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. …

Monday, October 21, 2019

Shunned by Chinese, Thai tourism hotspot braces for rare slump

Yahoo – AFP, Sophie DEVILLER, October 20, 2019

Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Thailand's gross domestic product and Chinese
holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals (AFP Photo/Mladen ANTONOV)

Hotels on Thailand's most popular holiday island have been forced to slash prices with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as tourist chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht.

Located on the Andaman Sea and known for its beaches and nightlife, sun-drenched Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year after Bangkok and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Thailand's gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals.

But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, numbers for January-September were down almost a fifth on-year.

Claude de Crissey, Honorary Consul of France in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the popular Patong Beach area, said Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

"That was not the case this year," he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50 percent.

The problem is not just in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and Koh Samui island.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to 
take holidays owing to uncertainty back home (AFP Photo/Mladen ANTONOV)

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen around 10 percent against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket's coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers has also scared some off.

"We are worried," an industry insider told AFP, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs.

Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

"In terms of business, it's not good," said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

"Because...we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops."

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn told AFP he remained "optimistic", adding: "We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors" this year.

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year's total of 35.6 million.

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, 
particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market (AFP Photo/
Mladen ANTONOV)

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

"We are counting on the Indians to revive the sector," Kongsak said.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25 percent on-year in the first seven months.

But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

"I've never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment," said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn't the untouched vacation paradise it once was. "Now it's not so new...and it's not cheap," he said.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Indonesia minister stabbed by IS-linked pair

Yahoo – AFP, Agnes Anya, 10 October 2019

Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto was rushed by helicopter to
Jakarta after a assassination attempt

Two members of an Islamic State group-linked terror network stabbed Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto on Thursday, the intelligence head said, sending the powerful politician to emergency surgery for his wounds.

Television images showed security officers wrestling a man and woman to the ground in Pandeglang on Java island after the attack on Wiranto, who goes by one name, as he was exiting a vehicle.

The suspects were identified as 31-year-old Syahril Alamsyah and Fitri Andriana, 21 -- a married couple, according to local media.

They were members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an extremist group responsible for deadly suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya last year, State Intelligence Agency chief Budi Gunawan told reporters in Jakarta.

JAD is among dozens of radical groups that have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) group in Indonesia, which has long struggled with Islamist militancy.

Police said Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto was one of several 
targets in a failed assasination plot earlier this year

Wiranto, 72 -- who police have said was one of several targets in an earlier failed assassination plot -- was rushed by helicopter to the capital, where he was treated for two knife wounds in his stomach.

A three-hour operation "went well", Indonesian cabinet secretary Pramono Anung told reporters at Gatot Subroto army hospital.

Anung said he had just seen Wiranto, whose "operation had finished and he entered the ICU."

"It is being handled very well by the hospital," he said in video posted by the detik.com news website.

President Joko Widodo earlier said Wiranto was "in surgery and I ask that all Indonesians pray that he gets well soon."

"And I ask for everyone's help in fighting radicalism and terrorism because we can only do it together," he added.

Three other victims -- a local police chief and two aides -- had non-life-threatening 

injuries from an attack that wounded Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto
The assassination attempt comes just over a week before Widodo kicks off a second term as leader of the Southeast Asian archipelago of some 260 million people, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

Three others -- a local police chief and two aides -- also suffered knife wounds in Thursday's attack but authorities said they had non-life-threatening injuries.

'Fought the police'

An eyewitness told an AFP reporter that the female attacker was dressed in garments that covered her body and face.

"When the car stopped, there were people circling around, protecting him," he said.

"But a man got into the circle and stabbed Wiranto. The woman also tried to stab him. He was arrested and the woman fought the police."

Last year, JAD staged a wave of suicide bombings by families -- including young children -- at churches in Surabaya, killing a dozen congregants.

Authorities routinely arrest suspected Islamic State group-loyal militants 
that they claim were planning bomb and other attacks

Many past attacks by Indonesian militants have been against police and other state symbols.

Authorities routinely arrest suspected IS-loyal militants that they claim were planning bomb and other attacks.

"JAD members are targeting what they call Ansharut Thagut (tyranny) and that includes senior government officials," said Muhammad Syauqillah, program director of the University of Indonesia's Terrorism Study Center.

Wiranto, the retired chief of the armed forces and a failed presidential candidate, was appointed to his post in 2016 and oversees several departments, including the foreign affairs and defence ministries.

He has faced controversy over alleged human rights violations and allegations of crimes against humanity linked to Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor.

In May, police said Wiranto and three other top officials were targeted in a failed assassination plot linked to deadly riots in Jakarta after Widodo's re-election victory.

A group of six people -- arrested before they could carry out the killings -- planned to murder the officials and an election pollster in a bid to plunge the country into chaos, police said at the time.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Airbnb adds getaways in tune with the animal kingdom

Yahoo – AFP, October 3, 2019

Airbnb's rise provoked severe criticism among some who say it undermines local
hotel industries and squeezes rental and real estate markets to make cities less
affordable (AFP Photo/Martin BUREAU)

New York (AFP) - Airbnb on Thursday began offering "Animal Experiences" -- promising harmony with nature, from lazing with alpacas to helping dogs struggling to survive in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The startup expanded beyond home-sharing services about three years ago into offering ways for travelers to dive into local happenings.

Airbnb has built a line-up of "experiences," in which lodging comes with conduits to local cuisine, arts, music, outdoor adventures and even socially-minded activities.

Animal Experiences promises travelers getaways that could allow them to engage with many kinds of creatures and their "human advocates" -- and ways that might help, instead of harm, nature.

"With technology taking up so much of our lives, it's easy to feel disconnected from nature and animals," Airbnb co-founder and chief executive Brian Chesky said during a presentation in New York.

"Life is better with animals, but for many busy people, looking at them through a screen is the closest they can get."

The new nature-focused category of experiences is intended to provide customers with better understanding of animals while maintaining a high standard for environmentally friendly tourism.

Experiences offered included paddle-boarding with corgis, kayaking with conservationists, buzzing about with urban beekeepers, watching arctic foxes and rescuing puppies lost in the 30-kilometer (19-mile) Chernobyl exclusion zone.

"We know people love animals and want to see and experience them when they travel, but we also know they most want to see animals in a setting that respects their well-being," said World Animal Protection executive director Alesia Soltanpanah.

An Airbnb animal welfare policy created with input from the NGO is intended to make sure the creatures are safeguarded while humans visit their worlds, Soltanpanah said.

"Ranging from afternoon tea with naughty sheep to multi-day safaris, Airbnb Animal Experiences are hosted by caring experts as an antidote to typical tourist attractions that are notorious for ethical concerns," the San Francisco-based startup said.

"You will never find an Airbnb Experience where you can kiss a dolphin or ride an elephant."

The policy bars direct contact with wild animals, or using them as props for selfies. Marine animals should not be used for entertainment in captivity, and trophy hunting is taboo, according to the policy.

Airbnb users can opt for adventures that funnel proceeds to causes such as conservation, animal rescue and veterinary care, according to the company.

Airbnb, the internet homestay company that disrupted the hotel and travel industry, plans to make its stock market debut next year but has offered few details.

Launched in 2008, the company was valued at more than $1 billion even before its initial public offering.

Airbnb offers lodging in more than six million locations in nearly 100,000 cities and 191 countries, according to the its website.

The company's rise has provoked stern criticism in some locations, where activists and municipalities say it undermines the hotel industry and squeezes supplies on rental and real estate markets, driving up costs and making cities less affordable.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Saudi Arabia to enforce 'decency' amid tourism push

Yahoo – AFP, September 28, 2019

Saudi Arabia on Friday said citizens from 49 countries are eligible for online
e-visas or visas on arrival (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Saturday said it would impose fines for violations of "public decency", including immodest clothing and public displays of affection, a day after the austere kingdom opened up to foreign tourists.

The interior ministry said it had identified 19 such "offences" but did not specify the penalties, as the ultra-conservative Islamic country begins issuing tourist visas for the first time as part of a push to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

"The new regulations require men and women to dress modestly and to refrain from public displays of affection. Women are free to choose modest clothing," a statement said.

"The regulations are meant to ensure that visitors and tourists in the kingdom are aware of the law relating to public behaviour so that they comply with it."

Saudi Arabia on Friday said citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

But the conservative country, which forbids alcohol and is notorious for sex segregation, is seen as an unlikely destination for global tourists aside from Muslim pilgrims visiting holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

Men and women must avoid "tight fitting clothing" or clothes with "profane language or images", read an instruction on an English language website launched by the tourism authority.

"Women should cover shoulders and knees in public," it added.

But tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said foreign women were not obligated to wear the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

Prince Mohammed has sought to shake off his country's ultra-conservative image -- lifting a ban on cinemas and women drivers while allowing gender-mixed concerts and sporting extravaganzas.

The relaxed social norms in a kingdom have been welcomed by many Saudis, two-thirds of whom are under 30.

But new public decency guidelines, first approved by cabinet in April, are widely perceived to be vague and have sparked public concern that they would be open to interpretation.

They have also stoked fears of a revival of morality policing.

Saudi Arabia's religious police once elicited widespread fear, chasing men and women out of malls to pray and berating anyone seen mingling with the opposite sex.

But the bearded enforcers of public morality, whose powers have been clipped in recent years, are now largely out of sight.



Thursday, September 26, 2019

Indonesia police fire tear gas at students protesting sex, graft laws

Yahoo – AFP, September 24, 2019

Protesters set fires and threw rocks at riot police in Makassar on Sulawesi
island to protest against a new criminal code law (AFP Photo/DAENG MANSUR)

Jakarta (AFP) - Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters outside Indonesia's parliament Tuesday as thousands demonstrated nationwide against a new criminal code that would, among other things, outlaw pre-marital sex and weaken the country's anti-graft agency.

Protesters covered their faces and scattered in all directions as chaos erupted in the centre of the sprawling capital, Jakarta.

Police also fired teargas at rock-throwing protesters in Makassar on Sulawesi island, while demonstrators broke down a barrier outside the governor's office in Semarang on Java island.

"(We) forcibly dispersed student because they were carrying out anarchist acts, damaging government property and throwing stones at police," said Dicky Sondani, a South Sulawesi police spokesman.

The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered 
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered across the Southeast Asian archipelago -- including in cultural capital Yogyakarta and holiday hotspot Bali -- for a second day in a row.

On Tuesday, lawmakers debated a wide-ranging legal overhaul including hundreds of new laws that would criminalise pre-marital sex, restrict sales of contraceptives, make it illegal to insult the president, and toughen the Muslim majority country's blasphemy laws.

"We want the bill which is being debated to be revised," said Jakarta university student Amel.

"The police were excessive teargassing us. We weren't being violent," he added.

A vote on the bill was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but President Joko Widodo last week called for a delay in passing the proposed changes after a public backlash.

Riot police used water cannon against protesters in Sulawesi (AFP Photo/
Andri SAPUTRA)

The mooted changes could affect millions of Indonesians, including gay and heterosexual couples who might face jail for having sex outside wedlock, or having an affair.

Widodo's call for a delay came as the Australian embassy in Jakarta issued a fresh travel advisory, warning that the legislation could put unmarried foreign tourists in the crosshairs.

Millions of tourists visit Bali and other beach destinations in the Southeast Asian nation.

Widodo this week stood firm on plans to pass a separate bill that critics fear would dilute the investigative powers of the corruption-fighting agency -- known as the KPK -- including its ability to wire-tap suspects.

The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered 
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Updating Indonesia's criminal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era, has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before momentum fizzled out.

A renewed push this year, backed by conservative Islamic groups, was met with a wave of criticism over what many saw as a draconian law that invaded the bedrooms of a nation with some 260 million people -- the fourth most populous on Earth.

An online petition calling for the bill to be scrapped garnered half a million signatures, while hundreds of thousands took to social media to vent their frustration.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Indonesian forest fires putting 10 million children at risk: UN

Yahoo – AFP, September 24, 2019

Indonesian children get a dose of oxygen from a Red Cross volunteer. UNICEF says
the forest fires are puttling nearly 10 million children at risk from the toxic air (AFP
Photo/Tri Iswanto)

Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesian forest fires are putting nearly 10 million children at risk from air pollution, the United Nations warned Tuesday, as scientists said the blazes were releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases.

The fires have been spewing toxic haze over Southeast Asia in recent weeks, closing schools and airports, with people rushing to buy face masks and seek medical treatment for respiratory ailments.

Jakarta has deployed tens of thousands of personnel and water-bombing aircraft to tackle the slash-and-burn blazes set to clear agricultural land. The fires are an annual problem but this year are the worst since 2015 due to dry weather.

Almost 10 million people under 18 -- about a quarter below five -- live in the areas worst affected by fires on Indonesia's Sumatra island and the country's part of Borneo island, the UN children's agency UNICEF said.

Small children are especially vulnerable due to undeveloped immune systems while babies born to mothers exposed to pollution during pregnancy may have low birth weights and be delivered early, they said.

Thousands of schools have been closed across Indonesia due to poor 
air quality (AFP Photo/CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)

"Poor air quality is a severe and growing challenge for Indonesia," said Debora Comini from UNICEF.

"Every year, millions of children are breathing toxic air that threatens their health and causes them to miss school -- resulting in lifelong physical and cognitive damage."

Thousands of schools have been closed across Indonesia due to poor air quality, with millions of youngsters missing classes.

Schools were forced to shut across Malaysia last week as dense smog from its neighbour clouded the skies, while Singapore was also shrouded in haze during the weekend's Formula One motor race.

Air quality had however improved in Malaysia and Singapore Tuesday, and the skies were clearer.

There have been a series of wildfire outbreaks worldwide, from the Amazon to Australia, and scientists are increasingly worried about their impact on global warming.

From the start of August to September 18, the fires emitted about 360 
megatonnes of carbon dioxide (AFP Photo/Wahyudi)

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, part of the EU's Earth observation programme, said this year's Indonesian fires were releasing almost as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as blazes in 2015, the worst for two decades.

From the start of August to September 18, the fires emitted about 360 megatonnes of the greenhouse gas, compared to 400 megatonnes over the same period four years ago, the service said.

One megatonne is equivalent to one million tonnes.

At the peak of the 2015 crisis, the fires were emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each day than all US economic activity, according to environmental watchdog the World Resources Institute.

Death toll mounts as Papua hit by bloody unrest

Yahoo – AFP, September 24, 2019

Torched shops and cars line a street in Wamena in Indonesia's Papua province
after deadly rioting (AFP Photo/Vina Rumbewas)

Wamena (Indonesia) (AFP) - More than two dozen people have died in riots in Papua, authorities said Tuesday, sparking calls for an investigation into one of the bloodiest eruptions of violence to hit the restive Indonesian territory in years.

Thousands fled to shelters following an outburst of bloodshed that saw civilians burned alive in buildings set ablaze by protesters, with at least 30 people killed and dozens injured since Monday.

Papua, on the western half of New Guinea island, has been paralysed after weeks of protests fuelled by anger over racism, as well as fresh calls for self-rule in the impoverished territory.

"This is one of the bloodiest days in the past 20 years in Papua," said Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia's executive director.

"Indonesian authorities must initiate a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation," he added.

Some 26 people died in Wamena city where hundreds demonstrated and burned down a government office and other buildings on Monday, authorities said, as images showed burnt-out buildings and charred cars overturned on rubbish-strewn streets.

"Some were burned, some were hacked to death... some were trapped in fires," local military commander Chandra Dianto told AFP.

Most victims were non-Papuans, authorities said, threatening an escalation in violence against migrants from other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago.

A soldier and three civilians also died in the provincial capital Jayapura, where security forces and stone-throwing protesters clashed Monday.

The soldier was stabbed to death and three students died from rubber bullet wounds, authorities said, without elaborating.

Some 700 people had been rounded up for questioning, with several hundred later released.

'Mostly migrants'

Some 4,000 residents, including mothers and their children and the elderly, sought shelter at military and police posts, government buildings and a local church. Most were migrants.

A destroyed police truck in Wamena, Papua province, after deadly riots in 
Indonesia (AFP Photo/Vina Rumbewas)

"There are local Papuans who helped protect migrants by hiding them in their homes, but when word got out their houses were also targeted," said Yudi, an Indonesian businessman living in Wamena, whose wife left Tuesday for security reasons.

"Wamena is destroyed," he added.

The majority of Papuans are Christian and ethnic Melanesian with few cultural ties to the rest of Muslim-majority Indonesia. Most previous clashes have been between separatists and security forces.

One analyst threw cold water on the idea that migrants may have been targeted in the fires.

"I doubt... that this was intentional, or at least planned," Damien Kingsbury, a professor of international politics at Australia's Deakin University.

Wamena resident Naftali Pawika said renewed violence was driving a wedge between neighbours.

"This conflict is splitting migrants and indigenous Papuans apart," said the 37-year-old Papuan.

Monday's protests in Wamena -- mostly involving high-schoolers -- were reportedly sparked by racist comments made by a teacher, but police have disputed that account as a hoax.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua described Monday's violence as a "massacre" and said that 17 Papuan high school students had been gunned down by Indonesian security forces.

Neither the military nor the separatist movement's claims could be independently verified.

Conflicting accounts are common in Papua and the government appears to have renewed a region-wide Internet service shutdown.

Jakarta has said the riots were meant to draw attention to Papuan independence at this week's UN General Assembly.

A low-level separatist insurgency has simmered for decades in the former Dutch colony after Jakarta took over the mineral-rich region in the 1960s. A US-sponsored vote to stay within the archipelago was widely viewed as rigged.

Weeks of protests broke out across Papua and in other parts of Indonesia after the mid-August arrest and tear-gassing of dozens of Papuan students, who were also racially abused, in the country's second-biggest city, Surabaya.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Travel giant Thomas Cook fails to find private funds to avert collapse: source

Yahoo – AFP, 21 September 2019

In urgent need of more cash

Iconic British travel firm Thomas Cook has failed to find further private investment to stave off collapse and is now relying on an unlikely government bailout, a source close the matter told AFP on Saturday.

The operator said Friday that it needed £200 million ($250 million, 227 million euros) -- in addition to the £900-million rescue deal secured last month -- or else face administration, which could potentially trigger Britain's largest repatriation since World War II.

A source close to the negotiations told AFP the company had failed to find the £200 million from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.

But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported on Saturday, leaving it on the brink of collapse and stranding up to 150,000 British holidaymakers abroad.

"We will know by tomorrow if agreement is reached," the source told AFP.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents workers at the company, called on the government to rescue the firm.

"It is incumbent upon the government to act if required and save this iconic cornerstone of the British high street and the thousands of jobs that go with it," said TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes.

"The company must be rescued no matter what."

Two years ago, the collapse of Monarch Airlines prompted the British government to take emergency action to return 110,000 stranded passengers, costing taxpayers some £60 million on hiring planes.

The government at the time described it as Britain's "biggest-ever peacetime repatriation".

Thousands of workers could also lose their jobs, with the 178-year-old company employing about 22,000 staff worldwide, including 9,000 in Britain.

Chinese peer Fosun, which was already the biggest shareholder in Thomas Cook, agreed last month to inject £450 million into the business.

In return, the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate acquired a 75-percent stake in Thomas Cook's tour operating division and 25-percent of its airline unit.

Creditors and banks agreed to inject another £450 million under the recapitalisation plan announced in August, converting their debt in exchange for a 75-percent stake in the airline and 25 percent of the tour operating unit.

Thomas Cook in May revealed that first-half losses widened on a major write-down, caused in part by Brexit uncertainty that delayed summer holiday bookings. The group, which has around 600 stores across the UK, has also come under pressure from fierce online competition.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Indonesia arrests nearly 200 over raging forest fires

Yahoo – AFP, September 16, 2019

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have
unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Indonesia has arrested nearly 200 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, police said Monday, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.

Jakarta has deployed thousands of personnel to battle blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schools have been shut over health fears.

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours.

On Monday, authorities said they had arrested some 185 people suspected of being involved in activities that led to out-of-control fires sweeping the country.

"Indonesian Police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence," National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta.

Indonesia's peat fires: a smouldering problem (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)

"This is a last resort. The most important thing is prevention."

Four corporations were also being investigated, he added.

Last week, Indonesia sealed off dozens of plantations where smog-belching fires were blazing, and warned that owners -- including Malaysia and Singapore-based firms -- could face criminal charges if there was evidence of illegal burning.

Some of the most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into agricultural plantations.

Thick haze in Borneo -- where air quality levels have plummeted to "dangerous" levels in some areas -- caused the cancellation of about a dozen flights Sunday, national airline Garuda said.

Rival Lion Air said about 160 Borneo flights had been affected at the weekend.

Meanwhile, nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections linked to the haze in recent months, according to Indonesian health authorities.

Nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections 
linked to the haze in recent months (AFP Photo/Str)

While forest fires are an annual problem, the situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia, with diplomatic tensions soaring as toxic smog drifts over to neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.

The haze pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years at the weekend.

In 2015, Indonesia suffered its worst forest fires for almost two decades, which dramatically increased its greenhouse gas emissions.

Huge fires tearing through the Amazon are also compounding concerns about the long-term impact of such blazes on keeping global temperature levels stable.

Related Articles:

Singapore air 'unhealthy' ahead of F1 race