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. …

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pope calls for global abolition of death penalty

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House
Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept 24, 2015.PHOTO: Reuters

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Pope Francis on Thursday (Sept 24) called for the global abolition of the death penalty before lawmakers in the United States, where capital punishment is still practiced in several states.

"The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," Pope said in his speech to Congress.

"This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred," he added.

"I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Putin denounces 'IS' during reopening of Moscow mosque

Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered a speech at the opening of the country's largest mosque. He sought to promote the positive values of Islam, but also to codemn extremist violence.

Deutsche Welle, 23 Sep 2015

Putin oversees opening of new mosque

Vladimir Putin, concerned about the growing number of Russian-speaking citizens joining the ranks of the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist group fighting in Syria and Iraq, on Wednesday painted jihadism as a distortion of Islamic values and the opening of the new mosque as a positive outlet for Russian Muslims.

"We see what is happening in the Middle East where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State group are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, in order to sow hate," he said at the site of the newly reopened Moscow Cathedral Mosque.

The speech, which was delivered just a day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, also emphasized the mosque's role as a spiritual center for Russians. "It will be a source for education, spreading humanist ideas and the true values of Islam," Putin said.

Among those in attendance were Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was set to meet with Putin later that day to discuss the conflict in the Middle East and specifically in Syria. Concern has grown among world leaders regarding Russia's role in war-torn Syria, with the United States recently accusing Putin of sending troops and military equipment to his embattled ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey, meanwhile, has been highly critical Assad during the country's civil war.

In addition to the estimated 2,000 Russian speakers who have traveled to the Middle East to fight alongside IS, Moscow has also been fighting an Islamic insurgency in the restless Caucusus region in the south.

The Moscow mosque was originally built in the early 1900s, and then demolished in 2011. The reconstruction, which cost $170 million (152 million euros), drew controversy after another mosque was demolished in order to make room for it. One of the largest mosques in Europe, it will be able to accomodate an estimated 10,000 people.

bc/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)
Related Article:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pope's visit crowns Cuba's status as hot travel destination

Yahoo – AFP, Joshua Howat Berger, September 19, 2015

A tourist leans by a taxi in front of a portrait of Pope Francis marking his visit 
to Cuba on September 17, 2015 (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte)

Havana (AFP) - Good luck getting a table these days at Atelier, a trendy Havana restaurant where four charter flights of American Catholics packed the dining room on the eve of Pope Francis's arrival in Cuba Saturday.

Ditto a room in a "casa particular" -- a "private house," the family-run hostels the communist island began allowing in 1997, in its first tentative free-market reforms.

A Cuban bicitaxi with portraits of
 welcoming Pope Francis in Havana on
 September 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/
Yamil Lage)
Clients at the major state-run hotels meanwhile face prices that have been jacked up 50 percent or more for the wildly popular pontiff's visit to Cuba, which has become an "it" destination since Francis helped broker a rapprochement with its long-time enemy across the Florida Straits.

Since the historic thaw with the United States was announced in December, there has been a buzz in the air in Cuba, where tourist arrivals are up 17 percent since January compared to the same period last year, according to data from the tourism studies department at the University of Havana.

American visitors are up 57 percent, despite the fact that the US embargo still bans tourist travel to Cuba.

And the buzz has grown to a roar around the pope's hotly anticipated visit.

David Donn, who flew down with 186 other Catholics on the charter flights organized by the Miami archdiocese, said he decided to make the trip partly to see the pope and partly because of the new allure of an island that has been taboo for American tourists.

TOPSHOTS Men fish at Havana's Malecon a day before Pope Francis' arrival
in Cuba on September 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte)

"All my friends are totally fascinated. They've been calling me all week. They think it's wonderful," said the 63-year-old accountant from Stuart, Florida.

"With the relationship between the United States and Cuba thawing, I thought this was a great opportunity to come here and see Cuba before things start changing and the cruise ships start coming," he told AFP.

That desire to beat the impending cruise ships as the White House steadily chips away at more than five decades of policy isolating Cuba is one factor driving the increase in international travel to the island, said Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, a tourism expert at the University of Havana.

"People are taking advantage of this time to capture an image of the reality Cuba's living at this unique moment, because it's possible that next year there will be changes," including an explosion of travel agencies, tour groups and international hotel chains, he told AFP.

The trend has reached a climax around the pope's trip, he said.

When Pope Francis visits Cuba frmo September 19 - 22, 2015, he will visit Havana,
 the northeastern city of Holguin and Santiago de Cuba on the southeastern end
of the island (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte)

"We're in a period right now with the pope's visit where all the hotels are booked, both in Havana and in... Holguin and Santiago," the two other cities Francis will visit on his three-night stay, he said.

So close, so far

For many of the Catholics who made the trip from Miami, the pope's visit is a denouement in a bitter family feud that has split Cubans and the Cuban exile community in the United States for half a century.

Booking a trip across the 150 kilometers (90 miles) of ocean between the two countries remains complicated.

The US government allows 12 categories of travelers to visit Cuba -- including religious groups, which covered the archdiocese trip -- but still bans tourism.

A couple ride a motorbike next to a portrait
 of Pope Francis in Havana, ahead of his 
visit beginning September 19, 2015 (AFP
Photo/Filippo Monteforte)
Cuban authorities have meanwhile been known to deny visas for Cuban-born Americans -- often arbitrarily, some complain.

Ralph Gazitua and his family faced a nerve-wracking ordeal to get to Havana.

Cuba, which rejected his wife's visa application when she tried to come for Pope Benedict XVI's visit in 2012, granted her a visa this time around -- but only an hour and a half before their flight.

"It was down to the wire," said Gazitua, a Miami businessman.

But most of the tourists who have come to Cuba for the pope's visit are from other Latin American countries -- many from Francis's native Argentina, including President Cristina Kirchner.

Mexican artist Norma Ligia Favela Perez said it was important to her to be in Cuba because of the pope's crucial role in helping to heal half a century of Cold War bitterness in the hemisphere.

"This pope has been the ambassador of this miraculous moment for humanity. He's a historic figure," said Perez, who created a painting of two hands clasping across a map of the Americas in honor of Francis's visit.

Pope Francis climbs the steps to the altar on his arrival to give mass in
Havana's Revolution Square on September 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Tony Gentile)

Related Article:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Muslim teen arrested for clock gets White House invite

Yahoo – AFP, Mira Oberman, 17 Sep 2015

President Barack Obama congratulated Ahmed Mohamed, 14, on his skills in a 
pointed rebuke to school and police officials -- who defended his arrest -- amid 
accusations of Islamophobia (AFP Photo/Ben Torres)

Chicago (AFP) - A Muslim teenager arrested after a Texas teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb won invitations to the White House, Google and Facebook in a surge of public support.

President Barack Obama congratulated Ahmed Mohamed, 14, on his skills in a pointed rebuke to school and police officials -- who defended his arrest -- amid accusations of Islamophobia.

"Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great," Obama tweeted.

This photo received September 16, 
2015 courtesy of the Irving Police 
Department in Irving, Texas shows a 
clock made by teenager Ahmed 
Mohamed (AFP Photo)
A photo of Mohamed standing in handcuffs while wearing a t-shirt with the US space agency NASA's logo was retweeted thousands of times in a matter of hours and "#IStandWithAhmed" became the top trending hashtag on Twitter.

Mohamed told the Dallas Morning News he hoped to impress teachers by bringing the clock to school on Monday.

'They took it wrong'

"My hobby is to invent stuff," the teen said in a video posted on the paper's website, filmed in his electronics-filled bedroom.

"I made a clock. It was really easy. I wanted to show something small at first... they took it wrong so I was arrested for a hoax bomb."

The son of Sudanese immigrants who live in a Dallas suburb, Mohamed loved robotics club in middle school and was hoping to find something similar at MacArthur High School. He did not get the reaction he hoped for when he showed the clock to his engineering teacher.

"He was like, 'That's really nice,'" Mohamed said. "'I would advise you not to show any other teachers.'"

When the clock's alarm went off in another class, the teacher told him it looked like a bomb and confiscated it. The school called police and Mohamed was taken away in cuffs amid suspicion he intended to frighten people with the device.

'Suspicious device'

Police said Wednesday they have determined that Mohamed had no malicious intent and it was "just a naive set of circumstances."

Irving police chief Larry Boyd insisted that Mohamed's ethnicity had nothing to do with the response.

"Our reaction would have been the same either way. That's a very suspicious device," Boyd told reporters.

"We live in an age where you can't take things like that to school."

A school district spokeswoman also stood by the establishment's response, telling reporters that anyone who saw the homemade clock would understand that "we were doing everything with an abundance of caution."

A photo provided by police showed a flat, rectangular red digital clock face screwed into the dark plush interior of a silver case along with a circuit board and some wires.

"My son is a very brilliant boy," Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed -- who has run for president in Sudan -- told CNN.

'Bring your clock'

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the incident an opportunity to "search our own conscious for biases that might be there."

"At least some of Ahmed's teachers failed him," he said, adding that "this has the potential to be a teachable moment."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the heavy-handed response was suspicious given the political climate in Irving -- where mayor Beth Van Duyne has claimed that Muslims are plotting to impose Sharia law -- and across the nation.

"Clearly we believe it's the result of the rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment in our society," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told AFP.

Irving police chief Larry Boyd insisted that the ethnicity of Ahmed Mohamed,
 pictured (C) with his family, had nothing to do with the response which saw him 
taken from school in cuffs (AFP Photo/Ben Torres)

"It's clear that if it was some student who wasn't named Ahmed Mohamed and didn't have brown skin, he would not have been forced to do a perp walk in front of his fellow students in handcuffs."

Wired magazine was among those who responded to the incident with a mixture of humor and horror, posting an article entitled "How to Make Your Own Homemade Clock That Isn't a Bomb."

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told Mohamed to "keep building," saying: "I'd love to meet you."

Invites flood in

Zuckerberg may have to wait.

Along with the invitation to astronomy night at the White House next month, Mohamed also got invitations to drive NASA's Opportunity rover, tour MIT, intern at Twitter and visit Google.

"Hey Ahmed- we're saving a seat for you at this weekend's Google Science Fair...want to come? Bring your clock!" the online giant tweeted.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield invited Mohamed to his science variety show, and the Four Seasons hotel responded with an offer of a free room in Toronto.

Mohamed's family launched a Twitter account to thank his supporters using @IStandWithAhmed as his handle.

"Thank you fellow supporters. We can band together to stop this racial inequality and prevent this from happening again," read a tweet that included a photo of the smiling boy in his NASA t-shirt holding two fingers up in the sign of victory.

The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed had been tweeted more than 800,000 times by Wednesday afternoon, according to analytics site

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Taste of the Caribbean in Jakarta, Courtesy of the Dutch

Jakarta Globe, Sylviana Hamdani, September 17, 2015

The 'Antilles Festival – A Taste of the Caribbean' event will take place at the Erasmus
Huis Jakarta from Sept. 19 to Oct. 31 and will feature a photo exhibition, culinary show,
and music and dance performances. (Photo courtesy of Erasmus Huis)

The Dutch cultural center in Jakarta plans to introduce Indonesians to a little-known corner of its kingdom through a festival that celebrates the sun-kissed isles of the Netherlands Antilles.

The “Antilles Festival – A Taste of the Caribbean” event will take place at the Erasmus Huis Jakarta from Sept. 19 to Oct. 31 and will feature a photo exhibition, culinary show, and music and dance performances.

The festival is part of celebrations this year marking the 200th anniversary of the kingdom of the Netherlands, with a focus on the realm’s Caribbean lands deemed an “interesting idea” for residents of Indonesia, once the jewel in the crown of the Dutch empire.

“For the Dutch, it’s not very easy and also not very common to travel [to the Antilles],” said Ferdinand Lahnstein, the deputy head of mission of the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta.

“I expect also that people in Indonesia are not very familiar with this area. So that’s also a reason why we think that it’s probably a good idea to bring forward that there’s something like the Dutch Caribbean. And then hopefully people in Indonesia who would like to try something different will be interested to travel to this area.”

The festival’s photo exhibition, themed “Dushi Tera,” will showcase images unique to the six islands that make up the Netherlands Antilles – Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius – including the architecture, nature, and panoramas. (In the Papiamento language of the inhabitants of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, “dushi tera” translates into “sweet country.”)

These photos come courtesy of the islands’ various tourism authorities as well as the Leiden University Library.

“The photo exhibition is meant to give an impression of the cultural, social and economic differences between the six islands,” Lahstein said.

Peter Sanchez, a historian from one-time Dutch colony of Suriname on the South American mainland, has been appointed curator of the photo exhibition.

“He knows a lot about the region,” said Ineke de Hoog, the embassy’s deputy head of public diplomacy and cultural affairs. “And he will be there for the opening [on Sept. 19].”

The opening will also feature culinary treats from Dutch Caribbean chefs Sherwin Alexander and Jethro Wirht, brought over by the DoubleTree hotel in Jakarta.

Alexander won a bronze medal in the seafood competition during the prestigious “Taste of the Caribbean” competition in Miami in July 2014, while Wirht was named “Chef of the Year” at the same event.

Both men will cook live at the festival’s opening at Erasmus Huis, assisted by local hospitality school students.

The menu will feature seven iconic dishes served tapas style from the Dutch Caribbean.

“The chefs have chosen the menu that gives a broad spectrum of all the different islands’ cuisines,” de Hoog said.

Among them are sopi di marisco, a traditional soup from Curaçao that contains seafood, callaloo (a vegetable native to the island), okra and fresh lemon.

Also not to be missed is the arepa di pampuna, a sweet pumpkin pancake with pickled prawns and fishcake and served with pineapple salsa.

“The cuisine is, of course, influenced by the Creoles, a fusion of the Spanish and Portuguese Antilleans,” de Hoog said. “I invite you to come and try for yourself.”

Entry to the festival is free, and the embassy expects between 500 and 700 people to turn up for the opening day.

“My impression of the Antilles Festival is something fresh and juicy, like salsa,” said Olivia Evelinda, a secretary at an accounting firm in Jakarta who said she was interested in going. “I think the festival will be very, very interesting, because we can get to know about the food and different cultures of the islands.”

Olivia also hopes to take part in the Antillean dances, such as Salsa, Merengue, Bachata and Kimboza, to be performed by Dutch Caribbean dancers on the opening day.

Orquesta Pegasaya, a popular Salsa band from the region, will also be n hand to perform live. And to fuel the guests, a round of delectable Dutch Caribbean cocktails will be served throughout the night

For more information, go to

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Australia-Indonesia Relations Likely to Improve After Abbott Exodus

Jakarta Globe, Erin Cook, September 2015

An anti-Tony Abbott protester attends a demonstration at the Australian
embassy, South Jakarta, earlier this year. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Jakarta. An expected foreign policy pivot under the guidance of new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, will see Australia pay particular attention to mending and maintaining relations with China and Indonesia, regional pundits have predicted.

Turnbull, who rose to the country’s top job after trumping former prime minister Tony Abbott in a party room vote late Monday night, has been a long term supporter of Asian business in Australia and a vocal advocate of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement.

While Turnbull has indicated continued support for the “boat turn backs” policy, which sees asylum seekers entering Australian waters towed into Indonesian waters by local law enforcement, experts have suggested his style of diplomacy may weather the controversy better than that of his predecessor.

Evi Fitrani, international relations head at the University of Indonesia heralded the change of leadership as a likely improvement to relations.

"Even though Malcolm Turnbull hasn't made any statement about foreign policy yet ... judging from his personality — judging from Abbott's personality at least — we think we will deal more communicatively and maybe in a better situation and better environment with this kind of leader," she said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Sydney-based Tom Wheelwright, a managing director of BowerGroup Asia focusing on government relations in the region, told ChannelNews Asia that Turnbull’s pragmatic and respectful style will likely be welcomed by his Asian counterparts.

“The big change we’ll see is that there will be no more three-word slogans to confuse or irritate our Asian neighbors,” he said.

“I think we’ll see more substance to foreign policy and I think Julie Bishop will have a stronger hand with foreign policy and less interference from domestic considerations.”

Bishop is tipped to retain her role as Foreign Minister under the new leader, a move likely to be welcomed across the region. Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, met in August for the first time after the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, was recalled in response to the April execution of two Australian drug traffickers. Grigson returned to Jakarta in June.

After a private meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers conference in Kuala Lumpur on on Aug. 6, both ministers welcomed a return to warm relations.

Abbott’s time at the helm is marred by a series of events marking a particularly tumultuous period in the Australia-Indonesia relationship, from a phone hacking scandal targeting Indonesia’s political leaders to the #CoinsforAbbott campaign which saw thousands collect rupiah coins to “pay back” Australian aid to Indonesia after the then-prime minister linked the 2004 Aceh tsunami to the Bali Nine executions.

Related Article:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Niger's Muslims and Christians join forces for peace

Yahoo – AFP, Boureima Hama, 15 Sep 2015

Bishop Laurent Lompo (R) leads a procession on April 4, 2015 in Niamey (AFP
Photo/Boureima Hama)

Niamey (AFP) - Eight months after Muslims rioted in Niger at a cost of 10 lives and many burned churches, efforts are afoot to mend ties with the Christian minority in the west African country.

The rampage was triggered in January when radical Muslims angered by caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed in French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo killed 12 people in an assault on the magazine's Paris offices.

In Niger, hundreds of Muslims took to the streets, clashing with police and razing 45 churches, five hotels, as well as bars and schools run by Christians. The French cultural centre in the second city, Zinder, was also set alight.

Bishop Laurent Lompo (L) and the
 imam of Niamey's great mosque Jabirou
 Ismael, pictured on April 3, 2015 in 
Niamey (AFP Photo/Boureima Hama)
Muslims make up about 98 percent of the 17 million population in the deeply poor, landlocked nation south of the Sahara. Until the riots, they lived in peace with the small Christian minority.

However, the threat of armed Islamist activity is present both in the north, where Niger is prey to Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the desert, and the south, which has been attacked by Boko Haram fundamentalists from neighbouring Nigeria.

'Value of living together'

Leaders of both faiths have been striving to restore strong community bonds by means of an inter-religious dialogue backed by a plan to "renew the value of living together" (REVE) funded by the European Union.

The aid organisation CARE International, based in the United States, is overseeing the REVE project "to prevent violence" on the ground and "strengthen peaceful coexistence", according to CARE chief in Niamey, Ibrahim Niandou.

"Committees for dialogue" have already been set up in the country's eight regions and their members reflect all religious tendencies, including "the most radical ones", Niandou said.

"Christians and Muslims mutually enlighten each other for better peaceful coexistence according to the recommendations of the Bible and the Koran," the national CARE chief added.

"It has become necessary... that really different religions, leaders of different religions, meet to talk," says Boubacar Seydou Toure, an influential member of the Islamic Association of Niger (AIN), the biggest such body and one of the oldest.

"You know what has happened over the past months in our country, and it is really down to misunderstanding each other," Seydou added.

Last week, the AIN hosted a peace forum bringing together about 100 Muslim religious jurists and doctors known as ulemas, Christian priests as well as theologians from both faiths.

"The crises are often triggered by religious leaders during their fiery preaching in the mosques and in the churches," Seydou explained.

Christian preacher Baradje Diagou said January's disturbances have heightened the need to co-exist peaceably.

"If we each keep to our own communities, it's very difficult for us to be able to understand one another," he said.

Christians are 'more wary'

This week, Roman Catholics and Christian evangelists met "around the same table" for the first time, also with social harmony in mind, said Boureima Kiomso, chairman of the Alliance of Churches and Evangelical Missions in Niger.

"Agreeing to listen to one another and to reexamine ourselves in order to move on together is very important," Kiomso added.

Inter-faith meetings may not be enough to stave off more religious unrest in Niger, where Islam has been gaining ground, with mosques being built in big towns and small villages.

Some radical Muslims do not care for a spread of Christian places of worship, notably evangelical ones, sometimes next door to their mosques.

The enrolment of youths from Niger in the ruthless Boko Haram sect, against which Niamey forms part of a regional military alliance, shows radical Islam has gained ground in the country.

Since February 6, Boko Haram and its local members have carried out attacks in the southern Diffa region, killing dozens of civilians and soldiers.

Diffa lies on the border with northeast Nigeria, where the Islamists have waged a bloody uprising since 2009.

While Niger makes ready for general elections in 2016, its security forces must also contend with the threat of jihadist movements coming across the border from Mali and Libya.

The Christian minority is "more wary" after the violence in January, Kiomso says.

"They have been forced to revise their positions and adapt to new conditions to be able to survive in Niger."

Adamou, a Muslim resident of the capital in the southwest, feels that "many Christians won the sympathy of Muslims who tolerated them badly" before the upheaval.

"I personally helped to rebuild a burned-down church," said Idi Ali, another Muslim citizen.

Pope Francis and other religious leaders at the Vatican. Photograph: AP

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration LecturesGod / CreatorReligions/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)

“.   New Tolerance

Look for a softening of finger pointing and an awakening of new tolerance. There will remain many systems for different cultures, as traditions and history are important to sustaining the integrity of culture. So there are many in the Middle East who would follow the prophet and they will continue, but with an increase of awareness. It will be the increase of awareness of what the prophet really wanted all along - unity and tolerance. The angel in the cave instructed him to "unify the tribes and give them the God of Israel." You're going to start seeing a softening of intolerance and the beginning of a new way of being.

Eventually, this will create an acknowledgement that says, "You may not believe the way we believe, but we honor you and your God. We honor our prophet and we will love you according to his teachings. We don't have to agree in order to love." How would you like that? The earth is not going to turn into one belief system. It never will, for Humans don't do that. There must be variety, and there must be the beauty of cultural differences. But the systems will slowly update themselves with increased awareness of the truth of a new kind of balance. So that's the first thing. Watch for these changes, dear ones. ...."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Russia draws in hordes of Chinese with 'red tourism'

Yahoo – AFP, Marina Koreneva, September 13, 2015

A Chinese tourist holds Russian flag as she visits a gift kiosk in St. Petersburg,
on September 4, 2015 (AFP Photo/Olga Maltseva)

Saint Petersburg (AFP) - Drawn by its Communist past and a visa-free regime, Chinese tourists are flocking to Russia in droves as it develops new routes touting "red tourism".

Nearly 410,000 Chinese came to Russia last year putting them on top of the list of foreign tourists, according to the federal tourism agency.

Their number has swelled 10 percent since 2013, when Germans topped the list of overseas visitors.

Nearly 410,000 Chinese tourists visited 
Russia in 2014 (AFP Photo/Olga Maltseva)
"We had lots of work this summer," said Viktoria Borgacheva, the head of the association of Chinese interpreters and guides in the city of Saint Petersburg, Russia's main tourist destination.

"I would say our workload has increased 30 percent since last year," Borgacheva said.

In the first half of this year alone, more than 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Russia.

Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, the former imperial capital renowned for its world-class museums and luxurious palaces, hosted nearly 26,000 Chinese tourists in 2014.

"Saint Petersburg is a beautiful city with a rich history," said Yong Tang, a 57-year-old tourist from Beijing, as he purchased a bust of Lenin.

"I'm glad I came here."

The Russian city of Saint Petersburg 
hosted nearly 26,000 Chinese tourists in
Experts estimate that between 40,000 and 50,000 Chinese tourists could visit Saint Petersburg this year, the Russian tourism industry union said.

But Saint Petersburg's European flair and its winding canals are not the main attraction for them, according to Russian tourism officials.

Chinese tourists flock to Saint Petersburg chiefly to soak in the city's turbulent revolutionary history as the scene of three revolutions -- one in 1905 and two in 1917 -- that precipitated the end of the tsarist era and ushered in the Soviet Union.

"While Europeans come to Saint Petersburg above all to admire the old capital and the Hermitage (art museum), Chinese tourists want to see Leningrad and its revolutionary history," Borgacheva said, referring to Saint Petersburg's Soviet-era name.

'Red circuit'

The Russian city of Saint Petersburg
 hosted nearly 26,000 Chinese tourists
in 2014 (AFP Photo/OLGA MALTSEVA)
In July Moscow and Beijing officially launched an ambitious "red circuit," a tourist route tracing the life of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in four Russian cities.

The eight-day journey starts in Moscow, where tourists can gape at hammers and sickles on Soviet-era buildings and in the sprawling metro network.

The Russian capital is also the resting place of Lenin, with his body still preserved in a mausoleum on Red Square.

The circuit then takes tourists to Lenin's birthplace of Ulyanovsk on the banks of the Volga River, before continuing to Kazan, the city where he studied.

Chinese tourists have their photo taken
 in front of Church of the Savior on Blood " 
in St. Petersburg, on September 4, 2015
(AFP Photo/Olga Maltseva)
The tour ends in Saint Petersburg, the scene of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

"Revolution and the people's fight for independence and even the Great Patriotic War (World War II as fought by the Soviets from 1941) are important themes for the Chinese, just as they are for us," said Sergei Lakovsky, the head of Ulyanovsk's tourist department.

Costing $1,000 per person excluding flights, the "red circuit" promises to be lucrative for the dozen Russian tourist agencies participating in the programme, expected to be in full swing by next year.

Chinese tourists spent some $1 billion in Russia last year, according to a recent estimate.

Russia's new "red circuit" finds a counterpart in China, where Russian tourists can retrace the life of Mao Zedong, the first chairman of the Chinese Communist party.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hajj to go ahead after Mecca crane collapse kills 107

Yahoo – AFP, Kamal Idris, 12 Sep 2015

A picture taken on September 11, 2015 in Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca
shows a construction crane after it crashed into the Grand Mosque (AFP Photo)

Mecca (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - Saudi authorities said Saturday that Islam's annual hajj pilgrimage will go ahead despite a crane collapse that killed 107 people at Mecca's Grand Mosque, where crowds returned to pray a day after the tragedy.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had already arrived in Mecca for the hajj, a must for all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it, when the massive red and white crane collapsed during rain and high winds on Friday.

Parts of the Grand Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, remained sealed off Saturday around the toppled crane, which also injured around 200 people when it fell into a courtyard.

But there was little mourning among pilgrims, who snapped pictures of the wreckage and continued with their prayers and rituals.

"I wish I had died in the accident, as it happened at a holy hour and in a holy place," Egyptian pilgrim Mohammed Ibrahim told AFP.

The accident occurred only about an hour before evening mahgrib prayers on the Muslim weekly day of prayer.

A massive construction crane crashed into Mecca's Grand Mosque in stormy
 weather on September 11, 2015, killing at least 107 people and injuring 238. (AFP

Om Salma, a Moroccan pilgrim, said "our phones have not stopped ringing since yesterday with relatives calling to check on us."

Indonesians and Indians were among those killed when the crane collapsed, while the injured included Malaysians, Egyptians and Iranians.

A Saudi official said the hajj, expected to start on September 21, would proceed despite the tragedy.

"It definitely will not affect the hajj this season, and the affected part will probably be fixed in a few days," said the official, who declined to be named.

An investigative committee has "immediately and urgently" begun searching for the cause of the collapse, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The contractor has been directed to ensure the safety of all other cranes at the site, it added.

The cranes poke into the air over the sprawling mosque expansion taking place beneath the Mecca Royal Clock Tower, the world's third-tallest building, at 601 metres (1,972 feet).

For years, work has been underway on a 400,000 square metre (4.3 million square feet) expansion of the Grand Mosque to allow it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once.

Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, told AFP he saw the massive construction crane fall during the storm.

"If it weren't for Al-Tawaf bridge the injuries and deaths would have been worse," he said, referring to a covered walkway which broke the crane's fall and surrounds the holy Kaaba.

The Kaaba is a massive cube-shaped structure at the centre of the mosque towards which Muslims worldwide pray.

Saudi governer of the Mecca region Khaled al-Faisal (C) listens to aides of the
 Grand Mosque of Mecca after a construction crane crashed into it on 
September 11 (AFP Photo/STR)

A witness said the winds were so strong that they shook his car and tossed billboards around.

'Act of God'

Pictures of the incident on Twitter showed bloodied bodies strewn across the courtyard, where part of the crane came to rest atop an ornate, arched and colonnaded section of the complex.

A video on YouTube showed people screaming and rushing around following a loud crash.

Saudis and foreigners lined up in the street to give blood in response to the tragedy.

Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Mecca-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, suggested that authorities were negligent by having a series of cranes overlooking the mosque.

"They do not care about the heritage, and they do not care about health and safety," he told AFP.

Alawi is an outspoken critic of redevelopment at the holy sites, which he says is wiping away tangible links to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

But an engineer for the Saudi Binladin Group, the developer, told AFP the crane was installed in "an extremely professional way" and there was no technical problem.

"It was an act of God", he said.

A picture taken on October 5, 2014, shows construction cranes at the
 Grand mosque in Mecca. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Saudi Binladin Group belongs to the family of the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, former head of Mecca's religious police, told AFP the accident is a "test" from God.

"We need to accept what happened," he said, calling at the same time for a thorough investigation.

Condolences came in from around the world, including from Arab leaders, as well as from Britain, Canada, India and Nigeria.

This was not the first tragedy to strike Mecca pilgrims, though the hajj has been nearly incident-free in recent years.

In 2006, several hundred died in a stampede during the Stoning of the Devil ritual in nearby Mina, following a similar incident two years earlier.