Monday, December 26, 2016

George Michael ! - Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

George Michael - Careless Whisper

Video - The Final Interview With The Obamas (Full Interview) | PEN | Entertainment Weekly

Video Report - President Barack Obama Reflects On Administration During Final Days

Dem lawmaker: Israel's accusations start of 'war on the American government'


A retiring Democratic lawmaker warned Monday that Israel’s accusations that the United States was behind a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of Israel are “the beginning of a war on the American government" that President-elect Donald Trump will carry out.
“What we’re seeing is the beginning of a war on the American government,” Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said Monday on MSNBC.
“We’re seeing the air war right now, and we’re seeing all these tweets and all this kind of innuendo and all these half-stories, and all this stuff to create tremendous tension so that when the president comes in on the 20th, he can begin the ground war, which will be when his appointees begin to carry out his actions in the departments across the government.”
The Security Council voted 14-0 on a resolution Friday that condemns Israelis settlements in Palestinian territory. The United States abstained from the vote, allowing the resolution to pass and breaking longstanding U.S. policy.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer have both accused the Obama administration of being secretly behind the resolution.
Dermer said Monday that Israel has evidence of that it will present to Trump, though he did not produce it when pressed in an interview with CNN. He said it would be up to Trump administration to decide whether to make it public.
Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship, and Obama’s decision to abstain from the vote has been seen as a final conflict after years of clashes.
In the MSNBC interview, McDermott said Israel is attacking Obama as a pretext for pushing Trump to adopt more friendly policies than Obama had.
“They never could get 100 percent out of Barack Obama, so they decided to attack him and use him as the reason for why Trump should come in and give them everything they want,” he said.
He also said Americans are being “subjected to a campaign of anxiety production” as Israel works to get it wants.
"And it really is very, very disturbing to watch,” he added.
He also blasted Dermer for not making the evidence he claims to have public.
“That is unacceptable in a democracy where the people are entitled to know what’s going on,” he said. “You can’t have people coming here and saying we’re going to hide the ball from you and we’re going do something or we’re going to accuse you of something and not tell you.”

If You Eat 2 Bananas Per Day For A Month, This Is What Happens To Your Body

Goodbye Modern and Secular Turkey

Nozhan Etezadosaltaneh

Welcome to Istanbul, said a veiled, smiling hostesses in the Ataturk Airport. The first advertisement I saw in the airport lounge displayed a brand of cloth over a veiled woman. Three men from Saudi Arabia with traditional Arabic clothes and long beards like Muslim religious preachers were entering the gate.
These were the first images I had on a trip to Turkey about two months before the July 15th attempted coup. My impressions were very different from my mother’s description of Turkey in the 1980s during the period of a military, secular rule when there were no signs of religious symbols.
After the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2003, many of American liberal think tanks, namely Brookings and Carnegie, saw Turkey under the AKP as a model for the entire Middle East because it combined democracy, secularism and Islam. At the time, I had written a book in which I asserted that Erdogan did not believe in democracy but used it as a tram to reach his goals. I referred to his speeches when he was the mayor of Istanbul, and suggested that he was willing to introduce religion into politics.
More than a decade has passed since that time, and Erdogan’s opposition to, arresting and deportation of hundreds of thousands of military members, teachers, and journalists implies that the optimistic analysis about the Muslim conservative model in Turkey was wrong.
Unfortunately, what is published in newspapers and the media relating to the AKP has largely been neglected by analysts who are advocates of the AKP model. During recent weeks, tensions between the US, the EU and Turkey have accelerated. Headlines and the subject of the articles written by journalists supporting the government, especially after the attempted coup, had common themes: anti-secularism, anti-modernity, and belief in religious and social conservatism.
One of the main recent attacks of AKP supporters is against the essential component of the Republic of Turkey: secularism.
For example, Ergün Yıldırım wrote a note entitled “Islam should speak for the new constitution” in the newspaper Yeni Safak on January 31, 2016: “The relationship between Islam and the constitution still conserves its timeliness. How can Islam contribute to the founding of a constitution with its legacy, resources and spirit? What kind of a constitution can we ask for from an Islamic perspective? We are going through a time in which Turkey is trying to found a new constitution. Muslims with an Islamic worldview have to ask these questions. They have to offer new concepts, perspectives and realities that contain Islamic thought during the making of a new constitution. Islam has passed a mute period. Therefore, Muslims need to speak up as a new constitution is being made and offer their ideas and proposals.”
Considering Yıldırım’s suggestion regarding using Islam to develop a new constitution for Turkey is an important issue as Ismail Kahraman, the President of the National Assembly of Turkey, had previously stated that there should be no sign of secularism in the new constitution of Turkey.
Yıldırım is not the only one writing against secularism in Yeni Safak. Yusuf Kaplan is another journalist who wrote on October 28th in this newspaper that secularism has enslaved the Middle East, and Islam must liberate it again. Kaplan’s “Secularism enslaved the Middle East, Islam will free it once again,” is especially erroneous.
Besides opposition of the media affiliated to the Turkish government concerning secularism, their anti-Western statements can also be worrying, especially since Turkey is a NATO member. For example, Tamer Korkmaz wrote in September in Yeni Safak “the American flag is [a] symbol of terrorism.”
The example he cited was the America flag flying in Manbij, Syria by the Democratic Union Party as proof that America supports terrorism in northern Syria.
Turkey accuses America of terrorism, while the Turkish state arrests journalists.
In the final analysis, Turkey is bordering on a failed state. Despite almost daily terrorist attacks, the government has decided that the true enemy is anyone who espouses a counter-narrative.


An international rights group said it found evidence that a Saudi-led coalition used Brazilian-made rockets carrying cluster bombs when it targeted schools in northern Yemen earlier this month.
Human Rights Watch said Friday that the Dec. 6 airstrikes on Sa’ada killed two people. The attack came a day after Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United States abstained from a UN vote to ban the use of cluster munitions, AP reported.
Earlier this week, the coalition said it would stop using British-made cluster bombs after Amnesty International and other groups raised concerns about civilian casualties.
HRW said it has documented the use of seven types of cluster munitions in Yemen, made in the US, Britain and Brazil.
The Saudi-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the Houthis and reinstate the former Yemeni administration. The war has left at least 11,400 civilians dead, according to a latest tally by a Yemeni monitoring group.
The US has also been providing logistic and surveillance support to the kingdom in the bloody military aggression against Yemen.


Saudi Arabia has confirmed that it has used British-made cluster bombs, which are widely condemned as causing unnecessary civilian casualties, in its bombing campaign on Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.
Amnesty International had accused a Saudi-led coalition in May of using U.K.-manufactured BL-755 cluster bombs when bombing a village in northern Yemen. The BL-755 contains 147 smaller bomblets, which scatter upon impact and can have a delayed detonation, posing a particular risk to civilians who may pick up the bomblets.
Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of mainly Arab countries bombing the Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, launched an insurgency against the Yemeni government and forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile in March 2015. In a statement reported by Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Ahmed Asiri, confirmed that there had been “limited use by the coalition” of BL-755 bombs. “This munition was used against legitimate military targets to defend Saudi towns and villages against continuous attacks by Houthi militia, which resulted in Saudi civilian casualties,” said Asiri.
The use of cluster munitions is banned by an international convention signed in 2008. The U.K. and 99 other states have signed and ratified the convention, but neither Saudi Arabia nor the United States—which, along with the U.K., is supporting the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen—has signed up.
Asiri confirmed that Saudi Arabia had decided to cease using the cluster bombs and had informed the U.K. government of its decision. British defense minister Michael Fallon told the House of Commons on Monday that a limited number of BL-755 bombs had been used by the Saudi-led coalition and welcomed the decision to stop using them, The Guardian reported.
Responding to Fallon’s comments, Amnesty International U.K. Director Kate Allen called for a total suspension of all British weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. The Islamic kingdom is one of the biggest buyers of British arms.
“This is a very simple issue. If the Saudi-led coalition can use British-made cluster munitions against Yemeni villages, then we shouldn’t be surprised that it can also bomb homes, hospitals, schools and factories in Yemen,” said Allen.

#Syria - Bashar & Asma Assad visit orphans at ancient Saidnaya monastery at Christmas

China urges U.S. president-elect to adhere to one-China policy

China said on Monday that it is "gravely concerned" about U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's latest remarks suggesting he is reconsidering the one-China policy, urging the new administration to adhere to the policy.
"The one-China policy is the political foundation of China-U.S. ties," said Geng Shuang, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, at a daily press briefing.
He said the stable and healthy development of China-U.S. ties and cooperation in major areas will be severely affected if this foundation was undermined.
On "Fox News Sunday," Trump said that that he does not feel "bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."
The Taiwan issue, concerning China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, involves China's core interest, Geng said.

"We urge the new U.S. leader and the government to fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, continue to stick to the one-China policy and the three Joint Communiques between China and the United States, and discreetly deal with Taiwan-related issues so as to prevent China-U.S. relations from being severely disturbed and damaged," the spokesperson said.

China - News Analysis: Abe's duplicitous visit to Pearl Harbor more about forgetting than reconciling

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor which will culminate with a final summit with outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday will see the Japanese leader take part in a remembrance ceremony at the USS Arizona monument where thousands of U.S. sailors and marines were killed in a surprise attack by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941.
It was this sneak attack that was a catalyst for the United States to join World War II and emerge victors with the eventual nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan that forced Japan's unconditional surrender, a historical fact that to this day does not sit well with some rightist factions with significant political sway here and wholesale revisionist intentions.
The visit to Pear Harbor by Abe, which was previously hailed by the foreign ministry here as being the first by a Japanese prime minister, is in fact not, according to latest government saying. Some political observers thus question the ministry's own understanding, or at least, publicization of its own history, as Japan is, under Abe's leadership, aggressively trying to have its historical wrongdoings rewritten, or, better yet, forgotten.
"When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes his visit to Pearl Harbor, just after Christmas, it will be a dovish act that masks a hawkish intent," said political watcher Joji Sakurai, in a recent article on the matter.
"Pragmatism appears to be tempering Mr. Abe's rightwing instincts, which include an alarming penchant for historical revisionism regarding wartime Imperial army depredations. Yet it may be argued that this very pragmatism is driven by a conservative agenda," Sakurai continued.
"Mr. Abe's dream is to revise Japan's pacifist constitution, drawn up by the U.S. under postwar occupation, so allowing the country to have a real army. The thumping majority in parliament's upper house that the prime minister won in July has allowed him to test the waters on achieving that goal," added Sakurai.
Sakurai and other experts on the matter have been quick to point out that Abe's Pearl Harbor trip will come with no apology for Japan's savage attack in 1941 and is, shrewdly, a duplicitous move by the hawkish leader to earn bonus points at home from the electorate, particularly following the disappointing outcome for Japan following Abe's recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abe will also be able to appease his ultra-rightwing backers by sticking to a revisionist agenda and not apologizing for Japan's wartime atrocities, not just regarding Pearl Harbor, but all the countries before, during and after WWII, who were brutalized by the Imperial Japanese Army, while simultaneously showing Japan's renewed commitment to its alliance with the U.S. as future ties remain equivocal under the incoming administration led by President-elect Donald Trump.
This multi-faceted strategy, in fact, has not been denied by Abe, who will also be looking to up his support rate ahead of an imminent lower house election, after which the rightist leader will further his plans to remilitarize Japan with a "clean historical slate" by way of a referendum on revising the nation's pacifist constitution.
"Part of the reason for his comments about history directed to the United States and other nations lies in the view held abroad of Abe as a historical revisionist. Although his main support base within Japan consists of conservative elements, those in the prime minister's office feel Abe can gain support among the more liberal side of Japan by visiting Pearl Harbor along with Obama, who has voiced the goal of seeking a nuclear-free world," the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said in a recent editorial on the matter.
"At the same time, Abe made clear that the visit to Pearl Harbor was an effort at strategic diplomacy' rather than one involving apology," the popular daily newspaper said.
And criticism for Abe's inauthenticity has come from all sides, including the United States. The Japan Times in a recent article on the matter quoted U.S. Navy veteran Louis Conter, who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, as saying that Abe should indeed offer an apology for Japan's furtive attack that propelled the U.S. into the war.
"I have no bad feeling toward the Japanese. But Abe should face up to history and apologize, Conter, 95, said in a recent interview at the site of the USS Arizona, which was sunk in the Imperial Japanese Navy's raid.
But as with all of Japan's wartime wrongdoings, Abe's "no apology" stance remains unrelenting. The attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base on the island of Oahu in Hawaii in 1941 killed some 2,400 U.S. military personnel and civilians, and Abe's "theatrics" to honor those who died may well be nauseating for some U.S. military veterans, but it will be doubly so for other countries and victims that Japan brutalized in the past and has since completely ignored as per its revisionist agenda.
Nippon Kaigi, to which Abe himself and the majority of his Cabinet and a number of influential members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led bloc are unabashed members of, describes itself as existing to: "Change the postwar national consciousness based on the Tokyo Tribunal's view of history as a fundamental problem" and to "revise the current Constitution," and sees its mission as to "promote patriotic education, the revision of the Constitution of Japan, and support for prime ministers' official visits to Yasukuni Shrine".
Based on this, political pundits here attest that not only are Abe's gestures to "mourn" or "pacify" those it abused and persecuted in the past, as is the case in Pearl Harbor, and was with the "comfort women" issue in South Korea recently, disingenuous. His modus operandi is one that sees "reconciliation" as tantamount to simply "forgetting" and making sure that generations to come in Japan and the world forget as well.
Yujin Yaguchi, a professor of American studies at the University of Tokyo, explicated how the current Abe-led administration adheres to a warped principle of denying and not facing history squarely, while setting about institutionally revising it, so that the true facts may one day be forgotten once and for all.
"By commemorating Pearl Harbor, if the whole society marginalizes the whole process that led to Pearl Harbor, that commemoration becomes an act of forgetting as well," explained Yaguchi.

New Delhi overreaches to meddle in China’s core interests

By Wen Dao

New Delhi has long held the Dalai Lama issue as leverage that it can use against China. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee met with the Tibetan separatist in exile in India this month, probably as moral support to Mongolia, which mired itself in diplomatic trouble after receiving the Dalai Lama in November. According to Indian media, the Dalai Lama was invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Indian Presidential Palace, on December 11, and participated in an event with the Indian President.

Mongolian Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil said Tuesday that Mongolia will not allow the Dalai Lama to visit the country, even in the name of religion, thus settling a one-month standoff between Mongolia and China. But a long lingering issue behind it all is how India should handle its relationship with the Dalai Lama.

After China initiated countermeasures, including canceling investment talks and imposing additional tolls on Mongolian cargo passing through Chinese territory, the Mongolians later tried to seek support from India, hoping that by allying with China's competitor, Beijing would be forced to give in. New Delhi expressed its concerns about Mongolia's well-being, and vaguely pledged to put into effect a credit line of $1 billion it promised to Mongolia in 2015. However, before India's bureaucrats could start, Ulaanbaatar caved in to the reality.

India's way of dealing with the issue shows, once again, the gap between its ambition and its strength. It is way beyond India's capability to acquire leverage against China by employing a proxy or challenging China's bottom line. India has used the Dalai Lama card from time to time in a retaliatory move against China.

India should draw some lessons from the recent interactions between Beijing and US President-elect Donald Trump over Taiwan. After putting out feelers to test China's determination to protect its essential interests, Trump has met China's restrained but pertinent countermeasures, and must have understood that China's bottom line - sovereign integrity and national unity - is untouchable. Even the US would have to think twice before it messes with China on such sensitive problems, so what makes India so confident that it could manage?

Sometimes, India behaves like a spoiled kid, carried away by the lofty crown of being "the biggest democracy in the world." India has the potential to be a great nation, but the country's vision is shortsighted. 

India wants to disturb China's pace of development by taking advantage of China's national and international problems, most of which have nothing to do with India's national interests.

China - Taiwan risks full 'diplomatic' isolation under DPP rule

China and Sao Tome and Principe resumed diplomatic ties on Monday, less than a week since this African island nation broke relations with Taiwan. Gambia, another African country, resumed ties with China three years after cutting off relations with Taiwan. This is a warning Beijing has sent to the administration of Tsai Ing-wen. Within Taiwan, there is also speculation that Beijing and the Vatican are in close touch regarding establishing diplomatic ties.

Tsai will head to four Central American countries with a stopover in the US in January. Taiwan public opinion has been worried about the possibility that a particular country may break ties with Taiwan before Tsai's departure, a huge embarrassment she will suffer. 

If the Tsai administration continues to deviate from the one-China principle, which prompts the Chinese mainland to block Taiwan's diplomacy, the remaining 21 countries with which Taiwan holds diplomatic ties will all follow Sao Tome during the rule of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), leaving Taiwan completely isolated.

While the DPP wants to prove that Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country, the mainland should make it realize what Taiwan really is. Taiwan authorities feel degraded about taking part in international events under the banner of "Chinese Taipei," but it may risk losing even that qualification to attend international activities.

Currently, Taiwan can set up representative offices in other countries. But if Taiwan independence forces do not stop, Beijing can lobby these countries not to host Taiwan offices. 

The mainland can resort to military means. In addition, it can consider plans to single out advocators behind Taiwan independence and exert punishment. These two options will wield more deterrence and be more efficient.

Since the DPP refuses to admit the 1992 Consensus and colludes with the US and Japan to break the status quo of cross-Straits relations, they have to take the blame for the end of peaceful exchanges between the two sides and bear the consequences. 

This perhaps is a period of chaos Taiwan and the mainland have to go through before they embark on the path of unification. Although the mainland will suffer some losses as well, it can withstand them. The mainland public is fed up with appeasing Taiwan endlessly and is ready to smash independent forces.

Once the Taiwan Straits runs into trouble, the independence forces will lose ground. DPP authorities should be made to realize that they have no mandate to rule the island with Taiwan-independence thinking.

The mainland, rather than the US, has become the sole force to dominate the situation in the Taiwan Straits. If Taiwan authorities willingly become a pawn of the US and confront the mainland, they will only face a dead end. This is perhaps our last fight to eradicate Taiwan independence forces.

Russian Music - Philipp Kirkorov - Snow

More than half of Russians consider Putin politician of the year — poll

Most Russians view Russian President Vladimir Putin as the most popular politician this year, a recent public opinion poll suggests.

"Vladimir Putin remains the most prominent politician of the year for 64% of Russians. The Russian president has outperformed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (18%), LDPR Leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky (8%), Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu (8%), and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (7%). Putin (77%) also tops the ratings of the country’s elite," the Russian Public Opinion Research Center said on its website on Monday.

Eight percent of respondents named Russia’s two-time Olympic Champion Elena Isinbayeva the best athlete in the outgoing year. Biathlete Anton Shipulin, who topped last year’s ratings, is second with 5%.

Movie stars Danila Kozlovsky (5%) and Sergey Bezrukov (5%) topped the 2016 actors’ ratings. "Russian pop singer Philipp Kirkorov was named musician of the year by 7% of the respondents. Finishing close behind are Grigory Leps (4%), Nikolay Baskov (4%), Sergey Lazarev (4%) and Alla Pugacheva (4%).

Selecting the writer of the year turned out to be a taxing task, as meaningful and coherent answers failed to garner more than 3%. Author Darya Dontsova topped the list with 3%, while Tatyana Ustinova came in second with 2%. That said, the popularity of other writers failed to surpass 1%," the survey revealed.

According to the public opinion research center, Channel One talk show "Pust Govoryat" (Let Them Speak), "Golos" (Voice) and "Novosti" (news) were the most popular programs in 2016 with 11%, 8% and 6%, respectively. The most popular TV series include "Major" (8%), with "Mysteries of Investigation", "Sled" (Trace), and "Univer" all tied with 4%. "Panfilov’s Twenty-Eight Guardsmen" and "The Crew" are considered to be the best films of 2016 according to 5% and 4% of respondents respectively.

"The general observation, which can be made, is that our compatriots do not have obvious favorites among famous athletes or big names in show business, TV and the movies: no film or TV series character could garner more than 10% in the popular ratings," the pollster’s survey said.

The poll carried out by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center took place on December 17-18, 2016 in 130 populated areas in 46 Russian regions with 1,600 participants. The statistical error does not exceed 3.5%.


Why China Joins Russia in Mourning Loss of Members of the Alexandrov Ensemble

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a Russian Tu-154 aircraft en route to Syria crashed in the Black Sea. All 92 people onboard are feared dead, including 64 musicians of the renowned Alexandrov Ensemble, an official choir of the Russian Army. Speaking to Sputnik China, people explained why they feel Russia's loss as if it were their own.
Russian investigators are continuing their probe into Sunday's deadly crash. December 26 has been declared a day of mourning in Russia and neighboring Belarus.
The Alexandrov Ensemble was en route to Syria from Moscow when it crashed in the Black Sea off the coast of Sochi, shortly after refueling at an airport in the resort city of Adler. Syrian President Bashar Assad, who received news of the plane's loss with "great sadness," said that the Russian musicians were traveling to Syria "to share with us and the people of Aleppo the joy of victory and holidays."
Russia has been greeted with condolences from leaders around the world. China was among them. On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his "deep sympathy in the wake of this tragic event" to Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Speaking to Chinese officials and ordinary people alike, Sputnik China discovered that the Chinese president's words were more than a polite formality. The Alexandrov Ensemble, widely known across Russia and the former Soviet Union, is also known and beloved in China, where it has performed many times over the years. The ensemble specializes in patriotic melodies, and songs about the Great Patriotic War. It is also known for its renditions of popular Chinese folk songs. Wang Guilan, a Beijing resident who attended a performance by the Alexandrov Ensemble during their visit to the Chinese capital, offered her own personal wishes of sympathy over the musicians' deaths. She has a special appreciation of Russian music, she said, and meets with like-minded people to sing Russian songs, including those sung by the famed Russian troupe.
Wang sees the Alexandrov Ensemble not just as a highly professional musical collective in Russia, but as one of the best performance ensembles in the world. "The Alexandrov Ensemble is a kind of state treasure, which could be compared with a pearl on an imperial crown," she said. "Its repertoire includes not only Russian music, but songs of other countries as well," she added. "When the Alexandrov Ensemble visited China, they performed the famous Chinese folk song The East is Red, Jasmine, and others. I watched these Russian artists performing in Beijing's Great Hall of the People."
Recalling Sunday's tragedy, Wang said that "as soon as I learned that part of the Alexandrov Ensemble had been on board, I felt an incredible sense of shock and grief…Although I did not meet them personally, my life is connected with Russia, and the Alexandrov Ensemble is my reference point…These artists have received recognition and affection around the world. I would like to offer their families and friends the very deepest condolences. Their voices and smiles will remain forever in our hearts."
Liu Guiyou, academic and former director of the Confucius Institute at the Russian State University for the Humanities, stressed that for historical reasons, and because of the growing Russian-Chinese friendship in recent years, many of the songs sung by the Alexandrov Ensemble are known by almost everyone in China. "This is a collective that needs no introduction," Liu said. "Most people in China have heard their songs on television or on the radio; many have attended their concerts when they came to China. The Ensemble came to China often, and its performances have always been held before sold out venues."
"This is an outstanding Russian collective – the pride of the country," the academic added. "Our two peoples are bound by strong friendship. Therefore, the death of the artists from the Alexandrov Ensemble has become a great tragedy for many of my fellow countrymen," Liu concluded.
Read more:

Video - Alexandrov Russian Army Ensemble of Song and Dance

Former USSR Unites in Mourning Tu-154 Crash Victims, With One Exception

The crash of a Russian Tu-154 on route to Syria with dozens of musicians, journalists and a famous charity doctor onboard has resulted in a wave of condolences from leaders and ordinary people from around the world. Messages of sympathy have been particularly numerous in the ex-Soviet Union, where appreciation for the Alexandrov Ensemble is strong.

Russia is continuing its search for the wreckage of the Russian military plane off the coast of the Black Sea, where it crashed in the early hours of Sunday morning shortly after refueling outside Sochi. The aircraft, enroute to Syria from Moscow, was carrying 92 people, including 64 musicians of the renowned Alexandrov Ensemble, nine journalists, head of the Fair Aid medical charity Elizaveta Glinka, eight crew and two civil servants. All the passengers and crew are feared dead.

The tragedy has led to a flood of messages of sympathy from around the world, with ordinary people worldwide bringing flowers to Russian embassies and consulates, as world leaders offered messages of condolences to the victims' families, to Russians and the Russian government. Somewhat unexpectedly, the tragedy even brought together nations which have had rocky relations with Moscow in recent years. Polish President Andrzej Duda sent a message to President Putin, conveying his condolences "on behalf of the Polish people" "to the Russian people, primarily the families of the victims." Other officials, from the European Union to the United States, also sent formal and informal messages of support to Moscow. But it was the countries of the former Soviet Union that offered the strongest messages of support. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko joined President Putin in declaring Monday a national day of mourning in honor of the plane's passengers and crew. Flags on government buildings were lowered to half-mast, and light entertainment on state radio and television channels was canceled out of respect for the victims.
Elsewhere in the former USSR, similar messages of support could be heard. Speaking to the Russian President at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Commission in St. Petersburg on Monday, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that "we, all the leaders of the countries [of the EEU] express our sincere condolences to the [Russian] people and to all the family members of those who perished." 

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev echoed Nazarbayev's sentiments, stressing that the Kyrgyz nation "mourns with" the "brotherly [Russian] people." Other leaders from almost every other republic of the former Soviet Union also offered condolences, including Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Moldovan President Igor Dodon, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted his well-wishes to the families and friends of the victims of the crash. The Estonian Foreign Ministry did the same. Ukraine became the only major exception, with President Poroshenko staying silent, while presidential advisor Yuri Biryukov made crude and tasteless jokes about the crash.  In addition to the diplomatic solidarity given to their partners in Moscow at the official level, unofficially, much of the sympathy flowing in Russia's direction from ordinary people in the former Soviet republics comes down to the Alexandrov Ensemble, 64 members of which are feared dead following Sunday's crash. For many in the former USSR, the military choir's repertoire, which includes many stirring songs about the Great Patriotic War, is not seen as something foreign, but as a part of local identity and a shared history with Russia.

Russians name Syrian war as biggest international event of 2016

The war in Syria, the US presidential elections, and various sports events were the most important happenings of 2016, according to a Russian public opinion poll conducted by the VTSIOM agency.
VTSIOM, a major Russian state-run public opinion research center, said in its Monday release that 33 percent of its respondents named the war in Syria as the most important international event of the year, down from 43 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, 31 percent thought the US presidential poll took precedence, and 13 percent named unspecified sporting events as the most important of 2016 (the doping scandal was a separate entry in the questionnaire, and was named by seven percent of the public).
When researchers asked Russians whom they considered to be the most important political figure of the year, 64 percent named President Vladimir Putin. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was second on the list, with 18 percent, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu shared third place with the head of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky – both of whom were named by eight percent of poll participants. Vladimir Putin’s approval rating hit an all-time high in October of 2015, when VTSIOM attributed the president’s record ratings to the Russian Air Force’s successful campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.
In this year’s poll, Russians told researchers that they thought 2016 had been no better or worse than 2015, but many said they had a much more optimistic outlook now than in any previous year.
The Medialogia think-tank has released the results of a similar poll, which indicates that Donald Trump’s US presidential victory was the most mentioned world event of the year, followed by the attempted military coup d’état in Turkey, and the so-called Brexit referendum. That research was conducted on the basis of media material from 2016. With regards to domestic events, the media reported most on the doping scandal, Russia’s performance in the 2016 Olympics, and September’s State Duma elections.

PPP Song - ''ZARA SOCHNA'' - Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan - Nation commemorates 9th death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan Peoples` Party (PPP) has finalised arrangements to observe the 9th death anniversary of the assassinated chairperson and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto that falls on Tuesday in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto.
A public meeting is scheduled to be addressed by the Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, former President and Co-Chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and other central leadership of PPP at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto.
A documentary depicting life and achievements of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto will also be shown on the occasion.
Separate camps have been set up to accommodate the leaders and workers from all the four provinces; Gilgit Biltistan, northern areas and Azad Kashmir. Reception camps have also been established. Leaders of the PPP and workers have started reaching at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto from Monday afternoon.
A Mushaira has also been scheduled in front of mausoleum of Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto on Tuesday afternoon.
President PPP Sindh and Senior Sindh Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said that all arrangements have been completed to observe the death anniversary of assassinated Chairperson. While speaking to newsmen at Larkana Press Club on Monday, he said that a Quran Khawani will also be held for the departed soul at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto.
He also said in the Mushaira noted poets across the country will pay homage to the great leader through their poetry.
Khuhro said the workers and leaders of the Pakistan people s party were reaching the city from every nook and corner of the country, and they will participate with the traditional zeal and zest in the death anniversary functions to be held here at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto.
He said a public meeting on the occasion will be held at the in front of mausoleum of martyrs of Bhutto family on Tuesday afternoon, further adding that all the provincial presidents of the party and central leaders will also address the public meeting.
He said death anniversary ceremonies will be culminated at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto with the showing of documentaries on Late Bhutto to the participants in the evening.
Meanwhile Deputy Commissioner Larkana Kashif Ali Tipu and SSP Larkana Kamran Nawaz told media men that special security and traffic arrangement will be made on the occasion.
They said over 5 thousand police personnel including Women police, traffic police, special police commandos of Sindh Police and three hundred personnel of Shahbaz Rangers will also be deployed to ensure the law and order on the occasion.
The SSP Larkana told that senior rank officers will supervise and monitor the security situation in Garhi Khuda Bux and Naudero vicinities.
An aerial surveillance at the surrounding the Naudero and Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto will be carried out to monitor the activities, CCTV cameras will be installed at the different locations of Bhutto House Naudero Garhi Khuda Bux and surrounding of Jalsagah and parking areas.
On the occasion, bomb disposal squad bomb detectors, scanning machines, jammers, snapper`s dogs, watchtowers, 50 walk through gates with police vehicles and mobile will be setup for the security purpose. All activities will be monitor by the high officials of Sindh Police and concerned officials.
DC Larkana said various medical and other welcome camps would be established and 60 fire brigades will be deployed at the various locations added that the medical team along with equipped mobile hospitals and ambulance services will serve the public.

Pakistan: Christian Mother Asia Bibi Spends 7th Christmas on Death Row

"It's a case that really kind of encapsulates the abuse of blasphemy laws generally. And it's such high profile that even to bring it up you're inviting controversy. If you're bringing up Asia Bibi in a public area, it's not a wise decision."

Pakistani Christian mother of five Asia Bibi is spending her seventh Christmas in prison after her death sentence appeal was put on hold in October when a judge abruptly recused himself from hearing her case.

Bibi, 45, was sentenced to death in 2010 on allegations of blasphemy after two Muslim co-workers accused her of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, something which she denies.

Bibi's blasphemy allegation stems from an altercation in June 2009 that she had with a group of Muslim women in the town of Sheikhupura in the Punjab province. As the women were picking berries, the Muslim women became enraged when Bibi drank from the same water bowl that they women drank out of.

Since Bibi was a Christian, the women considered her unclean. After an argument between the women ensued, the Muslim women went to the police and accused Bibi of saying something along the lines of "My Christ died for me, what did Muhammad do for you?"

Bibi was supposed to find out in October at a final appeal hearing at Pakistan's Supreme Court whether or not she would be executed, but that decision was delayed indefinitely after one of the senior judges, who was set to preside over her appeal, suddenly resigned.

Local media said that Justice Iqbal Hameed recused himself from the case without giving a specific reason.

William Stark, a regional manager for South Asia for International Christian Concern, which advocates for persecuted Christians around the world, said in a phone interview with The Christian Post that Bibi's struggle is "the premier case for why blasphemy laws are a problem."

Bibi's case, as it now stands, is in what he calls a "wait-and-see" period.

"Hopefully in 2017, the Pakistani Supreme Court will form a new bench and will be able to hear her case," Stark said. "And, frankly, if the case is actually heard on the merits, the Supreme Court has no other option but to find for her and actually let her go."

Stark told CP that he's somewhat optimistic for Bibi's case based on recent court rulings on the rights of religious minorities and conversations he's had with her attorney, Saif Malook, who is a Muslim.

If the court rejects her appeal, however, Bibi would be the first woman in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy.

"Asia's case is very much a lightning rod within Pakistan itself," Stark said, referencing the 2011 assassination of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, a supporter of Bibi who had planned to reform the country's strict blasphemy law.

Taseer had been accused by hardline groups of committing blasphemy himself by criticizing the law, which is supposed to protect Muslim sentiments, but according to human rights groups is often used to settle personal scores and oppress Christians and other religious minorities.

"People who get close to it [Bibi's case] are very scared for their lives," he added. "It's a case that really kind of encapsulates the abuse of blasphemy laws generally. And it's such high profile that even to bring it up you're inviting controversy. If you're bringing up Asia Bibi in a public area, it's not a wise decision."

CP reported in October that Pakistani Christians are worried that justice will not be done.

"Every day that passes I fear that she will either be killed in custody and that her death will be masked as a natural death, or that she will finally fail her Supreme Court hearing — as this would be the most popular decision in a country riven with hate," wrote Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association on his group's website.

"Sadly that position is even held by much of the Judiciary (officials) who have also been blinded by the hate agenda promulgated through media and the education system in Pakistan."

As Bibi has been sitting in prison for over six years, reports have indicated that the health of the 51-year-old mother has been deteriorating. A report from last June indicated that Bibi has had trouble walking and has also vomited up blood inside of her jail cell.

Less than 2 percent of Pakistanis identify as Christians. The country remains among the worst persecutors of Christians, ranking sixth on Open Doors USA's 2015 World Watch List.


At least 14 loyalists of the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist group were killed during the operations in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) said at least 7 of the militants killed during the operations are hailing from Pakistan.

MoD further added that the operations were conducted with the air support in Haska Mina district.
However, the provincial police commandment officials, said at least 7 militants were killed during the artillery strikes in Haska Mina district. According to the officials, the militants killed during the operations are foreigners but did not provide further information.
The anti-government armed militant groups including ISIS loyalists have not commented regarding the reports so far. Both the Afghan and US forces conducted regular strikes against the loyalists of the terror group in this province.
The increased raids, usually involving drone strikes, by the US forces followed a broader role granted by the Obama administration earlier this year.
The broader role was granted amid concerns that the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to expand foothold in the country and turn the eastern Nangarhar province into a regional operational hub for its fighters.

Neglecting female education in Balochistan

In last few years, the female literacy rate has increased in the country but instead of growing it is opposite in Balochistan. The literacy rate of female in Balochistan has decreased rapidly just due to not getting any attention from government. Balochistan is the most backward province in every regard.
The female are not encouraged to get knowledge by their parents. There are lack of educational institutions for female and the government has not been doing anything special for the improvement of female’s education.
Due to the negligence of government the female’s literacy rate in Balochistan is getting very low. The condition is even is deteriorating in rural areas. It is shockingly estimated only 2 percent. In this 21 century everyone is aware about the importance of education but the rural women in Balochistan are locked at four walls and not getting any opportunity to attend schools. Apart from Quetta none of the other district of the province is having female’s university where women can get higher education.
According to a survey, the total literacy rate of Balochistan is 34 percent against the literacy rate of 52 percent of the nation. The male literacy is 39 percent which is the lowest as compared to other provinces. Not only is the male, the female literacy rate is also the lowest in the country, recorded to be 27 percent standing poorly against the national female literacy of 48 percent.
Furthermore, the female colleges are suffering from lack of female lecturers and without the transport system. It has made compel to the female students either quit the studies or remain absent in entire year. The conditions of urban areas are going in worst conditions. The females are neglected in every field of their life, and the girls belonging to urban or rural areas are facing umpteenth problems.
In Balochistan 69 years of history, the government has not done any remarkable work for educating the both sexes. The schools are suffering from lack of fund as schools are suffering from lack of buildings, electricity and lack of drinking water. As for as non-government organizations (NGOs) are concerned, they highly claim to be working for women rights to education. Unfortunately, they just focusing mainly in Quetta, they hardly go out of the city to look at women’s pitiable education in rural areas. The NGOs are receiving a huge amount of fund and salaries for their work, but they are totally wasting money and time. They should visit entire Balochistan, and ensure that women have rights of education and they are free to seek knowledge.
It is estimated that in Balochistan, around 3408 girls’ school, 22 girls inter college, 13 girls Degree College, and 16693 teachers with the enrollment of 429,784 students. The government has been continuously saying that they are working to bring improvement in all sorts of educational facilities to the students, and they have been appointing teachers in Balochistan’s rural areas where students may be educated in a better way. The government is continuously uttering promises. Day by day the literary rate is decreasing then why government is talking about the improvement of Balochistan?
Without educated women none of the nation can progress. If in reality the government wants the development of Balochistan then the foremost responsibility is to provide quality education to the female because without females, males cannot bring any improvement.