Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (C) addresses the
audience during a meeting of the annual Mercosur trade bloc presidential
summit in Mendoza June 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping (4-L, first row) poses with leaders of the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean states, in Brasilia, on July 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Nelson Almeida)
"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.) -

“ … 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.)

Map of Latin America showing countries where major protests have occurred in recent months (AFP Photo)
A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ
The Conmebol headquarters in Luque, Paraguay, is seen on January 7, 2016, during a raid within the framework of the FIFA corruption scandal (AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte)

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses
The Panama Papers: key facts on the huge journalists' investigation into tax evasion (AFP Photo/Thomas Saint-Cricq, Philippe Mouche)

Mossack Fonseca

Mossack Fonseca


"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. …

Saturday, January 31, 2015

US-Russia duo land in Mexico after balloon journey

Two hot air balloon pilots have touched down in Mexico, completing a record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean. The six-day adventure smashed world records unbeaten for over three decades.

Deutsche Welle, 31 Jan 2015

 View of earth from the Two Eagles Balloon

The helium-filled balloon piloted by the American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev landed safely in the sea just off the Baja coast near La Poza Grande on Saturday.

"The pilots made a controlled descent to a gentle water landing about four miles (6.5 kilometers) off the ... coast. The balloon is stable and still inflated and the pilots are fine," the Two Eagles balloon team announced.

Meanwhile, at mission control in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the balloon team and pilots' families exchanged hugs and relieved smiles as they watched the landing on a giant screen.

Historic flight

Bradley, 50, and Tiukhtyaev, 58, set off on their epic voyage from Saga, Japan, on Sunday morning. By Friday, they had broken consecutive distance and duration world records by flying for over 137 hours and traveling more than 8,383 kilometers in a gas-filled balloon.

According to the Two Eagles team, the duo's six-day journey was eventually timed at 160 hours and 37 minutes at a distance of 10,696 kilometers (6,646 miles). They are the first crew to attempt a trans-Pacific balloon crossing since 1981 - when the distance record was set. The flying duration record of 137 hours was set by a trans-Atlantic balloon flight in 1978.

Mission control director Steve Shope said he was "really pleased" with the numbers. "These are significant improvements over the existing records," he said. "We didn't break them by just a little bit. They were broken by a significant amount."

Bradley and Tiukhtyaev managed to keep
 their spirits up during the grueling journey
The record-shattering trip wasn't without its challenges, though. Difficult weather conditions off the western coast of the United States meant that the team had to abandon their original plan to land in Canada, and instead veered south towards Mexico for the descent.

The two men traveled in an unpressurized carbon-fiber flight capsule, described as being smaller than a king-sized mattress, and took turns piloting the balloon in shifts of four-to-six hours. They had to stay rugged up in cold-weather gear and use oxygen masks to be able to withstand the conditions at an altitude of over 4,700 meters (15,500 feet).

Organizers cautioned that the new world records would not be made official until they had been certified by US and International Aeronautics Associations.

nm/mkg (AP, AFP, dpa)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cuban leader demands end to US embargo to renew ties

Yahoo – AFP, Maria Isabel Sanchez, 28 Jan 2015

A handout picture released by Costa Rica's presidency shows Cuban President Raul 
Castro delivering a speech during the inauguration of the III CELAC Summit 2015,
 20 km northwest of San Jose, on January 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Roberto Sanchez)

Belen (Costa Rica) (AFP) - Cuban President Raul Castro laid out the conditions to normalize relations with Washington here Wednesday, demanding an end to the embargo, the return of Guantanamo and Havana's removal from a terror list.

Castro issued his demands a week after the highest-ranking US delegation to Havana in 35 years and Cuban officials held landmark talks aimed at reopening embassies and renewing ties that broke off in 1961.

Cuba has long blamed the embargo for the communist island's economic woes, with billboards in the country equating the decades-old economic sanctions as a "genocide."

"The main problem has not been resolved: the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes huge human and economic damage and is a violation of international rights," Castro said.

"The establishment of diplomatic relations is the beginning of a process toward the normalization of bilateral relations, but this won't be possible as long as the blockade exists," he said.

Speaking at a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Costa Rica, Castro said that the road to ending the embargo would be "long and hard."

US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta S.
 Jacobson (3-L) and Director of North America Department of Cuba's Foreign 
Ministry, Josefina Vidal (3-R), participate in closed-door talks in Havana, on 
January 22, 2015 (AFP Photo/Adalberto Roque)

US President Barack Obama called on Congress last week to put an end to the embargo, which was imposed in 1962 and has been a major source of tension between the Cold War-era rivals since then.

Earlier this month, Obama used his executive powers to ease travel and trade restrictions with Havana, putting a dent on the embargo.

But Castro said that the US leader should do more.

"He could use with resolve his broad executive powers to substantially change the scope of the blockade, even without the Congress decision," he said.

'Profound differences' remain

Castro and Obama simultaneously announced on December 17 their intention to end half a century of animosity and normalize ties that broke off in 1961.

Some US lawmakers have voiced concern about the rapprochement, especially those of Cuban-American origin, who say Obama conceded too much to Castro without securing guarantees of political change on the island.

"Some forces in the United States will try to abort this process that has started," Castro warned.

After last week's talks, US and Cuban officials said their meeting had been productive and cordial but that "profound differences" remain and that the road to normalization would be complex.

US flags are seen on a bici-taxi 
near the capitol in Havana on
January 23, 2015 (AFP Photo/
Yamil Lage)
The United States has invited Cuba to hold another round of talks in the coming weeks in Washington.

In his speech in Belen, Costa Rica, Castro said that Havana also wants to be removed from a US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, which has blocked Cuba's access to financial institution.

In addition, he demand the return of Guantanamo Bay, where the US navy has a base being used to jail terrorism suspects.

Another Cuban demand is changes to US policies that allows Cubans to stay in the United States if they step foot on US soil and gives them fast-track access to permanent residency.

Cuba says the US migration policies have caused an exodus and brain drain over the years.

Castro said his delegation outlined the conditions to US officials during last week's historic meeting, and that more talks will take place to deal with these issues.

"We shared with the US president our willingness to advance toward the normalization of bilateral relations once diplomatic relations are restored, which implies taking mutual measures to improve the atmosphere between both countries," he said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fidel Castro breaks silence on change in Cuba-US relations

Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro has seemingly lent his support to Cuba's talks with the US. In a letter read out on state television, the revolutionary icon said, however, that he does not "trust the US."

Deutsche Welle, 27 Jan 2015

Fidel Castro's statement, which was broadcast on Monday, addressed his longtime adversary for the first time since current Cuban President Raul Castro and his US counterpart Barack Obama announced on December 17 that they would restore diplomatic ties that broke off in 1961.

"Any peaceful or negotiated solution to the problems between the United States and the peoples or any people of Latin America that doesn't imply force or the use of force should be treated in accordance with international norms and principles," Castro said in a statement.

"We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the peoples of the world, among them our political adversaries."

The 88-year-old added, however: "I don't trust the politics of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts."

Secret negotiations

Since December's secret Cuba-US negotiation, some Cuban-American lawmakers in Washington have criticized Obama, saying that the administration had given up too much without securing human rights commitments.

Obama has called on Congress to lift the US embargo on Havana, and used executive powers to ease some travel and trade restrictions. He has also given the State Department six months to review whether Cuba should remain on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Castro took power in Cuba, which is the Americas' only one-party Communist-ruled country, in a 1959 revolution. He spent much of his 49 years in power railing against the US, which failed to succeed in several attempts to oust him.

He was finally forced into retirement in 2008 by poor health and was succeeded by his brother Raul, who is now 83.

ksb/bw (AFP, Reuters)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Amid detente, triathlon brings Americans and Cubans together

Yahoo – AFP, Laurent Thomet, 26 Jan 2015

An athlete competes during the Ibero-American Triathlon Championship
in Havana, on January 25, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

Havana (AFP) - Seizing on US-Cuba detente, Americans swam, biked and ran in a triathlon in Havana for the first time, and even heard their national anthem on the communist island.

Jim Donaldson and Robert Plant wore "USA" logos on their clothes as they stood in the capital's "anti-imperialist" esplanade, built by Fidel Castro in 2000 to hold rallies in front of the US Interests Section.

But on Sunday, the venue along Havana's picturesque seafront was used for friendlier purposes, as the site of the finish line for the middle and long distance races.

An athlete competes during the Ibero-
American Triathlon Championship in 
Havana, on January 25, 2015 (AFP
Photo/Yamil Lage)
"It’s a historic race, being the first time Americans have been over here to do this," Donaldson, a 70-year-old retired business products manager from Ohio, said as he waited for the arrival of the middle- and long-distance racers.

The day before, Donaldson and Plant, 71, participated in the shorter sprint race at the Hemingway Marina, where they both finished in about an hour and a half.

"At the awards ceremony, a couple of Americans had won the juniors (race), and they played the American national anthem. It was pretty exhilarating to hear the US national anthem played in Cuba," said Donaldson, who like others in the US team donated triathlon gear to Cuban athletes.

By coincidence, the competition occurred just days after the highest-level US official to visit Cuba in three decades held historic talks Thursday aimed at restoring ties broken off in 1961.

'Floodgates are open'

These 25 Americans triathletes traveled to Cuba after securing a special license from the US government.

But as part of the rapprochement, US President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions this month that will allow Americans in 12 categories, including athletes, to visit Cuba without asking for permission first.

This has raised hope among Cubans that more US visitors, and their dollars, will come and help improve their lives, while American tour companies have seen a surge in demand for trips to the island.

Athletes compete during the Ibero-
American Triathlon Championship in 
Havana, on January 25, 2015
(AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)
The sports world could also be shaken up in two countries that share a passion for competitions, like boxing but especially baseball.

"We are living through a special moment, which is the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, and sports are also a way to bring people together," Alejandro Puerto Torres, president of the Cuban Triathlon Federation, told AFP.

The Americans were among 372 triathletes from 29 countries who participated in races on Saturday and Sunday.

Plant and Donaldson already plan to return for next year's competition.

"The floodgates are open. It's going to be big here," said Plant, a fit 71-year-old dentist from San Francisco.

Some 100,000 Americans already visit Cuba each year, according to Cuban government statistics.

Cuba's chief negotiator in the normalization talks, Josefina Vidal, told MSNBC that she expects an increase in American visitors "at some point this year."

But regular tourism remains forbidden and depends on the US Congress's willingness to accept Obama's demand to lift the US embargo against Cuba.

"A series of obstacles have to be removed and allow tourists to come, which would be very good for the Cuban economy," said Ricardo Vardez Gonzalez, a 49-year-old mechanical engineer, who took his nine-year-old nephew to watch the race.

'All coming together'

While the new rules will make it easier for authorized Americans to visit Cuba, they will still need to justify their trip to US authorities when they return home.

Argentinian Juan Manuel Asconape celebrates at the finish line as he wins the first
 place in the Ibero-American Triathlon Championship in Havana, on January 25, 2015 
(AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

"They can travel but they have to be very careful that they can explain they traveled to Cuba using one of the exceptions," Peter Quinter, a lawyer in Florida and chairman of the Customs and International Trade Law Group, said in a telephone interview.

USA Triathlon, the sport's governing body in the United States, received the license for the trip around the time Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the rapprochement in December.

As the sun set and the Iron Man winner from Argentina crossed the finishing line, Plant looked over at the six-story US Interests Section, not knowing what it was and that it will be the site of the US embassy one day.

"How ironic that it's going to be here. It all comes together," he said. "This embassy being here is a great symbol of our cooperation with the Cubans."

Related Article:

Indonesian to Join US Activists in First Peace Delegation to Cuba

Jakarta Globe, Jan 26, 2015

US flags are seen in a bici-taxi near the capitol in
Havana on Jan. 23, 2015. (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

Jakarta. US-based peace activist group Codepink will be leading a delegation of 150 people — including an Indonesian participant — to Cuba to mark the recent thaw in US-Cuba relations, particularly the easing of travel restrictions.

Timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, the “To Cuba With Love” delegation will include a number of renowned activists and leaders from peace and justice movements, environmental groups, women’s  rights organizations, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) advocacy groups.

Indonesian activist Tunggal Pawestri will be the only representative from Asia to join the delegation.

“I’m jumping on this opportunity to reach out to the Cuban people and its government,” Tunggal said.

She added that she was anxious to exchange ideas on issues critical to Indonesia, including women’s rights, health care, environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and LGBTQ rights.

“I believe that Indonesia has a lot to learn from Cuba, especially its legendary health care system,” said Tunggal, who has been active in advocating for the rights of the archipelago’s minority groups, including its LGBTQ community.

The multinational delegation will have the opportunity to conduct high-level meetings with government officials; visit members of the Cuban Five, Cuban intelligence officers who were incarcerated in the United Stares in 1998 and recently released; speak with doctors working to combat Ebola in Africa; meet with entrepreneurs concerning new business opportunities; and interact with local residents to discuss the Caribbean nation’s cultural, economic, environmental, educational, agricultural and health care issues.

The delegation includes a number of activists who have been involved with Cuban-US issues for years by protesting the Guantanamo Bay prison and the US-led economic embargo, and by calling for an end to travel restrictions.

Some, including Codepink co-founder Medea Benjamin, have had their passports confiscated and bank accounts frozen for their efforts.

“It’s so exciting that after 50 years, the US government is finally beginning to lift the ridiculous restrictions on our right to visit our Cuban neighbors,” Benjamin said.  “We look forward to the day when all restrictions are lifted.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bolivia's Morales sworn in for third term as president

Yahoo – AFP, 22 Jan 2015

Bolivian reelected President Evo Morales is sworn in for a third mandate, at
the National Congress in La Paz on January 22, 2015 (AFP Photo/Javier Mamani)

La Paz (AFP) - Evo Morales was sworn in Thursday for a third term as president of Bolivia at a ceremony in the country's national assembly and vowed to sharply reduce poverty.

As thousands of supporters cheered outside, the country's first indigenous president took the oath of office with his left fist raised "on behalf of the Bolivian people and equality for all human beings."

Morales, in office since 2006, was re-elected in October with 61 percent of the vote. His new term ends in 2020.

In an inaugural speech, the 55-year-old former coca grower boasted of having ended Bolivia's dependence on the United States in his first nine years in office, and said he would reduce poverty to single digits by the end of his term.

"Here the gringos don't give orders, the Indians do," he said.

Aided by a booming economy, Morales's first two terms were marked by sweeping nationalizations of the country's oil and other natural resources.

He imposed state control over strategic industries like telecommunications and electric power, all the while tangling with Washington.

He kicked out the US ambassador and the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008, and ended Bolivia's long relationship with the US Agency for International Development in 2013.

With natural gas exports to neighbors Brazil and Argentina filling his coffers, Morales spread the bonanza among the country's poor.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales (C) waves as he heads to the National
 Congress to be sworn in for a third mandate, in La Paz, on January 22,
2015 (AFP Photo/Aizar Raldes)

But he faces an altered economic outlook as he takes office this time around.

"Now he'll have to govern in context of falling oil prices and consequently lower natural gas prices, which is to say without the economic boom that characterized the nine previous years," said Carlos Torzano, an independent analyst.

Morales has already warned his team to brace for a crisis.

"We are going to continue growing, because international prices help but are not the sole sufficient and necessary condition for growth," said Economy Minister Luis Arce.

Bolivia projects 5.9 percent growth this year, a gain similar to 2014. The country's economy grew 6.8 percent in 2013.

With control of the national assembly, Morales should have a free hand to undertake reforms, possibly including a constitutional amendment to allow him to run for a fourth term.

At a news conference on Monday, however, Morales said he had never thought about changing the constitution to open the way for another term in office.

US, Cuba seek to reopen embassies in historic talks

Yahoo – AFP, Laurent Thomet, 22 Jan 2015

US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. 
Jacobson talks with US Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western 
Hemisphere Affairs Edward Alex Lee during talks in Havana, January 22, 2015
(AFP Photo/Adalberto Roque)

Havana (AFP) - Cuban officials and the highest-level US delegation to visit Havana in 35 years held landmark talks Thursday on reopening embassies, but both sides warned that normalizing ties would take time.

The Cold War-era rivals sat down for negotiations aimed at lifting restrictions on diplomats in Havana and Washington, and pave the way to return ambassadors, decades after relations broke in 1961.

Cuba's delegation member Gustavo 
Machin talks to the press during the
 second day of closed-door talks 
between Cuba and the United State,
 at the Convention Palace in Havana,
 January 22, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil
US assistant secretary of state Roberta Jacobson, the most senior US official on the communist-ruled island since 1980, led the American delegation for the second day of meetings, one day after talks on migration policy.

Cuba was represented by the director of the foreign ministry's US affairs department, Josefina Vidal, at the capital's Convention Center.

US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro surprised the world in December when they simultaneously announced plans to normalize relations following months of secret negotiations.

The raising of the US and Cuban flags in each other's capitals would send powerful signals of the new era the two nations want to enter, though no timeline has been given for reopening the embassies.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Wednesday that the two sides still have much to negotiate before they can normalize ties.

"When it is timely, when it is appropriate, I'll look forward to traveling to Cuba in order to formally open an embassy and begin to move forward," Kerry said in Washington.

Gustavo Machin, a member of the Cuban delegation, said both sides agreed that reestablishing ties must be based on the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, but he downplayed chances of major breakthroughs in this first round of talks.

"I don't believe ... that all the issues can be agreed on in just one meeting," Machin told reporters on the sidelines of the negotiations.

But he said the meeting was taking place in a "atmosphere of respect, a relaxed atmosphere."

"And, well, look at my face, I think it reflects the spirit in which we are talking at the moment," the calm-looking, mustachioed official said as the closed-door talks continued.

US mission: Cold War symbol

Cubans queue outside the US Interests
 Section in Havana to apply for visas,
 on December 22, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Yamil Lage)
The two sides were negotiating how to turn their "interests sections" into fully functioning embassies with ambassadors in Washington and Havana.

The US mission to Cuba, a concrete and glass building along the capital's picturesque seawall, has been a symbol of the countries' mutual animosity since it opened in 1977.

Across the main entrance, the Cuban government built a vast esplanade to hold anti-US rallies.

In 2006, then president Fidel Castro ordered 138 flagpoles erected to block a giant display screen the mission was using to convey political messages.

Now, Washington wants Havana to reaccredit its diplomats; end travel restrictions for them within the island; ease shipments to the US mission; and lift a cap on US personnel.

"I don't know if these things are going to be resolved in one meeting," a US official told AFP.

The Cuban delegation has voiced "deep concerns" over the situation of the interests section in Washington, saying the US embargo has left its consulate without banking services for almost a year.

Between February and May last year, the Cuban consulate was unable to issue passports because it could not find a bank to handle transactions.

Cuban diplomats also face travel restrictions in Washington.

'Same bed, different dreams'

Arturo Lopez-Levy, an international affairs professor at New York University, said the talks are important to build trust as they seek new relations in the coming years.

A man carries bags with recyclable 
materials in Havana, on January 20, 
2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)
"Although Havana and Washington differ in the objective that they seek in the long term, today they are in the same bed. It doesn't matter that they have different dreams," he said.

Lingering differences were on display on Wednesday, as Cuban and US officials remained at odds over US policies that give Cubans who reach US soil quick access to permanent residency.

But the two sides welcomed the meeting as productive.

On Tuesday, Obama urged Congress to end the decades-long embargo against Cuba, which the Castro regime has blamed for the country's economic woes.

The dissident community on the island of 11 million has had a mixed reaction, praising Obama while voicing concern that too much was conceded to the regime.

In Washington, some Cuban-American lawmakers have criticized Obama, saying the administration had given up too much without securing human rights commitments.

Jamaica poised to relax cannabis laws

Several restrictions on ‘ganja’ use could go up in smoke as island’s politicians back bill to establish licensing authority

The Guardian, Associated Press in Kingston, Thursday 22 January 2015

A cannabis farmer in Nine Mile, Jamaica. Photograph: David Mcfadden/AP

The Jamaican cabinet has approved a bill that would decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis and pave the way for a legal medical marijuana industry, the justice minister has said.

Mark Golding said he expected to introduce the legislation in the Senate this week. Debate could start this month in the country where the drug, known popularly as “ganja”, has long been culturally entrenched but illegal.

The bill would establish a cannabis licensing authority to deal with the regulations needed to cultivate, sell and distribute the herb for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes. “We need to position ourselves to take advantage of the significant economic opportunities offered by this emerging industry,” he said.

It would make possession of 2 ounces (56g) or less an offence that would not result in a criminal record. Cultivation of five or fewer plants on any premises would be permitted. Rastafarians, who use marijuana as a sacrament, could also legally use it for religious purposes for the first time in Jamaica, where the spiritual movement was founded in the 1930s.

For decades, debate has raged on the Caribbean island over laws governing marijuana use. But now, with several countries and US states relaxing their laws on the herb, Jamaica is advancing reform plans.

Golding said the government would not soften its stance on drug trafficking and it intended to use a proportion of revenues from its licensing authority to support a public education campaign to discourage pot-smoking by young people and mitigate public health consequences.

The director of the national Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Taskforce said he expected the bill to be passed soon in parliament, where Portia Simpson Miller’s governing party holds a 2-1 majority. “This development is long overdue,” Delano Seiveright said.

Related Article:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cuban tour operators jumping to meet new US demand

Yahoo – AFP, Diego Urdaneta, 21 Jan 2015

Tourists in the Cuban capital, Havana, on April 23, 2012 (AFP Photo/Adalberto Roque)

Miami (AFP) - Cuban tour operators are gearing up for an explosion of US travelers -- adding a spate of tours focused on everything from architecture to art to gourmet food -- following the recent detente between the two long-time Cold War rivals.

Travel company InsightCuba, one of the top agencies specializing in visits to the Communist-run island, now offers a six-day jaunt to Havana and Matanzas to listen to jazz and meet the musicians.

Cuban-American chef Douglas Rodriguez, lives in Miami, meanwhile, has 20 spots available for travelers who want to be immersed "in Cuba's contemporary art and culinary scene" in Havana and elsewhere on the island, with "interactions and discussions with artists and chefs."

Tourists eat in a cafeteria in the coastline 
of Havana, Cuba, on January 19, 2012
 (AFP Photo)
Washington last week announced it was lifting a series of commercial and travel restrictions as part of the historic rapprochement with Cuba after a half-century embargo and diplomatic relations ruptured since 1961.

But although travelers will no longer be required to seek authorization before embarking for Havana, the trips remain restricted -- so tourists can't just hop on a plane hoping to sip mojitos on the beach.

Instead, travel to the island must fit into one of 12 categories, including family visits, research, journalism, education, religion, or cultural exchange.

Travel agents say they are already seeing a strong increase in demand for the Cuba tours.

"The phone has not stopped ringing," said Collin Laverty, director of Cuba Educational Travel, speaking by phone from Cuba.

Since the company started operating three years ago, it has brought 5,000 people to Cuba. Laverty said they hope to match that number this year alone.

"We are getting all these emails from people saying 'I want to get there before McDonald's'," he said, noting that two US groups were expected this week.

"We added 70 tour dates after Obama's announcement ... in response to the demand," added Tom Popper, of Insight Cuba.

'Throw away stereotypes'

Any rise in tourism on the island will be hampered by a lack of infrastructure, which is already at maximum capacity, tour operators.

However, the travel agents say this actually provides an opportunity -- motivating them to approach residents to help fill the gaps.

"These tours, what they do, is to get people of both countries together, and they learn about each others culture, history and way of living, and that leads to respect," said Silvia Wilhelm, president of CubaPuentes, a Texas travel agency specializing in cultural and architectural tours in Cuba.

"You throw away all these stereotypes that both people have been hearing from each other for 50 plus years," she said.

But not everyone is happy to see travel between the United States and Cuba increase. Some say that injecting fresh capital into the island's economy will only help the Castro government hold on to power.

"This is a windfall for the Castro regime that will be used to fund its repression against Cubans, as well as its activities against US national interests in Latin America and beyond," said Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, shortly after the new rules were announced.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Europeans should come clean on CIA torture

Nearly 10 years ago, allegations were raised against some European states for colluding with the CIA in post-9/11 anti-terror measures. Amnesty International is now calling on these nations to come clean.

Deutsche Welle, 20 Jan 2015

Amnesty International published a paper on Tuesday, January 20, calling for European countries that allegedly helped set up secret prisons for rendered terror suspects to disclose the full details of their collusion with the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Amnesty's call comes a month after a damning report released by the US Senate documented CIA torture practices, including the transfer of terror suspects to third countries, a practice known legally as extraordinary rendition.

"Without European help, the US would not have been able to secretly detain and torture people for so many years. The [US Senate report released in December] makes it abundantly clear that foreign governments were essential to the success of the CIA operations - and evidence that has been mounting for nearly a decade points to key European allies," Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counterterrorism and human rights, said.

The Senate report made no mention of names with regard to where the secret prisons were located, but Amnesty singled out three nations: Poland, Lithuania and Romania.

"The time for denials and cover-ups is over," Hall implored. "Governments can no longer rely on unsubstantiated 'national security' grounds and claims of state secrecy to hide the truth about their roles in the torture and disappearance of people. It's time for justice for all those who have suffered the gruesome practices - including waterboarding, sexual assault, and mock executions - that characterized these illegal counter-terrorism operations."

This is the location of one of the alleged 'black sites' in Lithuania

Legal action first on national level

The Senate report, compiled by the Committee for Intelligence, said at least 119 prisoners had been subjected to "coercive interrogation techniques, in some cases amounting to torture," at secret prisons - "black sites" - in Guantanamo Bay and a number of allied nations.

In addition to calling on the accused European nations to come clean, Amnesty also called for criminal investigations to take place and for "justice to be done," but it did not mention against whom or what form that justice could take.

"There is now a heightened call for domestic prosecutors in [Poland, Lithuania, and Romania] to institute criminal charges against anybody who was involved, including high-level politicians, intelligence and military intelligence officials," explained Martin Scheinin, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the European University Institute.

Scheinin, who was the UN's first Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, told DW that, apart from domestic legal procedures, "international human rights mechanisms and ultimately international criminal trials" could also take place.

"For a long time, European states have argued that they are not able to reveal any information because they have promised full confidentiality to the US," said Manfred Nowak, another former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, after the Senate report was released in December. "Since these 500 pages have been released, this argument no longer holds true."

The UK faces allegations for participating in torture at Guantanamo

Britain, Macedonia, Berlin

The allegations of collusion leveled by Amnesty in its paper also refer to three other European nations: Great Britain, Macedonia, and Germany.

With reference to the Senate report, Amnesty called on Great Britain to disclose information regarding its role in the alleged torture of Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed. Although the Senate report made no mention of direct CIA detention, Amnesty also demanded that the British government address claims that it detained terror suspects in secret on the island territory of Diego Garcia, the site of a strategic US military and naval base in the Indian Ocean.

El-Masri won his case at the European
Court of Human Rights in 2012
Germany and Macedonia were implicated in the Amnesty paper and the Senate report in connection with the arrest and transfer of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was tortured at a black site in Afghanistan. The European Court of Human Rights has already found that Macedonia violated el-Masri's human rights by rendering him to the CIA, but the role that Germany played in that process remains unclear.

"What is missing is whether Germany had any involvement," said Scheinin. "And that is what [Amnesty] is ultimately asking for. Even if there was an investigation in Germany, Amnesty's grievance is that the government didn't cooperate fully."

Related Article:

Pope says Catholics do not need to breed 'like rabbits'

Yahoo – AFP, Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere, 20 Jan 2015

Pope Francis speaks to journalist onboard a plane during his trip back to
Rome on January 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Giuseppe Cacace)

Rome (AFP) - Pope Francis has said that good Catholics do not have to breed "like rabbits", defending the Church's stance on artificial contraception and appealing to the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to practise responsible parenting.

Speaking to journalists on his flight back from the Philippines, the pope said that he once asked a mother of seven children who was pregnant with her eighth if she wanted to "leave behind seven young orphans".

"She said, 'I trust in God.' But God gave us the means to be responsible," the pope said. "Some think, and excuse the term, that to be good Catholics, they must be like rabbits."

Pope Francis takes part in a mass at a
 park in Manila on January 18, 2015
(AFP Photo/Osservatore Romano)
Francis said creating new life was "part of the sacrament of marriage" and in Manila strongly defended his predecessor Paul VI's outlawing of artificial contraception for Catholics in 1968.

Following the church's teachings did not mean "Christians should have children one after the other", he said.

His comments came at the end of a trip to the Philippines, the Catholic Church's Asian stronghold, which last year passed a family planning law after a 15-year battle by the Church to block state-sanctioned contraception.

The law allows the government to begin distributing free contraceptives to millions of poor Filipinos.

It was a rare loss for the Church, which has for centuries been one of the nation's most powerful institutions and continues to count more than 80 percent of the nation's 100 million people as Catholics.

'Responsible parenthood'

The pope said that his predecessor had foreseen the rise in policies restricting childbirth.

"Paul VI was worried by the growth of neo-Malthusianism" (which advocates restricting the number of children the poor can have) which tried to "put a control on humanity... he was a prophet," he said.

"The key teaching of the Church is responsible parenthood. And how do we get that? By dialogue. There are marriage groups in the Church, experts and pastors," he added.

In 2013, six months after becoming pope, Francis urged the Church to drop its "obsession" with contraception, divorce, gays and abortion, in an interview signalling a dramatic shift in the Vatican's tone.

Pope Francis greets the crowd after
celebrating mass at a park in Manila on
January 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ted Aljibe)
The Argentine pope has brought a series of fresh perspectives to the notoriously rigid Church since he took over, signalling a strong reformist drive.

He stressed at the time that the Church's official position had not changed, but said that it should "always keep in mind the individual".

Francis' papacy -- he is the first Jesuit pope and the first from South America -- has marked a series of breaks with Vatican tradition.

The pope has become known for his humility and concern for the poor, and has reached out to non-believers and those in other religions. He regularly picks up the phone to call ordinary people who write to him.

His latest comments are not the first this month to attract attention for their candour.

Last week when discussing the deadly attack by Islamist gunmen angered by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, the pope said: "If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched."

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

“…  3 - Longer Life is Going to Happen, But…

Here is one that is a review. We keep bringing it up because Humans don't believe it. If you're going to start living longer, there are those who are frightened that there will be overpopulation. You've seen the way it is so far, and the geometric progression of mathematics is absolute and you cannot change it. So if you look at the population of the earth and how much it has shifted in the last two decades, it's frightening to you. What would change that progression?

The answer is simple, but requires a change in thinking. The answer is a civilization on the planet who understands a new survival scenario. Instead of a basic population who has been told to have a lot of children to enhance the race [old survival], they begin to understand the logic of a new scenario. The Akashic wisdom of the ages will start to creep in with a basic survival scenario shift. Not every single woman will look at herself and say, "The clock is ticking," but instead can say, "I have been a mother 14 times in a row. I'm going to sit this one out." It's a woman who understands that there is no loss or guilt in this, and actually feels that the new survival attribute is to keep the family small or not at all! Also, as we have said before, even those who are currently ignorant of population control will figure out what is causing babies to be born [Kryon joke].

Part of the new Africa will be education and healing, and eventually a zero population growth, just like some of the first-world nations currently have. Those who are currently tied to a spiritual doctrine will actually have that doctrine changed (watch for it) regarding Human birth. Then they will be able to make free choice that is appropriate even within the establishment of organized religion. You see, things are going to change where common sense will say, "Perhaps it would help the planet if I didn't have children or perhaps just one child." Then the obvious, "Perhaps I can exist economically better and be wiser with just one. It will help the one!" Watch for these changes. For those of you who are steeped in the tradition of the doctrines and would say that sounds outrageously impossible, I give you the new coming pope [Kryon smile]. For those of you who feel that uncontrolled procreation is inevitable, I encourage you to see statistics you haven't seen or didn't care to look at yet about what first-world countries have already accomplished on their own, without any mandates. It's already happening. That was number three.….”