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Saturday, 24 September


Clinton vs Trump "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

In 2 more days, there will be the first presidential debate, and 45 more days before election determining the next president of U.S.A.. As a Chinese American I would like to share my view on the coming election as it will affect everyone profoundly one way or another. For many Chinese it looks to be a play of the theatre of absurd, cynical entertainment value to be sure, but irrelevant to their lives. With the large immigration of Chinese to U.S., and the large Chinese student population here, the political view has been gradually changing. It use to be Chinese Americans tended toward Republican Party, self centered toward financial security, conservative family value oriented, and absorbing societal biases against blacks as threat against law and order. with the first waves of immigrants in 60’s being anti-communists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Yet the second and third generations now are more liberal and tend toward Democratic Party as shown on the electoral success of Obama. It can’t be understated the emergence of China as a world power on the sense of self confidence of Chinese Americans.
The appeal of Trump to the “Basket of Deplorable” is self evident, but he also appeals to the victims of globalization, disaffected, and those that fear any changes of status quo in a fast changing world. Even I, who is a beneficiary of immigration, when laughing at his comment of Wall on Mexico border, sometimes feel the need for immigration reform or need to close the border at some point. I am a New Yorker, I do know a con when I see it, yet even when I know the game of 3 cards Monte is rigged, I still sometimes has the urge to play it, and Donald trump is the quintessential con man, and many people will fall for it. He reminds me of the character in Stephen King’s novel, “The Dead Zone”, as played by Martin Sheen in the movie, he may trigger a nuclear holocaust. I know some will think I am paranoid, overhype, and biased, but anyone with serious thinking knows that Trump is a fraud, and Germany did elect Hitler to power.

As for Hillary Clinton, I know all about Whitewater, email, and all the pseudo scandals swirl around her. I do think many are due to her gender, many women think she should have divorced Bill. Many think she leveraged her husband’s presidency to get rich and are envious. I wonder all those Hillary haters are aware of her biography, her history, not the republican narrative. In the final analysis this election will shed light of we Americans as a people, whether we are decent, self aware, responsible people or a final nail on democracy as a fiction.



A Military Attack on Pakistan Will Lead to India’s Worst Nightmare "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The key to peace in the region is to tackle the roots of the tension, which is the dispute over Kashmir.

An Indian soldier guarding the base at URI following a terrorist attack last week. Credit: PTI

An Indian soldier guarding the base at URI following a terrorist attack last week. Credit: PTI

Delhi’s decision, in the aftermath of the Uri attack, to ‘go on the strategic offensive’ against terrorist attacks launched with the support, if not connivance, of the Pakistan government has been noted all over the world. Few commentators had expected any other reaction. But unless it is planned meticulously with a precise definition of its objective and a careful appraisal of the alternatives for achieving it, such a shift is fraught with danger.

Indian TV has been baying for blood, but the goal of the Modi government should not be to ‘punish’ Pakistan for its sins, but to force it to give up using terrorism as a tool of foreign policy altogether. Such an effort is long overdue, but cannot be made by India alone, for the circumstances of Pakistan’s birth ensure that the entire nation will willingly commit suicide rather than bend its knee to India.

India can achieve this goal only in concert with other nations and heads of government. As the almost empty UN General Assembly hall to which Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave his address so eloquently showed, the time for a concerted effort to get Pakistan off this track is ripe. So the relentless, ugly, jingoistic drum-beating that is being indulged in by TV channels vying for TRP ratings, and the threats of disproportionate retaliatory strikes being voiced by RSS/BJP functionaries, is not only unnecessary, but is also likely to prove self defeating because it is arousing dormant fears in the rest of the world not only of a nuclear war in South Asia, but of the prolonged nuclear winter that will follow in its wake.

Lest this sound fanciful, we need only remember that a mere 20,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide spewed into the stratosphere by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1990 brought down the global average temperature in 1991 by half a degree Celsius and caused a severe drought in sub-Saharan Africa. We have no precise idea what a full-scale nuclear war will release into the atmosphere, but it is also worth remembering that 650,000 years ago, during the coldest ice age of the past million years, the global average surface temperature was only five degrees below what it is today.

Paradoxically, the first step in a strategy that enlists the support of the world should be to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff and warn it, in cold and precise terms, that India has run out of patience and shall respond to any future attack with a retaliatory military strike. Pakistan has been sheltering behind its pointed refusal to adhere to a nuclear no first strike doctrine, and sending out emissaries like its former nuclear weapons chief General Khalid Siddiqi to warn the world that it will use battlefield nuclear weapons such as the Nasr, if India resorts to a “cold start” military strike. This was repeated by Pakistan’s army chief after the Uri attack .

In the past this warning would suffice to shift the discussion of options in India to the forms of retaliation that are possible without triggering a nuclear response f...


Lessons in Resistance: Open Source "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Can we imagine a world without intellectual property? With the various enemies of freedom finding ever more elaborate ways to control the internet, we may have to find an answer to that question sooner than we think. Join us this week on The Corbett Report as we go in search of the freedom of the open source universe.

NOTE: This is a visualization of Episode 222 of The Corbett Report podcast, first released on March 17, 2012. This video was recently posted to The Corbett Report Extras YouTube channel as part of a project to make older Corbett Report audio podcasts and interviews available on YouTube. If you are interested in seeing more of this content in the future please SUBSCRIBE TO THE THE CORBETT REPORT EXTRAS CHANNEL.


Jeremy Corbyn Sweeps Labour Leadership Contest "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, reacts after the announcement of his victory in the party's leadership election, in Liverpool, Britain September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, reacts after the announcement of his victory in the party’s leadership election, in Liverpool, Britain September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Jeremy Corbyn has won a landslide victory to retain his position as leader of the Labour Party, securing a wider mandate than when first elected last year, the Guardian reports. Corbyn secured 61.8% to beat rival Own Smith. With the victory, Corbyn has strengthened his hold on the party, ending a “coup” attempt by more moderate lawmakers who say his left-wing agenda can never deliver victory at the polls.

The veteran campaigner’s triumph, by 313,209 to 193,229 votes, cements his authority over the deeply divided party and will fuel his drive to turn Labour further to the left – a move many of his colleagues say will see them out of power and allow the ruling Conservatives free rein to set Britain’s divorce from the EU.

(With Reuters inputs)

The post Jeremy Corbyn Sweeps Labour Leadership Contest appeared first on The Wire.


We Love Heroes Because They Help Us To Cope With the Fear of Death "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Maybe there is some hint of a psychological truth in Batman donning the suit after his parents’ death.

Superhero mural, DC Comics, NYC, NY. Credit: Flickr

Superhero mural, DC Comics, NYC, NY. Credit: Flickr

Our appetite for stories about heroes never lets up. While the remake of Ben-Hur does battle at the box office, 20th Century Fox is making an adventure film about Stan Lee, the man behind the Marvel superhero comics. Meanwhile, we recently commemorated human heroes in anniversaries for the September 11 attacks and the Battle of the Somme.

Stan Lee, the man behind the Marvel superhero comics. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Stan Lee, the man behind the Marvel superhero comics. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

But why do people identify with heroes? What drives heroism? I have co-authored two recent papers that suggest our affinity for heroes and heroism might be linked to concerns about our mortality. Think of Batman battling the criminal underbelly of Gotham City after the death of his parents, for example. It is one of many well known stories that hint at how concerns about death can foster heroism.

Our work draws on an idea from social psychology called...


Racial Tensions are Tearing the US Apart "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

34234234234234It’s a sad fact that massive civilian protests that are quickly turning into riots have become a common occurrence in the US today.

According to the US analytical media source End Of American Dream, the town of Charlotte in North Carolina has been plunged into chaos by widespread cases of civilian disobedience, in spite of the desperate attempts that local authorities are making to restore order. The recent outbreak of violence errupted when local police officers shot a young African-American Keith Lamont Scott dead. The situation looks grim, since Charlotte is the largest city in the state. Riot police units have reported at least 16 officers injured due to the continuous clashes with the local population. Hundreds and hundreds of outraged protestors were burning cars, throwing stones at police, and trashing store windows in the broad daylight. Riot police units responded with tear gas, but it was reported that the North Carolina Governor Patrick Lloyd McCrory demanded the National Guard units to be deployed in Charlotte. At least one protestor was leathely wounded during the clashes.

It’s noteworthy that just two days before the outbreak of violence in Charlotte, police officials in Tulsa were forced into admitting that yet another African-American was short dead while being unarmed. The local police deparment spokesman Chuck Jordan was compeled to release the footage made by a helicopter that was monitoring the incident, when two police officers stopped a car, demanded the driver to step out and raise his hands, and when the latter complied one of them schoked him with his taser, while the other shot him dead, while announcing on the radio that the suspect was resisting arrest. It’s not clear how could 40-year-old Terence Crutcher resist anyone, while lying unconciously on the ground. The footage release was immediately followed by protests in Oklahoma.

It’s clear that there’s a growing number of so-called hate crimes being comitted in the US today. To avenge the deaths of innocent black victims, young Arfican-Americans are often taking violence to extereme levels. On July 7, Mika Javier Johnson shot five police officers dead and wounded over a dozen people during a demonstration in Dallas. Ten days later, Gavin Long, a former Marine, killed three police officers and wounded three more in Baton Rouge.

According to the Gallup Institute, the Obama adminstration failed to adress racial problems, since six in ten Americans say racism against blacks is widespread in the US. This number is similar to the percentage measured last year but higher than what Gallup registered in 2008-2009. Perceptions of racism against US blacks were already high before several deadly confrontations between police and black citizens in 2014 and 2016 led to increased concerns about race relations in America, but they have increased modestly since then. At the same time, Americans’ belief in equality of opportunity for blacks in being able to find good j...


The Child Victim as the Face of Modern Suffering "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Caught in a state beyond language, the child victim is primordial to every representational moment in the writing of disaster or suffering.


Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt, the ‘Napalm girl’ from Vietnam, photographed by Nick Ut for the Associated Press in 1972. Credit: Wikipedia

Children are participants in the meaning-making process, as catalysts, and are not just passive victims. They increasingly make sense of the world for us, especially in the age of media coverage of disasters and tragedies, starting roughly with the Vietnam War. The child victim is the face of humanity in the modern age.

Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt (the ‘Napalm girl’ from Vietnam, photographed by Nick Ut in 1972), the unnamed child stalked by a vulture in Kevin Carter’s 1993 photograph (Carter committed suicide a few months after taking this picture), Omayra Sánchez Garzón (the Colombian trapped in the debris of her home for three days before dying, in full view of the cameras, especially Frank Fournier’s, 1985), Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore in Turkey as his parents fled across their nation escaping ISIS (2015), the baby crying in the Shanghai railway station ruins after a bombing (1937), the unidentified child being buried after Bhopal (Raghu Rai’s photograph, 1984) and now Omran Daqneesh from Syria (2016) are all icons of a world they never made sense of, being children, and instrumental today in making sense of it for us, the remainders.

The child victim compresses the world’s sufferings, offers a frame like no other in which to interpret the world.

An “ideal” victim

So is the child the ideal victim? Nils Christie (1986) proposed the following features of the ‘ideal victim’: the victim is weak in relation to the offender; the victim is, if not acting virtuously, then at least going about their legitimate, ordinary everyday business; the victim is blameless for what happened; the victim is unrelated to and does not know the ‘stranger’ who has committed the offence; the offend...


Netanyahu at the UN: Frozen bodies, blatant lies, and imaginary children "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Netanyahu didn’t need the Mufti or a bomb diagram at this year’s UN General Assembly. Just a few kind words about a Palestinian victim of Jewish terror, branding Israel as an economic powerhouse, and kissing up to the Americans. 

Netanyahu UN wide

1. Stealing the president’s lines

“Ahmed was the victim of a horrible terrorist act perpetrated by Jews… No words can bring comfort to this boy or to his family. Still, as I stood by his bedside I told his uncle, ‘This is not our people. This is not our way’.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu, during his speech Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly, decided to talk about the murderous attack on the Dawabshe family. But as luck would have it, I, too, was there during Netanyahu’s highly-publicized visit to the hospital — Ahmed’s uncle wasn’t even present. He happened to be at a different hospital when Netanyahu arrived, next to Ahmed’s father who succumbed to his wounds a few days later.



Charlotte Protesters Demand Police Release Shooting Tapes "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Charlotte, NC: About 300 protesters took to the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, in a fourth night of demonstrations on Friday, calling on authorities to “release the tapes” of the fatal police shooting of a black man, hours after his family released its own video.

Protesters gathered after nightfall in a small park and others chalked the names of police shooting victims from across the country on a street, but there was no sign of violence that marked demonstrations earlier in the week.

Protesters marched under the eye of armed National Guard troops, chanting “Resist the police” along with calls for the video of Tuesday’s shooting of Keith Scott, a 43-year-old father of seven, to be made public.

Charlotte police have claimed that Scott was armed with a gun, something that the family has denied.

Police officers and protesters, both on bicycles, led the way through streets closed to traffic. Marchers briefly entered an interstate highway running through the city but quickly returned to the local streets.

The footage released by the family did not show the moment when a black police officer shot Scott. The two-minute video recorded by Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, includes audio of her pleading with officers to hold fire as they confront Scott in a parked car outside a Charlotte apartment complex.

“Don’t shoot him! He has no weapon,” she can be heard telling officers as they yell at Scott, “Drop the gun!”

In the video, released by the family to US media outlets, Scott’s wife can be heard shouting “Keith, Keith, don’t do it,” before the shots rang out.

Scott’s death was the latest in a string of police killings of black men in America, which have unleashed protests and riots across the country and led to international criticism of the US’ treatment of minorities.

Over the last two years, protesters have filled streets from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore. Protesters have also taken to the streets in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where police officers were shot and killed by gunmen who claimed to be avenging the deaths of black men unjustly slain by law enforcement.



When Journalists Become Jingoistic Cheerleaders "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The media is supposed to question those in power, not happily go along with the official narrative.

'From the Line of Control, Aaj Tak brings you nationalist reporting'. Promotional material for Aaj Tak.

‘From the Line of Control, Aaj Tak brings you nationalist reporting’. Promotional material for Aaj Tak.

Within days of the terrorist attack on Uri, in which 17 soldiers were killed, and even as the government mulled over various options, some newspapers and digital platforms published a story about a secret operation by Indian elite forces who entered Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and killed 20 terrorists. Or, as one of the outlets said, “neutralized” them, which sounds impressively like military jargon.

If true, this would have major repercussions, since it would effectively mean an incursion into Pakistani territory, even if in name that part is Azaad Kashmir.

The army was quick to deny that such a raid took place. One of the website’s stood by the story, insisting they had confirmed the facts. Many other newspapers, channels and digital platforms chose not to write about it, mainly because it was non-verifiable.

More than the story itself and its authenticity or lack thereof, was stood out was the headline and hashtag used by one of the sites – “Uri Avenged” – implying clearly that this was a tit for tat operation by India. This is muscular, nationalistic editorialising that aims to rouse passions in the reader, quite a contrast from the detached tone that the media used till not too long ago.

'The blood boils'. Zee News special programme after Uri.

‘The blood boils’. Zee News special programme after Uri.

Those days are now gone. Headlines refer to soldiers as martyrs and heroes and journalists now sound like cheerleaders of the government. Social media is full of cyber-warriors with advice on how to annihilate Pakistan, speaking glibly of the nuclear option as the final solution. Television talk shows discuss military strategies on how best to enter a sovereign country, showing little or no understanding of international law. Thundering ex-generals, when they are not getting emotional, speak of breaking Pakistan into severa...


Obama’s Veto Over September 11 Saudi Bill Likely to be Overidden by Congress "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

US President Barack Obama walks to the the Oval Office of the White House upon his return to Washington from New York, US September 21, 2016. Cerdit: Reuters/ Yuri Gripas

US President Barack Obama walks to the the Oval Office of the White House upon his return to Washington from New York, US September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Yuri Gripas

Washington: President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed legislation allowing families of victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, which could prompt Congress to overturn his decision with a rare veto override, the first of his presidency.

Obama said the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) would hurt US national security and harm important alliances, while shifting crucial terrorism-related issues from policy officials into the hands of the courts.

The bill passed the senate and house of representatives in reaction to long-running suspicions, denied by Saudi Arabia, that hijackers of the four US jetliners that attacked US in 2001 were backed by the Saudi government.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Obama said other countries could use the law JASTA, as an excuse to sue US diplomats, members of the military or companies – even for actions of foreign organisations that had received US aid, equipment or training.

“Removing sovereign immunity in US courts from foreign governments that are not designated as state sponsors of terrorism, based solely on allegations that such foreign governments’ actions abroad had a connection to terrorism-related injuries on US soil, threatens to undermine these longstanding principles that protect US, our forces and our personnel,” Obama said in a statement.

Senator Chuck Schumer, who co-wrote the legislation and has championed it, immediately made clear how difficult it will be for Obama to sustain the veto.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the senate, issued a statement within moments of receiving the veto, promising that it would be “swiftly and soundly overturned.” He represents New York, home of most of the September 11 victims.

Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, said they would have signed the bill into law if they were in the White House.

Some doubts

If two-thirds of the lawmakers in both the senate and house vote to override, the law would stand, the first such override since he became president in 2009 and possibly the last.

Obama leaves office in January. Friday’s veto was the twelfth of his presidency.

An override has been expected, despite some lawmakers saying they had doubts about the measure.



The Atlantic Widens "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

4352424223Since the end of World War II, Europe (its Western half, in any case) has been tied to the US via the Atlantic Alliance, forced to turn its back on the rest of the Eurasian continent of which it is a part. Originally, it was because of Communism, but since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it’s because Russia has more resources than any other nation, that the US has maintained Europe in a state of readiness to respond to its ‘aggression’!

In my book Une autre Europe, un autre Monde, published in France on the day the Berlin wall fell, I opined that Western Europe could not afford to have two enemies at once: Germany and the Soviet Union. The former had initiated three wars in one century, while the latter was merely a bogeyman incarnated by Ghengis Khan and Ivan the Terrible. Divided between East and West, Germany had posed no threat for over forty years, and France agonized over the prospect of its reunification as the crucial line of defense against Russia. Perhaps it was that secular fear of Germany that determined President Mitterand’s acquiescence to NATO’s relentless move beyond its eastern border to counter the distant threat.

Europe’s post-war dependency on a country situated an ocean away began with the Marshall Plan, which led to an ‘economic miracle’ and the ability to provide safety nets for everyone: a true worker’s paradise. By the nineties, when France joined a 35 hour work week to six week vacations, and the countries of Eastern Europe lined up to join the European Union, Wall Street began to worry that American workers might demand the same benefits. Accordingly, it enrolled the World Bank and the IMF in a decades-long battle to impose neo-liberalism, which is ’liberal’ only to a chosen few, over social democracy, that guarantees a decent life for the many. Ironically, in ‘Where to Invade Next’ Michael Moore is amazed to discover European workers’ perks, just as they are being being flushed down the drain.

Several decades after Margaret Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative (TINA)’ to austerity, neo-liberalism reigns triumphant across the European Union, taking down old members Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, France, and preventing the East from ever catching up. Having failed to shake its colonial mindset, the 1% participated in US wars across the Middle East, until it saw Muslim men, women and children traipsing across its fields. Cell phones having made it possible for hundreds of thousands to leave their war-torn or exploited countries for a chance at a better future, Europe’s leaders realized too late that they had been had by Uncle Sam.

As businessmen realize what sanctions against their neighbor are costing them (but not Washington), they also notice that Russia protects its own in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In a conclusion that is decades overdue, they realize that their survival requires them to cut the umbilical cord that stretches across the Atlantic. The announcement by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, that Europe needs its own military system, is the first, timid step toward a 180 degree turn from an alienated West to a home with the East, and the ret......


Watching your son’s killers walk free "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

This is the story of a Palestinian father whose son was shot in the back by two Israeli soldiers. In the bizarre reality of occupation, he is the one who must ask permission from the wardens while his son’s killers walk free.

Ahmad Awad, whose son, Samir, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, stands outside Ramle Magistrate's Court, September 22, 2016. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Ahmed Awad, whose son, Samir, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, stands outside Ramle Magistrate’s Court, September 22, 2016. (photo: Haggai Matar)

What took place at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning was beyond bizarre. Every encounter between a grieving family and those who killed their child is, without a doubt, terrible — but they usually look different than what I witnessed. Most of these meetings take place in district courts. Usually the ones who killed the child are brought to court house from prison, led by guards, while the family walks free. Not today. Not in this story.


In this story Ahmed Awad, whose 16-year-old son Samir was shot in the back and killed by two soldiers after he was already wounded, was the one who had to wake up early in the village of Budrus, obtain a special entry permit ahead of time to leave the West Bank and show up in a court where the prosecutor is not the same prosecutor from the previous hearing (perhaps the case is not important enough). The prosecutor did not utter a word to Awad. No condolences, no update — nothing.

At the end of the five-minute hearing Awad was resigned to request — with the help of an Israeli friend, since the court does not provide a translator for the victim of the crime — that the court allow him to be present at the next hearing. Then he had to go to the court clerk in have the judge’s decision written out as a court order, which he will need in order to obtain an entry permit at an Israeli army base in the settlement of Beit El. That hearing certainly won’t have a translator either, the prosecutor won’t say a word to him, because what difference does it make that Ahmed’s son, Samir, died after being shot in the back by the soldiers he is prosecuting?

Then there were the two now-discharged soldiers who aren’t sitting in prison, nor do they need special jump through bureaucratic hurdles and obtain special permits just to make it to the courthouse. They are not even accused of manslaughter,...


Colombia: FARC Rebels Approve Peace Accord To End 52-Year War "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's (FARC) Joaquin Gomez and Pastor Alape hug each other after a news conference at the camp where they prepare for ratifying a peace deal with the Colombian government, near El Diamante in Yari Plains, Colombia, September 23, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ John Vizcaino

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) Joaquin Gomez and Pastor Alape hug each other after a news conference at the camp where they prepare for ratifying a peace deal with the Colombian government, near El Diamante in Yari Plains, Colombia, September 23, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ John Vizcaino

Yari Plains/ Colombia: Colombia’s FARC rebel group voted unanimously to approve a peace deal with the government on Friday, declaring an end to the five-decade war as it prepares to transition into a new political party.

After four years of negotiations in Havana, the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia reached a final peace accord last month that will end a war that has left a quarter of a million people dead.

Peace is the most beautiful of victories,” rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, who uses the nom de guerre Timochenko, told a crowd of hundreds of FARC fighters at the close of the guerrillas’ congress on the southern Yari Plains.

“We yearn that no Colombians will ever again have to take up arms to make their voices heard and their demands felt, as has been required of us,” Timochenko said to cheers and applause, as thunder roiled the sky overhead.

As part of the agreement, the FARC will continue to push for social change as a political party, receiving 10 non-elected seats in congress until 2026. FARC‘s leaders have been coy on policy details but are expected to morph the group into a party rooted in Marxist ideals.

Another congress to officially found the party will be held no later than May 2017, FARC commander Ivan Marquez said at the ceremony.

Two-hundred delegates from FARC units around the country gathered at the Yari site, five hours by rutted road from the nearest provincial town, to review the accord and discuss re-organisation in peacetime.

“We inform the country and the government and the governments and people of the world that the rebel delegates of the congress have given unanimous backing to the final accord,” Marquez said.

The peace accord is...


Les Deplorables "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Perplexed global public opinion holds its breath at the (circus) best American “democracy” is able to conjure.


US-Turkey Lurch to World War in Syria "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Following US President Barack Obama’s dubious stellar performance this week at the UN General Assembly recounting a litany of lies for almost one hour before the eyes of the world, it was the turn of Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to insult humanity’s intelligence...


Two Careless Academics and a Spiteful Editor "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The curious place of Arundhati Roy’s non-fiction in the canon and the persistent mischaracterisation of her work.

Arundhati Roy. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Arundhati Roy. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you look up the name of Arundhati Roy in the latest edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature you will find this:

Novelist, script-writer, and anti-globalisation essayist and campaigner, born in Bengal and brought up in southern India. Her semi-autobiographical novel set in Kerala and much influenced by Salman Rushdie, The God of Small Things, won the 1997 Booker Prize.

Needless to say, with thousands of entries ranging from ‘Mahabharata’ to ‘Macaulay’ and beyond, the Companion is a treasure trove for common readers of literature in English. But it is particularly indispensable to students of the field. The space afforded to a writer or work in this reference roughly corresponds to their standing in the literary canon. Even so, all of that said, the main problem with this presumably updated entry on Roy is that it is significantly wrong.

When Kemp, one of the nearly 200 contributors to the Companion, reviewed Roy’s novel for the Sunday Times he claimed the novel employs “magic-realism as recycled candy floss”. Anyone who has read the novel and has any correct ideas about magic-realism, would disagree. Thankfully, the phrase magic-realism is missing from Kemp’s entry on Roy. Even so, he couldn’t resist the idea and mentions Rushdie as a decisive influence on Roy. The comparison with Rushdie too is wrong; there is no scholarly, or popular, consensus that Roy’s novel was written under the influence of Rushdie. Discussion about his influence died soon after the glare of the Booker win faded, leaving Roy to chart her own course. And this was already a decade-old thing when the above entry was published.

Calling Roy an ‘anti-globalisation essayist’ is as wrong as claiming she is influenced by Rushdie because, even if it were to be described briefly, it is closer to the truth to say her work is against a certain kind of corporate globalisation. Her essays deal with overtly political issues including the hand-in-glove functioning of powerful corporations with national and state governments. The result of such functioning is a massive draining of public resources and the eventual accumulation of wealth in the hands of transnational elites....


Botswana at 50: The End of an African Success Story? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

For a global audience, the movie ‘A United Kingdom’ provides a topical account of race relations. The love story is also likely to revitalise the popular viewpoint of Botswana as a national success story.

Botswana's President Ian Khama is flanked by Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba ( L) and Malawi's former president, Bakili Muluzi (R, with glasses) during the ANC's centenary celebration in Bloemfontein January 8, 2012. Credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Botswana’s President Ian Khama is flanked by Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba ( L) and Malawi’s former president, Bakili Muluzi (R, with glasses) during the ANC’s centenary celebration in Bloemfontein January 8, 2012. Credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

It is 50 years since Botswana attained independence from British rule. Over the decades, the small landlocked country has been regarded as a role model for success in Africa. It has achieved political stability, democratic government, and remarkable economic growth.

The attraction of Botswana and its history is newly reinforced in the film A United Kingdom, to be released shortly. The story begins over 15 years before independence when the territory was known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate. The plot follows the marriage of Seretse Khama, a royal African prince, to Ruth Williams, a white British woman.

The apartheid regime was outraged and exerted political pressure on the British, who held important mining interests in South Africa. To ease tensions, the British forced Seretse into exile in England from 1950 to 1956. He was only allowed to return to Botswana after abdicating his claim to the chiefdom.

Seretse would later enter party politics in the early 1960s, leading the then...


As Rafale Agreement is Inked, Many Concerns Remain "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

There is disquiet within the defence ministry about the acquisition, with officials concerned about subsequent scrutiny by constitutional authorities like the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Many of defence minister Manohar Parikkar's promises about the Rafale purchase have not come true. Credit: Reuters

Many of defence minister Manohar Parikkar’s promises about the Rafale purchase have not come true. Credit: Reuters

On a warm Delhi evening on April 3, 2015, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had left his South Block office and was driving to the airport to catch his flight to Goa, when his mobile phone received an incoming call from the prime minister’s office (PMO). Could he come in urgently, an official asked, the prime minister would like to talk briefly.

When Parrikar reached the PMO, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprang a bombshell. Parrikar was told that on Modi’s forthcoming trip to Paris, he and French President Francois Hollande would announce an agreement for India to buy 36 Rafale fighters. During Modi’s nine-day tour of France, Germany and Canada, Parrikar would have to manage the media and field the inevitable questions.

Taken aback, Parrikar still made it in time for his flight to Goa. Over the next week, he batted loyally on behalf of his prime minister, publicly defending a decision he neither understood nor agreed with, that was taken over his head, and that senior ministry of defence (MoD) officials warned him would be difficult to defend.

Today, 17 months later, most pledges that Parrikar issued in defence of Modi’s Rafale agreement have proven incorrect. He told PTI in Goa that all 36 Rafale fighters would join IAF service within two years; in fact more than six years will elapse before the final delivery is made. He repeated the Modi-Hollande undertaking that the price would be “on terms that would be better than” Dassault’s bid in the now cancelled tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). It now turns out that India will pay a vastly higher price.

But Parrikar, through 17 months of defending a deal that was not his, has become the face of the Rafale. And after Friday, when he and his visiting French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, signed an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafales, Parrikar and not Modi will answer for the purchase.

There is disquiet within the MoD about the acquisition, with officials concerned about subsequent scrutiny by constitutional authorities like the Comptroller and Auditor General. Their key worries are as follows.

Exorbitant cost

A key element in price negotiations is “benchmarking”, or comparing Dassault’s price with other contracts involving the same fighter. With India, Dassault had already established a benchmark in the MMRCA acquisition, where it had quoted a price for 18 fully built Rafales, just like the 36 fighters that India is now buying.

Speaking to Doordarshan on April 13, 2015, Parrikar had revealed Rafale’s bid for 126 fight...


North Korea Condemns UN, Vows To Strengthen Nuclear Capacity "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets scientists and technicians in the field of research into nuclear weapons in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 9, 2016. Credit: KCNA/Files via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets scientists and technicians in the field of research into nuclear weapons in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 9, 2016. Credit: KCNA/Files via Reuters

United Nations: North Korea vowed on Friday to further strengthen its nuclear weapons capability, in spite of UN condemnation and sanctions and said it would never abandon its deterrence while it was threatened by nuclear-armed states.

In an address to the UN General Assembly, North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho described his country’s nuclear weapons as “a righteous self-defence measure” against “constant nuclear threats of US.”

“Going nuclear-armed is the policy of our state,” he said. “As long as there exists a nuclear-weapon state in hostile relations with the DPRK, our national security and peace on the Korean peninsula can be defended only with reliable nuclear deterrence,” he said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea‘s official name.

Ri said North Korea “will continue to take measures to strengthen its national nuclear armed forces in both quantity and quality.”

Ri said the Korean peninsula was the world’s “most dangerous hotspot, which can even ignite the outbreak of nuclear war,” and the blame lay “squarely’ with US.

He accused US and South Korea of conducting massive “nuclear war exercises” aimed at “decapitation” of the North Korean leadership and occupation of its capital Pyongyang, while a call last year by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to replace the 1953 Korean War armistice with a peace agreement had been ignored.

North Korea‘s nuclear and missiles tests have been condemned worldwide and have resulted in several rounds of UN sanctions, the most recent of which were adopte...


How a Mass Protest Forced Cops to Act on Mohammed Ayyub’s Case "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Ayyub, a victim of cow vigilantism, was left to die of his injuries while the police refused to file a case against the culprits.

Family members of Ayyub, (Left to right) Mehraj banu (mother), Afsana (sister), Khehrunisa (aunty) waiting outside the postmortem room at VS Hospital, Ahmedabad on September 17. Credit: Damayantee Dhar

Family members of Ayyub, (Left to right) Mehraj banu (mother), Afsana (sister), Khehrunisa (aunty) waiting outside the postmortem room at VS Hospital, Ahmedabad on September 17. Credit: Damayantee Dhar

Ahmedabad: On September 21, five days after the death of Mohammed Ayyub – the 29-year-old auto rickshaw driver who was assaulted by gau rakshaks in Ahmedabad, Gujarat – the police arrested three people in connection to his death.

Dhaval Bhatt, Vikram Bhati and Alpesh Rabari reportedly are all self proclaimed cow vigilantes. Bhatt has even been arrested previously for killing a Dalit and was released on bail four months ago.

The special investigation team (SIT), led by Dipen Bhadran, deputy commissioner of police of the crime branch, Ahmedabad and B.C. Solanki, assistant commissioner of police of the Ahmedabad special operations group, have said that four others who may have been involved in the incident are still absconding.

The SIT team of 258 police personnel was formed on the evening of September 17. The same evening, P.B. Rana, the police inspector of Anandnagar police station, under whose jurisdiction the incident had happened, was transferred to the traffic department. Senior police officers also visited the family of the deceased to assure compensation and justice.

However, police action came only after a sustained protest and demand for justice for Ayyub. The city police, who had chosen to look the other way, was forced to act when the activists brought out the hard facts of the case.

The movement demanding justice for Ayyub gained momentum on September 17, after he succumbed to fatal injuries sustained in the assault. Activists and sympathisers gathered in largers numbers inside the premises of VS Hospital and were led by lawyer-activist Shamshad Pathan.

Sharir ka koi hissa nai bacha tha jahan mara nai hoga” (There was not one part of the body where they didn’t beat him), said Mohammed Arif,  Ayyub’s younger brother. Arif was detained by the city police from the premises of the hospital the day after his brother died. The 25-year-old, along with many others, were demanding that the cow vigilantes who had brutally attacked Ayyub be arrested and the concerned police officer under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred be held responsible.

The incident occurred on the night of September 12. Ayyub along with one Samir Sheikh, were reportedly carrying two calves in an Indigo car when the gau rakshaks began to chase them. Later, the vigilantes rammed their car into Ayyub’s car, pulled him out and assaulted him.

An FIR was filed against Ayyub and Sheikh at the Anandnagar police station under the law of animal cruelty. Another FIR was filed under section 307 (case of attempt to murder which later was changed to 302 – case of murder after Ayyub died) against “unidentified assailants”.

However, the Anandnagar police’s claim that the cow vigilantes were untraceable turned out to be wrong when activists got hold of the FIR filed against Ayyub and Sheikh.

Apparently, the gau rakshaks had identified themselves while filing the complaint against the duo. The Anandnagar police...


No Country to Call Home: Afghan Refugee’s Suicide in Sweden Lays Bare Struggles of Asylum Seekers "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Trauma faced by refugees often results in mental illnesses and the fact that they are usually isolated makes them easy targets for recruitment by militant groups.

Afghan migrant Mustafa Ansari is seen in an undated handout photograph taken in the Swedish town of Karlshamn and provided to Reuters June 3, 2016. Credit: Amir Hassanzade/Handout via Reuters

Afghan migrant Mustafa Ansari is seen in an undated handout photograph taken in the Swedish town of Karlshamn and provided to Reuters June 3, 2016. Credit: Amir Hassanzade/Handout via Reuters

Svangsta: Mustafa Ansari’s journey ended one April morning in his bedroom in a quiet Swedish village.

At around 7 am, staff at the young asylum-seekers’ centre where Ansari was staying, found him dead. The sheets of his metal bunk bed were tied so tightly around the Afghan teenager’s neck, an inquiry later learned, the staffer who found him had to cut the noose with a knife.

Around the soccer-mad boy’s room were brightly coloured post-it notes scribbled with Swedish words he had been learning.

An autopsy found Ansari, who had no papers but was described in the autopsy as 17, had committed suicide. During nine months in Sweden, the authorities had not managed to carry out a single interview for his asylum application.

The young Afghan was a new kind of casualty in Europe’s migration crisis. While thousands have died on the journey to Europe, Ansari made it, only to become caught up in an overloaded system. His story highlights the limits on capacity even in a country like Sweden, which has one of the most open policies towards migrants and refugees. It also underlines the anxieties and risks faced by the more than 100,000 unaccompanied young asylum-seekers who have reached Europe since 2015.

Sweden has long been welcoming of refugees and is proud of its humanitarian record. It threw open its doors to all Syrians in September 2013 and has taken in more asylum-seekers per head than any other European country.

But as more than a million migrants reached Europe illegally last year, mass applications choked systems everywhere. Sweden said it couldn’t cope.

Processing times for asylum-seekers in the country have nearly tripled over five years to a median of longer than nine months, from just over three months in 2011. Care-workers have lost track of more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors, a third of whom are Afghan males, since 2014.

Last November, the country started to restrict the number of migrants it lets in. The deputy prime minister wept on TV when she announced the curbs.

“We have taken in too many for too long,” said Prime Minister Stefan Lofven at the time. Sweden’s migration minister said last week he did not believe any other country had given unaccompanied minors a better reception than Sweden.

When authorities struggle with asylum applications, psychiatrists say they incubate multiple problems. Applicants are often isolated. Some are already traumatised by their experiences and prone to mental illness and self-h...


Up Close and Personal: In the Centre of Two Conflicted States "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Ordinary citizens are disgusted and angry that they are put to hardship on the whims of unregulated mobs. Can we allow vested interests to hold everyone to ransom?

Men ride a motorcycle past a lorry in Bengaluru, which was set on fire by protesters after the Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release 12,000 cubic feet of water per second every day from the Cauvery river. Credit: Reuters

Men ride a motorcycle past a lorry in Bengaluru, which was set on fire by protesters after the Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release 12,000 cubic feet of water per second every day from the Cauvery river. Credit: Reuters

Year after year, when the Cauvery water issue rears its ugly head, I wonder, are we one country only when it comes to cricket or Pakistani terrorism? Where’s our famous unity in diversity? My husband, born to Keralite parents, grew up in Bangalore. His parental home and memories are of old Bangalore. We moved to the Nilgiris decades ago. I had a Kannada-speaking grandfather and a Tamil great grandmother. With a foot in each state, its easier to view all arguments in a more balanced, less partisan manner. Additionally, we’ve been connected to farmers and farming in both states for decades too.

Is it really about water? The farmers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are both far more civilised about the entire issue, and its resolution, than the media gives them credit for. We listened to farmers in Mandya district, apparently the epicentre of the farmers’ agitation. We left Bangalore at 7 am hoping to avoid the really strident protesters. Approaching Mandya town on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, the police had created a diversion, preventing people from driving through the main street of Mandya town. It was only 8:30 am, but there was already a decided buzz. Groups of people huddled together talking about what could happen, exchanging news. But, the familiar weather-beaten farmers’ faces were friendly and helpful. My husband and son, both fluent in village Kannada, chatted with them, making general enquiries about the situation in general, apart from asking advice about the best way to get to Mysuru. My husband, who farmed corn, ragi and watermelons, among other things decades ago, always bonds with farmers. The empathy is almost tangible, the farmers respond instantly.

“Farmers everywhere need water. Karnataka or Tamil Nadu. But what can we or the government or anybody do if the gods do not give us water? Will the strikes and violence give farmers more water? If we get more in Karnataka, then our brothers in Tamil Nadu will get less and vice versa. Somehow we have to share. But this is not the way,” said one village elder, pointing to the ashes of a coconut tree that lay across the road. It had been set ablaze the previous day. His weather-beaten face spoke of decades of hard work, in his fields, among his crops in the hot sun. “Of course we want a solution to our water problem but will burning trees in villages or burning buses in the city help us in any way? Can violence help anyone?” another farmer asked in apparent disgust.

Though the farmers we met were stoic and philosop...


Photo Story: Living on the Edge of a Rising Sea "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Ghoramara Island in the Ganga estuary of West Bengal is slowly being submerged by rising sea levels, forcing people to migrate in large numbers

Ghormara. Credit: The Third Pole

Ghoramara. Credit: The Third Pole/Anup Bhattacharya

For people living on the islands in the Ganga estuary, climate change is a demon they battle every day. It has already transformed their lives and livelihood. Nowhere is this clearer than in Sagar administrative block in West Bengal on the edge of the Bay of Bengal. This area is part of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem and one of the areas most vulnerable to climate change in India.

The Sagar block, which has a population of around 200,000, has to not only grapple with a rising sea level at a rate that is nearly 250% higher than global rate (8 mm per year compared with 3.23 mm per year, according to the school of oceanographic studies of Jadavpur University in Kolkata), but also stands exposed to increasing high intensity cyclones and storms. The rising sea has already submerged Lohachara island in Sagar block, eaten nearly three-fourths of Ghoramara island and severely affected the bigger Sagar island.

The story of Ghoramara shows how climate change is changing the way people live – how it divides families, breaks social taboos and hastens forced migration. The largely poor people in the island (45% live below the poverty line) are under enormous socioeconomic stress that has upturned their lives.

Credit: The Third Pole/Anup Bhattacharya

Sagar Island (left) and Ghoramara Island (right) were attached in early 20th century. By the middle of the century older people say they could swim across from Ghoramara to Sagar during low tide in a few minutes. Today it takes about 40 minutes to reach Sagar Island from Ghoramara. The gap between the islands has increased mainly due to rapid erosion in Ghoramara.


Washington Tries to Break BRICS – Rape of Brazil Begins "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

452342342342Washington’s regime change machinery has for the time being succeeded in removing an important link in the alliance of large emerging nations by railroading through a Senate impeachment of the duly elected President, Dilma Rousseff. On August 31 her Vice President Michel Temer was sworn in as President. In his first speech as president, the cynical Temer called for a government of “national salvation,” asking for the trust of the Brazilian people. He indicated plans to reform, and has also signaled his intention to overhaul the pension system and labor laws, and cut public spending, all themes beloved of Wall Street banks, of the International Monetary Fund and their Washington Consensus. Now after less than three weeks at the job, Temer has unveiled plans for wholesale privatization of Brazil’s crown jewels, starting with oil. The planned Wall Street rape of Brazil is about to begin.

It’s important to keep in mind that elected President Rousseff was not convicted or even formally charged with any concrete act of corruption, even though the pro-oligarchy mainstream Brazil media, led by O’Globo Group of the billionaire Roberto Irineu Marinho, ran a media defamation campaign creating the basis to railroad Rousseff into formal impeachment before the Senate. The shift took place after the opposition PMDB party of Temer on March 29 broke their coalition with Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, as accusations of Petrobras-linked corruption were made against Rousseff and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

On August 31, 61 Senators voted to remove her while 20 voted against removal. The formal charge was “manipulation of the state budget” before the 2014 elections to hide the size of the deficit. She vehemently denies the charge. Indeed, the Senate issued its own expert report that concluded there was “no indication of direct or indirect action by Dilma” in any illegal budgetary maneuvers. According to the Associated Press, “Independent auditors hired by Brazil’s Senate said in a report released Monday that suspended President Dilma Rousseff didn’t engage in the creative accounting she was charged with at her impeachment trial.” Under an honest system that would have ended the impeachment then and there. Not in Brazil.

In effect, she was impeached for the dramatic decline in the Brazilian economy, a decline deliberately pushed along as US credit rating agencies downgraded Brazilian debt, and international and mainstream Brazilian media kept the Petrobras corruption allegations in the spotlight. Importantly, the Senate did not ban her from office for 8 years as Washington had hoped, and she has promised an electoral return. The Washington-steered Temer has until end of 2018 to deliver Brazil to Temer’s foreign masters before his term legally ends.

Notably, Temer himself was accused of corruption in the Petrobras state oil company investigations. He reportedly asked the then-head of the transportation unit of Petróleo Brasileiro SA in 2012 to arrange illegal campaign contributions to Temer’s party which was running a Washington-backed campaign to oust Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. Then this June, only days into his serving as acting president, two of Temer’s own chosen ministers, including the Minister of Transparency, were forced to resign in response to allegations that they sought to subvert...


Language Could be Humankind’s Most Impressive Technological Invention "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Humans have invented many technologies to survive better – spears, pots, calculators, even language. With language, however, the raw material used to fashion the technology is the human body itself.

Couple receiving directions. Credit: Creative Commons

Communicating with words and gestures. Credit: Creative Commons

Humans have speculated about the emergence of language and linguistic diversity since antiquity. Perhaps the earliest reference to this question is in the book of Genesis in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

In this narrative, God spoke to Adam and gave him authority to name every being in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve could apparently also communicate with animals, as it was a snake that convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This makes us all the more curious about the nature of this unnamed, primordial language.

According to the same story, when humans attempted to build a tower tall enough to reach the heavens God destroyed it. His punishment was to make these people speak several, mutually unintelligible languages. He then scattered them all over the world, making it harder for them to collaborate.

For the longest time, this Tower of Babel myth was invoked to account for the multitude of languages around the world today and to speculate on the nature of the primordial language.

The evolution of understanding

Influenced by Christianity, Western philosophers up to the 18th century generally assumed that language was God-given. Only a handful of philosophers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Gottfried Herder among them, stood out by anticipating Charles Darwin’s speculation in The Descent of Man that language was the invention of humankind.

Darwin argued that language evolution mirrors humankind’s biological evolution. Its development was incremental and protracted, evolving from simpler to more complex forms, with no design or foresight. His claim that human languages started from animal-like vocalisations – aka the ‘bow-wow theory’ – was ridiculed as nonsense, especially by Frederick Max Müller.

Muller argued that what distinguishes humans from other animals is not so much speech but reason – the capacity to think and the faculty of abstraction.

This reaction reflects the heated polemics that marked the academic discourse about the evolution of language throughout the 19th century. The debate got so fierce that in 1866 the Société de Linguistique de Paris decided to ban the subject from its publications’ pages.

Most linguists appear to have respected this moratorium until the late 20th century, when breakthroughs in paleontology made possible new le...


UN Refugee Summit Falls Short For Children "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Children should not be criminalised for fleeing the horrors of war, but the US has an ugly record of detaining unaccompanied refugee children.

Just over half of the world's refugees are children. Credit: James Jeffrey/ IPS.

Just over half of the world’s refugees are children. Credit: James Jeffrey/ IPS.

United Nations: As Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini opened the floor for US President Barack Obama’s leaders’ summit on refugees, she embodied a hope unavailable to most child refugees.

On Monday, the US was one of the main countries to obstruct a UN Declaration that no child should ever be detained. Though welcome, the US’s commitment the following day to resettle 110,000 refugees in 2017 was overshadowed by its ugly record on detaining unaccompanied minors.

Just over half of the world’s 65.3 million refugees are children, of which the vast majority, some 25 million children, are out of school, threatening to leave almost an entire generation behind.

Obama’s summit was the second of two high level meetings on migration and refugees held during the UN General Assembly on Monday and Tuesday this week.

After UN member states failed to come up with a collective agreement to resettle one in ten refugees on Monday, Obama invited countries to make commitments on an individual, “pay to play” basis: invitation rested on “new and significant commitments”, whether as resettlement opportunities or financial contributions.

The summit saw 52 countries and organisations pledge a total of $4.5 billion in humanitarian aid, double the number of people to be resettled, whether as refugees as or by other legal routes, and improve access to education for a million refugee children and access to work for a million refugees.

“This crisis is a test of our common humanity – whether we give in to suspicion and fear and build walls, or whether we see ourselves in another. Those girls being trafficked and tortured, they could be our daughters,” Obama said in his eighth and final address to the UN General Assembly as president, alluding to Donald Trump’s fear-mongering campaign.

Yet critics have called attention to the US’s record of detaining unaccompanied minors and young women from Central America, saying it is a thorn in the country’s side – in what they call “its own backyard”.

“[Obama] should be commended for trying to build responsibility-sharing globally,” Kevin Appleby, director of New York’s Center for Migration Studies, told IPS. “But again he needs to be consistent with all refugee populations in need… The administration is just not putting the effort into it in terms of protection for this particular migration flow,” he said, referring to Central American refugees.

Unlawful and arbitrary detention

“It is completely unequivocal for us that child detention solves nothing and all it does is punish some of the most vulnerable who have had absolutely no hand in creating the situations that they are trying to escape,” Hannah Stoddart, director of advocacy and communications at War Child, told IPS....


Syria as a Metaphor of the World’s Grim Realities "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

When states dream, is Syria their nightmare?

Syria during the civil war. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Syria during the civil war. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The war in Syria is a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for all the civilians who suffer from constant aerial bombardment, who are trapped without food and medical assistance inside crumbling cities, who experience the retribution of either ISIS or the regime in Damascus. It’s a nightmare for those who try to escape and face the prospect of death in transit or limbo in refugee camps.

Syria is a nightmare for individuals, millions of them. But it’s not just that. If states could dream, then Syria would be their nightmare as well.

Syria was once a sovereign state like any other. It had a central government and fixed boundaries. The Syrian state enjoyed a monopoly on violence and, on several occasions, deployed that violence against its citizenry to devastating effect. The economy functioned, more or less, with considerable revenue coming from the oil sector. In 2009, tourism accounted for 12% of the economy. Not that long ago and despite its many problems, Syria attracted a large number of eager travellers.

In perhaps the most ironic twist, the Syrian state once had delusions of grandeur. It wanted to abolish the old colonial boundaries and unify the entire Arab world. Under Hafez al-Assad, its authoritarian ruler from 1970 until 2000, Syria attempted to absorb Lebanon, unite with Egypt and Libya in a short-lived Federation of Arab Republics, displace Iraq as the undisputed ideological leader in the region, and even take charge of the Palestinian cause.

During Hafez al-Assad's dictatorship, Syria attempted. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hafez al-Assad. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How quickly dreams can segue into nightmares. Syria has fallen in upon itself, fracturing into four distinct pieces. The government in Damascus controls a gerrymandered slice of territory around the capital and the coast. The Kurds have carved out an autonomous region along the Turkish border in the northeast. ISIS still claims a large expanse in the heart of the country. And various rebel factions have secured a patchwork of lan...


Libyan Oil – the Bargaining Chip in the Struggle for Power "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

2434234134Between September 11 and 12, 2016, the Libyan army, under the command of General Khalifa Haftar, took control of the key oil facilities of the ‘Oil Crescent’ on the Mediterranean coast in Zawiya, Ras Lanuf and Sidra as well as Zueitina and Mersa Brega, through which the bulk of the oil produced in the country runs. The capture was done almost without bloodshed, with only one person having died.

Back in July, the Government of National Accord led by F.Sarraj agreed with the so-called ‘Petroleum Facilities Guard’ (which actually consists of the separatist armed forces) that for a set fee, they would protect the oil-loading infrastructure. The government was planning to ensure the terminals’ security and fill the emptying budget by restarting oil exports. However, the ‘Guard’ was for not so long under the command of the central government, being dissatisfied with the fees charged. As a result, the level of oil production and shipment through Libyan ports has fallen drastically, barely reaching more than 200…290 thousand barrels per day. Let us recall that when M. Kaddafi was in power, Libya was producing 1.65 million barrels of oil a day, with 300,000 cratering for domestic needs, and the rest (1.3 million barrels) exported. This enabled the country to develop into one of the largest oil exporters in the world, with its production levels at par with those of Kuwait, Qatar or Mexico.

The entire oil industry has now come under the control of the Libyan armed forces. Haftar, a General who has become Marshal, now controls five out of the six major terminals, while ISIS controls the one in Sirte (ISIS was banned in Russia as a terrorist organization). At the same time, the Command of the Libyan army has guaranteed the execution of all oil supplies on which Libya has signed up, both for domestic consumers and for export. This decision was strongly supported by the Parliament sitting in Tobruk, internationally recognized as the country’s legislative body. As its speaker, Aguila Saleh, said in supporting General Khalifa Haftar’s actions, “Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) will comply with all the existing obligations and contracts with domestic and foreign companies.”
It follows from the statement of the National Oil Corporation of Libya itself that, until the end of 2016, the authorities in the east of the country are planning to increase the production of black gold up to 950 thousand Barrels per day in just a month.

Of course, regaining control over the oil terminals does not solve all problems. They still need to convince the Western companies to come back to the country. And this requires a firm grip and stability. After all, in the actual anarchy in the country after 2011, most of the foreign companies producing oil were forced to halt production or drastically reduce their volumes. Only the most staunch stayed, including Italian ENI and American ConocoFillips, while French TOTAL, Royal Dutch Shell and Marathon Oil turned off most or all of their production works and took their staff out.

It would seem that gaining of control by the national armed forces over the country’s main industrial infrastructure should be welcomed by the whole civilized world. But nothing of the kind.

In a joint declaration, on September 12, representatives of the USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK called for Khalifa Haftar tro...


Prince Charles to 'strengthen ties' with Gulf dictators "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, will pay an official visit to Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates in November. An official announcement yesterday said their tour will "help to strengthen the United Kingdom’s warm bilateral relations with key partners" in the Gulf region.


Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Turns Twenty "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) marks 20 years since it was open for signature on September 24. Adopted by the UN General Assembly, the multilateral treaty bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments. The CTBT is included into the agenda of the UN General Assembly opened on September 19...


Strongest Earthquake this year 40 kilometres south of Mati "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

This year’s Strongest Earthquake hit the region of Mati in south-eastern Mindanao. A series of aftershocks is still rocking Davao Oriental.

A Magnitude 6.5 earthquake shook Mati this morning 6:53 a.m. In Mati and Davao the shock was felt with an intensity of 5. Intensity V is strong. It is generally felt by most people indoors and outdoors. Many sleeping people are awakened. Some are frightened, some run outdoors. Strong shaking and rocking felt throughout buildings. Hanging objects swing violently. Dining utensils clatter and clink; some may be damaged. Small, light and unstable objects may fall or overturn. Liquids spill from open containers. Standing vehicles rock noticeably. Shaking of leaves and twigs of trees are noticeable.

PHIVOLCS director Renato Solidum said that no damage is expected from the quake as its epicentre was off into the sea at 32 kilometres Southeast of Davao Oriental. The focus was 43 km deep.

Strongest Earthquake - PHIVOLCS Renato Solidum

Strongest Earthquake

[Update:] At 16:00 on 2016-09-24 we counted already 25 aftershocks of this year’s Strongest Earthquake.
[Update:] At 11:30 on 2016-09-24 we counted already 17 aftershocks of this year’s Strongest Earthquake.
Until now we have recorded 6 aftershocks. Their magnitudes were between 2.3 and 4.8. It is to expect that the region will continue to tremble for some days. The following intensities were reported:

Intensity V – Mati, Davao Oriental; Davao City
Intensity IV – General Santos City; Alabel, Glan & Malapatan, Sarangani; Polomolok, South Cotabato;
Intensity III – Tupi, South Cotabato; Cagayan De Oro City;

These intensities correspond to our calculated circular region coloured red in the map below.

Strongest Earthquake 2016-09-24

The interactive earthquake maps are here.

Among the currently 2265 earthquakes recorded up to now 4 quakes were of Magnitude 6 or higher. 185 quakes were of medium Magnitude between M 4.0 and M 6.0. The rest were...

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Friday, 23 September


Watch: Why Honda Workers Are on an Indefinite Hunger Strike "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Now in its fifth day, a rare struggle that has contract and permanent workers looking out for each other.

Workers of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) began an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar on September 19, to protest the repressive working conditions at the Honda factory in Tapukara, Rajasthan. They filed a petition to unionise on August 6, 2015 to protect contractual workers from exploitative conditions at the plant. In the following months, between September 2015 to February 2016, the company terminated over 700 contract workers.

Their two demands include reinstating all terminated and suspended workers and withdrawing all civil and criminal cases filed against the workers.

The turmoil worsened when on February 16 this year, a contract worker refused to work overtime for a third consecutive day. A senior supervisor physically assaulted the worker. In response, workers gathered to protest the brutality when they allegedly faced coercion and lathi-charge by the police and Honda management. Over the following days around 70 workers were charged with criminal cases under the IPC.

After the February protests, the company fired around 2,000 contract workers and over 400 permanent workers. Around 280 contract workers have been reinstated by the management but the status of the remaining terminated and suspended permanent workers, along with over 2,000 contract workers remains unresolved.

The post Watch: Why Honda Workers Are on an Indefinite Hunger Strike appeared first on The Wire.


The Gefilte Manifesto: Reimagining the Jewish cuisine of central Europe "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A new cookbook re-imagines traditional Ashkenazi food, a cuisine that for years was rejected by the children and grandchildren of immigrants from central and eastern Europe. This book is a big step toward correcting that injustice.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, authors of a new cookbook called The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, authors of a new cookbook called The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz, who, together with Liz Alpern, co-authored a new cookbook called The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods, has been on a culinary journey over the past decade. His experience includes a stint in Israel, where he volunteered for a year on a kibbutz that specializes in pig farming. During that period he wrote a witty blog about the conceit of being a vehemently secular American Jewish pig farmer in the holy land who refuses to eat pork for reasons of cultural identity.


Years later, at a cafe in Brooklyn, I asked him why he eschewed pork, since he did not observe any other aspect of Jewish religious law. “Because,” he answered, “Eating pork is for me the red line. After that, I don’t know what defines the identity of a secular Jew.” Jeffrey being Jeffrey — that is to say, a smart and thoughtful listener — he was completely open to a vigorous debate on what defined a secular, or cultural Jew. He was willing to consider that maybe going to Chinatown for moo shoo pork on Christmas Eve was a sort of secular Jewish cultural ritual.

The Gefilte Manifesto is a glorious paean to the cuisine that is such a big part of central European Jewish heritage and identity. It is a re-imagining of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food, one that is both deeply rooted in the old world and utterly contemporary. Nor is it sentimental. This is not The Fiddler on the Roof Cookbook.

Gently and with humor, Yoskowitz and Alpern present their case for a traditional cuisine that for years was rejected and denigrated, by the children and grandchildren of Jews who emigrated from central and eastern Europe, as unsophisticated, bland, too “brown,” too fatty and generally unhealthy. These characterizations beg the question, of course: how did generations of Ashkenazi Jews survive for centuries on tasteless, unhealthy food? And what in the world were our grandparents nosta...


Why Netanyahu’s offer to visit the Palestinian parliament is pure BS "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The Israeli prime minister tells the UN that he will ‘gladly come to speak’ to the Palestinian legislative body, which he conveniently forgets hasn’t convened in nearly a decade. Outstretched hand for peace or PR ploy?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before the UN General Assembly in New York, September 22, 2016. (Kobi Gideon, GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before the UN General Assembly in New York, September 22, 2016. (Kobi Gideon, GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loves being dramatic at the UN. From his bag of props to awkward moments of silence to general theatrics, he always makes sure to grab a few headlines when visiting the General Assembly in New York.


This year, one of Netanyahu’s biggest moments was when he invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to speak at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, an ode to the visit by then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that preceded a peace deal between the two countries. Netanyahu also offered to speak in front of the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.

“President Abbas, instead of railing against Israel at the United Nations in New York, I invite you to speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said, addressing the Palestinian president directly. “And I would gladly come to speak to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.”

There are two major problems with Netanyahu’s otherwise seemingly bold step toward peace. There’s no way it would ever happen under current circumstances.

Firstly, as Chaim Levinson pointed out in Haaretz three years ago, when a grandstanding Netanyahu made a similar invitation to Abbas to speak at the Knesset, the Israeli prime minister simply doesn’t have the authority to make such an invitation.

Aside from the fact that he doesn’t have the authority to invite guests to the Knesset, Abu Mazen simply cannot go there. The Knesset Speaker may invite guests with the approval of the Knesset Constitution Committee, but potential invitees include only heads of state, leaders of parliament and the heads of organizations of which Israel is a member ‏(such as the United Nations or the European Union‏). Israel, ironically, does...


With no justice on the horizon for Gaza, what comes next? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A new report by B’Tselem concludes that the Israeli military’s investigations into its own alleged crimes are little more than a whitewash. So what comes next?

A Palestinian woman walks past the rubble of a home that was destroyed by Israel during the 2014 war, Rafah, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

A Palestinian woman walks past the rubble of a home that was destroyed by Israel during the 2014 war, Rafah, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

Sometimes a seemingly dry bit of research can seem to rise to the level of literature, challenging the status quo in ways that, in the long run, only literature can. Take, for example, the first Arab Human Development Report. Penned by researchers from the region, the 2002 report concludes, rather boldly, that “the predominant characteristic of the current Arab reality seems to be the existence of deeply rooted shortcomings in the Arab institutional structure.”


Sure, that conclusion was used in too many reductionist opinion columns following 9/11. See, for example, Thomas Friedman’s 2002 piece, “Arabs at the Crossroads,” in which he declares that to “understand the milieu that produced bin Ladenism,” one need only “read this report.” But for the vast majority of Arabs who grew up in that milieu (myself included) and did not embrace “bin Ladenism,” Friedman’s invitation was neither here nor there. If we studied the report, we did so because it concerned us, because we weren’t afraid to see our notions of ourselves refracted, even reversed.

This mirroring is precisely what good literature can do. But to do so, it must not shy away from its cause. And that, I fear, is what discerning readers might conclude about a new report by the consistently top-notch Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Earlier this week, I sat down to read “Whitewash Protocol,” the organization’s latest report which offers a r...


Resource: The Whitewashing Procedure "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The Israeli bodies responsible for investigating the events of Operation Protective Edge are engaged primarily in creating the false impression of a functioning system that ostensibly seeks to discover the truth.

In the meantime, those actually responsible for violations are not even questioned, and the investigations have been confined to superficial inspections of a number of isolated incidents, divorced from any context.

This is the conclusion reached by the human rights organization B’Tselem in a new report. Entitled The Whitewashing Procedure: The Ostensible Investigation of the Events of Operation Protective Edge, the report summarizes a period of over two years since the end of the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Read more on this report: With no justice on the horizon for Gaza, what comes next?


B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.


Dadlani Granted Anticipatory Bail, Court Says Complaint Made Only to ‘Humiliate’ Him "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Vishal Dadlani at a Ambala police station. Credit: Jahnavi Sen

Vishal Dadlani at an Ambala police station with his lawyer, Karuna Nundy on September 21, 2016. Credit: Jahnavi Sen

New Delhi/Ambala: Musician and former Aam Aadmi Party member Vishal Dadlani – facing criminal charges in various parts of the country after he criticised the Haryana government’s decision to invite a Jain monk to address the legislative assembly in a series of tweets – was granted anticipatory bail by a sessions court in Ambala on Friday.

Judge Deepak Gupta also pulled up the state and the complainant in the case, saying their conduct “gives an inference that the purpose of the complainant/State is to humiliate the Petitioner (Dadlani) and not to make progress in the investigation”. The news was broken by his lawyer, Karuna Nundy, on Twitter:

The case against the singer in Ambala has been filed by Puneet Arora, who in his complaint had said he was “visibly hurt and aggrieved” by tweets from Dadlani and Congressman Tehsin Poonawalla on the Jain monk’s speech. “This is straight away, through the medium of the internet, a matter of spreading religious discontent/enmity, hurting of belief and religious sentiments, disrespect of Jain Saint, who belongs to a minority community, the entire female fraternity, 2.5 crore residents of Haryana, the respected Governor, respected Speaker, respected Chief Minister and Elected Representative, the matter concerns disrespect towards all,” Arora said in his complaint.

On Wednesday, Dadlani met the monk in question, Muni Tarun Sagar, and apologised. The monk said that he held nothing against Dadlani and all complaints against him should be retracted. However, Arora then told The Wire that he did not intend to retract the complaint and the matter was not in “the court’s hands”.

In an order passed on September 19, the day of the previous hearing in the case, judge Gupta ruled in favour of Dadlani:

“In th...


Interview 1212 – From Anthrax to Iraq with Graeme MacQueen "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

[audio mp3=""][/audio]The theory that Iraq had some connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks was abandoned almost as soon as it was floated. The blatant lies told about the origin and composition of the anthrax was quickly exposed as just that: blatant lies. Soon even the US government itself had to admit that the anthrax came from within the bowels of its own bioweapons program. Even so, the anthrax scare continued to loom large in the propaganda and lies that led to the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Joining us today to discuss this discredited but persistent aspect of the anthrax attacks is Dr. Graeme MacQueen, author of The 2001 Anthrax Deception.


Why are illegal gambling outlets operating again? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The public are asking the authorities, including Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem, as to why illegal gambling (fishing) outlets are operating again after they were closed for a short period recently. PKR Women national vice president Voon Shiak Ni said the questions were posed by crime watch groups to her, but unfortunately, […]


Sarawak PKR: Adenan breaking election pledge not to build mega dam "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has reneged on his May 7 pledge not to build another mega dam in the state, Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian said today. “I am most disappointed to learn that state government has given approval to Sarawak Energy Berhad for the construction of the 1,285 megawatt Baleh mega […]


Being insensitive isn’t a crime "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Arresting someone at 4.30am in his home without a warrant, taking him away without informing his family where they were taking him or why, and dragging him all the way from Petaling Jaya to Johor Baru — one might think that the suspect was a terrorist, murderer or had committed treason against the state. But […]


Bersih Sarawak to start convoy at same time with national group on Oct 1 "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Bersih Sarawak will hold a convoy simultaneously with the nationwide Bersih convoy on Oct 1 with the flagging-off in Miri. The convoy is expected to reach Sri Aman on Oct 22, from where it will proceed to Lachau, Simunjan, Balai Ringin, Gedong, Serian, Siburan, Kota Samarahan, Kota Padawan, Petra Jaya, Matang, Demak Laut, Kota Sentosa, […]


Can four be ‘approximately equal’ to one? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Decent Malaysians are angry over the unscrupulous redelineation proposal unveiled by the Election Commission (EC) on Sept 15. However, anger without action does not lead to anywhere. And if the EC proposal is passed – which takes only a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat to do so – the outcomes of the next two […]


New No airport tax hike please, say Sarawak lawmakers "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A couple of Sarawak Barisan Nasional lawmakers have urged Putrajaya to reconsider the impending airport tax hike and stop its implementation, Borneo Post Online reported today. According to the report, Batu Danau Assemblyman Paulus Palu Gumbang said air travellers in the state were already heavily burdened with expensive domestic travel, especially those in Limbang and […]


Sarawak says won’t allow developers to give out loans "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The Sarawak government has rejected the proposal by Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar to allow property developers to act as bankers in providing housing loans. According to the Borneo Post Online, State Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that the move would cause financial […]


Ambiga: I support Dr M as nation needs rescue "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan said she supports former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Citizens’ Declaration as the nation is facing a bigger evil that is insurmountable. “It is also a political necessity for a new political alignment to take place,” she told her audience in response to a question posed by DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng. […]


Amanah wants Harapan council to act fast on redelineation "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Parti Amanah Negara strategy director Dzulkefly Ahmad wants Pakatan Harapan’s presidential douncil to convene immediately and endorse a unified action plan to move against the Election Commission’s (EC) proposed relideneation exercise. “What needs doing soonest is for the presidential council to assemble a meeting so as to endorse an action plan already prepared by the […]


How S’gor seats will be more racially polarised with EC’s redelineation "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A week after the Election Commission (EC) announced its redelineation plans, debates continue to rage on the way it was done, among them whether the transfer of voters will create further racial polarisation. This is particularly true for racially-mixed Selangor, which will see its electoral constituencies substantially altered by the EC. Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming on Wednesday […]

Unesco hails M’sia for stance against violent extremism "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova has paid tribute to Putrajaya for its firm stance against violent extremism. Calling Malaysia a country which helps to advance education for peace, Bokova said Unesco shared its vision of an inclusive society that gained strength from diversity. She said under Prime Minister Najib Razak’s leadership, the government had taken a […]


Opposition to Hadi’s Bill snowballs "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill on the Hudud looked like it’s going to get defeated even before it gets retabled in Parliament. Opposition to Hadi’s plan to retable the Bill that seeks to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355, is snowballing in the […]


Where’s the bus backup? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

I do hope some Malaysians enjoyed the three-day free rides on the RapidKL Rail Kelana Jaya line last week. The events leading up to it were definitely horrendous to some. For those not in the know, the Kelana Jaya LRT line broke down twice – first on Sept 7 and then once again on Sept […]


Law firm set up under former AG’s name "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A legal firm under the name of Gani Patail Chambers has been set up in Kuala Lumpur. A check by FMT on the Malaysian Bar website revealed lawyers listed as attached to the firm were Faezul Adzra Patail Abdul Gani Patail, the son of the former attorney-general, as well as former Solicitor-General Azailiza Mohd Ahad, […]


PPBM wants a two-term limit for post of PM "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Emulating the political system in several developed countries, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) says it will limit the term of the prime minister if it comes to power. Its vice-president Mukhriz Mahathir said should the party take over Putrajaya after the next general election, any of its leaders would only be allowed to hold the […]


Interfaith group wants proper decorum during ‘doa’ "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Revive the “doa” (prayer) sessions observed in the 1950s and 1970s, an interfaith group urged today. Under the practice, people of other faiths would pray in silence while the “doa” was recited for Muslims in schools and during official functions. Honorary Secretary of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), […]


Can we sue councils for crashing? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

With the terrible conditions of Malaysian roads, especially in the Klang Valley, and the construction sites which add to the heavy vehicles plying the roads, it would seem the only vehicles suitable for us would be the off roader-type. Yesterday, Chandran Sekaran K. Mohan, 55, had his vehicle plunged into a 10-metre-deep hole at a […]


Cenbet: EC redelineation proposals against 1Malaysia "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The Election Commission’s (EC) redelineation proposal will create single ethnic domination in certain seats, contrary to the government’s national integration efforts, says the Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet). The think tank warned that the EC’s latest approach also contradicts the urban housing policy. “It’s certainly not about 1Malaysia,” Cenbet said in a statement today. […]


Dr M now believes PMs shouldn’t be finance minister "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad now believes that the country’s prime ministers should not hold the portfolio of finance minister as well. This, he said, is to avoid a repeat of financial scandals such as the one involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). “Prime ministers should not be the minister of finance,” The Wall Street […]

Ali Tinju arrested and freed on bail, says IGP "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Mohd Ali Baharom, or Ali Tinju, has been arrested, and freed on bail following his threat against Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah. Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said there was no basis in claims that the police practised double standards in acting against the Gerakan Merah leader. “That’s why I said, people should […]


Get the one who defamed teachers "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

While it comes as a relief that the recent video alleging that a principal and a teacher were caught kissing and fondling each other in a national school meeting room was not true, the Ministry of Education and the National Union of Teaching Profession must find out who is out to sully the noble profession. […]

‘Too simplistic to say Malay votes will go to Umno’ "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

It is flawed and condescending. A political analyst said this about the argument that the recent redelineation exercise will only benefit Umno. Some political parties had claimed that a huge number of Malay voters had been shifted into traditional Umno seats. Speaking to FMT, UM Political Analyst Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi said assumptions […]


PKR to gather voters nationwide to protest against redelineation "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

PKR will mobilise at least 100 voters in contentious constituencies outside Selangor and Penang, where it does not hold power, to protest against the “unfair” redelineation proposals by the Election Commission (EC). Its deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali said this would be done before the 30-day deadline that expires on Oct 14. “We feel the […]


Anwar called Mahathir ‘untrustworthy mamak’, court told "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Umno’s Lenggeng Assemblyman Ishak Ismail told the court that then deputy prime minister and finance minister Anwar Ibrahim had once helped him to “expedite” his loan approval for an Ayer Keroh development project. “He (as Finance Minister) helped me to seek a loan from a finance company for my project worth millions of ringgit.” “He […]


Rafale Deal is Emblematic of What Modi is Trying to Fix in India’s Defence Industry "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

While the deal comes with a number of silver linings, it also shows that boosting indigenous defence production will take a lot more work.

India and France finally sealed the deal to acquire 36 Rafale aircraft for roughly $8 billion. Credit: Reuters

India and France finally sealed the deal to acquire 36 Rafale aircraft for roughly $8 billion. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: “I also feel like having a BMW and Mercedes. But I don’t because I can’t afford it… So, 126 Rafales was economically unviable. It was not required,” defence minister Manohar Parrikar was reported to have said last year, when asked about the previous government’s plan to buy over a hundred Rafale fighter jets.

Parrikar’s bluntness was an echo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plans for India’s defence industry. In a speech early last year Modi announced that not only did he want India to stop being the world’s number one defence importer but that over the next five years, nearly 70% of the country’s military needs would come from domestic production.

And yet, while today’s signing of the $8-billion dollar Rafale deal is a significant development and is India’s first major aircraft acquisition in nearly two decades, the deal’s twists and turns over the last two years also indicate how much work the Modi government has ahead of itself. In particular, the Rafale deal shows how much work needs to be done in overhauling the UPA government’s onerous acquisition processes, in setting up solid product road-maps and in ensuring ‘Make-in-India’ and co-production. 

Product road-map concerns

The origins of the Rafale deal go back nearly a decade ago, to 2007, when the Indian Air Force (IAF) kicked off a process to replace many of its MiG aircraft squadrons.

“At that time itself, there were many concerns over the safety record of the MiGs and the fact that some of them were ageing quicker than expected. The initial tender process saw a number of companies participate, the most important of which were Dassault, Lockheed, Mikoyan and Saab. At the time Mikoyan was avoided, because of the safety concerns with the MiGs, while the bids from Saab and Lockheed were not overly serious. It is only the last two years that proposals from Lockheed and...


Three Women Shine in a Climate of Oppression in Leena Yadav’s Parched "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The film could have become exploitative or cliched but smart writing and direction ensures that it doesn’t.

A still from the movie Parched

Radhika Apte (left), Tannishta Chatterjee (centre) and Suveen Chawla in a still from the movie Parched.

The three principal characters in Leena Yadav’s Parched, Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Gulab (Radhika Apte) and Bijli (Surveen Chawla), are women in their early 30s, but in their hearts and minds they are teenagers. It’s not difficult to understand why. Rani and Gulab got married – to men much older than them – at an age when they should have been going to school, fooling around with friends, flouting rules. Bijli, on the other hand, didn’t marry young, but, at the same age, became a prostitute – a circumstance, just like marriage, where her life was controlled by abusive, alcoholic men. As a result, none of these women experienced a fully-formed life. Their childhood was cut short by marriage; their adulthood, the twenties, saw them enduring abuses, both verbal and physical; and even now, in their early thirties, nearly nothing has changed. Rani’s become a mother-in-law, hoping marriage will set her son straight; Gulab is hoping to be a mother; Bijli, still stuck in the flesh trade, is looking for newer ways to cope and survive.

The stories of abusive men, oppressed women and an institution (a village controlled by regressive traditions) systemically supporting barbarity – even though still relevant and significant – aren’t new to India or Indian movies. But Yadav and her heroines keep adding new meanings to this drama, making it riveting and intriguing, complementing its social consciousness through good cinema. Take, for example, the character of Gulab (played by Apte, easily one of the best actresses in the country) in an early scene where she, sitting with a bunch of women, is talking about how infertile women, like her, play an important role in society populated by lascivious men who only know how to procreate. It’s a fantastic little scene; Gulab is nonchalant on the surface, smiling and eating as she talks, while the women look at her silently, perhaps wondering how her sense of shame, which for the time being has been masked by humour, can be assuaged.

This is what good acting and smart writing can help achieve; here, unlike last week’s release Pink, a message isn’t being hammered in. Parched, like most assured films, doesn’t talk directly to the audience; it does so through its characters, struggling to find out who they are, their moments, their quirks, their silences and put-on laughter, their quiet desperation, their throbbing despair. This smart writing and direction, at its finest, also manages to ask us this: How do you break the cycle of oppression when you’ve never been free, when you don’t even know you’re being oppressed in the first place?

These are less obvious and more difficult, questions, but Yadav asks them easily, while managing...


Delhi High Court’s Ruling Against Publishers is a Triumph For Knowledge "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The court conclusively stated that the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction would not constitute infringement.

Representational image. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Representational image. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In a landmark judgment, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of the Delhi high court has held that reproducing books and distributing copies thereof for the purpose of education is not copyright infringement. The ruling legitimises the practice of photocopying prevalent in universities and other spaces of learning. The question of whether such photocopying without the permission of the copyright holders was legal arose in 2013. A group of five prominent publishers had filed a suit against the University of Delhi and its photocopying service provider, alleging infringement of their copyrighted titles. Specifically, they argued that the infringement arose from widely used ‘course packs’ which were photocopies of collated passages and chapters from various titles and, sometimes included entire books as well. At the heart of the matter lay the interests of students and their rights and ability to access education, academics invested in the importance of readership and the free flow of knowledge and the publishers who claimed that photocopies hurt their sales and that they ought to benefit from this practice, monetarily. The publishers wanted the court to restrain the defendants from committing ‘institutionalised infringement’ and make them apply for bouquet licenses to carry on with the practice of photocopying.

The suit caused a huge furore. Soon, students and academics joined the fray to mount a stronger defence against the publishers. Notably, Amartya Sen wrote a letter urging the publishers to reconsider the action. Thirty three academics delivered a joint statement against the suit and intervened as the Society for Promoting Educational Access and Knowledge, or SPEAK, while students put forth their interests through the...


Cops Caught, Fed Rules, Unfree Libraries – New World Next Week "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Welcome to New World Next Week — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. In this week’s episode:

Story #1: Cops Accidentally Record Themselves Fabricating Charges Against Protester
Police Use TEN Different Types Of Checkpoints, With More On The Way
NYPD Admits Accounting For Its Civil-Forfeiture Seizures Is Hopeless

Story #2: After Rate Hike Fake Out, Yellen Responds To Trump
Clinton Tells Trump to Shut Up on Federal Reserve
How the Fed Can Swing the Election
Video: Greenspan Admitted Fed Above Law, Congress and President

Story #3: Government Must Stop Little Free Libraries for the Sake of the Nation
Dead Drops: For When Cybercom Pulls the Plug? (Nov. 18, 2010)

#GoodNewsNextWeek: #CatsNotAds In The London Underground =^. .^=

#NewWorldNextWeek Headlines: Pharma-Hackers Show How To Make EpiPen
#AmericasNextTopPresident: Kennedy Says Bush Is Voting For Clinton


Is the Syrian Ceasefire a Dead Man Walking? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

2342342131“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” ― Niccolò Machiavelli

The Syrian ceasefire exists in name only, after the Kerry-Lavrov UN side meeting when they stated they would carry forward even after fighting resumed. But realistically, how can they do that when the ceasefire itself has become a war of words, charges and counter-charges, deceptions and half-truths?

On death row, when a condemned man is walking to his execution, “Dead man walking” is called down the cell block so those next in line can give their last salute to one about to meet his end, along with any illusions of a last minute reprieve.

This will go down as one of the hardest to negotiate ceasefires; and we can see it began unraveling before the ink was dry. The US opposition racked up 300 violations, and used the week to rest and restock to begin a new offensive on southwestern Aleppo. That attack was defeated by the Syrian coalition which had expected it.

At the talks, a key ingredient of ceasefire credibility was missing, as there were no enforcement mechanisms in the agreement. There were no consequences whatsoever to rein in the rogue elements caught violating the ceasefire, and for whom obeying the rules does not seem to be a lifelong aspiration.

I wrote here on NEO on September 13th that US Syrian envoy Michael Ratney was tasked to poll the US-supported opposition groups to get their formal acceptance of the ceasefire and to warn them of “dire consequences” if they did not disengage with the al-Nusra forces that were still on the target list.

It appears that the opposition groups decided just go ahead and sign on so the US would have its list to submit to the Russians, and then they did whatever they wanted. We saw this quickly when, in the first few days, the opposition continued to violate the ceasefire, but Kerry and the Western media generally ignored it.

The Western Press played its usual sordid role by ignoring the details of large violations by the opposition, while giving front page coverage to anti-Damascus news, despite the Syrian Air Force standing down for the week on attacks against the ceasefire-approved opposition forces.

The Russians had gone to great lengths to publish that they have deployed their ability to monitor the ceasefire quite extensively, perhaps hoping to discourage violations. But when these violate reports were treated as nothing by the US coalition, then the violations increased. The rebel groups read between the lines that they could use the ceasefire to their advantage, and they did.

We next saw Lavrov asking for the ceasefire agreements to be made public, so the public could see which side was the major violator. The US ignored that request, as it seems there was an agreement that it could not be disclosed without both parties agreeing, and the US has taken advantage of that.

As the rebel violations continued to increase throughout the week, it became obvious that the US either had no control over getting compliance from the opposition groups, or was playing make believe in actually trying to, or the Gulf State backers had made an end run around the US and other groups that it has funded to wreck the ceasefire. I mentioned in my NEO article on the 13th that this w.....


Owaisi on Kashmir: ‘Pakistan Will Always Fish in Troubled Waters. What Have We Done at Our End?’ "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

In conversation with Asaduddin Owaisi on his experiences in the recent all-party delegation to Kashmir and how he thinks peace could be restored in the Valley.

Asaduddin Owaisi. Credit: PTI/Files

Asaduddin Owaisi. Credit: PTI/Files

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi was part of the recent all-party delegation that visited Kashmir. As part of an initiative to diffuse the ongoing crisis in Kashmir, the delegation submitted many recommendations. Owaisi himself made a list of suggestions to the central government. He told the media that ‘alienation of people’ and a ‘lack of governance’ are the biggest factors that have precipitated an unforeseen unrest in Kashmir. In the aftermath of the attack on the Uri army base camp, Owaisi is of the opinion that the government should now actively engage in the twin pursuits of aggressively fighting terrorism and take people of Kashmir into confidence. The Wire caught up with him to discuss what his experiences were like in Kashmir and how he thinks peace could be restored in the Valley.

The terror attack on Uri has further heightened tension in Kashmir. How do you think the government should move ahead?

There is no doubt that terrorism has to be fought head on. There cannot be any compromise as far as fidayeen attacks are concerned. All parties are at a consensus that there cannot be any compromise. We agree with the government on this. But it must weigh all the options – military, diplomatic, economic – before deciding on its course of action.

While the Centre weighs its options, questions have also been raised about India’s military capabilities in handling such attacks. Many defence experts also blamed the finance ministry for not allotting enough funds to protect the Uri base. 

Even when the parliament complex was attacked, the army was alerted. But nothing happened after that. The long-pending standing committee report on defence talks about modernisation of defence and various such issues. But no headway has been made. It has not been implemented. We must find out what are the lacunae. How did these terrorists breach the perimeter in both Uri and Pathankot? The government should do some introspection. Even V.K. Singh, retired army chief and now a minister of state in the cabinet, has also talked about identifying the lacunae. We must protect our air bases, army camps and naval bases.

I was reading...


Russian President Makes His Country Great Again "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The September parliamentary elections in Russia resulted in a big win for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ruling United Russia party gained an absolute majority of seats. All other parties represented in the parliament back the national leader...


Listen: A Cold War Spy Story in the Himalayas, From the Sixties "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

An abandoned spy mission from 50 years ago, complete with action, suspense, drama – and some plutonium lost in the Himalayas

See the plutonium anywhere? The Himalayas. Credit: rohanmoitra/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

See the plutonium anywhere? The Himalayas. Credit: rohanmoitra/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

In 1965, Captain Manmohan Singh Kohli, an officer in the Indian navy, led a group of CIA and IB officials on an arduous trek across 125 kilometres, for a covert mission to spy on China’s nuclear capability. They changed course a month into this arduous trek after encountering a severe avalanche and the story was soon forgotten. The abandoned mission only came back into the news, after a leak in the 1970s, when questions were raised in parliament about the dangers of the lost plutonium. In this episode of The Intersection, Samanth Subramanian revisits the mission and speaks to Vinod Jose on his fascinating story.

This is the latest episode of The Intersection, a fortnightly podcast on Audiomatic. For more such podcasts visit

The post Listen: A Cold War Spy Story in the Himalayas, From the Sixties appeared first on The Wire.


After Uri, it Is Time to Move Beyond Bluster "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Every “deshbhakt” has a long wish list as to how the prime minister should be doling out maximum pain to Pakistan. Will he be able to escape this trap?

People pay tributes to the army soldiers who were killed in the Uri attack, in Karad, Maharashtra. Credit: PTI

People pay tributes to the army soldiers who were killed in the Uri attack, in Karad, Maharashtra. Credit: PTI

It was Henry Kissinger, that wily old fox and an immaculately immoral practitioner of realpolitik, who had once drawn attention to the domestic dimension of the use of force as a preferred strategic choice. Democracies, according to him, can be creative in their pursuit of an aggressive and muscular foreign policy only if there is a domestic solidity; otherwise, he argued, “concessions that are necessary from the pragmatic point of view can be used by domestic opponents as a demonstration of weakness”. The absence of such a consensus means that “there is a constant temptation to raise the stakes”.

This Kissingerian caution against “temptation to raise the stakes” may be worth a recall as we ponder over ways of inflicting revenge and retribution on Pakistan for the Uri outrage. It is being indignantly demanded, in loud and angry voices, that the prime minister live up to his manufactured image of a tough, no-nonsense “Namo”. Raising the stakes, a minister in the prime minister’s office has argued that not teaching Pakistan a lesson would be tantamount to “cowardice”. Our embarrassingly vacuous raksha mantri keeps raising the stakes for the prime minister. The sentiment in the blogosphere is being stoked up to a feverish pitch. The prime minister is being tauntingly reminded that first there was Dinanagar, then there was Pathankot and now Uri has happened on his watch. It is hinted that all the old “Namo” verities are sounding hollow. And every deshbhakt has a rather long wish list as to how the prime minister should be doling out maximum pain to Pakistan.

Can the prime minister escape the trap that is being laid for him by his own crowd? The hinges are being oiled every night by the anchor-centurions and their fellow-travellers on social media. Is there still enough sanity and wisdom in the “system” to help the prime minister and his colleagues, ministerial and political, to understand the nature of this trap? Unless we are able to undertake this analysis, we will continue to face Pathankots and Uris.

Let it be understood that this trap is self-inflicted. We have been constructing this trap for ourselves for the past three decades. Many planks have been used in the process.

First, there is this old angry Hindu sense of humiliation that the “Mughals” ruled “us” for over five centuries. Pakistan is seen as extension and continuation of those painful historical memories. This historical narrative gets invoked periodically whenever it is convenient for our internal domestic political disputes.

Second, our refusal to factor in Pakistan’s lingering sense of strategic shame over Bangladesh. Because of our peculiar domestic compulsions, we have chosen to forget that India had inflicted on Pakistan the most decisive, most substantive and most comprehensive military defeat the world had known after World War II. The December 16, 1971, instrument of surrender which we made Lieutenant-General A.A. Khan Niazi si...


Clinton, Trump Prepare For Biggest Election Moment Yet – the First Debate "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A combination photo shows US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) in Los Angeles, California on May 5, 2016 and in Eugene, Oregon, US on May 6, 2016 respectively. Credit: Reuters/ Lucy Nicholson (L) and Jim Urquhart/File Photos

A combination photo shows US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) in Los Angeles, California on May 5, 2016 and in Eugene, Oregon, US on May 6, 2016 respectively. Credit: Reuters/ Lucy Nicholson (L) and Jim Urquhart/File Photos

Washington: Democrat Hillary Clinton, suddenly vulnerable in the presidential race, is under pressure to deliver a strong performance against Republican Donald Trump in their first debate on Monday, a moment that could be the most consequential yet of the 2016 election.

Political veterans involved in preparing for past presidential debates said Clinton should drive home how she would run the country during uncertain times and draw a contrast as the steady, experienced alternative to the untested Trump. For his part, Trump needed to show enough gravitas to convince sceptics that he is ready to be commander in chief, they said.

The 90-minute face-off at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, the first of three debates, takes place at a time when Clinton’s once-comfortable lead in opinion polls over the former reality TV star has evaporated.

History shows that a single bad debate performance can alter the trajectory of a US presidential race. Reuters/Ipsos polling shows about 20% of the electorate remains undecided, far higher at this stage in the campaign than the 12% undecided four years ago.

The TV audience for the debate is expected to be a record, easily surpassing the record 46.2 million households who watched the first encounter between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, according to the Nielsen ratings company.

“I am going to do my very best to communicate as clearly and fearlessly as I can in the face of the insults and the attacks and the bullying and the bigotry that we have seen coming from my opponent,” Clinton said on Tuesday on the Steve Harvey radio show.

Anita Dunn, who helped President Barack Obama prepare for debates against Republican nominee John McCain in 2008, said Obama succeeded at their first debate by steering the conversation repeatedly back to the struggling US economy even though the event was supposed to be about foreign policy.

She said she expected Clinton to try to exploit Trump‘s weaknesses and emphasise her strengths. “The contrast between them is what you want to hone,” she said.

The debate...


India’s Oscar Hope ‘Visaranai’ is a Gritty Police Procedural That Grips the Viewer "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Made with a modest budget, the film is already a commercial and critical success, and has won several awards in India and abroad.

A still from the Tamil film Visranai that has been selected for competing int he best foreign film awards at the Oscars

A still from the Tamil film Visranai that has been selected for competing int he best foreign film awards at the Oscars

India’s official entry to the Oscars in 2017 is not in Hindi nor does it deal with a subject that symbolises this historic nation to the western world – no colours of Rajasthan, no snake-charmers of Varanasi or the slums of Mumbai. Vetrimaran’s Tamil film Visaranai (Enquiry) is a triumph in that sense. The film deals with a set of events that happen inside a police cell in the name of an enquiry (hence the title) and the story can be typed out in a single line – an enquiry that ‘quietly’ happens in a little town bordering Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh that ends up in an bloody encounter.

Visaranai is an in-depth insight into the procedures of a ‘black-money’ investigation by a police officer that embroils four hapless young boys into its nightmarish tale. As gruesome as one can imagine but not without losing its sense of being ‘cinema’ where story-telling rules, Visaranai’s success lies entirely in its screenplay and direction. The story is adapted from the book Lock Up by M. Chandrakumar, who is the sole survivor of a real-time police investigation (his ‘by chance’ exit from the police jeep forms the film’s interval point).

Writer-director Vetrimaran is considered the foremost amongst his peers in Tamil cinema. His films bridge the divide between ‘art’ and ‘commercial’ films, and he sustains the Indian format of song and dance as well, whenever a script calls for it. He won accolades and box office success with his first film Polladhavan (‘The Bad Guy’; 2007) starring Dhanush. He followed it up with the multiple award-winning Aadukalam (‘Arena’; 2011), which fetched Dhanush a national award in the best actor category. Dhanush and Vetrimaran have a rapport that has delivered some good films from Tamil Nadu to the world such, as the 2011 film Kakka Muttai (‘Crow’s Egg’) directed by Manikandan, and produced by Dhanush’s Wunderbar Films and Vetrimaran. They are currently working on a gangster series called Vada-Chennai (North Madras), the underbelly of the apparently calm and staid city.

Visaranai is a commercial film with the music relegated to being just the background score. The ‘commercial’ quotient lies in the layered-with-suspense scenes and their staging. This is not a film where you can update plot points minute-by-minute on twitter. Vetrimaran cleverly strings you along into his taut narrative with minimal moments for a breather and ensures you are never free to ignore what’s happening on screen. The plight of the boys is preset...


Iraqi Army Captures Key Town South of Mosul "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Pfc. Adam Devries, an infantry Soldier in 1st Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment from Fort Carson, Colo., patrols the streets of Mosul, April 1, with members of his company under as a Bradley Armored Personnel Carrier moves along side providing security. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Iraqi army division led raid on Mosul. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tikrit, Iraq: Iraqi forces backed by air strikes from the US-led coalition gained complete control of the northern district of Shirqat on Thursday, bringing the military a step closer to a main push on Mosul later this year.

Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the military’s joint operations command, said in a statement broadcast on state television that the district had been liberated from “the desecration of terrorism”.

Shirqat, on the Tigris river, 100 km south of Mosul, has been surrounded for months by Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias allied to the government. But the army, backed by local police and Sunni Muslim tribal fighters, conducted the fighting this week and the militias did not appear to take part.

Iraqi forces advanced swiftly through the area after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the operation on Tuesday morning.

The area’s proximity to Iraqi supply lines reaching Qayyara air base further north, which will be used as a logistics hub for the push on Mosul, lends it strategic importance. A rocket attack on Tuesday that came within hundreds of metres of US forces at the base is being tested for chemical agents.

Tens of thousands of civilians were thought to be trapped in the town and nearby villages, which have been under ISIS control since the group seized a third of Iraqi territory in 2014. But the operation has not generated the large-scale out flux seen in other recent campaigns.

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said there had been no displacement on Tuesday and only 32 people dislodged from their homes on Wednesday to a nearby reception centre.

Iraqi authorities hope the course of battle will allow most residents to shelter in place to avoid creating a humanitarian crisis as forces move towards Mosul, where more than a million people are still living.

The US envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition said on Wednesday the coalition was already taking steps to ensure there would be no repeat in the Mosul offensive of the abuses seen in the wake of the recapture of Fall...


The US Attack near Deir ez-Zor as Seen from the Middle East "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

23422131231“The American bombing in Deir ez-Zor, pieces of evidence and responses”, “An outrageous backstab”, “What is behind the American onslaught?” – those are the headlines one could run across while looking through the Middle Eastern media sources on the recent raid of the international coalition led by the United States against the position of the Syrian armed forces in the above mentioned city.

The deaths of dozens of Syrian soldiers sparked a wave of harsh criticism of Washington across the region. Some Arab commentators have rejected the official interpretation of the attacks as a “fatal error” of the US Air Force, that was allegedly trying to hit ISIS. Instead, they are drawing attention to a number of crucial details of the events that have been unfolding in Syria.

Thus, according to the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, before that fatal attack neither the United States nor the international coalition forces made any attempts to bomb this area that was largely occupied by ISIS. This also remains true when we are to take a look at the other areas of Syria, where radical militants are occupying large chunks of territories in a bid to push the government forces back.

And even before the latest bombardment, Syrian troops have repeatedly come under fire of the so-called US-led coalition back in September 2014.

The latest attack is being percieved by the above-mentioned newspaper through Washington’s desires to put an end to a string of successful advancements of the Syrian forces, who have recently recaptured the city of Palmyra with the exntensive amount of support provided by Russia’s aircraft. For putting an end to the Deir ez-Zor advancement, the United States added fuel to the fire of armed clashes in the north of the country, especially in the Aleppo area.

The US has been trying push the Syran army forces back, preventing Damascus from using its oil and economi


Fukushima Daiichi To Cost Citizens Another $83 Billion "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The Japanese government plans to cover the costs of the Fukushima disaster including evacuee compensation and decommissioning of the plant site with a new public cost of $83 billion dollars. This includes a plan to make all electricity providers and consumers chip in to cover the costs of decommissioning other nuclear plants around Japan. This is not included in the $83 billion dollar estimate. The plans require approvals of the Diet but clearly show the massive cost of the disaster and how the burden is always put on the public. Meanwhile, TEPCO has been turning a profit on paper and paying dividends to shareholders. This article would not be possible without the extensive efforts of the SimplyInfo research team Join the conversation at © 2011-2016, All Rights Reserved Content cited, quoted etc. from other sources is under the respective rights of that content owner. If you are viewing this page on any ...



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Death Toll in Yemen Air Strike Rises to 26, Say Sources "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

People gather at the site of a Saudi-led air strike in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen September 22, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Abduljabbar Zeyad

People gather at the site of a Saudi-led air strike in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen September 22, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Abduljabbar Zeyad

Sanaa: The death toll from an Arab coalition air strike which hit a house in a residential area in western Yemen has risen to 26 people, medics and residents in the Houthi-held area said on Thursday and the alliance said it was looking into the report.

Warplanes of the Saudi-led alliance launched missiles on Wednesday at a residential neighbourhood in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah where Houthi leaders were staying, a resident and medical workers in the Houthi-controlled area told Reuters.

The raid hit a house in a neighbourhood populated by workers, according to medical services and local officials. Apart from those killed, 60 others were wounded, they said.

The coalition, which began operations in Yemen in March last year to try to reverse the rise to power of the Iran-allied Houthi group, has repeatedly said it does not target civilians.

In a statement, the coalition said it was aware of reports alleging civilian casualties in Hodeidah city.

“As with any allegation we receive, the information about the incident will be reviewed and once it is found supporting the allegation based on credible evidence we will then move to a next step of investigations,” the statement said.

The deputy governor of Hodeidah province, Hashim Azazi, had earlier put the death toll at 19 civilians, but said rescue workers were still pulling victims out of the rubble.

A Houthi leader, Ali al-Amad, said in a tweet he had survived a raid on the presidential palace.

UN-sponsored talks to try to end the fighting that has killed more than 10,000 people collapsed in failure last month and the Houthi movement and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh resumed shelling into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Hundreds have been killed in strikes that have hit schools, hospitals, markets and private homes. Nearly half of Yemen‘s 22 provinces are on the verge of famine, according to the UN World Food Programme, as a result of the war that has drawn in regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The post Death Toll in Yemen Air Strike Rises to 26, Say Sources appeared first on The Wire.


Beware the Coming Obama Center, a Force for Conflict and Disruption "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

There is an ominous operation that will soon appear in south Chicago’s Jackson Park, one that will advance the cause of political disruption and international conflict around the world. The Barack Obama Center and Presidential Library will become a magnet for those malevolent forces wanting to advance Obama’s «existing international order» and a nightmare for nations and leaders hoping to stem the tide of globalization, free trade, open borders, and social and religious bedlam...


Battle of Assaye: When British Blades Triumphed Over Maratha Guns "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A vivid retelling of an improbable, historically significant yet forgotten, military victory for the British – recounted on its 213th anniversary.

Major General Wellesley (mounted) commanding his troops at the Battle of Assaye. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Major General Wellesley (mounted) commanding his troops at the Battle of Assaye. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Little distinguishes Assaye from the countless other villages that dot the landscape of Maharashtra’s Jalna district. There are no signboards erected to announce its significance and tourists are extremely rare (and always British). There are, however, souvenirs on offer. Soon after I arrive, a teenaged boy extends his palm showing me a ‘goli’. I pick up the round metal sphere and feel its weight. It’s either a musket ball or a piece of canister shot. On a humid afternoon more than two centuries ago it must have shot out in a cloud of acrid white smoke in the fields nearby.

The battle of Assaye, fought on September 23, 1803 between the Maratha and British armies, is largely forgotten in India. Yet it remains an amazing story of gallantry and skill on both sides. Assaye was a hard-won victory for the British, one that challenges common assumptions about how Europeans conquered the subcontinent.

Assaye is also of significance to the wider world, for it fundamentally shaped the career of Arthur Wellesley, the victorious 34-year-old British general. Over the following 12 years, Wellesley would win battle after battle across India and Europe, eventually defeating Napoleon in the fields near another sleepy village, Waterloo.

A musket ball (or possibly canister shot) that a teenage boy offered to sell the author. Credit: Aditya Ramanathan

A musket ball (or possibly canister shot) that a teenage boy offered to sell the author. Credit: Aditya Ramanathan

The restoration of Baji Rao II

The sprawling Maratha confederacy was the East India Company’s most serious subcontinental rival in the early years of the nineteenth century. The company’s chance to tear it up came in 1802 when Peshwa Baji Rao II, a grandson of his illustrious namesake, was driven out of his capital, Pune, by his rivals. The Peshwa fled into British arms and signed the Treaty of Bassein, which effectively reduced him to a puppet.

The following year, Major-General Arthur Wellesley led an army that restored Baji Rao II in Pune without firing a shot. Howe...


Uri Attack: Villagers Worry About Increased Hostilities; IB Chief Says Plans From ‘Beyond Border’ "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The army camp at Uri after the attack. Credit: PTI

The army camp at Uri after the attack. Credit: PTI

Five days after 17 soldiers were killed and 19 other personnel injured in a militant attack on an army camp in north Kashmir’s Uri town, patrol jets continue to hover over north Kashmir.

Villagers worried about pre-ceasefire situation

According to an Indian Express report, the heavy artillery exchange has reminded border residents of how things used to be before the 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement. After the agreement, there has been peace in the area other than a few skirmishes.

As Indo-Pakistan hostilities increase after the Uri attack, villagers in Uri are worried about what this could mean. “I remember the days when shells used to land in civilian areas. Many lost their lives, including people I knew. After the ceasefire, we have been living a peaceful life,” Mohammed Aijaz Khan, who runs a hotel in the main market, told Indian Express. “Now we are worried about cross-border shelling again.”

Khan’s family still has an underground bunker from the 1990s. “If shelling starts, the people of Uri will suffer the most. Unlike our neighbours, who have no underground shelters, we are lucky as we can save ourselves,” he said.

Similar concerns also exist in other villages in the area. “We have seen the worst shelling. In the late 1990s, dozens of families migrated from our area. Now every villager is concerned,” Hilal Ahmad, who teaches in a private school in Trikanjan village, 25 km from Uri, told Indian Express.

IB chief says Uri planning and financing from beyond the border

Meanwhile, Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma on Thursday said that this attack was “only one in a series of such dastardly acts during the last few decades for which planning, financing, training, arming and indoctrination on religious lines owe their origins to sources beyond the borders of India,” Indian Express reported. He did not explicitly name Pakistan in his statements.

Speaking at the second meeting of the SAARC ‘high-level group of eminent experts on anti-terror mechanism, Sharma added that “All of our countries have experienced the ravages of terrorism in some form or the other. Terrorist organisations use easily accessible technology to attack both soft and hard targets to undermine public confidence and eventually the structure of the state.”

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar had earlier said that he was “serious” about punishing those responsible for the Uri attack and will “not sleep over” terror being pushed into India from across the border.

‘Smart gear’ for militants

The National Intelligence Agency is using damaged GPS systems found at the site of the attack to try and track the militants who carried out the Uri attack,...


Brazil: Former Finance Minister Arrested in Petrobras Probe "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Brazil's former Finance Minister Guido Mantega (R) is escorted by federal police officers as he arrives at the Federal Police headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, September 22, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Nacho Doce

Brazil’s former finance minister Guido Mantega (R) is escorted by federal police officers as he arrives at the federal police headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, September 22, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Nacho Doce

Sao Paulo: Brazilian police arrested former finance minister Guido Mantega on Thursday as a sweeping corruption investigation struck further at the heart of the Workers Party (PT) that ran the country for 13 years.

Police investigators told a news conference they took Mantega, long a confidant of recently impeached former President Dilma Rousseff and an early member of the PT, into custody from the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo. He was there accompanying his wife as she prepared for surgery.

Mantega, 67, was ordered released from custody a few hours later.

The investigators said Mantega in 2012 requested a payment of 5 million reais, about $2.5 million at the time, from Brazilian business tycoon Eike Batista, a billionaire who has since lost his fortune, to pay PT campaign debts.

At the time, Batista’s shipbuilding unit OSX Brasil SA was discussing an oil platform project with state-led oil company Petroleo Brasileiro, known as Petrobras and loans from state-owned development bank BNDES.

Brazil‘s longest-serving finance minister of the past 70 years, Mantega in 2012 was also the chairman of Petrobras, the company at the centre of a sprawling political-kickback scheme.

Mantega’s lawyer, José Roberto Batochio, told reporters late on Thursday that his client never requested money from Batista and said his arrest was “absolutely exaggerated.”

“What I can say and what the minister has affirmed to me with total assurance is that he never discussed a donation of any value to pay campaign debts from Mr. Eike Batista,” Batochio said.

A few hours after his arrest, federal Judge Sergio Moro ordered Mantega released from custody.

Moro ruled that Mantega’s cooperation with authorities, the fact they had already searched his home and the fact that Mantega was supporting his wife as she fights cancer all suggested the former minister was unlikely to interfere with the investigation.

His arrest came two days after Moro decided to put former Presid...


Congress Report Alleges Irregularities in AAP’s Mohalla Clinics Project "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The report has claimed that AAP workers are being paid high rent for hosting clinics on their property and the clinics do not have proper facilities.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pose for photographs during the inauguration of the first mohalla clinic in New Delhi. Credit: PTI/Files

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal pose for photographs during the inauguration of the first mohalla clinic in New Delhi. Credit: PTI/Files

Even as the Delhi government announced an extension of its flagship mohalla clinics scheme for another year, the opposition Congress has accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government of indulging in rampant corruption through the scheme. Alleging that AAP has sought to enrich its own cadre through this project, the country’s oldest party, which has also lodged a complaint with the Central Vigilance Commission, charged that the mishandling of the project has weakened the public health delivery system in the national capital.

The Congress’s attack assumes significance as the mohalla clinics are a core component of the AAP’s political plank in other states like Punjab, Gujarat and Goa, where it is emerging as a strong “secular” alternative to the Congress in the fight against the BJP and its allies.

On Thursday, the Congress released its survey report on the issue, titled ‘Mohalla Clinic Exposed: Party Propaganda not Public Health’. The report highlighted “lapses and ad-hocism” in the Kejriwal government’s ambitious health project.

In the report, the Congress, which had ruled Delhi for 15 years before the Aam Aadmi Party formed its first government in December 2013, said the AAP government had inherited 95 hospitals, 1,389 dispensaries, 973 polyclinics, 16 medical colleges and a total of 48,096 hospital beds, at an average of 2.71 beds per thousand people.

The Congress said the Kejriwal government had come into power when a vast network of health infrastructure was already in place. The party then “should have made efforts to strengthen its existing infrastructure, especially its dispensaries since they are better equipped, offer a greater range of services, and the public is already aware of their presence and location. However, to the contrary, the Delhi Government transferred out the staff from the existing dispensaries to its mohalla clinics.”

The Congress also said that there are a large number of dispensaries operating under municipal corporations and under the National Rural Health Mission. The Delhi government should have ideally attempted to set in place arrangements for their cross-use in the interest of public health, the report said.

Stating that the AAP government had announced a Mohalla Clinic Pilot Project Policy, under which 100 mohalla clinics were to be set up in rented or rent-free accommodation with private doctors engaged to manage the clinics as self-contained institutions, the Congress said as part of the policy daily OPD at the clinics were to run in four-hour shifts and doctors were to be reimbursed at the rate of Rs 30 per patient and the helpers at Rs 10 per patient. But, the Congress alleged, the mohalla clinic policy lacks a public health perspective. It said they “do not provide any kind of first-line defense against outbreaks, are not equipped to provide anything but OPD support of a very rudimentar...


Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Images of New Installations in South China Sea "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Taiwanese military plane shows the view of Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, at the South China Sea, March 23, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters/Files

An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Taiwanese military plane shows the view of Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, at the South China Sea, March 23, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters/Files

Tapei: Taiwan‘s defence ministry said it was asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei’s sole holding in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

The disclosure of new military-related construction could raise tensions in the contested waterway, where China‘s building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the US.

The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates.

“Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities,” Taiwan defence ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images on Itu Aba.

The US has urged against the militarisation of the South China Sea, following the rapid land reclamation by China on several disputed reefs through dredging and building airfields and port facilities.

A spokesman for the US defence department, Commander Gary Ross, said the Pentagon was aware of the reports of the military-related construction and encouraged all claimants to take steps to lower tensions.

“We believe a reciprocal halt among all claimants, including Taiwan, on any further land reclamation, construction, and militarisation of land features would lower tensions,” he said.



Curfew Imposed in Parts of Srinagar Over Possible Law and Order Problems "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Unrest Kashmir. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A file photo of protests in Kashmir. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Srinagar: Curfew was today imposed in parts of Srinagar over possible law and order problems after Friday congregational prayers.

“Curfew has been imposed in five police station areas of the interior city and Batamaloo and Maisuma areas in the uptown,” a police official said, adding restrictions on assembly of people would remain in force in the rest of the Valley.

He said curbs on the movement of people were imposed as there were apprehensions of law and order problems after the Friday prayers.

Normal life remained affected in the Valley for the 77th straight day due to restrictions and separatist sponsored strike.

The separatists, who are spearheading the current agitation in the Valley, have extended the protest programme till September 29 but have announced periods of relaxation in the strike on some days, unlike the previous week’s protest programme where there was no relaxation.

They have called for marches to various tehsil headquarters across the Valley today.

Shops, business establishments and petrol pumps continued to remain shut in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley, while public transport was off the roads.

Schools, colleges and other educational institutions also continued to remain shut.

Mobile internet services remained suspended, while the outgoing calls on prepaid numbers continued to remain barred across the Valley.

As many as 81 people, including two cops, have been killed in the unrest that broke out a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces in South Kashmir on July 8.

The post Curfew Imposed in Parts of Srinagar Over Possible Law and Order Problems appeared first on The Wire.


Freedom Under Fire: ‘Reasonable’ Restrictions on Free Speech; Special Courts For Dalits in Gujarat "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A round-up of news, both bad and good, on the rights front from India.

Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur. Credit: PTI

Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur. Credit: PTI

The ‘reasonable’ restrictions on free speech

“Journalism,” said George Orwell, “is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

T.S. Thakur, the chief justice of India, though, would beg to differ. At the second Justice J.S. Verma Memorial Lecture on September 21, he said that the media must operate within the reasonable restrictions of free speech provided in the constitution.

The Hindustan Times reported Thakur insisting that “If media wants to be free, it must be fair. If it ceases to be fair, it can’t remain free”, while emphasising the importance of ethical journalism.

Thakur’s concern seems to have been the conflict between freedom of expression and an individual’s right to privacy and to a reputation. But his assessment of contemporary journalism takes into account only one side of the story.

On the other hand, there are journalists like Prabhat Singh, who are prosecuted for not toeing the line. On September 19, Newslaundry reported that Singh, a journalist in Bastar, had gone missing for the past three days, while still out on bail. Singh resurfaced on September 20 and posted on Facebook that he was safe. In March, Singh had been arrested for a WhatsApp message, charged with sections 292 and 67 of the Information Technology Act. Singh maintains that he was arrested because of the “anti-state” line he took in a case that many believed was a fake encounter.

Before his disappearance, Singh had apparently told his co-worker, Kamal Shukla, that he was afraid he might be kidnapped and in a message on a WhatsApp group, Singh reportedly wrote that he suspected the Chhattisgarh government wanted to have him abducted. Shukla told Newslaundry that according to his sources, the police were planning to “drop” Singh in the middle of a protest by the vigilante group, Agnee, that purportedly intends to counter Naxalism in the state.

Bastar is difficult journalistic terrain with several ‘someone’s’ who don’t want things printed. Reporters have to deal with threats and intimidation, in addition to negotiating the slippery slope between the state, dissidents and vigilantes. Singh’s case, along with several others, evidently shows that there are ample restrictions on the freedom of speech and of print, without the judiciary adding to it.

Gujarat announces special court for Dalits

On September 22, Gujarat home minister, Pradipsinh Jadeja anno...


Afghanistan: Officials Initialled Peace Deal with Islamist Warlord "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Mohammad Amin Karim (R), representative of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Afghanistan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar (L) hold a document after signing a peace deal in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 22, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Omar Sobhani

Mohammad Amin Karim (R), representative of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Afghanistan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar (L) hold a document after signing a peace deal in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 22, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Omar Sobhani

Kabul: Afghan officials initialled a peace deal on Thursday with a party led by one of the country’s most notorious Islamist warlords, a move that inspired both hope and fear as it dredged up tension dating back decades.

The militant faction of Hezb-i-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been waging a decades-long battle to establish a unified ISIS in Afghanistan.

Government officials praised the accord as a step towards peace, while critics said it opened the door to one of the most infamous figures in Afghanistan playing a role in the country’s already divisive politics.

“I hope that this is the beginning of a permanent peace in our country,” said Sayed Ahmad Gilani, head of the government’s High Peace Council and one of the signatories of the agreement.

It was not immediately clear when it would be implemented.

Hekmatyar is a controversial figure, having been accused of killing or wounding thousands of people when his troops fired on civilian areas of Kabul during the civil wars of the 1990s.

Compared to other militant groups like the Taliban or ISIS, however, Hezb-i-Islami has played a relatively small role in the insurgency recently and analysts say the accord is mostly symbolic.

“The deal will have little impact on the dynamics of conflict,” said Timor Sharan, a Kabul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group. “The government’s rationale is that by luring Hekmatyar on board, other insurgent groups might be encouraged to consider peace too.”

During the 1980s, Hekmatyar received significant aid from the US, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to fight Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan.

After the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, Hekmatyar, having split from his international backers, narrowly survived an American drone strike. Later he was designated a “global terrorist” by the US for his suspected ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The US embassy in Kabul welcomed the accord as “a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end”. The UN said it “demonstrates the preparedness of Afghanistan’s government to seek peace with armed anti-government elements”.

The agreement will grant Hekmatyar amnesty for...


Seven Reasons You Should Follow the PSLV C-35 Launch on Monday "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The largest satellite onboard is the ScatSat-1. It will better India’s ability to forecast cyclones – but five years on, it could also become a piece of space-junk threatening other satellites.

A fully integrated PSLV C-34 outside the vehicle assembly building and ahead of its launch on June 22, 2016. The vehicle flew in the XL configuration. Credit: ISRO

A fully integrated PSLV C-34 outside the vehicle assembly building and ahead of its launch on June 22, 2016. The vehicle flew in the XL configuration. Credit: ISRO

At 9.12 am on September 26, the Indian Space Research Organisation will launch a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket on its 37th mission. The rocket will be carrying eight satellites, the biggest of which will be the ScatSat-1. Of the remaining seven, two have been built by university students in India while the rest are commercial payloads from Algeria, Canada and the US. The mission designation is C-35, and will be launched from the first launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

Here’s what to look out for.

1. If successful, the launch will be the PSLV’s 33rd consecutive success

Before the September 26 launch: the PSLV has flown 36 missions (including developmental flights). Thirty-four have been successful – of which 32 have come consecutively. The last failure experienced by the rocket was in 1997, on its first operational flight.

Though this may seem like an impressive record, the PSLV has only the 16th best success rate. As of December 2015, it was 94%. The topper is the Delta 2: since 1989, it has aced 151 of 153 missions with 98 consecutive successes. Its success rate is 99%.

The C-35 mission will also be the 15th time the PSLV will launch in its XL configuration. The PSLV rocket has four stages: solid, liquid, solid, liquid. The first solid stage is one of the largest in use in the world, carrying 138 tonnes of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene urethane-bound propellant. It is augmented by six strap-on solid-fuel boosters. In the XL configuration, these boosters are larger than those on the standard configuration. All 15 XL launches have been successful.

2. This is PSLV’s first attempt to insert satellites into multiple orbits in the same launch



Syria Announces New Offensive in Aleppo; Diplomats Fail to Revive Ceasefire "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

A man carries an injured child after airstrikes on the rebel held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 21, 2016. Reuters/ Abdalrhman Ismail

A man carries an injured child after airstrikes on the rebel held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Abdalrhman Ismail

Beirut/ New York: Syria announced a new offensive against rebel-held areas of Aleppo on Thursday while diplomats failed to find a way in New York to revive a US and Russian-brokered ceasefire that collapsed this week.

Warplanes mounted the heaviest air strikes in months against rebel-held districts of Syria‘s commercial hub and largest city, dealing a fresh blow to efforts to end Syrian civil war that has raged since 2011.

Rebel officials and rescue workers said incendiary bombs were among the weapons that rained down on Aleppo. Hamza al-Khatib, the director of a hospital in the rebel-held east, told Reuters that 45 people were killed.

“It’s as if the planes are trying to compensate for all the days they didn’t drop bombs” during the ceasefire, Ammar al-Selmo, the head of the civil defence rescue service in opposition-held eastern Aleppo, told Reuters.

Moscow and Washington announced the ceasefire on September 9. But the agreement, possibly the final bid for a breakthrough on Syria before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, collapsed like all previous efforts to halt a five-and-a-half year-old war that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and made half the nation homeless.

Syrian state media announced the new offensive and quoted the army’s military headquarters in Aleppo urging civilians in eastern parts of the city to avoid areas where “terrorists” were located and said it had prepared exit points for those who want to flee, including rebels.

The Syrian army announcement did not say whether the campaign would also include a ground incursion.

The aerial assault, by aircraft from the Syrian government, its Russian allies or both, signalled Moscow and Damascus had rejected a plea by US secretary of state John Kerry to halt flights so aid could be delivered and the ceasefire salvaged.

In a tense televised exchange with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at the UN on Wednesday, Kerry said stopping the bombardment was the last chance to find a way “out of the carnage”.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad indicated he saw no quick end to the war, telling the Associated Press it would “drag on” as long as it is part of a global conflict in which terrorists are backed by Saudi Arabia,...


Supreme Court Shuts Down Mandatory Aadhaar Requirement in Modi’s Scholarship Portal "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

The court also essentially reaffirms that the Aadhaar scheme is completely voluntary, until it eventually decides one way or the other.

A screenshot of the Supreme Court's order last week on making Aadhaar mandatory for scholarship schemes. Credit: The Wire

A screenshot of the Supreme Court’s order last week on making Aadhaar mandatory for scholarship schemes. Credit: The Wire

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that the Modi government’s national scholarship portal cannot require students to sign up for an Aadhaar number as part of its registration process, in an order that not only reaffirms the court’s earlier decision to keep the identification scheme voluntary but also throws into question the Centre’s attempts at making Aadhaar integration mainstream.

The court order came on a writ petition by the All Bengal Minority Students Council earlier this month, which pointed out that the government’s attempts at making “Aadhaar submission mandatory” for a majority of scholarship schemes ran contrary to the Supreme Court’s interim order last year on the voluntary nature of Aadhaar.

Bench of justices V Gopala Gowda and Adarsh Kumar Goel ordered that the Centre’s decision to make the submissions of an Aadhaar number mandatory for the pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarship schemes must be halted.

“We stay the the operation and implementation of letters dated…to the extent that they have made Aadhaar submission mandatory,” the court’s order reads.

More significantly, the court also directs the ministry of electronics and information technology, which was also a respondent, to “remove Aadhaar number as a mandatory condition for student Registration form at the National Scholarship Portal…”

Voluntary or not?

The Supreme Court references its, earlier interim order on the biometric authentication scheme last year, noting that “our attention was invited to Para 5 of the order dated 15-10-2015 passed by this Court..”

Paragraph number 5 in question goes as follows: “We will make it clear that the Aadhaar card scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by the Court one way or the other.”

This paragraph has been particularly troublesome for the Modi government, which sees mainstream implementation of the identification system as important for India’s development. As The Wire reported earlier, major ministry officials are confused over whether notification of the Aadhaar Act negated to a certain extent the Supreme Court’s order last year on keeping Aadhaar voluntary.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatagi for instance, sees the notification of the Aadhaar Act as overriding all concerns raised by civil society and the Supreme Court. In remarks to the media on September 12th, which is when sections pertaining to the mandatory use of Aadhaar were notified, Rohaagi pointed out that the law “takes care of all concerns surrounding potential misuse”.

“The earlier challenge against mandatory use was against an executive notification that conceived Aadhaar. Now, the law takes care of all concerns surrounding potential misuse,” Rohatagi said.

The Supreme Court, in its order on the government’s scholarship schemes, does not appear align itself with this argument. It takes note of petitioner’s main argume...


Decoding the Politics of the Supreme Court Judgment on Sterilisation Camps "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Ending mass sterilisation camps may not be enough to restore the dignity and right to choose of vulnerable women unless the biases behind such policies are challenged.

Women, who underwent sterilisation surgery at a government mass sterilisation camp, pose for pictures inside a hospital at Bilaspur district in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh November 14, 2014. Credit:Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee

Women, who underwent sterilisation surgery at a government mass sterilisation camp, pose for pictures inside a hospital at Bilaspur district in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh November 14, 2014. Credit:Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee

The September 14 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Devika Biswas vs Union of India writ petition on sterilisation has boosted the morale of many public-spirited citizens. It places accountability on the central government and has ordered a cessation on sterilisation camps as a method of population control.

The judgment also vindicates conscientious citizens who contest the class prejudice that underlies the targeting of poor women as objects of sterilisation while disregarding their personhood and human rights.

But unless the dehumanising biases and the mindset behind such policies and programmes are challenged, along with meticulously focusing on a number of alternatives suggested in the final judgment, abandoning sterilisation camps in itself may not be sufficient in restoring the dignity and right of choice to vulnerable women, which is the lager goal behind the contestation.

The trajectory

The history of litigations on the issue of sterilisation dates back to 2001 when the coercive two-child policy was challenged in the Supreme Court. An amendment to the Haryana Panchayat Raj Act in 1994 had barred adults with more than two children from contesting local body elections.

A set of over 100 special leave petitions challenging this exclusionary clause was filed in the apex court and were clubbed together as Javed vs State of Haryana. The Supreme Court dismissed this petition citing population as the problem behind India’s poverty and saying that the population policy could not be challenged. The judicia...


America ‘Accidently’ Strikes Syria: Could it Have a Different Meaning? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

324234124124While the US-led coalition’s airstrikes in the eastern parts of Syria have been told to have taken place due purely to an “accident”, the incident stands out as yet another unmistakable evidence of America’s dual strategy and potentially conflicting aims of countering ISIS and removing Assad from power in Syria at the same time. Hence, the strike. While countering ISIS has become a necessity due to the group’s presence in Europe and the attacks it has orchestrated recently, the objective of toppling Assad remains the primary most concern of the US’, and those of its allies’, strategy for regional domination in the Middle East—and the one that continues to prevent the US from co-ordinating its operation against ISIS with Russia and Syria. However, the question still remains relevant and the recent incident has made it even more pressing: why can’t the US militarily co-ordinate with Russia to cleanse the Syrian territory of the jihadists?

Grotesque though it sounds but the fact is that the ceasefire deal, which is itself an indication of diplomatic co-operation between Russia and US, cannot be translated into military co-operation due to the prevailing so-called distrust in the US establishment of the “Russian intentions”—a narrative which continues to be reproduced every now and then by the US media too.

A New York Time story, published after the US led-coalition’s “accidental” strikes in Syria, thus built the case against Russia to prove to the world how frivolous the ceasefire deal, which is now under threat of falling apart, actually was due to what the US officials believe ‘Russian non-seriousness.’ To quote NYT:

Many American officials believe that the Russians were never serious about the deal that was sealed in Geneva. The officials argue that the Russians were looking for an excuse that would derail it and keep a status quo in which they have more control over events in Syria than any other power, with the possible exception of Iran.

With many high-ranking US officials, including those from its Defence establishment, being sceptical about the deal and opposing it to disallow Russia from buttressing Assad, could it not be that the strike, which certainly could not have taken place without Pentagon’s approval, was actually meant to derail the deal? Is that just a coincidence that chief among those opposing the deal is Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, the only senior member of the administration and Pentagon Chief, to vocally oppose the deal on the night Mr. Kerry reached it in Geneva? Mr. Carter had feared that the accord would reveal too much to the Russians about American targeting intelligence, and argued that Moscow was cynically dragging out the process in President Obama’s final months in office.

A look at the pattern of how the US-led coalition has been striking in the region would further reveal that the last strike, which killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers, was not simply a mistake. ISIS and the Syrian army have been fighting in the region, in Deir ez-Zor, for a long time. How come it be that the US led coalition never struck ISIS when it was rather successfully moving westward, for example, when it took Palmyra last year? Consistent with its current narrative, the US officials might like to put on this question another mask of “coinci...


The Other North Korean Threat "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

With a population of twenty-four million, sandwiched between the world’s second largest economy (China) and one of the planet’s most successful rags-to-riches stories (the Republic of Korea), it would be easy to forget the existence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea...


US-Led Military Intervention Looms in Libya "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Another war to involve the US and its allies is looming in the Middle East. Libya appears to be heading toward a military confrontation between forces loyal to the UN-sponsored Government of National Agreement (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) headed by General Khalifa Haftar...


Union Territories, the Outcasts of Democracy in India "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

With Delhi caught in a tussle between the Centre and state government, the city is a perfect example of how democracy is undermined in union territories.

Kejriwal promised to continue efforts to achieve full statehood for Delhi and making Delhi Police accountable. Credit : PTI

AAP members protest in Delhi in January. Kejriwal promised to continue efforts to achieve full statehood for Delhi and making Delhi Police accountable. Credit : PTI

Memories of the historic vote of February 2015 are still fresh in the minds of most people in Delhi. After a year of president’s rule, they came out in historic numbers to elect the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to govern the capital city. Riding on the promise of wide-ranging governance reforms, AAP trumped all expectations and came to power with an unprecedented mandate.

When the AAP government set out to implement its promises, it woke up to the peculiarities of Delhi’s structure of governance, which places all power and authority in the hands of a single individual – the Lieutenant Governor (LG) – appointed by the central government, instead of its democratically elected government. Within the last year-and-a-half, the BJP government at the Centre, operating through the LG has obstructed or delayed a number of initiatives of the AAP government and has refused to give assent to even one of the fourteen bills passed by Delhi’s legislative assembly.

That the Centre was within its rights to do so was asserted by the Delhi high court in its recent ruling that Delhi continues to hold the status of a union territory (UT) under the constitution, with the LG at its helm and Delhi’s council of ministers act as no more than advisors on any matter. In one broad stroke, the ruling took away the value of 18 million votes from the citizens of Delhi. With the case now in the Supreme Court, much of the debate is focused on whether the NCT of Delhi and its elected government, should – if not be regarded as a full-fledged state – at least enjoy more powers than a mere UT.

A fundamental question though, is why do UTs, administered directly by the central government since 1950s with highly curtailed democratic rights for their people, persist in the modern Indian state at all? What rationale does the state have in discriminating and treating some of its people as lesser citizens by denying them a representative government at all levels? Isn’t the concept of UTs past its expiry date?

The historical organisation of states

In the 1940s and 1950s, the newly formed Indian union inherited territories that were governed through...


"IndyWatch Feed Asia"

If at all extremism is to be defeated, Muslims must work sincerely by placing Islam at the centre of their arguments – just as extremists use ‘religion’ with impunity to meet their own narrow agenda.

A shot of the holy Quran in a mosque in Cairo. Credit: Al Hussainy MohamedFlickr,CC BY 2.0

A shot of the holy Quran in a mosque in Cairo. Credit: Al Hussainy MohamedFlickr,CC BY 2.0

On the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Azha, I updated my Facebook status. Here is a snippet from my post:


p style=”padding-left: 30px;”>“God has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything. If the killing (of animals) is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease” (Saheeh Muslim).
.. Unfortunately, while walking through the streets of different world cities I’ve seen countless sheep/animals in the back of transportation trucks over loaded and sometimes beaten harshly for no reason, as well as animals standing outside in 100 degree weather without any shade or a drop of water to drink.”

A ‘Facebook friend’ took issue with my post, specifically the sentence about animals standing outside without any shade or water. In response, he quoted verses of the holy Quran, which in my opinion were used out of context. For instance, he commented:

“Surely Allah does not guide him aright who is a liar, ungrateful. Surah Al-Zumur 39:3. Many verses like these 24:7 & 29:2-3 etc…”

The comments soon turned personal, with him labelling me a ‘sycophant’, ‘slanderer’ and ‘backbiter’, and calling me ‘ungrateful’, ‘irrational’, ‘valueless’ and finally a ‘non-Muslim’ because I said ‘goodbye’ instead of ‘assalam-o-alaikum’.

He wrote, “But as a Muslim I will say to you ‘Assalam o alaykum’ not ‘good bye’ like a non muslim because your thought is not Islamic PURELY.‬”

Anatomy of an extremist

It was my first encounter with hardcore extremists and this motivated me to look at what goes into the making of such persons.

An extremist is a person who possesses features very akin to a mental disorder. This is how the mindset of an extremist unfolds:

  • He distorts and misinterprets religious (Quranic) texts to suit his arguments without context.
  • He considers himself as the only truthful (Islamic) person on Earth, thus everyone else is wrong.
  • He is low in tolerance and easily brands those who disagree with him as non-Muslims.
  • He finds faults even in jokes, and disapproves of lighter moments.
  • He is hypocritical to the core, calling whatever is from the West unholy while enjoying the technological blessings of the West in private.

He may also carry an overwhelming desire of ‘revenge’ and a complete unwillingness to compromise with all those who don’t share the same views.

The struggle against extremism

To many, Islam is synonymous with extremism. However, what those people don’t know is that Islam is also averse to extremism. The Quran negates extremism in the strongest of words in several quotes.

“Oh People of the Book, don’t go extreme...


Wipe Pyongyang off the face of the Earth "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

6634234324After North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, the South Korean military announced a new plan that they dubbed KMPR: Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation, which was presented on September 9, 2016 to South Korean Parliament.

This “massive” plan will be implemented “as soon as the North shows the slightest hint of a nuclear attack”, after which “Pyongyang will be reduced to ashes and removed from the world map.” For this purpose, South Korea plans to use Hyunmoo-3 missiles with a top range of up to 1 thousand km and Taurus air-to-ground cruise missiles with a range of over 500 km. Expectations are that by the end of next year, all these missiles will be put on red alert.

The main target is killing the North Korean leader, irrespective of any ‘collateral damage’ that might be incurred in the process. Each Pyongyang district (especially in the area where the North Korean leadership is located) will be completely destroyed by means of ballistic missiles and high-explosive shells. The plan provides for the complete destruction of North Korean planes and trains. In the event that Kim Jong-un shall take cover in an underground bunker, the South Korean military intend to use GBU-28 ‘bunker busting’ bombs that are designed to destroy fortified facilities including bunkers, missile pits and warehouses, as well as JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) air-to-ground missiles.  “Such a destructive strike will eliminate the entire leadership of the country, and the DPRK will cease to exist as a full-fledged state, even if it manages itself to make a nuclear strike,” said a military representative in an interview with South Korean media.

And if even this does not help, special forces would be sent to the North with the aim of eliminating North Korean military leadership, starting with Kim Jong-un. As stated, this is almost the 75th Ranger Reconnaissance Special operations Regiment of US Ground Forces, for destruction of the key enemy targets, for strategic reconnaissance, for search and rescue and landing operations. This is precisely why the future elimination of Kim Jong-un is reminiscent to its authors of the US operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden in Year 2011.

As other independent media reports, the United States did not stay on the sidelines of the matter. Washington and Seoul have already carried out extensive consultations and intend to develop a ‘unified retaliation plan’ against North Korea, where the South Korean KMPR plan would be joined with the US strategic bombers B-52, B-2, nuclear submarines to be quickly deployed in case of danger.

And all would be well with the pre-emptive strike plan, which is positioned as newly developed in response to the Pyongyang threat, if there weren’t a few ‘nice details.’

Firstly, with such statements, the State, which is a signatory to all the relevant conventions and is positioning itself as ‘a responsible member of the world community’, is announcing that a non-military object with a population of approximately 2.5 million inhabitants would deliberately be taken as a target to be completely destroyed. While this does not yet resemble the Holocaust, it can be considered to already be at the level of the Rwandan genocide. Despite the fact that earlier, the essence of the ‘Kill Chain’ project on a retaliatory strike on North Korea’s missile-nuclear facilities was in tak...


Thursday, 22 September


Seven days on the Women’s flotilla to Gaza "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Join reporter Yudit Ilany as she spends a week with the Women’s Flotilla to Gaza, while it makes port calls in southern Europe, and ultimately attempts to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

For eight years now, international activists have attempted to symbolically break Israel’s decade-long blockade on the Gaza Strip. In 2008, the Israeli Navy let two sets of boats through. Two years later, Israeli commandos killed 10 activists on the ‘Mavi Marmara.’

Every year since, activists have attempted new flotillas, all of which have been stopped by Israel. This year, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition is sending a ‘Women’s Boat to Gaza,’ a flotilla of two boats named Amal-Hope and Zaytouna-Oliva. Israel Social TV reporter Yudit Ilany is sailing on the Zaytouna-Oliva. This is her travelogue from the first week.

We have edited the Yudit’s diary for length. The full multimedia series can be found on Social TV’s Facebook page.

Day 1 —Barcelona

The Amal-Hope, moored in Barcelona. (Yudit Ilany)

The Amal-Hope, moored in Barcelona. (Yudit Ilany)

It’s hot and humid. The sun is scorching but it’s easy to forget, as Barcelona is amazing. Not because it is a gorgeous city (well, that too) but first and foremost because of the city’s inspiring group of activists. People who give you hope not only with their words, but with their actions and dedication. And their friendliness.

The festival surrounding the launching of the flotilla, with its artists, musicians and performers, is a happy noisy mix of art, ideology and knowing how to live. The public is a fantastic mixture of locals of all kinds and creeds as well as random tourists, many of them visiting the city during the Eid al-Adha holiday.

And then there are the others, living in Barcelona after having travelled a less easy route: Muhammad, a young refugee born in Yarmoukh Camp in Syria, whose grandparents were born in Yaffa and lived in the Manshiye neighborhood, and his girlfriend from Aleppo, whose roots go back to Nazareth. Or Dr. Muhammad, a medical specialist working at a local hospital whose parents also came from Manshiye (Yaffa).

There is a fairly substantial Palestinian community in Barcelona that extends its hands to the refugees, in cooperation with m...


Dear Israelis, how would you like your Palestinian? "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

When the Israeli establishment prevents Palestinians on either side of the Green Line from struggling nonviolently, what other options are left?

Israeli soldiers search Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, September 19 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers search Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, September 19 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

So what do all these Arabs do when they aren’t willing to bow before the establishment? The last few days have provided a slew or examples of the Zionist establishment’s attempts to mold the Palestinian who opposes the occupation as someone who is either handcuffed or shot.


Let’s begin with the lie that the media has been spreading over the past week. As my colleague Haggai Matar wrote in these pages, Israel’s “wave of violence” against the Palestinians never went away. A momentary calm in violent Palestinian resistance (a result of “security coordination” with the Palestinian Authority against the Palestinian people) and its resurgence over the past few days helps create a false image of a “wave” that Israel can control. As if the army, the Shin Bet, and Mahmoud Abbas can put a stop to violent attacks.

Let us, then, try and understand why the “latest wave of violence” isn’t going to end anytime soon, despite the temporary letup, and why Israelis will continue to kill Palestinians, even when they haven’t done a thing.

Around this time last year Palestinians were talking about the desperate situation in the West Bank. Aside from those in the PA’s inner circle, the Palestinians there have no real future, and it doesn’t matter how much they study or work hard. And if that’s not enough, Abbas’ security coordination with Israel has long ago put an end to the illusion of institutional resistance to the occupation, as if there was any way to conduct a struggle through the Palestinian Authority. Central political activists in the West Bank see Abbas and Israel as part of the same system of oppression, a notion that has become mainstream among the vast majority of Palestinia...


Why Europe secretly roots for Donald Trump "IndyWatch Feed Asia"

Careful observers of European politics might be forgiven for asking if — behind the exclamation of shock and horror over the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency — they don’t detect the occasional wry smile or hint of giddiness when the conversation turns to the U.S. Republican presidential candidate.

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