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Children in Aleppo: ‘I’d rather die’

Aleppo has become "a slaughterhouse," says the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The situation for children there is especially serious. Experts are warning of depression and suicidal thoughts among the young. The image burns itself into your brain: little Omran from the Syrian city of Aleppo sitting in an ambulance, staring into space, covered in blood, clothes torn, his hair full of dust. The photograph, taken by an activist a few weeks ago, provoked horror around the world. We can only surmise from this little child's stunned expression what the war in his homeland has done to him, and to many other children and youngsters like him. Aleppo has again been forced to endure weeks of bombing by the Syrian and Russian regimes. A ceasefire was in place over the weekend. Of all the cities caught up in the Syrian civil war, Aleppo is the most fiercely contested. According to the UN, more than 250,000 people are trapped under siege in the eastern part of town. The recent bombardments were the heaviest since the start of the war in 2011. In the last offensive alone, which began on September 22, more than 500 people were killed and 2,000 wounded. Around a quarter of the victims were children - and that number could rise dramatically, as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are around 100,000 children and young people in eastern Aleppo. 'Medieval conditions' In an October 21 speech via video link to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein, said the siege and bombardment of Aleppo "constitute crimes of historic proportions." This ancient Syrian city, "a place of millennial civility and beauty," was today, he said, "a slaughterhouse." Although Russia agreed to the ceasefire, the sick and injured could not be brought out of the city. The United Nations said it was unsafe to transport them, and secretary-general Ban Ki Moon pointed out that: "Under these medieval conditions, the vulnerable are suffering the most." Suicidal thoughts among children Katharina Ebel, the project advisor of SOS Children's Villages in Syria, confirmed that this is indeed the case. The children are under tremendous psychological strain, she said, warning of severe depression that could even lead to children having suicidal thoughts. "One boy who wanted to take his own life was only 12 years old," she told the "Passauer Neue Presse" newspaper. "So far we've always been able to prevent children from killing themselves," Ebel went on. But she reported that every day there are children who say, "I'd rather die than go on like this." Deep depression drives them to commit acts of aggression, against both themselves and others. "Many of them can't sleep any more, or have nightmares, and then they're completely exhausted during the day," she said. Children describe the rigors of their everyday lives on the website of UNICEF's #ChildrenofSyria campaign. Not only do they risk being killed on the way to school, the schools themselves are also often attacked - around 4,000 times since the war began. And even those who try to take shelter may be killed: The organization Save the Children has reported that so-called "bunker buster" bombs are being used. Some experiences are too extreme SOS Children's Villages have psychologists and social workers in every facility, "who talk to the children individually, try to alleviate their trauma, restore the children's sense of trust," Ebel said. "Sometimes it's just not possible, because what they've experienced is too extreme. Often, when a child has seen their parents die, seen them buried under rubble, seen their home destroyed, their sense of security is lost for a very long time." The Syrian winter will start to set in in just a few weeks' time. UNICEF warns that many children and their families have reached the end of their strength. Children are especially at risk from the freezing temperatures and snowstorms that have often occurred in recent years. The aid organization is also very worried about the children in the Iraqi city of Mosul, 600 kilometers (370 miles) further east. It warns that the current offensive to recapture the city means the more than 500,000 children and their families there are now in extreme danger.

Aleppo has become “a slaughterhouse,” says the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The situation for children there is especially serious. Experts are warning of depression and suicidal thoughts among the young. The image burns itself into your brain: little Omran from the Syrian city of Aleppo sitting in an ambulance, staring into space, covered in blood, clothes torn, his hair ... Read More »

EU pushes Belgium to back CETA

The European Union has given Brussels a deadline to reach an agreement about the fair trade deal with Canada. The Belgian region of Wallonia has refused to back the deal on the grounds that it hurts European interests. The European Union issued an ultimatum to the Belgian government on Sunday over the stalled CETA free trade deal with Canada. All 28 EU governments have backed the deal, but Belgium was not able to give its official assent without unanimous support from its five regional administrations, which it has not gotten from French-speaking Wallonia. The EU has given Belgium until late Monday to overcome the resistance to the agreement or risk putting an end to years of negotiations and the possibility of what some experts say could be a 20-percent boost to trade. "The Commission has been working 24/7 to find a solution," said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on Twitter. "We now hope that Belgium will bring this matter to a successful close." Wallonia has refused to assent to the deal on the grounds that it will hurt European farmers and grants too much power to international corporations. According to Wallonian leader Paul Magnette, his administration was also given almost no time to debate the far-ranging trade deal. "Democracy takes a little time," Magnette told French news agency Agence French-Presse. "I wasn't asking for months, but you can't carry out a parliamentary process in two days." Some EU insiders have accused Magnette and his government of using CETA as leverage to make gains in domestic politics. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told state broadcaster RTB that he was meeting with the leaders of the country's five regions on Monday in hopes to hammer out any problems.

The European Union has given Brussels a deadline to reach an agreement about the fair trade deal with Canada. The Belgian region of Wallonia has refused to back the deal on the grounds that it hurts European interests. The European Union issued an ultimatum to the Belgian government on Sunday over the stalled CETA free trade deal with Canada. All ... Read More »

Spain’s socialist PSOE votes to abstain in prime minister confidence vote

اسپین کی سوشلسٹ جماعت نے قدامت پسند حکمران پاپولر پارٹی کو اقلیتی حکومت بنانے کی اجازت دے دی ہے۔ گزشتہ برس بیس دسمبر سے اسپین میں کوئی مستقل حکومت نہیں ہے۔ متعدد انتخابات میں غیر فیصلہ کن نتائج کے بعد اسپین میں حکومت سازی کے عمل میں کئی پیچیدگیاں دیکھنے میں آئی تھیں۔ سوشلسٹ جماعت پی ایس او ای کے ترجمان کا اتوار کے روز کہنا تھا کہ وہ پاپولر پارٹی کی جانب سے حکومت سازی کی مخالفت نہیں کریں گے۔ اتوار کے روز سوشلسٹ پارٹی نے پارلیمنٹ میں ہونے والی رائے شماری میں حصہ لیتے ہوئے اس قراردار کے خلاف ووٹ ڈالے جس کے ذریعے پاپولر پارٹی کو حکومت سازی کے لیے روکا جانا تھا۔ یوں دس ماہ سے جاری سیاسی عدم استحکام ختم ہونے کا امکان ہو گیا ہے اور نئے انتخابات کی ضرورت شاید اب نہ پڑے۔ سوشلسٹ پارٹی کی کمیٹی کے ایک سو انتالیس ارکان نے وزیر اعظم ماریانو راخوئے کے خلاف تحریک عدم اعتماد میں ووٹ نہ ڈالنے کا جب کہ چھیانوے نے اس کے خلاف فیصلہ کیا تھا۔ راخوئے کو اس وقت تیس سو پچاس رکنی پارلیمنٹ میں ایک سو ستر ارکان کی حمایت حاصل ہے، جس میں ایک سو سینتیس کا تعلق پاپولر پارٹی سے ہے۔ تاہم ان کو عدم اعتماد کی تحریک کے خلاف دیگر جماعتوں کے ووٹ یا ان کا ووٹنگ میں شریک نہ ہونا درکار تھا، جو کہ سوشلسٹ پارٹی کے فیصلے کے بعد ممکن ہو گیا۔ تین دہائیوں سے اسپین میں دو جماعتی نظام قائم ہے، جس میں پاپولر پارٹی اور سوشلسٹ برسر اقتدار رہے ہیں، تاہم دسمبر میں ہونے والے انتخابات کے نتیجے میں کئی چھوٹی جماعتوں نے بھی عمدہ کارکردگی دکھائی۔ دسمبر کے انتخابات کے نتائج کو وزیر اعظم ماریانو راخوئے کے لیے بڑا دھچکا قرار دیا گیا تھا۔ اسپین کی سیاسی تاریخ میں یہ پاپولر پارٹی کی خراب ترین کارکردگی تھی۔ سیاسی تجزیہ کاروں کے مطابق حکومتی سطح پر بدعنوانی کے متعدد اسکینڈلز اور ملک میں بڑھتی ہوئی بےروزگاری نے ہسپانوی عوام کو حکمران جماعت سے بدظن کر دیا تھا۔ دوسری جانب سوشلسٹ پارٹی اس صورت حال سے کوئی خاص سیاسی اور انتخابی فائدہ اٹھانے میں ناکام رہی۔ اسپین کی صورت حال پڑوسی ملک پرتگال سے مطابقت رکھتی ہے، جہاں گزشتہ برس اکتوبر میں ہونے والے انتخابات میں قدامت پسندوں کو فتح تو حاصل ہو گئی تھی تاہم حکومت بنانے میں سوشلسٹ کامیاب ہوئے تھے۔ اسپین میں ایک نئی سیاسی طاقت پوڈیموس پارٹی بن کر ابھری ہے۔ یہ جماعت بجتی کٹوتیوں کی مخالف ہے۔ سوشلسٹوں کی جانب سے راخوئے کی حمایت سے قبل حکومت سازی کے لیے اس جماعت کی حمایت حاصل کرنا ضروری سمجھا جا رہا تھا۔ مبصرین کے مطابق یہ صورت حال یورپ بھر میں ایک رجحان کا اشارہ دے رہی ہے۔ دو بڑی جماعتوں کی اجارہ داری ٹوٹ رہی ہے اور نئی جماعتیں، خواہ وہ بائیں بازو کی سیاست کر رہی ہوں یا دائیں بازو کی، یورپی ممالک کی سیاست میں نمایاں ہو رہی ہیں۔

The Spanish socialist PSOE party has voted to abstain in a confidence vote, paving the way for a minority conservative government. Leaders of Spain’s center-left Socialist Party (PSOE) agreed on Sunday to abstain from a confidence vote in the conservative acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Senior members of the party voted 139 in favor of abstaining in the vote, with ... Read More »

Banks mull Brexit exit from UK

Big banks are said to be getting ready to move some operations away from London amid uncertainty over the Brexit. Meanwhile, a newspaper reported that the UK could threaten the EU with slashing corporation tax. Large financial institutions are preparing to move some operations away from Britain in early 2017 due to mounting concerns about the possibility of a "hard Brexit." Anthony Browne, chief executive of the British Bankers' Association, said the country's future relationship with the European Union was mired in uncertainty. He said the public and political debate was "taking us in the wrong direction." "Most international banks now have project teams working out which operations they need to move to ensure they can continue serving customers, the date by which this must happen, and how best to do it," said Browne in Britain's "Observer" newspaper. "Their hands are quivering over the relocate button. Many smaller banks plan to start relocations before Christmas; bigger banks are expected to start in the first quarter of next year." Many major international banks have their European headquarters in Britain, with the financial sector employing more than two million people and making up about 12 percent of the economy. Passporting v equivalence London's banks rely on a system of "passporting" - available to all members of the European Economic Area - to serve clients across Europe. Browne expressed concern that pro-Brexit UK ministers have suggested this would not be needed, and that London could rely on so-called "equivalence," which allows non-EEA actors to have access to European markets. "The EU's equivalence regime is a poor shadow of passporting, it only covers a narrow range of services, can be withdrawn at virtually no notice, and will probably mean the UK will have to accept rules it has no influence over," said Browne. "For most banks, equivalence won't prevent them from relocating their operations." In the wake of the June referendum vote to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May says she will invoke Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the EU by the end of March 2017. While she has expressed keenness to remain part of the single market, a number of EU leaders have insisted this would depend on Britain accepting free movement of workers from the bloc. Holding a crucial card? Meanwhile, the "Sunday Times" newspaper reported that the government was considering slashing corporation tax from 20 percent to 10 percent if the EU refuses to agree a free trade agreement with the UK. Such a move could damage the EU by luring firms from the bloc to Britain. The newspaper said the idea had been proposed by advisers to Prime Minister May. "People say we have not got any cards," the paper quoted an unidentified source as saying. "We have some quite good cards we can play if they start getting difficult with us. If they're saying no passporting and high trade tariffs, we can cut corporation tax to 10 percent," the source said.

Big banks are said to be getting ready to move some operations away from London amid uncertainty over the Brexit. Meanwhile, a newspaper reported that the UK could threaten the EU with slashing corporation tax. Large financial institutions are preparing to move some operations away from Britain in early 2017 due to mounting concerns about the possibility of a “hard ... Read More »

AT&T reaches $85.4 billion mega-deal to buy Time Warner

Telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to buy media company Time Warner in a deal worth $85.4 billion. The deal, the world's largest this year, could shake up the media landscape but still needs regulatory approval. AT&T Inc. has announced an agreement to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion (78.4 billion euros) in a deal that should transform the telephone company into a media giant with production studios and a large library of popular content across its platforms. The agreement has the potential to reshape the media industry. The Texas-based multinational telecommunications conglomerate has agreed to pay $107.50 a share for Time Warner, it said in a press release late Saturday. The deal is half cash and half stock. AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson will head the new company and Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes, who has been in the post since 2008, will leave after an interim period following the deal, a person familiar with matter told the "Wall Street Journal." Reviewing the deal The company said that the US Department of Justice would review the deal and that the companies were determining which Federal Communications Commission licenses, if any, would be transferred to AT&T in the deal. "Such a massive consolidation in this industry requires rigorous evaluation and serious scrutiny," US Senator and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Richard Blumenthal said after the deal was announced. AT&T is the second-largest provider of mobile telephone services and the largest provider of fixed telephone services in the US. It also provides broadband subscription television services through DirecTV, which it bought in 2015 for $48.5 billion to become the nation's largest pay TV provider with more than 25 million customers. DirecTV Now service is due to launch within months targeting the 20 million people in the US who don't have pay TV. The company has planned for it to be the primary TV platform by 2020, according to Bloomberg, allowing viewers to view a TV package over the internet without a cable box or satellite dish. Telephones and movies Time Warner owns HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and Hollywood's biggest television and film studio, Warner Bros. Its programming includes the Harry Potter film franchise, DC Comics, "The Big Bang Theory" and "Game of Thrones" and classic cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny. It is made up of three divisions; Home Box Office Inc. (HBO), Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., and Warner Bros. The Turner unit has rights to basketball, baseball and e-sports. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a speech on Saturday that, should he become president, his administration would not approve the deal because it would give AT&T "too much concentration of power." "We'll look at breaking this deal up," Trump said. It is unclear where Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton stands on the deal. Her website outlines plans to protect consumers by strengthening antitrust laws and enforcement in order to "promote competition" and "address excessive concentration" of power among corporations. AT&T had $147 billion in revenues in 2015 and Time Warner reported $28 billion.

Telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to buy media company Time Warner in a deal worth $85.4 billion. The deal, the world’s largest this year, could shake up the media landscape but still needs regulatory approval. AT&T Inc. has announced an agreement to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion (78.4 billion euros) in a deal that should transform the telephone ... Read More »

3 things you need to know about Italy, the Norcia earthquake and ‘airbag’ housing

It's impossible to predict earthquakes. We know that. We also know regions such as the Apennines in Italy are prone to shake. There's little we can do but build resistant housing. Here's why. A brief history of Italian quakes Italy has experienced 125 "significant earthquakes" since 1900. Twelve of those earthquakes struck in the past 16 years. They range from a magnitude of 3.5 in 1973 to magnitude 7.9 in 1905. At magnitude 6.2, the earthquake on 24 August 2016 was the eighth strongest in the region since the turn of the last century. The 2009 L'Aquila quake measured 6.3. A US National Centers for Environmental Information database lists 318 significant earthquakes in Italy since 1450 BC, including one at Pompeii in 63 AD. A meeting of tectonic plates The US Geological Survey says the region around the earthquake's epicenter at Norcia is "tectonically and geologically complex." The quake resulted from a "shallow normal faulting" in the Central Apennines. The Apennines is a mountain range running the length of Italy from north to south. It was formed due to a process known as "subduction," where tectonic plates collide. Now this very region is being torn apart. One of the main complexities is the meeting - and parting - of the African and Eurasian plates. The Eurasia plate moves in a northeasterly direction at about 24 millimeters (about 1 inch) per year. A housing issue We often focus on the number of deaths caused by earthquakes - and it stands to reason. But the damage caused to buildings is often far greater in pure numbers. A September 1997 earthquake in Umbria and Marche killed between 11 and 14 people (depending on the source of information), injured 100 people, and destroyed 800,000 homes. It was part of the "Umbria-Marche Seismic Sequence," which involved eight shakes over two months. The US Geological Survey says housing in central Italy ranges from "vulnerable" to "earthquake resistant." Vulnerable buildings tend to be made of unreinforced brick with mud and mid-rise non-ductile concrete frames. In Japan, a company called Air Danshin Systems has been working on houses that levitate during earthquakes to make them more resistant to damage. The house sits on a deflated airbag. When it detects a quake, air is pumped into the airbag, lifting the house about 3 centimeters above its concrete foundation. The system has been described as "airbag" housing. Well, whatever works.

It’s impossible to predict earthquakes. We know that. We also know regions such as the Apennines in Italy are prone to shake. There’s little we can do but build resistant housing. Here’s why. A brief history of Italian quakes Italy has experienced 125 “significant earthquakes” since 1900. Twelve of those earthquakes struck in the past 16 years. They range from ... Read More »

Berlin blames Moscow for Aleppo humanitarian crisis

A spokesman for the German government has criticized Russia's offer of three-hour daily ceasefires in the Syrian city. But Moscow insists longer breaks will only help "terrorists" in the city. The German government on Monday urgently called on Russia and the Syrian government to facilitate humanitarian access to the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin wanted Russia to exert its "great influence on the Syrian president" to enable food, water and medical aid to get through to the people in the northern city, which has been under siege by Russian military and Syrian government forces. He said it depended primarily on Moscow and the Syrian regime "whether the dying continued in Aleppo," and spoke of a letter to Merkel by 30 doctors who had remained in the city, in which they had appealed to her for urgent help. Seibert also criticized Moscow's offer last week of a daily three-hour ceasefire, saying that this did not provide enough time for the necessary aid to be transported into the city. He said the Russian promise was "meant to sound like a concession, but is actually cynicism, since everyone knows that this time is nowhere near enough to really restore supplies to desperate people." 'Catastrophic situation' Seibert's comments were echoed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Russia. "The humanitarian situation in Aleppo is catastrophic. This cannot and must not continue. Three hours a day is not enough," Steinmeier said in Yekaterinburg, where the meeting took place. He called instead for a complete ceasefire. Lavrov, while admitting that three hours was "insufficient," defended the Russian offer, saying that longer ceasefires would give terrorists time to regroup and replenish supplies. "A result of the pause has been a slight improvement of the humanitarian situation," he said in comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS. "But the main result has been terrorists replenishing their numbers by 7,000 people, not to mention a large quantity of guns and munitions," he added, saying it would be necessary "to resolve issues in the fight against the terrorists" before prolonging the ceasefires. Russia, which has sent troops to help its longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad amid Syria's more than five-year-long civil war, last week announced three-hour humanitarian pauses over three days in Aleppo - a measure immediately slammed by the United Nations as inadequate. Syrian government forces last month captured the last rebel supply route to the city. The UN warned at the time that food supplies would last only until mid-August.

A spokesman for the German government has criticized Russia’s offer of three-hour daily ceasefires in the Syrian city. But Moscow insists longer breaks will only help “terrorists” in the city. The German government on Monday urgently called on Russia and the Syrian government to facilitate humanitarian access to the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin ... Read More »

Would a Trump America walk away from NATO?

The US has long warned its European partners it was losing patience with paying the majority of NATO's bills. The nomination of Donald Trump has made the threats of a US withdrawal from NATO seem real and present. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made US dissatisfaction with NATO's resource and funding gap a major campaign issue for the first time, coupling stark reprimands against European allies who don't devote the NATO-prescribed minimum 2 percent of GDP to military spending with blunt threats to walk away from mutual defense responsibilities enshrined in Article V of the NATO treaty. Trump says "NATO is obsolete and extremely expensive to the US, disproportionately so, and we should readjust NATO." He pledges if he becomes president, US participation in an Article V operation would depend on whether the ally under attack had "fulfilled their obligations" to the US. It's unclear whether Trump believes other NATO countries owe money directly to the US for military reassurance, as he also said recently that European allies "don't pay us what they should be paying" and that he "want[s] them to pay." Former US ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, a prominent Republican voice on foreign policy, agrees the gap between American and European defense spending is a neuralgic problem that needs to be addressed. "The question is," Volker says, "what do you do about it? And to threaten to blow up NATO might be a negotiating tactic that somebody might want to try out, but I don't think it's a good idea to threaten that, because you're sending the wrong signal to people like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who have invaded their neighbors, who have threatened NATO countries, who buzzed our warships. They've threatened to attack Denmark with nuclear weapons." While Volker notes "there are a lot of institutional checks and balances that will kick in if [Trump] actually does get elected president, you don't really know" how much of the campaign bluster he would try to carry through to policy. 'Trump makes no sense' Even Republican party stalwarts have found Trump's views so disturbing they are deserting him to publicly endorse his opponent Hillary Clinton. Among them is Reuel Marc Gerecht, a prominent neo-conservative commentator and former CIA officer, who's written an open letter raising alarm about Trump's foreign-policy positions. Gerecht shakes his head in disappointment at where he - and the GOP - find themselves today. "If you'd asked me 18 months ago whether I could envision voting for Clinton, the answer would have been no, I could not." But he's openly supporting her now and concluding his own party has imploded. "Mr. Trump makes no sense," Gerecht says, and while he disagrees with many Clinton positions, he feels she is at least "within the realm of normal." As for whether Trump really would or could pull the US out of NATO, Gerecht speculates a Trump presidency might mean there won't even be a NATO to quit. "Any president has within his powers as commander-in-chief to effectively gut NATO," he says. "And certainly by simple statements that he's already made, if he were to make them again after becoming president, that he would not honor Article V, then NATO is de facto defunct." Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and frequent commentator on her native Germany, says even if Trump doesn't win and cut off US support for NATO, damage has been done. "The reality is that in politics, just talking about this kind of thing, as a candidate who isn't even elected yet, already has an impact on people's expectations and on the relationship in the 'now' as opposed to in November or in January," she says. "It is damaging the transatlantic relationship which is based on trust and the assumption that we have a broad commonality of interests and values now because Europeans understand that Trump is not a singular phenomenon, he is a symptom of a broader mood." That mood sees Americans turning away not just from NATO but from other international involvement as well. Erik Brattberg, a Swedish senior fellow with the McCain Institute on International Leadership, believes the transatlantic free-trade deal known as TTIP, already struggling under a supportive President Obama, would face certain doom under Trump. But Brattberg says there would be bigger things to worry about in that case, such as "what does the West actually stand for anymore?" Brattberg says it's no longer clear whether the US worldview is "liberalism, openness and globalization" or "nationalism, protectionism and religion." "These are fundamental questions that I think both American and European citizens are going to face," he says. "And the elections, both here and other elections coming up in Europe, are going to be pivotal for how we respond to them." Islamophobia mainstreamed Growing Islamophobia around the world, fueled by Islamist-inspired attacks particularly in Europe, is one of those challenges that will consume increasing time in European political campaigns as it has in the American one. Shahed Amanullah, a former advisor to the US State Department on Muslim outreach, is a co-founder of Affinis Labs, which helps launch Muslim-founded startups around the world. Amanullah worries that the popularity of Trump's views - for example, his pledge to ban Muslims from coming to America - is "normalizing" what he calls "structural Islamophobia" that he says has previously been more accepted in Europe, but not in the US. That's "empowering those people in Europe who are now feeling that because America is starting to adopt some of this that they're now validated," Amanullah says. "We all need to band together to help fix some of these problems that are a forest fire raging around the world and not put gas on it," Amanullah adds. "I think Trump doesn't realize that he will be putting gas on a fire that's going to make things worse for conflict in the Middle East. It's going to make things worse for integration in Europe. It's going to make things worse in terms of racial and ethnic tensions at home. I think the rest of us see it. I don't think he does." Trump cabinet? But a growing number of Republicans are declaring themselves unwilling to be part of a Trump government. Former Ambassador Volker says he and his counterparts with deep experience look at each other and say "I don't want to [serve in a Trump administration], but I want YOU to do it" - he chuckles - "because we want sane people, good people who know policy, who know what they're doing." It's unclear who might be left to ask. Last week, 50 more former officials went public with their opposition to Trump. In an open letter described as "unprecedented" for its big names and fervent views, a list of prominent Republicans who "served in senior national security and/or foreign policy positions in Republican Administrations from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush" laid out the reasons to stop Trump. The letter states the candidate "has little understanding of America's vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which US foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends. Unlike previous presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself." Trump would be, they warn, the "most reckless president in American history." The Trump campaign responded to the letter by thanking the group for "coming forward so everyone in this country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place."

The US has long warned its European partners it was losing patience with paying the majority of NATO’s bills. The nomination of Donald Trump has made the threats of a US withdrawal from NATO seem real and present. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made US dissatisfaction with NATO’s resource and funding gap a major campaign issue for the first ... Read More »

WWII anniversary – Japanese PM vows to safeguard peace

With geopolitical tensions running high in the Asia-Pacific region, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a controversial ritual offering to Tokyo's equally contentious Yasukuni Shrine. Julian Ryall reports. Against a backdrop of growing geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, the Japanese prime minister and Emperor Akihito on Monday marked the 71st anniversary of the nation's surrender at the end of World War II with renewed commitments to peace. Speaking at a commemorative event at the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo attended by some 5,000 relatives of Japan's war dead, Prime Minister Abe vowed that the nation would never again repeat the horrors of war. "We will contribute to world peace and prosperity by humbly facing history," Abe said, adding that he intends to "open a way to the future that is full of hope." The prime minister avoided mentioning Japan's invasions and brutal occupations of large parts of mainland Asia and Pacific nations in the early decades of the last century, however, with China quick to seize on the perceived slight. Abe "shied away from mentioning Japan's wartime aggression or the suffering Japan inflicted upon other countries before and during World War II," China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported. No mention of 'reflection' "This is the fourth consecutive year for Abe to fail to mention 'reflection' at the annual memorial service," Xinhua commented. "It raised increasing concerns over Japan's possible shifting away from a pacifist stance, with the newly enacted security laws allowing Japan's self-defense forces to fight wars abroad and Abe attempting to revise Japan's pacifist constitution." An aide to the prime minister also visited nearby Yasukuni Shrine earlier in the day to make a ritual offering on Abe's behalf, while a number of members of his cabinet - including Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa and Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi - visited the controversial shrine to pay their respects to the nation's war dead. Yasukuni is considered the last resting place of more than 2.46 million Japanese who died during the nation's wars since the mid-1800s. Controversy surrounds the fact that more than 1,000 of that total were convicted of war crimes during World War II and 14 were condemned to death by the Allies as Class-A war criminals, guilty of "crimes against peace." A minute's silence Abe and the emperor spoke shortly before the traditional minute's silence at midday, the moment when Emperor Hirohito, the current emperor's father, addressed the Japanese people over the radio in 1945 to urge them to "endure the unendurable" and to inform them that Japan was surrendering. At Yasukuni, thousands of people paying their respects stopped and bowed as the emperor's words were relayed over loudspeakers. A bugle sounded at the end of his speech. Inevitably, there were fewer veterans attending this year's event, with only a small number of old soldiers queuing up to bow and clap their hands together in prayer in front of the shinto shrine's "haiden," or hall of worship. Instead, there seemed to be more right-wing groups, most affecting a quasi-uniform of overalls bearing militaristic insignia, rising sun badges and long boots. Others were wearing the wartime uniforms of officers, regular soldiers, sailors and airmen. Offerings of beer, water and flowers have been left in front of the life-size statue of a pilot that is dedicated to the men of the kamikaze squadrons, while origami folded paper cranes have been left before the statue for the widows and children of the dead servicemen. Growing nationalism Toru Kawamoto, a 57-year-old engineer from Osaka, was standing with a knot of 30-something men wearing the uniforms of infantrymen of the 1930s Imperial Japanese Army, although the bayonets and rifles are dummies. Instead of wearing a Japanese uniform, however, Kawamoto is wearing the field grey of the German army in World War II, including a badge with a silver eagle holding a swastika emblem above his chest pocket. He says he knows it is illegal to display the swastika in Germany, but that it is not banned in Japan. "I am here to remember our comrades, our wartime allies in Germany," Kawamoto told DW. Kawamoto says he feels Prime Minister Abe should defy international pressure to pay his respects at Yasukuni each year. "I know it is difficult for him because of the intimidation from China and South Korea but I believe - and everyone here believes - that the prime minister should be here on August 15 each year," he said.

With geopolitical tensions running high in the Asia-Pacific region, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a controversial ritual offering to Tokyo’s equally contentious Yasukuni Shrine. Julian Ryall reports. Against a backdrop of growing geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, the Japanese prime minister and Emperor Akihito on Monday marked the 71st anniversary of the nation’s surrender at the end of ... Read More »

Pakistan’s Edhi: A ‘failed state’ and a ‘messiah’

جہاں پاکستان کی ریاست اور حکومتیں عوام کی جانب اپنی ذمے داریاں پوری کرنے میں ناکام ہوئیں، وہاں فلاحی کارکن عبدالستار ایدھی نے چھ دہائیوں تک لوگوں کی خدمت کر کے اس خلا کو پُر کیا۔ ڈی ڈبلیو کی کشور مصطفیٰ کا تبصرہ۔ پاکستان ایک ایسا ملک ہے جہاں شہری اور عسکری بیوروکریسی انتہائی وسیع ہے۔ ملک میں بے شمار سرکاری شعبے ہیں، وزارتیں ہیں اور لاتعداد وزیر بھی ہیں۔ پاکستان کے سن انیس سو سینتالیس میں انگریز حکم رانوں سے آزادی کے باوجود اب تک ریاست اپنے شہریوں کو بنیادی سہولیات فراہم کرنے سے قاصر رہی ہے۔ 'پاکستان کے مدر ٹیریسا‘ کہلائے جانے والے عبدالستار ایدھی نہ سیاست دان تھے اور نہ ہی امیر بزنس مین، مگر عوامی فلاح و بہبود کے لیے ان کی لگن اور ان تھک محنت نے پاکستان کے غریب افراد کو وہ کچھ دیا جو ریاست نہ دے سکی۔ جب ایدھی کو یہ اندازہ ہوا کہ ریاست اپنی ذمے داریاں پوری نہیں کر رہی تو انہوں نے اپنے طور پر عوام کی فلاح کا بیڑا اٹھا لیا اور ایدھی فاؤنڈیشن کو قائم کیا۔ ابتدا میں یہ صرف لوگوں کو عارضی مدد فراہم کرنے والا ادارہ تھا، تاہم جب پاکستان میں انیس سو اسی اور انیسی سو نوے کی دہائیوں میں سکیورٹی کی حالت ابتر ہوتی گئی تو ایدھی نے اپنے مشن کو وسیع کرتے ہوئے دہشت گردی کا نشانہ بننے والے افراد کی بھی مدد کرنا شروع کی۔ ایدھی ایک بہت مشکل کام حکومت کی کسی بھی مدد کے بغیر کر رہے تھے۔ اور انہوں نے یہ کام اس قدر عاجزی اور سنجیدگی کے ساتھ کیا کہ پاکستان کے عوام نے اس کی مثال اس سے پہلے کبھی نہیں دیکھی تھی۔ انہوں نے اپنی زندگی سادگی سے گزاری اور اپنی زندگی میں ہی ان کو ایک ’درویش‘ کا درجہ حاصل ہو گیا۔ آج ایدھی فاؤنڈیشن کے پاس جنوبی ایشیا میں ایمبولینسوں کا سب سے بڑا نیٹ ورک ہے۔ وہ ’عوامی باورچی خانے‘ بھی چلاتی ہے جہاں سے ہر روز ہزاروں بھوکے افراد کو کھانا ملتا ہے۔ ایدھی کا فلاحی ادارہ ’دارالاطفال‘ بھی چلاتا ہے، جہاں وہ بچے لائے جاتے ہیں جن کا کوئی کفیل نہیں ہوتا۔ اسی طرح ایدھی فاؤنڈیشن گھریلو تشدد کا شکار خواتین کے لیے درالامان بھی چلاتی ہے۔ عبدالستار ایدھی کی زندگی، ان کی جدوجہد اور ان کا فلسفہء حیات ان لوگوں کو متاثر کرتا رہے گا جو انسانیت کی خدمت کرنا چاہتے ہیں۔ ان کی وراثت ثابت کرتی ہے کہ انسانیت کسی بھی قومی، لسانی اور مذہبی وابستگی سے بالاتر ہے۔ لاکھوں کی تعداد میں غریب افراد ایدھی صاحب کے بنائے ان اداروں سے مستفید ہوتے رہیں گے۔ اس عظیم فلاحی کارکن کو نو جولائی کو پاکستانی ریاست کی جانب سے پورے اعزازات کے ساتھ دفنا دیا گیا۔ فوجی اور سویلین قیادت نے ایدھی کی سماج کے لیے خدمات پر انہیں سیلوٹ بھی پیش کیا۔ تاہم ایدھی کو کسی ریاستی اعزاز کی ضرورت نہیں تھی۔ ان کی جدوجہد اس بات کو ظاہر کرتی تھی کہ ریاستی رہنما اپنی ذمے داری پوری نہیں کر رہے تھے۔ جو محبت اور عزت انہیں پاکستان کے عوام سے ملی وہی ان کے لیے سب سے بڑا اعزاز تھا۔

As the Pakistani state failed to fulfill its responsibilities towards its people, the philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi filled the vacuum and helped the destitute for over six decades. What legacy does he leave behind? Pakistan is a country with a huge civilian and military bureaucracy, many state departments and ministries and countless ministers. Yet, the state has failed to deliver ... Read More »

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