Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Video - Xi Jinping: From Iowa visitor to White House guest

Bad Omen for Blood-Soaked Saudi Rulers

Finian Cunningham

Anyone inclined to believe in divine retribution will find pause for thought over the latest calamity in Saudi Arabia, where a giant crane smashed into its Grand Mosque over the weekend, killing more than 100 pilgrims.

Worshippers were gathering in the top mosque at Mecca for Friday evening prayers when one of the construction cranes foresting the holy city toppled, crashing through the roof and crushing hundreds of people below. Blood-splattered corpses lay strewn across the floor of the mosque, as shell-shocked survivors struggled to make sense of the freak disaster. Apparently, heavy rain and gusts of wind had caused the metallic structure to keel over.
The incident comes as nearly two million Muslims from across the globe are due to gather in Mecca during the next two weeks for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Mecca — reputed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed — is undergoing extensive property development. Some critics have accused the Saudi authorities of exploiting the unique spiritual status of the city in order to make way for expensive apartments and hotels to generate lucrative tourism profits.
Among the construction companies to have secured juicy contracts are firms owned by the ruling House of Saud. There are strong suspicions of cronyism and bribery plying the construction boom in Mecca. This has in turn led to lax regulation in safety standards and building controls. The use of cheap unskilled labour from the Indian subcontinent is also a factor. Mecca and the other Saudi city Medina associated with the Prophet are considered the two holiest Muslim sites on Earth. Saudi King Salman, as for his predecessors, is referred to formally as "the custodian of the two holiest sites of Islam", as well as being the sovereign leader of Saudi Arabia.
Nevertheless, for many Muslims around the world, the House of Saud is seen as a disgrace to Islam. In recent years, the Saudi rulers are heavily implicated in sowing sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia branches of the faithful across the entire region. The House of Saud professes a fundamentalist version of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, which views others Muslim sects with disdain as somehow being "apostate" or "infidel".

The religious chauvinism of the Saudi rulers is closely aligned with the extremist views and practices of sundry Al Qaeda-linked terror groups, including the so-called Islamic State network in Syria and Iraq. The Wahhabi condemnation of Shia Muslims as "heretics", applied also to non-aligned Sunnis and Christians, explains why these terror groups have persecuted such communities with ruthless beheadings and other barbaric abuses.
But the link between the Saudi rulers and the al-Qaeda-type extremists is much more than an abstract sharing of sectarian religious views.

The Saudi regime is known to have funnelled billions of dollars and weapons into these terror networks as proxies for pursuing its geopolitical schemes. Iran — seen as a "heretic" Shia power — is the recurring bane of Saudi obsession.

Washington and the other Western powers, including the Israeli regime, are fully supportive of the House of Saud and the related Gul fmonarchies in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. These family-run oil-rich entities are armed to the teeth by the US, Britain, France and Germany — making them among the most repressive autocrats on earth.

The terror links of the Saudis and other Gulf Arab dictators is not an impediment to Western alliance with these despots. Far from it.

The evidence shows that the Western powers — despite their bombastic claims of fighting terrorism — have in fact colluded all the way with the Gulf monarchies to use these same terror groups as proxies in their shared geopolitical agenda of regime change in the Middle East.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this weekend put his finger onthe telling contradiction of Western policy in the Middle East. Lavrov was defending Russia's recent stepping up of military aid to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian national army is the strongest, most effective opposing force to the Islamic State and other terror groups, said Lavrov. So, logically, he added, if Western countries claim to be trying to defeat such terror networks, then they should be supporting the Syrian government, not undermining it. Of course, the answer to that contradiction is that the Western powers and their Saudi and Gulf allies are not at all interested in defeating the terror groups. They are only interested in regime change and have infact been responsible for unleashing the terror phenomenon for that very purpose.

The same criminal conspiracy is seen to even greater extent in Yemen.For the past six months, the Arabian Peninsula country has been bombed on a daily basis by a so-called coalition headed up by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf despots. America and Britain are supplying the warplanes and munitions, as well as aerial coordination, for this war of aggression.

The Western-Arab military intervention has no mandate from the UN Security Council.

The only "mandate" it has is from their deposed and discredited former puppet president Mansour Hadi.

Fighting on the same side as the Western-Arab aerial coalition in Yemen are the al-Qaeda-linked terror networks. The shared aim is to defeat a popular Yemeni uprising, led by the Houthi rebels. If the popular uprising, which emerged in Yemen as early as 2011 and which ousted the Western-Saudi-backed Hadi regime earlier this year, were to succeed, then this democratic outcome would threaten the status quo of the Arab dictatorships across the region. This despotism is the cornerstone for Western hegemony in the oil-rich strategic enclave, and that is why Yemen is being pounded mercilessly.

In targeting Yemen, the Western-Saudi coalition has spared no-one and nothing. Residential homes, hospitals, schools, water and power utilities, markets and mosques have been bombed, with a civilian death toll well over 5,000. Even humanitarian aid convoys have been hit. The head of the UN's High Commission for Refugees, Antoine Grand, told the BBC that two of his staff were killed last week in a "deliberate" Saudi air strike on their convoy.

Over the weekend, 10 Yemeni civilians were reportedly killed when a village in the southern province of Taiz was bombed by Saudi warplanes. Meanwhile, in the capital Sanaa innumerable casualties were feared after dozens of poor residential neighbourhoods were hit by airstrikes.

This carnage of crimes against humanity — inflicted largely within ternational silence and certainly a shameful muteness from the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon — is against the horrendous backdrop of nearly half of Yemen's 24 million population facing starvation because of a sea and air blockade imposed on the country by the Western-Saudi-led coalition.

This is nothing short of genocide — committed against the poorest Muslim nation in the Arab region.
But never mind. Let's cut to a "prayer-break". Perversely, the House of Saud — the self-declared custodian of Islamic sanctities — dares at the same time to host the annual Hajj pilgrimage. If the latter ritualis supposed to offer thanks and obedience to the Almighty, the sickening audacity is surely tempting fate. 

Read more:

Analysts: Islamic State is turning into quasi-state, not without foreign assistance

The process of turning the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State into a quasi-state with its own army, police, budget, taxes and social structure could never have proceeded without the outside assistance that has been pouring in from the West and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, polled experts have told TASS.
The IS emerged as an al-Qaeda cell in Iraq in 2013. Virtually in no time it grew out of proportion to have joined the war in Syria as an actor in its own right. In the summer of 2014, IS militants stormed and seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to have declared the emergence of a Caliphate stretching from Aleppo, in northern Syria, to Diyala province, in the east of Iraq, with a population of six million.
President of the Religion and Politics Institute Aleksandr Ignatenko says that when it was still embryonic, the IS received funding and instructions from several countries, mostly Qatar. Ignatenko, a member of the Presidential Council for Interaction with Religious Organisations, recalled that Qatar hosts the US armed forces command in the Middle East.
"There is documentary evidence that at a certain point, Qatar transferred to the Islamic State a lump sum of $300 million. But it is extremely difficult to track down the handover of cash or transfers through charity and human rights funds in various parts of the world. In any case, it is known that the United Arab Emirates have declared as a terrorist organisation the Karama Fund, registered in a Swiss bank in Bern, through which the IS was financed," Ignatenko told TASS.
Alongside foreign sponsors, the Islamic State has financial sources of its own, he remarks. "The IS derives mammoth profits from dumping in oil trade with Turkey and Jordan. Odd as it may seem, the government of Syria’s President Bashar Assad is forced to purchase oil for its army from the very same Islamic State at grossly overcharged prices," Ignatenko said.
"Taxes on production, trade and poll tax on each gentile and the confiscation of properties from non-Muslims are another major source of the IS leaders’ revenue," Ignatenko went on to say. "Art smuggling is the third major source. I was the first to have noticed that IS terrorists stage real shows of destroying not the original ancient statues, but their plaster replicas. The originals go to the black market. And lastly, trade in prisoners and slaves, quite reminiscent of the Middle Ages, is another major source of incomes for the IS.
"It was the United States that created a favourable environment for the Islamic State to crop up and thrive. The U.S.-led international coalition, created ostensibly for struggle against the Islamic State, in reality is a phoney. Of the 60 member-countries, only two or three have been dealing pin-point strikes against IS positions. The United States looks pretty much like the "Valiant Little Tailor" — a fictional personality from a tale by the Grimm brothers, who was boasting he was capable of defeating ‘seven at one stroke.’ But nothing of the sort has happened yet.
"Only a new, wide international coalition involving Syria’s government army, armed Syrian opposition and neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and also Russia and the United States would be capable of defeating the Islamic State. The Russian leadership has underscored this idea more than once," Ignatenko said.
President of the Geopolitical Problems Academy, Dr. Sc. (Military Affairs) Konstantin Sivkov recalls that according to his estimates, the IS budget stands at several hundred billion dollars. "This allows the IS leaders to have an army of 100,000-150,000 militants on their payroll. Without support from the outside, the Islamic State would never have been able to retain the seized territories, let alone grow far and wide," Sivkov told TASS.
In his opinion, Islamic State is Washington’s main tool for destabilising the situation in the Middle East. "The United States’ aim is to shake loose the situation in the region with the ultimate aim to regain key positions in the Middle East, which earlier went out of Washington’s control," he said.
Sivkov believes that from the geo-strategic standpoint, the United States expects that after a hypothetical overthrow of the Bashar Assad government in Syria, Islamic State will be moving towards Central Asia and the North Caucasus, from where it would be able to pose a threat to the security of Russia and China. "In Europe, the plan has worked. The hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and North Africa will now require colossal costs to support, which would considerably harm the EU’s economic potential. The U.S. then will find it far easier to push ahead with the Trans-Atlantic Cooperation project it pins great hopes on," Sivkov said.

Kurdish Music Video - Dashni Murad - Shki Wawa

Kurd Music Video - Nazdar - Loy Loy Kurdistan - نازدار - لوى لوى كوردستان

Turkey on the verge of civil war, says Kurdish leader

Head of Peoples’ Democratic party raises fears after spate of clashes near Syrian border between Turkish nationalists and Kurds.

 The leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish political party has warned that the country is on the verge of civil war between state forces and militant Kurdish separatists. The remarks made by Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic party, followed scenes of violence and firebombing in Turkey last week, with hundreds of reported attacks by nationalist mobs on offices belonging to Demirtas’s party, known by the Turkish abbreviation HDP, as well as on ordinary Kurds.

The incidents were partially a reflection of simmering anti-Kurdish sentiment in a week that saw 29 Turkish security personnel killed in three days at the hands of suspected Kurdish PKK guerrillas. Since the resumption of hostilities earlier this summer between the state and the PKK, considered a terror organisation by Washington and Ankara, more than 100 soldiers have reportedly died. Turkish airstrikes have pounded PKK positions in the south east and across the border in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

The conflict has claimed some 40,000 lives since it started in 1984. A ceasefire in 2013 led to a fragile peace. Elections in June saw Demirtas and the HDP clinch 14% of the vote and thereby prevent the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from winning a parliamentary majority. But coalition talks failed, tensions with the PKK mounted, and Demirtas and his allies will now have to do it all over again in elections scheduled for November. That is, unless, things spiral further.

“It is becoming impossible to hold an election given the security situation in the region,” Demirtas said last Wednesday, pinning the previous night of arson and violence on state forces. “We are facing a campaign of lynching.” The HDP’s party headquarters in Ankara, as well as hundreds of other posts across the country, appeared to be targeted in coordinated attacks. Prime minister Ahmed Davutoglu, a key Erdogan ally, decried the chaos, which also included attacks on a number of offices belonging to newspapers that had fallen afoul of the AKP. “It is unacceptable to damage media institutions, political party buildings and the property of our civilian citizens,” Davutoglu said.

Still, the embers are hot. A Turkish chief prosecutor has now opened proceedings to strip Demirtas of his political immunity on grounds that he has “incited” his supporters to retaliate against the nationalist protests.
The HDP – a grouping of leftists and liberals, Kurds and other minority groups – scored a historic electoral victory in June by appealing to both rural Kurdish voters in south-east Turkey and urbane anti-Erdogan voters in the country’s western cities. But critics of Demirtas and the HDP say it’s a dressed-up version of the PKK.
The HDP and other Erdogan opponents contend that the current political climate has been stoked by the demagogic Turkish president, who, stung by the election setback in June, is eager to put the pro-Kurdish party back in its corner. It’s unclear whether that strategy – if it is a strategy at all – is working. Polls do not currently indicate any gains in AKP support. It’s also unclear whether the PKK’s more hard-line elements, despite the entreaties of HDP politicians, will curb their violent insurgency.
In the meantime, the euphoria of the HDP’s election success earlier this year – a historic moment that saw the Kurdish nationalist movement enter the Turkish political mainstream – seems a distant memory.
In June, Ziya Pir, an HDP candidate from the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, spoke optimistically about the future.
“We want peace,” said Pir, who grew up in exile in Germany and whose uncle had been one of the founders of the PKK. He talked of plans to reform Turkey’s constitution, which was imposed by a military junta in 1982. “We want a new constitution with freedoms for all individuals, where all cultures and religions can find themselves equally.”
Now, rather than dreaming of a new beginning, some are waiting for the next night of violence.

Turkey - Erdoğan is playing with fire

As we approach the Nov. 1 general election, it is obvious that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have a clear game plan: To lure Turkish nationalists to the ballot box while trying to minimize voter turnout in Kurdish provinces. Will such tactics work?
The war with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has already galvanized the nationalist public. Turkish nationalism is clearly on the rise. In the meantime, the security situation in Kurdish provinces appears to be out of control. It is even questionable whether elections can take place under such severe conditions. All these dynamics may serve the AKP well. But there is also a growing sense of anger against Erdoğan and the AKP. There are a lot of people from the right wing of the political spectrum who believe that Erdoğan and the AKP turned a blind eye to reports that the PKK was preparing for war during the peace process. They therefore blame the governing party for creating this chaos.

On the other hand, there are also many people from the left wing of the political spectrum who blame the AKP and Erdoğan for instigating this war against the PKK for electoral reasons aimed at stoking nationalism. At the end of the day, given the fluidity between the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) political bases, there is still a reasonable chance that some MHP voters may decide to reward the AKP's new belligerence against the PKK. This would reward Erdoğan's insistence on holding "repeat" elections since all the AKP needs is an additional 2 to 3 percent to establish a parliamentary majority.
But despite this rosy scenario, there is also a more realistic scenario where the AKP vote drops to the 35-40 percent range. This can realistically happen for two main reasons. First, it is by now obvious that Erdoğan's strategy of "controlled chaos" is not working. Erdoğan believed that he could exploit the downturn in security and economic situation to his favor with the argument that only a strong AKP government can bring back stability and prosperity. But as recent opinion polls indicate, the number of people holding the AKP and Erdoğan responsible for the chaos is increasing. Recent opinion polls show that the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the MHP are holding their ground while the trend for the AKP is in the opposite direction. The second reason why AKP may go down to the 35-40 percent range is because Turkish voters are primarily concerned about the economy. The financial situation has considerably worsened in the last few weeks. Consumer confidence is clearly correlated with support for the incumbent. And since consumer confidence is now at a very low level, elections results will not bode well for the AKP.

How will Erdoğan react to this situation? If he realizes that the AKP will lose the Nov. 1 general election, Erdoğan could try to postpone the election on the grounds that the country is facing a major war. This scenario, however, would require a major ground operation to northern Iraq's Kandil Mountains where the PKK headquarters are located. This would be a very risky strategy. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Another option for Erdoğan would be to sideline HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas and the HDP by legal measures. For instance, there could be a parliamentary vote to ban the HDP on the grounds that it supports terrorism. This scenario would pave the road for a general election without a Kurdish party in competition. The AKP would, of course, be the main beneficiary of this outcome. Finally, as I have previously argued, there is also a third option: To hold elections and prepare for an AKP-MHP coalition.
In a coalition scenario between AKP and the MHP, both parties would have to compromise. The AKP would have the upper hand but Erdoğan would have to adopt a lower political profile. In return, the MHP would have to limit the corruption investigations only to AKP party members and refrain from implicating Erdoğan and his family. The two other scenarios -- postponing the elections or the closure of the HDP by a vote -- would lead to more political instability, an economic crisis and Kurdish backlash and violence. This means chaos for Turkey. If things unravel towards the semblance of civil war in urban areas, these two scenarios could even trigger a military coup. This is why as things stand today, despite animosity on the MHP front against the AKP, the most realistic scenario after the election is an AKP-MHP coalition.

Video - Tear gas against rocks: violent clashes between Hungarian police and migrants

Video Report - Troubled times in Turkey

Video - Syria 'in a state of complete war' with terrorism - Bashar Assad - (FULL INTERVIEW)

Video Report - Michelle Obama - Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties Celebratory Event

Video Report - Obama Urges Congress to Avoid Shutdown

Chelsea Clinton Believes the More People Get to Know Hillary Clinton, the More They'll Like Her: 'My Mom Is My Hero'


Chelsea Clinton is her mom's biggest fan – and she just doesn't understand why other's aren't on board for Hillary 2016

As Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's standing in the pollsfalls, daughter Chelsea still has hope. 

"I just continue to believe as more people see more of her [they] will come to know why I believe so strongly that she would make a great president and they will reach the same conclusions," Chelsea said during an interview on Today on Tuesday. 

While Chelsea admitted to obviously be "very biased toward my mom," she insisted that "I'm not a pundit, I'm a daughter."

"I love and admire my mom," she told Savannah Guthrie. "I know that she's talking about issues that are important to families across our country." 

Chelsea added that she believes Hillary's message is beginning to resonate with more Americans. 

"I believe as more and more Americans here from her, they'll come to know why I'm so proud to be my mother's daughter," she said. 

The 35-year-old, who called Hillary her "hero," was on the morning show to promote her new book It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired and Get Going!, a political and social cause guide geared toward 10 to 14-year-olds, according to the Associated Press

"When I talk to kids today, they're curious about the world around us," Chelsea told Guthrie. "I think they're more engaged than adults often think they are and they want to know what they can do." 
Chelsea said she was inspired to write the book by a similar one she read in her youth called 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth

"It had a big impact on me, it treated me seriously," she said. 

The new mom also said her parents challenging her to think about big issues as a child made her want to do the same in It's Your World

"The greatest gift that my parents gave me is to ask me what I care about," she said. "To expect me to have an opinion and to also expect me to make an argument to support whatever I thought the right answer was."

Immigration Reform News: President Obama Blasts GOP Candidates for Using 'Anti-immigrant Sentiment'

President Barack Obama blasted Republicans running in the 2016 presidential race for using anti-immigrant rhetoric, which he said is "un-American."

The president criticized the GOP contenders vying for the White House on Monday during a town hall held at a high school in Des Moines, Iowa. Although Obama did not name anyone in particular, GOP front-runner Donald Trump has been the most vocal about his disdain for undocumented residents. He even called Mexican immigrants drug traffickers and rapists during his presidential election announcement speech in June. He has also suggested that the U.S. should stop illegal immigration by building a wall on the southern border and deporting the nearly 12 million undocumented people who are currently living in the country.
In turn, many other Republican candidates on the campaign trial have also taken harsh swipes at immigrants.
In response, Obama scolded GOP candidates who he said are injecting "anti-immigrant sentiment" in the political discourse.
"This whole anti-immigrant sentiment that's out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are," Obama said, according to NDTV. "Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else."
He went on to say, "We can have a legitimate debate about how to set up an immigration system that is fair and orderly and lawful, but, when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care -- I think that's un-American. I do not believe that. I think it is wrong."
Obama also hinted that it won't be long before he endorses one of the presidential candidates in the race.
"I can't tell you who to vote for, at least just not right now," he said, reports CNN. "Later I will."

President Obama Weighing Talks With Putin on Syrian Crisis

For more than a year, President Obama has resisted meeting one on one with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and only reluctantly taken a phone call, freezing out the Kremlin leader over his intervention in Ukraine in their own personal cold war.
But this month, the two leaders will be in the same city at the same time amid rising tension in Syria, and the White House is divided by a debate over whether they should meet to try to work out their differences before the tumult in the Middle East escalates even further.
The recent deployment of Russian weapons and equipment to Syria has brought to a head a conflict that has dominated the Obama administration since Mr. Putin’s return to the presidency, the choice between engaging with Russia and trying to isolate it. If Ukraine and Syria are the world’s two most significant conflict zones, then some officials argue that the solutions to both problems ultimately go through Moscow, making it necessary to talk. Others, however, worry that agreeing to meet would only play into Mr. Putin’s hands and reward an international bully.
Mr. Obama’s own instincts tend toward talking rather than not, as he has shown with both Iran and Cuba, longtime foes of the United States. But he has a chilly relationship with Mr. Putin and has been frustrated that past interactions have either proved fruitless or been exploited later by the Russians or both. And given the supercharged environment over his nuclear agreement with Iran, the idea of renewed diplomacy with another anti-American leader could prove volatile at home.
The move by Russia to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad, who has resisted Mr. Obama’s demand to step down for years, underscored the conflicting approaches to fighting the Islamic State terrorist organization. While Mr. Obama supports a rival rebel group to take on the Islamic State even as he opposes Mr. Assad, Russia contends that the government is the only force that can defeat the Islamic extremists.
Mr. Putin on Tuesday forcefully defended Russia’s military assistance to Syria. “We are supporting the government of Syria in the fight against a terrorist aggression, and we are offering and will continue to offer it necessary military and technical assistance, and we call on other countries to join us,” Mr. Putin said at a regional security conference in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. “It’s obvious,” he added, “that without the Syrian authorities and the military playing an active role, without the Syrian Army fighting the Islamic State on the ground, it’s impossible to drive terrorists from this country and from the region as a whole.”
Mr. Putin urged other nations and moderate elements in the Syrian opposition to follow Russia’s example by aligning with the government in Damascus against the Islamic State, saying Mr. Assad was ready for political compromise with “the healthy part of the opposition.” Russian television plans to broadcast an interview with Mr. Assad on Wednesday, suggesting this proposal could be fleshed out.
The Obama administration was caught off guard by the Kremlin’s move into Syria, and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Tuesday with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, for the third time in recent days to complain that it was unhelpful. But the Americans were still left trying to fathom Mr. Putin’s intentions and wonder whether he could be pressed into being a more constructive player on Syria as they said he was during the Iran negotiations.
“This would not be the first situation in which President Putin’s true motivations are rather hard to discern,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “The decision-making process in that country is rather opaque.”
That is one reason proponents of engagement argue for a meeting with Mr. Putin when he and other world leaders gather this month in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. In a system with one genuine decision maker, they say, it is invaluable to meet with that person to divine his interests and goals.

Music Video - Sunny Sunny | The Workout Song | Darshan Raval & Rimi Nique

Coca Cola’s plant in Pak sealed for unhygienic conditions

A district administration team on Sunday raided the plant of Coca Cola Bottlers Private Limited (CCBPL) in Rahim Yar Khan district of Punjab and sealed it after finding insects and lizards in the production area

A soft drink plant of multinational beverage giant Coca Cola has been sealed in Pakistan’s Punjab province for maintaining unhygienic conditions.
This is the first time in recent years that a plant of a multinational soft drink company has been sealed on such grounds.
A district administration team on Sunday raided the plant of Coca Cola Bottlers Private Limited (CCBPL) in Rahim Yar Khan district of Punjab, about 400 km from here, and sealed it after finding insects and lizards in the production area of the plant.
Assistant Commissioner (Rahim Yar Khan) Javed Ahmed said the CCBPL had not made proper arrangements to control the insects at the plant.
The team sent the soft drink samples to a laboratory after sealing the plant and instructed its administration to withdraw the whole stock of ‘Sprite’ one litre glass bottles from the market and destroy it.
The government team also got FIR registered against Coca Cola distributer, production manager, quality response manager and storekeeper.
The raid was conducted on a complaint by a grocery store owner that a lizard was found in a one litre bottle of Sprite, delivered to him from the plant on September 12.
CCBPL Clint Services Manager Mumtaz Warriach told Dawn that the company came to know through media that a shopkeeper in Rahim Yar Khan had reportedly found some “foreign matter” in a bottle.
“We are ready to offer our technical expertise and full cooperation in this matter,” he said.
He said the company should be allowed to carry out tests to determine whether the bottle was genuine or a counterfeit product.

Rebuilding Afghanistan: A Critical Task


It is easy to see our Afghan effort drifting not just to a debacle but to a disaster. We had worked hard to get the Soviets out, and then had zero idea of what to do next. But this initial effort did build strong ties between the Pakistani army and radical Islamic fighters which have come back to haunt us. And it led to civil war, refugees, and Taliban repression. It wasn't our problem so we ignored it until the 9/11 attack. Then another intervention all but eliminated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban and, once again, we had zero idea of what to do next. President Bush had famously derided nation building, even though that was exactly what Afghanistan needed and the United States has a long history of success at it - just ask Japan, Germany or South Korea. But instead of building, we focused primarily on military actions. This short-sighted effort led to a Taliban resurgence and had a disastrous impact on government - it fed corruption lavishly but failed to feed people - despite fourteen years of American "support," roughly one-third of the population is food-insecure - this in a country that had a reputation as a regional bread basket. And if we had put a tenth of the resources spent on military into development, it would be a bread basket again.

Now we have a fragmented and ineffective government; Afghans are staring into an abyss of continuing bloodshed, civil war, economic disintegration. And yet again we have no idea of what to do next, no concept of what we want and how to get there. We are working to build stability by building Afghan military capabilities even while we withdraw critical assistance of air support, intelligence, and logistics. But most of all we are failing again at real economic development. Although the Taliban have minimal popular support, it is hard to see what everyday Afghans could fight for - there is no coherent alternative to the Taliban. Thousands are already fleeing, carrying with them many of the skills the economy needs.

This is an abyss not only for Afghans, but also for the United States. A disintegration of Afghanistan into a failed state will destroy the credibility of the United States as a reliable partner for developing states under stress. Even as he began the war, President Bush had stressed, "For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible - and no one can now doubt the word of America." But we are about to go back on that word, hoping that somehow we can withdraw and leave behind some kind of functioning state. But a collapse of Afghanistan will not simply result in some kind of black hole in South Asia, it will be festering sore, adding millions of refugees to the burgeoning tide that is already overwhelming West Europe. This tide is the outcome of a century and more of neglect of developing nations in Africa and the Middle East. It will not be resolved overnight.

The United States is, of course, also responsible. Many of the refugees are from Libya and Iraq. In both these countries we were the driving force behind the destruction of repressive, though functioning, regimes that we have been unable to replace with competent governments. Although we can disclaim to some extent the flood of refugees from Syria, our disjointed efforts there have certainly not helped the situation. And there will be no one else to blame for any new flood of refugees from Afghanistan. Even as many now flee, Pakistan is actually pushing thousands of Afghan refugees back into a country that is totally unprepared to accept them, just adding to the turmoil. In the face of a major flood of new Afghan refugees, the United States will carry a responsibility to accept many of them, but it is not easy to even see how.

But the biggest problem is not simply an increase in the overall number of refugees but the fact that the United States will have totally failed to provide the leadership necessary to address the current crisis. It is already well past the point where it could have been dealt with coherently; now it is creating internal pressures which will challenge West Europe for decades to come.

The only real solution is to eliminate the conditions creating refugees in the first place. The United States is actually involved in a minimal effort in this direction inCentral America, which at the moment has the most direct impact on the nation. But this will be a minor distraction if several million Afghan refugees, created by our own ineffectiveness, add to the situation. Instead of leading an effort to address the problem, the United States will add to its status as a major contributor.

As numerous commentators have stressed, the United States is indeed the only nation in a position to provide the leadership necessary to address global challenges. The center of gravity for addressing the refugee challenge is now in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's critical need is what it has always been, real economic development. Initially in the quieter areas it can vividly demonstrate American commitment to a brighter future. And it can be a striking contrast to areas with strong Taliban influence. The United States can still show that it does indeed do national building - a critical element of the challenges facing the nation in the Twenty-First Century. Or it can simply sit back and watch as Afghanistan descends into chaos, and its leadership opportunity fades into irrelevance. With globalization, the United States cannot prosper in a world of turmoil. Failure should not be an option.

From Kabul with fading hopes: Afghanistan’s war continues

It is fighting season in Afghanistan and August was particularly bloody on Kabul’s streets. In the weeks before I arrived in the city, attacks had left dozens dead, hundreds more injured and faith in the government’s ability to secure the capital all but shattered.
While a secure Kabul rarely means a stable Afghanistan, an insecure Kabul inevitably signals a deeply unstable nation. Kabul’s violent summer pales compared to the surrounding provinces, especially in the south. As Western nations increasingly focus elsewhere, the battle for Afghanistan rages on.

‘Things are worse’

Afghanistan is delicately balanced between starkly different futures. During my first visit in 2014, the general feeling in the capital was of cautious optimism, even hopefulness. The impressive voter turnout for the national elections reflected a general feeling that a new government meant new possibilities and raised hopes for the future.
Returning to Kabul less than a year later, it seems the trajectory of Afghanistan’s future is shifting towards one of despair rather than hope. President Ashraf Ghani’s public chastisement of Pakistan after a suicide bombing at the entrance of Kabul’s international airport suggests frustrations have reached Afghanistan’s highest public office.
It is visceral on Kabul’s streets. From shopkeepers and taxi drivers to “gym rats” and university lecturers, my question of whether Afghanistan was improving, whether security was better despite August’s bloodshed, was met with the same response:
Things are worse.
A combination of factors has contributed to this sentiment. A spike in insurgent violence and the drawdown of Western forces are obvious. A corollary of the drawdown has been that thousands of foreign workers have left Afghanistan, creating an economic vacuum that has left many local businesses scrambling.
Another factor is at play too. For much of its modern history, Afghanistan’s trajectory has been disproportionately shaped by foreign forces: the perpetual meddling of its regional neighbours, British colonisers in the early 20th century, the Soviet Bloc later that century and, most recently, a coalition of Western nations.
For the first time in decades, responsibility for Afghanistan’s future is perceived to rest largely in Afghan hands. The grim outlook expressed to me by locals thus reflected more than post-election frustrations; theirs was a sense of crisis born of the disparity between Afghan hopes for their government and its realities.
Moderating expectations will be crucial to curbing frustrations and sustaining security and stability.

The difficult road ahead

Afghanistan’s challenges are immense. With a population of some 28 million, 76% live rurally and more than 13 million suffer varying degrees of food insecurity.
Efforts to combat this rampant poverty are hindered by a gender inequality index which is among the world’s worst. The devastating impact of three decades of war is captured by almost half the population being under 14 years of age.
Most Afghans are rural-dwelling and poverty-stricken. H. IngramAuthor provided
Ethno-tribal allegiances continue to shape, to varying degrees, how many Afghans see themselves and each other, especially in rural areas. This is particularly noticeable during discussions about the nation’s security.
Sitting motionless in Kabul traffic, my taxi driver explained:
Where the Pashtun people are, there are problems. In the south, always problems. Now, in the north, where the Pashtun people are, there are problems.
Pausing for a moment as the traffic started its crawl, he added:
I know not all Pashtuns are bad … but most of them are.
Mediating these differences, not glossing over them, represents another complex challenge for the government.
These and many other issues need to be addressed while fighting multiple insurrections. The Taliban’s insurgency, rather than a single, coherent and homogenous force, is heterogeneous and characterised by several networks. These faultlines were recently exposed by the succession of Mullah Mansour as Taliban leader.
A fractured Taliban not only represents a more volatile threat but its breakaway factionscould establish independent groups or join Islamic State’s local chapter, Wilayat Khurasan, which is leveraging this unrest to burrow into Afghanistan’s provinces.

Reasons for hope

Graffiti in a Kabul street. H. IngramAuthor provided
In isolation, the current picture of Afghanistan seems incredibly bleak. Yet, within its historical context, the country’s advancements are undeniable. It is easy to forget that a mere two decades ago Afghanistan was transitioning to Taliban rule following two ruthless wars.
There is another reason for hope. Afghanistan’s universities are filled with energetic and highly capable students. While speaking to a class of hopeful postgraduate researchers at Kabul University, their sense of responsibility for shaping their country’s future was palpable.
Education will be a crucial mechanism for bridging gender inequalities, fighting the root causes of societal problems such as poverty and extremism, and producing the next generation of Afghan leaders. The immense burden for harnessing the potential of Afghanistan’s very young and increasingly globally “connected” population for good and not ill will rest heavily on this generation.
Continuing Western support for current security and stability efforts will be essential to Afghanistan’s survival. But support for education in Afghanistan is an investment in the future. The world’s refugee crisis is merely a symptom of a more profound problem: the world’s tendency to ignore the human tragedies that produce refugees.
Afghanistan is on the brink of its best chance at a brighter and more hopeful future, but darker forces are committed to steering the nation in another direction. While Afghan hopes persist, surely ours should too.