“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)


How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)


''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"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.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."


“ … 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 ..."



African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cameroonian kid beats internet ban to win coding competition

A 17-year-old Cameroonian has won Google's annual coding award, despite the partial shutdown of internet in his country. Nji Collins Gbah is the first African to win the competition.

Deutsche Welle, 15 February 2017

Young Africans sitting in front of computers (AFP/Getty Images)

The population of the English-speaking North West and South West regions of Cameroon are elated after teenager Nji Collins Gbah became the first African winner in Google's annual coding competition.

The 17-year-old beat all odds, including the internet blackout imposed by the government, to emerge the winner. The Cameroonian government cut off the internet in the English-speaking regions four weeks ago, saying this was necessary to quell unrest and to stop people from using social media to spread what the government calls "anti-state messages."

Protests began in October last year, targeting the alleged marginalization of English speakers by Cameroon's francophone majority. Since then, at least six protestors have been shot dead and hundreds have been arrested.

Undeterred by all this, Gbah traveled to a neighboring town to apply for the global award.

Locals have been thronging the family's home in Bamenda to celebrate the young hero whose win came at a difficult time for  Cameroonians in the South and Northwest regions.

This is an English-speaking part of the country where there are complaints about alleged discrimination and what people see as the francophone establishment's failure to respect the status of English as an official language of Cameroon.

Computer or chores?

Apart from getting round the internet blackout, Gbah also had to borrow his father's computer.

" He used to take my computer and I was not very happy with it because I was feeling that he was only spending time without doing house chores.” Nji Patrick said.

" So at times I used to seize my computer and lock it in the house and I told him not to use it any more because I was believing that he was just spending time on that computer for nothing," Gbah's father told DW.

Gbah went ahead to register for the competition. He had to travel to a French-speaking zone in Mbouda where he could get an internet connection to complete the Google competition tasks.

"They told us to know some basic things in computer science and some basics in computer science programming and how to use certain software. So you basically just need to create an account or use your Google account if you have one,” Gbah explained.

Google's coding competition is now
in its 14th year
After his initial skepticism. his father admitted that his son is now a role model for many youths after beating all odds to win  the Google coding competition.

"I was very very surprised. I blamed myself for being so hard on him but now I am very very happy," Nji Patrick said.

Victory is an inspiration

For many young people in Cameroon, like Atteh Francis, the victory shows how much they are losing due to the internet ban in their region.

"This young man had that inspiration to go to Bafoussam, but you don't know how many of them are there who could have been on the podium but who do not have the chance because of the absence of the internet, and it is a big shame because I don't know how I can live for a day without the internet," Francis said.

For the young winner, his victory is an inspiration to find solutions to problems like the current internet ban in his area.

"I would like to study computer science at university. The main thing is to focus exactly on what you want to do. Once you have a goal and you see that you are going to get benefits at the end, or you are going to learn something new from it, then you should totally go with it," Gbah said.

Meanwhile, the gvernment says the ban will continue.

"Social networks provide lots of opportunities. You can get early warning signals in cases of disasters, but we have noticed that many people use it for unhealthy purposes," ​Cameroon's Minister of Post and Telecommunication Libom Li Likeng  said.

Related Articles:


“…  Last week, I gave you a message about the potentials of 2011. And there were those in this room who attended. I'm going to repeat something I said there, for you need to hear it and it has to do with politics. It would seem intuitive to every single Human Being in the room that in order to accomplish what you do as Americans in Congress, you must have at least two parties. For that is the way it has always been - the red and the blue.

What if I told you that there will come a time when there will be no parties? You might then say, "Well, that's impossible, Kryon, because you're not Human and you don't know how funding works." You might say, "It has to be a party that creates the power to raise money for the ones who cannot, and then the funding is spread around and this is the way we work. If you didn't have parties, you'd have no funding. Nobody could advertise, and no one could get elected."

Oh, really?

Are you aware right now, that you have a president who was elected on the Internet? He figured it out. When everybody can talk to everyone, you have plenty of funding. A few dollars here, a few dollars there. You talk to millions at the same time, they talk to millions at the same time. It's a new paradigm of communication. The young people know all about it, and you can't stop it. Watch for more from this new paradigm.

It is worldwide communication, one person at a time. It doesn't matter how many laws you pass, and it doesn't matter what you decide about who is in charge of it, you can't stop it. It's out of the bag now, and the communities of the young are going to be communicating. This is how the politicians are going to be communicating to you, literally coming into your home in a holographic form perhaps, explaining their position one by one, without a party. Then you will elect them to your Congress without a party and they will sit in the chairs without a division and there will be no such thing as the "other side of the aisle."

And that, Human Being, is called unity and there is a paradigm that you cannot even imagine. And it's in the works. And then you'll have a Congress that works together and gets things done without the current duality.  ….”



"..  Let me tell you where else it's happening that you are unaware - that which is the beginning of the unity of the African states. Soon the continent will have what they never had before, and when that continent is healed and there is no AIDS and no major disease, they're going to want what you have. They're going to want houses and schools and an economy that works without corruption. They will be done with small-minded leaders who kill their populations for power in what has been called for generations "The History of Africa." Soon it will be the end of history in Africa, and a new continent will emerge.

Be aware that the strength may not come from the expected areas, for new leadership is brewing. There is so much land there and the population is so ready there, it will be one of the strongest economies on the planet within two generations plus 20 years. And it's going to happen because of a unifying idea put together by a few. These are the potentials of the planet, and the end of history as you know it.

In approximately 70 years, there will be a black man who leads this African continent into affluence and peace. He won't be a president, but rather a planner and a revolutionary economic thinker. He, and a strong woman with him, will implement the plan continent-wide. They will unite. This is the potential and this is the plan. Africa will arise out the ashes of centuries of disease and despair and create a viable economic force with workers who can create good products for the day. You think China is economically strong? China must do what it does, hobbled by the secrecy and bias of the old ways of its own history. As large as it is, it will have to eventually compete with Africa, a land of free thinkers and fast change. China will have a major competitor, one that doesn't have any cultural barriers to the advancement of the free Human spirit. …." 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Netherlands must prosecute dirty diesel exporters: report

DutchNews, February 7, 2017     

Photo: Depositphotos.com
The Netherlands and Belgium could prosecute dirty diesel exporters Trafigura and Vitol for contravening international agreements, environmental law experts have told Trouw. 

The diesel, which is blended with sulphur and benzene in the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp, is commonly sold to African countries by European oil companies who are taking advantages of the weak fuel standards in those countries, the experts say. 

Swiss-based commodity traders Trafigura and Vitol are responsible for 50% of dirty diesel exports. 

There are no EU rules banning such exports, but according to the Centre for International Environmental Law (Ciel), the practice contravenes the 2005 Basel Convention which says that the export of the fuel is illegal if countries themselves prohibit the import of dangerous waste. 

Ciel says this the case since most African countries have signed the Bamako agreement (1991) which declares such imports illegal. 

‘Therefore the export from Belgium and the Netherlands of fuel with a high sulphur content is in contravention of the Basel Convention,’ Trouw quotes the report as saying. 

Ciel’s lawyers say the export of dirty diesel is also in breach of human rights because the Netherlands and Belgium both signed up to a UN agreement which obliges them to respect people’s right to health. 

Sulphur 

Dirty diesel can contain up to two hundred times the amount of sulphur allowed in Europe. 

Milieudefensie spokesman Bram van Liere, said he expects that minister Lilianne Ploumen, who called the practice ‘scandalous’, will now prosecute the two oil companies ‘with the tools we have given her’. 

The Ciel report, which was commissioned by Swiss NGO Public Eye and Dutch environmental group Milieudefensie, was sent to parliament on Monday. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Will AU members really withdraw from the ICC?

African Union (AU) leaders have backed a strategy for a collective withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). But it seems that many countries have reservations and that very little will change for now.

Deutsche Welle, 1 February 2017


The news of the adopted AU strategy to withdraw from the Hague based court, came as more of a footnote of the AU summit. There were no big announcements but an AU official who asked not to be identified told the Reuters new agency that "the leaders of AU member states endorsed the strategy of collective withdrawal, with reservations."

At a closer look, the strategy is however more of a recommendation than an actual decision to withdraw from the ICC and a treaty which established the court known as the Rome Statute. The decision is not binding and as country representatives who are in support of the ICC noted, the decision to leave the ICC is up to each individual country.

According to DW's reporter in Addis Ababa, Coletta Wanjohi, several countries which include Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania had reservations about the paper.  Other countries asked for more time to consider the withdrawal strategy.

No concrete steps to withdraw

The call by countries like Kenya, Burundi and South Africa to withdraw from the ICC is, however, not new. The "withdrawal strategy" was initially tabled by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta a year ago. Until 2014, Kenyatta and his vice president William Ruto were themselves accused of instigating war crimes during the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya. The proposed strategy was then discussed by AU foreign ministers, who wanted to bring their grievances to the UN Security Council. Many African countries are of the opinion that the court is unfairly targeting them.

Cape Verde is one of the countries which 
wants to remain in the Rome Statute
"What happened in Addis Ababa is unprecedented" said Allan Ngari an expert on international crime with the Intstitute for Security Studies in Pretoria. "That a regional body would adopt a decision to withdraw from an international instrument." Ngari however noted that the AU itself is not party to the Rome Statute and it remains up to individual states to decide whether they want to remain within the statute or leave it.

Ngari moreover explained that even the countries which have said that they will leave the ICC and the Rome Statute have so far failed to take any concrete measures to do so. "Kenya introduced a bill in its national parliament to repeal that act that domesticated the Rome Statute," Ngari explained.  The bill, he explained, however, was not passed and expired in January 2017.

Similarly South Africa has proposed several amendments to the Rome Statute. The country was heavily criticized for its failure to cooperate with the court and detain Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir during his visit South Africa in 2015. "If you want to amend the Rome Statute, you must be a party to the Rome Statute," explained Ngari. There are processes to change the treaty from the inside and this is what South Africa and other AU members are doing.

Last year, The Gambia also threatened to leave the ICC. Under the new President Adama Barrow, the country might however review this decision.

Strengthening African justice systems

Whether African countries will follow the recommendations of the strategy paper or not, a handful are still adamant that they will withdraw if nothing changes. "We believe that it needs to improve its working methods. It has been in place for 12 years and it has had three or four convictions," argued Sam Kutesa, Uganda's foreign affairs minister. "It spends $ 180 million (167 million euros) per annum. This is totally incompetent," he added.

Sudan's Secretary of Economics and Development, Hussain Karshaoum, also argued that instead of sticking with the ICC, African countries should instead strengthen their own justice systems. "You have to strengthen the African Courtof Justice and to call for every African state to ratify it as a last resort. The second thing is to strengthen the judicial system at the domestic level," he said.

The outgoing vice chairperson of the AU Commission Erastus Mwencha said what African countries really want is a level playing field. "What happens at the ICC should apply throughout the world and African leaders have said we are ready to sit down and see how we can reform it."

The foreign affairs ministers had planned to discuss a possible reform of the ICC and amendments to the Rome Statute with the UN Security Council. The ministers however said that officials who were sent to the meeting were not senior enough to discuss the proposed changes.

Monday, January 30, 2017

African Union re-admits Morocco after 33-year absence

Yahoo – AFP, Fran Blandy, January 30, 2017

African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th
African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/
Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Addis Ababa (AFP) - The African Union decided Monday to allow Morocco back in the fold after a 33-year absence, despite stiff resistance from some member states over the status of Western Sahara.

After an emotional and tense debate, member states decided by consensus to leave the question of the disputed territory of Western Sahara for another day, and resolve it with Morocco "back in the family."

"From the moment that Morocco did not impose conditions ... we take their word for it and accept that Morocco be admitted to the African Union," said Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, foreign minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara.

Morocco quit the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 after the bloc admitted the former Western Sahara as a separate member.

Some had feared Morocco would demand the expulsion of the SADR as a precondition for its own return to the AU.

Morocco maintains that the former Spanish colony under its control is an integral part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front, which campaigns for the territory's independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.

Salek said that having Morocco in the same room would allow the SADR to pressure them into fulfilling their obligations and allowing a referendum in accordance with a 1975 decision by the International Court of Justice.

"Now (if) Morocco is blocking (it) will be questioned by the head of states: why are you afraid of a referendum? "Why don't you allow the Sahrawi to choose their future freely?"

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres gives a press conference 
on the sidelines of the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African 
Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ZACHARIAS
ABUBEKER)

Family solutions

Delegates attending the summit in the Ethiopian capital described an emotional and tense discussion, with heavyweights like Algeria and South Africa against the re-admission of Morocco.

"Morocco is now a full member of the African Union. There was a very long debate but 39 of our 54 states approved the return of Morocco, even if the Western Sahara question remains," Senegalese President Macky Sall told journalists.

"As we have said, if the family grows bigger, we can find solutions as a family," he added.

Morocco has been angling to return to the AU for several years and King Mohammed VI formally announced his intention to do so in July last year. Since then he has criss-crossed the continent lobbying for support.

Morocco is increasingly looking southwards to expand its economy and has realised it cannot drive an agenda on the continent without being in the AU, observers say.

The membership of affluent Morocco -- the sixth biggest economy in Africa -- could be a boon for the African Union, which lost a key financier in late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi and is working on ways to become financially independent.

Chad takes helm

The 28th African Union summit began with the swift election of Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, 56, as the new chairperson of the AU Commission, beating four other candidates.

Faki won in a final battle against his Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed after seven rounds of voting, the Kenyan government said in a statement.

Faki, a former prime minister, has been at the forefront of the fight against Islamists in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel and has promised "development and security" will be top of his agenda as chief of the 54-member continental bloc.

Meanwhile Algerian diplomat Smail Chergui was re-elected to the key post of peace and security commissioner.

Faki takes over from South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who is credited with advancing women's issues and moulding the ambitious Agenda 2063, but is seen to have dropped the ball on peace and security.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame criticised "chronic failure to see through African
 Union decisions (which) had resulted in a crisis of implementation and a perception
that the AU was not relevant to Africans" (AFP Photo/ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER)


'Turbulent times'

The choice of a new leader is crucial for the future of a bloc which is undergoing deep introspection on how to reform to become more relevant and better respond to crises on the continent.

Tasked with leading the reforms, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame delivered a "biting" report to heads of state on Sunday, according to a statement from the Kenyan government.

He criticised "chronic failure to see through African Union decisions (which) had resulted in a crisis of implementation and a perception that the AU was not relevant to Africans".

Kagame also slammed "over-dependence on (donor) funding" which accounts from 70 percent of the AU budget, according to the Institute for Security Studies.

The AU is also grappling with its relationship with US President Donald Trump's administration, sounding the alarm over an immigration ban affecting three African nations.

"The very country (where) our people were taken as slaves... has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries," outgoing AU Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told some 37 heads of state and leaders from across the continent.

"It is clear that globally we are entering very turbulent times," she added.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gambia's Jammeh leaves power after 22 years

Yahoo – AFP, Jennifer O'MAHONY and Emil TOURAY with Mouctar BA in Conakry, January 22, 2017

Former Gambia president Yaya Jammeh, the country's leader for 22 years, looks
 through the window from the plane as he leaves the country on January 21,
2017 from Banjul airport (AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Banjul (Gambia) (AFP) - Gambia's veteran leader Yahya Jammeh flew out from the country he ruled for 22 years to cede power to President Adama Barrow and end a political crisis.

Jammeh refused to step down after a December 1 election in which Barrow was declared the winner, triggering weeks of uncertainty that almost ended in a military intervention involving five other west African nations.

The longtime leader, wearing his habitual white flowing robes, waved to supporters before boarding a small, unmarked plane at Banjul airport alongside Guinea's President Alpha Conde after two days of talks over a departure deal.

He landed in Conakry, Guinea's capital but set off again for Equatorial Guinea, where he will remain in exile, the president of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), Marcel Alain de Souza, said at a Dakar press conference.

"No legislative measures" would be taken that would infringe the "dignity, security, safety and rights" of Jammeh or his family, ECOWAS said in a joint declaration with the African Union and United Nations.

Jammeh could return to The Gambia when he pleased, the statement added, and property "lawfully" belonging to him would not be seized.

The Gambian political crisis (AFP Photo/Aude GENET)

Jammeh finally said he would step aside in the early hours of Saturday morning and hand power to Barrow, who has been in neighbouring Senegal but is expected back in The Gambia imminently.

"I call on President Barrow to come in immediately and take over the supreme responsibility of president, head of state, commander in chief and first citizen of our republic," Jammeh said, according to remarks read out on state television before he left the country.

It would be improper not to "sincerely wish him and his administration all the best," he added.

Jammeh took power in a 1994 coup from the country's only other president since independence from Britain, Dawda Jawara, making this The Gambia's first democratic transition of power.

The choice of Equatorial Guinea for his exile helps ease concerns that Jammeh might interfere in his nation's politics if he stayed in Guinea, whose border is not far from The Gambia's eastern region.

Scenes of jubilation broke out almost immediately on streets near Banjul, the port capital, after the news filtered out that Jammeh had gone.

"We are free now. We are no longer in prison. We do not have to watch our back before we express our opinions," said Fatou Cham, 28, who was celebrating with her friends.

Activists will be keen to see Jammeh -- who controlled certain sections of the security forces -- refused amnesty for crimes committed during his tenure, which was marked by systematic rights abuses.

Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, called Jammeh's departure "the chance to usher in an era based on respect for the rule of law and human rights."

People celebrate in the streets of Banjul on January 21, 2017 after hearing
 of the confirmed departure of former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh from the
country (AFP Photo/CARL DE SOUZA)

Avoid a 'bloodbath'

Jammeh's departure followed days of mediation led by Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Guinea's Conde, who said in a statement he "welcomed the successful outcome of the crisis in The Gambia, which, through dialogue, avoided a bloodbath."

Jammeh attempted to build a personality cult and has left behind a small minority of diehard supporters, some of whom wept as his plane departed.

"We wanted to be behind this man for a century or more," said Alagie Samu, speaking on the tarmac. "He is the most successful, visionary leader in the entire world."

Dressed in green, the colour of his political party, some were loyal to the end.

"No human being is perfect, but for 22 years in the country here he has tried hard for Gambians," said a woman with cheeks wet from tears, who did not wish to be named.

The Gambia is one of the world's poorest nations and although education and health standards have lifted in recent years, poverty remains endemic.

With Jammeh gone, all eyes will be on the Barrow administration as they make their first steps as a government of reform and development.

"The will of the people has come to be at last," said Isatou Touray, a key official in the government-in-waiting. "Democracy is back, you can't stop the people."

Army chief Ousman Badjie, a former Jammeh loyalist, has pledged allegiance to Barrow along with top defence, civil service and security chiefs.

The first priority will be to help the tens of thousands who have fled in recent weeks fearing a bloody end to the crisis to return safely, Touray said earlier Saturday.

Barrow could leave Dakar as early as Sunday to return to The Gambia, a source told AFP.

Related Article:


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Four Yemenis freed from Guantanamo arrive in Saudi Arabia

Yahoo – AFP, Abdulhadi Habtoor, January 5, 2017

A former Yemeni inmate, released from the US military prison in Guantanamo
Bay, is welcomed by his family upon his arrival in Riyadh on January 5, 2017
(AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Riyadh (AFP) - Four Yemenis released from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay arrived Thursday in Saudi Arabia to a tearful reunion with relatives, after the White House rejected Donald Trump's call for a freeze on transfers.

The Pentagon confirmed the detainee transfers, and said there are now 55 inmates still being held in the military detention centre in Cuba.

In the Saudi capital, an AFP reporter saw the four prisoners after they landed at a terminal normally reserved for royals at the Riyadh international airport.

Prisoners and family members wept as they saw each other for the first time in years.

One of the released inmates, Salim Ahmed bin Kanad, told reporters he felt "born again" after seeing his relatives.

Another, Mohammed Bawazir, said he hoped to move on and forget the past.

"I want to give back to my family the 15 years I lost," he said.

Officials identified the other former prisoners as Mohammed Rajab Abu Ghanim and Abdullah Yahya al-Shalabi.

"The United States is grateful to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Pentagon said.

Outgoing US President Barack Obama's pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay facility has been met with legal and political hurdles for years, and on Tuesday, his successor jumped into the fray.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield," Trump tweeted.

Hours later, Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest said he would expect "additional transfers" before the Democrat hands power to Trump on January 20.

Saudi King Salman has said the four Yemenis who arrived Thursday will live in the kingdom, where they will take part in a rehabilitation and de-radicalisation programme, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The bearded ex-prisoners appeared healthy and were all dressed in two-piece Pakistani-style tunics.

One prisoner was welcomed by 21 relatives, including children, but only a handful greeted the others.

A lone woman waited for one of the inmates.

Reporters were kept in the terminal and could not see what type of aircraft had transported them.

Prisoners and family members wept as they saw each other 
for the first time in years (AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Whittling down numbers

Obama came to office eight years ago vowing to close the Guantanamo facility, arguing that detention without trial did not reflect American values.

But he has run up against Pentagon foot-dragging and stubborn Republican opposition in Congress.

With Guantanamo's closure blocked, Obama's White House has focused on whittling down the number of inmates.

Before Thursday's transfer, around 20 of the remaining prisoners had been cleared for removal. But finding countries to take them has often proven time-consuming.

Only a handful of those who remain have started moving through military tribunals, including the alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks.

Many of the others are in legal limbo -- not charged but deemed too dangerous to release.

Fifteen of the 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 were Saudi. But Riyadh denies any ties to the plotters who killed nearly 3,000 people.

In recent months, Obama has authorised a flurry of transfers of prisoners to other countries -- prompting outrage from Republicans each time.

In April, nine Yemeni inmates were transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia, the first time the kingdom received any inmates from the facility.

The move followed years of negotiations with the Saudi government.

Yemen's civil war meant those inmates could not be sent to their home country.

Obama's predecessor George W. Bush released or transferred around 500 inmates before leaving office. Obama had released or transferred more than 180.

Friday, December 30, 2016

China to ban ivory trade by end of 2017: media

Yahoo – AFP, December 30, 2016

China has a stockpile of ivory purchased with CITES approval in 2008,
which it releases for sale with certification (AFP Photo/FRED DUFOUR)

Beijing (AFP) - China will ban all domestic ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, state media reported Friday, a move hailed by activists as a "game changer" for African elephants.

African ivory is highly sought after in China where it is seen as a status symbol -- prices for a kilo (2.2 pounds) can reach as much as $1,100.

"China will gradually stop the processing and sales of ivories for commercial purposes by the end of 2017," the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a government statement.

"Before that deadline, law enforcement agencies will continue to clamp down on illegalities associated with the elephant's tusk," Xinhua added, citing an official with the State Forestry Administration.

The announcement follows Beijing's announcement in March to widen a ban on imports of all ivory and ivory products acquired before 1975, after pressure to restrict a trade that sees thousands of elephants slaughtered every year.

Major trafficking routes of large-scale African ivory consignments 2000-2015
 (AFP Photo/John SAEKI, Adrian LEUNG)

Xinhua said the complete ban would affect "34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with dozens to be closed by the end of March 2017".

"This is great news that will shut down the world's largest market for elephant ivory," Aili Kang, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Asia, said in a statement.

"I am very proud of my country for showing this leadership that will help ensure that elephants have a fighting chance to beat extinction. This is a game changer for Africa's elephants."

Conservationists estimate that more than 20,000 elephants were killed for their ivory last year, with similar tolls in previous years. The WWF campaign group says 415,000 of the animals remain.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which took effect in 1975, banned the ivory trade in 1989.

China permits the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban -- and also has a stockpile purchased with CITES approval in 2008, which it releases for sale with certification.

WWF also praised China's move to a complete ban but called on the Chinese territory of Hong Kong to bring forward a plan to end its ivory trade by 2021.

WWF said legal research published by the conservation group shows an ivory ban could be imposed "much sooner under current Hong Kong law".

"With China’s market closed, Hong Kong can become a preferred market for traffickers to launder illegal ivory under cover of the legal ivory trade," said Cheryl Lo, senior wildlife crime officer at WWF.

The United States -- the world's second-largest consumer of illegal ivory after China -- announced in June a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory but with notable exemptions including antiques.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Ebola vaccine may be 'up to 100% effective': WHO

Yahoo – AFP, Marlowe Hood, December 23, 2016

In a major clinical trial, nearly 6,000 people in Guinea were given the test vaccine
last year, at the tail end of a lethal epidemic of Ebola and non of them contracted
the disease (AFP Photo/CELLOU BINANI)

Paris (AFP) - A prototype vaccine for Ebola may be "up to 100 percent effective" in protecting against the deadly virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.

If all goes well, the vaccine could become available in 2018 under a fast-track approval process, it said.

In a major clinical trial, nearly 6,000 people in Guinea were given the test vaccine last year, at the tail end of a lethal epidemic of Ebola.

Not one of the 6,000 contracted the disease.

But in a control group of volunteers that did not receive the vaccine, 23 Ebola cases occurred, researchers reported in The Lancet medical journal.

"If we compare zero to 23, this strongly suggests that the vaccine is very effective, that it could be up to 100 percent effective," Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO's assistant director-general and lead author of the study, told AFP.

Her team of three dozen researchers calculated a 90-percent likelihood during a full-fledged epidemic that the vaccine, dubbed rVSV-ZEBOV, would work in more than 80 percent of cases.

"After 40 years, we appear to now have an effective vaccine for Ebola virus disease to build upon," Thomas Geisbert, a scientist at Galveston National Laboratory in Texas who did not take part in the study, wrote in a commentary, also in The Lancet.

Factfile on how the Ebola virus attacks (AFP Photo/John Saeki/Adrian Leung)

'Compassionate use'

First identified in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ebola virus erupted periodically in outbreaks of up to a couple hundred cases, mainly across west and east Africa.

In early 2014, however, a handful of infections in southern Guinea mushroomed rapidly into an epidemic.

Over the next two years, more than 28,000 people fell ill, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Some 11,300 died.

With a mortality rate above 40 percent, the disease -- one of a category of so-called haemorrhagic fevers -- has an incubation period of up to three weeks. It causes violent and painful symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhoea, organ failure and internal bleeding.

The new vaccine was initially developed in Canada by public health authorities before being taken over by pharmaceutical giant Merck.

It is slated to be submitted by Merck to health authorities in the United States and Europe sometime next year under a fast-track approval process.

"We may have a vaccine which is registered in 2018," Kieny told journalists at a press conference Thursday, noting that the standard approval process for a new drug takes a decade, if not more.

In the meantime, Merck has committed to ensuring that 300,000 doses of the vaccine are available for emergencies under a protocol called "compassionate use".

"They will be able to produce a million in very short period of time," Kieny noted.

Of the more than 6,000 people injected with the Ebola vaccine only two showed 
serious adverse effects, the study reported, both recovered fully (AFP Photo/
CELLOU BINANI)

Unanswered questions

There are still questions to be resolved concerning the vaccine, including side effects.

Initial tests last year did not include children, while the most recent trials covered those over six years old.

Of the more than 6,000 people injected with the Ebola vaccine only two showed serious adverse effects, the study reported. Both recovered fully.

But it is still unknown if the vaccine is safe for children six and under, pregnant women, or people with the AIDS virus -- all groups that were excluded from the most recent trials.

Another unknown is how long innoculation lasts.

"With the Canadian Merck vaccine, you have a protection very early after vaccination, but we don't know if it will last after six months," Kieny said.

Other Ebola vaccines under development -- some of which have been tested in humans -- could prove more effective over a longer period.

British firm Glaxosmithkline and Johnson & Johnson, based in the United States, each have experimental products in the pipeline.

China and Russia have also developed vaccines, with the Russian one having just finished the second phase of three-step clinical trials.

Some of these vaccines require two doses three weeks apart, and may confer a longer immunity.

"That might be better suited to immunise health workers in advance of an outbreak," Kieny said.

Health officials also point to the fact that other strains of the virus -- including one in Sudan -- will require the development of separate vaccines.


Health workers assist a patient suspected of having Ebola on their way to a
 treatment centre run by the French Red Cross in Patrice, Guinea, on
November 21, 2014 (AFP Photo/Kenzo Tribouillard)

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“ .. The Role of Gaia in Human Consciousness

One of those times might be frightening for you to know about, since it was a full cooperation with Gaia for your termination, and a pandemic almost wiped humanity off the map. A pandemic! Now, you say, "What has that got to do with Human consciousness, Kryon?" Pay attention, dear ones, because this is the day where the teaching was given by my partner, and he put together the Nine Human Attributes. One of the attribute sets included three Gaia attributes and one of them was the consciousness of the planet. Gaia is related to Human consciousness!

Are you starting to connect the dots? You are connected to this planet in a profound and spiritual way. As goes humanity goes the planet's consciousness. Gaia, Mother Nature, whatever you want to call it, cooperates with Human consciousness. If you spend 1,000 years killing each other, then Gaia will do its best to cooperate with your desires! Gaia will look at Human consciousness and try to help with what you have shown you like to do! Did you know this role of Gaia with you? It's a partner with you, fast tracking what you give to it. You may wish to review what the indigenous of the planet still understand. Gaia is a partner!

Pandemic: Don't you find it odd that in the last 50 years, when you have a population of seven billion Human Beings, with up to 2,000 airplanes in the air at any given moment, going between almost every conceivable place, that there has not been a pandemic in your lifetime? There have been five starts of potential pandemics over the last 20 years, yet none became serious. Did any of you put this together? Dear ones, when the world was far less populated a few hundred years ago, with no mass travel to spread a virus, there were still millions wiped out by a pandemic. With the increased population and mass travel, there is far more danger today than before. It doesn't make sense, does it? What happened to stop it?

When you know humanity's relationship to Gaia, it makes sense. Gaia is a life-force that is your partner, watching you change the balance of light and dark and reflecting what Humans want. It has polarity, too! Perhaps it's time to start your meditations with thanking your planet Earth for supporting you in the spirituality of your Akash, for always being with you, a life-force that is always present. The ancients started their ceremonies in that way. Have you forgotten?

Ebola

Now, I've just set the stage for the next subject, haven't I? Ebola. Are you afraid yet? Gaia is a life-force that is a part of Human consciousness. My partner put it on the screen today so you could see the connections [during the lecture series]. Now it's time to connect the dots. Dear one, Gaia is in the battle, too, for here comes something scary that you haven't had in your lifetime and you're afraid of it - the potential of a pandemic on the planet.

There's a very famous film that has some dialogue that my partner will quote. Some of you will know it and some of you won't, but here it is: "Have a little fire, scarecrow?" What are you afraid of? Darkness? Gaia is in the battle with you and is actively pursuing solutions through light. The energy of the planet is with you in this fight! The ebola virus is a shock and a surprise. It is propelled by ignorance and fear, so it can flourish. Look at where it started and look at how it gets its ability to continue. It expands its fear and power easily with those who believe it's a curse instead of those who understand the science.

Villages are filled with those who refuse to leave their family members because they believe the disease is a curse! FEAR! Instead of understanding that they should be in isolation from the virus, the family dies together through ignorance and fear. This represents how darkness works. Are you going to become afraid also? Dear ones, ebola will be conquered. Know this and be at peace. Pray for light for those in the villages who are afraid, that they can know more about how to keep the spread of this disease and live to see their families
. .”