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  #1  
Old Monday, March 14, 2016
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Default U.S. should reflect on its shattered human rights record

Turkish authorities have identified one of the suspected attackers that killed more than 30 people in a bombing in Ankara as a female Kurdish militant. The woman, aged 24, was a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), from the eastern city of Kars, security officials told Reuters.

Investigators believe she was one of two bombers that set off a massive explosion at a bus stop near Kizilay square in the Turkish capital. The blast killed at least 37 people and left at least 125 others injured according to the health ministry.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ankara-atta...s-iraq-1549312
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Default It's climate change, stupid!

Biggest of non military threat is climate change ...


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016...change-stupid/
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Default North korea threatens nuclear test.. Defying un

North Korea claimed Sunday that it could wipe out Manhattan by sending a hydrogen bomb on a ballistic missile to the heart of New York City, the latest in a string of brazen threats.

Although there are many reasons to believe that Kim Jong Un’s regime is exaggerating its technical capabilities, the near-daily drumbeat of boasts and warnings from North Korea underlines its anger at efforts to thwart its ambitions.

North Korea leader says nuclear warhead re-entry test a success

“Our hydrogen bomb is much bigger than the one developed by the Soviet Union,” DPRK Today, a state-run outlet, reported Sunday. DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

“If this H-bomb were to be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile and fall on Manhattan in New York City, all the people there would be killed immediately and the city would burn down to ashes,” the report said, citing a nuclear scientist named Cho Hyong Il.

The website is a strange choice for making such a claim, given that it also carries reports about such topics as rabbit farming and domestically made school backpacks.

North Korea’s newly developed hydrogen bomb “surpasses our imagination,” Cho is quoted as saying.

“The H-bomb developed by the Soviet Union in the past was able to smash windows of buildings 1,000 kms away and the heat was strong enough to cause third-degree burns 100 kms away,” the report continued. (A thousand kilometers is about 625 miles; 100 kilometers, about 62.5 miles.)

Kim in January ordered North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and claimed that it was a hydrogen bomb, not a simple atomic one. But most experts are skeptical of the claim, saying the seismic waves caused by the blast were similar to those produced by the North’s three previous tests.

China-made truck used by North Korea in new artillery system

Then in February, Kim oversaw the launch of what North Korea said was arocket that put a satellite into orbit, a move widely considered part of a long-range-ballistic-missile program.

North Korea has made advances in its intercontinental-ballistic-missile program, and though experts generally conclude that the United States’ West Coast could be within reach, there has been no suggestion that the North would be able to hit the East Coast.

Many experts are also skeptical of the “miniaturized warhead” that Kim showed off last week during a visit to a nuclear weapons plant.

But Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, warned against dismissing the claim too soon.

“It does not look like US devices, to be sure, but it is hard to know if aspects of the model are truly implausible or simply that North Korean nuclear weapons look different than their Soviet and American cousins,” Lewis wrote in an analysis for 38 North, a website devoted to North Korea. “The size, however, is consistent with my expectations for North Korea.”

As international condemnation of the North’s acts mounted, culminating this month in the United Nations’ toughest sanctions yet against Pyongyang, Kim’s regime has become increasingly belligerent, firing missiles into the Sea of Japan — also known as the East Sea — and issuing a new threat or denunciation almost every day.

N. Korea issues new threats as US stages military drill with South

The sanctions coincide with annual spring drills between the U and South Korean militaries, which Pyongyang considers a rehearsal for an invasion. The ongoing exercises are viewed as particularly antagonistic because special forces are practicing “decapitation strikes” that target Northern leaders and the destruction of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile sites.

Courtesy:NY times
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Default Migrant crisis: EU on its toes to save embattled deal with Turkey

BRUSSELS - European leaders on Wednesday scrambled to salvage an under-fire draft deal with Turkey to ease the migrant crisis with a round of shuttle diplomacy on the eve of a crunch summit.


The 28-member bloc, divided and desperate to end the biggest refugees influx in Europe since World War II, is pinning its hopes on an agreement with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Under the plan hailed as a “game-changer”, Turkey would seek to stop the dangerous sea journeys of refugees to reach Europe and take back illegal migrants from Greece. For each Syrian it takes back, it would send one on to the European Union (EU) in a more orderly redistribution programme.


The proposed deal, which would offer Turkey eased visa requirements in the passport-free Schengen zone and would accelerate long stalled EU accession talks, has drawn heavy fire on several fronts. Cyprus has threatened to torpedo the plan over its territorial dispute with Turkey, invoking last-ditch talks between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President Nicos Anastasiades ahead of the Brussels summit starting on Thursday. The United Nations (UN) rights chief has also questioned the legality of any collective expulsions of asylum seekers from Greece.



Source: DAILY TIMES
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Smile Pakistan, Turkmenistan agree to bolster relations in diverse fields

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Turkmenistan have agreed to further bolster their relations in different fields including economy, trade and education.

The understanding came at delegation level talks between the two countries in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Pakistani delegation was led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while the Turkmen side was led by its President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

Later in a joint press conference, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said both the countries enjoy close cordial relations and these bonds are growing with the passage of time.

Referring to the TAPI gas pipeline project, the prime minister said this is a mega project which will help energy starved industry of Pakistan run at its full potential.

Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan will also import one thousand megawatt of electricity from Turkmenistan and the MOU in this regard was signed during his visit to the country last year.

In his remarks on the occasion, the Turkmen President termed his talks with the prime minister as fruitful and productive saying these will further strengthen the brotherly relations.

The Turkmen President said the TAPI gas pipeline project will be implemented at the earliest. It will not only contribute to socio-economic development but also serve a bridge for building friendly relations amongst the regional countries.

Pakistan and Turkmenistan inked eight accords of cooperation, including seven Memoranda of Understanding on energy and financial intelligence and a Programme of Cooperation 2016-17.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow witnessed the signing ceremony in Islamabad.

In one-on-one meeting with the Turkmen President, the Prime Minister said Pakistan is committed to early completion of TAPI gas pipeline project.

He said Pakistan views TAPI not only as a gas pipeline project, but as a precursor to making it a trade and transit corridor as well.

The corridor can comprise gas pipeline, road, electricity transmission and fiber optic lines besides economic zones connecting Pakistan with Turkmenistan.

Nawaz Sharif suggested that Pakistan and Turkmenistan can be connected through railway corridor connecting Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

He said the bilateral trade needs to be increased and stressed for facilitating business visas and relaxing visa regime for the further promotion of economic relations.


Published In : The Nation
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Default Minimising climate change

The changing climate patterns around the globe pose a formidable threat to people in all countries. Though there is a growing consciousness about this potential weapon of mass destruction, very little has been done in concrete terms to prevent this disaster.

Environmental scientists believe that if the emissions of heat-trapping gases, also known as greenhouse gases, are not reduced or controlled the global temperature might register a rise between 1.1 and 6.5 centigrade by the end of the twenty-first century with all the accompanying cataclysmic consequences for all of humanity. The major contributors to global warming are the US, China, Russia, the UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, Japan and Korea.

The climate change caused by global warming is responsible for freak weather conditions, hurricanes and severe flooding of settled areas. Pakistan and other developing countries are the worst sufferers in view of their inability to cope with the disasters triggered by climate change. Pakistan is already reeling under the impact of the devastating floods of 2010 and 2014 which caused enormous loss to standing crops, damaged infrastructure and properties besides hundreds of deaths.

In the 2010 floods nearly one fifth of total area of Pakistan was under water. In 2014, 23 districts in Punjab, give in Gilgit-Baltistan and 10 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir were badly hit inundating 2.41 million acres of land.

In view of the dangers posed by global warming, the countries of the world agreed to a treaty known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992; the world committed itself to work collectively to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were inevitable. However, realising the inadequacy of the emission reduction provisions in the convention, another agreement known as the Koyoto Protocol – which legally bound the developed countries to observe emission reduction targets – was concluded in 1997.

The protocol recognised that developed countries were principally responsible for the current high level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity. The protocol also placed a heavier burden of responsibility on developed nations under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’.

The first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The second commitment period began on January 1, 2013 and will end in 2020. Regrettably, the US did not ratify the protocol and Canada withdrew from it in 2012. The second commitment period has also not been given legal cover as a growing number of countries including Australia, US Japan, New Zealand, Belarus, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Norway, Switzerland and Russia remain reluctant to commit to these targets. The developing countries have not been given any binding targets but they are still under the obligation to reduce their emissions.

As is evident, despite the known and acknowledged threats posed by global warming, the industrialised nations have failed to fulfil their obligations properly, and remain oblivious to the impending dangers posed by climate change. However, yet another agreement has been evolved at the United Nations Climate Conference, 2015 held in Paris on November-December 2015. Around 196 participating countries resolved to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 centigrade, which according to some scientists will require zero emissions sometime between 2030 and 2050.

This agreement will become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Such parties will need to sign the agreement in New York between April 22, 2016 (Earth Day) and April 21, 2017. They will also need to adopt it within their own legal systems (through ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession).

Under both agreements, the proposed actions to be taken by the developed and developing countries include reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, supporting renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and reducing deforestation. The industrial nations were also obligated to help the developing countries cope with the consequences and mobilise resources to extend financial help and technology to the developing countries for climate related studies and projects. But, unfortunately, that still remains an unfulfilled responsibility on the part of the industrial nations.

Pakistan has been quite vocal on the subject, emphasising the urgency of practical measures in this regard. In his address to the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif convincingly tried to make the case for the international community to intensify efforts to move from awareness to commitments to actions on climate change which is playing havoc with the economies of the developing countries.

Pakistan is the eight worst-hit country in the world as a consequence of climate change and the floods caused by it. Floods cause destruction of crops and soil erosion which could seriously affect food production which can in turn create famine-like conditions. The major environmental issues currently confronting Pakistan include climate change, water, energy, pollution, waste management, salinity and water logging, irrigated agriculture and bio-diversity.

Viewed in the backdrop of the foregoing facts the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme patterned on China’s ‘Green Wall Programme’ assumes great significance. Under this programme, more than one hundred million trees will be planted over the next five years all over the country along canals and roadsides as well as in the forest areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh.

Forests undoubtedly are the best defence against environmental hazards and climatic changes. The optimal global standard in terms of percentage of land covered by forests is 25 percent of the total landmass. But Pakistan has only 5.2 percent of land under forest cover. Pakistan unfortunately also has the highest annual deforestation rate in Asia. As such there was a dire need to launch a massive plantation and reforestation drive – not only to check the process of deforestation but also to attain the optimal limit of 25 percent. The programme also includes regular stocktaking of forests and preventing their degradation, protection of wildlife as well as revival, protection and management of internationally recognised wildlife habitats.

The initiative has been firmed up in consultation with all the provinces and the GB and AJK governments which will join hands with the federal government in carrying out the implementation of the plan. The federal government will defray 50 percent of the expenses whereas the provinces will have to organise the rest of the funding. Ostensibly the plan and its targets seem quite achievable. However, the initiative represents only one aspect of the actions proposed under the Koyoto and Paris treaties. There is a need for a comprehensive and nationally-owned policy on the subject which encompasses all the elements of the proposed actions under these treaties.

This is not only the responsibility of the sitting government but also all the stakeholders in the future of the country including political parties. The media also has an important role in creating awareness among the masses about environmental issues and how to deal with climate change and its likely effects


Source: The News
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Exclamation North Korea faces new sanctions by Obama after launch of nuclear tests

President Barack Obama imposed sweeping new sanctions on North Korea on Wednesday intended to further isolate the country’s leadership after recent actions by Pyongyang that have been seen by Washington and its allies as provocative.

The executive order freezes any property of the North Korean government in the United States (US) and prohibits the exportation of goods from the US to North Korea.

It also allows the US government to blacklist any individuals, whether or not they are US citizens, who deal with major sectors of North Korea’s economy. Experts said the measures vastly expanded the US blockade against Pyongyang.

North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Jan 6, and a Feb 7 rocket launch that the US and its allies said employed banned ballistic missile technology. Pyongyang said it was a peaceful satellite launch.

“The US and the global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and we will continue to impose costs on North Korea until it comes into compliance with its international obligations,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Despite decades of tensions, the US has not had a comprehensive trade ban against North Korea of the kind enacted against Myanmar and Iran. Americans were allowed to make limited sales to North Korea, although in practice such trade was tiny.

US officials had believed a blanket trade ban would be ineffective without a stronger commitment from China, North Korea’s largest trading partner. But with China signing on to new United Nations sanctions earlier this month, that obstacle has been removed, experts said.

“North Korean sanctions are finally getting serious,” said Peter Harrell, a former senior State Department official who worked on sanctions.

The new sanctions threaten to ban from the global financial system anyone, even Europeans and Asians, who does business with broad swathes of Pyongyang’s economy, including its financial, mining and transportation sectors.

The so-called secondary sanctions will compel banks to freeze the assets of anyone who breaks the blockade, potentially squeezing out North Korea’s business ties in China and Myanmar.

“It’s going to be very hard for North Korea to move money anywhere in the world,” said Harrell, now with the Center for a New American Security.
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Default Obama due in cuba, ending half a century of conflict...

HAVANA:
US President Barack Obama was due in Cuba Sunday to bury the hatchet in a more than half-century-long Cold War conflict that turned the communist island and its giant neighbor into bitter enemies.

Reversing generations of US attempts to cut Cuba from the outside world, Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters will arrive in Havana for a three-day trip.

It won’t just be the first visit by a sitting US president since Fidel Castro’s guerrillas overthrew the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, but the first since President Calvin Coolidge came 88 years ago.

Obama, seeking to leave a historic foreign policy mark in his final year in office, was due to see old town Havana late Sunday, hold talks with Cuban President Raul Castro on Monday, and attend a baseball game before leaving Tuesday.

Obama’s Cuba visit: will they party like it’s 1928?

For Cubans dreaming of escaping isolation and reinvigorating their threadbare economy, the visit has created huge excitement.

Havana’s old town is crawling with painters sprucing up the picturesque streets and the Stars and Stripes — for so long the enemy flag — flutters from numerous buildings.

The owner of a popular restaurant even put up a poster of Obama, apparently the first ever shown in a country more used to images of revolutionary leaders like Che Guevara.

“A president of the United States in Cuba arriving in Havana on his Air Force One and presumably being received with smiles, applause and bands! Never in my dreams or nightmares could we have imagined that we’d see such a thing,” popular Cuban writer Leonardo Padura said on the Cafefuerte blog Friday.

Tricky ground

The visit will not resolve all questions — or make everyone happy.

Although Obama has already loosened restrictions on US citizens visiting Cuba, the lifting of the decades-old US economic embargo can only be decided by a Republican-dominated Congress that is far less keen on detente with President Raul Castro’s Cuba.

Republicans and some human rights activists have also criticized Obama for dealing with Castro when so many freedoms in Cuba, ranging from the media to politics and economic entrepreneurship, remain highly curtailed.

US-Cuba thaw has yet to reach Guantanamo

Dissidents called on the eve of the visit for Obama to promote “radical change,” notably a “stop to repression and use of physical violence against all political and human rights activists.”

The Castro government warned Obama ahead of his arrival that lectures on democracy would be “absolutely off the table.”

But White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes insists that the subject will be brought up and that Obama will also meet members of Cuba’s beleaguered opposition, “people who’ve shown great courage in pursuing their rights and pursuing a better future for the Cuban people.”

On Tuesday, Obama will give a speech at the National Theater that will be carried live on Cuban television, giving him a unique platform to make his case.

No turning back

What seems sure is that both sides have accepted that there will be no going back on their original 2014 decision to end the standoff.

The United States spent decades trying to topple the communist government.

Washington tried economic strangulation, the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, and CIA assassination plots against Raul Castro’s more famous brother Fidel — including the legendary, but unproven story of sending him an exploding cigar.

Now, after so many failures, Obama has bet that soft power will achieve what muscle could not. The aim, Rhodes said, is to make “the process of normalization irreversible.”

And Cuba’s regime, which for decades defined itself as the people’s bulwark against the Yankee enemy, has bowed to the fact that Cubans would rather do business than make war.


“We live off tourists. Now with the Americans coming, it will mean a better life,” said Reinaldo Peres, 42, a waiter in central Havana.

As if Obama’s arrival were not enough to illustrate the sea change in Cuba, the Rolling Stones — a symbol of the cultural imperialism that communist leaders raged against — are playing a free concert in Havana on Friday.



Courtesy: The Express Tribune.....
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Default Pakistan ensuring nuclear safety in befitting manner: Us ...

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has appreciated Pakistan’s nuclear engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and termed it ‘excellent’ for safeguarding its nuclear assets.

The administration’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a congressional hearing, “Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence have really done an excellent job to establish a programme there that is not only serving Pakistan’s interests, but is also serving on a regional basis to provide training with the help of the IAEA, and so forth.”

Gottemoeller also mentioned India stepping up to the plate.

“India is at an early stage of establishing their own Centre of Excellence for nuclear security,” she said, adding that the administration has seen quite a bit of advancement in India’s working on the Pak-India nuclear race problem in recent years.

Responding to a question, she pointed out that battlefield nuclear weapons were a security concern but it also has been made known to Pakistan that these weapons cannot bode as secure. “We have made our concerns known, and will continue to press them about what we consider to be the destabilising aspects of their battlefield nuclear weapons programme,” she said.

Senator Bob Corker commented that both countries were enlarging and improving their nuclear arsenals in an attempt to gain an upper hand but there has been “virtually no progress made to address nuclear security”.

The Obama administration is hosting a nuclear security summit later this month where Pakistan and India along with the heads of other countries are expected to participate.



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Default U.S. frustration simmers over Belgium's struggle with militant threat

Shortly after last November’s attacks on Paris by a Brussels-based Islamic State cell, a top U.S. counter-terrorism official traveling in Europe wanted to visit Brussels to learn more about the investigation.

When the official tried to arrange meetings, however, his Belgian counterparts were not welcoming, according to U.S. officials familiar with the events. The Belgians indicated it was a bad time to speak to foreign officials as they were too busy with the investigation, said the officials, who asked not to be identified.

Belgian officials declined to comment on the incident.

The brush-off was one small sign of mounting U.S. frustration over Brussels’ handling of its worsening Islamic militant threat.

Concern that the small European nation's security and intelligence officials are overwhelmed -- and that its coordination with allies falls short -- have again come to the fore following the Islamic State-claimed attacks on Tuesday that killed at least 31 people.

Several U.S. officials say that security cooperation has been hampered by patchy intelligence–sharing by Brussels and wide differences in the willingness of different agencies to work with foreign countries, even close allies.

One U.S. government source said that when American investigators try to contact Belgian agencies for information, they often struggle to find which agency or part of an agency might have relevant information.

Belgium has ordered a sharp increase in security budgets following the Paris attacks, despite being under steady pressure to limit its debt levels under euro zone rules. The government has promised to recruit around 2,500 more federal police, who pursue major crimes, to make up for a shortfall of close to a fifth of the full-strength force of 12,500.

It also says it thwarted a major attack in January 2015, and is eager to cooperate with European and U.S. counterparts.

"These attacks show that more coordination with the United States is clearly desirable," Guy Rapaille, the president of the committee that provides oversight of Belgium’s security and intelligence services, told Belgium’s state broadcaster RTBF.

“But you have to remember that big powers guard their intelligence very closely."

U.S. officials acknowledge the recent Belgian efforts to step up funding and recruitment.

Yet they say Belgian security services are outmatched by the threat in a country that, per capita, has supplied the highest number of foreign fighters to Syria of any European nation.

"They're way behind the ball and they're paying a terrible price," Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters.

Asked on Wednesday whether Belgium was too complacent over the threat posed by Islamic militancy, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said:

"I want to stay clear of saying that Belgium was somehow caught by surprise or not aware. You know, we collaborate, we work with Belgium closely."

Some U.S. counter-terrorism officials say much of the gap between Washington and Belgium -- and some other European countries -- is cultural. Europeans' deeper commitment to personal privacy sometimes prevents or delays sharing of information such as travel data -- that is taken for granted in the United States.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. government radically reshaped its counter-terrorism agencies. It broke down walls between law enforcement and intelligence authorities, and created new coordinating institutions such as the Director of National Intelligence and National Counterterrorism Center.

Belgium, by contrast, is a patchwork country divided between French and Dutch speakers and with multiple levels of government.

Belgian security chiefs have repeatedly complained that they cannot handle up to 900 home-grown Islamist militants, among the highest per-capita rates in Europe. Belgium does not divulge the exact number of personnel in its security services and military intelligence, but security experts say they appear under-resourced compared to European counterparts.

"Add to that the problem of two languages (French and Flemish), lack of Arabic speakers, and weak coordination between national and local government, you have a huge discrepancy between threat and response," said former CIA official and White House advisor Bruce Riedel, now at the Brookings Institution


COURTESY: THE NATION
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