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. …

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Asian Muslims Start Ramadan, but World Cup Fever Undiminished

Jakarta Globe – AFP,  Jun 29, 2014

Muslims attend an evening mass prayer session called ‘tarawih’ to mark the
 holy fasting month of Ramadan in the Al Akbar Mosque in Surabaya, East Java
on June 28, 2014. (Reuters Photo/Sigit Pamungkas)

Jakarta. Muslims in much of Asia began celebrating the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday but in Indonesia even threats by hardliners to raid “sinful” bars could not stop football fans heading to nightspots to watch the World Cup.

Across the Muslim world, the faithful fast from dawn to dusk and strive to be more pious during the holy month, which ends with the Idul Fitri holiday.

Ramadan got under way in Asian countries including Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population at around 225 million people, war-torn Afghanistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Hardliners in Indonesia have pledged to raid bars that continue to sell alcohol, which Muslims are banned from drinking under Islamic law, or stay open too late. Authorities order bars and other nightspots to close earlier during the holy month.

Radical group the Islamic Defenders’ Front would “monitor any sinful activities in entertainment places, cafes and bars during Ramadan”, said Salim Alatas, the group’s chief in the capital Jakarta.

“If law enforcement officials do nothing about immoral activities, we will do anything we can to stop them, using our own methods.”

But the threats did little to deter people in the football-crazy nation, where most practice a moderate form of Islam, from heading out to catch the latest World Cup action.

Bars that remained open in the Jakarta were packed with locals and expatriates late Saturday and early Sunday.

“For me, the fasting does not really affect my enthusiasm to watch the World Cup,” said Intania Permata, a 22-year-old student, who was watching the Brazil versus Chile nail-biter at a South American bar and restaurant.

Endika Setiadi Putra, 27, said that with the World Cup now in the knockout stages, the excitement would keep drawing people to watch the matches in bars even during Islam’s holiest month.

“If it is the weekends, most people will go out [to watch the matches],” Putra told AFP.

Diet dilemma for footballers

The holy season also presents a dilemma for Muslim players in the World Cup, as choosing to fast will affect the strict diets they usually have to follow.

The problem is most pressing for the team from Muslim-majority Algeria, who face a tough match against Germany on Monday.

For many other Indonesians, the start of Ramadan was a time to be with their families or take part in special prayers, with thousands heading to Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque, the biggest in Southeast Asia, on Saturday evening.

Politics was in focus in war-torn Afghanistan, with conversation at “iftar” meals after sunset expected to focus on the disputed vote count from the country’s presidential election.

Results are due out during the holy month, but Abdullah Abdullah has cried foul in the race against Ashraf Ghani, alleging massive fraud. The inauguration of the new president is scheduled for August 2, shortly after Ramadan finishes.

Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who account for about 10 percent of the country’s 20 million population of mainly Buddhists, are set to observe a low-key Ramadan after a spate of recent religious attacks.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, which groups nearly 50 Muslim organizations, said authorities had promised tighter security but many were still afraid of Buddhist extremist attacks after four people were killed in religious riots this month.

In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, the country’s Muslim minority was observing its first Ramadan since the signing of a peace deal between the government and the largest Islamic rebel group after decades of conflict.

Von Al-Haq, military spokesman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the former rebels would seek to use the holy month to try to persuade breakaway groups still fighting the government to lay down their arms.

Ramadan begins when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. The holy month was also starting across the Middle East, as bloody conflicts rage in Iraq and Syria.

Agence France-Presse

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hla'alua, Kanakanavu indigenous groups recognized in Taiwan

Want China Times, CNA and Staff Reporter 2014-06-27

Jiang Yi-huah, back center, with members of the newly recognized Hla'alua
and Kanakanavu tribes, June 26. (Photo/CNA)

Taiwan's Cabinet on Thursday approved the official recognition of the Hla'alua and Kanakanavu as Taiwan's 15th and 16th indigenous people groups, Premier Jiang Yi-huah announced in Taipei.

During a ceremony featuring performances from the two tribes from the southern city of Kaohsiung, Jiang extended his congratulations for their recognition as distinct groups.

The Hla'alua and Kanakanavu were previously grouped with the larger Tsou tribe native to southern and central Taiwan but have their own languages, social organization, religious practices and customs.

The two groups, which have about 400 and 550 members, respectively, filed an application to be recognized by the Council of Indigenous Peoples in 2012.

The Cabinet approved the proposals earlier Thursday, citing the spirit of cultural diversity and the principle of respecting each indigenous group's will to independent identification, Jiang said.

The premier noted that other indigenous groups are seeking similar recognition, pledging that the Executive Yuan will evaluate their applications based on the same principles.

Taiwan's indigenous tribes have lived on the island since as long as 15,000 years before Han settlers from China arrived in the 17th century.

The 14 other indigenous groups currently recognized by the central government are the Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiat, Sakizaya, Seediq, Thao, Truku, Tsou and Yami.

Related Article:

Zhang Zhijun, chief of Chinese mainland's  Taiwan affairs, talks with
people from Atayal tribe in Taiwan (China Xinhua News)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Progress with be made at cross-strait leaders meeting: experts

Want China Times, Lan Hsiao-wei and Staff Reporter 2014-06-26

Zhang Zhijun, left, shakes hands with Wang Yu-chi after arriving
in Taiwan on a four-day tour, June 26. (Photo/Yao Chih-ping)

The upcoming meeting between Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chief Wang Yu-chi and China's Taiwan Affairs Office head Zhang Zhijun is poised to enhance both countries' mutual trust, and is an opportunity for the two sides to recognize each other's sovereignty, reports our Chinese-language sister paper China Times.

Zhang, China's top cross-strait negotiator, arrived in Taiwan on June 25, and will meet with his Taiwanese counterpart Wang during his unprecedented four-day trip, as well as New Taipei city mayor Eric Chu, a member of the ruling KMT, and Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Zhang Nienchi, an academic of Shanghai Institute for East Asian Studies, said that Wang and Zhang will establish an even better basis to solve political problems between the two sides. They will also pay more attention to the use of the "Republic of China (ROC)" to refer to Taiwan, Zhang said. He added that the TAO head is the first Chinese politican to ever urge Beijing to give importance to the appellation of "Republic of China."

"Most people who fuss about the status of 'a citizen of the Republic of China' hope to have some respect before China annexes Taiwan; and that if China does not recognize the ROC, it would be like a decapitated human body, because the remains without the head would be useless. The people with such ideas might not be supporting Taiwan's independence," said Zhang Nienchi.

Zhang said he believes that issues related with the ROC's legitimacy will be harder to avoid in the future, and the upcoming meeting between the two top negotiators will force China to face the reality on Taiwan's status.

Meanwhile, Yang Lixian, a deputy secretary-general of the Beijing-based National Society of Taiwan Studies, said that Taiwan's political status is not something that either the Communist Party of China, the KMT or the DPP can clearly define; this is also what causes the lack of mutual trust across the Taiwan Strait. Without such mutual trust, it would be impossible to have any kind of military mutual trust or a peace treaty.

Yang said Beijing feels uncomfortable with the "equal political entity" concept that the KMT government proposed in 1991 because it failed to depict China the way it was pictured in the international world.

Yang said it is normal and obvious that Taiwanese people decide on their own fate, but the differences in both countries' ideology, political system and power are too big as to make Taiwanese people fear about China. "The fairest way would be to decide that neither Taipei nor Beijing should have the right to change the situation in each other's respective country," said Yang.

Zhang Zhijun, chief of Chinese mainland's  Taiwan affairs, talks with
people from Atayal tribe in Taiwan (China Xinhua News)

Related Articles:

Pope has most clout on Twitter: study

Cent News - AFP, Jonatham Fower, 2014-06-25

Photo Credit: Alain Jocard/AFP

Switzerland - Pope Francis has by far the most clout of any world leader on Twitter because he is so widely retweeted, a study of political use of the social network showed on Wednesday.

With 14 million followers for the nine different language versions of his @Pontifex account, the cyber-savvy pontiff boasts just a third of those notched up by US President Barack Obama.

But that it not the key measure, said Matthias Luefkens, who steers the annual Twiplomacy survey.

"It's not the number of followers which is really important, but the reach, the engagement," he said.

The real benchmark is tweets retweeted by followers to their own network.

Pope Francis wins hands down, with his Spanish-language tweets retweeted more than 10,000 times on average, and his English-language tweets, over 6,400 times.

Obama's 2012 election victory tweet -- a photograph of him embracing First Lady Michelle Obama and the words "Four more years" -- was retweeted a massive 806,066 times.

But on average, @BarackObama gets 1,400 retweets.

Obama's use of social media is credited as a key factor in his landmark 2008 election.

The @BarackObama account, created in 2007, has 43.7 million followers, but is not a US presidential feed and is run by his political campaign staff.

The official @WhiteHouse account has over 4.9 million followers, putting it fifth in the global pecking order, just behind the account of India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has five million.

@White House was narrowly overtaken on Wednesday by @narendramodi.

"Modi's seen a stratospheric rise," said Luefkens.

Modi, the 63-year-old son of a low-caste tea seller, distances himself from the Delhi elite.

But he is notably tech-aware and has won plaudits from Twitter-watchers for his strategic deployment of it.

Indian officialdom's social media use is a hot topic, as Modi seeks to promote Hindi as the government's official language online, sparking stiff opposition.

While he speaks mostly in Hindi, used by some 40 percent of Indians, Modi's tweets are always in English, preferred for business in a nation with 22 official languages.

Modi, elected in May in a landslide vote, scored 24,000 retweets for his own "India has won!" victory message.

Otherwise, he averages 557.

Huge impact

Luefkens is a social media expert at communications firm Burson-Marsteller, which produces the Twiplomacy study.

He said that while television remains the key channel to hit the widest audience, Twitter is an increasingly-powerful tool.

"It helps you to broadcast, and if you broadcast to the right audience, that has huge impact," he said.

The social network enables politicians to create a sense of intimacy and even to interact with one another in public -- sometimes in an undiplomatic manner, seen in a Ukraine-themed tweet fight between the Russian foreign ministry and leaders from Estonia and Sweden.

Twitter is also a tool for leaders to follow one another mutually -- a statement in itself.

France's foreign minister follows 91 peers and world leaders who return the favour via his @LaurentFabius account, putting him at the top of the Twiplomacy table.

Next was the EU's foreign service account @eu_eeas, with 71 mutual connections, and the Swedish foreign minister, with 68 via his @CarlBildt account.

The @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama only follow three peers: the prime ministers of Russia and Norway, and the British government.

Despite taking to Twitter with gusto, politicians are light years behind celebrities.

Top-ranked stars' accounts include @justinbieber with 52.5 million followers, beaten by @katyperry, who has 54 million.


Pope Francis poses with young people in the Church of Saint Augustine in Rome
on August 28, 2013 (Osservatore Romano/AFP/File, Francesco Sforza)

Related Articles:

‘The internet is a gift from God’ - Pope Francis

Philippine priests swap sermons for 'selfies'

The Internet  - The first Worldwide Tool of Unification ("The End of History")

" ... Now I give you something that few think about: What do you think the Internet is all about, historically? Citizens of all the countries on Earth can talk to one another without electronic borders. The young people of those nations can all see each other, talk to each other, and express opinions. No matter what the country does to suppress it, they're doing it anyway. They are putting together a network of consciousness, of oneness, a multicultural consciousness. It's here to stay. It's part of the new energy. The young people know it and are leading the way.... "

" ... I gave you a prophecy more than 10 years ago. I told you there would come a day when everyone could talk to everyone and, therefore, there could be no conspiracy. For conspiracy depends on separation and secrecy - something hiding in the dark that only a few know about. Seen the news lately? What is happening? Could it be that there is a new paradigm happening that seems to go against history?... " Read More …. "The End of History"- Nov 20,2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"–  Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: (Old) SoulsMidpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth,  4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical)  8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) (Text version)

“…  1 - Spirituality (Religions)

Number one: Spirituality. The systems of spiritual design on your planet are starting to change. This is not telling you that certain ones are going to go away. They're simply going to change. Some of the largest spiritual systems, which you would call organized religion on the planet, are shifting. They're going to shift away from that which is authority on the outside to authority on the inside. It will eventually be a different way of worship, slowly changing the rules while keeping the basic doctrine the same.

The doctrine of the Christ has always been to find the God inside. The teachings were clear. The examples of the miracles were given as an example of what humans could do, not to set a man up for worship as a God. So when that has been absorbed, the teaching of the Christ can remain the teaching of the Christ. It simply changes the interpretation.

The teachings of the great prophets of the Middle East (all related to each other) are about unity and love. So once the holy words are redefined with new wisdom, the Human changes, not the words of the prophets. In fact, the prophets become even more divinely inspired and their wisdom becomes even more profound.

You're going to lose a pope soon. I have no clock. Soon to us can mean anything to you. The one who replaces him may surprise you, for his particular organization will be in survival mode at that point in time. That is to say that fewer and fewer are interested in starting the priesthood. Fewer and fewer young people are interested in the organization, and the new pope must make changes to keep his church alive. That means that his organization will remain, but with a more modern look at what truly is before all of you in a new energy. It is not the fall of the church. It is instead the recalibration of the divinity inside that would match the worship that goes on. It's a win-win situation. The new pope will have a difficult time, since the old guard will still be there. There could even be an assassination attempt, such is the way the old energy dies hard. That is number one. Watch for it. It's a change in the way spiritual systems work. It's a realignment of spiritual systems that resound to a stronger truth that is Human driven, rather than prophet driven. …”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jane Goodall, an Eco Legend, Preaches Love for All in Bali

Jakarta Globe, Nadia Bintoro,  June 24, 2014

Renowned conservationist Jane Goodall was the star of a recent conference
in Bali on sustainability. (Photo Courtesy of Green School)

It was the day that many conservationists and environmentalists in Bali had been awaiting for quite some time, the inaugural “Sustainability and Conservation Conference,” set in Bali’s  famous Green School, amid the lush forests of Banjar Saren near Ubud.

The conference was special in many ways, yet the most intriguing aspect for many was that it featured Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned ethologist, environmental leader and UN messenger of peace.

The one-day conference aimed to ignite discussions and initiatives to ensure the sustainability of Bali’s nature and culture. The conference was packed with talks and discussion panels featuring some of the key players in Indonesia’s conservation efforts.

In attendance from early morning to late afternoon, the conference attendees were happily roaming around, moving between the distinct traditional bamboo architecture at the Green School, attending the various talks, panel discussions and activities that appealed most to their interests.

The event was divided into three venues: the main field, the Mepantigan building, and the Turtle room.

Among the speakers in the main field were Steve Lansing, a specialist on subak, the Balinese traditional irrigation system, who presented a talk on the topic “Survival of Subak”; Ian Singleton from the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program; as well as David Metcalf, who shed some light on the Dayak tribes of Kalimantan and the challenges they face from the loss of their forests to mining and plantation concessions.

There were also presentations and discussions from nongovernmental organizations and conservation groups, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Coral Triangle Center, Conservation International, Eco Bali, Kopernik, Threads of Life and more, each sharing their expertise and concerns on conservation issues and challenges.

The Turtle room was reserved for “lighter” presentations in the form of movie screenings. Inside the eye-catching bamboo structure, characteristic of the Green School, and amid a cool breeze flowing in beneath the thatched roof, dozens of conservation enthusiasts crowded around to watch movies including “Let Elephants be Elephants” and “Rise of the Eco-Warriors.”

Following the latter, there was a panel discussion featuring two of the “eco-warriors” from the movie, Kodi Twiner and Paul Daley. The talked about their experiences, concerns and insights from filming the movie.

But the highlight of the day was without a doubt the talk by Goodall. A world-leading primatologist, Goodall — who has been passionate about animals since her childhood — began her extensive research on the behavior of chimpanzees in the 1960s in Tanzania. Her unorthodox research methods were initially controversial; for instance, the mere fact that she gave the chimpanzees names instead of numbers, as was common practice among researchers to avoid emotional attachment, raised many eyebrows.

However, Goodall’s research eventually became the foundation for future primate research in the world, and thanks to her findings the scientific community at the time was challenged in some their long-standing beliefs where the animals were concerned, especially with regard to their social behavior and diet.

Goodall has received numerous awards and honors throughout her career and has been twice appointed a UN messenger of peace, in 2002 and 2007. Her Jane Goodall Institute currently operates 19 offices around the world.

Jane Goodall conversing with children participating in the conference.
(Photo courtesy of Green School)

Rights of animals

As the sun slowly set over Bali, dozens of attendees sat cross-legged in the main tent, listening attentively to Goodall’s soft voice, enchanted by her heartfelt talk “Where the Hope Lies.”

Here, Goodall shared her personal stories of how she became a world-renowned primatologist, on the tremendous supports from her mother — who accompanied her daughter to Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park in 1960 out of concern for her safety — and on her belief and conviction on non-human rights. She stands firm that animals possess emotions and personalities just like humans do, and that they therefore deserve ethical treatment as well.

“In what terms should we think of these beings, non-human yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics, how should we treat them?” she asked. “Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so too should we recognize the rights of the great apes and other animals.”

Goodall also emphasized the importance of planting environmental awareness in young minds through specific programs such as Roots & Shoots, which she first founded back in Tanzania.

Roots & Shoots aims to bring together youths of all ages, from preschool to university, to work on environmental, conservation and humanitarian issues. The program now has chapters in more than 132 countries, involving 100,000 youth.

A day prior to the conference, the first Plastik Tidak Fantastik Festival (Plastic Isn’t  Fantastic Festival) was held by the student-led initiative Bye Bye Plastic Bag.

Hosting Goodall herself during the festival were Isabel and Melati Wijsen, the founders of the BBPB campaign. The sisters, aged just 11 and 12, who are also students at the Green School, accompanied Goodall throughout the day that was filled with various entertaining and socially responsible workshops; a fund-raising fun-run; a trash fashion show; and live musical performances, all prepared and presented by the students.

“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right,” Goodall told the attentive Bali kids from BBPB.

She appealed for the students to be the messengers for a brighter and more environmentally conscious future by being aware and taking the initiative to create more harmonious relationships between the environment and mankind.

The event was closed with a book signing by Goodall.

“Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all, show respect and love for the living things around us, especially each other,” she said.

Such inspiring words echoed in the tranquil grounds of the Green School as the sun slowly cast its last shadow.

As they found a way into the hearts of the audience, many participants, both young and adult, seemed to feel motivated to create a greener and more sustainable future for Bali and beyond.

Related Article:

Sudan death row's Meriam Ibrahim released after international outcry

Campaign triggered after woman imprisoned for marrying a Christian was sentenced to 100 lashes and hanging for apostasy

The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood, Monday 23 June 2014

Meriam Ibrahim, 27, with Martin, her 18-month-old son, holds her newborn
baby girl she gave birth to in a Sudan jail. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

A Christian woman on death row in a Sudanese prison has been released on the orders of a court in Khartoum following an international outcry over her sentence and treatment.

Meriam Ibrahim, 27, had been sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to be hanged for apostasy after refusing to renounce her faith. Her case triggered an international campaign, drawing in political and religious leaders, celebrities and human rights organisations.

Demands for her release accelerated after Ibrahim gave birth while shackled to the floor of her prison cell at Omdurman women's prison. Her newborn daughter, Maya, and her toddler son, Martin, were incarcerated with her.

"I'm so happy," Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, a US citizen, told the Guardian by phone from Khartoum on Monday. He said his wife and their two children were in relatively good condition, and he hoped that the family would soon be able to start a new life in the US. Elshareef Mohammed, Ibrahim's lawyer, said that she was "fine and very happy" but had been taken to a safe house amid fears that the family could be at risk of attack.

The case against Ibrahim was triggered by allegations made by men claiming to be relatives, although Ibrahim denied knowing them.

The news of her release was broken by the Sudanese state news agency, Suna, which said: "The appeal court ordered the release of [Ibrahim] and the cancellation of the [earlier] court ruling." Judges had been hearing an appeal against Ibrahim's convictions for the past two weeks. Her lawyers argued that the case was based on weak and inconsistent claims and contravened Sudan's interim constitution.

Jehanne Henry, of Human Rights Watch, said: "Obviously this is good news and it shows that the appeals court sought to uphold rights. This is the outcome we were hoping for because there was a clear legal basis for releasing her." Ibrahim's conviction and sentences were "such a blatant disregard of fundamental human rights that it provoked quite an outcry", she said. "It's quite possible that international pressure had an influence."

Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy after the court insisted she was a Muslim because her father was a Muslim, even though Ibrahim said she had been brought up as a Christian after her father abandoned the family when she was six. Following her conviction last month, she was given three days to renounce her faith or face a death sentence.

Then eight months pregnant, she was told that her death sentence would be deferred for two years to allow her to nurse her unborn baby.

The leaders of Britain's three political parties backed a campaign to get Ibrahim released. David Cameron said he was "absolutely appalled" by her sentence. "The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today's world. Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right," the prime minister said. The US state department said it was "deeply disturbed" by the case and called on Khartoum to respect the right to freedom of religion.

Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Jesse Jackson and Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, were among high-profile international figures calling for the sentence to be dropped.

A demand by Amnesty International for Ibrahim's release won the support of more than 1 million people worldwide. Thousands rallied to a Twitter campaign, #SaveMeriam. The actor Mia Farrow urged her followers to "bombard" the Sudanese embassies in London and Washington with demands for Ibrahim's release, supplying the relevant phone numbers.

Sarah Jackson of Amnesty said yesterday: "Today's ruling is a small step to redressing the injustice done to Meriam. However, she should never have been prosecuted. Meriam was sentenced to death when eight months pregnant for something which should not be a crime. Furthermore, her abhorrent treatment, including being shackled, violated international human rights law against ill-treatment."

Amnesty urged the Sudanese authorities to repeal provisions that criminalise acts of apostasy and adultery, and to establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty.

The US government is now likely to come under pressure to allow Ibrahim to settle in the US by granting asylum or citizenship on the basis of her marriage. Ibrahim and Wani were married in a Khartoum church in December 2011. Under Sudanese law, it is forbidden for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man. However, Ibrahim claimed in court that she had been brought up as a Christian by her mother after her Muslim father left the family. She had attended church regularly. Wani – who is originally from South Sudan – said that she was more committed to her faith than he was.

A statement signed by Father Mussa Timothy Kacho, episcopal vicar for Khartoum, said Ibrahim had "never been a Muslim in her life". The couple had business interests in Khartoum including a hair salon, a mini-mart and agricultural land.

In 2013, a man who claimed to be Ibrahim's brother alerted the Sudanese authorities to what he believed was an unlawful union.

In May, the court declared the marriage invalid, and Ibrahim guilty of adultery. She was sentenced to a public whipping, and to be hanged for apostasy. Ibrahim was held in what human rights organisations described as atrocious conditions with limited access to medical care and legal representation. Wani was permitted only brief visits to his family. He said his wife and children were being held in inhumane conditions. Hopes for Ibrahim's release were raised three weeks ago when a Sudanese foreign ministry official said she would be freed imminently. The Sudanese government swiftly issued a statement saying Ibrahim could only be freed on a court order, not as a political decision.


August 2013 Ibrahim is arrested

15 May 2014 Ibrahim appears in court charged with apostasy and adultery and is sentenced 100 lashes then to death by hanging

22 May Ibrahim's legal team files an appeal, saying the verdict contradicts the country's 2005 constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion as well as international rights agreements to which Sudan is a signatory

27 May Ibrahim gives birth to a daughter at the women's prison in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman

10 June The EU is among those to press Sudan to free Ibrahim

Monday, June 23, 2014

Top Malaysian Court Dismisses Divisive ‘Allah’ Case

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Jun 23, 2014

Malaysian authorities say that using
 ‘Allah’ in non-Muslim literature could
confuse Muslims and entice them to
convert, which is a crime in Malaysia.
(Bloomberg Photo/ Goh Seng Chong)
Putrajaya, Malaysia. Malaysia’s highest court on Monday dismissed a bid by Christians for the right to use the word “Allah”, ending a years-long legal battle that has caused religious tensions in the Muslim-majority country.

The Catholic Church had been seeking to reverse a government ban on it referring to God by the Arabic word “Allah” in the local Malay-language edition of its Herald newspaper.

But a seven-judge panel in the administrative capital Putrajaya ruled a lower court decision siding with the government stood.

“It [the Court of Appeal] applied the correct test, and it is not open for us to interfere,” chief justice Arifin Zakaria said. “Hence, the application is dismissed.”

S. Selvarajah, one of the church’s lawyers, said the decision meant the end of the court case.

“It’s a blanket ban. Non-Muslims cannot use the word,” he told AFP.

Outside the court, which was cordoned off, about a hundred Muslim activists shouted “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great”, and held banners that read “Uniting to defend the name of Allah” ahead of the verdict.

The dispute first erupted in 2007 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the publishing permit of the Herald for using the Arabic word in its Malay-language edition.

The church launched a court case to challenge the directive, arguing “Allah” had been used for centuries in Malay-language Bibles and other literature to refer to “God” outside of Islam.

But authorities say using “Allah” in non-Muslim literature could confuse Muslims and entice them to convert, a crime in Malaysia.

An appeals court last October reinstated the ban, overturning a lower court’s 2009 ruling in favor of the church that had led to a spate of attacks on houses of worship.

Agence France-Presse

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indonesia Open Introduces Local Culture to the Rest of the World

Jakarta Globe, Ami Afriatni, Jun 22, 2014

French umpire, GIlles Cavert (right), wears batik shirt during the men’s doubles
 finals of the BCA Indonesia Open Super Series Premier on Sunday. (JG Photo/
Safir Makki)

Organizers of the BCA Indonesia Open Superseries Premier were serious when they pledged to introduce the country’s cultures to foreign participants of the $750,000 tournament.

After presenting an off-court event where athletes and officials enjoyed a demonstration of the making of wayang golek (traditional Indonesian puppets) in a welcome dinner, organizers brought a little bit of the country’s culture on court.

In Saturday’s semifinals, umpires and service judges on duty were all seen wearing red batik-patterned shirts while supervising the matches.

“This is our first year with the new sponsor and we are looking for something new,” said Mimi Irawan, the organizers’ deputy tournament manager.

“To go along with the theme of the tournament, ‘Spirit of The Nation,’ we want Indonesia to be recognized as a country rich with its cultures, and one of them is batik.”

It’s not the first time all shuttlers and match officials were involved in cultural activities. In previous editions of the event, some shuttlers were dressed as human puppets at the welcome dinner.

These activities received a positive response from local and international shuttlers and officials. Gilles Cavert, a French umpire, expressed his excitement over the organizers’ effort.

“It’s the decision of the organizers for us to wear batik. Today we’re wearing red, tomorrow blue. Maybe it’s the organizers’ way to say thank you. We’re also proud to wear it. It’s very nice. I like the color and the design,” said the Frenchman who has been serving as international umpire since the 1990s.

Cavert, who witnessed Susi Susanti and Alan Budikusuma win Indonesia’s first Olympic gold medals in Barcelona back in 1992, said the Indonesia Open is the only tournament where foreign participants see with their own eyes how much the nation loves badminton.

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China's Grand Canal added to World Heritage list, Editor: An, 2014-06-22

A boat sails on the Wuxi section of China's Grand Canal, in Wuxi, east
 China's Jiangsu province, June 22, 2014. China's Grand Canal, the longest
 artificial waterway in the world, was inscribed on the World Heritage
list on June 22, 2014. (Xinhua/Huan Yueliang)

DOHA, June 22 (Xinhua) -- China's Grand Canal, the longest artificial waterway in the world, was inscribed on the World Heritage list here on Sunday.

The Grand Canal with a history of more than 2,400 years was recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Committee which convened its 38th session in the Qatari capital.

The 1,794-km canal runs from Beijing to Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province.

Photo taken on June 2, 2014 shows two dragon boats sailing in the Taierzhuang
 section of China's Grand Canal, in Zaozhuang City, east China's Shandong Province.
China's Grand Canal, the longest artificial waterway in the world, was inscribed on
the World Heritage list on June 22, 2014.

For Iran's women, makeup speaks volumes

Yahoo – AFP, Cyril Julien, 22 June 2014

An Iranian woman tries on a lipstick at a cosmetics shop in northern Tehran
on May 6, 2014 (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Tehran (AFP) - Under the compulsory veil and despite hard times, Iranian women are unrestrained in showing off one feature on which they feel a need to spend money. Their faces.

Everyday wearing of makeup is probably more common in Iran, an Islamic republic, than in some liberal western countries. It is a rare opportunity to parade one's beauty without fear of official censure.

With a female population of more than 38 million, Iran is the second-largest cosmetics market in the Middle East in terms of revenue, behind Saudi Arabia, and the world's seventh biggest.

An Iranian woman checks make up at
 a cosmetics shop in northern Tehran on
May 6, 2014 (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
"Iranian women wear makeup as soon as they get up in the morning. Even if they feel ill, they know that they must look beautiful in the street," says Tina Zarinnam, 30, a fashion designer.

The French luxury brand Lancome recently announced a return to Iran after decades away, inviting around 400 industry types and artists to one of the biggest hotels in Tehran to celebrate its comeback.

It was the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution that a major Western brand -- Lancome is the number one luxury line of the L'Oreal group -- had been launched with such fanfare.

No American cosmetics brands have been sold on the official Iranian market since the US imposed a trade embargo in the 1980s.

US and EU sanctions on oil and other industries remain in force in Iran despite an interim deal aimed at eventually ending the nation's nuclear standoff with the West, but many foreign businesses have blamed the restrictions for hampering trade.

Money to be made

Makeup professionals estimate that Iranian women buy approximately one tube of mascara per month, dwarfing the one every four months bought by the French.

Lancome is presented in Iran by the Safir perfume chain, a leading official distributor of beauty products. Created in 2010, the chain now has nearly 20 branches across the country.

"It's a booming market, which is roughly several hundred million dollars," a brand representative says, adding that this amount is split between its own distribution and the grey market.

Only 40 percent of Iran's market is controlled by official distributors. The rest is divided among bootleggers who operate in parallel in bazaars and small shops that import cosmetics and makeup illegally, says Pegah Goshayeshi, Safir's chief executive.

Imports are costly as regulations are strict and various government officials must approve a product before it is given a label that guarantees its quality.

Wearing makeup does not violate the laws of the Islamic republic, however, because Islam does not prohibit perfumes or cosmetics.

An ancient tradition

"The Prophet Mohammed himself used perfume," Goshayeshi says.

Makeup is also a form of personal expression in a society where compulsory wearing of hijab requires women to cover their hair and their body in loose clothing when outside, regardless of their religion.

An Iranian woman stands in an upscale cosmetics shop in northern Tehran
on May 6, 2014 (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Tastes in makeup vary in different parts of the country. In northern Iran, a coloured mascara and perfumes with a flowery fragrance is preferred, while women in the south tend to buy black mascara and stronger, more musky perfumes.

Iranian men are also gradually leaning toward using more cosmetics.

"They take better care of their skin, because they want to look younger," Goshayeshi adds.

In a country affected by a severe economic crisis, partly because of Western sanctions, makeup is considered expensive but it is often a small salve to help forget everyday problems.

"Makeup has an impact on the one who wears it ... I put on makeup because I love it. I enjoy wearing it. It makes me feel fresh and calm," says Forough Heidari, a 42-year-old physiotherapist.

And the Iranian market is by no means saturated.

"There is still room for luxury goods in the medium or low-end market" despite the presence of 20 Iranian and foreign brands, says Vista Bavar, founder and director of the Caprice brand.

"Iran has a large youth population, most of whom still live with their parents. They do not have to care too much about expenses" and can spend a lot on beauty products, she adds.

Murderers wander with machetes at idyllic Philippine prison

Yahoo – AFP, Cecil Morella, 22 June 2014

Inmates from the mininum security compound walk unescorted to their place
 of work at Iwahig prison in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island, June 6, 2014 (AFP
Photo/Ted Aljibe)

Iwahig (Philippines) (AFP) - One hundred convicts armed with machetes wander through a vast prison without walls in one of the Philippines' most beautiful islands, a unique approach to reforming criminals.

Two token guards with shotguns slung on their shoulders relax in the shade nearby as the blue-shirted group of inmates chop weeds at a rice paddy at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm on Palawan island.

But Arturo, who is 21 years into a life sentence for murder, has no plans to escape, preferring to keep his chances of an eventual commutation or even a pardon.

Prison superintendent Richard
Schwarzkopf (R) along with penal
supervisor Jacinto Regal (2nd R)
 speak with inmates from the minimum
security compound at Iwahig prison in 
Puerto Princesa, Palawan island, June 6,
2014 (AFP Photo/Ted Aljibe)
"I don't want to live the life of a rat, panicked into bolting into a hole each time a policeman comes my way," the 51-year-old inmate, whose full name cannot be used in keeping with prison regulations, told AFP.

Surrounded by a thick coastal mangrove forest, a mountain range and a highway, the 26,000-hectare (64,000-acre) Iwahig jail is one of the world's largest open prisons, more than two times the size of Paris.

A single guard sits at its largely ceremonial main gate, routinely waving visitors through without inspection.

A shallow ditch, but no walls, is all that separates the 3,186 prisoners from the outside world.

A mere 14 kilometres (nine miles) away is Puerto Princesa, a city of 250,000 people and a top tourist destination as the gateway to an island famed for stunning dive sites, a giant underground river system and beautiful beaches.

A steady stream of local and foreign tourists visit Iwahig's quaint, pre-World War II prison administration buildings and a handicrafts shop, which is manned by inmates who have made the items on sale.

A few hundred hectares of the land is devoted to rice paddies, which sit picturesquely on either side of a fire-tree-lined dirt road. Ducks, goats, cattle and egrets feed quietly on newly harvested plots.

Fish ponds, coconut plantations, corn fields and vegetable plots are scattered across the prison, although the bulk of the land remains covered by forest and mangroves.

Penal colony's harsh history

US colonial rulers established Iwahig in 1904 for political prisoners and Manila's worst inmates, seeking to isolate them in what was then a sparsely inhabited frontier about 600 kilometres (370) miles from the nation's capital.

Prisoners were used to clear virgin rainforests for farming, which would in turn encourage migration from the archipelago's more populous areas.

After the Philippines won independence post-World War II, those who had served out their term were also given the option to clear and own up to six hectares of land.

Up until the 1970s, the prisons had much tougher security than today, with chain gangs of inmates the norm.

Prison guards watch as inmates from the
 medium security compound work on a rice
 field at Iwahig prison in Puerto Princesa,
 Palawan island, June 6, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Ted Aljibe)
Most other jails in the Philippines continue with brutal conditions, with inmates packed beyond capacity in dingy, airless cells and having to take turns sleeping.

A fresh breath of reform

But at Iwahig, and four smaller penal farms in other provincial areas, authorities have sought to take advantage of the open spaces to create conditions that encourage the rehabilitation of inmates.

"This (farm work) serves as their preparation for getting back into a free society once they are released. It helps them adapt back to life as free men," said prison superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf.

Iwahig's inmates mostly come from Manila's main Bilibid prison, a far smaller facility that holds about 22,000 convicts and which requires periodic prisoner transfers to ease the over-crowding.

Instead of the squalid, sardine can-like cells of Bilibid, night quarters for most of Iwahig's inmates are lightly guarded buildings that are bigger than a basketball court, surrounded by barbed wire rather than concrete or metal walls.

About 50 lucky minimum-security inmates live full-time in straw-and-bamboo huts scattered along the penal farm, assigned to guard the crops, tractors and other implements.

There are just 150 maximum-security inmates who must work indoors and remain in a more tightly secured environment.

However, murderers and other previous maximum-security prisoners can qualify for the outdoors if they have served at least half their sentence and have a record of good behaviour. A life sentence is regarded as a 40-year term.

Schwarzkopf said the modern approach to penology had been a success. He said less than 10 percent of Iwahig's prisoners became repeat offenders after being released, lower than the national average.

Inmates from the medium security compound work on a rice field at Iwahig
prison in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island, June 6, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ted Aljibe)

The jail has also had no recent history of riots or mass breakouts.

Schwarzkopf said there had been just one breakout since he took over leadership of the prison in 2012: involving four inmates serving terms for murder, attempted murder and car theft.

Three of them were swiftly captured, according to Schwarzkopf, although he declined to say which one of the four remained at large.

Prominent Puerto Princesa lawyer Herminia Caabay said she also regarded Iwahig's "humane" approach to inmates as a success.

"Riots are a sign of depression brought about by prison conditions. These usually happen at places where people are kept behind bars," Caabay said.

Convicted drug dealer Gamay, 39, said he treasured his time working the land as it helped him keep his mind off his wife, who had left him for another man.

"It stops me thinking bad things," said the stocky, tattooed former fish vendor, who began his 30-year sentence in Manila's Bilibid but was transferred to Iwahig seven years ago.

Gamay said living at Iwahig had allowed him to dream and prepare for a successful life back in society.

"The work experience helps you learn to stand on your own two feet... I want to go back to selling fish and save up to build my own house," he said.

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