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

Same-sex marriage around the world

"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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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Burma Wishes for Indonesian-Style Democracy

Thursday, 27 March, 2008 | 15:34 WIB 

TEMPO Interactive, Singapore: Special representative of the United Nations for Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, yesterday said that the Burma military junta wishes for Indonesian-style democracy. 

“The Junta wants to implement the model of Indonesian democracy where there is a change from the military government to civilian before becoming democratic,” said Gambari in a special interview with the Singapore newspaper, The Straits Times. 

Gambari, who has just visited Burma early this month, said the Burma government is also interested in learning Thailand's experience that once was a military-based government until the political party of People Power (PPP) supporting former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won the election last January. Before that took place, the military was the power holder after Thaksin was forced down through a non-bloody coup in September 2006. 

At the present time, the junta has completed a constitutional draft to be decided in a referendum in May. They will hold an election in 2010. 

The draft is aimed at keeping the military power. It is mentioned in the draft that Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader, is forbidden to attend the election, and 25 percent of the parliamentary seats are the junta’s. Moreover, the president will have powers that he can appoint and dismiss parliamentary and justice officials. 

Pro-democracy activists certainly disagree with this draft. Tun Myint Aung, leader of the Student Group of the 88 Generation, suggests people reject the draft. 

AFP/Faisal Assegaf

Related Story:

It's official: Suu Kyi banned

Saturday, March 29, 2008

President praises Indonesian Islamic film "Ayat-ayat Cinta"

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the Indonesian film "Ayat-ayat Cinta" (Verses of Love) can be a medium to promote a better understanding of Islam.

The president made the statement after watching the film directed by Hanung Bramantyo at Studio XXI at EX Plaza here on Friday night.

"The film can be a good medium for getting the right message of Islam across," said Yudhoyono, who was accompanied by his family, including his sons Agus Harimurti and Edi baskoro as well as his daughter-in-law Annisa Pohan.

The Indonesian head of state who claimed he wiped tears from his eyes several times when watching the film, said Islam was frequently misunderstood by the public.

Yudhoyono added that all Indonesian Muslims who had watched the film should be able to explain to the rest of the world that Islam is a peace-loving religion full of tolerance and harmony.

According to the president, the film directed by Hanung Bramantyo was a reflection of Islam, its ability to rise above mere symbols enabling the world community to coexist despite its diversity.

Among the ministers who accompanied President Yudhoyono in watching the film were Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik, Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Women`s Empowerment Minister Mutia Hatta, People`s Welfare Coordinating Minister Aburizal Bakrie, Minister/State Secretary Hatta Rajasa and Presidential Spokesman Dino Pattidjalal.

Besides the ministers, artists who played in the film also took part, namely Fedi Nuril, Melani Putria, Rianti Cartwright, Carissa Putri, and Zaskia Addya Mecca.

Senior artist Chritine Hakim, Director Hanung Bramantyo, producer of the film Manoj Punjabi and author of Ayat-ayat Cinta novel Habibiurrahman El Shirazy also attended the event.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saudi King calls for interfaith dialogue

By DONNA ABU-NASR and ABDULLAH SHIHRI, Associated Press Writers


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - The Saudi king has made an impassioned plea for dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Jews — the first such proposal from a nation with no diplomatic ties to Israel and a ban on non-Muslim religious services and symbols.

The message from King Abdullah, which was welcomed by Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, comes at a time of stalled peace initiatives and escalating tensions in the region.

Muslims have been angered by cartoons published in European papers seen as insulting the Prophet Muhammad and by the pope's baptizing on Easter of a Muslim journalist who had converted to Catholicism.

"The idea is to ask representatives of all monotheistic religions to sit together with their brothers in faith and sincerity to all religions as we all believe in the same God," the king told delegates Monday night at a seminar on "Culture and the Respect of Religions."

The specifics of Abdullah's initiative — and who would participate — remained unclear, in particular whether Israeli religious leaders would be invited to a Saudi-brokered dialogue. The kingdom and all other Arab nations except Egypt and Jordan do not have diplomatic relations with Israel and generally shun unofficial contacts.

The call — the first of its kind by an Arab leader — was significant. The Saudi monarch is the custodian of Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina, a position that lends his words special importance and influence. Abdullah said Saudi Arabia's top clerics have given him the green light — crucial backing in a society that expects decisions taken by its rulers to adhere to Islam's tenets.

It also raises the possibility that a religious dialogue could have a political impact in the Middle East, easing tensions between Arabs and Israelis in a way that years of off-and-on negotiations and political conferences have failed to do.

The White House welcomed the king's gesture.

"We think increased dialogue is a really good thing," presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday. "And, of course, when you have someone like the king of Saudi Arabia, and all of his stature, that is recommending such a dialogue, it can only give us hope that there would be further recognition of everyone's right to freedom and freedom of expression and religion. So we are encouraged by it."

Abdullah said he planned to hold conferences to get the opinion of Muslims from other parts of the world, and then meetings with "our brothers" in Christianity and Judaism "so we can agree on something that guarantees the preservation of humanity against those who tamper with ethics, family systems and honesty."

Abdullah, who said he discussed the idea with Pope Benedict XVI when they met at the Vatican in November, framed his appeal in strictly religious and ethical terms, aimed at addressing the weakening of the family, increasing atheism and "a lack of ethics, loyalty, and sincerity for our religions and humanity."

A Saudi official with knowledge of the proposal said it was not intended to have a regional political angle, saying "the initiative is not aimed at the Middle East but at the whole world. It's a global initiative." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

But Abdullah, considered a reformer in Saudi politics, has in the past proposed peace deals with Israel, saying his country and other Arab nations are willing to recognize the Jewish state as long as it gives up land to Palestinians.

Prominent Saudi cleric, Sheik Muhammad al-Nujaimi, said he saw no reason why any Saudi official, including Abdullah, cannot meet with Jewish religious leaders. "The only condition is for the rabbi not to be supportive of the massacres against the Palestinian people," he said.

In Israel, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger welcomed Abdullah's call.

"Our hand is outstretched to any peace initiative and any dialogue that is aimed at bringing an end to terror and violence," he said in a statement.

Rabbi David Rosen, head of inter-religious relations at the American Jewish Committee and a former chief rabbi of Ireland, said framing the dialogue in religious terms was key.

"Religion is all too often the problem, so it has to also be the solution, or at least part of the solution and I think that the tragedy of the political initiatives to bring peace has been the failure to include the religious dimension," he said.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli peace negotiator, said a Saudi-backed dialogue between Muslims and Jews "could be a balancing factor" against extremists but cannot replace diplomacy.

"Negotiations need to be negotiations and you don't mix religion into a diplomatic conflict, because then there is a danger of turning it into a religious war," he said.

Michael Cromartie, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which monitors religious freedom globally and makes policy recommendations, called the proposed dialogue long overdue.

"I don't care who you put in the room — the fact they're having the conversation can only help," he said. "It's a courageous thing for the king to do. One should not expect Utopia, but it's a start to have an open and free dialogue in a country with a reputation for religious oppression."

Saudi Arabia follows a severe interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, and it was not clear whether Abdullah's call would be followed by steps in the kingdom to relax the ban on non-Muslim worship services, as well as symbols from other religions, such as crosses and Bibles.

Abdullah's contacts with Benedict are also significant.

Benedict angered many Muslims with a 2006 speech in which he cited a medieval text that described some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly the command to spread the faith "by the sword." He later expressed regret that his remarks angered Muslims and stressed that the text didn't reflect his own opinion.

In an audiotape released last week, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden accused Benedict of playing a "large and lengthy role" in what he called a "new Crusade" against Islam. Bin Laden also warned of a "severe" reaction for Europe's publication of the Muhammad cartoons.

Muhammad al-Zulfa, a member of the Saudi Consultative Council — an appointed body that acts like a parliament — said Abdullah's conciliatory remarks were "a message to all extremists: Stop using religion."

Antonios Kireopoulos, head of Interfaith Relations at the National Council of Churches, agreed, noting: "Despite recent years of hostilities, usually by extremists, ... there have been generations of peace between Muslims, Christians and Jews."

"This is a way to reclaim some of that neighborliness," he said.

Donna Abu-Nasr reported on this story from Beirut, Lebanon, and Abdullah al-Shihri reported from Riyadh. AP Religion Writer Eric Gorski in Denver and Lily Hindy in New York contributed to this report.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Saudi woman seeks driving acceptance on YouTube

From Octavia Nasr, CNN

(CNN) -- A Saudi woman has posted a video of herself driving on YouTube in an effort to urge the Saudi government to expand the rights of women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Wajeha Al-Huwaider and other women are urging Saudi authorities to lift restrictions on women driving.

Watch Saudi woman push for driving rights »

Wajeha Al-Huwaider has a driver's license, but she is only allowed to drive in rural areas of Saudi Arabia. She said that restriction "paralyzes half the population." She wants authorities to let women drive in Saudi cities.

"On the occasion of this Women's Day, we appeal to our interior minister, his Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, to permit us to drive," Wajeha said on the video in Arabic.

International Women's Day was Saturday. The video, nearly three minutes long, has been viewed about 19,000 times in its first four days on the video sharing site. Video Watch Saudi woman push for driving rights »

Wajeha and 125 other women have signed a petition asking the Saudi interior minister to lift restrictions on women driving in Saudi Arabia. Earlier petitions to the Saudi king went unanswered.

Egyptian columnist Mona El-Tahawy told CNN she believes the new tactic of using YouTube will bear fruit.

"She's protected herself in a way that's very clever and in using YouTube. She's also connected to something that's becoming incredibly powerful in the Arab world, and that's the Internet," El-Tahawy said.

The last time women publicly demanded their right to drive in the ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom was in 1990. Religious police arrested the women drivers and insulted them in public.

The row was then followed by a fatwa -- a religious edict -- officially banning women from driving in Saudi cities.

Wajeha's sister-in-law rode with her, serving as camera operator.

"For women to drive is not a political issue," Wajeha said as she drove. "It is not a religious issue. It is a social issue, and we know that many women of our society are capable of driving cars. We also know that many families will allow their women to drive."

She said the women who signed the petition would be "willing to assist the government in training other women and helping them obtain their own driver's licenses." The petition-signers hold driver's licenses from a variety of countries.

Saudi Arabia has often come under criticism for its treatment of women, most recently in a United Nations report that blasted the kingdom for widespread discrimination.

Under Saudi law, women are subject to numerous restrictions, including the prohibition against driving and a requirement that they get a man's permission to travel or have surgery.

Monday, March 10, 2008

EU told to prepare for flood of climate change migrants

Global warming threatens to severely destabilise the planet, rendering a fifth of its population homeless, top officials say

Ian Traynor in Brussels, The Guardian, Monday March 10 2008

In its half-century history, the EU has absorbed wave upon wave of immigrants. There were the millions of political migrants fleeing Russian-imposed communism to western Europe throughout the cold war, the post-colonial and "guest worker" migrants who poured into western Europe in the boom years of the 1950s and 60s, the hundreds of thousands who escaped the Balkan wars of the 90s and the millions of economic migrants of the past decade seeking a better life.

Now, according to the EU's two senior foreign policy officials, Europe needs to brace itself for a new wave of migration with a very different cause - global warming. The ravages already being inflicted on parts of the developing world by climate change are engendering a new type of refugee, the "environmental migrant".

Within a decade "there will be millions of environmental migrants, with climate change as one of the major drivers of this phenomenon," predict Javier Solana and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's chief foreign policy coordinator and the European commissioner for external relations. "Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure."

They point out that some countries already badly hit by global warming are demanding that the new phenomenon be recognised internationally as a valid reason for migration.

The immigration alert is but one of seven "threats" that the two officials focus on in pointing to the security implications and the dangers to European interests thrown up by climate change.

Their report, the first of its kind to be tabled to an EU summit - opening on Thursday in Brussels - amounts to a wake-up call to the governments of Europe, a demand that they start taking account of climate change and its impact in their security and foreign-policy decisions.

Read whole story

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

The decoupling debate

As America's economy struggles to stay aloft, the developing worl
d is learning to spread its wings

From The Economist print edition, Mar 6th 2008 | HONG KONG

MANY nasty words begin with the letter D: death, disease, depression, debt (when you drown in it) and deflation. “Decoupling”, on the other hand, has a nicer ring to it, even if it is the source of a great deal of controversy. Economists continue to argue about whether or not emerging economies will follow America into recession. The most pessimistic claim that “it makes no sense to talk about decoupling in an era of globalisation”: economies have become more intertwined through trade and finance, which should make business cycles more synchronised, not less. The slide in emerging stockmarkets on Wall Street's coat-tails appears to endorse their view. Yet recent data suggest decoupling is no myth. Indeed, it may yet save the world economy.

Decoupling does not mean that an American recession will have no impact on developing countries. That would be daft. Such countries have become more integrated into the world economy (their exports have increased from just over 25% of their GDP in 1990 to almost 50% today). Sales to America will obviously weaken. The point is that their GDP-growth rates will slow by much less than in previous American downturns. Most enjoyed strong growth during the fourth quarter of last year, and some speeded up, even as America's economy ground to a virtual halt and its non-oil imports fell.

One reason is that while exports to America have stumbled, those to other emerging economies have surged (see chart 1). China's growth in exports to America slowed to only 5% (in dollar terms) in the year to January, but exports to Brazil, India and Russia were up by more than 60%, and those to oil exporters by 45%. Half of China's exports now go to other emerging economies. Likewise, South Korea's exports to the United States tumbled by 20% in the year to February, but its total exports rose by 20%, thanks to trade with other developing nations.

A second supporting factor is that in many emerging markets domestic consumption and investment quickened during 2007. Their consumer spending rose almost three times as fast as in the developed world. Investment seems to be holding up even better: according to HSBC, real capital spending rose by a staggering 17% in emerging economies last year, compared with only 1.2% in rich economies.

Sceptics argue that much of this investment, especially in China, is in the export sector and so will collapse as sales to America weaken. But less than 15% of China's investment is linked to exports. Over half is in infrastructure and property.

It is not just China that is building power plants, roads and railways; a large chunk of the Gulf's petrodollars are also being spent on gleaming skyscrapers and new airports—not to mention ski-domes in the desert. Mexico, Brazil and Russia have also launched big infrastructure projects that will take years to complete.

The four biggest emerging economies, which accounted for two-fifths of global GDP growth last year, are the least dependent on the United States: exports to America account for just 8% of China's GDP, 4% of India's, 3% of Brazil's and 1% of Russia's. Over 95% of China's growth of 11.2% in the year to the fourth quarter came from domestic demand. China's growth is widely expected to slow this year—it needs to, since even Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, warned this week of overheating—but to a still boisterous 9-10%.

Smaller economies in Asia look more vulnerable. For example, Malaysia's exports to America amount to 22% of its GDP, and they fell by 18% in the year to December. Yet its annual GDP growth jumped to 7.3% in the fourth quarter, thanks to consumer spending and a jump in government infrastructure investment.

Mexico's exports to America are an even larger 27% of its GDP. Real GDP growth held steady at 3.8% in the year to the fourth quarter, but manufacturing jobs are falling and workers' remittances from abroad are falling. Retail sales grew by only 1% in the year to December. Yet the economy is holding up better than during previous American downturns, partly because high oil revenues have enabled the government to increase investment by around 50% over the past year.

American downturns have often caused the prices of oil and other raw materials to slump, but this time China's surging demand is propping up prices and fuelling booms in Brazil, Russia and the Middle East. Brazil's exports jumped by 26% in the year to February. In turn, if prices stay strong, so will China's exports to commodity-producing countries. A sharp slowdown in China would hurt them more than an American recession will.

Act global, think local

A recent IMF study* by Cigdem Akin and Ayhan Kose offers some support for the idea that you can have both decoupling and globalisation at the same time. They divide 106 countries into three groups—developed, emerging, and low-income developing countries (which are less integrated into the world economy)—and then measure how the correlation between economies has changed over time as cross-border flows have expanded. They find that growth has indeed become more synchronised among developed economies and also among emerging economies. But, surprisingly, economic activity in emerging economies has diverged (or decoupled) from that of developed economies over the past two decades. The impact of rich economies on emerging economies' growth has fallen sharply.

The popular argument is that business cycles should become more synchronised because in a globalised world everyone is in the same boat. But this rests on an out-dated impression that poor countries mainly export to rich ones. Instead, emerging economies' trade with each other has risen faster and now accounts for over half of their total exports. Emerging markets as a group now export more to China than to the United States (see chart 2).

Some contend that this mainly reflects imports of intermediate goods into China for assembly; the finished goods are then exported to America and so will be hurt by slower growth. There is some truth to this. However, an analysis by BCA Research, a financial research firm, finds that Asian exports to China are increasingly driven by China's own domestic demand. A growing share of emerging economies' exports are also commodities sold to China.

Another reason why globalisation and decoupling can co-exist is that opening up economies has not only boosted poor countries' trade, it has also spurred their productivity growth and hence domestic incomes and spending. In 2007 emerging economies' real domestic demand grew by an average of 8%, almost four times as fast as in the developed world.

A severe recession in America could still have a nasty impact on the developing world if commodity prices collapsed and if it caused stockmarkets to fall more steeply, depressing global consumer and business confidence. A sharper fall in the dollar could also further squeeze emerging economies' exports.

But for perhaps the first time ever, developing countries would be able to make full use of monetary and fiscal policy to cushion their economies. In the past, when they were net foreign borrowers, capital inflows tended to dry up during global downturns as foreign investors shunned risky assets. This forced governments to raise interest rates and tighten fiscal policy. Economies with large external deficits, such as South Africa, Turkey and Hungary, are still vulnerable. But most emerging economies now have a current-account surplus and large foreign reserves; many have a budget surplus or are close to balance, leaving ample room for a fiscal stimulus if necessary.

Perhaps the best support for decoupling comes from America itself. Fourth-quarter profits of big companies, such as Coca-Cola, IBM and DuPont, were better than expected as strong sales growth in emerging markets offset a sharp slowdown at home. In other words, bits of American business are rising above their own economy. With luck, the world economy can rise above America's.

*"Changing Nature of North-South Linkages: Stylized Facts and Explanations", IMF Working Paper WP/07/280.

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Climate change a new factor in global tensions: EU

Google / AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) — The risks of climate change have turned from a threat to reality impacting the conflict in Darfur, migration from flood-prone Bangladesh and hopes for stability in the Middle East, according to a new EU report.

From Africa to Asia, and from pole to pole, climate change has become "a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing trends, tensions and instability," warns the seven-page report on "Climate change and international security", to be presented to a European summit in Brussels on March 13-14.

Among the listed threats are "reduction of arable land, widespread shortage of water, diminishing food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts."

These problems, according to the report drawn up by the offices of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, "are already happening in many parts of the world".

Even a temperature rise of two degrees Celsius by 2050 "will pose serious security risks".

Change beyond that level "will lead to unprecedented security scenarios, as it is likely to trigger a number of tipping points that could lead to further, accelerated, irreversible and largely unpredictable climate changes," the report warns.

"The core challenge is that climate change threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone," it adds, echoing a warning from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in January.

Receding coastlines and the submerging of large areas, including whole island states, means that "more disputes over land and maritime borders and other territorial rights are likely," the report stresses.

Africa is adjudged to be particularly vulnerable.

"Already today climate change is having a major impact on the conflict in and around Darfur," it states.

Throughout the continent reduced rainfall and increasing temperatures are taking their toll, bringing poor harvests.

Given these factors, migration both within Africa and towards Europe "is likely to intensify".

The UN predicts there will be millions of "environmental migrants" by 2020 which may in turn "increase conflicts in transit and destination areas," says the report.

In the Middle East, "existing tensions over access to water are almost certain to intensify in this region leading to further political instability with detrimental implications for Europe's energy security and other interests".

The security and environmental risks are joined and exacerbated by the economic risks, the report says.

It cited estimates that "a business as usual scenario" in dealing with climate change could cost the world economy up to 20 percent of GDP per year, with "the east coasts of China and India as well as the Caribbean region and Central America would be particurly effected."

The report's authors have no miracle cure to put forward.

Among its proposals is to build up early warning systems for disasters and intensify research and analysis.

The report stresses the importance of multilateral leadership notably among the major G8 nations and UN bodies.

Abdullah at Risk After Losing Malaysian Supermajority

By Angus Whitley and Stephanie Phang

March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's hold on power in Malaysia is in doubt after the best performance in 50 years by an opposition that wants to scrap legalized preferences for the ethnic Malay majority, help the poor and battle corruption.

While the National Front ruling coalition kept control of the government after yesterday's election, it lost the two- thirds majority it has enjoyed in parliament -- a free hand that has helped it to consolidate power. Opposition parties led by a new multiracial party promising to fight poverty and graft won support from ethnic Indians and Chinese, as well as Malays.

Riot police officers faced off against a crowd in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, on Saturday, which was election day across the country. (NYT, Thomas Fuller)

``You can't lead a coalition that loses this badly and stay in power,'' said Ooi Kee Beng, an analyst at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ``He should resign. The coalition is in crisis because it can no longer claim it represents all the races.''

Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation, which leads the ruling coalition of race-based parties, lost power in five of 12 states at stake, including Malay-majority Kelantan and Kedah, the premier's home state of Penang.

``We have done very badly across the board, not just in Kelantan,'' said Annuar Musa, UMNO's head in the northeastern state, which the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party won.

Third-Largest Economy

The Chinese-based Democratic Action Party took every state and parliamentary seat it contested in Penang. The National Front coalition has won the other seven states in Southeast Asia's third-largest economy, according to the Election Commission.

The National Front has won 137 of 222 parliamentary seats, with the opposition at 82, according to the latest data from the Election Commission. The opposition's 37 percent of parliament exceeds 1969's 34 percent.

Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, 60, a well-known moderate Islamist who was imprisoned during the last election, coordinated the opposition campaign and his multiethnic People's Justice Party won 31 seats, up from one in 2004.

``This is the start of our mission to implement our reform agenda for a multi-racial Malaysia,'' Anwar said in an interview just after 4 a.m.

Anwar had been sacked in 1998 and later found guilty of having homosexual relations and of trying to cover up that alleged crime -- allegations he denied. The sex charge was overturned in 2004.

Accepting Defeat

Abdullah, 68, said earlier that coalition leaders who lost their seats should accept defeat. He declined to answer questions about how the government might change its policies after the election.

``At the moment, there's no one pressuring me'' to step down, he told reporters before going home from UMNO's Kuala Lumpur headquarters at about 3 a.m.

The last time the opposition won a third of parliament, in 1969, opposition party victory parades prompted a bloody backlash and the prime minister later resigned. Malaysia's police chief, Musa Hassan, yesterday banned any election celebrations.

Voting went smoothly yesterday, with just one incident in the eastern state of Terengganu where supporters of PAS, as the Islamic party is known, tried to block two buses they suspected contained unregistered voters.

Schools, Homes, Jobs

Malaysia's Indians and Chinese together are a third of the country's 27 million population. UMNO governs with junior Chinese and Indian partners, who have been criticized for accepting an affirmative-action policy that gives Malays educational, housing and job preferences.

Works Minister Samy Vellu, the top ethnic Indian leader in Malaysia's ruling coalition, lost his seat, as did Koh Tsu Koon, the head of one of the coalition's main Chinese-based parties.

``This is the biggest defeat for our party since our founding 40 years ago,'' Koh said late last night. His party Gerakan had been in the opposition when it first won control of Penang in 1969.

``The people have shown their lack of confidence in the coalition in its present form and shape,'' said Tricia Yeoh, director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, an independent research institute in Kuala Lumpur. ``It's a slap on their faces and a wake-up call.''

Anwar's multiethnic People's Justice Party co-operated with the DAP and PAS against the government, and has pledged to scrap the race-based policy as unjust and a drag on economic growth.

Cheaper Fuel

PAS, after suffering a setback in the 2004 election, dropped its goal of turning Malaysia into an Islamic state from this year's manifesto, promising free education, health services, low-cost housing, cheaper fuel and a minimum wage instead.

Anwar played a key role in moderating the pro-Islamic stance of PAS nationwide and rallying the opposition, said analysts including Ibrahim Suffian, director of the Merdeka Center, an independent Malaysian research group.

``The opposition parties have really gotten their act together in terms of strategizing and they have their icon of a leader in Anwar,'' said Maznah Mohamed, a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angus Whitley in Kuala Lumpur at awhitley1@bloomberg.net Stephanie Phang in Kuala Lumpur at sphang@bloomberg.net

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's official: Suu Kyi banned

Bangkok Post

Rangoon - The Burmese junta informed visiting United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari they will not amend a draft constitution to allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to contest the planned 2010 polls. On Saturday, Mr Gambari met Mrs Suu Kyi, without result.

Reports from official media on Saturday said the the military regime turned down a request by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that the regime amend the new constitution to "ensure inclusiveness."

Information Minister Brigadier-General Kyaw Hsan gave Gambari a long lecture on Friday, which was printed in all state-controlled media.

"The Constitution has already been drafted and it should not be amended again," Kyaw Hsan said.

Gambari met with the Nobel peace prize laureate and other executives in her National League for Democracy (NLD) party at the Sein Le Kan Tha State Guest House for about 90 minutes.

The content of their discussion was not immediately known, but it did nothing to change the minds of the military dictators and allow her to contest a general election planned in 2010.

In a letter dated February 19 to Burma's military supremo Senior General Than Shwe, the UN secretary general called for an amendment to the current draft constitution that would drop a clause excluding all Burmese nationals married to foreigners from running for election.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate who has been under house arrest since May, 2003, was married to the late Michael Aris, a British professor at Oxford University.

The new constitution, drafted by a military-appointed forum, will be voted on in a referendum in May, this year.

It is widely expected that the constitution will be approved by the referendum, which is expected to be manipulated.

The referendum is part of the regime's so-called "seven-step road map" to democracy that will culminate in a general election now scheduled in 2010.

Critics have faulted the constitution-drafting process for failing to include input from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party led by Suu Kyi and other opponents to the regime, leading the UN to call the document a "sham."

Kyaw Hsan faulted the UN for being biased against the regime, which only last September cracked down on anti-military protests led by Buddhist monks, leaving at least 31 people led.

The information minister noted that the world community has not objected to Thailand's new constitution, passed last year, despite the lack of participation by Thai opposition parties in the drafting process, nor the recent constitutions passed in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the lack of participation by their opponents, including Moslem militants with al-Qaeda links and the Taliban, respectively.

"We haven't heard any objection to these events by those persons and organisations who are objecting to us," said Kyaw Hsan. "It is not fair. The United Nations should stand fair and square without bias.

He also criticised Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years, for turning down the regime's request that she openly oppose western sanctions on Burma as a precondition for holding talks with her.

"Although we have opened the door for 'win-win' situation, NLD and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are refusing to join hands," Kyaw Hsan said.

He urged the visiting envoy to support the junta's "seven step" road map and stop pursuing alternatives suggested by western democracies.

"We shall not accept any attempt to hinder or reverse the process of the seven-step Road Map. However, we will heartily welcome the positive suggestions of the UN to help implement the seven-step Road Map," Kyaw Hsan concluded.

Gambari reportedly promised to onpass the minister's "clarification" to the UN the Secretary-General.

Gambari, who arrived in Rangoon on Thursday, was scheduled to meet with NLD members Saturday morning. It is anticipated that he will soon hold talks with Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest in her Rangoon home for almost four years. (dpa)

Latin American nations end crisis with handshake

By Patrick Markey and Enrique Andres Pretel

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - The presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela ended a border dispute on Friday with a summit handshake after a week of regional diplomacy in the face of hostile rhetoric and troop buildups.

"And with this ... this incident that has caused so much damage (is) resolved," leftist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said before standing up and shaking hands with his U.S.-backed conservative Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had blamed the United States for the crisis as he sent tanks to the border with Colombia, joined in shaking Uribe's hand and applauded loudly and smiled.

The dispute erupted last Saturday when Colombia raided inside Ecuador to kill a rebel leader. It resolution brought the summit to a surprise ending after bitter exchanges, including Correa calling Uribe a liar.

The accord came after Uribe apologized to Correa under pressure from governments across the region, which worked to prevent the crisis escalating into Latin America's first armed conflict among states in more than a decade.

The dispute had spread across the region with leftist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua joining Ecuador in cutting relations with Colombia, while Venezuela and Ecuador sent troops to their borders against the strongest U.S. ally in the region.

Uribe also moved to meet another Correa demand, guaranteeing Colombia would not make similar raids if his neighbors cooperated in the fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The resolution was a diplomatic victory for Latin America, whose governments from Mexico to Brazil managed the crisis by emphasizing negotiations and took advantage of their previously scheduled summit to force the sides to talk.

Read whole Story ...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pope to host summit with Muslims

BBC News

Pope Benedict XVI will host landmark Catholic-Muslim talks in November to improve ties between the two religions.

The announcement was made in a joint statement after a two-day meeting between senior Vatican and Muslim leaders in Rome.

Catholic-Muslim relations soured after a 2006 speech in Germany in which the Pope quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor's criticisms of Islam.

The Regensburg speech provoked Muslim fury and triggered protests worldwide.

But it also prompted 138 Muslim scholars from 43 countries to launch an appeal to the Pope for greater theological dialogue, called the Common Word.

Since then the number of signatories to the appeal has grown to more than 200.

Wider dialogue

The joint statement said the first Catholic-Muslim summit would be held in Rome on 4-6 November and would involve 24 religious leaders and scholars from each side.

It said the Pope would address the meeting on the themes of "Love of God, Love of Neighbour", "Theological and Spiritual Foundation" and "Human Dignity and Mutual Respect".

Catholic and Muslim leaders hope the forum will start a regular official dialogue between the two religions.

The conference will take place just over a year after the Regensburg speech.

Although the pontiff has repeatedly expressed regret for the reaction to his comments, he stopped short of the clear apology sought by Muslims.

But the BBC's Frances Kennedy in Rome says the Vatican is now clearly convinced of the need for a wider, if more difficult, dialogue with Islam.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Russia: World watching for any change

By Paul Reynolds, World affairs correspondent, BBC News website

The world will be watching the new Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev for any signs of change in Russia's foreign and domestic policy when he takes over in May - without expecting much significant movement.

Mr Medvedev might not share Mr Putin's KGB background, but he was personally endorsed by President Putin in advance, Mr Putin was chosen as prime minister in advance and will have the chance of running again for president in 2012.

The only reason Mr Putin is standing down as president now is that Article 81 of the Russian constitution prevents someone from being president more than two terms in a row.

It is possible therefore that this will be an interregnum, with Vladimir Putin playing a guiding, possibly a determining role, and waiting for his next shot at the top job.

'More of the same'

"I expect more of the same," said Margot Light of the London School of Economics.

"I don't think that Putin would have selected Medvedev if he thought there would be change. I am not convinced by the effort to portray Medvedev as a liberal. He would not have got this far if he was.

"He has, for example accused the British Council [several of whose offices the Russians have closed] of being "spies".

"Putin could also engineer a shift of power to the prime minister. Recently he published an economic and political programme for the next 12 years that would move power from the presidency.

"The key word in the document is 'innovation'. Putin wants to diversify the Russian economy, ending the dependence on energy. This is not a bad thing but the decisions will be in the hands of the government and that means Putin.

"As for foreign policy, the position that Russia takes its own line is popular at home and this will probably continue, though there will be an element of good cop-bad cop between the two."


A recent BBC radio series has given some illuminating insights into the mindset of the Kremlin leadership.

In Dancing with the Russian Bear, former BBC Moscow correspondent Tim Whewell concluded that in late 2004, after the victory of Viktor Yushchenko in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, President Putin and his allies became determined not to let the same thing happen in Russia.

They saw a danger of internal dissent being encouraged by what they claimed to be foreign elements.

"That autumn of 2004 was a real turning point," he says. "That was the start of the nationalist youth movements and action against foreign non-governmental organisations which were regarded as subversive.

"The paranoia runs really deep.

"It is true that Medvedev is the first Russian president not to have been in the communist party or the KGB, and he did make a speech the other day praising freedom of speech and the press, but it is unclear as to whether he will emerge from the Putin shadow."

The Ukraine example

In the programme, a Kremlin adviser Gleb Pavlosky, who was active in Ukraine during the key period, said this about the Kremlin's reaction:

"Clarity appeared very quickly in Moscow. Already by the end of 2004, we understood this is what we faced in Moscow, that they would try to export this to us, that we should prepare for this situation and very quickly strengthen our political system, and make it ready for the strike from outside... so that an Orange Revolution could not happen in Russia."

This mindset helps explain not only Russian domestic policy but its sensitivity over events abroad as well, where they see a further pattern of hostility. The Russians are furious at the American anti-missile defence system, at anti-Russian sentiments in some former Soviet republics and at the decision by the US and many EU member states to recognise the separation of Kosovo from Serbia without Serbia's agreement.

If this attitude is the prevailing one, the arrival of Mr Medvedev might see some changes in tone, given his different background and personality, but not much change in the underlying policy.