Saturday, February 24, 2018

Pakistan could evict, rather than kill, militants: U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan need not kill or capture militants such as members of the Haqqani network that use its territory to launch attacks in Afghanistan but could push them across the border instead, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

Evicting the militants would put them at risk of attack from Afghan and U.S. forces trying to keep Afghanistan from becoming a launching pad for strikes on the West more than 16 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

The United States is pressuring Pakistan to cease providing sanctuary - which it denies giving - to Islamist militants unleashing chaos in neighboring Afghanistan. 

On Jan. 4, Washington said it would suspend some security aid to Islamabad to get it to end support for the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network whose attacks in Afghanistan have killed U.S., Afghan and other forces.- Read More

Pakistan could evict, rather than kill, militants: U.S. official

Threats to pull ICE out of California beyond irresponsible - The Hill

Take that, California. On Thursday, President Trump said that he was so frustrated with the state’s “lousy management job” on immigration that he was thinking about pulling federal immigration agents from the state. “If we ever pulled our ICE out, if we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back,” the president said during a meeting with state and local officials about school shootings. “They would be begging. And you know what? I’m thinking about doing it.”

If we are to take Trump seriously, his comments were appalling and irresponsible. If he were being flip, his comments were childish and mean-spirited. Either way, his threat reveals his ignorance both about our government and the law

Trump is angry with California because, last year Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Values Act into law, which limits state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. It does not preclude ICE agents from doing their jobs in California; it simply lets local police concentrate on protecting their communities and leaves immigration enforcement to the feds.

California is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants, the largest such population in the country.  - Read More

Threats to pull ICE out of California beyond irresponsible

Tea, Honey And Lemon: Does This Classic Trifecta Actually Help A Sore Throat?

"I have to say, when I have patients that are sick, I often ask them to sip hot tea," says Dr. Edward Damrose, chief of laryngology at Stanford Health Care. "But I'm not sure that it's the tea itself that has the beneficial property, or that the warm water cuts through the phlegm and makes patients feel good."

To figure out whether the classic tea drink alleviates a sore throat, it helps to know what causes a sore throat in the first place. As Damrose explains, the throat is divided into two parts: a pharynx and a larynx, and both can be infected at the same time or separately. We use our pharynx when we swallow food or liquid. Bacterial or viral infections can cause the pharynx to swell and lead to a sore throat.

When we speak, on the other hand, we use our larynx, the part of the throat that contains our vocal cords. Viral infections make it more difficult for the vocal cords to vibrate, causing us to lose our voices.

How exactly this happens is something of a mystery. "We have a lot of ideas but not a definite answer," says Dr. Jennifer Long, assistant professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. One theory suggests that white blood cells storm the vocal cords, causing them to swell and preventing vibration. Another theory is that viruses injure the surface of the vocal cords, making it difficult to vibrate. "For being a common problem, it's surprising how little we know," Long says.

On top of this uncertainty, there's not a lot of good research on whether tea or honey can help a sore throat or lost voice, according to Dr. Maya Sardesai, an associate professor of otolaryngology and surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine. High-quality health studies typically use placebos, but that's difficult in this case, Sardesai explains. Most people can tell whether they're drinking tea and honey, so creating placebos for study participants is challenging.

These difficulties aside, all three doctors are willing to speculate about whether tea, honey and lemon help a sore throat and voice loss.

Let's start with tea. Because liquids and food go down our pharynx, not our larynx, Damrose points out that any beverage is unlikely to have a direct effect on our vocal cords. But tea could still help a sore throat that results from a swelled pharynx. Research has shown green tea has anti-inflammatory properties, which could help decrease a sore throat's swelling. Perhaps more importantly, according to Damrose, when people drink a liquid like tea, the act of sipping and swallowing prevents irritating coughing. Warm liquid can also help remove throat phlegm. Long and Sardesai recommend teas with low caffeine, because caffeine may lead to greater acid production and irritate the throat further.

As for honey, "it's really very speculative" whether honey helps throat pain, according to Long. Honey might be a natural anti-coughing agent, but so far research is inconclusive. On the other hand, none of the doctors suggest that honey might harm the throat.

That's not the case for lemon. "I actually worry about too much lemon because it's so acidic, and acids can be irritating" to the throat, says Long. Sardesai agrees, though she notes that "lemon does have vitamin C, and vitamin C is thought to be helpful early in some infections." Damrose notes another plus: Lemon has antibacterial properties, which could fight off bacterial sore throat. - More, NPR

Tea, Honey And Lemon: Does This Classic Trifecta Actually Help A Sore Throat?

Afghanistan: UN mission welcomes new penal code, urges measures to protect women from violence

22 February 2018

While welcoming the entry to force of a new Penal Code in Afghanistan as a having the “potential to trigger real change,” the United Nations mission in the country said on Thursday that it is concerned by the removal of the chapter penalizing violence against women.

The penal Code entered into force last week, placing the country, for the first time, into compliance with international treaty obligations in criminal justice, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

“Together with international partners and experts from UN agencies, UNAMA supported Afghan authorities in drafting the code,” the UN Mission said.

“UNAMA will continue dialogue with stakeholders so that the application of the new codedoes not result in impunity gaps and in particular that there is a robust legal framework in place to protect women from violence,” it added.

The new Penal Code reinforces Afghanistan’s compliance with international human rights and criminal justice standards and incorporates all mandatory crimes under the UN Convention against Corruption, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes (UNTOC) and its three protocols.

Moreover, it incorporates the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – covering war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – and establishes command responsibility for those who fail to prevent or punish subordinates who commit these crimes.

Reforming the sanctions regime, the new Penal Code introduces alternatives to imprisonment, which judges impose for imprisonment sentencing below five years, and are mandated to impose for incarcerations less than three months. The code also significantly reduces the number of crimes for which the death penalty applies.  

“The coming into force of the Penal Code will bring significant positive developments and a real potential to trigger societal transformation,” UNAMA stated. - Read More

Afghanistan: UN mission welcomes new penal code, urges measures to protect women from violence

رئیس جمهورغنی در مراسم اختتامیۀ کار پروژۀ تاپی: تاپی تنها پروژه و دهلیز اقتصادی نیست، بلکه اساس یک دیدگاه است که ناامنی، فقر و بیکاری را خاتمه میدهد

محمداشرف غنی رئیس جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان و هیئت همراه صبح امروز از سوی معاون رئیس جمهور ترکمنستان در سلیم چشمه ترکمنستان مورد استقبال گرم قرار گرفت و کودکان به استقبال از ایشان دسته های گل اعطا نمودند.

سپس، رئیس جمهور غنی، رئیس جمهور ترکمنستان، صدراعظم پاکستان و وزیر دولت هند در امور خارجی به منظور اشتراک در مراسم اختتامیۀ کار تاپی در تالار مراسم که در آن هیئت های بلندپایۀ چهار کشور و دیپلمات های خارجی نیز حضور داشتند، حضور یافتند.

قربانقلی بردی محمدوف رئیس جمهور ترکمنستان در صحبتی به رئیس جمهورغنی و سران کشورهای حاضر در مراسم خوش آمدید گفت و تطبیق پروژۀ تاپی را به آنها تبریک گفت. وی اضافه کرد که ترکمنستان ضمن تطبیق پروژۀ تاپی، پلان تطبیق پروژه های تاپ انتقال لین برق ۵۰۰ کیلوولت که از ترکمنستان به افغانستان و سپس به پاکستان میرسد، خط ریل تورغندی و پلان احیای فایبر  نوری را دارد.

رئیس جمهور محمدوف اظهار داشت که ترکمنستان منابع غنی گاز را دارا میباشد و سیاست صادرات گاز این کشور مسیر های صادراتی را تعقیب مینماید و این موضوع در اولویت ماست. وی افزود، افتتاح پروژه های زیربنایی یک فصل جدیدی را گشوده است و خط گاز نمایانگر این سیاست می باشد.

وی گفت، پروژه تاپی برای انکشاف پایدار کشور های مربوط (افغانستان، پاکستان  و هند) و تامین نیازمندی های انرژی شان مفید است. به گفته او، این  پروژه برای توسعه اقتصاد منطقه، و تامین صلح و ثبات و در راستای ایجاد فرصت های کاری، نقش ارزندۀ را ایفاء خواهد نمود.

رئیس جمهور ترکمنستان از بانک انکشافی آسیا بخاطر تمویل سایر پروژه‌های مربوط به تاپی سپاسگزاری کرده گفت: پروژه فایبر نوری نیز از جانب وزارت مخابرات ترکمنستان با افغانستان و پاکستان موفقانه انجام خواهد یافت. -  More

کار پروژۀ تاپی در افغانستان با سخنرانی رئیس‌جمهورغنی آغاز شد

وبسایت ریاست جمهوری افغانستان

Friday, February 23, 2018

We need aid that helps locals, not multinationals and bloated NGOs -The Guardian

Foreign aid has the power to save lives but also to corrupt nations. It’s regularly used as a political football as some argue for more financial support to the world’s most vulnerable people while others believe more money should be spent at home. It’s a false distinction, however, because the key issue is whether western aid is well targeted and empowering people to make their own choices on how to improve their lives, allowing them to eventually become more self-sufficient.

The aid industry is currently under the spotlight, Oxfam’s past behaviour is rightly challenged, although the problems uncovered affect the entire industry. But what’s required is hearing from aid recipients themselves.

The US administration is slashing foreign aid to nations it views as unfriendly or voting against its interests at the United Nations. Nonetheless, the answer isn’t simply more aid. In 2017, Afghanistan was the highest recipient of US aid, US$4.7 billion, but much of the more than US$120 billion given by the US to the country since October 2001 has been wasted, disappeared, stolen through corruption or simply cannot be accounted for by Washington.

Australia has also invested heavily in Afghanistan and seen few positive results. Canberra stumbled into the war with little understanding of what it was trying to achieve (apart from blindly following president George W. Bush). It’s now the longest war in US history with no end in sight and a cost of over US$1 trillion.

Rethinking how aid is delivered should be a key question for western nations but it rarely makes the headlines. For the last six years, with New York-based director Thor Neureiter and co-producers Media Stockade, I’ve been making the documentary, Disaster Capitalism, to investigate where aid money is going. Focusing on Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea (PNG), talking to people trying to live decent lives amid economic chaos and conflict, a constant refrain is how little local voices are listened to.

Too often, western governments and aid groups parachute into a crisis and dictate terms to a disoriented population. In Haiti the American Red Cross pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild devastated houses after the 2010 earthquake but today have achieved very little. As Haitian workers’ union leader Yannick Etienne told us, her country became a “republic of NGOs”. Outside governments and NGOs often gave contracts to foreign companies who employed individuals unable to speak French or Creole. - Read More

Amnesty International Finds Human Rights Deteriorating Around The World

Amnesty International released its annual report Thursday, highlighting a worsening of human rights worldwide.

The report covering 159 countries claims that increasingly world leaders are "undermining the rights of millions," either by turning a blind eye to violations of human rights or by perpetrating them.

Amnesty cites Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte whose anti-drug campaign has left thousands of people dead; Russian President Vladimir Putin whose government has tried anti-corruption protestors on "politically motivated charges;" and President Xi Jinping of China where Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo died in custody, Internet controls were strengthened, and "repression" conducted under 'counter-terrorism' campaigns remained "particularly severe" against the Uighur minority and Tibetans.

Amnesty decried a lack of leadership on human rights, pointing to the "feeble response" to war crimes and crimes against humanity from Syria to South Sudan.

It warned that the U.S. had taken "a step backward," saying that the Trump administration's early attempts in 2017 to ban all citizens of several Muslim majority countries was "transparently hateful," and "set a dangerous precedent" for other governments to follow.

Amnesty Senior Director for Global Operations Minar Pimple, however, noted that populism and the "politics of demonization" is a trend that began before Trump took office. Brexit and Turkey's crackdown on dissent preceded the 2016 U.S. election.

Across Europe, countries saw a gathering storm against refugees, migrants, and religious minorities and the use of counterterrorism measures "disproportionately restricting" rights in the name of security. - Read More

Amnesty International Finds Human Rights Deteriorating Around The World

Afghanistan Unveils Plans for Controversial Militia Force - VOA News

Afghanistan’s ministry of defense has announced the creation of a new militia force comprising about 36,000 men to defend areas that military-led operations have cleared of Taliban insurgents.
The move comes despite long-running accusations of rights abuses against the existing Afghan Local Police, which consists of local militias trained and paid by the U.S. military.
Defense Ministry spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, said in a brief statement the new force will consist of 7,500 officers of the Afghan National Army, or ANA, and 28,500 other personnel. The recruitments will be made from Afghan government-controlled areas where they ultimately will be deployed after undergoing military training to keep insurgents from staging a comeback.
He emphasized that the new Afghan militia force being raised will work under the direct command and control of the defense ministry. Waziri did not say when the recruiting process will begin.
Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, has swiftly criticized the announcement, saying accountability of forces operating outside the normal ANA structure has been a persistent problem.
“What remains unclear is whether these recruits would come from existing militia forces, and if so, how the [Afghan] ministry would ensure that they would be held accountable,” noted Gossman told VOA. - Read More

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Billy Graham began in L.A. — then took his message to 12 presidents, 185 countries and 215 million people

When a young religious crusader named Billy Graham began preaching to the masses after World War II, he wore bright gabardine suits with loud, wide ties and argyle socks to show that Christianity wasn't dreary.

And he did not hide behind a pulpit. He "stalked and sometimes almost ran from one end of the platform to the other," as one biographer noted, while beseeching unbelievers to give themselves to the higher power he praised with unassailable conviction.

That style drew 350,000 people to a tent in downtown Los Angeles over eight weeks in 1949 — the first major Billy Graham crusade. When it closed 65 sermons later, the mesmerizing preacher was known across the country — and, before long, around the world.

Graham, the most dominant American pastor of the second half of the 20th century, who counseled presidents, filled stadiums and lifted evangelism into the religious mainstream through the power of his voice and personality, died at his home in Montreat, N.C., early Wednesday, his official websiteannounced. He was 99.

Graham attended or participated in eight presidential inaugurations, but he was also present at the White House during darker days of controversy and scandal. He stayed close to Johnson when the president's popularity plummeted during the Vietnam War, and during Watergate publicly supported Nixon far longer than many thought prudent. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he quickly and publicly forgave President Clinton and privately counseled Clinton's wife, Hillary, to forgive him as well.

Also close to Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Graham was one of the few people allowed to visit the former president in California after Reagan's descent into Alzheimer's disease. He later developed a close relationship with the Bush family, participating in their annual summer retreats in Kennebunkport, Maine, starting when George H.W. Bush was vice president. It was there during meetings with Graham that George W. Bush, the president's eldest son, started to turn his life toward Christianity. - More, latimes

Billy Graham began in L.A. — then took his message to 12 presidents, 185 countries and 215 million people

Afghanistan's ArtLords daub walls with messages of defiance, hope

KABUL (Reuters) - Activists in Afghanistan are speaking out against corruption and spreading messages of peace and social justice with murals, many painted on concrete blast walls that have risen to ward off militant bombs.

The activists call themselves the ArtLords, as opposed to the warlords and druglords who have brought so much strife and misery to Afghanistan, and say their art is a tool for social change.

“We’re painting against corruption, we’re painting against the injustices that are happening in society, for women’s rights,” said the group’s co-founder, Omaid Sharifi.

“We’re encouraging people to come and join us, let’s raise our voices against all this nonsense.”

On many of these grey slabs, the ArtLords have their say.

Watchful eyes peer from a wall protecting the headquarters of the main security agency.

“I can’t go to school because of your corruption. I can see you,” is the message on a mural of a girl on blast walls near the interior ministry.

Another mural, of a black SUV with its windows tinted, takes a dig at the powerful and privileged.

“What are you carrying, that your windows are black?” reads the message. “You don’t have a license plate and don’t stop for searches.” - Read More

Afghanistan's ArtLords daub walls with messages of defiance, hope

Trump holds listening session with students on mass shootings - World News Tonight

Parents and students — including those impacted by the deadly mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school — offered emotional stories of their experiences during a “listening session” with President Donald Trump Wednesday.

There were narratives that painted a painful portrait of some of the youngest victims of mass gun violence in America.

Their stories of the aftermath of those deaths, and of friends and teachers lost, provided the climax to a day focused on student action on gun policy reform. Students gathered in Washington D.C., held signs and spoke about the need for more gun safety laws as they marched down the National Mall toward the White House.

There was the story of Samuel Zeif, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor, who, through tears, told of frantically texting his loved ones and then realizing his brother was in a classroom on the floor above him, where the shooting was happening.

He learned that a good friend died in the attack. The next day, Zeif turned 18.

Zeif sat next to Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan, a six-year-old killed during a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 and near Darrell Scott, whose daughter, Rachel, was killed in yet another mass shooting years earlier in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado.

For those in the room whose emotion was still fresh and raw, people like Scott and Hockley, co-director of the group Sandy Hook Promise, offered the perspective of distance and policy prescriptions gleaned from years spent advocating on behalf of slain loved ones.

"This is not difficult. These deaths are preventable. And I implore you, consider your own children," Hockley said. "You don't want to be me. No parent does. And you have the ability to make a difference and save lives today. Please don't waste this."

“We are going to do something about this horrible situation that’s going on," Trump said. "We will figure it out together.”

That something, he vowed, would include strengthening background checks.

The president's proposed 2019 budget could potentially roll back federal grants aimed at helping states report to the national background check system. - More

Trump holds listening session with students on mass shootings - 

Evangelist Billy Graham dies at 99 - By ABC NEWS

The Rev. Billy Graham, one of the world's most famous Christian evangelists, has died, a family spokesman said Wednesday. He was 99

Graham died at his North Carolina home Wednesday morning, spokesman Mark DeMoss said.

At a press briefing Wednesday night, DeMoss said Graham -- whose body he said is currently at Morris Funeral Home in Asheville, North Carolina -- was not in the company of any family members when he died. DeMoss said Graham died in his sleep, and that an attendant nurse would have been the only person with him.

DeMoss said Graham's body is slated to move Thursday afternoon to the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville. A private family prayer service will be held Saturday morning. Beginning Monday, for at least two days, Graham's body will lie in repose at the Graham family home.

Then next Friday, a 90-minute funeral will be held at which his son Franklin Graham will speak, in addition to his other children. The hymns chosen for the funeral are some of Graham's favorite. In fact, he personally approved the details of the service years ago.

Graham brought evangelical Christianity into the mainstream. As a spiritual adviser to U.S. presidents, he had great access to the White House.

"Each one I've known long before they ever became president, been in their homes many times; always called them by their first names, until they became president," Graham said of several former presidents.

He was especially close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard NixonRonald Reagan and both Bushes.

Bill Clinton turned to him after his much publicized sex scandal, and George W. Bush credited Graham with helping him to quit drinking alcohol.

When asked how his life would be different if it were not for Billy Graham, George W. Bush said simply, "I wouldn't be president."

Donald and Melania Trump met Graham at the preacher's 95th birthday party in 2013, but they never met after Trump took office as president.

"Do I fear death?" he asked at a news conference. "No. I look forward to death with great anticipation. I'm looking forward to seeing God face to face, and that could happen any day." - Read More

Evangelist Billy Graham dies at 99

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Exclusive: U.S. pushes motion to put Pakistan on global terrorist - financing watchlist

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The United States has put forward a motion to place Pakistan on a global terrorist-financing watchlist with an anti-money-laundering monitoring group, according to a senior Pakistani official.

Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avert being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with terrorist financing regulations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a measure that officials fear could hurt its economy.

The United States has been threatening to get tough with Islamabad over its alleged ties with Islamist militants, and last month President Donald Trump’s administration suspended aid worth about $2 billion.

Islamabad, which denies assisting militants in Afghanistan and India, has reacted angrily to U.S. threats of further punitive measures.

A meeting of FATF member states is due to take place next week in Paris, where the organization could adopt the motion on Pakistan. The FATF, an intergovernmental body based in Paris, sets global standards for fighting illicit finance.

Pakistan’s de facto finance minister, Miftah Ismail, told Reuters that the United States and Britain put forward the motion several weeks ago, and later persuaded France and Germany to co-sponsor it.

“We are now working with the U.S., UK, Germany and France for the nomination to be withdrawn,” Ismail said, speaking by telephone from Europe. “We are also quite hopeful that even if the U.S. did not withdraw the nomination that we will prevail and not be put on the watchlist.” - More

Exclusive: US pushes motion to put Pakistan on global terrorist - Reuters

Scientists Explore Ties Between Alzheimer's And Brain's Ancient Immune System

Beer has fueled a lot of bad ideas. But on a Friday afternoon in 2007, it helped two Alzheimer's researchers come up with a really a good one.

Neuroscientists Robert Moir and Rudolph Tanzi were sipping Coronas in separate offices during "attitude adjustment hour" at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard's largest teaching hospital. And, by chance, each scientist found himself wondering about an apparent link between Alzheimer's disease and the immune system.

Moir had been surfing through random scientific papers online — something he does for an hour or so on most Fridays. "I cruise wherever my fancy takes me," he says.

And on this day, he cruised to research on molecules known as antimicrobial peptides. They're part of the ancient immune system that's found in all forms of life and plays an important role in protecting the human brain.

One way antimicrobial peptides protect us is by engulfing and neutralizing a germ or some other foreign invader. That gives newer parts of the immune system time to get mobilized. - Read More, NPR

Scientists Explore Ties Between Alzheimer's And Brain's Ancient Immune System


*The full program and list of participants is available for download on the MSC website.*

The first conference day will begin with opening statements by German and French Defense Ministers Ursula von der Leyen and Florence Parly as well as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani. Subsequently, the participants will discuss the prospects of future European cooperation in security policy as well as persistent threats to the liberal international order.

On Saturday morning, the President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the British, French and Turkish Prime Ministers Theresa May, Edouard Philippe, and Binali Yıldırım, as well as the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel will address the audience in Munich. In the afternoon, several discussion rounds will cover topics such as security challenges in the Sahel region and in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as nuclear arms control issues and the continued threat posed by jihadist terrorism and. Senator John McCain will be awarded with this year’s Ewald von Kleist Award on Saturday evening.

The MSC 2018 will conclude on Sunday with a debate between members of the American Congress and discussions focusing on the current political tensions in the Gulf region. In this context, among others, the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Adel Al-Jubeir, will address the conference guests at Hotel Bayerischer Hof.

The full program and list of participants is now available for download on the MSC website. There, the interested public can also access select analyses, an overview of media coverage, numerous photo series, videos and more. The debates in Munich can be followed in different ways, including live broadcasts and extensive social media coverage on Twitter und Facebook for impressions both on the stage and behind the scenes of the Munich Security Conference 2018. - Read More