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, December 31, 2013

Indonesia sharia stronghold bans New Year's festivities

Google – AFP, 31 December 2013

A mosque in Banda Aceh -- a Sharia stronghold that has banned New Year's
Eve celebrations -- pictured on February 25, 2013 (AFP, Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Banda Aceh — Islamic police in Indonesia's sharia stronghold seized thousands of firecrackers and cardboard trumpets after the city administration banned New Year's Eve celebrations for the first time, an official said Tuesday.

The Monday night raid on street stalls and shops selling the items followed a fatwa, or decree, by the clerical Ulema Consultative Assembly that said New Year's celebrations or wishing someone "Merry Christmas" was "haram" (forbidden) in the city of Banda Aceh.

The Banda Aceh government backed the fatwa by banning New Year's Eve celebrations in the city.

?This public-order operation ahead of New Year's Eve is to ensure residents are compliant with calls from the government and ulema," a senior Banda Aceh sharia police official Reza Kamilin told AFP.

"There should be no activity whatsoever to celebrate the turn of the year," Kamilin said.

The city ban is not technically legally binding but is being enforced by sharia police, whose role it is to "safeguard" morality.

Banda Aceh is the capital of Aceh province -- the only part of Indonesia that enforces Islamic law, or sharia -- where raids to enforce religious law are an everyday occurrence.

But this year is the first for any administration in the province to ban New Year's Eve celebrations, in a sign of growing draconianism that rights groups oppose.

Sharia police will also conduct raids on hotels and cafes, which have been warned not to celebrate the day, Kamilin said.

"We will dissolve any mass gatherings. If anyone is seen with firecrackers or trumpets, we will confiscate them," he said.

Other administrations in Aceh were reportedly also banning celebrations, saying Muslims should only celebrate the Islamic New Year.

Aceh began implementing sharia law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001. Authorities now regularly cane people caught gambling or drinking alcohol.

Indonesia is the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, but most practise a moderate form of Islam, and New Year's Eve festivities are planned all over the country.

Related Article:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Body washes up on Beckham's hideaway island in Maldives

Google – AFP, 30 December 2013

A file picture dated on November 12, 2007 shows a luxury island resort
in the Maldives (AFP, Sanka Vidanagama)

Malé — A dead body has washed up at an exclusive island resort in the Maldives where English football star David Beckham is taking a hideaway Christmas holiday with his family, police said Monday.

Investigations were underway to establish the cause of death of the man, whose body was found floating near a jetty on Sunday at the One and Only Reethi Rah resort near the capital island Male, police said.

"The body was removed to a morgue and investigations are underway," police spokesman Hassan Haneef told AFP by telephone.

Maldives police stand guard during a
 protest in Male, on October 19, 2013 
(AFP, Ishara S.Kodikara)
In a second incident, a stock of fireworks brought in for New Year's Eve exploded on the island Sunday, shattering the calm for guests who pay up to $12,700 a night for a room.

Police said the dead man, identified as a Sri Lankan national, was not a guest or an employee of the upmarket resort where Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich was also reportedly staying.

Beckham, his wife Victoria and their four children remained at the de luxe resort despite the problems on Sunday, tourism sources said.

The couple visited the Maldives a year ago and stayed at the same resort, but that holiday was dampened by incessant rain.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb told reporters last week that several international celebrities were spending their Christmas holidays in the nation of more than 1,000 coral-fringed islands scattered across the equator.

The Maldives is known for its secluded resorts with pristine beaches and privacy and is also a popular destination for well-heeled honeymooners. It attracted nearly a million foreign holidaymakers last year.

Tourism has suffered setbacks in recent years due to political unrest following the resignation of former president Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012 in what he later alleged was a coup.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

City’s Former Dancing Monkeys Now Seeking Their Own Isle of Refuge

Jakarta Globe, Nivell Rayda, December 29, 2013

The Jakarta Animal Aid Network has an island where released macaques can
live freely. (Photo courtesy of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network)

In one cage, a pack of macaques screamed loudly, standing upright to make their bodies appear larger. They were taunting and provoking a rival group locked in the cage next to them and the two sides immediately engaged in a standoff.

Occasionally, the macaques stretched out their arms, trying to swipe those in the other cage.

One macaque observed the fight closely from his own cage, big enough to fit his body, but just barely. His face betrayed fear.

“We are trying to introduce this macaque to his new group,” said Femke den Haas, the wild animal protection coordinator with the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, as she pushed the lone macaque’s cage closer to a bigger confinement hosting four macaques.

The lone macaque was shaking as the cage moved, instinctively grabbing hold of the metal bars tightly, turning its back on the pack as if trying to run away.

Femke said the lone macaque needed time to get used to seeing other primates after spending most of its life confined to small cages, dressed like a human, forced to wear suffocating plastic masks, performing tricks, begging for small change on the streets from passing motorists and pedestrians and getting beaten if it didn’t do what it was told.

The macaques Femke showed me were all formerly topeng monyet performers, seized by the Jakarta administration in a series of raids that began in October in a bid to make the Indonesian capital free of the monkey sideshows by 2014.

More than a hundred macaques have been confiscated and are now in the custody of the city administration and cared for by JAAN. But Femke said there could be as many as 200 more that were still being kept in cages by their owners.

Animal rights groups like JAAN have lauded the move by the city, noting that 10 percent of the macaques tested positive for tuberculosis and all carried parasites that could spread to humans.

“By banning topeng monyet, Jokowi [Governor Joko Widodo] shows he cares also about the health of Jakarta’s residents and cares about animal welfare at the same time,” Femke said.

Monkey island

But JAAN is at odds with what the administration plans to do with the macaques. Joko has said the city plans to move the healthy macaques to Ragunan Zoo, adding that the city has prepared a one-hectare field just for them.

“Ragunan still copes with many welfare problems for animals under its care,” Femke said, adding the zoo had a high number of deaths among its animals and poor welfare standards and facilities.

The zoo has also shut its doors to NGOs like JAAN and there is virtually no independent oversight of its operations.

“In Ragunan, orangutans still suffer in small cages. If orangutans are not cared for professionally, what about non-endangered macaques?” Femke said.

She added the best solution was to relocate the macaques to an island where they could live free in the wild, as JAAN did in 2006 for dozens of rescued former dancing macaques.

“The ones we released on the present monkey island are now totally independent. They fish and eat young leaves and fruits from the forests,” she said adding that the chances of them being poached again was remote. “We have two caretakers checking the monkeys and providing extra food when needed.”

JAAN is currently looking for a suitable island for the latest batch and believes it may have found one.

It is located in the Sunda Strait, which separates Java and Sumatra, and boasts 20 hectares of forest. Macaques are found on other islands in the strait but not on this particular one, Femke said, signaling that the macaques now in the custody of the Jakarta administration could survive all on their own there.

“The macaques can do no harm to the present fauna and flora there as the island has been thoroughly surveyed,” she said.

“It’s a perfect option for the rescued dancing macaques. All we want is for the macaques to live a happy monkey life in a safe environment where we can still observe, treat and feed them.”

People can help

The island is privately owned, but the owner is willing to sell it for a relatively low price to help the monkeys. But JAAN has a deadline of June 2014 to buy the island, and the animal rights group is now calling for public support to help raise the money needed. For $30, people can buy a square meter of the island. JAAN will send a picture of their name on the island’s information board.

“When the topeng monyet were still very much seen in Jakarta we received daily reports from people complaining about this, who felt sorry and asked us to do something about it,” Femke said.

“Now we hope the many people that have complained will also help us to care for the monkeys and help ensure they get a good future. The future they deserve.”

If JAAN fails to meet the June deadline, the animal rights group plans to lobby the city and Ragunan Zoo and use the money to construct a proper facility for the macaques.

“A beautiful outside enclosure can be developed in which the macaques can feel as if they are free. A small museum can be constructed there as well which can serve as an educational center for the public,” Femke said.

Stop fueling the trade

Femke said it was important for people to stop giving money to the macaques’ handlers as part of the topeng monyet performances.

Whether the macaques will be relocated to an island or end up in a zoo, it is important to construct the museum so that people can see pictures of the macaques while they were still dancing on the street, look at the equipment they used like wooden bikes and masks, and educate the public on why it was so bad for the macaques.

Macaques “are often seen in plantations or near human habitat and easily fall victim to poachers,” Femke said. “The mother is often killed in the process as the babies are trapped.”

The babies are brought to Jakarta and other major cities and are sold as pets or dancing monkeys.

Once in the hands of topeng monyet trainers, they undergo long training sessions and endure all sorts of torture and cruelty. “They are starved, beaten, hanged, and their teeth pulled out. Most of the monkeys we received and care for now have even had their tails broken,” Femke said.

One macaque pounded the ground repeatedly for no apparent reason, almost like a person trying to shake off a traumatizing scene inside his head.

Femke said it was important for the public to know about this, adding that people could also be inspired to pressure other cities to adopt the same policy as in Jakarta, keeping their respective streets free of the barbaric topeng monyet.

Help Save the Macaques
To find out more on how to donate or other ways to lend support, go to:
Twitter: @jaan_indonesia
Related Article:

Bali Artists Resist Change

Jakarta Globe, December 29, 2013

The Bali Not For Sale art collective is concerned about the loss of the
island’s unique culture and traditions. (JG Photos/Putri Fitria)

Day two in Denpasar, southern Bali, I had to share the remaining water in the bathtub with three friends just to wash ourselves. My best friend, Venusia Indah, whose place was where I had been staying, was not complaining so much. It was a normal thing for her. Twice a week, the water supply in their neighborhood was cut off by the authorities.

Tourists, though, have more than 45,000 rooms at upward of 700 hotels to choose from if they want a comfortable stay in Bali. The water flows all day long there, and there are swimming pools too.

The water crisis is only one of the impacts of the massive tourism industry development in the island. This is expanded to worsen as the land used for traditional rice fields are taken over for villas, hotels, restaurants and shops.

It is no wonder, then, that a group of concerned artists has been trying to raise awareness of the plight of the ordinary Balinese. “A rebel artist draw the line… A tribute to farmers, rice fields, children and memories of simple Bali,” describes the group, Bali Not For Sale, on its Facebook page.

But Bali Not For Sale is not just making a statement in the virtual world. One of its expressions of protest can be seen in the middle of a rice terrace in Ubud — an installation art work that was originally created without any serious purposes in 2010. But it has turned into a must-see icon for visitors to Ubud.

One of the creators is Gede Suanda Sayur, 33, a native of Ubud and a graduate of the School of Fine Arts at the renowned Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta. The eye-catching installation, surrounded by lush green rice plants, caused a buzz some time ago. Newspapers and magazines published pictures of it. One magazine even kicked off a quiz to find out who was behind this “crazy” work. It was an anonymous work at the beginning of its development.

“I don’t compel people [who sell their rice fields] to change their mind-set; I’m just trying [to start the change] from my own self,” Sayur says.

He is the owner of the rice field where the installation is located, and of an art space in front of it. Named Luden House, this art space is where a number of artists hang out, sharing the same concerns and creating art together.

These artists regularly hold some activities such as music concerts, art performances, lelakut (scarecrow) competitions, kite competitions, film screenings, and various art workshops for children and young people. They also designed a T-shirt, selling for Rp 100,000 ($8.10), and stickers (Rp 5,000) to raise money to help the few traditional farmers remaining in Ubud to hold on to their fields.

“To be a farmer now is very difficult. Their land is subject to class 1 tax, which is the same as the tax for villas, because they’re situated in a tourist area,” says I Wayan Gendo Suwardana, the head of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

“There’s no market guarantee [for their rice], their harvests are declining, and much of what they earn goes toward paying the tax.”

Gendo says that while the farmers have come in for criticism for selling their land to developers, a large portion of the blame should also go to the local authorities for their lax land-use policies. The concept of “selling out,” he says, should not only refer to the sale of the farmland, but also the policies that allow the “carefree issuance” of building permits and rampant violations of zoning regulations.

Made Bayak, 33, a visual artist whose works center around the negative impacts of tourism on Bali, traces the problem back to the government’s anti-communist purge of 1965-66, when anyone critical of the government was branded a communist sympathizer and either jailed or killed.

“Back then, almost 90 percent of Balinese intellectuals who were critical of government policies were wiped out. Bali then turned into a kind of toll road for foreign investment: everyone could get in, everyone was accepted by the tourism industry,” he says.

Bayak acknowledges that taking on the island’s all-powerful tourism industry is to tilt at windmills, but insists he has a duty to raise the issue through his art or risk watching Bali get exploited to the point that it has nothing left.

He vows not to stop producing works that are a slap in the face of everyone in the tourism industry. And indeed, people deserve a slap. That is, if they still have a heart for Bali.

Holland's Got Talent 2013 (Finale) - Amira

Amira receives the trophy from Holland's Got Talent.
(NOS / ANP Kippa)

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"Common Questions from Non-Lightworkers" - Feb 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) 

"... Question Three: Is there life on other planets?

... I will tell you, as long as you stay in 3D, you'll still be getting in little metal cans and air suits and going to planets. As soon as you begin the quantum age, however, you will simply wish yourself there, because you will be entangled with everything and can go with intent. If you don't believe this now, you will later, for what I give you is true. It may be lifetimes and lifetimes from now, but the group that is before me is the group that is going to come back over and over. The difference is that you're done coming back in an old energy. This is a new energy..

When you come back, dear one, everything you know will be in your DNA and be on top [available]. You're not going to have to go through what you did before. As soon as you decide to look around and open the door [metaphor for free choice to awaken], everything you've learned this time around will be right there.

This is the attribute of what you would call "a child of new consciousness," which you have labeled with a color - indigo. The child remembers who they are. They are conceptual, and you believe they have to be taught from scratch! Hardly! They remember! Do you understand what is taking place? We told you this last time, but we want to review something with you: The animal on the prairie drops its calf and within hours, the calf is up, running with the herd. Did you know that the calf instantly knows who its enemies are, what water to drink that doesn't smell right, and what berries to eat that are not poison? Where did that come from? How did that infant animal know these things? The answer is that this information was biologically inherited. You call it instinct. But when you have a Human baby - nothing! It doesn't know anything but that it's hungry. It requires 20 years of teaching! Aren't you tired of that? Did you ever think about why the animals have so much knowledge to begin with and you have so little? Does that seem correct for the top of the evolutionary ladder? It's time for that to change.

You're starting to see it, even with the indigos. They come in knowing. That's why they're so impatient. You're trying to teach them things they already know instinctively. Just like the calf on the prairie, they come in knowing. Some of them try to teach you. That doesn't always go well. That was question three...."

"The Quantum Factor" – Apr 10, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Galaxies, Universe, Intelligent design, Benevolent design, Aliens, Nikola Tesla (Quantum energy), Inter-Planetary Travel, DNA, Genes, Stem Cells, Cells, Rejuvenation, Shift of Human Consciousness, Spontaneous Remission, Religion, Dictators, Africa, China, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Development, Animals, Global Unity.. etc.) - (Text Version)

"..... DNA - A Quantum Force 

Now we get to the core truth, don't we? So I will tell you. The ninety percent of DNA which is quantum, is filled with information, both esoteric and timeless. It is a quantum blueprint for everything you are and have been since you arrived on the planet the first time. DNA contains instruction sets for your life; everything from your full Akashic Record - every single lifetime you have had - to the benevolent creator's fingerprint within the seeds of creation itself. Every single talent you ever had is there, even if you don't have any of those today... the record is there. Every predisposition of weakness and strength are there. Biologically, every single instruction to every single stem cell is there. . ..."

"..... DNA is a Dynamic Molecule, not a static one.

Humanity is stuck in the 3D portion of their biological thinking. In your 3-D life, you simply accept the chemistry you're given. You act as though the three percent gene producing part is all there is. You believe it is a chemical protocol that is unchangeable and simply "you." You don't see it for the way it's designed. It's dynamic and always has been. It's not set, but will continue to simply repeat what it does unless there is another quantum influence on it.

Therefore you live with the 3 percent as though it were all there is, and since it just "came with your body" and seems to control everything, you never talk to it. Many of you come in with pre-dispositions based upon the karma which is put upon you from your past lives. You don't come in clean [without karmic energy]. Instead, you arrive with pre-dispositions, fears and phobias. Some are positive. Perhaps you come in as a prodigy continuing your last life... the 8-year-old who can paint like a master and do brushstrokes that take 30 years to develop. What does that tell you about what must be in the DNA?

Perhaps you come in as the composer, the pianist, the prodigy, the violinist, just waiting until your hands can go on the fingerboard or can reach up and fret the notes. Perhaps you come in knowing how to play the piano, just waiting for your hands to get big enough to do what you used to do... without any lessons. How do you explain that, dear ones? The answer is that all this is contained in the dynamic quantum instruction sets of your DNA... the part you never talk to it. .."

Question: Dear Kryon, would you please tell me if Indigo Children and Star Children are the same? Can someone born in the 1960’s be an Indigo?

Answer: Dear Human, don’t get bogged within your linearity in these things. You wish to compartmentalize everything, and thereby feel more comfortable in your understanding. Know this: All children being born on the planet have strong potential to be of the Indigo consciousness. Within that group there are many parts and attributes. What you have called a “Star Child” is a type of Indigo. The same goes for the “Crystal Children.”

Years ago we identified a new breed of Human that was slowly being introduced to earth. Now they are so plentiful that many are beginning to notice and categorize them. Our admonition is NOT to, but we know that sometimes make you feel better to do so. Another name for these “Star Children” are the Interdimensional or even the Interplanetary, if you wish.

As far as the potential of those born before or during the 1960’s: The answer is yes, but with a qualification. The “pure” Indigo Children have really only been arriving slowly for the past 25 or 30 years, but there are many who have what we call an “Indigo overlay.” This is Human who fits the generalizations, but without some of the absolutes that are buried in what you call the DNA that really qualify this new Human experience.

— Kryon

"THE THREE WINDS" – Feb 23-24, 2013 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Humanity, Home - other side of the veil, Wind of Birth - Birth, Wind of Existence - Life, Wind of Transition - Death) (Text version)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

SBY Pledges to Protect Pluralism at Christmas Celebration

Jakarta Globe, Robertus Wardhy, December 28, 2013

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono
 leaving the national Christmas celebration in Jakarta on Dec. 27, 2013.
(AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday urged the public not to let religious extremism flourish in Indonesia.

“Morally and socially, every leader in the country must prevent and reject extreme and radical behavior,” he said, during the annual official Christmas celebration at the Jakarta Convention Center. “Do not depend on state actions to overcome each obstacle against tolerance and the peacefulness of life in society.”

He added that each part of society must prevent individuals, groups and movement from spreading radicalism.

The celebration was attended by Vice President Boediono, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (KWI) Ignatius Suharyo, interfaith activist Franz Magnis Suseno, cabinet ministers and around 4,000 Christians.

“Our nation must strengthen awareness and goodwill to build harmonious and peaceful living conditions,” Yudhoyono said. “We must develop all this in toddlers and continue it until school-age. Parents, teachers and religious leaders have a duty and a big responsibility. Religious leaders ought to sow the seeds of good deeds and grow them among their own people.”

Yudhoyono’s comments came in the wake of reports of religious intolerance in the archipelago, including the continued closure of the embattled GKI Yasmin congregation’s church in Bogor, which remains shuttered by the municipal government in defiance of two rulings by the Supreme Court.

“Let’s use our hearts and minds, not our emotion and violence,” Yudhoyono said. “Principally, the state will intervene if there is no other way and prevention fails to work. Law enforcement is the last option if persuasive approaches cannot succeed.”

The event was held after the actual holiday so that more guests would be able to attend.

“Since nine years ago, prior to and during Christmas celebrations across Indonesia, I have personally looked on hour by hour to ensure that Christmas security and services are going well so that such an important celebration proceed safely,” he said.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Snake kills security guard at Bali luxury hotel

Google – AFP, 27 December 2013

Police have warned tourists in Bali to be alert after the security guard died
(AFP/File, Mohd Rasfan)

Denpasar — Police on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali warned tourists to be on guard Friday after a huge python killed a security guard at a luxury beachfront hotel.

The four-metre (13-foot) snake is still on the loose after the attack early Thursday at the Bali Hyatt, which is in the popular Sanur area but currently closed for renovation.

The security guard, Ambar Arianto Mulyo, spotted the serpent and succeeded in catching it, a police official said.

Mulyo, 59, gripped its head with his right hand and its tail with his left -- but the snake proved too strong, managing to wrap itself around his neck and strangle him.

He was accompanied by friends but they were too terrified to step in and help, Gusti Ngurah Yudistira, the head of the police criminal investigations unit covering the Sanur area, told AFP.

"The victim died on the spot as his neck was crushed and he could not breath," he said.

The snake is still on the loose after a police search of the hotel and its extensive grounds failed to track down the animal, he warned.

"We urge residents and tourists to stay on the alert," Yudistira said, adding the snake may have slithered into a nearby area of thick foliage opposite the hotel.

The deadly attack came at a busy time on Bali, as foreign tourists pack out the island's palm-fringed beaches for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nine Years After Tsunami, Wounds Still Fresh in Aceh

Jakarta Globe, Nurdin Hasan, December 26, 2013

Acehnese women gaze at photos of the damage caused by the 2004 tsunami
 displayed at the Ulee Lheue mass cemetery in Banda Aceh on Dec. 26, 2013.
(JG Photo/Nurdin Hasan)

Banda Aceh. The people of Aceh on Thursday paid their respects to the more than 170,000 people who perished nine years ago today when a 9.3 magnitude earthquake caused a massive tsunami to sweep through the region, leaving a path of devastation in its wake and turning the eyes of the world upon the province.

The provincial government, flying their flags at half-mast, held the nine-year commemoration event at Ratu Safiatuddin park, where thousands of locals, government officials and students took part.

Arie Ginanjar Agustian, a well-known Indonesian motivational speaker, led prayers and gave a speech, while Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, the mayor of Aceh, also spoke, as did Aceh Deputy Governor Muzakir Manaf and Administrative Reform Minister Azwar Abubakar. Azwar was the acting governor when the disaster took place on Dec 26, 2004.

Hundreds of people also prayed at the Ulee Lheue mass cemetery, where 14,264 victims were buried.

Hera Fazra, 20, a college student at Ar-Raniry State Islamic University, said she came to the cemetery to pray for three of her relatives killed in the disaster.

“Their bodies were never found,” she said.

Her immediate family, though, was able to survive the tsunami since their house was far from the ocean.

“We ran to the mountains when the disaster struck,” she said. “Now, when there are big earthquakes, my family and I always retreat to areas far away from the sea, because we are still traumatized by the tsunami.”

Assessing the province’s present condition, Hera said she appreciated how much Aceh has improved since 2004. Life is better nowadays, she said, since the main roads are in good shape, especially the 145 kilometer road from Banda Aceh to Calang, the capital city of Aceh Jaya district, built with the support of USAID.

Nanda Suhada, 29, a contract worker with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, said that when the disaster struck, he was on his way to his college campus. He returned to his house in Peukan Bada sub-district, Aceh Besar, at 3 p.m. to find his father, brother and grandmother killed by the wave. His brother and mother managed to save themselves by fleeing to the Fle Geunteng mountains.

“The tsunami is something that I can never forget because it was so extraordinary,” he said, “I always recall the disaster. If there are big quakes, every villager runs to the mountains to save themselves because they are worried about another tsunami occurring.”

Nanda has since become a tour guide for the PLTD Apung, an electric generator ship owned by state electric company PLN that has become a monument to the tragedy in Banda Aceh. Although the ship weighed 2,600 tons, the tsunami forced it two to three kilometers inland. It now sits in the capital city, a constant reminder of the tsunami’s power, and attracts several hundred visitors per year.

Prayers were held next to the PLTD Apung, and thousands of people in white shed tears in remembrance of their love ones taken by the tsunami.

Mariana, 40, said she could not contain her emotions during the memorial.

“I remember my family who died during the tsunami,” she said, adding that she lost 14 members of her family that day.

Acehnese fishermen abstained from taking to the seas today in honor of the dead and joined the masses to pray for the province’s fallen.

“It was a historical day, because it will never be forgotten when Allah issued a warning to humans,” Tabrani, an Acehnese sea commander with Panglima Laot (a traditional organization of fishermen in Aceh) in Lhok Krueng, said. “Most of the tsunami victims were fishermen and their families. Let us perform dhikr [the recitation of God’s name] and pray for all of our loved ones.

On Dec. 26, 2004, the massive 9.3-magnitude earthquake hit the Indian Ocean just west of the northern tip of Aceh.

The epicenter of the quake was located some 160 kilometers west of Aceh. The tremor sent devastating tsunami waves across the region, reaching as far as Africa’s eastern coast.

The tsunami killed some 230,000 people in 14 countries along the rim of the Indian Ocean.

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Christmas Sentence Cut for Australian Drug Mule

Jakarta Globe – AFP, December 26, 2013

This file photo shows Australian Schapelle Corby talks to women prisoner (unseen)
 inside Kerobokan prison during a press visit, in Denpasar on March 11, 2008. (AFP Photo)

Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby has had her sentence in an Indonesian prison cut by two months as part of an annual Christmas remission program, an official said Thursday.

Ika Yusanti, the justice ministry prisons spokeswoman, said she was receiving the reduction for “good behavior.”

However the official was tight-lipped about the 36-year-old’s prospects for parole amid speculation she may be released from jail on the resort island of Bali in the near future.

The island’s corrections board in August recommended Corby for early release from the notorious Kerobokan jail but the process has been bogged down by bureaucratic wrangling.

Corby was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2005 for smuggling 4.1 kilos (nine pounds) of marijuana into Bali the previous year.

But she has received several remissions and a sentence cut of five years from the president after she filed an appeal for clemency.

If granted parole, Corby would still be bound to the island and obliged to report regularly to authorities. She would live with her sister on Bali under the terms of the parole agreement.

If she continues to receive the usual sentence reductions during her parole period, she could be free to return home to Australia by mid-2015.

Renae Lawrence — part of a group of Australian drug traffickers known as the Bali Nine jailed at Kerobokan — also had her sentence cut by two months. She was originally jailed for 20 years.

Under the Christmas program, the justice ministry granted 8,429 prisoners across the country sentence cuts.

Sentences are routinely cut in Indonesia to mark major religious celebrations and the country’s independence day on August 17.

Agence France-Presse

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Indonesian Christians stage Christmas protest at palace

Google – AFP, 25 December 2013

Indonesian congregations from two churches attend a mass prayer outside
the presidential palace in Jakarta on December 25, 2013 (AFP, Adek Berry)

Jakarta — Hundreds of Indonesian Christians held a Christmas service Wednesday in front of the presidential palace in Jakarta to protest at the closure of their churches due to pressure by Muslim hardliners.

Some 200 people from two churches near the capital sang hymns, recited prayers and lit candles by a busy road alongside three "Christmas trees" constructed out of plywood and bamboo.

The service, involving people of all ages from toddlers to the elderly, began under the scorching sun and continued for hours even after the weather changed abruptly and heavy rain fell.

Christians are coming under increasing pressure from extremists in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been criticised for failing to tackle the growing intolerance.

"We want to remind our president once again that he has not yet resolved the issue of religious intolerance in this country," Bona Sigalingging, a spokesman for one of the churches, told AFP.

The churches, in the cities of Bekasi and Bogor, were closed in 2010 by local authorities who had come under pressure from Muslim hardliners.

Authorities said it was because the buildings lacked proper building permits, although rights groups say local governments are simply bowing to extremist pressure and using the permit issue as an excuse.

As well as Christians, hardliners in Sunni-majority Indonesia have targeted Muslim minorities. Ahmadis have seen their places of worship closed and Shiites have been subjected to violent attacks.

Ninety percent of Indonesia's 250 million people identify themselves as Muslim although the constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

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Classical Musicians, Singers Cross Faith Divide for Christmas

Jakarta Globe, Lisa Siregar, December 25, 2013

Aditya Pradana Setiadi on piano. (Photo courtesy of Aditya Pradana
Setiadi and Elizabeth Dwi Purna)

Christmas is a busy time for musicians. Not only is the end of the year nearing, which often means the budget can be a little loose, but more importantly, music plays a huge part in the festive celebrations.

Beginning in the last days of November up until mid-December, people gather with colleagues and friends in a build-up to a merry Christmas before they eventually get too busy shopping and taking off for holidays with their family.

However, Christmas festivities do not always have to offer a set list of Christmas songs. In essence, it is usually about the birth and the resurrection of Christ, which could be embodied in certain themes.

Pianist Aditya Pradana Setiadi, 28, is one of those musicians that recently have been very busy performing classical concerts. Earlier this month, he was the conceiver, narrator and pianist at “La Serata Verdiana” (“The Evening of Verdi”), a commemoration of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, at the Italian Cultural Center in Menteng, Central Jakarta. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth.

Aditya, who also teaches musicology and music history at the University of Indonesia, said that Verdi’s opera music goes back to the era of Risorgimento (“Resurgence” — Italian unification) where it fueled the spirit to win back occupied areas from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and unite the Italian peninsula.

For Italians in Jakarta, Aditya said, this spirit of Italian patriotism in the Resurgence era also echoes their Christmas mood.

For classical musicians like himself, it is quite common to perform a Christian-themed repertoire. Classical works from European civilization are known to have a strong root in Christian values.

Aditya, who is a Muslim, has been familiar with this understanding and has no worries performing them.

“A lot of classical composers, like Verdi, were atheists, but they still made contributions to music that became part of the Catholic tapestry,” Aditya said. “One of his most famous works, ‘Requiem Mass,’ for example, is commonly used in Catholic funerals.”

Aditya noted that Indonesian conductors such as Avip Priatna and Aning Katamsi were Muslims who regularly participated in Christmas concerts.

Aditya said his favorite evenings were those that not only went well in terms of professionalism, but also showed a sense of interfaith tolerance.

“It was quite something to see Aning, who wears a hijab, present the ‘Messiah’ by Handel, with verses from the Bible,” he said. “I also once played piano for soprano Clarentia Prameta, who is a Catholic, in an evening to celebrate Ramadan.”

Other than classical musicians, singers also often get more jobs during Christmas, be it for spiritual or entertainment purposes.

Singer Teza Sumendra, 24, is a Muslim, but it is common for him to get more job offers for Christmas than Idul Fitri.

“A lot of people mistake me for a Christian, maybe because I don’t look like a Muslim,” Teza said with a laugh. “They usually end up asking which church I belong to.”

Teza, who was recently involved in the Wonderful Christmas concert at Aula Simfonia Jakarta in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, with conductor Avip, said he preferred to perform in a casual concert rather than singing service at churches.

“I don’t mind, but I would prefer for Christian singers to perform at churches, as it’s their time to celebrate,” he said. “I think it would make it more sacred.”

This year, apart from the Wonderful Christmas show, he will be singing during a gathering at a private residence on Christmas Day.

For casual celebrations, Teza likes to listen to jazz from the 1940s to prepare himself, such as Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. He also mixed the set list with cover songs, usually from the rhythm and blues genre.

“I usually take offers to perform at Christmas festivities because I am familiar with those songs,” he said.

“I am also a little bit obsessed about New York, so I always imagine myself singing at the Rockefeller Center.”

Like Aditya, he does not feel restricted when performing for Christmas events.

Meanwhile, for singer Elisabeth Dwi Purna, known as Lisa, who is Catholic, Christmas is a time to make sure she keeps a healthy balance between entertainment and church service.

Last year, she was involved in two musical productions, including traveling all the way to Papua to join a service at a church there. She said singers usually received a lot of offers to sing in churches in remote places.

When she still lived in Malang, East Java, the priest at her church would usually encourage the choir to sing in various cities, from Java to Kalimantan, over the holiday season.

They would receive money from the church, but it is considered “ persembahan kasih ,” or a reward, and not a fee. Lisa does not even like to refer to offers from churches as a “job,” as it would imply a very worldly meaning.

This year, she was asked to perform in churches in cities near her hometown of Malang. Lisa, who just joined a band called “The Extra Large” and thus cannot travel far too far away this year, will be performing alongside Teza on Christmas Day.

By taking offers to sing in church services, Lisa likes to test her own emotional capability.

“If I sing for a service, I have to mean it,” the 31-year-old said. “I can’t sing when I’m angry, because it will affect a lot of people, so if I wasn’t quite tuned, I would say no to the job.”

Lisa and Teza ­— both of whom were finalists for the popular reality TV competition “Indonesian Idol” in 2006 — said that a lot of offers to sing for services usually came for participants of shows like “The X Factor,” “The Voice,” “Indonesian Idol” or “Akademi Fantasi Indosiar.” For casual shows, they are usually asked to perform light and entertaining Christmas classics, such as “Silent Night” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

“It usually depends on how the organizers see Christmas. For some people it’s festive, for others, it would be serene and it depends on the influence of their own church,” she said.

Lisa acknowledged that she faced her own dilemma as a singer. As a Catholic, she personally prefers a silent night way from loud festivities. But to be able to stay a part of the industry, she feels the need to switch her mind-set when performing at a service.

Either way, Christmas is a time to give praise and thanks. Due to her busy schedule, Lisa said she hadn’t had the chance to spend Christmas at home for the last couple of years.

This forces her to explore new ways to celebrate Christmas. Last year, she ventured to a new church and absorbed the spirit of Christmas on her own.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cashing in on Christmas without Christianity

Deutsche Welle, 24 December 2013

Even predominantly Hindu and Muslim countries deck the halls and department store windows during the traditional Christian holiday. For retailers, especially, this makes the season's profits all the more merry.

Students in China parade, dressed as Santa Claus

Bratwurst sizzles as the spicy aroma of mulled wine wafts between the vendors' wooden stalls. Santa parts the crowd, dispersing candy to a swarm of children. He's come a long way from the North Pole to face the blazing Indian sun, but he couldn't pass up the German Christmas market in Delhi - even if the country is overwhelmingly Hindu.

Move over, baby Jesus. For many non-Christian countries like India and China, Christmas has become a seasonal necessity, spiking retail sales, spreading secular cheer and prompting festive store-window displays intent on luring big spenders.

But back to the Christmas market. The Indo-German Chamber of commerce has been sponsoring the event in Delhi for 16 years now. Here, religion takes a back seat.

The Christmas market in Delhi was such
 a success that Mumbai launched its own
"It is a totally commercial event meaning to promote Indo-German trade and culture in the joyful setting of a Christmas market, which is so famous in Germany," said Navina Choudhury, project director of the event where Indian and German vendors peddle their wares. "It's popular for everybody who's fun-loving and wants to buy Christmas goodies or just do shopping in a fun atmosphere."

Aside from the social aspect, Choudhury says it's a platform for businesses to garner recognition. Big German corporations like Audi, for example, help sponsor the event.

"A lot of companies get good branding and exposure in this format," she said, adding that the event tends to draw 10,000 - 12,000 visitors annually. Beyond the Christmas market, however, Choudhury said the holiday cheer extends into Delhi's public sphere. "Hotels, markets, everything gets decorated in a Christmas fashion. Nobody would do without it."

Deck the New Year's tree?

Against the soundscape of minaret calls in Istanbul, Christmas decorations dangle from the streetlamps. Department stores tout trimmed trees. But don't go calling them Christmas trees. In Turkey these pines are marketed as "New Year's Trees."

Christmas decorations dangle from street lamps on Istanbul's shopping
street Istikal Caddesi

Even if it's not exactly called Christmas, Muslim-majority Turkey also profits from the holiday spirit. Fancy hotels, retail chains and fancy restaurants deck the halls.

Pelin Cakar heads the upscale "Luca" restaurant in Istanbul's classy Bebek district. Christmas trees - or New Year's trees, rather, dot the dining room. A string of lights lines the outdoor terrace.

"For us, they aren't decorations for Christmas, but rather, for the New Year," Cakar said. "We decorate because it's a festive month, and because the decoration fits accordingly."

Despite the alluring decorations, Cakar says that cashing in on the holidays isn't her priority. "For us the financial aspect isn't our foremost focus, the social aspect is. But of course, the decoration is beautiful and inviting for the guests. We also have a lot of international guests who like it."

Santa speaks Chinese, too

Across the globe in China, pine trees are illuminated and red-suited Santas pose for portraits. "With more and more Western influence in Chinese cities, Christmas as an event, much more commercial than religious, has become common in China," said Shanghai-based media producer Jose Qian.

Although rural communities may be exempt, big cities like Shanghai and Beijing go all out.

"Christmas trees and similar decorations appear in most office buildings and shopping malls. Merry Christmas signs and Santa Claus costumes are popular in many commercial venues," Qian said, adding that classic Christmas carols can often be heard in public."

Since Christmas falls near the traditional Chinese New Year between January and February, the Christmas season gives retailers a reason to launch major sales already in December. Qian said most sales are in the clothing and dining sector.

"The sales season lasts for one and half months, during which time shopping volume goes up," Qian said. "All kinds of promotions are organized and retailers obviously benefit from this."

According to Professor Kent Deng of the London School of Economics, the Christmas boom provides a lifeline to some Chinese manufacturers.

"From the producers' point of view, a lot of small and medium companies depend on Christmas for their livelihood," Deng said. In addition to producers of trinkets, the manufacturers of gadgets or popular tech gifts also pin their success on the commercialization of holidays.

Shopping malls erect massive trees, speckled with colorful baubles. Santa enthusiasts can even get their photo taken with jolly old Saint Nick. Even if the public isn't entirely clear on who the potbellied fellow is, they know that he helps make wishes come true.

"This comes from Hollywood movies," Deng said. "Here, Santa speaks Chinese, of course. But if someone looked at the photo, you wouldn't recognize that this is a non-Christian country."

Santa poses Marilyn Monroe-style in Taiyuan, Shanxi province of China

In China, Christmas is celebrated not necessarily by giving gifts, says the economist, but rather, by splurging on a good meal. And this is where French, Italian and German restaurants profit. Deng says Western restaurants are some of the greatest financial beneficiaries of the Christmas season in China.

"The Chinese have a very strange reinterpretation of the Christmas celebration," Deng said. "You must go to a posh restaurant and have some foreign wine and some fine food. You are for that day, a European person." He laughs, adding, "You can appreciate they have such a romantic view about Christmas. You spend all your disposable income. You eat the best food of the year."

Multi-purpose merry wishes

And the interpretation of the Western holiday doesn't end there. "As a social norm, Chinese do send Christmas cards that say 'Merry Christmas,'" Deng said, estimating that about 100 million families will be sending cards this year. "This is a social formality. Often they link this to the New Year since it's only five days apart, so they'll copy the European style."

European or not. Christian or not, back in India, Navina Choudhury says religion isn't necessary to appreciate the holiday.

"I'm not a Christian, but my daughter has always had a Christmas tree. Santa brings gifts. It is a very important festival in India, even for non-Christians. We all celebrate it."

With additional reporting by Senada Sokullu in Istanbul.

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