Friday, February 27, 2015

Music Video - Britney Spears - I Love Rock 'N' Roll

Video - Science weighs in on #TheDress

Video Report - Is Netanyahu playing politics with speech to Congress?

Video Report - Cuban officials due in Washington for historic visit

Video Report - Star Trek's Mr Spock, actor Leonard Nimoy, dies aged 83

Is a China-India-Russia Coalition Inevitable?

A new global order is emerging, though much of its shape is still uncertain. At the very least, many would agree that while the U.S. will remain a great power for many decades to come, its share of global power will decline relative to other rising powers. These other powers, such as China and India, will catch up and play a more active and important role in global affairs. While many analysts have focused their attention on a possible rivalry between China and the U.S., few have paid adequate attention to the dynamic emerging between China, India, and Russia and the possibility of a coalition among them born from their desire to alter the status quo.
On the surface it seems that China, India, and Russia are ill-suited to a partnership. Despite being members of the “BRICS” club, there are many substantive differences between the three countries, particularly between China and India, that will impact how they relate in the decades to come.
Tensions between China and India are obvious. While India is a democracy, China remains an authoritarian regime. Of course, the importance of regime type in interstate relations is debatable. States with different regime types are not necessarily doomed to troubled relations; there is nothing inherent in regime type that inhibits cooperation. Still, many would agree that India, to some degree, sees non-democratic China as a threat; whether or not such a threat perception is grounded in reality is a different issue. The perception alone impacts their relations.
The biggest problem in China-India relations is still the territorial dispute between them. As serious as this problem is, however, the likelihood that this dispute will be resolved is actually higher than many people might think. It has been confirmed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit China in May and there is talk that both China and India would like to make a breakthrough on the issue. China also supports greater Indian involvement at international institutions, including the United Nations. These positive signs mean that there is considerable potential for a closer China-India partnership, despite recent hype about India siding with the U.S. to contain China. Most importantly, what will bring China and India together is their shared dream of becoming first-tier developed countries. In this sense, India can benefit from China’s exports and capital, whereas China can benefit from India’s market and technology potential. It would be a serious mistake for both countries to dismiss their shared long-term interests in favor of present disputes.
The China-Russia relationship is more interesting these days as the Ukraine crisis continues to drive Russia and the West apart. The fundamental distrust between the West and Russia helps drive the ongoing Ukraine crisis. Few are optimistic about the potential of the recent ceasefire deal to settle the conflict and relations between the West and Russia are likely to stagnate for some time. Meanwhile, the China-Russia relationship will get stronger. China can provide economic and strategic stability to Russia, and Russia can stand with China in its ongoing disputes with other Asian countries. At the very least each can be supportive to the other.
From a fundamental perspective, the core reason for a possible China-India-Russia coalition is their common desire to build a multipolar or multiplex global system within which emerging powers like China and India can play a larger role. None of the three countries are content to live under the shadow of U.S. hegemony, though they may not want to directly challenge the U.S. at the moment. As China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in 2013, all three countries should work together to promote the democratization of international relations. If this is true for all three countries, then there is a good reason to consider the possibility of a China-India-Russia coalition in some form in the future. That is not good news for the U.S., which would prefer to maintain its dominant position for as long as possible. The U.S. may seek to counter the coalition with one of its own, with Japan and the E.U. as formal partners.
We are unlikely to see a formal coalition composed of China, India and Russia anytime soon, but we should not rule out the possibility over the long term. All three powers are dissatisfied with the current global order to varying degrees. If the U.S. wishes to avoid such a coalition it should think carefully about how to encourage the redistribution of power at the global level. Beginning the process of sharing power with China and India might be a good start.

Russia, China help stabilize global situation: Lavrov

International cooperation between Russia and China contributes to global stability and the formation of new world order, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.
"In general, Russia's cooperation with China on foreign issues . an important stabilizing factor in the current complicated international situation," Lavrov said here in a speech at the Diplomatic Academy.
The minister highlighted the two countries' joint efforts in promotion of noninterference foreign policy and peaceful settlement of international disputes.
The two countries' cooperation reflects similar global stances and the common need for a more democratic, impartial global order, Lavrov said.
While praising the economic interdependence and respect for mutual interests between Russia and China, Lavrov noted that western partners should take into account the balance of interests and "legal framework" during cooperation with Moscow.
"Problems also occur when we cooperate with China...Each party defends its economic and financial interests ...But the final agreements are strictly implemented by both sides," an online statement released by Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as saying.
Alongside humanitarian cooperation and cultural exchanges, Russia and China work together to promote negotiations and expand multilateral cooperative mechanisms in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as G20, G7 and the BRICS, the minister said.
"Russia and China are interacting within the SCO," Lavrov said. "Preparation is under way for the SCO summit in Ufa city, where deepening bilateral cooperation and more joint projects will be discussed. The organization's expansion will also be on the agenda. "
Last year marked a high point in the history of Sino-Russian relations, with continuing close contacts and cooperation at all levels and in various sectors.

Chinese diplomat tells West to consider Russia's security concerns over Ukraine

Western powers should take into consideration Russia's legitimate security concerns over Ukraine, a top Chinese diplomat has said in an unusually frank and open display of support for Moscow's position in the crisis.
Qu Xing, China's ambassador to Belgium, was quoted by state news agency Xinhua late on Thursday as blaming competition between Russia and the West for the Ukraine crisis, urging Western powers to "abandon the zero-sum mentality" with Russia.
He said the "nature and root cause" of the crisis was the "game" between Russia and Western powers, including the United States and the European Union.
He said external intervention by different powers accelerated the crisis and warned that Moscow would feel it was being treated unfairly if the West did not change its approach.
"The West should abandon the zero-sum mentality, and take the real security concerns ofRussia into consideration," Qu was quoted as saying.
His comments were an unusually public show of understanding from China for the Russian position. China and Russia see eye-to-eye on many international diplomatic issues but Beijing has generally not been so willing to back Russia over Ukraine.
China has also been cautious not to be drawn into the struggle between Russia and the West over Ukraine's future, not wanting to alienate a key ally.
It has said it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine, and respects the ex-Soviet state's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Qu's comments coincide with talks between the United States and its European allies over harsher sanctions against Moscow.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western powers of trying to dominate and impose their ideology on the rest of world. The United States and European delegations slammed Moscow for supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Qu said Washington's involvement in Ukraine could "become a distraction in its foreign policy".
"The United States is unwilling to see its presence in any part of the world being weakened, but the fact is its resources are limited, and it will be to some extent hard work to sustain its influence in external affairs, " Qu was quoted as saying.

Ukraine's military accused Russia last week of sending more tanks and troops towards the rebel-held town of Novoazovsk, expanding their presence on what it fears could be the next battlefront.

Video - Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov killed in Moscow

Video - Flares & chaos: Intense clashes erupt at rival rallies in Rome

U.S. - Congress OKs 1-week bill to keep Homeland Security open

Bordering on dysfunction, Congress passed a one-week bill late Friday night to avert a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department, as leaders in both political parties quelled a revolt by House conservatives furious that the measure left President Barack Obama's immigration policy intact.
The final vote of a long day and night was a bipartisan 357-60 in the House, a little more than an hour after the Senate cleared the measure without so much as a roll call.
That sent the legislation to the White House for Obama's signature, and capped a day of bruising political battles and rhetoric to match.
"You have made a mess," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at one point to Republicans, as recriminations filled the House chamber and the midnight deadline neared for a partial shutdown of an agency with major anti-terrorism responsibilities.
Even some Republicans readily agreed.
"There are terrorist attacks all over world and we're talking about closing down Homeland Security. This is like living in world of crazy people," tweeted Rep. Peter King of New York, a former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
Hours after conservatives joined with Democrats to vote down a three-week funding measure, 224-203, the Senate presented a one-week alternative to keep open the agency, which has responsibility for border control as well as anti-terrorist measures.
That amounted to a take-it-or-leave it offer less than three hours before the deadline.
Some Republican opponents — members of a "Freedom Caucus" — sat together in the chamber as the vote total mounted in the legislation's favor.
This time, Pelosi urged her rank-and-file to support the short-term measure, saying it would lead to passage next week of a bill to fund the agency through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year without immigration add-ons. Aides to Speaker John Boehner promptly said there had been no such promise made.
Taken together, the day's roller-coaster events at the Capitol underscored the difficulty Republicans have had so far this year in translating last fall's election gains into legislative accomplishment — a step its own leaders say is necessary to establish the party's credentials as a responsible, governing party. Republicans gained control of the Senate in November's balloting, and emerged with their largest House majority in more than 70 years.
Further demonstrating GOP woes, House GOP leaders abruptly called off a vote on a major education bill that had attracted significant opposition from conservatives as well as Democrats and the White House. Aides attributed that decision to the need to work separately on rounding up enough votes to pass the funding measure for Homeland Security.
For their part, tea party conservatives in the House unflinchingly defended their actions.
"It does not make any difference whether the funding is for three weeks, three months or a full fiscal year. If it's illegal, it's illegal," said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
He referred to a pair of immigration directives issued by Obama. The first, in 2012, lifted the threat of deportation from many immigrants brought to the country illegally as youngsters. Another order last fall applied to millions more who are in the United States unlawfully.
The unexpected House defeat of a three-week spending bill was accomplished by 52 conservatives upset by the deletion of the immigration provisions, alongside solid opposition from Democrats who wanted the agency funded through Sept. 30.
That set an unpredictable chain of events in motion. Homeland Security officials circulated a lengthy contingency plan indicating that about 30,000 employees could expect to be furloughed without passage of funding legislation.
Then the White House announced Obama had spoken with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Moments later, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky strode onto the Senate floor and swiftly gained approval for the seven-day measure.
The Senate had waited all day to play its part in the funding of the agency.
Earlier, a largely symbolic attempt to advance legislation that would repeal Obama's immigration directive of last fall failed on a vote of 57-42, three short of the 60 required.
That separate proposal was "commonsense legislation that would protect our democracy from the egregious example of executive overreach we saw in November," said McConnell, who successfully led his rank and file in recent days to a decision to pass Homeland Security legislation without immigration-related provisions.
Some House Republicans said the entire strategy of passing a short-term measure and seeking negotiations on a longer-term bill that included changes in Obama's immigration policy was flawed. They noted that Senate Democrats had demonstrated their ability to block any challenges to Obama's immigration policies, and that the president had vowed to veto them in any event.
"Some folks just have a harder time facing political reality than others," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., speaking of other Republicans.

President Obama Speaks at the Departure Ceremony of Attorney General Eric Holder

Bahrain’s al-Wefaq slams death verdicts

Bahrain’s main opposition bloc has slammed the recent death sentences handed down to three people on allegations of killing policemen, stating that the rulings are part of heavy-handed measures that jeopardize opportunities for political stability in the kingdom.
The al-Wefaq National Islamic Society said in a statement that the latest verdicts have raised the number of people given the death penalty over the past four years to seven.
Al-Wefaq also termed the rulings void as they were issued based on the defendants’ confessions under torture, and through hearings lacking the principles of a fair trial.
On Thursday, dozens of anti-regime demonstrators took to the streets in the villages of Daih and Musalla, both located west of the capital, Manama, to denounce the recent death rulings and demand the release of all prisoners of conscience, including al-Wefaq’s secretary general, Sheikh Ali Salman. 
Earlier in the day, the supreme criminal court of Bahrain sentenced three people to death and seven others to life in prison after convicting them of killing three policemen in Daih last year.
The court also revoked the citizenship of eight defendants, thus increasing the number of those stripped of citizenship to 123.
On March 3, 2014, three police officers, one from the United Arab Emirates, were killed in a bomb attack in the village.
However, no group claimed responsibility for the explosion, which occurred as Bahraini troops attacked the mourners of an anti-regime activist, who had died in prison a few days ago.
The popular uprising in Bahrain began in February 2011. Since then, thousands of protesters have been waging regular mass rallies in the Persian Gulf country.
The protesters are demanding the downfall of the Al Khalifa family and the establishment of a democratically-elected government. 

Raif Badawi weekly flogging delayed for 7th week in a row

    Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger jailed for criticizing Islam, has had his weekly lashes delayed for a seventh time. 
    Badawi was arrested in June 2012 after criticizing the Saudi regime and expressing views critical of Islam on his blog.
    He was eventually sentenced in May 2014 to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, to be delivered in batches of 50 every week.
    He was flogged for the first time on Jan. 9. However, the next seven flogging sessions were postponed. At least two of the postponements were due to medical reasons, but no reasons were given for subsequent delays.

    Badawi is a 32-year-old blogger and activist. His wife Ensaf Haidar and their three children are refugees living inSherbrooke, Que.
    Earlier this week, theCity of Montreal passed a motion condemning Badawi's treatmentand called on the Canadian government to come to his aid.
    Amnesty International is calling for Badawi's sentence to be quashed and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally so he can join his family in Canada.

    As Hillary Clinton waits, President Obama steps up


    Hillary Clinton’s leaving a vacuum, and President Barack Obama’s going to try to fill it.
    As Clinton holds off announcing a run for president, Obama is set to launch a three-month blitz of messaging and travel that’ll be the first phase of a late-term effort to reassert himself politically and set the stage for Clinton. More than just trying to convince voters that he deserves credit for the economy’s improvements, he’ll be looking to define the Democratic Party for years after he’s gone.

    “I want the president out talking about, ‘Here’s the economy I inherited, here’s the economy we have today,’” said Clinton confidant Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who last week urged Obama to take on a greater role directly when Democratic governors met with the president at the White House. “Whoever the nominee is, it’s important to talk about: This is what happens when you elect Democrats.”
    Democrats spent the 2014 midterms blaming one another for failing to make a convincing argument for Democratic ideas. Obama and his aides chafed at pressure to keep the unpopular president off the trail. Campaign operatives complained that he never seemed able or interested in presenting a coherent argument for the party.

    But with Clinton waiting until as late as the summer to announce her campaign, Democratic leaders say that, for now, Obama’s the only one who can stand in.
    And not just on the economy. On Wednesday, for example, as Republican hopefuls fly in to Washington to prove themselves in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Obama will fly to Miami for a bit of counterprogramming at an MSNBC-hosted town hall on immigration reform.
    Obama’s party legacy is at stake, too. He knows the party’senthusiasm is moving on from him, and he doesn’t want to go down as just the Democrat between the Clintons. And he knows that his effort to build Organizing for Action as an alternative to the Democratic National Committee has fallen short.
    Obama and his aides are reluctant to appear as though they’re exerting too much control over 2016, and there’s no formal coordination between the White House and Clinton’s nascent campaign. Publicly and privately, Obama was very circumspect even in having any input on the convention host city. But they are eager for some sort of a role and have been calling in advice from outside on how to do it.

    “There is both a policy and political choice the American people are facing,” said White House political director David Simas, whose office on the first floor of the West Wing remains staffed and open, three months after the midterms. “He is going to be articulating that the Democratic approach — his approach — to governing and economics worked.”
    Obama’s motivation is less about getting a third term for his agenda than making sure next year’s election isn’t a repudiation of his two terms. The model will be his speech to the DNC winter meeting on Feb. 20: Remind people of how much the economy has changed, rip Republicans for claiming they knew better then and still opposing him now, but stay away from direct attacks on any of the likely GOP presidential candidates.
    That’s implicit, he and his aides believe, as is the connection to the person whom he’ll wait to formally endorse until after what’s shaping up to be a perfunctory primary process.
    “He has a worldview, and the Democratic nominee is going to have a very similar worldview, that is diametrically opposed to the Republican worldview,” Simas said.

    Clinton, meanwhile, has kept her politics confined to four issue-oriented tweets since the beginning of the year, plus a New York Times op-ed on children’s health insurance.
    One of those tweets, though, did eagerly embrace Obama’s agenda in the State of the Union, which she wrote “pointed the way to an economy that works for all.”
    “He’s made it happen, and now we have to make sure people know about it,” said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who spent part of his own speech to the DNC winter meeting criticizing party leaders for focusing too much just on electing the president. “As people know about it, there will be a lot more support for him, and for Democrats in general.”
    In a measure of how much feelings about Obama have changed, a year ago Beshear was eager to see both Clintons, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama campaign for Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, but held off on encouraging Obama to fly in. On Friday, he said an Obama campaign stop in this year’s Kentucky governor’s race would be “helpful.”
    The White House is putting together a heavy travel calendar for Obama, along with a series of executive actions like the one he signed Monday protecting retirement investments.
    But the kinds of stops Obama will make remain up in the air. The day after the State of the Union, he went to Idaho in an effort to show his agenda had support far from blue states. Democrats say they’d rather see him go places that will be competitive in a presidential election, or even to find a way back to South Carolina, where his primary win in 2008 helped secure him the nomination but which is now just one of three states he hasn’t been to as president. He’s got an invitation to the state party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner that’s still waiting for a response.
    All this comes as a Democratic establishment within the DNC and many state parties, bitter from the distance Obama kept in the past, tries to sort out its own changing feelings toward him.
    “The focus is on Hillary. They feel encouraged by the Obama record. But they feel no personal connection, and the White House never built a connection,” said one DNC official.
    Still, there’s a mix of nostalgia and excitement about the verve Democrats are suddenly seeing from him. The State of the Union got them going. The distilled, punchier version delivered last week to the DNC got a number of standing ovations, even though the crowd was just 355 people, according to a hotel crowd count that the White House pushed out.
    “I can sense the enthusiasm building, from two days before the speech, and after,” said Rhode Island Democratic Chairman Joe McNamara.
    As the president’s time in office winds down, “we’re entering a period of goodwill,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and a member of the DNC. He said he was particularly excited to see Obama talking more about unions now, too, in a further embrace of Democratic base principles that haven’t been a large part of his script.
    Technically, Obama will be the leader of the party until the last night of the convention next July in Philadelphia. Realistically, he’ll long have faded as the dominant political figure. But until Clinton really steps up, Democrats say he’d better follow through on his promise to be more involved. He can do another round of jokes about how this one really, really is his last campaign.
    “He’s still very much the guy,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a DNC vice chair. “People are looking to President Obama as he finishes his last two years.”
    After all, Obama will continue to be a GOP target even after there’s a Democratic nominee, with Republican presidential candidates making controversies of issues such as what he won’t say about Islam and extremism, his take on the Crusades, whether he loves America.
    “When they have constructed their entire politics around opposing one person, that becomes the litmus test of credibility, of course they’re going to continue down that path,” Simas said. “It seems like they’re stuck in reaction.”

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    'They will kill us': Pakistani Christian family seeks asylum in Bangkok after escape

    They were a middle-class family in Pakistan, living in a comfortable three-bedroom apartment with a modern kitchen and a PlayStation for the three kids, reports The Associated Press.
    Fluent in English, the father ran his own moving company while the mother taught art.
    A death threat signed by an extremist group with three bullets attached compelled the Christian family to leave it all behind 18 months ago.
    Now they live in a barren room in Bangkok, where the children share a double bed and the parents sleep on the floor. They cook on a propane burner on a tiny balcony.
    A picture of Jesus, the source of their solace and their troubles, hangs on the inside of the door.
    This, increasingly, is the life of the asylum-seeker and refugee.
    More than half the 14 million refugees and asylum-seekers under the mandate of the UN refugee agency do not live in the camps they are often associated with.
    A growing number live in cities and towns around the world. Across Asia, from India to the Pacific islands, there are about half a million such “urban refugees,” according to the agency.
    The Pakistani family no longer fears for their lives, but they face other fears like arrest, hunger and the possibility that they will never be able to live freely.
    Unable to work legally and with no legal status in Thailand, they and others like them must remain mostly hidden while they scrape by on odd jobs and donations from churches, aid groups and individuals.
    Their children, all elementary-school age, do not go to school and spend their entire day indoors.
    “We just wanted to save our lives,” said the father, who has overstayed his visa and like the dozen other asylum-seekers interviewed for this story asked not to be identified for fear of arrest. “We didn’t know anything when we arrived. Now we are just trying to survive.”
    Many asylum-seekers pin their hopes on an elusive prize: resettlement in a third country such as the US or Canada through a process overseen by the UN High Commissioner of Refugees.
    That can take five years or more, and it often doesn’t happen at all.
    The surge of urban refugees challenges reluctant host countries like Thailand, which in the past has allowed refugees from surrounding countries into border camps, but doesn’t legally recognise asylum-seekers or refugees.
    It’s relatively easy to obtain a Thai tourist visa.
    One reason is that the number of asylum-seekers in Bangkok has jumped several-fold to more than 8,000 over the past few years, according to numbers from the UNHCR.
    The biggest and fastest-growing contingent here is from Pakistan, experts say, while other big groups come from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Somalia and Syria.
    When they land, many are shocked to discover they face arrest once their visas run out.
    They expect the UNHCR will protect them, but refugee advocates say Thai police generally ignore UN letters declaring them to be “persons of concern.”
    Thailand never signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that protects refugees’ rights; neither have neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia, where thousands more asylum-seekers live.
    So these urban refugees scrape by in limbo, freer than those in camp settings but in some ways more vulnerable.
    “This is the future,” said Mireille Girard, the Thailand representative for the UNHCR. “We really have to adjust to providing assistance in urban environments.“
    Despite the hardships, many say they will never return home. They are too afraid. “We’ll just face the same sort of threats again,” said the mother. “I’m not willing to sacrifice my children for that. “
    ‘We will shoot you and your children’
    In Pakistan, the couple and some Catholic friends helped run a small, free school for poor children.
    One morning in 2013, a warning signed by an militant group was slipped under the door of the school office.
    “Stop giving missionary education to Muslim children. Otherwise, we will shoot you and your children,” said the threat, which was viewed by The Associated Press.
    Ten days later, the school received another warning, only this time it was with bullets.
    The school volunteers filed a complaint to the police; the AP viewed a copy of the document, which had been stamped by local police to indicate they had received it.
    The couple’s account was corroborated by several people contacted by the AP. The couple said the school never taught Christianity to Muslim children, but did teach Bible stories and prayers to the Christian kids when their Muslim classmates were not there.
    They said that sometimes the Muslim kids would hang around, hear the prayers and recite them at home. Pakistan’s religious minorities are increasingly persecuted – not only Christians but Hindus and Ahmadis.
    They say that although no one has been executed under the country’s harsh blasphemy law, it has been used to threaten non-Muslims and incite mob violence. In November, a Christian couple was killed by a mob for allegedly desecrating the Quran.
    An estimated 12,000 religious minorities have fled Pakistan since 2009, according to Farrukh Saif, who heads a minority advocacy group that supports asylum-seekers in Bangkok.
    The threatened couple fled to Thailand because friends said it was easy to get a tourist visa and because other Christians had gone there.
    “People told us, ‘Save your lives first, then worry about the other things, “’ the father said. After hiding for a month, they packed two suitcases of their belongings and boarded a midnight flight for Bangkok. When they arrived in the steamy Thai capital, relief quickly turned to anxiety.
    The food, the language – everything was new.
    The father went to the UNHCR to register as an asylum-seeker and was shocked to learn he would have to wait two years – until September 2015 – just to get his first interview in the “refugee status determination” process.
    Now, for new arrivals, the wait is three years.
    The UN agency has more than 60 staffers in Bangkok working to verify thousands of asylum-seekers’ stories and determine whether they are refugees with well-founded fears of persecution, said the UNHCR’s Girard.
    Each case must be examined to screen out those trying to exploit the system, such as those being trafficked by smuggling rings.
    “We have to be very strict in recognising who is a genuine refugee and who is not,” she said. For those waiting, money quickly becomes an issue.
    After exhausting their savings, the Pakistani family visited churches for support. Most turned them down.
    Eventually, one congregation offered about $100 a month. The mother found a job teaching English to Thai children.
    She earns $250 a month, enough to cover rent, utilities and a bit of food.
    The father, jobless for many months, recently found work at a nursery, but that means their three children are alone in the apartment all day. And now both parents could be arrested for working illegally.
    “When I go to work, I don’t know if I’m going to come back to my kids or not,” said the father.
    Those arrested typically wind up in the Immigration Detention Center. The only way out is paying for your own flight home or finally gaining resettlement overseas.
    Some stay in detention for years. Veerawit Tianchainan, executive director for the Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation, said the Thai government fears that recognising asylum-seekers and refugees would draw more of them.
    He said Thailand’s location and ease of access will draw desperate people anyway, and reforms are needed to address that reality.
    Government ministries have had informal discussions about legislation that would protect asylum-seekers and refugees for one year, without granting the right to work, Veerawit said.
    Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the permanent secretary at Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, said the proposal merits a serious look, but is not in the pipeline for formal consideration.
    The first interview with the UN can be traumatic.
    People are asked to provide evidence of persecution. Some break down in tears or can’t express themselves clearly, said Medhapan Sundaradeja, the Thailand director for Asylum Access, a nonprofit group that gives asylum-seekers free advice.
    Decisions can take months. Inconsistencies can lead to cases getting rejected, though asylum-seekers can appeal.
    Files of people recognised as refugees are then sent to potential host countries to be considered for resettlement, a process that typically takes another 12 to 18 months.
    But of the roughly 860,000 most vulnerable refugees worldwide believed to need resettlement in 2013, only 80,000 spaces were available.
    The US accounted for about 70 per cent of those.
    The Pakistani father says they have no choice but to wait.
    He has no doubt what extremists will do if he returns: “I know they will kill both of us, my wife and me, and they won’t spare my children.“
    So he waits and dreams of a life where they don’t need to hide and where his children can freely attend school. “We just want to go where our lives are safe,” he says with a sigh, “and we have some freedom.”

    Pakistan: Convert or face consequences, Ahmadis told by Khatam-i-Nabuwat mafia

     The Express Tribune

    The government has banned several Islamic books in a bid to curb extremism, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Alhaj Muhammad Ilyas Chinioti said, when it should have banned Ahmadi books. “The government is acting like a friend to Ahmadis…a friend of Ahmadis is an enemy of Islam.”

    Chinioti was presiding over the International Khatam-i-Nabuwat Movement at Aiwan-i-Iqbal on Thursday. Three retired judges of superior courts including former Lahore High Court chief justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, former LHC judge Nazir Ahmed Ghazi (both counsel for Mumtaz Qadri) and former judge of the Federal Shariat Court Khalid Mahmood spoke at the conference.

    Other prominent speakers included Orya Maqbool Jan, Jamatud Dawa leader Amir Hamza, Abdul Hafeez Makki and Maulana Ahmed Ali Siraj.

    Chinioti said that the Constitution had declared Ahmadis non-Muslim, yet they continued to call themselves Muslim.

    “Then they must give up their faith and become Muslim or face consequences,” he thundered.

    Siraj shouted slogans against Ahmadis and their religious leaders.

    Syed Kafeel Shah Bukhari, grandson of Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari, said the government must implement legal provisions against Ahmadis in letter and spirit.

    Maqbool Jan said he was a child when the most effective movement against Ahmadis erupted.

    “Then there was no one to defend them on television…today, you will find many who speak up for them,” he said. This is a dangerous trajectory which must be nipped, he said.

    Justice (r) Ghazi said Ahmadis were pagans and the Supreme Court had declared them so in 1993.

    He said the judiciary had fulfilled its duty, “it appears as if the Executive is aligned with Ahmadis”.

    He said the recent Protection of Pakistan Act was drafted to protect Ahmadis, as anyone calling them non-Muslim could be penalised. At this, the hall rang out with slogans vilifying Ahmadis.

    One of the participants in the audience said Ahmadis were pagans and citizens should step forward and file complaints against them. He said many Ahmadis had infiltrated the police and military forces.

    “They are leading a crack down against Islamic scholars,” he said.

    On Mumtaz Qadri, he said he might have been an employee of the provincial government then, but, he was a slave of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). He urged people to consider former governor Salmaan Taseer’s murder a “virtuous act” without question.

    Ameer Hamza said one of the reasons why they wanted to wage jihad against India was to demolish the graves of Ahmadi leaders in Qadian.

    Pakistan among countries with highest restrictions on religion: study

    Pakistan is included in countries where the highest overall levels of restrictions on religion were found, according to a report published by the Pew Research Centre.
    The highest overall levels of restrictions on religion were found in Myanmar, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Russia, with both government and society imposing “numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices.”
    “China had the highest level of government restrictions in 2013, and India had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion,” Pew said.
    It added: “Christians were harassed, either by government or social groups, in 102 of the 198 countries included in the study (52 per cent), while Muslims were harassed in 99 countries (50 per cent).”
    Worldwide, Pews said “social hostilities involving religion,” measured on a country-by-country basis, declined in 2013 after hitting a six-year high the year before.
    Twenty-seven per cent of all nations witnessed such hostile acts as vandalism of religious property and desecration of sacred texts to violent assaults resulting in death and injury, compared to 33 per cent in 2012.
    That said, “The share of countries with high or very high government restrictions on religion stayed roughly the same” at 27 per cent, it said.
    The number of countries where Jews face harassment is growing, despite a downturn in hostile acts involving all religions worldwide.
    The Pew Research Centre said harassment of Jews was reported in 77 out of 198 countries in 2013, the highest number in seven years.
    “Jews are much more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society than by governments,” it said in an 86-page report.
    “In Europe, for example, Jews were harassed by individuals or social groups in 34 of the region’s 45 countries,” it added.