New Afghan government signs US troops deal

US troops inspect scene of suicide bombing in Kabul, 16 September 2014

US troops inspect scene of suicide bombing in Kabul, 16 September 20 /Picture from BBC news


FROM BBC news DATED: SEPTEMBER 30 2014


The new Afghan government has signed a security deal with American officials that will allow US troops to remain in the country beyond this year.

The agreement was signed by Afghanistan’s newly appointed national security adviser, Hanif Atmar.

The previous President, Hamid Karzai, refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US, straining ties and raising security fears.

Most Nato forces are to withdraw this year, leaving 9,800 US troops behind.

The total number of troops in the US-led mission at the start of next year will be about 12,500, with the remainder coming from allies such as Germany and Italy.

US ambassador to Kabul Jim Cunningham signed the long-delayed agreement on behalf of the government in Washington.

The BSA allows for some foreign special forces to stay in the country to conduct “counter-terror operations” and others to support and train Afghan forces.

Under a separate Nato agreement also signed on Tuesday, several nations, led by Germany, Turkey and Italy, will contribute to a further force of about 3,000 troops.

Grey line

Analysis: David Loyn, BBC News, Kabul

The Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the US allows -Read more

The Economist explains: The many names of ISIS (also known as IS, ISIL, SIC and Da’ish)


FROM THE ECONOMIST DATED: SEPTEMBER 28 2014


FOR the third time in as many decades America is leading a powerful coalition to war in the Middle East. On September 23rd the offensive expanded dramatically as coalition aircraft and missiles struck in Syria, widening the theatre beyond its initial arena in Iraq. Their target is a radical jihadist group that has grabbed headlines since June, when its black-clad gunmen burst beyond territory they had captured during Syria’s civil war and seized big chunks of Iraq, including the country’s second biggest city, Mosul. Alarm has grown as they have massacred hundreds of prisoners, sometimes with grisly televised beheadings, and hounded thousands of Christians and other minorities from their homes. Nearly everyone shares a desire to destroy this scourge, yet they cannot seem to agree on what to call it. The group has been variously dubbed ISIS, ISIL, IS, SIC and Da’ish. Why the alphabet soup?

Part of the trouble is that the group has evolved over time, changing its own name. It started as a small but viciously effective part of the Sunni resistance to America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq that called itself al-Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI. In 2007, following the death of its founder (and criticism from al-Qaeda for being too bloodthirsty), AQI rebranded itself the Islamic State in Iraq, or ISI. This group suffered setbacks on its home turf, but as Syria descended into civil -Read more

- See more at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/09/economist-explains-19?fsrc=nlw|newe|29-09-2014|5356ccfe899249e1ccc832e5|#sthash.fjj4GrrF.dpuf

Ultra-Orthodox Jews cause chaos on flight to Israel


TEXT AND PICTURE FROM: TELEGRAPH, UK DATED: SEPTEMBER 25 2014 BY DAVID MILLWARD


 

The group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews wanted the plane to be gender segregated

The group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews wanted the plane to be gender segregated /Picture from The Telegraph, UK

 

 

An El-Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was turned into an “11-hour nightmare” after hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jewish passengers refused to sit next to women.

According to those on board the flight descended into chaos because of their demands.

The flight was full with Israelis, secular, orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews – known as Haredim – flying home to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Even though the passengers had been pre-assigned seats before boarding, the ultra-Orthodox Jews refused to accept the arrangements because their beliefs required that men and women were segregated.

As the aircraft prepared to take off, the haredi men, distinguishable by their black suits and in many cases wide-brimmed black hats, stood in the aisles rather than sit down, delaying the departure. -Read more

The BJP’s new avatar

LOOKING AHEAD: The resistance from within and outside without to the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah format of the BJP will play out in the coming months.

LOOKING AHEAD: The resistance from within and outside without to the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah format of the BJP will play out in the coming months. /From THE HINDU

 

With all powers being concentrated in Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, party office-bearers, Ministers and MPs are left with little elbow room for any manoeuvring


TEXT AND PICTURE FROM THE HINDU DATED: SEPTEMBER 26 2014 BY VARGHESE K. GEORGE


 

The appointment of Amit Shah as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, followed by the constitution of a new parliamentary board, firmly announced the takeover of the BJP by a new generation, replacing the previous one. The transformation of the saffron party from the hopeless situation it found itself in May 2009 to the triumph of May 2014 has been phenomenal. In fact, until 2012, by when the anti-corruption movement inspired by Anna Hazare had gained traction, the BJP’s chances were bleak, and in that sense it took just two years for the party to emerge as the primary pole of Indian politics from being in the margins at the Centre for a decade.

As the BJP readies for the first round of Assembly elections since the Lok Sabha election, in Haryana and Maharashtra, there are three facets that make the new avatar of the saffron party distinct from its earlier versions.

Shift of centre of gravity

The first characteristic of the new BJP is the shift of its centre of gravity from States to the Centre. After the eclipse of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani’s command over the party gradually eroded even as its State leaders began to wield more and more power. Between 2009 and until Narendra Modi was declared the prime ministerial candidate, the BJP hardly had a central leadership that commanded any nationwide authority. The party’s strength was its Chief Ministers and leaders at the regional level. Mr. Modi, Raman Singh, B.S. Yeddyurappa, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Rajnath -Read more

Kim Jong-un’s absence triggers speculation over his health

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un guiding a parachuting and striking drill of paratrooper units at an undisclosed location

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un guiding a parachuting and striking drill of paratrooper units at an undisclosed location

 


FROM TELEGRAPH, UK DATED:SEPTEMBER 25 2014 BY JULIAN RYALL


South Korea and governments around the region will be watching carefully to see whether Mr Kim takes part in a specially convened session of the North’s rubber-stamp parliament today – and, if he does attend, they will be scrutinising his gait for clues as to his health.

“There have been lots of reports that Kim is not in good health, supported by video footage of him walking with a noticeable limp at an event in July and again earlier this month,” Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, told The Telegraph.

“It was clear that he could not walk fast or in a straight line,” he added.

Images released by North Korean state media have suggested that Mr Kim’s weight has ballooned since he came to power after the death of – Read more

Pakistan appoints Rizwan Akhtar to head intelligence agency

Rizwan Akhtar

Rizwan Akhtar /Picture from The Guardian, UK


PICTURE AND TEXT FROM THE GUARDIAN, UK DATED: SEPTEMBER 22 2014 BY JON BOONE


A seasoned soldier who has battled Islamist militants and criminal gangs in one of the world’s largest cities is to become head of Pakistan’s infamous military intelligence agency, it was announced on Monday.

The appointment of Rizwan Akhtar as head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) is likely to relieve an embattled civilian government convinced the outgoing spy master had been plotting against it.

The intelligence agency, which has helped bring down elected governments and rig elections in the past, has been accused of secretly supporting the month-long opposition street protests demanding the resignation of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister elected last year.

Sharif pointedly failed to come to the organisation’s defence when outgoing ISI head, Zaheer-ul-Islam, was publicly accused in April ofordering the botched assassination of the journalist Hamid Mir.

Akhtar is reported to be a close ally of Raheel Sharif, the army chief appointed last year, who in turn is said to have a warm relationship with the prime minister.

His appointment as director general of the ISI, along with the promotion -Read more

UN appeal as Syrian refugees flood over Turkish border

Turkish soldier stands guard as Syrian refugees wait to cross border in Suruc, Turkey. 21 Sept 2014

Turkish soldier stands guard as Syrian refugees wait to cross border in Suruc, Turkey. 21 Sept 2014 /From BBC


PICTURE AND TEXT FROM BBC news DATED: SEPTEMBER 22 2014 REPORT BY MARK LOWEN


 The UNHCR said this was the largest influx in such a short period since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

The Syrian Kurds are fleeing an advance by Islamic State (IS) militants, who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months.

IS fighters are reported to be closing in on the Syrian town of Kobane.

The capture of Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arabon, would give the jihadists complete control of the area.

Even before the latest influx, Turkey was struggling to cope with more than a million Syrian refugees who have crossed into its territory since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began more than three years ago.

Carol Batchelor, the UNHCR’s envoy in Turkey, told the BBC that such high numbers of refugees would place a strain on any host community.

line

Mark Lowen, BBC News, southern Turkey

The sheer number of refugees would overwhelm any country.

Added to that, they are Kurds from Syria, many of them deeply hostile to Turkey. For 30 years, Turkish forces fought Kurdish rebels in a civil war that killed 40,000 people.

The fact that Turkey is accepting tens of thousands of Kurds is a sign of -Read more

Hear the Whistle Blow: The train with the shortest rail route in the country has a loyal following

Schoolgirls walk past three bogies of the train with the shortest route  in India

Schoolgirls walk past three bogies of the train with the shortest route in India /Picture from Indian Express

TEXT AND PICTURE FROM INDIAN EXPRESS DATED:SEPTEMBER 21 2014 BY MOHMAD FAISAL FARID

For fifty years now, Om Prakash has been taking the Konch-Ait shuttle. “I began travelling in it in 1961 after graduating from high school. Now I take it to reach my workplace in Ait every day. This train is our lifeline,” says Prakash, who is in his seventies now. He is one of the many loyal passengers of the train with the shortest route in the country.

With just three bogies and covering a distance of 13.68 km at a sluggish pace of 30 km an hour, the shuttle is more than a century old. It covers the distance in 35 minutes and the fare is only Rs 5. But why would you take the train then? The crumbling 15 km road ride from Konch to Ait, tiny towns in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, is a daunting one for bones, young and old. Tempos charge Rs 20 for each passenger and arrive at the destination in one hour.

Nearly 400-500 passengers travel on the train every day. It is a most genial and -Read more

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/hear-the-whistle-blow-the-train-with-the-shortest-rail-route-in-the-country-has-a-loyal-following/#sthash.tvwok3zS.dpuf

Putin considers plan to unplug Russia from the internet ‘in an emergency’

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin /Picture from The Guardian

 

 

TEXT AND PICTURE FROM THE GUARDIAN UK DATED: SEPTEMBER 19 2014 BY LUKE HARDING

The Kremlin is considering radical plans to unplug Russia from the global internet in the event of a serious military confrontation or big anti-government protests at home, Russian officials hinted on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin will convene a meeting of his security council on Monday. It will discuss what steps Moscow might take to disconnect Russian citizens from the web “in an emergency”, the Vedomosti newspaper reported. The goal would be to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty in cyberspace. The proposals could also bring the domain .ru under state control, it suggested.

Russian TV and most of the country’s newspapers are under the Kremlin’s thumb. But unlike in China, the Russian internet has so far remained a comparatively open place for discussion, albeit one contested by state-sponsored bloggers and Putin fans.

The move comes at a time when Russia has been bitterly critical of the western media, which Moscow says has adopted a biased attitude -Read more

Russia cries foul over Scottish independence vote

Ballot boxes are opened as counting begins in the Scottish referendum in Aberdeen

Ballot boxes are opened as counting begins in the Scottish referendum in Aberdeen /Picture from The Guardian, UK

 

TEXT AND PICTURE FROM THE GUARDIAN, UK DATED: SEPTEMBER 19 2014 BY LUKE HARDING

In an apparent attempt to mirror persistent western criticism of Russia’s own elections, Igor Borisov – an accredited observer – said the poll failed to meet basic international norms.

Borisov and three other Russians arrived in Edinburgh on Wednesday evening, the state news agency Ria Novosti reported. The team from Moscow’s Public Institute of Suffrage watched voting take place in the Scottish capital and the surrounding area. It also met with Scottish politicians, voters and representatives from non-governmental organisations, Ria said.

Borisov said he was unimpressed by what he saw. He said the room where he watched the count on Thursday night was a cavernous “aircraft hangar” next to an airfield. It was difficult to see what was going on, he said, adding: “The hangar is approximately 100m by 300m. There are tables, with voting papers stacked upon them, but the observers are – Read more