United Nations Declaration (Articles 1 - 30):

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts
Nigerian Minister of the Environment Amina Mohammed, seen in 2015, will be the UN's number two official (AFP Photo/Mireya ACIERTO)
Sustainable Development
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Timing of the Great Shift" – Mar 21, 2009 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Text version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


The Declaration of Human Freedom

Archangel Michael (Via Steve Beckow), Feb. 19, 2011

Every being is a divine and eternal soul living in a temporal body. Every being was alive before birth and will live after death.

Every soul enters into physical life for the purpose of experience and education, that it may, in the course of many lifetimes, learn its true identity as a fragment of the Divine.

Life itself is a constant process of spiritual evolution and unfoldment, based on free choice, that continues until such time as we realize our true nature and return to the Divine from which we came.

No soul enters life to serve another, except by choice, but to serve its own purpose and that of the Divine from which it came.

All life is governed by natural and universal laws which precede and outweigh the laws of humanity. These laws, such as the law of karma, the law of attraction, and the law of free will, are decreed by God to order existence and assist each person to achieve life’s purpose.

No government can or should survive that derives its existence from the enforced submission of its people or that denies its people their basic rights and freedoms.

Life is a movement from one existence to another, in varied venues throughout the universe and in other universes and dimensions of existence. We are not alone in the universe but share it with other civilizations, most of them peace-loving, many of whom are more advanced than we are, some of whom can be seen with our eyes and some of whom cannot.

The evidence of our five senses is not the final arbiter of existence. Humans are spiritual as well as physical entities and the spiritual side of life transcends the physical. God is a Spirit and the final touchstone of God’s Truth is not physical but spiritual. The Truth is to be found within.

God is one and, because of this, souls are one. They form a unity. They are meant to live in peace and harmony together in a “common unity” or community. The use of force to settle affairs runs contrary to natural law. Every person should have the right to conduct his or her own affairs without force, as long as his or her choices do not harm another.

No person shall be forced into marriage against his or her will. No woman shall be forced to bear or not bear children, against her will. No person shall be forced to hold or not hold views or worship in a manner contrary to his or her choice. Nothing vital to existence shall be withheld from another if it is within the community’s power to give.

Every person shall retain the ability to think, speak, and act as they choose, as long as they not harm another. Every person has the right to choose, study and practice the education and career of their choice without interference, provided they not harm another.

No one has the right to kill another. No one has the right to steal from another. No one has the right to force himself or herself upon another in any way.

Any government that harms its citizens, deprives them of their property or rights without their consent, or makes offensive war upon its neighbors, no matter how it misrepresents the situation, has lost its legitimacy. No government may govern without the consent of its people. All governments are tasked with seeing to the wellbeing of their citizens. Any government which forces its citizens to see to its own wellbeing without attending to theirs has lost its legitimacy.

Men and women are meant to live fulfilling lives, free of want, wherever they wish and under the conditions they desire, providing their choices do not harm another and are humanly attainable.

Children are meant to live lives under the beneficent protection of all, free of exploitation, with unhindered access to the necessities of life, education, and health care.

All forms of exploitation, oppression, and persecution run counter to universal and natural law. All disagreements are meant to be resolved amicably.

Any human law that runs counter to natural and universal law is invalid and should not survive. The enactment or enforcement of human law that runs counter to natural and universal law brings consequences that cannot be escaped, in this life or another. While one may escape temporal justice, one does not escape divine justice.

All outcomes are to the greater glory of God and to God do we look for the fulfillment of our needs and for love, peace, and wisdom. So let it be. Aum/Amen.



Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit

Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit
Pope Francis laughs alongside US President Barack Obama upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, on September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)


Today's doodle in the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on its 50th anniversary (28 Aug 2013)

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'
The White House released this image, of the building colored like the rainbow flag, on Facebook following the supreme court’s ruling. Photograph: Facebook
"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. …

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'
Reporters Without Borders labels Erdogan as 'enemy of press freedom'

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

US convict granted stay of execution after new DNA evidence

Yahoo – AFP, Nova SAFO, August 22, 2017

This Missouri Department of Corrections photo shows death-row inmate Marcellus
Williams (AFP Photo)

hicago (AFP) - With only hours to spare, the governor of the US state of Missouri on Tuesday halted the execution of a man whose lawyers argued new DNA evidence exonerated him of a 1998 murder.

Governor Eric Greitens stayed the execution of Marcellus Williams, 48, who was convicted of fatally stabbing a woman more than 40 times during a robbery at her home in the Midwestern state.

Williams was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Tuesday, but the governor ordered the formation of an investigative panel to reconsider the facts of the case.

"To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt," Greitens said.

The governor planned to appoint a five-member board of inquiry that would include retired judges, who would have subpoena power to re-examine witnesses and evidence.

Williams' attorney claimed new testing of the knife used to commit the murder found another person's DNA on the weapon but none of Williams' DNA. The DNA testing was not available during the time of the original trial.

"The new DNA technology called touch DNA has developed a male genetic profile on the knife handle, that was the murder weapon, that does not match Marcellus Williams', so that we believe that totally exonerates him of the murder," attorney Kent Gipson told AFP.

Non-DNA evidence

State prosecutors contend there is enough other evidence to assure Williams' guilt, including the victim's personal items recovered from the condemned man's car.

The initial trial also relied on testimony from two witnesses, Williams' former girlfriend and a cell mate, who both said the convict admitted to the murder. Prosecutors say the cell mate knew details of the crime that were not made public.

Only hours before the governor's stay, the state attorney general's office insisted that they were confident of Williams' guilt "based on the other, non-DNA, evidence in this case."

In court filings during an earlier appeal, prosecutors dismissed the new DNA evidence, saying "it would be unsurprising" that other people's DNA would be on the kitchen knife used for the murder.

"It would not have been unreasonable for (Williams) to wear gloves during the burglary and subsequent murder," prosecutors wrote in explaining why his DNA was not on the knife.

Gipson appealed to the US Supreme Court Monday night, asking for a stay. The state's supreme court last week denied a similar request.

Race a factor?

Death penalty opponents had rallied to Williams' cause, sending a petition with more than 187,000 signatures to the governor. They claimed race was a factor in the African American man's conviction.

"African American men like Marcellus are arrested and convicted at significantly higher rates than any other ethnic group," the group Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty wrote in an online petition.

Reconsideration of a death penalty case due to DNA evidence is rare. Most death sentences that are reversed are due to findings of prosecutorial or police misconduct, said Robert Dunham of the watchdog group Death Penalty Information Center.

"Very often what you'll see is a prosecutor or police deciding they'd gotten the right guy, and ignoring the leads that would have taken them to somebody else as a possible suspect," Dunham told AFP.

"Governor Greitens did the right thing. Executing Marcellus Williams without meaningfully considering his evidence of innocence would have been intolerable and indefensible," he said.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trudeau joined at Montreal Pride by Irish counterpart

Yahoo – AFP, August 21, 2017

Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland (L), Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau (center), and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre (R), walk during the
annual Pride parade in Montreal (AFP Photo/Peter Mccabe)

Montreal (AFP) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marched Sunday in Montreal's Gay Pride parade, joined by Ireland's first openly gay leader Leo Varadkar.

Sporting white jeans and a casual light blue button-up, Trudeau waved a rainbow flag with his Irish counterpart at his side as they participated in the annual event where several thousand people had gathered.

Earlier in the day at a joint press conference Trudeau vowed "strength through diversity" in the face of recent attacks in Spain and Burkina Faso.

"These recent acts of terror are despicable," the Canadian leader said. "They seek to divide the global community, aiming to pit neighbor against neighbor.

"But these cowards will not win," he continued. "We will continue to do as we have done, standing united and stronger in the face of hatred.

"We will be emboldened in our values, values of love, acceptance, and strength through diversity."

Prime Minister Varadkar, who took office in June, is the first foreign head of government to join a Canadian pride celebration.

He said Canada and Ireland must work in tandem to advance equal rights, particularly in places where they are threatened.

"What we have most in common is that we are countries that understand that diversity is our strength and our differences make us better," Varadkar said.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bannon out as Trump chief strategist

Yahoo – AFP, August 18, 2017

Steve Bannon, the former head of ultra conservative outlet Breitbart News, has
been described as being the nucleus of one of several competing power centers
in what has been a chaotic White House (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump on Friday finally parted ways with controversial far-right chief strategist Steve Bannon, after weeks of speculation and as the administration reels from the fallout over Trump's response to a violent white supremacist rally.

Seen as the driving force behind Trump's nationalist-populist agenda -- making him a hero of the so-called "alt right" and a bete noire for centrists -- Bannon's presence at the White House has been contested from the start.

He was the latest in a series of high-profile casualties in Trump's inner circle, including press secretary Sean Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus and communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

With Trump under fire from all sides for insisting anti-racism protesters were equally to blame for violence stemming from a weekend rally staged by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president faced renewed pressure to let go of his firebrand aide.

In announcing the 63-year-old Bannon's departure, the White House did not specify whether he had resigned or -- as was widely reported -- was forced out.

"White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day," Trump's press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "We are grateful for his service and wish him the best."

From Goldman to Breitbart to West Wing

Labelled a white supremacist by his critics, the one-time Goldman Sachs investment banker and former head of ultra conservative outlet Breitbart News joined the Trump campaign less than three months before the November 2016 vote and was credited with playing a major role in the real estate magnate's upset victory over Hillary Clinton.

Having privately boasted about handpicking Trump's cabinet, he went on to become the nucleus of one of several competing power centers in what has been a chaotic West Wing.

But Bannon reportedly fell into disfavor for allegedly leaking stories about White House colleagues who he felt did not sufficiently adhere to his populist agenda.

The president's new chief of staff, Kelly, had reportedly warned he would not tolerate what he saw as Bannon's behind the scenes maneuvering.

Bannon had earlier this year lost his coveted place on the National Security Council, which decides issues of war and peace.

And the president -- said to have grown increasingly irritated by Bannon's high profile -- was reportedly furious about an interview his aide gave this week to a left-leaning publication in which he contradicted the Republican billionaire's position on North Korea.

The New York Times quoted a person close to Bannon as insisting the parting of ways was his own idea, and that he had submitted his resignation on August 7, to be announced at the start of this week -- but that it was delayed by the chaotic developments of recent days.

Bannon's departure came as the US president faced a firestorm of criticism over his failure to unequivocally rebuke the white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville.

That unrest ended when a suspected Nazi sympathizer drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Trump who rose to political prominence by casting doubt on whether Barack Obama, America's first black president, was born in the United States, did condemn neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan on several occasions this week, but many across the political spectrum say he did not go far enough.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trump isolated after Charlottesville remarks

Yahoo – AFP, Jerome CARTILLIER, August 16, 2017

US President Donald Trump's defiant and caustic statements about Charlottesville
 on Tuesday left many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, speechless
(AFP Photo/JIM WATSON)

New York (AFP) - Donald Trump found himself in the eye of a political storm Wednesday after his stunning remarks on the unrest in Charlottesville, which sparked unease within his own camp and could mark a turning point in his already chaotic presidency.

His assessment that there was "blame on both sides" for the deadly melee sparked a rare comment on current affairs from his two Republican predecessors, George Bush and George W. Bush, who called on Americans to "reject racial bigotry... in all its forms."

The violent fracas in the Virginia college town began Saturday when a rally by white supremacists over the removal of a Confederate statue turned violent, as they clashed with counter-protesters.

It ended in tragedy when a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathizer, James Fields, plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.

Trump's defiant statements on Tuesday, delivered in a caustic way at Trump Tower and immediately hailed by a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan for their "courage," left many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, speechless.

The Republican billionaire seemed to have crossed a red line with his statements, just over 200 days into his presidency.

Many observers were left with the impression that the unscripted Trump of Tuesday was the real Trump -- rather than the man who delivered a more measured statement from the White House on Monday in which he firmly denounced "racist violence."

Protesters have marched outside Trump Tower since the president returned to
his New York home earlier this week (AFP Photo/Eduardo MUNOZ ALVAREZ)

'He has to fix this'

In a clear sign of embarrassment, Republican lawmakers did not line up to defend the real estate mogul-turned-president, as they have repeatedly done since he took office in January. Those who did speak criticized him.

"In Charlottesville, the blame lays squarely on the KKK and white supremacists," the leader of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, told ABC News.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a regular Trump critic, said many Republicans would "fight back against the idea that the party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world."

"He has to fix this and Republicans have to speak out. Plain and simple," Ohio governor John Kasich, who battled Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year, told NBC's "Today" show.

David Axelrod, a former top aide to Barack Obama, said: "Why are we surprised that a @POTUS, who began his campaign with appeals to bigotry, would give comfort to bigots?"

Trump's remarks -- made at an impromptu press conference that was expected to focus on infrastructure reforms -- put the white supremacists and counter-demonstrators on equal moral ground.

"I think there is blame on both sides," Trump said, as his new chief of staff, former Marine general John Kelly, stood rigidly near him and looked uncomfortable.

"You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now," Trump continued.

"What about the alt-left that came charging... at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (...) There are two sides to a story."

He also said there were "very fine people, on both sides."

His remarks had led several top business executives to resign from White House advisory panels. On Wednesday, Trump simply dissolved the forums.

Map of the US state of Virginia locating Charlottesville, where hundreds of 
white supremacists held a rally on Saturday that deteriorated into violence
(AFP Photo/AFP)

"Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!" he tweeted.

Obama tweet makes history

Trump had suffered a first wave of indignation immediately after Saturday's events, when critics said his comments were too vague and did not go far enough to denounce neo-Nazis and KKK members at the Charlottesville rally.

Obama, his predecessor, had reacted by tweeting a quote from Nelson Mandela: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion."

The tweet is now the most "liked" ever sent on the social network, Twitter said Wednesday.

In an editorial, The New York Times said Trump's behavior "has become distressingly unsurprising."

"Washington politicians had hoped the recent appointment of John Kelly, a retired Marine general, as his chief of staff would instill some discipline in his chaotic administration," the paper said.

"But the root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top."

In St Louis, where he was mounting a competitive comeback, even chess legend Garry Kasparov weighed in, saying: "My family & I were forced out of one home by ethnic violence and another by political persecution. America must both fight hate & stay free."





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Obama post-Charlottesville tweet most liked ever on Twitter

Yahoo – AFP, August 16, 2017

A tweet by former president Barack Obama on violence at a a far-right rally in
Virginia has become the most "liked" one ever on Twitter

A tweet by former president Barack Obama about the violence in Charlottesville has become the most liked message in the history of Twitter, the company said Wednesday.

The tweet by the country's first black president quoted Nelson Mandela.

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion," Obama tweeted on Sunday, following deadly clashes in the Virginia city between neo-Nazi sympathizers and counterprotesters.

As of 1300 GMT Wednesday, Obama's message had been "liked" 3.2 million times, and re-tweeted 1.3 million times.

The 44th US president has not spoken out on the violence except via quotes from Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid icon who died in 2013.

A picture accompanying the tweet shows four babies -- including a black baby girl and a blonde baby boy -- in an open window as the ex-US president looks in.

Two other Obama tweets without pictures had more than one million likes.

"People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love... For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. - Nelson Mandela," Obama wrote in two tweets, also on Sunday.

A rally Saturday by neo-Nazis and white supremacists over the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville erupted in clashes with counter-demonstrators.

The fracas ended in bloodshed when a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.

On Tuesday President Donald Trump doubled down on his initial response to the white supremacist rally, saying there was "blame on both sides."

The Republican president -- who one day earlier denounced racism and singled out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis as "criminals and thugs" -- also hit out at what he called the "alt-left" over the weekend melee.

Trump has faced days of criticism from across the political spectrum over his reaction to Saturday's unrest in the Virginia college town.


Monday, August 7, 2017

US and China pressure North Korea after sanctions vote

Yahoo – AFP, Dave Clark, August 6, 2017

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with North Korea's
Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho (L) during their bilateral meeting (AFP Photo/STR)

Manila (AFP) - The United States and China piled pressure on North Korea Sunday to abandon its nuclear missile programme after the UN Security Council approved tough sanctions which could cost Pyongyang $1 billion a year.

One day after Council members voted unanimously for a partial ban on exports aimed at slashing Pyongyang's foreign revenue by a third, top diplomats from the key powers in the dispute met in Manila.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was encouraged by the vote, but officials warned that Washington would closely watch China -- North Korea's biggest trade partner -- to ensure sanctions are enforced.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his North Korean counterpart Ri Hong-Yo before a major regional security forum being hosted by the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

He urged the North to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

"It will help the DPRK to make the right and smart decision," Wang told reporters, speaking through a translator, after talks with Ri -- referring to the sanctions and to Ri's presence in Manila.

Pyongyang's top envoy has so far avoided the media in Manila.

But in a characteristically fiery editorial before the latest sanctions were approved, the North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned against US aggression.

"The day the US dares tease our nation with a nuclear rod and sanctions, the mainland US will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire," it said.

Tillerson also met Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and was to see Wang later on Sunday, seeking to intensify Kim Jong-Un's diplomatic isolation and reduce the risk of renewed conflict.

"It was a good outcome," Tillerson said of the UN vote, before a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha.

Senior US envoy Susan Thornton said Washington was "still going to be watchful" on the implementation of sanctions, cautioning that previous votes had been followed by China "slipping back".

But she added China's support for the UN resolution "shows that they realise that this is a huge problem that they need to take on".

UN Security Council members vote on a US-drafted resolution toughening
sanctions on North Korea (AFP Photo/EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ)

'Military option'

The urgency of the situation was underlined by President Donald Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who told MSNBC news that the US leader was reviewing plans for a "preventive war".

"He said he's not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States," McMaster said.

"It's intolerable from the president's perspective. So of course, we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option."

Saturday's UN resolution banned exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state.

If fully implemented it would strip North Korea of a third of its export earnings -- estimated to total $3 billion per year despite successive rounds of sanctions since the North's first nuclear test in 2006.

The resolution also prevents North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad. Their earnings are another source of foreign currency for Kim's regime.

It prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korea, bans new investment in current joint companies and adds nine North Korean officials and four entities including the North's main foreign exchange bank to the UN sanctions blacklist.

What next?

Trump hailed the vote -- saying in a tweet that the sanctions will have "very big financial impact!" -- and thanked Russia and China for backing a measure that either could have halted with their UN veto.

The United States began talks on a resolution with China a month ago, after Pyongyang launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, followed by a second ICBM test on July 28.

But the measure does not provide for cuts to oil deliveries, which would have dealt a serious blow to the North's economy.

China accounts for 90 percent of trade with North Korea, and Beijing's attitude to its volatile neighbour will be crucial to the success or failure of the new sanctions regime.

China and Russia had resisted the US push, arguing that dialogue with North Korea was the way to persuade it to halt its military programmes.

Speaking to reporters after the council vote, Washington's ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said "what's next is completely up to North Korea."

US officials have insisted that while Tillerson and Ri will be in the same room during the Manila forum, there would be no direct meeting between the two envoys.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Paris celebrates 2024 Olympic win as LA accepts 2028 consolation

Yahoo – AFP, Françoise CHAPTAL, Aug 1, 2017

Paris was insistent on hosting the Olympics in 2024, on the 100th anniversary
of the city's 1924 Games (AFP Photo/FRANCK FIFE)

Paris (AFP) - Paris was celebrating victory on Tuesday in its bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games after Los Angeles announced its intention to host the 2028 event instead in return for financial sweeteners.

Officially, French President Emmanuel Macron gave Monday's announcement by Los Angeles a cautious welcome, hailing a "very important step" on the road to hosting the Games.

The deal was described by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach as a "win-win-win" agreement for both cities and the Olympic movement.

But despite the fact that Paris is now effectively the only remaining candidate to host the 2024 Summer Games, Macron and other bid leaders shied away from overt triumphalism until an official announcement.

"France notes the decision of Los Angeles to put forward its candidature for 2028 and to reach an agreement with the IOC and Paris," a statement from Macron's office said.

Macron spoke to Bach following Los Angeles' announcement and was "delighted by this very important step towards France obtaining the Games in 2024".

Olympic Games host cities (AFP Photo/Paz PIZARRO)

Announcing the decision on Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said "this deal was too good to pass up".

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter: "Happy that my friend @MayorofLA has made an important new step on an agreement that will have three winners: Paris, Los Angeles and the IOC."

However others were less circumspect, with French newspapers celebrating the Paris win and Tony Estanguet, the Paris bid co-leader, saying he could see "nothing standing in the way of Paris staging the Games".

"This time we've won it," said a headline on the front page of Le Parisien newspaper.

Paris, which will host the Games for a third time, endured the disappointment of failed bids in 1992, 2008 and 2012.

Both Paris and Los Angeles had wanted to host the 2024 Olympics, with the winner to be officially named by the IOC on September 13 in the Peruvian capital Lima.

But the possibility that Los Angeles would abandon a 2024 bid and instead accept the 2028 Games has been growing since the IOC decided in July that it would attempt to award both Games at its Lima meeting.

The French capital insisted it only wanted to host the Games in 2024, on the 100th anniversary of the city's 1924 Olympics, prompting Los Angeles to soften its stance and consider hosting the 2028 Games.

Los Angeles has twice hosted the Summer Olympics, in 1932 and 1984 (AFP
Photo/FREDERIC J. BROWN)

'Proud'

And confirmation of the decision everyone was expecting came on Monday night.

"I am proud to announce the Olympic Games are coming back to the United States of America," Mayor Garcetti said at a ceremony at the StubHub Center stadium.

"In 2028, we are bringing the Games back to LA, one of the great capitals of the Olympic movement. A city that has always been a Games changer and will be again in 2028."

LA officials, who had put forward a $5.3 billion (4.5 billion euros) bid for 2024, said an agreement had been reached with the IOC on financial considerations that would make waiting an extra four years feasible.

Bid chief Casey Wasserman said the IOC had waived various fees and payments that could ultimately save LA organisers millions.

The IOC will also advance $180 million to LA organisers to lessen the impact of the longer lead-up time, money that normally would not be disbursed until closer to the Games kickoff.

Los Angeles' Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the city "would be stupid" not to 
agree to host the Olympics in 2028 (AFP Photo/Fabrice COFFRINI)

"The IOC contribution as stipulated by the HCC is $1.8 billion and has the potential to exceed $2 billion according to the evaluation of the LA bid committee when taking into account the estimated value of existing sponsor agreements to be renewed and potential new marketing deals," the bid committee said in a statement.

Like Paris, this will bring the Games back to Los Angeles for a third time, after the city hosted in 1932 and 1984.

The agreement must still be approved by the Los Angeles City Council and the United States Olympic Committee -- both of which backed the 2024 bid.

But Bach said he expected any remaining hurdles to be cleared.

"We are very confident that we can reach a tripartite agreement under the leadership of the IOC with LA and Paris in August, creating a win-win-win situation for all three partners," he said.

The United States last hosted the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 while the Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Monday, July 31, 2017

US to cut 755 US diplomatic staff in Russia, says Putin

Yahoo – AFP, Maria PANINA, July 30, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony for Russia's Navy Day
in Saint Petersburg on July 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Moscow (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin on Sunday said the United States would have to cut 755 diplomatic staff in Russia and warned of a prolonged gridlock in its ties after the US Congress backed new sanctions against the Kremlin.

Putin added bluntly that Russia was able to raise the stakes with America even further, although he hoped this would be unnecessary.

On Friday, the Russian foreign ministry demanded Washington cut its diplomatic presence in Russia by September 1 to 455 people -- the same number Moscow has in the US.

"More than a thousand people -- diplomats and technical personnel -- were working and are still working" at the US embassy and consulates, Putin said in an interview with Rossia-24 television.

"755 people must stop their activities in Russia."

The US State Department, solicited for a response by AFP, said it did not comment on "the number" of US officials serving abroad.

Putin added that an upturn in Russia's relations with Washington could not be expected "any time soon".

"We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better," he said.

"But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it's not for any time soon."

Raise the stakes?

Putin warned that Russia could further ratchet up the pressure, but he hoped this would not be needed.

Russia still "has things to say and is able to further restrict areas of common activities, which may be sensitive for the American side," he said.

If the damage inflicted by "attempts to pressure Russia" rises further, "we are able to look at other forms of retaliation. But I hope we won't have to do it," he said.

"For the time being, I am against" any additional riposte, Putin said.

On Thursday, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Iran and North Korea are also targeted in the sanctions bill.

The law now goes to President Donald Trump who had made an improvement in ties with Russia a plank of his election campaign -- a position that his critics said was inexplicable.

Moscow on Friday ordered the US to slash its number of diplomats in Russia to 455 by September 1.

It also froze two embassy compounds -- a Moscow summer house and a storage facility in the city -- from August 1.

"I thought that we should show that we too are not going to stand by without a response" after "the baseless measures taken by the American side," Putin said.

In December, then US president Barack Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses that Washington said were being used by Moscow for espionage.

At the time, the Kremlin said it would put any retaliation on hold until after Trump took office.

Hacking 'cooperation'

High on the list of US grievances is the allegation that Russian operatives hacked Democratic Party computers at the peak of the troubled 2016 election campaign.

Putin on Sunday said Russia had proposed "several times establishing cooperation with the American side" on cyber-security.

"But instead of starting to work constructively, all we hear are baseless accusations about interference in the internal affairs of the United States," he complained.

Putin and Trump, meeting on the sidelines of the July 7-8 G20 summit in Hamburg, talked about setting up what Trump called an "impenetrable cyber security unit" to prevent hacking in future elections.

Senior members of Trump's Republican Party poured scorn on the concept.

Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate's armed services committee, said the notion was "not the dumbest idea I've ever heard, but it's pretty close."

Former presidential candidate John McCain said sarcastically he was "sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort, since he's doing the hacking."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Macron puts France top of 'soft power' rankings: survey

Yahoo – AFP, Guy JACKSON, July 18, 2017

France has leapfrogged the United States and Britain as the world's top so-called
soft power, helped by the election of President Emmanuel Macron, a study of
countries' non-military global influence showed (AFP Photo/IAN LANGSDON)

Paris (AFP) - France has leapfrogged the United States and Britain as the world's top so-called soft power, helped by the election of President Emmanuel Macron, a study of countries' non-military global influence showed Tuesday.

While France has risen, Donald Trump's ascent to the White House has seen the US slip from the top last year to third place in the Soft Power 30 study, compiled by PR company Portland Communications and the University of Southern California.

Soft power measures a country's ability to secure international alliances and influence others through its attraction and appeal.

The study uses polling in 25 countries and digital data to measure a country's influence.

It takes into account factors such as the ability of countries to attract foreign students to its universities and tourists, as well as its cultural allure.

France's rapid rise from fifth place last year, when it was in the doldrums under unpopular ex-president Francois Hollande, is partly due to the centrist Macron's election in May.

But the country's diplomatic reach also played a key role.

"France's greatest strength lies in its vast diplomatic network," the study says.

"It is unrivalled in terms of membership to multilateral and international organisations, as well as in its diplomatic cultural missions.

"With Macron having long campaigned for cooperation and integration, it is not unreasonable to expect France’s global engagement and influence to grow."

France also remains the world's top tourist destination, the report said.

The terror attacks that have cost the lives of more than 230 people since 2015 "have not stopped tourists flocking to France and enjoying its rich cultural offering, cuisine, and lifestyle," the report says.

The top five countries by order are France, Britain, US, Germany and Canada. Japan has risen to sixth place from seventh, Switzerland is seventh and Australia slips to eighth.

The survey attributes the US decline -- it has slipped from first last year to third -- to a deterioration of "global sentiment" as a result of Trump's "America First" policy.

The US was still "unrivalled" in higher education, technological innovation and the production of film, music and TV, it pointed out.

Britain loses influence

Meanwhile, the report's authors warn that Britain's fall -- it was top of the rankings last year -- "should serve as a warning of what is likely to come for post-Brexit British influence".

With negotiations under way for Britain to leave the European Union within two years, the report says: "It is hard to imagine the direction of travel for British soft power... will be upwards in the future."

China's Xi reaffirms commitment to peace in the Middle East

Yahoo –AFP, July 18, 2017

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) shakes hands after presenting a
medallion to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Great
Hall of the People in Beijing on July 18, 2017 (AFP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Beijing (AFP) - China will host a symposium between Israel and the Palestinians later this year, an official said Tuesday, as president Xi Jinping vowed to "ceaselessly" contribute towards peace in the region.

Despite depending on the volatile Middle East for oil supplies, Beijing has long taken a backseat in its disputes.

But China has stepped up its diplomatic engagement in the region in the past year, including offering to host talks on the Syrian conflict.

In a meeting with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday, Xi reaffirmed China's support of a two-state solution, with an independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state, bounded by the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

During closed door talks, Xi said China will set up a trilateral dialogue mechanism and later this year host a peace symposium to help resolve the dispute, vice minister of foreign affairs Zhang Ming told reporters.

Xi called the Palestinian people "true good friends, partners, and brothers" of China, stating his country would "unswervingly promote China-Palestine bilateral relations and ceaselessly move the Middle East peace process forward".

Abbas, on his fourth state visit to the country, said he "hoped to see China play a greater role in the Middle East peace process."

He presented Xi with a golden medal of honour.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also met with Xi on a visit to Beijing in March, with the Chinese leader calling for peace between Israel and the Palestinians "as soon as possible."

Netanyahu said Israel was willing to see China play a bigger role in Middle East affairs, according to state media.

Trade between China and Israel has flourished since diplomatic ties were established in 1992.

China's total investment in Israel exceeds six billion dollars, and Israeli-designed technologies are used across the world's second largest economy.

The two countries began free trade negotiations last year.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Paris, LA to host Summer Olympics

Yahoo – AFP, Ben Simon, Jul 11, 2017

(From left) Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, International Olympic Committee President
 Thomas Bach and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pose on July 11, 2017 in
Lausanne (AFP Photo/Fabrice COFFRINI)

Lausanne (AFP) - The International Olympic Committee agreed Tuesday to award the 2024 and 2028 Games at the same time, effectively guaranteeing that Paris and Los Angeles will be the hosts.

The French capital is tipped to stage 2024 while the Californian city has hinted that it was prepared to wait four more years.

Paris and Los Angeles were the remaining candidates for the 2024 Olympics, a contest that IOC boss Thomas Bach said created "a golden opportunity".

The Olympic movement has had increasing trouble attracting prospective hosts given the soaring costs and taxpayer support required.

Paris and Los Angeles mounted progressive, exemplary bids that would trim expenses by using existing facilities, the IOC said, making clear that it did not want to reject either candidate.

Bach lobbied for a double hosting plan, which won unanimous approval from IOC members at a meeting Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC boss called the decision "historic".

"Ensuring stability of the Olympic Games for 11 years is really something extraordinary," he told reporters shortly after the plan was approved.

The Los Angeles and Paris Olympic sites for the 2024 Olympics ahead of the
Paris presentation to the IOC on Tuesday. (AFP Photo/Paz PIZARRO)

Two month window

The IOC now has a two-month window to negotiate with Paris and Los Angeles over which city will go first.

Bach said he wants a "tripartite agreement" before the IOC's main annual meeting in Peru's capital Lima on September 13, when a vote on the 2024 host had been scheduled.

Immediately after the deal was approved, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his Parisian counterpart Anne Hidalgo appeared on stage arm-in-arm to thank the IOC members, leaving little doubt that a three-way pact was achievable.

Speaking later alongside Bach, Garcetti and Hidalgo voiced full confidence in the upcoming talks.

"I now know that I am sitting up here with two mayors, from two cities that will host after Tokyo the next two Olympics," Garcetti said, referring to the 2020 Games in Japan.

Hidalgo assured that "the Games will return to Paris".

Paris and Los Angeles mounted progressive, exemplary bids that would trim 
expenses by using existing facilities, the IOC said, making clear that it did not
want to reject either candidate (AFP Photo/GABRIEL BOUYS)

Paris 'ready', LA to wait?

Bach said the negotiations would begin immediately, possibly over glasses of wine on Tuesday, adding an agreement could be announced next month.

In the highly unlikely event that there is no deal, the IOC will vote in Lima on 2024 alone, as initially planned, Bach said.

Delegations from the two cities -- led by French President Emmanuel Macron and Garcetti -- were in Lausanne making fresh pitches to IOC voters.

Paris has maintained a tougher line on the 2028 question, insisting it was focused on 2024, the centenary anniversary of the city's last Games.

"I am here to convey a message to say our people are ready to host these Games," Macron told reporters on Tuesday.

"After three failed bids we don't want to lose a fourth one," he said.

Paris mounted losing bids for the 1992, 2008 and 2012 Games.

The Los Angeles team has done did little to quell speculation it was open to 2028, with bid chairman Casey Wasserman reminding that the city had never given the IOC "an ultimatum" on the 2024 question.

The city last hosted the Games in 1984.

The LA 2024 team says it has secured $5.3 billion (4.7 billion euros) in private funding, 
which if delivered could set a new paradigm for hosting Games that have historically
relied on taxpayer money (AFP Photo/KEVORK DJANSEZIAN)

"Working hard to get the Olympics for the United States (L.A.). Stay tuned!" President Donald Trump said in a tweet, without making reference to a particular year.

'Great' Olympic cities

The Olympic movement has been stained by Games that erected grand multi-million dollar facilities that were left to crumble and rot, while the billions spent in public money offered no long-term benefit to host communities.

Los Angeles has stressed its near entire reliance on private funding while vowing to use the Games to broaden access to sports, something it won praise for doing following the 1984 edition.

While Paris has equally focused on leaving a positive legacy, Macron also highlighted the opportunity for France to rally around the "Olympic values" of tolerance and inclusivity, saying they were embedded in the country's "DNA."

"It truly is a tale of two great Olympic cities," said a report released last week by the IOC's 2024 Evaluation Commission.

Bach called their presentations on Tuesday "mind-blowing."