Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire

China launches its first carbon dioxide monitoring satellite for studying climate change

Russian ambassador killing: Kremlin says the murder a provocation

‘Listening to the voices’: UK priest goes to Aleppo to ‘see what’s really going on’

Putin says sanctions harming fight against terrorism, hopes Germany attack will bring West closer

Vladimir Putin says that the rift created by anti-Russian sanctions is affecting cooperation in the battle against terrorism, while Russia’s foreign ministry says that recently introduced US sanctions “will not be left without reply.”
“All these restrictions in the economic and political spheres drive apart states, and prevent us from joining forces in combating a common evil – terrorism,” said the Russian President during a meeting with Russia’s top legislators in Moscow on Wednesday.

Joint anti-terrorism and drug-trafficking operations between Russia and NATO have been suspended since Crimea’s secession from Ukraine in 2014. Efforts to build an anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) coalition in Syria also suffered a high-profile collapse this autumn, though Moscow has discussed reviving the drive with the incoming White House administration.
“Unfortunately, the situation is not entirely in our hands. We hope that recent tragic events, including the attack in Germany, will prompt our partners to work more closely on this issue, which is important to all of us,” continued Putin, referring to Monday’s truck attack in Berlin that left 12 dead and dozens injured.
But relations with the US suffered a setback this week, when Washington announced a raft of new sanctions against individuals and state-connected companies, and two ships connected to Crimea on Tuesday. The Treasury said their aim was to “maintain pressure on Russia by sustaining the costs of its occupation of Crimea and disrupting the activities of those who support the violence and instability in Ukraine.”

“Instead of focusing on coordinating efforts to fend off the challenges of our age, chiefly extremism and terrorism, the White House continues looking for ways to ‘punish’ us by inflicting pain,”
 said a statement from the foreign ministry released on Wednesday.
A slew of top Russian public officials have vowed to respond.
“Washington should have learned a long time ago that these efforts are unpromising, and doomed to failure, and the new restrictions will not be left without reply.”
Without mentioning President-elect Donald Trump by name, the ministry appealed for the new administration to “drop the confrontational approach of the Administration of Barack Obama” and move to “practical steps to normalize bilateral relations.”
While the designated Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had argued in his previous private role as CEO of ExxonMobil that sanctions against Russia should be abandoned, the European Union, on Monday, extended its own anti-Russia sanctions up to July 31, 2017.

President Obama’s decision - '' Leaving the Arctic Alone ''

President Obama’s decision to forbid oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States waters in the Arctic is in itself a spectacular environmental gift, offering protection to what he accurately described as a “sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth.”
It also adds one more chapter, though probably not the last, to the administration’s eight-year record of rebalancing the scale between the conservation of natural resources and their exploitation. And it sharpens an already glaring contrast between Mr. Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, who on the basis of his cabinet appointments alone seems hellbent on reviving the “drill, baby, drill” sensibilities of the George W. Bush administration.
The White House announcement was coordinated with similar steps announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Neither announcement affects state-owned waters along the coasts, but together they will shield nearly all of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska from drilling.
Mr. Obama based his decision on a provision in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which governs oil and gas activities in federal waters. The provision gives a president unilateral authority to “withdraw from disposition” any unleased lands on the shelf. Despite Senator Ted Cruz’s complaint that this was simply one more “Obama abuse of power,” the provision, though rarely used, goes back as far as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who used it to protect the reefs off Key Largo, and has since been invoked by Democratic and Republican presidents alike. Mr. Obama previously used it to bar drilling in the rich fishing grounds of Alaska’s Bristol Bay and parts of the Bering Sea.
Echoing Mr. Cruz, the American Petroleum Institute denounced the decision as a threat to “our national security and vital, good-paying job opportunities.” Here again there was little grasp of history or reality. After spending $7 billion, suffering one farcical accident after another at sea and coming up mostly dry in the one hole it drilled, Shell Oil announced in September 2015 that it was shelving any further plans to drill on its remaining lease in the Chukchi Sea. That lease, and 42 leases in the Beaufort Sea that cover about 200,000 acres, will not be affected by the Obama announcement. But industry as a whole, chastened by Shell’s example, seems totally uninterested in the Arctic at a time when oil prices are falling and new discoveries are occurring in far less forbidding environments.
For good measure, Mr. Obama also announced a drilling ban in a string of deepwater canyons in the Atlantic stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia that are home to rare corals and many fish species. This, too, is consistent with the administration’s efforts over the years to protect delicate environments deemed too wild, or too precious, to exploit. Since 2009, Mr. Obama’s interior secretaries, first Ken Salazar and now Sally Jewell, have used various legal authorities to block drilling or mining near national parkland in Utah, around the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, in Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Front and near the Boundary Waters wilderness in Minnesota.
Whether Mr. Trump will seek to reverse these initiatives remains to be seen. It takes a certain set of values to put environmental protections over economic uses, and so far these values are not much in evidence in Mr. Trump or his designated administrators.


New York's attorney general is calling on the Obama administration to eliminate what he calls an "unconstitutional religious registry" that targets Muslims.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday that he sent a letter to President Obama asking him to rescind the regulatory framework of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System --before Donald Trump takes office.

"We can't risk giving President-elect Trump the tools to create an unconstitutional religious registry," Schneiderman said. "We can never allow our nation to return to the dark days of Japanese internment."

The NSEERS is a system for registering certain non-citizens within the United States - based on where they're from -- as part of the country's war on terrorism after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Registrants have to provide details about their plans during their visit.

"Despite registering more than 80,000 teenage boys and men, NSEERS failed to result in a single terrorism-related conviction," Schneiderman's office said in a news release. "More than 13,000 men who registered with NSEERS were placed in removal proceedings, leaving their families and communities devastated."

There are two parts to NSEERS - port of entry registration and domestic registration. Whether a person falls in each category depends on their originating country.

Colorful Hawaiian Fish Named in Honor of President Obama

Next time he's vacationing in Hawaii, President Barack Obama might just bump into his new namesake: a pink, yellow and blue coral-reef fish that researchers have named in the president's honor.
Researchers discovered the previously unknown fish species, now dubbed Tosanoides obama, during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in June 2016.
"We decided to name this fish after President Obama to recognize his efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment, including the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea," the study's lead author, Richard Pyle, a scientist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, said in a statement. "This expansion adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth." 
bama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on Aug. 26 after Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), along with conservationists and marine scientists, urged the president to protect the region's waters and marine life. The monument is now 582,578 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers), an area more than twice the size of Texas, that holds the title for largest permanent protected marine area on the planet. (The 598,000-squaremile, or 1.55 million square km, marine reserve in Antarctica's Ross Sea is larger, but that area is protected for only a 35-year period, Live Science reported in October.)
During a September trip to Midway Atoll, an island within the monument, Obama met with legendary scientist, conservationist and deep-ocean explorer Sylvia Earle, who gave the president a photograph of T. obama. The footage of the visit will be shown on the National Geographic global broadcast special, "Sea Of Hope," which will air Jan. 15, 2017.
T. obama is small, just 2.4 inches (6.1 centimeters) long, and it lives deep underwater, about 300 feet (90 meters) under the surface. Deep coral reefs grow at this depth, but despite the diversity of animals that live there, this so-called "twilight zone" isn't well-explored by marine biologists, the researchers said.
When scientists first spotted the small pink fish, they thought it was a Pseudanthias thompsoni (another tropical fish species), but a prominent red spot on the end of the animal's dorsal fin indicated that the fish was a previously unidentified species, the researchers wrote in the study.
A later analysis found that the fish belongs to the basslet group, which includes colorful reef fishes often seen in the aquarium fish trade. The fish's distinctive spot, seen on males, is blue around the edge (although it looks purple in the photo) with red and yellow stripes in the center.   
"The spot on the males is reminiscent of President Obama's campaign logo," said Pyle. "It seemed especially appropriate for a fish named in honor of the president."
The two other species in the genus Tosanoides live in the tropical northwestern Pacific Ocean, far away from the monument. [StarStruck: Species Named After Celebrities]
"The new fish is special because it is the only known species of coral-reef fish endemic to the monument [meaning that the species is found nowhere else on Earth]," said study co-author Randall Kosaki, a NOAA scientist and chief scientist of the research cruise. "Our research has documented the highest rate of fish endemism in the world — 100 percent — living on the deep reefs where we found this new species."
Kosaki added, "With the onslaught of climate change, we are at risk of losing some of these undiscovered species before we even know they exist."
T. obama is the second new fish species discovered in Papahānaumokuākea this year. In August, Pyle and Kosaki published a study in the journal ZooKeys describing a new species of butterflyfish (Prognathodes basabei).
T. obama is also the latest of a long line of new species named for the 44th president of the United States. For instance, there's a new species of lichen named after him (Caloplaca obamae) and a trapdoor spider (Aptostichus barackobamai). But Obama isn't the only politician to be honored in this way. In 2005, researchers named newfound species of slime-mold beetles after President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Agathidium bushi,A. cheneyi andA. rumsfeldi), and an extinct giant sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii) is named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president.

Video -Joe Biden really, really likes ice cream

Video Report - White House Summit on Building the Tech Workforce of Tomorrow


Karachi-based Urdu daily newspaper Ummat continues to mislead Pakistani on the issue of terrorism, violent extremism and fanaticism by its fictitious news in a bid to defend al-Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan and Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

Aleppo is the latest issue that is being covered by Ummat daily to mislead the Deobandis in particular about the factual position and ground realities of Aleppo where Daesh (ISIS) had slaughtered Sunni Muslims and Christians alongside Syrian army personnel.
Independent media covered how the Daesh (ISIS aka ISIL or IS) slaughtered Westerners and the Western media persons as well. Daesh terrorists also raped innocent girls and females under the anti-Islam idea of Jihad ul Nikah that was also condemned by Tunisia whose females were also being lured to do so.
As a matter of fact, Aleppo has been liberated and people of Aleppo are celebrating their liberation but Daesh and its supporters around the world including Ummat daily are trying to cover up their humiliating defeat, timidity against Syrian army and brutalities against civilian population. Many terrorists chose to sign a deal with the Syrian regime under which they sought to leave the Aleppo for either Idlib or Raqqa and for that Syrian regime provided buses and protection to such rebels and militants.
However, some of the militants wanted to take advantage of it in the guise of the deal and they resorted to burn the buses and began killing those leaving for Idlib or Raqqa in yet another attempt to mislead people abroad as if Syrian regime was responsible for that murders and delay in the evacuation of the willing people.
However, The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn and many other Western and even a Canadian woman journalist gave factual news stories in which they told the world that militants and their foreign masters would not tell the truth.
Not to forget that Saudi Arabia and other Arab regimes and Turkey are part of the U.S-led coalition that armed militants and their coalition had claimed in 2014 to begin an operation against Daesh. Ummat daily has never told how many Daesh militants were killed in the Saudi airstrikes on Daesh in Iraq or Syria. And if Saudi Arabia is not against Daesh, then why it has joined the U.S.-led coalition and why it has established counterterrorism coordination centre in the Kingdom in which Pakistan and other Muslim countries were invited to join?
Daesh or Syrian rebels are the likes of al-Qaida, Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Pakistani state and nation have vowed to fight them in FATA and in all parts of Pakistan. Operation Zarb-e-Azb, operation Khyber, targeted operation and combing operations are being conducted to eliminate these terrorists who are allies of Daesh. Hence, Syrian regime has right to establish its writ like Pakistani state did.

Pakistan - incompetent CH NISAR & TERROR IN ''Balochistan''

By - Riaz Missen


Let the blood of innocent people, and there is a long list of victims in Balochistan, not go waste in revealing the truth about the whole saga of lawlessness in Baluchistan against the fact of its unregulated borders.

What is the real source of motivation for extremists active in Baluchistan if it has been proven that they have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam?
What is really behind ‘monumental failure’ of the Interior Ministry, not necessarily the one headed by Chaudhary Nisar, in tackling terror in Baluchistan? Why the religious outfits carry out acts of sabotage in Balochistan, but are allowed to roam freely in Punjab and the federal capital?
The narrative that a neighbouring country wanted to destabilise Balochistan needs to be given a fresh thought. Who were enemy’s partners in rendering the southwestern provinces defenceless? Were these really Indians who prevented LEAs from protecting helpless students, Hazaras, and police cadets?
Long before the findings of the judicial commission on Quetta carnage had highlighted failures of Interior Ministry, NAP’s failure had become proverbial truth.
So many times the outgoing Army Chief had pointed out the fact of civil regime lacking its interest in executing NAP agenda. Every time, Chaudhary Nisar had raised his accusing finger at provincial governments.
Now what Nisar appears to say, and he held a press conference following Justice Faez Isa’s report, is that he was helpless before provincial governments vis-à-vis curbing terror.
The ‘autonomous’ federal units were reluctant to implement what he could have desired on the part of the Center. The PM House had its own problems. An outrageously rebellious Khan straining his nerves had really tied hands of Nawaz Sharif in the matter of Balochistan.
Chaudhary Nisar has complained that the commission should have given him an audience before concluding its report. It was what the Commission did not feel the need of. The evidence of negligence was profound in Nisar sticking to his portfolio but acting against the rules.
Leave aside what chief secretary of Balochistan said before Justice Isa, the province’s request to ban ASWJ on the basis of several FIRs implicating this sectarian outfit did not find receptive ears in the Interior Ministry.
Not only Chaudhary Nisar held meetings with the top lot of the ASWJ but also allowed it to violate section 144 in Islamabad. One also should not forget his bold favours to the sermon leader of Red Mosque.
Leaving Balochistan’s western borders unattended warrants explanation at a time the southwestern province was under deadly assault from sectarian outfits.
What about the NACTA? It remains a toothless body. It remains dysfunctional despite two years of its constitution as a focal institution to combat terrorism.
Lawlessness in Baluchistan has something to do with the vested interest having stakes in open and unregulated Balochistan borders.
How Pakistan, declaring war on extremists, could afford free flow of men and goods across its borders; the burden of explanation remains with the Interior Minister.
With Nisar Ali Khan not accepting his responsibility for rendering Baluchistan defenceless, the whole terror campaign in the southwestern province had become a mystery that needs to be explored in depths and details.
The law enforcing agencies lacked coordination, and the provincial government was lost in corruption and nepotism makes Quetta hospital really tragic event.
“If the functionaries of the state had established a bank of forensic information on past attacks, and pursued the cases, they might have prevented the attacks of August 8; in this regard, the 2012 Terrorism Case Judgment has still not been implemented,” the Commission report says.
The lawyers’ killing in Quetta was not an isolated event. Hazara community, cut across by Pak-Afghan border, and having stood opposed to Taliban, was under attack since after PPP had taken over the Center and formed a government in Baluchistan, other than Sindh.
Despite its whole anti-Taliban rhetoric and the claims of being on the same page with Army during the most part of its tenure, the PPP too could not make the people of Baluchistan feel safe from the onslaught of sectarian outfits. One does not know why the fact-finding Commission should not have summoned Rahman Malik to state his own narrative.
The civil and military leadership had given a consensual response to Quetta blast as a conspiracy against CPEC. The Chief Minister had instantly raised his accusing finger at the eastern neighbour who had driven terrorists from the western borders.
The Commission’s findings just prove Nisar as an irresponsible fellow occupying an important ministry. What does he actually mean when he says he has offered resignation but rejected by the Prime Minister?
Chaudhary Nisar, still, has to make his submissions before the competent Court on how he was left helpless in warming up state’s muscles in Balochistan. Otherwise, the PM would be in the dock, and this time more badly than what PTI had once planned for him.
Lastly, what about the damning influence of smuggling mafia involved in cross-border movement of humans, drugs and explosives?
In a country having very legal means for unexplainable capital flight, the unaccountable profits of smugglers may buy up any person having any authority to disrupt their business.
Be it sectarian military or ethnic separatism, both need to be critically reviewed keeping in mind that unregulated borders mean a lot to the interests sponsoring the consortium of terror.
Chaudhry Nisar cannot be singularly blamed for failing to regulate the western borders; the scope of inquiry needs to be expanded to the law enforcing agencies as well.
Let the blood of innocent people, and there is a long list of victims in Balochistan, not go waste in revealing the truth about the whole saga of lawlessness in Baluchistan against the fact of its unregulated borders.

Pakistan: How the blasphemy laws enable abuse

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used against religious minorities and others who are the target of false accusations, while emboldening vigilantes prepared to threaten or kill the accused, a new Amnesty International report says today.  
“There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands. Once a person is accused, they become ensnared in a system that offers them few protections, presumes them guilty, and fails to safeguard them against people willing to use violence,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.  
The report, “As good as dead”: The impact of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, shows how people accused of blasphemy face a gruelling struggle to establish their innocence. Even if a person is acquitted of the charges against them and released, usually after long delays, they can still face threats to their life.
There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands.
Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.
Once an accusation of blasphemy is made, the police can arrest the accused, without even checking to see if the charges make sense. Bowing to public pressure from angry crowds, including religious clerics and their supporters, they frequently pass cases on to prosecutors without scrutinising the evidence. And once someone is charged, they can be denied bail and face lengthy and unfair trials.  
The threat of violence follows many people accused of blasphemy, with groups or individuals taking the law into their own hands to threaten or kill the accused and other people associated with them, including their lawyers, members of their families, and members of their own community.  
A pall of fear also hangs over those working in Pakistan’s criminal justice system, the report shows, preventing lawyers, police, prosecutors and judges from carrying out their jobs effectively, impartially, and free of fear.  
Amnesty International’s report shows how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws enable abuse and violate the country’s international legal obligations to respect and protect a range of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief and of opinion and expression. It calls for these laws to be repealed and for any new legislation to fully comply with international law and standards.  
The report also details how the laws have been used to target some of the most vulnerable people in society, including children, individuals with mental disabilities, members of religious minorities and the poor.  
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acknowledged that “the majority of blasphemy cases are based on false accusations” and are driven by ulterior motives. Such motives, the report says, are rarely scrutinized by the authorities and can vary, from professional rivalry, to personal or religious disputes, to seeking economic gain.  
“The cases described in the report uncover the full reality of how the vaguely worded laws lack safeguards and are open to abuse. They favour the complainant, by allowing false accusations, and endanger the accused, by presuming their guilt. Our report outlines a series of measures the authorities should repeal these laws, starting by immediately implementing safeguards to prevent flawed prosecutions,” said Audrey Gaughran.   

False accusations against a child with mental disabilities  

One of the cases detailed in the report involves Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl with a learning disability who was 14 years old when she was accused of blasphemy by a local cleric who accused her of burning pages of the Qur’an.  
Despite being a child with a mental disability, she was arrested by the police and charged.   
After a three-month ordeal in the glare of the media, The Islamabad High Court quashed the charge, noting that she had been falsely implicated without any evidence and that a prosecution would have permitted the courts, themselves, to be used as a tool for ulterior motives.   
Rimsha Masih and her family fled to Canada, where they were given asylum because of the threats they faced.   

A lawyer threatened and killed  

Rashid Rehman was a distinguished human rights lawyer, one of the few brave enough to represent people accused of blasphemy in court.  
On 8 May 2014, Rashid Rehman was shot dead in his office by two unidentified gunmen. The day after his murder, a pamphlet was scattered around lawyers’ chambers in the central Pakistani city of Multan, saying that Rashid Rehman met his fate because he had tried to “save a blasphemer”. 
Less than a month before he was killed, Rashid Rehman was threatened in open court. “You will not come to court next time because you will not exist anymore,” he was warned, in front of witnesses. The people who threatened Rashid Rehman were never questioned by the police investigating his murder.   
Before his death, Rashid Rehman once likened defending people accused of blasphemy to “walking into the jaws of death”. Confronted with the high risks involved, many lawyers decline to represent people accused of blasphemy.   
In another case, the family of a person accused of blasphemy struggled to find a lawyer, being repeatedly turned away until they eventually found someone willing to represent them for a high fee. In court, the lawyer was severely beaten in court. He cut contact with the family and abandoned the case.  

A Christian couple killed for money  

Shama and Shahzad Masih were a Christian couple who lived with their three children in the Punjabi village of Kot Radha Kishan. Under harsh conditions, they worked long hours at a brick kiln near their home. A typical work day lasted 18 hours. They were paid a mere US$ 6.60 for every thousand bricks they made. 
One day in November 2014, Shama Masih, who was five months pregnant, was disposing her late father-in-law’s belongings by burning them. Without sanitation facilities, this was how many villagers carried out waste disposal.  
Later, a rumour swept the area, alleging that Shama Masih had torched pages of the Qur’an. The allegations were amplified when clerics from nearby villages took to their mosque microphones to demand that the Christian couple “be burned the same way they burned the [holy book].”  
An angry crowd of hundreds swiftly gathered at the brick kiln. They found Shama and Shahzad Masih locked in a small room, where they had been confined by a moneylender who had lent them money, and dragged the couple outside.  
Five policemen were present, but failed to intervene. They said they were outnumbered and faced violence from the unruly crowds. The couple were beaten repeatedly, and then dragged to a furnace at the kiln, where they were dumped inside and burned to death.   
The police arrived later and arrested more than 100 people, according to Shahzad Masih’s family. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, denounced the murder, and his brother, Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, visited the village to condole with the couple’s mourning family.   
On 23 November 2016 an anti-terrorism court sentenced five men to death for their involvement in the killing. While Amnesty International calls for accountability and an end to impunity for such crimes, it opposes the death penalty in all cases.   
The authorities’ failure to effectively intervene in this case before the mob turned violent is typical of a pattern across Punjab. The police often know of threats circulating against vulnerable religious minorities, but do not act decisively in the face of a mob roused by angry clerics exhorting murder.