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Greek terrorist returns to jail, happy and healthy after 2-day leave

Convicted assassin Dimitris Koufodinas' freedom frolic sparked international and domestic outrage. Koufodinas was a member of the radical left-wing November 17 movement that carried out nearly two-dozen murders. A notorious Greek assassin is back behind bars after 48 hours of freedom that sparked international outrage. Dimitris Koufodinas, dubbed the "Poison Hand," returned to the Korydallos prison Saturday morning, 90 minutes ahead of his 12 noon deadline. Accompanied by his wife and son, he appeared relaxed and waved to the media. He said through his lawyer that he used the time outside of jail to reconnect with his family and work on plans for a beekeeing business, which he used as a front during his years as a hit man. The 59-year-old is serving 11 life sentences plus 25 years for his role in 11 of 23 assassinations carried out by the now-defunct extreme left-wing militant group November 17. Read more: A new generation of Greek terrorists The group's presence first became known in late 1975 after they murdered Richard Welch, the CIA's station chief in Athens. British military attache Stephen Saunders was the group's last victim, in 2000. For 25 years the group carried out a series of assassinations that included diplomats and officials from the United States, Great Britain, Turkey and Greece. All three foreign countries condemned Greece for granting Koufodinas the two-day leave. US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said it was an insult to victims and their families. "I add my voice to those from across Greece's political spectrum deploring prison council decision to release a convicted terrorist, murderer & N17 leader," Pyatt said on Twitter. In a Greek-language tweet, British ambassador Kate Smith likewise expressed London's "profound disappointment" and added that the embassy "shared" the pain of the victims' families. And the Turkish foreign ministry said the decision had displayed "tolerance to a bloodthirsty terrorist" in "sheer disrespect to the memory of our martyred diplomats." Book was a best seller The November 17 group also targeted Greek officials. The country's opposition parties have slammed the politically left government of current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for being soft on extremist left-wing militants. They also noted that Koufodinas had never shown remorse. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece's main opposition leader, whose sister's husband was among November 17's victims, said, "I speak as a shocked citizen who is witnessing this country's biggest terrorist, a remorseless murderer, given leave from prison." In 2014, another jailed former November 17 member, Christodoulos Xiros, took advantage of his prison leave to go on the run. He had been planning terrorist attacks when police recaptured him a year later. The liberal daily newspaper Kathimerini said Saturday that Koufodinas was able to secure leave because the Tsipras government had modified a law regarding conditional release. Koufodinas is a former mathematician. He was convicted for the murder of Saunders in addition to the deaths of a US military attache, a US airman and two Turkish diplomats, among others. Koufodinas was arrested in 2002 but not before evading capture for several months by camping out on a secluded beach after other members of the group had been arrested. He subsequently turned himself in. November 17 was named after an anti-junta student uprising. While in prison Koufodinas, wrote a best seller on his life inside the extremist group.

Convicted assassin Dimitris Koufodinas’ freedom frolic sparked international and domestic outrage. Koufodinas was a member of the radical left-wing November 17 movement that carried out nearly two-dozen murders. A notorious Greek assassin is back behind bars after 48 hours of freedom that sparked international outrage. Dimitris Koufodinas, dubbed the “Poison Hand,” returned to the Korydallos prison Saturday morning, 90 minutes ... Read More »

Kenya election: Petition filed challenging Kenyatta victory

An ex-politician has filed a petition at the Kenyan Supreme Court challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in last month's election. The move is just the latest legal battle in a drawn-out process. Former Kenyan politician Harun Mwau on Monday filed a petition at the Supreme Court in a bid to have the October 26 polls annulled. Mwau's petition was filed before a Monday deadline set by the constitution and opens the door to other legal challenges to the election. Kenyatta secured a second five-year term with 98 percent of the vote. Turnout was a mere 38.8 percent. Among other things, the petition contests the inclusion of a minor candidate who had been declared bankrupt in the poll, and also asserts that the electoral commission should have conducted fresh nominations ahead of the vote after a first presidential election in August was annulled. The August election was voided on the basis of "procedural irregularities." Prolonged election season Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost the August vote, boycotted October's election, saying the election commission needed first to implement reforms to make it fair. The disputes surrounding the elections has caused disruption to Kenya's economy, one of the strongest in Africa. Kenya's government has been accused by rights groups in the country of trying to intimidate those who could file legal challenges against the recent election result. Observers expect a large number of legal disputes after a petition to delay the election on the eve of the vote could not go ahead because the Supreme Court could not reach a quorum. Kenyatta has said he will accept court decisions on the challenges "no matter what [the] outcomes." Read more: In Kenya, politics split on ethnic divide

An ex-politician has filed a petition at the Kenyan Supreme Court challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in last month’s election. The move is just the latest legal battle in a drawn-out process. Former Kenyan politician Harun Mwau on Monday filed a petition at the Supreme Court in a bid to have the October 26 polls annulled. Mwau’s petition was filed ... Read More »

Fiji sees threat of coming climate exodus

The South Pacific island state of Kiribati is in danger of disappearing into the sea. Its government decided to buy land in Fiji to protect its residents from rising sea levels. Bastian Hartig paid a visit. "All that land," says Sade Marika as he makes a long, sweeping gesture with his arm, "belongs to Kiribati." The area that the thin man on the hill points out stretches from the South Pacific, a few kilometers off in the distance, to the mountain tops that scrape the sky about the same distance away in the other direction. A dense forest stretches between them. The area is more than 2,000 hectares (50,000 acres). The tiny island state of Kiribati purchased the property on the much larger and, above all, higher island of Fiji, three years ago. Residents on Fiji's coast are affected by rising sea levels, but those living in the interior of its two main islands – the volcanic mountains of which rise 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) above sea level – are not. Everything in the Kiribati atoll, on the other hand, is near the coast, with no part of any of its islands more than a few meters above sea level. Life for the island state's 115,000 residents is becoming increasingly difficult. The rising ocean is not only forcing people together on less and less land, it is also increasing the salinity of their drinking water. The forward-thinking president The coming disaster forced Kiribati's then president, Anote Tong, to take action back in 2014. It was his administration that purchased the piece of property that Sade Marika is now standing on. Marika is the village leader of the 270 resident community of Naviavia, just a few hundred meters down the dusty, red sand path that we are standing near. This is an idyllic corner of the world, framed by coconut palms on one side and a crystal clear rivulet on the other. It is very peaceful. A few men have gathered to chat, standing on the narrow path that winds its way through the village. Birds chirp all around and children are waiting for dinner as a dozen young men play rugby – Fiji's national sport – on the village sports field. These people are all the descendants of slaves that their former British overlords brought here from the Solomon Islands in the 19th century to work on cotton plantations. Naviavia's future, however, is uncertain. The tiny community lies right in the center of an area that now belongs to the country of Kiribati. And Kiribati has big plans for the area. "We were told that they want to farm here, planting mainly manioc (taro) and yaqona (the root from which kava is made)," explains Sade Marika. For the economic development of Kiribati When I ask Reteta Rimon, Kiribati's ambassador to Fiji, about the plan, I find that it is only half of the story. "We are still in the planning phase," says the elegant lady, on the sidelines of a preliminary meeting in Fiji's third-largest city, Nadi, ahead of the global climate summit in Bonn. "It has yet to be determined exactly what will be done with the land but whatever is done it will be used to benefit the economic development of Kiribati." The possibilities here are many and go far beyond farming. "There are also musings about expanding our fishing sector," says Rimon. The 33 islands and atolls that make up Kiribati are spread over an area of 5.2 million square kilometers (2 million square miles), the area is also home to the richest tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean. To date, Kiribati has profited little from that fact. It leases out its own fishing licenses but most of the profits go to others and Kiribati residents scrape together an existence from shoreline fishing. "Our current government is planning to build up a new, open sea fishing fleet," explains Reteta Rimon. "Furthermore we want to start up a fish processing industry." That will require space and a lot of fresh water, things that Kiribati itself does not have. It also lacks other resources, like wood and stone. But all of those things do exist on the 20 square kilometers that surround Naviavia. Thus, sooner or later, the villagers will get new neighbors – even though no one knows just how many will come from Kiribati and when. Ex-President Anote Tong once said that if necessary all of Kiribati's residents could be sheltered on Fiji. But Reteta Rimon can't see that happening, "Kiribati is our home, we don't want to abandon it." Coming to grips with a new reality People in Naviavia express cautious optimism. "Here in the Pacific we are all somehow similar," says Efraimi Tangenagitu. The small, stout man stands in front of his wood and sheet metal hut. "I don't think we'll have any problems." But as he says this, his warm round face betrays a certain inner tension. When the plans were presented to the villagers they were by no means excited about the prospects. There were worries about whether they would be able to live together, simply because both peoples speak different languages. But now, no one really wants to talk about all that. People here say it is a done deal and they do not want to do anything to damage relations with their future neighbors before they even arrive. Kiribati also seems interested in cultivating good relations. The president himself visited the village to assure residents that they had nothing to fear. In Naviavia, residents have decided to accept this new reality – for they really have no other choice. No one ever asked them if they were in favor of selling off the land. The property itself belongs to the Anglican church, which simply allows villagers the right to use it. The village now has 120 hectares to use as it sees fit. Village leader Sade Marika says he wants to concentrate on the positive side of the situation. "They promised us that we would be included in the economic development of the country," he says, adding that he hopes Kiribati's plans will also mean jobs for Naviavia residents. The only thing that is certain here, is that lives will be fundamentally affected by climate change. In Naviavia, residents are determined to make the best of it. They have no other choice.

The South Pacific island state of Kiribati is in danger of disappearing into the sea. Its government decided to buy land in Fiji to protect its residents from rising sea levels. Bastian Hartig paid a visit. “All that land,” says Sade Marika as he makes a long, sweeping gesture with his arm, “belongs to Kiribati.” The area that the thin ... Read More »

Thailand to introduce facial and fingerprint scans for SIM cards nationwide

In a bid to combat electronic fraud, Thailand is making biometric checks mandatory for all those obtaining new SIM cards. Authorities say the data will be kept "private and safe." People in Thailand who want to obtain a new SIM card will be required to undergo facial or fingerprint scans as of December 15, the country's telecoms regulator said on Monday. The nationwide rollout of the system follows a successful trial run since June in the capital, Bangkok, and Thailand's restive south, where separatist insurgents have carried out many bomb attacks using mobile phones to trigger the explosive devices, the regulator said. However, regulatory official Takorn Tantasith said biometric registration was being introduced nationwide mainly to enhance mobile banking security. "This is not aimed at tracking users, but enhancing security, especially in the case of mobile payments, " Takorn said. "You can rest assured that all personal data will be kept private and safe," Takorn added. Matching fingerprints Currently, SIM cards for post-paid accounts are registered on purchase, while pre-paid cards require no identification when they are bought. The new system will require the biometric scans for both types. Takorn said Thai nationals buying a new SIM card would have their fingerprints matched against data stored on their national identification cards. Facial scans might alternatively be used to verify identity, if the respective service center or retailer had the necessary equipment. Foreigners buying SIM cards in Thailand will have their faces scanned and matched against their passport photographs. Those who already have SIM cards will not be subjected to the scans. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all have similar biometric systems in place.

In a bid to combat electronic fraud, Thailand is making biometric checks mandatory for all those obtaining new SIM cards. Authorities say the data will be kept “private and safe.” People in Thailand who want to obtain a new SIM card will be required to undergo facial or fingerprint scans as of December 15, the country’s telecoms regulator said on ... Read More »

Trump’s upcoming Asia trip: Japan proposes plan to counter China

Tokyo aims to team up with the US, India and Australia to promote free trade and defense and security cooperation - but also to contain Beijing's aggressively expansionist policies. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo. At the summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Hamburg in July, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated that Tokyo would be willing to take part in Beijing's ambitious "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) economic development plan. The Japanese leader's decision was apparently prompted by concerns that domestic firms would miss out on lucrative construction projects as the modern-day "Silk Road" project spread into Southeast Asia, the Central Asian republics, the Middle East and beyond. Just three months later - and after conservatives at home raised their eyebrows at such close cooperation with a government that they perceive as taking every opportunity to belittle Japan - Foreign Minister Taro Kono has announced that he intends to use the upcoming visit of US President Donald Trump to propose what might very easily be perceived as an alternative to China's OBOR initiative. Four-way dialogue In an interview with Japan's Nikkei economic daily on Wednesday, Kono said Tokyo wanted to set up top-level dialogue between Japan, the US, India and Australia in order for the four powers to promote free trade and cooperation in defense and security throughout the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa. Kono added that he had offered collaborative roles to other nations - he mentioned both France and the UK as potential future contributors - and the plan is clearly designed to act as a counterweight to the massive economic and military might that Beijing continues to build. "We are in an era where Japan has to exert itself diplomatically by drawing a big strategic picture," Kono said, adding that "Free and open seas will benefit all countries, including China and its 'Belt and Road' initiative." Despite the claim that the Japanese-led initiative will equally assist China's ambitions, there is little disguising the fact that Tokyo is trying hard to build unity among nations both big and small to resist Beijing's advances. There has been concern in Japan for some years about the way in which China is exercising its economic and military muscle, but that was put into very clear focus in 2015, when China ignored international protests and occupied a series of uninhabited atolls and coral reefs in the South China Sea. Read more: South China Sea dispute - Long way ahead for China, ASEAN Unilateral occupation The islets have been variously claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, and the international community condemned Beijing's decision to unilaterally occupy, develop and militarize the territories. Today, it appears unlikely that Chinese troops can be removed from the islands, and Japan fears that Beijing will use similarly high-handed economic and military tactics to achieve its aims elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. "This proposal, as I see it, is very positive for Japan, but also for the US, India and Australia," said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University. "And later, when it is more fully formed, it can be a good thing for all the countries of Southeast Asia as well. "It is important that we have an alternative to the ideas of China because countries might join their plan and Beijing could very easily change those plans to better favor themselves," he told DW. "China is so big and powerful that not many other nations can stand up to them. I believe there is a risk involved for any country that places all its eggs in one basket and works solely with China," he said, adding that he was confident that Beijing's actions in the South China Sea would not have won Beijing many new fans. Shimada believes an alliance that brings together Japan, India, Australia and the US will have a better track record and reputation in the international sphere. Garren Mulloy, a defense expert and associate professor of international relations at Japan's Daito Bunka University, is confident that Australia and India will be keen to be involved in the initiative as they too look to counter China's aggressive expansionist policies in areas that are an immediate threat to their own security. "Australia and Japan, in particular, feel let down by Trump after he pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and they have been seeking a 'third forum' through which they can join together and regain the initiative," he told DW. Largest trading partner China is Australia's biggest trading partner and there has been heavy investment in Australia by Chinese companies in recent years. One of the most contentious deals was the leasing of the harbor in Darwin, northern Australia, to a Chinese company, with many critics of the deal saying it makes no sense to give away the nation's strategic infrastructure assets to a rival. The Pentagon was also unhappy with the deal as Darwin serves as a key naval facility for the US navy and its Marine Corps. On the other hand, Mulloy said, the "Belt and Road" initiative would appear to have limited value to Canberra, so an alliance with Japan, India and the US would be a more logical step. Similarly, India has been watching China's growing investment in Sri Lanka, where Beijing's funds have paid for a major new port facility that has already had Chinese warships visit. And while Mulloy believes an alternative to China's plans could be beneficial to the region, he says the nations that opt to participate will not be able to afford to invest as much as China has already sunk into its vision for a 21st century Silk Road.

Tokyo aims to team up with the US, India and Australia to promote free trade and defense and security cooperation – but also to contain Beijing’s aggressively expansionist policies. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo. At the summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Hamburg in July, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated that Tokyo would be ... Read More »

In Kenya, politics split on ethnic divide

When Kenyans cast their ballots to pick the president, the roles played by ethnicity and tribalism are likely to be decisive. A youth alliance armed with a hashtag is hoping to end tribalism and its legacy in politics. Every Thursday the hashtag #TribelessyouthKE trends on Twitter and other social media platforms. It is an initiative launched by young Kenyans who are tired of tribal politics. They hope to change Kenya's long history of going back to ethnic groups during election years. "I believe young people have the power because we make up the biggest number now, at 64 percent of general voters," Wanjiku Kihika, the founder of the Tribeless alliance said. Read more: Kenya election: From 'fair and peaceful' to democratic crisis "We have an influence of over 3.5 million young people on Twitter and other social media. We also carry out grassroot drives to sensitize young people to shun tribalism and vote wisely," she told DW, adding that the movement is about "embracing each other's diversities." Kihika said that although politicians are not keen to tackle tribalism since it plays to their advantage, the new generation will ultimately break the chains of tribalism. "The only tribes we have in Kenya are the rich and poor," she said. Kenyan politics have been characterized by ethnic tensions since independence in 1963. But it was not until 2007 that the demons of tribalism really flared up after the hotly disputed national elections which left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands others internally displaced. The clashes mainly between the larger ethnic tribes, the Kikuyus, Luos and Kalenjins, erupted after Mwai Kibaki from the Kikuyu community was declared the winner amidst accusations of rigging and electoral manipulation. Analysts such as Brian Wanyama say ethnicity per se has never been the problem. The dilemma arises when politicians use ethnicity for their personal gain and create a divide which breeds tribalism. Colonialism and tribal divide Tribalism in Kenya dates back to the colonial era. From 1920 to 1963, Kenya was under the rule of the British who used the divide and rule method of governing. For years they played one community against another, in particular, the Kikuyus and Luos whom they considered a threat owing to their big numbers. Read more: Kenya: Uncertainty over election fuels fears of clashes "In the traditional society the issue of belonging to a tribe was not a big issue until and during the fight for independence," Nairobi-based analyst Brian Wanyama told DW. The first two political parties before and during independence Kenya - the Kenya Africa National Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) - propelled current tribal politics in the country. KANU was a Kikuyu and Luo alliance party while KADU was comprised of other small tribes who feared domination by KANU. KADU was founded by Daniel Arap Moi, a Kalenjin from Rift valley. President Jomo Kenyatta (father of incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta) was accused of sidelining the Luos, in particular Jaramongi Odinga( father of current opposition leader Raila Odinga) in favor of Moi who who succeeded him in 1978 as the second president of Kenya. During his period in office until 2002, Moi was accused of perpetuating the politics of divide and rule. His presidency was also marked by tribal animosities. The major outbreak of clashes happened in 1992 in the Rift valley's Molo region which left 5,000 people dead and another 75,000 displaced.The conflict was primarily between Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities. Land ownership and disputes were cited as some of the key reasons for the conflict. Bad legacy lives on Though regional conflict among tribes was still in existence, it was not until the advent of multi-party politics in 1992 that it really became evident. Major parties were already divided along tribal lines. For example, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-Kenya) was associated with the Luhya tribe, the Democratic Party (DP), with the Kikuyu, the Labour Democratic Party (LDP), with the Luo, while the Kalenjin tribe supported then ruling party KANU. Presently, voting in Kenya whether parliamentary, civic or presidential, is almost entirely along tribal lines. In the political sphere, leaders appeal to people of their own tribes when they want support, they also use their tribes as leverage when they bargain for positions and favors in government. The 'big five’ tribes have influenced who is elected, owing to their numerical advantage. According to Kenya's National Bureau of Statistics, the largest native ethnic groups are the Kikuyu (6,622,576), the Luhya (5,338,666), the Kalenjin (4,967,328), the Luo (4,044,440) and the Kamba (3,893,157). The majority of Luos support opposition leader Raila Odinga, the Kambas are behind Kalonzo Musyoka. The Kalenjins back Deputy President William Ruto, while the Kikuyus support President Uhuru Kenyatta. Analyst Wanyama said it is no wonder that political elites are accused of playing the game of ethnic divide to get elected, since "elections were never based on issues, ideologies or principles." Fighting tribalism Attempts to slay the dragon of tribalism in Kenya have not been easy. Commissions have been formed, songs composed, and wars fought. The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was formed in 2008 after the 2007 post-election violence. It concluded that ethnic conflicts mainly stem from land inequality and regional imbalances. A second commission, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, is still working on ending the divisions between Kenyans. In its view, the solution is to address economic equality and opportunities for all, regardless of tribal affiliations. "The appointments in government parastatals reflect a deliberate effort to favor certain ethnic lines," Wanyama said. Since independence, leaders often filled the civil service and state-owned institutions with members of their ethnic group, and those from ethnic communities viewed as being supportive of the ruling regime. The cabinets of presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, and Mwai Kibaki all had a disproportionate numbers of members from their respective tribes. "Tribalism is to blame for many ills in our country today, like corruption, ethnic clashes and underdevelopment. People must be given jobs based on their skills and training, not tribes" Wanyama said. Time for change Experts are now warning that Kenya is on the wrong track as it votes in a repeat presidential election. As in the past, political alliances have been made along ethnic lines. The Jubilee alliance of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto is backed by the Kikuyus and the Kalenjins. The opposition National Alliance (NASA) is no different. It is a union of tribes led by Raila Odinga (a Luo from western Kenya), Moses Wetangula (a Luhya from western Kenya) and Kalonzo Musyoka from the Kamba tribe. Mass registration drive rallies have been ethnically politicized. Even when politicians return to their backyard for rallies, they have no clear agenda other than playing the usual tribal cards. "The tribal card is being played behind the scenes. It's not being amplified as such but politicians are harping on tribal arithmetic to gain control and get political mileage," Wanyama said.

When Kenyans cast their ballots to pick the president, the roles played by ethnicity and tribalism are likely to be decisive. A youth alliance armed with a hashtag is hoping to end tribalism and its legacy in politics. Every Thursday the hashtag #TribelessyouthKE trends on Twitter and other social media platforms. It is an initiative launched by young Kenyans who ... Read More »

Japan: Is a new sun rising for Japan’s Shinzo Abe?

جاپان میں اتوار بائیس اکتوبر کے پارلیمانی الیکشن میں جاپانی وزیراعظم بھاری کامیابی حاصل کرنے میں کامیاب رہے ہیں۔ ان کی سیاسی جماعت اور حلیف پارٹی کو اس الیکشن میں دو تہائی اکثریت حاصل ہوئی ہے۔ جاپانی سیاست کے مبصرین کا کہنا ہے کہ اتوار کے انتخابات میں شینزو آبے ووٹ حاصل کرنے میں کامیاب رہے ہیں لیکن وہ اپنے عوام کے دل اور دماغ کو جیتنے میں ناکام دکھائی دیتے ہیں۔ جاپانی ووٹرز شاکی ہیں کہ شینزو آبے اُن کے ملک کے امن پسندانہ دستورکی بنیادی روح کو تبدیل کرنے کی کوشش میں ہیں۔ اب شمالی کوریا سے ثابت قدمی سے نمٹا جائے گا، آبے شمالی کوریا نے جاپان کے اوپر سے ایک اور میزائل داغ دیا ’’مستقبل قریب میں جوہری جنگ کا خطرہ‘‘ جاپانی وزیراعظم نے ایوانِ زیریں تحلیل کر دیا جاپان کی سرکاری نیوز ایجنسی کیوڈو کے کرائے گئے رائے عامہ کے ايک جائزے میں اکاون فیصد شرکاء نے واضح کیا کہ وہ شینزو آبے پر اعتماد نہیں کرتے۔ ایک اور آزاد ادارے اساہی شمبُون کے رائے عامہ کے جائزے کے مطابق 47 فیصد جاپانی عوام کا خیال ہے کہ اُن کے ملک پر شینزو آبے نہیں بلکہ کوئی اور حکمرانی کر رہا ہے۔ جاپانی ووٹرز کو ایک اور پریشانی یہ بھی لاحق ہے کہ اپوزیشن پوری طرح بکھر کر رہ گئی ہے اور صرف آبے اور اُن کی سیاسی جماعت ہی ملکی سیاسی منظر پر متحد دکھائی دیتی ہے۔ بائیس اکتوبر کے الیکشن میں بھی وزیراعظم کی قدامت پسند رجحان رکھنے والی سیاسی جماعت لبرل ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی نے اپوزیشن کی سیاسی پارٹیوں کو پوری طرح تتربِتر کر دیا ہے۔ اکتوبر کے انتخابات سے ایک دو ماہ قبل ٹوکیو شہر کی خاتون گورنر یوریکو کوئکے نے ایک نئی سیاسی جماعت بنائی۔ اس کا نام ’پارٹی آف ہوپ‘ ہے۔ تجزیہ کاروں کا خیال ہے کہ بظاہر کوئکے کا انتخابی منشور بھی لبرل ڈیمیوکریٹک پارٹی سے ملتا جلتا ہے لیکن عوام کو اگلے الیکشن تک اس پارٹی کی شکل میں ایک نئی قیادت اور تبدیلی میسر آ سکتی ہے۔ حالیہ الیکشن میں یہ تیسری پوزیشن پر آئی ہے اور پارلیمنٹ میں چالیس سے زائد سیٹیں حاصل کر سکی ہے۔ شینزو آبے کی مخالف بائیں بازو کی بڑی اپوزیشن جماعت ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی کے خراب حال ہونے کی ایک بڑی وجہ اُس کے کئی ورکرز کی خاتون سیاستدان کی نئی سیاسی جماعت میں شمولیت بھی خیال کی جاتی ہے۔ اس کے علاوہ بائیں بازو کی سیاسی جماعت ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی کے کئی اہم رہنماؤں نے کانسٹیٹیوشنل ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی کے نام سے ایک سیاسی جماعت قائم کر دی ہے۔ اس نئی سیاسی پارٹی کو تازہ الیکشن میں دوسری پوزیشن حاصل ہوئی ہے اور یہ پارلیمنٹ کے ایوانِ زیریں میں ساٹھ کے قریب نشستیں حاصل کرنے میں کامیاب رہی ہے۔

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition has secured a comfortable win in parliamentary elections, according to exit polls. He benefits from a strong economy and a weak opposition. Martin Fritz reports from Tokyo. The latest opinion polls show that Japan’s ruling coalition, made up of Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, is on track to take two-thirds in ... Read More »

Pollution killing more people than war and violence, says report

Pollution kills more people each year than wars, disasters and hunger, also causing huge economic damage, a study says. Almost half the total deaths occur in just two countries. Environmental pollution is killing more people every year than smoking, hunger or natural disasters, according to a major study released in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday. One in every six of the 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2015 could be attributed to diseases caused by toxins in air or water, the study says. It says air pollution was the main cause of deaths, responsible for 6.5 million of the fatalities, followed by water pollution, which killed 1.8 million. Read more: Air pollution is 'top health hazard in Europe' The estimate of 9 million premature deaths, considered conservative by the authors, is one and a half times higher than the number of people killed by smoking, and three times the death toll from AIDS, turberculosis and malaria combined. It is also 15 times the number of people killed in war or other forms of violence. Ninety-two percent of pollution-related deaths occurred in low- or middle-income developing countries, with India topping the list at 2.5 million, followed by China at 1.8 million. Economic costs The report also attributed massive costs to pollution-related death, sickness and welfare, estimating the costs at some $4.6 trillion (€3.89 trillion) in annual losses — or about 6.2 percent of the global economy. "What people don't realize is that pollution does damage to economies. People who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy. They need to looked after," said one of the study's authors, Richard Fuller, who is head of the global pollution watchdog Pure Earth. Read more: Five ways to improve air quality in our cities "There is this myth that finance ministers still live by: that you have to let industry pollute or else you won't develop. It just isn't true," he said. According to the study, the financial burden also hits poorer countries hardest, with low-income countries paying 8.3 percent of their GNP to tackle the harm caused by pollution, as compared with 4.5 percent in richer countries. 'Worrying developments in US' The Lancet editors Pamela Das and Richard Horton said the report came at a "worrisome time, when the US government's Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Scott Pruitt, is undermining established environmental regulations." Pruitt announced this month that the US, a major producer of air pollution and greenhouse gases, would be pulling out of former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan. The plan, which aimed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production, was expected by the EPA to also reduce smog and soot in the air by 25 percent and thus avoid thousands of premature deaths through asthma and other lung conditions. Das and Horton said the latest findings should serve as a "call to action." "Pollution is a winnable battle ... Current and future generations deserve a pollution-free world," they said.

Pollution kills more people each year than wars, disasters and hunger, also causing huge economic damage, a study says. Almost half the total deaths occur in just two countries. Environmental pollution is killing more people every year than smoking, hunger or natural disasters, according to a major study released in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday. One in every six ... Read More »

Kurds blame outside world for loss of territories to Iraq

Iraqi Kurds grieve the loss of lands they have had to return to Iraq's control and their shattered dream of independence. As they see it, it isn't their politicians who are to blame, but the international community. "Why did our peshmerga die in the fight against Daesh?" asks Hawre Ali, who stands by while protesters pose for pictures with yellow sad-faced smileys. Outside the United Nations compound in Iraqi Kurdistan's capital Irbil, peace protesters gather. They mourn for the territories the Iraqi army has taken back from the Kurds over the last few days, some of which peshmerga fighters had recaptured from the "Islamic State" terror group, or Daesh, with the loss of Kurdish lives. "What did we fight for?" Ali wonders. For three years, the peshmerga fought IS — mainly in the so-called "disputed" territories that both the Kurds and Baghdad claim for themselves — with air support from the US-led international coalition against IS. They lost almost 2,000 peshmerga troops in battle, with another 18,000 wounded. Read more: Kirkuk — What you need to know about the Kurdish-Iraqi dispute "The fight was not even our responsibility," says Ali, who is angry with the international community for letting the Kurds down. It allowed the Iraqi army to take back control of land which, according to the Iraqi constitution of 2005, lies outside the Kurdistan Region. "We are disappointed they did not prevent this. We will no longer fight against IS; it is not our concern." He vows to return the next day with a tent, to pitch it here and put pressure on the UN to give the Kurds back the lands. But virtually all the world supported Baghdad's actions, with the Americans declaring them part of their united Iraq policy. Punishing the Kurds Last month, Washington warned Kurdish President Masoud Barzani against holding a referendum on Kurdish independence, saying the timing was wrong. The offer the Americans made in return for a delay was recently leaked to the press, and showed that the US and the UN would help the Kurds in their negotiations over outstanding issues with Baghdad and support a referendum if, after two years, these had failed. Despite massive pressure, opposition from other Kurdish parties and threats from Baghdad and neighboring Iran and Turkey, the referendum went ahead on September 25 with over 90 percent of those who participated voting in favor of independence. One of the first measures Baghdad took to punish the Kurds for this — in its view illegal — vote, was to block all international flights to the Kurdish cities of Irbil and Suleimaniyah. The plane taking off from the airport next to the UN compound is heading for Baghdad, now the only way out of the country for the Kurds, apart from the land border with Turkey — as long as that remains open, of course, as closing it was one of the threats Turkish President Erdogan made after the referendum. The Iranian border crossings have been closed, reopened and closed again in recent weeks. "We will face a lack of food and water, but nobody is protesting," says Chiman Khaled, a woman in a long red dress whose father was a peshmerga fighter killed by the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. She calls on the international community to help the Kurds. "I have not eaten for two days. I was in thought with the peshmerga, and this is all about Kurdish rights." Putting the blame on US, Iran When asked who is to blame for losing the oil city of Kirkuk and the other territories — and with them the possibility of an independent Kurdish state in the near future — Khaled points to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who gave the orders, and the Shiite Hashed al-Shabi militias, who executed them along with the Iraqi army. Mohammed Jamal, who is holding a small red-white-green Kurdish flag, agrees. "What happened has nothing to do with the referendum. Abadi and the militias were already planning this." Fatima Sinda, a university professor dressed completely in black "because of the blood on the ground," voices her agreement and points out that the Iraqi constitution, the legal justification claimed by Baghdad for its actions, has been abused by all parties. "The Iraqi government has been undermining it for years, ignoring it in its actions against minorities and now attacking us with American weapons." On Facebook and Twitter, the Kurds' favorite media, many have turned against their leaders for the loss of Kirkuk — the city many had seen as the capital of the anticipated Kurdish state — playing a blame game over which of the parties was the first to give in. But the peace protesters are hesitant to say as much. They mainly blame the US for not helping the Kurds and for working with Iran and their Iraqi Shiite militias to take over the city and disputed territories. They simply had not believed the Americans when they warned that they would be unable to shield the Kurds from the consequences if the referendum went ahead. Merely a setback for the dream Huner Ismael, who spent many years in the US and now works for an oil company near Kirkuk, even shows some understanding for the Kurdish politicians. They must have made an agreement with Baghdad about returning the lands, he thinks. "There was a deal; otherwise they would have fought." Reports indicate that Kurdish leaders gave in to severe pressure from Iran, which even threatened to burn down Kirkuk. "If someone takes my land, I have the right to retake it. I would not fight for something that is not mine," Ismael adds in a rare show of support for the leaders who held back. Beshar Said disagrees. He points to the fact that after the takeover in Kirkuk, the new Arab governor during a press conference ordered the police chief not to speak in Kurdish, but in Arabic — even though Kurdish has been one of the two official languages in Iraq for years. "Next they will change the language of education, too." Said calls on the Kurdish parties to reunite to demand their rights — and, somewhat oddly at a peace rally, on the international community to help the Kurds militarily. "We need weapons for the peshmerga to liberate these areas again."

Iraqi Kurds grieve the loss of lands they have had to return to Iraq’s control and their shattered dream of independence. As they see it, it isn’t their politicians who are to blame, but the international community. “Why did our peshmerga die in the fight against Daesh?” asks Hawre Ali, who stands by while protesters pose for pictures with yellow ... Read More »

Freak storm Ophelia hits Ireland, fatalities reported

Three people are reported to have died and thousands are without power as ex-hurricane Ophelia moves over Ireland. The storm was downgraded overnight, but authorities have issued a red alert as it made landfall. Authorities in Ireland reported the first fatality on Monday after Tropical Storm Ophelia hit the country with wind speeds reaching 176 kilometers (109 miles) per hour on the southernmost coast. National broadcaster RTE, quoting the local council office, said a woman died in the southeast country of Waterford when a tree fell on her car as a result of the storm. Police confirmed a man had also died in an accident while clearing a fallen tree near the town of Cahir in the south. A second man on the east coast was also killed by a tree falling onto his vehicle, police said. Ophelia made landfall after 0940 UTC, according to the Met Eireann national weather service. Widespread power cuts Met Eirann said the storm was forecast to track directly over Ireland, bringing "violent and destructive gusts." It warned that "heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding. There is a danger to life and property." Some 210,000 homes and businesses have already been left without power. Schools and universities have shut, and airports in Dublin and Cork have cancelled many flights. The Irish prime minister or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, urged people to stay indoors and to check on their neighbors and elderly relatives. "It is coming your way and this is a national red alert. Even after the storm has passed there will still be dangers. There will be trees on the ground and power lines down," he said. Unprecedented storm Before being downgraded to a storm ahead of landfall in Ireland, Ophelia was the largest hurricane ever recorded so far east in the Atlantic Ocean and the furthest north since 1939. The storm came exactly 30 years after the Great Storm hit southern England on October 16, 1987, leaving 18 people dead and causing widespread damage. The eye of Ophelia is forecast to move across Northern Ireland and then Scotland. Although it will weaken during its progress, gusts of up to 129 kilometers per hour are still expected in the UK. Other parts of Europe have also been affected by Ophelia, which has indirectly caused unseasonably warm weather in some regions, including Germany. Wind gusts spawned by Hurricane Ophelia have also whipped wildfires in Portugual and Spain, killing dozens of people.

Three people are reported to have died and thousands are without power as ex-hurricane Ophelia moves over Ireland. The storm was downgraded overnight, but authorities have issued a red alert as it made landfall. Authorities in Ireland reported the first fatality on Monday after Tropical Storm Ophelia hit the country with wind speeds reaching 176 kilometers (109 miles) per hour ... Read More »

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