'Dump Trump': Tens of thousands join global march

'Dump Trump': Tens of thousands join global march
Demonstrators arrive on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for the 'Women's March on Washington' on January 21, 2017 (AFP Photo/Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

March for Science protesters hit the streets worldwide

March for Science protesters hit the streets worldwide
Thousands of people in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday kicked off the March for Science, the first of more than 500 marches around the globe in support of scienceThousands of people in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday kicked off the March for Science, the first of more than 500 marches around the globe in support of science

Bernie Sanders and the Movement Where the People Found Their Voice

"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.)

Hong Kong's grandpa protesters speak softly but carry a stick

Hong Kong's grandpa protesters speak softly but carry a stick
'Grandpa Wong' is a regular sight at Hong Kong's street battles (AFP Photo/VIVEK PRAKASH)
A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

FIFA scandal engulfs Blatter and Platini

FIFA scandal engulfs Blatter and Platini
FIFA President Sepp Blatter (L) shakes hands with UEFA president Michel Platini after being re-elected following a vote in Zurich on May 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Michael Buholzer)
"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. …

Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl' statue to stay until 2018

Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl' statue to stay until 2018
The " Fearless Girl " statue on Wall Street is seen by many as a defiant symbol of women's rights under the new administration of President Donald Trump (AFP Photo/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

“… The Fall of Many - Seen It Yet?

You are going to see more and more personal secrets being revealed about persons in high places of popularity or government. It will seem like an epidemic of non-integrity! But what is happening is exactly what we have been teaching. The new energy has light that will expose the darkness of things that are not commensurate with integrity. They have always been there, and they were kept from being seen by many who keep secrets in the dark. Seen the change yet?

In order to get to a more stable future, you will have to go through gyrations of dark and light. What this means is that the dark is going to be revealed and push back at you. It will eventually lose. We told you this. That's what you're here for is to help those around you who don't see an escape from the past. They didn't get their nuclear war, but everything else is going into the dumper anyway. … “

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sexual abuse scandals deepen Chile mistrust in Catholic church

Yahoo – AFP, Ana FERNANDEZ, April 28, 2018

Although 70 percent of Chileans describe themselves as Catholic, only a third say
 they have confidence in the church, a survey showed this week (AFP Photo/

Santiago (AFP) - Despite a strong Catholic tradition, Chile is witnessing a growing rift between the people and the church, sharpened by a string of sexual abuse scandals that until recently had been ignored by the pope.

The extent of the rift became clear in January when Pope Francis visited Chile and sparked outrage by hugging Juan Barros, a controversial bishop who has been accused of covering up abuses by another priest in the 1980s and '90s.

Questioned by journalists, Francis responded abruptly, saying there was "not a single piece of proof" against Barros in remarks that caused widespread anger among those who had been abused by the other priest, Fernando Karadima.

But the pontiff apologized and quickly moved to dispatch the Vatican's top abuse investigator to collect evidence, later acknowledging he had made "grave mistakes" in his handling of the scandal.

And he also pledged to meet with the victims, inviting three of them to the Vatican to discuss the extent of abuse within the church in Chile.

All three were abused in the 1980s by Karadima, who at the time was an influential priest who trained seminarians in an affluent area of the capital, Santiago.

It was only in 2011 that he was convicted of abusing children by the Vatican, which ordered him to retire to a "life of prayer and penitence" and barred him from any public ministry.

But the victims were unable to pursue a criminal case against him in Chile because the statute of limitations had expired.

Disgraced pedophile priest Fernando Karadima, seen here in 2015, was convicted 
by the Vatican of sexually abusing children in the 1980s and 90s but has never 
been prosecuted criminally (AFP Photo/Vladimir RODAS)

80 church leaders accused

Next month, the pope will also meet with Chilean bishops to discuss the findings of the probe by his investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

Beyond Karadima, nearly 80 Catholic clergymen have been accused of sexually abusing children in Chile, according to BishopAccountability, an American NGO that tracks such cases.

And a recent poll showed that seven out of 10 Chileans disapprove of the way in which the Catholic church has handled the scandal.

Aware of what could be coming down the line, Santiago's archbishop, Ricardo Ezzati, recently suggested to Barros that he resign "for the good of the people of God."

The visibility of the Karadima case and the testimony of the three victims who have spoken out on behalf of the abused -- Jose Andres Murillo, James Hamilton and Juan Carlos Cruz -- has dealt a major blow to a church seen as elitist and distant from the concerns of a modern society.

Although most Chileans still identify as Catholic, a growing number feel that
the church simply doesn't represent them (AFP Photo/Vincenzo PINTO)

A growing disaffection

But Chile's disaffection with the church began back in the 1990s with the return of democracy to the country, says Luis Bahamondes, an expert on religion at the University of Chile.

Despite the fact that part of the Catholic church sided with those persecuted by the country's military dictatorship, when democracy returned, it went "from having a more social role to one that was driven by traditional values," distancing itself from many worshipers.

In a country where some 70 percent of the population describe themselves as Catholic, only a third say they have confidence in the institution, a Mori survey revealed this week.

Chileans had to wait until 2004 before they were able to get divorced, and it was only in 2017 that women were legally allowed to have an abortion in cases of rape, or threat to the mother's life or deadly birth defects.

On visiting Chile in January, Pope Francis said people needed to see church leaders
 who were compassionate, who knew how to help people in need (AFP Photo/

Same-sex couples still cannot marry nor can anyone who is transgender change their identity on a passport, although this year's Oscar's triumph of "A Fantastic Woman," a Chilean film about a transgender woman, which won best foreign film, has gone a long way to changing that.

'Increasingly remote from the people'

But Bahamondes denies talk of a "rift," pointing out that most of the population still identify as Catholic, saying it is more a sense that they simple don't feel that the church represents them, which is particularly true among the youth.

President Sebastian Pinera, himself a practicing Catholic, on Thursday said he was saddened by the fact that the church "is increasingly remote, not only from worshippers but from people in general," which is not only happening in Chile but across Latin America.

During his visit in January, Pope Francis himself acknowledge that people prefer leaders "who know how to be compassionate, how to lend a hand, to stop and help those who have fallen," while criticizing the "elitist" attitude of certain clergy.

Friday, April 27, 2018

EU, US police cripple Islamic State media mouthpieces

Yahoo – AFP, Jo Biddle, April 27, 2018

The Islamic State group, whose flags are pictured here in northern Iraq, has lost
large swathes of its territory since a US-led alliance started an offensive in 2014

The Hague (AFP) - European and US police forces have struck at the heart of Islamic State's propaganda machine, seizing servers and "punching a hole" in its ability to spread its radical jihadist message online.

The transatlantic takedown was spread over eight countries and was coordinated by the EU's police agency in "a major operation over a two-year period", the head of Europol, Rob Wainwright, told AFP on Friday.

Wednesday and Thursday's operation was the latest in a campaign targeting in particular the Amaq news agency used by IS to broadcast claims of attacks and spread its message of jihad.

"With this takedown action, targeting major IS-branded media outlets like Amaq, but also al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nasher news, IS's capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material has been compromised," Europol said in a statement.

The "simultaneous multinational takedown" was coordinated by Europol from its headquarters in The Hague, and led by the Belgian federal prosecutor.

"Dozens and dozens" of police fanned out in their countries, seizing servers in the Netherlands, Canada and the United States as well as in Bulgaria, France and Romania.

'Technically challenging'

The goal was "to destabilise this apparatus by seizing and dismantling servers used to diffuse IS propaganda and to identify and arrest its administrators," the Belgian prosecutor said in a statement.

"With this groundbreaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe," Wainwright said.

Britain's Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit was also involved in identifying "top-level domain registrars abused by IS", and the Bulgarian interior ministry confirmed "access was blocked to four servers, used for disseminating information" by Amaq in its country.

"It was so technically challenging that we were only really able to do it because of our experience in major cybercrime takedowns," Wainwright told AFP.

"We basically ran the cyber playbook against IS," he said, adding police forces around the world had spent years gathering intelligence to locate the servers being used by the jihadists.

'Squeezed' in battle and online

While a US-led international coalition has been combatting IS on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria taking back territory it had seized in 2014, nations have also warned that a multi-pronged effort was needed, including choking off funding and its online access.

"They've been squeezed on the battlefield, and now they've been really badly squeezed, badly hit, on the online platform as well," said Wainwright.

IS used Amaq to claim "every major attack since 2015 in Europe", he said, including the deadly assaults in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin.

"The technical infrastructure which allows it to put these terrible propaganda videos and messages out has been knocked offline," Wainwright told AFP, speaking on his last day as Europol chief.

But Europol's investigation is still ongoing, and arrests could follow.

At its height, the IS media portfolio included smartphone apps for children, websites, and a glossy magazine, full of post-apocalyptic prophesies and articles declaring the "caliphate" was the only legitimate and viable home for Muslims.

But as IS's structure has crumbled, its media empire has waned too. Al-Bayan radio, which once broadcast on frequency mode and offered a wide range of statements, news and talks in several languages, had long moved online and reduced its activities.

On Friday, however, Nasher news -- the main Telegram account on which Amaq statements are posted in the region -- remained active, claiming jihadist fighters had damaged three Syrian army vehicles in fighting in southern Damascus.

"We are realistic in recognising that there still might be a retained possibility of re-establishing the network," Wainwright said, highlighting that this week's action was the third in a series of such takedowns.

"But we're getting stronger every time, and narrowing the space for them to re-create their online presence."

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Natalie Portman says backed out of prize over Netanyahu

Yahoo – AFP, April 21, 2018

Oscar-winning US-Israeli actress Natalie Portman says she will not attend a
Jerusalem award ceremony because she does not want to appear to endorse
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP Photo/Frederic J. BROWN)

Jerusalem (AFP) - Hollywood actress Natalie Portman said she was backing out of a Jerusalem ceremony where she was to receive a $2 million prize to protest against the policies of Israel's prime minister.

"I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony," Portman said in a statement posted late Friday on Instagram.

She also denied accusations by Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev who on Friday said Portman subscribed to the ideology of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it," the Oscar-winning US-Israeli actress said.

"Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation," she said.

Netanyahu's Likud party hit back on Saturday, accusing Portman of "hypocrisy".

It blasted Portman for "talking about human rights but participating in festivals in countries that censor films and whose respect for human rights is much worse than that of Israel".

On Friday the Genesis Prize Foundation said that Portman had cancelled her participation in a Jerusalem ceremony slated for the end of June.

One of Portman's representatives informed the foundation that she was troubled by "recent events" in Israel and "does not feel comfortable participating in any public event in Israel," the foundation said.

The foundation did not say which events distressed Portman.

Portman said her decision to stay away from the award ceremony had been "mischaracterised", insisting that she wanted to set the record straight and "speak for myself".

"Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today's atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values," she said.

"Because I care about Israel, I must stand against violence, corruption, inequality and abuse of power," Portman added.

Portman did not go into details, but her decision came amid a series of controversies for Netanyahu and his government.

The army has come under scrutiny over its use of live fire over the past three weeks during protests and clashes along the blockaded Gaza Strip's border with the Jewish state.

In a fourth straight Friday of mass demonstrations, four Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces, bringing the total death toll since March 30 to 38.

Netanyahu also recently reversed a controversial deal with the UN refugee agency aimed at avoiding the forced deportations of thousands of African migrants.

The Israeli premier is also the subject of a series of corruption investigations. Police in February recommended he be indicted in two of the cases and a third is ongoing.

The Genesis prize, launched in 2013, is awarded to "extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews," according to foundation's website.

Recipients contribute their winnings to causes of their choice, and Portman has said she intended to dedicate the money to programmes advancing women's equality.

Born in Jerusalem to a doctor father and an artist mother, 36-year-old Portman won a best actress Oscar for 2010's psychological ballet thriller "Black Swan".

Thursday, April 19, 2018

New York's 'Fearless Girl' statue is moving to stock exchange

Yahoo – AFP, April 19, 2018

Officials say the "Fearless Girl" (front) statue will be moved to outside the New York
 Stock Exchange, and are considering a similar move for the "Charging Bull" 
statue (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

New York (AFP) - The popular "Fearless Girl" statue, which has been staring down Wall Street's "Charging Bull" since last year, will soon move to face the New York Stock Exchange, the city's mayor said Thursday.

The bronze statue by artist Kristen Visbal -- seen by many as a defiant symbol of women's rights under President Donald Trump's administration -- appeared on the eve of International Women's Day in March 2017.

The statue was installed by State Street Global Advisors asset managers and marked the start of the firm's campaign to encourage companies it invests in to increase the number of women on their boards of directors.

The "Fearless Girl" statue was supposed to be up for only a week, but became a tourist magnet and the temporary permit was extended to one month, and eventually one year.

Moving the statue to the pedestrian-friendly area outside the NYSE "will improve access for visitors and ensure that her message and impact continues to be heard," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

The new site "will also alleviate safety issues arising from the large numbers of pedestrians and visitors drawn to the statue, which has been located on a narrow median on Broadway," a statement from the mayor's office read.

The move will be complete by the end of 2018, the statement read.

"We eagerly await the arrival of 'Fearless Girl' to her fitting new home, standing her ground and training her unblinking eyes on our engine of progress and free enterprise," said NYSE President Thomas Farley.

The "Charging Bull" statue, installed in December 1989, symbolizes "the strength and power of the American people" -- and Italian-American sculptor Arturo Di Modica said that placing the "Fearless Girl" there changed the meaning of the artwork.

De Blasio's office also said that city officials are "looking at a similar move" to the area near the NYSE for the "Charging Bull" statue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Starbucks to shut US stores for 'racial-bias education'

Yahoo – AFP, Jennie MATTHEW,  April 17, 2018

Starbucks says it is closing its US stores May 29, 2018 to conduct "racial-bias
education" after an incident in a Philadelphia shop (AFP Photo/KAREN BLEIER)

New York (AFP) - Starbucks will close stores and corporate offices across the United States on May 29 to conduct "racial-bias education," the company announced Tuesday, following outrage over the arrest of two black men in one of its cafes.

It was the latest bid by the behemoth coffee chain to recover from last Thursday's incident in Philadelphia, which was captured on video and went viral, viewed millions of times.

The video posted on Twitter by a Starbucks client shows uniformed police questioning and then handcuffing the two men, who offer no resistance, as a white client repeatedly asks an officer, "What'd they do? What'd they do?"

Starbucks said more than 8,000 stores would be closed on the afternoon of May 29 and training provided to nearly 175,000 employees, and incorporated going forward.

CEO Kevin Johnson, who has also apologized, said the company was "committed to being a part of the solution" and that he had been in Philadelphia "listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it."

"Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities," he said.

The curriculum will be designed "to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome," the company said in a statement.

Philadelphia police said they received a 911 call from a Starbucks worker who said the men were trespassing, after refusing to buy anything. Police said officers had "politely" asked the two to leave before finally arresting them.

They reportedly asked first to use the bathroom, but were told it was only for paying customers.

The two men's lawyer Lauren Wimmer told a CBS affiliate in Philadelphia that they had been waiting for a third man to arrive for a business meeting.

Protestors demonstrate outside a Starbucks on April 15, 2018 in Philadelphia, 
Pennsylvania (AFP Photo/Mark Makela)

Indignities, suspicion

Starbucks declined to prosecute and the men were released.

Ex US president Barack Obama's former attorney general Eric Holder and Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights lawyer who has exonerated innocent prisoners on death row, will be among those experts consulted on the curriculum, Starbucks said.

"Being treated with respect and dignity at a place of public accommodation is an essential aspect of full citizenship," tweeted NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which fights for racial justice and which is also being consulted.

"The reality is that most black Americans regularly face the indignities of being treated with suspicion," it added.

"This is a crucial next step in fighting implicit bias," tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, another expert consulted.

The woman who posted the video, Melissa DePino, said a Starbucks employee called police because the men had not ordered anything, while they waited for a friend.

"All the other white (people) are wondering why it's never happened to us when we do the same thing," she tweeted.

"The men were sitting there peacefully quietly and they were put in handcuffs and they were walked out of the store, humiliated, embarrassed and put in a patrol car," DePino subsequently told MSNBC television.

The video drew widespread attention. Drummer Questlove of the group Roots tweeted a question: "Waiting in a Starbucks while black is a crime?"

Starbucks has also launched a review of training and practices to make reforms where necessary, and once completed, this will be made available to other companies, including their licensee partners, it said.

The company has more than 25,000 coffee shops around the world.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Senior Amsterdam police officer fired for fraud

DutchNews, April 13, 2018

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Senior Amsterdam police officer Ad Smit has been fired for alleged expenses fraud and leaking confidential information, according to NOS broadcaster on Friday. 

An internal investigation apparently revealed that for years his family dined on police expenses, while from 2009 to 2015, he used public cash to buy hundreds of tickets for football matches, concerts and events. 

He also reportedly arranged free tickets for Amsterdam Arena and the Ziggo Dome for family members, friends and colleagues. Eleven police officers are under investigation for receiving such tickets. 

Smit also reportedly used police systems for private purposes and passed on confidential information. 

According to the Telegraaf, Smit is protesting his sacking, believing that other people should be investigated too. 

Public prosecutors are investigating the allegations.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pope Francis admits 'grave mistakes' in Chile sex abuse scandal

Yahoo – AFP,  12 April 2018 

Pope Francis admits 'grave mistakes' in Chile sex abuse scandal

Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis admitted Wednesday he had made "grave mistakes" in his handling of a sexual abuse scandal in Chile as he looks to quell the latest controversy to rock the Roman Catholic Church.

In a letter to 32 Chilean bishops released by the Vatican, Francis said he intended to summon them to Rome to discuss an investigation into an alleged cover-up by Bishop Juan Barros of abuse by paedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.

Francis expressed his "shame" and "pain" for the suffering of the victims and pledged to meet them.

"I have made grave mistakes in the assessment and my perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information," Francis wrote.

He made no specific mention of Barros, who was appointed Bishop of Osorno in Chile, despite being accused of concealing and even witnessing abuse carried out by Karadima.

A 2,300-page report sent to the pope includes testimony gathered from 64 people in New York and Santiago.

The pope asked the bishops to Rome to discuss the findings of the probe by Archbishop Charles Scicluna and requested their "collaboration and assistance" in finding measures that can "repair the scandal as much as possible and restore justice".

"The present difficulties are also an opportunity to restore confidence in the Church, a confidence broken by our mistakes and sins," Francis wrote.

'Everything is slander'

During a trip to Chile in January, the pontiff had strongly defended Barros, who appeared at public masses celebrated by the Pope in three different Chilean cities, causing a public outcry.

Francis said that he was convinced of Barros' innocence and demanded "proof" of abuse before he would speak out against him.

"There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander. Is this clear?" Francis said.

However, he later apologised to the victims and dispatched Scicluna, a renowned Vatican investigator, to Chile to collect evidence. Scicluna returned at the end of February.

Karadima, an influential Chilean priest, was convicted by the Vatican in 2011 of abusing teenage boys and sentenced to a life of penitence. Civil charges against him in the Chilean courts were dismissed because of a lack of evidence.

The president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, Bishop Santiago Silva, said that the church "had not done enough" in the case.

"Our commitment is that this does not happen again," he added.

Silva said the meeting of Chilean bishops with the pope in Rome would take place on the third week of May.

Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta, was until 2012 a prosecutor in the Vatican Court to investigate cases of paedophilia among priests, making a name for himself with his determination.

He allowed the opening of an investigation into Father Marcial Maciel, Mexican founder of the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the perpetrator of numerous cases of paedophilia.

Since taking over in March 2013, Francis has championed the cause of the marginalised and launched a reform agenda.

But sex abuse scandals have haunted his papacy and the Vatican announced it was reviving its anti-paedophile panel in February.

The pope has often spoken out about sexual abuse, and has vowed zero tolerance towards what he has described as a "great humiliation" for the Catholic Church.

But many victims remain bitter over alleged coverups and Church inaction over the years.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Three quit in protest as #MeToo scandal rocks Nobel literature academy

Yahoo – AFP, Gaël BRANCHEREAU, 6 April 2018

The prestigious Academy has been reeling since it was revealed as part of the
#MeToo campaign in November that several members, as well as members'
wives and daughters, had allegedly been assaulted by the well-known figure
at the centre of the scandal

Three prominent members of the Swedish Academy resigned on Friday in protest at close ties between the institution, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, and a high-profile man accused of sexual assault.

The Academy has been reeling since it was revealed as part of the #MeToo campaign in November that several members, as well as members' wives and daughters, had allegedly been assaulted by the well-known figure at the centre of the scandal.

Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper broke the news, publishing the testimony of 18 women claiming to have been assaulted or raped by one of the most influential figures in Stockholm's cultural scene.

The Academy has since cut all ties with the man, who has not been publicly identified.

But his identity is generally known by the public as he is a high-profile person in cultural circles.

The alleged sexual assaults occurred between 1996 and 2017, according to Dagens Nyheter.

One of the resigning members Peter Englund said the scandal had deeply divided the Swedish literary world.

"Over time, a crack that appeared has continued to grow," he said in a letter to the Aftonbladet newspaper, adding that the Academy's permanent secretary Sara Danius had been subject to "unjustified" criticism.

The fallout continued Friday as King Carl XVI Gustaf was informed of developments as the director general of the Nobel Foundation Lars Heikensten expressed concern over a "serious and difficult situation".

'Tower of Babel is crumbling'

Along with Englund, members Klas Ostergren and Kjell Espmark decided to step down after the group's normal meeting on Thursday at a Stockholm restaurant.

"It is with great sadness that after 36 years working at the Academy, including 17 as chairman of the Nobel Committee, I feel forced to make this decision," Espmark said in a letter to the media.

"When prominent academy members put friendship ahead of responsibility and integrity, I can no longer participate in its work".

Ostergren condemned "a betrayal of the founder and his great protector", referring to the Academy's founder, Swedish King Gustav III, and inventor Alfred Nobel, who left some of his fortune to the institution.

The three men are lifetime members and cannot technically resign, but there is nothing forcing them to attend meetings.

Of the academy's 18 members, five are no longer active after two women, Kerstin Ekman and Lotta Lotass, went on leave for several years.

Bjorn Wiman, the culture editor of Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said the resignations are "a disaster" for an academy "in ruins".

His counterpart at the Aftonbladet newspaper, Asa Linderborg, said "the tower of Babel is crumbling".

The allegations against the man were first revealed as part of the #MeToo campaign exposing sexual misconduct, which began in Hollywood and went on to shake artistic, media and political circles in Sweden, one of the most gender equal countries in the world.

In March, Stockholm's public prosecutor's office announced that part of the investigation, into claims of alleged rapes and assaults between 2013 and 2015, had been called off as the statute of limitation had passed or due to lack of evidence.

Brazil's Lula ignores arrest deadline

Yahoo – AFP, Carola SOLE with Sebastian SMITH in Rio de Janeiro, April 6, 2018

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets supporters at the
metalworkers' union building in Sao Bernardo do Campo, hours before a
deadline he eventually missed to surrender and begin serving a 12-year
prison sentence or face arrest (AFP Photo/Miguel SCHINCARIOL)

São Bernardo do Campo (Brazil) (AFP) - Ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the controversial frontrunner in Brazil's October presidential election, ignored a deadline to surrender and start a 12-year prison sentence for corruption Friday.

Holed up with thousands of cheering supporters in the metalworkers' union building in his hometown of Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, the 72-year-old let the 5:00 pm (2000 GMT) deadline pass without public comment.

The development further heated up the drama over attempts to put behind bars the veteran leftist, who ruled from 2003-2011 and leads in polls ahead of the elections.

He was ordered Thursday by Brazil's top anti-corruption judge, Sergio Moro, to surrender voluntarily to police and begin incarceration in the southern city of Curitiba.

Moro gave him 24 hours, saying the cell, a separate room with its own toilet, was ready, and that Lula would not be handcuffed -- if he came quietly.

It was not clear what the next step would be. However, local media reported that Lula's lawyers were negotiating the surrender.

It would be impossible for police to arrest him by force without the likelihood of major crowd trouble.

Supporters of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rally outside the Metallurgical Union in Sao 
Bernardo do Campo after a judge gave the ex-president 24 hours to surrender and 
begin a 12-year prison term (AFP Photo/MARCELO CHELLO)

Much of the day, Lula had been waiting in hope that the country's top appeals court, the Superior Tribunal of Justice, would temporarily suspend his arrest warrant. However, the petition was rejected shortly before the deadline expired.

Lula was convicted last year of taking a luxury apartment as a kickback from a big construction company. He lost a lower court appeal in January and saw his sentence increased from nine to 12 years.

But to his Workers' Party faithful, Lula is a victim of a right-wing plot to prevent him from returning to power.

The longer he remained holed up inside the union building, the bigger the crowd grew outside.

"Lula is innocent, Lula for president!" supporters chanted.

Renata Swiecik, an unemployed mother of four who had joined the human shield, urged Lula not to hand himself over.

"We are here to resist to the end. Lula will not be a prisoner in 2018, he'll be president and help the people once more," said Swiecik, 31.

Brazilian Federal Judge Sergio Moro is in charge of the sprawling "Car Wash" 
probe, which has revealed systemic, high-level embezzlement and bribery 
throughout Brazilian business and politics (AFP Photo/Heuler Andrey)

Corruption battle

Lula's imprisonment is being celebrated on the right and among prosecutors supporting the "Car Wash" probe, which has revealed systemic, high-level embezzlement and bribery throughout Brazilian business and politics over the last four years.

To them, Lula epitomizes Brazil's corruption-riddled elite. His conviction is the biggest "Car Wash" scalp by far.

"I want Lula in prison, I want a better future and with him in the leadership we won't have that," said Maura Moraes de Oliveira, 51, who works as a maid in Curitiba.

"Not only Lula should be locked up, but all the corrupt, a complete cleaning."

Operation "Car Wash" was named after the service station where agents initially investigated a minor money laundering scheme in 2014, before realizing that they'd stumbled on a gargantuan web of embezzlement and bribery at state oil company Petrobras and right through the political classes.

Lula, who grew up poor and with little formal education before becoming a trade union leader and politician, has long said he will go down fighting.

In theory, once someone has been convicted and lost a lower court appeal, he or she is barred from running for office under Brazil's clean-slate law.

Still, even in prison, Lula has the right to register as a candidate. It would then be up to the Superior Electoral Tribunal to rule on whether his candidacy could stand.

Although Lula would almost certainly be blocked, he could use the process to maintain his political influence.

S. Korea's Park jailed for 24 years for corruption

Yahoo – AFP, Jung Hawon, April 6, 2018

Judge Kim Se-yoon reads the verdict in the trial of disgraced former President
Park (AFP Photo/Seoul District Court)

Seoul (AFP) - South Korea's disgraced former president Park Geun-hye was jailed for 24 years Friday for corruption, completing a dramatic fall from grace for the country's first woman leader who became a figure of public fury and ridicule.

A trial which lasted more than 10 months and highlighted shady links between big business and politics in South Korea ended with Park being found guilty on multiple criminal charges, including bribery and abuse of power.

Park's successor described the sentencing as a "heartbreaking event" for both the nation and the ex-leader herself.

"The accused abused the power bestowed by the people -- the true ruler of this country -- to cause chaos in national administration," said Judge Kim Se-yoon, delivering the ruling.

Park, 66, was convicted of receiving or demanding more than $20 million from conglomerates, sharing secret state documents, "blacklisting" artists critical of her policies, and firing officials who resisted her abuses of power.

"Despite all these crimes, the accused denied all the charges against her, displayed no remorse and showed an incomprehensible attitude by blaming Choi and other... officials," Kim said, referring to Park's secret confidante and long-time friend Choi Soon-sil.

Park was also ordered to pay a fine of 18 billion won ($17 million).

Updated timeline on the South Korean presidency of Park Geun-hye who was 
removed from power in March 2017 and indicted for bribery and other 
corruption-related charges. (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

When the wide-ranging corruption scandal broke last year it prompted massive street protests against Park across the country.

On Friday, the verdict was greeted with public displays of outrage and grief by several hundred Park supporters who had gathered outside the courthouse.

Many protesters sat or lay in the road crying, while others formed a protest rally calling for her release.

"The rule of law in this country is dead today," said Han Geun-hyung, a 27-year-old Park supporter.

Park herself was not in court for Friday's judgement which, in a rare move, was broadcast live on television. She had boycotted most sessions of the trial in protest at being held in custody.

Instead she was informed of her fate at a Seoul detention centre, where she sat in a reception hall with her lawyer awaiting the outcome, Yonhap news agency reported.

She now has seven days in which to file an appeal.

Park becomes the third former South Korean leader to be convicted on criminal charges after leaving office, joining Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, who were both found guilty of treason and corruption in the 1990s.

Supporters of Park stand next to a picture demanding her release outside
the Seoul Central District Court (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

Judge Kim said he had passed a tough sentence to "prevent such an unfortunate event from happening again".

The presidential Blue House said in a statement after the verdict: "Each person must have different feelings about former President Park Geun-hye. But a bleak wind blew through the hearts of all of us today.

"It is a heartbreaking event for the nation as well as for the person's life. A history that is not remembered is bound to be repeated. We will not forget today."

A Korean 'Rasputin'?

Park, the daughter of dictator Park Chung-hee, lost both her parents to assassins. She took office in 2013 as a conservative icon who cast herself in the role of daughter of the nation -- incorruptible and beholden to none.

Less than four years later, she was impeached, stripped of all her powers and ousted from office on the back of months-long mass protests that brought millions on to the streets of Seoul and other cities.

Much of the public anger was focused on Park's relationship with Choi and accusations that she let her friend -- who held no formal position or security clearance -- meddle in state affairs, including high-level appointments and editing official speeches.

Choi is the daughter of a shadowy religious figure who had served as a mentor to Park for decades until his death in 1994. She was tried separately and sentenced in February to 20 years in prison.

The daughter of assassinated dictator Park Chung-hee, Park took office in 2013
 as a popular conservative icon who cast herself in the role of Daughter of the 
Nation -- incorruptible and beholden to none (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

Condemned in the media for her "Rasputin-like" influence over Park, Choi was convicted of using her presidential ties to squeeze tens of millions of dollars out of major South Korean businesses, including Samsung -- the world's top smartphone maker -- and retail giant Lotte.

'No remorse'

Former leaders Chun and Roh received presidential pardons after each spent around two years in jail -- a privilege that may elude Park for many years, said Jeong Han-wool, an analyst at think tank Hankook Research.

"Given her attitude and public anger over her scandal that remains raw, it will be difficult to create a political environment in favour of her release any time soon," Jeong told AFP.

Park's left-leaning successor Moon Jae-in came to power largely because of the public backlash against Park and her conservative party, dimming hopes for a pardon under the current administration, he added.

Chun Sang-chin, sociology professor at Seoul's Sogang University, said the verdict could also spell bad news for Park's immediate predecessor Lee Myung-bak, who is in custody as prosecutors investigate multiple corruption charges involving him and his relatives.

"This is a good news for people who took to the street with candles but a nightmare for Lee Myung-bak," Chun told AFP.

Park's core supporters have always seen her as a heroically tragic figure who devoted her life to the service of her country despite childhood tragedy.

But for the vast majority of Koreans, she has now been permanently disowned, and will go down in history not as the country's first woman president but the first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.