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Friday, 23 September

01:37

Interview 1211 – New World Next Week with James Evan Pilato The Corbett Report

[audio mp3="http://www.corbettreport.com/mp3/2016-09-22%20James%20Evan%20Pilato.mp3"][/audio]This week on the New World Next Week: cops caught on camera plotting to frame innocent man; Yellen schools the public on who really runs the country; and the feds want to crack down on little free libraries.

01:28

Navtej Sarna to Serve as Ambassador to the US The Wire

Navtej Sarna. Credit: PTI

Navtej Sarna. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: India’s high commissioner to UK, Navtej Sarna, was appointed as ambassador to the US today, a high-profile posting where he will face the task of engaging with a new administration in Washington following the November 8 presidential poll.

Sarna, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1980 batch, was serving as secretary (West), in the Ministry of External Affairs before he was posted in London in January. He will succeed Arun Singh, who is due for retirement.

The 59-year-old diplomat was among the longest-serving spokespersons of the MEA. He had held the post between 2002 and 2008.

“He is expected to take up the assignment shortly,” the external affairs ministry said.

The government has also appointed IFS officer Taranjit Singh Sandhu as the next high commissioner of India to Sri Lanka. He will replace Yash Sinha.

In Washington, Sarna’s main task will be to ensure the continuity in Indo-US relations when a new dispensation takes charge.

Sarna has authored many fiction and non-fiction books, with the most recent being Second Thoughts: On Books, Authors and the Writerly Life which was released last year. He was also India’s ambassador to Israel from 2008 to 2012.

Sarna had served at various Indian missions including in Moscow, Warsaw, Tehran, Geneva, Thimphu and Washington.

For two years, from August 2012, Sarna had served as additional secretary in-charge of international organisations in the MEA. Born on December 2, 1957, Sarna is due to retire from the IFS at the end of November 2017.

Yash Sinha, who is tipped to be the Indian high commissioner to the UK, is a seasoned diplomat and in a career spanning 35 years, he has handled several important assignments at the MEA, as well as in Indian diplomatic missions to South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America.

The post Navtej Sarna to Serve as Ambassador to the US appeared first on The Wire.

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Thursday, 22 September

23:34

Karnataka’s Open Defiance of SC Order to Release Cauvery Water to Tamil Nadu Lacks Legal Precedent The Wire

Karnataka may have grievances over the apex court’s order, but the legal precedent makes it clear that it should seek remedy before the court itself, rather than undo it through a resolution of the assembly.

karnataka_pti

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramiah, union ministers Sadananda Gowda, Anantha Kumar and BJP leader R Ashok and Eshwarappa, JDS leader Kumaraswamy, Congress leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge, M. Veerappa Moily and others during all-party meeting on Cauvery water dispute. Credit: PTI

Following an all-party meeting, the Karnataka government on Wednesday decided not to implement the Supreme Court’s directive to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu till September 23, when a special session of the state legislative assembly will be convened to make a decision on the issue.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday had mandated the state to release 6,000 cusecs of water daily for a week from September 21 to September 27, when the apex court will hear the case again.

Karnataka’s decision to not release water to Tamil Nadu has given rise to questions of whether the state is guilty of civil contempt of court, and if so, what remedies would be available to it.

File photo of Cauvery barrage in Karnataka. Credit: Reuters

File photo of Cauvery barrage in Karnataka. Credit: Reuters

While the Supreme Court may have to address the question of civil contempt of court – either suo motu or if it is moved by Tamil Nadu – Karnataka’s assumption that it can defy the direction of the apex court through the help of a resolution by the state assembly in favour of deferring further release of water from Cauvery to Tamil Nadu, appears to be legally untenable.

The issue has been previously settled by the Supreme Court’s five-judge constitution bench in 1991, while answering a presidential reference on November 22, 1991.

The issue then was the validity of the Karnataka Cauvery Basin Irrigation Protection Ordinance of 1991, promulgated by the governor of Karnataka on July 25, 1991. The ordinance was subsequently replaced by an Act of the legislature.

The ordinance and the Act followed the Supreme Court’s judgment on April 26, 1991...

23:02

Breakthrough student credits SJKC Hornbill Unleashed

Two young Malaysians have done the country proud with their achievements, one for his service above self and another for a breakthrough discovery that could be a game changer for modern medicine. Dr Mohd Lutfi Fadil Lokman, 28, was selected as a United Nation Young Leader from a list of 18,000 nominations from 186 countries […]

23:02

Bersih Sarawak plans statewide convoy Hornbill Unleashed

Bersih Sarawak plans to hold a statewide convoy this year, starting from Miri on October 1 and ending in Kuching on November 19. A group representing various participating NGOs today went to the state police headquarters at Jalan Baharuddin here to present a letter seeking permission to hold the event. Its spokesman Ahmad Awang Ali […]

23:02

Navy on High Alert After School Children Spot Men Carrying Arms near Mumbai The Wire

Navi Mumbai police outside the school where students claimed of seeing a group of armed men, near Naval base in Maharashtra's Uran. Credit: Twitter

Navi Mumbai police outside the school where students claimed of seeing a group of armed men, near Naval base in Maharashtra’s Uran. Credit: ANI/Twitter

The Western Naval Command (WNC) issued a high alert along the Mumbai coast on Thursday after two children claimed they saw men in military uniform moving suspiciously near a naval facility in Uran – about 47 kms from Mumbai.

According to the Indian Express, the police said that the two children – who are student of UES school in Uran – claimed that they saw a group of five to six men dressed in black carrying arms near the navy base.

According to NDTV, “ONGC” and “school” were two words that the children overheard the men saying, sources claimed. The men were in “pathan suits” and carried backpacks, the children reportedly said. The student first informed the principal, following which the police was alerted, following which the office of Director General of Police issued alerts to all police stations along the coast.

According to Indian Navy Chief PRO Captain D.K. Sharma, a search operation is being carried along with the Maharashtra police.

The WNC has issued “the highest state of alert” along the Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad coasts, after the matter was reported in Uran. Security has been increased at several locations along the coast, including the Gateway of India, Raj Bhawan, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and other major establishments near the sea.

The commissioner police of Navy Mumbai said that the children were being questioned while the Anti-Terrorism Squad is verifying the credentials of their claim.

(With PTI inputs)

The post Navy on High Alert After School Children Spot Men Carrying Arms near Mumbai appeared first on The Wire.

23:02

Christians pray for more religious freedom Hornbill Unleashed

The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) prayed for greater religious freedom during the 53rd Malaysia Day celebration. ACS chairman Reverend Datuk Dr Justin Wan said currently there was some flux to religious freedom in the country. “Right now, we sense a little bit of instability, where freedom of religion may not be that firm,” […]

23:01

Why pay more, PKR leader asks of EPF-DUKE deal Hornbill Unleashed

The acquisition of 40 per cent of the DUKE highway concessionaire by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has come under fire by an opposition lawmaker for the premium amount paid for the purchase. PKR’s Director of Strategy Sim Tze Tzin said the price tag of RM1.13 bilion paid by EPF to Ekovest Bhd’s wholly-owned subsidiary, […]

23:01

Were Sidek, Ratu Naga’s rights violated? Hornbill Unleashed

Were the rights of former journalist Sidek Kamiso and Ratu Naga or Syarul Ema Rena Abu Samah disregarded when they were taken into police custody? According to Section 23 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police can make an arrest without warrant. It should be an arrest over a seizable offence. However, the line between […]

Polls in March? That’s PM’s prerogative, says Salleh Hornbill Unleashed

Responding to a recent Bloomberg report that speculated that Najib may call for elections as early as next March, Salleh merely said that was Najib’s “prerogative”. “In our system of democracy, it is the PM’s prerogative to dissolve Parliament. “Our purpose of forming a government is not just to call for elections, it is to […]

23:01

De Niro: Son sold US$55m NY properties to Jho Low Hornbill Unleashed

Hollywood A-lister, Robert De Niro said he is aware that his son had been involved in the sale of two New York properties worth a total of US$55 million (RM227 million) to Low Taek Jho. According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), he acknowledged that his son Raphael was the agent who facilitated the deal for […]

23:01

Conservative forces dominating Islam, says SIS Hornbill Unleashed

Conservative and authoritarian forces have been given space to define, dominate and decide what Islam is and is not, an activist lamented yesterday. Sisters in Islam (SIS) co-founder Zainah Anwar said it was clear that the issue was not so much about Islam and “living the divine will on earth” as about power, privilege and […]

23:01

Govt legal aid scheme allows lawyers to hone their skills Hornbill Unleashed

Although it has run into financial problems, the government-sponsored legal aid scheme is a good training ground in criminal law practice for young lawyers. Former Selangor Bar Committee Legal Aid co-chairman K A Ramu said these young lawyers were able to represent clients during remand, bail applications, trials and appeals. “These lawyers come in handy […]

23:01

Opposition MPs denied entry into EC office Hornbill Unleashed

Opposition lawmakers who went to meet with the Election Commission (EC) over the ongoing redelineation exercise today returned disappointed. They were not even allowed to enter the Federal Territories’ (FT) EC office here, despite having given notice of their intention and visit, according to the DAP’s Tan Kok Wai. “We are disappointed. We had notified […]

23:01

EPF pay premium for 40% of DUKE highway Hornbill Unleashed

Ekovest Bhd has sold 40 per cent of its stake in the Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (DUKE) concessionaire to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for RM1.13 billion, The Edge Financial Daily reported today. In filing the matter with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, Ekovest said that it had agreed, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Nuzen Corp Sdn Bhd, to […]

23:01

Nazir says Johor Sultan is right about education Hornbill Unleashed

Banker Nazir Razak agrees with Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar that a single-stream education system is good for national unity. In an Instagram post today, the CIMB chairman says: “Agree with Tuanku. This is a critical but highly sensitive issue that needs to be considered.” At a meeting with leaders of Chinese associations yesterday […]

23:01

Explain basis for redelineation, EC told Hornbill Unleashed

MCA and Gerakan have called on the Election Commission (EC) to explain the basis for its proposed redelineation of electoral constituencies. Speaking to FMT, MCA Religious Harmony Bureau Chairman Ti Lian Ker said the redrawing of boundaries according to the proposal could “tear the nation apart” and it was essential that the EC explain it. […]

23:01

Poor students get their right to healthy meals Hornbill Unleashed

Some students in Kota Kinabalu are so poor that it’s quite normal to hear of one who typically survives on only a bowl of instant noodles a day. This is according to Mary Anne K Baltazar, the Manager of Pusat Belia’s Alamesra Youth-PREP Centre in the Sabah capital. She was explaining to FMT why the […]

23:01

Guan Eng: No snap polls for Penang, for now Hornbill Unleashed

Penang is not considering early elections for now, state Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today. Instead, he said the state government, the local council and 100 voters from each affected constituency will file objections against the Election Commission’s (EC) controversial proposed redelineation exercise, which he asserted to be in violation of the one man-one […]

23:01

Opposition MPs denied entry at EC office Hornbill Unleashed

Opposition lawmakers who arrived to submit their objections to the proposed electoral redelineation were blocked from entering the Election Commission (EC) office here today. Police personnel stationed at the lobby of Menara TH Selborn here refused entry to Pakatan Harapan leaders despite several attempts to seek clarification on the order for the block. “I just […]

23:01

Tian Chua: PKR in talks with Shafie’s new party Hornbill Unleashed

Former Umno leader Shafie Apdal’s new party will work alongside the Federal Opposition pact Pakatan Harapan in Sabah, PKR Vice-President Tian Chua said today. Tian Chua told this to reporters in explaining that the resignation of Penampang MP Darell Leiking from PKR is not a sign that the party is losing its base in Sabah. […]

23:01

Now everyone will have to pay extra to fly Hornbill Unleashed

The airport tax or Passenger Service Charge (PSC) is to be increased in all airports in the country soon, reported The Sun today. The report said the new PSC rates would affect domestic and international categories, as well as a new “Asean” category. According to aviation sources, the new PSC charges will be – RM11 […]

23:01

Hidden hand trying to stop Bersih? Hornbill Unleashed

Bersih 2.0 has claimed that a hidden hand is using all state resources to stop Bersih 5 even before the rally has begun. Its treasurer, Thomas Fann was denied entry into Sarawak this morning and was put on the same plane back to Kuala Lumpur. Fann was scheduled to attend a series of meetings with […]

22:32

Is Participative Governance the Answer to Cleaning the Ganga? The Wire

According to activist Himanshu Thakkar, merely transferring powers within the government won’t be enough – power must be given to the people whose lives depend on the river.

Relatives immerse a body in the river Ganga prior to cremation in Varanasi. Credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Relatives immerse a body in the river Ganga prior to cremation in Varanasi. Credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

New Delhi: The union cabinet, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016, giving the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) more powers to take action against polluting industries, which till now lay with only the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). However, experts believe a mere transfer or delegation of powers will not make a difference unless the process is made more participative, with the involvement of those whose lives and well-being directly depend on the river.

“Participatory management is the key. In the management of the whole water pollution issue and environment issues, there has to be presence of non-government people, particularly representatives of people whose lives depend on the river. If the river is cleaned or not, if the river flows or not, there are people whose livelihood depends on that. Today, the people who are there in the Ministry of Water Resources, the NMCG, the pollution control boards – their lives does not depend on whether the river is cleaned or not. They continue to get their salaries and promotions,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers and People.

The Centre’s decision, however, does not make any mention of such participative governance. The order has simply empowered the NMCG to function in an independent and accountable manner.

As per a government note on the issue, the order envisages the creation of a National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) as an authority with the prime minister as chairperson, in place of the existing National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) to look over pollution prevention and rejuvenation of the Ganga basin.

It also provides for setting up of an empowered task force chaired by the water minister to ensure that the ministries, departments and state governments have action plans and timelines for protection of the river, a mechanism for monitoring its implementation and one for ensuring that there is coordination among them for implementing the plan in a time-bound manner.

Under the order, the NMCG has also been declared an authority with powers to issue directions and also to exercise the powers under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. It would now comply with the decisions and directions of the Nat...

22:30

Billions Down the Afghanistan Drain Strategic Culture Foundation

India is reported as being «one of the largest donors of civilian aid to Afghanistan» and has recently undertaken to give the Kabul government another billion dollars, which is extremely generous of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, because, as CNN points out, there is in India «a stark picture of widespread rural poverty and deprivation»...

22:11

Tamil Film Visaranai is India’s Official Entry in Oscars 2017 The Wire

A still from the film Viranasai. Credit: New Indian Express

A still from the film Visaranai.

New Delhi: National Award-winning Tamil film Visaranai is India’s official entry in the Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars next year.

Visaranai was selected out of the 29 films that were in the race,” Film Federation of India secretary general Supran Sen told PTI.

The crime-thriller, produced by actor-filmmaker Dhanush, is written and directed by Vetrimaaran. It is based on the novel Lock Up by M. Chandrakumar.

Featuring Dinesh Ravi, Anandhi and Aadukalam Murugadoss in lead roles, the film deals with police brutality, corruption and loss of innocence in the face of injustice.

The film has won three honours – best feature film in Tamil, best supporting actor for Samuthirakani and best editing for Kishore Te – at the 63rd National Film Awards held earlier this year.

The film was premiered in the Orrizonti (Horizons) section of the 72nd Venice Film Festival, where it won the Amnesty International Italia Award.

The post Tamil Film Visaranai is India’s Official Entry in Oscars 2017 appeared first on The Wire.

21:34

YSEALI: America's Quiet Colonisation of Southeast Asia Land Destroyer

September 22, 2016 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - The US State Department's Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) claims on its official US government website to build "the leadership capabilities of youth in the region and promotes cross-border cooperation to solve regional and global challenges."


It not only consists of US-based educational and professional "fellowships" for Southeast Asian participants, but also a funding component to help alumni establish foreign-funded organisations posing as "nongovernmental organisations" (NGOs), enhancing the already large presence of US-funded organisations operating across Asia in the service of American interests.

Under an initiative called, "Generation: Go NGO!," YSEALI claims:
This is an opportunity for young NGO leaders to advance their professional skills and competencies with the aim to grow, scale, and take the organizations they work for, or those they founded, to new heights. 

From developing baseline metrics to creatively pursuing financial and in-kind resources to assertively applying social media to advance mission, this workshop will bring together individuals from across ASEAN to learn and collaborate on ways to build capacity, message, and impact.
Beyond this, YSEALI also conducts other workshops across Southeast Asia to help prepare what is essentially a parallel political establishment that serves not Southeast Asian institutions or the population, but the US State Department and the corporate and financial interests it represents, quite literally an ocean and continent away.


One such activity was conducted by the US Embassy in Cambodia, called the "First Model Prime Minister Debate" organised by the US Ambassador's Youth Council, Phnom Penh.



In essence, the US State Department is preparing an entire generation of impressionable young people, raised on American-style consumerism and hooked into US-based social media platforms like Facebook, and moulding them into a client political bloc they will eventually assist into power, just as they have attempted to do in Hong Kong recently with US State Department-funded "Umbrella Revolution" leaders winning...

21:34

YSEALI: America's Quiet Colonisation of Southeast Asia Alt Thai News Network ATNN

September 22, 2016 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - The US State Department's Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) claims on its official US government website to build "the leadership capabilities of youth in the region and promotes cross-border cooperation to solve regional and global challenges."


It not only consists of US-based educational and professional "fellowships" for Southeast Asian participants, but also a funding component to help alumni establish foreign-funded organisations posing as "nongovernmental organisations" (NGOs), enhancing the already large presence of US-funded organisations operating across Asia in the service of American interests.

Under an initiative called, "Generation: Go NGO!," YSEALI claims:
This is an opportunity for young NGO leaders to advance their professional skills and competencies with the aim to grow, scale, and take the organizations they work for, or those they founded, to new heights. 

From developing baseline metrics to creatively pursuing financial and in-kind resources to assertively applying social media to advance mission, this workshop will bring together individuals from across ASEAN to learn and collaborate on ways to build capacity, message, and impact.
Beyond this, YSEALI also conducts other workshops across Southeast Asia to help prepare what is essentially a parallel political establishment that serves not Southeast Asian institutions or the population, but the US State Department and the corporate and financial interests it represents, quite literally an ocean and continent away.


One such activity was conducted by the US Embassy in Cambodia, called the "First Model Prime Minister Debate" organised by the US Ambassador's Youth Council, Phnom Penh.



In essence, the US State Department is preparing an entire generation of impressionable young people, raised on American-style consumerism and hooked into US-based social media platforms like Facebook, and moulding them into a client political bloc they will eventually assist into power, just as they have attempted to do in Hong Kong recently with US State Department-funded "Umbrella Revolution" leaders winning...

21:31

What the Photon is the Ig Nobel Prize? The Wire

The Ig Nobel Prizes break stereotypes, telling students that everyday things have a research question latent in them, and then provide a lifetime pass to think crazy.

The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony in 2006. Paper planes are visible on the stage. Credit: jdlouhy/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony in 2006. Paper planes are visible on the stage. Credit: jdlouhy/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Picture this: An alarm clock rings. As is the universal wont, you try to snooze/stop the shrieking contraption from hell, but wonder of wonders, it runs away from you. You promptly do what any self-respecting individual does when confronted with the situation: you cuss at the blasted thing, and run after it in a bid to stop it from shrieking any further. The device finally captured, you shut it off and look at it with an expression that can only be described as a weird mix of bewilderment and rage. But in all this din, there’s one good thing that has happened: you have gotten yourself out of the bed. And now that you are up, you think to yourself you might as well jump into the shower, and get set to begin the day.

How would you like to possess one such alarm clock? Well, the thing exists, and the series of events described as it rings are more or less correct.

Now, answer these: What is the surface area of an Indian elephant? What is the amount of friction between the sole of your shoe and a banana peel as you step on it? What happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast?

How did you fare? No, wait, that’s the incorrect question. Why would one even know the answers to these questions? The answer, it turns out, is the reason why we put a rover on Mars and the reason why we touch a park bench that has a signboard declaring “Freshly painted, don’t touch!”

Curiosity. Wonder. That’s where science begins.

Those questions above and many more of their kind caught the fancy of several groups of researchers, and they doggedly went on to find their answers. A job well done, they thought, and all was well. But then some people thought that was exceedingly more than well and they gave them an award for it. The award is the Ig Nobel Prize.

Not to be confused with the Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobel Prizes were instituted by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research. These prizes have been given away every year since 1991 to honour achievements that “make people laugh, and then think”. The prizes celebrate the unusual in the scientific imagination in 10 disciplines, one of which is ‘interdisciplinary’.

The awards are presented by Nobel laureates at a grand, rather quirky, ceremony in the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. The awardees have exactly 60 seconds to present their acceptance speech. A forbidding eight-year-old girl appointed for the pu...

21:30

South Sudan Won’t Find Peace As Long As Its Women Are Excluded And Silenced The Wire

The violence and instability that wracks South Sudan is profoundly gendered.

Mother with child in the Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mother with child in the Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Coming after decades of conflict and a hard-won victory, there were high hopes that South Sudan’s independence would lead to a lasting peace. But those hopes have so far been thwarted.

Starting in July 2016, the world’s youngest country has been plunged back into another cycle of violence and an ensuing humanitarian crisis. The most recent relapse has prompted renewed peace negotiations to try and find a path towards establishing a protection force for war-ravaged civilians. The existing mandate of the UN mission there, UNMISS, has been expanded by increasing the number of peacekeepers – but no new innovations to try and transform the conflict seem to be forthcoming.

And despite the significant impact that conflict violence has had on South Sudanese women, the international community’s response continues to ignore the conflict’s very gendered characteristics.

This is a very serious omission. If South Sudan’s civilians are to be meaningfully protected from violence, and if the country is ever going to establish a stable and just society, the response to the latest events has to start incorporating gender perspectives.

A globally recognised framework for making this happen already exists. Known collectively as the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, it was first established in 2000, and is designed to help ensure that women’s experiences inform the pursuit of peace and security. Essentially a constellation of eight UN Security Council Resolutions, it advocates National Action Plans for all UN member states to implement gender perspectives in their conduct of domestic and international public policy.

But even though many countries have done the same, there are significant gaps in its implementation. South Sudan itself launched a National Action Plan for implementing the WPS agenda earlier this year, but gender relations continue to weigh heavy in the South Sudanese conflict.

To change the status quo, the country and those trying to help solve its problems need to focus on three areas: gendering peacekeeping, prosecuting sexual gender-based violence and ensuring that local women’s groups can fully participate in the peace process.

Keeping the peace

As the UN prepares to expand UNMISS’s mandate, it...

21:22

US Aid to Israel Aids Who and Toward What End? Land Destroyer

September 22, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - Recently, the United States just renewed military aid to Israel in a decade-long, $38 billion deal - the largest of its kind in American history. It represents a significant increase in aid, roughly $3.8 billion a year - expected to be supplemented by additional assistance through US Congress - up from $3 billion per year previously.


The Atlantic in an article titled, "Why Does the United States Give So Much Money to Israel?," attempted to explain the reasoning behind the otherwise unreasonable and unprecedented assistance by claiming:
Defenders of the deal would say it’s necessary. Dalton described the uptick in spending as a natural extension of the long-standing relationship between the United States and Israel, “as well as close ties between those countries and their peoples.” She described the “fraught neighborhood” surrounding Israel: war-torn Syria to the northeast, Hezbollah-influenced Lebanon to the north, and an Islamist insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai to the south, all of which help explain the historically high promise of $5 billion in missile funding over the next 10 years.
However, experienced geopolitical analysts will point out that the United States does not have "friends," "allies," or "relationships" - only interests and those who serve them. And while the Atlantic attempts to explain the deal as a means of maintaining a "relationship," it and other publications admit that there are "strings attached." If examined carefully, these strings reveals just what interests this supposed "relationship" serves.

CNBC would say just that in its article, "Big US military aid package to Israel has strings attached," claiming:
...it's structured so that more Israeli defense spending goes to U.S. companies. Israel's long-standing special arrangement for funds from the United States previously allowed Israel to spend 26 percent of the money in Israel — on Israeli-made defense products. But that provision is being phased out over the first five years of the deal.
In other words, the ten year, $38 billion aid package is first and foremost welfare for US defense contractors, not Israel whose own defense spending adds up to $16 billion per year - dwarfing annual US "aid." The deal is to encourage further Israeli dependency on America - dependency that lends Washington further leverage over both Israel and the region.

The purpose of aid and those who have arranged it on both the Israeli and American sides of the negotiating table is to continue directing Israel's domestic and foreign policy to suit America's interests, not the Israeli people's. An Israel at peace with its neighbors in a stable Middle East and North Africa is an Israel that negates the supposed need of a US presence in the region. It also negates the need for such extravagant defense spending in both Israel and the United States.

CNBC would also reveal that...

21:16

What is the Ultimate Price of the US “Earnest Mistake” in Syria? New Eastern Outlook

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20:45

China Joins Russia in Syria: Shaping New Anti-Terrorist Alliance Strategic Culture Foundation

The US has failed to fulfil its commitments in accordance with the Russia-US agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria. On September 19, Syrian government forces said they were pulling out of the agreement in view of multiple violations by the rebels the United States was responsible for. On September 17, the US-led coalition delivered air strikes against Syrian government forces near the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor in gross violation of the deal...

20:31

Do Dogs Threaten People’s Right to Safety in Public Spaces? The Wire

People can’t avoid being attacked if authorities mandate that dogs will live on the streets. And this is neither compassionate towards dogs nor people.

Dogs on the street. Credit: jonnyscholes/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Dogs on the street. Credit: jonnyscholes/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Many people are terrified of dogs. When a dog approaches them, they fly into panic and hysteria. They don’t know a dog’s body language and can’t tell the difference between a friendly canine from an agitated one. To them, all dogs are scary at all times. Their extreme reaction may be amusing to people who know canines. But this raises the question: Don’t people who fear dogs have a right to safety in public spaces?

Their fear may be a reaction to a past traumatic experience or just unfamiliarity. The fear is so deep-seated, no matter how many times you admonish them saying ‘Don’t run’, they run from dogs. Few dogs can resist the temptation to chase. After all, they are hardwired to run after prey. If the frightened human is a child, the consequences can be severe.

Dogs are territorial of places and people. People who feed dogs imagine the animals are just as friendly to everyone. A child walks down the street with a packet of biscuits in her hand. Hand-fed mutts smell the goodies and salivate. The child gets defensive and holds the packet higher. One dog jumps and knocks it down. Maybe the kid cries and runs away or tries to retrieve the packet. Who’s to blame for what follows?

In any other country, a dog that attacks people is put down. In India, we blame others. After almost every incident of dogs attacking children, you can count on the animal welfare activists to say that a nearby butcher shop didn’t dispose off offal responsibly. The elderly woman who was killed in Kerala while relieving herself was accused of carrying meat. Activists reason that eating meat makes dogs aggressive. But this is just a myth with no scientific backing. Try taking even a bowl of curd rice away from a hungry stray dog. If you don’t back off when it growls, it will snap.

Often, dogs don’t need the smell of food to attack. Take the case of a toddler playing in her house who was savagely attacked by a dog. Or dogs chasing motorbikes. They are driven by their fear of humans and territoriality, with sometimes tragic consequences for humans.

An estimated 20 million people are bitten by dogs each year according to a 2006 study, causing a loss of 38 mill...

20:26

Farmers Notebook: Let’s Create Smart Villages Before Building Smart Cities The Wire

By moving people and businesses to smart villages, revenue, resources and job opportunities will increase in rural India, while cities can decongest.

Smart village. Credit: M.J. Prabu

Smart village. Credit: M.J. Prabu

Despite all the tall talk about India being an agricultural country and farmers’ issues being discussed during election season, in reality, agriculture is not economically viable today. The increasing demand for larger cities has driven up real estate prices even in remote villages, prompting farmers to sell their land. Adding to the fire is the lack of marketing and a fair price for the products.

Farmer's Notebook.But one man is trying to change this, and give villages and farmers an opportunity to sustain themselves. Venkat, who holds a bachelors degree from IIT Kharagpur and a masters from Alabama University in the US, came back to India to do something to help the country’s farmers.

“I was heading some big companies as vice president and earning well, but you see after some time [you realise] money does not mean everything. I wanted to come back to do something for India and I chose [to do something in the] agriculture arena. I studied what was wrong and realised marketing was the link missing.”

On his return to India, Venkat started a company called Efarm (enabling farmers to reach the market). With support from a Mumbai-based start-up funding firm, over a two-three year period Efarm soon transformed into a name to reckon with in the agricultural sector. But the going was not smooth.

“In India, lessons in agriculture are hard and if one learns them well he would never step into it again…as the adage says, once bitten twice shy. Though agriculture is a state subject, it is controlled by Centre. I was trying to do something productive and the local agri universities did their bit to support me by introducing me in their meetings, conferences but I [Efarm] was not taking off as expected. Adding to this was a host of other labour, supply and payment issues, and I thought I must end it somewhere here.”

After a two year hiatus, he re-entered the formal job market but found that he could not continue because the temptation to go back to Efarm was too much. He decided to give himself a second chance. This time he “carefully prepared lessons and revised them well so that my previous mistakes would not be repeated.”

Finding the middle path

Over the last decade, there has been a upsurge in the number of people like Venkat (from urban, non-agricultural backgrounds) taking to villages with a mission of doing something for farmers and resolving their problems.

A growing d...

20:03

North Carolina Governor Announces State of Emergency in Charlotte The Wire

People maneuver amongst tear gas in uptown Charlotte, NC during a protest of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, US. September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Jason Miczek

People maneuver amongst tear gas in uptown Charlotte, NC during a protest of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, US. September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Jason Miczek

Charlotte, N.C.: One person was shot and gravely wounded on Wednesday in a second night of unrest in Charlotte, North Carolina, officials said, as riot police dispersed unruly protesters after the fatal police shooting of a black man under disputed circumstances.

North Carolina‘s governor later declared a state of emergency amid the disturbances and said the National Guard and state highway patrol troopers would be sent in to help police in Charlotte restore and maintain order.

Charlotte police chief Kerr Putney initially reported that a person shot during the protest had died, but city officials later posted a Twitter message saying the individual had been hospitalised in critical condition on life support.

The city also said the gunshot was fired by one civilian at another, not by police. A police officer was also being treated for injuries suffered during Wednesday’s protests, it said.

Putney told Fox News: “We’re trying to disperse the crowd. We’ve been very patient, but now they’ve become very aggressive, throwing bottles and so forth, at my officers, so it’s time for us now to restore order.”

The flash point for Charlotte‘s unrest was Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of Keith Scott, 43, who according to police was armed with a handgun and refused officers’ orders to drop the weapon. His family and a witness to the shooting said Scott was holding a book, not a firearm.

Authorities have not released any video of the incident but the city’s mayor said she would view the footage on Thursday.

Governor Pat McCrory said he was acting at the request of the Charlotte police chief in sending National Guard and state troopers to assist local law enforcement.

“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated,” McCrory said in a statement.

Unrest erupts outside hotel

The latest trouble began with a peaceful rally that turned violent after several hundre...

19:59

Bahama Leaks: More Offshore Secrets Revealed, Including Indian Links The Wire

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

Another investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has revealed details of more than 175,000 companies, trusts and foundations registered in Bahamas, the Caribbean tax haven, Indian Express reported.

The same group had published a large-scale international investigation into papers leaked from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca five months ago, commonly known as the Panama Papers. Like the Panama Papers, documents for the Bahama Leaks were first accessed by Süddeutsche Zeitung, who then shared them with the ICIJ.

The Indian Express has been a part of both of these investigations, as they are a member of the ICIJ.

The leaked documents pertain to companies registered between 1990 and early 2016. According to the Indian Express, they “lift the veil of secrecy that the Bahamas offers to multinational corporations and also rich and powerful individuals by revealing the names of office bearers, shareholders or beneficial owners of the offshore entities”.

The leak also includes the names of 539 registered agents — corporate middlemen who serve as intermediaries between Bahamian authorities and offshore clients – one of which is Mossack Fonseca, the Indian Express reported.

In the documents provided, 475 India-linked files have been found. These refer to Indians across sectors such as mines and metals, electronics, real estate, media and entertainment. The Indian Express also reported that some names that came up during the Panama Papers have repeated themselves in the Bahama Leaks.

Another Indian Express report has detailed the Indian names found on the list. These range from Anil Agarwal of the Vedanta Group, Kabir Mulchandani of the erstwhile Baron Group, Rajan Madhu, Fashion TV India promoter and Aman Gupta, chairman and chief executive of Finnish water brand Veen Waters, among others.

Internationally, several big names have found associated with the Bahamas companies.

The former EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, now an advisor to Bank of America and Uber, was recruited by a venture funded by the United Arab Emirates, The Guardian reported. After the leak, Kroes has been forced to admit that she breached the European commission’s code of conduct by not declaring her directorship of an offshore company while she was actively policing multinationals for the EU.

Carlos Cab...

19:35

Opposition to Galileo Was Scientific, Not Just Religious The Wire

Anti-Copernicans such as Locher and Brahe show that science has always functioned as a contest of ideas.Aeon counter – do not remove

The Ptolemaic Geocentric system. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Ptolemaic Geocentric system. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1614, when the telescope was new technology, a young man in Germany published a book filled with illustrations of the exciting new things being discovered telescopically: moons circling Jupiter, moon-like phases of Venus, spots on the Sun, the rough and cratered lunar surface. The young man was Johann Georg Locher and his book was Mathematical Disquisitions Concerning Astronomical Controversies and Novelties. And while Locher heaped praise upon Galileo, he challenged ideas that Galileo championed – on scientific grounds.

You see, Locher was an anti-Copernican, a fan of the ancient astronomer Ptolemy and a student within the Establishment (his mentor was Christoph Scheiner, a prominent Jesuit astronomer). Locher argued that Copernicus was wrong about Earth circling the Sun, and that Earth was fixed in place, at the centre of the Universe, like Ptolemy said. But Locher was making no religious argument. Yes, he said, a moving Earth messes with certain Biblical passages, like Joshua telling the Sun to stand still. But it also messes with certain astronomical terms, such as sunrise and sunset. Copernicans had work-arounds for all that, Locher said, even though they might be convoluted. What Copernicans could not work around, though, were the scientific arguments against their theory. Indeed, Locher even proposed a mechanism to explain how Earth could orbit the Sun (a sort of perpetual falling – this decades before Isaac Newton would explain orbits by means of perpetual falling), but he said it would not help the Copernicans, on account of the other problems with their theory.

What were those problems? A big one was the size of stars in the Copernican universe. Copernicus proposed that certain oddities observed in the movements of planets through the constellations were due to the fact that Earth itself was moving. Stars show no such oddities, so Copernicus had to theorise that, rather than being just beyond the planets as astronomers had traditionally supposed, stars were so incredibly distant that Earth’s motion was insignificant by comparison. But seen...

19:33

After Middle-Finger Salute, Phillippine President Demands Respect from EU The Wire

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao after Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group in Jolo, Sulu in southern Philippines September 18, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Lean Daval Jr

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao after Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group in Jolo, Sulu in southern Philippines September 18, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Lean Daval Jr

Manila: Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte demanded on Wednesday the EU show him respect worthy of a president, despite giving the bloc a one-finger gesture and a vulgar four-letter rebuke after its legislators expressed concern about his drug war.

Angered by last week’s call by the European parliament for restraint in his deadly 11-week crackdown, the former mayor of the southern city of Davao took aim for a second day at the EU and said he did not deserve insults.

“Even the EU is scolding me,” Duterte said in a televised speech at an army base.

“When I was mayor, that was OK but it is different now because I am the president. Why would you insult me?”

He added: “It is as if I am your subordinate.”

After lambasting the UN, US and its president and Nobel laureate, Barack Obama, the EU is the latest high-profile recipient of a Duterte dressing-down that has become part of his appeal to millions of Filipinos.

Duterte swept to power in a May election promising an assault on the drugs trade and at least 3,800 people have been killed since he took office on June 30.

The European parliament appeared to strike a nerve when it issued a statement calling on his government to “put an end to the current wave of extrajudicial executions and killings”, while expressing concern about “extraordinarily high numbers killed during police operations”.

During a speech on Tuesday, Duterte hit out at the EU, saying “Fuck you” and raising a fist with the middle finger thrust out in an obscene gesture.

The EU delegation in Manila issued a diplomatically worded statement from its ambassador but later retracted it, for reasons not explained, replacing it with another, saying “We don’t comment on comments”.

“The EU and the Philippines enjoy good relations, and we will continue to discuss this issue, among many others, in our bilateral contacts,...

19:24

Johannesburg: Police Fire Teargas, Stun Grenades at Student Protesters The Wire

Students throw stones during clashes with security at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand as countrywide protests demanding free tertiary education entered a third week, South Africa, September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko

Students throw stones during clashes with security at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand as countrywide protests demanding free tertiary education entered a third week, South Africa, September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg: South African police fired stun grenades and teargas on Wednesday to disperse students marching near a Johannesburg university to protest against higher tuition fees, in the second straight day of clashes at the campus.

The protests at the University of the Witwatersrand, known as ‘Wits’, were triggered by a government recommendation on Monday that 2017 tuition fee increases be capped at 8%, well above the current inflation rate of 5.9%.

At least three universities suspended classes because of the protests, including Wits, the University of Pretoria’s main campus and the University of Cape Town.

Demonstrations since 2015 over the cost of university education, prohibitive for many black students, have highlighted frustration at the inequalities that persist more than two decades after the 1994 end of white-minority rule.

Nompendulo Mkatshwa, outgoing president of the student representative council at Wits, said some students had dispersed after the police action. “Others want to fight back because they don’t understand why they have been attacked in the first place,” she said.

Police could not immediately comment on the clashes. Traffic in parts of the city centre was disrupted as students fled from the police, with some running back into the campus.

Earlier, police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini had said that 31 students arrested on Tuesday at Wits had been released, but gave no further details.

The government and the main opposition party have accused students of turning campuses across the country into battlegrounds and damaging university property.

Weeks of violent demonstrations last year forced President Jacob Zuma to rule out fee raises for 2016, but university authorities have warned that another freeze for the coming year could damage their academic programmes.

The post Johannesburg: Police Fire Teargas, Stun Grenades at Student Protesters appeared first on...

19:10

US Aid to Israel Aids Who and Toward What End? New Eastern Outlook

3423423411Recently, the United States just renewed military aid to Israel in a decade-long, $38 billion deal – the largest of its kind in American history. It represents a significant increase in aid, roughly $3.8 billion a year – expected to be supplemented by additional assistance through US Congress – up from $3 billion per year previously.

The Atlantic in an article titled, “Why Does the United States Give So Much Money to Israel?,” attempted to explain the reasoning behind the otherwise unreasonable and unprecedented assistance by claiming:

Defenders of the deal would say it’s necessary. Dalton described the uptick in spending as a natural extension of the long-standing relationship between the United States and Israel, “as well as close ties between those countries and their peoples.” She described the “fraught neighborhood” surrounding Israel: war-torn Syria to the northeast, Hezbollah-influenced Lebanon to the north, and an Islamist insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai to the south, all of which help explain the historically high promise of $5 billion in missile funding over the next 10 years.

However, experienced geopolitical analysts will point out that the United States does not have “friends,” “allies,” or “relationships” – only interests and those who serve them. And while the Atlantic attempts to explain the deal as a means of maintaining a “relationship,” it and other publications admit that there are “strings attached.” If examined carefully, these strings reveals just what interests this supposed “relationship” serves.

CNBC would say just that in its article, “Big US military aid package to Israel has strings attached,” claiming:

…it’s structured so that more Israeli defense spending goes to U.S. companies. Israel’s long-standing special arrangement for funds from the United States previously allowed Israel to spend 26 percent of the money in Israel — on Israeli-made defense products. But that provision is being phased out over the first five years of the deal.

In other words, the ten year, $38 billion aid package is first and foremost welfare for US defense contractors, not Israel whose own defense spending adds up to $16 billion per year – dwarfing annual US “aid.” The deal is to encourage further Israeli dependency on America – dependency that lends Washington further leverage over both Israel and the region.

The purpose of aid and those who have arranged it on both the Israeli and American sides of the negotiating table is to continue directing Israel’s domestic and foreign policy to suit America’s int...

18:54

Is Australia’s Refugee Policy Really Everything Turnbull Made it Out to Be? The Wire

For human rights groups who have been campaigning against the Australian immigration policy, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s words of self-praise are a little hard to digest.

Malcolm Turnbull. Credit: Reuters/Files

Malcolm Turnbull. Credit: Reuters/Files

Canberra: In a small reception room, a stack of bilingual flyers in Vietnamese and English urged enrolment in the voters’ rolls before the October 15 legislative assembly elections in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Another pamphlet talked about a programme funded by the local government for volunteers to help students with their homework to cope with the burden of an unfamiliar school curriculum.

The Canberra-based Migrant and Refugee Resettlement Services of the ACT (MARSS) are a typical example of Australia’s extensive network of organisations, working with the government and equipped with dedicated social workers, to integrate refugees and asylum seekers into Australian society.

While their resettlement programme is considered to be a global model, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull supported a more controversial template when he spoke on Wednesday, August 21, in New York at the leaders’ summit on refugees.

“Strong borders are not just about security. They are crucial to ensuring social harmony and public support for migration domestically…,” Turnbull said at the invitation-only summit convened by US President Barack Obama.

He asserted that “strong borders” enable Australia to provide support to refugees. “Australia is a prime example. Securing our borders has increased public confidence and enabled Australia to have one of the world’s most generous humanitarian regimes,” he added.

Turnbull told the summit that Australia would increase its annual intake by over 35% to 18,750 refugees, up from 13,750, with another $130 million for next three years to resettlement services.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had previously announced before that his country would increase refugee intake to 18,750 refugees in 2018-19, but had not indicated that this level would be maintained. Turnbull said in his speech this increase would be permanent.

He added that strong borders were necessary for Australia to commit to welcoming 12,000 additional Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten accused Turnbull of rehashing Abott’s figures. “Malcolm Turnbull has flown to New York to reannounce Tony Abbott’s policies,” Shorten said, as per an ABC report.

He accused Turnbull of not dealing with the “elephant in the room” – the continuing “indefinite” detention of refugees in offshore facilities.

...

18:45

Non-Aligned to… Nowhere? Strategic Culture Foundation

The summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) came and went in Isla Margarita, Venezuela, virtually invisible to Western corporate media...

18:29

At Least 43 Killed After Boat Carrying 600 Migrants Sinks Off Egypt Coast The Wire

Rescued migrants from a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, Egypt, September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Stringer

Rescued migrants from a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, Egypt, September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Burg Rashid, Egypt: A boat carrying almost 600 people capsized off Egypt‘s coast on Wednesday, killing at least 43, in the latest disaster among migrants trying to reach Europe.

The boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea off Burg Rashid, a village in the northern Beheira province. Officials said 31 bodies had been found, 20 men, ten women and one child. A Reuters correspondent later saw a fishing boat bring in 12 more bodies, bringing the total so far to 43.

Rescue workers have so far saved 154 people, officials said, meaning about 400 could still be missing.

“Initial information indicates that the boat sank because it was carrying more people than its limit. The boat tilted and the migrants fell into the water,” a senior security official in Beheira told Reuters.

The boat had been carrying Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali migrants, officials said.

At a coastguard checkpoint in Burg Rashid, where the Mediterranean meets the Nile, dozens gathered, anxiously waiting for news of missing relatives.

“I am not going to leave until I see Mohamed,” Ratiba Ghonim wailed. Her 16-year-old brother had left an impoverished village nearby in search of a better life.

“It is his destiny to leave yesterday and come back dead today. They still haven’t pulled his body out of the water.”

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said all resources possible would be directed into the rescue mission and that those responsible had to be brought to justice.

It was not immediately clear where the boat had been heading. Officials said they believed it was going to Italy.

“More will sail tonight”

More and more people have been trying to cross to Italy from the African coast over the summer months, particularly from Libya, w...

17:25

Kashmir: High Court Declines Ban on Pellet Guns; Injuries Continue The Wire

A security Jawan stands guard during curfew in Srinagar. Credit: PTI

A security Jawan stands guard during curfew in Srinagar. Credit: PTI

The Jammu and Kashmir high court declined to ban the use of pellet guns for crowd control on Wednesday, while news outlets reported that 300 new victims of pellet injuries had been admitted to SMHS hospital in Srinagar over the last 11 days.

According to a report by the Indian Express, the court said, “It is manifest that so long as there is violence by unruly mobs, use of force is inevitable.” The bench also added that it was not going to pursue the demand to prosecute officers for using pellet guns on the grounds that no investigative authority has found proof of officers using excessive force or violating Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) while using pellet guns.

There have been contradictory statements from the government and armed forces about following SOP while using pellet guns. According to the report, the court said it had “recorded” statements from the state’s advocate general and director general of police, assuring it that officers are following the SOP. However, the CRPF earlier released a statement saying it can be “difficult” to follow the SOP while dealing with situations on the ground. In yet another statement on using pellet guns, Jammu and Kashmir police stated to the court that it can be challenging to maintain the prescribed distance while using the guns in crowded situations.

To conclude, the court ordered health authorities to ensure adequate treatment for the injured.

The court’s order was closely followed by reports on the continuing admittance of pellet injury cases in SMHS. Over 300 patients have been admitted at the hospital over the last 11 days, half of them with injuries to their eyes.

A senior official from SMHS told Greater Kashmir, “Currently, if we go by the trend in the past 11 days, 28.5 people are being admitted to the hospital daily.”

Doctors at the hospital also reported an insignificant drop in the number of pellet-injury cases coming into the hospital, despite the official call for restraint in the use of pellet guns.

The report added that over the past 75 days of unrest in Kashmir, the hospital has seen more than 800 cases of pellet injuries to the eyes. The number of patients with injuries to parts of their body, other than eyes currently stands at over 1,350 people.

Khurram Parvez detained under Public Security Act

A day after a sessions court ordered the release of human rights activist Khurram Parvez from police custody, the Jammu and Kashmir police booked him under the Public Security Act (PSA) which allows the government to detain a person without trial for up to six months, the Indian Express repo...

17:24

Chile President Michelle Bachelet Says Will Send Gay Marriage Bill to Congress In 2017 The Wire

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile addresses the 71st UN General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, US. September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Carlo Allegri

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile addresses the 71st UN General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, US. September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Santiago: Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet said during a UN General Assembly panel on LGBT rights on Wednesday that she would send a bill legalising gay marriage to Congress in the first half of 2017.

“My government has committed to submit to Congress a bill on marriage equality during the first half of 2017,” Bachelet said, according to a transcript of her remarks.

“Furthermore, it will also consider governmental support for several measures destined to strengthen the rights of the LGBT community, including reforms to anti-discrimination laws.”

The move would follow the Chilean Congress‘ legalisation of same sex civil unions in January of last year and comes as many Latin American nations are extending rights to gay and lesbian citizens.

Legalising same-sex marriage would give Chilean couples additional welfare and state life insurance rights, among other benefits, and clarify adoption rules, according to gay rights groups.

Same-sex marriage has been legalised in recent years in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and parts of Mexico, despite the powerful influence of the Catholic Church, which opposes such unions.

Chile, which returned to democracy in 1990 after a brutal 17-year military dictatorship, is by many measures Latin America’s most economically developed country, but is less socially progressive than many of its neighbours.

In 2004, it became the last country in the Western Hemisphere to legalise divorce, and it is one of the few that still outlaws abortions in all cases – something that centre-left Bachelet is trying to change, against strong opposition.

The post Chile President Michelle Bachelet Says Will Send Gay Marriage Bill to Congress In 2017 appeared first on The Wire.

17:12

Israel-Palestine Issue Loses Focus As Obama’s Tenure Nears an End The Wire

US President Barack Obama listens to applause following his address to the UN General Assembly in New York September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Kevin Lamarque

US President Barack Obama listens to applause following his address to the UN General Assembly in New York September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Kevin Lamarque

United Nations: In his first major UN speech eight years ago, President Barack Obama said he would not give up on Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In what was likely his last UN speech, on Tuesday, he spoke little about the conflict beyond voicing the unsurprising sentiment that matters would improve if Israel let go of Palestinian land and if the Palestinians rejected incitement and embraced Israel’s legitimacy.

While US officials have said Obama could lay out the rough outlines of a deal – “parameters” in diplomatic parlance – after the November 8 presidential election and before he departs on January 20, many Middle East analysts doubt this will have much effect.

The result, they say, is likely to be a legacy of failure on an issue Obama made a priority when he came into office in 2009 and declared in his first UN General Assembly address: “I will not waver in my pursuit of peace.”

Obama has little to show for his two efforts – one spearheaded by George Mitchell in his first term and another by US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his second.

“He has not made an impact on this issue at all, and he wants to,” said Elliott Abrams, a Middle East adviser to former President George W. Bush, a Republican. “So I think the question that he is asking is really a legacy question, rather than asking a pragmatic question of what will really help the parties.”

Obama raised concerns about Israeli settlements in the West Bank when he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Wednesday. A senior US official told reporters afterwards those concerns included the “corrosive effect” settlement activity during 50 years of occupation had had on prospects for negotiating peace based on two states, Israeli and Palestinian.

The CIA Factbook online says about 371,000 Israelis live in settlements scattered among an estimated 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Neither figure includes East Jerusalem, which both sides claim.

After November 8

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said earlier that Obama had no plans to pursue a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative before leaving office, though he could take unspecified steps.

A US official who tracks the issue said he does not expect the White House to decide whether Obama might make a speech on the issue or seek to pass a new UN Security Council resolution, until Americans elect his succes...

16:44

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Defends Efforts on Rohingyas in First UN Address as Leader The Wire

Myanmar's Minister of Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, US. September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Carlo Allegri

Myanmar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi addresses the 71st UN General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, US. September 21, 2016. Credit:Reuters/Carlo Allegri

United Nations: In her first address to the UN General Assembly as national leader, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi defended her government’s efforts to resolve a crisis over treatment of the country’s Muslim minority.

Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been criticised for doing too little to address the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, said the government did not fear international scrutiny, but asked “for the understanding and the constructive contribution of the international community.”

“We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within” Myanmar, she said.

“Our government is taking a holistic approach that makes development central to both short and long-term programs aimed at promoting understanding and trust.”

Suu Kyi pointed to the establishment of an advisory commission for Rakhine state chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, with a mandate covering basic rights and security issues.

Suu Kyi said there had been “persistent opposition from some quarters” to the establishment of the commission, but the government would persevere in its efforts to achieve peace in Rakhine.

“By standing firm against the forces of prejudice and intolerance, we are reaffirming our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.”

Suu Kyi told a subsequent event at the Asia Society in New York that Myanmar was only at the start of its road to democracy, given that 25% of parliamentary seats were still held by the non-elected members of the military and peace needed to be affirmed with all armed groups.

She said the main priority was to create jobs and the government would have to ensure investment was attracted to less-developed et...

16:25

Karnataka Defers Release of Cauvery Water to Tamil Nadu Till September 23 The Wire

A view of the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam built on the Cauvery. Bengaluru consumes 50% of Cauvery water reserved for domestic use in Karnataka. As much as 49% of this water supplied is what is called “non-revenue water” or “unaccounted for water”, i.e. water lost in distribution. Credit: IANS

A view of the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam built on the Cauvery. Bengaluru consumes 50% of Cauvery water reserved for domestic use in Karnataka. As much as 49% of this water supplied is what is called “non-revenue water” or “unaccounted for water”, i.e. water lost in distribution.
Credit: IANS

Bengaluru: The Karnataka government on Wednesday night decided to defer the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu till September 23, when a special session of the state legislature would take a decision on the latest Supreme Court direction.

“The Cabinet has decided to defer release of water,” chief minister Siddaramaiah told reporters in a brief statement after an emergency cabinet meeting which was preceded by an all-party and council of ministers meetings during the day.

He said the cabinet decided to convene the special session of the state legislature on September 23 in the backdrop of the apex court order on Tuesday ordering Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs of  water till September 27 from that day.

He termed the Supreme Court’s order as “unimplementable.”

The Cauvery Supervisory Committee had on September 19 asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs per day from September 21 to 30 but the apex court doubled the quantum to 6,000 cusecs from September 21 to 27 after Tamil Nadu pressed for water to save its samba paddy crop.

On September 5, the court had ordered release of 15,000 cusecs of water for the next 10 days to address the plight of the farmers in Tamil Nadu.

The quantum was reduced on September 12 to 12,000 cusecs to be released till September 20.

Karnataka had complied with these directions thought it had been maintaining that the storage in its reservoirs was inadequate to meet the drinking water needs of its people.

A bench of justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit had also asked the Centre to constitute within four weeks, the Cauvery Water Management Board (CWMB) as directed by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) in its award.

BJP boycotts all party meet

The all-party meeting was boycotted by principal opposition BJP which criticised the Siddaramaiah government for not taking any specific decision keeping the interests of farmers in mind despite holding all-party meetings earlier. It was attended by former prime minister and JDS supremo H.D. Deve Gowda, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and former chief minister M. Veerappa Moily.

BJP union ministers from Karnataka had conveyed their inability to attend the meet because of the union cabinet meeting, Siddaramaiah said.

“In the backdrop of the interim order of the Honourable...

15:57

Pakistan ‘a Terrorist State’, India Tells UN in Reply to Sharif’s Speech The Wire

First secretary to the Indian permanent mission to the UN Eenam Gambhir responding to Nawaz Sharif's speech. Credit: UN Web TV screengrab

First secretary to the Indian permanent mission to the UN Eenam Gambhir responding to Nawaz Sharif’s speech. Credit: UN Web TV screengrab

New Delhi: Exercising its right to reply at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, India responded to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech on Kashmir by saying that Pakistan had a “long-standing policy of sponsoring terrorism, the consequences of which have spread well beyond our region”. “The land of Taxila, one of the greatest learning centres of ancient times,” the Indian response continued, “is now host to the Ivy League of terrorism. It attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the world.”

First secretary to the Indian permanent mission to the UN Eenam Gambhir referred to Sharif’s speech as a “long tirade”. Bringing up the 15-year anniversary of 9/11, she said, “the world has not yet forgotten that the trail of that dastardly attack led all the way to Abbottabad in Pakistan”.

“What we see in Pakistan is a terrorist state,” she said, one “which channelizes billions of dollars, much of it diverted from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbours.”

Gambhir also brought up the recent attack in Uri and the fact that the Pakistani high commissioner to India was summoned to demand that Pakistan abide by its commitment to not allow “its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India”.

“Shortly before Pakistan gave its hypocritical sermons in this august house today, its envoy in New Delhi was summoned in the context of the most recent of the terror attacks in Uri that claimed 18 Indian lives. That terrorist attack is part of a trail of continuous flow of terrorists trained and armed by our neighbour and tasked to carry out terrorist attacks in my country,” Gambhir said. “Terrorist entities and their leaders, including many designated by the UN, continue to roam its streets freely and operate with state support. With the approval of authorities, many terrorist organisations raise funds openly in flagrant violation of Pakistan’s international obligations.”

Sharif had called Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed by Indian security forces on July 8, a “young leader” and said his killing was a “murder”. Responding to this, Gambhir told the assembly: “Even today we have heard support by the prime minister of Pakistan for a self-acknowledged commander of a known terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahideen. Pakistan is a country with a democracy deficit. In fact it practices terrorism on its...

15:31

NAIA Expressway is open – good news for transit passengers News from the Philippines

Parts of the NAIA Expressway have been opened today. This expensive project, PHP 17.9 Billion | USD 374.76 Million, will decongest the roads around Manila’s NAIA airport. Travel time between the 4 terminals should be reduced by 60 percent.

NAIA ExpresswayPhoto courtesy of Public-Private Partnership Center

NAIA Expressway

A portion of the new Manila International Airport (NAIA) Expressway has been opened to motorists today.
“We are proud to deliver phase one of the NAIA Expressway, a project that we know many have been waiting for,” San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang said in a statement yesterday. Motorists will be able to use the expressway for free for the first month of operations.
The first phase of the P17.9-billion NAIA Expressway under the public-private partnership (PPP) program will link Macapagal Boulevard near the Entertainment City to NAIA Terminals 1 and 2.
The other segment of the toll road, which will connect NAIA Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, is expected to open by Christmas this year. Upon completion, the project is expected to provide easy access to and from the NAIA.
The Department of Public Works and Highways said earlier the project is expected to cut average travel time between the Skyway System or South Luzon Expressway and the NAIA Terminal 1 to 8.2 minutes from approximately 24.3 minutes at present. It is likewise expected to benefit 80,000 travellers per day.
“Finally, our countrymen will feel the benefit of having faster and more direct access to NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3,” Ang said. “It will also go a long way in easing traffic congestion in surrounding cities and support growth in southern Metro Manila,” he added. SMC, through subsidiary and concession firm Vertex Tollways Development Inc., bagged the PPP deal in 2013. Under the contract with the government, SMC will operate the expressway for 30 years.
[Editor’s comment]: We’ll have to revise our Manila Airport Transfer Guide. The current transfer times are:

15:30

What Indira Gandhi’s Sindh Gambit Can Teach Modi About Balochistan The Wire

In 1983, while India was tackling crises in Punjab, Assam and Sri Lanka, growing instability in Pakistan’s Sindh province and Movement for Restoration of Democracy gave her an opportunity to put General Zia on edge.

MRD activist demonstrating against President Zia-ul-Haq in 1985 in Punjab. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

MRD activist demonstrating against President Zia-ul-Haq in 1985 in Punjab. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the Balochistan issue in his independence day speech on August 15, 2016, he was treading a path first walked by Indira Gandhi. This is not the well-known route that led to the creation of Bangladesh, but the time she rattled Pakistan by supporting a Sindh-centred pro-democracy movement tinged with shades of nationalism, just a year before her assassination.

General Zia-ul-Haq. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

General Zia-ul-Haq. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In August 1983, General Zia-ul-Haq had already been in power for six stable years after seizing power in a military coup. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had been a godsend – giving him strategic space to manoeuvre regionally, as US and Saudi cash flowed in to prop up Pakistan’s economy.

However, Sindh – the stronghold of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had been executed by Zia – was in ferment.

Led by Bhutto’s widow Nusrat and daughter Benazir, the PPP initiated a mishmash alliance of left, centrist and Islamist political parties to form the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in 1981.

Just two days before that, in anticipation of the MRD’s launch, Zia had announced his “new political structure” – a presidential form of government with partyless elections.

As Pakistan marked 36 years as a new state on August 14, 1983, the MRD announced the launch of its mass movement with a large slogan-chanting gathering at Mazar-e-Quaide-Azam in Karachi and Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore.

From the first week, protests began to spread across the Sindh province – clashes took place in Karachi, public infrastructure was targeted, bombs went off and thousands were arrested in a massive crackdown.

Across the international border, Gandhi was juggling multiple bushfires that were inexorably building up to crises in Punjab, Assam and Sri Lanka. With the next parliamentary election (1984) round the corner, the stakes were raised for the Congress (I) government.

Incidentally, August 1983 was also when Delhi hosted a meeting of the foreign ministers of Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which led to the Declaration of South Asian Regional Cooperation, paving the way for the first SAARC summit in 1985.

...

15:30

At BHU, Women are Being Restricted by RSS’s Chains The Wire

The Sangh’s stranglehold over the university has subsumed democratic representation and heightened gender discrimination on campus.

Persident Pranab Mukherjee (left) and Vice Chancellor G.C. Tripathi (centre) during BHU's centenary celebrations. Credit: Banaras Hindu University/Facebook

Persident Pranab Mukherjee (left) and Vice Chancellor G.C. Tripathi (centre) during BHU’s centenary celebrations. Credit: Banaras Hindu University/Facebook

In the last two years we have seen massive student unrest across universities in the country because of a systematic attack on the autonomy of educational institutions and the freedom of students. One university that has been brewing with fascist tendencies, but is yet to witness outrage along the lines of FTII, Hyderabad Central University, JNU or NIT Srinagar is Banaras Hindu University (BHU). BHU is a renowned university that houses around 40,000 students making it one of Asia’s largest residential campuses.

The university has been trying to subvert the idea of democracy for the last couple of years. It has escalated with the appointment of Girish Chandra Tripathi as the vice chancellor, after Narendra Modi’s government came to power. Students, teachers, workers are not represented democratically. Tripathi believes in a dictatorial mode of functioning and takes immense pride in his 40 years of candid association with the RSS. He has been accused of openly espousing RSS ideology and has expelled renowned social activist and Ramon Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey for not toeing the Sangh parivar’s line. Similarly, when objections were raised to his use of the university as a unit for the RSS, Tripathi unapologetically said, “When the Indian government itself is of the RSS, there is nothing wrong in establishing an RSS’ shakha in BHU.

When such a man is at the helm of affairs, expecting women to be treated as equals would be asking for too much. The RSS is notorious for its diktats on women. Unsurprisingly, the BHU administration has imposed various restrictions specifically on girl students. For instance, the administration has banned the usage of mobile phones by girls after 10 pm. The vice chancellor has said that “girls who study...

15:14

Ken-Betwa River Link-up Approved, Tiger Reserve to Be Submerged The Wire

A panel headed by the environment minister Anil Madhav Dave has agreed to submerge more than 100 square km of Panna Tiger Reserve to link the rivers.

The Panna Tiger Reserve is seen in the distance, from the banks of the river Ken. Credit: briangratwicke/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The Panna Tiger Reserve is seen in the distance, from the banks of the river Ken. Credit: briangratwicke/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The Ken-Batwa inter-linking of rivers has got nod from the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife. The panel headed by the Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave has agreed to submerge more than 100 square kilometres of one of the country’s prime tiger habitats, the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, for the project that the NDA government had put its weight behind.

In a meeting held on August 23, the standing committee chaired by Dave cleared the project after some deliberations. Business Standard reviewed the minutes of the meeting, which are yet to be made public. Dave, immediately upon taking charge as the union environment minister, and well before the project had received mandatory clearances, had repeatedly said that India should go ahead with at least one inter-linking of river project to assess its consequences.

Union water resources minister Uma Bharti too had threatened to go on hunger strike if the project didn’t get a nod soon. Projects that specifically eat into tiger habitats need a positive recommendation from the National Tiger Conservation Authority on the basis of which the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife accords the wildlife clearance.

The minutes of the meeting show that the group contended with and rejected the idea of bringing own the reservoir levels to protect some wildlife areas. The meeting of ministry experts and others concluded that bringing down the reservoir level by even 10 meters would reduce the reservoir storage capacity by 32%.

The minutes note that more than 100 square kilometres of the Panna Tiger Reserve would be lost ‘directly’ by the project. This includes around 50 square kilometres or about 10% of the critical tiger habitat. Out of a tiger reserve, the critical tiger habitat is considered central to the survival of the wild cat species in the region.

The tiger authority – a body headed by senior forest officer – has recommended that other nearby tiger bearing areas be also classified as tiger reserve to compensate for the loss. This includes Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Rani Durgavati Wildlife Sanctuary (both in Madhya Pradesh) and Ranipur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh. But these were not out rightly agreed to either while giving the project a clearance.

The minutes note: “While inclusion of the proposed areas for integration could be feasible and may be attempted a sit would require interstate and public deliberations.” The minutes further say: “The effort to integrate the said three wildlife sanctuaries within the Panna Tiger Reserve will be undertaken simultaneously and the management objective of these areas will be in context of treatment of the area as a part of tiger landscape.

“One of the non-government wildlife experts on the National Board of Wildlife, R. Sukumar, had earlier expressed his concerns about...

15:08

On America’s Manufactured Ideals New Eastern Outlook

45324234234What if I could prove to every American family their children were being brainwashed at every level of education? What if unwitting mothers and fathers worked the live-long-day to try and provide a better future for their kids, only to see them indoctrinated into an unsustainable system? The Americans I know would burn down any institution bent on such subversion. Here’s kindling for the fire that should be raging in my country.

“Manufacting Consent” by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, it was a groundbreaking work that described the five editorially distorting filters, which are applied to the reporting of news in mass communications media. The work, boiled down to its essence tells us how our media sold out, how mass media was forced to distort their reporting to favor government and corporate policies in order to stay in business. The authors venture far in revisiting with the American people how Orwellian our system has become, but Manufacturing Consent does not go far enough. Media control is a tiny fraction of an overall “consent” system built up in America, backed and fostered by Britain, and adhered to by European money interests. Media is powerful as a propaganda tool, but education bends minds. Today we need to take a razor sharp focus, in order to understand why the American system is failing. Enter the professors of chaos, academia’s sellouts.

Stephen Zunes wrote a piece the other day for the liberal magazine The Progressive entitled “Putin’s U.S. Defenders”, which pretends to teach readers all about the world’s most talked about leader. The article goes on to paint one American only as a “Putin supporter”, namely Donald Trump. Readers here would probably discount Zunes as just another American think tank hegemonic, but I assure you this perception would be wrong. Zunes is a archetype actually, an icon of a subversive education system bent on controlling ideas. The piece is typically laced with all the Vladimir Putin jargon we’ve seen, authoritarian, KGB, strongman, and etc. Zunes is a rather prolific anti-Russia author, but it’s his positions in academia and with policy NGOs that’s of interest here. A professor at San Francisco University, he’s also on the advisory council of something called the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), which is actually anything but peaceful. Using him as a sort of “poster boy” for brainwashing and regime change here, we can begin to see the breadth and depth of America’s world policy disasters. First let’s examine ICNC’s role in current upheaval.

Billed as an NGO that fosters peaceful discourse and change, ICNC has been criticized for its involvement in US-backed regime change operations. Stephen Zunes has defended the organization vehemently, and for obvious reasons. On the “left” side of things the ICNC is supported in its contention the organization is a lovely white dove of peace, simply educating young minds about non-violent change. But if there is any validity to what the “right” side of the idealistic isle says, ICNC is just another arm of US intelligence, the State Department, and the corporate elites. But like our friend, billionaire George Soros, anywhere ICNC shows up we find USAID, US intelligence agencies, and eventually a color revolution. Zunes is the scholarly defender of the faithful, but it is co-founder of ICNC Peter Ackerman and his funding that powers this coup d’état engine. Without delving into this Wall Street tycoon’s past, even the New York Times has classified him as a “trainer of dissidents”. Ackerman is said to have molded himself i...

14:45

Beyond the Elections in Berlin. Times Are Changing Strategic Culture Foundation

What happened in Berlin was as expected: in the wake of the regional elections, the ruling CDU/CSU–SPD coalition has collapsed. The ruling parties suffered a serious defeat. The SPD won just 21.6 percent of the vote while the CDU won 17.6 percent and the two parties do not now have enough votes to form a government. And the balance between the winning and losing parties is such that there is no way the CDU can form a new coalition with another political party...

14:00

Maratha Protests in Maharashtra are Silent but Could Explode Anytime The Wire

File picture of a rally of Marathas in Parbhani in Maharashtra. Credit: PTI

File picture of a rally of Marathas in Parbhani in Maharashtra. Credit: PTI

The state of Maharashtra is not alien to protest marches or political movements. Over the years, it has witnessed some of the most historic demonstrations. When the state government in 1989 censored Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Riddles of Ram and Krishna, Dalits poured into the streets to mark their disapproval. Muslims had come out in the streets in their thousands to demand the ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.

However, the consistent mammoth protests of Marathas over the past two months overshadow the ones experienced by the state in the past. Lakhs of Marathas have been thronging the streets and participating in silent protests and this is something I have not seen in my last 35 years in journalism. The movement has not only shaken the political leadership and the government, but has also made OBCs and Dalits anxious. After all, Marathas are the most influential community in Maharashtra accounting for 32% of the state’s population – including Kunbi – which is why observers are watching these protests and the outcome with baited breath.

Two months ago, a Maratha girl was brutally raped and murdered, allegedly by three Dalit youngsters in Ahmadnagar’s Kopardi village, which triggered the initial sentiment of abolishing the Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 formulated to protect discrimination against SCs and STs. The demand to abolish this Act is not new. Non-Dalits have been resentful of it from the time of its conception and have also alleged the act is being misused. But Ahmadnagar has been infamous for atrocities against Dalits. It is ruled by Marathas, who are often the perpetrators of horrific caste crimes witnessed by the district.

Following the rape in Kopardi, Maratha leaders and activists found a reason to reverse the history that shows them in uncomplimentary light, and intensify their demand to do away with the Act. However, with severe opposition from Dalit groups, the demand was later amended to regulating its misuse. Sharad Pawar, whose NCP is supposed to be the champion of Maratha community, backed this demand. Commentators believe a section of Marathas are using this issue are reflecting their prejudices and hatred for Dalits. Dalit leader and grandson of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar has appealed to Dalit groups to avoid retaliatory protests, which has so far kept the caste tension and conflict at bay.

But Kopardi and the Atrocitities Act are not the only issues here. The sheer quantum of the protests across the state evidently highlights the grouse the Maratha community has lived with for the past two and half decades. Economic liberalization intensified the problems of most of the deprived groups. Marathas are no exception. The paucity of jobs and the burgening agrarian crisis have affected the community over the years. For the record, most of the farmers who have committed suicide in Maharashtra are Marathas. While the rich Marathas grabbed political representation or power in the cooperative sector, they did little to emanci...

13:56

The West is Attempting to Face the Truth New Eastern Outlook

42342323123I regularly read English printed media and should admit that the English deserve credit for their strong school of experts specializing in the Middle East, which remains one of the global leaders in the field. However, lately, when covering Russia, British newspapers have allowed themselves to employ a derogatory tone in an attempt to demonize our country.

Here is an example. When Moscow came up with new initiatives on Syria at the end of last year, the British press published a mind-boggling article where it said that despite the fact that the Russian proposals were sensible and realistic, Great Britain would not accept them simply because they had been put forward by Vladimir Putin.

However, the situation is gradually, albeit slowly, changing. Brexit was like an earthquake that shook the West. An increasing number of people are coming to terms with the idea that a new world cannot be built on old principles.

Today, almost all western powers are going through the process of polarization and thus it seems to be the perfect moment to acknowledge that too many blunders have been made and that the residents of too many countries are still paying a hefty price for them.

A couple of days ago, The New York Times published a curious editorial stating that the US has the highest level of poverty among the developed countries. The newspaper called on the presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to pay close attention to this problem. It also pointed out that the number of poor in the country, which currently totals 45 million, might grow by another 27 million if the state does not introduce radical programs.

Jenni Russell’s article on the topic published in The Times on September 15, 2016 appears to be indicative in this respect. In it, the author recommends abandoning the concept of the West’s omnipotence and superiority and admitting that “the idea that democracy could be imposed by force on Syria, Iraq or Libya was always fantasy.”

Parliamentary investigations into to Great Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq and Libya have revealed a surprising degree of incompetence demonstrated by the then British leaders as well as the amount of suffering the peoples of these states had to go through because of their actions. “…Neither of these two interventions has brought anything but disaster, nor has the third model that the West has tried in the past few years; the decision not to intervene decisively in the civil war in Syria… We are not grandmasters and the rest of the world does not consist of pawns we can control… our history shows that we understand next to nothing about the complexity, divisions and history of others.”

The article concludes that “meddling in ignorance and leaving others to burn in the fires we have started is the worst of all possible worlds.”

...

13:31

India’s Ignoring Its Rare Disorders and Their Orphan Drugs Led to the Thalassaemia Crisis The Wire

Neither national nor state health policies make any reference to rare genetic disorders despite 70 million Indians being afflicted with them.

India has an estimated one lakh patients with thalassaemia, a genetic disorder in which the blood cells cannot make sufficient amounts of the iron-containing pigment haeomoglobin. Credit: ssoosay/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

India has an estimated one lakh patients with thalassaemia, a genetic disorder in which the blood cells cannot make sufficient amounts of the iron-containing pigment haeomoglobin. Credit: ssoosay/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

“I was facing a life-and-death situation two weeks ago. I nearly ran out of a life-saving medicine and I was wondering what to do.”

Thus began a desperate online petition by a thalassaemia patient, Namitha Kumar, research director of the Centre for Health Ecologies and Technology (CHET) at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. The petition was tagged to draw the attention of health minister J.P. Nadda to the shortage of the injectable drug Desferal in early September.

The supply has since been restored. But, says Kumar, her fresh stock will last her for just another month, and it is unclear whether there will be an assured supply of the drug after. “The drug supply has been irregular for the past one year,” she told The Wire. “This August, we did not get the drug in Bengaluru. It has also run dry in Delhi, Mumbai, parts of Assam, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

And on September 5 and 6, Vishwanath Muralidharan, secretary of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled , wrote to Ananth Kumar, the minister for chemicals and fertilisers, and Nadda requesting that the government ensure a steady supply of Desferal for thalassaemia patients. “Even thalassaemia societies in some cities, who buy it directly from the manufacturer and pass it on to patients, are left without stocks now.”

The letters sought “the urgent intervention” of the two concerned ministers to ensuring an adequate supply of the drug to those in need. However, Novartis, the only company that makes the drug in India, says that “there are sufficient stocks of Desferal to meet the needs of patients. The product is not manufactured locally and additional supplies are expected in the third week of September. Until then we are managing (an) existing inventory so that no patient goes without Desferal.”

Be that as it may, the incident brought into focus the problems of patients with thalassaemia, which in turn is among several rare disorders in India, with relatively fewer patients. This is in contrast to infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, and dengue. And drugs to treat rare disorders are dubbed ‘orphan drugs’ that neither the government nor the domestic pharmaceutical industry is interested in, explained Kumar.

Adding to the problems of disinterest are issues of affordab...

12:31

Majority of Indians Cannot Afford Fruits and Vegetables, Study Reveals The Wire

A study shows that lower the average income of a country, the lower is its consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall in Kolkata July 31, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall in Kolkata July 31, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Nearly 60% of the people in low-income countries, including India, cannot afford the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, research published in the British medical journal Lancet has concluded.

Most nutritional guidelines recommend the consumption of at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day. However, according to the study, a large proportion of individuals do not meet these targets. Data shows that consumption of fruit and vegetables is low worldwide, particularly in low-income countries, and lower the average income of a country, the lower the average consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The study is based on responses received from 147,938 adults aged 35-70 years in 18 countries between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2013. The responses of 143,000 individuals were considered as the rest did not report “plausible energy intake” in the range of 500-5,000 kilo calories per day.

The countries were divided into four categories based on their income levels. The low-income countries include Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. The four lower-middle income countries include China, Colombia, Iran and Occupied Palestinian Territory. Upper-middle income countries are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Poland, Turkey and South Africa and the three high income countries are Canada, Sweden and United Arab Emirates.

Data shows that in low-income countries, the average consumption of fruits and vegetables per day is nearly half of what it is in high income countries. For the bottom three income-group countries, consumption levels are lower than the required number of servings.

Also, in low-income countries, the average consumption of fruits (0.8 servings) is much lower than that of vegetables (1.48). The study also claims that the variety of vegetables and fruits that are available for sale is greatest in high-income countries, intermediate in upper-middle income countries, lower in lower-middle income countries and lowest in lower-income countries.

A strong, inverse relation exists between gross national income and the average proportion of total household income spent on food. In low-income countries, including India, individuals spend nearly 62% of their income on food, well above the average of 42.4%. In high-income countries on the other hand, about 13% of the income is spent on food.

People in poorer countries also spend a much larger proportion of their...

12:30

The Gender Beat: Court Says Women Can End Pregnancy Regardless of Reason; Govt to Oppose Triple Talaq in SC The Wire

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality.

surrogacy_reuters

The Bombay high court on Monday said that the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act should extend to the “mental health” of a woman. Credit: Reuters

Women should be allowed to end pregnancy regardless of reason: Bombay high court

Endorsing the right of a woman to “lead a life of her choice”, the Bombay high court has held that the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act should extend to the “mental health” of a woman and she should be “allowed to opt out of an unwanted pregnancy irrespective of the reason”.

A division bench of Justices V.K. Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar on Monday said, the benefits of the Act must be extended to not just married women but also to those women who “stay with their partners as married couples in live-in relationships,” PTI reports.

The court maintained that though the Act provided for a woman to undergo abortion if she was pregnant for less than 12 weeks and with the consent of two medical practitioners if she was pregnant for 12 to 20 weeks, in cases where the pregnancy posed a risk to the health of a woman or to the foetus, she must be allowed to undergo abortion during the same timeline even if there was no risk to her “physical health”.

“Pregnancy takes place within the body of a woman and has a profound impact on her health, mental well-being and life. Thus, how she wants to deal with this pregnancy must be a decision she, and she alone, can make,” the bench said.

“The right to control their own body and fertility and motherhood choices should be left to the women alone. Let us not lose sight of the basic right of women: the right to autonomy and decide what to do with their own bodies, including whether or not to get pregnant and stay pregnant.”

Search engines agree to block pre-natal gender testing advertisements

Three online search giants – Google, Yahoo and Microsoft – have agreed to block advertisements for gender determination tools in India following an order by the Supreme Court.

In a bid to save India’s female babies, earlier this year the Supreme Court had instructed the tech companies to stop publishing ads promoting sex discrimination kits, tools and clinics.

According to Quartz, the three companies had argued that blocking keywords pertaining to these ads would also block other unrelated sites and scholarly material. Justice Dipak Mishra, the judge on the case, said, “You can’t say that you are not technically equipped. If you say you are, get out of the market.”

The companies had been told to adhere to India’s laws or “cease operations” in the country.

Despite the initial pushback, the three companies have now agreed to block 22 k...

07:54

Israel’s showdown with the UN over immunity for Gazan engineer +972 Magazine

By Marian Houk and John Brown*

It didn’t take more than a few hours before the United Nations found out Israeli intelligence agents had arrested one of its Palestinian engineers as he was returning to the Gaza Strip through the Erez military checkpoint.

The very next morning, on July 4, a senior UNDP official in Jerusalem fired off a “Note Verbale” to Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, Benjamin Netanyahu, that expressed anxiety. “At around 1730 hours while at Erez, Mr. [Waheed] al-Bursh was taken by two security officers, and since then we know nothing about him.”

The UN official, Roberto Valent, asked that Israel provide the grounds for and circumstances of Bursh’s arrest, what charges he might face, and when he might be brought to court. In addition, he asked for access to Bursh “in his place of detention as soon as possible,” and for “assistance in arranging legal representation and the presence of UNDP at any court hearings.”

These requests are part of long-standing procedure codified in a UN 1981 Administrative Instruction and approved in a 1982 UN General Assembly resolution, during the Cold War, when the UN had special concerns for its staff members who were, usually for political reasons, sometimes made to disappear during their “home leave” and secretly jailed, in certain countries.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry was slow to reply (government regulations require written answers in 20 working days). Only when the Shin Bet was ready did the Foreign Ministry launch a high-profile campaign, on August 8. The next day Bursh had his first court hearing, which was held behind closed doors and without the presence of a UN official. In their announcement, Israeli authorities said they “arrested” Bursh on July 16, which means he was held almost two weeks longer — in isolation under interrogation — than Israel has so far publicly acknowledged.

As part of the public campaign it launched surrounding the UN engineer’s arrest, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a Shin Bet statement saying that “Borsh confessed that he did indeed carry out activities that aided Hamas.” The statement also said that “During the Waheed Borsh investigation, it was discovered that he had been instructed by a senior member of the Hamas terrorist organization to redirect his work for UNDP to serve Hamas’ military interests.” In addition, this statement says that “according to Borsh, other Palestinians who work for aid organizations are also working for Hamas,” which links to a statement about another recently arrested Gaza man who works in a senior position for World Vision, thereby portraying Bursh as a collaborator.

06:30

Get Your Stories on Army ‘Pre-Verified’, MoD Tells Media After ‘Pakistan Markings’ Snafu The Wire

The MoD’s demand has no legal basis; no government body has the right to censor or screen news before it is published

The story the defence ministry is upset with.

The story the defence ministry is upset with.

New Delhi: Upset at the publication of a news items contradicting a key aspect of the Uri attack that a senior army officer had provided to the media, the defence ministry has told editors “all contents relating to the Indian Army, irrespective of ‘source’ of inputs, and intended to be published, should be pre-verified from the offices of media centres in commands & corps HQ or from this office through your defence correspondents”.

The MoD was responding to a story in the Indian Express on September 21 which refuted the claim made by Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, director general of military operations, in interviews to journalists the day before that the weapons recovered from the four slain terrorists who killed 18 Indian soldiers at Uri on September 18 bore “Pakistani markings”.

Writing in the Indian Express, Sagnik Chowdhury and Praveen Swami reported that:

Four Kalashnikov rifles used by the terrorists, and handed over by the military to investigators Monday, bore no markings or insignia of any kind, sources familiar with the ongoing investigation said. There were also no military markings on barrel-fired grenades destroyed by the Army Monday, or on launchers fitted on the Kalashnikovs.

Though the defence ministry now says the DGMO never made this claim – and cites the formal press release he had issued on the evening September 18 to buttress its point, the fact is that  several media outlets had quoted him saying so to TV channels for more than a day without the MoD or General Singh feeling the need to issue a denial.

The Wire has learned that not only has the director, media in the MoD – who is a serving colonel in the Indian army – now demanded that the newspaper “publish an errata and apology for having published a report full of falsehood” but that henceforth it submit reports on the army to be “pre-verified” by the relevant corps or command media office.

The MoD’s demand has no legal basis – no government body has the right to censor or screen news before it is published, and freedom of the press is enshrined in the law via the constitutional right to free speech.

Israel is the only country with an otherwise unrestricted media where all media outlets – including bloggers and foreign journalists based there – are subject to a military censor when it comes to the reporting of news about Israeli military matters. Military censorship in Israel began in the 1960s as part of an understanding between the army and the media houses but eventually got establ...

05:02

Targeting India in UN Speech, Nawaz Sharif Turns Kashmir Rhetoric Up The Wire

In a red rag to the Indian government, Sharif spoke of the “murder” of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whom he described as a “young leader”. India hits back, says this shows Pakistan’s “continued attachment to terrorism.”

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2016. Credit: Geo TV screengrab

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2016. Credit: Geo TV screengrab

Mounting one of Pakistan’s sharpest attacks against India in recent years, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday told the UN General Assembly that an “independent inquiry” into “extra-judicial killings” in Kashmir he held and a United Nations fact-finding mission be sent to curb “brutalities”  by the “Indian occupying forces” in the state.

Around half of Sharif’s 20-minute speech to the world body was devoted in one way or the other to India – especially the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which he described as an “intifada” for freedom and self-determination. But the speech also dwelt on Pakistan’s opposition to any attempt to “create new centres of privilege ” in the UN  – a reference to the Indian quest for a permanent seat in the Security Council – its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (for which he said Pakistan is “fully eligible”), and its offer to sign a bilateral nuclear test ban treaty with India.

In a red rag to the Indian government, Sharif spoke of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter with Indian security forces on July 8, 2016. Calling Wani a “young leader murdered by Indian forces”, the Pakistani prime minister said he had “emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri Intifada, a popular and peaceful freedom movement…” “Pakistan will share with the Secretary General a dossier containing detailed information and evidence of the gross and systematic violations of human rights committed” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan “fully supports the demand of the Kashmiri people for self-determination”, said Sharif. “The Security Council has called for the exercise of the right to self-determination by the people of Jammu and Kashmir through a free and fair plebiscite held under UN auspices. The people of Kashmir have waited 70 years for implementation of this promise,” he said, adding that the UN must act on its promises..

At the same time Sharif said his country was ready for a “serious and sustained dialogue” with India for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, especially Jammu and Kashmir. “Today, from this rostrum, I would also like to reiterate our offer to India to enter into a serious and sustained dialogue for the peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, especially Jammu and Kashmir.”. Peace between India and Pakistan – and normalisation – would not be possible without the Kashmir dispute being resolved, he added.

The Pakistani prime minister said that he had “gone the extra mile to achieve this”, repeatedly offering a dialogue to address all outstanding issues. But talks haven’t progressed because India has “posed unacceptable preconditions to engage in a...

04:58

Anti-Semitic, white supremacist slogans at Exeter University event +972 Magazine

Even the most off-hand displays of white supremacism and anti-Semitism — perhaps especially off-hand, “normalized” displays — are not only deplorable in their own right, but directly affect conversation on racism, anti-Semitism and Israel-Palestine.

Students attending an off-campus Exeter University party on Tuesday were seen sporting t-shirts with anti-Semitic and white supremacist slogans, +972 has learned.

Reports of anti-semitic incidents in the UK have risen by 11 percent in the first half of 2016, according to a recent report by the Community Security Trust, a UK organization providing security guards to Jewish schools and synagogues. Anti-semitism has figured heavily in headlines over the past year, especially in the context of the Labour party leadership race. The incumbent leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been accused of being “too soft” on anti-Semitism among his supporters. The controversy has seen the distinction between anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic comments challenged vigorously by figures from the center rightwards, and a mix of soul-searching and recriminations on the Left.

[tmwinpost]

In this context, even the most off-hand displays of white supremacism and anti-Semitism — perhaps especially off-hand, “normalized” displays — are not only deplorable in their own right, but directly affect national conversation on racism, anti-Semitism and Israel-Palestine.

The Tuesday night event, hosted by the local Snow Sports society at the Timepiece nightclub, saw guests use magic markers to scribble slogans and drawings on each other’s uniform white t-shirts. Most scribbles ranged between the bantering and the generically sexist — belaboured innuendos on the word “slope” appear to have been in vogue during the evening — but two rather different slogans stood out: “Don’t speak to me if you’re not white,” and, “The Holocaust was a good time.”

...

04:07

Rafale Deal Cleared And All Set To Be Signed On Friday The Wire

A Rafale fighter jet. Credit: Reuters

A Rafale fighter jet. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: The government has cleared the much anticipated deal with France for 36 Rafale fighter jets which will cost 7.878 billion Euros and will be signed on Friday in the presence of French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian.

Defence sources said that the deal for the aircraft, the first fighter jet deal in 20 years, comes with a saving of nearly 750 million Euros when compared to the UPA era one, which was scrapped by the Narendra Modi government, besides a 50% offset clause.

This means business worth at least three billion Euros for Indian companies, both big and small. The deal is expected to generate hundreds of jobs in India through offsets.

The Rafale fighter jets, deliveries of which will start in 36 months and finished in 66 months from the date contract is inked, comes equipped with state-of-the-art missiles like Meteor and Scalp that will give the Indian Air Force (IAF) a capability that had been sorely missing in its arsenal.

Sources said the government today formally cleared the Inter Governmental Agreement to be signed on Friday in the presence of Le Drian, who arrives tomorrow evening, along with the CEOs of Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA and top government officials.

The contract for the deal was already cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security earlier. The price of the contract was fixed in May, sources said.

Sources said that the “vanila price” (just the 36 aircraft) is about 3.42 billion Euros. The armaments cost about 710 million Euros while changes specific to India, including the integration of Israeli helmet mounted displays, will cost 1700 million Euros.

The remaining cost includes spare parts and maintenance among other things.

Especially, the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 km makes the Rafale an important strategic weapon for the air force.

Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean the air force can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while still staying within India’s own territorial boundary.

Pakistan currently has only a BVR with an 80 km range.

During the Kargil war, India used a BVR of 50 km while Pakistan had none. With the Meteor, the balance of power in the air space has turned in India’s favour.

Scalp, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km, also gives the air force an edge over its adversaries.

The tough negotiations by the Ministry of Defence-IAF team has managed to extract many concessions and discounts from the French before arriving at a price that is almost 750 million Euros less than what was being quoted by the French side in January 2016.

This was when the commercial negotiations gathered pace, almost seven months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s intention to buy 36 Rafales, off the shelf from France, during his trip to Paris in April 2015.

The post Rafale Deal Cleared And All Set To Be Signed On Friday appeared first on The Wire.

01:56

The REAL Cost of the War of Terror The Corbett Report


by James Corbett
TheInternationalForecaster.com
September 21, 2016

We all know by now that the real terrorists (the politicians in the suits and ties and the banksters that pull their strings) are waging their war of terror on multiple fronts for multiple reasons.

Domestically, it rallies the population around the flag, keeping the flock in check. At the same time it justifies the build up of the police state control grid to catch the thought criminals who resist.

It also writes a blank check for the illegal wars of aggression abroad. Simply place your terrorist boogeyman in the square of the chessboard you're looking to occupy and -- hey presto! -- you've got yourself an excuse to invade. (Even if you "accidentally" end up supporting them, right Uncle Sam?)

But of course the politicians, their string pullers and their fellow travelers benefit from the war of terror in a more straightforward sense. They get to use the terror scares that they themselves create to drum up billions upon billions in the name of fighting the boogeymen.

We've all heard of the $640 toilet seat and other ridiculous examples of Pentagon "overspending," but these stories tend to trivialize the abuses by the military-defense contractors whose entire industry is built on providing overpriced solutions to made up problems. After all, the Pentagon itself just admitted it could cut $2 billion from its budget by shutting down some of the needless bases and defense facilities that have been built around the globe in the name of the American empire.

But $2 billion is chump change.

In the 15 years since 9/11, $1 trillion has been spent building up the police state in the American "homeland" itself.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department has been spending over $600 billion per year maintaining the American military in the post-9/11 era. $4 to $6 trillion of that was spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone, the most expensive wars in US history.

Combined defense spending, including Homeland Security, DoD, State Department, defense related debt interest and other defense costs, has reached the highest levels in modern history over the past decade. From a Cold War era high in the 1980s of $3500 for every man, woman and child in the United States to a 1990s low of $2500, that figure has since breached $4000. Just look at the chart; it isn't hard to see exactly when the trend reversed and the good times began to flow for the military-industrial contractors: It was 9/11, the birthday of the war of terror and the new era of homeland security.

There are other numbers we could throw in here:

The billions upon billions in military aid sent to...

01:31

Uri Attack: Centre Summons Pakistan High Commissioner, Demands Response The Wire

What happened at Uri “only underlines that the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan remains active”, says India.

Abdul Basit, Pakistan's high commissioner to India. Credit: PTI

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s high commissioner to India. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: In its first diplomatic response to the recent militant attack in Uri in which 18 soldiers were killed, the external affairs ministry summoned Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit on Wednesday to demand that Pakistan abide by its commitment to not allow “its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India.”

In a press statement, the MEA said that Basit was called in to meet foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, who detailed the basis on which India believed several recent incidents in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, including Pathankot, were in fact “cross-border attacks”.

“We now expect a response from the Government of Pakistan,” the MEA said.

Basit was summoned to South Block following a cabinet meeting held earlier on Thursday chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the attack.

“We demand that Pakistan lives up to its public commitment to refrain from supporting and sponsoring terrorism against India,” the MEA said.

In a statement the MEA noted that in 2016, “beginning with the Pathankot airbase attack, there have been continuous attempts by armed terrorists to cross the LoC and International Boundary in order to carry out attacks in India.”

Though the MEA did not detail each individual incident, it said 17 attempts  “have been interdicted at or around the LoC, resulting in the elimination of 31 terrorists and preventing their intended acts of terrorism.”

Without speaking specifically of the September 18 attack on an army camp in Uri, the MEA said that a number of items have been recovered “in the recent incidents.” These include:

a. GPS from the bodies of terrorists withcoordinates that indicate the point and time of infiltration across the LoC and the subsequent route to the terror attack site;
b. Grenades with Pakistani markings;
c. Communication matrix sheets;
d. Communication equipment; and
e. Other stores made in Pakistan, including food, medicines and clothes.

If the  Pakistan government “wishes to investigate these cross-border attacks, India is ready to provide finger prints and DNA samples of terrorists killed in the Uri and Poonch incidents,” the MEA said.

Earlier this year, evidence from the Pathankot attack was also shared with Pakistan but so far the Indian side has not received an information of how Pakistani investigators have used that material.

The latest terrorist attack in Uri, the MEA said, “only underlines that the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan remains active. We demand that Pakistan lives up to its public commitment to refrain from supporting and sponsoring ter...

Wednesday, 21 September

23:02

Headless Sarawak non-Islamic affairs unit sparks anxiety among Christians Hornbill Unleashed

Sarawak Christians expressed unease today over the pile-up of unresolved religious cases affecting them three months after the state announced the set-up of a non-Islamic affairs unit. Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS Baru) president Cobbold John Lusoi urged Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas not to delay naming the head of the Non-Islamic […]

23:02

Najib & Rosmah now ‘international pariahs’: UNESCO withdrawal the start of global boycott against scandalous duo? Hornbill Unleashed

Unesco has postponed an award it planned to give to Rosmah Mansor, the Malaysian prime minister’s wife, at the last minute in a sign of the growing international fallout from a corruption scandal engulfing the country’s leaders. Irina Bokova, the Unesco director-general, wrote to Ms Rosmah this month saying Malaysia’s first lady was to receive […]

23:02

Petronas to cut more jobs Hornbill Unleashed

Petronas is planning to cut several hundred more jobs, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Petronas said Tuesday that it continually reviews its business strategies and staffing levels as it adjusts to changes in demand. “This transformation exercise cuts across the entire Petronas group, including at subsidiary levels,” the company said in […]

23:02

WSJ: Hundreds of Petronas employees may lose jobs Hornbill Unleashed

Hundreds of Petronas employees may have to look for new jobs soon, as the national oil and gas firm is reported to be downsizing. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) cited sources as saying that Petronas “is looking to cut several hundred more jobs as it continues to grapple with weak oil prices”. It also cited […]

23:02

Of one man, one vote in Malaysia Hornbill Unleashed

The recent proposal in regards to the delimitation of constituencies has raised many eyebrows. It seems that the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ is just words or is it so? The one man, one vote principle is one in which the value of each vote is equal to each other and it is one […]

23:02

Former Sarawak DAP rep says not jumping to another party Hornbill Unleashed

Former Dudong assemblyman Yap Hoi Liong has denied that he is leaving DAP for a rival party. Instead, he told reporters that he made his decision after considering his son’s welfare and other family matters. “It is not that I wanted to jump to another party or being bought over. I have no intention to […]

23:02

Will DAP really ‘benefit’ from EC redelineation exercise? Hornbill Unleashed

Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong has made one of the most outlandish statements of our time that the DAP ‘benefited’ from the lastest redelineation exercise of the Election Commission (EC). At the same time, MCA president Liow Tiong Lai is also making a similar case to paint MCA as the victim of the re-delineation exercise […]

23:01

Dr M Is Right – Sirul Is Too Scared To Reveal All Hornbill Unleashed

How do you tell a man, detained for almost two years in Australia for entering the country for not telling the authorities that he is a convicted murderer, that in Australia, the individual can decide his own fate by the things he does in mitigating the circumstance of the crime he had committed? How do […]

23:01

Sultan repeats call for one school system at meet with Chinese leaders Hornbill Unleashed

Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, at a meeting with leaders of Chinese associations this afternoon in the state capital, once again stressed the importance of a single-stream education system. Commenting on racial unity in the country which has not been fully realised, the Johor sultan believes this is due to schools being separated according […]

23:01

Assistant minister: Children need to be educated about sexual crimes Hornbill Unleashed

Children from as early as five years old need to be educated about the dangers of sexual crimes committed by paedophiles. Sabah Assistant Minister of Resource Development and Information Technology, Hamisa Samat said many sexual crime cases went unreported due to lack of knowledge about sexual harassment against children. “I believe this can be prevented […]

23:01

Malaysian Bar to receive ‘Rule of Law’ award for promoting human rights Hornbill Unleashed

The Malaysian Bar will be the first recipient of the inaugural Rule of Law Award by the International Association of Lawyers (UIA) that will be presented during UIA’s 60th Congress in Budapest next month. Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru today read out the letter from UIA, which is based in Paris, to the Malaysian Bar […]

23:01

#KitaLawan Rally: Two Perak assemblymen, four others ordered to enter defence Hornbill Unleashed

Two Perak assemblymen and four others were ordered by the Magistrate’s Court here today to enter their defence to a charge of obstructing a Kuala Lumpur City Hall officer from carrying out his duties during the ‘#KitaLawan’ illegal rally last year. Magistrate Nur A’minahtul Mardiah Md Nor made the decision after finding that the prosecution […]

23:01

Nowhere For Najib To Run To: Tony Blair Shuts Down Controversial PR Consultancy Business Hornbill Unleashed

Tony Blair is giving up most of the consultancy work that made him millions after he stood down as U.K. leader. In a statement on Tuesday, the former British prime minister said he had decided to close Tony Blair Associates and two related companies, Windrush Ventures and Firerush Ventures. “I will retain a small number […]

23:01

Jail over comments on Internet? Hornbill Unleashed

A 69-year-old businessman has been remanded for three days from Tuesday for allegedly insulting Islam in connection with the death of PAS spiritual leader Datuk Dr Haron Din. The 69-year-old suspect was said to have made the comments on Facebook under the name Ong TK. Two other suspects arrested for similar reasons were released after […]

Suhakam: Independent judiciary will protect human rights Hornbill Unleashed

The government must ensure there is an independent judiciary to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairman Razali Ismail said. “This is by implementing adequate strategies and measures to maintain the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and to ensure the moral integrity and accountability of the members of the […]

23:01

‘Stupid to have elections later’ – S’gor DAP wants snap polls Hornbill Unleashed

Selangor DAP has called for state elections to be held ahead of the Election Commission’s completion of its ongoing redelineation exercise. Selangor DAP chief Tony Pua said the decision was made during its emergency meeting held yesterday. “If you ask anybody on the street, they would also say the same thing. “You would be stupid […]

Be eagle-eyed on real issues Hornbill Unleashed

In all likelihood, the story by the Perak deputy mufti, Zamri Hashim, that a municipal council, from an undisclosed location in Perak, asked the mufti’s advice about building an eagle statue, is just that – a self-created, cynical story with a personal or political agenda. In which municipal council in Perak would an eagle statue […]

23:01

Bar gets global award for defending human rights, rule of law Hornbill Unleashed

The Malaysian Bar, which is fighting attempts to erode its independence, is the first recipient of an award by the International Association of Lawyers (UIA), its president Steven Thirun announced today. He said the award was in recognition of the Bar’s strong and unfailing commitment to the defence and promotion of human rights and the […]

23:01

Malaysians want a ‘Malay Muslim Male PM’ Hornbill Unleashed

Malaysians still strongly favour a Malay Muslim male prime minister (MMM-PM), revealed a survey by non-governmental organisation Kuasa. In a statement, Kuasa revealed its findings and added that based on the survey, it expected Opposition parties to struggle in Perak and Selangor – where the survey was conducted – due to the absence of PAS. […]

23:01

People of S’gor not stupid, PKR leader tells Pua Hornbill Unleashed

The people of Selangor are not stupid. On the contrary, they are the most enlightened with regard to national politics and the economy, said PKR vice-president Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin. He was responding to Selangor DAP chief Tony Pua, who said only the “stupid” would want to hold an election in the state after the […]

Cheer our paralympian champions’ return Hornbill Unleashed

Our Golden Paralympians will soon be home, and what a welcome the government is planning for them, asking the public to come out in droves and welcome them as they first meet the PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife and then get paraded through town. The New Straits Times reported that come Thursday, […]

23:01

Ali Tinju says misquoted on ‘threat’ against Maria Chin Hornbill Unleashed

Gerakan Merah leader Mohd Ali Baharom denied he issued threats against Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah. Mohd Ali, better known as Ali Tinju, is under police investigation for criminal intimidation after he was quoted as saying Maria “may no longer walk on this earth”, following her announcement of the Nov 19 Bersih 5 rally. “I […]

Sabah party to study electoral discrepancies in 13 seats Hornbill Unleashed

The Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) was studying the 13 new state seats proposed by the Election Commission (EC) in Sabah, said its President Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing in a statement. He added the party wants to help determine if the additional state seats qualify under Section 2, Part I, of the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal […]

23:01

Suhakam: Police must not be ‘face of intimidation’ Hornbill Unleashed

Police should be defenders of civil liberties in Malaysia rather than a force that represses the exercise of human rights, said Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chief Tan Sri Razali Ismail today. He stressed that security personnel must understand that upholding human rights in the country would help improve its security and mitigate the […]

Adenan: Extremism will lead us to self-destruction Hornbill Unleashed

Moderation and not extremism in all aspects, including in politics, should be the country’s political culture to propel it to greater unity, stability and success. Chief Minister Adenan Satem said extremism would lead it nowhere except on the path to self-destruction, brought about by enmity and distrust among the people and leaders. He said this […]

23:01

Analysis: BN can win GE14 if polls held early Hornbill Unleashed

The biggest challenge facing Prime Minister Najib Razak in his effort to win the next general election is not the fallout of the 1MDB scandal or funding or the Opposition. According to an analysis in the Straits Times (ST), it is how Najib handles the selection of candidates to contest on the Umno ticket. It […]

23:01

Be a man and apologise, Keng Liang tells Ali Tinju after recording surfaces Hornbill Unleashed

Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang has urged Gerakan Merah leader Mohd Ali Baharom to apologise after a news portal published a purported recording of the latter making a threat against Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah. Taking to Twitter, Tan said Mohd Ali, better known as Ali Tinju, should apologise to Maria. “If you have […]

23:01

Pro-BN NGO claims Jewish link in plot to embarrass Rosmah Hornbill Unleashed

A pro-BN NGO has cited a Jewish link in what it alleged to be a plot to embarrass Rosmah Mansor on an international level with regard to her being struck off the list of recipients for an award. “Based on our checks, we found that the agency is Jewish-based and (the award) was purportedly (slated […]

23:01

The Jaguh Kampung at electoral rigging Hornbill Unleashed

The public and opposition parties should be very concerned with the latest round of electoral boundary changes in the country’s parliamentary constituencies. This seems yet another effort to rig the electoral system to ensure Umno and BN dominance and political hegemony. Scholarly studies by local and foreign academicians of similar exercises in the past have […]

23:01

Justice in Malaysia a political tool? Hornbill Unleashed

In the reality of political skullduggery that has become the “new normal” under Najib Razak, murders, murderers and everything else in between : the police, the judiciary, the lawyers and every bit player that are involved : all of them are now willing accomplices to ensure that “justice” is done to the murdered and the […]

23:01

Ali Tinju not misquoted, here’s the proof Hornbill Unleashed

Gerakan Merah leader Mohd Ali Baharom, better known as Ali Tinju, has made a U-turn on his previous “threat” against Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah. His denial to The Sun, comes following the police’s announcement that Ali is being probed for criminal intimidation, in response to FMT’s article on September 14, titled “Watch your […]

23:01

Raise EPF tax exemption limit call in Budget 2017 wish list Hornbill Unleashed

One of the items on the Budget 2017 wish list is for the government to increase the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and life insurance tax exemption limit to RM10,000. Malaysian Ong Boon Teong, posted on https://bajet2017.najibrazak.com : “The EPF deduction for someone with a salary of RM5,000 a month is RM6,000 annually. “For a family […]

23:01

It’s no fun for Fann as Bersih claims ‘hidden hand’ Hornbill Unleashed

Electoral watchdog Bersih believes that a hidden hand is acting to use all state resources to stop Bersih 5 even before the rally has begun. This, after Bersih treasurer Thomas Fann was denied entry into Sarawak this morning and was put on the same plane back to Kuala Lumpur. Fann was scheduled to attend a […]

23:01

Azmin rejects snap polls suggestion, again Hornbill Unleashed

The Selangor DAP’s push for snap elections in the state following the Election Commission’s (EC) recent redelineation proposals has hit a brick wall. Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali, in a statement today, shot down the suggestion mooted by Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua of the DAP, saying the mandate delivered to the state […]

23:01

Zaid: Insulting religious leaders is not insulting the religion Hornbill Unleashed

Political leaders should not be put on pedestals so high that they cannot be criticised or made the subject of rude comments. Directing this message to Muslims in his latest blog posting, former law minister Zaid Ibrahim said there were a variety of speeches and actions that constituted blasphemy in Islam, for example, insulting Allah […]

23:00

Najib camp now accuses a ‘Mentri Besar’ of ‘unusual sexual orientation’ Hornbill Unleashed

Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s audience with His Majesty the Agong in the Sultan of Kedah’s palace recently, instead of at Istana Negara, was merely a publicity stunt. It was just a political ploy to give the impression that he was still in the game and bent on ousting Prime Minister Najib Razak. Mahathir cannot show he […]

22:49

Australia, Canada, UK Issue New Travel Advisories for India The Wire

Mumbai airport. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mumbai airport. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: Australia, Canada and the UK have issued fresh advisories to their citizens travelling to India to avoid visiting parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and the India-Pakistan border, barring the Wagah border.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the UK and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also warned their citizens about the recent Cauvery dispute-related violence.

On September 16, the FCO updated its travel advisory cautioning its citizens “against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of travel within the city of Jammu, travel by air to Jammu and travel within the region of Ladakh.” It also advised “against all but essential travel” to Srinagar and travel between the cities of Jammu and Srinagar on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

The advisory said, “The tourist destinations of Phalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg fall within the areas to which the FCO advises against all travel.”

The same day, Global Affairs Canada also advised its citizens against travelling to “Jammu and Kashmir, with the exception of Ladakh via Manali or by air to Leh, due to sporadic terrorist activity and violent demonstrations.” Besides, “areas within the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab, due to the possibility of landmines and unexploded ordnance, as well as unmarked border areas.”

It said, “The Wagah border crossing and towns farther from the border, such as Amritsar in Punjab and Bikaner and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, are excluded from this advisory.” FCO also kept Wagah out of the advisory.

In the case of the north eastern state, the countries’ advisories have asked their citizens to either cancel or reconsider their visit to these states citing recent militant attacks: the shooting of 14 people in a market in Assam’s Kokrajhar district this past August and the killing of 18 soldiers in Manipur’s Thoubal district last year.

Global Affairs Canada advised against “non-essential travel” to “Manipur and the areas of Arunachal Pradesh that border with Myanmar, due to the threat of insurgency” besides advising travelers to also avoid areas in Assam bordering Bangladesh and Nagaland bordering Myanmar “as they are significantly affected by insurgency.”

A large number of tourists from these three countries visit the north east every year, particularly Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the one-horned rhino.

In 2013, a similar travel advisory was issued by Australia. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, “We continue to recommend Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in India overall because of the risk of terrori...

22:45

Red-Light Warning on Now, About Hillary Clinton Strategic Culture Foundation

Hillary Clinton, on September 19th, was endorsed for President, by the most historically important, intelligent, and dangerous, Republican of modern times.

22:00

Niti Aayog Comes Up With 20-Point Plan to Improve India’s Olympics Performance The Wire

Encouraging and training indigenous talent, and simultaneously working on infrastructural facilities available to sportspersons can improve India’s prospects for medals in the Olympics.

P.V. Sindhu, one of India's medalists at Rio this year. Credit: Reuters/Marcelo del Pozo

P.V. Sindhu, one of India’s medalists at Rio this year. Credit: Reuters/Marcelo del Pozo

With India managing to win only two medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the tally made India one of the lowest ranked countries in terms of medals per capita. With an aim to improve India’s medal prospects in the future and to ensure that the country wins at least 50 medals at the 2024 Olympics, Niti Aayog has come out with a 20-point plan of action.

Highlighting some of the key areas of improvement, the action plan identifies some of the initiatives that need to be undertaken in order to achieve the ambitious target. Noting that “it is disappointing that a country that has world class talent in various disciplines has not been able to produce champions in the area of sports”, the documents refers to how “compared to previous years, this year witnessed large participation in Olympics. However, only two medals could be bagged.”

Admitting that the country’s performance in the Olympics has witness only “limited improvement” in the last 60 years, it said that this is because India “still does not have a conducive environment for sports to polish the talent of Indian sportspersons, and make them at par with their global counterparts. Efforts need to be undertaken at each level, from family and communities to schools, regional academies, states and national level.”

Niti Aayog also referred to the popular phrase: “Kheloge kudoge to honge kharab, padhoge likhoge to banoge nawab” (If you will play, you shall be spoilt; if you will study, you will live like a prince) to note that there were societal barriers that viewed sports as a lesser field when it comes to pride and prestige.

The action plan has been divided into short term and long term initiatives. These cover a four-to-eight year period and a eight-to-fifteen year period respectively.

On a short term basis, it is essential to “prioritise 10 sports and develop an outcome oriented action plan for each of these sports”, Niti Aayog said, explaining that “countries like Kenya and Jamaica participate in only two Olympics sports but have managed to get a medal tally of 100 and 78 respectively.”

Niti Aayog said that these 10 priority sports should be ones with high winning potential, as well as those in which India has won medals in the past. The action plan should include targets in the next four year cycle, training and coaching schedules to achieve those targets, medical, psychological and drug test schedules, and institutional and private support systems for all categories of players of each sport.

Noting that each action plan should be reviewed after every four years, it suggested that India could take lessons from other countries such as the UK whose performance in the Olympics has significantly improved in the past few decades, from 13 medals in 1968 to 67 medals in 2016. Moreover, it noted that the UK has also u...

21:58

Three Palestinian prisoners reach deal to end hunger strikes +972 Magazine

Israel is holding the three men in prison without charge or trial. One of them was in immediate danger of death as a result of nearly 70 days on hunger strike.

By Noam Rotem

Protesters in Ramllah hold a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed, August 2016. (STR/Flash90)

Protesters in Ramllah hold a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed, August 2016. (STR/Flash90)

Three Palestinian men being held by Israel in administrative detention announced the end of their hunger strikes on Wednesday. The announcements followed negotiations with Israeli authorities, as a result of which their administrative detention orders will not be renewed or extended. One of the three, Malik al-Qadi, is expected to be released from custody on Thursday, and the brothers Mahmoud and Muhammad Balboul will be released on December 8.

[tmwinpost]

Israel uses administrative detention orders to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial. Because they are often not even told of what they are accused, it is impossible to defend themselves or successfully challenge the detention order. As of July 31, the latest period for which data was available, Israel was holding 643 Palestinians from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in administrative detention, not including Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Al-Qadi and the Balboul brothers started their hunger strikes more than two months ago. Malik al-Qadi, a communications student at Al-Quds University, stopped eating 68 days ago to protest his administrative detention order. Since then, he went on an “Irish hunger strike,” in which he drank water without any minerals, salts or supplements.

The Balboul brothers, who have been on hunger strike for close to 80 days, also began with an “Irish hunger strike,” but after some 50 days began taking vitamins and minerals in an attempt to prevent irreversible damage to their bodies.

20:50

YSEALI: America’s Quiet Colonisation of Southeast Asia New Eastern Outlook

45334324324The US State Department’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) claims on its official US government website to build “the leadership capabilities of youth in the region and promotes cross-border cooperation to solve regional and global challenges.”

It not only consists of US-based educational and professional “fellowships” for Southeast Asian participants, but also a funding component to help alumni establish foreign-funded organisations posing as “nongovernmental organisations” (NGOs), enhancing the already large presence of US-funded organisations operating across Asia in the service of American interests.

Under an initiative called, “Generation: Go NGO!,” YSEALI claims:

This is an opportunity for young NGO leaders to advance their professional skills and competencies with the aim to grow, scale, and take the organizations they work for, or those they founded, to new heights. 

From developing baseline metrics to creatively pursuing financial and in-kind resources to assertively applying social media to advance mission, this workshop will bring together individuals from across ASEAN to learn and collaborate on ways to build capacity, message, and impact.

Beyond this, YSEALI also conducts other workshops across Southeast Asia to help prepare what is essentially a parallel political establishment that serves not Southeast Asian institutions or the population, but the US State Department and the corporate and financial interests it represents, quite literally an ocean and continent away.

One such activity was conducted by the US Embassy in Cambodia, called the “First Model Prime Minister Debate” organised by the US Ambassador’s Youth Council, Phnom Penh.

In essence, the US State Department is preparing an entire generation of impressionable young people, raised on American-style consumerism and hooked into US-based social media platforms like Facebook, and moulding them into a client political bloc they will eventually assist into power, just as they have attempted to do in Hong Kong recently with US State Department-funded “Umbrella Revolution” leaders winning several seats in local legislative elections and as they have already done in Myanmar through Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NDL) with her ministe...

20:45

Threats to Kick Hungary Out of EU Highlight a Deep Crisis of the Union Strategic Culture Foundation

Emotions are running high as the date of the Hungarian referendum (Oct. 2) draws near - when they will decide whether the European Commission’s mandatory refugee quota is compatible with the country’s laws.  Luxembourg’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean Asselborn, implored his colleagues in the European Union to boot Hungary from the EU, claiming that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s policies are in conflict with EU values...

20:30

Mobile Connectivity Essential For Refugees, Says Report The Wire

A UNHCR and Accenture report says refugees need internet connectivity and smartphones for their personal and social development.

A young South Sudanese refugee tries to get a signal on his mobile phone in Nyumanzi refugee settlement, Adjumani, northern Uganda, in this 2014 file photo. Credit: UNHCR/ Frederic Noy

A young South Sudanese refugee tries to get a signal on his mobile phone in Nyumanzi refugee settlement, Adjumani, northern Uganda, in this 2014 file photo. Credit: UNHCR/Frederic Noy

New York: A large number of refugees view access to a mobile phone and the internet as being as critical to their safety and security as food, water and shelter, according to a new report based on research undertaken in 44 countries on four continents.

The finding comes at a moment when wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since the UN refugee agency UNHCR began keeping records. At end of 2015, 65.3 million people are displaced worldwide, of whom 21.3 million are refugees.

“In the world we live in today, Internet connectivity and smart phones can become a lifeline for refugees, providing an essential means for them to give and receive vital information, communicate with separated family members, gain access to essential services, and reconnect to the local, national and global communities around them,” the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a news release.

“Most importantly, connectivity can help broaden the opportunities for refugees to improve their own lives and pursue a vision of a future that would otherwise be denied to them,” he added.

The report, ‘Connected Refugees: How the Internet and Mobile Connectivity Can Improve Refugee Well-being and Transform Humanitarian Action’, was published by the high commissioner’s office (UNHCR) and global professional services company Accenture.

According to the news release, the study finds that while affordability is often a barrier to connectivity, refugees living in urban areas tend to have similar access to mobile networks as other urban populations.

But for refugees in rural locations the picture is very different, with only one in six located in areas with 3G (short for the third generation of wireless mobile technology) access and one in five having no mobile coverage at all – significantly lower than for the population at large.

Faced with a pressing need, the study recommends additional investments in three main areas, which together form the basis of a new UNHCR Global Strategy for Connectivity for Refugees. These include increasing the availability of mobile networks, improving affordability, and providing access to training, digital content and services.

The report also identifies a number of strategic interventions to help ensure connectivity, ranging from partnering with mobile network operators and oth...

20:12

Cabinet Approves Early Union Budget, Scraps Separate Railway Budget The Wire

Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: In a major overhaul, the cabinet today approved advancing the presentation of the annual budget by a month and scrapped the nearly nine-decade old tradition of having a separate railway budget. It also removed classifications for expenditure to make the exercise simpler.

With a view to get all the legislative approvals for annual spending and tax proposals before the beginning of the new financial year next April, the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved advancing the date for presenting the general budget by a month, sometime before January 25, instead of unveiling it at the end of February.

Merging the railway budget with the general budget was also approved along with a move to do away with the distinction of plan and non-plan expenditure, officials said.

Accordingly, the beginning of budget preparation will be advanced to early October and GDP estimates will be made available on January 7 rather than February 7.

The budget, thus far, was presented on the last day of February and would usually not be approved by the parliament till mid-May. And with the monsoon arriving in June, most schemes and spendings by states did not take off until October at least, leaving just about half a year for their implementation.

Rescheduling the presentation to January would mean that the entire exercise is over by March 31 and expenditure as well as tax proposals should come into effect right from the beginning of the new fiscal year and ought to ensure better implementation.

Merging the railway budget to the general one will mean that a single Appropriation Bill will be presented which will include the estimates from the Ministry of Railways, thereby saving the parliament time by not having to separately consider and pass two Appropriation Bills.

The removal of the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure was approved to limit the excessive focus on former with almost an equivalent neglect to items such as maintenance which are classified as non-plan.

The cabinet felt it is the total expenditure, irrespective of plan or non-plan, that generates value for the public. Planned expenditure was separately presented for the first time in the budget for 1959-60.

(with PTI inputs)

The post Cabinet Approves Early Union Budget, Scraps Separate Railway Budget appeared first on The Wire.

20:00

Bojja Tharakam, Red Star in a Blue Sky The Wire

A tribute to the advocate, writer and social activist who stood up for Dalits and the rights of the poor and the marginalised.

Bojja Tharakam. Credit: Facebook

Bojja Tharakam. Credit: Facebook

Human rights warrior, Ambedkarite and Marxist, eminent poet and writer, and senior advocate Bojja Tharakam, an important figure of unity in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, passed away on September 17. His work has touched every village in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and his words went out to every Dalit home in the two states. His enterprise touched the lives of all activists – be they feminists, ecologists, human rights defenders, those working for the homeless, the factory workers, the urban poor, Muslims, Adivasis and other marginalised sections – a reach beyond compare.
The first time I met Tharakam at his house, I heard him tell an activist, “You haven’t gone to jail yet? You haven’t been arrested? How can you call yourself an activist?” I was wonder-struck. This was in the early 1980s when erstwhile revolutionaries were taking a step back and distancing themselves from movements. Tharakam was not a Maoist leader urging people to jump to militancy. He was by that time, noted as a man with a broad understanding and open convictions.
We worked together on several issues – both on field with agricultural labourers on their entitlements, wages and land, as well as on paper, because the organisation with which I work, the Hyderabad Book Trust, published most of his books.
He was the editor of Nalupu (1989-1993), the first Dalit little magazine which we published. He translated Ambedkar’s Ramuni Krishnuni Rahasyalu (Riddles of Rama and Krishna) and Shudrulu Aryulu (Who are the Shudras), both published in 1984, while his original works were many. His iconic book, Police Arrest Cheste (What is to be Done When the Police Arrests You1981) sold lakhs of copies and remains the handbook for activists more than three decades after publication. Kulam-Vargam (Caste-Class; 1996), Nela Nagali (The Earth, the Plough; 2008) and Dalitudu- Rajyam (The Dalit and the State; 2008) are among some of his important works. He wrote a novel called Panchatantram in 2012 and his last work was Charitra Marchina Manishi:Rudraandhra Charita (The Man Who Changed History – Bojja Appalaswamy in the History of the Militant Andhra), which was published this year. We placed the printed copy of this last book in his hands days before he died; he had worked on it all through his illness.
Tharakam was born in 1939 in the Konaseema area of the East Godavari district on the coast where the Godavari joins the sea. His father Bojja Appalaswamy was a remarkable independent, Ambedkar-inspired Dalit leader – a two-time MLA who set up schools for Dalit children, taught his wife to read and write, and a man with extraordinary reach. A Brahmo Samajist, he was dedicated to social reform and as a revolutionary, he organised militant land struggles for the Dalits in the area to retain control of their a...

19:30

If India Wants to Remain Secular, the New Citizenship Bill Isn’t the Way to Go The Wire

While citizenship rules along the lines of religion are not unknown in India, the new Bill has made this distinction explicit.

File photo of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees arriving in Tamil Nadu. Credit: Climatetalk.in/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

File photo of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees arriving in Tamil Nadu. Credit: Climatetalk.in/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Citizenship and immigration laws have been a delicate subject in India ever since independence. Remarking on the complexity of drafting citizenship laws, B.R. Ambedkar said, “Except one other article in the draft constitution, I do not think that any other article has given the drafting committee such a headache as this particular article. I do not know how many drafts were prepared and how many were destroyed as being inadequate to cover all the cases which it was thought necessary and desirable to cover.”

While it is arduous for a country to demarcate its citizens from non-citizens at its inception as a unified whole, this problem was further accentuated in India for two reasons. One, the large scale movement of people during partition broadly on religious contours and second, the recurrent influx of immigrants and refugees owing to domestic instability in neighbouring countries. The citizenship laws had to be tweaked each time (five to be specific) whenever such a movement occurred and each such opportunity was seized by the lawmakers to earn political mileage.

Increasing dominance of religion in citizenship laws

The citizenship debate has started up again, for all the wrong reasons. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to make drastic changes in the citizenship and immigration norms of the country by relaxing the requirements for Indian citizenship. The problem here is not with the flexibility of the rules, but the applicability of the amendments on purely religious lines. The Citizenship Act of 1955 denies citizenship rights to any illegal immigrant, whereby an ‘illegal immigrant’ is defined as a person who (i) enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents, or (ii) who stays in the country beyond the visa permit.

The proposed Bill amends this definition to exclude “minority-religious individuals” – specifically Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from “Muslim-dominated countries” – specifically Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan – from the ambit of being an “illegal immigrant”. The Bill further reduces the requirement of 11 years to acquire “citizenship by naturalisation” to only six years of ordinary residence for such immigrants. In simpler terms, this means that a Hindu from Pakistan can cross the border illegally and simply claim Indian citizenship after six years!

The Bill is a furtherance of the BJP’s election promise to grant citizenship to Hindus from Muslim majority countries. In its 2014 parliamentary election manifesto, the BJP had declared India to be a natural home for persecuted Hindus around the wor...

19:29

Jain Monk Says He Holds Nothing Against Dadlani, But Complainant Presses Ahead With Case The Wire

Complainant Puneet Arora says he is unconvinced by the musician’s apology and will pursue matters in court.

Vishal Dadlani with Jain monk Muni Tarun Sagar. Credit: ANI screengrab/Twitter

Vishal Dadlani with Jain monk Muni Tarun Sagar. Credit: ANI screengrab/Twitter

Ambala: Vishal Dadlani – the singer whose tweets on the Haryana government’s decision to invite a Jain monk to address the legislative assembly led to a criminal case being filed against him – met the holy man in question in Chandigarh on Wednesday morning in Chandigarh to apologise for any offence he might have caused to him and the Jain community.

The monk, Muni Tarun Sagar, told Dadlani and reporters present that he held nothing against the musician. He also urged those who have filed cases against Dadlani to withdraw their complaints.

One particular complainant, however, is not convinced.

Muni Tarun Sagar was invited to speak at the opening of the Haryana assembly monsoon session. Delivering his “kadve vachan”, the monk, who in keeping with ascetic tradition of his faith wears no clothes, addressed a range of topics, from female foeticide to terrorism. This was the first event of its kind in the Vidhan Sabha.

Politics must always follow dharma, the monk had said, using the metaphor of a wife’s “duties” and “subservience” to her husband. “Rajniti par dharam ka ankush zaroori hai. Dharam pati hai, rajneeti patni. Har pati ki yeh duty hoti hai apni patni ko samrakshan de. Har patni ka dharam hota hai ki woh pati ke anushasan ko sweekar kare. Agar rajneeti par dharam ka ankush na ho toh woh magan-mast haathi ki tarah… ho jaati hai” (The control of dharma over politics is essential. Dharma is the husband, politics is the wife. It is the duty of every husband to protect his wife. It is the duty of every wife to accept the discipline of her husband. If there is no control of dharma over politics, it will be like an elephant out of control), Indian Express quoted him as saying.

The nature of his comments, as well as the fact that a religious leader had been asked to speak in the assembly, drew criticism from various quarters. Dadlani, who was a member of the Aam Aadmi Party at the time, was among those who took to social media to express his outrage, saying that religion and politics must be kept separate and that this was not “achhe din” but “kachhe din“, playing on the Hindi word for underwear. He also questioned the monk’s comments on women and said his educational level was the same as his clothes – none.

After realising that these tweets were hurting the sentiments of some Jains, Dadlani apologised and deleted them. He also quit the AAP after party leader Arvind Kejriwal distanced himself from the tweets. But he stuck to his poi...

19:08

EU to Target Islamist Militants by Widening its Sanctions Regime The Wire

A European Union flag is waved over a statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill as demonstrators protest during a "March for Europe" against the Brexit vote result earlier in the year, in rLondon, Britain, September 3, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Luke MacGregor

An EU flag is waved over a statue of former prime minister Winston Churchill as demonstrators protest during a ‘March for Europe’ against the Brexit vote result earlier in the year, in London, Britain, September 3, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Luke MacGregor

Brussels: The EU agreed on Tuesday to freeze assets of Islamist militants and their financial backers even if they are not on UN blacklists, an initiative advanced by France after deadly attacks in Paris, Brussels and Nice.

Until now, EU rules allowed only for sanctions on individuals and companies targeted by the UN. EU governments could act individually. There was no EU-wide policy.

No one was put under sanctions on Tuesday, but the new rules will allow the EU to target militants who have planned or taken part in attacks, as well as those who finance or arm militant groups such as ISIS and al Qaida and those who seek to recruit more members.

Foreign nationals suspected of fighting for or supporting Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq will also now be put under Europe-wide travel bans, barring them from entry to the bloc.

EU nationals will also be hit with asset freezes, although they cannot be blocked from returning home and governments have promised to arrest and prosecute them.

French, German, Belgian and British citizens have joined insurgent forces in Syria and Iraq and some returning volunteers took part in the November attacks in Paris and those in Brussels in March. ISIS claimed responsibility for those as well as the attack in Nice in July.

“Such measures will target particularly the so-called foreign fighters,” the European Council of EU governments said in a statement. “The EU will be able to list any person who meets the criteria, including EU nationals who have supported these organisations outside the EU and who then return.”

While the number of European foreign fighters is difficult to track, a Dutch study showed in April that more than 4,200 Europeans had gone to fight in Syria’s civil war, of whom 30% had since returned and 14% were confirmed dead.

The post EU to Target Islamist Militants by Widening its Sanctions Regime appeared first on...

18:45

US Attack in Syria Opens Disturbing and Unpredictable Scenarios Strategic Culture Foundation

We have been seeing in Syria in recent days more and more direct involvement in the conflict by Turkey, Israel and the United States. Air raids, bombing and ground troops, albeit in limited numbers, reveal dissatisfaction and evident frustration by these nations hostile to Damascus...

18:43

Congo: Death Toll Hits 44 in Anti-Kabila Unrest The Wire

Congolese opposition supporters chant slogans during a march to press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, September 19, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Kenny Katombe

Congolese opposition supporters chant slogans during a march to press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa, September 19, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Kenny Katombe

Kinshasa: At least 44 people – including 37 demonstrators and six police officers – have been killed in protests over Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s perceived bid to extend his rule, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

The unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo started on Monday after its election commission decided to try to postpone the next presidential vote, due in November.

Kabila’s opponents say the proposed delay is a manoeuvre to keep him in power although ruling party politicians deny this. Kabila is barred constitutionally from running for a third term and his allies say he will respect the constitution.

With the disturbances forcing schools to close and halting public transport in the sprawling riverside capital Kinshasa, the UN expressed fears the situation could worsen.

The US said Kabila’s government should have taken steps to defuse the violence and that it was prepared to impose sanctions targeting individuals involved in abuses.

French President Francoise Hollande blamed Congo authorities and urged them to respect the constitution and hold elections this year.

Adding to the mix of disapproval, Congo‘s influential Roman Catholic Church suspended its participation in talks over the timetable for the next elections and stressed that Kabila should not be a candidate when they are held.

Several people were killed overnight when security forces burned down the headquarters of the main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and attacked buildings of other opposition parties, according to Ida Sawyer, an Africa researcher for New York-based HRW.

Twenty people were killed in clashes on Monday and another 17 on Tuesday, “most [of them] when security forces fired on crowds of protesters”, Sawyer said.

“We’ve also received credible reports that protesters have killed at least six police officers and a [ruling party] PPRD supporter and they have also burned and looted several shops and police stations.”

Death toll disputed

Interior ministry spokesman Claude Pero Luwara said the death toll stood at 17 and that HRW’s statement was a “typical” exaggeration b...

18:29

Peru Brings Up Venezuelan Economic Crisis at UN, Venezuela Retaliates The Wire

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski addresses the UN General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US. September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Eduardo Munoz

Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski addresses the UN General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US. September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Eduardo Munoz

UN: Peru‘s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday he is concerned about what he called the critical economic situation in Venezuela, citing shortfalls of food and medicine, while Venezuela accused him of meddling.

The comments were the latest in a series of diplomatic blows to the OPEC-member country as it suffers through a major economic crisis with food supplies depleted and triple-digit inflation.

“It is unavoidable that I mention our concern for the very critical political, economic and social situation that our friendly nation of Venezuela is experiencing,” Kuczynski said in an official address to the annual gathering of world leaders.

Venezuela‘s representative to the UN, Rafael Ramirez, called Kuczynski’s comments “a gratuitous attack.”

“It was an unfortunate speech that shows that certain countries continue to interfere in our internal affairs,” Ramirez said.

Venezuela‘s President Nicolas Maduro will not travel to New York for the General Assembly this week, with Venezuela represented instead by foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez.

Venezuela‘s opposition failed to draw large numbers on Friday in its latest protests against Maduro and the national election board delayed a decision on the next stage of a possible referendum on his socialist rule.

The opposition, which wants to unseat Maduro this year through a recall referendum, said his administration has cracked down on dissent by rounding up protesters and jailing high-profile figures, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

“Full-fledged democracy requires absolute respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as due process,” Kuczynski said. “It also requires the full guarantee of the respect of the separation of powers and checks and balances.”

Kuczynski, 77, is the political opposite of former bus driver and union organiser Maduro. The Peruvian leade...

17:55

Has JASTA Become the Deal Breaker in Saudi-US Relations? New Eastern Outlook

4523423423424The unanimous adoption of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) by the US House of Representatives on September 9 resulted in a massive diplomatic row between the US and Saudi Arabia.

For sure, this latest episode is not the first one in the history of the troubled relations of the two states that seem to be unable to overcome mutual mistrust that has been on the rise in recent years. The honeymoon period of the US-Saudi relations only lasted from 1945 to 1973, while the formula “oil for security” that was penned by the Saudi King Abdulaziz Al-Saud and President Roosevelt aboard the legendary USS Quincy actually worked.

The bilateral relations suffered a major blow for the first time during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, when Saudi Arabia acted as a mastermind behind the embargo that prevented Western states from getting Middle Eastern oil deliveries. This resulted in an oil crisis in the West and inflicted an extensive amount of damage to the US oil interests and virtually buried the strategic cooperation between the two countries. Yet, the ties were gradually rebuilt, largely due to the fact that CIA operatives took an active part in the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi military occupation back in 1990.

At some point it seemed that this topic would never be revisited again by both Washington and Riyadh, since the official investigation found no ties between Saudi officials and the Al-Qaeda. Soon the headlines were screaming “invasion” as Washington decided it was time to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq back in 2003. It goes without saying that Saudi Arabia was eager to support Washington in this military adventure. Then, the so-called “Arab Spring” erupted in the region, leading to the collapse of a number of Middle Eastern states. It seemed that the events of 9/11 would never be brought to light again.

However, this does not mean that the ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States were effectively repaired, as new crises awaited the alliance that was almost a century old. As Washington withdrew from Iraq in 2011 and started discussions with Teheran about the fate of its nuclear program Riyadh couldn’t help but feel betrayed. It was as if Washington tried to distance itself from Saudi Arabia, willing to choose Tehran over Riyadh for playing the role of a regional gendarme.

Yet, Riyadh had no intention of facing the Islamic Revolutionary titan on its own, since the latter has always has way more combat-capable forces while remaining in possession of a comparable natural wealth, especially in terms of oil and gas. In fears that such a turn can take place, Riyadh decided that it must find a way to sway Washington in its favor. For this purpose Riyadh signed two arms shipment contr...

17:45

Modi Chairs Cabinet Meeting to Discuss Uri Attack As Army Foils Two Infiltration Bids The Wire

The Indian Army stopped two infiltration attempts from across the border in Kashmir on Tuesday with security personnel killing ten terrorists.

Army personnel in action inside the Army Brigade camp during a terror attack in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday. Credit: PTI

Army personnel in action inside the Army Brigade camp during a terror attack in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday. Credit: PTI

The Union Cabinet, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is holding a meeting on Wednesday, three days after 18 soldiers were killed in a militant attack on an Army camp in north Kashmir’s Uri town.

The Cabinet Committee on Security also held a meeting to review the situation arising out of the attack. Union home minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley and defence minister Manohar Parrikar attended the meeting.

Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi has also held detailed discussions with top officials from various security forces, police and intelligence agencies and has reviewed the security situation across the Valley.

Army foils infiltration bids

Just days after the attack in Uri, two infiltration bids were made from across the border in Kashmir on Tuesday. Even as Pakistani troops violated ceasefire and fired at Indian positions, the Indian Army foiled the infiltration bids in an encounter in which ten terrorists and a soldier were killed.

According to an army spokesman in Srinagar, the infiltration bids from across the Line of Control had been foiled in Uri and Nowgam sectors on Tuesday. The spokesman, however, declined to comment on the number of militants killed in the operations that followed, PTI reports. Army sources in Delhi revealed that ten terrorists were killed in the encounter with the army in the Uri sector.

Internal angle

Army investigators are also considering the possibility of the Pakistani militants being guided to the attack site by someone familiar with the layout of the 12 Infantry Brigade headquarters and the exact location of troops.

According to sources, the militants were even aware of the location of the office and residence of the brigade commander, Indian Express reports.

The focus of the investigation is also on the route from Sukhdar – a small settlement of about 500 people about four kilometres from the brigade headquarters – which may have been used by the militants to enter Uri.

Sources said the terrorists first breached the Line of Control fencing and then the main fencing of the brigade headquarters, which have led the investigators to consider an internal angle in the Uri attack.

“It is very difficult to sneak inside the brigade headquarters becaus...

17:30

Rights Activist Khurram Parvez Remains in Police Custody Despite Court Order The Wire

During the court proceedings, it was revealed that many illegalities had occurred in the process of the activist’s arrest and detention.

khurram-parvez-759
Hours after a sessions court ordered the release of human rights activist Khurram Parvez who was arrested from Srinagar by the Jammu and Kashmir police on September 16 – a couple of days after he was prevented by immigration authorities at Delhi airport from leaving for Geneva to attend a United National Human Rights Commission session – he continued to be in police custody.

The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), of which Parvez is the program coordinator, decried his “continued detention” against “his will”. Although the detention order was set aside late on September 20 evening, JKCCS said the police did not release Parvez. The group also said that at around 2 a.m. on September 21 Parvez was taken by the Ram Munshi Bagh police station personnel from the Kupwara police station to Kothi Bagh police station, Srinagar, but the grounds of his continued detention were not explained.

What stood out was that the court proceedings revealed that a number of illegalities were committed in the manner of arrest and detention of the rights activist. These were pointed out before Rashid Ali Dhar, the principal district and sessions judge, Srinagar, who set aside the detention order of executive magistrate Amin Najar Najar after the latter admitted that he had not seen Parvez personally or issued a showcause for a bail bond, which was required by law.

According to JKCCS, “multiple police illegalities” were pointed out. It said there was “no service of show cause notice. The allegations were not read out or provided to him. No enquiry into the veracity of the allegations. In addition, as submitted by lawyers from the Bar Association and JKCCS, Khurram Parvez was not even brought before the magistrate. At no point was he offered any legal assistance”.

During the proceedings in the court when the sessions judge asked the magistrate to respond to the submission of Parvez’s lawyers, who claimed that the detention was “illegal” and that no showcause notice was served to him for a bail bond, as required under Section 107 of the CrPC, the magistrate said he had nothing to say.

Dhar is then reported to have reprimanded him saying: “Do you know under which section a showcause notice has to be prepared? When did you get the judicial powers?” Najar, a naib tehsildar, said he had passed the order to send Parvez to a jail in Kupwara as the activist “could not produce a guarantor or the personal bond”.

Najar also said that he was told that since Parvez had lost a leg in a landmine blast a decade ago and who walks with a prosthetic leg, he was in a police jeep. Najar further said that he had sent out his orderly to ask Parvez if he was accompanied by someone who could seek bail for him, to which the latter replied that he had no one with him. To this the sessions judge asked if attempts were made to contact Parvez’s family. At this the executive magistrate pleaded...

17:28

Iraq Launches Operation to Regain Town Near Mosul From ISIS The Wire

A still image from video shows ISIS militants battling to maintain control around Mosul, Iraq August 16, 2016. Credit: Amaq News Agency via Reuters TV/ File Photo

A still image from video shows ISIS militants battling to maintain control around Mosul, Iraq August 16, 2016. Credit: Amaq News Agency via Reuters TV/ File Photo

Tikrit: Iraqi forces launched an operation on Tuesday to retake the northern town of Shirqat from ISIS, a stepping stone in their campaign to recapture the jihadists’ stronghold of Mosul before the end of the year.

Shirqat, which lies on the Tigris River 100 km south of Mosul, has been surrounded by Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias allied to the government.

Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to be trapped there. Officials have warned for months of a humanitarian disaster inside, where residents living under ISIS‘s harsh rule say food supplies have dwindled and prices soared.

Iraqi troops, backed by local police and Sunni Muslim tribal fighters, took up positions along five axes on Tuesday and advanced through five villages but by midday were still around 13 km from the town centre, said the mayor and a source in the Salahuddin Operations Command, which oversees military operations in the area.

They said there was little resistance so far, aside from some bombs planted along the road. State media said the security forces had disabled several car bombs and snipers.

Television footage of an airstrike near a residential compound south of Shirqat showed plumes of light grey smoke emanating from a sparsely populated valley.

Iraqi forces are also moving to retake two areas in the western province of Anbar, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in an televised message from New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly.

“These operations pave the way for cleansing every inch of Iraqi land and God willing, its end will be the liberation of Mosul city, … the liberation of all Iraqi lands and the end of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

He has pledged repeatedly to retake Mosul ...

17:21

Brazil: Former President Lula to Stand Trial on Graft Charges The Wire

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrives at a news conference with international media in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 28, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrives at a news conference with international media in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 28, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

Sao Paulo: Brazil’s Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will stand trial on corruption charges, a crusading federal judge ruled on Tuesday, adding more turbulence to the country’s political landscape.

Judge Sergio Moro said that Lula, who served as president from 2003-11 and has for two decades been an iconic and powerful political force in Brazil, will face charges of accepting 3.7 million Brazilian reais ($1.14 million) in bribes connected to a sweeping kickback probe at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Moro wrote in his ruling that according to the prosecutors’ charges, Lula was a “direct beneficiary” of bribes from OAS SA, one of the engineering and construction firms at the centre of the graft scandal, and therefore must stand trial.

The corruption case will also put on trial Lula‘s wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva; OAS Chief Executive Jose Aldemario “Leo” Pinheiro; Paulo Okamotto, the president of the Lula Institute, and four others.

In an emailed note late on Tuesday, Lula‘s lawyers again said their client had committed no crime and labelled Moro as a “impartial” judge who was on a witch hunt to see the former leader jailed.

Lula, speaking via video link, told an event held by his lawyers in New York that the charges were a “farce.”

“What’s happening isn’t getting me down, but just motivates me to go out and talk more,” said Lula, adding that he “will keep fighting.”

Tuesday’s events capped an incredibly choppy few weeks for Brazil.

Lula‘s hand-chosen successor Dilma Rousseff was found guilty by the Senate of breaking budget rules and dismissed from the presidency late last month.

Her successor, former vice president Michel Temer, has abruptly pulled the country to the political and economic right, and is trying to boost Brazil out of its worst economic recession since the 1930s.

Moro’s decision may prevent Lula from making a political comeback in t...

16:51

Mulayam Appoints Amar Singh as Samajwadi Party General Secretary The Wire

NEW DELHI/INDIA, November 16, 2008 -Amar Singh, Member of Parliament and General Secretary, India,, speaks during a plenary session on the political landscape at the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2008 in New Delhi, 16-18 November 2008. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Amar Singh in a file photo. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: In a decision that may be seen as yet another snub to son Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav yesterday appointed Amar Singh as the national general secretary of the party, almost six years after he was removed from the same post, as well as the party.

“You have been appointed general secretary of [the] Samajwadi Party (SP). I hope in the coming days you will strengthen the party in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections,” Mulayam said in a handwritten letter to Singh.

The brief letter in Hindi, signed by Mulayam on his Lok Sabha letterhead, was sent to the media from state SP chief Shivpal Yadav’s official e-mail address.

Once the public face of the party, Singh was seen as Mulayam’s closest aide. However, Singh along with his close associate Jaya Prada were expelled from the Samajwadi Party in February, 2010.

Subsequently, Singh had floated his own political party, Rashtriya Lok Manch in 2011. He fielded a large number of candidates in 2012 assembly polls but no one won.

Singh had joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal and contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll from Fatehpur Sikri but lost. He was re-inducted into the party and made Rajya Sabha member only a few months ago.

Yesterday’s decision may be seen as another snub to Akhilesh. Akhilesh, who had stripped minister Shivpal of key portfolios, had to restore all but one of those ministries. He also had to bring back one minister whom he had sacked.

Akhilesh also had to “accept” Shivpal as the party’s state unit chief, a post to which his uncle had been appointed replacing him.

It was only yesterday that Shivpal asserted his power by expelling the party functionaries considered close to Akhilesh.

With the decision on Amar Singh, Mulayam has sent a message to Akhilesh and cousin Ram Gopal that Singh is important for the party.

Though SP big wigs were strongly against Singh, often described as an “outsider”, Mulayam threw his weight behind him, first by making him a Rajya Sabha member some time ago and now allotting him an important party post.

Interestingly, during the feud between Mulayam’s brother Shivpal and son Akhilesh, Singh was seen as the one who had engineered it.

Akhilesh, while apparently referring to Singh, had recently said that “people from outside the household” keep interfering in the SP’s affairs.

Mulayam’s cousin Ram Gopal Yadav had also made a veiled attack on Singh during the feud, saying they have no love for the party and hence are creating trouble.

Commenting on that Singh had said, “Akhilesh is like a son and Mulayam like a brother.

The post...

16:15

How the US is Portraying NY Bomb Suspect: Jihadist; in Awe of Bin Laden, al-Awlaki The Wire

A still image captured from a video from WABC television shows a conscious man believed to be New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami being loaded into an ambulance after a shoot-out with police in Linden, New Jersey, U.S., September 19, 2016. Credit: WABC-TV via Reuters

A still image captured from a video from WABC television shows a conscious man believed to be New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami being loaded into an ambulance after a shoot-out with police in Linden, New Jersey, US, September 19, 2016. Credit: WABC-TV via Reuters

New York: Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged the Afghan-born man suspected of weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey with 10 counts including use of weapons of mass destruction, portraying him as a jihadist who begged for martyrdom and praised Osama bin Laden.

The suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, bought bomb components on eBay, made a video of himself testing out homemade explosives, and kept a journal expressing outrage at the US “slaughter” of Mujahideen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Palestine, federal officials allege.

“Inshallah (God willing), the sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death to your oppression,” Rahami, who came to the US at age 7, wrote in a journal he was carrying when arrested.

Rahami was apprehended on Monday in Linden, New Jersey, after a shootout with police that left him with multiple gunshot wounds. He was listed in critical but stable condition on Tuesday, and police had not yet been able to interview him in depth, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.Federal prosecutors from separate districts in New York and New Jersey charged him with four and six counts respectively.

In addition to leaving the bomb that exploded on Saturday evening in the Manhattan district of Chelsea that wounded 31 people, they allege he planted a pipe bomb on the New Jersey shore that injured no one when it exploded on Saturday morning.

He also is accused of planting another pressure-cooker bomb in Chelsea that failed to explode, and multiple devices at a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of those exploded as a bomb squad robot attempted to defuse it.

The charging documents and accompanying sworn statements from FBI agents offer the first official explanation of what they believe to be the bomber’s motive.

As the charges were made public, the White House for the first time said it appeared the attacks were an act of terrorism. Earlier in the i...

16:03

Blame Game Continues: US Says Russian Aircraft Hit Syrian Aid Convoy The Wire

Damaged Red Cross and Red Crescent medical supplies lie inside a warehouse after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Ammar Abdullah

Damaged Red Cross and Red Crescent medical supplies lie inside a warehouse after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

UN/Beirut: US believes two Russian aircraft attacked an aid convoy near Aleppo in a strike that shattered a one-week truce, US officials said on Tuesday, but Russia denied involvement.

Despite the military blame game over Monday’s deadly attack, diplomats struggled to save the US-Russian ceasefire agreement that took effect on Septemebr 12.

The incident, in which 18 trucks from a 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed, looked likely to deal a death blow to diplomatic efforts to halt a civil war now in its sixth year.

Two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes were in the skies above the aid convoy at the exact time it was struck late on Monday, two US officials told Reuters, citing US intelligence that led them to conclude Russia was to blame.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman denied the assertion, telling reporters at the UN, the US administration “has no facts” to support the claim, adding: “We have nothing to do with this situation.”

Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser, said the White House held Russia responsible for what he called an “enormous humanitarian tragedy” but he did not address whether the attack was carried out by Russian aircraft.

Earlier Russia, which denied its aircraft or those of its Syrian government allies were involved, had said it believed the convoy was not struck from the air at all but had caught fire because of some incident on the ground.

The Syrian Red Crescent said the head of one of its local offices and “around 20 civilians” had been killed, although other death tolls differed. The attack prompted the UN to suspend all aid shipments into Syria.

Senior officials from 23 nations emer...

16:00

A Glimpse of 19th Century Indian Elite Through the Lens of Raja Deen Dayal The Wire

A new gallery at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts will showcase the master’s photographs of lifestyles of the rich and royal in British India.

Reception room at Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad. Photo: Raja Deen Dayal

Reception room at Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad. Credit: Raja Deen Dayal

Raja Deen Dayal (1844-1905) will always be remembered for capturing unforgettable memories of the splendours of the lifestyles of the Rajas and the Burra Sahibs of 19th century India through the lens of his camera. And to frame these images of luxe and grandeur, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) this month opened a permanent gallery to showcase the works of the celebrated 19th century photographer. The gallery is located in two rooms of the upper basement level of the mammoth, red sandstone IGNCA building on New Delhi’s Mansingh Road; entry to the gallery will be free.

Raja Deen Dayal

Raja Deen Dayal

The 20 large format digital prints showing palace interiors, impressive monuments, portraits, hunters’ trophies on display are a treat for the eyes. There are two glass-plate negatives with their special mystique on view too. The recreation of a studio set with its behemoth of a camera has immense potential as a display area. The photos evoke a period as nothing else can.

While this attempt to highlight the institution’s treasures of early photographs is to be appreciated, the display merely whets the appetite, offering only a glimpse of the riches that IGNCA holds in its reserve collection. Since 1989, the cultural archives of the IGNCA have held in its inventory, 2,857 glass plate negatives, 200 studio prints done in Deen Dayal’s and his heirs’ time, to say nothing of studio registers, certificates and letters of recommendation, cameras, lenses, a range of studio props and furniture. In short, IGNCA holds an invaluable archive of India’s early photographic history.

Given the cachet Deen Dayal’s work enjoys today, not only for its artistic merit, but also as a source material for the social history of 19th century India and given its particular importance to scholars of photography, the display merely titillates and in the end leaves the serious viewer dissatisfied. The arrangement of the objects on display appears somewhat makeshift, as if the curator and the exhibition designer were working under budgetary constraints. The low-ceilinged rooms do little to focus on the magnificence of imagery that Deen Dayal sought to evoke. A thought should be given to the lighting. One wishes that the objects could have been shown with a little mo...

15:32

500 Test Matches… and a Heap of Mediocrity The Wire

A stroll through the statistics of India’s performances over history.

The Indian test team following their match against West Indies in August. Credit: BCCI

The Indian test team following their match against West Indies in August. Credit: BCCI

India goes into its 500th Test match tomorrow against a combative but not frightening New Zealand XI. The national expectation is that Virat Kohli and his lads will win, making it India’s 130th Test victory. A cooperative pitch is expected to play its part: it’s not called “home advantage” for nothing. In Indian cricket at least, ‘atithi devo bhavah‘ – the Upanishadic principle that says the guest is God – is blithely ignored. It’s more like ‘Ashwin devo bhavah’, in homage to India’s sharpest spin bowler.

India’s being at number one in the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings from November 2009 to August 2011 has led the younger generation of fans to be starry-eyed about their team in Tests. The team was briefly number one again in January, February and August of this year; and but for last month’s foul weather in Port of Spain – and the fouler drainage at the ground – it would still be at the top. India currently sits in second place, a point behind Pakistan, and would return to pole position if it beats New Zealand in the forthcoming series.

Recent Test performances should not blind us to the truth that India has historically been a mediocre, and often poor, Test side. It has a better head-to-head record against only four out of the nine other Test-playing countries. Two of those are Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, teams largely undeserving of their Test status. Sri Lanka and New Zealand are the other sides against which India has prevailed more often than it has lost; but of those two, the Kiwis have the worst overall win percentage – 20.68%  – of any major Test team, so they don’t provide a basis for a boast. And Sri Lanka’s total win percentage against all sides is actually better than that of India. So while India is superior head-to-head, the islanders fare better on average, against everyone else, than India does.

The point of this short piece, therefore, is an appeal for modesty. Let us not thump our chests in the modern Indian manner, but remember that for long stretches of its Test history, India has been a soft opponent. Its overall percentage of victories is a mere 25.95%, the second-worst among the major Test nations (comprising England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). Only New Zealand has a poorer record. Australia has won a dazzling 47.20% (or nearly half) of its Tests and every other team has won a third, or thereabouts. India wins only one match in four.

We need a word, here, about the West Indies, and the manner in which its recent decline has inflated India’s Test record. The two have played each other in 94 Tests since 1948, of which the West Indies has won 30 and India 18 (with the rest drawn). But a whopping 11 of those Indian wins have come after 2002, the last time the West Indies won a Test series against India. Put aside the single Test India won in...

15:30

Muslims in Europe: Can There be Social Harmony? The Wire

Muslims in Europe have a regular battle with ethnic profiling, violence, discrimination, Islamophobia and xenophobia; and become instruments for conflicts.

A demonstrator holds up a sign reading "I'm Muslim don't panic" during a protest against Islamophobia in front of the Brussels' Justice Palace October 26, 2014. Credit: Francois Lenoir/ Reuters

A demonstrator holds up a sign reading “I’m Muslim don’t panic” during a protest against Islamophobia in front of the Brussels’ Justice Palace October 26, 2014. Credit: Francois Lenoir/ Reuters

Rome: Although 20 million Muslims reside in western Europe, establishing social harmony between the Muslim community and their European counterparts has proved exceedingly challenging. Much to the dismay of international humanitarian agencies and anti-racism activists, the language of exclusion and prejudice persists.

Since the turn of the century, Muslims, the world over, have been subjected to harsh discrimination and harassment. This was triggered by the 2001 terror attacks which rapidly spread anti-Islamic sentiments across the US. The fear surrounding Muslims and the “brute terror” they are widely thought to inflict, has now resulted in the widespread diffusion of religious racism across Europe.

Prior to the extremist-led terror attacks, there was a relative lack of concern for minority groups in Europe. Now, the growth in animosity directed at the Muslim community is increasing at a robust rate.

The modern phenomenon of Islamophobia can be related to leading literary critic, Edward Said’s, theory of “orientalism” wherein Arabs and other Muslims were traditionally labelled as the “other.” In other words, the scapegoat for Western society’s ills. This also draws back to the 19th-century theorist Arthur de Gobineau’s description of an age-old “reciprocal repulsion” between Muslims and Europeans.

Across Europe, Muslims continue to be the victims of ethnic profiling, violence and discrimination.

Nowadays, we can see these “archaic” racist doctrines emerge and re-establish themselves in a modern context, through sustained racism against Arabs and Muslims which may be characterised as none other than “Contemporary European Phobic Discourse”.

In France, the 20th-century writings of political theorist Charles Maurras are still prevalent today. Maurras was instrumental in setting up the movement “Action Française”, whose primary objective was the restoration of the French nation through the presence of a strong monarchy powered by Catholicism.

Maurras’s xenophobic rhetoric targeted Jews and Mediterranean foreigners amongst a host of other minorities. His writings have acted as a major ‘intellectual’ influence of contemporary far-right movements including the French National Front.

The rise of far-right movements in France is particularly perilous to the Muslim community, whose numbers now exceed 4 million. Muslims become the targets of these political movements, subjected to discrimination, assumed to be affiliated with extremist groups due to media manipulati...

15:30

Is India Prepared for a Cyber Attack? Suckfly And Other Past Responses Say No The Wire

From mandatory disclosures, to improving CERT-IN’s functioning and transparency, there is much to be done in the event of future cyber attacks.

India's cyber infrastructure has been found wanting. Credit: Reuters

India’s cyber infrastructure has been found wanting. Credit: Reuters

In early September, details about India’s top secret Scorpene submarine program were published online. This presumed data breach brought the issue of cyber security into the headlines.

However, earlier this year, news of potentially catastrophic breaches of Indian networks barely made a blip. On May 17, the cyber-security firm Symantec stated in a blog post that it had traced breaches of several Indian organisations to a cyber-espionage group called Suckfly. The targeted systems belonged to the central government, a large financial institution, a vendor to the largest stock exchange and an e-commerce company. The espionage activity began in April 2014 and continued through 2015, Symantec said. Based on the targets that were penetrated, Symantec speculated that the espionage was targeted at the economic infrastructure of India. Such allegations should be ringing alarm bells inside the government and amongst private businesses across the country. And yet, from the official public response, one would think nothing was amiss.

A week later, another cyber-security firm, Kaspersky Lab, announced that it too had tracked at least one cyberespionage group, called Danti, that had penetrated Indian government systems through India’s diplomatic entities.

Breaches of corporate and government networks are nothing new. Usually, these breaches come to light if the perpetrators reveal the attack, the target of the attack discloses the breach, or because the leaked data shows...

15:26

Watch: Ramachandra Guha Discusses His New Book ‘Democrats and Dissenters’ The Wire

The book is a collection of essays on topics ranging from India’s relation with its neighbours, to issues of democracy and violence within the country.

Guha.

Ramchandra Guha.

Omair Ahmad, Books Editor at The Wire, interviews historian Ramachandra Guha about his new book, Democrats and Dissenters. The book, published by Penguin Books India, is a collection of essays on topics ranging from India’s relation with its neighbours to issues of democracy and violence within the country. It also analyses the work of public intellectuals such as Amartya Sen and Eric Hobbswam.

Guha and Ahmad briefly discuss different themes in the book such as some unique aspects of the Indian nation, challenges to tribal and minority rights, and flaws within the Indian legal framework. Guha’s last book, Patriots and Partisans, was also a collection of essays published in 2012. His other notable works include India After Gandhi and Makers of Modern India.

The post Watch: Ramachandra Guha Discusses His New Book ‘Democrats and Dissenters’ appeared first on The Wire.

14:50

UN Suspends Syria Aid Convoys After Hit The Wire

Damaged aid trucks are pictured after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters

Damaged aid trucks are pictured after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters

Geneva: The UN suspended aid convoys across Syria on Tuesday a day after an air strike hit relief trucks near the city of Aleppo, killing at least one aid worker and around 20 civilians, and destroying a warehouse and hospital.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which said it was postponing an aid convoy that had been set to deliver supplies to four besieged Syrian towns, warned of the consequences for millions of civilians in need.

“As an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being pending further assessment of the security situation,” Jens Laerke, UN humanitarian aid spokesman, told a news briefing in Geneva.

“However we remain committed to stay and deliver to everybody in need in Syria,” he added.

A Syrian or Russian aircraft struck an aid convoy near Aleppo on Monday, a war monitor reported, as the Syrian military declared a one-week truce over.

The confirmed death toll on Tuesday stood at one Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) staff member and “around 20 civilians”, the SARC and Red Cross said in a joint statement.

“If this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien said in a statement calling for an immediate and independent investigation.

The UN had just received permission from the Syrian government to deliver aid to all besieged areas in the country, Laerke said. All parties, including Russia and the US, had been notified about the cleared convoy heading to rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

“Yesterday’s attack is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and it is unacceptable,” Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC said in a statement. “Failing to protect humanitarian workers and structures might have serious repercussions on ongoing humanitarian work in the country, hence depriving millions of people of aid essential to their survival.”

Convoys stalled

Aid convoys for four Syrian towns will be postponed as staff reassess security after the deadly attack on relief trucks and intensified violence, a senior ICRC official said earlier.

“This is very worrying. We see a resumption of violence, an intensification of fighting in many locations,” Robert Mardini, ICRC director for the Middle East and North Africa, told Reuters in Geneva.

“We had something planned in the four towns, but for now it is put on hold to reassess the security conditions,” he said, referring to rebel-besieged Foua and Kefraya in Idlib and government-bloc...

14:45

Will Russia Surrender? Strategic Culture Foundation

The Russian government’s sincere and diligent effort to prevent chaos in Syria and additional massive refugee flow into Europe, all the while avoiding conflict with Washington and its vassals, has been brought to an end by Washington’s intentional attack on a known Syrian army position, thus wrecking the cease fire agreement that Russia sacrificed so much to achieve.

14:33

Baltic States: Three Mice, a Horse and a Serpent New Eastern Outlook

34234123123123I had a heated discussion with a woman of Lithuanian descent the other day on the subject of the ‘Russian threat’ to her country of origin, where she has friends and family. She claimed the Baltic countries are desperate to be spared another Russian takeover like the one that happened in 1939, only ending in 1991 as part of the events that led to the implosion of the Soviet Union.

When I asked her what Russia could possible gain from the addition of three countries whose total real estate, 67,574 mi², together constitute scarcely 1% of that of Russia’s 6.602 million mi², she claimed that the Baltic states had Baltic Sea oil. When I pointed out that Russia has more oil than almost any country in the world, as well access to the Black Sea at Kaliningrad, and that it also has the ability to prospect in the Arctic, she claimed that the Baltic countries were ahead of Russia in terms of high tech. Unable to cite a single example, she fell back on ‘Russia is massing troops on our borders.” When I pointed out that this was a perfectly legitimate response to the massing of NATO troops on Russia’s border, she refused to listen, continuing to repeat that Russia ‘threatens’ her country.

Curious as to whether history could account for such blindness, I went to Wikipedia, where I learned that the origins of the Baltic peoples are very mixed, while its history involved Sweden, Germany and Poland and Belarus. After the 1939 Molotov/Ribbentrop pact divided Europe into spheres of influence, the Baltic countries were invaded by the Russian army and re-baptized as Soviet Socialist Republics, in which the predominantly independent farming population resisted collectivization.

This is where the story gets really interesting: When Hitler took over the Baltic states as part of its invasion of the Soviet Union, similar to the takeover of the Ukraine, the populations of all these countries believed the Germans would free them from Soviet domination and agree to their independence. All were sorely disappointed. Both the Soviet Union and Germany practiced deportations and mass killings. and the latter re-occupied the Baltics in 1944, under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement In 1989, the Baltic states initiated a series of events that would be repeated in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria and culminating in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Twenty-five years later, it’s difficult to see any grounds for Baltic fear of a Russian takeover, given the Russian government’s ever closer cooperation with China in just about every area of significance, including the One Belt One Road project that is linking the Pacific with Europe via Central Asia. I believe the Baltics are crying wolf because they want to finally be considered part of Europe (aka the West), not to mention the attraction of NATO funding and materiel. The idea that these three tiny countries have anything to offer Russia is ludicrous, while Russia, on the other hand, is acutely aware of the role they played in the past, together with Poland Belarus and Ukraine, as transit routes into its territory.

...

14:30

Collidoscope: Of Segmented Markets, Intimate Relationships and War The Wire

This week’s selection from the world of social science research.

Credit: Alice/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Credit: Alice/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A friend once told me about a fascination for kaleidoscopes that she never outgrew. She collects them even today – and it isn’t hard to understand why. There’s something very cool about one thing looking so different, just with a slight shake of the hand.

Looking at things from different perspectives is also a lot of what social science does, then bringing them together in conversations and debates. Collidoscope is The Wire‘s new weekly newsletter on social science research, bringing together different views and ways of understanding and analysing society. Every Wednesday at 10 am, you can receive a curated update on who-is-saying-what in the world of social science research by subscribing here.

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Malawi’s internal borders

A local market in Malawi. Credit: IFPRI Images/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A local market in Malawi. Credit: IFPRI Images/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Do ethnically diverse societies fare worse on the growth front than those which are homogeneous? And if so, what could that possibly have to do with the price of corn?

There have been efforts to explain the relation between diversity and development before, and find causal links – macroeconomic policy distortions, not enough public goods and so on. In an article in World Development, ‘Internal Borders: Ethnic-Based Market Segmentation in Malawi’, Amanda Lea Robinson has a different suggestion.

Using Malawi as a case study, Robinson argues that markets and the way they function have a lot to do with this – ethnic segregation and intra-ethnicity trust mean that inter-ethnic trading is reduced, leading to segmentation and agricultural markets that run on ethnic lines. Through the supply chain all the way to the final buyer, ethnic differences govern how markets function, she writes.

Research in the past has suggested that markets within ethnically-diverse Malawi are poorly integrated and that the lack of intra-ethnic trust is one of the reasons this happens. To add to this, Robinson suggests that the patterns of markets segmentation are at least partly because of the geographical distribution of different ethnic groups....

14:30

Will India Choose to Stop Maldives’ Slide Back to Authoritarianism? The Wire

The deteriorating political and human rights situation under the Yameen government has drawn censure from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, but thus far, India has remained silent on the issue.

Maldives president Abdulla Yameen. Credit: Maldives President's office

Maldives president, Abdulla Yameen. Credit: Maldives President’s office

As world leaders gather this week in New York for the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will also meet on the sidelines to discuss democracy and human rights standards in the Maldives. The oversight body, tasked with addressing serious or persistent violations of Commonwealth political values, will meet for the third time this year – a rare feat in its institutional history.

The spiralling political turmoil and deteriorating human rights situation in the Maldives had pushed the CMAG to convene an extraordinary meeting in February this year. The ministers expressed their concern about the shrinking political space available to the opposition, the detention and custody of political leaders, separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. In its concluding statement, the CMAG added six priority areas for urgent action in order to restore the country’s democratic credentials. After another meeting in April to review its recommendations, the CMAG expressed its disappointment and concerns regarding the lack of progress. Since then, the situation in the archipelago nation has steadily worsened.

To begin with, President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has banned opposition political parties from using public grounds to hold meetings. To further disempower them, on August 27, the Majlis — where the president’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) commands a floor majority — passed an amendment to the Political Parties Act that required fingerprint re-registration for all party members. In an archipelago, this presents a herculean challenge. It takes 3000 registrations to form a political party and 10,000 members for a party to avail the state sanctioned funds for political parties. The government is yet to disburse these funds, making it extremely difficult for political parties to reach out to their constituencies. In fact, the number of political parties in the country has reduced drastically from 16 to six. Interestingly, the PPM is exempt from fingerprint...

12:50

China’s First Space Station Will Crash to Earth Amid Rumours of Failure The Wire

People who have been following Tiangong-1’s progress have said that China had lost control of it after some kind of failure onboard. China hasn’t been clear with what the failure was.

The Long March 2 G/F rocket that carried Tiangong-1 into orbit on September 29, 2011. Credit: China Manned Space Engineering Office

The Long March 2 G/F rocket that carried Tiangong-1 into orbit on September 29, 2011. Credit: China Manned Space Engineering Office

China’s Tiangong-1 space station is likely to come crashing through Earths’ atmosphere in 2017.

A Chinese official from the country’s manned space engineering division said that the space station, launched in 2011, had “comprehensively fulfilled its historic mission” and that it’d been expected to come back down in the second half of 2017. However, people who have been following Tiangong-1’s progress have said that China had lost control of it after some kind of failure onboard.

China hasn’t been clear with what the failure was. This is in keeping with the country laying claim to having become a ‘space superpower’ after the station’s launch in 2011. ‘Tiangong’ means ‘heavenly palace’. It was visited by Chinese astronauts in 2012 and 2013.

In late 2015, China said it had stopped performing experiments with the space station amid speculations that they had lost their ability to communicate with the module.

In the third week of September this year, China had launched the Tiangong-2, the successor to the Tiangong-1. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, had speculated on Twitter that once the successor came online, the Tiangong-1 would be dumped in the southern Pacific Ocean.

However, after today’s announcement, McDowell also told the Guardian that Tiangong-1 would come down “naturally”. The article also reported that some parts of the station were too dense to become completely burnt through the atmosphere and would survive until they crashed on the surface.

Where exactly the parts might come down is impossible to say without knowing where they begin to reenter the atmosphere and the weather conditions in those areas.

As part of its Tiangong space station program, China arims to have a full-fledged space station in orbit around Earth in the 2020s. To this end, the Tiangong-2 module will be joined by a Tiangong-3 module in 2022.

The post China’s First Space Station Will Crash to Earth Amid Rumours of Failur...

11:53

Washington’s Gross Negligence or Deliberate Provocation? New Eastern Outlook

345234234234On September 17, 2016, air force of the US-led western coalition bombed Syrian army positions near the town of Deir ez-Zor along the Syrian-Iraqi border region. Four combat F-16 and A-10 aircraft carried out the air raid, in direct violation of the latest fragile cease-fire agreement between Damascus and the armed opposition. The aerial assault claimed the lives of 62 Syrian soldiers, leaving some 100 soldiers and civilians injured. The US Defense Department said that a “miscalculation” was to be blamed for the tragedy. The Pentagon also alleged that he Americans had been sure that they were launching strikes against ISIS forces (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia).

To start with, the US administration would be greatly satisfied if the Syrian peace process comes to a halt. This is because they strongly disagree with the prospects of Bashar al Assad remaining in power, participating in the activities of the transitional government and, subsequently, taking part in the restoration of the Syrian state.

Secondly, it would also be in the US interests for the government troops deployed in Deir ez-Zor to become emasculated. If that happens, the Americans will maintain control over the ISIS-infested area along the Syrian-Iraqi border, where ISIS militants are expected to soon be replaced by the forces of the so-called “moderate opposition.”

The third reason why the US launched an airstrike on September 17 was to make sure that Syria remains split into several enclaves, and that the country’s central government in Damascus, which controls the regions densely populated by Alawite Arabs, would be securely isolated from the rest of the country.

Fourthly, by launching an assault, Americans were trying to divert public attention from the real crisis spot of the Syrian conflict and the humanitarian disaster in Aleppo and the adjacent areas.

This is not the first act of state terrorism committed by Washington against Syrian government troops. Previously, the US Air Force and their allies had “erroneously” bombed Syrian military and civilian facilities, killing military personnel and civilians and destroying the country’s infrastructure. It is precisely due to such “mistakes” that today, the majority of Syrian towns are lying in ruins.

US allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and Turkey, were quick to adopt the unruly behavior of their “big brother” and senior NATO bloc partner. For...

11:30

Northeast Dispatch: Pests Create Havoc in Assam’s Cropland; Amit Shah Blows the Poll Bugle in Manipur The Wire

A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.

mukul-sangma-pti-image

Mukul Sangma. Credit: PTI

Meghalaya: BJP ally moves no confidence motion against Congress government

Two days before the Congress lost Arunachal Pradesh to the People’s Party of Arunachal – an ally of its archrival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the party’s government was to face a no-confidence motion in yet another northeastern state – Meghalaya.

The motion, slated by Speaker Abu Taher Mondal for September 15, was moved on September 12 by another ally of BJP’s North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) – the National Peoples’ Party (NPP) – jointly with Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and United Democratic Party. Yet another no confidence motion against the speaker was slated for September 16.

Not that a united opposition could have won the motion against the Mukul Sangma government, which has the support of 30 of his party MLAs besides the 11 independent and two Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislators in the 60-member state assembly.

On September 15, after a six-hour long heated debate in the assembly – of which two hours were taken by Sangma to address the house – the opposition withdrew the motion.

The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim commented in an article published the same day, “Before bringing a ‘No Confidence Motion’, the combined opposition should have shared with the public who they have in mind as the alternative leader and what is the plan of action of that new dispensation. But what we see is an opposition going to battle without the ammunition required to take the battle to its logical end.” She termed both the motions as a “waste of time”. A combined opposition has only 13 legislators in the house.

Later, speaking to the media, the HSPDP chief Ardent M. Basaiawmoit said, the party’s intention was not to oust the government, but to draw its attention through the motion to debate on some “burning issues” concerning people. He said that the opposition “succeeded in its plan”. The issues raised by the opposition parties in the discussion were regarding the rising rate of crime against women and children.

Sangma has lately been facing open opposition not just from the rival parties, but also from within Congress. It became more prominent after he fielded his wife Dikkanchi D. Shira as the party candidate in the Tura parliamentary by-election in August. The election, warranted by the demise of the sitting MP Purno A. Sangma, was won by his son and NPP candidate Conrad Sangma. Former chief ministers D.D. Lapang and Salseng C. Marak allegedly teamed together to lead a reported “rebellion” against Sangma’s “dictatorial style of functioning”. Four-time chief minister Lapang, also the state Congress president, was replaced by Sangma mid-term in 2010.

On September 15, Lapang, now the chief adviser to the government, spoke against the motion,...

07:00

A Momentous Decision About Ukraine: The Suicide of the IMF Strategic Culture Foundation

The International Monetary Fund was perched on a precarious branch that has now been cut down out from under them. The IMF Executive Board met in Washington on the evening of Sept. 14. The biggest issue on their agenda was whether to approve a $1 billion loan disbursement to Ukraine. And they did. Except for the director representing Russia on that board, who voted against the payout...

03:35

A ‘wave of violence’ that never actually ends +972 Magazine

When the Israeli media talks about the latest ‘wave of violence,’ it leaves out the five unarmed Palestinians who were shot to death by soldiers and police officers in the past few months.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack at Herod's Gate in Jerusalem, September 19, 2016. A Palestinian stabbed two Police officers before being shot by police. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack at Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem, September 19, 2016. A Palestinian stabbed two Police officers before being shot by police. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The newspaper headlines over the past few days leave no room for doubt regarding what has been happening here lately. “Terror returns,” read Yedioth Ahronoth‘s headline on Sunday, while Haaretz and Ma’ariv ran similar headlines on Tuesday morning.

[tmwinpost]

Indeed the last few days have been full of stabbing and vehicle-ramming attacks by Palestinians in Jerusalem and Hebron, the vast majority of them directed at soldiers and police officers, rather than citizens. The recent wave of violence has not claimed any Israeli lives, but it has left six of the attackers dead. Five police officers and soldiers were wounded, one of them severely.

If we put aside the recent attacks on Israelis, it is clear that this “wave” never actually ended. Only two weeks ago did Israeli police officers shoot and kill Mustafa Nimr, a Palestinian who was traveling by car in Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. At first the police claimed Nimr and his cousin, who was driving, had attempted to run them over. Very quickly, however, it became clear that this was patently false, and that the officers continued to shoot at the car even after it had come to a complete stop. A little over a week later soldier shot Iyad Hamed near the West Bank village of Silwad. Here, too, soldiers alleged Hamed had shot at them, although it later became clear that he was unarmed and posed no threat, and was possibly shot in the back.

In mid-July Border Police officers shot and killed Anwar a-Salaime in the village A-Ram, as he sat in his car. The police argued that he had attempted to run them over, although video footage clearly shows that the...

00:14

How Israel is turning one Arab party into a security threat +972 Magazine

Balad isn’t the first political party in Israel to be suspected of violating campaign finance laws. But it is the first one to have its members arrested in overnight, commando-style raids.

Joint Arab List members Jamal Zahalka (L), Haneen Zoabi (R) and Basel Ghattas at the weekly Joint List meeting in the Knesset, February 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Joint Arab List members Jamal Zahalka (L), Haneen Zoabi (R) and Basel Ghattas at the weekly Joint List meeting in the Knesset, February 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There are two possible ways to describe the dramatic, highly-publicized arrest of dozens of activists and senior members of the Balad party earlier this week:

“The police opened a wide spreads investigation against Balad over suspicions of fraudulently transferring millions of shekels to the party’s coffers during the 2013 elections.”

[tmwinpost]

Or: “In an overnight operation security focus raided the homes of dozens of Palestinians, arresting them for pro-Palestinian activism.”

Most Hebrew-language media outlets that reported on the story chose a variation on the first headline. In my eyes, however, the second headline is far more accurate for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I have no idea how Balad’s election fundraising campaign functioned, whether in 2013 or in general. As a supporter of the party, I want to believe that nothing illegal was done. However, what I do know for a fact is that there is hardly a single party in Israel that was not been suspected or convicted of violating Israel’s campaign finance law. I am also sure that the members of these parties were not arrested in the middle of the night, as if in a top-secret commando operation. Not even when suspicions were far greater and more severe — not even when the suspects were high-level officials. This isn’t the “language” in which Israel functions in the political-civil sphere. In Israel, night raids and arrests are a “natural” response to security threats.

It’s no coincidence, of course: the State of Israel has for years attempted to remove Balad from the political arena and turn the party into a security threat. Lacking the desire or even the ability to deal with the kind of discourse Balad promotes — perhaps the only party that has consistently presented a detailed vision for a real democratic future for this country — Israel prefers to turn it into a threat....

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