Monday, February 8, 2016

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Daesh Strapped for Cash Thanks to Russian Airstrikes, Expert Tells Sputnik

Daesh, also known as Islamic State, and its army of murderers is depleting by the day, after a series of airstrikes on its oil fields have left the extremist group short of cash to pay its members.

A Middle East expert has claimed that Daesh fighters are defecting en masse to avoid facing another pay cut. 
"They're in big trouble," Vera Mironova, an international security scholar told the Mirror in an interview. 
She added that Daesh's "for-profit militants" were now thought to be joining rival militias and terror groups in Iraq and Syria.
Daesh — which boasts between 19,000 and 25,000 fighters- has been left almost broke after airstrikes carried out by Russia and a western coalition have severely damaged the oil fields and facilities that provide most of the terror organization's funding.  
A video released by Russian intelligence operatives in December 2015, seemed to show that most of the Daesh-sourced oil was sold to Turkey at a reduced price on the black market. Turkish officials subsequently denied the allegations.
An undated still image taken from a video made available by the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia December 2, 2015, shows the Turkish-Syrian border crossing. Russia's Defense Ministry officials displayed satellite images on Wednesday which they said showed columns of tanker trucks loading with oil at installations controlled by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and then crossing the border into neighboring Turkey.
An undated still image taken from a video made available by the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia December 2, 2015, shows the Turkish-Syrian border crossing. Russia's Defense Ministry officials displayed satellite images on Wednesday which they said showed columns of tanker trucks loading with oil at installations controlled by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and then crossing the border into neighboring Turkey.
Kamal Alam, a Syrian military analyst and a fellow at think-tank RUSI, told Sputnik that most of the credit for cash-strapping Daesh should go to the Russian air force.
"It is mainly Russian airstrikes, together with attacks carried out by the Syrian army, that focused on the oil fields," Mr Alam told Sputnik.
"Western and Arab countries' attacks were more focused on attacking the group's military apparatus."
Mr Alam agreed with the notion that Daesh fighters are probably joining other, richer extremist groups that are not being targeted by the airstrikes and which, he said, "are often funded by wealthy backers from the Arab Gulf countries and western powers."
Furthermore, Mr Alam underlined that, while the attacks are certainly taking a toll on Daesh's main source of cash, the group's coffers are still relatively full. 
"It [Daesh] is by no means 'poor', right now," Mr Alam told Sputnik. 

More importantly, its current predicament might make the evil death cult all the more belligerent. 

Even if Daesh simply decided to merge with another militant group to join forces (and finances), it is more likely that they will still "fight to take its oil back," Mr Alam said..
Alternatively, the terrorists could try and make up for the oil losses by diversifying their economic activities.
"They could try to get the money from other sources. Like from kidnappings, drug smuggling, sex trafficking. They'll just find another way to make money," Mr Alam told Sputnik.

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Saudis committing war crimes in Yemen: Analyst

Press TV has conducted an interview with Edward Corrigan, an international human rights lawyer, about Saudi Arabia’s relentless airstrikes against Yemen and the reaction of international organizations to the humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Arab country.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Let’s not forget that human rights organizations are slowly waking up to the humanitarian catastrophe that’s in the making in Yemen, specifically, let’s not forget, Doctors Without Borders, whose own installations have been targeted by the Saudis. Where do you see this headed though?
Corrigan: Well, obviously there’s rising international interest. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross actually for a long time has been talking about the sort of siege of Yemen and the fact that they’ve cut off food and there’s a risk of many thousands of Yemeni children starving to death.
So, this is like a form of collective punishment against the civilians of Yemen, and clearly constitutes a war crime. There was a major report prepared recently for the Security Council that documents all sorts of human rights complaints, and the fact that Saudi Arabia has been bombing mosques and bombing schools, has been bombing infrastructure and markets. In fact, they even bombed the Iranian embassy to Yemen.
So, you have a massive attack on Yemenis’ infrastructure. About 80 percent of the people who have been killed are of course civilians. And this is of course an illegal attack and an act of aggression against Yemen targeting the people of Yemen and trying to bring them back under the control of the previous ousted president.
But it’s more complicated. Saudi Arabia seems to be trying to set itself up as the defender of Sunni Islam and to attack the Shias within the Arab community. And I think they’re concocting sort of... There is a rivalry obvious between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but Saudi Arabia is taking it to the next level and saying that ‘Iran is a threat to all the Arabs, all the Sunnis have to rally around the Saudis to defend the Sunnis.’ But this is really, I think, a pretext and a game that they’re playing to mask themselves as the protectors of Sunni Islam as a way of legitimating the regime and of course they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting their own rather extreme view of Sunni Islam – Wahhabism.
Press TV: No matter what excuse Saudi Arabia gives for its aggression against Yemen, it doesn’t justify the targeting of hospitals and civilian infrastructure etc etc, and also we’ve seen evidence of cluster ammunitions being used.
Corrigan: That’s right. Cluster ammunitions are basically a prohibited weapon. And the American government has sold them to Saudi Arabia and they’re being used against civilian populations in Yemen. They’re very dangerous weapon, they quite often don’t explode; so, they’re left lying around for kids to pick up later and the kids of course get killed or have their limbs blown off. So, this is... multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity piled on top of each other.
Now, the Secretary General Moon has strongly condemned the Saudis for this, but it remains to be seen if the Security Council is actually going to take the steps forward to strengthen the resolve and actually technically maybe even militarily intervene into the conflict. But with the ties that Britain has to the Saudis, the amount of money that... Britain is now the largest arms supplier to the Saudis. And of course, the Americans see themselves... the Saudis basically as their allies and usually do what the Americans want, even though it’s a dangerous game, because the Saudis of course are just supporting al-Qaeda, even ISIS and all these radical Islamic groups, which are being used as a weapon to try to destroy Syria. And also there’s a pressure cooker for the whole area, so it is bound to explode.
A few years ago, this wasn’t a Sunni-Shia thing, but obviously it’s about the Saudis wanting to control and destabilize the area and maintain their own dominance.

How can Muslim countries revive interest in the sciences?

Jim Al-Khalili

Muslim governments know that economic growth, military power, and national security benefit greatly from technological advances. Many of them have sharply increased funding for science and education in recent years. And yet, in the view of many – especially in the West – the Muslim world still seems to prefer to remain disengaged from modern science.

These skeptics are not entirely wrong. Muslim-majority countries spend, on average, less than 0.5% of their GDP on research and development, compared with five times that in the advanced economies. They also have fewer than ten scientists, engineers, and technicians per thousand residents, compared to the global average of 40 – and 140 in the developed world. And even these figures tend to understate the problem, which is less about spending money or employing researchers than about the basic quality of the science being produced.
Its Only Possible if Saudi Arabia stops spreading wahabism in poor Muslims countries and stop opening Wahabi Madrassacorrupt elite in poor Muslim countries hands over Education to Bedouin Saudiswho open mosque & Mad-Rassakeep the population in dark.

To be sure, one should not be overly hasty in singling out Muslim countries for criticism; even in the supposedly “enlightened” West, an alarmingly high proportion of the population regards science with suspicion or fear. And yet, in many parts of the Muslim world, science faces a unique challenge; it is seen as a secular – if not atheist – Western construct.

Too many Muslims have forgotten – or never learned about – the brilliant scientific contributions made by Islamic scholars a thousand years ago. They do not regard modern science as indifferent or neutral with respect to Islamic teaching. Indeed, some prominent Islamic writers have even argued that scientific disciplines such as cosmology actually undermine the Islamic belief system. According to the Muslim philosopher Osman Bakar, science comes under attack on the grounds that it “seeks to explain natural phenomena without recourse to spiritual or metaphysical causes, but rather in terms of natural or material causes alone.”

Bakar is of course entirely correct. Seeking to explain natural phenomena without recourse to metaphysics is exactly what science is about. But it is difficult to think of a better defense of it than the one offered almost exactly 1,000 years ago by the 11th-century Persian Muslim polymath Abu Rayhan al-Birūni. “It is knowledge, in general, which is pursued solely by man, and which is pursued for the sake of knowledge itself, because its acquisition is truly delightful, and is unlike the pleasures desirable from other pursuits,” al-Birūni wrote. “For the good cannot be brought forth, and evil cannot be avoided, except by knowledge.”

Fortunately, a growing number of Muslims today would agree. And, given the tension and polarization between the Islamic world and the West, it is not surprising that many feel indignant when accused of being culturally or intellectually unequipped for competitiveness in science and technology. Indeed, that is why governments across the Muslim world are increasing their R&D budgets sharply.

But throwing money at the problem is no panacea. Scientists do require adequate financing, of course, but competing globally requires more than just the latest shiny equipment. The entire infrastructure of the research environment needs to be addressed. That means not only ensuring that laboratory technicians understand how to use and maintain the equipment, but also – and far more important – nurturing the intellectual freedom, skepticism, and courage to ask heterodox questions on which scientific progress depends.

If the Muslim world is to become a center of innovation again, it is useful to recall the Islamic “golden age” that stretched from the eighth century well into the fifteenth. For example, the year 2021 will mark a millennium since the publication of Ibn al-Haytham’s Book of Optics, one of the most important texts in the history of science. Written more than 600 years before the birth of Isaac Newton, al-Haytham’s work is widely regarded as one of the earliest examples of the modern scientific method.

Among the most famous of this era’s intellectual epicenters was Baghdad’s House of Wisdom, at the time the largest repository of books in the world. Historians may bicker over whether such an academy truly existed and what function it served; but such arguments are less relevant than the symbolic power it still holds in the Islamic world.

When Gulf state leaders talk about their multi-billion-dollar visions of creating a new House of Wisdom, they are not concerned about whether the original was just a modest library that a caliph inherited from his father. They want to reanimate the spirit of free inquiry that has been lost in Islamic culture and that urgently needs to be recovered.

To achieve that, daunting challenges remain to be overcome. Many countries devote an unusually large share of research funding toward military technology, a phenomenon driven more by geopolitics and the unfolding tragedies in the Middle East than by a thirst for pure knowledge. The brightest young scientists and engineers in Syria have more pressing matters on their minds than basic research and innovation. And few in the Arab world are likely to view advances in Iranian nuclear technology with the same equanimity as developments in Malaysia’s software industry.

But it is nonetheless important to recognize how much Muslim countries could contribute to humankind by nurturing once again the spirit of curiosity that drives scientific inquiry – whether to marvel at divine creation or just to try to understand why things are the way they are.

Chinese make another US acquisition: Chicago Stock Exchange

A Chinese- led investor group is buying the Chicago Stock Exchange, also known as CHX,to eventually list Chinese companies on it, and also may use CHX's technology and modelto start an equities exchange where it is based in China, according to the CEO andchairman of the 134-year-old bourse.John Kerin also told Reuters that under the new ownership, the exchangewould have thefunding for efforts like revamping its listings program."They like our strategy, and theywant us to continue to execute on it," he said in an interview.
The investor consortium led by Chongqing-based Casin Enterprise Group said on Feb 5 itwill acquire the exchange, which handles about 0.5 percent of the average daily tradingvolume in the US. It would be the first purchase of a US exchange by investors from China, but not to aforeign entity. A unit of Germany's Deutsche Boerse AG acquired the InternationalSecurities Exchange in 2007. Bloomberg reported that the deal values the exchange at less than $100 million, accordingto a person familiar with the matter, who asked to not be identified because the terms werenot disclosed publicly. The exchange said the deal is expected to close in the second half of the year, and willrequire the approval of the US Securities and Exchange Commission.The acquisition also might be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in theUnited States (CFIUS), which has jurisdiction to examine an acquisition of a US businessthat will result in foreign control. CFIUS is only interested when the transaction raisesnational security or critical infrastructure concerns.
"It is possible that CFIUS could be interested in this transaction because financial servicescan be considered part of the critical infrastructure of the US," Laura Fraedrich of JonesDay in Washington told China Daily. "However, given the very small percentage of the USmarket that this exchange represents, CFIUS may determine that it can be comfortableclearing the deal, especially since it is a highly-regulated industry and those regulationswill continue in place regardless of the owner."
Joe Saluzzi, co-head of trading at Themis Trading and author of Broken Markets, said thedeal may raise security concerns."Does foreign ownership open up any potential for information leakage to someone whocan take advantage of it? As an investor, I would raise an eyebrow," Saluzzi told CNNMoney. "As long as the information is secure, I don't have any problem with it."Anne Salladin of Stroock&Stroock&Lavan LLP said that she would be "very surprised ifCFIUS did not have an interest in taking a look at this deal."
The CHX acquisition came in a week that saw two major purchases by Chinese companies:the $1.6 billion purchase announced on Feb 4 by Beijing Enterprise Holdings for Germanwaste-management company Energy from Waste, and the $43 billion deal on Feb 3 byChina National Chemical Corp for Switzerland-based seed and pesticide maker SyngentaAG, the biggest foreign acquisition ever by China. Syngenta said last week it would file itplans with CIFIUS. Founded in 1997, privately held Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group has interests in realestate, infrastructure, financial services and environmental protection. Casin Group has821 employees with operations in Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and other locations.
"We have reviewed CHX's plans to improve market share through new growth initiativesand fully support them.Together, we have a unique opportunity to help develop financial markets in China overthe longer term and to bring exciting Chinese growth companies to US investors," ShengjuLu, Casin Group founder and chairman said in a statement.
The investor group intends to preserve CHX's current business operations and proprietarytrading platform, andKerin would remain as CEO and chairman.With locations in Chicago and New Jersey, the CHX is mainly used by market makers thatbuy and sell the most active exchange-traded funds and hedge their positions using futureson CME Group Inc's Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
The CHX, a subsidiary of CHX Holdings Inc, is minority-owned by a group includingE*Trade Financial Corp, Bank of America Corp, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JPMorganChase &Co, according to the company. The minority shareholders are also selling theirstake, Kerin said.

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All About Russia? Why Turkey, Saudi Arabia Consider Sending Troops to Syria

Turkey and Saudi Arabia could send ground forces to Syria in a bid to undo what Damascus-led forces, assisted by Russian warplanes, have managed to achieve in recent weeks at a time when the US-led anti-Daesh coalition desperately needs a major victory to present as a bargaining chip in the Geneva talks, journalist Andrey Polunin asserted.

"Time is working against the US-led coalition," he wrote for Svobodnaya Pressa. "The coalition needs to create an impression that the Syrian crisis was first and foremost resolved due to its efforts, particularly thanks to its strategy that involves changing the regime in Syria."
Polunin added that major stakeholders in the US-led coalition are pursuing their own agenda and fighting Daesh is not a priority for any of them. Turkey wants to tackle the Kurds since it views the ethnic group as the key threat to its security.
In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, an F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, as the U.S. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, launched its first airstrikes by Turkey-based F-16 fighter jets against Islamic State targets in Syria
In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, an F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, as the U.S. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, launched its first airstrikes by Turkey-based F-16 fighter jets against Islamic State targets in Syria
For its part, the US political and military establishment wants to "secure its leadership in the world." For this reason, "Washington wants to see the Assad regime gone. There should also be no visible signs of Russia's contribution to resolving the Syrian crisis. Then the US would be able to show who is the key peacemaker in the world," Polunin suggested.
President of the Middle East Forum think-tank Daniel Pipes echoed this sentiment by saying that "others have higher priorities than getting rid" of Daesh. This is the key reason why the terrorist group "has not been destroyed yet."
Many analysts are unconvinced that Turkey and Saudi Arabia will focus their efforts on tackling Daesh should they send their troops to Syria. Furthermore, the Syrian battlefield is already overcrowded and sending more troops will hardly pave the road to peace.
"The last thing Syria really needs is yet more forces and yet more fighting. What we really need to be pushing for is an end of the conflict," Director for the Council for Arab-British Understanding Chris Doyle told Radio Sputnik.

Yet peace does not seem to be on Turkey or Saudi Arabia's mind since the talks in Geneva were suspended last week just days after the formal peace process was launched – not at least due to Ankara and Riyadh's efforts.
"The pause in the Geneva talks is directly linked to the successes of the Russian-led coalition in Syria," Director of the Center for the Study of Strategic Trends Ivan Konovalov told Svobodnaya Pressa. After all, Damascus' victory means the rebels' loss. This in turn is a loss for Turkey and the oil kingdom since they have backed many of the militant groups, who are trying to overthrow al-Assad.
Polunin believes that recent developments "resemble 1945, when our 'allies' were trying to get to Berlin faster than Soviet forces to claim the victory over Nazi Germany as their own."

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Video - Damascus Steel: Putin, Bahrain king exchange gifts

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Khalifa at the Bocharov Ruchei presidential residence in Sochi. During the meeting the leaders exchanged gifts. Russian president presented the king with champion Akhal – Teke horse and received Damascus steel sword.

United Russia renews leadership, sees Communists as main competitors in upcoming elections

The latest convention of parliamentary majority party United Russia ended in staff rotation in its ruling bodies and the introduction of the first ever primaries procedure with which the politicians plan to beat leftists in the 2016 State Duma elections.
During the convention in Moscow over the past weekend, United Russia leader Dmitry Medvedev ordered urgent development of the program to be used at the forthcoming parliamentary elections, due in September. Members of the convention voted to set up a special commission for this purpose headed by Medvedev himself.
Major principles of the future program, outlined by United Russia leader at the congress demonstrate a shift from social-oriented policies successfully used by the party to gain popularity during the recent economic boom to pro-business steps and measures that would help to maintain social peace in times of the economic crisis. For this, United Russia launched a separate initiative group, or platform, within its ranks that would concentrate on support to various entrepreneurial initiatives.
Medvedev told the congress participants that he considered it appropriate for United Russia MPs to voluntarily refuse salary compensations they are entitled to because of the polls’ rescheduling for an earlier period. When the Russian parliament voted to move the date of the polls from December to September it also agreed that the state must compensate the lost three months of salaries of State Duma members who either refuse to run or lose their seats.
Medvedev noted that despite the fact that the State Duma voted against cancelation of this compensation, the voluntary refusal to receive it by United Russia members would greatly boost the party’s image.
At the same time, the head of the party commission for work with citizens’ addresses, Galina Karelova, promised to conduct a research into the results of implementation of previous social projects and include those of them that had not yet been implemented into United Russia’s new elections program.
Speaking before the congress, Medvedev strongly denounced any attempts to use the revision of current property rights in the elections rhetoric, saying that such extreme ideas could lead the nation to catastrophic times, similar to those that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
The congress also introduced one major novelty for the party – the primaries or “preliminary party voting” that would take place on May 22.
The United Russia chairman told his colleagues that the rotation of party leadership was very important and assured them that only the candidates who would secure strong popular support would represent the party in the September elections.
The changes came into effect right away – the voting held during the convention resulted in replacement of about a third of people in its top bodies – the Supreme Council and the General Council. The people who had to leave the ruling bodies included federal ministers, such as Education Minister Dmitry Livanov and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Khloponin. This step had been anticipated by analysts, who said the party was about to get rid of figures connected with the social sphere as in crisis times they are too likely to become easy targets for critics.
Medvedev also told the convention participants that it faced competition from all sides of political spectrum – the leftists who attacked any pro-business initiatives and the rightists who were ready to completely cancel all social spending and projects. However, the prime minister named the Communist Party o the Russian Federation (KPRF) as the main competitor at the forthcoming polls, due to the difficult situation in the economy and populist rhetoric that the leftists had already perfected.
The countermeasures suggested in Medvedev’s speech included counter-attacks on the Communist Party, detailing its own problems and laying out an “alternative agenda” that would counter leftist ideas.

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Lunar New Year | Hillary Clinton - Sending warmest wishes to everyone celebrating the Lunar New Year!

The gloves come off in the Democratic race


Ater cautious and civil sparring by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in their first New Hampshire encounter, they took off the gloves in their Democratic debate last week and defined the essential issues between them.
The first concerns health care. Mr. Sanders insists that the party should lead a popular "revolution" starting with truly universal health care run by the government. Ms. Clinton strenuously disagrees, arguing that so-called Obamacare should continue and be improved on an evolutionary basis through the private insurance industry.
"I don't want us to start over again," she said. "I think that would be a great mistake to once again plunge our country into a contentious debate about whether we should have and what kind of system we should have for health care. ... Let's go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do. A progressive is someone who makes progress. That's what I intend to do."
Mr. Sanders has said his approach would cover all Americans and would be cheaper for them, because the tax they would be obliged to pay for it would be much less than the high premiums extracted by the private insurers. Ms. Clinton has argued his way would be unworkable and never would get through a Congress potentially run by a Republican majority.
The second issue involves foreign policy. Ms. Clinton argues that her four years running the State Department under President Barack Obama demonstrates she has stronger experience than Mr. Sanders, who had little in 18 years in the House and Senate. Mr. Sanders counters that judgment counts for more, citing his vote against authorizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which she supported and now says was a "mistake."
These two sharp differences were forcefully and heatedly reiterated in the debate, as were the ways the candidates are financing their campaigns. Ms. Clinton has received millions from wealthy donors and corporate interests, and she uses a super PAC. Mr. Sanders has relied on small individual gifts averaging $27 that have surprisingly matched or exceeded her take.
To the point, Mr. Sanders in the debate said he does "not only talk the talk but walk the walk" as "the only candidate up here that does not have super PAC." But when he alluded to Ms. Clinton's heavy support from Wall Street, where he has vowed to "break up the banks," she quickly accused him of resorting to a "very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out," adding, "Let's talk about the issues that divide us."
Ms. Clinton complained that "there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to ... anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought. And I just absolutely reject that, senator." She added bitterly: "And I really don't think these attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. Enough is enough. If you've got something to say, say it directly."
Mr. Sanders replied by noting he had vowed that he would not make negative comments or advertisements against his opponent and had lived up to his word. But he did resume earlier questioning of Ms. Clinton's claiming to be a progressive after having said in one interview that she was a moderate.
As for her tapping Wall Street and other financial interests for big-dollar donations, Mr. Sanders observed generally that "there is a reason why these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system. It is undermining American democracy, and it is allowing Congress to represent wealthy campaign contributors and not the working families of this country."
The sharp personal turn in the Democratic debate, at least on Ms. Clinton's part, was probably predictable in light of the early polling lead Mr. Sanders held over Ms. Clinton in his neighboring state and the continuing doubts raised over her controversial use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Mr. Sanders also seemed to touch a sensitive nerve on Ms. Clinton's connections with Wall Street, judging from her spirited pushback that he was implying some quid pro quo in the huge campaign contributions. The issue is likely not to be dismissed merely by the ire Ms. Clinton expressed over it's being raised.

How Non-Americans View The US Presidential Election – OpEd

N. S. Venkataraman

It is universally accepted that US is the strongest country in the world from the point of view of economic strength and military muscle power. Everyone understands that any decision or act of the US government can influence world affairs in a positive manner or provide an adverse impact. In such circumstances, it is surprising that the present US presidential campaign is not evoking the type of interest among world citizens in the same manner that it did in past editions. Of course, the political observers around the world are watching the US presidential scenario with great keenness and interest, however, this does not seem to so in the case of world citizens.
Eight years ago when President Obama launched his presidential campaign, world citizens showed a huge interest in the process, wondering whether the US citizens would elect a person as President who was not a white candidate. The campaign style of Obama was also unique and he effectively created an impression that he would be a change leader, after all his campaign theme was Hope and Change. While Obama was elected overwhelmingly and the world opinion was in favor of the electoral verdict, the eight years of governance by the Obama administration have made people question whether he has really delivered what he promised.
When Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few months after being elected to the Presidential office — and even before he did anything tangible or impressive towards the cause of world peace — the selection committee for the Nobel Prize and Obama himself lost the shine a bit. Many thought the award of the Nobel Prize for Obama for world peace was a bit premature and the fact that Obama readily agreed to receive the prize made people suspect as to whether Obama really had introspected about his contribution to world peace and whether he was behaving like any other politician. Even today, many people think that if Obama had politely refused to accept the Nobel prize award, his stock would have gone up several fold and he would have lived up to the image that he had created for himself during the US presidential campaign. In any case, Obama made his choice and as a result lost a bit of shine.
As far as the world affairs are concerned, during the eight years of governance by Obama, it appears to the world that he has not done anything different or adopted a policy approach that was different from his predecessors. He sent his country’s troops — and persisted with military adventure — to different parts of the world just like several other US presidents before. As a result, the widespread view that American foreign policy has always been unprincipled and self-centered has persisted during Obama’s eight years of governance.
As the US is now heading for next Presidential election, the world citizens are finding themselves thinking that it does not make any difference to the world as to who will  be the next president, as the next president is unlikely to be dissimilar to the way that Obama and his predecessors have adopted policies when dealing with world affairs. As such, world citizens think that the US presidential elections may have no significance for them.
The perception is that past US governments — including the one led by Obama — have always given an impression that the US will conduct itself in dealing with other countries not on a basis of any fair principles or ethical values that the US governments have been proclaiming to follow. In the past, the commitment of the US government to democracy has not been seen to be practiced in world affairs. Even if practiced, it was very selective.
With the next president not likely to be much different from the past incumbents, the world is reconciled to whoever will be elected as the next US president. World citizens are only watching — and with no particular expectations.

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President Obama Holds a Bilateral Meeting with the President of Italy

President Obama will ask Congress for $1.8 billion to fight the Zika virus

President Obama plans to ask Congress for $1.8 billion to help fight the Zika virus. If approved, the emergency funds will be used to support mosquito control programs and vaccine research, as well as health services for pregnant women with low incomes. So far, only a dozen cases of Zika have appeared in the United States, and there's been only one known case of local transmission in Texas. However, additional funds will go to countries that are currently experiencing Zika outbreaks to help stop the spread of transmission.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been expanding rapidly throughout Brazil and nearby countries over the past year, and many are concerned the disease is to blame for the region's recent spike of microcephaly cases — a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head. No official link has been made between Zika and the birth defect, but the timing of the outbreak has coincided with more than 4,500 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil last year. That's up from the 150 cases the country usually sees annually.
Because of this, the World Health Organization labeled the outbreak as a "public health emergency of international concern." That label is meant to draw global attention to the problem. The WHO estimates that more than 4 million people in Central and South America could be infected with the virus by the end of the year if no intervention efforts are made.

Urdu Music - Zoe Viccaji & Strings "Bichra Yaar"

Pakistani Christian Father Tortured to Convert to Islam, Considers Suicide, but Refuse to convert

A Pakistani Christian man, a father of five, was reportedly threatened and psychologically tortured by Muslim coworkers who wanted him to convert to Islam, and even though he considered suicide, he refused to convert.
"They very often called me 'kafir', which means unfaithful, and they threatened me that they would resort to false accusations of blasphemy if I refused to convert to Islam," said Patras Hanif, the Pakistani man who was the victim of abuse, according to Fides News Agency.

Hanif, who worked at a construction site in Multan, in Punjab, faced violence and harassment from fellow workers who wanted him to abandon his Christian faith, which at one point even drove him to consider suicide.
The father turned to Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, however, who has taken on a number of persecution cases in the Muslim majority country.
"Extremism, hatred, motivated only by a different faith, preconceived hostility: this is the suffering Christians in Pakistan go through. Islamic extremist groups would like to eliminate Christianity and other religions," Gill said.
"This extremism is the cause of the exodus of religious minorities in Pakistan. Political leaders and Muslim religious leaders should publicly discourage these attitudes and start a more ambitious program of religious harmony, recalling that all citizens have equal rights and dignity," the lawyer added.
There have been several cases of violence and murder by Islamic mobs against Christians in the country over the past several months. Earlier this week, the son of a Pakistani Christian servant recalled the brutal beatings that his father endured at the hands of police in the town of Gujranwala, trying to get him to confess to a crime he didn't commit, which eventually led to his death.
Another Christian father in the town of Sialkot Tehsil in Punjab was shot to death by unknown gunmen in January, which prompted Christians to take the streets in protest against what is being investigated as a "terrorist attack."
"An investigation is under process and will be extremely vigorous. So far the motive of the killer is unknown, this may even have been a small scale terrorist attack. The police authority is committed to find the killer and we hope to have success as it happened in broad daylight," investigating officer Mohammed Masood told British Pakistani Christian Association officer Shamim Masih.
Women and girls have also been subjected to harassment and violence, particularly by Muslim men. Earlier in January a 17-year-old Christian girl was killed after she and her friends rejected the sexual advances of drunken Muslim men in Lahore, Defence Colony. The rejection caused the Muslim men to turn violent, and crash their car right into the girls.
"How dare you run away from us, Christian girls are only meant for one thing, the pleasure of Muslim men," one of the men reportedly said.



Headley’s confessions establish Islamabad’s lies
In his landmark deposition before an Indian court via videoconferencing, 26/11 plotter David Headley said little that wasn't already known or expected, but his testimony is important for two reasons. One, this is the first time in the history of Indian judiciary that a foreign national is deposing before an Indian court from foreign shores. A Pakistan-born American citizen, Headley was arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in October 2009, and in 2013, sentenced to 35 years in prison for his role in the Mumbai attacks that claimed six American lives among 166 others. India had repeatedly requested US authorities to extradite Headley but the request was denied on grounds of double jeopardy — Headley had already been tried and convicted once; punishing him again for the same crime violates the principles of jurisprudence. While one may view this as a limitation of the much-touted counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US, it is equally true that getting Headley to depose before an Indian court has been a significant achievement for Indian authorities. Though a hardened and high-profile terrorist, Headley is still a US citizen and, importantly, a prize witness for US prosecutors. The plea deal that he has with US authorities allows him a host of protections and privileges. He turned an approver before the Indian law some two month ago.
The second issue here is of the content of Headley's testimony. Apart from explaining the working methods of his team and himself, he indicts the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, as the mastermind of 26/11. In fact, it was on the basis of Headley’s testimony that the US indicted in absentia a serving officer of the ISI, known only as Major Iqbal, delineating the extent of the agency's involvement. The ISI of course, used the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, for operational purposes, but, as Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju observed, Headley's statement is the final nail in the coffin of Pakistan’s ‘non-state actor' or the ‘rogue official' excuse.

The question now is: What does India do with the evidence at hand? The material clearly shows Pakistan's role but one has to be delusional to hope that the establishment there will take any action. Pakistan will merely reject all evidence as false, irrelevant or inadequate, as it has done for all these years and continues to do so — and as its latest stand on the Jaish-e-Mohammed's role in the Pathankot attack stands proof. India will continue to pursue diplomatic channels to pressure Pakistan but no immediate result is likely. Apart from the Pakistan factor, there are, however, a few other lessons that India and others can learn: First, counter-terrorism measures need to be improved across the board. Headley was a heroin addict and a drug-smuggler well-known to the authorities, before he turned to jihadi terrorism. He should have been apprehended much earlier in the day. Second, spy agencies working towards the same cause need to coordinate better. Headley and others were being tracked by the US, the UK and Indian agencies. Yet, due to inadequate information-sharing, no one connected the dots. Third, Headley visited India, from Pakistan, several times on a valid visa that was issued, shockingly, on the basis of incorrect information.

Flour Power: Outpouring Of Support For Pakistan's Aging Hercules

There’s been an outpouring of sympathy for Ghani Baba, the man who carries 100 kilograms of flour 1 kilometer on his back every day in Peshawar, Pakistan. What’s being done to help Ghani Baba?

Over 70 Percent People Appointed on Balochistan Domicile have Fake Certificates

Appointment of over 70 percent people on Balochistan domicile with fake certificates is further creating sense of deprivation among the educated people of the most backward province of the federation. These remarks were made by Senator Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar in a briefing of Senate’s Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Areas on Wednesday.
The committee was chaired by Senator Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar with the agenda of performance in the less-developed districts of FATA and also included problems of Balochistan and rural Sindh.

 Over 70 percent people appointed on Balochistan domicile have fake certificates and the government must check the practice. 

The chairman committee revealed, “Over 70 percent people appointed on Balochistan domicile have fake certificates and the government must check the practice as this act was further creating sense of deprivation among the educated people of the most backward province of the federation.”
“The government has planned to establish 50,000 Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) to enroll out of school children in rural parts of the country, especially less-developed areas of Balochistan, Sindh, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Southern Punjab.” Director General BECS informed
Ghulam Qadir Khan said that the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) of the Planning Commission has approved this project.
“An amount of Rs 1.73 billion was released to higher education institution of Balochistan while Rs 4.8 billion were released for Islamabad based higher educational institution.” A   committee member said
 The committee also urged authorities to increase Higher Education Commission scholarships quota for the Balochistan.
Concerns were expressed over very limited higher educational institutions in Balochistan and it was recommend that campuses of universities must be established in remote districts of Balochistan.
A Committee member said that only one student is enrolled against Balochistan quota in every department of Punjab University whereas at present two seats are reserved for the students of Balochistan. They asked the federal government to reserve four seats in every department of Punjab University.
The panel was further informed that the government has approved 600 scholarships of higher education for the students of Balochistan under the package of Aghaz-e-Haqooq Balochistan Package of which 400 scholarships are local whereas 200 scholarships are international. The HEC has already awarded 205 scholarships under the package of which 83 are international and 122 local.
 Usman Kakar directed the relevant quarters to issue notices to      Chairman Higher Education Commission, State Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training, over their absence and the matter should be taken up with the Chairman Senate, Mian Raza Rabbani.

Pakistan - Rs50($0.48)-a-day child laborer awaits miracle

Instead of going to school, Dawood has to go to auto-workshop to open it before the mechanic’s arrival early in the morning every day.
Dawood is like many other children who cannot afford to go to school due to poverty and various other reasons. 11-years-old, Abu Dawood has the same desires and dreams like other common children but the cruel poverty forced his parents to send him to auto-workshop for earning bread and butter for his family. Dawood wishes to be a doctor if he continues his studies.
He was not only tortured in his childhood but was also tolerating unethical statements from their senior mechanics whenever he committed a mistake. He works in a private automobile workshop in order to learn the techniques and methods of repairing cars. He belongs to Tahirabad town of Mingora city living in a two-room house with family on PKR 5000 (USD 50) rent.
Clad in dirty thin attire having marks of dirt on face, Dawood said “I refuse to my friends mostly on holiday when they plan to go outside for leisure due to financial constraints; I have four brothers and work 9 hours daily as a helper with my mentor (Mechanic) on Rs 50 per day wages, out of which I give 30 rupees at home for domestic expenditures with just 20 rupees left for my pocket money.” “Sometimes when my senior colleague Yasir slaps me when I do something wrong, I realize that school life is far better than working at auto-workshop”, he added.
Answering a question, he said “yes, I am willing to go to school if someone bears my admission fee and takes responsibility of my educational expenditures so that I can continue my education”, he said. Talking to The Nation, Sehar Khan, father of Dawood said, “Living life in today’s inflation and price hike is out of common man’s reach but they are still fighting to survive in harsh circumstances. I work as peon with a religious scholar on meagre 700 rupees daily wages as our expenses are far more than my earning.”
“Before deciding to send my child to workshop I asked him several times whether he wants to go to school or to work in automobile workshop he opted for the second option following which I sent him to workshop”, he admitted. Answering a question, he said, “I am waiting for a miracle if someone provides monthly stipend to my children, I will send them to school”, Khan stated. Another Hamza 13-years-old, working at a workshop said “I am eldest son of my parents having two younger brothers. Due to poverty, I quit my studies and started to learn how to fix damaged cars”, he added. “My father is a rickshaw driver. Getting free from workshop in the evening I drive rickshaw till late night to earn some extra money in order to give it to my father for domestic expenses, Hamza added.
“Every morning I came across my ex-classmates when they are going to school while I am heading towards auto-mobile workshop. I miss golden days of my life when I was a school kid”, he said.  According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) figures 3.3 million child labourers in the country while on the other hand many child right activists said that the figure has reached up to 3.6 million.When this correspondent contacted District Labour Department for official figures of child labour at Swat, interestingly they have no official data regarding the children who are working in auto mobile workshops.
Surprisingly District Labour Officer Sharif Ahmed said, “There is no child under the age of 14 years working in district Swat as child labourer”. When he was told that many children like Dawood and Hamza were working in different auto mobile workshops, he was speechless and said he will direct Labour Inspector to check it. Dr Jawad, Chairman Innovative Youth Forum said, “28 per cent children between the ages of 5 to 16 years were out of schools. Out of these 28 per cent, 70 per cent children have never entered the school.”
He said that in April 2015, 34664 children were enrolled in Swat schools in which 18456 kids left school due to poverty and lack of awareness”. In Mingora city 3670 kids were working in mechanical workshops, 670 kids are working in manufacturing industries and the reason behind it is poverty, non-conductive environment and lack of motivation, he added. He further said that there is no proper mode to engage these children in schools while in this connection Innovative youth Forum has engaged some child labourers in informal education, through which on every Sunday, around 160 children gathered in workshop and they have been motivated just to make them able to read and write.
“Due to child labour, 48 per cent children face sexual harassment, which is the major carrier for sexually transmitted diseases,” he said. “They also gets involved in negative activities like robbery, extortion, drug trafficking and militancy. Out of 19 suicide bombers, 7 were child labourers with no parenthood”, he said. Social activist Manzoor Kamal Khattak said, “We know that child labour is a serious crime in all over the world but in Pakistan child labour issue is looming large. There are two different reasons of child labour; one is poverty due to which father forces his child to work in auto-workshop and the second reason is that the child is sent outside to learn different types of labour skills like repairing auto-mobile, tyre shop, shoe polishing, etc., due to these two different reasons the child labour ratio has increased in Pakistan”, Kamal added. 
He further added, “The provincial government should conduct child labour survey in the province, only then actual figures will be revealed and affective laws can be devised.” According to Deputy Education Officer Swat Zulfiqar ul Mulk, “We are facilitating children who couldn’t pay the education fees due to poverty. In such circumstance, the government not only provided free of cost education along with textbooks but also allocated funds to such government schools where poor and needy children were admitted, We are also providing medical fund in government schools. If a child needs medical assistance and falls in the criteria, we provide medical facility to him but all this is possible when someone reaches us and fulfils the prescribe criteria”, he added. It is pertinent to mention here that due to lack of awareness in the society, the uneducated and people living life below poverty line do not know about their fundamental rights due to which they are unable to take appropriate decision.