discussing new rules once the shut-down is lifted, such as restrictions on the number of daily visitors, better regulation of boats and a higher entrance fee.

Made famous by the 2000 movie 'The Beach' starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Maya Bay
 on the western Thai island of Koh Phi Phi Ley is now a case study in the ruinous 
costs of runaway tourism (AFP Photo/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

Tourism costs

Thailand is also conducting studies on six other marine parks, while the Philippines is weighing action on other top destinations buckling under mass tourism.

But governments are wary of curtailing an industry that creates jobs and buoys economies.

Spending on travel and tourism contributed nearly $136 billion to the region's GDP in 2017, a figure forecast to rise to $144 billion this year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The cost of the closures is already being felt in the Philippines, where hundreds of Boracay hotels and tour companies are facing steep losses from cancelled rooms, flights and other bookings.

But some countries are not taking such dramatic steps.

In Indonesia, the tourism ministry said there were no plans to close Bali or any other holiday destination in the archipelago, although it acknowledged that pockets of the tropical paradise were under strain from heavy tourism.

"Shut down Bali? I don't think we will need to do that yet," said ministry spokesman Guntur Sakti. "Bali is the centre of Indonesian tourism."

In fact, Indonesia has identified 10 other destinations where it is trying to boost visitors and replicate Bali's success, including neighbouring island Lombok and Lake Toba in Sumatra.

Experts are also sceptical that short shut-downs will have lasting effects.

Fire dancers perform for tourists on the southern Thai island of Koh Phi Phi, which
is swamped by up to 4,000 daily visitors (AFP Photo/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

"Bottom line is that temporarily closing the beach is probably not the optimal solution to these problems. It only take a day for a bunch of incompetent snorkellers to trash a small reef," said Andrew Baird from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia.

In Thailand, the government hopes to draw people to lesser known beaches.

"We are working very hard to spread people out, not to go to one condensed area," said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine expert working with the parks and tourism authorities.

Travellers to Maya Bay might like the idea.

"It's very touristy. There wasn't a patch of sand that didn't have people laying down on it, taking photos," Oliver Black, a 22-year-old tourist, said of his afternoon at the destination.

As for his thoughts on the looming closure?

"It would not really upset me if I wasn't able to go to (back to) Maya beach," he told AFP.

The Indonesian holiday island has become an embarrassing poster child for the
country's trash problem (AFP Photo/SONNY TUMBELAKA)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Ride-hailing apps run Indonesian tuk-tuks off road

Yahoo - AFP, Mackenzie Smith, March 25, 2018

Ride-hailing apps like the Grab motorcyle-taxi seen here are denting the fortunes
of traditional three-wheeled bajaj taxis in Indonesia (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

Auto-rickshaw driver Zainuddin used to make decent money navigating Jakarta's congested roads and narrow alleyways.

But now US-based Uber, Google-backed Go-Jek and Singapore's Grab are locked in a race for ride-hailing app supremacy in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, denting the fortunes of traditional three-wheeled bajaj taxis that once ruled Indonesia's roads.

"Our income has fallen between 70 and 80 percent since ride-hailing apps came on the scene," said Zainuddin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

There were some 14,000 bajaj on Indonesia's roads by 2015, according to the latest official figures.

By contrast, Go-Jek alone claims 900,000 drivers and some 15 million weekly active users. It launched in 2010.

Google and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek have announced investments in Go-Jek, which has been valued at as much as $5 billion although it's little known outside Asia.

Southeast Asia's ride-hailing market more than doubled in two years to some $5 billion in 2017 and it's expected to reach $20 billion by 2025, with Indonesia set to account for some 40 percent of it, according to research done by Google and Temasek.

Go-Jek, which also reportedly won funding from Chinese internet giant Tencent, has said it is mulling an initial public offering as it looks to grow in Indonesia and beyond.

That could inflate its army of motorcycle taxis, private cars and other services -- from massage and house cleaning to grocery shopping and package deliveries -- all available at users' fingertips.

Dragging behind its regional rivals, Uber is reportedly selling parts of its Southeast Asian operations to rival Grab in exchange for a stake in the Singaporean company.

No more haggling

The ride-hailing trio offer fixed-price rides that take haggling out of the equation, a welcome change for former bajaj customer Tetty Iskandar.

"I haven't taken a bajaj in years," said the 35-year-old housewife, who used to ride the three-wheelers to go grocery shopping.

"You had to bargain with the drivers to get cheap fares. And you would already have done bargaining a lot in the market. Sometimes I felt so tired and just wanted to get home."

The vast archipelago of some 260 million people has a relatively low per-capita car ownership rate.

For some, sitting in a tuk-tuk as it teeters and rumbles over Jakarta's roads offers
a connection to an older way of life (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

And vehicle owners often choose to leave their ride at home, opting instead for a fixed-price motorcycle that can zip through Jakarta's epic traffic congestion -- at a bargain-basement prices.

That is threatening bajaj -- not to mention regular cabs and ubiquitous motorbike taxis known as ojek -- which arrived in Indonesia during the 1970s.

The motorised rickshaw quickly made inroads under its namesake company, which hailed from India.

The name bajaj is now inked into Jakarta's lexicon after supplanting traditional bicycle taxis.

A distinctive blue model of the vehicle is still a common sight and while pollution-spewing older models are outlawed, some still ply the narrow alleyways of Indonesia's sprawling capital.

Government efforts to reduce traffic snarls by reintroducing bicycle taxis could further chip away at the market share of bajaj, which cannot operate on highways and certain busy streets.

'Nostalgic feeling'

Still, bajaj backers point out that the little tuk-tuks are safer than motorcycles which have higher injury and fatality rates.

"They are still a very useful means of transport when you have to go through small alleys and roads in Jakarta," said Danang Parikesit, president of the think tank Indonesia Transportation Society.

For some, sitting in a tuk-tuk as it teeters and rumbles over Jakarta's roads offers a connection to an older way of life.

"Riding bajaj has a unique sensation, a nostalgic feeling," said faithful customer Budiyanto.

In central Jakarta, bajaj line a curb, their drivers smoking or sleeping as swarms of motorbike drivers sporting Go-Jek or Grab windbreakers zip by on their way to collect customers.

Even if they wanted to switch to ride-hailing apps, it's too late for some older drivers.

"I cannot shift to an app-based motorcycle taxi because of my age," said driver Sutardi.

"Companies require that their drivers not be over 60."

Despite the threat of technology, some insist bajaj have a future, especially among customers who don't want to get soaked on the back of a motorbike or while waiting for a hired car during the months-long rainy season.

"Customers don't like to get wet," tuk-tuk driver Zainuddin said.

"It's not good for people when the rain comes, but bajaj drivers will be happy."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Batik, Batik, Batik: Textile Dominates Plaza Indonesia Fashion Week 2018

Jakarta Globe, Sylviana Hamdani, March 20, 2018

The organizers and designers of Plaza Indonesia Fashion Week 2018 at a press
conference at the mall last Thursday (15/03). (Photo courtesy of Magnifique PR)

Jakarta. Plaza Indonesia Fashion Week or PIFW, the annual fashion shows held at premium shopping mall Plaza Indonesia in Jakarta, started on Monday (19/03).

This is the eleventh PIFW held by the mall.

"PIFW is proof of our consistent support for Indonesia's fashion industry," Zamri Mamat, Plaza Indonesia's marketing general manager, said last Thursday.

This year, PIFW showcases the collections of 22 local and international labels at The Warehouse on the fifth floor of the mall.

A series of fashion shows by well-established Indonesian labels opened PIFW on Monday.

At 5.30 pm, Bin House by Indonesian textile maker Josephine Komara showcased its Spring/Summer 2018 collection.

"This is our first fashion show at PIFW. Our collection combines traditional batiks and edgy fashion," Wita, the in-house designer of Bin House, said.

The second show on Monday was SEBASTIANred by Indonesia's high-fashion legend Sebastian Gunawan.

Seba, as the designer is affectionately known, showcased his Lebaran and Summer 2018 collection called "Reminiscence," inspired by old photos.

Black, white and sepia dominated SEBASTIANred's evening gowns on the runway.

The first day culminated with "Nuswantara," a special collection by Iwan Tirta Private Collection (ITPC).

"This is our Spring/Summer 2018 collection," Era Sukamto, creative director of ITPC, said.

"The style is young and fresh. We also showcased old batik motifs collected by the late Iwan Tirta from Cirebon, West Java, that are heavily influenced the Chinese and Japanese," she said.

On Tuesday, Indonesian quirky ready-to-wear label Danjyo Hiyoji, in collaboration with local textile factory Lucky Trend, will present its Spring/Summer 2018 collection called "Splendor Force."

"The collection is inspired by millennials, it encourages freedom of expressions," Liza Mashita, co-founder and co-designer of Danjyo Hiyoji, said.

"We'll be using a lot of prints by Lucky Trend in the collection," Dana Maulana, co-founder and co-designer of the label, said. "We want to prove that Indonesian factories can also produce good quality textiles."

On Wednesday, toy company Hasbro will launch a special collection called "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic."

The collection features a range of shoes and ready-to-wears and is a collaboration with eight prominent Indonesian designers, including Lenny Agustin, Ria Miranda and Ni Luh Djelantik.

"This is the first collaboration with local designers that Hasbro Southeast Asia Consumer Products has been involved in, and also the first of its kind globally, with so many designers interpreting the story of 'My Little Pony,'" Bambang Sutedja, Hasbro International's Southeast Asia rep, said.

On Thursday, ready-to-wear brand (X) S.M.L will showcase its Autumn/Winter 2018 collection, called "Streetstyle."

"It's the same collection we'll showcase in Tokyo Fashion Week on March 19," Jun Mardian, creative director of the label, said. "We have 48 looks ready with deconstructed silhouettes and monochromatic colors."

Another interesting collection to be shown on the same evening will be a collaboration between premium batik brand Alleira and young designer Rama Dauhan.

"This collection will be fun and playful," Rama said last Thursday. "Alleira is known for its classic, mature styles, I'm more crazy and edgy. But we've worked together to create new oversized batik motifs with youthful colors that really pop up, such as pink, orange and purple."

PIFW as always keep the most exciting shows for the final day of the festival on Friday.

"The final day's theme is 'Kain' (textile)," Ria Juwita, Plaza Indonesia's events manager, said. "We'll highlight Indonesian textiles, especially batik."

"Batik is now part of our lifestyle," Ria continued. "They are office wear, street wear and gala wear. The possibilities [of using them] are endless."

The first show on Friday will feature a another collaboration between batik house Parang Kencana and young local designer Wilsen Willim.

Wilsen is known for understated and sleek monochromatic designs. It will be interesting what he comes up with working with Parang Kencana's rich, even loud, batik motifs.

Another exciting collaboration to be shown on Friday night will be between Iwan Tirta Private Collection and young couture designer Auguste Soesastro.

"This collaboration combines Auguste's strong designs and the deep philosophy of our batik pieces," Era Sukamto said. "It's been a very explorative experience for both of us."

The fashion week will conclude with a show by Populo Batik, who will present its Autumn/Winter 2018 collection called "Purity," which takes its inspiration from the Gandaki River in Tibet.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dutch packaging industry has two years to solve plastic bottle problem

DutchNews, March 10, 2018

The Dutch government has given the packaging industry until 2021 to boost the recycling of small plastic bottles or face the introduction of a deposit system. 

‘Litter is bad for the environment and the public mood,’ junior environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven said in a briefing for MPs about the plans. ‘We’ve all seen the pictures, the roadside full of litter, the Bali beach covered in bottles, animals full of plastic in the oceans. It has to stop.’ 

The industry must ensure 90% of throwaway plastic bottles are recycled and that the number of plastic bottles in litter is cut by 70% to 90% to avoid the introduction of deposits of 10 to 15 cents on plastic bottles. 

The results of the industry’s efforts will be assessed in autumn 2020. If the target has not been met, deposits will be introduced on small bottles from January 1, 2021, the minister said. 

Almost 200 Dutch local authorities and other organisations have now signed up to a campaign aimed at bringing in deposits on cans and small plastic bottles. 

The Statiegeldalliantie was launched in November with 21 organisations, including the North Sea foundation and aims to persuade Dutch and Belgian governments to widen the use of deposits. 

In 2015, the Dutch government tore up an agreement with the packaging industry to end the current system of deposits on plastic bottles. The industry argued there would be major cost advantages if deposits were scrapped but the cost savings, in a report commissioned by the industry, were later shown to be exaggerated.

The Indonesian holiday island has become an embarrassing poster child for the
country's trash problem (AFP Photo/SONNY TUMBELAKA)

Related Article:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Women's March Jakarta 2018

Fears PNG death toll will rise after 'worst quake in century'

Yahoo – AFP, March 4, 2018

Australian air force personnel along with high commission officials and Papua New
Guinea locals unload aid from trucks onto an RAAF C-130J aircraft in Lae, bound
for earthquake-hit areas (AFP Photo/David Gibbs)

Local communities are struggling to cope with the aftermath of a major earthquake that hit Papua New Guinea's remote highlands almost a week ago, reports said Sunday, amid fears of a rising death toll.

The highlands in the Pacific nation's interior about 600 kilometres (370 miles) north-west of Port Moresby were struck by a 7.5-magnitude tremor early on February 26.

The region has also been shaken by a series of strong aftershocks in subsequent days, the latest a 6.0-magnitude tremor recorded by the United States Geological Survey that struck about 0.30am local time Monday (1430 GMT Sunday).

The government has declared a state of emergency and sent relief workers to the Southern Highlands, Western, Enga and Hela provinces, which have been hit by downed communications, landslides and sinkholes, as well as toppled homes and buildings.

"This was the biggest earthquake in a hundred years (in the highlands) and it spread 150 kilometres across the fault line," humanitarian duty officer Darian Clark of the Australian High Commission (embassy) said in a statement Saturday.

"A number of urban settlements, as well as villages, have been affected, many in the form of landslides and landslips, which means that roads have been cut off, water contaminated, power knocked out and other widespread effects for the local people."

Numerous communities have yet to be reached by aid workers and it was not known how badly they were affected, seismologist Mathew Moihoi of PNG's Geophysical Observatory told AFP Sunday.

No official death toll has been released by the government, but various PNG media reports have cited local officials on the ground who spoke of dozens of casualties.

The PNG Post-Courier newspaper has collated unconfirmed reports of more than 50 dead from the initial quake.

"The figures (for the death toll) have been coming out from areas where there is access, but there might be areas which are not accessible and it is a little bit hard to get to those areas," Moihoi said.

"There might be some casualties there, we just don't know. It's going to be a little bit difficult to get the figures at this stage."

Local news website Loop PNG cited a police officer as saying that starvation and looting were on the rise in the affected communities.

The situation was worsening on the ground every day, the website added Sunday, quoting local advocacy groups mobilising to help stricken communities.

"People are crying and they are shouting when they are calling us," Cathy Alex from the Advancing PNG Women's Network said as she pleaded for public donations.

"We can't just sit and wait for the (government-pledged disaster funding of) 450 million kina (US$140 million)."

Besides the government's aid efforts, oil and gas companies ExxonMobil and Oil Search, which operate in the area, have assisted relief and recovery efforts.

The Australian military said Saturday it had arrived in PNG and was distributing relief supplies and conducting aerial surveys of quake-hit areas.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Foreign tourist numbers to the Netherlands hit 17.6 million

DutchNews, January 22, 2018

The number of foreign tourists visiting the Netherlands reached a new record last year, soaring 11% to hit 17.6 million, the national tourism and convention board NBTC reported on Monday

Tourists spent a total of €12.9bn during their stay, the figures show. 

Most foreign visitors – 42% – came from Germany and Belgium. German tourists numbered more than five million and the NBTC said it is clear that the German economy is improving because of the increase in short breaks. 

More than 2.2 million Belgians visited the Netherlands last year while Britain was in third place with nearly 2.2 million visitors. The NBTC expects visitor number to top 18.5 million in 2018, a rise of 5% on last year. 

The popularity of the Netherlands, especially for weekend breaks, has led the NBTC to develop a new strategy to try to better spread tourists across the country. 

‘We need to invest more in accessibility, new and more varied experiences, and appropriate places to stay,’ director Jos Vranken said. ‘On Wednesday we will urge MPs to focus on the need to strengthen and speed up the implementation of the HollandCity strategy.’ 

The HollandCity strategy involves promoting the Netherlands as a single metropolis with lots of districts, such as Lake District Friesland and Design District Eindhoven.

Related Article:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Europe brings on charm and blue skies to lure Chinese tourists

Yahoo – AFP, Céline CORNU, 20 January 2018

Europe brings on charm and blue skies to lure Chinese tourists

Venice (AFP) - Chinese tourists are big spenders and with the numbers visiting Europe set to soar by nearly 70 percent over the next five years, the countries of the Old Continent are rolling out the red carpet to make the guests feel welcome.

A total 12.4 million Chinese, mostly in guided tour groups, came to Europe in 2017, according to the European Travel Comission. And the Chinese Tourism Academy (CTA) is expecting the number to reach 20.8 million by 2022.

"A few years ago, the Chinese came to Europe solely to do some shopping. Now, they're increasingly keen to get know the culture and the countryside," CTA president Dai Bin told AFP, speaking in Venice, at the launch of the year of tourism between the EU and China.

Festivals, cooking courses... "they want to have personal experiences and visit areas where they don't see any other Chinese," said ETC's executive director, Eduardo Santander.

"They like the cuisine, the music, the blue skies... most of them come from the coast, where pollution is extremely high," Santander said.

And some were surprised that they can "breathe without coughing," he added.

China is the world's biggest market for foreign tourism -- with 129 million Chinese holidaymakers travelling abroad, they account for one fifth of the total number of tourists globally.

And they spend more than twice the amount that, say, US tourists do -- $261 billion in 2016 compared with $123 billion.

Hot water and credit cards

Small gestures can go a long way towards making Chinese tourists feel more at ease in Europe, said Jacopo Sertoli, head of Welcome Chinese, a body that awards certificates to tourism companies catering for Chinese customers.

"You can make them very happy by offering them a glass of hot water," he said, noting most Chinese families drink water at that temperature rather than cold.

Chinese language television stations and good wifi in hotel rooms are a good idea while payment methods favoured by the Chinese, such as UnionPay, the only credit card issuer in China, WeChatPay or Alipay are a must.

CTA chief Dai Bin said Europe should reduce the red tape for its Chinese visitors.

"We hope Europe will make is easier for Chinese to get a visa," he said.

"In a number of eastern European countries, for example, it's easy. But it's very difficult in others. And when Chinese tourists visit Europe, they want to visit several countries, not just one," Dai Bin said.

By reciprocation, China would become "more flexible when granting visas and Europeans can stay in Beijing or Shanghai for 144 hours -- or six days -- without a visa," he promised.

According to ETC data, France is the number one desired destination in Europe for Chinese tourists, with 61 percent of visitors hoping to go there, followed by Germany with 37 percent and Italy with 28 percent.

Nevertheless, that picture has started to change in recent years, and travel to eastern Europe is booming, not least because of the easier allocation of visas and the increased availability of cheap flights. The string of terrorist attacks in France and Germany in recent years is also a factor.

In 2016, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Serbia, for example, rose by 173 percent, and numbers were up by nearly 90 percent in Montenegro.

But while "the Chinese are very alert to questions of security, they tend to forget more easily than other tourists," Santander said.

Popular for perceivedly having deep pockets -- a result of the Chinese tradition of giving presents -- Chinese visitors haven't always enjoyed a reputation for their savoir-vivre.

But that's an image which China is itself keen to remedy, with "some tourist agencies offering lessons to customers before they go to Europe," said CTA president Dai Bin.