“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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mugabe celebrates 91st birthday with million-dollar bash

Yahoo – AFP, Farai Munganp28 feb 2015

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (C) receives a signed gift next to
 his wife Grace Mugabe (2nd R) on February 28, 2015 during the celebration
of Mugabe's 91st birthday at Victoria Falls (AFP Photo/Jekesai Njikizana)

Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) (AFP) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday celebrated his 91st birthday with a lavish million dollar bash that was slammed by the opposition as "obscene" in a country wracked by poverty.

Thousands of supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF, many wearing party regalia emblazoned with the president's image, sang and danced as he arrived for the jamboree at a luxury hotel in the famed Victoria Falls resort.

Assisted by his wife Grace, the elderly liberation leader, who wore a black suit, white shirt and red tie, threw 91 balloons into the air.

The party, which comes a week after Mugabe's birthday, was held on the hotel golf course, with white marquees housing the guests.

Elephants were slaughtered for the feast and seven huge cakes were on display in one of the tents.

One giant 91-kilo creation depicted the spectacular Victoria Falls, which empty into the Zambezi river that forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Addressing the gathering in a 90-minute speech, Mugabe castigated the US which has imposed sanctions on both Zimbabwe and him personally.

"They (the US) can't have it both ways if they want to be friends then they must be friends with us in total and we allow them to have some safaris," he said.

"But they can't say 'allow our people to visit, allow our people to have safaris, to kill our lions and take safari trophies to America," he added.

The extravagance of Mugabe's birthday parties are a subject of annual controversy in Zimbabwe.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change called Saturday's festivities "obscene".

"All the money that has been collected to bankroll this obscene jamboree should be immediately channelled towards rehabilitating the collapsed public hospitals, clinics and rural schools in Matebeleland North province," MDC spokesman Obert Gutu said last week, referring to the province where Victoria Falls is located.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is the world's oldest leader.

One of the banners welcoming him to the party praised him as "the icon of Zimbabwe's revolution."

"Forward with President Mugabe," supporters chanted.

Several speakers wished him good health, with one youth leader urging the authorities to declare February 21 -- his birthday -- a national holiday.

While hailed by many African peers as a liberation hero, critics accuse the Zimbabwean strongman of turning southern Africa's former bread basket into a basket case by trampling human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Mugabe's violent seizure of white-owned farms triggered food shortages and hyper-inflation, while Europe and the United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe over elections seen as rigged.

In an interview marking his birthday, Mugabe admitted he blundered by giving ill-equipped black farmers vast tracts of farmland under his controversial land reforms.

"I think the farms we gave to people are too large. They can't manage them," Mugabe said.

He also shrugged off questions over an incident earlier this month in which he missed a step and stumbled from a podium.

"I have yet to come across to a person who has not fallen. It was a slight fall, missing a step," Mugabe told state-controlled television.

Despite his age, Mugabe appears to be in reasonable health, and according to one analyst, can regard himself as having plenty to celebrate following years of international criticism.

"If his aim was to rule Zimbabwe and become the king of Zimbabwe for a long time, and whatever happened to the country he would stay there and become a continent-wide hero, I think he's achieved those aims," Dowden said.

"The fact that Zimbabwe has been ruined in the process and it's now just run by thieves who call themselves ministers, looting the place continually, I don't think that worries him a bit," he added.

One-year ban on ivory carving imports to China

Want China Times, Xinhua 2015-02-28

Elephants in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, July 16, 2014. (Photo/Xinhua)

Chinese authorities on Thursday announced a one-year ban on imports of African ivory carvings acquired in accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

In a brief statement on its website, the State Forestry Administration said it would halt administrative approval for the imports until Feb. 26, 2016.

The agency said the move is to protect African elephants, and the one-year timeframe is designed to assess the effects.

The sale of ivory is legal in China if the activities conform with certain regulations. Imports of ivory and its products must gain approval from the State Forestry Administration.

According to the rules, raw elephant ivory and its products should be processed at designated places, sold at fixed shops and tracked on an individual item basis. Each legal ivory product can be tracked through a unique photo ID and is recorded in a database.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ex-Yemen President Saleh amassed 'up to 60 billion,' UN reports

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen, allegedly siphoned billions of dollars into his own coffers while in power. The evidence stems from a UN report about the deposed leader.

Deutsche Welle, 26 Feb 2015

An expert panel presented the UN Security Council with a report this week outlining the alleged corruption practices of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The main finding of the report highlighted the fortune - estimated to be between $32-$60 billion (28 billion-53 billion euros) - which the former strongman amassed during his 33 years in power.

"These assets are said to take the form of property, cash, shares, gold and other valuable commodities," the expert report said, adding that he had transferred the majority of those assets to roughly 20 countries under false names.

According to the findings of the UN probe, Saleh was able to hide the funds with the help of five prominent Yemeni businessmen. Using companies and other individuals as fronts also helped shield him from assets freezes.

"The origin of the funds used to generate [Saleh's] wealth is believed to be…particularly [related] to gas and oil contracts where he reportedly asked for money in exchange for granting companies exclusive rights to prospect for gas and oil in Yemen."

The investigators estimated that he earned nearly $2 billion annually during his presidency.
"Many have argued that the country's spiraling debt and economic problems would be alleviated with a repatriation of these alleged stolen assets," it added.

Saleh and Yemen's political turmoil

Yemen has devolved into economic instability and political turmoil in the time since Saleh's forced resignation in 2012 after Yemen's Arab Spring uprising. Most recently, Shiite Houthi rebels have solidified their power in Yemen's north and taken over the capital city, Sanaa. The political crisis resulted in house arrest for President Abd Rabu Mansour, who recently fled to the south and rescinded his resignation.

Wednesday's report included information from sources who alleged that Saleh has been stockpiling weapons since being deposed, supporting allegations that he has played a role in the current unrest.

Many countries, including Germany, the United States and Middle Eastern nations have closed their embassies in Yemen amid security concerns. Late last week, rival factions in Yemen agreed to create a transitional council under UN oversight in order to help govern the country along with the parliament. The council is to include representatives from social groups that have traditionally lacked a voice in Yemeni politics.

kms/sms (AP, dpa)

Monday, February 23, 2015

German foreign minister seeking 'anchors of stability' in Africa

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier is seeking to intensify ties between Germany and Africa. Berlin is particularly interested in countries that foster regional stability.

Deutsche Welle, 23 Feb 2015

German Foreign Minister Steinmeir with kenyan President

Steinmeier's four-day trip took him to three countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Kenya - and its purpose is to forge new partnerships for Germany.

There were occasional glitches. At the Nairobi museum, the minister was shown the start of a film with sound, but no pictures.

But such mishaps did not stop the high-level cultural and scientific delegation from Germany engaging in a lively debate with Kenya's cultural elite about new forms of cooperation with Africa. Such cooperation is expected to acquire tangible shape at a newly created Humboldt Forum in Berlin starting in 2019.

Cultivating a new relationship with Africa was the main goal of the foreign minister's four-day tour. In spite of the ongoing crises in Ukraine, the Middle East and Greece, Steinmeier went ahead with his Africa tour, the fourth in twelve months, to promote Germany's new Africa policy.

"We have to look at Africa in a new way," Steinmeier said. Germany still tends to view Africa as the continent of crises and conflicts. "But this is no longer true for all of Africa, because there are also anchors of stability in which we are particularly interested," the German minister said.

Rwanda accuses MONUSCO commanders of doing too little in the
fight against the FDLR rebels

'Where is Germany?'

Steinmeier said one anchor of stability in the region was Rwanda, despite deficits in democratic governance and its tense relationship with its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But Rwanda is not satisfied with the work of the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO to which Germany contributes more than 100 million euros (US$ 113 million) every year.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said FDLR Hutu rebels were still active in the border region where they were spreading "ethnic poison." They have to be "eliminated," the Rwandan minister said bluntly. She blamed the head of MONUSCO Martin Kobler - who otherwise enjoys an excellent reputation - for the FDLR's continued presence in the region.

Mushikiwabo wants Germany to take on a far bigger role in the region. Currently only France, the UK and Belgium are active there."Where is Germany?" she asked, "We want more German presence here seen in the region, and across the continent."

Anchors of stability are rare in Central and East Africa. A few days ago, German President Joachim Gauck added Tanzania to the list.

Kenya, the last leg of Steinmeier's tour, is not one of them. The Somali terrorist militia group al-Shabab has repeatedly carried out attacks in the country and the internal political situation is considered fragile. But Steinmeier noted to Kenya's credit that it is the country that is promoting regional cooperation within the framework of the East African Community (EAC).

Steinemeir described Rwanda as an anchor of stability despite
 'deficits in democratic governance'

East Africa - a dependable partner

Steinmeier believes East Africa could develop into a politically strong and economically stable region. A customs union encompassing Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda, would create an internal market of at least 160 million consumers. During this trip Steinmeier referred cautiously to "a region of growing political and economic stability."

Some members of the younger generation of East Africans, whether in DR Congo, Rwanda or Kenya, are apparently pinning their hopes on Germany.

In surveys or comments on Facebook, young people say wish German companies could help boost the recovery of their respective national economies. They would also like German politicians to act as act as a counterweight to their often corrupt and patriarchal elites.

"Young people want change," said, Mukazi Ndekezi, a student of international relations from Rwanda. Mukazi, who is a youth ambassador, seeks to promote the interests of young people at the EAC. Not surprisingly, she believes regional cooperation will succeed. Young people between the ages of 17 and 35, she notes, account for two thirds of the population of the EAC region.

"They're really done with conflicts," she said of the under-35s. "And I have seen a positive impact of the regional integration. Like students, they collaborate, they talk, they discuss, and they share their views, their ideas. And then they understand each other."

Germany's foreign minister - who she can only see from afar in Kigali - would have readily welcomed such sentiments.

African nations face dilemma over digital switch

The UN has set June as the deadline for moving from analog to digital transmission. Only a few African countries seem prepared for the change. Even the largest television markets on the continent are lagging behind.

Deutsche Welle, 23 Feb 2015

A group of people stands near three large satellite dishes in a rural area.
Photo: John Hrusa epa dpa

Staring at a blank TV screen has become a reality for most Kenyans, and many other African TV viewers could face the same fate come June 17. That is the deadline set by the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for television programs to be transmitted only digitally.

After the deadline, satellite dishes and antennas will receive their signals via a different technology. Theoretically, it will be possible to receive many more channels and enjoy improved image quality.

There is a story behind Kenya's black screens. President Uhuru Kenyatta's government ordered a consortium of four major television networks to be blocked from broadcasting in analog. This happened after they refused to change their signals to digital. The media houses argued that they were not ready yet, and now they are in court trying to push for one hundred more days to prepare for the digital transition.

Apart from Nigeria and South Africa, Kenya is one of the largest television markets in Africa.

The Standard Group,one of Kenya's leading media house, says
it needs more time for the switchover

All three countries are not ready for the switchover, says Mike Jensen, an IT specialist with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) based in South Africa. "The Kenyan situation is probably the worst-case scenario on the continent; South Africa is pretty close," Jensen said. "In Nigeria, only one state has made the switch," Jensen told DW.

Nationwide coverage after the switchover to digital broadcasting is by no means ensured in African countries. As in Kenya, it is often about money. The change is costly for governments and citizens alike, the APC states on its website, which seeks to create an awareness of the issue.

Television viewers will usually need a decoder, which costs about $50 (44 euros), to decode the digital signal. Moreover, television companies will have to dig deep into their pockets to be able to broadcast their programs using the new technology.

Tanzania a digital model

Vera Moses, a Tanzanian viewer, says she is happy with the digital reception. "The quality of the pictures is good," she told DW in an interview.

Tanzania is one of three countries that has already largely switched to wide-band Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB). "In Dar es Salaam we already switched off analog transmission at the end of 2012," John Nkoma, the director of Tanzania's Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), told DW. Most cities are now receiving programs via DVB-T, which is terrestrial digital broadcasting via antenna. The remote parts of Tanzania receive broadcasts via satellite.

Dar es Salaam has already gone digital
It took some persuasion to convince citizens and businesses of the merits of the new system, Nkoma said, as he revealed two secrets to Tanzania's success: Firstly, decoders were taxed less. "The price for the decoders is artificially low," Nkoma said, "so they have become affordable." Tanzanians can get a decoder for $30.

Secondly, user habits were taken into consideration. "The public was used to free-to-air channels, so we required that in the digital broadcasting platform there would be the five popular channels of this country and those would be available as free channels." Viewers whose subscriptions expire would have these five channels to fall back on.

Market interests

But according to APC's Mike Jensen, that is not the whole story. Tanzania and neighboring Rwanda had forced the switchover on the public by shutting off the analog signal. Of course, there were citizens in both countries who simply could not afford the necessary equipment, Jensen said.

He thinks governments should guarantee a realistic compensation for the costs. The price of a decoder, Jensen said, was also a big issue in Mauritius. The government ordered large amounts of cheap decoders from China. Many of which had defects.

Satellite transmission is also to be digitalized

Jensen also does not understand the date the ITU has chosen. He estimates that by then only six countries may succeed in formally completing the switchover.

Germany has already changed to digital broadcasting, and so have most of the other industrialized nations. But Latin America has planned the switchover for as late as 2020.

Jensen says African telecommunications companies pushed for the early date for Africa. These companies, he said, were the only ones to profit from such a date, because they wanted to monopolize television broadcasting.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Obama adviser John Podesta's biggest regret: Keeping America in dark about UFOs

Yahoo  News, Caitlin Dickson, February 13, 2015

In this Nov. 19, 2014 file photo, Counselor to the President John Podesta speaks in
 Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. In the year that will pass before the 2016 
campaign for president formally kicks off with the votes in the Iowa Caucus, any
 number of candidates, donors, political operatives — and people who have nothing
 to do with American politics — will shape the race for the White House. (AP Photo/
Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Outgoing senior Obama adviser John Podesta reflected on his latest White House stint Friday, listing his favorite moments and biggest regrets from the past year. Chief among them: depriving the American people of the truth about UFOs.

Podesta’s longtime fascination with UFOs is well-documented, as his brief political hiatus following four years as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff freed him up to pursue his otherworldly passion.

At a 2002 press conference organized by the Coalition for Freedom of Information, Podesta spoke on the importance of disclosing government UFO investigations to the public.

“It’s time to find out what the truth really is that’s out there,”  he said. “We ought to do it, really, because it’s right. We ought to do it, quite frankly, because the American people can handle the truth. And we ought to do it because it’s the law.”

Following Podesta’s tweet, Friday, the Washington Post recalled an exchange one of its reporters had with Podesta in 2007. Karen Tumulty had asked Podesta about reports that the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, had been bombarded with Freedom of Information Act Requests specifically seeking email correspondence to and from the former chief of staff including terms like “X-Files” and “Area 51.” Podesta’s response, through a spokesperson, was “The truth is out there,” the tagline for the TV show “The X-Files” of which Podesta was known to be a fan.

A 2010 editorial in Missouri’s Columbia Tribune disparaged reports that Podesta had asked an outspoken UFO photographer to stop discussing his knowledge of extraterrestrial activities in public.

“One wonders why Podesta would do such a radical reversal, given his former plea for UFO disclosure,” the editorial implored.

But contrary to the Columbia Tribune’s concerns, Podesta had clearly not abandoned the cause. He wrote an introduction to the 2010 book “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record.”

Unfortunately, Podesta will likely have little time to fill out FOIA requests in his new job at Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Perhaps, as his tweet suggests, he’s passing the torch to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

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"... Question Three: Is there life on other planets?

Are you kidding? There's life everywhere. Everywhere! Right now, your scientists are searching for microbial life on all the planets and their moons in your solar system, and they will eventually find it. They expect to find it. They will eventually understand that the seeds of life are everywhere.

How much life might there be? How long has it been "out there"? When science starts to realize the scope of how long life has been in your galaxy, they will begin to see something counterintuitive to evolution - their own Human history. How old is your Universe? Ask your scientists and they will say about 13 billion years. That's OK. Let's use their numbers. How old is your own planet - 4 or 5 billion, perhaps? Correct. But how old is humanity? Why weren't you here with the dinosaurs? You think the earth wasn't ready? Do you think that perhaps that which controls evolution was a little too stupid to make a Human sooner, but the process could make a dinosaur? Have you ever thought about these things?

If you put the earth's entire history into a 24-hour clock, life itself only started in the last hour and humanity, all of civilization, happened the last few seconds. Isn't that odd to you? Therefore, in a Universe that may be 13 billion years old, you arrived in the last few seconds. Did you ever think maybe you're the newest ones on the block? Well, you'd be right.

If the Universe is really that old, do you think perhaps there are civilizations in your galaxy that might be a billion or more years older than you? If that's the case, do you think perhaps they have gone through anything you're going through? Do you think any of them might have had your DNA attributes? Perhaps they also went through what you are going through spiritually? Perhaps they even went into a quantum ascension status? The answer is dozens of them.

You already know them and you've listed them in your publications. The ones who directly seeded you are called Pleiadians. The ones who seeded them might be Octurian and the ones who seeded them may be even Orion. They're everywhere, and they're all here as well. They're looking at you, for you are the ones who are next, and you are passing this marker of the shift

Oh, dear ones, it's going to be a long time before you really know any of these things to be your reality. The first step is peace on Earth. The next is a new kind of Human evolution that is going to increase your DNA efficiency to 100% and you're going to live a long time. Every time I say that, there are Humans in their intellectual mind saying, "Well, there is a geometric birth rate going on. We're not going to make it. It's going to over-crowd and we are going to run out of food. So what you're saying, Kryon, can't be a good thing. We're all going to be suffering and killing each other for food."

Let me address this, for if that is your thought, Human, you are assuming Humans are stupid and haven't figured out what's going on and why there's so much birth. You assume they can't control it because they haven't figured it out? I want to tell you, you're going to see something you didn't expect. You're going to see a decline in birth rate because Humans are smart and they're getting smarter. They're going to see that quality of life is linked to the number of children they have, and they're going to figure out the solution. It won't be how many children their church says they should have. They are going to do it intuitively. You're going to see it sooner than not.

You are going to see wisdom on the planet in many areas that no sociologist would ever have predicted. You will surprise them all, and it's going to happen without a government program. It's going to happen because you decide you want it. It's going to happen collectively, and you may even see it soon. Look for negative birth rates in first-world countries. Where Humans are able to see a larger picture and have freedom of information, the situation will not be what you have predicted.

Is there life on other planets? The scientists are saying, "It's going to be a long time before we get to the stars, you know? We have to get in this little metal can and put air in it, and then travel in it for years and years before we ever get to the next star." Meanwhile, a Pleiadian can do it in the blink of an eye! What do you think is going on there? Do you even believe me?

Not long ago, if you wanted to communicate to someone far away, you sent a letter. It was carried by a horse. It took a month to get a response. Now you communicate instantly!  Why is this so unbelievable to you about travel?

I will tell you, as long as you stay in 3D, you'll still be getting in little metal cans and air suits and going to planets. As soon as you begin the quantum age, however, you will simply wish yourself there, because you will be entangled with everything and can go with intent. If you don't believe this now, you will later, for what I give you is true. It may be lifetimes and lifetimes from now, but the group that is before me is the group that is going to come back over and over and over. The difference is that you're done coming back in an old energy. This is a new energy. ..”

Controversy-Hit Samba School Wins Rio Carnival Title

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Feb 19, 2015

Members of the samba school Beija-Flor perform on the second day of the
 parades of the special groups of the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, at the Sambodromo
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 16 February 2015. (EPA Photo/Luiz Eduardo Perez)

Rio de Janeiro. A Brazilian samba school shrugged off a controversy over alleged funding by an African strongman president and went on to claim its 13th win at the Rio Carnival championship on Wednesday.

The Beija-Flor school, whose name means hummingbird, has denied media reports it was bankrolled to the tune of nearly $5 million by the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Obiang Nguema and his son are facing allegations of money laundering and corruption. The leader holds an iron grip over tiny, oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and critics have labeled him a ruthless dictator.

Hailing from the Rio suburb of Nilopolis, Beija-Flor scored 259.9 points to land its 13th title and see off rivals Salgueiro by 0.4 points.

Known for its creativity, the Beija-Flor team will now bring the final curtain down on this year’s carnival festivities at Saturday’s Parade of Champions, comprising the top six schools.

The Portela school came third, and last year’s grand champions, Unidos da Tijuca, were in fourth place.

The press service for Beija-Flor, whose theme was a “strong, joyful and colorful” Africa, told AFP they had merely received “cultural support and imported fabrics” from Equatorial Guinea, which is located on the Atlantic coast in central Africa.

After results were announced, Beija-Flor supporters burst into wild cheers at the Sambadrome in downtown Rio, where Sunday and Monday night the top 12 samba schools had battled it out for glory.

“I am very emotional, very happy,” Rayssa Oliveira, one of Beija-Flor’s beauty queens, told Globo television.

The jury considered various aspects of each team’s performance in carefully choreographed parades at the Sambadrome in front of crowds of some 72,000 people.

The jurors award points in categories ranging from the highly decorative school floats, the quality of their massed ranks of percussionists and how well the roughly 4,000-strong team move in sync with each other while singing their school song.

The record of carnival celebrations dates back to 1723 – but the first samba school was not formed until 1928.

Agence France-Presse
Related Article:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tanzania must halt violence against albinos: UN rights chief

Yahoo – AFP, 19 Feb 2015

Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of
 pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, affecting one Tanzanian in 1,400, often
as a result of inbreeding (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Geneva (AFP) - The UN human rights chief harshly condemned Thursday the murder and mutilation of an albino toddler in Tanzania, demanding authorities protect albinos, whose body parts are used for witchcraft in the country.

"Violence and discrimination against people with albinism must be halted," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement, condemning "the horrific murder and mutilation of Yohana Bahati."

The one-year old boy was seized by men with machetes from his home in northern Tanzania's Chato district overnight Saturday, and his mother was badly injured in the attack.

Police found his body, with his arms and legs hacked off, on Tuesday.

Zeid said attacks on people with albinism, which are often motivated by the use of body parts for witchcraft rituals, had claimed the lives of at least 75 people since 2000.

He warned that the attacks seemed to be on the rise, with at least three incidents over the past two months.

"I call on the Tanzanian authorities to swiftly investigate and prosecute perpetrators of this terrible crime and to strengthen its protection measures for people with albinism," Zeid said.

The UN repeated its fears that the uptick in attacks against albinos could be linked to looming general and presidential elections in October 2015, as political campaigners may be turning to influential sorcerers to improve their odds.

"This is the year of elections in Tanzania and, as some analysts have suggested, it could be a dangerous year for people living with albinism," UN country chief Alvaro Rodriguez warned Wednesday.

Albino body parts sell for around $600 in Tanzania, with an entire corpse fetching $75,000, according to the UN.

Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. It affects one Tanzanian in 1,400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. In the West, it affects just one person in 20,000.

Thousands rally after Burundi journalist released

Yahoo – AFP, 19 Feb 2015

Burundians gather outside the headquarters of the popular independent African
 Public Radio (RPA) in Bujumbura to welcome the release on bail of its director
 accused of "complicity" in the murder of three Italian nuns, on February 18, 
2015 (AFP Photo/Esdras Ndikumana)

Bujumbura (Burundi) (AFP) - Thousands marched through Burundi's capital Thursday in one of the largest demonstrations in recent years after the release of a popular journalist and government critic from jail, months ahead of key elections.

Vast crowds singing and dancing filled the streets of Bujumbura a day after Bob Rugurika, director of the popular independent African Public Radio (RPA), was released from prison on bail.

There was no official figure for how many took to the streets, but residents said the mass rally of tens of thousands was the largest they could remember.

"I'm 50 and I have never seen such a crowd in the streets," said Fabian, a teacher, saying the only event comparable in size he could remember were celebrations for Burundi's first elected president Melchior Ndadaye in 1993.

The arrest of Rugurika for "complicity" in the murder of three Italian nuns sparked protests by civil rights activists and fellow journalists, who have accused the government of doing all it can to sideline political challengers ahead of elections in May and June, including arrests, harassment and a clampdown on free speech.

The radio is seen as close to the political opposition, and often interviews those who say they are victims of injustice or discrimination.

"I have no words to thank the Burundian population," Rugurika said in radio broadcast, after entering the capital followed by supporters crammed into dozens of cars and hundreds on motorbikes.

"Thanks to your support, your commitment... I'm free at last."

'Fed-up' with government

The interior ministry had initially banned demonstrations but the huge crowds took police by surprise, and they pulled back to leave marchers to continue peacefully.

Burundians gather outside the headquarters of the popular independent African
 Public Radio (RPA) in Bujumbura to welcome the release on bail of its director
 director accused of "complicity" in the murder of three Italian nuns on
February 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Esdras Ndikumana)

Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the demonstration showed that people in the capital were "fed up with those in power and their methods."

Rugurika was arrested on January 21 after broadcasting the purported confession of a man claiming he was one of the killers.

A court on Wednesday granted him bail of 15 million Burundi francs ($9,500, 8,400 euros), but his lawyer Lambert Nigarura said there was a need for a proper investigation into the "real murderers of the three nuns."

For broadcasting the alleged confession, Rugurika was charged with complicity in the murders, "breach of public solidarity" and disclosing confidential information regarding a case.

The supposed confession contradicted a police account of the crime and implicated the security services.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Burundi, a small landlocked nation in central Africa's Great Lakes region, emerged in 2006 from a brutal 13-year civil war. The political climate remains fractious ahead of local, parliamentary and presidential polls beginning in May.

The three Roman Catholic nuns, aged between 75 and 83, were murdered at a convent north of Bujumbura in September.

Rights groups have warned of growing fears of the risk of violence ahead of elections, with a string of attacks including a five-day battle last month between the army and rebels.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, is expected to run for a third term in office despite opponents' claims that a new mandate would violate Burundi's constitution.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chinese-built railway in Angola opens

Want China Times, Xinhua 2015-02-15

A train at Lobito station in Benguela, Angola, Feb. 11. (Photo/Xinhua)

A 1,344-kilometer railway built by China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) for Angola was completed and open to traffic on Saturday, the company told Xinhua.

The railway linking the coastal city of Lobito in the west and Luau bordering DR Congo is the second longest railway built by a Chinese company for Africa, after the Tanzania-Zambia railway.

The Tanzania-Zambia railway was built in the 1970s.

The railway, built since 2004, will be linked with the Angola-Zambian railway and the Tanzania-Zambia railway in the future, according to the company.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Shiite protests in Bahrain mark anniversary of Arab Spring uprising

Hundreds of Shiite protesters have taken to the streets of Bahrain on Saturday, which marks the fourth anniversary of Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in the island country.

Deutsche Welle, 14 Feb 2015

A demonstrator carries the flag of Bahrain in one of the streets that are filled
 with toxic gas used by the Bahraini forces during the clashes, which came one
 day before the fourth anniversary of the Bahraini uprising, called revolution
February 14, in Sitra south of the capital Manama.

Men and women waved the country's flag and held up portraits of imprisoned activists as they marched. Witnesses say they chanted "Down Hamad," referring to Bahrain's Sunni King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Tires were burned and village roads blocked off by protesters using rocks, branches and garbage containers.

Security had been boosted in preparation for the event, in an attempt to keep demonstrators out of the Bahraini capital Manama. Pearl Square, at the heart of the city, was the focal point of the 2011 revolution, and remains closed off.

Police fired tear gas and sound bombs at marchers, though there were accusations on Twitter of shots being fired causing injuries, and of several people being arrested.

No casualties were reported.

Earlier in the week authorities had advised Bahrainis to stay away "from activities that could negatively affect security or general order," warning that anyone involved in violence would be held responsible.

Protest action is restricted in the tiny island nation, with opposition activists banned from gathering in large groups. Tactics such as security checkpoints and tear gas are used by government forces to stop protestors from making it to major highways.

Unresolved tensions

Bahrain is home to the US Navy's 5th fleet, and is a key Western ally in the fight against "Islamic State".

Four years ago Bahrain's Sunni monarchy moved swiftly to shut down protests led by the country's majority Shiite population, motivated by a wave of similar action across the Middle East and North Africa.

Within weeks Bahraini authorities, supported by Saudi and Emirati security forces, had snuffed out all protests.

Since then, relations between the Sunni administration and its largely Shiite opponents have continued to deteriorate, with repeated talks unable to come to a resolution.

The opposition boycotted November's parliamentary elections, at which Sunnis won the majority of seats.

In recent years, Bahrain has been heavily criticized by human rights groups for revoking the citizenship of several activists.

In a statement, Amnesty International said fundamental freedoms have increasingly been curtailed and called on the kingdom to use the anniversary to "announce genuine and long overdue reforms".

On Monday authorities closed down broadcaster Alarab News Channel, just over a week after it had launched. One of its first broadcasts was an interview with a Shiite opponent of Bahrain's leaders.

an/gsw (AP, AFP)